Designs FOR LIVING PRODUCTS & PRACTICAL ADVICE

The Allure of Herbs

GARDENS Dig up a Dallas garden in the spring, and before long, you’re likely lu to find herbs growing there. When properly planted and maintained, a variety of herbs can flourish through < the Texas growing season, surviving the intense heat of summer. And the results will make food taste better and the home and garden smell sweeter-Some gardeners even swear by herbs for home health care.

The secret to successful herb gardening is “location, location, location,” says Marian Buchanan, who is certified as a master gardener by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and conducts tours for small groups of the garden at her Bluffview home (call 357-9888 for reservations). “It’s everything,” she continues. “Youneed at leasthalf a day of full sun, preferably in the morning.” Buchanan also recommends planting in raised beds or in areas heavily laced with compost and other organic materials.

The most popular plants for cooks, Buchanan explains, include chives, basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and lemon thyme. For tea drinkers, she suggests a variety of basils, catnip, chamomile, seeds from dill and fennel, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, a variety of mints, rosemary, and scented geraniums.

The city’s most remarkable herb gardener may well be Odena Brannam, who owns Lavender Hill Herb Farms. She works her one-acre garden near Balch Springs daily, and in her spare time, she and gardening guru Howard Garrett have written a Texas herb gardening guide scheduled for publication by the University of Texas Press. All of that becomes more amazing when Brannam admits that she’s 85 years old. “I have my herbs, and I have a good attitude on life,” she explains. “I’m going to live to he over 100.”

That same exuberance characterizes other herbalists, including some who cook professionally. English-born Jenni Messina grows herbs both at home and at her eponymous Oak Lawn restaurant, Messina’s. “I love growing mints, not only for teas and garnishes but to include in sauces,” she says. “And 1 do think that mints repel some unwanted garden insects.” She also favors rosemary, because it grows the year around, and opal basil, because it reseeds itself.

Just as they cultivate their gardens, herbalists cultivate their plant sources. Those who share willingly list Texas Blooms, North Haven Gardens, and Nicholson-Hardie as good places to buy herbs. But the mast affordable healthy plants may be found at slots 113 and 115 of the yellow-and-white shed at The Farmers Market, where John Lumpkins Jr. sells a minimum of 20 varieties of herbs. His price: $1.50 for a four-inch pot.

Texas Blooms, 5016 Miller Avenue. North Haven Gardens, 7700 North-haven. Nicholson-Hardie, 5725 W. Lovers Lane.

Esprit de France

FINDS Because of your April en-counter with the IRS, youreal-ize that this summer won’t find you sitting in a sidewalk cafe in Montmartre, sniffing the lavender fields of Provence, or even shopping for antiques in a local marché aux puces, or flea market. But take hope. Even though you can’t afford a vacation to France, the worlds most popular tourist destination, you can capture a bit of the country’s joie de vivre without ever leaving the Dallas city limits.

Not everything for sale at the retail store named Provence actually comes from that geographic source. But who cares? Stroll inside this place, where the faux yellow stone walls (really glazed stucco) and the real tile floats suggest a French farmhouse, and you’ll be convinced that Aix-en-Provence can’t be far away. Owner Adele Kerr has stocked the shop with such Gallic goodies as pots of mustards, honeys and herbs, baskets, pottery emblazoned with sunflowers, candles, cookbooks, bedroom and dining room furniture, and, best of all, those marvelous Marseilles cube soaps (in olive, honey, milk and, yes, lavender).

Sojourns to France have inspired New York designer Peggy Walz’s spring collection of hand-painted tabletop fine linens, found locally at It’s A Wrap. An up-and-coming name in the national decorative arts field, Watz recaptures the roses and delphiniums of Monet’s gardens at Giverny in luscious sets of cloths and napkins. In a jauntier mood, Walz bedecks placemats and napkins with a table for two at a Parisian sidewalk cafe. The items are all machine washable.

The spirit of a luxurious, comfortable family home, just the sort of place a traveler dreams of discovering at the end of a picturesque country road, comes alive in the handsome antique reproductions at the Grange wholesale showroom (open to the design trade only). Although the furniture ranges from armoires to desks, tables, and chairs, Grange’s signature pieces are hand-waxed cherry sleigh beds, all perfect places for indulging in sweet dreams of French vacations.

Provence by Adele Kerr, 4404 Lovers Lane. It’s A Wrap, 25 Highland Park Village, Suite 106. Grange Furniture, 1400 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Suite 106 (open to the design trade only).

Faux Finishes

IDEAS When it comes to faking it,to day’s decorative painters know how. With a little color, a few brushes and rags, and whatever else seems handy at the moment, plywood paneling becomes Italian marble, Sheetrock turns into handsome wood veneer, and ordinary walls depict three -dimensional scenes from the past.

Do-it-yourselfers who want to know how it’s done may be interested in some upcoming classes. On Saturday, May 13, at 2:30 p.m., decorative painting expert David Simmons of Walnut Hill Paint Company will offer a demonstration class at 2715 Reagan Street, For the $50 tuition, students will get to see 28 different finishes.

David Lyles, one of the best and the brightest of Dallas’ current crop of decorative painters, will show samples of 60 finishes and share his techniques for creating three to five of them during a pair of free classes at Gabberts Furniture ?St. Design Studio at 13342 Midway on Monday, June 26, at both 1 and 6 p.m. Explains David: “Historically, decorative painting techniques have belonged to the domain of the super rich. Today we’re seeing a more egalitarian approach, and I like being able to offer these same techniques to a broader public at a more accessible price.”

Americana The Beautiful

BOOKS When the craze for country dec-* orating swept across America a dozen or so years ago, some people took one look at all the gingham ruffles and geese welcome mats, popped a couple of Alka-Seltzers, and went back to business as usual.

Not journalistic entrepreneur Mary Emmerling. She looked behind the froufrou and found that, at its core, the country look could be achieved without wretched excess by relying on the best of Americana. Antiques and crafts from this country, long under-appreciated in comparison to their foreign counterparts, deserved a place of honor. So Emmerling penned her first hook, American County, and it sold an astounding 160,000 copies.

Now this Martha Stewart of American country has written American Country Details, her 14th book on the subject. She divides the house into 16 categories-from architectural elements to windows-and offers multiple design ideas in each area. It’s a fresh, practical approach to decorating. A collection of 350 photographs and shopping lists of sources add to the book’s usefulness.

“It’s not a fad,” Mary Emmerling says of American country decorating, “It’s a lifestyle.” And, for her, an entire industry.

The Remains of the Day

ANTIQUES You can’t keep a good antique store down forever, particularly if it: deals in old architectural treasures. So no one should really be surprised over the return-in somewhat dif-ferent form-of the Wrecking Bar, that bastion of doors, windows, columns, brackets, mantels, hardware, light fixtures, and what-have-you, all saved from the wrecker’s ball.

During the 1970s and into the 1980s the first Wrecking Bar flourished in a cavernous abandoned church on McKinney Avenue. Then, with little notice, the establishment closed.

Now it’s back, at least in name and intent. With a new group of owners and a new location within the Park Cities Antique Mall, the second Wrecking Bar buys, sells, and consigns functional and decorative architectural elements. For now the inventory rates as only a shadow of the tonner wealth of material, but new things arrive weekly. “Tilings are harder to find,” says manager Donald Dykes, “but there’s an endless supply. It’s just a matter of finding them.”

And find them he does. You’ll see stained-glass windows from a bistro on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, scalloped columns from a mansion on Beverly Drive, and so on. Dykes says he welcomes it all. “Anyone can go out and buy something new,” he explains. “But this stuff-it’s history.”

The Wrecking Bar, 4908 West Lovers Lane.

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