Puttin’ Up the Garden…

88720A63-524D-4A26-A6F4-B2F025138F29It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!

Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze,  it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’  is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-EF54ADD3-9EA8-4F51-ABD4-140551DAE2EC

  • Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
  • Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
  • Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
  • Some things were dried too!  I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
  • Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
  • Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’  which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.

Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another!   Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.66E21BDD-14CF-4E99-8DF2-521DFDEB8B89

Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!35CD2C7C-CA07-4DD2-8ED9-534B04E9E5D4

 

55A44958-63F9-4523-90DB-9DC8384D3029Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!

To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes

  •  One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water
  • Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
  • Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
  • You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
  • This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.

I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!  56A31DA8-D2FD-443E-B394-6BB755FDAC13

And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes! E86E4D33-A76C-45C7-8B52-B7076A637023

And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-

  • Don’t blanch the peppers-
  • Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
  • Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
  • Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
  • No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
  • When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
  • From freezer to oven,  in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
  • Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!

EDD7042D-FD0B-4547-901D-B602B167B97F  And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone! 3C813151-0A79-4973-A1A2-3F2FD7A9D150

Dressing Mix is easy-

  • Six or eight ounces of sour cream
  • Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
  • Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!

Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

2E54E24D-A800-45F0-AD06-31F7BF2B987D

3 Lessons of Spring…

We’ve posted 3 Lessons of Spring and one strong suggestion on Instagram in the last few days. I thought you might enjoy them too!

This rather humorous photograph of a planter we have here at the cottage, was about to be planted with a few bedding plants… I decided to snap a photo of her first! She’s inspiring don’t you think?

B21EFFCA-536B-4BAF-A5F1-DC5ED4E7390C ‘The mind is a wonderful thing! It’s where creative ideas begin, where we learn, where emotions form and where we make decisions. Deciding to use ideas, knowledge and emotions for good is the highest form of humanity.’


30C47988-A6F4-40E4-A463-38FEDA229E84Eggs might be the ultimate food form of Potential. This photograph inspired us. ‘Potential, that’s one of the wonderful emotions I feel in Spring… nothing says it better than a basket full of eggs by my front door. Little Johnny Jump Ups aren’t really Spring flowers here, but they seem to rejuvenate themselves right now- and they have the potential to re-seed. now, that’s a lesson too! I hope your Spring brings you an awareness of potential all around you…not to mention the marvelous potential you hold within!’


These bearded irises were passed along to me by my grandmother many years ago- the deep purple is amazing and thrills me every year! This was shared with a lesson I think of every year!

A8A57D14-8713-4E66-BCE4-FDBC60D796B2 ‘Bearded Irises are standing tall in all of their glory…what a lesson they are! Standing up, not afraid to show the world who they are and own their unique beauty. And! Despite an unfortunate name, bearded irises welcome the day with gladness!’


Those 3 Lessons of Spring speak volumes without saying a word…

  • Deciding to use our minds for good, like the planter, it looks like a brilliant idea is sprouting.
  • To see potential in our world and within ourselves…whether it’s at the end of life’s cycle or like an egg- at the beginning!
  • To stand tall, like the regal Iris, despite an unusual name and short bloom time is a lesson to us all… to seize the time we have, bloom where we’re planted and in our own unique way.

Now, here’s a strong suggestion…it’s Time to Spring Clean… we can get sidetracked and buy things we don’t need! So, here it is! Shades of Blue…DDFFEC62-7066-49D5-8847-862AF386BB87

‘Shades of Blue… natural dyes, indigo, prints and stripes, chambray, madras, Oxford cloth and denim. Blue is beautiful year round, especially in Spring and Summer! I’m Shopping My Closet first- then checking the choices with my favorite catalogs- for updates this season!’ It’s a spring closet clean out and a money saver too!

I love Spring…pollen and all..lt inspires me with its beauty and lessons all around! What will you do this Spring? I’d love to hear! I’ll be back soon with good tips, good thoughts and yes, good food!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Follow @brendawyatt_ on Instagram for more tips and ideas! I’ve found new friends and seen the astounding things so many are doing! Happy Spring, yall!

8 Tips for Creating Memory Gardens…

006CD037-D4B8-4F22-84E0-D092A1D064D4I didn’t set out with Memory Gardens in mind… though the idea began to form when my grandmother shared some Hosta and Spiderwort, then an old gardener sent Daffodil bulbs and another shared Bearded Irises. My father in law, sent a few Redbud saplings from the family farm and my mother showed up one day with a sapling called Glory Bower, which blooms in the dead of summer when nothing else will. The Glory Bower is in bloom near one of our daughter’s birthday and always reminds me of her, beautiful and generous. Each year it seemed, I had memories of my family and others who had generously shared plants. Here’s a closeup of Spiderwort-C85AFD07-43D8-4885-BDF0-61350C33BC6F

Tip #1 Memory Gardens can be scattered throughout the landscape or in a designated place. I do both.

I had an idea of purchasing a tree or a shrub on special occasions or in memory of a loved one…So, a memory garden was forming as I was learning about where, what and when to plant. On several occasions I gave a living plant instead of sending flowers and often bought one to be planted here at the cottage. Without really planning a Memory Garden, my garden was making memories for me.E2A910D2-F038-42C2-830C-21D87D3833BF

Tip #2 Think perennials. Memory Gardens aren’t just about trees and shrubs- Herbs, like Rosemary- for Remembrance, Lavendar for Love and Devotion,Sage for Long Life and Wisdom- are great memorable additions. The bearded irises weren’t given to me by my grandmother yet, she loved them, so they remind me of her, always. Bulbs, Ferns, Hosta, Shasta Daisies are wonderful and can be planted in the garden, near a loved one’s birth date. Perennials as bereavement plants which die down but return year after year are a hopeful reminder of the resurrection.

E5345747-53BA-4FBC-ACD5-07CE39E9AA4CWhen we re-did the front yard- a parking area in front of a picket fence changed things.  A family member gave me two heirloom roses- New Dawn, they are the ones at the end of the fence. Every year, I’m reminded of her beauty, her thoughtfulness and her kindness. The pale pink roses still grow proudly at each end of the picket fence, And they bloom close to her birthday! A tiny gardenia shrub was bought on sale… it reminded me of a dear friend, who had loved a fragrance with a distinct gardenia note, the shrub is now so big- it has to be cut back!  I planted a hedge of holly, that was perfect behind a garden bench given to me by my sister, it reminds me of her everyday.   On and on it seemed, I was given plants or buying plants that evoked memories.  The garden began to mature… What I found as the years went by… is that Light changes everything.82EF6299-6536-4585-89C5-B974EEE7B2D6

Tip #3 Even if you have established a specific area as a Memory Garden- be prepared to divide, move or even replace plants. When this occurs, I try to use memory plants in another more appropriate site, especially with adequate light.

1040EFD8-827B-426C-AFEA-DDB9B4429969Trees grow. Sun loving plants find themselves in the shade. Trees fall. Shade loving plants shrivel in the sunlight. Trees even age and die. The soil is disturbed or other trees crowd them out. And, these elements affect our yard to this day. So! It became important to me to establish areas where my memory plants had the best chance of survival. And some memory plants need dividing.  I didn’t want to lose the old heirloom plants, so I divided them and spread them throughout the garden areas; still purchasing memory plants along the way.

Tip #4 Memory Plants are all occasion! Births, Milestones such as graduations, Weddings, Anniversaries, in addition to the Loss of a Loved One, are the perfect opportunity for memory plants. The main criteria is choosing a plant which evokes a memory of the occasion and the loved one.

CA33CF63-8BCA-4BE3-989D-E998FD69019BLittle Gem Magnolias were planted in memory of my Aunt Iva and my precious grandmother, Mimi. Yet the occasion when the magnolias were purchased commemorates our daughter’s wedding. They were used as a large display in urns at her wedding reception.  I like to call these Little Gems- my ‘Steel Magnolias’; which Mimi and Aunt Iva certainly were, as were other southern ladies for whom I purchased the same small magnolias.  Those magnolia trees and a few camellias I had purchased evoked to wonderful memories throughout our garden, not to mention the beautiful large blooms!

Tip #5 For very special occasions you may choose to plant a specimen tree or large shrub. Be sure to site the tree for its own specific needs for soil and light.

10FF4451-1BCD-467B-A5AF-7B652D5ED689If you’re getting the idea that my memory plants were placed at whim, you wouldn’t be far from the truth, I planted for the conditions the plants and trees required. A freeform Memory Garden was more like it… until 2006.My mother in law died. I was devastated. I worked furiously in the garden in the days following her death. Being on my knees, seemed the right place to be; brought to my knees by this blow of her death- I could be alone, I could dig, yank weeds, weep over the least tiny bloom- gardening helped. Have you ever felt like that? Immersing yourself in a hobby or physical tasks that free the mind? Gardening was therapy for me. Shortly after her death, to honor her , we were given a piece of statuary, an angel.

10A4D15A-1A5D-453F-96FF-7F7D6AC6325B It seemed too large to put on prominent display in the front of our house…. as I continued to work out my grief- a spot toward the back of our yard, kept catching my eye… it was a clump of dogwoods, they were in bud.  It seemed to be the perfect spot! So, that’s where she is…my angel and my first attempt at a specific Memory Garden. At the base of the angel, were planted miniature daffodil bulbs from a funeral basket of spring flowers my sister gave our family. They have multiplied over the last decade. In the Spring since the Angel was placed, it still surprises me-  if anyone glances this way, passing the cottage- down the side yard toward the dogwoods… there is an Angel. The spot for her Memory Garden was somehow, by some miracle- chosen for me, not the other way around. We have since lost some dogwoods, planted some roses and crepe myrtles. 4AB961E2-804F-48FC-AAAE-DCFCB15FF953

Tip # 6 Be careful buying statuary. Use it sparingly. Place it appropriately, so that it’s shape and size work with your garden. Sometimes your site will tell you where it needs to be placed!

B2760811-B63E-4AED-BF05-FB6A0C0567C1So! I have continued my practice of buying memory plants. In 2017, I planted a camellia for my friend, Denis who died that spring.(photo above) I planted ten azaleas when my mother died, also in the Spring of 2017. Five azaleas for her grandchildren and five for her great grandchildren- she adored them all! Those were interspersed in the existing garden. Still. She has her own specific Memory Garden.F2F581E9-7D70-4B27-8336-7A6B4D6BDD6F

Friends and family bought hydrangeas for my mother as well, she loved hydrangeas and I do too! They are in shades of pink, white, green and blue that can only be called ‘hydrangea blue’. I planted them in groups by color, not mixing them so it’s more pleasing to the eye. There were a good many, so- for my mother… there is a hydrangea garden along a side yard and around the back deck- areas which  were never intended as a memory garden. Yet it seemed to chosen for me. I plan to add and add to it until the hydrangeas say- ‘No more, please’.  Memory Gardening has been a source of great joy to me.  I tend to name the plants- Denis, the Camellia delighted me, when she was full of blooms this year!2F91DB41-12F4-4A73-AA67-A60391CE5160

Tip #7 Add to your memories all at once or, perhaps a better plan is to gradually add to it, as I am doing with the hydrangeas and camellias.

C72C813D-0039-4267-BD1D-FEA018DD4E86Last fall, my beloved Walter, a Himalayan cat who had graced us with his presence at this cottage, died. I had to do something for Walter, I was almost inconsolable.  My sister had given me a statuary cat, more than a decade ago, it had never found a permanent site. At age 17, I suppose, Walter had lived a long life- I never imagined the grief I would experience when he died. So, I created a very small Memory Garden for him… under one of the azaleas planted for my mother, the statuary cat was placed, with an engraved stone which epitomized Walter…it says, ‘Do no great things, only small things with great love.’ Rose petals fall on this small piece of statuary, it isn’t visible from the street, but I see him every day as I go to my car. Somehow it comforts me.  I have recently planted a few scraggly violas near him hoping they will re-seed. There are lamb’s ears nearby too. Each one seems to be a bit of those small things only a family pet is able to bring to a household.

B4A154E7-B044-424C-8ABD-14285FFE8CA7Now, I’ve gone all sad sack on you and I don’t want you think Memory Gardens are just for bereavement- they aren’t! Plant memories for any occasion- name them or not, but as you plant- you are putting down roots, you are making a garden, you are making your home, your neighborhood, your world a more beautiful place!

Tip # 8 Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your local garden shop is a wealth of information. Ask them to suggest plants to use, what the plant will require, and how large it will get. You may need to have specimen plants installed, sometimes a garden center will be able to suggest a service. Ask for help- your plants willlove you for it!

Like I said, I didn’t set out to create a Memory Garden… now, that I have, the memories make me a better gardener. When a baby is born or a beloved friend passes on… I hope you will visit your garden center and pick out a special plant. And if the notion strikes or if there is a space in your garden, perhaps you will plant it and start a Memory Garden of your own… now, if you excuse me, I need to go outside and plant a Leyland Cypress named Wayne…

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. The quote near the statuary cat is attributed to Mother Teresa. My husband’s dear friend, Wayne died right before Christmas, an evergreen was given to the family and the Leyland Cypress is to be planted here at Camellia’s Cottage.