July 24, 2016

Five Garden Inspired Wedding Gift Ideas

Young lovers hold hands in a field of grasses.
Ah...Love is in the air

Cupid has been working overtime in my family and social circles of late, and the result has been a flurry of weddings, receptions, save-the-dates and, of course, wedding gifts. Since I see everything in life, including wedding gifts, through a gardening lens, I thought I would share 5 Garden Inspired Wedding Gift Ideas for gardeners like myself who want to give something personal, something memorable, and something designed to celebrate gardening and the great outdoors.

White ceramic bowl stuffed with hydrangeas and roses sits amid crystal and silver.
Gorgeous hydrangea and roses take center stage on a rehearsal dinner table in the garden of a friend.

(This was also the topic of last Friday's 4 YOUR GARDEN (HERE) segment. Watch it and past segments here). Here's a rundown on some gifts I have given in the past...and no doubt will give in the future. As long as romance is alive, so to speak. 

Picnic basket with all the necessities: plates, flatware, wineglasses...

1.  A Beautiful Picnic Basket

Rustic or refined, vintage or new...a picnic basket for two or more, is a wonderful and unexpected gift that goes beyond the wedding registry at the mall.  Like this one tricked out to the max, from Pottery Barn here, or this great variety of picnic ensembles at Picnic World (here). Flea markets and antique shops are great places to source old-fashioned and retro versions that you can personalize and stock yourself. Romantic? I think so.


Galvanized metal lantern with battery operated candle inside, accompanied by pink Mandeville vine.
Galvanized metal lantern hangs next to the doorway and hot pink Mandevilla vine.

2.  Outdoor Lanterns

One can find good looking and good quality lanterns almost anywhere and at any price point these days, from TARGET (HERE) to TERRAIN (HERE). An added bonus is that many retailers put their outdoor decor items on sale at the end of the summer. Pair a couple of lanterns with battery operated candles, found in many sizes and styles at

Wooden lantern on wood post stands above garden flowers and foliage.
This special outdoor lantern sits atop a post amidst flowers and foliage in the garden.
 AMAZON (HERE). Guaranteed to continue flickering even in strong Oklahoma wind.

Leather bound ten year journal from Lee's Valley makes a great wedding gift.


3.  A beautiful leather Garden Journal

I have given this beautiful ten year leather bound journal from LEE'S VALLEY (HERE) as both a wedding gift and house warming present many times. Tuck some of your favorite flower and veggie seeds into the gift box to personalize it further. Give it to them just in time to record the first 100 degree temps of the summer...

Wood raised bed planters fit right in with furniture and guests on the slate patio.
Two Raised Bed Planters grow herbs on the patio.

4.  A Raised Garden Bed Kit
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Newlyweds may have neither the time, inclination or space to engage in ambitious, in-ground garden bed, but still like the idea of eating and cooking with garden fresh herbs and veggies. The perfect solution, and a perfect wedding gift, would be a raised bed garden kit. Options abound, from Home Depot and Lowe's to on-line sources like WAYFAIR (HERE). Have this wedding gift shipped directly to the nuptial couple...just make sure they are not apartment dwellers... and if they are...

Farm fresh produce from your CSA.
5.  A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Membership

that will provide garden fresh produce without their even getting their hands dirty.  In OKC consider GUILFORD GARDENS & KAM'S KOOKERYor LOCAL HARVEST (HERE). If the couple doesn't have time to cook, but love the indulgence of fresh flowers in their home year round, why not get them an annual subscription to a service like BOUQS (HERE) or a local grower from your Farmers' Market. Options that are cut flower beautiful, but with a garden bouquet aura.

Bouquet of sweet peas, artemisia, and wildflowers.
Fresh Cut flowers from the garden, destined for the vase. Very romantic, and I think, very wedding appropriate.
Bride and photographer make magic with sister and mom looking on.
One of several wedding photos taken  in my back garden.


July 21, 2016

Semi-Dwarf Crape Myrtle: Early Bird Lavender

Two beautiful lavender Early Bird Crape myrtles bloom in the garden border with woven garden chairs nearby.
Woven garden chairs sit in front of border with lavender crape myrtles, sedums and conifers.

Three years ago, in an effort to introduce more seasonal blooming shrubs into my small landscape, I fell upon the EARLY BIRD Series of Crape Myrtles...semi-dwarf crape myrtles that promise to bloom earlier than older varieties producing intense color during the hottest part of summer. I found my EARLY BIRD Lavender at Home Depot as part of the SOUTHERN LIVING PLANT COLLECTION; on-line shoppers can find them at Wilson's Brothers Gardens.

Intense hues of massed Early Bird Crape Myrtles bloom in front of clipped dwarf youpon hollies.
Lavender Early Bird Crape Myrtles from Wilson Brothers website.
Close up of an Early Bird Lavender bloom.
Intricate details of this lavender beauty on each bud and bloom are sure to please.

In my experience, it does not bloom heavily until mid-late June, possibly because of its location; more probably because it is just now reaching true maturity,  and the blooms are coming in greater numbers. Mature height is 5-8', 4-6' wide; blooms its head off for three months and is hardy zones 7-10. The collection offers three colors: lavender, pink and white. Watch this SOUTHERN LIVING COLLECTION youtube video (here) to see images of each color.

Arching branches of lavender crape myrtle.
Color can appear pink to purple to lavender depending on time of day and what it is planted with.
Heat and drought tolerant, unfinicky about soil (provided it gets good drainage), deer and disease resistant (plant in full sun with a modicum of good air circulation to prevent powder mildew), handsome year round. What more could you ask? Well, I did ask, and here was Mother Nature's response:

Vignette of Silverado Sage topiary, lavender crape myrtles, and succulents.
A Silverado Sage topiary blooms in front of two Early Bird Crapes with sedum 'Autumn Joy' in the foreground.

Perfect Color Echoes

I am a gal who can faint over a great color echo in the garden. And in my garden, the Early Bird Crape Myrtle in Lavender coupled with Echinacea Purpurea and the like-colored blooms on my Silverado Sage topiary are truly swoon worthy. Happy circumstance that they all like the same growing conditions and play well together.

Foreground of a lavender crape blossom with purple coneflower behind.
Perfect color echo between purple coneflower and lavender crape myrtle.
Nice contrast in upright form of the topiary and arching habit of crape myrtles behind.
Notice how the intensity and hue of the color changes with the light. Here looking almost fuchsia ....
Velvety gray foliage and pink flowers on Silverado Sage topiary.
and in the morning light, looking pale lavender-blue.
Velvety gray foliage and pink flowers on Silverado Sage topiary.
Beautiful gray foliage of Texas Sage with hot pink blooms.
Velvety gray foliage and pink flowers on Silverado Sage topiary.
I love the dome-shaped head of a topiary.
Velvety gray foliage and pink flowers on Silverado Sage topiary.
The textures of both leaf and bloom are soft and velvety.

Shade for what is planted beneath its canopy

This,  I must tell you, is quite an unexpected benefit that did not reveal itself to me until this year, when the crape myrtles' height was sufficient to make a difference. Somewhat behind and in between these two crapes (it is a rather deep garden border) are three peonies that bloom a bit in spring, and heretofore, began to fry as soon as the heat set in. I have debated taking them out because they look so hideous in late summer... (and they face East....for us Okies, generally one of the more coveted exposures in the garden...). But as of this morning, the peony foliage looked just fine, thank you very much, as the arching branches of the crapes give them just the right amount of protection from the harsh sun. These sun-loving lavender beauties bask in the intense light and heat, happily taking the hit for the peony foliage below (that still get enough light and air to keep them satisfied.)

Crape Myrtle bloom hovers over peony foliage.
Notice the unblemished peony foliage below the lavender flower head.
When I shape and prune the crape myrtles in late winter/early spring (as the peonies begin to flush out and come into their own blooming season) , I will take the crape's protective nature into account. Ah the genius of multi-season planting for multi-seasonal bloom. Something I am still learning as a long-time gardener.

The Grumpy Gardener from SOUTHERN LIVING has more to say on the topic of semi-dwarf crape myrtles here on the Daily South.

Huge tunnel of pink crape myrtles at the Dallas Arboretum with visitors strolling below.
The magnificent allee of Crape Myrtles at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens provides more than enough shade for Husband and other garden strollers.
Huge tunnel of pink crape myrtles at the Dallas Arboretum.
We will assume these are NOT semi-dwarf varieties. :)
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July 18, 2016

Nancy Meyer's 'IT'S COMPLICATED' and Dried Hydrangeas

Oak leaf Hydrangea Bouquet adorns library book table.

When I got into my car after shopping at Sprouts this afternoon, the thermostat read 111 degrees. Time to move indoors, I say. More specifically to my living room which now houses the massive hydrangea bouquet I dried this week... and promised to show you in its domestic environ. I guess it's the voyeur in all of us, but I am often asked to share the inside of my home as well as the gardens, so here is a peak if you are at all interested. Less VERANDA or SOUTHERN ACCENTS MAGAZINE than it is a composition of hand-me-downs and things I love: white slipcovers, books, linen pillows, maps, topiary...books.  I like to think of it as possessing a certain Nancy Meyer's IT'S COMPLICATED vibe, (though I must tell you MY potager on this blistering July afternoon bears nooooo resemblance to the picture perfect potager in said movie.)

It is positioned to be a focal point on the table and in the room...holding center stage.
Papery and delicate dried bouquet of hydrangeas in wooden true sits in the middle of a large round book table.
It is surrounded by some of my favorite gardening books.
Large round book able sits behind slipcovered love seat and fireside chair.
Looking from the direction of the dining room, the bouquet holds its own with the other room elements.
But the dried bouquet does look fresh (as fresh as a dried bouquet can look) in its new situation in the middle of my large Round Book Table (I wrote a blog post about it here... where you can see many other seasonal arrangements that have occupied this pride of place in the past.)
Books, flowers, comfortable chair, and good lighting.  The essentials.
Good reading lights are essential when you have this much to read!
I arranged the huge blooms in a massive wooden trug (and one of the most favorite gifts I I've ever received...thank you, Suza) that was perfect in scale and earthiness to suit the flowers.
To give it even greater stature, and to make book selection easy without disturbing the blossoms, I placed the trug on a like-colored wood cake plate in the center of the table.



The table holds a rotation of gardening and garden design books that I refer to frequently. I change the selection fairly often, usually with the seasons. Their beautiful images and inspirations literally help me survive our long hot summers. The bouquet will remain handsome for a very long time...usually I toss them the following season when I can replace them with a new generation of  blooms, and/or when I feel the others have gotten too dusty :)

It wouldn't be a room of Linda Vater's without a topiary somewhere. Oh, I also adore monograms.



























Living room with slipcovered love sear, chair and couch in foreground of book table.
My essentials: books, flowers, comfortable chairs, a fire....and one of my men keeping me company.


So there you have it, as promised. The ultimate destination of this
grand arrangement. And I hope you enjoyed a peak into my living room. Please do let me know if you did and if you have any interest in seeing more...AND if you might guess where the Christmas tree goes.

Stay cool and hydrate everyone. And if you are reading this from a cooler, more comfortable clime, I tell you this:    plbbbsttt! ... and send some of it this way!


July 16, 2016

How and When To Cut and Dry Hydrangeas To Bring Indoors

Huge panicles of Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms in basket ready for drying.
Freshly cut basket of Oakleaf Hydrangea Blooms for drying.

Why make something difficult out of something easy? That's how I feel about the process of cutting and drying hydrangeas to bring indoors. More complicated, but no less effective techniques abound, but I have found that (a) WHEN you pluck to dry is far more important than (b) WHAT technique you choose to do so. I have been cutting and drying massive bouquets...

Old-fashioned hydrangea blooms are cut and ready for arranging.
Lime green to pink to blush....mopheads cut for drying and flower arranging.

of dried hydrangeas for years and have found this to me the most straightforward, easiest and most successful method. So here goes:

Hydrangea panicle drapes over the arm of a peeling paint garden bench.
Wait till they are beginning to dry on the plant before cutting. Isn't this a romantic image?

1.  DON'T PICK A BLOOM BEFORE ITS TIME

It is hard to resist cutting a blowsy mophead at its peak of freshness and bloom, in hopes that it will dry and hold that color and form for the long haul indoors. But you will be sorely disappointed in the results if you do so. Wait until mid-late summer (at least here in Oklahoma; later in cooler areas) when the petals begin to assume a 'papery' feel and sound...as they begin to dry while still on the plant. Let Mother Nature start the process for you.

Pink/white Oak Leaf hydrangea bloom on black background
Classic coloring of a Southern grown hydrangea.
2.  LOOK FOR COLOR AS WELL AS TEXTURE TO DETERMINE TIMING

Here in the South, aging and drying blooms will mature to a lime green/white color, eventually changing to pale pink and dusty burgundy tones. These apricot-blush hues are the color palette your hydrangea bouquet will adopt in its dried state.
(Wait too late, and blossoms will just look crunchy, brown and dead. I find this very sad...as those blooms could have been spared this indignity and now be gloriously adorning a special spot in your home.)

In Northern and cooler climes, drying heads will mature in blue to purple tones, a color many friends I know prefer. If this is you (or if, like me, you love both) then you will have to source blooms from up North...either on the web, at florists, or in my case, Whole Foods. 

Remember, even those purchased from other locales will have to be a bit 'papery' and mature  to successfully dry for indoor use. In my experience, any type of hydrangea: Oakleaf, paniculata, mophead, smooth....works if the timing is right.

Laundry basket of drying hydrangea blooms sit on brick wall waiting to be hung out to dry.
Laundry basket of drying hydrangea blooms sit on brick wall waiting to be hung out to dry.

Cascades of drying Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms create a floral chandelier compliments of Mother Nature.
Cascades of drying Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms create a floral chandelier compliments of Mother Nature.







Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.

Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.

Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.
Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.



3. CUT IN THE MORNING

By all means, cut in the morning when blooms are still fresh, even in their drying-on-the-plant stage. You will notice that those in shadier locations are typically fresher and less 'beaten up' than those in sunnier, more exposed locations. Cut very long stems....about 18-20 inches...to give you flexibility when arranging. Remove most of the foliage. 



4.  HANG STEMS TO DRY

I suspend stems from whatever and wherever is convenient at the time, as long as their is airflow and protection from the elements. This week it was a bit cooler outside, so I hung many stems from the branches of a redbud tree in a shady situation. It created a wonderful chandelier effect... not unlike cascading bunches of pendulous grapes. The effect was absolutely magical when the sun shone through the delicate petals in the golden evening light. 

Pendulous hydrangea blooms suspended to dry are backlit by the setting sun.
The flowers absolutely glowed...a beautiful floral lantern of sorts.

Others were hung inside to dry, from an actual chandelier in my morning room. Husband and I had to duck for a couple of days, but it was a minor inconvenience for such maximum reward.
This process took only a couple of days as a good bit of the drying process had already occurred on the plant itself.

Indoor chandelier of draping Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms.
Indoor chandelier of draping Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms.

As you can plainly see, vignettes and beauty were in abundance. I am dying to do this for reasons other than practical. A wedding or al fresco dinner party perhaps?  SO unfortunate that no one but me, Husband and my camera were here to witness what Mother Nature can create.
But then, perhaps there WERE other appreciating eyes. :)

Red cardinal watches my efforts from a redbud tree branch.
An appreciative cardinal watches my garden styling.
For video of my 4 YOUR GARDEN segments go (here) They should have today's segment on drying hydrangeas up soon.  Next week I'll show you where these beautiful blooms were placed about in my home. Enjoy!

The hanging blossoms really were incredible...I couldn't quit taking pictures as the light changed. I took far too many to include here. If you would like to see more, please check out
my photo gallery on the  P O T A G E R  Facebook page. You can view my page and follow me on FB here.  For lots of garden inspiration, you can follow me on my Pinterest Page here, or on Instagram here. I am trying to be much better about posting images and ideas you may find valuable. :)

And one more thing. If you want tips on propagating your hydrangeas, go here for a previous post I wrote on the subject, or to my friend Courtney Helena's Brazilian take on the topic here.

Enough about hydrangeas.  Go enjoy your weekend, all!

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p o t a g e r NEWS

TERRITORY OKC Magazine is on newsstands now. Please look for my article ' The Soul of a Garden'.