Category Archives: Uncategorized

Acanthus Summer Beauty

In the past year, because of damaging storms and drought, it seems my garden story has been more about failure than success.  So I’m excited to show you this cluster of Acanthus Summer Beauty, which survived March and April’s crazy temperature fluctuations to produce an amazing 15 bloom spikes.


Acanthus Summer Beauty

The group, planted near the front door to add textural interest to the green garden designed to soften a large expanse of asphalt driveway, includes three plants that have knitted together to make a handsome show.

Imported from China by Chet Tompkins of Oregon, the hybrid is believed to be a cross between A. mollis and A. spinosus. Of all acanthus species and hybrids, this one holds up best in our hot summer climate.

A close look shows the complexity of individual flowers, which have been described as “a little frog-like creature hiding under a hood (calyx) and holding up a white hanky.”


Look a little closer…

Winter or summer, everyone is curious about this plant.  It’s a beauty, don’t you think?  

This quick post, like many others in recent months, is a quick hello and goodbye.  Just home from an event in Minnesota, I’m frantically repacking for an afternoon departure for a long-planned garden tour to the Netherlands and Belgium with some of my favorite travel friends.  Hope I can post a few photos…and will plan to catch up with you soon.

Tot ziens voor nu!




IAVOM and more…

Please don’t say, “Oh no, another Hippeastrum!”


Hippeastrum ‘Ambiance’

Well yes, but it’s the last one. Besides, it’s so beautiful with its clear white and clear red feathered together to create a blazing star. Unfortunately, the flower has no fragrance. The bulb does, however, have two bloom stalks, so it get’s a gold star for productivity, as well as this highlight for In a Vase on Monday.


Wow, what drama! Notice the very fine line of red outlining each petal.

Ordered just before Christmas from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, ‘Ambiance’ has taken it’s time, but I think it was worth the wait, don’t you? Even though many value these flowering bulbs as holiday embellishments only, I enjoy them best in the slower months of winter when I have time to savor their day-by-day growth and fabulous blooms.

One other note about these photos before moving on. I often complain about having too much shade (all shade really) in the garden, but you can see why my husband, Tim, and I fell for this home the minute we walked in the door. Though this sunporch was added just last year, we have similar views from the kitchen and bedroom. Since the land slopes away from the back of the house down to the river, we have the effect of living in a treehouse, with fabulous views (especially in winter) of the park-like golf course on the far side of the Reedy. It’s not only a beautiful setting, it’s also a wildlife haven. Blue herons and a variety of hawks are frequent guests.  Coyotes, deer, and raccoons are not uncommon, and we’ve even spotted owls, wild turkeys, otters, and beavers.

Here’s something else happening on the sunporch.


‘Chantilly’ seedlings under the grow light.

Tim has fixed a clamp to the window frame for a grow light, as I’m attempting to grow ‘Chantilly’ snapdragons from seed for an early April flower show. The seedlings get a short period of early morning light (as seen here), plus about 16 hours from the grow light each day, and are fertilized with dilute fish emulsion once a week. They look awfully spindly to me, though. Any suggestions?

I’m also registered for the Photography portion of the event, Class 2, Flowing Water, “A monochrome photograph of flowing water in any form.”

I’m having trouble deciding.  Which of these images do you think is a winner?


Beach Walk: Sunrise on Pawley’s Island


Winter Reflections: Ashmore Heritage Preserve


Solitude: Glacier Bay, Alaska


Fresh Catch: Bald Eagle in Clover Passage, Katchikan, Alaska



Celebrating Democracy


Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States, delivering his Inaugural Address.

From a January 17 message from the Dean of Washington National Cathedral:

“I understand the strong disagreement many people have with the decisions to accept an invitation for the Cathedral choir to sing at the Inauguration and for the Cathedral to host the Inaugural Prayer Service. I am sorry those decisions have caused such turmoil and pain. Yet I stand by those decisions–not because we are celebrating the President-elect, but because we want to model for him, and the rest of the county, an approach to civility.

Understand that civility does not mean endorsing a president’s views, behavior or rhetoric, nor compromising our own Christian values. Our willingness to pray and sing with everyone today does not mean we won’t join with others in protest tomorrow. We will always strive to bridge the divide and repair the breaches in our life together. As a Cathedral, we have decided that we will approach that moment as open-handedly as possible.

In this and in all disagreements, we should never turn away from the opportunity to engage in any conversation. We can have no conversation, and this Cathedral can have no convening authority, if those with whom we disagree only see a turned back or are met with condescension or derision. God meets us where we are, and we must do the same for one another.

At the Inauguration on Friday, our choir will sing “God Bless America,” among other pieces, not as a political endorsement, but as an affirmation that we are still one nation under God. Why are we going? For the same reasons Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and others are going: To honor our nation, to support our democracy, to promote the peaceful transition of power, to celebrate our aspirations and to lift up the values that have blessed this nation.”


“I believe our job is to work together to build a country where everyone feels welcome, everyone feels safe, everyone feels at home. We will need all people from across our nation to be a part of that process, and we cannot retreat into our separate quarters if we have any hope of accomplishing this task. We must meet in the middle, and we start through prayer and song.

It pains me that our decisions have caused such anguish. But, if these gestures serve as a catalyst for bridging the divide then, God willing, we are on the right path.”

–The Very Rev. Randolph “Randy” Marshall Hollerith


The newly restored Capitol dome…


…and the thousands who came to celebrate democracy.

New Year’s Dinner in Review

How can I be so far behind when it is only the third day in January? Perhaps it’s because I spent most of yesterday lounging about and taking cat naps after cooking a New Year’s feast for 10 on Sunday. Honestly, how do people on television shows like 17 Kids and Counting ever get out of the kitchen?

Nonetheless, New Year’s was celebrated with a fabulous meal and special evening with friends. Here’s a quick peek…


Cutting the country ham before company arrives. Have you ever seen a more hopeful expression than the one on little Bella’s face?


Happy New Year!


Oh goodness, I had a plate full, didn’t I? From top: collards, country ham, spoon bread (sort of a cornbread souffle), scalloped potatoes, hopping John, bits from the relish tray, and deviled egg.

Thankfully, I had the forethought to make a few things ahead, which gave me more time to fuss over the tablescape.  To celebrate January’s new start, I wanted the table to sparkle and I think I hit the mark with white, silver, and a touch of fresh green.


Can you spot the ‘Josef Lemper’ hellebores from the garden?

These low, rectangular vases with eight small openings (now moved to the table on the sunporch), are perfect for dinner parties. Though they were bought on a whim at a clearance sale at Roots on Augusta, they are now great favorites.

When the IAVOM posts began to pop up yesterday, I was surprised and pleased to see the similarity of Cathy’s vase at Rambling in a Garden. Be sure to check out the blog there to see what she and others have made to celebrate the New Year.


Country Ham Goodness

It’s a tradition among American Southerners to serve ham, collard greens, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring good luck for the coming year.  In my family, that means country ham—a salt cured ham made in rural parts of the region, including Virginia, my home state; North Carolina, where my maternal grandparents were born; South Carolina, where I currently live; and others nearby such as Georgia and Tennessee.

To make these hams, they are salt cured for one to three months and then hardwood smoked, usually over hickory, before being aged.  Aging can take from several months to 2 or 3 years, depending on the fat content of the meat.  Typically, they are sold unrefrigerated, wrapped in heavy paper, and secured in a cotton bag.  Since I travel to Virginia to see family around Christmas, I buy mine at Spivey’s Market in Emporia.


Uncooked country ham from Spivey’s Market, scrubbed, soaked for 36 hours, and ready to be cooked.

The taste of country ham is salty and smoking makes the meat red.  It’s similar to prosciutto, but prosciutto is not smoked, the meat is moister, and usually more thinly cut.

Tim and I are looking forward to hosting a large group of friends on Sunday evening.  Along with the ham, we’ll have collard greens, Hoppin’ John (a Southern recipe for black-eye peas), scalloped potatoes, spoon bread, deviled eggs, and a pickle and relish tray.  To get a head start, I began soaking the ham on Wednesday and cooked it last night according to my mother’s recipe, ensuring it will be moist and tender.

Here’s what Mom taught me.

A store-bought ham should be soaked for 24 or more hours to partially re-hydrate the meat and relieve it of some of its saltiness.  I usually aim for a day and a half, changing the water at least twice.  To cook a medium ham (about 12 pounds), preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, put the ham in a roasting pan (fat side up) with 2 cups of water and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.  Cook at high heat until you can smell the ham (usually 30 to 40 minutes), before lowering the heat to 350 degrees F and cooking for another 2 and a half hours.  Then, turn off the oven and let it cool down without opening.


Cooked ham–wish you could smell this! Don’t forget to save the pan drippings.

Sounds easy right?  Well, here’s the secret trick to make it a snap—you begin cooking the ham at 7 or 8 p.m. and then turn the oven off before going to bed, letting the ham sit in the oven all night.  In the morning, take the ham out, remove the foil, let the ham come to room temperature, and then wrap it before refrigerating.  The pan drippings are like gold, save them for cooking the collards.

Before serving the ham on Sunday, I’ll trim away the skin and some of the fat.  For the best slices of meat, I’ll cut through the thickest part of the ham toward the center bone.

The country ham looked and smelled great this morning when it came out of the oven.  Tim and I had a little taste, too, before wrapping it and tucking it away.

What about your New Year’s Day?  I would love to hear what you have planned!