Category Archives: Travel

Almost Wordless Wed–Window Boxes–Charleston Style

If you’re a gardener, two days in Charleston, South Carolina, in March is about as good as it gets.  The main object of our visit was to be with our son and daughter-in-law, but strolling through the historic district south of Broad Street was also high on the list.  To give you a small sample of delights, here are a dozen window boxes–Charleston style–that I hope will put a smile on your face.  Enjoy!  And be sure to let me know which one you like best…

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Did you spy the Carolina anole?  If you missed it, take a closer look at photo #3.

IAVOM and More

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Hippeastrum ‘Blossom Peacock’

After spending nine mid-January days in Washington, DC, I was thrilled to arrive home early last week to find blooms, inside and out, including the first flower on a Hippeastrum I ordered just before Christmas. I chose ‘Blossom Peacock’ from Brent and Becky’s online catalog because it was described as Brent’s favorite for its incredible symmetry, color, and mildly sweet fragrance. Now, I think it’s my favorite too.

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‘Blossom Peacock’ illuminated by the morning sun.

As soon as the bulb arrived, I “planted” it in a container of pebbles, but as the flowers opened and the top-heavy stalk tilted one way and another, and I worried I might have to cut its stem before finding it could be squeezed, bulb and all, into an upright glass vase. Moved from the kitchen window to the sunporch, where it shines each morning in the early light, I can barely take my eyes off it.

Today, it’s perfect for In a Vase on Monday, hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

The first warm welcome home, however, was hailed by ‘Peggy Clarke’, a Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume), which I spied even before turning into the driveway.

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Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’

Although the small tree’s common name would lead you to believe it’s native to Japan, where it was first found in cultivation by Europeans, it’s actually indigenous to China and Korea. In China, the plant is commonly called mei, or plum, and it’s known as one of the three friends of winter along with pine and bamboo.

Like others of its kind, ‘Peggy Clarke’ blooms January to March when the weather is mild. Its 1-inch wide, rosy-pink, double flowers, each accented with a red calyx and many long, thread-like stamens, perfume the garden with a spicy-sweet fragrance. Today, which is rather warm for the season, the tree is buzzing with a variety of bees and other insects in search of nectar and pollen. Some buds, however, are still tightly closed, waiting for winter’s next warm spell.

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‘Peggy Clark’ close up.

Surprisingly, I also found paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysanthia) beginning to open its fragrant flowers and ‘Wisley Supreme’ witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) in full regalia, with epaulets flying.

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Edgeworthia chrysantha (so hard to photograph!) with it’s bell-like clusters of flowers just beginning to open.

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‘Wisley Supreme’ Hamamelis mollis

In the week that followed, I was glad to have these cheerful friends as I was caught off guard by a debilitating cold while struggling with a full schedule of meetings, appointments, and work. Then, when the weekend arrived, I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to enjoy a quiet Saturday and Sunday.

Now, it’s time to be up and at ’em again, and I’m excited to see a week of fine weather ahead. Fingers crossed for an afternoon or two in the garden.

For those hoping to hear a little about the Women’s March on Washington, I’m happy to share. It was an amazing event, though I was sad to see later (on television) that much of the rhetoric from the rally was not representative. Madonna….really? I don’t think 1 in 10,000 would say she speaks for them.  Certainly I wouldn’t.

It was a great crowd, very friendly, patient, and upbeat, and lots you didn’t see in the
media. Varied ethnic and religious groups participated, as well as disabled persons. There were lots of young families with children, many mother and daughter pairs, and an astounding number of young people under 30, including young men.

All in all, it was a positive and hopeful experience. The March on Washington might not make an immediate impact on policy, but I believe it will make all the difference for those engaging in human rights for the first time.

Here’s my favorite image of the day–a little girl named Maeve promoting equality on her third birthday!

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Marching on Washington, January 21.

 

 

Making Memories

I’ve been unplugged for eight days. It’s the longest time in years that I’ve been without a keyboard at my fingertips and though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been busy.

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Arlington National Cemetery, December 17, 2016.

During last Saturday’s ice storm in Washington, DC, Tim and I joined 40,000 other volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America, honoring and remembering those who served our country. It was an amazing, heartfelt effort. Along with others in our group, we met and shared stories with people from across the country—young and old, spry and infirm—savoring unity in a time of division.

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A high school group from New Jersey on an icy morning at Wreaths Across America.

We also visited the welcoming home of our older son, relishing a few happy days with him, our daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren, enjoying good meals and good times—reading books, driving through the surrounding countryside, and seeing a new movie.  Surprisingly, the best moments with the little ones were enjoyed at the kitchen sink, where we took turns washing dishes.  But that’s the way it is, isn’t it?  The most mundane things can be, and often are, the ones that provide the most pleasure.

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In the right company, even washing dishes is fun.

After seeing Tim off but before pointing the car towards home, I also visited my step-father and extended family in the southern-most part of the state.  There, we kept Christmas by placing red roses at my mother’s resting place, marking her first birthday since she passed away in May.  And we looked to the future, with cheers for an engagement that promises a joyful gathering in October 2017.

My recent return to South Carolina included the happy surprise of paperwhite bulbs blooming in the kitchen window, plus handfuls of holiday cards which arrived while I was away.  One, from a sweet gardening friend, included a copy of the poem at the end of this note.  It’s a lovely, sentimental complement to the season.

Today’s newspaper column about our native red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), the traditional Christmas tree of years past, features a family photo taken on Christmas morning in 1966.  I don’t remember the exact moment the picture was made by my father, or even what I found under the tree, but I can tell you with certainty what happened next.  With presents unwrapped and breakfast tucked away, my two sisters and I were made presentable for a visit to our grandparent’s farm, where we reveled in food and fun with an untold number of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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Family photo, Christmas 1966. (That’s me on the left, with gorgeous bed hair.)

It’s been nearly 50 years since that morning, but it doesn’t seem so long ago.  Memories, I’ve discovered, whether newly-made or long-cherished, are the consummate reward for the meaningful times we spend together.

And today, finally, I turn on the computer to find my blogging friends sharing holiday greetings with one and all, along with entertaining stories and best recipes. It’s the perfect gift—another full and jubilant refrain added to the song of life.

This Christmas, I hope you, too, are making new memories, and I send my very best wishes for all good things in the year ahead.

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Happy Christmas 2016!

 

Homesick

What is the thing inside

that follows the earthy smell of morning

out into the day, carries me down the road

in my car to the fabric store, to hover

over remnant tables, finger folds

of blue and green calico—little Dutch

girls and shamrocks, linger over cards

of brightly colored bias tape and silvery

snaps? The thing inside that pulls

me further down the road to wander

through nurseries, yearning

for yardfuls of lilac and peony bushes,

tugs me toward antique stores,

something about a pitcher, clear

glass, and milk so cold it hurts?

The thing inside brings me home,

knows what it is

I am trying to remember.

 

At home, my girls are needful, weary,

too much wear and tear

in their days. I spoon mellow,

peppery chicken pie into creamy dishes set

on October-blue mats, watch them lift the crust

with their forks to see what’s inside, suspecting

vegetables in there with the chicken. “You know

what my Mamaw used to say

to me?” I tell them, “Eat every carrot

and pea on your plate.”

 

I tell them about a salt-and-pepper

woman, round faced like me,

in a hairnet and blue cotton duster,

her yard full of cousins, hiding

in flowering bushes

and twilight from parents

already in their cars.

 

Oh I yearn to live

for the things I love, for the thing I put

inside the food and girls

who eat, for the road

and the thing inside the road that follows

after me and calls me back, to the pitcher

Mamaw trusted me to lift from the refrigerator

and pour, not because I was big enough,

but because I was

so in love with the pitcher

and with her.

 

by By Diane Gilliam Fisher

Dordogne Flip Flop

I’ve just arrived home from a trip to the Dordogne that exceeded all expectations.  Unfortunately, there’s lots of catching up to do before I can indulge myself in blogging, but here’s a quick look at the countryside around Beynac.

On a morning drive towards La Roque-Gageac, I caught this great view of Chateau de Beynac high above the Dordogne River Valley.

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Chateau de Beynac from the Dordogne River Valley.

Then, days later when visiting Beynac, I captured a photo flip flop, by photographing the Dordogne River valley from the high ridge near the Chateau.

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The Dordogne River Valley from Chateau de Beynac. To the right is Chateau de Castelnaud.

What an amazing place.  Even though the region suffered from a hot and dry summer this year, I think it’s the most beautiful part of France I’ve visited.

Gardens of the Dordogne

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Here is temptation for garden travelers I hope you won’t be able to resist:

Gardens of the Dordogne in September!

This upcoming 10-day tour includes many of the best gardens of Bordeaux and the Dordogne Valley, such as Les Jardins de Marqueyssac pictured above, plus a free day in Sarlat-la-Caneda, a wine tasting, and more!

To know what makes the Dordogne so special, peruse this travel guide by the Daily Telegraph’s best expert, found here.

And for a full itinerary and more details about the tour, click here.