Happy Easter!

Celebrating the joy of our risen Savior!  Mary Nita and Darrell Smith’s Easter display and beautifully landscaped yard (shown in the next four photographs) are reminders of the beauty and simplicity of the gospel..

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My friend, Lisa Williams, of Good Eye Girl Photography, shared the next two captivating photographs that were made at Gaucho Farms a few weeks ago.

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 Celebrating the gifts of our omnipresent God bursting forth today in nature and in every living thing…

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This beautiful resurrection message from Ann Voskamp reminds me of the many reasons we celebrate today:

“You took fire so we could walk free. You took violence so we could be victors. You took hell so we could be healed.

Sin hurt You far deeper than the spikes.

And You let the horrors of satan take a swipe at You so that all horrific sin could be wiped clean.

And You knew it all along.

You were conceived into skin for the Cross — the cave of that manger beginning glimpsing the cave of Your Messiah, martyred endings.

You who had no beginning, You were born for this, for the blood –

that we might be reborn to life.”

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Wishing you the joys of Easter!

All Nature Sings of His Glory

Everywhere it’s suddenly spring here in south Alabama – from the fresh infusion of the rich colors of daffodils, tulips,  forsythia, and azaleas to the monochromatic whites and pale pinks of Bradford Pear and cherry trees, “all nature sings”!    What a glorious weekend to celebrate the power of Christ’s resurrection this Easter season brings.

Rows of Bradford Pear trees create canopies of white in many neighborhoods.. ???????? ????????

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???????? Japanese maple blooms have been spectacular this season.. ??????????? ?????????? I spotted this towering Star Magnolia a few weeks ago.  These pictures simply do not do it justice.  I did manage to introduce myself to the home’s owner, and I think I might just have “cutting rights” in the future! ??????????? ??????????? ?????????? Lakewood Design Group is well known for their combinations of tulips and pansies each spring in both residential and commercial areas.  I look forward to their stunning spring displays of color each spring. ????????

Cascading branches of wisteria are showing out in local gardens and on the roadside. ??????????

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Shown below are images from the garden of Marie Stone, a Master Gardener in every respect!

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Mahonia

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Cherry tree blossoms

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The native Cherokee rose

Marie shared the picture below with me several years ago, and how perfectly it just captures the message of new birth that spring and Easter bring.. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Rejoice in the flowers of the season  . . .

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Redbud

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Cherry blossoms

??????????????????????????????? I am uncertain of the identity of the tree in the following two photographs, photographed at Grove Park, but the blooms are glorious! ???????? ???????? What a myriad of spring color . . .

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Carolina Jasmine

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Forsythia

This gorgeous Photinia tree is growing in the garden district of Dothan in the yard of Ginger and Win Pratt.  Thanks, Ginger, for identifying it for me! ????????

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Snow Lady Clematis

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Azalea

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Lorapetulum

If only Spirea (Bridal Wreath)  bloomed all year long! ??????????????????????????????? ??????????? The Japanese Snowball, one of my Mother’s favorites as well as mine, is blooming early this year – just in time for Easter!  The delicate clusters of blooms are truly heavenly!  She also referred to this tree as a Chinese Vibernum. ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Create simple, yet gorgeous arrangements in your home for the spring and Easter season using fresh blooms of the season that nature has so perfectly provided.. Cathy Denney created this stunning arrangement using Japanese Magnolia for a recent party at her home. ???????????

Combine fresh spring blooms with flowers from a florist or floral department for an easy arrangement that says “Welcome, Spring!” ???????? ????????

Below is an explosion of spring color showcasing Lady Bank’s roses, azaela, and pansies from the garden of Jennifer and Joe Steever. ???????????

Bradford Pear tree blossoms create a simple, but artistic tablescape.  Add pottery birds or rabbits to complete the vignette.  My favorites are McCarty pottery from Merigold, MS. ???????? ????????

Christen Price captured this gorgeous photograph of pear blossoms against the backdrop of a church window in Auburn, and she was so kind to let me publish it.. 10928192_10102814838991961_6030078311211387444_n

“Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest”.

                                                                                                                      Matthew 21:9

Wishing you the blessings of the Lord and the joy of Palm Sunday!

Camellias Reign in the Southern Garden: Highlights of the Southeast Alabama Camellia Show

Southeast Alabama’s Camellia Society recently held its 2015 annual show here in Dothan.  In spite of a hard freeze several weeks prior to the show, over five hundred entries captivated show goers.  Although camellia show chairman Linda Nichols was holding her breath due to the inclement weather, she, along with the other society members, was thrilled with the quality of this year’s entries. ??????????????????????????????? These ladies have been a steering force in the SE AL Camellia Society for many years:  (from left to right)  Mrs. Rosa Thomas, Mrs. Helen Hargrove, Mrs. Marion Hall (for whom a camellia is actually named); and Mrs. Judy Wise. ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Eleven different classifications of both protected and unprotected camellias were artfully displayed in endless rows in hues of pink, white, red, burgundy, and salmon on the display tables. Other prize-winning entries are featured below:

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Society member, Judy Wise, did a masterful job of arranging camellias in various containers for display at the show . . . ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Judy used a piece of family heirloom silver to arrange this stunning camellia arrangement for the reception area. ???????? Pink Perfection continues to be one of my all time favorites  . . . ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

To extend the life of cut camellias many experts have successfully dipped them in a waxing solution, producing a porcelain-like shine that lasts for up to two weeks.  Once they are waxed, they do not require a vase or water.  Below is a sample of waxed camellias that was displayed at the show.  Go to following link to see the technique developed by Debbie Odom of Savannah, GA: http://camelliashop.myshopify.com/blogs/news-1/16860016-how-to-wax-camellias-by-debbie-odom ???????????????????????????????

The common camellia (Camellia japonica), starring as the queen of the Southern winter garden, has been considered by some garden experts as the southern garden’s answer to the peony.  How interesting is the fact  that this iconic shrub, having been in cultivation for more than 1000 years, is Alabama’s state flower!

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“if there is a reason for a gardener to move to  the south, it’s the camellia”.   Jamie McIntosh, Flower expert

Many thanks to Allen Bourland and Linda Nichols for organizing another successful show.  Southeast AL Camellia Society meetings are held the second Tuesday (September – May), 6:00 P.M., at the First United Methodist Church, 1380 West Main Street.

It’s All Very Highclere: Celebrating Another Season of Downton Abbey

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The glamour, the fashions, the thrilling romances, the elegant dinner parties, the drama both upstairs and downstairs – these are just a few of the reasons millions of fans have tuned in to watch the last five seasons of Downton Abbey, the period British drama that gives us a glimpse into the opulent period and style of Victorian England.  Like millions of other fans worldwide, I, along with my own special group of Downton Abbey “addicts” have joined the Crawley family for the past five seasons to savor the intriguing interlaced drama that centers around the country estate of Highclere. No one could argue why it is the highest-rated drams in PBS history.

Although our group continues to grow each season, several members of the first season were featured in the September, 2014 issue of Dothan Magazine.

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Other members of our group actually toured Highclere Castle in the summer of 2013.

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Each Sunday night in January and February finds us watching intently as each episode unfolds.  Having acquired a Victorian/early Edwardian collection of furs, hats, gloves, and other fashions, another essential wardrobe item are our official Downton Abbey t-shirts!

Pictured below are a few scenes from seasons past….

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Highlights of this season  . . .

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The Women of Downton Abbey even dazzled  the cover of Harper’s Bazaar several months ago . . .

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The garden inspired floral design of the opulent Victorian era immediately captured my interest early on in the series.  I’ll never forget the infamous annual Downton Village Flower Show from Season One.

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As tradition would have it, Violet Crawley, the Dowager of Grantham, won the trophy each year for “Best Bloom” in the show solely based on her position in the village.  When confronted by Isobel Crawley as to the fairness of this practice, Violet reconsidered her prize and gave her award to the gardener who was more deserving.

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Gorgeous silver epergnes, candelabras, trumpet vases and compotes filled with flowers such as  fern, ivy, foxglove, roses, freesia, jasmine, passion flowers, stock, roses, and hydrangea created breath-taking  vignettes in the formal dining room as well as in the reception areas.

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Flowers play an integral role in the romantic encounters of the series.  Without a doubt, Downton Abbey inspired floral design is trending in current wedding floral design.

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In 2014, the beautiful grandiflora rose, Anna’s Promise, was named for Anna Bates, the beloved head housemaid on the series.

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To cap off the 5th season of Downton Abbey, our group gathered to celebrate in grand British style with a tea party to commemorate the finale.  A gorgeously appointed table covered with a vintage linen tablecloth and arrangements of camellia, hydrangea, roses, Smilax, and Nandina was the setting for  a  sumptuous array of delicacies:   scones with lemon curd and clotted cream, miniature almond cakes topped with fresh raspberries, Yorkshire Pudding, Toad in the Hole, strawberries, lemon glazed tea cakes, tea sandwiches, cheese straws, cream puffs, petit flours, and TEA, of course.

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“The business of life is acquisition of memories”.  Carson

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Until next season . . .

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…

View original 422 more words

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!

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