Bringing the Tropics to a Denver Backyard…Bromeliads in the Trees, + Painted Birdcage Bonus

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Bringing the Tropics to a Denver Backyard…Bromeliads in the Trees

I was inspired on a recent trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens by this tree full of bromelaids. Such a fun tropical look! Here’s what they did:

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I’ve been cultivating as much of a tropical garden as I can here in arid Denver, (of course I want the opposite of what I have, I’m just crazy like that) and thought this would be a great addition, I just had to figure out how to do it. There are no horizontal branches low enough for this in my backyard, so I went vertical. I bought 3 small bromelaids and one large. I got a great deal as the little ones were less than perfect, but that’s fine with me. I spent a total of $25 on all 4 plants. Watch your local Lowes-type stores for clearance plants! Ask in the garden section. If you have a little bit of green on your thumb, you can make the plants happy again.

Here’s what the tree looked like before the bromelaids. I liked the fern and bird houses where they were, so I worked around them: (I bought the fern last Summer and over-wintered it in the house)

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Here’s how I did it: I created small plant pockets with chicken wire, attached them to the tree with floral wire, lined the pocket with sheet moss, and planted the plant into the pocket. It worked great! I then finished the pockets off with some dangly Spanish moss. Both mosses came from Home Depot at about $3.50 a bag. Here’s the step-by-step:

First, I gathered everything I needed.

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Then I put the sheet moss in the bucket and covered it with water to soak while I cut out and shaped the chicken wire, using the plant as a rough size guide. Do wear gloves. I only wore them part of the time and have the scratches on my hands to prove it.

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Next I ran green floral wire around the tree where the top and bottom of the wire pocket would be, twisted the two floral wires firmly in place (not too tight, you don’t want to harm the tree) and bent the edges of the wire firmly around the floral wire to hold the pocket in place.

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NOTE: I will be removing the wire and plants for the Winter. You do not want to leave the wire wrapped around the tree year-round, as it can harm the tree.

Next step is lining the wire pocket with the sheet moss. I pulled a section big enough to fold over inside the pocket out of the bucket, squeezed out some of the water, and placed it in the pocket to form a nice planting area. Don’t skip the soaking of the moss. It’s far easier to work with when it’s wet. Then I just popped the plant out of it’s plastic container and into the pocket. Easy-peasy! If there is extra room in the pocket, just add some tropical soil mix.

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After doing this for all 4 plants, this is what it looked like:

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The final touch was adding the Spanish moss over the wire and dangling it a bit. I just tucked it into the chicken wire. I love this! It really adds a fun tropical feel to the yard, and the whole project cost less than $35.

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And now for that Painted Birdcage Bonus I mentioned…

I’d been looking for something fun for that dark little corner next to the tree when I found this birdcage at a yard sale for .50 cents. Can’t beat that! I picked a bright lime green gloss spray paint and painted it (I used the whole can) and I dig it! Just the thing to brighten up that dark corner, and it only cost about $4 (cage and $3.50ish for the spray paint)

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Wondering about those big white orbs under the tree? Perhaps the Best Outdoor Garden Lighting Idea Ever…DIY High-End Looking Glowing Orbs for about $3

And that Gazebo pocking out behind the tree? DIY Exotic Asian-Moroccan Gazebo Restyle with Thrift Store Finds

What are you up to in the garden? I’d love to hear! Tell me in the Leave a Reply/Comments section.

 

One of My Favorite Gardening Tricks – Curly Willow Branches: DIY Tree, High-Impact on the Cheap

One of My Favorite Gardening Tricks – Curly Willow Branches: High-Impact on the Cheap

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This trick is an oldy but a goody.  I learned it years ago in my Floral Designer days and have used it many times, both indoors and out. Green Curly Willow branches. These things grow with ridiculous ease. I wanted something big for the large pot in the front yard (yes, I know my pot needs a little TLC, but that project is for next year) I bought 3 large branches of green Curly Willow (it HAS to be GREEN, and wet! Dry branches will not grow, but still look cool…) I just stuck them in the dirt and watered as usual. That’s it. Could it be any easier? Depending on your climate, they may come back again for many years, even in a pot! They will also sprout in a vase of water near a sunny window for a big easy “house plant”. It’s an “Insta-Tree!” Gotta love it.

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Just the branches, right after planting. Even just like this they look good…

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After about 3 weeks, they started sprouting leaves…

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And here they are after a couple months, all big and showy. The branches cost me $13. OK, I admit it, I got these at the wholesaler. If you get them from your local florist, they will be a bit more. Even your grocery floral department should be able to order them for you, just be sure and ask for GREEN Curly Willow, FRESH.

What’s your favorite gardening trick? Tell me in the Leave a Reply/Comment section.

 

 

Perhaps the Best Outdoor Garden Lighting Idea Ever…DIY High-End Looking Glowing Orbs for about $3

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This is one of the Best Outdoor DIYs Ever. I mean it. So simple, so high impact, so freakin’ awesome. When I first saw this one, I had one of those smack-on-the-forehead moments of “Why didn’t I think of that?!?” But it wasn’t me. I stole the idea from this brilliant lady, http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/glowing-orbs/ and I am giving her all the credit here. It’s just way too great an idea to share, so here we go:

What you need:

Those “ugly” round opaque glass globe light covers, a string of lights, preferably LED (less electricity and heat), and an extension cord. (I used regular white string lights I already had, but I do plan to eventually replace them with LED strings)

Note: When I saw this idea, I ran right out to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and found 2 round globes and 2 larger flatter globes for $2 each. (FYI this place is a DIY goldmine! I also scored handles for a dresser redo for $1 each, post coming soon!) You can also often find them at thrift stores. I will be getting more as I find them, I’m so in love with this look I want to do up the front yard as well, maybe with colored lights to match the house…

How-to:

Just put the string of lights inside, plug it into your extension cord, and bury the edges of the globe and the extension cord under dirt or mulch. (I used mulch, as it was already on the ground, a total no-brainer). That’s it! I did four of these in about 20 minutes.

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Nighttime is when the magic happens…I plugged them into the dawn/dusk timer I already have in the backyard. Works great.

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I can’t wait to add more of these! What amazing outdoor DIYs have you done? I’d love to hear! Tell me about them in the Leave a Reply section.

Big Showy Glamorous Orchid Arrangement for only $30! (Retail over $100)

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It was one of those emails I live for…Orchids Half Off! Today Only (Wednesday, July 17) Whole Foods has stunning orchids for only $9.99! (if you missed it, they usually do this sale 2-3 times a year, just sign up for their weekly emails, or my facebook page and twitter will always have the announcement) Let me tell you, these are high quality orchids, not those little piddly ones you usually see at the supermarket. They even come in nice clay pots, which I’ll save for another project.

I couldn’t get orchids this nice at the floral wholesaler for less than $16-20 each! Most florists would charge $30-35 each for these beauties. I went to Whole Foods this morning and grabbed four of these stunners. I should have gotten more. Did I mention I am obsessed with orchids?

First, we’ll start with how to pick out a nice orchid. They should have strong bright green leaves free of mold, spots, and dead/brown areas. Here’s some healthy leaves:

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Then, pick out a plant with a few unopened bloom “pods” on the end, it will last much longer than one with all it’s blooms fully opened. Blooms should be bright and strong, without any wilting, deformities, or spots.

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OK, now that we have some nice orchids, let’s display them. For this project I picked my old chipped Haviland soup tureen. It can no longer be used for soup, but it makes a great place for plants. I grabbed some rocks to fill out the bottom of the tureen and help provide some stability and drainage, some sheet moss, heavy floral tape (this is the strong tape, not the stretchy type floral tape. You can find it at most craft stores) and three of the orchid plants. I removed the orchids from their clay pots, and took out the care tags.

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The next step was getting the three plants in the tureen, which took some finagling, as they would not stand up straight. I used the heavy floral tape to  attach them to each other by their plastic containers, and ran tape across the top to steady the threesome. Then I filled in with the rocks around them.

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I know it looks messy now, but here’s where the sheet moss comes in to cover the tops and sides. Just finesse a little over the edge as well to cover the tape. Fresh green moss would be best. I used moss that was a little dried out because it’s what I had on hand.

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All done! I love it. So glamorous and classy on the dining room table, and it only cost $30! (I had the other materials on-hand) Any floral shop would charge over $100, not even including the container. And the best part, it will last at least a month. Ah, the beauty of orchids…

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Orchid Care: Orchids prefer filtered light, avoid direct sunlight. They like a temperature between 65-80, and high humidity. Here in dry dry Denver, I mist the plants once a day (especially the moss on top, it will evaporate slowly and raise the humidity around the plant. Don’t mist if you are in a humid area, or the plant may rot). Water thoroughly (or take out and soak it for a bit if you prefer) when the potting medium is almost dry. Don’t let them dry out completely! And don’t let them sit in water, or the roots will rot. When the blooms are spent, cut the spike as follows: You’ll see a series of beige-ish bands (called bracts) that encircle the spike about 5″ apart . Look for where the beige bract widens and becomes kind of shield-shaped. Beneath that protective bract is an inactive bud. Cut the spike just above this bract with a sharp razor at an angle (don’t use scissors, they crush the spike). Continue to care for your orchid plant the same as when it was blooming (no direct sun, water when almost dry, 65-80 degrees) and it will flower again, especially if you use an orchid fertilizer (just follow the package directions).

What happened to the 4th orchid? That one I saved for my bedside table. The plant fit perfectly in the top of a black vintage ceramic vase I have. I used the floral tape to hold it secure in at the top, and used Spanish moss this time as a topper. It looks great in the bedroom! I love seeing flowers upon waking in the morning. What a great way to start the day!

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Great Garden Inspiration & Ideas from a Visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens (on Free Day, of course!)

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Your local Botanic Gardens (in my case the Denver Botanic Gardens) are a great place to gather doable ideas and inspiration for your garden. This past Tuesday was Free Day, which I fully enjoyed, and took the opportunity to gather ideas for my own garden at home. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

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A lovey all-green shade pot at the base of a tree. Who needs flowers? A nice combination of shades and textures works great, as this pretty pot proves. A good way to add interest to the otherwise kinda boring tree base. Love the large flat rocks around the tree as well.

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L.O.V.E. this black rock path! I can’t imagine how many hours it took to create, but the undulating flowing pattern of the black river rocks turned up sideways is mesmerizing and gorgeous. I really want to try something like that in the backyard…

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What a fun display! I dig the artful use of dried, cut-up things from the garden. Makes me think of all kinds of ways to make use of garden “trash” I would otherwise throw out. Love those big green lotus pots as well.

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The bark of this Lacebark Pine is beautiful! Looks like a watercolor painting. I’d love to replace the plain old pine in the backyard with this.

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I am absolutely going to steal this idea. Bromeliads attached to the limbs of a large tree with Spanish moss added. This is perfect for my wanna-be tropical backyard. The bromeliads can be wired onto the limbs easily, the wires can be covered by the moss, and the plants can be detached and overwintered inside. Perfect! I WILL have a DIY post for this in the near future…

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Ceramic roofing tiles as dividers. Love this idea! Buried in the ground upright they form a nice pattern. Whoever came up with this idea is a genius.

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A great easy-care and beautiful planting idea for a full-sun Denver garden, herbs and easy perennials. Notice the heights of each plant getting taller towards the back. I really like the look of the purple sage in the foreground. This garden smells incredible, too. (and of course, you can cook with it as well)

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Sigh. My dream plant, the stunning (and very poisonous) Tree Datura (Angel’s Trumpet). Of course they are very difficult to grow in zone 5 Denver, loving a zone 9 and above, but they have the most spectacular blooms. If I ever get a greenhouse, this plant is mine mine mine!

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This is just about the most perfect pond. The rocks are beautifully laid out. I like how the they go all the way down into the pond instead of just to the edge. Someday when funds allow, I’d love to upgrade my little pond to something like this. I do want to know how they keep it so crystal clear…

There are scores more ideas at the Botanic Gardens, so go visit yours and get inspired!

I want to know what garden projects you are doing! Tell me in the Leave a Reply section below.

(Note: All photos taken by Marie Vlasic)

A How-To DIY Stunning Star-Spangled 4th of July Fresh Flower Arrangement from Grocery Store Flowers, Cheap! ($16 Bucks)

A Fabulous Star-Spangled Flower Arrangement for your Fourth of July Festivities…

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I love flowers. I was a floral designer for over a decade, and I think a home should never be without them. They just make you happy. I’ll use any excuse to bring them home…this week’s excuse is the Fourth of July! I created this Star-Spangled Arrangement for a mere $16 from grocery store bunches. (this arrangement would cost you about $65 (not including the vase) in a flower shop. I even managed to get a few stems free for a little bonus arrangement, but more on that later. Here’s the how-to for this one:

First, gather your “ingredients”. A vase of appropriate size, clear floral tape and a floral knife (available online or at most hobby shops), floral preservative packets (you’ll grab a few of these when you buy your flowers, they are free with purchase), and of course, your flowers. Here I am using one bunch (3 stems) of blue Hydrangea from Whole Foods, $9.99; a bunch (5 stems) of white Fuji Mums, $3 (on sale!) at Whole Foods, and a bunch (10 stems) of red Gladiolas, $2.99 (on sale!) at King Soopers (Kroger Market)

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The next step is to fill your vase with water, adding one of the packets of preservative. Then you’ll need to tape your vase. This is crucial to a solid arrangement! It gives the flowers structure and makes arranging them easy. First, tape across the top of the vase about 1″ apart, then cross over the other way (either a diamond or square pattern is ok, both work just fine) Then go around the outside top of the base to hold down your tape grid, making sure your tape goes over the edges of your grid, and tapes over itself at the end. This step is very important, or your grid will come apart when you start adding your flowers.

In this arrangement, I am using the 3 stems of hydrangea as a base, instead of the usual greens. I like this technique, it is a clean, modern look, and just 2-3 hydrangea stems fill the whole base of the vase and form a great structure to work off , as you can place other stems right into the hydrangea (they are great alone as well). They may seem like an expensive choice, but because of their size, they are good bang for the buck. Hydrangea can be a little tricky, as the stems must be cut underwater. If they are not, the stems suck up air and your flower will be a wilted mess in a hurry. Measure (by eye) where to cut your flower by holding it up against your vase. Cut the stems (with a sharp floral knife at a 45 degree angle) underwater, and hold them there for a minute, then place them quickly into your vase.

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Now it’s time for the tall stuff, the gladiolas. Start by removing any spent blooms as well as the leaves at the bottom. Again, “measure” the stem by holding it up against the vase to eye-ball where to cut, cut at a 45 degree angle (you don’t have to cut these underwater)  and add to your vase. Repeat this, starting with taller at the center and shorter and pointed more outward out from the center. Turn your vase as you work to check for “rounded-ness”. Don’t be afraid to place them right into the hydrangea, just be gentle.

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When you are happy with this stage, it’s time for the white fuji mums. Nothing says “fireworks” like a fuji! Remove all or just the lower leaves (depending on your taste, some people think fuji leaves are ugly) from the stems, measure your fujis, cut and place in the vase. Watch the “levels”, you don’t want your flowers all at the same height, stagger the lengths and fill in the “holes” around the vase. And…you’re done!

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A fun Red White and Blue arrangement, and everyone will be wow’d you made it yourself.

BONUS!

One of the things I love about Whole Foods is their top-notch customer service. If you are not happy, or they are out of something you need, they will often “sample-out”, or give you free, something equivalent. This happened for me when buying flowers for his post. They had one last bunch of white fuji’s, and it was short one stem (it had 4 instead of 5) their oh-so-nice floral lady gave that bunch gratis, and went to see if there was another bunch in back. There was! So I got my needed 5-stem bunch plus 4 extra stems free. It never hurts to ask! This is what I did with my Free bunch:

I grabbed my little vintage creamer and filled it with water and preservative. Then I clipped a couple fern fronds and jasmine stems from the yard, removed the leaves on the bottom (nothing fouls up the water faster than leaves), and added my 4 stems of fujis. They have a happy home here next to my “chalkboard chicken” in the kitchen.

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A Note on making your flowers last: The most important thing you can do to make your flowers last is change the water, daily if possible. This is where your extra preservative packets come in. Add one each time you change the water. Your flowers will thank you! Pull out any dying or dead flowers right away. You’ll notice some flowers last longer than others, and you can re-cut those and create a smaller arrangement from them. I’ll be creating many more Flower How-to posts in the future, so subscribe to the blog using one of the links to the right and you won’t miss a thing!

Have a flower question? Ask me in the “Leave a Reply” sections and I’ll be happy to answer it.

4th of July Fast & Easy Outdoor Decor on the Cheap

It’s one week till the Fourth!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love to decorate. Any holiday will do, it’s just plain fun. I did up the front of the house today for the fourth. Here’s what I did:

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Let the fireworks & BBQs begin…we’re ready!

Here’s what the front of the house looked like before I started:

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Front of the House – Before

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Front of the House – Before

I like things to be quick and easy, and reusable whenever possible. I’ve been using the same fabric bunting now for 4 years, and it’s holding up great. I have four of them and they are from Oriental Trading for $5.99 ea (they have sales from time to time so get on their mailing list!) I picked up the simple flags at Target, on sale after the holiday for a couple bucks, and reuse them each year. I grabbed the 8″ flag ribbon at a close-out sale for a couple bucks, and the “fill-in” white tulle comes from my favorite fabric source, Distinctive Fabric, and can be reused for other holidays. My tool of choice for this project was my trusty staple gun with 1/2″ staples for the gate, and 1/4″ staple for the fabric.

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the “Ingredients” – Flag Ribbon, 4 Pieces of Bunting, 6 Medium Flags, 6 Small Flags, & White Tulle.

I attached the 4 pieces of bunting first, just eye-balling the spacing. Then I filled in the spaces in between with a large square of white tulle, bunched up at the ends and draped. Then I added the same white tulle to the gate, stapled the 6 small flags onto the gate, and placed the medium flags in the two pots up on the patio. The 8″ wired flag ribbon I tied up in multiple bows and simple hooked on a cup hook on the front door. That’s it! Easy-peasy, and only took about a half-hour. I’m sure I’ll add more bunting in the future as budget allows, but for now, this is fun and festive, and best of all, since I already had everything it didn’t cost a dime (original cost for everything 4 years ago was about $30)

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth, Side View

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth – Gate

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Here’s how I attached the flags – 6 staple and a steady hand.

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth – Porch

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Happy Fourth Everyone!

I’ll be doing more Fourth of July Posts this week, so SUBSCRIBE to this blog (links in the sidebar)and you won’t miss a Patriotic thing.

How are you decorating for the Fourth? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments section.