Patio, Pups and Projects

Our neighbor had an intrusive tree removed last year that made a lot of sense for her. Cleared up her backyard nicely. But this spring I’m noticing how MUCH more sun we are getting on our back patio (and we got a lot to begin with.) The hardest adjustment to California from the Midwest has been the unbelievable LEVEL of sun rays. It gets very hot very quickly when in the sun. 

So, we decided to rearrange a few things and get a table umbrella to shield a little bit of the intensity.

I seem to prefer neutrals and nature colors on the inside, so it feels like I’ve gone off the rails on color in the backyard this year. -ha. And it all started with a rug.

I love our ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ sun we lovingly bought a few years ago in honor of Charles Osgood’s retirement. (Has it been as good since he left?) I also have enjoyed the ombre growth of this ivy up our fence (old as it is.) We tried to direct the ivy up the fence last summer and some of it has decided to cooperate. Hopefully more of the ivy on the ground will take notice and decide to do a little scaling themselves this year.

I very much like the color blue. However, I rarely use it. I’m not sure why but I’ve never gravitated toward it in my own home – while appreciating it in others’ homes. Something crazy struck me, however, and I fell instantly for this outdoor rug. Everything else grew from that.

Last year we severely trimmed back the oleander bushes. The back of our yard still has plenty (and are currently heavily sagging because the pink blooms are getting ready to break open.) The white bushes on the side of the patio have a sturdy ‘trunk’ so we trimmed them to look more like trees than bushes. And they are blooming beautifully.

Salmon, navy, teal and touches of purple are in the rug so the plants and pillows followed suit. 

(Please tell the person who jimmy-rigged this ‘hanging’ pot to cut off the janky strings and try to make it more presentable.) (aka: it was me.)

I think this sassy parrot is my favorite part of the backyard update. How can you not feel energized by her while sipping your morning chai?

By the way, reader, we are firmly ignoring the nasturiums that I repotted and now they’re acting dead. They’ll come back – they just can’t help themselves.

Is the parrot pillow my favorite thing or is this stunning variegated Japanese aralia? It’s a close call.

Two important ‘life discoveries’ I’ve made (…or recently admitted to…) this spring have been

  • I have done it, lived it, studied it, and now – I’m done with succulents. They are too temperamental. Every time you touch one to deadhead it, the other leaves get knocked off so planting them is a huge pain (think: the delicate Operation game of our youth.) Even though I still have a ton – we will eventually part ways. Melanie – I wish you were here to give them all to. They need youth and patience and I’m sorely lacking on both accounts.
  • And secondly, I am not a flower person either. I have been spoiled by houseplants. They’re strong and sturdy and I at least know how to read them better than flowers in the California sun. Many lessons learned.

It’s all about self-actualization, people. Growth and improvements, right?

Tilly and her old man eyebrows and soul patch. As long as she has a leaf or a dead plant, she’s in high heaven!

The thing about oleander flowers is that they bloom all summer long. Well into fall, actually. They last a long time when you cut them and bring them indoors and their foliage is a staple for flower arrangements. You literally have to throw them away before they die. -ha. 

I love wonky pottery. I found this one years ago at an antique mall and it called to me. This little blue vase (that needs more water, I see) houses our once and done gardenia flowers. What a powerful scent! I love them so much!!

Haddie. Always around. Always on-point and watching all the activity but wanting to play it cool like she doesn’t care. She teases Tilly and loves the attention Tilly gives her. But admitting love is just not in her character. 

If you follow me on Facebook you know we tried to create an area of the sideyard for Tilly to go to the bathroom. But after training her to go outside ANYWHERE, it’s been difficult to condense her to just one spot now. So we are going to try a fence with a gate – cordoning off the patio area as separate from her play and go area. California backyards are small and we were lucky to get a little spot of yard in the back and now we don’t want to give it all over to a new puppy. 

Concessions and compromises! 

On the other side of the fence is our cactus garden. I am AAAAMAAAAAZED at how quickly the cacti have grown over the winter. We started with nothing and they have practically taken over the back of our house. I love the desert vibe they give out and have loved watching a completely new kind of plant grow.

Scott’s BBQ grill is kept going year-round. As much as possible we cook out there!

Dad gave me some castor bean seeds last year that have grown ominously on the corner of our house. They’re about ready to take over our blue agave (Agave Maria)!

I once read that California was never meant to have inhabitants because there are so many natural elements to overcome. It’s interesting how wildlife and humans have adapted to the unique environment of the Pacific coast.

Just like a kid, we do our best to wear her down every evening. She looks happy and satisfied, don’t you think??

What I would normally consider Spring in the Midwest is ending here in northern CA. We are staring summer in the face next week – many 100 degree days scheduled. But this week has been mild and enjoyable. I am learning that California doesn’t believe in easing anyone into a new situation – it just drops it hot and smoldering in your lap. 

We’ll be very happy with our new umbrella shade. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!!

Pacific Pots and Plants

I have two new loves in my life: Pacific Natural and a funky new euphorbia plant. (Well actually, I guess it’s three new loves because I crushed hard over this new terra cotta pot.)

I have really been enjoying this book lately. Maybe I should take a step back and say I am really enjoying the Pacific coast lately. The weather, the vibe, the aesthetic. California is agreeing with me.

Reading through this beautiful book brings about a sense of calm mixed with a renewed interest in entertaining. Scott and I both enjoy having people over to our home and now we have the added ‘room’ of our backyard. Jenni Kayne speaks straight to our al fresco style of entertainment.

Additionally, Kayne writes of eating seasonally. Getting to know California seasons has been like learning a new language, it’s so unlike our Midwestern roots. But we keep watching the fruits and vegetables that seem to come and go from our local markets and are making mental notes of when the best time is to buy each of them. And boy oh boy are we ready to visit some local farmer’s markets this summer! 

Simple and elegant – two unlikely partners that marry so well together.

How cute is this S’mores to go hostess gift?? Handmade and thoughtful. (Not to mention yummy!)

My new plant buddy is an Euphorbia xylophylloides. It’s flat leaves and funky growth pattern spoke to me as I walked past it in the garden center. I was a little worried about its yellow/orange tips until I read that’s a sign of new growth happening.

I thought it would look nice in a terra cotta pot but when we wandered over to that area, this rockstar stood out to me.  It’s hard to see how big it is, but it’s a good size. I think it will look great on our fireplace hearth – standing out against the white brick. We looked and looked for a pricetag but eventually just gave up and took it to the register. We purchased all of our things and lugged it all to the car.

Scott checked the receipt that said the pot was on sale for $12 – we couldn’t believe it. We headed BACK inside and picked up the remaining two pots to use somewhere else!

I love it’s terra cotta legs and Spanish style!

This succulent cactus was in a nursery pot of course. I set it up outside to transfer it to its new rockstar terra cotta pot. I thought I’d be able to lift it as a whole out of the plastic pot and into the new pot. But when I started picking it up, every.single.one of the individual ‘leaves’ fell onto the ground.

Succulents have such small roots but I thought this was one big plant with individual ‘branches’. Much to my surprise, they are each individual – autonomous – plants.

I picked each one out of the mess of dirt on the ground and laid them out into height-sized piles. I then started burying them in the new pot of dirt – tallest in the middle and working my way out. In the end, it worked much better so that I could ‘design’ the style of the overall pot. (I also kept a few back to start another pot of these unusual succulents.)

I think Jenni Kayne, author of Pacific Natural, would be proud of my purchases. #pacificproud

A Work in Progress…

I love a good Before and After shot.

Actually, it’s not necessarily a Before and After but more like a Before and During.

When we first moved here, I took a picture of our little backyard. There were three ratty, over-grown rose bushes behind the house and that was it. The previous owners had a hot tub over in that square cement area in the far corner. The hedges were all over-grown and it was hard to tell what was what.

But there was potential.

The biggest eyesore we couldn’t change was the neighbor’s palm tree with all the dead fronds going up it. (Could CSI tell which direction a fire dart came from?! I’m asking for a friend…)

This is after our spring work. We tried pruning the rose bushes in the fall but they were just so overgrown with dead brush, volunteer trees, etc, so we cut them all the way down to the ground. We figured it would be easier to handle them from a new starting place.

We installed a standing flower box, three planters for grasses and palms (and petunias and ivy.) Scott built all of the above. We put up LED string lights over our patio furniture and added a few more pieces.

The rose bushes are coming back to life in a much more manageable way.

We added a small cactus garden (which just about didn’t make it because this is a low area in the yard so all of the buckets and buckets of rain we’ve gotten, all collected here. *head smack* We’ll see how they do this summer but I might move them over closer to our agave on the other end.

We have pink jasmine started in three different areas of the yard so sitting outside is a very sweet treat. In fact, just raising the windows inside makes for the most fragrant breezes blowing through the house.

Long story, short: Haddie has become an outside cat. She escaped one day and then meowed like crazy to be let back out. (Her eyes were opened to new possibilities!) -ha.

You can see one of the jasmine vines in the background below. Unfortunately, we had one hummingbird but we haven’t seen him for months. We weren’t really prepared when we put up this feeder, but I’ll study up on it and maybe we’ll get a few more. The jasmine are supposed to attract them as well.

We still feel so blessed to have been gifted this beautiful agave plant. Agave Maria. She is a lovely shade of blue-gray and matches the house perfectly.

On the side of the house I started a succulent garden in the fall. It seems to be progressing nicely, although the amount of attention I give it is really pretty embarrassing. If it rains for more than a handful of hours, I go out and cover them with boards Scott made for me. Then I uncover them so they’ll get some sun. All winter long I have babied them. I should be committed…

The gutter in the middle of it all is certainly not eye-appealing, but hopefully they’ll eventually grow up over it and cover it up a bit.

There’s about to be a burst of yellow outside our bedroom windows pretty soon. They gave me so many rose bouquets last fall; I’m excited to see what they produce during the summer.

These Mexican lavender bushes were also a purchase not long after we moved in. They were three little bushes that have grown so beautifully. Each time I walk by them and hear the buzz of the bees that saturate their flowers, makes me feel a little sense of pride and contribution to the planet.

This is our current project. I bought 4 mandevilla vines to crawl up and take over this area of the fence. I only have about 2.7 zillion trellis ideas and need to whittle that down quickly because they’re ready to climb! Our neighbors have a rusted shed next door that sticks up in the corner (and a reason we put Scott’s BBQ tent and grill over there.) I’m hoping to build a trellis up above the fence so they can crawl up nicely and cover a lot of the site of the shed.

This side shade garden is part of Summer 2020. I have been THRILLED these hostas and bleeding hearts came up this year (from bulbs) but I decided to not spend a lot of design time over in this area. Next year I want to have Scott build an arbor over the area that leads to this shade garden. But that’s for another summer. (I do – occasionally – try to temper my enthusiasm!)

We have bags of mulch to be laid down, tiki torches to put up (because Scott insisted we bury PVC pipe and cement them in – all I wanted to do was stick them in the ground when we had people over! -ha.)

We’ve trimmed back the hedges a lot, but we have more to do and need to figure out how to best shape the ones we have. I’d like to see a full year of them (and what they do/bloom/etc) before making too drastic of a change. The grass is a whole other area of improvement needed. But that’s another stage – right?

And that’s the main thing: learning what California weather is like and where the sun shines (and doesn’t shine) in our yard. It’s the best thing about working in nature. You are on IT’S time schedule. You are forced to exercise patience. But in the end, after all your planning, the surprises come in the most beautiful forms. I’m anxiously waiting to experience them all…

I recently read the book Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty and Peace by Christie Purifoy. I have always tried to be a Place Maker. Even when it was a temporary home for a short period of time. Filling a space with your things, your designs, your styles…it shapes how you see the rest of your life. When you feel welcomed and comfortable at home, everything else seems manageable. I’ve lived in small, large, really small, and even hotel spaces. The size of your home doesn’t matter. Nor does it’s age. Settle in and make it home. Your home. Invite others in to share it with you. Do NOT be consumed by comparison. It is the killer of joy. Learn how to manage your reactions to social media accounts that seem to show complete perfection. Pinterest is great for ideas and inspiration, but when you feel the drudging feeling that you’ll never have enough or you can’t compete with this or that – get off. You’re on option overload. Spend time imagining your space in your mind. What do YOU want? What resources do you have? What resources do you have to live within? You do not have to have unlimited talent or money in order to make a place cozy and comfortable. Don’t be led into the lie that buying just.this.one.more.thing will make everything better. (I have it on very good authority that it won’t.) Fill you house with friends and family – that’s the best design feature a home can have.

We are making our mark in California – for as long as we’re here. And we are having a lot of fun doing it. Step by step. Stage by stage. No hurries. And most importantly, taking the time to fully enjoy it. Speaking of which, chicken is on the grill and the rains are coming in again tonight so succulents must be properly put to bed…………. 😉

A Neighborly Hello

(This article contains company references but is not a sponsored post. I am a dedicated customer and paid for all products myself.)

My husband and I recently drove around our new neighborhood, admiring the California spring flowers in our neighbor’s yards. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the magnitude of many plants and the vibrancy of the colors.

I had my camera with me so Scott slowed down or stopped for me to get out and snap a few pictures.

The next day I had an idea:
I sent some of the pictures to Artifact Uprising to get some of their matte-finished, 4×4 prints of my neighbor’s flowers. Artifact Uprising prints are difficult to describe. The paper is almost cardboard-level thick and the photo finish has an artistic quality to it. I have used their prints for many special occasions and this seemed like a good reason to turn to their specific printing quality.

I was excited to receive the photos in the mail this week. I made white cardstock, folded cards to support the photos (which I had printed with a white border – you can opt to not have a border at all.)

I then wrote a quick handwritten note inside, thanking the various neighbors for ‘beautifying the neighborhood’. Scott and I drove the same route, collecting their mailing addresses. I stamped a Paper Source ‘HELLO’ onto the back flap (Paper Source is my favorite stamp maker and I adore their large-flap envelopes) and voila’!, a quick little note thanking our neighbors for their hard work.

Everyone likes for their hard work to be noticed. And can you imagine receiving a card in the mail with a picture of YOUR yard on the front?!

It was such a simple way to lightly introduce ourselves to some of our neighbors – and to do it in a way that makes them feel appreciated.

This process could easily be done with neighbors you already know. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want an unexpected pat on the back! Planning and executing a yard design is challenging and expensive and takes a great deal of patience and a bit of trial and error. I appreciate the time they put into making a beautiful spot of land.

And when you reeeeeeally want to say you care? Don’t forget the washi tape! 🙂