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!

The Circle of Life…

This has been a sad week in several ways, memorials to loved ones who are no longer with us, those who have been touched by sadness and tragedy. And just when the week was ending- a baby was born. Whoever said, ‘Friends are the Family we choose for Ourselves’ was right! A new member of the extended family of Camellia’s Cottage, a precious Baby Boy named Camper stepped into The Circle of Life.  To honor this happy occasion, for your viewing pleasure- The Theme Song from Disney’s Lion King©:

Love y’all, Camellia

Congratulations Maggie, Chris and Larkin for letting us share your joy!

*quote about Friends – Jess C. Scott- The Other Side of Life


A Southern Spitfire…


What you’re looking at in the picture above- is a gen-u-ine Southern Spitfire. You would have to know one to understand exactly what we mean by that in the South. Under a thin veneer of Southern charm, my grandmother Betty Jo Sparks Holmes was a Southern Spitfire. I’ve been told her mother was a beauty who rode fast horses sidesaddle! It’s her birthday, if she was alive she would be well over 100. We can’t know her true age  for sure, because-well, a Southern lady generally shaves a few years off. Even tombstones of Southern females may not reflect the actual age. Here’s what I know for sure-She came from a long line of warriors:

  • a Daughter of the American Revolution
  • a Daughter of the Confederacy
  •  and with the papers to prove it, a bonafide descendent of Davy Crockett!

Her husband served in World War I, guarding Woodrow Wilson’s White House, living in tents on the grounds- he was a very handsome man. My grandmother tickled him to death with the things she said- particularly when her green eyes were flashing! Her son, served as one of the youngest pilots in the Navy during World War II, flying off of aircraft carriers in the Pacific. She adored him, caring for him most of his adult life as a disabled veteran. He had a lot of problems, but Mimi never allowed any criticism of him, at all. She was a fiercely patriotic American who loved FDR and his First Lady Eleanor, admired John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, probably because they served in the US Navy, like her son. I’ve inherited her favorite novel, Gone With the Wind, purchased when it was considered a very racy book! Scarlett O’Hara is the best representation of a Southern Spitfire in literature. My grandmother looked nothing like Vivian Leigh except for the flashing green eyes! However, some of the things Scarlett said could easily apply to Mimi-

  • ‘War, war, war. This war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party…I get so bored I could scream.’
  • ‘Don’t be a goose, Melly!’
  • ‘Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore, and don’t call me sugar.’scarlett-ohara-black-and-white

Betty Jo Sparks Holmes raised her family, including her younger sister Mary Sue, her younger brother Charles, my Uncle Chig and my mother, Betty Gene- during the Great Depression. She was one of the finest cooks I have ever known. She learned to cook, not because she had to, but because she loved to be in the kitchen with the household cooks. They humored the feisty Betty Jo, by letting her make biscuits, which she would load into a small wagon, take across the tracks and sell to laborers for pennies, knowing when she got home she would be in a mess of trouble! Only to do it again, the next time she got close to the kitchen!

She became a florist at age 55, when most women were homemakers, her income was necessary. She had a great sense of style and good taste, but wasn’t uppity. Her life could be described as ‘grit with grace’. I loved that about her. I can still hear her now- the impression of her strength, wisdom and strong sense of humor inform me all these years since we lost her. She was a Spitfire but she was one of the most generous people I have ever known. ‘As God is my witness’…No one ever came to her door and left hungry, empty handed or without comfort. Like most Southerners, she engaged in a bit of ancestor worship. Mimi didn’t tolerate weakness in me. My older sister was probably her favorite- however, she gave me large chunks of her time and the best advice I have ever received- ‘Stop crying, hold your head up and don’t ever forget whose child you are!’ Now, if that is not advice from a Southern Spitfire? I don’t know what it would be. Happy Birthday Mimi, I’m a better person because of you.

Love y’all, Camellia

Photographs are mine. The top photograph was taken in the 1920s with Mimi’s bob and scandalous short dress holding her son and baby brother J.T.. The photograph on the right was for my sister’s high school graduation, the photograph on the left- Mimi is holding me at Christmas on her lap. The photograph of Vivian Leigh- the indomitable Southern Spitfire- Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by that great southern author, Margaret Mitchell, is public domain.

Tacky or Tasteful #2…


It’s Fashion Week here at Camellia’s Cottage! This is our second installment of Tacky or Tasteful? Every Southern Mother despairs of her children looking Tacky- it reflects badly on her and of course can send her to bed with a case of the vapors. We discussed the basic solid Tasteful colors of Black, White, Gray and Red, however there are Tasteful Fabrics and Prints which are suitable for a Southern lady’s wardrobe. The most highly prized fabrics are natural or natch-ral as we pronounce it.

Cotton– We know cotton, we raise it. Think thread count and fine gauge here. The heavier the cotton fabric, well-the more coarse and common it is. While we have made allowances for Denim- because let’s face it, Denim helps our economy; it should be noted that Denim was considered the Fabric of Laborers. No Southern Lady worth her salt wanted anyone to actually know that she even broke a sweat, much less owned a pair of Denim Jeans. We have evolved on this point, now a good pair of Dress Jeans and a pair of White Jeans make up a part of the must-haves in the Southern Wardrobe. Though, let’s leave off those Denim Overalls once you get out of Kindergarten.

Wool – Southerners love wool, at least the idea of wool-the problem is the heat so we have to go for fine gauge wools and menswear fabrics, that have a nice drape. A nice pair of slacks, a sharply creased pleated skirt or a well cut pencil skirt. A cashmere or camel hair dress coat- now you’re getting the Southern territory.  Whole conversations and exclamations have occurred about wool-

  • ‘Now honey you know you can’t wear that boucle jacket – it makes you look thick’
  • ‘Why in the world would you get a Harris Tweed jacket? Did you get accepted to Harvard?’
  • Get the Heather Sweater, you’ll look like one of the Von Trapps in it.’

So, think fine gauge in boucles, tweeds and more rustic wools that are strengthened with good silk linings.

Silk– just don’t get me started here…Shirtwaist dresses, blouses, suits, scarves and silk linings.  Silk seemed like the ultimate luxury fabric to our Southern Mothers. Lingerie drawers full of silk gowns and undergarments. We especially love raw silk- which is nubbier with a stiffness that is appropriate for suits and sheath dresses. We do love silk- though there is rarely a mention that one stain and the whole garment is ruined for life.

Velvet– Southern women have always loved cotton velvet. We love the feel of it- go for lightweight as it can add bulk unless you are skinny as a rail.  Jackets, Sheath dresses, hostess skirts, collars or piping on wool coats, vests and even in our homes-  Where do you think Scarlett got the idea to make that devastating velvet dress when Tara was a broken wreck?scarlettcurtain-dress

Linen – is highly prized in the South. Even though it wrinkles beforeyou walk out the door, sit down or bend an elbow, Linen wrinkles but a Southern Mother will tell you- ‘Why honey, that’s how folks will know it’s real linen.’ Women have been known to use up a case of Spray Starch getting the wrinkles out of linen, only to get it wrinkled just in the act of buttoning it up. We love our natch-ral Linen. I have a friend who gets so excited when she ‘gets out her linen’ We want to have our Linen from Easter to September.

The truth is most of our Southern mommas preferred solid colors as classics, however there are some classic Patterned Fabrics-that can be either Tacky or Tasteful-


  • Houndstooth
  • Plaids
  • Stripes
  • Animal Prints

Cotton is our top fabric of course- we have an ancestral attachment to it. Gingham is tricky though. Our mommas thought a baby must be six months old before wearing gingham and then it must be the tiniest possible gingham. Checks get gradually larger as Southern Women age…with a reasonable cutoff however. We don’t want to look like a Tablecloth at a Picnic! Gingham is perfect for picnics, field trips and going to the farmer’s market.jackiebw-classic-gingham


Houndstooth (as long as it is of a reasonable size) Big ol’ Houndstooth is never acceptable if the teeth on it are as big as your daddy’s hound dog. The one exception is a Bear Bryant Houndstooth Hat- go hog wild Bama Fans!

John and Jacqueline Kennedy arrive to attend a mass in Middleburg, VA, 4/9/61.

Plaid– Classic, especially if the plaid is your Family Tartan, real or imagined. Scale is important to tastefully wearing plaid. Don’t put on some big loud plaid that looks like the upholstery in an RV or a Recliner at the hunting camp. No seamstress in the state could match at the seams of a loud plaid. Now that’s Tacky. Tartans are tasteful, darlin’a-hepburn-classic-plaid

Striped clothing is considered Nautical and therefore classic. Coco Chanel was inspired to design women’s clothing after she noticed some handsome sailors on shore leave. Chanel saw the potential and the comfort of striped knits- ever since Southern Women have loved our Stripes.

Animal Prints– a warning here: Southern Mothers reserved animal prints reserved for the more mature woman. We would certainly never want our southern daughters to look wild in any way.. use touches of animal prints- a scarf, a blouse, a collar or a cardigan. Animal prints can either look exotic or tacky- you surely don’t want to end up looking like the Flintstones. Now that would be Tacky. If you’re determined to walk on the wild side- do it Tastefully, like Jackie.jackie-kennedy-fur-animal-print

As Fashion Week continues at Camellia’s Cottage-Remember in all of these fabrics and prints- scale, weight and quality are what our Southern Mothers were trying to instill in us all. The Fashion Icons agree.

Love y’all, Camellia

Top photo is a photograph of a friend’s mother lunching with a friend at the Waldorf Astoria NYC- many years ago. Other images are from AOL images and may be copyrighted.

Southern Trees…


Southern women are sensitive about Southern Trees. We’ve been known to tell architects they cannot add onto that side of the house because, well- it would mean cutting down a beloved tree. Against all advice to contrary, Southern women have said a tree cannot be cut down- ‘ Just build the porch around it, and you better make sure the opening in the floorboards are big enough for that tree to grow!’ Perfectly reasonable to me. Selling property in the South? The best selling points for Southern Real Estate are:

  •  Double Wide Mobile Home with nice wooded lot
  •  Lake House with great views of the lake and nice wooded lot.
  • Farm has pasture land and nice wooded area surrounding the farmhouse.
  • _DSC0111-1

If the wooded lot you’re selling has a Magnolia Tree on it, that ups the value of the property immensely. We Southern ladies don’t talk about it much – but there are women who fiercely protect their Magnolia Trees. The pitiful women who don’t have Magnolia Trees have been known to beg, borrow or steal Magnolia Leaves especially during the holidays or for special occasions– a wedding, funeral or open house. The lucky women who own Magnolia Trees have been known to get put out and even stingy with their Magnolia leaves!

I guess you could say- we’re tree proud. I made a list recently of the different types of Southern Trees we have in our yard. Dogwoods, Redbuds, Glory Bower, Red Oak, White Oak, Pin Oak, Water Oak,Hackberry, Sweetgum, Poplar, Elm and Black Walnut- Southern Yellow Pines and the darkly mysterious common Cedar Tree. My grandmother always said to get rid of Cedar Trees because ‘When a cedar tree gets tall enough to shade your grave, you’ll die’…How she knew this I’ll never know- but I believed her. My husband thinks that’s an old wives tale but he did remove a Cedar Tree because it was getting in the way of a Dogwood I wanted him to save. Bless his heart. _DSC0360-1

South Alabama has the big bearded beauties, Live Oaks- Southerners have been known to experience deep grief, especially when a Live Oak is damaged or dies. Live Oaks are the stuff movies are made of- the story has been told that a famous actress came south to do a movie and the setting was laced with Live Oaks- it was rumored the actress thought we did that just for her! We have renowned hospitality, but humans didn’t do that for her-  the South is just blessed with Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.image

What we don’t tell folks who aren’t from around here- If you want to collect Spanish moss as a souvenir- before you get home you’ll have chigger bites all over! Henry Ford once had the bright idea to stuff  his car cushions with the abundance of Spanish Moss found in Alabama- only to discover those pesky chiggers were a big problem. For Southern folks who are still looking  up North for their valuables…they think chigger bites are a fitting punishment for thieves who try to confiscate our Spanish Moss!

Southern women are more apt to forgive our Trees of their shortcomings than we are of other infractions that come our way. We never forgive Hurricanes- male or female- for taking down our Southern Trees.  Frederick, Rita, Ivan, and that hateful girl Katrina, we will never forgive you.

Yet if our Southern Tree roots break up a driveway or a sidewalk, well- ancestors have been known to break up and make things interesting too. It’s part of who we are- our roots are important. We make the necessary adjustments.  If a tree grows crooked, lays an arm on the grass or we have to make a path skirt around a family tree- that’s what you do for your folks. You make allowances, you put up with a bit of a mess-  pesky squirrels,  tassles,  colorful fallen leaves, prickly cones, burrs and bonafide Nuts. Southern Trees are like eccentric relatives, colorful kinfolks and outright Nuts- they’re the stuff our legends are made of

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Some trees are clannish

  • Pines stand together swaying and whispering
  • Dogwoods clump together in their lacy dresses like Sorority Girls
  • Redbuds circle up- conspiring to bloom where they are planted. Stubborn enough to bloom for just a brief few weeks in the Spring._DSC0390-1

We love our trees. Southern trees bloom, Shade us from the hot summer sunshine, Spread their branches to cradle nests while the squirrels are acting like nuts. Hickory trees give their lives so we can have that pit barbeque we so love. Trees let us hang a swing or spread out quilts for a snooze, a picnic or a family photograph. We’re as tree proud as any folks I know. Our roots spread out and run deep. We like it that way, nuts, squirrels, skeeters, chiggers and all.

Love y’all, Camellia

Thanks to Jeremy Miniard for the photographs of beautiful homeplaces in Alabama. Thanks to Denis for her photographs of the hauntingly beautiful Live Oaks.