Taming the Monster: A Garden Corner Makeover

Most gardeners will tell you that there is always some small part of their garden that gets neglected.  It’s usually a tangle of shrubs so seemingly overwhelming that they don’t even know where to begin.  And so they ignore it – maybe work on other areas of the garden – anything to avoid having to tackle it.  I certainly can relate!

Recently my mom, Erika, tackled and conquered an overgrown corner in her own garden.  And it looks so much better now that I thought this would be a great time to head over to her garden for our annual field trip.

We’ve been to Mom’s home and garden several times before and, in case you missed any of our previous field trips, check out these posts:

 

Taming the Monster

I wish I had a before photo to show you of the area that Mom conquered. Tucked away in a corner, it was a dense thicket of shrubs under a tall pine tree.  Decades of falling needles had accumulated in this thicket to create a huge mound of debris.

In this photo, taken after Mom had cleared most of the debris, you can still see what was left of the mound.  (Please excuse the poor quality of these photos which were taken with my cellphone.)

Garden makeover: clearing the area.
The low branches that Mom unburied from the mound were twisted, crazy, and interesting.  So she decided to keep them!

She pruned some shrubs from the thicket and removed others.

Adding Structure

Now Mom needed to bring structure to the corner.

She terraced the soil and added a short retaining wall and walkway, repurposing stones and pavers that she already had onhand.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

She brought in pieces of garden art, including an old chimenea that she had painted red and placed backwards to look like a large urn.  The paint was already starting to chip and, as you’ll see in the later photos, the chipping continued.  But it actually gives the urn a fun look.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

 

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

 

My brother Dan jokingly said the area looked like a shrine.

But we all knew it would not look that way for long.  As always, Mom had a vision.

 

Adding Beauty

It was still early in the year, and she planted small plants and spread mulch over the soil.

DIY garden makeover: adding structure

Since the area is mostly in shade, she planted hostas, ferns, primroses, baby tears, and shade-tolerant sedums – most of which would emerge later as the weather warmed.

And Mom didn’t go out and buy these plants.   She separated and transplanted plants that were already in her garden.  This little garden rehab project was costing her next to nothing.

These transplants would work nicely with the azaleas and rhodies that were already there.

The Result

It’s amazing how quickly the plants have taken hold – and how happy they look.

DIY garden makeover: After

 

This rehabbed corner already looks like it’s always been this way, and it has the same relaxed “secret garden” style that I love so much about the rest of Mom’s garden.

 

DIY garden makeover: After

 

The area is behind her gazebo so, coming around the corner from the gazebo, this is what we see now.

DIY garden makeover: After

 

There are so many interesting little details to catch the eye yet, with its limited color palette, this area feels serene and uncluttered.

DIY garden makeover: After

 

Sedum

 

DIY garden makeover: After

 

DIY garden makeover: After

 

DIY garden makeover: After
A maidenhair fern holds pride of place behind a rustic pot.

 

While we’re here, I want to show you Mom’s gazebo.  It’s so beautiful right now with everything in bloom.

Gazebo

 

Roses on gazebo

 

Roses and petunias
Roses and petunias

Thanks for coming along on our field trip.  Mom’s project has inspired me to tackle a problem area in my own garden – one of these days!

 

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

 

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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.

Later in the summer, I’ll add a photo update to this post.

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!

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

 

 

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A Tour of Erika’s Sunroom

Every now and then, I take my readers over to visit my mom Erika’s beautiful garden.  But today we’re headed inside her house to tour her charming sunroom.  

It’s my favorite room in her house and the one I always gravitate toward.  But it was not always like that. 

In fact, it was not always a sunroom.

A Porch Conversion

When Mom first moved into her mid century rambler, the sunroom was actually just a covered porch.

The original covered back porch.

Even though the porch was in dire need of a facelift (as was the rest of the house), it was a nice place to relax on a warm day.  But it wasn’t living up to its full potential.  Mom could almost hear the porch begging to be enclosed and converted to a sunroom that could be enjoyed year round. 

So that is exactly what she did.  She hired out some of the work, and she had some help from my brother Dan.  But she did much of the work herself – including installing the ceramic tile floor.

A door in the media room gives us access the sunroom.  Let’s go back in time to right after Mom got the house.  This was the media room then – and the door to what was then the covered porch.

Before improvements: The media room and the door to the covered porch.

 

The media room was probably the ugliest room in the house  – and if this photo isn’t proof that Mom is fearless, I don’t know what is.  (Actually, at the time I think we were all pretty excited about the potential of Mom’s cosmetic fixer.)

The Tour Begins

Of course, Mom immediately made improvements to the media room.  This is the entrance to the sunroom now.

media room after
The media room, after improvements, with the sunroom beyond.

 

The sunroom is long and narrow, so Mom divided it into three zones.

The Tea Room

Coming through the media room door, this is the first area we see.  

Sunroom

A corner of windows gives it abundant natural light.  When I visit Mom, especially on a rainy day, there is nothing I love more than to sip a cup of tea with her here.

 

Porch converted to a sunroom.

For a rustic contrast, Mom kept the original  pine ceiling.

If we turn toward the bank of windows, we have access to the outdoors.

Exit door of the sunroom.

And here I must mention that my brother Dan did the interior finish work on all the windows and doors.

Sunroom bank of windows.

He did a beautiful job of trimming them, and it was good practice for the stunning dining room conversion he undertook at his own house a few years later.

The Reading Area

If we turn from the tea room, we face a teak bench.  It serves as a reading area, but more importantly it helps to separate the potting area behind it from the tea room.  

teak bench

The bench divides and defines the spaces, yet it is low enough to allow ample light and a spacious feel.

Plus, no matter who you are, it is a nice place to relax.

Teak bench and our loyal buddy,

The Potting Area

The newest addition to Mom’s greenhouse is the bench that my father built years ago.  In my childhood home, this bench sat in the entry hall.

Mid century shoe bench before its facelift.

 

Mom replaced the cushioned seat with a laminate, added a little paint, and now the bench is part of her potting area.  It stores potting supplies, and the top can be used as a work surface.

Sunroom

And from the tea room, we don’t see the potting soil, empty pots, or hand trowels.

Sunroom potting area

But this is where plants are overwintered and tubers are started in Spring. 

Mom saves money by buying annuals in small six-packs (aka pony packs) and then separating them into 4-inch pots.  There they have room to grow and are protected in her sunroom until it’s warm enough to plant them outdoors.

 

A shelf in the corner holds decor and plants.

Asia-inspired shelf

 

It is still bright enough in this corner for the plants to thrive.

Plants on red shelf

 

Sun-loving plants are placed near the windows.

Sunroom

This concludes our little tour of Mom’s sunroom.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Sunroom

Now it’s time for Mom to relax a bit with her loyal companion before starting her next project.  But knowing Mom, she won’t be sitting for long.

Sunroom

Here are my previous posts about Mom’s home and garden:

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Did You Know

Mom is also a writer.  She currently has two books available on AmazonYear of the Angels, a touching historical fiction novel based on her real-life experiences during WWII, and Cries from the Fifth Floor, a fun paranormal thriller/murder mystery.

 

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

 

 

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A Little Greenhouse in a Big Snow

Here in the Puget Sound region, we are just beginning to thaw out from the deepest February snow accumulation since 1916!  All around the area, schools and businesses were closed.  Kids rejoiced.  But most adults had mixed feelings – because, with all our steep hills, getting around in the snow can be pretty darn tricky.  

But this snow storm was nothing like the incredible cold that folks in the Midwest recently suffered through so, out of respect for those hardy souls, no sniveling words of self pity will appear in this post.

No, I just want to show you our greenhouse

Doesn’t it look cute in the snow?

Sunglo lean-to greenhouse in the snow.

Even though I kind of knew that our little Sunglo greenhouse was designed to withstand heavy snow, I never realized how well it would actually shed snow. 

Was it the curved roof line, the fact that we never let the interior temperature dip below 50 degrees, or a little of both?  I don’t really know.  But that greenhouse was the only thing in our garden that wasn’t covered in six to twelve inches of show.

It shrugged off the snow that fell on it.  

Sunglo lean-to greenhouse in snow.

 

 

Inside the greenhouse, things were cozy.  The plants were happy.

Inside a Sunglo greenhouse.

 

Inside a Sunglo Greenhouse.

 

The burlap shades we made for the greenhouse a few years ago are still holding up.

 

Burlap shades

And the vintage-inspired lights that my brother made for the greenhouse are still going strong.

Vintage-inspired lighting

It’s hard to believe that soon it will be time to start tomatoes and summer annuals in here.

A Snow Garden Mini Tour

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All the little garden chores that I hadn’t gotten around to were hidden under a thick blanket of white.  I took lots of photos.  So this is the perfect time to take you on a mini-tour of our garden. 

Snow makes everything beautiful.  Whether it’s a birdbath, 

winter garden

 

winter garden

 

A hedge,

winter garden

 

An old weeping cherry tree,

winter garden

 

A rustic bench,

winter garden

 

The back patio,

winter garden

 

 

Or just seed heads from the garlic chives, 

winter garden

Huge gobs of snow make it all look better.

 

 

Garden chores weren’t the only thing we’d been procrastinating on.  We’d left town soon after the holidays, so Chris never had a chance to take down our outdoor Christmas lights. 

But once the snow started falling, we just switched them back on.

Shed with Christmas lights

Christmas in February!  

But not everything was beautiful.  The hummingbird feeders were freezing over so quickly that it was a pain to keep them thawed.  I needed a quick solution.

So I insulated them with old socks.

And yes, the sock in the photo is inside out.  But this little guy is getting his food, so he doesn’t care.

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

 

 

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A Rusty Bed Spring Becomes a Trellis

Procrastination

Back when my brother was still a bachelor, I helped him get rid of a few things that were cluttering up his basement.  One of those things was an old steel bed spring that had been left there by the former owner.  Judging by its size, it was probably from a child’s bed.  

I thought it would make a fun garden trellis if I painted it, so I took it home.  I stashed it behind some bushes along our driveway fence – just temporarily, of course, until I had the time to paint it.  

That was about 10 years ago.

Earlier this summer, when Chris rebuilt our driveway fence, he came across the bed spring – still sitting, unpainted, where I’d left it.  The steel had rusted over the years, and the rust looked (to me, at least) more interesting than any type of paint. 

Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.

DIY trellis from an old bedspring

Finding Inspiration by Accident

It was time for me to either do something with this piece or give it away.  But I couldn’t think of where in the garden we could actually use it.  

Where, oh where . . . 

Chris propped it in front of our greenhouse  just to get it out of the way.  

Voila! It was almost the perfect width for that space.  And its vintage industrial look worked well with the greenhouse.  

Now it was officially no longer a bed spring.  It was a trellis.

DIY trellis from an old bedspring

 

But we (and of course by “we,” I mean Chris) had to figure out a way to attach it to the greenhouse.

 

Attaching the Trellis to the Greenhouse

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Our goals:

  • Of course our number one priority was to not disfigure the greenhouse in the process of attaching the trellis.  Impact on the greenhouse had to be minimal.
  • The trellis should stand straight and be secure.
  • And no potential for rust stains on anything.  So the trellis shouldn’t actually come into contact with the greenhouse or the bluestone pavers that were installed a couple of years ago.

The Solution

To keep the rust off of the pavers, Chris built a wooden frame around the  bottom of the trellis.

 

Near the top, he used two L brackets to attach it to the greenhouse.  And for this he only needed to drill three small holes into the greenhouse frame.

Now the trellis sits a couple of inches out from the greenhouse, but it is securely attached.

DIY trellis from an old bedspring

 

And it will be easy to remove if ever, in the future, we look at it and say, What were we thinking?

 

All Done!

I moved my potted mandevilla over to the trellis.  I used plant clips to attach the vines without harming them. 

DIY trellis from a rusty vintage bed spring

 

Now it looks as if the plant has been growing there all along.

 

A DIY trellis from a rusty vintage bed spring

 

A DIY trellis from a rusty vintage bed spring

 

In winter, the mandevilla will live inside the greenhouse, and I’ll have fun putting Christmas lights on the trellis.  

Other Details

I just love to dress up my dollhouse – I mean greenhouse!  Our house and garage are both from the 1920s, so my goal is to make the greenhouse, a recent addition, look like it’s been here all along.  It’s fun to add touches like this trellis and the brick veneer I did a couple of years ago.  Some additions, like my burlap greenhouse shadesthe industrial-inspired lights that my brother made, and the addition of a small trailer sink, also add to its functionality.

In summer, the greenhouse sits empty, having done its job in fall, winter, and spring.  Container plants surround the greenhouse.  This year, that included a few fun succulents – a couple of which had spent this past winter in the greenhouse.

Echiveria with lobelia

 

Sedum

 

succulent

In two rectangular pots alongside the greenhouse, I mixed zinnias and salvia with rainbow chard starts.  This should be a nice transitional look from summer to fall. 

Zinnia and salvia with Swiss Chard starts.

 

Zinnia and salvia with Swiss Chard starts.

In late fall, once the zinnias and salvias start to crash, I’ll remove them and let the Swiss chard really take off.  At least that’s the plan.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not intended as tutorials.  No greenhouses were harmed in the making of this post.

Sources:

Our little greenhouse is a Sunglo.  

 

 


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A Garden Update and a Found Treasure

Back in June, for about twenty minutes, I thought my garden looked almost perfect.  We’d cleaned the flower beds and mulched, and everything looked so fresh and orderly.  But now, with the dog days of summer upon us, the garden is once again an out-of-control monster.  

But that’s okay. There are birds and bees everywhere, and they are happier when I leave things alone.  

Amid the chaos that is our garden, there were a few things that went right – things that I enjoyed this season.  So I thought I would share them with you.

We’ll start with my most recent addition to the garden.

Found Treasure

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On a walk in the neighborhood, Chris and I came across this footed ceramic pot that someone had kicked to the curb.

It had a few chips, and I didn’t like the color or the heavy glaze.  It was also top heavy and not very stable.  Still it had possibilities.

Ignoring the advice of several family members to leave it be, I sanded the pot with 400-grit sandpaper.  The sandpaper didn’t have much of an impact on the heavy glaze, but it did leave tiny striations. 

Then, hoping to etch the glaze even more, I sprayed it with the home made rust accelerator (basically a DIY acid) that I used to make my DIY soup can planters.  I’m not sure if this step actually did anything.  (Note:  When working with any acid, be sure to follow all recommended safety precautions.)

Then I sprayed it with Rust-Oleum Universal Advanced Formula in Oil Rubbed Bronze.  This spray paint is said to work on wood, metal, plastic, masonry, and more.  I can only hope that “and more” includes glazed ceramic.

The paint adhered well to the pot – with no runs.  Only time will tell if the paint actually holds up on glazed ceramic, but I will be bringing this pot indoors in winter to protect it.

Summer garden design

 

I turned it upside down, placed a potted plant on it, and used it as a plant stand – which is what I had in mind for it all along.

(As an aside: Since this Rust-Oleum spray paint is made to use on plastics, I also tried it on a small resin pot.  The result was not the same – too dark and shiny for my liking.)

The Front Porch

Earlier in summer, poppies and Spanish lavender were blooming near the front porch steps.

summer garden
Poppies and Spanish Lavender

In the flowerbed on the opposite side of the steps, birds enjoy the new birdbath that I found at a statuary for only $30. 

The birdbath was damaged:  It originally had two clunky butterflies attached to it.  But one was broken off.  So once I got the birdbath home, Chris removed the remaining butterfly.  No big loss since the butterfly looked more like a moth – or even a bat.

 

A couple of new decor items – a pillowcase that I’d purchased at a farmer’s market in Hawaii and an outdoor rug – give our front porch a bit of a tropical vibe.

Summer garden design - tropical front porch

 

This is my favorite place to sip coffee and feel guilty about not doing more yard work.

The Back Patio

My favorite place for sipping wine is our back patio.  It’s cool and quiet here on summer evenings.

Summer garden design

 

 

summer garden

 

 

Summer garden design

 

Little Details

Sometimes it’s the little things that add personality to a garden.

For months, these sweet, tiny flowers have been blooming in our front walkway.

Isotoma Blue Laurentia fluviatilis

The little cuties have spilled into the lawn, where they are short enough to escape the lawnmower blade.

Not as long blooming but almost as cute, these little bellflowers like to surround this potted quince.

My garden chair has a new cushion this year:  baby tears.

Summer garden design

Meanwhile, lavender and lysimachia are working together to swallow this urn.

Lavender and lysimachia

Lots of plants withered in the heat this summer, but my mandevilla, which I overwintered in our greenhouse, has been blooming like crazy for months.

Mandevilla

Near the back door, plume poppies lean toward the sun.  They must love their location, because they’ve been such a reliable perennial.

Summer garden
Plume poppies

I grew zinnias from seeds and planted them in front of the plume poppies and the Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

Summer garden
Zinnias

I got the zinnia seed packet last fall at a country vegetable stand, and the packet contained a fun variety of seeds.

Zinnia

A Little Progress

Since I began writing this post, I’ve trimmed a few hedges and dusted off some walkways.  The garden is still chaos, but I’m feeling much better about it.

 

Summer garden design

And it really didn’t take me that long.  It was a good reminder to me that having the right tools makes all the difference. 

I used my Ryobi 18v cordless hedge trimmer and my Ryobi 18v cordless blower.  These tools are probably not for heavy-duty jobs, but for my needs they work because they are lightweight.  A rechargeable battery means no annoying cords or smelly fuels.  I use the same battery for both tools, and it’s easy to move from one tool to the other.

Summer Dreams

But that’s more than enough about yard work.  Warm summer breezes are meant for downtime, dreams, and daydreams.  Here is what has me dreaming today.

The attainable dream: 

Although I love the tropical pillowcase I found in Hawaii, I can’t help admiring these four watercolor/bohemian pillowcases.  And what a great deal for a set of four.  

The “I can dream, can’t I?” dream:

If our porch was just a bit bigger, and I was just a bit lazier (yet also somehow richer), I would want a daybed swing similar to this one.    Mint julep anyone?

Thanks for coming along today on this little tour of our garden.

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

 


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What To Do With All This Bamboo

The fence along our driveway has been on borrowed time for years.  Whenever we had a windstorm, it would whip and shake.  We would joke that the only thing holding it up was the bamboo growing on either side of it.

So this was going to be the summer that we (and of course by “we” I mean Chris) finally replaced it.  

But I had mixed feelings.  I loved the weathered look of the old fence.  New wood just wouldn’t be the same.

Happily, Chris and the neighbor we share the fence with decided to take an Earth-friendly (and budget-friendly) approach by rebuilding it instead of replacing it.  They only replaced the posts and runners that were rotted, but they re-used the old fence boards – at least those in good condition. 

Usually DIY projects wind up being more difficult and time-consuming than expected, and this was one of those rare cases where the opposite happened.  And the best part, as far as I’m concerned, is that the fence still has that rustic patina that I love.

Bye Bye Bamboo

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Of course, to access the fence, some of the bamboo growing on the west end needed to be removed – a lot of it in fact.

And it looked so beautiful.  Some of it was gorgeous black bamboo.  I removed the branches and left the canes.

Bamboo

We gave some away and kept some. 

I’d already been using our bamboo for plant stakes, especially the more interesting bent canes.

Bamboo stake

But what else could I do with all this bamboo?

Bamboo Projects

I was a little obsessed with the black bamboo, although I’ve been told that most types fade after they dry – just like other bamboos. 

But I wanted to use it anyway to make a little trellis for a jasmine vine growing in a 10-inch pot. 

An Asian-Inspired Trellis

I cut two 38-inch canes that would serve as vertical stakes, and five canes at lengths of 18, 16, 14, 12, and 10 inches as the horizontal runners.

I used my sewing pattern cutting board to space the canes exactly as I wanted them, and then I marked them with a felt pen for assembly later.

Simple bamboo projects: Spacing the canes

Then I suspended the vertical canes between two chairs and used Super Glue to attach the horizontal canes.  The Super Glue was not intended as a permanent adhesive – only as a way to hold the canes in place until I could tie them together.  

Tying them together, as I learned, is called lashing.  I found this helpful video and, after practicing a little, this method of lashing became etched into my muscle memory.

But the whole thing was going too smoothly, so I had to complicate it.  Instead of the waxed lashing cord used in the video, I decided to use the caning material I already had on hand from the time I revamped four rattan chairs.

 

 Bamboo projects - lashing

I’m sure the caning material was not nearly as easy to work with as lashing cord would have been.  But I think it gave the trellis a fun look.

Simple bamboo projects: Asian-inspired trellis

It will be interesting to see how long the black bamboo actually stays black.

A Dahlia Fence

Now that I knew how to tie lashing, there was no stopping me.  But for my next project, I would keep it simple and use plain old jute twine.

Last fall, I planted some dahlia tubers that my neighbor gave me.  I didn’t expect the plants to do much in their first year, but they have exploded.  By the time I realized they were getting out of hand, it was too late to stake or cage them without doing more harm than good. 

So I decided to make a little bamboo fence to hold them back from the walkway.

I built the fence in place. I pounded three 36-inch canes into the soil, spacing them about 23 inches apart.

Then I used garden tape to suspend the horizontal canes from the vertical canes on either side while I tied them.  I made sure everything was level and evenly spaced.

Simple bamboo projects - dahlia fence
Holding the canes in place while building the fence.

A half hour later, voila!

Simple bamboo projects: completed dahlia fence

Simple bamboo projects: completed dahlia fence closeup

I have plenty of bamboo left, so I’m looking for ideas.  If you have a good bamboo project, leave a comment and tell me about it.

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Mom’s Secret Garden

My mom, Erika, has always been able to look at something and see possibilities.  One example is the elegant portico that she designed.  It completely transformed the look of her mid-century rambler.

So maybe it’s not surprising that she was able to look at a patch of dead lawn and a few scraggly juniper bushes and see what no one else could:  A lush secret garden.

It’s taken me so long to write about Mom’s backyard transformation because we’d been hoping to find the “before” photos.  Sadly, we haven’t had any luck with that.  I wish I could show you just how desolate this area was.  And it looked tiny.  Not only that, it looked like it belonged to the house next door. 

But there is a surviving “before” photo of the side yard.  In the middle of the photo, you can see the juniper hedge and the dried grass.  

The most interesting feature here is probably the fire hydrant.

The Challenges

Let’s take a look at the major challenges Mom faced with her back yard:

1.  Uninteresting

The back yard consisted mostly of a neglected lawn and some ugly juniper shrubs with weeds growing between their branches.  It was not a place where anyone would want to spend time.

2.  Shallow depth

The back yard is long but very shallow.  It measures about 22 feet from the house to the property line.  

3.  Lack of privacy

There was no privacy and no visual separation between her garden and the neighbor’s.  

4.  Poor soil

The sandy soil dried out quickly.

The Goal

Mom wanted to turn this shallow chunk of land into an outdoor area that would be an extension of her home – somewhere to entertain and to relax.  It needed to be private, beautiful, and interesting. 

Her Plan

Some serious hardscaping needed to happen.  She wanted:

1.  A fence between her yard and the neighbor’s;

2.  In front of that fence, planting beds with new, rich soil;

3.  A curved stone retaining wall to contain the planting beds;

4.  A cobblestone patio between the retaining wall and the house;

5.  Gravel pathways on either end of the cobblestone patio; and

6.  Interesting garden structures to mark the end curve of each pathway.

Quite an ambitious plan.  Some people may have consulted with a garden designer or drawn up formal plans before taking on a project like this.  But Mom knew that if she could just find the right landscaper, she could simply collaborate with him or her.

She interviewed several landscapers.  Some of them didn’t seem to be listening, and others wanted to change her plan.  But she finally found one that “got it.”

A Secret Garden Evolves

One of the earliest “after” photos, a snow scene, shows the low retaining wall and the still-tiny new plants.  I remember what struck me when I saw the new landscaping was how much deeper the back yard looked.  

Backyard snow scene

I had assumed that a fence between Mom’s garden and the neighbor’s would make her back yard look even smaller, but the fence actually had the opposite impact. 

Still, the new fence was a visual distraction, so Mom had an idea.

Treating the fence with a dark stain made it recede into the background.  And, after the plants matured a bit, the dark fence would work as a quiet, neutral backdrop for them.

After the hardscaping was done, Mom took her time finding the right garden structures to place off the gravel pathways.

At the end of one pathway, she installed a charming gazebo.

 

An early photo of the gazebo.
Backyard gazebo
And more recently.

And off the opposite path, a three-tiered fountain.

Fountain

 

I always look forward to the warm season and relaxing on Mom’s back patio.

 

 

Back patio looking West

When Mom moved into the house, her dining room had a window facing the back yard.  She has since replaced it with a French door so there is a wonderful, easy flow from her dining room to the back patio.

It’s a great place to soak up the sun.

Gracie with her favorite toy.

The stone retaining wall looks timeless.

Retaining wall

Stone retaining wall

 

The most recent addition to her back yard landscaping is this little path.

garden path 1

Which has already softened to look like this.

Garden path2

She used a fun mix of materials, including broken concrete, for the retaining wall.

Now in Mom’s back yard, eye candy is everywhere.

sedum on rocks

 

Angels and Azaleas

 

Hanging begonias

 

Chinese lantern

 

Glass Float

 

pedestal planter

 

Hydrangea

 

Roses on gazebo

 

watering can

 

There is so much more to see here, and these photos don’t really do her garden justice.  Still, I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of Mom’s back yard. She is a gracious host, and we’ll be visiting here again.

Erika in her garden.

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As you may have guessed, Mom has many talents.  She has published two novels:  Cries from the Fifth Floor, a paranormal thriller, and Year of the Angels, an historical fiction novel based on her childhood in Germany during World War II.  So if you get a chance, visit her Amazon author’s page or her website.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.

 



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My Budget Spring Garden

In my previous post, I promised my readers that I would be sharing something special very soon.  Alas, this post isn’t it.  No, I’m still working on photos for that “something special.”  But in the meantime, I’m sharing a few ways that I save money while still feeding my main gardening addiction:  Beautiful plants.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we never know if we are going to have a warm, sunny summer or if we will be disappointed again.  But for avid gardeners, hope springs eternal.  This time of year, plant nurseries are packed with resilient optimists like me who are stocking up on their favorite annuals.  I can almost hear Mother Nature laughing at us in the background.  Ha ha, those fools!

I used to spend a small fortune on my plant addiction.  But now, with a little planning and a lot of luck, I can save money and still have my beautiful annuals.  Most of it involves using my greenhouse, but an enclosed porch or even a sunny window would probably work well too.

A few ways I’ve been saving money are:

Taking Succulent Cuttings in Fall

A few years ago, when I visited Cousin Lolli in Fort Bragg, California, she gave me cuttings from some of the beautiful succulent plants she had in her garden.  She warned me that they probably would not be winter hardy in the Pacific Northwest.

These succulents grow a lot in one summer, so rather than move the whole large plant into the greenhouse in winter, I just took cuttings from each one.

Succulent cuttings

Then I simply put the cuttings in soil and kept them in the greenhouse over the winter, watering them occasionally.  They sprouted roots and thrived with no special care.

Recently, I moved them into clay pots and placed them back outside where they will make attractive, easy-care container plants for months to come.

Succulents with Spanish lavender

 

Overwintering Begonias

Last season, my favorite container plant was this big begonia next to my front door.  It grew on one large main stem – into the shape of a small tree.

Begonia and Coleus

Even in fall, it looked interesting.

Begonia in fall

Overwintering begonias has never really worked for me before but, after this begonia died down, I just put it, pot and all, under the potting bench in the greenhouse.  Once in a while, I would remember that the pot was there and give it a little splash of water.

And . . . nothing happened for a long time.

But now the begonia is slowly making a comeback – along with the baby tears that were planted around it.

Begonia emerging

Soon it will go back to its place on the front porch.  It will be interesting to see how it grows this year.

Baby Tears

I used to buy four-inch pots of baby tears every spring to use in containers and garden borders.  I love this sweet little ground cover.  Early last fall, though, I dug up the baby tears from my garden, put them back into four-inch pots, and kept them in the greenhouse.  There, they thrived all winter.  I divided them several times, and my pots of baby tears increased.

Recently, I planted most of them into the seat of this garden chair.

garden art chair

Here they will expand and eventually make a nice cushion for the seat – hopefully.

More baby tears are still in the greenhouse.  I’ll use them in containers later.

baby tears

Baby tears do sometimes overwinter outdoors in my climate, but they die down a bit, so it’s nice to have these more mature plants to start the season.

Geranium Starts and Lobelia Packs

Geraniums in four-inch pots can cost upwards of $3.  That doesn’t sound like much unless you want quite a few – which I always do.  So I buy the little two-inch starter plants – which this year were 50 cents each.  Then, in the greenhouse, I move them into four-inch pots so their roots can develop.  Same story with lobelias.  I buy them in pony packs and then re-pot them.

geraniums

Placing geraniums and lobelias (or almost any summer-blooming annual) outside before the weather is warm enough only stunts them.  But protected in my greenhouse, it doesn’t take long for these starter plants to reach the size of their larger, more expensive counterparts.

Overwintering Fuschias

Fuschia plants are easy to overwinter – even in a garage window.  Last season this plant graced my shade garden.

Fuschia

In late fall, I just removed the clay pot from the “pedestal” it was sitting on and put it in the greenhouse.

Bonus Thrift Tip:  Turn a tall pot upside down and use it as a pedestal to elevate a planter. 

The pedestal you see above is actually a tall, broken pot turned upside down.

The break is turned to the back of the flower bed where no one sees it.

Making an elevated planter

And a garden stake pushed through the middle and into the soil keeps the pot from tipping.  The stake also secures the clay fuschia pot once it’s set on top.

My Garden Now

These overwintered plants just need a little time and patience now, and they should thrive.  But while I have you here, come and see what else is going on in the garden.

We’ll start in the greenhouse where my little coleus seedlings are growing strong and fast – even though they are just starting to show color.

Coleus seedlings

I am a little disappointed that I’m not seeing more variety in the leaf patterns so far, and I’ll probably use a different brand of seed next year.

 

 

This year I’m growing Pomodoro “Lilliput” tomatoes.  They are said to be compact, disease-resistant, and good producers.

Tomato Seedlings

I’ve since moved the tomatoes into larger containers, using the tomato-growing tips I learned from a dear old friend.

In the garden, things are just starting to gear up.  I did splurge a bit on this new birdbath for the shade garden.

Birdbath

I love it because it looks like it’s been here for years – like something we might have discovered one day while we were cleaning out the garden.

The Corsican hellebore is always spectacular this time of year – for months actually, starting in early January.

Corsican hellebore

Another upside-down pot, topped with a square saucer, makes a cute, low-maintenance planter.

Violet planter

While my back was turned, violets took over the pot and spilled into the soil.  More power to them.

Sweet woodruffs have moved into the flower bed above the dry stack wall.

Ssweet Woodruff

And near the shed, bishop’s weed is trying to swallow my new garden edging.

Bishops Weed

When the perennials start to pop, the flower beds will become even more chaotic. It’s a very casual and accidental garden.  But having some structure in the form of a few well-pruned trees, manicured hedges, and a neat lawn helps to balance all that chaos.

Bay leaf tree
A bay leaf tree shelters a birdbath

I will be sharing more of our garden as the season progresses.


Sources:

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

Our Greenhouse:  To learn more about our little Sunglo greenhouse, check out Our Greenhouse page.

Pest Control (Hopefully!): Last summer we had a wasp nest on the side of the house.  We don’t like to use chemicals to repel or kill insects if we can avoid it.  So this year we put this “Get Lost Wasp” visual wasp deterrent under our eaves.

Get Lost Wasp Insect Deterrent

It’s not the most attractive thing to look at, but at least it blends in.  Wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets are said to be territorial.  They won’t build a nest where one already exists, so this product (in theory) deters them because it looks like an insect nest.  It was fairly inexpensive, so we thought it would be worth a try.


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

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