Category Archives: Project

Bromeliad Kokedama

String Gardens – Create Your Own Kokedama

 

Bromeliad KokedamaKokedama:  Kokedama is a Japanese bonsai planting technique, dating back hundreds of years.  These unique hanging gardens are also called string gardens or moss balls and are incredibly easy and fun to create. Almost any plant can be used, so it’s a great project for experimenting  with different plants.

A kokedama garden is created by hanging different plants together in a cluster to create a “garden”. You might choose to group indoor houseplants in a string garden, arrange them outside, or simply have one hanging in a prominent spot.

Plumosa Fern Kokedama

 

If you don’t have a lot of space, these gardens are the perfect solution. They can even be used together seated on a beautiful tray or saucer. Kokedama are a simple, beautiful, and artistic way to display plants inside or out.

Over the years this is the method we’ve come up with for creating these simple creations. It’s a messy process but a lot of fun too.

 

 

Materials needed:

Peat Moss/ Cat Litter Mixture for Kokedama

Peat moss/clay cat litter mix

Peat moss, bonsai soil or clay cat litter (the cheapest, unscented), sphagnum moss,  green sheet moss, garden twine, fishing line, latex gloves, container filled with water – optional: cotton string.

 

Directions for soil mix and sphagnum moss:

In a large container, measure out peat moss and bonsai soil/cat litter.  Use 7 parts peat moss  to 3 parts soil/litter. Add water, mixing well, until the consistency is of soil that can be formed into a ball that will not fall apart.  Set aside. Wearing latex gloves, take a handful of sphagnum moss and moisten it in a container of water; wring out excess.

Plant prep:

Remove as much soil from the rootball of the plant as you can and set aside.

 Assembling your string garden:

  1. Take a handful of the dampened sphagnum moss and wrap it around the roots of the plant. At this point it is optional to wrap the sphagnum with cotton string to secure it. As the plant roots grow through the sphagnum, the cotton string will decompose. I don’t use the cotton string, opting to form the dampened sphagnum around the roots alone.
  2. Now it’s time to form the soil mixture around the sphagnum wrapped plant. Firm the mixture onto it, taking small amounts and pressing firmly. Try to create a round ball. Set aside.Peat Moss/Cat Litter Soil around a Portulacaria Kokedama
  3. Take a piece of green sheet moss large enough to wrap around your string garden. Set aside.
  4. Cut a long piece of garden twine or fishing line  – this will be what you wrap around the ball and secure the moss with.
  5. Wrap the moss around the ball, pulling off excess moss. Center the twine or fishing line under the ball, and begin to wrap it so the moss is secure, then tie off. Cut more if necessary. Wrap it tightly, forming a smooth ball.
  6. Cut 3 pieces of fishing line to hang your string garden and you’re done!

 

Maintaining your string garden:

Water your string garden when the ball begins to feel light, or if the plant begins to wilt. As with any other planting, you will begin to get a feel for the timing of watering. Always try to water before  your plant begins to look stressed. Soak the ball in a bowl of water until it is completely saturated. If it is hanging inside, squeeze excess water out of the moss ball before re-hanging.

 

A few plant choices for your string garden:

Inside:  ivy, pothos, bromeliad,  fittonia, pilea. Outside:  herbs, ajuga, carex, succulents.

Some observations I’ve made on string gardens I’ve planted and maintained:

The plants in a string garden do seem to “bonsai” themselves simply by the virtue of having the roots so constricted. The theory behind the moss ball and the plant becoming “bonsaid” is that as the roots begin to grow out of the moss ball the roots actually “air prune” themselves, thus keeping the plant small.Orchid Kokedama

Obviously, with the peat/bonsai soil mix, the ball will dry out, so keep an eye on it. It may work best to try plants that aren’t too demanding at first  – bromeliads, succulents, and such.

Play around with the types of string/twine wrap you use – I’ve used light weight colored wire as well for a fun “artsy” look. Another idea is to find a natural netting of some sort to wrap around the moss and tie it on with clear fishing line… there are so many creative possibilities. The bottom line? Choose a plant, and have fun!

Want to make one with us? Join us Saturday, March 16th, 2019 at 10:30am for a “make and take” workshop. Give us a call at (205) 870-7542 to reserve your spot.  Fee: $35   You’ll make your own and take it home!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

                                   

                 

 

Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

A Repurposed Bird Tree For the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden

Better Late Than Never GardenAs usual, the ‘Better Late than Never’ pollinator garden received very little attention through the holiday season, other than a much needed clean up that included cutting all the dead vines off the two arbors, pulling out spent summer annuals, and giving it a good raking.

It’s been a sleepy little garden since then, though the winter seedlings of larkspur and some bachelor buttons have appeared – along with more than a few weeds.  I’ve only seen a few poppies; I hope they’re just slow to come up this year.

January days at the shop are also filled with mundane tasks – cleaning, completing inventory, and, just like everyone, trying to get rid of the last of the Christmas tree needles that never seem to all quite go away.

In fact, we still had one very large Christmas tree to be disposed of after Christmas. It lay on its side in the nursery, a sad leftover from the holiday season. What a shame it was never decorated or showed off pretty wrapped gifts under its branches, I thought. Contemplating this, I eyed the tree. Then it occurred to me that I could use it in the little garden across the street.

Yes, I’d decorate it for the birds.  It would have a purpose, and I’d feel better about the whole situation. Enlisting Bert’s help to cut the top out of the 9’ tree I ended up with about a 6’ section that he put up on a tree stand for me. It was perfect!Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

The next day I strung popcorn on raffia, took apart an old scarf I never wore so the yarn could be used for nesting material, and made a list of things to buy for the tree or use from the shop.

There were pinecones that I tied yarn around to hang, smeared with peanut butter, and rolled in bird seed. How many of you did that as a kid and have long forgotten about it? It’s just as messy as I remember…thank goodness for latex gloves!

Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never GarenYarn threaded through cut up pieces of orange slices added more color to the little tree, and pieces of cotton from an old wreath added fluff for their nests. I worked on it  all morning at the nursery, then when it was finished Alyson and I loaded it onto the cart and rolled it to its place of honor in the garden.

I stood there surveying the little tree standing in front of the white fencing, hoping the birds would make their way back to our bare winter garden and discover my gift to them. How nice it would be if the community would add to the little tree too, I thought.

With this in mind I walked across the street to the library and then on to the Chamber of Commerce, asking them to spread the word about the Christmas tree with a new life in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ pollinator garden and that anyone was welcome to participate.Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

I’m tickled with our repurposed tree for the birds in the little pollinator garden on the corner and hope you like it too. If you’re walking by, take a minute to admire the Christmas tree that became something even better, the symbol of a good and hopeful way to begin the new year. Just maybe you’ll see some happy feathered friends, too.

By Kris Blevons 

 

 

 

Fall Inspiration With Pumpkins And Gourds As A New Season Begins

Late Summer Kris' GardenIt sure hasn’t felt like fall, but sooner or later the temperatures will begin to drop, the days will become shorter, and summer’s heat will finally give way to perfect days when we all want to spend as much time outside as we can.

That’s when we look at each other and say, “We are so lucky to work outside!” We’ve been looking forward to this, and with the arrival of pumpkins, gourds, and fall decorating staples, we are willing the temperatures to fall.Hanging Pumpkin/Gourd Garden

 

The hanging “platforms” shown here were used to create a pumpkin/gourd garden in the air.

Hanging Pumpkin Gourd Garden

 

 

 

 

We envision them as an elevated centerpiece for a party, hanging on a screened-in or covered porch area, or simply set in the perfect place to spotlight the abundance of the season.Pumpkins and Gourds

There are so many varied sizes, shapes and textures of gourds and pumpkins  that can be used alone or with plants for centerpieces and gifts.Pie PumpkinsPeanut PumpkinsGourdsMini White PumpkinsPumpkinsLunch Lady Gourds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply gather those you like, being sure to get enough of a selection. With so many to choose from, it’s more than likely you’ll gather more than you need!

Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangements

 

 

We use all manner of organic materials to complement them and have a customer who brings us beautiful fallen acorns to use. We add lichen, mosses, branches, burlap, and ribbon too, depending on the container.

Our succulent topped pumpkins have made a return for the season as well. If you’re in the area and would like one, give us a call!

 

 

 

Stacking pumpkins is a popular way to display them in front of your house.Pumpkin Stack

P:umpkin Stack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply find two or three that are different colors (or the same!), stack them as is or add another element like moss between them, and, voila,  you have a beautiful entrance for the season.Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

 

 

 

We are just beginning to work with the small gourds that can be grouped together in containers for tablescapes, on bedside tables in guest rooms, or on coffee tables. Make a nest of angelvine or moss and position them however you like them.Gourd/Pumpkin Arrangement

 

 

 

 

 

Our pumpkin supplier comes weekly with the best assortments hand picked for us. We hope you’ll stop in if you’re in the area!

By Kris Blevons

 

The Holidays…Making Memories

Every so often the wonderful opportunity we’ve been granted to be a brief part of our customers’ lives and help create memories for their little ones becomes clear. This moment of clarity usually happens on hectic holiday afternoons when the light is waning and the greenhouse is at its most beautiful.

On those crazy, busy days we catch glimpses between our work tasks of young families with little ones gazing at the animated Santa Claus display we put up each year. Smiling, we watch the children pet the garden shop cats sleeping there (It was their favorite spot this year!) as parents or grandparents take pictures.

 

Perhaps its because I’m getting older and my childhood memories seem more distant that appreciating this opportunity occurs to me more often. This year a family with a tiny boy in tow told me he remembered our Santa from the year before. Creating memories begins very, very young…

Memories are made in other ways too, with special decorations brought out and lovingly placed, delicate heirlooms carefully unwrapped for another season, and the “best tree ever” standing proud and tall, its lights and sparkly ornaments twinkling in darkened rooms.

A few weeks ago a favorite project reappeared, a family holiday tradition that we’ve been fortunate to have become a part of. Every year this particular family bought a new tiny elf for the children and, as their children grew older and had families of their own, for grandchildren. These elves would be brought out each season, and it wasn’t Christmas without them.

One year the owner of the elf tradition spotted a garden tray filled with tiny poinsettias, cut greens and mosses, a beautiful miniature garden that she decided would be the perfect setting for her collection of family elves. She loved it so much she brought it back the following Christmas to be “reworked” for a new season.

I look forward to seeing her each year now and enjoy creating a new garden for her elves. She told me this year her grandchildren asked her where it was.

 

It’s coming, she told them. The pictures here give you some idea of what they are enjoying this year – a river, a pond with a tire swing, and lots of places for her elves to perch.

I hope another happy memory is about to be made, this one on December 25th, when a pretty miniature garden is presented to the 11 year old girl who said it’s all she really wants for Christmas.

As I finished putting the last bits of moss in and repositioned the tiny hummingbird feeder, my mind wandered as I imagined being the young girl seeing this little garden for the first time on Christmas morning.

Smiling to myself, I stood there studying each little piece, trying to see it through her eyes.

Sometimes the memories we make are our own…

By Kris Blevons

 

A Mandala Inspired by Art

I grew up watching my mom create beautiful works of art using only a sewing needle and the colorful threads and yarns that she stitched into amazing designs on fabric.

She showed her stitcheries in a few  museum textile art exhibits, but mostly they were an artistic outlet for her and a joy for  friends and family.

 

One hot, slow summer day Jamie mentioned it would be fun to make another Oak Street Garden Shop Mandala (designs using blooms, leaves, and other materials around the shop.).

I agreed and mentioned the pieces of driftwood we’d gotten in reminded me of my mom’s stitcheries. She displayed them hung on pieces of driftwood found at area lakes where I grew up in Michigan and Wisconsin.

So we decided to try to make a mandala  in the same manner as one of my mom’s stitcheries and started out by laying fabric onto a table and positioning a piece of driftwood at the top.

 

 

Jamie began gathering colorful blooms and leaves, and I laid out stones to create the lines and forms we could work from. I remember my mom saying it was the relationship of forms that she enjoyed most.

 

 

I did mention it was a hot summer day, right? Of course that’s why it was a slow day too, perfect for a project like this. However I have to say that it might have been even hotter than normal on this particular afternoon in the greenhouse.

The table was set up up by the front door to take advantage of as much air as possible, but we had to  eventually close one of the doors because it was too breezy and nothing would stay where we placed it.

 

A few people came in looking for things here and there, and it was easy to tell the ones that didn’t really get it. “What is it?” was the usual question. “It’s a design”,  we’d answer, “using leaves and things.” “Ahh…” they’d say uncertainly and slowly walk away.

But one woman and a group of young girls were intrigued and asked what various things were and why we were making it, exclaiming that it was beautiful.

Here then are pictures of our “tapestry project” using my mom’s stitcheries as inspiration. And, whether you “get it” or not, we hope you enjoy the idea! If you like this one and would like to see some others we’ve made, look HERE. You can also click on Blog Posts,  go to Archives and use the Search feature. Just type in mandala.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Decorated Pumpkins

Decorated PumpkinIt all began with my Mother’s 85th birthday in early October. She has macular degeneration and would rather stay close to home now.

Since I am in Birmingham and she is in Wisconsin, unfortunately, with this a busy time in the garden shop business, getting together on her birthday doesn’t happen anymore.

But she is on Facebook. I decided a couple of years ago to get her a Nook that she could use to listen to audio books, thinking it would be a perfect way to open her world. It also allows her, through Facebook, to see pictures of the garden shop and my garden. It has been a joy for her, and I’m thrilled!IMG_0285

So, with this in mind, I decided to decorate a pumpkin for her birthday and put a picture of me holding it on her timeline as her birthday gift from me. I’d seen lots of pictures of succulents on pumpkins (more on that later), but I wanted something bright and happy from me to her on her milestone day.

IMG_0445I chose a bright orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin, glued some cut flowers of gomphrena and mums to it along with a couple of okra pods, added  a few succulents, and tucked moss around the edge. I even cut a couple of tiny hosta leaves. Voila, the birthday pumpkin was born.IMG_0444

 

A few days later a customer came in with a picture of the aforementioned succulent topped pumpkins. They’ve been everywhere the last few years, in magazines and various places on line.

Easy to do but requiring lots of cut succulents, I’d stayed clear of getting into the making of them. I dutifully tried to emulate the white pumpkins in her picture with the succulents we had on hand.

IMG_0446

 

When they were finished, I set them on the display steps up front, where people could see them, and decided to make a few more. Here’s how they turned out. We had a few more orders that day as people saw them!

if you’d like to make a succulent topped pumpkin, choose a pumpkin and have fun! Any kind of moss can be used. I chose green sheet moss, gluing it to the top of the pumpkin.IMG_0413

 

Purchase or take cuttings from succulents you might have growing in your garden or pots and simply glue them to the moss. Succulent experts advise misting the cuttings once a week.

It’s also fun to add other decorative elements like the okra pods I used on my Mom’s pumpkin. Try tiny pinecones, acorns, and more to add interest. It’s only limited by your imagination!

If you’re in the area, and would like us to decorate a pumpkin for you, stop in and place an order!

By Kris Blevons

 

A Flag For The Fourth

Last year’s massive “Botanical Fireworks”  Fourth of July project was pretty hard to top. This year we went a little smaller, and had some fun creating this tabletop botanical  “flag”. So far it’s made its way onto Facebook and Instagram, and after this post publishes I’ll put it on Pinterest too. How did we manage years ago without all this social media? They were simpler times, that’s for sure.

Botanical Flag CloseupIngredients for our flag project included blooms cut from the bleeding heart vine  (Clerodendron) growing around our entrance,  kalanchoe, vinca, dipladenia,  euphorbia, and geranium petals, cotton bolls and blueberries (We couldn’t resist eating some!)

Happy Fourth of July!!

By Kris Blevons

Our Fall Mandala – It’s A New Season!

Fall MandalaThe first day of fall had come and gone, and, while we’d talked about doing a group project mandala design for each season, the days kept slipping away as days do. Our summer mandala had turned out to be so much fun for us, though, that we’d been looking forward to creating another one. Well, last Friday turned out to be The Day.

Dahlia, tithonia and penisetum blooms...croton leaves

Dahlia, tithonia and penisetum blooms…croton leaves

First of all, some of you may not be clear what a mandala is. By definition, a mandala is “any of various ritualistic geometric designs symbolic of the universe, used in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation.” Another definition describes a mandala as “circular designs symbolizing the notion that life is never ending.” 

Fall Mandala While ours may not conform completely to a strict definition, this is our version of a mandala, using fruits, vegetables, seeds, leaves, and blooms of each season.

I can see how studying a mandala can be a meditative act. Almost everyone who gazed at it for any length of time mentioned continuing to see more things, and from different angles they had new observations of color, form, and texture as well.

Tacca thought it was a good spot for a nap...

Tacca thought it was a good spot for a nap…

This idea of a meditative design is an interesting one. A customer even wanted to take a picture of it for a friend about to have a baby so she could concentrate on it while she was in labor!

A snake gourd encircles smaller gourds and bittersweet with heuchera leaves, corn kernels and bulbs above...

A snake gourd encircles smaller gourds and bittersweet

With the start of our first mandala this past summer,  Jamie, Molly, and I had begun by gathering our “ingredients”.

Many people have asked whether we made some sort of design on paper before we began. While others probably can be that organized and clinical about it, none of us are, and I’m actually very happy to say there really wasn’t any planning involved in either the summer version or this one.

Tacca's playground!

Tacca’s playground!

Liam got in trouble going after the guinea hen feathers...

Liam got in trouble going after the guinea hen feathers…

So we began by gathering the things that spoke to us of fall, randomly laying them on our sections bit by bit and snitching blooms and leaves from various plants  between helping customers.

At the end of this post,  I’ll list everything we used since it may be hard to tell from the pictures. Wish you could all have seen it in person!

Pumpkins and gourds...

Pumpkins and gourds…

Fall MandalaAs we had done for the first one, we emptied the stage floor completely and laid out a backing of brown Kraft paper that all of our botanicals would be laid on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, it turned out our garden shop cats, Tacca and Liam, wanted very badly to get in on the fun again.  It seemed like a repeat of July!

In fact, the very first pieces I had chosen,  the long, dark leaves of a Pennisetum named ‘Princess’, were quite obviously cat toys in Tacca’s eyes. They both loved the fluffy, light, guinea hen feathers too. We were worried we weren’t going to get very far with this project.

Fall MandalaBut it turns out we have the perfect shop cats. Really, we do. They got bored pretty quickly with our shooing them away constantly, gave up on trying to get those wispy feathers, and strolled off to find some other adventure (or a nap) elsewhere.

Some of the first things we pulled for our fall mandala were, of course, pumpkins and gourds. The snake gourds are so interesting;  it was impossible not to use them as a dark green counterpoint to all the brighter colors of flowers and leaves.

Fall Mandala

The ‘Better Late Than Never Garden‘ added its life to our design too, as we snipped  blooms from massive tithonia plants and the last of the season’s cutting zinnias. The towering hyacinth bean vine in full bloom at the very top of the arbor is so tall it was hard to get many blooms from it,  but the beautiful shade of purple from the few we had turned out to be very pretty in contrast to the orange colored blossoms we’d already gathered.

Orange tithonia petals brighten the lacinato kale, coleus leaves, miniature white pumpkins and guinea hen feathers....

Tithonia, blue kale leaves, feathers…

Other deep hued elements like the purple eggplant with its pretty shape, the dark blooms of African blue basil, and various salvias worked well too.

A particularly pretty grouping, I thought, were blue-green lacinato kale leaves interspersed with guinea hen feathers and single petals of bright orange tithonia.  In fact, many blooms were pulled apart to use, including marigolds with their orange-red streaked yellow petals.Fall Mandala

 

 

I stand back and look, studying what we’ve made.  Hmmm….I really like the green apples against the purple eggplant but the tiny white miniature pumpkins are pretty wonderful too.

Another view...

Another view…

 

Oh, but look at the  beautiful leaves of red leaf lettuce, silvery veined heuchera, the chard’s brilliant red stems,  and that gorgeous green rex begonia. Really, it’s impossible to pick a favorite spot, so I’m going to  stop trying and just meditate on it for now…because that’s what a mandala is for.Fall MandalaFall Mandala

 

 

 

 

 

I know describing the elements doesn’t quite convey the creation of it,  which was pretty much an instinctive  process.  I can say with authority that  it is a really wonderful way to spend time, and we left it in place for a few days (Amazingly, the cats continued to ignore it!).

Lycoris bulbs, coleus leaves...

Lycoris bulbs, coleus leaves…

 

Finally, it was time to dismantle it, as the tithonia  blooms were beginning to fade, the coleus and other leaves were curling, and we needed the space for shop business again. We’re already looking forward to the next one – our winter version, in January, 2016. Stay tuned!

 

FALL MANDALA INGREDIENTS:

Tiny blooms...

Tiny blooms…


Indian corn (whole and kernels), snake gourds, mini pumpkins, gourds, green apples, purple eggplant, lycoris squamigera bulbs, guinea hen feathers, miscanthus blooms Lacinato kale, Charlotte chard, red lettuce, coleus, croton, ‘Red Giant’ mustard, ‘Silver Dollar’ maidenhair fern, ‘River Nile’ begonia, ‘Princess’ fountain grass leaves
Tithonia, zinnia, Mexican sage, ‘Deb’s Blue’ salvia, dahlia, hyacinth bean vine, viola, marigold, dianthus, forced azalea, African blue basil, agastache (Sunset series), purple gomphrena blooms
Sunflower seed heads (gone to seed), bittersweet berries
Everything either from plants, food, pumpkins, in stock or picked from the shop’s garden…

By Kris Blevons

Old Windows…Repurposed Into Wall Art

The old window had been kicking around for a few years, and we’d done a beautiful succulent planting in it. Bert had even built a planting box onto it so the plants would have more room to grow. It hung in the greenhouse for a few seasons and gave folks lots of ideas for their own vertical plantings.Old Window Repurposed into Wall Art Close-Up

During a greenhouse spring makeover the window planting was taken down.  It was propped against a wall by the clay pots where  it sat all spring. Finally this summer it was emptied out since the planting looked a bit worse for wear by this point.

Old Window RepurposedSome plants had done better than others. Those were repotted, the frame was completely emptied of soil,  and the bare frame and planting box stored behind the greenhouse.  I eyed it one hot summer day, and, having just seen some beautiful wall art …Was it on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest? I can’t remember now. But the bug had bit me, and I decided to create a wall piece using dried plant material, twigs, fabric, anything textural I could find. I had a summer project!

The first pictures show this first window turned out. It took quite a bit of time, and materials including fabric, dried sunflower seed heads, cotton bolls, birch bark, and much more. Everything is hot glued to a base of fabric and burlap. It was quite the project!Old Half Round Window Repurposed into Wall Art

A few months later my friend from Studio By The Tracks, Ila Faye Miller, mentioned she had some old windows they didn’t want any more. Fresh off my last project, I said we’d love to have them. One in particular caught my eye, a half-round window, called a lunette. I’d had so much fun creating the last window art piece I’d decided I wanted to make another.

Back at the shop, each triangular pane of glass was removed, and a fresh coat of paint was applied to freshen the old window up. Pieces of burlap were stapled to the back, creating a base that the okra pods, cork bark and other textural pieces would be glued to. Many hours later it was finished. The old window had a new purpose.

By Kris Blevons

Group Project – Our “Fireworks” Mandala

Tacca and Liam helping....

Tacca and Liam helping….

Fortunately, none of us took the admonishments  by our parents when we were young  to not play with our food too seriously. The other day we really turned our inner child loose and played with lots of veggies, fruit, flowers, and leaves to create our version of a mandala for the 4th of July holiday.

taking shape...

taking shape…

Truthfully, we hadn’t yet decided what we were going to post on Oak Street Garden Shop’s Facebook page for the 4th and when we thought of doing a big design using all our varieties of food, we knew this would be the perfect thing – our version of botanical fireworks!

Not finished yet...

Not finished yet…

Thankfully the end of June is pretty hot and there isn’t a whole lot going on as far as planting, projects, or customers. This might normally be a bad thing for business, but, on this particular day, it was actually pretty good. To top it off, we’d  come in that morning to a shop with no power since there’d been some pretty hefty storms the night before.

Close-up...

Close-up…

After we came up with the big botanical art idea, Molly grabbed lots of brown Kraft paper and laid it on the floor of one of the display stages, moving furniture out of the way to create a big space to work in.  Jamie grabbed a ladder and set it up on one side so we’d be able to take pictures of it from above when we were finished.

 

 

I began gathering various leaves that I thought would be fun to incorporate with the peaches, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, butterbeans, blueberries, corn, and more that we began to amass. Slowly we started playing, laying out various veggies and fruits in designs that caught our fancy.

 

Angie brought in some big Kong coleus leaves, and I went across the street to cut some dried dill flower heads to add to our mix of food, foliage and flowers.

Close-up...

Close-up…

 

 

From the beginning our shop cats, Tacca and Liam, had to get in on the action. In fact, the very first leaf I placed, a yucca, was immediately a cat toy for Tacca. “Uh-oh”, I thought.  “I wonder if this project is going to get off the ground?!”Vegetable Mandala - Fireworks

 

 

 

Vegetable Mandala - Fireworks

 

Liam came and went, but he was surprisingly calm, simply walking through on his way to lie down under the coffee table we’d moved out of the way.

 

 

For a while at the very start, he and Tacca lounged in open spaces not yet covered with botanicals. Finally, though, they became bored and went off in pursuit of other things…or maybe to take a nap.

Slowly but surely our project became a colorful tapestry of shapes, textures, and design, with items carefully placed just so and moved if we weren’t happy with how it looked from atop the ladder. While this project was taking shape, Pinkie was busy planting two of the cast stone head planters – but that’s for another post….

I love how our project turned out. Playing with food has never been so much fun!

Decorate Your Mailbox & Door For Christmas – Here Are A Few Tips!

Christmas - Door SwagI have to confess, where I grew up, mailboxes were at the houses, either as a mail slot in the door or physically attached to the outside of the home, and only folks in the country had mailboxes on a post at the street. Now this was actually a very good thing since it saved having to walk outside each day to get the mail,  especially on extra cold or very snowy days.  Of course, there was always a wreath, and garland with bows,  and evergreen bunches in frozen pots.

But, since moving to Birmingham, I’ve grown to enjoy having a more southern twist to decorating, using a swag on the front door with all sorts of beautiful greens and berries,  putting up garland with bows on the porch rail, and, yes, decorating the mailbox. In fact, that’s one of the things I enjoy most.

My mailbox decoration...

My mailbox decoration…

one oasis cage...

one oasis cage…

If you’d like to try your hand with your own mailbox decoration or door swag, using oasis in a cage will make the project easy, and, of course, the oasis will keep the cut material you use as fresh as it can be. Scout out your yard. Are there shrubs with berries that you can use? If you buy a real Christmas tree, save any branches that are trimmed off the bottom – they are wonderful as the starting point of a pretty decoration. I like to use magnolia, boxwood, juniper, chamaecyparis , pine, cedar, and a shrub often used in the shade, leucothoe, which is particularly long lasting when cut.Christmas - Closeup Kris' Mailbox Decoration

If  your options are limited in  your own yard, we also have bunches of greenery available through the season for you to decorate with.  From berries to greens and pinecones too, there will be enough here for you to play with! I warn you though, once you start putting your decoration together, it will be hard to stop!

Begin by soaking your oasis piece(s)  for at least an hour so the foam absorbs all the water. It will feel heavy. If you’re working on your mailbox, take a look at it.  Would you like to see your decoration attached to the post? Or perhaps you’d like to put it on top. For either of these two options, simply take florist wire through the oasis cage and around the mailbox or post. If you have a mailbox with the nameplate across the top, it’s quite easy to wire two oasis forms together, creating a “saddle” to hang on the mailbox.

Now you’re ready to begin inserting your greenery and having some fun!  Whether I’m  doing a door swag or a mailbox decoration, I like to have all my different greens, berries and pinecones laid out so I can see all my options. If there was one thing I could tell you at this point, it’s to not be afraid. If you cut a stem and it’s too long, don’t sweat it, just recut it shorter. By the same token, if you feel the stem you’ve cut is too short, set it aside; it will probably work just right in a different spot. Remember, this should be a fun project, not a test! Try to cut stems that aren’t too “fat” since those larger than an inch in diameter tend to take up a lot of room in the oasis and can tear it up, especially if you aren’t happy with your placement and pull it out to reposition it too many times. Smaller stems are better.

Mailbox decorations on display at Oak Street Garden Shop...

Mailbox decorations on display at Oak Street Garden Shop…

This isn’t going to be a do it by pictures post. I think that limits your creativity. So, I’m not going to tell you what exactly goes with what. If you like it, that’s what counts! You might choose to do your entire mailbox with magnolia because you have a big magnolia in your yard, or you may just want a small boxwood piece with ribbon. To emphasize, again – there is no wrong way to do this. Simply gather the greenery you like, and go from there. I think some of you who are unsure will be happily surprised at your creations. Have fun!

If do-it-yourself isn’t for you, we make mailbox decorations and more throughout the season.  Give us a call or stop in to place an order!

 

 

 

 

More Miniature Gardens

A succulent miniature garden...

A succulent miniature garden…

The miniature gardening trend continues, and we’re sure having fun with it. From tiny gardens in glass terrariums to a saucer planted with driftwood and a place to sit along the “water”, these little gardens spark the imagination of gardeners of all ages.

Tiny temptations...

Tiny temptations…

 

 

 

 

 

Two 20-something women walked in the other day, and one of them immediately spotted the miniature garden display. “Oh, look!”, she said excitedly. “Aren’t these cute?”  Her friend was skeptical. “Uh, sure…”, she answered. “Whatever you say.”

Tending a tiny garden...

Tending a tiny garden…

 

 

 

Not swayed by her friend’s decided lack of enthusiasm, the first started looking through the miniature accessories, oohing and aahing at each tiny piece.

 

 

A cozy spot to sit...

A cozy spot to sit…

“I want to make one of these gardens!”,  she declared. Her friend walked closer and looked at the pieces she had in her hand. “You should have a bench.”, she stated. “And look at this tub with wine bottles in it. That would be really cute, wouldn’t it?”

As I listened to them, it became quite clear that the skeptical one (I was beginning to call her this in my head.) was being completely drawn into the fun of creating a tiny world with her friend.

 

A pumpkin patch under a windmill...

A pumpkin patch under a windmill…

I walked up and started talking with them, asking if they had any questions about the miniature gardens.

The first one again said she wanted to make one and asked if I would help her because she thought it would be so much fun.  “Of course.”, I said. “It’s summer and pretty slow, I think we could put something together for you today.”

On the other side of the bridge...

On the other side of the bridge…

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the garden she made with a lot of helpful suggestions from her friend, but I can tell you it turned out really well. A red Adirondack chair, the tiny tub with iced drinks, a beach along the water, some succulents planted  in strategic places, and – Voila! – a miniature garden completed.

 

 

A broken pot is home to morel mushrooms...

Little chickens…

Soon new miniature garden accessories will be arriving, including tiny gourds and white pumpkins for fall gardens…and scarecrows too.

Meanwhile, the pictures here show some we’ve planted this summer using a windmill, tiny chickens (Everyone loves chickens!), little wooden chairs, driftwood benches, morel mushrooms, and more.

Maybe it’s time to let your inner child out…or create a miniature garden with your children. You just might get caught up in the magic like my friend, the skeptical one at the start of this post!

As with any container garden, these are designed to last as a true garden. Be mindful of the amount of light your garden will receive when you choose your plants. There are many  houseplants that work well together, including fittonia, Neanthe bella palms, and many ferns. Succulents work well in higher light and will need less water. Haworthias, aloes, crassulas and sedums are just a few of the many succulents you can use. Have fun!

Branching Out…A Teal Bowl Planting

Laying the branches...

Laying the branches…

Adding the bird's nest fern...

Adding the bird’s nest fern…

Lichen covered branches are so beautiful in their own right, but we ultimately are a plant shop and every project we create begins and ends with plants; so, incorporating these branches into our designs has been a lot of fun.

This one started with a beautiful, large teal colored glazed bowl, really very pretty all on it’s own. I chose a few lichen covered branches and positioned one upright on an angle into the potting soil and laid the other across so I had some planting pockets to work with. The ends needed just a few loose lichens and moss glued to them to cover where they’d been cut.

The trick when using something like this is in not hiding the beauty of the branch and finding plants to compliment both the color of the bowl and the added texture of the lichen as well. Of course, the plants also have to work together as far as water and light needs.

Wandering the greenhouse contemplating the choices, I decided to go the woodsy route, with ferns as the go to for this planting. So, a bird’s nest fern, Asplenium nidus; button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia; a selaginella,; and an austral gem fern, Asplenium dimorphum x difforme, were gathered.

Finished...

Finished…

The bird’s nest fern was the largest, and I placed it toward the front and tipped forward to show off its form. The button fern was the next to be placed, the austral gem fern was tucked in the back (not shown in these pictures) and, last, a small selaginella was added to the front to spill over the edge.

A smaller, more delicate lichen branch connects the two larger ones and gives it a pretty, woodsy look in contrast with the glazed container – ying and yang in a pot!

An Old Table Turned Into a Miniature Wonderland…

Molly...the beginning.

Molly…the beginning.

If you’ve kept up with some of the posts of projects we’ve done at Oak Street Garden Shop, you might realize we enjoy creating fun things as well as helping customers with plants and gardening. Our latest project started life as an old table…one that perhaps had seen better days.

Rigging the waterfall...

Rigging the waterfall…

We’d all discussed creating a larger miniature garden display using hills and had seen many miniature garden displays on various sites online through Pinterest and other places.  I showed everyone a really large display that even had a waterfall and “boulder” filled stream. Well, we wanted a waterfall too!

The cottage Jamie embellished...

The cottage Jamie embellished…

So, the idea of a waterfall and hills became the starting point. Our display would need a miniature garden house, and Jamie embellished a rather plain one with the addition of “stones” on the front and moss, lichen and succulents on its roof. Now it looked like the charming cottage we envisioned.Lauren, Adding Plants...

The Hillside...

 

 

 

 

In just a few days our sad little table became the home to a sea shell laden beach, grottos, the aforementioned waterfall, and various places to walk and sit. Little by little it grew in proportions with the addition of tiny houseplants on the right hand side of the display and succulents on the other.

Lauren's treehouse...

Lauren’s treehouse…

Lauren worked for days on the “treehouse”, starting with a piece of tree root and adding a miniature garden cottage. She slowly added more and more to this hideaway in a tree, including a pulley to haul up a case of  wine, a hammock, and a rope swing over the waterfall below. Billy helped secure it so it wouldn’t topple.  I may do a whole post on this alone!

Tiny sunbathers...

Tiny sunbathers…

 

 

 

Pinkie contributed her arts background and brought in some Sculp It!  modeling clay that Molly, Lauren and Bert used to fashion tiny figures.  Sunbathers on the beach, an entire yoga class under the tree house,  (On their yoga mats!)  a figure that looks suspiciously like owner, Billy Angell, tending the garden in front of the cottage, and more. Two rather large people – not quite in scale with the rest, but much too fun not to include, are seated at the bistro table front and center.image

Adding more plants...

Adding more plants…

Jamie and I continued to plant and add more items – a frog on a bench, a turtle on a “boulder” a birdhouse, benches, and so much more. All the while more ideas got bounced around – a customer even suggested adding a gnome – what a fun idea! People invariably made the comment that they kept “finding” more as they gazed at this miniature wonderland in progress.image

Of course we had the world of the greenhouse at our fingertips to create this – including tiny houseplant ferns, air plants, aluminum plants, Scotch and Irish moss, selaginella and even tiny pitcher plants. Plants that required the same moisture were grouped together. This meant the succulents and plants that like to be drier naturally ended up separate. Hen and chicks, haworthias and sedums were tucked in the sphagnum moss and chicken wire “hillside”.

 

Tiny tree slice stepping stones make a path to the “beach”.  Walk a little further around and it gets rockier and less “beachy”, but there’s a fire pit for a night time party…and cliff caves to explore too. Rough rock steps lead the way back up to the cottage from here.

A work in progress...

A work in progress…

 

 

The spring planting season is about to begin and people will be wandering the nursery to find plants for their outdoor spaces and planters. I hope they’ll make their way into the greenhouse with their friends and families to see our own “garden in miniature” and that it will bring a smile…

Tending the garden...

Tending the garden…

 

 

 

As you might be able to tell from these pictures, our project is not quite complete…but what garden ever is?

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Gardens As Centerpieces…

tiny cloche...

tiny cloche…

In a few short weeks Mountain Brook’s  Little Garden Club, a charter member of the Garden Club of America, will host a regional zone meeting and flower show. It will take place April, 2014, and a lot of folks are involved in planning this important event. Members of GCA clubs will be attending from the surrounding states, so there will be a lot of visitors!

Miniature Garden

 

 

 

 

Miniature Garden

I’ll be assisting with a number of others in the “passing” of the horticultural exhibits – clearing them for entry into the flower show to be judged. I was very flattered to be asked and happy to help with this event, which has been two years in the planning.

Miniature GardenWhat does all this have to do with miniature gardens, you ask? Well, these tiny gardens have been very  popular the past number of years, and the garden club organizers decided it would be a fun thing to have on some of the tables for one of their meetings. And they turned to Oak Street Garden Shop for help.

The containers we chose are metal, and they will be wrapped with aspidistra leaves to make a “Ribbon of Green”, the theme of this year’s meeting.

These pictures show how some turned out. The miniature gardens are designed to continue living as a true garden, so plant material is chosen accordingly, with only minor exceptions.

imageBecause these take a great deal of time to make, I finally gave up on waiting for new miniature garden accessories I’d ordered since my deadline to have them completed was looming…but I still had plenty of fun things to play with. If you’ve ever made one of these gardens in miniature, you’re well aware how detailed and time consuming they are.

For some of the centerpieces I chose succulents, including haworthias and sedums, which work well for tiny plantings. Pilea ‘Aquamarine’ is a low grower with a great color; it just needs clipping regularly to keep it from overrunning its neighbors.

Miniature GardenTiny pots of ordinary houseplants also work in these gardens. Little parlor palms, ferns, polka dot plants and baby podocarpus make good companions, and selaginella is a pretty groundcover.

It’s nice to have different sizes of pebbles to create paths and larger stones to create “boulders”. Can you see the turtle sitting on one?

There’s still more tweaking to do (Just like a real garden that is never “done”!), and one more not even started yet…but that story is for another post. If you’re in the Birmingham area, stop in and take a look. They’re even more fun in person!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Another Project…Medinilla magnifica, Air Plants and Bromeliads – In a Tree!

lichen covered limbs

lichen covered limbs

We’ve been creating some magic with the  lichen-covered branches and large limbs Jamie has brought in lately (They are a found treasure from an old and dying oak tree in her aunt’s yard.), and here is our latest project – giving new life to a dying tree.

Lichen Covered Tree Branches - Halfway Through ProjectThe key components are some really large limbs, swiss cheese philos that were too rootbound to remain in their plastic pots, air plants, bromeliads, and lots of helping hands!

First, a large, lightweight fiberglass pot was put in just the right spot in the greenhouse, and, with much maneuvering,  the positioning and wiring together of the 3 large lichen-covered tree limbs was accomplished. Next, we decided it needed some pea gravel to weigh it down, then added potting soil on top so the swiss cheese philodendrons would have lots of room to grow. Now we were set to play.Medinilla In Lichen Covered Tree Branches

Jamie planted the philos in the large pot and glued more lichen to the cut ends of the branches while Pinkie fashioned a planting “basket” of plastic coated chicken wire, lined with moss,  that the medinilla magnifica would live in.  In their native habitat in the Phillipines, medinillas are found high in trees, so nestled high in the crook of these limbs seemed a natural spot for it here.

One of the air plants wired on...

One of the air plants wired on…

imageWhile Pinkie planted the medinilla,  Jamie and I played with the positioning and wiring of the larger air plants and small bromeliad. It was coming together!

Finished...

Finished…

 

 

 

 

 

Base of the Lichen Branch "Tree" with Swiss Cheese Philo and Noregelia BromeliadFinally, a bright Neoregelia bromeliad with a moss wrapped pot was nestled in at the botttom for a pop of color at the base. A bit of spanish moss hanging delicately from the top limbs completed our project.

If you are in the area, come by to see our latest creation. We think it will be another fixture of the greenhouse…and one that may change with the seasons or our whims!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

Contained – In Cork…Indoors Now, Then Outside For the Summer!

I planted this cork planter the other day for a birthday celebration. This one has a double duty life ahead of it: First, as part of a happy get-together, then, later, outdoors, possibly in a shady nook for the rest of the growing season.

Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Nephthitis, Selaginella 'Frosty', Tooth Brake Fern, Bird's Nest FernThese pieces can be used either horizontally, planting along the top, or vertically, like I’ve designed this one, positioning the plants up the planter. Since it could be unsteady if it didn’t have something to stabilize it at the base, I placed it in a pulp planter that I’d covered with a layer of sheet moss. A plastic saucer underneath will protect the floor during its time indoors, then it can be used without the saucer out in the garden or on a patio, porch or other spot  that has some shade.

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella 'Frosty' nestled together...

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella ‘Frosty’ nestled together…

Because the cork has a tendency to open up as potting soil and plants are inserted, I also wrap it tightly with bark covered wire after it’s all planted and add  green sheet moss to keep everything in place. We were surprised when our first plantings gradually opened up, threatening to disgorge all the plants we’d carefully positioned, but the bark wire has been a good remedy.

Close-up Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Selaginella 'Frosty'This planting  has a variety of houseplants, including nephthytis, used for its lighter green and white foliage, rex begonias for a bit of color, tooth brake ferns and a bird’s nest fern, a  new selaginella with white tips called ‘Frosty’, and a large autumn fern in the top with angel vine spilling over the edge with one last, large rex begonia.

We’re getting in a new shipment of these cork bark pieces at the end of the month, so if you’d like to try your hand at planting one or you’d like us to plant one for you, stop in!

 

 

 

 

Found Objects – Planting Possibilities

An old window gets a new life...

An old window gets a new life…

Found objects…Have you ever come across something unexpected or in an unlikely place? Or turned a common object from one thing into another, transforming its former use into something completely different?

Found pipes...planted

Found pipes…planted

 

 

 

 

The  first happened to Jamie. On a walk she found two small concrete pipes…from what we’re not sure, but they were broken at just the right spot to make a planting pocket with a dip in the front. Serendipitous, indeed! She brought them to the shop so we could all drool over them (Yes, we all did!) and wish they were our own. Here is the planting she chose, using poppies, sedum,  variegated thyme and a touch of chartreuse reindeer moss.

succulents...

succulents…

The second is our group window project. This window had been floating around the shop for some time. Last year we did the first planting, transforming it from it’s former use, It became obvious, though, as the year went on, that it needed a planter box behind the frame so the plants could have more room to grow.

Echevarias, air plants, haworthias....

Echevarias, air plants, haworthias….

 

 

Thanks to the carpentry work of Bert, the window was transformed into a wall planter. Stuffed with moss, filled with potting soil, and covered with chicken wire, it was ready to plant!

hanging...

hanging…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly, Jamie, Lauren, Pinkie, and myself all took a pane and planted it up, pushing  various sedums, echevarias, haworthias, air plants and others that like a dry, sunny location through the chicken wire. It sat in the back of the greenhouse for a number of weeks, settling in. Our shop cat, Gracie,  discovered it at one point and smushed my pane and a couple of others. That’s when we decided to push sticks into it to deter him. It worked!

Found objects…sometimes the ordinary can become extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Plants…Great For Terrariums Or Small Containers Too!

photo (6)If you haven’t noticed, terrarium plantings, miniature gardens and anything tiny seems to be the name of the game the past few years. Growers have taken notice and now offer a wonderful variety of plants for the smallest of indoor gardening opportunities.

Mini fittonia

fittonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very little two-inch pots are just the right size for these starter plants. Some are quite easy to grow houseplants that are usually available in larger containers, and others are small succulents. Because of their diminutive size, it’s quite easy to incorporate them into mixed terrarium plantings or miniature gardens.

An assortment of tiny houseplants...

An assortment of
tiny houseplants…

Small ferns are perfect for terrariums....

Small ferns are
perfect for
terrariums….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rex begonias appreciate the humidity in a  terrarium....

Rex begonias appreciate
the humidity in a
terrarium….

For terrarium plantings, choose from many easy to grow moisture loving plants. These include ferns, fittonia, Rex begonia, aluminum plant, pilea, strawberry begonia (It’s a good perennial groundcover in the shade too!), creeping fig, and others that enjoy high humidity in an enclosed environment.

Hoya...

Hoya…

 

 

 

 

Small succulents and other houseplants, like jades and hoyas, are best used in open containers and miniature gardens.  They offer a wide range of colors, shapes and textures and are quite easy to take care of too. The hoya pictured here in the open glass container has been growing for months, quite happily!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January In The Greenhouse…

air plants have found a home in these colorful frames...

air plants have found a home in these colorful frames…

January in the greenhouse is a quiet time. Sure, there are folks coming in for a houseplant for a pot, or to pick up a few pansies to fill in their winter weary containers, but for the most part there’s plenty of time to work on projects of all sorts.

Molly created this herb sign with aluminum wire and old pallets...

Molly created this herb sign with aluminum wire and old pallets…

This month, Jamie, Pinkie and Molly, with the help of Lauren, have been painting up a storm, and the stage area has taken on a new look. Molly is also working on signs for the outdoor nursery, while Bert and Ben are  building new tables. it’s fun to change things up, and this is the time of year to do it!

a spring garden using lichen covered branches and spring flowers...

a spring garden using lichen covered branches and spring flowers…

Of course, arrangements take priority always, for customers who come in needing something for themselves, for a party or to give as a gift – and we enjoy this creative outlet too. Jamie brought in a lot of lichen covered branches, and has been using them beautifully as part of table top arrangements. They look wonderful mixed in with the bright primroses of winter, and the forced bulbs including narcissus, muscari, and soon, tulips and crocus.

pussy willow branches...

pussy willow branches…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter branches of pussy willow have been a staple too, and we’ve been adding them to orchid and foliage arrangements. Soon the greenhouse will be filled with even more houseplants of all sorts, and we’ll begin creating combinations of plantings that can be transferred outside when the temperatures warm, later in the spring.

January in the greenhouse  is spent doing chores that must be done, but also on things that are just plain fun!