Garden Containers

Of all the garden ornaments, containers can be the most satisfying way to express one’s artistic leanings. They can transform a drab section of the garden or brighten an apartment balcony. Vast acres and a deep purse are not needed for this hobby. Large containers are indispensable for use as focal points, while the smaller ones are useful for moving around or filling in seasonal gaps in beds.

Various containers grouped imaginatively can have an immediate impact on a bare concrete path or patio. While large urns or wooden tubs should be positioned with care (and once placed are difficult to move), smaller pots can be constantly moved to suit a gardener’s whim. The advantage of large containers is that they allow the gardener to create bold, lavish designs and if planted with a long term shrub can provide year-long interest. Fox example, a large urn with a centerpiece of either clipped rosemary or a small Alberta spruce with cascading verbena can be striking. Large containers lined up and planted uniformly make a useful boundary marker; this method could be used to break up bare expanses of wall.

Garage sales can turn up a surprising number of quirky and unusual containers. Old tin buckets, milk pails, and watering cans with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage would make an interesting centerpiece for a cluster of small pots. Daisy-like flowers such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) or Coreopsis “Sunray” create a more informal look.

Balconies:

On an apartment balcony, a sense of summer can be evoked by using pots of various sizes and planting them with perennials and annuals. Perennials such as lavender, marguerite, and pincushion flowers are but a few of the myriad choices. A north-facing balcony could have pots filled with impatiens or begonias. Ferns incorporated into this shady scheme would add textural contrast.

Vegetables in Containers:

Certain vegetables will grow happily in pots–another boon for the sunny balcony. Voracious slugs and their equally repulsive brethren are less prevalent in container-grown vegetables. Lettuce (buttercrunch), spring onions, and radishes will make a nice little salad. While you might not be able to feed ravenous guests with the modest output of your little garden, it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you snip a lettuce, parsley, and spring onions. Tomatoes too can be grown successfully in a container; the taller plants might need staking.

Tips:

  • Containers must have adequate drainage. Place a few small stones over the drainage hole to prevent soil seepage.
  • Mix half cow and compost and potting soil to fill container to within a  few inches of the top.
  • The plants should be well-watered before planting. Plant in the cool of the evening. After planting, sprinkle with Osmacote or any slow release fertilizer. Water gently but thoroughly every morning and evening during hot spells.
Classical Urn

A classical urn.

Another Classical Urn

Another Classical Urn.

Petunias.

Petunias.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

Heroes in Novels: Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Novel “Pride and Prejudice”

Mr. Darcy is not one of those heroes who rescues people from physical danger. However, he rescues the Bennet family from disgrace and loss of their good name. He is ashamed at the way he had proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, denigrating her family, thus insulting her. To make amends, he rescues the family from the shame of the elopement of Lydia Bennet with the dastardly villain, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts, ensuring that the marriage will take place and that the good name of the family will be restored. He does this anonymously with the understanding that his deeds will not be acknowledged. He wants no thanks or praise. Mr. Darcy–a gallant hero.

Dear readers, have you ever known anyone who was not a hero in the obvious sense, but radiated heroism in his or her daily actions? I’d love to hear about your everyday heroes in the comments below!

Jane Austen – An Appreciation

While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.

How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.

This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.

When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.

With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.

The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.

And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.

The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Villains in Novels

In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is considered by most readers as comical. However, she is also the villain. Haughty and arrogant, she looks down her nose at anyone who doesn’t measure up to her aristocratic standards.

When she hears rumors that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, is engaged to Elizabeth Bennet, she sets out in a huff to confront Elizabeth at her home (Langbourn). When she arrives, she imperiously bids Elizabeth to walk with her in the garden. She demands to know whether these rumors are true.

Elizabeth tells her: no, there is no engagement. Her ladyship is pleased.

“And will you promise never to become engaged to him?”

But feisty Elizabeth is more than a match for her; she’s had enough of her ladyship’s interference and tells her in no uncertain terms that who she becomes engaged to is her business and no one else’s. She will make no such promise.

Lady Catherine is incensed, telling Elizabeth that by marrying her nephew she would be quitting the sphere in which she had been brought up. “On the contrary,” Elizabeth replies, “Mr. Darcy is a gentleman. I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”

“True,” says her ladyship, “but who are your uncles and aunts?”

Whatever her connections are, Elizabeth ripostes, if Mr. Darcy does not object to them, why should Lady Catherine object to them?

“Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter,” says Lady Catherine.

“If that is so,” Elizabeth replies, “you can have no reason to suppose that he would make an offer to me.”

Elizabeth walks back to the house, Lady Catherine following behind her–still ranting.

Before entering her carriage, she delivers a devastating and comical one-liner. “I am seriously displeased!”

Have you ever had someone try to break up you and a significant other? Comment below with your thoughts and experiences!

Too Late for Regrets For Sale at Boulder Book Store

Thanks to readily accessible self-publishing services and independent publishing companies, having your e-book featured on multiple online platforms is now a viable option for all aspiring authors. But there is something very exciting about seeing your work featured on a bookshelf–a physical bookshelf!

Thank you to Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO for featuring Too Late for Regrets in their Recommended section. If you won’t be making your way to Boulder to ski this season, you can also order a physical copy on their website (link below)!

http://www.boulderbookstore.net/9780692229668

TLFR Bookshelf 2TLFR Bookshelf 3

Host Your Own Afternoon Tea and High Tea

History of Tea and Tea Gatherings

Tea for Two

Tea for two.

One of the traditions inherited from the British Empire is afternoon tea. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods, the aristocracy gathered in the drawing room for this elegant ritual. Up until the First World War, ladies changed into fashionable tea gowns. The middle classes soon adopted this custom (though without the tea gowns). It was a civilized way to entertain friends. In the Regency and Victorian periods, exquisite sterling tea services were wrought by fine silversmiths in Britain. Plated silver soon followed, allowing those of more modest means to enjoy the same elegance. In nineteenth-century England, the pottery firm of Spode was the first to discover the formula for bone china–a mixture of bone ash and clay.

Pink tablecloth and tea set

Pink tablecloth and tea set.

High tea is not to be confused with afternoon tea. High tea was the working man’s early supper. The men worked long hours in the factories and mines, and when they came home they expected an early, substantial meal accompanied by their favorite brew-tea. This early supper consisted of some of the following items: shepherd’s pie, sausages, steak and kidney pie, hard boiled eggs, as well as thick slices of homemade bread. Fruit tarts rounded off the meal with a final “cuppa.” The mother presided over the teapot, which was replenished many times.

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the Garden.

The difference in the varieties of tea is determined by the region in which it is grown. At higher altitudes, the quality of the tea is superior because the cooler air matures the leaves more slowly. Below are some of my favorite teas and their corresponding regions:

  • Black fermented teas are grown in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and in Darjeeling, India.
  • Early Grey tea was named for the second Earl. It is a blend of Darjeeling and China teas, scented with oil of bergamot (a citrus fruit). This is the tea mentioned on Page 61 of my novel, Too Late for Regrets.
  • Ooling teas are a blend of black and green teas.
  • Green teas are unfermented and are the most delicate of all. They are never served with milk.

Great fortunes were made by firms importing teas. The most famous of these is Twinings, whose history goes back centuries.

Are you planning on hosting your own tea party? If so, it’s important to know the following:

Tea on the patio.

Tea on the patio.

  • The host always makes and pours the tea for guests and should ask beforehand whether milk or lemon is preferred. A teaspoon of sugar further enhances the flavor.
  • Small children love tea parties. Dressed in their best clothes, the children’s manners are usually impeccable; even the youngest are somehow aware that they are participating in a special formal occasion.

    A lace tablecloth.

    A lace tablecloth.

As for the menu…

  • The sandwich, named for the Earl of Sandwich in the nineteenth century, is made from thinly sliced bread spread with a salmon or vegetable spread, then layered with thinly cut cucumbers. It is a staple of tea parties. The crusts should be removed and the sandwich cut into squares or triangles. Scones with jam and cream follow. A pound cake, meringues, or trifle can be added.
  • Pastries bought from a good bakery are perfectly acceptable, especially if they are arranged on a lovely plate.
  • All that is needed for a tea party is a table covered with a crisp linen, a simple arrangement of flowers, good china, and gleaming silverware.

What could be more pleasant than a tea party in the garden? Have you hosted your own garden party? What are some of your favorite tea party rituals? Comment below!