I recently visited a thrift store where I spied a simple and classy silver footed cake stand. As I was deciding if I really needed it, an announcement came over the PA that all pink-tagged items were on sale. Since the cake stand had a pink tag, I took that as a sign that I was meant to have it.
I’ve always been a pushover for pedestals or any kind of elevated or footed container.
And just the way a cake looks so much more impressive on an elevated stand, if I take a common, garden-variety plant, and place it in an elevated container, that somehow makes the plant look more important.
So today, I am sharing the simple way that I used my silver cake stand to display a bunch of grocery store tulips.
For this project, the goal was to take a small bunch of cut tulips (cost: $1.69) and make them look like they were growing out of a moss-covered chunk of earth. This chunk of earth would be elevated on the stand to contrast natural materials with polished elegance.
Tillandsia Usneoides (live Spanish moss) is a beautiful and amazing air plant. It is my current obsession, and I will be writing more about it soon. For now, let’s just say it was the icing on the cake (okay, more like the icing around the cake).
I can simply replace these tulips with new ones once they get tired – or try a different type of flower or even a combination.
And maybe one day I will use the stand for a real cake.
We’ve collected, inherited, and been given these pieces over the years. What I love about Villeroy & Boch is that many of their patterns, even the vintage ones, are a bit playful. They put a whimsical spin on classic china.
Repurposed Valentine’s Day Flowers
For the centerpiece, I just used some of my Valentine’s Day roses in a vintage fan vase.
It didn’t take up much table space, and it added a little visual tension to the blue-and-white theme.
So the dinner went well, and by now my family was lulled into a false sense of security – because they had not yet seen The Cake.
An Experimental Orange Rum Cake
Here I should mention that this is not a cooking blog. And I would never, ever, claim to have expertise in baking.
You’ll see why when I show you the birthday cake that I baked.
What is that brown stuff on top? We’ll come to that.
I knew the birthday girl would enjoy a fruit-flavored cake with little or no frosting. The words “orange cake” popped into my head. So I googled it.
I found this recipe for a syrup-infused orange cake. But instead of following the recipe for the cake, I just used a boxed yellow cake mix and substituted orange juice for the water.
Then I followed the recipe for the orange syrup portion, but I decided to make it an orange rum cake. So I substituted some of the orange juice that the recipe called for with spiced rum.
It was all going really well. The syrup was infusing into the cake.
It was time for the final step: Making the glaze. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but my glaze cooled into rock-hard clumps the minute I spread it onto the cake. It stuck to the spatula. It stuck to my teeth. I knew then that if I finished spreading it on the cake, I’d need a chain saw to cut into it. So I stopped. All done!
Next time I’ll skip that part. I served the cake with whipped cream, and it was actually pretty tasty – for an experiment.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.
I had some fun decorating my front porch for Halloween this year. But, after Halloween had passed, I needed to find new decor inspiration for the porch. And I got it from that old, underrated source: The forest floor.
More specifically, the floor of my woodsy little shade garden. There are plenty of mosses, lichens, berries, and fallen branches there this time of year. And they can be so beautiful.
None of it looks perfect but, to me, fall is all about the imperfect beauty of nature.
I pulled it off and added newer reindeer moss – plus some lichen-covered twigs from my shade garden.
The slice of the forest floor and the rustic wreath should make for a nice transition from fall into winter. So, no worries if I’m slow getting around to holiday decor for the front porch.
But this lichen-and-moss look will stay outside for one reason: Tiny critters. Since most of the materials came from my garden, who knows what is living in that moss. Whatever it is, it (and I) will be much happier if it stays outside.
This will be the last Second Tuesday Art Walk for a little while. I’ve decided to put this monthly feature on hold because I have so many things I want to share on this blog – but not enough time to write posts about them. So for now something has to give – and that something is Second Tuesday Art Walk.
One of the reasons that I’m short on time is that we have a large garden, and it’s time for spring garden clean up.
Spending two days taming a buttercup infestation makes it easy to lose sight of the reason that I love gardening in the first place: Gardening is a creative outlet. But gardeners here in the Pacific Northwest have the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Festival to remind us of that.
Last month, the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary. My mom, Erika, and I have been attending the festival, which takes place in Seattle, every year – probably since the very first one.
So I thought this would be a fun time to share some of my favorite things from this year’s festival and some from recent years past.
Inside the entrance, a cheerful spring bulb display always greets visitors. The intoxicating fragrance of hyacinths and the piped-in bird songs set the mood for the show.
I love her use of natural elements and settings that create a story about nature. Her 2018 installment was entitled “Forest Friends.”
Mom and I spent some time soaking in all the details of this piece, and photos just don’t do it justice.
Michelle’s work is joined by that of many other floral artists. Some artists even poke fun at living in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the years, it seems that the lighting in the display garden area has evolved into an art in itself. The public shuffles around in near darkness, and the displays are lighted for maximum impact.
The result is a fantasy world where trees become ethereal.
Large Scale Nature
Preparing for this show is an immense undertaking. Huge trees, boulders, downed logs, and giant root systems are brought in.
Little Pink Houses – And Other Ones Too
To me, what the display gardens do best is blend man made structures with natural elements.
Cottages, quaint shops, or even little neighborhoods are created.
Pergolas, Sheds, and Greenhouses
These little (or sometimes not-so-little) structures are the stuff that dreams are made of. They are why I always leave the show with a million ideas bouncing around in my head – even if they are completely impractical ideas that I could never act on.
After all, how many of us actually have a luxurious sleeping shed with a built-in herb garden nailed to the exterior?
Or an island pergola?
Or a stained glass greenhouse?
Other structures seem more attainable. Or at least I can kid myself that they are.
Al Fresco Living
Because it’s cold and raining about 75% of the time here in the Pacific Northwest – or at least it seems that way – when the weather actually is cooperating, almost everyone rushes outside to dine and lounge al fresco.
And the festival always has some lovely vignettes to inspire us to do just that.
Al Fresco Cooking
And isn’t it everyone’s dream to cook outdoors? How about a gorgeous built-in barbecue with a live herb garden growing on the backsplash?
The festival always has a few amazing outdoor kitchens for us to drool over.
Of course, some displays are purely for fun.
We try to take our time with the display gardens and really soak everything in. There is so much to see that it would be easy to miss the small details that are often so inspiring.
Like most big cities, Seattle is becoming denser and gardens are shrinking. But the festival always has some fun ideas for small-space gardening.
There are so many seminars offered at this festival. I’m ashamed to admit that Mom and I have never attended a single one. No, the festival is so huge that we are lucky just to get through the display gardens and the marketplace.
This year, the marketplace seemed bigger than ever, and we didn’t have enough time to see all of the booths.
I bundled handfuls of twigs together with wire and attached them to a wreath form – again using wire. I tried to space the bundles evenly around the wreath form.
I didn’t worry about concealing the wire. You’ll see why later.
I should have worn gloves. Between handling the twigs and bending the wire, my hands took a beating. I used a wire we had on hand, but in the future I’ll probably use this florist wire instead since it’s made specifically for floral projects.
Taming the Monster
I ended up with a monster. I loved it. But it was way too wide to hang on our door.
So I pruned it with garden shears. I didn’t want it to look too neat, so I tried not to prune it too evenly.
Now it would fit on the door. But the wires still needed to be concealed.
I started out using greening pins but, for the amount of moss that I needed to attach, that got tedious very quicky. So I wound up using good old fashioned Elmer’s Glue to attach the moss to the wreath. It worked fine, and I’ve read that Elmer’s is biodegradable.
And since the wreath will hang in a protected area where it won’t get wet, the glue should hold.
My wreath looks just like the one I’d seen at the nursery.
I wasn’t sure if a dark twig wreath would look right against our charcoal colored door. But I like it.
I could add a few pieces of spring or Easter decor to the wreath. Or not. I kind of enjoy it the way it is.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
More On Twig Wreaths
With twig wreaths, the possibilities are endless. Now I want to try grapevines, pussywillows, and even bamboo.
One place I’m looking to for inspiration is Etsy, where the artists are offering so many beautiful handmade twig wreaths that put mine to shame.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that in September I urged you to save any allium seed heads that might be growing in your garden. And now I’m going to show you why.
Last holiday season, my talented friend Loralee gave me this adorable gift, which she made herself using an allium seed head.
It got me thinking about all the ways we can use allium seed heads in holiday decor. So I’ve been doing a little experimenting.
Finding Seed Heads
Allium plants are grown from bulbs. In my area, they bloom spring to summer, and then the flowers turn into seed heads that are highly ornamental. They come in many sizes, heights, and shapes. Some are huge, some are tiny.
I found only one seed head in my own garden, but it was pretty spectacular.
And in early fall, a neighbor offered me all of her allium seed heads. She had a nice variety.
Some still had seeds so I left those outside for the birds until the weather turned.
And I let them all dry indoors completely before I began using them.
Even though I shook off the excess, little bits of the Buffalo Snow Flakes continued to shed. So in this case I probably would have been better off with a spray-on sparkle.
Working with the alliums took a little patience because some of them were still shedding seeds.
And the seed heads got tangled together very easily. They were brittle and fragile, and I had to be careful not to damage them.
Still I am happy with the results. Here is what I’ve done with them so far.
I like to keep things simple. By securing allium stems of varying heights to spike frogs,
I made a frozen forest to go behind the vintage putz church that once belonged to my husband’s parents.
The smallest allium seed head is secured to a tiny spike frog. It towers over a three-inch German nutcracker as he wanders through a miniature forest.
The seed heads were on long stems. Some of them were almost as tall as me. I had fantasies of making a full-sized allium forest with them. But getting them to stand securely on such tall stems would have taken some doing.
Still I had one dramatically curving stem that was almost three feet tall, and I wanted to do something special with it. I was able to secure it, and a few other stems of varying heights, by inserting stem wire into the bottom of the stems and leaving a couple of inches of floral wire out of the stem. I used wire cutters to cut the stem wire to size where needed.
Then I secured them to a piece of styrofoam set in a shallow clay bowl.
I covered the styrofoam with preserved moss and added a some small vintage ornaments. I chose one good example of each type of seed head to make this crazy thing.
What Mom Did
Of course I frosted way too many seed heads so I gave some to Mom. Her first career was in floral design, so I was curious to see how she would use them.
She mixed them with materials she had on hand to make this lovely piece for her entryway.
Mom is amazing with all things floral. She could have made five of these in her sleep in the time it took me to put together my “Holiday Drama” creation.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
About Putz Houses and Churches
Putz means different things to different people, but really any piece of a holiday-themed miniature village can be considered putz.
I’m almost afraid to say this but the rain has finally stopped – for now. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had an unusually cold and wet spring. But now it seems that we’ve turned a corner.
We’ve even enjoyed dinners on our patio these past few nights. This got me thinking about some of my previous posts on gardening and outdoor entertaining. A few of them contain information that we can use right now, so I thought I would share a little roundup.
This time of year always has me thinking about my old neighbor, Mr. B. His tomato plants were legendary, and he taught me everything I know about raising tomatoes. In Tomato Tips from Mr. B, I pass along his old-school advice.
One of my very first blog posts was about choosing bold colors for man-made garden structures. My writing style has changed since I wrote it, and hopefully my photos are better now. But I still feel the same way about using bold colors for the outdoors.
Whites and barely there colors are still popular indoor paint trends. But outdoors is a whole different story. In a lush garden, accents and small buildings can get lost if they are not given a strong color.
My earlier post explained in detail how to force paperwhite bulbs indoors, so I won’t go into that here. If you’ve never forced paperwhite bulbs before, that post is very helpful.
I’m just starting my paperwhites for this season, but I thought it would be fun to share what I did last year.
Finding the Look
To me, the fun of growing paperwhites is choosing the right combination of container, pebbles (natural or glass), and decorative accents such as moss, twigs, berries, even shells, to make an attractive display.
The possibilities are endless. I used all kinds of containers last year: A silver urn, a vintage porcelain candy dish, a ceramic urn, and some glass containers.
I started one bulb in a small jar. Then I placed that jar inside a larger jar and lined the inside with moss.
The end result is a paperwhite that appears to be sprouting out of the moss. On the other arrangements, I hid the pebbles under a blanket of moss to give the arrangements a softer, natural look.
I created a vignette with a lichen-covered branch from the garden for a little natural texture – and drama. This photo shows the stage I enjoy the most – when the first flowers are beginning to bloom.
I moved the silver urn to the front porch. In moderate climates, paperwhites are usually fine in a protected area outdoors. In fact, I’m going to play around with that idea more this year: Blooming paperwhites in containers on the front porch.
The silver urn still needed a little something so I shopped my garden for twigs and more lichens.
Adding free or inexpensive natural accents always makes the arrangement look elegant. And in the dead of winter, it’s fun to bring the outdoors in.
Paperwhites as Gifts
I started a few arrangements to give as gifts. They are wonderful hostess gifts. Throughout the year, I kept an eye out at thrift stores and estate sales for anything water tight that would make a unique paperwhite container. I looked for attractive vases and urns, vintage milk glass bowls, vintage footed candy dishes, and cute pitchers or jugs.
Here I used mostly glass containers – some just large jars. The fun of using clear glass containers is that, as the bulb begins to sprout, so does its root system, and you can actually see the roots winding between the pebbles (although not so visible in the photo below).
Wired craft store berries are an attractive addition, but they also serve as stakes to keep the paperwhite blossoms upright as they grow.
With each arrangement, I included a card explaining how to care for the paperwhites.
The card read:
Caring for Paperwhites:
Keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulb so that the roots are immersed. These bulbs should start blooming in a week or so. They can be enjoyed indoors – or outdoors in a protected area. Once the bulbs have finished blooming, they can be tossed into the compost bin.
Then they were boxed up and ready for giving.
They hadn’t yet started to bloom when I gave them away, but that was actually a good thing. The recipient could enjoy the show – and the fragrance – when the blooms began.
Are we already in August? As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do. So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap. While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September. At least that’s the plan.
And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.
I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither. I came up with these three arrangements.
Thriller, Filler, Spiller
The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.
Thriller: Red roses
Filler: Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
Spiller: Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath. The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.
In this post, we have a fun mix of things: An elegant budget floral arrangement, a small DIY decor project, and some new decor inspiration for outdoor spaces.
Making Street Market Flowers Look Elegant
Last Sunday at our neighborhood street market, my husband, Chris, offered to buy me a bunch of locally-grown flowers from a vendor.
A $5 bunch seemed large enough. Curious to see what he would choose, I asked Chris to pick out the flowers. He chose a colorful bunch of assorted flowers and a single stem each of allium and foxtail lily.
I wanted to arrange them in a tall fluted glass vase that I found a while back at a vintage market. I love the simple elegance of the vase. But when a vase is wider at the top than at the bottom, it’s sometimes hard to get the flowers to stand straight.
So it helps to create a simple tape grid at the top of the vase.
Tip: Put the water in the vase before creating the tape grid.
The grid didn’t need to be very elaborate. I added decorative rocks to the bottom because the flower stems would be too short otherwise. (That and it makes the vase more difficult for my cats to tip over.)
The foxtail lily went in the middle as the tallest stem – with other tall stems surrounding it. Next came larger-diameter blossoms (iris, peony, the allium), and then the filler blossoms and the greens.
Easy and elegant.
By the way, as some of the flower vendors pointed out, it’s almost time to say goodbye to the beautiful peony until next year. But is it? As mentioned in Sunset Magazine and on Sunset’s blog, some farmers in Alaska are growing July-blooming peonies. So maybe there is a chance that we will be seeing these beauties in the lower 48 and other locations later this summer.
DIY Outdoor Placemats
This project didn’t turn out quite as planned, but I think it’s still worth sharing.
One nice feature of a round table is that it is often easier to add extra place settings than it would be with a rectangular or square table. Even so, when more place settings are added, the space between them becomes tighter.
So I decided to make some simple placemats for our round patio table. I wanted to make enough to seat six, so the placemats couldn’t be too large. And to follow the curve of the round table, the placemats should also be round. And since they would be used outside, they could look rustic.
Warning: Weird burlap project ahead!
I had a roll of burlap fabric and some liquid fabric stiffener (which I had never tried before) in my craft room. So I used a 13-inch platter as a template and cut the burlap. Of course, as burlap does, it immediately began to fray.
Then, using a painting pad, I saturated each round piece of burlap front and back with the fabric stiffener and laid them flat on parchment paper to dry.
At first I was disappointed to see that the burlap frayed even more after it was saturated. But then I realized that it was actually kind of a cool look.
The burlap wanted to curl and buckle a bit when wet, so from time to time while it was drying, I pressed it back into place. I couldn’t wait to see how the pieces looked when they dried.
So of course they took forever to dry.
And when they did, the burlap was indeed very stiff. No more fraying. That fabric was not going anywhere now! I cut off any strands that were sticking out funny or looking too crazy, but I left most of it.
It does make for an interesting look under outdoor plates, but I should have made them bigger. And using colored burlap might have been fun for this project. But here it is.
There was some fabric stiffener left in the tray and I hated to waste it, so I also made some simple napkin rings using rope ribbon and some vintage buttons.
A fun (if slightly weird) result for my first experiment with fabric stiffener.
Introducing My New Summer Style Boards
Are you planning a new outdoor space? Or maybe just looking for fresh ideas?