Friday, July 28, 2017

Changes in Latitudes, Attitudes

We took a little trip to Naples, FL in mid-July for a change in latitude, change in attitude.
Coal barges on the Kanawha in WV; Beach chairs on the Gulf in FL
It's the third year in a row we've been to Naples. As I've said before, it's the closest place we've found to where we consider our ultimate paradise in Grand Cayman, BWI. However, it is stateside, and there's really everything (and more) to do in Naples other than scuba diving, which we still enjoy.

Some of what we love about Naples includes the place we repeatedly stay, the Edgewater Beach Hotel.
Edgewater Beach Hotel, Naples FL
 Our daily walks on the beautiful shores early in the morning can't be beat.
Daily walks on the Gulf shore at Naples
Then, we would go shopping to beat the heat.

Beautiful displays of stores we don't have at home....
Gattles in Old Naples stocks Matouk linens and Juliska china
Some with items of whimsy that may have come home. ;)
Retail in Naples includes Zazou stocking MacKenzie-Childs; Pottery Barn; and the Best of Everything which stocks good hostess gifts, souvenirs and apparel, accessories.
Around and about town, I saw various signs that caught my eye.
Signage in FL - some serious, some whimsical. Life preservers are free for use on the Naples public shore.
And from the water, we toured houses that we can't afford to buy.
Boat tour with Capt Max around Port Royal included seeing: the Honorable Judge Judy's and musicians' Rick Springfield and Jon Bon Jovi homes
Naples' Collier county landscapes abound with species tropical that easily compete with Palm Beach's, Broward's or Dade's.
Notable landscaping in Naples
But did you know in Naples they also grow mermaids??
Mermaid in Naples!
Yes, it's a rare species, that mermaid, not like the many other birds and sea creatures we saw daily!
Birds of a feather, crab, and feathery moss on Naples' Gulf shore
Just as the birds on which we would come upon would fly, we too had to say our goodbyes.

From over sea and back over land, it's ta-ta for now, until we see Naples again.
View from plane: above the clouds and over the sea; over the land (that's our plane's shadow)
If you'd like to read more about our first impression and experience in Naples, you can read this post.

We three Panoply sisters are getting together this weekend, and have a fun-filled agenda. We'll be checking out a new-to-us town for some vintage shopping, maybe an estate sale, and are planning to go to a revived, 200 year old local salt farm for a farm-to-table dining experience. We had rain all day yesterday, and it's supposed to continue through today, making way for some perfect weekend weather with cooler temps. You know what that means....thinking of what's soon to come....
Thanks for your visit! Feel free to leave your comments.
Rita C. at Panoply

Monday, July 24, 2017

Weeping Cedar Atlas Plant - Garden Specimen Plant

Whether you've planned a garden from scratch or just planted things disregarding any plan, one thing sure to make you happy in the garden is having some sort of specimen, or focal, plant. Sure, there are other types of focal points in the garden that are great to have, but I'm talking about the kind of eye-catching, show-stealing star of your garden's plantings. It may be a flowering plant, it may be a tree, it may have year-round interest, or may be a short display in one season.
Many of you made mention of a particular plant in my garden in my Mid-Summer Garden Blooms, Views post from the photo I shared (below). This plant - a weeping [blue] cedar Atlas - was purposely chosen as a garden specimen, or focal, plant, with the future growth characteristics in mind when we planted it in 2004. Today's post is all about that shining star in my garden, and how it's changed over the last 13 years.
The weeping blue cedar Atlas' preferred USDA hardiness growing Zones are 6-9. This and other weeping blue cedar Atlas plant facts are summarized at the end of this post. Below is a photo of how our weeping cedar Atlas appeared nine months after being planted (August, 2005). In 2004, our area was USDA hardiness rated as Zone 6b; in 2012 it was rezoned as Zone 7a. There is a single stake supporting the plant, and a few strategic anchors in the brick wall. Notice the sinewy, snaking trunk, a feature of this specimen that only gets better with age.
The photo below puts our original landscape garden into perspective. The weeping cedar Atlas is on the left side of the frame below (The Japanese maple planted just beyond the weeping cedar looks like a bush. The mature, very tall and colorful tree in the background is our sassafras, growing on the riverbank across the street.). Look at all that space in the garden among plantings. This is an example of avoiding a very typical pitfall of many who do plan/plant gardens. We planned for the maturity of the plants and space needed in our landscape garden plantings to avoid wasting money having to necessarily pull plants within just a couple years as a result of overgrowth.
I said in my previous garden post it is very hard to capture the weeping cedar Atlas in its entirety, as it now spans over 24' across the brick on the west side of our garden wall. I stood on a bench inside our courtyard, about 50' away, to get it all in the lens. This is our weeping blue cedar Atlas, nearly 13 years after the original planting. The draping, twisting branches are one of its noted features.
The main trunk of the weeping cedar Atlas has also grown in thickness. The photo below was taken in 2015, as seen from standing in front of the plant. The sinewy trunk is even more outstanding now, with an obviously more burly appearance than when first planted.
The photo below is a trunk shot taken this year (2017), as seen from underneath, behind the draping growth. It resembles a snake the likes of an Anaconda python, doesn't it?!
Another shot, as taken from below/behind, looking upward, with the brick supporting wall at the top of the frame. This shows the branches above and beyond the main trunk. Yes, I was totally crouched beneath to get the shot.
The following photo shows the profile of the plant. Notice the Japanese maple behind the weeping cedar. When comparing this shot to the one above showing the original planting, it's pretty amazing to me every time I review the then and now photo. We limit our plant to within the depth of the mulch bed, not to extend into the lawn (or much behind the wall).
The photo below is how the weeping cedar appeared in the winter of 2014. This shot demonstrates the year-round seasonal beauty of our specimen plant. Snow on the branches really defines its shape! The branches to the far right only extended to the top edge of the frame at that time, and now they touch the mulch in the ground below (compare to the full-length photo earlier in this post). I can count five different stakes standing vertically along the plant, supporting and training its growth. The stakes, in some cases, now consist of 1" galvanized pipes with t-fittings in order for the branches to better cascade.
The detailed photo below shows the cones of the weeping cedar atlas. This is as large as they get, about 1-2 inches maximum. They are unnoticeable when they fall in the mulch, not sticky, sharp or harmful to pets. They simply turn brown and decompose into the mulch.
Here are the facts about the weeping blue cedar Atlas plant:
  • Latin, scientific name is Cedrus Atlantica 'Glauca Pendula' - part of the pine family
  • Common names are weeping blue cedar Atlas, weeping blue cedar, weeping Atlas cedar, weeping cedar Atlas, weeping cedar
  • USDA preferred hardiness Zones 6-9
  • Best in full sun - is drought resistant after getting established, low maintenance.
  • Does well in most types of soil, but acidic/loam soil is best. Needs good drainage. 
  • No significant pest or disease issues but should be placed in area protected from strong winds.
  • Mature growth is typically 10' high and 15-20' wide. Actual size will depend on how you train it to span and drape. If you don't train it upright early, it will grow low to the ground.
  • Foliage is powdery blue needles, cones in spring/summer.
  • Pruning should be done in dormant season (late winter) to train (no more than 1/3 of plant). Fertilize (I use Hollytone) in spring.

I mentioned when we planted this evergreen we gave forethought to avoiding the pitfall of not allowing enough space for our specimen weeping cedar Atlas to mature. To read more of those pitfalls to avoid when planning a landscape garden, see my post titled Landscape Plan: Lessons Learned, Pitfalls to Avoid

Do you have a specimen or focal plant in your garden? Are you thinking about planting one? Fall is a great time to plant. I am a non-revenue producing blog, but I would recommend this link from Monrovia Plant Catalog to help you choose a specimen (or any other particular type) plant for your garden. Under the 'Landscape Use' selection, you can choose specimen. You can also modify the results with other categories specific to your area to find what works. Good luck!

Thanks for your visit. and I'd love to hear your comments, or you can email me anytime.
Rita C. at Panoply

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lessons Learned in Renovating

I'm not a contractor. Nor am I a DIY kind of person, and can't even claim novice status on that front. I am a consumer, an informed one. My husband and I recently went through a couple renovations - updates to our kitchen, and a complete gut job in the bathroom. From a consumer's standpoint, I have some lessons learned in renovating to share today. They're written primarily for me to re-read if I decide to tackle another big project, lest I forget all the gory details. If you are a consumer also, you may benefit from this list. If you are a contractor, you may glean some knowledge of a consumer's perspective, which is a benefit in dealing with your clients. If you are DIY-er, you may want to read this too, as you may someday become either a contractor or just plain consumer.

Lesson #1:  If you are strictly a consumer, then someone on your spending team needs to be involved in your renovation projects, managing the activity.  I was that designee in our household. I think there is probably a direct correlation to the level of satisfaction with end results of any given project and the amount of involvement with the project management.

Lesson #2: Find reputable contractors, get references, and get to know each one enough to feel comfortable in engaging one (or more) for your job. You absolutely need to be comfortable when interacting with your designers, contractors (especially their crew!), and even salespeople (when sourcing from chain or big box operations). The bigger your project budget, the better you should get to know these people. Ask pointed questions, and don't be afraid to express your expectations. Their responses will help you decide whether you want to work with them. Sign contracts, know what you're willing to invest and at what stage of the project. Never prepay an entire contract; always retain at least enough to satisfy issues related to the project as it progresses.

Once the work begins, get to know your workers by relating in conversation on project matters. Let the crew know your expectations right up front (such as daily cleanup, hours of work, use of facilities), and be open to give-and-take exchanges (such as sequencing of tasks, etc).
The crew's daily dropcloth ritual
Lesson #3: Involvement in the project management is like a job, and you need to show up for the job every day. It may mean researching materials prior to any work ever starting (or shopping for them while work is in progress), creating a budget with ongoing actual to budget comparisons, engaging more than one contractor before signing with one, making snap decisions on a daily basis, and/or handling issues as they come up (they will come up).
Comparison shopping mid-project
You may find, even after the crew does their best to satisfactorily follow your expectations, you still want to clean up after them. That's okay. After all, they're not likely to go to the detail you might in getting all the sawdust out of every crevice, or to shake out and fold (or wash!) the dropcloths the way you would. ;)
My cleanup after the crew's cleanup
You don't need to make the crew lunch or bake for them (their time is your money), but when they take  breaks, an occasional interest on some small, personal level will have them appreciating you more, and wanting to do a good job. Trust is a two-way virtue, and increases when nurtured.
The daily crew
Lesson #4: Keep a change order list - things you altered from the original design/estimate - whether they subtracted from or added to the original design. Communicate changes in writing with your contractor(s). Also, keep a running list of issues or, minimally, the punch list (things you want completed before the contractor leaves for good). All of these potentially will either cost you or save you in the end - whether it's time, money or sanity. I actually kept a daily journal of who worked, what hours, and a brief description of what was accomplished. It helped, particularly when there were issues, potential or real. I also kept a list of things the crew did as extras, not even on our original project lists.
List of extras
Lesson #5: Be an educated consumer. Whether it's learning a high level overview of building techniques, or reading product specifications - do some research. Even if you are willing to let professionals make recommendations or choices for you, you should be aware of best practices and products for what it is you're undertaking. Research can be found on the internet - Consumer, Angie's List, manufacturers' and retailers' websites, social media - just to name a few. Facebook even has a 'looking for home recommendations' under the "choose a feeling or activity" icon on the post block of your profile page where you can solicit friends' opinions. Be sure to read the highest and lowest reviews whenever possible and available (you can often click to arrange them either way on websites). This way you'll be able to form your own educated opinion as to choices, whether you rely on others or make them yourself.
Research material
Lesson #6: You can do all the research you want (and should!), but in the end, you need to make selections you can live with. They may be inexpensive, big-box selections, or they may be custom-made, high-priced selections. If you let someone else make your selections, refer back to Lesson #1 and results.
Process of making paint selections
Lesson #7: Even all the research, money, attention and best selections in the world can still produce an occasional bad apple. No one thing or person is perfect, and the chances of getting less than perfect - in anyone or anything - are pretty good. Just hope your entire project isn't a bad batch, which would definitely lead to a sour stomach and outlook.

Lesson #8: You need to learn (and gauge) what your personal tolerance level is, and manage your expectations in project-related matters. Things will go wrong. They may be little things (the proverbial bad apple), they may be big things. If you are altering plumbing and/or electrical, there may likely be issues unknown until the walls come down and the floors are pulled up. Don't be afraid to escalate situations if they can't be or aren't being handled to your satisfaction with your work crew, their boss, or even the owner of the company or manufacturer. No one wants a bad review, and depending on your involvement, determination, and documentation, you can make a big impact on future business of those you engage with. By the same token, choose your battles. You don't want the contractor to walk away. You also don't want to live with an outcome you regret or resent later. If in a partnership - marriage or otherwise - you also need to have a good understanding of whether you'll be managing your partner's expectations and to what extent.
Project issues, big and small
Lesson #9: Organize all the paperwork for project-related operating instructions, warranties, contracts and invoices, canceled checks or other proof of payment.  Many manuals can be downloaded from the internet and maintained on your hard drive or an external drive. If not already maintained throughout the project, do this organization when the project is complete. It is advisable for at least the invoices to remain separate, in a permanent file related to the home purchase. Many of these contracts and invoices become part of your tax basis in your home investment. You may choose to scan and store those documents electronically, but you need to keep the original documentation at least through the period of statute of limitations from the date of sale or disposal of the [home] property. You may also need them for insurance or creditors, but it is your responsibility to find out.
Organizing paperwork
Lesson #10: Provide feedback. If your level of satisfaction as a consumer is high, give positive feedback. Let the contractor, designer and workers know (a little monetary bonus for the latter is nice but not necessary) you appreciated their work, and ask them if they would be willing to do future work, should you ever need or want it. Make recommendations and give referrals - honestly. Contractors may want to promote their business with your project, but should not do so without your permission. If your level of satisfaction is low and you've taken steps to try to correct matters, it's also okay to let the contractor know you will not be making recommendations or referrals (if they ask you to). Just be circumspect if you choose to provide unsolicited dissatisfaction publicly - it could come back to hurt you in the long run. Remember, trust is a two way thing. If your situation ends up a legal matter, then follow the advice of your attorney.

I actually have concrete examples for each and every one of these lessons learned, details of which I have spared you. If you want details, feel free to fire away your questions or note your own renovating lessons/observations in the comments or by emailing me.

If you have any additional things you think are important from a consumer's standpoint while renovating, let me know. I'll add them to the list. I personally don't want to get into any more big projects anytime soon, but if I do, you can bet I'll keep this checklist handy. ;)

Rita C. at Panoply

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Summer Place Setting

♪♫ There's a summer place ♪♫...remember that movie and song? Ahh, the romance of summer love. Well, today it's all about a summer in table setting, with things I love. Let me begin by saying I love antiquing as a hobby/small business. I also love gardening, and I enjoy tablescaping with my love of dishes. So, today's table is about a summer place setting in the garden with a mix of new and vintage wares!
There's a little place in my garden, just outside the courtyard gate and beyond the trellis (which curves into the landscape)....
....where there's a clearing behind the magnolia tree. I love the space for its bird's eye view of the area surrounding, where feathered friends are active nearby (especially in the small birdbath), and also beyond, where the garden beds are. It is here that I created a summer place setting.
I hung a vintage chandelier I had in storage to catch the filtered sunlight over the planned table.
I then pulled out a vintage European linen sheet with a fabulously large monogram as my drape for the small table I planned - a table for two.
Romancing the scene are my International 'Prelude' flatware and Noritake 'Reverie' plates. Grounding the place setting are MacKenzie-Childs 'Courtly Check' chargers and 'Thistle and Bee' bread and butter plates.

Completing the place settings are Merimekko acrylic stemware, along with black linen Napoleon bee napkins (French Gardenhouse), caught in the curling vines of the blown glass flower napkin rings made by a local artisan.
Rolled pillows in toile and linen covers provide lumbar support in the wrought iron seating.
A bouquet of fresh-cut garden flowers in a crystal vase is the finishing touch to the intimate setting.

The shade of the magnolia provides respite from the summer sun, while still enjoying the view of the garden blooms beyond. The umbrella over the chaise lounges in the yard teases with its pool of additional shade.
What better way to enjoy the fruits of spring labor in the garden than to have an alfresco meal in the shade, with a bird's eye view of it all in summer?
I hope you enjoyed the view from my summer place in the garden. If this is your first visit to my blog, I welcome you and invite your return. My topics - including love of antiques, gardening and tablescaping - can be viewed and sorted at the top menu of my blog header. You can also use my search block for topics, or scroll through the labels on the sidebar. If you have similar interests, why not let's chat? Let me know you were here, either by leaving a comment or dropping me a line via my email. If you have a blog, I'd love to drop in and visit you too.

This week I am joining all the bloggers conveniently listed below, where you can simply click on any - or all - to see each person's interpretation of a summer-themed tablescape. A heartfelt thank you to Chloe from the blog Celebrate and Decorate for organizing and hosting this roundup!





Your visit, whether old friend or new, is appreciated!
Rita C. at Panoply

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Midsummer Garden Blooms, Views

This year's garden blooms continue to delight. Even beyond the initial spring, early summer burst of color as seen in my last garden post, summer's heat and rain have brought about wild growth and more color. Let's take a look at some of what's been happening since early June in our Zone 7a garden landscape.
With all the sun's rays, my year-round garden reader needed some shades, I thought. ;) He stands amid bee balm (leaning a bit after some heavy rains), black-eyed Susans, and the edge of a butterfly bush on the right. The last of the spireas' first flush of blooms are seen in the foreground.
This is the amount of rain my little gauge captured in two separate days, mid-June. Great for growing!
Capturing macro views of blooms, such as this mandevilla, is always fun to do after a rain. The rain really did wonders for the recent transplants (no more babying, yay!), and encouraged lots of blooms on the hydrangeas and the hibiscus.
Above, you can see my recent limelight hydrangea transplant, as well as the already established endless summer blooms. After much staking and anticipation, the Lord Baltimore hibiscus did not disappoint, and they began blooming in the back landscape on June 26. This photo was taken July 2.
I love the blue & red against each other!
Here's a view very similarly angled as in the early summer garden post, but this time the hibiscus are blooming, as is the limelight hydrangea (behind the flag). The endless summer hydrangea show more of what we saw in early June.
The coneflowers transplanted in early June are established and well situated beneath the weeping blue cedar atlas.
Hard to capture, the weeping cedar atlas bends and twists over at least four 6' sections of brick wall. It is trained with the help of various strategic stakes and anchors in the brick wall.
The tree form butterfly bushes are going crazy with blooms and doing their job to attract their namesake.
In another area, just in front of the knockout roses which are trained upward against my brick wall, I have dwarf butterfly bushes in a lighter hue of purple than the tree form. They, too, are blooming.
The picture above is a silhouette of the knockout roses, taken from behind the brick wall on which they're trained, and the sun is in the western sky. I go into the garden at all hours to capture different light and features. That one was just before sunset.
The container plantings in the courtyard have grown to fill the width of their containers, and are beginning to spill over. The picture above shows the container by the hot tub just after planting (left, late May) and now (right, early July). The Indian grass is starting to push its plumes.
The containers near the sunroom are also spilling over. The hummingbirds are still hitting the natural food sources in the pentas and the bee balm and not so much my feeders. This is typical in my garden, and they really start hitting the feeders later in summer. The SunPatiens I bought this year (the hot pink in the hot tub container, the white in the sunroom container) are wonderful! I will buy those again, they're doing so well in full sun.
With such a profusion of garden blooms this time of year, it's perfect for clipping indoor bouquets. The picture above is of those I cut on the 4th of July, and they are still looking good as of this post publish. I took my vases (with water) outside and cut early in the morning. I dipped the hydrangea stems in alum spice immediately after cutting and immersed in the water. This helps preserve their blooms from wilting, which can otherwise happen within a couple hours, depending on the time of day you clip.
In another, lesser visible area of the garden, my sundial sits amid the mountain bluet blooms. This is near the clematis, which just finished its bloom cycle in late June.
Lastly, in the front (north) section of the landscape, the annuals are also doing well. The Lord Baltimore hibiscus (just around the corner of the house edge, behind the hollies), in this section just started blooming July 5, about 2 weeks later than the back landscape hibiscus.

It's a pleasure to join Pam at Everyday Living with the garden party she's hosting periodically this summer and early fall. If you haven't already, stop by and visit Pam's blog. You'll see lots of garden tours, and may just make a new friend.
Everyday Living

Rita C. at Panoply