This is why I love my town of Corinth, Miss.: There is a gorgeous house literally on every corner. I was walking around recently in that lovely winter-is-on-its-way autumn twilight — which, this being Mississippi, means a drop in temperature from 95 degrees to 50-something — and found myself in front of this home. The combination of the scrolling black iron fence with the soft orange decor against the darkening sky was a perfect Halloween moment, even if this was a couple of days past Oct. 31. I’ll take it, though. And of course I want to know how the gourds in the urns on either side of the door remain perfectly stacked: Glue? Gravity? Zenful balance? This being Corinth and Mississippi, I probably could simply walk up the steps and knock on the door and ask. But I think I’ll preserve the mystery.
I love these pumpkins I spied on a morning walk around the neighborhood today. I mean, somebody just took ribbon and paint or markers and created something different and eye-catching. Actually, these look like they were originally party decorations — maybe for a dance or a dinner or something involving a school with black and gold colors (Vanderbilt?) — and got re-purposed. And now I’m wondering what sort of party it was and where it was and what I would have worn IF I had been invited and would my husband have been able to come and who was was there and why was I NOT invited? No matter that I have no idea who lives here or if they’re the sort of folks who throw good parties and so maybe I wouldn’t even have WANTED to go to their silly little party anyway, so there. But they do know their way around pumpkins. And I obviously have way too much time on my hands.
This is our backyard. Oh, okay, that’s a downright lie. You know that our backyard actually is about the size of this patio table. And even if it were bigger, I still wouldn’t have the talent and skill to make our outdoor space look this cute and inviting. I mean, don’t you want to just pull up a chair and pour a nice cool drink? Love the bright red and green tablescape with lemon-yellow accents. So summery! This was only one of the dozens of inspiring “rooms” on this past weekend’s Corinth (Mississippi) Home & Garden Tour. Sponsored by Verandah House Friends, the annual tour raises money to restore Corinth’s 1857 Verandah House, a Greek Revival beauty where Confederate officers planned their Shiloh campaign. The tour included a flower show, a silent auction of amazing local art, a bake sale and a plant sale. But the stars, of course, were the homes and gardens. Three houses in one of Corinth’s historic districts were open to visitors, and it was a constant stream of admiring “ooh’s and ahh’s” as we peeked into interior rooms and wandered through outdoor spaces. I especially was impressed with the way the owners combined respect for their homes’ authenticity with modern individual touches — beloved family heirlooms were cozily comfortable sharing with cheerful 21st-century details. But, you know, that’s how we do it* in the South.
* I was going to say “that’s how we roll in the South,” but since that invariably would lead to “Roll, Tide!” references I went instead with a less inflammatory phrase. After all, this is a free and open space where we tolerate all opinions and where differences are welcome. On the other hand: “War Eagle!”
There’s a super-long fence bordering the backyard of Older Daughter’s house, so of course you know we can’t leave a blank space empty for very long. Even in a non-creative person like me, the urge to Do Art cannot be ignored. (Although maybe in my case it should be.) And I know it’s not a competition or anything, but once again my son-in-law, the artist and art teacher, whipped out a chalk masterpiece with very little effort. “Look, Kacky,” 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable said, laughing. “Daddy’s triceratops is eating conductor!” Three guesses as to who drew the conductor.
We think we in the 21st century invented green living? Huh. We’ve got nothing on our parents’ generation. My folks, both born in 1934, each grew up with the Depression-era philosophy of “why buy when you can make do?” And they’re still following that directive. My mom saves plastic butter tubs and bread bags for leftovers, my dad turns paper over to print on the other side and they would never think of going out and buying tomato stakes. This is their backyard garden in Tennessee, and you can see that they definitely reuse and recycle — from the rusted metal fence posts to the strips torn from old cotton sheets to the outdoor artwork of flags decorating the iron headboard from a vintage bed. And they water the flourishing tomato and pepper plants with leftover ice. When the ‘maters are ready to eat, my dad probably will put a salt shaker out there for the freshest possible eating. I just hope they share.
When you walk up to my friend Sharon’s house in Madison, Alabama, you can tell a gardener lives there by the gorgeous landscaping and flowers in her front yard. But it’s the backyard that shines. This is a gardening paradise and I could move right in and live there — and Sharon’s an easygoing and generous sort of friend so she probably wouldn’t mind. Much, that is. This is the kind of backyard where details delight everywhere you look. I’m not a gardener so all I know about her plantings are that they’re beautiful. I was more drawn to such treasures as benches tucked away in quiet little corners, paths angling off into green adventure and a chandelier hanging from a tree lighting the table. “We wanted it to be a series of outdoor rooms,” Sharon said, “like an extension of our house.” And the thing is that she and her husband did this all themselves over the past 15 years, working on one project in one spot at a time. The result? A backyard paradise that anybody can duplicate. In face, Sharon’s garden is on the Huntsville (Alabama) Botanical Garden’s Spring Garden Tour, 1-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6. Her goal is to convince folks that you don’t need money and a team of landscapers and gardeners to create something wonderful. I think she’s succeeding. Call 256-830-4447 or visit www.hsvbg.org for details about the garden tour.
Has this holiday ribbon made it to your town yet? Everywhere I go in my usual family-and-friends route through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, I see it. This super-wide bendable mesh is the latest thing to hit Christmas decorating since the invention of inflatable yard snow-globes — at least around here. Folks are decking their halls, mailboxes, wreaths, garlands, trees, lamp posts and even presents with it. I love it — it seems so bright and festive and cheerful — and I would join in except I spent major $$$ a few years ago on going all gold and white for our outdoor Christmas decor and I imagine that my dear and darling husband would not take kindly to a major redo. But it’s tempting. I tend to overhaul all our outdoor Christmas decor every several years or so. The current white and gold replaced a symphony of gorgeous metallic purples, reds, golds and greens that I was in love with but my children cringed every year and heaved ponderous sighs about living with circus decorations. And in its full glory, the white and gold isn’t much better — when I put everything out in its originally intended spot, the house takes on a sort of puffy Victorian fairy-tale look that really has nothing in common with anybody who lives inside it. Consequently, I pare it down to the bare essentials of a couple wreaths, some mailbox decor and a few bows here and there — leaving many $$$ worth of wreaths, garlands and ribbons packed up and unused. But do not tell the husband, please. Our secret???