Monday, June 30, 2014

Roses trimmed and Hosta browsing

Finally!  I thought we would never get to the end of the rose bush trimming.  Some of the Knockout roses were close to 6 feet tall with canes as big around as a 50 cent coin.  I was totally shocked that only one rose bush looks like it might be dead...but I'm gong to give it a month or so before I dig it up and replace it.

The roses that we cut back are already blooming.....color me shocked.  The rose bushes are growing so fast now that the dead wood has been removed.  We also cut back all the perennials that were growing in the rose bed by the curve in the driveway.  The plan is to have a flag pole in this bed but first I want to get rid of all the weeds and spiderwort that are growing in the bed.

We also weeded the large hosta bed.  The hostas are doing great in this bed and only needed a little weeding.  That's the beauty of hostas, once they are established they block out any light so there are very few weeds.

There are a few combinations in this bed that are striking.  Nothing shows off the blue hostas better than a chartreuse green hosta.

Look at how big Empress Wu has grown in just 3 years.  It is the hosta behind thee bird bath.

R got the rear tine tiller out and started loosening the soil around the garden shed.  There are some low spots and the lawn was higher than the stone porch on the front of the shed.  It will take a couple of days to move the soil around and install the slate pieces for a walkway to the steps.  After that, I will seed and let it all come in before I carve out my flower bed that will be on the three sides.

All under the watchful eye of Grandma Cat.

I've already made a list of hostas I want to purchase.  R and I decided on new varieties that we don't already have and we also want to have giants.  The only giant that I have now is Empress Wu.  To fill in the bed we will under plant with large and medium varieties.

So many hostas to choose from that I have had to keep myself from ordering them  all.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Adding decorative straps to the garden shed doors

I mentioned several posts back that we had one more little project to complete before we could call the garden shed finished.  We needed good weather to work on this little project and we have had either rain or windy weather since I made mention of this little project.

The exterior doors on our house all have large decorative iron straps that have a hammered finish and a stylized spade on the tip of the wide strap.  I've checked several online shops that carry decorative iron pieces and "oh my gosh' STICKER SHOCK!  I found quite a few styles but never an exact match to our iron straps.

Decorative iron straps on the garden shed doors would repeat the design element on the house but at a cost of over $120 a pair (we needed 3 pairs) for a design that didn't even match just seemed like a waste of money.  All winter whenever I looked at those doors all I could  think about was the fact that they needed those iron straps that all the other exterior doors on our house.

A light bulb went off in my head one day when R went out to the barn to get a 2X4 for our son.  R opened the barn door to get the board and there stacked on the floor were the cement board siding pieces that I found sitting in someone's trash.  I told R to grab about 10 or 15 pieces because I felt that we could use them for something, some time down the road.  Well, this was that something and some time.  I would make decorative straps out of the cement board.  R was skeptical at first.....what's new?  He has a hard time visualizing projects before we start but he usually is quick to get on board once we are far enough along for him to actually see something.

The first thing that I did was trace one of the original straps and make a cardboard template.  I then took the template out to the shed to see how the strap would look on the doors.  I soon realized that the template was too big for our doors so it was back to the drawing board to reduce the strap.  The strap needed to be narrowed which meant I needed to not only narrow the strap portion but also the spade tip so that the proportion wouldn't look wonky.  After several attempts I felt I had a strap design that looked good.

The photo below shows one of the original straps on the bottom and the faux strap on the top.

I traced out 6 straps making sure to make 3 right side straps and 3 left side straps by flipping the template over.  R then cut them out using a jig saw and about 8 saw blades.  The cement board is very very hard and the amount of dust is unreal.  This is where the weather came into play.  R no sooner started cutting the first strap when it started to rain.  This happened three different times but finally he had them all cut out.

So now it was my turn to make these cement board straps look like iron straps. I used a pneumatic pencil grinder (like a Dremel but pneumatic) to remove any ragged areas and to fine tune the shape.  The original iron straps have a hammered look that I needed to replicate on the cement board.  I went around the outer edge of the strap making little divots using a barrel tip on the grinder.  I tried to vary the size and sometimes even overlapped the divots. This actually too longer to do than cutting them out.

We then drilled holes in all the straps.  The original straps use large screws with square heads.  I went to the hardware store and was able to buy large screws with a pan head.  I bought 30 screws because we used 5 screws per strap. Three screws would have held the strap in place but the original straps used 6. We felt that 6 would over power the smaller strap so we decided on 5 screws for each of the faux straps.

The next step was to spray paint the straps.  I used satin black on the screws and on the back and the black hammered spray paint for the front.  I always spray paint outside so I needed a no rain and no wind day to paint.  It took me almost two weeks to get the correct weather to paint.

I painted the screws by pushing them into an old piece of Styrofoam exposing only the head of the screw. I used a large piece of cardboard to lay out the straps and painted the backs first and then fronts.  Two coats on the back and sides and three coats on the front.

Notice how the straps match the design of the door handle.

In the fall, we will landscape around the garden shed.  I'm thinking hostas because the shed is shaded by a large black walnut tree.  We need to level out the ground and improve the soil where the hostas will be planted.  But now it is time to paint the front of the house.

I will post a break down of the cost of the shed project along with before and after photos.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thorns and Thrifting

We're still cutting back rosebushes when it isn't raining.  Today we finished another rose bed and now have just the roses by the pillars and gate.  Maybe 16 rosebushes max.  But unfortunately they are a variety called Nearly Wild and their thorns are vicious.

I have stepped on thorns so large that today one went right through the bottom of my flip flop and poked the bottom of my foot.  There are also about 4 very tiny thorns in my fingers that are just driving me crazy.  I've tried and tried to get them out but haven't had any luck.

We've also been working on the secret shed project.  I was going to spray paint today but the wind was about 20 mph so that didn't happen.  We both think it is coming along nicely and all I need is one good weather day to spray paint and we can call it quits on the shed......until we landscape in the fall.

I've also done some more thrifting.  The first item is an aluminum vase for cut flowers.  It's very plain but at the top it has lettering that says Tulipdaffoldilrosepanseydaisy around the top edge of the vase. It was cute and at only 8 bucks I couldn't resist.

I also purchased a 16X20 oil painting in a frame.  I love it but I knew R wouldn't be thrilled with it.  We have totally different taste when it comes to art.  When I showed it to him, he took one look and said "where's the rest of her?"  You see....the painting is of a ladies hand with a black fan in her lap.  I love the kimono that she is wearing plus I can't resist red, orange, and a hint of pink.

Several hours later R says to me, "I was looking at that painting you bought and I kind of like it."

I've also been busy with a dentist appointment and two doctor appointments in one day.  Here's the run down.  No cavities.....yea!!!!  Ankle is healed.  Doctor said it has healed about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Must have been all that splint wearing and resting of my ankle.....LOL.  Didn't do either.  Second doctor appointment.  All is well or at least the same.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sandhill cranes visit my yard

Today while my daughter in law was here to dig up some hostas, we noticed a visitor in the front yard.

We've seen sandhill cranes back by the pond but never in our front yard and never with a baby.  B and I noticed that they were walking toward the road so we intercepted them along the fence row and they headed back to the pond.

Later in day as I was cutting back the climbing rose bushes I turned around to find them out by the big hosta bed.  They then walked back towards the house and across the driveway behind my vehicle in the circle drive.
 I tried my best to get some decent photos but I'm not the best when it comes to photo taking using the zoom on a moving target.
They are quite tall with a red stripe across the area around the eye.  A couple of times when they thought I was too close, the mother let out a loud screech.

This year has been quite the bird year for us.  We've seen quite a few hummingbirds, and indigo bunting, 2 orioles, and numerous woodpeckers.  My neighbor said he saw a flock of rose breasted grosbeaks.  It's great to see all these birds but so far very very very few honey bees.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A little of this and that

This past week has been very busy.

First of all, R's S10 truck died.  Yup, just two weeks ago he was hauling river rock in that truck.  We knew the end was coming.  The truck looked bad.  R had hit a deer with it and it was beginning to rust but it was a good little truck.  It's hauled it's fair share of demo to the dump and countless building supplies but at over 458K miles it gave it's all and we are greatful.  A moment of silence for the 2000 Chevy S10 with over 458K miles on.  It was a good truck.

After the truck fiasco we hauled the 1982 S10 out of storage.  1982!!!!  Yes, a 1982 but not any 1982 S10 it has been modified.  Oh yeah.  Chevy small block, radical cam, and dual exhaust.  Sounds sweeeeeeeeet. But the reason it has been in storage is that it is far too easy to get a speeding ticket with this bright red truck. It's been on the road 5 days and R has already had two people try to race him. So needless to say I am on the lookout for a good work truck.

We are done with three of the rose beds and halfway through another one.  Then it's just the Nearly Wild pink roses out by the pillars and gate and the 5 climbing roses on the fence.

Of course we also had to mow the lawn.

AND we also had to put a roof on the rental house.  We didn't physically put the roof on but R managed the project and the supplies.  The roof is complete but we still need to reinstall the siding on the fascia and install new eave troughs and downspouts.

My cousin, Judy, stopped by the other day. She said she was stalking...LOL.  Well, she happened to mention our favorite consignment shop so of course I had to go there the next day and purchase a couple of things.
I love this black batter bowl and of course I need cool storage jars for my open shelves.

On Tuesday I drove to Goodwill to pick up several items I purchased on ShopGoodwill   I probably shouldn't divulge this little tidbit but promise me you won't tell anyone else. I have purchased some killer deals on there.  ShopGoodwill is an auction site just like eBay.

I purchased a wall clock for the kitchen and a vintage desk lamp for the kitchen desk.  The wall clock is ready to go but the vintage lamp needs cleaning.  The lamp had multiple stickers that have left residue and there are some brass highlights that are tarnished and I haven't decided if I want to polish them or leave them tarnished.
 I just hung the clock here to take a photo.
 The photo below is of the lamp with some of the stickers already removed.
 We will rewire just to be safe but I think it will look way cool....especially for 6 bucks.
 Here is the brass detail that I don't know if I want to leave tarnished or polish it.
Tomorrow's forecast is for rain in the morning.  I really want to knock out the rose bed tomorrow because this coming week I have two doctor appointments and a dentist appointment.

Monday, June 2, 2014

My irises are looking good, too

I love plants and especially those of the flowering variety that come up every year without fail. Flowering annuals are nice because within an hour's time you can go from the blah of winter to the colorful flowers of summer.  But that instant gratification comes at a cost and that cost comes every single year.

I've tried my best to whittle my annuals down to the bare minimum and I have done that by planting perennials that come back every year without fail.  This list consist of hostas, irises, daylilies, coneflowers, rose bushes grown on own roots, phlox, bee balm or Monarda, and sedum.

Believe me when I say...over the years I've wasted a lot of money on plants that just were not right for my plant zone or were not right for my soil or light conditions.  Here in Michigan we can have pretty much any kind of weather.  We can have a very very cold winter like we did this past winter or we can have a winter with no snow and 80 degrees in March like we had two winters ago.  Both were harsh in their own ways.  We can have humid summers or dry summers with low humidity.  Unless you want to replant every year you will need to plant those plants that can handle it all.....both the good and the bad weather.

Irises are great because they can handle the cold and the hot.  The only thing that will really kill them is for the rhizome to sit in damp wet soil.  If you plant them in soil that drains well, you'll be good to go in the iris department.

The colors of irises is really unlimited.  I have black, white, numerous varieties of purple and blue, gold, bronze, yellow, pink, and peach.  Once the flowers are spent I cut the flower stalk off.  This leaves me with spiky spade like leaves to contrast against my sedum or my cone flowers.

Irises multiple easily and once they are too crowded their flowering slows down.   This gives you a chance to expand your flower bed or give them away to friends.  I've received some wonderful irises from friends that I cherish every time I look at them.

My irises are just starting to flower and whats great is that they are flowering at different times so that my iris blooming time runs about 4-5 weeks.
A lovely streaked iris planted out by my mailbox.  These irises handled the road salt and snow a lot better than my mailbox.
 Another mailbox iris.
Besides the irises, I have cone flower and sedum planted by the mailbox which provides me color throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
A lovely all white iris that I planted to go with my black irises but it appears that they bloom at different times.
Two tone purple iris. 

 This light lavender iris has a tinge of copper that doesn't show in the photo.
Bright vibrant purple iris this is lovely lovely lovely.

Today in between looking at our irises, we continued to cut back our rose bushes.  We are about halfway done.  I cannot stress how unpleasant of a job it is turning out to be.  Normally, we would have roses in bloom right now but because they are regrowing from the base, I really do not expect roses until the beginning of July.

We also planted our tomato plants the other day and they are doing good and tonight's rain is perfect timing.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The hostas are looking good.......

....the rest of my flower beds...not so much.

The hostas look like they survived the harsh winter of 2014 without losing a single plant.  The monsoon rains that we received in April and May were much appreciated by the hostas and they are showing off their appreciation in a big way.  
My hosta beds are finally getting mature.  Hostas really do not display their true colors until they are at least three years old.  I purchased most of my hostas before they were readily available at local garden shops so many times I only received one eye or a small division.  The upside to this is that I have plants before they are available at most garden shops but the downside is that they are very small and take several years before the colors become apparent and showy.
The photo above is of Singing in the Rain (lg) and Rainforest Surprise (small).
Up close photo of Singing in the Rain.
Photo above is an up close photo of Orange Marmalade.
Above photo is of Orange Marmalade and possibly Green Gold to the left.  Orange color is a rare color to find.
One of my favorites First Frost.
Unsure of the name of the two tone hosta but the blue one at the bottom is Krossa Regal.  Any of the hostas from the Regal line are stunners and strong plants.

I follow Martha Stewart's blog and she recently planted a large hosta bed.  I'll admit that I had a little chuckle when I read her list of hostas and was able to say....I have that one....and that one....and that one.....and that one. Basically I had almost all of them and I had them BEFORE Martha.  It's a good thing.  Yes it is.

I always get so bummed when people dismiss hostas as only being green and blah.  That is so far from the truth.  I can honestly say that when people visit my house and they are looking at my flower beds, they always always always comment on the hosta bed that is shown in the first photo AND that isn't even my best hosta bed.  

Here are a few tips (well maybe more than a few) on buying hostas.

Check out the online stores for unusual hostas.  I buy a lot from Bridgewood Gardens.  They have some great sales and sell very healthy plants.

If you buy a large plant at the garden center always look for a pot that has several plants in it and divide the plant before you plant it in the ground.  If I pay $15.99 for a hosta plant I will always try and get 3 plants from that one pot.

Check out eBay for hostas.  I always purchased my eBay hostas on Sat or Sunday so that the seller could mail on Monday and I would have them by the end of the week.  You do not want the hostas sitting in a box over the weekend.  Most eBay sellers sell one eye or very small divisions.  They usually wash all the dirt of the roots, wrap in wet paper towel, and place in a plastic bag.  Be prepared to plant as soon as the plants arrive.  Buying without dirt keeps the shipping price down.  I also try to buy several hostas from the same seller as it is usually  the same to mail two or three, as it is to mail one if they are using a flat rate box.

Pay attention to the final mature size when ordering and planting.

Pay attention to the mature color when planting.  Do not plant like colors next to each other.  You need to have contrast to highlight the color of the hosta.

Buy plants of different colors, variegation, size, leaf texture, and height.

Do not plant hostas in full sun or hot afternoon sun.  Your hostas will look baked, faded, and basically ugly by the end of June.

If you don't have a large space buy miniatures, dwarf, and small hostas.  There are hostas that have leaves the size of dimes.  OR plant one giant size hosta as a specimen plant.

Trade hostas with your friends and family.  Traded plants are the best plants.  I love walking through my garden and saying that plant is from Sandy in Taylor MI, and that one is from Annette in CA, that one is from Wayne, and that one from Jim, and those are from R's late mother's garden.  

Hostas look great planted next to large boulders.

Once your hostas are established and are planted in the correct conditions you will only need to water them once a week or even less depending on the weather.  Last summer I don't think I watered my hostas at all.

Largest hosta available is Empress Wu and it is huge.  Mine is 3 years old and really starting to take off.

Blue hostas are blue because they have a wax coating.  These require the most shade because too much sun or heat will remove the wax coating and the hosta will just look green instead of blue.

Some hostas have a wavy edge that is called a pie crust edge. Upright vase structure hostas are great to plant with a small contrasting color low growing hosta underneath.  My favorite combo is Krossa Regal (blue) with a chartreuse green low growing hosta planted underneath. 

Some hostas are very upright and have stems that are red.  Red October, Fire Island, Berry Cherry are a few of those types.

My favorites.

Krossa Regal lg upright vase shaped blue.
Fire Island sm/med bright yellow with red stems.
Blue Mouse Ears sm round leaves blue.  Cute cute cute.
Guardian Angel a blue and white striated leaf.
Praying hands very very upright dark green.
Squash Casserole pie crust edge in chartreuse green.
First Frost blue and yellow med.
Hanky Panky changes colors throughout the season.
Orange Marmalade orange yellow blue green.
Great Expectation pale yellow green large  
Spilt Milk green leaves that are spotted and streaked like it has spilled milk on it.
Royal Standard lg dark green shiny leaves large fragrant white flowers.
Empress Wu giant size
Big Daddy and Blue Angel very large.
Sagae blue and white curvy leaves large very striking when mature.

Stay away from Sugar and Cream.  You might not even be able to buy it anymore.  It has a virus that affects the leaves.

Stay away from Pandora's Box.  It's a very tiny hosta and lovely but very very hard to grow here in Michigan.

Need more information on hostas check out this site.  Hosta Library  This site is great because it will usually show several photos of each type of hosta so that you can see that depending on the amount of light the plant receives will determine the color of the leaves.  Spilt Milk is a good example.

Update on the Spekter paint brush.  Blog reader Alex found these brushes on Amazon UK for less $$$ than eBay.  Well done, Alex.

The good news with that is that many times you can get Amazon gift cards through reward programs such as Swagbucks or My Coke Rewards.  Also Ebates has a 3% rebate on Amazon items.