Favorite Places: Mount Vernon

George Washington's Mount Vernon is a reminder of the self-sufficiency of farms of historical significance.

Did you know that Washington introduced the mule to America? Washington improved the soil at Mount Vernon by practicing crop rotation and mulching. He brought in a gardener from Scotland to manage the kitchen garden and greenhouse.

The farm and reconstructed gardens are worth a visit alone, but touring the house, outbuildings, grounds and museum for at least half a day will give you the best insight into life during Washington's time. There are trails around the grounds to the cemetery and the different areas of the farm. A restaurant and a food court are available if you want to take a break during your visit.

My husband's family has a connection with Mount Vernon through John Jacob Frobel, a musician and teacher. Frobel also had a love of growing flowers and introduced a camellia that he named after Washington's nephew, Bushrod. Visiting Mount Vernon with my husband was enhanced by his knowledge and stories that he shared with me about the Frobel connection.

The setting of Mount Vernon, in the Virginia countryside south of Alexandria is beautiful. Overlooking the Potomac River, it must have been wonderful to take in the glorious view each day.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Location: Mount Vernon, Virginia, August 2009

2009: A Year In The Garden


Southerners exhibited their normal snow behavior. But, there were many days in the garden when the light was warm and fabulous.


I gave into the temptation and ordered more annual seeds. Fortunately, I was rewarded with spring, summer and fall blooming annuals.


The weather warmed up and I was back out in the garden. With help from The Musician, we cleaned up the gardens and refreshed the grit path in the cottage garden.


The happy hummingbirds returned. By April 12, I saw the first one and captured it on camera the next day.


While the Musician and I went to Paris and Monet's Garden in Giverny, the garden here at home burst into bloom with the poppies growing over four feet high!


Fall plantings of echinacea and monarda did not disappoint in a mass planting in the cottage garden.


Mid-summer brought drought, but agastache stayed alive and bloomed so well that I continued adding more varieties in the heat of the summer.


The Monarch butterfly migration brought these beauties to my garden where they laid eggs on the asclepias and sipped nectar from blooms throughout the garden.


Common hardy mums created a big display in the cottage garden. I have also been testing one out in the deer resistant garden and have had great success with no munching of the foliage so far this fall and winter.


Annuals sown from seeds continued to reward me with autumn blooms throughout October. By then, I declared both marigolds and zinnias (Benary Giant) to be deer resistant - at least for 2008! I did a lot of rearranging to combine perennials into better companion color schemes.


My Encore® Azaleas bloomed again and continued blooming into December, brightening up the cottage garden when little else was still in bloom. I sowed annuals seeds and planted allium bulbs for the 2010 growing season; added edging to the outer gardens and cleared out old spaces for new gardens.


Torrential rains washed away seeds as well as compost and gravel that we added in the fall. I continued to collect seeds from gaillardia and echinacea. The year is ending with many days of 20°F low temperatures, hard freezes and more torrential rains and wind. Already, winter is taking a toll on the garden. I was finally able to venture out today for a stroll to check on the conditions as I've been under the weather for several weeks. There will definitely be casualties from the weather, but the majority of perennials look well and I can see tiny green sprouts of poppies, larkspur, cornflowers, nigella, echinacea and gaillardia. All-in-all, it was a good year.

2010 is a few days away and I look forward to seeing all the garden surprises next year.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; 2009

The Myth About Winter Daphne Is True

A year ago, I was so proud of my success in growing winter daphne. She started blooming in December and kept on going through February. She was gorgeous. She was fragrant. Her elegant limbs were overloaded with beautiful, pink blooms. She was only three years old.

There is a gardener's myth that says that if your winter daphne is blooming beautifully, do not tell other gardeners. Whatever you do, don't invite another gardener over to see your daphne. She will succumb to what is known as "Daphne Death."

On a beautiful day this summer, I noticed that my Daphne was her beautiful evergreen self, gently nestled beside her shady companion, sweet bay magnolia. Perfection! She was so happy. I started thinking about planting another daphne to keep her company this winter. Daphne is such an easy keeper. She doesn't want extra water or food. Daphne is evergreen and deer resistant, important attributes for my fragrance garden.

That same summer day, I got an email from an expert on gardening. It was The Grumpy Gardener (Southern Living Magazine) asking if he could come visit my deer resistant flower garden.

A few days later, I was on the phone with Grumpy as I walked around the garden telling him what would be in bloom for his upcoming visit. Then, I saw HER. I told Grumpy what was happening.

I tried to stifle my dismay, disappointment and outright pain. I didn't want to cry on the phone. Daphne was literally shriveling up before my eyes.

By the time Grumpy arrived in mid-July, poor little daphne was brown. She was dead. The myth is true.

If you decide to grow a beautiful, sweet daphne odora, please don't tell another gardener. Skip past her when you have visitors. Don't blog about her and don't post pictures of her. She wants to be ignored!

Words and photo by Freda Cameron

House Paint Colors

What's the most popular question that I receive in email from readers and forum friends? What are the paint colors on your house?

During the time that we were building our house(s), I participated on a home building forum. Selecting paint colors was a common topic.

After all these years, I continue to receive the question from forum participants who run across photos of my house... both of them!

Yes, we used the same paint colors (and stone) on two houses that we built. If a color scheme works, why change? The original color scheme came from interior designer, Peggy Jeffers, who worked with our builder.

When my husband and I married in 2002, we sold my house (that I built) and his house (that he built). We bought a 1/2 acre lot and built a Craftsman-inspired house in 2003. After living there a short time, we realized that while we loved the house, we really wanted more land. So, we bought 4.5 acres in 2004 and built the current house in 2005. Building two houses so quickly was just crazy, but we're glad we made the move. Between my husband and I, we've built a lot of houses!

The only difference is that the Craftsman-inspired house had Duron Domino (black) on the sashes and divided lights while the white was used on the framing trim. In the current house, we used the white on the window sashes and divided lights. Both houses have wood windows, so they can be painted.

The 2003 house was in the shade while the current house is in full sun with no shade, so the colors look brighter (the trim looks whiter, the siding looks more gray than gray-green).


The paint colors are a custom mix, so if you try to use these, please have a small sample made first.

Exterior House Body:

Duron Custom Product #6610511
Ultra Deluxe Exterior
100%Acrylic Latex
Deep Base

Exterior House Trim:

Sherwin Williams Exterior Architectural Latex Gloss-Extra White
2088*R Paris White* EW
Colorant 02 32 64 128
Y3 Deep Gold 5 1
N1 Raw Umber 26

Exterior House and Garden Stone:

Cultured stone, Ledgestone Chardonnay (foundation, chimney, fence columns)
Pennsylvania flagstone, Lilac Heather (porch floor, patio, walkways, paths)


Words and photos by Freda Cameron

It Takes A Lot of Makeup to Look Natural

As another birthday approaches, I've decided to refer to myself as a mid-century modern... like the 1950's furniture and architecture that is now considered hip again. I'm not exactly in denial of this aging thing, I just want to look hydrated instead of dried up!

When I look at photos of celebrities (the ones without the bright red lipstick and smokey vampire eyes), I think the ladies that look natural, look best. Of course, professional makeup artists create those looks and it is more difficult to look natural!

I've discovered that to look natural (without makeup) requires a lot of makeup! Now, that's an oxymoron.

I've done my best to work with what nature has left me - without the benefit of a professional makeup artist and a lot of expense. I won't ever look like a celebrity, but I'm okay with that. (Sorry, no photo of my face!)

Wearing makeup for a natural look is analogous to using plants to create a natural-looking garden.

Achieving a natural look in the garden can also require a lot of "makeup" in the form of plants, and perhaps rocks or water features.

For example, I love the natural meadow look created by landscape designer Piet Oudolf. However, when I researched the Lurie Garden plant list, studied photos and descriptions, I realized that it takes a lot of money to buy a lot of plants.

I won't ever have an Oudolf garden (that's my deer resistant garden photo), but I'm okay with that.

Whether admiring famous faces or famous gardens, I'll keep my sanity and embrace what I have - naturally!

Words and photo by Freda Cameron; December 2009

Betsy's Cranberry Scones

It's the holiday season, the weather is really cold and I am thinking about baking scones. Not just any scones, but those baked by my friend on one of my visits with her in California.

Once upon a time, Betsy lived here in North Carolina. I can't remember the exact year, but I think maybe 30 years have passed since we packed up her Saab and drove to California. We had a great time on the cross-country road trip and even more fun while I spent a week with her in the Bay Area. I still consider Betsy to be my best friend, even though we may go years without seeing each other in person. Thank goodness for email!

Betsy's Cranberry Scones

Makes 16 scones
Preheat oven to 400°F

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) margarine or unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

3/4 cup dried (or fresh) cranberries
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup buttermilk

  1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

  2. Add margarine/butter and beat with an electric mixer (or use pastry blender) until well blended.

  3. Stir in zest and cranberries.

  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix until blended.

  5. Gather dough into a ball and divide in half.

  6. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into a circle (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick).

  7. Cut each circle into 8 wedges.

  8. Place scones on lightly greased cookie sheet.

  9. Bake in preheated 400° F oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

  10. Serve warm or cooled.

I have also adapted this recipe to make lavender scones (in photo).

Photos and words by Freda Cameron. Recipe from Betsy Livak.

Favorite Places: Southern Italy

Blue water, cliff-hanging villages and lemon groves. These are the visual imagines that come to mind when I reminisce about the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy.

There's much more that cannot be captured in photos. The kindness and hospitality of the people in this region reminded me of our own southerners here in the United States.

My husband, one son (the archaeologist) and I spent five nights at Villa Oriana, a bed and breakfast in the hills of Sorrento. Maria and her son, Pasquale, treated us like family! It was a sad departure at the end of our stay. Maria sent us off with a tearful farewell and gifted us with lemon preserves and fresh fruit for our train ride to Rome. Her husband gave us a complimentary ride to the station. That was 2004 and we hope to someday return to our "family in Italy" as Pasquale wrote in an email after we were stateside again.

There are spectacular archaeological sights in the region as well as pleasant outings just wandering the village streets, hiking coastal trails and dining at wonderful restaurants.

We took day trips to Capri, Positano, Paestum and Pompeii - by ferry, by bus and by train. Transportation was fairly easy without a car rental, although driving the high curves of the Amalfi Coast looks like it would be a thrill for those without vertigo!

On Capri, we went to the top of the isle, then hiked downhill to visit the famous Blue Grotto. You enter the Grotto in a small boat and you MUST almost flatten yourself in the boat to avoid hitting your head, depending upon the tide level and roughness of the sea. It's a very quick trip inside, but we're glad we went. The hike provided us with a close-up look at the community and we grabbed a good lunch in Anacapri.

Positano was also reached by ferry. If you've seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, this was the seaside location for filming those romantic scenes. My husband and I visited Positano for a leisurely lunch while our son explored Sorrento.

We took a recommendation from Rick Steves and dined at the wonderful (200 steps uphill, after you've already climbed uphill) at Cucina Casareccia. We spent the entire afternoon perched up there, slowly dining on every course imaginable, sipping wine and enjoying the view.

You don't have to go to Greece to see ancient Greek temples. I've been to Athens, so I consider myself qualified to say that Paestum did not disappoint! Paestum, located south of Salerno, was founded in 600 BC. The Poseidon Temple is considered one of the best examples of preserved Doric style. This area may sound familiar, as the Allied invasion of Italy during World War II took place near Salerno in September 1943.

At the suggestion of Pasquale, we took a chartered tour, including transportation, so that we could make the most of our short visit to the ruins.

We rarely take organized tours since we prefer to strike out on our own, but this day-long excursion was worth going with the crowd. Our guide gave us quite an education on the history of Paestum.

The tour included lunch at the onsite restaurant. I mention this because REAL mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) comes from the domestic water buffaloes that we saw in the area. The soft, egg-shaped white cheese is best when it's perfectly fresh. When the mozzarella is pierced with a fork and milk runs out, then you know it's fresh!

There are several places in the world that I consider a "must visit" for anyone who likes to travel. If you find yourself close enough in Italy, please take a day to visit the ruins of Pompeii.

From Sorrento, we took the Circumvesuviana train (Trentalia) to the station at the entrance to Pompeii. We spent over six hours visiting the ruins and I'm sure we could have stayed even longer. My son shared much knowledge about the ruins and this was his second visit.

Here, you have the experience of wandering through the streets, homes, gardens and businesses that once were teeming with life. In only two days in 79 AD, Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius. It's intriguing, but haunting.

When not in Rome... there are many wonderful and favorite places in Italy.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron; Location: Southern Italy; May 2004; No products, services or discounts were received for mentioning the businesses in this story.
Powered by Blogger.

Popular Posts