Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in May and then July, Sort of...

I can't remember where or when I stumbled across a blog post about making Christmas ornaments using dried flowers and leaves from the garden, but I saved it. It was time to give it a try. I like doing  projects, especially if it is tied to the garden. Giving credit due- here is the link to the post- 

The dough takes three ingredients
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup warm water

Simply mix the dry ingredients together in a saucepan, add water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan, it is time to take off the heat. After it cools a little bit gently knead the dough to get it to its doughy consistency.

Roll it out and use a cookie cutter to make your shaped ornament.  Use a pencil or straw to make a hole for your ribbon hanger. Bake at 200 F for about an hour, until dry or leave to dry overnight (high humidity areas would be better to oven bake)

Sounds easy doesn't it? Okay, time for a few lessons learned:
  • Sprinkle corn starch on the counter top before kneading
  • Roll it out to quite thin. How thin? About 1/8th of an inch thick.
  • Use a sharp edged cookie cutter- I used a drinking glass, didn't give a real clean cut.
  • Don't bake on parchment paper, it seems to hold moisture.

In May I went into the garden looking for items to use to make the ornaments. Newly emerged leaves on my Japanese maples were great! I especially like the red ones. I also had some small violets blooming then, so I plucked some blooms and leaves from them. I knew the leaves and flowers had to be small enough to fit on the ornament, so small was best. Bringing my harvest in, I carefully set them between two sheets of parchment paper. Weighing them down with a number of hardbound books, they sat on our dining room table for a few days. After a few days I checked on them, nice and dry! I moved the dried pressed leaves and blooms upstairs, where they could remain until it was time to make the dough and apply them. One of my daughters and son in laws come to stay for the majority of July, so I waited to do the rest with her.

Fast forward to July- we made the dough, rolled out the dough, cut the dough into ornament shape and dried them. It was time to gather the pressed leaves and Modge Podge, some brushes (sponge or bristle) and begin. Well, I knew I had brushes, SOMEWHERE. After looking in every spot they might have been, we let necessity be the Mother of Invention. I had some leftover foam from covering some chairs. That and a pair of scissors, voila, we had our 'brushes'. 

Directions tell you to paint a layer of Modge Podge on the ornament, arrange the pressed leaves/blooms on the ornament, then paint more Modge Podge over the surface, covering the leaf/bloom well.  Make sure not to cover your hole for the string/ribbon. Various flowers and leaves make a nice assortment. Like I said, the red Japanese maple leaves look great, they held their color well. I used some Hydrangea blooms, their color faded a bit but they are really nice too. I had a pair of tweezers to use to move the fragile dried leaves.  **On a side note- don't leave pressed/dried items on the table overnight....a roving kitten in the middle of the night will play havoc with your project.**

Red Japanese maple 
Viola walterii 'Silver Edge'

Green Japanese maple 
Here they all are, drying. It is milky looking when the Modge Podge is first applied, it does dry clear.  I bought the matte finish. You can experiment with whatever finishes you like. One of the sources I used also sprinkled silver glitter on the white dough. The world is your oyster, do what you think looks great.

Drying on the dryer overnight

The nice part of this project is you can collect and dry items from the garden all year long. Once dried they keep well. I think I will buy some metallic cord to use instead of the ribbon, but this is what I had on hand today. This was a fun quick project to do and like I said above, there are some lessons learned. The biggest is in the rolling thickness. If you have guide bands that slip on your rolling pin for rolling thickness, use them. I might try using a couple thick rubber bands on the rolling pin. Some of the ornaments cracked while drying- the Modge Podge and leaves hid those flaws a bit.
Would I do this with kids? I don't think so, there is a need for fine motor skills and an easy hand in painting the Modge Podge over the dried items. If you do this project, let me know how it worked for you. You can share photos on The Queen of Seaford Facebook page. Have fun!

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Another River Running Through My Yard

We all know that gardens are always in flux. Some plants survive, some thrive to the point of taking over and sometimes you just want to change things up. Last year we looked at our front yard and decided that buying sod every year was expensive and labor intensive to install on a regular basis. What's a gardener to do? (we all know---you make a new garden bed!) The wet winters and dogs running over wet grass made the lawn thin and excessively needy.

I had big plans, make a giant mulch bed in the front yard. I haven't measured the size of the area we were looking at making a new garden....let's just say it is a large area. Maybe I will go and measure it one of these days. 

We left a mower sized width of grass along the driveway and between the gardens. In the center of this new, massive garden is a Little Gem Magnolia with daylilies around it. Once the plan was hatched, mulch was needed. Lots of mulch. We had ten yards of mulch delivered.

Because we had some grass and a lot of weeds the plan was put cardboard or newspaper under the mulch as a weed block. Before you jump all over me, I have since read information from the Garden Professors about not using anything under mulch. Their recommendation is to just have a good layer of mulch (inches deep) and it will smother/block the weeds. Good information, just after the fact. 

Moving forward we used tons of cardboard, mountains of newspaper and still ran out. We had help with the mulch from our kids who came to visit last July. With their help the mountain of mulch was spread. Hallelujah!

Liebling was a great help
 Fast forward to this year. I planted three Japanese maples last fall-one Red Dragon, a Butterfly, and Green Viridis. Also added three Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' and a Cryptomeria globosa 'Nana'. Found a few abelia in the garden that needed moved- think they might be Abelia grandiflora 'Rose Creek'- so what better place to move them than this huge new space?

I brought a birdbath home from my Mom's house. In front of the birdbath I planted some Agastache 'Blue Boa', Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising', Stokesia laevis (Stokes Aster) and other plants for pollinators. The maples were doing well, the flowers were thriving but there was a problem with the garden...........WASHOUT. Some Liriope and an Amaryllis were added to try and slow the water flow. They didn't. 

With every rain we had a trail of mulch running downhill through the grass. Not happy. I had scooped/raked up mulch multiple times. Something needed to be done. You see some rocks in the photo above. I didn't grab a before photo but the mulch was still in the grass so it is a good example. The rocks that I have had leftover from other projects are all in the lower part of the yard. Our property is on a good slope. Moving enough rocks was going to be a lot of work just hauling them up the last part of the hill.
My great plan was that my lovely assistant (daughter Rachel) and I would load up the rocks into the cart that attaches to the lawn tractor. My husband just needed to drive the tractor to the bottom of the yard, wait for us to fill the cart, then drive the tractor back up to the front yard. 

Me mud splattered
Rachel muddy from rock hauling
 Well, the yard was wet, the lower the yard, the wetter the yard. We pushed and pushed the tractor to get it moving and got sprayed with lots and lots of mud. Yay. Plan B was to take the tractor through the woods in our wooded lot where we had a path cut. Well, that only worked part way. We got my garden wagon and the wheelbarrow and moved three or four loads each out of the cart until the lawn tractor could make it up the rest of the way. Spreading the rocks went pretty well. Making the new dry creek bed curve gently through the garden, following the washout area, was not as hard as bringing the rocks uphill!

View from the top of the hill
We are due to get more rain sometime in the next few days. Cross your fingers!  I want the "river" to be slowed and the water diverted as to not move the mulch. 

View from the bottom of the hill
 Speaking of mulch, that's the next project...more mulch. We are battling nut sedge and Bermuda grass popping up in the garden, especially where the mulch had gotten washed out or thinned. Weed control is an ongoing challenge.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.