Chanticleer Cut Flower and Vegetable Garden

This area was interesting first because we noticed the size and depth of their cold frame units.  Then the arches with all sorts of climbing vines arching across the grass pathway or across the spread of the cutting beds.  The vegetable garden was substantial and everything looked very robust, including the large stands of asparagus and the corner installation of beans.  They look like hyacinth bean plants, but they must be in fact edible.  Note the last picture of the cockscomb; it was more than 5 feet tall on a stem as big around as my wrist.

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Chanticleer: Bell’s Woodland

Bell’s Run Creek borders the edge of the estate, babbling through the Asian garden and Bell’s Woodland to create many small waterfalls, ponds, and the opportunity for lots of artistic handmade bridges.

Beautiful Outdoor Furniture From Beautiful Outdoor Fabric

Every week we help people find new Sunbrella fabrics for their outdoor (or indoor for that matter) furniture.  It is so interesting to see what fabrics each person chooses and how the fabrics look when combined as a finished product.

Cecelia who works parttime with us chose Callaway Citrus with Plaza Straw as the contrasting cording for four outdoor dining chairs.   Even we were somewhat surprised  at just how darling these cushions were going to turn out.

A few days later a customer from Enid came in to find new fabrics to renew and refresh the look of her patio furniture:  a double chaise, two single chaise lounges, lounge chairs and dining chairs, 25 cushions in all.  She borrowed the books and several waterfalls, which is why we have them, to help visualize how the actual fabric would look in place with her home’s brickwork and surroundings.  She chose Richland Bark for the double chaise cushion, Dimone Flame for the large lounge chair cushions (with a soft ruffle midway around the cushions), Richland Bark for the back cushions of smaller chairs and a textured monotone, Dash Redwood, for the remaining pieces.   They coordinated very well, each complementing the others, but again the final result, the completed pieces were truly stunning.

These chaise lounges are in the Dimone Flame pattern.

The armchair seats are in the Dash Redwood; the back cushion is the Richland Bark pattern.  The double chaise was done with the Richland Bark leaf pattern.  The pieces together looked fabulous.  The customer is using her fabric remnants to have a few throw pillows made.  Good work, all.

Digging For Diamonds in Atlanta

As most retail store buyers will attest, going to Market is physically punishing, mind-boggling work interspersed, if you’re lucky, with moments of entertainment and fun.  You have to gear up for it, get yourself in the mindset, and be organized to search for specific types of products, know where you’re likely to find them and recognize them when you do.  We have been to the International Gift Market in Atlanta at least once a year for 15 years, plus various jaunts to Dallas and New York.  Some years it seems that the entire world has taken a break from creativity while other years it is as though everyone has been on creative steroids.  From the ridiculous (who in the world buys that stuff?Why do they even bother to come to Market with that?) to the amazing to the sublime, it is there in 5,000,000 sq. feet of showroom after showroom awaiting discovery.

We like to fly out earImagely (5:30 a.m. early) to arrive in Atlanta before noon, check into the hotel and run over to the Market on the first day before most buyers arrive.  We almost have the entire place to ourselves, the reps are fresh and eager to be helpful; what else do they have to do?  For the past few years we have stayed at the Omni in the CNN Center; it is comfortable, within easy walking distance to Market, and the information hub of the universe.  This is our breakfast spot each morning, the Starbucks in the CNN food court complete with 24 hr. newscasts on the jumbo screen.

Across the street is the Centennial Park where there have always been interesting urban cultural events open to everyone.  The National Black Arts Festival occupied nearly the entire park this week with perhaps 100 tents full of bright African-American creations and great bands throughout the day and into the night that we could hear on the eighth floor of the hotel.

The International Gift Market in downtown Atlanta includes four 20 story buildings conveniently connected at various levels by glass walkways.   The views of downtown Atlanta from these walkways are impressive.

We usually browse  three of the four buildings.  We began our search at Noon in Building 1, floor 20, and worked our way down to the ninth floor by 6:00 p.m.   I wore a pedometer that registered 7017 steps from the time we left the hotel to the end of that day.  Products that stood out this year included extremely large clear or colored glass containers, aged mercury glass, and live and faux succulents; colors were more subtle earth tones with occasional outbursts of orange, lime green and purple.

In The Gardens, two floors in Building 2 West Wing are specifically geared to garden decor and gift products; a huge two-story fountain occupies the open center of the two floors.  It is very impressive and really loud; when the water is flowing, nothing else can be heard in the vicinity.

Somewhere in there we found the garden”Cottage Lady”.  Since Market was using a Christmas theme, most of the showrooms were in a Christmas decor.    Each little cottage was sprinkled with snow and was accented with tiny conifers, red berries, and the occasional tiny faux snowman.  These cottages are going to be much more well-known nationwide this year.

Since this Market had the Christmas theme, there were carolers dressed in Dickens garb strolling through The Gardens singing loudly and well.  The center court two-story fountain was the setting for a Christmas Feast.

 Caterers served sliced roast turkey, pear salad, whipped sweet potato in martini glasses, and bread pudding for dessert.

In Building 2 we came upon a showroom with this young lady  dressed in a body suit illustrated by “Billy the Artist”, a celebrity artist who illustrates a line of urban gifts and clothing.  He looks like a biker with a good sense of humor and a hearty  appetite.   His art has been shown in NYC’s Forbes Gallery, in Miami, London and Zürich, and he painted a mural in Venice in front of 30,000 people. Since he wanted to have lunch that day, we just missed having him personalize our shopping bag.

At the end of the second day, they literally rolled out the red carpet and invited buyers to “Dig for Diamonds”!   Everyone lined up to wait their turn.  At last it was our turn!  They handed us soil scoops and we scooped sand from the sand table and they sifted it for semi-precious stones and diamonds.  Christy mined two citrine!

On our last day we ventured through the mass of temporaries, temporary showrooms where unique items can be discovered.  Throughout the week as we rode the escalators up and down, we passed by these smaller companies constructing their spaces from the ground up and stocked their little spaces.  Entire floors are dedicated to these temporaries by theme: Gourmet, High Design (our favorite), Outdoor Living, Nature and Coastal Living, and Home Furnishings.

High Design is filled with wonderful, unusual, shiny and bizarre objects AND people.  We file through the rows looking left and right so we won’t miss anything, perhaps discovering that special new something that we know will make a great gift buy or garden accessory for you.  Among the items that stood out this year were realistic looking books carved out of wood in various finishes.  Just put them outside and let them weather!   Another outstanding creation was a miniature terrarium made from a repurposed restaurant wine bottle with the neck removed and filled with either Sedum seeds or moss.  That was designated as a great gift item by the celebrity gift guru; it will be an interesting conversation piece as well.

Market is fun  when we see friends that we’ve made over the past 15 years, visiting and going out for dinner with them, talking about upcoming trends.  We are very excited about our purchases: the new candles, diffusers, hummingbird feeders, doormats, French tablecloths, furniture, statues, containers and unexpected items that will be arriving in the coming weeks and months.  Come in and see it all!

Before and After: More Beautiful Outdoor Living…

A brilliant speaker I heard not long ago said most blogs are inane and irrelevant; we agree, which is why we don’t post a new one every day or even every week.  However, on  the chance that someone will glean a useful idea about container gardening and decorating outdoor living spaces, here is a recent patio consultation.

(BEFORE) This family came to us because they wanted beautiful pots of the proper size, shape, and color for their entry and the job progressed from there.  Noticing the dark brown front door, nearby gutters and downspout, and the cream and browns of the stone, we  chose iced coffee for the container color; it picked up a little of everything at the front of their home.

(AFTER) The entry faces west; it could have been a plant-killing oven, but actually the sun doesn’t invade until five o’clock; we tucked the pots into the shade to protect them and avoid crowding the door, so they will be fine.  Just as a precaution, we lined the sunny side of the pots with a double layer of bubble wrap for insulation against heat or cold.  A two-gallon Japanese Blood Grass in each pot will be tough enough, their dark purple-brown color will complement the pots, add the needed height and movement, and, with any luck, they will look decent through the fall and winter and then revive in the spring.

This family had some patio furniture and had thought about how the entire family wanted to use each patio–a formal one for entertaining and cocktails vs. the casual family hamburger grilling patio full of bright colors, whimsy, and family fun.  Everyone contributed their ideas.

BEFORE) The formal patio was in need of softening with carpet and plants.   Visual interest was needed at eye level.   We were able to offer the first components just before an outdoor party, finishing the plantings after they returned from a vacation.

(AFTER) An outdoor carpet that repeated the colors in their furniture cushions and was in keeping with their traditional style anchored the seating area.  Two large red pots complement the red in the loveseat cushions or pillows, and some  lush tropical plants make an appealing improvement.  A woven bowl filled with 3″ and 4″ spheres of moss and sea grass add an unbreakable designer touch in consideration of the four year old race car driver who is the daytime master of this domain.  The red containers behind the loveseat were not very visible here; however, the homeowner pulled everything forward and had eased them out to be more noticeable by the next time we visited to complete planting of the remaining pots.

(BEFORE)On the blank east wall of the formal patio, something was needed to fill in, soften, enrich, and enliven the space.

(AFTER) An even larger red container was planted with the largest tropicals available; we filled in with red begonias to echo the red upholstery.  This large container of plants softens, adds texture and movement to the blank wall; it will be  wonderful when the plants mature and are overflowing the container.  Included are an Areca Palm, two very large Pothos ivies, two Bird’s Nest Ferns, and more than a dozen red Begonias.  This should grow to a stunningly beautiful planting in just weeks; the tropicals love shady heat because those are their natural conditions.   They should be happy once their watering needs are determined.

(BEFORE) A blank brick wall on the west side of the patio needed something other than pots.

(AFTER)  A cast stone console was the answer,  anchored with a smaller red pot.  We were excited to find a tropical plant with thick leaves that begin as red when new and mature to green.  We surrounded it with a collar of red Begonias.  It too will be gorgeous when the tropical plant and the Begonias mature and spill over the pot’s edge.  We accessorized the console with two potted plants, one live tropical and one preserved boxwood.  as well as a large candle.   The homeowner has added a family photo and another candle.  We are looking for an appropriate weatherproof outdoor art painting to hang above the console or prop against the wall.

Now for the casual hamburger grilling patio!  The family wanted to keep a meaningful heirloom glass top patio table and four chairs to use as their everyday dining set.  There was a children’s plastic picnic table with attached benches that is great  to hose off after kids snacks and projects but not the most attractive, so it was relegated to the grassy area below.

For this patio we chose large glazed terra-cotta pots in a Bahama Blue finish, planting the largest two with blue-green small Leyland Cypress to add airy height and movement as well as seasonal interest in the winter.  They will need to be changed out in a few years, but then they can be planted in the yard.  We repeated the rug and pillow colors in the heat tolerant annuals planted in the remaining pots.

An aqua based outdoor turkish rug under the table and chairs and bright tropical floral pillows in the armchairs added comfort and united the space.

After everything was in place, we all agreed that another large pot should be added to the west corner in the future.

The tree covering their patio was festooned with several red silk solar lanterns for evening ambiance and for even more fun they later hung one of our outdoor swing chairs in a multi colored stripe.

We have found a retro outdoor art of a hamburger that can be hung over their grill.

One more attractive, user-friendly patio and one more friend.  That’s why we like this job!

One Garden at a Time

In a weak moment years and years ago, and we have had many weak moments, we said that we would tell a customer where to put her furniture and pots on her patio.  Then we agreed to plant someone else’s pots and that was the beginning of our consultation service.   It can be hard work as the weather warms up and stressful in that you might want a certain type of plant and a flourishing example of that plant is nowhere to be found or at least not in just one place.  However hard the work may be, we appreciate the new and long-lasting friendships that are made through gardens.

This particular consultation, as more often than not, came about because there was a party in the offing.  There’s nothing like a party to spur on improvements to home and garden.

This family had recently moved in to their new home.  Some areas were complete; the back entrance and the pool patio needed some more visual interest and the softness of plants.  The home is large and constructed of stone; we chose to use large cast stone planters in a finish that would complement the color of the stone.  The back entrance was bare.

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We chose cast stone planters in a finish that complements the stone.  For the sake of continuity, we used plants that generally repeated plantings already existing in large urns on the front porch.  When the plants mature, they will fill in this space perfectly.

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The pool patio, where the party would be centered, needed a few more points of interest and softening provided by plants, especially this blank space on the east facing wall.

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We selected a companion to the container on the back entry landing.  The east facing covered and sheltered area was perfect for lush tropicals that would give vertical movement in the breezes.  The plants should thrive there and fill in the space nicely.

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About 15 feet away in an outdoor niche visible from their kitchen sink,  we installed a heavy cast stone console table accessorized by a large cast stone book and a good-sized table lamp with a traditional cast stone finial base.  We finished planting in the afternoon two days before the party; it rained the next day, but cleared before their party.  The evening was cool and clear, perfect for being outdoors.

All About Orchids

Having one orchid still alive after more than one year in my care is an accomplishment but does not make me an authority.  We have been told that it really isn’t that difficult, but an orchid dealer was the one who told us that, so that’s his story.  We accidentally found an orchid enthusiast, an expert compared to most, as we did a garden/patio consultation for her.  She has a home and greenhouse full of orchids that are more than a week old and thriving; she is a member of the OKC Orchid Society. Again, we were told that growing orchids is not terribly difficult, if you know what you’re doing.  She invited us to attend their orchid show at the Will Rogers Garden Center on Mother’s Day.  There were some amazing orchids on display.

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Awards were many and well deserved.  It was confusing to see so many beautiful plants all in one room, table after table, and we did not stop to record the name of each, somewhat regrettable, but the images are my favorite part.

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Some looked like alien creatures, others like insects, the variety was truly amazing.

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Orchids are an exercise in patience and the flower is the reward.Image

This is the beginning of an orchid addiction.  Some things are just inevitable.