Releasing My Air Plants into the Wild – And a Spring Garden Tour

A while back, I briefly mentioned my current plant crush:  The air plant called Tillandsia usneoides (or live Spanish moss).  I’d been admiring these plants for some time, and recently I broke down and bought a few.

They are very versatile.  I even used one as the outer ring for my elevated tulips arrangement.

Elevated Tulips

Spanish moss is the mystical-looking stuff that hangs from live oak in the South.

At my house, it just hangs from a tall vase and resembles a beautiful sorceress.

Live Spanish moss
Fun trivia: Spanish moss is not really a moss, nor does it come from Spain.

 

Caring for My Spanish Moss

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Every couple of weeks, I soak the plants in water for six to eight hours.

Live Spanish moss soaking in water

Sometimes I toss a couple of small drops of plant fertilizer into the water.

After their long bath, I hang them to dry.

Live Spanish moss drip drying after soaking in water 6-8 hours
Live Spanish moss turns a beautiful shade of green when it’s wet.

Alternatively, I could mist the plants every 3 or 4 days.

This plant loves filtered sunlight and good air circulation.  In my climate, it yearns for the outdoors in spring and summer.

So recently, I decided to give the sorceress what she wanted.  I would release her into the wild.

 

Releasing My Air Plants Into the Wild

Of course it’s safety first for my beloved Spanish moss.  So the sorceress went only as far as my front porch, but at least she’s outdoors.

Live Spanish moss

 

She hangs from a potted corkscrew willow branch where soft breezes and morning sun can caress her.  My thought is that this closely resembles what she would be doing in her natural habitat.  And here, I can make sure she gets enough mist to (hopefully) stay happy and healthy.

Live Spanish moss

Kidding aside, I’m hoping to see this plant grow and multiply this summer.  With more of it, the decor possibilities are endless.

Will the birds try to use the Spanish moss for nesting material?  We will find out.  I’m whisking the sorceress indoors at the first sign of trouble.

But right now I think the lion likes her.

Front porch decor

 

porch

 

A Spring Garden Tour

These photos might have you thinking that I have some tiny modicum of  control over the garden, but don’t be fooled.  As always, chaos is winning.

So I have decided to just go with it.  If something wants to form drifts and take over, maybe that actually means less work for me?  I can kid myself anyway.

Urn in garden drifts

 

After all, it’s hard to get mad at the adorable sweet woodruff that has taken over my patio garden.

Sweet woodruff

 

Patio

 

Patio

 

Or the poppies that are everywhere.

Poppies

 

This time of year, everything is so fresh and green.

Birdbath

 

It’s amazing what a difference a couple of months can make.  Here is our front birdbath now.

Birdbath and peonies

 

And this is what it looked like during “The Big Snow” in February.

Birdbath in snow

 

And now in the shade garden, where the snow had flattened the undergrowth, the tiki is being taken over by hardy geranium.

Tiki
This Easter Island-inspired tiki was carved by Chris’s brother.

 

Over on the fence line, the bees are crazy about the blooming hebe.

fence

 

I am a pushover for topiaries because they can help bring a little structure and order to the chaos.  Recently I pruned this succulent (which spent the winter in the greenhouse) into an orderly shape.

Succulent

 

The peonies I planted last year are still scrawny, but I did get a beautiful blossom from one of them.

peony
The packaging for the peony tubers simply said “pink.” Imagine my surprise at this beauty.

This time of year, there is always plenty to do in the garden.  You could probably tell that I still have a lot of work left.  Gardening (or “taming the beast,” as I think of it) is the main reason that my blog posts are so few and far between in spring.

Thanks for visiting today and coming along on my spring garden tour.  If you get a chance, check out my Summer Gear page – one of the new “rooms” in my updated Shop.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

Sources

Live Spanish moss  can be found in better plant nurseries or on Amazon.

 

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An Easy DIY Hanging Garden Sphere

The Inspiration

This past February, while Mom and I were strolling the marketplace at the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Festival, we came across a booth that had these hanging garden spheres by Rustybirds.com.

Hanging garden spheres by Rustybirds.com

 

They really appealed to me.  What a unique alternative to a hanging basket!  And they were so simple and classic that they would look great in almost any garden setting.

Unfortunately I had already spent my limit at the marketplace, so I took the photo hoping that I could find a budget-friendly way to reproduce the sphere.

I can tell you right now that I didn’t – not entirely anyway.  But I did come up with something very fun, affordable, and simple to put together.

 

The Materials

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I was hoping to use bare metal wire cages and apply the same rust technique that I used on these soup cans to get the a similar patina.

But the bargain hunter in me could not resist the $5 apiece metal baskets that I found at a local discount store.  They even came with their own coconut liners.  But they had a black vinyl coating, so the rust technique would not work on them.  Black they would stay!

Hanging baskets with coconut liners.

I took the coconut lining out of one basket – the basket that would serve as the “top half” of the sphere.

I left the lining in the other basket – the basket that would serve as the “bottom half.”  (I did trim the lining down a bit as it seemed too large).  This “bottom half” would contain soil and plants.

Then, just to help with water retention for the plants, I fitted the inside of the coconut lining with a layer of landscape fabric.

I covered the outside of the coconut lining with sheet moss.

Prepping the hanging basket.
Prepping the bottom half.

I didn’t have one large piece of sheet moss to use, so I just layered a few of the sheet moss scraps that I had onhand.

Then I added potting soil and, because the sphere would be hanging in part shade,  I planted it with New Guinea impatiens and baby tears.

Bottom half completed

 

 

Building the Sphere

So how would I fasten the two halves together?  And preferably with something that I could easily reopen?  I pondered this for some time before realizing that the chains on the baskets already had clips that would work perfectly.

I removed the chain from the “top half” basket.  That chain would not be needed.

I kept the chain on the “bottom half” basket.

Then I just attached the “top half” to the “bottom half” with the fastening clips from that chain.

This photo explains it better than I can.

The two sphere halves clipped together with the chain fasteners from the bottom half.

 

Voila!  I had my sphere.

DIY hanging garden sphere.

I’d lined up the two halves so that the wire patterns of each mirrored one another.

Now I have a strange and unique “globe” hanging on my front porch.

DIY hanging garden sphere.

It hangs at eye level from a large S-hook.

DIY hanging garden sphere

It’s early in the season, and the plants I used are still small.  So right now, the shape of the sphere is the main attraction.

To read an update of how this sphere did over the summer, click here.  To say the least, we had a few surprises.  But they were good ones!

I’ll be using this sphere for another purpose when the holidays roll around.  So stay tuned.

And as long as you’re here, hop over and check out my brother’s beautiful budget DIY garage rebuild using reclaimed materials.  I’m so proud of him!

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Elevated Tulips

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.

Here, elevated milk glass containers lend class to baby tears and the mystery bulb that I dug up from my garden.

So today, I am sharing the simple way that I used my silver cake stand to display a bunch of grocery store tulips.

 

The Goal

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.

The Materials

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I used five tulips, some sheet moss (my favorite go-to for floral and decor projects), a little reindeer moss, a shallow water-tight saucer (in this case, a plastic faux clay saucer), spike flower frogs, and my newly found silver cake stand. 

And I used one more surprise material that I will show you later.

The Method

It was easy.  I cut the sheet moss to size to wrap it over the top of, and around the sides of, the shallow saucer.  I tucked the ends of the sheet moss underneath the saucer.

I cut a large hole in the middle of the sheet moss so that I could place flower frogs inside the saucer. 

And then I cut the tulips to the desired height and secured them onto the flower frogs, spacing them somewhat evenly.

I placed the saucer on the cake plate and filled it with water for the tulips.

Then, using reindeer moss, I covered the hole I’d cut in the sheet moss.  This was to conceal the flower frogs.

It looked a little like a “tulip cake,” if there is such a thing.  I thought it was kind of cute, and I was tempted to leave it at that.

But I added one more thing – an outer ring of Tillandsia Usneoides

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.

Resources:

Sheet Moss and Reindeer Moss can be found in craft stores and on Amazon.

Tillandsia Usneoides can be found at better nurseries and on Amazon.

Spike flower frogs can also be found in craft stores.  Vintage spike frogs are fun and collectible.  Check out this selection on Etsy.

I was lucky to happen upon that silver cake stand, so simple and elegant.  Cake stands like it probably turn up every now and then on Etsy.

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A Birthday Party and a Cake Experiment

The big snow that I talked about in my previous post has finally melted, and I can almost hear Mother Nature saying, “Now where was I? Ah yes, spring!”  

Tiny flowers in the shade garden are no worse for the wear after being buried for days under a heavy white blanket.  

Amazing.  And such a cheerful sight. 

I decided to bring some of that spring cheer indoors for a small family birthday party that I was hosting.

An Easy Spring Container Garden

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As part of the party decor, I set up this little indoor container garden.

 

I used a primrose, a fragrant hyacinth, and spike moss to fill this cute footed pot that I found at Goodwill.

After the party, the birthday girl took it home with her (which is why I included the plant tags in the container).

A Whimsical Table Setting

For the table, I used a mix of newer and vintage blue-themed Villeroy & Boch pieces.  

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.

Syrup-infused orange rum cake.

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.

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Treasures from the Forest Floor

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.

Lichens, mosses and berries

None of it looks perfect but, to me, fall is all about the imperfect beauty of nature. 

Recreating Nature

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So I took these treasures, and some store-bought moss, and created my little “slice of the forest floor.”

Natural fall decor

I added a rusty flower frog to the mix.  I wanted the whole thing to look a little like something you might find on a walk through a forgotten garden.  

natural fall decor

I got the chunk of moss that the arrangement sits on by wrapping sheet moss around a large, overturned terracotta saucer.

One thing I learned about this look, especially if you’ve had some fun foraging for materials, is that it’s easy to go a little overboard.  

This was my first attempt – cute, but too busy and too “styled.”

natural fall decor

I like the pared-down version I ended up with.

Natural fall decor

A Rustic Wreath

But I still had a lot of good moss left.  So I re-worked the twig wreath I made earlier this year.  The reindeer moss was beginning to lose its color.

Twig wreath before revamp

I pulled it off and added newer reindeer moss – plus some lichen-covered twigs from my shade garden.

 

 

Twig wreath: natural fall decor

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.

Resources:

Bags of assorted mosses and lichens can spare you the work of finding your own – and the possibility of ride-along critters.

Sheet moss is a user-friendly liner – and a foundation for many creative projects.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

Holiday Reading

The novel Year of the Angels begins and ends with an Old-World Christmas.  But it’s what happens between those two Christmases that makes this book so fascinating.

Year of the Angels

 

 

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Second Tuesday Art Walk #8: Dream Gardens

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.

Spring Fragrance

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.

Spring flower display, 2016

Floral Competition

Across from this display is the floral competition.  This year, I immediately recognized the work of my favorite floral artist, Michelle Pedersen, owner of The Art of Forest Blooms.  You might remember her 2016 guest post about her masterpiece that year.

I love her use of natural elements and settings that create a story about nature.  Her 2018 installment was entitled “Forest Friends.”

Photo courtesy of Michelle Pedersen

Mom and I spent some time soaking in all the details of this piece, and photos just don’t do it justice.

Forest Friends by The Art of Forest Blooms, 2018

Michelle’s work is joined by that of many other floral artists.  Some artists even poke fun at living in the Pacific Northwest.

Singing in the Rain, 2013

 

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

Display Gardens

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.

Creeping branches, 2018

 

A contorted hazelnut, maybe? 2017

Large Scale Nature

Preparing for this show is an immense undertaking.  Huge trees, boulders, downed logs, and giant root systems are brought in.

A hike in the mountains is recreated, 2016

 

A dream pond in a forest setting, 2016

 

A natural setting, 2015

 

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.

April in Paris, 2012

 

An English tudor home and garden, 2017

 

A little pink house! 2016

 

A seaside cottage, 2016

 

A walled Tuscan garden, 2016

 

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?

Sleeping shed with herb garden, 2017

Or an island pergola?

A pergola over a pond, 2018

Or a stained glass greenhouse?

A stained glass greenhouse, 2018

Other structures seem more attainable.  Or at least I can kid myself that they are.

Statuary pergola, 2013

 

A rustic shed, 2015

 

A dream potting shed, 2017

 

A Victorian gazebo, 2016

 

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.

Conifers and tea, 2017

 

Cottage tea time, 2017

 

Outdoor living room, 2016

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?

Outdoor kitchen, 2017

The festival always has a few amazing outdoor kitchens for us to drool over.

An outdoor kitchen, 2018

Complete Fantasy

Of course, some displays are purely for fun.

A giant chess set, 2018

 

Who lives here? 2013

 

A stone bridge, 2016

Small Details

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.

A cute mason bee house, 2016

 

A miniature village, 2017

 

A carved heron, 2018

 

A shower head with air plants, 2018

 

Limited-palette planters, 2018

 

Bonsai tree, 2018

 

Small-Space Gardens

Like most big cities, Seattle is becoming denser and gardens are shrinking.  But the festival always has some fun ideas for small-space gardening.

A terrace garden, 2016

 

A vertical garden, 2014

The Marketplace

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.

But I always make time to visit my friend Henri at the Sunglo Greenhouses booth.

Henri Parren and a Sunglo Greenhouse at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival

Since we have a small Sunglo greenhouse of our own, I love to see what new innovations Sunglo has come up with.

And Henri had a few indoor begonias on hand.  He gave me the two that needed the most care and said that he knew I could make them thrive.

Challenge accepted, Henri.  Challenge accepted.

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The Wreath That The Storm Blew In

Between rain storms, I’ve been cleaning my garden.  With all the wind we’ve been having, it is a mess right now.  Little twigs from my birch tree are constantly falling.

Recently I raked some of the twigs into a pile.

They reminded me of a fun, crazy twig wreath that I’d seen recently at my favorite nursery – a wreath that was way out of my budget.

So I decided to try making my own.  And I found out that it’s easy.

Securing the Twigs

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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.

Concealing The Wires

The wreath I’d seen at the nursery had chartreuse preserved reindeer moss circling the center.  So I would do the same.

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.

The Result

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.

 


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Frosted Alliums for Holiday Decor

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.

The Inspiration

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.

The Experiment

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I used matte white spray paint that I had on hand.  I wanted the seed heads to look frosted, not flocked, so I used the paint sparingly.

While the paint was still wet, I dusted each seed head with Buffalo Snow Flakes iridescent sprinkles (which I also had on hand) for a subtle sparkle.  Then I carefully shook off the excess.

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.

Frozen Forest

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.

 

Nutcracker’s Adventure

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.

Holiday Drama

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.

Want to make your own?  Check out the DIY putz house kits and other putz on Etsy.

AgedWithThyme’s tiny putz saltbox house kit is especially cute.  I love that colonial look.


Holiday Reading

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel

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Garden Tips We Can Use Right Now

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.

A Peony Experiment

In my garden, the peonies are beginning to pop.  I love peonies as cut flowers, but when I bring them inside there are always a few earwigs and other unpleasant cooties hitching a ride.

Well there’s an easy way not only to avoid this but to time peonies to bloom indoors exactly when I want them to.  Check out A Peony Experiment to learn more.

Tomato Tips from Mr. B

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.

Tomato Tips from Mr. B.

A (Mostly) Bug-Free Patio Party

In summer, we enjoy dinners on our back patio.  And it’s even more fun when friends or family can join us.  But nothing can ruin a dinner party faster than a few pesky insects.

In A (Mostly) Bug-Free Patio Party, I share a few tips that help keep bugs away.

Using Bold Colors for Garden Structures

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 post Go Bold and Have Fun with Garden Structures shares the color we chose for our little garden shed – and gives a tour of the interior.

Potting Bench

But that’s enough for today.  The sun is shining, and it’s time to get out there before the weather changes again!

Posts on this blog are for entertainment only.


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Start Paperwhites Now for the Holidays

I wish I wasn’t so predictable.  Almost two years ago to the day, I posted about starting paperwhites indoors for a beautiful holiday centerpiece.  And now here I am again – back to remind you that if you enjoy having fragrant paperwhites around for the holidays, the time to start them from bulbs is now.

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.

forcing paperwhites: bulbs in various containers

I started one bulb in a small jar.  Then I placed that jar inside a larger jar and lined the inside with moss.

Forcing paperwhites: using glass jars

forcing paperwhites: using glass jars2

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.

forcing paperwhites: Various containers

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.

forcing paperwhites: A vignette

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.

paperwhites on the front porch

The silver urn still needed a little something so I shopped my garden for twigs and more lichens.

paperwhites: closeup of natural accents used

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).

paperwhites as a gift

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.

paperwhites with care instructions

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.

paperwhite gifts boxed and ready

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.

 


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