Patina… that magical thing that happens with age. I find it fascinating- maybe because I have a bit of patina myself. Ok, more than a bit. Still. Patina was originally a word used for a thing that happens to copper when it’s exposed to – well, life. Gradually patina came to represent objects that had been around a while, traveled through more than one experience- looked at life’s inevitable hardships and instead of becoming bitter became more beautiful and interesting- simply because it has survived and continues to thrive.

Patina holds within it, stories we may never read- through doors that have been the silent listeners to a time we’ve never known. They may not be shiny and brand new- yet, they’ve figured out how to be old, determined and useful.

One of the things I enjoy while traveling is taking photographs of architectural elements- especially those with patina like that wrought iron fence in New Orleans (oh, how I miss that old girl this year!) Patina is a good historical teacher who isn’t the least bit hysterical- especially when it comes to aging.

Now, it’s important to me that you know- I love all of you with all of your amazing talents, yet what always surprises me are those of you, who have a bit of age on them, seem more stable, less stressed, more inspired and less complicated or competitive- more willing to try new things. The ones of you who’ve realized that the last thing you want to do- is wake up and realize you didn’t do the things you were meant to do.

If possible, age should never be the limiting factor on potential. Patina is proof of timelessness- of a life fully lived. Just know, when you see patina anywhere- even the lines on a face, a bit of exposed brick, rust or peeling paint- you’re looking at proof that getting out of your comfort zones, staying strong, rising to the challenges, weathering the storms – results in something real, valuable and beautiful. Patina. Admire it. Aspire to it. Appreciate it in yourself.

Patina is a design trick used by the finest stylists. Take a tip from them. Use items with patina for your props or backgrounds. If you’re traveling, even in your own town- try to find and photograph patina. It’s beautiful and, I think you’ll find it everywhere you look.

Love y’all, Brenda

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.

Southern Magnolia…


It’s a fact- the closer you live to a Southern Magnolia the better your life will be…Tall, stately and oh so beautiful, she wears flamboyant flowers and her signature citrus scent. Magnolia’s green satin leaves are lined with brown linen that sets off creamy white flowers, red berries, then rustic cone shaped seed pods. Magnolia does enjoy her seasonal wardrobe. A true Southern lady, Magnolia tends to prefer the lower and coastal landscape and seems particularly happy in a mixed crowd-

  •  Silly Longleaf and Loblolly Pines,
  • Moody Live Oaks with long gray beards
  •  She happily waves to Nutty Hickories, Walnuts and Pecans-
  • And don’t get me started on Shy Dogwoods, Sour Persimmons and Crabapples…
  • Not to mention the clinging Muscadines and those crazy Redbuds!

Magnolia Grandiflora may be her given name, but just call her ‘Mag-knowl-ya’. Like so many Southern Ladies she knows how to age gracefully– and stands peaceful and serene regardless of winds or high water; and like a true Southern Lady seems to have a high tolerance for shock.  AE535DE0-98A6-4415-80D7-F7DB05F9076D

Magnolia makes her home from the Low Country of Virginia and the Carolinas all the way down and across the South right over to Texas, where she quietly makes her majestic presence known. Give Magnolia a Decent Footing, she’ll spread thick sprawling roots- bringing Beauty to her surroundings all year round. Magnolia is the epitome of Southern Hospitality offering red berries to winter songbirds and her shiny leaves beautify every special occasion. From the cradle to the grave, Magnolia seems partial to the Holidays. Rich in symbolism, the Southern Magnolia represents

  • Beauty
  • Strength
  • Faithfulness
  • Grace
  • Dignity and
  • Hospitality

This year, a Magnolia Wreath seemed perfect for the front door, since we have three native Southern Magnolias and two hybrids called Little Gems, their dwarf cousins growing on the property. We made a full and simple wreath of Southern Magnolia Leaves to welcome Thanksgiving at the cottage. Beautiful. Simple and Traditional for large or small homes. Here’s how we did it-

Start with a Strong and Decent Base.

  • Cover with Natural Moss for the big leaves to cling to.
  • Mingle old, new and browned leaves in an orderly Dignified way.1E452A26-746E-496F-8A42-14FF71185D81
  • Generously cover the base.
  • Welcome the Little Gems in a Hospitable way.
  • Securely attach large wreath to front door.A90922D5-FCDD-437B-A560-067EC16073BA

Our Evergreen Southern Magnolia Wreath will carry herself in Dignity, Speak Kindly, look Beautiful and Age Gracefully, I promise!

Love y’all, Camellia

  • *all photographs are obviously mine
  • *Spanish Moss is covering a large grapevine wreath
  • *No wiring was required since the wreath is on a covered porch, she held up beautifully so far!

Bundle Up!


Bundle up! Cool Autumn days are here- warm sweaters, cozy blankets and oh yes! Let the Festivities Begin! …Was that a groan? So much to do- so little time… Ask me if  I’m a  natural born multitasker?

‘Well Darlin’ I fried two chickens at once, four frying pans- too much work and the grease splatters weren’t worth it.’

The Southern drawl isn’t equipped to use the word multitask effectively, on the other hand- Bundle brings forth fond images: Bundles of Joy wrapped in Receiving Blankets, a Bundle of Clean Clothes right off the clothesline, Bacon wrapped Green Bean Bundles for Sunday Supper, a Bundle of Kindling or a mother’s voice…‘Bundle up now, you’ll catch a chill.’   When Holiday tasks are bundled up, it’s a joy not a chore…

Here at Camellia’s Cottage,  for Fall and Winter Holidays, we try to think like party planners, which elevates the preparations to something joyful. A color scheme, a menu, a theme… Then there’s  three things we bundled up to kick off the Season-

  1. The Family Christmas Vacation was booked and bundled back in July
  2. The Permanent Lists have been updated- Guest Lists, Traditional Food Lists,  Gift Lists and Mailing Lists
  3. Packaging, Stationary supplies and Ribbon orders were placed early… Yes, you read that right! My favorite Holiday Bundles are Paper Goods and Supplies!  

I know from experience that Setting the Scene for the Holidays begins with finding a common thread that runs all through the Season this is a sure fire formula for Holidays Bundled with Joy.

We use a neutral color palette for Camellia’s Cottage- White, Gray and Black. Natural Sisal Rugs, Cool Marble and Warm Barn Board are accents throughout. Whatever the season, Green is the common thread, the ultimate neutral in nature- think Pumpkin Patches, Sultry Magnolia Leaves and Soft Southern Pine. On my Supply List-  Each year, I add a new shade of Green Satin Ribbon; for holiday magic -a new shade of Red too, since both work all year. I add Cello Bags in several sizes; White, Clear Cellophane and Natural Wrap are also used year round. Wonderful mail order sources bring ribbon and supplies right to the Cottage Door! Nice Stationary is the epitome of Southern Grace and Good Manners!  There’s nothing like putting pen to paper for handwritten notes, though we’re finding new and beautiful ways to express our holiday wishes!

This season, Camellia’s Cottage is excited to be working in cooperation with Paperless Post®- the premiere retailer of online stationary… including the Southern Must Have- Thank You Notes! Why, Paperless Post has designs by world famous designers- Oscar de la Renta, Kate Spade and Jonathon Adler- talk about an all star line up! All of our stationary needs are bundled up in one place!

Paperless Post® includes options to download my own designs, photographs and to personalize the wording. There are options to order Paper Designs, too.  I found an array of ideas for Fall and Winter Holidays. I won’t get stuck with unused cards, with Paperless Post® – order a few or a whole slew.

For an Annual Eggnog Party, not held at the Cottage-the hostesses are updating the festivities using online Save the Date and Invitations- here’s what we’ve done so far:

  • The theme is Traditional
  • The favors have been chosen (a Famous Eggnog Recipe tied to Cellophane packages of Shortbread),
  • The program is being planned (Christmas Carols, an Inspirational Reading and more!)
  • Holiday food will be divided up among the hostesses (I’ll make Mimi’s Pimento Cheese, I’m told the Dessert Table will be loaded!) and-
  •  Our Local Animal Shelter is the charity we’ll support.
  • Tartan Plaid will be just right for our theme, the common thread that pulls it all together. Think donations in a big basket lined with a cozy plaid blanket, beribboned Scottish Shortbread favors, who knows? We might even see a Kilt or two- doubtful! But we can always scheme!

With the help of Paperless Post, we’re working up a Traditional Tartan Plaid by Oscar de la Renta. His square design for personalized Save the Date – To notify out of town guests . The Plaid Rectangular Online invitations to the Heads of each Clan will say- ‘Join us for an Evening of Comfort and Joy’ . Check out how Paperless Post works- it’s fast, fun and bundled up! Paperless Post®  has an online RSVP tool which tracks and stores responses ‘Let us know how many in your Clan will be there’ Online Cards are convenient, save time, money and best of all- Oscar de la Renta’s Plaid Holiday Design will make our annual event extra special!

The most difficult Holiday Tasks are easier when they’re Bundled Up! Here’s some tips:

  • Don’t go it alone- Online resources abound- Paperless Post® is a delight- easy to use, with helpful cheery staff-  I can highly recommend them for making Holidays easier. All of the Holiday Stationary for Camellia’s Cottage has been bundled up with a few joyful clicks and downloads. A very high stress chore was easy as pie and best of all? Checked off the To Do List!
  •  If you’re hosting a Holiday Party, enlist the help of others– divide and conquer! Decide early who’ll bring side dishes and desserts, who’ll polish the silver, who’ll participate in the festivities and who will track the RSVP list!
  • Double up-  Pick out a cookie dough that can be made in several flavors or shapes, store in the freezer until ready to use. I chose Shortbread-plain, pecan and orange. Shortbread actually improves after it’s baked! Most cookie dough can be held in the freezer for two months, it’s as easy to make four batches as it is for one- well, almost.5E8CB7C2-F0FE-4D66-9D41-B4B6A62C6C0A
  • Fall Outdoor Clean Up? Make it do double duty- I’ve  bundled up sticks for Firestarters and Kindling. In dry storage, the bundles will be mossed up and beribboned, with instructions to toss a few sticks on outdoor fire pits or indoor fireplaces! Hint: Men love to get kindling!
  • Bundle in bulk! When I’m grocery shopping, I add a few holiday necessities to my buggy each trip, this spreads out the cost of Holiday Cooking and Baking. Make sure you have parchment paper, foil and freezer bags too.
  • Do double duty in the kitchen– While the Sausage is frying and the Biscuits are baking- take another package of sausage, grated cheese and a bit of self rising flour- stir into a mix, chill- scooped into little balls, frozen on trays, then bagged with directions for baking on the freezer bag. You’re ready with pickup food any time!08D7A535-9828-40D4-87C6-A36AE3A887D9
  • On a nippy night, while a big pot of Vegetable Soup is bubbling on the stove, instead of one pan of Cornbread- make two! One to enjoy hot from the oven and one for the freezer, to be used for Thanksgiving’s Cornbread Dressing! Repeat.
  • Layer it on!-  Cozy Throws for sofas and chairs are an invitation to bundle up. Tie Ribbon on everyday Throw Pillows like Holiday Packages, remove after the Holidays for easy clean up. Simple and beautiful.
  • This year, when I made my Fall Wreath- I covered a plain grapevine wreath with gray and eerie Spanish Moss and Dried Hydrangeas, creepy faux bugs and little peeping eyes were added for Halloween! Quickly removed, a ring of Shiny Magnolia Leaves- curled to show their brown undersides, will be layered right on top for an elegant beribboned Thanksgiving Wreath; then embellished more for the Christmas Holidays! Talk about bundled for joy! That’s triple duty for very little effort- just layering on as the season progresses keeps life beautifully simple.
  • Bundled up Gifts-Bundle Candles, especially white  tapers- tie with pretty satin ribbon- great gifts for inevitable power outages or candlelit dinners. Rolled Cloth Napkins look especially nice tied with Ribbon. A plain Linen Hand Towel embellished with old lace- bundled up with a pretty soap, an easy and nice hostess gift! I must admit, my Holiday Labor of Love is making Pecan encrusted Toffee and Sugary Puff Pastry Palmiers.  Packaged in cellophane bags and tied with pretty ribbon- who can resist?

Everyone is busy, avoid Holidays fraught with multitasking nightmares…Bundle up! Begin now. Find ways to incorporate Holiday preparations into daily living. Don’t go it alone. Partner up, like we did, with Paperless Post® Enjoy the ease of online invitations and the process of themed Party Planning. Find a common thread, like pretty Ribbon or Tartan Plaid for Holiday décor. Now, about those gifts…I’m looking at personalized Thank You notes! No self respecting Southern Lady would be caught dead without them!

Love y’all, Camellia

A huge Thank You! to Paperless Post® for your cooperation and help. *Images for Cards and Invitations were used with permission from Paperless Post®

* All other photographs are obviously mine, as well as the images of my own personal designs- the pumpkins and purses can be downloaded to online form with Paperless Post!