Thursday, August 25, 2016

In the Limelight

Hello! Welcome back!

Where did summer go? There is still another month left, but with the bombardment of fall catalogs and the start of school (which is earlier each year) it sure seems like summer is being pushed aside.

Well, I'm not ready for fall yet (except, maybe, for the arrival of white pumpkins!). Neither are my LIMELIGHT hydrangeas in Maine. The twenty or so shrubs, planted three years ago, have finally filled into a showstopping hedge.

The Limelights are incredibly hardy. They are in full sun and don't mind, unlike other varieties including Annabelles which droop pitifully unless constantly watered. Plus, each one has made it through Maine's harsh winters only to bloom beautifully and abundantly.

Now 5' - 6' tall, our entire L-shaped hedge is covered in blooms of summery chartreuse that brighten to soft white. And when the temps start cooling, those flowers will turn pink signaling the true arrival of fall.

So catalogs, let's not push the fall merchandise just yet - summer is too short to rush!
When I was designing this garden, I knew the area needed boundary delineation, not so much for privacy but for structure. Instead of a fence, the space called for something living, friendly and soft. Because it would be prominently located and quite long, whatever was planted had to be pretty. I decided against a dark green hedge which would have been a little stiff, formal and monochromatic. After researching low maintenance shrubs that bloom reliably during July and August (when we are at our summer home), Limelight hydrangeas seemed a great choice.

Three years later, the L-shaped hedge, which runs along the back of our home and wraps around the side, has matured beautifully. Tom and I receive numerous compliments on our summer showstopper, which, by the way, is also lovely in the fall when the flowers turn rosy pink. And, we're told the hedge looks sculptural coated in the pristine Maine snow.   
From our breakfast and family rooms, we look out to this stunning view of stately historic houses, ancient Elm trees, and the Limelights. 
In Maine, the flowers open a lime green in late July (above) and soon turn white in August (below).
The hedge ends just before the kitchen located in the addition. Other than the ornamental cherry tree, this garden outside the kitchen, screened porch, and barn was recently planted.

When Tom and I acquired our historic home, there were diseased Maples, planted too close to the house, along with spindly Firs plus endless weeds of every kind. (See the before photos at the end.) We immediately had the big trees removed. After lots of weeding, we had the five Spruces planted for vertical structure and year round greenery. We then gathered the native ferns on our property and transplanted them around the trees. 

The latest additions are the three dwarf Limelights to the left of the barn doors. Planted in May, this is their first season. So far, so good.  
From the gravel drive to the house is a short pathway of granite blocks with moss growing between. There are also Astilbes (rescued from other garden beds on our property) and annual Salvias here.
What to do with all the flowers? Enjoy them inside, too! I filled the antique iron urn in our dining room with loads of Limelights for dinner parties and cocktail events. The above flowers were cut in early August, while the ones below in mid August. Note the different colors. 
Two more arrangements: one on the family room coffee table with ferns, and the other with Gooseneck Loosestrife in a pink Hungarian pottery jug.
Speaking of Gooseneck Loosestrife, they have taken over the front garden beds. Here they are blooming along with Phlox and Astilbes - I took the photo on a foggy morning.

Gooseneck Loosestrife is attractive but invasive. We inherited them, and do remove a few here and there. But since this is a second home, I try not to fuss too much about the garden. Whatever will grow happily with minimal watering AND still look good, I tend to leave alone.

Now let's check out some before photos.
In addition to the new landscaping, we replaced the roof as well as lots of rotted wood. All the clapboard and trim were scraped, cleaned and painted.

I love sharing a dramatic transformation :)
PS - See more on my INSTAGRAM.   

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Highlights of the Castine House and Garden Tour!

It's July and that means summer in Maine! Summer in Maine means lobsters, blueberries, sailing as well as house and garden tours.

I'm thrilled to say that the 2016 Castine House & Garden Tour, sponsored by the Castine Historical Society, was a huge hit with record attendance! From the 18 featured properties including historic homes, cabins, cottages, gardens plus the lighthouse to the perfect Maine summer day, the event was fun, festive and flawless.

A big thank you to the local volunteers who greeted every visitor with a friendly smile. The docents, shuttle drivers, and many others all deserve credit for their enthusiastic teamwork in making this event such a success. There would not have been a tour without Ruth and Lynne, the Co-Chairs, who started organizing, coordinating and managing every detail beginning last summer. And, thanks to those who generously shared their homes and gardens.

Thanks of course to the many visitors who kept coming all day! I'm especially grateful to my blog, Instagram and Pinterest friends for attending - appreciate your support! Though we're social media pals, it was awesome to finally meet in person :)

Without further delay, I'll share a quick highlight of what I was able to see. Because I volunteered as a docent, I didn't get a chance to catch and photograph every property. Click on photo to enlarge.
The beautiful tour poster designed by the talented Meredithe and her team at Meri Meri.
A few photos of our home on tour day.

Look, no more power lines! Our town recently buried all the power lines on Main Street. The sidewalks, granite curbs, lamp posts and asphalt are all new. Everything was finished just in time for the big event.
Inside, a few of my myrtle topiaries in the dining room were ready to greet visitors.
A stunning summer arrangement of wild grass, garlic scapes and dogwood branches created by Nancy for our antique iron urn. I asked her to go BIG and gutsy, but keep it informal.  Everyone, Tom and I included, couldn't stop admiring it. Merci, Nancy!!

Nancy (who lives in Castine) along with her team of volunteers arranged many of the stylish floral pieces for the tour.
The tour started at 10:00 AM but people started lining up early - there was such a buzz around town!
This historic home's edited palette of white, gray and black mixed with brown antiques and a pop of gold looked so striking.
ABOVE and BELOW: This cool, contemporary style beach house originally designed by acclaimed architect Neil Middleton in the 1980s was recently renovated. It is situated among fields of wildflowers with a panoramic view of the sea. Check out that industrial dolly as a coffee table. I want it!
ABOVE: A timeless cape with clean lines, simple color scheme and classic furnishings. Several little rooms were gutted to create this large, airy living space 
There was such a diverse collection of homes and gardens featured. Each had its own unique point of view. Here we have a 1930s log cabin that oozed charm, character and personality with custom built furnishings, Maine finds plus vintage items including the collection of fabulous lobster dishes. Don't you love that massive stone fireplace? Talk about showstopper!
Many houses in Castine are white inside and out, including ours, so it was exciting to see color used beautifully here. Also, the homeowners created these artistic arrangements with fresh flowers from their own gardens.
Speaking of gardens, this one perched high on the cliff overlooking the Penobscot Bay simply took my breath away. It was designed by Maine landscape architect Bruce Riddell. Native blueberries and lush ferns along with favorite perennials and specimen trees are tucked amongst bold granite resulting in a tapestry of plantings and stonework.
From Nashville to New York, thanks to my social media friends that came to the tour - such fun meeting everyone :) Hugs to Linda and her lovely family, Catherine and her gorgeous children, Elizabeth, Billie, Wayne and Glenda. I apologize if I missed anyone. Nearly 700 people came through our home!
Lastly, Tom and I are grateful to the 11 docents, including Ellie, Sylvia and Jane (visiting from England), who volunteered at our place. You all are the best!
PS - For more photos, check out my INSTAGRAM.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Castine House And Garden Tour

There is much to see and do in seaside Castine: golfing, sailing, kayaking, hiking, biking, playing tennis, museum going, shopping, dining, and relaxing on the beach. And this time of year, when Castine's weather is picture perfect, come experience our charming town - you'll be in for a treat!

Speaking of treat, on July 13th, the Castine Historical Society (CHS) is sponsoring the 2016 Castine House and Garden Tour. The last one was back in 2010, so don't miss this special opportunity to visit 11 private homes and 4 coastal gardens that are otherwise not open to the public. I'm thrilled that our home is included.

In addition, visitors will get to tour the CHS's recently restored Ca. 1850 Samuel P. Grindle House, a Greek Revival on the Town Common. Also included are the Ca. 1763 John Perkins House and Dyce Head Lighthouse built in 1828.

From historic houses to summer cottages, 18 properties, all located within the town village, will welcome visitors from 10 am - 4 pm rain or shine. Advanced tickets and more information are available on the website.

Many thanks to Lynne and Ruth, the Co-Chairs, for organizing this event. And thanks to the many volunteers for all of their work. Tom and I are super excited to be participating. We personally invite you to attend! Please help spread the word.

Here's a sneak peek. I took most of these photos over the Memorial Day weekend when we were up to open our home.
The weather was slightly chilly over Memorial weekend, but everything was lush in that fresh shade of spring green. I gardened as much as I could; felt great to dig in the dirt again! The two boxwood shrubs flanking the granite steps were just transplanted. Though full of perennials, I felt this area needed more structure.  
I'm planning on adding a few more shrubs to the beds, particularly near the barn / garage.
Below is a photo of our house taken in 1871 - looks completely different compared to today. That's because it was originally built in the Federal style in Ca. 1804.  Architectural changes in the Victorian taste were made in the late 1800s. A third floor was added along with a mansard roof.

When you visit on July 13th, check out the other Victorian details such as the staircase railings, windows, etc., as well as the original Federal features. Feel free to ask us or the hosts and hostesses.  
This handsome residence with its distinctive hexagonal shaped cupola will also be on the tour. It's known as the Ca. 1830s Samuel Adams House.

Adams was a successful merchant with a prominent general store in downtown Castine. He was one of the founders of the Adams and Abbott Schools, both still overlooking the Town Common. 

Let's head over to the Town Common. Below is the Samuel P. Grindle House, a Greek Revival built in Ca. 1850 for Grindle, a ship carpenter. It was acquired in 2008 by the CHS, and expertly restored and renovated to provide research and small exhibition spaces, staff offices, and state of the art archival storage.  
Here is the newly decorated front parlor with furnishings, fixtures and wallpaper that are all appropriate to a house of this period - it's what the Grindles might have used during the mid 19th century. See more on July 13th.
Two photos (courtesy of the CHS) of the Grindle House. The above image is from the 1870s; below photo taken during the restoration.
In addition to the crisp white clapboards, Castine is graced with many other beautiful and unique homes. Don't miss this stunning Ca. 1890s Arts and Crafts cottage perched on the ledges of Dyces Head with breathtaking views of the sea. Behind is the lighthouse. Photo (below) courtesy of Saltmeadow Properties.
Dyce Head Lighthouse will also open to tourgoers. This is high on my list as I've never been inside.
At the John Perkins House, now a museum, visitors will step back in time to experience 18th century living in Castine's oldest standing home. Originally built on Court Street, it was moved piece by piece in 1969 to the current location overlooking the harbor.
Here is one of the featured gardens. It's on the grounds of the Ca. 1796 Parson Mason House. An allee of standard lilacs graciously leads visitors to the terraced gardens beyond.

There are many more homes and gardens to enjoy. Plus a lovely luncheon at the Manor Inn.
Now for a quick stroll around town.      
Please visit the 2016 Castine House and Garden Tour website for all the information. You can purchase your advanced ticket at a reduced rate HERE.

Hope to see you!
PS - For more, follow along on my INSTAGRAM.