Laurie’s Holiday Garden

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

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Of all the creative, exuberant gardeners I’ve known, Laurie Connable tops the list. Laurie, who now lives in Hawaii, once had a gorgeous garden near San Diego. After I profiled her for the San Diego Union-Tribune, we became friends. Visiting Laurie’s one-acre garden was a wonderful respite, like entering a magic kingdom. She’d pour me a tall glass of “energy tea” and we’d stroll through the garden, then sit and chat while watching the changing sunlight.

Here’s how Laurie celebrated her garden during the holidays.

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Every year right after Thanksgiving Laurie hosted a garden-decorating party. Friends, neighbors and family constructed garlands, hung baubles from tree limbs and festooned archways and outdoor structures. Kids dug through bins of decorations gleaned in January when everything was half-price. (Laurie bought only unbreakable, weatherproof items.) Teens climbed trees like monkeys. The rest of us sat at a picnic table beneath an immense pine, sipped hot cider, and made red ribbon bows—and new friends.

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This is Le Palais des Poulets. Laurie speaks French and wants to learn Spanish. I speak Spanish and want to learn French. Her emails often go something like this: Hola Cherie! Como esta tu jardin? Besos, abrazos y aloha from Hilo! (Hi, darling! How is your garden? Kisses, hugs and greetings from Hilo, Hawaii.)

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Beyond the pool is the picnic table and the yet-to-be-decorated arch leading into the larger garden.

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Laurie’s front door.

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A fountain in the back yard, near the arch. In Southern CA roses have a second flush in fall that may last into December. These are ‘Red Simplicity’.

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I love how she wrapped the chains of this hanging basket with gold ribbon.

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A metal dragonfly, painted red for the occasion, hovers above the pond.

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A wheelbarrow filled with shiny plastic balls evokes holiday abundance and cheer. Laurie preferred oversized balls because anything smaller tends to visually disappear outdoors.

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On the other hand, for a tree near an outdoor sitting area, smaller ornaments work fine because they’re viewed close-up.

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“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree.” In addition to a warm heart and hospitality, Laurie’s gifts include singing, composing and entertaining—all of which she has done professionally.

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I learned a lot about floral arranging from Laurie. This mug contains floral foam (Oasis) into which we inserted cinnamon sticks, variegated holly, small pine boughs and pyracantha berries.

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Laurie explained to my garden club that she considered her garden a major blessing that ought to be shared, in accordance with this Bible verse: “Let everything you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:24)

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A bench with a topiary rabbit made a good photo op. Yep, that’s me.

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On Christmas Eve, family and friends joined hands and sang carols as they danced around a decorated potted tree.

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This post is my surprise Christmas gift to Laurie. Back when these photos were taken (with my first of five digital cameras), garden blogs didn’t exist. How wonderful that GGW enables me to share Laurie’s joie de vivre and creativity with all of you. And to Laurie, this special message: Hola, querida. Je suis tres hereuse de celebrar mis memorias de tu jardin, y decir mahalo para todos los dias de nuestra amistad. A ti y tu familia: Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad y Mele Kalikimaka! (Hi, darling. I am very happy to celebrate my memories of your garden, and to say thank you for all the days of our friendship. To you and your family, Merry Christmas in three languages!)

P.S. Laurie created a delightful CD of songs for children. Learn more and hear her sweet voice at

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
8 comments… add one

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Lisa at Greenbow November 27, 2009, 5:59 am

What an inspiration to get out there and decorate.

Lisa, if you do, please let us know, OK? Debra

joco November 27, 2009, 6:38 am

Hello Debra,

What a deliciously cheering post you have given us today, as well as your friend.
I love the idea of “celebrating a garden”.

For Laurie, all of life is a celebration. She managed to turn a lot of work into a lot of fun…quite a feat! Debra

Laurie Connable November 27, 2009, 5:37 pm

Quelle suprise, ma chere amigo!!!
I’m so contente and honored. Merci, gracias, mahalo, tanks eh, y thank you from the bottom of ma coeur!
Ahora je peux add pidgen english de Hawaii a notre langue de email: U stay one good kine fren an i stay so happy foa plenty years we get fun kine memories. Try come ova hea an i going take u foa go swim wit da dolphins dat spin in da ocean. Awesome da kine!!!
Mi arbre de noel est up y je suis prete a celebrate
CHRISTmas con mis amigos ici a Hilo.
Je t’envoie mon amour et blessings por decembre et la nouvelle annee.
Besos, Cherie
Grosse bises, BEEG hugs, et aloooooooooooha, xoxoLaurie:}

Translation: What a surprise, my dear friend!!!
I am so content and honored. Thank you (in four languages) from the bottom of my heart!
Now I want to add pidgen English of Hawaii to our email language: You have been one good friend and I am so happy for the many years we’ve had fun and all the memories. Come and I’ll take you swimming with dolphins in the ocean. So awesome!
My Christmas tree is up and I am ready to celebrate Christmas with with my friends here in Hilo.
I send you my love and blessings for December and the new year.
Kisses, Darling
Big hugs and aloha, Laurie

Gosh, Laurita, you’re adding pidgen to the mix? Would love to hear you speak it at the farmer’s market in Hilo. You’re right, I gotta get ova there. ;+) Devora

Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence November 27, 2009, 8:06 pm

I love the RED!

That’s right, Helen, you and Laurie are lovers of red! (Me too, btw.) Debra

marmee November 28, 2009, 11:38 am

how lovely laurie wants to share her beautiful gardens…i really like the idea of having a garden decorating party… many hands make light work.
what exactly did laurie say?
thanks for sharing.
happy november.

Oops, sorry Marmee, I didn’t think to translate our jumbled Spanglish, French and now pidgen English. Reading our emails is a bit like doing a puzzle. I’ve added translations here and to the text above. Thanks for asking…doubtless you’re not the only one to wonder! Debra

healingmagichands November 28, 2009, 11:49 am

This is a very inspirational post. I really loved looking at Laurie’s garden, it is so beautiful. I also love visiting gardens that are decorated for the holidays.

It isn’t going to make me go out and decorate my garden, though. Things are different here in the Ozarks — for example, I could wrap ribbon around the hangers of my hanging basket. I think they would set off the dead petunias really nicely. I also really like decorating a tree for near the sitting area, which is in my living room during the winter months! I can just imagine how all that decor would look during an ice storm. (For photos of what my place looked like a couple of years ago:

It almost makes me want to move to Hawaii. But I would miss my daffodils and peonies, both of which need to freeze for a bit in order to bloom. Maybe I should just go for a visit. I feel the need for a plumeria and ginger fix.

Hawaii is lovely in winter, although it rains cats and dogs in Hilo. In that warm, wet climate, everything grows like crazy. You have to constantly cut the jungle back. Laurie, btw, recently completed the Master Gardener program in Hilo, and has become an expert on tropical plants and how to grow them. As a volunteer, she answers a hot line and gives advice to people who have questions about gardening. I’m so proud of her! Debra

Jan (ThanksFor2Day) November 28, 2009, 2:39 pm

A very nice tribute, and I really enjoyed seeing the decorations in the garden!

Thank you, Jan. I see from your blog you’re a kindred spirit! Debra

Dee/reddirtramblings November 28, 2009, 3:30 pm

This was lovely. Your friend seems very generous and loving. I like the idea that you did this for your friend. Aren’t blogs wonderful?~~Dee

Thanks, Dee. Yes, just think: I wrote articles about Laurie and her garden for several publications, but this is the only one that has a potentially international audience. Debra

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