Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts

Spring Blossoms, Or That Which the Dogs Have Chosen Not to Destroy

A Spared Rhododendron Blooms Bravely in the Back Yard
Amazingly, a rhododendron has been spared the malicious attentions of Lulu the Terrible and is blooming prettily in the back yard.

I had to come in pretty close to get this picture without also including the torn-up sod and chewed-up Indian Hawthornes in the foreground.  We're focusing on what IS working in the garden today.

Aren't the purple irises in the Flower Dump lovely?  Too bad spring flowers are so brief. 

This morning, Lars-of-Ours spent an hour or so pulling up clover and other weeds from the front flower beds.  He did this not out of gardening enthusiasm or filial love, but as forced penance for having raided the candy-filled plastic Easter eggs this morning before his parents got out of bed.  Ahem!

Bernie and the boys just left to go fishing, and I'd like to sneak in some quilting time while they're gone.  I hope you're enjoying Spring break in your neck of the woods!

Lovely Purple Irises in the Flower Dump

Mother's Day Flowers: What's Blooming Now

My sons and husband took me to the garden center yesterday to pick out some new annual and perennial flowers for Mother's Day. As usual, my eyes were bigger than my flower beds, so we had to get creative about finding homes for some of the new plants, like this lovely fuschia snapdragon lookalike that we had to squeeze into the Flower Dump. I don't remember what it's called, but it's a perennial and it likes full sun.

I picked out these fancy geraniums to add to pots on my front steps. The purple pansies were planted there via bird poop. I'm sure the birds did this deliberately to thank us for all the bird food we've been putting in the feeders all year.

Bernie has a weird aversion to cannas, which I can't relate to at all. They are tall, dramatic, and bloom pretty constantly throughout the summer. Since I'm the Momma and I get to pick the flowers on Momma's Day, I chose these unusual peachy-pink cannas with splashes of yellow... well as these yellow cannas with splashes of peachy-pink. I have some red cannas from last year in big pots on the front steps. This summer, I want a wild mix of colors. It will be interesting to see how the garden develops as all of these plants begin to take off.

Last but not least, I wanted to share these yellow irises in the Flower Dump that Bernie rescued from a nearby property where the house was demolished to make way for a new subdivision. Aren't they pretty?

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!


My saucer magnolia is in bloom! This is the tree I ordered from Wayside Gardens several years ago that was supposed to be an amazingly rare yellow color that never materialized. However, I am grateful that at least Wayside Gardens got the growth habit right -- most saucer magnolias have a much wider, fuller shape than this one. The tall, compact shape of this tree is the only reason I was able to squeeze it in at the corner of my house. It certainly is happy there and has more than doubled in size since I planted it three years ago.

Some of my earliest daffodils are blooming already, too, like this frilly yellow princess.  I planted one of those "mixed daffodils for naturalizing" assortments from Colorblends a couple years ago.  I was way too busy last fall and I didn't get any tulips in the ground (tulips are pretty much treated as annuals here, because even those that are rated to do well in Zone 7 end up rotting from our ridiculous clay soil).  I'll be especially appreciative of my daffodils this year, since I'm going to be suffering from serious Tulip Envy in a few weeks!
I really shouldn't have planted the daffodils in this location, at the edge of a wooded area on one side and shaded by my house on the other.  They would be multiplying and blooming a lot better had I planted them someplace where they would get more sun.  Note to self: Instead of planting hundreds of  "annual" tulips in the front flower beds, I should plant daffodils there this fall.  They should do really well there, I won't have to replant every single year, and the yellow color will set off nicely against the dark purple-pink of the saucer magnolia on the corner.  I should just do the tulips in the pots on the front steps, where the cannas grow in the summer, or maybe in the Flower Dump.

One more happy Spring surprise before I get back to work this morning: although I haven't planted pansies or anything else yet this year, a few seeds from last year's pansies planted themselves and have popped up unexpectedly:
Ignore the weeds and the moldy old leaves.  I love little garden surprises like this -- it's a reminder that even in our carefully contrived, planned, and manipulated yards and gardens, nature and chance still determine which plants bloom and thrive in response to, or despite, our best efforts to control them.
It's also a reminder to keep our eyes open and notice the details -- one little pansy by its lonesome is easy to overlook at the corner of a neglected flower bed.

Today is another busy day crammed into a busy week.  I hope you enjoyed this little taste of Spring, especially if you're still dealing with ice and snow. 

Garden Blaaaaahhh... Heat Wave + Neglect = Ugly

I would love to tell you that this is what my garden looks like today:

...But no, I took that picture at The Sanctuary resort on Kiawah Island two weeks ago.  Okay, now in the spirit of honesty and humility, I'm going to post some ugly recent pictures of my real garden.

Isn't it sad?  Look at my Stella d'Ora day lilies that were blazing with yellow blooms just a month ago!  In my defense, it's been roasting hot for weeks and I've been hiding out in the air conditioning for the most part.  After taking this picture, I spent several hours over the past few days hunched/crouched over, pulling out dead foliage and yanking out the dried up stalks and seed pods.  By the way, the green succulent groundcover at the front of the bed is purslane that we planted to replace the daisies and blue flowers that didn't like growing there, but we'll talk more about that later.  First I want to show you a close-up of all the crud I pulled out of the day lilies -- I don't dig my own holes, but I prune crape myrtles, pull weeds, and tidy up the flower beds myself. 

See?  At first I was thinking the reduced blooming might indicate that these lilies need to be dug up and divided in the fall, but once I pulled out all the dead and dying foliage the plants didn't look nearly as crowded anymore.  I'm guessing my error was leaving the seed pods on the plants, those bulbous green things that seem at first glance to be flower buds, but they are more rounded and when they eventually open they have black seeds in them.  I've read that removing spent blooms on daffodils and other bulbs encourages better blooming, that the plant diverts energy away from flowers when they are doing the seed pod thing, and a quick google search on the Stella d'Ora variety indicated that their seed pods should be removed, too.  Hopefully my backbreaking labor in hundred degree heat will turn out to have been time well spent.  Already the bed looks healthier and greener, but of course I want my masses of yellow flowers to come back!

So, back to the purslane, which we've really been enjoying.  I took the picture of the day lilies in the late afternoon, when all the purslane flowers go into hiding like little red turtles tucked away inside their shells.  Here's what they look like every morning:

Isn't that pretty?  It would be even better with a mass of yellow lilies behind it...  But we're loving the purslane because it's drought-tolerant, so it's thriving and spreading out even in this horrible heat spell, despite neglect and indifference, and it's cute how the flowers all disappear in the afternoon and then pop out like Jack-in-the-boxes first thing in the morning. 

We have some yellow ones in planters by the front steps, too, with canna bulbs planted beneath them. I wish we had planted the cannas sooner because if we had, they could be blooming their big, tropical, orange flowers right now, but the yellow purslane and purplish red canna foliage is pretty together in the meantime.  Those are purple pansies in the other planter, by the way.  I think they should have been yanked and replaced with something summery a long time ago, but Bernie says "they're doing great."  I can't get my way all the time, or so he keeps telling me...

Now, back to some wretched plant misery!  Look at this dogwood tree that we transplanted early in the Spring.  It's tucked way in the back behind the kids' fort, in a woodsy area where I rarely venture because of the swarms of vicious mosquitos.  It didn't even occur to me to check on the dogwood back there in the shade, but apparently we don't have any irrigation back there yet and the poor baby is hurting pretty badly.  It's a really pretty pink dogwood, too, that we had originally planted in the front yard but had to move it because it couldn't take so much sun.  I don't want to lose it!

THAT, my friends, is what happens when you forget to water your beautiful African impatiens.  First I took the picture, then I ran for the watering can, and by the next day the plant was miraculously recovered, but I don't know whether I'll be able to get it to bloom again. 
My new azaleas have been suffering away in the back yard, too.  Man, we just planted these!  They are supposed to be growing and spreading, not shriveling up and turning brown!  Oh, the AGONY!
Well, we definitely need to add a sprinkler zone back in that area.  I want to plant more azaleas, rhododendrons, hostas, and ferns along the edge of the whole woodsy area that divides our back yard from the sidewalk, but I can't have everything curling up and dying on me. 
I can't end on such a dreary note, either, so here's a picture I took of my mom's red crape myrtle trees when we were at her house for Independence Day:
Keep cool this summer, and don't forget to water your plants!  I'm headed up to my sewing studio to try to make friends with my ruffler foot again.  Wish me luck!

What's Blooming Today: Magnolias, Day Lilies, and EASTER LILIES!

William Shakespeare wrote that "brevity is the soul of wit" (Polonius says this line to Lady Macbeth in Hamlet, in case you're interested).  By Shakespeare's standard, most days I'm a witless, rambling fool -- but then again, so was Polonius.  Nevertheless, I'm going to try to be more succint than usual today and just share some photos of what's blooming in my garden right now.

 This is one of my favorite red day lilies, which my devoted husband dug up out of a flower bed at our old house before we moved.  The contract for the house didn't actually specify whether all plantings were included with the sale of the home, and these lilies hadn't even sent up shoots out of the ground yet so the buyers didn't even know they were there, but I wasn't taking any chances -- I made Bernie dig them up in the dark of night while I held the flashlight.  These lilies now live in a triangular bed around the lamp post that I've nicknamed The Flower Dump due to the fact that we've been just dumping flowers there willy-nilly when we don't know where else to put them.  Half the time, we don't even remember what's planted there, and although I've considered digging things up and rearranging them more attractively, that would spoil the surprise of random forgotten flowers springing up unannounced.  Like these pretty little orange lilies, not sure if they're technically tiger lilies or not:

Here's another beautiful lily that I don't remember buying or planting:

And, last but not least, I was thoroughly surprised when these two Easter lilies bloomed in the Flower Dump!  I now vaguely remember planting last year's Easter lilies in the flower dump after they'd finished blooming and the foliage was yellowing, but I had forgotten all about it until the blooms opened up the other day.  I still had this year's Easter lily out in the screen porch, so I added that to the other two out in the garden for next year.

Here you can see how well the trailing petunias are doing in the Amazingly Magical Birthday Flowerboxes that Bernie built for me.  Those are more Mystery Lilies in the Flower Dump that you see in the foreground on the right:

Here you can see another of my flower boxes and a mass planting of Stella D'Oro day lilies in the beds on either side of the front door.  That's a pink crape myrtle on the right; it should be in full bloom within the next week or two.  The Stella D'Oro day lilies have gotten huge this year; there weren't nearly as many of them last year.  We probably should dig them up and divide them in the fall, maybe plant a mass of tulips in the same spot while we have it all dug up:

Our evergreen magnolia trees have started to bloom, too.  All of the ones we've planted are the Little Gem variety, which is faster growing, more compact, and therefore better suited to my impatient nature and small yard than the slow-growing behemoths that most people think of as Southern magnolias.  Do you see the little insect peeking out from the center of the flower?  Hello, little guy!

Last but not least, I leave you with some pictures of my guilty garden pleasure, the kitschy little red-hatted gnomes my kids got me from Smith Hawken a couple of years ago. 

Usually I'm not a fan of "lawn ornaments," but these guys are pretty little, they're in the back yard near the woods, and you don't notice them unless you're up close. 

They make me smile.  Don't worry; I won't be adding fake dear, flamingoes, or statues of the Virgin Mary to the front yard any time soon!  These gnomes are keeping watch on some little baby hostas and an azalea that has finised blooming for the Spring.

How to Build Beautiful, Self-Watering, Maintenance-Free Custom Flower Boxes

In my Spring Gardening Update post a couple of weeks ago, I showed you pictures of the in-progress flower boxes my husband was building me for my birthday.  Now that they are finished, I have more pictures and construction details to share in case anyone wants to try this themselves.  Be forewarned, however -- Bernie says this is an "intermediate" project.  Keep in mind that this assessment is coming from a man who once told our neighbors that they could "easily" replace the rotten frame around their front door themselves.  Hours of disaster later, Bernie had to go to their rescue so they would have a door again...  If you're lusting after flower boxes of your own but you're not "handy" or you don't have the time or tools to tackle this yourself, you could always hire a carpenter to build them for you.  (No, Bernie does not have time to make window boxes for you, so don't even ask).  I apologize for not taking pictures throughout the process, but it didn't occur to me to write a how-to for this project until it was almost complete and I could see how cool it was going to be.  This project is my husband's original design, and these instructions are provided for your personal, non-commercial use only and we're not liable if you fall off a ladder, saw off your fingers, wreck your house, or get glue in your eye.  Blah, blah, blah...

Okay, so step one is deciding what you want your flower boxes to look like.  There are plenty of ready made options available at Home Depot and Lowe's, and you can find even more ready-mades online.  However, it was important to me that the flower boxes didn't look like they were stuck on as an afterthought.  I wanted them to complement the existing architecture of the home, and I wanted them to look like they were part of the original elevation plan and had always been there.  I wanted them to look custom.  So we went for a drive through a few of the high-end custom home neighborhoods nearby so I could develop ideas about what styles worked well with architecture similar to our home.  I decided that our traditional brick home should have "wood" flower boxes with decorative bracket supports, and that we should paint them to match the trim paint on the house.  Another thing I noticed on this window box drive-by was how few of them actually had flowers in them.  A couple of flower boxes actually had tacky faded silk flowers stuck into them -- yuck!  Discussing this, we decided that non-gardening, dual-income homeowners were having trouble keeping plants alive in the flower boxes, since they would need to be watered daily throughout the summer.  My husband began brainstorming about irrigation, while I worried about ugly hoses going up the front of the house.  One more thing I observed from the custom builder flower boxes was the width of the flower boxes.  Unlike the little ready made flower boxes, the custom home ones always extended the full width of the windows, and if there were shutters, the window box extended approximately 1/3-1/2 of the width of each shutter. 

So for our window boxes, we made them (and I say "we" only to irritate my husband, because I didn't lift a finger) the width of each window plus about 4" on each side.  The boxes are 9 1/4" tall by 7" deep.  Because flower boxes are going to be holding wet dirt all the time, Bernie was concerned about rot and maintenance, so he decided to build the flower boxes out of fake, plasticky, low maintenance "PVC wood."  I was concerned about this initially, but then he showed me that our window trim and shutters are all made of the same stuff and reassured me that, once the flower boxes had been painted, they were going to look just like wood.  The PVC boards can be cut with regular woodworking tools, are paintable, and come stamped with a wood grain that looks pretty fake up close.  I was skeptical, but he was right -- they look great now that they are painted and installed and, unlike real wood, they are termite proof, low maintenance, and guaranteed to remain rot-free.  You can get this stuff at your local Home Depot or Lowe's.

Bernie's next concern with the window boxes was making sure that the bottoms could support the weight of all that wet dirt without falling out.  Using a dado blade on his table saw, he routed a channel 1/2" up from the bottom of each of the side boards to accommodate the thickness of the bottom board and lock the bottom in place.  The boxes were assembled using 2 1/2" finish nails and PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive.  I had him attach some simple trim pieces to the top and bottom of each box.  I was tempted to go with something more interesting, but the trim work on my house is very plain and it was very important to me that the window boxes would not stand out as an obvious addition.  If my home had more of a country French or Mediterranean facade, I would have designed completely different flower boxes and ordered some custom Tableaux faux wrought iron pieces to overlay on the window boxes.  Maybe the next house!

The next step was drainage.  Bernie drilled drainage holes spaced 12" apart, using a 5/8" drill bit.  To prevent soil falling out through the drainage holes, he glued 2" squares of fiberglass screening over each hole on the inside of each flower box.  The only thing missing at this point was the decorative brackets I wanted, but I wasn't able to find anything I liked at Home Depot or Lowe's so I turned to one of my trade resources, Outwater Plastics.  I'm not sure if they sell direct to consumers, but if not, they should be able to direct you to a retail source for their products.  Outwater has lots of choices of decorative PVC, and they are also a great source for hardwood appliques and corbels, decorative glass, and other products that I use for mini-face lifts in kitchens and baths when clients are looking for an update but aren't ready to remodel.  The brackets I selected for my window boxes were backordered a couple of weeks, so Bernie went ahead with painting and installing the boxes while we waited for the brackets to come in.

I whipped out my handy Sherwin Williams fan deck and selected an off-white paint color as close as possible to the existing trim paint on our house.  Of course, I did this from the ground, matching my paint swatch to the trim on a window that I could reach, which happened to be shaded by a tree and some shrubbery.  Paint does fade and lighten from the sun, so the color that matched beautifully on the lower window ended up being a little too dark on the upper windows where the flower boxes were installed, but the house trim will need to be repainted soon anyway and then everything will match perfectly.

Masonry bits were used to drill into the brick to mount 5" L-brackets with a white outdoor coating to the house beneath each window.  I am not happy with the way these L-brackets are visible from the bottom of the window boxes, but the window boxes themselves are also glued to the brick as well as anchored with 3" carriage bolts, so Bernie has promised to cut off the visible part of those ugly L-brackets now that the construction adhesive has had time to fully cure. 

Now, you may be wondering about that little clear hose that is sneaking along the mortar line to the left of this window box.  Remember all those empty flower boxes I saw at the country club, and even worse, the ones with fake flowers stuck in the dirt?  We didn't want to have to schlep a watering can around inside the house every day to water our flower boxes through the windows, and we didn't want our flowers to die when we travel, so Bernie tapped into our existing sprinkler system, tying the flower boxes into the zone dedicated to the front flower beds.  The hose he used is just 1/4" clear propylene tubing from Home Depot, attached to the mortar with clear plastic C-clips and clear silicone.  Although you can clearly see the tubing up close, you have to look really hard to see it from the ground and it's invisible from the street.  There are five drip irrigation heads in each 7' window box, and three heads in each of the 4' boxes. 

We planted alternating colors of trailing petunias and miniature trailing petunias in our flower box, chosen because they don't require deadheading.  (When I say "we planted," I mean that I spent half an hour at the plant nursery picking flowers and diagramming the order in which they should be planted, and my husband climbed up the ladder and did the actual planting.)  See how you can barely see the irrigation tubing, even standing right below it on the path?  I'm really pleased with how that came out.

But I did not like how the flower boxes looked like, well, like big rectangle boxes just stuck to the house.  I especially hated how they looked at this point from the side view, so I was thrilled when the brackets I'd ordered from Outwater finally arrived.  Bernie had to cut the backs of the brackets so they would fit over that 1/2" lip at the bottom of the window boxes and lay flush against the house, since the idea is for them to look as though they are supporting the weight of the window boxes.  In actuality, they are purely decorative.  Here's what the brackets looked like with the notches cut in the back, all painted up and ready to install.  They're actually hollow inside, as you can see in the second photo.

The decorative brackets, or corbels, were attached to the window boxes with 2" finish nails and were glued to both the window boxes and the brick with construction adhesive, so they're not going anywhere. 

Here are some shots of my finished flower boxes.  Happy Birthday to me!

That handsome man on the ladder is my sweetie, the Flower Box Builder Extraordinaire.

Just for kicks, here's a picture of what the front of our house looked like from this angle when we bought it three years ago.  I think that's the home inspector with the back to his camera, so we hadn't even closed on the property yet.  The home was three years old when we bought it and the previous owner hadn't done a thing with landscaping beyond what the builder had originally planted.  In addition to neatening the unkempt shrubs, and revitalizing the lawn, we also expanded the depth of the bed to the left of the front door, added additional zones for the flower beds to the existing irrigation system, rearranged a few existing plants and added Stella d'Oro day lilies, the blue perennial ground cover flowers whose name escapes me at the moment, and the little yellow daisies with purply-blue centers.  We also repainted the front door a more attractive shade of red and replaced all of the door hardware and house numbers, and replaced the cheapo white hexagonal flush mount fixture over the front door with a pretty hanging lantern style. 

Man, it's been a busy couple of years!  It's so easy to get overwhelmed thinking about all the projects yet to be done in and around the house, especially for someone in my line of work who is constantly immersed in clients' design, decoration and remodeling projects.  I get paid to look at beautiful homes and come up with ideas for making them even better, and it's easy to get carried away looking at my own home with my designer eyes.  Sometimes looking back at pictures of where we started is just what I need to appreciate how much we've accomplished already.

Meanwhile, I've started a new quilting project (hooray!) so I'll post about that next time. It's not the tattoo quilt for Janice; it's a more appropriately themed Hungry Caterpillar quilt/blanky with Minky backing for my son's first grade teacher.  She's already out on maternity leave and her baby could be born any day now, so I'm going to have to resist my usual tendencies to overcomplicate things in order to get the project done fairly quickly.  I'm pretty busy with work and with my kids, and I'm headed to the IWCE trade show in Atlanta on Tuesday so no sewing will get done next week (although I may post some interesting design finds from the show).   It feels so good to be spending a little time in my studio again, even if it's only an hour or so at a time!
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