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Refreshed my annual beds this season with ‘Liberty Classic™ White’ Snaps, ‘Sorbet Purple’ Violas, and ‘Delta Premium Light Blue’ Pansies. Perfect for a sunny location and be sure to water at least twice a week. Plant snaps towards the back and violas and pansies towards the front for a layered effect. Many gardeners don’t realize that snapdragons actually prefer cooler temperatures; so they are great varieties to pick for early spring and fall plantings. They can tolerate cold temperatures into the 40’s. Here is a great article from the horticulturist at Mississippi State University on the topic. Can’t wait for spring…50 bulbs are hiding in the ground and can’t wait to show off their color.

Nov 16 GGBD

In Georgia, we just experienced our first frost for the season. Like many gardeners, I am preparing my garden for spring and looking for ways to use the produce that I have still growing and green tomatoes are in abundance. Yes, there is always the traditional fried green tomato recipes, but I wondered what else could be done with these beautiful fruit. My mind instantly went to interior decorating ideas and came up with this beautiful display below.

Green tomatoes add a beautiful constant to your orange and white pumpkins.

Green tomatoes add a beautiful contrast to your orange and white pumpkins.

 

Then, of course, my mind goes to something sweet I could make with them and I found the perfect solution – Green Tomato Pie – filled with the fragrant spices of the fall.

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Green Tomato Pie – Quick, Simply and Easy

 

Here is what you will need for this recipe:

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca

1 lemon, zested

2 lbs. green tomatoes, 1/4 inch-thick slices

1/2 c. golden raisins

2 tbsp. lemon juice

4 tbsp. butter

2 premade refrigerated pie crusts, Pillsbury or your favorite brand

Pick 2 lbs. of green tomatoes from your garden. Even if the plants aren’t looking the best – the fruit is still worth saving.

Perfectly edible!

Perfectly edible!

 

Wash tomatoes and slice them to be 1/4 inch-thick. There is just something so elegant and beautiful about a green tomato – don’t you think?

Slice tomatoes to 1/4 inch-thickness

Slice tomatoes to 1/4 inch-thickness

 

Now prepare your sugar and spice mixture to dredge your tomatoes in. Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, tapioca and lemon zest into a bowl. Using freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg brings this pie to a whole another dimension in taste. This can easily be done by using a microplane as shown in the images below.

Freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest at a HUGE pop of favor.

Freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest at a HUGE pop of favor.

 

Now it’s time to get your pie crust ready! You shouldn’t need to grease your pie dish because of the butter in the dough, but putting some non-stick spray on won’t hurt. For this time-starved girl, premade is the way to go, but if you want to make your own dough – go for it! The recipe link is at the bottom of this post!

Pre-made pie crust is this busy girl's short cut.

Pre-made pie crust is this busy girl’s short cut.

 

Next dredge your tomato slices in your spice mixture and lay in the crust like below.

Drench tomatoes in spice mixture and place in crust.

Dredge tomatoes in spice mixture and place in crust.

 

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. After all tomatoes are placed in the crust top with 1/2 c. golden raisins and 4 tbsp. of butter cut into slices.

Feel free to substitute regular raisins, dried cranberries or cherries here as well.

Feel free to substitute regular raisins, dried cranberries or cherries here as well.

 

Then top with the remaining crust.

I can taste it already!

I can taste it already!

 

Pierce top of pie with fork in several places for air to escape. Reduce oven temp to 400 degrees after placing pie in. Bake for 30 minutes. Check periodically – if edges of crust are starting to get over done. Place a tinfoil collar around the edges. After 30 minutes of baking, brush crust with heavy cream (or an egg wash) and sprinkle with course sugar. Bake for another 30 minutes. It is also a good idea to place a tinfoil-wrapped cookie pan below the pie to catch any juices that leak out or having an oven liner is ideal and makes for easy cleanup.

To me, this pie tasted just like an apple pie and full of fall favors. I hope you will give it a try!

Enjoy!!

Enjoy!!

 

Original recipe from Food Network

In the South, football is a religious experience. If you’ve ever visited the South during the fall, you have more than likely experienced two things: college football and the tailgating that precedes every game. To show respect for your favorite team in true, southern fashion, it is imperative that your home reflects the spirit of the game.

An easy way to incorporate your game day pride in your interior décor is with container gardens full of flowers sporting your team’s festive colors. Violas and Pansies are available in just about any color – making it easy for you to find the perfect match.

Fun items to help create this look:

  • Galvanized trough/bucket
  • Soil
  • Team pennants
  • Team color pom-poms
  • Violas and Pansies in your team’s color

This container is a tad bit larger than usual, about 5 feet in length and 2 feet wide, and could easily be done on a smaller scale.

First fill half the container with bark because during the cooler months your plant will not need as much soil to grow. Plus it will save money on buying all that potting soil. The bark will make the container somewhat lighter, but putting wheels on the bottom, like we do, is a great way to move them around.

Next fill the other half of the container with soil. I prefer to use potting soil for mine and it is definitely worth the extra cost. The better the soil, the better the overall look of the container.

Potting Soil

Now it is time to select a color scheme that shows off your team spirit. For my example, I chose to create a container that represents Georgia’s red, white, and black pride. I used white flowers so to fully capture the Bulldog spirit I layered in some fun, game day pieces.

Tip: Repeat the same colors for the most impact

By using plants that come in larger pots you get instant gratification without the extra work. So as far as plants are concerned, the bigger the better! In a single line, place three of the White Cool Wave™ Pansy hanging baskets in the center of your container.

Planting Basket

Fill in the empty spaces with the 1 gallon, or pint size, white pansies.

planting gallon

Lastly, for additional texture, fill in the empty spaces with white Snow Princess® Lobularia.

Tip: After arranging all of the flowers, be sure to add more soil around your plants so that they do not dry out.

For even more game day fun, we had a local sign maker create these awesome outdoor pennants that we screwed onto the top of stakes that we purchased from Home Depot. Then we finished off our containers with pom-poms and other fun flare.

Finished GA

Below are a few other game day containers we rallied up.

GA Tech

The perfect play for a container garden win with Yellow Cool Wave™ Pansies

Alabama

To guarantee a floral victory – Penny Red blotch violas!

Florida

For a perfect score with your game day garden – Sorbet Orange Violas and Million Bells® Crackling Fire Calibrachoa.

Hope your favorite team comes out victorious this season!

Carmen

I love this time of year! The leaves turning, the smell of fall in the air and one of my all-time favorite ingredients comes into season – PUMPKIN. We had a beautiful pack of pumpkins growing until a furry rodent (i.e. squirrel) got into the patch. Oh well! That is a part of gardening – isn’t that right?!?

Capture

 

This year, I will have to make due with some store bought pumpkins. When shopping for pumpkins (or planting them), you want to select varieties that are specifically bred for cooking. Smaller varieties have a denser flesh with a smooth texture and higher sugar content. Traditional varieties that are commonly found at grocery stores include ‘Small Sugar’ and ‘New England Pie’. There are several newer varieties that are great for cooking, but may be harder to find at the grocery store, so growing them would be a better option, they include ‘Baby Pam’, ‘Autumn Gold’ and ‘Ghost Rider’. I selected ‘Small Sugar’ as that is what was available to me. Also when picking your pumpkins make sure there are no holes, cracks or soft spots – this is a sign the pumpkins are not fresh.

IMG_2349

Small Sugar Pumpkins

 

Now that we have selected our pumpkins, making puree is the simple part, but it takes some time. Here is the process for creating homemade pumpkin puree. I know that it takes extra time, but you will not be sorry. You can really tell the difference. The excellent thing about it is that it can be frozen and used in the future. Also pumpkin is perfect for baby food as it’s an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C.

Let’s get into the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting!! These are so good – I swear I was having a foodgasm while eating one. If you love pumpkin and cream cheese frosting – you will absolutely love this recipe.

IMG_2385

 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – makes 1.5 dozen

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c. homemade pumpkin puree or canned (do not use pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

1/2 tsp. of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 c. of all-purpose flour

1/2 c. of cake flour (can use all-purpose if not available)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 tbsp. ground ginger

1/4 tbsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. all spice

1/2 tsp. ground clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First cream softened butter in mixer using the paddle attachment. Then add brown sugar and blend until combined. Once incorporated, add all remaining wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla). I use vanilla bean paste as I find it more flavorful than extract. Mix until well combined.

Wet ingredients all mixed together

Wet ingredients all mixed together

 

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. I prefer to put the them through a sifter to remove all the lumps, but it also does a sufficient job of blending them together. Using freshly ground spices make the recipe more flavorful. However, I only used freshly ground nutmeg.

Run all dry ingredients through a sifter to remove lumps and to blend ingredients

Run all dry ingredients through a sifter to remove lumps and to blend ingredients

 

Once combined, add your dry ingredients to your mixer with the wet ingredients. Slowly mix your them together – so that flour doesn’t go all over the kitchen. Been there – done that! Do not over mix – just make sure it is well blended.

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together

 

Now there are two methods – either you can use a small scoop and place on a greased cookie sheet to make round whoopie pies or you can spread the dough to a nice layer on parchment paper or a jelly roll plan (or any pan that will allow you to form a thin layer). I choose to do this because I wanted to have my whoopie pies in the shape of pumpkins.

Spread dough thinly on parchment paper or put into a jelly roll pan

Spread dough thinly on parchment paper or put into a jelly roll pan

 

Place into preheated 350 oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Use a toothpick to check doneness. If not wet when removed, take out of oven and set to cool. Then cut into pumpkin shapes. Let pies cool before putting on cream cheese frosting.

Use cookie cutters to create whatever shape you desire

Use cookie cutters to create whatever shape you desire

 

Cream Cheese Frosting –

Only 4 ingredients for cream cheese frosting

Only 4 ingredients for cream cheese frosting

 

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

8 oz. low-fat cream cheese

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 1/4 c. powder sugar

Put all ingredients in a mixer and blend until thoroughly combined. I like to set my mixer on high so that the frosting has a lighter consistency, but this is up to your personal preference.

Whip ingredients til light and fluffy

Whip ingredients til light and fluffy

 

Try not to eat all the frosting before the whoopie pies have cooled.

Finished and delicious cream cheese frosting

Finished and delicious cream cheese frosting

 

Once pies have cooled. Use a pumpkin cookie cutter to get this holiday shape. Spread cream cheese frosting on one half to your desired thickness and top with another pumpkin whoopie pie. Serve!

IMG_2385

 

These make the perfect additional to any party taking place in the autumn season. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Carmen

Recipes modified from Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Cream Cheese Frosting

1015bloomday

Simple white lantana layered with blue fan scaevola provide everlasting color and blooms from summer to fall in my garden. Bold Magilla™ Purple Perilla gives my flower bed the perfect seasonal pop of color and finishing touches for fall. I am enjoying this bed every day and dreading the first frost.

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!