Floral Design from the Heart

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, who has not been inundated with the almost endless displays of roses, tulips, lilies, cylamen, tulips, hydrangea that are spilling out of practically any type of store you frequent!  I even spotted  some rather lovely roses displayed on the checkout counter at Dollar General!

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Peonies rank way up on my list anytime of the year!

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While I admire feasting on these spectacular flowers, my favorite blooming shrub this time of year is the camellia.  Although the first cold snap was unkind to these southern favorites in our area, the recent warm weather has sent a resurgence of blooms.  Below I created a simple Valentine’s display that would work with any type of fresh flower if you are not fortunate to have access to camellias.

A heart shaped pan forms the basis for this arrangement.

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I have a couple of potted succulents in my kitchen window that have been thriving there for several months, and decided to incorporate those to create interest and texture.

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Carefully remove the succulent from the plastic pot, and remove some of the dirt. 

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Place in a sturdy plastic ziploc freezer bag.

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Place in the center of the pan.  Fill pan with water.  Arrange flowers are the periphery as desired.  I tucked some sheet moss around the edges.

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A heart shaped design is easily created with this process.  Some of the red camellias almost resemble roses!

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Another easy design is to hand tie small clusters of flowers togethre and secure with a pipe cleaner.  I used green from the floral supply store, but you could even use a rubber band.

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A small bouquet is created.  Transfer it to a vintage container like milk glass for an aesthetically pleasing display.

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One of my favorite ways to use fresh flowers is with garnishing.  A platter of miniature heart-shaped almond cakes and a Pink Velvet cake for a dear friend’s birthday this week gave me just the opportunity to do this.

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Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to share Ann Voskamp’s reflections on love:


Hey Soul? Valentine’s Day Gospel-truth:
You’re infinitely messier than you dared admit
& you are infinitely more loved than you ever dared dream.  “Do you think anyone can drive a wedge between you & Christ’s love for you? No way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred — absolutely NOTHING can get between you & God’s love because of the way that Jesus has embraced you.”  Romans 8:31 (The Message)


No matter what Hallmark is selling today, Jesus wraps you close: You are infinitely more loved than you ever dared dream.                       -Ann Voskamp

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Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day!

The Earth Holds Its Breath for Spring

Although our part of the country has already had periods of frigid temperatures, the past couple of days have been gorgeous with temperatures reaching the mid-60’s.  The garden district of Dothan,  resplendent with the captivating blooms of many vintage camellias, some which are at least 60-80 years old, is a showplace for camellias.  These exquisite blooms make me wish for spring…

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Even a few daffodils are peeking out of the earth..

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It truly is hard to capture the allure and beauty of camellias.  I stopped by a friend’s garden who is fortunate to have several towering camellia bushes in her garden that date back many years to the home’s first garden.  With granted “cutting rights” I collected a variety of colorful blooms,  and couldn’t resist creating a little garden vignette in the copper bird feeder.

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What a serene garden room with this charming mosaic tiled bistro table and chairs!

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And just around the corner, I visited with some new acquaintances who have the distinction of having Dothan’s oldest camellia in their front yard.  (Pictured next to the column on the left).  This home, built in the 1940’s, exudes charm and history.  Much of the landscape is original to the home.

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The Taiwan Flowering Cheery trees are abundant in the garden district as well.  The luscious fuchsia blooms create a delicate network of cascading branches.

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The delicate clusters of Taiwan Cherry blooms frame the lovely hues of a stained glass window at Temple Emanu-El at dusk.

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The contrast of the Star of David on the gate’s design with the steeple’s cross of the First United Methodist Church just across the street  was not brought to my attention until I downloaded the pictures on my computer.   We as Christians owe a great debt to the Israelites:  our faith is a continuation and fulfillment of their religion as we are partakers of the blessing promised to their forefathers – a Jewish Messiah!

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Infuse your home with a simple, colorful arrangement of fresh blooms, but, at the same time, embrace this winter season of waiting –

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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 dreams”.   – Barbara Winkler

A Joyful Celebration Indeed

One of the greatest gifts in life  is sharing the joy of friends as they celebrate milestones.  Thelmanne McGaughey is one such friend.   Her influence and many gifts as an educator have helped shape literally thousands of lives over the years. Thelmanne’s warmth, genuineness, zeal for life, compassion and gorgeous smile make her a “people magnet”.    I first met her after she had officially retired about 13 years ago, but while substituting several months for a teacher at my children’s school.   A close friendship quickly ensued, and a group of us who regularly socialized together was given the name, Joy Girls,  by Thelmanne’s Mother,  Ruthie Fleming.  Actually this term was coined in the 1940’s by her Mother and several of her high school friends who actually belonged to such a group as ours!

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The “Joy Girls”

The bonds of friendship run deep with Thelmanne and Michelle Plagenhoef (shown below) as their families have been friends for decades.

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After Matthew, Thelmanne’s son, became engaged to Andrea Bullard, the Joy Girls began making plans to help with the rehearsal dinner as well as to honor the couple with a wedding day brunch.  Janet Loftin and I assumed responsibility for decorating Dothan’s downtown venue, The French Quarter, for their “Great Gatsby” themed dinner.  This charming venue with its exposed brick walls, ornamental ironwork, and walled courtyard exemplifies typical New Orleans architecture.

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Below Thelmanne enjoys a few quiet moments with her adorable granddaughter, Radney Miller, in the courtyard after the bridesmaid’s luncheon.

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Although the courtyard needed very little enhancement, a rustic iron tree with covered with Eleagnus and Nandina foliage was centered on the courtyard’s stone table while a simple arrangement of magnolia and hydrangea in a rustic iron basin anchored a pedestal table.

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Guests enjoyed dressing in vintage 1920’s style fashions to carry out the bride and groom’s chosen Great Gatsby Theme.

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Andrea Bullard McGaughey (third from the left) is surrounded by friends and bridesmaids

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Matt, Andrea, Thelmanne and Barry McGaughey

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The bride and groom

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The groom’s sister and brother-in-law, Cricket and Greg Miller

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Thelmanne with Frank and Olivia Crockett

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Beautiful “Miss Rosa” with Thelamanne

Floral arrangements composed of vintage hydrangea, white hydrangea, roses, magnolia, Nandina, variegated Pittosporum,  Cryptomeria, and miniature white pumpkins were used in the dining area.

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Kelsey Barnard Catering provided a sumptuous feast of classic Southern favorites.                                    http://www.kelseybarnard-catering.com/home/

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What a joyful night of celebrating love, new beginnings and remembering that “The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships” – Abraham Lincoln

Congratulations, Matt and Andrea!

View More: http://morgantrinker.pass.us/andreaandmatt

Top 5 Viewed Posts of 2014

I appreciate all of my followers who have truly made the process of blogging a gratifying adventure for me since January of 2013.   I have enjoyed your comments, and am grateful for the opportunities and friendships that have ensued .   The “Top 5″ viewed posts in 2014 were actually from posts written in 2013.  I thought you might enjoy viewing them – some of you possibly for the first time!

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Limelight Hydrangea: The Garden Gift that Gives All Year Round

Originally posted on beautifulgardener:

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The Limelight hydrangea’s vibrant lime green to almost white blooms is without a doubt my favorite hydrangea and my favorite flower in general.  If I could have only one blooming plant in my yard, it would, hands down, be this stunning, show stopper hydrangea!  In fact, I almost have an obsession with them.  I first planted some about 5 years ago, and every year I add additional ones to my garden.  They are super easy to maintain (with lots of help from our yard maintenance and landscape design service, Lakewood Landscape Group: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lakewood-Landscape-Group/105033939562913?fref=ts  Each year I can hardly wait to decorate with the bounty of dried hydrangea that was harvested in the summer and fall.  They are gorgeous in simple basket displays and I couldn’t do without them combined with fresh bittersweet in the fall, greenery for Christmas decorating, and for spring arrangements.  I have displays of them in several…

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A Famiy Christmas Steeped in Tradition

For decades, my extended family has gathered in the charming northeast Mississippi town of Pontotoc to celebrate the Christmas season in our family home that my two sisters and I grew up in. Despite the 350 mile trek,  the road to Mississippi is never a long one for me!  Although both of my parents have passed away over the past 5 years, I can only imagine how delighted they would be that this past summer my older sister,  Claire McGee and her husband, Bob,  also a native of our town, moved back to Pontotoc after an absence of almost 40 years. My younger sister, Patti Smith and I shared their joy in moving into the family residence as they settled in and started renovations. While remarkable progress has been made over the past few months, their greatest vision, that of making it a place that we could all come “home to” has been accomplished.

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My parents loved to entertain, and my Mother’s culinary talents as well as her unique and captivating floral arrangements  turned our home into a spectacular haven for holidays.  While I often wondered what our family gatherings would be like in my parents’ absence, my sister has done an incredible job of keeping many of our old traditions intact as well as adding a few of her own.  A gifted interior designer, artist, and hostess, she created gorgeous natural arrangements throughout her home using magnolia, yew, Smilax, holly, Leucothoe, and other evergreens found on the property.

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The glossy green leaves from towering, stately Magnolia trees were crafted into spectacular wreaths on the front entrance to welcome guests to a Christmas Open House celebration.

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Smilax, commonly known as Jackson Vine, in the South was a favorite of my Mother’s.  She even planted it in her back garden where it is still thriving today.  A massive arrangement of Jackson Vine and magnolia is featured on the lamp post above.  Inside, it is used to grace the foyer, the mantels and other vignettes.

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The breath-taking Christmas tree,  is filled with treasures collected over the years –  gifts from my parents, and vintage ornaments from grandparents along with ornaments Claire has acquired through the years.   Although the tree is positioned in the same place as it has been since the first Christmas we celebrated in the house many years ago, the once living room has now become the library, now with wrap around bookcases, to house their extensive book collection.

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Claire reflects on her Christmas memories in Pontotoc:

“This place is so rich with memories, especially at Christmas.  All the years we lived away, we celebrated Christmas here, except for the time I was expecting Robert, born on January 3!  I love the continuity of Mother and Daddy’s traditions:  the Christmas open house, using fresh greens from the yard, the stockings, the recipes.  I even found Mother’s red bows in the attic for the front porch.

Our tree is a hodge podge.  We have ornaments from grandparents’ trees,  ornaments made by our children when they were small, ornaments that were gifts, ornaments from our childhood trees.
Mother planted the Jackson Vine I used.  She would have LOVED the berries!”

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My Mother loved to give ornaments each year to us three girls.  The Radko ornament, pictured below, is a favorite of mine.

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Each of the four grandchildren has identical stockings needle pointed with a nativity scene.  The stockings of my niece and nephew are shown below.

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Beautifully displayed on vintage cake pedestals, Claire’s collection of Margaret Furlong sea inspired porcelain angels were also used frequently by my Mother on her dining room table during the holidays.  The delicate berries of the Smilax provide a perfect balance with the angels.

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Below, a custom designed Santa made of fabric from a dress of my sister’s from the 70’s and a gift from my Mother to her,  is displayed on a stand in the dining room.

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Nature inspired arrangements throughout the family room and kitchen reflect the beauty of the season.

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Even the terrace captures seasonal grandeur.

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A familiar scene of getting the “perfect” picture for a Christmas greeting card..

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A happy gathering with all of the grandchildren in 2008 . . .

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I can only imagine how pleased my parents would be that our family home is again filled with the gifts of Christmas year round, and that a new generation will be making memories here…

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Years ago Claire translated Isaiah 9:6-7 into a pair of matching masterpieces that Mother hung each Christmas in the living room, but have a new home in the foyer.  One is done in the original Latin while the other is done in English.

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For the certainty of Your birth, and therefore our rebirth, we give You praise.  Merry Christmas!

Celebrating a Season of Joy on Bethlehem Road

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Amid a picturesque range of gently rolling hills and grassy meadows on Bethlehem Road in Midland City,  Alabama, lies the beautiful colonial  home of Alicia and Lewis Humphreys. This traditionally styled country home, richly steeped in Christmas memories for over twenty years, has been a haven for family and friends to experience the true joy of the Savior’s birth.  Alicia’s warm and engaging personality is reflected in her home’s decorating style, masterfully incorporating colorful and whimsical elements with traditional greenery, wreaths, and swags along with personal collections and gifts.

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The unrivaled beauty and unmistakable aroma of fresh evergreen wreaths and garland, created by Deana Carroll, add warmth to the Humphreys home.

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Life long friend, Bonnie Chancey (right), lends her creative talents to help Alicia prepare for the Christmas season.

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   “How could someone who lives on Bethlehem Road not be excited about Christmas???  Our address is one the greatest lead ins ever to discussions about Christmas and what it means – God made talking about Him very easy for us.”

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“For us, our Christmas decorations and decorating the house provide a type of a buffer against disappointment.  Because the majority of our decorations were gifts, they provide powerful, visual reminders of the friends and family who gave them to us.  It is just way too hard to be disappointed in light of how grateful we are to the Lord. I figure that just like my yard and garden, Christmas looks a little different every year – some things work well and some things not so much.  While it may not have looked exactly the same, the changes, the differences are what make it interesting. ”

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A focal point of the terrace overlooking the pool is a wall filled with “recycled” shutters salvaged from a friend’s renovation adorned with small boxwood wreaths and wrought iron planters filled with seasonal greenery.

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“And, yet, as much as we enjoy the traditions we have established, we have never been afraid to start new ones or try to make the old ones better.  Our children have married and started their own families and traditions.  And so, we have had to change some traditions and add some new ones. It has been so much fun to see our children beginning traditions of their own and yet still wanting to watching corny Christmas movies, eat Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve or make green Christmas tree pancakes with us on Christmas morning.
Pictured below with Alicia is daughter Mikelyn Humphreys Bolden with one of their biggest blessings, sweet Isabel..
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“One of the most frequently used words in Scripture is the word “REMEMBER.”  For us, Christmas traditions and Christmas decorations have provided a powerful way to remember the sweetness of times together with family and friends celebrating the world’s most famous birthday.  The Son of God come to earth?  How could we not celebrate in light of that?”
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Although the Humphreys home is over flowing  with lovely holiday treasures, the true adornment here is their ongoing pursuit of Christian hospitality.  An all-encompassing way of life for Lewis and Alicia, their true servant’s hearts, humility, generosity, and encouragement profoundly affect everyone they encounter.
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Celebrating the miracles of Christmas on Bethlehem Road!

Decking the Halls at Carrolls – Sparkling Ideas for the Christmas Season

Just a few miles north of Dothan in Midland City off of Highway 231, Carroll’s Nursery has been a popular venue to purchase freshly cut Christmas trees for years.  David and Deana Carroll, carrying on a second generation family business, travel to the mountains of North Carolina each fall to hand pick each tree purchased for the nursery’s Christmas season.  Their three beautiful daughters also help bring in the merriment of the season with their contributions around the nursery.  A multi-talented and creative floral designer, Deana, incorporates her magical touch into spectacular lush garlands and wreaths using fresh cedar, magnolia, and other seasonal greenery.  10444020_766865630034168_3166834617611524440_n10679917_770477219673009_4586286269904885470_o 10834927_770476549673076_7844416603630147480_o

Inside the nursery, the holiday spirit is intoxicating after gazing upon the artistically decorated trees, mantels, and urns. From vintage to traditional to old world  to whimsical to nature inspired trees, there is an endless selection of ornaments and decor to create a magical setting in your home.

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Unique gifts of jewelry are featured on the wooden tree below, and the popular Aspen spices and other products are also available here.

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At a recent meeting of Botanica garden club, Deana Carroll presented a program on holiday floral design.  In the first photograph, she layered pine cones and acorns, in a tall glass cylinder.  Next,  a block of oasis nested in a plastic tray, was placed on the top followed by the insertion of  greenery and cotton stems.  For a more colorful display, vintage Christmas ornaments were placed in the cylinder while holly and evergreens were inserted in the top tray.

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Below one of Deana’s fabulous Christmas wreaths is displayed.  She gave a bow tutorial, but I haven’t quite mastered her technique!  Her bows are perfect!

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Celebrating the reason for the season  . . .

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A Heart of Gratitude

Approaching Thanksgiving with a grateful heart today reminds me of the debit of gratitude we should have toward God on a daily basis.   The spirit of thanksgiving should be a daily journey for us all not only on Thanksgiving Day, but each day of the year.

The splendor and transition of nature is one of the gifts of which I am most thankful.

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A sweet friend, Leisa Owens, shared the persimmons from a neighbor’s tree, and her lovely rustic arrangement is shown below.

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The contrasting orange and coral hues of persimmons, fresh Bittersweet, miniature pumpkins, and roses are one of my favorite combinations for the autumn season.

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“A life of praise and thanksgiving becomes a life filled with miracles.  Instead of trying to be in control, you focus on Me and what I am doing.  This is the power of praise; centering your entire being in Me.  This is how I created you to live, for I made you in My own image.  Enjoy abundant life by overflowing with praise and thankfulness”.  Sarah Young

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Have a blessed Thanksgiving….

Holiday Floral Design with Garden Study Club

Holiday floral design was the theme of Garden Study Club’s November meeting here in Dothan.  Nothing inspires me more than being in a group of expert gardeners who have such a passion for the floral arts!  This long-standing club has been an integral part of the Dothan Area Botanical Garden and is instrumental in planning the area’s annual spring garden tour.  Collectively, there is probably not a single gardening question that could go unanswered in this charming and energetic group of talented women.  Although I was there to give a demonstration, I left the meeting with new insights along with a host of new gardening friends.

Susan Livingston’s garden provided a picturesque backdrop for the floral design “workshop”.

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Using greenery from her expansive yard and garden, Susan arranged a lovely seasonal arrangement in a classic urn on her dining room table – perfect for holiday entertaining.

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Now on to the demonstration . . .

A  27-inch racquette holder is a great floral design staple for the holidays.  After soaking the oasis filled form, seasonal greenery from magnolia to cedar to Cryptomeria can be inserted to make a mantelpiece or centerpiece that will literally last for the entire holiday season.  Check the hydration every few days.  It may be necessary to take the form outside and saturate with water from a garden hose.   Fresh flowers such as roses, hydrangeas, Dendrobium orchids, or Amaryllis can also be added for an elegant display.  The flowers can be discarded and replaced as needed throughout the season.  4-inch burlap ribbon was attached  around the periphery, but this can be omitted with cascading greenery added instead if using for a mantel.  Blocks of soaked oasis can also be used in your favorite container for a long-lasting holiday arrangement utilizing these same design principles.   Fresh bittersweet was used below, but holly berries or Hypericum berries would work well, too.

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A three-tiered metal piece, filled with Smilax, holly, and Loquit foliage can be assembled in literally minutes for a captivating foyer arrangement or for a table display on a large buffet table.  Pomegranates, apples, and citrus fruit are other options to add.

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Dried sorghum and sunflowers were gathered locally to use in the autumn design below.  Wooden plateau and sliced tree rounds are versatile for holiday decorating, and can be found in many retail and craft stores. I even saw some very attractive “stumps” displayed outside one of our local Publix stores that would work well!   Antique olive jars were filled with flowers and set on the plateau while gigantic, drying sunflower heads were piled at the base.  This year I discovered how beautiful the aging, dying sunflowers looked in the sunflower fields.  The ray flowers were pulled off,  and the beautiful discs were left to display.

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Next, the arrangement above is transitioned (below) to a more Christmas or winter themed design with the addition of a wooden pedestal decorated with cedar and  surrounded by pillar candles, pine cones,  and greenery.  Again, use your imagination to add white roses for an all white vignette or add traditional holly and red roses.

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Three of my fall staples:  ornamental gale, Jarrahdale pumpkins,  Eucalyptus, and succulents!  Arrange them in a pretty pewter or silver gallery tray for an instant, almost effortless arrangement.  To add a bit more detail, place roses or hydrangeas in small pieces of soaked oasis on the tray.

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In the new two photographs, a reclaimed wooden box made by a local craftsman, is filled with Belles of Ireland, roses, ornamental kale,  dried hydrangeas, Nandina foliage, berries and large sunflower discs.

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Give your dough bowl a fall make-over with kale, dried hydrangeas, Eucalyptus, and American Beautyberry.  Transition to the Christmas season with assorted greenery.

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Rustic baskets and wooden implements are my “go to” pieces for autumn floral design.  Each October I order fresh bittersweet from a source in New England.  It simply wouldn’t be fall without it!    My Mother introduced me to it years ago, and loved using it in her designs.  It can easily last for up to a year inside, and goes from fall to the Christmas season.

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Use God’s bounty of nature for rustic, yet refined, floral design in your home during this season of joy and thanksgiving..

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“All gardeners live in beautiful places, because they make them so.”  – Joseph Joubert

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