It’s a Different World When It Comes to Plants….

As most of my readers know, I love traveling around the country for my fictional books. Whether my research takes me to big cities like Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans or Memphis, small towns like Natchez, Mississippi or Jesup, Georgia, or forgotten mountain hideaways like Balsam, North Carolina, I’m enchanted by the South. I love the slower pace, the slower speech patterns and the wonderful food. This past year I learned to love cheesy shrimp and grits, steamed oysters, and she-crab soup.

But since I’m a country girl who loves getting her hands dirty in my garden, I’m always intrigued by the plants which grow where the winters don’t get as cold and snowy as (northern) Ohio’s. Here are eight of my favorite plants that don’t grow where I live, plus the magnificent magnolia tree, which does grow here, but is far less common up north. (My photo is from one of my neighbor’s two magnolias in her front yard. Some people have all the luck!) All photos except the magnolia were taken on the coast of Georgia.

l) camellias – they were blooming everywhere in February! What a treat!!

2) saw palmetto – used often in landscape borders. According to one landscaper, it’s the berries that are being used in prostate research. Fan-shaped plant must have the “saw” teeth in order to have those berries.
3) palmetto palms – close to the ground, grows abundantly in all coastal natural areas
4) loblolly pine – aka, southern yellow pine. I saw huge forests of them in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South and North Carolina. For timber industry, it’s the most commercially important tree in Southeastern US.

 

5) yaupon holly – waxy leaves, red berries, grows wild in maritime forest, but the bush is a nice addition to yards too.
6) palm trees – I just learned some get coconuts, some don’t. Majestic trees, but don’t stand up well to hurricane force winds.
7) live oaks – the tree which most of us Yankees associate      with the deep South. Cute little acorns. Keeps its leaves year-round, which means it’s always losing some year-round, so you’re never down raking or blowing leaves. And you almost never see one without the ubiquitous Spanish moss.

8) bamboo – found tall, thick stands of this used as privacy fences everywhere. Much cheaper than chain-link!! Some places it has become downright invasive!

9) magnolia – quintessential “Southern” flower (but it does grow up north too.)  (on very bottom of post)
I know there are plenty of other southern plants that I didn’t include, but I saw these everywhere I went on St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Tell me what plant or flower you love to see on vacation that doesn’t grow where you live for a chance to win a copy of The Amish Sweet Shop. Please leave an email address. US and Canada only.

Happy Spring, Mary Ellis

And the winner is…..

It’s three days before Christmas…

And the Winner is…

The winner of The Suspense Sisters Christmas Contest is….
Sara Aimee!

Congratulations! We’ll soon be in touch!!

Thanks to all my readers who entered the contest! And have a very Happy New Year!!  Mary Ellis 

Remember, The Amish Sweet Shop, 3 novellas just in time for Valentine’s Day, releases very soon.

And for my mystery lovers, Sweet Taste of Revenge, releases on February 1st.


It’s Not About Me

Hello, readers! Although usually I write mysteries and romantic suspense set in the South, recently I wrote a story set in an Amish community. My characters use their faith and trust in God to solve their problems. My hope as an author is that my fictional stories will encourage readers during their own times of tribulation. Shortly after I began my writing career, and experienced a modicum of success, I made a sign to hang over my desk of a favorite Scripture:  “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:12 NLT

My mother had her own version of that particular passage: Stop tooting your own horn. And her favorite: The less said about one’s self the better. The immortal maxims of my late mother still ring in my ears today, making me smile. The problem is Mom was a stay-at-home housewife, not a published author. How does a Christian balance being humble with the necessity of self-promotion, essential in the world of publishing? Not only writers, but musicians, dancers, actors, salespeople, public speakers, sports figures and of course, politicians must do quite a bit of horn-tooting to stay in the game. Even doctors and lawyers appear on TV enticing us to file that lawsuit or get that tummy-tuck expressly from them. Often this type of marketing isn’t just expected but required in the fine print of contracts.
I have struggled with the dilemma of promotion vs. setting oneself above others. I don’t like having to say: “look at me and what I’ve accomplished” even though I’m expected to blog, Facebook and participate in author interviews. So I must walk a narrow path between not puffing myself up, and spreading the word that a book about God’s infinite grace, mercy and love has just been released.  I focus on one undeniable truth: God gave me whatever humble abilities I possess. As long as He continues to put words into my head, I will continue to turn them into gentle stories meant to inspire. I hope I never forget: It’s not about me. It’s all by His hand and for His glory.
Have a lovely Thanksgiving, readers!!   Mary Ellis

A Recipe for Romance and a new Amish mystery is on the way!

Gourmets and cooking-show fanatics will shake their heads at this post, but I must share the story of the first dinner I cooked for my boyfriend (now my husband of many years). We were sophomores in college and had only been dating for several months. Yet, somehow we both knew this was the one. Keep in mind, any time my mom tried to teach me to cook I would run in the other direction. Even chemistry homework appealed more than anything in the kitchen. But when Ken asked me to fix him dinner during Christmas vacation, what did I say? Sure, why not? After all, how hard could it be? I packed all the ingredients from grocery store into my car and drove to his house. The rest of his family would be out for the evening. Did I take a cookbook? Of course not, since my mother didn’t own one. She’d learned everything from Grandma Ellis who also never wrote anything down. Ken chose fried chicken and potato salad as his favorite meal. I added iceberg lettuce with bottled dressing and green beans straight from the can—no butter or seasoning—to round out the meal. I breaded and fried the chicken, then kept turning the pieces in the skillet until I set off the smoke alarm. After all, I had no idea when they were done. But the extra crispy chicken turned out better than my potato salad. Since I had no idea when the potatoes might be cooked, the result resembled mashed spuds with tiny pieces of celery, onion and hard-boiled egg. But Ken loved my dinner. He not only cleaned his plate but raved about everything. Maybe it’s not surprising since I was cute-as-a-bug and he was enchanted. But here’s the best part: When his parents and sister returned from the movies, they all took plates and ate the leftovers. In fact, my late mother-in-law’s exact words were: “Oh, my, you better not let this one get away. Any girl who cooks like this is a keeper.”

I went home that night thinking I was a good cook. It would be some time before I found out the truth. But Ken proposed that Christmas and we marred six days after college graduation. I still miss my mom and my mother-in-law. They both taught me that unconditional love is more important than anything that goes into your stomach. Before she passed away, my mom did teach me to cook a few of her special recipes, but every now and then I still set off smoke alarms…just for old times’ sake.
You may pre-book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amish-Sweet-Shop-Emma-Miller-ebook/dp/B07BVGY2HD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536951371&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amish+sweet+shop&dpID=5143TwRcd%252BL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch