My readers and clients know this about me: I’ll always suggest a proliferation of color, texture, unexpected seasonal accents, and a reimagining of your rooms or exteriors, and whenever possible. A lot of time, that means a lot of stuff. It’s thrilling to treat your home like a design laboratory, but sometimes, you don’t need all that stuff. Why not revisit your holiday decorating, and think about limiting your design to the ‘natural’ world? This year, try focusing on the tree, a garland, a simple wreath, and drink in the design of nature.
Supplies needed for building your island:
Sheets of Styroam – we used severalÂ 1/2â thick sheets about 10â x 12â thatÂ we collected from packing materials
We are going for a rounded rectangular shape forÂ our island. You can make yours any size and shapeÂ you want… what is important is the layering. On theÂ underside you want to start with a large piece of foamÂ and 2 smaller pieces. Center the smaller pieces in theÂ center and pin with greening pins. This will allow theÂ larger base piece to float above the water.
Now flip your foam over and break off the corners.Â Pin the corners to the top. This will create levels forÂ us to build on.
Add a few more small pieces to create additionalÂ levels, pinning as you go.
Once you have everything pinned in place,Â tie some twine around the center. This will insureÂ that everything stays in place. Leave an extra longÂ tail that can be used to weight your island down.
Now lay your island, face down in theÂ middle of a piece of burlap. The burlap willÂ hold everything in place and keep the dirtÂ from getting into your pond filter. Wrap the burlap around to the backÂ leaving the top layers uncovered, andÂ pin in place. We curled up our twineÂ and pinned it down so we donât accidentallyÂ cut it off.Â Cut off the excess burlap as you go. We areÂ not worried about neatness, folks, no oneÂ is going to see this part!
When you are done your island willÂ look something like this. This is the top.Â Notice the crevices which will be perfectÂ for planting.
Choose your plants carefully. Make sure theyÂ can handle the shade or sun and a lot of water.Â We used mini mondo grass, ferns, begonias,Â and mazus.
Begin planting your plants, adding dirtÂ as needed. Use pins to pin plants rootsÂ to styrofoam so they stay in place.Â Continue adding plants, adding dirt.
Once you have all your plants in place,Â cover the entire island with moss and pinÂ in place.
If you haven’t been out today, gaze through a window on to your surroundings. It’s the depth of winter, so what you’ll find will likely be skeletal trees, sere lawns, slumbering flowerbeds, and an overcast sky. Not very inviting, huh? But as counter intuitive as it sounds, now’s the time to contemplate adding a bit of structure to your landscape, and provide a bit of oomph. A great way to add interest to your outdoor setting, as well as provide a place to congregate or contemplate, is to erect a pergola.
A pergola is traditionally constructed of wooden posts and open cross beams at the top, so that light can filter down below, while vines—or other plant life–can wind about above. It serves as both a plant support and an area for seating. The ancients created pergolas as a feature in their gardens for two reasons: functionality and efficient use of space. Pergolas are the perfect interface for plants and humans, and can be an inviting part of your landscape, and they’re never fussy or too detailed. You aren’t creating a Victorian bandshell—think ‘The Music Man’—nor are you constructing a ‘folly,’ those small whimsical buildings beloved by 18th Century landscapers. You want an area for plants to take root and feel at home, at ground level and above. If the word ‘pergola’ bothers you, then think’ arbor,’ but remember to incorporate seating for all the times in the year you want to personally use your outdoor room.
The one featured is constructed from treated 6” x 6” pine posts and 1” x 6” cross pieces above. Sink the posts for stability, and think about seating. You can bring in benches, or build seating directly into the structure, like done here. You’ll see this pergola spans the sidewalk leading up to the house, an unexpected touch. Even if your landscape leaves little room for such construction, you can find an innovative way to add it.
To maintain the open feel of this pergola, we also used window boxes to contain plants above, rather than support vines up the posts. Vines would have intertwined along the beams above, minimizing the light below, and created a tunnel effect on the sidewalk. Although the shade provided by vines growing above is a desirable feature in many pergolas, the citing of this one directly in front of the house called for maximum light to filter down and through.
Pergolas are traditionally painted a lighter color—to absorb and reflect the light, and keep them from looking ‘heavy’—and we used the same white as the house. The benches are the perfect way to welcome friends, or for a semi-private area for you to wind down after a busy day, and enjoy your landscape.
During these dreary winter days, you should dream of warmer times, when you’ll want to be close to your landscape and its serenity. And an outdoor room, like this pergola, is the perfect touch.
Live Life to the Fullest!
Autumn is my favorite season.Â Â The crisp cool nights, the relief from the summer heat, and the colorful fall foliage just reinvigorates my tired soul. Along with my excitement is a strong desire to add some autumn dÃ©cor to the interior of my home.Â Â I have found as I get older in life, Â just adding a few seasonal touches here and there is all I need to make my home full of autumn bliss.
A few pumpkins and/or gourds sitting in a bowl or layered ever so effortlessly on a table top will give a strong suggestion of fall.Â Even three holiday pumpkin votives in a row sitting on a shelf will make one smile.
Mix and match your pumpkins and gourds with different natural elements such as scented pine cones.Â I even save broken pumpkin stems that I find scattered in a pumpkin patch.Â Placed in a cool container or bowl, these stems make for a great autumn display.
When decorating for fall, Â one word of caution is that sometimes but not always, real pumpkins and gourds can decay before the end of the season.Â So replacements may be necessary and if you are worried about damage to your furniture then just use artificial produce. Fake pumpkins and gourds tend to look like what they areâ¦fake. So add pizzazz by just painting with coffee glaze or any dark stain over each artificial fruit. Apply stain, using downward strokes. Donât forget the stem. Wipe lightly with paper towel to remove excess stain. Allow to dry for 5-6 hours.
Remember Valentine’s Day? No, not last year, with that reservation made at the fourth restaurant on the list, the place of last resort. The place where the hot appetizers were tepid and the mojito arrived looking more like a Cosmo. No, not the typical current Valentine’s Day we’ve grown to know that consists of mandatory public noshing and mummified roses.
Think about the Valentine’s Day from when you were in grade school. The handcrafted hearts scissored from the only available shade of red construction paper, the paper doilies glued to them; the trick your teacher showed you how to create the perfect heart by folding the paper, arching the scissor, then diving down; the satisfaction of walking up and down the classroom aisles, dropping the hand-addressed cards into other students’ (handmade) Valentine boxes.
Wasn’t that a whole lot more satisfying than calling up a florist, or wrangling a disdainful restaurant host? Here are a couple of ideas to bring back the feeling of personal Valentine’s sentiment, of making the holiday better by making something yourself. And remember: everyone appreciates a homemade gift far more than a trip to an overcrowded restaurant. And there’s something about Valentine’s Day that makes a handcrafted heart all the more precious. Here are a couple of ideas that I have grown to love that I think will make YOUR Valentine Day so very special!
Pre-stretched artist canvas
Assorted colors of acrylic paint
Wide chip brush
Working from above, squirt paint, one color at a time on canvas. Don’t worry about perfection, and make it random.
Mix paint with gel medium.
Apply paint with spatula, and create heart at center of canvas.
Gently go over heart with chip brush.
Apply additional paint squirts to heart as desired.
Red Mossed Heart
Styrofoam egg (3 7/8” x 5 7/8”)
Thick craft glue
Red-dyed reindeer moss
Use scissors or serrated knife to cut egg in half lengthwise.
Cut a ‘V’ out of the top and angle off each side to create heart shape.
Attach moss to heart with glue.
Use dental floss to secure base layer of moss to egg and tie off back.
Glue another layer of moss where needed.
When dry, trim with scissors to accentuate the heart shape.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Having stylish fall dÃ©cor is rather easy with a little help.Â Add drama and interest to any container inside or out, with your very own pumpkin lanterns.Â Pumpkin lanterns will brighten up any dark porch or scary corner and also look spooktacular on both sides of a fireplace.
All you need are the following supplies for each lantern:
Ex-Large to Large foam pumpkin
2 different size circular bits and drill
1 under-the-counter round halogen 20watt light fixture (from your local hardware store)
Light is not water proof so it’s best to keep your lanterns under a covered area.
Go ahead and drill circles all over your pumpkin in a random pattern.Â Use two different size bits for contrast.Â Remember not to drill too low since we do not want to see the light fixture that sits at the bottom of the pumpkin.
Add an autumn wreath to the top of the pot rim first for fluff and softness. Place the pumpkin lantern on top of the container if desired or floor.
Remember to also place your light inside the pumpkin and plug into a grounded electric outlet.Â Â To ensure your pumpkin is lit each evening, a timer is a great idea.
Add some real pumpkins, gourds, and a few yellow mums around your new lantern to create more curb appeal.Â Now your home will glow with autumn cheer.