Exploring an Urban Jungle

I love greenhouses and conservatories because they have the power to transport us into a another world:  A world with its own unique climate – one designed to give the plants living there everything that they need to thrive.  

But what happens when someone takes this concept even farther?  When a giant corporation with progressive ideas collaborates with some of the most innovative architects and botanists out there?  

The Amazon Spheres

One beautiful summer day, I stumbled upon The Spheres by accident.  I was rushing to an appointment.

 

I’d seen photos of The Spheres, but I didn’t realize I’d be passing them on my route.  I’d sort of written them off as another one of those poorly conceived pipe dreams that blight our urban landscape.  

But in real life, they looked amazing – fragile, elegant, and unique.  It was love at first sight.

I caught glimpses of the plant life inside.

 

Then from the security desk, which was as far as I was allowed to go, I saw part of the massive vertical garden.  I wanted in! 

But for me to get inside, I would have to get tickets in advance and come back on a designated Saturday.  And I already knew who I would invite:  Someone who enjoys gardens and futuristic stuff – my mom, Erika.

Reconnecting with Nature

The Spheres were designed as a place for employees at Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters to go to reconnect with nature and do a little creative thinking.  Quite the job perk!

But on this Saturday, The Spheres were open to those members of the public who had booked a timed ticket in advance.  Mom and I were among them. 

Once past the security desk, we were greeted by the 60-foot living wall.

 

 

We’d already learned that The Spheres are home to 40,000 plants, most native to high-elevation cloud forests.  And after seeing that living wall, I believed it!

The Spheres’ structure seemed much bigger from the inside.  Aside from the living wall, we really hadn’t known what to expect.  There was a jungle here!

With a massive indoor water feature,

 

Huge tree ferns,

 

And Rubi, the largest tree in The Spheres.  A docent told us she was transported from California via flatbed truck.

Various species of flora are tucked into her trunk.

Lights wind through her upper branches.

Nature and Structure

Modern architecture usually strikes me as cold and impersonal.  Not so with The Spheres.  The curved glass structure (2,636 panes of glass!) lends a quiet, airy backdrop to the natural elements inside – while reminding us that we truly are in an urban jungle set in the heart of a major city.

 

 

 

 

A huge “nest,” one of many creative seating areas for employees, seems to hang in mid-air, reachable only by a springy wooden bridge that mimics a canopy walk.

 

The Right Atmosphere

As with any good conservatory, the comfort of the plants comes first at The Spheres. 

The temperature is carefully controlled.  With all the natural light filtering through all of those panes of glass, I was surprised to see additional lighting.  There were also strategically placed fans and misters.  Often, we were walking through mist.  

Misters working on the living wall.

Inspiration

With any garden tour, I look for inspiration that I can use at home.  There was plenty here, even if it was on a grand scale.

Mom had recently started a vertical garden in her sunroom.  She is using mostly ferns so, as she often is, she is right on trend with the giant living wall –  although visiting here has probably given her a few new fern varieties to look for.

 

As for me, my plant crush continues to be my live Spanish moss.  For the time being, they are still happy on my front porch.  But when I bring them indoors for the winter, I might be looking to set up some scaled-back version of this idea.

Flora growing from a stump, live Spanish moss in the background.

 

I  could go on and on about what we saw at The Spheres, but instead I will leave you with this little slide show (which is just a tiny fraction of what we saw on our visit) in hopes that you might find some inspiration of your own.  

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DIY Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens are trending, and it’s no wonder since they are a great way to maximize a small garden space or dress up a bland wall or fence.  Vertical plant hangers of all sizes are easy to find.

       

 

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Seven Ways To Make Your Garden Child Safe

Few things warm my heart more than seeing a child take an interest in nature and the outdoors.  It’s good for the child, and it’s good for our planet.  So I really appreciated this guest post, sent to me by a summer guest writer, with some suggestions for keeping kids safe in the garden.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, click here.

The garden can be a great place to spend time together as a family, but there are also inherent dangers to your children when they’re playing outdoors. There are some easy ways to keep your garden safe for even the littlest members of the family.

1.   Safe Plants

Find plant nursery locations near you where you can go and speak to an expert about safe plants. Children are tempted to put just about everything into their mouths, so it’s important that anything you plant is safe to be consumed, even if it isn’t strictly intended to be eaten. This is a great choice if you have pets at home too.

2.   Fences and Gates

Keep fence panels in good repair. If the fence is falling down, and the gate is always left open, it’s all too easy for a small child to slip out unnoticed. Keep the fence up and add a tall gate with a catch that is either out of reach or too hard for a child to open by themselves. This will keep them in the garden where they’re supposed to be!

3.   Water Safety

A child can drown in even a tiny amount of water, so make sure that there’s nowhere they could fall into the water. If you have a water butt, keep a lid on it and weigh the lid down with something heavy. If you have a pond, consider filling it in. If you don’t want to fill it in, cover it with some tight mesh. The kids can still watch the fish, but won’t be able to topple in. During the hot weather, never let a child play in a paddling pool unattended, and be sure to empty it as soon as you’re finished using it, so there’s no risk of accidents.

4.  Discourage Pests

Discourage pests from visiting your garden by picking up any fallen fruit that may attract wasps. Immediately remove any wasps’ nest that start to form. Add a wasp trap to get rid of these nasties. Don’t leave toys outside overnight so they don’t get crawled over by slugs.

5.  A Clean Sandbox

Cats using your garden as a bathroom can be a real issue if you have kids. If your kids have a sandbox, be sure to secure the lid carefully at night so there’s no way for a cat to get in and use it as a giant litter box. Rubber snakes left on the lawn can also discourage cats from coming into your garden.

 

6.  Safe Practices with Garden Tools and Chemicals

Be careful with where you store any gardening tools or chemicals. Whether they go in the garage or in the shed, make sure they are locked away in a space that the kids don’t have access to. When gardening, allow the kids to help you, and use the time to teach them about the dangerous things you use and why they shouldn’t touch them when you’re not there. Don’t let your children handle any of the chemicals you might be using.

7.  Providing Shade

Children are more sun sensitive than adults, so add some shaded areas for them to enjoy playing outside out of the direct sunlight. A tree, a playhouse or a patio umbrella are easy ways to add some shade.

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Surprise Surprise: My Garden Sphere Update

You might remember that, earlier this summer, I shared my Easy DIY Hanging Garden Sphere.  I also shared it on Hometalk where, to my surprise, this simple project became wildly popular.

 

 

But the surprises were just beginning.

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Invasion of the Giant Hand

The sphere was hanging at eye level on my front porch.  One day, after it had been hanging there a couple of weeks, I went to see see if it needed watering.  Since I’m too lazy to use a moisture meter, I put my hand into the sphere to feel the soil and see if it was dry.

Suddenly a little bird burst out of the sphere and screeched at me.  She was very upset, so I backed away.   Later I checked and, sure enough, there was a tiny nest in there.

 

Black eyed junco eggs in my hanging garden sphere!

 

Imagine this poor mama bird’s surprise when a giant hand came down and almost destroyed her nest!

The smaller leaves around the nest are from baby tears.  Baby tear leaves are only about a quarter inch long at best, so you can imagine how tiny these eggs were.

We have several feeders and bird baths in our garden, so maybe this bird saw that as an invitation to build a nest here.

This mama bird had a devoted mate, and after getting a few more looks at them we figured out that they were dark-eyed juncos.

 

 

Juncos usually place their nests on or near the ground – or sometimes in hanging baskets.  The sphere was a prime location:  Its wire cover made it safe from predators.  Under cover of the porch, it was also protected from weather.

After discovering the nest, I only watered the sphere when both parents were away, which wasn’t often.  And I didn’t water near the nest.

Needless to say, the sphere did not get much water.

Soon the eggs hatched.  Both parents scurried to feed the hatchlings.  It was pretty adorable how devoted these junco parents were to each other and to their babies.

They ran a tight ship.  They kept the nest clean by carrying away the cracked egg shells and baby bird poop.

Junco hatchlings: Tiny balls of fluff

 

The parents yelled at us (in the form of a “tick! tick!”) whenever we neared the front porch.

 

Don’t even think about coming over here, humans!

 

I didn’t want to sacrifice their sense of security by hovering or taking lots of photos.  We stayed away for the most part, and any viewing of the sphere happened from afar.

 

Bird watching from the media room window: We know you’re in there, chicks!

 

Finally the big day came:  The babies left the nest.  I guess I was expecting a little more fanfare, but it happened so quickly and quietly that we didn’t even notice.

I was thrilled that they made it – and thrilled to have our front porch back.  Now we could finally sip coffee on the swing rocker again!

Or so I thought.

 

What?  Again?

Just a few days after the babies had left, I watered the sphere and stopped to marvel at what I thought was the empty nest.

But then I noticed something was wrong.  The bottom of the nest was missing and I could see the soil underneath.

Were the parents removing the nest?

But wait, were there two nests in there?  Yep, what I was looking at was actually a new nest under construction – directly across from the old nest.

So much for using the swing rocker.

 

Junco nest under construction

 

Juncos hide their nests well.  You have to look pretty hard to spot them in the photo below.

Junco nests.

 

 

Chris talked to a bird expert who told him that it could be the same mating pair who built the first nest, or it could be a different pair.

My money is on it being the same pair.

The expert also said that we were doing the right thing by trying to keep the sphere watered since the plants provided protection for the birds. We just had to be careful.

The nest took shape quickly.  It was built right into the soil.

 

A cozy new junco nest

 

Soon four tiny eggs appeared.  The devoted dad was usually close by while mama sat on the nest.

The eggs hatched, and mom and dad once again scurried to find food.

 

Junco hatchlings

 

And, once again, we got yelled at whenever we neared the front porch.

 

Stop right there, humans!

 

Then one day I was working in the driveway and I heard that all-too-familiar “tick tick” sound of a worried parent junco.  That’s when I saw an immature bird hopping around in the shrubs a few feet away.

Yes!  The babies were coming out of the nest.  Soon we could use our porch again.

 

 

It still feels strange and a bit disappointing to just waltz out to our front porch without getting yelled at by juncos.  And it’s funny how a location that was so important to them a mere week ago now sits abandoned.  The first nest has already been covered over by the baby tears.

Things did not go quite as I’d planned for my garden sphere, and it is probably a little worse for being neglected this summer.  But I love that it was the safe and cozy home for eight new birds.

Next year I might try planting a fern in the sphere.

I hope the juncos like it.

Related Reading

Interested in learning more about birds and how to attract them to your garden?  We’ve been enjoying reading The Joy of Bird Feeding by Jim Carpenter.

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

 

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A DIY Shatter-Resistant Garden Mirror

In my previous post, I shared my makeover of a dark shade garden.  That makeover included a DIY garden mirror that I hung on the back fence to bring in and reflect light.

Ideally a garden mirror, one that will stay out all summer, or possibly all year, should be shatterproof and weatherproof.  Now I’m not sure if the mirror I came up with really hits those marks, but I do know that it is shatter-resistant.  As for the rest, time will tell.

The project started with  . . .

Finding Frames

I scoured thrift shops to find a frame made of plastic, resin, or some other weather-resistant material.

I found these frames on sale at a local thrift shop and paid about $7 for the pair.  They had cheap, ugly “art” in them, which I removed.  I was only interested in the frames.

Thrift store frames

 

I bought two frames because I had a gut feeling that I should do a small test mirror first to avoid making mistakes on the “real” mirror.

Turned out I was so right about that – mistakes were made!  Very silly ones at that.

We will come back to the test mirror later, but for now we’ll talk about my experience with the larger frame – the one I worked on after I had learned from my mistakes.

Finding the “Glass”

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The large frame would hold a 18″ X 24″ piece of art – or, for my needs, a clear acrylic sheet.  I found one the right size at my local hardware store.

The acrylic sheet is lightweight, shatter-resistant, and non-yellowing.

Making an “Antique Mirror”

Step one of making an outdoor “antique mirror” is very, very important:  Put a piece of blue painter’s tape on one side of the acrylic sheet.

Blue tape marks the front side of the acrylic sheet

The blue tape marks the front side – the side that should not be painted.  Otherwise, things can get very confusing later in the project – especially if you’re me and you manage to find a way to lose track of which side of the sheet you were actually painting.  Since it’s a clear sheet, once you lose track it’s almost impossible to tell.

So anyway, blue tape.

 

With the front “blue tape” side of the mirror facing down, I spray painted the back side with Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect.  I chose it because I read that it gives glass the look of an antique mirror.

This paint has a heavy fume smell so, after a while, I decided to use a painter’s mask.  Some of the other paints and products I mention below are pretty intense too so, if you use them, be sure to read and follow the cautions on the labels.  I also tried to keep my painting project far away from things like bird feeders and bee activity.

Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect after one coat

(Please excuse my old-sheet-turned-dropcloth here which, as you can see, I have been using for years.  It’s starting to look like abstract art itself.)

It took quite a few coats of paint to actually cover the acrylic sheet.  And the paint looked a bit alarming when it was in the process of drying.

Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect dries unevenly, but not to worry

But I wasn’t going for perfection here.  I wanted it to be a bit imperfect and patinated so it would look like an antique mirror.

After about five coats, I could still vaguely see through the “mirror” when I held it up to fence where it would hang.  It needed a backing of some sort to make the “mirror” opaque.  So, after the mirror paint dried, I sprayed black paint right over the mirror paint.

Yes, I sprayed it on the same side of the acrylic sheet where I had sprayed the mirror paint.  This step was a bit counter-intuitive, and my paint-fume-soaked brain had a hard time grasping the concept.

 

I used RustOleum Engine Enamel, in gloss black, from my husband’s stash of spray paint only because I had it on hand and, since it’s intended to be used on engine parts, it seemed like it would be a durable paint.

Could I instead have used some sort of black weatherproof backing and just placed it in the frame behind the acrylic sheet?  That might have worked too. Or it might not have if, at some point, water found its way between the “mirror” and the backing and caused some sort of problem.  Since it’s an outdoor mirror, this could happen.

And this way just seemed like less work.

I let the “mirror” dry thoroughly.

 

The Garden Mirror – Or Not

I wasn’t sure how I would secure the “mirror” to the frame, but it turned out that I didn’t need to worry.  That piece of acrylic fits so snugly into the frame that it isn’t going anywhere.

If anything, it’s so snug that there is a slight bow in the acrylic sheet that, if it were any more pronounced, would give it a “funhouse mirror” look.

One reason I liked the frame that I found for the mirror was that it looked like black bamboo.  So I hadn’t intended to paint it.

But when I hung the mirror, I was underwhelmed.

DIY garden mirror

The frame looked boring and dated.

Back down it went – back to my much-used spray paint drop cloth.

Painting the Frame

It would have been really hard to get the acrylic sheet out of the frame again, so I just masked it with newspaper so I could spray paint the frame.

I used the sports section since I never read it.

I really should look through my husband’s paint stash more often.  This time I found another product intended for engine parts called Dupli-Color Adhesion Promoter.  I used it on the frame to make sure the spray paint would adhere properly to the plastic frame. (Time will tell if this step actually helped.)

Then I painted the frame with the RustOleum “Gold Rush” Metallic spray paint – which I had on hand.

The Result

Classic gold frames never go out of style.  And I love the contrast of the rustic fence against the polished gold.

Shatter-resistant DIY garden mirror

As for the mirror itself, it is not super-clear.  In fact, it is a bit hazy.  Everything reflected in it has a sort of “dreamlike” look.

 

Shatter-resistant DIY garden mirror

But I love how it brings light, interest, and even motion to a dark area of the garden.

This mirror does reflect a lot of light, so I would not want to use it in an area that gets direct sun.

Will it really hold up outside?  Time will tell.  But will a flying rock or errant softball break the “glass?”  Probably not.

The Test Mirror – And What Went Wrong

This is how the test mirror turned out.  It is the result of my doing everything wrong.

DIY garden mirror

What I think happened here is that I lost track of which side I had painted with the mirror paint.  And then, instead of painting the black paint on top of the mirror paint, I painted it on the reverse side of the “glass.”

To secure the mirror to the frame, I used a strong glue.  The glue seeped out along the sides and, when I wiped it away, some of the mirror paint actually came off with it, leaving black paint exposed.

DIY antique garden mirror

 

So this mirror has a lot of patina and looks very much like an antique mirror.  For this mirror, I used Krylon “Looking Glass” Silver paint, which to me seemed very similar to the Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect that I used on the large mirror.

I had experimented a bit by using a paper doily as a stencil, and the look is fun.

DIy antique garden mirror

 

But as you can see, the actual mirror part is very murky.  That’s because the mirror paint is sitting on top of the acrylic sheet instead of behind it.

For the right look, it’s always best to paint on the back side of the sheet.

Now I’m intrigued about the endless possibilities of DIY antique mirror projects.  I want to do a little experimenting using more stencils and finding new ways to create a patinated look.  I might even use real glass next time.

Where’s my blue tape?

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Brightening Up a Dark Garden

Recent I shared my Mom’s garden corner makeover, where she transformed a tangle of overgrown shrubs into a seamless part of her lush and serene “secret garden” backyard.

Every time I visited Mom, I would marvel at how quickly that space was evolving into something so beautiful.

And then I would come home to this.

Cottage Garden Gone Wild!

This was the little space between our plum tree and our garden shed.  With the neighbor’s garage directly behind it, it doesn’t get much light.

 

Shade garden before cleanup.

This horrible photo, taken with my aging cellphone, still makes the space look more attractive than it actually was.

 

 

Weedy perennials and suckers from the plum tree had swallowed up a potted hosta, a potted ligularia, and even a mature rhododendron.

 

Shade garden before cleanup

It was a real mess, and I could see it every time I looked out the kitchen window.  And every time I looked, the little voice in my head said “Heidi you slacker!”

 

Shade garden before cleanup.

It was time to clean up this area and make it fun.

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The Cleanup

Of course I was hesitant to remove blooming perennials.  After all, I told myself, this is a cottage garden which by definition is not expected to be perfect. But that reasoning is why the area had become so chaotic in the first place.

So, with my heart in my throat, I removed violets, poppies, feverfew, and even a few foxgloves – for now.  I’m sure they will creep back next year, but hopefully with a little less enthusiasm.

 

Shade garden after cleanup

 

Shade garden after cleanup

The poor, neglected rhododendron needed pruning.  So I did what I usually do with shrubs its size:  I limbed it up.

 

Hosta, rhody, and ligularlia

Limbing up gives the plant a little more air circulation – and also a tidier look.

I added a layer of mulch to the soil, and the cleanup was done.

And now the fun could start.

 

Adding Light and Color

I wanted to add a little light and color to this dark area, but I didn’t want to add any self-seeding or spreading perennials.  So I decided, for the most part, to stick with annuals since they die away in late-fall.

I planted a drift of trailing lobelias in front of the potted hosta ( which is actually two different hostas in one pot).

 

Potted hosta

I’ve never planted lobelias in the shade before, so we will see how they do.

I brought in a footed urn that I had on hand and planted it with a sweet little Himalayan maidenhair fern.

I chose this particular type of maidenhair fern because in time it will grow enough to drape over the edge of the pot (as opposed to growing upward), and hopefully it will look amazing.

 

Himalayan maidenhair fern

I rescued a few white impatiens from the discount rack of a local store and planted them around the urn.

I had moved a heuchera in from another area, but it was drooping and too sparse, so I bought a fresh citronelle heuchera to group with baby tears and a fuchsia (yet to bloom).

 

Baby tears, citronelle heuchera, and fucshia

 

Adding Something Unexpected

Gardens are always more interesting when there is a little human touch to contrast nature.  And I needed something to lighten up the super-dark area at the very back, near the fence line – something to define the boundary of the space.

So I came up with this DIY shatter-resistant garden mirror.

 

The faux “antique glass” softens the reflection and gives it a dreamlike look.  When there is a breeze, it’s fun to see the movement of the plants reflected in the mirror.

 

DIY garden mirror

I still think this area could use something large-scale, so my only regret is that the mirror is not larger – a lot larger.

Even so, it is a fun addition, and it brings in some light.

 

DIy garden mirror

 

Shade garden after cleanup

I feel like I could do more with this area, but for now I’m going to give the new plants time to settle in and then see what happens.

 

Garden Mirror How-To Post Coming Soon

The DIY shatterproof garden mirror, with its “antique glass,” was the result of a fair amount of trial and error on my part – and a few happy accidents.  I’ll be telling you all about that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

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

 

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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.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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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.

 

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

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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!

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

 

 

My shop is where I share my current decor obsessions, seasonal must-haves, and more!

 

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
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Our Laundry Room Remodel
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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.

 

 

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
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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.

 

 

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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