The Garden Appreciation Society Week 7 -- Link up!

I know gardeners (and particularly Midwestern gardeners) will find any excuse to complain about the weather so I'm trying not to be fussy, but a lot of people are experiencing a rather dramatic spring and early summer. The lines of thunderstorms south of us seem to come day after day and I'm sure there are a lot of gardens suffering because of it. The majority of storms have missed us (they seem to fall apart when they get near us and I think it's because of the big refrigerator known as Lake Michigan) but we have gotten a good amount of rain, so even though it's been abnormally cool here, at least the garden is well hydrated, which I guess is better than last year's drought (although that didn't really start until July so who knows what will happen in a month).

The Garden Appreciation Society -- Thalictrum, iris, viburnum, chives

The bouquet I made this week for The Garden Appreciation Society proves that I have a lot of blues and pinks in my garden. It's airier than I've done in past weeks and I fear it suffers a little bit from a scale problem (as in, it's too tall for the vase), but there are some interesting flowers in there.

The peony buds are just starting to swell, so I cut the two fattest and I presume they'll flower in the vase but time will tell. I also cut a lot of flowers from the chives. I'm not sure what variety of chives this is. I have two kinds growing in the garden and this one is much larger and more pungent than the other variety, which is the one I prefer to use for cooking. But this one has much bigger flowers. I left them all clumped together because I thought they'd get lost if I spread them out throughout the bouquet.

The Garden Appreciation Society -- iris

The Garden Appreciation Society -- Thalictrum 'Black Stockings'

Even though the Japanese iris doesn't bloom all that well for me, I grabbed three flowers from a far corner of the garden and I think this bouquet really needed that punch of color. I also added two stems from a new favorite plant Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' (a meadow rue). The black stems are so great on this plant and I love that they are nice and sturdy and require no staking. I also threw in a clipping from one of the viburnums, but I have to say, I don't think it really adds much to the mix. But once I cut it, it was staying.

So that's this week's bouquet. Last week's lasted so well. I had no idea that clematis would do so great as a cut flower. And even though the alliums were well spent by the end of the week and had dropped their flowers, they are still pretty with just their seed heads exposed.

Last week was another great one for The Garden Appreciation Society. There were some great bouquets, from structured to wild and everything in between. I just love seeing what everyone chooses from their garden to showcase.

So, link up now and show us what you got!

And don't miss out on past weeks.

Don't mind the ladybugs in the fridge

We're having a houseguest over the weekend. We pretty much never have houseguests. In fact, this might be the fourth time in 11 years that someone has slept at our house. And this time it's someone we don't know, staying at our house for an event related to Mr. Much More Patient's job.

You know how you clean your house more when someone is coming over? And even more when it's not a very close friend or family member who will understand when the place looks like it has been recently ransacked by a gang of thugs? Well, suffice to say, I'm trying to get some things cleaned up.

Which is why I will either have to release the rest of my aphid-eating machines currently residing in my refrigerator or perhaps cover the very large orange sticker that says "Live Ladybugs" before our guest arrives. Can you imagine staying at someone's house who you don't know and opening up the fridge and finding a box of ladybugs? What a great first impression.

The ladybugs are fascinating to me. I got them because I found aphids on my climbing rose ('Cancan') on the front of the house again. Last year the aphids became a real problem and I don't want them getting out of control again. I use an insecticidal soap on them, but that is pretty gross and seems like it requires a lot applications. Spraying them off with a hose never seems to work because they really get in the crevices of the new growth. Ladybugs love aphids, so I thought why not let someone else do the work.

This box has been in the fridge for a couple weeks.

I ordered 1,500 ladybugs from Hirt's through Amazon and they showed up a few days later in the mail (they aren't available through Amazon Prime unfortunately). When I saw how many were in the mesh bag and read that you can keep them in the fridge for up to five months, I thought I would release them slowly over time.

These little guys are amazing. They all seem dead when you pull them out of the fridge, but within a couple minutes they warm up and start wiggling. In five minutes they are clamoring to get out of the bag and it's actually hard to stop them from coming.

They come in this little mesh bag.

I have found them to be quite effective as a temporary measure. I release a bunch who seem to hang around for a day or so (I've been releasing them in the evening according to the directions) and 90% of the aphids appear to be gone. But days later the aphids are back and the ladybugs are not. 

The directions said that you can "encourage" them to stick around longer by spraying them with a 50-50 mix of soda and water which sticks their wings down and keeps them from flying away. This sounds little mean, but then again I hired these guys to do a job and if they won't stick around and do it willingly, well I might just have to stick their wings down. Don't worry, it's only temporary and it doesn't hurt them (well that's what the directions say; I doubt anyone asked them).

Look at those little guys do their job. And do you see all those disgusting aphids? Eat, ladybugs, eat!

I've ordered another 4,500 more ladybugs. I suspect I'm going to have to employ multiple methods to deal with this growing aphid issue (I've since found them on one of my Oso Easy roses and my climbing William Baffin in the circle garden), but I think the ladybugs definitely rank up there as the easiest and most fun method.

The Garden Appreciation Society Week 6 -- Link up!

After several weeks of really struggling to come up with something to bring inside to appreciate the garden for The Garden Appreciation Society, it was so nice this week to have a few things to choose from. Things are very slowly starting to come into bloom here. The garlic chives are flowering, and I love those little pinky-purple flowers. The Lady's Mantle, which I consider a must-have for every garden, is also just starting to bloom.

But this week I was able to include one of my absolute favorite flowers into my bouquet. Clematis 'Guernsey Cream' is my favorite of the clematis I grow and if I had room for more of them I would certainly plant more. The flowers are the softest creamiest white, with just a hint of a light yellow-green stripe in the middle. Choosing a favorite clematis is difficult for me (sort of like picking a favorite child but I don't think the clematis will feel back if they hear that I like Guernsey Cream best) because they are all lovely when they are blooming, but something about that Guersney Cream has stolen my heart. I wish I hadn't planted it in the bed over by the garage so I could enjoy it more often, but I'm thinking about redoing that bed (surprise, surprise) and I'll move them then.

I also put in some Lady's Mantle, Nepeta and the alliums from last week's bouquet, which were still looking great (and I was too tight not to reuse them).

It is nice to see some "real" flowers again.

The Impatient Gardener -- Garden Appreciation Society Week 6 Guernsey Cream clematis, allium, lady's mantle, nepeta

The Impatient Gardener -- Garden Appreciation Society Week 6 Guernsey Cream clematis, allium, lady's mantle, nepeta

The Impatient Gardener -- Garden Appreciation Society Week 6 Guernsey Cream clematis, allium, lady's mantle, nepeta

Seems like everyone's gardens are starting to really come to life, at least judging by last week's great Garden Appreciation Society links.

If you haven't already, check out the links from past weeks. I'm absolutely loving all the beautiful bouquets.

Lessons from a weekend of gardening

Whew ... what a weekend. We had our first nice day of the year yesterday and it finally felt like summer. The screens are on the windows, the breeze was blowing through the house and the deck was the perfect temperature for a cocktail after a long day. Welcome back, summer. We're happy to have you!

I had an appointment in the afternoon on Friday so I took the morning off of work as well and zoomed around the garden. I got some edging finished, spread some more compost, did some more weeding, planted a few containers at the family cottage and generally just enjoyed a great morning in the garden. I wish I could have more of those. Coffee while gardening is almost as good as beer while gardening.

I had a few other things to attend to Saturday and it was raining anyway, so I didn't get in the garden until about 4 p.m. Fortunately Mr. Much More Patient begrudgingly helped move compost so with him hauling and me spreading, it took only about 45 minutes to do what would have taken me two hours alone. There are only about two more wheelbarrows full left from the pile of six yards of compost I had delivered more than a month ago. It was a ton of work to move all that, but I think the occasional topdressing of the beds in compost does so much good.

Sunday I volunteered at a garden tour at a private garden on a 120-acre property as a "plant expert"(please note the use of the quotation marks; it was not a label I would have given myself). It was an absolutely beautiful day with a nice breeze and 75- to 80-degree temperatures. There were so many nice people (and a few not-so-nice) people who came to tour the garden. I found it so interesting to have the complete plant list for the gardens, which must have well over 500 different plants on it.

The terrace garden. The shiny, strappy leaves in the front are autumn crocus. I had to look them up and it doesn't seem like it's a very common plant. Does anyone grow them? I find them kind of fascinating even if they were looking a little worse for the wear during the tour.

The head gardener for the property was on hand to answer questions and I think he was cringing a little bit to see so many people in the garden, but he had to have been happy with the lovely comments people offered. I can't even imagine how many hours the staff must have put in preparing for this event. I know I would be absolutely frantic if any group toured my garden, much less more than 1,000 people. This garden was open to the public just one other time two years ago, during the Garden Conservancy Tour, and I toured it then. That time the tour was in August, so it was so interesting to see how different the garden looked at a different time of year.

Since it was a private residence, they requested that people not take photos. The photos you see here are courtesy of the garden caretakers via the event website and Facebook page.

The circle garden as seen from above.
The more manicured garden areas surround the main house and the stunning circle garden (an old horse corral) is set up in an almost labyrinth-type pattern, with pea gravel paths and a fish pool in the middle. The plant list for the circle garden was six pages in about 9-point type. Other than a few very unusual plants, nothing is marked with a tag. Remember, this is personal garden, not a botanical or public garden, so if they owners and gardeners don't want plant tags cluttering up the garden, that's their call.

But here's the interesting thing. The gardeners can't necessarily tell you off the top of their heads what a plant is either. They know their behavior but without looking at the plant list they might not be able to tell you what it is and they quite likely may not be able to tell you the cultivar. I find this refreshing, to be honest. It's sort of seat-of-your pants gardening. I like that. Plus it would be next to impossible for anyone to know all of those plants off the top of their head.

These are the lessons this garden offers:

Demonstrating both No. 1 and 2 below, this photo features part of an area called the rock garden. The threadleaf Coreopsis in the front is 'Zahgreb' and it's interesting foliage might be enough to invite the dreaded tickseed into my garden again (after a very long hiatus). In the background off to the left is an area of nothing but groundcovers. 
1. Plant in masses. Under one small standardized hydrangea they had planted large clumps of 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris. There were probably 15 clumps at least and almost everyone remarked at how beautiful they were. I don't think the effect would have been nearly as dramatic if there had only been five clumps.

2. Groundcovers can be beautiful all on their own. In the aptly named rock garden ground-hugging groundcovers (blue star creeper, creeping thyme, Cerastium tormentosum (Snow in Summer), many kinds of sedum, among others) were planted in puddles. There was no star, just a patchwork quilt of groundcovers. The effect was serene and interesting.

3. You don't have to have the latest and greatest cultivar to have an interesting planting. Because these are long established gardens, you won't necessarily find the lastest improved-upon perennial. I'm sure that the gardeners have experimented plenty to find plants that work best for them, but I think the lesson here is that you don't have to necessarily spend $12 on a newly introduced plant when another "older" cultivar of the same plant might work just as well.

The willow supports on this recta purpurea clematis are made from cuttings on the properties by the gardeners. I think it's a really interesting way to grow a clematis.

4. Stake in new ways. One of the most charming things in the garden (and one that so many people commented on) was the willow peony rings and "cages" the gardeners made. Instead of being something that is meant to be hidden, the willow peony rings (just braided willow in a ring with some support sticks that I believe were wire-tied together) were as beautiful and interesting as the plants themselves. They also made tuteurs or obelisks out of willow to support climbers in containers as well as a HUGE recta purpurea clematis. I thought this was a great way to grow a small-flowering clematis, giving it more of a shrub appearance than a vine.

5. Don't feel like you have to incorporate the standards if you don't want to. There were very few hostas or roses on the property, yet these are some of the most commonly grown perennials. Don't be pressured to grow something you don't want to just because it seems like a garden may be "incomplete" without it. 

The Garden Appreciation Society Week 5

Sorry for the delay on getting The Garden Appreciation Society Week 5 up. You know work, and then I, well, forgot and then yada, yada, yada. (I don't think anyone else is still yada, yada, yadaing but it's really such a useful device, don't you think?)

It continues to be a challenging time to find something for me to make a bouquet out of, but the fact that I did again I think proves what this is all about: there is ALWAYS something to appreciate. Still, I love for the week when I can just cut a handful of zinnias.

This week I went with stuff that I never would have thought about putting in a bouquet, including Ligularia (possibly 'Desdemona') and Hakonachloa 'All Gold'. The two alliums are obvious additions but are a great examples of flowers I never would have cut before. I don't have many and it's difficult for me to cut them to bring them in. I have used the bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart') before, including the foliage last week and have found that it holds up really well. Now that it's in bloom I had to put some in the bouquet.

Can you tell I have a thing for chartreuse foliage? Looking around the garden I've been noticing I have a good amount of it spread throughout the garden. I think one can go overboard with that, but I don't think I'm there yet.

The Impatient Gardener Garden Appreciation Week 5 (Ligularia, Hakonechloa, bleeding heart, allium)

The Impatient Gardener Garden Appreciation Week 5 (Ligularia, Hakonechloa, bleeding heart, allium)

The Impatient Gardener Garden Appreciation Week 5 (Ligularia, Hakonechloa, bleeding heart, allium)

The Impatient Gardener Garden Appreciation Week 5 (Ligularia, Hakonechloa, bleeding heart, allium)

Now that you've seen it looking good, I have to unfortunately report a couple items. The Ligularia leaves completely pooped out and the cat (named, you may recall, Desdemona) passed those up but LOVED the the grass so most of that was pulled out and stuck back in again.

You all came up with such beautiful bouquets for Week 4. I have to say I'm more than a little envious of some of your flowers (particularly the gardenias), but I am so enjoying see everyone's ways to appreciate their gardens in a new way.

Please link up this week. I'll leave the link open a little longer because of the late start.

And check out the great links from past weeks as well:

Please enjoy some plant touching during this delay

Hi everyone.

I'm late with this week's Garden Appreciation Society post because I got home late last night and didn't have time to make a bouquet. Look for that tomorrow and do not miss the links from last week which were fantastic! You all are amazing.

To tide you over, I bring you another installment of the possibly creepy plant touching. It seems that my habit is catchy. This is my sister-in-law fondling the amazing French lilacs she grew (and my mom is reaching in for a little grab too). I don't know the exact cultivar, but whatever it is, I need it. I have never seen flowers on lilacs so big in my life. Definitely fondle-worthy.

The kitchen is finished! A look at the new digs

I am exceedingly happy to tell you that the kitchen is finished. OK, not finished, but finished ... for now. I need to touch up some paint (we came pretty close to slapping it on Memorial Day when we had family coming over for cocktails ... we finished in time but had to warm them not to touch the walls) and we have to put a trim piece under the window, but that's it.

It's hard to describe the look I was going for in the kitchen. I wanted it to fit with our 1938 cottage and not seem out of place, but I also wanted it to feel updated and maybe even a little modern. I definitely wanted it to feel clean (I like bathrooms and kitchens to feel clean almost to the point of spartan, but not quite).

I suppose you could call it transitional, but I sort of hate that label. I wanted a little bit of industrial edge (found mostly in the lighting), a little bit of classic (the cabinets), a little bit of historic (the cabinet glass and cabinet knobs) and a little bit modern (the counters and appliances) all with a handful of "warm" (the range hood and walnut island).

Of course it all took way longer than we had planned and there were some bits and pieces toward the end that just took awhile to finish up.

First ... a pretty picture to show you what it looks like now.

OK, that was your peek. But first let's take a look back to what it looked like before. I wish I had pictures from the REAL before, when we first bought the house, but I can't find any. But here's a little walk back in time.

Found one with the original vinyl floor. I washed that floor three times a day and it was never clean. Don't miss the stark white walls either. And in the lower right corner you can see how the old table really stuck out into the space.

This was after we put in the tile floor and replaced the appliances but before I painted the ceiling.

The ugliest light fixture ever.
A couple years ago after the light fixture was changed and the ceiling painted.

A very strange angle of what the eating area looked like before we put in the banquette.


Walnut trim around the mantel hood. The panel above it opens up for additional storage as well.

What's new/changed
  1. New cabinets. We originally were going to reface the lowers and replace the uppers (so they would extend to the ceiling) but it turned out to cost just slightly more to do all new cabinets. The old cabinets were recycled to a friend so they didn't go to waste. We went with custom cabinets built by a fantastic local cabinet maker who also did the built-ins in our bedroom and the banquette bench. I can't tell you how lucky we are to have found a craftsman to work with on these projects who works so hard for us.
  2. New countertops. We went with quartz countertops. We wanted the low maintenance of quartz (no sealing, no etching, no staining, no worries) which we've loved in our upstairs bathroom. We ended up with Caesarstone only because that's the company that made the color we liked. I think most of the bigger brands of quartz (Caesarstone, Cambria, Hanstone, Silestone, etc. are created equally).
  3. A new sink. This was a big deal for Mr. Much More Patient, who is also the main dishwasher in the house. It's a huge stainless steel single bowl sink. Since we have no bathtub in the house I joke that if we ever had a kid, he or she could take a bath in the kitchen sink until about age 10. 
  4. New faucet and a new filtered water faucet.
  5. Overhead vent hood. We got a 36-inch insert and then the cabinet maker built the surround. We currently have a downdraft vent, but we didn't want to be tied to a specific range when it came time to replace the current range and very few companies make downdraft ranges. We are so happy we did this. It is so great to have a proper vent that works really, really well.
  6. Tile backsplash. This is the piece de resistance, at least for me. It's where this kitchen concept started and I think it's what ties it all together. It is 1-inch mother of pearl mosaic tile with bright white grout. I originally saw it in Coastal Living magazine and contacted the tile store listed in the article's sources and actually purchased it through them, even though the store was in Key West, Florida.
  7. We removed the small vertical wall by the fridge that originally enclosed the washer and dryer. We moved the laundry facilities to the basement several years ago and used that area as a pantry, but the wall really stuck out into the space.
  8. We added a garbage disposal. We compost everything we can but I really appreciate not having to clean out the basket strainer. We installed an air switch in the counter to control it which is totally slick.
  9. A new light over the island. The old one was a little too country for the new kitchen. I also spray painted the light over the sink black. I felt like the black from the other side of the room needed to migrate a little and the white light was getting lost in between the taller cabinets.
  10. I repainted the ceiling using semi-gloss paint, which was totally worth the pain in the neck. The walls also got repainted in Edgecomb Gray. I loved the Revere Pewter and still love the color in our bedroom but I felt like it was too dark with the tile.

What stayed the same

We didn't change the floor (tiled about six or seven years ago) or replace any appliances, all of which we've replaced since we bought the house 11 years ago. The range is probably 10 years old and the fridge and dishwasher are probably about 7 years old or so. They all work fine (and I hope they continue to for many years to come).

Nothing in the eating area of the kitchen changed, recently anyway.

Info and sources
  • Cabinets: Custom, painted Benjamin Moore Cloud White
  • Countertops: Caesarstone Eggshell (aka Osprey)
  • Hardware: Emtek Georgetown 1.25-inch glass knob and Restoration Hardware Aubrey pulls in polished nickel
  • Vent hood: Kobe 36-inch insert (comes with a remote, too)
  • Backsplash tile: Mother of pearl 1-inch mosiac tile purchased from Key West Tile. Similar (or possibly the same) tile here.
  • Cabinet glass: Bendheim Glass: Soft-seeded mouth blown glass (a splurge but so worth it)
  • Thomas O'Brien Large Hicks pendant in polished nickel
  • Ceiling paint: Benjamin Moore Cloud White (semi-gloss)
  • Wall color: Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
  • Sink: 32-inch single-bowl Kraus sink (purchased during a killer Black Friday sale through a site called Express Decor. I think it was less than $250, which is a pretty great price for a 16-gauge stainless steel sink).
  • Faucet: Hansgrohe Talis S purchased through Amazon. DO NOT buy from Home Perfect even though they appear to have the best price. That turned out to be a huge nightmare and I had to dispute the charges with my credit card company and ended up buying the faucet from Amazon for about $15 more.

The Garden Appreciation Society: Week 4 (Link up!)

This week was even more difficult to come up with a bouquet for than last week and while there is a lot of great foliage I could have tried to make something out of, I thought that might be cheating a little since last weekend was really all about foliage.

By the way, last weekend's bouquet is still going strong, despite the fact that the cat insists on throwing at least one hosta leaf out of the vase every day.

What you see in this week's bouquet for The Garden Appreciation Society represents all that is blooming in the garden, just one small geranium and one clematis. I planted the clematis last year and I just adore this one but would you believe that I cannot find a tag anywhere. In the back of my head I think it might be 'Bluebird' or something like that. And I threw in a little bit of foliage from my favorite bleeding heart, Dicentra 'Gold Heart.'

The Impatient Gardener: Clematis, geranium, bleeding heart bouquet

The Impatient Gardener: Clematis, geranium, bleeding heart bouquet

I'm pretty excited to already be at Week 4 of The Garden Appreciation Society. Some weeks have had better participation than others, but I know everyone's gardens are just starting to get in the swing of things and I hope we'll start seeing more participation now that more things are in bloom (at least everywhere than my at my house). Anyway, if you have participated in past weeks, thank you and please keep doing it! And if you haven't, give it a try. I'm actually finding these weeks that are more challenging to be even more fun, so give it a try.

Remember, The Garden Appreciation Society is all about appreciating your garden in a new way, but making a small bouquet and bringing it inside to celebrate the garden in different way. It's not about floral arrangements or photography, just about appreciating your hard work as a gardener inside your home.

And check out the great links from past weeks as well:

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Now it's time to link up a photo of how you are appreciating your garden this week. Remember, it doesn't have to be on a blog. It can be a link to a Facebook photo, photo site or even your photo on Pinterest.