The Impatient Gardener: May 2010

27 May 2010

Christmas in May

Few days are so bad that coming home to find this sitting on your porch doesn't make you forget all your troubles:

And the only thing more fun than tearing into that box, is tearing into that box when you have no idea what's inside. I'm participating in the Proven Winners garden writers plant trials, so the nice folks over at Proven Winners sent me a box of plants to try out and report back to them about later in the summer. Some of them, like the three Pretty Much Picasso petunias, are widely available at garden centers, but most of them are not due to be released until next year. It was quite a selection!


There are a couple that I'm particularly excited about, and I'll keep you updated on their progress as the summer progresses.

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26 May 2010

Kitchen reveal delayed

So, I know I promised to reveal our partial kitchen makeover soon, but a bit of wrench has been thrown in that plan. Remember how the sneak peek looked a couple weeks ago? Allow me to refresh your memory. Here it is:

I wanted to get a nice set of pictures to show you the rest of the kitchen and I was waiting until I'd be home during daylight to get them. Unfortunately, things have been held up a little because here's how the sneak peak looks now:

Seems that we had a bit of an "incident." Fortunately it'll be taken care of soon and I hope to post pictures soon. Hang in there (unlike my light did)!

20 May 2010

Studying up on herbs

I've spent most of my free time this week studying. I've been spending a lot of time with this book:

In my experience the guides published by DK are the best around, particularly their travel guides which cost much more than their competitors but are so much better, particularly for places where you don't speak the language. (They show pictures of everything, including the most commonly served dishes, which is incredibly helpful).

Anyway, back to herbs. Saturday is our master gardeners' annual heirloom plant and herb sale, which might be better described as a three-hour dash for plants. We sell about 11,000 heirloom vegetables, herbs, heirloom roses and "passalong" plants dug from members' gardens, from 9 a.m. to noon. People line up before 7 a.m. to get in with the first wave (it resembles the dash into Wal-Mart on Black Friday). For a glimpse of the set-up scene last year click here.

This year I'm a "table captain" at a table where we sell a lot of herbs that don't easily fit into other categories. And while I love growing herbs, I'm no herb expert, so I've been researching some of the plants that are sold on my table so I can answer people's questions. You can download a list of the plants we're selling here.

The sale itself is quite a production, and after a group of volunteers sets up tables today, I'll report to the university gym where we hold it tomorrow at 7 a.m. to start unloading all the plants. Saturday will be the same time. (I'm not sure what forces in nature or caffeine will allow me to wake up at 5:30 a.m. two days in a row, but we'll find out.)

If you're in southeast Wisconsin, don't miss the sale on Saturday. If you're not, think about picking up that book ... it's a great guide.

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17 May 2010

Guest post: You can build it, really!

I'm so excited to be swapping guest posts with Rayan at The Frugal Designer today. Rayan is a mega overachiever who can help you build the most amazing furniture, finish that furniture (wait until you see my kitchen table, which Rayan has been holding my hand through the process of finishing), help solve your garden or home design dilemnas and more. And she does it all with a 2-year-old in tow!

If you love this plan, make sure you check out her other plans (my favorite is this potting bench) and leave a comment here about what you think!

And now ... heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Rayan!


Hi Friends!  Rayan, the Frugal Designer here!  So excited to be with you all today and participating in this Blog Swap with my girl Erin!  Hope you like my post below and that you will come visit me at my site some time soon!  I would love to have you all, cuz if you are her must be fabulous!

Build it plans

This is the 4th piece in a 4 Piece Series that we will complete for
our Mod Sectional.  This is the Left Hand unit and can also be used alone
as singular seating or as part of the Modular Sectional we will be
working on.

This collection is inspired by the images below along with my 2x2
Collection.  It is something of a combination of both.

For plans to the other pieces in this group click the Mod Sectional Tab below.

Mod sectional



Mod sectional

Straight cush



3" Screws - Galvanized or
Stainless is best for outdoor use

2" Screws - Galvanized or
Stainless is best for outdoor use

Wood Glue

Wood Filler  or a Paintable Silicone if you prefer


Finishing Supplies


2 - 2x3 @ 10'

4 - 1x3 @ 10'

1 - 1x3 @ 6'






Cut list

4 - 2x3 @ 27 1/2" (Legs)

1 - 2x3 @ 25" (Back Rest)

1 - 2x3 @ 14 1/2" (Leg)

1 - 2x3 @ 22" (Cross Bar)

1 - 2x3 @ 31" (Left Arm)

2 - 1x3 @ 26" (Frame)

3 - 1x3 @ 27" (Frame and left seat perimeter)

3 - 1x3 @ 25 1/2" (Supports)

1 - 1x3 @ 22" (Back Perimeter)

11 - 1x3 @ 22 1/2" (Front Perimeter and Seat Slats)

1 - 1x3 @ 28 1/2" (Right Perimeter)


**Always Pre-Drill and Counter Sink for the most
professional appearance. Check for Square after EACH step.  It will
really matter in this project.   Adhere to all safety standards and

**For outdoor use, choose rot resistant and
weather tolerable wood such as Cedar, Redwood, and Teak.  You would be
well suited to pre-drill, sand, and finish each board before assembling
to ensure complete protection and a lasting finish. 

1  Cut the Legs to size and attach the Cross Bar (Blue) between the 2 Back Legs and the horizontal leg piece (red) to the back Left Leg: Use 3" Screws, fast the Cross Bar first then and for the Leg Piece fasten from what would be the inside of the vertically standing leg .  Notice how the front Legs are standing horizontally and the back legs are standing vertically.

Step 1
2  Build the Frame: Use 2" Screws


3  Attach the Frame to the Legs: Use 2" Screws, fasten from the inside where possible and the frame should be flush with the top of the shorter Front Right Leg and the Cross Bar.

Leave about 1/2" on each side between the edge of the frame and the outside edges of the legs (the frame is smaller than the outside dimensions of the Legs as shown in the first image).

Step 2
4  Attach the Seat Perimeter: Use 2" Screws and place as shown in the diagram.

** Notice that each perimeter piece is a different length.  The Left piece (light blue) should be flush with the outside edges of the left legs.  The Front piece (green) should be flush with the front edge of both front legs.  The Right piece (dark blue) should be flush with the front edge of the front right leg and with the right outside edge of the right legs.  The Back piece should essentially sit on top of the Cross Bar and is flush with the back legs.

Step 3
5  Attach the Seat Slats: Use 2" Screws and fasten to the Supports in the frame.  Space the first several 1/4" apart and from the front and back perimeter pieces.  The center slats will be 1/2" apart as shown in the diagram.

Step 4

6  Attach the Left Arm and the Back Rest: Use 3" Screws

Step 6

7 Fill any Screw Holes, touch up as needed, add cushions (if you want) and enjoy!

Final Angle LEft

Straight cush

I hope you have enjoyed this post!  Thanks letting me visit with you all, hope to see you soon!

For finishing tips and tutorials see my

Finishing school

Finishing school

In return for providing this plan for you, I would greatly
you sharing your experiences with everyone as well as sending in
pictures of what you build so that I can show it off!

Join my Flikr Group:

**Disclaimer: Some rights reserved. Private use only. Plans from this
page are not to be used for commercial purposes or republished without
the express written consent of Rayan Turner, The Frugal Designer.

I hope to provide accurate plans, however, I cannot guarantee each plan
for accuracy. Not every plan that I post has been built and tested, so
you are building at your own risk. It
is recommended that you have a clear understanding of how the project
will fit together and how it works before beginning any project. Please
contact me if you find an error or inaccuracy so that I might fix it.

16 May 2010

Oh, the horror

I have met the enemy, and it is Alliaria petiolata.

"Alliaria petiolata."

That was all my friend's Facebook status said the other day. I instantly knew her pain.

Alliaria petiolata, better known as garlic mustard weed, is the kind of thing that can ruin your day and maybe even your summer. And many summers to come.

If you're not familiar with this insidious weed, thank your lucky stars. But then keep reading. Because the second you find it in your yard you're going to want to be prepared to deal with it.

Here's the quick rundown on garlic mustard weed. It is native to Europe and was brought to America for use as a culinary herb. Unfortunately it escaped the confines of the kitchen garden and has been taking over ever since. It is a biennial which makes it extra tricky to get rid of: even if you are particularly dedicated one year to getting rid of it, baby plants are lurking to strike the next year. Perhaps the worst part of garlic mustard week is that it produces a chemical that essentially poisons the soil, so that native plants cannot thrive and eventually the garlic mustard weed takes over.

 The area by the bird feeders is full of garlic mustard weed, but fortunately it pulls out easily.

Obviously it must go. The only good news about garlic mustard weed is that it is easy to pull. The best time to pull it after a rain, when, as long as you grab it near the crown, it will pull right out, along with its big tap root. Try to pull it before it flowers, and before there's seed to be spreading around. Pull it and put it straight in a garbage bag. No composting or burning this puppy. And don't be tempted to do what I've been known to do: pull it and lay it on the ground until you can collect it. If it has flowers, it can still spread the flowers just laying there. In fact those nasty little seeds can stick to pant legs, dogs and your shoes, so you'll be tracking the stuff everywhere.

 Don't be fooled by that dainty white flower. This is one white accent you DON'T want in your yard.

Since garlic mustard weed pulls so easily, it is really the easiest way to tame it. Relatives pay kids $1 per bag of weeds to pull it (although as they get older, the kids have wised up and are charging more). The good news is that you CAN make a dent in an infestation. The bad news is that unless all of your neighbors work equally hard, there's almost no way to eliminate the problem because of those nasty seeds.

But one thing is for sure, if you don't do anything, eventually it will ruin your landscape. So get to work!

And just in case you subscribe to the "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" mantra, give these garlic mustard weed recipes a try. But don't bother telling me how they taste ... after pulling hundreds of bags of the stuff over the last several years, I don't even want to think about it, much less eat it!

12 May 2010

A sneak peek

I am OH so close to revealing my mini kitchen redo, although after six months of talking about this I'm not sure it can be called "mini" anymore. I'm very excited about it so until I put the finishing touches on it (and it stops being so lousy outside that I can get some decent pictures) I thought I'd give you a little peek.

11 May 2010

The lone flowering tree

We only have one flowering tree in the yard. It's a Serviceberry, which is a lovely, tough-as-nails small tree or large shrub. It's commonly seen around here in its multi-trunked form in parking lots, hellstrips and other places where it can be planted and left. In our yard it's the corner piece to what I call the "main" garden, and it was a gift from my mother-in-law shortly after we bought the house. That means it has been here for about seven or eight years and it has really grown in that time. With its dainty flowers it's not as impressive as many other flowering trees, but I like its form and it looks great all year long

If you're a regular follower of this blog, you saw it last year, but since it's my only flowering tree, you get to see it every year (whether you like it or not)! This picture was taken last week, when it peaked on Wednesday and Thursday and by Sunday the show was over. A fleeting display, but oh, so worth it.


09 May 2010

A new favorite

I have a new must-have for my garden. This is the first year I've grown Allium 'Ivory Queen'. She's just poking up now so I've not had the opportunity to see the flower yet, but I'm already so enamored with it that the flower almost doesn't matter. Thick, deep blue leaves are emerging. They look a bit hostalike but more blue than even the bluest hosta. I'm so happy I put three of them front and center off the patio.

04 May 2010

How to plant a rockin' window box

I'm a bit obsessed with window boxes these days. I think they are so charming and can cure a multitude of house exterior sins. If I were selling a house, I think a window box would be right up there on the must-do list for curb appeal.

So, you might wonder, why am I just now putting a window box on my own house? I'll be honest, I never even thought of it before. But then I was studying this drawing of the house (showing an exterior elevation of the house for some work we hope to do later in summer) and I was incredibly bothered by the fact that one of the windows is shorter than the others. It's the kitchen window behind the sink, so it makes sense that it's not as tall as the others, but from the outside it just looks wrong. Perfect spot for a window box! Once it's installed and planted, I don't think you'll notice the shortness of it nearly as much. Plus, our house's all-white exterior is a bit, um, boring, so a little color would go a long way.

See that short window in the middle? Does it bother you as much as it bothers me? I think it's begging for a window box.

I love looking for container inspiration, so I've been enjoying my hunt for great window box ideas. And even though I've never planted a window box, I know what I like and I can definitely tell what's not quite right, just from studying photos of them. So here are a few design concepts to keep in mind if you're going to be planting a window box.

1. The more window boxes you have, the simpler the design should be. Window boxes are great but they are, as Tim Gunn would say, "a lot of look." If there are too many colors or textures going on, your house is going to look like the little shop of horrors. Keep your plant choices to one, maybe two or three at an absolute maximum (and then only if they relate closely to each other, such as a light pink and a dark pink petunia) and then plant every box the same. I know it's hard to pick just a few plants when there are so many great ones around, but pick one or two this year then do  something totally different next year. Just don't do it all at the same time.

 This home owner picked just one plant for the window boxes and it looks great (the plantings in the front, 
however, are a bit much for my tastes).

2. The higher your window boxes are, the simpler, and "bigger" the look should be. Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' is a great container plant, but its fine texture will be completely lost in a window box mounted 15 feet in the air. Better to stick with a big, bold petunia or geranium.

 Keep it bold and simple if it's going to be on an upper story.

 This is a gorgeous window box perfect for a lower window where it's fine texture can be appreciated.

3. Thriller, filler, spiller still applies ... sort of. As with any container planting, you want to mix things up (unless you are going for a very contemporary look, in which case a line of plants all the same height—grasses grown in almost a hedge look, for example—might look very cool). The tallest plant should be in the middle and things should gradually decrease in size from there. Be careful, though, to to keep scale in mind. A very long window box with Papyrus 'King Tut' planted in the middle would look very odd (and make opening the windows very difficult.) Also, spillers should be consistent throughout the box. I saw some with spillers just on the ends and it looked quite strange. And as long as we're talking about spillers ...

 Technically, this is a railing box, not a window box, but the same principles apply. There is a nice graduated effect in this box.

Overall this is a very nice planting, but I wish there were more height in the middle. See how it's a touch taller on the sides (like a camel's back?) I just want to reach in there and yank up something in the middle to give it more height.

4. Move away from the sweet potato vine. 'Marguerite' is a hungry girl. She will eat all the other plants in your container for lunch. Sure, she'll look great for a few weeks, but then she'll get greedy. What you'll end up with is a giant blob of lime green and nothing else. Judging from the photos I found, she seems to be even more aggressive in window boxes. A better alternative is one of the new sweet potato vines that are supposed to be much more well-mannered, or Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (creepy jenny), which still offers that nice color.

 "Help, I'm being eaten alive by this giant green thing," shouted the poor geranium.

5. Repetition, repetition, repetition. (See how I repeated that?) Pick a few plants and repeat them  in your design. Whereas a patio container will look great with clumps of color, if you do that in a window box it will look off balance. Symmetry is a great thing in window boxes.

 There is WAY too much going on in this container. Keep it simple!

This homeowner REALLY likes symmetry, but this is a very simple window box (I count three different plants) that looks great.

6. Keep the conditions in mind. You can push the limits on a lot of container plants. For instance, a lot of times you can put a plant that's really interested in part sun in a very sunny location in container as long as you are committed to watering a lot. You can also shade some plants in a container with other, taller, plants growing next to them. Or, you can rotate a container to give a plant that would otherwise be shaded a bit more light from time to time. But window boxes don't move and they live in some pretty harsh conditions. Imagine how windy it can be on the top floor of house. Also, since they are against the side of the house, a northern exposure is going to get basically nothing in the way of light, whereas a container just a few feet from the house would at least get some light. My window box is going to be on the south side of the house. The south side of a very reflective white house. There is a very real possibility that I may fry all the plants to death. I plant to counteract this by using self-watering reservoirs in the box as well as making sure I pick tough plants that love sun.

 I love this full-sun container from DeWald Gardens. It has a beautiful mounding shape, sort of like an eye, that I find really pleasing. It has a huge pop of color with the coral red geraniums and purple calibrachoa (I think that's what it is). The sweet potato vine (it looks like something other than Marguerite to me) is nice and I like how they used two different varieties, making it relate but not be TOO matchy. 

7. Do what you love. I feel that containers are maybe the most personal part of a garden. More care is spent picking the plants for a container than almost any other part of the garden. Each is placed purposefully in a container and because they need so much attention, they are the plants we are most likely to study every day. So if any of all of those guidelines above don't fit with what you want to put in a window box, then ignore them! If it looks good to you, that's all that matters.

And here's what I love. These two window box plantings cover just about everything you've read above and another thing I haven't even addressed, which is changing out your plantings seasonally. Both of these are by Deborah Silver and I think they might be the best window boxes I've ever seen. Please check out her portfolio of amazing work or her awesome blog Dirt Simple.

 See what I mean about repetition? It's particularly important in a long series of window boxes like these. The height is perfect and there is the perfect amount of spillers. 

And if you thought I loved that design above, I almost can't describe my love for this planting, full of ornamental kale and cabbage (Brassicas). I WANT this window box.

Photos from, Hooks & Lattice, DeWald Gardens and Dirt Simple