Fall is Here at Aplin Farms

Since 1954, four generations of the Aplin family have raised tomatoes, broccoli, onions, lettuce, strawberries, green beans, squash, sweet corn, melons, pumpkins and more on their Geneva county farm between Slocomb and Dothan, Alabama.  A relatively new addition to the farm is the peach orchard. The peaches, designed for the Gulf Corridor, are firmer and sweeter than the ones normally grown in Alabama.  They are ready for consumption near the  end of April or first of May.  John Aplin states that their goal is to have a picking orchard available to the public in about three years.???????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ????????

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The fall season at Aplin Farms is a favorite venue for school groups and families as children excitedly find  their way through mazes, enjoy wagon rides, and feed animals in the petting zoo.

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Each year in the fall I literally count the days until the sunflowers start blooming at Aplins.  Although John Aplin pointed out that the recent drought had affected the sunflowers this season, I was still able to collect several buckets of vivid yellow blossoms on several occasions for use in floral design projects.  A crisp, fall morning, blue skies, and fields of sunflowers – another heavenly masterpiece!

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There is still time to pick out that perfect pumpkin for carving, to take a wagon ride through the countryside, to navigate one of the mazes – to experience farm living at its best!  Aplin Farms will be open for the fall season through November 1.  Located at 2729 North County Rd. 49, they are open Monday – Saturday, 8:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.,  and on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.  For more information, call (334)-726-5104 or (334)-792-6362.

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Experience the tradition of a fall excursion to Aplin Farms.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Until next time…..

A Bounty of Harvest for Fall Floral Design

What is there not to love about this glorious change of seasons!  God’s workmanship seems to be at its very peak of grandeur during the autumn as leaves in hues of magenta, red, yellow, and gold glow in the calm, blue October skies, berries transition to tones of red and orange, harvest fields are dotted with bales of hay, stalks of sorghum, and vibrant sunflowers.  The gorgeous colors and unique textures of the autumn harvest keep my floral design “juices” flowing!

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 Nandina, pictures below, dries beautifully and is one of my “go to” sources of fall foliage.

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 American Beautyberry, is purple perfection!  I love incorporating this pop of color into arrangements.  I have a special affinity for Beautyberry because my Mother loved it so much.  I can remember my Mother pulling over to the roadside, grabbing rubber boots and clippers, and filling up her trunk with this gorgeous berry.

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I came across this patch of lovely ornamental grass which is also used in floral design.

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  Fiery Pyracantha berries are magnificent in our part of south Alabama.

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Abundant fields of  my favorite wildflower, Golden Rod, have been in full bloom for the past month.  Although many people have allergies to this common wildflower, it looks lovely in floral design.

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Large-flowered, tufted heads of sorghum are ideal for fall floral design.  Classified as an ornamental corn, it was actually named dried flower of the year in 2008 by the Association of specialty Cut Flower Growers.

 ???????? ???????? Quintessential Limelight hydrangeas add just the right touch of sage green to floral arrangements.

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Nothing says fall like fall like vibrant fields of shining sunflowers . . .

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Containers such as wooden bowls, weathered crates, baskets, copper and brass as well as pottery are excellent for creating floral tablescapes for your own home.  Try a hanging a rustic basket on your door to welcome guests or dressing up your front entrance with colorful swags and urns with seasonal greenery, fruit, pumpkins, or gourds.   Most everything in the arrangements below were harvested from nature.  So grab your gloves, clippers, and your rubber boots and create a masterpiece of your own to enjoy for many weeks.

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Assorted pumpkins, greenery, ornamental kale, crab apples, and persimmons add seasonal color at the base of an urn.

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Cascades of magnolia, juniper, Nandina, Elaeagnus, and grapevine formed the structure for the swags on either side of a front entryway. Sunflowers and Pyracantha berries were added to finish the display.

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Note the heads of sorghum at the top of the arrangement.

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Dried Limelights, bittersweet from New England, Nandina, Magnolia, kale, Ligustrum berries, and miniature pumpkins convert an antique dough bowl into a fall masterpiece for a dining table. The cut grapefruit is a little unexpected, but adds texture and color.

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More harvest centerpieces  . . . .????????????????????????????????

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“God, all nature sings Thy glory, and Thy works proclaim Thy might;

 Ordered vastness in the heavens, ordered course of day and night;

Beauty in the changing seasons, beauty in the storming sea;

All the changing moods of nature praise the changeless Trinity.” - David Clowney

Enjoy the gift of this beautiful fall day!  Until next time…

Embracing the Change of Seasons

What spectacular beauty October brings to the deep South –   leaves transition to crimson, copper, and golden hues, tree branches are heavily laden with clusters of berries, acres of  pristine cotton fields are ready for picking, immaculate hay bales dot the rural landscape, shining patches of Golden Rod are at their glorious peak, and brilliant  fields of sunflowers captivate!   Lovely shades of every variety of pumpkin from my personal favorite, Jarrahdale, to Cinderella,  are practically in every produce stand, garden center,  and grocery store.  Seasonal mums, crotons, and  flowering kale are staples as well, and signal that fall has truly arrived.

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Nothing says fall like backyard marshmallow roasting over a fire on a cool,crisp autumn night, and decorating the perfect pumpkin!  (Photographs courtesy of my friend, Yvonne, and her precious granddaughters).

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Fruits of the harvest are perfect for fall floral design:  Holly berries, American Beautyberry, pears, and Dusty Miller create a simple, but beautiful fall arrangement.

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????????Wooden bowls and crates are perfect nesting vessels for flowering kale and succulents.????????????????

The colors of autumn are visualized in a centerpiece of sunflowers, beautyberry, sage, chestnut pods, rosemary, kale, sweet bell peppers, pears, roses, and carnations.????????????????

Welcome guests to your home with a autumn display of pumpkins, succulents, kale, crotons, grapevine, and Macho ferns.

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????????????????“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. – Albert Camus

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Inspiration from Maria’s Vineyard

The town of Dothan, Alabama has many unique amenities, and Maria’s Vineyard is one of its loveliest.  Situated on the outskirts of town, this magnificent property is reminiscent of a Tuscan countryside.  Maria Cherry had the remarkable vision for creating this  vineyard which was started in 1993. Today 42 rows of 12 varieties of organic muscadines (aka southern grapes) thrive.  A plentiful supply of trees is also found on the vineyard grounds:  olive, fig, Asian pear, apple and citrus.  In the summer months, figs are sold while the muscadines are harvested from the end of July until October.  I had the opportunity to photograph the vineyards in February of 2013 while on a garden club excursion.  A few days ago I photographed the vineyard arrayed its glorious fall harvest.

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Maria renovated the existing home on the property after she purchased it.  It was totally refurbished and redecorated, and upon entering it you feel as though you have just set foot inside a villa in the Italian countryside.

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After Maria Cherry’s untimely death, the vineyard was sold.  Today Veronica Philpot along with her husband and parents operate the business. Her five children even help out in the day to day operation.  Veronica, a gourmet cook and talented floral designer, has helped make the vineyard a popular venue for weddings, receptions, fundraisers and other social gatherings.  A rustic outdoor pavilion has been added to accommodate larger groups.

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While walking through the rows of lush grape laden vines in the autumn’s early glow on a recent early fall afternoon, I was reminded of their rich symbolism in application to the Christian life.  Grapevines were often used to symbolize the fertility of the land, and their abundance represented God’s favor.  Vines were typically pruned after grapes had set on the branches which resulted in stronger branches that would eventually produce an even greater yield at harvest. The trials and afflictions God allows in our lives are there for a purpose.  The gardener stops weeding and pruning his vineyard only when he expects no more yield from it. Freedom from suffering yields to uselessness.  We can learn many lessons from the Master Gardener.

Vines pruned after the harvest -

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Yield a fruitful harvest indeed -

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To ensure that a vine produces fruit a gardener must cut off dead branches, inspect for signs of disease and insects as well as prune the branches for maximum fruitfulness.  What a beautiful picture of His love and care for us!  Jesus is the source of life and strength for the Christian as He works through every circumstance to produce rich fruit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  A fruitless life is a life tragically wasted.

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When we question the trials in our lives, remember the vine and learn from it.  Have a blessed Sunday!

A Mississippi Garden That Has Come Full Circle

Little did Tracy Kramer realize almost a decade ago when she moved to Pontotoc, Mississippi,  from Annapolis, Maryland, that she would continue a gardening legacy that had been started over forty years ago.  Since Tracy had spent many summers in her youth visiting her aunt and uncle in this quaint northeast Mississippi town, she already had forged memories here.  She recalls my Mother welcoming her with gifts of rose bushes as she enthusiastically transmitted her passion and love for rose growing.  It was not unusual for Mother’s gardener to appear with several buckets of anything from roses to shrubs to ground cover for transplanting into her new Southern garden.

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Tracy started her own rose garden with Mother’s encouragement and growing tips.  However, she is an excellent gardener in her own right, earning awards at the Northeast MS Rose Society’s annual rose show in Tupelo.

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Last fall after my Daddy passed away,  my two sisters and I realized that my Mother’s neglected rose garden had little chance of surviving unless someone took charge.  Many of her bushes were over twenty five years old, and were past their prime.   However, quite a few of them were salvageable.  We immediately thought of Tracy, and she rose (no pun intended!) to the challenge.  Last fall, she began the painstaking process of transplanting the bushes into large buckets for the transition to her garden.

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Although a few of the bushes were unable to be sustained  in the frigid winter that hit northeast Mississippi, she was quite successful in ensuring the survival of some beautiful specimens.  I photographed her gorgeous garden a couple of months ago.

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The Chestnut Rose was originally transplanted from my Great-Grandmother’s garden into my Mother’s years ago.

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Images of Elina are shown below.

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Tineke, on of my Mother’s favorites, often won awards at the Northeast MS Rose Society’s annual show.

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“I had my first garden when I was 16.  I planted at least ten different rows of annuals in a horseshoe shape and it was a glorious riot of color.  I grew everything from seed.  I have never had such a wonderful array of color since.  I have always enjoyed growing things.  I think your mother saw the joy that I experienced when she brought me buckets of roses when we had our bridge days etc. “

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I love the unexpected pop of color that Tracy achieved by adding golden merigolds to her rose beds!

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More favorites that Tracy has cultivated over the years . . .

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Broadway

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Julia Child

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Gold Medal

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Day Breaker

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Let Freedom Ring

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Queen Elizabeth

Joseph’s Coat, a majestic climbing rose, takes center stage on an iron trellis.

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Tracy has a unique gift for incorporating statuary, contrasting plant textures,  whimsical garden implements, and vibrant containers into elegant outside sitting areas that beckon you to linger and absorb the beauty..

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A pomegranate bloom

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Tracy, the consummate hostess and gourmet cook, served an elegant lunch using seasonal produce from her uncle’s garden on a table laden with her gorgeous garden gifts.

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“I guess she knew how much I loved her roses because I made them my focal point when I had a party.  I know she did not pick me for my growing skills, but rather the pure joy that I experience from looking at the roses.  I have been thinking about why your mother took a special interest in me.”

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A picture that Tracy shared of Mother as they visited a friend’s garden.

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This Mississippi garden has definitely come full circle in every respect.  The roses that Tracy transplanted from my Mother’s garden provide a living testimony to a friendship that was initiated by a love for gardening. And, best of all, a new friendship has ensued since my parents passed away.  How pleased my Mother would be to know that her legacy is being carried on.

This quote by Beverly Rose Hopper  beautifully compares the gifts of gardening and friendship:  “Out of gardens grow fleeting flowers but lasting friendships”.

Wiregrass Rose Society’s 5th Annual Rose Show: America The Beautiful

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I apologize to area rosarians about the delay in posting pictures from the rose show held earlier in the season.  Nonetheless, the show was a huge success, and I wanted to post the gorgeous entries.  Rose enthusiasts were in full force at the 5th annual rose show presented by the Wiregrass Rose Society back in May.  From climbing roses, Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, and Old Garden to the artistically arranged English box, Painter’s Palette, Rose in a Frame, miniatures and minifloras to the ever popular design category, there were hundreds of roses to satisfy the most discriminating gardener.

 

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Paul Neyron

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Caleb

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Mr. Lincoln

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Mary Alice

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Tammy Clemmons

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Rose society member, Pat Wente, was instrumental in the show’s success.

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Pictured below is the highly esteemed Court of Honor . . .

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Bishop’s Castle

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Pink Drift

Veteran’s Honor was a favorite of my Daddy’s .

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More lovely Rose in a Frame entries:

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Memphis King

 

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Flutterbye was probably the most unusual entrant, but its beauty captured everyone’s attention.

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Valentine

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Joy

 

Touche was one of my favorites and one that I had never seen before..

 

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Pictured below are two wondrous Tineke blooms which my Mother loved and grew in her garden..

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Gorgeous original designs and tablescapes, both contemporary and traditional, were entered in the show.

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I quickly found one of my very favorite old fashioned rose, the Chestnut Rose, which was grown by my great-grandmother.  A cutting from her bush was actually transplanted into my Mother’s rose garden where it still thrives today..

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L. J. Ward, a long time Rosarian, mentioned that his grandmother had grown the Chestnut rose, too, but referred to it as a Chinquapin rose.  Mr. Ward, a retired mechanic with the Dothan Landfill, actually started a rose garden at the landfill when he was employed,  “I had some free time on my hands, and decided to start a rose garden.  I bought inexpensive roses from Walmart and fertilized them with compost”.  His amazing story was actually featured by the American Rose Society in the 2002 American Rose Society Annual.  Although L.J. is now retired his “landfill” garden is still maintained today!

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The Wiregrass Rose Society meets the first Tuesday of most months at the first Church of the Nazarene, 1081 Honeysuckle Road, in Dothan, at 6:00 P.M.  Rose experts as well as novice rose gardeners work together to share their knowledge of rose cultivation.

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Thanks to all of the local committee members, volunteers, advertisers, exhibitors, and visitors who made the 2014 show a huge success.  Special appreciation is extended to the American Rose Society sanctioned judges who volunteered their time to travel to Dothan and evaluate this year’s entries.

 

 

An Artfelt Event: A Perfect Pairing of Art and Floral Design

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Bridgestreet Gallery and Loft was the lovely setting for An Artfelt Event last week in Birmingham.  Hosted by P.E.W.S. (Purely Elegant Wedding Statements), the Third Annual Pew decorating competition did an amazing job of seeing where “Local Art and can take Local Weddings”.   Wedding and event industry vendors paired their talents with a local group of artists for somewhat of a nontraditional decorating competition.  Florists, stylists, caterers, and calligraphers embellished church pews that were inspired by beautiful paintings.  After choosing a painting and creating an inspiration board, the vendors designed their pews for display at the event. Dothan native Sarah-Elizabeth Cleveland, Executive Assistant at P.E.W.S., extended the invitation to her Mother and some of her friends to come up for the event.

 

Shown below:  Robert and Nita Carr, Rebecca Hassee, owner, and Sarah-Elizabeth Cleveland.

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Pictured below:  Nancy Woods of Birmingham, Ginger Pratt, Kathy Cleveland, and Mary Lise Parsons of Dothan.

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The gallery’s bottom level featured whimsical pews that will soon be auctioned with the proceeds going to Cornerstone Schools.  Original local artwork along with artful food displays were captivating.

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Savoie’s delicious and artful appetizers, displayed below, featured fresh local ingredients  . . .

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Cake designer, Kimberly Wiggins, of Cakes by Kim did an incredible job showcasing her decadent desserts.

 

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Another Dothan native, Sarah Morriss Ragan, the proprietor of Ragan House Lettering, chose to incorporate a stunning hand-crafted paper floral display on her pew.  Shown below are Amy Morriss, Sarah, and Mary Morriss.

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What a magnificent display of floral design ideas and vignettes!  The loft was literally transformed into a cacophony of different colors and textures.  Feast your eyes on the original and imaginative creations . . .

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 “I think it went splendidly.  Everything seemed to go off without a hitch.  It wasn’t really a stressful day, in fact, I really enjoyed it!”   Sarah-Elizabeth Cleveland of P.E.W.S.

 

Flower Magazine, one of my very favorite magazines, was the event judge and ad sponsor for the event.

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Other featured sponsors -

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“For the Southern bride who revels in tradition, there is no better option for ceremony seating than pews”. Meghan Chase

 

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Spindle Photography

 

With home bases in Birmingham and Charleston, P.E.W.S. has an beautiful collection of pews for rental.  Check out their beautiful website.

http://rentpews.com/

 

 

 

 

Lots of Limelights

There is no doubt that my obsession with hydrangeas, particularly limelight hydrangeas, will ever wane.  In the oppressive heat of the Southern summer the Limelight hydrangea with its cool, green blooms comes to the rescue!  The geographic conditions here in lower Alabama seem to be ideal for the proliferation of these heavenly flowers.  In addition, they have been one of the main staples of my floral design this summer with my business, Garden Gate.  Before the summer comes to a close, I wanted to share some of the magnificent blooms I photographed in the area.

Featured below are limelights in their early blooming season toward the end of June.  I love the chartreuse color of the early blooms.

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 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, vigorous and rapid growers, thrive best in full sun. These disease and insect resistant shrubs provide a range of seasonal color as they turn from lime green to a pink hue as their blooms persist into autumn.  

The images below were made in July and the first of August..

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  Renowned professional gardener and popular television personality, P. Allen Smith, describes limelights as “stop the car” kind of shrubs, that have a “chameleon-like quality of changing colors through the seasons”. 

 

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Limelights are garden gifts that keep giving all year long – from their gorgeous appeal in summer arrangements to the dried blooms that can be enjoyed for months to come. 

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 Truly limelights reign in the Southern summer garden!

An Engagement Celebration

Summer is the season for engagement parties and weddings, and what a  lovely bounty of  late summer flowers was available for an engagement party that my business partner and I had the pleasure of decorating for.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of preparing for the event was having access and cutting rights (of course!) to the glorious Southern garden at the beautiful home of Melissa and Jack Jackson.  Melissa, an avid gardener and gracious hostess,  makes giving a party seem almost effortless..

 

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The photographs below only partially depict the majestic splendor of the Jackson garden.

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Blue and lavender hues from drying hydrangeas  along with Nandina berries added to the beauty of two urns of elephant ears at the front entrance.

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A wreath of fresh eucaylptus, yellow roses,  hydrangeas, hosta,  and magnolia, centered with a miniature heart of preserved boxwood, made a welcoming display on the front door.

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What a festive night of celebration!  Lisa Green of Celebrations at St. Andrew’s Market place provided quite a delicious smorgasboard.

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Photograph courtesy of Kyn Pickett

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Congratulations, Elizabeth and Ben!

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Photograph courtesy of Kyn Pickett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk Through the Clark Garden – Therapy for the Soul

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Tucked in the heart of Dothan’s garden district, Marty Clark’s quintessential cottage garden is truly a gardening masterpiece.   Marty has always admired the structured chaos of cottage gardens, embracing the fact that the structure is loose and that “real” rules of design need not be adhered to.  The classic boxwood lined beds and hedges of formal English gardens  appeal to her as well.  She cites her Texas grandmother as a gardening influence when she was a child.  Starting as a novice,  she credits her gardening friends for their mentoring over the years. Some of her favorite garden flowers include purple cone flowers, rudbeckia, ferns, acanthus and camellias.  Dense plantings of macho fern, cast iron plant, hosta other varieties of greenery, the bones of her garden,  form a lush, green backdrop against the shaded fenced garden.  Her masterful use of containers, garden statuary, and whimsical ornaments add to its welcoming charm and fairy-tale atmosphere . Majestic towering century old oak trees form a canopy over the backyard while vibrant perennial beds add pops of summer color. The stunning blooms of the Limelight hydrangeas are captivating in the front garden.   I have always considered her garden to be one of my very favorites, and was elated to have had the opportunity to photograph her magazine worthy garden and outside room in June and July.

 

“I have the good fortune of having a sunny front yard where I can grow a crazy mix of beautiful and colorful flowers, while in the remainder of the yard I am blessed with shade from large old oaks and where it is easily 5-10 degrees cooler.  There I can grow plants that cool and calm like ferns, acanthus, cast iron,etc.”

 

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Marty loves all varieties of hydrangea, and she obviously has the magic touch with such varieties as Limelights, Oak Leaf,  and Endless Summer.

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“If I plant something that doesn’t grow the way the plant ticket says it will I always move it.  I sometimes move it 2 or 3 times until I find its “happy place”.  If that doesn’t work I share it with my sons for their yards or with friends.  I rarely throw something away just because it didn’t do what I wanted it to do.  And ask gardener friends for advice when needed.  Gardeners are a wonderful network of knowledge and love to share it!”

 

Continue down the garden path  . . .

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Although Marty is a native of Laurel, Mississippi, she graduated from the University of Alabama.  Clearly, this is one garden statue that reflects her SEC loyalty!

 

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The Clark’s casually elegant outdoor room, anchored by an old brick fireplace, is filled with a plethora of carefully chosen rustic accessories and furnishings collected by Marty over the years.

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Marty reflects on her passion for gardening:

“I love to travel and see the gardens and landscaping of the many places we have been fortunate to visit.  That also influences my garden a lot.  Gardening gives me a sense of peace and pleasure.  I always tell my husband “it’s cheaper than therapy”, and for me, it is therapy for my soul.  When things are looking especially pretty I thank God and remind myself He is the creator and I’m just His tool.”

 

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Marty’s long-term landscaping investments have created a garden paradise.  Thanks for letting us through your garden gate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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