Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Chrysanthemums: Cool Colors

Although I prefer the warm yellows, oranges, and reds 
for fall blooming chrysanthemums,
there are lots of "cool" fall colors too.

How about a cool violet color like these dazzling pinkish-purple beauties?
Photo source: roddh via

I like to mix solid colors with those that have yellow centers like these:

Here's a creative use for green button mums:

Of course, with a white chrysanthemum
and some colored dyes, you can satisfy just about any color craving:

Just another great thing about autumn!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Chrysanthemums

September 29th Sunday night ~ September 30th Monday morning

This time of year I guess we could say "mums" the word
because we see these fall favorites on every front porch.
I love chrysanthemums: the fragrance, the colorful flowers, 
the fringed leaves so dusky green.

I just saw a bright orange-orange mum at the store this week.
It's tangerine orange instead of the darker pumpkin orange color.

audreyjm529 via

I like bright yellow ones too:

My most favorite fall chrysanthemums are deep red:

In some cultures, chrysanthemums are symbolic of sorrow,
but how could a flower bring anything but joy,
especially one that celebrates autumn?
Tomorrow, more of my favorite mums.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fall Arrangements with Pumpkins

It seems pumpkins are everywhere even though we are
still weeks away from Halloween.
Here are some of my favorite fall vignettes with pumpkins
that I found on the web.

Let's start with this photo from Martha Stewart.
Pumpkins are stuffed with colorful chrysanthemums
along side stacked gourds and squash.
I like the black wrought iron next to the orange of the pumpkins:

Here's a tableau that really hearkens back to by-gone days:

I like this one from
It's casually informal but visually balanced:

Here's a photo with dried corn stalks, bales of straw,
pumpkins, and gourds. Could anything express sunny autumn days
and crisp nights any better?

Tomorrow, some ideas for decorating our front doors--
in some respects, the best part of fall decorating.

Friday, September 27, 2013

More Fall Decorating

Here are some outdoor fall decorations that I found on Pinterest.
I love Pinterest because it's got all the advantages of home decorating magazines,
without the cost. Plus, the best part is there are thousands of beautiful color photos.

Isn't this shiny gold pumpkin tower glamorous?
I think it would look out of place at my house, 
but in front of an urban townhouse, trés chic!:
This would be a cute display outside of your store during the month of October...pumpkins spray painted gold with your store's address.

This one is from
I like the monogrammed pumpkin at the bottom.
Fall Mailbox    Southern Soul Mates: Fall Decor

Even though this photo isn't of an out-of-doors decoration,
it shows a clever way to cover up those plastic pots
that chrysanthemums come in, and the Indian corn
would be a nice touch in an outside arrangement:
Perfect mum idea with ribbon! Now I have to figure out where to get the corn!

I love everything about the arrangement from Stone Gable: 
the Indian corn, the bronze ribbon,
and especially the pumpkin-colored mums.

Decorating is one of the best parts of fall.

Fall Decorating: Fireplace Mantels

I have to start this blog with a confession:
Last night, I opened my laptop to write yesterday's blog post,
and I promptly fell had been a very long day.
So here is what I had planned to share with you yesterday:
the fun of decorating fireplace mantels for Fall.
It's not something that I usually do,
mainly because I don't like our fireplace.
It's persona non grata as far as I'm concerned,
so I ignore it whenever possible.

These other homeowners don't seem to have the same problem.
Their mantels are festooned with the bounty and colors of autumn.
Here's a simple wreath of autumn leaves and pine cones,
posted on the web site Between Naps on the Porch.
Even the wood on the mantel looks like the coating on caramel apples:

This long arrangement is more simple:

How about putting your pumpkins on pedestals
as shown here on the web site Denise in Bloom.
She used old wooden bobbins painted black:

I think Denise's vignette is so charming.
Would it be overdoing it to tuck in some votive candles
or white lights? 

I can tell that these photos have inspired me
to give my fireplace mantel another look.
Definitely. Very soon. Maybe next year...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn Decorations

As I drove to work this morning,
I passed by the lake near my house
and there were a couple of vultures sitting and watching ... and watching.
So I decided I needed to focus on something more pleasing today:
fall decorating.

Decorating for autumn is one of my favorite rituals.
I think I like it better than decorating for Christmas because there's no pressure.
I always wait to do mine in early October,
so today I'll share some I found on the Internet.

The Thrifty Decor Chick has a cute idea 
that uses mini pumpkins, berries, and votive candles
 tucked  inside a rustic wooden box;

Another cute table-top decor idea for autumn is to fill glass containers with naturals.
This one is from Timeless Wrought Iron blog
by Joanna Crain:

This next photo is actually part of the instructions 
for a craft project described on Felt Sew Good blog.
But the maple leaves are pretty, 
and I like the casual elegance of a few autumn leaves resting in a wooden bowl:

Tomorrow, more autumn decorating.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


There is a small lake near my house.
Often when I drive by, I will see a few vultures
sitting quietly on the bank.
I always wonder why they are in a suburban neighborhood like ours,
but then our neighborhood is situated in a swamp along the river,
so I guess the woods offer a selection of tasty treats for them.

But a couple of days ago, 
I was driving near the mall and saw that on every light pole above me,
a vulture sat looking down at the road.
One, two, three, four, five vultures in all.

Gray sky, dark muscular vultures eyeing cars on the road below,
it all seemed a perfect preview of Halloween.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Change of Seasons

Four Seasons? Think Again!

So the Autumnal Equinox has given us our first real nudge into fall.
Ordinarily, I think most people would consider Fall the third season,
after Spring and Summer--at least that's how I conceptualize it.

But I stumbled upon a web site 
They say that there aren't four seasons, there are six, each two months long:

Early Spring (February, March);
 Late Spring (April, May);

Photo credit: Max Moskal,

Summer (June, July);

Autumn (August, September);

Early Winter (October, November);
 and Late Winter (December, January).

I have to say, at first I liked the idea of splitting winter into two shorter seasons--
it makes the cold, dreary days seem more manageable.
But then I noticed that by this interpretation of the seasons,
Autumn will be over in exactly 7 days.
Seven days!
We haven't even gotten down the road
to spectacular fall colors like these yet:

 But that's what they say.
Early Winter will begin when the clock strikes October 1st.
Maybe the Tibetan calendar of seasons isn't for me after all.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Falling Leaves

Welcome Autumn

Yesterday morning, the last day of summer,
 the sky was the deepest of azure blue,
and the white cirrus clouds were visible in the northeastern sky.

As I was walking with my dogs, 
each of us enjoying the warm sun in our own way,
one perfect yellow maple leaf
fluttered down right in front of me
and rested near my foot.
Maple Leaf, Yellow, Stone, Autumn, Journal, Plant

I thought to myself, who could be sending me a message
with this yellow leaf?
But I soon dismissed the idea as too fanciful.

Photo from moonlightbulb creative commons

Then as I drove down the tree-lined street
which leads out of my neighborhood,
dozens of tiny golden-yellow crepe myrtle leaves caught by the breeze 
showered down in front of me.

The sky, the sun, the leaves...
just a little autumn magic.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Autumn Fires

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a verse
called Autumn Fires that goes like this:

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The gray smoke towers. ...

There's one more verse in which he glories 
over summer's end and autumn's beginning.

an autumn fireplace by Tracey 

The other night, the air smelled of wood  smoke
from fireplaces lit,
the moon was full and silver,
and the sounds of the high school marching band 
wafted across the breeze.

Very much a sign of "pleasant summer over."

leaf image from

Friday, September 20, 2013

Autumn 2013

I have to admit that, despite my recent posts 
about fall flowers, autumn 2013 has completely sneaked up on  me.
Today and tomorrow present us with the last two days of summer.
The summer season has been waning and I didn't even know it.

Come Sunday, September 22nd at 4:44pm EDT
in the Northern Hemisphere,
summer will be over and autumn will be here.
Hmmm, that must be why I've also been seeing Christmas decorations
for the past few weeks.

Hal Borland, an American journalist,
once wrote:
Summer ends, and Autumn comes,
and he who would have it otherwise 
would have high tide always 
and a full moon every night.

I take your point, Hal.
But I have to say,
a full moon every night doesn't sound that bad.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Autumn Joy Sedum

I'm always surprised at how many people 
wax enthusiastically about autumn. 
There is much about autumn that I like, 
but I can't pretend to love it.

But a couple of the things I do like about autumn 
are the pumpkins and colorful chrysanthemums.
And there's no denying the beauty of a sunny September day
without the haze of humidity.
But most of all, I like seeing dark red flowers come the third season.
One of those that is very deep wine red 
is the aptly named Autumn Joy Sedum--
no doubt so named by someone who loves autumn a little too much.
This sedum's German name is herbstfreude, meaning "autumn pleasure."
When even the flowers are happy its autumn,
you know you're outnumbered.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall Flowers: Snowball Bush

I never really thought of the snowball bush viburnum as a fall flower, 
but lately I have been seeing them everywhere around town.
I had never realized before how beautiful they are.

We once rented a house that had a large snowball bush viburnum
in the front yard. Back then, it didn't hold a lot of appeal for me
because it had been planted against the guide wire of a utility pole.
That snowball bush always looked painfully cramped and crowded.

Here in Tidewater, the snowball viburnum is in full bloom, 
having transformed its bright green flower heads
to an exquisite fluffy white.
They can grow to an amazing eight inches across,
one of the features that distinguishes them from white hydrangeas,
another southern favorite.

Glad I discovered that snowball bushes had another, happier side.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Flowers: Asters

Asters look like tiny daisies.
In fact, asters are sometimes called Michaelmas Daisies
because they bloom their fullest around St. Michaelmas Day--
September 29th.

Asters come in more colors than regular daisies do,
and their flower is much smaller and more profuse.
The petals are more fringed than regular daisies'.
Some aster plants can get a few feet wide.
I've read that the seed heads attract small birds, too--
an added bonus.

When I lived in the Midwest, I had a beautiful aster plant,
light purple with yellow centers. 
I don't have enough sun here to grow them in my backyard, 
but I might be able to find some space in the front,
if I planned ahead.
I never think of planting asters until the fall,
and by then I'm less interested in gardening.

But if you are a more energetic gardener than I,
then asters would be a good choice.
They grow in white, pink, blue, lavender, and darker purples
that would look great with pumpkins and gourds.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fall Flowers: Goldenrod

During our drive to Southampton County over the weekend,
I saw masses of tall goldenrod (solidago) growing along some of  the fields. 
Coincidentally, goldenrod is #3 in the Better Homes and Gardens
list of top flowers for fall.


Better Homes and Gardens says the idea that goldenrod 
contributes to allergies is a myth because its pollen is too heavy to be airborne.
Instead, it clings to butterflies and bees,
who find goldenrod nectar very tasty.

Goldenrod and ragweed both have long yellow blossoms,
so that may be why they are sometimes mistaken for one another.
But I suspect the goldenrod is more beautiful 
in late summer bouquets like these from the Gardenista blog:

As Albert Camus once said,
"Autumn is a second spring..."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In the Land of Cotton

One of the best ways to see the change of seasons 
is to head out of the city.
Yesterday was a clear, sunny autumn day
so we took a drive to Southampton County, Virginia.

Southampton County is crisscrossed with old plantations
and working farms, and one of the first things I noticed
was that most of the corn fields had already been picked,
leaving expanses of golden stubble.

This is what corn stubble looks like, 
but in Southampton County, the terrain is Delta-flat.

Soybean fields are still full and green,
as are the cotton fields. 
The cotton fields are one of my favorites
probably because I'd never seen one until I lived in Arkansas 
for a couple of years.

For some reason when viewed from a distance, 
the green cotton plants
look like the Eastern Shore potato plants to me.
But up close, the green, unopened cotton boll 
lets you know the plant is not going to yield a bunch of potatoes.

Around mid-November, the leaves will dry 
and the cotton will pop out of its shell.
That's when I love to drive into the land of cotton--
when the fields are full of cotton waiting to be harvested.
It looks like snow--
only fluffy and warm.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weigela and the Bee

Our house was built in the late 1980s,
so much of the shrubbery planted around the foundation
is creeping past two decades in age.
Lately I think about pulling them out and starting with something
more compact in size, but there are too many other things to attend to.

However, there is one lone weigela planted near the chimney  
which we did attempt to do away with because it is so ugly.
Besides the fact it had gotten huge and blocked the water faucet, 
it was pretty dreary once its tiny pink trumpet flowers came and went.

Photo credit: David Fenwick,

Cheryll Greenwood Kinsley of WSU Whatcom County Extension
expressed my exact thoughts on the type of weigela we have,
an early cultivar, not a newer hybrid, when she wrote:

Weigela was once considered something of a bore 
because of its one-season show—
its trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of red, pink, rose, and white 
were admittedly spectacular in the spring 
but when they faded, 
the shrub offered little but nondescript leaves 
on tangled twigs during summer and fall. 

Translation: it was an ugly, scrubby, tattered mess.
So my husband chopped it off to the ground.
And now it is back and already about a foot tall and three wide.

Yesterday I noticed a wall of weigela shrubs along the parking area
of my dentist's office. I was parked close enough to witness
dozens of black and yellow bumble bees 
going from flower to flower,  treating themselves to weigela nectar.
It was mesmerizing. I thought about being on my grandparents' farm
and listening to the bumble bees buzzing around their apple tree.
A nice memory.
Probably not a nice enough memory 
for me to keep the weigela, 
but you just never know ...

Friday, September 13, 2013

American Toad

The other night, I went outside with my pekes 
while they took their final walk around the x-pen 
at the foot of our deck. 
And there on the deck near the table holding my marble Buddha,
a small American toad, Bufo americanus, paid homage to the flowers
while looking for a late night dinner.

This photo by Tom Gula from the web site
shows the toad I saw:
Photo credit: Tom Gula,

I said hello to the toad and thankfully, he didn't hop at me 
or unfurl his sticky tongue in my direction.
He just looked at me with tiny yellow eyes.
Even though toads are good for eating insects and slugs,
I've never cared for their puffy, warty exteriors.
Plus they always look like they are in a bad mood,
with their perpetual frown and sleepy eyes.

My husband said he has seen Mr. Toad on the deck steps 
for several days now, so I'm glad Monsieur Toad had moved to the deck
before I encountered it.
They like moisture and wet places,
so that probably explains why we have seen him.
It's been a very wet year.

He's welcome to stay since our pekes have ignored him,
but American toads do exude a chemical from their glands that can be toxic.
It's also dangerous if you or your pet gets the chemical in the eyes 
or mucous membranes.
From what I've read, the most dangerous toads
are the Marine toad (bufo marinus)
 and the Colorado River toad (bufo alvarius).

I won't be putting out a toad house for our visitor though.
Toads don't use them because they prefer to burrow down under the soil.
So if you have one, or plan to get one,
just know that you may end up with a little nest of mice or wasps instead.
The toad will be somewhere else.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I love flowers as much as anyone.
If I had more time, I would try to plant flowers 
that would give continuous blooms from January through December--
not out of the question here in the Shire,
where we have had many Januaries in which roses have bloomed.

So now that it is September, 
I've been looking at  fall flowers.
One that I like is the anemone, a member of the ranunculus family.
I like the anemone's bowl-shaped flower and black center:

One of the best things about anemones is 
that they are one of the few black and white flowers,
like these from Tangerine Creations:

Japanese anemones are the ones that do the best in the autumn,
others bloom through the end of summer.
The petals will drop off and blow away in the wind,
one reason for the anemone's nickname of "wind flower."
Greek myth says that the flowers come from Venus,
the goddess of love.
Maybe that's why people love anemones so much:
love and affection cast away on an autumn breeze.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Baby Birds

Because we live in the woods that grow from the swamp
next to the Elizabeth River, we see a number of songbirds.
On Monday, I noticed a baby cardinal being fed by its mother.
I was a little surprised since I assumed the nestlings 
would all have been out on their own by now.

A baby cardinal. 
Photo by Ruth Rothschild from Flickr Creative Commons:

But the baby cardinal sat quietly next to its mother
and took the seed from her mouth.
I may be wrong but it seems to me that was a more delicate
exchange than I've seen from other baby-mother bird couples.

Robins seem to stuff the serviceberry fruit right down the baby robins' throat,
and they go fast, with no dawdling in between.
The baby robin makes little noises that sound like squeaks to me.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that robins communicate with each other
using "cuck" and "tuk" sounds.

Blue jay baby. Photo by Finiky. Flickr Creative Commons

Blue jay babies, on the other hand, squawk and carry on
for their food. The parent blue jay always seems to me to be unruffled,
focused on the task but not feeling any pressure to feed.

Mockingbirds are very methodical: pluck the berry, place it in the baby's mouth.
Fly to the next berry, pluck, place. Repeat.
They seem to have a graceful rhythm the other birds lack.

I do enjoy seeing that little bit of nature outside my door.
When I'm in the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse,
 that seems pretty magical to me.