Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fishin'? Heck no!

The Spring Seasons Inn and Tea Room in Newport, RI was one of our vacation destinations this past week.This cheerful place setting greeted us as family and friends gathered around the tea table.Favorite tea selections were made, and then we were directed to the piano to select a special cup.

Afternoon tea started with a delicious salad that featured cranberries and sunflower seeds topped with a flavorful vinaigrette. The tea tray included egg salad on wheat bread, cucumber with mint butter, and black olives and hummus on pita bread. Cranberry scones with cream and jam were also included. Assorted desserts included petit fours, lemon squares, and tiny chocolate truffles. Delightful!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

Pennsylvania's original Biblical Botanical Garden is located on 5th Ave in Pittsburgh. This garden features more that 100 temperate and tropical species. Irene Jacobs was a motivating force behind this urban botanical garden nestled in next to the Temple. While small in square footage the setting creates a desert, a waterfall, and the Jordan river which meanders from Lake Kineret to the Dead Sea. The labeling of the garden was excellent. White labels indicated species mentioned in the Bible and referenced scripture as well. Brown labels were plants that did not have a direct correlation to the Bible but had a biblical connotation in their name. Example: Jerusalem Artichoke.
Wheat, Barley, Millet and many herbs grown by the ancient Israelites are featured along with pomegranates, olives, dates, figs, cedars, cypress, tamarisk and more. In the streams were lotus, water lily, papyrus and rushes.
Lovely and educational with a wee bit of humor too! This trip was part of our Traveling Herb Seminar held in June 2010. Our next tour, in September, is to Washington DC. Won't you join us?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phipps Conservatory ~ the Greenman

In one of the glorious rooms of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh was a featured display of Greenman. Legend tells us about a Lord of the Forest. Considered fierce in battle but kind to wounded knights, children lost in the woods or damsels in distress.
Sometimes considered Father Nature or Pan like, the Greenman protects the wild and those in the wild, he also blesses the crops and insures that the seasons progress on time. Always depicted with lots and lots of leaves, often depicted with a staff growing from his palms and vines all a round, many Greenman carvings are found on European churches. The term Greenman was first coined by Lady Raglan, in her 1939 article "The Green Man in Church Architecture" in The Folklore Journal.
The spring march of the Blessed Order of the Greenman is one of my very favorite parts of the Spoutwood Farm Fairy Festival. They march and chant symbolizing the rebirth of the growing season and offering blessings. The Greenman can be hard to spot but not impossible.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Phipps Conservatory ~ Gargoyles in the Garden

The summer exhibit (through Sept. 12, 2010) at Phipps Conservatory, features the collaborative efforts of three local artists, and includes a massive 1,000 pound gargoyle in the Palm court. in addition to Venetian griffins and working gargoyle spouts. In the South Conservatory, three Pittsburgh churches have been replicated by Tolin FX.
Located in the East Room, Joshua Space created floating gargoyles using natural materials he collected, including branches, wood, and dried leaves.All very impressive!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Phipps Conservatory ~ Chihuly Glass

During our recent visit to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, we were fortunate enough to see some of the remaining artwork from the Dale Chihuly exhibit held in 2007. Chihuly is an American glass sculptor and entrepreneur. This blown glass chandelier dominates the main entrance of the Phipps Conservatory. Chihuly's artwork is known worldwide, and a similar 30 ft. chandelier, installed in 2000, can be found in the main entrance of the Victoria & Albert museum in London.
The artwork featured in the Phipps Conservatory is a striking series of work, particularly when staged against the lush background of greenery.Stunning!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Visit to Phipps Conservatory

One of our Traveling Herb Seminars made an excursion to Pittsburgh recently to visit the Phipps Conservatory. This thirteen room crystal palace, that houses 17 distinct botanical experiences, is one of the largest Victorian Glass Houses in the country. Tropicals, bonsai, perennials, annuals, medicinal plants, and herbs are all featured here. Considered one of the world's greenest public gardens, there is an amazing collection of artwork tucked in amongst the greenery also. If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, do visit this beautiful conservatory.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Posie the Fairy

Today we welcomed Posie Fairy to the tea room. There was elaborate face painting, fairy tatoos, a tea party (of course), and photo opportunities in the garden. It was a fun afternoon, an anticipatory prelude to our upcoming Fairy Festival in September. See you there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Meet Friskie...
A nice soft flower bed and some Catnip....Life is good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vinyl Patch Leaf Bird Bath Bowls

Aren't these so pretty? The secret is to make them with Vinyl Patch Cement. It is finer and has smaller holes. It also has fiber reinforcement included in the cement. Large sturdy leaves like rhubarb, skunk cabbage, burdock work really well. Smaller hosta leaves make pretty end table bowls as well. Here is a link to the Ehow directions.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wild Birch 'Tea'

Sweet Birch 'Tea' (Betula lenta) is a light pleasant summer time or any time drink. It has a sweet old fashioned wintergreen chewing gum flavor. You can use red birch (pictured here) which will make a pale red colored beverage or you can use white birch (Betula papyrifera). They both have the same flavor. Simmer* covered a small handful of the twigs in 2 quarts of water for about 25 minutes or to desired strength. Add 3/4 C of sugar (or less). Tasty hot or iced.

Birch trees have a long history of use in the US. The Native Americans used the bark of the white birch to make tee pees and also to make canoes. The flavorful bark provided toothbrush and mouthwash all in one! The sweet birch was the original source of wintergreen flavor and one of the many ingredients in root beer.

* Whenever you make tea with barks, roots, mushrooms or even seeds it is a boiled or simmered decoction and not a steeped infusion. So it is important to keep the water moving by simmering. Some mushrooms need simmered for a really long period of time so we will do that in the crock pot. Infusions are made with the leaves and flowers of the herbs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Art ~ Bird House Workshop

Here are several workshop participants with their decorated bird houses. It is so much fun to watch all the creativity generated from the same supplies. Many of our classes are designed so that two generations can work on one craft together. Friends, sisters, neighbors, mothers and daughters all join to participate in The Rosemary House fun!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Crafting Fairy Houses

We are sure there are many pleased fairies here in our area of Pennsylvania. Our recent Fairy House craft class taught by the Spoutwood Farm 'Queen of the May' BubbleFairy was a huge and happy success. Fairy abodes of all shapes and sizes were created to welcome the Fae. Why Build Fairy Houses?
*To invite fae into our gardens.
*To bring magic and whimsy back into our lives.
*To give fairies places to hide away from humans.

BubbleFairy's Tips for building your own fairy house:
Use natural and bio-degradable materials.
Know that your structures will eventually decay and go back to the earth.
Leave them undisturbed (fairies are neat and tidy so it is hard to tell when they visit!). You can string bells up in your houses to alert you as to when the fae visit.

Things to Use-Tiny grapevine wreaths, String Craft Sticks, Dried flowers, Stones, Shells, Moss, or Bark Hollow log.
BubbleFairy says to include any amenity you would want when house shopping for yourself. Such as: Arbors, Porch, Gazing Pool (Fairies are vain), Bridge, Tree house, Signs, Windows, Roof, Bed. Be creative! and Have Fun!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bee Balm, Bergamot, & Monarda

Whew! Three names one plant. This beautiful Native American wild flower now comes in a variety of colorful flowers from pink, lavender, white, blue or mahogany. The Native American Indians used it as a delicious tea and introduced the Colonists to this herb as a tea. Because of its almost Earl Grey type flavor the colonists nicknamed the plant bergamot. (It is not where Bergamot comes from). It attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. A fragrant plant it is always a joy to weed near this one! A hardy perennial and fairly easy to grow, it will let itself get squeezed out of the garden by other more aggressive plants. While it comes in a huge assortment of colors red was the color it was found in most frequently 200 years ago.