The Garden Plan

FlowersJust as I was about to start a photography session the other day I spotted these pretty little flowers next to a building and immediately the gardening bug took hold.  I’ve been day dreaming about what I’ll do in the yard this season for weeks as the temps have started to warm early for Alaska standards, but now that I’ve seen sprouts in person I’m narrowing down the plan so I’m ready to get going May 1 as soon as No Spend April is over.  While that might seem a long time to wait in most parts of the country, it’s pretty typical for our zone and the local nurseries won’t have many items available until around that time anyway.  I spent a chunk of the weekend cleaning out the remnants of last year’s annuals from the pots around the yard and spreading marigold seeds from the deadheads I’d pinched and dropped at the roots all last season.  Since the deadheads had enough seeds to cover all of the whiskey barrel planters, I’m hopeful they will produce at least enough to fill those so I can spend a few more dollars on other items when I do head to the nursery.

GravelFirst up on the plan is the garden box we installed just off the deck last season.  I’m planning on having lettuce, cherry tomatoes, peppers and onions (which I’ve got in water growing roots after one sprouted in the pantry!) in this space.  I may put the tomatoes in a separate container – like a cool old wash tub or burlap covered bucket – on the far side of the box so they don’t block the view of the yard from inside but we’ll see how it works out once I have everything ready to be planted.  The box itself will need a little tune up after the beating it took all winter.  When we placed it here I thought the water coming off the roof would be helpful, but too much of it created serious problems including flooding in the box bins which then turned to blocks of ice with winter’s early arrival last year.  Although we didn’t get a lot of snow last season, what we did get came off the roof in batches and formed a small mountain range of snow across the top of the tubs which added to the weight of frozen water inside.  To solve those issues this year we’ll be installing a gutter across the back of the house which will empty into the rain barrels relocated from the front flower beds at either end.  That will make it easier to water the gifted garden on one side and should provide a constant water supply for the chickens during the summer on the other!

The big metal wheel the hubs brought home for me is still against the fence in the low spot across from the corner of the deck where I put it at the beginning of last season.   I’ve decided to add a small retaining wall in a semi-circle around it and plant cucumbers there so I can train them to use the wheel as a trellis.

Of course I’ll have strawberries again this year, but I’m going to try the hanging gutter system I’ve seen all over Pinterest.  There is a good spot between the fence posts behind the shed, where I think the moose wouldn’t be able to reach them easily and if they did the dogs would soon chase them off.  I signed up for a “Do It Herself” (DIH) workshop at Home Depot later this month where I’ll make the gutter planters with the assistance of an instructor, so that should be ready in advance of my nursery shopping trip.  I may also do potatoes in a pallet planter below them, if I have enough budget left.

The herbs will go in a bucket tower like I’ve done for strawberries in the past.  I’ll put that right next to the Big Green Egg table so the hubs can snip things he wants to use while cooking quickly and easily.  I plan to have oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, garlic and possibly dill depending on space and budget.


One of the bushes I planted on the side of the deck *mysteriously* came unrooted back in the fall, which I’m sure the dogs had a paw in.  Ultimately that works out because the rain barrel will need to sit right on the corner of the house and would have crowded the bush anyway. The remaining bush took the brunt of the snow shoveled off the deck during the winter so I’m not sure how well it will bounce back, but I’m hopeful it will at least add some greenery if not bloom.  I have two more spirea bushes I picked up at the end of the season and never planted that have been sheltered next to the house, so I’ll plant those along the deck as well if they show signs of growth.  I also have a large purple ceramic pot that will become a recycling fountain and will find a spot in this bed.  I originally planned to have it out front but we don’t spend as much time on the front porch as we do on the deck so I think it will be enjoyed more here, plus it will help fill in some space since this is a large area to cover.  The pretty blue planter that was on the deck last year will also move down into the bed around the deck, to create a bit of height and plant variety with an annual or two.

I’m considering adding a rose bush next to the house in the area that will become the expanded chicken run once we get that done. I did a bit of research on what plants can survive a chicken flock and roses seem to be the top choice – likely because of their built in defense system of thorns.  Although I love their fragrance, I usually find them too fancy for my style, so this is a good opportunity to give them a try, where my usual choices would be torn to shreds.  And it might just provide cuttings that can be added to summer bouquets. 🙂

LillyOrange LillyPink

I’ll be moving things around in the flower beds a bit too.  The lilies out front will be moved to the gifted garden to fill in some holes there and make room for several new plants including salvia, lavender, delphiniums and daisies to fill in around the iris and hostas that are already in the front beds.  My plan is to fill the entire space with perennials that come back each year bigger and bigger so it creates something like my co-worker’s bed which provided the beginnings of my gifted garden.


Although I planted the freebie lilacs in the rain garden when we first set it up, I knew they would eventually be moved elsewhere. That was just a convenient spot for me because I could tend and water them as part of the rain garden.  They struggled a bit last year, and rather than wait for them to develop and shock them again with a move I’m going to go ahead and relocate them now.  I figure if they don’t survive this move it’s not a huge loss since they were freebies anyway and haven’t shown much in potential yet.  They will be moved to the hillside next to the garden where hopefully they will take root and establish themselves with plenty of room to grow and spread. Their departure will make room for a third clematis along the tire wall in the rain garden.  That will put it in the center of the curve along the back portion, so when it grows in it should help fill the space between the two existing clematis on either end of the tire wall.


Finally, the hubs plans to install a gutter on the side of the shed which will feed the freebie water tank we picked up last year.  That will be the water supply for the raspberry patch near the shed and the rain garden if needed.

Apparently no spending equals lots of planning!  It seems pretty intense when it’s all written out, but I think I’ve got my list ready so I’ll have a plan when I go plant shopping which should keep the budget in check and fill the yard with plenty of pretty!

Our Hawaiian Adventures – Part 8

Near the end of our trip I went on a garden tour at the Hale Koa and the view from the balcony that morning indicated it would be the perfect day for a bit of flower gazing in the shade.


Although the plumeria was out of season and the birds of paradise that were blooming weren’t well positioned for photos, we did see Hawaii’s calling card – the hibiscus.  There were several varieties of them around the grounds.  This one was called Hula Girl.


We also spotted bright red and yellow hibiscus in full bloom.  There were also a dwarf variety of white hibiscus, which I never would have thought was related if it weren’t for the guide pointing it out.  This one had a sign below the shrub describing it.





I had seen several ladies around the hotel wearing these spider lilies tucked behind their ear just like many do with the hibiscus, but the gardener warned that the stem should be washed before doing so because they put off a type of sticky fluid that can be toxic.


Another common flower around the hotel was ginger.  While not the edible type of ginger there were several colors of it including these red and pink types.



I believe the gardener said that this was another variety of ginger.


I really loved the look of the coatan plants used in several of the pathway boarders but know full well they would never survive Alaska’s winters.


The guide also pointed out this banana tree that we had walked by countless times and never noticed.



There was a massive variegated Hala tree that has been named Harry the Hala and is almost as famous as Gus the banyan in the courtyard.


GardenHalaSignI don’t remember what these flowers were but they were a lovely shade of coral.


These lobster claw haliconias were extremely unique and positively tropical.


We also spotted flower varieties I was familiar with like these purple morning glories.


The hubs and I had spotted these trees on the big island and loved their large size and interesting branches.  During the tour I learned they are called Monkeypod trees, which seems very fitting.


The gardener also pointed out this noni tree, which bears fruit that has been used for medicinal purposes by natives for centuries.  While you don’t eat the fruit, which I thought looked a bit like a caterpillar it’s extracts are used to make tea.  Today they also use the extracts to make pill supplements, which we purchased at local retailers to ease the hub’s arthritis.



I’m not sure which type of palm this base was from but I loved the strange formation of scales created along the stalk.  It looked almost alien to me.


The final stop of the tour was the luau garden where we’d been earlier in the week.  It was nice to get an unobstructed view of the area and the roasting pit which was already going for the luau scheduled that evening.


After the tour we headed out to do some shopping and stopped at a local chain restaurant called Fatboyz.  We both enjoyed our menu choices and the Aloha brand drinks available.  Another of our favorite local chains was Teddy’s Bigger Burger which had a plethora of burger options that all sounded delicious.


While out shopping we stopped by the joint base PX or military Exchange.  It was massive – as in the size of a mid-sized mall, complete with a beautiful mural ceiling!   They also had the best priced souvenirs, which meant we bought a bit more than we expected.


That evening we walked a few blocks from the hotel to the trendier area of Waikiki, where we found this crazy crosswalk.  All of the traffic lights would turn red and the pedestrians would all cross at the same time in every direction!  We think it was based on Japanese cities where there are large crowds.


Once we navigated the odd crosswalk intersection we located the Mexican restaurant we’d come in search of on the rooftop of one of the shopping plazas.  It was a beautiful view of the city and had a great vibe.  We heard that the corner we were sitting in had been used earlier in the day for a photo shoot for the chef, which I could totally envision.


On our last day in Hawaii we made plans to meet up with a friend for dinner and arrived a bit early.  Luckily the restaurant was directly across from the Island Princess warehouse, where we sampled several items and I got to pose as a Hula girl.


After we bought several taste test approved treats for the flight home we enjoyed a final chance to catch up with our friend over sushi. Located in the industrial park near the airport, Mitch’s didn’t look like much from the outside, but we quickly learned why this was the local’s favorite sushi spot.  Everything was super fresh because Mitch’s is also a fish market!  It made perfect sense that they would expand into the sushi business since they have the best stock already.  It was the perfect way to end our trip.


We said our final goodbyes and headed over to the airport to make it through customs and security.  By the time our flight took off evening had arrived and Oahu gave us a glowing aloha.


I’ll share some tips for planning a trip to Hawaii in my next post so if I’ve inspired you to visit the Aloha state check back for the inside scoop before you make those reservations.

Junkin’ Up the Yard!

Welcome back for part two of how we’re using the cool ‘junk’ we picked up on our recent vacation. Here’s where things ended up outside along with a little garden update while we’re at it.


The big rusty metal star the hubs picked out at the junk show for $18 had to be hand carried on the plane. We were sure it would be considered a weapon thanks to the top point sticking out of the only bag we could find that kind of fit it, but TSA said as long as it went through the scanner it was ok. I’m very glad it made it through because it looks fantastic on the front porch!


Nearby, the cool metal excavator I found for $20 found a home in the front flower bed where it appears to be digging up spots for more plants. It’s definitely something you won’t see in everyone’s garden and that’s just what I like about it!


Several items ended up in the gifted garden including the cool trellis the hubs surprised me with. It works perfectly for the troilus that started blooming soon after we got home. I still can’t believe this piece was only $23!


The trio of rusty pulleys we got for $10, $20 and $30 are the perfect “dog proof” garden art. They have since been knocked over by those energetic fur balls, but ‘eh – it makes it look more authentic so oh well.



We also picked up this massive pulley at an estate sale last weekend for just $25.  I love the little number tag on the side!  It’s found a home down in the rain garden.


Back in the gifted garden, I adore how these metal quail figures we found at the junk show look in the garden too. I’ve wanted some ever since I saw some just like them in a family friend’s amazing garden so I made sure to snag a few when I spotted them at the show. They remind me of living in the desert and watching the little quail families dart between the tumbleweeds. 🙂


My last find of the day at the junk show, a cast iron campfire cook pot now holds Johnny Jump Ups the neighbor brought over.  I admit this picture is a week or two old because those plants behind the pot are now massive!  They were also gifted to us by the neighbor but I have no idea what they are.  They sure seem to like this spot though, because they are 5 times this size now!


This little stained glass lady bug – an appropriation from my sister’s garden – now adorns my marigolds in the front yard.  He’s so cute I might have to make a few more, and possibly do some dragon flies and butter flies while I’m at it!


Beyond the junk things are still blooming.  We got home just in time to see the iris, which I was so happy about.  I have a few varieties including water iris, wild iris and arctic iris.  They each have slightly different colors and leaves but they’re all beautiful to me.



We also have a few poppies blooming.  These were another gift from the neighbor – have I mentioned how much I love having a gardening neighbor?! 🙂  The fact that I’ve done nothing to them and yet they seem to be doing quite well makes me even happier.



The hydrangea I planted this season is also blooming!  I’m so excited to have this one establish itself and grow bigger and bigger each year.  The blooms started out pretty small but now they are  almost full.  I’m torn between cutting some to bring inside and letting them continue to grow.  Thus far I’ve just let them grow, but as the season wraps up I might go ahead and snip a few.



I do need to add a little support for it though since the back side seems a bit heavy for the thin stalks.  I’m thinking one of those large rings might work well since it’s not very tall yet.


My lilies are also making an appearance after teasing with tightly sealed buds for weeks.  I have several varieties of these as well including pink, orange and yellow.  I made sure to get a few shots of them to enjoy right away since I know they won’t last long. LillyPink

I love how the orange lily compliments the little excavator in the background. 🙂


YellowLillyThe lambs ear I brought back from my mother-in-law’s yard is doing well in the rain garden.  It’s certainly not going gang-busters, but it’s green and healthy after an overnight trip in a ziplock baggie on a plane, so I’m not going to be too critical.


I added some bushes I got for $20 on the buy/sell page to the side of the deck to get that landscape started.  I don’t remember the names of these right now so I’ll have to dig the tags out of the gardening cabinet, but I believe they are both varieties of spirea.  The one on the left gets pretty purple flowers and the one on the right has small white flowers.


My Columbines are doing well, both in the rain garden and the gifted garden.

ColumbineAnd after some pretty lush leaf growth all season the campanula is finally blooming.


My freebie raspberries are slowly getting established, so I’m just letting them be for now.


But there is a potential harvest this year if these little guys come in a bit more and ripen!


That is of course if I can keep this big boy out of them!  He stopped by the other night during a huge downpour and thankfully seemed more interested in the weed patch just in front of the raspberries.  Good thing I haven’t been able to keep a super tidy landscape yet!  Luckily, the raspberries are close enough to the back yard fence that the dogs typically keep the moose at bay.


So that’s how we junked up the yard.  Do you have ‘junk’ in your gardens?  I’d love to see it, so share a photo or a link below!

A Garden Update

I’ve been planning to share a little update on my Gifted Garden and Rain Garden for a week or so now, but by the time I edited the photos I took to share things had changed some more.  So before that can happen again, let’s get to it.  First up is the Rain Garden, which looked pretty dismal for weeks even when the warmer temps arrived.  Then one day I was driving up the driveway and noticed a good amount of green had suddenly appeared.  Upon closer inspection I saw that 90% of what I’d planted last season is coming back in, which makes me pretty darn happy.  And now that the cat mint has returned Luna is quite happy as well!


I mean like seriously happy.  As in she won’t leave the poor plant alone!  She’s in love with the darn thing!


Even a robin on the branch above the garden can’t tear her attention away for more than a glance through the leaves!



But I digress…. Elsewhere in the garden, the iris that I rid my friend’s lawn of are growing tall and strong.  I haven’t seen any buds yet, but they didn’t have any last year either since they spent most of the season sitting in clumps in a pot waiting for a permanent home.  I’m excited to find out what color they will be.  I’m betting it’s purple like the wild iris around Alaska, but I’d be happy with any color if they just bloom.


Three of the freebie Craigslist lilacs are showing small signs of life with some new leaves, although two are still just bare twigs.  I’ll let them be until the end of the summer before I give up on them.  They have a mystery neighbor that popped up.  I’m thinking it’s yellow yarrow, since the leaves look very similar to the other yellow yarrow I have a few feet away, but we’ll see what it grows up to be when the small yellow bud at it’s top develops.



Another mystery arrival is this grouping of spouts.  It’s in the area where I had mint last year and the leaves look about right for that, so I’m guessing that’s what it is.  For now I’m going to leave it alone and see what we get.


The clematis on either side of the garden are showing momentum after looking dead for months and are even touting a few blooms.  One is certainly bigger than the other, but hopefully they will both take over the tires and provide a lovely natural background for the garden over the next few years.



One of the vincas from the box store came back and is even flowering already.  The other didn’t fair so well.  At first I thought the green was new growth, but it’s been the same for a while now so I’m classifying it as a gonner.  I haven’t decided what to replace it with yet, so for now it can hold the space.



The water iris are slower growing than the other iris, but hopefully they’ll provide some pretty yellow blooms this season.


The speedwell in the back of the garden has some dense growth, so I’m thinking it won’t spread much this season.  The Aluetian speedwell I put around the front of the garden has some pretty delicate purple flowers, but is a slow grower. I planned for it to be a ground cover on the hillside leading to the garden but if it doesn’t pick up the pace by mid season I’ll be looking for something else for next season.



The ornamental onion, yellow lily and campanula are all showing good starts.  I’m thinking they will hit their stride when the warm weather returns next week and start to really fill out.




The columbine has a good amount of growth but no signs of flowers yet.  I don’t remember if this one is yellow or purple, but either would be nice.


In front of the columbine is a forget-me-knot, that I ironically forgot about.  I think this one came from some seeds I got at one of the holiday weekend giveaways at the box store and let sprout in the little cup they came home in before planting just to give it a shot.  Maybe it will continue to surprise me and spread a bit to come back next season even more.


The thing I’m most excited about in this garden is the lady slipper orchid that I acquired on our trip up the Alcan last year.  It seemed to go dormant soon after I got it home, although it had been on the road for several days at that point so I thought it wouldn’t come back.  I’m so glad it proved me wrong and surprised me!


I remember planting things on the hillside above the rain garden, but for the life of me can’t remember what they were.  Some were bought and others were freebies, but I wrote them all off when the builder’s contractor came to do our final grade and bulldozed them even AFTER we’d told him not to go in this area… sigh.  But they’ve poked back up without any water or feed from me so I’m thinking they are my kind of plant. Feel free to leave ideas in the comments below if you think you know what they are! 🙂



Ok Luna, are you ready to leave your cat mint and head over to the other garden?  I’ll take that as a no.  Well, you know where to find me….


Over in the gifted garden there are small signs of life.  In the corner near the back door I replaced something that didn’t come back with a hydrangea and finished off the far corner that never got any plants last year with a lilac.  Both are from local nurseries so I’m pretty confident that they will establish and come back year after year.  This is the first hydrangea I’ve ever had so I’m excited to watch it grow, especially after seeing 5 buds on it the other day!  The lilac had a bud on it when I bought it – hence the reason I picked this one over the others – so we should get some color out of it this year.GardenView




When I went to plant the lilac I found something strange just under the surface.


You guessed it.  That’s one of the dogs’ balls!  Apparently someone decided to bury it here for safekeeping at some point!  Kids….jeesh!


Although some of what I was gifted didn’t return, what has is showing good  signs that it will stick around for the long haul.  GardenYellow




The wild geranium is doing the best out of all the returning gifted plants, and is covered in tiny buds!  Although it’s native cousins in the surrounding woods already have sporadic blooms, it looks like the special attention this one gets will result in multiple blooms!



Now if I can just keep the momma moose and her yearling calf who have been frequenting the easement near the back yard away from my unfenced sprouts I stand a chance of having a pretty yard this summer!  For something so big they sure do blend in well!  Luckily, the dogs tend to keep them at a distance, but that’s only so efficient for things outside the fence.  Wish me luck!



My Gifted Garden

No, I don’t have a magical super smart garden. I’m just lucky enough to be gifted an entire flower bed of plants, which I’m now calling “my gifted garden.”  Since we purchased a new construction house, we have a LOT of blank space to fill in our yard. I was chatting about this with a co-worker one day a few weeks ago and she asked if I was looking for any perennials to fill my yard. Free plants that will come back bigger and better each year?! You bet I was game! She told me to let her know when I was ready and we’d set a time for me to come to her house and help her “prune” her garden.

I was finally ready to take her up on the offer last week, so we picked an evening after work for me to come by and I showed up with a couple buckets, a shovel and gloves. I was so excited I actually beat her there, but I knew I was at the right house when I drove up and saw this amazing assortment of flowers.


Just to make sure I rang the doorbell and her husband answered. He was mighty confused when I said I was there for plants! She arrived a few minutes later, changed into yard garb and we set to work with shovels and a stash of plastic bags she brought out to hold the roots.   We chatted about what types of plants grew well and which liked particular exposures as we worked our way up one side of the bed and down the other. She’d ask if I wanted this or that, and I repeated that I’d take whatever she was willing to part with and give it a home to grow.


By the time we were done the back of my truck was a wall of plants. Both tubs I’d brought were full of bags and I had other bags tucked in between the tubs and on a small tray I had thrown in the truck just in case! And you couldn’t even tell we’d touched her garden!


Ok, so this IS the same picture as above, but it literally did look exactly the same from the road. It was only if you came in for a closer inspection that you’d see the areas we dug into.


Once I got everything home, I placed the bags around the flower bed so I could decide final placement for all of them and make sure that I spread things out. I watered everything in the bags since it was getting late and headed for bed. I wasn’t able to get them in the ground for a few more days but I kept watering the roots in the bags and most of the plants seem like they did ok.


A little fertilizer and some mulch and its done! It will look even better when the hydroseed is done next week and we finally have a lawn too.  I still need to add a line of pea gravel at the back along the house, just like we did out front and add some garden art, but I’m plenty pleased with my gifted garden. I’m anxious to see how it all comes back in next year. I’m hoping most will go to seed, spread a bit and come back even bigger next season. And hopefully, in a few years my gardens will be as established as my co-workers is now and I can ‘gift’ plants to others to continue the chain. 🙂  Here’s a few close ups of the flowers that survived transplant.






Spring Fling? More Like Break-up!

SpringTomorrow is the first official day of spring, but we do everything a little different here in Alaska, including Spring. When you live near the Arctic Circle spring doesn’t include pretty little green sprouts popping up after misty rain showers. Here, spring brings a continued chance of snow, slushy roads edged with puddles and grey everything – not the 50 shades kind either.

Spring is known as “break-up” season in Alaska, because that’s when the ice on the rivers starts to break apart and move downstream. In fact, traditions are based on it. Many native villages hold contests for residents to guess when a wooden tripod placed on the thawing river will fall as the ice below it gives in to rising temps. It’s usually the talk of the town and you’ll find everyone available on the river bank watching, because it’s what you do in rural Alaska.

One of the things I love most about Alaska is the change of seasons, but now that the beautiful snow of winter is melting and we’re left with wet, slick ice splotches I’m ready to fast forward to summer’s greenery. Maybe it’s spring fever because I didn’t get a “spring break” like the school kids did. Or maybe I’m just eager to get my garden set up and my landscaping installed.

I have big plans for the yard, including hydroseeding a lawn for the dogs, flower beds near the front door and several birdhouses with feeders nearby so our feathered friends stay. Watch for a post on the full plan soon. But none of that can happen until the ground thaws and the warm temps are consistent. Until then my ‘yard pretties’ will remain stashed away in their cabinet in the garage and I’ll continue to day dream about the pretty flowers I’ll be planting.

How Will My Garden Grow?

As I mentioned last week I plan to install our garden in the alcove created by the side of the house and the back of the third garage bay.  The space measures 12′ wide by 22′ long, which is a great space for a garden.  Here is the space as it sits.

GardenI knew I wanted the garden fenced off from the rest of the yard so the dogs wouldn’t be in there when we’re not home, but I hadn’t really decided what kind of fencing to use until I saw this community garden here in Anchorage!  Can you say AH-MAZE-ING?!


CIHAPostAnd the construction seemed simple enough – hog panels stapled (with heavy duty staples) onto posts and trim supports. While I love the arbor around the top, that might come in “Phase 2” but it would provide a great spot for plants such as strawberries or even tomatoes to trail!  I also plan for the pergola over the gate to come later.  It’s more important to get the garden going and producing than making it super pretty right?

Granted, my garden won’t be this big, (and if it was I might have to quit my day-job just to maintain it!), but the overall layout and design is a perfect example of what I want.  I took the hubs by to make sure it was doable on a smaller scale and he liked it.  He even mentioned how their raised beds were probably the exact design he’d suggest for our garden!


Although I’d love to have a green house right away, I know that likely won’t happen until next summer.  But when it does happen, I plan to use these plans!  I’m thinking the green house will end up somewhere to the right of the garden where it will get sunlight all day.  Until then I will use hoops over the raised beds to extend the growing season on either end.

Right now I plan to grow chard, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes (regular and cherry), bell peppers (different colors for salsa!), carrots, green and yellow onions, potatoes, jalapenos (not sure how they will fare in this climate, so I might have to wait until we have a green house), garlic, snow peas, green beans and broccoli.  I also recently inherited a purple cauliflower plant which will find a home in my garden if it survives the move.  I also plan to have stacked planters like these on the back deck in which I’ll transplant my current salad bowl and create an herb garden with basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, dill and cilantro, which can be moved during the winter.

BarrelI recently found this plastic barrel for free on Craigslist and plan to create something like this with it to plant my strawberries in.  A planter and compost all in one?  Sounds great!  Made with a freebie barrel – even better!

RainBarrelWe will also be installing rain barrels with rain chains around the house like this.  Luckily, I have a previous photography client who used wine and whiskey barrels as their wedding decor and no longer needs them, so I’ve got some earmarked for me at a discounted rate! 🙂  I also found this super simple and inexpensive tutorial for a copper rain chain that I plan to make.  And because we are working with the rain garden program, any money spent on these rain catchments counts toward our overall budget, of which half will will be reimbursed!

Now we just need to fast forward to move in day and put all these plans into action!

Big Plans for the Back Yard

Although the house is still under construction and we won’t move in until late fall, we’ve already been thinking about what we want the back yard to look like.  The builder will install a 20′ x 12′ deck off the family room – where the three ‘pink’ footers are in the picture below.  We specifically requested an additional slider door be included in our Master Bedroom rather than just a window so we can have back yard access on that side too.  The builder will provide basic ‘steps’ at that door for now, but next season we plan to build a deck to match the one on the other side.


We had originally planned to continue the deck out the entire length of the house, but we decided it would be easier and more cost effective to have the two decks with a ground-level patio in between so that the hot tub could sit lower than the deck which eliminates the need to ‘climb’ into it.  Plus I won’t fret about the deck being stable enough to support a full hot tub!

I also like the idea of breaking the space up into different areas for different purposes.  I’m envisioning something like this on our ‘private’ Master Bedroom deck for lounging and a dining set on the deck off the family room.  On the patio below I would like to make something like this where guests could sit and relax near a fire pit which will be made from this free washing machine tub we snagged on Craigslist last week!


The plan is to use pavers like this or stamped concrete like this on the patio, then use landscaping stones to create a spot that the drum will slide into.  Eventually we’d like to have one or both decks screened in or at least covered by a pergola with some sort of rain protection to extend the usability in our short summer season.  But that of course is a year or five down the road.

Beyond the decks and patio we plan to have grass for the dogs.  Depending on when we get into the house, we might buy some of the ‘end of season clearance seed’ to put out and see what we get, but most likely we will have the yard hydroseeded next spring.  I was stunned to find out that they charge just $395 if the area to be seeded is less than 3,000 sq. ft.  Um, yeah!  Sounds good to me!  Definitely better than the Craigslist ad I saw for free sod if you come cut up and haul off some guy’s yard!  I might be thrifty, but I know my time is valuable and I’d spend a whole lot more digging up, hauling and replanting his old “who knows what’s in it” grass than paying the out call to have fresh, weed free grass growing within 2 weeks!  Knowing us we’ll measure out everything before we schedule and make sure we’re just under that figure. We should be able to do an L-shape around the back and side of the house well within that figure.  🙂

I don’t have much landscaping beyond the deck-patio-deck and lawn planned for the back yard, but I will probably put a small flower bed along the bedroom side of the house for perennials like bulbs and hostas.  Our garden will be to the right of the deck off the family room in the alcove created between the side o the house and 3rd bay of the garage, which you can see on the right edge of the photo above.  Watch for a post about that plan next week!

A Sweet Freebie!

I love browsing the “Free” section of Craigslist because you just never know what you might find – like a hot tub!  The other day I spotted an ad for free raspberry plants.  I’d been planning to add raspberries to our landscaping and/or garden at the new house and thought even if they weren’t in great shape I just couldn’t beat free, so I called the number.

The lady told me they were growing behind a trailer she was renovating and I could go anytime to take as much or as little as I wanted.  She also said that they were producing berries already, they just weren’t turning red.  I told her I’d come by the next day to get them.  And the next day it rained.  All day.  I decided to hold off and see if the weather cleared, which it did the following day so off I went, with boots, gloves and shovel in hand.

When I arrived I was shocked to see a thicket of plants along the entire back side of the trailer.  They were almost as tall as me and growing like weeds.  I picked out the plants with the most berries that were the easiest to get to and started digging.  They came up fairly easily, so hopefully I got enough of the roots for them to transplant well.  I took about 5-6 plants as that’s all I had containers for at our rental right now and kept a few of the feeder branches that broke off but had small roots.  I wish I’d taken a picture of just how full the back of my truck was, but here’s what I ended up with once they were planted!


It’s hard to tell from this angle, but the tub in the back is just as full as the one in the middle.  The first tub holds the iris I traded tulip bulbs for in Kodiak and was able to bring with us when we moved this winter.  You’ll notice there are also some tall purple flowers in the back of that tub.  I collected those from the same place as the raspberry bushes since they were right next to the bushes and would have been demolished in the process of me digging.  Hopefully they take and can be transplanted into our yard next season.  They seemed to be growing on their own all around the site so I’m thinking they might be a local wildflower.  Here’s a closer shot.  Anyone know what they are?


The raspberry branches I kept ended up in their own planter.  That little bucket was the only thing I had left to plant in!  I’m not sure if any of them will take root, but I figured it was worth a shot.


The hubs and I wondered if they might be salmon berry bushes rather than raspberries and set out on an exhaustive Internet search to see if we could confirm that theory.  I’ve come to believe they are in fact raspberries based on the leaf shape, but if they develop purple/pink flowers next year they might just prove me wrong.  And just to prove that they do in-fact produce fruit, here’s a shot of one of the berries.


I decided to leave everything be for now and let them settle in.  If it looks like they take root I might prune them a little in the fall, just before winter to clean them up before the move.  If we get into the house before the first frost I’ll get them planted in the ground, but if not they can winter over in these tubs once I wrap them. Either way, I’m now planning for a sweet harvest next summer – provided that the dogs or the moose don’t get to the berries first! LOL

Our Little Oasis

Summer time has finally arrived here in Alaska and that means it’s time to get outside and soak it up before winter descends again in a few short months.  Luckily, our rental house has a little balcony right off the main living room that is a perfect spot to sit and enjoy an evening chat.  Unfortunately it was looking a little sparse when we first moved in this winter.  So I decided to make it a bit more inviting.

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I had already picked up two strawberry plants at the farmers market last weekend, which would be hung in the two square baskets I already had.  But I was going to need a lot more than two strawberry baskets to save this sad little balcony.  The first thing I knew I wanted to add was some chairs, because you can’t sit and relax without those!  I contemplated purchasing some plastic chairs but didn’t want to spend almost $20 a pop – especially knowing we probably wouldn’t use them again when we move.  Then I remembered we had ‘camping chairs’ which would fit well in the space.  Although the chairs have a cup holder built in, I still wanted a little table in between to hold a few little things when necessary.  I also knew we needed some flowers to liven up this space.  So list in hand, I headed for the largest nursery in town.


I was literally amazed at this place.  Not only do they have a HUGE green house full of every type of plant that grows in Alaska, they have 3 HUGE green houses!  Plus they had a coffee bar and cafe along with a large gift shop!  They are are so big they even do bridal registries!  I could have spent all. day. long. here and still not seen everything they had.

TableThe first thing I found was a little stool that I thought would work nicely as a table for the chairs and can later become a photo prop or garden stool.  At $26 it wasn’t a super bargain, but I thought it was fairly priced. I knew it would compliment the blue chairs and make a perfect spot for one of the little citronella pots we brought with us from Kodiak.  I love how the blues and greens all work together – creating a natural soothing palette.  It’s almost like I planned it! 🙂

I picked out marigolds and lobelia to fill the rail baskets we already had, but when I went to hang them I realized the hooks were for a smaller top rail.  Lucky for me, my ingenious hubby figured out how to tweak the hooks so they would work on this taller board. Love that man! Hopefully the marigolds add to the citronella and keep the bugs at bay so we don’t spend our evenings swatting the air.  BerriesI also snagged a lavender plant for the pretty grey pot I had planted seeds in, which never spouted.

After I’d planted the strawberries in the hanging baskets I had to figure out where and how to hang them.  I had these pretty bird brackets I’d purchased on for our new house several months ago and decided we should start enjoying them now.  The hubs put up the brackets where I asked and I think they look great.

Near the check out we spotted a stand of nautical bell wind chimes and tested them all out to find the perfect tone (hopefully the neighbors agree!).  We selected one with a dog at the end of the chime rather than the typical Alaskan bear, moose or salmon because it was more symbolic of our little family.  Granted neither of our girls have tails, but they didn’t have a chime with a ‘nubby’ dog! LOL  Although it was a bit of a splurge at $68, I’ve wanted one for a long time and I knew that was the standard cost for something of that size and weight, Dogespecially when you don’t have to pay shipping!

I brought a wrought iron piece out from inside to give the space a little extra flair and then placed the cherry tomato plant I snagged during another trip to the farmers’ market for just $10 under it.  We already have a few tomatoes about ready to be picked and enjoyed!

I topped everything off with the little rug we already had so there’s a comfy spot to wipe any dirt off your feet before coming back inside.  The hubs replaced the ripped screen so we can also enjoy the breeze from outside even when we are inside.  But the best part is that everything we’ve done (except the repaired screen) can be taken down and brought to our new house as soon as it’s ready.  So here’s the finished product.  What do you think?

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I think I’ll light my little citronella pot, sit and enjoy a nice little chat with my hubby after dinner tonight!