Beauty Within

I have been waiting for this event for so long. The blooming of the first sunflower. I planted these seeds in May,  and could not wait for them to bloom. They were given to me by someone who was caring for my neighbor, and she told me these would grow very tall, and not to plant them near the house. I had the perfect spot for them, next to the circle of flowers. Well, today I woke up, and decided to collect some tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, what now seems to have become a daily endeavor, especially after the heavy rains and storms we have been experiencing. I looked at the circle of flowers to see how it was doing, and was so happy to see the large yellow flower next to it. What a joyful moment. Now, I can’t wait to see the rest.

Garden Blessings.

 

The magnificent first (large) sunflower. It seems that the closer I focused the camera, the more beautiful it became. Isn’t that something? Sometimes the closer you look at something the more lovely it becomes, letting you discover its intricate beauty.

 

Side by side comparison between the large sunflower and the dwarf sunflower. The dwarf sunflowers do not last that long, they dry up fast. They are both gorgeous.

The circle of flowers is doing very well, although the dwarf sunflowers are mostly done by now. Back in April it was just a circle of stones.

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Photo by M.A.D.

It is lovely now.

 

 

 

These mushrooms have been growing all over the place. They are quite interesting. I hope to see a faerie circle at least once in my lifetime – mushrooms growing in a perfect circle. Have not seen one yet, but there is hope. I think mushrooms are so beautiful and interesting.

 

I have been trying to take a close picture of a cardinal for quite some time, and for some reason, I was not fast enough; it flew away or kept moving to another spot. The other day I was able to capture one that stood around long enough. Cardinals are as difficult to photograph as little blue birds; they move too fast and fly away.

 

And who knew that a potato plant was so beautiful? I didn’t.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Not a mushroom, not cheese. The moon a few nights ago.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Love is purpose in itself. It can be found all around you. You just have to look.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Hope that you enjoy this post.

 

 

Recycled Garden Projects

On this post, I will share two very easy garden or backyard projects. These were made using recycled materials. We love hummingbirds and we decided to have a better place for them to come into the garden. My husband built this hummingbird post, and I painted/decorated it. We placed it in the faerie garden where it is mostly shaded during the day. Sometimes, the sun can make the sugared water too warm. We used leftover wood, the leftover paint we had from the previous light posts project, and other materials we had available. I thought it would take some time for the hummingbirds to find the spot, but they did right away.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The next project is something that sprung out of necessity when we first moved to the house, and we have been adding to it as the need arises. We needed an area where we could work while standing, and also where I could clean the rugs and let them dry. Eventually, it became an all purpose area. It has a worksurface/table, a rod to hang items, a hook to hang the hose, and this year we added motion solar lights, which help illuminate the area located at the back of the house. We used recycled wood from pallets and leftover wood. Recently, we gave it a fresh coat of paint. We are surprised at how much we use this area. It will probably evolve as the need arises.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it inspires you to create something around your place.

 

Garden Offerings

Now that I have shared how the garden has come along, it occurred to me to write about its blessings. Although, I took on a small garden project as a kid, for a short time (kid’s curiosity), and later on in life rekindled that love when I planted my first small flower garden when I lived in Jersey, it is now that I feel I have the time and place to be more creative and enjoy a garden.

Although we have had a very hot and humid summer here in Virginia, I am pleased with how the veggie garden has produced so far. The flower garden did very well during the spring, and by now, it is declining, although there are a few flowers due to bloom now. Despite watering almost everyday, the heat has taken a toll on the plants. The sweet peas, which were doing so well, dried up during the last week. I was lucky enough to harvest some peas on three occasions. The peppers are still growing and thriving; no signs of a pepper yet. I have to say that when planting from seeds, it takes a long time to harvest something, especially peppers. Next year, I might try a small portable greenhouse to start seeds earlier. I tried to do that indoors, but one of my cats had a party with the tiny plants. Tomatoes are doing well, however, compared to last year, I am dealing with tomato rot (I think that is what it is called). It is when tomatoes turn dark underneath, just before they are ready to be picked. I have had to discard some. I read that it is not recommended to eat them because the tomato skin has broken and it might contain bacteria. I don’t think that the seeds will do well for next year. I will start fresh. Cucumbers are doing very well this year, with a couple of them turning yellow before they grow more. Last year, cucumbers didn’t do as well. Lettuce is doing great this year, and I have collected so much, that I gave some away to my neighbor. All four varieties are doing great. Soon, I will be sharing tomatoes and cucumbers because it seems that those are going to produce much this year. The grape tomatoes are doing well too. Compared to last year, carrots are slow. I planted the rainbow baby carrots and also the regular ones. One plant I introduced this year is potato. I picked a few, a plant nearby the carrots. I read that potatoes and carrots should not be planted nearby (who knew?). Bugs are absent this year; last year caterpillars where an issue, and ate most of the lettuce. I was using several organic pesticides, and they did not perform well. This year I have not seen many bugs, and I used Sevin only once, so maybe that has to do with it.

Keeping a garden journal has helped me keep track of things/issues I would have forgotten already. I also use it to plan future areas in the garden. When I started gardening, I was not sure if I wanted to keep one but I tried it anyway.  I have found it very useful, especially when correcting mistakes from the previous year. This year’s entry might read – Please, do not plant potatoes next to carrots; no, don’t do it!

If the hot weather continues, I am not sure how well the harvest will go this year. Here are some pictures of some veggies I have collected so far. Hopefully, there will be more,  despite the heat. Also, pictures of the flower garden offerings.

I noticed that fresh vegetables do not last as long in the refrigerator as supermarket ones; they become soft sooner, especially lettuce. I was keeping lettuce in a glass bowl in the crisper section of the fridge, but decided to keep the plastic trays that are used for fruit when you buy it at the supermarket, and what a difference does it make. It seems that these plastic trays help keep the veggies crisp longer. Save those, and use them if you can; it works better than glass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I pick the tomatoes as soon as they start getting soft to the touch. They continue the process inside. Stink bugs like tomatoes.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A mix of veggies as they look before cleaning them.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Various types of lettuce. Journal entry from last year – Caterpillars hate fancy lettuce. They prefer the regular variety.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A few blessings from the flower garden. The perfect hand of God.

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Photo by M.A.D.

These are mini sunflowers. They grow maybe about two or three feet tall, and bloom lovely.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Nature’s lace.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Tons of color.

 

The tiny rose bush that could.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Two different color irises.

 

The unexpected. Plants found around the property while clearing out weeds and bushes. We transplanted them.

 

The magical. Mushrooms galore and a little bit of luck.

 

The most beautiful blue.

 

The new and sublime.

 

The lost and found.

 

The forgotten. As it was then.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope you enjoy this post.

The Long Lost Garden

I love flowers and all kinds of plants. Maybe because I have strong memories of my grandmother’s garden when I was a kid. The garden was not large, but it seemed huge to a 4 year old. I felt at ease in it, lost in time in it. Eventually, the garden was eliminated and concrete took its place. The magic was gone.

My favorite style of garden is the English garden. It is wild and free, and at the same time contained by itself. I always thought that an English garden had soul. I dislike manicured gardens that are too planned, symmetrical, and rigid. Where’s the life in that? When we purchased this old house, it had been abandoned for 3-4 years, neglected by previous renters, and the owners where out of state, the heirs to a woman who loved her garden. People who grew up in the neighborhood and knew her, tell me about her love for flowers and plants, and how she used to walk through her garden, admiring it. I am told she was a very tall woman, and neighbors were used to seeing her walk regal amongst her plants. Unfortunately, she fell on an icy day, and never quite recovered. Her beloved home became a rental, and no one took care of her garden the way she did. Eventually, the house fell in disrepair and ended up a dilapidated farmhouse waiting to be demolished, either by time or by people. That is, until we found it and resurrected its soul. This post is about its garden, and about uncovering and working with existing areas in an effort to use the not so obvious/the hard to see potential, and saving money in the process.

The house and premises were covered in overgrown vegetation, and the preexisting garden, if any at that point, was gone. There were a few plantings in bad shape. Unable to move right away, we took short trips to start clearing up the overgrown vegetation, and once under control, hired someone to cut the grass regularly so it wouldn’t grow too wild again. The house sat for another five years until we moved, for a total of eight years. As we cleared the morass of bushes and trees, we got an idea of what could be salvaged and what had to be removed. It was a long process that continues until today, mostly because we are doing it ourselves. Three very large trees remain, two dead trees and one very large near the house. It is diseased and requires professional handling as well as the other two. That will be next on the agenda.

Few plants remained of the original garden. An overgrown hydrangea in bad shape, a tiny rose bush buried in weeds, two dwarf boxwoods that we thought were gone for good but made it. A Rose of Sharon bush that we were able to save, a large bush of ornamental grass, and existing pine trees. We were able to free a forsythia that was growing wild under the siding and spread out high over the porch. Remnants of irises and other small plants were found thriving under bushes and all kinds of weeds. We transplanted those to other areas, hoping for the best. They took to their new area beautifully, almost as if grateful for being freed. Little by little we found bits and pieces of what once was a woman’s beloved garden.

When I think about it, it was a lot of work, hard work. Our neighbors cannot believe the transformation. One neighbor told us that he thought the house was eventually going to be torn down or fall on its foundation. Many people have come to see the house, a house they lived in at one point, played in, or visited. They all approve of the respectful changes, and they all agree that the woman who loved her garden so much would approve of it as well. I am glad they feel that way. It means that we are accomplishing what we set out to do. On this post, I will share some before and after pictures.

Entrance to the house then, and entrance today.

 

One of our latest projects was to add marble chips around the house to prevent weeds from growing. This area was covered in weeds and bushes. All the plantings were existing or transplanted from another area when found. The rose bush has grown healthy and has required a trellis.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Here you can see the forsythia that we cut to shape and trimmed. It seems happy now. All the potted plants have been added or transplanted.

These are the same areas before. On first arrival and after clearing some of the vegetation.

 

The foundation to the house is an original rock foundation, which has been supported with cinder blocks over time. We cleared out the weeds, painted, fixed the crawl space doors, and placed marble chips and potted plants around it. We also added solar lights, and rocks that we collected around the property.

This is a before picture, when we cleared out some of the weeds and grass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the same area now. Here you can see the trimmed Hydrangea bush and existing irises. The pine tree in this picture was found as a tiny (2 inches) planting that I thought looked interesting enough, and I potted it. It turned out to be this beautiful pine (cedar) tree. Eventually, we will cover the exposed cinder blocks with cement and repaint the area. On this picture you can see the original stone foundation. One thing we made sure to do before buying the place was to hire an inspector to make sure the foundation and structure were in good shape. Those were fine.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The marble chips were placed all around the house. Here you can see two existing bushes that we were able to save, after trimming them, and also one of the dwarf boxwood trees behind the bird bath. This boxwood was almost dead and it has come back slowly. The lily is also an existing plant. We added all the large stones found around the property. The Hostas and Hen and chicks plants are new, and added to the area. These were brought from my garden in Jersey. All the statues are recycled from my previous home in Jersey, and so is the bird bath.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here you can see the other dwarf boxwood and other recycled plants.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here are some pictures of the same areas before. The dwarf boxwood looks brown and dying.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

A before view of the same steps where you can see the boxwood better.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the side entrance area. There were no plantings, only weeds. This area was challenging to work with.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. New plantings have been added to the area, as well as recycled. All pots in the garden are recycled.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

We worked with some existing areas by keeping some of the plantings, and adding stones and new or transplanted plants. Here is one of those areas before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. The only existing planting was the bush in the center, The rest was transplanted from other areas of the property. This area blooms throughout the year. In early spring the irises bloom first, followed by the lambs ear, and later in the summer other plantings bloom. A solar light and a couple of statues and rocks dogged around the property were added.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This area is directly under the giant cedar tree. It is one of the oldest trees around the house, and possibly older than the house, as I am told. We cleared/cleaned the area and added existing plantings around the tree. Red mulch was added as well.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

The giant cedar before. Today, it looks healthier.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Other existing areas that we were able to save. Before, after clearing the area a bit and cutting the grass.

Same area as it is today.

 

I have mentioned the faerie garden on a separate blog post, and it is one area in which we added much to it while working with existing elements. The area before and after.

 

There are a few new areas, and that includes the veggie garden which was not there, and what I call the circle of flowers. Pictures of this area before. Today, the circle of flowers is where the overgrown bushes are, and the veggie garden a few feet right behind.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

The veggie garden

 

I created the circle of flowers because I wanted an area full of color, where I could pick some flowers to bring inside. It started with clearing out a circle where old stumps remained, and placing some stones we collected around the property. We planted some seeds, and many of them continue to grow and bloom today. Next to it, we created another circle (still needs the stones around) where we planted sunflowers. They have not bloom yet, but soon they will. As of today, they are a lot taller.

 

This concludes the outdoor changes so far,  although there are many other plans. We created areas around the home, and separate, individual new areas. Instead of tearing everything down, we worked with existing areas that had potential, by first uncovering them, salvaging some plants, and adding to these areas.

Little me in my grandmother’s garden. Hope you enjoyed this post.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The Recycled Veggie Garden

As soon as I spotted this old farmhouse, I had a vision for it. It took my other half a bit more time to see it, but from the beginning he saw the potential it had. Immediately, (as it usually is for me) tons of future images began circling my head, and those would evolve into plans. One of those plans was to have a vegetable garden. For that to happen, we had to clear out a lot of years of grown vegetation, trees, bushes, and later on decide what type of garden we wanted. That took some time and a ton of hard work, but between my husband and I, we managed to get to a point were we could plant and grow something. This garden has not disappoint me. We decided not to plant on the ground because it was easier to control growing in raise beds, and I had an issue with the many (I mean many) critters that walk/crawl around. Also we have many deer coming through so we decided to create a fenced garden. The goal was to spend as little as we could, and most materials used (except for mulch, a few solar lights, soil, and paint), are recycled/repurposed/reused. That being pots, wood, garden accessories, and décor. As of this writing, I have already harvested lettuce twice, and a few peas, the rest is still growing, but soon it will produce. This year we planted two varieties of tomatoes, peppers, three varieties of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and peas. This will provide plenty for us, and to give away as well. We set up a spot in the back of the house to plant squash and pumpkins, but I am not sure how that will grow. It is not fenced and deer prance around. Eventually we will add another raise bed to this garden, as there is enough space for another one and more pots, and I think for a small portable green house as well, one that could fit into a corner. We placed a recycled shelf to use as a potting station and storage underneath. It works fine. The construction was made using recycled wood and pallets. Here are a few before and after pictures.

This is the area as it was, abandoned for many years, overgrown with all kinds of trees and bushes intertwined.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is during clean up. The larger trees and bushes remained at that point. Before removing a tree or bush, we thought hard about it. If it was salvageable we left it, but most of them were inside a morass of weeds and three or four varieties growing together at once. So it was difficult to separate them. We were able to save a few.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is today. View of the area where the vegetable garden is.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Deer wishing for a veggie bite. She is next to a tree that we were able to save.

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Photo by M.A.D.

At night, I enjoy seeing the garden come alive as well. I placed solar lights in a few areas.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I painted this in 2012. It is the farmhouse as I saw it, abandoned, but I saw beauty in it.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This garden will continue to evolve with us, according to what is needed. It is in the beginning stages, but it has room to place more containers where we will grow other varieties of vegetables. There is enough space to add to it if we need to. I hope I have inspired you to create a simple garden if you have been thinking of building one. It does take work, but not a lot of money if you recycle materials. You don’t need a lot of space, and if you live in an urban area, a small area in your porch/apartment can accommodate pots or hanging baskets. You can plant something anywhere. It has been a fun and interesting project so far. For me, it is a place to grow food but also a place where I can find relaxation, a peaceful retreat, hence all the bunnies … I hope you enjoyed this post.