I hate to whine about the weather so much, but my goodness it has been COLD here. I have a lot of seedlings in the temporary greenhouse and I'll be honest, I haven't gone in there in two days because I'm afraid of what I might find. They cannot have been happy the last few days with very cold nights and hardly any sun during the day to even build up any heat in there.

The weeds don't seem to mind the cold though. They are taking off and like every year, I think I have them under control and then I turn around and they are everywhere. I'll be spending as much of the weekend as possible in the garden to the north of the house, giving it a going-over that it has sorely been lacking the last few years. I'm also going to reshape those beds and try to get things a little better organized. It's a big job, so I'm going to load up on podcasts and audiobooks and just try to crank it out.
Some of the plants Linda at Each Little World received from Far Reaches Farm. Check out her Friday reviews of mail order plants. These look beautiful! Each Little World photo

I did pretty good about not ordering too many plants online this year, although in recent days I've hit "order" more than once. I did go completely nuts on dahlia tubers (in fact, 12 more arrived this week that I had completely forgotten about) though. Linda at Each Little World, on the other hand, did order a lot of plants via mail order this year and she is doing fabulous posts on Fridays showing exactly what comes from each nursery and how the plants look. Since buying plants sight unseen can be an exercise in trust, it's so nice to see what really shows up. With Linda's permission, I intend to do a couple similar posts when the few things I've ordered show up. But in the meantime, check out her posts on her experiences with Odyssey Perennials and Far Reaches Farm.

I like this post on zero-waste living. Although we recycle and compost, I'm still amazed at how much garbage just the two of us produce every week. Several years ago we took a sailboat charter in New Zealand's Bay of Islands and the two of us lived on a boat for a week and produced a single bag of garbage, mostly because in New Zealand they minimally package their food. At the grocery store closest to us, zucchini is packed in twos on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic (yet you still pay by the pound). As my personal form of protest I've taken to ripping open the plastic and grabbing the one zucchini I want (and telling the store owner that I think it is ridiculous to package produce that way).

I sort of loved this list of outdoor showers because they are very cool and sort of romantic and summery. On the other hand I remember when we were kids at we had an outdoor shower hooked up to a hose at the pool at the cottage we shared with several families. All of us dreaded using it because it was so damn cold.

Growing roses organically seems like the holy grail of gardening practices, but really, it can be done.

Several bloggers have teamed up with Longfield Gardens on allium giveaways to celebrate allium being named the bulb of the year by the National Garden Bureau. I love alliums of all varieties. They are generally very well behaved (although some of the smaller ones do reseed rather prolifically), require basically nothing in the way of maintenance and create punctuation in a garden that few other plants can match. Angie at The Freckled Rose has a beginners' guide to growing them and is giving away at $50 gift certificate to Longfield.

Give me some great news about what kind of gardening you'll be doing this weekend to inspire me to get out there and crank out that north garden despite the cold!


If you're wondering what all this bathroom talk is in the middle of high gardening season, I'm participating in the One Room Challenge, a quest to renovate one room in six weeks. Start from the beginning of this journey here.

We all know that every renovation has its stumbling blocks and this one is no exception. But it is interesting that in this case most of those hiccups are focused on a very specific area and it has gone from bad to you-gotta-just-laugh.

I knew from the start that we were going to have to get a custom vanity. I wanted a rectangular vanity, not the stair-stepped design of the old one, so it had to be about 18 inches deep at most, and off-the-shelf options for vanities like that are quite limited. We needed a little bit of storage but not a ton because there is a pretty big linen closet in this room as well.

I based my design for the vanity on the inspiration vanity coupled with a few others that I found along the way that I liked features on. In the end, I designed a 39-by-18-inch vanity with faux bamboo legs, a fixed panel on top and one large drawer cut around the plumbing with a lot of room under the drawer to keep it from taking up a lot of visible "space" in the room and show off the floor.

The unfinished vanity hanging out in the basement waiting for some paint love.

Of course I ended up designing a very expensive vanity. The woodworker I've used in the past for the kitchen cabinets, banquette and built-ins in the master bedroom quoted me a price that was higher than I had budgetted and with the tile adding up to more than anticipated, it was more than I wanted to spend. A big part of the cost was wrapped up in the legs, which we couldn't find pre-made anywhere but I wasn't willing to give up.

Somewhere along the line Mr. Much More Patient also fell in love with the vanity design and in order to make it happen he offered to help build it along with a co-worker who did some woodworking on the side. We found a wood turner through the wood supply store (a place that has all kinds of gorgeous wood for custom woodworking projects) and had the legs made a much better price than we anticipated. And the vanity was underway.

Unfortunately there was some miscommunication because Mr. MMP didn't realize that my design was drawn (on graph paper) to a specific size, and at some point there were some liberties taken with the design size. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that I didn't know that it had grown in size when I ordered the marble vanity top. You can see where this is going right?

Although the marble top is sitting on top of the vanity, it's not attached and what you can't see is that it's too small  for the vanity. 

As if that weren't bad enough, the top was cut a quarter-inch smaller than I had ordered it. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, but with the combination of the slightly too big vanity, even after we modified everything we could to make it fit, the top is just too small. Oh, and when we went to mount the sink we found out they also cut the sink hole incorrectly.

No problem: Have the countertop people make a new counter, right? Not so easy, actually. Of course they used a remnant piece (this is the same thing we ran into with our vanity upstairs so I was prepared this time) and there are no more remnant pieces. In fact, the next chance for a remnant piece is from a kitchen installation they are doing May 6, which you'll note is well after this challenge is finished. It's all a little frustrating given that we had this vanity in production MONTHS ago in preparation to do this bathroom.

Mr. Much More Patient has a lot of jobs. One of them is holding pull options up to the drawer.

So that's the big hangup. The good news is that the vanity has been painted: Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy, which was the color I had painted the old vanity a couple years ago. It is awaiting some drawer hardware, which we were still deciding on.

This is a fairly horrible photo of the mirror, but it's hard to get a good angle on the whole program. The faucet is just sitting there in the hole until we get the counter sorted.

We've also hung the mirror and I love it enough to make this vanity issue fall into the background a little. I wanted something a little different to make a bit of a statement on the wall and I think this scalloped number does just that. It has a bronze/copper finish on it that I also think brings a little warmth to this room, which overall has a very cool color palette to it. I like clean, crisp bathrooms but "hospital" isn't the feel I'm going for. I know the mixing of metallic finishes will drive some folks nuts, but I don't mind a little of it.

Let's hope this vanity is the main hiccup we run into. It's a biggie, and I'm disappointed that it means we won't be officially finished in six weeks but there's nothing to be done with it.

If you want to catch up on what we've done in this room so far check out these posts:
Week 1 - The before + the design
Week 2 - Floor tile
Week 3 - Wall tile

Don't forget to check in with the other guest participants in the One Room Challenge as well as the featured bloggers.


Yesterday I wrote about the factors to consider when choosing a container. You can read it here, but I broke it down to four factors:
  1. Size (err on the side of bigger)
  2. Style (what suits your house, garden and personal preferences)
  3. Material (will you leave it out all year or have to move it)
  4. Price
Now I'm going to share some sources for containers that I've found in my rather exhaustive searches. There are three sources that I'm not going to get into: shopping locally, which is really the best option because you tell so much more about a container you can see in person, and building your own, like I did here. I also think that vintage or repurposed containers are very cool, but I think that's one of those things you have to be on the lookout for at thrift stores or garage sales.

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Amazon has some good looking planters for prices that won't completely break the bank, but it takes a little looking. Gardener's Supply also has some nice options, but look for their occasional coupons and sales to bring the price down more. Also consider checking non-traditional stores such as feed mills.

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Big box stores are worth checking too, but again, you really have to pick carefully. The dimensions listed on some planters are often way off (especially on Target's site; what is up with that?) and you're right to be concerned about longevity with some of these. But if you're not ready for a lifetime commitment to a container, this can be a great way to go.

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The next level of expense are planters that I've mostly found at stores more traditionally associated with furniture. Although I've not seen all of these in person, the ones I have seen have been of good quality and I'm certain they would survive for a few years at least. Crate and Barrel and West Elm tend to have designs that are little more modern, whereas Ballard Designs has more traditional planters. Grandin Road (sort of a less expensive version of Frontgate) has some nice options as well.

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Once you're ready to spend enough money to quality as an investment, you should be expecting planters that are extremely high quality, will last for many years and will hurt a little when you place that order. But if you know what you need and you're not planning on moving anytime soon, they can be a good place to look. Restoration Hardware has nailed some great designs in recent year. Their prices can be shocking but my tip is to stalk the RH Outlet store near you. The people there are very nice and unless they are very busy will tell you exactly what they have in stock when you call. Frontgate also has some excellent designs, although I've never seen them in person, in general their products seem to be of good quality. There are also planter-specific companies including Hooks & Lattice and Campania International that have some very nice options in this higher price range.

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This top tier is reserved for very, very special locations or for planters you want to pass down to your kids. It probably goes without saying, but if you are seriously considering dropping this kind of money on a planter, be very sure it's what you want and what will work for many years to come. And that's not to say that I wouldn't want everyone of these in a heartbeat. It should come as no surprise that my first place to look for these dream containers is the amazing Branch Studio, the structure design side of Deborah Silver's business but amazing vintage objects, traditional designs and internationally crafted beauties fall under this category as well.

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You know that gardening season is truly upon us when I start dreaming about container plantings. In preparation for this year's containers I have been poring over Deborah Silver's old blog posts, combing through Pinterest and drooling over some of the amazing containers the rest of the world seems to have access to, but for some reason are nearly impossible to find stateside.

For me, any container design starts with the container itself and this continues to be my greatest frustration. Good containers are difficult to find and for some reason they seem particularly difficult to find anywhere near me.

My biggest beef with most of the containers that are readily available is that they are just not big enough. I have almost no use for small containers. They dry out too quickly and it is very hard to make a proper display in them, unless they destined for the top of a patio table or grouped with other containers of varying sizes. A neighbor has asked me to help them out and do their container plantings this year (in the past he has taken his containers to a local nursery to plant them at great expense and with a great deal of hassle) and for the last 35 years they have planted red geraniums in 6- to 8-inch terracotta pots on their windowsill. I'm not going to mess with that kind of tradition, but the whole idea just makes me cringe. That's basically a multiple-times-a-day watering situation.

The wood planter box with lead trim that we built for the area by the front door is huge, just the way I like my containers.
So size comes first for me. What surrounds the area near the container is a huge factor because it all has to be in scale. That's why the wood container we built near the front door is such a behemoth: With the door at the top of four steps, the entryway gets very tall and balance dictates that whatever is planted there be tall enough to make sense. If containers are to be located near a walkway, I want them to be tall enough that they don't reach out and grab the middle of  your calf as you walk by.

My window box is the same size as the window, measuring out to the trim, but I wish I would have gotten one slightly larger. 
For window boxes, I subscribe to Deborah Silver's theory that they should be larger than the window, extending out a few inches on either side of a window or to the outside edge of shutters. Our window box is about the same size as the window and I wish I would have gone slightly larger.

The white fiberglass pots on the deck were chosen to blend in with the pergola posts.

This zinc container is probably the most formal of any in my garden, and I'll admit that it looks a bit undersized here. The boxwood that resides in it should grow quite a bit in coming years and help the scale out.
You can see a peek of the just-planted urn that lives in the middle of the patio garden.

After you've figured out a rough size, the next step is design. I'll be honest, I struggle with this aspect of container selection the most. I'm never really sure what my "style" is and what works best with my house. I like a little bit of modern, a little bit of classic and tiny bit of cottage, but I'm never really sure how all of this meshes together. At the same time, I can't imagine ever being happy limiting myself to one kind of container. I have a sort of Belgian-inspired oak and lead container by the front door, a simple-lined urn in the middle of the patio garden, a rather formal zinc planter by the garage, modern white fiberglass planters on the deck, a wood trough by the back steps and a terracotta pot for the containerized rose that roams around the garden where it is most needed. Do all these styles work together? I'm not entirely sure, but for now, they work for me and that's my first rule of gardening: If it works for you, it works for the garden.

I think the style of the house or structure a container will be near is probably the biggest factor in figuring out a style. The next decision is whether you want the container itself to be the feature or if you want it to blend in and allow the plants to be the star of the show. The white fiberglass planters on my deck were chosen because they blend in with the pergola posts, to the point where you almost don't notice them.

Then there are practical concerns. Do you intend to leave this container in place year round and live in an area where it freezes? Then you are going to be limited on what you can use. If you plan to move containers for winter, how much weight are you willing to lug around?

I like these pretty blue glazed ceramic containers, but even these small pots are a hassle to move around because they are so heavy.

I used to love glazed ceramic pots, which are readily available at nurseries near us. I still use a few by the front door (another style of pot I forgot to mention above), but even they are not fun to move. They will crack at the first sign of a freeze if left outside with dirt in them, so moving them was required. When the last large one broke during a move several years ago, I swore them off not because I don't like them but because they were too high maintenance for me. Terracotta pots have the same problem, although there are some kinds of Italian pots that will withstand freezing temperatures, but they are very pricey.

Fiberglass pots will withstand a freeze and are nice and light, but do be aware that you can easily poke a hole in one if you're not careful. Metal containers are also (usually) freeze-proof (most say frost resistant but I think they are covering their butts), but I worry about the soil temperatures in them: hot in summer and cold in winter. Fiberclay or faux cement pots are very good: lightweight, frost proof, durable and good looking. Plastic containers can be great or they can be horrible, but they shouldn't be dismissed outright. I have a tall plastic container in front of the office that looks a lot like the fiber cement containers and has held up well.

And last there is price. It is mind-boggling to me how expensive some containers are. I have bought more than a few that have made me a little sick about spending that kind of money on them. And although I tend to have a fair amount of buyer's remorse after I make these purchases, they've turned out to be great long-term investments. All are still in service after several years and showing no signs of wear and if I decided that I no longer needed one, I think I could probably sell it used for a pretty good price. A lot of people are looking for high-quality containers with good style.

The biggest mistake I think you can make when shopping for containers is to not buy one that is big enough. I know there is an inclination to buy a smaller pot because it's less expensive than a bigger one, but it will never be quite right if it's not the right size.

Ready to find the perfect container? Check here for some containers at a range of prices: From bargain shopper to put-it-in-your-will.