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.

 

 

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)

Use What You Have, Get What You Can…A Free Garden Make-over, Before & After (+ 2-Month Update)

2-Month UPDATE! (see original post below)

The Garden Make-over in the front of the house is now two months old, and it’s filling in nicely. About a month after I posted this, a friend gave me some hardy strawberry plants and a few Datura from her overgrown garden, which I added into the front planting. The day-lilies haven’t grown much, but they are alive and well and I am confident they will come in great and bloom next year. The chicks-n-hens, fool-proof little darlings of the garden that they are, are getting bigger and sending out lots of babies already. Most of the plants that I divided and re-planted are doing well (I did lose one or two vinca transplants). I admit to spending $8 on some pansies to add a little color, and I may get a few more (on sale at Home Depot for $1.99 a 4-pack!) but to date that is all I have spent on the ground planting. The biggest delight has been the  Nicotiana sylvestris that I got for the pots by the front gate. They’ve gotten HUGE! 3-4 feet tall and flowering like crazy. I did pay $7.50 each for these 2 plants (4″ pots when I bought them) at Country Gardens, but they have been worth every penny. Only $7.50 to fill a big pot? Awesome. They grew FAST and filled in the pot in less than a month, then they just got crazy tall. I am collecting seeds to start more for next year. (you can see the Nicotiana in the before and after picks below.) And, I added a nice little birdhouse I snagged for $2 at a yard sale to the top of the tree stump to the left.

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Front Yard Project – Today, 2 Months Later

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Front Yard Project – When First Completed 2 Months Ago

Here are a few more images of the front:

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I do hope to add some more color soon, maybe more pansies, and some ornamental kale or cabbage for the Fall would be nice…

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Here is the Original Post:

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Front Yard Project – After

I’ve been itching to fix up the front part of our yard (as you can see in the picture below, it was a MESS!), but was waiting to have some extra funds, which just isn’t happening, so I got creative!

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Front Yard – Before (yikes!)

I started with the pruning. The tree on the left was overgrown, and the poor forsythia bush on the right was half-dead and in desperate need of a heavy chopping. Then I pulled out all the weeds, thinned the overgrown plants, and divided the existing vinca to spread them out. Next came the digging…

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Thinned out, weeded, and ready to dig…

As you can see here, the terracing had been started (on the left) but never finished. So I took my trusty shovel and and finished the digging, then I relocated some big rocks from other parts of the yard to finish off the terracing. I had a big stack of terra cotta saucers (another free alley find) in the garden shed that I’d been looking for a use for, and decided to add them as a decorative element on the bottom row. Next came the planting…

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Almost there, time to plant!

I had been scouring Freecycle and Craigslist for free plants (both great sources of usable freebies!) and was lucky enough to find a super nice lady giving away a bunch of day lily divisions and a couple rudbeckia as well (those went to another part of the yard). The day lilies are perfect for this part of the yard, as they do well with any soil and are drought-tolerant for our arid Colorado climate. So I took all the day lilies and the divisions of vinca I dug up earlier, as well as some extra chicks and hens from the back part of the front yard (they’ve been growing like crazy this year!) and replanted them. It’s looking good! It will look great once the plants grow and fill in. So using entirely what I had, and some gifted plants through Freecycle, I have a new yard, free! The whole project took about 5 hours. I do hope to come across some flowering plants to add in this area, or perhaps a really good sale on some pretty annuals. I will update this post as I find new goodies and add to the yard.

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Front Yard Project – Completed

Do check out Freecycle, the Free listings on Craigslist, and even posts on Facebook and Twitter as sources for free garden plants. People do a lot of dividing in the garden this time of year, and most want to find good home for their plants. Happy hunting!

Did you do a gardening project over the weekend? I’d love to see it! Tell me about it in the comments section.

Cute Hanging Succulent Plant Ball for the Outdoor Garden, Patio, Balcony, Wherever you like…

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My Homemade Hanging Succulent Ball

I’ve been wanting to make something like this for a long time, ever since seeing this amazing one from Martha Stewart:

source: apartmenttherapy.com via Marie on Pinterest

But of course, it had to be cheap and easy. I found the little round birdcage at a yard sale for 75 cents. A small piece of it’s bamboo was missing, but it was very strong and sturdy. I knew just what to do with it…

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I gathered my materials: Spagnum moss, potting soil, floral wire, needle-nose pliers and wire cutters, gloves,  a small but sturdy stick, and of course, succulents. I mixture of succulents would be great, but I have a rock garden area in my front yard where the Chicks N’ Hens needed to be thinned out, so I got all the plants for the ball from my garden. No cost! First I soaked and wrung out the moss. Then, using the little bird door that I could just get my hand through, I put a layer of the damp moss around the inside of the cage, pushing it partly through the wire where I could to keep it in place and reinforced it with twists of floral wire where I couldn’t get it through the side of the cage. Then, I filled it with potting soil and packed it in as best I could.

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Front yard rock garden area, source of Chicks n Hens.

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Bird Cage, Mossed.

Time to start planting. I started with the inside, and planted a few there. Then the challenging part began. I poked a hole with the stick and pushed the plant root in. Because of the way the wires are on the cage, I had to reinforced many of the plants with a loose twist of the floral wire. I was time-consuming, (and I poked my hands more than once) but it looks good and I dig it. I hung it up and watered it well when I was finished stuffing in the plants.

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Inside planted, now for the outside…

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Planting the outside.

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Almost Done…

And here it is! My funky little hanging succulent planter. Because I had all the supplies I needed on-hand, it only cost me the 75 cents for the cage (and a couple hours).

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I hope I’ve inspired you to think outside the box and use something interesting in your garden! I’d love to see your garden projects, tell me about them in the comments section. Happy gardening!

UPDATE:

It’s been a couple weeks since I hung the succulent ball. The plants have “found their footing” and are spreading out nicely. I thought you might like to see how it looks now:

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Succulent Ball, 2 weeks after planting.