Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flowers From the Garden- Larkspur

Larkspur usually starts blooming in Cary, NC around Mother's Day and continues through mid June or later if the temps stay on the cool side. Since we are experiencing way above normal temps it may be coming to an end. Be sure to look for it this weekend at the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh. There are several flower farmers there on the weekends.
Here's a close-up of pink larkspur in a sweet summer bouquet. More on this bouquet later- it has zinnias from my garden too!!!

I prefer growing the double flower form of larkspur which show off full blooms in wonderful shades of pinks, lavenders, purples, blue-purples, whites and even some bi-colors. Larkspur is VERY Versatile- I use it in fresh arrangements and bouquets and I also dry the flower stems and press the individual floral heads. The colors remain true for about one to two years. I used dried larkspur for a DIY project back in January and pressed flowers in April- Check the labels on this blog for these DIY projects. I will be doing more with these flowers later.
This sweet form has soft lavender-purple edges and white centers.
Here's a pink flower edged in purple in the garden.
Here is another shot from the gardens of purple and pink larkspur.
Going to Seed. I always let a lot of my flower stalks go to seed. I write the color of the flower on florist tape and wrap it around the stem with so that when all the petals have dropped, I will know what color I will get from these seeds next year. I dry the small pods out and remove the black seeds and keep them in separate envelopes until fall. Larkspur is planted in the South in late September through October. The new plants emerge in about three weeks and may even grow a little before frost. Then the little plants overwinter in the garden just waiting to jump up in March and bloom again next May. I will try to give instructions about planting in September.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary Rebecca and Andrew!!!

Actually, yesterday was Rebecca and Andrew's 1st year anniversary. I was so excited to create the bouquets for Rebecca and her bridesmaids. The flowers were creamy whites such as Majolica spray roses, peonies (from my garden), chrysanthemums and green lisianthus. My friend, Joanie, provided some beautiful calla lilies. Rebecca also wanted bold textured leaves such as hostas and aspidistra.
The bridesmaids' bouquets were filled with Majolica spray roses, chrysanthemums and green lisianthus and green button mums.
Andrew and Rebecca had an outdoor ceremony at Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn in Fuquay Varina, NC. It was a beautiful setting. I designed a rustic ceremony piece with white hydrangeas, Majolica roses, green button mums and chrysanthemums. Floral gatherings from the garden included lots of bold textured leaves such as hosta, heuchera, hellebore and Solomon's Seal, and dainty flowers such as euphorbia and feverfew.
I am so happy for you! Praying God's hand will guide you as you begin year two!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wild about Feverfew!!!

The picture above is double feverfew from my garden.
This is the more common single flower form of feverfew.
My daughter, Natalie, says that the leaves on this plant look like weeds... Well I guess she's right- so when you gather the flowers just pick the leaves off! This is one of my Favorite filler flowers- feverfew- (Chrysanthemum parthenium according to The Southern Living Garden Book).I
It blooms from late May until late June, and then again sporadically throughout the summer. Many people think that it's chamomile, and the flowers do look similar, but the plant is much taller- some of mine are about thirty inches tall. I started feverfew from seed years ago, and since then I have always done stem cuttings in September as well, just in case it doesn't reseed (HA!). Actually I do stem cuttings so that I can put it where I want it to grow. Feverfew flowers come in single forms, like mini daisies, and double forms, like fluffy baby's breath- well sort-of. It prefers full sun, but I also have plants in shady areas as well. After the blooms are finished, I cut the plants all the way back to about six inches. They usually bush back up and give a few more flowers. It is from the new bushy stems that I take stem cuttings and root in potting soil, (I take about a fifteen or so and usually end up with about ten new plants, plus the stuff really does reseed!).

Feverfew makes such a pretty little posy all by itself, but I usually work it into other designs, and use it more as a supporting actress instead of the star, (this flower is definitely a girl). Next week it will appear in Melissa's reception centerpieces and her flower girl's posy! And I hope I will have some blooming for Kirsten and Meredith too!
And here is the double flower form. I think this form is one of the most lovely little flowers around. It does not reseed like the single daisy form, so I HAVE to do stem cuttings. Last year all of my stem cuttings just died. I remember praying "Oh Lord, it would be wonderful to have it come back (and Mrs. Johnson's cockscomb too)", and I was delighted to find a it in my mixed border. I plan to guard it carefully! Now I just wonder if I might find some of Mrs. Johnson's cockscomb seeds too....

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weddings- Emma and Bobby- the Real Pictures

March... Spring... Saucer Magnolia Blooms... A Wedding Gown... How cool is that!!! Amanda of Amanda Olson Photography showed great creativity in capturing this picture of Emma's wedding gown. And because of this image, I bet Emma's heart will always skip a beat when she sees a Saucer Magnolia tree in bloom, (and I bet that she and Bobby will have one of their own some day!)
And I love this playful shot of Emma's wedding bouquet.... So Sweet!
When I first met Emma and her Mom, Kathy, it was steamy summer, but Emma was thinking spring thoughts with this delicate palette of whites, creams and greens.
White ranunculus with sunny yellow faces, fragrant creamy freesia, pale green lisianthus, and baby green hydrangeas were some of the flowers in the bridal bouquet.
Here's the beautiful bride with her lovely bridesmaids. Their bouquets were designed with green hydrangea, white Majolica roses, green lisianthus and green button mums which complimented the rich sangria color of the dresses.
Table centerpieces included narrow rectangular vases filled with pussy willow stems.
I loved the playful venue for the wedding reception! It was the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh.

And what a beautiful setting to kiss the Bride!!! Emma's so cute in her purple sneakers. Wishing you newlyweds all the best

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DIY- Strawberry Jam for Newly Weds

When I think of May, one thing that I think of, besides flowers and weddings, is strawberry jam! There is nothing like homemade strawberry jam, but it has to be FREEZER JAM to be really good! And freezer jam is not that hard to make. If you have about two quarts of fresh strawberries, some sugar and a box of Sure Jell, you can make about three pints of strawberry jam in thirty minutes or less. You will even have some strawberries left over just for eating!
Sure Jell can be found on the baking aisle in most grocery stores. There are two kinds, one comes in a yellow box and the other in a pink box like the ones pictured above. I prefer the pink box because this type requires less sugar.
When our kids were younger, we use to go strawberry picking at one of the You Pick farms around Cary, NC. Now I head for the Farmer's Market in Raleigh. You have to taste the berries to make sure that they are firm and sweet, and it's best to wait for several days of dry weather so that the berries will not be watery tasting. If they do taste watery, wait a few days and come back later. Once you get the strawberries home, it's best to make the jam that day or the next day at the latest. I load them up in a colander (hopefully you received one as a wedding gift), and rinse them with the green caps on.
After you rinse the berries, remove the green caps and place the berries in a clean bowl.
The next step is to mash them. I use a food processor (hopefully you received one of these for your wedding too!). I use a light touch and gently pulse the berries. You want nice pieces and chunks of fruit- not creamy soup! One batch requires enough mashed strawberries to make four cups.
Strawberry jam making is a lot more fun when the two of you are working together. My husband, Wilson, and I have enjoyed making jam together for years. One of us stirs the sugar, Sure Jell and water together bringing the mixture to a boil, while other person cleans and processes the fresh berries. The directions and recipe are provided in the box, and are easy to follow.
Most people put the jam mixture in freezer containers since it's going into the freezer, but Wilson and I have used glass canning jars for years. If you use glass, you will need to make sure that the neck of the jar IS NOT narrow at the top. We freeze in pint and cup size jars with wide tops. After the mixture has been poured into the container, we place the lids on top and let it rest on the counter for twenty-four hours before placing in the freezer. I place the rings (which go over lids) on the jars just before putting in the freezer, but I don't tighten rings until after the mixture has frozen- this leaves room for the mixture to expand as it freezes.
Freezer jam last in the freezer for about one year. The two things that I love about freezer jam are the bright red color and the fresh strawberry taste- The taste of strawberries really comes through because the berries were never cooked.
I hope that you enjoy making and eating freezer jam as much as we do!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Luscious Pinks from the Garden

The tulips are gone and for a few brief weeks in central NC the peonies are in bloom. I have several different kinds and they are all blooming now. Depending on the variety, peonies bloom from late April until mid May. Like my tulips, they seem to be blooming earlier this year. The light pink blooms are from Sarah Bernhardt, the dark pinks I believe are Karl Rosenfield and maybe Felix Crousse, (I didn't keep up with the plant tags as I should have). Most peonies offer locally do well in our area. Be sure to plant them high- by this I mean that the top of the rhizome with the eyes (these will be the growth sprouts) should be only an inch deep in the soil, much deeper and your plants will not bloom much. Peonies prefer full sun, but can take some afternoon shade, and like lots of organic matter. Fertilize after flowering and again in the fall.
One other thing I recommend to friends who grow peonies- PICK THEM! These flowers get big and just fall over. They also blow out when the temps are in the 80's. If you cut them as they are starting to open and bring them inside, you will be rewarded for 5 to 6 days with their beauty and fragrance! And if you leave the some smaller buds on your bushes you may still have a lovely show in the garden as well.
Peonies and roses make a wonderful combination in this very luscious spring time bouquet. These roses are the David Austin English roses called Heritage. They have the full petals of an old fashioned rose and the RICH fragrance as well. One or two blooms can fill up a room with their fragrance!!!I have had this variety for about seven years, and I love its spring blooms and the repeat show in the autumn.
These flowers will be here for such a short time- I guess that's what makes them extra special!!!