Gosh, it's a little crazy being post-Easter already! The next big holiday is Memorial Day! Crazy. Anyway, here's what I'm digging this week.

I like seeing interesting floral arrangements. I sort of aspire to have a clue about flower arranging, which I don't, but I figure practicing will help.

But I was confused why the water in one of my Easter table arrangements was turning blue. The other day I figured it out (see above). By the way, there are no real photos of my arrangements because Easter was mostly a fire drill. Once again, my oven misbehaved. We figured out that it works fine when there's just one thing in it but when you load it up, it runs very low. Grrr.

Well, now I have to go to HomeGoods.

This is a joke, right?

This, definitely is a joke. Well it would be for me anyway.

I bet the No. 1 thing people go to a nursery looking is screening or blocking a view. Here are some ideas.

I'm so envious. I want to go to this nursery for a behind-the-scenes look!

I was so busy last weekend that even though it was beautiful weather, I didn't get into the garden at all! So this weekend I will make up for that. On the agenda is some serious weeding and general clean up, a bit of plant division, a whole bunch of chive hedge work and a horse manure run. Glamorous stuff, I tell you!

Will you be gardening this weekend?


Ah yes, Week 3 of the One Room Challenge. I remember this week from when I did this last year. It is when the panicking properly starts. Because right now it does not feel like I'm even remotely halfway through this basement project.

You can catch up on Week 1 and 2, but most of the work is happening on the computer. I've made a list of the items I need to purchase for this renovation and I've been working hard to check things off. That's ironic since I've mentioned on more than one occasion that this is a low-budget affair. But when you're doing a space for the first time—and that's really what this is as we just sort of stacked stuff down there before—there are a lot of things that you need to collect.

This is a pretty terrible photo, but it illustrates how we basically painted everything the same color, from the ceiling to the walls to the trim.

The biggest change in the space is also the simplest: paint. I'll never know what I was thinking when I decided to paint the walls down there raspberry and baby blue, but I'm far more in my comfort zone going with a cream color. We chose Benjamin Moore Mascarpone, which I've used for the trim and some of the walls in most of the rest of the house, for two reasons: 1. We had a lot of it left over from other projects so I didn't need to buy much, and 2. I just didn't have it in me to go through the whole "Which shade of off white should I pick?" thing. Honestly, it's a little warmer than I might have liked, and interestingly, the less expensive paint we went with for the walls, which we did have to buy, is far more yellow than the trim paint that we already had, even though they are all Benjamin Moore formulations, but it's OK.

I also changed out the door hardware from the bright, cheap gold to a more classic black. I originally decided on black accents in that space for the same reason I chose the paint color—ease—but I'm very happy with the decision. It's not just simple, not to mention black is often a less expensive finish than some others, it also works well with the space.

I chose these simple door knobs with a square rosette for the closet door and the louvered doors to the other half of the basement. (Here's an affiliate link for them.) Sidenote: Painting louvered doors is like visiting the seventh circle of hell and I don't recommend it.

And of course, my favorite bit so far is the industrial lights I made for less than half of what I could have purchased them for. It was a much easier project than I anticipated and I detailed the whole how-to here.

Next week is a big one: Floor time! I'm certain that more than anything a new floor is going to transform this space.

Make sure to check out the featured One Room Challenge participants as well as the hundreds of guest participants making huge changes to one room in their house in this crazy challenge.


It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Facebook or Instagram that I have a dahlia addiction. This has been an ongoing problem and my collection seems to keep growing (although I continue to play with different methods of saving tubers from year to year and have yet to hit on one I am happy with).

I garden in zone 5b, but there's a lot more to it than than. Because we are about 500 feet from Lake Michigan, it is very slow to warm up here. In fact, it was a gorgeous weekend, but each morning at my house was foggy and overcast and it wasn't until later in the day that the sun was shining. On mornings like that, when I drive up the hill near our house, less than a quarter-mile away, every window in the car fogs up and I have to pull over to open up the windows and turn on the defrost until the car acclimates to the 20-degree (or more) temperature change). The air temperature at the top of the hill is about 70 degrees. The air temperature at the house struggles to reach 50 degrees, thanks to the influence of the enormous 40-degree lake we love to look at from the window.

That means that zones that are much cooler than ours are actually much warmer in spring (although we are warmer in fall and winter). It's a funny little microclimate, and a good reason why you really have to know your own garden and not rely on just the USDA hardiness zone map. But the practical application is that I can't plant things as early as many of my neighbors to the west and even north can.
'Cafe au Lait' dahlias are some of my favorites. They change color throughout the year. By autumn they were all lovely, buff and cream.  

And dahlias fall into that category. Dahlia tubers absolutely will not stand cold soil. Cold, wet soil is likely to make them rot in the hole, and spring in my garden adds up to a whole bunch of cold, wet, soil. That leaves me with two options: Wait until the soil is sufficiently warm to plant tubers in the garden, or get a head start on growing dahlias by potting them up for a bit.

There are pros and cons to each method.

The benefits of just waiting until the soil is warm enough to plant tubers directly into the ground probably start with it being easy. You plant them once and forget about it. But there are a lot of cons: You get a later start on the season so blooms will come later; it can be difficult to store tubers properly that long (especially if some that you buy have already sprouted); and it's easy to forget where you planted them in the garden and you may accidentally dig them up or plant something else too close.

Planting in pots has obvious benefits that counteract most of those cons. You can get tubers out of storage sooner, get plants going so they have a healthy root system and good amount of top growth by the time they can be planted out, and you'll never forget where you planted one because you can see it. But that all comes at a price. You will need a lot of gallon-sized nursery pots (I save all my nursery pots for planting up dahlias and seedlings but did have to buy some to supplement my collection a few years ago), a lot of potting mix (I probably went through 3 cubic feet potting up my dahlias), and there's a lot more time in the planting and ongoing tending of the dahlias.

'Art Deco' gallery dahlia.

When you're as in love with dahlias as I am, the choice is pretty clear, but just planting them straight in the ground may work better for people with warmer springs.

You can see some of the dahlias I'm growing this year here.

Dahlia tubers all potted up. And no, I didn't count them. Some things are better left unknown.

Planting them in pots couldn't really be simpler. I just put a few inches of potting mix—I never use potting mixes with fertilizer added. It's like baking with unsalted butter to me; I like to control my ingredients—in the bottom of a gallon-size container, put in the tuber either on its side or pointed upward (you want the "neck" of the tuber where the eyes are pointed up) and then cover it up with more potting mix so the top of the tuber is buried at least a couple inches. I don't worry about filling the container all the way to the top with potting mix. Some tubers are smaller and don't need as much.

Then—and this is a step I learned from NOT doing it—label every pot. I know you think you'll remember that a grouping of pots all has the same kind of dahlia so you'll just label one and keep those together. That will not happen and you'll need to plant these well before you see any blooms. I finally broke down and bought a case of cheap plant labels so I will stop scrimping and forgetting what plant is what. Affiliate links at the bottom of the post will point you to those and some of the other products I like for potting dahlias.

Assuming that your potting mix is nicely moist, as it is when you open a fresh bag, there's no need to water tubers in pots right away. In fact all they need to get growing is warmth, so I just put them in bins or laundry baskets and bring them in the house. When shoots start appearing I'll water them and gradually move them outside to the temporary greenhouse. If you're potting up tubers that already have shoots, don't worry about them too much because they'll probably be heading off in odd directions. Just plant the tuber as above and cover the shoot, unless it's heading in the right direction and ends up above the level of the soil. In that case, I water the container and put it in a bright spot, usually in the greenhouse.

Then it's just a matter of giving your dahlias water and light as they grow until it's time to plant them out, which is usually the first or second week of June in my area, but depends entirely on the weather. Happy dahlia growing! Any questions, leave them in the comments.


Welcome to Week 2 of the One Room Challenge. I'm "playing along" as a guest participant in the blogging event that has people making over a room in six weeks and linking up via Calling it Home.

In Week 1 (which I just published a couple days ago) I laid out the room, the issues, the challenges and a very rough design concept. But any renovation of that room would fail if I didn't deal with the main issue in the room: the floor.

A variety of the colors available from Globus Cork that we considered for the project. Top row: Alabaster, Ocean Fog, Pisello; Second row: Slate Gray, Bleached, Sage; Third row: Cement Gray, Ocean Blue, Natural; Bottom row: Graphite, Whitewashed, Sable.

The existing floor—pink and blue sheet sheet vinyl—could be described as hideous at best. This was not something that I could just design around. And honestly it wasn't really the best kind of flooring for this space. In fact, flooring in this space has a long list of qualities it needs to have:

  • Durable. This is a hard working space because we are constantly walking back and forth through that space to get to the utility side of the basement.
  • Able to deal with water issues. We have two sump pumps in the basement—one on each side—that manage the rare water issues we have down there. That side of the basement has never had a real water problem other than the one time the sump pump failed, but it's a basement, so water can happen. 
  • Add warmth. The basement isn't well insulated and although there is heat down there, the space is naturally cooler than the rest of the house.
  • Dampen sound. Even with low ceilings, the acoustics are not the best. Couple that with the likelihood that the washer or dryer could be running in the next room, or the furnace may kick on and it's not exactly super quiet. Anything that can help dampen the sound would be good.
Vinyl (doesn't solve any other than the water issue), wood (warm but nothing else), carpeting (no way, never near a potential water issue) and tile (durable, but misses the mark on the rest of the requirements) were out. In fact there was only one kind of flooring I could come up with that actually fulfilled all the requirements: cork.

I love cork floors. Our family cottage used to have them when we were growing up and they survived soaking wet kids full of sand from the beach, wet towels left for days, several months with no heat and more. Back then cork floors were the color of cork, not unlike a bulletin board. Which is not bad, but doesn't work in every space.

But now, cork can be found in just about every color under the rainbow. I reached out to Globus Cork to work with on this project in part because they offer hundreds of color and texture combinations. The fact that their cork tiles are easy to install, meaning we could do it ourselves, was a bonus. 

Globus Cork is providing flooring for this project so that I can tell you about the process of choosing it, installing it and living with it. Of course all opinions are my own.

Globus Cork offers more than 40 colors of cork in three textures, all of which can be cut in custom patterns. You know how they say that sometimes having more options is worse than fewer? Honestly there is so much to choose from that it can be a little overwhelming, although a project gallery on the website helps spark the imagination.

The neutral options we considered (clockwise): Cement Gray, Alabaster, Bleached, Whitewashed and Natural in the middle. 

I knew I didn't want a basic solid-color floor for the basement. I felt like it would be a missed opportunity to not do something a little out of the ordinary for a space like this, so I ordered several color options to get a feel for just how bold we wanted to go. And although we played around with some of the blues and greens, I'll admit, I'm just not a good enough designer to know how to make something like that work for the long term. I think plenty of people could make a floor to die for that is very bold and exciting and even timeless, but I don't trust changing tastes enough for that.

So we quickly narrowed down the options to a more neutral palette, and one that was light in color because we need to do everything we can to make that space feel brighter and larger. Although I liked Cement Gray, it seemed like the oddball out among the neutral options we pulled, so we nixed that. And I loved Natural, but there was a warmth to it that didn't work well with the stone in the fireplace, so I pulled that out of the running as well. Then it was a decision of whether we wanted two or three colors.

I think we could have made any pattern look really nice with a combination of Alabaster, Whitewashed and Bleached, but my concern was that the floor might get too busy. So we narrowed it down to two: Alabaster, a cream color, and Bleached, which is basically bleached natural cork (the two end tiles shown above).

Here's the diagram we made showing what we plan to do with the random stripe design. Nothing like making things complicated.

As for the pattern, I thought a stripe going across the room might help the space appear a little wider than it was and, for no reason other than to do something a little different, I opted for a random stripe. The design will be about two-thirds Bleached and one-third Alabaster, with stripes of random width and placement. 

On paper is one thing, but we'll see how it looks in the space. It's liberating to be doing something a little out of the ordinary and I think it will help turn a very basic space into something a little special. 

There are so many amazing renovations happening as part of the One Room Challenge. Check out the featured participants and the guest participants (more than 200!).