Monday, November 30, 2009

Better Late Than Never....Thanksgiving Tableau…

I love to use nature as my inspiration…a centerpiece for my shop was of no exception. Typically, turquoise isn’t the go to Fall color, but this turquoise footed bowl at my shop got my mind meandering…turquoise is in the plumage of pheasants as is lavender…lavender and turquoise are in these begonia leaves…these leaves would look fantastic with Endless Summer hydrangeas still blooming strong…coral pepper berry and nandina would accent the hydrangeas…these sticks with moss and mushrooms add the woodland, autumnal touch, along with sugar pine cones…the brown cones reminded me of the brown in pheasant feathers…full circle and voila! An arrangement was formed in my mind and now I had to create it!

I used the begonia plants as my oasis. I watered them well and arranged them in a triangular fashion inside the bowl. Then I filled in the gap with the mounding floral stems of the Endless Summer hydrangeas…I picked ones that had already “dried” naturally, so I didn’t have to keep them submerged – just dampened from the begonia soil. Berries draping around the bowl soften the edges and mossy sticks poking out to add a bit of drama and vertical interest. Nestling pine cones and lotus pods gave me some brown, earthy elements along with the dried yellow flowers I found.

A friend of mine even had me use her stuffed pheasant in a similar arrangement and I loved the whimsy of the bird and made a “nest” of an arrangement with similar components for her table centerpiece. I really have a fondness for my feathered friends, so any chance to use a bird or feathers is fun!

So when constructing your Thanksgiving centerpiece and arrangements, use nature as your inspiration and use a bit of the unexpected. A fun color like turquoise, a wild branch covered in lichens, or even a bird!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pansies 101

The quintessential Winter flower…the pansy. Don’t be offended by being called one either!

What can make it through the cold days of winter and burst forth tiny florets of nearly every color all season long? PANSIES! What can be planted with cabbages, kale, chards, parsley, and mustard greens and bloom all Winter? PANSIES! What can be paired with snapdragons (plant now, cut back in December, and watch them explode in the Spring) and detonate your delight with blossoms throughout the cold months and dominate the Spring beds? PANSIES!

Viola x wittrockiana is the Latin name for these little faced flowers that are a powerhouse in the garden. They are totally edible, gorgeous on salads or desserts or frozen in ice cubes, smell lovely, and just rock all winter long with flowers while nothing else is cutting it! Think of a color and there is a hue of pansy for you. Their little sister plants, Violas, are just as impressive if not more so than their larger flowered siblings. Violas make a statement in pots, beds, baskets, and companion plantings all Winter long and last well into Spring.

So here’s the 101 on these rock stars of the plant world…good sun, good, soil, and good water…sounds easy and it is. Pansies and Violas are heavy feeders, meaning they like their garden food (fertilizer and such) and they like it often. Think about a cupcake…pretty good on its own, BUT…add some frosting and sprinkles and now you’ve got a CUP CAKE! Similar with Pansies and Violas - have a great bedding soil or potting soil (I use Jungle Growth or Miracle Growth or a mix of peat moss, compost, and soil conditioner with some Osmacote or fertilizer mixed in) to plant your pansies in. They like a well tilled or loamy soil that they can spread their little roots in the fluffy planting mediums mentioned above. These soils also provide good drainage which Pansies and Violas require. Also, keep the spent blossoms pinched off and more blooms will keep popping on out. Violas are more profuse bloomers than but like a trim of spent blossoms too.

Full winter sun (which may have been a shady spot the Summer before but now the leaves are gone) to partial sun is ideal for Pansies and Violas – the latter taking to shade a bit better than the former. I like to mound my annual color beds and Pansy beds are no exception. Till up the existing soil with the above mentioned soils and add more until you get a nice mound of soft fluffy dirt. The Jungle Growth and Miracle Grow have fertilizer built in, but adding a slow release fertilizer helps as well.

Take your little plants out of their nursery pots, tousle the roots and loosen them up, and plant them in their comfy little beds of good dirt. Since Winter is typically our rainy season, Pansies and Violas can survive off of rainfall. If we are particularly dry, a healthy sprinkle will keep your plants thriving…even a spot treatment of water soluble fertilizer or bloom booster will be rewarded. You can easily over water these little workhorses before under watering. Use a soil conditioner, yes like for your hair, to conserve the moisture in the soil and make an attractive topdressing or mulch.

So, consider it a complement to be a Pansy…even though other plant nerds and myself may only think so. They are great beginner plants to try in your garden. Experiment with some fun color combos (orange and lavender, yellow and blue, antique shades, all white with lime green parsley and huechera, tone on tones...the list goes on!) and give yourself a bit of color to dream with during your long Winter’s nap!

…Come to the woods where the pansies grow,

Come to the fields where the bluebells blow,

Come with me wherever I go,…

excerpt from the poem The Holiday

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

History of my Logo: James Farmer Designs

Punica granatum, is the Latin name for pomegranate. Granade, from granatum, is my mother’s maiden name, thus the pomegranate “or apple from Grenada” has adorned my family’s crest for centuries. With the surname of Farmer, it is no surprise that farming tools, such as spades, bring forth classic images and symbols from agrarian trades. I have integrated the two for my own crest and coat, and use the combination for my logo and letterhead.

Pomegranates are exceptionally gorgeous and interesting specimens of flora – from their colors, unusual seeds, their taste and nutrition, to their prominent place in history. From antiquity on, this species has brought beauty, passion, style and sustenance to mankind. Some scholars believe the “Tree of Life” in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate tree. In addition, King Solomon had his temple’s columns adorned with “an intricate bronze network of pomegranates…four hundred… in two rows on the latticework, to cover the bases of the two capitals.” Something about pomegranates’ aura is compelling and calming, and I relish any opportunities to study, use, cook, and decorate with them.

On the other hand, tools, like spades, shovels, rakes, and snips, are man’s accessories to cultivate – to cultivate not only for survival, but to nourish beauty and cherish it. It is at that point, when a gardener with sweat dotted brow or a decorator with thorn stung fingers can step back, acknowledge the beauty they have harnessed or created and realize that beauty, whether natural or nurtured is within grasp.

History and lineage are an integral part of a Southerner’s nature – knowing who your “people” are. I am blessed to literally use both lines of my lineage in my work. Since childhood, I have been passionately enthralled with beauty, its purpose and design, but also its delights and affects on the human spirit. From that stance, I want this site to reflect visions of Southern style, epitomize elegance, and promote a harmonious blend of gardens and homes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Make Farmer's Tea


I’m known for my tea. My teenage sister and her friends call it “Flower Tea” or “Fruit Loop Tea” and they’re right! I use one bag of Earl Grey with four bags of “normal” tea – that one bag infuses this steeped staple of the South with a bouquet of floral and fruit essence thus complementing an array of culinary delights! Tea, like wine and coffee, herald their flavors as mementos from the regions they were grown. Earl Grey is natural black tea with oil of Bergamot, which is oil derived from the Bergamot Orange, thus giving the fruity/floral hint my sister always mentions. ( I love tea and all the accoutrements that are associated with the drink, but one in particular is my favorite – sugar. I make a simple syrup for my iced tea and then mix the steeped tea with the syrup and some water. Tea should be steeped for a few minutes (5-6 max) and then mixed with the sugar solution and served over ice. Mint, limes, and lemons are great garnishes and add additional depth to the flavor…I prefer lime or sweet lemons like Meyer’s. I also infuse this tea with Rosemary during the Fall and Winter months. I love the “pine-like” flavor of Rosemary and find it appropriate for said seasons. A few stalks of Rosemary in the simple syrup will infuse the tea with a degree of the herb that is just wonderful and refreshing. For a stronger flavor of Rosemary, I add it to the boiling water and tea bags. Here is my recipe for “Farmer’s Tea…” I don’t measure thus the ranges in ingredients! This makes about two pitchers of tea or approximately 1 gallon of tea.

Farmer's Tea

  • Bring 6-7 cups of water to a rolling boil.
  • Add 4 bags of Lipton (or whatever brand you prefer) and 1 bag of Earl Grey (Bigelow) and remove from heat.
  • Let the tea bags steep for about five minutes near the warm eye of the stove.
  • Add 1-1½ cups of sugar to about 2-3 cups of water (I use a 1 to 2 ratio) and dissolve the sugar in the water over a medium low heat…remove immediately from heat once the sugar has dissolved and has become a somewhat clear syrup. If you bring it to a boil, you’ll have the makings for candy and not tea!
  • Combine the steeped tea and simple syrup into a large pitcher or split between two half gallon pitchers. If you’re using a glass pitcher, be sure to have a metal knife or spoon to pour the tea over so the hot liquid won’t bust the glass…
  • Fill the pot with the tea bags in it one more time with water and add it to the pitcher…you can add a bit more water if need be. Stir with a large knife or spoon. This should provide you with about 16 cups of tea or 1 US Gallon.
  • Serve over ice (remember tea continues to steep or “get stronger” as it sits, so it’s weakest once it’s first made) and with wedges of lime. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome to my blog All Things Farmer

A glass of tea, sweetened, and garnished with lime; a garden lined with boxwoods and brimming with bouquets to be cut and arranged; a meal prepared with seasonal flair and flavored with soul; a home for comfort, classicism, and personal style…all things of delight, all things of warmth, all things of provenance… all things Farmer.

I am a born and raised child of the South. Being reared in Middle Georgia has steeped my personality in a bath of all things Southern. Hailing from the peach laden fields and muddy river portion of south central Georgia, I, James T. Farmer, III, have been so blessed to call this little bucolic spot my home.

Being a "third" equips a man with a mantle of legacy and an endowment from each generation. Traits, personality, and hobbies are infused genetically and were nurtured by family. Both grandfathers are green thumbed men and my Mimi has taught me so much in the kitchen. My education from my grandparents is priceless and those who know me know my family.

As a board certified and licensed landscape designer, I practice my profession from my home office and now a storefront in Montgomery, Alabama; thus, in turn, serving a clientele base from Montgomery to Sea Island to Highlands and Cashiers and many of the towns, hamlets, and settlements in between: all from my little epicenter in Kathleen, Georgia. Where is Kathleen? It’s the unincorporated pecan grove between Warner Robins, Perry, and Hawkinsville – all major factors in my life and pieces of home.

Third generation alum of Auburn, the "rolling plains of Dixie" are near and dear to my heart as well as the hearts of so many of my kin. In fact, it is only in Auburn where I have truly felt the heart-warmth of home outside my hometown. But, it is my hometown and my family that has laden me with stories and tales, knowledge and bull, and the love of beauty and nature that I truly love to share.

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