Monday, June 27, 2016

Home Sweet Home House Naming Contest & Garden Tour

Over the weekend we had a birthday party...for our house--I know, who does that? But in this day and age it is kind of unusual for a family to occupy the same home for 50 years. My husband moved into this house with his parents in 1966 when it was new. So I thought it would be fun to celebrate and give our mid-century colonial a name.

Did I ever tell you the story about my husband and son driving the same car to their proms 36 years apart? That's a story for another day.  

If I'm being honest I know that the only reason people might actually show up at a party for a house is the lure of honey. And check out these beautiful (and delicious--which you can hardly ever say about a sugar cookie) cookies my oldest friend made for me. I have gained three pounds in two days because they taste like donuts.

Back to the house name. I set up this sign with two buckets. One had slips of paper and a marker and the other had a place to drop in your suggestion. If people thought this was pretentious or silly they kept it to themselves and played along. A key trait of people who can be my friends is that they are either slightly eccentric themselves or at least indulge me in my weirdness. My entire tribe skews high on the Quirky and Creative Scale.

This double sided sign was a road side pickup! Read about its salvation here. 

When the party was over my husband, daughter and I unfolded the suggestions from friends. People had great ideas and a couple of them were inside jokes. My husband's suggestion won (his vote carried a little extra weight). And we decided on Ellenview.

Which I must now explain because no one in our family is named Ellen.

Around the corner from us is a mansion built in 1846 called Cedar Hall. The cotton grown on the land where our neighborhood sits now was taken about a mile away to the railroad and put on boxcars to go to Memphis and be sold. The railroad was the L & N. The stop became known as L & N Dale. A small community grew up around the stop. Over time it was shortened to Ellendale. Obviously much easier to say, but it leaves residents constantly answering the question -- Who was Ellen?

Winner of the late entry competition: Cottages of Serro Vita Latin for the Cottages of Creative Living.  How fantastic is that?

Now on to the garden...

Have I told you that June is the prettiest month in the garden? I realized last year when I had the open house in August how bad the garden looked. "Oh you should see that when it's blooming!" is just lame after about the fifth time. The pictures are proof that if you are going to tour the garden this is the month to do it.

 An old ladder is the perfect trellis for beans.

 Bees can easily drown while trying to drink from something as deep as a birdbath. Floating wine corks in the water gives them a place to land and drink safely.

When it's hot you get this phenomenon called bearding. It's the equivalent of sitting on your front porch on a hot evening. As the girls return home from foraging they gather outside and--I like to imagine--talk about their day.

My favorite plants are the ones that volunteer. If you are a vegetable and decide to spring up in a patch where I planned something else. You are more than welcome. I'll take all the help I can get. 

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and made the day so much fun even though it was sweltering!
Pictures from the open house part of the party coming next time! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Basics for Growing Peaches


This is what happens when the kids leave home. I used to try to capture the perfect photographs of them. Fruit is so much less trouble.

Today's post is really just an excuse to post some pictures of this year's peach crop from our one and only peach tree. We have never seen anything like the crop we had this year in either quality or quality.

Here are the basics for growing peaches:

Like most things peaches prefer a location that is well drained.

A soil PH of around 6.5 is ideal.

Find a location that gets full sun, meaning at least 6 hours a day. 

You need pollination for fruit but you don't need more than one peach tree. They are self-fruitful.


Dig a hole big enough for the roots to be able to spread out. Soak the roots of the tree for several hours before planting. Plant your tree and back fill the soil. Water in and add an inch or two of mulch to help keep weeds under control and conserve water. Keep mulch away from the trunk of the tree! Finally, prune the tree, cutting off side branches to increase your crop.

peach tree

In the above photo you can see how close this tree is to our hives. I can only assume that this was a key factor in this year's success. I also wish I had saved the tree's tag because this may also be a marvelous cultivar for this area.

The tree was planted in the garden a couple of years ago and has previously produced some small fruit. Imagine our surprise when this year the size was comparable to anything we've ever seen for sale in any produce section or farmers market. Because the tree is only a few yards from our bee hives any treatment done is home made of simple ingredients such as water, hot peppers, oil. Sometimes some dish soap.

peach tree

We had a very wet and cool spring which may have contributed to the health and deliciousness of this year's crop. I'm also a firm believer in diversity in the garden as a means of keeping pests and diseases under control.


I normally consider pears to be the most photogenic fruit. Yes, I'm the kind of person who thinks about these things. The peaches in these photographs are making me rethink that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Vignettes From a Southern Potager

peach and beehives

Every home needs certain things.
Family photos. A cat. A kitchen garden.

If your family isn't the kind that has a lot of happy memories captured on film, buy some old ones of good looking strangers and make up stories about them that are more interesting than your own.

There's no reason not to have a cat. Unless you like mice and dislike the most entertaining pets.

You can plant a small kitchen garden no matter how small your lot. There. Now all your problems are solved. Except that I might have a bit more to say about that garden idea. 

A European kitchen garden (potager in French) is a combination of vegetables and flowers. One was likely to find a combination of vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Potager: noun
1. a small kitchen garden. Word Origin:from French potagère vegetable garden

Am I the only one who was disappointed that never once, on Downton Abbey, did we see a kitchen garden? A house as grand as that would have had a head gardener for whom the respect given by the family would have rivaled Carson. He would have been the perfect romantic interest for Mrs. Patmore!

But I digress.

If you aren't in possession of castles and whatnot you can still have a very fine and functional kitchen garden. You don't actually need much space. The typical American vegetable garden can be upgraded to a potager by laying things out not just in boring rows of vegetables but by creating a garden that is as beautiful to look at as it is productive. Also by the addition of an herb garden and fruits as well as a water feature.

Here's how my garden looked on paper last winter. Isn't that the coldest starkest thing ever? One of the most important traits of a successful gardener is imagination. 

You must be able to imagine in January when you are laying out plans on paper that in June you'll have this.

 and this.

And so on...

Cucumbers and pumpkins.


Beans and lettuce.

If you're thinking it's too late for a garden this year you are only partially right. It's always the right time to lay out a plan, put in pathways and beds, as well as look for things you can plant this fall for next spring.

Happy gardening!