Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lowe's Creative Ideas as a Garden Project Resource

As I said earlier this week, I'm a part of the new Lowe's Creative Ideas Garden Club, in which garden bloggers use their creativity paired with Lowe's gift cards to come up with ideas for gardeners - ideas that are easy for the do-it-yourselfer. I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this because:

  • I love Lowe's and shop there regularly, for not only garden needs, but for oodles of other items, like lumber and plumbing and lighting and paint and get the idea.
  • I've received their Creative Ideas Home & Garden magazine for several years now and have gotten some fantastic ideas from it. It's free and is such a good resource that I've saved all the back issues because you never know when you might need just the solution they offer.
  • How sweet is it that I get a gift card and then get to go shopping with it for the materials I need?
  • I'm happy to promote a company that I've done business with for years and have been pleased with the service, products, and prices I've found there.

My first project as part of the Garden Club team is my "Pipe Dream Planter" and I'm already working on June's idea. In addition to that, we already had plans to  make a trellis that we found in a previous issue of their Creative Ideas Home & Garden magazine.

We had a Harry Lauder's Walking Stick tree/shrub (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') for years on the east side of our house. It provided the right height and interest for the spot. Then two years ago, half of it died. I considered cutting the dead part out and just leaving the right half there, but deep down I knew the whole thing just had to go.

Corylus avellana 'Contorta' in May 2011

This would leave a big blank spot, so the search was on for what might be a suitable replacement. I thought about a nice sculpture, and while I do think that would look great, I wasn't willing to pay the price for the kind of sculpture I wanted. So I started looking for a trellis idea. I found one that I liked, but it would involve fastening it to the house and I knew that idea wasn't going to go over very well with Romie. Then my Lowe's Creative Ideas Home & Garden magazine showed up in my mailbox with just the thing.

This shows two trellises, but only one will be needed for our space.

I loved the freestanding trellis right away and Romie was willing to construct it for me, with my help. We picked up the materials we needed last weekend and putting it together will be this weekend's project. When we have it finished and in place, I'll be sure to do a show and tell!

Besides the regular Lowe's Creative Ideas website, Lowe's has other ways to help you out with gardening ideas, too. There's the Lowe's Creative Ideas Blog, written by 16 bloggers. The Lowe's Creative Ideas App for iPad users has not only the recent magazine issues, but bonus material exclusive to the app. They're also on Pinterest.

You may want to check out the ideas that other members of the Lowe's Creative Ideas Garden Club have come up with:

As a member of the Lowe's Creative Ideas Garden Club, I am provided with Lowe's Gift Cards in order to purchase materials for each month's designated project theme. Some materials needed for these projects are purchased by me in addition to those provided by Lowe's.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Rhymes With Orange

Hemerocallis 'Primal Scream' with Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Honeysuckle (wish you could smell it!)

Kniphofia sp.

Echinacea 'Summer Sun'

Gaillardia sp. - either a result of random cross-pollination of 'Golden Goblin'
with other gaillardias in my garden, or a sport of 'Golden Goblin'

Lilium 'Treffer' with Hosta 'Francee'

Chinese Globe Flower
(Trollius chinensis)

Butterfly Weed
(Asclepias tuberosa)

Hemerocallis 'Primal Scream' with Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good Bugs: Calosoma Scrutator

About five years ago, Romie walked into the house one evening and brought in a hitchhiker. He wasn't aware of it, but there was a menacing-looking beetle hanging out on his shoulder. It takes a lot to rattle him, but this particular beetle elicited an excited response from him. Yeah, excited. That's it.

We corralled that beetle long enough for me to look closer and look it up. We found that it was a Calosoma scrutator, more commonly known as "caterpillar hunter" or "fiery searcher." This past weekend, he found another one - only the second time we've ever seen one - clinging to the floating chlorinator in our pool. The man is a beetle magnet.

I grabbed the beetle so that I could get a good photo of it. As I was carrying it into the house, it not only bit me with its pincers (mildly uncomfortable), it emitted a really unpleasant odor all over my hand. It was every bit as offensive as the one that those annoying lady Asian beetles give off.

Calosoma scrutator

Calosoma scrutator is one of the largest ground beetles and is native to southern Canada and the US. They're most active during the months of May through November, but are more likely to be seen in May, as trees leaf out and caterpillars are munching on the new growth. They are known to climb trees in search of their prey. Caterpillars are their favorite food and this qualifies the C. scrutator as a beneficial insect.

These big boys are quite alarming when you first see them. They typically measure 1-1½ inches in length and an inch wide. And while you might think they'd be slower than most insects, they move very fast! The only way I could get a good photo was to contain it in the bottom of a drinking glass.

Adults can live for as long as three years and they're ground dwellers. Don't be alarmed if you see one. Count yourself as lucky!

Monday, May 28, 2012

DIY - Pipe Dream Planter

I’ve said before that I don’t have a creative bone in my body. My mom most certainly does and she continues to hog it all and not share that with her only offspring. It’s not that she hasn’t shown me by example, it’s just that my brain doesn’t naturally work that way when it comes to assembling parts in a new and amazing combination. Bravo, Mom. Boo, me.

So when Lowe’s contacted me about being part of the Creative Ideas Garden Club Team, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I said yes. They made it sound fun and I do love a challenge. I’ve had to stretch my writing wings a few times and that worked out okay, so maybe this Lowe’s thing could too. Besides, I love Lowe’s and I say it’s a darn good thing I don’t live closer to one, because I’d have to get a job there to pay for all the things I’d end up buying. I can’t hardly go by the store without stopping.

Anyway, as part of the team, I’m supposed to create fun new somethings that garden peeps might want to duplicate, or that will inspire them to come up with creations of their own. In full disclosure, Lowe’s is giving me a gift card each month so that I can go to their store and get whatever I need to put my creation together, based on each month’s unique theme.

For May, it’s “Pots and Plants.” No buying a pot designed for the garden. That’s my job – to use non-gardening things in a garden-y way. So this past weekend, I headed to Ft. Wayne to my nearest Lowe’s, hoping I could walk the aisles and be inspired. Truly creative people probably have an idea in their head before they go to the store, and they know exactly what they’re going to get. They've probably even made a list. I just don’t roll that way. It’s not that I’m opposed to it; it’s that I have a hard time visualizing things ahead of time.

I walked into the store and headed straight for the plumbing department. My husband has done enough plumbing around this house and sent me off to buy stuff enough times that I knew there were all kinds of wild and wonderful utilitarian things to work with in that department. It didn’t take me long before a vision came to me:

Pipe Dream Planter


  • 1 - 4" PVC Double-Y fitting  ($25.59)
  • 1 - 4" x 5' PVC pipe  ($7.84)
  • 1 - 12 oz. can Rust-Oleum® Universal Spray Paint ($7.97)
  • Plants ($28.86)
  • Old plastic plant container, approximately 4" in diameter
  • Potting soil

Step One: I used the Rust-Oleum® Hammered Metal paint in Brown to spray paint my PVC pipe. You could use any color you want, just as long as it's paint made for use on plastic. This is primer and paint all-in-one so it's easy peasy.

I hosed off the PVC pieces and dried them so that I made sure all the surfaces were clean before spraying.

Step Two: You need something to keep the potting soil from falling all the way through to the bottom of the long pipe, so I used an old plastic plant container that fit tightly in the bottom of the Double-Y fitting. Make sure whatever you use has drainage holes.

Step Three:  Time to pot up the plants. I put potting soil in, starting with the more upright middle hole, then filled in the two angled side ones. Before I added the plants, I watered the soil thoroughly.

I wanted the plants to have an "overflowing" look to it so I used purple fountain grass in the middle hole, along with an annual dianthus in magenta for bright color. In each of the side holes, I planted sweet potato vine and Proven Winners Supertunia® Raspberry Blast, the latter echoing and blending with the magenta dianthus.

Once everything was planted, I watered it all from the middle hole. The soil in the two side holes got moist as well, so I didn't have to water those directly. This way, I didn't take a chance of washing any potting soil out of the side holes.

Step Four:  I dug a hole about 18 inches deep (Okay... Romie dug the hole) and put the 5' PVC pipe down into it, making sure it stayed level as I packed the soil in around it.


I then put the planted Double-Y on the vertical pipe and voila!


In time, these will get fuller and give the planter a more lush look. If they get too large, they can be trimmed back to a more appropriate size.

Lowe's has plenty of other fittings in other combinations than this Double Y, so you could make this with a different look, depending on the fitting you choose. You also could shorten the long pipe to have the planter at a lower level to the ground. Just have fun with it!

P.S.  For more creative ideas for your garden, visit Lowe's Creative Ideas website

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Baby to Change Your Life

I distinctly remember the moment I looked down into the cradle at our firstborn thirty-two years ago and thinking that my heart would surely burst from all the love it had in it. Just how could a person love something that much? More than the man I had stood in a church with five years earlier and promised my life to? More than God himself? You bet. And then a little more than two years later, it happened all over again.

Proud papa with baby Jenna - September 1982

Through the years, I’ve tried to explain to my girls what a love like that is like. But of course, they can’t know, not really know, until they’ve experienced it for themselves. All mothers say that, don’t they? “Just wait until you have children of your own. Then you’ll know what I mean.”

Three months ago, Romie and I learned we would be grandparents for the first time. Younger daughter Jenna and her husband Joe are having a baby in late September. Maybe it won’t be until October. First babies are notoriously later than early. But before this year is out, my husband will be sleeping with "Grandma."

Jenna felt the baby move a few weeks ago for the first. She texted me to tell me. A few weeks before that, she texted an audio file to me, accompanied by the words, “Here is your granddaughter/grandson’s heartbeat. Enjoy.” Before the short “thump-thump-thump-thump” was halfway through, I was in tears. And that feeling of love that I first felt so many years ago came rushing back. It was exactly the same, but different.

"Baby Love"
Mother's Day 2012

She’s showing now, and is a tad more than halfway through her pregnancy already. We’ve talked about so many things and I get choked up each time she shares her feelings with me. Jenna’s always been one to carry so much of what she thinks and feels inside. We never really knew there were boyfriend problems until there wasn’t a boyfriend anymore. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever seen her cry in all of her 29+ years. Even in the nursery at the hospital, the nurses marveled at what a good baby she was. All the rest of the babies would be wailing away; Jenna was sound asleep.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about what it’s like to be physically aware that there’s a human being inside you. The now gentle movements as the baby flails about will soon enough become more forceful as the space in there gets cramped. I told her that it was the thing I missed most about being pregnant once I’d given birth – that feeling that only a mother and child share. Sure, you can put your hand on a pregnant woman’s belly and feel the baby move, but it’s not the same. Not even close.

I told Jenna that now the baby has made its presence known in such a real and tangible way, she’s beginning to feel that maternal love that I first felt and tried to describe to her so many times. In the months to come, it will build until one day, she’ll look into the face of her child and she’ll know exactly what I’ve been trying to tell her over the years. She’ll understand what I meant when I told her shortly after she got married that even though she belongs to someone else now, she will always be mine in a way that only a mother knows in her heart.

Another milestone in her pregnancy occurred this week. Through the miracle of ultrasound, we now know that we're getting another baby girl to go ga-ga over. We do girls very well in this family and my usually reserved husband blurted out when he was told what Jenna was having, "I was kind of hoping it was a girl." For some reason, I didn't have a preference, but now that I know, I'm thrilled to pieces over the prospect of yet again having a baby girl to snuggle and love.

Friday, May 25, 2012

For Love of a 'Peace' Rose

Before I attended the Garden2Blog event in Little Rock earlier this month, I knew there was a story associated with the 'Peace' rose, but I'd never bothered to really check out what it was. Thanks to Steve Hutton, from The Conard-Pyle Company, and the book For Love of a Rose by Antonia Ridge, I now know "the rest of the story."

P. Allen Smith put in a beautiful rose garden on his property just outside of Little Rock, highlighting old-fashioned roses through modern day varieties, such as Knock Out® and Drift® Roses. When I visited there last spring, the garden was in the beginning stages, but this year I got to see it in all its glory.

Steve Hutton (left) of Conard-Pyle, joins P. Allen Smith in
sharing their love of roses in Allen's rose garden. That's
'Peace' shown in the large photo next to Allen.
One of the sponsors of Garden2Blog was Conard-Pyle and attendees were schooled on the history of several of the roses introduced by their company. That included 'Peace'. It was developed during the years prior to World War II and introduced to the world on the day that Berlin fell (April 25, 1945). Its name reflected the hope of many.

But let's back up a few years. Late in the 1930s, Francis Meilland, a rose breeder, produced a rose seedling that was known simply as 3-35-40, among others. This seedling was eventually one of just 50 seedlings chosen from hundreds to be grown on. As time went on, this particular rose caught the attention of other growers because of its beauty and other desirable characteristics.

Meilland, fearing for the future of this rose and others, because of the war, sent cuttings to growers in Italy, Germany, Turkey and the US. In fact, the packet sent to Mr. Robert Pyle in Pennsylvania was cargo on the last plane to leave France before the German invasion. All arrived safely, except for the Turkey-bound one, and the rose was grown on during the war.

Each grower gave the rose a different name. In France, it was 'Madame A. Meilland', named for Meilland's mother. In Italy, it was known as 'Gioia' ('Joy'), in Germany, 'Gloria Dei' ('Glory Be to God'), and in the US, 'Peace'. Eventually, it was decided that 'Peace' would be the trade name.

As the date of introduction was chosen many months ahead, it was a coincidence that Berlin fell on the same day, and one month later, it was also coincidental that on the date that 'Peace' received the All-American Award, a peace treaty was signed in Japan.

     "We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world's greatest desire: PEACE.
     We believe that this rose is destined to live on as a classic in our grandchildren's gardens and for generations to come. We would use the word "Peace" to preserve the knowledge that we have gained the hard way the Peace is increasingly essential to all mankind, to be treasured with greater wisdom, watchfulness, and foresight than the human race has so far been able to maintain for any great length of time.
     Towards that end, with our hopes for the future, we dedicate this lovely new rose to:


'Peace' is the world's most popular rose of all time. A hybrid tea rose, it is a vigorous grower, very hardy, and quite disease resistant. On Mother's Day this year, daughter Jenna gifted me with a 'Peace' rose of my own.


¹Antonia Ridge, For Love of a Rose (London: Faber & Faber, 1965) 210.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh, Columbine of Mine

Columbine (Aquilegia sp.) has lived here at Our Little Acre as long as I can remember. I'm not sure I would have noticed them in the early days, when I wasn't a "real" gardener, except that they have always been one of Romie's favorite flowers. He has an artistic gene that makes him appreciate the intricacies of things of nature, and the wide variation in columbines did not escape his attention.

And then I began to appreciate gardening in general and columbines in particular. We shared the love of them and I started planting them here and there. Today, they pop up here, there, and everywhere, in all colors and forms, and well, because they're prone to do that if you let them self-seed and we both love them, we couldn't be happier about it.

Columbine are an interesting lot. They're notorious change artists. I've never planted a single white columbine, yet a couple different ones now grow here. One in particular began its life as mauve. And then one spring it bloomed pure white and has remained that way.

They are really good at cross-pollinating and self-hybridizing, thus creating seed that produces an entirely different color than either of its parents. This is quite alright with me.

If you look closely, these white blooms are streaked with lavender. They're
really beautiful and are the result of random hybridization.

I've found that the newer hybrid columbines seem to be more stable in my garden, such as 'Clementine Salmon Rose', which I've had for several years now and it's stayed true to form. It even self-seeded this past year and the offspring is identical to the parent plant.

'Clementine Salmon Rose'

Columbines can be short-lived perennials, sometimes only living two to three years, so I let most of mine go to seed so that I'm assured of always having them. They're enjoying their place in the sun right now and both Romie and I are appreciating every day of their "granny bonnet' blooms.

These purple columbine blooms compliment 'About Face' rose.

When planting columbines from seed, you can plant them when the plant would naturally drop seed, in June or July, when the seed is fresh, or wait a bit later in the fall. They need light to germinate, so sprinkling them on the ground and pressing them in works best.

They also need a few weeks of cold treatment for germination, then will produce plants the following spring that will grow large enough to bloom. In some cases, the cool nights of fall will be enough for seedlings to grow before truly cold weather sets in. Most columbines are cold hardy to Zone 3.

'Winky Blue and White'

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Bluebirds

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