Independence Day is just a couple of weeks away and it is wonderful to watch our nation get into the holiday spirit. With flags everywhere and our nation’s colors on every piece of merchandise in stores, it is time for you to start planning your party or barbeque! Our team here at Carmen Johnston Gardens just loves this time of year as we celebrate the freedom our country represents and those who have worked so hard to make it possible. July 4th is the perfect chance to share this gratefulness with friends and family over good food and fireworks!


When we moved into the house we now live in, Tommy and I knew we had to create a space for entertaining our friends and family. For us, this area is just outside of our sunroom with a long table surrounded by rosemary, lavender, and a boxwood hedge. The best part is the view we have of our pond and the way our boxwoods frame the space. I firmly believe entertaining should not be a burden or challenge but should be something fun and easy so you can actually enjoy the event you plan. This belief is what makes me keep a few go-to party ideas on hand, so I don’t have to stress to make any event perfect. In today’s blog, I want to share some ideas for a July 4th themed table scape that will make any entertaining space ready for your friends and family!

I start with layering my table ware. Build a base with a classic and simple charger. I have a set of burled wood ones I got at an event long ago from Target! This season they have several wonderful and minimalistic options available for you to choose from- check out this link! Next, I use a set of blue and white melamine plates that I found at Tuesday Morning. I love melamine plates because they are versatile, easy to store, and best of all, are dishwasher safe. I am going let you in on a little secret with my choice in napkins. These dish towels from Ikea are my go-to for so many occasions…so much so that I own almost 100 of these! The reason I love them so much is for their simplicity, ability to go with so many things, their large size, and because of how cost effective they are! Lastly, I use a napkin holder from Two’s Company (link) to tie everything together. I love this specific one because they have a place to put a small amount of water to hold a bit of greenery or a flower. This adds a live component to your plate! At our home, we actually use our silver on a daily basis, rather than keeping it in a silver chest. This place setting is a great chance to break out your own silver as it lends a level of elegance to your setting.


Now, on to the floral arrangement! I used some gorgeous vases from Two’s Company (link) in groups down the table. Both the large and small blue and white vases have come from their store. These vases are a staple in my entertainment décor because they go with so much. Also, while I definitely advocate for using planters with plenty of drainage, these pots are great vases because they hold water and don’t have a hole in the bottom. In the large vases I placed blue hydrangeas. My tip for you when using hydrangeas in arrangements is to gather several blooms into a large ball and then use a zip tie to secure the stems. This helps them to stay in place especially if you are moving the arrangement from one place to another. The small vases each have several red dragon wing begonias in them. Both of these are very common garden flowers which makes them easy to find! I don’t have either of these growing in my garden this year, but I have a neighbor who does! I’ve been known as the “garden bandit” around our neighborhood but asking to borrow a few blooms is always a great way to supplement what you already have growing!


This tablespace only took me about 15 minutes after pulling all my supplies together and it was so easy to create! I love finding new ways to use some of my tried and true table staples and I am so excited to share my ideas with you! Tag us on Facebook and Instagram to show us the table settings you create! @carmenjohnstongardens

I have a huge affinity for window boxes in all shapes, sizes, and colors! They are very near and dear to my heart as they remind me of my childhood. My father is from Austria, and if you have ever been there or to other areas of Europe you probably noticed that window boxes play a strong role in the décor and personality of a structure. Growing up in Lawrenceville, Georgia, my dad brought his love of window boxes to our home and that memory has been with me ever since! We had window boxes on every window of our two-story house and my dad even welded a copper apparatus to water them! Each box’s key feature was red geraniums and I just remember looking out the window as a young girl and those red beauties being front and center.

A boatload of succulents!

The tall plant in the center is a Kimberly Queen Fern, the white flowers are white begonias, the trailing plant in the corner is called Jack Frost, and the green and white leaf plant is an Alexander the Great.

A window box can be a great way to easily frame a window and bring color to your home. We use them frequently on our client’s homes and the boxes on my own windows bring in gorgeous humming birds and butterflies! Below I have included a few of my favorite window boxes in all different shapes and colors coming from clients to our travels! Next, I want to share a few of my tried and true tips and tricks so you can have the perfect box this season!

Birds Nest Fern, holly ferns, and angel wing begonias make for a window box that loves the shade!

I wish I knew the names of each plant, but they are a fun and easy way to dress up any wall!

Tips from Me to You

  • Every box should have three types of plants- tall plants in the center, shorter plants as fillers, and a trailing plant to soften the edges. Some of my favorites are pink Angelonia (something tall), diamond frost and pink million bells (filler), and Cuban oregano (trailing).
  • Window boxes are small containers, so you need to maximize the space your plants have to grow. Don’t use rocks or pebbles at the bottom as they take up precious root space.
  • Add as much soil as you can to give your plants the most space
  • The bigger the box the better! Small pots turn into crockpots here in the south- they trap heat, killing your plants.
  • The tougher the plant the better, your box will be taking a lot of sun! The pictures below feature sturdy plants.
  • We love to build boxes for our clients because this way you can get the exact measurements you want. But if building isn’t your forte, check out these boxes from Home Depot.

The white lace-like flowers are lobelia, the pink ones are pink million bells, the green and white leaves are Cuban oregano, and the tall white flowers are diamond frost.

About two weeks ago as we walked onto the plane to find our seats there was something very different about this flight than any other I had been on. Rather than the overhead compartments filling up with small suitcases, the bins began to fill up with large colorful boxes. Yes- hatboxes! People opted to put their luggage below in the plane to keep their hatboxes safe for one very special reason, it was Derby Weekend! And if the hatboxes hadn’t tipped us off, as soon as we stepped foot in the Louisville airport we were greeted with live music, bourbon balls, and red roses galore. This year at the Kentucky Derby I had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with a number of teams on one of the most amazing experiences in my career.

During the time that I lived in Columbus I got to meet the wonderful Chenalt James of Chenalt James Interiors. Recently Chenalt’s roots have pulled her back to Louisville, Kentucky where much of her family still resides. And as I found out very quickly, it is pronounced LOU-a-vul, not LOU-iss-vill. Chenalt and her two sisters, Louise and Carrie, are fourth generation Van Winkles, of the Rip Van Winkle Bourbon Empire. The sisters have founded Pappy & Co, a line of bourbon inspired products to share the passion and dedication that their Great Grandfather “Pappy” embodied. Through my friendship with Chenalt and her family I was invited to collaborate on the Derby Party of the year, a party to recreate the great Van Winkle parties of the past. My collaboration with Chenalt James Interiors, Pappy & Co, Kat McCall Papers, Lisa Bailey, and others led to the incredible experience that I had at the Derby this year that I cannot wait to share with you all! 

In the 1930’s the Van Winkle family began hosting what Life Magazine then called “Mint Julep Parties” before the derby in the afternoon. Mrs. “Pappy” Van Winkle was the ideal hostess, providing an exquisite menu and of course plenty of mint juleps to go around in glistening silver cups. She would pick fresh flowers for the occasion in her yard and one year came across a four-leaf clover. After sending the clover and a couple of mint juleps across the street to the racetrack for a visiting neighbor’s horse, with instructions to put the clover under the saddle for good luck, the horse defied great odds to win the race. The next day, the entire horseshoe of red roses was sent across the street to Mrs. Van Winkle. The legend of the clover and also her love of all things coral colored was a great inspiration to the party that the sisters threw this year.

We had the privilege of staying in an incredible Kentucky home with a number of old and new friends and because we arrived a few days before the Derby, we got to see everything that goes on around Churchill Downs before the big event. On Thursday- or Thurby, as it is known in the area, we awoke early for a tour of the track where under a perfect sunrise we got to watch the trainers prepare. For most of our events we fly in flowers from all over the world and the Derby was no exception. With peonies and tulips coming in from Holland and of course roses flying in from South America we headed to the airport that afternoon to pick up our flowers. While there we happened to see Air Horse One, yes Air Horse One! It was quite the experience to watch the horses unload from their private jets. All throughout the days leading up to Saturday we continued to collaborate with our wonderful team in great anticipation for the Derby!

Finally, the greatest day in the year of the Kentuckian had arrived. We were all brought to tears as My Old Kentucky Home was sang across Churchill Downs and in homes all across the state. All of our collaboration had let up to the brunch which was held at the sister’s parent’s home, right next door to the old “Pappy” Van Winkle Home! Guest’s invites had been sent out weeks before with coral details and the famed clover image from great collaboration with Kat McCall Papers. The menu was a wonderful tribute to the parties of the past with classic dishes such as beaten biscuits made especially by Chenalt’s dad and aunt, Bennidictine spread, bourbon balls, and of course the party would not have been complete without sweet ice-cold mint juleps. One of the party’s most incredible details was the use of “Pappy” Van Winkles actual silver for the mint juleps! The party was the perfect start to a wonderful day in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Collaboration with Pappy & Co, Chenalt James Interiors, Kat McCall Papers, Chef Michael Crouch, Jess Graves, Lisa Bailey, The Wooks, Bartender Kyle Higgins, and many others made this event a highlight of my career!

Through our incredible collaboration with so many wonderful friends, recreating this event of the year was such a wonderful experience. The party was a great success and watching the Derby with great friends afterwards let us experience all the Derby Weekend had to offer. We love doing events for friends and clients and the Derby Party was no exception!

Flowers and fashion–what’s not to love? That’s exactly what artist Anna Kincaide offers in her latest series of paintings. We found Anna via Gallery Orange, a contemporary art gallery in New Orleans owned and curated by the fabulous Tracy Gielbert. When we saw ‘Dreaming with You’ it stopped us in our tracks!

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 1

‘Dreaming with You’ by Anna Kincaide

Gorgeous, right? I am head over heels in love with the hydrangeas.

In her latest ‘Avant Garde’ series, Anna combines high fashion with vibrant flowers, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. She brilliantly captures the timeless, couture feel of the Cary Grant era, while also cropping out the subject’s face to enable viewers to better identify with each painting.

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 2

‘Take Me to Paradise’ by Anna Kincaide

A lot of Anna’s works feature hydrangeas, which just happen to be my favorite flowers. I frequently plant limelight hydrangeas in both clients’ gardens and my own because they have beautiful green and white blooms, which is also a favorite color combination of mine. Limelights can handle the full intense sun–perfect for summer! Hydrangeas are also perennials, so when you cut them back in the fall they will come back bigger and even more beautiful in the spring.

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 3

Hydrangeas in full bloom in my yard last summer.

Hydrangeas are also perfect to cut for flower arrangements inside of your home. With such big, beautiful blooms, you only need a few stems to make a big impact. Here is a simple arrangement in my sunroom right now.

A simple arrangement in my sunroom.

A simple arrangement in my sunroom.

Tip: Zip tie your blooms together to keep them standing nice and tall in the vase!

Like any great accessory, you can dress a hydrangea up or down. We recently worked with a bride who wanted a glamorous, Gatsby-esque wedding. An all-white color palette featuring hydrangeas was the perfect backdrop for the glitzy affair. Just add some crystals and you have an elegant look your guests will never forget.

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

If you are a lover of hydrangeas, or if you would like help choosing the perfect flowers for your special day, be in touch–we would love to help!

Wedding photos courtesy of: Eliza Morrill Photography

Summer is almost here! We’ve already started to feel the heat here in Georgia, and now is the perfect time to plant for summer. Here are my 6 go-to plants for color that will last all season long, even in the intense heat. These plants will thrive in both containers and landscapes; check out the video for more details on which plants to pair in containers.

  1. Dragon Wing® Begonia: This shady lady produces beautiful blooms and will grow 3’ x 3’. The pink and red varieties are my favorite. Shade | Annual
  2. Vinca: An oldie but a goodie, non-trailing variety grows about 2 feet tall, straight up. If planting in a container, these beauties can stand on their own. Full Sun | Annual
  3. Landmark™ Lantana: An aggressive grower, this plant will takeover in no time. This could be a single star in a container, but also great in landscaping because it grows so quickly. See other examples of how to use Lantana here. Full Sun | Perennial
  4. Rosemary: Perfect for the summer heat, doesn’t like wet feet! Add as texture to a container, or use as a border in your landscaping. Rosemary grows where strong women live, so we love it even more!
  5. Sunpatiens®: Just like the name suggests, these gals love the full sun. Another aggressive grower, these work best as a standalone in a container. You can also plant in a grouping for added color in the yard. Warning, she’s a heavy drinker – make sure she gets plenty of water! Full Sun | Annual
  6. Joseph’s Coat: You may put up your coats for the summer, but Joseph’s Coat is perfect for the high temperatures! I love the chartreuse green, which complements any other color! This plant grows wide, not tall, so perfect for layering with taller plants in containers and landscapes. Full Sun | Annual

Remember to always plant in good potting soil, even in your landscaping. Check out the video for more details, tips and tricks on how to plant successful summer color in your garden!

And proof that I love these plants in my own garden:

2015-05-09 06.48.21

My Dragon Wing® Begonias in full bloom last summer. “Turkey the Chicken” has quite the setup!

2015-05-09 06.51.02

Joseph’s Coat and Sunpatiens® create a beautiful border in my backyard.

That’s right–we’re moving!

With everything that happened last year after Tommy’s heart attack, we have decided to make a fresh start. Finding a new home and leaving this one behind is definitely bittersweet because we really love our house. I am especially sad about saying goodbye to my dream garden. When we first moved in there was not much going on in the garden department, but over the years we have created something really beautiful that I am incredibly proud of. Gardening is all about the process, and there is nothing quite like watching a garden grow from one phase to the next, year after year. We also added a chicken coop, built a potting shed, and transformed the carport into an outdoor living area. I am really going to miss time spent in these special spaces.

Our lovely overlook home is located in Columbus, Georgia. It is a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath house at a total of 2,600 square feet. The above average landscape includes a front and rear garden and plenty of outdoor lighting. The yard is completely fenced-in, which is great for kids or pets. The yard also includes a chicken coop and potting shed–two of my favorites!

There is plaster moulding and ceilings and hardwood floors. The living room has a wood-burning fireplace, plantation shutters, and built-ins. There is a nice large kitchen, completely updated with Kitchen-Aid appliances, new cabinets, and granite countertops. The breakfast counter in the kitchen opens into the dining room, which opens into the sunroom, a bright, open space with beautiful brick floors.

The master bedroom had 3 closets and a sitting area with built-ins. The master bathroom has a double vanity, a large walk-in shower, and tile floors.

Living Room

Living Room



Dining Room

Dining Room



Spare Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Guest Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Master Bedroom and Bathroom

Master Bedroom and Bathroom





Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

For more details, please email me at carmen@carmenjohnstongardens.com.

As much as we will miss this house, we are looking forward to finding a new one, and we are also excited for a new family to call this place home. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in a house that has been featured in Southern Living?

House for Sale 23

Calling all home/garden/food bloggers! I am so excited to be apart of the upcoming VIP preview for the Nashville Symphony Show House and garden party taking place on Wednesday, June 10th from 10 a.m. until noon.

Come along with Carmen Johnston Gardens as Carmen Tours the Nashville Symphony Show House!

It is going to be an incredible day. As always, it will be a pleasure working with Southern Living, but I am also eager to see Troy B. Marden in action, as well as the iconic Miss Daisy King of Miss Daisy’s Kitchen.

Come along with Carmen Johnston Gardens as Carmen Tours the Nashville Symphony Show House!

If you are a home/garden/food blogger and you are interested in attending, please RSVP by May 26th. Seating is limited.

I look forward to seeing you there!

One of the best things about spring and summer is bringing all those fresh blooms indoors! Today I want to show you how to make a stunning centerpiece for your kitchen table using some snips ‘n’ clips from your spring garden.

Materials Needed:
Bucket of water

Gardening 101: Fresh Cut Arrangements by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Gardening 101: Fresh Cut Arrangements by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Gardening 101: Fresh Cut Arrangements by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Fresh mint
Hosta leaves
Lady Banks
3 glass containers

1. Build a foundation of blooms! Cut the stem of your hydrangeas at an angle and then simply place on top of your container.
2. Add mint! Place the mint directly into the hydrangea blooms.
3. Add hosta leaves and lady banks next.
4. Group all three containers together at the center of your kitchen table.

So simple and so chic–spring chic, that is! There is nothing quite like the smell of flesh flowers and herbs mingling with your morning coffee. Enjoy!

Keeping It Green

For more fresh cut arrangement ideas be sure to check out this gorgeous tablesetting idea.

It is that time of year again when front yards become the talk of the town. It is like a fashion show of flowers for everyone to see! Want to give your neighbor’s something pretty to look at? Here’s how…

1. Double or Nothing!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Use two pots–a 12″ and a 14″–and fill both with soil.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Then, position the smaller container towards the back of the larger container directly on top of the soil.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Stuff ‘n’ shove both containers with your favorite plants. For mine, I used petunias, lantana, and Angelonia.

2. For the Love of Layers!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Place your tall plants (Angelonia) towards the back, your texture plants (lantana) in the middle, and your trailing plants (petunias) towards the front. Add at least 2-4 inches of new soil and then top with mulch.

3. Make it Pop!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Grab your favorite basket and fill it with flowers. If possible, choose a basket that is flat on the back like ours. It makes it much easier to hang. Then line it with a trash bag, making a few holes for drainage. Finally, add a bright burst of blooms to complete the look.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal wtih Carmen Johnston Gardens

(BONUS TIP: To help create rhythm throughout your yard, paint your pots the same color as your house.)

Your neighbor’s will not be able to take their eyes off of your gorgeous new yard. However, the reward is all yours. There is nothing better than pulling into your driveway at the end of the day and having happy flowers smiling up at you.

Today is Good Friday, which means that this Sunday is Easter! It is almost time for that special day spent with family and friends. While a kid on Easter looks forward to scavenging the yard in hopes of finding that one special egg, an adult on Easter mostly just looks forward to sitting down and enjoying some food. The time spent around the table with loved ones is invaluable, which is why I want to show you how to set the stage for this year’s Easter dinner. And it only takes 10 minutes!

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 1

Materials Needed:
4 ” Cabbage plants
Freshly picked daffodils
Tin buckets
Freshly clipped forsythia
Chocolate Easter bunnies

1. Criss-cross bunches of daffodils on the table. The more the merrier!

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 2

2. Place cabbage in tin buckets making sure that the soil is moist to the touch.

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 3

3. Clip forsythia branches 10-14″ and stick each end in the soil to create a handle.

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 4

4. Nestle the chocolate bunnies throughout their new home.

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 5

10 Minute Tablescape for Easter 6

What a dreamy tablescape! I just love that Easter is so full of cheer and whimsy. Have a great weekend, everyone, and Happy (Almost) Easter!

Photos: The Photography of Haley Sheffield

Inquire About Your Next Event:

Email: carmen@carmenjohnstongardens.com

Phone: 762-822-7696