Thirty Days in the Garden: And in This Corner

We spend a lot of time near the back steps to our home. It’s a cozy spot, sheltered from the wind, and private, even on our small lot.

Lindy joins us on the back steps

The first of two steps are wide, accommodating several large pots. The pots once housed a hodgepodge of plants, but an unrelenting pest problem led me to clear them out and start over a few years ago

Any excuse to visit a nursery, eh?

The once-small succulent in the center of the old fountain

I disposed of the pest-laden plants, refreshed the soil, and transplanted a runaway succulent.

“Dr. Seuss” succulent reaching skyward

The white flowering azalea fills a pot of its own. The other two azaleas are surrounded by bellflowers. I was aiming for what designers call the “thrill, fill, and spill” of container gardens. The azaleas fill and thrill leaving the Serbian bellflowers campanula to spill over the edge. I won’t be winning any prizes in a garden show, but I enjoy the results.

White azalea at the corner of the house

Azaleas are great patio plants. They have shallow roots and prefer living under a tree, or in our case, the eaves of the house. I was stunned to learn that they can live for fifty years!

Pink azaleas, bellflowers, assorted succulents and “Dr. Seuss: the plant”, untamed

The succulent grew at an alarmingly rate, looping up, then down, then back up again. It started as a wee plant in what used to be a fountain. With little information to be gleaned from the nursery’s small plant marker I assumed it would remain small. In no time, it required a pot of its own, then a trellis, and a few hooks attached to the house. I eventually reshaped it to a more manageable size, and the plant continues to thrive.

March, 2021: the succulent reduced and reshaped, no longer topples over

I love this quiet corner of our garden. We’ve been eating lunch outside during this warm spell, and we’ll spend more time there as the days grow longer. One by one, the resident felines wander out to join us. It’s our little oasis, sorely needed during these trying times. It fosters contentment all around.

Tessa defying gravity on the poof, Serbian bellflowers in the background

Mad Dogs and Redheads, Get Out of the Midday Sun

As temperatures heat up across the country this week, I marvel at the good common sense of our felines.  I continue to plow through work and household chores, miserable in this 100 degree heat. They on the other hand seek the cooler ground.

Early in the day they stretch out on the damp concrete patio.  As the sun rises, they come indoors and sleep away the hottest part of the day under a ceiling fan or in the cool recesses of a closet.

lindy under chair

Lindy, made in the shade

Beijing the cat

Beijing, looking frail but still hanging in there

The garden, too, knows exactly what to do on these over-heated days.  Sinewy roots reach down  to capture the cool water below, letting blooms open wide for the sun.  Then they pack up shop as the sun sets and store their energy for the following day.


Helianthus, Sunflower

cosmos and forget me nots

Cosmos and Forget-me-nots, happy in the heat

Even our native ancestors had more sense than we do.  I see posts on Facebook of people running in the mid-day heat.  Several spectators arrived in Las Vegas area hospitals after suffering from heat stroke while sitting in an outdoor amphitheater in the mid-day sun!  And who do you suppose was offering the tomatoes a mid-day drink in the blaring sun?  Guilty!!!

So…today I’m taking a page from the common sense manual. I ate an early breakfast with my husband outdoors in the patio shade.  I finished my garden chores before 9 and now I’m writing with my feet propped up on the paper shredder under my desk, ceiling fan whirring overhead.  My afternoon client has A/C (hooray).

Once back home I’ll try avoiding my natural tendencies to go, go, go by referring once again to that common sense manual.  If you need me I’ll be doing (almost) nothing, until the blaring sun recedes for another day.

Hey…nobodies perfect.

Ways to beat the heat:

1. Drink plenty of cool water.

slinky drinks from the fountain

Slinky Malinki has a cool drink

2. Take a refreshing bath.

Mouse on board

Mighty Mouse thinks a bath might cool me down

3. Enjoy an afternoon nap.

mouse sleeping

Shine On

Special thanks to Tamara of Botanical Gardens for including me in her list of Shine On Awards.  It’s so nice to be appreciated.  Tamara writes:

I am passionate art and nature lover. As I work for the third age university I got the opportunity to develop a new field of education for our seniors-my idea was to start the senior garden volunteers program. I find it intriguing for this program is not only a bond between education and nature, but it mirrors connections between society, ecology, development, individuality. My wish is to start an inter generational project with our senior garden volunteers. So this blog is also about topics dealing with importance of botany education, senior learning,inter generational learning, ecology,garden volunteers, art. Because, as I have mentioned before-it is blog about My Botanical Garden.

Shine On Award


Rolling Out the (Soda Pop) Carpet

As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, I look forward to setting up the outdoor furniture. We bought a cute little set from an import store a few years ago when we added a front deck. The furniture is comfy, cozy and easy to keep clean. Setting it up feels like playing house. I’m not sure I ever really grew up. 😉

At the time we bought the set, we also picked up a grass-styled mat to unify the pieces. After three summers of outdoor-living, the mat is looking tired. We could certainly make do for one more year, but while shopping for summer dresses I found this:

striped garden mat

Outdoor Rug by Gaiam

The mats are hand-woven from strands made with recycled plastic. They’re reversible, too! The materials mean they are rot and mildew-resistant. Simply clean them with a hose.

The all-weather ‘rugs’  come in five different styles and two sizes. I hemmed and hawed over two of them, but finally settled on Tropical Stripe. Woodland Forest was the first-runner up.

Unexpectedly, the mat arrived with a burlap storage bag. I have a thing about bags, so it tickled my knees when it slid out of the box. It really is the little things that make our day, don’t you think?

I can’t wait to roll out the soda-pop mat, then gather our furniture around it. All summer long friends and neighbors stop by. I linger on the deck to open the mail or to read my book. We sit out there in the evening with a glass of wine or tea.

Counting the days…

What symbolizes the changing season for you?

Shade Sail: A Patio Favorite

I discovered shade sails in a catalog over a decade ago. It was love at first sight. Shade sails are a durable, practical and stylish way to shade your patio or deck.

Umbrella Heave-ho

Our first patio table came with the typical center hole for an umbrella. We dutifully purchased a canvas umbrella attached to a pole and called it shade.  Ho-hum.

This system of shade is inefficient as well. The umbrella canvas is unstable, generally fading, fraying or deteriorating within a few years. If you want to move your table, you have to drag the heavy base along with it, then re-orient the umbrella. You can’t use a traditional tablecloth because you have a big pole in the middle and for those of us that like to entertain, a pole in the middle of your table does not a centerpiece make!

Shade Sails Soar

I’m a Canadian living in California with a British Aisles complexion. In other words, I take my shade seriously. The shade sails rock!

Shade Sail Back Yard

Shade Sail Triangle

Shade Sail Closeup

Shade Sail Close-up

We purchased a 16 foot triangular sail in dark green for our garden patio. It’s the perfect size for the space. My sailor husband rigged turnbuckles and sailing rope to two corners of the house, creating anchors for the sail. He improvised the third anchor using a steel pole attached to the back fence.  We hoist the sails when the weather turns warm, and leave them up through October.

Shade sails are made from reinforced knitted polyethylene fabric.  They don’t rot, mildew, shrink, fade, fray or tear and they are resistant to UV-degradation.  We’ve had ours for seven years now and it still looks new.

From a design perspective, they are a lot of fun.  We attached patio lights along the edges and hung the sail high enough that it creates the feeling of an outdoor room.  All this for $150 bucks!

Shade Sail Over Deck

Shade Sail Rectangle

Shade Sail Rectangle

Shade Sail Rectangle Close-up

When we installed a deck in our front yard a few summers ago, we added a rectangular sail shade in light green.   We leave it up through Halloween so we can put our “scary” inflatable spider on top, then take it down for the winter.

In addition to shading the patio and deck, the shade sails keep our house cooler.  Is it any wonder it was love at first sight?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  • Check out some of the creative installations at Google Images.
  • Available here in a variety of colors and sizes ranging from 9 to 18 feet (2.7 to 5.5 meters).
  • Shade Sail Outlet offers bargain prices, but a more limited selection of size and color.

Front Garden Remodel Turns Two

Two years ago this month, we “remodeled” our front yard.  For years we talked about adding a front deck or patio.  We live on a neighbor-friendly block with kids galore so we were often out front socializing.  We chatted with friends standing in the driveway or sitting on chairs in the garage.  We eventually added a bench and then a swing, but what we longed for was a full-sized patio or deck.

Around the same time, it was becoming more and more difficult for my sister to access our home.  Our entry way consisted of two concrete steps, original to the 50-year-old house, and her MS made it difficult for her to come and go.

We hired the talented team of Bergez and Associates and Natural Bridges Landscaping, to create our suburban paradise.  We’ve found so much joy with our outdoor room!  My sister can come and go unassisted, a boon to her independence.  We also realized that the ramp will allow us to age in place since the house is now easily accessible.

It’s amazing to look back at the newly installed garden.  The plants established beautifully.

Here’s a look:

Garden and Deck, June 2012

Garden and Deck, June 2010

Near the Magnolia: 2010/2012

Kitty Corner, With Special Thanks to Candace

A Place to Call Home

The Stones Were Laid into the Outer Ring

Kismet!  The remaining garden patio stones found a home today.

Our talented designer incorporated many of the stones into the new patio design and they look sublime!  Additional stones created a curving walkway along the vegetable garden.  Still, so many remained.

Garden Pathway

Hoping these bronze beauties could find a second life, I placed a call to friends in the community.  They were in the planning stages of their own back yard and guess what?  They’ve been looking at natural stone to incorporate into their own garden design.  Several wheelbarrow trips later, the beautiful bronze stones have found a new home.  The ever- gracious recipients said:

We are thrilled to have such an opportunity to use your beautiful stones in our yard project.

We are so grateful to you that you believe so strongly in the value of re-using!  It really is a wonderful and useful way to live in community. I’m happy you are getting the backyard you’ve always wanted too. It looks great and more functional.

Once again, we have a need for what you now don’t…..and we are most appreciative. The timing of this is remarkable. Thank you.

Finding the perfect “home” for those stones has had me smiling all day.

Tower of Bronze Stones

Have Wheelbarrow, Will Travel

Patio Progress: Concentric Circles

Progress Photos

Our beautiful patio is done.  We are already enjoying the improvements throughout the yard.  The patio moved closer to the house.  It feels more intimate, something we’ve missed with it in the center of the garden.  Its sheltered now from the late afternoon summer sun so we can enjoy dinners outdoors once again.  Work on the pathway in front of the vegetable garden resumes this week, followed by repairs to the irrigation system.  A bit of grass will replace the former patio.  We’ll fill in with plants in the spring.

We were able to use about one-third of the flagstone in a concentric circle surrounding the poured concrete.  The patio integrates with the walkway, using Connecticut Bluestone to match the existing treads on the stairs.  As an added and unexpected bonus, the pretty tile trim under the stair treads now stand out against the “Sombrero Buff” concrete.  Even the cats love it!  They no longer have to walk gingerly on the stones like we did, trying to avoid the cracks.  All three of the cats have been out there exploring the new environment.

Cats on the Patio

Additional stones will be re-purposed for the vegetable garden walkway.  We hope to free-cycle the rest.  More pictures to follow later this week.

Designer: Bergez & Associates, J.P. Bergez featured in Sunset Magazine

Installation: Natural Bridges Landscaping, David Ross