Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

I have a spot in my backyard garden where nothing will grow. It’s near the path and the sprinklers just won’t reach it, no matter how I  configure the nozzles. I decided to find a Buddha statue to place there but have had little luck finding just the right size and style that I really liked. Then, while my daughter and I were in Leavenworth (where we were supposed to be purchasing Christmas gifts for friends and family) I saw it.  Exactly what I had envisioned for the bare patch!

I will be placing it in the garden when the weather warms up, but for now here it is by the fountain. Black & White, or Color? Either way I am happy with it 🙂




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Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

The bees have been very busy in my backyard this summer! Now I am not sure what to do with this nest.


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Black and white photo of a yellow jacket nest



Color photo of the yellow jacket nest

Any suggestions?

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Gardening Update, 3 Months Later!

A few nights ago we hosted a party at our house. This was a reunion for our yoga retreat friends. You may remember that my husband and I went to Santiago, Mexico back in January to attend a yoga retreat lead by my hubby’s favorite yoga instructor. We had an amazing time snorkeling, sight seeing, eating and, of course, doing lots of yoga! I created several posts which you can see here, here and here. 

In fact we had such a great time that we have already signed up to go again in January of 2018! Our hosts who are americans living in Mexico, Bill and Susan, were visiting in Seattle this month and we couldn’t resist the urge to get “the band” back together again. We offered our home for the 20 or so folks who attended either the first retreat week with us or were part of the second week group. Since I was responsible for the desserts you might expect that this is a food related blog post. I did post an Instagram picture of my little sugary creations.


top left: Lemon meringue flower tarts, top right: Berry white chocolate mousse cookie cups, bottom left: Peanut butter chocolate fudge, bottom right: Salt caramel cheesecake bites. I also made some appetizers and potato herb dinner rolls.

But this post is not about the food! Everyone who came to our house that night had never been here before. We saw our home through new eyes which is always a delight. It is so easy to take what you have for granted when you view it day in and day out. But our guests were so complementary about our home and, in particular, our garden and backyard that I began to take notice myself. I realized it has been awhile since my last garden post in which I shared the status of the new spring plantings and planter boxes that I hung along the fence line. So, here we go WARNING: lots of pictures!

We have three of these large pots, one on the deck and two on the patio below. I chose coleus plants and sweet potato vines, in varying colors for each pot.

This is one of the two on the patio. The hummingbirds love this red plant (don’t remember what it’s called!)

The hydrangeas are doing particularly well this year. They line the stairway down the side of our home and lead into the patio.









Do you remember what the planter boxes looked like back in April? Ya, me neither! Here they are.

old photo

And now….





What a difference in just three months! I also put two other planters (which I did not build but purchased and painted) on the adjacent side of the fence line. They also filled in nicely.



In fact, the entire garden has filled in!


This is a pathway (that leads nowhere really) from the side of our patio.



Same pathway as viewed from above

These plantings fall under the category of “trying to attract more hummingbirds”. It does seem to be working as we now have two fighting over territory of the yard.








Other plants were chosen for their color or uniqueness.



love this purple color




This is a banana leaf plant and will be huge in August


Others were selected to help with weed control, to serve as ground cover, but I still wanted variety and color.


The garden really has come a long way. I am happy with the overall look, but will still be tweaking things here and there. After the third growing season I can see that some plants need to be thinned, or removed all together. Of course there is the constant weeding! I am going to try to remember to take a step back and enjoy the surrounding and attempt to avoid the tunnel vision I often acquire when I work in the yard. After all, the point is to enjoy the fruits of our labors and not just look for more flaws, right!

We also recieved a lovely bouquet of flowers from one of our guests, so I would like to leave you with some pretty images of lilies and dahlias.





Thanks for reading this far! Enjoy the summer while it lasts and I wish you all good fortune!

Spring Planting and a Photography Assignment

It has been quite awhile since I posted in this category. The biggest stumbling block has been our erratic weather that is the norm this time of year. If we manage to get a day without rain I have to choose between running and yard work, often running wins that debate. But, lately we have managed to eek out a few days with not just dry weather, but some sun to go along with it! Spring is slowly trying to make its way into the Pacific Northwest, so I have finally been able to weed, clean and plant in the yard.

This time last year I custom built planter boxes for our fence line. I described how I made them from small palettes in a previous post, these were stored under our house during the winter.  Now it was time to pull them out, check for damages and fill them up!


The repairs were minor for the most part, a few staples and some cleaning were all that was required. I am fortunate enough to live near some beautiful nurseries, one of which is Flower World in nearby Snohomish County. The selection is enormous and the prices are really good, compared to other nurseries in this area. Which is really important because I need 72 plants to fill these four containers! I also have several large pots that require several annuals each-you can see how the price tag goes up really fast! You can see one of those pots on my home page. So, Flower World was my first stop.

flower world

This would be enough for a great start!

When it comes to organizing the plants I have to really pay attention to the height the plants will be in a few months. I try to put the tallest along the top rows, middle and low growers on the second and bottom tier, and some trailing varieties in the corners of the lowest portion. Of course, I try to mix up the colors, but that doesn’t always go as planned.

I started by lining them all up and sorting into height categories, then figured out how to divide the colors among the four planters.

I plant them at the fence, so that they can be lifted into place as they get fairly heavy when full of plants, soil and water.








Everyone is fairly small now but in a few months the boxes will be full and, hopefully, colorful.

So, what about that photography assignment? Well, I have been taking a digital photography class at a nearby college, in their continuing education program. It is 7 weeks and we have completed the third class now. We have had a number of assignments designed to help us learn the various functions of our cameras, I am really learning a lot! One of the biggest lessons for me is how to use the aperture priority function for more control over my compositions. Another big help has been the white balance function, which is usually set on cloudy around here! Our instructor assigned us the task of taking 15 photos of our backyard, and has challenged us to take a different perspective. So, I decided to photograph the fence line where these planters are mounted. Sort of a “squirrel’s view” of the fence when they run along the top, which they do often!




In a few weeks I am heading to the Washington coast to take some landscape shots, complete with tripod. This should be interesting!

Botany and Brunch in Phoenix!

I have mentioned before that we lived in the high desert for six years in Southern California. We were incredibly busy during that time and I really didn’t have the luxury of wandering the desert and looking at the flora or fauna. Now that the kids are grown and on their own we decided to revisit the desert through calmer, more leisurely eyes. We went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona yesterday. I wasn’t sure what would be worth seeing since it is winter, but there were plenty of blooms and impressive succulents to make the trip a success. There is no way to capture the entirety of the ecosystem that would do it justice, so I tried to focus on plants that are unique or dramatic in some way.  And, no I don’t know the names of any of them! I am a molecular biologist not a botanist. I can extract their DNA but that is the extent of my plant based knowledge.

The park is divided into 5 distinct loops, or trails and each has a main theme. Desert plants found around the world, those that are used for food or medicine, ideas for succulents in your landscaping at home, desert wildflowers and a vista loop with uniques perspectives and views.  I guess I will just jump in!





















There were several sculptures and water features in the various gardens as well.











This sun dial was on time












These seed pods were horseshoe shaped















Remember when I mentioned fauna?


This bird appeared to be nesting on the ground. You cannot see from this angle, but its wings were spread out as if it was roosting.


We were told that some birds will hollow out a portion of the larger cacti to nest in or for protection.


Do you see both birds?

Remember when I mentioned the trail with the great views?






We were finally done and on our way out of the gardens when a couple other interesting sites popped up!


Touch down, Seahawks!




These last two pictures are of Dale Chihuly Glass sculptures that mark the entrance/exit to the park-just beautiful!


We spent a couple hours hiking around the park and we were good and hungry. We headed over to the Biltmore Resort for Sunday Brunch, which was being served in their Wright’s Restaurant.img_0509

This was quite the spread! Included in the price of the brunch was this all you can eat buffet that included the mussels, shrimp, crab claws, smoked salmon and capers that you see above. What you do not see is the rest of the cold buffet and the dessert bar, both of which were extensive! Additionally there were hot items made to order (also included in the cost of the brunch). I chose the chipotle maple glazed pork with farrow, golden raisins, grilled broccolini and sunny side up egg.


As good as this was, it was nothing compared to my second choice! Blue corn pancakes with jalapeño, lime and mexican creme. Beyond delicious!


Another amazing taste was from the cold buffet. I had a smoked salmon bowl, with pickled vegetables, mandarin orange and salmon roe.


Of course I had to leave some room for dessert. There were many great options but I took only two small bites to sample. A salted caramel cheesecake and the raspberry chocolate macaron, and coffee of course!


Both desserts were outstanding! Now that we were replenished from our morning, my husband and I set out to check out the Biltmore Resort grounds.




The resort had an 18 hole putting course that we had fun practicing on. I didn’t too bad that day!


We could have played a game of chess on this giant outdoor chess board, but golf was our first choice.

Then we saw the pool! This is hard to forget-just stunning and so inviting!





We finally wrapped up a very busy and incredibly fun day! If you are in Phoenix you are going to want to hit up the Desert Botanical Gardens and Wright’s Restaurant at the Arizona Biltmore Resort!

A few last beautiful images!





Fall Gardening in Seattle



Fall and winter gardening in the Pacific Northwest can be quite challenging. It’s often dark, raining and the ground alternates between muddy and frozen. We never really know what the day will bring. Right now I am cutting back bulbs and grasses which is not very exciting. Today I would like to roll back the calendar to last spring and tell you about a project that I completed in our new backyard.

We had lived in our house for ten years when we finally decided to hire a professional landscaper to design our backyard. There is a picture of the finished product on my home page. I am extremely fortunate to be able to afford such a large scale project. This was not cheap or fast! It took the better part of a year to complete, but in the end, we loved the finished project.


This is how the yard looked shortly after the last of the furniture arrived. The designers had wrapped up and I was waiting to see how the new plantings would fare. Most of the foliage did well, but several plants died off due to an extremely hot summer that year. I had to replace a number of them and while I was waiting for the garden to mature, I was struck by how the fence loomed over the space. It seemed like an opportunity to create some interest in the yard. My friend and I had attended the annual flower and garden show  earlier in the year, and vertical gardens were everywhere. Many of them had been crafted from palettes as shown below.


standard vertical garden palette

This is a great idea, however, this palette is far to large and heavy for my fence. I needed to find a more suitable size for our yard. My friend suggested using the palettes that are used to ship paper products as opposed to the larger ones more often found in supermarkets and warehouses. Her neighbor happened to work at an elementary school that had copy paper shipped on those smaller palettes. Here is a picture of one that is very similar to those I ended up utilizing.


Small palette

My friend was able to get four of these for me, free of charge.

Even though this is a smaller palette, I was still concerned about the overall weight, which would increase with soil, water and plant material. I did not want to damage my fence and I did not want to permanently anchor the planters to the structure. We have heavy winds and rainfall so I needed to be able to take the vertical gardens down after the summer growing season. I removed two of the cross boards to lighten the structure. I painted the palettes so they would match the brown beams on our patio. That took several coats for some of the palettes as they were well used by the time I came to own them. I used landscaping material to form the back and the pockets of the individual shelves.



This cloth worked great because I could use a staple gun to secure it to the palette and it allows for drainage from all the levels when watering. It is quite strong and did a wonderful job protecting the surface of the fence.

My next, and biggest hurdle to overcome, was how to mount them on the fence. After a lot of thinking, and several trips to Home Depot, I decided to add L brackets to the back, top portion of the planter. This would allow me to align the top of the planter with the upper, and stronger, beam of the fence.


Then, to secure the planter so it would not slide off the top, I inserted a long bolt into the last hole of the bracket and secured it with a nut. This design proved to be surprisingly stable. The planter never tipped or slide on the top of the fence.


Then it was finally time to fill all four planters with a variety of colors. Each row would comfortably hold up to six plants. I tried to vary the heights with the pocket size in mind.


Each of the four planters had a different but complementary look. Then it was time to lift!

I was quite please with the finished result. You can see the difference when you look at the side be side comparison.

This is a different angle but you can see the fence with and without the planters.

The rest of the fence needed some attention too.


I purchased a few other vertical gardens that I am particularly happy with-and I didn’t have to make them!


This black planter held most of my herbs this summer. It is quite heavy as it takes a large quantity of soil, and is secured to the fence with four medium screws. It left some rather large holes in the wood. I will have to reassess its value next spring.

And finally, I purchased these two vertical planters in plain wood and then painted them to match the others. These are sold as indoor wall vertical gardens, but I don’t think I would be comfortable mounting them inside the house. They are fairly messy and did great outside. Each of these holds 10 small plants and they are secured to the fence with two small screws and a brace that allows the planter to slide into position. These were not heavy, which was a nice bonus after all that work!