Spring Decorations

January is always so grey and dreary, although here at Minerva’s Garden I did notice an English daisy and violas with one or two little blooms on them, and some crocus tips pushing their way up out of the mulch the other day.   However, I was determined to start out the year fresh with some pretty indoor spring decorations!  I have paper and silk flowers, as well as some real flowers blooming away indoors to make our house more cheery.  Here they are:

Paper cherry blossoms on a branch from the backyard, plus a hot pink silk flower with a bright imitation green apple in a basket, and some white silk flowers in a soft pink, grey and white vase.

The flowers couldn’t have been easier to make–from Martha Stewart, and then hot-glued to the branch.


The mantle with more paper cherry blossoms, bright pink silk flowers in glass vases, some little birds in a basket--love it!

Sideboard with a pottery bird in the basket, clear tumbled glass and wine corks with a pink flower in a tall vase, and a shot of green in the bottle with white silk flowers.

 As you can see, the color scheme is mostly shades of pink and green, with some crisp white as background.


Re-imaginging some things I had around the house--Dollar Tree silk roses stuck through the fabric of an old lampshade, with a base I had but got at a flea market for fifty cents years ago and painted white. Alongside are paperwhites blooming on the right, and a little green vase with white silk flowers, and an imitation bright green apple, all on a pink placement!This lamp is so sweet--makes me smile each time I walk into the room and see it!


Some real flowers: Paperwhites, January 2012

Pink pelargoniums, commonly (but erroneously) called geraniums, on a curly wire plant stand and a stout ceramic container, January 2012

None of these ideas are original to me, but I found them online, and just tweaked them to suit what I had on hand around the house and garden, or what I could get inexpensively at Dollar Tree–love that!

Have you done a little spring decorating this year–do tell in the comments!  I love to hear from my Minerva’s Garden readers!

Winter Decorations 2011

I like to use greens from the garden to decorate for the winter holidays.  I have a large bay tree, and so I pruned some branches that were sticking out, and used the prunings as part of the greenery for the house and around the front door in containers.  Our neighbors also have tons of English laurel shrubs on their property, and they allowed me to prune some of that to use in decorating as well.  I came up with a mix of greens with more Christmas-y items, just things that I like that we’ve collected over the years.  Enjoy!

A wreath for the front door made of English laurel, a little bay leaf, and a few pine cones.


Fireplace mantle, 2011 version

The centerpiece of this arrangement is a pretty red and green dwarf bamboo that really comes into its own in December.  I put some in a tallish vase, and surrounded it with bay leaves, and the red ribbon strung through the top curlicues of the wire basket.  Some red-curled sticks coming out of the top.  Little things that I like that might not survive cat examination go up here safely for the season.  For the same reason, my favorite ornaments get hung up on the picture rail all around the living room, rather than on a tree where they would be irresistible to curious cats.

Sideboard with English laurel clippings, gold pointsetta flower and gold ribbon, and a little drum basket holding cards


The top of a bookcase got in the holiday spirit


Ornaments on the chandelier


China cabinet with holiday decor.


A festive table centerpiece. I have collected the plates and dishes over time from Goodwill. The red plate is a favorite from Johnson Brothers, an English manufacturer from the turn of last century, and the cabbage-leaf bowl is a newer addition to my small collection. Good old bamboo and bay leaves do their holiday job in a simple vase.

One new item I made over the weekend . . .

An ornament wreath inspired by Eddie Ross

This indoor wreath was pretty inexpensive to make, because most of it came from Dollar Tree–the ornaments, ribbon and wreath hanger.  The base is just a wire hanger that you shape into a circle, then hot-glue the caps onto each ornament and string them on the wire hanger.  When it’s all filled–it takes about 70-80 ornaments for this–you (carefully–it’s easy to break ornaments at this stage) twist the wire ends shut, leaving the cupped part of the hanger still in shape.  I made a loop from wire and used it to attach the wreath to the wreath hanger, and then covered the hanger with the ribbon, which I tied at the top.  I haven’t made any ornaments or decorations in years–got pretty burned out from times past–but I saw this at Eddie Ross’ site and was inspired!  Except for this, I didn’t really buy anything new, but I reused what I had on hand in different ways to give them a new look this year.
Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule and all of the other winter holidays and festivals found at this time of year!

Pot Up Some Paperwhite Bulbs Today

Paperwhite bulbs starting to bloom

Today, November 7th, is the best day to pot up paperwhite bulbs if you’d like them in bloom for the winter holidays.  So easy–put potting soil in virtually any container that is at least one-gallon size deep and wider is better, plant the bulbs so they are completely covered with soil, water it in, and put it in the garage.  You want it to be somewhere where it won’t freeze but will be below 50 degrees, and where it is dark–you can cover the container with newspaper, and that works well.  Then wait.  By December, there will be green shoots coming up out of the soil.  When they are about two to three inches tall, you can bring the pot up, water it and place it in front of a bright window–I put mine in the dining room on the south side of the house, and it gets good light here.  They should be blooming near the end of the month, and will bloom into January (and who doesn’t need some fresh blooming flowers in January?)  These are annuals for me, so I usually just compost them when they finish blooming.  I’ve tried planting these outside to get them to rebloom outdoors next year, but they never really do much, even with fertilizer–they kind of give their all the first year and that’s about it, at least that has been my experience with them. 

Give it a try–it’s super easy and worth it!  Leave me a comment and let me know if you’re growing some paperwhites this year, and how you like to use them around the house in the winter season.

How To Make An Inexpensive Fall Wreath

I decided, even though it was ninety-two degrees yesterday, to start decorating the house for the upcoming autumn season.  I wanted to be a little bit ahead of the game this year, so started a little earlier than I have in the past. 

Here is a little seasonal tablescape I created using flowers from my garden:

The autumn table

This is a little dark, but essentially I got a dark blue sheet from Goodwill, and fashioned it into a tablecloth. 

Here is a daytime shot:

Daytime tablescape

I was totally inspired by that shade of blue of the tablecloth, and I have had my eye out for things that would work with it. 

I next found these fun table mats at Dollar Tree, and loved the shades of dark blues and greens that were in them, and that got me going on the rest of the table vignette. 

Close-up of flower arrangement

I created a flower arrangement using blue and smoky purple hydrangeas as the base, and added dark burgundy dahlias and pink zinnias, and for an accent I added sprays of white clethra.    I put a ruff of purple sage all around the bottom.  I like the look of dark wood in the fall, and thus I added the wooden pepper mill.  I have been collecting leaf plates at Goodwill for a while now, and decided to pick one of the hybrid acorn squash from the garden to place in a green leaf plate.  (Those hybrids are stringy on the inside and no good to eat, but I let them grow so I have lots of squash to use for decorating in the fall.)  I thought they all went together nicely, and for me this is a table look, because of the blue tones, that make a good transition from summer into the fall.

Here’s the mantle:

Love those bright leaves!

And all from Dollar Tree!  I love those felt leaves, especially the cut-outs that allow the late afternoon light to shine through.  And I have become more in love with tall things in front of the mirror over the mantle–all of this, in smoky dark blues, (to pick up the table cloth color) and some bright warm colors, with tall sticks all came from Dollar Tree, which I put in a vase I already had.

Then I decided to get crafty and fashion an autumn wreath for the front door.  Have to say, I am not a big “crafty” person, not really where my skill set lays, so this took me a lot longer–about two hours and change–than it would for someone who is more versatile in this area.  Having said that, it was not hard to make, and quite inexpensive as well, because I used what I had around the house and augmented it with items from Dollar Tree.

Here are the supplies I used:

Ingredients for an autumn wreath

I had the grapevine wreath form, thin wire and a little wire cutter, hot glue gun and glue sticks, and the sunflower garland was already attached from years past–yay.  I purchased from Dollar Tree a fall leaf garland, some small mini gourds and pumpkins, a roll of wire-edge fall ribbon, an over-the-door wreath hanger, and some other larger leaves that I didn’t end up using in this project, but thought I might at the time.  (I’ll use them inside somewhere instead.)

Also . . .

Lots of purple sage

I liked the idea of smoky purple indoors, and wanted to extend that look outdoors as well, particularly because we have turquoise trim on our screen door, so I thought that would look good, and wear well hopefully all the way until Thanksgiving.  I used about 3 buckets of purple sage cuttings.

Turning sage into a garland

I took several little sprigs of sage, clumped them together, and used thin wire to wrap around the stems to hold it together.  This I continued to do, just wiring little groups of sage along their stems, and this created a long garland of purple sage.  (As an aside, I saw this originally done with wiring maple leaves together to create a swag to put on a wreath form, but there are no fallen maple leaves around here yet–I told you I was early doing this project!  But you get the idea–you could use fallen leaves with stems on them in the same way.)

clump of purple sage

Okay, the next pictures are not my best, because I was trying to hold and wire sage with one hand and take a picture of it with the other, so just deal with it, ‘kay?  Here I am clumping sage, and notice there are some stems sticking out at the bottom. 

sage with wire

Here I’ve started to put several tight wraps of wire around the stem grouping,

sage on the wreath completed--whew!

And here I’ve taken the garland and wired it in several spots (about 5-6)  to the grapevine wreath form.  I made the garland pretty thick, because I didn’t want the wreath form to show, and also I know that the sage, as it dries, will shrink a little bit.  I also decided to wire in a clump of hydrangeas in a spot that looked a little thin with sage leaves when I got the thing done.  (Another wreath I saw used hydrangea flowers, although silk ones, in crafting a wreath to go from Thanksgiving to whenever you want to decorate for the winter holidays, so I swiped that idea as well for this wreath.)  The real hydrangeas should dry nicely in place.

Next step:  leaf garland

leaf garland added

I love how these bright fall colors play off the smoky purple.  I just wraped this through the sage, so as to hide the fake plastic “vine” that holds the leaves together.  I wired it to the wreath frame in a couple of spots.

Now for the fun part:

Fall Decorations!

Adding the decorations is the easy, and to me at least, the fun part!  I knocked a few of the sunflowers off as I was wiring the sage to the wreath form, but no big deal.  I used a glue gun, and for the plain-jane green leaves that were on the sunflower garland to begin with, I simply hot-glued on a decoration, be it a sunflower or an orange mini-pumpkin or gourd, and arranged them in an artistic fashion.  The fall ribbon bow I tied myself–Martha Stewart on her website has all kinds of how-tos for tying a variety of bows, and I did her simplest one, because again, these craft projects are not my strong suit.  This picture also shows the nice metal wreath hanger I got at Dollar Tree as well.  I love the grey color, and that it will blend in with the screen door.

Decorations hot-glued into place

Now we’re almost done, but first we have to get the bow ready:

I ran some wire through the back of the bow, so it wouldn’t show, and just wired it into place at the top of the wreath.

All done!

A pretty (and inexpensive) autumn wreath for the front door

I like how the purplish tones play off the blue of the door frames.

Since I was sprucing up the entryway, I found some bright yellow chrysanthemums for sale, so added those to window boxes and containers along the front steps leading to the front door.

Yellow mums say "Welcome!"

I hope I’ve inspired you to add a fall wreath to your front door.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to end up with something fun and festive to celebrate autumn!

And visit the Garden Party.    

Reblooming Amarylis and Autumn Decorations

In Southwest Washington, for the most part, we are settling in to a rainy and fairly warm weather pattern.  With the exception of lettuce and a few other salad and cooking greens that are growing under plastic and hoops, the vegetable garden is done for the winter, at least outdoors anyway.  I have tomatoes that I picked earlier in the season that are still ripening inside nicely, so we do get to still have some wonderful fresh tomatoes on salads and sandwiches on occasion.  I am still working on cleaning up garden beds, weeding and getting them covered with plastic, but no real rush, so that can happen the next time we have a break in the rain.

I continue to feed the birds.  They are enjoying the black oil sunflower seed and hummingbird nectar, along with nectar from a few surprisingly hardy plants that are still blooming, such as the viburnum, borage, verbena bonariensis, glossy abelia and the start of the ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary.  The coleus are also still blooming (!), and the hummers feed away on their columns of tiny flowers, as they do from nasturtium flowers that are growing in containers and hanging baskets.  Some of the verbena bonariensis has also gone to seed, and the little birds attach themselves to the flowers to eat seeds.

I grew Rouge Vif d’Entemps pumpkins, also known as Cinderella pumpkins again this year.  The results are adorning the front steps to the house.  I’ve paired them with containers in blue with yellow grasses and sedums.  Because they are living under a covered stoop area that is warmer than just being out in the garden, this tends to keep the containers alive all year, so there is a little something fresh outdoors that is fun to look at.

Here is a little indoor flower arrangement I did for Halloween.

I also potted up paperwhites on November 7th in a large clay pot, watered the soil, and then put the pot in the dark garage.  It will stay there until December, when green shoots will appear, and then I will bring it into the house and eventually it will bloom.  If they are started by Nov. 7th, they will usually be in bloom by Christmas and Solstice.  If you plant them now, they will still bloom after the holidays, giving you something wonderful to look forward to after the holidays are done.


                                                                                                        Paperwhites in bloom from last year.

I started, at the beginning of November, to start watering and feeding my amarylis bulbs, which are inside in bright sun-facing windows in the house.  Here is a little recap for you from last year on how to get the amarylis bulbs you buy now and have bloom this winter, rebloom next year:

Growing amaryllis indoors is a great way to have luxurious, large flowers indoors during the drab winter months.  It’s actually fairly easy to get them to rebloom year after year.  Here are the steps if you are starting out now with a new bulb, which typically go on sale at hardware and department stores as well as gardening centers sometime in the month of November.

1.  Plant the bulb.  The bulbs like snug containers, and the pointy top 1/3 of the bulb needs to be above the soil level in the pot.  The little plastic pots that come with the bulb that you purchase have no drain holes, so you will not need a saucer beneath them, but you also have to water carefully so you do not waterlog the bulbs.  Water so it’s moist but not soggy, and place the pot in a sunny window.

2.  Continue to water and fertilize with a complete organic fertilizer every two weeks after planting.  Eventually leaves will sprout from the bulb, and a thick stem will emerge, from which the flower head will grow.  With a smaller bulb, this may or may not happen the first year, but should as the bulb matures.  I have read that for every five leaves on the bulb, you will get one flower stalk.  My younger bulbs have bloomed with as few as three leaves.  My bulbs are not mature enough to have more than five leaves at this point, but we will see if this is true as time goes on.

3.  After the bulbs have bloomed, hopefully around or just after the winter holidays,  continue to water and fertilize every other week all winter, and through the spring and summer.  In the summer, if you wish, you may move the pots outdoors in a protected spot like a porch  in July when it warms up, but they also do well hanging out indoors in front of a sunny window.

4.  In the beginning of September, stop fertilizing the pots, and cut way back on watering.  You want them to dry out a bit, but not die from lack of water.  Very little is needed.  Foliage may wither and die at this point, and that is fine–simply use a scissors and cut off any unsightly browned foliage as it occurs.  If the pots were outside for the summer, in the beginning of  September bring them back inside to their sunny window.    Keep the pots barely moist and no fertilizer for the months of September and October.

5.  Starting in the beginning of November, resume watering and fertilizing every other week, and keep them in a sunny window.  This will help to wake up the bulbs, and they should start eventually to send out new foliage and flower stems.

Another note:  The flower stems can get very tall, and so I like to keep very slender stakes, even a thin skewer or chopstick can work, and slide them into the pot and use twine or even ribbon to tie the stem to the stake, so that it doesn’t break.  I had a cat knock one over, and the stem was hanging over.  I  used scotch tape to wrap around the stem and stake to get the damaged stem back up into an upright position, and it actually bloomed, but your mileage may vary.

That’s all there is to it–as you can see, a very easy process.  You can place plain pots together in decorative baskets found very inexpensively at thrift stores, and cover the top with Spanish moss to hide the pots, making a lovely holiday decoration for your home.

‘Appleblossom’ amarylis about to bloom last year.

‘Appleblossom’ in bloom.

Stop by the Oregon Cottage Garden Party for more fun gardening posts!

Tuesday Garden Update

I’m super busy right now, and will be until the middle of September.  I will try to continue to add some brief posts as I can.

Here are a couple of flower pictures from the garden:

This is what I called my “Lone Wolf” sweet pea (remember Lenny “One Wolf” and Squiggy?).  It is blooming during 95+ degree weather–go figure.  There are some light lavender ones that bloomed after this photo was taken as well.  I love sweet peas–so very pretty and delicate flowers.

Just a pretty hydrangea growing on the side of the house.  I love to use them as cut flowers for a quick and easy arrangement during the summer months.  This was planted by previous owners prior to our moving in here, so I have no idea what the specific variety is, but I like it and it is hardy in PNW garden zone 8.

I have a lovely hibiscus ‘Sweet Caroline’ that I am anxiously waiting to bloom.  It has gigantic hot pink flowers, and is wonderful to see in the declining August beds, so I will try to remember to post a picture of it when it starts blooming.

As for the vegatable garden:  I have lots of green tomatoes, but no red ones yet.  I’ve picked about three little batches of ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans so far, and they are lovely and tender and prolific here.  Runner beans are starting to produce little bitty runner beans.  I had lettuce starts outside hardening off, and then this hot weather hit, so I took a few losses there–I need to plant them out when it cools off a bit later this week.  Corn is tasseling up nicely.  Potatoes are producing some of the first new potatoes of the season.  I could eat them all now at this stage, but am trying to be patient and wait for a bigger crop.  I have four nice green peppers–just waiting for them to ripen and turn red before I pick them.  Pumpkins are producing massive vines and several little baby pumpkins.  I have a squash that popped up out of nowhere on its own, and it will likely produce something that is not edible but will be great for autumn decorating, which is cool.  The late-season raspberries are putting out lots of green and pink berries–will be ready in a couple of weeks, maybe.   Lots of basil to use now, and dill is about ready to start using as well. 

The hummingbirds have been buzzing around the garden.  They like the liatris, verbena bonariensis, nasturtiums and petunias in my hanging baskets, an orange crocosmia now in bloom, the last few Lamb’s Ears flowers and other butterfly bushes that are blooming, plus the feeder that I put out for them.

How is your garden growing?  Leave me a comment–I’m always interested to hear how your gardens are doing!

Please visit Oregon Cottage Blog’s Tuesday Garden Party.


Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is Winter Solstice, and very thankfully, from now on the days will be getting longer.  It can be a grey, damp and drear time of year, but Winter Solstice gives you something to look forward to if you are a gardener.  The story of solstice celebrations goes back to the Celts, who didn’t really understand about astronomy, yet the Druids did.  So the Druids, wanting to keep the power over the people, when the people were scared because the light in the sky was waning, said they could help them out.  On the solstice, the Druids would go up to the top of a mountain and set a tree on fire (which is where we get the Christmas tree with lights motif), and then after this ceremony the people noticed that the days started to get longer, and thus they were happy, the Druids were happy (and sneaky), and the days got longer.

We celebrate a gardener’s solstice with greenery adorning the house, and a dinner of Northwest bounty, featuring a wonderful Louisiana gumbo with Dungeness crab and shrimp.  Good times!

A Use For English Laurel

Many homes in Clark County have English Laurel growing as a large hedge.   It does require extensive pruning to keep it somewhat in check, but now is a great time to use some of those prunings and turn them into holiday decorations for your home.

I like to use English Laurel, with its glossy leaves, as a perfect foliage foil for use in containers.  These containers live outdoors year round, and I like to dress them up a bit for the winter holidays, and this laurel does the job.  Just stick them in the dirt in the container in artistic clumps, add a ribbon if you wish, and you are done.

English laurel is also wonderful on the mantel of the fireplace.  The shiny leaves stay green for at least 3 weeks or more indoors.  Pair it with some prunings from  dwarf bamboo that has red foliage in the winter, and you are off to the races with natural decor that you can get for free from your abundant garden.  Add some pinecones for a wonderful display of holiday cheer!

Autumn Decorations From The Garden

The deciduous trees are turning luscious shades of orange and burgundy now, the grape leaves and witch hazel leaves are spun gold, and so it is time to spruce up the front of your home with some easy autumn decoration from the garden.  I’ve started to plant corn, and even if it doesn’t yield edible ears, the stalks and baby ears are lovely grouped together  in pots by your front door.  Combine with them rosy and blue hydrangea blooms, and bind them together in bouquets using garden twine.

I also grow ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemps’ pumpkin, also known as Cinderella pumpkin.  These are rather expensive to buy, but you can easily grow them yourself for a fraction of the price.  These look beautiful at all stages of growth, so I have them gathered near the top of the steps by the front door.  I also mix in any of the squash that are growing–anything that has perhaps grown beyond a size that will make it good to eat will work well for decorating, and especially if the skin is a different color from the pumpkin, like dark green or creamy white.  I ended up with some plants that turned out to be a pumpkin and danish squash hybrid that was stringy and not very good to eat, so those squash were put to use as decorations.

To add some contrasting color to the orange, add something blue to the mix.  I have pots that are a great shade of deep turquoise, and I placed a two-gallon turquoise pot behind an orange pumpkin.  The pot was filled with yellow grass of unknown origin, as well as black mondo grass, a gorgeous filler for containers, and a yarrow with grey filagree leaves.

None of this cost anything except for the cost of a few seeds, but it offers quite an impact to the front of the house.  These decorations can go up now, and can stay up through Thanksgiving if you do not carve the pumpkins or squash.