Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hydrangea Report

I've been very excited to see how my new hydrangeas would survive the winter, especially since they were transplanted, divided, and pruned late last summer, which is exactly when you aren't supposed to be doing any of those things to hydrangeas.

Originally this was one huge bush that inadvertantly got split into four smaller bushes when my friend JoAnn decided to dig it up to make way for some new landscaping in her yard. I decided to go ahead and prune them rather severely because I figured what was left of the root ball(s) would have a hard time supporting the plants if left as is. I knew that I'd be removing most of the pre-formed flower buds but figured it would be worth it for the eventual health of the plants.

I got exactly three blooms on two of the four bushes. I guess that's a lot better than nothing. And instead of the regular solid hydrangea blue, they were sort of a variegated lavender.  Maybe the cement piers under the porch are making the soil more alkaline?  Anyway it will be interesting to see how many blooms I get next summer and what color they'll be.   So here is this year's batch of blooms:

Hydrangea Bloom #1
Hydrangea Bloom #2
And on the other bush, Hydrangea Bloom #3

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Foundation Plantings

Last fall we saw some plants on sale for cheap at Home Depot and decided to go ahead and get a little bit of foundation planting happening, now that we finally have gutters.  These were sort of impulse purchases and we'll move them somewhere else if they don't seem suitable in a few years.  We have to start somewhere though so we might as well put in some pretty ones.
I can't remember the name of the rhododendron on the left, but it has the potential to become rather large, which I think will look okay at the corner of the house.
In the middle we have three knockout roses in the pale "Blushing" pink color which will hopefully grow together into one large mass. They are supposed to bloom all summer long. I think the pale pink looks nice against our gray siding.
Doug saw the rhododendron below and on the right in the upper picture and he just had to have it.  It's a very pale pink with darker pink edges.  It will hopefully stay on the smallish side - it's supposed to be a dwarf variety.  We'll see.

So far they've survived without the deer munching on them.  But we did use deer spray over the winter.
The hill by the fence used to have a retaining wall instead of a hill.  We planted a nice row of azaleas that were mostly in the shade of our former house.  Then the house got torn down, the retaining wall got taken out, the liriope got planted, we got busy building the new house ourselves, and the hillside got completely overgrown with weeds and vines and the azaleas have suffered from a combination of too much sun and strangulation by weeds.  I've been pruning the dead wood to see if they'll perk up, but I'm not too hopeful.  They look pretty sad.  I guess I'll leave them in for now and see how they do now that the weed situation is lessening.  I can't wait for the liriope to finally take over! 

I'm sure I'll be pruning them some more, but I think I need to do it in stages for now.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liriope - April

I've made good headway on the liriope hill this spring - it's all trimmed, mulched, and ready to go.  And that's a far cry from where it was when I started clearing out the 2-3 foot high weeds last summer.  I'm really ready for this liriope to fill in and beat the weeds.  We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A little bit of decorating...

I haven't done any blogging in a   L O N G  time, much longer than it might seem by the date of this post (because I post-dated it).  I have spent so much time these past several years totally focused on construction stuff that when it stopped happening I became rather frustrated and discouraged and annoyed and I really didn't want to share all of that negativity here.  The ever-present well-intended question "So how's the house coming along?" with its subsequent non-answer from me would inevitably bring on a temporary bout of  depression.

So to review, the last thing that has happened with the house, construction-wise, was when I stained and polyurethaned Doug's basement steps while he was out on tour in early 2011.  Although to be fair, other things have happened since then, on the outside of the house.  We put in a little wall by the front steps, and Doug FINALLY put all the gutters on the house (after five years of not having them) and took down that ugly tree stump.  We planted my friend JoAnn's hydrangeas by the back porch, and I started the still unfinished process of getting the long-neglected liriope under control.

Inside, I wander around, looking at all of the raw edges of wallboard around all of the door and window openings and ask myself  "When is this ever going to get done?"  That's one of the reasons I've been spending more time working outside than in.  Most of what needs to be done inside requires Doug's skills and participation, in addition to my own.

Even though I don't really consider myself a do-it-yourselfer, I guess I've become one of those people.  It's really true that anybody can do just about anything if they put their mind to it.  So I suppose I'm going to eventually have to teach myself how to do finish carpentry if I ever want my house to be finished.  But this wasn't how it was supposed to be.  We were supposed to have a builder do this work.  It was supposed to take (OMG, how awful! people would say) a whole entire year.  So after the five+ years went by, I am especially grateful that we finally got to the point where we were allowed to move back in.

In spite of all this griping, I'm not as depressed as I was during the really awful (dirty, physically grueling, injurious to the hands) parts of the construction process - all that sanding, vacuuming, nailing, installing insulation, sweeping, lifting absurdly heavy things, wallboarding, painting, flooring, etc.  I'll do it, but I'm not someone who likes getting dirty.  So spending time not doing messy work is actually kind of uplifting.  And this year I can honestly say that I felt happy most of the time!

Anyway, we spent a few days at my friend Jennifer's house in Connecticut, both before and after our China tour in December and January, and it felt absolutely wonderful to be there in her beautiful home.  She has spent years and years combing antique stores and junk stores and auctions for fantastic bargains.  Her house is so tastefully decorated, yet fully of personal flair and pizzaz, and just about everything in it is a gorgeous antique that she got for practically nothing.

Since this is something she loves to do, she took Doug and I along to one of her favorite places and whenever I admired anything she would of course say "You should buy that!"  So I bought some things - a few pictures and other odds and ends.  Since my mind had been on other things for so long and I lost pretty much everything in the fire, I really didn't have much stuff of my own to work with, physically or mentally.  And in case you can't tell by now, I'm sort of a first things first kind of person, so decorating an unfinished house had been kind of the last thing on my mind. I still haven't unpacked most of my boxes of books for that very reason.  But those two paintings and a print that I picked up while I was up there pretty much got me started and I've been decorating my walls ever since!  It makes a huge difference to be able to live in pleasant surroundings instead of bareness or clutter.

So when I got home I got busy.  I finally decided that I wanted to hang that leaded glass thing that I doctored up over the TV instead of in the stairwell.  I think it makes the TV a lot less noticeable.  I painted the bench behind the couch a slightly darker color to match the fuzzies of the couch fabric.  The rocking chair and those other two chairs under the window will eventually live out on the back porch when it stops being a lumber storage area.  The two pictures on the right are oil paintings that I got for a good price at a "vintage" store when I was visiting Jennifer.

What I especially like about my living/dining room is that I can easily shove the bench and couch towards the TV to make plenty of room for larger chamber music groups.  I've had as many as nine in here at one time and it's fine.  And people have mentioned that the sound is good in here too.  It's really great to be able to have people over to play after all this time.

Between the couch and the kitchen is this rather unattractive wall (below) with the pass through to the kitchen.  It will look good one day.  The two blue areas are supposed to have built-in bookcases, but that hasn't happened yet.  As I said before, I have not unpacked most of my books yet.  I figure that the longer they stay in boxes, the easier it will be for me to get rid of most of them, since I apparently don't really need any of the stuff in there.

However, the longer they stay in boxes in that location, the easier it will be to not do anything about getting those bookcases finished.  So I guess I need to do something about that.  At least the majority of the room looks halfway decent now.

 I sort of chose my wall colors by feel.  First I picked colors that I knew would make me feel happy to be amongst, and then I tried to make it so that you could see a different color through each doorway.  And then somehow I ended up with pictures that had colors from the preceding room in them.  It was sort of a happy accident, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.  There's still a lot of makeshift stuff going on, like that Aerobed in the front foyer, because it's the darkest and most private room in the house for an overnight guest in the morning.  Although it doesn't have curtains, the windows are high enough that no one can look in.  And there is a door between the foyer and the living room.

 This picture in the foyer is an old print from an antique store in Connecticut.  It has some of the same yellow-green that's in the living room.

I picked up this print of an etching of St. Cecilia at Savage Mill.  It was really nicely framed and in excellent condition.  The naked cherub doubling as a music stand is a nice touch.  I looked it up a while back and found out that the original oil painting was done in 1620 by Domenichino Zampieri, and 100 years or more later someone in France did the black and white etching of it.   And mine is a print of that so I guess it's kind of a third hand version of the original.  And that's just fine with me.

So things are looking up.  Who knew what a difference a little interior decorating would make?  It's nice to be pleased by your surroundings.  I highly recommend it!