Dino-licious Kitschy DIY Planters from Thrift-store Toy Dinosaurs

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Yes, I know. You’ve seen these Dinosaur planters all over the internet. Ho hum. Well I don’t care, I made a couple, and I’m going to show you how whether you like it or not.

I bought a bag of assorted dinosaurs at the thrift store for a couple bucks, determined to do something fun with them. I decided to turn the bigger ones into little planters. You can put pretty much any small plant in there, I know Tillandsia (air plants) have been a popular choice, as have small succulents, but I wanted to do something different. I found these tiny 1″ ornamental kale plants at the floral wholesaler and thought they’d be perfect (you should be able to find tiny plants at pretty much any nursery. I’ve also seen them at Home Depot.) I’ll probably have to transplant them if they get too much bigger, but for now they are a nice punch of color for our dreary Denver Winter.

I started with the rubbery Dinos, and cut out appropriate size holes with a sharp Xacto blade (If you have the really hard plastic Dinos, you will need to use real tools, like a drill & jigsaw.) I also popped out the squeaky bit on their undersides, which makes a perfect drainage hole.

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Next came the painting. I chose a gloss white, but you can paint them any color you like. Be sure and plug up the planting hole so no paint gets inside, as the plants wouldn’t like that very much. (those other little dinos are for another project you’ll see later this week)

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I let them dry overnight before planting. I filled in the deeper bits with some soil before squishing my little plants into the holes.

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After planting I gave them a good soak, and here they are gracing the kitchen window sill.

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Note: If were doing this again I would have given them 1-2 more coats of paint. That being said, I like them just fine as is. I little fun color for a Winter’s day that makes me smile, and it only cost me about $6.

Stay tuned for another Toy Dino Project later this week!

How I Made a Tropical Backyard Oasis in Denver on a Cheap-Ass Budget

The air is cooling, (I actually had to put on a sweater last night). Fall is upon us, and all too soon I’ll be putting the garden to bed and hauling out the snow shovel. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my yard with you before the first frost hits and I’m crying over shriveled leaves.

The backyard is ever a work-in-progress. A constant battle to create something that feels tropical in dry-as-a-rattlesnake-fart Denver. (OK, MOST of the time it is dry here, the recent crazy rains not withstanding) I think this year is the best yet for my little tropical oasis. Ready for the tour? Here we go…

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This is the view coming out our backdoor. That “L” shaped thing is the pond. It was a planting bed until 3 years ago when we had a wee stinky sewer line leak. I bribed the diggers to dig out the pond, too. (It’s amazing what men will do for homemade chocolate chip cookies.) The lotus mural on the garage wall I painted to cover up a bad repair job, and I wanted some color back there in the Winter when all is plain and dark. The vines running across the garden are Virginia Creeper that has been growing on the far North side of the yard for years, trained on strings of white lights that run from the gazebo to the big tree. They just keep getting thicker every year. I tucked a little hanging Spanish Moss on them to enhance the tropical look.

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To the left of the pond is this oddly leaning tree that I dolled up with bromelaids this year. (You can see the how-to on that one by clicking “Bromelaids”) And of course the coolest cheap garden lighting ever is at the base of the tree.

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Our poor Ganesha fountain here has seen better days. He is the victim of an unfortunate freezing incident in which he lost 3 of his four arms and most of his legs, though his face remains intact. I think it makes him look like an ancient relic. I especially like the ball of moss growing on the tip of his trunk. We’ve found the glass flowers at various yard sales for a couple bucks a piece. I love my little pond. The water iris with it’s leaves overflowing the pond started as divisions given to us by a neighbor are now completely taking over (anyone want some Water Iris? Seriously…) We have a hardy water lily that has somehow survived 3 Colorado winters and seems quite happy. There are 2 big koi, “Ghost” and “Spot”, a big fat fancy goldfish (named “Fatty”, I don’t have much imagination for names), and what was once a mere feeder goldfish, “Tiny”, who is now quite pretty and not so tiny anymore. They are rather camera-shy, but I did manage to snap a picture of Spot, who is now over 10″ long. (He was under 4″ when we got him) All our fish came from Petsmart.

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The area along the fence is dark and dank and it’s nearly impossible to grow anything there, so all the plants are in pots. That monster tree philodendron was purchased at a yard sale for $10 when he had only 5 leaves. The thing has gone crazy this summer. I have no idea how I’ll get it back in the house for Winter. Almost all the ceramic pots were alley finds, a few from the thrift store. I bring all the houseplants out into the yard in the Spring. The plants are happy and really help to fill in the yard. I scored 5 more houseplants from a nice guy on Craigslist for free this Summer as well. The dwarf bananas in the big pots I bought last year, and they were super-easy to overwinter. You just pull them out of the pot, hack off the leaves and stick them in a box or bag, leave them in the basement and forget about them till the next Spring. I did buy a few sweet potato vines and coleus this year, but everything else I over-wintered from last year. The metal pedestals were surprisingly cheap. I bought them about 4 years ago, all three were about $60. (OK I admit I got them wholesale) And you’ll note two more of those awesome cheap garden lights on the ground.

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The iron and wood seats were here when I moved in, I just painted them white. The table was another fab alley find, as were the ceramic pieces on top. One of my neighbors is a potter. She sometimes puts “off” pieces in the alley. Love that! She came to a party here and loved what I did with these. The big wood candlesticks were found dumpster diving as well. I’ve had the white candles forever, purchased years ago at Big Lots.

What makes these plants look so good? Levels! The secret to a great display. Nothing fancy here, the pots in the back are up on top of other pots turned upside down.

Here’s a view looking back at the house, and Emma, my little pug-ham, getting in on the action.

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The North side of the garden is our ever-popular Gazebo (click for more details). It was easier than it looks, and everything in it came from yard sales and thrift stores.

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Looking out of the gazebo into the yard…

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And lastly, the Golden Duck, sitting on the edge of the pond, hidden in the Water Iris. Another great alley find.

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This concludes our little Backyard Oasis Tour. I hope you enjoyed it!

Part 3! Big Crazy Bohemian Garden…it’s Not Mine, it’s Tiffany’s. (Lots of Fun Ideas Here!)

Like all good things, this series must come to an end…

Part 3 of the Big Crazy Bohemian Garden.

(Part 2 HERE)

(Part 1 HERE)

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The greenhouse. It’s pretty killer. It has an ingenious self-watering system, and a deep koi pond on the North side that functions as a heat sink in the Winter. The Koi are crazy huge, sorry it was too dark to get any pictures of them. You know I wanted to snatch that Japanese eggplant right off the vine…

What garden is complete without a couple Pink Flamingos?

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Another great recycling idea, old plastic Halloween “Witch’s cauldrons” painted blue and used as planters…

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And of course, there are chickens. 5 feathery friends, providing breakfast for all. I especially like the art and fancy glass hanging light in the chicken coop.

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And now, on to the Front Yard. No lawns here at the Smyth Abode. Hardy strawberries take the place of grass beautifully, and provide delicious berries!

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I love the mannequin on the front porch, no doubt reclaimed from the ArtSmyth Mask Shop.

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There’s an amazing Wisteria on the front gate. (We’ll have to get a shot of it in bloom next year) Great Idea Alert: She has strung wire from the fence to the second story balcony on which the vines are growing. Natural shade!

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The fence on the North side of the house is covered in blackberries and roses, a beautiful combination.

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And last but not least, a large mirror in the front side yard reflects a pair of plant-covered deer. Charming!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this delightful garden tour as much as I have. Until next time, Happy Planting!

Part 2! Big Crazy Bohemian Garden…it’s Not Mine, it’s Tiffany’s. (Lots of Fun Ideas Here!)

Part 2 of our 3-Part series on the amazing bohemian garden of mask-maker extraordinaire Tiffany Smyth

See Part 1 Here: Big Crazy Bohemian Garden

Let’s just dig right in shall we?

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The first thing you’ll notice is the blue heads. I love the blue heads. What a creative edging! The heads were leftover from a failed project. They were intended to be display pieces for Tiffany’s masks, but they turned out a bit too heavy and a tad too small. No matter, they are marvelous garden accessories!

Next, note the shelves on the fence. I love this idea, and I will be stealing it…a great way to add vertical gardening to the yard and add visual interest to an otherwise boring wood fence.

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What a fun spot for hanging plants. I like the found object embellishments…check out the old Victorian shoe 😉 Spray paint the fence? Sure, why not. And the blue color accents the heads nicely. More old windows on the fence. It’s a good thing.

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Old metal bed frames. (Where is she finding all these?? I’ll have to ask…) Great for delineating space and providing climbing surfaces for vines. More fun found objects decorate the fence. Nice bunny. Elevating him on the pedestal makes him look ultra-special, which of course he is.

And finally, one of my favorite areas it the garden. Skulls may not be your cup of tea, but I love them. Great use of old Halloween decorations…skulls as planters! Love it. I like how she pulled together unusual elements and made them work as one by painting them the same way. Note the continual use of the blue. There is a ton going on in this garden, but the consistent blue ties it all together.

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Part 3, with chickens! Coming Friday. Stay tuned!

Big Crazy Bohemian Garden…it’s Not Mine, it’s Tiffany’s. (Lots of Fun Ideas Here!)

This week we’ll be wandering around someone else’s garden. This wacky & wonderful garden is chock full of fun and unusual ideas using found objects, leftovers, chickens and more. This creative space belongs to mask-maker Tiffany Smyth of Denver. If you don’t know Tiffany’s masks, you need to http://www.artsmyths.com Once you see the masks, you’ll understand the garden. I’ll be covering this garden in 3 blog posts this week.

Without further ado, here is post #1:

Fairy Garden & Porch

The yard is gently divided into different zones with creative fencing and edging. The Fairy Garden is on the North side of the house, with the entry marked by a curved arbor.

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The Fairy Garden is a charming little space. I love “Secret Garden” areas like this. Some ideas to steal here are the metal headboard as a trellis, the old windows hung on the fence, and the old metal chair, painted blue and used as a plant stand.

The Back Porch

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The big Idea to Steal on the porch is the seating made from an old headboard. The feet were cut off and became the front legs, a thick piece of wood was added for the seat, as was foam. The seat is covered in leopard print vinyl and attached with a staple gun. Decorative wall shelves have been added to the headboard. Love this one.

And last but not least, the Deadly Nightshade Garden, marked appropriately with a shiny-eyed skull…

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Wednesday we’ll explore the backyard further, stay tuned!

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.