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.

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A Rusty Bed Spring Becomes a Trellis


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





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.


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.


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

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


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.


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.



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




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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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A Mason Bee Update (AKA, the Tale of Beatrice)

Around this time last year, I wrote all about our experiences in keeping orchard mason bees.  To read my original post, click here.

Insects aren’t usually my thing, but “our” mason bees are very much the exception.  I’m fairly certain that our bees are cuter and smarter than anyone else’s.

A mason bee preparing for landing at the bee house.

And since a new batch of our babies – I mean bees – will soon begin hatching from their cocoons, I thought this would be a good time to share an update on how they did last season.

But first . . .

Mason Bee Fun Facts

There is so much to know about mason bees, but here are a few fun facts:

  • Female mason bees are black and can easily be mistaken for flies.
  • Mason bees are considered solitary bees because they don’t live in a hive and don’t protect a queen.
  • We don’t need any protective gear to keep mason bees, and we never have to handle live bees – except Beatrice.  You’ll meet her later.
  • Mason bees are spring pollinators.  In our area, they start hatching from their cocoons around early April and are active only until about June.
  • Most mason bee varieties need sun and a  temperature of at least 55 degrees to fly.
  • In our garden, they lay eggs in the nesting tubes and wooden nesting blocks that we provide.
  • They fill each nesting tube with eggs, sealing each individual egg in with a mud wall to protect it.  Each nesting tube can house around six to eight eggs.
  • The eggs hatch into larvae and then spin themselves a protective cocoon where they develop into adult bees and hatch the following spring.
  • In late fall, we harvest the cocoons and keep them safe in a spare fridge until the following spring.
A mason bee at the entrance of a wooden nesting block.

Our Bee Numbers

We started the 2017 season with around 180 cocoons – 150 of which were from our own “crop” of cocoons from 2016, and 30 of which we got from Crown Bees.

By the end of the 2017 season, those bees left us with a whopping 305 new cocoons for the 2018 season.


What We Did Differently in 2017

2017 was a great year for our bee population.  We don’t always have that kind of success.

One thing we did differently was that, to prolong the bee season, we placed our cocoons outside in two increments:

We placed 20 cocoons outside on April 3, and we put the rest of the cocoons outside on April 8.

Chris put them in a little cardboard box with escape holes, similar to the boxes he made for this year’s cocoons, and strapped the box to the top of the bee house.

Cardboard boxes with holes for releasing cocoons.

When the little guys hatched, they could find their way out of the box and start living their busy bee lives.

In the bee house, Chris carefully arranged nesting reeds mixed with natural sticks of varying sizes.  This really appeals to the bees because the sticks serve as landmarks to help each bee find the nesting tube that she is filling with eggs.

Mason bees working their nesting tubes.

A Mishap

About a month into the 2017 bee season, most of the cocoons should have hatched – but there were still a few unhatched ones.

Chris moved the cocoons into a small clear plastic container, hoping that the extra dose of sunlight would awaken them. The container had holes drilled in the top so any hatched bees could emerge.

Then he strapped the plastic container to the bee house.

Then one day, I was outside and I noticed to my horror that the container had fallen to the ground – face down.  The top had come off, and the remaining cocoons, and one hatched bee, were trapped in the plastic bottom.

It was a sunny day, which was good for the cocoons.  I lifted off the container and watched as a few bees emerged from their cocoons, warmed their wings, and took flight.

This was a real treat since I’d never actually seen bees hatching from their cocoons before.

A newly-hatched mason been amid hatched and unhatched cocoons.
A mason bee hatching from a cocoon.

Apologies to anyone who thinks these photos are gross.  I might think the same if I didn’t know these sweet, docile bees better.  While I was sitting on the ground right next to them and taking photos, it never even crossed my mind that they would try to harm me.


The Tale of Beatrice

Later, Chris put all the unhatched cocoons back in the plastic container and put them on the porch to soak up the last rays of sun.

But the cocoons sat motionless – except one.  A single bee was slowly gnawing its way to freedom.  I could even hear what sounded like tiny chomping/scratching sounds.

A mason bee struggles to get out of her cocoon.

But progress was slow – too slow.  Chris carefully opened the cocoon for the bee.  It was a larger, black bee, so it was most likely a female.  She was very weak, and probably very hungry.

Chris put her on a flower to soak up some nectar.

Beatrice crashes on a flower.

I thought it would bring her luck if we gave her a name, so we called her Beatrice.  But Beatrice wasn’t doing very well.  To make things worse, it was getting late, and dark clouds were moving in.

Going on a tip that Chris had read, we soaked a cotton ball in sugar water and placed it on a small plastic lid.  Then we cut the flower that Beatrice was sitting on and put her, flower and all, on the lid with the cotton ball.  We placed the lid on top of the bee house and anchored it with a large rock.

Beatrice feeding on sugar water.

Beatrice could soak up sugar water and then, if she had the energy, find shelter in one of the bee house nesting holes.

The next day was cool and wet – and the bees were inactive.  Beatrice was still alive and clinging to the sugar-soaked cotton.  We added more sugar water.

The following day was warm and sunny.  And Beatrice flew away!

It’s not unusual to have a few cocoons that don’t hatch for various reasons.  We checked the remaining cocoons, and none of them contained live bees.

Beatrice was the last bee of the season.

A Second House

Beatrice might have been the last bee to hatch, but there were still plenty of bees around – and they were starting to run out of places to lay their eggs.

Most of the nesting reeds in the bee house were already full of eggs – with mud walls neatly sealing each entrance.

Mason bee nesting reeds almost filled to capacity.

Chris quickly built another bee house for them – a simple design but it did the trick.

Building a simple bee house.

Our Current Cocoons

We will be setting our current batch of cocoons outside soon. We are phasing out the wooden nesting block because we noticed that the bees much prefer natural nesting reeds (which are different from bamboo reeds, which we have been told by experts to stay away from) for their eggs.

Mason bee cocoons.

The variation of size always amazes me.  Females tend to be larger than males – in some cases much larger.

Mason bee cocoons.

We added a third bee house this year.

New bee house with this season’s cocoons in the cardboard container above the nesting reeds.

I can’t wait to see these little guys buzzing around our garden soon.


This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial. Mason bees are not suitable to all climates.


Disclosure:  Affiliate Links are used below.

Interested in learning more about mason bees?  Here are a few resources to get you started:

  • The Crown Bees Learning Page is packed with interesting information on the orchard mason bee and other native bees.
  • Crown Bees BeeMail Newsletters are an excellent resource for anyone currently caring for mason bees.
  • The Mason Bee Revolution, Dave Hunter and Jill Lightner.
  • The book The Orchard Mason Bee, by Brian L. Griffin, was our first resource when we began researching mason bees.  Although we have moved on from some of the advice in the book, it was an entertaining read that helped us understand these little creatures and get started.

Bee Houses and Hotels

I would love to replace our oldest bee house with something more attractive, and I’m inspired by some of the charming bee hotels and houses on Etsy.  

This one is especially cute.

If you decide to purchase a bee house, keep in mind that mason bees prefer nesting reeds that are at least six inches long.  I see many bee houses out there that are too shallow and the nesting reeds are too short.


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Second Tuesday Art Walk #8: Dream Gardens

This will be the last Second Tuesday Art Walk for a little while.  I’ve decided to put this monthly feature on hold because I have so many things I want to share on this blog – but not enough time to write posts about them.  So for now something has to give – and that something is Second Tuesday Art Walk.

One of the reasons that I’m short on time is that we have a large garden, and it’s time for spring garden clean up.

Spending two days taming a buttercup infestation makes it easy to lose sight of the reason that I love gardening in the first place:  Gardening is a creative outlet.  But gardeners here in the Pacific Northwest have the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Festival to remind us of that.

Last month, the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary.  My mom, Erika, and I have been attending the festival, which takes place in Seattle, every year – probably since the very first one.

So I thought this would be a fun time to share some of my favorite things from this year’s festival and some from recent years past.

Spring Fragrance

Inside the entrance, a cheerful spring bulb display always greets visitors.  The intoxicating fragrance of hyacinths and the piped-in bird songs set the mood for the show.

Spring flower display, 2016

Floral Competition

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

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

Photo courtesy of Michelle Pedersen

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

Forest Friends by The Art of Forest Blooms, 2018

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

Singing in the Rain, 2013


Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

Display Gardens

Over the years, it seems that the lighting in the display garden area has evolved into an art in itself.  The public shuffles around in near darkness, and the displays are lighted for maximum impact.

The result is a fantasy world where trees become ethereal.

Creeping branches, 2018


A contorted hazelnut, maybe? 2017

Large Scale Nature

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

A hike in the mountains is recreated, 2016


A dream pond in a forest setting, 2016


A natural setting, 2015


Little Pink Houses – And Other Ones Too

To me, what the display gardens do best is blend man made structures with natural elements.

Cottages, quaint shops, or even little neighborhoods are created.

April in Paris, 2012


An English tudor home and garden, 2017


A little pink house! 2016


A seaside cottage, 2016


A walled Tuscan garden, 2016


Pergolas, Sheds, and Greenhouses

These little (or sometimes not-so-little) structures are the stuff that dreams are made of.  They are why I always leave the show with a million ideas bouncing around in my head – even if they are completely impractical ideas that I could never act on.

After all, how many of us actually have a luxurious sleeping shed with a built-in herb garden nailed to the exterior?

Sleeping shed with herb garden, 2017

Or an island pergola?

A pergola over a pond, 2018

Or a stained glass greenhouse?

A stained glass greenhouse, 2018

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

Statuary pergola, 2013


A rustic shed, 2015


A dream potting shed, 2017


A Victorian gazebo, 2016


Al Fresco Living

Because it’s cold and raining about 75% of the time here in the Pacific Northwest – or at least it seems that way – when the weather actually is cooperating, almost everyone rushes outside to dine and lounge al fresco.

And the festival always has some lovely vignettes to inspire us to do just that.

Conifers and tea, 2017


Cottage tea time, 2017


Outdoor living room, 2016

Al Fresco Cooking

And isn’t it everyone’s dream to cook outdoors?  How about a gorgeous built-in barbecue with a live herb garden growing on the backsplash?

Outdoor kitchen, 2017

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

An outdoor kitchen, 2018

Complete Fantasy

Of course, some displays are purely for fun.

A giant chess set, 2018


Who lives here? 2013


A stone bridge, 2016

Small Details

We try to take our time with the display gardens and really soak everything in.  There is so much to see that it would be easy to miss the small details that are often so inspiring.

A cute mason bee house, 2016


A miniature village, 2017


A carved heron, 2018


A shower head with air plants, 2018


Limited-palette planters, 2018


Bonsai tree, 2018


Small-Space Gardens

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

A terrace garden, 2016


A vertical garden, 2014

The Marketplace

There are so many seminars offered at this festival.  I’m ashamed to admit that Mom and I have never attended a single one.  No, the festival is so huge that we are lucky just to get through the display gardens and the marketplace.

This year, the marketplace seemed bigger than ever, and we didn’t have enough time to see all of the booths.

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

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

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

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

Challenge accepted, Henri.  Challenge accepted.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.


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The Wreath That The Storm Blew In

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

Recently I raked some of the twigs into a pile.

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

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

Securing the Twigs

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I bundled handfuls of twigs together with wire and attached them to a wreath form – again using wire.  I tried to space the bundles evenly around the wreath form.

I didn’t worry about concealing the wire.  You’ll see why later.

I should have worn gloves.  Between handling the twigs and bending the wire, my hands took a beating.  I used a wire we had on hand, but in the future I’ll probably use this florist wire instead since it’s made specifically for floral projects.

Taming the Monster

I ended up with a monster.  I loved it.  But it was way too wide to hang on our door.

So I pruned it with garden shears.  I didn’t want it to look too neat, so I tried not to prune it too evenly.

Now it would fit on the door.  But the wires still needed to be concealed.

Concealing The Wires

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

I started out using greening pins but, for the amount of moss that I needed to attach, that got tedious very quicky.  So I wound up using good old fashioned Elmer’s Glue to attach the moss to the wreath.  It worked fine, and I’ve read that Elmer’s is biodegradable.

And since the wreath will hang in a protected area where it won’t get wet, the glue should hold.

The Result

My wreath looks just like the one I’d seen at the nursery.

I wasn’t sure if a dark twig wreath would look right against our charcoal colored door.  But I like it.

I could add a few pieces of spring or Easter decor to the wreath.  Or not.  I kind of enjoy it the way it is.

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

More On Twig Wreaths

With twig wreaths, the possibilities are endless.  Now I want to try grapevines, pussywillows, and even bamboo.

One place I’m looking to for inspiration is Etsy, where the artists are offering so many beautiful handmade twig wreaths that put mine to shame.


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

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
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An Experiment with Coleus

Ever since we set up our little Sunglo greenhouse a few years ago, I’ve been trying to find the best way to start plants from seeds.

So early last spring, I conducted a little experiment:  I planted seeds using three different seed starting kits to learn which method worked the best for me.

Comparing seed starting kits
Seedlings planted in three different seed starting kits

With spring just around the corner, this is a good time to share my findings.

The Three Seed Starting Kits I Tried

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There are many types of seed starting kits and trays out there, but for this little exercise I used three easily found, affordable Jiffy products.

Since I’d never planted coleus seeds before, I decided to make coleus the subject of my experiment.  I planted them in all three kits.

I planted several types of coleus but mostly the rainbow mix.

The three Jiffy kits I used were:

Seed Starter Greenhouse.


Peat Pot Strip Sheets.


Peat Soil Pellets.

The Pros and Cons of Each

In this post, I won’t go into the mechanics of how to use each kit.  I believe they all came with instructions – which I mostly followed.  I did modify things slightly to suit my greenhouse environment and to address a concern I had about one of the products.

Here is what I learned:

Seed Starter Greenhouse


Seedlings in the plastic chambers of the Seed Starter Greenhouse


  • If treated right, the plastic potting chambers are reusable year after year.
  • Each tray can start 72 seedlings.


  • The chambers are small so my seedlings outgrew them quickly.
  • Transplanting seedlings from the chambers was more difficult and disruptive to plant roots than using either of the other two methods.
  • I had to separately purchase soil to fill the potting chambers.  The seed starter soil I chose didn’t hold together well, and it seemed to dry out too quickly (which of course was my own fault).
  • Probably because of the soil I used, moisture retention in the potting chambers was uneven.
  • The plastic chambers cannot be separated so, unlike the other two methods, it was impossible to share individual seedlings with friends without transplanting them first.

Peat Pots

Seedlings in peat pots


  • Larger chambers meant the plants didn’t outgrow them as quickly as with the seed starter greenhouse.
  • Transplanting was easy and not disruptive to roots.
  • Since the peat pots could be separated, sharing seedlings with friends was easy.


  • This method also required purchasing soil.
  • Although the plastic tray is reusable, the peat pots are not.
  • Moisture retention seemed uneven, again probably due to the soil I used.

Peat Soil Pellets

Seedlings in peat soil pellets


  • Transplanting was easy and didn’t disrupt roots.
  • Similar to the peat pots, sharing individual seedlings with friends was easy.
  • I’ve read other posts to the contrary but, for my little experiment at least,  moisture retention in the soil pellets was far superior to the first two methods.
  • No need to purchase soil separately.  There was no guess work here.  Everything the seeds needed was already in the soil pellet.
  • I saved a little time with this method since I didn’t have to fill potting chambers with soil – although I did have to soak the pellets in water and wait a bit for them to expand to the correct size and moisture level.


  • The pellets are encased in a mesh, and when a seedling is transplanted, the mesh gets buried in the soil along with the pellet.   However, I have read from several sources that the mesh casing doesn’t always break down when buried in the soil.  And sometimes this restricts root growth.  I wondered about this when I was using them.  I just didn’t like the idea of burying that mesh casing.  So my easy fix was to carefully peel off the mesh when I transplanted the seedlings.  The mesh came off easily and, for the most part, the pellets held together after the casing was removed.
  • I found it just a little more time consuming to plant seeds into the pellets versus the other two methods.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t have listed this under cons but, while the plastic tray is reusable, the pellets are not.  However, a bag of replacement pellets is inexpensive and takes the place of the soil that needs to be purchased with the other two methods.

My Personal Favorite

Even with the extra step of removing the mesh casing, I liked the peat soil pellets the best. And I’m finding that they are available in four different sizes, as illustrated by the chart on this page.  So there are options, but now I’ll be careful to pay attention to which size I’m actually buying.

How the Coleus Did

So how did the coleus fare in these three different methods?  In all three seed starting methods, the seeds sprouted consistently.  However, over time, the ones started in the peat pellets did slightly better – and in some cases much better.  This could have everything to do with the poor soil I used in the other two methods.

Eventually, the coleus had to be transplanted into larger pots.  By this time, I had become somewhat attached to them.  Each plant was a little miracle of color and pattern.  The greenhouse looked so cheerful with these pretty babies.

Growing coleus in a Sunglo greenhouse
Coleus and other plants growing in our Sunglo greenhouse

Finally it was time for them to go outside.  Feeling overly protective of my little gems, I didn’t plant them directly into the garden.  I used them in containers.

In hanging baskets.

Coleus in a hanging basket

In numerous clay pots.

Coleus in clay pot

It was fun to group similar foliage colors and patterns – or to combine plants with heavily contrasting foliage.


Some plants stayed small.  These little guys were given tiny pots and paired with larger plants.

Coleus with ornamental grass.
coleus and begonia
Coleus and begonia

Coleus plants do bloom, but the flowers are insignificant.  The real star of the show is the beautiful and varied foliage.  When backlit by the sun, certain plants have leaves that resemble stained glass.

Coleus leaves

To encourage prolific foliage, I pinched them back when I saw flower buds emerging.

I brought the cuttings inside and put them in vases.

coleus is a spectacular alternative to cut flowers

Some of them sprouted roots in the water.  I didn’t try to plant them in soil, but that may have worked as a propagation method.

In my climate, coleus is an annual, meaning that it only lives until the fall frost kills it.  But I read somewhere that coleus plants can be brought indoors in cold weather for protection and placed back outside in spring.  I have a couple of coleus plants from last summer in my greenhouse now.

Soon they will be sharing space with the coleus seeds I just planted.  I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s beauties once they sprout.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only. The little experiment I describe here was completely unscientific.

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

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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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