Spring Side Door Decor - April Showers

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As the old adage goes, "April showers bring May flowers".  Now that it's nearly April 1st, I thought that a little Spring Decor for the outside was in order.

I have a double door on the front of my house (and I still need to make two of some type of wreath for that) but the side door is the one that all of my family and friends use every day so I thought, "Why not make something cheery and just a little bit "unexpected?!"

I have a collection of vintage umbrellas and parasols and this little beauty is one of them. She's ivory silk on the outside and has a second layer of tan silk on the inside. Both layers have pink painted flowers and green vines which made her the perfect choice for filling with some of my favorite signs of spring.

I had some daffodils, tulips, ranunculus, hyacinth, moss and a piece of  french ribbon hanging around in the basement from last Spring's arrangement in my urn:

 I simply added one of the multitude of birds' nests that I seem to have collected, snipped a few more sprigs from my pussy willow bush, retied the ribbon with a little vintage lace, and voila!  Free side door decor that's guaranteed to make my girlfriends smile and my sons wonder if I've lost my grip on reality.

Have a sunny Thursday and don't forget Week 2 of  This Week in My Midwest Garden tomorrow!!!


Linking to:
Spring Decor Link Party at Southern Hospitality
The Shabby Nest - Frugal Friday

 Featured at: 

This Week In My Midwest Garden - March 30, 2012

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Grape Hyacinth
I apologize in advance for the long post. There was a lot of "ground to cover" (Garden humor...sorry, couldn't resist!)

The unseasonably warm weather continues (well, except for Monday) here in the Chicago 'burbs and my early spring garden is in full bloom!  I haven't spent much time in the garden this week as I had to go out of town last weekend and have had end of quarter madness at work.

What I did in the garden this week: Primping and Planning
  • Edged sidewalks (using an electric edger)  and began edging flower beds (using a sharp edging shovel).   I do this three times each year: Spring, July 4th, Fall.
  • Finished 95%  of the spring clean out and spring weeding in the perennial beds.
  • Moved overwintered geraniums, banana plant, ivy and strawberries out into the sunshine and gave them a nice, long, drink of water.  Once they are hardened off, I'll prune and fertilize them. 
  • Started planning colors for window boxes and planters,  drawing plans for 4x4 veggie garden and drawing the plan for the makeover of the perennial bed along the driveway.
All about tools:  Having the proper tools for the job makes life easier. You can pick up basic garden tools at most estate and garage sales. I've even seen some at the Good Will.  I would recommend that you purchase a good pair of garden gloves (these cost about $8) and a sharp pair of hand pruners (anywhere from $18 to $98) when you can afford them. Other tools are fine borrowed or purchased used.

    • Garden gloves - I generally keep 3 pair on hand because one gets wet, one gets full of mud and I've still got work to do. I like Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves. They cost $7.99 per pair  at most hardware and garden centers. They are nylon cloth with rubber coated fingers and palms. I wear through the fingertips of at least one pair each year but you can wash them and they are nice to wear even when it's really hot in August.
    Felco No. 2 Pruners and Hand Saw
    • Sawing and pruning: 
      • Hand Held Pruners - I have one pair. They are   Felco, No. 2 (I yearn for a pair of No. 8 but can't really justify the expense of a second pair).  I have had my Felco's for 25 years. I got them when I first started gardening. I take care of them, sharpen them and never leave them outside. If you buy good tools and take care of them, they should last your lifetime.
      • Hand Saw, Loppers, By-pass, telescoping pruner. - You should have either a small, sharp saw or a pair of Loppers to start with. Hand pruners won't do the job on anything larger around than your thumb.
      • A pair of "garden scissors". I use the ones that used to be my sewing scissors which are now too dull to cut fabric. They don't have to be fancy. Just sharp enough to cut flower stems.
    • Digging and Edging:
      • Trowel: a small shovel for planting annuals and pots.
      • Shovel: This is the "pointy" shovel. It is used to move earth from one place to the other or to dig holes. 
      • Spade: This is the "square or flat" kind of shovel. It is used to scoop up compost, soil, mulch or to shovel snow.
      • I have a transplanting shovel. It's narrow, long, and has a round point. I use it to transplant perennials. This is not a necessity.
      • I have an edging shovel. It is HEAVY, sharp, and has a square, flat blade. For me, this IS a necessity. Unless you have a bunch of beds to edge and like to do it by hand, this is probably not a necessity. 
      • Weed digger. I happen to like digging dandelions by hand....don't make fun of me! *wink* 
    • Raking and cultivating:
      • Spring rake: Metal tines, use for spring raking of lawn
      • Bamboo or plastic "fan" rake: use for raking leaves
      • Landscape rake: Heavy metal rake with short teeth. Used to spread soil and even out mulch.
      • Hoe and/or cultivator: used between plants and to loosen soil
      • De thatching rake: does what the name implies. Not a necessity.
I think that covers most  of the tools that I use. If I happen to think of more, I'll post them during the season. I'm not brand name loyal and I don't care whether tools are new or old. I have my grandfather's spade and shovel and a cultivator that I got at an estate sale. I try to keep them sharp and store the shovels in a bucket of sand that has a little motor oil added to it when I'm not using them. This helps keep them sharp and keeps them from rusting (at least that's what someone told me at some point).

 What's In Bloom In My Yard This Week:
The final days of bloom Cercis Canadensis - Forest Pansy

PJM Rhododendron "Alglow"
Fothergilla Gardeni

Flowering Ornamental Crab Trees: Japanese "floribunda"  and "Louisa: Weeping crab"

Carlesii Viburnum - "Koreanspice"

Old Fashioned French Blue Lilac
Dicentra Spectabilis - Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart (I also have white ones)

Early Tulips

Also in bloom (but not in my yard): flowering cherry and sand cherry trees and shrubs.

Sorry for the extended post. Let's "Talk D i r t" next week!



Dining Room Make Over- Decisions, Decisions

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In typical "me" fashion, with Easter less than two weeks away (this didn't hit me until last Saturday...don't ask) and End of Quarter in full swing at work, I've been trying to decide what color to paint my dining room.

It's currently Benjamin Moore HC-50 Georgian Brick which has been a great color for the last 9 years but it's feeling a little dark and far more formal than my current taste and style.

  • 10 foot ceilings
  • West Facing Windows
  • Traditional table and sideboard will stay
  • Draperies will stay
  • Trim, wainscot and ceiling will not be painted
  • Hardwood floors stained "old house brown"

The Challenge:
  • Making my "very traditional" dining space feel more "farm girl french" with nothing more than vision, a little paint, a lot of hard work and a couple of  trips to the Good Will. 
The deadline:
  • Saturday, April 7th.
Source Here:

The colors:
Sherwin Williams: Whole Wheat, Sand Dune, Break Time and Chartreuse with Coral as an accent.

After all, coral is in the same "family" as the 2012 Pantone Color of the Year so, why not!?

I hope that I'll have some "after" pix for you next week. In the mean time, I hope that you're enjoying Spring as much as I am. Don't you just love white tulips!?  I do.



Crochet Cotton Washcloths with Free Pattern Link

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 I love white cotton! From the sheets and lace draperies in my bedroom to the towels and cloths in my kitchen, I simply can't get enough of the stuff!   Yesterday, I had a few hours of "unassigned time" while riding in the car on the way to visit family in Rockford so, I decided to made productive use of it by crocheting some fresh, white, cotton, kitchen wash cloths.

I found the FREE pattern, here . Thank you, Design Sponge!

The only alteration that I make is that I use a size H crochet hook because I like my cloths a little larger. Using size H, my cloths turn out just under 12" x 12" square prior to washing.

The pattern calls for only chain and half-double crochet stitches. Easy peasy!  There's a link to a tutorial for how to make HDC, just in case you need a refresher! 
What a great way to spend a Saturday. I was able to see my family AND got four new kitchen cloths, too!

Have a wonderful Sunday!



Linking to:
Freckled Laundry

This Week In My Midwest Garden - March 23, 2012

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Mother Nature and my calendar are having a difference of opinion this year.  Although it's only the third week of March, my yard is absolutely showing signs of spring.  For me, the most reliable sign of winter's demise and Spring's debut is the return of migratory robins. This year, I saw my first robin of the season on about March 2nd. Now, three weeks later, the robins are singing, the worms are near the surface of the soil and evening temperatures have been in the 50's and even the 60's!

No matter what type of gardener you decide to become, the first thing that you need to know is what "Zone" you live in.  The USDA has put together a handy map of the entire United States and labeled it with  "Plant Hardiness Zones".  Knowing what zone you live in will tell you not only the proper time to plant but also which plants stand the best chance of survival in your area.  I live in Zone 5B.
You can find the USDA map here
 The next thing that I'd like you to be aware of is that I tend to do things earlier than what the USDA recommends for my area.  This in no way means that I am advocating that you follow my schedule nor is it a comprehensive list of things to be done.  Everyone's garden is different, everyone's style is different. I do, however, hope that you can use the information that I post here as a guide to some of what should be done and an approximate order of what gets done when. 

 What I did this week in the garden: Cut down and cleaned out!
  • Cut down the remaining ornamental grasses before the new growth appears.
  • When the forsythias are covered in yellow blooms, I prune the dead wood and winter burn from shrub rose bushes on a 45 degree angle away from the center of the plant and above the buds.
  • Pruned the dead wood from the hydrangeas.
  • Cleared the winter debris from perennial beds.
    • Notes:  I compost (more on that topic later in the season). I do NOT, however, compost sticks, weeds or any plant that I have had to dig out with a shovel due to the fact that it is invasive in my garden as I tend to use the compost early and don't want to risk re-introduction of these things into other areas of my garden.
  • Applied spring time lawn fertilizer.
    • Notes: I don't use Crab Grass Preventative. If you do, now is the time to apply it.  Crab grass is an annual grass which reseeds in the Autumn. Crab Grass Preventative puts down a barrier which stops that seed from germinating. It also stops ANY grass seed from germinating so don't over seed if you use this type of application. You should also NOT core aerate your lawn after putting applying crab grass preventative.
What's in Bloom this week:
Bradford Pear
Eastern Redbud
  •  Spring Flowering Ornamentals Including:
    •  Pear trees including Callery and Bradford
    •  Magnolia including Royal Star and Saucer
    •  Cercis Canadensis - Eastern Redbud
Early Tulip
  • Early Flowering  spring perennials and bulbs including:
    • Snow Drops
    • Early Tulips
    • Daffodils
    • Crocus
    • Hellebore (Lenten Rose)

That's it for this week! Next week: Garden Tools and The "dirt" about garden soil.

Here's to sunshine, warm weather, and hopefully a little rain!



New Feature: "This Week In My Midwest Gardens"

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My "birthday angel" in the garden.

I am a Gardener.

Like most things that I do, I'm passionate about it.  I'm the type of gardener who, each spring, removes  large sections of my lawn and plants more stuff until it has gotten to the point that there's barely any lawn left. This suits me just fine. I also have window boxes and planters full of stuff that most people can't pronounce.I grow them because they're pretty, or unusual.
I'm what some people call a "plant collector".   I've been studying ornamental horticulture, landscape design, and taking Master Gardening classes since I was in my early 20's and I began my garden design business shortly thereafter.

Here are a couple of photos to show you what I mean. 

My Last House:  Front yard "before"

and "after" (six years later)

Rear yard "before"

and "after"

 Eight years ago, I moved into my current home. The lot was a "tear down".  This meant that they took the existing home, pushed it into a huge hole, and scooped the debris out to make room for the new house.

It also meant that the ground was stripped bare and driven over by heavy equipment for the nearly two years that it took to complete the building.  The "soil" was hard- pan, yellow clay with broken glass, bathroom tile, bits of roofing material, leftover rocks and construction debris with about 2 inches of black topsoil spread over it.  When I tell you that I started with "ZERO", I mean it!

My current house, when we moved in on January 1. There wasn't even grass. We grew it from seed in the spring when the weather warmed up. Until then, we had mud and a plywood sidewalk.
Front yard "before"

Front yard, last spring: (eight years later)

I've done all of  the design, 90% of the hard-scape, 100% of the planting (with help from family and friends for the big trees, eight dump trucks full of compost and nine tons of stone that we've used in this yard...so far) and 100% of the maintenance.

The only "professional services that I've used are:  the low voltage company for the installation of low voltage in the front yard and a contractor for the building of the pergola in the back yard. I also had someone build part of the fire pit in the back yard. The rest is all  "DIY".

Trust me when I say "I've done it ALL". From laying two flagstone patios to pouring concrete footings for a stone terrace. Planting trees, shrubs and perennials. I've installed a 2,800 gallon pond, built stacked and mortared retaining walls, and not one but TWO fire pits with limestone seat walls. 
Pond and waterfall

Cutting and Herb Garden

I thought that it might be fun to share with you some of what I've learned over the last, oh, "twenty or so" years, doing garden design and installation not only for myself but for others. To that end, I've decided that, beginning this Friday, I'll be doing a "In My Garden This Week" post. It'll contain tips, tricks, what's in bloom, projects that I'm working on, and anything else that YOU would like to see.  How does that sound?

My current back yard, midway through the "remodel" in summer of 2010. I'll explain what we did and why in a future post.

Let me know your thoughts. First post this Friday.



Happy First Day of Spring! - My $6 Spring Mantel

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At long last, Spring!  

We've had some unusually warm weather in Illinois these last few weeks. In fact, many of my friends are referring to 2011 as the "best winter that never was".  But today, Spring has "officially" arrived!

I decided to keep my spring mantel simple this year. Since mother nature is cooperating, I simply snipped some forsythia branches, a few pussy willows,  and some of the daffodils from my yard. I added some of the smaller pieces from my collection of ironstone, a couple of nests, some lace, and a statue of a garden fairy that  was a gift from one of my girlfriends last year. 

The only purchase was the "SPRING" letters which I found in the $1 bin at Michael's earlier this season.

Speaking of spring and growing things and GARDENING, I'll be announcing a new weekly feature for this
blog tomorrow....Don't Miss It!

Have an incredible day!



Linking to:
The Lettered Cottage
Romantic Home