extending peony season.

I feel like there should be some sort of formal recognition when the peonies are in bloom, like maybe an official holiday or something.  Let’s call it Peony Day.  That’s not terribly creative though, is it?  Give that some thought readers and let me know what you would call it.

Peonies have such a short season though, so I feel like I need to make the most of it each year.

I was heading out to visit my bff yesterday so I thought it would be nice to bring her some of my earliest blooming peonies.  They just started to open up here a few days ago.  I dug through my cupboards looking for a suitable container and I came across this old silver flower bowl.  My friend Jackie had gifted me with a big box of vintage silver last year and this was one of the items in the box.

You might be wondering why I thought it was specifically for flowers, well that’s because it came with a perfectly fitted plastic flower frog …

I thought about getting all fancy with my flower arranging and adding some other flowers, and maybe some greens, but in the end I thought it looked amazing with just the peonies.

It smells amazing too!

One way to extend the short peony season is to plant early, mid and late-season blooming varieties.

My old fashioned pink peonies bloom earliest, but my dark pink peonies are still tight buds.  The dark bud in my arrangement below center was the only one that was even partly open.  I also have a white peony that blooms quite late (along with the one I used in my arrangement that opens earlier).

My neighbor nnK recently told me that she read about another option for extending peony season.  You can refrigerate the buds and bring them out in a few weeks time to open in a vase.  I did some googling and found several websites with more info on this technique so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Step one is to cut the stems when the flower is at the ‘soft bud’ stage.

According to Hollingsworth Peonies, this is how to tell if your buds are at the right stage …

“Hold the stem between two fingers under the bud and press with thumb on top. If the center of the bud feels about like a fresh marshmallow, it is at soft bud. For the many-petalled, full double flowers, part of the petals will be unfurled.”

So I chose a few buds that I thought were about right and brought them in the house.  The next step is to remove most of the leaves.

This helps reduce water loss.

I found several different suggestions for how to best wrap the peonies before placing them in the fridge including wrapping them in wet newspaper or wrapping them with plastic wrap.  But Hollingsworth suggested simply using a large Ziploc bag.

That seemed like by far the easiest solution to me, so I went with it.

Be sure to place your peonies in the fridge horizontally, or laid flat.

Now, we wait 3 to 4 weeks.  By then the peonies in the garden will be pretty much done.  It will be interesting to pull these out and see if this technique worked, assuming Mr. Q hasn’t tried to eat them in a salad or something before then.  I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on the results.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the peonies both in the garden and in cut arrangements in the house while they last.

So tell me, have you thought of any good names for my new peony season holiday?



the grass is always greener.

I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that we just simply don’t have any really spectacular gardens within driving distance of the Twin Cities.  And by driving distance, I mean like within an hour or so.  Obviously one could drive all the way to Butchart Gardens in Canada given enough time (that would take about 29 hours, FYI).

I’ve probably been watching too much Gardeners World, followed by too much of the British version of Antiques Roadshow because now I’m convinced that amazing formal gardens are just around every corner in England.

Or maybe that really is true?  If any of my readers live in England, give us the scoop.  Are gorgeous gardens like this a dime a dozen where you live?  Or is this just one of those ‘the grass is always greener’ sort of things?

Regardless, rather than continue to feel sorry for myself, I decided to do a little research and make sure that I wasn’t just missing something.  So I googled ‘gardens to tour in the Twin Cities’ to see what would come up.

Most of those listed were gardens I’d been to, and sure, some of them are pretty nice.  I love going to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and Como Park.  But I also found Lyndale Park Gardens on the list. I’d been there years ago, but hadn’t been recently.  So last weekend my sister and I decided to head over to Minneapolis and check them out.

I feel like these gardens are sort of the Minnesotan version of those English gardens.

Slightly manicured but with a little bit more of a wild, north woodsy feel hovering in the background.

My favorite part of the gardens were the perennial mixed borders.

Probably because this most closely matches my own gardening style … or at least what I would like my gardening style to be.

Some of my favorite flowers were blooming, like the irises.

And the Allium.

My sister was really taken with the lungwort (Pulmonaria), and I think you can see why …

Aren’t those gorgeous?

She ended up purchasing one of each of these colors for her own garden after seeing them here.

The peonies and the roses weren’t quite blooming yet, so I think we’re going to have to go back in a couple of weeks to see those.

Of course, we couldn’t leave Lyndale Park without walking down the street to take a look at Lake Harriet.

It was the perfect day for a sail and quite a few people were taking advantage of it.

Before heading home, we stopped off at a local nursery, Tangletown Gardens.

I’m not going to lie though, every time I visit this place I come away with total sticker shock.  The Japanese maple trees were $450.  I saw a clematis priced at $59 and a peony at $129.  Yikes!

That being said, their plants are gorgeous.

And they have some unique selections.

Along with some fun statuary.

I didn’t leave empty handed, I purchased a couple of things to top off my fairy garden including the sweet little succulent that I planted at the base of the arbor.  I love the dark pink stems with the pale green leaves.

I hope it fills out.  I’ll have to check back and show it to you in a couple of months.

In the meantime, how about you?  Have you got any spectacular gardens to tour in your area?  Or maybe you can recommend some gardens to tour near me.  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

the one where nothing is finished.

First up, I wanted to say that I was really surprised by how many of the comments on Friday were opposed to using the primitive cupboard in front of the carriage house.  I really thought most of you would tell me to go for it.

I thought it was just me questioning whether it might be a little bit too big for that spot, a waste to use it outside, better without the doors, etc.

After reading all of the comments though, I realized that it wasn’t just that I was afraid to go for it, it really was not the perfect piece for that spot.  It did compete with the sign and watering cans and they can make a big enough statement on their own.

So, for now, I’m going to just leave that space under the sign empty and live with it for a while.

Maybe the right piece will come along, or maybe I’ll be just fine leaving it like this.

Every once in a while someone asks how I manage to have a full time job and still finish so many projects.  I have to say, lately I am wondering that myself.  How in the world did I manage three posts a week back when I was posting that often?  These days it feels like I am struggling to come up with just two.

I realized yesterday that even though I definitely wasn’t just lazing about all week, I didn’t have anything finished to share here on the blog.  What did I spend all of my time on?

Well, there are the three half-finished toolboxes that I’m painting.  And Ken and I got the wheels added to the primitive cupboard, but it’s not painted yet.  Plus we consulted about the front window box that needs to be rebuilt, and another little stool that he is going to fix for me.  Then yesterday Mr. Q, my sister, niece and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art following by dinner out.

But really, the bulk of my time this week was spent in the garden.  And a lot of that time was spent doing projects that aren’t particularly blog worthy.  Like pruning the flowering pear tree, filling in the dead spots on the lawn, and cleaning up the weeds and pine needles on the flagstone path.

Still I did finish up a few small things that are pretty, like planting annuals in my ‘rusty’ planters.

If you’re new to my blog and haven’t seen my posts about using the Dixie Belle patina paint to rusty up plastic planters you can find one here.

I also filled up my galvanized boiler pot window boxes.

If you’ll remember, the bird bath that contains my fairy garden broke in half over the winter.  But Mr. Q used some concrete adhesive to put it back together again, so I got a good start on planting it back up over the weekend.

I was able to save the two mini hostas, but I need to get a few more plants to fill in.

While he had the adhesive out, Mr. Q also repaired the chinese lantern that I picked up free at the WBL Trash to Treasure day.

And then I found the perfect spot for it nestled in the trailing variegated vinca.  I just picked up a Morden Golden Glow Elderberry that I’m going to plant next to it.

Do any of you watch Garden Answer on YouTube?  If not, I recommend checking her out.  She suggested an Elderberry as a good substitute for a Japanese maple if you live in a climate that is too harsh for the maple (as mine is).  Most Japanese maples do well in zones 5 – 8.  I’m a zone 4.  So I’m going to give this a shot and see if I can create a spot with a little zen in my garden.

Although the gardens still need to fill in a bit more (and I know that will seem to happen practically overnight), since I was out there with my camera I thought I’d share a few more things that are blooming currently like the foam flower.

These are such pretty delicate little things and they tend to get a bit swallowed up by the bigger plants later in the season.  But right now they look pretty sweet.

The bleeding heart is blooming now as well.

Just check out the vibrant glow of those leaves!  That is not photo editing, this variety of bleeding heart really is that bright.  It’s perfect for a shade garden because that bright chartreuse really pops.  This variety is called Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ in case you want to find some for your own garden.

This hosta is also does a good job of brightening up a shady spot.

If only I could remember the name of that variety for you.  Sorry about that.  I really should write these things down.

And speaking of not knowing the names of things, this next perennial that is currently flowering is one I picked up at a garage sale.

I have no idea what this is.  Here’s a picture of it in the garden so you can get a better idea what it looks like in situ …

If any of you know what that one might be, leave me a comment and let me know.

There are also a few things in the garden that are just about to pop, like the lilacs …

I still consider my lilac hedge to be a bit of a fail, but I’ve yet to convince myself to rip them all out and start over.  Especially since I love the flowers so much.  I continue to hope that one of these years they will fill out and provide more privacy.  Hopefully it will be within my lifetime!

My Allium on the other hand is a raging success …

Last fall I added a few more of them because I just love them.  They aren’t quite open yet but I have tons of buds.

I still have quite a few things to do in the garden, so I can’t promise that I’ll be finding the time to paint up any furniture in the next couple of weeks.  But I hope you’ll stay tuned anyway!

do I dare?

I have a confession to make today.  I often encourage other people to live on the edge a little when it comes to décor, but I am seldom daring enough to do it myself.  I say things like ‘it’s just paint’ or ‘it only cost $30, so who cares if it only lasts a couple of years’, but then I don’t follow that philosophy myself.

Today’s post is kind of about that.

But let’s start at the beginning.  For a while now I’ve been looking for the perfect vintage sign to hang between the doors on my carriage house.  I have hung things in that spot in the past, like the sled I painted last Christmas …

and I have also had that fun galvanized container in that spot for a few years now.

But I want to change it up.  For the last couple of years I’ve just put a big fern in that container for the summer and called it good.  My carriage house faces north, so that’s a pretty shady spot.  But just shoving a fern in there every summer seems kind of lame.

A couple of weeks ago I accepted the fact that if I wanted a good sized sign for that spot I was going to have to make it myself (or spend a ton of money).  So I dug through my stash and came up with an old cupboard door that I’ve had for quite a while.  It’s on the large side, and I’ve been using it as a work surface on top of two saw horses.  I measured it and realized it was the perfect size for that spot.

Next I ordered a large stencil from Wallcutz to fit.In the meantime, I painted the door in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth in anticipation of the stenciling.  The stencil arrived in no time (Wallcutz really does ship things fast).  After playing around with the placement a bit, I decided to just use the wording from the stencil but not the border.  The border didn’t quite fit properly on my door.  To give the sign a more custom look I taped off a simple border and painted it black.

After I had the sign painted, I thought it might be fun to hang some of my watering cans from it.  So I added some hooks and hung the cans.

So far so good, but now comes the part I’m not so sure about.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my friend Jackie and I happened to mention to her that I was looking for a potting bench to go outside, something like what she had, and she said she had the perfect thing!  She showed me a primitive wood cabinet that was tucked away in the corner of her garage, behind a couple of other things.

It was awesome.  I knew right away that I wanted it.  And Jackie’s husband was even kind enough to deliver it once they’d dug it out of the garage.  But once I’d taken possession of it, I started to feel like it would be wrong to waste this piece by using it outside.

It won’t hold up to the elements forever.  Of course, I can mitigate some of that by only leaving it out in the summer, and tucking it away inside the carriage house in the winter, so that would help.

But still.  Do I dare?

I have some large, industrial wheels that Ken is going to help me put on the bottom to get it up off the ground and to make it more portable.  And I plan on giving it a good scrub and then a couple of coats of sealer to help protect it.  So both of those things will help as well.

But still.  Do I dare?

It’s going to get rained on in that spot.  The inside probably won’t dry out well, especially since it’s so shady there.

I’m not a huge fan of the blue on the doors, so I might want to re-paint those if I keep it, but I love the multi-colored, worn out boards that make up the top.

And it really is the perfect size for that spot.

Although I just have some clay pots and other garden implements on top for these photos, it would make the perfect spot for some potted plants.  Especially house plants that come outside for the summer and can’t be in direct sunlight.

I’ll have to move the sign up a bit to make a little more room under those watering cans, especially once the wheels have been added, but that’s easy enough.

All of which brings me back to my original question.

Do I just go for it and use this piece outside knowing that it won’t last forever, but I’ll probably get a few good years out of it?  Do I dare?

What would you do?

woodpeckers are picky eaters.

The other day my neighbor nnK called to say that she had picked up some trash on the side of the road for me.  Wasn’t that thoughtful?  I bet not everyone has a neighbor who brings them road kill now and then!

LOL, but seriously, she did pick this up off the curb somewhere, and she knew it was right up my alley.

cupboard before

I just recently mentioned here that my preference is working on old, primitive pieces and this one certainly fits that description.

It was definitely in need of some TLC.  The outside was bad enough, but the inside was positively gross.


I thought that upper shelf was just kittywampus on accident, but no, it was purposely installed on an angle like that.  I have absolutely no idea what it was used for.

I wonder if the wild bird food guide that was stuck to the front of the cupboard is a clue?


I just have to say, it looks like pheasants and woodpeckers are picky eaters, while mourning doves and redwing blackbirds will eat just about anything.  Perhaps this cupboard hung on the wall in a nature preserve and there were bird identification guides of some kind on that angled shelf.

Well, regardless of its original use, I knew that angled shelf had to go.  I called my handyman Ken over for a consultation and he advised removing the existing two shelves and replacing them with one simple shelf, and I seconded that motion.  We worked together to remove the existing shelves, and then Ken took the cupboard back to his workshop to add a new shelf.

Next up was cleaning.  As I mentioned, this thing was disgustingly filthy.  Luckily we’d had a patch of warm weather and I was able to hose it down out in the yard.  The first time around I cleaned it with some Dawn dishwashing soap.  That worked fairly well for the dirt, but there was some sort of oily residue on the inside bottom of this cupboard.  In fact, there was originally a piece of cardboard lining that bottom and it was totally saturated with oil (you can see it in the ‘before’ photo above), and that had seeped through and soaked into the wood as well.  Anyway, the Dawn barely touched the oil.  So I brought out my TSP substitute and cleaned those oily spots again.  The cupboard was drying out in the warm sunshine, and I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  Even though initially those oily spots looked clean, the warmth of the sun drew more oil to the surface as it heated up.  I basically repeated this process of cleaning with TSP substitute, letting the sun draw out more oil, and then cleaning again about 4 times.  By the 4th pass I had made pretty good progress, but the oil was definitely not entirely eliminated.  But I had a plan in mind for this.  I turned the cupboard upside down.

Now what was once the bottom is the top.  Next I decided to put Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S. to the test.  I added two coats to all of the oily areas of the cupboard and then let them dry overnight.  After painting the interior in Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road and the exterior with their Drop Cloth, you can’t see a speck of oil seeping through either.  Here is the top (which again, was once the bottom) …

See any oily spots seeping through?  Nope, I didn’t think so.  Also, FYI, I took these photos about a week after painting so some time has elapsed.

I have to say, I am super impressed by this.  Even so, I am glad I flipped the cupboard so the once oil saturated interior bottom is now the inside top and you can’t even see it unless you stick your head inside the cupboard, or take photos of it from a low angle.

I wanted to retain some of the original patina on the outside of the cupboard, while also cleaning it up.  This is one of my favorite things to do with these old primitive sort of pieces.  To do that I simply added one quick coat of the Drop Cloth.  I wasn’t aiming for full coverage, just a sort of touch up (and some parts of the cupboard were not painted originally, like the back and the inside of the door, so those got a little more paint).  Then I sanded the fresh paint back again, especially in areas that would naturally be more worn like around the latch.

Now it looks deliciously worn, but not gross.

I simply had to keep Frank’s Wild Bird Food Guide as part of the finished cupboard, so I attached it inside the door.

It’s just stapled in place, so the future owner of this cupboard could easily remove it if they don’t want it.

By the way, those clay pots?

Yep, I found the size I needed for my wrought iron plant stand at my local plant nursery, Bachmans.  And I found it a bit ironic that they literally say ‘perfect size’ on the tag.

And conveniently enough, they were already white washed.  All I had to do was add the transfers.  I paid $2.99 each for the pots, and was able to buy just the four I needed.

The bucket I used for staging is a bit of foreshadowing.

I added that same section of the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the front of the cupboard.

I recently stocked up on that transfer after learning that it was retired.  So yes, you’re going to continue to see a lot of that one added to random pieces this year.

The inside was finished with Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat and the outside has a clear wax topcoat.

Here is a side view because I realized that you can’t really get a good feel for the depth of the cupboard from the photos I’ve already shared.

You have a few options with this cupboard.  You could hang it on a wall using a french cleat to support the weight.  Or you could put it on top of a dresser to treat it like a hutch.  You could also add some casters, legs, or feet of some kind to the bottom and have it be a stand alone piece.  I decided not to do any of those things myself so that a potential buyer would have options.

It’s really a good size to use as a bed side table.

But I love the idea of mounting it to the wall in a potting shed and using it to store gardening supplies.

It’s really just a fun ‘container’ of sorts for pretty much anything you’d like to store inside of it.  If nothing else, I feel really good about taking something that was cast off on the side of the road and turning it into a functional item that hopefully someone can get some use out of.

If any of you local readers need a unique storage solution, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page to see the details on this piece.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the all of their products used for restoring this cupboard.

garden inspiration.

I’ve got a few painting projects underway at the moment, but nothing is ready to share here yet so I thought I might just provide you guys with a little garden inspiration this morning.

These days I’m getting the majority of my garden inspiration from a fabulous British gardening show called Gardeners’ World.

gardeners world

I only discovered this show last year when I found it on BritBox, which is a paid channel on Amazon Prime (the show has has been around since 1968, we just haven’t been able to get it here in the U.S.).  Personally I think it’s worth every penny of the $6.99 per month subscription just for this one show (although we do watch a few other shows on BritBox too).  If you really don’t want to subscribe to BritBox, American viewers can potentially find older episodes on YouTube.

I was originally drawn to Gardener’s World because it’s filmed (at least partially) in fairly current time.  In other words, on the show they were dealing with COVID shut downs last summer just like we were.  It felt so relatable, and it really helped me feel like we really were all in this together.  And of course, gardening was one of the few things we could safely do last summer.

And then there is Monty.  He’s just so mesmerizing.  Even Mr. Q is drawn in by his soothing voice and calm demeanor.

And those dogs of his!  How did he get them to be so well behaved?  Are all British dogs so well-mannered?

I’m also fascinated by both the similarities and the differences between our two climates.  Did you know that the U.K. is actually further north than Minnesota?  London is at 51.5074° N, and Minneapolis is at 44.9778° N.  Monty’s garden, Longmeadow, is in Herefordshire at 52.0765° N.  So how is it that they have early spring bulbs blooming in February and we are lucky if ours are blooming by April?

Longmeadow in spring

  It all has to do with moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, I know, but it still boggles my mind when Monty says stuff like “today I’m planting winter cabbage.”  Huh?  Stuff grows over the winter there?  That’s crazy.

Anyway, if I’ve accomplished nothing more than introducing a few of my American readers to this gardening show, I feel like my work here is done.  But what I really want to do in this post is re-visit some of the garden tours I’ve posted here over the years starting with my friend Sue’s garden.

sue's arbor

Sue’s garden features a monochromatic theme of mainly white.  It’s very soothing and peaceful.

sues garden 1

Sue gardens mostly in shade, and I am a big fan of shade gardens.  They tend to be more subtle than gardens in full sun.  Not only that, but it’s also much more pleasant to work in a shady garden rather than a hot, sunny one.  You can see more of Sue’s garden in this post and this post.

Then there is Jackie’s scented garden.


Jackie’s garden is filled with color, and it’s also filled with scent.

She definitely embraces a bit of whimsy in her garden as well.

You can check out more of Jackie’s garden here and here.

Way back in 2014 I shared my neighbor nnK’s water garden.

A water garden is not for the faint of heart.  nnK puts in a fair amount of work maintaining this garden including having to remove all of the fish for the winter and keep them safe in tanks inside the house (I wonder if Monty has to do that? or if fish can survive winter in a very small pond in the U.K.?)

nnks garden 1

You can see my post about nnK’s garden here.

Not only have I shared a few local gardens here on my blog, but I’ve also had the good fortune to visit a few fantastic gardens in my travels.

Venice isn’t usually thought of as the place to find amazing gardens (they don’t actually have a lot of … like … um, ground?), but on our last trip there we asked our tour guide if there were any pretty gardens to be toured and she took us to Fortuny.

Isn’t that thing amazing?  I can’t decide if it’s scary, or beautiful.  I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter it after dark.

Le jardin exotique d’Eze is probably not everyone’s cup of tea with all of the cacti, but you can’t beat the location in Eze, France.

garden 3

The gardens at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland were definitely impressive, in a formal sort of way.

blog dunrobin 3

But if you prefer a more manageable garden, the garden at Pockerly Old Hall at the Beamish in County Durham, England is equally as formal but on a slightly more practical scale.

If I had a magic wand I would wave it and make my backyard look exactly like that.

The Jardin de Saint-Martin in Monaco was a lovely spot.

When money is no object, you can have public gardens that look like that!

I’ll wrap up this post with my own garden, which you can ‘tour’ here.

I like to keep my garden fairly low maintenance, after all I hardly have time for gardening because I’m too busy painting furniture.  I have mostly perennials that require minimal care.  I mulch in the spring, do a little pruning here and there, and that’s about it.  If a plant is high maintenance it doesn’t make the cut.

If you’re really into small scale gardening, give a fairy garden a try.

You don’t need much space, and it’s super easy to move plants around.

My fairy garden is in an old cracked bird bath that no longer held water which allowed it to drain properly for plants (see it in the photo below).  I bury it in a pile of leaves next to the house over the winter to protect the miniature hostas and I’m super bummed to report that we just dug it out last weekend and it had completely cracked in half.  Drat!  I’m still contemplating what to do about that little problem.  Maybe I can repair it well enough to continue using it.

Quite a few of my plants are from garage sales, although recently Jackie told me that there is concern locally about spreading jumping worms by exchanging plants (read more about that here on the U of M extension site).  Be sure to look into that if you are a local gardener.

Funny enough, I think what I most look forward to in gardening season is having a nice backdrop for my outdoor furniture photos.

So thank goodness spring is here.  I think COVID made winter even more isolating than normal this year in Minnesota.  I hope I’ve inspired some of my fellow gardeners with this post.  I can’t wait to get out in the garden, how about you?

the perfect sized pot.

Late last summer I picked up a vintage metal plant stand at a garage sale.  In my opinion, it already had the perfect rusty, chippy finish although I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would think this needs a fresh paint job.  But I work really hard to replicate a layered finish like this, so there was no way I was painting over it.

I didn’t do anything with this last year, I just put it away in the carriage house to be stored for the winter.  I pulled it out recently to get it ready for gardening season.  I cleaned it well with some soapy water and then once it was dry again I gave it a coat of clear sealer to add a little protection.  I used the Rustoleum matte clear spray, but there are several brands out there that make a similar product.

What I needed next were some pots to fit in the holders it had.  I pulled out some of my clay pots to see what size worked best, and it ended up being my Queen Bee Laundry Co pot, which has a 5.5″ diameter.

I love that pot!  It’s perfectly aged, and quite beat up, but that’s what appeals to me.  I added the graphic using the transfer gel method and you can read more about that here.

But I only had one spare pot this size, so I put the pot in a bag to take with me for size comparison and headed to my local Hobby Lobby.  I thought I’d easily find a selection of clay pots to choose from.  As it turned out, Hobby Lobby had a bigger pot, and a smaller pot, but nothing in this exact size.  So then I went to Michaels.  Same story.  Then I went to Home Depot, and that’s when I started to realize that 5.5″ wasn’t a readily available standard size because they didn’t have it either.  Jeesh!  Who would have thought finding the right sized pot was going to be an issue here?

I finally ended up at my local Menards store and they didn’t have the right size either.  But that was when I decided to make do with the next size up, and at only $1.49 each even if they totally didn’t work I was only going to be out around $6.

So I brought them home and gave them a quick makeover.  I whitewashed them with a very watered down Dixie Belle Drop Cloth paint, added a Classic Vintage Label transfer to each one and then protected them with a coat of clear wax.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering how well the transfers (and the paint for that matter) hold up on the clay pots.  As we all know clay pots are porous on purpose.  That’s so that excess moisture can escape through the clay. So, good for your plants, but not so good for something trying to stick to the outside of the pot (like paint, or a transfer).

Luckily I started a little experiment with similar pots last year just so that I could ultimately answer this question.  I planted a house plant in one, and some geraniums in a couple of others to see how well each held up.

Here is the indoor house plant version …

When I water this plant I put it in the sink, add water, wait for it to drain and then put it back on its saucer.  So, it doesn’t typically get wet on the outside of the pot, but the plant is planted directly into the pot and thus water is seeping through the clay behind the transfer.  If you look closely, you can see that there is some bubbling of the transfer as a result.  The paint is holding up quite well.  Frankly, I didn’t expect results this good.  I thought for sure the transfer would be toast after a year of this, but I think it still looks pretty darn good.

I definitely expected worse results with the two outside pots.  I planted the geraniums in them and left them outside all of last summer.  I watered them with the hose, and they weren’t protected from rain either, so they got plenty wet.  Last fall I brought them in to my office to try over-wintering the geraniums (which, I might add, worked quite well in a bright southern facing window).

I was astonished at how well these pots held up even outside.  Obviously they aren’t fresh as the day they were created, but I rather like the look of them with a little age.

Unfortunately, the paint and transfers do little to protect the pot from breaking when you knock it off the table on the very day you plan to take some photos of it for your blog post.

Drat!  But as you can see from what’s left of it, the transfer on the 2nd outside pot also held up well right up until the pot broke.

Anyway, this brings me back to the pots that aren’t quite the right size for my plant stand.  Here’s how the new pots look in the stand.

I really thought I could live with this look, but the closet perfectionist in me is rebelling.

Here is how the proper sized pot fits in the stand.

Darn it anyway!  I was going to ask all of you to weigh in and let me know if you think I can get away with the larger pots, but I am betting you’ll all agree that they are wrong and I need to keep searching for the 5.5″ diameter pots.

I fear it is back to the drawing board on this one.  I think I’m going to tuck this plant stand back away for now and maybe I’ll get lucky and find the correct sized pots at garage sales this summer (I tend to see a lot of clay pots at garage sales).  Wish me luck on that!

it always sneaks up on me.

Somehow gardening season always seems to sneak up on me.  And when I say gardening season, I don’t exactly mean that it’s time to get out in the garden, more that it’s time to get some garden themed merchandise ready to bring into the shop where I sell on consignment, and that happens a tad earlier than actual gardening season.

This year it really feels like it has snuck up on me with temps in the 70’s over the weekend.  That’s not exactly typical for the first weekend of April in Minnesota.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is only early April, there is still plenty of spring left.  We really don’t even plant out our annuals here for six more weeks (unless you’re one of those risk takers who plants early and hopes there isn’t a frost).

Anyway, I took full advantage of the warm weather and I painted outside on Saturday!  It’s amazing how much more I can accomplish in a day when I can spread out multiple projects to work on.  I just don’t have the space for that inside the house.

Some of you may remember that I purchased this pair of old chairs last year …

pair of planter chairs

This was one of those cases where I totally overpaid for something.  I paid $10 each, and these chairs should have been on someone’s burn pile (ie. free).  There are several missing pieces, including the cane seats on both.  Plus by the time I got them home, one of the legs had even broken off!  But I wanted to turn them into planter chairs, so they don’t have to be sturdy enough to sit in, just sturdy enough to hold a plant.  And I loved that empty canvas of space on the chair backs.  So I splurged (OK, it’s maybe a little silly to consider $10 a splurge) on them.

By the way, if you are new to my blog and don’t know what I mean by ‘planter chair’, here is one I painted up last year.

Chairs without seats can usually be found dirt cheap, and they are perfect for holding a large hanging basket of flowering annuals.  Although usually I choose chairs that are in better shape than this pair!

Step one was finding just the right stencil to use on those nice, big backs.  I went through my stash and was once again reminded that a good garden themed stencil is hard to find.  I had nothing.  So I went on Etsy and did some searching.  I ended up ordering two stencils from The Stencil Market on Etsy.  I paid just under $22 total for both of them (including shipping), and the seller shipped them super fast which was awesome because I had them by the weekend and was able to finish up my chairs.

The prep was a little bit more work than usual on these chairs.  First of all, they went over to my handyman Ken’s workshop for some regluing and repair of that broken leg.  Then I sanded them quite a bit more than usual because they had a very dried out, flaking finish on them.  Then I cleaned them using Dixie Belle’s White Lightning Cleaner.  This cleaner is a trisodium phosphate (TSP) product.  TSP is toxic and should be handled with care.  If you want to get some legit info on TSP, you can see what Bob Vila has to say about the pros and cons of using TSP here.  This is why I usually use a TSP substitute cleaner rather than the real thing.  But these chairs were so gross that I thought they warranted breaking out the White Lightning.  If you ever use it, be sure to follow all of the safety precautions on the label.

I went with two different sorts of looks on these chairs.  Let’s start with the neutral, farmhouse-y look.  I painted this one in Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky and then added the Fresh Flowers stencil using Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

I couldn’t fit the entire stencil on the back, but I felt like it didn’t need the words “fresh cut” for this purpose anyway.

I like to use Dixie Belle’s Gator Hide as a finish on my planter chairs to give them a little more protection from the elements.  It definitely has a shinier finish than my usual top coats.

I’ve seen quite a few comments from people that have had some difficulty with it looking streaky over black, so here’s today’s q-tip.  The solution to that is to mix a little bit of your paint color in with the Gator Hide. I did that here and it worked perfectly.  I wasn’t sure if that mix would look streaky over the white lettering though, so I did that area first with clear Gator Hide.

For the second chair I once again decided to go with a brilliant pop of color.

First, a little background.  Remember the dresser I recently painted in Flamingo?  I didn’t mention in that post that I made an attempt to do some color mixing for that piece.  I wanted the color to be a deeper coral.  The Dixie Belle website suggests mixing Flamingo and Peony to create ‘coral’, so I just jumped in with both feet (I should have tested it in a small quantity first) and mixed up about a cup of this color.  The resulting color was quite a bit more pink than I wanted (I suggest adding their Barn Red to Flamingo to make a deeper coral color).  Here’s a quick comparison of the Flamingo straight up (on left) and the Flamingo mixed with Peony (on right).

color comparison

Yep, that’s a lot more pink I think.

Anyway, I ended up just using Flamingo on its own for that dresser, but rather than toss that cup of mixed paint I used it on chair number two.

Yep, that’s definitely a pop of color!

Wouldn’t it be gorgeous with a huge basket of brightly color annuals though?  Or, you could add a basket of white geraniums for a slightly more subtle look.

I used Dixie Belle’s Fluff for the stenciling on this one because I wanted more of a true white as opposed to the creamy white of Drop Cloth.

Isn’t that stencil sweet?  It was perfect for a planter chair.

This chair also got a top coat of clear Gator Hide.

Let’s just chat a minute about durability.  Although I gave these chairs their best shot with that Gator Hide, they were originally manufactured for indoor use.  They will hold up for a couple of seasons, more if you store them inside over the winter and add a fresh coat of clear sealer each spring (you could even just use a spray poly for that) and also more if you use them on a semi-protected porch.  But that being said, they won’t last forever outside.  The glued joints won’t hold up.  But who cares?  They were ready for the scrap heap anyway, so just use them for a couple of years and then toss them when they start falling apart.  That’s what I do anyway 😉

It’s a bit early for baskets of annuals here in Minnesota, so you’re just going to have to use your imagination to envision these chairs with big pots of flowers in them.  But can’t you just see it?

pair of planter chairs

So which one is your favorite?  Are you loving that pop of color?  Or would you prefer the more dignified classic black and white?  My neighbor nnK thinks the pink one will sell more quickly than the black one, but I think it will be the other way around.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

These are both available for sale locally, so if any of you locals could use a planter chair this year check out the details on my available for local sale page.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing their products used for this project.

mom’s patio makeover.

You may or may not have noticed that I took a while to respond to comments on my blog last week.  That’s because I was out west visiting my mom.  If you’ve followed me for long, then you may know that my mom lives out near Las Vegas (she’s in the suburb of Henderson).

My mom turned 80 last year.  I had always thought we’d do something amazing for her 80th.  After all, we took her on a cruise for her 70th, so we had to top that.

But then there was COVID.

I didn’t even think going out there to see her would be a good idea, let alone going on some kind of trip together.  So her 80th birthday came and went with nothing more than a phone call between us.

Some of you also know that my mom was a travel agent who specialized in cruises.  She was still working at 79.  Not full time, but she had her regular clients and she would still go in to the office and set up trips for them (myself included).  But again, then there was COVID.  Obviously, the travel industry was hit hard, and one of the segments hit the hardest was cruising (for obvious reasons).  So after helping all of her clients with canceled cruises and making sure they got refunds (myself included), she decided to officially retire late last year.

At the end of 2020, my mom also sold her big house (it was 4 bedrooms, 3 baths) and moved into a much smaller townhome.  The house was too much for her to handle, and although my brother is there to help her, it made sense to move into something a bit more reasonable.  Again, I really wanted to go out there and help her with the move, but then there were all of those COVID surges right after the holidays.

More recently, my mom has had some health issues and I realized that I could no longer let COVID stop me from flying out to spend some time with her.  My sister was planning to go with or without me, so last week I masked up, hopped on a plane and few out to Vegas.

Because my mom has been feeling so poorly, she hasn’t really done much with her new place.  Her townhome is accessed through a small courtyard …

and quite honestly, it was looking a bit sad when we got there.

There were some tired old patio chairs, a cast off kitchen chair and some empty planters.  It definitely needed some help.

So we piled my mom into the car and headed off to her local Lowes, which was literally just around the corner.  We picked out a fun bistro set and had my mom pick out some plants to fill the empty pots.  We also grabbed some solar lights on our way out.

Mom has always been a big fan of bougainvillea, so that was an obvious choice.  I don’t know much about gardening in the desert climate of her area, so I hope we made some good choices with the other plants as well.

In the end, it was really lucky that the Lowes was just around the corner.  The box that the bistro set came in was so huge that we had to put the back seat down to fit it in Mom’s SUV.  That meant we had to leave someone behind, go home and unload the box, then turn around and go back for them.  Fortunately, this was in the same shopping center …

I was more than happy to spend a little time checking out their local Goodwill while my mom and sister unloaded the car.

I have to say, it’s kind of amazing how a Goodwill looks pretty much the same no matter where you go.  Sadly I didn’t find a single thing that I just had to make room in my suitcase for.

Anyway, once we returned back to the house again, my sister tackled assembling the bistro set and I set to work filling up the pots.

That variegated cactus looking thing went in a pot that is out front beside her gate.

Honestly, I don’t know what that plant is, but it looks like something that can survive the occasional lack of watering.  Since this planter is outside the gate (and my mom will access the courtyard through her garage instead), I suspect that my mom may forget to water it on a regular basis, so I wanted something that would have a better chance of surviving a few droughts.

For the remaining planters, I emptied out the old, worn out dirt and refilled them with some Miracle Grow potting soil.  This way Mom won’t have to worry about feeding them for about six months.  Then I planted them up with the rest of the plants.

The tall skinny planters got some bright pink geraniums and some sedum that I hope will spill over the sides.

The larger pot was planted with the bougainvillea, some bright yellow ornamental grass and some more sedum.  This is the same sedum that I grew in my window box last summer and it did really well for me.  Hopefully it will do as well in my mom’s pots.

I sure was wishing I had some of my Dixie Belle products on hand!  This pot would have been the perfect candidate for some rusty patina.

By the time I had everything planted, my sister was working on the final touches to the bistro set.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike assembling things that come in a box?  Yeah, it’s not my cup of tea.  But my sister is good at it.

Fortunately, the chairs came fully assembled.

And aren’t they fab?  They totally look straight out of a Parisian bistro.

My sister just had to put the legs on the table, and that was touch and go.

If I’d had access to my full compliment of painting supplies and a little more time, I would have totally preferred to make over a vintage set of some kind.  After working with this set (which cost $248, check it out here), I was reminded of what I love about refurbishing vintage pieces rather than buying new.  This new stuff is super flimsy, way over priced, and a huge pain to assemble.

The solar lights went alongside the sidewalk leading from the gate up to the courtyard.

As a final touch, we found a cute lantern at Target for $10 and added a faux candle with a timer and placed that on the table.

Now this is the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, maybe even one drunk out of my mom’s wedding china.

To be quite honest, I don’t think my mom will actually spend much time sitting in her courtyard (and she doesn’t actually drink coffee).  She and I could not be any more different in that regard.  I would eat every meal out there, and spend a little bit of time every evening sitting there with a glass of wine (she doesn’t drink that either) and listening to the birds in the huge tree that is nearby.  But my mom isn’t really a ‘sitting outside’ sort of person.

But I couldn’t stand thinking of her being greeted by that sad old kitchen chair every time she returned home from somewhere.  Now she has a cheery spot with bright flowers and a little European flair to greet her instead.

Hopefully every time she passes through here on her way into her home she will not only be reminded of her many travels to Europe, but also of my sister and me even though we can’t be there with her on a regular basis.

watering cans.

Anyone else out there have a thing for watering cans?

That is my friend Sue’s watering can non-collection, so I know that she does.  I have quite a thing for them myself as well.  How about you?

Watering cans are such a quintessential gardening tool, yet I’ll admit I rarely use one to actually water my plants.  I mostly use the hose for that.  For me, they are more for decoration rather than actual function.

I’ve shared a few watering can transformations here on the blog, one of my favorites being this one

I simply added the small version of the IOD Le Petit Rosier transfer to a can that had already been painted white.  I ended up selling that particular watering can, but I loved it so much that I did another one just like it to keep for myself.

That was one that was also already painted when I found it, as was this green one that is part of my own non-collection …

I enjoy painting them myself as well though.  I painted this one in Miss Mustard Seeds Flow Blue.

This next one is also painted in milk paint, Maritime Blue from Homestead House.

That one was another one that I loved so much that I kept it.  I also decided the color should be called Hydrangea Blue rather than Maritime Blue since it was such a lovely match to those pretty hydrangeas.

Your q tip of the day;  I have found that milk paint will adhere fairly well to clean galvanized metal that has a dull finish that feels a little toothy to the touch.

The next little can had a shinier, smoother finish and probably wouldn’t have been a good candidate for milk paint.  Instead I just added a Classic Vintage Label transfer from re.design with prima …

This next watering can also has a Classic Vintage Label added, and this is another that I’ve kept for myself since I love it so much.

I’ve found that the original version of the IOD French Pots transfers (the grey ones from Prima Marketing) were a bit too pale for use on galvanized metal.

Unless of course you like that very subtle look.

The newer French Pots transfers that were released by IOD are black rather than grey, so they stand out quite nicely.

Anyway, all of this wandering down memory lane was my way of gathering inspiration for another watering can that I picked up at a garage sale last season.

If you look closely, you can see that it isn’t sitting flat on my work surface.  I don’t know why watering cans often develop a sort of bulge in the bottom.  Maybe because water is left in them over the winter and it freezes and expands?  For whatever reason, they are often wonky like this when I get them.

That is easily remedied by turning the can over and smacking the bottom with a hammer a few times so that it become concave rather than convex.  Now it sits flat.

After reviewing those watering cans that I painted in pretty shades of milk paint, I decided to pull out the Sweet Pickins Patina for this one.

I absolutely love this color, couldn’t you just eat it up?

Unfortunately, I’ve found that it is a tough sell on furniture.  I painted a dresser in it several years ago and it took a quite a while to sell.  So now I tend to reserve it for smaller projects, like this one.

I felt fairly sure that the milk paint would stick to this piece, but just to be on the safe side I scuff sanded it just a bit.  As you can see, I did get good adherence for the most part, with a little chipping here and there … in my opinion, the perfect result.

I got the most chipping on the handle, which makes me think that I didn’t clean it well enough to remove any oily residue from the previous owners handling of it.

As I’m sure you realize, I love that chippy look though, so this is just fine by me.

In order to preserve it, I gave the watering can two coats of Dixie Belle’s Flat clear coat.  That should reduce any further chipping down the road.

I waited until after the clear coat was dry to add the IOD transfer.  I find that transfers adhere really well over the flat clear coat.

Now, you may be wondering what happened to that medallion sort of thingie on the side with the bee on it?

Well, I was unable to remove it, so it’s still there on the other side.

Before selling them on, I like to test watering cans to make sure they are water tight and they function properly.

This can is water tight, but oddly enough the rose (that’s what they call the spray nozzle thingie on a watering can) is removable.  Which also means that it leaks quite a bit.

So I wouldn’t use this as an actual watering can, but it makes a fantastic vase for a bunch of tulips.

This one won’t be joining my own non-collection though, I think I’ll sell it on.  So it’s in the pile of stuff to take to Reclaiming Beautiful and has a price tag of $22 on it.