Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fairy Garden Renovations - New Concrete Patio!

Renovated Fairy Garden with New Concrete Patio
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, not only can you have a Pinterest obsession with fairy gardens and their accessories, but you can do DIY patio projects with concrete.  No, not your building supply concrete, but special fairy garden concrete.  My husband laughed.  Hey, who has the most beautiful fairy garden patio now?

Why did I need to renovate the patio?  Well, the patio furniture was unstable and kept falling over.  I would like to say the children were bothered by this, but that would be a lie.  I'll admit to needing to have an exceptional fairy garden patio that was not a fall-hazard to fairies or miniature polymer clay critters.

I find miniature gardening to be a very fun project.  Ours has stayed entirely indoors, though it probably could move outdoors.  Even being indoors, I've had problems with aphids on the violets, but I was more concerned about things blowing away or being carried off by animals.  Do you see that cute little potted geranium on the table?  It has a separate saucer underneath that could be blown away by a dog's breath. 

The kids had a great time deciding where everything should go in the garden, designating special functions to certain areas and placing polished stones as stepping stones.  I was told that we had too many bird-related accessories, so some of those went into temporarily storage until I am allowed to play with them again.

Many of the accessories came from ebay and other online sources.  I made the red toadstools myself with baked polymer clay (Fimo/Premo) and baked metal wires into their stems so that they could be staked easily in the dirt.  I also make the bird's nest with robin's eggs on a stump.  The pond is a clay pot saucer painted inside with blue acrylic pain and filled with blue flattened glass marbles.  There was a tremendous dispute over the frog needing to sit on a lily pad because "frogs don't float on water", but perhaps fairy garden frogs can defy gravity.

Instructions on Fairy Garden Concrete Patio:

 First, I got a bag of miniature garden concrete mix online.  I used the entire bag for this project.  I also got some sand from the yard as a base and used strips of cut-up black rubber mat for the edging.  I filled the edged area with 1/2" of sand and smoothed it with a spoon.  Then I added 1/2" of concrete mix and leveled that. I used part of a 12x12 panel of sliced pebble tile and pulled the pebbles off of the mesh to which they are glued (use gloves, don't find out the hard way like I did that the mesh is FIBERGLASS).  I leveled the mixes with a wood block and I placed the pebbles on the concrete mix and pushed them down until flush with the surface of the concrete mix.  Then, I brushed concrete mix off the surface of the rocks and into the spaces between them.  This doesn't clean it up entirely, but a few puffs of breath across the rocks cleans it up nicely.  I used a spray bottle of water to wet the concrete mix until there was some pooling of water.  I repeated spraying several times a day for 2 days and then let it dry. 

Brushed concrete mix off stones

Sprayed stones and mix to activate the concrete
The concrete is great!  It is hard and stable and the patio furniture is now stable.  Of course, it took only one day until the kids ask what they are going to do if they want to change it?  Ha!  After that investment, we are only going to buy fairies on sale!  I like the Cicely Mary Barker (28 June 1895 – 16 February 1973) fairy figures.  I adore the children's books and own some framed CMB fairy series prints.  They have the detail of botanical drawings and are beautiful.  I love how she mixes butterfly wings with flower petals and leaves for the fairy outfits and each fairy has a real plant as a theme, from snowdrops and violets to larch and hazelnut.  Did you know that she actually designed these costumes and dressed her sister's kindergarten students up to use a models for her art?  What a scene that would have been!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Surviving the Hot Spell

Allium giganteum blooming June 10
 I love seeing the big alliums, have admired them in garden blogs and in a few gardens.  You don't see them too often, and I don't suppose they are common potted plants at the garden center.  I planted these Allium giganteum bulbs last fall.  They add interesting architectural shapes to the garden, though transiently.  Different Alliums bloom at different times though, so having a variety can extend their blooming season.  Allium "Purple Sensation" bloomed about a month ago (is half as tall as these).  The already dying foliage on blooming alliums is quite noticeable -- this is normal and expected of the alliums.  Eventually, I should surround the alliums with another plant to disguise its foliage. 

We have had hot days this past week, up to 36 degrees C.  Consequently, garden work has been happening at dusk.  I suppose other people would be taking advantage of the beach right now, but our family will settle for running through the orchard sprinklers. 
Agastache aurantiaca
I have been raising perennial seedlings in my sunroom, mostly drought-tolerant ones such as this Agastache aurantiaca.  I purchased a variety of this perennial last year but it died over the winter, so I (more inexpensively) grew quite a few of them from seed and planted them as smaller plants and hope they are more successful.  They are making their first blooms now.  They are a hummingbird-attracting plant, which is great, because we are enjoying the little hummers zipping around the yard.

Strawberries in stock tank raised bed - netting added this week
 I covered the strawberries with netting this week, as the plants have small green berries on them now.  We haven't really had any problems with animals eating anything out of the garden, but I am proactively protecting them so that no animals start a new berry-habit.  In our last house, the squirrels simply lifting up the netting and run under it to raid nearly every berry.  Some squirrels may have met with bullets.

Praying mantis

One of the mini-gardeners discovered the first praying mantis of the year, clinging to the door jam.  It was removed to safety on a potted geranium and given a hearty welcome to our yard.  The kids know that praying mantises are insect royalty in our yard, especially since they KILL BLACK WIDOWS.  That alone makes them my favourite insect, aside from their intelligent alien appearance and rotating head.  

Friday, June 5, 2015


Hummingbird at our feeder June 5, at sunset (light transmitting through red glass onto the bird)
 After a few days of rapidly-moving dark clouds dumping sudden bursts of rain and some smaller showers in between, we are anticipating a long warm dry spell here in the South Okanagan.  The tourists rejoice and children will want to be out of school.  Summerland's Action Festival will have great weather this weekend.

The weeds and the plants are racing to outgrow each other.  I have a mint plant that scared me with its quadrupled size in the last week.  The children are going to grow tired of virgin mojitos with Schwepps ginger ale.  I tried a mint ice cream recipe using fresh mint leaves a few years ago, but its texture was reminiscent of licking velour, so we quickly abandoned that.  Perhaps we used the wrong kind of mint?  This year, we have spearmint...a lot of it.  I do have the plant sunk in the ground within a large container, but it has escaped to the surrounding soil though it will ultimately be restrained by some nearby retaining walls. 
Thornless blackberry blossom, June 5
 My Blanc Double de Coubert rose is already done blooming, but I pulled a bunch of developing rosehips from it to try and get some more flowers.  That rose has a lovely scent, which is a big part of why I bought it, besides its low maintenance needs.  It had flowers for about two weeks.  I think the Red Meidiland shrub rose (pictured) is supposed to have a longer blooming season, but it doesn't have much scent.  The color really stands out though. 
Red Meidiland shrub rose, shaded in evenings and mulched well
 I love planting rock garden plants in crevices, which possibly appeals to my love of miniature things.  I have been stuffing a variety of Sedums and Sempervivums (hens and chicks), Thyme and little buns of Draba in these spots.  The thyme likes a bit more water and shade (they get the water that trickles through the earth from the underground drip-watering system).  The sempervivums are very hardy even in drier spots, and sedums seem at least moderately hardy.  I like the low-growing, carpet-like sedums at the tops of the rocks (Sedum album "Orange Ice" is in bloom right now), where they cascade over the edges.  Thyme blooms early in the summer, but the creeping green mats of thyme still look amazing the rest of the year.  Make sure though to get the lowest and densest varieties of thyme.  "Elfin" is great.  Wooly thyme has a fascinating textural effects.  The edible type thymes would not be suited for this kind of planting. 
Thyme (foreground) and sempervivum in crevice between granite boulders
The vegetable garden (in stock tanks) is growing enough lettuce to feed an army.  Will kids notice it in smoothies?