Top Drawer

June 6, 2009 

Larkspur, poppies and art

Frances Alvarino of Raleigh is always busy this time of year getting her garden ready for a party. This isn't your average garden party, though. She's expecting more than 1,000 guests over two days at her annual Larkspur Party and Art Show in North Raleigh. This year's show is today and Sunday.

Many of her friends and neighbors have been helping out with weeding and trimming. "It takes lots and lots of hours to make the yard look good," Alvarino says.

This weekend visitors will be strolling around the lawn, checking out original works of art from more than 15 local artists. The artwork includes clay and metal sculptures, stoneware, jewelry and paintings. Alvarino also does some sculpture -- female figures in clay, she says. Other vendors will sell unusual perennials, annuals, tropicals and orchids.

Alvarino, 51, has been gardening since her early 20s. She got the bug after working in a greenhouse in Charlotte for her first job. Then she started growing some things on her own. Now, she grows poppies, larkspur and other flowers on her 1 3/4-acre property. "I'm a flower girl," she says, laughing.

This party got started 14 years ago when Alvarino and some friends were trying to come up with a way to show their art. Among the artists at the show are neighbors who are artists and people she has met through the Triangle Potters Guild. "I love sharing my garden," she says.

The show is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 6401 Litchford Road in Raleigh. Admission is free. Info: 623-1458.

Something for the kids

Children's minds are naturally scientific, say the folks at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. They want to nurture that with a new Sunday drop-in program for children ages 4 and older. The children can learn to make bird feeders, grow sweet potatoes and more. It all begins Sunday and runs most Sundays through the end of August. This month it goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All the programs have components that families can work on later at home. Sunday's activity is a germ experiment, and on June 14, the kids will build a Toad Abode. To find out about future activities and times, go to

Rain gardening

Gardeners know that sometimes we get lots of rain and other times we get very little rain. No matter which we're enduring at the moment, Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford have some advice. The women, authors of "Rain Gardening in the South: Ecologically Designed Gardens for Drought, Deluge and Everything in Between," will be at Logan Trading Co. today to talk about how to garden with whatever moisture nature drops on us. The talk is free and open to the public at 3 p.m. at Logan's, 707 Semart Drive, Raleigh. 828-5337.

Take your party outside

Entertaining outdoors sounds like a great idea, but where to start? If you're short on ideas, take a look at "Outdoor Entertaining Idea Book" by Natalie Ermann Russell (The Taunton Press). The book covers cooking outdoors, outdoor dining, outdoor living rooms, pool basics and garden rooms. Whether you need help deciding on furniture, how to set up a pretty table, lighting or plants, it's in here. The book has more than 300 color photos to help make everything clear. One of the cool ideas is a life-size chess board on the lawn made from pavers.

Backyard sighting

Holly Jacques of Zebulon took this picture on her neighbor's front porch. "My neighbor has a glass lantern with pink and yellow flowers made out of burlap material," Jacques said in an e-mail. "Mommy bird thought it would be a good place for a nest. I am sooo glad that she chose that particular place because it made for a great photo op."

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