Friday, October 29, 2010

The Farmer’s Autumn Harvest Chicken Salad

Give me a sweet and salty combo and I’m a happy Farmer. My Autumn Harvest Chicken Salad suits said liking marvelously. 

Chicken salad likes and dislikes can be about as individual as eye color, yet that is the appeal of the dish…one can create, add, take away, or combine just about any flavors and textures to make his or her very own chicken salad. Enter this Farmer’s Autumn Harvest Chicken Salad. 

It is fall, ya’ll, if my raving autumnal posts haven’t given away that fact already. With a season change, flavor changes are also craved and chicken salad is a dish in which to inject these seasonal cravings. From apples to roasted pecans and walnuts to cranberries and a tangy dressing, this salad is easy, serves plenty of folks, and has just the right amount of tweaks to make it a new favorite. Roasting is the trick for this chicken salad.

Roasting the chicken and the nuts brings about a layer of flavors, a depth of richness that only this cooking technique can bring to the table, literally! I lather the thin chicken cutlets with olive oil, sundried tomatoes and garlic, and then season with cracked salt and pepper. These thin cuts of meat roast quickly at 400 degrees and make the house smell as if you’ve been cooking for days. The roasting process brings about the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and garlic which is then complemented by the simplicity of the salt and pepper. Same goes for the pecans and walnuts – the roasting brings out the oil, their natural essence, and is simply amazing how a little time in the oven can transform these nuts.

After the chicken and nuts have roasted and cooled, I make a dressing for the salad. Here in the Deep South, quite often your hometown or area can be pinpointed by which mayonnaise you grew up using. Hellman’s for us, but Duke’s and Miracle Whip round out the top three Southern staples. I use one cup of mayo (original, but the Smart Balance tastes great and a lighter version works well too) with a half cup of apple cider vinegar. I have made this salad many times and have substituted the vinegar with lemon juice, having been pleased with either ingredient. Honey and sesame seeds are then added, continuing my sweet/salty flair. Your favorite seasonings finish the dressing, whereas I use a bit of Nature’s Seasoning. Shaking the mixture in a lidded Mason Jar will make things quite easy. I taste test as I cook, so season to your liking.

The chicken and nuts have roasted (house smells divine), the dressing is shaken and ready for action, and now the time for the apples is nigh. I used Pink Lady for this version. Honeycrisp, Fuji, or any other fine tasting apple (not a mealy fleshed apple – they are better for baking and cooking) will do just fine. I chop the apples into bite size pieces along with the roasted chicken. Keeping everything a close size makes the salad easier to eat and mix. If your walnuts and pecans are a bit chunky, you can chop them too.

Combine the chopped chicken, nuts, and apples in a large bowl with the dressing. This dressing is my go to chicken salad dressing, and I tweak it seasonally, say a bit of parsley in winter or spring or some thyme in summer. Last but not least, add the dried cranberries. Mix all the ingredients together and voila! You have one of the best and easiest chicken salads to serve your friends and family. A hearty bread or crackers make an easy accoutrement and the flavors of fall are at hand. From this Farmer’s kitchen, I hope this chicken salad is a harvest of plenty for you and yours.

The Farmer’s Autumn Harvest Chicken Salad 

**Cook’s Note: These measurements are approximate, please add or takeaway to your liking. Also, I LOVE the California brand of sundried tomato garlic - easy and delicious and found in the produce section.
  • 2 packages of thinly sliced chicken cutlets
  • 1 cup of small or chopped pecans
  • Half cup of chopped walnuts
  • Half a cup of dried cranberries
  • 2-4 apples of your liking
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • Heaping half cup of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • A third cup of honey…use good local honey if you can
  • Tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoons of sundried tomato garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Lay chicken cutlets on a lightly greased roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, spread with sundried tomato garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until juices run clear and meat is white throughout.

Roast nuts at the same time, but WATCH THEM CAREFULLY! If you start to smell them, then your almost too late…just until they darken a bit.
Remove nuts and chicken from the oven and allow to cool.
Combine mayo, honey, vinegar, sesame seeds and seasoning in a lidded Mason Jar and shake until mixed thoroughly.

Core and chop apples. Squirt some lemon juice on them to keep from turning brown.
Chop chicken and then combine with apples, nuts, and dried cranberries. Pour dressing over and mix well. You can always make a bit more dressing if need be. Serve salad by itself, as a sandwich, or with crackers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Montgomery Garden – Cottage Classicism

Montgomery, Alabama is one of those wonderful Southern cities with a small town feel. When you’ve grown up in a places like Hawkinsville and Kathleen, working in a larger community such as Montgomery is akin to the country mice coming to town – we are just in awe of the big city! Yet, every time I come to this culturally and historically rich town, I am graced with Southern hospitality, gentility, and a wealth of architectural and design talent using styles such as Mediterranean, Southern Revival, Neo-Classical and a wonderful sprinkling of Tudor.

So imagine the delight this Farmer has had designing a garden reminiscent of the English parterres from my childhood farm and the cottage gardens of Europe I so adore for a young family in Montgomery – a chance to bring classicism and cottage together. When a plan comes together in my mind and then on paper, the next step is to execute said plan; enter Falkner Gardens.

Peter Falkner is a good buddy of mine from Auburn and we’re both proud alum of AU’s Horticulture program. One day we are college kids studying small trees, shrubs, vines, and arboriculture around Auburn’s campus, and the next day we are working together to install gardens. The talent of a designer or architect can only be brought out by the right builder, installer, and executor of the plan, and Falkner Gardens made this garden project sing!

This garden is a true extension of the home with demarcated places for the parents and their friends to play as well as the children and their playmates. A Pennsylvania bluestone terrace laid in an Ashlars’ pattern is covered with a chunky, Tudor brown cedar arbor, accented with comfortable furniture and handsome planters. Elegance and approachability make for an ideal combo for this terrace level – the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine with friends or an alfresco dinner party.

A sports court, play house, and swing set are nestled above the terrace and parterre level, screen by Natchez crepe myrtles, boxwood hedges and a retaining wall, yet still visible to a mother’s watchful eye from the terrace below.  A main requirement for this garden was to have space for the kids and grownups, so everyone could enjoy the garden, so an existing retaining wall that bisected the yard rather than accented the yard was removed and the parterre level became the middle ground between terrace and play area, giving a much needed common area for entertaining. A Richardson Allen bench, painted in Farrow and Ball’s Berrington Blue picks up the hues of the bluestone and adds a pop of color to the green palette. 

The husband and father of this clan is an avid gardener, and he keeps the garden pristine. A beautiful wife and adorable children round out the family and make for the personality in the garden. It is always an honor to design a beautiful garden but to design one that is so well loved and used as a part of the home is even greater. From a garden from this Farmer’s repertoire to yours, happy gardening!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Such a Vibrant Purple, “Grape” or “Aubergine”?

For those of us obsessed with Steel Magnolias, the title quote of this post should ring a bell from a hilarious scene in the movie.

Clairee Belcher: [trying to do "color commentary" by discussing the color of the football uniforms] ... But I love the top - such a vibrant purple. Bob, would you call this color "grape" or "aubergine'?
Ouiser Boudreaux: SHUT UP!
Clairee Belcher: What?
Ouiser Boudreaux: You're makin' a fool outta yourself, Clairee.
Clairee Belcher: I am not.
Ouiser Boudreaux: This is football. All the people wanna hear about are touchdowns and injuries. They don't give a damn 'bout that grape shit.

In the design world, I’m often confronted with the same dilemma as Clairee. What is that color exactly? When arranging flowers for a client’s soiree or painting the walls of a client’s home, the color scheme will always be most apropos for the rest of the project. Most often taking my inspiration from nature, we designers are quite fortunate to glean from the world around us for our color choices.

Is it more of a blue green or a green blue? Would you say that cream goes taupe or veers towards yellow? There is too much gray in that white – what about a white that leans towards warm rather than cool? That brown definitely goes gold in this light…the sample made it steer towards purple. Too orangey…not salmon enough…coral got into that mix…Just a snippet of the conversations you’ll hear at James Farmer Designs, but they are true wonderings as we wander through the world of color!

While perusing through the cooler at one of my favorite wholesale florists, Cut Flower Wholesale, I came across these Sumatra Lilies and immediately cracked up thinking about the Steel Magnolias conversation between Clairee, Ouiser, and the Bob the football coach. I was literally struck into deep thought as to what color these lilies were? What color they would mature into? What shade they would lean towards once arranged and set? Were they grape or aubergine?

I firmly believe beauty can be held in the eye of the beholder and the adage stands true for color interpretation. An antique floral bucket I found along the way proved to be the vessel of choice for a monochromatic display of the Sumatra Lilies, Northern Red Oak leaves, and Mexican Sage. This bucket, which has hosted bouquets from Maggie’s engagement party to this lily arrangement, falls in that range of purple between grape and aubergine. 

The lily color is not amethyst or lilac but akin to a red grape. In the French and British English languages, the eggplant is referred to as aubergine whereas we use the term to describe the color. Regardless, such a color, such a richness of hues and conglomeration of shades, proves to be a Farmer’s favorite for fall bouquets. Keep your eyes peeled, for you’ll begin to see the color in dogwood leaves, beautyberry, and in the kaleidoscope of fall color that is commencing.

Yet, this color bodes well in a pizzazz filled bouquet of other riotous fall colors such as orange and soft scarlet. Pyracantha or “fire thorn” strikes as a fabulous complement to the rich purple of the lilies and a bit of green from papyrus, silver from artemisia, cinnamon and green from magnolia, blue green from rosemary, and all tints in between from some autumnal dogwood boughs. Dressed up in a white glaze anduze urn, this combo of plants provide a tableau of fall delights, perfectly elegant for any setting.

Taking stems from the florist and mixing them with garden goodies is this Farmer’s favorite. So take some inspiration from nature or your florist’s cooler and pay homage to the grand bounty and fantastic brilliance that is fall. These lilies have perfumed the house for days and I wish each of you could smell them. In the words of Clairee Belcher, “I’m just too colorful for words…” and this Farmer wishes the same for you! Happy fall ya’ll!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Farmhouse

“Nestled in the midst of live oaks, magnolias, and pecans, The Farmhouse at McCullough is a bucolic oasis in the heart of town. One the oldest homes in Houston County, the Farmhouse, with its heart pine floors, nostalgic front porch, and classic décor, is the place for your next event.  From a shower to a party to a fun time with close friends, the Farmhouse provides its guests with a down home feeling of warmth and delight – an experience of Southern charm and gentility we all crave in our busy lives.

The moment one enters this home, charm and tradition along with comfort, envelop your senses and you cannot help but feel a part of this special place.  Grandmother’s house, a childhood home, or any of the memorable settings that bring a smile and happy memory to mind are reminiscent in this place. The smoothly worn floors evoke the thoughts of those who have trod those steps and steps like them.  The inviting surroundings, collection of antiques and furnishings, and simple sense of place this home radiates is a must see, must partake, must experience when planning or hosting your next event.”

 Laura and I have had an absolute blast decorating The Farmhouse at McCullough. Trips to Antiques and Beyond, Scotts, Big Peach, Warner Robins Antique Mall, Timeless Treasures, Angel’s Antiques, and Resurrection along with other hits and haunts along the way gave this beautiful old home such character and personality. Everyone should be so lucky and honored as I am to work within my passion and be able to give back to a community that has raised me, nurtured me, and shaped me into who I am today. There are not many folks who have been in Warner Robins proper for long, and I am grateful to be a part of a family that has had roots here for many years. I cannot thank this farmhouse and its owners, “natives” as well to Wonderful Robins, enough for allowing me to be a part of this home’s story.

When decorating a place with such presence and pizzazz, each piece must have a story and be able to stand along with a cast of characters that all seem to have been a part of the house’s interior ensemble since antiquity. I wanted the house to have a gathered, collected feel; whereas I pretended that this was a family home I had inherited, recovering old sofas and chairs, adding to a grandmother’s collection of this or that, or taking inspiration from older homes I’ve visited and cherish.

Oushak rugs, with their velvety touch and vegetable dyed color ranges make for soft base points for the interior color scheme. Blue Willow, Flow Blue, and pieces of majolica and transferware continue the hues of the rugs onto the walls and shelves. Antique and vintage oils depicting scenes of familiar farm scenes, agrarian animals, or picturesque glimpses of yesterday hang in gallery form above mantels and on walls and fill the home with the depictions of times gone by.

“Smoke and ball” chandeliers in the foyer and living room give a nod to nostalgia and light this house the same way these fixtures have done so for hundreds of years…even longer, for the Romans and Greeks used this style of lighting in their homage to classicism, order, and balance. Furthermore, a vintage Italian chandelier hangs over the dining room, drop leaf English style table and illuminates the rooms with the presence only a fabulous fixture can do.

Schumacher’s  “Kantau Tree” adorns the kitchen window as a glorified valance and Scalamandre’s “Edwin’s Covey” dots along in the living room. Rich velvets, updated plaid, and a new damask dress up older upholstered pieces and give new life to the chairs and sofa that these previously tired prints and fabrics. Original French velvet on “mutton leg” chairs along with handsome nail head trim grounds the dining chairs with a fabulous, saturated color that falls somewhere between coral, rust, and terra cotta – a delightful blend of these marvelous earthen tones.

Lamps, previously used as wine jugs, vases, and crockery, continue the wealth of light this space offers and adds character through designs. A former work table serves as side board in the family dining room and side pieces from a Welsh dresser chocked full of antique plates and one Italian guinea to an English pine side table continue the elegant mix of different periods and styles that give The Farmhouse its collected distinction. Green wine jugs and antique Mason and Bell jars fill the kitchen with a colorful presence and pull the color scheme out of the glorious fabric. An antique pie cupboard, with an ocher/olive green and black finish, old baskets, and collections of books, tole ware, and oils make this kitchen hum with warmth.

Too much fun…not ever work I feel when decorating a place like this. All those who enter just leave the place blessed having been a part. Keep The Farmhouse in mind for your next Middle Georgia event or be inspired to collect a cache of patinas, fixtures, and decorative elements to feather your nest. From This Farmer’s favorite farmhouse to yours – enjoy!

More photos! 

photography by Jenny Evelyn

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wedding Mantel

Mantle – (n.)a layer, a veil. A responsibility, veneer, or façade.

Mantel – (n.)a chimney piece or decorative fireplace screen. 

When the daughter of some of our dearest friends married her beau, she simply trusted this Farmer and his team (Aunt Kathy and Laura) to work their magic. Her colors were lovely shades of lavender and purple and the setting was the bucolic scene of The Green Bell, one of Middle Georgia’s hidden jewels.

With the Malatchie Farm setting so serene and naturally grand, the rustic style of the pole barn set against some of Georgia’s best farmland makes for a striking combo. The only challenge was what to use as the altar and centerpiece for the ceremony. 

As we were scrambling around The Green Bell’s cache of barns and storehouses, a handsome mantel from an older home was found gently resting against the barn wall. Aunt Kathy spearheaded the “mantel movement”  and even roped the obliging groom and a friend into moving it so we could “see and play” with the mantel in place. A perfect fit, almost; and with a bit of on the spot engineering, that mantel was now at the forefront of the barn and the ceremonial backdrop for this special day. 

A garland of grapevine, Southern Red Oak, and magnolia cascaded from the sides of the mantel and atop the mantel proper, an antique, galvanized window box held an eruption of flowers and native flora. After filling the window box with oasis, more magnolia, with its cinnamon hued, fuzzy backs, gave us the greenery base we needed to build from. Salvia luecantha or Mexican Sage provided some vertical drama, herbaceous aroma, and of course, color. My Mexican Sage has been a volcano of blooms since early September and this Farmer’s garden had blossoms to share.

Deep raspberry to plum colored lilies and larkspur made for a saturation of color plus perfumed the air with the scent that only a lily can. Beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), one of my absolute favorite plants, grows wild all over this region.  Fencerows, clearings in the woods, and roadside ditches are filled with this Southern native throughout the fall. I rely on beauty berry for that pop of purple that is unparallel.  When I think of purple, THIS is the color that comes to mind. The ancients must have known about beauty berry when symbolizing their royalty, for this is a very royal, very regal color and plant.

Lotus pods, literally the seed pod of the lotus flower, ground the arrangement with an earthen brown and pick up on the grapevine garland and magnolia backs to boot. This Farmer is all about texture in arrangements and the three dimensional aura that lotus pods contribute is stunning. Plus you can use and reuse these floral elements since they dry so well. 

Last but not least, we tucked in some amaranthus to delicately droop from the arrangement and provide a chartreuse pop that any bouquet, centerpiece, or floral display can afford. Bang for your buck – amaranthus provides dramatic movement, flow, and fantastic detail in an arrangement and will leave your guests in awe of your creative prowess.

Mere (my sister) matched the mantel

This mantel provided a mantle of responsibility – to create and display the glory of nature for a delightful celebration. Literally cut from this Farmer’s garden, the woods around Malatchie Farms and the Green Bell, this mantel arrangement was truly the mantle for the event

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confederate Rose , A Rose by Any Other Name....

Who are your people? A question any Southerner knows the answer to surely as his or her own name. Knowing who your people are is vital to Southern culture and knowing a bit of history and lore about the name is equally intriguing. If I told you there was a plant thriving across the Deep South with whispers of a Rebel soldier’s dying breath laced in its legend, would that perk your ears? Well here it is my friends.

Hybiscus mutabilis. That genus and species name is one of the reasons this Farmer loves the Latin names of flowers. Immediately one knows this is a hibiscus family member. The species name, mutabilis, tells me something equally as interesting, for mutabilis means “variable or changeable” in Latin. Just like when someone sees one of our names, they know who our people are…

“That’s one of those Farmer kids isn’t it?” Or… “Isn’t that one of Napp and Sarah Ann’s grandchildren…yep, that’s him…but I thought he was a Brantley? Mmm hmm, he’s the tall one.” I’ve heard those comments many a time growing up (and still do), and we gardeners do the same with plants. “Yes ma’am, that’s a hibiscus cousin…you know, the one that changes colors throughout the day.”

So the Confederate Rose, a hibiscus kin, is a staple in the Southern landscape and fabulous specimen in the garden. Daddy has some growing on the farm down in Thomasville, and the crepe like petals remind me of debutantes or antebellum ladies with hoop skirts and pantaloons. Nearly every old home and farm I’ve ever seen can boast a Confederate Rose or two and boast they will. These little sticks appear as mere horticultural fledglings after a long winter’s nap and then erupt with herbaceous growth all through the summer; and by fall, these shrubs are now small trees and are covered with dozens upon dozens of blossoms ranging from the purest of white to blush and bashful and any other pink you can think! Fiddle-dee-dee indeed!

As for the lore and legend, supposedly a Confederate soldier, wounded from battle, breathed his last breath under the shade of this tree and his blood caused the flowers to change from white to reddish, rosy pink. Believe what you will, but the Latin name says it all for me –  a hibiscus that changes, yet fables can be fun to nourish and entertain.

      “So what’s in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;” 

                                                                         -  Mr. Shakespeare 

What is in a name is important, and learning a bit about this name is a treat. Peruse the plant kingdom for more Latin nomenclature and be amazed what you may learn. In the meantime, plant a Confederate Rose in your garden and enjoy the beauty and myth all at once. A sunny spot with good water will give you blossoms galore from October through frost.

“Some people might be led to believe that the Confederate rose is a rose that is native to the South. It is, in fact, a hibiscus that hails from China. Fortunately, the Confederate rose found a friendly climate in the South. With fall comes remarkable flowers that change color almost by the hour. We gardeners of the South are proud to adopt the Confederate rose as one of our own.” Marie Harrison,

Watch with amazement the color change of the flowers, the rapid growth of the plant itself, and even the gawks of a passerby taking a gander at your Confederate Rose. From this Farmer’s garden and father’s farm for that matter, I hope your land is graced with its very own Confederate Rose; for, “land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.” Mr. Gerald O’Hara, Miss Scarlett’s father.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Early Fall Bouquets

With the fanfare of summer waning and autumn beginning to wax, the garden is coming into its own, offering the bounty and plethora of blooms only an early fall garden can provide. Salvias, pentas, lantanas, Artemisia, and pomegranates are looking quite lovely this time of year for they have appreciated and endured the heat and now bestow their blossoms as trophies of survival from the heat of summer. 

One other great garden tiding that comes into play at the end of summer and into early fall is the flower spike of Liriope muscarri ‘Variegata’ or variegated monkey grass for the lay people. My Auburn professors knew I was from Middle Georgia because of my pronunciation of “liriope.” I pronounce it like leer-o-pee. While I’ve heard a myriad of other pronunciations, that is the way this Farmer says it. I digress.

The soft purple spikes of tiny florets make for a punch of color in small bouquets and even dry well…somewhat like lavender the herb. Other varieties of the Liriope genus such as ‘Big Blue’ also make for beautiful cut stem specimens and the berries, with their deepest amethyst to eggplant blackness. They are lovely in holiday décor.  Just imagine those dark berries with fir, pine, and magnolia in some blue and white cache pots or jardinières…quite lovely indeed. As September rolls into October, the Southern landscape yields these spikes along the aforementioned perennials and annuals for arrangements a plenty. 

Another cut flower this Farmer relies on is the species - a beautiful native - Eupatorium spp. Joe Pye weed as commonly referred, grows in many shapes and sizes across the country and is spread evenly across the Piedmont, Appalachia, and the Deep South. A crop of Eupatorium has seeded itself in my garden and perennial reseeded now for the last few years. I remember several species of this “weed” (a weed is just a misplaced flower…true enough for Joe Pye weed but not the same for crab grass…again, I digress.) growing wild along the borders of our pastures and fence lines at our farm in Hawkinsville. Roadsides and fallow fields boasted Joe Pye weed as well and the herbaceous smell is just another great attribute.

Since I had soft lavender and purple with the Joe Pye, liriope, and Mexican sage, pink pentas, chartreuse sweet potato vine, and scant yellow gold from ‘Samantha’ lantana, a few early fall  bouquets began to take shape. Here are a few tips from this Farmer’s garden for easy fall arrangements:
  • Think scale – a tiny tureen, rose bowl, julep cup or transferware pot can serve as the most beautiful containers for tight and fabulous bouquets. If you have small stems, stick with small arrangements.
  • Let large limbs make a statement - limbs of pyracantha, plumes of grass, and branches of fall foliage are super for drama in and of themselves.
  • When in doubt, keep a color palette tight – if you have many of the same colored blossoms and foliage, don’t be afraid to keep a tone on tone scheme. Of course, fall itself is a mélange of colors but sometimes a tight palette is just the ticket.

  • Rooting with arrangements – some plants, such as the previously mentioned sweet potato vine, will root in water. These new plants can make for great additions to the garden or to share with friends.
  • Let your container be your guide – a silver cup might inspire some silvery Artemisia as “greenery” or a green jardinière might dictate your arrangement’s size and structure…whatever the base container, this will surely guide personality. 
Keep your eyes peeled in the garden for goodies to arrange…the beds, containers, roadsides, and fields are chocked full now for bouquets. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall gardening and arranging.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thinking Outside the Mum

Pumpkins and hay bales and mums, oh my! This Farmer truly loves fall and even has a heart for autumnal décor. I guess growing up in a small, agrarian based community like Hawkinsville set that into my psyche, for scarecrows and leaves and cornstalks bound with orange bows are reminiscent of childhood festivals, street adornments, and farm entrances. In a town where the land and its produce are the bread and butter of said town, the harvest time is a celebration of the crops and liberation from the heat. There is no better way to celebrate than to decorating.

Though I will always have a soft spot in my heart for fall decorations, one of the staples of this scheme, the mum, is a stalwart of autumn but doesn’t always have to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love mums, but for a change, I like to “think outside the mum” sometimes and let some other powerhouse perennials take center stage. Plus, there are dozens of varieties of the Chrysanthemum genus that should garner some praise as well. I think once your garden brims with the buds of other fall delights, then thinking outside the mum might just become a new way of thinking.

Herbs and veggies …plant combos of rosemary, parsley, sages, and thyme for luscious arrays of beautiful scents and foliage contrasts. I love to use Lemon Thyme, Golden Variegated Sage, and Parsley for borders and containers and then flavor my autumn dishes with their lovely essence. Rosemary of course is the backbone of the garden and flavor extraordinaire, but this evergreen herb makes a gorgeous green hedge and backdrop to a border or container composition. Mix Swiss chard, lettuces, mustards, and even a cabbage or two within your planters and beds for a potager or kitchen garden of your very own. Cardoon spp. or artichokes also fair well in the Southern garden through fall and into winter.

Now for some flower power…I rely on snapdragons, Mexican salvia, Ryan’s daisies, Mexican mint and marigold, and Puerto Rican salvia to send off summer into a glorious fall. Plant all these in the spring for a fabulous fall and a fabulous fall it shall be! Old fashions such as asters, Joe Pye weed, and cosmos make for ever delightful bouquets and garden blossoms as well. Look for a fun old faithful such as the ‘Rachel Jackson’ aster – a descendant of the grand dame’s garden at the Hermitage itself. Light purple flowers dance on pretty green stalks and bloom well into the fall when nothing else seems to be blooming. Your fall flower bed can truly be the swan song of the garden with proper planning and planting.

Think green and shades in between. Artemisia, Ajuga, crotons, and Ipomoea (sweet potato vine) make for foliage haute couture. Try some of the darker colors of sweet potato vine such as ‘Blackie’ for a deep aubergine flair in the garden. Huechera (coral bells )cultivars such as ‘Key Lime,’ ‘Crème Brulee,’ and ‘Crème de Menthe’ are gorgeous mixed with other greens, ivy, and  pansies, cabbage, or violas. Eucalyptus makes for striking blue green foliage in the fall and last well into winter in the Deep South. A palette of cool blues from Eucalyptus and salmon rusts from huecheras will make a splendid tableau for your fall garden flair.

Do think outside the mum…with a list of fun flowers to choose from, “mum”  may not be the word for this fall; and from this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall, ya’ll!
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