Category Archives: Garden

Jean-Frederic Schall’s Dancing Ladies

Jean-Frédéric Schall, a French painter born in Strasbourg in 1752, was one of the last important artists to contribute to the fête galante style popularized by Antoine Watteau.  His works are mostly small in scale and executed with a characteristic liveliness in form.  His female subjects, particularly his dancers, portray an idealized femininty with delicate facial features and impossibly slim waists.

I find them utterly charming.  They’re like miniature cupcakes, sweet and lacking substance.  And they’re so 18th century, or at least how the 18th century aristocracy had hoped to appear.

Graced with innocence and ebullience, these ladies seemed a natural pairing with flower sketchings from The British Florist volumes.  Enjoy!

Lady with a Dog

Dancer with a Tambourine

A Young Lady Dancing in a Wooded Glade

 Portrait of a Lady, possibly Marie-Madeleine Guimard, ballerina of the Paris Opéra

Dancer with a Feather Hat

Dancer with a Bouquet

Dancer in a Louis XVI Costume

All drawings from The British Florist, or a Lady’s Horticultural Journal, Volumes 1-8

Antoinette Tulips

I have a thing with gardening, an obsession really.  I would not quite call it Tulip Mania, but it’s bad, and now I have one more obsession to boot.  The Antoinette tulip is multiflowering, which essentially means its hues change over the bloom period, and it is gorgeous.  Antoinette would have been a fan simply for the tulip’s whimsical nature.  It’s Easter yellow and green . . . no, wait, raspberry pink.  No, salmony orange.  Oh, dear.

As a bouquet tulip, Antoinette is also abundant, producing 4-6 flowers per bulb.  The name really is perfect and although spring seems an awfully long way off, any Antoinette fan would be remiss to not have some of these in her garden.

Spring 2011 Bulb Plans

I have an ongoing battle with tulips.  Of course they’re breathtaking, dominate the garden in spring, and readily available.  They are also a royal pain when you favor perennials.  I can barely handle the annuals I have to rip out of the garden at summer’s end.  But tulips that must be dug out by the bulb?  Ay!

So last fall, thinking to save myself the headache, I defiantly resisted planting tulips.  My perennial garden flaunted hyacinths, muscari, and daffodils, all selected for their superior fragrance and ability to return without further work on my part.  The dreaded tulip was shunned. 

Inevitably,though modern day tulips lack scent and the vast majority refuse to rebloom, I bemoaned their absence from my gardens whenever I drove around town.  Even the bountiful Red Impressions, which I usually don’t spare a second glance, started catching my envy.

You can guess where I’m heading with this. Come late September I’ll be back on the bulb.  I ordered Going Baroque tulips for the small circle garden outside my office and plan to supplement with early and mid varieties.  They are scheduled to arrive the week before we head to the BWCA, which will have me cursing as I rush to get things done.

But just look at these.  They’re so beautiful I’m bumblebee-ish with excitement.

Figuring I should round out my 2011 bulb collection (so I can quit complaining about the tulips I must pull come early summer) I also ordered Crown Imperial fritillaria (above).  At 5/$25, they were a steal at  Colorblends.  I usually see them for around $16 a piece, maybe 50% of that price on sale.  Alliums were a good deal there too so Globemasters are coming my way.

In addtion, I ordered 100 more grape hyacinths for underplantings (they last forever and smell great!) and crocus for beneath Josie’s favorite tree.  With that, I should be set.  Well, except for the Casa Blanca oriental lilies and Madonna lilies for a pop of white.  And trumpet lilies.  This garden obsession is really never ending.

Garden Variety Finds

My idea of fine summer living in the country is an equation of simplicity: freshly squeezed lemonade, a lazy evening in the hammock, a philosophical book in hand.  It’s the time of year when I spend more time in the garden than in the kitchen, when errands in the city are forgotten or ignored, and visiting sterile air conditioned malls is like eating canned peas when fresh are 100 feet away.   Much preferred are the farmer’s market, open doored boutiques, and flea markets.  Second that, online shopping on cool nights with the sultry air breezing through the windows is pretty darned nice.  If I weren’t on a spending moratorium, this is exactly what I’d buy:

By Countess Elizabeth Von Armin.  First published in 1898, this chronicle of an English Garden in a German climate is part witty memoir, part languid gardening affair.  She affectionately refers to her husband as “The Man of Wrath” which is reason enough to scour ebay for this classic.  The beautiful book above is offered on for auction through July 7th.

Dedeetsyshop’s interpretation of a coral hyrangea in felt on white linen.  Gorgeous.

I can see myself in this dress, kicking back on a blue blanket in the grass.  It’s a little graphic, a little outdoorsy, crisp in white and purple.  The surprising part?  Find it on the new-agey site Pyramid Collection.    While you’re there make sure to browse the accessories.  They sometimes have stellar finds.  You can also find renaissance fair garb here if you’re so inclined.

Chive Flower Salad

Chives have a special place in the garden – and that would be right up there with weeds.  Much like mint, they’re invasive, spreading and stretching, popping up feet after feet away from their original planting site. Pesky plants.  After I dug up some clumps last spring, they’ve sprouted near my roses bushes, nudged next to the lilies, and tangled themselves up with the thyme. 

This annoyance is really all my fault.  Before laying out a formal herb bed, I moved my chives three times.  The worst was crowding them into the perennial flower garden (a bad, bad idea which still has me pulling onion-scented sprigs!)  But there was an upside because now I’ve an abundance of chives bursting with spiky purple flowers and those edible petals are every bit as delicious as they are pretty.  Slightly more pungent than the chives’ green stems, they impart equal parts soft crunch and potent oniony flavor to salads and pastas.  Under Jon’s dubious brow – which believe me, was contorted with dreading curiosity – I tossed lemon vinaigrette with greens, walnuts, feta, pepper, and a few choice flowers.  Needless to say he was surprised by the flavor.   This edible is not your typical, bland pansy! 

When you’re prepping, just make sure to wash and dry the flowers carefully, keeping an eye out for any small crawling creatures.  Then discard the hardened flower stems and voila!  



Curious which other flowers are edible?  Edible Flower Chart

Butchart Gardens – Victoria B.C.

A Stroll in Spring

Butchart gardens is simply breathtaking.  I find the scope and sheer amount of flower beds mind boggling especially since come late spring, all the tulips and spring flowering plants (with the exception of trees and bushes) are pulled out and replaced with summer flowering varieties.   Yes, I asked!

The sunken garden (last picture) used to be a limestone quarry before Mrs. Butchart saw amazing potential in the big, ugly pit.  What a woman can do when she sets her mind to it!  Now, if only my garden looked so spectacular . . .

Georgian word of the day:  Puce

A popular color in Georgian and Regency times, found in fabric and on home articles.   Not charming to say the least as in French puce literally means “flea.”   Caroline Weber, in Queen of Fashion, recounts an amusing exchange between Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI:

“When the Queen asked her husand how he like the confection, which was made from tafetta of an odd pinkish-tan hue, he replied laconically: ‘It is the color of a flea [puce].'”

I can see a husband saying that!

FYI: The color is brownish-purple or pinkish-tan depending on the source.

Baronne D’Oberkirch, also noted in Queen of Fashion, wrote in her Memoires:

“every lady at court wore a puce-colored gown, old puce, young puce, ventre de puce [flea’s belly], dos de puce [flea’s back], etc.  [And] as the new color did not soil easily, and was therefore less expensive than lighter tints, the fashion of puce gowns was adopted by the [Parisian] bourgeoisie.”

Update: See my March 2012 post on ‘Pretties in Pink’ for more on puce.