a visit to Maymont Park in Richmond, part 1

IMG_6378If you have been visiting this blog, you know that I frequently post photos about the places I visit, especially if they have a garden.  In our quest to explore Virginia, my husband and I came across Maymont Park in Richmond.  We were first attracted to the park because of the gardens and the fact that it is an arboretum as well as the mansion tour but the $5 donation is what convinced us to go.  While we do not have a problem paying to visit a site such as this, it can get expensive if you try to go somewhere every week, especially if you must also travel an hour or more each way.  We packed a cooler and hit the road to Richmond during the week to avoid the crowds.

The grounds are extensive and I suggest grabbing a map as you enter.  We followed the trails down hill to the Japanese garden and began taking in the sites.  The Dooleys were serious gardeners and this first photo is a reflecting pond outside a grotto that is carved into the hillside.

IMG_6380Pardon me, I have a thing for reflections and I take photos of them all the time…

IMG_6382As we walked the trail, there was so much to see.  The pond, the plants, the trees and the structures.  The Dooleys spared nothing and built a beautiful landscape.

IMG_6384We ventured out onto this raised walkway over the pond and quickly saw that the pond is full of fish.

IMG_6385Beautiful Koi to be exact and many of them were well over a foot long.

IMG_6389Dragonflies are abundant here as well, and they came in many colors.

IMG_6390Water lilies; how I wish I had a pond or a water feature in my garden that I could fill with water lilies!

IMG_6393Turtles were also abundant.  This is an Eastern Painted Turtle.

IMG_6394So many of the decorations and structures were added by the Dooleys and have managed to stay in tact nearly 90 years after they passed away.

IMG_6395If you take the mansion tour, you will see a photo of this bridge and sculpture in the house.  Do yourself a favor, go to the Japanese garden and walk over the bridge, it is beautiful.

IMG_6443The park itself is huge and I suggest you spend the entire day exploring it.  We took a quick walk through the wildlife area and I spied this little waterfall in an enclosure with Bald Eagles.

IMG_6448At the top of the hill above the Japanese Garden is the Italian Garden.  It is much smaller and easier to get to-no steep hills to climb.

IMG_6452And an Italian Garden is not complete without a pergola and this one is a welcomed relief from the heat of the sun!IMG_6453This garden was so colorful and I wanted to walk through it more but the heat…

IMG_6455Another feature, the Italian Gazebo.  There is so much to see and it must all be done by walking.  Be prepared for that, bring water and wear the right shoes.  We will go back, we want to see the seasons and visit some of the specialty gardens that we did not linger in for long.

We did take the mansion tour, that will be a post for another day!  Get out and explore, you will be surprised by what is right in your own backyard.

hanging gardens; a chandelier planter tutorial

IMG_6327Apparently, I can Pinterest along with the best of them.  Repurposing things has long been a hobby of mine but since Pinterest came along, there are so many people sharing ideas and photos that if you spend some time looking, you can quickly become overwhelmed with photos and tutorials.  Unfortunately, for every great step-by- step tutorial, there is a vaguely written and generally poor one to counter it.  Having seen so many for turning chandeliers into planters and outdoor lighting, I decided to give it a go when I found this fixture at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  The painting on the metal made it look a little old and rustic which meant I wouldn’t have to try and paint it but even better was the $5 price tag.

IMG_6332Knowing that I had to find three plates and cups, I searched in the housewares department and the gardening department.  While I could not find plates at the HHRestore, I did find three terracotta pots that were already coated with a nice garden patina.  A quick visit to my other favorite thrift store in town, the CHKD store, turned up these nice Pfaltzgraff saucers.  At 78 cents a piece, how could I say no?

IMG_6335A quick preview of what is to come.  If you can, take your fixture with you, it will give you the chance to view the pieces together and make sure they fit.  Plates have a ring on the bottom that can make it awkward to assemble the pieces.  My plates were not a perfect fit but came close enough that I was able to make them work together with the cups on the chandelier.

IMG_6329After removing the electrical components and cutting the wires, I was left with the bolt at the bottom and a piece of threaded pipe.  To attach the plate and pot, I needed a coupling nut to attach to the pipe that would also be used to secure the plate and pot with a bolt and washer.  This is another reason that you need to take your fixture to the store with you; every single fixture has its own sized parts and while some are easy to find, others are proprietary or just not easy to locate.

Apparently, my fixture fell into the latter category.  All bolts and nuts are sized by diameter, either in US standard sizes or metric sizes.  To further complicate matters, not only are they sized by diameter, they are sized by the thread.  While a wonderful young man at Lowe’s was willing to help me figure out which size coupling nuts I would need, he could not sell them to me and my only choice was to order them off the internet.  The bottom line, I would have to pay close to $20 to get the three coupling nuts!!!

IMG_6358After considering that for about 12 seconds, I went off to my local ACE hardware store and told my sad tale to a wonderful salesman.  He was intrigued him enough that he and I spent close to 20 minutes tracking down parts.  When all was said and done, I placed a coupling nut (that still wasn’t cheap but at least it wasn’t as expensive as the others) in the cup and then I filled the area around it in the cup on the chandelier with quickcrete that we had at home.  After letting it cure over night, I assembled the rest of the parts.

IMG_6342The plates need to be drilled out and you will need to use a special drill bit, a glass and tile bit.  Place a couple layers of masking tape over the area to keep the bit from slipping and carefully drill a hole slightly larger than your bolts.  If you’re worried that bolting the plate and pot together will cause them to crack, place a rubber gasket or two in between the parts; I did use one but do not think it was necessary.  Because I did not take measurements, my piece required a bunch of extra washers, I suggest you buy a couple packs of extra washers so that everything is snug.

IMG_6367As you can see, I have a small pyramid of washers in there.  If I hadn’t put so many in there, my pots would have wobbled and tipped.  When I was done, my pots were secured and did not move at all.

IMG_6373Ready to be filled with plants.

IMG_6351Because this is a chandelier, it needs to hang!  While I was at ACE, John, my helpful hardware expert cobbled together a few pieces to create a loop at the top of my fixture.

IMG_6352The top of the post actually comes off and I removed it and inserted the pieces to create the hanging loop.

IMG_6353It was a tiny space to work in so I suggest you get a hold of some really narrow and long needle nose pliers if you have a fixture like mine.

IMG_6360The finished hanging loop is ready to hang!

IMG_2027The final step is to fill the pots.  One thing many folks don’t consider when they arrange plants in hanging planters is that size is crucial.  My pots are small, about 2 cups in capacity and that means a plant could quickly out grow the space.  To prevent that from happening, I chose plants that I know have shallow growing roots that require little space; sedum and succulents!  To fill my cups, I used a sedum v. John Creech and an ice plant.  They have a low watering need and will not out grow the cups quickly.


Happily hanging in its new home!  My new potting bench, another HHRestore purchase is actually a desk with a mismatched dining room hutch bolted to it.  Because they did not match, I painted the whole thing brown but also did some white clue crackle painting on it.  Finally, I have a place to fill pots and start seeds that does not include sitting on milk crates and working on the ground.  It also gives me a place to store all of my tools and supplies by the garden without looking like a dump zone!

peach and blueberry deep-dish galette

IMG_6497Summer fruit pies are one of my favorite things.  When the fruit season is at its peak, freshly picked, ripe and juicy, fruits just about beg to be baked into a pie.   With a dozen peaches and a basket of blueberries in the house, I couldn’t resist the temptation and I baked a pie, a whole 9″ pie just for the two of us!

IMG_6494Of course, I also used homemade pie dough.  Before you start panicking, before you go on about how you just cannot roll out pie dough, let me tell you that you can, you absolutely can!!!  First, make the dough ahead of time and chill it for at least an hour.  Take it out of the fridge and let it soften until it is pliable but not sticky or squishy.  Now do you see all of the flour on my table?  That’s the secret, cool dough, lots of flour and short strokes with the rolling pin.  Lift the dough and turn it as you go, spread out more flour on the table if it sticks, don’t worry you can brush it off before you put it into a greased dish.  Make sure the circle of dough has an overhang of at least 2 inches to make the pleats like I have in the photo.  Start by taking one small section and folding it in over the fruit but leave the center open.  Section by section, fold the dough in towards the middle of the dish, creating the pleats until you get to the last section.  Lift the first pleat up and carefully tuck the last one into place and lay the first one back down.  Then brush it with some egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar before baking.

IMG_6507To get a deep, even color, just use one temperature in the oven.  Many recipes tell you to start high and drop it down low but I think one temperature is better.  It prevents that “OH I FORGOT TO TURN DOWN THE OVEN” disaster and also prevents uneven coloring.  My pies only bake at 350F.

IMG_6523For this pie, I chose peaches and blueberries but you could easily switch out the blueberries for raspberries or blackberries and if you are lucky to have rhubarb on hand, it would be lovely too!  Sweeten the pie according to taste but you will want at least half a cup of sugar, and if you use rhubarb, you will have to increase the sugar.


IMG_6531Peach-Blueberry Deep Dish Galette

1-1/4 pounds fresh peaches, 5-6 medium sized peaches

1 basket of blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 vanilla bean, scraped-seeds only

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

zest of 1 small lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

pie dough for a two crust pie

1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water

cinnamon sugar


IMG_6537 (1)Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and spices into a bowl and rub them together.  Peel and slice the peaches, you need a pound of them-the extra weight is for the skin and pits you remove.  Add the peaches and blueberries to the sugar with the lemon juice and toss them to coat them.  Place the rolled out pie dough into a greased 9″ pie plate.  Scrape the mixture into the pie crust and fold as directed above.  Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and bake until the juices are bubbling in the center and the crust is a deep caramel color, about 1 hour.  Allow it to cool for a few hours before cutting so the fruit can set up a bit.  We enjoyed it like this but a generous scoop of ice cream would also be nice!

a visit to the South of the James Farmer’s Market

IMG_6268This summer, we are visiting as many farmers markets in our region as we can.  After living here for nearly two years, it was time to get out and see what the area has to offer.  On a lovely summer morning, we drove up to Richmond to visit the South of the James Farmer’s Market to see what was in season.  The market is held in Forest Hill Park and while there is parking available, street parking is also easy to find.

When you enter the market from the parking area, you will notice that there is a long and narrow path of vendors lined on both sides as you walk through the market.  It starts out with a few food vendors and as you walk in, the offerings run from produce, plants, hand made crafts, wine, seafood, meat, cheese and so much more than I can recall.  This is another producer-only market so do not expect to find everything you are looking for-farmers aren’t magicians and they can’t make it happen if it isn’t in season!  Another aspect of the producers only rule is that local artisans can also sell their work at the market and if you are looking for something unusual or simply not mass produced, you could quite possibly find it at the market too!

IMG_6271The folks at Drumheller’s get around!  They sell in Williamsburg at the market too and I love their apple cider but it’s peach season and they were selling them by the bag.

IMG_6273When in the Chesapeake area, expect to find crab cakes-we have seen them at several markets and they always look so tempting but I am not a big fan of crab cakes for breakfast.

IMG_6276The stems of swiss chard are so beautiful-I know, I take pictures of chard at every market.  What’s not to love about peppermint chard?  Those stripes…

IMG_6277Local cheeses are abundant in the markets.

IMG_6279Finding Kombucha at the market is pretty easy here, we have seen it at the Charlottesville market too.

IMG_6286Gotta love the trailer,  too bad some jerk stole their generator!

IMG_6288Fresh coffee anyone?  Another great little trailer that was equipped with an espresso machine for that morning fix.

IMG_6294Summer has arrived; berries anyone???

IMG_6295Or maybe some fresh picked beans?

IMG_6296Although they always taste the same, I always reach for the yellow ones and the purple ones first.

IMG_6297Not sure what variety this cauliflower is but when ours looked fuzzy like this, I thought something was wrong with it.  Apparently, this variety is a bit fuzzy.

IMG_6299Also available was everyone’s favorite fractal; Romanesco along with cheddar.

IMG_6302Carrots by the bunch

IMG_6304And goats too!  These goats weren’t for sale but they were very friendly and optimistic.

IMG_6305They assumed that any edibles were there for the taking as this little guy found out when the goat reached over and cleaned up his snack tray!

IMG_6306There were plenty of options for food and we had noodles for lunch.

IMG_6315Freshly stir-fried and served with shrimp.

IMG_6309As we walked out of the market, we saw this odd pack on a man’s back.

IMG_6307Apparently, they test products and this was a carrying case for a cat!  What a cute cat he was too!

IMG_6308Get out there and explore the markets!  Learn about the real offerings of the season and not what the grocery store carries, it’s fresher, it tastes better and it’s a great way to spend a couple hours!  My only other suggestion, skip the restrooms up at the top of the hill in the parking area-one of the worst rest room experiences we have had!!!

the garden tours continue, a visit to the Norfolk Botanical Garden

IMG_6166When Darry was on vacation earlier this month, we visited the Norfolk Botanical Garden.  It is a large place, with miles and miles of paved paths that wind through many gardens.  We spent several hours wandering from section to section admiring the different gardens.

This fountain and water feature was one of the prettiest parts of the garden.  It is also in the middle of the day lily garden which was in full bloom.

IMG_6167This is one of my favorite color palettes for a garden; purple/black, blue/silver and and pink.  That sounds confusing so here is my explanation; purple in flowers and foliage that is also dark enough that it appears black at lower lighting, greens that are on the blue end of that spectrum but that also look a little grey or silver on the new growth and of course, pink flowers.  It is considered a cool color palette and I try to incorporate those colors into my garden.

IMG_6169Day Lily, “Predator”.  Let me start by saying I am not a huge day lily fan.  For me, I like flowers that last more than a day.  However, after wandering through and looking at dozens of them, I may consider a few like this one.

IMG_6173Or maybe this one, “Ruby Spider”

IMG_6177What I really want, this sculpture!  Located in a small grove near the fountain, it was a meditation garden and this piece sits in the middle of the area.

IMG_6179Those leaves are made of glass and I love the way they look as if they are floating when you see it from a distance.

IMG_6182The details on the leaves is amazing; the veins, the colors-so realistic.

IMG_6201It was such a bright and sunny day that I did not take as many photos as I wanted to-the lighting was just too harsh.  But I made an exception for this rugosa rose.  What is so special about this rose?

IMG_6202Those hips, that’s what!!!  If you want to make rose hip jam or tea, you need a rugosa rose for the hips.  They had two varieties with hips like this. “Alba”  was a white, single rose and “Purple Pavement” was a fuschia-purple shade.  It would be wonderful to plant them close to each other and let the canes cross so that you have both colors in one bed, or draped over a fence…

If you like to visit gardens, I highly recommend this one.  The Japanese Garden had a beautiful waterfall with lotus blossoms and I look forward to going back in cooler weather.

visiting the gardens of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate

IMG_6206Mount Vernon is about 140 miles from our home in Williamsburg and that may seem like a bit of a drive to walk through a bunch of gardens, but to two gardeners, this was the perfect way to spend a beautiful sunny day.  If you plan on taking the trip, do yourself a favor and purchase your tickets online at least 3-4 days in advance.  Not only will you save $3 per adult, you will have the option of choosing a time for your visit to the mansion and if you are willing to spend a little extra, you can also purchase tickets for the special tours.  We booked our entry tickets online and purchased tickets for the Gardens and Groves tour and started our visit with a guided tour of the upper and lower gardens.

The sun was pretty harsh and it made taking photos tricky but I managed to get a few!  The photo above is of the lower garden.  George Washington was very meticulous in many aspects of his life but unfortunately, he did not keep good records of his garden and for the people in charge of keeping them, they have had to do a lot of digging for clues and a lot of guessing based on what was available at that time.

IMG_6207In the lower garden, most of the beds included fruit trees grown in the espalier style.  Some were trained to grow up against walls and others, like these apples, were grown as a living fence for the garden.

IMG_6214There were so many apple trees-I was truly jealous!

IMG_6208This trellis looks a little intimidating but it is easier to construct than you might think.  There weren’t any plants growing near it so I wonder what it will be supporting.

IMG_6209The high walls surrounding the garden created a micro climate that helped keep the temperatures up to give the plants an early start in spring.

IMG_6215Have you ever heard of cabbage envy?  No?  Well, you have now.  Down by the river, there is another small garden area near the 16 sided barn.  We literally stood there and stared at the cabbages.  Someday, when I grow up, I’m gonna grow cabbages like these…

IMG_6216And not a cabbage worm in sight.  Then we stood there and wondered what chemicals they were using on them to keep the caterpillars at bay…

IMG_6221These onions were at in bloom and they must have been near 5 feet tall and as big as a softball.  Again, some day…

IMG_6223As we ponder the possibilities of fencing for our own garden, I admired this one because of its simple construction.  Then I remembered that I do not live in a forest and my husband is not a lumberjack; this might not be our solution.

The 16 sided barn sits on a small slope and was interesting to see.  On weekends, they must have livestock here, but not on our trip.

IMG_6218Really loving the fencing

IMG_6224This house is a recreation of a cabin that belonged to one of the more prominent slaves and his family.

IMG_6228Just out of view from the mansion is a row of buildings.  Many had a specific purpose; salt house, smokehouse and so on.  This was the knitter/weaver house and as a knitter, I had to stop in and take a few photos.  George Washington led a very ordered life.  His primary goal was to be as self-sufficient as possible and while he had the advantage of wealth, the slaves working on his estate were able to produce most of what they needed.  The things produced here would most likely have been used on the property.

IMG_6230The wool would have come from livestock on the estate and it would have been processed by slaves who would have also used it for weaving and knitting.

IMG_6234Along side the weaving house was a small plot that was called the botanical garden.  In this small space, Mr. Washington would experiment with new varieties of seeds and plants.  If they were successful, they would have been added to one of the gardens or groves to produce food.

IMG_6235There is a recreated blacksmith shop along the path as well.  In this shop, tools are produced using the same methods that were employed over 200 years ago.  Most of the tools they make now get used around the estate.

IMG_6236As we looked on, this gentleman was working on a project.  They may have a lot of stuff in there for visual impact but this really is a working blacksmith shop and he went back and forth between the table/anvil and the fire as he worked on the piece in his hand.

IMG_6237There were horses present back then but there wasn’t a farrier to produce shoes for them.  Because Mr. Washington was not one to spend money unnecessarily, he made sure that a few of the blacksmiths were properly trained to produce shoes and tend to a horse’s feet.

IMG_6242One of the most interesting parts of our Gardens and Groves tour was the greenhouse.  While we were not permitted inside, it was interesting to know that back then, they would grow citrus trees and other tropical plants in the greenhouse during winter and move them outside in summer.  There was a room in the back of the building where a fire was tended around the clock to keep it warm for the plants.  The men in charge of keeping the fire lit would sleep in that room .

IMG_6244The larkspur is one plant that they know was growing on the property when Mr. Washington lived there.  They actually sell packages of seeds and when my mother in law visited here last year, she brought me one.  So far, I haven’t had any luck getting them to germinate but I will try again this fall.

IMG_6250After seeing these poppies, I have a new admiration for them!  Beautiful when in bloom and then come the seed pods, which I think are just as pretty as the flowers.

IMG_6251In the upper garden, flowers are everywhere but if you look closely, there is a vegetable garden hidden in there too!

IMG_6260We toured the mansion (a quickly guided walk through with little time to stop and truly take it all in-and no photos allowed), walked the grounds, saw the tomb and trees that George Washington himself planted (two tulip poplars and a hemlock-absolutely huge) and then wandered through the museum.  The museum is a trip in itself, honestly.  There are several videos to watch and plenty of historical displays with lots of text to read.  He was such a fascinating man and it was a bit overwhelming after all the walking in full sun for two hours on the grounds.  Then we arrived at the end of the tour and the final display; his teeth.

Mr. Washington did not wear wooden teeth.  He also did not neglect his teeth, actually, he did what he could to save them and actually visited the dentist!  Back then, when teeth would fall out, they would use wire to hold in replacements.  When he was inaugurated for  his second term, he only had one single tooth left and made the decision to have it pulled and just use dentures.  Those dentures now rest in a glass case for all the world to see.  They consist of a mixture of human and cow teeth and they are set into hinged, metal plates and they look unbelievably uncomfortable-it is no wonder he was not smiling in his portrait!

Bottom line, go if you can!  Buy your tickets in advance and go in the middle of the week before school lets out for the year to avoid the crowds.  And one other suggestion, if you want to see all three floors of the mansion, visit in January or February.  The number of visitors is so small then that they open the third floor up to the public; currently, the crowds are too large and the structure is not stable enough to withstand the traffic.

Saturday mornings at the City Market in Charlottesville

IMG_6154Darry is on vacation this week and we have been traveling around the area visiting gardens and markets.  We got an early start on Saturday and drove to the City Market in Charlottesville.  The market is located in a large parking lot a block from the historic Downtown Mall which means that if you plan accordingly, you can shop the market and then walk a block to Main Street and shop, have lunch, visit a coffee shop or have some ice cream.  IMG_6156City Market is a producers only market and each week, approximately 100 vendors come to sell produce, meats, cheese, flowers, hand-crafted goods, bakery items and more.  We started off with donuts, freshly fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar!

IMG_6157So many tents, so much to see, we will have to go back as the seasons progress to see what is available.

IMG_6099Romanesco cauliflower; I haven’t had much luck with it in the garden but looking at this basket, I must try again.

IMG_6100Our peas pooped out on us a while back but the climate in the Charlottesville area is a little cooler than ours here in Williamsburg and peas were still available at this market.

IMG_6104Our carrots are not as large as these, but they are getting there!

IMG_6113Free range chickens are pretty common but have you ever heard of free swimming ducks?  We laughed at that one!  Duck eggs are such a pretty blue color.

IMG_6114Spring potatoes!  It will be months before we have any to harvest.  When I harvested them last fall, I missed some and now, we have potatoes growing randomly in the beds.  This week, I did plant some seed potatoes and hopefully, we will have some russets to go with the reds and golds that have been sprouting in the garden.

IMG_6116Swiss chard is so pretty to look at, I love the colors of the stems.

IMG_6126In one booth, peppers were being flame roasted-it smelled so good!

IMG_6129It is almost tomato season-I saw the first tomato blooms in our garden just this afternoon!

IMG_6135What’s in season?  Beets!!!  Love beets and I have red and gold in the garden.

IMG_6136These look perfect for roasting, although, pickling them would be pretty tasty too!IMG_6137Lacinto Kale is another one of those plants that hasn’t been a good producer for me in the garden.  Considering how much we like it, I will have to try again.

IMG_6108If I hadn’t started off our visit with a donut, I might have had an almond croissant!

IMG_6110Love the stenciled loaves, they were eye catching and very tempting!

IMG_6105Every where we went, there was food to eat.  These ladies were cooking crab cakes.

IMG_6111The bagel ladies had sandwiches on the grill and bagels to take and bake at home.

IMG_6119Feel like tacos?  In this booth, they were pressing fresh tortillas and making tamales.  If only the line wasn’t 20 people deep, we might have had tamal for lunch.

IMG_6130Remember those donuts I mentioned?  In this booth, they fry them and then coat them with a sugar and cinnamon mix.

IMG_6131The batter gets poured into a hopper and it is portioned and dropped into the hot oil.

IMG_6151Feel like an omelet?  Chef Tony has your back!  He was cooking them to order on a grill.

IMG_6117We decided to have some fresh Filipino style noodles.

IMG_6149Thin rice noodles with chicken and vegetables.

IMG_6146We haven’t had much Filipino food since we left San Francisco and it was a nice change from the usual Asian fare we find here in Williamsburg.

IMG_6122Fear not, they are also a green market!  Food scraps can be composted and recyclables are collected separately from the trash.

We enjoyed the trip and look forward to going back!