Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Italian Feast and Cooking with Herbs

 October 2014

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at the home of Carla Snider in Imlac. Guests and members were treated to hors d’oeuvres with an Italian twist like bruschetta, garlic bread, and antipasto.

Carla was assisted in her “Italian Feast” by friends Mary Beth Tsoukalis who did the antipasto, Italian leafy salad, chicken Florentine, penne salad, and limoncello; Carla added an entrée of lasagna; Phyllis Daniel made the decorations, rum cake, lemon ricotta cookies and garlic bread; and Patti Acheson brought the cannoli. Each place setting had a card with a map of Italy and the luncheon menu that Carla’s daughter Anne created. The table decorations were carved loaves of bread that held flowers.

Guests of honor, Walter and Chris Citterio, praised the delicious meal and enjoyed the club’s camaraderie. Walter, who grew up in Northern Italy, is a chef renowned for his simple, healthy, and incredibly delicious recipes. His program on cooking with herbs was filled with tips by a true connoisseur who both grows his produce, cooks, and enjoys fine food.

Citterio began by explaining how important a garden is to Italian families. There are always flowers for the house and for the cemetery. Italian cemeteries are colorful and blooming with fresh flowers year around.

Citterio explained there are eighteen regions of Italy and every region differs so that favored herbs in Rome are not the favored ones in his boyhood home of Como. Italy’s history is one of invasion and the Mediterranean cuisine was influenced by invaders with the southern portion having Arab influences and the northern areas more French flavors.

The basic six herbs used most often are parsley, basil, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Citterio uses rosemary to flavor the oil.  When he roasts meat, he puts the stripped rosemary leaves in the oil and then takes them out after they have flavored the oil. He cooks the meat and then adds rosemary again at the end. Too browned or overcooked herbs can ruin flavor instead of enhance it.

He recommends bay leaves for stews, a good chicken broth, and cooking venison.  Bay is strong and can easily overpower food and you want its delicate flavor. Citterio recommends a marinade of sage, bay, and thyme for a good venison loin.

The two thymes, the common and lemon varieties, add flavor to foods. Citterio recommends using lemon thyme in seafood recipes. Parsley is also a favorite with seafood. He roasts a large fish with garlic and parsley and uses the two ingredients with shrimp and clam sauces.

Citterio explained that shrimp scampi is an American invention.  “Shrimp is shrimp, and scampi is scampi,” he said. Scampi is a baby lobster-important to know if ordering a meal in Europe.

Small basil leaves he uses for pesto. He processes and freezes them in ice cube trays then pops them in freezer bags to have when the growing season precludes fresh leaves.

Citterio uses tarragon in béarnaise sauces, as a dry rub for chicken, and chopped fresh into salads. Dill is stripped with the fingers because cutting it with a knife makes the herb dark. Citterio displayed beautiful, fresh, healthy herbs from his garden as he discussed how he uses them in his meals. Chives he uses in fish and soup stock, potato salad, and chopped to finish a dish. He reminded cooks never to use oregano in the cooking process-it is always added at the end or sprinkled on salads and bruschetta.

Many Italian dishes begin with a basic tomato sauce and Citterio shared his: crushed garlic is added to olive oil, then basil is added and then Citterio puts the lid on and lets the ingredients sizzle.  He adds the tomatoes and salt and pepper and simmers it.

Nutritious leafy vegetables he highly recommends are dandelions which he boils or steams and adds oil and lemon juice before serving; spinach, endive, kale and broccoli rabe. He often steams the broccoli rabe with pine nuts, raisins, and serves with pasta. His goal is to always maintain the natural flavor and keep dishes simple.

Garden club members inquired how he grew such green, perfect, and leafy herbs, and he explained he had no extraordinary tips.  He made his garden in what was his bocce field because he had no one to play bocce with. To fend off insects he uses soapy water.

The delicious meal served at Carla’s Italian Feast plus Citterio’s inspiring talk on cooking with herbs made for a perfectly delightful club meeting.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Plantings of Pansies

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in the Fellowship Hall of the Greenville United Methodist Church on Court Square. Toots Hobson and Jane Morrison hosted the meeting and greeted members and guests with a delicious afternoon tea featuring fresh fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies and chocolates.


While members enjoyed the refreshments and chatting, several interesting announcements and news items were related. The club’s October and November meetings have been confirmed: the Thursday, October 30th meeting will be at 11:30 at Carla Snider’s and will be an Italian feast with the emphasis on cooking with herbs. Walter Citterio will be the speaker. Monday, November 3rd, 5:30-6:30, the club will join the Elms and Roses Council of Garden Clubs on the rooftop at Del'Avant for wine and cheese then the lecture at 6:30 by Staci Catron, Director of the Cherokee Garden Club Library in Atlanta and expert in landscape and garden history. Catron will present a program on important Georgia gardens which are rarely open to the public.  Tickets are $10.


Gail Coffee reported to the club that she had adopted out fourteen cats this past summer from the animal shelter but that recently fourteen more had been admitted. Back to square one, she said. She also reminded everyone that the Chamber’s Business after Hours will meet on November 5th at the shelter from 5:30 to 7, and she requested any garden club members attending to please help with refreshments.


Three garden club members (Carla Snider, Helen Claussen, and Gail Coffee) attended the Keep America Beautiful workshop and training.  They learned how to assess the litter problem, work with the schools, teach awareness of the litter problem, and make behavioral changes.


Meriwether is one of the state’s largest counties and our state has the most KAM affiliates (77) in the nation. The garden club had donated $100 to keep the America Beautiful program whose training session cost approximately $3,000 to hold in our county. The group learned the best methods of positive reinforcement that will make the changes and learned ways to raise the public’s awareness and conscience of the problem.


Trey Gafnea, our full time extension agent in Meriwether, introduced himself noting that his animal science degree from Berry and experience on ranches and with beef cattle did not make him the perfect flower expert, but he researched fall flowers and presented a delightful program on pansies.


Beginning with our new classification as 7b, Gafnea and the club heartily discussed climate change or as Gafnea called it “the variable patterns” that research is showing clearly are happening.


Pansies are best planted when the soil temperatures are 45-65 degrees which is usually October 1-15. Buy pansy flats with plants that have good dark green leaves, not leggy, and abundant white fibrous roots. The best performing beds are raised six to ten inches above ground level. Gafnea warned against using old mulch as it uses up nitrogen in the decomposing process.


Pansies love organic material but not more than 25% of the bed should be organic. He recommended adding three inches of soil above the twelve inch raised bed. Soil samples were recommended as pansies like slightly acidic soil-5.4 to 5.8. Pre emergences are encouraged if the bed has a history of weeds.15-2-20 fertilizer is recommended every two weeks through the winter with no fertilizer spread during September, April or May when it is warm.  


Pansies are hearty through cold weather down to 25 degrees, and if the cold spell lasts a long time, a two to four inch topping of pine straw helps. Remove frost damaged flowers and any diseased plants through the winter.


With Gafnea’s expertise there, the club members discussed a myriad of problems from armadillos to army worms. He explained the invasion by army worms and how they migrate from Florida in moth swarms and usually get to us in July. They are green and brown 1 ½ inch caterpillars that eat grass leaving only a stem. Sevin dust will take care of the currently invading black oak worm that is part of the tent caterpillars in hardwoods. Coral snakes have been spotted in southeast Meriwether County.


The knee slapping story of the meeting was told by Helen Claussen who, like most gardeners, has been at war with armadillos.  She thought she had killed one and bagged it up to dispose of it.  As she was driving, the bag started moving and as she drove keeping one eye on the bag in the floorboard, the bag opens and the armadillo climbs out and up onto her lap! She stopped her car, opened the door and released the pest.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Pine Needle Baskets and Drying Hydrangeas

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Tuesday the 19th of August, 2014 at the home of Patti Acheson in Woodbury.  Ellen McEwen cohosted with Patti. Neighbors or the “Imlac Crew” made up of Phyllis Daniel, Mary Beth Tsoukalis, and Carla Snider, all contributed to the delicious brunch served with shrimp and grits, egg and vegetable casserole, coffee cake, zucchini, squares, fresh fruit garnished with mint and feta, orange yeast rolls, and much more.

Club members enjoyed touring the Acheson home because Patti and her husband A.J. have made much of the furniture and décor themselves. Both have a professionals’ eye and touch. Patti has recently turned her talents to creating a stunning garden which surrounds the new swimming pool and also she has refitted an old camper.  Acheson is part of a group that goes “glamping.” Glamourous camping as the ladies and their campers, eighty plus meet this weekend at Stone Mountain and will enjoy shopping, wine and cheese tasting, and chatting-definitely not the rugged outdoor experience.  The camper has been painted, refitted and upholstered in delightful fabrics.  A miniature crystal chandelier hangs over the bed! The fifth wheel is encased in a box that has been painted to look like an earlier period trunk.  Creative and clever touches in every nook made the Acheson home, garden, and camper a fun and inspiring adventure for the garden club.

In club business Marylyn Carter told the club about entering the flower show last May that was a fundraiser for the art museum in LaGrange. The Downton Abbey theme was furthered by member Jane Morrison who was asked to bring her ancestor’s crocheted handbag, hats, and umbrellas.

Linda Wilburn reported to the club on the state of the Streetscapes in the county seat noting that it took four years to do Phase 1 and she thought this phase would go faster-but no.  The bids are due in September and will be awarded in October and construction will begin immediately.

Helen Claussen reported on the 34 lots that are covenant recorded properties around the airport that she hopes will be developed.  The county owns the land and the lots would make a good fly in community.

Carla Snider reported on the Keep Meriwether Beautiful workshop coming up September 9th from 1-5 at the Commissioners’ Building.  This is training for those who want to see something done about the litter problem in our county.  Many club members plan to be part of this and take the program into the schools and communities to implement.

Linda Wilburn also passed out flyers with information about purchasing a poster or posters of our seven cities. The poster collages currently are on display at the Court Square Café and have received rave reviews. The café and art gallery in Greenville, café in Woodbury, and Refreshingly Country shop in Warm Springs are all part of the Southern Loop now which goes from Fairburn to Warm Springs, LaGrange to Tyrone in its appeal to tourists who want to see the towns that Sherman missed!

Ellen McEwen introduced her dear friend and Cotton Pickin’ Fair exhibitor of approximately thirty five years Patricia Hendricks of Woodland. Patricia, McEwen said, has a beautiful home and garden, was married to the late Dr. Hendricks, a state veterinarian. Hendricks explained she began her hobby of making pine needle baskets when “the empty nest” occurred in her home. She praised her mentor and teacher Mrs. Corley and she has taken classes in North Carolina and Charleston to further educate herself and see how others make the baskets.

Hendricks praised Johnny Walker of Gay who has a long leaf pine and saves her the needles shed every year. Hendricks begins by washing the needles with warm soapy water and drying them. She uses RIT dye to color them saying she had tried natural dyes but they don’t last as well. She uses loblolly needles for smaller baskets and the miniature pieces.

Hendricks does not work from a pattern but visualizes her creation much like a potter with clay. She uses very strong waxed linen thread to sew the needles together.  Club members were amazed at her precise stitches that themselves make a pretty pattern in each piece both on the outside and inside of the work. She starts every piece with six needle leaves sometimes attached to a walnut and builds out from there. She displayed a variety of baskets, a lovely hat, and trays she had made. The baskets each take numerous hours to create.

A second hobby is drying hydrangeas. Club members appreciated that she grew such beautiful large blossoms! Limelight and Snowflake hydrangeas are two especially good varieties for this. She mulches with chipped composted limbs and fertilizes with 10-10-10 in the spring. She adds aluminum sulfate to keep the flowers blue and purple.

Picking at the correct time is the key to drying hydrangeas and she does this in late July and August as the color starts fading from the blossom. She has a log house where she hangs the blooms from the rafters, and they are dry in a few days. She colors some with RIT dye and boiling water.  She dips until she gets the desired color and them dries them by simply hanging them on a clothesline. Fabric softener in water is sometimes sprayed on the bloom to soften it for arranging.

The garden club will next meet in September at Greenville United Methodist Church to hear our Extension Agent Trey Gafnea discuss gardening problems and the checklist to do in the fall and to prepare for winter.




Monday, July 14, 2014

Daylilies in Woodland

The Merry Weather Garden Club met in Woodland on Thursday, July 10th, 2014. Hosting the meeting were Marilyn Austen Carter and Lynda Woodall.

The ladies met at Larkspur Antiques and were disappointed to find the antique store inaccessible for shopping but toured the garden behind the store that was cultivated by Baker Hendricks who won several awards for his daylilies which he propagated and named.  Today the store and property are owned by Larry Lees and greatly appreciated by local plant enthusiasts.

The program was on daylilies or hemerocallis, plants not native to Georgia (from Asia) but perfect for our climate and soil. Named in the top ten of the one hundred best plants, lilies thrive in our Georgia clay. The name means beauty and day as the blooms last just one day. Easy to grow, daylilies reproduce and make clumps that need dividing every three or four years.

The program, given by former Merry Weather Garden Club President Mary Anne Rasmussen, covered digging and dividing the fans, planting, and cultivating. July or just after the lily blooms is the best time to dig and divide the fans, separate each, and replant. Most growers complain that this time of year lilies look awful as the greenery dies.  Frequent grooming of the yellowed and brown leaves rids that neglected look. Rasmussen says she plants her lilies with other plants like black eyed Susan, shrub roses, penstamen, and thyme so there is plenty of interest in the flower bed.

Lilies like full sun, lots of water, fertilizer the first week of March and October, and thrive when they are cut back in winter. The goals of lily growers are, depending on the variety, produce plants that have four to six blooms, double blooms, and blooms with unique colors or details like frothy lace edges.

Most lilies are diploids with a double set of chromosomes (22), but the prized tetraploid lilies or tets have more genetic material (44 chromosomes) which gives daylily breeders or hybridizers more chances for dramatic advances.

After the program at Larkspur, the garden club members retired to tour the home and garden of Marilyn Austen Carter. Marilyn had decorated the tables with centerpieces containing twenty two plants from her garden. Club members were asked to identify them and prizes, a bouquet of sunflowers, were awarded to Mary Anne Harman and Joan Allen who correctly recognized the most.

In upcoming garden club events: the next meeting in August will be hosted by Ellen McEwen and Patti Acheson. The Meriwether club has been invited attend the Elms and Roses fundraising event in October on the rooftop at Del’Avant.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Salad Soiree


The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, June 12th, 2014 at the home of Sallie Mabon.  Co-hosting with Mabon were Helen Claussen, Diana Norris, and Mary Anne Harman.

Members met on the Mabon’s deck overlooking their garden water feature and enjoyed chatting during a social hour and getting to meet guests Ute Whatley, of German background and who is Toots Hobson’s new neighbor; Brenda Fernander, guest of Linda Wilburn, who is the new resident in Greenville in the house beside the Methodist Church; and also Shae Rossetti, the eldest granddaughter of Sherry Carothers.

Because Greenville has enjoyed four very special weddings this summer that have involved many garden club members, Sallie Mabon presented a program about the historical use of flowers in weddings plus some fun wedding trivia.

Most garden club members married in the time period when a wedding was a simple church affair and the reception meant a cake, mints, nuts, and punch in the church fellowship hall. Today, Mabon said the average wedding costs $29,700 and annually $72 billion is spent on the event. Encouraging to note, forty percent of married couples paid for their weddings themselves.

 The amount spent on flowers, corsages, and bouquets run minimally at $700. Flower prices vary according to the varieties chosen, the time of year, and if they are locally grown. The most requested flower is the rose followed by tulips, calla lilies, lily of the valley, hydrangea, peonies, ranunculus, stephanotis, sweet pea, and gardenia. Overall, the most expensive flower is the orchid.

Wedding trivia questions were fun with members learning that wedding dress costs at the low end run $200 and high end $2-5000. In Eastern cultures, white is the color for mourning so wedding dresses are never white but usually colorful. The veil, symbolizing youth and virginity, hid the bride from the “evil eye” and in centuries past was red, blue, or yellow with white becoming popular in the Victorian period for those wealthy enough to have a veil. The veil was also handy in arranged marriages so the groom did not see the face of his betrothed until it was too late!

The club learned there is no law requiring a woman to take her husband’s name. The wedding vow “til death do us part” was not part of a slaves’ wedding vow because ownership allowed the couples to be split apart and sold. Mabon explained the tradition of “jumping the broom” which was like the earlier Roman groom carrying the bride across the threshold to signify they were married. In the 1500s, the Council of Trent proclaimed marriage a sacrament of the church.

In club news and business, Carla Snider reported on the Keep America Beautiful meetings.  The club voted to donate $100 to our local county litter campaign led by Jane Fryer.

Linda Wilburn gave a report on the status of the streetscapes and the process of getting the design approved which has taken much longer than anticipated. Wilburn also arranges for the landscaper to cut, maintain, and pick up the litter on the islands around court square and the club contributed $250 to that effort. Yearly costs total $700 so more donations are needed to keep our county seat beautiful.

Gail Coffee reported on the Animal Shelter as needing a good weeding and trimming as well as more shade for the dog runs. Trustee help is not available like it used to be so members of the club volunteered their help and to purchase shade trees for the site

The next garden club meeting will be July 10th with Marilyn Austin and Lynda Woodall hosting.  The club will meet at Larkspur Antiques in Woodland and tour the day lilies there.

The club members enjoyed a delicious salad luncheon with each bringing a different type of salad with the menu varying from fresh greens to congealed salads to stuffed shells.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Blumenpfluckenzeit-Turnipseed Farm

The Merry Weather Garden Club enjoyed a real treat touring Turnipseed Farm in Fayetteville on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.  Gail Coffee hosted the program and was delightful as she shared memories of when she was younger and slipped into Turnipseed and enjoyed the garden oasis that is located alongside one of the state busiest thoroughfares.

The garden club was met by Steve Stinchcomb, owner and artist, whose grandfather, named Turnipseed, acquired the land and farmed it after World War II. Many club members remembered when there was nothing but a dirt road leading out of Fayetteville and Turnipseed farm produced vegetables for the local stores. Many remembered the acres of day lilies as the farm later changed produce directions.

Ten acres are left of the original farm and in 1979 the farm changed to flowers from garden produce. Stinchcomb pointed out the first tree he planted, a gingko, which provides shade around the lake. He planted Japanese maples but early on was remembered as the first to have irrigation with people stopping by to view the sprinklers.

Today the lake is surrounded by trees, bald cypress, dogwoods plus shrubs because now Stinchcomb says his goal is to “work in the shade!”

As Fayetteville traffic worsened his next project was to build a four foot berm along the highway that he topped with a wooden fence and climbing greenery.  Secret doors to the highway have a secondary purpose.  High school graduates line up to have photographs taken in the scenic garden and Stinchcomb had placed a 2014 on the doorway for that year’s graduates’ photographs.

Stinchcomb pointed out the three tenets of garden design: start with the structure-buildings and paths; then plan the foliage-trees and shrubs; and last, add the flowers. Club members wandered the gardens enjoying arbors, paths, trellises, birdhouses, bat house, pigeon house before arriving at the potting shed, art studio, and greenhouses. Two swans were nesting on a four foot pine needle mound that was scenically surrounded by blooming oak leaf hydrangeas.

Down footed paths were beds of false indigo, or baptesia, silver bells, spirea, bottle brush buckeye, mountain laurel, iron weed, Joe Pie weed, euphorbia, yellowwood trees, all interspersed with thousands of played out spring bulbs.   Peonies, salvia, native azaleas, zinnias, and cosmos added color to the beds of New Dawn, Zephyr, and WC  or Van Fleet roses.

One area at his property edge contained invasive bamboo which he pointed out is two of the five varieties of the over 500 varieties of bamboo the pandas can eat.  He sells the bamboo to the zoo.

The club thoroughly enjoyed seeing his paintings in the studio.  He does many portraits-never working from a photograph but with the live model. He also paints birddogs in action and attends trials for their owners. His scenic garden is used by many for photography with maternity pictures the current top popular choice followed by graduation and family pictures.

The ladies adjourned to the nearby Broadway Diner for lunch and a special Mother’s Day game where they brought pictures of their mothers and members matched them to their daughters.  A fun game that brought back nice reflected memories.

In club business, the club will again donate several hundred dollars for maintenance of the islands around court square. Coffee asked that the club to be on the lookout for a quick growing shade tree(s) for the animal shelter as the myrtles planted there were mowed down and the summer sun and heat preclude the dogs having time outside without some shade. The June meeting will be hosted by Sallie Mabon, Helen Claussen, Diana Norris, and Mary Anne Harman.





Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Concord's Lunch and Learn

The Merry Weather Garden Club joined the crowd at the Concord Garden Club’s Lunch and Learn on Thursday, April 17th. Always a popular event, the program draws a crowd that grows larger every year.  

The old Strickland General Store is a perfect venue accommodating the many tables for the attendees and their sack lunches or purchases from the Concord Café, and the store has space for the vendors ranging from garden artists to jewelers to plant growers.

The “learn” segment of the meeting featured Sharon McGukin, florist, who was named by Floral Management Magazine as one of the Top Ten Floral Rock Stars. She is the past-President of the American Institute of Floral Designers and is a member of the prestigious Smithers-Oasis Design Directors Team. Her forty years as a floral designer has taken her to almost every state in the US and abroad many times.

After her presentation where she designed over a dozen arrangements in about as many minutes, she was available to sign her new book: Flowers of the Heart which features decorating with flowers for weddings. Flowers set the mood and tone of an event and her book covers weddings in each of the four seasons along with tips for planning a wedding and of course incorporating flowers.

McGukin’s programs are called ‘edu-tainment’ and by demonstrating fast, easy, design tips and techniques she “takes the fear out of flowers.” The Concord club provided her buckets and baskets of flowers from members’ gardens and a variety of container types. She emphasized expanding your space as she used traditional containers and seasonal flowers. New trends and techniques, like adding wool to an arrangement, to design shortcuts and ways to budget the floral necessities for an event were part of her presentation.

McGukin videos and tips can be seen on her Facebook page and she has many UTube videos available that demonstrate working with difficult flower varieties and unusual containers. Her fresh modern innovative approach to design made for a delightful day for Merry Weather Garden Club members who secured the front row tables at the program.

The garden club has many activities going on this April after the Concord event: the Atlanta flower show is April 25-27 in Buckhead, Antiques in the Garden will be at Petals from the Past in Jemison, Alabama April 26th, and Art in Bloom is in LaGrange May 1st.