Sunday, March 30, 2014

No Cost Landscaping

Hello from the little town of Parsley!

So far, Parsley has survived rain, cold temperatures, and prowling critters. Today I want to share some of the placement and planting stories.

Barn and Farm House

Entire placement depended upon the proximity of the barn to the stone path. I have had the barn for a long time - my husband buying it on a trip and bringing it home. His intent was that we would have it in our yard for future grandchildren. The barn and animals are cast iron - very heavy; I have no idea how he carried them around on his business trip. Barn nor animals will ever tumble over in a windstorm like the resin houses can. My plan is to have the animals near the path for our three-year-old grandson to move around in the little pasture. They will not be too heavy for him either!

Barn and Houses

The rest of the placement involves a staggering of five various cottages and tiny homes that work well with whatever perspective the viewer may have from my home or different garden paths. Each abode is on a flat rock that protects the building from the damp earth and that I can easily level - but as you can see, I have not accomplished that perfect balance so far.

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
My plan always is to use first what I already have. To accomplish this step, I can never call this garden a miniature garden because that name goes officially with gardens that have miniature plants. Also Parsley is not a fairy garden because there are no fairy statuettes.

What I do have are small perennial groundcovers that are deer resistant and provide slope erosion control.

The first is Sedum rupestre Angelina, growing to 4 inches tall that has bright golden foliage that turns orange in fall.

Ajuga reptans
Second is ajuga. With spring, the ajuga is beginning to show great foliage of chocolate-purple to reddish bronze. While Angelina enjoys sunnier spots, ajuga will go to part or full shade. Ajuga will also like being near the rocks and moist, porous timbers. Later this spring, ajuga will have spikes of blue flowers. Height will be under six inches. It, too, is deer resistant and low maintenance.

Vinca minor

Third, I have transplanted vinca minor, an amazing groundcover that grows very quickly (invasive for some gardeners), has very shiny green foliage, and produces blue flowers. Even this small version seems a little too big for Parsley, so I will use it as a background to frame the town view.

Another groundcover I use to frame the view is creeping phlox. This slow-growing perennial likes full sun and allows other plants like spring bulbs to grow throughout its spreading beauty. Here is the blue creeping phlox in my front yard. I have plenty to choose for planting - remembering creeping phlox likes a moist first start.

Phlox subulata

Bishop's Weed: Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum'
Bishop's Weed will also be a vigorous framing plant in the shade where it has plenty room to spread.

Another rampant evergreen groundcover     is Creeping Jenny. This creeper does not mind damp soil, foot traffic, or other groundcovers. Invasive, this plant can be divided in spring or autumn and likes full  sun for its best color.

I planted only a few of each of these vigorous spreaders. Having these plants always insures that there is something to share or transplant.

Creeping Jenny: Lysimachia nummularia

To date, my Little Town landscaping has costs me nothing because I transplanted what I already had in my garden. My final post in this initial series will be about seeding and purchasing a few plants on my wishlist. See you then!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Moss Milkshakes

Transplanting Moss

One of the first plants on earth, moss can add a lush storybook quality to my Little Town garden. writes, "Since they obtain all their nutrients from the air, moss plants require nothing more than shade, acidic soil, and adequate moisture to flourish."

Click here for a video on how to establish a moss garden. Last week I used this information to transplant moss from various places in my yard and woodland area to the Little Town garden.

Transplanted moss to my backyard Little Town called Parsley

I also followed advice from A Nest for All Seasons to transplant moss: (1) Find the moss; (2) Remove it with a sideways scooping of the trowel; (3) Remove all weeds; (4) Place it on bare soil in a shady area and then water (I chose a rainy week to transplant); (5) Keep moist for at least a week; (6) Watch the moss grow healthy.

Transplanted moss to my backyard Little Town called Parsley

The Moss and Stone Gardens blog gives more specific details:

All mosses are classified as either acrocarpous or pleurocarpous. Acrocaps have an upright growth while pleurocarps spread out branches. For acrocarps work in sections about the size of the palm of the hand to keep the colony intact. Pleurocarps can be collected by scooping, scraping, or raking. David Spain of Moss and Stone Gardens writes that for months 1 and 2, water acrocarps daily. During month 3, water every 3 days. Then progress to once a week for month 4 and twice monthly for month 5. After month 5, water only if rain is absent for three or more weeks. Pleurocarps can be watered daily to encourage establishment and spreading. You do not have to reduce the frequency as with the acrocarps. [This site has more good information, so check it out.]

Transplanted moss by the barn

Creating a Moss Milkshake

I want mossy walls, rocks, and timbers, so I was glad to discover the moss milkshake. You can purchase the mixture, or you can easily make your own. Here are three similar recipes:

  • Ingredients: 1 part live moss, 1 part sugar, and 2 parts beer

  • Ingredients: 2 cups live moss, 2 cups of live cultured buttermilk or plain yogurt

  • Ingredients: 2 cups of water, 2 cups of buttermilk, live moss (to fill to top of blender container)

Instructions for all three recipes:

1. Place ingredients in blender. (I bought a $15 "mini" one at Walmart just for moss shakes.)

2. Puree the moss concoction until the consistency is that of a milkshake.

3. Take a paint brush and "paint" the mixture on porous pots, rock, paths, steps, and timbers.

4. Place objects in the shade and mist surfaces to keep the surfaces most.

5. In about two months, you should see healthy patches of moss.

Painting on the moss milkshake with my little helper

After cool and wet weather during this last week, look how happy the moss is in its new home.

The next post will share my transplanting existing plants to the little garden. See you then!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Little Town Planning

Ever since I read The Borrowers at Isabella Elementary School, I have been fascinated with miniatures. Much of the art in my home consists of houses, and I have a collection of miniature English cottages, mills, castles, and villages. My husband shared that love, so today I have a playroom with a beautiful dollhouse and a huge train layout. If you have been following this blog you saw the latter here. You may have also seen my inspiration for an outdoor Little Town here. When you have time, go back and enjoy the tours. For now, I want to share my progress with my outdoor Little Town.

The actual planning began one year ago because I have had many structural projects after storm damage. Once the trees and debris were clear, I began to see what I had left. Remaining were the beautiful sunny areas that my husband had established; destroyed were all my shade gardens. I had a new canvas, and the rainy summer helped my rooting projects - forty new hydrangeas and an abundance of sedum, miniature vinca, ajuga, and creeping jenny. My shady areas are now bare or cleaned, so I have much potential work for the spring.

Thinking of my garden rooms already connected with stone paths, I planned new areas, a budget, and schedule determined by weather conditions and planting seasons. The most fun research happened on Pinterest. My fairy garden board became the most popular one, with the most followers and re-pins. And as my style, I began with "If Anything is Possible." Here is my vision (without the fairies for I am more of a "Borrower").

Pinterest Video Link with SoundYouTube Video Link without Sound

Not ready to build my own hypertufa houses or invest in the best, I chose the resin houses at Plow and Hearth. My three-year-old grandson brought them in the den to play throughout the winter. I spent the winter sketching ideas.

Location? I chose a place that I could see from my kitchen window and from every back window upstairs. This area is part of my husband's daylily terrace garden that was too shady for lilies. The first week of spring, I contoured the area with compost and soil. I had to re-enforce the rotting beams which, of course, will be porous and perfect for moss.

View from upstairs

View from my kitchen window
The name of this Little Town? On the morning of the day I started in the dirt, I won a door prize at my garden club meeting. Here is the copper garden stake and a wonderful name for this Little Town Garden.

The Little Town of PARSLEY
The next posts will be about gathering moss, making moss milkshakes, seeding, and borrowing plants from other areas of the yard. I hope that you visit again!

Next Post: gathering moss, making moss milkshakes, seeding, borrowing from existing plants

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sweetgum Trees: Learning to Love Them

My plan has always been someday to cut down that Liquidambar styraciflua in the front yard. Maybe I will eventually, but for now my tree removal budget has been zeroed out by the elimination of numerous dead and fallen Pinus virginiana. So, prolific sweetgum, you are safe for now; however, I am not free of the frustration caused by your incredibly messy gumballs.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

If you are not familiar with these gumballs, here is a sample of its fruit – a true litter problem in lawn areas. Imagine all the seeds inside.

Since this sweetgum was in the yard before I moved in this house twenty years ago, I would be a better human being by getting to know it instead of plotting against it. Here is what I know, have read, or heard from my Master Naturalist mentors at Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, where I volunteer as a children’s nature guide.
  • Seeds of the gum pod are eaten by birds.
  • The pods burn with a blue flame and make great fire starters for your fireplace.
  • The sweetgum’s scientific name is Liquidambar styraciflua, "liquid amber." 
  • Native Americans chewed hardened resin from the bark – their chewing gum.
  • They would also carve out the trunk to make their canoes.
  • Native Americans and early settlers used a sweetgum bark salve to clean wounds.
  • They used the salve for skin conditions, hemorrhoids, ringworm, and frostbite. 
  • They also made various teas and medicines to treat dysentery and diarrhea from the bark and roots of sweetgum. 
  • They took it internally for sore throats, coughs, and colds.
  • Cultivated in North America since the 1680s, the wood of the sweetgum is second only to oak in being used for furniture, wooden boxes, musical instruments, and flooring.

Yes, sweetgum, you have great history and purpose. I should learn to manage our coexistence without hurting my feet or rolling my ankle again on those pods. Research begins! What I found was most frustrating for many pages into search engine results:

"Just pick them up. There is no better way." 
(Come on now, people are smarter than that and have figured this out.) 

"Push this for $495." (Ha! I am smarter than that.) 

Push Sweetgum Harvester

"Pull this."(No way am I going to buy a pull-behind sweeper that starts at $695...and a riding lawn mower to pull it.)

Pull-Behind Sweetgum Harvester

"Buy a lawn vacuum." (There are reverse blowers from $105 to push ones at $780 to pull-behind for up to $1700 =  YIKES! I could have paid to cut the tree down my now.)

Various Options Here

"Buy the Nut Wizard." (Okay, this is in my price range and is very clever. I could do this for $49.50! Later I could purchase one to pick up my baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls, toys, and shotgun hulls.)

When my magic tool arrived,  I was fine with picking up those thousands of sweetgum balls. Actually other people wanted to help - even the UPS man. I suggested to my very best helper, my three-year-old grandson, that we were going to play pick-up. For one hour we worked with great joy. And what did I learn from him?

“The sky is very noisy.” (i.e., birds singing, geese honking overhead, insects chirping, the wind blowing, airplanes flying above)

“Working in the yard is awesome!” (Yes, sweetheart, I feel the same way.)

"I can see the moon and the sun in the sky." (Yes, life has great synchronicity.)

“This is the day that the Lord has made.” (His singing voice and heart are so sweet.)

I have discovered that others pick up sweetgum balls and make various crafty items. (I am guilty of making some nice wreaths decades ago.) Some people surround their gardens with gumballs to keep rabbits out because the prickly gumballs hurt their feet. There must be a demand because I have found them for sale online: $3 for a package of 5 seed pods. Here is an even better deal at $10.00 for a package of 24 seedpods.

Many hours (and days) later, I am still working on my third XXL wheelbarrow piled high with them. At those prices online, I can make enough money to pay to have that tree cut down.

But is there justice in selling the fruit and seed to pay to kill the parent tree?

I will tell you when I am seventy-years-old and trying this alone. Yet, I can hope that my then twelve-year-old grandson will still think, “Working in the yard is awesome!”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mayor Reunited with an Old Friend

Cleaning the enclosed bookcases, I discovered a good friend...

My Barbie

As a parent, I have observed that “age-appropriate” is a relative term; that is, relatives decide when a child gets a toy. The relative may be mom or dad, even grandparent, but especially the child herself. Yet for me, in the 1960s, the doll evolution determined the when and the age-appropriateness.

Christmas Day 1963, I had been twelve-years-old for one week. My present would be Barbie. Immediately I noticed that she had dark hair like my mother; Barbie was not the blonde doll I had requested. (I was blonde, but every baby doll I ever had were brunettes also.) No matter, Barbie had come to live with me.

My other gifts would be her attire. She arrived in an official box with her pearl earrings, black strappy heels, and that iconic black and white striped swimsuit. The rest of her wardrobe included a very sixties lounge outfit in a bold East Indian design, a fuzzy white coat, and a Dior-design dress with full skirt and little puffy sleeves. These out-of-the-box creations had been delicately hand-sewn.

Hand-sewn? That detail bonded me to my new friend. Her wardrobe would be no different than my own clothing. My mother, grandmother, and godmother made all my outfits (and would continue until I went to college). Each woman had a wonderful tailoring touch and eye for creative detail and color.

Besides, inside the Barbie box, was a booklet depicting her dream wardrobe. And dreamy were those drawings in bright drippy colors revealing the life adventures of a versatile, talented, independent, and creative young woman. All these visions captured what a twelve-year-old girl wants to know about her budding future as a woman.

Her hair, her make-up, her fabulous figure? These details never seemed to touch the reality of my life. Those clothes reflected life adventures and possibilities.

What I soon discovered, however, was that the $.25 to $.50 I was able to save each week would not be enough for the most amazing outfits and accessories. Even if I did manage to save $3.00 to $5.00, Woolworth’s had sold out what I planned to buy. Therefore I would have to go back to examples of versatility, talent, independence, and creativity of the women I knew in life.

In the early sixties, major sewing pattern companies – Advance, McCall’s, and Simplicity – created their own line of Mattel endorsed pattern designs. The cover art was as fun and clever as the “ready-to-wear” wardrobe booklets. Any smart and self-sufficient young woman could have all the designs she wanted for the initial investment of $.50 to $.75.

I wanted to be that kind of young woman; therefore, I learned to sew under the tutelage of my grandmother, along with the official Barbie sewing pamphlet included in the patterns. Even today, I find these directions to be a great primer for anyone wanting to learn the art of sewing. More than just instructions, these directions encouraged the young seamstress to have fun with cutting-up, a stitch-in-time, the hemming way, and getting-on-your-mark. And best of all, Barbie never complained about having handmade outfits, many of which coordinated with the fabrics worn by my mother and me.

And later the next year, when my Barbie met Ken, she found that he never lost interest in her either.

Despite all the protests and complaints about your possible mixed-messages to my unconscious, I remain your friend. The Barbie I knew helped teach an adolescent what real adventures in life we must take to grow-up amid any decade’s superficiality and conformity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Mayor Takes Action - Conclusion

This inventory of my needs and wants in starting to update my house on a budget involved emotionally charged feelings and memories. Thanks for indulging my sharing. I will move on to lighter moments from now forward. Occasionally I may revisit my homemaking progress after this post.

Hopefully this process may be helpful to someone who is trying to make sense of a once shared space that must now serve the needs of one. Blessings on your journey that is not an easy one. Family and friends really do want to support you. Just let them know what you may need when they seem not to now what to offer.

Many Years of Roses to Remember

Home-Making Again: A Major Hurdle for Me:

Relying on the good resource references in my previous posts, I worked on what my decorating style was in my study, a room where I was content, a room that is cozy, welcoming, eclectic, and nature-inspired. What about this room makes me so happy?

1. The furniture placement is open and practical for the many uses of this room - writing, bill-paying, working on photos at the computer, reading, studying, and sewing. There is a stool to prop my feet while relaxing in a comfy chair, as well as another comfy chair when working at the computer desk. Family members have sat in the one chair many times while I stopped working in the computer chair to talk and laugh. The furniture welcomes despite being lined around the room as work stations.

2. Existing colors already represent all my favorite combinations from endless studies of color palettes and rooms on Pinterest, blogs, and magazines.


3. Patterns, Fabrics, Textures, and Finishes: Stained wood is everywhere in this house. I like its warmth and natural appearance. Since I do not want to overpower the room with wood, I like the grass cloth wallpaper, the bamboo shades, textured fabric on the computer chair, the small checked fabric on the reading chair, the glass-top table desk, along with a variety of metal finishes to offer contrast. All seem natural and offer a feeling of water, earth, and fire. I notice that my accent color here is yellow. I realize my favorite "punch" colors in other rooms of the house are rust and orange-reds. Golden accent colors for me are invigorating.

If you were to think of your perfect room, real or dream, what would you discover about your choices for furniture and furniture setup, colors, patterns, fabrics, textures, finishes, and accents?

Here are the little updates I made to this room as I began to experiment:

In my re-design journey, I want to relocate furniture and artwork to different rooms to create new interest. Here I added my vintage sewing machine to the study because I could use it as the base for my portable sewing machines. I have better light with this placement. and I can look out on the back garden. A glass table desk was here which I used for jewelry-making in the evening because the sunlight was too bright and reflective on the glass. So far, I do not want to get rid of the glass table desk so I have moved it to the corner for extra sewing surface space. I am not sure it is a perfect look; however, I get to keep its convenience for sewing.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Mayor Takes Action at Home

Why is this home-remaking an important part of the grief process for me? I am a homebody who was married to a homebody. I am not one who wants to stagnate in and repeat good times: those precious times can never be repeated. I want to savor the wonderful gifts of time and memory and know that extraordinary gifts graced my life for a short time. To be a whole person for my children and others, I have to be a part of the re-creating of a new

As I wrote in the previous post where I listed some good resource references, I took action on re-creating homemaking after about two years.  

1. I had completed the categorizing, rearranging, and purging (yes, the acronym is on purpose). Well, maybe completed for the time being - categorizing, rearranging, and purging need continually to be addressed.

2. Our shared home had been cozy, welcoming, electic, and nature-inspired. I just wanted to add more feminine touches that reflect more of my personality. For the most part, I wanted to keep the artwork, furniture, and vintage/antique collections. Again, I needed to add a more feminine touch without being glamorous, sumptious, and pastel. I appreciated comfortable, peaceful, natural, sturdy, all with a touch of serendipity: those words could describe me, too.

My mother's pillow was always in her chair at her home.
My daughter's cat is now always in my chair with that pillow.

3. From all my design clippings, notebooks, Feng Shui books, and Pinterest boards, I knew that what I wanted was already there in the house. Paint, DIY sewing, rearranging new vignettes, and rotating furniture and artwork locations were all I needed for me to be happy, busy, and creative. This plan would mean that house integrity was more important. The priority repair list became the following: water heater; exterior pressure-washing and painting; under-the-house moisture control; replacement of the rotted front door frame; repair of storm-damaged roof, gutters, and porch; removal of storm-damaged and fallen trees. Financial recovery and treasured plans of continued travel with my daughters would mean nothing but DIY for the interior for a long time. That was my practical choice, and I resolved to be happy with the decision. 

The tea set was from Horchow in the 1970s. Fabric boxes hold my sewing supplies.
The glass table allows for sew "overflow" and, when padded, as a cutting board.
The watercolor is by Sa Smith, the wife of my children's doctor when they were young.

4. As you know, showcase photos can cause much confusion (and even more frustration if you are on a tight budget). I thought about what room would be my dream room. That room would be my office, created from a small bedroom by my husband as a surprise while I was out-of-town for a weeklong training conference. He did a great job on the room and remembering all the items I had selected or daydreamed of having!

What makes it my favorite room and a perfect reflection of me?
  • Provides sanctuary for reading, writing, and study
  • Houses my smaller treasures from travel
  • Includes antiques and vintage treasures from family
  • Overlooks the beautiful back garden.
Optional Advantages:
  • Located in "Fame and Reputation" of the Bagua Map (rear middle of house)
  • Represents "fire", a fire sign. (also receives the most sun of all the house).

Provides sanctuary for reading, writing, and study

Includes antiques and vintage treasures from family

Houses my smaller treasures from travels

Overlooks the back garden and has the most sun of any room

In the next post, I will share how I took my dream room to help guide my vision for the rest of my home.