Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

THE GREEN WITCH by Arin Murphy Hiscock

To be honest, I’ve put off posting about this book wanting to make sure it wasn’t going to be too offensive to anyone – or to myself. I wanted to get far enough into the book to see if it was just too ‘woo-woo’.

⁣Thankfully, it is what I hoped it would be – a celebration of living in partnership with our environment.

There is a craving – similar to pregnancy cravings – that will strike me and I’ll say to Scott, ‘I’ve got to get out in nature.’ When I have been isolated too much, or too busy trying to meet deadlines or too ANYTHING, my therapy is to place myself into nature. Tree bathing. Grounding. Whatever you want to call it, there is a recalibration that happens when I can breath in clean air and notice the magnitude of the natural world around me.

Of course, that’s not always an option, so I try to work with scents and homegrown elements for natural healing and mood enhancement and many many many times, for antioxidants and anti-inflammatory treatments. Whether it’s the sourced food we eat or the natural cleaner made with rosemary from our backyard, I truly believe the further we get from nature, the further we are from the environment in which we were created to live.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am neither vegan nor a purist, but we can all attempt to make changes in some areas of our lives.

THE GREEN WITCH includes ways in which we can use the natural things around us whether it be wood for cabinetry or gardenias for tranquility. There are recipes for Digestive Tea or a homemade balm for colds and headaches. It even includes celebrations you can have for each of the season changes. (Happy Autumnal Equinox on the 22nd!)

As far out there as it seems, it is all really quite logical and simple. I love combining things together for scrubs or oils or to clean my kitchen counters. It makes me feel part gypsy (don’t we all want that??) and part Native American – working with the seasons and the fruit of the land. Farmers determined our school year based on harvest time. Many churches follow the liturgical cycles that correspond with the seasons. There are ways that you participate in these cycles without even realizing it.

After bashing my leg a few days ago (in a super dumb way), tonight is all about grilled salmon with ginger and spinach – natural ways to reduce swelling. Lemon verbena, lavender and grapefruit are my favorite essential oil combinations to slow my mind and my breath. And of course, caring for houseplants and learning from their rhythm and cycles.

Our environment (of which I believe was created for us by God as a gift) is worth preserving. Living within. And voting for.

Dried but not hung.

I’m finishing up my first season as a hydrangea grower. They have been so much fun to nurture and learn about and watch their rhythms. I can’t wait to see what grows from their stalks next year! I’ve tried to amend the soil to be more acidic (coffee grounds and fertilizer) for the blue blooms.

⁣But for now, I’m enjoying the warmth their dried flowers bring as our home transitions into more autumnal scenes.

Happy Hydrangea

Last week I bought my first hydrangea (Nikko Blue).

This week I bought all new sheets and rearranged a bedroom just because of the amazing blooms.

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

There are worse addictions, right??? (Famous last words!) 

Do you grow hydrangea? If so, what kind and what zone are you located in? I need to learn!

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!!!

No greater love than to lay down one’s leaf for another…

I bought this Angel Wing Begonia online last year. It was a plant cutting (non-rooted) and has struggled to ‘take hold’. But it held in there and we have formed a nice plant/caretaker relationship.

March 4 – progress on a new leaf

The original two leaves that I received in July of last year have now given all they could to the re-establishment and have now fallen away. It’s strange how attached to these original leaves I am. I let them stay on as long as they could, giving the last of their nutrients to the new leaves. I woke up one morning this week and noticed this one had finally laid down on the shelf below, unable to give any more.

The growth of the newest leaf has been surprising. I first noticed a new leaf coming in on February 21…

By February 25th, it had begun to unfurl…

The stronger and bigger the new leaf grew, the weaker the old leaf looked. At my age, I was impressed with the lengths we go to give all we have to the next generation. Too schmaltzy? Yeah. But I connected strongly with this leaf. We’ve been working together for the past 8 months to root in water and then to establish a new home in dirt. Finding the right light source has been tricky. Too hot at first and then not enough light. We found our sweet spot about 6 months ago yet all along, she’s been working underground to create these beautiful new leaves.

By March 2 (10 days after I first noticed the new leaf nub), the new leaf was really coming alive.

I’m not sure how long this Angel Wing will be able to live in its current situation alongside a Christmas cactus and an African Milk Tree (whew…who has its own story of woe!)

The balancing act game one must play with begonias is all about the spots. The more light they receive, the more silver spots appear and the underneath red of the leaf becomes more vivid. However, I had it in too hot of a spot at first and the leaves began to fade. I quickly moved it but the leaves were struggling to grow without enough light. We finally found the perfect spot with a lot of bright light and a good view of the sky, but not too much overwhelmingly direct sunlight. It did manage to bloom once last year so I’m excited to see what kind of flowers develop this year.

This was actually sold to me as a Dragon Wing Begonia and for the longest time I was confused about the descriptions of each variety. The Dragon Wing stems arch out and make a beautiful hanging plant. The Angel Wing is more of a cane-like structure with stems growing straight up. I had to double-check with a local nursery owner who confirmed mine was an Angel Wing.

Begonias like moisture and humidity but they do not like soggy feet. They need to be planted in a well-draining soil. Begonias originated in the tropics and grew on the ground in their natural state. They have been referred to as semi-succulents since they hold water in their thick stems.

An important note about all houseplants and one that I will probably refer to often because it made a huge difference in the way I began caring for my plants:

For the sake of ease and general care, growers stick the plant instructions into a plant before you buy it in the store. And perhaps, like me, you google further care instructions for the plant. But as a transplant from the Midwest to California, I am well aware that instructions like ‘full sun’ mean two VERY different things depending on where you live. Full sun in California is deadly for most plants. (Ask me how I know! Yikes.) So the BEST way to find out how to care for a plant is to google the plant’s origin. If the plant is originally found in the rainforests of Brazil, that will tell you something about their water needs, etc. A simple wikipedia search will tell you a lot. But to read a blog (yes, like mine even) that talks about specific plant care needs will only work identically if you live in the same area as the blogger. I try to tell you what works for me as a guide as to how to care for your plant. And of course the best advice of all is to talk to your neighbors or a local nursery. They can give you care instructions based on what has worked for them in their similar growing conditions as you.

Back to my Angel Wing. Along with feeling a bond to ‘the old leaf‘, the analogy of fallen wings does not escape me. Sometimes my wings are polished and new and strong and sometimes, they’re broken and wonky. Once again, plants teaching about life. It’s one of the greatest things I enjoy about working with living, breathing, drinking plant life.

Do you have a begonia you’re growing? What have been your successes or oops’es? I’d love to know about your experiences as well.

Begonias will always have the undercurrent of my growing up years (certainly pre-Me Too Movement) when ‘Hey – nice begonias!’ meant something entirely different…

Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!

Honest Abe

In December I met some friends at this coffeehouse – a first for all of us. The chai latte is good, but what drew me in was their clever play on the street on which the coffeehouse rests: Lincoln Street (in Roseville, California.)

Fourscore Coffee House is filled with old desks and comfortable sofas, tables and chairs tucked in along the windows and beyond.

This is a misleading picture of Abe. It’s actually a large mural on the wall – no doubt for selfies galore.

Scott and I packed up our laptops and books and headed here last week to have a “Family Meeting” about our gardening projects and expectations for the Spring. People huddled together, conversations exploding all around us.

I laid out my case of what I wanted to accomplish and what projects I was hoping he could build for me. I had my gardening bible, complete with tabs and more tabs!

We talked and hashed out plans. We each compromised. We dreamed big. We talked logistically. Home projects are our jam. I love to dream big and Scott usually is able to deliver the dream right out of his workshop garage. (The perfect combination!)

As we got up to leave, I noticed a cool neon sign on the wall behind us and took a picture of it. It wasn’t until I was thumbing through my phone pictures later that I realized the awesomeness of the sign! Fourscore and flowers – exactly what we were there to discuss!

Kismet, no??!

Scott and I have dreamed some big dreams together in coffeeshops all over the United States. Our first date was in a coffeeshop in Columbia, Missouri where we sat together playing cards and getting to know each other. Many conversations have crossed small bistro tables and steaming cups of coffee. Many of the projects realized. Some of them dreamt just for fun.

On the way home we stopped by our favorite garden center, Green Acres Nursery and Supply. We bundled up against the bitingly cold wind and walked around their outdoor flowers and spring plants. Our beds aren’t ready for planting yet – but man oh man is it fun to dream about the season to come. Especially when it’s next to my very favorite partner in project dreaming!

Paradise and Growth

I broke down last week and bought a ‘California requirement’. Or at least it seems to be a requirement when living in California. But first a quick backstory.

When we lived in Kansas City I bought a Giant Bird of Paradise at our local Walmart. While ‘giant’ is in the name, this houseplant was not overly large. [As a sidenote: I try to go to places like Walmart or hardware stores very early in the Spring to buy houseplants or flowers. They’ve been recently delivered from the nurseries are in good shape and much less expensive than independent nurseries. However, once the plants have been there for more than a month, you’re inviting problems by shopping at ‘non-nursery’ stores for your plants. Garden centers are aware of each plant’s specific watering and light requirements as opposed to a Walmart employee standing with a watering hose, drowning every plant. Or setting a sensitive plant out in the sun to shrivel and die. The worst, is that these two specific conditions (incorrect watering and sun-exposure) open up the plant to disease and bugs. No disrespect to Walmart – they have sensibly-priced toilet paper and dishwashing pods. But Walmart employees are not well-versed in plant care. That’s a money-making side hustle for Walmart – not their primary purpose.] All of that sidenote said, I bought a beautiful houseplant for $25.

When we lived in our sun-drenched, tall-ceiling’ed loft downtown, my Bird of Paradise flourished. Oh man – I loved that plant!

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But we knew when we moved to California that we couldn’t take it with us so I gave her to my sister and it’s SO happy and content at her house. It’s tropical vibe is perfect.

My thought was that I would simply buy a new Paradise plant when we moved to our new home across country. What I didn’t know was that a $25 Giant Bird of Paradise doesn’t exist in California! Oh there are plenty around but the starting price is usually $100. So I’ve put off getting a new one, waiting for the perfect sale or situation.

Meantime…there are a plethora of the smaller versions of the Bird of Paradise plant. The smaller versions bloom and are most well-known to people. They’re exotic and tropical and…I’ve never really loved their blooms. [insert shock and awe] Florists love to use the blooms in arrangements and weddings have been saturated with Bird of Paradise blooms for years. To me, however, they look like inverted shrimp. You know when you bend your cooked shrimp backwards and all the legs pop up (…stomach turn…), that’s what these blooms have always looked like to me.

Here are some pictures from online:

bird of paradise

I know it’s a rather twisted way of looking at something others see as so delicately beautiful, but you know how it is when something gets stuck in your head.

Then I recently heard that the ‘bird’ aspect of the bloom is not what I expected either. I’ve always loosely seen the flower as a bird’s head with a plume of feathers on top and a big beak from the flowering shell. (You see that, right? I’m not crazy?) But in actuality, the shell part of the bloom has nothing to do with the ‘bird’ aspect. What I saw as the plume of feathers is actually the birds taking off for flight.

I can see that, too. And it made the bloom a lot prettier to me. A beautiful flock of birds getting ready to take flight in delicate ascension. Like a group of butterfly wings. (I feel like it’s similar to one of those trick posters at the mall: What do YOU see in this group of dots? Jesus? Or a pineapple?)

You get my point. I am seeing the bloom a little differently now.

white bird of paradise

So there we were in Home Depot last week. I was overlooking the blooming Bird of Paradise and concentrating on shrubs when Scott brought one over to me. “Hey!, this looks like our Bird of Paradise we had in KC. I’m buying it!!”

“Whoa, whoa, buddy. Wait a sec. That’s one of those shrimp-inverted Bird of Paradise.”

“I don’t care. It’s mine. I’m buying it.” (He gets that way sometimes.)

Furthermore, he put the one he was holding back down and picked up 2 or 3 other ones, inspecting them carefully. I mean…you gotta love a man that is that picky about plants, right?? Sure enough – he selected one with a newly unfolding leaf. AND, it’s a white flower, not the rather sharp orange color.

$19 for a new beginning. A flowering plant that is so prevalent it seems like a California requirement to own one. And so now we do. It may never bloom inside our home (and yes, I’m secretly okay with that) but the leaves are beauty enough. And if it does bloom, I will see it as a group of exquisitely gentle birds, breaking forth and taking flight.

Much like we did when we made this cross-country big move.

And that makes me love them all the more.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this pothos I started training to climb the side of this pantry. The below picture was taken right after I started it in August 2019. I used clear Command Strip hooks, mounted to the wall, then tucked the branch into the hook. I’ve tried to ‘tuck’ near a leaf so the the leaf kind of covers the plastic hook.

And then October 2019 is below. The branches are starting to reach the bell. The biggest thing for me is that the plant is still thriving at the base (keeping very full) and the leaves are still growing upward. You can see in the original picture that I have some ‘bald spots’ on a couple of the branches to the left which is why I decided to try it as a climber. When they’re climbing upward, all the branches are being exposed to more light as opposed to laying on top of each other, draping over the edge of a pot. So those bare spots will remain. No matter how you display your pothos (hanging or climbing) you need to watch for spaces between each leaf. If there is a large area of branch with no leaves on it, that means it’s not getting enough sunlight. If that happens, it’s a great place to cut it and propagate it (which I usually propagate them back into the original plant to make it fuller.)

That said, besides the original bald places, the branches have been growing with plenty of leaf growth in small sections indicating the plant is happy with the light it’s receiving.

Then I took another picture last week. First of all, I’m out of Command Strip hooks and need more because the branches are falling over themselves with nothing to hold onto the wall with. And secondly – can you believe it’s grown this much in about 5 months?! This has been a very fun project to experiment with. Pothos are forever patient with you so they were a good plant to play with for this project.

I’m starting to see many new leaves on a number of my plants around the house. It makes me anxious for Spring since they must sense it’s right around the corner! Every summer I wonder which plants are going to be the rockstars that year. Who will grow the tallest? Most times I turn around and suddenly realize they’ve outgrown their pots in what seems overnight. (Not too unlike a growing kid and their shoes! -ha!)

What big plans do you have for your garden this year? Flower beds? New houseplants? What’s on your Green Agenda??

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…………. 😉

It’s a girl!

(I think.)

I’ve been watching the growth and birth of this ruffled-leaf Philodendron Selloum (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) leaf since I first saw its tiny presence on March 17. It took 22 days from my first video to my last time-lapsed video this evening.

Baby and Mama are doing fine. She’s registered at Bergdorf Goodman…

Now it’s time to fully open up and enjoy her new grand duchess life. I’m so proud!!!

Fun side note: I set up my iPhone on a pile of books I had nearby. It took a couple of hours to record the final progression out of her protective sheath. About halfway in I looked closer at the pile of books and realized (with the exception of a few good men) it was a bunch of strong-hearted women who were helping in this birthing process. Something they were fully used to doing – birthing and nurturing and working together to get the job done. Go, girls, go!!

It won’t take long now for her to look as strong and dark green as her playmates. Sometimes nature is just SO cool…

Terra Cotta Dreamin’

Possibly it’s due to the overexposed sun here in California that has led me to fall in love with a very California, desert-color scheme.

Earth tones:
Greens. Grays. Terra cotta. Cinnamon. Mustard. Mauve. Teals. Blues
Soothing. Grounding. Natural.

Imagine looking at a desert scene. Starting at the ground level with it’s bluish-gray sage mixed with the tans and grays of the sand and rock. Moving up you would find the greens of the foliage plastered against the mustard yellows of a terra cotta-cinnamon sunset that bursts a few streaks of pinkish-mauve into the sky, before turning into the various teals and blues of the setting day.

Now grant it, it’s not a huge leap to ‘earth tones’ from ‘natural whites’. But I see the earthy tones making their way into our home more and more since living out west.

I’m not really a ‘southwestern girl’ when it comes to decor, but I do appreciate the natural elements of linen and leather, hand-thrown pottery, hand-woven textiles, wicker and wood. Those natural items feel more intentional and less fad-driven.

I recently grabbed some very unstaged pictures around the house, of the earthen tones that are finding their way into our rooms. The space heater is out – for the chilly mornings still. Things are as they are in our everyday life. I think that’s the part of this sensation taking me over: a willingness to embrace more of what is, and less of what should be. Maybe it’s California. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s just part of the evolution of life – but in the great scheme of things…there’s very little that needs to be worried over and we waste a lot of time doing it.

I’d rather spend more of my brain space on thinking about the things for which I have to be grateful. It’s a retraining of the mind.

The days are getting brighter and warmer around here – making the occasional rainy day a direct insult. What do you mean I can’t go outside today?!

Most of my plants have new leaves, still tightly curled but peeking out now and again to see if the atmosphere is right for their unveiling. Scott and I have had more than just a few lunches and talks out on the patio and the birds have been devouring their bird food in the feeder.

I have been daydreaming more and more about a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. And more and more I want to learn the history of the northwest. We are surrounded by beautiful land and sea. Now that the rains are letting up, I look forward to more and more exploring.

The first desert pictures are images found on Pinterest. The below image is from The Joshua Tree House at Saguaro National Park…and the inspiration behind my desert dreams of late.