Fresh Herbal Wreath

Fresh Herbal Wreath
Fresh Herbal Wreath
Cockscomb dries beautifully for wreaths

Summer is winding down, the nights are getting cooler, and I looked at my overflowing herb plants for inspiration. Preserving some of the garden bounty for the fall and winter is easy with culinary and ornamental herbs. A quick project using fresh herbs that are pliable and fragrant, you can whip up a simple wreath that will dry in a week or two. Hanging conveniently in the kitchen, it is easy to break off a sprig to add zest to your cooking.

Materials for herbal wreath-Sage, tarragon, rosemary, cockscomb, globe amaranth, bay, dill, african blue basil, lavender, scented geranium
Materials for herbal wreath-Sage, tarragon, rosemary, cockscomb, globe amaranth, bay, dill, African Blue Basil, scented Geranium
Scented Geraniums have scented foliage as well as beautiful flowers
Pink Zazzle Gomphrena

Basket and clippers in hand, I browsed through my gardens snipping off herbs that I often use in cooking, adding some globe amaranth Pink Zazzle, and Cockscomb to add a zing of color. Pink Zazzle Gomphrena has a straw like texture, so is easy to work into the wreath. African Blue Basil is another stellar herb for arranging and drying.

African Blue Basil has an unusual scent and flower
Wire wreath base
Wire wreath base

Using a performed wire wreath base to start ( I used a 14″ one), cut your herbs into short 6 inch lengths and lay the pieces into the base. I had lots of rosemary and lavender so used these as a fragrant base. Wind a continuous strand of florist wire around the base, keeping the short pieces firmly attached to the base. Use plenty of material as the herbs will shrink as they dry, leaving empty spaces.

I grow a hedge of lavender
Wire your herb pieces into the base
Wire your herb pieces into the base

Start bundling your herbs together using green florist pipe cleaners so you can easily attach them to the base.

Herb bundle wrapped with florist pipe cleaner
Herb bundle wrapped with florist pipe cleaner

Start attaching the bundles one at a time, moving around the wreath, overlapping one on top of another, hiding the pipe cleaner.

Wire your bundles, over lapping them around the wreath
Wire your bundles, over-lapping them around the wreath
Just about done with the bundled herbs
Just about done with the bundled herbs

When you have covered the base thoroughly with herb bundles, I like to add some color. Here I used pink cockscomb and globe amaranth which dries nicely.

Herbal wreath with finishing touches
Herbal wreath with finishing touches

Letting the wreath dry flat ensures that the herbs won’t sag or droop down as it dries. This takes about 2-3 weeks and you are ready to hang. After about a week, the herbs were shrinking so much, that I decided to add bunches of fresh thyme to fill the gaps. So, don’t hesitate to use loads of herbs to thoroughly cover the wreath base when you first make it.

Dried wreath
Dried wreath

 

The Year in Review-Top 10 Garden Posts for 2017

Plant These For Bees is one of my all-time top posts

Looking at my stats for the past year, I am always struck by the posts which gather the most views from around the world. Some posts are from as long as six years ago and are still going strong with lots of views, like Swarming of the Bees, Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter, Plant These For Bees, or From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade. The top four countries that view my blog are the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia, with dozens of other countries on the list, some I have never heard of.

Pollinator poster available at Etsy

My top post of all time which was originally published in 2012, is Containers With Pizzazz.

Artfully arranged containers using texture, contrasting colors, and different and unusual plants is my mantra and designing outside of the box. A container for every season is the way I garden in pots. Everyone can have their own personal creative planter on their deck, patio, or even inside. Having over 100,000 views over the years, I find the pictures of my containers all over Pinterest.

Indoor spring container
Summer shade container
Fall container
Winter container

My most surprising top post is Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter. Consistently garnering views from all over the world, there must be thousands of people with this body butter in their bathroom. Lots of comments on this post mean that many people have used the recipe and enjoyed it.

Shade gardening is always popular. From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade has helped many people choose the perfect ground cover for difficult situations. The cliff notes on this post is to plant a lot of Lenten Roses, or Hellebores. A no-brainer, deer proof, evergreen, and beautiful plant, this under-used is probably my top plant in my garden.

Lenten Roses

Swarming bees in Swarming of the Bees, always fascinates people and I have seen many of these phenomenas over the years as a beekeeper. No matter how many times I have seen it, the process of swarming is awesome.

Bee swarms are fascinating to everyone

Decorating the White House for Christmas has been my job for 3 seasons and many people are interested in seeing behind the scenes on how the process is done. My last visit to the White House was documented in Decorating the White House in 2017. I hope to do it again!

Decorating the White House
Glad to be decorating at the White House

After posting about Pesticide-Free Nurseries and Seed Companies, I was overwhelmed with the response. Many people are trying to do the right thing and not use pesticides, I was really happy to find. This post really struck a chord for many readers. 

 

An array of seed companies that are pesticide free

A Succulent Christmas post was fun to do because I started working on my succulent tree during the summer and it was interesting to see it grow all summer into the Christmas season to make a beautiful and unusual Christmas tree. Unusual and different!

It took 6 months for this tree to look full

Another top post was Miniature Gardens-Whimsical Creations. Miniature gardening is still popular, especially for people who don’t have access to a garden or don’t have the time or money to spend in a garden. Everyone has room on a kitchen counter or windowsill for a mini garden.

A Christmas themed miniature garden
Broken Pot Garden-Home for a Gnome

So, here are my top ten for views:

Containers With Pizzazz

Plant These For the Bees

Deck the Halls-A Succulent Christmas

Miniature Gardens-Whimsical Creations

Swarming of the Bees

Luscious Honey-Scented Body Butter

Pesticide Free Nurseries and Seed Companies

From the Ground Up-Choosing a Shade Ground Cover

Decorating the White House 2017

Broken Pot Garden

 

 

Here are my favorite posts:

Garden Trip to Chelsea, Wales, and Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds

 

A Cut Above- Creating Sculptures from Wood

Illuminating the Season-  A Williamsburg Christmas

Surviving Extreme Weather- Top 3 Ways to Help Birds

Butterflying

Tussie Mussie: The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself 

Magical Sunflowers-the Fibonacci Spiral

 

Delaware Botanic Gardens-From the Ground Up

Dahlias-Divas of the Garden

 

Floating Beauties

Hellebores-Deer Resistant, Low Maintenance, Deer-Proof Perennial

Succulent Pumpkins for the Fall

Finished succulent pumpkin
Finished succulent pumpkin with pods and drieds
p1110043
Finished peanut pumpkin with succulents and fresh flowers

A Natural Fit-Pumpkins & Succulents

Pumpkins and succulents-a happy pairing! With some glue, moss, succulent cuttings, and an interesting pumpkin, you can create porch decor or a great centerpiece in minutes. These last for months too. And if you have any extra flowers available, you can stick them in to get a quick color burst for a party or event.

Pumpkin decorated with succulents
Pumpkin decorated with succulents, step by step

Material List

  • A pumpkin or large gourd

  • Sheet moss or sphagnum moss

  • Assorted cuttings of succulents- I was moving most of my succulents indoors to beat the frost, and this gave me the opportunity to trim the growth back. I simply nipped pieces of succulent tips from living plants, trying to vary colors, shapes, and textures

  • Assorted pods, i.e. pine cones, okra pods, lotus pods, milk weed pods, and berries. For one of my examples, I used nandina berries and foliage which dries quite nicely, and okra pods

  • Fresh Flowers for a quick change of color

  • Tacky glue or glue gun

  • Spritzer for moistening moss

  • Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin
    Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin

    Step By Step

  1. Find a wide topped pumpkin and cut the stem off; I used “Cinderella” variety which has a grayish orange color, deep pleats, and  a wide roomy top. For my other example, I used a “peanut pumpkin”(see note below). I think a white or green pumpkin would look fabulous. Also, gourds would be funky too.

  2. Glue moss on top about 1/2 inch thick with a glue gun or tacky glue.

  3. Arrange your succulent cuttings to form a pleasing arranging, making sure that you use the larger chunkier pieces first, and using long pieces to trail around the edges. Stick the stems into the moss with glue so that they adhere. A hot glue gun works best for this.

  4. Add berries, pods, or anything else that goes with the fall theme, gluing in place.

  5. Spritz the moss so that it is moist.

Peanut Pumpkin

Peanut pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima ‘Galeux d’Eysine’) is an heirloom pumpkin known for its distinctive peanut-like growths adorning the exterior of its pink hued rind. The “peanuts” are actually a buildup of excess sugar in the flesh of the pumpkin giving it its unique texture. Those warty protuberances tell you the flesh is extra sweet for making pies and other dishes.  See some other varieties of pumpkins at Pumpkin Eye Candy.

Peanut pumpkin
Peanut pumpkin

Maintenance

It is best to keep the pumpkin outside in the chilly weather when you don’t want to show it off. I keep the decorated pumpkin out during the week on my front porch under cover, and bring it in on the weekends when we are around the house more. Pumpkins need cold weather to stay firm through the season. A warm house will speed up the inevitable decomposition and I want mine to last through Thanksgiving. Sometimes the succulent cuttings even root in the moss and you have more succulents to pot up.

Spritzing the pumpkin
Spritzing the pumpkin
Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods
Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods

More Centerpiece Ideas

For more centerpiece ideas, go to Centerpiece Ideas for Thanksgiving.

Decorated with fresh flowers
Decorated with fresh flowers
Gourd decorated with drieds
Gourd decorated with drieds

Springtime Viola Basket

 springtime basket

Violas are my springtime favorite flower. Fragrant, happy faces gaze up at you and tell you that spring has sprung. These budget blooms come in a rainbow of hues, the usual blues, violets, and yellow- but also, browns, reds and burnt orange. Ease of growing in cool weather means that violas will pair well  with other cool season flowers, such as diascia, lobularia, lettuce, parsley, verbenas, succulents, and other early blooming annuals.

Violas and pansies in the greenhouse
Violas and pansies in the greenhouse

And fragrance! Most people don’t realize the perfume of lots of pansies and violas grouped together in mass. But the fragrance  is phenomenal.

A single variety of violas filling a pot can be beautiful
A single variety of violas filling a pot can be beautiful and fragrant
Violas play well with other plants
Violas play well with other plants

Pansies vs Violas

Many people get confused with the differences between these two very similar flowers. Pansies have a distinctive blotching that resembles a face. They also have more compact growth than violets and larger leaves with fewer and larger flowers.

Pink Pansy
Pink Pansy

Violas, often called “Johnny-Jump-Ups”, are more winter hardy and durable in the landscape, and I prefer them for their versatility. The flowers are smaller but more prolific and can cover the plant with color.  Many Violas have transitioned from the smaller Violas over the years to the beautiful large-flowered Pansy varieties through the efforts of gardeners and hybridizers. But I still love the Violas for their sheer number of blooms per plant.

Violas come in brown shades
Violas come in brown shades
Beautifully marked viola
Beautifully marked Viola
Viola Etain
Viola Etain
Violas
Unnamed Violas

Edible leaves and flowers high in Vitamin A and C, the Pansy and Viola flowers impart a strong flavor and are used to make syrups, flavored honey and as a garnish for salads. Go to my post on Edible Flowers for more information on how to use them.

An array of edible flowers
An array of edible flowers
Edible flowers garnishing a salad
Edible flowers garnishing a salad

Easy to grow in sun or partial shade with plenty of moisture, the plants will fade when the days get hot, so I enjoy them from March to June. In containers when they fade, I replace them with heat lovers, like lantanas and petunias.

Violas planted with lettuce
Violas and pansies planted with lettuce
Violas adding color to a planted table
Violas adding color to a Planted table

Centerpiece DIY

Using Violas or Pansies in centerpieces or as a hostess gift is easy. Start with a low tray; I used a narrow tin tray with shallow sides.

Long tin container
Long tin container

Once you remove your Violas from the market pack, slice off half of the root ball and remove some of the soil clinging to the root ball. This makes the task of fitting lots of plants for maximum color into the container easier.

Slice off half of the root ball
Slice off half of the root ball

Start filling the tin container with the Violas and pack them in tightly for maximum impact.

Start filling up the container with as many violas as will fit
Start filling up the container with as many Violas as will fit

Using green sheet moss, tuck this into all the nooks and crannies and moisten everything with a mister. Don’t water too much as there are no drainage holes and you don’t want the flowers to sit in a puddle of water. Start adding your accessories. For my basket handle, I cut some pussy willow and bent it into a handle shape and stuck the ends into the soil at each side of the container.

I used a rabbit wine stopper, fake wired butterfly, fake mushrooms, and a birds nest. For the handle I used pussy willow.
I used a rabbit wine stopper, fake wired butterfly, fake mushrooms, and a bird’s nest. For the handle I used pussy willow

Keep the planting medium moist- not sopping wet- and this centerpiece will last for 6 weeks or more.

Fill in with your accessories. I added the bunny last
Fill in with your accessories. I added the bunny last
Centerpiece done!
Centerpiece done!

Boxwood -The Ultimate Green for Christmas

box

Ripping out 50 failing English boxwoods on a landscape job this year turned into a decorating opportunity. Rather than taking the old shrubs out and chipping and shredding them, I decided to use the still green parts for some boxwood Christmas trees.

Boxwood tree before decorating
Boxwood tree before decorating

A traditional decoration, boxwood trees are simple to make but time consuming. Boxwood sprigs  inserted into saturated oasis lasts for at least 2 months in a green fresh looking form. After the holidays, you can even keep your tree which will dry nicely, and spray it gold for next year. Boxwood trees are easy to make and inexpensive if you have boxwood on hand. If you have to buy it though, it is expensive. I own several shrubs that need some attention and wait until early December to give them a thinning so I can use all those fresh greens and not throw them away.

'Green Velvet' Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my 'go to' boxwood
‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my ‘go to’ boxwood

When I thin my boxwood, I just grab a bunch of boxwood and snap it off at the woody stem. I call it ‘snapping boxwood’ and savvy gardeners do this to keep all their boxwood healthy. Beautiful boxwood requires periodic thinning to let air circulate throughout. Most people will sheer their shrubs which just stimulates the boxwood to grow in even thicker, blocking air flow.

Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears
Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Snapping off hunks of the foliage, creates spaces within the boxwood which aids in air circulation and leads to a healthier shrub. When I talk ‘boxwood’, I am referring to both English, American, and Korean. Though the English is superior for making wreaths and trees, I use any kind that I can get.

Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees
Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees

Boxwood Tree Directions

  • Soak your cut boxwood in a tub of warm water overnight to hydrate the greens and keep them fresh longer
  • Choose a small plastic container and add a chunk of oasis for the base. Tape in with florist tape and add some picks.
  • Insert your cone on top of the picks
Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece
Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece
  • At this point I add a few wood picks from the side of the cone into the base to make sure everything is secure
Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks; you can also add a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape
Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks;  alternatively you can use a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape
  • I pick out a nice looking boxwood piece to form the peak. Once I stick that piece in, it gives me a guide to green up the rest of the tree.
Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first
Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first
  • Starting at the bottom, I break off pieces of boxwood and insert them into the oasis around the edge of the container first and move up. I added another variety of green (thujopsis) to the tree to give more textural interest. But if you are a purist, stick with boxwood
I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood
I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood
  • Add floral touches, like white pom poms, red roses, and small Christmas balls directly into the oasis; be sure to leave gaps to insert these elements
  • Insert your pieces of boxwood and flowers with care; If you insert them too densely, you could break apart the oasis
Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container
Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container
  • Spray the tree with an anti-dessicant, like Wilt-Pruf to keep the tree fresh for weeks
  • For care, I will mist it with water maybe once a week, and make sure that the oasis is thoroughly soaked through to keep it green and fresh
Add roses and white pom poms
Add roses and white pom poms

Pumpkin Treats-Decorating with Succulents

Finished succulent pumpkin
Finished succulent pumpkin

A Natural Fit-Pumpkins & Succulents

Who would ever have thought of decorating pumpkins with succulents? Like bacon, succulents go with everything and make it better. The finished product is so different from the traditional carved Jack-O-Lantern, plus you don’t have to fool with the mess of seeds and rotten pumpkins. Unlike cut pumpkins these will last for months, and the succulents actually root in the moss if misted occasionally. This is a great new twist on decorating pumpkins for the fall holidays that is easy, no mess, and so creative. In the fall I have so many large succulents that I don’t have room for inside that I cut them up for decorations.

Lots of succulents from the summer need to be pruned to fit in my greenhouse

Better than losing the succulents to frost! The succulents actually root into the moss and you can transplant the cuttings to soil and grow them and set them out in the spring, saving on your start-up plant costs.

Pumpkin decorated with succulents
Pumpkin decorated with succulents
Little pumpkins on top of big pumpkins!

Material List

  • A pumpkin or large gourd
  • Sheet moss, sphagnum moss, or reindeer moss
  • Assorted cuttings of succulents. I was moving most of my succulents indoors to beat the frost, and this gave me the opportunity to trim the growth back or actually uproot an entire plant, washing off the roots. I simply nipped large pieces of succulent tips from living plants, trying to vary colors, shapes, and textures.
  • Assorted pods, i.e. pine cones, okra pods, lotus pods, milk weed pods, and berries. For my example above, I used nandina berries and foliage which dries quite nicely, and okra pods. Mix it up with whatever you have on hand.
  • Tacky glue or glue gun
  • Spritzer for moistening moss
  • Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin
    Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin

    Step By Step

  1. Find a wide topped pumpkin and cut the stem off; I used “Cinderella” variety which has a grayish orange color, deep pleats or grooves, and a wide roomy top.
  2. Glue moss on top about 1/2 inch thick with a glue gun or tacky glue.
  3. Arrange your succulent cuttings to form a pleasing arrangement, making sure that you use the larger chunkier pieces first. Stick the stems into the moss with glue so that they adhere. Glue will not hurt the succulents.
  4. Add berries, pods, or anything else that goes with the fall theme, gluing in place.
  5. Spritz the moss so that it stays moist

There are so many unusual pumpkins on the market today that I also tried this arrangement with a Christmas theme using a white pumpkin, adding fresh variegated holly, winterberry, green amaranthus, and dried burgundy cockscomb to add a nice contrast to the white pumpkin.

White pumpkin with decorations
White pumpkin with decorations
Decorated white pumpkin
Decorated white pumpkin

Gourds
Gourds are also a great choice for these arrangements, appropriate for Thanksgiving and I chose a tall narrow one that fits into a smaller space. I had gathered some orange rose hips on the side of the road and blackberry lily berries and knew I had found the perfect use for them decorating the top of my gourd.

Gourd decorated with succulents
Gourd decorated with succulents
Display of decorated pumpkins on my front porch
Display of decorated pumpkins on my front porch

Maintenance

It is best to keep the pumpkin inside  in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight.  Pumpkins need cool weather to stay firm through the season. If you want to keep them in an outside location, like mine on my front porch, be sure to bring inside when the weather turns colder with hard freezes. A warm house will speed up the inevitable decomposition, so don’t put your pumpkin on top of a radiator or in a sunny window. Last year, my pumpkins lasted into January!

Spritzing the pumpkin
Spritzing the pumpkin
Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods
Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods

Hypertufa Party

 

Hypertufa party gear
Hypertufa party gear
Hypertufa troughs
Hypertufa troughs

Gardener’s Dictionary

Hypertufa (n.): An artificial and lightweight stone that gardeners can create from a recipe and mold into plant containers, troughs and any other shape.

If you mention hypertufa to a non-gardener, you would probably get a blank look. But in the gardening world, it is very trendy and a sign of a serious gardener is the number of hypertufas scattered in their garden.

Hypertufas lining a wall
Hypertufas lining a wall

Perfect for planting miniatures and alpine plants, hypertufa troughs fit into any size garden, large or small. A man-made imitation of light weight tufa rock, hypertufa is a mixture of 3 things: perlite, peat moss, and portland cement. Some fiberglass fibers used for strengthening is a good idea but not essential.

Old enameled bowls make good molds for gardens
Old enameled bowls make good molds for gardens

Purchasing a ready-made one is always an option but pricey. A medium 15″ trough could set you back around $75, whereas the materials for constructing several will be around $30. And the fun involved is something that pulls people together for a hypertufa party, complete with wine and lots of food.

Use an old cat litter box for a rectangular mold
Use an old cat litter box for a rectangular mold

Any Excuse for a Party!

Hypertufa partying takes some planning and preparation but is worth it once everything starts to happen. Mise en place- the cooking phrase, having everything in place, is paramount here. You don’t want to be running around gathering supplies while everyone is waiting. I tell my guests that I will provide all the materials for making if they bring a mold on a piece of plywood, a face mask, and rubber gloves. Molds are simply a tupperware bowl without a lip, an old styrofoam ice chest, cat litter container, or a sturdy box.

Prep

  • Blue Tarps– I use a couple of blue throw away tarps to lay on the ground which makes cleanup a breeze

  • Face Masks and Gloves– Face masks are essential to keep you from breathing portland cement dust which is toxic; Rubber gloves keep your hands clean

  • Mixing Tub– I use an old cement mixing tub, but any wide mouthed plastic container will do

  • Mixing Tools– Use a shovel or sturdy garden trowel

  • Old Trash Bags– Using plastic between the container and the hypertufa mix when packed into the mold makes the unmolding process easy

  • Plywood Pieces– The pieces when wet are heavy and hard to transport without a study board underneath it

Mixing peat most, cement, perlite, and fiberglass fibers together

Hypertufa Ingredients

  • Portland Cement-one 96 pound bag which costs around $15; this will make lots of troughs, at least 12 good sized ones

  • Peat moss– 3.8 cubic feet bag will cost around $16

  • Perlite-one 4 cubic bag costs around $14

  • Mesh Fibers– These cement fiberglass fibers are a strengthening agent for the hypertufa, available at cement suppliers or on line, a 1 pound bag at $7

Perlite is the ingredient that makes the mixture very light and porous
Perlite is the ingredient that makes the mixture very light and porous

You can get the perlite and the peat moss in smaller sizes if you just want to make a couple of troughs, but the Portland Cement only comes in the monster size.

I cut open the Portland cement bag with a knife and scoop out the contents-Wear a mask!
I cut open the Portland cement bag with a knife and scoop out the contents-Wear a mask!

Mixing

Using a small bucket for measuring, use 3 parts portland cement to 2 parts each of the perlite and peat moss and mix these thoroughly into a mixing tub, breaking up lumps. Add the fibers at this point, if you are using them. I find if you add the fiberglass fibers your hypertufa is more resistant to cracking in the long run.

Use a small bucket for measuring
Use a small bucket for measuring

Enlist everyone at this stage in mixing and squeezing the lumps to make a uniform mix. Next have your hose handy and start adding water in increments, mixing after each addition until the mixture will hold in a clump in your hand. It resembles wet cottage cheese at this point.

The mixture should form a ball in your hand
The mixture should form a ball in your hand

Testing the mixture

Molding – The Fun Begins!

Molding and forming the trough is the fun part.  Everyone brought their mold staged on a sturdy piece of plywood so that they can transport it home easily.  We covered the molds with a piece of old trash bag which greatly simplifies the removal of the mold from the hypertufa.  After donning their gloves, people dove into the tub and grabbed handfuls of the mixture and start covering their mold with a two-inch layer of hypertufa mixture. It is important to have good coverage so that the walls are sturdy and won’t cave in.  I had dowels ready for people to insert through the bottom of the troughs for drainage holes.

Molding the mixture around a large bowl
A hypertufa made in a styrofoam ice chest
A hypertufa made in a styrofoam ice chest

Curing 

After everyone had thoroughly coated their mold and smoothed the bottom and sides, we took a break and admired everyone’s creations. At that point, the troughs are ready for curing.  Curing simply means that the cement has to dry slowly to avoid any cracks forming. To do this, simply mist the container once a day and cover the trough with a piece of plastic to hold in the moisture. You can’t rush this step and it will take a couple of weeks to fully harden and cure.

Some hypertufa troughs curing in their molds; keep them wet for a couple of weeks before unmolding
Some hypertufa troughs curing in their molds; keep them wet for a couple of weeks before unmolding

Planting

After waiting impatiently for about a month, you can turn the hypertufa over and remove the mold.  At that time, you can fill it with soil and plant with succulents or miniature plants. Your completed trough will last for years outside and will eventually grow moss to make it look like an antique planter.

Beautiful established trough

 

Miniature Christmas Garden Craze

 

Globe terrarium
Globe terrarium
Globe terrarium sitting on a Hopkins desk top
Globe terrarium sitting on a Hopkins desk top

Maybe it is just me. Since I had an order for 40 of my miniature gardens as gifts at the local Johns Hopkins for the staff of one of the hospitals, I am going crazy with Christmas decorating in miniature. Instead of  dreaming about sugarplums, I’m dreaming of miniature gardens in an endless line that I am decorating! I love making these small creations that people can enjoy for months to come.

I love this little footed terrarium for tiny scenes
I love this little footed terrarium for tiny scenes

For my popular posts on making miniature gardens, go to Miniature Gardens-Whimisical Creations, Fairy Gardens, and Fairytale Christmas.

Mini garden with gnome
Mini garden with gnome

It merely takes a small glass terrarium container, bonsai pot, or low terra cotta container and you can make your own. For materials, I use small Christmas balls, reindeer moss, miniatures, sheet moss, and small potted plants from a local nursery. I use either woodland plants for a moist container or succulents for a drier one.

Gnome home
Gnome home

For details on making gnome homes in a cut away pot, go to Gnome Home.  You need to cut a chunk out of a terra cotta pot to create this and I give you instructions on how to cut the pot.

Woodland garden
Woodland garden
Mini succulent garden
Mini succulent garden
A succulent container that you would keep on the dry side
A succulent container that you would keep on the dry side
A woodland Christmas scene that you would water a little more
A woodland Christmas scene that you would water a little more

All of the plants will get much larger and can be kept in bounds for at least a year. Transplanting and replanting would be in order when the plants grow too large for the container and you could keep the planter going for several years or more.

Christmas miniature garden
A larger Christmas garden
I used this Christmas tree ornament for a tiny snowman
I used this Christmas tree ornament for a tiny snowman

Step By Step

Step by step for making miniature gardens
Step by step for making miniature gardens
  • Place potting soil in container with drainage: Alternatively, if you have a glass type terrarium, place gravel in bottom with some horticultural charcoal ( few tablespoons, available at garden centers)

  •  Plant a variety of plants with different textures and colors, starting with the largest ones first; I used from 3 to 5 plants for each small garden

  • If a woodland garden, I like to place moss in between the plants to hide soil; If a succulent garden, place small gravel on surface

  • Place any pathways, ornaments, reindeer moss, or gnomes at the very end; I like to use colored glass chunks for added color

  • Water thoroughly until the soil is saturated and place in a filtered sun spot for woodland scenes and full sun for succulent ones

  • For care, I stick my finger down into the soil to see if it is moist or not; For succulent gardens in the winter water every few weeks, and for woodland ones, water about once a week, depending on how warm and dry your house is

007

 

Mini gardens dropped off at  Johns Hopkins
Mini gardens dropped off at Johns Hopkins

Centerpiece Ideas for Thanksgiving

 

Pumpkin centerpiece
Pumpkin centerpiece

I have lots of pumpkins rattling around the house from Halloween decorating and wanted to repurpose one for the Thanksgiving table. Check out my post on Pumpkin Eye Candy to see how many amazing pumpkin heirlooms there are available in the local markets.

Jarrahdale Pumpkin
Jarrahdale Pumpkin

 

 I love the grey green color of the heirloom pumpkin Jarrahdale, but didn’t want to cut into it, so I built the flower arrangement on top. Jarrahdale is also a wide low pumpkin that is a great centerpiece height.

 

Pumpkin with oasis
Pumpkin with oasis

Jarrahdale pumpkins have a nice concave top and it was easy to cut my wet oasis, cover it with chicken wire, and nestle it into the top of the pumpkin. The chicken wire keeps the oasis from breaking up from too many large stems being inserted. Stick a few picks into the oasis pinning it to the pumpkin so the oasis doesn’t slide around.

Components

  • 1 Jarrahdale Pumpkin

  • Oasis with chicken wire and 2 picks

  • Eucalyptus pods and green seeded Eucalyptus

  • Yellow Pom Poms

  • Green Spider Mums

  • Blackberry Lily Seed Heads

  • Hypericum Berries

  • Nandina Berries

Pumpkin with seeded Eucalyptus and yellow pom poms
Pumpkin with seeded Eucalyptus and yellow pom poms

Start greening your oasis with short stems of foliage of eucalyptus. Here I used seeded eucalyptus and add some color with yellow pom poms. I picked these up at a local florist. But you could use cut greens from your yard and berries from the fields to cut your costs.

Pumpkin centerpieceContinue adding the yellow pom poms, hypericum berries or any other red berry, blackberry lily seed heads, and Eucalyptus pods. Top off with your larger flowers- the green spider mums, and spritz the botanicals to fully hydrate everything so it keeps until Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Centerpiece Keep the pumpkin in a cool dark place until ready to use and Give Thanks!!

012 (2)

For decorating pumpkins with succulents, go to Pumpkin Treats-Decorating with Succulents.

"One Too Many" pumpkin variety has a white background and stippled veins
“One Too Many” pumpkin variety has a white background and stippled veins

For a Christmas pumpkin, go to Decorated Pumpkins with Berries, Pods, and Drieds.pumpkin with decorations

Centerpiece for Christmas

Thanksgiving Arrangement
Another Thanksgiving Centerpiece

 

Fall Pod Basket-Everlasting Decoration

Completed Pod Basket
Completed Pod Basket

What do you do with all those baskets hanging around in your house? And all those pods that you have picked up over the years, because they were interesting? I started fooling around with these, thinking that there was a perfect marriage here somewhere, and  came up with this pod/dried flower-edged basket. Taking only one hour to complete, using up some excess baskets that hang from my basement rafters, and incorporating some beautifully colored botanicals worked out so well that I have a great piece to decorate the Thanksgiving/Christmas table.

DIY

  • Picking out a good basket is key. Choose one with a wide, low rim that has plenty of room to display chunky pieces

Chunky Basket with wide rim
Chunky Basket with wide rim
  • Gather your Pods. For pods I used pinecones, lotus pods, fungi pieces, okra pods, small gourds, pine cone roses(cones sliced horizontally to display a rose-like face), and some other odds and ends that I had knocking around

  • Gather dried botanicals. I used a burgundy colored cockscomb, ‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena(see Pink Zazzle post), preserved magnolia leaves, and different colored reindeer moss

  • Using a hot glue gun, start by attaching the larger pieces to the rim firmly. I started with making groups of 3-4 pods. If you have smaller pieces, group these together so they make a bigger impact

Group your pods on the rim
Group your pods on the rim
  • Start filling in and make sure that you add the pods and botanicals three dimensionally, covering the inside edge as well as the outside edge. Leave the moss and magnolia leaves for last

Add dried botanicals next
Add dried botanicals next
  • Add the magnolia leaves, cutting the stem end flat, so that you can nestle it in better into the pods. I like to array the leaves out facing like an opening flower

  • Fill in any gaps with the reindeer moss

Fill in gaps with moss
Fill in gaps with moss
  • Remove all glue strings carefully

  • Spray with an acrylic satin finish to preserve and give it shine

 

Spray it with a satin gloss acrylic preservative
Spray it with a satin gloss acrylic preservative

 

Care

It is a good idea to keep this inside, out of the sun, in a room temperature house. Don’t keep in a bathroom where it could be too moist, or next to a radiator. It should last until next season where you could refresh it with new dried botanicals that tend to fade over time.