Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Muriel Roberts has passed away

Muriel Dorothy Roberts - Obituary
June 26,1921- November 28, 2011
Muriel Dorothy Roberts passed away Monday, November 28th after a year of declining health. Muriel was born on June 26, 1921 to Philip and Sarah Mowrey in Newark, N.J. After graduation from Montclair State College, she taught in Cape May where she met her husband Martin Roberts. They were married on December 10th, 1944. After his service in the Navy, they settled on Long Island before beginning a lifetime of travel with Martin's career.
In every city, Muriel became involved in charity organizations, always involving children; The American Women's Club in London and homes for disabled children in Montreal and Houston. Her great love was flowers and how, in so many ways, they can bring joy into people's lives. Her floral passion was Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging, and was driven by the spirit behind the art. In 1984, she attained the title of Usu-Ban, master and teacher of Ikebana from the Ikenobo School of Floral Art in Tokyo, Japan.
On moving to Cary in 1986, Muriel immediately shared her passion and talents with the local community. As Director of District 9 of the Garden Clubs of North Carolina and of the Heritage Garden Club in Durham, Muriel initiated one of her most loved projects. Working with the chaplain of the VA hospital in Durham, she began a program whereby the area garden clubs supply floral arrangements to the hospital chapel every week. This program continues today. More recently, Muriel was pleased to have initiated the founding of a chapter of Ikebana International in the Triangle. Through this organization, and her teaching, this beautiful art form is flourishing in our community.
In spite of all of these interests, Muriel's first love was her family. Martin and Muriel raised three children, Phyllis Anne Macdonald of France, Bonnie Joan Dodwell of Bermuda and Cary, and Steven Edward Roberts of Raleigh. Her greatest love was watching them become adults and have families of their own. Her grandchildren, Stephanie, James, Penny, Ben, Claire, Dominic, Katie, Joseph, Thomas, Peter, Louise and Margaret Macdonald, and David, Brian, Jennifer and Christina Dodwell and two special girls, Liann and Claire Leidy, brought her immeasurable joy, and 14 great-grandchildren; Xavier, Laurie, Santiago, Pablo, Baudelaire, William, Henry, Ian, Annie, Alexander, Connor, Sebastian, Tassilo and Anna.
Muriel will be forever remembered for her adventurous spirit, delightful humor, generosity and amazing ability to bring joy to the lives of those who knew her. Family and friends are invited to attend her Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 2, 2011 follow by a reception at the Archangel Center. Funeral arrangements by Browne-Wynne Funeral Home. In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ronald Mcdonald House Charities.
Published in The News & Observer on December 1, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ardith's Jottings:

Quote for Chilly Days:

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy marshmallows, which are kinda the same thing.


I just heard of a B&B in Blowing Rock, NC called Gideon Ridge Inn.  The views shown on the website look fabulous!  The Inn  sits on property that belonged to Moses H. Cone, a North Carolina textile magnate. Cone married Bertha Lindau, who transferred the property to her sisters.  A nephew in Boston built  the house with rock quarried from Grandfather Mountain.  He used it as his summer residence.  The parents of the current owners bought the property in 1984.  The food is tasty.  Other eateries are available in downtown Blowing Rock.  Visit Cone's original manor house and browse the offerings by local artisans. This is a quiet, tranquil get away spot.

Closer to home is the annual Open House at Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines.  The event which runs from November 30th to December 3rd is entering its 3rd decade.  All  23 rooms of the Georgian style mansion will be decorated for Christmas by area garden clubs and designers.  The house built by renown architect, Aymar Embury II, in 1922 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The funds raised by this event are used to support  the house.  A wide range of activities are offered.  Ticket prices range from $60 per person for a Gala Preview Party to $10 prepurchased house tour tickets December 1-3, 2011.  Information is available at 910-692-6261 or by emailing

Several of us are going on Friday Dec 2.  We are meeting at Sears parkinglot at Northgate Mall.
Thought we would pack into a couple of cars and go as a group.  Eat lunch in Southern Pines.
Call Marcia in Heritage GC for details.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ardith's Jottings for November

A Taste for Holiday Gift Giving

Want to have fun and a tasty day out while doing your Holiday Shopping? Get a group of your garden club friends together and head to Southern Supreme Gourmet Specialities in nearby Bear Creek.  Not only do they make a moist, chewy and nutty fruitcake (they offer a reduced sugar version), you can get  chocolates, relish, jellies, pickles, gourmet mustards and pecan pralines!  Open a jar of the pecan pralines and you will  not close it - it will be empty before you know it!  I received some as a gift last year which lead to my discovery of Southern Supreme.   Many of you are familiar with them from A Southern Season store  at Christmas time but go, visit where the products are created and have a tasty time.  You can browse the store in front of their kitchens and sample treats.  Call ahead to 336-581-3141 or 877-815-0922 to schedule a tour of the kitchen, take your out of town holiday visitors or just take yourself for a sweet time. 

Re-use that Pumpkin!

Think out of the box for your festive decorations.  Don't toss that pumpkin- cut the top off, scrap out the seeds( see Marcia's earlier tip for pumpkin seed snacks) and use it as a container.  Put a pot of mums in it or  take a small plastic food dish, insert some oasis in it and put in the top of the pumpkin.  Snip some of your flowers, greenery, leaves before the cold gets them.  Even use some windfall acorns or twigs to add interest to the arrangement.  Put it on your porch or front steps. Bring it indoors for your dining table, kitchen table or sunroom.  Place the flower bedecked pumpkin on some colorful Fall leaves for extra oomph.

Another use for a pumpkin is to simply place it atop an urn and put pyracanthra, Chinese lanterns, or miniature ears of corn around the bottom.

I even use that pumpkin for Christmas decoration!  I get a lot of mileage out of my pumpkin.  For Christmas I spray paint the pumpkin white paint my initial on it with red paint and place it in the same urn with evergreens tucked beneath it.  Sometimes when I have a number of miniature pumpkins, I spray them white and paint  the letters J O Y on them and line them up on my window sill with greenery tucked under.  If you have enough miniature pumpkins, you can also  paint P E A C E.   You can skip painting the large pumpkin white and simply paint your initial on it and then place it in the urn or on the porch or steps with other fall foliage and embellishments.  Re use what you have; use what is at hand.  You don't have to rush out and buy new stuff.

I just remembered a decoration I frequently saw in Williamsburg and other Colonial spots --Osage Oranges or Bois d'Orange as we called them.  Stack them on a plate, tuck small pieces of evergreen, holly or other berries around the base and throughout the pyramid.  If you want to splurge, you can use red minature carnations or partially opened small mums scattered throughout the pyramid.  It was natural and Christmasy.

The Scary Herbs of Halloween

I went on vacation and forgot to add this bit of trivia.  Save for the grand children for next year or use for conversation at the Thanksgiving table.
It’s a dark night in autumn. Days are becoming shorter and colder. Harvest time is ending, and pantries are being stocked with fruits and nuts for winter. Inside, beside a warm fire, an old uncle tells ghost stories. Firelight gleams on a bowl of red apples, ready for fortune telling and games. Spiced cider flows, and young people, some wearing odd costumes, dance under the flickering light of turnip lanterns.
Turnip Lanterns?
Many customs of the holiday we call Halloween date to traditions across prehistoric Europe. But turnip lanterns, at least in the United States, have been replaced by easier-to-carve pumpkins, with—let’s face it—more impressive, large, orange shapes. A glowing turnip or pumpkin, however, has the same purpose: to drive away the darkness, scare away the spooks, and light the way to the next party.
Centuries ago, when rooms were illuminated by fire, Europe’s inhabitants were farmers or herders whose lives depended on knowing the rhythms of the year. Halloween (or Samhain, as it once was called) falls on the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. According to the Celtic calendar, which began its holidays on the eve before, Halloween was the start of the new year.
“To understand the significance of these seasonal festivals, we need to step back in time for a moment, closer to the food production cycle than most of us are today,” says Bettina Arnold, co-director of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Celtic Studies. Certain food plants had important ties to the holiday’s meaning.
First the Apple
Native to eastern Turkey and southwestern Russia, apples have a long relationship with civilization and its myths and symbols. As members of the rose family, apples and their flowers have associations with Venus, goddess of love and fertility.
Poised on the threshold of the new year, Halloween was viewed as a time when it was possible to see into the future, and fortune telling often involved love and marriage predictions. An apple peel thrown over the shoulder, for instance, could predict the first letter of a true love’s name. Peeling an apple in front of a mirror by candlelight might reveal an image of a lover. And the first person to bite an apple floating in a dish of water would be the first to wed (not to mention that apple bobbing might provide quite an opportunity for real-time flirting).
Grown from seed, apples tend to revert to wild species with small, sour fruit. Gradually, over many thousands of years, improved selections were preserved by grafting. Carried by traders, invaders and Romans into Europe, apples were brought to the New World by the first colonists in the 1600s, and the first orchard was said to be planted near Boston in 1625.

Today, 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, including 100 in commercial production. Red Delicious and Golden Delicious are the two most popular varieties, but one attraction of growing apples in a home orchard is to experience the rare, more historic types. The Lady or Api apple is one of the oldest, dating to 15th-century France. It’s aromatic and sweet, but susceptible to apple scab (a fungal disease) where springs are wet.

The Journey to the Otherworld

The Celts believed that the souls of people who had died that year journeyed to the spirit world during Halloween/Samhain. The holiday’s bonfires and glowing turnips helped the dead on their journey while protecting the living, according to Jack Santino, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University who studies celebrations and their cultural meaning.
The living might have found protection by carrying a piece of asafetida in their pockets. Asafetida is an herbalresidue so vile smelling it was also called “devil’s dung.” A resin obtained from the root of Ferula assa-foetida  (fennel-like plants native to the Middle East), asafetida once was used widely in medicine and in cooking. (Its flavor reportedly improves greatly when diluted in hot oil.)
German immigrants brought the practice of carrying asafetida for protection to this country, and you still can find this unusual herb for sale in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where much of the German culture survives, herbalist Jesse Tobin says. Tobin is a founder of The Three Sisters Center near Kutztown, Pennsylvania, which offers an herbal guild, workshops and demonstrations of Pennsylvania German healing and spiritual traditions.
But perhaps the plant with the strongest ties to Halloween was the elderberry, Sambucus nigra. A small, bushy tree with white flowers and almost black berries, the elderberry was associated with the Germanic goddess Holle (or sometimes Hulda) and was named Hollerbeier for her. Guardian of the dead, the goddess survives today in caricature as a Halloween witch. But as Frau Holle, she was a caring grandmother and wise crone. She helped souls cross over and took messages to them—perhaps written in elderberry juice ink.
In North America, European immigrants found their elderberry’s close relative, S. canadensis, and continued their traditions. People carried pieces of its wood for protection, tied prayers to its branches and left apples beneath it as offerings. “When you think of the magical plants of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the elderberry is number one,” Tobin says.
The elderberry also has been revered for its health benefits since the time of Hippocrates. A tea from its flowers treats cold and flu symptoms, substantiated by the German Commission E (that country’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and its berries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. “Elderberry was so important in Europe, and in almost all cases, it has the same associations,” Tobin

Joanna Poncavage is a Pennsylvania journalist and author who frequently writes about gardens, plants and the Pennsylvania Germans.


Pumpkins and Spice

Five delicious recipes that use pumpkins and spices for a fall feast....

Elderberry Recipes: Elderberry-Plum Sauce

Use this recipe as you would applesauce—it’s a delicious topping for poultry, pork, winter squash, ...

Elderberry Recipes: Elderberry Soup with Semolina Dumplings

This soup could be served as a light lunch or dessert, and can be presented either hot or cold....

Pumpkins and Spice: Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Experiment with a variation of seasonings such as cayenne pepper, garlic powder, or Cajun seasoning...

Pumpkins and Spice: Creamy Pumpkin Nog

Eggnog is a wonderful holiday treat. And adding pumpkin to it this year will delight your guests....
More practical growers should consider the newer, disease-resistant varieties, such as Liberty, a type of McIntosh developed in New York in 1962. Between the old and the new are hundreds of choices for baking, cooking, saucing and eating fresh. Before planting an apple tree, consult your county’s cooperative extension for recommended varieties and regional advice. Then commit to a routine for pruning, fertilizing, watering and pest control.  

Pumpkins Light the Way

“Pumpkins carved as jack-o’-lanterns would not have been part of traditional Halloween festivals in Celtic Europe, since pumpkins are New World plants,” Arnold says. Instead, the Europeans hollowed out large turnips, carved faces into them and placed them in windows to ward off any evil spirits.
The turnip-carving tradition survives today. Every November, the village of Richterswil on Lake Zurich in Switzerland is filled with thousands of glowing turnips, brightened from within by candles. Cultivated in Europe for 4,000 years, turnips seem to have a greater appreciation there than here.
Arriving in the New World, colonists found Native Americans growing pumpkins and eventually adapted them to Halloween purposes. They also took a step toward pumpkin pie by filling pumpkins with milk and spices and baking them whole on the hearth.
Pumpkins with “sugar” or “pie” in their names, such as Small Sugar or New England Pie, are likely to have good taste and texture for pies, although butternut squash or neck pumpkins will provide smooth, flavorful, non-stringy flesh for recipes, too.
All pumpkins and squash belong to the genus Cucurbita. C. moschata varieties are widely used for commercial canned pumpkin. Looking to grow a big one? Choose one of the C. maxima varieties, such as Atlantic Giant or Prizewinner. For cuteness in a pumpkin, C. pepo includes miniature varieties such as Jack-Be-Little and Munchkin.
Pumpkins are easy to grow, given enough water, fertilizer and space. The sprawling vines can be vigorous, so allow about 100 square feet for each hill of two or three plants. Prepare the soil by digging in several inches of compost or composted manure. Sow the seeds in warm soil, after threat of frost has passed. The maturity date for the variety and the length of your growing season will determine the exact sowing date. Harvest when the pumpkins are a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. Leave 3 to 4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkins when cutting them from the vine, and store them in a moderately warm, dry place.

Frost and How It Forms
By Gwen Bruno (gwen21)
November 21, 2011
After months of warm weather through summer and early fall, both daytime and nighttime temperatures begin to decline. Finally one morning we wake to find the first frost of the season glistening on our gardens, lawns, automobiles and other objects left outdoors overnight. At its most basic, frost is simply water vapor, an invisible gas formed from evaporated water that is always present in the air.
How Frost Is Formed
Whenever the air cools, the water vapor condenses, transforming back into droplets of water. Depending on weather conditions, these droplets may then become mist, fog, rain or snow. The water that condenses close to the ground becomes droplets of dew.

Water vapor condenses into dew when the plant leaves or grass blades become colder than the air around them. The temperature at which this occurs, called the dew point, is variable, depending on the air’s humidity. Once the dew point dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water vapor near the ground will become frost rather than dew.

Just like snow, frost is made up of tiny, often microscopic, ice crystals. Frost crystals are usually six-sided and frequently take on needle-like shapes just as snow crystals do. The difference between the two is that snow crystals form in the clouds, while frost crystals form on solid surfaces near the ground.

Weather Conditions And Frost
When conditions are right, frost forms overnight because once the suns goes down, the air temperature quickly drops. A cold, clear and windless night provides ideal conditions for frost formation. In contrast, a night sky containing low clouds essentially creates a blanket over the earth. This keeps warm air on the surface, and thus makes frost formation less likely.
Frost in Folklore
The personification of frost formation is a mischievous elf-like creature named Jack Frost, who visits on crisp, cold nights, leaving behind fanciful designs on window panes and a coating of white on the ground. He's also sometimes depicted with a paintbrush, giving leaves their rich autumn colors. This character may have originated in Norse folklore as Jokul (icicle) Frosti (frost). Russian fairy tales attribute cold and frosty weather to an old man named Father Frost. In German folklore, frost is caused by an old woman who shakes white feathers from her bed.

Winter Storage of Geraniums (Pelargonium)

Grampa always had geraniums in his gardens. Pelargonium x hortorum, the common geranium. Sold in garden centres everywhere, usually for as little as $0.99 cents each. When I say geranium I am speaking of the Pelargonium. There are over 200 varieties of this common garden plant. 

They are grown for both their beauty and for their tolerance of full sun conditions. If kept deadheaded they will bloom continuously. They like to be moist when it's hot and dry when it's cool. Too much fertilizer will cause too much foliage and not enough flowers. Very easy to grow and available almost everywhere. This is the reason I believe they are treated as a throw away garden plant. Stop throwing them away!!

I am saddened every fall when I see piles of these wonderful plants at the dump. My grandfather would be too. It is so easy to keep them over the winter. Zonal, scented and ivy geraniums are the best suited to winter storing. The regals ('Martha Washington', etc.) need special care and cool temperatures to bloom. Regals are best if kept in their pots in a cool room for the winter.
To store garden geraniums over the winter you need to dig them up before the first frost. Shake all of the soil away from the roots. Now you have a couple of choices. First choice is to cut the stems down to about 3 inches. Place them upside down in a paper bag and hang from the ceiling somewhere cool and dry and dark. Second choice is to hang the entire plant somewhere cool and dry and dark. Ideally in the 45 to mid 50'sF range.

Check them once a month to make sure the stems are not getting too shriveled. If they seem to be, then take them out of their bags and soak the roots in warmish water for 1 hour. In March, remove all of the dead branches from the ones you hung up whole and pot them up. The ones you pre-trimmed should be showing signs of growth.

My Grandfather always hung the entire plant and I still do to this day. Right about now they are starting to grow new shoots. Those of you living in newer homes with heated basements might have a problem here. If you're lucky enough to have a root cellar that will work too. Crawlspace maybe? As long as the temperature is right.

I know people who plant 30 or 40 geraniums every year. Every fall they throw them all away. Such a waste. With this method of storing them through the winter you could have them for years. This fall, before a frost hits, dig up your geraniums and give it a try. It is so easy and so rewarding. Grandfathers always know best.

Thank you to Happenstance, Kell, kniphofia, mystic and philomel for their wonderful photo additions in Plant Files.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 8, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.) 



Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Briggs Ave Community Garden Gift

The Briggs Ave Community Garden is located on South Briggs Ave in Durham. It is a program developed by the NC Cooperative Extension Service - Durham County on land donated to NC State University through the NC Agricultural Foundation. The Community Garden is currently a quarter acre in size and there are plans to double its size over the next year. The community garden is a part of the first phase in the Briggs Ave Garden Master Plan. The total property encompasses 45 acres, with future plans for walking trails, a home demonstration garden, children's garden, and an outdoor education center.

The Durham Council of Garden Clubs has donated $2000 to the Briggs Ave project.
Several of the garden clubs within the council are also working to support the community gardens.
Daylily Garden Club donated $600.
Hope ValleyGC & Town and Country GC $6000.
Heritage Garden Club $1000 and labor.
Grove Park maintenance and sweat equity.
Forest Hills - plants, mulch and labor.
Several other clubs have talks, gifts or work days planned for this year.

Ardith's Jottings:

Marcia Loudon Recognized

Marcia Loudon, who contributes so much to the Durham Council of Garden Clubs, the Heritage Garden Club and our State and National Garden Club, was recognized for her outstanding contribution at the Council Meeting on  Tuesday, November 1st.  A Life Membership in the National Garden Club was given to her by a grateful and appreciative Council.  Marcia does not know how to say "No" and we all benefit from her inability.  She is a  gifted computer whiz with graphics and design.  Her work is reflected is so many things we see-the Council Yearbook, all printed material for the two Heritage Flower Shows, the recent Judges Symposium, name tags for various functions, etc.  Currently, Marcia is working with the Durham Library to computerize our old Council Garden Club material to preserve it and to make it more accessible.  She puts this blog online, making the site user friendly.  Design and computer help needed, she is Our Go-To Girl!

She is a tireless worker on many projects, heading up the Pointsetta Project at the VA Chapel, helping others with genealogy questions, participating in the local          Chapter of the DAR,and  serving on the State Finance Committee. Marcia is not just a chief, she is also an indian.No task is too small for her.

Marcia's interest in history lead her to head the kitchen garden project at Stagville.  During the course of her work on the garden, she discovered original varieties of plants that were used  in the garden.  She updated the garden plant book used there.  Pictures of the plants, their use and location in the garden invigorated the work, making it more accessible and user-friendly.   Marcia also developed a skit explaining how herbs were used to houseclean in 1800. Her wide-ranging interests benefit our garden club community.

Thank you, Marcia!


I am head of  Council Achievement Awards and I would like to remind you that (a) the First Place Award has been increased to $50.00 so (b) please get your application to me by March 31st.  I know the Club year runs from June 15th to June 15th but you have planned your activities and projects a year in advance, you know your Club capabilities, so you can do it!  Submit that application.  My empty mailbox is waiting your application. The First Place Award is bigger than every.  A First Place Award is there for the highest scoring small, medium and large club.  Get that Award.

Things to Do:

The 9th District Board Meeting was held recently in revitalized Mebane.  If you did not attend the meeting but heard all the accolades about it and the town, now is your chance to see what they were talking about.  The Mebane Historical Society is offering Harvest Home Tour, Sunday, November 13th.  Historically significant homes from pre-Civil War to Greek Revival, to the first home in Mebane to have running water are opening their doors for you.    Whether you are a history buff, thinking about restoring an old home or just looking for an entertaining family dayout, check out the tour and the "new" Mebane. There is lot on offer.  Garden Clubbers will especially enjoy the delightful plantings at the library and throughout downtown Mebane. Call 919-563-5054 for ticket information.

Food Related Events:

The heavy duty  cooking season is fast approaching.  Molly Stevens author of All about Roasting: a New Approach to a Classic Art will be at MacIntyre's Books Saturday, November 19 at 11 am.  Rumor has it that not only will she be discussing her new book but she is bringing something roasted to sample.

December 10th at 11am brings Lynn Rossetto Kasper of public radio's The Splendid Table to McIntyre's.  Her new book focuses on weekend cooking(or when we just want to cook for the sensory experience ) .  The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends offers not only 100 new recipes, a chapter devoted to international menus plus a trove of stories.  Come hear this member of Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and host of your favorite public radio food program.

A Family Event:

Out of town visitors, especially young family members, coming to visit in December?  Bring them to The Barn at Fearrington  to hear  nationally known Outer Banks story teller, Donald Davis Saturday, December 17th at 11 am and Sunday, December 18th at 2pm.  Davis stimulates and wraps his spell around you as he weaves his tales.  He encourages you to tell your own tales and preserve them.  The last time he came to Fearrington the response was overwhelming so the event has been moved to The Barn and is now  2 days.  No tickets are required for this Free Event but admission is on a first come, first in the door basis. Call Pete at 919-542-3030 for further information.

After you hear Donald Davis, stroll into the bookstore to see the room especially designed for children through young adults.  The range of books and gift items from the stuffed animals hanging from the tree in the middle of the room to the monster size, brightly colored chenille pipe cleaners for making animals to assorted gift items will solve your gift problems for those children on your list.  This room is a kid "freak-out"!  Everyone will enjoy seeing the Belted Galloway cows and the fainting pygmy goats.  It's a great day out in the country, no matter what your age or interest.

Table Decoration Idea:

Place a runner or piece of unusual fabric in the center of your table.  Alternate apples or pears with votive candles down the middle of the fabric.  Be certain to include red fruit.   Tuck in pieces of seeded eucalyptus. You can also use evergreens and strew mixed nuts still in their shell around and about the fruit and greenery.