Starting To Look Like a Garden

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Welcome to the latest of the few and far between updates of the gardening adventures as a brand new Fairegarden comes to fruition. It has been one year since we pulled up stakes and moved house from southeast Tennessee to east Tennessee. Saying that there has been a lot of work done is an understatement. Most of that work has been in the gardens, front and back. There are still unpacked boxes in the house, but all of the gardening equipment and decor has been sorted and accounted for since day one. Naturally. There has been some success with the plantings. Shown above: Echinacea purpurea backed by Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ in a blue pot and Veronica ‘Royal Candles’.

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The last post was published in January. Nothing much was happening outside in the garden until May. Only a few bulbs had been planted the fall before because the beds had not yet revealed themselves to me. Among those initial bulbs were fifty Allium albopilosum syn. A. christophii planted in 5 quickly dug holes.

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The Alliums front the bed created that runs along the property line with our next door neighbors. The row of lavenders can be seen at the left. As is painfully obvious, this bed was still a work in progress.

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One of the plus points of these Alliums is how attractive and long lasting the seed heads are. The dried flowerheads are now gracing the front porch in a large container. When they are no longer pleasing, they will be composted. Seeds that drop out can be sown and will readily germinate, growing to flowering size in a few years.

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Some of the lawn at the very back has been allowed to grow on unmown to be a lawn/meadow of sorts. It is hoped that we can have something similar to what we had at the old house, which can be seen by clicking here. It was interesting to see the plants that were contained in the weedy lawn, ready to spring up if allowed. A pleasant surprise was the large stand of fleabane, Erigeron ssp. I wish that this plant was more highly regarded and not thought of as a weed by so many. It is beautiful, easy to grow and a pollinator magnet. The spring blooming lawn grasses were also quite attractive. They were cut down with the hedge shears when they became unsightly. Ornamental grasses and daylilies have been added to this meadow to be. More things will be added as we see what can withstand the competition of the myriad grasses and weeds over time.

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As May gave way to June the back gardens, which had been the initial home to an assortment of plants that were brought from the old garden last summer, written about here,  started to shine. The plan was to  consider height above all else in placement. Most, but not all were spot on. The Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ has been a highlight and is still blooming in August. The hummingbirds adore it. Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ , Asclepias incarnata and Eryngium yuccifolium are also in the tall section and have performed well.

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Only a handful of the over one hundred cultivars of daylilies which we grew were brought to the new house. Of those, one standout was this unnamed Hazel Dougherty seedling. What a beauty!

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Three of the fifteen seedlings from my own crosses were deemed worthy to be brought to the new place. #4, #15 and #12 all made the cut. This is #4.  It was a good year for daylilies.

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July shows some progress in the front entrance area that was written about last January. That story can be seen by clicking here. Heavy rains have proven the boulder and rock assortment to be up to the task of resisting washouts.

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Planting continues in the back gardens. There was too much reliance on annuals for this to be considered a low maintenance garden, but the African blue basil was certainly pretty and a pollinator favorite. Perhaps next year one or two will be added rather than the six that took up so much space this year. Trial and error, baby steps, a garden is never done, all those cliches apply here.

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If we squint just right, it almost looks like a real garden already. The featured plant above is Agastache ‘Rosie Posie’. I hope it turns out to be perennial, even if a short lived one.

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Pollinator visitations have been plentiful, including hummingbirds and butterflies like this little skipper supping on Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’. There are several large milkweed plants ready for monarch caterpillar dining pleasure, but so far there are no takers. We are not on the migratory flight path, but hope to see some stragglers this fall.

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There have been lots of seed sowing attempts to help fill up the new garden more cheaply if not more quickly. Rudbeckia triloba has been stellar, as has the Eryngium yuccifolium, both very easy to grow from seed. Saving and sowing seeds is something I love to do but alas, no greenhouse means outdoor sowing will have to do. So far, it has.

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Thank you for following along in this ongoing saga of the reestablishment of the Fairegarden. One year into it, the payoffs are being harvested. May there be more to come. Onward.

Frances

Posted in New garden | 32 Comments

Gardendate: January 2015

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Captain’s Log, January 2015:

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First a rehash; 2014 saw the Fairegarden enterprise make a tumultuous relocation of its home base in August, selling and turning over the helm after a fourteen year stint as its captain on a steep slope in southeast Tennessee. The new ship, located an hours drive north to simply east Tennessee received our goods and equipment in a jumbled and chaotic transfer executed in one very long day.

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Upon exploration of the new assignment, we found the front foundation plantings to be sadly overgrown and unpruned with weed tree seedlings that had been allowed to grow into  large and overbearing alien beings. The first order was to cut down the offending trees growing in the flower beds with a chainsaw.  The better to walk to the front door unobstructed, my dear.

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The shrubs were hard pruned with hopes that they would survive, live long and prosper.  Coreopsis was revealed as edging.  Weeds were pulled, the beds were mulched, containers and rocks were set in the empty spaces. With so many tree roots in the ground, pots were a good solution. Besides, we seem to have a kajillion large containers, accumulated over the years as gifts from loving family members. Maybe a few might have been purchased by me during markdown periods at favorite nurseries.

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The back yard was attacked with gusto with soil deliveries, shed and fence building. Those stories can be viewed by clicking here and here if you missed these posts and are interested. The front entryway was to be the next project after the winter holidays were fully celebrated and enjoyed in the new house by the Fairegarden clan. Grandsons LTB and the newest member, little Finny helped make the season bright.

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Among the gifts bestowed during those holidays was a big surprise from my spouse, The Financier. Shortly before Christmas he called to alert me that a delivery was coming and to be ready for it. When I asked what I was supposed to do with the mysterious item, he said that I would know when it came. He was correct.

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These two boulders were to be the cornerstone of a new gravel garden just below the walkway from the driveway to the front door. The drainpipe from the roof gutters goes under the sidewalk and ends in a popup device, the odd green circle right behind the rocks,  that causes serious erosion of the sloping front yard during heavy rains. Bits of roofing material were scattered among the crabgrass roots causing us to scratch our heads as to what in tarnation that green plastic thing in the middle of the lawn’s purpose could be. We finally saw it in action, with the center part sticking up several inches and water pouring out of it in a river going down to the driveway and on its way to the storm sewers in the street. Nothing would grow there and the rocks were to be the solution.

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Strong backed family members wrangled the boulders to the desired spots for optimum cul de sac playground viewing while seated on the flat topped surfaces. More rocks of various sizes were added to anchor the vignette. The old rusty wheelbarrow, some small metal birdbaths, the concrete cat named for our dear departed cat, Freedom and a couple more containers were added.

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In the bed along the walkway, a cobalt blue glass mushroom made by Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens Northwest, a Christmas gift from my dear sister in law, Lynn graces one of the yucca filled blue glazed containers. The cobalt blue Horn of the Unicorn, a previous birthday gift from The Financier and also made by Barbara Sanderson has joined in the parade of blue.

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The golden Chamaecyparis was finally taken down at the corner of the garage.  The metal sculpture Let it Rain, purchased in Asheville, North Carolina in the River Arts District  has made a fine replacement.  Slowly, ever so slowly the Fairegarden vessel moves ever onward toward gardendom and beyond, where no plant has ever grown before. Except crabgrass.

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Winter is still breathing icy gusts down our necks in between brief periods of welcome sunshine but there are promises of spring sprouting in the soil on this uncharted plant-et.

***

Please accept our apologies for the Star Trek-speak. It just popped into my head that the recording of the evolution of this newest Fairegarden was like Captain Kirk’s weekly journal entry into his log on the 1960s television program. Some things swirl around in our consciousness forever, just waiting to rise like cream to the top. HA

Frances

Posted in before and after, New garden | 32 Comments

Progress As The Curtain Drops on 2014

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Things have been moving ever onward here at the newly relocated Fairegarden. Fall veggies have progressed nicely in the cold frame.

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There has also been progress made in the back yard. We have moved many times in our adult lives and one of the first tasks, always, is the hiring of tree work. It is good to have any wayward trees addressed before gardening begins, and while there are still funds available for such. Renovations are notorious fund-suckers. At the new house, the upper level part of the back yard only was fenced by the original owner, leaving the north facing, steeply sloping 25 feet on the other side totally unkempt. Tree seedlings quickly grew to become chainsaw sized weeds during the eleven years since the home was built. Without at least a yearly cut down, that is what will happen to all wild land. It will eventually become a forest.

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The row of pine trees belongs to us and they mark the property boundary with the fenced yards of the subdivision next door. We love the privacy and wildlife refuge they offer. After the offending weed trees were cut, the view was very much improved.

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But there was more to be done after the trees were felled and hauled away. The landscaper can be seen above walking the area, calculating the cost to accomplish my vision for the land. At one time I had hoped to garden on this large parcel of soil, but wise advisors reminded me of the hazards that steep slopes can bring to aging feet and ankles. We know all about slopes.

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Before the work could proceed on the other side of the fence, the fence itself needed to be replaced. It was falling apart and the weed trees had twisted the lumber and caused general dilapidation on the slope side. A straight across the top style constructed of western red cedar brought a much more attractive sense of enclosure to the back yard. (It can’t be called a garden, yet, although the shed looks rather handsome already.)

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The assortment of bird houses and feeders, containers of various materials, statuary and benches that had been languishing unloved hither and yon were carefully placed to dress up the fence line.  A few climbing roses and some Clematis were planted to bring some greenery someday.  A deciduous azalea, seen just to the right of the raised turquoise container was even planted along there. It was found on the mark down table at a big box store in Asheville, NC. Incredibly, this particular cultivar was the earliest blooming, and a favorite of my signature plants at the old garden, Rhododendron ‘Admirial Semmes’. (You can read about my signature plants by clicking here.)  I was tickled to find this treasure at all, let alone for a reasonable price.  Some things are just meant to be.

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The day after the fence was installed, the landscaper came and cleared the mess behind the fence. Winter rye grass was sown and straw was added to help hold the newly bare soil in place. He and his crew were still packing up their equipment here when  I dashed out and quickly planted the fifteen small evergreens that were to provide color and winter interest over time. “Don’t forget to water the grass seed”, he said as he left. Thanks for the reminder, I thought, the trees will need watering until the winter rains come.

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The rains did come and the grass seed finally germinated. It will not be mown for I admire the flowers and seed heads of rye grass plus we can’t be traipsing around on that steep incline, anway. Happily there is new growth on the little evergreens, too. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’, Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Rachel’, Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ and Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Carolina Sapphire’ should all grow tall enough to be seen over the fence from the house and yard but remain narrow enough to not interfere with the pine trees or the pretty new fence. We do hope to live long enough to see that vision come to fruition. Some saved wildflower seeds were scattered back there, as well. The maintenance plan is for a once a year cut down of the ground cover until the trees grow large enough to shade out weed germination.

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After the fence and landscaping work was completed, I gave myself a little present. Six yards of local topsoil mixed with composted horse bedding and some mulch and screened were delivered by a dump truck to the back yard. Merry Christmas to me!

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And a very Merry Christmas to you! Oh wait, somebody forgot to turn out the lights…

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There, that’s better. May you all have the most wonderful of times during the holidays and we’ll see you next year. Onward to 2015!

Frances

Posted in before and after | 24 Comments

In the Beginning

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In the beginning of the newest, and we hope the very last incarnation of the Fairegarden, click here for the pictorial post of the traumatic move …

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there began the creation of a new backyard garden in the blank slate of mown crabgrass lawn with a truckload of planting mix dumped into a pile. It was six cubic yards of goodness.

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First there was dirt, then there were plants unceremoniously stuck into that dirt. Hosta ‘White Feather’, assorted daylilies with dislodged tags and some Hydrangea arborens ‘Annabelle’, all looking very sad for it was the middle of a droughty east Tennessee August.

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Time marches on and more plants were added to the nursery bed. A sprinkler was set up to try to keep these small bits of treasured friends alive until proper beds could be constructed in the seemingly distant future. The menagerie of garden art and accoutrements was stacked willy nilly out of the way, including the dear blue chairs.

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A project was begun in the back garden after many renovations were hammered out inside the house. It had great potential for inducing happiness in a sad gardener missing the fall show in her beloved former masterpiece.

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Some days were more exciting than others. The concrete truck barely fit between the houses and could not get through the gate of the dilapidated fence. Strong men would have to wheelbarrow the heavy mix in the mud to the framed base, for there had been torrential rains for several days that delayed the pour. At least the nursery of plants did not need the sprinkler running to keep their thirsts quenched.

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The sun came out just at the right time for the spreading of the concrete by two dedicated workmen, Tom on the left and Joe on the right. Did I mention that it was muddy?

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A frame sprung up, and it was good.

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There were portals to gaze out upon the garden and allow light into the structure, using the salvaged windows that were removed from the previous house because they had clouded up.

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There was an old door from the contractor’s shop that would give character to the new shed. Tears of joy ran down my face when Tom and Joe showed it to me.

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Walls, a roof and support posts for the small porches were added. The vision was becoming a reality.

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There was priming and painting. The original color, Sherwin Williams Foggy Day was much too blue and not the desired dark grey at all. A quick run to the paint store for a gallon of solid black that was added to the two gallons of Foggy Day already poured into the sprayer bucket saved the day. Black Fog turned out to be the perfect color.

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Some leftover fourteen year old paint of Dorcester Green was just right for the trim around the door and windows. More colors were planned but art is knowing when to stop. The little Fairegarden bench, click here for it’s birth story, just fit under the two foot overhang in front. Tom hung the large Westminster wind chime at the corner. It just fit as though the space had been made for it. The roof extension on the left side provides a workspace for a potting bench out of the hot sun and sometimes rain.

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Benches and plants were moved inside, just in time as the first frost was looming in the weather forecast. The orchids and tender annuals that were to be mother plants for cuttings were safely ensconced in the sun warmed space when the cold hit.

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Tool racks were hung inside to hold the shovels and forks. Outside, some décor has been attached. Large rocks were used to make an entryway that was less muddy. My grandmother’s wrought iron seating set looks right at home in front. Gravel will be added at some point to make a small patio there. The wire trough planter at the bottom of the picture is sitting on the deck railing. A deck post can just be seen at the bottom of the image, as well. This is the view from the deck that is located right outside the kitchen. The shed is to be the focal point as the garden beds are made and planted around it.

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It is gratifying to have made this progress towards the vision. Bees and butterflies have been visiting the nursery bed. Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ did not fail to bloom despite being moved at the worst possible time. In the opening shot of this post, a newly purchased Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ also gave succor to pollinators. It is now time for a little rest.

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But not for long!

***

There are many projects to come. Contractors have been contacted. They have come to the house and listened to my plans. They will work up estimates that are acceptable to us both. Then there is scheduling. Nothing happens fast enough for my liking, but we are trudging onward. Stay tuned for more to come.

Frances

Posted in Musings, New garden | 40 Comments

Goodbye, Hello

Nymphaea 'Helvola'

Nymphaea ‘Helvola’

Or maybe the title should be Hello Again.

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis

There have been dramatic changes here at The Fairegarden*.

Perilla frutescens 'Atropurpurea' and Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'

Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’ and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’

The decision was made last year to move house.

Hosta 'Sunpower'

Hosta ‘Sunpower’

The old house was sold. A new house was purchased. Not in that order. It is done.

Mountain mint,Pycnanthemum muticum

Mountain mint,Pycnanthemum muticum

Bits of the old garden were moved to the new location, about an hour from the old slope. Those things not potted up, but rather rudely yanked from the earth were planted into a holding bed. We will try to keep them alive until proper beds can be made for them.

Yucca 'Color Guard'

Yucca ‘Color Guard’

Many carloads of garden-y stuff were brought to the new house. The above photo was taken in the new garden. All other photos in this post were taken at the old garden, the day before moving day.

Left behind

Left behind

Most of the garden was left for the new owners to enjoy. May they receive as much or more joy from the house and garden as we did. (Hey, to Lou and Andy!)

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

In the journal pages of yearly plant purchases there is but one entry for 2014. So far. This new little tree will be a focal point in the now blank slate of level crabgrass lawn, it is hoped. The wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ will be planted after the beds have been visualized and laid out.

Kitty is ready to go

Kitty is ready to go into the soft carrier to begin a new phase of life. Hazel was already packed up.

We are not to that point yet. There is still renovation going on inside the new house and boxes are stacked high, waiting to be unpacked. I can’t find my shoes. As the new garden evolves there will be entries of before and after. Perhaps you, dear readers will wish to follow the progress. I missed you. Onward.

* The Fairegarden is defined here as the place where I garden. It is a metaphysical location that moves when I move. I am not only the gardener, I am the garden and the garden is me.

Frances

Posted in cats, New garden | 67 Comments

2014 Calendar

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January-Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and Yucca filamentosa ‘Colorguard’

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February-Narcissus pseudonarcissus and Stipa tenuissima

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March-Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ with creeping thymes and tulip foliage

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April-Peonia suffruticosa ‘Kamata Fuji’

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May-Nigella damascena with Sedum acre and Festuca glauca

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June-Athyrium niponicum, violas, Lobularia maritima ‘Snow Princess’ and Ophiopogon planescapus ‘Nigrescens’

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July-Great spangled fritillary butterfly on Asclepias tuberosa with Astilbe ‘Fanal’ and Lunaria annua

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August-Monarch butterfly on Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’

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September-Agastache ‘Orange Nectar’ with Perilla frutescans ‘Atropurpurea’ and Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’

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October-Various pumpkins, one a volunteer with leaf still attached and a florist mum on the child’s bench on the front porch

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November-Muhlenbergia capillaris with Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ in front and Amsonia ssp. behind

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December-Crocus chrysanthus ‘Violet Queen’ and creeping thyme

Each year a calendar is assembled from photos carefully selected from the files. The hard copy calendars are given to family members and special friends. The online version is shared with you, dear readers, who I also consider to be very special friends. May 2014 be your best year ever!

Previous Fairegarden calendars:

2013

2012

2011

2010

Frances

Posted in Photography, Projects, Seasonal Chores | 22 Comments

Seasons Greetings from Christmases Past

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Seasons Greetings for 2013! We sincerely hope the end of 2013 finds all of you happy and healthy, enjoying the holidays in whatever way seems best for you. We will be spending time with our beloved Fairegarden clan with love and laughter. Below please find a few offerings from the archives of posts written to celebrate the joy. They remain some of my most favorites.

Gift from the Woodpeckers-The Yule Log 2008

Angel Cloud of Dreams 2008

Winter Solstice 2009

Caroling Cardinals 2009

Happy Holly-Day Holidays 2011

O Tannenbaum 2011

Home for Christmas 2012

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Frances

Posted in holidays | 13 Comments