August 30, 2017

The Last Lily of Summer

Crimson Lilium speciosum rubrum have been blooming this month in the main backyard flower bed.  Their stalks are taller than me, and their fragrance is divine.

They nod on the stem, so it's a good thing the main stalk is so tall.

In bloom nearby are 'Miss Molly' butterfly bushes, Russian sage (Peroskvia), 'Rozanne' hardy geraniums and 'Ava' hummingbird mint (Agastache).  The hummingbird mint is visited every day by two or three hummingbirds, and numerous butterflies congregate on the butterfly bushes.

I've ordered similar 'Miss Feya' lily bulbs to plant this fall to add to the display next summer.  August isn't the best time for finding flowers in my garden, so I'm happy to have one area with plenty of blooms.

The 'Royal Purple' smoke bush (Cotinus coggryia) adds beautiful color, though I wonder if annual pruning will keep it small enough once it's fully established.  I'll find out in a few years, I guess.

August 12, 2017

Before and After Kitchen Remodel and Dining Room Addition

Our down-to-the-studs kitchen remodel and dining room addition were completed after nine months of work (including seven weeks without a kitchen, during which time we hosted family for Christmas!) instead of the promised two and a half months.  And yes, it was over budget as well, but we're happy with the results.  The photo above shows the view of the back of the house with the new dining room addition, patio and patio cover in place.

Here is a photo of the house before construction.

We had to have the old patio demolished and remove part of a flower bed to make space for the new patio.  The kids and I have been spending a lot of time eating, reading, chatting, or just sitting on the new back patio.  We can usually spot butterflies, dragonflies, many types of bees, hummingbirds and many other birds in the garden.  I was excited to add another dogwood tree after the project (middle of photo).  'Starlight' is a Rutgers hybrid and is known for its vigorous growth, columnar shape, and beautiful white flowers in spring.  I also planted a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolara) by the post at left that will eventually climb up and across the entire front of the patio cover.

The kitchen expanded during the remodel to take over the space where the dining area used to be.  I've been loving the new bar that seats the whole family, as it makes mealtimes much easier.  Unfortunately, in the months since it was finished I am the only member of the family who has demonstrated the ability to clean the mirror-like granite of all streaks.  But the Blue Pearl granite is so pretty that I don't mind too much.

We were blessed to have our neighbor, Nicki, design the layout and cabinets while she was working for Canyon Creek Cabinets.  I am sensitive to offgassing chemicals, and I was relieved that these high quality cabinets did not make me sick.

This is the same view of the old kitchen.  It wasn't bad before, but the new arrangement offers a lot more storage and room for all the growing bodies in this house.

The new dining room has windows on three walls so we can enjoy garden views and air conditioning while dining.

This was the old dining space.  We often host extended family gatherings, and we made it work with folding tables extending into the living room.  Now we can fit fourteen at the new dining table (if we squeeze kids onto benches) plus six more at the bar.  We've already used the table at max capacity and it was a fun meal (come visit with your families anytime, Melissa and Ashley).

Here's the view while standing in the new pocket door opening.  This year my three kids in piano lessons are supposed to practice for two and a quarter hours each day in total, and their teacher says they only need to practice on the days that they eat!  Sometimes it's really, really nice to close the pocket door and reduce the sound level while I'm cooking dinner.  This shows a good view of the Montagna Rustic Bay ceramic tile flooring that looks like wood.

This is nearly the same angle from before construction.  What a relief it is to have finished this big project!  Of course other projects are still in progress . . . we had three floods in the basement this spring and had to replace moldy carpet and drywall, and after switching the trim on the main level from wood to white, we are slowly planning to replace trim on the other levels as well.  Honestly, it would have been less stressful to move to a different home, but the garden wouldn't move well and we love our location.  We're looking forward to enjoying this nice space with our family for many years to come.

August 2, 2017

Wild Midsummer Vase

I usually create floral arrangements around roses or peonies, but for this midsummer vase I didn't have those big flowers available.  Instead I put together a wilder than normal vase with many types of smaller flowers and interesting textures.

Dahlias, 'Fama' pincushion flowers (Scabiosa), 'Maggie Dayley' astilbe, Astrantia major, 'Amethyst Falls' oregano, meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) and both 'Annabelle' and 'Little Lime' hydrangeas made up the floral offering.

I also used drumstick allium, 'Fama' seedpods, and 'Ritro' globe thistle.  Don't forget a few stems of Russian sage (Peroskvia), German statice (Limonium), and 'Sunny Border Blue' veronica.

Plain old parsley seedheads and blooming culinary oregano added texture and airiness.

Hosta buds and clematis seedpods mixed with scented geranium and apple mint leaves.

I didn't have a lot of any one flower type, so I used a little of everything blooming in the pink/violet/cream color range.  Plus curly willow, fennel, lime licorice vine (Helichrysum), and 'Chocoholic' cimicfuga leaves.

Curving stems of 'Comtesse de Bouchaud' clematis and contorted filbert (Corylus avellana) draped down to the table.  Turns out it is possible to create a fun vase without the usual ingredients.