Sunday, August 31, 2014

Plan D

When I was a kid growing up in California, I was always reminded of my grandfathers Swedish heritage. He came from a family of immigrants who had come through Ellis Island and made a life out of nothing. But my baseball loving, cocktail drinking, poker playing grandmother was English and German, a fact that was rarely mentioned. In her sewing room sat an old blue Carr's biscuit tin covered with drawings of English royalty. Queen Elizabeth the First stared off into the distance while fat King Henry and prissy Sir Walter Raleigh glared from the sides. 


Full of buttons, I found it fascinating and would pour over the contents, always looking for something new. After my grandmother died, the button tin moved into my mothers craft room and when she died onto my shelf.

This winter I became convinced I had an ugly pot problem that could only be fixed by creating something with all those buttons. Maybe I've just spent too much time at my favorite DC art gallery drooling over the mixed media art, but at no point during my delusion did it ever occur to me that I have no ability to create anything artistic. I just knew I was one button away from absolute amazingness.


Game Fish by Larry Fuentes, created using found objects,
 is one of my favorite pieces of art.

I spent my weekends and snow days pouring over my grandmother's buttons, ordering more when the tin didn't offer what I felt I needed. Grand designs began to hatch and my latest project soon migrated to the dining room, where it stayed for months. At some point my confidence should have wavered, stumbled, and crashed, tumbling into the black depths of self awareness. But it didn't. 

Artistic Fantasy


Auguste Renior's Luncheon of the Boating Party

Harsh Reality


Just to clarify - I rarely work topless.

When Plan A, a design that required hours of wire wrapping, only looked good while lying flat on the table but resembled Kindergarten Craft Hour when placed on the planter, I knew I had to start over. Super Simple Plan B worked well for a few weeks but soon fell apart and Plan C never made it past the mental design stage before I finally realized I had zero ability to create it.


Plan B originally called for three button swags of varying sizes. But several of the buttons cracked and faded in the sun before falling apart so I never added the additional strands. 

With the new school year fast approaching and my free time shrinking, I knew I had to face up to the fact that I have only two artistic skills: 1) making a huge mess and 2) sticking stuff to other stuff. Since I have only ever successfully made one thing, it seemed wise to replicate it - with buttons.

So I did.




Using tile mosaic mortar, I covered an old metal birdbath with buttons and beads and then coated it with marine-grade epoxy resin.


I also used beads and charms that say "Be Yourself".


I created the design as I went along. 
Many of the buttons are reminders of people I love.


My birdbath reflects me: quirky and colorful.


Considering the recent shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, I paused before adding the Pittsburgh Police button. The mystery of why my grandmother kept this uniform button intrigued me, but adding it to the mosaic served to remind me that the actions of a few do not define the whole. It helped turn an old birdbath into my own time capsule and political statement, even if the only person reading between the lines was me.


Once I had finished the design, I was ready to paint the bird and coat it in resin.


I used blue exterior spray paint.


 The entire design has been coated in resin. A thicker layer covers the bottom of the bowl to protect the design from standing water. This waterproof resin is designed for boats and is UV-resistant to prevent yellowing and cracking.

My design is safe under a layer of resin.

How to make a bird bath mosaic:

1. Find a metal birdbath and clean it off.

2. Mix up a batch of Mosaic and Glass Mortar until it's the consistency of cake frosting.
3. Spread it on the birdbath.
4. Stick stuff in it the mortar.
5. Coat it in resin.
6. That's it.


This was a really easy project.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Pocketful of Sunshine

The shade is winning and I'm tired of it. The joe pye weed (eupatorium) looks like a shepherds crook as it bends towards the sun and the cup plant (silphium) is down right Seussian. When I planted them a zillion years ago their spots were open and sunny. Fast forward to right now and there is little sun to be had. But all that shade has met its end.


Say hello to my little friend!

I positioned myself in the shady dog run and began sawing away. I like the coolness the shade brings to my garden but dislike its tendency to block the sun. While I know that's contradictory, I don't care. The only way to make peace with all this leafery is to cut out the high branches that block the most sun while leaving others that provide manageable shade. 


Truly sad silphium


and its partner in misery, Joe Pye Weed


These skinny branches supported a wide canopy. A few swipes of the Shade Blaster and they were history.


Small plastic dinosaurs say it best.


Sunshine!!


Opening up the canopy created more light for the entire area. Deam's rudbeckia thrive in the dry partial shade in this little corner along with 'Blades of Sun' snowberry and a 'Cool Splash' diervilla.


This is actually on a tiny slope that allows the 'Cool Splash' more moisture than the rudbeckia. Native diervilla rivularis and diervilla lonicera grow well here, too. A rusty metal cat tail marks the tiny white turtle head plants (chelone glabra) growing in the bog. They will eventually grow to be 4 feet tall. Shasta daisies grow in the very front.


A pocketful of sunshine was just what my garden needed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

You're Not From Around Here, Are You?

I've given up thinking I have my garden figured out. It's a schizophrenic beauty with more moods than a hormonal teenager. I'm convinced when plants just disappear that they've been shown the gate in the middle of the night only to be replaced by someone more to her liking.

I wander my garden daily and recently noticed a new plant squished in next to the phlox. I'm not sure who got the ax to make room for the newest addition, but I had nothing to do with it.


I didn't plant this and none of my neighbors grow it, either.

Who is the new guy?


Heliopsis 'Summer Nights'

Heliopsis 'Summer Nights' has moved in next door to my phlox. With his long dark legs and golden auburn good looks, my plants have excellent taste. As for his name, I'm not even going to ask since my phlox 'David' and 'Laura' are the proud parents of a pink baby I've named 'Summer Fling'. Maybe all these warm balmy nights have left my plants in the mood for some summer lovin'. But if I end up with a phlox/heliopsis hybrid, there might be some explaining to do.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Amazingly Underwhelming

I've decided to start a revolution. Nothing too big, mind you, just a small take over of the plant labeling industry. I'm tired of plants labeled "partial shade" and "moist, well drained soil". I need absolute, bare bones honesty. They won't always be fun to read and could send smaller nurseries into financial collapse, but at least I'll always know what I'm getting myself into.


All orchids will be labeled "Don't buy this plant. It will die." while my trumpet vine should have been marked with a bold WD - "This plant strives for world domination while refusing to bloom." As for my 'River Mist' sea oats a simple "This plant hates you. Walk away" would have sufficed. Instead, I fell for its variegated charms and promised it the moist, well drained soil it so coyly asked for.


The 'River Mist' sea oats are growing between the spigelia and the fence full of thornless blackberries next to the crepe myrtle. They are due north of the iris. Finding Waldo would be easier than finding them in this picture.

Despite being redesigned last year, this shady corner suffers a severe case of  BGB - Big Green Blobness. When the spigellia are in bloom, its spectacular. But the rest of the summer it's about as interesting as watching paint dry. The 'River Mist' sea oats were supposed to add height, light, and interest to a spot next to the crepe myrtle. Aren't they fabulous?


This damn plant is the same size it was three years ago. It stubbornly, steadfastly, absolutely refuses to grow. As a matter of fact, it may even be smaller than it was when I bought it. It has been watered, fertilized with worm poo, bat crap, and composted leaves. It has been ignored and then pampered in a futile attempt to unlock its secrets to growth.


It just will NOT grow. Had I known this when I bought it, I would have left it behind.


I had to stand in the garden and look down to take this picture. It was supposed to be three feet tall. Instead, it tops out at about 12 inches.


Pathetic!

Unless you're able to impart the secret to growing these to the three foot height promised on the label, they're headed for my fall plant swap. But what should I replace them with? This spot is too shady for variegated phlox or joe pye weed and too dry for many other shade loving perennials. 

As for the trumpet vine, it finally decided to bloom.


Orange trumpet vine

** I'm having camera issues, so all pix were taken with my cell phone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Snapshot

Every summer I live by one simple rule: do nothing. With school dominating my life from mid-August to mid-June, I spend my summer days in teacher rehab - I go to bed the same day I woke up, I don't grade anything, and read books written for adults. It's fantastic.

My garden is designed to be a summer garden because that's when I'm home to enjoy it. Grab a drink and pull up a chair.


The sunny border near the rain garden is a pollinator paradise. Hummingbirds go crazy for the red silene regia 'Prairie Fire'.


The dogs all hang out under the cherry tree.



This phlox is the love child of 'David' and possibly 'Laura' but no one's talking. It has purple stems and petals with ragged edges.


Let me know if you'd like seeds. It's about three feet tall.


A bit of shade under the trumpet vine


Mix and match monarda


One of the screens in an upstairs window fell out so I was able to take a picture of the sunny side and rain garden.


Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' and native mountain mint (pycnanthemum muticum)  love afternoon shade.


The boss


 Annual rudbeckia hirta collapsed into the tansy during a storm and decided they liked it so much they stayed. 


Insect on the dalea


My 'Abraham Darby' roses were slow to perk up this summer but have finally decided to grow and bloom.


Pitcher pot of of purple basil


Zinnias and white balloon flowers next to the variegated oregano I bought at Joy Creek.


Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers. I grew them all from seed. Seedlings don't argue, whine, or ask if they have homework.


My blue mist flowers and 'Monck' asters have already started blooming.


The view out the kitchen window.


Adios! I have a hot date with that hammock.