Garden Wreath Redux

Wonderful things happen when you write a blog. Here are my top three:

Community, community and community.

Last week I posted photos of my attempt at a garden wreath. The wreath had a lot going for it, but it lacked volume and charm.

Garden Wreath Version 1.0

Garden Wreath Version 1.0

I asked for suggestions and received a tremendous outpouring of support.

The Contented Crafter had this to say:  Just this very morning I was discussing my art work with a friend and related how something Jane Davenport once said made a big impression on me and changed the way I viewed my creations.

Jane said [and I paraphrase] ‘Every creation goes through an ugly stage. Do not be put off, do not throw it out, do not walk away. Keep working at it until it becomes beautiful again’.

Not that I’m calling your wreath ugly – it isn’t. It is actually really pretty, and while still in development, shows enormous potential – it just needs more.

Which brings me to my second great life lesson – if a little is good, a lot is better 🙂 Bling it up Alys, bling it up!

In summary, don’t be discouraged.  Add some bling. Borrow seeds from the squirrels.

flowes and seeds

Flowers and seeds

Boomdeeadda added:

I would say you’ve got a lot of beautiful dried flowers but need a sturdier base to build upon. I especially love the hair pin, it’s a pretty detail and unexpected 😀 I also like that you used a loose triangle in your design. The rule of three always works best for arranging flowers. It’s going to be so awesome and I bet it smells really wonderful too.

  • Do you have any thin gauge wire? Here’s what a florist might do.
  • Take everything off and sort.
  • Spray Hydrangea with a bit of hair spray to lessen shedding.
  • make three mixed posies with your remaining dried flowers by wrapping stems with a bit of wire. Vary the sizes (S, M, L). Leave a length of wire to make a small loop.
  • Now, stuff the entire wreath with green sheet moss. Available from gardening stores. Winding thin wire around the wreath as you go. You hardly see it with the moss.

After reading Boomdee’s professional advice, it was tempting to box it up and send it to her with a thank you note.  Instead I behaved myself and took notes.

I took apart the wreath, salvaging the lavender, the ribbon and the hair pin. The hydrangeas were toast so I tossed what remained in the compost bin.

I dragged myself to a craft store (hee!) and picked up a bag of Spanish moss, floral wire and a roll of dusty silver tulle.  I bought purple ribbon as well, but didn’t use it.

garden wreath collage

Starting from scratch

Cindy Knoke cheered me on as did Tami and Marlene, of In Search of it All. Marlene and LB both agreed that moss would give it some oomph.  Where the Journey Takes Me suggested the great and powerful Google for dried wreath inspiration.  Additional thanks to Sheryl at Flowery Prose.

Anne Lawson said: bling it up! When I paint there is often a point where I despair and think “it’s not working!” That’s the time to keep going, as many times it does come together.

I gathered lavender and sage in twice the quantities to allow for natural shrinkage when dried.  The hydrangeas were un-salvageable.  I used three of the flowers from a vase in my room.  I sprayed them first with hairspray to prevent shedding.  I added dried seeds from the Bachelor Buttons, and then stuffed all the gaps with moss.  The wire helped keep everything in place.

I dug out my Christmas ornaments early, remembering this cute set of watering cans, a gift from my sister-in-law many years ago.  The size and color worked well.  I added tulle to the original ribbon for a larger bow, placed dried lavender in the watering can and added the hair clip.

Garden Wreath Details

Garden Wreath Details

2nd wreath

Wreath Version 2.0

It’s still a bit lopsided, but overall I like it so much better. I’ve dubbed it the Village Wreath, as I couldn’t have done it without all of you.


Grand Theft Avocado

I carved out some time today to visit my favorite garden nursery. I caught up with my friend Doug who works there and he shared this news: someone cut through the nursery’s chain link fence in the middle of the night and made off with a prized, $250 avocado tree.

Who would steal a fruit tree?  I like my avocados as much as the next Californian, but risking jail time for breaking and entering and then stealing a tree defies common sense.

Grand theft may sound like an exaggeration, but in California:

Grand theft is committed when the value of stolen property exceeds $400. Theft is also considered grand theft when more than $250 in crops or marine life-forms are stolen, “when the property is taken from the person of another,” or when the property stolen is an automobile, farm animal, or firearm. -Wikipedia

Who knew?

On the plus side, there were still plenty of plants to be had and boy did I have fun.  I filled my cart with a plethora of seeds, cell packs and perennials and I’m ready to plant, plant, plant.

Check back tomorrow for show and tell.  In the meantime, here’s a photo teaser:

nursery plants

Nursery plants

Hydrangeas in Artistic Glass

My friend invited me to the Los Altos Art and Wine Show last month and we both came home with the same bubble glass vase.  Isn’t it pretty?

glass vase with hydrangeas

I’ve misplaced the artist’s card. Won’t you please stand up?

It sat on my kitchen counter for a while, but it’s now found a ‘permanent’ home in our bedroom.  I use the parenthetical because I’m forever changing things around. It’s kind of a hobby of mine.  When my sister and I were growing up, we liked nothing better than to rearrange the furniture.  We had fun with the ‘reveal’ as the home and garden shows like to call it when our mom arrived home from work.  She always seemed please.

I digress.  The talented Donna Pierre painted one of our bedroom walls with a sea-blue plaster and glaze, a finish we now refer to as ‘the mermaid.’ We added a hammered metal mirror and table to the room and the vase was the perfect accent to complete the look.

Then, lo and behold, the pink hydrangeas started to turn, weathered to a soft grey-lavender patina.  What timing.  They are magnificent flowers, blooms I admired for years. They are far too big for apartment dwelling, but work well now that I have a house with dirt to call my own.

hydrangea closeup

Dusty lavender hues

I still have to pinch myself all these years later, grateful to have a beautiful home and surrounding soil to fill with roots and flowering goodness. I think about that whenever I see these dusty blooms.

Do you have a favorite bloom?

Lindy on the table

Lindy-Lu approves

Working Days in the Garden

English Lavender

English Lavender

Gorgeous weather meant work and play in the garden today.  My back is sure to rebel by morning, but for now it feels good to have put in a day’s work.

Lights and Ladders

One of the lights in the towering pine tree stopped working last summer. As we suspected, a small critter chewed through the wire and its housing. It’s hard to fathom the appeal of a few small, low-voltage wires, but there you have it. My husband rented a twenty-foot ladder and did the repairs.  I worried and paced the entire time. I held the ladder on his way up, then flipped the switch when instructed. Ten minutes crawl by when you’re busy worrying. I was happy to help him take the ladder back to the van. I’m glad that job is behind us.

Sod: Now you see it, now you don’t

I dug up a pie-shaped corner of sod along the sidewalk, creating a 3 x 4 foot area for flowers. After much deliberation and input from several readers, I decided to plant on the property side of the sidewalk, instead of using the sidewalk strip. I’m still plotting alternatives to the grassy strip, but for now I’ll stick to my ‘flower pie’ project.

It was heartening to see so many plump earthworms as I dug out the layer of grass. Worms are a welcome addition in any garden. I can’t wait to start planting.

Lavender: Shave and a Haircut

English Lavender growing along the deck was in desperate need of a haircut. I pruned away dead wood and undergrowth, then shaped the top along the deck.  It looks unkempt for now, but in a few weeks, new growth fill help fill it out. The lavender attracts bees all summer , something I always look forward to. I’m going to participate in the Great Sunflower Project this year, so I’m counting on lots of buzzing visitors.

There is suddenly so much to do as the weather improves and time seems to accelerate.  I wish I could slow things down and take time to savor it all. Ah, Spring!  I love you so. ♥

Drooping Flowers and the Hat-Pin Trick

Hat-Pin Trick

gerbera daisy with pin

Hat-Pin Trick

I’m not sure where I picked up this handy piece of advice, but it works…most of the time.  Cut flowers, especially those with hollowed stems will often droop after a short time in water. The reason: the stem is no longer siphoning water.

Simply insert a pin or needle all the way through the stem of the drooping flowers, about one-inch below the bloom, then carefully remove it.  Within an hour or two, your flowers will be standing tall. I’ve used this trick successfully over the years with Gerbera daisies, roses and tulips.

Gerber Daisies hat pin trick

Gerbera Daisies Revived: The yellow flowers perked up; but the orange ones did not.

Rubber-band Recovery

In the event the hat-pin trick fails, move on to plan B.  Gather the flowers into a loose bunch and slide a rubber-band over the stems and up to the neck of the flowers.   Wrap a second band around the bottom of the stems.  Return to the vase, and enjoy your perky arrangement.

cut flowers rubber-band recovery

Rubber-band Recovery in Action

Lift and Separate

I don’t know about you, but I like to get as much “life” from my cut flowers as possible.  Most mixed bouquet flowers have varying shelf-lives.  Some of the blossoms are spent within a few days while others can last up to a week or more.  Rather than dump the entire bouquet, I change the water and return the flowers that still have life.  As those fade, I’ll cut the healthy flowers down to a few inches, and display them in a smaller vase.  If I have nice greens, I’ll see what’s blooming in the garden and I’ll mix the two together. I make a game out of it to see how long the flowers will last.

Do you have any tips or tricks you’ve used to preserve the life of your cut flowers?  Please share in the comments, below.

Halloween Countdown

Nautical Pumpkin

Nautical Pumpkin

Eye Candy

Look who else has cut flowers this week:

SummerWinds Nursery Rebuilds

SummerWinds Acer

SummerWinds Acer survived the fire

It was a sad day for the community when SummerWinds Almaden Nursery burned to the ground in late August.  They’d done business in that neighborhood for 40 years.  The outpouring of support following the loss was amazing.

A few weeks after the fire, the nursery sold what remained of the undamaged plants and pottery at a three-day fire sale, with 10% of the proceeds benefiting the San Jose Firefighters Foundation.  Shoppers turned out in droves, contributing to the $14,000 raised for two of the foundation’s programs.

I learned this week that rebuilding plans are already under way.  The remains of the building are now in a heap.  The lot should be cleared in short order.  As the new building is under construction, the nursery will open an “Enhanced Christmas Tree Lot” on Tuesday, November 20th.  In addition to fresh-cut trees, they’ll be selling poinsettias, fresh wreaths and garland along with seasonal bedding plants.   They’ll have other holiday goodies for sale as well.
Summer Winds Demo

Enhanced Christmas Tree Lot

If you live in the community, please consider stopping by.

SummerWinds Nursery
4606 Almaden Expressway, San Jose
Corner of Almaden Expressway and Branham Lane

Opening Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For regular updates, visit their website at SummerWinds Nursery San Jose  or follow SummerWinds Almaden on Facebook.

SummerWinds Alyssum and Begonia

Alyssum and Begonias surrounding the nursery sign

Morning Glory Vine

Morning Glory Vine growing along the fence in front of the nursery

Halloween Countdown

Spooky Pumpkin

Spooky Pumpkin

Garden Tools: The Dirty Dozen

garden tools in need of some TLC

The Dirty Dozen

I made some progress towards the garden clean-up today, though not as much as I would have liked. I gathered the “dirty dozen” of garden tools and made a mental assessment of the work ahead. My husband, handyman extraordinaire, gave me some quick tips on removing rust using steel wool.  If you’re wondering the difference between #000 and #0000, just ask!

I pounded the cushions together to loosen the dust, and brought them indoors for a quick wipe-down.  I had to run outside to tether the inflatable spider before it broke loose from the yard and put the fear of arachnids in someone down the street.  Then I was out the door for appointments for the rest of the day.

Costume Update

I’ve enjoyed dusting off the old sewing machine this week and putting it to use. This year I’m dressing up for a few Halloween parties as a Bella Pilar greeting card. Her designs are fun and whimsical.

I pieced together a crinoline using two “maternity panels” from a fabric store and adding tulle from an old costume.  Today I finished sewing the skirt and made headway on the top.  I’m making a pattern as I go along, so fitting it has been a challenge. I’ve been dreaming of my own dressmaker’s form, but it’s hard to justify that expense given the minimal use it would get.

Just a few finishing touches and the costume will be ready to wear.

cat ears

leopard skirt


Halloween Countdown

Princess Pumpkin

Princess Pumpkin

Natural Gifts: Collecting Cosmo Seeds

The idea came to me a few weeks ago: I’ll collect Cosmo seeds to give as gifts for the holidays.

The prolific flowers are easy to grow and spectacular to behold. Cosmos grow in planters or directly in the ground, and thrive with little fuss.  It’s a cheerful gift for the middle of winter: the promise of spring blooms.  They’ve given me pleasure all summer long. I want to share that with others.

Collecting seeds is easier than I thought.  I’ve enlisted the services of my enormous pumpkin leaves. The vines have gently wrapped themselves around the base of the Cosmos, so they’re perfectly positioned for catching seeds.  What synergy.  I gently shake the seeds from the leaves into a bowl and bring them inside for safe keeping.

Cosmo Seeds

Cosmo seeds resting in the crook of a pumpkin leaf

Designing the seed packet will be fun.  I have several ideas rattling around in my head.   I might employ the use of my Creative Memories digital scrap-booking software to make postcard-sized packets.  I have several photos to use in the design as well.

I’ve enjoyed making envelopes from prior year’s wall calendars so that also has possibilities.  I use a template to trace the envelope, then fold and seal.  I’ll download planting instructions from the internet and then print them on creamy card stock.

Calender into envelope

I turned my garden calendar pages into 4 x 6 envelopes.

My little seed packets will be small gifts with big potential, given with hope and affection.

Do you enjoy giving gifts from your garden?  Perhaps you make jam preserves, dried flower bouquets or lavender sachets?  I love hearing from you and hope you’ll share in the comments, below.