mid-week flowers

Late summer climbing roses and sweet autumn clematis (that wandered over from my neighbor’s yard) in a small blue and white bowl. Afternoon therapy. I used chicken wire scrunched in a ball and some floral tape to hold it in place. But you can use anything you have around the house. Give it a try with whatever you can find! And it’s okay if the flowers are fading (aren’t we all) and if it only lasts a short while. It’s more about the making I think.

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from the archives: Hillwood Estate and Garden

Since we can’t visit many of the public gardens and museums that we love, especially in springtime, I have reached back into the archives to a rainy spring Saturday a few years ago. Hillwood Estate and Gardens is not in the countryside, but in Washington D.C., however while you are there you feel miles away from city life.  I hope you enjoy…

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summer places: Chappaquiddick (by way of Edgartown)


To get to Chappaquiddick you must pass through Edgartown proper. As you follow the signs thru the narrow streets to the Chappy Ferry, you will find yourself in a place of white picket fences, window boxes, neatly trimmed hedges of boxwood and privet, white Federal style houses with dark green doors and shutters, small manicured lawns, and garden paths leading to casual flower beds and to the water’s edge. It is an old whaling town that has had a great impact on my own style and my thinking about home and garden over the years. I love how the front of the houses are formal and the backs are less so. I love the respect for history in the architecture, whether it is renovations or new homes being built. There is the smell of sea air and roses on summer days mingled with the clinking of glasses raised for a toast and the laughter of children and ringing of church bells (not just on Sundays). There are the water views and sailboats and the lighthouse. Edgartown is well-worn but tidy, and I like that.







The Chappy Ferry (actually there are two boats most of the time) holds three cars or two trucks and takes less than five minutes to cross. There is no town proper on Chappaquiddick. No cobblestone streets. Just sandy dirt roads. There are no shops or restaurants. There is one small store: The Chappy Store (recently purchased and revamped from its original very rustic, shall I say a bit run down condition). And the houses are not the thing on Chappy; they are hidden away for the most part, off the beaten path among the trees. The locals (there are some) will tell you about the unusual life on Chappy, like how the school children on the school bus cross over on the ferry every morning (and all you can picture are the children and the yellow bus on the rough water under gray, foggy skies with seagulls calling). You go to Chappaquiddick for the quietness and the beauty of nature that is left alone out there on the beaches and the trails. You go for the farm grown vegetables and flowers (amazing dahlias, sunflowers, lilies, and so on…), four-wheeling and kayaking, the calm, still nights and stargazing. It’s a place set apart from the rest of Martha’s Vineyard—rough around the edges and no-nonsense.








If Edgartown is like a Keats poem, romantic and flowery, Chappaquiddick makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s work, small but full of beauty, mystery, and awe.

So—this is where I have been lately.  I hope you all have been well.


(*All photographs by Michael Sneeringer, Jr.)


into the garden: a book by artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff


Every now and then a book comes along that speaks to me in an unexpected way.  Into the Garden by artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff is just that kind of book. It’s a collection of paintings by one artist of gardens all over the world. This idea in and of itself is quite fascinating: an artist sits in gardens and paints his version of what he sees (and of course what he feels is there as well).


I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book like this. We have seen flowers and gardens painted by artists, but I’m not aware of an artist who deliberately set out to make a collection of garden paintings. As he explains it in the introduction, Christian came into the notion of painting gardens through his own garden in Hadlyme, Connecticut, and this passion grew from there to include gardens in places as far apart from one another and as diverse as Falls Village, Connecticut; East Hampton, New York; Sonoma, California; Nashville, Tennessee; Rocktail Bay, South Africa; Pic Paradis, St. Martin; and Lunuganga, Sri Lanka.


I was intrigued too by what the artist had to say about how he actually paints gardens (he sits for hours and often faces many obstacles) and what it has meant to him to do this kind of work.


The other thing about this book that caught me off guard a bit is the bold, abstract quality of the images (and that I was so enchanted by them). Van Gogh comes to mind. Most of the paintings are a saturation of vivid color with an abundance of purple in shades from lilac to aubergine. In contrast, some of the paintings are black outlined drawings that are predominately void of color. And there are large-scale flower paintings and drawings as well. (And it’s not exactly a coffee table book either because it is smaller and easier to hold in your hands, which I like a lot.)


Purple is not one of my favorite colors and I’m not always drawn to abstract art (though sometimes I am). Yet this book captured my imagination and I found myself quite absorbed in the journey. It’s completely different from gardens depicted in magazines that show us what they are actually like.  It’s something akin to how we feel when we look at interior paintings of rooms:  it’s more like dreaming.


A book like this brings forth so many questions about the connection between art and gardening, about creativity and design, about lightness and darkness, about the beauty of nature and the nature of beauty that I think wherever this book takes you, and how ever deep you go into the gardens, you are bound to enjoy wandering through its pages.



weekend edit 6.14.19

Pamela Cook for Veranda Magazine

Around the House:  Silk 101

 I’m increasingly fascinated with the origin stories of decorative art objects and textiles. Here is an interesting short history of silk, the mysterious, luxurious, much coveted fabric, in this month’s Veranda Magazine. It includes plenty of modern day examples with sources and a chart describing the various kinds of silks still being made today. Think of it as Silk 101. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Floret Farm

In the Garden:  Are dried flowers making a comeback?

 It seems to me that dried flowers might be making a comeback. And I’m thrilled. After years of being pushed away, they appear to be dusting off their dismal reputation as lackluster throwbacks to the 80s. I’ve always thought that in the proper hands, they can be very pretty and even chic (for example, dried lavender topiaries are always nice to have). Flower grower and floral designer Erin Benzakein writes about how she has just discovered dried flowers here. I hope this is a trend because I’d love to see what this new wave of floral artists will do with this lost art.

Country Life Magazine

Out and About:  House hunting

If you are anything like me (that is, obsessed with houses of all kinds), you probably look at real estate listings on a regular basis. My own interests range from tiny cottages to large estates, houses within my budget and lots of them outside of it. This one is way outside my budget, but great fun to dream about: an old millhouse in the English countryside. And despite its price tag and amenities (a lake and a quaint bridge, barns, a wine house, formal gardens, and country meadows), it doesn’t seem to be too full of itself.  Have a look here.

Cheers! Happy Friday!