Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sweet and Southern Comfort

Our sweet mama Anna's Hummingbird made it through 60 mile per hour winds, relentless rain and cold, and she is still sitting on her two jelly-bean sized white eggs. Hurrah! 
Next week will be all about this wonderful flying jewel of my garden. Stay tuned.

Dear friends,

Where do I  begin? During the past week, we've been in a whirlwind of activity. First, the drive north to the Bay Area where we attended a peek press preview of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. It was great to view the gardens up close and to see the amount of creativity and energy that went into the installations. Amazing. I walked away with some good, do-able ideas for my own gardens. I think that is what we always want to gain from a garden show, not only the wow factor, but also the things we can master on our own. Sustainability was the star of the show, and one of my favorite displays was the edible garden outside under a tent, which included some Sunset Magazine container garden ideas,  a fabulous hexagonal bee hive, and a chicken coop and hen house with a living green roof.

I think this is gorgeous. Look for the hex hive at

The area below the hen house is screened for a run. Note the dominant theme of the garden show–a green roof of succulents.

An outdoor eating area with a living roof. I think I would make a wider over-hang.

A side view of the dovecote.

I am going to make this hanging chandelier. I'll use one of those wire formed moss baskets (they're inexpensive) and fill it with moss and soil, then plant succulents all over the top and sides. Finally, I'll just tuck candles into the soil or I'll use those green florist candle holders that have a long, pointed end. They wouldn't show and would work beautifully.

Sections of gutter mounted on the wall, filled with soil, and planted. Great vertical idea for people with tiny garden spaces.

Even trellises can be added to straw bale gardens. Look for directions on how-to create this garden in my new book Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars.

A dovecote studded with kazillions of succulents.

Repurposing corrugated tin for raised planters. Great ideas from the hort students at Foothill College.

Sweet Comforts Tom and Rebecca Style

After the preview, we attended a party at the home of author Rebecca Sweet (Garden Up!: Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces) who also writes for magazines and has a blog called Gossip in the Garden. Rebecca and I have known each other for years (she was a loyal Heart's Ease customer), but this was my first visit to her home, gardens, and studio – all stunning and worthy of a magazine article. Rebecca, her beautiful daughter Emily, and her adorable husband Tom made us all feel like royalty.

Rebecca's "shed," and I use that term loosely, is a heartbreaker. I love the use of old windows. Wouldn't you love your own shed for your creative moments alone?

Don't you love it that she used an antique mantel against her fence?

Rebecca told me I could spend the night in here. Ok, but where is the bathtub?

Kentucky Comfort and Hospitality 

The next day we flew to Lexington, Kentucky. What ever happened to the adventure of travel? By the time we arrived in Kentucky, we felt and looked like two deflated balloons. I had consulted the weather forecast for Lexington, but the temps dropped 30 degrees in one day and dipped even lower the next. Thank goodness that our energetic hostess Sue Fosson took pity on me and supplied me with a jacket and gloves. Thanks, dear Sue, not only for this kindness–for everything you did to make our trip successful.

Marcia (aka the Lady Tornado), Richard Weber, the landscape designer, and I discuss how to add some vertical elements to the children's butterfly and metamorphosis garden.

The auditorium was filled to capacity the night of my Founder's Lecture. Several people brought in copies of the Country Gardens magazine article that featured my little garden. Yea Country Gardens, let's all support them and keep the magazine thriving. The Spring issue features the fabulous gardens of my friend Tovah Martin, who lives in a tiny cobbler's house in Connecticut. A must see.

The cold weather was tempered by the gracious and warm welcome shared with us by the folks who organized my Founder's Talk, which was proposed and supported by Marcia Farris, a relentless force in the creation of the new children's garden at the arboretum. Marcia had an original (1991) edition of Sunflower Houses, which she said inspired her to begin this project. Hurrah! That makes the lonely chore of writing a bit easier for me.

The Bluegrass Herb Guild Luncheon and Tea

Jeff and I were the lucky guests at a tea hosted for us by the Bluegrass Herb Guild, a thriving group of creative gardeners. The event was held at the home of lovely Susan Daole, who lives in a storybook cottage overflowing with books and art. Jane Lowery (standing behind Jeff) was the original instigator of this luncheon. Thanks Jane and Susan. 

Lucky Jeff, oh, I guess this time he wasn't the only man. At the far left is author, photographer, potter, and garden designer Ezra Haggard.

My friend Yuki writes for the Japanese Herb magazine. We talked about the tragedies of the recent earthquake, tsunami, and now the devastating radiation leaks. 

The food was not only tasty, but also gorgeous. It speaks for itself.

Different herbs on each cracker. Love this!

A delicious rainbow.

The first asparagus of spring topped with the first sweet violets. 

Lavender cookies.

A tray full of bunnies and mice. Hilarious and delicious.

The group spoiled me with cards (thanks photographer extraordinaire Patsy Anderson), a landscaping book (thanks Ezra), Shaker cookbooks from the herbies, a letter press poem and cards courtesy of Deborah Kessler of October Press and Susan Daole. If you love the old fashioned look and quality of letter press, you'll love her exquisite works of art.

Warm Beans and Olive Salad

Patsy Anderson made this dish for our herbal luncheon and it was a smashing success. Everyone wanted her recipe and I am going to make it Wednesday night for some friends. Give it a try, I think you'll be thrilled with it too.

2  cups small cauliflower florets
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil-divided
1  cup diced celery
1  cup diced red onion
2   garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (NOT white vinegar, make sure it is white wine)
1    tablespoon honey
2    16 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (I'm using dried beans & cooking them)
1    7 ounce jar of halved kalamata olives
2    tablespoons of chopped fresh parley
1    tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1    teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Garnish with fresh sage.

Cook cauliflower in boiling water 5 or 6 minutes (until crispy-tender). Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add celery and onion; saute 3 minutes or until almost tender. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds. Stir in vinegar and honey till dissolved.

Combine cauliflower and sauteed vegetables in a large bow. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, beans, and next 5 ingredients; stir well to combine. Serve warm. Yields a dozen servings.

Patsy added the fresh herbs to the sauteed veggies and cooked them for a couple of minutes, then she also added a dash of tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.

Thanks Patsy! Give it a try and let me know how y'all like it.

A Tuscan Feast

That evening we were hosted by artist Holly Salisbury at a special Tuscan supper. We got a sneak peak at the pastels she created plein air in Tuscany.

Holly hosted 18 with ease, graciousness, and style. Thanks dear Holly.

The Give-Away Winner & a Great Recipe

Jeff just said, "Ok Sharon, we agreed that you would write shorter postings." Uh oh, but how do I write a short one now and leave out all the wonderful people I've been with in the past week? Can't do it, but I promise to make it short next week when I focus on the life-and-death drama of my little Anna's hummingbird who is surviving despite all sorts of natural calamities. 

The winner of the From Seed to Skillet book give-away (chosen by the random number generator) is Thea! Thea dear, I do not have an address for you and need you to send one so we can tuck your book into the mail. Congratulations!

That's it for now – phew. I still haven't had a moment to catch my breath or catch up with gardening, house chores, and letters from friends. Forgive me if I haven't answered you.

Thanks for your caring thoughts and words.

All joys,


p.s. My Lowe's blog posting has finally changed. Take a moment to visit and read about spring flower fireworks, and please leave a valued comment.

Read my interview on and sign up for her giveaway.


Rebecca said...

Okay, where do I begin? I want the bee hive and of course I love the living roof coop. I'm going to make the chandelier also or maybe just a hanging basket with succulents on the outside and Autumn Joy Stonecrop inside... Great post, thanks for sharing!

Hullabaloo Homestead said...

Yes, yes, that flower show is shining with gardening inspiration! I love the green roofs all over. I never thought of using succulents up there, but I guess it totally makes sense since they do not need a lot, or regular, water. Very inspiring!


Kat said...

Thanks for sharing this with us Sharon. I love that hex-hive. I'm also glad that people still aren't tired of succulents because I'm not. And I've always thought that Rebecca's 'shed' was the perfect place for a gardener to take an afternoon nap. It is so lovely and welcoming.

Kristina said...

So many beautiful things to think about and maybe make???? I'm so ready for spring but the snow is falling outside my window as I type. It will soon be here and I will hit the yard running! I have 18 new bareroot daylilies to put in and boy am I itching to go! Happy spring!


Unknown said...

You two have really been making the rounds to some beautiful places and how fun to share it with friends far and wide...You're eating well as usual too!!! Bet you're glad to be home! Tell Jeff, I like your long posts! :)
Love to you both,

Aunt Jenny said...

Oh Sharon...your posts always so inspire me! I wasn't able to take my planned vacation to Calif this week due to family drama but hope to get there sometime this summer. Meanwhile I am working on my own little corner of Utah. You always give me such great ideas. And the food pictures are mouthwatering..can't wait to make that salad as well...
you have a wonderful week!!

Thea said...

Sharon, thank you SOOOO much! I'm thrilled to be the winner of From Seed to Skillet! I feel so lucky! Thanks!!
I loved that hexahive, too! but my favorite hives are the ones you took a picture of from Beatrix Potter's house!
and all those succulents! that chandelier!
i'm off soon to tutor my little third graders. oh, the play me like a fiddle! have a wonderful day, Sharon. and tell Jeff it's okay to write long!

Tilly's Nest said...

Hi Sharon! You have a lovely site. Thank you for brightening my day :) Truly inspirational!

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and wishing our little Duke a happy birthday! We also love Maine! It was very nice to chat with you today!

Rebecca Sweet said...

Welcome home, Sharon and Jeff!! Isn't it glorious to come home to sunshine - FINALLY!! And thank you so much for your kind, kind words about my family and my home. And I'm thrilled you took that photo of my fireplace mantle. The very next day we had winds so strong it blew that extremely heavy head planted with succulents to the ground, where it smashed to pieces (along with all the other pots on top of the mantle). I thought we had an earthquake! Ahh….at least I have your photo as a memory!! The festivities here are winding down. Lynn Felici-Galant is arriving shortly for a quick overnight visit and then all will be quiet again. Love to you both! - Rebecca

Annie Haven/Authentic Haven Brand said...

Oh, what warm wonderful shares, pictures of the design gardens elements, fantastic dish and the lovely Rebecca Sweet great post Thank you Annie

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing your trip. Also, thank you for the book (The Bountiful Container)recommendation. It is a great book!

Beth said...

Good heavens, Sharon! You are such a busy lady! Your head must be spinning. But it looks fun. love, Beth

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi friends,

I can't comment back on all your e-mails, but did want to mention (in answer to 3 questions) that by linking to the hex hive folks we're providing you with the key to your questions. It was my first time seeing these and so I only know that I like the looks and what they're saying about them looks good too.

All joys to you,


Dee Nash said...

Gracious you've been busy! Even busier than I. :) Sounds like lots of lovely times. Look at all the people you've influenced over the years with your articles and books. We were all out here just waiting for our copy of Country Living magazine. I love Country Gardens too.~~Dee

jerilanders said...

Wowie, Zowie! There is just too much to comment on here. But let me just say that your timing is perfect, I have been searching for a bee hive that I liked and have been so disappointed. But wow! I love the hexagonal one here and am dashing off to their website.
Then I will come back here and digest everything else.

Vee said...

Must get out your book and begin to read it again. I had already forgotten about the hay bale gardens. It's time to think good thoughts of spring especially with snow coming.

I'd be very intrigued by the vertical gardening as well. I see that you were getting lots of ideas. When you build that chandelier, please show us.

All the best...hope that you're not having any over the road adventures this week just nice at home ones.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

What a fun post to see what you've been up to and the people you've met. I love the pictures from the garden show.
The food from the herb luncheon looks delicious. What fun you must have!
I hope one day Seattle will be in your travels.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What wonderful inspiration from that flower show.

You've been quite busy and had a great time, with friends, good food and nice events.


Cindy said...

What an ispirational post! Thank you for sharing all the wonderful ideas! Living in Texas, the succulents are a big part of my garden. I am going to try make a
chandelier, I hope my turns out 1/2 as pretty as this one...
I love your blog! I look forward to reading more

Patsylee said...

Sharon--thanks for sharing all these wonderful ideas and projects (I LOVE that chandelier!). I've never tried hay bale gardening, but may experiment with that this summer. As I've told you, we all enjoyed your visit to Bluegrass country. Even tho' the weather was not very springlike, you somehow managed to spread sunshine! You and Jeff are a dynamic duo, and I wish you a joyful and productive spring. Ya'll come back now ... Patsy

sarah-jane down the lane said...

Wow I love Rebecca's shed, it's heavenly....

Wish I could make your talk but its a little too far me thinks!

Hope you are enjoying Springtime, seems life is as hectic as ever for you,

Love Sarah x

Claus said...

so many pleasant adventures! thank you so much for sharing. How much I wish there was here an event like the garden and flower show! I could surely use some inspiration for that tall, blank, boring wall I don't know what to do with in my back patio. Those gutters mounted on the wall are certainly on my to-do list now! Marvelous idea for herbs! They would look lovely, and would add a little something nice to my back patio.
Thank you so much for sharing Sharon!!
have a lovely day!

Angela Faust said...

Love all those photos of yummy uses for herbs and edible flowers, and how wonderful was Rebecca Sweet's garden "shed"! Thanks for sharing. And I'm making that bean/olive recipe ASAP... my kind of food.

Dan said...

Wow, what a hectic schedule you've had Sharon, but sounds like you've enjoyed every minute of it! I love the green chandelier, it would be beautiful in an outdoor eating/relaxing area of the garden. Rebecca's 'shed' is fantastic.
Thanks for the bean and olive salad recipe, it sounds delicious, and definitely one I would like to try.
I'm really looking forward to next week's post on the hummingbird - sadly it's a bit chilly for them here in the UK.

Susan said...

Dear Friend, First, I'm sorry I missed you in Kentucky; I travel there on Sunday to be with our grandson and they live across from the arboretum! I love flower shows for inspiration and we had a beautiful one here in Seattle the end of February.
The salad is so inviting and I can't wait to make it. Thank you for sharing your adventures. XOXO

Erin | Bygone Living said...

Can I start off by saying, "I want your life"? Okay... I want your life! :p
What a week you had! Such beautiful garden displays, delicious-looking food, and creative company!
I hope you have an equally charming weekend, and get some rest :)

P.S.- I do hope you received my home address for the Grimy Hands Girls' Club. Haven't received or heard anything, so I'm getting a bit worried! Please let me know when you have a chance ♥

Bonnie K said...

I can't wait to hear about your hummingbird! I am so infatuated with them. Such great ideas you are able to share with us. I wish there was a garden show around here. I appreciate that you share your adventures with us. Rebecca's Shed is perfect. Also I'm so in love with the bread with the pansy on top. I will have to try that. Relax and enjoy being home. Thank you again for sharing.

Kay's flowers said...

I love your long posts! They are so informative and fun to read. Love all the pictures from the S.F. Flower and Garden Show. How fun to go to all the talks and all the luncheons and dinners given in your honor. Tell Jeff that you have to write long posts because we love to hear all that you're doing. Can't wait to hear about the hummingbird.



Pondside said...

The hummingbirds are just starting to return here - such a happy time when we first see them!
Your schedule left me panting!

kj said...

be still my atill winter heart!

sharon, you have me salivating for spring. thank you times a million for these ideas and inspirations.
i can't wait to get to my yard. and now i'll be looking for an old mantlepiece for my similiar fence

what a whirlwind trip you both had. i know you thrive on it and share so freely. i was below you with lori, you know. she was so wonderful to be with i would even give up a whole section of my garden to do it again :)


mphc said...

Sharon, I am visiting your blog for the first time... and love it! Thank´s for sharing all those great ideas and pictures. I am looking forward to reading all those great posts. Greetings from Germany, Nicole.

Cape Cod Rambling Rose said...

Oh my goodness, Sharon! What a wonderful post! I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, and those tasty treats you have posted make me hungry (but they look too pretty to eat)!
The caravans in Maine you saw on my blog were actually at the Fryeburg Fair several years ago. They belonged to a private collector, so he must live up near there somewhere. I don't know if he shows them publicly at his home - perhaps they are on display somewhere?
Have a wonderful weekend!

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon- I have enjoyed your whirlwind of travels and social gatherings shared here. Your busy life is chronicled so beautifully. Love the pictures from the flower show- and the food at your luncheon. Thanks for that wonderful recipe- I will make it for sure. It's always great to visit with you here!
Ps- and I thought I made long posts! Lol! We are neck and neck in that race my friend!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

So many ideas - my head is whirling
And I am trying to simplify
Must make the warm bean salad.

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

It was so exciting to get to meet you in Lexington. I'm glad that I was able to make the trip. I can't wait for the Children's Garden to open so I can take my little shadow there!

Philippine properties said...

What a wonderful place you have.

Arrielle P

Lili said...

Oh Sharon, another post jam packed with so much inspiration and so much of your wonderful energy! Love the live chandelier and all that yummy food laced with herbs and oooooh the lavender cookies! Thanks for that recipe too. xoxo ~Lili