Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘garden’

Low Cost Urban Garden Makeover

The alley that runs in back of row houses can present aesthetic problems for homeowners, given that developers provided the space to handle utilitarian functions, such as car traffic into garages and trash pickup. However, the back door is still an entrance, and making it aesthetically pleasing does not have to compromise utility.

Rather than cement over the entire area in front of the garage, which was in disrepair at the time of purchasing the house, I opted to reserve a garden space at one side. For several years I let this garden alone except for planting a few borrowed cuttings from neighbors. For the most part I concentrated on landscaping the area in front of the house.  We dug up the grass, not an easy job, and planted a crêpe myrtle, two butterfly bushes, two hydrangea, lots of variegated hostas and other donated plants from friends. I requested a tree from the city for the curb. The slide show the transformation over three years.

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Now I’ve turned my attention to the small back plot. What started this initiative was the realization that we had no house numbers back there. Inspiration came from Pinterest, which has a wonderful collection of trash to treasure ideas for the garden. I decided to look around the garage and attic to see what I might find. I discovered an old rusted sign that I thought might work for those numbers. I spray painted the sign, not worrying about the rust holes, and painted numbers on the sign. I also found a small garden hook and lantern that I recovered from the garage.

I purchased a couple of bags of soil and mulch, cone flowers and three small mums. Because I had already planted a crêpe myrtle, hostas, Pachysandra and few other varieties, these established plants made the project move along quickly. First, I cleaned out the overgrown weeds and added water-retaining soil. This spot is particularly dry and the surrounding white cement bakes in the summertime. Then I added the extra plantings and smoothed out the soil and added the mulch. After sweeping up, I used the hose to clean off the wood trim to ready for painting. Since many of the flowers were purple and pink, I decided to go bold and trim the wood around the garden in purple.  A pole going up the back also got painted in purple.  As the last step, I added the accessories, including a piece of driftwood. For a bit of whimsey, I hung three spinners off the deck, and painted a snake around the pole.

What was great about this project was that neighbors stopped by to talk about gardens and offer encouragement. This was a fun project with big returns in satisfaction.

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Total time:
Installation of garden and painting the wood: four hours.
Preparing and painting the sign: two hours.
Trompe l’oeil: four hours.

Mulch and soil: $17.00
Plants: $21.00
Paint: $18.00

Creating a Faerie Garden (Part 2)

Inspiration from the Isle of Skye

In the previous post, I described the Faerie Glen and Faerie Bridge on the Island of Skye, Scotland, the inspiration for creating my own magical garden. In pottery courses at the Community Arts Center I learned some basic techniques in hand building, carving and throwing on the wheel. My instructor, Bob Deane, had a special interest in making houses, castles and dragons, and guided our classes in the various techniques in constructing these pieces.

Bob created a ceramic house for Tyler Arboretum tree house display.

Making little houses completes the first requirement for a faerie garden. I made the first group of houses using white clay processed through an extruder tube. This device quickly produces a perfect cylinder from a clump of clay. I then cut these tubes to various lengths. For some of the roofs I worked with a piece of the cylinder, cut it in half and turned it inside out for a sloping concave shape. I carved different exteriors, such as stone, stucco or wood into the clay using simple tools. Different glazes created the variations in textures and colors.

The extruder tool proved its usefulness again for crafting large cylinders to make a castle. I used carving tools to cut the details for the shingled roof and stone façade. I added a clear glaze on the roof and doors after painting them blue.

A combination of paint and glazes decorated the bridge. A troll, waits patiently next to the creek.

I used a low-fire clay that would take majolica, a glaze which is left to dry on the clay and then painted with special pigments in a water-color technique.

I arranged the houses in the garden with a meandering stone path connecting the pieces together and added a few accessories: wishing well, fountain, bench, just to name a few.

The mysterious and magical Isle of Skye casts a spell and guides the recreation of a whimsical and winsome garden on a distant shore.

The fairies are dancing — how nimbly they bound!
They flit o’er the grass tops, they touch not the ground;
Their kirtles of green are with diamonds bedight,
All glittering and sparkling beneath the moonlight

                                Carolina Eliza Scott ~ The Fairy Dance

Good luck with your gardens! Send me your link if you have created such a place.


Anne Valley, Walk through the Fairy Door

A Guide to Finding Fairies: 15 Magical Places in Ireland

Does Scotland Really have Fairies?

Scottish Highland Fairies

Salvia: A Surprising Micro View

As a gardener, I sometimes difficult to resist purchasing something new for the landscape especially with the vast array of colorful plants on display at the big box stores. This time I caved to a Salvia plant, its aromatic fragrance wafting in the breeze, beckoning me to buy the bluish-purple blooms.

Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family, its name comes from a Latin word meaning to feel healthy. The tiny flowers line up and down tall stalks making a subtle contribution to the color in the garden, as shown in this photograph, just right of the flagstone path.

The micro level, however, reveals a complex and multi-colored flower. The tiny hairs secrete oils that fill the air with the plant’s distinct scent.

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