The Coum Hardy Cyclamen is a tough little guy that is hardy to -20 degrees and blooms in the dead of winter. The blossoms are just starting to appear in my shade garden.
Some winters, the blossoms can be seen peeking up through the snow. The flowers (usually pink or mauve) only get about 4 inches tall on red stems, and the plants grow in dense patches up to about 12 inches wide. The leaves are also very attractive.
They are sweet, subtle little plants, not flashy show-stoppers. But they are a welcome sight in the middle of winter when nothing else is blooming.
Great for Naturalizing
They look great in a woodland setting and thrive in hardiness zones 6 to 10 in full to partial shade. Everything I have read about them says they need well-drained soil, but I would say the soil in my shade garden is just a touch on the heavy side, and these little guys still thrive.
They go dormant in summer, so winter is the time they shine. To create a year-round display of blossoms, groups of Coum Hardy Cyclamen can be planted around the bases of deciduous trees along with groups of shade-tolerant spring, summer, and fall-blooming bulbs and tubers.
In fact, there is another small hardy Cyclamen variety, Cyclamen hederifolium, which blooms in fall.
My shade garden (in hardiness zone 8a) is wonderfully low-maintenance, and I do nothing at all for these little guys. They like soil that is rich in organic matter, and this occurs naturally in my shade garden as the trees lose their leaves and cones.
Once the plant is established, it’s okay to let this cyclamen dry out a little in summer, when it goes dormant anyway.
They prefer to be undisturbed and don’t take kindly to being dug up and replanted, although I have tried it and had success.
This blog, My Sweet Cottage, which I started late last summer, actually made one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 come true: To find more things I enjoy doing. I really love having this blog, and I have you to thank. Your comments and encouragement keep me going and keep it fun.
A blog is a great way of documenting the year. Here, in semi-chronological order, is a look back at my top 10 posts for 2014.
Things That Happened in 2014
1. We lost my dear mother-in-law in May, but we found a beautiful way of honoring her life. Betty would have loved her celebration of life party.
2. I shared the colorful makeover of our little garden shed.
And finally, I resolve to be true to my own likes and dislikes. I will look to new trends in décor and design for inspiration, but I won’t be swayed by their popularity alone. I will stick with what speaks to me. And I will share that with you.
Here’s to a fun and interesting 2015!
This post is part of a fun event called “Show and Tell Fridays” featuring the work of some very talented designers. Click on the thumbnail below to check out their work.
With so many great shrubs that provide winter color and structure, it was tough to decide on one for my December plant pick.
But when I came across this striking Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureomarginatus’), I knew I had a winner.
I’m not usually a huge fan of plants with variegated leaves. But this beautiful combination of the soft buttery yellow with the dark green on shiny leaves can brighten any gloomy winter’s day.
A Versatile Beauty
Golden Euonymus can thrive as a container plant on a porch or deck or it can be planted in the garden to add a splash of color.
For an even more striking display of color, it can be used as a hedge.
Un-sheared, it reaches about six feet in height and width. But it tolerates shearing very well (although this should not be done in freezing weather). It can be shaped to add structure to your garden or, if it’s in a container, to lend a more formal look.
Golden Euonymus is an evergreen shrub that looks beautiful all year. The colors hold best if it’s planted in full sun, but it can tolerate part shade.
Golden Euonymus does well in hardiness zones 7-9. It does need regular water and well-drained soil. It tolerates salty soil and marine air.
Fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer in spring. This plant is fairly disease resistant and also deer resistant.
We have a new feature in our garden: A portal to the tropics. This morning the temperature outside was under 30 degrees, and when I walked through the portal it was 62 degrees, heated by the sun. By noon it was over 70.
If you read my post Greenhouse on the Brain, you already know that I’m talking about the little Sunglo lean-to greenhouse that we bought used and disassembled on Craigslist.
My husband, Chris, and our talented friend, Bruce, who also worked on our master bathroom remodel and kitchen remodel, worked for over a week in rain and freezing temperatures to prepare the site and assemble the greenhouse.
It’s not quite finished, but I’m already so happy with it that I wanted to give you a sneak peek and show you the process.
Making it Fit
A lean-to greenhouse is basically one-half of a greenhouse that attaches to the side of a building. Ours would be attached to the south side of our garage, where our vegetable garden was.
The greenhouse we bought on Craigslist would measure about 5′ X 10′ when assembled. But that wasn’t long enough to cover both of the windows on the south side of the garage, and the greenhouse would have to be placed off-center on the garage wall, which wouldn’t look right.
Going Shopping at Sunglo
Luckily Sunglo is located in Kent, Washington – a short drive from our house. So we arranged to pick up a 2.5 foot extension kit. This would bring the length of the greenhouse to 12.5 feet, which would cover both garage windows.
I have to add here that Sunglo greenhouses are over 90% made in America and many of its components are actually manufactured right there in Kent. So we felt pretty good about buying this product and supporting the local economy.
Of course while we were there we had to add a few upgrades to our greenhouse, like a nice little cedar shelf to replace a wire shelf. We needed a few other parts, and most of them were machined while we waited.
Preparing the Site
Chris and I removed all the plants, part of the walkway, and much of the soil next to the garage to level the site.
Next, Chris and Bruce measured out the foundation area of the greenhouse and sunk concrete pillars with brackets to hold the foundation.
For the foundation, they used pressure-treated 4X12 lumber. The 12″ foundation would add the height needed so that the greenhouse would be tall enough to cover the top of the garage windows.
Framing was added to the garage wall so the greenhouse could attach to it. Attaching framing to an 80-plus year old stucco structure was tricky because nothing was level, so Bruce had to pull a few magic tricks out his hat to make this work.
Next they brought in lots of sand as the subfloor and placed concrete pavers over the side that would get foot traffic and gravel over the side where the potting bench would be located.
They brought in two sources of water: a wall faucet for a small hose, and a stub for a future drip irrigation system. They also brought in electricity.
They even installed a small patio outside the greenhouse door.
Assembling the Greenhouse
Finally, they could start assembling the greenhouse and we could see it taking shape. I just love the curved roof design. It gives it so much character.
Chris and Bruce got lots of advice and information about the assembly process from the helpful folks at Sunglo. Things were getting very interesting as each panel was installed and the greenhouse came together.
It still needs some work around the door frame and a few finishing touches. It will have a built-in cedar potting bench with a soil basin and small cedar shelf above that. But here is the interior at this point.
It also has automatic heating and cooling. If it gets too warm, a fan on the west side automatically comes on and a vent on the east side opens. Pretty nifty! There are also a couple of manual vents.
Chris couldn’t resist wrapping his creation in Christmas lights.
I just can’t wait to find the right interior lighting for this adorable little greenhouse, something industrial yet attractive.
In spring we will be carving out a new vegetable garden around the greenhouse to blend it into the landscaping. We might also do some kind of façade over the wood foundation, or paint it.
I have already put a few plants in there and they seem very happy. But warm as it was in there on this cold day, I’m tempted to kick them out and put in a couple of comfy chairs, a coffee maker and a wine cooler.
The Florists Cylamen (Cyclamen persicum) is like the tiger that someone is keeping in their apartment as a pet. It is trapped inside, but it really wants out.
Although often marketed as an indoor plant, a cyclamen will slowly wither away in a warm indoor environment as it craves coolness.
But like the apartment tiger, it needs to be saved from itself. It needs to be cool, but also protected from rain, wind, and freezing temperatures.
It needs a covered, protected porch. And the person who can provide this will be rewarded with continuous blooms for several months.
With this plant, location is everything. Last year I had a potted cyclamen on my covered porch next to the front door (in Seattle, hardiness zone 8a) that bloomed from early fall until late spring.
I had another cyclamen on the opposite side of my front door, the side that is less protected and gets more wind, and that plant lasted less than a month.
A Great Container Plant
Cyclamen come in some striking colors – white, pink, red, and lavender. The foliage is also very attractive. They bloom pretty prolifically and continuously in the right environment, and they do well in containers.
They make a beautiful floral accent next to your front door to welcome visitors at a time of year when nothing else is really blooming.
This year I planted my cyclamen with just a little Golden Spikemoss as a contrast, but they can be used with a wide variety of other plants for an attractive container garden. Try them with small evergreens, winterberry, or miniature ferns.
Care and Feeding
Cyclamen that are sold as indoor plants are usually still happier outside in a protected environment as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees.
Cyclamen sold in a nursery as an outdoor plant usually can tolerate even cooler temperatures. Be sure to read the plant tag.
Cyclamen do best in pots with excellent drainage, and when the soil is consistently moist. But be careful not to overwater them. It’s best to deliver the water close to the base of the plant and not get the leaves wet or they might start to rot.
They like dappled sunlight or light shade. So indirect light or a little morning sun works better than heavy shade.
They need occasional fertilizer, but not more than once a month.
After blooming like mad for several months, a cyclamen may hit a dormant period, especially when temperatures begin to climb. With the right care (discontinue watering for a while, keep out of sunlight, repot and resume watering, put back into the light) you can get the cyclamen to come back for a repeat performance, but honestly I have always found it easier to just get a new one every year.
Call me lazy. But at least the tiger was free from his cage while it lasted.
I have always had a thing for greenhouses. There is just something magical about walking through a door on a cold winter’s day and instantly being transported to summer, or more accurately to a humid, earthy, tropical climate.
Of course, traveling instantly to the tropics is only one advantage greenhouses have to offer. This greenhouse, at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, Washington, dates back to the 1970s and is where cuttings of exotic and rare plants are nursed to success.
Many miracles happen here in this modest, hard-working structure.
But the needs of the average homeowner, the hobby gardener, are usually simpler. A hobby greenhouse could be used for overwintering tender garden plants, forcing winter bulbs, starting seedlings, or giving vegetables like tomatoes a running start in spring and a longer season to produce.
Because of all the great things a greenhouse can do, I have wanted one ever since I first took an interest in gardening.
Fantasy Becomes Reality – Sort Of
Unused and seemingly forgotten greenhouses, like this one at a winery in Woodinville, Washington, hold a special intrigue for me.
What a fun rehab project this would be. I just want to load it onto a flatbed truck and take it home.
And to continue my fantasy, once I was finished renovating it, it would look more like this:
But a girl can dream. And I’m thrilled to report that recently my dream has come true. Yes, we bought a greenhouse! And here it is:
As you might have noticed, it needs a little work. It’s sitting in pieces in our garage waiting for us to prepare the site and pour a foundation.
It’s a small, lightly used Sunglo greenhouse that Chris found on Craigslist. It’s a “lean-to” greenhouse, which basically means it’s half of a greenhouse, attached to the side of a building. In our case, it will be attached to the south side of our garage.
And I plan to make it the cutest, most productive little lean-to greenhouse this world has ever seen. Or at least a better place to overwinter plants than our mudroom.
Once we break ground on the construction, I will be providing updates. So stay tuned!
When we think of fall flowers, we usually think of mums and asters. Beautiful flowers, but they have a short bloom time, and once they are done blooming, the show is over. And many mums and asters are annuals, meaning they will die completely in winter and you will have to replant them next year.
A Three-Season Show
This is why Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is such a rewarding addition to any fall flower garden. For starters, it’s a perennial (in hardiness zones 3-9), meaning it will return for a repeat performance year after year.
It blooms in late summer, starting with pink flowers on bright green succulent stems. It attracts bees and butterflies. As the season progresses, the flower color intensifies into a deep copper by fall.
But the show does not end there. The flowers will fade into russet colored seed pods that add interest to the winter garden and attract birds.
‘Autumn Joy’ looks striking when used as a specimen plant or in borders. With its long season interest and its beautiful succulent stems, it can be combined with summer-blooming annuals and then later with fall mums and asters. It also looks great with ornamental grasses.
Care and Feeding
‘Autumn Joy’ is pretty easy care. Most sedums prefer porous soil, but mine grow in a garden with fairly fertile, heavy soil. The soil is amended a couple of times a year. Other than that, I don’t fertilize the ‘Autumn Joy.’
It prefers full sun to part shade. My biggest and best ‘Autumn Joy’ plant gets late afternoon shade.
And although this plant can adjust to less-frequent watering, my biggest and best also gets consistent water throughout the summer months.
In late winter, once the seed heads start to look worn, I cut the plant down to the ground, being careful not to cut any new growth, and mulch over it a bit with a leaf mulch to protect it.
Once mature, this plant can get 24-plus inches tall, and with its heavy flower heads, it’s a good idea to cage the plant early in the season. Another way to keep it from getting leggy is by pinching back the stems in spring or early summer when the plant stems reach six inches in height, but before the plant starts producing flower buds. This will make the plant grow more bushy and compact.
This perennial has very few enemies. Slugs, snails and aphids aren’t particularly attracted to it.
Another great thing about ‘Autumn Joy’ is how easy it is to divide and propagate. Once the plant gets too large, you can divide the roots. Or, like with many sedum varieties, you can take cuttings and place them in moist soil to encourage root growth. This is best done in spring or early summer.
I’ve never been a huge fan of those ornamental cabbages you see at nurseries this time of year. With their tight little perfect heads, they just look too contrived for my garden.
It’s the ornamental kales that usually get me. With their coarse, looser leaves, they look a little more unstructured than the cabbage. And there are so many varieties now. They grow in plant zones 2 to 11. Here in Seattle, zone 8, they usually work nicely as a cold-season annual.
I love this one called ‘Peacock White.’ Here I just paired it with a trailing Stonecrop sedum (Spathulfolium ‘Carnea’) in a small pot for an understated, monochromatic look.
Then there is the striking Kale ‘Redbor’ (Brassica orelacea ‘Redbor’). I love the purple coloring, which becomes more vibrant as the weather cools, providing a display of color all winter.
In this container, I used ‘Redbor’ kale, Rumex ‘Raspberry Dressing’ (a type of sorrel), a very sweet little ‘Coral Price’ flowering kale, a winter pansy, and a knotweed hybrid from my garden. For a little more contrast, I also added some moss that I found in my garden and some florist’s preserved reindeer moss.*
Sweet and lowdown
I also got some small ‘Redbor’ kales to use an underplanting for the two large containers that sit on either side of the front porch steps.
The purple color of the kale is a striking contrast to the chartreuse green Wilma (Monterey) Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘WilmaGoldcrest’) in each container.
Since I usually put Christmas lights on the cypress shrubs in December, I took the opportunity to shear them into shape now so they could harden off before the first frost. A fun task since this cypress gives off a fresh lemon scent when it’s being sheared. In fact, it is also known as ‘Lemon’ cypress.
Then I added the kale to the containers. ‘Redbor’ kale can be planted deep. I removed any leaves that looked ragged and planted the kales up to their bottom leaves. I paired them with simple orange and black winter pansies.
The cypress, the kale and the pansies all like well-drained soil, so I made sure the texture of the potting soil was not too heavy.
‘Redbor’ kale can get up to 3 feet tall, so these innocent-looking little babies could eventually try to take over the pots and crowd the cypress.
If that happens, but while the soil is still workable, I will transplant them into a flowerbed along one of our walkways, where we can still enjoy the dramatic purple color. By then it should almost be time to wrap the cypress in Christmas lights anyway.
‘Redbor’ kale is classified as an ornamental kale, but it is edible. The flavor is best after the plant has been hit by frost. So if these kales get too out of hand, they are going into the frying pan!
I will leave you with the recipe, below, for my easy kale fritters.
*The ‘Redbor’ kale and the sorrel in the second container shown above are edible, but I would not recommend using them for culinary purposes if, as shown in this example, they have been in a pot with preserved florist’s moss.
Heidi’s Super-Easy Kale Fritters
Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, here is my recipe for super-easy kale fritters. This is a basic recipe that you can put your own spin on by adding onion, leeks, sweet peppers, or even canned corn. Amounts are approximate and you can adjust them as you see fit, but it is best to use both eggs to help bind the batter. Once you have the batter mixed, it won’t look like much and it certainly won’t look like something that would hold together in the frying pan. But fear not, it will should work.
2-1/2 cups washed and finely chopped kale
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup multigrain pancake mix (I use Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
2 handfuls of shredded cheese (Italian blend is best)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together except the butter and 1/2 tablespoon of the oil. Heat a frying pan or griddle over the stove and add the butter and remaining oil to grease the pan. Once the pan is hot, spoon out the mixture and smooth it into 4-inch pancakes. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until done. Makes about 8 fritters.
Healthy and delicious! I like to use ranch dressing as a dipping sauce for these fritters.
For chopping kale the easy way, I use a small KitchenAid chopper similar to this one. I love it, especially since I don’t want to hassle with storing a larger food processor.
In my previous post about the potting shed we found on Craigslist, I talk about how using a strong, bold color on small outdoor structures can really add interest to your garden design.
This is one place where it is usually safe to be whimsical and have some fun with color, especially if the structure is nicely framed by plants and trees.
Creating a polished look
Buy why stop at that one structure? Why not tie together all the major man-made elements of your garden using the same strong color? This is a subtle way of creating a polished mood for your garden that is uniquely yours. Let’s just call this color your “signature color.”
I chose a color I call “snappy green” for our signature color because it looks fresh and unexpected. It’s strong enough to hold its own when the garden is colorful, in the spring and summer, and also add some interest in the dead of winter.
Choosing your paint color
When choosing your signature color, think about what you have going on in your garden at various times of the year.
Think about your plants, trees and flowers. Is there already a common color theme here, maybe one that you hadn’t noticed before? Often times, whether we realize it or not, we are attracted to the same or similar colors when buying new plants. What color could you choose as a signature color that would really play up the colors in your garden?
Also consider your house and how your signature color will impact your house color. Look at the big picture and find colors that play well together.
But remember, if you have a colorful garden, you will need a strong signature color to make any kind of impact. And don’t underestimate the power of strong neutrals like ebony.
Blend in contrasting or rustic garden elements to enhance garden design
You don’t need to paint or match every garden decoration to your signature color. A few rustic or contrasting counterpoints soothe the eye and add interest. For example, the container below, which matches my signature color, stands next to a rusted metal trellis.
Our back patio is in close proximity to the garden shed. Luckily, we found an off-the-rack Rustoleum spray paint color (“Eden” in satin) that closely matches the color we used on the shed, making it easy to paint and occasionally touch up the patio furniture.
Unless you want a very manicured look in your garden, the goal here is very subtle – to create a certain order, or flow, in your garden using your signature color, but without the color overwhelming your landscape design. This way you are free to bring in pieces of garden décor and create little vignettes that you enjoy even if they are not your signature color.
After we removed a large dead shrub from our yard, we decided that a small garden structure would be perfect in its place. This is the nice little used potting shed we found on Craigslist. We had it delivered from Eastern Washington via flatbed truck.
The unpainted, slightly weathered wood must have looked charming among the dry prairie grasses and sage bushes of Eastern Washington, but it looked wrong for our garden. And with the months of rain we get in Seattle, it was only a matter of time before the wood became a host for that ugly black algae that thrives here, leading to a fair amount of maintenance. Been there, done that.
Fun with Paint Colors
I considered painting the shed the same color as our house and garage, but this little guy needed more personality to really pop. And since it was set away from the house and garage, painting it a different color would work.
At the time, I was obsessed with a color that fell somewhere between Chartreuse green and apple green. A color I called “snappy green.” I wanted that color on everything! Of course, it is a color to be used with some restraint. But outside among all the other greens, it’s actually neutral. It’s fresh yet sophisticated.
After Chris painted the shed, it was re-roofed with a color that would play well with the snappy green. A skylight was added to the back of the roof to provide natural light. A trip to the salvage shop netted some large concrete blocks that made a good front stoop.
There are many other strong colors that would have worked just as well on this little structure.
Work the paint color into your garden design
One thing to keep in mind if you try something like this is that you might want to make the strong color the “signature color” for all your major garden structures and furniture so that it ties the prominent man-made features of your garden together into a unified look. For more details on this idea, see my post on finding a signature garden color.
In the meantime, I will leave you with a few images of the interior after Chris installed a potting bench, small shelves and a simple tool rack.
Here are some fun vintage items on Etsy similar to those in our shed, plus some Shaker brooms that are not only attractive but great for tricky garden tasks like sweeping leaves out of gravel walkways.