planter successes, and failures.

Good morning from the garden!

This morning I thought I would share my successes, and my failures, in this year’s planters.

In my garden I pretty much plant annuals in pots, and perennials in the ground.  There are a few exceptions to this rule here and there, but for the most part this is how I roll.  I’m working on changing that up a bit and maybe I’ll do more of that in the future, we’ll see.  But really, here in my zone 4b garden, asking perennials to survive the winter in a pot can be dicey.  The rule of thumb is that a plant must be hardy to 2 zones lower than your actual zone to survive the winter in a pot.  So as much as I loved all of those window boxes in Charleston with heuchera growing in them …

as a zone 4 – 9 plant, heuchera won’t survive the winter in a planter here.

And for those of you non-gardeners out there, I don’t mean that zone 2 plants will stay green and growing in a pot throughout the winter here.  They will still die back to the ‘ground’, but they have a better chance of coming back in the spring.

As for annuals in the ground, of course they will grow just as well in the ground here as in a pot.  Annuals only live for one growing season either way.  I just don’t have a lot of space in my garden beds to add in annuals, although this year I did make a couple of exceptions.

But back to the planters, let’s start out with the failures beginning with the planters on either side of the steps to our deck with the Eugenia topiary balls in the center.

It’s time for me to wake up and smell the coffee on this one.  We just don’t have enough sun in this spot for full sun annuals.  I had decided to give them one more try, this time making sure to feed them with a bloom boosting water soluble fertilizer (I used Miracle Grow Bloom Booster) on a regular basis.  However, I still got very few blooms on both the Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa and the Superbena Violet Ice (both from Proven Winners).  They were lush and green and grew like weeds, but got very few flowers.  I did shear them both back a couple of weeks ago, but they still haven’t flushed back with flowers.

The Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo on the other hand gave me lots of blooms in these pots, but didn’t actually fill in at all.  I wasn’t expecting that.  Now granted, this petunia is meant to stay on the smaller side (hence the ‘mini’ part of its name).

I also planted the Mini Vista Indigo in my chicken feeder planter (on left in photo below), and it was the perfect plant for that planter because of its compact size.

There is only room for about 3″ of soil in that thing, so it’s impressive that these did as well as they did.

Now that I understand how the Mini Vista grows, I will plant it more strategically next year in spots where it won’t get crowded out by more vigorous growers.

Another failure for me this year was the lobelia that I planted at the end of May.  I purchased four of the Laguna Sky Blue lobelia (also Proven Winners) because it’s just so pretty.  I had given up on planting lobelia in the past because it has always died on me around mid-summer.  But theoretically this newer variety of lobelia is supposed to be “much more heat tolerant than past plants” (taken straight from the Proven Winners website).  But mine was all dead or nearly dead by the end of June.  Definitely no more lobelia for me.

As it died off I replaced it with other things, one of which I ended up really loving, and that was the gomphrena (the bright pink balls).

I’ve never grown this one before because I always thought it was kind of small and boring.  But now I’m realizing that it looks great mixed with other things.

I also think it could look kind of fab mixed in a garden bed around perennials to provide summer long color.

Another plant that replaced some of the lobelia was the Supertunia Vista Jazzberry.

It’s a gorgeous, bright, cool pink.  You’ll notice that it doesn’t have the name ‘mini’ in it, this plant grew much faster and larger than the mini vista.

I also used the Jazzberry to replace some failures in our mailbox planter.  We share a mailbox post with our neighbor, nnK, and she added planters to either side of the mailboxes a while back.  I replaced the one on my side with … what else? … a rusty old toolbox, although you can barely see it right now.

We started out the season with the lemon coral sedum (left), a bright pink new guinea impatien, a small dahlia, and the purple scaevola on the end.  As you can see, the impatien and the dahlia didn’t make it.  Well, actually, I pulled out the dahlia to put in the Jazzberry.  The impatien is still in there but it has been totally overtaken by the Jazzberry.

Aside from the mailbox, in general all of my pots with flowering annuals in them look kind of scraggly at this point.  I probably should have been shearing them all back on a more regular basis.

I’m not going to feel at all bad about pulling all of these out and replacing them with some fall flowers in September.

But this brings me to the real successes of 2022, the non-flowering annuals that I grow for their colorful foliage like coleus, caladium, oxalis, and sweet potato vine.

I shared my guest bed planter with you guys recently, and that was only planted up back at the end of July so maybe it’s not a great example of how these plants look great all season.

And in fact, I did have a bit of a fail with the caladium at first.  It doesn’t like the cold, and we had some cold nights in late spring.  They weren’t below freezing, but they were in the 40’s and the caladium I had already put out in pots died back to the ground.  It came back eventually, but it took a 4 to 6 weeks before it looked good.

But it looks fantastic now …

That’s one of my favorite combinations; it’s Molten Lava oxalis with a red caladium (sorry, didn’t retain a name on that one).

I also had planted this pretty pink and white caladium surrounded by pale pink impatiens.

Although that caladium initially died back, it came back strong and now this is one of my favorite combos.

I have one more caladium planter that I planted later in the season after the pansies that were in this urn started looking really pathetic.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson about waiting until warmer weather to plant caladium.  By the way, for those of you who suffer from deer problems, caladium is deer resistant.

Coleus can also be susceptible to cold weather, but not quite as bad as the caladium, and it’s also deer resistant.  I filled my front window box with several varieties of coleus this year including Colorblaze Velveteen, Colorblaze Strawberry Drop and Wasabi.

The Wasabi totally tried to take over.  I’ve pinched it back hard several times this summer.

I’ve combined the coleus with some black sweet potato vine, some more of that lemon coral sedum, some Shadow Dancers ‘Marcia’ fuchsia, and some Charmed Wine oxalis.

That oxalis is really fighting for some space (the dark one on the right end).

You know, when you can get constant, consistent color like this out of a plant that requires almost no work (except for pinching it back a few times), it’s hard to argue with it.

I also had superb results with sweet potato vines this year.

When the Japanese beetles became abundant in our area about a decade ago, they were devouring these.  I had quit planting them for a few years.  But I’ve gradually added them back and now the beetles seem to leave them alone.  I’m not sure if that’s the result of improvements made in the plant varieties, or because I seem to have fewer of the beetles lately (although they did a number on my ferns again this year).

One other planter success worth mentioning is my herb garden.

It was definitely as success as far as growing the herbs, but a little bit of a fail in that I rarely remember to actually cook with them!

I’m planning to take a stab at attempting to save some of my annuals over the winter this year including the caladium, the oxalis and the Eugenia topiary balls … and maybe even some of those herb plants.  Now that I’m retired, I should be able to find the time to care for them.  I’ll try to remember to share some ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ posts about that process.

So, how about you?  Did you have any failures or success stories from your planters this year?  Or do you have any tips on overwintering some of these annuals?  If so, be sure to share them in a comment!

the chateau dresser.

I have another do-over for you guys today.

Remember the fine print dresser?

I painted this one back in March, and it did not sell.  Now granted, as I’ve gone on and on about, sales have slowed way down for me overall.  As a quick update on that, the pair of modern end tables I painted in July did sell within a few weeks.  In addition, I took the bench with the Gregory’s Catalogue paint inlay on it into the shop where I sell on consignment and it sold pretty quickly there.  So things are starting to move a bit.

But back to this one.  I have to admit, I didn’t absolutely love the color combination of the Drop Cloth background with the Sawmill Gravy stencil.  So I decided to re-work just the front of this piece.

Plus, I really wanted to use the Chateau paint inlay from I.O.D.

I learned a really great tip by watching a YouTube video from Lynne at ellen j goods, and that is, you can cut up those pieces on the packaging that show the layout of the design and then move them around like puzzle pieces to create different looks.

So I cut up my packaging and started playing around.  First, here is how the design is shown on the packaging.

You could also turn the one design into two separate designs.

And both of them could be flip flopped, the deer could face outward and the floral urn could be split up on either side.

Here’s another option for using the entire design.

You can continue to create even more options if you’re comfortable with cutting up the individual sheets a bit.

If you have a tall, more narrow piece rather than a wide piece you could use that look above and just remove the side pieces with the deer on them.

Hats off to whoever designed this paint inlay, I’m impressed by the ability to move it around in so many ways and still have the different elements line up with each other.

Here is what I came up with for my piece.

I debated removing the deer (if you look closely you can see they are cut out), but in the end I decided to leave them in.

The full design was just a bit too tall for my piece, so I removed a section that I didn’t use at all and I moved those swags to either side at the bottom where they will actually be on the legs of the dresser.  Had I left them where they were in the original design they would have fallen off the bottom of the dresser.  Here’s how one looks on a leg.

Once I had my layout figured out, I trimmed the blank edges of the paint inlay (for more on the complete process of using a paint inlay, see my how-to post) and then cut up the sheets to match my final design and laid it out on a table so it was ready to go.

To prepare the dresser I first took the drawer pulls back off (I left the keyhole escutcheons in place) and sanded down the stenciled front of the dresser.

Today’s q-tip:  if you’re painting over a stenciled design you will see the ridges of the stenciled paint if you don’t sand them down.

You may also be wondering about painting over a previously waxed finish.  This dresser was finished with clear wax back in March, so about 5 months ago.  You can paint over cured Dixie Belle wax, and the cure time is about 30 days.  In addition, the fact that I sanded the piece pretty thoroughly to knock down that stencil was enough to prep this piece for another coat of paint.

Next I gave the dresser front a coat of Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.  No need to repaint the sides, of course they still looked good and I wasn’t going to bring the paint inlay around to the sides.   I let my first coat dry, and then applied the paint inlay to a 2nd wet coat of paint.

After pulling the backing paper back off and letting the paint dry, I sealed it with some Rust-oleum matte clear spray sealer.  Then I sanded to distress, cleaned away any dust, and followed up with a quick coat of clear wax.

Next I decided to add more paint to the drawer pulls.  If you’ll remember back to the original treatment of this dresser, the pulls and escutcheons looked like this …

When I put one back on the dresser with its new inlay, I thought they looked way too busy.  So I toned them down by adding two coats of Drop Cloth and then wet distressing them only slightly this time.

Now they blend in quite a bit more.

And as for the keyhole escutcheons, as I mentioned earlier, I left them in place while applying the paint inlay and it worked well to just go right over them.

In hindsight, another option would have been to remove them completely and save them for another piece of furniture.  But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.  I didn’t think of that originally.

I left the top of the dresser as it was, stripped and finished with white wax.

I staged my photos in the garden with the carriage house in the background.  Lately this has become my favorite spot for photo taking.

I included an old Bakelite clock,  some vintage books in a color found in the inlay and a basket full of hydrangeas.

These blossoms are from my Vanilla Strawberry paniculata hydrangea.  As you may have noticed, there is a lot of vanilla and not really any strawberry.  The pink does develop over time, and these blooms have only just started to open.  I’m sure I’ll be doing a Sunday mornings in the garden post about my hydrangea in the next few weeks as the paniculata’s come into their full glory.  So stay tuned for that.

I’m a fan of the muted colors in the paint inlay, they have a bit of a fall feel to me.

There is a fabulous olive green, some terra cotta colors, and a smoky teal blue.

I really enjoy working with these I.O.D. paint inlays.  They certainly give pieces a unique, hand-painted look.  Personally, I feel like once you have an understanding of how they work, they are easier to use, and somewhat more forgiving, than transfers.  However, I wish they weren’t so expensive!  If you can manage to get more than one use out of them (they say you can use them up to three times), the cost per use goes down considerably though.  I’ll be experimenting more with that in the future.

In the meantime, what do you think of this do-over?  Did you prefer the more subtle look of the fine print dresser?  Or maybe you even preferred the original orange oak look of this one.

The chateau dresser is for sale so be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details if interested.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the paint used on this project.

tackling another tackle box.

Well dang, somehow I managed to forget to take a ‘before’ photo of today’s makeover candidate.  Shoot!

You’ll just have to use your imagination to picture this tackle box looking rusty and crusty as per usual.  I followed my standard procedure of cleaning, sanding, and priming with Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S. on the outside, but for the inside I opted for spray paint.  I find that to be the easiest way of dealing with these hinged, pop up tackle box trays.

I used some of the leftover Rust-oleum Leafy Green spray paint from my wicker garden chair.

After the inside dried, I painted the outside in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.  Then I applied some of the I.O.D. Rose Chintz paint inlay to the top.

For more detailed instructions on using the paint inlay, you can check out my step by step how-to post.

Once the paint inlay was dry, I sealed it with a clear matte finish spray to prevent it from smearing when I next applied some wording from the I.O.D. Label Ephemera transfer.

At this point you might be noticing that I got some mixed results with the paint inlay.

Some areas are crystal clear …

while others are rather faint.

I think this is a result of two things.  First, the surface itself is bumpy and uneven, and second, I probably didn’t press the inlay into the paint firmly enough in those bumpy areas.

Normally I use a brayer to press the inlay down into the paint and I didn’t do that this time.  Instead I just used my fingertips and a damp rag.

Personally, I rather like this faded sort of look, but if that isn’t your thing you may want to be sure to use a brayer with the paint inlays.

I opted to paint over the latch and handle on this one, then I just roughed them up a bit with sandpaper to make them appear worn.

I love the idea of using an old tackle box for jewelry, but they also are perfect for containing craft or art supplies.

I have to admit I don’t do much scrapbooking anymore, but staging a photo shoot like this makes me realize how much I miss it.

Maybe I’ll find more time to get back to it now that I’m retired (note: I’m saying that 9 months in and I haven’t seemed to find the time yet).

Normally I would share a ‘before & after’ collage here, but since I neglected to get that ‘before’ shot … well … all I have is the ‘after’.

But it’s a pretty good after I think.  What do you think?

This tackle box is for sale so be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details if interested.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the B.O.S.S. and paint used on this project.

seeing red.

I’d been suffering from a little toolbox withdrawal recently, so I decided to take a break from the bigger stuff and paint a couple of them starting with this one.

I have pretty much developed a technique for dealing with these old, dirty, greasy, crusty, rusty toolboxes after having painted so many.

I start out with scraping away as much gunk as possible and then vacuuming out any loose dirt.  Next I clean the toolbox inside and out with a grease cutting cleaner (I’ve used Dawn dish soap, TSP, Mean Green Cleaner & Degreaser) and the garden hose.  I try to take advantage of hot sunny afternoons for that step.  It’s fun to play in the water in the backyard, and then I can leave the toolbox to dry in the sun.

Next I sand the surface to remove any remaining loose paint and to smooth out areas of rust.  Then I vacuum again and wipe everything down again with a damp cloth.

Today’s q tip:  are you wondering why the sanding step comes after the cleaning step, and then I have to basically clean again?  Well, that’s to avoid embedding the oily dirt in the tiny cracks and crevices by sanding on it.  It’s better to remove that oily dirt first.

After all of that, I paint inside and out with a coat of Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S.  This product may not totally prevent the rust from eventually coming through the paint, but it will definitely slow it down.  It also gives me a fantastic surface for painting over.

I usually paint the inside first, and this time around I decided to go red.

This is Dixie Belle’s Silk Paint in Fiery Sky from their Desert Collection.  Isn’t that a gorgeous shade of red?  It definitely has a cool/blue undertone.  I ended up doing three coats to get good coverage (which is often the case with red paint).  In hindsight, I should have used the grey B.O.S.S. rather than the clear version.  A grey primer will always improve the coverage with red paint.  The next time I use Fiery Sky I’ll try to remember the grey B.O.S.S.!

Next up I painted the outside of the toolbox in two coats of Dixie Belle’s Sawmill Gravy.  Once that was dry I pulled out a few different I.O.D. transfers and started getting creative.

I used sections from their June, Ode to Henry Fletcher (florals on the front), Floral Anthology (floral on the top left) and Label Ephemera (wording) transfers.

I specifically chose floral sections with lots of red to go with the Fiery Sky on the interior.

And I used some of my favorite French wording from the Label Ephemera transfer.

I’m starting to run low on my stash of this particular I.O.D. transfer, and it has been retired.  I’ve been hunting for it, and I even found a shop to mail order it from last week.  I placed my order, only to get a call from the proprietor a few hours later telling me that she didn’t actually have it in stock.  Bummer.  I’ve found another source though and I’m hoping this one comes through.  Fingers crossed.

Once the transfers were all applied, I added a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat to seal them.

I didn’t do much staging for this toolbox, it was hot outside so I wanted to snap these pics quickly.

But I did fill one of my vintage vases with some like-colored foliage from caladiums and coleus, as well as an Annabelle hydrangea blossom.

I love how that deep purple coleus has just the slightest dusting of chartreuse in the newest leaves.  Isn’t that pretty?  You have to look closely to really see it, but it’s a fun detail.

Although florals typically make us think of summer, I think the colors on this one are leaning into fall … or dare I say it … even winter.  With all of those reds and greens, this would be pretty for Christmas filled with an arrangement of evergreens.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer the ‘before’ or the ‘after’?

This toolbox is for sale so be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details if interested.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the B.O.S.S., paint and clear coat used on this project.

so. many. hostas.

Welcome back to Sunday morning in the garden, grab some coffee and let’s talk about hostas.

I know some gardeners turn their noses up at hostas because they are just too easy.  And while I agree that just planting a row of them spaced 5′ apart in a foundation garden with rocks around them can be pretty unimaginative, there are also plenty of amazing ways to use them in a garden.

Not only that, but there are also countless varieties to choose from.  There are very small hostas … like the baby blue eyes that I just purchased for my fairy garden …

and very big hostas, like Sum & Substance or Empress Wu which can grow 4′ tall and 6′ wide.

There are also lots of different leaf textures.  Shiny, matte, puckered, smooth, or curly like this Stiletto.

I love the ones with really puckered leaves, they remind me of the seersucker fabric that my mom used to make summer clothes for me.

The shape of hosta leaves can be more rounded, like the one above, or more pointy like the leaves on this Lakeside Dragonfly

Some hostas may have an upright growth habit with more vertical stems …

while others grow in a lower mound with their stems more horizontal to the ground.

Let’s talk about color for a minute too.  My sister always corrects me when I call a hosta ‘blue’ by telling me they are green.  Sure, all hostas are technically green but in the gardening world some shades of green have more blue in them …

and some have more yellow like this Sun Power hosta.

and some have what is considered ‘white’ in them also.

The colors of some varieties of hosta can vary depending on how much sunlight they get.  I find that this May hosta is much more yellow if it gets more sunshine (and isn’t it gorgeous next to the dark purple of that Purple Palace Heuchera?).

However, in a full shade situation the color is much more subtle.

If you’re planning to plant a vibrant, bright yellow hosta, make sure it gets a little morning sunshine to bring out that bright color.  I just planted three of these Sunset Grooves hostas and I hope they get enough sun where I put them to maintain this gorgeous color.

And on the other hand, if you plant a beautiful blue hosta make sure it is mostly in shade to avoid scorching the leaves.

There’s nothing more disappointing than buying a gorgeously colored hosta from the nursery, and then planting it in your garden only to find that the color has totally faded.  So pay attention to the light requirements when deciding what hosta is right for you.

Hostas can have solid colored leaves or beautifully variegated leaves like those on this variety called June.

That’s one of my all time favorites, FYI.

Here in my shady, zone 4b garden I find hostas are exceptionally easy to grow.  They don’t require much maintenance during the growing season other than cutting off the flower stalks.  I cut off the spindly, less attractive flowers right away, but I leave the bigger, prettier flowers until they are spent.  I have noticed that the bees really love the hosta flowers, so if you like to attract pollinators hostas are a good choice for the shade.

As I was reminded this spring, one downside to hostas is that they can be very susceptible to hail damage.


Coincidentally, two of my favorite garden vloggers, Garden Answer and Linda Vater both recently mentioned that they struggle to grow hostas.  Both live in hot, dry climates and find that their hostas burn out in the heat.  Garden Answer is planning to replace hostas with plants more suitable to her climate, like Brunnera.  Linda Vater mentioned that she’ll only grow hostas in containers now.

All I can say is, finally, something I can grow in zone 4b that gardeners in warmer climates find difficult!  I must say that usually it is the other way around.  There are all kinds of plants that simply won’t survive our harsh winters.

How about you?  Can you grow hostas successfully in your garden?  Leave a comment and let me know.

the potting bench.

First, an update on Wednesday’s post about the green table.  Shortly after publishing that post I realized that I didn’t want to part with the table.  If I could solve its weight problem, and put some casters on it to make it more mobile, it really would provide the perfect neutral surface for staging photos of small items outdoors.

After flipping the table over, I realized that a lot of the weight was coming from some heavy wood pieces that were attached underneath to allow you to slide the table apart and add a leaf in the middle.  Since I no longer even have the leaf, I could just remove those.  I also realized that the table had once had casters and thus already had the sockets in place to hold them.  I found 4 matching casters in my stash and just had to add them.

And just like that, my problems with the table were solved and now I’ll be hanging onto it.

Do you guys remember back in May 2021 when I contemplated putting a primitive sort of cupboard in front of the carriage house?

At the time I thought it would be a convenient spot for a potting bench, but those who commented on that post almost universally voted against it.

And P.S., after taking that photo above I realized I had the cupboard upside down.  Ooops.

Anyway, I didn’t put the cupboard in that spot, obviously, since I now have my fabulous repurposed guest bed planter there.

And FYI, the Fresh Flower Market sign that was there has moved up to the deck.

But I tucked that cupboard away for a rainy day, and although we haven’t had very many rainy days this summer, I’ve now given it a whole new look so that it can serve as the potting bench inside the potting shed.

Let’s start at the beginning.  First up I had Ken add those large casters to the bottom.  It makes it easier to move it around when necessary, plus I felt like the piece needed to be elevated somehow.  Casters worked perfectly for that.

Next up, after my usual prep of cleaning and scuff sanding, I painted the outside in a mix of 3 different shades of white milk paint.  I was trying to use up colors that I already had on hand.  I had Homestead House Sturbridge White (which was too stark white), Fusion’s London Fog (which was too creamy), and Homestead House Stone Fence (which would have been perfect on its own, but I didn’t have enough of it).  Between the three of them, I came up with a shade of white that was just right.

I got quite a bit of chipping with the milk paint on the top of the cabinet.

But none on the front.  Mostly likely something was spilled on the top in its former life, and that substance resisted the paint.  But I’m OK with that.  I like chippy paint.  After sanding well and vacuuming away any loose paint, I sealed the milk paint with two coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat.  That will help seal any chipping paint, and I can easily wipe the top down when it gets dirty.

Today’s q tip:  Always seal chippy milk paint with a clear coat before trying to add transfers over it.  Otherwise the transfer will pull off your paint, rather than the transfer sticking to your surface.

Next up I added some I.O.D. transfers to the front doors.

I used all of their Botanist’s Journal transfer (a section on either end) and then filled in the middle with some of their Ladies in Waiting transfer.

  I felt like these graphics were perfect for a potting bench!

I have to mention here that once again I ordered the I.O.D. transfers from The Painted Heirloom.  I ordered them on Saturday, and received them on Monday!  I was super impressed by the speedy turn around.  I’ve ordered from Vonda a few times and have always had great results.

Once the transfers were applied, I sanded lightly over them with 220 grit paper to distress them and give them a more faded appearance.  Then I sealed them with another coat of flat clear coat.

You may also have noticed by now that I removed the original round wooden door closure thingie from the cabinet.  I didn’t like the look of it.  Instead I added magnetic closures to each door to keep them shut, and I put some knobs in holes that were already there.

These knobs came from Hobby Lobby, but I purchased them a long time ago so I’m not sure if they still have them.

I debated whether or not to paint the inside of the cupboard.  Since I was keeping it for myself, I considered taking the easy way out and leaving it alone.  But I knew it would look great painted in Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road.  I love using this warm, dark grey inside cupboards.

There’s lots of space inside this cupboard for storing extra clay pots and other gardening supplies.

To be honest, it’s not likely that I’ll do much actual potting in the shed.  It will really be utilized more for storage of gardening supplies and possibly the occasional flower arranging.

I tend to plant up most of my larger pots where they sit.  Most of them get rather heavy once they are full of dirt and plants.

With the completion of the potting bench, I pretty much have all of the pieces completed for my potting shed makeover.

But now I’m stuck.  I really should re-paint the interior of the shed, but … well … I’m not looking forward to that task.  I’m struggling with lack of motivation to get that done.  We’ll see if I get to it before the end of summer.

In the meantime, I’m cutting myself some slack (the benefit of being your own boss) and working on a few toolboxes (such as the one I shared at the beginning of this post) instead.  So stay tuned for that.

So tell me, which version do you prefer?  ‘Before’ (and upside down) or ‘after’?

a homeless table.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but gosh, time flies doesn’t it?  I could have sworn that I restyled the photo cottage last summer, but turns out it was actually back in 2020.

At that time I was going back to making the shed into a ‘summer house’ and I didn’t want to actually spend any money on it, so I used things I had on hand including an old farmhouse table.

This is an old, super heavy table that I’ve had for quite a few years.  I used to use it for display at my carriage house occasional sales.

Before placing it in the ‘summer house’, I repainted the table base in Dixie Belle’s Kudzu 

and gave the top a fresh coat of Fusion’s Liming Wax.

  Even after two years in the shed it still looks great.

But now that I want to turn the space back into a potting shed, the table needs to make way for a potting bench.  So I pulled it out of there.

Then I had a little fun staging it in the garden as a spot for making notes in my garden journal.

I searched high and low for a garden journal that I liked earlier this summer and didn’t have any luck.  However, my sister will attest to the fact that I had some rather picky requirements for it.  It had to be spiral, it had to have lots of space for making notes, it had to have a pretty cover, etc., etc.  I dragged her to various shops where I hemmed and hawed over the possibilities.  Eventually I ended up going with a 18 month planner that I found at Barnes & Noble.

This will get me through next summer anyway.  I mainly want to keep track of what I’ve planted where, and when.

OK, so I don’t actually sit in this spot to write in my garden journal …

but maybe I should!  It seems ideal for such things.

If this table were slightly more portable, I’d keep it on hand simply as a photo prop.  It provides a nice blank surface for staging smaller pieces, like toolboxes or product photos.

(that’s a little ‘foreshadowing’ for an upcoming post)

Maybe I should look into adding casters to the table so I could more easily wheel it around.  I don’t know, even with wheels, this table is a bit heavy for me to be man-handling it around all the time.

But for now, this table is homeless.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to list it here on the blog for local sale and if someone snatches it up, great.  And if it doesn’t sell, well, I think I’ll continue to use it for photo shoots.

If interested in the table, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.

a leafy green garden chair.

First up, I’ve drawn Deb’s name at random to win my 15 minutes of fame giveaway.  I know there are a few of you Deb’s out there, but I have been in contact with the Deb that won and she knows who she is (sorry other Deb’s!).

Continuing on with my theme of ‘projects for me’ … wait, that sounds so selfish, doesn’t it?  Me, me, me.  As a reminder, since my furniture isn’t selling so hot these days, I’m focusing my energy on finishing up items that I’ve wanted to refurbish for my own home instead of items to sell.  Some of these things have been hanging out in my carriage house for years just waiting for their moment to shine.

I finally have time to get to them!

So, one of the things I’m working on is a refresh of my photo cottage a.k.a. summer house a.k.a. potting shed.  Yep, it has been called all of those things over the years, most recently it was the photo cottage.

If you’ve been with me since way back, you’ll remember that I restyled this shed in my back yard into the ‘photo cottage’ in 2014.  My plan was to create a space where I could stage all of my furniture photos.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really suited for that.  The space wasn’t quite big enough, and at certain times of the day sunlight reflecting off the nearby red carriage house turns the lighting decidedly pink.  So a few years back I gave up on the photo cottage and lately I have been mainly using it as storage.

That led to my decision to go ahead and turn it back into a potting shed.  I’m working on a couple of pieces that will make their new home in the potting shed starting with an old wicker chair.

While considering what I wanted in the space, I knew I wanted some sort of chair in that corner shown above.  The chair in that photo has since been moved into my Q branch and is actually the chair I’m sitting in as I’m typing this.  I really like it in this space, so I needed a replacement for the potting shed.  I started surfing Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for suitable chairs and didn’t find much in my price range (super cheap) that I liked.  I did find an old, beat up wicker chair that was a possible candidate, but then I remembered!  I already had an old, beat up wicker chair upstairs in the carriage house.

Does it sometimes seem like the upstairs of my carriage house is this magical space that I can continuously pull fabulous pieces out of?  Sort of like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat?

Anyway, I had this chair up there.

Way, way back I had Ken add casters to the legs on this chair and I used it as my desk chair before I gave the Q Branch a makeover and it still looked like this …

In case you’re curious, the added casters were a bit of a disaster.  Drilling the holes in the legs required for the casters ended up compromising their integrity (never a good thing), and they didn’t hold up to a lot of rolling around.

So, I removed the casters, glued a broken leg, and then gave the chair a fresh paint job using Rustoleum spray paint in Leafy Green.

I typically use spray paint on wicker because it’s so much easier to get in all the grooves with spray.

Next I reupholstered the plywood seat by adding 4 layers of batting and some fill first, then covering that with an old scrap of vintage floral bark cloth that I had in my stash.

The scrap I had was just the right size for this seat, so it felt meant to be.  I know I’m taking a step back to my old shabby chic days with this piece, but that’s OK.  I’m putting it in my potting shed, I can choose whatever makes me happy for in there … and this does.

Now, I will admit, this chair is pretty beat up.

But I don’t care.  It just gives it more character.  It shows that this chair has lived a full life, and it’s continuing to serve a purpose even if it’s showing its age a little … sort of a metaphor for my own life.

Here’s one last photo that I’m sharing specifically for Honoré who asked to see a wider photo of the carriage house with my new guest bed sign/planter in front of it.

I’m not sure if that gives you the full effect you were looking for, but there it is.

So, the chair is done and next up I’m working on a potting bench sort of piece for the shed.  I’ve got it painted but am waiting for some transfers that I ordered to finish it off.  So stay tuned for that one!

an onion by any other name.

Since quite a few of you liked the idea of Sunday mornings in the garden, I’m going to give regular Sunday garden posts a go.  So grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk onions.  I bet you didn’t think I’d start out with onions!

True, the Allium genus includes onions, leeks, garlic and chives …

I’m sure most of you are familiar with your basic chives.  I love cutting them fresh to sprinkle on baked potatoes, and recently Mr. Q added them to an omelet he made for our dinner.  But they aren’t a particularly pretty plant, are they?

Instead, I want to share ornamental Alliums with you today, and they are a pretty plant … and more importantly a really cool flower.

I had been gardening for quite some time before I discovered ornamental Alliums.  But now that I have, I absolutely love them.

I grow two types of ornamental Alliums, those that are planted as bulbs in the fall and those that are herbaceous and have a large root ball (and you can plant them any time in the growing season).

The bulb Alliums have foliage that comes up in early spring, produces the flowers, and then dies back to the ground after flowering.  Sort of like a tulip or daffodil.  In my zone 4b garden, these Alliums bloom in late May to early June and by now there is no trace of the plant left in the garden … unless I have left the flower stalks in place to dry.

Just in case that photo is confusing to some, none of the green plants around those dried flower stalks are the Allium, those are other plants.

Once dried, which usually just takes a few weeks, I pull the Allium flowers out and store them until late fall when I use them in my winter floral arrangements (much like the Astilbe that I mentioned last week).

The bulb Alliums are fantastic for intermixing with other perennials that will bush out after the Alliums are done and fill in the space around them.  I have mine planted with peonies, hostas and iris.

I have had great success with my bulb Alliums, the only maintenance they really require is removing the foliage once it dies back which is pretty effortless.  Most of mine are planted in partial sun, which seems to be working fine, but they can handle full sun.  And actually, I have some success with the bulb form in spots under deciduous trees where they get more sun until the trees leaf out.  Mine have been multiplying over the years, but I wouldn’t consider them invasive in any way.  In addition, much like my sister, deer don’t particularly care for onions, so that’s a plus for me as well.

I didn’t keep track of what variety of Allium bulbs I planted years ago, but I suspect they are Purple Sensation, which is fairly common.

In addition to that fabulous purple, bulb Alliums can also be found in white, yellow, pink, burgundy, and blue.  They also come in a variety of heights from 8″ tall all the way up to a whopping 50″ tall, and with bloom times from late spring to early summer.

So if you plan right, you can have bulb Alliums blooming for a month or more.

You can find Allium bulbs for sale in late summer to early autumn along with the tulips and daffodils, but in my experience there isn’t a great variety to choose from at most DIY stores (like Home Depot or Menards).  There are usually a few more options at nurseries, but even they don’t seem to have a great selection.

For that reason, I went online and ordered some more unique varieties to plant this fall.  I’ll try to keep you posted on that process, whether or not I like the place I ordered from (Longfield Gardens, and FYI I borrowed that graphic above from them as well), how well they grow over the next year, etc.

That brings me to the herbaceous Alliums, and these are blooming this week in my garden.

I have three varieties of the herbaceous form.  The one above is one that I purchased at a garage sale, and therefore I have no idea what it is.  I suspect it may be Millennium.  It has a lovely pale purple flower, and a nice compact form.

I recently planted two more varieties, Windy City

and Serendipity from Proven Winners …

This type of Allium plant grows more like chives, in a clump with foliage that stays green all season.  They tend to be shorter and with much smaller flowers than the more showy bulb Alliums.  Serendipity will get 15 – 20″ tall, Windy City will get 15 – 17″ tall.

I just planted the Serendipity Allium this week (I found it at Home Depot), and it doesn’t look too spectacular just yet.

Eventually it should look like this …

Of course, time will tell if these two newer Alliums will do well in my garden, but I’m optimistic about them.

How about you?  Do you grow Alliums?  And if so, do you have any specific recommendations for the rest of us?  Or maybe a favorite variety?  And if you don’t grow Alliums, have I convinced you to throw a few bulbs in the ground this fall and give them a try?  Leave a comment and let us know.

the repurposed guest bed.

As I’ve mentioned, since furniture sales have slowed way down for me, I’m taking this time to focus on projects for myself that I’ve been putting off for a while (OK, maybe years in some cases).  Today I have a really fun one to share with you guys.  There is a bit of a long story behind this one, so you may want to refill your coffee before diving in.

Several years ago, Mr. Q and I swapped our guest room for his home office.  Prior to that, the guest room was the larger room, and his office was the smaller one.  We finally came to the realization that he uses his office every day, and we rarely have house guests.  It didn’t make sense to have the larger room going mostly unused, especially in a smaller home like ours where space is at a premium.

But switching to the smaller guest room meant getting rid of the full sized bed we were using and replacing it with a twin.  We actually traded the full sized mattress and box spring with my neighbor, nnK.  She took the full size, and gave us her twin sized versions.

That left us with a spare full size headboard and foot board (and side rails).  We stuck them up in our carriage house and there they’ve sat since 2017.

Now, you might be wondering why I didn’t sell the bed, so let’s go back a bit.  Here is the bed when it was part of the guest room.

Sorry, that’s the best photo I could find of the bed in its ‘before’ condition and it doesn’t even show the foot board, which is one of those ones that curve around the mattress.

There’s a little history behind this bed.  Mr. Q and I purchased our home around the same time that his great uncle’s estate was being divvied up.  We ended up with this bed, a matching dresser and a dining room set from Uncle Roy’s house.  This was back in 1988.  When we got the bedroom set, it was already painted.  I wanted to return it to the natural wood (that was the trend in the late 80’s), so I sent them off to be ‘dipped’.  Does anyone else remember that?  Maybe it’s even still a thing, I don’t know.  But basically your furniture is dipped in a large vat of stripper to remove the paint.

When we picked the pieces back up from the dipper, he explained that the manufacturer intended for these pieces to be painted.  This was obvious after they were stripped because they were each made out of more than one kind of wood, plus the ‘carved’ details were molded plaster, not carved wood.  So after all of that dipping, I had to repaint the pieces rather than staining and varnishing them.

Keep in mind, this was the late 80’s, I was still in my 20’s (ha, ie. a long time ago), I knew nothing about painting furniture!  So I went to the paint store and asked for help.  They explained that I should absolutely use oil based paint for durability (eeekkk! I can’t stand using oil based paint!), so that’s what I did.  I painted them in an oil based warm white.

Flash forward another decade or two.  I decided to redecorate and paint the pieces black.  I painted over the oil based paint with latex paint.  As you may be guessing, that did not hold up well over time.  That’s the reason I’m telling this rather long winded story.  It’s a cautionary tale of what not to do when painting furniture.  Do not paint over oil based paint with latex paint.  Over time it starts to peel right off, and that’s why I couldn’t sell this bed frame.  The black paint was peeling.  The only way to make this bed suitable for sale would have been to completely strip all of the paint layers and start over, and there is no way that would have been worth the effort.

So I stored it for a few years.  Last winter I thought I’d make the headboard into one of my Christmas signs (like this one).  I had Mr. Q bring it down from upstairs in the carriage house, and that’s when I drove over it.

LOL, didn’t see that coming did you?  But yep, it was leaning up against the wall in the carriage house and it fell over.  That’s where I park my car in the winter, and because the headboard is black and it was dark in there, I didn’t notice it on the floor and I drove over it.

That did a bit of damage.  So I put off working on this project once more.

And that brings me to today.  I finally had the time to work on this one, and I had a really cool plan for it.

I started with removing the plaster wreath from the headboard, and filling the giant crack I made driving over it with some of Dixie Belle’s Mud.

Next up I tried to remove as much of the peeling latex paint as I could, and then sanded the entire piece to prep it for new paint.

In an effort to improve adhesion, disguise an uneven surface, and create additional age with more layers of color, I next pulled out some Dixie Belle Sea Spray and The Gulf paint.

I mixed the two to create a brownie batter-like consistency and painted a coat of that on the headboard.

This was just an underlayer of color though, I painted over it with two coats of Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.  I purposely allowed both the black and the aqua to peak through in some spots.

Then I added the Gregory’s Catalogue paint inlay from I.O.D. (for a full tutorial on using the paint inlays, check out this post).

When using a large design that comes on multiple sheets like this one, I start in the middle and work my way out adding wet paint to each section as I’m ready to place that piece.

Be sure to follow all directions with these paint inlays, especially keeping in mind that it’s best to seal them with a spray sealer first rather than a brushed on finish (the paint of the inlay is easily reactivated with a water based finish and will smear).  So once I had the paper backing off and everything was dry, I sprayed my headboard with Rustoleum flat clear sealer.  Once that was dry I also added a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear sealer over it.  Since I’ll be hanging this outside, I wanted to protect it fairly well.

Now, let’s look at what we did with the footboard.

Once again, I need to add a disclaimer here.  Since this project was a keeper for me, I didn’t go as all out as I would have if I intended to sell it.  Were I selling it, I would have asked Ken to build a proper box on the back of the foot board.  Instead I just had him add a shelf with a couple of legs at the back to support it.  My plan was to use this as a ‘planter’ by placing it up against the carriage house and putting plastic planter boxes on that shelf.

I painted the whole thing using the same process as the headboard, The Gulf with Sea Spray followed by two coats of Drop Cloth.

I then sealed the inside of the ‘planter’ with Dixie Belle’s Gator Hide.  Gator Hide is their most durable, water repellant finish.  Since I will be placing potted plants on that shelf, I know it will be getting wet so I’m giving it the best chance of holding up.

If you’ve never used Gator Hide, I will tell you that it has a bit more sheen than my usual flat finish.  Personally I’m not a fan of shine, so for that reason I only used it on the inside of this piece where it won’t show.  I used the flat Dixie Belle clear coat on the front.

If you’ve stuck with me so far, here’s where we are with this project.

I’ve hung the headboard sign on the carriage house between the doors, and placed the foot board planter beneath it.  All that’s left is to fill it up with plants.

I learned another valuable lesson here, or at least one that is worth sharing with my local readers.  Don’t go to Gertens first for your plants.  I purchased two small ferns for $14.99 ea, two white caladium for $18.99 ea, and two dark red coleus for $4.99 ea from Gertens.  Then several days later I went to Home Depot and found caladiums that were twice the size for $9.98 and a fern that was 4 times the size for $14.98.  I really wish I had checked Home Depot first!

Well, live and learn, and either way, I am loving this combination of shade plants for my foot board planter.

I’m relying on foliage for the interest and color in this north facing spot.

So, several weeks and … uh … quite a few dollars later, I have created a focal point with lots of impact at the end of my driveway.

I learned a few lessons along the way with this one; (1) don’t assume all painted furniture can be stripped and stained, (2) don’t drive over your headboard, (3) don’t paint over oil based paint with latex paint, and finally (4) check Home Depot for inexpensive plants before resorting to Gertens.

I won’t say this was an inexpensive project.  By the time you add in the cost of the board Ken added to create a shelf, the paint inlay and especially the plants, pots & potting soil, this one added up.  If I’d also had to buy the bed itself, plus all of the Dixie Belle products I used (two colors of paint, Sea Spray, flat clear coat, Gator Hide) … well, yikes!

But I sure am happy with the results.  It’s definitely a keeper.

What do you think?

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing all of their products used on today’s project.