Traditions, Stories and Rabbit Holes

Christmas – a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There are few holidays more historical or steeped in more tradition than Christmas. … Nativity, Decorations, Santa, Advent, Caroling, Poinsettias, Gifts and so many more. I love tradition – I can almost break out in song at the mention of the word. Remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof!!!

When our children were small our life was filled to the brim with Christmas traditions – We wanted them to know who and why we celebrated. We wanted them to have a stong foundation. We wanted them to have all the wonderful memories that Christmas traditions can bring. Oh the joy Mr. G and I experienced in the wonder on their sweet faces.

We now have the pleasure of so much wonder and excitement coming from these little candy canes! We will sure miss them this year! 😢

This was from last year. They have grown so much since then!

This season I have been reading Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. It is a fascinating book that taps into my love of tradition and history!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE TRADITIONS…

Christmas Cards: I love receiving them and sending them. A time to share warm wishes and get an update from friends scattered about. Now more than ever. I hear that writing notes/letters, in general, has increased during the pandemic. I am so glad for that. I have sent more notes too but not enough – I plan to send more! In a world of “virtual” I have deeply enjoyed the written notes that I have received this year from others.

Christmas Cookies: Oh the joys of Christmas baking and sharing! My favorite cookie to bake is Grandma B’s Fruitcake Cookies. (recipe here) Even if you think you hate fruitcake, I suspect you will love these cookies too.

My favorite cookie to receive is my sister-in-law’s Pizzelles. A special memory from 2020 happened before the pandemic when our Ohio family came for a Christmas visit in February (so many schedules to work around). We had a traditional Christmas feast and Aunt Cindy treated us by making her family’s traditional cookie – Pizzelles! And, mentored her nephews through this fine art too! Aunt Cindy is from a big, beautiful Italian family where a multitude of wonderful recipes and traditions come from!

I don’t even want to admit how many of those I ate.

Christmas Music: We are definitely on the side of early Christmas music. Hearing Bing sing White Christmas is appropriate and encouraged after Halloween as needed. This season we decided to take advantage of Spotify and created wonderful playlists of all our favorites!

About Poinsettias:

Traditional or not, I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with Poinsettias. (My apologies to Mr. Poinsett) They just don’t fit with my Christmas “vibe,” especially this year. I like a soft, quiet, peaceful, twinkle light filled Christmas with fresh evergreens and pinecones. Then out of the blue comes the Poinsettia in every store! Screaming loudly and proudly that IT IS CHRISTMAS TIME! (In her best “Elf” impression) You gotta appreciate her enthusiasm! So most years I succumb to the loud lure of her call to have a real Christmas experience you must have a poinsettia. Then she comes home with me and sadly she just doesn’t fit in — demanding so much attention with those big beautiful bracts! Anyone else???

About Gifts:

Gift-giving can be a sweet part of Christmas. The wisemen certainly set the stage for gift giving. It can also be so “commercial” and can put undo strain on people. We each have to find our way with our own how and why of giving gifts.

While I do very much believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive … I just have to tell you about a special gift I received!

Look at this! While it was not a Christmas gift, recently a special friend sent me a book that I will treasure. It is a classic… “How to Grow Roses by J. Horace McFarland and Robert Pyle. Two men that are giants in the world of roses! Thank you Carrie!

This book sent me down a rabbit hole of wanting to know more and more about these two great men.

Want to go down the rabbit hole with me?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

J. HORACE McFARLAND…

J. Horace McFarland was the son of nurseryman and publisher George McFarland, who settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after coming home from the Civil War. Young Horace worked in his father’s nursery, but also gained experience setting type in his father’s publishing business, printing seed lists and later nursery catalogs. At age 30, in 1889, Horace McFarland purchased the vacant Mount Pleasant School where he opened his own publishing company, the J. Horace McFarland Company. He studied the newly invented color-photoengraving process, and subsequently gained contracts with major establishments to publish handsome nursery catalogs, numerous magazines, and significantly, L. Hyde Bailey’s monumental four-volume horticultural work, the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture.

J. Horace McFarland was named the Father of the American Rose Society.

One Hundred years after J. Horace McFarland became affiliated with the American Rose Society, the organization’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to bestow the title of “Father of the American Rose Society” at a convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Though he was not instrumental in the founding of the American Rose Society (the ARS had been in existence for about 20+ years before nurseryman-publisher J. Horace McFarland joined the organization), he was instrumental in turning the commercial growers’ organization into one that welcomed — and served — ordinary home gardeners and lovers of roses. McFarland was and is the most significant contributor to the organization. To this day, he remains the most remarkable and most loved rosarian the American Rose Society has known.

Read more here.

ROBERT PILE…

Robert Pyle was an internationally known nurseryman as well as a noted authority on roses. Throughout his life, he served in many capacities of several horticulture organizations including the American Rose Society, the National Association of Plant Patent Owners, the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums, the American Horticultural Society.

FROM STAR ROSES & PLANTS WEBSITE...

Over 75 years ago, Robert Pyle laid the foundation that still exists at Star® Roses and Plants today: A beautiful garden begins with exceptional plants. By establishing friendships with nurseries and hybridizers all over the world, Pyle expanded our horticultural palette. These friendships have allowed us to work with some of the world’s most innovative nurseries to introduce plants that have passed the ultimate test — the rigorous and diverse American climate. For some amazing pictures and more history, read on here.

THE PEACE ROSE

Most likely the most famous rose of all time, the Peace Rose, was introduced by Robert Pyle in 1943.

THE ROSE OF THE CENTURY

The video below tells the beautiful historical story of the Peace Rose. As you watch, you will see how many of the great rose giants intersect during one of the most tumultuous times in our history to bring us this beautiful symbol.

Hope you enjoyed your trip down the rabbit hole! Welcome to my world! 🤦‍♀️

BACK TO CHRISTMAS

Our Christmas decor is slowly coming together. We are savoring every minute. As is the order of the day for us – it is peaceful and adorned with twinkle lights.

We have had wonderful weather – just perfect for gathering evergreens and plant material from the garden for swags, wreaths, and other decor for inside and out.

For the first time, I am using battery-powered candles in some areas. I do appreciate them however, they will never completely replace the enchantment that a real flickering candle gives. BUT what a bonus the timer is! 🕯

My Annual Boxwood Tree…

CHRISTMAS DINNER

Our original plan was to be in England for Christmas. While our hearts break for the cancellation, we have decided to embrace our reality and we will celebrate in traditional English style. And use modern technology for our visit with our loves!

ON THE MENU…

  • Standing Rib Roast
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Creamed Peas
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Wassail
  • Mincemeat Pies – ALL THE WAY FROM ENGLAND!!! 🇬🇧 Thanks to our sweet daughter!

When I think of my own “Plan B” celebration, I think of Mary and I am sure that her son’s birth in a drafty cave with animals for company and a feeding trough for a baby bed was not her Plan A. Whether we are on Plan A, B or C, God uses it all for his glory. And, we are so grateful!

And she (Mary) brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7)

Merry Christmas my friends. Wishing you joy!

Bloom Thyme Friday: Christmas Trees & Things

I love Christmas trees. I love most evergreens. I particularly love boxwoods. I know. I know. There are two kinds of people in the world — those who love boxwood and those who don’t. But, I do. Can’t remember without looking if I shared with you my boxwood horror this year. For about 6 years we have had a boxwood hedge around our patio. They did not make it through the winter. I thought it was “winter kill” but I now suspect from the look of things, it was blight. They had to be taken out — all 15 of them! Mr. G was my hero as he took them out one by one. He put up with my tears and was very sweet about it. What a guy! 

Back to the original subject, Christmas Trees, I love them. Fresh ones. Filled to the brim with ornaments and twinkle lights!

This year due to so much travel, we decided not to have a tree but we have twinkle lights everywhere!

CHRISTMAS TREE TRIVIA

The first recorded Christmas tree can be found on the keystone sculpture of a private home in Alsace in 1576. German Protestants are often credited with the first circulation of the Christmas Tree, using them to decorate their houses. Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther is said to have added the first lighted candles to an evergreen tree. The inspired decoration came out of admiration of the snow glistening from the trees on his walk home Christmas Eve. From Meg Bucker’s The History and Meaning of the Christmas Tree  

Wooster, a small country town located in north-central Ohio, claims to have hosted the first Christmas Tree in America in 1847. German immigrant August Imgard might be the first to decorate the tree with candy canes; “Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house, decorating it with paper ornaments, gilded nuts and kuchen.” From Meg Bucker’s The History and Meaning of the Christmas Tree  

Artificial Christmas trees have outsold real ones since 1991.

In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas tree decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas. (Almost makes me like them. 😳 Almost. )

 

MY 2018 CHRISTMAS TREE…

Lucky for me I still have many boxwoods around the garden. Plenty for making boxwood trees. Such a fun project. When I was a florist I made so many of them and never tired of the project!

 

PROCESS PICS…

BLOOM THYME

David Austin roses in my garden…

This week we lost one of the giants of the rose world – David Austin Snr. Mr. G says I have had a secret crush on him for 30 years. That might be true. When I was putting my first real rose garden together, I was feverishly researching all types of roses (without the benefit of the internet) and happened on the “something and someone new” in the rose world – Mr. Austin. He was a pioneer that followed his heart and used his gifts to bring us the beautiful Engish roses by blending historical roses (for form and fragrance) with modern roses (for repeat blooming and additional colors). I never had the privilege of meeting him, but he was very well represented by Michael Marriott who worked with him for more than 30 years and shares how special he was. 

Thank you Mr. Austin for all the beauty you shared with our world. Well done, Sir.

Whew, that was a long post. If you made it to the end  — Thank You!

Merry Christmas friends. Wishing you a holiday filled with joy, peace, love and plenty of twinkle lights!

Grandma B’s Fruitcake Cookies

The pictures of my fruitcake cookies on social media have been receiving a myriad of comments — everything from “Yuk” to “Yay” to family stories! I love the stories so keep them coming in the comment section below!

A cake once revered, is now the butt of many holiday jokes—and with good reason. Have you tried some of the things they sell as “fruitcake”???? 😳

The fruitcake is traced back to at least Roman times and is often the cake choice of royals. Did you know that Charles and Diana’s wedding cake was a fruitcake with cream cheese frosting.

We are the third generation to make these cookies. Christmas would not be Christmas for Mr. G without these cookies. For me they were an acquired taste, but I have crossed over the line and totally love these cookies too.

The recipe is so simple!

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Five ingredients:

  1. 1 lb candied fruit (mixed) chopped in small pieces.
  2. 1/2 cup self rising flour
  3. 4-6 oz of shredded coconut
  4. 2 cups chopped pecans
  5. 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • Dredge fruit through flour
  • Add coconut, nuts and milk
  • Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • 300 degree oven

Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Store uncovered — as much as possible.

Note: If you have trouble finding candied fruits … check here.

Give the cookies a try and let me know what you think!

Christmas Cran – A Holiday Tradition

Many of you have asked for the cranberry sauce recipe that my daughter affectionately named “Christmas Cran.”

For my rose friends, Elena Williams tried this recipe and is a big fan!

I was introduced to this recipe when I bought my first microwave and was given the gift of a free microwave cooking class!

Several of the recipes I learned in the class I still make — but none more consistently than the cranberry sauce! Our family enjoys “Christmas Cran” every Christmas AND every Thanksgiving!

Sweet, citrusy goodness….

3/4 – 1 Cup of Sugar
1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice (I usually add more cinnamon)
1/2 cup of apple or orange juice  (This year I used the juice from the tangerines I had on hand and it was fab.)
1 lb of whole cranberries
1 medium apple – peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (They go in AFTER the cooking process.)

Combine SUGAR, SPICES and JUICE in 2 qt casserole. STIR. Add CRANBERRIES and APPLES. STIR.

COVER

Microwave on HIGH for 9 – 10 minutes.

Remove and add NUTS. STIR. (Caution: This is screaming hot!)

Pour into pretty dish and COOL.

Stirring up some Christmas Cran...
Stirring up some Christmas Cran…

Hope you enjoy and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Even though we love our traditional recipes, we also love trying new things! Share your family favorites for the holidays!

ROSE BUZZ: 2016 Gift Ideas for Gardeners!

 

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We as gardeners love what we do! But, the right tools can make all the difference and Christmas is the perfect time to share ideas with Santa to get just what we want and need for the coming growing season! Plus, getting garden goodies in the middle of winter is just FUN!

Below are some garden gifts that I highly recommend you buy for yourself, your garden friends OR whisper in Santa’s ear so they show up around your Christmas tree or in your stocking! NOTE: Make sure you have a BIG STOCKING!

A YEAR IN MY ROSE GARDEN

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Teresa Mosher has written a book that all rose gardeners will want on their Christmas list.

Teresa is President of the New England Rose Society, and one of the leading Garden and Rose Consultants in New England.  This book is a wonderfully practical book that rose growers at every level will benefit from having! With this book comes the best gardening journal I have seen. Teresa has been so thorough with information that even a novice gardener could pick up this book and be good to go! From basic rose care information, a list of tools and supplies, rose terminology and ideas for garden design — it’s all there!

ORDER BOOK HERE.

To hear Teresa talk about her book and her gardening experiences, listen to a recent Rose Chat Podcast here

 


COW POTS

  • All Natural Made with 100% Renewable Composted Cow Manure
  • CowPots stay intact for up to 12 weeks before planting in the ground
  • Roots easily penetrate the walls of CowPots.
  • Perfectly odor free

Available on Amazon here.

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AMERICAN ROSE SOCIETY TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

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WHAT A VALUE!! All rose lovers will enjoy this gift! With a trial membership comes discounts at public gardens, copies of the ARS award winning magazine, American Rose, plus a ton of other benefits … all for only $10Details at Rose.org.

 


 HANDCRAFTED TOOLS

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My good friend, Chris VanCleave, the Redneck Rosarian, has partnered with DeWit Tools to bring us a beautiful, handcrafted line of tools. These lovely tools come with a life-time guarantee and are destined to be heirloom pieces you will want to hand down to the next generation. Take a look at these beauties on Amazon.


 THE GARDENER’S HOLLOW LEG

The Hollow Leg was given as door prizes at the Indianapolis Rose Society this year and everyone wanted to be a winner! So, even though the Hollow Leg appeared on last year’s list, I wanted to feature it again.

Bob Blomberg’s  Gardener’s Hollow Leg® makes yard and garden clean up tasks easier! This handy “hands-free” debris holder is a must have for all pruning, weeding and harvesting tasks.

A 15% discount!

FROM BOB: Tell  your readers to use GHLUSER at check out for the discount!

To learn more or to buy online, read on.

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Even Mr. H has the Hollow Leg Jr!!

Heading to the green compost bin.
Heading to the green compost bin.

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Find the ripe tomatoes.
Find the ripe tomatoes.

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The wonderful items on last year’s list are still available and you can read about them HERE.

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Christmas is really the most wonderful time of the year!

ENJOY EVERY MINUTE!