I have fallen in love with blue and white china over the past few years. And of course, I love topiaries, so I was very excited when I found these blue and white bowls. I used them as the base for topiaries that I made from preserved moss. I just added them to my Wreath on the Door retail space at Galleria Raleigh in Raleigh, North Carolina. At last count, I had created over 60 topiaries for my space – but these might be my favorite! At least, until I find more blue and white pots.
For several years now, I have wanted to make a tiered, or stacked, flower planter and this year I finally did it. This was a pretty easy project. First, I bought three plastic flower pots – a small one, a medium one and a large one. I went with black pots because all of my other pots on the back patio are black and I wanted them to be uniform in color. I chose plastic because they are lightweight and better for stacking. I also bought two very inexpensive plastic pots to put inside the two lower pots. These “inside” pots did two things: 1) they take up space inside the main pots so that you need less soil, and 2) they form a base for the main pots to sit on, which helps to elevate them to the right height. You could skip the “inside” pots, but then you would need a lot more soil and the stacked pots would not be as sturdy if they are simply resting on soilTake your larger inside pot and put it, upside down, into the largest pot. Then, fill the rest of the pot with soil, taking care not to cover the top of the inside pot. Next, put your next largest pot on top of the upside down pot and continue filling the rest of the larger pot with soil. Repeat the process again until you have three pots, stacked on top of each other. In order to make them sturdy and not fall over in a strong wind, I buried the middle and top pot about one third of the way into the soil in the larger pot.
Once you have your stacked pots filled with soil, you are ready to plant. These pots are made for trailing plants, so look for things that have that growing habit, such as petunias, million bells; or trailing lobelia as well as plants that add some green, such as silver licorice, vinca vine or any other trailing annuals you can find at your local garden center. I used a mix of different colored and sized petunias as well as vinca vines to give the pots some interest and variation. It took my stacked pots about five weeks to really fill out to the point where you really can’t see the top and middle pots. I suspect by the end of summer, you won’t be able to see the lower planter either. I am so pleased with how these stacked pots turned out, that I may make some smaller versions next year as well.
If you’ve read some of my blog posts you know that I paint pretty much everything in my home. It’s not uncommon for me to paint things multiple times. So imagine my surprise when I decided to NOT paint a table. A few weeks ago, when my mom was visiting, I took her to a local second hand furniture store with me. (Most people take their mom out to a nice lunch when they visit – not a second hand furniture store.) I was looking for some solid pieces of furniture that I could paint and add to my retail space. I came across this beautiful wood round table with a very solid and gorgeous barrel base. The table had been well used in its prior life and most of the finish on the top of the table was wore off. I paid $35 for the table and considered that a great deal!
Once I got the table home, I started thinking of all of the ways that I could paint the table so that I could sell it. I considered painting stripes on it (one of my favorite painting trends), whitewashing it or painting it a bold color and then distressing it. I even considered painting a checkerboard pattern on it. I couldn’t decide what to do with it so I decided to sand it down. Regardless of which paint treatment I decided, sanding was the necessary first step. I usually only use sanding blocks or sand paper, but because this was a bigger piece, I used my electric sander. After I had used the electric sander to take the finish off, I used a fine grit sand paper to smooth out the top of the table.
After I had sanded the table, I absolutely fell in love with the rustic look of the wood in its natural state. Once I had sanded it, I knew two things: first, that I was NOT going to paint the table, and second, I was NOT going to sell the table. After I wiped down the table to remove the sanding dust, I applied a light coat of oil to protect the wood and moved it into my entry way. This was the best $35 that I have spent in a long time. And, I didn’t have to clean paint out of any paint brushes when I was done. I consider that a pretty good deal.
When I was growing up, my parents always grew vegetables in a garden patch in our back yard. I remember them growing tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, beans and potatoes. I also remember apple and peach trees in our yard. When I became an adult and my husband and I bought our first home in Northern California, I tried my hand at gardening – not because I wanted to grow food – just because I wanted a beautiful yard. Like many things that I try, my first attempt was not a success. My biggest downfall was that I had a vision of what I wanted the yard to look like, and that vision didn’t take into account the different conditions, such as sun and shade, in different parts of the yard and the different requirements for different plants.
Fast forward fourteen years and five houses later, I have finally learned how to garden – at least I think I have. When we built our home last year, we worked with a landscaper to do a basic design of the flower beds, sprinkler systems and sod areas. The landscaper then filled in the beds with the sturdy trees and shrubs that would make nice foundation plantings in the beds. By the time that we moved into our home last summer, it was too late (and I had too many boxes to unpack) for me to do much outside other than fill some of my flower pots. I then counted down the months until this Spring when I could flood the flower beds with perennials, and fill the flower pots that I have on the outside porches and patios.
By my count, I think that I’ve planted over two hundred perennials this Spring in our flower beds. It is definitely hard, dirty work and the occasional run in with a snake is involved (and I am not a fan of snakes), but I am almost giddy with excitement watching my plants take off and grow in their new home. (Sadly my pug and yorkie are also quite fond of my plants and routinely chomp on flowers during their frequent trips outside.) This year, I was especially focused on adding lavender to my flower beds. I bought around a hundred fairly small ones on sale, which made them pretty inexpensive, and lined several flower beds with them. I have visions of huge swathes of purple lavender plants swaying in the wind throughout the summer and then drying lavender later in the season. My girls have also decided that we are going to use some of the lavender to make lavender ice cream.
In addition to adding perennials to my flower beds, I’ve filled around forty flower pots (some of the flower pots were ivy topiaries that I had overwintered in the garage – see my post http://wreathonthedoor.com/category/my-garden/ about ivy topiaries for suggestions on how to do this). And yes, it does take me a very long time to hand water the flower pots throughout the hot summer months, but I find it somewhat relaxing to do. When you have to take the hose from pot to pot, you really have to slow down and enjoy the beautiful blooms and foliage that you are watering. That being said, I do enjoy a day off when we get a good rain!
There are a few rules that I try to follow when I add plants to my garden. First, I look for plants that hold my interest for more than one season. For example, I love Spring bulbs, but they have such a short life span in the garden that I don’t use them. Second, I always buy at least three plants of the same type, preferably more depending on where I’m planting them. In order to get the “wow” look in your garden, you can’t plant just one or two of the same plant and expect much impact. I also try to buy enough of a plant type to have two or more different groupings of it in the flower beds. This year, I bought six guarda plants and planted them in two groups of three in different parts of one of my front flower beds. By mid-summer, these produce a tall showy flower, that usually stands above the other plants in the garden. When you look across the garden and see two grouping of this tall planting, it gives the garden some cohesiveness. Another rule that I try to follow is that sometimes a plant with pretty foliage is all you need. While most perennials have flowers, not all of them rely on their flowers to make them attractive. Hostas are a perfect example – their foliage is what sets them apart – the flowers they produce in the Summer are really just extra added bonuses.
Another rule that I stick to is I have a specific color palate and I very seldom deviate from it. I tend to stick with perennials that have pink, purple, blue and white flowers. I very rarely buy plants with yellow flowers (I made one exception this year for some pots) and I never buy plants with red flowers. Don’t get me wrong, I love yellow and red flowers, but I think a garden is more pleasing when there is a consistent color theme to it. And finally, I try to buy deer resistant plants for areas that are easily reachable for deer. I love to see deer in my yard, and because we have woods almost completely surrounding our house, we have a lot of deer, but I don’t want them to eat my plants and I don’t want to have to use deer repellant if I can avoid it.
This year, in addition to the many lavender plants that I added, which are deer resistant, I added over thirty verbena plants, which are also deer resistant. My only exception for non deer resistant plants are hydrangea, my absolutely favorite plant of all time. However, I only plant hydrangea in the parts of our yard that are fenced in where so far, the deer have yet to wander. One of my biggest gardening rules is if something doesn’t work where you originally plant it, it’s ok to move it. I’ve had a difficult time finding just the right thing for a small section of a flower bed that is part of the circle by our driveway. Normally, I wouldn’t agonize so much over such a small section, but it is the first area you see when you pull down the driveway. Large grasses were too tall, purple pincushion flowers didn’t look right either. Last week I found the perfect thing – small elijah blue fescue grasses and they look great. Finally, each year, I try something new in my garden, just to see if I like it. This year, I’m trying a variegated leaf hydrangea with a blue flower and I can’t wait to see how it looks in my shade garden.
Now that my garden is pretty full with perennials, I’m thinking ahead to Fall and where I can add more trees and shrubs. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I run out of flower beds.
I have always thought it would be so nice to have a screened in porch. Growing up in the Midwest, they were not very common, although they definitely would have been useful given the amount of bugs we had during the summer. When my husband, my kids and I lived in California, screened in porches were even more rare – there are so few bugs there. When we decided to build our home in North Carolina we knew that we wanted a screened in porch – they seem to be a staple of most homes in our area. We wanted the porch to be big enough to hold a seating area, a dining table and a kitchen area with a grill, refrigerator and sink. Luckily, we were able to fit the perfect sized porch on the side of our house, overlooking the woods in the side yard.
I already had the couch, love seat and coffee table from a previous home, but because the cushions had spent many years outside at our previous homes, the fabric covers were in pretty bad shape. I thought about buying new cushions, but they were very expensive because I would need custom sizes. Because these cushions were not in bad shape — just the fabric covering them — I decided to cover them myself. It was actually very, very easy. I picked out some indoor/outdoor fabric (outdoor fabric will withstand moisture and sun better than traditional indoor fabric) in a cheery blue and white print that was pretty inexpensive – less than ten dollars a yard. To cover the cushions, I took each cushion, laid it on the new fabric and cut out two pieces slightly bigger than the cushion. Next, I sewed up three sides of the fabric, slipped it over the existing cushion and fabric and hand sewed the open side. These cushions should last another five years or more, especially now that they are on a covered porch. I picked out some coordinating outdoor fabric and made some simple pillows to make the area more comfortable.
I absolutely fell in love with our outdoor dining table. We found the concrete dining table at a local furniture store and luckily it was on clearance. It is so very, very heavy that it will likely never be moved again. It’s wrought iron legs started out black, but that color didn’t look quite right, so I hand painted them white. The white has chipped in some places, but I think that adds to its character (and I just haven’t wanted to take my paint can out there and touch them up). I had a hard time finding the right chairs for the table. While you can’t tell it from the photo, the table is slightly higher than a regular outdoor table, so most outdoor chairs were just too low. I solved that problem by buying simple wooden indoor kitchen chairs and adding cushions to them. I’m watching the chairs very closely to see if they suffer any damage as a result of being outside and so far, I haven’t noticed any.
When the warm Spring and Summer weather comes, we have found that we love nothing more than sitting on our screened in porch, enjoying each others’ company, watching TV, or eating a simple meal – without the bugs. The room really acts as another living and dining room in the Spring and Summer months. I now know why Southerners love their screened in porches so much.