Bench Brainstorm

Heath and I are in the middle of a living room overhaul (more to come), and one of the pieces in the fall out is this sweet little bench Heath made a couple years ago to act as our TV stand. Since we recently upgraded our TV sitch, we found ourselves with an extra bench to our names.  Although in reality it’s just 6 pieces of wood, it remains the first piece of furniture Heath ever made me. Needless to say, I can’t just throw it out or donate it to Goodwill like it’s just some outdated piece of crap from a big box store. So, I thought, why not use it in the garden? And by garden, I mean carport patio. We have an empty wall outside where the bench fits perfectly, so I sat her down and filled her with plants and trinkets. Problem is: I am not sold on the current choreography of plant life.

TV stand-turned plant bench

It’s heavy on the ornaments, light on the foilage.  I’m in need of some serious guidance for what should occupy this new real estate. Part of it gets sun, most of it gets shade. The plants on the top are free to grow as high as they like, but plants on the shelves below are a little more restricted, which is why now I’ve got lanterns acting as plant placeholders. Perhaps there is no magical flora that can fulfill my needs, but I’m determined to try and find the perfect combo.

Love the minimalist approach of this bench from Apartment Therapy, but don’t know that I’m ready to get into the complicated world of Bonsai rearing.

I’m very drawn to this design from Batixa but I’m not sure how this combo would do in my awkward part-sun/part-shade situation.

HGTV does some cool stuff with succulents, but again, the sun situation has me perplexed. I’m also wondering if I need small pots with lots of details, or big pots over flowing with verdant life.

I love Martha Stewart’s idea of mixing succulents with seasonal blooms, I just don’t know which would survive best in my space.
It’s an odd problem to have, but one I’m enjoying experimenting with. I’m looking forward to touring nurseries this weekend to get a better sense of what will work and what won’t.  Oh thank heaven gardening season is here again!

Homegrown bouquets

Gomphrena and amaranth…looks good in the garden, looks GREAT on our table. Good ol’ Handyman Heath doesn’t just buy me flowers. He grows them and picks them. Happy weekend!


Putting the rain garden to work

It finally rained a long hard rain in Austin this weekend–giving us a chance to put our newly implemented rain garden to work. She performed like a champ. No more yard lake, just a happy and contained puddle bringing nourishing agua to the plant life.


Let’s see what our pals in the front yard have been up to

I love reading fellow Austin-based blogs like Digging and The Grackle, and comparing their landscaping blooms to ours. It’s nice to see that other gardeners share our same struggles, and if they don’t, they can offer us some gardening guidance. It’s been especially nice now that we actually have some front yard landscaping to tend to. Earlier this summer my garden guru came to help us install a new garden in our front yard. I know Austin summers are not the best time of year to put in new landscaping, but that’s the time we had available and you gotta do what you gotta do. So I’m pleased to see, despite the odds, two months later there is a respectable amount of growth and development in our front yard garden.

The front yard as seen from the driveway.

Roses and echinacea coneflower have been blooming all summer.

Roses and yucca are an unconventional but really fun landscaping combination.

Pride of Barbados is blooming like crazy all over Central Texas.

I fell in love with desert globemallow after a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I’m pretty jazzed about having two plants of our own in bloom.

Autumn joy sedum is doing its thing.

Gomphrena fireworks…because everyday at the doodle house is a celebration.

The succulent planter, thank heaven, is always lush even in the harshest of summers.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

I’m happy we’ve had few flora casualties this summer, and now that September is just around the corner, I’m eager to see what glorious surprises fall will bring.

If it ever rains again, we’ll be in good shape.

Once upon a time, it rained in Texas. And when it did, our yard turned into a swamp.

Swamp city is not a great situation for anyone. After lots of planning and scheming, we decided installing a rain garden would be an effective and earth-friendly way to control the water flow. The idea is that by digging out a trench, you divert the water to a designated area, rather than letting it flow here, there and everywhere. Then, you fill said area with strategically placed rocks and native plants so it’s pretty to look at as well as being functional.

The Red Clay Valley Association encourages its residences to make rain gardens in small backyard depressions like this one.


Minnesota Public Radio did a neat feature on how to install backyard rain gardens, like this one, for its listeners.

Once again, we enlisted the help of my garden guru to figure out the best way to incorporate a rain garden into the back yard. Since the water seems pretty intent on puddling in one particular area, we thought, why challenge it? We opted to start there and then manipulate the existing landscape around it—making the rest of our yard accoutrement work with the soon-to-be rain garden rather than the other way around. Once that was determined, the only thing left to do was start digging.
Heath dug a few inches into the soil to make a clearly defined low area where the water could easily drain. From there, he tilled the soil to prepare for future plants.
Then we got to play architect, deciding on how and where to place the rocks that would exist in and around the garden.
A few rocks and plants later, we had a bona fide rain garden!
It’s functional, earth-friendly and it creates quite the precious backdrop to our entertaining area.
So far, I’m a big fan of our newest addition. Hopefully we’ll be able to give it a test drive soon.
Happy gardening!


I’m sure watching your child take their first steps or walk across the stage at college graduation is an exhilarating and gratifying experience, but so too is the feeling or successfully raising a garden from seed.

This week we did a fair amount of harvesting of some of the things we put in the ground a few months ago. I’m not typically a patient person, but so far my patience and Heaths hard work has paid off. He walked in the house yesterday with a literal bushel of garden goodies.



The urge to buy our neighbor’s lot, tear down their house and create an adjoining urban farm is growing stronger by the minute.

Happy gardening!

Best before and after ever?

Admittedly, waiting a week between blog posts is unacceptable, and for this I apologize.

You see, I’ve been a bit busy over the past week. For one… I changed jobs, which has been wonderfully exhilarating but very time consuming. And for another, we have been wrapped up in a major yard rejuvenation. My garden guru (mom) has been staying with us for the past week to help us install a custom landscaping plan she designed for our front and back yard. She and Heath have been waking up at  7 am every morning to put the plan into action. I wouldn’t believe the transformation if I wasn’t part of the process.

I squeal with glee at the end result. What all did the plan entail, you ask?

1.) Weeding the existing flower bed

2.) Cleaning the succulent planter and adding gravel to cover the dirt

3.) Pruning the trees

4.) Marking a curvature for the bed

5.) Leveling and installing paver borders

6.) Scrapping grass from the walkway and landing

7.) Installing and leveling the paver walkway

8.) Shopping endlessly at various nurseries for the perfect plants and pavers

9.) Installing the plants

10.) Mulching

11.) Mowing

12.) Edging

Already we are at step 12 and I can’t begin to describe the lengths they’ve gone to to make sure the new plan is not only installed but also poised for success. Every paver was perfectly placed and leveled and every plant was meticulously chosen, taking into consideration its water needs, soil needs, future growth, and cohesion with other plants. Nothing was selected on a whim. As good as it looks now, I know it will look even more marvelous once the plants mature.

Of course, the front is only half the story. The back is still in the works, but already we’re making progress to turn that from a wonky and weed-laden war zone to  polished and pristine courtyard.

There’s more to tackle in the rear, as most of the projects taking place back there this week have been less the stuff of glamorous makeovers and more maintenance (taking care of some of the things we let slide during the school year). We removed a large brush pile we had long been ignoring, chopped down a dying tree, pruned up a tenacious Pecan and cleaned and reorganized the shed. And of course, there was a bit of harvesting.

Tomorrow is dear mom’s last day gardening at the old doodle house, but at this rate  I wouldn’t put it past her to install a swimming pool back there just to prove she could. The woman’s a landscaping machine. I can’t wait for our next back yard bbq to show off the fancy new digs.

Heath and Mom relax after a solid day of work in the garden. Pool to come soon? Or how about a tree house? I wouldn’t put either option past these two.


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