A lily for many days
It took hybridizer Jack Roberson 3,000 hybrid crosses to come up with Black-Eyed Stella, winner of the All-America Daylily honors for 1994. According to the All-America Daylily Selection Council, a nonprofit organization that tests and promotes superior cultivars, it exceeds all other day lilies in several important respects.
The Black-Eyed Stella has an extraordinary length of bloom -- in California and Florida, as long as 300 days; in North Carolina, 145 days. Compare that to the average day lily (21 days a year). The Black-Eyed Stella is exceptionally adaptable to heat, cold, drought, bugs and disease. The colors are brilliant. "I was striving for a color breakthrough," says Mr. Roberson. "When I saw that striking dark red eye-zone pattern set against golden yellow petals, I knew I had reached my goal."
Look for Black-Eyed Stella at garden centers and nurseries this spring and in mail-order catalogs.
You might find a shop like Portebello Square on Madison Avenue. Its big plate-glass windows are filled with antiques, English reproductions, paintings, Oriental rugs -- even two bronze lions that would be comfortable flanking the entrance of a public library.
Luckily, this new shop is located at 28A West Allegheny Ave. in Towson, not New York. Its prices aren't New York prices, either. Much of its stock of tables, chairs, buffets, chests, clocks, china, crystal and silver is quite affordable. "We do have antique jewelry for as much as $10,000," says co-owner Drauga Gilmore. "But I sold a glass boat recently for $5."
Portebello Square is open every day but Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and closes Monday through Wednesday at 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. Call (410) 821-1163.
In the now-I've-heard-everything department, GreenStreet Company is marketing fake water. Let's call it faux H2O -- that sounds more elegant. It's used by interior designers and home crafts people to give silk flower arrangements a fresh-cut look in transparent containers.
The arranger has several hours to work before the resin hardens. The new product holds the flowers in place without yellowing or cracking, and costs about $16 for 12 ounces (enough for two or three containers). Everlasting Elegance, as it's called, will be available at Ben Franklin and Frank's Nursery and Craft stores.
You could put 'The Bath' in your living room
An engaging combination of escapist fantasy, history, glorious photographs and practical sources, Diane Von Furstenberg's "The Bath" may well be the coffee table book of the season -- at least for those interested in interior design.
From the excesses of the Roman Empire (Caligula swallowed pearls dissolved in aromatic vinegar while soaking in scented oils, and Heliogabalus took on the task of bathing with every prostitute in Rome) to the author's reflections on her own sumptuous bathroom at her Connecticut farm, "The Bath" celebrates the room and the ritual surrounding it. There are 175 color photographs of some of the most lavish baths in the world, plus an entertaining text tracing the history of private and public bathing.
Entrepreneur Diane Von Furstenberg also shares five natural recipes for bath aromatherapy with her readers, as well as sources for herbs and oils.
"The Bath," published by Random House, costs $38. This is not the holiday present for everyone. The first box, which arrives at Christmas and announces your gift, contains chocolate lady bugs. The second box, which arrives in early May with detailed instructions, contains 1 million parasitic nematodes, 1,000 lacewing eggs, one praying mantis egg case, two cards of encarcia (white fly) eggs and one card of tricogramma (caterpillar) eggs.
These are, to reduce the concept to its simplest terms, good bugs -- predators designed to eat the bad bugs in your garden. They help you get rid of problem pests safely and without pesticides.
The box of bugs comes from the Bug Store, founded by garden designer Ken Miller to teach homeowners how to use natural means to control pests in their lawns and gardens. But what's to keep the gift bugs from leaving? "They tend to stay around," promises Mr. Miller, "except for lady bugs and praying mantises. First of all, they stay near the food source. Second, most of them move at most hundreds of feet in their whole lifetime."
The Christmas Box of Bugs costs $28, which includes shipping. To order, call (800) 455-BUGS.