Bzzzz June 23rd, 2012

There is so much to be done in the garden this weekend. But before I head out into the humid heat, I thought I would just share a few updates from the garden.

June is hydrangea season around here. The two Nikko Blue hydrangeas situated at the back of the house are heavy with blooms. I’m grateful that the one you see on your left is finally blooming.

Nikko Blue Hydrangeas

Two years ago I had some landscape workers here to move around some large shrubs. There was a monster butterfly bush situated between these two hydrangeas and I asked them to relocate it to behind the potager. I was inside on conference calls while they worked. Later that afternoon after they had left and I was finally liberated from the telephone, I went outside. Rather than moving the butterfly bush from between the two hydrangeas they had moved the hydrangea on the left! The butterfly bush and the hydrangea on the right were left squeezed together with a big gaping hole on the left!

I ran back to find the wandering hydrangea. It was sagging from the move and in the heat. Yes, I broke down and cried.

Of course, the workers apologized and moved the hydrangea back to where it belonged. But I nearly lost it. I certainly lost two summers of blooms from it.

Endless Summer Hydrangeas

I have friends who call the Endless Summer hydrangeas Endless Bummer hydrangeas. I can’t agree with them because although they haven’t reached the impressive size of the Nikko Blues they do put on a stunning display.

Rigorous cutting of the blooms helps the plant to regenerate, so the shrubs will continue to bloom throughout the summer. And the house is filled with hydrangeas to boot.

Sarah with Microgreens

Finally, what is a blog post without a photo of a cute little dog? So, here’s Sarah posing with the microgreens.

Now, off to tackle the long list of garden tasks!


Posted In: Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Life

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Bzzzz May 30th, 2012

I am a fool for heavy pots—I mean containers. Clay pots, iron pots, wooden pots, concrete pots. I like pots that won’t blow away in the wind and that make you think twice about rearranging the garden furniture.

So during this, My DIY Summer*, I vowed to begin my quest with my new-found fascination with concrete to try my hand at making some heavy pots. Thank goodness Lowe’s asked me to join their Lowe’s Creative Ideas bloggers group so I would have a deadline and a Lowe’s gift card as an incentive. You should check back here throughout the next few months, because there are more projects, giveaways and other bloggers’ projects to explore.

This rustic, but decorative, container fits right in with my garden decor. I found all the materials I didn’t already have on-hand at Lowe’s. The actual work time would, I would estimate, be about one hour. And the beauty of this project is that I now have the materials on-hand for other concrete projects. (I already have some started, so stay tuned for that.) Here’s how I did it.

Step 1. Assemble your supplies. Nearly all of these supplies can be purchased at Lowe’s. I give you the prices I paid below. My local Lowe’s gives military families a 10% discount, so bring your ID and make sure to ask.

Materials you will need include:

  • – Plastic storage containers or other containers to serve as inner and outer forms. Make sure there is about 1.5″ – 3″ between all the walls so there is enough concrete for strength. If you’re super-handy, you can build forms. I kept it simple for this maiden voyage into the world of concrete. ($13.72)
  • – Concrete mix (quantity depends on the size of the container) ($4.64)
  • – Oil (on-hand—from the kitchen)
  • – Water
  • – Chicken wire or other wire to reinforce the concrete cut to fit slightly smaller than each of the sides and bottom (on-hand)
  • – Wire cutters (on-hand)
  • – Mixing bucket (purchased previously – on-hand)
  • – Mixing tools (I used an old hoe and hand trowel)
  • – Safety mask ($2.53)
  • – Gloves ($6.80)
  • – Corks or other material to make drainage holes (I made a sacrifice and drank some wine. But only for the corks.)
  • – Decorative rocks ($6.84)
  • – Plants ($11.56)
  • – Potting mix (on-hand)
  • – Twigs (on-hand)
  • – A bit of twine, wire or string (on-hand)

Total cost for out-of-pocket materials I didn’t have on-hand:  $46.09. The real beauty is that I now have some of the materials to make other concrete projects. Stay tuned on that.

Step 2. Don your fetching safety mask and gloves before you even open the bag of concrete mix. Concrete is amazingly dusty and you don’t want to inhale this stuff into your lungs. If you get it on your skin, it is very caustic. Wash immediately and rinse with vinegar. Just wear gloves, okay?

Put the concrete in one area of your mixing container and the minimum amount of water called for on the concrete mix in the other. Gradually pull the dry concrete mix into the water, mixing thoroughly and kneading it with the tool. You want to mix it very thoroughly and not have any dry mix lingering at the bottom of your container or at the edges. Add water, as needed, but do not add more water than necessary to make a soft, clay-like mix. Too much water will make your concrete project susceptible to cracking and breaking.

Step 3. Oil the inside of your outer mold and the outside of your inner mold—the places where the concrete will touch. Start with a bit of concrete on the bottom of the outer container, covering the bottom and tamping down firmly to get good coverage.

Step 4. Add your chicken wire or other reinforcing material. Oil your corks or other drainage hole materials and insert them through the concrete. Make sure you clear the space below so you don’t have a concrete layer obscuring the hole. Add more concrete to cover the reinforcing wire and secure the corks.


 Step 5. Put the inner mold into place. Add the reinforcing wire on all sides and begin adding the concrete mix on both sides. Keep packing it in and packing it down thoroughly.

Step 6. Smooth out the top of the form. If you are adding decorative rocks, wedge them into the concrete mix and secure them in place. Wipe the rocks clean with a wet paper towel.  Once that is done, walk away for two days.

Step 7.   After two days, invert the container forms to remove your brand new planting container. Let is sit for another couple of days, spritzing it with water from time to time so it doesn’t dry out too quickly, making it more prone to cracking. Clean up the decorative rocks again with a moist cloth.

Step 8. Remove the corks and ensure your drainage holes are large and unobscured.

Step 9. Add your plants. I planted a Stars & Stripes Mandevilla vine—which seemed appropriate heading into the Memorial Day weekend—and a few petunias. The Mandeville vine will grow up to cover the tepee, with blooms all summer long.

Step 10. Create a tepee with the twigs, securing it at the top with twine, string or wire. Voila!


Lowe’s has some pretty cool Pinterest boards too. Go check them out.

*My DIY Summer was inspired by three forces: 1) A whole slew of new books about garden projects 2) The fact that my son is in college and tuition is expensive and 3) I still have expensive tastes, despite the fact that I am paying college tuition.



Posted In: Container Gardening, DIY, Gardening

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