Tag Archives: Projects

Greenhouse repair, stage 2

Before leaving for my annual trip to Florida, I was able to get the greenhouse put together again.  I spent about 10 hours (total) cleaning out the broken panel and patching it with clear tape.  If I told you there were 576 holes I would probably be lying.

Patched panel

Because there were actually more.

Patched panel

Once it was finally patched I sealed the ends with tape again and put the end caps on.  I put the panel back on top, flipping it over so the patched side is now down and the suspected stronger side is now facing up.  Some caulk and screws were all that was needed to make it official.

Greenhouse roof re-installed

It doesn’t look great on the inside, but from the outside it looks okay and at least it is closed in once again.  I am hoping it will last a while before I have to actually replace any of the panels.

New garden installation in Galveston

For the first time in my life, I got to plan and plant a garden in a “sub-tropical” zone.  Christie’s parents have built a house in Galveston, Texas and we got to install the garden out front.  We live in zone 7a and Galveston is zone 9b!  What does that mean exactly?  That I get to grow plants that thrive in an environment where the temperature never dips below 25 Fahrenheit.  My zone dips down to zero Fahrenheit. In October, Christie and I headed down to Galveston to help her parents finish the house and have a little leisure time.

Laying the retaining wall blocks
Laying the retaining wall blocks

It was fun visiting the garden centers in this part of the country and seeing all of the plants that can be grown there that can’t be grown here.  I didn’t really have any rules about the landscaping, but I wanted to get items that can’t be grown here.  Here’s the full listing of what we planted: black Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia), Canna ‘Pink Sunburst’, pink Bougainvillea, Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia), Zamia vazquezii, Dietes iridioides, Alocasia ‘Frydek’, Indian Hawthorne, Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa), Gardenia,  Banana Tree, Duranta, Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John’), spicy Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima), Plumbago auriculata, Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsifolia), Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana), pink Oleanders (Nerium oleander), dwarf coral Ixora, Yucca, yellow Allamanda bush, Brugmansia.

Plants eagerly awaiting their new homes
Plants eagerly awaiting their new homes

We did more soil preparation for this garden than I have ever done before.  We purchased more than 30 bags of soil, manure and other amendments to mix with the sandy soil that is filled with shells.  We wanted to build the flowerbeds up about 8 inches in some areas and about 16 inches in other areas.  There was a lot of shovel work, but once the ingredients were mixed and spread, and the retaining wall was in place, the planting was very easy.

Bird's eye view of left side garden finished
Bird's eye view of left side garden finished

I look forward to seeing how the garden matures over the next several years.  Hopefully the plants will be happy enough without someone there full-time to tend to them.

Finished garden on the right side
Finished garden on the right side

A place for mounted orchids

I am always trying to figure out better ways of arranging my plants, especially as fall approaches and I know that all of the plants scattered around my yard are going to have to go back into the greenhouse soon.  When I set up the shelves in my greenhouse, I had more shelves per unit than I wanted to use.  I put two of the shelves to use by making separate bases for them and giving myself a low bench in one of the corners of my greenhouse.  The other shelf I sat aside for future inspiration.

Some of my mounted orchids hanging off of a pot
Some of my mounted orchids hanging off of a pot

Well, inspiration came recently!  I have been hanging my mounted orchids in various places in the greenhouse, some from the fronts of the shelves, others from hanging pots or other mounted orchids… I decided that my little collection of mounted orchids would be better cared for if they were consolidated in one location, and it would also eliminate some of the accessibility problems I was having when I would hang them on the front of a shelf and not be able to reach back to other plants.

My new rack with most of the mounted orchids in place
My new rack with most of the mounted orchids in place

So I mounted that shelf piece vertically between studs and… Voila!  Now I have a hanging rack for my collection of mounted orchids, which numbers about 15 right now.  I have a couple more orchids that need to be mounted.  As soon as I can find some suitable mounting material and some time, there will be more orchids added to the rack.

Project: Homemade orchid basket

I made a couple of orchid baskets out of sticks and wire last year.  Those are cool, but they are not quite as sturdy and permanent as I was wanting.  They tend to come apart pretty easily.  I was looking at some orchid forums online and came across some similar baskets that were constructed a little differently, so I decided to give it a try.

Completed orchid basket, ready for a plant
Completed orchid basket, ready for a plant

First, I needed to get some sticks with a larger diameter and then use my table saw to cut them lengthwise, yielding a smooth edge.  Then I attach these with small nails to upward supports in each corner.  The bottom was a little more improvised, using paint stir sticks.

Stanhopea oculata in new orchid basket
Stanhopea oculata in new orchid basket

I lined the basket with a coconut fiber liner and then potted a Stanhopea oculata in sphagnum moss.

 

New flowerbed project

Our dream is to have a backyard that is functional, beautiful and relaxing.  We want to have lots of areas where you can sit down and enjoy the outdoors while reading a book or just enjoy the weather.  We have worked to create this feel in several parts of our yard.  After building on to our house, our backyard had changed and we had a new area to perfect.

Before. Our blank (and messy) canvas
Before: Our blank (and messy) canvas

We decided to add a flowerbed against the back our addition that would soften the big red brick wall and bring some more color into our yard.  Once we decided to put in another flowerbed, we started thinking about how we could be a little smarter with our plant purchases this time around.  In the past we have poured money into our corner garden year after year, with only a couple of our perennials sticking around to see another year.  We didn’t want to do that with this garden.

Pee-Wee supervising
All decisions go through the tiny creature. Pee-Wee supervised each step of the landscaping process. At this point in the process we had laid out our plants, but not yet mixed the soil components, so you can see the rich black compost on top, clay and dirt on the right and sand on the left.
Lilac bush
Lilac bush
Grouping of Indian Hawthorn, Saxifraga and Abelia
Grouping of Indian Hawthorn, Saxifraga and Abelia

Christie read several magazine articles about planting new flowerbeds and they all suggested starting with foundation evergreen plants before doing anything else.  This makes sense for a number of reasons:  You want your garden to have year-round interest, so putting these in first is like planning for even the most boring part of your annual cycle to be appealing.  It also makes sense because these plants are generally the largest ones in the garden and you really want to place those before you put in the more superfluous splashes of color. So we came up with a list of several evergreens that we wanted to find for our new garden and we vowed to not change our mindset on the evergreens, even if we saw a bunch of super spectacularly awesome plants with more pizzazz.

Variegated Euonymus Boxleaf
Variegated Euonymus Boxleaf

It turns out that when we were walking through the garden center looking for evergreens, we noticed some really nice features in them and really fell in love with several evergreens.  We don’t have trouble “stopping to smell the roses,” but until now we had not “stopped to gaze at evergreens.” Granted these don’t have the most showy flowers or amazing colors or anything, but there are some really nice evergreens available for our zone and we took advantage of their variety.

Kaleidoscope Abelia
Kaleidoscope Abelia

One other change to our garden philosophy this time around was to buy plants that were more expensive but also more mature.  We decided that a more mature plant is more likely to make it through our difficult growing season than a petite plant.  Nearly every summer we have about a week of days above 100 F and periods of no rain.  And about 1 out of every 5 winters will dip down to about 5 F.  We figure the initial investment is definitely more, but the plants are more likely to make it through the critical first couple of years if they are mature plants when they go in the ground.

Back garden along the curve
Back garden along the curve. Bright red flowers are Alstromeria, Rose bush behind and to the right.
Pippa eating compost
Pippa finds landscaping very relaxing. She kept track of where the last block was to be placed and also helped us sift out the large sticks from the compost mix. (Notice the stick in her mouth.)

Once again*, we were incredibly fortunate in that we wanted to build a raised flowerbed and a neighbor down the street had a huge pile of dirt in their front yard that they needed hauled away.  They put in an underground storm shelter; we put in a flowerbed.  Win-win.  (Of course, somewhere in there Christie and I had to shovel and haul about 20 wheelbarrow loads full of dirt about 1/4 mile down the street.)  I mixed equal parts of sand, leftover from our addition, to offset the tough clay nature of the dirt.  Then we got a bunch of free compost from the city and mixed that in as well.  It was a lot of shovel work, but I think it resulted in an excellent soil for our plants.

Loropetalum
Loropetalum

Another first for us came when we purchased our first rosebush.  We have always appreciated cut roses and have seen some very nice rose gardens, but we have never grown roses before.  We both really like the light lavender roses, so we were looking particularly for one of those varieties.  We found a nice bush of Neptune and we’re really excited to see how many roses we will get from our little bush.  Right now there are two big buds on it that are about to open and they look very much like they will be red or at least a dark pink/magenta color.  We’ll have to see if they change before they completely open or if the plant was mislabeled.

So, what did we end up planting?

  • Rose ‘Neptune’
  • Snow Pink and Pink Lady Indian Hawthorns Rhaphiolepsis indica ‘Snow Pink’ and ‘Pink Lady’ (evergreen with light pink flowers in the spring, followed by blue berries)
  • Burgundy Blast Loropetalum Loropetalum chinesis rubrum ‘Burgundy Blast’ (evergreen, or “ever purple,” with interesting pink fringe blooms in the spring)
  • Oxana Princess Lily Alstroemeria x hybrida ‘Staprioxa’ (early riser with red blooms in spring)
  • 2 Dwarf Variegated Boxleaf Euonymus Euonymus japonica ‘Microphylla Variegata’
  • Kaleidoscope Abelia Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’ (evergreen, changes color throughout the year, small white blooms in summer)
  • Persian Lilac Syringa x persica (deciduous, fragrant light purple blooms)
  • Touran Scarlet Saxifraga Saxifraga x ardensii ‘Touran Scarlet’
  • Phlox, phlox, phlox (Christie’s favorite creeping spring bloomer, an evergreen groundcover)
  • Peony Sarah Bernhardt Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’
Full view of the new garden
Full view of the new garden

* There is this strange phenomenon that occurs every time we need dirt.  This is the third occurrence.  The first occurrence was shortly after we were married and wanted to install our corner garden.  We had some neighbors do landscaping and they regraded their front yard, resulting in a pile of dirt that ended up being just the right amount of dirt to build up our 3 tiers.  Then, a couple of years later, we wanted to put in our waterfall in the front garden and a neighbor in the opposite direction took out a raised flowerbed in their yard.  We hauled that dirt down the street in a matter of one afternoon and voila!