Sunday, January 14, 2018

These Are a Few of my Favorite Things

High on my list of 'favorite things' is time spent with my family including gardening with the grandchildren. Those of you who follow this blog have met Jon who assists me with my entries for the West End Fair, but were you aware that he has been my gardening helpmate since he could walk? That's Jon pushing the wheelbarrow, 'helping' Pappy and brother, Harry, plant a tomato. Two of my dear blogger friends write about their best loved things: Jo at Through the Keyhole in England compiles a monthly post she calls 'Raindrops on Roses', and Beth from Plant Postings in Southern Wisconsin writes an annual list with one favorite thing for each month of the year. Thank you Jo and Beth. Here are ten favorites that I picked:
1. My family
Jon making a miniature garden (top and bottom right). Picking red beets (bottom left)

Clockwise from top right: First 'Best of Show.' Jon's baking entry for the Fair. Handsome teenager

Although Jon is now a teenager, nearly 15 (where did the years go?), he assures me he will continue to help. I am truly blessed.

2. Early morning in my garden

During the growing seasons, I go outside as the sun is rising and stroll around my gardens, to see what is growing. It's the best time to harvest vegetables and pick flowers for indoor arrangements. I make note of tasks for the day. I choose a favorite seat in one of the gardens to meditate and read. I feel both tranquil and energized.

Love the garden bathed in the golden glow of the rising sun.

The swing in the Serenity Garden is a great place to start the day.

3. My favorite plant

My favorite plant depends on the day and the season. Some flowers, such as the daffodils in spring, the giant allium, 'Globemaster'  that spans spring and summer, the 'Peace' rose in June, and hollihocks in mid-summer are perennial faves.  New favorites last year were foxglove 'Foxlight Plum Gold' and anemone 'Honorine Jobert.' I wonder what new love 2018 will bring.

4. Garden critters

My garden is a wildlife habitat and I welcome many critters: birds, bees, butterflies and all pollinators, of course. I'm not too fond of the black bears because I'm afraid, but I tolerate deer and other 'destructive' animals. They have to survive too. Let's not forget my best gardening buddies,  Dude the miniature horse, and Billy the goat.

5. Flower shows, country fairs, and other people's gardens

Every year I try to visit as many gardens as possible. My favorites are the cottage gardens in England. However, we have wonderful gardens in the US, too, and in 2017 I took every garden tour I could. Some of the best public gardens are in the Philadelphia area. Philadelphia is within driving distance, so H.H. and I travel there frequently. In 2017, we also went to a couple of country fairs and two amazing flower shows.

Grafton Cottage, an iconic cottage garden in England

Top: Northview Gardens, b. left: Philly Flower Show, right:White Flower Farms

6. A new garden book

I have well-over 100 gardening books in my home library. There's something special about holding a new book for the first time, anticipating the wonderful illustrations and beautiful words within. For Christmas, my son gave me A Natural History of English Gardening by Mark Laird. It is a beautiful and informative addition to my library.

7. Writing about gardening

I have written a monthly gardening column for the Pocono Record for nearly three years now. I've published a blog entry every couple of weeks for ten years. I've been writing a book forever -- I sometimes think I enjoy the process too much and just need to let go of it. This year, I promise.

My favorite writing spot

8. Learning about gardening

Being a master gardener, I am required by Penn State to take a minimum of ten hours of continuing education each year. I would do it even if it wasn't compulsory as it is definitely one of my favorite things. I love to attend conferences and gardening programs. This year I am anticipating the Garden Writers Convention in Chicago and the Penn State Master Gardeners' Conference in Pittsburg. Much of the joy is meeting with like-minded gardening friends from around the country.

Jenny Rose Carey showing how to make a roof garden

9. Garden photography

I love taking pictures even though I sometimes feel I'll never get the hang of my DSL camera. I use a Cannon Rebel. This time of year, my garden photography focuses (pardon the pun) on backyard birds. 

Tufted titmouse

10. My potting shed

Finally, I LOVE my potting shed, especially with the coldframe that was added this year. The shed is the focal point of the kitchen garden and my sanctuary. Inside I have gardening books, a rocking chair, my hedgehog and other collections, and a large potting bench, as well as tools and gardening essentials.  It's a bit crowded in there, but that's OK.

What are your favorite things?

Pamela x

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018 from Astolat Farm

'New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change.'
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Astolat Farm

One of the joys of winter is watching the birds visiting the feeder and heated water dish outside my window. Here are a few pictures taken during this week's snowstorm...

Top: Male cardinal. Bottom: Female cardinal
Blue jay
Tufted titmouse

The temperature may be sub zero fahrenheit (as it is this new year's morning) but Dude's winter coat is so thick he doesn't mind the cold as he waits outside to be fed. Billy, the goat, has more sense -- he is sheltering in the stable.

Dude, my miniature horse

Wishing all my friends a healthy, happy year
with a beautiful, blooming 2018 garden.
Love, Pamela

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Longwood Christmas 2017

I believe we've started a new holiday tradition. For the second year running H.H. and I went to Longwood Gardens to experience their ultimate winter wonderland. I wrote about last year's visit HERE. This year's excursion was even more special because we met my son and his family there. How wonderful for this avid gardener: beautiful gardens plus children and grandchildren that I don't see very often because they live in Arizona. While waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, H.H. and I toured the museum with my son. It is housed in the du Pont house. My son was particularly interested to learn that Pierre S. du Pont bought the Longwood property because he was alarmed that some trees were to be cut down. He designed the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk first and began doing the work himself. Yes, he was a gardener (with a degree in engineering from MIT!) His original garden designs are exhibited in the house. Fascinating stuff. I had toured before, but missed a model of a dining room on display in a corner cabinet.

The doll's house size room decorated for Christmas
The du Pont house that contains the museum

When the rest of the family arrived and had examined the model railway set up in the grounds, we headed for the Conservatory. It was rather crowded, as we expected, being the day after Thanksgiving and only the second day of the event. It was difficult to take pictures without people in them. Also, I forgot my camera in the excitement of starting the two-hour drive to see my kinfolk, so had to rely on my phone. Fortunately, Jonathan was with us and he took better pictures with his. (Jon is my grandson who lives closer to us -- I write about him often as he is my big helper in the garden.)  The photos in this posting are a mixture of mine and Jon's. For really stunning captures, with NO people, you must visit Frank's blog at Sorta Like Suburbia.  Frank visited Longwood on a quiet Sunday afternoon with a real camera; his posting puts mine to shame.

Entrance to the Conservatory

The theme in the Conservatory this year is Classic French Design. There are elegant arrangements at every turn. I was disappointed not to go into the Music Room (too crowded) that replicates Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. I missed the courtyard scene that Frank shows on his blog post. There are many other highlights however.

This year's theme is French inspired.

 The most impressive is the floor of the Exhibition Hall. It shows a parterre garden depicted with cranberries and apples. I read that the Longwood carpenters spent nearly five hundred hours perfecting the fruit containment system. They used fruit from local farms. For more information go to Parterre Garden construction.

The Parterre Garden -- C'est Magnifique

The cranberry and apple theme is repeated in one of the living wreaths shown at the beginning of this posting. Jonathon has a new favorite flower -- he loved all the orchids. There is an orchid tree, the regular orchid display and even hanging baskets filled with orchids. Jon was very disappointed when I told him I have no luck growing orchids -- my house doesn't have the required conditions and I don't have the required skill.

Some of Longwood's orchids

Every year they display a Christmas tree made of succulents. This time they have a small succulent tree as well as the large one. I adored both.

Small succulent tree on left. Close-up of large one on right.

I have forgotten the 2016 theme, but poinsettias were very prominent everywhere. The poinsettia is one of the few traditional Christmas plants that is native to the Americas. This year features fewer of them, probably because they don't fit the French theme.  My favorite was a pretty peach colored one.

Unusual peachy colored poinsettia

The boys (young and old) were hungry after the long Conservatory tour, so we spent time in the café, eating and catching up on family news. By the time we went back outside it was dark. We strolled around the grounds enjoying the lights. At the Italian Garden, the lighted trees seemed to float on the water.

Top right: Floating trees in the Italian Garden's lake.

We said our goodbyes. To say it was a beautiful day is an understatement. Jon came back to our house to spend the weekend getting the tree, decorating it and the rest of the house, and baking the plum pudding. (I told you he's my big helper.)  We don't put lights outside of the house, I just put candle lights in my windows. I seem to do everything the same each year. I had examined the mantles in the du Pont house for ideas, yet decorated mine exactly as I always do.  There's lots of meaning and remembering in all my ornaments, however.  For example, the wooden cardinal bird on the mantle was carved and painted by H.H's cousin's daughter and fiancĂ© and given as a 'favor' at their wedding. Every year I put it out and think of that lovely celebration on Cape Cod. My friend Janet's children were visiting her for Thanksgiving and asked if they could decorate her house for Christmas. She gave them free range and they placed all her Christmas stuff in totally different spots than normal. Janet loves it. Maybe, that's what I should do one year.

Top: note the egg ornament made by my daughter when she was little. Bottom: mantle arrangement with cardinal.

What are your holiday traditions dear friends?

Have a blessed Christmas!
Pamela x

My 'Gardening Angel' ornament is a new gift from H.H.

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