Archive for September, 2011


Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much.  For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbours build their philosophy of life…  ~ A. J. Cronin

Greetings Everyone,

I’m glad you’re here, as always!  You may recall that it wasn’t all that long ago (February ) that I was thrilled to have reached 1,000 visits. I can hardly believe that in the days since then, I am approaching a new milestone of 15,000 visits to my teeny blog! 🙂

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy life to stop by and visit and to share.

I am thrilled to have met and connected with so many wonderful people through blogging. I’ve made some new friends, and it has opened up new doors in many ways.

Your kind and encouraging comments have been nothing less than awesome. I so appreciate and am thankful for every visit and subscription, and each comment that you have left.

IT’S TIME TO SAY “THANK YOU”  If you visit during the month of October, please be sure and leave a comment to let me know that you were here. Your name will be entered for the surprise give-away.  Rest assured, it will be something beautiful!

Here are the many ways in which your name can be entered (more than once):

Throughout the entire month of October, your name can be entered once for each of the following actions:

1) If you haven’t done so already, when you sign up (in the right hand column on the blog site) to be notified of new posts, your name will be automatically entered in the draw.

2) When you comment on any blog post, your name will be automatically entered every time you leave a comment.  You can comment as often as you want on as many posts as you want. Current and older posts are listed in the sidebar.

3) Forward the blog address (https://beautifulideas.wordpress.comto someone (or everyone) in your address book, and your name will be entered once for every person with whom you’ve kindly shared the blog.

IMPORTANT:  In order for your name to be entered each time for sharing the blog address, be sure to let me know the name(s) of all the people with whom you shared. Otherwise, I won’t know! I’ll then be able to watch for their sign-ups and/or comments and know that you referred them.  You can let me know about it via this email address:

4) Share a post directly from the blog site with someone. Again, be sure to let me know that you shared via this email address:

5) When any person with whom you’ve shared the blog address subscribes, your name (as well as theirs), will be entered.

6) When someone with whom you shared comments on a blog post,  your name (as well as theirs), will be entered.

PLEASE NOTE: The contest closes on October 31, 2011 at 12 midnight NST (Newfoundland Standard Time).  The winning name will be drawn at random and the winner will be notified by email.  If the winner does not respond to email notification within 72 hours, an alternate winner will be randomly drawn.  

Come back soon to learn more about the ‘Beautiful Gift’ that you could win. Wishing you a beautiful day and good luck!


Categories: CONTESTS


Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  ~Albert Camus

Sugar pumpkins in my flower boxes along with perennial ivies...

Happy Fall Daze, Everyone!

Autumn has officially arrived.  September is my favourite month:  clear, clean air and refreshing breezes, the way the clouds look skimming across the blue sky, biting into a crisp juice-filled apple, my friend Shirley’s tasty pumpkin cookies, drinking warm apple cider, and visiting the pumpkin patch to select sugar pumpkins…They make tasty pies and are just petite enough to fit snugly into my urns, planters, and flower boxes. I especially love shopping for fall bulbs…It’ll soon be tulip planting time, my friends!

DID YOU KNOW?! The tulip is a symbol of international friendship. Ottawa, our country’s capital city, has proudly celebrated its Canadian-Dutch bond for nearly seventy years, conveyed through tulips that bloom by the millions throughout our nation’s home each May during the world’s largest annual tulip festival!  In 1945, 100,000 tulip bulbs were gifted to Ottawa as a thank you for our military support in liberating the Netherlands during the Second World War. During the German occupation of that country, Princess Julianna (who would later become Queen) and her two daughters sought refuge in Ottawa.  During her stay, on January 19, 1943, the Princess gave birth to a third daughter (Princess Margriet) at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.  To ensure the royal baby’s Dutch citizenship, the hospital’s maternity ward was declared to be on Dutch soil, and the flag of the Netherlands was flown over the Peace Tower – the only time in Canadian history that a foreign flag was flown over the Parliament Buildings.  To this day, Holland continues to say thank you through the gift of its beautiful tulip bulbs to Ottawa.

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes.  Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.  ~Samuel Butler

Halloween decorations add a little seasonal whimsy to planters...

I diligently planted well over 200 tulips along the path of a small garden at the side of our house one fall, along with additional bulbs in an array of pots and flowers boxes.  To my dismay, none of them came up the following spring. Nowhere could I find any sign of the bulbs that I had planted only months before. I later deduced that squirrels had eaten every last one – although I’d never seen squirrels in our neighbourhood until a few days after my discovery!  Apparently, squirrels (a.k.a rats with cute-as-pie faces and fluffy dusters attached to the end of their butts) especially looove tulip bulbs (daffodil bulbs, not so much).  I had unwittingly treated these attractive rodents to the very finest buffet feast!  They must have been out of their minds with ecstasy when they came to ‘our table’ that year!

Having learned an expensive lesson, and armed with 300+ tulips bulbs and a roll of chicken wire this past fall, I covered every last bulb with narrow strips of the mesh stuff before pushing the soil back over top of the bulbs. The labour to unroll the unruly wire and cut it into manageable narrow strips was well worth the extra (albeit frustrating) effort.  I was rewarded months later with a glorious riot of red, orange, yellow and pink tulip blooms!

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.  ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Here is what I’ve learned through trial and error about planting tulips.  I’m happy to share it with you if you may be thinking of planting this year for the first time, or even adding tulips to other areas of your gardens:


  • Prepare the tulip bed by removing any debris atop the soil. Rake the soil to break it up and aerate it.

    Tiptoeing through the tulips along the walkway...

  • Amend the soil, if needed. Bulbs often house all the nutrients they need to grow in the first year. If the soil is clay-like, however, I like to use vermiculite or peat moss to give them a little boost.
  • Ideally, raise the soil to form a bed – if I had my time back, I would have done this for my tulips in the first year that I planted. Next month, however, I plan to reset the bulbs I planted last fall, mix them in with the some 500+ new bulbs that I recently purchased, and set them all together in a newly constructed raised bed for proper drainage and to, hopefully, encourage ultimate growing conditions.
  • For interest, mix or match colours and varieties.
  • For impact, group like flowers in large numbers – the WOW! factor.
  • For what I like to call ‘the multiplier effect’, avoid planting your bulbs in a straight line – circular or triangular patterns enable every bulb to be seen…

Tulips are the cheery harbingers of spring. Looove this combination...

1) Plant bulbs in late fall before the ground freezes. Watch the weather forecast for frost warnings and plan ahead.
2) Tulips like full sun, so be sure your planting bed is situated in a good spot with plenty of light.
3) Ensure your tulip bed has plenty of drainage. Wet soil promotes fungus and disease which can rot bulbs.
4) Lay out the bulbs on the ground first where you’ll plant them to get an idea of how your design will look.
5) Place the bulbs in the soil with the tip facing upwards.  If you forget, though, don’t worry as they will eventually upright themselves – they just seem to ‘know’ 🙂
6) Plant tulip bulbs deep. Use a bulb planter for consistent depth and plant at the depth recommended on the package. Many recommend about eight inches deep, measuring from the base of the bulb.  Important Note: If you add mulch to the surface after planting, include its depth as a part of your overall planting depth. (For instance, 5 inches deep in soil plus 3 inches of mulch = 8 inches deep.)  If you don’t happen to plant your tulips deep enough, they might grow earlier in the season than if they were planted at the proper depth. 
7) Healthy Dutch bulbs generally have more than enough nourishment stored up to ensure a vigorous bloom the first season.   Important: If you want a repeat bloom for several seasons, it is recommended adding a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as well-rotted cow manure, or special bulb fertilizer at fall planting time and each fall thereafter.  Adding organic matter such as well-rotted cow manure, compost, or peat moss can also help facilitate drainage.  DID YOU KNOW?! If you did not happen to fertilize your bulbs in fall, as the shoots first appear in spring, adding a high nitrogen, fast-release fertilizer can help promote future performance.
8) HINT:  Carefully layering chicken wire, soil, and mulch over top of your tulip bulbs make it troublesome for mischievous critters to unearth your precious tulip bulbs.
9) Water thoroughly after planting to ensure that the plants develop a strong root system before going into winter dormancy. Wait for spring and observe them as they peep their heads up through the earth – it is a joy to watch!

Tulip and forsythia on the front door - a pretty combination on a spring wreath!

DID YOU KNOW? Tulips can be tricky to grow year after year even. They are considered to be perennial flowers  only in optimal growing conditions. Here’s what you can do to promote re-blooming for subsequent seasons: 
  • Choose tulips marked naturalizing/perennializing.
  • Fertilize a couple of times in fall and spring.
  • Clip off the flower heads soon after the petals fall. Allow the foliage to die back and let it remain after flowering for as long as possible.  Although it may look unsightly, the longer you leave it, the better. This technique allows the plant to put all its energy into building a strong bulb for next season.
 One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.  ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

My beautiful niece Tammy who lives in Ottawa where the millions of tulips bloom each spring, emailed me with a tulip question not so long ago (one day I’m going to visit her and take in the Tulip Festival).  She and her husband, Craig, dug up their tulip bulbs last year (treating them as an annual as many gardeners do) and overwintered them in their garage with the hopes of replanting them in the fall.  The bulbs are now showing signs of mildew and mold, and she asked me if she should plant them. This was my answer to her:

Non-stop begonias are still blooming!

Hi, Tam!  
When it comes to tulips, m’dear, I’m just beginning to experiment, but here’s what I’ve learned…If the mold is bluish-green, it is probably penicillin and can badly damage your tulips and, therefore, you will have no blooms next spring. Although it may be painful (tulip bulbs don’t come cheap), I would discard them and opt to buy all new bulbs. But, first, before planting any new bulbs, be sure and check the soil where the tulips were originally planted for any signs that mold may exist in the soil from whence they came. It is more likely that the culprit comes from improper storage over the winter, but you want to be sure before investing more money in new bulbs and planting them where they may be fungus thriving already in your soil bed.  

If you happen to see visible signs of fungus in the soil, then it is likely that the spores could still be there and trouble any new bulbs. If this is the case, you might want to try a new location and experiment. 

Note to self: Grayish mold thrives in wet or damp soil, which I will have to be very careful of this year since we’ve had such a damp spring and summer. 

Make sure you clean up your tulip bed completely before putting in any new bulbs this fall…like any other plantings, the decayed plant material can harbour all kinds of diseases and fungus that can play havoc with your new tulip plants. The most important way to avoid damage is NOT to plant bulbs that already have mold on them.

One busy bee...

HEALTHY BULB TEST TIP:  If you’re in doubt, test your bulbs in water immediately before planting. Healthy tulip bulbs will sink. Decayed bulbs will float to the top.  AND REMEMBER:  Tulips love well-drained soil…:-)

Tulips can be tricky but  are the true harbingers of spring, and I think well worth the effort!   Hope this helps.  Hmmm…I may do a post re tulips soon!  Lol

Luvs and hugs,

Auntie Linda

P.S.  I am happy to report that my tulips thrived this year! The neighbours told us that people actually stopped or slowed to see them…Of the 300 bulbs that were planted last fall, over 270 showed their faces – I counted them! 

Thank you for stopping by all AND happy tulip planting!

 Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.  ~Robert Brault,
Categories: JARDINS

Building A Legacy Through Watercolours…

I love this reproduction blue transferware tea set at Tin Roof Mercantile...

Hello, Dear Friends!

I really hope that you have some time to settle in for a bit and join with me in a leisurely cuppa. I think you will be moved by what I have to share with you during today’s visit…

Returning to my island of Newfoundland from a recent trip to Prince Edward Island (for the sole purpose of meeting for the first time a new-found friend through blogging), my husband and I decided to take a detour to Head Chezzetcook on the Eastern Shore Marine Drive Route of Halifax Regional Municipality where we stopped at Tin Roof Mercantile to shop and lunch.

Upon walking into the cafe, we immediately noticed that the room’s walls were graciously punctuated with beautiful impressionistic paintings. They filled the charming yet natural light-deprived room with a special character and brilliance that could be felt, like the warmth of  the sun. Each painting was akin to a self-contained sunbeam. There was an unmistakable energy and vibrance that seemed to emanate from all the paintings throughout the room. Each art piece felt like an embrace. To our surprise, we lingered way too long over lunch as we sat back, admired, and discussed each one.

Our meal was one of the most delicious that we had enjoyed on our trip. And, of course, I just had to ask our equally sunny waitress about the paintings that hung on the wall. We were once again pleasantly surprised when the waitress modestly introduced herself as the “self-taught” artist.

She conveyed to us that she lives in a large, beautiful century-plus Victorian style home with an art studio that overlooks the ocean in the nearby  town of Oyster Pond. I instantly, albeit naively, thought what a tranquil and serene life this woman must lead to be able to paint such peaceful impressions. Nothing could be further from her reality. And, as we chatted a little more about the paintings, so lovingly created by her own hand, she quietly confided in us her story of the legacy that she is building through her art in her late husband’s memory…

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”  Aristotle

It was the ocean that took the life of her 39-year young fisher husband Scott Clarke (who happened to have hailed from my island of Newfoundland, from the tiny town of Old Bonaventure on the Bonavista Peninsula along the east coast.)  And, now, his widow, Heather Crout of Nova Scotia, is building her husband’s legacy through her watercolour paintings. Heather is determined that the man she loved did not leave this world in vain. Every year, on the anniversary of his tragic death at sea on that fateful fall night in 2009, Heather devotes a painting in Scott’s honour to keep her husband’s memory alive.

Scott was swept over the side of his fishing boat in the middle of the night. His body was never recovered from the water. His loss was felt by the entire community. He was not wearing a life jacket. Like most of his fellow fishers, Scott found the old life vests to be heavy, cumbersome – a hindrance to his work. The newer life vests are lighter, more comfortable, workable but expensive – their cost, it seems, a prohibiting factor.

It was here at Tin Roof Mercantile and Cafe where we met and were captivated by Heather Crout and the beauty of her unforgettable artwork, and her story of triumph over tragedy....

Through the sale of dedicated paintings each year since her husband’s tragic death, Heather enables the purchase of life vests with her husband’s name engraved on the inside. The first vest was presented to her husband’s fishing partner and owner of the vessel that Scott was working on the night he died.

Heather’s work dedicated to Scott’s legacy, and promoting safety at sea, sells fast. From the proceeds from her paintings sold thus far, several life vests have been purchased and presented to fishers in her community.  Her goal is to purchase 42 vests.  The number represents one for each person in her husband’s fleet.

The Workers Compensation Board, too, decided to purchase a painting from Heather. They refer to Heather as their ‘Safety Champion’, as someone who is making a significant difference in promoting a cultural shift among fishers from rural communities. Heather hopes that through the sale of her paintings and bringing attention to the need to automatically wear a personal flotation device, it will drive home the important message to persons working in the fishery who spend their days and nights at sea, that life vests have the potential to save lives.

Scott had no children to leave as a legacy and so Heather told us that each of her paintings in dedication to his memory, and to safety in his profession, are his children.

I believe it is impossible to make sense of life in this world except through art.  Daniel Pinkwater

Every one of Heather's paintings has a unique quality that's almost indescribable. I cannot get this one out of my head - it's my favourite. Can't you almost feel the sun rays streaming through the dressing room window?!

The tenacity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. Through her grief, Heather found comfort in her painting.  She is generously using her  talent and deep desire for her husband’s memory to live on to do some good in this world, and in an effort to save lives in the process. I think what Heather is doing in tribute to her beloved Scott who died too soon, is the most beautiful and meaningful thing that anyone can do in keeping a loved one’s memory alive.  It is no wonder, then, why each of her magnificent watercolours draws you inside and transports you to a gentler place – they are most certainly a shining ‘work of heart’.

I would like to pass along my congratulations to Jon Tattrie, a talented freelance journalist and novelist who resides in Nova Scotia, for bringing Heather’s heartfelt and exemplary story to the world. I sincerely hope you will take the time to read Jon’s article on his blog “Paper-hack-writer”, all the news that’s not fit to print at the link below.  And, be prepared to be inspired…

A Widow’s Brush Strokes of Remembrance – Pay-Per-Hack Writer Blogspot

The Smilebox slideshow below is a tour of Tin Roof Mercantile Shop and Cafe where I met the remarkable Heather Crout.

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From Norway With Love…

The beautiful cover of "Sanselig Sommer" - the best English translation would be "Summer for All the Senses..."

Hi, Friends!

It’s tea time…Today is an absolutely gorgeous day here  – the sun is still unseasonably warm and the breezes are very pleasant. There are only a few days left to summer. Sigh.

Officially, fall begins on September 23rd; but before it arrives on the calendar, I must tell you about a very special book – “Sanselig Sommer” by Franciska Munck-Johansen.

My friend Carolyn Aiken, whose home and gardens you toured in these last posts, was featured earlier this year in this beautiful book from Norway by the talented photographer and writer Franciska who writes for a number of international interiors magazines.  Ten large pages were devoted to Carolyn’s own verdant gardens.

“Sanselig Sommer” is available through Franciska’s beautiful blog. Although it is not available translated into English, the stunning photos speak a universal language of inspired beauty. I hope you will visit Franciska’s Beautiful World.

Franciska had asked if she could post on her blog my story about my dear neighbour Joanne and her legion of garden faeries who looked after my garden last year from June through September while I was doing other things – like undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I was more than happy to share as it was such a selfless and inspiring thing to do, and it meant so much.

As a thank you, Franciska generously sent me an autographed copy of her gorgeous book!   I was overjoyed to receive her gift and when it arrived in the post, it just made my day!  It was such a beautiful and thoughtful surprise!

You’ll find tons of ideas and recipes throughout its large pages.  I have gleamed some wonderful ideas already that I can’t wait to try! We could all use some more beauty around us, n’est ce pas?  Here are some (of my photos of Franciska’s) photos from her exquisite book that I am showing with Franciska’s kind permission.  Thank you again, Franciska!  And, thanks for dropping by everyone!  See you soon…

I love looking at this book! This is Carolyn's romantic garden tea...very book worthy!

Carolyn's fairytale tea under a canopy of airy white tulle and a candle chandelier...Ooh, those pretty pink peonies and delicate china!

Ten pages of Franciska’s book are devoted to Carolyn’s glorious gardens…

A wire settee awaits for thee...Are you looking for your hat, Carolyn?!

An English garden in Bath...another candle chandelier!

What a great wrap for a bouquet!

Love the open shelving...Sign says, "If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen." Ya gotta love it!

White is definitely whispering to me...

Rustic loveliness...

Glamorous thirst-quencher!

What a sweet way to give simple flowers! Don't they look so special in easy tissue wrap tied with twine?!

Some 'seat inspiration' from Hmm, I just might do something like this...



Good day to you, my friends!

I’m so glad you are here with me as we are coming to the end of our tour of Carolyn Aiken’s wondrous home and gardens on Prince Edward Island. Sigh.

When I first arrived at Carolyn’s front door, she greeted me like an old friend and promptly guided me to her kitchen window to see something quite astonishing. I gasped when she pointed to several teeny baby robins nested within the generous boughs of an evergreen tree that was resting up against the side of the house, mere inches from her kitchen sink!  If  you were so inclined, you could reach through and touch them!  Mind you, Mama Robin was there, too, protectively watching over her young.  I immediately knew this place to be one of welcoming, peace, and tranquility – a true haven from the busy outside world, and I was happy to be here.

Carolyn’s home is like a great big bucolic hug that embraces you instantly – it begins even as you are driving along the quiet country road that leads to her house.  Perched on the doorstep, an inviting wicker chair seems to say, “Come in! Come in!” The front porch (Carolyn has christened it ‘The Garden Room’) seems to echo this sentiment and entices you further inside – I couldn’t wait to see more of this alluring place…

Warm. Inviting. Subtle.  Gracious. So many words come to mind when I think of Carolyn and her Prince Edward Island home. It is a home that evokes a sense of nostalgic beauty, love, and a passion for nature and a wholesome life.

Together, Carolyn and her husband Andrew have transformed this near-century-old house into a charming home, one room at a time. Its walls are dressed in calming neutrals:  warm whites, grays and taupes, and even soft greens and blues. It has subtle touches of linen and lace, toile quilts and embroidered pillows, framed family photos (Carolyn’s own photos), enchanting china, silver, glassware, and bouquets of fresh flowers from the garden. Yet it is not stuffy, fussy or overburdened with pretty pinkness or feminine frou-frou – a family home has to be a compromise after all.  There is, rather, a distinct presence of casual elegance that abounds throughout.

Carolyn’s home is filled with inspiration and personal treasures. She surrounds herself with the things she loves. Yet there is no clutter.  All is arranged masterfully, artfully; everything has its place.

Carolyn’s home is an honest reflection of how she lives her life – genuine, peaceful, romantic. There are china teas in the garden under a canopy of tulle by day, and candlelit chandeliers by night; lemonade picnics by the sea with ethereal draped parasols, wicker food baskets, sparkling glassware, and special homemade treats; family weekends with boat rides on the duck pond, bonfires, marshmallow roasts, and overnight camping under the stars; leisurely strolls with her husband along a quiet country road, casting lupin seeds along the way; watching brilliant sun sets on the bay; taking day trips through the less travelled, scenic island countryside; hunting for antiques, touring museums and landmarks, and lunching at out-of-the-way tea rooms with dear friends; making fresh-from-the-oven peach pies and preserves for family and guests; veranda breakfast buffets on warm summer days; reading at night by lamplight on a screened-in porch; feminine dressing in linen skirts and flower-adorned straw summer hats; picking blackberries along a woodland trail; keeping a photo scrapbook of family life …And best of all, she shares it with us through her beautiful blog.

Home is the place that goes where you go, yet it welcomes you upon your return. Like a dog overjoyed at the door. We’ve missed you is what you hear, no matter how long you’ve been gone.


Carolyn often chooses storied furnishings and gives them a ‘hug’ with a coat of warm white paint, which serves to unify the pieces in her guest bedrooms.  In her own bedroom, she has added a touch of ultra-romance with a balcony that overlooks the gardens, a fireplace, and a soft tulle canopy that falls from the ceiling and encircles the bed…Now, that’s romance!

Home is where the heart is.

JOSEPH C. NEAL, Singleton Snippe

Carolyn’s home inspires intimacy and romance. And her design sense must be working – she has been married to her highschool sweet heart for many years, and they have a loving family of nine children and seven grandchildren.  It a beautiful thing!

Carolyn loves her home. Her caring and thoughtful touches are throughout it.  She LIVES romance, and is true to herself in her design choices. And, that’s just how it should be…A job well done, my friend. Thank you for having me!

PHOTO:  It is here at the back of her house where, in a corner at one end of the protected porch, she currently has tucked a lovely old white-iron bed made up with pastel-coloured cushions and soft, cozy quilts.  Carolyn oftentimes likes to read here on the porch during warm summer evenings by soft lamp light. What heavenly ambience!

Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven

PHOTO: During the week we visited Carolyn, her oven was not working. And, so, she went to the trouble of going to her daughter’s home the evening before we were to leave the Island, just so she could make us her famous peach crumble pie and whole wheat raisin scones!  She knew that I had been drooling over these ambrosial sweets that I had seen previously on her blog site, and she could not resist making them for me.  Can you imagine?! And, of course, I could not resist eating them up!  Lol The two lacy white teacups in the foreground are by Spode, circa 1920’s. I found them, along with the pink transferware teapot (reproduction) at an antique shop in Victoria-By-The Sea on the way to Carolyn’s house.

Thanks for dropping by everyone!  I hope you will stop by Carolyn’s blog. I made the video for Carolyn at the link below.  Be sure to take a peek!  You won’t be disappointed, I promise you!!! 
<a href=”http:// “>AIKEN HOME AND GARDENS VIDEO:

A GARDEN’S SECRET… Touring (Part IV)

Crossing over the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island…

Welcome Back!

I’m so glad that you are able to join me to continue the tour of Carolyn Aiken’s gardens on Prince Edward Island.  Are you as excited to find out what is beyond the door to Carolyn’s garden shed, as I am to show you the ‘BIG REVEAL’?!

For those of you who may be joining ‘The Tour’ for the first time (this is Part IV), my husband and I live on the island of Newfoundland and have not long returned from visiting beautiful Prince Edward Island where we met the inspiring and emerald-thumbed Carolyn Aiken. Just weeks ago, we hopped on a plane to Halifax, rented a car, and drove several hours to meet Carolyn and to tour her and husband Andrew’s romantic home and gardens on this gentle green island!

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.   Mother Theresa

It all began when Carolyn and I became ‘blogging friends’ (only in recent months) and discovered that we happily share many common interests: decorating, baking, entertaining, photography, antiquing, pink transferware, books and magazines including ‘Victoria’ (our all-time favourite) and most certainly a love for gardening.

Carolyn is a gardener who we know and love.  She has been generously sharing her home and gardens with devoted readers of her blog for several years.  I, on the other hand, began a blog just this past February as a positive focus during my recovery from breast cancer treatments – a form of ‘happy therapy’ and an attempt to learn some new technology while on medical leave from my work. I hardly knew what a blog was before then!  I’m not even on Facebook!  LOL   Blogging has surprisingly brought me special connections with people whom I would never have otherwise and believe these are meant to be…

PHOTO:  Does this beautiful teapot happen to look familiar to some of you?! This lovely vintage vessel is apparently quite old. It appeared frequently throughout Carolyn’s blog and was of her most cherished teapots.  Carolyn knew that it was my favourite, too. On the first day I visited Carolyn, she generously gifted me her prized antique! I didn’t know what to say – and still don’t – I was overwhelmed by her heartfelt gesture.  This teapots means a great deal to me. It is a gift I will forever treasure…Thank you, Carolyn. 🙂

Gardens are believed to be nourishing for the soul and healing in many ways – Consider that more and more hospitals and seniors’ homes are either featuring gardens in their builds, or are finding creative ways to incorporate them afterwards.  Because I found Carolyn’s blog photos of her private gardens to be so tantalizing, I was enticed to make the trek to Prince Edward Island to experience her and Andrew’s gardens first hand. I knew it would make me feel better. I had been anxiously anticipating our trip all summer, and it gave me something wonderful which to look forward. And, I was certainly NOT disappointed!  It was everything I knew it would be and so much, much more.  In fact, my visit to Carolyn’s gardens has been one of the wonderful highlights of my life!  I am so thankful that I discovered Carolyn! She is the most wonderful person. And, talk about green thumbs!
You may already know that there are thousands of Japanese tourists who visit Prince Edward Island each year, particularly during the summer months. Like so many of us, the Japanese people adore Anne of Green Gables and travel to Prince Edward Island to view the Parks Canada Green Gables heritage place that inspired the setting for the story of lovable Anne; as well as to see the birthplace of  the heroine’s genius creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery. I think Anne Shirley and Carolyn would have been kindred spirits, too.  It is no wonder, then, that Island tour operators often make Carolyn’s private residence and gardens a must-visit place on their touring itinerary for the Japanese people.  Carolyn welcomes them with open arms. Indeed, many of her Japanese visitors remark that their visit to Carolyn’s home and gardens is the highlight of their trip to PEI!  And, I would certainly agree!

IMG_6299-723840.jpg (1600×1067)The ornaments of your house will be the guests who frequent it. Author Unknown

2011-06-12-1535-152-741578.jpg (1600×1237)Carolyn is the Queen of Hospitality.  She doesn’t just invite you into her gardens, she also invites you to her table for tea.  On ‘tour days’, Carolyn may host as many as 30 Japanese visitors – she serves smaller groups of individuals tea and dessert on her magnificent screened-in porch. For larger groups, lemonade and cookies are the order of the day…

It won’t be long now before you’ll discover what’s inside Carolyn’s garden shed…

We labor to make a house a home, then every time we’re expecting visitors, we rush to turn it back into a house.  ~Robert Brault

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about Carolyn’s celestial haven is that while strangers come from as far away as Japan and Newfoundland 🙂 to meet her and enjoy her gardens, many of her fellow Islanders, and even neighbours, are unaware that she even exists!  Carolyn and Andrew’s ‘not-so-secret-anymore’ gardens are a hidden gem on tiny Prince Edward Island. Why, I think they just may be its Crown Jewel!

IMG_9015-789671.jpg (1600×1067)

A view of the garden shed from Carolyn’s bedroom balcony…

I am so delighted that we made the trip to Prince Edward Island to meet Carolyn and to feel the embrace of her gardens…Now, let’s have a look inside the garden shed, shall we…(HINT:  Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Isn’t Carolyn’s imaginative garden shed just amazing?! Could you ever have envisioned such a pleasant surprise as this fairytale setting?!

NEXT POST:  We’ll tour the interior of Carolyn’s romantic home.  I absolutely loved it, and I just know that you will, too.  So, I hope you’ll return for this special treat in the coming days. I’m thrilled that you stop by today and hope your day is beautiful! I look forward to seeing you all again soon…



A Garden Tea Wreath

“Symbolizing eternal hope, the wreath goes ’round and ’round, And where it starts or ends cannot be found. Woven of things that grow – for life, and hung for holiday delight…”

Wishing you a beautiful day, everyone!

I love my garden, and I love to create very personal garden decorations, sometimes from found everyday objects. These grapevine and floral wreaths are in tribute to my garden where I enjoy a cuppa and find much inspiration.

I like to hang my wreaths on walls, doors, chair backs, mantels, bannisters, garden gates, or sometimes even display them on an easel or column to welcome guests to a special garden tea or event.

And, I especially love to give floral-inspired handcrafted wreaths as gifts to tea lovers and gardeners,  as well as for fundraiser garden-themed teas. The wreaths always seem to be received with “Oohs” and “Ahhs” and wide smiles.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Tea is a cup of life.  ~Author Unknown

To make a garden or tea-inspired wreath, you'll need:
  • Grapevine wreath form
  • Faux floral stems and some greenery (*If you’re using fresh flowers – maybe for a special occasion tea or a bridal shower – you’ll need water picks to keep your flowers from wilting, unless you’re inserting the stems directly into an ‘Oasis’ wreath form made especially for fresh flowers.)
  • Wire cutters (These are necessary to cut the faux stems the desired lengths.)
  • Green floral wire and tape  (Use the tape to bind several stems together and attach them to the wreath with wire. Don’t forget to make a hook using several pieces of wire that is wound together so you can hang your wreath when it’s finished.)
  • Gluegun and glue sticks (You can use glue to attach broken bits of china or other design features that you may be using to add personality to your wreath.)
  • Suggested design accents: varying sizes of feathered birds, teeny watering cans and garden tools, pretty garden signs, wired ribbons, bits of old lace fashioned into tiny scent-filled sachets, small photos of loved ones, lightweight cherubs and winged faeries, frogs, berries, twigs… possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Faux flowers reclaimed from a co-worker’s ‘surprise wedding’ were given new life in a beautiful wreath! See the slideshow below for some more pics of the wreath and of the wedding cake that I made for the big day.

Once you get started, you’ll find the possibilities are endless in creating a pleasing wreath, especially one that is in tribute to the garden. And, there are so many ways in which you can personalize your creation so that it is meaningful, too.

Photo:  Flowers re-claimed from a co-worker’s ‘surprise wedding’ (See post: The Gift of A Wedding) were given new life in a gorgeous wreath.

I enjoy tea in the garden and so personally I like to pay homage using tiny teapots, pretty silver spoons, Twinings teabags (they come in such pretty colours), inexpensive or chippy china cups, and even bits of broken china.  Shhh! For the wreath in the photo, I sacrificed a beautiful china saucer.  Yep, it’s probably what you are thinking – I wrapped it in a dish towel and hammered it to bits!  The broken pieces are tucked here and there through the wreath, peeping out underneath the cheery and convincing roses.  They do look real, don’t you think?

As I am writing this post, I am thinking I will add a miniature photo of my dear mom-in-law, tucked in among the roses. I miss having many wonderful chats over seemingly endless cups of tea with mom Ethel.  She was a best friend and shared my love of the garden.  We would talk about our garden dreams for hours.

Recently, we had to cut down a 30 year-old willow in our garden that had been badly damaged by Hurricane Igor last fall – the tree was further brutalized in a windstorm just a few weeks ago.  We feared it would crash into the roof of the garden shed one day soon, so we had no choice but to have the tree removed.  We loved that tree!  It was a main feature in our garden.  I managed to save some of its pliable branches to fashion a new wreath for the garden one day.  This way I’ll be able to still have a little piece of the tree that we enjoyed for so many years in our garden.

My late new bloomers!

One of my favourite spots to read and survey the garden is on an iron bench on the deck.

Garden faeries alight on a shelf in the kitchen!

Although, I was dismayed at having to say good-by to my beloved willow, as in so many things in life, there is a silver lining.  I was surveying the property when the willow was coming down, and I discovered a sizeable dogberry tree growing up against the side of the garden shed!  I had never noticed the tree before that day.  I sheepishly mentioned to the gent (Bob) who had expertly removed the willow for us (it was a monumental task) about possibly digging up the new-found dogberry and transplanting it to an area of the garden where I had been wanting a tree for privacy – Bob didn’t think he could manage it because it was a large tree, and he couldn’t guarantee me that it would survive in its new home, even though I was willing to take that chance.  I was a little disheartened thinking that this tree, too, would have to be cut down.  And, I’d always wanted a dogberry tree like the one in my grandfather’s garden – the crimson berries at this time of year are so brilliant. When I returned from an appointment at the Cancer Clinic yesterday, I was relishing a cuppa green tea on the deck, when it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at that beautiful dogberry tree right in the spot that I had been dreaming about! What? Bob had come by while I was out, bringing with him buckets of soil and mulch, and transplanted the dogberry tree!  I was so happy. What a beautiful thing!  Thank you, Bob. 

“As from a large heap of flowers many garlands and wreaths are made, so by a mortal in this life there is much good work to be done.”

The hydrangea are now blooming and wouldn’t their amazing heads make a beautiful dried wreath to herald autumn?  A perfect salute in their pinks and creams and pale greens to a season that speaks of summer’s retirement and invigorating fall starts – this is my favourite time of year.

Hydrangea abundance (not my tree, though)

Hmm, it is such a beautiful day here that I think I will sit in a corner of my garden with my morning tea and contemplate the next little bit of whimsy. Now, where did I put those clippers..

Close-up of the top of my garden wreath: Life is gorgeous in the garden!

If you haven’t made one already, I hope my post today will inspire you to make a garden wreath of your own, or as a gift for someone special. Happy wreath making! I hope you enjoy your garden tea wreath whenever you have a cuppa. Thanks for stopping by!  
Would you like to see some pics of  a couple of my garden wreaths and the wedding cake I made for my co-worker and his bride? They’re in the slideshow below.  HINT:  Turn up the volume and use full-screen view. Can you guess the theme music? When I was growing up, it was my favourite TV show. (Visit here to read about the ‘surprise wedding’,)
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