Pollination Poster

etsy

I am getting a lot of questions on where to get my original pollination poster with watercolor and colored pencil. It is available at TheGardenDiaries Etsy Shop. It comes in 2 sizes, 18″ x 24″ at $34 and 18″ x 13.5″ at $24.

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Top 10 Garden Trends for 2016

 

Packaged cauliflower

Packaged cauliflower

1. Flower Power-Cauliflower is the next Kale!

It’s time to get out my crystal ball and find out whats coming up in the gardening world for 2016. Traveling to lots of nurseryman’s and flower shows, cutting edge gardens, and keeping up with my blog, gives me a good handle on what is up and coming in the gardening world. Some of these are trends have been around and are still going strong, while others are just getting a foothold, like Cauliflower!

carrots

Different colors of carrot are popular

According to the National Garden Bureau, 2016 is the year of the Carrot. I have to defer though to the rise of cauliflower, a cruciferous vitamin packed veggie, that has a unique ability to absorb flavors from other ingredients, rather like a chameleon. From cauliflower grilled steaks to peanut butter brownies, cauliflower has landed on top of the heap for a lot of people! Look at this great video on how to make the brownies.

Luscious cauliflower brownies

Luscious cauliflower brownies: The white is white chocolate, not cauliflower!

Cauliflower Brownies

The recipe is:

2 cups steamed cauliflower florets, cooled

3/4 c dark chocolate chips, melted

1/2 c cream cheese

4 Tbs smooth peanut butter

2 eggs

½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped peanuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13×13 container

  2. In a food processor, process the cauliflower until completely smooth – this is important as if it is not smooth; it will result in a grainy textured brownie

  3. Add the cream cheese, peanut butter, eggs and sugar then blend again until smooth

  4. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, vanilla and blend well

  5. Spoon ½ the mixture into the container, then scatter the chocolate chips and peanuts over the layer

  6. Spoon the remaining mixture then bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until an inserted fork is clean

I tested making these brownies and they were some of the most flavorful moist brownies that I have ever had!

From ExpressoRecipes

There is actually a shortage of cauliflower due to cold in California’s Imperial Valley and the high demand for this sought after vegetable. Last time I bought it, the price was $5 per head. I have grown it several times but it is always done in by cabbage pests before I get to harvest it. Maybe I’ll give it another whirl.

2. Kale & Other Edibles-Horticulture Tied to Wellness

kale

Just ten years ago, Kale was not on the radar of the backyard grower. There were a few varieties which people planted occasionally, but now Kale is the “in” vegetable. In fact, Kale’s growth in the seed industry is “off the charts”. Farmers can’t keep up with demand. Personally, when I go to a nursery that sells seeds, Kale is usually sold out. Full of iron, vitamin A and C, Kale is the ultimate health food. Easy to grow, even during the winter, Kale packs a powerhouse of nutrients and is also a visually beautiful vegetable. Used in containers for color and texture, kale comes out on top of all the vegetables that I grow for no bother and “forget about it”. Virtually every month of the year, I am harvesting Kale!

Kale and lettuce in my cold frame

Kale, spinach, and lettuce in my cold frame

Curly purple kale used in a container

Curly purple kale used in a container, by Leigh Barnes

The ever-increasing interest and use of edibles in containers and in the garden is still up there. Think berries, fruit, and lots of kale. Okra is another super food that is coming into its own. Go to Okra-Superfood Superstar for more information on  growing it.

Kosmic Kale, a beautiful ornamental Kale which is good to eat

Kosmic Kale, a beautiful ornamental Kale which is good to eat

A beautiful new Kale variety I saw at a recent horticultural trade show was Kosmic Kale, a unique variety that has a cream-edged margin. When I first spotted it, I thought it was a new perennial, not a vegetable. I will be looking for this variety in the spring. What we put into our mouth and bodies has become increasingly important to the a generation of gardeners.

Kosmic Kale

Kosmic Kale

All kinds of berries, goji, blueberries, raspberries, and black berries are being planted and harvested

All kinds of berries- goji, blueberries, raspberries, and black berries are being planted and harvested for healthy eating

3. Pollinators & Milkweed

Common milkweed

Common milkweed

Native pollinators as well as the honeybee are still high up on the concern list for most people, gardeners or otherwise. Monarch butterflies are topping the list with an incredible outpouring of support and interest on how to increase the numbers of these beautiful pollinators and keep them healthy. Fortunately, the efforts to help monarchs, providing more and better habitat, reducing pesticide use, and raising the public’s awareness has spilled over and helps other lesser known varieties, like many of our native bees. Monarchs and honeybees are the poster children of this movement. If you provide better habitat for these canaries in the coal mines, then everyone benefits. One way to help out is to create a monarch way station to feed the monarchs on their long migration. Go to Monarch Way Station to see how to set your own up.

Monarch on Zinnia

Ordering milkweed plugs (tiny rooted plants) has become easy by going to The Milkweed Market . Order now to provide a safe haven for monarchs! Go to Got Milk….Weed? to check out the importance of growing milkweed.

Asclepias curassvica, 'Monarch Promise' a new vareigated milkweed

Asclepias curassvica, ‘Monarch Promise’ a new variegated milkweed I want to grow this year

As anyone knows, when you have monarch caterpillars munching down on your milkweed, they can run out fast especially with aphids joining in, so you never have enough of the stuff!

4. Bambi Proof

With the skyrocketing growth of deer and the distress of seeing your hard-earned cash become salad, people are demanding low maintenance deer resistant plants. More and more nurseries are setting aside areas that sell deer resistant plants to satisfy this huge market segment. Sprays and other deterrents cost money and aren’t very effective. Why not plant varieties that deer hate and forget about all those sprays?

A display of deer proof plants at a trade show

A display of deer proof plants at a trade show

 

Disney wedding 078See my Deer Combat post for strategies on planting for deer, and What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Evergreen? for the ultimate deer proof plant – Hellebores. Hellebores are a hot perennial because of their resistance and I have to say in 20 years, I have never seen a deer eat one, so these must be deer poison!

helleborus

Hellebores have been the hot ticket for hybridizers and dozens of varieties have hit the shelves just in the last 5 years. Black ones are hot!

Black Hellebore

Black Hellebore

5.  Houseplants- Bringing the Outdoors In

Air plant display at a recent trade show

Air plant display at a recent trade show

Houseplants were big in the seventies and then went out of flavor for a long time. Back in favor now but with new smaller and easy to care for varieties, air plants or tillandsias fit the bill. Anyone with an apartment or windowsill can have a thriving plant kingdom with little effort.

Air plants

 air plants

Green walls are popping up in homes, hotels and other indoor spaces, utilizing air plants and other houseplants. Providing a sanctuary of green living things and removing toxins from interior air pollutants, green walls are also a mood enhancer. Hotels have jumped on this bandwagon as providing an oasis away from home.

A living wall of herbs

A living wall of herbs

 A framed living wall

A framed living wall

6. Vintage Gardening

Anyone on Pinterest or Etsy, knows about vintage gardening. The popularity of old tools, historic seed art, and the nostalgia of old-fashioned gardening has started an industry of eBay listings selling well-used and well made tools.

Birdhouse made out of recycled itmes

Birdhouse made out of recycled items

Antique garden tools

Antique garden tools

I call it flea market gardening. Is it just me, but when I shop flea markets or goodwill, am I the only one who is looking for gardening stuff? I thought not! Vintage means less than 100 years old. Antique is 100 years or more. When I visited the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle this past February, there was an entire show area devoted to vintage gardening paraphernalia and I went crazy! See Vintage Gardening for my post. Just think- Leave It To Beaver meets Martha Stewart. Re-purposing is the name of the game.

Old chair with flowers

Old chair with flowers

vintage

 

Vintage and repurposed gardening tools

Vintage and re-purposed gardening tools

Old seed packets

Old seed packets

Seed packet art is really interesting and there are some funny ones as well as beautiful. Go to Seed Art to check out an interesting post on the history of this illustrative art form.

7. Re-Wilding-Integrating Tech Into Nature

Technology is often regarded as something that creates an artificial world, removing people from nature. To the contrary, however, technology is bringing humans into contact with wildlife and nature like never before. Wild turkeys, foxes, beaver, and coyotes, are very urban animals that have learned to live with man. Home gardeners and conservationists are working on creating wildlife habitats for creatures, inviting them in to restored nature in their backyard and parks. And we want to watch and photograph them. Gopro cameras are enormously popular and are used mostly in the outdoors. Attach one of these to a bird feeder or the dog to get unique natural outdoor views. Or attach it to your mountain biker or skier.

Beaver have become urban animals and have spread widely in the U.S.

Beaver have become urban animals and have spread widely in the U.S.

Nowadays, we carry our phones with us everywhere, even sleeping, so why not bring it into nature with a purpose? For purists who say you need to totally disconnect while in nature to enjoy, I am of two minds on this. I do love a walk with my dog with no music or any other distractions so I can enjoy a calming green experience with no distractions. But I always carry my phone with me to catch an interesting photo, like the one above of beaver activity or use it as a trail map.

If you want your kids to get out in nature, why not entice them with geo-caching? I have enjoyed this activity with my daughter where you search for a “cache” using coordinates with a GPS using your phone.  Like a scavenger hunt in nature, it’s a lot of fun and gets kids engaged in the outdoors.

Placing a broodminder into a beehive can give you important information remotely

Placing a broodminder into a beehive can give you important information remotely

Broodminder is another example of technology meeting nature. I purchased a “Broodminder” which measures temperature and humidity inside my bee hives and can be downloaded using my phone. Bee hive telemetry! Important measurements that can tell you a lot about your hive without having to leave your house and opening up a hive which can be disruptive to the colony.

8. Layered Landscapes

Instead of having acres of perennials stretching as far as the eye can see, as a landscape designer, I am designing more “layered” landscapes. Including evergreens, conifers, woody shrubs, bulbs, and annuals, in a design ensures an interesting landscape to give multi-season interest. I love perennials, but I am definitely seeing more varieties of woody shrubs and conifers at the trade shows.

Winter berries or Ilex verticilatta are definitely seeing an upswing in popularity

Winter berries or Ilex verticilatta are definitely seeing an upswing in popularity

This Dragon's Eye Pine is beautiful-Definitely a trend to plant more conifers

This Dragon’s Eye Pine is beautiful-Definitely a trend to plant more conifers

Layered means using a greater variety of plants, so you can have many things going on at once to enjoy in the garden. Multi-season interest is a over-used garden trope, but one that has instant recognition and conveys an idea with a purpose. Leaving dried and spent stems in the garden to enjoy in the winter is part of all season gardening. Underplanting small trees which are limbed up with bulbs, perennials, and annuals, mingling allium bulbs into plantings are all techniques that I use to get a layered effect.

Chanticleer Garden has wonderful layered gardens throughout

Chanticleer Garden has wonderful layered gardens throughout

Enjoying "dead" plants or plants that are done for the season is part of layering

Enjoying “dead” plants or plants that are done for the season is part of layering

Winter iinterest is part of layering a landscape

Winter interest is part of layering a landscape

 

 9. Pet Scaping and Chemicals

Dogs in the garden have to be safe with pesticide free areas

Dogs in the garden have to be safe with pesticide free areas

The statistics are bad. Half of all pet deaths over the age of ten is due to cancer according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Pet owners are waking up to this and using less toxic chemicals around their loved ones. New organic pesticides are becoming available to the home owner who tends to apply more pesticides per acre than farmers! A new one called Spinosad, an organic substance found in soil from an old rum distillery (no, I am not making this up!), can be used on outdoor ornamentals, lawns, vegetables and fruit. Produced by fermentation, Spinosad kills chewing insects when they ingest the chemical within one to two days. Even better, it will not persist in the environment. Spraying in the early evening hours, means that the spray will dry and won’t harm my honeybees. Organic lawn sprays and chemicals are becoming the norm, rather than the rule.

I will be spraying my spinosad on squash bugs

I will be spraying my spinosad on squash bugs

Pet Scaping is just landscape design with your pets in mind. Where to set your designer dog house or doggie ranch and what landscape specimens to plants around the dog house for shade and beautification just like your own house. How about a trickling water fountain or sprinkler next to the dog house to play in? Or a sandbox to dig in? Or straw to roll in?

Dogs like to roll in straw in my garden

Dogs like to roll in straw in my garden

10. Gardening With Purpose

pollinator garden

We are gardening with goals in mind. Planting a pollinator garden, growing hops for making beer, growing healthy heirloom vegetables, raising cut flowers, keeping the bees fed and happy are happening across the gardening world.  Instead of just planting a beautiful ornamental garden, consumers are thinking: How can I use/preserve this? Go to Plant These For the Bees to check out the best way to plant for our important pollinators.

Growing healthy food

Growing healthy food

pollinator garden

Residential landscapes are no longer just grass and trees spotted into the lawn. We want to enhance our everyday lifestyles by creating relaxation or meditation areas, or watch birds and butterflies. You can make this a reality by landscaping and gardening with specific goals in mind.

Creating a relaxation area with landscaping

Creating a relaxation area with landscaping

Observing birds is a popular pastime and people are planting bird friendly gardens

Observing birds is a popular pastime and people are planting bird friendly gardens

Next Up: Dwarf Tomatoes are in the Limelight

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Confused Gardening-Warm Weather in Winter

Early Bloomers are ….. Really Early!

Hellebores are blooming

Hellebores are blooming

Hellebores or Lenten Roses that normally bloom in March for me are in full bloom. Daphnes, Winter Jasmine, Mahonia, Camellias, Dandelions…… the list goes on. Yes, these are early bloomers normally, but not this early! I planted a dozen small hollies last spring and I noticed that they were putting on new growth still.

Warm winter weather is good for construction and landscapers but bad for ski slopes and snow plows. How about for gardeners?

Winter jasmine in full bloom covering a bank

Grass never stopped growing completely. It just slowed down and remains a pretty green carpet. The ground has not frozen yet. This has implications for overwintering insects. They will be more prevalent next season.

Insects and Other Critters

My cold frame vents in the rear when the temperature gets too high inside

My cold frame vents in the rear when the temperature gets too high inside

The usual suspects come out, like stinkbugs. But I have noticed slugs and other flying insects in my cold frame as well as outside in the unusually warm winter weather. Slugs normally hibernate under soil in the winter, but they are munching away at my lettuce!

Oh, and my bees are hopefully flying, looking for nectar. The few flowers out there don’t satisfy them, so I feed them sugar-water in place of nectar. The alternative is that they might starve…. Not a good thing.

Bees use up more energy flying around with nothing to eat and consume their stored honey faster. That means if and when we get really freezing weather, honey stores might be used up and not enough to sustain them until flowers are plentiful. Thus, my feeding regimen to stave off starvation so I won’t have the expense and work of starting new colonies.

Feeders dispensing sugar water at hive entrance for hungry bees

Feeders dispensing sugar-water at hive entrance for hungry bees

 

One of my honeybees trying to gather nectar from a partially opened Mahonia flower

One of my honeybees trying to gather nectar from a partially opened Mahonia flower

What Does This Mean For Spring?

The flowers that are blooming now will not bloom again until the following spring. This is a one time deal – spring flowering – so enjoy it when it happens, whenever it happens! Plants only form flower buds once a season. But I think you really won’t notice a big decrease in spring flowers as there are usually so many flowers blooming at once. For my hollies with the tender new growth, if we get some nasty freezes, the fresh growth will burn and turn brown.

Fresh new growth on evergreens tend to turn brown with sudden cold snaps

Fresh new growth on evergreens tend to turn brown with sudden cold snaps

Worst case scenario is that plants never go dormant and then a sudden hard freeze strikes. Water inside stems and leaves freezes, the cell walls explode and turns the plant to mush. Mop head hydrangeas could have all their buds turned to burnt crisps and won’t bloom.

Longwood Gardens has reported that their snowdrops and winter jasmine are blooming weeks ahead of schedule.

The annual cherry tree display in D.C. could be subdued if the cherry trees don’t receive at least 114 days of chilling. The problem is that warm weather causes buds to swell and if a hard freeze arrives, the buds will be toast.

Winter snows protects and insulates plants from frost heaving. This picture was taken in January 2015.

Winter snows protects and insulates plants from frost heaving. This picture was taken in January 2015.

The present warmth is primarily due to the impacts of El Nino, which is bringing milder-than-average weather to much of the nation. According to the Farmers Almanac, the second week of January is “red-flagged” to have exceptional cold and stormy winter weather. Boy, were they wrong! So, enjoy the weather while you can. We still have weeks of winter left.

Snowdrops in bloom

Snowdrops in bloom

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2015 In Review

What Are Gardeners Reading?

I am always interested in what my readers are reading and using from my blog and sometimes I’m surprised. Blogging for four years means I have gotten a little better about what people are clicking on and what gets the gardening juices flowing. Looking at my archives and statistics, I see a variety of topics that are capturing people’s interests. Perennial(!) or evergreen blogs that capture readers interest turn up again and again and  I re-blog them with better photos and updated writing. Maybe I need to write a book using one of these topics!

Comments

The Garden Diaries blog was viewed over 110,000 times in 2015 with 58 posts and I have regular thoughtful comments from people. Thanks for all those comments! Keep them coming. Feedback and questions are welcome and help me become a better writer. Readers from over 166 countries read my blog. That just blows my mind! My most commented post was Plant Geek Alert-Pink Zazzle Gomphrena. Lots of interest in this plant and I continue to grow and love it.

Controversial

My most controversial blog was on Butterfly Bushes-Should you plant these? Or not? Picked up by Garden Rant it received lots of comments good and bad.

The Great Butterfly Bush Debate

The Great Butterfly Bush DebateHere are my top read posts overall for 2015

The News

It was a big year for me in the news. My White House experience appeared in The Baltimore Sun and one of my designs appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

1. Broken Pot Garden   16, 649 Readers

Yes, you read that right! This post from March 2013 has had an awesome 16, 649 readers this year alone. Picked up by different Home and Garden sites and one called “Woohome” that has funneled thousands of readers to my site bumps this post to the top of the heap. You can read it at Broken Pot Garden if you haven’t seen it yet.

2. Containers With Pizzazz    16,605 Readers

One other post which is right up there with “Gnome Home”, with 16,605 readers is my container post “Containers With Pizzazz: Not Your Ordinary Container”. I have refined this post over the years, adding new pictures and techniques to create containers which stand out from the crowd.

3. Swarming of the Bees    4,078 Readers

Whenever I do talks on beekeeping, this is the number one question that I get-Why do bees swarm? So, no surprise here with this being a top post. “Wrangling” swarms is something I do every spring and is fascinating and fun. Honey extraction is another beekeeping topic that people can’t get enough of at Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey.

4. Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter  3, 734 Readers

Surprise, surprise!  I had no idea until I started reading my stats, that this was a top 5! Easy to make with a few ingredients, honey is the unexpected ingredient to make a wonderful soothing body balm.

5. Miniature Garden-Whimsical Creations

3,155 Readers

People love miniature gardens! The above mini garden I photographed at the Philadelphia Flower Show and the purple splashes of color and attention to detail makes it stand out for me. Read how to put one together for yourself.

Other Top Posts

Thanks to all my readers who are just visiting or follow my blog. Here’s to another “fruitful” and bee sting free year in 2016.

 

 

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Boxwood -The Ultimate Green for Christmas

box

Ripping out 50 failing English boxwoods on a landscape job this year turned into a decorating opportunity. Rather than taking the old shrubs out and chipping and shredding them, I decided to use the still green parts for some boxwood Christmas trees.

Boxwood tree before decorating

Boxwood tree before decorating

A traditional decoration, boxwood trees are simple to make but time consuming. Boxwood sprigs  inserted into saturated oasis lasts for at least 2 months in a green fresh looking form. After the holidays, you can even keep your tree which will dry nicely, and spray it gold for next year. Boxwood trees are easy to make and inexpensive if you have boxwood on hand. If you have to buy it though, it is expensive. I own several shrubs that need some attention and wait until early December to give them a thinning so I can use all those fresh greens and not throw them away.

'Green Velvet' Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my 'go to' boxwood

‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my ‘go to’ boxwood

When I thin my boxwood, I just grab a bunch of boxwood and snap it off at the woody stem. I call it ‘snapping boxwood’ and savvy gardeners do this to keep all their boxwood healthy. Beautiful boxwood requires periodic thinning to let air circulate throughout. Most people will sheer their shrubs which just stimulates the boxwood to grow in even thicker, blocking air flow.

Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears

Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Snapping off hunks of the foliage, creates spaces within the boxwood which aids in air circulation and leads to a healthier shrub. When I talk ‘boxwood’, I am referring to both English, American, and Korean. Though the English is superior for making wreaths and trees, I use any kind that I can get.

Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees

Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees

Boxwood Tree Directions

  • Soak your cut boxwood in a tub of warm water overnight to hydrate the greens and keep them fresh longer

  • Choose a small plastic container and add a chunk of oasis for the base. Tape in with florist tape and add some picks.

  • Insert your cone on top of the picks

Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece

Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece

  • At this point I add a few wood picks from the side of the cone into the base to make sure everything is secure

Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks; you can also add a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape

Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks;  alternatively you can use a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape

  • I pick out a nice looking boxwood piece to form the peak. Once I stick that piece in, it gives me a guide to green up the rest of the tree.

Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first

Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first

  • Starting at the bottom, I break off pieces of boxwood and insert them into the oasis around the edge of the container first and move up. I added another variety of green (thujopsis) to the tree to give more textural interest. But if you are a purist, stick with boxwood

I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood

I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood

  • Add floral touches, like white pom poms, red roses, and small Christmas balls directly into the oasis; be sure to leave gaps to insert these elements

  • Insert your pieces of boxwood and flowers with care; If you insert them too densely, you could break apart the oasis

Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container

Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container

  • Spray the tree with an anti-dessicant, like Wilt-Pruf to keep the tree fresh for weeks

  • For care, I will mist it with water maybe once a week, and make sure that the oasis is thoroughly soaked through to keep it green and fresh

Add roses and white pom poms

Add roses and white pom poms

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Decorating “The Palace in the Woods”, Hampton Mansion

Hampton Mansion all lit up for a festive Yuletide night

Hampton Mansion all lit up for a festive Yuletide night

Every year, I help with the decorating of “The Palace in the Woods”, Hampton National Historic site in Towson, Maryland, for their Yuletide celebration.  Dating back to the eighteenth century, Hampton is a large estate built in the Georgian architectural style, situated on many acres including a farm, greenhouses, slave quarters, an orangery, large Italianate gardens, horse stables, cemetery, and an English style park-like setting. Built as a country seat just after the Revolutionary War by the prominent Ridgely family, the house and its immediate surroundings are just a remnant of the Hampton estate of the early 1800s.

Many large mature trees surround Hampton Mansion

Many large mature trees surround Hampton Mansion

English: Hampton mansion, Maryland, USA from t...

English: Hampton mansion, Maryland, USA from the southwest. Hampton National Historic Site. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Decorating the Mansion along with the Park service is a lot of fun, and gives me ideas on decorating my house with fresh greens, garland, natural materials, and fresh flowers and fruit – all materials that were used back “in the day”, Williamsburg  or Colonial style.

Park rangers Amanda and Brooke are very helpful and knowledgeable about decorating the mansion for Christmas

Park Rangers Amanda and Brooke are very helpful and knowledgeable about decorating the mansion for Christmas

hampton

The Christmas tree in the music room is decorated with handmade Victorian ornaments

Located in the music room, the Christmas tree exudes Victorian elegance with the hand-made ornaments reflecting the ornate Victorian era. The screens in the background are hand painted with colorful scenes and the furnishings reflect the lavish decorating in vogue at that time for the very wealthy. The mansion  showcases Mid-Atlantic life from before the American Revolution to after World War II.

Peacock hand painted screen

Peacock hand painted screen

Drawing room wall paper

Drawing room wall paper

Another beautiful painted screen at Hampton

Another beautiful painted screen at Hampton

The candlelit table is set for a big celebration

The candlelit table is set for a big celebration

Place settings are in the cranberry colors befitting the Yuletide season, and sideboards and tables are set with the house silver and groaning with food ( good quality fakes), but set up for a typical Christmas spread of the period.

Food good enough to eat!

Food good enough to eat!

Portrait of Eliza Ridgely, the American heiress and mistress of Hampton for many years

Portrait of Eliza Ridgely, Lady With a Harp, by painter Thomas Sully, the American heiress and mistress of Hampton for many years

hampton

Red Roses were used in most of the arrangements

The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland take charge of the festive greenery decorations, as well as the fresh floral arrangements, all with the time period in mind when choosing materials. Slated to be restored in the near future, the dilapidated greenhouses were used by the Ridgelys used for out of season food and forcing flowers. Many of the clubs of District III, Baltimore and Harford County, participate and get together to carefully decorate the towering Christmas tree and make lots of labor intensive boxwood wreaths and arrangements.

One of the volunteers working hard on an arrangement

One of the volunteers working hard on an arrangement

 

Using fresh cut greens, a volunteer puts together a large arrangement in a towering urn

Using fresh-cut greens, a volunteer puts together a large arrangement in a towering urn

 

Landing arrangement with peach roses

Landing arrangement with peach roses from 2013

We use a wide variety of fresh evergreens

We use a wide variety of fresh evergreens

The Orangery being used by Garden Clubs to arrange the flowers

The Orangery being used by Garden Clubs to arrange the flowers

 

We meet in the old Orangery to work our magic on beautifying the mansion.  Armed with fresh-cut greens, we bring cut flowers, greens, and cutters. The Park Service also will cut some special greens from the surrounding landscape, like ivy berries, holly, and boxwood, which are beautiful and were certainly used when the Ridgely family lived there.

Mature Ivy

Mature Ivy has great black berries

Decorated table at Hampton

Decorated table at Hampton

At night the mansion is full of musicians, carolers, and docents who will answer questions about daily life of the Ridgelys, as well as the many slaves who lived on the grounds. The Hampton estate was the home of the Ridgelys through seven generations, and also of the enslaved people, indentured servants, and paid laborers who supported them, from before the American Revolution to after World War II.

One of the bedrooms with toys that were used in the time period

A bedroom interpreting the life of the children living at Hampton

Paper dolls were typical toys of the time period

Paper dolls were typical toys of the time period

Doll with tea set in one of the bedrooms

Doll with tea set in one of the bedrooms

The servant call bells are still in place

The servant call bells are still in place

One of the many garden club arrangements

One of the many garden club arrangements

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Poinsettia – History and Legends

Poinsettia, Sparkling Punch

Poinsettia, Sparkling Punch

Can you guess what is the best-selling potted plant in the United States and Canada? I was amazed to learn that the Poinsettia is the most popular by far. Here are some other interesting tidbits:

History & Legends

  • The Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “very beautiful”

  • The showy leaves or petals, called “bracts”, are not the actual flower. The flowers of the poinsettia are in the center of the bracts and are inconspicuous and contain a sweetly fragrant nectar

The center portion that is green and yellow is the actual flower

The center portion that is green and yellow is the actual flower

  • The cultivation of Poinsettias originated with the Aztecs hundreds of years ago in Mexico.  Montezuma, the last Aztec king, would have Poinsettias brought into the city, which is now known as Mexico City, by caravans because he liked them so much

  • Aztecs used the bracts, the colored portion, as a dye, and the sap as a medicinal to control fevers

  • Joel Poinsett, a botanist and the first U.S. minister to Mexico in 1825, found the plant blooming on the side of the road, which the native people regarded as a weed, took cuttings, and sent some plants to his home in South Carolina

  • Poinsett shared his finds with other plant enthusiasts and that is how the poinsettia came to the United States

Poinsettia Valentine

Poinsettia Valentine

  • The Ecke family grew Poinsettias in southern California in the 1920’s, primarily as a cut flower and landscape plant and remain to this day, the largest producer of Poinsettias in the US

  •  Grown as field grown potted plants for the cut flower trade, Poinsettias were shipped all over the country by train. Poinsettias really gained wide-spread recognition through media promotions on The Tonight Show and The Bob Hope Christmas Specials. This promotion ensured that Poinsettias were as much a part of the holiday tradition as Christmas evergreen trees

  • When the flowers or stems are cut, they ooze a milky sap that can cause people with latex sensitivities to have an allergic reaction.

  • Contrary to popular belief, Poinsettias are not poisonous. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf.

  • Red is the most popular color, and the variety called “Prestige Red” tops the popularity list

  • Poinsettias are now the best-selling potted plant in the U.S. and Canada!

Poinsettias with blue hydrangeas

Poinsettias with blue hydrangeas

Color Palette

Breeding of the poinsettia began with the goal of improving cultivars that would retain their leaves and bracts for a longer period. The breeding also created stronger stems, multiple branching, earlier blooming, and the palette of colors that we recognize today. These modern cultivars last longer, bloom earlier, and are available in a vast array of colors from red to white, pink to burgundy, and with many variations including doubling of flowers and flecks of color on contrasting backgrounds.

Glitter applied to Poinsettias at the supermarket

Glitter applied to Poinsettias at the supermarket

Selecting a Healthy Poinsettia

Poinsettias do great in the home with proper care and will keep their coloration until mid-March. When choosing a healthy plant, look for dark green uniform foliage. But be aware, that lighter colored or mottled bracts typically have lighter green foliage. Reject any plants that have dropping leaves, or ones that have pale green or yellowing foliage.

Jingle Bells Poinsettia-the actual flower is in the center of the bracts

Jingle Bells Poinsettia-the actual flower is in the center of the bracts

Visions of Grandeur Poinsettia with Orchids

Visions of Grandeur Poinsettia with Orchids

When purchasing, make sure that the plants are well wrapped or sleeved before transporting, as low temperatures, even for short periods, can damage the plant.

Sleeved poinsettias

Sleeved poinsettias

Care

Poinsettias thrive in indirect, natural daylight- at least 6 hours a day. Do not place them in direct sunlight, as this may fade the bract olor. For longer bloom, keep in temperatures of 65 degrees to 70. Keep the soil moist, and water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Do not allow the plants to sit in standing water. If your plant comes in a foil wrapper, remove this so the pot can drain properly or puncture so that the wrapper can drain. Fertilizer is not necessary while blooming.

  • Keep in indirect, natural daylight

  • Water when soil is dry to the touch

  • Keep in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees

  • Make sure the pot drains

  • Fertilization is not necessary

A white double poinsettia

A white double poinsettia

Reflowering-Tough but not Impossible 

It is possible to get your poinsettia to “reflower” next year, but you need to follow strict requirements for light, temperature, and fertilization. Following all these rules is way too much trouble for me, so I consider this plant a “throwaway”. Poinsettias are very inexpensive and I leave the growing of them to experts who have the right equipment to make this happen. If you really want to get your poinsettia to bloom again, go to  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07412.html for detailed instructions.

Peach Poinsettia

Peach Poinsettia

Monet Poinsettia

Monet Poinsettia

Poisonous??

Contrary to popular opinion, Poinsettias are not poisonous, but neither are they edible. There was a study done that determined that a 50 pound child would have to eat 500 leaves to get really sick! And the leaves supposedly taste awful. The Poinsettia plant is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family of plants, which includes the rubber tree, where natural latex comes from. So, If you are allergic to latex, and ingest this plant, you may have some degree of discomfort, but not fatal. Likewise, if you handle the plant, you could develop a rash. Poinsettias are not harmful to pets either, unless they ingest leaves or bracts in very large quantities. Cats who chew on the leaves may salivate and can vomit if the leaves are swallowed, but it will not kill them.

Decorating With Poinsettias

Rather than scattering Poinsettias around the house, try grouping them together for bigger impact. I also like to place Poinsettias in baskets along with other plants, pods, and cones, to add interest.

Decorating with Poinsettias

Decorating with Poinsettias

Use your poinsettias in groups

Group your Poinsettias for bigger impact

As cut flowers, Poinsettias are great, but you rarely see them used this way. The plants are so inexpensive, that I don’t feel guilty buying one, and cutting the flowers off for arrangements. You can get an entirely different look by using them as cut flowers and they last a long time in a vase, over a week!

Poinsettias used as a cut flower

Poinsettias used as a cut flower

 

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Mantel Magic

mantel

Inspired after decorating at the White House, I tackled embellishing my mantel when I returned home. Fresh greens, glittery balls and ornaments, and a little imagination is all it takes to make a welcoming festive mantle. I had some peacocks that I wanted to use so decided to go with blues and greens for my color scheme. Forget using the same old red as your primary color for Christmas! Push the envelope and try colors and subjects that normally you don’t associate with Christmas for a unique design.

Decorated mantel in the Vermeil room at the White House

Decorated mantel in the Vermeil Room at the White House; with teddy bears and shell trees

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China  Room mantel at the White House

Mantel

Red Room mantle at the White House

mantle

Closeup of Green Room mantel at White House

Starting with a fresh green garland, I used  25 feet of cedar roping that I doubled up to make it extra full. I was really impressed at the White House with the quality of their fresh garlands which were made out of magnolia, fir, or cedar. Some were as thick as my leg! When I shopped for garlands at home, they were on the sparse side. If you can’t find what you want you can always wire your own garland together. Doubling my garland made it plenty thick for my needs. Pull some pieces down over the edge to give depth.

Fluff some of the greens down to hang over the edge

Fluff some of the greens down to hang over the edge

Wire in some additional greens like magnolia, and some dried hydrangeas

Wire in some additional greens like magnolia to match the wreath, and some dried hydrangeas

Start adding glittery elements; here I used silver gilded Eucalyptus and fake picks of glittered branches

Start adding glittery elements; here I used silver gilded Eucalyptus and fake picks of glittered branches, and Nandina foliage

Wire in your premium colored picks

Wire in your premium colored picks

Wire your balls on the garland, clustering the larger ones in the center

Wire your balls on the garland, clustering the larger ones in the center and on either end

Arrange your ribbon in layers, and wire it together at 2 foot intervals; weave it through the garland

Arrange your ribbon in layers, and wire it together at 2 foot intervals; weave it through the garland

Make a large multi-lopped bow and weaves the ends into the garland and have some hang

Make a large multi-looped bow and place one on each end of the mantel; Weave the ends into the garland and allow some to hang

When using multiple layers of ribbon, it works best using a bow maker

When using multiple layers of ribbon, it works best using a bow maker

I am a recent convert to “bow makers”. Many floral designers think these are frivolous but when you are dealing with many layers of wide ribbon, it works like a charm. The work of twisting and cinching the ribbon leaves your fingers free and makes a truly professional looking bow.

Cluster the larger balls with the peacocks in the center

Cluster the larger balls with the peacocks in the center

mantle

mantel

mantel

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Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 2

Silk ribbon garland inscribed by a calligrapher with messages from military families on the Blue Room tree

Silk ribbon garland inscribed by a calligrapher with messages from military families Blue Room tree

Decorating the White House for over 68,000 guests is a mammoth task. An army of volunteers along with countless White House staff work feverishly to create a magical experience for all visitors. My volunteer assignment this time was the Blue Room which has the largest tree in the White House, topping off at 18 feet and one inch. Volunteers were scattered all over pitching in where needed, clambering up scaffolding and ladders to get every ornament and wreath hung in time. To read about my first time at the White House in 2011, go to Decorating the White House for Christmas . Check out Decorating the White House, 2015-Part 1, if you missed my first post for this year.

A pom pom Bo sitting on the entrance security desk at the White House in 2011

A pom-pom Bo sitting on the entrance security desk at the White House in 2011

Volunteers start working in a warehouse a couple of days in advance of working at the White House where I was assigned to the “bow team.” I can make bows in my sleep and I am always surprised by people when they have trouble with this task. It was a pleasure working with the sumptuous ribbon to create bows and garlands for all the sixty-two trees and assorted mantels in the White House. My team created multi-layered bows and garlands for two straight days before going to the White House to start decorating the rooms. Boxes of wired ornaments and other decorating items were delivered to the White House in hundreds of carefully marked boxes the morning that we started.

The Red Room tree wore a ribbon garland that I worked on at the White House

The Red Room tree wore a ribbon garland that I worked on at the warehouse

 

State floor room locations-Wikipedia

State floor room locations-Wikipedia

East Room

Continuing our tour of the White House, from the ground floor you ascend steps to the main State floor which includes the historic East Room, the largest room of the White House. Greeted by four imposing fir trees covered in frosty icicles, shimmery white and silver ornaments and dancing reindeer, the whole room sparkled. Displayed against one wall is the ornate historic crèche or nativity scene made of terra-cotta and carved wood. Fabricated in Naples in the eighteenth century, the crèche was donated to the White House in the 1960’s.

The beautiful shimmery white and silver ornaments of the East Room

The beautiful shimmery white and silver ornaments of the East Room

Flying reindeer on the East Room's mantel

Flying reindeer on the East Room’s mantel

White House DSCN6441

Green Room

The Green Room was probably my favorite decorated room (besides the Blue Room which was my team’s job!), because of the peacocks adorning the mantel and trees. Jewel tone ornaments were coordinated with the emerald silk covered walls. A historic meeting between first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart took place in this beautiful room. Teal, emerald-green, and purple colors dominated this room.

Mantel of the green room with peacocks

Mantel of the green room with peacocks

Close up of the mantel's peacocks

Close up of the mantel’s peacocks

Details of the ornaments in the Green Room

Details of the ornaments in the Green Room

Blue Room

I spent several days working in the Blue Room as my assignment and I was “star struck!” Stars were the overall theme in the room-wreaths, tree, and even the stanchions that surrounded the tree had stars. Holding the largest tree, at eighteen feet and one inch tall, the Blue Room tree comes from the famous Bustard’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA, only about a two hour drive from me in Maryland.

The red, white, and blue Christmas tree in the Blue Room

The red, white, and blue Christmas tree in the Blue Room

An oval room, the Blue Room is primarily used by the President to receive many of his guests. Ornamented with a beautiful 6 inch wide silk ribbon overlaid on top of large gold stars, the tree is a shimmering display of red, white, and blue, inspired by the U.S. flag. It took our team a full three days to completely decorate this monster tree, using ladders and scaffolding and lots of patience.

Families of the military were asked to write messages to their loved ones and the messages were beautifully inscribed on a wide silk ribbon that wound around the tree. After Christmas, when the decorations are dismantled, the families will receive the snippet of ribbon with their note.

Messages were inscribed by a calligrapher on the silk garland

Messages inscribed by a calligrapher on the silk garland

I helped design and construct the three star wreaths that hung in the Blue Room windows. Up high on a ladder, I wired the large stars in place and suspended stars from ribbons on the wreaths.

Star wreaths in the blue Room windows

Star wreaths in the Blue Room windows

Red Room

In 2011 when I was part of the team to decorate the Red Room, I really enjoyed the color scheme and rich decorations for this ruby colored room. In 2015, I was interested in how the decorations would change. Cranberries were still used in the wreaths and in topiary trees elsewhere in the room-no surprise there! This year though, different shades of red and gold were interwoven into the tree and mantel and the beautiful striped garland was striking. Magnolia leaves were also a nice addition to the mantel. The cardinals on top of the tree were perfect.

Red Room Mantel

Red Room Mantel

This is the Red Room color scheme in 2011 when I designed it-the mantel had more gold and copper added

This is the Red Room color scheme in 2011 when I designed it-the mantel had more gold and copper

 

Cranberry wreaths in the windows and cardinals on top of the trees in the Red Room

Cranberry wreaths in the windows and cardinals on top of the trees in the Red Room

white house

State Dining Room (Nutcracker Heaven!)

The first Christmas party in the State Dining Room was hosted by President John Adams and his wife in 1800, so like the rest of the White House, there is a lot of history here. Seasonal delights, such as the imposing gingerbread house with Bo and Sunny perched in front, is probably the star attraction. Close to 500 pounds, the gingerbread house has more than 250 pounds of gingerbread dough, 150 pounds of dark chocolate, 25 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds sugar work, and 25 pounds of icing. I liked the small groupings of snow people on either side and there was a small White House garden to one side.

Nutcrackers flank the door of the dark chocolate gingerbread house

Nutcrackers flank the door of the dark chocolate gingerbread house

Close up of the nutcrackers on the gingerbread house

Close up of the nutcrackers on the gingerbread house

A gathering of snow men outside of the mammoth chocolate gingerbread house

A gathering of snow people made out of gum paste arrayed in front of the chocolate gingerbread house

Nearby, a large gumball machine full of treats is on display along with the many nutcrackers and toys, sure to delight the younger children who visit.

Gumball machine full of treats

Gumball machine full of treats

DSCN6388

Nutcracker tree

Nutcracker tree

white house

A giant nutcracker on the State Dining Room table

A giant nutcracker on the State Dining Room table

Grand Foyer

The Grand Foyer held my favorite designed trees, which flanked the Blue Room. Imposing fir trees arrayed with giant glass balls and stars arranged with a very heavy gold ball garland positively glowed with color. The use of ball garlands used in several areas of the White House created a rich layered look and each one was wired in by hand so that they stayed put.

Grand Foyer trees with giant ornaments in jewel tones

Grand Foyer trees with giant ornaments in jewel tones

DSCN6360

Volunteer Reception

To finish off my week at the White House, all volunteers with one guest received an invitation to a special evening reception with food and entertainment. Tables in the Dining Room and East Room were laden with all kinds of food and drink. The dessert table was especially appealing with iced cookies, sticky pudding with caramel sauce, yule logs, cakes, macaroons and other special treats. Smoked salmon, crab claws, carved roast beef and ham, and the famous mac with cauliflower and cheese were enjoyed by all.

Early in the evening the dessert table was empty but quickly became jam packed

Early in the evening the dessert table was easy to get to but quickly became jam-packed

The sublime egg nog was served by an employee of the White House who has been there since the Kennedy administration

The sublime egg nog was served by an employee of the White House who has been there since the Kennedy administration

white house

A choir serenaded the volunteers

A choir serenaded the volunteers

The First Lady welcomed all the volunteers and graciously thanked everyone for all their efforts in making the White House a magical place.

I met lots of new people, learned some great tips on decorating in a grand manner, and had some of the best food of my life. I will never forget this Christmas!

I loved how these translucent ornaments shone in the dark

I loved how these translucent ornaments shone in the dark

 

Next: How to decorate you own mantel like the White House!

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Decorating the White House, 2015 -Part 1

Floral arrangement in the library

Floral arrangement in the library

Decorating the White House is every designers dream come true. I had a second chance to take part in this one of a kind volunteer event again in 2015! Read about my first time in 2011 at Decorating the White House for Christmas. Anyone can apply by going online to https://www.whitehouse.gov/, filling out the form and add a short essay with pictures of your work and by October you will find out if you made the cut. I’m sure that the White House Social Office gets thousands of applications from all over the country and it must be tough to choose the lucky people.

When I opened the acceptance email from the White House Social Office, I couldn’t believe my luck in participating again!

This season’s theme A Timeless Tradition, inspires visitors to celebrate deeply rooted Christmas traditions while also creating new memories. Combining the old with the new was the trademark this year. From my time working in 2011, the decorations just keep getting more elaborate and over the top with stunning displays of creativity. Sixty-two firs fill the White House with over 70,000 ornaments to create the magic.

Work, Work, and More Work!

It takes tons of volunteer hours to make the magic happen. I spent a week in D.C. starting on Thanksgiving evening in a hotel a couple of blocks away from the White House. Everything is at my expense- hotel, transportation, time, and most meals (the White House fed us very well at lunch). Taking on this task is a real commitment of time and money but well worth it. Everyone who accepts the challenge knows that this is a chance of a lifetime. Getting up early to meet at 6:30 AM every morning isn’t my idea of fun normally, but when you’re on a mission to decorate the White House, everyone is so psyched that you jump out of bed ready to go! Five days of decorating later, the White House treats you and a guest to an evening reception with such a fanfare of food and entertainment that you gasp as you see everything in place.

My daughter and I in front of the Blue Room tree which I helped decorate at the volunteer reception

My daughter and I in front of the Blue Room tree I helped decorate at the volunteer reception

Tour of the White House-Ground Floor

Ground floor of the White House, from Wikipedia

Ground floor of the White House, from Wikipedia

A giant penguin family greets you as you enter the East Visitor Entrance. When you visit the White House, there are layers of security to go through. I had a gorgeous formal invite as a keepsake but did not need that in hand to enter. Standing in line for two plus hours until the gates opened ensured that I was close to the front of the line to get an early peek and take some memorable pictures before it gets too crowded.

Giant penguins greet you at the visitors entrance

Giant penguins greet you at the visitors entrance

Baby penguins perch in a giant sled

Baby penguins perch in a giant sled

DSCN6282

As you enter the East Landing, a sea of snowflakes shimmer overhead. Each of the fifty-six states and territories are represented with a dangling snowflake suspended from chicken wire. Your wintry stroll continues along the whole length of the East Colonnade until you tear your eyes off the ceiling and glance to the left into the East Colonnade garden. There, an army of snow people gaze in at you. I stopped to take pictures of this magical constellation of unique frozen snow people with the traditional smiley faces and scarves.

The East Colonnade is lined with framed photos of all the first families

The East Colonnade is lined with framed photos of all the first families

IMG_9737

Smiling snow people are scattered in the garden

Smiling snow people are scattered in the garden

Again, there are fifty-six snow people representing all the states and territories. The snow people were extremely heavy and awkward to move around in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. Redesigned in the Kennedy Administration with Littleleaf linden trees and Kennedy saucer magnolias bordered by low hedges of boxwood and American Holly, events and parties are frequently held in this semi-formal garden.

Military tree decorated with air mail letters, stuffed with card stock, folded, and stapled to make garlands and wreaths

Military tree decorated with air mail letters, stuffed with card stock, folded, and stapled to make garlands and wreaths

Dedicated to serving members of the military, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, the East Landing greets you with a gorgeous tree and mailboxes. Visitors are invited to pause and send a message of thanks to our troops with the array of mailboxes and air mail envelopes. Volunteers spent many hours making garlands and wreaths out of the airmail envelopes by stuffing them with card stock and stapling them together.

Garlands made out of air mail envelopes

Garlands made of air mail envelopes

DSCN6295 DSCN6537

East Garden Room

A place for the furry residents is next. Sunny and Bo, the First Pets, are both Portuguese Water dogs. I pet and admired the dogs during my time at the White House. The dog-themed tree, giant dog bed, tennis ball wreaths and trees were the perfect accessories for them. Constructed of over 55,000 feet of black yarn that was wound into 7,000 pom-poms, larger-than-life Sunny and Bo greeted visitors to the White House. These pom-poms were the result of many hours of work by volunteers!

Dog area had tennis ball trees

Dog area had tennis ball trees

dog

The Night Before Christmas poem hung on the wall, altered to reflect the antics of the First Dogs.

Twas the holiday season inside of these walls, 

And the first Dogs were prancing, playing fetch down the halls.

The First Lady was bustling with holiday cheer, 

Decorating for visitors soon to be here.

Bo and Sunny were snuggled quite deep in their beds, 

While visions of tennis balls danced in their heads. 

So sleepy were these Portuguese Water Dogs, 

The pups fell asleep much like the giant yule logs.

When out on the South Lawn there arose such a clatter, 

They ran to the West Wing to see what was the matter

through the West Colonnade they both flew like a flash,

Pushed open the doors, to the Rose Garden they dashed.

They barked the alarm, but to their relief,

‘Twas the return of the Commander in Chief.

Up high in the sky they saw Marine One, 

They knew what this meant-a night of great fun.

With a gleam in his eye, POTUS greeted his pets, 

Knowing holidays with friends is good as it gets.

The First Lady joined them as they gazed at the snow,

What a magical moment for Sunny and Bo.

To all the guests who are headed this way,

The family sends warms wishes for the best holiday!

Library

Containing works of fiction to first-hand accounts of important moments in our Nation’s history, books dominate the library’s walls. Gold covered books were added to the shelves to add a holiday touch and decorations placed on the tables to make the library a festive place. A holiday forest of Christmas trees were arrayed and decorated to celebrate the American story.

Scenes from the library

Scenes from the library

Vermeil Room

Displaying a collection of gold-plated silver, the Vermeil Room or sometimes known as the Gold Room, displays several First Lady portraits and contained one of the most striking Christmas displays. Patchwork stuffed teddy bears, both large and small, with beautiful shell trees and miniature scenes were whimsical and creative. Originally, the Vermeil Room was used as a staff work room for polishing silver and storage.

There are lots of mantels in the White House to decorate and this is one of the most charming interpretations with patchwork teddy bears

There are lots of mantels in the White House to decorate and this is one of the most charming interpretations with patchwork teddy bears

Heaps of wrapped packages decorate the hearth

Heaps of wrapped packages decorate the hearth

White House

 

White House

China Room

Used to display Presidential china in built-in cabinetry against a bright red background, the China Room is one of the most beautiful and memorable rooms in the house – without any decorations. The china collection is arranged chronologically beginning to the right of the fireplace on the east wall.  A good portion of the china goes back to the early nineteenth century.

The China Room has one of my favorite portraits at the White House; This one is of First Lady Grace Coolidge with her beloved white collie Rob Roy

The China Room has one of my favorite portraits at the White House; This one is of First Lady Grace Coolidge with her beloved white collie Rob Roy painted in 1924

The China Room's dramatic mantel trimmed in silver

The China Room’s dramatic English neoclassical mantel trimmed in silver

 

Diplomatic Reception Room

The Diplomatic Reception Room is one of three oval rooms in the White House and located next to the China Room. Used as a reception room for foreign ambassadors, the most interesting feature is that a previously unused chimney was opened up in 1935, and a new mantel and fireplace installed for Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “fireside chats.” The room has four doors leading to the Map Room, the Center Hall, the China Room, and a vestibule that leads to the South Lawn.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had the room papered with antique French scenic wallpaper produced by Jean Zuber et Cie in Rixheim (Alsace), France c. 1834. The Zuber wallpaper, titled Scenes of North America, was printed from multiple woodblocks, and features scenes of Boston Harbor, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, West Point, New York, Niagara Falls, and New York Harbor. The sweeping panorama on the elliptical walls provide a sense of space negating the lack of windows.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had the room papered with antique French scenic wallpaper produced by Jean Zuber et Cie in Rixheim (Alsace), France c. 1834. The Zuber wallpaper, titled Scenes of North America, was printed from multiple woodblocks, and features scenes of Boston Harbor, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, West Point, New York, Niagara Falls, and New York Harbor. The sweeping panorama on the elliptical walls provide a sense of space negating the lack of windows. From wikipedia

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Here I am with my daughter who was my guest for the party in the Diplomatic Reception Room

Details of the mantel decorations in the Diplomat Room

Details of the mantel decorations in the Diplomat Reception Room

Details of the ornaments used

Details of the ornaments used in the Diplomatic Reception Room

When you enter the center hall in the lower level of the White House, the atmosphere is magical with all the hanging silver bells

When you enter the center hall in the lower level of the White House, the atmosphere is magical with all the hanging silver bells arranged on the historic vaulted ceiling

I took this photo of a framed picture of Obama entering the central hall of a past Christmas

I took this photo of a framed picture hanging the the White House of President Obama entering the central hall a past Christmas

white house

Next up: Entering the historic upper level of the White House -East Room, Dining Room, Red Room, Green Room, and Blue Room and the volunteer reception with the incredible gingerbread house

 

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