Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Inspirational Walk

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The local nurseries have been calling me…

All bound for the back garden, just not exactly sure where yet.

The front looks much the same as it did a year ago.

The jasmine growing on the fence was stunted by a lack of water. Some was devoured by gophers. As you can see there is little else of interest. Unless of course I failed to blog about that big boulder destined to have our house numbers.

I tell myself once the trees go in the rest will come to me. I look for inspiration in the neighborhood on my walk, but for one reason or another nothing is just right. Remind you of a certain fairy tale?

Case in point.

Stunning color composition, but all heavily shaded by majestic coastal live oaks. Certainly not my growing conditions.

This is one of my all time favorites, although my choices are not leaning toward cactus and the area is much larger than mine.

Pigmy Date palms under planted with jasmine. Maybe a bit uninspired?

I find these bird of paradise stunning against the white stucco wall. Neither of which I have.

This house was recently sold and the landscaping was completely redone with bougainvillea, flax, rosemary and salvia. It looks too professionally planted just yet.

Clipped box with a row of standard Iceberg roses. Pretty but a bit too manicured for me.

Cypress under planted with red and white roses, yellow kangaroo paws and lavender. Not bad in the Mediterranean and I find the color combination a bit off.

This old hedge was recently limbed up and then under planted with different varieties of flax and Echium. There is something about this I really like. Maybe our recent trip to New Zealand is clouding my judgment.

More flax, agave and ice plant. Nice looking but more suited to a Spanish house.

This newly planted entry looks a little too Disney for my taste.

Lots of beautiful plantings in the neighborhood, but like I said, nothing is just right for our house. If I asked each of these neighbors bet they would say anything beats that bare dirt. The search goes on.


Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

My sister in law sent a text saying she stumbled upon my travel and construction blog last night while on Pinterest. Those simple words made me pull up the blog and look at it as anyone else would and made me realize that I have DIY ADD.

I found that there hasn’t been a house related post sine June. We did take waaaay more trips than we normally do. But I really have been chipping away at the Shack, mostly on the gardens, though not one project is complete enough for a close up. I also realized that my computer has been broken since February. Really Mr.
Stovesand, can it take this long to replace a screen? I can barely send coherent texts with an iPhone much less blog! Case in point, I am re-typing this entire post because I somehow deleted the original one. I am pretty sure the last version was better.

I have a trunk full of plants…

And am on my twentieth or so flat of dymondia. These last two will mean the recycled concrete patio and flagstone path to the hot tub are complete.

Not difficult work but a tad bid tedious. We won’t discuss the mole last week.

The narrow flower bed behind our room is now considerably wider and planted in tropicals. Just needs mulching. The slope in front of the barn was without water and now needs to be re-planted on one side. The other side was grass and impossible to mow. The grass was removed and now has to be planned out. Darn, looks like another trip to the nursery. Grass seed went in two weeks ago and is being guarded from clumsy dogs

With all of these projects so near to completion, I found myself on Pinterest planning the future orchard. I can see why she referred to my travel blog. Add in a new-found addiction to Instagram and I feel like I have been blogging. Looks like I need to finish up a few projects and get back to real blogging. I need a little more DIY and lot less ADD.

Mount Vernon Inspiration

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

In the spring I took a trip with my mother to visit cousins in Maryland. Having only been to Washington DC many years ago on a business trip with Kirk, I was able to see many places I had only learned about in history lessons. We packed a lot of sights into our stay, traveled through five or so states and ran through many attractions, but we were able to spend an afternoon at George Washington’s farm, Mount Vernon. As you might guess, my favorite part was the gardens just outside the beautifully, modest mansion perched on the Potomac River.


There were stunning walled gardens just outside the mansion which served to feed the residents of the farm.


Rows of various crops were grown.


I was inspired by the espaliered fruit trees growing against brick walls to soak up the ambient heat.


And the ancient specimens grown as living fences.


Still more in the more formal parterre garden.


Though I know myself well enough to know this much care isn’t what I am willing to maintain.


Naturally one would need a little green house, like this one.


And a finely clipped parterre.


To grow all the bulbs which were lovingly stored in the greenhouse.


The dirty little secret was that slaves cared for all of this splendor. Now the gardens are privately cared for so that we still may be inspired by the father of our country’s estate.


Happy Fathers Day George. I sure loved your gardens! Even writing this post makes me want to put on the gardening gloves.

Along with the Driveway…

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Since we have my favorite rock guy working to widen the driveway, we decided to finish off a few more things out front.

The first is a pond which had seen better days.

We removed a second pond and connecting stream. The boys all want to demolish it, but I have faith that it can be revived. My only instructions are to make it look good.

The boys also sectioned off an area with old brick, giving me strict instructions to keep out. No plants allowed, is the translation.

The area is at the front of the property and really quite large. They have grand plans for a putting green made from artificial turf. I have not crossed the brick barrier, but maybe after the work is done I can sneak a few plants along the fence line?

We have a California Live Oak that is now filling in nicely. I asked that the base be covered in river rock set in sand. Sounds very Ojai, but I just can’t help myself.

The boulders have been delivered, now they just need to be set, always mindful of the brick barrier I mustn’t cross!

Even though much has yet to be completed, I have begun planting the perimeter bed with Phormium, Echium, Rosemary, Bird of Paradise, Kangaroo Paw and Agave.

Despite the terrible morning light, the plants are predominately yellow, lime green or variegated to stand out against the surrounding hedge.

Also planed is an enclosure to hide the garbage cans from the street and drive.

Could that be anymore unsightly? Even without the refrigerator waiting for Edison to pick up. I am surprised we haven’t been reported!

The view of everything from the opposite direction:

Maybe since we are moving along, ever so slowly, our neighbors haven’t lost patience, yet.

Driveway Widening

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Wishing this road widening had a sign reading…your tax dollars at work. It is a much needed improvement for the oft occasion when we have guests on our one way drive. Four feet or so will make it possible for two cars to just squeeze through and avoid the car version of musical chairs.

We began here, once also shrouded by bamboo on either side. We added grass to the once hidden, weedy field, leaving a dirt boarder for the future drive.

Our plan was to match the work done on the opposite side around the rose garden.

We originally replaced the rotting railroad ties with a Santa Barbara sandstone cut from large boulders. Though beautiful the stone is, it is costly, so the remainder will be made from boulders trucked in from Ojai. A little bit of home in SB.

The boulders are broken into blocks and finally going in this week.

I decided to include a surprise house warming gift from my dearest teacher friends in Ojai.

He will be just inside the gate to welcome guests and bring a smile to my face every time I come and go. Everything is in the messy stage, but soon enough things will be tidier than ever.

Where are we?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

For those of you keeping track of the earlier posts with projects which were unfinished, here is an update.




My favorite rock guy in the entire world came to quickly put in some concrete paver steps in a slope leading to the guest cottage.  While he was here we roughly measured out the orchard, which is approximately 100 x 150 feet.  I showed him my loose schematic of what I want and the inspiration pictures from the blog orchard post.

update 1There are lots of dreams and visions included which may or may not come to fruition.  After the measurements were taken, we decided to switch the bocce court perpendicular to where I had drawn it in and move it behind the vegetable beds and fountain to the top of the yard.  With a general layout established I can begin putting in fruit trees.  It’s a start, if however small.

I also found a few more pictures to use as inspiration from Houzz.

update 2I love that bocce court with the stone edging like the one we had put in on our driveway.    Definitely not so many boulders though.  Maybe a pergola, although in another decade probably.

I also found this on my computer but can’t recall where it was found.  Love the stone pillars and gate.  Just a dream…

update 3




The carpenter had a few hours and came last Friday, minutes before I ran off to yet another basketball game with Spencer.  When we got home the cabinets were mostly in, the counter tops aren’t matched up yet and none of the trim is up.  Not sure why they weren’t finished, but at least the hall isn’t so clogged.  Getting closer…

update 10




Instead of getting better, it has actually gotten worse as I picked up a rattan, glass-topped table and four chairs on coasters from the reStore when I got the shelves.  Nothing else has been tackled.  Heavy sigh of disappointment.

update 8




Next up were the plantings to fill the cleared beds.  Kirk has a client that sells big trees and we are supposed to go select something that won’t get too big but will be a little unusual.   I am waiting to choose the filler plants until I see the elusive trees installed.  I also keep going back and forth between boxwood edging and something looser with less maintenance required.   Here is a neighbors really fancy version with boxwood.  Thinking….

update 4




Tried some samples of deck paint we had lying around.  Haven’t gotten the thumbs up from Spenc so his headboard remains raw pine.

headboard 10




is being painted!!!!  That makes up for all of the above.

update 11


Winter Pruning

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

When we were still living in Ojai,

January was spent pruning back much of our one acre garden.

pruning 10Beginning at the entrance gates,

pruning 11right up to the front door,

pruning 12around the back,

pruning 13and amongst the patios.

pruning 1

The wisteria on the pergola needed to be pruned hard to yield these beautiful blooms.

pruning 2

Grapes on either side of the pergola needed to be reigned in each winter.

pruning 3Roses to prune in order to keep the pathways clear.

pruning 4English roses to keep in check lest they become climbers.

pruning 5So many roses to tend to.

pruning 6All manner of lavender to harvest for arranging.

pruning 7An orchard to shape each year.

pruning 8Pepper trees threatening to overtake the yard at every corner.

pruning 9Even my pots required shearing to keep them looking tidy.

I had salvia and butterfly bushes which needed to be severely cut back each year.

For the first time in many years there isn’t much pruning to be done as the planting at the Shack are very different.  The odd assortment of fruit trees could be trimmed now that I know what they are.  The boxwood, lavender and roses planted this year are too young to require  much tending.  We have a hedge bordering our property which does require regular attention, but is far too big for me to tackle.  Most of the tropical plants that I have added don’t require much more than water.  It seems odd to not have the hours of pruning weighing on me, but do I miss the chore?  Not sure, yet.  What I will undoubtedly miss is my Ojai garden when it was in full bloom each spring.


Driveway Entrance Revamp

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Instead of starting the orchard, we decided to freshen up the approach to our house.  It was arguably the ugliest entrance in our neighborhood.  The crumbling asphalt was developing a pot hole so large it threatened to swallow small cars whole.  The planter was engulfed in ivy which was beginning to overtake the brick pillars.  Note the railroad ties set at varying lengths, some of which had deteriorated and were long gone.  One side had the best part of the hedge bordering the street.  The only problem being that it blocked that side of the road, requiring nosing the car out into oncoming traffic to determine, often too late, if the coast was clear.  The gate itself appears to be either unfinished or poorly made.

Now this doesn’t look so bad.  I managed to crop out the pot hole.   The white orbs on the gate are polo balls so that the previous owner could tell if the gate was open or closed at night.  While not all of the houses in our neighborhood are perfection, some do look like this…

This is fancier than most and leads to a house which probably has a garage bigger than our home, but you see why we wanted to at least fill the pot hole.

First up was clearing the beds of ivy, railroad ties and the hedge to equal distances on each side.  This left exposed chain link and a clear view of the front yard.  Bender board was added until we can have rock-work done to match the rose garden.

The gate was painted the same green as the house.  Maybe some trim would make it look more finished.  Road base filled the holes in the drive and pea gravel serves as a stop-gap measure to make things look a bit better.  Confederate jasmine was the first addition to, hopefully, quickly cover the chain link.

Wreaths  were hung to further obscure the fencing.  Maybe garland across the top would eliminate the floating in thin air look.

Next up, choosing two biggish trees to anchor the flower beds and plants to fill them back up.  Can’t decide whether or not to plant boxwood borders.  Maybe flax and/or iceberg roses across the back.  Something unusual would be fun…but what?  Here is the new and improved approach.

If nothing else, it is neater, not as daring to exit and we haven’t lost any small cars lately.  Unfortunately, I have to go to the nursery.  Darn.












Birthday Wreath

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I was reading the latest issue of Sunset Magazine and was intrigued by the Wild Wreaths article in the Home & Garden section.

A dear friend’s birthday was coming up and she is very insistent about NOT wanting gifts.  She, however, likes giving gifts for everything.  I found that presenting her with disposable or edible gifts was an acceptable way of circumventing the guilty feeling of showing up empty handed.  I may or may not have mentioned that I am addicted to succulents…this seemed the perfect solution to my gift giving dilemma.

It seemed like an easy enough wreath to create, succulents plus moss, perfect.  I set out to Micheal’s, then Joanne’s, then to the same stores in two more towns before I settled on a metal wreath frame, sheet moss and floral picks with wire to attach the succulents.  The selection of wreath frames was bleak, most were way too small for my liking and bags of moss seemed a bit messy.

I gathered my supplies and set to work.  I cut the sheet moss into a square, then removed a circle from the center, and rounded the corners to just fit the wire frame.  Quickly I realized that the wire frame needed heft, so out came the bags of moss I had attempted to avoid.  The article, I now note, does offer a tip to use a “firm wreath base, such as one made of straw or foam.”

The rounded edges were clipped to be pulled over the frame and secured with lots of hot glue.

Remember the mess I was trying to avoid…this proves that went out the window.  You can see some of the supplies used:  scissors, wire cutters, clippers, floral wire, floral picks, glue gun and moss.

It became clear that another sheet of moss was going to be necessary to hold the wreath together, so the entire process was repeated.  For extra security the entire wreath was wrapped with very thin floral wire.  Succulents scavenged from my ever-growing collection were attached to floral picks and hot glued into the wreath.  Sadly, the succulents were more green than red and I added a few more than the inspiration photo.  A bow to hang it and voila…

Not quite as soft and loose as the article depicts, but nice none-the-less.  A gift tag created using more moss and a tiny succulent was the finishing touch.

Lovingly delivered with a caution to keep it out of direct sun lest all that glue melt.  That could be a disaster.













House Plants – A Growing Obsession

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I never was very good at keeping house plants alive.  When we were staging our Ojai house for sale I bought a nice big Dieffenbachia to make up for all of the furniture and too many possessions that were put into a pod.  We had a front room that was light filled and I found that the plant thrived…until we moved and I stopped watering it.

When we finally started to furnish The Shack, I bought some more plants to fill rooms.  Note:  all those possessions that were packed into the pod have for the most part remained boxed up nearly two years later.  Can anyone say hoarder?  I know you are…but I say that I am awaiting beautiful built-in cabinetry to house the books, DVD’s and every kid art project our boys EVER made.  But I digress.

I first brought home two ivy topiaries from Vons to do a little Christmas decorating last year.  The topiaries have languished for nearly a year, but not died.  I pick up cute little seasonal pots while grocery shopping to change them up for the season.  Still sporting the summer look here.

I recently picked up two succulents potted in pumpkins from Trader Joe’s.   Am I the only one who can’t seem to get past the front doors without first putting some sort of living plant or cut flower into my cart?

The kitchen window houses spent orchids and one aloe vera.

Then I added a Peace Lily Plant or Spathyphylum and have managed to keep it alive by watering it when the leaves go limp.  This may account for the brown tips on the leaves.   Our living room has windows on both sides of the room and seems to have a green house effect on the plants.

So I picked up a gorgeous Dracaena Reflexa Variegata at a nursery in Ojai.  It claims to thrive on neglect and really has grown a lot.  I love the bright green striped leaves.  I moved it to our bedroom after Spencer said the living room was looking like an office.

I was coveting Fiddle Leaf Figs in magazines and found a smallish one to add to my growing collection.   I loved it until I met this beauty at Home Depot…

We even had to bring it home in our landscape trailer.  The smaller plant was banished to the equally sunny over-sized hallway leading to the boy’s rooms.   It looks really beautiful in the opposite corner of the living room next to the windows.  ( I had to move it across the room to make way for the Christmas tree.)

When Spencer first saw it he said, “What is with the fake tree.”  It really is that beautiful and unusually large for a home.  But then Marlin came home from college and said, “What’s with the jungle?  It looks like a hotel in here.”  Maybe too much of a good thing?

Well I haven’t killed any of them…yet.  I will keep you posted on how the jungle progresses.