Saturday, November 13, 2010

Change is Good


In early summer I decided to take a step back and reacquaint myself with my brushes and paints.  I pledged to myself to have a canvas in process at all times.  Surprisingly, I succeeded.  In the past I would get frustrated and eventually walk away but this time it stuck. 

Because I was so happy with the results, I decided to reframe this blog to include all sorts of creative endeavors that I find myself dabbling in.

This is the first canvas I have painted for a long time.  I start with photos I've taken, working with the ones that capture a very singular experience of common objects and circumstances.

These strawberries came from the Pasadena Farmer's Market (even the pale ones were incredibly sweet).  You can find me there most Saturday mornings lugging more vegetables than I really need.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Attempt

Ikebana Inspiration

I willingly admit to having zero training in any of this except for looking at a couple of books or so.  I know even less about the art of ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.  I have surely broken every rule here in this arrangement.

Blame it on the vase, which I've been using this summer to get my gardenia fix in.  That and the handful of dwarf agapanthus that's still blooming in my back yard. 

This time I placed a frog in the bottom of the vase and surrounded it with black stones to hide the frog.  Then came the agapanthus, some hydrangeas (leaves well stripped...see my last post), some gardenias tucked into the base for lovely fragrance (is there a 12-step program for gardenia sniffing?) and a black potato vine.

I think it works.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thank You Martha


I was having a senior moment for a couple of years trying to remember the trick to keeping hydrangeas from drooping shortly after bringing them indoors.  I'm not sure what jogged those gray cells back into action but it was Martha Stewart who said to be sure to strip all of the leaves off of the stem to ensure perky flowers if not forever, at least for a long time.

Once again, this arrangement (if you can call it that, it's much to easy to say I actually "arranged" anything) is just one hydrangea blossom that I found blooming in an impossible corner of the garden where absolutely nobody was going to enjoy it.  Now I am enjoying it in my kitchen.  Along came some extra oregano that I had picked for a recipe to accompany the lonely bloom.

Which reminds me...I know I've said it before but I'll say it again...I never toss out the extra herbs I've picked, and I do tend to over-pick.  Instead, I stick them in a skinny vase of some sort to enjoy either for their beauty and grace, or their flavor.

Saturday, July 24, 2010



There is something decadent about gardenias.  Perhaps it's their hypnotic smell, or maybe it's because they look like living whipped cream just plopped in this bowl, but whenever they are blooming in my garden I tend to linger in their corner longer than usual, lulled into a stupor by their overt sensuality. 

The trick to keeping them blemish free as long as possible is to never touch the petals with your hands.  It hastens their demise.  So it's a bit of a trick to get them to "float" properly in a vase like this.  I tried using some black polished stones to grab the stems to keep them from flopping around and it seemed to work pretty well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life in a Teacup

Shower Gifts

A group of us at work had a shower for the most deserving and un-bridezilla of them all, the wonderful Nancy.  In trying to think up an easy and inexpensive table decoration I remembered my pal Elena...ever the expedient hostess...who wowed us years ago by plunking some extra impatiens plantlets into teacups and voila! Instant arrangements.

Shannon located some castaway teacups and saucers at a thrift store and loaded them with plants fresh from their nursery six packs.  Best of all, after cheering up the tables at the shower, they all went home with the guests where they continue (hopefully, they do need to be watered almost daily) to bring smiles.

Clever, cheap, recycled and unique.  Can't beat that combination.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Treat Yourself

Don't forget to put flowers where you'll enjoy them, not just the guests.

I like to fill this ceramic vase (that my dad made) with sunflowers and herbs.  It sits in a garden window above my sink so I can smell the "roses" while performing one of the more mundane tasks of my day.

You have to admit.  It's pretty hard to be sour about your chores when these lovely flowers are smiling down on you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Irrational Exuberance

One of my most graceful and delightful friends (and role model) has a spectacular garden.  In her well-tended and loved landscape, my pal allows self-sowers to do their thing in a heap of color, texture and scent in one part of the garden.  The result is as wild and spontaneous as this bouquet that she recently brought me.  In it are her signature sweet peas, some California poppies, borage, and salvia (I think).  She just plunks them in this Mason jar and voila, a garden right in your living room. 

Being known as something of a stealth bouquet bestower, everyone knows when Ellen has paid a visit.  Her gifts extend well beyond her flowers.  Among many other talents, she makes an amazing apricot jam from fruit grown in her garden, and you never know when you might be a beneficiary of her burgeoning succulent collection.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Calla Gerbera Calla Gerbera

Callas Gone Wild

In one of my childhood homes we had a forgotten corner of the yard where calla lilies ran wild.  Nobody tended them and they thanked us for respecting their privacy by producing amazing blooms.  I wish I had that small "field" these days.  I'm lucky, as I've said before, if I get three at a I buy them.  But I digress...

I was late getting to Trader Joe's one day and had a choice of white, white or white flowers.  I opted for white flowers. 

This grouping is perfect for a dinner party as the flowers are low enough to talk over and yet they have the impact of a larger, much more dramatic arrangement.  All there are here are gerbera daisies and mini-calla lilies with a few calla leaves added in.  I snipped some clivia leaves and wrapped the inside of the fishbowl vases before adding water and placing the flowers. 

A tip about gerberas.  Try not to touch the stem close to the flower heads as it causes them to weaken and droop.  I'm sure you've experienced that disappointment.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pack a Punch of Color

I was desperate for a quick punch of color but had spent my flower budget for the, month.  Looking out the back door I spied my geraniums going nuts and swooped down on them.

Here's the thing about geraniums.  They will disappoint unless you select stems that are really newly opened (no petal-shed starting) and not just opening because they probably won't fully open.  Also, they've got skinny legs and big heads so you'll pobably need a frog or foam or some other way to control them or they'll topple over from their voluptuousness. 

I like to include some of those wonderful leaves cut with a hunk of "trunk."  Who knows?  They might just send out roots and then you'll have more geraniums.  Who wouldn't want more geraniums?

P.S.  New lurking cat likes to sip the water out of this container.  Good thing geraniums aren't dangerous.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Be Glad

I'm So Glad

Here's a simple and classic arrangement that is long lasting and dramatic.  Yes, good old gladiolas.  These were all closed when I selected the bouquet and so I wasn't sure about the exact colors but I'd hoped for light colors. 

Actually, it was a little more than a guess.  Here's a trick.  The darker the stalk, the darker the flower color.  You can be fairly certain that if the stalk and buds are on the lighter side, the flowers will bloom out white, yellow or (my personal favorite) a spectacular green.

A nice thing about glads is that they bloom from the bottom up.  So if the stalks are long enough and the tips don't wilt, you can pull off the dying blossoms from the bottom, trim the stems a bit and they'll last a good long time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Sometimes Two is Better Than One

I bought two bunches of yellow ranunculus the other day.  One I put into this tall vase and let them be their crazy wispy selves.  I paired it with this simple low arrangement of lycamachia that at this time of year is a screaming chartreuse.  I think it works.  So did the cat (the new cat) who thought it fun to tug at the trailing stems.

It looks better up on the mantle, but it's too hard for me to take good shots of things up there.

Little Vase Big Impact

Here is the second bunch of ranunculus.  Hard to believe that there are exactly the same number of stems in this grouping. 

Goes to show you that you can do a little with a little or a lot with a little.

By the way, ranunculus is surprisingly long lasting.  Don't let their delicate appearance fool you.  Just be careful with their stems, which can easily bruise.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The Miracle Flower

Tulips have a wonderful character.  For one thing, they are one of the few flowers that continue to grow after they have been cut.  So don't hesitate to hack away at those stems since they'll be longer in a day or two or five.

They also last a long while.  My friend Carmella would bring a bouquet in on Mondays and they'd last the week, opening, growing, and changing in character.  Tulips also have a mind of their own.  When you want them to perk up straight, they decide to do a graceful bow over the side of their container.  Some folks put a penny in the vase to encourage a vertical habit.  I prefer to allow these free-spirited flowers to do their own thing.  It makes life more interesting.

Also in this arrangement is that "instant bouquet" flower clivia and some early nasturtiums I found in my garden.  Nasturtiums will also morph with buds opening and soon sporting rather buxom seeds right there on your table top!  Let them do what they do and enjoy nature's show.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Instant Arrangement, Almost

My creative sister Jan (actually, they're all creative) once called clivia an instant arrangement so when roving my small garden, clippers in hand, I'd hoped for immediate gratification. Alas, there were but two puny stems but oh, those ranunculus were fabulous, if not a little bit faded. Then I found this other thing I have growing in the back of the yard. I have no idea what it is, exactly, except it's hard to kill. The dusty blue-green leaves and tiny lavender blossoms are a perfect cool counterpoint to the hot blooded oranges of the clivia and ranunculus.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Less is More

Maybe it was the spring fever that I caught today, being such beautiful weather.  The garden looked so fresh and orderly that the thought of weeds and mildew seemed an impossibility.  There weren't many blooms to choose from, however, that needn't stop the intrepid arranger.

This Peruvian lily puts on a one-flower show in this tiny bud vase.  Don't think that you need to have an abundance of flowers to make an impact.  This flower is particularly interesting all by itself.

Calla lilies are a favorite of mine.  I don't have a huge field of them, actually, I'm lucky to get three blooming at the same time so I'm loathe to snag them all to bring inside. 

They last a good long time and have a nice presence.  This one looks particularly striking against the dark backdrop that is the corner of my dining room, but it started out here in front of this mirror.  Mirrors are useful in creating the illusion of more, when you have less.

Your callas not flowering right now?  Try just the lance-shaped leaves that are beautiful on their own.  A nice contemporary look for a decidedly old-fashioned flower.

Or try other interesting large-leafed foliage when there is a dearth of blooms in your yard or you pocketbook is feeling pinched.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Heavenly Stuff

A common name for nandina is "heavely bamboo," and heavenly stuff it is.  The berries are bright and multi-purpose and the greens are glorious and sometimes turn a bronzy color that make us East Coast transplants all nostalgic for the old country. 

This Christmas I took a bunch of it and stuck it in my Christmas tree instead of the gazillion ornaments I usually use.  The result was fantastic, and even better, the berries dried nicely and I was able to use them in this arrangement.  I just piled them up, one sprig on another to get this effect.  Easy and should last until the cobwebs start appearing between the berries.

Happy New Year

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Good Intentions

My intention was to blog my way through the holidays but I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm after my dear old pal Bud, the best cat in the world, died shortly before Thanksgiving.  Kicked me right in the gut. 

But I did manage to drag the tree out of the basement (I'm not ashamed that I went artificial, but do prefer real) even if there were no kids coming home this year and no holiday party planned either.  I figured it would be just too sad without some decorations up.

Easy Tree

Last year I'd put every single ornament that shined or glittered on my tree and it was truly opulent, extravagant and a pain in the ass to take down.  Being quasi-depressed, I opted for easy street.  I had a box of enormous pine cones my mother had saved and some sprigs of rather sad looking artificial berry sprays so I stuck them in among the branches then purloined some beautiful nandina berries and stuck them in there too.  My grapevine doesn't produce grapes but does a great job on vines which I usually clip and form into wreaths.  I had 3 I really didn't need so I took them apart and wrapped the tree with the vines like garlands.  Some years ago I came across some fake snow...looking suspiciously like shredded plastic bag Pottery Barn that I'd been saving and tossed that on top of it all.  Voila!  Easy up and even better yet, easy down. 

I'm kicking myself that I didn't get a picture of it.  You'll just have to imagine.  Sorry

Mixing Reds

I'm a huge proponent of mixing variations of the same hue.  So much easier than trying to match a certain red.  For my mantle I made a simple arrangement of fake berry sprigs mixed with fresh nandina berries, added a few small magnolia clusters (these are a bit aged as I didn't get this shot while they were still fresh) plunked a couple of fat candles on their perches and it was done. 

Again, so easy.

Don't Forget Flowers

Sometimes we get so into the whole pine and holly mindset that we forget that you can get lovely holiday effects from regular old flowers.  While I'm not entirely happy with the way this arrangement worked out (I think the container was just too big for what I was trying to achieve), I will try something similar next year.

I used a mixture of coffee berries, roses, gerbera daisies and random pine and cedar bits left over from someone's Christmas tree.  I learned that Target just tosses all the branches they cut off the bottom of the trees when they prep them for folks and were happy for me to take some of them off their hands.  Love free stuff.

Round Pot in a Square Hole

Don't forget potted flower options.  Here I took a red cyclamen in a 4" pot and put it in a sandwich size Ziplock bag then squished it into this square glass vase.  I then filled the vase (outside of the plastic, I didn't want the plant to be saturated the whole time) with water and surrounded the pot with sprigs of blooming white azalea.  The plastic pretty much disappears with the water around it creating an interesting effect.  I think it was a nice and festive look for very little money...and the plant will go in my garden when its indoor time is up.

Merry Belated Christmas!