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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Christmas Tea Honors Local Author

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Celeste, resplendent in a vintage 60’s ensemble, greeted all the guests.

Celeste Conner came into my life about five years when I attended a viewing of Downton Abbey at her home, and I soon felt as though we had known each other a lifetime.  Her humor, sincerity, grace, and zeal for life are quickly transmitted the minute one is in her presence!  Celeste and I began blogging about the same time, and have had fun sharing our experiences even though our subjects are quite different.  Celeste’s blog, Blabberings, recounts stories of her life growing up in the 60’s as well as recent reflections of raising her three, almost grown, twin daughters and son.  Her blog posts of small town Southern humor were so popular that many of us begged her to write a book.  So in May of 2015, her first book entitled Blabberings was published.  And what could be more appropriate than giving this newly published author a book launch party!  See this post for more information: eautifulgardener.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/from-tornado-to-tea-pa

With the vast popularity of book one, a second book was inevitable!  So last week a Christmas Tea was held to celebrate the publication of Blabberings – I’ve Got More to Say.  Vicki Martin opened her lovely home for tea, conversation,  and lots of “blabberings”.

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What a festive time we had celebrating friendships and the joy of the season!

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The Martin home was beautifully appointed for the Christmas season..

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Of course, I had to include beautiful outside garden scenes . . .

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Emma, Celeste’s lovely daughter, has knitted about 150 of these adorable babies which she gives as gifts as well as sells.  She has knitted 20 out of a personal goal of 100 to take to Guatemala on a mission trip trip next summer.  Emma can be found on Facebook at EmmaKnittedit.

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A recent post from Celeste:

I haven’t checked your Christmas list, but I know who’s on it. Rather, I know who hasn’t been marked off yet. I know whom you still have to buy for. And I know you’re beginning to fret about it.

Granny Edith – You don’t want to give her lotion again, but merciful heavens, there is no room on that sofa table for another picture.

Uncle Archie – He’s a crotchety soul, and what do you buy for an old man anyway?! A young man is difficult enough.

The Jeffersons – The kindly couple next door always gives something to your children. You usually give them a fruit basket, but they can buy their own fruit at the Winn Dixie and get gas points.

My dear fellow blabberers, I’ve got your back. I’ve got you covered. I’ve got the perfect gift for you to give.

I had so much festive fun with Blabberings that I’ve got another book, just in time for the holidays, just to help you out, just to steady your Christmas jitters.

It’s called Blabberings: “I’ve got more to say.” It’s even got some holiday blabberings in it.

The book is $10. I’ll deliver it to you, if you live in or near Dothan.

Shipping is $4. I can get it to you before Christmas, if you let me know in the next couple days. (Send me a private message or an email to celesteconner@comcast.net.)

I’ll wrap it for an extra buck.

I’ll don a Santa hat, read a few tales, and dance a jig, if necessary (but that’ll cost ya).

Merry Christmas. Thanks for a colorful year.

“God bless us everyone.” (I didn’t write that.)

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Celeste can be contacted on Facebook at Blabberings by Celeste or celesteconner@comcast.net

 

Christmas Camellias

Camellias rank up in my top three favorite flowers, and I jump at the opportunity to cut them.  One such opportunity came yesterday when Jennifer and Joe Steever invited me to cut from their garden to do an arrangement for our church’s worship service today.  When they moved into their garden district home many years ago, forty camellias bushes were an instant garden treasure.  Joe points out that he knew nothing about camellias initially, but joined the local Camellia Society to learn more about growing them.  And indeed he has been successful!

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A vintage variety known as Debutante, heavily laden with the most exquisite, luminous blooms ever, was the bush we chose to cut from. The blooms are reminiscent of fluffy, pink ballerina tutus.  The blooms take center state, dancing their way across the green foliage.  Simply breathtaking!

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The blooms were carefully inserted into water picks after cutting.

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These gorgeous blooms even make a statement on my Christmas wreath (for a few minutes!)

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The camellias were inserted into a water soaked base of oasis surrounded by fresh Magnolia, Asparagus fern, Tea Olive, and Aucuba – also from the Steever’s garden.

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“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of this servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name.  And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50, Mary’s Song)

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Thanksgiving Blessings

 

Celebrating a day of gratitude –  remembering all the bountiful blessings that another year has brought.

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“All of this reminds me that thanksgiving is a debt.  It is something we owe.  When we bring our thanks before God, we are recognizing Him as the source of every blessing, every protection, every heartbeat, every rescue from every trial-even when His chosen form of deliverance just means supplying us the perseverance we need to see it through.  We have no life, no hope, no health, no grace, no strength, no peace, no holiness, no anything apart from what He has given and continues to give us”.  Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth

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Thanksgiving blessings to you and your family!

 

 

 

Captivated by Camellias

Just south of Dothan near the Florida line in the hamlet of Madrid, is a camellia garden of heavenly proportions!  Linda and Bill Nichols have created this idyllic garden over the last couple of decades in the pine tree lined acres surrounding their lovely home. Bill, who is constantly amending and grafting specimens in their garden, is passionate about camellias and preserving their heritage.  With much help from Linda, who is also a seasoned gardener, they enjoy sharing their gorgeous blooms with friends and family.  From November to February each year, the couple enjoys traveling to Camellia shows in the Mobile area and Florida Panhandle.  Meticulously packing each individual bloom in polyester pillow batting after inserting them in individual water picks, they have the procurement and travel methodology down to a science to ensure that their prize winning blooms arrive unscathed.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited out to the Nichols’ home to help cut camellias for an arrangement my partner and I were doing for our business, Garden Gate.  The Nichols, always gracious and enthusiastic,  thought nothing of doning rain gear and umbrellas to help me cut 75 blooms or so.  In the process,  I learned their tips for preserving the blooms for traveling.

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A lovely cast aluminum vintage urn was perfect to display the grandeur of the camellias.

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An added bonus was having a few blooms to arrange on my dining room table in a silver pieces that belonged to my Mother.

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What could be more elegant to decorate a cake for a friend’s 60th birthday?! (The white camellias in the second photograph were from the garden of my friend, Ginger Pratt, and her bush is probably close to 60 years old.)

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Enjoy the seasonal blooms of the Camellia, a quintessential Southern garden staple.  Find a show in your area this winter or,  better yet, stop by your local garden center and plant a few bushes for your own enjoyment!

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Northeast MS Rose Society Celebrates Fall Garden Design

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Several weeks ago I was honored to present a floral design program to the the Northeast Mississippi Rose Society in Tupelo. What fun it was incorporating fall blooms in a wide array of colors from the gardens of society members and other area gardeners at North Mississippi Research and Extension Service, an affiliate of Mississippi State University.  Special thanks to Crofton Sloane, a horticulturist with the center as well as to Tracy Kramer, the society president, who made my experience so pleasurable!  Gorgeous varieties of Coleus in the front planters were overflowing with hues of red, russet, plum and green to welcome visitors to the center.

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Tracy Kramer prepared a lovely fall table with food contributed by her and other members.

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The members and their guests shared an abundance of their garden roses, hydrangea, wild flowers, Angelonia, Pinta, cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, coleus,  and Smilax along with many other garden treasures.  The members are all incredibly talented gardeners and floral designers who share a passion for growing roses!  Each year the society holds its annual rose show in May.  Lee Pryor Caldwell (shown below) shares cuttings from her garden.

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Rosarian Lavonne Glover contributed her prize winning roses along with Dahlias and other garden selections.

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I brought a display of some of my fall favorites grown in southeast Alabama : Sorghum, Aplin Farm sunflowers, Limelight hydrangea, assorted pumpkins, American Beautyberry, cotton, Golden rod, Eucalyptus, Carolina Sappire Cypress, and Nandina. A salvaged log from the demise of a friend’s River Burch tree was the focal point of one vignette! My sister contributed Leucothoe, Curly Willow, and holly from her Pontotoc garden.

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Members contributed containers which I chose randomly to do the arranging in.  Since there were so many incredible flowers, it was difficult to even choose which ones to use.  I believe I could have arranged all night even though I managed to do the arrangements below in the alloted two hour time frame for the meeting;  What a fabulous selection of different color and textures to use for composing these arrangements!

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Thanks to Tracy Kramer, the president of Northeast MS Rose society for all of her hard work in organizing the event and to my sister, Claire McGee, for being my assistant.  I want to also credit Crofton Sloan and the staff at North MS Research and Extension Service for their efforts in making the program a success.

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“Flowers possess many of the qualities our souls long for”.  Carolyne Roehm

Celebrating Fall

The spirit of the fall season is rejuvenating – from the arrival of cooler temperatures (Yes!  It has been in the 50’s in south Alabama!) to the backdrop of golden rod on a roadside to fields of yellow-green sorghum in the country side.  Fields doted with cotton and simple pleasures such as gathering acorns on a cool, brisk day help to inaugerate my favorite season of the year.  Wildflowers, Pyracantha, and Beautyberry in vibrant hues of yellow, green, blue, orange, and  purple create a masterpiece of color in God’s creation.

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The acres of sunflowers at Aplin Farms near here in Slocomb, Alabama, herald the arrival of fall each year.  I literally can’t wait for their appearance. Their sunny energy is contagious!  Here are a few photographs I have made in the last few weeks of this spectacular ode to fall.

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These gifts from the fall harvest bring timeless seasonal beauty into your home.

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The two rattan urns below were used by my Mother in the 60’s and 70’s, and are perfect for fall blooms.

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Hydrangeas, one of my garden favorites,  are perfect any time of the year to use in floral design.  I recently purchased some Little Limelights to enjoy now, and can’t wait to plant them next winter. They are a wonderful variation of the popular Limelight Hydrangea – same hardy flower but in a smaller package!

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The Guilford Garden of Hartford, Alabama

Having first visited the Geneva county garden of Patricia and Buddy Guilford in May of 2008 when it was featured on the annual  garden tour, I quickly became enamoured with their pristine acres of roses, wild flowers, and other perennials and flowering scrubs.   Amid rolling miles of picturesque country roads about 20 miles southwest of Dothan lies the charming  community of Hartford – home to this garden gem.

Remarkably, the couple still maintains their illustrious garden without any supplemental help doing all the the required mowing, fertilizing, mulching, and pruning themselves. Buddy, who spent many years in fertilizer sales, has a wealth of expertise in the science of gardening.  A few weeks after the 2008  garden tour, my parents were in town to attend my youngest son’s high school graduation.  The couple very graciously allowed me to bring them by to tour their garden.  How exciting it was for my Mother to find gardeners who shared her passion for rose cultivation!!   In addition to designing and maintaining their own garden, the couple was instrumental in the planning of a gorgeous prayer garden at their church, First Baptist in Hartford.  They continue to dedicate countless hours and energy to preserving its beauty.  I revisited their garden back in the summer, and again, found it to be a garden journey of great beauty and renewal.

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Several years ago one of the Guilford’s granddaughters was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a rare genetic disorder that affects the pulmonary and digestive systems of some 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. as well as approximately 70,000 worldwide.  Although there is no cure for this chronic disease, survival rates and management of the disease have improved significantly over the past few decades. Possibly my favorite part of the Guilford garden is the breathtaking rose garden they planted as a loving tribute to her.  Significant is the fact that that they planted a total of sixty five roses.  “65 roses” is what children diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis call their condition since the term is much easier for them to pronounce.  The concept of “65 roses” has captured the hearts of all who have heard it since the rose is appropriately the symbol of love.

https://www.cff.org/

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Patricia and Buddy Guilford have truly created an everlasting garden legacy with their exuberant chorus of vibrant flowers and unique garden rooms . . .

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

Summer Floral Design

Look no further than your garden or a quick excursion to your favorite grocery or wholesale club’s floral department to create long-lasting arrangements to bring beauty to your home this summer.

My business partner, Vicki Harris, purchased these magnificent French tulips at Sam’s a few months ago for around $15.00.  She arranged them artfully in glass cylinders on a sideboard in her foyer.  What a simple, yet elegant statement!

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On quick run to Winn-Dixie, I perused the floral department as I usually do.  The porcelain-like blooms of these amazing peonies don’t need anything but a simple vase to showcase their splendor.

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Fresh magnolia and oak leaf hydrangea in a cream-colored urn created a simple white arrangement at a summer tea.

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And speaking of hydrangeas!  My favorite variety, Limelight, are still as gorgeous as ever,  and will bloom in our area until October.  I love to gather them just as the blooms dry a bit and turn to sage green.  Once they are to that point, they will continue to dry beautifully.  A bonus of procuring them at this stage is that they can be incorporated into arrangements all year long.  My friend, Christy Keyton, is so generous to let me cut her blooms as much as I’d like!

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Christy used Endless Summer hydrangeas from her garden in this stunning arrangement on her breakfast room table.

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Hydrangeas and zinnias pair beautifully together.  Joe Steever’s arranged these from his own lovely garden.

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Black-eyed Susans from the garden of Michelle Plagenhoef and Zinnias from the Garden of Debbie Hundley are the perfect addition to a hydrangea arrangement I did in my favorite McCarty pottery bowl.

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Use the blooms in your summer garden (or a friend’s) or pick up some flowers on your next trip to the grocery store to create summer beauty in your home.

” . . . it is good to live, and all the more good to live in a garden.”  Gertrude Jekyll, British garden designer

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Poplar Head Farmer’s Market – Local Farm to Table at Its Best

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Experience the bounty of fresh local produce each Saturday morning in downtown Dothan through the end of July at Poplar Head Farmer’s Market located in the Civic Center parking lot.  Area farmers bring their harvests of multi-colored vegetables and fruit from 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.  Sponsored by The Downtown Group, this popular open air market features specialty items such as honey, nuts, and even delicious fresh blueberry lemonade – the perfect antidote for a hot summer morning.

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Pottery and other crafts by local artisans are also featured each week.

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Bush Gardens, a popular vendor, has some of the loveliest daylilies in the area.

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Buy fresh.  Buy Local.  Hope to see you at Poplar Head Farmer’s Market soon!

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