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!

the scented garden, part 2.

Welcome to part two of our tour of Jackie’s beautiful scented garden (if you missed part one, you can find it here).

Today I thought we’d start at the front of the house and then work our way back to the potting shed and greenhouse.

Right out at the street Jackie has a ‘free library’.  Do they have these where you live?

The basic concept is simple.  People put books in, people take books out.  Anyone can just help themselves.  My neighbor nnK has one and it’s amazing how many people stop off to exchange books.

I love the way Jackie’s fountain is surrounded by different varieties of hosta.

And check out this guy hanging out on the edge …

We don’t generally have a lot of gators here in Minnesota, but that one looks pretty content.

I have to admit that I felt quite a bit of envy when I saw Jackie’s amazing front porch.

Jackie mentioned that when they added this porch on they wanted it to be spacious enough, but when it was finished it seemed a bit too expansive while still empty.  But once she had some furniture in place, it was just right.

Doesn’t that look like the ideal spot to sit and have your morning coffee?

I love that she has that giant glass front cupboard out there.  She says it stays out there year round.  It’s somewhat protected from the elements because the porch is covered.

The porch makes a great spot in summer for plants that can’t handle full sun.

You’ll pass lots of beautiful flowers on your way from the front of Jackie’s house towards the back.

You can just see the edge of the potting shed from the sidewalk.

I absolutely love those white spiky flowers.  They are called Actaea racemosa, or Fairy Candles or Black Cohosh or Bugbane (boy, this one has a lot of names!)  I think I need to add some to my own garden.

As you’re about to find out, Jackie doesn’t really use her potting shed for potting.

Instead it is filled with many of Jackie’s vintage goodies.

Besides, in addition to the potting shed, Jackie also has a greenhouse where she can do her actual potting.  I didn’t do a great job of getting photos of it though because I was distracted by the Black & Blue Salvia that she had growing all around it.

There was a hummingbird flitting around these plants too, so it was hard for me to focus on the job at hand.

You can catch a glimpse of it off to the right in this next photo though.

If you follow that brick pathway around the corner you’ll end up at this lovely spot.

And this is where our tour concludes.  I hope you enjoyed seeing Jackie’s garden as much as Debbie and I did.  A big thank you goes out to Jackie for letting me share it here on the blog!

the scented garden.

A while back one of my readers, Jackie, contacted me to ask if I wanted a free dresser.  After a few messages exchanged and life intervening a bit, Mr. Q and I finally drove to St. Paul to pick it up a little over a week ago.  You guys saw the dresser itself in its ‘before’ state last Friday …

When we pulled up to Jackie’s house to pick it up I immediately knew I was in for a treat.  Her gardens were spectacular.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me at the time.  But it didn’t take me long to convince Jackie to let me come back the next day with my camera so that I could share her garden with all of you.

Not only did I bring my camera when I went back, but I also brought my sister so that she could take notes and ask questions while I took photos.  Plus I just knew that Debbie would really enjoy meeting Jackie and seeing her lovely gardens.

That is a breadseed or opium poppy above.

We’d actually been wandering around Jackie’s garden for quite a while before we realized that there was an underlying theme to most of the plants … scent.  Jackie is partial to plants that are known for their scent.

For example, the plant in that no. 8 crock is Popcorn Cassia, and guess what it smells like … yep, hot buttered popcorn.  It really does!

Some of Jackie’s other scented plants included Lemon Verbena, Soapwort (or Bouncing Bet), a variety of herbs and a fantastic collection of scented geraniums.

Much like the common white garden geraniums in my photo of the dresser above, scented geraniums are also not true geraniums.  Both are actually Pelargoniums, but while the common garden geraniums are grown for their flowers, the scented versions are grown for their amazing fragrance.  Some of the scents include rose, lemon, mint, apple and cinnamon.

Pelargoniums are not hardy enough to face a Minnesota winter outdoors, but you can easily overwinter them in the house.

But lest you think that Jackie’s garden is all about smell, there is also plenty to delight the eye as well.

I fell in love with quite a few of her beautiful statues, planters and other garden ornaments.

And I quickly realized we were kindred spirits because her most frequent answer when asked where she got something was ‘an estate sale’.

Jackie also clearly shares my love of all things rusty …

as well as all things vintage …

I love the way she has used indoor pieces outside like this stool that holds a potted plant.

She has several mirrors placed strategically throughout the garden that make the view seem expansive.

She has a couple of old bikes in her garden which reminded me that I’ve always wanted one myself.  I need to be on the lookout for one of my own.

Jackie has some unique plants in her garden that I’m definitely going to look into adding to my own too.

I have no idea what that plant is called, but Jackie is fairly sure that she purchased it at Tangletown Gardens so next year when Debbie and I hit the Tangletown neighborhood garage sales we’re definitely going to stop in at the nursery and see if they have this plant.

I’m not sure what this next flower is either, but the bees sure loved it.

I’m totally envious of the bricks that Jackie has used throughout the garden, both as pathways and as edging.

Once upon a time all of the streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul were made of brick.  Over the years those brick surfaces were either simply covered over with asphalt or ripped up and redone.  When they were ripped up, the bricks were just up for grabs.

There has been some effort made lately to salvage and restore some of the few remaining brick streets in the cities though, which is a fabulous thing.

If you pay attention, you may see a few other interesting items interspersed throughout Jackie’s paths and patios too.

There is so much more to see, but I’m going to have to break this out into two separate posts because I’m running out of time to get this post finished.

But I’ll be back next week to share Jackie’s potting shed, front porch and green house so be sure to stay tuned!

And in the meantime, have a fabulous weekend.  I hope to get some furniture painted and maybe I’ll get in a little gardening too, how about you?

fairy garden refresh.

‘Refresh’ seems to be the catch-phrase of the moment on social media.  We don’t redecorate, renovate, restore or remodel anymore, now we ‘refresh’.

Well, OK, I can get on board with that.  It seems like the refresh is a refreshing concept.   Less involved than completely renovating or restoring something.  Like sprucing up a room with a couple of new things, re-arranging the furniture or maybe adding fresh coat of paint.

A refresh sounds like something you should be able to accomplish in a day or less.

I decided this past weekend was the perfect time to refresh my fairy garden.

It had an evergreen tree in it that had completely outgrown the space.  The canopy of the tree had gotten larger than the container, which is an old cracked birdbath.

Plus it was getting overrun with miniature violets.

I don’t actually know where these violets came from.  I didn’t plant them.  They just started appearing one year in the cracks of my flagstone patio.  From there they migrated into the fairy garden.  They are perfect when they stay small, but they are greedy little monsters and once they start to takeover, they crowd out everything else.

I began by heading over to my local Bachman’s where I was hoping to find some miniature Cypress style trees.  They had some earlier in the season, but as luck would have it they were all gone.  They still had quite a few other options though, so I came home with Cole’s Prostrate Canadian Hemlock (what an awesome name) …

which I’m pretty sure is the same tree that I am taking out.  That one started out this small too.

And I also purchased this Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde’

As you can see from the tags, both of these plants were a little pricey even for perennials.  I think they are getting away with charging top dollar because mini’s are so hot right now.

However, both of these plants will come back from year to year so let’s just call them an ‘investment’ shall we?

By the way, we take the birdbath top off its pedestal before the first hard freeze in the fall and bury it right up next to the house under piles of leaves to protect it for the winter.  That seems to do the trick for both the current tree and the mini hostas.  I just learned this past weekend that this process is called ‘heeling in’.

I also purchased this adorable Katydid’s Baby Tears to use as a mini ground cover.

This was much more affordable at $3.99, but it will only survive the rest of this season and can’t be over-wintered (well, technically it could if I dug it up and put it in a pot inside the house, but that’s not going to happen).

After pulling out all of my fairy garden decor, I also removed all of the existing plants.

Check out this hosta, you can easily see that it will divide out into multiple plants now that it’s out of the dirt.

I was able to get six plants out of it.

Once I had all of the plants out I added a little fresh dirt.  Now I have a blank canvas.

Finally I just started layering everything back in starting with the larger items and then filling in with the smaller ones.

Although you can buy faux mini flagstones, my flagstone path is made from layers that flaked off of my life size flagstones.

Gosh!  If only all gardening was this easy.  This wasn’t back-breaking at all.  If I didn’t like the arrangement of something I just pulled it out and moved it which took about two seconds.  If you have back issues that keep you from gardening, then a fairy garden is perfect for you!

Even the ‘big, heavy statue’ is easy to move around.

If you don’t happen to have a cracked birdbath on hand you could use an old wagon or any sort of galvanized container.  I even saw one done in an old Weber grill once.

I had to wait until dusk to be able to see the string of fairy lights that I added.  You can’t have a fairy garden without some fairy lights, right?

I found the lights in the dollar section at Target a couple of months ago.  They aren’t intended for outdoor use and probably won’t hold up forever, but for a couple of bucks I don’t mind.  I’ve had them out since May and so far they are doing fine.  I have had to change the batteries once already, mainly because I just leave the lights on 24/7.

I finished up by giving my refreshed fairy garden a good soaking from the hose, and now I can just sit back and wait for it to fill in a little … but not too much.

a rusty garden pedestal.

Way, way back about two years ago I picked up this garden pedestal at the White Bear Lake Trash to Treasure Day.  You can click that link to read more about Trash to Treasure Day, but suffice to say, stuff is free at the curb.

After I brought it home I shoved it somewhere in the carriage house and there it sat for two years.

I looked at it a couple of times and thought ‘hmmmm, what should I do with that thing?’  But I never followed through.

That is until it occurred to me a few weeks ago that this piece was the perfect candidate for some Dixie Belle Patina Paint.

Last winter Dixie Belle sent me some of these products free of charge to give them a try.

I used the Prime Start, the Iron paint and the Green spray on a metal lamp to see how well the products worked.  To read those full instructions, check out this how-to post:

This time I decided to go with a slightly bigger project and turn this pedestal into a rusty masterpiece for the garden.

First I started with a little prep.  The paint was starting to peel off of the pedestal and under the paint is just a plaster of paris sort of material.  As I started to sand away the chippy spots of paint I realized that most of it was going to have to come off.

So I got out my razor blade and started scraping off the paint.  I didn’t completely remove all of it, but I did take it all off the top and the bottom portion of the pedestal where most of the peeling was occurring.

Here’s an important q-tip to keep in mind when it comes to working with pieces that are already painted.  Your paint job is only going to adhere as well as the paint underneath it.  So it doesn’t matter how durable your paint is, it’s only going to adhere to that original layer of paint.  And if that paint is peeling off, well, you get the picture, right?  Honestly, that’s probably the number one reason why I normally avoid pieces that have already been painted.  Because you just can’t be sure what you are working with, and I hate stripping paint.

But remember, this pedestal was free at the curb so I figured I could put a little extra work into it and if it’s a massive failure, well, no worries.  It was free.

After removing all of the peeling paint, I painted the entire piece with a coat of Dixie Belle’s Caviar.  If this piece was metal I would have used the Prime Start instead of the regular paint.  In this case my piece is plaster, so I could just use any Dixie Belle paint as a primer.

Once that I was dry I painted on a coat of the Iron paint.  I ended up having to let that dry overnight because it was quite humid outside and this piece has a lot of nooks and crannies that took a while to dry.

The next day I added a second coat of the Iron paint and while that was still wet, I sprayed it with the Green Patina Spray.

Then I just sat back and waited for the magic to happen.

The next day I put my reading glasses on and after taking a closer look I realized that I missed a few spots with the paint entirely, and a few spots weren’t as ‘rusty’ as I wanted them to be.  So I simply dabbed on some more of the Dixie Belle Iron paint and then sprayed those spots with the Green Patina Spray again.  That worked like a charm.

If you’re wondering whether or not this piece will hold up outside in the garden, I have to admit so am I.  I have a plaster Buddha out there and he’s deteriorating quite a bit after several years of year-round outdoor living.

Hmmmm … maybe I should rusty him up too?  But my point is that items made out of clay or plaster that is faux painted to look like concrete don’t last forever outside.  So I suspect this pillar won’t either.

However,  I have been surprised to find that after being in the garden for several weeks and being rained on a few times, if anything, so far the pedestal has developed an even more fabulously rusty patina.

Even the top which has had standing water on it (we’ve had quite a bit of rain) continues to look amazing.

But let’s call this an experiment, shall we?  I’ll keep the pedestal in my garden all summer and then share a review of how well it held up in the fall before I put it away for winter.

So far though, this is a massive improvement over the ‘before’ version wouldn’t you say?

I beg your pardon.

I never promised you a rose garden.

Nonetheless, if you are one of my local readers I am offering you a rose garden today.

This is the view from our back yard.

That is our neighbor Arlene’s rose garden.  Arlene is married to Ken, my handyman neighbor who does all (or most anyway) of my furniture repairs.  They live right next door to us and although we both have fences on the outside edges of our properties, there is no fence down the middle between us.

I’ve admired this lovely view for the past nearly 30 years, why would I want to block it?  And I certainly wouldn’t want to hinder Ken’s ability to walk back and forth from his workshop to my workshop!

As you can see, Ken and Arlene take immaculate care of their yard and garden.  Unfortunately they are starting to find that the roses are just a bit too much maintenance for them now that they are in their 80’s.

As the song goes, along with the sunshine there has to be a little rain sometimes.  So Arlene has decided that this will be the last year for her rose garden.

Both nnK and I offered to help her with the necessary gardening tasks that would allow her to keep the roses for a few more years, but Arlene is having none of it.  If she can’t do it herself, she doesn’t want to rely on others to do it for her.  I also suspect that she realizes that although our hearts are in the right place, it’s doubtful that nnK and I would maintain the roses to her exacting specifications.

So the roses have to go.

She’ll be keeping the rest of her perennial beds, but just digging out the roses and planting grass in that area.

I’m definitely going to miss them.

Arlene has always been very generous with her roses and I’ve used them in many furniture photo shoots.

This is where you come in.  If you are a local reader and you would like to try your hand at growing roses, or if you know someone who would, Arlene’s roses are up for grabs.  Free to a good home.  She plans to start digging them out this week, and hopefully finish up next week.  If you want one, or two, or a dozen, please send me an email at qisforquandie@gmail.com and we can make arrangements for you to pick some up.  If there are no takers we’ll likely put them on Craigslist where they are sure to go quickly.

So smile for a while and let’s be jolly
Love shouldn’t be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times (or at least the roses) while we can.



peony season.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a couple of years or so, you probably already know that peonies are one of my favorite flowers.  They have just two downsides; first, their blooming season is way too short (I wish they would last all summer) and second, ants love them.

I have quite a few old fashioned pink double peonies.  When we purchased our house about 30 years ago there were two of these plants in the existing garden.  Since then I’ve divided them many times, shared them with friends, and moved some back to the cutting garden behind the carriage house.

They are very reliable bloomers and really don’t require much care back there.  I find that the old fashioned varieties of most plants are usually less temperamental than the newer hybrids.  I like to have these out of sight in the cutting garden because then I don’t feel guilty about cutting them all off and bringing them in the house (shaking off the ants first).

I’ve also added a few other varieties to the garden over the years.  The white are definitely the most fragrant.

But my absolutely favorite peony is this gorgeous bright pink variety that I planted about 4 years ago.  I think this is going to be the first year that I get a really good quantity of blooms on the plant.

The color of these peonies just glows from the garden in the evening.  They are so vibrant!

And I think that is exactly what drew me to Dixie Belle’s paint color called Peony.

I wonder if whoever created and named this color also has these peonies growing in their garden.

By the way, I’m faking you out a little with all of the peony photos.  They are from previous years because this year’s peonies aren’t blooming quite yet.  Although they will be soon with this ridiculous heat we’ve been having!  But even though my peonies aren’t quite here, this gorgeous paint color is!  Dixie Belle was kind enough to provide me with some of this paint for a dresser makeover I have planned.  But whenever I try a brand new paint color that I haven’t used before, I like to test it out on a smaller piece before I put it on a large piece of furniture.

So I pulled out one of the chairs that I purchased at the Tangletown sales.

It’s another bottomless chair that is destined to become a planter chair.

So why not go with a vibrant pink!

Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, first I went with Rachel Ashwell chalk paint in a pale blue which was very pretty, but then I opted to try sealing it with Miss Mustard Seed’s Tough Coat Sealer and the original stain on the chair bled through the paint.

This brings me to a good q tip.  If you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, sometimes even though a pre-existing stain didn’t initially bleed through your paint, once you add a water based sealer over it, the sealer will draw the bleeding stain through the paint.  This can be a huge bummer when you’ve painted your piece and it looks amazing and you’re at the final step of sealing it and bam!  Bleedy stains all over the place.  I don’t really have a great tip for preventing this (unless you want to pre-seal every piece just in case, but that seems extreme to me), but if this happens to you there are a couple of options for dealing with it.  1)  seal the piece with a stain blocking sealer (like Dixie Belle’s BOSS for example), re-paint and then add your water based sealing top coat.  2)  continue on with the water based sealer and once dry paint again, and then add a wax topcoat.  Waxes will not pull the stain through like a water based top coat will.

Or, you can do what I did.  Go with an entirely different color and then seal it with wax.

Speaking of wax, you know how chairs are so much easier to paint if you spray them?  Well, when I went to wax this chair I remembered that a while back Dixie Belle had sent me some of their Easy Peasy spray wax.

It occurred to me that … duh … this stuff would be perfect for chairs!  And it was.

Simply spray it on, wait 10 to 15 seconds and then wipe away any excess.  It truly is Easy Peasy.

So I’ve tested the Peony and I love it, but you probably won’t see that dresser for a couple of weeks.  In the meantime I’ll have a lovely buffet and a couple of other fun projects to share with you first.  So be sure to stay tuned!