Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beacon Hill Garden Tour



I love neighborhood tours - kitchen, garden, whatever.   It's sanctioned snooping, for crying out loud - what's not to like?  When that neighborhood is the very chi-chi Beacon Hill section of Boston, even better!  The Captain humored me by tagging along and being very helpful with his map skills.

The tour is hosted by the Beacon Hill Garden Club whose members  have to have a secret garden and agree to open it when needed for the tour.   The gardens are all the small walled -in  spaces of very old homes on Beacon Hill.  These spaces were originally designed for the not so chi-chi quotidian activities managed by the servants like  laundry, deliveries, and trash storage. The street level garden entries are often though narrow tunnels so the servants didn't schlep through the grand house while doing their jobs.

The gardens in these small spaces are almost all (at least the ones on this year's tour) minimalist in style .  Some have large trees or smaller trees espaliered  along a wall.   The gardens can also be reached through the living space, so many have tables set for  dining or relaxing.  Once inside these walled gardens it is hard to imagine the Boston busyness  outside.


 These are mostly shade gardens, given their high brick walls and surrounding tall brownstones, "full sun" isn't part of their vocabulary.





This garden in Mount Vernon Square was my favorite.  It's larger than most and owned by the only man in the garden club.   His style is more exuberant than some of the restrained, structured gardens, and the space allowed for huge trees and bushes.


He also has a sense of humor - When I told him I laughed at the pink flamingo hidden under a bush he said that he added a plant tag with the genus name to class it up since " the Garden Club ladies aren't fond of pink flamingos in the gardens".    Note that the tag also indicates that the flamingo does double duty as a snow gauge!



I love this sweet little vignette.  Oh, and the very best thing about this garden is that it smells like chocolate !  That brown mulch is crushed cocoa bean shells, and when the sun warms them  the garden smells like freshly baked brownies.


This neighborhood takes window box planting seriously with an annual competition for "best in show".   



Tiny spaces along the street side also get star garden treatment.

And let's not forget entryways.   What's not to love about Beacon Hill with its old buildings,  miles of brick, and understated, old-money elegance?







If you get a chance to go, wear comfy shoes.  Uneven brick walkways and cobblestones can be challenging, plus it's called Beacon HILL for a reason!   Lines are long when the tour opens, so plan on late morning/early afternoon so you don't spend too much time waiting in line.  

The tour is a great chance to explore the Beacon Hill area , sneak a peek into some gorgeous homes and gardens - oh, and maybe even enjoy a lovely lunch.


{Bin 26 Enoteca}


Sunday, May 15, 2016

DIY Mason Jar Succulent Planters



Big doings around here - DC son is getting married!  Lots of festivities in the works, including a bridal shower.   Soon-to-be Daughter - in- Law loves succulents and mason jars, so this idea for shower favors was a no-brainer.

Started out with these little jars from Hobby Lobby :


Then,  two coats of chalk paint.   The first coat of chalk paint always looks bad- streaky and spotty, but the second coat covers all of that.




I did a little sanding to highlight the raised designs on the jar .


Then the planting.  Here is the sink full of tiny succulents that I used.



I filled the jars about 2/3 full with cactus potting mix, then added a succulent and carefully filled in with more potting mix as needed.   Chalk paint has a matte, chalky finish giving it a wonderful vintage look,  but that super - matte finish means that dirt sticks to it and doesn't wipe off easily.  I tried not to smudge too much potting mix on the paint.




I had these fabric tags from the Michael's in my stash.  I tried stamping  Future DIL's initial on them,  but found that writing the letter with a medium point Sharpie worked best.



Wrapped some twine around the jars, tied on the tags and the sweet little jars are done.



 Here they are on display at the shower:


And en route home to DC:



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Year of the Doodle Art Play




I'm still loving my Year of the Doodle planner/art journal.    I love the small size for each day, the beginning backgrounds, and the prompts.  Well, most of the prompts- sometimes I ignore them and do my own thing.



I turned the splotches of color into  little  birds, adding a few more with watercolor pencils so I'd have a whole flock.




I continue playing with doodling.   I'm reading Danny Gregory's The Creative License and appeciating his reminder to draw what you see, not what you think you see.    It is interesting that when you really look at something, it is often not quite the way you see it in your mind .

It's no secret that I love Vivian Swift's art and blog.  In a recent post she explained how she paints teacups, making the tea in the cup lighter at the far rim  as that's the way it is when you look at it.  Sure enough - again, what you think it is isn't always how it really it.   I'm trying to really look at things as I try to draw and , who knew, it makes my drawing more realistic.



The picture on the right started out as the watercolored squares - so fun to turn them into faces!




As if this book isn't fun enough, our Montana grand  loves working in hers.  I love anything that helps me stay connected to this far-away sweetie.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Earth Works by Nancy R. Hugo - A Review



I love to read gardening books during the winter;  they remind me of gardens of summers past and give me hope for gardens of summers future.   I don't read how-to gardening books, but rather books about gardens written by gardeners about the good, the bad and the ugly experiences in their gardens. 


Old books about gardens are the best - another winter read was  Garden Open Today by Beverly Nichols ,  published in 1963.  How else would I know that in the 1960s  the Fire Department  (at least in charming old England) would come and hose out the gunk from your garden water feature?   Pretty sure even in England this charming service is no longer available.   Mr. Nichols thinks that every garden should have a "water feature"- maybe our back 40 swamp can be re-branded !

Back to  Earth Works by Nancy Hugo - what a delight!    The book is a month-by-month treasure of gardening insights, opinions, and just great writing.    She starts by recommending old gardening books, beginning with my favorite,  Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine White that I talked about here.

I like people with opinions and this book is full of them.  On hollyhocks: " Grow the single- flowered ones, not the doubles.  A double-flowered hollyhock is like a 7-foot man who's changed his hairstyle to attract attention".    For July :  "What most gardeners want in July are flowers that need no attention.  They want flowers they can smile at on the way to the air-conditioned car".  Her go-to flower for July is Echinacea, one of my all-time favorites. 

From our back garden - sans water feature!

It's not all snappy comments - I learned that toads don't drink water, they absorb it through their skin. And that the American lawn is the largest crop in the world, using more fertilizer than all of India and Africa do.  Any one who has seen our lawns knows we are most definitely NOT contributing to that scary stat!    I also got a recommendation for a plant for our problematic front slope,  Fire Pink,  that apparently isn't fussy about its growing conditions.   It does have the downside of being red  (I have opinions, and one of them is that most red flowers are hideous), but since I can't really see the slope from the house, I may give them a whirl.

I'm going to go though Ms Hugo's list of "must-reads', looking for her  sure-sign of a great one - a dried pressed flower between the pages.

Friday, April 15, 2016

DIY Beach Art


I've been staring at a blank wall while I drink my morning coffee.  The Captain brings coffee to me in bed - surely one of life's special luxuries!  I haven't been able to find anything to hang between the windows until I saw beach-y scenes painted on pallet boards all over Pinterest.   

I've had my eye on an old pallet leaning against the neighbor's garage that I thought I could use, but then on a recent trip to Hobby Lobby*,  I found these:


The Captain hooked the two together to make the perfect size for my beach.


Here are the paints I used.  I watered them down to just make a wash of color and mixed things up as I went along.  The goal isn't full coverage, just a wash so the wood underneath shows through.


A watery mix of tan and white made the sand at the bottom.


And then washes of light-to-dark blue for water.


A very light blue for the sky with some pounces of diluted white to suggest clouds, a bit of brown along the edges and my beach art was done.


This is my new morning coffee view,  and I love it.

* I don't usually go to Hobby Lobby because, as Snoopy's brother Spike said about his girlfriend, "We have religious differences".   I like religion and shopping widely separated  and employees not subject to employer's idea of what kind of health care should be covered - not the case for either at HL.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Egg Delivery, Thanks to the USPS



Pinterest is full of posts about what you can send in the mail, like those little boxes of Mike and Ikes, tote bags, and  plastic Easter eggs.   I'm working to up my mailing game, so  eggs are a good place to start.   

I found these big ( "UUUUGE!")  eggs at the Dollar Store.  Pretty sure you could mail smaller ones,  but probably not the tiny, real egg sized ones.    Then the fun -- filling them with Easter goodies.   Since these are going to Texas where it has already hit 80°,  I had to look for non-melty things.  Sadly that meant no chocolate goodies!



Sweet Baby James is a bit young for an overload of  candy, so he gets a chewy toy and a tiny board book, plus a couple of Peeps for fun.   I wrapped the book in a baggie just in case the Peeps melted in the heat!   Added some stamped chicks and grass to a tag and Egg #1 ready to go.



 Then I taped on the lid, using wide packing tape and going around it twice.



Second egg filled, taped and ready to go.  William got all candy- no book filler.




These carrot cards make a perfect and Easter-ish mailing label.  The back side is really a playing card - another Dollar Store find a few years ago.

I packed up my eggs and headed to the Post Office, wondering if I would be  laughed at and sent packing with my eggs.   Wrong!   The clerk didn't even hesitate,  telling me that people mail all sorts of things  - like coconuts from Hawaii to the folks back home.   All the clerks came over to check the eggs - my apologies to the guy in line behind me who clearly wasn't in the Easter spirit!   Our local Post Office is the best at humoring my crazy mailings.



Here's the egg, getting the official Post Office mailing label.     I do wonder why the dang thing has to be so big !   It cost about $4.50 to mail each egg - a bargain for this much fun and guaranteed delivery before Easter.  (This clerk is so fashionable - check out the glittery gold nails).

Success!  The eggs made it to Texas without cracking or coming apart!  Here they are hiding in the boys' mom's car until she can spirit them into the house without prying little eyes.



One more egg to do, but we get to deliver Montana grand's egg in person - yippee!

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