Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Asheville Bed and Breakfast Garden Feels the Rustle of Spring

Sometimes it's so difficult...trying not to become too excited in the anticipation of Spring. Even if we grew up in a large city, far from the nearest field or farm...even if you never even went to camp in the summer...I think we can all feel the first rustle of Spring.

Spring is the perfect metaphor for rebirth, for youth, for renewal, for revitalization. The Earth begins to shake off the chill, the gray and the snows of Winter. The first hints of what is to come begin to show themselves.

Everyone can feel like a gardener or garden enthusiast when you walk through our bed and breakfast gardens in Asheville's Montford Historic District. Large trees with at least a hundred years on them are still all around. Most don't yet show signs of Spring, but soon they will experience another...that would be more than 100 times.

Meanwhile, closer to the ground daffodils and 'Star of Bethlehem' and crocuses have pushed their green shoots up through the mulch. The yellow daffodil buds is beginning to show.Two inches, four inches, some are six inches out of the ground, taking advantage of every warm minute of the Asheville sunshine. Why it was 70 degrees yesterday!

So have a look at the first faint rustle of Spring in your neighborhood. And don't forget to consider Asheville, North Carolina and Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn for a short respite and a look at early Spring here!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Arts & Crafts Period: The Antiques Show for You in Asheville

This weekend, and each year on the third weekend of February, Asheville NC is the venue for an extraordinary antiques show that is focused on the Arts& Crafts Period. You may know that the style originated in England in the late part of the 19th Century...as a reaction to the stark, 'modern' lines and materials that the Industrial Revolution had brought in the mid-1800s. The thought was something like, 'too much smoke and steel and not enough Nature and poetry.'

The English artist William Morris is perhaps the best-known of the English Arts &Crafts Movement. The designs in textiles, furniture as well as painting and architecture drew their inspiration heavily from nature. Its colors, textures and shapes and materials were used to create everything from useful items used in daily life to entire buildings. Morris's designs are familiar to us today even though we might not have known that William Morris originated the designs.

In America, the Arts & Crafts Movement became popular for the same reason that the British originated it...as a balance or reaction to too much 'modernization'. Potters made extraordinary urns, lamps, tiles and other objects. Weavers created rugs, household linens and wallcoverings.The colors are borrowed directly from nature including ochre, olive drab, browns and tans, just as one would find in a garden or a field.

Gustav Stickley, whose company is still in business today in New York state, is doubtless the most well-known of the Arts & Crafts furniture makers in America. Wood was, of course, a material that was loved for its texture and its 'nature'. The style also takes inspiration from antique Oriental furniture, using clean lines of Japanese and Chinese styles and typically allowing the 'joinery' to show, as well.

Whether the furniture is made to sit on, put books in, put a lamp on or to dine on, you will recognize the distinct shape, style and materials of the Arts Crafts Period. Poetry and stories from the period celebrate Nature and the purity associated with each of the Seasons in a year.

Come to Asheville NC, stay at a luxurious, relaxing bed and breakfast inn. And then wander over to the Arts & Crafts antique show on Saturday and Sunday where dealers from all over the U.S. and Canada gather each year. A well-deserved feast for the senses!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

At this Asheville Bed and Breakfast Garden, Winter is Winding Down

This week you can still feel it's Winter when you step out at night. Lows are still in the low 30s or heading into the 20s at night...but the days, oh the days. Highs of mid-50s to 60s. Makes you smile and your heart sing.

So, in Asheville, what's happening in the gardens here at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn when you get outdoors on these days? A few things are reminders of Winter while we transition toward Spring.

First, the greenhouse is in full floral show. As you walk through our gardens, the greenhouse is located on the south side, built directly onto the house. In fact, the greenhouse structure was on the original set of floor plans for the house over 100 years ago. The only way to enter it is from the ground floor of the house. It has raised beds so it's easier to reach and to tend the plants that we over-Winter. Those plants include some herbs, the ferns that grace the porches during the warm weather seasons and also the colorful pellargoniums...also known as geraniums.The view into the greenhouse from the garden is colorful indeed!

Also, we love to see that hollies are still showing their lovely red berries for a while longer. Along the walkways through the Chartreuse Garden and the Shade Garden and heading toward the street, you'll see several examples. While so many plants sleep through the Winter months in Asheville, hollies have bright green foliage and red berries all through the Winter into the Spring.

And the third treat you'll see is in the Chartreuse Garden. It's a plant that blooms at the end of Winter and it's called "Winter Jasmine". Yellow flowers are just about the burst open...probably will in the next couple of days. The flowers appear on a tangle of woody stems that look like dead sticks for the early part of Winter.They will put on a lovely show even through the almost inevitable snow storm that, although short lived, will undoubtedly arrive in Asheville NC at least one more time this Winter or early Spring.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Bed and Breakfast Garden Response to a Few Warm Days in Asheville

Last week there were several warm days....50* plus, and the week before, a couple of days in the 60s. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not going to complain about warm weather in late January and early February. Why, good weather is more likely to get people to come to Asheville and stay at this lovely bed and breakfast Inn.And that would be very good news, indeed!

But we've also had enough cold and quite a few 'snow events' this Winter to convince me that it is Winter. And, as they say, 'this is getting old'.So when those days came along, and, according to the forecast next Sunday it will be well into the 50s, I was pretty thrilled. Who knew I would be upset about that?

But, yes, I'm a little upset and I found myself scolding some of the plants in the garden yesterday. Why? because they've been fooled...again!

All around the Lower Garden shoots of green have broken out of the mulched surface and are now embarked on growing toward that warm sunshine. Some are 4 inches or more out of the ground! Some are bulbs called 'Star of Bethlehem" and they are cold-hardy, won't be damaged by the next snow and sometimes bloom right through a coating of snow. Another is a large variety of catnip called "Six Hills Giant"its new gray-green leaves coming up under that dried leaves of last season....also likely to be OK. But it's one variety of Allium, in particular, (my favorite, called Allium schubertii) that is growing so well.

That's the good news. The bad news is: they're gonna freeze again soon!

So there was, shouting at them saying, "No. No! Stop!. You're way too soon! The cold will freeze those buds you're forming and I won't see your bloom later on this Spring!" For a moment I did wonder what I looked like, kneeling down and scolding the plants as I piled more mulch on top of the green shoots. 'Some nutty gardener who takes her 'talking to plants' a little too seriously'?

No matter, I will even look like a fool to give those lovely plants a better chance to bloom....especially the Allium schubertii. It's a bloom you will not forget: one per plant, and best described as looking like "fireworks", like a ball 8-10 inches across, with 'arms' in all directions with tiny purple flowers on them.And as they dry out, after blooming, the 'skeleton' of that fireworks-like explosion holds its shape. You can leave it in the garden for interest, or even spray-paint them and pile in bowls in the house for a truly unique centerpiece for your table.

So, please, please little plants, please sleep a little longer. It's not Spring just yet!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Anniversary for This Bed and Breakfast and Another Year Begins!

Our Eighteenth Anniversary for Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn is today! And now,the start of our 19th year!

When I started this bed and breakfast in 1993, renovating this historic home from top to bottom, nine other bed and breakfasts were already open in the Montford Historic District here in Asheville... Abbington Green was the 10th one to open. I remember that one of the Innkeepers asked me how long I expected to stay in Asheville as a bed and breakfast Innkeeper. As I recall, I replied, "I'm in this 'for the long haul'....whatever that turns out to be." Well, today a couple of those inns are owned by their 5th set of owners, some are on the 4th, while others are on the 3rd owners. This job, as they say, 'is not for everyone'.

Even I probably would not have guessed I would be here to start the 19th year today! But here we are. And so many things have happened since 1993 to change the way our guests find and choose where to stay.

Over that time, technology has changed enormously. Imagine, if you can, a world without cell phones! A truly portable phone in 1993 was a big heavy thing called a 'bag phone' that you could carry in your car...but it would have been really difficult to lug around on the golf course or in a restaurant. Yep, no cell phones then! They came along a couple of years later.

So how did you find a bed and breakfast in Asheville in 1993? And how did you make a reservation? First, you went to the library or book store, and picked out one of the many publications that had 'Asheville bed and breakfast' somewhere in the title. You read the descriptions, looked at the single (tiny) picture of the B&B (usually a black and white artist's sketch) then made a phone call to the Inn of choice and asked for a description of every room...and based on those descriptions and the answers to your questions, you booked your reservation...the Innkeeper wrote it on a piece of paper, then sent you a confirmation via "snail mail", complete with a postage stamp!

Why books, why "snail mail"? Also imagine, no easily available internet? Why? Because in 1993, almost all computers were in your office...almost none were in your home. And the internet, as we know it today, was barely there. AOL and a company called Prodigy were the first huge investors in the technology that laid the foundation for the internet. They battled it out in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s...and you know, since you probably never heard of Prodigy, that AOL was the winner in convincing the public they should use their service to do banking online, to find services and send their friends email...and personal computers were becoming more affordable every year.

For a portion of my 'previous lifetime' as a banking executive, I had been product manager for telemarketing, ATMs, debit cards and "PC Home Banking"...from 1988-1993! It was all new technology in search of a market. And at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast in the Spring of 1996, when I asked a guest who had booked a reservation, "How did you first hear about us?"...the answer started to be, "At AOL".

Nowadays, I'm sure you can't imagine booking a reservation at a B&B without first looking at lots of bed and breakfasts and examining dozens of photos of different rooms or suites on the 'short list' you've developed from all your internet exploration. Then, peruse dozens(or hundreds) of reviews posted on TripAdvisor and other such sites to see what other travelers have said about your possible bed and breakfast choice. And then, technology allows you to book your choice online...the exact Inn, the exact dates, the exact room and put your deposit on your credit or debit card..any time from anywhere.

Lots of other things, including technology, have changed since 1993...including lovely updates to Abbington Green. We love and look forward to new developments and new technology. But one thing that hasn't changed is our desire to make your visit to Asheville and your stay at Abbington Green Bed and Breakfast Inn relaxing, comfortable and memorable...and oh yes, yummy!

Happy Anniversary, Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn!!