Monday, November 29, 2010

The Memory Tree

When I was a child, my mother would always drag home a real tree from a lot close to my home.  After my father passed away it became my job to decorate, I guess my mother just didn't have the heart to do it anymore.  I was twelve and my brother was eight, so I took on the role willingly, it made me feel very grown up.

(These old photos really look shabby next to the more recent 35mm and digital, wonder what future generations will say about our digital)
We gave her a lot of bathrobes!

We had those big circus colored lights ( although I always craved my aunts bubble lights) with lots of shiny ornaments and tinsel put on piece by piece (my mother used to actually trim the tinsel with a scissors so that it was all the same length, but this was before my father died).  I remember my father drilling holes in the balsam tree trunk to insert and tie branches to make it the perfect tree.

This was my aunt's bubble tree.  For some reason it looked a lot bigger and more impressive when I was a child.

This was the tree I had in my first house, check out that tinsel.

I used to bunch up the cotton under the tree and carefully lay out the nativity scene.  Some of the animals were either broken or missing but most of it was intact.

I had a real tree for many years as my children were growing up, and I always wondered why my son was so sick around the holidays.  He was allergic to the mold spores that grow on the trunks of the trees, so in comes the artificial tree.  I have had big ones, little ones and the one I have now which is in between.

This is the real tree at my old, old house, into the bows that year.

At my last house I kept the ribbon but gave up some of the bows.  My second Westie Duffy is hardly visible on the white rug.

This one is my Memory Tree, it has everything on it from my whole life, my children's creations, relatives creations, student gifts, my pets through the years, even the car key from our family Volkswagen that was handed down to my children and even my nephews.  It was so used we finally donated it to charity.

As I decorate it this year, it has become very special, my mother-in-law's handmade ceramic ornaments are put on very carefully, my little felt ornaments that I made before my children were born are still in great condition.  Too many to count ornaments from the many students I had throughout the years, some with their names on the back, some remembered because of either the uniqueness of the child or the ornament.

Ceramic ornaments made by my mother-in-law

Felt ornaments (there are twelve) that I made when I was first married

Many handmade angels from former students

My daughter's needlepoint when she was seven

I try to add a few trendy things each year, like my sparkling butterflies and fancy beads, but the star is pretty old fashioned, along with my vintage ornaments and those shiny ones from my childhood.  It will never look striking unless you get up close and personal with it!

Vintage ornaments and lots of Westies.  We have had three West Highland White Terriers through the years so there are may types of Westie ornaments on our tree.

Paddington and many storybook characters are on the tree.

Do you think Reggie will leave the teddies alone?

A gift from our realtor when we moved into my present home in 2003.

Have fun decorating, know matter how much or how little you do for the holidays, keep it personal!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Around The Garden

Well, Thanksgiving is over, the weather has turned colder, the garden is finally giving up the ghost.  My last tree to lose its leaves is the Chanticleer Pear, beautiful colors this year.

The Chanticleer Pear is much narrower than the Bradford or the Trinity.  Therefore, it is much less susceptible to limb breakage. It is insect free, beautiful shiny leaves, white spring flowers, small little fruits, beautiful fall color.

I was so glad that I moved the cabbages into the garden.  In fact I think I will plant some in this area next year.

Little Henry's Garnet Sweetspire has had several years of not doing well, almost getting pulled out.  I fed it a systemic this spring and it has really put on a show.  Hopefully, it will finally be in full flower next summer.

My resin container in front is almost completed with painted grapevine spheres and sprayed dried hydrangeas.  I'll add some ribbon that will hold up outdoors.

There is a lot in the concrete boxes on the front ledge.  I have added a shatterproof ornament, large pine cone and sprayed dried hydrangeas.

I just added a little moss to the blue ceramic containers by my front door, love those little pomegranates.

Pepper Berries, Juniper Berries and assorted greens in the cast iron planters.

Heuchera Southern Comfort continues to be a surprise with it's deepening colors.  It really pops amongst the myrtle and against the boxwood.

The alley garden is in full fall color set off by the Panicum Northwind grasses.  I don't look forward to the snow plow coming through and covering everything up.

Autumn Fern is in my back garden and will develop reddish tinges before going to sleep for the winter.

Look who I found, Becky, hiding behind a clematis vine!

Henryi looks a little tattered but I never knew he would be around at the end of November!

I don't have the heart to pull out the pansies.  I think I will just go over them with some holiday greens.

I have eight Rainbow Knockouts around the back garden.  I was thinking if I had put in more I would have a yard full of blooming flowers at the end of November.  But, then I wouldn't have room to plant anything else which might be little boring.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Celebrations

The First Thanksgiving lasted for three days.  The Native Americans had come a long way and weren't just going to pick up and go home the first night.

The Native Americans introduced us to popcorn, first throwing it into the fire with the children chasing it as it popped, later on they figured out a way to control it by putting it in containers of sand and then heating them until the corn popped.  Sorry, it didn't come with butter!

A recreation of the Plymouth settlement after the first year

Turkeys are not very bright animals, they easily panic and can become trampled in a farm situation.  Out in the wild, they have limited flying ability and their poults (babies) if they become wet will die. 

It is most likely that roast duck was served, not turkey.  Mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce were not yet invented.  George Washington actually made Thanksgiving a formal holiday, but in February.  It was Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that declared that Thanksgiving be celebrated in November

Thanksgiving is a real holiday in the United States as it is not based in pagan or religious culture.  The Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower really suffered and would not have survived if not for the Native Americans and their help.  They taught them how to hunt, plant seeds and fertilize their crops, helped them build real homes, not just lean to's.

A great book to read to your children or grandchildren

Sometimes we forget why the Pilgrims came to America, to escape religious persecution, they wanted to be able to practice according to their own beliefs, but the celebration of the First Thanksgiving was a celebration of survival not religion.

A more modern Thanksgiving feast

I am not having Thanksgiving, we are gathering at my son's home, but I do bring part of the meal each year.  My mother's table always included items like candied sweet potatoes, rutabaga and brussel sprouts.  Well, we all know these are acquired tastes and some of us never like them and the children don't even want to taste them, just the names turn them off.

Mashed Rutabaga with Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

Candied Sweet Potatoes

So, this year I am going to depart with tradition and possibly make pies and homemade rolls but I have to make the candied sweet potatoes.  I can already taste them!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gatsbys Gardens

Several years ago I opened an account on Ebay called Gatsby's Gardens.  I never did much with it and it went into oblivion.  When I went to resurrect it for a blog the web name was no longer available so I took Gatsbys Gardens.

The name really began a long time ago with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his book The Great Gatsby.  I first read the book and then saw the movie, and of course fell in love with that time period.  My husband and I began many years ago to collect furniture from the period and began to relate to the stories our relatives told about that time.  My mother and aunt were both what you would call "flappers," living through this volatile period with the stock market crash and then the depression. 

My mother came to the United States  from Ireland the year The Great Gatsby was published.  She was a teenager and joined her sister who had immigrated a few years earlier.  When the stock market crash happened people lived in limbo for many years during this period without jobs, without lives!  My mother married when she was older and also had children as an older mother.  It was many years before the economy began to recover.

My aunt and my mother

It certainly does remind me of what is going on now, those high flying days at the beginning of this century , the crash, the job loss, the long climb back to prosperity

Oh by the way, they have just cast Carey Mulligan (Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps) as Daisy Buchanan  in a remake of The Great Gatsby!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Greening Up For The Holidays

Wouldn't you think "greening up" is an ecological term regarding our environment?  In the holiday container business it means building your container from the bottom up with greens, at least three types.

I attended a workshop at a local nursery this past weekend.  The weather was unusual in that it began in the middle 50's with a slight drizzle, and before I left the wind had whipped up and the temperature dropped into the low 40's.

Begin with the heavier evergreen branches such as Noble Fir

Now work in a triangle form for your other greens such as boxwood, huckleberry and variegated cedar.

Noble fir branches are recommended as a base because they are firm and strong, then interspersed with boxwood or red huckleberry in a triangle pattern, sort of like you would plant perennials, lastly with incense cedar or variegated cedar, or other evergreens like scotch pine or Fraser fir.  When the greening up is completed this is the time to spray with a product like Wilt Pruf (other brands on the market).

Noble Fir branches are usually sold whole (they look like a flat Christmas tree) cut in half for putting into containers.

Variegated and Incense Cedar

This is a display of small evergreens to add to your containers

Now is is embellishment time, pine cones, berries, magnolia leaves, winterberry, etc.  Do not spray a Wilt Pruf product on any berries, or they will turn black and have an early demise, magnolia leaves will become spotted.



Magnolia Leaves

Seed Pods (These hold up from year to year)

Tinted Eucalyptus


Winterberry (expensive but striking in an arrangement) do not spray with Wilt Pruf, berries will discolor.

Dried Pomegranate on placement sticks (I had to cut mine to fit in the smaller pots around the boxwood)

Silver Dollar Eucalyptus (This will not stay green through the winter).

Dried artichoke

Eucalyptus Pods

Cut all of your greens on an angle, sink into soil and water well when completed.  They will eventually freeze in place.  It was not recommended to use an oasis as they will deteriorate over the winter.  However, last year I had oasis in my cast iron planters in a plastic bowl and they were fine.

This is a huge planter, not one that most of us would have on our property, but it does give us a good idea of how many different elements go into an arrangement to make it interesting.

A smaller arrangement that most of us can relate to

Grapevine spheres, some painted and some natural

The greening up is completed, sprayed the Wilt Pruf and then began adding the embellishments - not done yet!

I painted my dried hydrangeas with Ace Hardware Burgundy colored outdoor spray paint and an indoor antique gold/green spray (which I had to seal with a clear coat because it wasn't for outdoors). 

Painted spheres and hydrangeas

This is a completed arrangement, lots of materials used and expensive.  Many of the embellishments can be kept from year to year.

Birch branches are usually preferred to spray paint because they are finer than the dogwoods.

Boxwood with Pomegranate (I may put in a little moss to soften the look)

Seeded cedar awaiting something unusual, I'm working on it!

I think this one may be completed

Before I left, I noticed the grass in the nursery yard swaying in the strong winds, looked just like a prairie!