Friday, August 28, 2009

Container Gardening, Lancaster County Style

I’ve always liked container gardening – cute bunnies holding armloads of flowers, baskets overflowing with blooms, cupid pottery set on tabletops to bring color to unexpected places.

A trip to Germany and Austria reawakened my love for window boxes. I love to stuff them with flowers in the warm months, pumpkins in the fall, and fresh greens for the winter. It’s a special treat if the greens trap some snow - somehow it seems to frame the window, giving it the appearance of an old-fashioned Christmas postcard. And so, when we opened the inn, I wanted to have flowers everywhere – in the gardens, on the porches, in vases in the rooms, hanging from the windows…. Of course, the reality of having window boxes is that I’ve seen small nursery plants carried away by birds looking for nesting material, pumpkins dropped from the second story as I tried to arrange them through open windows, and greens blown away by fierce winter winds. Ah, well—they are still undeniably romantic. Like a string of pearls around a neck, window boxes make the inn look “dressed.”

Lancaster County has a unique style when it comes to container gardening. Locals here pretty much invented the word “frugal”. They never throw anything out that still has a useful purpose. And talk about creative! You can’t help but be inspired. This explains why I now plant flowers in a chicken feeder, pig trough, coal bucket, old washtub, and wringer washer. I’ve created a mini-herb garden in an old roaster, and made a centerpiece of primroses in metal canning containers.

Maybe it’s the whimsy that I like – the look of surprise on guests’ faces when they realize what they are looking at.

So enjoy the color and playful “pots” when you visit. But beware—this knack for pairing plants and innovative containers is quite contagious, and I’ve often heard guests say, “You know, I have one of those gathering dust in the basement…”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lancaster County – The Land of “Ahs”!

It all started with my dad. He’d take a sip of a cold drink (beer, perhaps) on a hot day, close his eyes, lean back his head, smack his lips and sigh “ah”. Soon the whole family would mimic my dad, and I now do it in his memory.

So it got me to thinking about the word “ah”. It gets a lot of use at The Artist’s Inn. No matter how sophisticated or elaborate our vocabulary may be, we all use this simple word. And there are so many ways to express it!

There’s the quiet and respectful “ah” that people utter when they learn about our Amish culture, or encounter their first buggy passing the inn.

When guests take in the breathtaking scenery of the Weaverland Valley from our back deck, there is a soft “ah”. The sound slowly escapes from them like air out of a tire. I like to think it’s their stress valve releasing.
The surprise of seeing horses playing and rolling on their backs often brings forth a short “ah”, accompanied by a laugh.

Guests can’t resist sighing a sweet “ah” when they view Amish children peeking out the back of the buggy.

Then there’s the satisfied “ah” that results from tasting something new and wonderful. From simple farm-fresh ice cream to gourmet meals from restaurants tucked away in small towns, you’ll find it all in Lancaster County.

And let’s not forget the “ah” of wonder that comes from seeing an Amish wagonload of ten different kinds of pumpkins heading for the auction – a colorful sight that delights the eye.

So……..come to Lancaster, because there are so many reasons to open your mouth and say “ah”.

Thanks to Dr. Charles Carroll for taking this wonderful picture when he visited our inn.