The Rosiest Gal I Know

A Labeled Specimen

I have met some really cool people since moving to Virginia in 2011. It’s hard to believe it has already been five years! Well, not officially five until September 30/October 1, but that’s close enough. Sometimes it still feels so new…

But, back to me having met COOL people. One of the interesting localish ladies I’ve befriended is Connie Stevens Hilker. Some of you may remember her from this 2014 post of mine. According to the bio on Connie’s blog…

…I started Hartwood Roses, an educational rose garden in Virginia that specializes in rare and unusual antique roses. I know a lot about roses, old houses, carpentry and remodeling, and am an expert day dreamer. You will often find me working in the garden, planning a home project, building something, or hanging out in a cemetery …all of this has come in handy as my husband and I restore our historic home (built in 1848) renovate the outbuildings, and design the gardens.

She loves animals, too. She’s a supporter of dog rescue. She paints furniture. She’s just a really fun gal. And she’s married to a guy named, Steve, an artist who also seems like a cool chap. Here’s a recent pic of the two of them from Connie’s blog…

Steve and Connie
Steve and Connie

Aren’t they a cute couple? They’re grandparents, too.

Now for the point of this post… Connie and Steve hosted an open house/walking garden tour this past May. It’s an annual thing, I think. After seeing all of their preparations online, I thought it would be fun to go.

Illustrated Map of the Property

There was a map and everything. If you click on any of the images in this post, a larger version will open so you can see details.

Hartwood Manor
Hartwood Manor – photo courtesy of Connie


There were LOTS of different rose varieties.

I hadn’t told Connie I was coming. She was a little surprised to see me, but I think Steve was more surprised to see this granny pull into his yard on a motorcycle. I hadn’t met Steve before that day. Of course, I felt like I knew him to some degree through Connie and her social media posts.

That’s Connie on the left chatting-up some other visitors.

It’s a big yard with a lot of different gardens and planting areas.

Front Hybrid Tea Rose beds, laid out English-garden-style.


Rear outbuildings; L-R, Carriage House Garage, The Shack, and the Greenhouse.


5_Miniature Garden_IMG_0197
There’s the large Miniature Garden behind the outbuildings.


The Barn and Cottage toward the rear of the property.


6_The Barn_IMG_0220
English Rose garden near The Barn


Rose Tree (a climbing rose went crazy, resulting in this happy accident)

That’s an overview of the property. Isn’t it delightful?

Now for a bunch of pictures of their gorgeous roses.

One of my favorite pics from the day.




This flower is a unique shade of dusty lavender; the pic doesn’t do it justice.




Tea Rose




This is a George Washington cabbage rose that dates back to 1860!


Tea Rose


My Favorite Flower




Connie  did a post back in June — she’s FAR more timely than me — with pics where she labeled a lot of the roses.

If you’d like to read more about their old house, check out the “home” section of Connie’s blog. WARNING: you may fall in love with these peeps if you read all about how they restored that beautiful old barn.

Impressive, right?

Peeps I Know: Tasting Grace

The other day I announced that I’d be starting a new initiative to bring a little bit of extra attention to some of the people I have “met” online. I refer to these folks as “the people in my computer.” Hubby thinks I am a bit nuts. That’s just because he doesn’t like people nearly as much as I do. And he just thinks I’m nuts in general.

Really, though. I have met some VERY cool people. As I was pondering who to mention first, a post popped up on my reader that totally sealed the deal. I’ll get to that post in a bit, but first, I’d like to introduce you to one of the Peeps I Know.

Blog Title: Tasting Grace

Blog Author: Jade Keller

I actually met Jade first through her photography. She’s a regular You Capture participant. That link leads right to her You Capture entries. She also happens to be a very talented writer.

Good images coupled with strong writing will suck me in every time. I can’t help myself. I am compelled to learn more about the person.

If I remember correctly, first I just bookmarked Jade’s blog. I think it was this Chasing a Dream post that really intrigued me and made me want to follow this young woman.

I mean, how cool is it to drop everything and go to the other side of the world to do something you feel moved to do? It’s VERY cool.

It’s also sort of interesting that she ended up in one of the places in Thailand that Shannon liked the best.

Honestly, I have really enjoyed following along these last few months as she and her husband left everything they know to move to Thailand.

In case you didn’t read that Chasing a Dream post, I’ll tell you why they moved to Thailand. In her words, she’ll be “working as Project Director for the SOLD Project, an advocacy group in Thailand dedicated to preventing and helping victims of human trafficking and sexual servitude. I want to do what I can to help the girls (and boys) who go into the city trying to find work in restaurants or bars to support their families, but then end up abducted into prostitution. It is a black market so large, it competes with drugs and guns. It is so pervasive, numbers so large we can’t even comprehend – numbers of little girls and sold into slavery every day. It even has an impact, not only on national health, but also on GDP and terrorism. It is a problem we know about. But we don’t really know.”

That post that popped up on my reader yesterday was this one: Coming to SOLD. It brought tears to my eyes. It made SOLD real. Not that I didn’t believe her already. It’s just that seeing the faces of those kids is pretty powerful.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a waste of time getting to know these people in my computer. I’ll probably never meet or even speak to most of them. But then I realize how much richer it makes me feel knowing there are people like Jade out there in the world. And I’d never know about her, or the cool things she’s doing, or get to enjoy her pictures, general writings on life, etc., if I didn’t do this whole blogging thing.

I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon.

If you do go and poke around on Jade’s blog — and you really should — be sure to tell her that ToadMama sent you.

Why Stop? Why Not?

A fellow blogger did a post recently about bloggers who stop blogging and what impact it has on those readers who have been left behind. Shybiker said,

“…none of us has to blog; it’s an entirely voluntary activity.  And all of us are free to stop anytime we want.  We don’t owe anything to the blogging-world.”

That’s true, too. I could stop blogging today and nothing Earth-shattering would happen. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be missed by at least a few people. But life would go on.

Think about the different blogs you frequent. Would you miss any of them if they just went away? If the blogger just all of a sudden, or even with some warning, stopped blogging?

Shybiker posed two questions at the end of that aforementioned post: “Are you happy with your blogging?” and “Have you ever thought about stopping?”

Here’s my unedited reply… “I have thought about stopping on a few different occasions. It does take time and effort to keep a blog going. One of the most disheartening things for me is when people don’t bother to comment. I know not every post is worthy of comment. And I don’t want people to comment just for the sake of commenting. But to a blogger, comments are the only way you know people are reading. I really treasure people like you who actually read my blogs and have frequent, thought-provoking comments.”

I’m not trying to guilt you into commenting. Really. I just thought I’d give you something to think about.

If you are not a blogger, perhaps you don’t get the whole comment thing.

Maybe this will help.

Pretend you visit a coffee shop every day. Or at least a few times a week. You’re not the only visitor. You really like going because people often tell funny little stories, share pictures of their kids/grand kids/dogs, tell you about interesting news stories, show off their vacation/hobby photos, etc. Every now and then another visitor will laugh at one of the stories, or say “nice picture.” One might say, “Cute kids!” Someone else might have a constructive photo critique. Yet another may go on and on about some other facet of whatever is being shared.

Now, what if no one ever said anything to those folks doing all that sharing? No one ever said, “nice picture,” or even so much as giggled. Do you think they’d continue? I doubt it.

By the same token, what if everyone felt obligated to say something, anything just for the sake of acknowledging the person? Would the comments be as meaningful? Probably not.

I’ve met a number of people via my various blog-related activities (writing my posts and reading other peoples’ blogs). Like Shybiker, I’ve gotten attached to some of them. Or at least I look forward to seeing their pictures, reading their posts, seeing their comments on my blog, etc. Most of the blogs I read regularly (about 20) are personal interest blogs to some extent. They’re not all just diary-type blogs, but they do all reveal certain aspects of each blogger’s life. Most of them are photo-intensive, too. If they’re good, it’s hard not to get attached.

I decided to encourage some of the bloggers whose blogs I frequent by adding a special feature to my own blog. I’m calling it Peeps I Know. Periodically, I’ll profile one of my favorite bloggers. Hopefully you’ll take a peek at each of their blogs. Maybe you’ll discover something new and of interest to you. Maybe you will even leave them a comment?

In any event, all of the people I will feature are most definitely people I would miss.

I’ll have to start tomorrow though. ‘Cause right now I have to get to work. And I want to make sure I have plenty of time to introduce these people properly. Because they deserve it.

If you have a blog, maybe you would consider adding a Peeps I Know feature. You can call it something else, of course. You don’t have to use a dorky title like me. Feel free to use my funky chicken. Or, if you’d like, I’ll make you a special graphic that you can use with every introductory Peeps I Know-type post. As long as the graphic isn’t too elaborate.

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for the next appearance of my chicken. You’ll have a chance to “meet” some very cool people.