Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Farmer, Fox 5, Fruit and Flowers

For a segment on Atlanta’s Fox Five this past week on holiday centerpieces, this Farmer created a few different portrayals of pizzazz for your very own holiday tableaux. From a more modern usage of fruit, thick glass, and moss to a classic green and white wreathed pieced to a fancy and fruitful formal homage to the season, I had a ball creating these for this segment. Here are some details on making your own holiday centerpieces and arrangements! 

  • Modern Shades… shades of red such as garnet, ruby, deep coral can be found in pomegranates, apples, and pears. Try pairing pomegranates with oranges in a thick, cut glass container for a Mod Squad approach to centerpieces. Using floral picks or shish kabob skewers, anchor the fruit into a block of oasis surrounded by lovely moss for an updated look with classic elements. Use some chartreuse reindeer moss for a pop and tuck in some holly leaves for additional color. Williamsburg meets modernity! I love it!
  • From Christmas to New Year’s and Beyond! Try using a green, brown, and white palette that will hail the holidays and look great into the New Year. Pine, pine cones, cabbages, cedar, and holly are all over the garden and woods and look super with pillar candles arranged in different heights. A few lime green apples make the tapestry of greens POP and a ‘Little Gem’ magnolia leaf or two keeps the brown and green as a killer combo. Use this all holiday season long and into January for a gorgeous look! Plus, this arrangement is textured galore!
  • Who says ya gotta use red and green? If you‘re not aware, this Farmer loves shades, tints, and hues of oranges. From salmon, to peach, coral and copper, mixing different variations of this color is lovely mixed with greens. Sliced grapefruit and pomegranates and a touch of red from Winter Berry (Ilex verticilata), makes this combo fit right into the holiday season. A few orchids, callas, amaryllis, David Austen roses set in a creamware tureen – ah!!!! Just divine! And if visually this arrangement isn’t enough, the smell of the grapefruits and greenery is heavenly with that twinge of spicy sweet from the orchids.
    Go put your garden to bed for the winter, trimming your evergreens for holiday décor! Add some fresh fruit, a modern twist, or candles for your centerpieces and enjoy the party! Whether you have a house full of heavenly hosts or just you, make something special for your centerpiece. From this Farmer’s holiday tableaux to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Farmer’s Garden Wassail – Here We Come a Wassailing-

“…Among the leaves so green…
love and joy come to you,
and to you your wassail too,
and God bless you and send you a happy new year,
and God send you a happy new year.” 

Though I’ve never actually gone wassailing per say, I have though, made a batch of wassail to fill my home with the scents of the season and share with friends and family. This Farmer’s wassail incorporates the garden and seasonal produce that will pack your home with fragrance for days to come. I actually make two versions of this wassail… the base basically the same for both, but one is much better for ingesting than the other, mainly because of the presence of sugar. 

Wassailing is actually an act of celebrating somewhat noisily while drinking a concoction, wassail, of warm beer or wine seasoned with spices and fruit. An English tradition that was brought to the colonies, wassailing and making wassail became a source of delight, warmth, season’s greetings, and entertainment for merry folk; and rightly so! Making and sharing wassail is merry and bright! 

A small pot, simple ingredients, and a few minutes – that’s all one needs for wassail making. Stir the pot occasionally as it sits on a low heat, gently simmering and perfuming your home with the aromas of its elements. Said elements – oranges, cinnamon, cloves, tea, rosemary, and juniper – are readily available from the garden and grocery. Citrus is coming in by the truckloads from my neighbor state to the south, and oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and the like have always been a part of our holiday season tableaux.   

Make some wassail for you and yours: it is a perfect gift to give your neighbors, friends, hosts and hostess as a party favor from your own holiday bash. Add this batch to this Farmer’s sweet tea and you’ll have your very own delicious Christmas cocktail – Arnold Palmer meets Santa! From this Farmer’s garden, Merry Christmas, and may God bless you and send you a Happy New Year!  

The Farmer’s Garden Wassail
4 cups of water
2 small oranges sliced into rounds
2 bags of Earl Grey Tea
2 tablespoons of whole cloves
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
3 small cinnamon sticks
2 stems of rosemary
1 cluster of juniper berries
Combine all ingredients into a small to medium sized pot and simmer on low heat, stirring as you pass by the stove! Enjoy for a few days and serve hot with the Farmer’s Sweet Tea. Merry Merry!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fait Accompli Fête

When dear clients asked me to coordinate an event in honor of ClefWorks, a Montgomery music organization, this Farmer was thrilled to be a part. The venue, a garden I’ve designed and Falkner Gardens constructed, was created with entertaining in mind. A classic Spanish cross and parterre scheme allows this garden to flow seamlessly as a true extension of the home.

With a date well into late autumn, the tableaux for this event was set with rich jewel tones of amethyst, ruby, peridot, sapphire, and pearl. Orchids, hydrangeas, and fall foliage burst forth from urns, cache pots, and jardinières celebrating the season. A fountain from France splashed the sounds of watery music throughout the garden, only out done by the musical performances themselves – a concerto of cello and clarinet.

A menu paying homage to the season was created by the collaboration of yours truly and culinary genius Billy Lee of Auburn. Herbed corn muffins with loin of pork, autumnal greens crustada, scallops in corn and crab moray, Majoul dates stuffed with lardoons, cheeses from Blackberry Farm and Sweet Grass Dairy as well as a fine selection of wines from DuMOL Winery

Artistry abounded with the programs, menus, and menu cards designed and hand written by Allison Banks who is fast becoming the South’s preeminent calligraphy artist and stylist... I’m truly grateful to have her on board for events such as this!

Good food, good wine, good folks… what better ingredients for a party! A true fait accompli this fête was!  From one of this Farmer’s garden parties, I hope you too are toasting the season! 

All photography by Kate Dawdle 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Style a la Senoia

So my dear friend, Carmen Johnston, and I had the opportunity to be photographed working some Christmas magic at the Southern Living Idea House in Senoia, Georgia… to say we had a ball is an understatement. Carmen is a floral and container design diva and I am glad to call her my friend. We’ve had the chance to work together before and this photo shoot was a delight. Our friend Jamie McPherson made the house fabulous with his interior design magic, so our work was just the icing on the cake for holiday décor!

Here are a few highlights and tidbits from the shoot and more to come hopefully in a Holiday issue of the magazine next year! Merry Merry!!!

  • Red and green are super, but other colors can be fun too! Coppers, oranges, whites, and tones of green can be very festive as well for the holidays.
  • Try using textures for complementing the holiday tableaux with interest. Sorghum, seed pods, dried hydrangeas, and moss all make for textural statements.
  • Grocery Store Décor…  I can’t harp on this enough! A quick trip to your grocer’s produce section and some seasonal greenery makes a lovely statement for the season!
  • Be creative and have fun! There is nothing like taking gifts from the garden and making something marvelous from the provisions granted!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wreath-O-Rama and other Holiday Decor

Well, it has commenced… the holiday frenzy of decking the halls is in full swing and this Farmer is on the action! When Talk Live in Washington, DC asked me for some ideas, I was glad to oblige. Here are some of my favorite wreath styles, ideas for holiday décor, and the video from the Talk Live segment. Enjoy! 

Click here to watch! 

Grocery Grandeur… with the holidays fast approaching and time running even faster, a great way to inject some pizzazz in your holiday tableau can be as close as your local grocery. Apples, artichokes, pomegranates, and citrus are fabulous ways to mix in seasonal fun. Here are a few ways to run to the market for a new spin on holiday décor!  

·         A cut above…try slicing pomegranates in half and using the exposed jewel toned fruit as a centerpiece and accent. The ruby red lusciousness will brighten any bouquet. As a garnish, these seeds and fruit are showstoppers and delicious as well!  
·         How about some sugar, Sugar?…Sugaring or coating fruit with a dusting of sugar will also give your table a sweet spin on the produce section’s best offerings. Plus, your guests can literally eat the décor if the dinner fails! Ha!  
·         Pomanders... an ancient way preserving fruit, make your own pomanders with oranges, lemons, and limes for an unbeatable aroma and stylish tablescape this holiday. By sticking the whole cloves in the fruit, you can make your very own designs for these classics…displayed in a great bowl, on the mantel, or as party favors, pomanders are sure bets for holiday success.  

Think Green for the Holidays… Green is the way to go for this holiday season. Holly, magnolia, pine, cedar, boxwood…the list goes on and on. Take some inspiration from the greens in your garden but with a twist on tradition this season.   

·         Cinnamon… the velvety backs of magnolias are reminiscent of cinnamon. Use the backs of these leaves with bunches of cinnamon sticks bound with raffia or ribbon for a tone on tone and natural contrast theme for your table top, mantel, or entryway.   
·         Green, green, green…Though a bowl of bright green apples is nice on its own, try nestling the green apples in a bed of moss in a vintage garden urn or pot. The contrast of greens is fresh and lasts well into the holiday season. Artichokes and limes make for great green accents as well and the contrasting textures is sure to be pleasing for you and yours  
·         Water is your greenery’s best friend…avoid having to replace crispy greens all throughout the season. Make a splash, literally, by arranging your greens in soaked oasis blocks or watertight containers to ensure your greenery’s longevity. A pair of great urns filled with water and bursting with stems of the holidays finest greens will make a lasting impression for you and your guests this season.  
·         Explore the nursery and garden center… cut greenery might not be at hand for everyone, so try using live plants for holiday delight. Rosemary, Norfolk pines, bromeliads, amaryllis, Paperwhites, and cyclamen all make marvelous garden nods to the holiday theme. A collection of your favorite holiday plants in terra cotta pots tied with festive ribbon just might become a favorite thing – plus, you can plant them in the garden after the holidays!  

Blue Christmas… Don’t let Elvis’ tune make you think otherwise, a blue Christmas, Hanukah, or holiday festivity can be quite stylish and garden based with a blue theme. Simply look to the garden!  

·         Blue Greenery? Yes ma’am! Sounds oxymoronic, but many garden goodies are blue green in color and make lovely holiday punches of this lovely color. Blue cedars, ligustrum and cedar berries, dried hydrangeas, and eucalyptus are all great blue greens for this holiday time.  
·         Take a blue flower… take blue flowers, such as delphinium, hydrangea, and iris and mix them with the blue green greenery or other winter greens for a twist on traditional holiday color schemes or as Hanukah décor. Add some white floral stems or chartreuse green buds for a pop too!  
·         Blue and white…jardinières, cachepots, urns, vases and planters, blue and white porcelain and pottery is just a winner. Red and green look fabulous in these containers as well as just about any other color combo. Try the blue on blue combo with the aforementioned flowers and greenery and be amazed at how wonderful A Blue Christmas can be.  

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas… if bold color or traditional color schemes are not your favorite suit, then dream up a white Christmas and holiday season for a fresh, clean, and cool feel to this time of year.  

·         White roses, orchids, hydrangea, amaryllis, Paperwhites, and lilies all look absolutely gorgeous mixed with winter greenery. A green and white color combo is neutral and won’t fight with your existing color schemes and makes for a lovely gesture and sentiment to bestow as a gift.  
·         Going classic or modern, this color combo is your answer to holiday color scheme dilemmas. Whether you arrange the stems in a modern cut glass container or your grandmother’s silver, green and white works well in any situation. I love to pair this combo with polished stones in a terrarium for a “mod meets classic” look, and of course, you can’t go wrong with this combo in julep cups! A winner either way!  

Color Your World… pick a favorite color and run with it this holiday season. Give yourself a green base of holiday trimmings, and your favorite color scheme will then bend toward the holidays.  

·         As the French say…Taking a favorite color and using it en masse or “used all together” will surely make a statement the holidays. If you simply love orange, then fill your home with shades of rust, copper, salmon, peach, and coral with stems, sticks, ornaments, and flowers in these shades.  
·         A rose by any other name… roses come in a vast array of colors, are readily available, and work well with for a holiday décor. Red roses of course make for a traditional nod to the season, but white roses massed with evergreen branches, and pine cones looks great throughout the holidays and again used in the winter. Lasting for a week or more, roses should be a definite part of your holiday tableaux.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forsythia in the Fall?

Some flowers are quintessentially devoted to a season. Par example: forsythia blooming in the Deep South right smack in the middle of March. Yet, we lucky gardeners in zones 8, 9, and 10 can grow a type of salvia often  referred to as Forsythia Sage, for it is chocked full bright, almost highlighter yellow blossoms…well…. forsythia yellow to be exact.

Salvia madrensis, as is the Latin nomenclature, tells us a good bit about the plant. Coming from the genus salvia , which is the largest genus in the mint family, we can come to expect square stems, an herbaceous scent, and lover of light and good drainage. The species’ name, madrensis, tells us the plant is from Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago. A salvia from a Portuguese island… perfect for a Southern garden!

I have been thrilled to welcome this marvelous plant in my garden for a fourth season. I plant a couple plants or rootings each spring to ensure my mass of blooms for the fall or in case the winter claimed one or two as victim. Now, I have a patch under the high shade of a pecan that receives just the right amount of midday sun for this salvia to thrive. Deep watering but not overwatering, Forsythia Sage appreciates a hearty watering two to three times a week rather than shallow watering every day. Rich, loamy soil gives the plant a good base and off you grow!

Reaching a height of seven plus feet easily in one growing season, I rely on this showstopper for a backdrop of the perennial beds, as centerpieces in a circular or parterre style garden, and as that last pop of color and pizzazz before the grayness of winter.

Another super attribute is the cut flower prowess this plant possesses. Accenting blue and white jardinières or cache pots, the yellow whirling florets make for the classic combo of yellow and blue when arranged so. Depression glass bottles, aqua glass, or a simple container also make for lovely displays of this garden must have. However you arrange it, en masse on its own or mixed with other garden lovelies, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to have these stems gracing your home.

Now, here is one of this Farmer’s favorite things to do with Forsythia Sage… Holiday gifts! This plant roots so easily and will last all winter long in a sunny window sill rooting in a pretty glass of water, I love to give pieces for rooting as garden gifts all holiday season long. When spring comes around, place your rooting in larger pots or directly in the garden so your garden will be full of these fabulous flowers come fall!


Right up there with the wine, this Salvia madrensis might just be the next best thing from Madeira! From this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall gardening with forsythia hued blooms!

Friday, December 3, 2010

From the Archives

Think Green for Christmas, originally posted in December '09, click here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farmhouse Fall Fashion

So The Farmhouse got all gussied up and looking good for a photo shoot – a shoot to celebrate the glory of fall and how to decorate your home with these luscious colors. Rose hips, orchids, redwood, dogwood, dried hydrangeas, pumpkins and bittersweet all helped bedeck the halls…. Tables, sideboards, and mantels as well! Speaking of decking the halls, Christmas is now being donned and The Farmhouse will be ready for this special time of year shortly.

From this Farmer’s fall photo shoot to your home, I hope it has been a lovely season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not your Mum’s Mum

Chrysanthemum x moriflorium ‘Ryan’s Pink’ which also comes in shades and hues of yellow, lavender, and those in between, is a showstopper in the late autumn garden. Garden designer Ryan Gainey has dubbed several of the color ways as his namesakes and they are readily available through reputable growers and nurseries alike. Yet, what is so fascinating to me in the plant kingdom is the constant genetic turnovers that can take place, thus yielding cornucopias of different plants – the Chysanthemum genus of no exception.

From Ryan’s color series to ‘Dr. Rigdon’ and ‘Thanksgiving’ which bloom, well, about the time of Turkey Day, November can be a mass of blossoms and blooms from start to finish. Though kissin’ cousins of your garden variety mum, these daisy-like Chrysanthemums are not trained to be a round bouffant dans le jardin.

The typical mums we see in the fall are pinched and forced to blooms as they are seen but would grow like their powerhouse perennial cousins if allowed. Here is the trick: plant Chrysanthemums in the spring or early summer (or take your leftovers from the fall) in the garden and keep them trimmed back throughout the growing season. About mid to late summer, stop trimming the Chrysanthemums and let them bounce in to boughs of blooms that last well into the depth of autumn and into the holidays.

Husband and wife growers and friends of mine, Chuck and Chris Stewart of Madison, Georgia, have now developed a series of these Chrysanthemums still waiting to be named, yet I suspect they’ll have Tapestry in the name, in honor of their greenhouse operation. These new cultivars and varieties, the latter occurring naturally while the former is a contraction of the two words and bred intentionally, will be introduced to the garden market over the next few growing seasons. Shades of peach, apricot, creamy yellow, delicate orange, and coral pinks abound on these plants, often all hues on the same plant, and make for a delightful splash of fall color in the garden.

Mix these blossoms with fall foliage for bouquets and tablescapes, or cluster jars and bottles full of different shades for an autumnal homage to the kaleidoscope of color this season brings. Plant them with companions such as ‘Rachel Jackson’ aster, rosemary, artemisia, parsley, ornamental grasses and sages. Remember this Farmer’s moxy, plant in spring for a fabulous fall and plant in fall for a splendid spring. Chrysanthemums are of no exception! Fall is the garden’s swan song, and with notes such as these perennials, the season proves to be a glorious tune. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, I hope you too will plant and relish these fabo flowers in your garden.
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