gardening, nature, vintage

Plant profile: Penstemon tenuis

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Lady Bird Johnson

Texas is well known, and rightly so, for their springtime display of wildflowers. From the highways to the back roads, the state seems to be awash in blue this time of year. But look a bit closer and one is apt to pick out other, lesser known, wildflowers. Pale pink primrose. Bright orange Indian paintbrush. Hot pink winecups. With more than 5,000 different varieties of wildflowers throughout the state, it would be hard for anyone to list their favorites or for any gardener to grow even a fraction of them. Still one wildflower is often overlooked, which is a shame because it certainly deserves a spot in any top ten or top twenty Texas wildflower list.

Penstemon tenuis, shown above, sports dainty lavender blossoms that dance in the spring breeze. It is highly adaptable to the cultivated garden, which is not the case with all wildflowers. It is equally at home in a cottage style garden as it is in a meadow. Isn’t it gorgeous with the apricot colored bearded irises in the background? I would love to take credit for that color combination, but I can’t. You see, after Penstemon tenuis is done blooming, I let the seedheads form and dry, then take the seeds and scatter them about. I never know where they might pop up the following year and I love it that way! (Photograph below: Dried seedheads of Penstemon tenuis in late summer, with garlic chive blossom.)

Yes. Sometimes the flower will sprout up in an odd place, such as directly under my native buttonbush, shown below. Thankfully they are great companions and neither one bothers the other. Penstemon tenuis grows best in partial to full sun, so will bloom and flourish just fine in this area of my melodious garden.

Other times, Penstemon tenuis pops up in just the perfect spot, such as in front of an antique plow, shown below. This gardener loves that whimsical side of Mother Nature.

Penstemon tenuis grows to about 2 1/2 feet tall and is airy enough that it can be grown along pathways or the front of formal garden beds. Typical bloom time is from April to June in North Texas. It is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies. Its native range is the Gulf Coast prairies and marshes from Texas to Mississippi and up to Arkansas. Penstemon tenuis is said to be a great cut flower, though I have not personally use it in arrangements.

While not widely available in the nursery trade, it can be found at garden centers that specialize in native plants and seeds can be acquired from fellow gardeners.

gardening, nature, vintage

If you don’t like the weather…

Y’all know the saying… If you don’t like the weather in (enter your region), just wait a minute… Though too much a cliche, no truer words have ever been spoken about this week’s weather here in North Texas.

Six days ago, we were battening down the hatches and filling our pantries and readying ourselves for a good old fashioned Texas ice storm. Most of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex hung out the “closed” sign as three rounds of sleet and freezing rain made the region one large ice skating rink.

Today? Wearing shorts and a T-shirt and giving thanks for making it through the past week unscathed, thankyouverymuch. But please bear with me as I share a few more photographs from my frozen melodious garden, taken this past week.

I know.

The ice storm is behind us now; let’s move on and look ahead to spring! But it is always a good reminder that even a few days of severe weather impacts our gardens and the wildlife that inhabit our gardens, long after we humans have moved on.

No croquet games played last week.

Even my meditating gnome (below) seemed cold.

I have collected Campania statuary since I worked at Redenta’s Garden 20plus years ago. I love picking out pieces that represent who I am, my interests and my hobbies. Each piece is so special to me. The gnome and fairy, shown above and below, are both Campania pieces. (Sadly, I dropped something on the bowl of the fairy a few years ago and broke a chunk off. It just reminds me that while we are all broken in some way, we are still beautiful.)

More vintage around the garden. I love using bed frames as trellises or to mark off different areas of the garden. (Above photograph.)

Bear with me while I prattle on a bit about the messy photograph above…

When my now adult age son was much younger, we read together Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. My son was enthralled with the idea of having his very own secret garden, though he quickly decided he wanted the area to be his very own observation point for wildlife. Thus began “The Secret Biology Lab.” I happily obliged in helping him set up his own space in my overfilled garden. (Read: as in the book, my own garden was somewhat untended, thanks to motherhood…) We crawled to the back fence line, hidden by years of shrubbery left to grow wild. Among the accessories that went in to the secret biology lab, the basket (above) attached to the fence and for years filled with acorns and dried corn on the cob.

Last year I undertook a massive garden deconstruction and renovation project. That line of shrubbery was slated to be removed, having long outlived their usefulness and not in alignment with my current desires. But first, I had to text my son, away at college, and ask him if he would mind if I dismantled his secret biology lab. His response? “Uh… You still have that?” I think he was a tad embarrassed…

Having cleared that hurdle, I shed a few tears, reflected back on those younger days, removed my son’s discarded Tonka truck and the pink flamingo “Welcome” sign he wanted to mark the entrance to his secret biology lab… then I ordered my trusty garden assistant, the dear husband, to take the chainsaw to the shrubs.

To new beginnings! It is never too late to start over, redo, undo, move on!

I decided to leave the basket on the fence and do find it rather useful to hold assorted garden items. The fencing and landscaping pins landed there “for another day, for another project…” Until then – it is a great juxtaposition. The past – the basket – and the future – what project next? – frozen in time. Or frozen in ice, as it is. Someday I will reflect more on the dismantling of the secret biology lab. Good lessons to be learned. Good reasons to never cement anything in place. Until then… A few more frozen photographs!

I love this little… bird? chicken? Not quite sure what it is, but I love it all the same. (Above photo.)

I love to mix different elements and pieces of color around the garden. A very modern, very boho windchime. (Above)

Two frozen cherubs, acquired at an auction. Auctions, estate sales, antique markets and thrift stores are all great sources for unique garden items. A garden, like a home, should be filled with treasures, lovingly collected!

Happy gardening. And remember: It is only February. Yes, we are wearing shorts now, but our average last freeze date isn’t until mid-March. A lot can happen between now and then, so Keep Calm and Garden On! But keep the frost cloth handy and don’t plant those tomatoes outside just yet!

gardening, vintage

Potted doll heads…

My husband and I have been married for over 30 years, so he should know me, amiright? And yet we still have conversations like this…

DH: Whatcha doing today?

Me: Giving a doll a hair cut. And a lobotomy.

DH: Whyyyyyy?

Me: Why not?

I have been wanting to make potted doll heads for several years now… For the past three years, I would be busy right now potting up succulents for the local Master Gardener’s fall plant sale. Alas. Covid. Their wonderful event is canceled this year. Every year, ahead of their plant sale, I would ask myself… Is this the right crowd for potted doll heads? And every year, I would say to myself… Um… Maybe not. So I would stick with my tried and true. I would pot up vintage tea cups and McCoy pottery and all sorts of beautiful vessels. This year, I vowed I would do it. I would find some old dolls and cut open their heads and pot them up. But – No Master Gardener sale this year. (Imagine a great big frowning face emoji…) Thankfully,, where I have a few booths, is having a super-fun event… Talk Like A Pirate Day! This Saturday – September 19th. Now I know. Pirates have nothing to do with creepy doll heads filled with succulents. But it gave me an excuse to finally lop off some doll heads.

Let me tell you… Finding the dolls was hard! I looked and looked at thrift stores and found nothing interesting. Then along came this auction. Not just any auction, either. A three day auction. In a massive house. One day was just…. the lady’s doll collection. Yes. A whole auction devoted to bidding on dolls.

So you enter the house… Which has been vacant for quite a while…. Go up a steep set of stairs…. Turn a corner and go down a short hall and enter… The Doll Room. A massive room. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall – Built in bookcases. With glass doors. And there on the many shelves….



And. More dolls.

I went for the vintage sewing notions, as this lady sewed many of her dolls’ outfits. I thought I would come home with a few boxes of wooden thread spools, some old buttons and a few dolls. Instead, I came home with… Dolls… And… More dolls. And doll pieces and parts. Yes. I am still sorting out heads and shoulders, and knees and toes. What a fun – yet downright creepy – auction!

Now… For the gardening part!

I gave the dolls a shave and a cut, then found a suitable base. The doll heads are glued to their base, then green moss was glued around the edges to make them look mossy and neat. I used long tweezers to attach the moss, to save my fingers from getting super-glued to the moss and the doll and everything else. If you don’t have long tweezers, you can use regular ones, but I happen to love long tweezers because… well, they are long. And big. And great for so many uses. I bought mine from a pet store many years ago. I think they were sold as “cricket feeding tweezers.” And. Yeah. That is what I initially bought them for. Back when we had an aquatic turtle who loved him some fresh crickets.

Aside from holding the moss, the tweezers were also great for pushing the small cuts of coco liner into the dolls heads. (I decided on coco liner as the best way to cover any openings in in the doll, like at her neck or mouth.)

I used a quality cactus potting mix to fill the heads. (And one leg… More on that later…) When transplanting succulents, it is best to knock off all the potting mix that is on and around their roots and give them fresh soil to grow in. Below are photos showing what a succulent looks like straight out of the container and the other photo shows what it looks like with its soil knocked loose. The goal isn’t to strip the succulent of all of its soil, but to break up the soil and encourage the roots to grow outward instead of the spiral they were used to growing in.


After planting, I covered the soil with additional green moss. I normally top-dress my succulents with tumbled glass or pebbles. I am hopeful the moss won’t retain too much moisture. Potted succulents should always be watered in small quantities and at the soil level. Do not water from overhead.

Now… For the reveal…

Potted doll heads! And one leg…

As I mentioned earlier, I also got a number of doll pieces and parts, including this broken doll leg.

Most any item can be used underneath the potted head (or leg), as it just needs something to stabilize it… As you can see, I used a plate under the leg and this head…

an old canning jar lid…

a demi cup…

and a small vase…

All my pretties together…

They will be available at Grapevine Antique Market Friday afternoon, through Halloween or while available. Please drop by Saturday and talk like a pirate and shop for some super cool vintage and antique fall decor!

Be safe!


A “ruff” photo shoot

It all started well enough…

A dried sunflower or three in an old enamel coffee pot…

But then… My Master wanted more green…

So she put the coffee pot and the sunflower or three on the lawn…

dried sunflower 1

Hm… My little curious nose said. Dried sunflowers?

dried sunflower 2

Dried? Sunflowers?

dried sunflower7

I mean. Who can resist dried sunflowers, right?

I know this little puppy can’t!

dried sunflower4

And. What is more important? A photo shoot of some old dried sunflowers in an old enamel coffee pot?

Or… My happiness?

dried sunflower6

Yup. My happiness won out.

dried sunflower 3

The End.





gardening, herbal fare, vintage

Garden Travels: Lavender Ridge Farms

Last month, I had the great pleasure of visiting Lavender Ridge Farms, an herbal and culinary destination just up the interstate from my house.


Located in Gainesville, Texas, this two acre lavender farm has been in the family for more than 150 years.


In previous generations, the farm grew melons and strawberries. It opened in 2006 as a lavender farm, one of the few such farms in North Texas. (If you have ever tried to grow just a few lavender plants in your backyard garden, you will understand and appreciate why there are few lavender farms locally.)

Visitors to Lavender Ridge Farms are given a basket and instructed on how to properly harvest lavender.


I was surprised to see that all sorts of pollinators are as attracted to lavender blossoms as humans are.


In addition to growing and selling lavender, the farm’s gift shop houses many lavender items for bath, kitchen and home. (If you are weak and buy all things herbal, take a trusted guardian. Though I don’t regret buying two cookbooks, a package of their house blend lavender tea, lavender pepper spice blend and an enormous bag of dried lavender buds for future craft projects. Plus. A few plants, including the lavender plant Phenomenal. Below is a display of Lavender Phenomenal, not what I purchased.)


Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal is a new variety of lavender that is marketed as durable in our high heat and humidity better than other varieties. Lavender Ridge Farms has had phenomenal success growing this plant.

The farm also sells irises, which can be viewed and ordered in the spring, with delivery and planting that fall.


Cafe Lavender offers a shady respite, where you can dine in a lovely plant-filled courtyard while overlooking the lavender field. (Sorry, I failed to take a picture looking that direction, I was too enamored by the plants in the courtyard!)


The cafe’s menu features several lavender infused dishes, such as lavender honey chicken salad and lavender cheesecake. (Both were divine!)


The farm’s large pollinator garden was aflutter with butterflies the day of my visit.


I could have spent all day poking around the gardens and viewing the many assorted garden ornaments.


I loved their creative use of rusty saws and garden implements.


Lavender Ridge Farms’ facebook page says it best:
An herb’n experience you can’t get in the city.


bibliophile, gardening, vintage

Sweet April Showers…

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers,” wrote Thomas Tusser in 1557.

“When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; Fresh violets open every day: To some new bird each hour we listen,” penned Lucy Larcom.

If the earth does indeed laugh in flowers, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, it surely must be May that binds poetry and botany forever together.

“May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year…”~ Peter Loewer

stock in pottery

“The May-pole is up, now give me the cup; I’ll drink to the garlands around it; But first unto those whose hands did compose the glory of flowers that crown’d it.” ~ Robert Herrick, The Maypole

tea may with book

Come take a tour of the melodious garden, located in zone 8a, southern Denton County, Texas, and see what is blooming this first day of May, 2018.

“Horticulturally, the month of May is opening night, homecoming and graduation day all rolled into one.” ~ Tam Mossman


This deep purple clematis is always a show-stopper. And a reminder that I simply must plant more! While many vines are aggressive overachievers (I am talking to you, trumpet vine!), most varieties of clematis are well-behaved and grow lightly over rose branches or trellis.

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~ Virgil


Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) are a native wildflower that rivals the best patch of bluebonnets, in my honest opinion. It grows from a rhizome, with foliage branching out along the ground. The hot magenta flowers (shaped like… wine cups!) attract bees and butterflies. It is extremely drought tolerant and slowly reseeds in the garden. I thin out the older rhizomes when the Wine Cups have finished blooming, then I thin out a few more so I can share this beautiful flower with fellow gardeners.

“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses…” George Herbert

green ice rose

Green Ice, a unique miniature rose, is one of the few roses in my garden that survived the plague that is Rose Rosette Virus. I am not sure why or how not one, but two! Green Ice roses survived when the other roses in the area were infected. Miniature roses are not known to be exceptionally hardy, after all. But here they are. Beautiful. The white blooms will take on a greenish cast over the next few weeks, hence its name. Green. Ice.

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” Edwin Way Teale

winecup and green icie

The photo above shows the mini rose Green Ice with Wine Cups scrambling through its branches. Wine Cups do not smother out other plants, in my experience.

“Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster


Ah. One lone poppy. I have no idea why, but after years of not growing in my garden, I had one lone poppy pop up this year. It is a stunner, isn’t it?

“A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king.” ~ Emily Dickinson


I love plants that reseed here and there. Above is Penstemon tenuis, the perfect reseeding perennial. Tough as nails, not aggressive, lovely shade of lavender. What more could one ask for? Well, it also makes a great cut flower. I do not dead-head this plant when it is done flowering. Rather, I let the seed pods dry completely on the plant, then I cut them way back and cast the seed heads here and there, wherever I would like to see it spread. On-site composting and super easy seed sowing all in one.

“O the month of May, the merry month of May, so frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!” ~ Thomas Dekker


I love the greenness that hostas add to the garden. While flowers are lovely, sometimes green – different shades of green, different textures of green – are a welcome relief to the riot of color that is spring. The above hosta, Curly Fries, has been a great container plant in my garden, nestled back into my one shady spot.

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~ Edward Giobbi


And who can resist a shot of bright red on the first day of May? Hippeastrum (amaryllis) is a great addition to any southern garden. It is often dug up, divided and passed along to others after it is done blooming.

“Sweet May hath come to love us, flowers, trees, their blossoms don’ and through the blue heavens above us the very clouds move on.” ~ Heinrich Heine, Book of Songs


While there is no such thing as a blue rose, Veilchenblau may come closest of all. This is another RRV survivor in my garden. A rambling old rose, its blooms start out crimson colored, then fade out to the above colored grayish mauve. While it only blooms in the spring, it is worth the garden space!

“Among the changing months, May stands confest the sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed.” ~ James Thomson, On May

winecup and mallow

As I was contemplating my RRV devastated garden a few years back and wondering how I would ever be able to garden again, something hit me. Orange. Bright orange! Gone are the soft pinks of my dear antique roses. I am now playing more with colors and adding in splashes of oranges, yellows and reds. Above, Munro’s Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) blooms happily alongside Wine Cups.

“Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.” Kahlil Gibran


I couldn’t resist. She was blooming in my garden today and I just could not overlook her. The dandelion. The lowly dandelion. Why it has that reputation, I do not know. Please, please leave dandelions in your garden. They are an important source of nectar for honeybees!

bibliophile, vintage

In the garden I spend my days…

In the garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past.
~ Alexander Smith, 1863

winnie the pooh

I stumbled across this quote a few days ago and it moved me. I have been reflective of late, now the mother of a teenage boy. As he moves into manhood and I go through our overflowing bookshelves, it hits me hard. All of the great books we have enjoyed over the years. Some I will pass on… Some I will treasure forever, both in my heart and in my home.

winne the pooh 1

Part of the melodious garden’s mission is to pass along the love of literature and share with others the joy of reading great books. In my own way, I am a literary preservationist. I find books without a home and find new homes for them.

poetry for very young

As I sort through our home library and organize and price my books for work, I am struck by how many of the books are duplicates. The books I now seek for my business are often the same books my son loved as a child. Each one a welcome piece of the past. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. How wonderful and true that is.


Books featured on this blog post will be available this spring at the melodious garden’s boutique at The Grapevine Antique Market. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in these treasures today.


A few of the books pictured:
Bambi – copyright 1950
Five little Peppers and how they grew – copyright 1965
Hans Brinker – copyright 1957
Poems to read to the very young – copyright 1961
Winnie the pooh (before he became the yellow bear we know today!) – copyright 1946
The Pooh Story Book – copyright 1965



A Good Mystery

Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

While some may want nothing more than to curl up with an Agatha Christie novel, I prefer my mysteries a bit more real. As in: What is this object I just bought?!

Such was the case last week when I happened to buy… A German Pretzel Holder?

pretzel holder1

Who even knew there was such a thing as a pretzel holder? Certainly not I. But thanks to a lovely group of ladies on a Facebook junkin’ site, I was able to find out exactly what it was that I had purchased. Eighty posts and many fascinating ideas later, the mystery was solved.

I adore estate sales, second hand stores, antique markets, flea markets, anywhere that I might find oddities and curiosities.

I spied this item at an estate sale in Grapevine, Texas, last week and knew I had to have it.

Whatever “it” was.

The home was filled with items brought back from Germany and Africa – and a whole wall of German books in German! (In addition to the pretzel holder, I bought a wooden clothes hanger that is stamped with “clean clothes properly” in German.)

The mystery item, which I think would make an adorable flower vase, turns out to be… An Ilkra Edel Keramik pretzel holder, designed by Ernst Werner in 1958. Such a fun mystery!

bibliophile, herbal fare, vintage

Vintage Tea Party, a book reviewed

Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott is one of those books that need repeated readings to be fully absorbed.

Once through just for the photographs, which are simply stunning. From the double page spreads of English landscapes to the smaller photographs of tea cups, finger sandwiches and beautiful tablescapes, the photographs draw you in and make you want to linger a bit.

Another trip through the book and you glean the history and importance of tea, the rise of afternoon tea, the difference between low and high tea, the joy of a fireside tea and the petite adventures of a nursery tea.

The book draws you back again for the recipes, which require another – now deeper – study of the photographs. The recipes are written in English measurements, but can be easily converted.

From beginning to end, this book is charming. To quote, Vintage Tea Party tells “how afternoon tea developed from its modest beginnings to become a much-loved celebration of indulgent pleasures.” A century and a half may have passed, but I am absolutely in love with Anna, the Duchess of Bedford’s idea of “a tea and a walk in the fields.”

How to get that vintage tea party look?

Step one: Check your attic or Grandma’s china hutch for cups, silver and linens. Antique markets always offer an abundant selection of tea party essentials. One need not have matching dishes. Mix and match and coordinate to please your tastes and style.

tea 2

Step two: The food… When homemade treats are not possible, shop at a local bakery or pastry shop for tiny morsels. A baguette sliced and topped with butter and fresh jam and a few bits of fine cheese are simple enough yet pleasing. I adore Ms. Caldicott’s advice: “You don’t need to be a domestic goddess to have a tea party. As long as the tea ingredients look home-made and are served with vintage style, there are ways to cheat and make life easier.”

tea 3

Step three: The tea… Ah. The tea. So many possibilities and so many personal favorites. The British Emporium in Grapevine is one of my favorite places to shop for tea, but most groceries now carry a variety of options.

Now, about that tea and a walk in the fields. Brisk fall days such as today are the perfect pairing!

tea 1


bibliophile, vintage

Once Upon An Autumn Day

Aren’t these saucers the perfect addition to a fall tea party?

fall dish 2

I will be reviewing Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott later this week. (Sneak preview: Neat book! Loved the vintage dishes and photography.)

Tea time is a nice pause in the middle of a hectic day, a chance to settle in, relax, enjoy a quiet moment, reflect for a bit. Once a little boy, now a young man, my son still sits down to tea. The draw? Food. He comes to the table for a snack, stays for the tea and a poem or two. The best part of a vintage tea party is that one can mix and match the dishes, cut a few early fall flowers for a small bouquet. It need not be fancy (or the food homemade) to a perfect tea party.

fall dish 1

Once upon an autumn day,
Colorful leaves began to fade
In the midst of a chilly, frosty air
As multitude of trees grew steadily bare.

Once upon an autumn day,
The whispering breeze was here to stay
Moving aimlessly through the countless trees
Scattering leaves with the greatest of ease.

Once upon an autumn day,
The leaves whirled freely in every way,
Until at last they came to rest
Finding a haven in which to nest.

Once upon an autumn day,
The trees were dormant, and the leaves lay
Waiting for the winter snow to fall
To quickly obscure them one and all.

~~~ Joseph T. Renald

ihand with fan