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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Summer Cherries, Patriotic Dates, and Email News

Friday, May 29, 2015

Summer days are here  

which means... 

summer vacations, swimming in the pool, 
relaxed schedules, longer daylight hours, 
patriotic holidays, and having meals alfresco.  

Fresh summer fruit is perfect for meals 
on a picnic, by the pool, or on the backyard deck. 

So many delicious summer fruit choices ~ 
It is hard for me to pick my absolute FAVORITE. 

Stars Fell On Alabama...

Monday, May 25, 2015



on Texas,  
and on 


Wild Maine Blueberry Pie 


Antique Fair Bleu

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Too far and snaky" 
was a phrase used by my grandmother 
for not going to someplace a long way away. 
Or, even for places close by
that she did not travel to for some reason. 
The conversation could have gone like... 
"Are you going to ________ ?" fill in blank 
Grandmother, "No, too far and snaky."

Lucketts Spring Market 2015 was too far and snaky 
from Texas to Virginia for me to attend. 

Sprucing the Kitchen

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beyond the normal washing dishes, sweeping the floor, 
and cleaning the countertops, which are everyday sprucing up chores, 
what do you do for 

sprucing the kitchen 

when company is coming? 

Guests have always spurred me to do a little extra cleaning, 
to give the house a little extra spit and shine, and often provide 
the incentive to make a few changes that are on the to-do list. 

Tips on French Style Topiaries

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You know the French are masters with sculpted gardens and plants, 
and topiaries appear throughout their personal gardens, 
in village parks, and along side their highways. 
Most anyone can identify a lonely stretch of a narrow straight highway 
flanked on either side with sculpted trees as a French roadway. 
There is usually a man on a bicycle carrying baguettes 
which probably helps identify the road as being in France.  

One of the easiest and fastest ways for me to add some French style
to my house is to add one or more fresh live topiaries. 
Buy it, bring it home, set in a pretty pot, and water. 
No sewing, no crafting, and not much money. 
Pretty much a somewhat laissez-faire approach to decorating. 
Another French way of doing things. 
Make it look easy even though there really is some effort required.

I've included a summary of

10 Tips for Growing a Topiary 

that will help growing topiaries much easier. 

Ever Changing Botanicals

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The pine chest that sits between the kitchen and living room 
is an ever-changing landscape for botanicals. 

In the spring those changes are so often that if you blink, you miss one. 

Why so often? 
Local nurseries, hardware stores, and grocery stores 
offer thousands of plants during March and April. 
About midway through May, there is an abrupt halt to 
the plant offerings. 
If you don't buy plants during these 2 1/2 months, 
you have to wait until the fall for another chance. 

So, monthly, or weekly, or daily monetary contributions 
are made at the local nurseries. 
Laughing the long tall Texan often told me he saw 
I had made my regular contribution as I brought in the latest plants.  

I love flowers in the house, but use living plants 
much more than cut-flower bouquets. 

Living plants can be enjoyed three-fold. 

1. Inside in a beautiful pot or basket until transplanted, followed by 
2. Outside on the deck or in a flower garden, followed by 
3. Cut flowers from the plant to bring back inside. 

More enjoyment for a longer time for less money than the price of bouquet. 
My kind of way to save money. 

A Spanish lavender plant that has already been planted outside 
replaced the elegant foxglove that was here just the week before. 
The foxglove now lives on the south deck, soaking up the sunshine and rain.  

Spanish lavender fares well in our north Texas climate. 
It blooms for a longer time than some other lavenders 
and survives our winters to return the next year. 

The large lavender plant in the ceramic pot and the small picture 
hide an unsightly electrical outlet located just above the top of the chest. 
The outlet location is convenient to reach for plugging in the lamps, but is not pretty.

 More than thirty years ago I saw a photo in a magazine of a similar 
chest of drawers with a large picture hanging above it. 
That photo was one of the inspirations for how we designed our house. 
For new readers who may not know, I drew our house plans on graph paper, 
and the long tall Texan did much of the actual building of our house.  

I still love this house, its layout, and the pine chest that holds 
an ever-changing landscape of botanicals. 

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Beyond Bluebonnets

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Texas Indian Paintbrush
unusual pink color 

Spring in Texas is legendary for fields upon fields of wild bluebonnets, roadsides covered in bluebonnets, and backyards with bluebonnet patches. Newspapers publish subscriber's bluebonnet photos, Internet sites track where the latest bluebonnet fields are blooming, and every small town provides bluebonnet trail maps. Bluebonnets are spectacular, and seeing them in bloom was destined to become one of the rituals of my life each spring the first year I saw my first bluebonnet patch. Bluebonnets became one of the redeeming features of living in Texas.

Texas Bluebonnets
Ennis, Texas 

You see, Texas became home after marrying a long tall Texan who was serving in the US Navy in the Washington, D.C. area.  Before ever visiting Texas, Texas became my home, and my impressions of Texas were all based on second- and third-hand accounts from movies, books, television shows, and friends' and new family tales of Texas.  Not all of those impressions were positive.

Wild Foxglove
along Texas Hill Country roadside  

Have you ever seen The Last Picture Show, a black and white movie, set in a dying small west Texas town populated by townspeople who have affairs with each other, single and married? Their lives were unfulfilled with lost hopes and dreams. The most indelible scene in my mind shows a tumbleweed blowing across a dirty empty street with dust swirling across barren flat land in the background. We saw this movie the night before I was to have major surgery just three weeks after our wedding. Going to the movie was supposed to cheer me up, but instead drowned me in a sea of despair, causing me to cry as I asked my new husband if this was what Texas and the people were really like. He reassured me that this was not what Texas was like.

Winecups on roadside
Of course, after moving to Texas two years later, I discovered Texas was populated by good, kind-hearted people and was not black and white.  Indeed, each spring the land comes alive with stunning shows of multi-colors in wildflowers. Bluebonnets are only the first act.

Texas Indian Paintbrush
in unusual fuchsia color & common orange color

More than 5000 blooming plants make Texas their home, and each spring my spirit is renewed as I make pilgrimages just to look at what is blooming. To drive slowly along, windows rolled down, head and arms leaning out to try to spot every bloom, and to spot the unusual is an annual ritual. Over the years, together my long tall Texan and I discovered the beauty of Texas wildflowers. While he had seen them for years while growing up in Texas, he had never really looked at them before our outings.

Texas Indian Paintbrush
two unusual shades of pink 

Growing up in Alabama, spring meant cultivated flowers such as dogwoods and azaleas, but not  showy fields of wildflowers. Over the years, many a dogwood tree, azalea, and peony died in our yard in the Texas blazing summer heat as I tried to grow the plants from my childhood. Others have grown these successfully, but I cannot. Instead, I now appreciate the plants that do flourish in Texas.

Texas Indian Paintbrush in deep pink 

The pinks, fuchsias, and peaches like these Texas Indian Paintbrushes are not as common as the orangey-red Paintbrushes that grow in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Each year I keep a look out for pastel Paintbrushes, and these pastel Paintbrushes were spotted in Brazos County.

Texas Indian Paintbrush 
Texas is now my home by choice. Now retired, I could move anywhere, but I see beyond the bluebonnets to my friends and family who also are Texans. If you look for me, you know where to find me.
Want to read more about bluebonnets? 


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