What We Did Over The Weekend

Besides watching the 49ers lose the super bowl :( John, the kids and I tackled a big project this weekend.   Dealing with a camellia bush was a task I have been putting off for a while but wanted to get done before the spring.  This gigantic tree is one of four that have massively grown up around the house.  This one in particular was blocking light and damaging the paint and shingles on the front of our house.

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It was also spaced far enough out from the house that it was taking up some valuable real estate.  We don’t have a huge yard and we want to make every bit of it usable that we can.  So last fall I had the camellia “pruned”:

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 9.26.36 PMI know, it’s pathetic–poor camellia.  But it really opened up our yard so much and made our living room so much brighter.   I knew after a few months we had to get it taken out.  So about a week ago we did:

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Which left us with a 12 x 12 patch of dirt.  But oh the possibilities!

(By the way, looking at these pictures I think of all of us bloggers who were over the moon about our hydrangeas 5 months ago and look at them now!  They look like a garden Morticia would have from the Addams Family.  Just a bunch of brown sticks.  I knew it would look like this for the winter but seeing the contrast in the pictures above makes me realize how dramatic the change is).

But I digress.  We had a bunch of large (24×24) pavers and gravel that we pulled up when we added the lawn on this side of the house so we decided to use some of them for a patio eating area here.  John got back to work laying them and making them perfect just like he did on the brick path.

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Then we assembled this arbor and anchored to the ground with concrete.  Added some sod and mulch, a climbing rose and here we are:

arbor after 1 edt

The arbor is redwood so it will fade to gray like the fence has.  Plus we planted a climbing rose next to it which I hope will grow quickly.

arbor after 4 edt

arbor after 3 edt

Below you can see the lavender border I planted too.  I’m hoping it will get enough sun there to do OK.  Not sure once that big tree gets all its leaves again.

arbor after 2 edt

I’ll be sure to do some real afters when everything is blooming in the spring and we get those raised planters full of summer veggies again.  This really is our urban oasis so I plan to work hard to get it looking good.

By the way, has anyone grown Japanese Boxwood before?  We have this low hedge that I planted last year and I know they are slow growers, but how slow?  Will they get noticeably taller in the next couple of years?  Hoping to have a few feet before too terribly long…

Are you doing anything to prepare your garden for spring?

PS-I realized this weekend watching the Super Bowl that my 7 year old thought that Baltimore was Boldemort–like Voldemort.  I guess he thought they were true evil. :)

Fall Garden

You may remember in the late spring/early summer I planted a butterfly garden along our newly laid brick path.  Here’s what it looked like a couple of years ago before we laid the brick path:

And here’s what it looked like in early June right after I did all the planting:


After a summer of mild temperatures and lots of fertilizer and TLC, here’s where we are now:

Checking out a hummingbird

The ground cover hasn’t done as well as I had hoped but maybe after a winter of rain it will come in full by the spring.  The Nemesia, Sage, and Penstemon have done great and I hope they will cover the fence by spring.

Besides the garden I have been busy with a lot of other house projects I am excited to share once they are finished.  Lots of painting and other updates have been happening.  I hope to have some photos soon.

Also, a couple of client projects have been really fun for me lately and one has led me to add another color to my deep rich colors list:  BM Elk Horn

If you have unpainted woodwork in a golden or oaky tone and you are wanting to go darker but stay neutral on the walls, this is the color for you!  We painted her dining room this color to accent her 1920s home with a golden colored wood trim and it is gorgeous.  When the room is finished I will share some photos because this little swatch doesn’t do it justice–seriously!

House Tour: Bathroom Garden

Lately I’ve been inspired by images like this dining room by Bunny Williams and its conservatory feel:


I love all the green and the plants and the feeling of bringing the garden in.  I also had been wanting to take some new photos of our master bath for my pinterest board so I went to the yard and got some cuttings.  It’s not quite as lush as the Bunny Williams photo above but you get the idea.  😉



One reason I love a garden feel in the bathroom is because bathrooms are full of moisture anyway so they are like little hothouses.  The little orchid plant on top of the antique cabinet above has done so much better since I moved it to the bathroom a few weeks ago.  Plus, you will notice in the Bunny Williams photo above that many of the surfaces are stone (including, I think, marble and limestone) and most natural stones age beautifully with water so lush plants are a natural complement to an area with lots of stone or tile surfaces like a bathroom.

If you want more information on details, sources or before photos of our master bath, check out this previous post.

Thanks for stopping by!

Growing the Garden


This past week I have been busy adding a lot of new plants to the garden thanks in large part to my mom visiting (She’s been here for 2 weeks and leaves tomorrow–it has flown by!  Wish she could stay longer!).  She has been great helping me pick out (and purchase) many of them and although I know it’s not an ideal time to start planting, you have to strike while the iron is hot!  Although the garden had been looking better, I realized this spring that I really wanted a full flowering garden with butterflies, bees and hummingbirds coming to visit but I also wanted reasonably low maintenance.  I love gardening but I knew that realistically with 3 young kids and our dry Mediterranean summers I needed something fairly hearty, independent, and sun-loving:  So we went with mostly sages.

To be honest I can’t remember all the different kinds of sage we got (There are so many kinds available!  I know what I bought is not the clumping kind but the bush kind) and I chose pink, purple and white flowers.  These are interspersed with Penstemon and Nemesia in various shades as well.  I also got a ground cover that does well with foot traffic right up next to the path called Pratia Pend but I don’t know if it’s going to make it.  It does not seem to like where I planted it.  The sad little brown clumps up next to the path would be those…

The pink flowers in the back are penstemon and the little purple, pink and white ones closer in the frame are sage.  I have already seen a couple of hummingbirds and many bees and butterflies!

Besides having a very sunny side of the yard, we also have a full shade portion that I filled with more hydrangeas.  We found some beautiful Annabelle hydrangeas and I placed them along the house under the diamond windows.  This fall I plan to remove the old Camelia stuck there in the middle and turn this area into a little outdoor room surrounded by hydrangeas on one side and boxwood on the other bordering the path.  We have some leftover hardscape that will make the table and chairs more usable too.







There is still so much work to be done here but we are definitely making progress.  The hydrangeas alone improve the space immensely!

I also mentioned the other day that I planted some limelight hydrangeas under the kitchen windows behind the ferns.  Here’s a little shot of them:

They look tiny now but I think next year they will really come in and show up more from behind the ferns.  I love all the green right here under my green and white kitchen!

And finally, here’s our summer vegetable garden starting to come in nicely:

In front you can see all the lettuces followed by strawberries.

Then we have little green bean plants, zucchini, tomatoes, and corn.  I’ve never grown corn before so we’ll see how it goes…

The hedge behind the veggies goes all around our corner to block all the traffic from what is a pretty busy street.  The hedge is called Tea Olive and we love it (the previous owners planted it but it has grown in while we have lived here).   I need something to fill in at the base of it in the rest of the yard where there are no raised beds.  I was thinking French Lavender but I’m not sure yet…

I really love summer gardening and am so excited about all our new plants.  What’s growing in your garden this time of year?


Brick Path Before and After

Well, it’s finally finished!  John powered through this weekend and completed the brick path and it looks great.  Now I still have to think about some landscaping and other things but this is a big first step.  Here is a before shot from a year and a half ago…

The gravel path was nice but so dusty in the summer and muddy in the winter.  When I found the antique bricks I knew they would make a great path.  Here is the After:

John worked really hard and did such a good job.  He has amazing patience with projects like this as well as attention to detail.  I was there for moral support!

Our hydrangeas have come in so nicely this year.  Last year they barely bloomed at all but this year they have really taken off…

And the camellia that I hacked back to nothing is making a resurgence.  I think by fall it is going to be full again but hopefully more manageable.  I read that they respond well to aggressive pruning and I don’t think you can get more aggressive than what I did.  You can see in the shot below all the leaves starting to come out:

Now I just have to keep the garden happy through our long dry summer.  It was a lovely 69 degrees today but no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of which, my mom arrived today from Tallahassee, FL just in time to avoid the tropical storm that is flooding the state.  She’ll be here for the next couple of weeks so I apologize if my posting slacks off a little.


Thanks for stopping by!

Thank You Mom!

You may remember my post from the other day about the store The Gardener.  Well, my mom read that post too and look what I got from her:




The topiary frame I wanted!  My mom is the best!  I don’t know exactly where it will go yet, we still have so much to do to transform the yard, but for now I like being able to see it all the time right here.  Thanks so much Mom!

What are your plans for Mother’s Day?  I’m looking forward to hanging out with John and the kids and enjoying the nice weather.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!   Have a great weekend and be sure to tell your mom “thanks.”

Jerusalem Sage

The family who owned our home before us actually invested in some lovely landscaping prior to selling it that unfortunately got pretty trashed right before we moved in when we redid the roof and the foundation.  One aspect of their landscaping that has flourished however are the sage bushes planted outside our fence and wall.  They alternate Mexican Sage and Jerusalem Sage.  Both are drought tolerant, good for our long dry summers, and provide beautiful color throughout most of the growing season.  The Jerusalem Sage blooms and grows first and it has started to take off:

Phlomis fruticosa, or Jerusalem Sage, is the yellow and the purple is Mexican Sage.  In about a month or two the Jerusalem Sage will start to get overrum by the Mexican Sage and then in the late fall I cut everything way back and we start again in the spring.



It’s probably not a plant I would ever have chosen myself but now that it’s here I can’t imagine our front yard without it.

Inside the fence my hydrangeas are about to take off too and I can’t wait!


How is your garden this spring?  What’s blooming at your house?





5 Ways to Bring Spring Into Your Decor

I know a lot of the country is still experiencing the end of winter but around here the weather has warmed up a bit and the flowers are starting to bloom.  It’s definitely putting me in the mood for spring and I always start itching to freshen up my decor with the change of seasons.  If you are trying to rush the warm weather too, here are five ways to bring spring into your decor:

1. Fresh Flowers

Nothing says spring like a bouquet of fresh flowers.  If you are like me and have too much going on to get to the florist every week (not to mention too many other things to spend your money on : ) cuttings from your yard can be just as lovely.

These sprigs from a Breath of Heaven bush have small delicate blooms this time of year.


Our lemon tree has been keeping us drinking lemonade the last few weeks but if you don’t live in a citrus climate, some lemons from the grocery store under a glass cloche definitely bring the garden feel inside…

If winter is keeping your flowers from making their debut, think green!  Even  a branch from a tree can bring the outdoors in.  Our Sword Fern is green all year so it’s always a nice fresh pop of color.

2.  New pillow covers

A quick and inexpensive way to change your decor with the seasons is to change your throw pillow covers.  Last year I switched out my traditional brown ones in these blue barrel chairs for the updated yellow chevron striped ones.  They added fresh pop of a spring color.


3. Create a spring inspired table scape


This is my trick for always bringing a new season or holiday into our home.  Changing your table scape or even just throwing a fresh table cloth on your table will change the feel of your dining room/kitchen.  Here I used a branch from our Japanese Magnolia for color and a sculptural and organic centerpiece.

4.  A fresh coat of paint

This table from a previous post, received a makeover with a simple coat of white paint (and a new knob!).  A coat of white paint on just about anything can freshen up a room and make it feel brighter and airier and all it takes is a can of paint and a little elbow grease.  Here is the before:










5. Make bedding, curtains, slipcovers, or other easy to change fabrics seasonal

Investing in a new slipcover for the sofa or new drapes for the whole house may not be in your  budget right now, but buying an inexpensive duvet for your bed or even making one yourself can change the whole look of your bedroom.   This bedding from Pottery Barn with the branches of birds and the bright yellows, blues and greens feels like a garden right in your room.  Similar patterns and colors can be found at other more budget friendly retail stores like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Target, etc.  Or try your local fabric store and make your own for something unique!  To take the convenience one step further, in my own home I like to use neutral bedding and change the colors with the seasons through accent pillows and decorative throws.


How do you bring the seasons into your decor?  I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.


Happy spring!