Thankful for the Birdsong

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Mrs Hop's Scarecrow

My friend Betty made this scarecrow for me many years ago.

I’m going to be honest; I haven’t worked in my garden in weeks, other than deadheading some of my roses. But every single day I am thankful to be able to look out into my garden and enjoy what is there. The garden will always attract me, but I also love watching the birds in and around the garden. It seems to be the perfect time of year for starlings to put on their shows – or murmurations. It is so neat to watch! Our garden is filled with birds, as there is still a lot for them to eat.

June 2013 Monsignor McCloskey in the garden

Monsignor McCloskey in the church garden in 2013, in Fayetteville, NY

Three very dear friends of mine, all of whom sadly have now passed away, also had a love of birds. Monsignor McCloskey used to have several bird feeders outside his living room window so that he could watch them during the day in his retirement. He also had a wrist watch that had several different bird whistles that it could play on command. He loved showing this to the children before or after mass on a Sunday!

Betty & Harold at the 4th of July parade in 2006 in Manlius, NY

Betty (far left in blue top) & Harold with my very young children at the 4th of July parade in 2006 in Manlius, NY

My other friends, and former neighbors, Betty and Harold, had their bird feeders right outside their kitchen window. I loved my visits with Monsignor and my visits with Betty and Harold, and it was such a bonus to get to enjoy the bird shows, too!

Aug 2015 bird at Betty's feeder

At a visit to ‘Betty’s kitchen’ in 2015

Aug 2015 hummingbird drinking at Betty's window

This was a a treat for me while visiting Betty and Harold in 2015 as I rarely see hummingbirds!

Aug 2015 chipmunk at Betty's feeder

O.K., so not always birds at Betty’s bird feeders!

I think of Monsignor, Betty, and Harold now as I marvel at the starling’s formations, or as I enjoy the birdsong that is constant in my yard, despite not having a ‘bird feeder’. I miss them, and am so thankful for the many years we enjoyed each other’s friendship. I still can’t believe how blessed I am to have had such special people in my life.

Tree full of birds Nov 16

This tree, as seen from my yard, is always filled with either starlings or crows, depending on the day!

They have had such a huge impact on me, simply by being themselves. I can still hear their voices, and their words of wisdom and comfort, and their laughs. They might not be here in person, but they are always with me in my heart.

Dead sunflowers with Goldfinch Oct 2019

These sunflowers will be left for most of the winter. In the middle of this picture (although not in focus) is a lovely male Goldfinch, noted by his red face and black and white head.

I’m thankful for the pure beauty of the birdsong, and the chance to not only hear it but to see the birds in all of their singing glory. I’m also thankful for those who share in this love of birdsong, especially Monsignor, Betty and Harold. May we each find our own ‘birdsong’.

I wish all of my American family and friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

In Peace,
Dana

Dried fall flowers Thanksgiving 2019

Dried fall flower arrangement.

Things will get done when they get done

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Lavender wreath in the making - first round

It starts with a straw wreath frame, some floral ‘U’ pins, and groups of 12 stems of lavender each being pinned into place!

There are lots of good things about getting older, and one of them is knowing that things will get done when they get done. Are you smiling? I hope so. Because isn’t it the truth? I definitely used to fret more when I was younger, worrying about when things would get done. Now, a bit older and (hopefully) wiser, I see that life is so full, and most of us are always in ‘go’ mode which makes it really difficult to slow down or even rest. I’m learning that it is perfectly O.K. to stop and take some time out, because things will get done when they get done.

Lavender Wreath in progress - half way

Section by section the lavender is pinned in place.

Lavender Wreath + fuschia roses side view

A side view shows that the wreath frame is completely covered in lavender, with an accent of roses and hydrangea.

Lavender wreath + fuschia roses + hydrangea full view

This design has the lavender go in one direction, ending with flowers.

This leads me to my lavender story. You see, I needed a rest. I’m used to going ‘non-stop’ and this past year I’ve just had to slow things down a bit. With my lavender this meant that while I harvested it in July, and even made some lavender wands, after I laid it out to dry, I just left it. One wreath was made ‘on schedule’, but then … nothing. I have no reason, and 100 reasons. There was a little progress as the summer shifted into fall and chilled into winter, and the little progress kept on going and bit by bit the wreaths were made. I needed that extra time to not rush through and make them just to make them. I wanted to enjoy the process and be present when I did so.

Lavender wreath + Rosemary and Rose focus - in progress

This wreath has Rosemary and roses in the design.

Lavender wreath + Rosemary in progress

I really like the green of the Rosemary when it is first cut. Everything is attached with the floral ‘U’ pins, except for the roses, which are glued on with a hot glue-gun.

Rosemary from my garden

Rosemary from my garden.

Lavender Wreath with Rosemary + roses complete

I’m glad to have someplace to make my wreaths – and not worry about the mess!

I can be somewhat impulsive, and when the mood strikes to create a wreath, I just go with it, gathering up whatever materials tickle my fancy that day. This is the first year that I used up nearly all of my dried lavender from this season. The wreaths were so full of lavender!

Lavender wreath in progress roses on top

This design was rather unusual. I worked the lavender in three rows around the frame. I have to say that this was a bit tricky to work through.

Lavender wreath with roses on top

Close up of the dried roses.

lavender wreath + roses on top + ribbon on door

The finished wreath embellished with a ribbon.

Repeating designs is not really something I like to do. I prefer to try new ways of making things. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes I think ‘I should have stuck to the original plan’! It’s a learning process. This season my dried roses really kept their colors, which I think adds a nice contrast to the shape and color of the lavender. I do like to work with greens, too, so the Rosemary was a nice addition – although sadly, it won’t keep that pretty bright green color. This is the first time that I worked a very tiny amount of hydrangea into the lavender wreath, too, just to try something different!

Lavender in basket

This is my lavender basket, which is now nearly empty.

I am now finished with making lavender wreaths for this year, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the process (and I like the wreaths, too)! And it is so true that things will get done when they get done.

In Peace,
Dana

Lavender wreath + Rosemary + roses outside

Lavender, Rosemary and Roses

Lavender wreath roses on top + ribbon

Lavender wreath with roses and a ribbon

Lavender wreath + fuschia roses full view

Lavender wreath with roses and hydrangea

 

Being creative is good for the soul

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Blue Blanket in the beginning Jan 2019

Starting with a simple ‘Robin’s egg blue’ base for the blanket

Creating with my hands is one of my favorite things to do. Whether it be crocheting, making wreaths, or whatever, I enjoy crafts that finish with a lovely ‘something’.

Blue blanket no flowers up close

A close up of the waistcoat stitch (doesn’t look like crochet to me)

Crocheting is so much more than just granny squares (although there’s nothing wrong with a good granny square!). I made a number of items over the past few years as gifts and I felt the time was right to make something for myself.

Blue blanket no flowers border up close

close up of the border (variation of the spike stitch)

We’d completely ‘done up’ our family room last year: pulled up the rug, installed an electric fireplace, bought a new couch, curtains, and light fixture, and painted the room. It was a long time in the making and last year everything finally came together. We all love it, especially the couch. It is like getting into a big family bed. πŸ™‚

Blue blanket with Emer

The main blanket finished but not yet embellished with poppies, held by my lovely daughter. There are orange California poppies in the background of the picture, along with red poppies which are not as easily seen here.

We went a bit bold with the paint in the family room – it is Adonis blue. Happy to say that we really like it. And we went bold again in pairing it with red curtains. So I wanted a blanket that would bring those colors together. Not only that, I wanted to embellish it with poppies, to tie in with the curtains. That was January 2019.

poppy petal in progress

It was a painstaking process figuring out the poppy pattern!

Poppy center up close

The pistil (in black) and stamen (in bone) give extra texture to the flower.

Some things just take time, and deciding which pattern to use for the main blanket was no exception. I finally decided on a pattern that doesn’t really look like crochet. It is called the waistcoat stitch. I used a tutorial from Crafternoon Treats.

Poppy flower up close

The completed poppy flower looks different depending on whether the petals are laid flat or scrunched up (my preference).

The border is where I worked in the colors of the curtains, using a variation of the spike stitch. I used Caron Simply Soft yarn, in harvest red, bone, black, off white for the border and the main blanket is in Robin’s egg blue. It is a ‘throw’ size, and if you sit nice and close to each other, it will cover two people for watching tv. (4′ x 5.5′)

Blue blanket on couch with some flowers

Playing around with the flowers to figure out where to place them.

I ran out of the blue about half way through, but I had a trip to the States coming up, so I restocked (phew!). I finally finished the main blanket in June.

Blue Blanket with poppies shaded + sun

Completed blanket with poppies (winter sunlight distorts the coloring).

Finding a pattern that I liked for the poppies was a whole other challenge! Finally, I found one that had the stamen and pistil, with the bonus of texture for the pistil, and four individual petals. I really like it. I found it on crochet-ideas.com. The video is in Italian, but with subtitles, so although tricky, it was manageable.

Family room full view Nov 17 (1)

Our family room transformed!

It took some time figuring out how I wanted the poppies to look on the blanket. They couldn’t be symmetrical – anyone who’s grown poppies will know that they grow all over the place, and never where you plan them! I also didn’t want to cover the blanket in them, as I quite like the blue and wanted to be able to see it. So they are in a bit of a cascade from one corner to the opposite corner.Β  VoilΓ !

Blue Blanket with poppies + Dana in Family room

Me with my blanket πŸ™‚

I am absolutely delighted with it, and thankfully the family like it too. I’m glad I took my time with it to find the right patterns. And I think it fits in perfectly in our family room.

Good things come to those who wait…

In Peace,
Dana

My chicken story

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Chicken house with chickens April 29

Here is our chicken house and enclosed area with the front door open.

Hi there! It was just last year when I received my cute little Chicken house for Christmas. I’d wanted to get chickens since we moved to Ireland, and waited patiently (9 years!) for the right time. Living in the country, it was fairly easy to source chickens and it was recommended that it would be best to buy them right before they would start laying eggs, at around 22 weeks old. The idea of getting little chicks didn’t appeal to me, and getting them at 22 weeks and ‘ready to go’ did.

Chickens climbing ditch wall hill

Poppy, Lily, Rose and Daisy climbing the wall/hill in our yard

We knew very little about chickens! I did know that we wanted a good egg producing variety, and the Rhode Island Red hybrid would be perfect for that. In March we bought just 4 for our house that would fit 6. We had our little chicken house and a tiny, albeit extended from the chicken house, enclosed area. After the first couple of days, if we were home, we’d let them out of their area. We soon learned it was quite challenging to catch them to put them back! So, little by little, we started leaving them out all day. We soon learned that they’d put themselves to bed when the sun went down. In the summer that meant 10 PM, and not a minute before!

Chickens in the yard following me April 9

The girls would always investigate what I was doing in the garden.

four chickens on the compost heap March 31

The girls usually stay(ed) together. Here they are on our compost heap.

chicken looking in window Sept

Chickens are curious creatures.

About 6 weeks after we bought the chickens, they started exploring the extended area around us. We are completely surrounded by fields, and that season the fields were mostly planted with barley. At first, it was just one chicken who’d go off to the field behind our house. And then little by little, the others started following. Before this, they would spend all of their time wandering in our yard. They’d often go under our hedges and be completely camouflaged. In the beginning, I’d constantly go out looking for them. They could be anywhere in the garden! They made several dirt-bath locations in my flower beds. Nap time could be spent on our deck, under the hedges, or in a flower bed (anywhere, really). If it was raining, they would hang out on our front porch, or under the table on our deck. It seemed the perfect life! But the ‘call of the grain’ was too strong, and off they went exploring. They’d been spotted a few fields from our house on several occasions. I’d also been informed of their being in the road, too; Not just for crossing to the fields, but if grain was spilled on the road, they’d stand there and eat it…

Chickens in the ditch wall garden April 26

This is when they would still stay in our yard, perfectly happy wandering the garden together.

Chickens in Rainbow garden Oct 15

The chickens love it when I weed and freshen up the soil for them.

No matter how far they went, every evening they’d make their way back home. And as the sun set, they’d put themselves to bed. They each would lay one egg a day, and those eggs … WOW! Delicious!

egg carton of fresh eggs

Sometimes we’d get jumbo sized eggs, which always had two yolks.

Chickens in house and nesting boxes

The house is very easy to keep clean, with a removable tray. There are two nest boxes where the chickens lay their eggs.

By late summer, they were only in their house at night, and they were never locked up otherwise. We’d been planning on making an enclosed run, but mostly I loved having them roaming the garden with me and they seemed really happy, so I was in no hurry to start or finish the run. But unfortunately, chickens and roads and cars, well, they don’t mix well. I sadly lost two chickens, who were both hit by cars (at different times). Since then, we finished our run and they have remained safely in it.

Chickens flying off of house

It took a while to completely ‘chicken proof’ the run…

After the second chicken was killed, I stayed off of social media. I didn’t feel like posting … anything. I love having chickens, and they were/are my pets. They each have names and are identifiable. The first one to die, Poppy, well, she was quite bossy. I thought she’d been the ring-leader to crossing the road and exploring. So honestly, when she was gone I thought the others would stay close to home. I was wrong. Of course I am responsible for their getting hit. I should have kept them safe. I feel terrible about my negligence. The run they now have is quite a nice size, approximately 25 feet by 10 feet, but it sure isn’t the same as roaming free.

Chicken Run 25'x10'

The completed chicken run (getting fencing in the hedges was super challenging!)

So I now have just two chickens: Rose and Daisy. Rose lost some feathers on her back a while ago. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, as I thought maybe she was moulting. But she is possibly too young for that, and it was only one area. Those feathers have mostly grown back in, although her tail feathers seem to be on their way to falling off. I consulted with a ‘chicken friend’, and we sprayed the area to stop Daisy from pecking at it. Although the area had been clean and looked ‘fine’ for a number of weeks, Daisy had then started pecking at it and causing it to bleed – which is why I called my friend. The spray has worked, and Daisy has stopped pecking at it. Hopefully the rest of the feathers will grow in and all will be fine… Hopefully!

two chickens Oct 31 in run

And then there were two. And one has been sprayed blue.

Next up is winter. After we get through the winter I’ll reassess, although I’m already planning on getting more!

Chickens in the sunflower bed with kitty watching them

Kitty and the chickens like to keep an eye on each other. The chickens are taking a dirt bath here while Kitty watches on.

So there you have my chicken story. I will miss having the chickens roaming with me in the garden. Maybe someday I’ll have fencing around the entire yard so they can once again roam freely.

Chicken on grass resting May

Just a chicken resting in the grass.

In Peace,
Dana

Inspiration from the Beatitudes

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I rarely write about my faith, and not because I don’t have a strong faith. I just don’t usually bring it up when I’m chatting about my garden. πŸ™‚ But you haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks because, well, I couldn’t find the right words to say. Today began the St. Gerard Majella novena in the area where I live. (A novena is a devotion with prayers or services on nine consecutive days.) This is the only novena I’ve participated in, and I try to go to at least some part of the nine days every year, and have done so for the past 8 years. As I sat in the pew today, and listened to the prayers and the sermon, I felt compelled to share the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10), which are the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

helenium young Aug 27

The eight Beatitudes in Matthew:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Helenium up close Jul 29

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Helenium Sep 19 upclose

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Helenium Jul 31

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Helenium Moerheim Beauty Sept 18

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

helenium + daisies

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Yellow David Austin Rose + Helenium morning sun Sept 21

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty'

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Red Admiral & Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

May we all be blessed by our actions and what is in our hearts.

In peace,
Dana

Fall (re)view of the garden

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Ladder view of sunflowers + sweet pea + apples Sept 10

A view of the garden while standing on a ladder

Recently, while walking in the garden, I had a thought of ‘Now this is exactly what I was working towards’. I’m going to temper that ‘perfect feeling’ with a disclaimer that my garden is very far from perfect. But, it brings me peace, and joy, and I simply love my time in the garden. I have sunflowers, sweet pea, apple trees, a pear tree, and the rose bed is filled with roses and buds about to bloom. I walk around the garden, with chickens nearby, and simply enjoy everything around me and honestly, I’m learning to ignore the weeds. πŸ™‚

Apple tree + bowl of apples + sunflowers Sept 10

A beautiful day in September means a fun photo shoot in the garden

miniature sunflower vase + apple

A very tiny sunflower in a very tiny vase

We have two apple trees: one is an eating apple tree (variety unknown), and one is a cooking apple tree (Arthur Turner). Some of the apples have grown to quite a large size this year. The first few years we had ‘baby’ apples, really. So it is nice to have these ‘full size’ ones. Both of our trees lean to one side and as they are maturing it is getting worse. We started to straighten up one of the trees this past winter, and it worked, straightening it up a bit. We’ll be doing the same again this winter for the 2nd tree, and a bit more on the first tree to get it fully upright. I’m just glad we are still able to rectify this leaning issue!

Sunflower closed Aug 31

Even before sunflowers bloom they are so pretty!

sunflowers in a vase Aug 19

It’s nice to be able to cut flowers and enjoy them in a vase, too.

The sunflowers have been so easy to grow. They haven’t needed any special attention. I have short and tall plants, and almost all of them have several flowers per stem, and best of all, the birds love them! I’ve taken a few flower heads to save the seeds to plant for next year and the birds get to eat the rest. Not a bad deal for the birds!

Sunflower head with missing seeds Sep 7

A sunflower head with only half of its seeds, thanks to the birds.

Sunflower full bloom blue sky Aug 24

The bees enjoy all of the different sunflower varieties I have

Sunflower cluster Sep 10

Large or small, the sunflowers are bright and cheerful and always make me smile!

I am going to boast that the Tamar mix organic sweet peas are STILL going strong! I have had cut flowers in the house for the past 5 weeks. They are so sweet! Now, they really only last for about 3 (maybe 4) days inside, but their scent is amazing during that time. I’ll be looking to save those seeds, too.

Sweet pea + sunflowers Sept 10

The Tamar mix organic sweet pea is still going strong!

Roses. Doesn’t everyone love roses? I think I have always wanted a rose bed, and it was the first bed I created when we started this garden. I try to get roses that are fragrant as well as beautiful and hardy (tough standards here!). This year the roses are doing so well. I don’t use chemicals, which means I don’t spray them for blackspot. Some of the plants do well, some suffer a bit during the season. But they all seem to be doing well now and the bed looks and smells beautiful!

A cluster of light pink David Austin roses (Scepter'd Isle)

A cluster of light pink David Austin roses (Scepter’d Isle)

A light pink David Austin roses (Scepter'd Isle)

A light pink David Austin roses (Scepter’d Isle)

Lichfield Angel David Austin Rose

A creamy white David Austin Rose (Lichfield Angel)

David Austin Teasing Georgia yellow rose Sept 18

A yellow David Austin rose (Teasing Georgia)

A medium pink David Austin Rose (Harlow Carr)

Look at all of the buds on this medium pink colored David Austin Rose (Harlow Carr)!

Gertrude Jekyll - David Austin Rose

A deep pink David Austin Rose (Gertrude Jekyll)

I usually have a picture in my head of what I’m working towards in the garden. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes not so much. Thankfully, one idea plays into the next and they all tend to work together. It is a process that requires a lot of patience! There is still planning going on in my head, and loads more to do in the garden, but I love this process.

Sunflower heads + heart Sep 7

The seeds from these two sunflower heads have been harvested for next year’s planting

I hope you’ve enjoyed the walk through my garden! Make sure to say ‘hello’ to the chickens on your way out! πŸ™‚

In peace,
Dana

 

four chickens in the garden

‘The girls’ roaming the garden

Having fun making hydrangea wreaths

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straw wreath frame

a plain straw wreath frame with a hanging wire

Hello there! I’m very happy to report that I have two more wreaths completed (so far!) this season and I am very happy to share pictures of how I made them. The wreath making process starts weeks before actually putting flower to frame, when the flowers need to be gathered and dried. About a month ago I went out to the garden and cut as many hydrangea stems as I could. I’ve found that the stems need to be sturdy (not young), or they will just wither. I then hung the stems from drying racks (we usually hang our socks from these – I’m not sure what their official use is!). It doesn’t take that long to dry out flowers, maybe a couple of weeks. For me, the tricky part is finding enough time in one ‘go’ to start and finish making a wreath. My life is such that I squeeze in these projects in between ‘life’. I think I’ve mastered ‘ad-hoc’ project making! Anyway, I made these two wreaths in half of the time it took to make my last lavender wreath – it’s great working with large flowers! They were super simple to make and it was fun to use up all of my dried flowers.

hydrangea paniculata flowers

These stems are from my Hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’

Confession time: I have several wreaths around my house. I hate throwing things away if they still have some life in them. But hydrangea and lavender wreaths do fade with time. I might get two good years out of them, but not more than that. So for this first wreath made from my Hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’, I stripped down an old wreath, leaving just the Spanish moss since that is the background and doesn’t really age.

Spanish Moss covered wreath

Spanish Moss covered 15″ (38 cm) wreath

I used floral ‘U’ pins to attach everything, and 15″ (38 cm) straw wreaths. All of the flowers are from my garden. Now, it was interesting making this first one because the shape of the flowers are pointy. It looked really funny as I was making it, but I think I was able to balance it out in the end. Well, maybe it still looks funny, but I love the shapes in it and the textures and the quirkiness about it!

Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' Paniculata 'Renhy'

The first layer: Hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’

The hydrangea plant is not that old, and this is the first year that the flowers were a substantial size (they were quite small before!). They are the prettiest colors as they change from cream to pink to dark pink. It’s a lovely plant to have.

Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' Paniculata 'Renhy'

Adding on a second layer:Hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’

I was trying to soften the pointy-ness of the blooms by having an outside layer. I’m not sure if that happened or not!

blue hydrangea for wreath

Adding in a change of shape and color with this blue mophead hydrangea

Ah, yes, interesting picture. See the heat stain on my table in the picture above? I learned that lesson 25 years ago – never put a hot pot directly on a wood table (duh, right?)! This table is my craft table now πŸ™‚

Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' Paniculata 'Renhy' wreath

Mophead hydrangea and paniculata hydrangea used to create this wreath.

Oh my gosh I just think it is the neatest thing ever! My mophead hydrangeas are quite funny looking (I sense a pattern in my garden…). It’s not that they don’t dry well, they are somewhat closed even when I cut them. I’m not sure if it is lack of water, or what. I’m still learning!

Hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' Paniculata 'Renhy' wreath

Wreath made of hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’ along with some mophead hydrangea stems.

Wreath made of hydrangea 'Vanille Fraise' Paniculata 'Renhy' along with some mophead hydrangea stems.

Wreath made of hydrangea ‘Vanille Fraise’ Paniculata ‘Renhy’ along with some mophead hydrangea stems.

hydrangea paniculata wreath

This is the wreath hanging in my kitchen

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! That was the first wreath I made that day and it had gone so quickly and I still had time in my ‘free time’ window, that I jumped right into making a second one. This time I only had mophead hydrangea stems.

blue(ish) mophead hydrangea flowers to begin a wreath

blue(ish) mophead hydrangea flowers to begin a wreath

You can see in the picture above how short I cut the stems. Thankfully, the stems were quite strong and I was able to pin them in place with the floral ‘U’ pins. The flowers were big enough that when looking at the front you couldn’t see the sides of the wreath, so I wasn’t concerned with covering the sides.

blue hydrangea wreath outside view of stems

blue mophead hydrangea wreath view of side and pins

blue hydrangea wreath in process

One by one, the straw wreath gets covered.

With the large flower heads, it was easy and fast to cover the straw wreath frame. The colors are a mix of blues, greens, and pinks – and I reflect back to my garden trend of funny looking colors!

blue hydrangea wreath half finished

It was a simple process of adding a flower to the inside of the frame and then one to the outside. I used the larger of the flowers for the outside to cover as much of the side as possible.

blue hydrangea wreath bottom half close up

texture!

I like it! It’s just something fun, quirky, and from my garden. I still have LOADS of lavender left, too, so plans for more wreaths are working away in my head! πŸ™‚

ta-da! completed hydrangea wreath

ta-da! completed hydrangea wreath

blue hydrangea wreath on playhouse

Requisite picture of the wreath on our playhouse

All that in just a couple of hours! It took longer to work around the sun’s schedule to take pictures than it did to make the wreaths.

hydrangea paniculata wreath playhouse + chickens

The chickens roam the yard full time, so they’re bound to be in pictures and never in a pretty posed way!

Being creative is a wonderful way to express ourselves, no matter what the medium. What is your creative outlet? πŸ™‚

In peace,
Dana

 

Organic Sweet Pea “Tamar Mix” For the Win!

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Sweet pea just planted June 11

Sweet pea planted in early June in the Garlic bed.

Hi there! I had to write this post for one main reason: To note which Sweet Pea to buy for next year. πŸ™‚ I’ve grown sweet pea before, and I know that some years are good for certain plants and some aren’t, but these ladies were spectacular!

Sweet pea hand bouquet Aug 9

A hand held bouquet of Sweet pea (beginning of August)

Sweet pea just planted full view June 6

The garden in early June.

I try to buy organic when I can, and The Organic Centre in County Leitrim supplied me with these organic Sweet Pea “Tamar Mix” seeds. I started them in pots in the house (we have a very sunny hallway which I use for starting plants). We planted them out in the garden in early June, on either side of a chicken-wire fence. Chicken-wire fencing is perfect for the plants to ‘grab’ onto – and truth be told, it was what we had in the shed. Sometimes that’s just how it works. πŸ™‚ The fence is 9 feet long (3 meters) and about mid-season we added on to the fence to increase the height to 5 feet (1.5 meters).

Sweet pea half way up fence July 18

The height of the fence is higher here, with the first flowers blooming mid July.

We planted the sweet pea in our ‘winter garlic’ bed about a month before we harvested the garlic. I wasn’t sure how the plants would do together, but I needn’t have worried because the garlic did great and the sweet pea did great!

Sweet pea close up July 22

Some of the first blooms (July 22nd)

I staggered 12 plants on either side of the fence, and over the course of the summer it completely covered the fence and filled with heavily scented flowers.

Sweet pea half way up fence July 26

Sweet pea growing up the fence with flowers in bloom (end of July)

I cut several bouquets during the summer, which helped to keep the plants flowering. The scent in the garden was amazing, too! I also liked how it was a wall of flowers for most of the summer.

Sweet pea side view Aug 8

The sweet pea and sunflowers were ‘my favorites’ this summer!

Sweet pea are easy to grow, with very little maintenance, other than cutting yourself bouquets of flowers! Once you have something for them to grow up, the rest is ‘cake’ (I had a swim coach in college who loved to use that expression!).

Sweet pea + sunflowers + full garden view Aug 31

A full view of the garden at the end of August

Sweet pea up close skyline Aug 23

The Sweet pea climbed up the fence and kept on going…

Sweet pea in a vase

Another bouquet of sweet pea

There are different colors of sweet pea, too, but I am happy with the combination in this mix.

Sweet pea hand bouquet Aug 26

Sweet pea hand held bouquet (end of August)

Sweet pea Aug 7

Sweet pea in evening sunlight (early August)

See what I mean? The blooms were amazing all summer long!

Sweet pea in vase Aug 26

Sweet pea (end of August)

Sweet pea + clear vase Aug 19

A different look in every vase

Did you grow sweet pea this year? Any plans to grow it next year? πŸ™‚

In peace,
Dana

Sweet pea + full garden view from above Aug 29

A view from above!

Step-by-step instructions to make Lavender Wands

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Lavender, Hydrangea Incrediball in evening sunlight

Lavender, hydrangea Incrediball, hydrangea paniculata in mid-July

Hi there! What a summer we’ve had! The weather didn’t always cooperate, but we managed to get out, get moving and have fun just the same. I sit here now, looking back on all of the pictures I’ve taken and the summer seems to have passed in a blur! I vaguely remember making some lavender wands during a short window of opportunity, and noting that I wanted to blog about making them, but then moving on to a million other ‘summer’ things. So here I am writing the blog post for you to use *next* summer! πŸ™‚

lavender bed July 20

My main lavender bed with mature plants in mid July, amongst hydrangea, lilies, a vase of daisies and some annual plants. The tall yellow plants in the background are fennel plants.

First things first: What is a lavender wand? A lavender wand is a whimsical way to preserve the lovely smell of the lavender flower. A quick description of how to do that would be to bend the stems of the lavender over the flower head and weave a ribbon around the stems! I’ll give more detailed instructions below. But first we need some lavender. The lavender I grow is ‘Lavandula angustifolia’ (English lavender). I have found that it is perfect for making wands, wreaths, and drying for sachets. It also looks really nice in the garden. It is easy to grow, too. I have plants that get only morning sun, and I have plants that get full sun. They are all happy, and don’t require extra watering. The plants spread and grow bigger over time. The 10 year old plant in the picture above is more than 3 feet across.

There is a one to two week window to make lavender wands, which is the time when the individual blooms just start to open. This time is best because the stems are still pliable, which is necessary in order to bend them without breaking them. As the summer goes on, the stems get more stiff and will break when bent. The established plant will have new stems (referring to the green part) every year which are quite thin with a smaller flower head, while ‘returning’ older stems will be thicker and longer, and the flower heads will also be much longer than newer ones. The thicker stems are the ones you want to use, to have ‘full’ wands.

ribbon label: 3/8 inch x 18 ft.

Wider ribbon is easier to use, and helps the weaving to go much faster! I prefer 3/8 inch (9 mm). 60 inches (152 mm) of ribbon will cover one wand.

lavender tied with ribbon

Tie a ribbon at the base of the flowers (not too tight or you’ll break the stems).

I use 25 stems for my wands to keep them nice and thick, and because inevitably, a stem or two will break, and starting with 25, the wand will still be full looking. I tend to cut my lavender long, cutting 2/3 of the stem, and then after grouping the 25 stems together, I will cut them to a shorter, more manageable length. Clear the length of the stems, taking off any green leaves or tiny side-blooms. The odd number is necessary to properly weave the ribbon through the stems. Sometimes the last group will have three stems, but this really doesn’t matter. After I’ve gathered the 25 stems and lined-up all of the flower heads, I tie the ribbon around the stems and make a knot just at the base of the flower heads. Using wider ribbon is easier to weave with – I prefer 3/8 inch (9 mm). Approximately 60 inches of ribbon (152 mm) will cover one wand.

lavender wand with stems folded over

After knotting the ribbon around the base of the flower heads, carefully fold the stems over the flowers

The next part is probably the trickiest: while holding the 25 stems in your hand, carefully bend the stems over the flower heads, keeping them tidy for the next step of weaving the ribbon. The next step is simple weaving: I group the stems in twos, just to make it easier. Weave the ribbon over and under each group of two stems, pulling tightly after each one, but not too tightly as to break a stem, or to bunch up the ribbon. Lavender wand top view

A (slightly blurry) top view of a lavender wand being made.

Lavender Wands top view end of August

Here’s a top view of the lavender wands after they have fully dried, in late August

Lavender Wand being made

Weave the ribbon around two stems at a time, covering the lavender flowers.

Lavender wand with inch worm

Can you see the inch worm on the green stem just under the ‘Mom in the Garden’ tag?

I prefer my wands to be nice and full. That means there will be a lot of flowers to cover! It helps to evenly space out the stems. You might still have some stray flowers poking out after you are finished. I think those are nice to see, especially when trying to explain to someone what exactly a ‘Lavender Wand’ is! πŸ™‚

Lavender wand standing lavender ribbon

I’m just having fun with this picture. Still a bit more to go!

It’s good to keep the ribbon nice and tight, because as the lavender flowers dry, they shrink in size. A tightly wound ribbon will ensure a neat and tidy wand even after it dries. Weave until just past the bottom of the flower head. I like to have ribbon on the handle, too, and I found a website with pictures of the neatest way to cover the lavender handles. The site is called ‘How’s Robb’ blog.Β The thing is, they didn’t explain how to make the knots! But it really is simple, and I posted photos of the process here. You make a knot, turn the ribbon in the opposite direction, wrapping it round the stems and make another knot under the previous knot, all the way down the stem. I also did a video tutorial here. Sometimes I like watching videos to learn something new, sometimes I want pictures, and sometimes I want text. So now I have it all covered!

Lavender wands completed

Completed lavender wands

lavender wands in pink and blue

Some brightly colored ribbon really makes the wands stand out!

At this stage, I’ve used just about every color and style of ribbon on my wands. My favorite type is a shiny ribbon, 3/8 inch, and bright colors. Lighter colored ribbons tend to stain green from the stems, which isn’t ideal.Β  I think this year I liked the plum color best.

group of lavender wands

I like using all different color ribbons, but the purple shades are probably my favorite!

Lavender wands are just fun to have, and even more fun to give away as gifts. Honestly, mine last for years. To enjoy their scent, I just place the flower head part of the wand between both of my hands and rub back and forth a few times! You could bang it against something, too, but that might break the handle πŸ™‚

lavender wands on scarf

This scarf, from a friend in Japan, was a perfect backdrop to use for taking pictures of the wands!

Lavender wands end of August

The stems change color as they dry. This picture was taken at the end of August of these wands which were made in mid-July.

So next year, just when the lavender flowers start to bloom, I will repost this post so we can all make beautiful lavender wands!

Here’s to getting things done, even if a little late. πŸ™‚

In peace,
Dana

(Another?!) Lavender Wreath

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Front Gate garden with hydrangea, lavender and lupin

our front gate garden with hydrangea, lavender and lupin in early July

Well hello there! Welcome to my blog where I am hanging on to summer with both hands! It’s true, I am frantically working in the garden, and out, trying to get all of the summer jobs done before, well, summer ends. How does time fly by so quickly? (Thankfully, this is a true sign of enjoying ourselves!)

our front Gate garden with hydrangea, lavender in late July

our front gate garden with hydrangea and lavender in late July

July is the month for Lavender here in Ireland. The best time to make lavender wands is just as the lavender comes into bloom, in early to mid July. I made a few this year, because they are just fun to make!

Mom in the Garden with Lavender Wands

Mom in the Garden with this season’s Lavender Wands

Mid July is also the time when I harvest my lavender. I cut about 2/3 of the stems (including the blooms) and lay it flat to dry. It usually takes a couple of weeks to dry. So typically, I’d then use the dried lavender to make wreaths in August. I’m waaaay behind with that this year, and I have just made one wreath so far! But my lavender is at least all bundled up and looking pretty in some baskets. πŸ™‚

Basket of Lavender

Basket of Lavender

drying lavender on the floor

This is where I dried most of the lavender this year – on the floor of the room my daughter uses to practice her Irish dancing. She was away for 3 weeks at the Gaeltacht (Irish camp) so it worked perfectly!

I’ve made several lavender wreaths over the past number of years (Have you checked out my ‘Wreaths of all Varieties‘ page? The link is at the very top of the Mom in the Garden page.) I like writing about wreaths because they are so easy to make, and really, anyone can do it! There are a few basic things I need to start with: “u” pins / floral pins, secateurs / garden shears, a straw wreath frame, floral wire to make the hanging hook, and dried lavender.Β  Extras include dried roses, Spanish moss, some ribbon and some coffee (decafe, of course).

Lavender Wreath set up

Lavender Wreath set up with straw wreath frame, floral pins, garden shears, dried lavender and roses, and Spanish moss

I love saving flowers from the garden. I’ve spray painted artichokes and created Christmas arrangements with them! If you cut artichokes and allium at the right time, their purple stays purple for a very long time. ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ anyone?

vases of dried flowers

vases of dried (and painted) flowers including allium, artichokes, bells of Ireland, barley, roses, and hydrangea

This year I’ve set up an old table in our ‘sitting room’. We rarely use this room, and I can make as big a mess as I’d like and it won’t be in anyone’s way. It has great lighting too.

floral pins, straw wreath frame, and hanging hook

getting started: the basics: making the hanging hook, floral pins, straw wreath frame

The first thing I do, after gathering all of my materials, is make a hanging hook. You can see in the picture above that I’ve used some floral wire which I doubled to make stronger. I wanted to know how many floral pins I’d need, so I started with a box of 50 – which covered about 1/3 of the wreath.Β  So I needed about 150 pins! I use a 12 inch (30.5 cm) straw wreath frame for my lavender wreaths.

Lavender Wreath starting with roses

Starting with the Spanish moss on the outside, and dried roses on the inside

I like to put Spanish moss around the outside of the wreath – just to make sure I don’t have any straw showing when I’m finished. Confession time: I actually made this wreath a tiny bit backwards (oops!). I started with my dried roses at the bottom, and I think it would have been much easier to add them last. I’m making a note here for next time! πŸ™‚

Lavender Wreath roses + lavender start

I filled in the area around the roses and then went to the top of the wreath and worked down

Lavender Wreath sample group

each group of lavender has 7 to 10 lavender stems, and I cut the stems about a thumb’s distance from the blooms with sharp secateurs and ‘pin’ the group of stems into the straw wreath frame with the floral pins

I filled in the area around the roses first. Then I had a bit of an ‘ah ha’ moment and realized I should be starting from the top. I’m sure there are lots of different ways to do this, but I find that going from the top down makes it easier to cover the stems as you go along.

Lavender Wreath beginning

Starting from each side at the top and working down is a method that works well to cover the stems easily.

I think one thing you do need to have is patience. It is time consuming. The lavender smells so lovely as you work with it, though, and it definitely relaxes you!

Lavender Wreath in progress

Lavender Wreath in progress

Piece by piece, the frame gets covered with lavender.

Lavender wreath almost complete

One last little section to cover!

Lavender Wreath bow

The bow I made by playing around with the ribbon – like tying a shoelace over and over again!

Completed Lavender Wreath in garden

ta-da! Finished lavender wreath!

I had some video of my making the wreath on my Instagram stories the other day. Did you see it? Let me know what you think! The roses are also from my garden. I usually cut the first 20 or so roses at the very start of the season so that I’ll have them for wreaths. I cut them when they are still closed, as they dry best that way. And not to worry about the bees, I’ve left lots of lavender in the yard for them!

Lavender + bees + hydrangea

This bunch of lavender was left for the bees

I hope I’ve inspired you to try your hand at making a wreath! It’s really not hard. I’m glad I made (another?!)Β one!

In peace,
Dana

Completed Lavender Wreath on playhouse

completed lavender wreath on our playhouse door