A Wee Bit of Our Garden

Posted May 21st, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Family, Garden, My Photography, Personal, Uncategorized


Our garden has been so rewarding this spring.  Following a chilly and wet April, we’re finally seeing the payoff of the perennials.  The lilies of the valley, Virginia bluebells, mayapples (planted in memory of my father who loved them), bloodroot, trillium,  daffodils and hyacinths made a spectacular show, followed by glorious azaleas.  The newest of our baptisia (second photo) are blooming as is our lone peony bush.  I think I planted it at least 15 years ago.  It never did well, producing perhaps one bloom each spring.  But DH moved it closer to the front of the bed, giving it a sunny spot.  Oh my, what a difference!  The plant is healthy,  huge and laden with blooms.  I picked several this afternoon, following a brief but intense thunder storm.  The  pale pink blossoms were heavy with rain and touching the ground.  After a brief rinse in the sink to remove specks of dirt, they were good as new.  Our house is perfumed now with their scent.  Lovely.

My biggest surprise has been the mallow plant (last photo).  Its blossom looks like a miniature hollyhock.   When I planted it last year, it was 6″ high.  It stayed green all winter and is now as tall as I am and covered with blossoms.  It is lovely, but much too close to an azalea bush. Who knew it would turn into a mallow of the giant bean stalk variety?  The knock-out roses are outstanding.  We have seven so far:  two red, two yellow, one white and two pink.  If you haven’t grown this variety, plant some this year.  They need full sun and will bloom from early spring until December with no more care than dead-heading.

Gerbera daisies are blooming, while the yellow and white Becky daisy plants, which my late aunt Esther always referred to as Marguerites, are covered with buds.  Black and blue salvia has spread to provide a massive show, while  the irises are now gone.   The window  boxes are planted along with the deck pots.  We have to plant the new hosta bed, if the ground ever dries out.  I’ll throw a few zinnia and nasturtium seeds in the ground once the soil is warm, and fill in other areas with annuals and more phlox.

DH’s vegetable garden looks fantastic.  He has been working what was once hard Carolina clay for  all our years here, and has turned it into a rich, loamy soil.  A soil test by the NC Dept. of Agriculture certified our garden soil to be 99% organic.  The addition of an entire compost pile ’tilled into the garden each spring has made a great difference.  And, we use no pesticides.

Despite an early loss of all our spinach to rabbits, the protected second batch is beautiful.  I think it’s time to add a fence!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

How does your garden grow?

On the Road Again

Posted April 18th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My Work, News, Quilt Events, Teaching, Travels, Uncategorized

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”

Hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics by the artist with a bit of upcycled cloth.

I’ll be giving my “Journey of a Quiltmaker” lecture tonight to the Foothills Quilters Guild in Shelby, NC.  Saturday we’ll have a day full of fun creating whimsical villages in my “Gimme Shelter” workshop.  Hope to see you there!

Photo credit:  Suzie Guerrant   mattandsuzie.com

Ahhhh-choo! ‘Tis Spring!

Posted April 8th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Uncategorized

Azaleas, cherry and redbud trees in bloom, hostas, Virginia bluebells and wildflowers poking their heads through the soil.  ‘Tis spring.  But the water oaks which surround us are beginning to drop their green pollen.  It covers everything!  We’re trying to ignore the green fuzzy stuff and enjoy the beauty around us.

Coral Bells azalea outside our kitchen window.

I love the acid green of this euphorbia in our yellow and blue garden.


Sadly, the gorgeous cherry blossoms are falling now. The green of the oak trees is visible through the branches.

The light was right for just a few minutes this afternoon, allowing me to grab these shots.  Enjoy!  xo Ellen.


Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted March 18th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My collections, Thrifting Mondays, Uncategorized, Vintage

Several years ago, one of our neighbors died at the ripe old age of 106.  A native Charlottean, the woman grew up with film star Randolph Scott, also a hometowner.

Mrs. M, as I shall call her, had lived in her home for at least 75 years.   And the place was stuffed to the gills.  I’d been in the home just once, shortly after we moved to the street as newlyweds.  Mrs. M. had invited several of her new neighbors in for tea.  I remember being fascinated by the tiny green stove on legs in the miniscule kitchen.

After Mrs. M. died, the family went through the home’s contents.  What they didn’t want was to be sold at an estate sale.  How thrilling – an estate sale right down the street!   I wanted to buy the contents of the garage, filled to the rafters, until I learned it had to be emptied and taken away the day of the sale.

My biggest purchase that day was a beautiful old rope bed (what was I thinking)?  To this day, it sits in our garage.  I missed out on a fabulous vintage typewriter – curved and in its original carrying case.  In pristine condition, I don’t think it had ever been used.  I’ve never seen another like it.

I ended up buying three or four old mirrors and samplers wrought on punched paper.  All have been leaning against the west end of our upright piano ever since.  Finally deciding to let them go, I recently got them out to dust.  All must have been stored in an attic at one time, as the paper on the backs was crumbly and disintegrating.   I removed what was left, only to find the cardboard graphics used as liners.  What fun!  I’m sure the advertisement for Ward’s Fine Bread  (circa 1920?) is worth more that the mirror on the other side.  Another  vintage piece was backed with a small portion of an old ad. The biggest clue to its origin is the image of a woman’s skirt and high heeled pumps on the upper right hand side.  Portions of several words are also visible.

For years I’ve collected vintage kitchen containers and advertising.  I can’t wait to peek inside the frames of my other purchases to view what’s been hiding in plain sight!

My Friend Carol

Posted March 16th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Exhibitions, Garden, Other Artists, Teaching, Uncategorized

Carol McLaughlin with “Blue Winter Star Flakes,”  judged  Best of Show/Traditional

Carol is an inspiration!  I first met her when teaching my Quilting 101 beginner class at Sewing Arts Studio in southeast Charlotte.  From the very beginning, Carol showed great enthusiasm, jumping right in with both feet.  Always smiling, her bright spirit was contagious.

Carol is a great example of why I love to teach.  She was like a sponge, wanting to soak up every bit of knowledge I would share.  In watching her, I was taken back to the day I was introduced to quilting, studying with the late Ellen Eanes.  I had left class  looking for an all night fabric store!  I never wanted to stop quilting and knew I had found my life’s work.

I tell all my students about the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild http://www.charlottequiltersguild.org/ and encourage them to attend a meeting of like-minded artists.  Ever enthusiastic, Carol not only came to meetings, she became actively involved, volunteering again and again.  All this time, she kept quilting, honing her skills.

I was so proud of Carol when she shared her traditionally pieced “Blue Winter Star Flakes” quilt which had won 1st place  and Best of Show/Traditional in last weekend’s Charlotte Quilters’ Guild show, “Through the Garden Gate”.  I am in no way taking even a wee bit of credit for Carol’s success.  All I did was open the door and give her a little nudge.  How’s that for a fabulous payoff!

Congratulations, Carol!  Here’s a big “attagirl” from me to you.  xo