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The first Saturday of the last twelve Decembers, Cadillac Garden Club has sponsored their Christmas Home Tour. For teams of members decorate four homes with fresh plant material to ‘enhance’ the homeowner’s decor. Most of the houses go all out. The tour lasts from 10 AM to 3 PM and a couple hundred people take the tour.

I find it amazing how many years have passed. I can’t even remember all the homes I’ve contributed to or the designs I’ve made. This year our house had a Scandinavian theme and our colors were red, white, green, and straw.

We set up on Friday. I painted a gourd ahead of time and the intent was to create a flower beard and hair from mums. However, no one thought I should put holes through Santa’s face, so he ended up with a floral design on the back of his head. I guess I’ll have to try the flower beard and mustache at home and see how it goes.

Santa guord

Santa guord

CHT 12 3
I also did this table design.
Saturday Bill and I toured the homes. Each was very different and each team of members created styles unique for the house’s theme. We enjoyed our tour.

I received the news in the mail this week. I passed my last flower show point scoring exam with scores of 95 and 98, so I am now a master flower show judge. I nearly gave up due to busy schedule and had decided not to attend the symposium, but two very encouraging friends urged me on. So now I never have to take that exam again. I just need to make exhibits, two a year: one in horticulture and one in design. For that requirement, I even have a display place. One of the administrative assistants at WSCC is going to let me place exhibits in her office which has a glass wall looking onto the corridor and student sitting areas in the Arts and Science Building. It is a very good spot with plenty of exposure, and she will enjoy the designs and horticulture I bring to display. Win-win. I post photos of my exhibits when I make them.

On another note, I did lose my certification in landscape design. The refreshers are always while I’m teaching. I’ll make it up sometime in the future.

Armature form design

Tuesday and Wednesday the 51st Michigan Flower Symposium was held in Kalamazoo. I dithered hadn’t planned on attending or not, remaining a flower show judge or not, but a couple emails changed my mind and I went.

David Robson from Illinois gave an informative and interesting program on ferns. I love ferns but my soil is too dry to grow them except for the wild parts of the property, too far from the house. Maidenhair and Ostrich ferns grow wild out there. An excellent speaker, David kept the audience’s attention.

Reflective design

Wednesday Charlene Mutchler, a very experienced floral design instructor, took over the program. She talked about and showed examples of the new armature form design, reflective, creative abstract, and multi-rhythmic designs. She has the symposium order the flowers and then designs from what components, vases, etc. the symposium can provide.

Multi-rhythmic design


Hopefully I passed the two point scoring exams on horticulture and floral design so this will be the last one I have to do that particular chore.

Please take a look at Cadillac Garden Club’s project — a Sound Garden. The Sound Garden is a public park surrounded by gardens, with ‘musical’ instruments, and an entertaining place for citizens and visitors to Cadillac with a view of Lake Cadillac. Plans are in place to add a toddler garden, a ‘human’ sundial, new walkways, and perhaps a gazebo. Like our Facebook page!

site for human sundial

Elizabeth Mountain and site for ‘human’ sundial.

Table Flowers

A Winter Table Arrangement

Making floral arrangements is one of my hobbies, one of the reasons I became interested in gardening. The forms, colors, textures and scents bring me such emotional pleasure. Every time I make one, I wonder why I chose this particular flower. The pictured arrangement was for a Christmas home tour, and I know I wanted a frosty winter feeling, so white roses just seemed natural.

I”m sure you have noticed how flowers are used in all our celebrations and ceremonies. We use flowers at church services, weddings and funerals. Parties, banquets and guests coming for dinner require floral centerpieces. We give congratulations with flowers. A blanket or red roses covers the derby winner, and Miss America also receives red roses when crowned. We give sympathy and condolences with flowers. Everyone receives flowers when grieving, or while in the hospital, or for celebration of a birthday, new home, new job, or retirement. Every holiday has its plant or floral association. The only ceremonies I can think of that don’t are baptisms and graduation, but perhaps that oldish custom of corsages?

Florists are correct when they say we celebrate with flowers, and they certainly encourage us to spend freely. And while many arrangements have changed to plastic or silk flowers, nothing gives such pleasure as fresh flowers; still, why flowers? The giving of flowers and their use in all our rituals comes from ancient customs, usage so lost in time its roots are forgotten. Certainly in the beginning flowers symbolized fertility, but slowly the meaning evolved to encompass much more.

That flowers were used in the most ancient of burial rites is known. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans celebrated with flowers, as did the ancient oriental cultures. Victorians codified the meaning of flowers, probably based on much earlier usages.

Everyone probably knows the rose represents love and the lily purity. These two flowers have been tied to mythology since Cleopatra slept on a rose-stuffed pillow. According to the Victorians, different colored roses told different messages. While the red rose said ‘I love you,’ the yellow rose spoke of infidelity. In today’s flower meanings, sending red and yellow roses in a mixed bouquet means ‘congratulations.’

If you want to find all the meanings, just get on the Internet and type in ‘flower meanings,’ or ‘flower language.’ Some have to have been recently devised. Who knew giving bells of Ireland meant you wished the receiver good luck? Or that a cactus plant represented giving endurance? And how did the cattail come to represent peace and prosperity? It’s all very confusing.

Flower usage changes over time. For many years white gladiolus were know as funeral flowers, now it’s the calla lily. I’ve seen calla lilies used in more weddings recently, too. Roses and carnations were traditional wedding flowers, but now anything the bride wants is used, often orchids, but occasionally even more exotic selections like bird of paradise.

If you pluck a daffodil blooming in your garden and give it to someone, it can tell of your regard, or of your unrequited love, or that individual is the only one for you. However, in mythology, Narcissus was a young man who saw his own reflection in a pool and fell so deeply in love with his image he stared at it until he turned into a flower. Narcissism is not a good quality to have and yet Narcissus is the botanical name of the wonderful daffodil genus. Send daffodils and you might be giving a mixed message.

Perhaps it’s better to just forget the language of flowers and give a bouquet of daffodils with the simple idea of bringing some springtime sun into someone’s day, or place flowers on the Christmas table to let your family or guests realize this meal is a very special occasion, so mind your manners, enjoy the company and food, and reflect upon the true beauty of the world as displayed in flowers.

Merry Christmas! (Put some flowers on the table!)

Steel horse sculpture at Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park


October 2, a beautiful sunny Sunday in October, several ladies and I completed our plans for a Tri-Refresher for Michigan Garden Clubs and District 4 in conjunction with the Central Region (7 states) Meeting. Tri-Refreshers allow garden club members to refresh their consultant credentials in Landscape Design, Garden Study, or Environmental Studies — or all three if they are master level in each. We started off a the spectacular Frederick Meijer Botanical and Sculpture Gardens on the north Beltline.

After lunch we went to the Bunker Interpretive Center at Calvin College south of the gardens. Their specialty is green building and using native plants to landscape. Great learning center, and the restrooms had composting toilets! (I didn’t take a photo of those!)

Tropical Atrium at Frederick Meijer Gardens

Cactus Atrium at Frederick Meijer Gardens

Native plants landscape the front of the Bunker Intrepretive Center.

I was at the tri-refresher in Grand Rapids Sunday updating my garden study consultant credentials with NGC, Inc. The event was held in conjunction with the NGC’s Central Region Meeting. Designers from across the state had designs in honor of the states attending lined the corridors of the Plaza Hotel. One was done by Marge McGoff, a floral designer from Northern Michigan.

Honoring Iowa

A week ago, Cadillac Garden Club hosted the District V spring meeting(click to see photos) for Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. at the Kettunen Center. The facilities were wonderful and their help prepared a delicious lunch. I received a certificate from the state president for being her parliamentarian, plus a jar of her homemade hot fudge sundae topping. (Yum! I reluctantly shared it.) Dee Blair gave a program on her garden in Traverse City, which I’ve seen and is a wonderful garden to tour–very innovation and yet perfect for the Victorian house it surrounds. Morning Glory’s, my other garden club, helped by doing one of the workshops. This was a nature walk to gaze upon wildflowers. Well, our wildflowers are a little behind schedule because of all all cold weather. The authority on the wildflowers took our group on a walk the Friday before so we could identify the flowers and know where they were, but when I guided my group, I misguided them. We were on the wrong path. The only saving grace from my muddle was the group saw a scarlet tanager, and the walk was good exercise in a beautiful wooded area. Great day.

nature walk

Oh Lord! What wildflower did she say to look for here?


Photograph by Jim Higgins.

I gave a program to the Sweetwater Evening GC last week on small and miniature designs. Small designs must be no greater than 8″ in width, depth, height and in scale so they look very much like a full sized design. Miniatures are under 5″ in any dimension. I had an enjoyable time and hope the SWGC members did, too. Afterward, they judged the nine designs for flower show awards.

Here are some of my designs.

table design

Tea on the veranda -- a table design


vignette design

A corner of the garden -- a vignette miniature


small collage design

An abstract collage (small design)


framed spatial miniature design

Framed spatial miniature design

At the recent judge’s symposium in Ann Arbor the instructors were great.

Horticulture instructor lectured about Heuchera and Moon Gardens, both interesting subjects. I came home with a strong desire to find better spots for my poor, struggling coral bells, and explore the internet for Heuchera capable of growing in my area. Most seem to be very cold tolerant, and like sharp drainage, so I should be able to find some great cultivars.

Symposium design June 2010

Symposium design June 2010

Instructor's design

Our design instructor talked about texture and form in design. Her designs were all wonderful, as were the practice point scoring designs. Now, if I passed the two point scoring exams, I’ll remain a flower show judge in good standing.

Meeting friends who are flower show judges from around the state is the added benefit to attending symposiums and workshops, as well as getting to know others in our group better.

Practice Point Scoring Design


Practice Point Scoring Design

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