Monday, June 10, 2019

My Newest "Garden Props" Adding Whimsy, Texture, Uniqueness to my Landscape and Yours

Glass Plate flowers by Suzanne Urban
I create #GardenDecor from #upcycled items. I am an artist who started handcrafting this work to avoid adding to the landfill. I also found myself growing weary of investing in plants that only showcased their beauty in a few short months, or failed to produce blooms or worse some plants just don't fare well no matter how much you baby them. Sometimes I just needed a pop of texture, or color or height but didn't find a shrub or flower that worked in our shady yard with acid soil. I wanted to break up space with something unique and I wearied of the constant back-aching digging and usage of water, my solution was to utilize my artistic roots and after a Pinterest visit, my imagination took off. I'm not the first to create glass plate flowers, but I am the first to offer a workshop on making them here in Windsor Connecticut–Stay tuned!

#Nutmeggers interested in my garden art, please contact me at: suzanneurbandesigns@gmail.com
I'll also gladly offer any gardening tips if you have questions!

My work was recently featured at Red Bee Honey homestead in Weston CT, proprietor C. Marina Marchese is a fellow artist friend who fell into the beekeeping business twenty years ago and since then she's built up her business with her own two hands and now with her remarkable boyfriend Vic, they manage  honey tastings, talks and sell honey products that are favored by specialty shops and chefs everywhere.

We both think Connecticut offers some special makers, artists and artisans in this small state and I am proud be a part of this growing clan.
Birdcage with cold hardy Hens and Chicks
Handcrafted Cement hand with vintage Mug planter


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Update on my Popcorn Container Planter and Hightop Planter

My tutorial on how I made this planter is on this blog here:
Make a Popcorn Container Planter

As a kid I always thought yellow and white Snapdragons looked like Popcorn, so my next conclusion upon stumbling upon a popcorn container at a tagsale was to turn it into a container. The Snapdragons have bloomed and thus here is the complete visual.

Also last year I dug through a box of tagsale leftovers up the street from where we live, because you'll never know what treasures you'll find. I found a pair of brown converse sneakers and promptly turned them into a planter. I treated them like the rainboot planters I had made, drilled holes in bottom, put rocks in for drainage then potting soil and added some Moss Roses. Unfortunately the Moss Roses didn't fare well, the water drained out too fast. So this year I tried something else, I DIDN'T drill drain holes in the beautiful hightop olive green sneakers I got at Savers for a song–(hint if you donate stuff they give you a 20% coupon to immediately use in the store), I even forgot to put some peastone in for drainage, but did use Potting Soil and placed in a partial shade area. I stuck my favorite groundcover in, Angelina. When I realized my omission I figured I would have to scoop everything out, put in the pebbles and re-plant. Not so, Angelina and shoes are doing fine. I'd wanted to dye the shoelaces with tea or Tumeric, but well. . .next time.



Tuesday, May 28, 2019

How I Made My Two Birdbath Gardens

I have three birdbaths two I got for a great deal off of Craigslist when the stars were aligned just right to gift me these two baths for the price of one. The third a heavy duty cement one, and this one actually serves as a birdbath, I paid full price for it at Lowes, the birds love it and I love watching them love it. The other two, one is some kind of plaster or thin cement medium the other resin.
The resin birdbath is tall with a large bowl for the bath, I added a small solar fountain motor to it and it worked great, spitting water high up into the air,  sparrows would line up on the fence to take turns swooping through the fountain spray. Unfortunately, the bowl had to be replenished with water EVERY HALF HOUR! I switched the motor to a bucket thinking the depth would offer more water for the gadget to use, but the same issue still surfaced the bucket needed water within 45 minutes. The plaster or cement combo birdbath is smaller, it has a black chipped painted surface that begged for a new coat of paint, or so I thought. Sometimes one has to sit on a problem before resolving successfully, patience saves time and money many times over. I moved this bath to stand by three black iron cauldrons to the front of our house and liked the arrangement. No coat of paint needed with this combo. But I wrestled with the idea of popping a Fairy Garden in this new location as our home is a federally registered antique building, 'what would people think?' thought I. 'It's right next to our historic sign', 'aren't most Fairy gardens in backyards anyways?' Throwing caution to the wind won, mostly because I really wanted to make a fairy garden and realized I had a pair of miniature rainboots collecting dust on my drawing table purchased on ETSY two years ago, waiting for it's garden bed to be made.

Here is How I Made My Fairy Garden Birdbath

Supplies:

1. Fairy statue or figure-I was fortunate to have one gifted to me a few years back by a dear friend.
2. Low growing ground cover.
4. Lobelia (this is an annual) and needs regular watering.
5. Drill-always wear sunglasses or safety glasses and a mask.
6. Sand, a little Peastone and Potting Soil.
7. Rock-added as a nice visual anchor to arrange the elements around.

First I drilled some holes into the bowl of the birdbath for drainage. Then I added some sand and peastone to help with drainage, on top of this I added the Potting Soil, Potting Soil offers nutrients and is lighter than Top Soil, and since a birdbath is more of a container than the actual ground is, I opted for this soil. I then wet the soil down so it wouldn't fall over the side of the bowl and put the rock in. The Scottish Moss was placed next, I simply plopped it in and it looks like a grassy berm rising up behind the Fairy. I don't remember the kind of groundcover I used it is an annual, but it is placed so it will grow down the sides of the bowl, so in essence my Fairy garden offers the three must haves in a container arrangement, a Thriller-the Scottish Moss, a Filler the Fairy, Rock and Fairy Boots, and a Spiller the creeping groundcover. My hope is that the moss can over-winter, I may cover it with mulch next Fall. It's supposed to be hardy, but I've had trouble with Irish Moss surviving in our lawn, which is why I purchased the Scottish Moss.

My Succulent Birdbath is a Pinterest inspired idea. For a resin made product it was sturdy and nice looking and even though the birds loved it, it looked barren without the Solar fountain. Ever since our local Garden Club had a workshop on making succulent gardens I've wanted to add some hardy (for zone 6 Connecticut) Hens and Chicks and more in a protective area.

 How I Made My Succulent Birdbath Garden

1. Drill-always wear sunglasses or safety glasses and a mask.
2. Sand and Peastone
3. Special Potting Soil for Succulents and Cactus-a freebie offer on our local Buy Nothing Windsor Facebook Page. Just about every town in our country is represented so search for yours!
4. Rock-some people offer free rocks on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
5. Hens and Chicks  I purchased mine from our local Garden Club Sale
6. Succulent Tile I purchased mine at Lowes, make sure you purchase succulents for your zone area
7. Circle of landscape fabric to cover bottom of base.

The top of this Birdbath Bowl was removeable, I drilled holes towards the upper edge as the bowl was hollow inside and deep and my first holes weren't penetrating through to the outside. The holes again are for drainage. I opted to drill holes as this garden will be outside all year round which makes it vulnerable to really rainy days. As a minor precaution, some fine sand spilled out from the top of the base, used to add weight to keep the base stable, so be careful not to rest your base on it's side. I then cut a circle out of landscape fabric to cover the bottom, this way the finer succulent soil wouldn't be able to drip through the holes and run down the light colored resin base. I decided to "glue" the bowl to the base with GE Silicone clear glue as I worried a strong wind could knock the bowl off and all would be scattered into the garden below. After adding some sand and Peastone, I added the soil, then a rock in the center to anchor the garden. The Hen and Chicks were added first then I simply ripped pieces from the tile and firmly pressed into the wet dirt. I probably packed too many in, so I will take some out once some have rooted and move. We just had a heavy rainstorm, and so far from my kitchen window view, everything looks fine. It's recommended to water once a week until your succulents are acclimated to their garden space.


TIPS on Saving A Few Bucks So You Can Have Your Own Birdbath Garden

To save money on plants check your local nursery for sales and even the dollar rack at Lowes (plants that usually need A LOT of TLC). Local Garden Clubs are great for swap meetings where members swap plants with each other. Or put a call out on your Buy Nothing ("your town") Facebook page for local residents seeking help in weeding out overgrown plants in their gardens, I scored a truckload of low-growing sedum this way! Birdbath finds can be found on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace also check your local Town Facebook pages where residents offer up used items for a price.






Sunday, May 19, 2019

Why I Feng Shui in my Garden

Back in the 90's the art of Feng Shui was building interest in the US, but what is it? At it's core, Feng Shui is an ancient art that's been practiced in Asian cultures for over 3,000 years.  It's literal translation feng means "wind" and shui means "water", these two words are associated with good health and good fortune. How one practices Feng Shui is by carefully selecting objects and colors according to the Feng Shui Baqua ( a map that designates areas of your life i.e. health, marriage, career) to encourage the healthy circulation of "Chi" or "energy" in your environment. Encouraging Chi to flow in your space enhances and attracts a positive outcome of what you want and need in your life.

I read everything on Feng Shui as at this time I was still single, so the chapters on enhancing my space to attract a suitable partner were dog-eared.

 I referred to the baqua to set up the marriage section in my bedroom. Rose quartz-pink being one of the assigned Feng Shui colors to the relationship area of the Bagua sat on the night stand. I taped pictures torn from People Magazine  of happy couples in long standing relationships in this corner. And after one false start with the wrong person, Mr. Right actually showed up.  Maybe it's part fate playing a role, maybe it was giving up and asking the Universe to help me embrace singlehood if that was my destiny, but still. . . I wonder.

So this is why I practice Feng Shui inside and especially outside in my yard. The above photo is the marriage corner in our yard. A loving couple of cherubs gaze into each other eyes, two potted plants with red impatiens red being one of the assigned feng shui colors for love, pink and white are the other two, and then there's the elements for each area and the representive element is earth or a light yellowish brown to represent earth, I used egg rocks and a golden yellow birdhouse to reflect this aspect. This vignette is my way of encouraging harmony and discouraging discord in our daily interactions espeically when I want the remote.

Feng Shui is a complex discipline, and there are masters in the field, many consulted by realtors to move unsold properites, or by interior designers for clients seeking tranquility in their home.  Also, the more you read about this ancient art the more you will spot Feng Shui being practiced around you, in fact I understand this is why Tiger Woods signature colors on the course is red and black. If curiosity gets the best of you to delve into this practice for fun, you can start gleaning knowledge on Youtube, if anything it's a fun and fascinating exercise to throw caution to the wind and simply believe in something beyond what's in front of you.
Credit: https://www.thespruce.com/feng-shui-4127926

Thursday, May 16, 2019

How I Made A Dragonfly from Ceiling Fan Blades and a Stair Balustrade

I'm not the artist who dreamed up the concept of using ceiling fans and table legs and or deck/stairwell balustrades to create whimsical Dragonflies. This idea is the brainchild of this woman:
LucyDesignsArt Lucy happened upon a box of used ceiling fan blades in a thrift store and their appearance was enough to remind her of wings.

Since Lucy's first online blog post featuring her unique concept, Pinterest blew up with tons of pictures of others creating Dragonflies from upcycled table legs and fan blades. I found the idea so incredibly clever that I followed suit and ended up making three, on Facebook Marketplace I scored some deck balustrades, and the fan blades from eBay. One is now comfortably resting on a tree in our backyard, another one sold, and fingers crossed a new patron seeking to visually enhance their outdoor garden will buy the third. In the meantime, here is the one I made for our yard.

Here are a few tips I learned when making outdoor garden Dragonflies

  • To find used Fan Blades put a call out to friends, family and on your local Buy Nothing (your town's name) Facebook page-I got some free this way! Also check Facebook Marketplace and tagsales or eBay
  • Wash all components with dishwashing soap and let dry before painting
  • Buy a Finial post i.e. the Dragonflies head that has a screw in bottom to securely attach to top of balustrade (or table leg)
  • You can spray paint–or to cut down on using aerosols, paint with outdoor primer wear a mask! this step can be omitted if you want a more antiqued woody look
  • Paint with Outdoor/exterior craft paints to save money on paint, use a papertowel dipped in paint and wash over blades, you can effectively layer colors this way and cover a larger area of blade
  • Create your own stencil shapes by drawing design on cardstock and cutting out or draw on regular paper, laminate then cut out and use as a stencil 
  • Don't attach wings until AFTER everything is painted since these were gong to be outside I brushed on polyurthane to protect fan blades and body from moisture
  • Attach fan blades to body of Dragonfly with screws, if wings still are wobly use GE outdoor Clear silicone glue underneath to keep them in place
  • We attached a slotted Tbar but a straight flat slotted metal flat bar would work just as well. to the back with some screws and then attached to our tree. If you are bothered by the metal bar showing against tree, you can paint a brown/black color on it with Multi Suface Craft Paint to blend into the tree

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Making A Kitchen Colandar Planter




I have two colanders, well three, two vintage and one new. I've wanted to create a planter from these items for the longest time, but unfortunately found instructions on how too few and far between. I also want to avoid having to drill through metal to hang the planters.

First I wanted to know if just stringing twine through the two handles was enough to balance the colandar so it didn't tip. It is enough, below are my tips.

Kitchen Colander Planter Supplies 

  • one colander with two handles to string twine through
  • baby diaper
  • Coir plant cup or just use (all of leftover Coir pulled from an old Coir liner for whole bottom)
  • left over coir from another planter
  • ruler to measure twine length for hanging
  • Scissors to cut twine

Because of all the holes in a colander, I worried that water would drain out too fast, so I opted to cut a baby diaper into a circle as the diaper contains a gel to hold moisture in. To cut the diaper into a circle I followed these basic instructions, mind you a diaper is puffy but this still worked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42So4AjsRaE


I opted to use a Coir-(pronounced "Coyer") planter cup that I cut on both sides to spread out on bottom of colander.  ( Coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut); Then I pulled out Coir from last year's hanging plant and tucked in between the gaps, some Coir liners become loose over time and easier to minipulate. I find Coir liners ungainly and stiff if I just put them in a hanging planter, they never seem to be the right size and slip around, so I highly recommend engineering the size yourself.

Place the Coir above the baby diaper circle  add some peastone for weight to keep Coir in place, and then add potting soil-mind you not Topsoil as potting soil offers more nutrients, and then plunk the plant in.

Measure out the length of the twine you will need, and please note, I wish I had not cut too separate pieces for each handle then knoted the twine on top, why? because the twine has to rest on either side of knot when hung and thus creates a tipped colandar, instead loop through one handle then the other and tie to secure in second handle. With no knot on top you have a well balanced planter.

And there you have it! Please share with me your colander basket hangers, I'd love to see!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Turn a Plastic Popcorn Container into a Planter!

Last year I snagged one of those plastic Popcorn containers at a tagsale because the price of 50¢ fit my budget and I support the shop local theory. Since I always thought yellow Snapdragons looks like the kind of buttery Popcorn you can buy at a movie theatre, the idea of converting a Popcorn Container into a Yellow Snapdragon-bearing planter sprung to mind. So this year, I picked up some Antirrhinum Majus a.k.a. as Dog's Mouth, Lion's Mouth, Toad's Mouth or just plain ole' Snapdragons. I found a six-pack of flowers at a quaint little market here in Connecticut owned by Vinnie who plays Dean Martin tapes on an old boombox while you shop. So this Summer, on our outdoor patio table, this popcorn 'planter' pictured below will look like buttery yellow kernels are freshly popping forth from the container.

Here's the simple instructions on how to make your own Popcorn planter.




SUPPLIES:
 
1. One plastic Popcorn Container can be purchased here: '
Popcorn Container
2. Drill with small drill bit
3. Large rock approx. 3" width to weigh box down so container doesn't blow off table on a windy day.
4. Pea Stone for drainage
5. Potting Soil-do not make the mistake of using Top Soil! Potting Soil offers the best drainage for planters of any size and shape.
6. Six Pack of Yellow Snapdragons. I chose "Snaptastic Yellow" they will grow to be approx 14" in height, so I planted them further down in the container. You will only need one plant per container, or two if Dwarf variety. If you can't find a plant, consider purchasing seeds, just place seeds in Potting Soil in container, and lightly water until they sprout. Thin out seedlings to make room for the more robust seedlings, again one-to-two  plants in the container.

INSTRUCTIONS:

• Drill two holes in bottom of container if your Drill bit is small, if larger the size of a dime, drill one
• Put big rock in bottom of container, then add Peastone
• Pour in Potting Soil leaving room to press Snap Dragons down into the soil
• Add a little more soil to fill in around the SnapDragons and Voila! You're done. Be sure to keep soil moist.

This would make a whimsical summer party gift for the host or hostess don't you think?

SNAPDRAGON FACTS:
  • There are both annual and perennial Snapdragon plants, although some of the perennials are commonly grown as annual plants.
  • Snapdragons typically grow best in full sun with damp soil, but can take partial sun
  • Snapdragons grow to be a height of 6 to 18 inches, depending on whether they are dwarf, medium or tall varieties.
  • Snapdragons generally bloom Summer to Fall
  • Snapdragons colors range from green, red, orange, yellow, white and pink, among others
  • Snapdragons prefer moist soil and full sun, they also do well in cooler tempsl deadheading will aid to their growth and re-blooming and they will gift you with color for some time! 
  • Snapdragons do re-seed but in cold winter climates they may not come back and should be treated as annuals, some varieties are considere perennials and next Spring, if they pop up they might be a different color than their first year!
According to Language of Flowers the Snapdragon symbolizesDeception-yikes! Really? But also it also means 'Gracious Lady' and that's what I will stick with.