On My Bookshelf: The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh

Friday, September 16, 2016



For the legions of readers who were entranced by the playful pursuits of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh as they frolicked through the magical world of A. A. Milne, this book provides a delightful experience.

The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh is a charming and informative volume that connects the memorable stories with the environment of Ashdown Forest in England, which inspired the Hundred Acre Wood where Pooh lived. Written by expatriate author, landscape designer and historian Kathryn Aalto, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently when she returned home from England and spoke at our local garden club, this volume is an extensive interdisciplinary and well-researched study of both literature and landscape.

When the book appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, as an enthusiastic gardener and admirer of the natural world, I knew it was one I must read. During my years in graduate school, I managed the children's department of an independent bookstore. There I spent many Saturdays sharing the endearing stories of Winnie the Pooh with a sea of happy little faces at storytime. The children all loved the yellow bear and his adorable animal friends, as I did during my own childhood.

After a thorough and enlightening introduction, the book begins with a discussion of the creative collaboration between author A. A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepherd. Rich in biographical detail, the childhoods of both are highlighted, as is Milne's experience with fatherhood while raising his son, Christopher Robin.




Next, an exploration of Ashdown Forest leads readers on an armchair tour of the places in Milne’s world where the stories originated. A lovely mapping of landscape to literature, this section has photos of the legendary Poohsticks Bridge and the original walnut tree where Milne’s son, the real Christopher Robin, once played with his stuffed animals. There are also many "nice places for picnics" represented, reminding wanderers to stop and enjoy the beauty.



In the last section, a very helpful visitor’s guide to the flora and fauna of Ashdown Forest is provided detailing its many unique and beautiful plants, birds, insects and animals. Photographs of specific flowers, butterflies and creatures of the habitat entice those who choose to wander the public footpaths.

This captivating volume transports readers back through childhood memories into the wonderful world of Winnie the Pooh and explores the relationship between setting and story, landscape and imagination.

For more information about this book, please visit the publisher, Timber Press or Kathryn Aalto's website.

A Summer Garden Floral Arrangement

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Summer Garden Dahlias- www.gildedbloom.com

In late summer our garden is filled with robust blooms of pink dinner plate dahlias and carpet roses.  They seem to thrive on even the hottest of days and are a joy to arrange and bring indoors.  Fresh flowers always add such life to a room!

A Summer Garden Floral Arrangement- www.gildedbloom.com

To create this arrangement,  in the early morning hours I cut several stems of carpet roses, a few sprigs of miniature roses, three or four fading hydrangea blooms and a couple of dazzling pink dahlias.

A Summer Garden Floral Arrangement- www.gildedbloom.com

After removing the lower leaves from the stems and trimming the thorns from the roses, I placed them in a simple pottery vase.  Then hydrangeas were mixed with the roses for texture and to provide structure for the arrangement.

A Summer Garden Floral Arrangement- www.gildedbloom.com

The dahlia blooms were added last to create a focal point in the arrangement.  These large unscented flowers make such a dramatic statement as a finishing touch.  Finally, a few loose sprigs of cherry laurel were worked in to the empty spaces for texture and to complete the design.  

Color Story: Ocean Inspired

Sunday, July 24, 2016


White Flowers and Shells- www.gildedbloom.com

On these hot summer days, airy ocean colors have a distinct appeal.  I find myself bringing soft whites, pale teals and blushing beiges into our decor to lighten the look for the season.  This chosen collection of seashells, amassed over many journeys to the beach, inevitably comes out of storage and gets strewn around the house.  It is a summer ritual that reminds me of beautiful days spent on the California coast.   

Shells and Blossoms- www.gildedbloom.com

These photos, taken of a tabletop vignette I styled, capture the serenity of the sea through color.  Faded mauve, warm beige and dusty taupe are all hues that conjure up memories of sand and shore.

Decorative Shells with Blush and Beige- www.gildedbloom.com

Soft teal encompasses the essence of water reflecting the colors of sky and trees on the northern coastline.  

Bowl of Blossoms and Shell- www.gildedbloom.com

White stock blossoms floating in a mercury glass bowl mirror the tones and texture of a nearby shell.

Sand Dollar and Anemone Shells- www.gildedbloom.com

A sand dollar, washed up on the shore and broken by the waves, is subtly accented by flowing lace and a soft pink anemone shell...   

How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath

Friday, July 1, 2016


How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath- www.gildedbloom.com

The midsummer heat is starting to fade the bright pinks and lavender hues of our hydrangeas to soft mauves and greens.   This is when I usually cut the remaining blooms to bring inside to use for decorating.  Last year I mixed them with seashells and made summery vignettes (See Summer Decorating:  Seashells and Hydrangeas) but this year I've decided to design a few wreaths to hang or give as gifts.

How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath- www.gildedbloom.com

I started by clipping the hydrangeas at daybreak when the blooms were fresh from the evening air. Then over my morning latte, I began stripping the leaves off the flowers and weaving the blooms into a grapevine wreath form I'd purchased at the craft store.  As you see, I added the mauve blooms first spacing them evenly throughout the wreath.  

How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath- www.gildedbloom.com

Then I worked the green blooms into the empty spaces until the wreath was completely covered with flowers.  After I finished, it was misted with water to keep the blooms hydrated as long as possible.  It will be misted each day until the hydrangeas start to dry.

How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath- www.gildedbloom.com

Here is the finished wreath!  It is now hanging indoors, still fresh and holding its color beautifully.  I would expect it to dry into a soft beige tone but I may be surprised.  And of course that is part of the fun!

Early Summer Peonies

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pink Peonies and Periwinkle Hydrangeas - www.gildedbloom.com

Pink peony flowers are spectacular in early summer.  I look forward to purchasing a bunch at the market to enjoy the large and showy blooms and their sweet floral scent.

Pink Peonies- www.gildedbloom.com

They are a pleasure to photograph because the many layers of petals on each bloom reflect the light.  These photos were taken in the early morning just after sunrise when natural light has a subtle glow.

Pink Peonies in Decorative Pot- www.gildedbloom.com

Peonies are beautiful on their own, placed in a decorative pot or vase with no need for filler or accent flowers.  The blooms are very fragile and often drop petals when they are handled so it is important to be gentle when arranging them.

Pink Peonies and Periwinkle Hydrangea Blossoms- www.gildedbloom.com

Softly colored garden hydrangeas or other flowers may be paired with them for a mixed bouquet.   Here the cool pink of the peonies is enhanced by soft periwinkle blue hydrangea blossoms.

The Changing Color of Hydrangeas

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Hydrangeas in Blue Beach Glass Vase- www.gildedbloom.com

Hydrangea season is here at last and our side garden is now filled with glorious pink, purple and lavender blooms.  Every year the plants get larger and now they are almost as tall as I am.  If I don't get busy pruning, we may be growing hydrangea trees instead of bushes by next spring!

In this area, the native soil turns some varieties of blue flowers pink after a year or two in the ground.  Although the pink is lovely, I grew restless with it this year and tried to turn them back to blue by adding a soil acidifier.  It worked a little bit and now they are purple.  I usually apply new products with a light touch and only did one application of the acidifier in early spring.  Next year I'll know to make generous and frequent applications for a more vibrant blue.  Still, I am very happy with the purple hue for now as it blends beautifully into bouquets and is slightly different that what we've had before.  The arrangement of lacecap and mophead hydrangeas above shows the transition in color from pink to purple.

Angel's Parasol Hydrangea- www.gildedbloom.com

We grow several varieties of hydrangea but the most delicate of all is the Angel's Parasol pictured above. This is often considered a premium florist's potted hydrangea not a landscape variety but ours has unexpectedly grown into a huge bush in a shaded and protected area of the garden.  When its soft velvety petals emerge it is always a clear signal that summer is on the horizon.

Angel's Parasol Hydrangea in White Vase- www.gildedbloom.com

This plant was originally a light periwinkle and the color has turned more lavender over the years.  After adding the soil acidifier,  you can see that some of the blooms appeared in a cooler and brighter purple.

Angel's Parasol Hydrangea in White Vase- www.gildedbloom.com

Hydrangeas make excellent cut flowers as long as they are kept cool and hydrated with fresh water.  To create these simple summer displays I chose a blue beach glass bottle and a classic white porcelain vase to hold the blooms.

Spring Garden Floral Arrangements

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Pink Yellow Pastel Tulips

Creating a spring garden floral arrangement using a mixture of homegrown and market flowers is a simple, inexpensive way to bring the spirit of the season into your home.  It is also a delight to share the beauty of the garden with those that you care about.  After all, who doesn't love to receive flowers?

After discovering a beautiful bunch of tulips and snapdragons at the market,  I styled these arrangements using filler flowers from our garden to create texture.

Tulip and Hydrangea Pedestal Arrangement- www.gildedbloom.com

This pedestal vase holds budding hydrangeas and some tulips for color and gesture.  The sprigs of star jasmine draping over the edges add a sweet intoxicating scent to the design.


Simple Hydrangea Arrangement- Create a Spring Garden Floral Design

Freshly cut purple and pink hydrangeas were placed in a porcelain pot for an uncomplicated arrangement that emphasizes the broad blooms.


Cottage Garden Floral Arrangement- Snapdragons and Hydrangeas

The height of this tall cylindrical pitcher is accentuated by stalky snapdragons and hydrangea buds.  Soft purple and pink cottage garden flowers paired with spring green buds and foliage reflect the shabby chic style of the container.

Cottage Garden Floral Arrangement- Snapdragons and Hydrangeas

There are so many ways to combine and design flowers into lovely arrangements using just a few purchased stems with homegrown accents and foliage.  This is an easy and beautiful way to turn a store-bought bouquet into a unique and decorative design.

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