From Tornado to Tea Party Nothing Stops a Southern Gathering!

No natural disaster,  not even a destructive tornado that ravaged parts of Dothan’s garden district just days before, could thwart the weeks of planning that went into a book launch party for my friend, Celeste King Conner.  When this aspiring Southern author’s first book , Blabberings, was released, a celebration was in order.  Gracious hostess Olivia Crockett had no idea that this scene would ensue at her home as she and her husband were spending a “quiet” evening at home. The storm quickly did an insurmountable amount of damage within just seconds.  Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities ensued.

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Olivia Crockett had no thoughts that the book launch would not go on as planned. Donned in 60’s attire along with the other hostesses and honoree, Celeste, she graciously welcomed friends and family members to a Southern afternoon tea and book signing. Celeste’s sister, Starla, featured in many of the book’s anecdotes, was a special guest.





















A Southern inspired tea-table reminiscent of an afternoon fete in the 60’s was featured in the dining room.  Fresh magnolia, variagated Pittosporum, and Oak Leaf Hydrangea cut from friends’ gardens made a stunning centerpiece.





Just prior to the book launch event, Celeste made her debut on a local television station…


Much of Blabberings centers around life in our small southern town of Dothan during the 60’s – the dynamics of growing up in a family of three sisters (which I totally love!) and the interplay of her extended family.  Humorous stories of her own three children are also included.  You will laugh and cry and maybe even find something familiar from your own upbringing between the lines.

Pictured below are Celeste (the youngest) along with older sister Starla and middle sister Angie.


You will want to order your own copy available at Amazon:


“The Pretty Girls were forever changed by the storm.  Not damaged, they were made better.  The storm created stronger, yet gentler women who appreciated new days and each other and the laughter of their children,  They were less likely to be tripped up by the trivial, since they knew what a true storm looked like.  The children were better, too, for having survived the storm.  They seemed kinder and less selfish”.   Blabberings by Celeste King Conner

Celebrating the debut of my new favorite Southern author, Celeste King Conner!


A Mother’s Day Legacy


Each day of the year, I am thankful  of the profound influence and inspiration my Mother brought into my life over the course of the fifty or so years that I was blessed by her earthly presence.  And, many of you are aware of the fact that my blog was actually started in my Mother’s memory.  A poem entitled Beautiful Gardener was given to her years ago by a friend, and was shared at her funeral in 2010.  As a child, I always loved the fact that we got to give Mother presents on her May 5th birthday, and then just a few days following we celebrated Mother’s Day with her.  I can remember as a small child Mother picking up her corsage for Mother’s Day from the local florist:  white roses were traditional if your Mother were still living and red roses if you Mother was deceased.  Mother would often pin a small rose bud from a pink old fashioned rose bush that grew in our yard to my dress as well as to my two sisters’ dresses.  Clearly, roses were a huge influence in my life even in early childhood although Mother would not start cultivating her beloved rose garden until years later.  I will have to admit that I am not a Rosarian.  Most of my experience has been with landscape roses such as Knockouts and Peggy Martin.

When I walked into my backyard on Tuesday, which would have been Mother’s 85th birthday, this rose bush was in full bloom.  I cannot take credit for the blooms as it was planted by the previous home owner.  I quickly picked each gorgeous bloom and have enjoyed them all week on my dining table.



My Mother collected crystal pieces through the years and in recent years, and some of her most cherished pieces were won at the Northeast Mississippi Rose Society’s annual shows.  These elegant rose bowls are from her collection.




Even after her death, the enduring legacy of my Mother’s garden gifts continue. Roses from Mother’s garden were used in my in my niece Alyson McGee Gembala’s bouquet at her wedding in May, 2013.


Mother truly loved peonies and each May I looked forward to the blooms in her garden. She brought these to Dothan on a visit about 10 years ago.


These two blooms were photographed in May, 2014, and now my sister, Claire, can enjoy them.



Last Sunday Wilma Sartin incorporated a few of Mother’s peonies into the flower arrangement for worship services at First United Methodist Church in Pontotoc, Mississippi.


Tracy Kramer, family friend and Rosarian, has even successfully planted some of Mother’s roses into her own garden.  Again, her rose legacy is carried on!


Let Freedom Ring!


Gold Medal


Celebrating the many gifts of my Mother’s life.  Happy Mother’s Day!


Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Hosta – A Winning Combination



Oak Leaf hydrangea are bursting into bloom in southeast Alabama after the past 10 days of almost ceaseless rain.  Nothing thrills me more than the sight of blooming hydrangea!   Combining them in arrangements with hosta produces green and white floral design that is classic, simple elegance. My friend, Kathy Cleveland, gives me full “cutting rights” to her lovely garden. I photographed these beautiful blooms a couple of days ago.

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Newton was invaluable in helping me clip hydrangea and hosta ..


Another friend, Debbie Hundley, loaned me this gorgeous French styled container that I couldn’t wait to use- a perfect vessel for the hydrangea and hosta.

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Try this simple combination for a quick tablescape that will be the star of your next dinner party!

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..





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.”


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.. ???????? ????????


???????? 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. ??????????


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




Cherry tree blossoms


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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Cherry blossoms

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Carolina Jasmine




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! ????????


Snow Lady Clematis





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: ???????????????????????????????

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.


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


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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


Place in a sturdy plastic ziploc freezer bag.


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.


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


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


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.



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!



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



“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!


The “Joy Girls”

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


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.


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.


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


Matt, Andrea, Thelmanne and Barry McGaughey


The bride and groom



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


Thelmanne with Frank and Olivia Crockett


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.                          

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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!

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