Apr 22, 2014

I Wet My Plants

Let's kick this post off right, folks.

That's right, plants.  I got 'em, I planted 'em, I wet 'em.

Remember wayyyyy back here when Steve made me some planter boxes for the pass through on the north side of our house?

So boxy.

Well, now that we're out of the frost zone and our landscaping budget has refilled, it was time to get some plants in those babies.  For the last year or so, we've been collecting our used large plastic and glass jars and depositing them in the big planters so that when the time came for soil, we wouldn't have to spend as much cash while still leaving some wiggle room for roots to grow deeply.  Tell you what, those planters looked pretty nasty full of a bunch of old (but clean!) milk jugs, peanut butter jars, and wine bottles (just keepin' it real).  But 18 cubic feet of soil later and you'd never know there's anything lurking beneath.

Since these boxes are on the north side of our house and get little to no sunlight each day, it was really important to choose plant varieties that would do well in full shade.  I have always loved hosta, fern, and coral bells, and the combination of the three is lovely.  So I ended up getting two varieties of hosta- a large blue/green and a green/yellow variegated; two varieties of coral bells- the more common deep red and a "painted" variety; and two varieties of fern- a small deep green fern with "thorny" fronds (can't remember the variety name) and an autumn fern which has really pretty yellow and red tinges. I found some healthy-looking bleeding hearts and brought a few of those home as well.  Check it out!


I didn't completely fill the planters up because A) whoa expensive, B) hostas, coral bells, and ferns all tend to take up a larger footprint as they grow (not sure about the bleeding hearts), and C) I'm not even sure everything will like their new home and I don't want to kill off more plants per year than absolutely necessary!  And for now, at least they're lending more color and softness to that pass through than it's seen in years.

I see green things.

The thought is that eventually these raised beds will look much fuller and help make things feel a little less stark in the north (ooh, unintentional Game of Thrones reference!).  Even without the window boxes up, our giant air conditioning unit is already partially obscured by pretty things.  The next step for this space will be to get the window boxes planted, which will be fun not just for the planting, but also because Mr. Baby will be able to see the plants in one of those window boxes from his new room.  Other needs for this area- our gravel hasn't had contact with any weed and moss killer since last summer, and is in need of another pass.  Also, even though it's hard to tell, much of the gravel has been ground into the soil, so a load of gravel in that area would really help make things look cleaner and make moving our yard waste cart through that area much easier.  Down the line we'll likely need to replace the gate and eventually the fence as well, but for now we're making do and making nice with our neighbors.  :)

As long as I was in the planting mood, I decided to do something about the scraggly flowerbed in front of our dining room window as well.  Here's how the bed looked when we moved in.

You ain't got no alibi, you ugly.

And a more recent picture, from last summer right after we finished painting.

Better in green, but not by much.

The bed looked better in summertime, but was still as scraggly as all get-out.  A massive clump of gladiolus roots lay on the soil's surface.  A long-ignored azalea had grown leggy and rarely flowered in its secluded corner.  The two pieris japonica (Japanese Andromeda plant) flanking the window, which normally I love, had been pruned harshly at odd angles and planted much too close to the foundation, so they were leaning 5-foot-tall monstrosities.  Think Frankenstein in a pretty dress.  I wish I had another place to relocate the pieris to, but there just wasn't a good spot for them.  It all had to go.

Which, of course, was easier said than done.  Let's just say we may have been living in Granite Falls for too long now, as our neighbors got to enjoy the sight of a pregnant woman wrestling shrubs as tall as she is out of that flowerbed.  My main issue ended up not being the removal of the plants themselves.  The gladiolus came up willingly, since their roots were simply laying on the surface of the soil anyway.  The azalea wasn't much more work.  The pieris required some muscle, but nothing using a shovel as a lever couldn't safely handle.  And surprise, most of the roots were running right up against the foundation of the house.  No, the difficult part wasn't the plants, it was attempting to turn and loosen the soil to prepare it for receiving new plants.  See Exhibit A:


Yes, that is my very large shovel with the entire handle broken off.  You may be able to see part of the offending item which murdered my shovel, but in case you can't, let me point the finger.

Nasty fellow.

For scale, that is what's left of my shovel handle in the bottom right.  That sucker was probably 15 inches from stem to stern and weighed around 45 pounds.  Our neighbors really enjoyed watching me manhandle it out of the bed.  The best thing is that this rock is that I unearthed three more of his cousins before I was done (at least they only weighed about 25 pounds).  So when my brand new shovel clanged against something hard, I was expecting to find another of Big Bertha's cousins.  What I found was much more insidious.

What is that stark line running from the vent to almost the edge of the bed?

If you guessed "sloppy concrete overage when pouring the foundation," give yourself all the points.  I figured it wouldn't be coming out without a jackhammer, so I did what any reasonable person would do and pitched a small fit.  Once I recovered and placed some phone calls to master gardeners (my mom and my mother-in-law), I decided to just cross my fingers that the concrete was deep enough under the surface of the soil that my plants would still be able to root properly.

The plants for this area were ones that I've had languishing in containers (and happily overwintering well) in this vicinity for a year or better:  two little peiris japonica and three wild roses.  I added some gold euonymus for the front because I know it grows like crazy, has pretty foliage all year, and takes pruning well.  Again, the scale for everything is a little small, but the bed is pretty small itself, and this will give the plants room to grow.

Less overgrown fo sho.

Now that I've got these plants in, I'm thinking I'd like to add two or three more small evergreen shrubs near the front of the beds.  Azaleas are on the table and so are boxwoods.  Also, great news- these were planted during spring break (read: over a week prior to publishing this post) and everything seems to be adapting to this space really well.  All of the roses have crazy new growth even though they're resting on a shelf of concrete, and nothing is showing signs of distress.  Hurrah!  And just for fun, since the "far away" picture doesn't really do them justice, here's some gratuitous close ups.

Love the contrast in gold euonymus.

No wonder they call it Andromeda.

So this little bed has gotten some love.  I may doctor it up a little more, but my next planting projects in the front yard include creating some new flower beds.  I've already got almost all of my plants, now I just need a dry day off to tackle it!

Apr 19, 2014

Nursery Progress

Over spring break, Steve and I started tackling the nursery.  Since we decided we'd like the room to be neutral so it could easily grow with Mr. Baby, we went with a light grey paint (Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore) and rolled the ceiling with the same light blue that's in our master bedroom (Rising Tide by Valspar).  We had both paints mixed at Sherwin Williams in their Harmony line, which offers the great benefit to a pregnant lady of being no-VOC.  It took two days to get two coats of paint on each wall and the ceiling.  We left the longest wall unpainted, since we planned to tackle our stripes there.  But before we could do our stripes, we needed to install the crown molding so we'd be able to measure accurately enough to ensure our stripes wouldn't look uneven or turn out to be different widths.

We chose the same crown that we had used in the master bedroom to keep things unified.  And although we are more skilled DIY-ers than we were when we moved into this house almost three years ago (!!), we still opted to use pre-fab "cheater" corners rather than mitering our own... partly because we wanted to keep things looking unified from room to room and our master bedroom's crown also has "cheater" corners, and partly because we are lazy (just tellin' it like it is).

 Pre-fab mitered corners from Lowe's. {via}

Once the crown was installed, I caulked it along the wall where the stripes would go.  Our wall ended up being almost exactly 90" from the base molding to the crown, so we opted to make nice wide 15" stripes across the wall.  Starting at the crown, I measured 15" down and penciled a line on the wall, repeated this every 2 feet or so, and then used Steve's long level to connect the dots so I could be sure my line was level once I taped it off.  I simply repeated that process all the way down the wall until everything was taped off, and then it was time to paint!

Yay math!  Please excuse the pile of junk in the middle of the room.

I ended up using a brush on this whole wall for fear of drips and leaking under the tape.  Frog Tape is amazing stuff and my product of choice when taping off for paint jobs, but I had never tried taping off a straight line in the middle of a textured wall, so I expected a little paint to seep under the tape in spots.  I did three coats of the Grey Owl before re-taping for the white stripes and starting in with three coats Glidden's no-VOC formula in off-the-shelf white.  And when I peeled the tape off, I was ecstatic with the results.

Yipes, stripes!

The stripes looked sharp and lent interest but didn't seem to overpower the room.  The crown did a nice job of making the tone of the blue on the ceiling and the grey on the walls a little more differentiated, but still subtle (which we were aiming for).

Hurrah for crown molding!

Now that the body of the room is painted, we've got a few last bits to check off the list before we can say we're completely done painting this room and can start decorating:

  • Touch up the few spots around the stripes where some paint seeped under the tape
  • Caulk the rest of the crown molding in the room
  • Paint all of the caulk white in a semi-gloss finish
  • Sponge-paint clouds onto the ceiling
  • Paint the interior of the closet (might take us a while since we're still trying to empty that closet out)
  • Replace all of the outlet covers and the switch plate
Overall, the room is starting to feel soft and a little whimsical without being girly, and I am really excited to wrap up the painting end of things so we can start setting up the crib and decorating!

Apr 9, 2014

Revolving Door

Spring Break is here and I am all-in with the projects!  First on my list: repainting the back door.  Last summer I decided to try to paint that bad boy an inviting yellow.  My patch job on the door turned out pretty well, but my painting technique left something to be desired (hello, visible brush strokes) and my color choices were somewhat... let's just be honest, they were bad.  The soft yellow put off too much of a "bathroom" vibe and the bright yellow gave neons a run for their money.

Too creamy.

We forgot to install a dimmer switch!

Believe it or not, I've had our "fix it" new door color picked out since last fall.  I just had to wait for the weather to be agreeable and the time to do it.  We went with a moody blue that looked somewhere between navy and peacock from Behr called Twilight Chimes.  We went with this blue for a few reasons.  It looked nice with our house color (Martha Stewart's Flagstone) and white trim.  I found a very similar color scheme on someone else's house and loved the way it looked.  It seemed to work well in both full sun and full shade, and it seemed like it wouldn't clash with our oddly reddish roofing.

I got a quart mixed, sanded the whole door down to hide the old brush strokes and give the paint something to hold on to.  I decided that this time around, I'd give the foam roller another go.  Wouldn't you know, it was just as I suspected last time I painted that door.  Those brush strokes were all user error-induced.  I still used my trim brush to do the inset panels and around the window, but this time I made such thin coats with the brush that it was really more like using a dry-brushing technique than real painting.  I made very thin coats with the foam roller as well.  It took five coats, but the end result was worth it.  The brush strokes are hardly noticeable, and the door color looks nice and even.

So much less jarring!  And less junk on the patio!

I figured as long as I was painting, I'd do some touch-up caulking and painting around the door too.  And, at Steve's suggestion, I painted the window frame white.

Looks nice under gray skies and full sun!

Hubba, hubba.  I am so in love with how this turned out, I'm thinking of painting the inside of the door and then our front door.  I think the rest of that back area needs some more love, too- string trim the tall grass near the house, pressure wash the patio, maybe get a little side table to set between the chairs and definitely make some flowering containers for back here once we make it out of the frost zone!