the “art” of gardening

I have a gardening group that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Which makes me happy because I love to garden, and love looking at the gardens of others, and talking about gardens. 

I do not pretend to know everything. I am constantly learning. I think gardening is good for the soul and head in part because if you garden, you are always learning.

I have beds on all four sides of our house. The philosophy is simple: I want flowers everywhere. I am going for four seasons of interest and the late Suzy Bales (who was amazing gardener and garden writer who sadly passed away last spring) inspired me to that. She is not the only gardener or garden writer who has inspired me over te years, but she will always be one of my favorites because what she wrote about speaks to me still.

My current garden is pieces of every garden I have ever had, combined with elements I have admired in other gardens. I draw a lot of inspiration from English and Irish cottage gardens, truthfully.

With a few exceptions I have planted it all myself. Except for things I physically can’t do, I maintain my garden myself. Gardening makes me happy.

You get out of your garden what you put into it. A good garden is the result of trial and error, and what defines a good garden is simple: it makes YOU happy.

For me personally, given the knee injury I have been dealing with for several weeks at this point, this will be the year that tests my garden. But the up shot is I have done basically the majority of the planting, so maintenance will be the key. And hopefully I can find help for that until I am healed.

When you are putting your own garden together, it’s kind of like decorating your house – you draw inspiration from lots of places. Make a garden inspiration board on Pinterest- Pinterest is loaded with gardening stuff! I actually love using Pinterest for garden related things – it is so easy to create a virtual cork board of ideas.

In part that is why I created a gardening group and write about gardening is I believe gardeners inspire each other. And somewhere along the way when you least expect it, you develop your own gardening style.

My gardening style includes garden elements – bird baths, a stone path to dress up a hard to make look pretty area, seating areas, and so on. I also love the idea of creating “nooks”.

I love color and texture and how plants “fit” together. I love that you can plant almost anything in a pot, so it is not just about the garden beds. I love the smells and sounds of the garden and how nature rewards you when you plant.

Gardening is art, and trust me everyone has it in them to create their own artistic oasis. 

Happy gardening.

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santa season 

Decorating days are here. I like it to be festive and beautiful not Christmas psychotic. 
I have taken a long time to hunt my Christmas decorations and as a process it is a constant evolution. 

I find decorations I like, but if I find ones I like better I will swap things out. 

  Some people just do mass assemblages of layered and layered decorations with not much restraint (or taste) and well it ends up looking like an episode of Christmas Hoarders. If you take your time it makes it easier and you don’t have to put out all of the ornaments and decorations…rotate them!

Last year I did a lot of little decorated  trees with feather ornaments and such, but this year I decided to have more Santas and nutcrackers out  instead. (I did one small tree with vintage ornaments for our bedroom – a tabletop tree).

 

Ebay and Etsy are great resources for Christmas decorations and ornaments. So are Facebook yard sale groups, church rummage sales, and garage sales and my favorite…barn picking 🎅

 Decorating for Christmas is easy and fun. Use Pinterest for ideas and inspiration and keep it simple to start.
Vintage holiday table linens and dishes also do not have to cost a fortune at all. 

But seriously where people screw up every year is they take the time to decorate… And then it’s paper plates and plastic cups! Just say no! Buy yourself a pair of festive dish gloves and towels and do the dishes! 

Happy Merry Festivus!

  

vintage en blanc

vintage 2

Next week is the En Blanc week in our area.  These all white outdoor picnics for grown-ups start August 20th, when Diner en Blanc hits center city Philadelphia. It’s slightly more laid back Chester County/Brandywine Valley counterpart Brandywine in White is August 22nd. (Yes you need to have registered and paid in advance for both events – both sell out.)

En Blanc events have been all the rage coast to coast in the US, Canada, and Europe for the past few years. I don’t know how long for certain – other than the first one was in Paris over 20 years ago.

These white dinner picnic party organizers are serious about their white…decorations, dishes, attire and even food.

So to me it is a perfect excuse to have fun with vintage finds.  And you don’t have to spend a fortune.  Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, hospital and church thrift shops, the Smithfield Barn, Consign-It in Kennett, the Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Kennett and Caln, are just a few places you can find fun things at a fraction of the cost. Also don’t forget yard sale groups on Facebook, eBay, Etsy, and the humble garage and yard sale. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a look.

Now some people prefer Crate and Barrell or say William Sonoma, and that is fine, but how often are you going to do ALL WHITE? So why spend like it is the proverbial last supper? Have fun with it and you can mix and match! Personally, I had the vintage glassware already for years and the napkins and tablecloths.

The glassware had been gifts from friends who were cleaning out their pantry closets and cabinets when I needed stuff. Again,  I have had them for years. The linens came from church sales and the Smithfield Barn.  All stuff I have used before and love.

The tablecloths at the time were like $8 and $12 and the napkins were part of a lot I bought from the Smithfield Barn for under $20 and the plates came from the barn too (recently) and were a big $1 a piece.

vontage 1The mid century funky silverware was a steal of a deal from a thrift shop in Virginia that also sells on eBay. It was truly inexpensive and the silver plate napkin rings are just something I have picked up here and there for at least 25 years. None of the napkin rings match and I never pay more than a couple of dollars an orphaned napkin ring.

Old picnic baskets can be found at a lot of church rummage sales especially.

You have the most fun with these picnic events if you do it with a group of friends. You divvy up the table settings, food, flowers, beverages, and so on.

If you are attending one of these events and still looking for your “look”, seriously try thrift shops and garage sales and whatnot (as mentioned).  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a fab and fun tablescape! (You can also get great ideas off of Pinterest!)

Thanks for stopping by!

easy summer entertaining

  Entertaining in the summer is so easy and fun! Fresh fruit and vegetables and flowers are so readily available and it is easy to be casual.

I am not for the paper plates and plastic cup casual, though. I like to make things look nice for my guests.

Last night was one of those nights. We got together with some of our favorite friends from high school and we don’t get together as often as we should and I wanted it to be special. 

  I did my table in my vintage finds that were season appropriate- Fiestaware and a cool Vera tablecloth.

I served summer food with my culinary twists. Started with a real gooey traditional French Brie with fresh strawberries on the side as well as crackers. Melon wrapped in prosciutto but not just cantelope, a lucious canary melon too.  And a super fresh caprese salad with my own garden basil. 

  For dinner, sweet cornbread muffins with dill, chili powder, and cinnamon. Chuck roast I had marinated for two days and roasted (they were supposed to be for the grill but Mother Nature changed the weather up). The roast was tender and flavorful!  

  We finished with a seasonal greens salad topped with sliced thin rings of lolipop scallions, Mert’s Nuts (the salad crumbles), goat cheese crumbles and a simple mustard vinegarette. Dessert was a triple berry trifle with three layers of pudding (lemon, coconut, white chocolate) and cookies my friend brought from Isgros.

  And on a whim along with some lovely French Rosés I served prosecco. The food was fresh and simple and the table seasonally festive. I did it buffet style so my guests could mingle and eat what they chose while catching up.

   

 Best of all it was just one of those fun evenings where it all felt like it was only five minutes long! Good friends, good food, good conversation and fun! 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

true vintage: collecting and using dansk 



Caveat Emptor is Latin for buyer beware. Like everyone else, there are things I collect and love to use. A lot of times I have a hard time sourcing things locally, so I have to go out onto the Internet to find what I want. But you have to pay attention and research what you are buying.

Dansk Kobenstyle cookware, specifically their Dutch ovens, is one of those things I love . But I only collect the vintage and I only cook with the vintage.  Dansk can also be purchased through William Sonoma and other outlets again now, but in my humble opinion they are just expensive they aren’t necessarily as good as what you can find vintage.
Dansk Kobenstyle Dutch Ovens or covered casseroles were introduced originally in 1955. The Kobenstyle Casserole was originally designed by Jens Quistgaard….in Denmark.  Interiors of pans are white. This is enamelware (enamel coated steel) , so you have to baby it and hand wash it. One of the really cool things of the design of the pot is the lid can be used as a trivet! It’s just fun and practical mid century modern. 
The time during which Dansk was originally produced in Denmark was a mecca for mid century everything from cookware to furniture. (I think some of the furniture of that era can be retro cool, but some of it I don’t care for.) 
My mother also had the Dansk flatware when I was growing up. She also used the Kobenstyle cookware ( Dutch oven and a casserole pan of I recall correctly. ) Simple design with a great weight….and basically indestructible. 
Also note that Dansk was a US company no matter where the items were produced.  Dansk as a line was born out of the Great Neck,  NY garage of a couple named Nierenberg in 1954 after seeing the work of Jens Quistgaard at what is known today as the Danish Museum of Art and Design. Eventually Dansk corporate headquarters to Mt. Kisco, NY in the mid 1960s.


I don’t  like things from the entire line but I do love the Dutch Ovens and stock pots. For example, some people swear by the rectangular casseroles, and I hate them as everything sticks all the time. I had at one time a casserole and small sauce pans but I got rid of them.
Dansk originally appeared in Neiman Marcus ads in 1955. At Christmas time. These items were originally produced in Denmark. The pans were first produced in turquoise, red, and yellow. There was also a bright green color which was pretty awful,  but it didn’t last and was discontinued after year I think.
I have attached some photos of the vintage logos for Dansk. You will notice one says “Made in France”. That is because in 1965 production moved from Denmark to France.
What I collect and use, are all basically from the years 1965 through 1975. I can date my pots from their colors. White ( circa 1971-1973), Brown ( circa 1975), and Sun Gold Yellow (circa 1965)
In my opinion at the end of the 1970s, Dansk sort of faded from popularity with a lot of their line until it was reintroduced in 2012.  And it was sold as a line in 1985  and then acquired by another company around 1991 and then again in 2009. 
The Kobenstyle pans today are made in Thailand, and the bottom on the newer pots introduced in 2012 through to today are also slightly different (not just because the bottom is black, as the ones manufactured in France sometimes have black bottoms). I have looked at them in stores and the weight is slightly different and I just don’t like them as well. They have also tweaked the design in some cases which makes them look slightly like cartoon pots to me. So I continue to use the vintage versions of the Dutch ovens/stockpots .
I use these Dutch ovens regularly and eventually I wear them out. Which means I start looking for other vintage Dansk to replace them with. I like to do this before my Dutch ovens don’t have enough of a resale life in them. While I use mine, a lot of people just buy them for display and I have resold some of mine that way.
I have found the vintage Kobenstyle everywhere, but it is easiest to find on eBay and Etsy. So as a result, I was looking on Etsy the other day.
I saw a listing. It was what was described as a vintage Dansk. It’s not. And I knew it as soon as I saw the photo of the bottom of the pan. There was a very modern Dansk logo and “made in Thailand”. That’s not vintage anything,  that’s current to within a couple of years. Even the handles were not the traditional style for the vintage Kobenstyle Dutch ovens or stockpots. (Dansk is now owned by the company that owns Lenox. And don’t get me started on Lenox because while true vintage Lenox is divine, modern Lenox? Not so much.)

I contacted the owner of the Etsy shop to let them know what they actually had for sale. I have noticed on eBay and Etsy that most sellers enjoy getting additional information on what they are selling because quite frankly it helps them sell items quicker. Not everyone can know everything – some people just know certain kinds of items better than others. It’s why you will see so many antique and vintage dealers specializing in specific things.
The owner of the Etsy shop came back to me with the reply “What is your point?” and some other rather rude comments I won’t share. (I am also doing the store owner a favor and not outing them. Everyone can make a mistake.)
Guess my point to the store owner was that I was trying to be helpful.  She left her listing to stand with the incorrect description overnight and then removed it.   But she is a seller who has now lost me as a potential customer.  Not because of her mistake, but due to her attitude. And the shame of it is for a modern Dansk reincarnation her pot was ok, but it was definitely not vintage. All she had to do was change the description and she could have even sold it at the same price point she had listed.
The moral of this rather long Aesop fable is to check out your items. Ask questions. If it’s something you collect and the seller doesn’t know something about the item, tell them. To be honest it’s a little bit hard to be an expert on everything vintage, so feel free to tell us what you know about things. It actually is helpful.  And if you run into a seller who strikes a discordant note with you, move onto the next seller.

vintage linens

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I love most things vintage. Which is of course one reason I love open barn weekends at the Smithfield Barn on Little Conestoga Road in Downingtown.

So I went wandering out this afternoon to pick up a garden bell on hold for me and ended up scoring a couple of kitchen items – fabulous old and handmade wooden spoons, a Corningware covered medium casserole ( which was just perfect for my peach blueberry crisp I baked later), and a couple of hand embroidered kitchen towels that were kicky in a kitschy sort of way.

I laundered by hand the towels and dried and ironed them. It was at that point I thought I would put them in my powder room instead. They would get too beat up in the kitchen.

I have been collecting linen and cotton vintage hand towels for years. I pick them up where they are inexpensive – thrift stores, church sales, flea markets, the Smithfield Barn. I buy what catches my eye and I buy them to be used.

What you see in the photo above are the towels I scored today with others I already had.

Yes I know, a very Martha moment – only I still do my own ironing!

But seriously? Look how easy it is to dress up a fairly utilitarian powder room or half bath with some vintage linens?

Remember, freshening up the decorating takes neither a large budget or a decorator.

where have all the roses gone?

rose4Happy first day of summer!

Where have all the roses gone?

Are local gardeners so lazy that nurseries don’t carry them any longer?

Or is the beautiful rose, once an iconic American and British garden staple merely out of fashion?

Have roses gone the way of any plant not easy for a developer to “shrub” a plastic coated development with?

I think the answer is yes to all questions above, and I think it is sad.

I love roses.  I love roses enough that once upon a time I wrote something for the American Rose Society which still exists over 15 years later on their website (Read it here on this website too! Roses-Thrive-on-Routine ).

more roses

I have a small collection of rose books in my personal library, including one of my favorites called In Search of Lost Roses by Thomas Christopher – here is a snippet of an old interview:

Thomas Christopher author of In Search of Lost Roses

Read an excerpt from the book.

Question: What are “lost roses,” and how did they get that way?

Christopher: Traditionally, gardeners grew a tremendous diversity of roses—some 6,000 different kinds were introduced by nurserymen in the nineteenth century alone. Not all of these roses were available at any given time, but still, a century ago gardeners took for granted that they would have access to roses of all sorts of sizes and colors, from tiny five-petalled roses very little different from the wild species, to huge, petal-packed puffs as much as six inches in diameter.

This situation changed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The nursery industry consolidated, so that the growing of roses was handled by a few giant firms. To maximize profits, these businesses trimmed the product lines, eliminating the less than best-selling roses. Eventually, the rose growers focused on the production of the widely-popular new hybrid tea roses to the exclusion of almost everything else.

The other roses, the heritage of 2,500 years of breeding and gardening, disappeared from nursery catalogs and eventually from gardens, too. They were lost and presumed dead until a handful of imaginative rosarians made it their business in the 1970s and 1980s to search out specimens surviving in abandoned gardens, cemeteries, and other inadvertent sanctuaries. My book is the story of these collectors and their crusade.

It was this book that got me hooked on old roses.  By the time I read it I already was in love with David Austin’s English Roses and the royalty of American Hybrid Tea roses like “Princesse de Monaco“, “John F. Kennedy” , “Climbing Joseph’s Coat“, and “Peace”.

But where are these and old garden roses today?  Thomas Christopher might want to consider a follow-up book as roses are quickly disappearing from the American garden landscape.

roses

A flower as American as Apple Pie shouldn’t disappear from gardens.  They are regal and amazing flowers and much like your pets and children will thrive on simple and consistent routines.  Has our world evolved so much that because a rose bush is not instant gratification that we can no longer grow it?

I went searching for roses this spring.  Chester County has a slew of nurseries and while I could find every other shrub, roses were on the endangered species list.  The only roses to be found were sorry specimens from prior seasons that should have been marked down for a rose lover to adopt, but weren’t and those “Knock Out Roses” – Knock Out Roses are apparently the evolution of the American Garden Rose and purportedly require little care.  They are o.k. but they don’t give me that true garden rose feeling.roses3

I finally had to order my roses bare root.  I hated to not give local nurseries the business, but they didn’t have the stock. I don’t mind planting bare root rose, it is fairly easy – just follow the directions of the grower.

Yes, I know deer like roses, but that is why you have fences and dogs.

So yesterday when I stopped at Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery in Malvern (the old Potters site on Paoli Pike for those of you who haven’t been there), I got to talking roses with one of my favorite nurserywomen there as I picked out some perennials.  She told me how the rose industry had faltered and about  Jackson & Perkins bankruptcy a couple of years,  and financial issues other rose growers had experienced in this crazy economy of the past few years.

So roses are a victim of the economy too? Thanks, President Obama.  My healthcare keeps going up and now I can’t find a simple pleasure like rose bushes? I wonder if the White House Rose Garden has suffered as a result? (Sorry, didn’t mean to get political but roses are an American tradition are they not? Shouldn’t someone be indignant?)

Here is an article I found that I thought was interesting:

LA Times Bloom comes off the rose industry

In recent years, time-strapped homeowners have traded their big tea roses for the easier-growing compact shrub variety. Many hybrid varieties may disappear from the marketplace.

March 08, 2012|By Debbie Arrington

Future generations may never know the beauty of Diana, Princess of Wales; sniff Catalina in the sunshine; or fall for Beloved.For a century, devoted gardeners have appreciated the marvels of delicate and finicky hybrid roses and referred to them by name, like pets or family. The product of generations of breeding, the queen of flowers could act like a spoiled princess because its delicate blooms offered a special reward.

In recent years, though, time-strapped homeowners have traded their big teas for compact shrub roses — utilitarian soldiers in the landscape that could cover ground without fuss.

Our desire for the carefree — no-iron shirts, no-wax floors, and now low-maintenance yards — has brought the rose industry to a crossroads.

“At some point, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Charlie Anderson, president of Weeks Roses, the only major company still creating new varieties of full-size roses. “[Landscape] roses will be all you have; the beautiful, unique hybrid teas will be gone.”

The flagging economy has compounded the rose industry’s troubles.

Two years ago, rose giant Jackson & Perkins, which had annually shipped 10 million bushes nationwide, filed for bankruptcy protection. Many of the hybrid roses the company created — such as Diana, Catalina and Beloved — may soon disappear from the mass market as the supply of those bushes dries up.

“Roses are viewed as an extravagance, and they’re still trying to shed that stigma,” said Seth Taylor of Capital Nursery…..The annual wholesale value of California’s rose crop dropped 55% to $27.20 million in 2010 from a high of $61.05 million in 2003, according to nursery industry expert Hoy Carman, a retired UC Davis professor.

“The whole nursery industry is down,” Carman said. “In 2008, sales just plummeted.”

Said Adams of the Rose Society: “Roses are not the first thing homeowners think of when they want to plant a garden. Competition with other choice plants is fierce…. Most major rose growers have gone bankrupt or consolidated with other wholesale nurseries…..Jackson & Perkins, acquired by J&P Park Acquisitions Inc. of South Carolina, no longer develops and grows new roses. Before bankruptcy, the company farmed 5,000 acres in Wasco with 20,000 bushes per acre. Without buyers, many of those bushes were burned.

Once a breeder goes bankrupt, its roses usually disappear with it. Rose patents — good for 18 to 20 years — may be sold, but budwood and mother plants are lost. Many Jackson & Perkins roses are now on the endangered list.

“Some will be preserved,” Anderson said. “But a lot of varieties were lost; there was no budwood to collect [to create new hybrid bushes]. Most will just disappear into the ether.”

rose2

When is the last time any of you planted a rose bush?  I don’t think there is an app for that, so when is the last time you really dug in the dirt? As in planted things yourselves?  Gardening is a primal thing to be sure, a connection between you and the land and it doesn’t have to be all perfect and chemically induced lawns, either.

I know I am a little dotty when it comes to gardening because I love to do it.  Not for other people, just myself.  It gives me peace and satisfaction.  The easiest way to inner peace is a simple walk or cooking or gardening I think.

Roses are a part of every garden I have ever had large or small.  Granted I will never have the amount of roses in my garden that I grew in my parents’ old garden (read this June 1997 Philadelphia Inquirer article where I was interviewed about rose growing – Rosy Outlook ).  Pardon me while I ramble like a proverbial rambling rose, but  wow I still remember shortly after my parents sold that house the new owner ripping out and tossing over 51 different rose bushes so he could have a look that was more developer “shrubbed” and predictable (and someone else would take care of it.)

I am making a plea to all you gardeners who are left: if you have some sun, plant some roses.  Don’t let real roses disappear. You don’t have to plant dozens, just try one or two.   After all the rose is iconic enough to Americans that it has a parade, and it is still the state flower of New York, and last I checked the White House still had a rose garden, so aren’t they worth saving and trying again?  Not those landscaper roses that have taken over, but a real rose, with that real rose smell and regal appearance? And did you know that roses are a working flower too?  Don’t believe me? Check any wine producer and let them tell you about how they plant roses in the vineyards.  They have this canary in the coal mine role – grape vines and roses are susceptible to the same diseases.

My final word on the topic is yet another article, fairly recent, that I found about roses and life:

Sherry Young: Life is like growing roses, if you don’t tend to responsibilities it may fade on you

By , Deseret News Published: Thursday, May 23 2013

In frustration with all the roses in my yard I once wrote an article titled “Roses have thorns — and thorns have roses.” It sprang from a quote by writer and novelist Alphonse Kerr, who observed, “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

As a beleaguered gardener, I wrote, “My yard is filled with roses. Now, during the third summer learning curve for tending to them, I bear scars on my arms and legs from trying to figure out their perfidious nature.”

Today I stood looking around my yard, now sadly devoid of many of those beautiful plants. One by one they expired…

Whatever the cause, only a few remain to waft the air with their perfume this June. It is a great life lesson to deal with the thorns because at least there are roses.

As I stood looking, I had mixed feelings about the plight of those roses. It was actually a relief I didn’t need to prune them and feed them and chase away the aphids, but on the other hand I was sad to miss their beauty.

Life is like growing roses. If you don’t plant you won’t reap, if you don’t tend to responsibilities they may fade on you. Some varieties are hardier than others, and even among the same varieties there will be differences. Part of their success and beauty will be where they are planted.

Well, I do go on — parallels everywhere…“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever,” advised British actor Richard Briers

 

Enjoy the first day of summer.  And remember, life is all about stopping to smell the roses.  But we have to plant some first.