Friday, July 26, 2019

My Garden Totem for All Seasons

I've fallen in love with the upcycled structures garden artists are creating for their yards. In fact, I even taught a Glass-Plate-Garden-Flower Workshop recently at James Selings Estate Jewelry and Antiques here in Windsor. The workshop went well, I covered tips and tricks I'd learned from this new craft as I find no one Youtube or blog post completely covers every detail involved. Anyway, a totem workshop will follow.  The totems are more involved than the flowers but I love how the one I made for our side garden came out, even if it's a little dicey managing such a tall object. I do worry that the gold vase may lose it's sheen after awhile, but I plan to just spray a top coat of gold on it in the future if need be. This totem doubles as a birdbath and birdfeeder, a rock will be placed in the deep dish so wee birds have something to perch on when sipping water.

This totem takes the place of a Glass Plate flower in our side garden, and said flower now resides in a planter by our barn. I love it's new home, best of all, I love how garden art is so easy to move, no digging up, wrenching roots from Mother Earth and lugging to another location. I highly recommend you add art to your garden for this very reason.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Our New-Old Garden Path or Another Artist's Day Job

My husband and I finally budgeted for a decent  walkway leading up to our front door. As you can see from the 2014 photo to left, the cement path is a jarring, ugly contrast to our old home.
We hired a Connecticut mason, 'Jason the Mason' the kind of contractor that works with his own two hands to dig up the brownstone 'patio' in back that's overgrown with grass, weeds and moss and transfer all said stones to the front yard.

 We were surprised to see how thick some of the stones were, and Jason hauled each one in his wheelbarrow to the front. He asked us if we wanted a straight path or a cobblestone path, we opted for Cobblestone. Yesterday he smashed up the cement, hauled it away, and returned to pour crushed stone into the walkway. He asked if we wanted to just plunk the brownstone on top of the dirt then mow–when needed– over the path when grass grew in. Due to the amount of weeds seeping through the cement, we requested crushed stone. This doesn't mean the most tenacious of weeds won't rear their ugly head, but it'll be better than not having the crushed stone shield.

In unearthing the brownstone in back a curious metal object surfaced. A solemn but hopeful discussion centered around this object questioning if it were something of value. I once unearthed something in the front of our yard and wrote about it in a post here. Further inspection
determined the object was the remains of an old rusty bucket–(damn!)–and there it shall remain for posterity.

Jason is also an artist by trade, we found him through our landscaper who is also an artist. Our landscaper's wife met Jason when she lived at Artspace
a dwelling for artists in downtown Hartford.

When hiring your contractor, please keep this in mind as most artists contrary to the 'ivory tower' stereotype, are very hard workers.

Here is Jason's work: jasonwernerart

Saturday, July 6, 2019

My Experiment to Snuff out Weeds with Sedum Ground Covers

I have some favorite Groundcovers, Angelina, Hens and Chicks, Creeping Jenny and a low growing sedum I got for free.

I am on a mission to eliminate as much weeding as possible with these favored ground covers as they're easy to pull up, are beautiful to look at and add textures that says 'plant' not 'weed'. If they grow into my lawn I don't care, they make for pretty steppables. I find creeping thyme looks messy after they've bloomed, smells nice though.  Lily of the Valley I can't tolerate it's like an alien being that takes over your yard. Ajuga is too pedestrian for me and I regret that I dumped some seeds in an area when I first moved here, it's sort of a bargain basement groundcover in my book. I prefer low-growing so garden flowers aren't blocked by taller groundcovers.

I'm experimenting with these succulent ground covers by covering an area with commercial grade weed blocking fabric-always get commercial grade or forget about it, that flimsy cheap stuff does NOTHING. If you want to be more eco-concious use wet newspaper. I alternate doing both, I've even used wet cardboard, this is called 'Sheet Mulching'. The roots of these groundcovers are shallow, so they literally do fine being poked gently into loose soil.

Today I lay down some thick weed blocking fabric, covered it with Topsoil and took a bag of the free low-growing sedum and some Creeping Jenny I had and dumped it on the Topsoil after I watered it. I then tucked in the rooted areas of the groundcovers. It all looks messy now, but if a few small strands I picked up from someone else's yard can grow and fill out an area around my tree in two years so less weeds and Poison Ivy can poke their noxious heads through, I'm happy. Next year, my hope is that this sedum with shallow roots will assertively grow in an area where weeds flourish giving me more time to enjoy my garden than maintaining it.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Minor Decorative Upgrades to My Garden

I scour Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and the Buy Nothing Facebook page everyday. On days when I have the car, I will check out Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, Joblot and Savers for items I can re-purpose for our gardens. I've mentioned the Buy Nothing page before, just about every town in the country has one on Facebook. It is a page where your local residents post a picture of something they want to get rid of and offer it up for free. This is designed to keep stuff out of the landfill. They then pick a responding winner for the item. There are rules to this page, and the admin will gently remind members of them, for example, don't just 'take' but offer stuff too.

Yesterday's score on Facebook Marketplace was a big bag of vivid blue acquarium rocks for five bucks that included 50 flat side pearly-clear glass gems in them. The glass gems will be added to the Glass Plate Garden Flowers that I make. The rocks are replacing some purple glass stones I had in a birdbath that are supposed to glow in the dark but don't, and I could only afford one bag of them and thus they got grungy with dirt and leaves.

The acquarium rocks were plentiful as you can see to above. I worried that the color was too garishly bright, and it is, but in my previous post I mentioned the need to add splashes of brighter color to our yard. My SheShed is a drab olive green,  I've decided to paint it a brigher, olive green this Fall-(when husband goes on a business trip as his engineer personality will want to help, he's adept but he and outdoor heat don't mix).  Anyway, I still like the look, and for those worried that the birds can't use this birdbath, I will provide one in the near future for them.

The next accent upgrade was the mustard colored straw hat I got at Savers. I feel every woman who wants one should have a SheShed to hang her hat on. I'm grateful for mine. One can shop for Sheds on Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace too, but check for the free ones first and study pictures for structural issues. Even check wood storage sheds and kids wood playhouses on these sites (and commercial sites as they're cheaper than regular sheds) They're smaller but could fill the bill for you perfectly. As always, you'll need the right kind of vehicle to move if structure is already assembled.

A small decorative garden accent may just be the desired oomph you'll need to add a little color without investing in colorful annuals that have a short seasonal life and need to be watered.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Why I don't like Succession Flower Gardens

When I carved out a space for a garden in our front yard, I knew what palette I was looking for. We live in an antique house (circa 1664) and I immediately thought of the colors in a vintage postcard, golden mustard yellow, soft rose pinks, periwinkle blues, plum purples. Our house is painted yellow ochre, so I planted a lot of purple against the house where we have sun as the contrast sings. In front, because of shade, I chose Hellebores a.k.a. Lenten Rose and Caramel colored Heuchera. I think the combo works, but I also learned something from our new neighbors.

Before our neighbors moved in , the former owner and his wife loved gardening. I marveled at how much more they knew about landscaping than I as their yard was on the garden tour one summer. I once asked the owner after enduring a long, sweaty session of pulling up weeds how he managed to keep so many weeds at bay in his flower beds. "Pull 'em" he curtly replied and walked away. But their unique zen-inspired garden was impressive, sophisticated. However, in winter, it dawned on me that their backyard had a dreary, abandoned look to it. No evergreens to shine when winter showed up, and in Spring/Summer when color did show up it seemed all too brief. Peonies bloomed, withered and died, roses bloomed shed petals and retreated.

So in moves the new owner, and she and husband immediately pop bright colored flowers where dark purples and soft white-pinks grew, and well, what a difference that color made! The perennials they selected are long blooming, so uplifting to view. I personally find flower succession gardens depressing, I prefer to be entertained for as long as possible as color awakens a home's exterior, especially here in the Northeast.

So now I'm adding brighter colors to my side gardens, one bed once designated to just purple perennials now has two rose pink BoBo hydrangeas and shocking pink Geranium in it. The other side garden even has some bright lemon yellow. These flashes of color that my neighbor seized upon got me to re-thinking some of my area gardens.

I also noticed that our front area garden has that same abandoned dried up look in winter. I'd neglected to put evergreens in this space, an amateur mistake for sure, so I recently transplanted a bunch of Lavendar there. One thing I did do right was plant a Yellow Twig Dogwood, that offers bright yellow branches after its leaves fall. But this year I'm adding Winter Heaths and Heather and some yard art (details to come) so the area doesn't look so sad-sacky in the cold months. This not only cheers me up, but offers a more attractive view for our neighbors across the street. I think when one gardens it's important to think in terms of not just what makes you happy, but what might positively impact a neighbor.

So don't confine yourself to preconceived plans, allow yourself to be influenced by those around you, even we novice gardeners can instinctively design a garden that inspires others.

Friday, June 28, 2019

When Friends Make for the BEST Relatives

I recently created the #FridgeMagnet to the left and popped it into my #Etsyshop after an email conversation with someone I hadn't seen in years. (If you'd like to purchase one, simply beeline here:Funny Friendship Magnet )

It's been 30 odd years since this someone and I have talked, if I remember correctly, he'd left a nice note on my car in a parking lot and later we bumped into each other that day to chat. Leaving a kind note on one's windshield wasn't an everyday occurance for me back then. It was something I'd do for others, and I'm sure most reading this post can relate to offering gestures like this. Giving positive feedback without expecting something in return wasn't the norm in the community I grew up in. Positive feedback was also unfortunately scant, well, non-existant in my upbringing. They worked hard to put a roof over my head, clothes for me to wear, travel opportunities to treasure and an appreciation of art I am indeed so grateful to them for that.

The affluent place I was raised in is now cost-prohibitive for many to reside in. This town, although in Connecticut, is really a suburb of New York City. The Big Apple where 'if you can make it there you can make it anywhere'. This proud arrogance that Sinatra sang of embodies good and bad qualities. To embrace the mettle to make it in a competitive community is admirable. But the pressure to succeed in a competitive town with solid schools and desireable real estate is anxiety-inducing for those lacking sustainable family support.

By sustainable I don't mean money, I mean consistant, positive parenting. Parenting that always offers love even when the child needs to be shown boundaries. Family support in my mind means being present, being there, even if hanging several steps away in the background. Caring is hard, but essential for all to harbor.

But some families? Just. Aren't. There. Maybe their own upbringing formed their detachment, or inability to understand how to nuture, so ego-centric expectations and difficult personalities don't over-ride the basic emotional necessities of child-rearing. I feel positive consistancy usually impresses on siblings how to be there for each other too, even if personalities are worlds apart.

I've come to believe that some families can't get it together, and although it's hard to forgive, letting go of disappointment in their character short-falls is a process that some of us have to travel through.  I do know this, parenting is the hardest job on earth, and this reality offers me emotional balance, if not a burgeoning subdued-perspective of the past. Along the journey of waving goodbye to what we wish could've been, one learns to grow up without the parent, and good people, people meant to be there for us, appear along this path.

These people are our friends.

They are our chosen relatives.

How lucky are we that we can choose.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

My Favorite Perennials that I Recommend for a Beautiful Garden

I'm pretty much finished with the front side garden by our driveway. I was more careful in my edgingbut not pleased that I didn't cut in as crisp as I'd like, this is because I need to sharpen the blade of our spade, but due to impatience and my time schedule, this wasn't possible, I plan to go over the edge later this season, and again when it rains as ground is soft.
Due to our antique house being the unusual color of yellow ochre-(this colour was present in colonial times), selecting plants can be a challenge. However I was determined to select plants that were the same kind of colours one sees in a hand-painted vintage postcard, soft blues, violets, tans, yellows and rose pinks. Generous neighbors and friends offered me plants when we first moved here so not all colors fit this scheme. 

Below are perennials I am fond of and why they're the go-to purchase for all my area-gardens and why.

1. Cora-bells or Heuchera-These perennials come in a multitude of AMAZING colors, they're also evergreens in a lot of places, I've noticed my Citron Heuchera in back are pretty colorful even in the winter. They also look great in containers and they don't spread, so you're not ripping out tons as time goes on.

2. Lenten Roses or Helebores-These perennials bloom early, as early as February in the Northeast and stay blooming for awhile. They are considered highly poisonous so if you have a big dog that chews everything in site, or a young child that like's to put everything to the mouth, I'd advise against these. Their colors are beautiful and soft, and this is a winter evergreen as well.

3. Hydrangeas-all kinds I love and why? Gardening is GRUNT WORK, so much so that I want to be entertained visually for as long as possible for my efforts, thus I plant a lot of Hydrangeas and there's no beating their gorgeous showy colours.

4.  Stonecrop Sedum- I like Autumn Fire and Autumn Joy, these are sturdy perennials that won't get knocked down after a strong windy storm. They bloom later in the season first as chartreuse, then rosy pink, then blush red, and in the winter brown. I don't chop the blooms off in Winter as I like the look. Autumn Fire is more intense in colour. The Monarchs love these plants!

5. Angelina Sedum-This is one of my favorite groundcovers, the bright chartreuse color with yellow flowers literally makes my garden beds grow, AND they crowd out weeds,