Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden bloggers' bloom day April 2015

Happy bloom day! 

It's April, which means it's camassia month! Huzzah!

Camassia leichtlinii 'Blue Danube'

Iris x pacifica 'Civic Pride'

Iris x pacifica 'The Eyes Have It'

Hooker's fairy bells (Disporum hookeri/Prosartes hookeri)

Geranium phaeum 'Darkest of All'

Epimedium grandiflora 'Red Queen'

Tulipa 'Flair' with a bird-planted Cotinus coggygria

Cistus obtusifolius

Salvia 'Flame'

Syringa patula 'Miss Kim'

Lewisia cotyledon

Lewisia cotyledon 'White Splendor'

Othonna cheirifolia

False Soloman's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

Coronilla v. spp. glauca 'Variegata'

The blooms of Darmera peltata emerge before the foliage does.

A very happy bloom day to you! As always, thank you to our host, Carol, at May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hardscaping is hard.

We haven't been very good lately at taking it easy on the weekends. Last weekend they were calling for rain but then on the Thursday before the forecast changed to sun and I was like, "I guess there's no reason not to tear out the lawn in the backyard."

This was back breaking and it sucked so hard that I'm glad we may never have to remove sod at this house again. This was before, with our weird boards showing where a low deck will go.

As before, we put our sod on craigslist and a bunch of weirdos showed up and took it home. Enjoy your crap lawn! You're insane. Also, my back hurts.Those rolls were HEAVY. But now I can say I've removed every inch of sod from this property.

Then Greg and I sat here in our mudpit and drank a gin and tonic and bemoaned that our work was just beginning.

And then we moved two yards of gravel to the backyard . . .

. . . so that this guy could deliver two tons of rock to me.

And then Sunday morning I started working on a rock wall.

And then I had a crisis of confidence and nearly broke down because I couldn't tell if it was ugly or not. It looked great on paper! I'm still unsure of how to size the deck appropriately. So I pulled out some boards from the garage so I could make a poorly rendered mockup in Photoshop of what the deck might look like. Picture a beautifully stained 4 inch platform deck. And all of the old Home Depot retaining wall stones are going.

I need to redo the right side of the rock wall and bring it out a bit; I don't like the angle of the curve the way it is right now. The fake deck is currently 10x14 feet. I've looked high and low for some sort of guide for deck sizes (how much room do people need around a dining table? more than three feet?) but every guide is for a mega-deck in a yard where people hate gardening. I vacillate between thinking it's way too big and fearing it will be too small. Our deck just needs to hold a table that sits four people and our cute little bamboo couch.

We have two stupid things and one serious thing dictating the size and location of the deck. The serious thing is the drip line of the cedar, which we need to dig outside of, so it can't shift left any more, unless we cantilever the deck over the footings. The two stupid things are what-ifs that we never do:

  1. Really large dinner parties. Though we host barbecues, we've never had a large dinner party in the summer (I hate cooking when it's hot) and a long table could be moved to the open gravel area IF that ever happened. 
  2. Movie viewings. We don't own a screen but we borrowed a friend's screen ONCE four years ago and hosted a movie night. Greg wants me to leave this wall clear so we can hang the screen we may never borrow again:
The view from the deck
I'm sort of inclined to move the rock wall out even further, movie screen be damned (the front plants will be short, anyway). My main goal with this project is to get as much planting space as humanly possible while getting a slightly raised area for wining and dining (that may get a pergola or cover at some point). 

I'm already happy because we won't have a dormant lawn, come July. It made the backyard look so desiccated and sad all summer. All of the new plantings for the rock wall area will be drought-tolerant because I hate watering.

If anyone has opinions or advice, I'm all ears. Bigger deck? Smaller? Cantilevered? Get rid of it all and put in sod? I just don't know anymore.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Toiling in the basement. Again.

Back when we had our earthquake retrofit, they had to cut into the drywall in our basement. That happened almost two years ago and yet I haven't wanted to patch this area because I hate drywall repair.

At some point in 2014 Greg screwed the old pieces back into place and I threw one compulsory layer of joint compound on top. It sat like that for a very long time, and every time we watched a movie down there I'd say, "I should really do something about that," and then I would ignore it. Because patching is the pits.

Because we did a shitty job getting the drywall pieces back in place, I had to do one billion layers of joint compound, with all the sanding that comes between coats. Of all the projects in the house, I really wish I had hired the drywall mudding and cornering out. I hate it and I'm not good at it. I've spent months of my life working on the walls in this room and they still look like shit.

Anyway! It became very clear that the entire room was in need of repainting and since I am trying to be a little less of a dictator around the house, I relented to Greg's one constant request: to paint the basement dark.

As I've covered before, Greg hasn't always felt like this was OUR house. I bought it, I picked out all the decor, and I just let him live here. We have this frequent push-pull where he complains, "You never let me choose anything in the house!" and then I run through the house pointing out all the things we've purchased together, and then he says, "I want to paint the basement black," and I screech "NO!" and then he's proven his point. And you know what? He doesn't really want a black basement but we're both stubborn enough to go through with painting it that way, just to spite each other.

If this isn't clear, I'm so excited to marry Greg. I'm crazy about him and I can't wait to be his wife.

When it became clear that the whole basement needed to be repainted, I suggested painting it navy blue. We tried a number of different colors that looked great in other people's rooms but didn't work for us. We finally settled on Blue Note by Benjamin Moore. If I wasn't already marrying Greg I would marry this color. It's so delicious and it's perfect for a room where we watch movies. It's so much darker than I'd ever choose normally, so Greg gets a gold star for this one.

But first I had to deal with the windows, which had never been painted or trimmed out.

And we needed to deal with Hall and Oates/Beavis and Butthead over the fireplace (free artwork left by the previous owners).

I haven't replaced the window hardware because I'm afraid it will disintegrate into rusty pieces and I'll never find a replacement.

I think, for never having done this before, I did a pretty good job. We then spent a Saturday installing baseboard and window trim.

And Hall and Oates got replaced with a new cover. I want to repaint it black because I feel like it needs to be darker. We're toying with the idea of building a teak mantel over the fireplace, which will fix that whole missing brick issue.

And we hung a sweet bamboo curtain to obscure the storage area and provide some texture. Now we'd like to stash a bar in there.

We spent another Saturday hauling the old couch up the stairs, and boy, was that fun! The pleather was peeling and splitting or we would've just kept it down there. Instead we bought the comfiest (though not the most attractive) couch we could find at Ikea: the Kivik. This room is for watching movies, so function trumped form.

I also mounted and hung the tiki masks we bought in Hawaii. I glued lights inside so their mouths light up.

We still need sconces over the TV, a skirt board along the staircase, new stair carpeting, a new area rug, a perfect mid-century modern credenza under the tiki masks, window treatments . . . there's still so much to do. I also kind of want to drywall over the wood paneling in the stairwell even though I really don't want to mud any more drywall seams. And it would be a total bitch to drywall around the stair risers. And yet . . .

Maybe I'll just wait for a super nice weekend to do that.

To recap, when I moved in:

After the first go-around with redoing the room:

And now:

We're getting there.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A visit to Little Prince of Oregon Nursery

A few weeks back I had the good luck to be included in a group blogger visit to Little Prince of Oregon Nursery. You might recognize their name because you've seen Stepables (walkable groundcovers) or their huge line of sedums and sempervivums. Or maybe you've noticed the hundreds of other plants they grow, because you're not living in a cave like I am.

The team at Little Prince of Oregon. Photo source

I had no idea that Little Prince sold such a wide variety of plants. Agaves! Natives! Ground covers! Ferns! Edibles! Grasses! I went with a short list of plants to buy but ended up with the largest haul of anyone because I kept finding more plants I needed. What did I get?

The biggest Tillandsia xerographica known to man. I was blown away by their tillandsia collection. It was hard to choose just one. This guy is hanging in an impromptu swing in the bathroom.

This is bigger than my head, if the photo belies the size.

Epimedium 'Black Sea'. I have had a really hard time finding this epimedium. I bought three pots from Dancing Oaks a few summers back but they have been slow to bulk up. I freaked out a little when I saw that Little Prince offers them, and I snatched up five more. The leaves turn deep purple in the fall and winter, giving them their name. Little Prince has a pretty great variety of epimediums in their Fit for a King line.

Mahonia nervosa. I bought a clump of this NW native a few years back and plopped it in the front rain garden. It gets full scorching sun and no water and it's been flawless. It's just as happy in shade. I bought a flat and a half to fill the side entry to the back garden, where the hose won't reach and it alternates between searing sun and full shade. This plant is bullet-proof and I couldn't love it more.

Mahonia nervosa in winter

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). This evergreen fern was my favorite plant this winter, where it looked absolutely perfect, no matter the weather. It erupts into bronzy hues in the fall and continues all winter.

Stipa tenuissima. My driveway strip is a little onesie-twosie and I've been wanting a mass-planted grass to unify the whole space.

I thought, "What's the weediest, messiest grass I could choose?" and went with this one. I have three of them already and the seedlings pop up in the funniest places. The heart wants what it wants, I don't know.

Our driveway. Don't judge.

Woodwardia unigemmata or Chain Fern.

Polypodium pseudo-aureum 'Virginia Blue'. If I had more than three square feet of moist shade, I would've bought more of this one. Those wavy blue leaves make me weak in the knees.

Jovibarba hirta 'Bulgaria'. I couldn't leave Little Prince without some hen-and-chicks, and I'd never heard of this one.

Agave franzosinii. If I wasn't already planning to marry Greg (in June!) I would marry this beauty. Loree got some great shots of large specimens at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. This is my favorite agave right now. It's hardy to 15-20 degrees, which means we'll definitely get a super cold winter next year. Because life is cruel and sometimes it wants you to buy replacement plants.

Agave gentryi 'Jaws'. I've wanted this one forever, thanks to Gerhard and Loree. I finally have one!

Agave parryi ssp. huachucensis. I had one of these (it was my favorite agave) and last winter turned it to mush. Again, because I planted this, next winter will be miserable. I'm so sorry!

Agave utahenesis ssp utahensis. Look at those gorgeous chompers.

I am still kicking myself for not getting more plants. Why didn't I pick up a Silver Surfer agave when I've wanted one forever?!? What is wrong with me?

I've got almost all of my plants in the ground now and I've been thrilled with how healthy and well-rooted they've all been. Keep your eyes peeled for LPoO when you visit your local nursery, and if you see something on their website that your nursery doesn't carry, let them know you want it. And a huge thank you to Mark and the Little Prince of Oregon crew, who so generously opened their greenhouses to us.

To see more coverage from our visit, check out:

Danger Garden
Gravy Lessons
plant lust
Rainy Day Gardener
Sprig To Twig