Category Archives: Fix-ups

Landscaping Can Be An Obsession

When landscaping our yards we tend to select plants and colors that we like. I’ve done that, too! My colors are dark green, Chartreuse, burgundy/bronze, yellow/orange and white. By keeping with a theme, it allows me to move plants around when dividing overgrown plants or putting them in a more desirable location.

The East side of my home gets a lot of hot cooking-type of sun until about 2:00 in the afternoon. It also gets less rain since the house shields it. So on this side the plants need little care and minimum water. I had landscapers add the large stones to help with erosion from the slope. There are various varieties of sedums

East side - dry area plants

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including the popular Autumn Joy Sedum which honey bees LOVE! There is a Dappled Willow shrub in between two of the Golden Globe arborvitae. I severely prune it before winter then it regrows to 8-10ft each year, reaching the top of that window. The burgundy Barberries are medium-sized so don’t require much pruning to keep them small.

Sunny West Side plants

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The West side of the home gets 2-3 hours of afternoon sun. I planted 3 full sized Barberries years ago. The Hostas were originally planted when there was a Cherry tree at the corner for shade. I have to keep them watered during the heat if there is minimal rain. I’ve divided them a few times, giving some friends. The Vicary privet was planted by the builder 23 yrs ago. The Blue Spruce to the right is a Bakerii Dwarf Blue Spruce so it has remained 8-10 ft.

Trees for privacy

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The Back Yard has been in for many years. The Viburnums have now reached about 12ft and are a wonderful privacy screen. The birds congregate in these shrubs. The Norway Spruces are VERY tall now as is the Callery Pear. The plant in the lower front left is a Varigated Virginia Creeper vine. It is on a 3-section metal fence that hides the A/C.

New plants fronting spruce trees

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The space in front of the large Spruces has been a problem. Over the years I’ve tried three different types of plants in this area. None has survived or thrived. This Spring I tried again with plants that “may be” more tolerant of dappled shade from the pear tree. The new plants L-R are: Sweet Flag, Fireworks Fountain Grass, Coral Bells and Bonfire Cushion Spurge

Newly planted back of house

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I’m still working on the area next to the back of the house. Since I lost two of the Ninebarks to their powdery mildew problem and needed to move the Ligularia to a larger spot, I’ve had to select different plants. Late last summer I put in two Cinnamon Ferns. Two years ago I put in a Vanilla Spice Summersweet. I’m still trying to save the one remaining Ninebark. I added the Creeping Jenny a couple weeks ago to eventually provide colorful groundcover and help with maintaining moisture.

pyracantha

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This Pyracantha is many years old now. It’s huge and is a refuge for dozens of little birds. I no longer get the pretty orange berries in the fall because the mass of birds knock the berries off before they have a chance to mature to the orange color. It does have pretty white flowers in late Spring.

I wanted to somewhat conceal my back steps so I selected Karl Foerster Reed Grass  to grow in front of it. I put it in last summer so this year is its first to grow as planned. Per

Karl Foerster Reed Grass

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the photos I’ve viewed on the Internet, the fronds start as white then turn yellow then rust. It has a columnar growth and “per the photos” shouldn’t outgrow this space.

Backyard overview

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Every year I say, “now I’m done”, but who knows if this is the year I’m REALLY done!

A Look Back at 2017

2017 was an interesting year. Mostly it was a good year, but there were a few ‘bad’ things. I’ll start with the bad first. Both my home and my Jeep are now 20 years old, so it’s been a year of rather costly maintenance on both. Water heater, large maple tree removed, fence repair, exterior trim painting, new fridge, some new faucets, etc. Typical homeowner expenses.

The good news is Murph is 13 yrs old and I’m grateful to still have him. He’s a little deaf and moves more slowly but he still has spirit and is unbelievably spoiled. Another granddaughter got married so my family increased by ONE. I still have great neighbors who sometimes help me with projects or scold me when they see me doing something they think I shouldn’t – like climbing ladders! And of course, I’m so thankful for my loving family!

I’m also glad we have a President who is working for the people and America. He’s eliminated many, many regulations that made it difficult and costly for businesses. He’s working to secure our borders and deporting illegals who commit crimes. ISIS has almost been decimated. He’s installed dozens of Constitutional Judges to rule based on law, not progressive activism. Starting in 2018 we’ll get tax cuts for Americans and Corporations which will infuse money into the economy to grow it. Anyone with a 401K or pension fund benefitted from the skyrocketing stock market. Best of all is a direction to consider America First rather than globalism and the New World Order concept. Now if Obama and Hillary would just go away, life would be good.

I’m excited about 2018 and what new exciting things it will bring.

Trick to Weathering Wood Overnite

I have a split-rail fence as required by my subdivision. It’s now 20 years old and was again in need of replacing some rotted fence posts and rails. When I’ve had this work done in years past, I had to live with a “new wood” look until it also aged over time. Because I had so many posts and rails replaced this time I went to Home Depot with the intent of finding a suitable “weathered” stain. One of the salesmen told me that stain wouldn’t really work well. Instead he showed me a YouTube video giving instructions on weathering using white vinegar and steel wood pads. Sounds odd but I found many such videos so apparently I’m the last to know this trick.

I bought a half-gallon of vinegar and used 4 steel wool pads. In one of the videos I watched, it was suggested that if a darker color was desired to make black tea and spray it on the wood first. I didn’t want to do that plus I had only regular tea so I put 7 tea bags in the vinegar mixture. I put a lid on the container then let it sit for 24 hrs. I poured the mix into an all-purpose spray bottle I had on hand then sprayed all the new wood. VOILA!

weathering new wood on old fence
fence post weathering
In the photo all the top rails are new and the post on the right is new. They look a little different than the 20-year old rails but look a whole lot less obvious than the new wood did. They turned this color within a few hours. The photo below shows another sprayed post as it compares to a leftover of a new wood post. Pretty amazing isn’t it!

I do have a couple cautions.

1) Wear gloves because the spray will stain your hands, nails & especially cuticles. It also can stain kitchen counters. Use Chlorox!

2) The fibers from the steel wool may periodically clog the spray bottle’s tube so you may need to check the bottom of the suction tube to remove the fibers.

Spring is for Transplanting

This Spring I’ve been busy in the yard. There were plants that needed moved because they had overgrown their space or they weren’t doing well in their spot. I also had to replace a large Butterfly Bush that didn’t make it through the winter. Rather than move two large hostas I gave them to my insurance agent during a meeting I had with him. Actually I told him he could have them for his new home IF he came and dug them up.Spruce & Pear Trees

Last fall I had to have Davey Tree cut down one of my large spruce trees. The trees had been planted too closely and in an arc. The middle one of the 5 trees wasn’t getting enough sun anymore so it looked very bad. Removing it would allow the two trees beside it to get more sun and space. My wonderful neighbor volunteered to cut the stump out. It was an afternoon of really hard work and I certainly appreciated it.

Ligularia

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The Ligularia that I planted 2 years ago had grown much larger than I thought they would plus they were in a spot where I had to walk by them to reach the garden hose and a bird feeder. The leaves are easily damaged so they needed to be moved to a spot where I didn’t walk by them. So I moved them to the empty space where the spruce tree was. So far they are doing great. Their tall daisy-like flowers should look very pretty in this mass display.

Ninebark and Summersweet

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The Ligularia was originally planted next to the back of the house where the dead Butterfly Bush was. I wanted a tall plant to replace the Butterfly Bush so I chose a Vanilla Spice Summersweet shrub. It is to get up to 6 ft tall and wide. It has white fragrant flowers in late summer and is favored by butterflies and hummingbirds.

Orangeade Potentilla

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There were 3 Spireas in front of the Spruces which never did well so I moved them to another spot. In their place I put 5 Orangeade Potentillas. They’ve already started to bloom in the three weeks they’ve been in the ground. Whenever I plant flowers and shrubs I always use one of the types of Miracle-Gro soils and Miracle-Gro fertilizer so they have a good start. Butterflies are supposed to like Potentilla. We’ll see.

I’ve also divided some very large Hostas and put the divided portions within the Spruce bed and moved some dwarf Barberries in the front yard. I AM NOW DONE! (until I decide to do something else)

EDIT UPDATE: This is what the Orangeade Potentilla looks like 2 weeks later. Very pretty!

Orangeade Potentilla

Is Your Shower Spray Slow?

To continue with my plumbing focus, I purchased a new kitchen faucet and a new faucet for my shower stall. Had a local plumbing company install them since this was beyond my abilities. I love both of the new faucets!
city water crud plugs shower faucet
What I want to alert you to is what we found when the plumber removed the short pipe that holds the shower head. The circle piece is the flange that is flat against the wall. The center pipe then curves downward to hold the spray part of the shower head. Notice the calcium crud that is filling the pipe! That is affecting the water flow coming out of the shower plus it’s just gross!

Once I got over the shock of seeing this crud, I remembered that was the same water I was using to brush my teeth and drink! I use CLR every so often to clean the shower head and faucet aerators but I never though about looking into the pipes delivering the water! So I held a mirror under the two bath faucets to see if they also had the calcium deposits. They did, so I soaked them in CLR also.

I have city water for which I pay $46+ per month. I think residents deserve cleaner water! By the way, my shower now puts out a whole lot more water now!

My rant against faucet manufacturers

I’m going to continue my plumbing theme … or perhaps I should say my frustration with the manufacturers of faucets and handles. Bear with me!

shower faucetThis is a photo of the handle in my shower stall. It’s pretty typical of what builders install. I would like to replace the knob with a lever. It would seem that I could just remove the knob then buy a lever and put it on. Not true. There are “universal” levers but they don’t fit this Kohler unit. Why don’t manufacturers make the unit such that handles can be interchanged? That seems like a simple request!

In order to get a lever handle here’s what has to happen:

  • I must buy a completely whole new unit including a cartridge – $$$.
  • A plumber must cut an access hole in the wall opposite the faucet. (In my home that wall is slightly visible from my living room.)
  • Then they replace the cartridge that connects the 2 water pipes. (Cartridges are unique to each faucet style. WHY?)
  • Then the plumber replaces the new fixture and lever onto the new cartridge.
  • The plumber will place a plastic access panel over the hole but they won’t do the drywall work. I would have to do that or I would have to figure out how to conceal the panel by hanging a picture or mirror.

In order to get a $25 lever I would have to spend well over $200 plus drywall work (which I can do). As I joked with the plumber, I’m convinced the manufacturers are in cahoots with the Plumbers Union to make these units such that an ordinary do-it-yourselfer can’t make minor repairs. Plus the manufacturers make more money on a complete faucet versus just a handle.

I would like to have bronzed faucets like the one I just put in the half bath. But that’s out because the separate tub with chrome fixtures does not have an access panel either so ceramic tile would have to be cut to access it’s cartridge. I don’t even want to think about THAT mess! Guess I’ll just live with chrome and ball handles!