My readers and clients know this about me: I’ll always suggest a proliferation of color, texture, unexpected seasonal accents, and a reimagining of your rooms or exteriors, and whenever possible. A lot of time, that means a lot of stuff. It’s thrilling to treat your home like a design laboratory, but sometimes, you don’t need all that stuff. Why not revisit your holiday decorating, and think about limiting your design to the ‘natural’ world? This year, try focusing on the tree, a garland, a simple wreath, and drink in the design of nature.
Supplies needed for building your island:
Sheets of Styroam – we used severalÂ 1/2â thick sheets about 10â x 12â thatÂ we collected from packing materials
We are going for a rounded rectangular shape forÂ our island. You can make yours any size and shapeÂ you want… what is important is the layering. On theÂ underside you want to start with a large piece of foamÂ and 2 smaller pieces. Center the smaller pieces in theÂ center and pin with greening pins. This will allow theÂ larger base piece to float above the water.
Now flip your foam over and break off the corners.Â Pin the corners to the top. This will create levels forÂ us to build on.
Add a few more small pieces to create additionalÂ levels, pinning as you go.
Once you have everything pinned in place,Â tie some twine around the center. This will insureÂ that everything stays in place. Leave an extra longÂ tail that can be used to weight your island down.
Now lay your island, face down in theÂ middle of a piece of burlap. The burlap willÂ hold everything in place and keep the dirtÂ from getting into your pond filter. Wrap the burlap around to the backÂ leaving the top layers uncovered, andÂ pin in place. We curled up our twineÂ and pinned it down so we donât accidentallyÂ cut it off.Â Cut off the excess burlap as you go. We areÂ not worried about neatness, folks, no oneÂ is going to see this part!
When you are done your island willÂ look something like this. This is the top.Â Notice the crevices which will be perfectÂ for planting.
Choose your plants carefully. Make sure theyÂ can handle the shade or sun and a lot of water.Â We used mini mondo grass, ferns, begonias,Â and mazus.
Begin planting your plants, adding dirtÂ as needed. Use pins to pin plants rootsÂ to styrofoam so they stay in place.Â Continue adding plants, adding dirt.
Once you have all your plants in place,Â cover the entire island with moss and pinÂ in place.
If you haven’t been out today, gaze through a window on to your surroundings. It’s the depth of winter, so what you’ll find will likely be skeletal trees, sere lawns, slumbering flowerbeds, and an overcast sky. Not very inviting, huh? But as counter intuitive as it sounds, now’s the time to contemplate adding a bit of structure to your landscape, and provide a bit of oomph. A great way to add interest to your outdoor setting, as well as provide a place to congregate or contemplate, is to erect a pergola.
A pergola is traditionally constructed of wooden posts and open cross beams at the top, so that light can filter down below, while vines—or other plant life–can wind about above. It serves as both a plant support and an area for seating. The ancients created pergolas as a feature in their gardens for two reasons: functionality and efficient use of space. Pergolas are the perfect interface for plants and humans, and can be an inviting part of your landscape, and they’re never fussy or too detailed. You aren’t creating a Victorian bandshell—think ‘The Music Man’—nor are you constructing a ‘folly,’ those small whimsical buildings beloved by 18th Century landscapers. You want an area for plants to take root and feel at home, at ground level and above. If the word ‘pergola’ bothers you, then think’ arbor,’ but remember to incorporate seating for all the times in the year you want to personally use your outdoor room.
The one featured is constructed from treated 6” x 6” pine posts and 1” x 6” cross pieces above. Sink the posts for stability, and think about seating. You can bring in benches, or build seating directly into the structure, like done here. You’ll see this pergola spans the sidewalk leading up to the house, an unexpected touch. Even if your landscape leaves little room for such construction, you can find an innovative way to add it.
To maintain the open feel of this pergola, we also used window boxes to contain plants above, rather than support vines up the posts. Vines would have intertwined along the beams above, minimizing the light below, and created a tunnel effect on the sidewalk. Although the shade provided by vines growing above is a desirable feature in many pergolas, the citing of this one directly in front of the house called for maximum light to filter down and through.
Pergolas are traditionally painted a lighter color—to absorb and reflect the light, and keep them from looking ‘heavy’—and we used the same white as the house. The benches are the perfect way to welcome friends, or for a semi-private area for you to wind down after a busy day, and enjoy your landscape.
During these dreary winter days, you should dream of warmer times, when you’ll want to be close to your landscape and its serenity. And an outdoor room, like this pergola, is the perfect touch.
Live Life to the Fullest!
Autumn is my favorite season.Â Â The crisp cool nights, the relief from the summer heat, and the colorful fall foliage just reinvigorates my tired soul. Along with my excitement is a strong desire to add some autumn dÃ©cor to the interior of my home.Â Â I have found as I get older in life, Â just adding a few seasonal touches here and there is all I need to make my home full of autumn bliss.
A few pumpkins and/or gourds sitting in a bowl or layered ever so effortlessly on a table top will give a strong suggestion of fall.Â Even three holiday pumpkin votives in a row sitting on a shelf will make one smile.
Mix and match your pumpkins and gourds with different natural elements such as scented pine cones.Â I even save broken pumpkin stems that I find scattered in a pumpkin patch.Â Placed in a cool container or bowl, these stems make for a great autumn display.
When decorating for fall, Â one word of caution is that sometimes but not always, real pumpkins and gourds can decay before the end of the season.Â So replacements may be necessary and if you are worried about damage to your furniture then just use artificial produce. Fake pumpkins and gourds tend to look like what they areâ¦fake. So add pizzazz by just painting with coffee glaze or any dark stain over each artificial fruit. Apply stain, using downward strokes. Donât forget the stem. Wipe lightly with paper towel to remove excess stain. Allow to dry for 5-6 hours.
Having stylish fall dÃ©cor is rather easy with a little help.Â Add drama and interest to any container inside or out, with your very own pumpkin lanterns.Â Pumpkin lanterns will brighten up any dark porch or scary corner and also look spooktacular on both sides of a fireplace.
All you need are the following supplies for each lantern:
Ex-Large to Large foam pumpkin
2 different size circular bits and drill
1 under-the-counter round halogen 20watt light fixture (from your local hardware store)
Light is not water proof so it’s best to keep your lanterns under a covered area.
Go ahead and drill circles all over your pumpkin in a random pattern.Â Use two different size bits for contrast.Â Remember not to drill too low since we do not want to see the light fixture that sits at the bottom of the pumpkin.
Add an autumn wreath to the top of the pot rim first for fluff and softness. Place the pumpkin lantern on top of the container if desired or floor.
Remember to also place your light inside the pumpkin and plug into a grounded electric outlet.Â Â To ensure your pumpkin is lit each evening, a timer is a great idea.
Add some real pumpkins, gourds, and a few yellow mums around your new lantern to create more curb appeal.Â Now your home will glow with autumn cheer.
You’ll probably recognize At Home’s friend, Chris Olsen, a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. We featured his own home garden in a 2010 issue, and we’re excited to introduce him as one of At Home’s new monthly blog columnists! Check back as Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design, beginning with this clever idea for creating a painted backdrop.
Indoors or out, the color and feeling of a painted wall affects the look of the accessories you place on, or in front of, that wall. You don’t have to paint your entire room to highlight a piece of art or decoration. You don’t even have to paint the wall. You can get the look of an aged, painted, even distressed wall, with nothing more than a width of canvas and some paint.
Acrylic paint for a base coat
Acrylic paints for highlighting- Three is the best number to use; one light, one dark, one a hue that matches or complements your base coat
Spray bottle of water
Large (wide) brush
Canvas, stretched or cut on a frame. We used 16 x 20. Stretched canvas on a frame also makes installation easier.
1. Tape freezer paper to any surfaces you’ll be propping your canvas on while you paint. Paint canvas chosen color. Allow to dry.
2. On a paper plate, or roller pan, pour large puddles of each chosen color and glaze. Dip brush into lightest color first and glaze, then heavily spread across top of canvas. You will want thick application. Repeat process with each color, dipping brush into paint and glaze each time.
3. Stand canvas up and spray water directly in the paint just applied. Watch as it runs. Continue spraying until you get the striped aged look you want. Prop canvas up to dry. Although we’re showing this project with a piece of art, just think how much better any decoration will look, highlighted upon its own custom wall!
Make your autumn dÃ©cor last until the end of November.Â To accomplish this, gravitate towards a more natural look rather then a spooky one.
Create a colorful fall landscape by mixing in an assortment of pumpkins and gourds into your flowerbeds. Your front porch does not have to be the only focal point this season. All you have to do is mix and match different varieties of gourds and pumpkins into a simple design.
Their vibrant colors will out shine any flower. Remember fall is about âharvestâ so the more the merrier.Â Be creative and create your very own custom layout.
Even over sized Prize Winner pumpkins scattered here and there in a landscape will look like your very own pumpkin patch.Â These oversized pumpkins are big enough to be seen tucked into any overgrown garden.Â Mix the colors orange and white for more visual impact.
Live life to the fullestâ¦..
Just when you thought you were out of ideas for garden decor, Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens comes to the rescue with a unique and festive way to jazz things up. Here, a fun and easy how-to for bottle stars. We love this idea for outdoor entertaining.
This is a great project for the outdoors, to dress up any patio, deck, or as a garden accessory.
You will need: assorted wine bottles, 4 rolls of paper towels (to use as braces) and clear silicone household sealer.
1. Apply sealer to bottom of one wine bottle as shown. Repeat with three more bottles.
2. Attach bottles together as shown, making sure sealer is touching all surfaces.
3. Apply sealer to another bottle in center of grouping; allow to dry.
4. For next layer, lay a roll of paper towels as a brace between bottles. Add sealer to bottom of bottle and glue as shown; repeat for three more.
There are many uses for your bottle star. You can tuck it into the branches of your trees or hang upside down from tree limbs as an outdoor chandelier.
Or as I have in this fabulous planted container.
To make this, you will need: One bottle star, 18-inch pots (ours is Terra Cotta), potting soil and assorted annuals.
1. Place star on top of container that is full of soil.
2. Plant annuals between bottles, the more plants the better! Display to show off!
With all the choices out there in the world of Christmas decorations, just stay true to yourself and let your home dictate your holiday dÃ©cor.Â Some of us love lots of netting and glitzy ornaments, Â and then there are others, like myself, that love a more simple and natural look. Save money and shop in your own yard. You will be amazed at the abundance of natural greenery that you will find.Â Boxwood, holly, cedar and most other evergreens will work.
For those of you who donât have time to wonder all over your landscape, shop at your Â âmom and popâ garden centers forÂ plenty of fresh cut evergreens during the holiday season.Â Â Look for fresh boxwood, eucalyptus branches, variegated holly, cedar, spruce and so many other choices.
Eucalyptus branches arranged Â in an old iron urn become a masterpiece on a dining room table.Â A crown of English Boxwood branches adorning the head of a lion sculpture is stately, yet so simple.
Garland cascading down a stairway dressed with deer antlers and pinecones whispers Merry Christmas.
Even pinecones suspended by silk ribbon in a window are all you need to suggest that the holiday season is upon us.
Landscape shrubs in glazed containers are the perfect choice to decorate a mantel piece.Â Use topiary Blue Spruces in glazed pots to add balance.Â If you add fruit, such as tangerines, the pop of orange makes for the perfect tree skirt.
Less dÃ©cor netting and oversized ornaments and more natural materials is the perfect way to make your Christmas decorations stand out amongst years past.
Happy Holiday and Live Life to the Fullest,
Now you can have your melon and eat it too! Our resident garden expert, Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens, shows you how to use the summertime favorite in your exterior decor. Just one more reason to throw a party!
When I think of summer, I imagine a tasty cold slice of watermelon. Watermelons are ready for the picking in summer, and they are not just for eating. Why not decorate with them???
Create that perfect centerpiece for your next summertime function. All you have to do is slice your melon into two halves. Then divide that half into two more halves. Take each of the quarter slices and remove about 8 inches of meat from the center. Then slip in place of the missing melon flesh, a pre-moistened piece of floral oasis foam. Now you have the perfect base for a summer arrangement. Just use flowers like colorful zinnias right from the garden, blue thistle, vibrant mums, and even fresh foliage. This arrangement should last for about 4 or 5 days.
Hereâs another idea for you!!! Take an assortment of color watermelons and tuck them around your potted containers and even in the garden as you would pumpkins in the fall time. Create groupings of two or more melons. They will last for only about 2-3 weeks outdoors before turning to mush. Watermelons can become that perfect summertime accessory for your patio, deck, or landscape.