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These are the flavors that I crave when the fall holidays roll around. I wanted to start looking into some ways that I could prepare for my upcoming festivities, but still bring in the flavors and garnishes from my garden. I love me a Sage Sidecar, but found this amazing recipe where the bartender included roasted pineapple calling it Roasted Pineapple and Sage Sidecar Martini. Doesn’t it just look so divine!!

Roasted Pineapple Sage Sidecar (Image credit: The Express-Times)

Roasted Pineapple Sage Sidecar (Image credit: The Express-Times)

The trick to this recipe is that she infuses the brandy with sage meaning that she added a bunch of sage leaves and let them steep in the brandy for 2 to 3 days, but she warns us to remove the leaves before 4 or 5 days have passed. Another way this cocktail is set apart is by roasting pineapple coated with brown sugar in the oven. Oh, I can just smell it now!! In my post, 5 Must-Have Herbs for a Cocktail Garden, I talk about infusing vodka with rosemary and lavender. Make sure to check it out!

Another way to add depth of flavor to your favorite cocktails is by creating infused simple syrup. Simple syrups are very easy to make – one part water to one part sugar. You can infuse it with a variety of different ingredients such as thyme, ginger or lavender. It’s really up to you!! With this cocktail called Fall Classic, the creator infuses syrup simple with thyme and it pairs lovely with apple brandy and ciders.

Fall Classic - A Shout to Apple Season (Image Credit: Serious Eats)

Fall Classic – A Shout to Apple Season (Image Credit: Serious Eats)

Or what about making this Fall Classic cocktail and serving it in a glass that everyone at the party will just love and think you are so absolutely creative.

Carved apple as a creative cup. (Image Credit: Savour the Senses)

Carved apple as a creative cup. (Image Credit: Savour the Senses)

Both thyme and sage could be used as a garnish in the above two cocktails, but when I think of rosemary its garnish quality really stands out. It is wonderful for infusing liquors and syrups, but I love its elegant nature in a martini glass. Look how beautiful it acts in its role as an olive skewer for this Olive-Rosemary martini.

Rosemary Skewer for Olives (Image Credit: Martha Stewart)

Rosemary Skewer for Olives (Image Credit: Martha Stewart)

But after looking at all the recipes, this one had my head spinning!! An Adult S’more Cocktail! With the weather cooling, it is absolutely the right time of year to be roasting marshmallows by the fireside, but with this recipe no fire is needed! How perfect is that!

Amazing!! Adult S'more Cocktail (Image credit: Party Style)

Amazing!! Adult S’more Cocktail (Image credit: Party Style)

Y’all have a fabulous time picking out which recipe you will be sharing with friends and family this season. Just make sure to be safe and have a DD when necessary. Cheers and here’s to finding ways to celebrate the garden in every single season.

Carmen

Gardenias are as southern as sweet tea. Their pleasant sweet aroma is so intoxicating and adds quite the dimension to any garden. However, this gem is only hardy to zones 7 to 9. Don’t know what hardiness zone you are in? Well, here is a nifty tool to give you exactly that information. Gardenias are actually a member of the coffee family, Rubiaceae, and they are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Southern Asia. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus after Dr. Alexander Garden, who was a Scottish-American naturalist.

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms - Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms – Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a new gardenia called Jubilation™ from the Southern Living Plant Collection. It’s an improvement on the southern classic by only getting 3 to 4 feet tall and wide as well as blooming when other gardenias have stopped. Jubilation will bloom heaviest in the spring with re-blooming in the summer and fall. It would prefer to be planted in full sun to partial shade. Full sun is considered to be 6 plus hours of UV light and part shade is considered to be 4 to 6 hours. It is important to know what type of light your garden is getting so that your plants are successful where they are living. If not, it could cause additional work down the road.

Spring or Fall are the best times to plant shrubs because it is hard to keep them constantly moist in the summer with the heat and humidity. When planting gardenias, you will want to make sure that your garden soil is a bit acidic (pH of 7 or lower – 5 to 6 preferred). Many garden centers will do a pH test on your soil – make sure to call and ask some of your favorites. Local extensions also sometimes provide this service. If neither is available, your soil may be test with an inexpensive pH test kit available at garden centers and sometime hardware stores. It is very simple to use by reading the directions on the packaging. If your soil is not acid enough, lime can be applied to lower your soil pH. Using mulch will help tremendously because as it breaks down it will add acidity to improve the soil.

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit - Southern Living Plants

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit – Southern Living Plants

When planting your gardenia, you will want to make sure your hole is twice as wide as the container. At the bottom of the hole, place some high-acid granulated fertilizer and mix with the dirt. Then place your gardenia in the hole, back filling all the dirt. Making sure the entire root ball is planted. Then in the spring, go ahead and pull back the mulch and sprinkle a little of the high-acid fertilizer around the base of the plant and mix it into the soil. By fertilizing every spring it will make your gardenia bloom at top performance.

This evergreen loves well-drained soil and will grow moderately to fast. If pruning is necessary, make sure to do so after it has bloomed in the spring; if done later in the season flower buds make be removed and next year’s flower performance may not be as strong. The birds and butterflies will love you for planting this beauty in your garden and so will your nose!

Here’s to adding more fragrance to every garden,

Carmen

Building a container garden is as simple as 1-2-3! I have a theory of what makes for the most beautiful container gardens. It is called the Triangle Theory. The elements to this theory are that you have a tall plant, a thick plant and a trialing plant that are arranged to form a triangle in your container illustrated by the diagram below:

Some examples of tall plants for the sun include:

Cordyline, Purple Fountain Grass, Gaura (Perennial), Canna and Victoria Salvia

Canna Lilies are great for thriller in containers. Clockwise from top: Tropicanna Gold, 'Tropical Bronze Scarlet', Tropicanna and 'Tropical Rose' Canna.

Canna Lilies are great as thrillers in containers. Clockwise from top: Tropicanna Gold, ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’, Tropicanna and ‘Tropical Rose’ Canna.

Tall plants for the shade include:

Caladium, Coleus and Upright Fuchsia such as the variety Gartenmeister

Here is a great example of a shade container where Coleus is used as the thriller. This variety is called Red Kong.

Here is a great example of a shade container where Coleus is used as the thriller. This variety is called Red Kong.

Caladium is an excellent choice for a thriller when designing containers for shade.

Caladium is an excellent choice for a thriller when designing containers for shade.

Thick plants for sun include:

Heuchera (Perennial), Superbells Calibrachoa (my favorites are Cherry Star and Dreamsicle), Sunpatiens and Diamond Frost Euphorbia. The Calibrachoa and Euphorbia act as a 2-for-1 plant because they perform as the thick and trialing plant when used in containers.

Clockwise from top: 'Lime Marmalade' closeup, beautiful sun container with Heuchera as the thick plant, and 'Midnight Rose' with its unique purple leaves speckled in magenta.

Clockwise from top: ‘Lime Marmalade’ foliage, beautiful sun container with Heuchera as the thick plant, and ‘Midnight Rose’ with its unique purple leaves speckled in magenta.

Thick plants for the shade include:

Dragon Wing Begonias, Non-stop Begonias, New Guinea Impatiens and Impatiens

Non-Stop Begonias add a HUGE pop of color for the shade. This variety is Non-Stop Mocha Pink Shades.

Non-Stop Begonias add a HUGE pop of color for the shade. This variety is Non-Stop Mocha Pink Shades.

Trailing plants for the sun include:

Creeping Jenny (working in sun and shade – perennial), Angelina Sedum (perennial)

and Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia.

Creeping Jenny's golden foliage is so vibrant and beautiful in this container garden.

Creeping Jenny’s golden foliage is so vibrant and beautiful in this container garden.

Trailing plants for the shade include:

English Ivy, Torenia and Trialing Fuchsia

Trailing Fuchsia make the most absolutely gorgeous shade trailer in a container.

Trailing Fuchsia make the most absolutely gorgeous shade trailer in a container.

One of my secret tips for making containers look good all-season long is to use a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Bloom Booster (or a similar bud & bloom fertilizer) every two to three weeks. Think of fertilizer like a vitamin. When people take them regularly we perform better, the same is true for these living and breathing plants. With regular fertilizer, they will perform to their best ability.

Please remember that deadheading your plants is as important as fertilizing them. If faded flowers or seed pods are not removed from a plant it puts its energy into creating seeds and not flowers. Recently, I removed the seed pods from my fuchsia, fertilized them and they are pushing out new buds a few days later. I expect them to bloom well into our first frost. If you are unsure how to deadhead a particular plant, when shopping ask the staff at the garden center. They are sure to be able to help.

It is also very important to maintain the moisture in containers especially during times of drought. If it is really hot where you live, watering once every day may be necessary. A great way to tell is by sticking your finger in the container’s soil. If it is dry, your plants are sure to be thirsty, If wet, feel free to wait another day before watering. Many plants will show signs of dehydration such as puckering or browning on the leaves. Over watering can also be a huge issue. Remembering when creating your container garden that picking a larger container will help decrease the amount of time spend on watering. Since larger containers have more soil to retain moisture, they do not dry out as quickly as smaller containers.

With these simple and easy tips your container gardens should look stunning throughout the season.

Carmen

Check out my video on this very topic:

Click on the image to be linked to the video.

Click on the image to be linked to the video.

Whether it is your in-laws or your friends coming over for a visit this weekend, there are several quick and simple ideas to put a little pizzazz in your place before they arrive. Guess what! They all come from your garden. By adding special touches here and there, your guests will embrace your hospitality and enjoy their stay.

Nate Berkus, designer, TV Host and frequent past guest on Oprah states this: “There’s got to be some natural element (in a tablescape). A glass vase filled with sand and a candle, seashells that you picked up on the beach, and one framed photograph is a tablescape – and it’s not something you need to spend a lot of money on. Bring God’s work in, and make it your work.”

Let’s follow Nate’s lead and add some natural elements from our gardens to our interior décor. Here are 5 gorgeous ways from the garden to glam up for guests:

SIMPLE IDEA #1

Take small bud vases and disperse them around your house – in the guest bed and bathroom as well as the common areas of your home such as the living and dining rooms. Place small flowers such as Pinks (Dianthus) which is one of my favorites because it lasts so long as a cut flower. Sweet Peas, Azure Skies™ Heliotrope, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Shasta Daisies (Leucentheum), ‘Stars & Stripes’ Pentas, Lupine, Bee Balm (Monarda), Gaillardia or October Magic™ Camellia would all make excellent choices. A couple of the choices above would also add a sweet fragrance to your space. The idea is to just pick flowers that would be proportional to your vase. Typically, the bud vase will only be able to hold two to three flowers at the most, but it will make a big difference. Picking unique flowers like this ‘Chomley Farran’ Dianthus will draw attention to its beauty.

Beautiful 'Chomley Farran' Carnation in a bud vase in the living room.

Beautiful ‘Chomley Farran’ Carnation in a bud vase in the living room.

SIMPLE IDEA #2

This was a great idea that I saw on Pinterest and why no one hasn’t thought of it before is beyond me as it is so elegant and simple. Say you don’t have coasters, well the solution for your problem is simple. Go out to your garden and pick a couple beautiful Hosta leaves. The leaves have a waxy coating causing water to pearl up and acts as a perfect coaster, however at the same time adding sophistication to your living space. There are several varieties of Hostas that have gorgeous variegated leaves such as ‘Autumn Frost’, ‘Blue Ivory’, ‘Captain Kirk’ and many more.

'Autumn Frost' Hosta leaves make for perfect coasters.

‘Autumn Frost’ Hosta leaves make for perfect coasters.

SIMPLE IDEA #3

Pick out recipes that highlight herbs from your garden such as something as simple as roasted redskin potatoes with rosemary, a caprese salad using basil and tomatoes freshly picked or lavender lemonade to cool off on a hot day. Herbs are perfect to enhance a dishes flavors as well as garnish. Remember we always eat with our eyes first and by adding something fresh at the end just gives it that final touch. Plus serving friends and family the harvest from your garden is one of the best feelings in the world. Sharing the taste of freshly picked herbs, vegetables and fruits is a moment to be cherished.

Use herbs to garnish dishes where that herb is included in the recipe.

Use herbs to garnish dishes where that herb is included in the recipe.

SIMPLE IDEA #4

Creating a stunning centerpiece for the dining room table can be as simple as going out to your garden and picking some Camellia, Dahlia or any flowers that have star quality. When selecting which flowers to use, those that have a flat back float more gracefully. Feel free to mix and match the flowers to have a vibrant color assortment. Coordinating the colors with your table linens will add a polished look.

Float Roses, Shasta Daisies and Dahlias for a fresh and fragrant decoration.

Float Roses, Shasta Daisies and Dahlias for a fresh and fragrant decoration.

SIMPLE IDEA #5

Why not get some garden chores done at the same time as decorating for your upcoming guests? Do your Hydrangeas need a shear after they have bloomed or maybe that tree out front needs to have some branches pruned away? Make sure to not throw those garden trimmings away! Hydrangeas make absolutely gorgeous cut flowers and they dry perfectly while being in a vase. Simple cut your Hydrangea blooms at the height that would compliment your vase, add a small amount of water that will evaporate during the drying process and place in whatever room needs a pop of color. They will dry beautifully. Those branches from your tree out front will add a wonderful vertical element in floor vases that will last for years to come.

Hydrangeas add a pop of color to any room and make lovely dried flowers.

Hydrangeas add a pop of color to any room and make lovely dried flowers.

Like Nate Berkus said “Decorating is not something you need to spend a lot of money on.” It is as simple as going for a walk in the garden and collecting some color along the way. Here’s to celebrating the outdoors inside with our family and friends. Cheers!

Carmen

Source: Quote from Nate Berkus: http://yourdecoratinghotline.com/style-quotes/

As the mercury climbs for most of the country, my mind daydreams of sitting in the shade with a cool and refreshing cocktail in my hand. What do cocktails have to do with gardening you ask? Everything! “Garden to glass” is a huge trend taking place for mixologists across the country and by adding a couple herbs to your garden beds you can mix up your own favorite drinks for the summer. There are several herbs that can take your cocktail from blah to ta-daa. Take mint, for instance, without it what would a mojito do? The drink would fall flat and just be plain boring, but with mint it screams summer and digging your toes in the beach sand. Here are 5 herbs that you should consider for your garden to accessorize all your summertime cocktails:

Mint

Now there are several different varieties of mint – chocolate, orange, mojito, pineapple, spearmint and peppermint to name a few. Smell and taste the different kinds that you prefer. Mint can be used in all kinds of cocktails from mint juleps to mojitos. When growing mint, make sure to place it in a container as the plant is very vigorous when placed in the ground and can be very difficult to get rid of in the future; if you desire. It’s a great plant for the beginning gardeners because it thrives. It is happiest when planted in partial sun/shade (4+ hours of UV rays) and kept moist. That means that using a large container would be an excellent idea as it won’t dry out as quickly as something smaller.

Close-up of Mint leaves

Close-up of Mint leaves

Thyme

Again there is a number to choose from, but I prefer the variegated version (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Variegata’) as the leaves look gorgeous in the garden. Thyme is wonderful to flavor simple syrups that can be used in cocktail recipes. It makes for an exquisite garnish as well. The recipe below – Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a splash of vodka makes for an excellent refreshing cocktail in the summer. Thyme is a perennial and prefers full sun (6+ hours of UV rays) with well-drained soil. It is a very easy-to-grow plant and holds its leaves in the winter; making it perfect to flavor soups and stews during the cold months. A very well-rounded herb to add to the garden.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary

These two herbs in combination make the most lovely infused vodka. Just add 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender per 3 cups of vodka and the cocktails recipes are endless from a simple vodka martini or tonic to a Mary Rose Martini, Tea Tini or Vanilla Rose.

Lavender is a perennial, if grown in USDA zone 6 or higher. (Find your zone, here). In zone 5, plants may overwinter, but it depends on the variety and weather conditions during the winter. Lavender prefers to be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. It is extremely drought resistant once established. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are considered to be two of the hardiest English varieties.

Rosemary is quite easy-to-grow and fairly low maintenance. Loves full sun with extreme tolerance to high heat. Prefers dry soil, but should be placed in a container to bring indoors if not gardening in zones 7 to 10. If you garden in these zones, Rosemary will overwinter well. The hardiest varieties being ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Albiflorus’ (or sometimes referred to as ‘Albus’).

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lemon Verbena

Lemon is one of my all-time favorite flavors. Lemon verbena can be used much like mint and mottled for a cocktail. This Lemon Verbena Spring Fling cocktail sounds very similar to a mojito, but full of my favorite flavors. I’m sure the gin could be substituted with vodka or rum. The key in growing lemon verbena is good drainage, like annual verbena, it prefers to be dry compared to wet. So take care and do not overwater. Giving it an organic fertilizer every four weeks will greatly enhance its growth as it will the other herbs listed above. When planted in full sun it yields the best vigor and most flavorful leaves. Place it where you brush by it to send a beautiful, citrus fragrance into the air. Lemon verbena will overwinter in zones 8 and higher with extra mulch for protection during the cold months and remaining dry during these months is key.

Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Close-up of Lemon Verbena leaves. Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Let’s celebrate summertime with this wonderful recipe from Real Simple Magazine:

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade

Boil 1 cup sugar, 8 thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and discard the thyme sprigs. Combine the thyme simple syrup, 1 quart strawberries (hulled and sliced), 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 5 cups of water in a large pitcher. Chill for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). Strawberry flavor intensifies the longer it is chilled. Serve over ice, garnished with additional thyme sprigs. Splash of vodka is optional.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

I hope that you will join me in the “garden to glass” movement and add some of these flavorful herbs to your garden to enjoy with your next summertime cocktail.

Cheers!

Want to turn a strawberry jar into something that can be used for entertaining? Then when you’re guests ask you where you got this fabulous piece – you can let them know that you made it yourself! Here’s what you will need for this DIY project:

– An Iron Table Top

– A Large Strawberry Jar (24″ tall x 22″ wide)

– 2 bags of Pine Bark (1.5 lb)

– 2 bags of Potting Soil (1.5 lb)

– 9 – 4″ plants including 2 Thyme, 2 Trailing Rosemary, 5 Decorative plants including 2 Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia and 3 Creeping Jenny (feel free to substitute)

– 4 wooden folding chairs

– 36″ round piece of glass (optional)

Instructions:

First take your pine bark and put it into the bottom of the strawberry jar. Doing this ensures proper drainage and reduces the cost of the project because you are able to buy less potting soil. After you have filled the strawberry jar up part way, add your potting soil. You want to make sure to select a potting soil (instead of compost) with a time-released fertilizer, which will really help your plants perform. Feeding the soil into the side cups is an important step for planting.

Carmen & Lacey adding pine bark first to the bottom of the container.

Carmen & Lacey adding pine bark first to the bottom of the container.

The next easy step is to get the herbs and flowers planted. Start with the plants that you will be putting in the side cups. For ours, we have selected Thyme, Trailing Rosemary (Rosemarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’), and Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia. By selecting herbs, it will add a beautiful fragrance while you are enjoying outdoor meals with family and friends. Before planting the herbs, ripe off half of the root ball to make sure they are small enough to fit into the side cups. Don’t be afraid to do this – herbs are resilient and will recuperate quickly. To not overcrowd and give your plants plenty of space to grow, using 4″ plants will be just right for this project.

Simply go all the way around your strawberry jar until every side cup is planted rotating between the herbs and flowering plants. Make sure each cup is filled to the top with soil. After a week of watering, double-check that the soil level is the same as when it was first planted as it tends to escape. If not, add more soil to the side cups to ensure a healthy home for your plants.

Rotate your herbs and flowering plants when filling side cups.

Rotate your herbs and flowering plants when filling side cups.

When planting the top of your strawberry jar, make sure the soil is about 2″ below the rim. Take your Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) and plant it in the top. This is a great trailing plant and won’t grow very high; making it the perfect plant for this project. Three plants are plenty to fill the top planting because it will fill in very quickly.

Three Creeping Jenny will work great for this project.

After everything is planted, give your container garden a good drink of water. Now it is time to enjoy your beautiful container garden as a table. Place four, inexpensive folding chairs around it, add the iron table top and its time to have a garden party! If you would like, add a 36″ round piece of glass to the top of your table when entertaining for a finished look and remove it when guests have gone home.

Your beautiful finished project – a gorgeous, patio table with an container garden as the base.

Invite some friends over for a garden cocktail party and show off your new work of art. Enjoy!

Carmen

Here’s a video to show the simplicity of the project!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3I9U90S8lc]