A Walk Through the Keyton Garden

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 Christy Keyton’s passion for gardening is evident as one walks through her home’s  front arbor and gate,  resplendent with masses of Confederate Jasmine.  Several Japanese Maple trees also grace the front garden.  The courtyard and walkways, fabricated with old brick, add to the garden’s charm.   Well known garden designer, Rhoda Boone, helped design the front courtyard, and Christy’s number one request was that  she pack in as many hydrangeas as possible into the design.  She shares my philosophy that everyone should have a garden full of hydrangeas!  Many more hydrangeas have been added since the initial design.   Limelights and Endless Summer varieties are the stars of her summer garden.  I captured images in early May just as the Endless Summers were beginning to bloom when Christy generously gave me “cutting rights” for an arrangement I was doing.  Now that the hydrangeas have faded into warm pink and green hues,  there will be even more blooms for Christy’s unique floral creations.

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The swing, also made by the same craftsman who designed the Keyton’s arbor and gate, is a favorite garden spot, and was the recent setting of her son’s proposal!  Possibly a new Keyton tradition has been started…

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The Japanese Maple foliage and Endless Summer hydrangeas provide a beautiful contrast.

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Christy’s gardening style was influenced and shaped by her Mother, Dale, an avid gardener who maintains a beautiful garden today even in her 80′s!  Her mother has a “very free flowing” style, and has raised hybrid roses since Christy’s childhood.  Also, cited as influences are the British edition of Country Living along with Susan Branch’s blog and books.  Susan’s white picket fence is the inspiration for her upcoming backyard renovation in which she plans to incorporate her own fenced garden which will be filled with herbs, perennials, fruit trees, and vegetables.

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Delicate clusters of Plumbago cascade over the garden’s brick walls . . .

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This towering tree-form Limelight Hydrangea is glorious!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a childhood favorite that profoundly influenced Christy’s love for gardening along with The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton which she read as an adult.  Christy is captivated by the idea of wandering into a hidden place that is magical and full of beauty.  These books helped  inspire the front garden’s arbor and gate.  Adding “secret garden rooms” in her backyard garden design is a goal that she now has in the planning stages.

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A favorite vintage find:  an original seed packet display is shown below.

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Christy’s floral design talents are showcased below . . .

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Christy updated the finish of this vintage tool caddy with milk paint.  How gorgeous the blooms look against the abundant backdrop of a  lush bed of Creeping Jenny!

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Christy’s passion and enthusiasm lie not only in her passion for gardening.  Through the years she has run a successful business, has been an advocate of homeschooling, and has taught her 8 children.  Christy is an inspirational speaker, a Bible teacher, and enjoys chalk painting vintage furniture.

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 “Just looking at all the beauty God has created in my garden quiets my soul . . . and of course I love all the flowers I can put in my home!”

 

Thanks, Christy, for letting us through your garden gate!

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Sunday Morning Garden Gifts

Joe Steever has many God given gifts, and each Sunday at Westwood Presbyterian Church, his opening piano prelude helps  set a worshipful atmosphere.  He not only shares his musical talents with the congregation, but he also captures the beauty of nature with his weekly floral arrangements.   Utilizing seasonal blooms from his spell binding garden, he faithfully shares a floral creation each Sunday.   Since he was going to be out of town today, he gave me “cutting rights” to his lovely perennial garden to use for an arrangement for today’s  service.  He and his wife, Jennifer, have done an outstanding job of making this garden district home their own.  Their imposing lot is filled with stately oak trees , magnolias, hydrangeas, azaleas, and heirloom camellias that are show stoppers in the fall and winter.

 

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A charming side entrance leads out to the garden –

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A gardener’s dream cutting garden of  beautiful perennials overlooks a welcoming swimming pool.  Dazzling  zinnias in all their glory -  hues of pink, orange, red, and yellow add a profusion of color while towering sunflowers lend their sunny energy.  Fuchsia colored phlox is ideal for incorporating into summer floral design.

 

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More garden beauty - 

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What a delightful garden tour!  I promise to be back with more pictures when the camellias start blooming in the fall -

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 I headed home with my bucket, filled to the brim with brilliantly colored zinnias, to start arranging!

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And the best part about arranging the flowers was our church’s tradition of giving bouquets from morning worship to the children in the congregation -

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The amen of nature is always a flower –

 

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A Garden of Gardenias

How much grace the gardenia, the Queen of fragrant flowers, bestows on the Southern garden! It is easy to see why they have been a Southern garden staple for generations.  Their glossy green foliage,  creamy white, velvet-like blossoms, and intoxicating perfume help to create romance in the garden.  The garden district home of Kathy and Bob Cleveland has some of the most gorgeous bushes that I have ever seen. 

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 Gardenias in one part of their garden form a hedge of exquisite blooms.

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Gardenias thrive in pots on decks and patios,  and are ideal for placing along garden pathways, near windows, and on corners of a house.  Although their blooms are rather short lived after cutting, gardenias will produce blooms from spring up until fall.    While gardenias originated in the Orient, they were named in honor of Dr. Alexander Garden, an 18th century botanist and physician from Charleston, South Carolina.

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Camellias require relatively little care.  Below are tips recommended by expert growers:

1.  They grow best in a location that provides morning sun and dappled afternoon shade.

2.  Cow manure and compost are recommended for promoting optimal growing conditions.

3.  Camellias thrive best in acidic soil.

4.  Feed every 3-4 weeks during growing season with an acid fertilizer, fish emulsion, or blood meal.

 

I’m thankful to have “cutting rights” in the Cleveland garden.  The lovely garden urn below is from their garden.  

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I enjoyed the sweet fragrance of gardenias in my home for several days.. 

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A few more scenes from their charming garden . . .

 

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Take a garden walk -

I love touring gardens, and I’m so fortunate to have friends who are master gardeners in their own right!  I thought readers would find it interesting to take a walk through their gardens.  For the next few weeks, I will be featuring five diverse, yet gorgeous gardens that are sure to bring beauty and inspiration into your day..

A traditional, more formal style garden-

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A cottage-syled garden in the heart of Dothan’s garden district –

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An English styled garden –

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A shady woodland garden with over 150 varieties of hydrangeas and over 200 cultivars of hosta –

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A Mississippi garden that has come “full circle” –

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“Lovely flowers are the smiles of God’s goodness”. – Wilberforce

 

 

 

Celebrating the 4th!

As the 4th draws to a close, and I hear the resonance of fireworks in the distance, I am reminded of the freedoms we are so fortunate to have in our country. I hope, you, too, have reflected on the many things that make our country great.

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  Limelight hydrangea blooms are certainly reason for celebration!

 

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An arrangement to kick off the holiday weekend using a few Gerbera daisies from a local grocery along with blooms from my yard and my neighbor’s!

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My July 4th tablescape from 2013 is shown below.  The Limelights were in full bloom!

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A pitcher of blueberry lemonade with local berries from Gaucho Farms was the perfect thirst quenching beverage for a hot summer afternoon.   The vintage instrument tray and cart were used in my Daddy’s office years ago.

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Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience.  Without God there is a coarsening of the society.  Without God democracy will not and cannot endure.  If we ever forget that we are on Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under“.  -President Ronald Reagan

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Wishing you and your family a safe and happy weekend….

Gaucho Farms: Experience Farm-to-Table at Its Very Best

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Jorge and Suzanne Wright Sanchez, true advocates of providing healthier alternatives to factory-farmed meats, poultry and vegetables, started Gaucho Farms based on model of The Pampas of Argentina, Jorge’s homeland.  This area,  known for its wide open grasslands and sustainable agriculture, has been successfully integrated in the south Alabama hamlet of Slocomb.  Located at 1808 Watford Road, the Sanchez family’s charming farm house and vegetable garden is captivating as you turn into the long driveway.  Although they have owned the 30 acres of farmland since 2007, their business was launched just four years ago.  Suzanne enthusiastically spoke of their goals with the farms:

“The overall vision of our business is two-fold.  We want to see how much nutritious food that we can produce sustainably.  Coming up we’ll be adding fruit, increasing our laying flock, and vegetable production.  The second mission is to engage the local community into sustainable farming and see them grow some of their own food”.  

 

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 Their garden features heirloom vegetables from certified organic, non-GMO seed.

 

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Their store, located on the property and open to the public each Saturday from 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M., features fresh vegetables such as  squash, tomatoes, beets, potatoes,  blueberries, and fresh farm eggs.  Other enticing specialties include local honey, cucumber salsa, pepper jelly, jellies, jams, and even homemade treats such as Paleo bars and chocolate chip zucchini muffins.  All poultry and livestock are free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and synthetic pesticides while the meat lambs and steers are 100% grass fed.  Their freezers are stocked with select cuts of the most delicious meat you will ever throw on your grill!

 

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Feasting on the fruits of their labor!

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Although the Sanchezes feature a Fall Farm Day annually, each Saturday children and adults alike can have their own experience of farm life . . .

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The blueberry picking is at a premium now at Gaucho Farms.  Blueberry picking is available daily from 7:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.  Load up  your family and take an excursion on the “Blueberry Express” to the blueberry orchards each Saturday from 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.  Bring your own bucket! 

 

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How to order:  Preorder by Tuesday online at info@gauchofarms.com or by calling (334)-886-9736.  Pick up is at Thompson Chiropractic Clinic or at Dothan Nurseries.  You can visit the store at Gaucho Farms on Saturdays from 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M. Check Gaucho Farms out on Facebook:

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Without a doubt, the benefits that are reaped by those who both produce and consume local food, are essential to promoting a healthier lifestyle.  Buying local has many advantages such as the opportunity to get the highest quality foods affordably.   With the emphasis and interest in the Farm-to-Table movement in recent years, small diversified farms like Gaucho Farms are here to stay. Their enduring committment to the practice of sustainable agriculture is definitely making an imprint on our community, and will continue to influence other surrounding areas.

 

Suzanne points out the we should all be concerned about where our food comes from.  A favorite quote of hers by noted environmental activist, farmer, and author, Wendell Berry,  sums up the Gaucho Farms’ philosophy:

“Eating is an agricultural act”.

 

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An Engagement Celebration

The month of June has long been associated with wedding and engagement celebrations.  Although the wedding of  Lynsey Gulledge and  John Griffin is several months away,  a gorgeous country retreat was the perfect setting to honor this lovely couple over the weekend.

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The Mother of the bride created an artistic sign to welcome guests  at the entryway…

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My friend, Vicki Harris, and I have just launched a new business called Garden Gate.  We specialize in floral design for engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, luncheons, corporate events, and special celebrations.  Another Garden Gate service is creating small arrangements for gift giving.  That being said, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to create floral arrangements in such a picturesque setting for the engagement party.  We gathered fresh greenery from sweet friends who have given us “cutting rights”,  and placed it in water several days prior to the party to ensure that it was adequately conditioned for our arrangements.  A couple of car and truck loads later, and the fun started.

 

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Sunflowers, white hydrangea, curly willow, Dianthus, and button mums were ordered and delivered from the wholesale florist . . .

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In addition to being very creative and fun to work with, Vicki is extremely organized and methodical.  From start to finish, she kept my stress level to a minimum!

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Topiaries in galvanized containers were  designed for individual tables consisting of sunflowers, green button mums,  hydrangea, yarrow,  variegated Pittosporum, and fresh eucalyptus.

 

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A moss covered basket of white hydrangea, maidenhair fern, and variegated creeping fig was the centerpiece on a decorative painted sideboard.

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Two simple urn arrangements of roses, variegated Pittosporum, eucalyptus, and Cryptomeria were the focal point over the fireplace.  At the base, a rustic, iron container held a display of oakleaf hydrangea, ornamental grass,  and magnolia pods.

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Mtizi Gulledge, the bride’s Mother, provided decorative signs to add to the celebration.

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An urn held white hydrangea, oakleaf hydrangea, roses,  sunflowers, yarrow, variegated Pittosporum Loquat foliage, Cryptomeria, and cascading strands of cross vine on the serving table.

 

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The sideboard flower arrangement for a dessert display is shown below.

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Colorful annuals were planted by the hosts on the back patio in cast iron urns.

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A tree stump fabricated container gave a rustic, casual feel to the beverage table.

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Two rustic urns, filled with Winged Elm branches, magnolia, Loquat tree foliage, variegated Pittosporum, hydrangea, and Cryptomeria, flanked the side entrance that led to a terrace where tables were set up for the guests.  Galvanized letters, “L” for Lynsey and “J” for John, were the focal point of the baker’s rack in the area.  A ceramic cowboy boot was filled with sunflowers, Confederate Jasmine, and curly willow.

 

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A local businessman salvaged these two official stadium seats from a renovation at Jordan- Hare Stadium.  Incidentally, the couple’s alma mater is Auburn University!  War Eagle!!

 

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The arrangement for the head table featured succulents,  pink roses, variegated Pittosporum, and eucalyptus in a contemporary, fluted copper piece from Copperworx of Clinton, MS.

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Many friends and relatives joined in the engagement celebration . . .

 

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The wedding journey begins . . . .Congratulations, Lynsey and John!

 

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The Majestic Magnolia

 

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Magnolia trees are simply synonymous with the Southern garden.  I have childhood memories of growing up in Mississippi with the sweet perfume of fresh magnolia in our home.  My Mother considered them a floral design staple any season of the year, often incorporating  them into flower arrangements or placing simple bowls of their pristine blooms on our dining table.  Maybe that is why we had a dozen or so majestic magnolia trees surrounding our home! 

I love to cut a few of them as they just start to bloom and watch them as their tulip-shaped buds unfold into exquisite blooms. A southern garden fixture, the magnolia represents “splendid beauty and dignity”.  I once heard the quote:  “The fragrance of magnolias is pure happiness”, and I can’t think of a better description of these majestic flowers.

 

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There are over 90 different speices of magnolia today in the U.S.   However, my favorite variety is Magnolia grandiflora. I can’t help but be a little partial to the magnolia since it is the state flower of Mississippi, my native state.  This variety can easily reach heights of 80 feet and grown 40 feet in width.  “Little Gem”, another popular variety, is the longest flowering magnolia ever.

Pictured below is a Magnolia Stellata, more commonly referred to as a Star magnolia, that was planted on my family’s property back in the 70′s.  Although this was photographed mid-March,  the reddish aggregates of fruit it produces in the fall are lovely, too.

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When the sweet fragrance of magnolia trees fills the air, you know that you are in the South.

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Although the blooms are short lived, enjoy them while they last!  However, I even like the faded, brown blooms. Even the pods are lovely, and can be used in floral design. I placed a few pods on the on a garden trellis that is covered with  variegated Kadsura vine.  

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At the recent opening of Magnolia Preserve in Dothan, we placed arrangements of magnolia, Ligustrum blooms, and hydrangea throughout the reception and entertaining areas..

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Magnolia and Confederate Jasmine pair beautifully together.

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Magnolia is definitely a flower arranging staple around my house, and one of my favorite combinations is magnolia and hydrangea.

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A more formal design in a tole container..

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Another arrangement in a rustic, fluted metal container is shown below.

 

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I can’t think of a better way to make a statement of southern hospitality than a display of  magnolias at an entryway!

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Rustic wooden bowls always are great presentation vessels for magnolias..

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 Pour me a mint julep – it’s magnolia season in the South!

 

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

 

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 Today I am honored to feature a guest post from Laurel Griffith today as we celebrate Father’s Day.  Laurel, a gifted writer, speaker, and author, edited and published a magazine entitled Wiregrass Christian Living when she and her husband, Jim, lived here in Dothan.  Now  I have the opportunity to read her blog several times a week at http://www.laureljoycegriffin.com.   She writes with great wisdom, faith, authority, and wit.   She truly follows the path that the Lord is directing her on, and is a great mentor to many.  She and Jim, a physician, are parents to three grown sons, and live in Albany, Georgia.

She recently was in Dothan on a book tour with her book, When You Don’t Know What to do . . . Lean Forward.  You can find it here: 

 

 

 

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Great Expectations
My husband bought a tractor. Who knew it would take so much time? He read about tractors, talked to tractor experts and went to tractor auctions. I spent one Saturday with him in the tractor trenches, but I’m not sure my feedback made the decision any easier. Did you know that you also need other implements to go along with your tractor? You must also buy bush-hogs, discs and those cutter-things.

The reason we need a tractor is simple. Jim bought the farm — in the best sense of the word.

My husband loves the land and has been searching for just the right place to grow timber. He settled on acreage close to our home in Georgia. Then he went right to work buying the right machinery and building a barn. When the time is right, he will thin, spray, burn, and plant. His goal is to create a beautiful place to share with others.

Jim looks across the acres and sees what this land can become. He recognizes the potential.

Gardeners and tree farmers have a lot in common. Both groups select the best plants for the location. They prune what is weak and they nurture new growth. In the process, they learn lessons about hard work and patience and the wonder of God’s creation.

Tree farmers love sharing their passion with others. They will talk about wood density and growth rate. They will describe their tractor and invite you to join them in the pick up truck. You can see their trees if you appear halfway interested.

 

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Most gardeners I know want you to visit their garden. They offer blossoms and produce. They invite you to linger, to soak in the quiet and the beauty. They can tell you the details of every plant: why they placed it where they did, how it grew last year, and what they expect in the season to come.

 

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From the garden of Vicki Harris

 

In past years, I would have been happy that Jim had found a place to do the things he loves to do. I would have encouraged him to spend time in the woods because I knew it was important to him. But now I realize this is more than a hobby or a pastime. I am beginning to feel his passion with him. I will never have the same zeal for the land but I am learning to see “the farm” through his eyes.

This desire to create beauty, to grow flowers and produce and plant trees began in the first garden. When God created Adam and Eve He made them partners in His work. He told them to subdue and care for the earth. God made people stewards of His creation.

The gardener and the tree farmer are fortunate people. They see the connection between their vision, their work and God’s great design. They understand planting, pruning, and harvesting is actually an extension of God’s creative mission. They feel God’s pleasure when they plant seeds, create habitat, and then invite others to enjoy it with them. It’s not only about the final product; it’s also about the process.

It occurs to me that dads have a lot in common with those who tend the soil.

Dads plant small seeds into the lives of their children. They see the particular potential that each child has — who they can become by God’s grace with the right nurture and opportunities. Dads also tend the soil, remove weeds that choke the growth and nourish the growing child. They pray and they advise. They correct and they encourage. They toil in their “garden” through all kinds of weather.

Gardeners, tree farmers, and dads give their best and wait with patience and great expectations for God to bring the harvest.

 

Jim Griffith and his sons . . .

Jim with baby     Jim and boys

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Thank you, Laurel, for sharing your inspiring thoughts on the connection between gardening and God’s plan for fatherhood.

 

Celebrating the many gifts fathers bring into our lives….

 

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From the garden of Vicki Harris

 

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it” –   Clarence Kellum

Oakleaf Hydrangea – A Vintage Southern Garden Charmer

 

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From the McCain garden

In the South, the hydrangea reigns as the quintessential garden flower starting about mid-May and continuing into the early fall. I can never seem to get enough of them, and constantly peruse Dothan’s garden district as well as other areas for their captivating blooms.  Hydrangea quercifolia commonly referred to as oakleaf hydrangea,  are peaking right now in our area’s gardens.  Oakleafs, which can grow as tall as 6 feet and up to 8 feet wide, have creamy elongated clusters of cone-shaped blooms.  Felder Rushing, a Mississippi horticulturist and author, warns against “whacking” oakleaf hydrangeas.  His recommendation is to simply thin unwanted branches after the summer blooms have died.  An added bonus of this deciduous schrub is the rust colored foliage that appears in the fall – great for floral design.

  It seems, this year, I had only to go out for a run in my very own neighborhood to capture some of the most stunning oakleaf hydrangeas ever.  Dana and Scooter McCain’s lovely shaded garden is home to some of the loveliest oakleaf  hydrangeas that I’ve ever laid eyes on. I resisted the urge to do a little “judicial pruning”!  But, for the last few weeks, I have admired them – capturing them on my phone’s camera as well as going back with my Canon.  I believe the variety she has is “Snowflake”.  I have admired her oakleafs for several years.  I think you will  agree ….

 

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A few more lovely pictures I took on my morning run today..

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At a recent garden club meeting, Cathy Denney shared the fruits of her labor with this captivating arrangement from her gorgeous garden, incorporating oakleaf hydrangeas and one of my favorite types of greenery, variegated Pittosporum.

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Admire the colossal blooms in the Georgia garden of Becky Byrd..

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Oakleaf hydrangeas are often described as having a truly Southern soul.  Their  blooms seem to illuminate shady gardens in the summer…

 

Below are a few more oakleaf hydrangea images I captured in the Dothan’s garden district . . .

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Oakleaf hydrangas are very happy in the garden of Kathy and Bob Cleveland!  Their shaded, woodland garden is conducive to some of the largest oakleafs I have seen.  Kathy has wonderful collection of garden statuary, and I couldn’t resist creating a few uncontrived arrangements with the oakleafs and some of her French Lace Cap hydrangeas.

 

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“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”.  – Marcel Proust

 

 

A Friend’s Inspiration in the Garden of Life

I truly believe that God selectively places certain friends in your life that will be there for a lifetime.  No circumstance or situation will ever alter that friendship.  In fact, I like to think of them as special angels that are there to guide you, sustain you, and even help to pick you up when you fall.  Yvonne Reid is one such friend!  My friendship started with Yvonne many years ago when I joined a small group that she was leading.  A gifted Bible teacher and counselor, she volunteers several days each week counseling at Wiregrass Hope Group.  A gifted writer and photographer, Yvonne is a constant source of encouragement in my life along with countless others.  She adores flowers and loves the color, yellow.  Every time I see a yellow flower I am reminded of our friendship.  Yellow flowers seem to  burst with happiness, and joy, quite appropriately, is also one of the feelings elicited by the color.

Pictured below are some lovely blooms I photographed recently..

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Enjoy the yellow flower arrangements pictured below . . .

 

My sons gave me these  tulips for my birthday, beautifully arranged in a vase from the florist. After a few days, I deconstructed the arrangement placing them in vintage milk glass containers and a cake stand that belonged to my Mother. Lemons, camellia foliage, and  hosta added to the cheerful tablescape. The woven blue and white woven coverlet also is a family piece.

 

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Another arrangement I did last summer from my Mother’s garden incorporating roses and hosta.

 

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Pictured below are a few scenes from Yvonne’s lovely woodland garden…

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Sunflowers are a favorite of Yvonne’s, and my business partner and I gave her an arrangement as a little gift of gratitude for doing some photography for us . . .

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Her precious granddaughters love her playfulness and exuberant personality.

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Yvonne writes brilliantly and I keep a file of inspirational writings she has authored through the years.  I would like to share this with you today:

 

“Circumstances should not determine our peace and joy, though I often allow what’s happening around me to do just that. God allows the sweet mornings and the storms, and we are to embrace what He is arranging, and realize that His hammering away at us is done in order to draw us closer to Him. He goes to great lengths and allows the trials to bring us to what He knows is the only thing to make us truly joyful and at peace. We need not fight against it, He will have His way ultimately because He loves us.”
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the field produces no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” -Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

A magnificent dew-drenched camellia photographed by Yvonne in her yard a few months ago.

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“Friendship is unnecessary like philosophy, like art.  It has no survival value, rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.   – C.S. Lewis

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