California Poppy

Every spring, these wonderful perennials pop up in my front garden. Sometimes they pop up in the place where they were last year as a true perennial growing from last year's roots. Because poppies are excellent at reseeding themselves, sometimes they surprise me by popping up in new places that they haven't been before.

The serendipity of discovering new feathery poppy seedlings is always a treat for me in the spring. I see their little green leaves begin to come forth after we've had the winter rains of December and January. By February, they're beginning to make themselves known. But I have to wait until April to see their gorgeous brilliant blossoms. More often than not, I'm a bit impatient for them to bloom, so that when they finally do bloom I am dying with anticipation. Who knew that gardening would be so much like Christmas morning when I was a kid?
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A Tribute to Jan

All photos in this post were shot in the gardens of my father- and mother-in-law

Agapanthus africanus

This afternoon my father-in-law, Jan, was freed from the cares and pains of his physical body and passed to the other side. I know there was a joyous reunion awaiting him with his parents and his siblings that have gone on before him. I know this without a shadow of a doubt. Like births, graduations, and marriages I view deaths as "rites of passage" as part of each of our existences. Death is, in its own way, a "graduation".

So this tribute is not meant to be one of grief and sorrow. Instead, I wanted to publish a celebration of what Jan loved. He loved the Lord and his family most. Very close after those came his love for the things of nature.

I have had many opportunities to shoot photographs in the gardens that Jan enjoyed around the home he shared with my mother-in-law, Beth. He and his lovely wife worked with landscape architects and gardeners to make the gardens fit the vision they both had with redwood stands providing shade from the intense heat of California's Central Valley.

Jan and Beth's vision also included places where birds feed, nest and find safety. Jan loved the birds that came to visit the garden. He doted on them with the best seed contained in the best feeders. I even convinced him that even though Scrub Jays sometimes have a predatory tendency on other birds, they also are a wonderful garden ally for eliminating snails and other pests. Jan would put out a pile of peanuts by the pond especially for the Scrub Jays (you can see the peanuts in the photo above if you click on it to enlarge).

Jan enjoyed the hummingbirds the most, I think. The hummingbird feeder hanging right outside their family room window provides wonderful views of their tiny beauty. I've always noted that "his" hummingbirds were always more polite to one another than the cantankerous and territorial little ones I have in my own garden.

Jan was also a very talented painting artist as well as an avid art collector. His own paintings and those he collected all contain the beauties of nature. He and I would love to sit and appreciate art, birds and gardens--usually with only a few choice words. Just two months ago, Jan shared with me his secret to having a crop of large and luscious peaches every year by selectively thinning the clusters of fruit when they are small. Now every time I thin my Pippins on the apple tree, I think of him and employ his wise counsel.

This is not a goodbye, dear Dad. You and I always knew that even though a hummingbird would take wing and flit away, we would surely see it again. Dad, I know with even more surety that I will see you again. I love you. Say hello to all the hummingbirds for me.

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Week Eight--Symmetrical Isosceles Triangle Arrangement

Today (week 8 in my floral design class) we learned how to construct a symmetrical arrangement based on an isosceles (equilateral) triangle. It was an interesting challenge because each of us had a different vase so each arrangement had to be proportioned to the vase that would contain it.

My container was a low plastic container so my arrangement ended up smaller and tighter than the other arrangements in the class. But I found the proportions easier when it came to achieving the triangle (which is kind of tricky when you're using round-ish flowers).

The other advantage to my arrangement being smaller was that I got done earlier. Since the triangle arrangement we were doing only contains a dozen main flowers (carnations in this case), I had leftovers of both my carnations and my wax flower. Since I had leftover time as well, I did up a quick symmetrical round arrangement for practice in a container I had in my tool kit--a goblet I found at the thrift store.

Once I got both arrangements home, I was happy to find that they fit perfectly on our fireplace mantle out of the reach of kitties that are dying to munch on the greens. The mantle ended up being a fine place to photograph both arrangements as well.
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Roses, Roses, Roses

Click on any of the images to see large

"Golden Showers" climber
(with Oreo underneath)

It's that time of year around here when all the roses are bursting with wonderfully scented blossoms. The scent is so heady in certain parts of the garden that it seems a bit surreal. We have over 30 roses growing in the gardens so I couldn't picture them all here in one post. I decided to feature some of the ones that have gotten less "press" here on the blog.

The "Golden Showers" (above) has really taken off. It towers over my head and makes a great shady spot from the intense sun for both Oreo (the garden kitty) and me.

"Sheer Magic"

The "Sheer Magic" (above) has had a hard time producing photogenic blooms since I put it in 2 years ago. But this year looks promising with it's first bloom that is photograph-worthy.

This is the oldest rosebush in the gardens (above). It is probably at least 50 years old. I call it "Old Red" because I don't have a correct identification for it (although I have a hunch that it's a Mr. Lincoln).

"Hot Cocoa"

Like the "Sheer Magic", this "Hot Cocoa" (above) has had a hard time producing photogenic blooms since it went in 2 years ago. But this first bloom of 2009 gives me hope that it has settled in and found its footing so-to-speak.

"Cecile Brunner" climber

You've all seen my "Cecile Brunner" in past posts. It is such a wonderful climber with thick foliage that gives the best shade. This year we have a sweet sparrow family nesting in the inner depths of this massive rose. I hear the little babies tweeting from inside. It's really a treat.

"Irish Cream"

I usually won't admit to a favorite among my roses, but I have to admit that the "Irish Cream" has bewitched me with its unusual caramel color. It isn't a bushy rose, nor is it as prolific a bloomer as some of the others. But when it blooms... WOW!

"Montezuma" (above left) and "Cherry Parfait" (above right)

The "Montezuma" and the "Cherry Parfait" are on opposite sides of the front garden because each one is a show-stopper that needs the spotlight. It's interesting to see them here side-by-side when I never see them that way in real life.

Many of these roses (and more) have made their debut in a new 18 month calendar that I have hand-produced myself. I got really tired of "18 month" calendars that don't have real pages for the extra six months. So I decided to make a REAL 18-month calendar that has a real page for every one of the 18 months. I took photographs of the roses that grow here at Rosehaven Cottage and turned them into "vintage" rose prints using Photoshop magic. I have a coil-binding set-up here in my studio so the calendars have been completed constructed by me. I even discreetly hand-sign and date each one, because I think each is a piece of art.

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It has a name!

Thanks to a very helpful comment left by Mommy Bee in which her father gave some extremely helpful clues as to the variety of my mystery bearded iris, I believe I have finally tracked down a positive identification!

I think it's a Wabash!

The photo and description at White Flower Farm really cinched it. Here's what it says:

"A look of tailored elegance is the gift this heirloom Iris brings to the bed or border. 'Wabash' was first introduced in 1936 and became a favorite Bearded Iris of the 1940s and '50s. When the sweetly fragrant blossoms open in June, it's easy to understand why. The crisp white of the standards (the smaller, erect petals) poses a striking contrast to the reddish purple of the pendulous falls, which are finished round the edge with a fine, pale piping."

So I've got an heirloom iris and I didn't even know it.
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Week Seven--Corsages and Boutonnieres

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Today was week 7 in my floral design class, and we were introduced to the intricate world of corsage and boutonniere construction. I had no idea that something which is so small and seemingly simple has so much handwork involved in its creation. It was a fascinating day of instruction. I now understand why florists charge what they do for corsages and boutonnieres. I also have an all new appreciation for anyone doing the flowers for a large wedding.

Click on image to view larger

The other thing that I didn't know until today is that corsages and boutonnieres can be done 2-3 days before the event. They keep very well as long as they are in a fridge away from fruits and vegetables which give off ethylene gas that will wilt any flowers in proximity to the produce. It's a great bit of information to know, don't you think? And now you know why supermarket flowers always seem a bit sad if the floral department is right by the produce.
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A New Bearded Iris

On Sunday, I went out to stroll around the gardens (as I always do after church) and discovered that a new bearded iris has bloomed at the base of the olive tree. The depth of the purple enchants me like you wouldn't believe!

I think this is from some rhizomes that a neighbor gave me when she was dividing hers. It's never bloomed before, so I was pleasantly surprised at the wonderful colors.

Does anyone know the name of this variety so I can call it by its proper name?

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A branch full of sunshine

For the past couple of days, my afternoons have been spent staring at bright white railings and decking as I've painted and caulked the seams of our almost-completed deck (I promise as post with photos as soon as it's done). The bright white deck is up against our little buttercream yellow house. The light reflects off of both in a brilliant way.

I've had to slather on SPF 50 sunscreen every day before heading out because if I didn't, I'd be burnt to a crisp in less than an hour. The breeze has kept the sun from being too oppressively warm up until today which began a stint of hotter days that may take us into the low 90's over the weekend.

As I've been out soaking up all this warmth and sun, I have been reminded that some of you just had a good deal of snow dumped on you. And some of you have been under rainy skies. I don't take my sunshine for granted. I know it is a blessing. Through this photo of our lemons, I wish to send a branch full of sunshine to all of you that are desperately longing for it.
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Red Gerberas

I deemed today an "in the garden" day because I HAD to fill up the green cans before tomorrow's pick-up. I also had to do some painting and caulking on the almost-completed deck. I finally ran out of things to put in the green cans (when does that ever happen?) and my finger was sore from spreading caulk along the seams of boards. So I came inside and managed to sneak in some studio time as the sun was going down.

It was such a glorious spring day to be outside working that I wanted to somehow capture how it felt in an art piece. So I took a photograph that I shot of the cute red gerberas in the workshop windowbox and turned it into a digital "painting" with Photoshop and a couple of fun textures.

And I liked the finished result so much, that I've made it available in notecards at the Dusting in Pearls online store. Not bad for an "in the garden" day. Now I can go collapse on the sofa and nurse my slight twinge of a headache while Hubby cooks us a late dinner.

Texture credits:
Warm Daydream by swimmingintheether
Flat Stone from my own collection of textures
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A new discovery...

The Breast Cancer Site

I received an email from my mother today. It was one of those that you forward on to everyone you think would care. It contained a link to The Breast Cancer Site where all I had to do was click the big pink button, and my simple click made sponsor money available to fund free mammograms for women. I can click once a day. So easy... so simple... so important.

Instead of forwarding an email, I thought it would be more fun to write about it here, because along with the clicking button I discovered that there is a wonderful online store with lots of fun goodies (mostly pink). Every purchase from the store helps fund mammograms for women in need. Pretty cool!

So help me go shopping...

For only $6.00 I could buy a set of Nellie's dryerballs to soften my loads of laundry naturally. And look... they're pink! And my favorite shade of pink too!

For $14.95, I could get this adorably pink indoor potting set. Isn't this just too cute? (Did you see that they're pink?)

But then there are this wonderful Deluxe Garden Pruners for $12.95 that would look so pink and chic out in the garden or in my floral design tool bag. (There's that pink again.)

Looks like I've some decisions to make... any suggestions?
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Hepburn-esque Chic

The sun went missing last week, and we had rain. Rain meant I couldn't paint the railings of the deck and the contractors couldn't work on anything either. So I ended up with unexpected studio time on my hands. I was able to get some more pieces done and posted on Dusting in Pearls.

Over the past year, I've had a few designs (near and dear to my heart) that seemed like they belonged together in a collection, but I'd been fumbling around for a collection name. With Hubby's help last week, I was finally able to name the collection "Hepburn-esque Chic". That just seemed to fit.

Hubby has a particular love for "Fancy Kitty". Fancy Kitty is loosely based on a combination of features from Lucy and Thomasina, so that's probably why.

Lucy (above left) Thomasina (above right)
Fancy Kitty (below)

See any resemblance?
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Easter Reflections

Orange blossoms on the navel orange tree (Easter Sunday 2009)

Today, on Easter Sunday, I feel the need to post when I normally don't post on Sunday. I've had much to ponder and reflect upon since Palm Sunday last week. I went back to what I wrote last Easter and realized how so much can change in just one year's time--so very much. And yet there are some things that never change--the things that matter. I wrote last year:
"My garden inspires me to think of those things that matter in the whole eternal scheme of things. It never ceases to amaze me how trees, plants, and earth do that."
Maybe that is why so many of us are drawn to the garden, to the earth, and the soil under our feet. Maybe it is because while we are physically planting, sowing and tilling, we also find ourselves planting, sowing and tilling within our hearts and souls. We are finding a place for ourselves to grow.

Last year just before Easter, I had finished planting our olive tree. This year, I have just finished reading a wonderful book by Carol Drinkwater entitled "The Olive Farm". Over the past year, I've watched the little olive tree that I put into the ground. Olive trees grow slowly. They don't produce fruit until they are seven to ten years old. I've pruned my little olive already for this year. I am shaping her to become the "queen of the garden". Her shape must be started now so that as she grows into her life's purpose, her form is already there. I've thought about how much I am like an olive tree being pruned for a larger purpose that seems so far away in the future. I feel so small and so unfit, but the Master's hand knows best. He prunes and shapes me to fit my purpose.

Garlic chives in bloom (Easter Sunday 2009)

Easter always draws my mind back to the olive tree. Last year I reflected on the planting of our olive tree:
"There is something about planting an olive that is meaningful, spiritual, and deeply symbolic. The Garden of Gethsemane where Christ spent the night before his crucifixion had olive trees in it. The name 'Gethsemane' literally means 'olive oil press'. Christ spent those agonizing night-time hours being pressed emotionally, mentally, and physically until He bled from the pours of His skin. He was the only perfect and sinless person that had or will ever walk the earth. He was like a harvest of perfect olives used to produce the best and finest extra virgin olive oil--the oil that is prized because it is from the 'first press'. Christ's experience in Gethsemane was the 'first press' in so many ways. That Atonement that Christ performed that night, produced the finest and most precious gift that mankind could ever receive--an Atonement for our sins, our pains, our sorrows, and our iniquities.

"As I tamped down the earth around our own olive tree, all of these thoughts ran through my mind. I felt moved to offer a prayer after the planting was over to ask that the olive tree would thrive, prosper, and fulfill the measure of its creation here in our garden. As I closed the prayer with tear-filled eyes, I felt a closeness to my Savior. It was a fitting way to begin the week preceding Easter.

"As I have hauled each wheelbarrow full of gravel and placed it into the trenches that are now paths that run around and by the olive tree's planter, I realized how much that part of the garden is beginning to look like the way I have always envisioned Gethsemane looks even though I've never seen it in person. Over and over I have had the words of a song going through my head as I have worked--I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked. And today as I completed the last of the path that hides the main trench, I sat down to take a last look before the light in the spring sky faded too much for me to see. Again, the words ran through my head."
Southwest corner of Rosehaven Cottage's gardens (Easter Sunday 2009)

And as I walked through the garden taking photographs to capture the beauty of this Easter Sunday, I was struck again by very similar thoughts--and this, despite the fact that there has been so much progress and change in that space. Again, there are some things that are constant and unchanging. For instance, the changing of the seasons that I wrote about last year:
"Whether one is Christian or not, the season of Spring is full of hope and renewal. Even my friends in the southern hemisphere are celebrating a time where nature is getting ready for renewal by shedding the old."

Rose hedge on southern fenceline of Rosehaven Cottage's gardens (Easter Sunday 2009)

I think about the gifts that God has given us in nature--reminders of Him and the bigger picture. Even the seasons are a reminder to us of a larger principle. There is so much in my life that I wish to shed and be rid of--often daily. That just happens, because this is life. Each Sunday, I find such peace renewing myself with His help. I have learned that He doesn't care how many times I may stumble or fall. He cares whether I ask for His help in picking myself up to try again. It is a process of shedding and renewal that repeats around us in nature. And it is a process of shedding and renewal that I can repeat within my own heart. It is this that I am deeply thankful for this wonderful Easter Sunday.

Pacific Coast Native Iris growing at the pond's edge (Easter Sunday 2009)
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I'm officially a "Muddy Booter"!

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Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams features a fellow blogger on Friday's. Each blogger she showcases becomes part of a wonderful group known as "The Muddy Booters". I am honored and humbled to have been chosen to be the latest addition to "The Muddy Booters". I feel so honored to be one of them that I wanted to dedicate my recent photographic art piece entitled "Lilac Nostalgia" to Jen as a huge hug and thank you. Thank you, Jen!

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The Abraham Darby has bloomed

The "Abraham Darby" (a David Austen rose) has bloomed for the first time this year. I'm always intrigued by its ruffly petals that remind me of an old painting. So I tried my hand at making the photograph look more like a painting in Photoshop by using a texture, erasing the texture strategically, and then adding in highlights sparingly.

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What a difference a day (and many friends) makes...

Okay. Let's just say it like it is. Yesterday was a real downer.

As I wrote yesterday's post, the rain was pouring outside in torrential waves. We even had thunder and lightning, which we rarely have. Seriously, I can specifically count the times and years we've experienced thunder and lightning. That's how rare it is. As the storm raged outside, I was sitting here in my studio writing the post with a storm of a different kind raging inside me. And I was feeling pretty uncomfortable about writing about it so openly in the post.

As I was in the middle of the post, the kitties at the windows started chattering and staring intently up and out the window--the tell-tale sign that a bird is sitting under the eaves (usually one of the nesting sparrows). I quietly leaned to my right, so I could see what they were seeing. To my surprise, it wasn't a sparrow but a sweet tiny rufous hummingbird trying to escape the torrential downpour. It looked so tiny, so small, so alone and bedraggled--not its normal perky effervescent self. It looked about how I felt. I had the wherewithal to snap some shots through the rain-speckled window.

Shortly after publishing my post, so many wonderful comments and emails came pouring in that lifted me and my spirits. Like the pathetic wet hummingbird under our home's protective eaves, I had found shelter and comfort in the protection of your friendship. And like the hummingbird, I had to take some chances in order to find it. I had to be willing to stop flitting about in the emotional storm I was feeling, sit down, and be still for a moment.

This experience has brought to mind again what a rich blessing this world of blogging is to so many of us. It is this wonderful community of individuals that has, once again, lifted me from my "awful-izing" and self-doubt to trust my instincts, be true to myself, and not let criticism paralyze me.

If I had been fortunate enough to have all of you 15 and 20 years ago when I was a newly trained artist full of promise but barraged by criticism, I probably wouldn't have abandoned my creative passions as I did.

Yes, the storm will often rage around us with torrential downpours, thunder, lightning, and winds that would knock us down. But there is always protection and shelter somewhere amidst the storm. Sometimes we have to just stop flitting about long enough to recognize it.

Thank you, my dear friends!
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Easter Arrangement

I just completed week six's arrangement for my floral design class. I had chosen a pink and white color palette of lilies, ranunculus, tulips, snapdragons, and baby roses when I picked out my flowers yesterday at Trader Joe's. Once in class, our instructor pulled out the surplus of flowers she had in the fridges and said we could use whatever we liked. I chose the pink carnations and million star (often mistaken for baby's breath) as well as the basic leather leaf fern for filler.

Last week we were told that we would be doing an Easter arrangement in a basket of some sort that we were to provide. I had noticed others asking the instructor about less traditional baskets and thought my square basket would do nicely even though most people were going to use traditional low and oblong Easter basket (I didn't have one). With the oblong baskets half would be flowers and half would be filled a stuffed animal and other Easter decor. We have a packet of sample photographs for each week, and I saw that not all of them for this week had a stuffed animal in it, so I thought I'd be okay without one.

Once in class, when our instructor told us we were free to arrange things however we wanted for this one, I figured I'd be okay. One rule we needed to follow was that our arrangement was to be 1 1/2 times the height of our basket or the width of our basket, whichever was larger.

I got going purposefully making a one-sided arrangement so it would fit on our fireplace mantle once I got it home. Since we were being allowed to do whatever we wanted, I started playing with the idea of creating an "S" curve from top to bottom through the center of the arrangement with the lilies and snapdragons. Then I thought it would be interesting to use the pink carnations as filler instead of green leather leaf so the lilies would stand out on a background of pink instead of green.

I was feeling really good about the arrangement as it grew. The more flowers I got in it, the more I liked it. My classmates were giving me compliments too, so I figured I was doing good. My instructor stayed pretty quiet. I figured it was because she was helping others and also doing her own arrangement.

When I got done, she came over to look at mine. She commented that it was definitely an "en masse" arrangement. Right then, I knew that she didn't like it. She made a few more comments about how she was going to teach me to do arrangements other than "en masse" ones. Then I really knew she didn't like it.

I felt like a heel. Everyone else was being a good follower, using the right shaped basket with the stuffed animal, and I was sitting there with an arrangement that was clearly not what she had wanted us to do. I felt like it had been a secret test, and I had failed miserably. And being a classic "people pleaser" that needs assurance from authority figures makes the whole thing smart even more.

The sad part is, it's a beautiful arrangement. I'm certain that if it was for sale in a shop, there would be someone that would fall in love with it and buy it. I could probably sell more than one like this.

The other sad part is, I love en masse arrangements that have little or no greenery. I love bouquets without greenery. I love photographs of flowers en masse without greenery. I love the repetition of colors and forms. It pleases my aesthetic. But it seems that my aesthetic is in direct contrast to my instructor's aesthetic.

This is a repeated theme in my life. In many creative classroom settings in the past, I've ended up being the "black sheep" whether I intended to or not. I really wanted this time to be different. I really wanted to conform and be the "good student" for once. I'm really going to try, but somehow I think I've already been labeled as the "problem child".

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Rhapsody in Blue

Lilacs on our warm climate "Lavender Lady" lilac bushes

It seems that everything is blooming in blues and purples right now in the Rosehaven Cottage gardens. It is a wonderfully serene yet vibrant show that's going on. Blue and purple flowers always amaze and entrance me.

Dutch Iris

I've been reading the book "Flower Confidential" by Amy Stewart. One of the fascinating things in the book is the discussion of how the color of a flower is determined by its internal chemical makeup at a cellular level. There's a lot of science behind it (I won't bore you with the details), but it is a fact that some flowers cannot be blue unless genetically altered. Because of this, no one has yet been able to breed a true "blue" rose.

Dover Beach Bearded Iris

The last I heard, no one has been able to breed a truly "scarlet red" bearded iris for the same scientific reasons why no one can breed a "blue" rose. Frankly, I'm happy with the fact that in order to have blue AND red flowers in my garden I have to have both iris and roses.

"Blue Ribbon" Rose

And even though it isn't really "blue", I think that the "Blue Ribbon" rose is absolutely beautiful. With its dusky scent it smells like the old rose perfumes from decades ago. When I smell it, I am transported back to standing at my Grammy's dressing table when I was 6 years old sniffing all the lovely potions and lotions.

If I really stop to think about it, each one of the flowers pictured here reminds me of my Grammy and her garden. Even the subtle scent of the bearded iris has that connection for me. Isn't it interesting how scents and smells from positive early childhood experiences continue to attract us, particularly women?

What color and scent are the blooms that remind you of happy and content times in your life?
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