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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Little tweaks

There are a couple of spots in the garden that I have struggled with throughout the Summer, and a few weeks ago I couldn't take it any more.

Tweak #1:
This Nolina nelsonii up and died in July. It just sort of sagged from the middle out, like it was rotted from rain (except we had none). Before:

Just a reminder of what it looked like in the Spring. Sigh.

I'm pretty sure a bad bug got at it, maybe Agave weevils or something like that.

I really waited too long to pull it out; I need to spray all those Agaves and Yuccas in that area to make sure I don't lose them too (but that's a post for another day).

I've been coveting my neighbor's Olive tree since we moved here, and had been looking for a place to plant one of my own.

The neighbor's Olive tree. Love the silvery green leaves!

When the nelsonii died, I started researching Olive trees.

I was thinking to get a fruitless one (the wilsoni variety) but they get pretty huge and that spot in the corner isn't that big (maybe 4x6?) Then I came across an Arbosana Olive at Hill Country Water Gardens and it seemed like a great choice, despite it bearing fruit (which I hear is messy). They only get to be 12-15' high, are able to tolerate brief freezes (zone 8-10), and they're drought-tolerant once established.

Yes, there's my trademark Minnie Pearl plant tag.

Tweak #2:
I also pulled out all of the Salvia I'd transplanted to that side of the house. They just weren't working for me with the pokey plants. I replaced them with Bamboo Muhly, which my garden had been sorely lacking anyway.

I'm trying to hide the *#^@!& AC unit until I can build a screen to put in front of it.

Hidden if you look from a certain angle and crouch down

Not even a little hidden

Definitely not hidden. Can I paint it green?

Tweak #3:
This bed, and specifically the roses in it, have struggled mightily since I planted them. It looked pretty in the Spring (what doesn't?) but as the Summer progressed the 'Valentine' roses got more and more scraggly looking.

I think they were in a pot for too long, transplanted too many times, and just never quite got a good root system established. I lovelovelove that rose so pulling them out was sad, but I felt I'd spent enough time (2 years) trying to rehab them: one of us didn't want it bad enough.

The Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler' bloomed off and on all Summer, but just looked raggedy and crispy on the bottom leaves. (You'd never believe that from this photo after the August deluge, right?)

I pulled all of it out except the Smoke Tree, the Pennisetum grass, and the Patio Peach. Then I moved the big planter from the back far corner of the yard (where I'd done nothing with it all year). Here's what we're left with:

That spot gets full sun all year long, so I plan to embrace that: I want to plant some Sharkskin Agave in that planter, and move the gigantic Yucca 'Sapphire Skies' from its pot in the front to this bed. (As you can tell from the post-rainstorm photo above, drainage is going to be an important thing to address in order for that Yucca to survive.)

The Pennisetum is staying (they sure love sun!), however I'm struggling with the Peach and Smoke Tree. The Peach is doing great there, but I'm not sure how to address the needs of a Yucca and it in the same soil (whether the topic is raising the bed, or irrigation/drainage). That bed doesn't get anything but rain water currently, and I don't plan to change that.

I saw that same Peach tree variety in shade at Hill Country Water Gardens, so I'm contemplating moving it to the back area under the Oak tree, where the Begonia luxurians died [shocking absolutely no one]. I know if I do that, the leaves might lose the dark coloring I love so much in the Spring, and I'll never see a peach seed on it again (due to the year-round filtered sunlight).

The Smoke Tree is another story. When I had it in shade, the leaves were solid (boring) green. Now that it's been in it's new spot spot all year, I see that it reeeeeaaaally isn't a fan of our heat/intense sun. It was starting to put out little smoke blooms this Summer and I got excited, then we went several weeks where it was hot and dry, and the leaves started dropping again.

If you look closely at the shot above, you can see new red leaves from the good rain we got Thursday. It's sneaky: it does that every time I want to pull it out!! It's thisclose to going in a brown Home Depot bag.

That bed is important to me: there are so many months of the year where it's just miserable to be outside, so I need the outside views from inside the house to make me happy. This one from the kitchen makes me happy (and that's why I busted my behind and the bank to make it happen this Spring):

Hoping I can make the view from the sunroom one worth looking at!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day & Foliage Follow Up: June 2016

I always have good intentions for posting and then next thing I know, I've missed both the Foliage Follow Up and Bloom Day. This month I'm combining both!

Canna 'Flambe' and Uruguayan Firecracker Plant (Dicliptera suberecta)

Dicliptera suberecta

Chocolate Mimosa
I know that's a grainy shot of the Chocolate Mimosa, but I couldn't resist posting it. I love how the leaves look perforated.

Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

'Incense' Passion Vine in bloom!

'Incense' bloom up close

Huge thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of every month, and to Pam Penick of Digging for hosting the monthly Foliage Follow Up on the 16th! (Be sure to stop by Pam's site to say your farewells to Moby, and meet Moby Jr!)