Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I learned in a Charlotte garden

There was so much that I didn’t say about Annie Patterson last week.
I wrote that she’s a new recruit to the Backyard Friendship Gardens program. She and others donate food they’ve grown for the nonprofit Friendship Trays meals on wheels program. More donors are needed.
I was inspired by the garden and what I learned about Patterson during my visit.
“There are two kinds of people,” Friendship Gardens Director Henry Owen said as he looked over the crops. “People who live in scarcity and people who live in abundance.”
Gardeners, Owen said, live in abundance.
It seems true when Patterson talks about her life, although abundance is not what many would see. The Camden, S.C., native was one of 12 children and lost her mother when she was 8, the year before she planted her first garden.
She finished 11th grade before coming to Charlotte and working for 28 years at an 80-unit Myers Park residence for seniors. She looked after the place and the people, she said. She’d do extra cleaning for some of the residents and other chores. Many times she wouldn’t accept anything in return, she said. That went on for years.
She decorated the building with flowers and houseplants and shared vegetables she’d grown.
She decided to buy a small house off Old Pineville Road some 20 years ago. The residents gave her a down payment – on the house and later on a car.
One man called the bank after her mortgage loan was denied. Finally, it went through.
At 79, Patterson still grows such a full garden that people drop by to see it, meet her or pick up gift baskets.
This year there were rows of peppers, okra and lima bean plants. She grew 10 rows of tomatoes and lots of eggplant, although she doesn’t care for either.
She grows them because she believes the abundance in her life comes from giving.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hummingbird Festival returns Saturday

I can't help but think about my first encounter with a curious little ruby-throated wonder when the annual Hummingbird Festival returns. It's happening from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. Saturday at Reedy Creek Park, and it’s free. Humming-birds are fond of trumpet-shaped flowers such as the beauties on the pineapple sage plant. I grow this tender perennial because the arresting scarlet color is needed in September. That’s a time when many other blooms are fading or gone. I was kneeling beside a vigorous, fully bloomed, 4-foot-tall plant a few years ago as I tried to pull up a stubborn dandelion. I heard a humming sound, but it wasn’t the noise of the ticked-off carpenter bee that had been trying to scare me off. When I looked up, the hummingbird was hovering over the pineapple sage bush and watching me. Hummingbirds are curious, so it didn’t leave when I turned. It seemed amused to find a human wrestling with a weed. We stayed there for five seconds or so, eye to eye, then it took off. Seeing hummingbirds in my garden is one more reason that Salvia elegans is one of my favorite plants – a must for the herb garden. It’s just as valuable for bouquets, and you can use it for cooking and making teas. At the festival, you have a chance to see these agile migrating birds before they head south for the winter, and they rarely disappoint. Visit for information about the festival.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Make a neutral room sizzle with color

Beige and brown still have a grip in many homes.

That's even more likely if you're selling or thinking of doing so. Neutrals are … buyer-friendly.

But some of us are ready to move on.

''What has happened is that we have beiged and browned out,'' says designer Mark Abrams, co-owner of Chicago-based Port 68 and an exhibitor at the High Point Market earlier this year.

Working with a neutral color palette doesn’t mean we have to put up with dull rooms, Abrams said. Red is a powerful tool for resuscitating the bland.

''You may not want a room that's completely lipstick red,'' he said. ''One piece might give it a wow factor.''

That’s the idea behind the red Hancock Chest that Abrams designed for Port 68. ''It gives you a little sizzle,'' he said.

The room shown here also has zebra-print chairs with red cording.

The chairs bring energy into the space -- a pulse.

Of course, red is not the only color that works, but it is a trend. In his own home, Abrams has a Mandarin orange foyer outside his beige living room and rich, bronze dining room.

''It would knock you off your feet,'' he said of the bold foyer.

And for those who love the blues, turquoise is a top pick these days for a softer punch of color.