Saturday, October 14, 2017

Free Pattern--Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 1

We are barely into the month of October, but I am already finding Christmas decorations at Costco, Wal-Mart and the big box stores. That seems a bit premature.

However, if you are making your own decorations, time's a-wasting. 

The photo above is NOT something I made. I found it on Pinterest about a year ago. There was no pattern, no link to instructions, no "you can purchase it on Etsy". Nothing. Dead end. I have searched everywhere, and come up empty-handed. Well, there's no "quit" in this girl. I decided that if I couldn't find the pattern, I'd do it myself. And so, this blog post.

I haven't completed my version of the Christmas tree skirt, so you are going to be sitting in the passenger seat while we go on this unmapped journey together. Are you ready?

Materials and Equipment You Will Need:
  • light-weight interfacing 
  • pen
  • ruler
  • straight-edge 
  • rotary cutter
  • rotary cutter mat
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board
  • neutral color all-purpose sewing thread 
  • an assortment of fabric scraps (about 1/4 yard each of 8 colors)
  • 1/2 yard each of two background colors (I used dark navy and white)
Draw the Pattern
  1. The tree skirt is made up of 16 equal-sized wedges. Sewn together the 16 wedges make a full circle. Begin by using your straight edge and ruler to draw a line on your interfacing 16.5 inches long. Envision that this is the vertical portion of a letter "L".
  2. Next, draw the horizontal line that makes up the bottom portion of the "L". This line will be 7.5 inches (Illustration No. 1).
  3. Draw a horizontal line 1.25 inches long from the top and a second line 1.5 inches up from the bottom (Illustration No. 2)
  4. Join these two new line segments to create a solid geometric shape (Illustration No. 3)
  5. Draw a line from the upper right-hand corner to the left. The endpoint will be 0.25 inch from the upper left-hand corner (dotted line at top of Illustration No. 4).
  6. And finally, draw a line from the lower left corner to the top of the 1.5-inch line segment, lower right (dotted line at bottom of Illustration No. 4).
  7. Cut on the dotted lines. You now have the correct shape for your template. (YEA TEAM!!)
We Still Have a Ways to Go, But Getting Closer (Don't Give Up)
  1. Next, we'll draw the lines on the template that create the woven ribbon effect.
  2. Beginning on the left side of the wedge measure down 2 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart.
  3. On the right side measure down 4 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart (Illustration No. 5).
  4. You're now going to connect the dots, from left to right and right to left. Look at Illustration No. 6
  5. You now have a zig-zag line that forms a series of triangles. The final step in completing this pattern is bisecting each of those triangles. See Illustration No. 7 for this final step (see the dotted lines).

Now that you have one pattern complete, guess what? You need to trace it 15 times. Use a dark pen so that you will be able to see the lines from the front and the back. That will take a while, so let's break for today. Check back next week and I'll show you how to

  • Determine which fabrics to use, and where
  • Pre-cut your fabric for easy assembly
  • Use stitch-and-flip to construct 16 wedges on which all of the intersecting lines and seams will match up PERFECTLY. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fifty Eight Crosses in Las Vegas

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; 
my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
Psalm 31:9

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pretend Tuna Salad


I know that lately, I've been posting a lot of recipes. I promise to get back to the gardening/quilting stuff pretty soon. In fact, I have a Christmas Tree Skirt in my studio that I really need to get back to. But there's one more recipe I want to share with all of you. 

If you are vegetarian or vegan you will love this. If you make this for a vegetarian or vegan, they will love you. And if neither of those applies, you still might want to give it a try because it's:

  1. healthier than tuna
  2. easy to make
  3. did I mention healthy? Tempeh is high in manganese and copper (both important in wound healing and tissue strength), protein, riboflavin, and niacin. 

My daughter is devout (I'm not exaggerating) vegetarian, but she still pines for the taste of foods she enjoyed in her childhood.
There are many manufacturers of protein substitutes that mimic the taste and texture of beef or chicken, and most are very good. However, there are few if any products that reproduce the taste of seafood.
Canned tuna is one of those food loves my daughter still craves, and so I set out to find a way to replicate the taste and texture of tuna salad without killing a fish.

Cook Time

Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: 1 or 2 servings

Utensils you will need

  • steamer basket (not mandatory, but helpful)
  • box grater (not mandatory, but helpful)
  • large mixing bowl


  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle, finely minced
  • 1 sheet noiri, crumbled (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or Veganaise if making for one who does not eat eggs)
  • 1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
  1. Place the tempeh in the steamer basket. Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from basket and set aside to cool (about 30 minutes).
  2. Grate tempeh on large hole side of a box grater or chop finely. Place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss lightly. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or ground pepper if desired.
  3. You may use immediately, but I think this "tuna salad" tastes better if the flavors are allowed to meld for an hour or more in the refrigerator.

What is tempeh?

According to Wikipedia, tempeh is a soy product that is originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty.
Tempeh begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking and dehulled, then partly cooked.

What makes this recipe work?

  • Unlike tofu, tempeh has a firm, meaty texture which, when grated, better replicates the mouth-feel of canned tuna.
  • Many of the flavors that we enjoy in tuna salad are ingredients other than the canned tuna. Creamy mayonnaise, crisp celery, tangy dill pickle, a bit of pungent minced onion--these are the things of which a good tuna salad is made.

What to do with mock tuna salad?

  • make a traditional tuna salad sandwich--white or whole grain bread, tuna salad, fresh lettuce leaves, sliced tomato (optional), and perhaps a smear of dijon mustard.
  • Create a salad by placing an ice-cream scoop of "tuna salad" on a bed of salad greens. Surround with grape tomatoes, black olives, sliced hard boiled egg, avocado slices, chopped walnuts, and drizzle with your favorite salad dressing.
  • Spread "tuna salad" on a slice of rustic bread. Top with a slice of cheese and another slice of bread. Grill or toast in a panini press.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Giant Reeses Peanut Butter Cup (be still my beating heart!)

My younger daughter adores the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I usually make some type of peanut butter and chocolate confection for her birthday dessert. 

Today this popped up on Facebook.

My search (for this year at least), is complete:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Red Pepper Fish Chowder

For weeks we have endured record-breaking high temperatures and a record-shattering number of days without rain. It seems that the entire western part of the U.S. is aflame, while in the south a year's worth of precipitation descended in a 48-hour period.

But today we received a brief respite--there is rain in the forecast and for once I won't have to turn on the sprinklers in an effort to keep alive the landscape we have tried so hard to build in the past quarter century.

I have many indoor projects that can now receive my undivided attention (two quilts and a basket of knitting yarn), and I have an excuse to prepare a big pot of fish chowder for dinner.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: about 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 3 slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, diced, but not peeled
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, (don't use non-fat!)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped and seeded
  • 3/4 pound firm white fish cut into 3/4-inch dice, (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds, (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey bacon and sauté about 5 minutes more (until the bacon is crispy and the vegetables begin to turn golden in color).
  2. In the same pan add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the diced potatoes and corn; cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir together the cornstarch, water, and sour cream. Stir this mixture into the hot broth, whisking constantly, until the broth begins to thicken.
  4. Add the chopped tomato, fish, and black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes more or until fish is cooked. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with chopped fennel.

What type of fish can I use?

  • halibut
  • cod
  • turbot
  • tilapia
  • mahi mahi
  • scrod

What Makes this Recipe Work

  • Lots of vegetables!
  • Use what you have on hand
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • A one-pot meal
  • Did I mention easy?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thought for Today, in the Aftermath of Harvey

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” 

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” 

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” 

“We only have what we give.” 

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Smoked Salmon Hash

One Potato, Two Potato

I love breakfast--in fact, I'm happy to have "breakfast for dinner" But pancakes, waffles or cinnamon rolls are not really my thing. My number one love is potatoes--creamy and whipped, fluffy and baked, or crispy fried.
Today I had three potatoes in my pantry--one russet and two yams. And a large sweet onion.
What to do?
My thoughts turned to hash. But what protein could/should I pare with a mix of potatoes that are somewhat sweet/somewhat earthy? Ham or bacon are obvious. But I don't do obvious.
...And then I noticed the smoked salmon tidbits in the seafood section of my local grocer. They're not beautiful fillets--but who needs beautiful fillets when you're making hash? Little bits are just fine. And smoked salmon with dense russets, sweet yams, and creamy sauteed onions sound like a perfect match to me.

Equipment you will need

  • Microwave
  • Paring knife
  • Large knife and cutting board for dicing potatoes and onions
  • Large sauté pan
  • Spatula


  • 1 large russet potato
  • 2 medium sized yams
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 pound smoked salmon
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced dill, (optional)


  1. Using a small paring knife, pierce the russet potato in several places. Microwave for 4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the peel and dice the potato (about 1/2-inch dice).
  2. Pare the yams and dice (about 1/2 inch).
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the diced potatoes, yams, and onions to the pan; cook about 3 minutes or until the onions begin to soften and the potatoes brown a bit.
  4. Mince the smoked salmon and add to the potato/onion hash. Continue to cook and stir until the salmon is heated through.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Creamy Stove Top Potatoes

I am by nature a planner--spontaneity is not my middle name. 

Not only do I prepare a grocery list based on the sale items in our weekly supermarket ads, but I also frame an entire week of menus based on those purchases. And (taking it one step further) I consider which days of the week will require a 30-minutes or less meal and which ones provide the luxury to play for an afternoon in the kitchen.

...Therefore the genesis of this recipe is nothing short of miraculous. Typically I go to the market with a goal; I know before I take one step outside my door what grocery items I will be searching for.

Today however I had no plan, and allowed the lure of bargain-hunting to rule what I would purchase. At my local Farmers Market I found Yukon gold potatoes, yellow onions and smoked Gouda. When I arrived at home I looked at what was stored in my kitchen. Hmm, there's an opened box of vegetable broth in the frig, and in the pantry is a cluster of fresh sage I picked just yesterday from my herb garden.

I don't want fried potatoes today--I'm in the mood for something creamy and comforting. So, let's see if I can put all of these things together to satisfy my tummy.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
  • about 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 1/2 cup smoked Gouda or other smoked cheese, shredded
  1. In a large saucepan with lid saute onions in butter and olive oil over medium until they begin to soften. Add the potatoes, and stir a few times so that oil lightly coats all slices.
  2. Pour broth over potatoes--just enough to cover. Turn the heat to low; cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Remove lid. Sprinkle fresh sage and smoked cheese over simmering potatoes. Simmer for about 5 more minutes, or until cheese is melted and almost all liquid is absorbed by potatoes
  3. Stir gently and serve.

What makes this recipe work?

  • Sauteéing the onions over medium heat makes them soft and golden and tames their fire.
  • Yukon gold potatoes retain their shape even after they are cooked.
  • Simmering the potatoes in broth makes them soft and the starch from the potatoes lends a bit of thickening to the casserole.
  • Fresh sage gives the dish a pop of flavor.
  • Smoked cheese provides a creamy savory balance.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thought for Today

God didn't add 
another day to your life 
because you needed it. 

He added it because 
someone needs you.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Leftover Cereal Bread

My parents were young adults during the Great Depression of 1929-30. For them the words "Use it up, wear it out, make it do" was more than a catchy phrase or thoughtless mantra. It was a way of life that they carried with them each and every day until the end of their lives in the latter part of the 20th century.
In my growing up years, we were frugal long before living green was "in".
We re-used aluminum foil. We saved the heals of loaves of bread to make our own bread crumbs. We didn't purchase oil for frying--mom had a little pot sitting on the back of the stove into which she poured the grease that remained from frying bacon. (By the way, I still hold onto two of those three habits--I'll let you guess which one I have abandoned).
And in keeping with that family tradition, I am loath to toss out perfectly "good" dry cereal if (1) it is stale, (2) there are only 2 tablespoons left, or (3) ....we're tired of it!
I am going to assume that you have the same cereal issues at your house. Here is one remedy.

Equipment you will need

  • large mixing bowl
  • two 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pans

Cook Time

Prep time: 2 hours 50 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 3 hours 50 min
Yields: 2 loaves


  • 2 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups dry cereal, any kind*
  • 1 cup oatmeal, (not instant)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil, (I use extra virgin olive oil for its health benefits)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup, (NOTE: if using sweetened cereal, substitute 1/4 cup water for the 1/4 cup corn syrup)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Mix the water, cereal, oatmeal, oil, molasses and corn syrup in a large bowl. Cool to lukewarm.
  2. Stir in the yeast until dissolved; let stand 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, then 3 cups flour or enough to make a stiff dough.
  3. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
  4. Turn out on lightly-floured surface; knead 8 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Divide dough in half. Place each half in a greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  5. Cover and let in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (1-2 hours).
  6. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven 1 hour. Remove from pan; cool on racks.

*Want a sweet loaf?

  • use pre-sweetened cereal
  • You can also add nuts, dried chopped fruits (raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, etc.)

*Want a savory loaf for dinner?
  • use whole grain and/or unsweetened cereal
  • add savory herbs (chives, chopped rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New to the Neighborhood

I had some visitors--new to the neighborhood, 
they came by my house today.

We have lived in our farmhouse for more than 25 years. 
In that time generation upon generation of deer 
have made their home with us 
(actually, it was their home first). 

In the  morning they graze upon our salal and wild berries. 
At noontime they bed down on the front lawn, relaxing and chewing their cud. 
At dusk they graze the apple orchard for fallen fruit, 
and as night falls they bed down in the cedar grove. 

We rejoice with the does when their new babies are born, 
we are saddened when a little one dies 
(we have buried several), 
and we are thrilled when the babes become yearlings, 
learn independence, 
grow antlers, 
and go on to nurture families of their own. 

And the circle continues.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Free Pattern - Summer Porch or Wall Hanging

A few weeks ago I created new planter boxes for my front porch. They turned out so well I was inspired to make a matching banner. The planter boxes contain blue and purple flowers, and are grouped with several blue-hued bird houses (and even a robin's nest). So I decided to make "bird house" the theme, and concentrate on using purples and blues.

Well, of course we also love kitties, so there is a sneaky little kitty hiding over there on the right hand side, wearing a roof on her head, hoping to fool an unsuspecting bird. 

Supplies and Equipment Needed:

  • 3/4 yard background fabric (I used ecru-colored canvas, also known as duck cloth)
  • sewing machine thread that matches background fabric
  • scraps of assorted cotton solids and prints
  • sharp fine-pointed scissors suitable for cutting small pieces
  • iron and ironing board
  • 1 yard Wonder-Under fabric bonding 
  • Ultra fine point black permanent marking pen 

The banner I made measures 18 inches high and 36 inches wide. To make your banner this size, cut the background fabric 20 inches high and 38 inches wide. Fold in one inch of each side, top, and bottom; iron and stitch with matching thread.

Here's the pattern for the kitty. Isn't she cute!

Next are the three bird houses:

The leaves, flowers, and kitty "bird house hat" are next. 

The tree branches are too long for one sheet of paper, so I drew them in several sections with A|  and  B|  notations to show where they should be joined. 

I used the same pattern for both tree limbs--flipping it over for a mirror image.

Now that you have your patterns, the next step is to trace your pieces onto the paper side of your Wonder Under. If you've never used Wonder Under, here are two great tutorials to get you started.

I used the ultra fine point permanent marker to add details such as the kitty's whiskers and grin, the centers of the small flowers, veining on the leaves, and the ivy vine.

Good luck and have fun. If you want additional information please leave a comment and I'll be happy to help you. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Love Story

Pixar created a better love story in 8 minutes 
than Twilight did in four books.

Happy Anniversary to
the love of my life.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Beautiful Visitor

Look who showed up in our backyard today:

Western Tanager

The Western Tanager is a medium-sized song bird in the same family as Cardinals. According to Wikipedia:

The breeding range of the western tanager includes forests along the western coast of North America from southeastern Alaska south to northern Baja California, Mexico. Western tanagers extend east to western Texas and north through central New Mexico, central Colorado, extreme northwest Nebraska, and areas of western South Dakota to southern Northwest Territories, Canada.The western tanager's wintering range stretches from central Costa Rica north through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to southern Baja California Sur and extreme southeastern Sonora in western Mexico and to southern Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico. Western tanagers do not typically occur in the Caribbean lowlands. They have been reported wintering further north and have been observed as far south as Panama.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Saying Goodbye

June 27, 2017 - 

When my husband and I were wed 36 years ago, we were a union of two--no pets. He was a dog-lover. I was a lover of cats. I guess you could call it a mixed marriage.
As the years passed, we became a family of four with two beautiful daughters. And we thought we were content and happy and had everything we needed.
We were wrong.
One day, our younger daughter met a kitty. An adorable little kitten living in a miserable, unforgiving, unloving place; a place where a newspaper was her litter box; a place where food was whatever her "family" felt like giving her; and a place where an out-of-control 3-year old routinely pulled out her whiskers and terrorized her.
Her "family" knew so little about her, that they assumed she was a male and called her "Buddy". One look and we knew that Buddy was a sweet little girl in need of a real home, a real family. And so she became ours.
We had read all of the books about introducing a kitten to your household. We live in a large house, and we didn't want her to feel overwhelmed by such a large expanse. We thought it best to isolate her to just a small room to start with, and then gradually introduce her to the larger world.
She knew different.
As soon as she crossed the threshold, our world was her oyster. She ran to every room, nook, and corner, happily sniffing and exploring. Her first night in our house was spent in the utility room (husband had no experience with cats and feared that she might leave an unpleasant "surprise" on the carpet overnight. Maybe dogs do that, but cats certainly don't).
But before the week was over our daughters' bedroom doors were left open and she was welcome to sleep wherever she wished. (What a brazen hussy!)

Remember the movie "Signs"? 

We learned that cats are more perceptive, much more evolved than we. They hear what we cannot hear, see what we cannot see, and (I think) feel beyond what we feel. And they love unconditionally.
(And they are so wise, we need to protect their thoughts from alien invasion!).

In Kyla's mind she was top-of-the heap, cat-of-the-walk, best-of-the-best. She was our queen bee (and she knew it!). She thought highly of herself, and why not? She was the kitty that needed us, but we found that we needed her even more. I firmly believe that in her unequivocal love she made me a better person.
We would not allow her to step outdoors on her own because we live in an environment with raccoons and coyotes and even the occasional bear. Not a safe place for little girl kitties. She did go outside, however, on a leash. And she loved it.
On the safety of a leash she could explore and sniff, chew on grass, pounce in the vinca minor, and love the fresh air. She did this in rain, shine, and even when snow was on the ground! But the house--our rooms, our carpets, our closets, special boxes and perches and hiding places--was her home.
In time, the little ball of fluff whom my husband had originally referred to as "the cat" became his lap-buddy. Not an instant transformation mind you, but as days turned into weeks, months, and years, the little girl who originally seemed to fear men came to recognize that Dad was kind and gentle. Gradually they formed an alliance, a bond.
In the last 2 or 3 years I don't think my husband was able to sit in a chair without our little girl hopping up into his lap. My husband is tall, and she was a beautifully long and slender kitty. She luxuriated, stretching out to the max on his long legs.
She spent 13 years in our house. Thirteen funny, and fun, and loving years.

Three years ago today, she left us without warning. The veterinarian said it was a heart attack. All I know is that in a moment she was gone, limp and lifeless, already romping in that Heavenly place where kitties can run to every room, nook, and corner, happily sniffing and exploring.

floral remembrance from Kyla's veterinary staff. They loved her too.

In the days and weeks that followed we received several loving notes in response to this post:

So bittersweet. Your family was blessed to have Kyla just as she was blessed to spend 13 years with a loving family-- HER family. My condolences on your loss. Kyla was obviously more than a pet and you experienced the pure love that only an animal who is a member of the family can give.Oh, what a heart-warming, touching piece and a fine tribute to your beautiful friend.

Oh, how I know that heartache, that sudden, unexpected loss. We, too, lost a kitty suddenly, without a lot of warning. She was so much younger, had been having some troubles, but neither we nor the vet thought it was fatal problems. One morning, we woke up, and she was gone; left us in the night. Oh, how I cried, as I have no doubt you cried over such a sudden loss. The age matters not; it is no less painful than losing any other family member, for family members they surely are! 
This was a beautiful and brave piece; written with such a clear picture of the love you felt for this beautiful little cat. My heart goes out to you and I'm sure your dear kitty is keeping watch over you from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. 
Should you find another kitty, don't think of it as 'replacing' your beloved lost girl; simply know that she sent you a new companion to help heal your heart until you meet again.
Bright blessings upon you for rescuing her and giving her a loving home for the rest of her life.

Aw, I am so, so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful joy of a cat that came in to love you guys! I think that a lot of people, especially men, say they don't like cats--until they are around them! Who could help but not respect and love a cat? I have six (and a dog who probably thinks he is one), and have lost several. My two oldest are 13 plus two that are 11, so I worry about losing them. I'm so sorry you lost your sweet girl but so glad that you saved her--and she saved you in return. It may be too soon, but I hope you take in another one at some point. Lovely post. Thinking of you....

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Front Porch Planter Ideas

Years ago a gardening friend gave me one simple piece of advice for designing the perfect arrangement for porch planters. You need to have:
  1. Thrillers
  2. Fillers
  3. Spillers
So, what does that mean? Well, building the perfect planter is somewhat like scripting an action movieyou need excitement for sure, but a movie filled with nothing but explosions is going to get boring after 10 minutes or so. There needs to be a filler--dialogue, scenery, music. And the spiller? The movies or stories that best hold my interest have a secondary plot line--it's not all about just one person (even "Waiting for Godot" introduced other people into the tale). 

A few weeks ago I created some new planter arrangements for my front porch (Winter had FINALLY departed). There is a grouping of two planters on the left side of my porch (against the railing):

Oh goody, you get to see a picture of my right foot!

And a grouping on the right, against the wall of the house:

And then there is a large planter in the garden adjacent to the front entrance:

This is the largest of the planter boxes and the guiding theme for the others. Unlike the planters on the porch, this pot will not move--it is quite large (and heavy) so the "thriller" used is an evergreen shrub which will be a permanent fixture. As the surrounding annuals fade away (nothing lasts forever) I will find other companions for it to go along with the season.

Although only two types of flowers (lobelia and sweet allysum) are present in all five, all planters are united by using the same color palette. 

I have two more criteria in addition to thrill/fill/spill that will make your planters winners--color and texture. My neighbor creates beautiful planters that are a riot of colors, but whenever I try to copy them, I feel that my hot combo is more of a hot mess; therefore I tend to stick with colors in my comfort zone. All of the plants in my garden (1 acre+) are in the purple/orchid/pink/white/
blue range. 

Texture is using plants with a variety of shapes and/or foliage. Look at the rex begonia (below) and you'll see what I mean.

The plants I used are:
#1 - Variegated Euonymus
This is the "thriller in the largest of the planter boxes.  Eunymus is an evergreen shrub which means that it will not lose its leaves in the Fall. 

#2 - Calibrachoa
This sweet little plant has several other names--sometimes referred to as a miniature petunia (it isn't) or called "million bells". It does not get any taller than 4 inches, but grows quickly and vigorously. It "fills" and "spills" with great abandon.

#3 - Bacopa
Bacopa is a study plant that will reward with exuberant "spilling." Several years ago I had one that not only grew in springtime and through summer, it continued to bloom in autumn and was still holding on at Christmas. I can't promise that your bacopa will last that long, but it IS a long-lasting annual.

#4 - Sweet Allysum
She fills and spills and rewards with heavenly honey-like fragrance. Allysum self-sows and might surprise you with babies in other little corners of your yard before summer is over. But don't worry, it won't become a nuisance. Be sure to keep your allysum evenly moist. They tend to be a bit thirsty, probably because they are quite small and do not have deep-burrowing roots.

#5 - Lobelia
Lobelia is one of the few flowers in nature that are a TRUE blue. They come in  pale blue, pure blue, and dark (almost navy)  plus several that are variegated white and blue. There are two varieties of lobelia--an upright (which will work as a filler), and a cascading variety that makes a great spiller. 

#6 - African Daisy
African Daisy (osteopermum) was used in the smaller pots as the thriller. It stands head and shoulders above the surrounding flowers and comes in shockingly bright hues of purple, red, orange, and yellow--all with a blue center.

#7 - Rex begonia
Rex begonia is a stunning filler, and one I love to use for its unusual colors and texture. It will flower, but the blooms are insignificant. With rex, it's all about the leaves.

#8 - Petunia
Petunias come in a dazzling array of colors and color combinations, from pure white to almost midnight black. In fact, I think the only hue missing is true pure blue. They are terrific fillers, but grow large enough that they can be used as a spiller as well.

#9 - Dusty Miller
Dusty miller is a beautiful filler and a terrific foliage specimen. Its flowers are insignificant (little yellow beads). In mild climates the dusty miller can become a perennial, growing and spreading year after year.