A DOSE OF FUN COLOR JUST FOR SUMMER

We've been enjoying the most amazing stretch of gorgeous summer weather here in southeastern Wisconsin. Save for the fact that we could really use some rain, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. We've been savoring every possible moment of it (I seriously try to soak it in and save it for a few months from now), taking walks on the beach, paddleboarding, gardening, dining alfresco and getting to a few small, fun projects that I've had on the brain for awhile.

Last year I showed you our new old-fashioned screen door (that is so fantastic, by the way). I painted it Benjamin Moore's Wythe Blue, a color that I'd been dying to use on something. Unfortunately the color, which is absolutely lovely in so many applications, fell a little flat in the glaring sun on our all-white house. 

So Saturday, I picked (at the hardware store, which is usually not the right thing to do) Benjamin Moore's Clearlake to update the paint job.

The new screen color: Clearlake, a (really) bright turquoise.

The whole job took me a total of about 30 minutes. I just took the screen off its hinges, washed it, sanded it very lightly, taped off the screens and applied two coats, with about two hours in between. Usually the recoat time is a lot longer but it was pretty warm out so it dried quickly. With extra dry time, I had the screen remounted by cocktail hour.

The old color: Wythe Blue, still one of my favorite paint colors, just a tad bland for this application, in my opinion.

I don't know if the color is perfect. It's bright, that's for sure, and I think it lends a punch of color that the house really needed. What I know is that it was so easy to change that I'm happy to live with bright turquoise for awhile and next summer, if I decide it's not right, I'll just change it again. You have to love that about paint.


HOW TO PRUNE A MEATBALL BOXWOOD

My affinity for meatball boxwoods is no secret. In my very informal garden, they are one of the few nods I give to formality and I like the structure they provide.

I usually prune boxwoods toward the end of June, but this year was a little behind weather-wise and then I left for awhile so I didn't get to them until this weekend. That's probably a tad on the late side, but I think they'll be OK. You want to prune them after the big flush of new growth, but not so late that the growth that is spurred by pruning doesn't have adequate time to harden off before winter.

I'm no master pruner, but my meatball technique gets better with practice. When I first started pruning boxwood, I would use a hand pruners and cut back to a leaf node, which is how you are supposed to do every other kind of pruning. That never led to a very nice look, though, so I switched to hedge shears, which look like giant scissors. Those are fine, but they lack a certainly ability to make detailed cuts. A couple years ago I switched to sheep shears. These are a hand killer, but give you so much more control over your cuts.



I now have four meatball boxwoods in the garden, the largest of which is probably 10 years old now. Here's what it looked like before pruning.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

When you prune shrubs, you're never supposed to go in at the bottom, shading the bottom branches, but I do it anyway. Boxwood are resilient and I so prefer a globe shape over a straight-sided dome. I do it entirely by eyeballing it; I'm not sure if there are other, more technical, ways to prune meatballs. I start but trimming a few inches in each hemisphere, all the way around the shrub, sort of dividing it into eighths. Then I add in another "band" of pruning horizontally along the top quarter. After that, I just fill in the gaps. I also use a hand pruner to cut out any dead wood (like in that bottom righthand corner).

There's a lot of standing back and looking at it from afar and from different angles and going back and snipping a little more. I don't take off a lot of material because I'm happy with the size of this shrub. I would guess I end up taking off about half of the new growth, and a little more in some areas (for instance, you can see the lighter green area in the front that for some reason grew more than other areas).

How to prune a meatball boxwood

And here's the finished meatball. It's not super tight, like some boxwoods at formal gardens, but it's too my liking. AfterI took this picture, I actually went back and took off a little more on that upper left hand corner because it felt like it was standing a little proud to me.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

And here's a little before and after gif to easily show the difference.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

What do you think about meatball plants? I know some people abhor them. I just can't help myself ... little round balls of plants make me happy.

FRIDAY FINDS

So happy to be bringing you some Friday Finds today. We have enjoyed the most perfect week of summer weather and although I've been flat out catching up on work, I've been taking every possible moment to soak up the summer goodness because I know how fleeting it is.

I love looking at dream properties as much as the next person, but sometimes it's nice to see something in a more approachable size. Deborah Silver recently redid a small property that I think is really typical of a lot of yards. Here's her first post on it. I can't wait to see the "after."



http://www.houseofhawthornes.com/blueberry-crostata-galette-rustic-pie-recipe/
House of Hawthornes photo

This blueberry crostata from House of Hawthornes needs to be had by me.

Have you been following the massive driveway renovation project that Linda and Mark at Each Little World are undertaking? When I visited their beautiful gardens earlier this summer and Linda mentioned the project I had no idea just how vast the scale of the project was. It's worth a look to follow everything that goes into a really well planned out project.



http://www.homeologymodernvintage.com/wabi-sabi-mounted-staghorn-fern/
Homeology Modern Vintage photo

You know I love staghorn ferns (mostly from afar because they require a fair amount of attention that I rarely give houseplants). Check out Sarah's beautiful wabi sabi-inspired staghorn fern mounting.

Let's just say this style is not for me. What about you? Who's up for dyeing their armpit hair?

This is my summer jam. Would you believe I heard about this band on NPR and probably listened to this song 400 times on auto replay on my phone before it jumped out of my hands into the lake? Let that little ditty start of a great summer weekend for you!

On tap for me this weekend? A whole bunch of nothing. Leaving for our big sailing race is all-consuming so everything else in life is pushed aside leading up to that. Now that I'm home, I've got some serious gardening to do and I'm going out on the paddleboard for the first time this year if it kills me (and given the water temperature of Lake Michigan it just might). What's on your docket?

ABBONDONZA OF ANNUALS: A PEEK AT A FAVORITE GARDEN

God bless the cloud. When my phone took one bounce of the deck of the boat last week before plunging into the depths of Lake Michigan I had no idea what had all backed up to the cloud before it offed itself. Thankfully, upon returning home I found all of the photos I had taken on Mackinac Island safely delivered to my computer, so although I'll be having serious communication issues for a bit, at least my photos are safe.

I write about the gardens on Mackinac Island pretty much every year and although I didn't get to many of them, I did spent a fair amount of time wandering around one of my favorites at the Hotel Iroquois.

Mackinac Island garden 2015
The entrance garden, looking toward the street.

The garden is designed and maintained by Jack Barnwell Landscaping, which is located on the island and responsible for pretty much all of the flowers downtown as well as at many of the lavishly landscaped private gardens on the island.



The bulk of the garden is made of annuals, which comes as no surprise as its a Proven Winners Signature garden. There are some perennials that help create a framework of the garden.


Boxwood are accented with begonias in every bright color imaginable.
This shady corner by the entrance is one of my favorite spots in the garden. Ferns, lamium, hostas and a birch mingle nicely together. I'm quite taken with the lamium as a groundcover.
This is a bright garden. I'm not sure if such a colorful palette would work everywhere but it certainly works on Mackinac Island and definitely on this particular property. The natural palette here is the light blue of the Michigan sky, a darker blue of Lake Michigan, green grass and the white building, so the color is dynamic in this setting. The gardens flank the entrance to the Carriage House restaurant and wrap around the back where (at least when I go there), tables are set up on the grass for al fresco dining.

This garden is on the dining room side. There were tons of 'Meteor' verbena bonariensis in the beds, a new plant that I'm also trialing in my window box this year. So far it's my favorite new plant of the year and I absolutely love the look of it in these beds. 

The most beautiful outdoor dining chairs ever. I looked them up when I got home. For a cool $1,000 or so per chair, they too can be yours.
I've been talking a lot about Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangea and there were several planted in the garden. Although they were in need of a little bit of deadheading, I wasn't as taken with them as I anticipated I would be.
Long planter boxes flank the edge of the water next to the ferry dock.



This container planting was a dark but cheery at the same time. 


Only on Mackinac Island are the gardens so magical that a cedar tree can literally grow out of a rock.


On the back side of the property, weigela is a beautiful backdrop for purple and red flowers.


The front of the hotel was mostly planted with dahlias.


Farther down the street, another restaurant had interesting window boxes (that I'm 99% sure were planted by Jack's crew). The were mostly intriguing to me because of the surprising addition of 'Summer Shandy' hops on the ends. I think it's a great idea for a different plant to bring a lime color to a box.



That's it for my annual review of some of the plantings on Mackinac Island. Here are some of my posts about the gardens on the island from past year (and most feature the Hotel Iroquois gardens so you can see how they change from year to year).


The Iroquois Hotel garden is always a stop on the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island every year. Jack Barnwell also takes attendees on tours of some of his most impressive private gardens as well. I've not attended but one of these years I absolutely must.

And I leave you with the very last picture ever taken on my phone, snapped just minutes before it took the big plunge, looking back after passing under the Mackinac Bridge.