Lessons learned from our summer garden…


I decided to capture my “lessons learned” from this summer so I can keep track of what is and isn’t working. Some things have been so easy to grow and others have been disasters!


Here’s what I now know: Lantana is really easy to grow but it needs sunshine, rain and a lot of space to spread out. In the picture below, you’ll see the Lantana that I planted last Spring… So cute. So little. So unassuming.



In July, it was still a great little pop of color, but it kept on growing like Jack’s beanstalk!


Some of the Lantana branches grew from 2 inches long to 4 feet long! By August, it had completely covered the Hostas. Next Spring, I will plant Lantana in a sunny spot with plenty of room to grow!

Next up, I deduced that Hydrangeas need a lot of water. I’ve had three Hydrangeas under a Flowering Cherry tree for many years, but the tree is bigger and fuller now which blocks access to sun and rain.

They start out looking great in the Spring, but by mid-summer, they droop and need me to supplement with the hose.

Womp womp.

My failed attempt at a vegetable garden devolved into a real life Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! In the picture below, you’ll see our teeny tiny plants next to a big tomato cage…

By mid-summer, each plant was 5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. They grew together into this woven mess where tomatoes couldn’t get any sunlight and wouldn’t ripen. They all strangled each other in a dramatic, prolonged death scene and I finally had to haul the whole nest to the curb. I couldn’t even pull the cage loose from the vines!

Next year: one tomato cage per plant – and – in a new location with afternoon sun.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.jpg

Here’s what has been easy…

Sunflowers grow very fast and very tall.

They need a sunny spot and you cannot crowd them or they’ll create shade and kill themselves off. I had waaaaaaay too many crammed into this little spot.

Caladiums are happy in any shady spot. These were grown from bulbs I planted under a tree. I’ve always had success growing them in pots, too, as long as they’re shaded by a porch.

Everything in this picture above is easy – just plant it and walk away. I have never killed a Crepe Myrtle tree! And that is saying something, friends! Ditto for Red Bud trees. They are so resilient! All these shrubs are unkillable, too: the green one is called Cleyera and the purple ones are both varieties of Loropetalum. Down low is a ground cover called Purple Winter Creeper.

Monkey grass is [sadly] unkillable so I contend with it. #notphotoworthy

Here’s a close-up of another Loropetalum. I have several varieties and they all add such nice color!

Likewise, Nandina will grow everywhere I stick it in the yard and adds such nice color – evolving from green to orange or red. Some varieties are lime.

Hosta Lillies come back year after year whether in a pot or in the ground. They just want a shady spot. So easy and so pretty!

These are my favorites: Purple Coneflowers a.k.a. Echinacea. This variety is Kim’s Knee High (gotta love the name). They come back every year bigger and better than the year before! I may put a little cage around them next year for support and/or to keep kids and pets from tromping through them.

Gosh, I am in love with these flowers.

I have two spots in the yard that kill everything I plant there. Ever the optimist, I am going to try again next Spring and see what happens!


My plans for the Spring = dig it all up and move it all around and hope that makes all the difference:

  • Move Huechera to the flowerbed that kills everything and wish it all the very best.
  • Move weary, sad Azaleas to the shady spot currently occupied by Heuchera. <insert despair + low expectations>
  • Backfill Azalea vacancy with Loropetalum.
  • Move Hydrangeas next to Bryan’s blueberries in the space shaded from afternoon sun by the Pear tree.
  • Plant a Crepe Myrtle in the spot that kills every tree ever. <success rate: 0 for 4>
  • Plant Sunflower seeds in the same spot as this year, just less of them.
  • Plant Lantana right behind the Firecracker Gladiolus and Asian Lillies to give that spot heft.
  • Consider adding a Crepe Myrtle by the tree fort and a Burning Bush next to the grill.

This month in the yard: November

What a strangely warm Fall this has been for planet Earth – the highest average temps ever recorded. Here in The Cove, it means we have had our first real freeze this past weekend. Most of the yard looks pretty blah now that the leaves have either dropped or turned brown, but I’ve enjoyed having green grass in November!

The Oak tree in the back yard is pretty even though it’s covered in crunchy brown leaves.

Bryan’s blueberry bushes have all turned red.

I have one lonely bloom on the Cana Lilly by the patio… It never did get covered up in blooms this summer.

I added red and orange Mums to the flowerbed out front for a little Autumn color.

Shhh… Don’t let my flowers hear that Summer ended two months ago.

Hosta Lillies in November! Most of my Hostas have shriveled as they would normally do this time of year – but this patch is just green and perky!

The Irises and Lantana still look great.

The Heuchera still look healthy, but I don’t think I like these plants. They were recommended by Southern Living but they’re just super boring.

I got a mix of Pansies and Violets for a big pot near my driveway. These should tolerate frost so we can have a teeny pop of color this winter. I haven’t tried winter flowers before so wish me luck…

Nandina is so pretty this time of year! I love the red leaves.

More orange Mums for the pots by the garage…

…and for the pot under the pergola!

I think the trick to enjoying your yard and flowerbeds in the Fall is to just look at the colorful bits and ignore the rest. 🙂

Perking up the den with plants and a gold Sharpie…

I love houseplants all the time, but even more so in winter when everything is sooooo blah outside. A house doesn’t feel like a home until you add plants. By consistently neglecting ours, I’ve discovered which ones are robust. Ha!  The giant tropical in our den died a slow death this year, so I hauled it to the curb and decided to put my Peace Lillies in that nice big pot.

Remember the plant Michael and Freddie nearly killed 4 years ago? It has rallied back – slowly – and now shares this pot with another of its kind. #peacelilliesforthewin

Caring for Peace Lillies isn’t hard, but you can kill one if you lasso it with a jump rope (Michael), chew off all the leaves (Freddie), forget to water it (me) or all three. 😦

I stuck my favorite desk lamp in here since the den is a cozy spot to read or surf – especially in the winter when the fireplace is on!

Did you know there is a gold Sharpie marker?!? Yeah. For real. I may or may not have wandered through the house adding gold stripes to several frames. Also, professional bloggers remove the glass from their frames before taking photos. I am not a professional blogger. Please excuse the glare.

These are Red Aglaonema and joined us by way of the Lowes clearance rack. (You can find amazing deals when they’re shuffling inventory!) These plants love low-light so they’re perfect next to the fireplace.

It may be a faux pas to have live plants and fake flowers in the same room… I don’t know. But I really like both in here; each brings a little color and vibrancy.

Dizzy came to see what I was doing in here…

That’s the tour, folks!

Leah’s Tween Room Update

Inspiration for Leah's room...: We have been tweaking Leah’s room for about a year and it’s finally ready to reveal!!! The changes are small but dramatic and very “tween”.  Here was the inspiration photo I found on Pinterest… Isn’t it adorable?  I loved the bright pink against the aqua but my little tomboy said No, way! The final room ended up a bit different…

Leah and I both still loved her room the way we fixed it up 2-3 years ago, but the antique furniture (from her great-great-great grandparents) wasn’t up for the wear and tear of little kids. It needed to move to the guest room. I decided to buy her a good queen mattress to keep long term, rather than a twin for a platform bed or bunkbeds. That was a tough call – I know kids love bunkbeds. I didn’t want to buy little kid stuff because she’s growing up on me – fast – but I didn’t want to buy grownup stuff because people in this house still jump on the bed – and I need that to be OK because jumping on the bed is fun. So here is where we landed:

Leah now has a gallery wall with her paintings, pictures of her friends, and a cool photo I took of her boogie boarding at the beach that I enlarged to poster-size.

The headboard was a Craigslist find that I painted lime to match her quilt. The lime herringbone pillow covers are from Hobby Lobby.  The aqua sheets and study-buddy pillow, body pillow and the quilt are both from Target and the peace sign pillow is old but I think came from Justice. The little clip lamp for reading is from Ikea.

Brown Bear was Leah’s first teddy bear and is still her favorite.

OK, now you’ll see where the Pinterest inspiration came in…

Ikea’s Expedit/Kallax bookshelves are the best invention ever. Leah’s stuff is much more organized: baskets for school supplies, craft supplies, etc.

That’s the tour!!!

This Month in the Yard: October

I am way late on this month’s installment of “This Month in the Yard” so even though it’s pouring rain this morning, I ran outside and grabbed some pictures so I will have a record to compare against next year.

Prepare to not be impressed. I am planning to dig up half the yard in the Spring and move things to other locations with hopes it will all look better. Wish me luck!

Freddie says, “Happy Halloween!”

The neglected Coleus just grow and grow!

It’s amazing anything grows well in damp, dark brown clay, but the Begonias are still blooming and the Cleyera (shurbs) I planted here last Spring are happy. Hostas have always liked this shady spot, too.

Out. Of. Control.
The Lantana went CRAZY this year but I can’t bring myself to cut it back because the little flowers are so pretty. In the Spring, I plan to pare back this flowerbed significantly.

The Hostas and Lillies are withering and turning color along with the leaves on my Birch and Cherry trees.

Bryan’s blueberry bushes are beginning to change color. They should become a more vibrant red in the next few weeks…

The Cana Lilly continues to drag along. <womp womp>

This is the view off the back patio… On a sunny day, the hammock is hard to beat. My Loropetalum are very happy back here – growing like crazy. (That’s the purple shrub.)

Now, let’s run around the corner to my parents’ yard where the maple trees are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G this Fall!!!

Isn’t my mom a cutie?!?
(Photo cred to my sister-in-law, Glenna <3)

I haven’t been blogging as much lately and my only real excuse is that we have been busy with the daily churn of life.

Michael’s football season has wrapped and this week is the city tournament for Leah’s volleyball team. I hosted a party for my friend Dawn’s boutique a couple weekends ago and then ran away to Atlanta with Bryan’s sisters for a girl’s weekend of not so much, which is my all time favorite kind of weekend.

That’s all for now, folks!

Thoughts on decorating your home…

So after last week’s archaeological find reaffirmed my long-standing love of brown, I refreshed the family room by “shopping within our home”. (Moving things around.) Really Bryan started it when he decided the crazy-print chair from our bedroom is comfy and wanted it to be “his” chair in the family room. It clashed with all the orange and blue I’d brought in here for Fall – but – as you know, I only do “colors” on things like throw pillows that are really easy to swap out.

This chair is the exception in a house full of solid colors. It’s not Bryan’s style, but he’s a pragmatist who just wants to sit someplace to watch football on TV. (The sofa sits low so it’s hard for him to get up/down.)

You can see in these pictures how similar our home is to the inspiration scrapbook I put together in the 90s. Pulling together pictures helped me realize what was off-kilter in my first little apartment in Dallas so I could refine over time. I use Pinterest the same way today.

My philosophy on decorating is that your home should be very “you” or “y’all” stylistically while at the same time being functional, comfortable and durable so you can really live in it. I grew up with these kids who weren’t allowed in their pristine white ultra-modern living room or dining room. What’s the point of a picture perfect space your family can’t use?!? <insert eye roll here>

My philosophy on budgeting is to invest in furniture that you’ll keep forever and spend very little on decor that you’ll change out over the years. Our living room and dining room were empty for many years while we saved up – no regrets.

Most of our decor is from Target (baskets, lamps, candles), Hobby Lobby (pillow covers, seasonal items) or Ballard Designs (monogrammed pillows, curtains, lamp shades, rugs). I don’t comb the earth for this stuff, although I will if I ever win the lottery and have all that free time. 🙂

This is where I am sitting right now!!!

There are so many amazing home bloggers out there, but a few have really captured my eye with their style. My friend Joslyn’s home tour on Simple Lovely is simply lovely. She is insanely creative. I’m a big fan, too, of House Tweaking‘s clean, modern style – and I’m oddly drawn into the weird/creative combinations from Little Green Notebook. Also, the home tour for Chris Loves Julia is an amazing testament to the magical powers of renovating.

I’m curious, what influences your style?

Flashback Friday: It’s 1995 all over again!

Long ago, in a time almost forgotten, people drew design inspiration from magazines that were printed on paper. I know – so weird! I was an avid reader of Architectural Digest and Elle Decor back in the day and used to love pulling out pages of my favorite images. I recently stumbled upon a scrapbook I’d put together 20 years ago and was stunned to see that my tastes have changed very little over the years! The pictures look soooooo much like my house and my Pinterest boards! Here’s a peek…

Oh yes, people! Brown’s back! Ha! I laughed when I saw this. Apparently, this was all the encouragement I needed…

I bought a table that looks exactly like this 2 years ago!!!

This looks very much like the ancestry wall I put in our hallway this summer.

My love of earth-tones, textures and natural materials was well entrenched by 1995. I saw lots of photos of seagrass furniture and sisal rugs on the pages of my scrapbook. Isn’t this room gorgeous, though?

This photo looks like the wall color and trim in our bedroom right now…

I had comments on most pages – often saying “brown with white” and “love all the browns”. Ha! How about that fax machine? I love the brass lamp.

This photo looks like the wall color and trim of our dining room.

This looks like the colors in my office – chocolate walls, off white curtains, brown stained furniture, lots of plants…

Apparently, I liked “wood, wood and more wood” before the days of actually having “wood, wood and more wood” in our kitchen, which sometimes seems a bit much.

In Bryan’s man cave, we have a cow hide rug over hard wood floors just like this.

And cube shelves… Now this part I remember. I have loved cube shelves since I first saw them in a friend’s apartment in Austria in 1993! And now both my kids have them in their bedrooms.

If anything, unearthing the scrapbook confirms for me that regardless how trends evolve, I know what I like. I sometimes get caught in the swirl of, “What if I do this and it looks really dated in a couple of years and I hate it?” We have a family friend in Auburn who loves seafoam green. It’s her signature color. I was just saying recently that her house has looked amazing since she first decorated it in 1987 because it’s classic and it reflects her style.

I’ll take a cue from Mrs. Dollar and stick with what I like. ❤

Upcycled Planters + Wilson

I’ve added two new plants that I have to show you… Both are planted in “pots” that didn’t begin life as a flowerpot.

We got this coffee crock as a wedding gift and somewhere along the way we broke the lid. I have used it as a flowerpot for years.

I took clippings from the huge Philodendron in my office to create this “new” plant. Philodendron are pretty easy to propagate: just clip the vine, tuck the stem into the dirt, and add a lot of water! They’re easy to grow, too – happy with anything from indirect sunshine to a fluorescent light!

OK, now brace yourself for the cutest plant and pot ever…

Isn’t this little guy adorable?!? He used to be a plug-in scented wax warmer… but this summer, I knocked him over and broke the top. He was too cute to throw away, so I removed the electrical cord and used him as a container for drinking straws before deciding the right plant might look like feather plumes… and a star was born.

He reminds me of Wilson-the-volleyball from the movie Cast Away. Forget Gone with the Wind and Terms of Endearment, I sobbed when Wilson floated off to sea… like for-real gasping, ugly crying! Wiiiilllsooooooooon! Gosh, that movie was good. Anyway, I think I’ll call this guy Wilson-the-owl. Wilson will probably live on the kitchen table because he doesn’t need much light.

This Month in the Yard: September

You know, I had so hoped this would be my year with our yard but it never bounced back from the dryness of July. I’ll call it a “lesson learned” for next year. Note to self: Plants need water. 😐

OK, here’s where things stand: I’ll start with the front porch. The front porch is my friend… The wreath can’t die on me and these plants have been incredibly resilient despite how often I forget to water them!


My brother Steve gave me these Begonias last Spring and I put them next to the Cleyera. They have thrived! No water – no problem.

Steve gave me these cute little Pansies, too. They’ve thrived with zero attention. I say “no water no problem” but this spot outside our dining room window stays fairly moist and shaded. Everything here looks great – as usual.

Leah and Andrew decided it was a good spot for a “fairy house”. See the pathway lined with pistacio nut shells?

They lined the fairy’s path with a fern frond.

…And inside the fairy’s house is a little bed made of leaves. ❤

The Lantana has done really well in both spots this year but particularly here where it gets bright sunlight and a little rain. I’m sticking with Lantana from here on out!

All of my Crepe Myrtle trees have grown like crazy despite the heat and lack of rain. I have trimmed back the off-shoots at the base of each tree twice already this summer and they have grown back again. Last summer, we paid to have this Crepe Myrtle removed – including have the roots ground down – but it came back anyway. I dug it up in July and it grew back and bigger – about 4′ tall! It’s insane. Gotta love the tenacity of a Crepe Myrtle!!!

My Cleyera are sprouting little autumn berries. So cute!

Soooo… several of my Hosta Lillies are in bad shape, particularly these by the driveway. Yikes! 😦 They just needed more water than they got. Ditto for the Hydrangeas behind them.

Droopy, thirsty Hydrangeas. <sigh> I haven’t thought about them in the 5-6 weeks since the last round of photos for the blog. But hey, I do feed the kids (and the pets) every day, so, you know, priorities. 🙂

The River Birch is dropping leaves – ditto for the Flowering Cherry.

The Caladiums that I planted as bulbs have done better in this pot than in the flowerbed. The pot has been pretty moist and mostly shaded.

Despite its imperfections, the yard is a great place to relax. I stopped to lay in the hammock for a bit between photos… So peaceful!

My Purple Coneflowers are dead – done for the year – which is odd because last September they were gorgeous.

My Purple Day Lillies just look like clumps of grass with the exception of this one lonely amazing bloom. So pretty!

The little Apple Tree that Michael planted in the Spring is hanging in there.

This is the Cleveland Pear we planted in 2008. It was about as tall as Bryan or me back then! It will be beautiful in a few more weeks…

The Purple Pixie Loropetalum look pretty amazing. They’re already transitioning from purple to red. I love these shrubs.

OK, that’s it for September!

Let’s say it’s Fall…

I am ready to call it: The temps have been low enough to open windows and bring in fresh air – and football season is underway – so it must be Fall. Last night, I did a quick swap of our decor…

The wreath I made a few years ago is back on the front door. I still love it!

Freddie says, “Come on in!”

I always have an arrangement on the dining table and love pulling out these orange berries every year. Our runner is way too short so I turned it sideways.

The blue pumpkin is back!

This is “my” chair – I think. Bryan has decided he likes it and Freddie has, too! I’m sitting in this chair as I type… I love that we have been able to open the windows at night and curl up with a cozy throw.

I  love brown and gold so much. ❤ They go well with every Fall color.

I already showed you my new throw pillows/covers. I’m excited about football season this year – maybe because I am coaching and looking for strategies? Ha! (Kidding!)

Freddie got a new throw in navy and orange to match our pillows. I watch those Febreeze commercials about being “nose blind” to your pets’ odors and sigh wistfully. Freddie is a stinky dog! But we love him.

I pulled out this little flower arrangement that Bryan’s mom gave us as newlyweds.

I’ve always believed a house is not a home until you add plants. I have six in the family room.

That’s it for our Fall home tour. 🙂