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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Indoor container gardening experiments

I've always struggled to keep indoor plants alive, however I'm making an attempt at succulent arrangements to see if I have better luck.

About 2 weeks ago I got on Instagram for the first time. I didn't have a clue how to use it (still don't), and started "hearting" things (is that even what you call it??)

One of those things I hearted was an all-in-one succulent arrangement from JuicyKits. They have these darling little planters and arrangements, which they sell as separate items or as a kit (including soil and everything). I fell in love with The Egg and was jonesing to "garden", so I found a 15% coupon and splurged.

It arrived late last week, securely packed with everything clearly labeled, and instructions for how to put it together:


I think it turned out okay!


They gave you the option to select your own plants, and I let them choose but in hindsight I'd have preferred a little more color variation/contrast. That said, I can swap out the succulents whenever I want! The only thing I'm iffy about is the moss that you place on top of the dirt - I may replace it with gravel or rocks.

They're doing a 40% of sale of all inventory right now, so go see if you need anything!


Container project #2 was more...inspired. Ryan and I went to a gathering with friends for a Not-Christmas/Valentine's Day White Elephant party. We took home these Star Wars koozies from Think Geek, because Star Wars.

We (okay, I) debated using them as actual koozies, but we really don't drink a lot of canned beverages so it seemed like yet another thing we'd put in a drawer and never use.

I pulled out the foam innards, put some filter paper on the bottom so the dirt wouldn't fall out, and turned them into succulent planters!



I put them in the boys' bathroom and scored kid-points for about 2.3 seconds (because duh, they're plants). Then the next day Max informed me that the "flowers" in the bathroom make his nose itchy, so now they're in my office/sunroom.

New office, part 2: manifestation!

I posted here about my vision for a space where I could work and lounge. I am writing this post from my new office, specifically my new chaise.



Ollie the photobomber

Daisy wanted in on the action too
I still want to get a few more plants, and of course a pot for that Bird of Paradise, and 2 floating shelves for the far wall by the hook rack. Those are the little things I can do over time (and paychecks).

If it weren't for "Winter" (such as it is here in Austin) I likely would have let this project languish for years, so thanks Winter! And stay away now because all my perennials are starting to sprout, kthxbye.

If I could move into this I would. Lots of sun, a view of the garden, all my gardening books within reach...heaven.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Lady Gaga songs about gardening

You didn't know there were any, did you? The one I have in mind is about me and my Bismark Palm.

Bismark palm after three days of temps in the low 20s

That's right: Bad Romance.

In preparation for the 3 days of low-20s temps earlier this year, I wrapped the trunk with Christmas lights, and then wrapped a frost blanket around those.

Fire hazard? Probably.

Effective? Yes. Maybe. This time. If it had been freezing rain, I don't know that my efforts would have made a difference, and we WILL having freezing rain again someday (or rain, then freeze, whatever).

The more it grows, the worse it's going to be when a freeze inevitably takes it out.

I'm like those people that buy cute little baby alligators as pets: if it dies you'll be sad (I guess), but if it keeps growing there's going to be trouble (and you'll still be sad, just not today).

I know I can trim off those dead branches, that isn't the point. I'm just debating whether to give up on the dream, pull it out, and find a replacement plant. Sometimes you've just got to rip off the band-aid, right? Ugh. Not ready.


Other plants that didn't do as well as I would have thought:

Agave 'Weberi'

I haven't decided what to do about this yet. If I trim off all the burned bits it will look pretty unsightly...and it will look unsightly (although oddly interesting) if I leave it alone. I think this is another decision I'll put off for another day/week/month.

Agave Weberi 'Purple Heart'

The Plant Delights site said their 'Purple Heart' Weberi is 4 ft x 6 ft and cold hardy to zone 8a? I'm pretty skeptical, since I know their Winters are longer and colder than ours here in Austin. The other one might pull through with some aggressive pruning, so I'll dig it up and see if I can rehab it in a pot.

There were a few other things that died for good (Agave 'Blue Glow', and Octopus agave) but they were expected. I'm bummed, but I had mental back-ups for just such an occurrence.

Is it Spring yet? My fingers are itching to prune and plant!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

New office, part 1: the vision

We've decided to turn our sunroom into an office/sitting area for me, and I'm over the moon about it!

One of the challenging things about living with someone when you are older is that you've had plenty of time to get comfortable living alone. That means everything is right where you left it when you get home from work, the thermostat is always exactly where you want it, and if you run out of toilet paper you only have yourself to blame. (To be candid, this is way more likely to be my fault than his.)

I didn't realize how much I missed having my own dedicated space in the house until we started talking about me working someplace besides the dining room table. We talked about putting a desk for me in Ryan's office for about 2 hot minutes, and then both of us being on the phone at the same time pretty much killed that notion. The more I looked around, the more I realized that everything in the house was shared space with either Ryan, the boys, or both, except his office (because it's HIS office, and he tolerates all of us treking in and out better than I would).

I pitched the idea of making the sunroom into an office/sitting area, and he thought it was a good idea too! That room has had a lot of unfulfilled potential since we moved in. You might recall this post where I posted pictures of what it has looked like for the past 2 years, or this one where I posted the 3 different colors I'd painted it (and never painted it Mega Greige like I threatened because it wasn't worth the effort).

I recall Robin saying "You must love this room!" the first time she came over for a Garden Blogger's Go-Go, and my immediate response was "No, but I really want to!" The color issues notwithstanding, bench is beautiful but not comfortable for lounging, and the bar table is too high to be practical. It just became a dumping ground for Ryan's basketball gear and Daisy's leash/treats/poop baggies. Oh, and let's not forget Ollie's litter box.

It's a small room and gets a ton of light, so I wanted to really embrace that but I wasn't sure how. I searched on Pinterest for "sunroom" and noticed that the rooms I loved were light in color too: NOBODY has a red sunroom. I'd need to deviate from my inclination towards bold color on the walls, gulp. Then I'd need to find pieces (desk, chairs) small enough to not overwhelm the tiny space that weren't also dark, heavy wood (which I gravitate to like a moth to a flame). And then there was the pesky thing of a budget. I searched Craigslist and sales on sites like Hayneedle, Wayfair, and Target.

Step 1: new paint! I went with Benjamin Moore 'Cloud White' and I LOVE IT. I know, I know, I've always railed against white walls, but it's creamy and relaxing without being sterile. [Full confession: I first painted it all one coat of White Dove, which is the color of the kitchen cabinets, but it was a tinge too gray-white in this room, despite being gorgeous on the kitchen cabinets and walls, so my second coat was Cloud White. Paint is weird.]

The desk will go here, against the glass
Opposite wall. The bench will ultimately move to another room,
but the mirror will stay. Maybe I'll paint it? Dunno yet.
It isn't quite this cream-colored, but as you can tell it's nighttime and my iPhone camera is...well, it's an iPhone camera. I'll take a picture in the daytime soon.

Here's the rest of the plan!

My chair/chaise:
Bliss Chaise Lounge, West Elm
This goes against the wall where you currently see the bench (above). I will read gardening books here when it's too hot or cold to sit outside, and I will nap here with the cat. I will probably also need to put down a blanket or retrain the dog, because currently the bench is her indoor high ground.... I've got some time to figure it out, sadly, because it likely won't arrive until early March. (Delayed gratification builds character, right??)

My desk (thanks for the Christmas present, Mom & Dad!):
Mid-Century Desk, West Elm
It's due to arrive between January 2-16. I adore it, and it matches the hardwood floors which is completely inane but it still tickles me.

My bookshelf:
Darley 8 Cube Bookcase, Target

The Target bookcase above is a MUCH more affordable version of the West Elm version below! (Even with 20% off I couldn't rationalize it.) My bookcase could arrive as early as Thursday, and when it gets there I'm going to put it against the window and fill it with gardening books, then put succulents in pots on top!
Industrial Modular Bookcase, West Elm
Last but not least, I needed a solution for Ollie's litter box. There's no place else in the house it could logically go, but I didn't want it just out in the open like it has been since we moved in. Kinda ruins the vibe I'm going for, you know?

I wanted to find a little enclosure that he could get into for privacy but was also functional, since we have Daisy's leash and treats to store. I searched high and low for a cabinet that wasn't too high or too wide: my plan was to cut a hole in the back so he could enter/exit, with doors so I could easily clean it out but also keep it out of sight.

I present my solution:
Abbeville Stacking Cabinet, Ballard Designs

It's 24" x 24" x 16", so his 19" x 11" litter box should fit just fine, and I'll just leave the middle shelf out completely so he doesn't have to crouch.

I got this box for on top, to store Daisy's walk accoutrements:
Abbeville Open Stacking Cabinet, Ballard Designs

Hooray for holiday sales, 20% off promotions, unexpected windfalls, and dumb luck!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

I'll get you, my pretties!

What does my garden and the Wicked Witch of the West have in common? They both melted. These pictures were taken 24 hours before we had 3 days of temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s.

Before freeze:
Banana trees and Castor Bean 
Castor Bean plant tree



Banana tree, Giant Spider Lily

Purple firespike against the fence, Brugmansia and Canna in the distance


After freeze:



I'm a little sad, but mostly zen because new garden beginnings are exciting, and you can't have a beginning without an ending.

My frost blanket + light bulb method worked to save my Aloes yet again!

And of course now it's back in the 60s and 70s! I know our coldest days are still to come, though.

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Before the cold snap

We're supposed to get a cold front tonight, so I wanted to immortalize some of the recent additions in case tomorrow it's a frozen wasteland. (Do I sound overly dramatic? Maybe I am a little.)

First, this bed is DONE:

I pulled that Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies' out of a pot in the front, where it had grown to gargantuan proportions in the short span of about a year. I was SO worried about hurting the pot and the plant, and surprisingly neither happened!

I still need to put down pea gravel as mulch, but I can do that next weekend.

'Lafter' rose
My big "accomplishment" was finally getting the area along the fence back to a respectable state. I have hated it all year, and yet when we're out there sitting/grilling it's the only thing you can really see. I made some impulsive buys, which are sometimes my best decisions.

This bed now consists of:

  • Odontonema strictum aka Purple Firespike (as labeled, however the flowers are pink and not red, and google searches aren't helping to clarify)
  • Bicolor iris
  • Fatsia japonica 'Camouflage' (or maybe Murokamo Nishiki? Not sure if they're really the same)

Odontonema strictum...maybe?

Fatsia japonica 'Camouflage' or 'Murokamo Nishiki'
Sorry for the overly shaded shot, you can tell I took this one on a different day.
 And then in the category of garden surprises, two plants blooming unexpectedly!

Surprise #1: this Yucca that was left for dead, and given to me almost as a dare to rehab:


When I trimmed back all the dead foliage I discovered it was double-headed, and as you can see both heads bloomed!

What this picture hints at, but it isn't obvious, is that it's covered in brown bugs. I don't know what kind of bug they are, but they lost their minds on the blooms. They covered the plant and the fence behind it, like it was a standing-room only concert and they're just waiting for their chance to push to the front.

Surprise #2: this experimental Ligularia 'Gigantea' bloomed! (I've killed some before, so this is trial #2.)

Now that it has validated my choice, I'll have to buy more in the Spring.

Last but not least, I leave you with this guy:


Stay warm out there!!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Kill all the things

So last week I was cleaning up my yard and discovered this:


In case you need a refresher, that was this in the Spring:


And then it was this:


I haven't posted a lot about this bed, but since the Spring I have lost:

  • 1 Agave 'Green Goblet'
  • 2 Agave striata 'Live Wires'
  • 1 Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies'
It's either bugs or drainage, right? I put down a granular product for bugs (contains Imidacloprid as per all the recommendations), and that's all I can do about that. The only other logical step is to elevate the remaining living things to address likely possible drainage issues. 

So now the bed looks like this:

 
I'll have to get another Yucca to fill in that gap, or maybe a Dasylirion wheeleri? I hope I didn't hurt the Yucca in digging it out.


While I was at it, I divided and elevated the Aloes, so now I have pups in the bed across from it and in the back. Maybe someday that aloe will bloom again somewhere?


New back bed with some transplanted Aloes:


So now I wait to see if the surviving Yucca is on it's way out or not. Ugh.