Monday, May 16, 2016

Open Garden Day Announcement, 2016

Mark your calendar and make plans to come by to visit with the roses during this year's Open Garden Day, Monday, March 30, 2016 (Memorial Day).  Feel free to share this image, or this entire post, to spread the word.

I call this beauty "Mine Road Noisette".  The story of how I collected cuttings of this rose is HERE.

All are welcome ... friends, neighbors, blog readers, rose lovers, and anyone else who wants to come meet the roses in person.  Your dogs may come, too, but they must be on a leash at all times ... no flexi-leads are allowed.  (Address is:  335 Hartwood Road, 22406)

Those of you who are familiar with the garden may be surprised by some of the changes.  The Rambler Fence is nearly bare because I am replanting and reclaiming the roses.  The Miniature Garden is filling in VERY nicely and I am pleased with how it's progressing.  The Front Border and Hybrid Tea Gardens are finally beginning to look like the image that I have of them in my imagination.  The Rose Field is still a heinous mess, but progress on its rebirth is being made in limited areas.

Open Garden Day is always one of my favorite days of the year!  My next favorite is the day after, when all the people are gone and I can quietly reflect and appreciate what I have created.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Membership Has Its Privileges

On Saturday, May 21, at 1:00 pm, we will host the members of the Stafford County Historical Society to tour our home and garden.  Most other Society events are open to the public, but this one is exclusively for current society members.  As the title of this post says, membership has its privileges.

Here is the blurb from the event invitation:  

Hartwood Manor, known as "The Old Foote Place" until the 1950s, was built in 1848 by Ariel and Julia Foote, on property that was originally 1150 acres.  The Footes built their home in Gothic Revival style, which was much more common in their native Connecticut and unusual for Virginia.  The Hilkers bought the property in 2002, and they have been restoring and renovating the house, barn, outbuildings, and grounds ... and creating gardens.  Gardens on the nine-acre property contain Connie's collection of over 500 roses, many of which are rare and endangered.  The roses are expected to be at or approaching full bloom on the day of our visit.

The cool, rainy weather that we have had for the past two weeks has set the timing of the roses back a bit ... which has turned out to be a good thing.  I expect that the roses will show very well for this tour, and for the annual public Open Garden Day on May 30.

I'm not stressing about this, believe it or not, but there's a lot to get done in the time between now and tour day.  Inside the house, I'm tidying and staging, and outside I'm doing what I can to whip the gardens into shape ... whenever the weather allows me time to do so.

I know that some of you are asking, "What can a person do if they aren't a Society member, but are local and want to come tour the house and garden on May 21?"  That's easy!  Click HERE  and to go to the membership page on the SCHS web site, scroll to the bottom of the page, download the membership form, and bring it and a check along with you on tour day,  We will gladly accept it when you arrive.  (If you have questions, email me:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Desperately Seeking Sunshine

The weatherman on TV says that we have had fifteen straight days with measurable rain.  Today makes sixteen.  It's so damp ... I feel as if I'm going to mildew.

In order to do what I can to make it through this till the sun returns, and to soothe those of you who are suffering along with me, I will share some recent images of sunshine.  At the very least, it will help me remember what sunshine actually looks like.

Our house faces east, so the rising sun lights our family room.

Looking the other direction, we have sunrise as seen through the windows of the family room bay.

As the sun rises, it illuminates our barn and the trees in the distance, slowly, spreading from top to bottom.

Our critters are accustomed to the sunshine patterns, and they know exactly where to nap to get the best sun.  One of the leather chairs in our family room is a favorite spot ... the following photos were all taken on the same morning, as each cat took their turn in the chair.




Maggie is especially adept at seeking out and enjoying the warmth of a sunshine spot.

Morning sun on the family room rug.

Mid-day sun on a south-facing windowsill.

I often find Alice in the foyer like this.

As the day progresses, and the sun comes over the house, the dining room becomes THE place to be.  One afternoon, I walked in and saw this scene.

"They consulted counsel about it and found a loophole," said a friend when she saw this photo.

Whether it's sunny or cloudy, I often find Ruby at this window watching critters in the backyard.

Judging by the direction of her gaze, I suspect that she is watching a groundhog.

This wet, cold weather pattern MAY break over the weekend.  I hope it does ... not that I'm complaining, you understand.  All this rain has its advantages.  My garden is enjoying the grey skies and rain, and the grass ... oh my lord, you should see the grass.  It's very, VERY tall, and WAY too wet to mow.  I have roses to plant, but I need to wait to do that till the soil dries out a bit.  On the plus side, the saturated soil makes it really easy to pull weeds in my rose and perennial beds.  I have been getting out to do just that whenever it's not actively raining.  Not ideal, but I gotta do what I can to feed my need to be outside and get as much of my spring clean-up finished before rose season ... which will be here soon, whether I'm ready or not.  I'm okay with that.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Give Alice a Pill, Part Deux

When we last visited the subject of Alice and her morning allergy pill, she was happily going along with the system of chowing down on wet food with a Pill Pocket-wrapped half Zyrtec in it.  (as told in THIS post from March, if you need a refresher or haven't heard the story yet.)  This went along fine for about two weeks.  Then, I began to find the naked pill, stripped of its tasty covering, left behind on the plate.  Dang it ... I needed a new strategy.

The Zyrtec has no taste, and the pill is rather chalky ... which made it a perfect candidate to see if crushing it into her food would work.  The back of a spoon works nicely for this.

Mix it into a small amount of canned cat food.  This is Royal Canin, and all three cats LOVE it.

Alice gobbles it down without hesitation.

All gone.

Is there any more?

With the help of her morning dose of antihistamine, Alice is noticeably less itchy and the fur on her tummy and rear legs has grown back in very nicely.  I really hope that this method of dosing her continues to be successful.  Stay tuned.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Perplexing Case of Mystery Seeds

Last month, while clearing out a cubby beside his desk in our home office, my husband found this:

I have no idea how old these seeds are or where I got them.  That's my handwriting, so there's no doubt that I was the one that saved them.  There are dozens of them, stuck to the inside of the paper towel ... like I just squeezed them out of the tomato and folded it up.  The newest I think they could be is from 2008, because that's when I moved my stuff out of the office and gave it over to my husband.  'Hillbilly' is a real heirloom tomato cultivar, a pass-along variety, but I don't remember if that's what these are or if I just called them hillbilly seeds.

I like a challenge, and I was really curious about these seeds, so I decided to see what would happen if I planted some of them.  I soaked 24 seeds in a cup of water overnight, then I planted them in a take-out container, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom of it and a lid, and put it under the lights in my basement grow area.  Within a week, I had this:

Babies!!  Over the course of the next few days, more seeds sprouted.  Twenty of the twenty-four seeds germinated.  One of sprouts was weird and stunted, so I discarded that one.  Last week, when the babies were large enough to handle, I transplanted them from the community container into little individual pots.

There's one rose seedling here, too.  I will tell you about it some other time.

This morning, one week later, the babies look like this:

They're all about three inches tall, and they are fat, healthy and happy ... and almost ready to transplant into larger pots.

Our weather has been unseasonably cool and very rainy, so I will have to wait till it's warmer to begin to harden these off to life outside.  I plan to keep three or four plants and give the others to friends and family.  

I have to confess that I have never been a very good vegetable gardener.  I know roses, of course, and I'm pretty proficient at gardening with ornamentals in the sun and in shade, but I never been able to get the hang of growing food.  I try, and results are always less than stellar.  Maybe this year will be better ... I say that every year.

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Photo Dump

As rose season approaches, I have a lot of stuff to do outdoors and my blogging time has to yield to allow for this.  I spend as much time as I can in the garden getting the roses ready for their big show at the end of the month, and less time online.  

I haven't been writing blog posts very often, but I have been doing stuff and taking lots of photos.  Some of the photos get filed into my blog folder to use in future posts.  My infrequent blogging results in a glut of photos in that file ... which means that it's time for another Photo Dump!!

1.  I'm no floral designer, but I love to bring small bunches of flowers indoors.  The other day, I picked some of Lily of the Valley and a stem of Hellebore, and I dropped them into a vintage Farmer's Creamery bottle.  

2.  For the past two weeks, I spent my early mornings at the sewing machine making collars to beef up the inventory for events with Greyhounds Rock Fredericksburg ... one of which was Greyhounds in Gettysburg last weekend.  A couple of hours of effort over a period of time really adds up, because I was able to assemble 85 new collars!  (Each collar sells for $20, and all $20 is donated to GRF to benefit canine cancer research and support.)  Volunteers who worked the booth in Gettysburg told me that business was brisk and a LOT of lucky hounds are now sporting my snazzy collars.

Sugar Skull designs continue to be popular.

Alice appears to be doing a thorough quality control inspection on the heap of collars.

3.  In the middle of the collar-sewing period, my mom and I jetted to Charleston, South Carolina, for the 2016 annual meeting of the Southern Garden History Society ... a long weekend of touring gardens and plantations, listening to interesting speakers, eating fabulous food, and meeting new friends with like interests.  I took 700 photos during the trip, which I hope to distill into a blog post soon.

I love looking at clouds from above!

That blurry blob in the center of the frame at the horizon is Fort Sumter, as seen from the window of our hotel room.

4.  It was obvious that Winnie missed me while I was away.  She's not usually a lap dog, but she was for the first couple of days that I was home.  She just needed some mama time.

5.  I love sports, and I particularly love hockey.  Since the 1980s, I have been a fan of our home team, the Washington Capitals, through ups and downs, coaching and player changes, winning seasons and depressing losing seasons.  They are in the play-offs now, and my husband and I spend many an evening eating dinner on the sofa in front of a hockey game on TV.  Last week, we treated ourselves to take-out steak and cheese sandwiches.  At one point, I looked up from my plate and away from the TV and I saw this face.

Notice the drop of drool on her chin.

6.  I'm still working to donate unused/unwanted things that we don't need and to find places for other stuff in storage that I want to keep.  As I was staring into the living room the other morning, contemplating a new arrangement for the furniture, I took this photo.  I reminds me of a scene from an abandoned house or, as a FB friend remarked, a Van Gogh painting.  Either way, I think it's a pretty awesome image.  (My Donation Box is just out of the frame on the right.  It's getting full again, which means that it's almost time to make another run to the thrift shop.)

7.  Finally, we have this scene from the other morning, which is NOT the breakfast of champions ... a left-over piece of Red Velvet Cheesecake (courtesy of our daughter) and coffee in the mug that I bought at St. Paul's Cathedral in London two years ago.

This year, in addition to all of the normal spring things on our spring To Do list, stuff that we do every year to shake off winter, my husband and I are hosting the Stafford County Historical Society on May 21.  The garden will be ready as always, but we have to tidy and declutter the inside of the house, too.  A little over a week after this is Memorial Day, which is the day of this year's public Open Garden ... mark your calendar.

It's been cool and rainy for the past few days ... perfect conditions for pulling a LOT of weeds ... which is what I'm heading out to do right now.

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