A Fall Fete & Fundraiser

This past week we were busy prepping, cleaning and prettying for a fall fundraiser we hosted in support of our local park.  I was very fortunate to have many many helping hands so the setup and cleanup were a breeze.  The best part about that was I was able to spend more time putting some lipstick on this late summer yard.

When I volunteered to host an outdoor party in February, I was clearly forgetting what late September looks like in the garden – burned out grass, crunchy plants and dead flowers in pots.  In our country house late summer was quite charming but I had a couple of planting years under my belt there and established grass.  Not here.

So, I had to do a bit of finessing and faking and hiding but it all turned out well and we raised record money which is really what matters!

img_0608This is the back door and as you can see the porch is in rough shape.  Some mums and ferns helped soften the area.  The allium in the pots is well past its prime but I find the dried flower globes so charming.

This is the same courtyard area and here are the window boxes – planted!  I dropped in a mum, coreopsis, creeping jenny, cabbage and euonymous at the 11th hour.



Some mums to brighten up a dark seating spot.  This was the path to the party so it had to look just as festive.


We strung little fairy lights around these willows and put them into most of the garden pots.  It was really magical.img_0530

Hard to see but little fairy lights are mixed in with the flowers at the base of our apple trees.img_0614

And, these were strung as well.  These gardenias were a last-minute act of desperation.  One of the topiaries in these pots died 3 days before the party, so I had to do some moving around.  Let’s just say they looked better at night with their little fairy lights on.  I bought moss at the craft shop because the petunias were spent and I actually really like the look – simple and green.  Easy!img_0615

Okay, so onto the party setup.  I was too busy to take during and after pictures but here are some befores. And, fortunately our talented neighbor/photographer took some of the party after dark.

We set up the tables in the lower yard and the caterer used the corner space down there to set up her L table.  Guests didn’t have to take plates up and down the stairs which was a concern of mine.  We did set the wine table up in the upper yard by the grove of trees to entice people to look at the art that was displayed in that area.  Artists associated with Brandywine Plein Air spent the day at the local park painting different scenes.  Most of the pieces sold and all the artists sold at least one piece – a good night!

If you look carefully at the tabletop below you can see one osage orange – ONE.  They are my standby pot and bowl fillers for fall and when I took the kids on our annual hunt a smidge earlier than usual, we learned that only the very rotted oranges had fallen.  That is when the Plan B took effect – store bought moss.49643421851__2bdf0493-aebb-467c-9fdc-6fc534647152

The night before my husband went on a tear and decided to make a top for one of the urns.  The other one is a firepit.  The stain color leaves some to be desired but it did the job and a little grey stain wash will soften that right up.  It worked out well for some of our older party goers who did not want to attempt the stairs.  We had seating for 20 on the patio for that purpose and all those seats were taken.  49643420808__f369ebd0-5244-4602-bf0e-02e5fe0d90dc

A neighbor made and donated the centerpieces.  We were all so so grateful as quite honestly the tables would have likely held hurricanes with candles and a little bit of cut boxwood.  Night and day!

A closer look.  And, we are going on day 4 and they still look so fresh.img_0618

All pictures below credited to Jim Salvas.

A collection of the artists' work.  Each one spent the day painting the rededicated fountain at our local park.
A collection of the artists’ work. Each one spent the day painting the rededicated fountain at our local park.

Now off to go put my feet up and read Danielle Rollins’ book Soiree Entertaining with Style.

Black and White and Indecisiveness All Over

The next two bigger projects we hope to tackle this fall are painting the exterior of the house and restoring the lab.  I am probably most excited about the exterior makeover.  I was able to get a taste of what’s to come during our porch project when the brick wall received its white primer.  So much better!  And, poof! the too-thick grout lines are gone!

The grout thickness drives me batty!  Too much grout.

Would I paint this brick?  NEVER.


Or this?


Wouldn’t touch it.

But, this brick?



And, here’s a preview of the after.  This porch wall was formerly an exterior wall – much better.IMG_2229-2

Exterior paint is a commitment.  It is scary, especially over virgin brick.  I try not to overthink it  – I only tried one color on our Chadds Ford house and it was perfect.  I had to do a bit more work to get our rancher’s color firmed up but 4 paint samples and a day’s light observation did the trick.

via Things that Inspire
Urban Building Group

Right now I am wavering between a classic, creamy white paint with black shutters like the above or a cream/grayish green combination like the below.


And, a gratuitous shot of some cut Limelights.  This particular hydrangea tree has survived three moves and three different microclimates.  The flowers are the prettiest they have been in two seasons.  Fortunately there are enough to clip and enjoy inside and out.img_0546

I am booking the painter soon and fingers crossed I don’t screw this one up.  I already know there will be some naysayers as people have strong feelings about painted brick.  Pressure’s on!

The Formal Garden: A Study in Green

I like a formal garden.


I find the neat edged rows, symmetry and largely tonal green palette beautiful and relaxing.

Backyard Times
Ian Thwaites

Standards and topiaries are very much a part of the formal garden.

New Zealand Gardener

Recently I found several standards at our local produce store.  Some you’ve seen in my pictures already – the Gardenias.

IMG_2072 IMG_2065

I also found some Eugenia ball topiaries that have been easy peasy unlike the temperamental Gardenias above!


These dappled Willow standards ended up in our garden beds as they weren’t happy in the pots but they did look pretty while there.IMG_2425


Boxwoods are my favorite edging as while they stay low and tight, the layer above can be a bit wild and wooly.  The variegated Weigela grows like a weed and get these sprays of pink flowers.  And, as messy as its growth habit is, it still looks neat with the boxwood row keeping it in check.IMG_2446

The is the same idea.  The box edging keeps the Limelights from spilling over into the messy garden category. img_0538

The prefer a nuanced green garden over a riotous colorful garden but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a pop of color here and there.


On the Fringe

Our living room is one of my favorite rooms in the house and I really do wish I could just invest in some custom pieces as I have an image in my head of just how this room should look and function.

It would probably be a little of this  . . .

and a lot of this . . .

Sarah Bartholomew Designs

We had originally intended to start renovation work this past fall but decided to hold off which meant the temporary setup in our living room is feeling more like a permanent one.  Not good!

I decided to start hunting for inexpensive, yet high-end furniture to tie us over and so happy I did as some of my favorite pieces in my house were amazing finds at estate sales, floor sales and Craigslist.  I try to stick with the more reputable furniture makers:  Baker, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Sherrill, Kindel as I know the quality will be there in case I decide to reupholster going forward.  So far, so good.

The couch on the right, draped in a throw blanket to hide stains, is now in our basement.  Thank you, God!  The couch never meant to function as our main couch – ever.  It was bought at the Pottery Barn outlet in 2012 to stage an office as a family room two houses ago.  The cleaner white couch is now on the porch and already a welcome addition to the space.


So this weekend, we moved the beastly couch (above right) into the basement for the kids to further destroy and had two love seats delivered.  They are from an estate sale and brand new -upholstery and all.  I didn’t go see them in person which is risky but getting measurements and good pictures really only left the color and comfort as variables.  Um, kind of important but I figured at the price I got them, they had to work.  Retail I would have paid well over $2700 for each sofa.  I got the pair for far less than the price of one.  IMG_2578

Let’s talk about that bullion fringe!!!  I probably would have chosen a taped trim if I had my druthers but the fringe is sort of awesome.  It’s a pretty custom touch and picks up just the right color in the rug.

Here are some other fringed sofas.  Difficult to pick a favorite!

Meg Braff
Meg Braff

Miles Redd
Miles Redd

And, last but not least – Tory.  Tory has fringed sofas in her office, house and flagship stores.  One prettier than the next.