Container Gardening

door viewMy blog entry a couple of days ago, Back garden cleanup, caught the attention of Bren Haas who had questions about how I do container gardening. So this morning I added a bunch of pages with information on how I began and what has worked for me.

Here are the pages I created:

If there’s anything else you want to know, ask.

Don’t forget you can entice bird visitors with an interesting bird bath – mine is a hollowed rock sitting on some driftwood (which shades a couple of Tillandsia). I came across the bird bath many years ago – it shelters in the shed during the winter to keep the driftwood from deteriorating.

Bird Bath

More Spring

My local supermarket has a rather good plant section with phaelanopsis, an assortment of tropical plants and occasionally something unusual.


Last week I spotted this container with osteospermum and purple campanula. Had my name on it – it’s happy in my sunny living room window!

Back Garden Cleanup

This morning, on my way into town to have my snow tires removed and my summer tires put on my car I saw a forsythia in full bloom – today is April 27 –  the earliest I’ve seen forsythia in bloom in past years is May 3. A bit further along the road was a long splash of coltsfoot at the base of a fence.

So it’s officially spring here in Halifax (in spite of a snowfall yesterday afternoon/evening)!

When I got home from the car dealership I took a look at my back deck garden. It was warm enough in that sheltered corner to be outside and working. So I donned my garden gloves, picked up my loppers and Japanese knife, my garden waste bin and got to work.

I cleaned out last fall’s dead stuff, pulled out unwanted grass and other volunteers from the pots. Then I swept the deck clear of dead leaves.

It took me about an hour – but now you can see what’s coming along: I’m going to have about 20 blooms on the rhododendron (that’s close to a record), lots of flowers on the PJM rhododendron (that’s the small leaved one), the hosta is very visible, my peony survived and has shoots starting, the chives are well on their way, and lots of coral bells made it through the winter (in a week or two I’ll dig out all the stray coral bells from pots where they’ve started themselves and move them elsewhere). The echinacea lived through the winter (at least 4 of the plants are showing shoots!) so I won’t have to replant it (that’s a first). I love having those large pink daisy flowers in the late summer/fall.
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Nearer the house, the clematis has lots of leaf buds growing, the yellow birch, the nine-bark, and maple are all looking happy with buds swollen almost ready to burst if the warm weather persists. My Siberian iris is back, as is the dusty miller, and the red sedum and the small yellow day lilies will do fine.IMG_7504

As you can tell, my container garden is predominantly a perennial garden. I’m always amazed at how these plants make it through the winter in pots just fine. Most were volunteers (the maple, the yellow birch, the nine-bark). I noticed a couple of maple seeds had sprouted in some pots – I’ve left one to see how it will do.

Mid-May, I’ll add the annuals to fill in some colour: peach coloured wax begonias, lobelia (dark purple), pansies (purple), some golden canna lilies and for sure some mandevilla – both the red and pink were glorious last summer.

This time of year makes me happy – I just love it when the garden begins to return.

Socks #365+

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Finished last evening. To make these socks, I bought two 50g balls of Fabel sock yarn – one in shades of turquoise, the second in shades of grey. The variegated pattern in both was subtle, not a lot of change, so I decided to interleave the two yarns throughout the whole sock – that way (with cuff, heels, and toes in a complementary solid Sisu yarn) I’d have enough yarn to make a pair of socks.

Because they go well with my turquoise wool crewneck sweater (from Woolovers) I decided to keep them. I wore them today!

The next pair will be similar using a variegated with a strong pattern in blues along with another ball in subtle shades of blue/grey. This time I might knit whole sections in one yarn, then change to the second, and back again. We’ll see once I get beyond the cuff.

More improvisation!

“Face”

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OK, so what is it?

I got sent this image the other day – an example of a found “face”. I can see the face quite clearly but didn’t recognize that I was actually looking at a crab carapace, probably picked up from the beach sand somewhere in Florida.

I’ve tried tracking down the crab species – the closest I’ve come is it’s likely a smallish stone crab. Many of the Florida crab species have a much wider carapace. Also most don’t have such a profusion of spines along the front (“head”) edge.

Whatever it is, I’ve added the image to my “faces” collection.

Improvisation #6 – Finished

Finished yesterday, label added today.

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Quilt Top

I’m please with how lively the quilt is and how the full and partial circles turned out. Not a usual layout for drunkard’s path blocks but one that works well with these fabrics – prints with an Asian/Japanese flavour. I like the contrast between the blacks/lights and brick fabrics. The dark border also helps the circles pop.

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Quilt Back

For the back, I used blocks that didn’t quite make it up to size (most of the initial blocks) – I trimmed them by 1/4″ and was able to use them here. Notice, one circle just above the mid point, the rest of the blocks arrayed in one of the more traditional drunkard’s path layout.

To quilt my quilts I usually assemble the whole by pin basting, then stitching in the ditch along the block edges. This time, I stitched only around the border, leaving the pins in place while I quilted each block individually. Quilting this way covers any misalignment of the back strip with the columns on the top – that misalignment does show up if I’ve stitched in the ditch – I’m not usually out by much, maybe 1/2″ from top edge to bottom, but I can see that slightly off vertical line in the quilting on the back.

The design I created for this quilt aligned so the beginnings and ends of each embroidery link up and the whole looks as if I’d done the quilting edge to edge on a long-arm quilter (I’m getting better at this!). The border design is the same design, just downsized so I was able to stitch out two repeats using my grand endless hoop – that hoop makes the whole process go very quickly unlike having to individually hoop each of the 63 blocks in the quilt top. I was able to align each new start precisely with the ending of the previous stitch-out.

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Quilt Detail

I chose a darker Sulky variegated thread for the border (darker than the thread I used for the blocks – a predominantly a brick colour) which still seemed too light, until I fancy stitched the binding in place using the brick coloured thread – that toned down the border quilting so you can see the design, but from a bit of a distance it doesn’t shout at you.

Started piecing the next quilt (I’d already cut the fabrics late last week). No name for this quilt yet.

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This quilt will consist of three columns of black/white fabrics attached by the midline of the rich red Kona cotton background fabric. The arrangement of the strips will be different in each column. I can see I will need to do a bit of “fixing” near the top of this strip where the center line bows a wee bit to the left – the fix: to shave a bit off the bottom right of background strip #4 – that will straighten the strip.

The columns will be joined with sashing in the red solid fabric, the outer borders will also be 4″ of the red fabric (to match the 4″ top and bottom pieces for each column.

The back piecing? Haven’t thought about that yet!

Spring, Yeah!

A wonderful warm day – 20 C in my part of the city. The first so far. Buds on the trees are fattening, the hosta is beginning to show, and the patch of crocuses that have survived are open!

I will need to plant a whole lot more in the fall in spots that are sunnier than this spot – they make me smile and feel hopeful that the season is really changing.

“Cow” Socks

Here they are. Finished last evening. The yarn was dyed to produce the spiral stripes. Overall, I find the black overpowering the white/punk/rose. So these would be socks to wear with black, rather than pink, say.

Into the give-away pile… (which is growing – I’m going to have lots of socks for Christmas presents, coming December).

Improvisation #5: Finished

Quilt Top

Finished with binding this morning. In the end I added an outside red small print border. The challenge with this quilt was the quilting. The blocks were too big to quilt in any but the large reversible hoop so I decided to try quilting “edge to edge” using the 360 x 200 hoop. I started the quilting in the upper left corner – the design I’d set up had the start align with the end so I was able to use precise positioning to connect each consecutive embroidery as I worked across the width of the quilt. Four and a half repeats in each horizontal pass; nine passes from top to bottom. I could have nested the embroideries a bit more closely and done ten passes. Another time I will attempt to “overlap” each pass a bit more.

The nice thing about “edge to edge” quilting is all the borders are included in the overall quilting – no separate designs to quilt them.

Quilt Back

The back used up the five extra blocks I constructed.

Improvisation #6: Japanese Quilt

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Finished dimensions: 52″ X 64″

Just this minute finished this quilt top. I haven’t yet finished quilting the tipsy squares – the fabric for this quilt called out to me and I had to cut the blocks, then the circular portions leaving an “L” shaped piece, and I couldn’t leave the pile of “L” shaped pieces sitting there so I started working on the blocks.

The blocks are what is called “drunkard’s path”. It’s a classic quilt block with a curved bite removed from one corner. There are a gazillion possible arrangements for these blocks, but I thought this fabric collection called out for complete and partial circles – bubbles.

Sewing drunkard’s path blocks is not for the faint of heart! The challenge is to smoothly fit a convex curve to a concave one. Cutting the corner piece was relatively simple – I’d bought an acrylic template that allowed me to cut consistent 5″ circular pieces with my rotary cutter. To end up with a 6 1/2″ block I actually began with 7″ squares of fabric, cut the 1/4 circle, then trimmed the ends of the “L” 3/8 of an inch so when I aligned the two antagonistic curves they would actually match up. I sewed a bunch of practice blocks before tackling these ones for the quilt. By the time I got to sewing this fabric I had pretty good control over the process and almost all of the blocks could safely be trimmed to 6 1/2″. My finished block size is, therefore, 6″. It took some fiddling to get the block to work – 1/4″ seam on the curve was essential – actually just a tiny bit shy of 1/4″ worked best. The instructions I read recommended using 5 pins along the curve – I found I just needed two – one in the middle of the curve, the second at the end – then carefully fitting the “L” to the 1/4 circle (the latter on the bottom) allowed me the best control. I was surprised how quickly I could construct the blocks.

While I was making blocks I did enough for an insertion in the backing. That strip is also assembled. Tomorrow, I’ll construct the backing and set up the quilt for quilting. THEN I have to get back to the tilted squares to get the quilting on that quilt done.

I have four more quilt ideas waiting their turn. I have fabric for some of them – the difficult part is being patient and not starting anything else until these two quilts are finished.