Always flowers

Even on an overcast autumn afternoon, I find plenty to love in our backyard. November, 2017

“There are always flowers for those that want to see them.”Henri Matisse

This quote appeared on the November page of a calendar. When I saw it I knew I wanted to feature it in a post sometime, because it captures the spirit of this blog. In the calendar photo, there was a picture of green flower-shaped succulents. They are beautiful, and I’ve always wanted to have some of them, even if they aren’t actually flowers.  However, there are other autumn and winter blooms available to see– genuine flowers that show up just when others are disappearing.

I wrote awhile back how this part of our yard had managed to keep blooming despite years of benign neglect. Not long ago I finally made the time to get outside and do some serious pruning to clear out some of the overgrown areas. Just yesterday, I took a photo of our camellias in bloom, along with a few lingering flowers from our fall-blooming azaleas, and the dogwood foliage beginning to show its autumn crimson. Some of our azaleas bloom three times per year (spring, summer and fall) but it’s the camellias that really dazzle in the fall and winter. We liked them so much that we had some planted in the front yard too. Here’s a closeup of the ones in the first photo, in the back yard.

Just over the fence is our even more neglected woodland.

What’s blooming in your neck of the woods this November? Even if you don’t have any fresh flowers or lookalike succulents growing, you might have some silk flowers indoors, or a painting or photo of a lovely garden to cheer you up. Fresh flower bouquets are available at most grocery stores year-round now, something I don’t remember ever seeing when I was a child. But if you don’t have the time or money to get fresh flowers, simply grab a bulb catalog or a book about blooming annuals and perennials, and feast your eyes on nature’s artwork. To borrow a (slightly altered) phrase from Winnie-the-Pooh, “nobody can be uncheered with a flower.”


  1. Ann

    Julia, what a joy to come to your blog and see the beautiful pictures. My camellias are just in bud right now here in South Carolina. Amazing to see yours are already in full bloom. The trees hva beautiful colors right now and the weather makes going outside a treat.

    My heart breaks for the people in Texas after the senseless church shooting. You have provided a safe place ‘beside the still waters’ where my soul can be refreshed.

    • Ann, I’m so glad you find it helpful to be here. The world is crazy and sometimes it seems as if things have never been this bad. I have to focus on what is beautiful to stay sane, insofar as I actually manage to do that. 🙂 Your camellias will soon be blooming. I imagine that they bloom later the farther south one goes, or maybe it’s the varieties that are different. I know we had one planted that the nursery man called a “Christmas camellia” because that’s when it blooms. BTW did you know that tea comes from a variety of camellia plant? I didn’t find that out until a few years ago.

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ I’m remembering that you love the backyard at your York home for so many reasons that you’ve shared over the years. It is beautiful in all seasons, with different colorful gifts throughout the year. I have camellia’s that are so full of buds, magnificent to come soon! 🌺 Ashley gave me succulents in a beautiful container for my birthday (photo to follow) and they are easy maintenance. Yippee! 😉 Bill has wanted a small boat, someone’s castoff, to use as a planter by the mailbox. He decided to build one and it’s now in place (photo to follow), awaiting the flowers. I think it will be filled with pansies today! We also have some pachysandra clippings from Dr. Vann’s yard that we have nurtured for a year that we want to plant in it. Bill remarked that he thought he was through with “Honey Do List” until I told him that was page one of ten! 😂 Have a wonderful week. Hi to Matt. 👋🏻 Love y’all. Sheila 💛

    • Sheila, I will look forward to those photos! I hope that someday you can see the York yard in person. It’s not the ocean view you are accustomed to, but we are close enough to water that we do get the occasional seagull, and oyster shells wash up on our land when the creek overflows its banks in heavy rains. I love the idea of using an old boat as a planter. Tell Bill that the pages with everything checked off are the “Honey Done List” but the Honey Do list is always a work in progress! 🙂

  3. Amy Hill

    I planted a lot of pansies in containers around the house and most are doing well this lovely fall. We have a lot of negelected woods as you say. It’s on the “list” (the never ending list) so I will get to it someday. We had hoped to rent a chipper this fall and get a lot of the dead wood along the drive chipped up and spread out. Since we are down to two weeks before we leave and Stephen is working or away a lot of that time I am thinking that wood may still be along the drive come spring. Sigh. I’ll have to get some of the Camellia’s they are lovely. I haven’t had much luck so far with anything. In Germany you could buy fresh bouquets from folks along the road all year long. I always did. I loved having them. I don’t do it so much here. I know you can get them in the market it just doesn’t have the charm I guess. I have a lot of silk flowers all year long. I change them out to match the season. They stay bright and just need to be dusted and I can bend them any direction I need to. I wish you flowers and peace all year long my friend.

    • One thing about camellias that might work well with your yard is that they love the shade. In my experience very few plants truly love all shade all the time, but it seems that camellias thrive with it. The ones at our home that get just a bit of sun are the first to bloom, and have more flowers, but the others grow like crazy and still bloom profusely. I do think there’s something especially charming about buying flowers from people selling them along the road. The first bouquet I can ever remember buying was in Dominica on the walk to the waterfalls. We were on a cruise and I had no place really to put them, but just the memory of buying them is special. Jeff was always bringing fresh flowers from the grocery store – the Kroger’s near our York home used to have the most wonderful flowers. Arlington allows silk flowers on graves from October through early March, so I think I am going to take some of ours that were in our home to put on Jeff’s grave now that it’s getting too cold and rainy for fresh ones.

  4. Carolyn

    Good morning Julia, your yard and flowers are beautiful. We had our first big frost last week , so my year is sad looking right now.. Our azaleas only bloom once. I have a neighbor who has a big camellia bush, it is beautiful. I really didn’t know they would live in our area. I would like to have one. Our yard is full of leafs, Terry has been a little under the weather so he has a big job ahead of him. Enjoy the fall and your beautiful yard. I’m going out with Lisa and Nicole for a pre birthday lunch. I even get to pick out my gift. Lisa has the place picked out , so I just have to make a decision. Wed. Is my big day. I also go Friday to get my lab report, sure hope I have good numbers. You and Matt are always in my heart and sending
    Hugs and love to you.

    • WOW a frost already? I would have thought we would get frost before Memphis would. I wonder if I should be bringing all my potted plants in? I’ve started bringing some in but I figured I had awhile yet. I had forgotten your birthday was so close to ours. Sounds like you’ve had some fun already! 🙂 I will be praying for a good result from your tests on Friday. Thanks for the hugs and love– always needed, appreciated, and returned! 🙂 ❤

      • Carolyn

        When is your big day ?

        • Carolyn, I’ll email you the info. I don’t post it on online just as a defense (however ineffective and tiny) against identity theft.

  5. Our nasturtiums are still flowering, although the first frost will finish them off, so we won’t have them for much longer now. However, I am crocheting flowers, which will last a good long time.

    • Nasturtiums! I first read about them nearly 50 years ago in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and like so many things in that book, which I read so many times I practically memorized it, I have a sort of acquired memory of nasturtiums in that brown bowl in the library. I’ve never been able to grow any, though. I tried some seeds once but couldn’t get anywhere with them. Maybe they don’t do well in the places I have lived. Crocheted flowers do last a long time! My grandmother and Aunt Lena used to make beautiful doilies with crocheted flowers in them. I wish so much I had asked them to give me just one of those doilies or at least set it aside for me to have after they died. I don’t know what became of their lovely creations but I would treasure one of them now. Every time I see scratches in the finish of a dresser or chest, I realize the doilies were practical as well as beautiful.

  6. Janet

    Spot on!

    • Thank you, Janet. Hope you and CW are well!

  7. raynard

    Julia your pictures were very timely.I work right next to the Dupont Mansion and Gardens and never been there.Hopefully next year, we can catch up on our annual trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show. I never told you about the first time we went down your way and took” the scenic route and was close by the ocean… As you now by now” Raynard doesn’t do beaches”Be glad when” it’s beginning to a lot like err feel like November… I digress

    • Raynard, maybe I can talk Amy into a road trip up to the Dupont Mansion or maybe the Philadelphia Flower Show in the same trip if we plan it right. I’m still working on getting her to the Shady Maple. 🙂 If you came down the eastern shore I think the scenic route is pretty much the only one you can go, isn’t it? I’ve never been as far up as Maryland what little we did see of it on the Virginia shore was beautiful. But remembering y’all’s all-day traffic nightmare that day, along with my new cell phone that I didn’t know how to answer is giving me PTSD-like fears about driving that route myself. Today was another unseasonably hot day but it’s supposedly going down to the 40s all day tomorrow. I have my little electric fireplace going. Tell Mary hi for me and y’all have a great week.

  8. Harry Sims

    All things Bright and Beautiful…..I wonder who made them all.

    • Such creations are not humanly possible. There’s a clue in there somewhere…

  9. Jack

    Whether it was the abundant wet weather or just a gift from a God whose abundance knows no end, what a spectacular show of fall folliage we have, even in Alabama. I’ve got several buckeyes and a silver maple that have put on their fall splendor, even if only for a short while. The leaves turned, fell and have been composted all within a couple of weeks. Such is the temporal beauty of nature, but a pointer to a God, put so beautifully by CS Lewis, “What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating?”

    Drink up, my friend!

    • I seldom come across a Lewis quote that I don’t remember reading, but I didn’t recall that one, even though it is from one of his most famous speeches (“The Weight of Glory”) that we just studied this summer after we visited the place where he delivered that talk. Thanks for sharing that quote, it’s great. I’m surprised that Alabama is losing foliage earlier than we are up here in the Old Dominion! Our leaves in York County just now started to fall. The cherry trees in Alexandria are now bare, with a brief glorious show such as you described. Yes, I’m drinking it all in!

  10. Mike

    Maybe U can join yall on our trip and get to meet my UR friend Raynard. Flowers. Here in Marietta I am enjoying the beautiful winter camelias- Japanese camelia ” Susanqua” if memory serves me. Awesome. Also some beautifully scented White Gardenias which I saw in the square at Woodstock. I am actuallylooking for a place in Woodstock. Verie is still in Seattle and I will see her Turkey day in NYC to visit younger son Kris.
    Awesome flowers here- many still in bloom.
    And it is y’all and not you all correct?

    • Mike, it is definitely y’all. If you hear someone say “you all” you know they are either speaking Southern as a second language, or trying too hard to sound formal. Also, “y’all” is NEVER singular — and if you are speaking to a large group, the term is “all y’all.” As in, “All y’all get in here NOW – Mama has dinner on the table and the cornbread is getting cold!”

      NYC will be fun at Thanksgiving. Some of the stores might already have their holiday decorations up. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center won’t be lit until November 29, but they might have it up and decorated by Thanksgiving weekend.

      I’m not familiar with Woodstock but judging by how spread out Atlanta has gotten, I’d imagine it’s a lot bigger than it used to be. You will enjoy the amazing springtime flowers all over the Atlanta area.

  11. Thanks Julia,
    As I write this I am looking at near naked trees….meaning that the starkness of winter is not far ahead. The beautiful photos from you yard will grace my laptop as a most welcome contrast.

    • Thank you, Alan. I have a photo of the azaleas in full bloom on my laptop. I put it there one spring intending to change it up with every season, but have never wanted to give up those flowers!

  12. Mike

    It is always the flowers that hook me.
    Yesterday was my sister’s 66th birthday. I am a year older. She had a aterrible stroke about 6 months ago that left her paralyzed on the left side.
    She is now in a nursing home facility in Vancouver, Wa.- my home town. I called her yesterday. She sounded kind of foggy on the phone. I feel bad that I wont’t be able to visit her much- if at all- and after all we did live three hours north in Seattle. A minister friend once said to me- “strokes are mean.”
    I agree. It is like you die in little pieces- a section at a time.
    Her name is Susan- remember her in prayer.

    • Thank you, Mike. I have prayed for your sister, and will continue to do so. You know, now that you mention it, I do think that strokes are mean. I have seen up close how hard it is for even the most determined person to live with partial impairment for many years, and strokes can create that situation instantly and without warning. Heart attacks get a lot of mentions but I am way more afraid of strokes than heart attacks. But both are life-altering and often deadly.

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