A Gardener's Christmas

December 10, 1998

treeby KATE COLEMAN / staff writer

photos: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

It's Christmas at the Miller House - "A Gardener's Christmas." That's the theme of this year's holiday decorations, on display through Sunday, Dec. 27.

Decking the halls is a long-standing tradition at the Hagerstown headquarters of Washington County Historical Society. Usually the county's garden clubs each decorate a room, but this year there's a new twist on the greens.

Denny Warrenfeltz, who years ago worked as the Miller House's gardener and has been a member of the society's board of directors, took on the task of decorating the entire house. It is the fulfillment of a promise Warrenfeltz made to executive director Marjorie S. Peters, who is retiring after more than 23 years as executive director. The two have known each other about 20 years.


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Warrenfeltz told Peters he'd do the whole house in her honor when she retired.

"We said this 10 years ago, and now here it is," Peters says.

Peters is willing to share her honor as a way of thanking the garden clubs for all their years of holiday decorating.

bee hive"A Gardener's Christmas" was an easy choice for Warrenfeltz. He loves to garden, as do Peters and her husband, he says. He also thought it hadn't been done as a theme.

Warrenfeltz created several displays, including many pieces from his personal collection and his Funkstown flower, antiques and collectibles shop, Roostervane Gardens. Because of the recent warm, dry weather, he used a lot of dried flowers and plants, as well as greens and herbs that would dry without shedding.

A boxwood garden greets visitors at the front entrance with boxwood and magnolia window wreaths and boxwood- and magnolia-bedecked grapevine roping on the Miller House's iron railings. A bulb garden is represented inside the front doors in wreaths adorned with metal bulb planters. The front hall is a topiary garden.

mantlepieceOn the first floor, the front drawing room holds the tall, white pine Christmas tree. Its decorations include dried hydrangeas, feverfew, blue thistle, cockscomb, yarrow, tansy, black-eyed Susan and holly. Items from the Miller House collection are part of the display. There are an old seed box and old-fashioned sprayers. Warrenfeltz provided the nearly life-size papier mache figures that flank the tree. Above the mantel hangs an old wire star, and amid the greens on the mantel are a manger and boxwood angel.

The back drawing room is for the birds. There's whimsy in a scarecrow with hydrangea hair who's not bothering the crows. "Penny" birds - flat, felt birds - from the collection of Shawen Warrenfeltz, Denny Warrenfeltz's wife, hang from branches of a tree.

The entry to the dining room represents orchard and field, Warrenfeltz says. Informal corn shuck swags and wreaths decorate the archways. There's a seasonal partridge in a pear tree.

The more formal dining room is the herb garden. Warrenfeltz used the Miller House's porcelain garden partier set. Its tiny fence and corner cups surround a silver urn. Greens and tiny "ladies apples" garnish the arrangement. The mantel holds bunches of herbs, including rosemary, dill, tansy, bay, lavender and chive blossoms. Sage and lavender adorn wreaths in the windows.

Brambles and berries adorn the Miller House stairway. Grapevine garland with greens and baskets of berries trims the banister.

Warrenfeltz has set up a potting shed in the room that houses the Miller House's collection of red ware and Bell pottery.

stair railingThe back of the top of the stairs is the bee garden, highlighting the flying critters' importance to agriculture. A birch wreath in the window includes the crisp white berries of the popcorn plant.

The rose-colored front drawing room is done with tussy-mussies - Victorian-style bouquets - as window treatments. Boxwood and magnolia leaves fill Warrenfeltz's antique wedding and funeral baskets.

Warrenfeltz has created a little vignette on the shelves of the back bedroom. There are gardening books, tools and pots. There's an old drying rack filled with goodies from the garden.

A tall wedding basket at the foot of the bed contains an arrangement featuring dried peonies, which also adorn the greens on the mantel.

"I am just so overcome with what Denny has done for me, it's hard to explain. It's hard to put into words," Peters says.

Words can't do it justice. The Miller House Christmas is a house of gardening delights.

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