Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year in Review

At first I didn't think I accomplished much, but that's not really true.

I spent many weeks working on my mother's dark turquoise living room (during last year's Christmas vacation) - cleaning up paint and candle wax spills, scraping walls and woodwork (paint drips, more wax spills, peeling paint), caulking, and painting.  I chose Martha Stewart's Malted because she likes gold.  I found this beautiful pale yellowy-gold color through a favorite blog, My Messy, Thrilling Life.  I cleared the room of its clutter (which unfortunately has crept back in) and "staged" it.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, as I often do.  I also had an antique lamp rewired and a picture framed.  Can you believe I still have to caulk and repaint portions of the window?  Ice dams caused damage after it was done.  I also want to try to scrape off some of the previous painters' paint spills and re-frame a cross-stitch Serenity Prayer my mother sewed.  I love this room so much I want to use that paint in my house somewhere.  Maybe the hallway?  Technically most of the work was done in December 2014.

The next room to be painted for Christmas (this year) was my mother's ugly, sickly muted fuschia dining room, which is covered in cheap 1960's faux wood paneling.  It involved scraping paint drips, cleaning previous painters' spills, caulking, priming, and painting it Benjamin Moore Sea Haze.  It's a beautiful medium gray with a green undertone, that sometimes looks slightly blue depending on the light.  It looks great with turquoise or red accents.  I saw this paint in the barn room on the blog, For the Love of a House.  I also painted the baseboard, and primed over the many paint splotches on the ceiling.  My mother, after prompting from me, decided to remove one of the two buffets due to space limitations.  I cleaned both buffets (one was relocated to the living room) and "staged" them, removing ugly extraneous things.

I finally got around to touching up the last side of the house which had been painted three years ago. Scraped and re-painted the house above the deck where it took a beating from our brutal winter.

Installed the new deck light (well, I couldn't get the old fixture screw loosened, so I had to call my brother-in-law to the rescue).

Installed the new porch light (see above; I was befuddled by an apparent lack of a grounding wire and electricity scares me).
I love a schoolhouse style light.
 Got a new porch, finally!  Demolition was Halloween 2014, and construction was finished on August 20, 2015.  It's the project that will not end.  I still have some touch-up painting and caulking to do.  Also, the lattice is pressure-treated and I want to wait till spring to paint it.

August 19, 2015
Re-painted the porch ceiling, which was necessary due to damage from ice dams.  Except there are stains still bleeding through after multiple coats of primer and stain-blocker.

Painted the ceiling, walls (Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray), and trim in the living room.  This was painful, with multiple layers of paint scraped off the trim, which includes a large arch.  There were also many cracks on the walls and ceiling to patch.  Still have to re-glaze the two windows.  And paint the front door, but that will have to wait for warmer weather.

Scraped, primed and re-painted loose paint on the front of the house, again due to our brutal winter.  It was originally painted in 2009 and has held up rather well.

Touched up paint messed up by contractor who re-roofed the porch roof three years ago.

Installed house numbers on porch post.
Do they look crooked to you?
Had office western storm window repaired.  Old one took a swan dive down two stories to the patio in Summer 2005, shortly after I moved in.  My excellent repairer hacked a piece from another window that someone had donated.

Had dining room storm window repaired, which Mitchell the Snow Removal Kid, broke while climbing onto deck upon my request.  The back door wouldn't open due to ice build-up.  I don't remember what I asked him to do, but I think it may have had something to do with bird feeders.  I think that was 2010 Brutal Winter.

Hung Christmas wreath on front of house.
Does it look too small?
Finally, after six years, put a second coat of paint on the porch trim.

Washed and touched up wall paint on the porch.

Figured out a way to fix the hole on the porch wall on which there was a doorbell.  Far be it from me to leave something alone.  I had unscrewed a metal plate which covered the hole, then couldn't figure out how to fix it because it was oddly shaped (like a doorbell).  While working on patching cracks in the living room, I had an idea to jam inside the hole, a fat piece of wood I found on the patio, and spackle over it.  It turned out really great and I painted over it.

Finally figured out a place for a beautiful painting given to me by my best friend.  It goes great in the living room, with the other coral accents.

Rearranged the living room furniture and things on the walls.  As much as I like to move things around, there's really only one way to arrange this room.  It's small, with two windows, a large opening to the hallway and dining room, a radiator, and an arch leading into the adjacent parlor.  It also has an old stovepipe with a cover over it, which I've left for historical purposes.

Filled gaps in the house exterior with insulation foam.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Goals for 2016

Finish guest room.  I have more confidence now that I've completed the living room.  I have to figure out the paint color, also.  I had planned on Benjamin Moore Silver Mist but now am thinking maybe soft aqua or turquoise, a grayed down version. I have no idea which ones.  Sigh.  Color is so hard.

Install tiny triangle of siding at top of front of house.  I've already painted it (I went to install it but realized I needed my 40-foot ladder and just wasn't up to dragging it out).

Get new gutters for porch and back of house.  I get so much water on my brand-new porch it's ridiculous.  I think my contractor didn't slant it enough, even though I told him to.

Finish last small spot of painting in awkward area above the deck.  This has to be done before the gutters go up so I don't ruin them while painting.

Finish touch-ups on northern side of house.

Figure out how to fix broken step on side of house.  The metal strap thingy has rusted and broken.

Devise a landscape plan for in front of the porch.  It's a clean slate but I can't make up my mind what I want to do.  A dwarf ornamental tree?  A fountain with boxwood surrounding it?  Hydrangeas?  Roses?  Perennial garden?  I have to be able to use a ladder in this area for ice dams on the porch and painting and such.

Finally re-install arbor in back garden.  This was taken down in the summer of 2014 for the porch renovation.

Affix trellises to shed. I like to say "affix." It's one of Martha Stewart's oft-used words.

Figure out what to plant on top of the stone walls.

Make sure to plant many, many spring bulbs.

And, finally, as always - have perfectly groomed, weed-free, watered, mulched, fertilized, deadheaded gardens at all times.

2015 Garden Review

Just as I think my gardening obsession is waning, it starts up again.  As soon as the garden starts dying in September, I long for spring again.  I'm reading my fifth gardening book since this fall.

It was an extremely dry, often hot, summer.  I pretty much gave up watering.  My excuse will be the porch renovation.  I got off to an extremely late start due to the delay in finishing my living room.  That was delayed due to working on my mother's living room.  Anyway, I pruned the roses too late.  I also decided to prune the Pinky Winky hydrangea to the ground to see if I could rid it of the Roundup damage it suffered in 2008.  It's somewhat distorted, shriveled and droopy.  It was way too late to do that, so consequently it only had two blooms this year.  Last year it had quite a lot for the first time since the unfortunate incident.
The Bloomless Wonder is behind the Stella de Oro daylily.
My mother always tells me I need groundcovers but I need to hear it from a professional to really believe it.  I read the excellent book, The Weekend Garden Guide, by Susan A. Roth, who says groundcovers are your friend.  And that's good, because I have a lot of them.  In the back garden I have thyme from my mother, plumbago, ivy from the birds and myrtle, which I think came from beside the steps to the patio (I didn't plant it intentionally).
A view from the deck of many groundcovers.
Myrtle (Periwinkle)
The beautiful white rose never bloomed and my two new (last year) ones were especially sparse.  In fact, the only ones that performed well were my favorite roses (except Dr. Huey).  I'm going to blame the Brutal Winter.

On the other hand, the phlox and hydrangeas were spectacular.  No powdery mildew on phlox or beebalm because of the drought, just burned foliage.

I did have success transplanting three offshoots of the Lovely Fairy rose and two offshoots of Mom's blue macrophylla hydrangeas.  I also was able to transplant a small piece of deutzia that self-seeded in the front border (apparently I left a piece from my last disastrous attempt).  I think I also moved a couple of hostas.  I really need to document this better.

Started using leaf mold as mulch in the shrub border.  It's just too hard to carry mulch all the way from the front by hand (there's no access to the backyard, even by wheelbarrow).  I just put the leaves in an old plastic garbage can and shoved my weedwacker inside.  It takes a long time because the leaves really compress.

Reorganized front right bed by moving a daylily away from the rose, removing ribbon grass, and transplanting a cranesbill from the Heritage Garden.  My mother bought me an Honorine Jobert anemone, my dream plant, which I planted here.

I really, really love the shade garden.  Is it because it's new?  I'm just in love with those plants.  I love the viburnum, Blue Billow hydrangea, Stained Glass hosta, Krossa Regal hosta and June hosta.  I'm wondering, though, if the viburnum should be fuller.  Does it need to be in more sun?  I bought it in fall 2013.

Here it is this past November.

I truly love pachysandra.
Next year I need to be vigilant about weeds here (well actually, everywhere).  I transplanted some pachysandra but I think it spreads slowly.  Also,  I need to buy netting to put on the oakleaf hydrangea so I can actually see it bloom for the first time.  I'm assuming the deer have been helping themselves to it.

The front yard is very lush, such that I really don't need pots or hanging plants since there's continual color.
Carly loves mulch.
So next year I have to figure out the area to the left, above, in front of the porch.  After paying all that money for the new porch, I don't want to hide it with plants.

This year I'd also like to plant out the tops of the stone walls near the shed in the backyard.  My mom still has plenty of daylilies I could transplant, as well as phlox.  I could use them to fill out the shrub border as well.  She also has a Scotch broom shrub I can squeeze into the border.  I'd also like to take a piece of my friend Sharon's Annabelle hydrangea.  They grow so quickly.  I think the white would look nice next to my pink one.

Again due to the Brutal Winter, the Purple Majesty and Preziosa hydrangeas didn't bloom.  Also, my mom's pink lacecap hydrangea didn't have many blooms, even though the one next to it was covered with flowers.  This may be a "grocery store" variety that's not meant to be hardy.  I'll give it one more chance before I throw it out.
Invincibelle Spirit - a pink hydrangea
The transplanted (from my mom's abandoned garden) Pee Gee hydrangea tree bloomed really well, considering last year I got nothing.
It has many more blooms than when I transplanted it.

It turned beautiful colors this fall.
The Tardiva hydrangea's blooms were disappointing, as it should be prolific.  Maybe I should have pruned it?
May spring come early this year!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Be Kind to Plumbers

I just finished fixing my toilet by installing a new fill valve.  The first hurdle was figuring out what was wrong.  I could hear water running and it took a  long time to fill the tank after flushing.  I put food coloring in the tank and it colored the toilet bowl water.  So it obviously was leaking but where?  I first replaced the flapper.  I turned the water off and flushed to empty the tank and install the new flapper.  Unfortunately, after that the tank wouldn't fill at all and there was a slight drip from the fill valve.

It can be so hard to find accurate advice on the internet.  I work with a very talented, very intelligent guy who can give good advice, but it's hard for him to get down to my level to teach me things.  I sometimes try to talk things over with guys at local hardware stores.  It's all so confusing.

My fill valve didn't look like the two types that were for sale, nor does it have a float.  The videos and pictures online didn't look like my workings.  I did what I normally do when I anticipate a long, confusing, frustrating fix-it job - procrastinated.  It's been leaking for a number of weeks.  My brother-in-law travels a lot now for his job, so he's often unavailable.  He's one of the most helpful human beings on the planet, but I hate to bug him because he's just not home as often anymore.

So I muddled through.  My supply line wasn't the same as the instructions and videos.  Either I have no common sense or these how-to's are not layman-friendly.  How much is enough tightening of screws?  How far back do you shove the refill tube on the nipple?  How in the world do you know what the water level should be?

When I was in my condo I didn't attempt much DIY.  I had a leaky toilet once and called my parents' plumber, who came right away.  While he was there he fixed my kitchen sprayer.  Funds are tighter now so I've fixed my toilet once before (for the life of me I can't remember what it was but I think it involved at least a new flapper) and replaced a teeny tiny part in my shower.  It might have been called a diverter?  All I remember was how hard it was to install and how in the heck are plumber men able to do that?

We had a brutally, wickedly cold winter this year.  Besides ice dams, which stained my soffits and damaged my brand-new porch ceiling paint job, my water pipe froze in January.  Not in the house, but from the street to the basement.  I'm guessing it was installed at the turn of the last century, so of course it's not below the frost line (42 inches in our area).  I called the water company, whose guy said I was doing all the right things.  I had turned on the wall heater and borrowed a space heater from my sister aimed at the hole.  After 24 hours with still no water, I called an awesome plumber who came out right away and took a high-powered propane torch aimed at the pipe in the basement.  It took a while but what a relief when I heard the whooshing sound of water flying out of the wall!  There's no way I would have attempted that.

Anyway, my toilet now flushes like a champ.  No leaks, no phone calls to my brother-in-law, and no return trips to the store.  This is the third plumbing repair I've made, and the easiest thus far.  But don't expect me to get a plumbing license anytime soon.  Those guys (I don't know any female plumbers) earn every penny.
Gratuitous shot of toilet tank. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Invincibelle Spirit

This hydrangea was given to me by a dear friend.  I never really liked the muted candy cane pink color but kept it because Tina said it "sounded like me."  Who wouldn't love hearing that?

 My front side garden got way too crowded and I didn't like the attention this tall plant got, so I transplanted the huge thing to the shrub border.  Apparently the roots came out of the hole before I noticed, and it died.  I wasn't too unhappy about that, but the following spring I saw another chunk growing in the front, so I transplanted that.  It's grown a lot; it's very robust.  Since it's now in full sun the color is less offensive.  It's more like a pale pink and it fades to green, instead of a flesh-colored nylon stocking.
Here it is in front of Anthony Waterer spirea.
It still flops like crazy, however.  I don't prune it.  It doesn't make sense to me to prune it to the ground  because I don't think the thinner branches would hold up to wind and rain, either.

Here's what the color looked like in the front garden:
Here's it looking kinda pinky beige (to the right of the lovely bright coral pink Lady Elsie May rose).  Maria Killam would definitely not approve.  It just doesn't fit in here.  It looks like it should be with the muted tones of autumn blooms.  
So I've been reading Carolyn's Shade Gardens blog and she talks about combining these pink hydrangeas with the white Annabelle variety.  I've wanted to do this for a while, both because I love white and for its old-fashioned appeal.  Joan at For the Love of a House has Annabelles in her garden as well. Even Maria has them.  If it's in famous blogs, it's gotta be good, right?  I'm such a copycat.

Now if only my friend Sharon would give me a piece of hers.  My bright idea to trade on Craigslist a while ago was a total failure.

Friday, July 03, 2015

More Garden

Raindrops on Krossa Regal hosta.

Garden's Looking Decent

The roses aren't their best, but there's not as much dieback as last year.  I'm also thrilled to have many hydrangea blossoms, even if they're small.  The only problem is the oakleaf, which hasn't bloomed since I planted it last spring.
Overwintered geraniums.

Love this Blue Billow lacecap hydrangea.
Plectranthus, salmon double impatiens, sweet potato vine; oxalis overwintered in pot.  

Shade garden.
June hosta, my fave.
Peach-colored daylily.
Still haven't painted the new porch floor!

Love the Fairies.
My Endless Summer hydrangea had a baby, which is mostly purply-pink.
Love this half-lilac/half-blue hydrangea.

Little Ones Have Hatched

It seemed like it took a long time, and then all of a sudden they were here!  Three brown, fuzzy, ugly little cardinals.
That red thing is a baby's mouth waiting to be fed.
Daddy's turn to feed.
So I figured it'd be awhile before they launched out of the next. Nope. Within the week it seems, they were hopping everywhere, barely able to fly. I was so nervous, what with my cats, and the two dogs and four kids next door.

Baby perched on a rose branch.

Empty nest.
I wish I knew whether they were girls or boys.  Good grief, I'm exhausted from this experience--all the protecting and worrying.  Now what am I going to do?