So Sunday I went over to my friend Kristin’s to learn how to make vertical succulent gardens . What I made (with Kristin’s guidance) is above.
Originally I wanted to make a succulent frame but the drill battery died so we couldn’t screw a back to a vintage picture frame, so I went hunting in her barn for something else to plant with so I chose a vintage mesh strainer or deep fryer basket.
As you can see above, it’s not a huge thing. The basket is about 6 inches in diameter.
First I lined the basket with burlap. I stitched it in up top on the rim with thick thread. You could also use thin twine, fishing line, or something like that. It was suggested to do a quick whip stitch around the circumference and a couple of tack stitches inside the basket to keep it from shifting.
Next I added the soil, and packed it in. After that we cut a chicken wire circle a few inches bigger than the opening and bent it over the dirt and around the edges like a lid. I used a thin, pliable wire to “stitch” it to the rim of the basket.
I was now ready to pick my succulents. Kristin had bought this amazing array of little succulents from a succulent farm (yes there is such a thing!)
I just started stuffing little plants in the holes of the chicken wire until it was kind of full. Then I gave it a sprinkle of water and took it home and hung it up.
The trick for me will be keeping succulents just moist enough to live. I am not a huge succulent person because, well, I kill them. But slowly I have conquered my fear of orchids and citrus plants, so I am trying succulents once again.
But succulents and I have been trying to co-exist since I was like 8 years old and the local bank at the time would give little succulents out every time you made a deposit to your account. So I kept depositing bits of change and a dollar or two here or there with my mother’s help until I had an entire windowsill full of little succulent plants.
Then I killed them one by one. Probably by overwatering. However, the fact that most of them also sat on a large drafty windowsill of a large 19th window with original glass – not the lovely modern low-E glass. – I am guessing I overwatered and froze them.
I am thinking I will spritz my succulents occasionally with a water bottle. I am not sure what I will do with this when winter arrives.
I found this article HERE from Good Succulents that seems to be a good guide to creating your own hanging succulent vertical garden/wall planter. Good Succulents also has an article on caring for succulents indoors.
Also when I was rummaging around in Kristin’s barn yesterday I came across two small Guy Wolfe pottery pots. I have been obsessed with these Connecticut-made flower pots that are reminiscent of their English-made cousins for decades.
So since Kristin got me to try succulents again, so when I went to Home Depot today I bought two small inexpensive succulents. I purchased a jade plant and an aloe plant. And a small bag of citrus/cactus potting soil. I think they look perfect in the Guy Wolfe pots.
I think these are my last pots being planted for the season. But hey it’s me, so never say never….
“Have you seen the bitty baby fawn?” My neighbors asked.
Everyone on my road was so excited by the baby fawn and the mama doe who would appear at dusk in the cornfield like clockwork. I was the only one who hadn’t seen it yet. I kept my camera on the ready at dusk but I would only see adult deer not the baby.
Until about an hour ago.
Earlier this afternoon I was over at my friends house and she had been conducting this class on vertical succulent gardening made out of re-purposed items. Well I made one and I wanted to hang it on the wall on my front porch.
So I went out to the porch. All I heard was the buzzing of flies. Then there was a slight breeze and this unmistakable odor of death walked by. At first I didn’t see anything. And I knew from the smell something was dead somewhere and then all of a sudden I saw it- the baby fawn my neighbors were so excited to see.
My first reaction was to scream. Actually it was probably closer to a guttural howl because to see that juxtaposition of innocence and death is a little more than I can handle.
Then I started to cry. Then I called to my husband, only to remember he wasn’t home yet.
Mother Nature isn’t just a cruel mistress today, she’s a bitch. I understand this is the theory of Darwinism in effect, but it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s easy to see roadkill on the side of the road and keep on going, because you won’t have to think about it again. But to see this, literally in the middle of one of my flowerbeds underneath an azalea bush, is just gut-wrenching.
I can’t clean baby fawn up. I don’t think I am even going to be able to sit on my front porch for quite a while. All I hear, even in the air conditioning, is the buzzing of all those damn flies.
My husband says from what he can tell it looks like it came to my garden to hide and die. I just feel so awful I didn’t even know it was there. He’s not sure it was actually attacked. He thinks it came to my garden to die.
There is also another dead fawn deep in our woods my husband tells me. He took baby fawn to be buried. The second fawn doesn’t look like it was attacked so maybe it was deer wasting disease?
I was having an awesome day until this. Mother Nature you are a joy sucker today. I know my husband thinks I am being a drama queen and it’s a wild animal and it’s nature, but I just am so sad right in this moment.
One of my favorite cucumber salads is made by Hu Nan Restaurant in Ardmore. It’s hot and sweet. They do a similar cabbage salad as well.
I have never been able to exactly replicate their cucumber salad, but they have inspired my updating a summer staple.
I take three English hothouse cucumbers and peel and slice them into thin rounds. These are the cucumbers considered “burpless”. If I don’t like the way they look at the grocery store, I will use regular cucumbers and peel and cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.
When my cucumbers are all sliced I put them in a bowl and toss them with salt to taste and about 4 tablespoons of white sugar and set aside.
Next I slice up thin one red onion and cut it into more bite size pieces. I add that to my bowl.
Sometimes I add a chopped up red bell pepper to this, but never a green bell pepper.
Following adding the red onion to the bowl, I add the fresh dill. I love dill and do not have a set pre-measured amount. I just chop up a healthy handful from my garden (if I have it and at present almost depleted thanks to the rain), or I buy a bunch at the grocery store.
Next comes the “dressing”. I usually just eyeball it but will attempt to write it down:
1/4 white wine vinegar (or half wine vinegar and half rice wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes or Hatch green chile flakes
I wisk the dressing together in a little bowl, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and dill in the larger bowl and mix it all up. Then I cover and refrigerate until it’s time for dinner (or lunch as it also makes a lovely luncheon salad.)
I will admit, I have spent the past couple of days being garden cranky. Too much rain! I missed the memo where they moved Chester County, PA to Seattle, WA.
The woodland toads are happy, the slugs are happy, but me? I’m getting tired of small pools of ponding water everywhere in my garden. I just have to accept if we don’t get some good sun soon, some of my plants will rot, except I think some are already starting to rot.
I have done my best to bit by bit try to amend the soil in places where it is a heavy clay content, but all the rain has shown me where I missed. The soil in spots is extra bad with all of the rain. Shiny bright clay. Ugh. Time to dig in more grit, more sand.
But even in the midst of soggy city, where weeds grow faster than I can pull them some days, there are just so many pretty things starting to bloom now.
Hydrangeas, monarda, roses, echinacea, and daylilies all popping open one by one. The march of summer colors has begun.
Color makes a garden sing. Just make sure your colors are harmonious or you might create the headache space instead. It’s true. I have over the years had to move things because the colors were jarring where they were.
All of the rain this spring has caused a jungle lushness. And things are blooming or getting ready to bloom ahead of schedule – like a lot of my hostas. A lot of my hostas have seemingly overnight shot up flower stalks and buds.
Before the thunderstorms and crazy downpour, I wandered the garden doing a little deadheading and weeding. I also finally transplanted the zinnias I grew from seed. But mostly I just enjoyed the vibrant garden colors of June.
I also checked out where I needed to do more work. Like put down more stone on a path. With all the rain I could see where I needed more stone. Groan…I wish I did not have to put down more stone anymore than the fact I still have more wood chips to put down. Sadly, gardening isn’t all planting pretty flowers.
But we do need to take the time to sit back and look at the pretty flowers. Even in the rain.
Waiting in line to be “triaged” at Antiques Roadshow
It only took about 15 years, but I finally got tickets to Antiques Roadshow! Tickets are a lottery process – you apply and hope you get tickets. But 2019 was my year, and in February I got the magic email that said I had won tickets for filming at Winterthur, which was today.
The drive to Winterthur once you get off the highway is magical. My friend Amy went with me as my Antiques Roadshow plus one.
We arrived and wound our way through Winterthur and the Antiques Roadshow checkpoints along the way.
We parked in one of the lots and meandered down a shady path to a building where we checked in with our tickets.
When we reached the check-in building, we then had our tickets checked again and we got in a longer line to queue up for shuttle buses.
The shuttle buses took us further into Winterthur where we assembled in yet another line and waited to be “triaged”.
Being “triaged” means they preview the two items that each Antiques Roadshow ticket holder can bring with them. We then get our tickets that list the categories our items fall into. I bought a book and a little Chinese porcelain box I picked out of a barn. My friend Amy bought some other decorative arts category items to be appraised.
It was waiting in this line that Amy and I encountered our first few grumpy old women ticket holders.
I had taken a photo of the “triage” that we were waiting for and the Winterthur building rising beyond it that we would eventually go into and this super cranky old woman with her two cranky wing women had to point out the sign a good ways up ahead where we would be in a cell phone free zone. With filming and other things they wanted our phones off, which was understandable.
But honestly this group of three cranky old women with their fearless leader of multiple comments was a bit much. I smiled and said we hadn’t reached the point of turning off our phones yet and I was taking a picture of the line leading to the building because I was writing about my Antiques Roadshow experience afterwards. She mumbled some final huffy comment and they shuffled off to their “triage” x 3.
First stop post “triage” was having my book looked at. It was a 1950s Modern Library edition of Robert Frost poetry that Robert Frost had signed up at St. Paul’s School when he was visiting as part of I think their Conroy Distinguished Visitors Program.
I love Robert Frost poetry. I had picked up this volume out of a box of books marked 25 cents at the Christmas Bazaar at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr at some point in the 1990s.
After I had given the book room volunteer their quarter, I flipped it open to check the table of contents so I could read The Road Not Taken. What I discovered next was Robert Frost had signed the book to a student. And then the book was stamped Waverly Heights Library (as in the senior living community in Gladwyne.)
I had always wanted to have this book looked at to see what it was worth. Not because I expected it to be priceless but out of curiosity.
So I stood in the book line until it was my turn. Ken Gloss of Brattle Book Shop in Boston appraised it. Mr. Gloss was kind of antiseptic about my book. He had to point out it was a student edition so the book wasn’t worth much. He didn’t love my book as I love my book. He valued it at $100 because of the poet’s signature.
Next stop was Asian Art. My appraiser was Robert Waterhouse. He and Lark Mason were doing appraisals in a courtyard in front of the Chinese Pavilion Folly. It’s actually part of a current garden art installation. He appraised a green and white Chinese porcelain box I have.
Mr. Waterhouse was very nice and my box which cost me the princely sum of $2 is a modern 20th century Chinese box worth about $20. So while my box might not be the next great artifact, it’s still a treasure to me! And Mr. Waterhouse took the time to explain to me what to look for if I ever found another box.
My friend Amy had her items appraised and was verbally accosted by yet another grumpy old lady. This one was concerned about her umbrella which was neatly folded up and not accosting anyone.
The Antiques Roadshow made for amazing people watching. And it was fun seeing everyone’s treasures while we were waiting in line. There was a couple ahead of me in the book appraisal line with a really unusual box who got whisked away by producers and there was a man to my left that show producers were talking to who had this crazy cool Civil War porcelain pitcher and some other Civil War memorabilia item that was a textile of some kind.
It was really interesting watching them do the show. We learned that for the folks they filmed although we will only see a couple of quick minutes when the Winterthur shows air, they actually take a lot of time with people. We certainly didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t get the warm and fuzzies from the book appraiser that was for sure, but he wasn’t as bad as all of the cranky old women.
Seriously – for all the excited happy people like us who were having a ball being at the one and only Antiques Roadshow, there were literally these legions of cranky old women. It was bizarre to watch. I am not a patient person and hate waiting in lines and I loved every minute! And the Antiques Roadshow staff? They were all so nice! It was amazing!
On our way into the gift shop and ladies room we met the current Ms. Maryland! She was my first beauty queen and couldn’t have been nicer!
We somehow missed the famous feedback booth and then were on our way back to the car. We both thought it was over too soon. It totally lived up to our expectations.
On our way home we were going to go to Buckley’s Tavern for dinner, but we ended up at Brandywine Prime.
Because when we pulled into the parking lot of Buckley’s walking into the front door was the first gaggle of cranky old women we encountered standing in the “triage” line! We looked at each other and burst out laughing and said with our luck we would get seated next to them and be under their disapproving stare for dinner.
We had a great dinner at Brandywine Prime and headed home. Amusingly enough, the Philadelphia Inquirer was there covering the Roadshow:
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’ Purchased from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market
A garden is a constant evolution. Mine evolves in layers.
A few years ago I planted my red rhododendrons and native deciduous azaleas along with some favorite viburnum (Brandywine and Winterthur). Over the past couple of years including this year, I have layered in witch hazels of different colors and blooming schedules that were purchased from Rare Find Nursery and Yellow Springs Farm.
I also bought two really great Mountain Laurels from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market – Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel). Species is native to North America.
Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel) Species is native to North America. I purchased mine at Applied Climatology and this is a stock photo which shows what my blooms will be like next spring!
And hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are so amazing and there is such a wide array available for planting. I have a special affinity for Mountain Hydrangeas. But I plant them all.
I have planted layers of color as well as plants. For my shrubs and perennials, there are a lot of shades of pink and blue reds. I am not an orange red person, so you rarely see orange in my gardens.
Gardening is a favorite thing with me as everyone knows, and when I did not have as much room as I have now for me to plant, I planted elsewhere.
Many, many years ago when I was living on the Main Line and only had my tiny courtyard garden of my apartment, I used to volunteer at this little slice of heaven in Bryn Mawr, PA called Historic Harriton House. I loved walking my dogs over to there and truthfully, I have been wandering around Harriton House since I was 12 as is evidenced by this photo:
Harriton is an amazing piece of historic preservation that works. The land it sits on is a park owned by Lower Merion Township. But the historic structures? Owned and maintained by the Harriton Association which I watched acquire properties over the years to sew up a good sized parcel safe from development. The original farm and plantation was originally around 700 acres or more and was part of a Penn Land Grant (yes like Lloyd Farm and Happy Days Farm in Chester County which are currently at risk from development.)
The Executive Director, Bruce Gill, and the Harriton Association Board have truly created a very simple preservation model that works. Part of why it all works at Harriton is the place has never been tarted up. It has remained loyal to it’s agricultural heritage and history.
Years ago, a couple of years after the conversion of the old dairy barn into an education center and administrative offices was completed, one day I was looking at the ruins of the rest of the stone barn fragment which had been turned into a pool house, a pool, and gardens in the 1920s (I think that is when that happened). When Harriton acquired this structure a reclusive little old lady had formerly called it home. Before she died, it was not part of Harriton, it was a little adjoining property in the midst of Harriton, much like two other properties they raised funds and acquired.
Now this little old lady was quite the hoarder, and I remember what it was like when volunteers, myself included, help clear things out. A lot of the decades of contents was literally garbage, but things that were salable were sold at the annual fair in the White Elephant section for a few years. Even what had been the swimming pool was full of stuff. It was crazy. I had never seen what a real hoarder’s home looked like until this.
After the clean out the restoration and conversion of the barn to education center was completed, I kept looking at the ruins when had been garden spaces from the 1920s until I guess the little old lady inhabitant had gotten too old. I saw potential for planting and I was itching to do more planting. So I asked the Executive Director Bruce if he would buy a bunch of plants next time he was up in Lancaster, I would totally plant up the area.
And that is what I did. It was so much fun creating something out of nothing. After I had planted the ruin, one of the couple of garden clubs that gardened at Harriton thought Bruce had let in another garden club. They didn’t quite believe him for a while that it was just me who had dug in the dirt and played and planted. I never took photos back then of what I had done, which now, is close to 20 years ago if not more than 20 years ago.
But the thing about gardening is once you start, other people follow suit. And after the first time I planted in the ruin, garden clubs took over and planted it going forward. I can’t remember which garden clubs did this, except I think perhaps the Villanova Garden Club or the Garden Club of Bala Cynwyd. I don’t know which garden clubs are still gardening there today.
Here are some circa 2006 -2010 photos of the garden ruin planted (again, I never photographed my work before them, sadly):
I returned to Harriton this past weekend for their Father’s Day Ice Cream Social, which is just as lovely and old fashioned as it sounds. I was so happy to see that the ruins were still being gardened, though not as much. In spots it looks like whichever garden club it was lost interest. But the positive thing is it was still being gardened so many years after I dug the first plants in. And there is a community garden and the tenants garden. I do not know if any of the perennials I planted are still there or not, but after not having been back to Harriton since either 2011 or 2012 I was happy to see any continued gardening there:
I hope whichever garden clubs are still on Harriton continue. People change, garden clubs and plant societies are definitely groups where people age out, and not necessarily by choice. But gardening should endure. Wherever we can garden.