Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Autumn Gardening To-Do Checklist for Healthy, Happy, Reimagined, Sustainable Garden Glamour

 Autumn in the garden | Focused Moments

Let’s start off with THE most important element of good gardening: Soil. 

Soil is life-sustaining. 

Simply put; you cannot have a good garden without good soil.

How, you may ask, does one acquire this luxury? 

It’s easier than you may think. 

(Begin by not referring to it as “dirt!”)

Monday, November 14, 2022

How to Craft, Create & Curate a Sustainable, Holiday Tablescape

More than just a pretty table setting, I just love to delight my family and guests with a bit of fantasy with every tablescape design.

I dreamed this Tablescape to mark our own version of a “green zone” (smile) in order to bring attention to the increasing extreme weather events we’re all witnessing or experiencing, repurposing table styling accessories that I already owned ~ very sustainable (and budget friendly), while also honoring the work of a world-class atmospheric scientist luncheon guest.

A too-tall order to trick ~ And ~ to Treat? 

And what does a climate chaos chronicle and a pretty, seasonal tablescape theme share? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Elegant Autumn Cocktail Recipes That Will Warm Your Thanksgiving Menu & Spark Holiday Happy Hours

This holiday the emphasis is on great food and drink. While the food often gets the spotlight - don’t get sidetracked by all the stuffing and gravy and miss out on creating a special, holiday-themed cocktail menu.

Drink with the Season! Here are a few of my favorites, with the emphasis on using lots of autumnal  ingredients.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Mother and I Made a Super-Cute, Haunted, Holiday Insta Gingerbread House: Here's How


It wasn’t toooo long ago that the Bakery Bling team sent me two cookie house samples to trial: COZY COTTAGE and HAUNTED HIDEAWAY Designer Insta-Houses™.  That’s a brand way to describe a delightfully modern twist on what we’d describe as a gingerbread house. 

Getting our spooky on, Mother and I made the adorable, easy and fun Haunted Hideaway holiday house last week.

Here’s how it went: 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

How To Design A Spooky, Elegant Halloween Tablescape, Plus A Harvest Lunch Menu


For me, Halloween is all about celebrating the spooky season but with a bit more of a glamorous tablescape and hallway greeting than the usual gourds and orange pumpkins.  

I was looking to tell a twinkling, autumnal interpretation of a happy trick or treat holiday. 

I wanted it to be more about the art of tablescaping for this most favorite holiday.  

(Did you know that, in fact, Halloween is now only second to Christmas in terms of popularity?) 

Given that Halloween has, at its core, dressing up in costumes, it only seems apropos to “dress up the table and noteworthy home spaces with some inspired, seasonal masquerade. 

Especially when the harvest season screams out for luncheon, dinner, and cocktail parties to celebrate the abundance we enjoy and share this time of year. 

So let’s delight in dressing up.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Learn How Susan Ungaro Navigated Career and Family with Style, Humor & Networking


Learn how my special guest, Susan Ungaro, managed scandal, change, and her own family ~ while helming the Family Circle Magazine and later, the James Beard Foundation. 

Not surprisingly, I received so many delighted Comments and happy Feedback for this Ladies Who Lunch Conversations feature, calling attention to Susan’s “invigorating, inspiring, and empowering” persona. 

Susan is surely a dame who knows how to keep moving forward; hand on the tiller, while always keeping the other hand open to help others.

Susan is that rare human who manages to be like a best friend ~ very nurturing and understanding while also being a very commanding leader.

People just can’t help being drawn to her.  It’s that high likeability and accomplished manager that is a potent one-two punch.

How does she do this?

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Drink With the Seasons ~ Autumn Cocktails to Make Your Happy Hours Brim With Love, Spice & Fun


Last year about this time, I’d just completed trialing a few creations for a couple who was soon to wed and wanted some bespoke cocktails for the celebration.  

I have long advocated for eating ~ and drinking ~ with the seasons, so as author of Art of the Garnish, I couldn't wait to whip up a few drink designs based on two of the best ingredients: Fall and Love.  (Or should I say, “falling in love?!”)

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Mums the Word: NYBG Kiku Chrysanthemum Art Celebrates Japanese Royalty; Kiku Cocktail Garden-to-Glass Garnish!

 A cascading display of pink and white chrysanthemums in an ozukuri display.

Don’t you love Kiku?  It’s even fun to just say it: Kiku, Kiku, Kiku! 

Kiku is, in fact, the Japanese word for “chrysanthemum” ~ the most celebrated of all Japanese fall-flowering plants. 

For me? I so often “rescue” chrysanthemums from suburban cast-offs left on the street for pick up near our country house and guess what? They rebloom gloriously.  The variety of colors and bloom types are a perfect way to mark the season.

I also feature the blossoms as a pretty Garden-to-Glass, Kiku Cocktail Garnish! 

But for the real chrysanthemum art, running now, is The New York Botanical Garden’s unforgettable presentation of Kiku, painstakingly trained to grow in a mesmerizing variety of forms and sizes, that pays homage to hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the ephemeral beauty of flowers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Gone Fishin' ~ How to Design a Pretty & Elegant Coastal Blue & White, Fish-Themed Table Setting


At long last, the fever broke. 

It was a red-hot, sizzlin’ summer that wreaked havoc on my gardens.  

By the time relief came in September, I was already dreaming of a tablescape design that would capture the spirit of the season. 

And then, just like that, while gazing at the blue bay in front of me, I was tickled by the idiom, “Gone Fishing” ~ meaning we are taking a long break. And as Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong crooned in Gone Fishin': A way of getting away from the routine; taking time off; a vacation from the realities of life.    

I got super excited to create a tablescape with a fishing theme!


Monday, September 19, 2022

Do You Slap Your Herbs? Tips on How to Grow & Harvest Garden-to-Glass Cocktail Garnishes


If your herbs are too sassy, do you know how to slap them?  

Seriously, a good whack releases or activates the aroma in an herb. 

You can rub them and crush them and muddle them, too -- along with spices.  

The sheer emphasis on quality, garden-to-glass ingredients has elevated mixology from “merely” bar tending to the art of using homegrown, hard-to-find and hand-crafted fixings to create innovative, sophisticated cocktails, as well as artful and reimagined takes on classic cocktails.

Here I am sharing some tips, recommendations, and informed guidance from my Art of the Garnish book to help you grow, cultivate, harvest; and hopefully expand your repertoire of garden-to-glass cocktail garnishes to make your happy hours, well, happier!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

An Inspiring Guest, Marion Nestle, Debuts her Memoir, “Slow Cooked, An Unexpected Life in Politics”

 Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics (California Studies in Food and Culture Book 78) by [Marion Nestle]

Cooking is a metaphor for life. 

"Getting cooked means going through different experiences in life, and these help you evolve to become a better person” is a terrific quote I discovered on the web while writing this post. And it’s rather a delectable prelude (dare I say, amuse-bouche?!) to my post about Marion Nestle.  

The Marion Nestle was a recent guest on my Ladies Who Lunch Conversations Facebook videocast.

At that time, I preordered Marion’s long-awaited book, Slow Cooked. Now, finally, it’s getting ready to ship ~ very soon according to the tracker.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Change is Constant: Never Underestimate Mother Nature & Other Gardening Lessons I Learned

I have to thank Mother Nature that we completed our planned garden design changes during the spring’s “Silly Season” ~ long before the relentless, blistering temperatures and water shortages we’ve endured this summer.  

Remember my last post introduced my garden design plan to “do less.” Well, we shuttered the garden changes not a moment too soon. 

They say war is hell.  So is trying to garden in an extraordinary, inhospitable climate.

Still, like any great matriarch, Mother Nature teaches us many things.  Here are a few I took to heart this growing season….  

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Less is More: How I Changed a Garden to Reflect a Changing Lifestyle


"Less is more." 

The architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe may have underestimated just how spot-on his pearl of wisdom resonates with landscape architecture~garden design.

Why is it so much more work in order to get to less work?  

See, I’m referencing the Mies quote not just as the finished design but also, and particularly, with regard to the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into changing out and updating garden designs in order to get a beautiful but less maintenance and resources to support the gardens.   

Monday, July 18, 2022

How Old Glory Tablescape Design Celebrates the Stars and Stripes from Memorial Day through Flag Day & 4th of July to Labor Day


Don't you just love a summer tablescape look that stirs up your patriotic feelings while celebrating life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

What can be happier than a bold, star-studded look inspired by our iconic flag to gather around? 

Here’s how to layer in Old Glory’s Red, White, and “You”  ~ to create a season of joy when entertaining family and friends at home. 

You’ll be totally  “on-brand” with a table setting you can maintain all summer long with just a few updates. 

Here are some ideas I hope will inspire you to create a grand ol’ flag-infused table design. While freeing you up to enjoy the season’s happy times and sunshine being outdoors.

"Summertime is always the best of what might be." —Charles Bowden.

When creating your patriotic table setting, the stars and stripes of the flag are a natural starting off point. 

From there, I wanted to design a look that was both elegant and whimsical.  

This time, flowers would play the supporting role to the leading actor, the flags.

In accordance with the color theme, I could use the blue and white of my blooming hydrangeas and the red from the rose bushes. 

It’s so lovely to combine garden-fresh blossoms into your seasonal table style.

At the same time, a good tip that I suggest is to use a mix of high-quality faux flowers and real blooms.  This way you can change out the spent blooms without forfeiting the entire look.


When I discovered the hydrangea and flag placemats from Hester & Cook, I was elated!  

I just love when my design concepts are “affirmed” by other tastemakers :) 

Caspari Flags and Hydrangeas Round Paper Placemats - 12 Per Package –  Caspari

I purchased a kind of glittery, iridescent “fabric” rolls of red, white, and blue at Joanne’s Fabrics & Crafts that I used as runners. On sale, too.  (I used the same style in autumn colors last year and it worked so well.) 

The material offers a terrific nexus of glamour and casual.

I ran the blue runner first (and on the entryway table too), cut it to roll under each table end, then topped with the white color. The transparent “fabric” allows you to see through the layers of color. 

I used the lipstick-red runner positioned perpendicular on two sides of the table.

We hosted a big brunch with extended family after our annual Independance Day Fireworks party and Mother’s Birthday party. She turned 97 this year! What a firecracker she is. 

I put in the two additional table leaves in to accommodate our guests. 

This also gave me more of a decorating footprint ^:^

I added faux hydrangea along the length of the table on top of the blue and white runner, weaving in a strand of soft, sparkly, lights. 

Gold votives inserted with battery candles added to the table’s luster.

I used one of my favorite tableware plates: the blue and white Marchesa by Lenox .  

In this way, I could add many of my lovely chinoiserie pieces ~ from vases to place card holders to votives and name cards.

I also added the blue and white shell art pieces I’ve been collecting. 

To allow the plate’s blue and white design to be a key focal point of the blue and white design element, I placed the navy blue, folded linen napkins under the appetizer dish and let them hang over the place setting a bit. Like a ribbon.

I placed a flag on each place setting as the finishing touch. 

I punched up the colors with red, sparkly glass candle tumblers filled with battery-operated lights to illuminate the flags included there. 

I opted for the Italian blue with gold rims for wine glasses and the chinoiserie-like blue design on the water glasses.

The striped, seersucker-looking poppers at each setting with its ring-like flag adornment just screams summer. I love them and use the poppers for most every holiday.  I’d love them for the crowns alone! 

Seriously.  Not seriously.  Ha. It’s a terrific way to start or end a party meal. 

The poppers are filled with quizzes, games, and trinkets. The whistles were a hit in these patriotic poppers! 

I told you it was about the fun :)

Here's the fun of table popping:

Here’s the two video tours of the Stars and Stripes tablescapes ~ from June through Independence Day.

God Bless America.

I sincerely hope you enjoy your gatherings with friends and family.  

After all, as Gershwin wrote and Sam Cooke (along with many others, but he could be my fav, or maybe Ella… ) sang, 

“It’s summer and the livin’ is easy…”


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Philadelphia Flower Show Announces Over 30 Prestigious Awards Presented for Horticultural Excellence

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society shares the list of award winners at the 2022 Philadelphia Flower Show, “In Full Bloom.” Categories this year included the coveted ‘Best in Show’ award, The Governor’s Trophy, and The Philadelphia Trophy, among over 30 others presented for horticultural excellence and mastery of this year’s theme.

This year’s Flower Show featured a roster of 40 of the world’s best landscape architects and garden designers and placed special emphasis on diversity. Exhibitors varied in their interpretations of the theme, professional experience and background, gender, personal identities, and more.

Bill and I were able to visit all the entrants and experience the immersive designs. All the gardens were designed with great care and passion ~ I love the stories behind the garden designs.

The sought-after “PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup - Best in Show” award was presented to Mark Cook Landscape & Contracting LLC for its excellent representation of theme and garden design. Mark Cook, the owner of Mark Cook Landscape & Contracting, is known for his innovative designs which have won him various awards in each Philadelphia Flower Show over the last 11 years, including Best in Show in 2020 and 2017, and the Silver Trophy in 2014, 2018 and 2019.

The Silver Trophy was awarded to Susan Cohan Gardens, who created a peaceful and beautiful space meant to encourage visitors to reflect and dream, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own.” Susan’s garden was dreamy, colorful, and serene. It’s a terrific presentation of the power of plants.

The Governor’s Trophy was awarded to Refugia Design, who designed its exhibit to be alive with sights, sounds, and smells and featured native plants, sustainable materials, and innovative soundscapes. We loved the mushroom archway and the “amplified” perspective ….

The Philadelphia Trophy was awarded to Auburn University Landscape Architecture Program with “Conquer the Soil,” whose striking exhibit made use of color, depth, and perspective. I had the distinct honor to interview Abra Lee, Conquer the Soil, on my Ladies Who Lunch Conversations in February this year, and wrote a follow up blog post here on Garden Glamour. Reading this important reference to W.E.B DuBois, I recognized Abra’s contribution! Cheers to Effie Lee Newsome and her children’s nature poetry. “Mixed Shades, Much Joy.” And the gazing portholes into the garden in this presentation are brilliant. Great perspectives into plants and horticulture. And history…

The 2022 Flower Show is the second time the Show has been held outdoors in its almost 200-year history. Held at South Philadelphia’s FDR Park, “In Full Bloom” connotes good health, positive well-being, and a passion for life, and encourages all to recognize the restorative power of nature and plants, as well as the importance of mental and emotional health that contribute to a person being “In Full Bloom.”

Congratulations to all the winners! But I also truly believe that all the attendees and the real winners ~ we get to feast our eyes on these inspiring garden designs. Plus, the Flower Show offers classes, tours, and lots of food and drink.

Food and Drink and Experiences

Through a blend of culinary artistry, local flavors, and diverse cuisine, OVG360 and Brûlée Catering have joined forces with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to incorporate a wide variety of food and beverage options into the Philadelphia Flower Show experience, which will once again returned to FDR Park.

With these elevated and reimagined dining experiences, the Flower Show will bloom bigger and brighter than ever before, offering guests dining options to suit every preference and palate.

This year’s Flower Show will offers several new guest experiences, including new on-site activities and events, new family-friendly spaces, and a new show layout. The dining experience has also been revamped and the Show will feature cuisine from near and far, with an emphasis on local culinary talent. Guests can also look forward to refreshing floral-inspired cocktails, hometown Philadelphia favorites, dishes fresh off the grill, smoothies, salads, and delectable desserts.

This year, guests will be able to unwind at a Happy Hour with Fine Wine & Good Spirits, grab a bite and listen to some music at the Food Bazaar, share a casual drink and bite to eat at the Boathouse, explore a collection of dozens of notable food vendors, or enjoy an expertly prepared meal while seated in The Lakes restaurant.

For more about these unique dining experiences and to get your tickets, please visit at the 2022 Philadelphia Flower Show.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Pretty in Pink: Peonies Grace a Tablescape Designed for Peace and Love


I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s no secret that I love, love, love peonies.

They are my favorite flower. (Don’t tell the viburnum or the hydrangea, nor the casablanca lily, or…)

I grow a variety of deciduous and itoh peonies ~ Paeonia Itoh ‘Julia Rose.”

My heart does skip an extra beat for ranunculus ~ I’m even growing them this year, for the first time. We’ll see how this turns out.

I find the papery-thin, voluminous, petticoat-like blossoms of the ranunculus and the peony, similar in a romantic, seductive way that is just so heart-clutching. Turns out they are genus cousins, if you will; part of the same taxonomy family.

But the fragrance of the peony makes it the luxurious, glamour-girl of the garden.

That it is also a symbol of peace makes this beauty the perfect star of my recent tablescape. Now that the peonies have been in full-bloom in the garden, I hope this lovely table decor, brimming with peace and love, inspires you … 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Inspiring Horticulturist & Author Abra Lee, Shares Garden History Discoveries from "Conquer The Soil"

I was smitten with Abra Lee and her groundbreaking work the moment I was introduced to her. (Pun intended.)

See, Abra Lee is a horticulturist; a gardener.
Lee is also a refreshing, revolutionary kind of garden historian, speaker, and author of the soon-to-be-released book Conquer the Soil that, according to Timber Press, her publisher, “profiles 45 hidden figures of horticulture—the Black men and women whose accomplished careers in the plant world are little known or untold.”

If you’re like me, there’s nothing better than “digging in;” satiating one’s curiosity.

I love to learn and to be inspired.

Abra Lee checked all the boxes. I couldn’t wait to soak up more. A garden adventure awaited…

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

A Bee-utiful Spring Table Design: Home Entertaining Pays Homage to the Garden & Pollinators


I love the happy colors of spring; they just seem to tickle us in yellow sunshine after a dark winter. 
I believe the art of home entertaining and distinctive tablescapes are more than just “pretty.” They tell a story…

For this special tablescape design, I wanted to keep the yellow color theme, plus incorporate an environmental message to honor one of our most beloved pollinators: the bee. 
Here’s how I designed the happy, layered look. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Our Trees are Stars of Film, Poetry, & Books: Arbor Day Tree Tips to Grow Inspiring Native Trees at Your Home

 Avatar tree, Forest landscape, Avatar movie

Hands down, my favorite tree as a main character in the Avatar film is The Tree of Souls, the giant willow tree that is the Mother tree, that is the sacred soul ~ the connection to spiritual and guiding forces. 

There were also those magical floating trees. Ahhhh… 

It was pure heaven for me. And seeing it in 3-D is about as magical as it gets for a tree and nature lover like me. 

Ents are trees in Lord of the Rings. Their leader is Treebeard of Fangorn forest. They are similar to the talking trees in folklore around the world. 

In researching my homage to trees for Arbor Day this year, I learned more about The White Tree of Gondor that stood as a symbol of Gondor in the Court of the Fountain in Minas Tirith. 

There are the apple trees in The Wizard of Oz, the Whomping Willow Tree in Harry Potter and the Tree of Life in The Lion King. 

Why do trees so often inspire not only filmmakers but poets, fine artists, musicians and well, all of us? 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

What You Can Do For Earth Day to "Invest in Our Planet" and Our Healthy Future



When one is a gardener and landscape designer, as well as a passionate naturalist, everyday is Earth Day. However, marking the day April 22 as the official Earth Day, says as much about the collective, global observance as it does on an individual who is keen to “observe the interconnected relationships between plants, birds, trees & ecology so we can understand the past, present & future of our local and global environments,” as described in Nature Mentoring.

I have been following the Earth Day organization and its efforts from its early days; not long after they launched in 1970. At that time, the effort was an answer to what was termed a “Crisis of Survival.” Reportedly, ten percent of the US population marched to demonstrate the impact of industrial development!  

I thought the effort was an, ahem, natural evolution. Meaning that once folks learned how bad pollutants and environmental destruction was, the solution would be within reach.  After all, who wanted to eat contaminated food or breathe bad air or swim in fouled, poisoned waters.  We were smarter and, collectively, we’d solve this crisis. 

And yet, here we are, 52 years later. Do you think we are better off or has the crisis deepened?

This year, the global organizer announced that the theme for Earth Day 2022’s celebration is “Invest in Our Planet.”  

But what does that mean?

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Egg Art: "Egg-cellent" Ways to Dye Your Eggs Naturally ~ Plus a Devilishly Delicious Egg Recipe



If one is a dedicated foodie; moreover a bit compulsive about sustainability and keeping chemicals off your family’s ingredients menu, then coloring Easter or spring eggs should be made using homegrown, pure ingredients, not synthetic food coloring.  Some years ago, I set out to discover – or rediscover – how to color eggs with natural – plant-based dyes. Yes, the fizzie PAAS Easter Eggs is a holiday favorite or tradition.  But those pellets are rather scary. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Got You Covered! Pretty Ornamental, Native, & Evergreen Ground Cover Plants Your Garden Will Love


“Ground Cover” sounds so pedestrian. So banal. Yet, we shouldn’t “look down” upon these workhorses of good garden design. Rather, let’s think of Ground Covers as a kind of garden tapestry that adds a carpet of beautiful color, (oh the metaphors!) along with fragrance, and texture ~ all while keeping the soil in and weeds out. 

Let’s explore what are some of the best, most beautiful, easy-maintenance ground covers; many that are native which are beneficial for the pollinators, too. And you’ll see that these pretty, low-growing blooms look so fetching as cut flowers for your indoor floral design compositions. 

Here, I’ll share with you some of my favorite, go-to groundcovers that I turn to when designing for my clients and in my own gardens.  


Monday, April 4, 2022

What's Up Doc? Celebrate International Carrot Day with Vibrant Recipes, A Beloved Cartoon Legend & Happy Horticulture


I know, I know. There is a marked day for everything. Everything. But as a card-carrying fan of the sexy carrot, I couldn’t pass on this party.

“Digging” into this a wee bit (!) I learned that the April 4th celebration of my favorite vegetable was launched in 2003 as The International Carrot Day and is “the pinnacle for carrot lovers all around the world. It is the day when the carrot is celebrated through carrot parties and other carrot related festivities.” Who knew?!

I wondered, is this yet another example of my British ancestor’s satirical poke at the “art of the carrot,” a leap down the proverbial “rabbit hole,” or is it an opportunity to explore the magic of the carrot? (Never mind pulling a rabbit out of the hat!)  Oh, the irony, the humor… And when did rabbits and carrots become a pair, anyway? 

Did you know there is a Carrot Museum, albeit a virtual one. Here you can learn the history of the humble wild carrot - we’ve been crunching carrots since prehistoric times and the garden carrots since the Middle Ages. So much horticulture, folklore, nutrition and folly about my beloved vegetable. No less than Pliny the Elder suggested the carrot seed made a fine love potion… 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Women's History Month Honors Macchu Pisco CEO: Melanie Asher's Meditation on Her Mindful Distillation & Career ~ Interview with Ladies Who Lunch Conversations

Melanie da Trindade-Asher

CEO, Founder, Master Distiller, Macchu Pisco, 

Featured Guest: Ladies Who Lunch Conversations 


In retrospect, it’s rather cosmic that I met Melanie Asher at a “Star Chefs” food event in Brooklyn. There, I met a true “star” of the burgeoning cocktail culture,  who was in fact, a pioneer leading the way. I was writing for the Examiner then, covering the radical food and drink world in New York City. It was an exciting time. So many new possibilities. And opportunities…Then, as now, Melanie triumphs. Hence, I was over the moon that she agreed to be a special guest on my Ladies Who Lunch Conversations, to share her career journey (so far) and meditations on life.  Just in time for Women’s History Month, I honor Melanie and highlight her special contributions to our world. And I offer a delightful Pisco cocktail recipe to enjoy while you read ~ and watch the Conversation!