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July 2011

June 2011

Fade Out


Last year, I bought a new "fade-resistant" patio umbrella and matching cushions for my outdoor furniture.


It looked nice -- cheery and bright.  But.  "Fade-resistant"?  Not so much.  This year, the same umbrella and cushions are looking tired and kind of sad . . . totally faded to shades of grey.


I really don't want to have to replace my umbrella and cushions every year.  I decided to let Project Spectrum inspire me . . . to add a brighter, greener touch to my tired patio cushions.

I headed to my local fabric store where I found outdoor upholstery fabric -- Sunbrella -- it's supposed to be "fade-resistant" but I'm not holding my breath.


And I made five cushions.


I think they turned out pretty well; I'm happy with them - especially the contrast piping.


They brighten up the little couch and the chair.


And make the swing look much more inviting.


It's still looking pretty faded. . . but I think the cushions will help bring a little bright spot to the patio.


Until they fade out, too, that is!!!

Yankee Doodle Dandy


This week, Carole has us thinking about the upcoming holiday for Ten on Tuesday . . . with our Ten Favorite Things About the Fourth of July.

Ds Grad Party May 2009 011

My own backyard.

We always head Up North to our cottage for the Fourth.  No parades or big parties for us.  Just quiet time on the lake and in the woods. (Although there is a nice, local fireworks display we can see right from our lake.)


The flag at Pearl Harbor.

My Ten Favorite Things About the Fourth of July:

  1. A long weekend - sometimes stretching into a long week
  2. Flying the flag
  3. Fireworks and Sparklers
  4. Fireflies
  5. Sitting around the campfire with a glass of wine
  6. Warm, sunny, lazy summer days
  7. Time on the water -- kayaking, fishing, boating
  8. Hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill
  9. Ice cream
  10. Joining our lake neighbors in a private fireworks show on the shore


The flag at my friend, Sandie's, house.

What's your favorite thing about the Fourth of July?


The flag at one of my weekend garden tour stops.


Weekend Overload

This was one of the those weekends. . . when I need a weekend to get over my weekend!


(This is possibly the coolest plant I've ever seen!  Too bad the owner had no idea what it was!)

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been at "Master Gardener College" (Michigan's annual state conference for Master Gardeners) for the last three days.

On Friday, it was a day-long field trip to a variety of plant growers in the West Michigan area.  We visited Walters Gardens -- a wholesale grower specializing in perennials.  We got to see all areas of their operations, including the very nifty tissue labs!


And we visited Wavecrest Nursery on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Oh, this is a fabulous place -- well-known for their trees and shrubs (and the originator of the weeping larch).


We visited the Saugatuck Brewing Company for lunch -- and a lecture on the hops industry in Michigan.


Then we headed to Spring Meadow Nursery -- another wholesale grower on the lakeshore.  You may have heard of them . . . they are the originators of the Proven Winners® line of flowering shrubs.


We ended our day with a garden tour at the home of the owner of Spring Meadow Nursery -- which serves as a real-life testing ground for their plants.  It was fun to see things that haven't hit the market yet -- and hear about things that never will!


On Saturday, it was a full day of conference sessions.  New plant introductions, the latest horticulture research from Michigan State University, composting, bees, and interior lakeshore gardening --- that's how I spent my day.

On Sunday, it was time for my favorite part of the conference --- home garden tours! 




Some people*. . .


have incredible. . .


absolutely amazing. . .




It was fabulous!  Every minute.  I'm inspired. . . but also tired!

*I was somewhat heartened to learn that the two biggest (and most amazing) gardens we visited were professionally designed and installed, and one of those is professionally maintained.  Puts my own gardening in perspective!


The Power of Gardening

This is Norm.


Norm was the bus driver on our Friday tour.  He was very sweet; very pleasant and cheerful.  A good bus driver.  I don't think he could quite figure out the excitement of his gardener passengers, though.  By our second stop, he was following the group around, listening to the tour guide.  I was hanging back, taking photos.  He asked me why we were so interested . . . because the plants weren't even flowering.  I explained, as best I could, about the allure of gardening; the love of plant material; the appeal of foliage.  Norm nodded politely.

By the last stop of the day, I noticed Norm again -- checking out the gardens at the home of the owner of Spring Meadow Nursery.  This time, Norm had his own camera out.  He was snapping shots of the landscape left and right!  He was even using the macro feature on his point-and-shoot to capture the beauty of pine cones, variegated leaves, and hydrangea buds.

I think Norm might have caught the bug!

Green . . . Any Way You Look At It


Thinking Green!

I'm off today for Master Gardener College, a 3-day extravaganza of tours, conference sessions, and field trips.

Wearing Green! 

I found this little t-shirt today. . . perfect for wearing to a garden conference.


Spending Green!

Well.  Maybe.  I'll have plenty of opportunity to buy plants, garden gadgets, and garden-themed EVERYthing.

Enjoy your weekend!


PS -- In keeping with this week's Ten on Tuesday theme of book recommendations, check out this list of Ten Terrific Summer Reads from NPR.


This Year's Garden Delight

As for this year's Garden Delight?


I have a new water feature (small pond) in my back yard!

I have had a really small pond for several years now -- the Puddle Pond.*  I've long wanted a bigger pond, though.  Big enough to create a pond eco-system (frogs!); deep enough to have water lilies; large enough that koi could over-winter right in the pond; and with multiple levels for growing water plants.

There were a lot of decisions that went into getting the new pond situated and ready to roll:  Placement?  Waterfall?  Power source?  And all of the "issues" with our slope (which is really perfect for a water feature . . . it just causes some logistical difficulties).  It's taken several weeks to get everything going (the weather didn't always cooperate with us, either) -- but now . . .


The placement ended up being just perfect.  We can see the pond from our living room window (which looks out on the garden), and we can even hear the waterfall from inside the house if the windows are open.  The pond is also in view (as much as it can be because of the slope) from the patio.  It gets just enough sun for water plants to grow -- but it's still shady enough to be a retreat from the heat.

Here are some "before" and "during" shots so you can see how the whole thing transpired.

Tom and Brian (with Jenny's persistent assistance) just dug in one night in mid-May, while I was at a meeting.  (I tend to . . . ummmmm. . . micro-manage.  Just a bit.)


The digging is hard work.  I'm fortunate to have Tom (who loves to dig) and Brian (who loves a good workout of any type) as my landscaping crew.


It took several digging sessions to get the pond set Just Right (from a micro-manager's perspective).  It needed to be level and needed a chance to settle.  The weather and the slope did not make this an easy task.


By early June, the pond had settled in. . . and we were ready to begin "landscaping" it.  At this point, my "delight" was really an "eyesore". . . but, an "eyesore" with potential!


Tom and I hunted rocks when we were Up North and brought several wagon loads home with us.


Then, Tom did a great job building a small retaining wall and setting the rocks.  (Of course, the Micro-Manager was hard at work throughout the process. . .)


Then I jumped in with the planting.


If you look closely (very closely) under the light fixture to the very left in the photo above, you can see my little "Namaste Frog."


He is my reminder to relax, live in peace, and enjoy my surroundings.

We also have koi!  Now, we did have two very small koi living in the Puddle Pond.  They were a Mother's Day gift to me from Brian and our foreign exchange student, Dominik, two years ago.  The boys named them Ludacris and Boo (yep; they named them after rappers).  Sadly, Ludacris leaped to his death after only one season, but Boo is still with us -- and huge now!

Boo now has two new friends -- Simon and Garfunkel.  Look closely -- you can see all three in the photo below.


Boo is the large white fish in the center; Simon is on the right - with the orange spot on his face; and Garfunkel is on the left - difficult to spot because he is black with a silver face and doesn't stand out in this photo.

Boo is thrilled with his new, deeper digs -- and with his new pals! 

I am delighted with my new pond. 


It's going to be fun to watch it grow and evolve through the gardening seasons.


All my thanks go to Tom and Brian -- because they really made this pond happen!  Brian figured out all the logistics with the power and the pumps and the waterfall; Tom acted as general contractor and Chief Digger and Placer of Rocks.  I would never have this year's Garden Delight without them!  I love you both! XOXOXO


* The Puddle Pond got a face lift this year, too.




Last Year's Garden Delight

Every year, something about my garden becomes my "delight" of the season.  Last year, it was this. . .


A succulent wreath I planted and hung on my garden gate.  (See original post here.)  This wreath got more and more lush and beautiful as the summer progressed.  It gave me Great Delight.

Last fall, I decided to try to "overwinter" the wreath so I could attempt to recreate its beauty this season. 

And.  How'd that go?

This is what it looked like when I brought it back out this spring.


I gave it a lot of water and as much sunshine as possible (which wasn't much there, for a while).

Gradually, the wreath showed signs of life.


I filled in with some new plants, continued to water, and left it sitting in the sun.

Here it is last weekend, just before I hung it on the garden gate for the season.


Not quite resurrected in last year's glory, but. . . we're getting there!


And what's THIS year's Garden Delight?  Stay tuned . . . and I'll tell you tomorrow!

What'cha Readin'?


Oh, Carole.  You're killing me here.  First, the Ten Best Love Songs . . . and now, this.  Ten Books to Recommend to a FriendTen???  Shoot me now.

Man, oh man!  Among all my other "hobbies" . . . I am a Reader, first and foremost.  Ten?  Only Ten?  I'm in agony. . .


So. . .

  1. If I were recommending books to a friend who loves to Read like I love to Read. . . I would recommend my favorite novels.  Books like Three Junes by Julia Glass; A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris; or The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.
  2. If I were recommending books to a friend who is in a self-reflective phase . . . I would recommend Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson, Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk, or life is a verb by Patti Digh.
  3. If I were recommending books to a friend who wants to start reading classics . . . I would recommend Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
  4. If I were recommending books to a child . . . I would recommend From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
  5. If I were recommending books to a friend who is interested in reading non-fiction. . . I would recommend Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, or The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.
  6. If I were recommending books to a friend who likes biographies . . . I would recommend Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, or First Family: John & Abigail Adams by Joseph J. Ellis.
  7. If I were recommending books for friends in my old book club (the group that I still miss deeply - even though it's been 8 years since I moved away!). . . I would recommend All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  8. If I were recommending books for a friend who just wanted fun, entertaining "beach reads" . . . I would recommend Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, or The Stand by Stephen King.
  9. If I were recommending books for a friend who was working along the cancer-continuum (diagnosis - treatment - survivorship) . . .  I would recommend Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr, It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong, and Picking Up the Pieces by Sherri McGee and Kathy Scalzo.
  10. If I were recommending books for a friend who liked mysteries with a little something extra. . . I would recommend The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and the other two books in the series) by Stieg Larsson, In the Woods by Tana French, or the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny.

That's ten.  Isn't it?


Every year on Father's Day, we celebrate with our annual family croquet tournament.


I think we've played every year for for the past 17 years -- beginning when Brian was just a very little guy and could barely lift the mallet.


We've used the same croquet set since the beginning.  Over the years, the equipment is beginning to show the wear.  We have a great time, though.


Lots of banter and laughter.


Intense concentration.


It's a challenging course (My dad claims he wouldn't be able to play on a flat course) with our sloping yard.


Usually, everyone is "in the hunt" to become "poison" first.


Although,this year there was someone far, far behind the pack!


Even Jenny wants to play!


In the end, one player reigns supreme!  This year's champ . . .


We had a fun day.  Hope you did, too!