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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

The Color of Easter

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What is the color of Easter? 
When you think of Easter what color do you see in your mind? 
Do you see fresh green like new sprouting grass and leaves? 
Or perhaps you see white as in Easter lilies? 
How about the yellow of daffodils and baby chicks? 

For me, purple is the color of Easter. 

The purple of creeping phlox that appears in early spring 
planted in masses on slopes signals Easter is approaching. 
My grandmother grew purple phlox that was prickly. 
Prickly purple phlox. 

Whenever I see it, 
I think of my grandmother who loved to grow flowers, 
and I think of Easter. 

Redbud and phlox purple remind me of ... 
Easter with the extended family gathering for 
lunch with ham as the main dish. 
Easter with our baskets to look for Easter eggs 
and with deviled eggs on the lunch menu. 
Easter with new clothes to wear to church services. 
Easter was always a big day for the whole family. 

 The color of purple phlox that is the same color 
of redbud trees - that's the color of Easter.  
My mother and grandmother always dyed several colors of 
hard-boiled eggs for our Easter egg hunts in the yard. 
There were always purple eggs to find and to put into our baskets. 

The rye grass and irises beneath the redbud in my yard 
would make great places to hide Easter eggs. 

Redbud trees grow wild in the woods of North Alabama. 
Redbuds do grow in North Texas, but not in the wild. 
We planted a redbud several years ago and two volunteer redbuds 
appeared in our yard a couple of years later. 
Something about trees and flowers self-propagating makes me happy. 
Somehow those plants seem more special, 
like they picked us to live with, 
rather than the ones I've planted that weren't given a choice. 

As I looked out at the redbuds, I decided to bring several branches inside. 
At the same time, I was thinking about a vignette of whites for the kitchen island. 

The plan was to put the blue speckled eggs in white bowls, to use a white pitcher, 
and to arrange white flowers on the white wicker basket. 

Then I spotted these two shades of purple bowls while shopping. 
I picked them, put them down, walked around, and picked them up again.  

All the while thinking about 

redbud trees, creeping phlox, and Easter. 

The white vignette turned itself into a purple vignette, 
but was still arranged in the white wicker basket. 

The only new things are the purple bowls 
and the jelly beans.  
Everything else are things I've had for several years. 

Leaping purple hares on a kitchen towel leapt right into the bottom of the basket. 

A pale yellow iron bunny was already dressed 
in the pastel seam binding ribbons that
are the perfect colors to pull everything together. 

Jelly beans, along with chocolate bunnies,  
were always in our childhood Easter baskets. 

Even now in retirement years, I assemble an Easter basket 
for my sister that always has chocolate. 
The basket is not always a traditional basket. 
Flower pots, decorative boxes, and gift bags are all 
good alternatives for filling with Easter treats. 

Raspberry, strawberry, orange, lemon, and peach cremes 
are the flavors of the jelly beans. 
Arranged in a simple clear floral vase, 
the visible jelly bean colors contrast with the purples 
and coordinate with the pale yellow iron bunny.  

In the background is another kitchen towel with bleu bunnies 
hanging on the oven door handle. 

What is the color of Easter at your house? 

purple bowls ~ Anthropologie 
hare & bunny kitchen towels ~ Williams & Sonoma, many years ago 
blue speckled eggs ~ Botanic Bleu shop 
yellow iron bunny ~ local gift store, several years ago 
jelly beans ~ Brach's candy

3 Changes to a French Country Bathroom

Thursday, March 26, 2015

French Country magazines published here in the USA 
remind me of the homes, furniture, architecture, 
dishes, linens, fabrics, gardens, 
and the list just goes on and on... 
 of things that mesmerize me each time I travel through France. 

Larger and larger numbers of blogs devote posts 
showcasing French Country and how to get the look. 

Equipped with these excellent resources with detailed photographs 
and often authentic commentary by French writers,  
I study the elements of French Country and continue 
to replace, to rearrange, and to update rooms in my house.
Each time I make a change,
I look at my inspiration photos to capture a French feel. 

Slowly over time the American Country feel of 
my house has been replaced with a French Country style
that continues to change.   

Changes over the past two years in the master bathroom 
 created a French Country style to the bathroom. 

Last year a white child's chair held French lavender sachets and 
a lavender embroidered towel from France. 
The little chair is from an antique store and 
was a Christmas present from my husband several years ago. 

The wire basket with its white fabric lining has a French feel. 
Always looking for a bargain, 
I was excited to find this wire basket at HomeGoods last year. 

While the pieces emulate French farmhouse, 
I decided to rearrange existing pieces to create a 
less French farmhouse and more French salon look. 

Look at the difference three changes made. 

The same space with the same lavender embroidered towel 
now looks more elegant French Country than French farmhouse. 

The ottoman with its curved wooden legs and 
blue and white toile fabric replaced the small white chair.
Blue and white contrast cording accentuates the
curves in the cushion's shape and the curves in the wood.
Previously the ottoman sat in the master bedroom
with a chair covered in matching blue and white toile. 

A large ruffled-edge flower pot sits where the 
round metal basket with its white fabric liner once was.

A small grey concrete rose bundle replaced a bird card holder 
on the windowsill.

Previously the rose bundle was part of last year's Christmas mantel.
See how it looked at French Christmas Mantel.

Soft blues, whites, and whitewashed wood 
echo the faded colors of French salons. 

More updates are in store for the small sink vanity next to this window. 
White paint on the vanity, a new medicine cabinet, 
and a new mirror are in the works. 
I'm still looking for just the right French-inspired 
medicine cabinet and new mirror. 


Pinterest has become my biggest collection of
clippings for French-inspired decoration and sources.
Looking for your own inspiration and sources?
See Botanic Bleu's Pinterest Boards for both house and garden.
French Country Design 
French Inspiration 
Country French Fleurs 
French Lavande

Love a little color inspiration?
French Bleu 
French Rosé 

Would you like to see more of the French Country
changes made to the house?

The changes began in the kitchen. 
White paint transformed the pine cabinets into a brighter, 
airier look with a decided French Country kitchen style. 
Before and after photos illustrate the transformation in 
French Country Kitchen.

Kitchen French inspiration can be seen at
8 Ways to Infuse French Elements Into a Kitchen

Changes in the master bathroom include
White Paint and French Details in the Master Bath
Lavender Touches - Bath Decor

Purple Heritage Herb Garden

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring has arrived, March 20th, according to the calendar. 
Yet, the grey overcast skies don't look like spring. 

In pouring rain, I went to a small local garden center 
searching for small starter herb plants for my kitchen sunspace, 
searching for a little Spring. 

A few favorite herbs are just the thing 
to bring in a little Spring and 
to plant in the Purple Heritage Ball Jars that 

Once the weather warms and the danger of frost is past, 
I will plant the herbs in pots on the deck. 

Herbs soothe.  
Are there any other plants with so many benefits? 

Is there any better sight than green on a cold day? 
Feel the feathery leaves as they release their scents. 
Smell the aroma of mint that awakens your entire being. 
Taste the vivid flavor that any herb adds to a recipe. 

Even with overcast skies, the herbs will get lots of light 
sitting on the top shelf of the little bookcase used as a potting shelf. 
And the herbs are close enough to be enjoyed. 

Gardening tools are close by on the second shelf. 

The kitchen breakfast/sunspace is close to the cooking area 
which makes it easy to snip a few herb leaves. 

Oh, so français to cook with fresh herbs.  

One of the Ball jars keeps scissors, snippers, and clippers handy. 

The herb labels are also in this jar. 

Birds and bees fly on the apron kept close by 
for both cooking and puttering with plants.

The small locally-owned nursery has quality plants and carries varieties 
not usually found at the large national hardware garden centers. 

Shopping there is always an adventure because I never know 
what new plant or variety I will find. 

This Spring's herb garden includes my favorite herbs, 
but some of the herbs with * are new varieties to me. 
Blue Label Herbs is the wholesale nursery for all of these. 
Blue Label Herbs... named perfectly, bleu, for herbs I would love. 
  1. Lavender - Fernleaf*, annual, best used as a stovetop potpourri 
  2. Thyme - Variegated Lemon, annual, use for cooking, fragrant ground cover, in sachets 
  3. Mint - Lime*, perennial, use to flavor iced tea and fruit compotes/salads 
  4. Sage - Purple, perennial, use fresh or dried to flavor stuffing (or dressing as we call stuffing in the South), salads, soups 
  5. Rosemary - Trailing*, annual, use fresh or dried in a variety of dishes 

These herbs came in 4" pots, not in small starter peat pods 
so often found at large hardware stores. 
The roots have plenty of room to grow and to become established. 

A handful of pea gravel in the bottom of each 
of the Ball jars insures good drainage. 

See the lovely shades of purple in the sage, mint, and lavender that go with the 
Purple Heritage Ball Jars? 

The lavender blossoms are delicate violet-bleu atop feathery fern leaves. 

When the herbs are transplanted to pots on the deck, these 
weathered verdigris stakes will identify them. 

What herbs are your favorites? 

Which herbs will you plant this Spring? 

Are you trying any new varieties? 

Any tips for growing or using herbs? 

The breakfast sunspace is my favorite place in my house. 
See how I love and enjoy this space. 


Everything In Its Place

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Spring closet cleaning frenzy turned into a closet make-over
that took some problem solving to work around an 8" x 8" pine post.
With a little planning and organization, an existing closet now works better.

The little closet is behind the door on the left. 
Welcome to the little closet that now works as a closet for 
account file box, 
bookcase for projects and magazines, 
a new space for L I N E N S. 

Here's how we worked around an 8" x 8" pine post in a closet  
to create a better, bigger set of usable wire shelves in the closet. 

My closet had a tower of wire baskets that no longer functioned as needed. 
After years of working with what's on hand, 
the day (rather, midnight) came when the tower had to go 
and had to be replaced with 20" deep x 36" wide wire shelves. 

The new shelf system has four shelves hanging from two vertical supports. 
Now, these new shelves may not look much different to you than 
the old tower of wire baskets. 

Here is the old tower for wire baskets. 
At first glance, it may appear there was more space in the old tower. 
The key, however, is USABLE space. 

The new shelving system's advantages over the old tower are 
  • There is minimal obstruction to the shelf space by the support brackets.  In the old tower system, the shelf widths were only about 18", confined by vertical supports on either side.  The new shelves are 36" wide with almost all of the space unobstructed by supports. 
  • The new top shelf adjoins the existing old narrow wire shelf making the top shelf 36" wide also. 
  • The new shelf system allows unobstructed use of the floor space under the shelves; whereas, the old wire tower cut up the floor space into two small sections on either side of the tower. 

Do you see how the new design worked around the 8" x 8" pine post in the corner?  

The new shelving system came from Lowe's. 
The 20" deep wire shelves come in 4' and 12' lengths.

Somedays it is just your lucky day. 
The 12' lengths were on sale,
and the Lowe's sales clerk used a super-duper power snipper
 to cut the 12' shelf into four 3' shelves for me. 
 This is a much better use of materials and less expensive
than cutting off one foot from 4' long shelves. 

The 20" deep shelves were hand trimmed on site 
at home to fit around the post. 
Of course, the left wall was not quite plumb, so each 
shelf's length was custom cut to fit against the wall. 

The pine post caused a problem by not allowing 
the use of three vertical hanging supports mounted to the wall. 
Instead, we used two vertical supports that went with the system 
and one brace support next to the wall. 
By putting the brace support close to the wall, 
little space was lost to the brace. 
To secure the shelf grid to the brace support, 
we used cable ties to tie the two parts together. 

More shelving was created by adding a new 12" deep pine shelf 
above the existing clothes rod on the right side of the closet. 

A custom cut was made on site to fit the pine shelf around 
the structural corner brace of the house's post and beam structure.
Not visible are the slanted cuts in the pine shelf that made a good fit.  

Ready to see what is on the new shelves? 

European size pillows, bed size pillows, throw pillows, 
QUILTS, extra sheets, quilted throws, mohair throws, and 
empty pillow covers to change out how throw pillows look. 

A close view of the top two new shelves
There's the blue checked European size pillow that had longed for a safe resting place,
next to the patriotic European size pillow
supported by the old wire shelf and the new shelf.

The new shelves easily hold three bed size pillows.
Behind the yellow floral pillow are two more bed pillows.
The two decorative throw pillows fit perfectly in the space in front of the pine post.

The pine post and new braces along the wall are easy to see in this photo. 

Wire baskets from the old wire tower system work in the new system. 
The small shelf at the bottom is one of the old useless shelves. 
See the new vertical support brackets peeking out along the back wall? 
I was able to add two new braces to them and to use cable ties to tie 
the old shelf to the new braces. 
Still need to snip off the end of the cable ties. 

I can remove this small shelf anytime I want a taller space 
beneath the four new fixed shelves. 

Woven baskets easily fit in front of the pine post. 

The lidded 12"-tall basket holds extra light bulbs and an extension cord, 
and has room for more things I want to hide. 

The white basket holds dried lavender and lavender sachets 
to keep the closet fresh smelling. 

The laundry basket on the floor holds more throw pillows, 
including one of my favorites, 
a tapestry bought in France of the Chenonceau Chateau. 

A long rectangular patriotic pillow fits easily on the narrow wire shelf. 

Along the back right side of the closet hangs most of my tablecloths. 

I think my mother will like the new shelves as much as I do.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

See how a midnight cleaning frenzy began this closet make-over at 

The new shelf system is made by Rubbermaid found at Lowe's.  
No compensation of any kind; just letting readers 
know where to find similar products.