Tag Archive: flowers

Secret Garden Friday: Natalie and the Milkweed

Via E Alexis Christine O'Shay dollfriend in garden

Hi Friends! It’s me, Natalie Alexis Christine! I know, I haven’t written in a really long time! Ali said I could have the honor of introducing our new Friday feature at A Doll’s Picnic–oh boy! So welcome to our first Secret Garden Friday!

I love the book The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Have you read it? It’s one of my favorite books to curl up with and get lost in. I think it’s because Burnett is such an amazing story teller, and also because most of the story takes place outside, in nature, which is what I like best! There are plants, and gardens, and animals, and really compelling (that means fascinating) characters, and mystery and magic. If you haven’t read it, we recommend that you go to your local library and check out a copy right away!

We think any garden can be a secret garden, if you are willing to look at it with wonder and imagination. I think the gardens here at A Doll’s Picnic are very wonder-full places. I think it’s because we don’t keep them too neat and perfect… we let wildflowers–like queen anne’s lace–come up and grow, and we like plants to self-propagate–that means that they seed or spread naturally, all by themselves. Also, the deer and squirrels and raccoons and quail and lots of different kinds of birds come in our yard and keep it messy and interesting. Sometimes Ali gets frustrated because it’s a big yard and she feels like she never gets it under control, but I think that’s part of what makes is so special.

Today, I wanted to show you around our secret garden a little bit. Here’s a really neat cactus that Ali brought home from her parent’s house:

Bishop's cap cactus

It’s called a Bishop’s Cap. Can you imagine it as a hat? I like how it is all leathery and wrinkled, like an elephant’s foot! It grows in an amazing way, from the center out. See those lines of dots? Each of those dots used to be a bloom at the center of the cactus! The flowers are yellow and very fragrant, but they don’t last very long. It’s bloomed once for us, but soon it will be time to bring it for the winter. You might think cactus are tough, but they’re actually pretty picky. They don’t like to be too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry! Isn’t that funny? Do you see those pinkish areas? That’s where the cactus got sunburn, just like a real person!

Bishop's cap cacuts 2

I think it’s amazing to look at plants really closely. Look at all those tiny white dots!

Now I want to show you one of my favorite plants in our secret garden.

Via E Alexis doll milkweed

It’s called milkweed, and it grows wild all across the United States. It’s usually considered a weed, but it’s actually a really interesting wildflower and doesn’t act like a weed at all.

Vie E Alexis doll and milkweed

Milkweed grows from seed into a perennial. (Perennial is one of my favorite words! It means something that comes back, year after year). Milkweed is special in lots of different ways, which you can read about on Wikipedia. Did you know it has really beautiful and complex flowers? They smell good too! But the reason why we have it in our garden is simple: butterflies! Milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars! The adult butterflies lay their eggs under the leaves, and when the caterpillars hatch they begin to munch holes in the leaves right away! One of our favorite secret garden activities in summer is to go out and look for monarch caterpillars on the milkweed plants. Sometimes they’re so tiny they’re hard to find, but eventually they grow up to a couple inches long!

Milkweed has a white, milky sap that is toxic to most creatures, which is why the deer don’t eat it. But the monarch butterfly has evolved to depend on milkweed. As the caterpillars eat the plant they absorb the toxins which make them taste bad to predators! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

milkweed plant

But it’s fall now, and the caterpillars have all grown up and left. Milkweed is beautiful in the fall: it turns golden, and then the really special milkweed magic begins.

milkweed pod

Do you see that pod? Do you know what’s inside? Can you guess??? Fairies!

milkweed pod splitting

Well, that’s what I like to call them, anyway. Actually it’s seeds, all packed inside, each one attached to a silky canopy of threads, kind of like a tiny hot air balloon.

Milkweed seeds

When the pods start to dry out in the autumn, they split open and all the little fairy-seeds start to fluff out and separate from each other. When the autumn winds arrive, the seeds blow out and float all over the garden and neighborhood!

milkweed pod opening

The pods are beautiful when they split open!

milkweed seeds

Don’t worry–they don’t sprout wherever they land! Milkweed likes water; that’s why you often see it growing in drainage ditches or by irrigated fields. Where we live it’s very dry, and in our garden we’ve found that milkweed seeds only sprout where we water regularly. (It’s also a slow-growing plant, and easy to spot and pull out when it’s young). Still, we like to think we are helping to spread monarch butterfly habitat in our neighborhood. ūüôā

milkweed pod dry

Look how neat the milkweed pods are when they’re empty! What do you think they look like?

Empty milkweed pod

Let’s look at a pod up close. Here’s one that fell on the ground:

Via E Alexis doll milkweed pod

It’s a treasure! Ali has one of these in her writing room–she’s had it for years, and it is still perfect!

Via E Alexis doll milkweed

It almost looks like a little elf shoe…

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed pod

…Or maybe a canoe!

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed pod

The seeds are really beautiful up close, and it’s amazing how many are packed inside one single pod–dozens and dozens!

milkweed pod with seeds

The seeds are so soft and fluffy and delicate.

Via E Alexis doll milkweed seed

They’re fun to blow and to try to catch, kind of like dandelions!

milkweed seed

At the base of the silk (also known as the coma) is one oval, dark brown seed, which easily falls off of the silky fluff.

milkweed seed

I think nature is a pretty amazing gardener, if you ask me! She has very creative ways of spreading her seeds!

Via E Alexis doll with milkweed seed

How about you? Do you have a secret garden you can visit and explore? What treasures can you find there?

Via E Alexis doll and milkweed seed

Happy Secret Garden Friday from A Doll’s Picnic!

Plum blossoms and Etsy goodness for Mei-mei

Maplelea KMF10 friend doll

Meet Mei-mei (Maplelea Friend KMF10)

Happy Monday from A Doll’s Picnic!¬†I’d like you to meet Mei-mei, my newest Maplelea doll! Mei-mei loves all things spring-time, from the earliest crocuses pushing their way through the snow, to long, late-spring afternoons and ducklings swimming in ponds. She especially loves cherry and plum blossoms, which is what she’s named after (to the best of my knowledge, Mei can mean both “beautiful” and “plum” in Chinese). I hope to officially review Mei-mei sometime later in the spring, because she’s a truly gorgeous and unique doll. But I have several other doll reviews to write first, so meantime I’d like to share one of the spring outfits I found on Etsy recently, purchased with Mei-mei in mind.

Mei-mei has a lovely light latte-colored skin tone which contrasts strongly with her dark eyes and nearly black hair. To me her coloring¬†really comes alive in cool spring tones and strong contrasts. Frustrated with the limitations of my doll family’s wardrobe (mostly modern and historical American Girl gear), and wanting to find something that would suit Mei-mei’s sweet, feminine, springtime spirit, I turned to Etsy. I was especially hoping to find outfits or dresses that featured a plum or cherry blossom print or motif. I was beyond excited when I discovered this adorable ensemble made by Jazzy Doll Duds! Not only does it feature a plum blossom print, it was an affordable price! Maybe it’s because I’ve been looking at American Girl catalogs too long, but Etsy prices are a breath of pure spring air. Yay!

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

Simple, feminine, chic.

This ensemble features a tunic-length short-sleeved blouse in crisp cotton, a matching headband, and ivory knit leggings/pants. I added the Maplelea sandals, and Jean, the lovely Jazzy Doll Duds shop owner, added the cute bracelet and necklace as an unexpected surprise (thank you Jean!).

Plum blossom print and gathered waist.

Plum blossom print and gathered low waist.

The print and colors on this blouse are fabulous. I love the pink buds and pale, nearly-white blossoms. The flowers are edged in glittering gold, which sparkles¬†in the sunlight. The rich maroon or damson background looks beautiful on Mei-mei’s winter/spring complexion.

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

The gold details match the fun doll jewelry!

I also love the style of the blouse. The gathered elastic low waist forms a soft, feminine silhouette, which is echoed by the gathered neckline and sleeves. The waist can be pulled down lower over the doll’s hips or pushed up a bit to create a¬†blouson look.

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

Stopping to smell the hyacinths.

The sleeves can also be adjusted into longer or shorter puffs, which is fun:

Short and scrunched up...

Short and scrunched up…

... or slightly straighter.

… or slightly straighter.

The headband is beautiful, and looks lovely holding back Mei-mei’s sleek bob.

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

I hear a goldfinch singing….

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

The leggings are not skin-tight like the ones American Girl is making these days, so they are a little more like casual pants. I think they look very elegant with the darker toned tunic (the ivory coordinates with the color of the blossoms).

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

Capri-length on a Maplelea doll.

This outfit fits both American Girl and Maplelea dolls (though so far Mei-mei has kept it all to herself). The leggings will look just a tad longer on an American Girl doll, but the stretchy waist of both the blouse and the leggings will work fine on either type of doll (American Girl dolls and Maplelea dolls have similar torso measurements).

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

A classy outfit for a beautiful girl.

Mei-mei is as thrilled as I am with this elegant and classy spring outfit, and says it is just the sort of thing for a spring outing in a park or garden. ūüôā

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

Stopping to smell the daffodils, too….

I love how the print is both striking and delicate, with an eastern aesthetic¬†that harmonizes with Mei-mei’s ethnic background.

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

I am so excited to have discovered the trove¬†of handmade doll outfits on Etsy! I’m looking forward to¬†sharing more Etsy treasures here on A Doll’s Picnic¬†in the future.

Maplelea Friend KMF10 doll

Mei-mei says to soak up some spring sun!

Have a happy and creative start to your week!

Discovering spring flowers

Doll and flowers, the perfect combination.

A doll among the daffodils.

While the eastern half of the United States has been having a long, cold, snowy winter of it, here in the mountains of Northern California it seems almost unfair to be having dry, unnaturally mild weather and a very early spring. It is over 75 degrees outside at the moment! The sun is shining, and we’ve had a March that is more like April or even May. Though I’d rather be getting rain and snow like the rest of the country, I don’t believe in¬†complaining about the weather. A¬†drought¬†does make¬†for ample¬†doll photography opportunities, as well as inviting early spring tea parties out of doors. My girls have been taking advantage of the mild spring¬†to explore our yard and discover early spring flowers.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4  with daffodil

A doll and a flower, the perfect combination!

One of my new dolls that I am most excited about is Umeko Patience, an American Girl Just Like You #4 doll that I rescued from eBay and restored. The #4 doll has a unique face sculpt that American Girl¬†never used for another doll-character. Unfortunately she has been retired for a couple years, and is difficult to find second hand… you might say it takes patience!¬†Umeko Patience has become a very dear doll-friend, and because she is a very springy sort of person, it was most natural to take her outside to see the daffodils. She says yellow is her favorite color!

She looks excellent in Kit's springy colors, too!

She looks excellent in Kit’s springy colors, too!

In the high desert, every flower is a treasure. I often find myself marveling over the miracle of a forsythia bush or a plum tree in blossom which people who live in a milder region might pass without remark. Patience loves the little forsythia we planted in our yard, and visited it when the flowers were first opening:

Yes, almost everything in our yard has a deer cage around it.

Yes, almost everything in our yard has a deer cage around it.

Have you ever looked at a small blossom up close? Patience has.

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with forsythia

She checked back later in the week, too, when the flowers were more full:

Purple and yellow complement each other so beautifully!

Purple and yellow complement each other so beautifully!

Umeko is a¬†Japanese name meaning¬†“plum blossom child.” We don’t have a plum in our yard, but we do have a lovely little nanking cherry bush, which Patience was charmed by.

American Girl Just Like You doll #4  with cherry

Umeko Patience and flowers just go together!

Julia, my Carpatina doll, was also delighted by the delicate perfection of the cherry blossoms.

Carpatina Julia doll with cherry

This was a grey sky day, rare for us.

They formed a natural background for a portrait of this lovely girl:

Carpatina Julia doll portrait

Her delicate dress, also from Carpatina, suits the flowers.

Julia has such a sweet, compassionate, thoughtful face that I love taking pictures of her. She brings a beautiful diversity to my doll family.

Carpatina Julia doll with forsythia

What is she dreaming about?

Another new doll who is incredibly photogenic is Verity, my A Girl For All Time Lydia doll.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

Verity showing just how poised and elegant a doll can be.

Her delicate features, winter coloring, and earnest expression make her a natural in front of the camera. She, too, was delighted by the daffodils.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

How fun it would be to be sixteen inches tall, and see flowers as big as your head!

She loved the sweet fragrance.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with daffodil

Two beauties.

And speaking of sweet fragrances, our tiny hyacinths were a magnet for Verity. She particularly loved the white hyacinth.

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll with hyacinth

It matches her riding ensemble!

The pure white flowers captivated her, and she captivated me.

Verity

Verity

And just because she’s lovely, here’s a picture of Verity with the forsythia:

A Girl For All Time Lydia doll

Such an intelligent, earnest face.

A couple weekends ago, Umeko Patience and Violette took a drive up north with us to a college town to see the spring flowers there. It turned out to be one of our rare rainy days, so I didn’t get as many photographs as I had planned, but here it is wise to never complain about the rain! Before the clouds¬†had quite dropped down, Patience discovered this cluster of daffodils:

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with daffodils

And that’s American Girl of the Year Grace’s adorable travel coat, by the way, looking smashing on Patience.

I simply can’t get over how sprightly and charming this adorable doll is!

American Girl Just Like You #4 doll with daffodils

Maybe it’s because I restored her myself, but she is just brimming with personality!

But speaking of charming, Violette asked to climb a tree covered with catkins.

She's a good tree climber!

She’s a good tree climber!

She also found her namesake in the botanical gardens.

Schildkroet blond doll with violets

Violette’s favorite flower… and one of mine, too!

By then it was really beginning to rain, so I had to put the dolls away.

Dolls and spring flowers are two things that make my heart smile with gratitude. How about you?