Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Memorial Day Weekend

Our daughter and son-in-law visited us this weekend with our grand-doggies, their schnauzers.

After a dinner of the good smoked chicken R.H. made, we got to bed early for a work day ahead. Yes, these two nice children of ours spent their weekend off from their busy jobs helping R.H. with some gardening chores. Both Christy and Bryan headed for the lawnmowers the next morning, where acres of tall grass were waiting.

But Christy soon let Bryan take over the big hill out back and spent the rest of her time helping her father weed and plant flats of annuals and 100 caladium bulbs, which will soon fill these and other planters in our backyard with beautiful color.

Christy tackled the big job of cleaning our picnic shelter for the summer season, washing the tables and chairs and serving counter, and scrubbing the floor. (Not to mention washing all the deck chairs.)

Father and daughter enjoyed gardening together again, the dogs all getting underfoot. (These fuzzy pictures are mine. I thought it was on point and shoot. The good pictures are R.H.'s.)

They relaxed at the end of the day while Bryan was still working hard mowing grass far away in the valley. More good father-daughter time.

Bryan finished his mowing and the two cleaned up to welcome two more special guests to our house for a steak supper in the picnic shelter.

The fiancé of their son Luke, and the girlfriend of their son Alex were our lovely guests. Our grandsons were both out of state this weekend but we loved having these sweet girls join us and pose for R.H. in the garden.

Bryan took them all back to Armstrong's Hill to show them the newly mown hill.

I just got a text letting us know that Christy and Bryan and the schnauzers had landed safely tonight. Thank you so much for all your help, kids, and the good talks and the good company.

We're going to miss you here at Valley View. Come back soon. There will always be more grass to cut and weeds to pull.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Story of Our Dooryard Cottage Garden (Part 3)

It has been difficult to think about anything other than Oklahoma. I admit I haven't been able to visit many blog friends, mainly checking in with those I know live there, rejoicing that they were okay but brokenhearted at the television news. I decided to go ahead and finish the last post about our dooryard garden, partly to get it over with but also because garden pictures comfort me. I hope they will you. Please don't feel that you have to comment. My brain's a little fuzzy right now and maybe yours is too. We'll all catch up with each other--sooner or later.

The years passed here in our garden at Valley View. Five kinds of clematis cover the pergola by summer. The three Alberta spruce that were once so small are now tall. This garden has become a spring garden and is as much like the dooryard gardens of Blowing Rock, North Carolina as we could make it.

When the Muscari flowers that intense blue-purple around the trunk of the Kousa dogwood that was once a mere sapling, I fall in love with our garden all over again. You could not pay me to leave home that week.

When the hostas begin to peep above ground...

And grow larger each passing day, joined by the pink azaleas, I would not willingly leave home.

The Kousa dogwood puts on its show, long after the early dogwoods are gone.

An old red climber blooms and white North Carolina mountain azaleas.

The Flame azalea reaches its peak after the pink ones fade.

I could sit for hours and look at the small Mountain-laurel that has tiny sweet old-fashioned blooms.

Do you really think I'd leave home then?

However, it is about this time of year that our garden starts to become slightly unsightly.

Let's face it, soon the only color will be pink astilbe and spirea, and the clematis vines on the pergola. Thank heaven for the faithful aquilegia that we planted 20 years ago and springs up each spring even between the paving stones.

I used to do the weeding in this garden, R.H. and our sons helping me. Eventually I went to a kneeling stool to do it. Finally arthritic knees protested and I weeded bending over. That ended when my back started fussing.

Sons grew up and left home and the garden lost those weeders. Grandsons grew up and the garden lost more weeders. Guess who gets stuck with it now?

No, not little Nora. It's R.H. who does most of the weeding now, after working hard all week. This is why most of our gardening effort the last few years has gone into container gardening around our shady back deck and picnic shelter. That is where we spend the most time, where we relax and watch the birds feed.

But the front garden is important. It is lovely now.

But when July arrives, unless we plant annuals galore, it will be a green jungle that R.H. attacks in spurts when the wisteria vines begin to snake their way across the porch floor and I envision them sneaking into our house and strangling us while we sleep.

"Something must be done." That's what we say each year in July, but really, something must be done.

Even Sammi Gayle knows that...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Story of Our Dooryard Cottage Garden (Part 2)

In the beginning I was unbelievably ignorant as a gardener but I was a passionate one. I collected pictures of favorite plants and made lists, drew up diagrams. I ordered from garden catalogues, and R.H. and I visited nurseries, he reconnecting with nurserymen he had known when he was in the garden center business. I lovingly tucked in pots of perennials within the newly built geometric beds.

First we planted the diamond shaped herb bed, crowding in as much as was possible.

I baked lemon balm cakes and cookies and made herb vinegars. The Russian blue sage grew to bush size and when brought inside before frost perfumed the whole house.

The other beds were mostly perennial flowers.

Tex was my weeding companion. Here I asked him to pose and because he was a good dog he always did what Mama asked him to.

R.H. built a bird feeder for the garden out of an old cupola.

Our son Gurn brought me a real prize, a solid brass faucet, and R.H. found a round stone covered with moss that I pretended was a millstone.

The dooryard garden became a delightful place. I couldn't tear myself away from it. Morning and evening and in between I was outside either weeding or admiring. One morning I went outside still dressed in my robe and lay down in the path to take a picture at ground level of the plants. Immediately a small low flying plane was over me. I froze as it passed overhead and then ran inside in case they decided to report to the police that a dead woman was lying in a yard. I never did get that picture.

The bark paths were eventually replaced with gravel. Our youngest son Defee became my most faithful weeding companion, although all my men helped me.

Defee loved the lilies as much as I did.

There were Stargazers, Casa Blancas, Artistic Asiatic, and American Classic Trumpet Lilies that flourished for a few seasons. And then they were no more.

There were other disappointments. Delphiniums that would not live. Lavender that died so quickly you would have thought I sprayed it with Roundup. My lovely mountain knapweed gave out, the hollyhock leaves were gossamer webs. The cardinal flowers came in ugly. What happened to the hardy sweet woodruff?

As perennials gave out we planted more and more spring bulbs, hostas, ferns and spirea.

The Kousa dogwood grew and grew, becoming the white bridal bouquet of May. Glossy ivy covered the large well house R.H. built. Pieris Japonica grew. Foster holly trees put on red berries for Christmas. Paving stones replaced the gravel paths. I settled for less lush garden beds.

To be continued.

I apologize for being slow in getting Part 2 on Across the Way and in visiting my blog friends these last few days. My reason why? We had company--Sweet Nora with her mommie and daddy came to see us!

I'm sure you understand now!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Story of Our Dooryard Cottage Garden

When we bought this farmhouse in 1990, the front yard was just grass. Moving day was so exciting and I really didn't see this little house the way you probably see it now in the picture below.

I wasn't even thinking of its possibilities. To me it was beautiful just the way it was. Even the pile of wood in the yard and the rusty tin roof. See the red barn to the right...

I loved it just as it was but I did look forward to spring to see what marvelous plants would come up. Surely the farm wife from the 1920s had planted flowers and bulbs here in this 24 acres. When spring finally arrived here at Valley View, the only things that bloomed were some old yellow daffodils and a Festiva Maxima peony that still blooms beautifully each May. There are fat buds on it right now. There were wild roses on the fences and honeysuckle vine. There was a wisteria vine on the porch corner.

And that was it.

Never fear, R.H. to the rescue!

One of the first things he did was to fence in enough space for a dooryard garden.

He and our sons built the fence and a pergola. Here is R.H. teaching Zack some carpentry skills.

They built geometric beds.

The first paths were made of bark. Yes, it got tracked in all the time. I didn't care. At last I had the framework to make a dooryard cottage garden. This was to be my project now. And I had sons to help me with the weeding.

To be continued.

[If you would like to read my first post at Across the Way about how we found this dear little farmhouse go here. Brenda at Cozy Little House was kind enough to include my first post in her Welcome Wagon Friday and I met so many nice bloggers through her.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

"It Was Beauty She Wanted"

"It was beauty she wanted, she supposed, though that was a high sounding word.

A queer mixture of things, space and privacy, 

thin china and fine linen,

the feeling of breathless delight she had when she watched the moon flowers open

or looked at the college chapel

or saw waves breaking in lace-edged scallops against a beach.


Lida Larrimore in Stars Still Shine (1940)

[Just a little something pretty to show you while I gather my blogging thoughts about me for the week ahead and a snippet of pretty prose from an author I loved when I was a young girl--after I graduated from Trixie Belden! The dinner plates and butter pats are Spode's Billingsley Rose, the egg cup is Spode's Mayflower.]

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to our sweet Mama!

Our wonderful Mama & Daddy

Our Mama (sitting in middle) with her mother and three of her four sisters

We love you, Mama,

Your four daughters!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Another birthday?


Happy Birthday to me--

and a big kiss and thank you to my sweet mother!

I love you, Mama!

Note to self: 
Self, Veronique Vienne, in her beautiful little book, The Art of Growing Up, says that growing older "is an opportunity to shed youthful insecurities, revaluate old habits, and get rid of obsolete constraints." Isn't that sentence worth a little study? I think I'll find a few quiet hours soon to ponder upon it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Hostess to Herself

Shall we climb these steps to visit a house I love?

Our hostess, Mrs. Harold M. Bixby, is a darling and will welcome us as graciously as she did Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the 1920s when she was a guest there, as described in her heartbreaking Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead. 

"A rather small low house, low ceilings...

and French windows...opening out onto a dark cool garden.

Inside, lovely prints on the wall...bright zinnias in a vase...

upstairs, an old four-poster bed...

and some fine rag rugs,

and very dainty bathroom things...

Mrs. Bixby is quite striking-looking--

young and assured and calm with the assurance of a woman who is happily married,
has a lovely home, children, old enough (herself) to be settled
and young enough to be very nice-looking,
and who has enough time to take on the side university courses on Goethe, etc....
and to pick zinnias!

She is a kind of hostess to herself."

Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead

I would adore being a weekend houseguest at Mrs. Bixby's. Always a lover of low rambling houses, I'd carry my overnight bag inside and make my way upstairs to the bedroom with the four-poster bed. After brushing my teeth at bedtime and washing my face, I'd pad my way back into the bedroom across the old soft rag rug and climb into bed.

The next morning I would join Mrs. Bixby and her handsome children at breakfast. Mr. Bixby left early to attend a meeting at the bank. The maid would bring in our half grapefruits first and then soft-boiled eggs in egg cups of Spode's Chinese Rose. Plates of crisp buttered toast would be set at each end of the table.

Mrs. Bixby asks me if I'd like to play tennis with the youngsters after breakfast or curl up at one end of the sofa in her morning room while she takes the other end to read a book she wants to finish this weekend.

I say I'll keep her company. She smiles and says that a few friends will join us later for luncheon on the terrace.

Mr. Bixby should be home by then if not delayed. In any case, he will be here to squire us to the dinner and dance at the country club tonight, and my escort will be here for drinks beforehand. Do I need the maid to press my frock for tonight?

Please don't wake me if I'm dreaming. I'm just playing at being a hostess to myself, like Mrs. Bixby.

Oh, and my escort for the country club dance?

Do tell, how do you play hostess to yourself? Or host, if you're one of my few gentlemen readers?

Unleash your imagination!

Picture credits:
Some of these pictures were from my collection of vintage Woman's Home Companion magazines, others were on Pinterest from The pretty vanity mirror belongs to Sissie at 

The "Zinnias in Vase" was by American artist Jane Peterson 1876-1965. And the table setting with Spode's Chinese Rose has Between Naps On the Porch watermarked on the picture from Pinterest but would not link back to her post. I only have three plates of Chinese Rose so used this lovely picture.

I could not find a picture of the real Mrs. Bixby. I did find one of her husband and he was very distinguished and debonaire but the photo was poor. He was part of the original Spirit of St. Louis team.