Book Club Celebration Helps Ring in the Holidays

A little over a decade,  in the spring of 2007, a group of ten book lovers formed a local book club.  None of us would have imagined that we would still be passionate about our club some ten years later  Originally named “The Same Sweet Girls” (based on the Cassandra King novel by the same name), but as time went by our group has taken on a second designation:  “Bookies”.    My older sister who was living in Athens, Georgia, at the time, gave me guidelines that had worked successfully for her group, and we were quick to get on board. Some of the group members had been friends for years while it was the beginning of new friendships for several of us.  The hundred or so books we have read have created many opportunities for travel adventures from meeting an author in Oxford, MS  to Charleston to New Orleans to quick beach retreats.  Two of the original ten members have moved away, but still stay active when they can while in recent months our membership has grown by five.  Although the love of books is a common thread, this group has become much more than a book discussion forum to all of us.  From the joys of celebrating marriages and the birth of grandchildren to the pain of divorce and death, there is an inexplicable bond of which we are all grateful.

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A highlight of our year is the annual Christmas luncheon which Maurine Johnston has hosted many times throughout the years.  An avid gardener, decorator, and gracious hostess, her home was a magical holiday setting overflowing with fresh greenery, gorgeous floral design, and family Christmas heirlooms.

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Wishing you all the timeless treasures of Christmas, the warmth of home, the love of family, and the company of good friends . . .

 

 

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A Magical Garden on the Banks of Lake Martin

Several months ago I had the opportunity to cross one off of my “Garden Bucket List”:  a visit to Jim Scott’s 12-acre lakeside property on Lake Martin in central Alabama.  Each year for a two month period, he graciously opens his garden to regional garden clubs.  Several of our club members had toured this legendary garden in recent years, and I knew that, without a doubt, it was a “must see”.  Many of my fellow gardening friends had difficulty describing this “fantasy” garden, and now I can see why.  Multiple garden rooms and spaces are interconnected with picturesque water falls, bridges, charming alcoves, stone pathways, and  flowing streams over the vast property.  Secret rooms and garden spaces emerge from almost every trail. Gorgeous statuary, classical busts,  massive urns, and whimsical garden accents add even more interest to the garden.   Jim Scott, a tax attorney by profession, transformed his hillside garden into a series of 25-30 garden rooms over a twenty year period.

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Note the Greek bust sporting sunglasses in the background!

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“My garden isn’t a picture garden.  It’s a walking garden, designed to have a cumulative effect on visitors as they wander through.”  – Jim Scott

Although the many Hydrangea on the property were not yet in bloom, there were plenty of other enchanting woodland flowers to captivate us.

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The Old World charm of the wine cellar was alluring, and was one of my favorite parts of the garden.  Scott has hosted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and other fund-raisers in his garden spaces.

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The garden is a photographer lover’s dream and the idyllic garden scenes are virtually endless.

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Notice the life-size chess set in the garden scene below . . .

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Our group gathered for lunch in an elevated pavilion prior to the garden tour.  It truly felt like an elegant tree house!

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Some of our group were fortunate enough to spend a couple of nights with a dear friend who has a gorgeous Lake Martin lake house.  Thanks, Maurine, for your “over the top” hospitality!

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Savoring the blessings of the day with a sunset over Lake Martin . . .

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“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”  A Midsummer’s Night Dream – William Shakespeare

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Inspirational Flowers of Early Spring

I can’t let the first month of spring get away without posting pictures of seasonal flowers that I was fortunate to have cutting rights to over the past couple of months.  Hands down, camellias rank next to hydrangeas and peonies as my favorite flower.  These marvelous specimens were photographed in the garden district at the home of  friends, Jennifer and Joe Steever.  Their camellias, many which are decades old,  were in their home’s original landscape plan designed by the first owner, and continue to be garden treasures.  I am not sure I have ever seen their trees so laden with blooms. I am forever thankful to them for so graciously opening their garden to me.

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The simplicity of vintage pink camellias could not be more beautiful throughout the home of a friend who help host a baby shower to welcome her first granddaughter.

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This unique vase, a gift from a friend, is the perfect container to display camellias.

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The illustrious blooms of Japanese Magnolia were a focal point of many garden areas in the late January and early February.

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IMG_7759IMG_7697The vibrant blooms of Chinese Loropetalum (pictured below) are also a great filler for floral design.

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The combination of Japanese Magnolia,  and camellias is stunning!  I used them for arrangements for Sunday morning worship services.

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My business partner and I incorporated Japanese Magnolia and pear blossoms along with purchased roses and White Stock  for supper club arrangements.

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Tulips and Narcissus always lift my spirits on gloomy winter days, and are a promise that spring is right around the corner.

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Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle . . .a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.

– Barbara Winkler

Autumn Farm to Vase Floral Design

It’s no secret that I love to comb the countryside gathering the freshest foliage and flowers along with cuttings from friends’ gardens (who have so kindly given me cutting rights!) to do flower arrangements. I like to think of these designs as “farm to floral” even though I incorporate purchased flowers as well.  Without a doubt, the fruits of the autumn harvest yield the most gorgeous array of yellow, gold, rust, and red hues that absolutely are spell bounding.

One of my favorite fall excursions is our local Aplin Farms. Their fields, resplendent with acres of golden sunflower blooms, could rival the fields of Tuscany.

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My business partner at Garden Gate, Vicki Harris and I spent an afternoon gathering buckets of sunflowers for our designs.

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I couldn’t resist a photo “opp” with these three adorable sisters.img_6750img_6743-copyimg_6703img_6701

Of course, this was my favorite produce selection of the day – sweet potatoes from my home state of Mississippi!  img_6706

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Plentiful fields of sorghum doted the landscape at Aplin Farms.

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October daisies, Lion’s Mane, Sage, and Zinnias are fall favorites of mine from the cutting garden of Jennifer and Joe Steever.

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Endless fields of golden rod remind me of my Mother cutting it on the roadside when I was a child..

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A few arrangements using “farm to vase” are shown below:

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Autumn leafed branches, glowing in gold, red, and rust hues, are a focal point in many of the arrangements pictured below. Pears, small pumpkins, and vintage hydrangeas also contribute to the harvest theme.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Hartzog’s Satsuma Farm in Webb, Alabama. The Hartzog family has approximately 1000 trees in two different locations with this year being their tenth harvest.  Groves of trees with cascading branches of glossy, green foliage and heavily laden with sweet fruit were spectacular against a perfect Autumn blue sky.   The owner was kind enough to let me cut some small branches to use in a couple of designs.

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Simple vases of roses combined with Nandina and Bradford Pear foliage formed the centerpiece for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Although the roses were not home grown, they remind me of my Mother’s spectacular Thanksgiving tablescapes with her garden roses taking center stage.

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“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise . . .”

 

 

 

A Haven for Entertaining

Janet Loftin’s home and garden provide the quintessential elements for successful entertaining.  Her artistic flair with decorating and attention to detail combined with her love of gardening have created a haven for entertaining both family and friends in her lovely traditional home.  With the recent addition of a spacious screened porch,  there is an illusion of a disappearing threshold which incorporates an inviting pool and spectacular landscape design in her backyard garden.  Custom iron and wooden furniture along with an outdoor cooking area, made by a local craftsman, add charm to the outdoor entertaining area.

IMG_4736The stacked stone fireplace is a focal point in the sitting area, providing a great place to cozy up with a fire and hot chocolate in the cooler months.

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A focal point in one area of the outdoor porch is a Mother In Law’s Tongue nesting in a  wooden wagon that belonged to Janet’s Mother.

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With the pool construction, several of Janet’s prized camellias had to be relocated.  Fortunately, they endured the move and produced spectacular blooms back in the early spring when these photographs were made.

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Several Chinese Snowball Viburnum bushes dominate a new bed in her garden.

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Shown below are pictures from a summer bridal brunch held at the Loftin home.  Simple green foliage along with Curly Willow,  hydrangeas, Queen Anne’s Lace, white Stock, and Chinese Viburnum blooms from Janet’s garden created elegant floral designs throughout the entertainment areas.

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A summer bridal brunch honoring Lauren Glisson Cleveland

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Janet and Lamar Loftin have truly created a haven for family and friends.  Their outdoor room is almost seasonless here in the deep South.  And, for the next couple of months, the familiar strains of  “Go Dawgs ” can be heard as these avid Georgia fans celebrate football season on the porch!

 

A Haven for Hydrangeas

Linda Bailey’s west Dothan garden is a reflection of her love for hydrangeas.  Over a span of some 30 years she has created a haven for many different varieties of hydrangeas. Her extensive knowledge of the growing process them as well as the different species is quite impressive.  She credits her Mother, also, with getting her gardening “genes”.  In fact, her Mother contributed bushes as well as helped her maintain the garden at one point.   A Rose of Sharon tree dominates one large area of her garden, providing beautiful cup-shaped fuchsia flowers as a backdrop for one of her massive hydragea beds.

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Linda incorporates lovely containers into her landscape design  that add more pops of color and texture. Carefully placed  statuary, natural stone pavers, whimsical birdhouses, and serene fountains contribute to the garden’s appeal.IMG_5872IMG_5877Linda has masterfully created garden rooms throughout her spacious shady garden with banana plants, caladium, hosta, and a variety of ferns and other shade loving plants.

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Linda is so generous with the hundreds of hydrangea blooms in her garden. I came to cut a few blooms for an arrangement, and, at her insistence,  left with dozens of pristine blooms.  I loved arranging them in my own home as well as sharing some with friends and an assisted living facility.

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Linda, a retired educator, has had more time to garden in recent years.  However, spending time with her precious grandchildren takes top billing!

She is conveying her love of gardening to a new generation!  (Those have to be record breaking Elephant Ears!)

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Thanks, Linda, for sharing your love of gardening!

 

 

2016 Spring Garden Tour-Today and Sunday

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Dothan’s annual spring Home Garden Tour, sponsored by Botanical Garden Club, is a two day stroll through five  private gardens as well as the Dothan Area Botanical Garden.  Check out these unique gardens to simply enjoy their magnificence or to find ideas and inspiration for your own garden. I still have two more gardens to tour tomorrow, however, I will recap the ones I have already visited.

Dothan Area Botanical Gardens:  Check out more than 15 specialty gardens including the herb, rose, butterfly, Asian and Day lily gardens.  Don’t miss the Coleman Tropical House with its large selection of tropical plants.

 

The Dunseth Garden at 113 North Englewood:  This spectacular sunny garden is filled with roses, perennials, annuals as well as grasses.  You will want to linger down the garden paths to explore the 250 foot area of rose covered pergola. The garden features sculpture created by Chuck Dunseth in 1961 as well as two historical church spires from Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC.  The garden is maintained solely by Sue and Chuck.

 

 

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The Filmore Garden at 202 Asborough Circle (Jamestown):  The Filmore’s garden is characterized by straight lines and formal greenery. A feature of the garden is the enclosed “Mary Garden” which is planted with flowers and plants named for Our Lady and Jesus. You may even hear the church bells from St. Columba Catholic Church during your visit – the Filmore’s favorite garden feature.

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Valerie and Jeremy Vinson (Jamestown):  The courtyard garden, centered by a beautiful fountain, is graced by both sunny and shady areas.  This evergreen filled garden is not to be missed.  A fairy garden, placed appropriately at the base of a tree, will appeal to all ages.  A large outdoor room features a lovely dining area and sitting area.

 

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The two remaining gardens are on my afternoon garden tour agenda tomorrow afternoon.  They both get rave reviews as well.

Betty and Johnny Kelly at 1162 Woodham Road:  This English styled garden, referred to as “Bibury”, was named after an English village in Gloucestershire.  Features include a cathedral-type cypress porch, a multitude of flowers vines and visiting birds as well as “Blue Glory”, an old 1950’s era tenant house converted to an English cottage.

Beverly and George Maxwell at 229 Prestwick Blvd:  Located in Highlands South, this charming garden feature a breezy porch, which provides the perfect spot for the owners to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

There is still time to enjoy the 2016 garden tour.  Tickets may be purchased at any of the gardens on Sunday from 1:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.  Come out and support The Dothan Area Botanical Gardens.  Contact the Gardens office at (334)-793-3224 for information on becoming a DABG member.

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All Creation Sings

 

What a glorious day to celebrate this season of rebirth!  I am overcome with the beauty of this season, and thankful for experiencing the masterpieces of God’s beauty each day.  I am blessed with the opportunity to help out with our church’s flower ministry.  In recent weeks I have enjoyed the simplicity of incorporating flowering trees and shrubs into my floral design which offer their own springtime rewards.  From the fuschia hued branches of the Taiwan Cherry to the delicate, lace-like blooms of Spirea to the quintessential Azalea blooms of southern Alabama, spring has arrived in full force!

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Photo below courtesy of Yvonne Reid477601_10150737555177604_527469350_o

God may our eyes be opened and our ears unstopped,
That we may see in every sight a cathedral giving glory,
And hear in every sound angels singing alleluia.
May we be awed by the treasure of beauty in a rising moon,
And inspired by the clouded majesty of rainbow colours after rain,
May we look and see the wonder of daffodils lifting bright and shining faces to the sun,
May we look and see each plant, each creature, each handful of dirt,
God breathed, God inspired, God created.
May we behold the beauty and hear you saying it is very good
And walk together into the sanctuary of your creation – Sine

 

Timeless Florals for Valentine’s Day

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Gifting flowers on Valentine’s Day dates back to the 1700’s when Charles II of Sweden introduced the language of flowers to Europe.   For a quick history of this holiday:  Saint Valentine was credited with demonstrating courage and valor in helping Christian martyrs being persecuted under Emperor Claudius II in Rome. Soon after this he was condemned to death.   A legend states that while awaiting execution, he befriended the jailer’s blind daughter whose sight he restored to her.  The jailer and his entire family converted to Christianity.  On the eve of his death, he wrote a farewell message to the jailer’s daughter. The celebration of  Valentine’s Day evolved from this popular legend.

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Roses, especially those in the hues of pink and red, are the flowers that have been traditionally associated with Valentine’s Day since Victorian times. However, the plentiful supply of brilliant tulip blooms in floral shops (and peaking through the ground in south Alabama!) is reason to celebrate the fact the spring is just around the corner.

A miniature fuschia azalea bush, delicate pink tulips, and roses in antique shades of pink, white , and red were arranged in a classic urn to celebrate Valentine’s Day .  While the cut flowers will be beautiful for up to ten days, the azalea can be planted in a landscape for many years of continuing beauty.

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Happy Belated Valentine’s Day!

 

Merry Christmas

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11)

 

Thankful for the faithfulness of God and the gifts of family and friendships this Christmas . . .

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“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed life that began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?  Then you can keep Christmas.  And if you keep it for a day, why not always?”  From The Spirit of Christmas by William VanDyke

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