Home decor

Apple Harvest Fall Tablescape Blog Hop

Hello everyone.  It’s time for another fall tablescape blog hop again!  Our talented friend Angelina of Petite Haus is the person behind this fun blog hop that is guaranteed to be filled with plenty of tabletop eye candy and inspiration from my fellow bloggers.  If you are coming over from Areeba of Mint Candy Designs, then welcome!  I am so glad you are here!  Make sure to check out all the links at the bottom of my post for more fall tablescape inspiration.

Today, I am excited to share my version of an apple harvest tablescape.  It is simple to put together yet bursting with charm, color and textures.  From the vibrant yellow sunflowers to the rich reds of the apples placed at each place setting.  These warm and inviting colors are a delightful way to welcome fall and to create a table that will make your guests want to stay a little longer.

My goal was to create a pretty farmhouse – apple harvest table without having to spend too much so I tried to use as many items I had around the house already.  This was definitely a fun challenge for me and one that I was open to.  The only items I had to buy were the fresh apples and sunflowers.  But since they were purchased from our local farm stand, the cost was very reasonable.  No need to say that I did plenty of baking and cooking with these apples!

I am always fascinated by the beauty and versatility of  fresh fruit.  Especially apples which are my go to during the autumn season.  They are ideal for adding color and an organic element to your table.
A striped tablecloth, white plates and copper mugs; ( all from Home Goods) come together to showcase  the bright colored apples.  The darling buffalo checked napkins placed under the farm baskets add textures and color at each place setting (from Pier 1).  Local sunflowers add  a happy note this autumnal setting. 
At each place setting, I placed a small farm basket filled with fresh apples.  I used a striped napkin to add softness to the baskets.  I just love how pretty these little baskets look!  Stainless steel flatware with blackened handles, galvanized metal chargers and mason jars complete by farmhouse – apple harvest tablescape.

I hope I have inspired you to create your own pretty fall table.  It doesn’t have to be complicated!  With a few items already owned, you can create your own little masterpiece.

Thank you for your visit.  Happy entertaining and may you all have a most beautiful autumn season.  Next up on the blog hop is Rebeca of Lincluden Cottage LifeBe sure to give her a visit too for more fun tabletop inspiration.


fall tablescape blog hop
 fall tablescape blog hop
fall tablescape blog hop

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The aliens (might be) landing !

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Rhododendron x superponticum dominating waterside habitat in Yorkshire. Maybe the otters like it for cover but I can’t imagine much else does.

I wrote the following for Pro-Landscaper magazine, last year – i.e. for a British Isles audience. So please realise that issues may well be very different elsewhere. . . . .

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The press love a good invasive alien story. Shades of martians landing and/or man-eating triffids on the prowl. There is often a hint of racism too, invasive plants almost inevitably come with national labels: Japanese knotweed, Spanish bluebells, and the language used to describe them is not unlike that used to discuss immigration issues in certain quarters.
The landscape industry is very much in the front line here, both in preventing the use and spread of invasive aliens and sometimes in their control too. But how much of a problem do we really face?
I would argue that the invasive alien story is in danger of being grossly exaggerated, and those of us who work in horticulture and landscape need to keep a cool head. First of all, we need to realise how lucky we are. While some countries battle enormously damaging invasive species, Britain faces relatively few real problems. We have an amazingly aggressive natural grass flora, which has evolved to benefit from the exceptionally long growing season we have – the result of our being on the north-west fringes of Europe, facing the warm waters of the Atlantic. Our wild grasses have an incredible ability to spread, propagate and suffocate most of what comes in their way. They may create problems in establishing garden or landscape plants but they are a great defence against invaders.
So what problems do we face? The obvious answer is Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica); the press love stories about it, and the government has responded by enacting legislation that potentially adds considerable costs to landscaping and construction projects. However, it does not seed, it is suffocated by trees, is easily killed with herbicide, eliminated by mowing and makes little headway against grasses. Neither does it kill small dogs (unlike, we are told, seagulls). It is a big problem in a very small number of localities. The main reason for its spread has been the moving of infected soil, something entirely preventable. It is important to realise it is not going to engulf the country.
‘Perspective’ is one thing which those who get very excited by invasive aliens find difficult to maintain. Particularly important is to recognise the difference between the spread of a species and it being problematic. Buddleia is a good example. Its appearance on buildings worries property owners (rightfully) but its extensive seeding into waste ground creates an impression that it has capacity to spread. This is liable to alarm those with a dogmatic understanding of ecology, who believe that only native species have a right to be here. Given time, buddleia gets suppressed by native grasses and in particular by our native brambles and shrubs. However even at its most vigorous it grows alongside other plants (and of course butterflies love it).
The plants we need to worry about are those that 1) do not get suppressed by our native vegetation, and 2) get the better of it, even though these may only be problems in particular places. Rhododendron x superponticumis a good example of something that does both of these; spreading even in the shade of woodland and suppressing almost anything which grows in its dense shade. Certain cotoneasters might be another, but only with regard to very localised habitats (cliff faces). With time many seemingly aggressive species decline, as local infective agents and pests discover them – there is evidence that this has happened with Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) in continental Europe. Given the costs and difficulties of eradication, keeping a cool head and focussing on identifying real problems, not headline-generating ones, is vital.
* * * * *
If you like this blog, why not check out my e-books, which are round-ups of some writing I did for Hortus magazine back in the early 2000s, along with an interview with the amazing Beth Chatto. You can read them on Kindle, or Kindle packages for smartphones or the computer. You can find them on my Amazon page here. You will also find my soap opera for gardeners – currently running at eight episodes.

I write this blog unpaid (of course) and try to do two postings a month, to try to provide the garden, wildflower and plant-loving community with information, inspiration and ideas. Keeping it coming is not always easy to fit into a busy working life. I would very much appreciate it if readers would ‘chip in’ (as we say in England) and provide a little financial support. After all, you pay for magazines and books, and it is only for historical reasons that the internet is free. Some money coming in will help me to improve quality and frequency, and to start to provide more coherent access to hard information, which I know is what a lot of you really want. So – please donate now!! You can do this through PayPal using email address:
Thank you!
And thank you too to the folk who have contributed so far.


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Hellebore troubles

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Hellebores can make such a huge impact as they flower so much earlier than anything else. Try cutting them though and they hang their heads so limply as to put you off ever trying again. The only way to cut them is to float them in water as in the picture above.
They are easy enough but I find that many of ours are dying out. Given my interest in long-term plant performance I have been monitoring this and discussing it with other gardeners. The consensus is that from about ten years onwards many do go into a decline. This is not surprising as they seed (or can do) so extensively which suggests something which is not going to be with us for ever. So, all the plants I paid such good money for from Ashwood Nurseries and Wendy Perry all those years ago are now pretty well vanished. They initially seeded well – I dug a load up and planted them out, leaving many others to grow in the bed.
The seedlings I have left, i.e. next to their parents, have never really taken off. Despite it looking like initially they would smother everything else, they have never gotten that big and are now beginning to die too. All I can think is that they cannot cope with the competition of the roots of the overgrown hedge behind them. The very best ones are right up the top where the hedge is further back. Elsewhere in the garden we have a few magnificent plants, but always well away from shade or tree roots.
So, a bit of a crisis for something that was always such a feature of the garden in late winter. The seedlings I had dug up seven or so years ago have done well, breeding relatively true from seed, so we have had some good plants to move elsewhere or give away. It was interesting to note however the difference in vigour and how this was linked to flower colour (genes on the same chromosome?). I had set out the seedlings in order of size in a nursery bed, and all the largest ones turned out to be red, which actually is the least interesting colour of all. The picotees seem particularly lacking in umph. In looking at this lot the other day, I realise that there is only one in the nursery bed left which was worth doing anything with, a very spotty white. So I divided it, feeling as if I was taking the plant’s life in my hands as they do not divide well, and you do end up doing terrible damage to them, crushing flowers and leaves as you do so. Hopefully the rather miserable looking divisions with a few leaves sticking out at odd angles will take. The roots are most active in the late winter, when they flower, so this is the best time to carry out this perilous operation.
These seedlings had originally been collected from around good plants, the seeds being so heavy that you can be pretty sure which plant a seedling has come from. I tried to find some more around good ones this year, but it is a struggle, and even when very small, the seedlings have very long roots and can be difficult to extricate from the ground.
I shall have to try to save seed again this year, but this is not easy, because as soon as it is ripe it seems to hurl itself out of the seed pods. I have tried tying little muslin bags (thanks to eBay I now have a whole packet of these) around the maturing pods but they are actually too small – I need the next size up.
Going to buy expensive seed from Ashwood or Jelitto or somebody is going to feel like a defeat, let alone having to take out a mortgage to buy new plants. So we shall have to develop a Hellebore Conservation Action Plan.

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Home decor

Style A Welcoming Fall Table Alfresco

Hello everyone.  Happy Monday!  The weather is still warm here on the East Coast and that means that the open-air dining continues for us.  And believe me, we are going to enjoy every second of warm weather.  Winter is just too long!

This spot under our weeping willow tree provides plenty of shade while allowing enough of the sun to peek though the branches.  It is the ideal backdrop for setting a cozy fall table alfresco on a casual Saturday evening.  A picturesque spot for an intimate gathering with friends

The inspiration for this table were the colorful accent plates I chose for my place setting.  Decorated with large flowers in orange and violet and detailed with elegant leaves and lavish gold accents.  The burnt orange tablecloth allow the plates to stand out while the willow chargers add texture and contrast. 

I always pay attention to the details – what I call the table jewelry.  Copper drinking mugs and candle holders add a little bling and shimmer to the table.

And remember the seasonal touches such as pumpkins and flowers to give your table .  For this table, I used a planted Celosia for height, dried hydrangeas from our garden, small pumpkins placed randomly to create my centerpiece. 

Classic Black and White Gingham Plaid Pattern Napkins layered with add whimsy and a touch of country.  

Isn’t this a lovely setting for dining with friends?  I truly love the relaxed feel of the table – engaging and welcoming!

I hope I have inspired you to create your own cozy autumn table.

Wishing you a blessed and happy week.


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What really stresses me out – weeding

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Its the end of the winter and it has been very wet, and for the most part very mild. We have a long growing season here in the Welsh borders anyway, and the winter wet adds to the problem. A long growing season a problem? Yes, because it means weed grasses, and a few other things, like creeping buttercup, can just keep on growing continually, while the range of perennials we want to grow, both garden and native species, are dormant.
We have, in Britain, an incredibly aggressive flora of species, basically grasses, that are very effective at smothering the ground and most other non-woody vegetation, which if left unchecked they eventually eliminate. It is one reason why we don’t have much of a problem with invasive alien species, as they can never get a foothold. But who needs invasive aliens when you’ve got invasive natives? They, and I basically mean tillering and rapidly spreading grasses, can grow at low temperatures and root very quickly into new ground. They are one reason for the low floral diversity of much of the British countryside (the other main one is the last Ice Age). In the garden they smother perennials, rooting into the crown and establishing a canopy of foliage before the perennial starts growing. This is also one of the reasons that so much of the British countryside has very low floral diversity.
The result of all this is that we, in the west of Britain, have a major problem dealing with weedy grasses. A major problem. Our own plot has a fertile soil, particularly rich in phosphorus, which grasses love, and it is quite heavy, so getting weeds, fine-rooted grasses in particular, out, is THE problem. I would say that weeding is our number one garden task, in fact I would say that it is equal in time and effort to all the other garden tasks combined. People who don’t garden here probably have no conception of how problematic this is.
If I were a ‘normal’ gardener I would be less ambitious, plant densely and be do a lot of hand weeding. But because of my professional interest in researching diverse low-maintenance plant mixes, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I want to get a sense of how realistic it is for those who work with minimal resources, such as in public spaces, can manage, so I have to look at all weed control methods. And it is a conundrum.
In light soils this is easy and basically can be regarded as solving the problem. Here on our heavy soil it is every impractical until the soil dries out, as you end up with a barrow full of clods of earth, it being impossible to shake the soil off the roots.
‘Traditional’ garden practice involved a lot of hoeing, which detaches weeds from the soil, so they dry out and die on the surface. However, conventionally it went hand in hand with having bare earth between plants, which simply offers habitat to yet more weeds. I, like many other ‘naturalistic’ gardeners, aim at having as extensive a vegetation canopy as possible, which is one of the most effective ways of preventing weed growth. During the winter however, with most perennials dormant, the native weedy grasses can move in, from any seed left from plants which were not removed last summer. Hoeing amongst established perennial clumps is not easy, often ineffective and in our conditions weeds don’t die on the soil surface unless we have a dry east wind – they actually carry on growing and then re-root!
Hoeing has many other disadvantages. Too early in the year and if you make a mistake, you decapitate a perennial. It is also quite destructive, of seedlings of desired plants and of the whole layer just above the soil surface – of decaying plant remains, mosses, small harmless creeping spontaneous plants – this layer being an important invertebrate habitat and therefore crucial for garden biodiversity. It, and hand digging, also disturbs the soil, bringing up yet more seed seed.
The idea of burning is an unorthodox one, but one which the prairie movement has introduced us to. It is the oldest land management tool: a great many tribal cultures around the world have used it to manipulate their environments throughout history. Out in the country, where we are, it is possible to cut down perennials, and then have a prairie burn with the debris. Not really very sociable if you have neighbours! And not legal in many places. The alternative is to rake off the debris, compost it or use it as mulch elsewhere and then go over with a flame gun.
Burning certainly knocks back weed grasses, so they are forced to regrow and by the time they do so, the perennials will coming on full stream. Burning will kill seedling grasses and a lot of other early germinating weed seedlings, such as goosegrass. However, if you have evergreen perennials, very early emerging ones, or bulbs, it has to be done very carefully.
Burning is a particularly good and fun way to get rid of grass debris. Molinias and Calamagrostis go up like fireworks, to the extent that if I were a public park manager in some places I would think twice about planting them. Miscanthus here does not dry out enough, although in the US I am told it goes off like a bomb.
Taking a flame gun solution to late winter weeds is a relatively new practice, widely promoted as an alternative to handweeding/hoeing or using herbicide. It is also increasingly being used in organic farming. It is of course is not particularly sustainable, even less so than Roundup, as propane gas is a fossil fuel. It, and prairie burning are also very destructive for the same reasons as hoeing – goodbye desired seedlings and ground level habitat. It also will not kill deeper rooted perennial weeds, or indeed most weed grasses when established. For persistent perennial weed grasses it is actually pretty useless.
Herbicide, i.e. Roundup
I am not organic (it won’t feed the world) and Roundup comes in very useful for the most difficult places, or where I simply get to the end of my tether with weedy grasses, and it is a fantastic time saver. It is non-persistent and does have a good safety record, but we can never be sure, and research may yet show something up which may mean we should consider not using it. Many studies have been conducted over the years and it has come out well on the safety front (though it should not be used on sandy or stony soils which don’t absorb it and allow it to be broken down by bacteria, as happens on humus or clay rich soils, and of course nowhere near water). Some recent studies have suggested it may be a carcinogen, but the jury is still very much out.
There is a bigger problem though, essentially a political one, as it is so impossible to have a sensible discussion with many people about Roundup, as they have made up their minds it is a creation of the devil, and that’s that. The organic movement is a dogma after all. But the fact that to many people it is unacceptable is where we are at, so finding alternatives is important, which makes me all the more interested in researching a wide variety of non-chemical methods of weed control.
I think you could make out a good case that Roundup is the least invasive method of weed control, as it does not destroy the immediate above ground habitat, leaves mosses untouched, and there is, as far as I am aware, no evidence of a significant negative impact on animal biodiversity (I’ve just been through a load of scientific papers on this). It, like burning, also avoids disturbing the soil and so bringing up buried weed seed. But convincing many domestic gardeners of this is probably about as fruitless a task as persuading Donald Trump to believe in climate change.
Before I leave the subject of Roundup, if there is anyone still reading, I would like to make a parallel with agronomy. The Americans have, for some time now, been giving up ploughing, the practice that for many of us is somehow synonymous with arable agriculture. Ploughing is very destructive of soil structure, of soil life, and can encourage disastrous soil erosion. It is for this latter reason that the US Department of Agriculture has for some time now been encouraging ‘no-til’. There are other good reasons too, as not ploughing soil means that the soil builds up its organic content, good for holding on to water, nutrients and sequestering carbon. In fact no til is being promoted as a major carbon dioxide sink, and therefore an important part of controlling CO2 emissions. The idea is beginning to catch on with British farmers too.
Trouble is no-til classically involves spraying weeds off with the dreaded devil’s milk Roundup and then, a few weeks later sowing with a device which slices through the dead weeds into the soil and sows the crop seed very precisely. The alternative is a fossil fuel flame gun. There is no easy answer here.
Strategies for the future
Encourage ever denser planting.
As more and more species seed and spread my plantings are getting denser and therefore more weed resistant. However there are some perennials which do seem to be particularly prone to grass invasion of the crown and no amount of dense planting will ever solve this if there is a local source of weed grass seed.
Encourage ground level perennials which will deny spaces to weeds but survive the competition of the taller perennials.
Now this is a tall order! Primula vulgaris, P. elatior, polyanthus and other hybrid primroses are actually pretty good at this as they are more or less summer dormant and do most of their growth in the October to April period when the the heat-requiring summer perennials are dormant. Liriope too, but in our cool summer climate this spreads so slowly as to be almost useless. There is not a lot else.
Plant a matrix of weed suppressing evergreen ground cover and then grow taller perennials in it.
I tried this with the evergreen Carex glauca, and it was a total failure, as all sort of weeds from grasses to seedling Geranium ‘Claridge Druce’ moved in and took over. I’m now trying it with Phlomis russeliana which here is our most effective weed-suppressing perennial but which has co-existed well with several robust perennials for five years in some research plots. Any more suggestions?
Re-define what a weed is
This can be very fruitful. I have never understood why some people get so het up about lesser celendine which spreads like mad, flowers in March and then goes dormant. What problem is that? Creeping buttercup may be a pain but in with established taller perennials it soon gets overshadowed and can then be appreciated as a nice spring wildflower. I am debating about whether to leave it some of my research plots.
At the end of the day a weed is something which has the ability to out-compete and therefore destroy the plants we are trying to grow.
Use slow-to-decay mulch
This is what I am intending to do with those parts of the garden which are not research plots, where decorative impact is important and where weed grasses have been a particular problem. Many mulches simply rot down too quickly but council green waste seems to be much longer lasting, possibly because it is composted at a high temperature and is therefore almost charcoal like (on the way to being bio-char perhaps?). Weeds pull of out it nice and easy. So the plan is, buy a lorry load, and get it spread, creating a new and much more friable surface for weed control.
I think this weed grass control issue is so important, I’ll do an annual update. Now, for having even mentioned the possibility of using Roundup, I’ll sit back and wait for the death threats.

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Home decor

Fall Baking ~ Apple Roses

Fall Baking ~ Apple Roses

Fall is my favorite time of the year!  There is a chill in the air, the leaves are changing color, local festivals are plenty and the apple picking season begins.  With a ton of orchards in our area, apple picking is a must.  And who doesn’t love an apple dessert during fall?  I for one always have a hard time saying no to fresh apple pie!  

As much as enjoy apple picking, I love baking even more.  The apples are much sweeter, and aromas in the kitchen are heavenly.  These beautiful apples roses are the perfect way to celebrate autumn. A tasty and easy dessert made with lots of soft and delicious apple slices, wrapped in puff pastry that has been flavored with cinnamon sugar.   Below is the recipe which has also been shared at Romantic Homes Magazine. Click on direct link for article.


  • 1/2 package Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 2 red apple 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, to sprinkle the counter
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • as-needed confectioners’ sugar (also called powdered sugar)


Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature if you haven’t done so yet. It should take about 20-30 minutes.

Prepare a bowl half filled with water and the lemon juice. Cut the apples in half, remove the core and cut the apples in paper-thin slices. Leave the peel so it will give the red color to your roses. Right away, place the sliced apples in the bowl so that they won’t change color.

Microwave the apples in the bowl for about 2 minutes, to make them slightly softer and easy to roll.  If you prefer, you can also simmer the apple slices with the water in a small pan (on the stove). The apple slices should be cooked just enough to bend without breaking. If they break, you need to cook them a little more.
Unwrap the puff pastry over a clean and lightly floured counter. Using a rolling pin stretch the dough into a rectangular shape of about 12 x 9 inch. Cut the dough in 6 strips, each about 2 x 9 inch.

In a small bowl place the sugar and cinnamon and mix well.  On another bowl, place three tablespoons of butter. Microwave for about 30 seconds (or until melted). Spread a thin layer of butter on each strip of dough.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. 
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Drain the apples.  Arrange the apple slices on the dough, overlapping one another. Make sure the top (skin side) of the slices sticks a little out of the strip. 

Fold up the bottom part of the dough.  Starting from one end, carefully roll the dough, keeping the apple slices in place. Seal the edge at the end, pressing with your finger, and place in a regular muffin cup. No need to grease the muffin mold if it’s silicone. Otherwise, make sure to grease with butter and flour (or spray).
Do the same for all 6 roses. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for about 40-45 minutes, until fully cooked. 

NOTES: Make sure the pastry is fully cooked on the inside before removing the roses from the oven!  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Happy fall baking friends!


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Don't grow your own; get your credit card out instead!

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When I had a nursery business, back in the 1980s-1990s, one of my gripes was the problem of plants being sold at too low a price. Pricing anything is always difficult, and prices rarely reflect the actual cost of production; often its a case of ‘what the market will pay’. Well, over the years, the price some people will pay for plants has certainly gone up, and although there is still underpricing and bargains to be had, there seems to be much more readiness to pay silly money. “A fool and his/her money are easily parted” says the old English saying, and it’s as true in gardening as anywhere else.
Since my nursery days, there has been a huge increase in the sale of plants which in the past would have been available only as seed. I don’t mean the bedding plants or veg plants which need a couple of months under glass before they can be risked in the big chilly world outside, I’m talking about easy stuff, like lettuce, and sweet peas, and cosmos. Partly I suppose this might be a reflection of many people living in places where starting seed might be difficult, but I can’t help the feeling that this has been an opportunity for the nursery industry to make money through a process of de-skilling the amateur gardener. There are so many plants which are so easy from seed, and as many have found, there is a great deal of satisfaction in growing your own plants this way, right from the beginning. Today’s gardeners seem to be increasingly tempted into buying ready-grown plants rather than seed. On a recent visit to our local garden centre (one of the Wyevale group) I was horrified by how hugely reduced the seed racks were. The message seemed to be, if you want it from seed, go online.
Going online in fact is where a lot of folk seem to be going anyway, for plants as well as seed. So I thought I’d take a look around and see what the gardener-customer is being offered for their money.
Crocus, the biggest online plant retailer in the UK are charging £7.99 for a 9cm pot of Angelica gigas, a biennial, so it’ll be dead within a year and a bit, BUT it will leave you with lots of seed which if you can sow right away (and this will be the September of the year after spending your £7.99) and you can discover for yourself that the very plentiful seed comes up like the proverbial mustard and cress and you can try potting them all up and flogging them all at next year’s church fete for £7.99 each. Good luck! (BTW, leave the seed til spring and none of it will come up!).
The Guardian Garden Centre (i.e. the newspaper’s online retail wing) is offering 72 perennials for £19.99, as plug plants. A very good deal if you know what ‘plug plants’ are and can look after them appropriately. No definition of a what a ‘plug plant’ is though. “Up to 1 metre. Spread 45cms.” The list includes Armeria, which I think is a little bit, just a weeny little bit, less than this, along with some not-perennials, and I don’t just mean the short-lived perennials I am always banging on about (although it is one of these, an Echinacea) which is the main image, but biennials like Digitalis or ‘stagger into year two if you are lucky’ annuals like Verbena bonariensis. Its an insane mix: including delphiniums, lavender, geum. I dread to think what this lot will look like when planted out together, probably with no reference to size, conditions etc.
Mind you twenty quid for 72 is not so bad, unlike the £11.99 they are asking for a “powerliner jumbo plant” (whatever that is!) of Lavatera ‘Barnsley Baby’. I have looked for this variety online and cannot find any information about its size, the name of course suggesting that this is a mini variety of the plant that Rosemary Verey found in someone’s garden in her home village in Gloucestershire, sometime in the 1980s. Well, mini and mallow family don’t tend to go together and since ‘Barnsley’ grows at a rate of knots to 2m plus, I would be sceptical and cautious. Possibly not something for the pot on the patio which is what the advertising suggests.
I have found over the years that it is customary in many quarters to be rude about Sarah Raven’s retail empire. Some of her prices are astonishing, four basil plants for £4.50! when you can go down to any supermarket, even the ones the proles shop at who don’t buy their plants from posh Sarah Raven, and buy pots of live basil for much less. I just checked the Tesco website – £1.25 for a pot with a lot more than four seedlings in it; many a gardener pots these on to a bigger container and keeps their £1.25 plus a bit more compost and a second hand pot investment going all summer. A lot of this is to do with social cachet, as there is a certain type of customer who, so maintain street cred with their friends, would never buy anything from anybody other than SR. You can almost see them rub the Tesco label off the pot of basil on the kitchen windowsill as one of their friends arrives for lunch in a BMW crunching its way over the Cotswold gravel in the drive. “Got it from Sarah, isn’t she a darling!”.
Actually, to give Sarah her due, what you paying for (some of the time, although not the basil) is her knowledge. There are zillions of dahlias, tomatoes etc etc and she does trial things thoroughly and her recommendations are the result. These are good plants, no doubt about that, and the website is very informative.
The sending of seedlings (SR’s Cosmos ‘Purity’ are £8.50 for 10) is a big part of what people seem to be prepared to pay for when ordering plants online. With some plants this is entirely understandable. Every year I grow plants for Jo, and some of them, Antirrhinum and Ageratum for example are very small and fiddly, and die off at the drop of a hat – quite honestly only the experienced gardener would bother with them, but Cosmos! Big chunky things that come up in days, and can be pricked out practically blindfolded. I find it sad that so many people are passing up on the incredible satisfaction of growing easy annuals from seed.
Turning to vegetable plants, getting someone else to grow your pepper or tomato plants makes sense, as many people simply don’t have the facilities to grow them, but carrots (four for $4.35 from the gardenharvestsupply (dot com) or, from the same company three “German Giant Heirloom radish plants” for $4.35! Of all veg., growing radishes from seed has to be the easiest. Apart from anything else, like the sheer stupidity of paying over a dollar a root, is the unsustainability of all this: the compost, the pots, all the packaging, the fuel for the UPS truck; all those resources that goes into sending this nonsense.
Many vegetables and salad crops bolt very quickly as a reaction to stress, so sending them through the post to grow at home or even buying them from the local garden centre can be pretty counterproductive. So imagine my horror last year, when down at the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Rosemoor in Devon, I find pots of mizuna seedlings for sale, can’t remember how much; but – separate those seedlings and they are going to instantly bolt, and your little seedling mizuna might garnish a sandwich and no more. Selling plants that are bound to fail is bound to discourage the novice gardener.
It gets worse. The Tasteful Garden dot com sell arugula/rocket seedlings, “at least two plants in each pot” for, $5.95. Yes, nearly $3 each for the crop which after the radish, has to be the easiest seed to germinate, and which with a bit of summer heat (and they have quite a lot in the land of the dollar) gives up growing leaves and bolts, fast.
Breathtaking daylight robbery some of this. And sad, when so much growing from seed is so easy, and so life-affirming and empowering.

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Home decor

Neutral Fall Farmhouse Tablescape

It’s finally Friday and I am so ready for the weekend!  October was such a busy month and November and December, well, we all know how those two months will go.

Entertaining season is here friends!  Time to gather around the dinner table with family and friends and early autumn is the ideal time to plan a relaxed gathering under the stars.  And for all my ladies that prefer a softer and neutral autumn color palette, I got you covered.  This romantic and inviting fall table is simple yet bursting with lots of charm.  

Today, I am excited to share that this Soft tone Fall Farmhouse table has been featured on the Romantic Homes website.  I invite you to visit their beautiful website to read the full article and to enjoy all the pretty content that they share.

Try these simple decorating tips to create your own inviting and romantic fall farmhouse table.

Set Your Table Outdoors

There is nothing more beautiful and inspiring than nature.  For that reason, I often treat of our backyard as another room in which I can entertain in.  And while the temperature allows, I set most of our dinner parties.  So take your delicate linens, pretty dinnerware, mason jars and flowers outside – add some candlelight for ambiance and enjoy the colorful view.

Keep It Neutral

A neutral color palette always adds an element of romance to a table.  It makes such a statement on its own.  Choose dinner plates, glassware, linens and flowers in neutral tones to keep the tone of your table soft and understated.
For this table, I selected a simple cream linen tablecloth.  To add that bit of a farmhouse feel, I layered a gray and ivory gingham check table runner on top of the tablecloth.  Pink ruffled napkins add a subtle touch of color and loveliness.

Bring In The Seasonal Touches

Introduce seasonal touches to your table by simply adding accent plates, decorative pieces and flowers that reflect the seasons transformation.  Just be sure to select objects that are neutral in color.  My seasonal item for this table was a salad plate with the word gather across its center and gracefully decorated with a lovely wheat motive around the perimeter of the plate.  A simple addition that contributes to the poetic composition of soft colors, beauty and rustic elegance of this table.

Use Your Collectibles

Ironstone pitchers are a fun and interesting way to add height, shape and a country feel to your table.  Plus you can use them to serve water, wine, or any cold beverage that you want to serve.  Selecting these components is enjoyable and a great way to display your collections.
Add Autumn Flowers
Autumn offers some of the prettiest lush flowers and rich tones.  But in early fall, hydrangeas are at their finest. I often cut a few from our garden for drying and preserve.  They are as love as any you can purchase.  They are beautiful, unfussy and perfectly pleasing.  Take a cue from nature and, fill your favorite vase with a bunch of delicate petaled and soft tones hydrangeas, ranunculus, roses or branches.

Relax and Have Fun
Part of setting a table is the enjoyment that I get from the entire process.  From selecting the occasion, inviting guests, planning my theme, selecting a menu, choosing my linens, dinnerware, flowers.  You get it!  But beyond that, entertaining is about enjoying your guests and creating new memories.  Your family and friends will love you just for making the effort, so don’t fuss over the details – Relax and enjoy the moment.

Thank you for spending a few minutes of your day with me.  I am so glad that you stopped by.

Wishing you a fantastic autumn season…  Happy entertaining friends!

Janet Collazo
Rosemary & Thyme

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Gardener Abuse

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Gardeners are underpaid. We all know that. They are also often not understood. All too often I have been involved professionally with a garden where garden staff are employed but those employing them only have the dimmest idea of what they do and even less of why they do it. Garden staff, of course, work outside – so tend to be in isolation from both any other staff employed or their employers. They work with living things in an environment which is never predictable, and which inevitably remains mysterious to those employing them. 
Of course people who are employed, outside, doing things which remain a mystery, they will get asked to do other things, which appear to those in charge to be a) more urgent, and b) less of a mystery. In my experience of working with both large garden owners and gardeners I have come across too many examples of what could be called ‘gardener abuse’. This takes many forms.
In many cases this abuse is exacerbated by the problems caused by employers with TMM (Too Much Money). Just because someone has been very successful in their particular field, i.e. has made a pile, in no way reflects on their abilities in any other field. The extremely successful/wealthy are often dysfunctional and chaotic in fields other than that in which they have succeeded – indeed are often more so, or they marry dysfunctional and chaotic people, or employ likewise. Having lots of money and being D&C can produce some pretty spectacular results.
General Dogsbody
Its winter and there are pile of chairs in the great hall that need moving back into storage after that wedding party. There can’t be anything useful the gardener is doing. Get him to move them. Ditto painting, odd DIY.
As any gardener can tell you, there are plenty of things to do in winter. Try telling the average employer-of-a-gardener that and their eyes begin to glaze over. You can see they don’t believe you.
Waste Disposal
Gardens are big places, often big enough to bury, or at least hide, large quantities of unwanted building materials or other debris, which the local authority rather inconsiderately charge for removing. And of course there is the gardener who, because he/she spends all their time outside knows the best places to bury or hide them. Or burn them. I once had dealings with a nursing home (since closed down) where one of the gardener’s weekly jobs was to take away and burn all the old incontinence nappies from the residents. Yes, really.
Vehicle management
One thing those afflicted by TMM tend to do is to buy too many cars. These need to be taken out every now and again and ‘exercised’, though not as much as horses of course. Some gardeners quite enjoy taking the Bentley out for a spin every now and again, but it is not exactly horticulture. Sometimes it all gets a bit too much. I once visited a garden where, in an out of the way corner, I came across a Hummer parked next to a Ferrari: all their tyres were flat, they were covered in leaves, and grass was beginning to grow on the tarmac around them.
Animal Husbandry
The gardener is outside all the time, as are the animals, so it seems reasonable enough for the former to look after the latter. Not all the time of course, just sometimes. Animals are sometimes bought and installed without much thinking through basic welfare provision, like access to water or food; inevitably it is the gardener who notices and has to deal with the situation. Animals tend to escape and if they are sheep or horses, tend to gravitate to the nice juicy vegetables or tasty perennials which the gardener has responsibility for, necessitating the gardener spending rather more time on fencing than gardening.
Packing the children off to boarding school may strike the rest of us as callous (and is something which tends to horrify non-Brits), but at least (these days) they are kept amused, safe and stimulated at school. Not always so if they are at home, especially home and alone. I sometimes think that many of the children of the extremely wealthy are so neglected there should be a charity especially for them, a bit like the charities that have been established in India to look after the children of drug-addicted western hippies. So it is the gardener they hang around, either because they are the only other human being on the premises, or because the housekeeper has had enough of them hanging around their ankles and sent them outside. Fine, if they can be gotten interested in what the gardener is doing and in some cases this can be the beginning of a great gardening life, but not so fine if they can’t be. Or, if they are, as I have heard more than once, “psychotic spoiled brats” who actually have to be supervised if they are not to wreak havoc.
Actually this is not so much a problem for the gardener, as the garden designer or consultant, who is more likely to be seen as a social equal and therefore someone who one can pour out one’s problems to, especially if one is a neglected spouse (let’s face it, usually a wife), abandoned in a vast house, with no neighbours in sight, with a load of responsibility you never wanted (managing the gardener for a start) and an overstocked drinks cabinet.
Garden Design
The distinctions between what a garden designer does and a gardener does are pretty hazy to people who don’t really know what goes on outside anyway. The gardener comes in every day, plants stuff, grows stuff, they can do something with that new bit half way up the drive can’t they? One could get a designer in, but that would be expensive, better get the gardener to do it.
The other side of the story
There are the lucky few who garden for employers who they almost never see, but who pay them well, resource the garden well, let them plant what they want and trust them with property while they are away (which is most of the time). The gardener may feel a bit unappreciated but if they have the run of an enormous house, can have their friends round every now and again, have lots of expensive kit to charge around the acres in, who can complain?
Then there are the employers who are dedicated gardeners themselves, who work their socks off, the ones who go to parties painfully aware of the dirt beneath their fingernails they can’t quite get out, but who are afflicted by hopeless gardeners, who came with good references and solid CVs, who interviewed well, but are actually…. well what do they do all day? Sacking them is difficult because of employment protection legislation. 
Finally, there are those, not that common, but oh so wonderful when you do come across them, employer-gardener relationships which are truly synergistic: mutual trust, shared interest, goals you both agree on and understand. These have made some of the very best gardens.

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Home decor

Gather Round The Table Thanksgiving Tablescape Blog Hop

Hello everyone.  It’s time for our Thanksgiving tablescape round up and I am beyond excited to be  joining 21 fellow bloggers for this fun blog hop.  Our talented friend Amber of Follow The Yellow Brick Home is the person behind this delightful round up that is guaranteed to be filled with a plethora of tabletop ideas and inspiration from this brilliant group of bloggers that Amber brought together for us.  If you are coming over from Angelina at Petite Haus, welcome!  I am so glad that you are here!  Make sure to check out all the links at the bottom of my post for more beautiful Thanks giving tables.
Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday because it is family – Gathering around the table, catching up with our families and being thankful for all of our blessings.  The world just seems to fade away for those few hours that we’re all gathered around the dinner table.  It’s all about the well-seasoned turkey, tasty gravy and plentiful sides. And for the ultimate holiday treat, my Mom’s flan, which no family gathering can be without!  For me, the ultimate gift is seeing everyone eating, laughing and enjoying each others company.  There is no bigger blessing sweet friends!   

Today, I am excited to share my “Alfresco Thanksgiving Table”.  It is a traditional table that is bursting with charm, color and lots of textures.  From the striking centerpiece to the eye-catching place cards at each place setting, these neutral and inviting colors are a delightful way to celebrate the holiday and a sure way to make your guests want to linger a little longer.

Because Thanksgiving is such a special holiday for me, I like to make the occasion truly unforgettable.  That doesn’t mean going full-on fancy.  Although it may seem that way!  You can achieve a sophisticated and elegant look with everyday dishes and pieces you already own.  In fact, the only items I purchased to style this table were the fresh autumn vegetables and a small bunch of hydrangeas!  

And because the weather was still warm and the skies were so beautiful, I decided to bring our dinner party outdoors.  We truly got lucky!  I couldn’t ask for a more glorious backdrop.
Nothing says this is a special occasion like a beautiful pressed tablecloth and napkins.  Don’t be afraid to bring out your pretty linens.  New or vintage, these will set the tone for your table.  In addition to the tablecloth, include a table runner for a pop of color.

Use Place Mats.  I love using these Willow Chargers from Pottery Barn.  They anchor the place setting, add visual interest and texture.

You don’t need fancy china.  Of course you can if that is what you want to use.  After all it is Thanksgiving but pretty white dishes can be just as stylish and fancy. These delicate and beautifully proportioned white plates are my current obsession.  

Go the extra mile and add a pretty napkin ring or handmade place card.  For this place setting, I made these lovely place cards using a rubber stamp with the message “Have A Joyful Thanksgiving”.  An element of surprise that will make every guests feel special.  (I will share this fun and easy DIY this weekend.)

And don’t forget the centerpiece.  This can be as simple as using harvest vegetables.  They will look beautiful, add color, are inexpensive and can become part of a another meal.  Tuck in a some fresh flowers and greens from to add a bit of texture.

This is the time to bring out your pretty glassware and flatware.  Use your copper mugs, colored glassware, vintage pieces.  Mix your metals!  They are all welcomed at this table.

Candles are key for creating ambiance.  Add a few votive candle holders, and pillars to add warmth.

I hope I have inspired you to create your own Thanksgiving table.  It doesn’t have to be complicated!  Basic white plates, simple linens and fresh produce, can help you create your own little masterpiece.

Thank you for your visit.  May you all have a most beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving.  Next up on the blog hop is Judith of Botanic Bleu.  Be sure to give her a visit too for more pretty tabletop inspiration.


An InLinkz Link-up

Follow The Yellow Brick HomePoofing The PillowsA Stroll Thru LifeOur Southern Home

My Thrift Store AddictionLet’s Add SprinklesThe Painted HingeBelle Bleu Interiors

Art and Sand| Virginia Sweet PeaDebbee’s BuzzWhite Arrows Home

The Crowned GoatLora BloomquistBeauty For Ashes| County Road 407Decorate and More with Tip

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