Seasonal Wreaths…

Seasonal Wreaths…circles, imperfect, yes! Shapes and form are basic and elemental. And often set the stage in good design. Wreaths add personality, even create  or convey meaning and mood. I enjoy making wreaths, especially with natural materials I’ve collected or grown myself.  Since we grow a type of grapes called muscadines- my wreaths usually start with a grapevine base. I’ve been known to wind up muscadine vines, leaves and all- left plain? I enjoy it just like that!

I’ve used pale green hydrangeas grown here- I’ll admit those were my pride and joy the first year they bloomed. I love the cotton wreath because the cotton came from a special garden established to honor Alabama native George Washington Carver. A former slave who taught farmers how to enrich soil depleted by cotton growth by alternating growing peanuts! And, yes he’s probably the Father of Peanut Butter and more! For sure, he was a pioneer in adding nitrogen back to poor soil. And his work was done at the famous Tuskegee Institute in part funded by Henry Ford himself.

I had a bumper crop of Oregano- the scent when wound up into a wreath is amazing- fresh or dried. Herbs make wonderful additions to wreaths. As wreaths dry, you never know the form or color they’ll take on. Pale papery blooms take on a beautiful hue. Magnolia leaves are stunning any time of year, especially during holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond.

I made a wreath recently with ‘past their prime’ cuttings of hydrangeas, somehow it pleases me through the beauty of imperfections which will soften and become even more beautiful, I hope.

Shapes often have symbolic meanings. Take circles- there’s no beginning or end. Wreaths are timeless, seasonal- the shape and form feels complete, unified. Circular curves suggest softness and movement, especially when combined with the sharp edges of other forms. Like a door maybe?

Shape and form are basic, necessary elements of design- perfect or not, preferably not. Don’t wait until a wreath or anything else, for that matter, is perfect– just get started. Use Shapes and Forms in your designs. You’ll be glad you did!

Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s that Magnolia Wreath- one of my all time favorites!

Indigo Blue…

Blue is the most beloved color around the world. The color of loyalty, honor, order, calm and healing- Blue is the color of the sea and sky. Classic Blue inspires trust, respect and invokes responsibility. Blue was named the Color of the Year 2020 by ™Pantone- the leader in predicting color for fashion and home decor. If you’re wondering how to spruce up your wardrobe, your home even your online catalogs- look no further than the Color Institute for inspiration.  For fall and winter, the blues are darker and classic. Even the green of this season’s color story has a hint of blue. The whole year has had several shades of Blue. Take a look at your catalogs- chances are you’ll find a hue for you!

Indigo is grown on almost every continent in the world. Here in the USA, you may be surprised to learn that the most successful grower and producer of dye was a young girl named Eliza Lucas Pinckney of South Carolina. Educated in London, her favorite subject was Botany. Eliza’s father, a British soldier based on the island of Antiqua, had brought his sickly wife and their two young daughters to the colonies believing the climate would be better suited to his wife. He was dispatched back to Antiqua, leaving 14 year old Eliza in charge of the family estate. He sent indigo seeds from Antiqua to Eliza to experiment with growing. After three years of experiments- the 17 year old had perfected, not only growing indigo- she was producing dye cakes. There was a great demand for the dye in England for military uniforms. During the course of her production in years to come- it has been said that the Emperor of China preferred the color of Eliza’s dye above all others, for it’s unique luminous color.

Eliza also revived the culture of silkworms, indeed her signature look was a Blue Silk Dress. Tens of thousands of pounds were produced by her estate. She married young, had two sons and her husband died while Eliza was still considered a young woman. At this point, Eliza was running her father’s estate and her husband’s as well. She had become a patriot. One of her sons signed the Declaration of Independence, the other became a Diplomat. Upon Eliza’s death at age 71, in 1793, George Washington, at his request, served in Eliza Lucas Pinkney’s funeral as pall bearer.

Indigo dyed fabric, the robes of Kings, became widely used in the States, as the common dye of Denim- the fabric of farmers, pioneers, working folks and of course for uniforms and business attire. Indigo is no longer widely grown in the US, yet in recent years, a revival of sorts, to make and use natural plant based dyes has occurred, among them is small batches of safely harvested indigo. Though, India produces what has almost always been considered the finest.

Be inspired by Eliza, use Blue in your own artwork, backdrops, designs and yes, even in business. This young lady used her love of home, family and botany to build a life through wars, crisis, loss and upheaval. Perhaps the need- or perhaps the color Blue inspired her!

I’m a believer that Color tells a story, before you read a word. Color is one of my top 9 Elements of Design. Make seasonal shifts of your own- with a generous amount of Blue!

Love y’all, Brenda

*Indigo was produced in Eliza’s day under very harsh conditions in my country, which began in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  The story of Eliza is told to inspire not to laud the production practices of Indigo.*

*This post went out recently and somehow disappeared from my feed! Please excuse any inconvenience this may have caused!

Growth…

Growth, we all want it. Whether it’s in our gardens, our knowledge, wisdom, in our businesses or our bank accounts. Maybe you want to grow your circle of friends, your following on your blog or social media sites. We feel better when we are growing in all of the good ways. So how can we do it? And just how much growth would it take for you to feel good about it all?

The best lessons I’ve learned about growth has come from gardening. Real growth takes time, attention and appreciation. Whether it’s growing your business, your following on social media- personal growth or expanding your influence, there’s no real magic formula.  Here’s one ‘Don’t’ for growing your business or influence. Don’t just stay with folks who do what you do or have the same perspective you do. It’s far more interesting to follow folks who are like some of my favorite herbs.

  • Take common Oregano, I picked a big armful, it was full of Joy and Happiness, had a lovely light scent. Find folks who bring you Joy, believe me they will make your day!
  • Or those sweet silly Violas– they’re a baker’s decorating friend, a spring tonic maker, an artist’s inspiration- Now please tell me- you want Inspiration around regularly. Right?
  • Thyme the herb of courage, the Greek symbol of elegance and style and dare I mention: Some set aside a bed of Thyme for the wee fairies. It elevates my mood and lifts the spirits- oh my yes! I want  Courage, Elegance, Style and a bit of Whimsy and more… the scent of lemon and thyme is surely one of the most scrumptious anywhere. Add folks who bring these things into your circle.
  • Water, we all know we need an Oasis Add refreshing Mint and Lemon- well, you have a fragrant, refreshing moment. Yes, I want those types to be part of my day.
  • Sweet Lamb’s Ears is nature’s fuzzy bandaid, has healing properties- not I ask you, what would life be without those who offer healing to the mind, body and soul? That’s circle of Influence. Each adding something to the other’s life.
  • Ah yes! we must have some folks who spice up our lives, any place they’re invited- tend to ease frustration, anxiety and these Hot Peppers generally grow where it’s hot- why? We need this spice to cool us down, even make us laugh- oh yes, you want the spice of peppers!
  • Along with the Love and Good Wishes of Sweet Basil, there’s never enough of that!
  • We want folks who come back often, like Garlic Chives. From leaves to blossom- they re-seed, not trouble at all.
  • Last, yet certainly not all- I can always use some Sage advice. Wisdom.

A huge following isn’t as important as the level of Engagement, the need meeting need, the inspiration- the likes, comments- taking time to engage, inspire and be inspired. This is what community has always been about. If everyone was just alike, who would need anyone else? You may have or offer just what someone who does something different from you needs. Build a business based on trust, a good relationship, a friendship- appreciate what they do- not just by hitting ‘like’ but leaving a short meaningful comment. That’s why it’s so important to actually be inspired by others- not for the sake of more followers- that’s not authentic. It’s being real and ultimately- your business won’t flourish long unless you take the time, pay attention and show appreciation. That’s how to Grow the right way. Wait for it, true growth will happen. Here’s wishing you all the best!

Love y’all, Brenda

*This is a continuing series for helping small business, during these unprecedented times. I guess you could Camellia is becoming a Cottage Industry!

5 Principles of Good Design…

Why is a gate standing ajar or roses along a fence so inviting? How does a change of pillows or adding a house plant lift the mood? A clean open room or a swath of colorful flowers pleases the eye. Why are we drawn in with a touch of wonder, a bit of mystery or whimsy, just from reading words upon a page? And, what is it about the morning sunlight, a cheerful window box, open shutters, finding an unexpected sculpture, even overlooking a greening field? Emotions are stirred, inspiring the click of a camera, the swath of a paintbrush, the writing of poetry.

img_4608Whether you’re writing a novel or a blog post, making a garden plan or creating a room… producing artwork, planning an event or marketing a product or service- Good design is essential. Here are my 5 Principles of Good Design:

img_49181. Structure– This sets the boundaries, writes the outline, establishes the parameters. Structure in creative design includes entryways, walls, fences and paths.  Windows, enclosures, doors even garden gates all offer a view from beyond. Structure is  the size of a canvas or even the frame of great artwork. Good placement of structure, allows for taking advantage of natural or planned views. Outbuildings, barns, sheds, greenhouses, even porches are good examples, too. Structure is very much like the plot of a story, the layout of a room, setting the stage, doing a first draft or an initial sketch- even a basic recipe. Everything depends on the planned or existing structure.

img_48652. Light and Color. Whether muted or harsh, light is an amazing tool, that’s why we have phrases like ‘… shed light on a subject.’  Words, fabrics even paints are really absorption of light. Twilight in a garden, dark passages, shady fern glades opening onto a patio’s splashing fountain, glistening droplets cool down a sunlit space. Light highlights form. Color can be compared to a main theme, prompting a response. Color draws the eye and keeps it focused. Shades of color massed together are more pleasing than bits here and there. All good storylines have a main theme, color is way to establish theme. Keeping color consistent is important, with the occasional exception of an accent color, always best when used sparingly.  Do you enjoy reading about colorful places, delightful folks or being enlightened? Remember that phrase and you’ll do alright.img_4924

3. Focal Point– a focal point draws you in. Into the garden, into a story, into a work of art. A focal point has the effect of pausing, just as a curved path slows the pace. Focal points can be compared to deciding which type of frame best suits a painting. And, a focal point is very much like punctuation, exclamation mark or even a main character. img_4855

4. Emotion. This might be the most important principle of all. How does the design make you, your reader, your audience feel? Is it the scent, is it the shape, the shadows? Is it the sense of comfort or being home? It might even make you smile or be inspired. Never underestimate the value of mystery, curiosity, serenity, anticipation or a bit of whimsy. And always leave room for serendipity. The unexpected twist. Emotion is movement, memory and motivation. Change structure, focal point even light and color and you experience new emotions. Adding whimsy to a serious garden, home or story always brings a smile.

5.  Abundance and Restraint. There is a place for both in great design. The abundance of roses, a single flower, each has a message all its own. Generally in a garden or a home- abundance is highly desirable, a huge bowl of fruit, a flower arrangement, an overflowing bread basket, a mass of single color. Often in a painting, a marketing plan,architecture even in writing – restraint is often best. Remember, if the restrained design of a room, a work of art or a garden looks easy, it’s not.  Nature teaches us the best lessons-  dew drop says something far different than a generous spray from a watering can.

Tell me your story, don’t leave anything out. Take a photograph, set the scene, put color and emotion – use restraint or abundance to its best advantage and if it’s a recipe… well, you know I want you to do everything except scratch and sniff the spices, vanilla or lemon! Spark my imagination, let me feel the emotions.  Let the colors in your art or garden lift my spirits, thrill me with color combinations, set boundaries with a fence, gate or beautiful frame.img_4471

If you design a beautiful room, add a focal point or a pleasing outdoor view, maybe a charming window box. Literally, frame the view of your amazing work of art and it actually visually expands the experience. Give me abundance or show restraint, it’s like editing– often what you take away is more important than what you leave in.  And, hey! In the South, we like a bit of whimsy, humor and often we tilt to the morbid side of things. We put our crazy eccentric sides out there and relish being different, maybe we could use a bit of restraint. Oh me, how I do run on…

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a larger subject than one blog post can contain. Still. I think to have these principles in place builds a framework on which your creativity can thrive.

  • Build the framework with structure. 
  • Light and color are much like adjectives or spices.
  • Add a focal point as your main character.
  • Use emotion to its best advantage, this is the active part of your design.
  • Stir in restraint and abundance and you have a winning combination.

Camellia’s Garden Party…

img_2706I’m never really sure who’s going to show up at our Garden Party here at Camellia’s Cottage…it’s such a fickle dance. Who’ll show up early or be fashionably late? Will they be effusive and bring extra guests or volunteers? Or stand around halfheartedly, even look bored. Perhaps they’ll chat like magpies or huddle together shivering and complaining. Spring is more like a house party that begins in fits and starts- gets rained out, stalls or lasts for weeks on end. img_3846

Even though I’ve gardened for years, I’m still an amateur. Though, I have tried to arrange things so that most years, everyone doesn’t show up all at once- rather more like a procession. Here in Alabama-

  • We always count on the Camellia Cotillion to kick things off early- since they always bloom when almost everything else isn’t. Camellias steal the show in late winter and very early Spring.
  • Back in those fickle February days, Flowering Quince showed up dress fit to kill, yet the Yellow Bells never rang out even once! We since found her in her brown house dress and she’s gone to the compost heap as we weep her passing.
  • The Daffodil Trumpets sounded early and to be honest, they’re almost played out; they’re exhausted really. The Tulips stayed completely out of sight, the Hyacinths barely bloomed- we suspect we’ll need to put in replacements. Those Wood Hyacinths are such nymphs! They came and went before we knew it- though we’ve always  been thankful for the sweet scent they bring. And the Snowdrops were weepy for a few weeks, though we all admit how charming they always are as guests.
  • The Judas Trees often make a poor show of themselves…they’ve shown up. Still. They’re weeping bloody tears on the driveway.
  • The roses had to be cut back severely, they shot up so high last year. And who knows if New Dawn will even stop by this year, I’ll have to remind them to send an RSVP.
  • Oh well, the Wood Violet Teas seem to be underway and underfoot! They’re sweet little things,quietly huddled in small groups for several weeks now, gathering strength and vigor, whispering among themselves. The purple hats seem to be outnumbering the more shy white ones.
  • Thankfully, the Bearded Iris showed up to chaperone, looking stiff and proper, though I must say they prefer to keep to themselves, at a safe distance and seem to multiply every year. I thought surely I could count on an array of Irises to keep things in check with their pale, piercing leafy stares. img_2712

Even though the Spring Dance started early this year, wouldn’t you know? It’s been taken over by the Azalea Ball! To be honest, the younger Azaleas are being shy about showing off- maybe it’s the influence of Iris and the Chaperones? In years past, the older Azaleas show up dressed in somber green with tiny pink polka dots- sitting and sulking on the sidelines, a few shrinking Violets at their feet. Not this year! Oh, ‘no sirree bobtail cat!’ They’re showing their bloomers this year!img_2707

I’ve decided Azaleas are subject to mood shifts- sometimes standoffish and almost rude. This year, they’re snickering and giggling like magpies- dressing in ruffled shocking pink! I’m half expecting to see’ dyed to match’ satin slippers beneath their outrageous gowns! Honestly, the mockingbirds are out in full force! I personally think they’re as shocked as I am at the Azaleas! Unpredictable. img_2708

Spring is always unpredictable, yet she’s always missed, greatly desired, wanted desperately, dearly loved and truly welcomed to the Cottage Garden Party! It must be said, usually Spring in the South is flawed- by weather, circumstances beyond our control- like when frowning Jack Frost appeared as uninvited guest who didn’t even call ahead! Why, he’s even been known to throw hailstones as big as golf balls- honestly we try to avoid him at all costs!

We try, we truly do- to schedule Spring Garden Parties…then find we have to scrap the actual outdoor human parties in favor of acting as bemused bystanders. Spring is anything but boring, like well planned parties- either the Guest of Honor doesn’t show up or an uninvited guest arrives. We lower our eyes at the overdressed Flamboyants or give the side eye to the underdressed- even the bedraggled and depressed. Now, that puts a damper on any party! Please, don’t tell- I actually prefer the Flamboyants, like this year’s Azaleas, with oversized personalities who offer our Garden Party endless amusement.img_2706

The Azalea Trails are legendary in Alabama! We celebrate the beauty and bounty of Spring with irrepressible joy! Okay. We’d like a little more notice than the nightly weather report. Honestly the Farmers’ Almanac, the Barometer and the definite twinges of the Arthritic Chips on our Shoulders are more reliable than the Weatherman.

But really, who am I to be judging the Natural World? Especially when I’m up on my High Horse sitting in a Climate Controlled Saddle? I’ve been late. I’ve been unpredictable. I’ve even been flamboyant a time or two. Okay- rarely… I’m just saying, maybe I’ve bloomed at the wrong time myself. After all, I’m a Camellia, I love me a good early Southern Spring-

  • Violets, Dogwoods,
  • Wood Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Bearded Iris,
  • Daffodils, prickly Quince and oh yes!
  • Azaleas

Especially those flamboyant old girls out there having the time of their lives! Really, y’all, those Azaleas are going crazy! Swaying and sashaying! Before we know it- those stuck up Peonies will be showing off the Ball Gowns they’ve kept secret all year long!img_3678

All of these and more…always throw a big case of Magnolia Fever on me… and I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to be thrown on that old compost pile. Thanks for stopping by our Garden Party!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously taken by me. ** Judas Trees are commonly known as Redbuds- many call these trees with tiny buds and heart shaped leaves Judas Trees- even that famous southern author- William Faulkner. I’ll let you research that yourself!

A message from Brenda- I wanted to write a bit of a lighthearted post because…It’s wonderful to have a garden, especially now in this current crisis. It’s hopeful to know that the seasons, especially Spring- can be counted on as we stay at home, waiting. And, also wonderful to be able to reach out to you virtually…sending great love to each of  you. Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Stay Hopeful. And! join me @brendawyatt_ on Instagram! We sharing posts or stories everyday! I’d love to see you there!img_2709