Category Archives: Holiday Decorations

In a Vase on Monday–October 16, 2017

This “vase” breaks all the rules, beginning with the fact that it’s not a vase but a wooden box, probably about the same age as I am, that was made to hold shotgun shells.


A mix of fun textures and fall colors make this container perfect for the season.

When I found the discarded box I knew it would come in handy one day and it did. It served as inspiration for a lunch table I coordinated for a Greenville Museum of Art event, which was held late last week.  Hunting is still an important sport in the South and in my mind it interweaves with the excitement of the harvest season and the many holidays that are celebrated in the coming months.

A “Harvest Pumpkin Tablecloth” from Pottery Barn was laid with green Bordallo Pinheiro pottery from Portugal, wine glasses made from Mason jars, napkins embroidered with chickens from the gift shop at West Green House (home of Marylyn Abbott), my best silver, small pumpkins painted with white chalk paint, and this colossal arrangement.  If only I’d remembered to take my camera!


Surprisingly, boxes like this one sell for about $75 online.

The plants, found at Roots on Augusta, include a large rosemary, ornamental peppers, mustard, and cabbage, with a couple of variegated crotons and golden creeping Jenny. The dramatic grass-like plant, which maintains its golden brown color throughout the growing season is Carex flagellifer ‘Cyperacea’, commonly called weeping brown sedge. The arrangement is highlighted with the colorful berries of bittersweet.

Pulling everything together for the table was a fun effort, but not one I want to repeat anytime soon. Now, I hope life will begin to quiet down a bit and that the cooler weather arriving this week will be here to stay.


The small pumpkins, covered in white chalk paint, were gifts for those at the table.

To enjoy what others have made for their vase, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

And, please, keep the good people of Ireland and Britain in your hearts and prayers today and tomorrow, as hurricane Ophelia pays them an unwelcome visit.



December Hodgepodge

Though no one wants to hear me moan, least of all me, my work days this week (including 13 long hours yesterday) were devoted to editing garden photos, an onerous task that is always left for the empty days of December. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any unfilled days this month, at least not yet, but I’m determined to finish nonetheless.  The good news, however, is the job allows me to revisit all the breathtaking homes and gardens I’ve enjoyed in past months, including Harewood House, which now tops my Must-See-Again List.


Harewood House in Yorkshire, distinguished with an Italianate terrace laid out by Sir Charles Barry in 1843 and an earlier park by Capability Brown, plus many more delights in both the house and garden.

A holiday card from the White House (sent because of my connection with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs) arrived this week and I thought you might like a peek.


Holiday card from the White House for 2015.

I was a bit disappointed when I first opened the envelope, but this year’s offering, which opens like an accordion, is growing in my regard.  If you’re not familiar with the buildings in Washington, DC, those depicted are (front to back and left to right) the White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the United States Capitol.


Greetings from the First Family.

The weather in the Upstate has been unseasonably warm for more than a week and the forecast today is for a high of 72 degrees F, so our morning along the river was especially foggy when the sun rose at 7 a.m.  Relaxing on the new porch with the newspaper and my morning coffee, the effect was quite dreamy as the mist swirled just outside the room’s windows.   I hope we have a pretty daytime snow sometime this winter, so I can sit in snug comfort and watch the flakes float down.


Enveloped by morning fog on the new porch.


A table for work, crafts, and meals.

One end of the porch offers a cozy sitting area and the other a table for work, crafts, or meals.   You will be happy to know, I’m sure, that the (once maligned) gate now hangs with honor on the brick wall.  The credit goes to my hero, Tim, who was persuaded it could (and should) be done and tackled the job with gusto, as well as his usual care and precision.  Sometimes, just for fun, I welcome him home from work with the good news, “The gate is still on the wall!”


The bespoke table, made of wormy chestnut, an American species destroyed by blight 100 years ago, is also especially handsome and beloved. If you’re wondering about the low-growing plants in the copper pot, they are a relatively new holiday offering called Frosty Fern (or Frosted Fern), Selaginella krausianna variegatus. If you live locally, these were purchased at Roots, a favorite home and garden store.  I love the color and texture of this club moss relative, but be warned it requires careful attention.


Ready for the front door, a Christmas swag with sleigh bells.

Roots also fashioned the holiday swag for my front door featuring authentic sleigh bells found in an antique store during my August 2014 garden tour of the Hudson River Valley.  Last Christmas, I forgot all about using the bells, so thank goodness for Jenny, who sent an email reminder earlier this month.

In the garden, the winter iris (I. unguicularis), hellebores (Helleborus x), and camellias (both C. japonica and C. sasanqua) are blooming, and rightfully so. Surprisingly, so is the forsythia, adding another unusual twist to this otherworldly morning.


December blooming forsythia.

As a closing note, don’t forget to register for the Greater Greenville Master Gardener Symposium “For the Love of a Garden,” planned for February 13, as tickets are selling quickly.  You don’t want to miss this Upstate event featuring an impressive array of expert speakers, including Brie Arthur, Foodscaping and Landscape Design correspondent for the PBS television show, Growing a Greener World.  For details, click here.

brie w juice

Look for the wise and wonderful Brie Arthur at “For the Love of a Garden,” scheduled for February 13.


Happy Holidays!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.


And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
~ Dr. Seuss

Wishing you the blessings of Christmas and many rewarding days in the New Year!

Wordless Wednesday–December 17, 2014

Hippeastrum 'Blushing Bride' (In the trade as a Hadeco Amaryllis, especially developed for pot culture--with stout stems and reliable blooms).

Hippeastrum ‘Blushing Bride’ (In the trade as a Hadeco Amaryllis, especially developed for pot culture–with stout stems and reliable blooms).

Wordless Wednesday–December 4, 2014

Pam Huffman, Wildwood Garden Club

Pam Huffman, Wildwood Garden Club


Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Frasier fir (Abies fraseri) and Leyland cypress (Cupressus × leylandii) with one of the gold-tipped junipers (Juniperus).

Frasier fir (Abies fraseri) and Leyland cypress (Cupressus × leylandii) with one of the gold-tipped junipers (Juniperus).







Holiday House Drop-In, Sunday, December 7, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Holiday House Drop-In, Sunday, December 7, from 2 to 5 p.m.

In a Vase on Monday

I have to admit from the get-go that this post breaks all the rules…the foliage and berries aren’t from my garden, the vase doesn’t belong to me, and I didn’t put the two together. Even still, I thought you might enjoy seeing this arrangement made today by Clarice Wilson Garden Club member Nancy Boyd at the Kilgore-Lewis House (c. 1838).

Kilgore-Lewis, home of the Greenville Garden Council of Garden Clubs, serves as a meeting place for the Council and its twenty gardening clubs, as well as a favorite location for events such as weddings and other family celebrations. Earlier today, local garden clubs began to decorate the house for the Christmas holiday and I was on hand to gather tidbits and take photographs for an upcoming gardening column in the Greenville News.

Holiday arrangement takes pride of place in the parlor of the Kilgore-Lewis House.

Holiday arrangement takes pride of place in the parlor of the Kilgore-Lewis House.

Nancy’s handsome floral display is made with American holly (Ilex opaca), ‘Little Gem’ magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara), English ivy (Hedera helix), and tall stems of Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) for height.

As in past years, each room of the house is decorated by a different club around a central idea. The theme for 2014 is “A Naturally Festive Christmas.” The Kilgore-Lewis House will be open to the public this Sunday afternoon, December 6, from 2 to 5 p.m., and on the following Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., until it closes for the holidays on December 19.

Nancy’s vase was one of the few arrangements completed before I had to depart this morning, but I have more to share and I look forward to returning to K-L tomorrow to see the finished effect.

Be sure to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what others found for their vases today.

Merry Christmas!

Ready and waiting.

Ready and waiting.

The prime rib for tomorrow’s dinner is ready for the oven and Thursday night’s chili is on the stove. The presents are wrapped and tucked around the holiday tree. The house is decorated. The joy of Christmas begins at midnight, just a few hours from now, but family fun is on hold until midmorning when a car with Virginia license plates pulls into our South Carolina driveway. When Andrew and Danielle cross the threshold and we have the little ones, Caitlin and David, in our arms, the best of all gifts will be ours.



Wherever you are and whoever you’re with this Christmas, I hope you too will enjoy a holiday filled with love and laughter. And if things get a bit untidy, remember this advice from Andy Rooney: “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”

Many thanks for your kindnesses in the past year. I appreciate your encouragement and friendship and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

...and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

…and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Merry Christmas!

Go Fruity with this Holiday Centerpiece

Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, representing the warm welcome, affection, and good cheer of a winning hostess. Many years ago, a gardening friend taught me to make the centerpiece shown here. Now, I can’t imagine Christmas without this family favorite.

This fruity centerpiece is a crowd pleaser.

This fruity centerpiece is a crowd pleaser.

To make your own, you need:
A ripe but firm pineapple
Paper and scissors (to make window templates)
Straight pins
Sharpie or other marking pen
Carving knife
Cookie or cake tray
Oasis (or similar wet floral foam), soaked in water
Florist tape
Florist picks
Three (or more) types of evergreen cuttings
A votive candle in a small glass holder

Make three identical gothic window templates that are roughly four inches tall and three inches wide and then pin them on the pineapple, ensuring at least 2 inches between each window by trimming the templates if they are too large. Then, use a Sharpie pen to mark the surface of the fruit.

Remove the templates and use a sharp knife, cutting toward the center of the pineapple, to carve the windows and lift chunks of fruit that can be eaten later. Then, trim the inside of the pineapple as need to remove excess pulp and to make a flat base for the candle.

Son Daniel, our family engineer, shows off his skill.

Son Daniel, our family engineer, shows off his skill.

Trim carefully, leaving plenty of bulk to hold the top upright.

Trim carefully, leaving plenty of bulk to hold the top upright.

Cut the block of Oasis in half and secure it to the cookie tray with florist tape. Place the pineapple on top of the Oasis, pushing it into the soft foam until it is perfectly upright. Pin it into place with florist picks, inserting the picks into the yellow flesh at the base of the pineapple and pushing them down through the Oasis.

Use a variety of evergreens to create a decorative base under the pineapple, pushing the foliage into the sides of the wet Oasis. Select one evergreen with a waxy coating (such as magnolia), one with needles (such as cryptomeria), and one with variegated leaves (such as hollyleaf osmanthus). Other types of foliage, as well as berries, can also be added.

For a simpler presentation, forego the greenery and trim the bottom of the pineapple to stand upright on a footed cake stand. Then, surround the pineapple with small fruits and nuts.

Finally, place a plain or vanilla-scented votive inside the pineapple. When lit, the fragrance of spice and fruit will make your mouth water, adding to the pleasure of the holiday celebration.