Monday, June 30, 2014

more complicated coneflower arrangement

I just decided to post the more complicated version of the simple purple coneflower arrangement I did (and posted) earlier this morning. It's sort of interesting to see how a simple thing can come from a complicated one.

recycled purple coneflower

This is a purple coneflower (one that is actually redder than it is purple) leftover from another arrangement. I tried using it with other flowers in a small arrangement, but it lost much of its charm. Decided to display it this way (in a pin ciup, so its stem and leaves would also be visible.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Calendula collection

One of today's jobs was to collect calendula seed pods for Robert Llewellyn, who's doing a book on Seed Pods and is particularly eager (as in rabid) to photograph some calendula seed pods. I actually grew these calendulas just for Bob, and it has required me to be tremendously restrained to keep from deadheading them. (Remember, Nancy, you're growing these for the seed structures, not for the flowers.) It was actually a great relief today to be able to strip the plants of all the stems going to seed and pack them up for Bob. Here (on the windowsill) is what I'll deliver to Bob tomorrow. He'll turn just one of the seedheads in this collection into a work of art. In the meantime, I learned lots about calendulas. For one thing, their stems are incredibly sticky and, even as I type now, I can feel that stickiness on my fingers. This is actually a problem when you are collecting ripe seedheads, because the stems want to stick to each other and pull the seedheads apart. This is a great strategy for a plant--helps to disperse the seeds--but it is a problem when you're trying to deliver the perfect, intact, seedhead to a photographer.My strategy: pick lots of flowers and seed pods at various stages of maturity and, surely, Bob can find the perfect one in the mix.

Friday, June 27, 2014

exceeding the seed limit

Vince Tolson gave me a great cartoon in which Frank says to Ernest (or maybe it's Ernest saying to Frank): "Nice garden, but I have to give you a ticket for going over the seed limit." As Vince knows, I exceed the seed limit all the time. I'm guessing at least 3/4 of the things blooming in my garden now are things I grew from seed. Here are two of them: an unusual runner bean with red/orange and whitish flowers that resemble those of the scarlet runner bean, and a salvia with tiny blue flowers that looked like gigantic blue flowers in the seed catalog. You just never really know what your seedlings are going to look like when they grow up--which is half the fun of growing things from seed.

pansy pilgrimmage

I spent part of yesterday trolling Ashland for a decent pansy flower. I had to re-shoot a photo (at editor's request) for a book I'm working on, but it's easier than it sounds to reshoot a pansy photo. Who's got good pansies in mid-summer? It was fun, though, riding around Ashland looking for windowboxes that hadn't been purged of pansies and borders where there might be a pansy plant still blooming under summer annuals. (Thank you Terry Blair for letting me harvest a bloom from one of your last pansy plants!)  I found enough pansies to accomplish my mission, and here is one photo that resulted.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The most wonderful thing happened last night (as a result of something bad). We had a serious fly-hatching in the kitchen, and the only way I could see to get the flies out was to open the windows.Not so easy in an ancient house. The screens and storm windows are pretty much rusted to their frames, but John used a hammer to dislodge one screen from its frame and the result was like removing a bad filter from a camera. All the outdoor colors seemed enhanced (with no screen to mute them) and suddenly it was as if I was seeing lightning bugs and all my plants in 3-D--because I was!  I moved an arrangement that had been on the kitchen table (salsify blossom) over to the window to make this qualify as a windowsill arrangement, but, really, the view needed no embellishment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

lunch leftovers

If I'd known I was going to "arrange" with these leftover materials, I'd have cut them more cleanly. I might try this again tomorrow with less ragged material. For today though, here are some beet stems, Swiss Chard ribs, a piece of an onion stalk, and an onion I had leftover from a stir-fry I made myself for lunch. I was about to toss all but the onion in the compost bin when I realized how pretty they were and chased down this vase to hold them.

hostas and paint brushes in Swedish honey jar

I didn't do this arrangement, Louise Witherspoon did, but I love it so much I had to post it. The windowsill is in Albany NY, where Louise is visiting her grandchildren. Thanks, Louise!  

Monday, June 23, 2014

clover flowers

Today I saw clover flowers and violet leaves in the lawn of someone who had to spend some personal capital to have them. As in: they had to forego using broad-leaved herbicides to have a less-than-perfect-by-conventional-standards lawn. I picked these clover flowers and a violet leaf to honor them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

leftover coneflowers, loosestrife and heuchera foliage

I enjoyed doing this, because it gave me an excuse to recycle some pretty purple coneflowers and loosestrife foliage that were beginning to wilt a larger arrangement. I just cut their stems shorter (and washed the gunk off them) and dropped them at different heights into this connected-test-tube container. I also added some purplish heuchera foliage from the arrangement I did on June 16.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hydrangea at Penn Station

Here's my found-hydrangea blossom on the windowsill in the passenger waiting area at Penn Station.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hydrangea in NYC

This is the view from my bed in NYC hotel. Found this white hydrangea blossom on the ground near Times Square.  Someone dropped it there for me, I'm sure. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

elderberry--in and out of the frying pan!

Had the most fabulous breakfast today at Flower Camp, where Gisela Carson fixed elderberry fritters for breakfast. Elderberry is blooming all over Virginia right now, and they are almost always blooming at Flower Camp when the Women's Batteau Guild rolls through (and brings us Gisela, who has made these fritters when the crew has stayed with us before). Here's what an elderberry flower looks llike (and this will have to serve as my windowsill arrangement today):

Here are the flowers as Gisela was dipping them into batter, then how they looked in the frying pan, then draining on paper towels, where they got a dash of cinnamon sugar. Wish I'd taken a picture of them on the serving platter. Gorgeous and delicious!

Monday, June 16, 2014

heuchera leaf with purple coneflower (that happens to be reddish orange)

This dark purple heuchera leaf grabbed my attention first this morning, and it was actually pretty all by itself in a bottle. I decided to add a flower, though, and. although I was headed out to pick a rose, it was this odd-colored purple coneflower that grabbed my attention. I've got a whole plot of odd-colored ones this year--salmoney ones, bright red ones, yellow-orange ones, reddish-orange ones--and I can hardly stop looking at them I like them so much. Usually they're sort of a purplish pink, and those are gorgeous, too, but these new ones are SMASHING!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

striped and lacy things

In this plastic cup are two Swiss chard leaves, both with beautiful, striped stems. I think it's called Peppermint Chard, not because of its flavor but because of the wonderful striping in the stems. And at the base of the cup is half a striped beet. I'm just loving these striped veggie varieties. And the chard leaves are made more, not less, beautiful to my eyes by the way insects have made them look lacy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

white Korean bellflower

This arrangement was driven by the fact that I was too tired to walk upstairs for my shoes and didn't want to walk too far into the back yard barefooted. First thing I saw near the porch was this white Korean bellflower--a flower I love--so I picked one flowering stem and three leaves. Dropped them into a cruet, where they were perfectly happy and all this took about 60 seconds. (45 seconds if I hadn't had to walk a few extra steps to find my clippers!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

butterfly weed and hosta leaf

I'm not sure how much I like this, but here it is: one stem of orange butterfly weed flowers and a single hosta leaf. The hosta leaf has been sitting around my utility room for weeks, waiting for its 15 minutes of fame. Can't remember why I picked it in the first place, but it is a gorgeous leaf that provides background for more complicated flowers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

half a beet (with amsonia and sweet peas)

This is why I love windowsill arranging. In the photo I posted yesterday, the half-beet I used in a windowsill arrangement looked pretty bedraggled.  But here's what happened today: I went outside after a thunderstorm to see what grabbed my attention and it was a sagging sweet pea vine blooming under some sagging amsonia foliage. I cut a stem of each, and as I was bringing them in the house, I thought, "I wish I had a blue green vase to put these in." I knew I didn't have a blue-green vase and was adjusting to that reality--this is NOT a huge problem!-- when I realized I had saved a broken Coke bottle that was the perfect color. (This was a bottle Mary Garner-Mitchell excavated from the 50?-year-old Flower Camp trash pile in the woods.) It would hold water up to about an inch, but I needed something to secure my stems at that height, because the side of the bottle was broken. Solution: jamming half a beet (which I happened to have; see yesterday's arrangement) into the void! Forgive me for also saying that the other half of the beet is now part of me (see yesterday's salad!).  

Here's the rest of the arrangement. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chioggea beet "looks like a lady"

This little bedraggled girl is what's left of a striped (Chioggea) beet I had for lunch. She's supported in a glass bottle by a wooden skewer. OK, she's a little wilted, but this was the most exciting natural thing I encountered today. It was the first beet I harvested and when I cut into it, I realized it was an heirloom, striped variety. Absolutely gorgeous inside. And here "she" is in a salad. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

subtle colors + fireflies

I noticed these yarrow flowers blooming this morning, but it was only in late afternoon light that I really appreciated them. They're more subtle than most yarrow flowers--sort of a subdued version of typical yarrow colors--and tonight, outdoors, they were even more gorgeous with lightning bugs glittering around them. Impossible to reproduce indoors.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

fossilized shark's tooth on bellflower leaf

It's not very often I have something over 10,000 years old to display on the windowsill, but today I do. Found this fossilized shark's tooth on Topsail Island yesterday. It's so beautiful.. and looks particularly shiny, black, and ancient on this fresh, yellow-green bellflower leaf.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Red mustard greens, Cherokee purple tomato

Gorgeous veggies from Jerry Shalf's garden at Topsail Beach tonight. The mustard greens were particularly gorgeous-- one side almost black-green, the other a smokey grey green. I stole some for a windowsill arrangement.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

common mullein

This beautiful stalk of common mullein was dying to be cut, ignored as it was in a waste area near an old pecan stump. I think this might be a hybrid--a cross between the wild mullein and a similar mullein I grew from seeds I brought back from England. This has bigger yellow florets than most wild mullein does. As always, it was covered with insects when I found it outside, and a few of them snuck into the house with it. I'm also itching from the hairy residue its leaves left on my arms. All just part of the process!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

bindweed on the meeting rail

Sounds like a good title for a poem: Bindweed on the Meeting Rail.  There's a metaphor in there somewhere. Anyway.... I've put bindweed in a bottle and displayed it on the meeting rail of the windowframe, where it can trail, before, but I've never had such a nice, long bindweed vine to display before. This one is just gorgeous, and much better here in the house than smothering one of my shrubs outside! Beware when pulling it off plants--it is as strong as heavy-gauge wire and will break plant, shrub, and tree stems before it breaks itself. It lasts a really long time in a vase and looks great in arrangements, though.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

white rose, black vase

This is sort of, but not quite, the nice, quiet arrangement I'd pictured on my way home from the recital last night. It turned out to be harder to create than I had imagined, because my white climbing rose had only two intact blooms left on it and I had to wrangle the bush to get at them (with a telescoping pruner). I am no longer bleeding (from rose-thorn puncture wounds), but my arm looks like it tangled with a tiger.

There's some camellia foliage and one pinkish 'New Dawn' rosebud in this arrangement, too.

Monday, June 2, 2014

harried housewife

This was just too funny not to post. As I drove home from the very impressive piano recital that included my very impressive grandchildren, I was picturing the exquisite, simple arrangement I'd make tonight: maybe a single white rose in a black, fluted vase. Instead, I jumped back into making a pot of Frogmore stew that was delicious but left no time for "a single white rose in a black, fluted vase." Here, instead, is what graces my windowsill (and sink) tonight.

For the record, the cabbage was great in the stew, and I'll explain the "pepper cork" later. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Egyptian garlic

Oh, how I love these wacky, twisty, crazily-oriented stems of Egyptian garlic. It took me a while to find a way to display this particular one, because it needed to curve down, as it had in the garden. This "vase on a pedestal" is sort of gerry-rigged, but it works.