frugal fall decorating.

The bill for the credit card that I used while in Disney World is going to be rolling in any day now and it’s not going to be pretty.  Disney World is not exactly a budget friendly place, and I’m not terribly good at being frugal while on vacation.

So I’ll have to make up for that now that I’m home, starting with some frugal fall decorating.

This is where my hydrangeas come in, and this is just one of the reasons why I love having several hydrangeas in the garden.  Hydrangeas, in particular the paniculata varieties, grow incredibly well for me here in my zone 4b garden.  They provide tons of dried flowers for fall and winter decorating with next to zero effort required on my part.

I filled the galvanized boiler that hangs beneath the window on the carriage house with the Vanilla Strawberry variety.

These dry to a darker, reddish-pink which works perfectly with the barn red of the carriage house.

The Limelight hydrangeas start turning pinkish in the fall as well, but mostly only on the side of the flower that faces the sun.  The undersides stay a pretty pale green.

So you can turn whichever side you prefer to face front in your arrangements.

I filled the planters on either side of my door with them.

By the way, as you can see, the pair of rusty planters that I painted using Dixie Belle’s patina products are holding up beautifully.

I used Limelights in the galvanized wash tub in front of the carriage house too, but I also included a few hosta leaves for added interest.

The sign that is hanging above the wash tub is an old table leaf that I painted up with Dixie Belle paint and then stenciled.  I coated it with some of their Gator Hide and then hung it outside as an experiment to see how it would hold up.  I like to do little experiments like these so that when I sell similar pieces I can let people know how durable they really are.

I used a combination of Vanilla Strawberry, Limelight, hosta leaves and a few last remaining salvia flowers in this galvanized container that hangs on the photo cottage door.

I applied the Prima Marketing transfer from their Everyday Farmhouse collection to the container a while back and it too has held up beautifully outdoors.

The transfers adhere really well to glass and smooth metal and I’ve found that they can absolutely be used outdoors on these surfaces.

Somehow I always get a lot more satisfaction out of decorating without spending much money, how about you?

These days it sometimes feels like the main goal of social media posts is to get you to buy something.  Instead, I hope that I’ve given you some ideas for fall decorating that you can do without spending any money at all.

Do you do any fall decorating on the cheap?  If so, I’d love to see some of your ideas in the comments!

a pair of motel chairs.

I showed you guys a terribly blurry photo of my haul from the Prospect Park sales last week.

I’m afraid this will have to do for a ‘before’ photo of the pair of motel chairs that I found there because I never took a better one.  It’s a bit hard to tell, but they were painted brown.  What’s with the brown anyway?  The planters I shared on Monday were originally brown too, but from an entirely different garage sale.

Anyway, I mainly snatched these up because they were super cheap and thus too good to pass up.  Once I got them home I realized I didn’t have a spot for them and would most likely sell them.

I knew I wanted to paint them, and I thought spray paint would be the easiest option.  Since I happened to have a bunch of black spray paint on hand, I decided to go black.  I also felt black would be a neutral choice that would sell well.

This is RustOleum Canyon Black in a satin finish.  And even with the satin finish I feel like they are just a bit too shiny for my taste.  Plus the sheen isn’t perfectly even, which bothers me.

But I went ahead and moved on anyway, adding one of my favorite stencils to the backs of the chairs.

I used my normal trick of stenciling in a color called Deep Taupe, which is actually a dark greige color but reads much lighter when used over black.  This worked beautifully on my baby grand …

But I think the sheen of the spray paint is messing with that combination.  At certain angles it’s hard to even tell that these chairs have a stencil on them.

I don’t know, maybe that subtlety works for them?

Or should I spray over them and try again with a lighter color?  or maybe a different stencil entirely?

It would be simple enough to do.

Or am I just being too critical of my own work (which has been known to happen)?

Go ahead and share your thoughts on that with me in a comment.

Fair warning though, I’m on the road today with my mom and sister.  My cell connection might be a bit spotty so I may not be responding to comments right away.  We are heading to South Dakota to visit my mom’s cousins for the 4th of July holiday.

Speaking of which, my simple staging of these photos was supposed to represent the holiday in question.

I’ve got the red, white and blue colors right, plus the Country Living American Style book.  But I have to laugh because I’ve paired it with French lemonade and a German stencil on the chairs.  What can I say?  I fully embrace all nationalities.

That being said, Happy 4th of July to my U.S. readers!

a pair of rusty planters.

Have you ever priced those fabulous rusty old cast iron planters?  Like this pair …

These are available online at The Garden Vault for $850.

So gorgeous, and so totally out of my price range.  That’s why I’m really excited about the Patina Paint products from Dixie Belle.  I got nearly that same look for a fraction of the price.

Of course, in my case it helped that I first found a pair of planters at a garage sale for $30.  But you can find similar planters at Wayfair for about $35 each.

These are made out of that molded composite stuff.  Here’s a close up so you can get a better look.

It looks like concrete, but it’s not.

Their existing blah brown paint job was definitely not doing them any favors, but the moment I saw them I knew they were the perfect candidates for a rusty finish using the Patina Paint.

For this project I used the Iron paint and the Green spray.

Since my planters were already painted, I didn’t need to give them a base coat.  However, if you are starting from bare plastic, wood, plaster or glass you’ll want to start with a base coat of any color of Dixie Belle paint.  If you’re using the Patina Paint over metal you’ll want to be sure to use the Prime Start instead of paint.  The Prime Start prevents the rusty finish from actually deteriorating your metal.

But I was able to skip those steps with my composite planters.  All I had to do was clean them and then paint the Iron paint right over the existing brown paint.Be sure to mix the paint well before applying it.  This paint contains actual flakes of metal that create the rusty finish.  They will settle to the bottom of the jar over time, so be sure to get them mixed up before you begin.

I painted one coat, let it dry and then added a 2nd coat.  While the 2nd coat was still wet, I sprayed the planter with the Green spray.  This can be messy and a little smelly, so I prefer working with these products outside.  If that’s not an option, keep in mind that this spray will drip so protect the surface you are working on and also protect yourself with any recommended safety equipment.

The next part is easy, (unless you’re the impatient, instant gratification sort, not pointing any fingers here, except possibly at myself) just wait.  It took about two days for my planters to look like this …

Kinda hard to tell these aren’t genuinely rusty iron planters, don’t you think?

I was able to snag a pair of matching flower baskets for my planters from my local nursery (Country Sun in Stillwater in case any of you locals are wondering) at their close out sale.

This late in the season it was a bonus to find a matching pair.

The planters are perfect for either side of the steps up to our deck.

If you look closely, you can see my favorite photo bomber (my cat, Lucy) peeking out the screen door.

You can also see the Adirondack chairs that my handyman/neighbor Ken makes.  Quite a few years ago nnK had the most comfortable Adirondack chair and she wanted another one like it but a little wider and with wider arms that could easily hold a beverage, so Ken simply took her chair apart and made a pattern from it with a few adjustments.  Now he cranks these chairs out all the time.  He hates to paint though, so he sells them unfinished.  I originally painted mine with a brush, but that ended up being far too putzy with all of those slats so now I spray paint them.

This is Rust-Oleum spray paint in a color called Eden.

This color works just beautifully with my house color, and also with my nearby plantings.

Especially the bright chartreuse of the Sun Power hosta (to the left of the fairy garden bird bath in this next photo) and the Guacamole hosta (lower right corner).

Since we’re out in the garden now, let’s take a look around.

Here’s how my fairy garden is looking this year …

For protection over the winter, I bury the entire top of the birdbath in the garden near the house.  Last winter was a rough one though.  So a few things in the fairy garden didn’t make it, including a couple of miniature hostas and miniature evergreen.

My gardening style can best be described as ‘jam packed’.  I figure if I don’t leave any space for them, the weeds won’t grow.  It really does work fairly well.  Not all plants are happy this way, so when one starts looking a bit peaky I’ll dig it up and move it somewhere else.  Or just dig it up and give it away.

Over the years I’ve gotten rid of plants that are just too persnickety for me too.  If they don’t grow well with little human intervention, then they have to hit the road.

I’ve written about the window box along the front of my house before.  Every year I try different combinations in it (here and here are a couple from past years).  This year I have a medley of coleus, some white impatiens, purple oxalis, and a fun new variegated sweet potato vine.

I stuck with some old favorites in my copper boiler planter though, lemon slice petunias and daisies.

Here’s a quick update for you on my picnic basket planter.

If you’ll remember, I added a Prima Marketing transfer to it and I’m testing out how well it holds up outdoors for the season.  So far, so good.  It was getting rained on as I took that photo, and it has also spent some time baking in the sun and the transfer still looks as good as new.  The basket itself is rusting quite a bit though.

And, P.S., as you can see I found a spot for one of the plates I purchased at the Prospect Park sales 😉

So, back to my pair of rusty planters.

How about some math?  Sorry, some of you probably hate math but the accountant in me can’t resist.  I could have spent $850 for the pair of antique planters from The Garden Vault, but instead I spent $30 on my pair of garage sale planters.  Dixie Belle provided me with the Iron Patina Paint and the Green spray for free, but had I purchased them they would have cost me $16.95 each.  So for around $64 I have a pair of rusty planters that look pretty spectacular.  Plus I used less than half of the Iron paint and probably not even 1/3 of the Green spray, so I have plenty left to create more rusty garden treasures!

If you’re looking to purchase some Patina Paint, you can shop online with them here.

Normally this is the time when I say ‘if you are a local and need a pair of rusty planters …’, but I’m definitely keeping these.  So I would encourage you to try the Patina Paint on some planters yourself!

protecting my rusty pedestal.

If you’ll remember back, last year I painted an ugly old plaster pedestal using Dixie Belle’s Patina Paint.

You can find all of the details on that original makeover here.

I used the Iron paint and the Green spray to get a rusty looking finish on my pedestal.

I promised to keep you guys posted regarding how well this product stood up to outdoor exposure.  The pedestal was out in my garden all summer last year and come fall I was pleasantly surprised to note that it held up quite well even without any sort of protective top coat.

If anything, it had gotten even rustier looking (which is a good thing in my book).

Normally I would have been content to just leave it alone and put it back out in the garden this year (I stored it in my photo cottage for the winter), but I wanted to test out a relatively new Dixie Belle product called Patina Guard.

This is a top coat that was specially formulated to do several things.  First of all, it halts the patina-ing (OK, not a real word, but whatever) process.  As I mentioned, my pedestal continued to ‘rust’ over time.  If you don’t want that to happen with your piece, Patina Guard will prevent that.  Secondly, it prevents the patina from rubbing off onto things it comes into contact with.  For example, if you’ve used it on a bench and you want to be able to sit on it while wearing white pants.  Finally, it provides a more durable finish.

You simply apply 2 to 3 coats with a brush.  It couldn’t be easier to do, but FYI, this is not an ‘indoor friendly’ product.  It was quite stinky, so if you’re going to use it I recommend only doing so outside.

To be quite honest, I really rather wish I hadn’t used the Patina Guard on my pedestal.  Here is how it looks with the finish applied.

I preferred the more textured looking flat finish that the patina paint had before it was top coated with the Patina Guard.  The ‘after’ is just a little too shiny for my taste.  In my opinion, it looks a little less authentically rusty and more ‘painted’.

I think this is a personal preference thing.  Plus, for a garden ornament I’m not too worried about the rust rubbing off onto other things, so that part wasn’t necessary for me.  And, as I mentioned, this pedestal held up quite well outdoors last summer without a top coat, so I’m not sure I needed the extra durability.

Next time I think I’ll just skip the Patina Guard.  And there definitely will be a next time.  I absolutely love the Patina Paint products and hope to be making a few more rusty garden ornaments this summer!

In the meantime, I found a gorgeous potted fuchsia to put on the pedestal and I’ve tucked it behind my Sum & Substance hosta.

It still looks great, don’t you think?

Thank you to Dixie Belle for providing the products used in today’s blog post!

porous on purpose.

Gardening season isn’t quite here yet in Minnesota, but it’s just around the corner.  It’s definitely time to start prepping your supplies and getting ready to plant.

Today I have a sort of mixed bag of successes and failures to share with you.  It all started when I saw a YouTube video on how to whitewash terracotta pots using Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint by Karla from Vintage Hip Decor.

I immediately thought it would be fun to take it one step further and add graphics to my pots using Fusion’s transfer gel.

So, let’s start at the beginning.  I pulled out a bunch of clay pots from my workshop.  Some were newer looking than others, and some still had dirt in them.  So my first step was to clean out the pots.

I purchased this awesome pot brush at a garage sale last summer.

It works great for removing crusty dirt from inside your pot.  Once that was done, I also scrubbed any dirt off the outside of my pots using plain hot water.  Keep in mind that clay pots can absorb soap or other cleaning products that you might use on them and that isn’t good if you’re going to actually put plants in them.

Next I followed Karla’s technique and I whitewashed all of the pots with Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Farmhouse White.

I’m not going to give step by step instructions for this, but instead I’ll encourage you to take a look at Karla’s video (here).  It was super simple and I love the results.

Next I printed out some reverse image graphics to use on my pots.

I’ve done transfers using Fusion’s Transfer Gel before.  You can find more info on that plus a printable version of instructions in this post.

I’ve even had success putting them on clay pots before.  That “Grains” pot shown above is one I did a couple of years ago.  But for some reason, most of mine did not turn out this time.  If I scrubbed hard enough to remove the paper, it also removed the design itself.  Out of about 10 pots, only three worked out well enough for me to keep them.  FYI – on the rejects I was easily able to scrub off the entire mess using a plastic scrubby.

I was on the fence about calling the one shown above a ‘keeper’.  It’s on the border line, but I do love a distressed look.

This next one is my favorite …

I went a little heavier with the paint on that pot, and the transfer worked fairly well.  I don’t necessarily think it was the extra paint that caused the transfer to work better, but maybe?

Since I had such a fail with the gel transfers, I thought I’d give you another option for decorating clay pots and that’s to use the Prima Marketing French Pots transfers instead.

That lower pot on the left has a French Pot transfer on it.

They are gorgeous, and they go on much easier and more quickly than a gel transfer.  However, they are not as cost effective since you have to buy each one.  They come in sets of three and I’ve seen them for around $12 on amazon with free shipping, so around $4 per pot (just google ‘Prima Marketing French Pots transfers’ to find them online).  It’s not going to break the bank to purchase them, and it might save you a lot of frustration.

One last caution for you.  I consider all of these pots to be ‘decorative’.  In other words, I doubt they would hold up well outdoors or with a live plant inside.  Clay pots are porous on purpose.  Using a porous pot for your plants helps prevent over watering because excess water will leach through the pot.  However, that moisture coming from behind will compromise the paint and both styles of transfer.

If you do want to use the pots for real plants, I suggest keeping your plant in a plastic liner pot.

Take the liner pot and plant out of your clay pot to water it.  Let it drain, and then put it back in the clay pot.

The pots would look amazing just stacked on a bench or in a cupboard too.  You could also mingle them with some plain pots that have plants in them.

Do you have any tips about using painted clay pots to share?  If so, be sure to leave a comment.

a winter garden.

Like much of the northern part of the continent, here in the Twin Cities we got slammed with snow in the month of February.  In fact, we got a record breaking 39” of snow during the month.  It was the snowiest February on record, and the 4th snowiest month EVER (well, since they’ve been keeping track anyway).

The record for the snowiest month ever is still held by November 1991, the year of the Great Halloween blizzard.  We got 46.9” that month.  I clearly remember that blizzard (how about the rest of you locals?).  The snow started falling on October 31 and didn’t stop until November 3.  Nothing like having your carved pumpkins buried under more than 2’ of snow.

The snow didn’t end in February this year, we’ve now gotten another 10+” of snow so far in March including 6″ last weekend.  Spring just might be in sight though, we’ve had temps in the 40’s and lots of melting this week.

Most people I know like to take a tropical vacation to escape the winter weather if they can swing it.  But Mr. Q and I took our Adriatic cruise in November, which now feels like a very long time ago.  So I decided to treat myself to an indoor winter garden.  It helped that my local plant nursery, Gerten’s, had a house plant sale.  Buy one, get one half off.  It seemed like it was meant to be.

So the other day my sister, niece and I popped in to see what they had.

I was surprised to find that they had a whole bunch of blooming potted plants available.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I guess I never would have thought of a begonia as a ‘house plant’.  Technically speaking though, I guess pretty much anything that is alive and growing has to be a house plant this time of year.

They also had a huge selection of gorgeous cyclamens.

So I had to get two of them.  This smaller size was only $5.99.

Some of the plants will head to my office at the day job, but others will stay at the house.

I can brighten up both places!

Having all of these flowers made for a great opportunity to share the 3rd project I did using the Iron Orchid Designs Le Petite Rosier transfer.  I purchased two of the smaller sized versions of the transfer.  I used one on the tiny cupboard and then used the bottom section of that and of the 2nd one on my ceiling fan.

And now I’ve added the top portion of the 2nd one to an old watering can.

I gotta say, I pretty much love it.  I didn’t seal it with anything, so it wouldn’t hold up to outdoor display.  But that’s OK, I’ll keep it inside in my ‘winter garden’ for now.  If I decide to put it outside in the summer I’ll add a couple of coats sealer.

How about you?  Are you coping with a winter that seems to be dragging on and on?  Didn’t get the chance for a winter getaway?  Maybe you should consider a winter garden to tide you over until spring actually gets here.

P.S.  Remember my experiment with the lavender from last fall?

Well, in case you are wondering, no, those plants did not survive the entire winter.  I finally tossed them a couple of weeks ago.  I suspect that my window ledge was just too cold for them.  But they were pretty while they lasted, which was a lot longer than cut flowers.

a spooky fairy garden.

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, it went from summer to fall here in Minnesota.  Last Monday it was sunny and warm and by Friday night we had our first frost warning of the season.

With highs in the low 50’s, it was too cold to paint in my carriage house workshop all weekend.  So instead I worked on pulling out all of the annuals that were past their prime in my planters and replacing them with mums, ornamental kale and pumpkins.

I decided to go traditional this year with oranges, reds and yellows.

While I was at it, I decided to add a little fall decor to the fairy garden too.

I started with a tiny white pumpkin and a tiny orange gourd (yep that’s technically a gourd and not a pumpkin).

They were only 99 cents each at my local Bachman’s.  Although they are tiny, in the fairy garden they become huge, blue ribbon worthy pumpkins!

I also came across some tiny pepper plants in the miniature section at Bachman’s.  Even though peppers don’t normally scream fall, I thought the red and orange coloring would lend an autumnal vibe.

Next I added some fun miniature decorations that I picked up last year at another local flower shop, Rose Floral in Stillwater.

With the additional of a few spooky tombstones and the fairy garden is definitely feeling more in season.

And who doesn’t love to see a tiny skeleton clawing his way out of the ground in their fairy garden?

I also put some fresh batteries in the tiny string of fairy lights on the evergreen shrub to make sure the fairies don’t get too frightened by the new decor.

And just like that we’ve got a spooky fairy garden!