Archive | Garden RSS feed for this section

Fake Floral Style

10 Sep

I love having fresh flowers in the house, they brighten up any corner of a room and make me smile,  however, with my crazy busy lifestyle I don’t have the time to shop for them very often, lord knows I don’t get them on a regular basis from my husband  and when I do have them in the house they always seem to quickly die on me!

So I’ve been considering getting some silk flowers to have in the house as permanent arrangements to add some color  and life (pardon the pun!) into our rooms.  I’ve been pretty impressed with the quality of some of the arrangements I’ve found, they are very realistic and are in my fave bright colors and blooms!

Check these arrangements and sellers out for some fake flower style…….

Autumn Orange Peony Silk Flowers by HeatherMBC on Etsy.

Beautiful Peony Sweet Pea Silk Flower Arrangement by farmerjulie.

And I am loving this Moss Ball arrangement , its a really stylish and sustainable centrepiece for any table…

Moss Ball Centerpiece by farmerjulie on Etsy.

Shades of Green.

31 Aug

Its getting to the point in the summer where the garden has to get sorted fast so that our 3 yr old has a place to play. Its been very frustrating having so much land and yet most of it isn’t safe (yet) for a toddler to play on. So we have prioritized the garden and decided to crack on with it. I got our landscapers  round and the first thing they said to me was “Where’s your design?” ..ahh..errr. yes about that…..

So a quick call was made to Shades of Green – a local landscape architect firm that I have been watching closely. I love their style  and some of their work and I think they could do great things with our garden. Here’s a taster of their work.

Ive , their principal, came round and I shared some ideas I had for the garden (A fire pit, patio, veg boxes, new pool etc..what dont I want!!) and she’s gone to draw up a proposal for us.  I’m excited to see what concept they come back with and what cost they envisage for us to do it……. as we plan to do most of the work ourselves with our landscapers help we really are looking for design fees only.

A Garden in Bloom!

2 May

This is our first spring in the Money Pit so it been interesting to see all the  plants and trees that are coming out of their hibernation and are enjoying the tiny bit of attention they have received from us over the last few months. When we arrived in late summer a lot of the plants were half dead and over grown so we chopped them all back and cleared out the debris and trash, the results now are paying off….

The garden still needs a ton of work but it would be nice to rescue  as many of the older plants  as possible and to not have to buy EVERYTHING new!!!

Spot the Garden!

22 Apr

As mentioned in previous posts Jon’s mum Carol has been working wonders in the garden. clearing out what can only be described as an overgrown mess into something clean and workable. Not there’s no hard landscaping going on but being able to see what we actually have in terms of a garden was definitely the first step!!!

On the side of the house its gone from this trash dump:

To this glorious clean space!

We have to now figure out what we will ultimately do with this side garden. It doesn’t get a ton of light later in the day so we might move the pool house to this side, or extend the pool patio out here and level it off . Still it is nice to have the trash cleared out and the weeds gone!

Garden Accessories: Hanging Lounge Chairs

29 Mar

The sun is finally threatening to come back out here in California and so I’m turning my eye towards potential garden accessories and I would love to get a swinging hammock like chair where I can relax with a glass of wine and bask in the sunshine (haha with 2 little kids this is clearly a far-fetched fantasy on my behalf!).

Here’s some ideas I came across…


The Charleston Rope Chair is lovely and rustic and super easy to install. It’s also really affordable at just $88!

This Nestrest, a hanging lounge chair  by Dedon is clearly a lot more fancy and I’ve no idea of its cost but there’s something just so amazing and luxurious about it….

Cant you imagine just swinging gently in one of these, completely relaxed with cocktail in hand?? …sigh. What will I have to do to get my hands on one of these!

Garden Clean Up Continues..

14 Mar

With all the focus on the house it’d be easy to think we’ve just abandoned the garden, and well to be honest we had a bit. Not being green fingered at all meant that Jon and I have had to rely on the expertise and free time of our landscapers Pablo and his crew but all our financial resource has really had to be focused on the house for now. However with the arrival of Jon’s mum, Carol,  a few weeks ago – a very keen gardener – we are now benefiting from her knowledge too!

We had a couple of days of nice weather finally in March so she (pardon the pun) planted herself in the garden and got cracking clearing out a lot of the weeds and turning the soil on one section close to the house. I came home from work to a beautiful bit of garden that is primed ready for planting some great plants into it.

Seeing even just this section of garden clear of weeds & debris and general garden crap that has accumulated over the years of it being neglected is amazing. It looks so good and its nice to be able to  really visualize the land and what we could put in it and where. We already know that we want easy to maintain plants (read minimal watering too!) that are mostly native to Northern California in here.

The other simple change  that she made  was to clear out, fertilize and reshape the two bushes that sit at the front of the house. I love these 2 bushes and want to try to maintain them when we get started with the external renovations in April as they add that bit of 50’s suburbia feel to what will be a modern looking house. There’s something very Edward Scissorhands about them!

We think they are some kind of a dwarf conifer but we aren’t really sure and are struggling to find out. So if you know please leave us a comment and let us know! They were wildly overgrown and brown with neglect so it’s really wonderful to see them looking so green and beautifully shaped after all this time!

Her next target will be the front garden – which is currently sporting a big trench in it waiting for the water line upgrade to happen. Once that has been done (hopefully soon) then she can go to town on it which will make even the current shabby old house look a lot better!

Garden Playtime

15 Feb

With the summer approaching fast I wanted to create at least one safe space for Jack to play in the garden till we figure out what we are doing with the rest of it! We’ve already decided that  the big corner piece on the top part of the garden will be a kids area but I have been looking around for structures to put in here and have been shocked by the price of them. Jon and his dad really wanted to build something as it would be more affordable and a nice memento of the renovation but we discussed it  further and with their focus being on the house and  the cost of the lumber and the other parts needed (like slides & swings etc) we  were as well buying a ready-made kit from somewhere.

After a ton of research I found this on the Costco website and its a really reasonably priced set from Gorilla Playsets. You seem to get a lot of playthings for your money compared to other places we’ve looked at, and its got an additional $200 off right now if we purchase before the end of Feb.

This structure has a ton of extra features on it that I know Jack (and hopefully the new one!) will love the included climbing wall,  a telescope and a tic tac toe game

I also like the fact that these playhouses come with a 10 year warranty so if anything goes wrong we have some sort of back up plan.

First up we need to get Pablo, our landscaper, back to flatten the earth on this part of the garden, we also need some privacy bamboo plants putting in as it’s a little open to the neighbors and the road. Then he can put down weed cloth and some tan bark (wood chip) so that there’s a soft landing and that should be all required for this spot. The actual installation of the structure should take about 5 hours and I know 2 fellas who are just the men for the job!!!

The Pain of Pool Maintenance

13 Jan

Owning a pool was not something we had factored in when we were looking for a house. We knew nothing about what was involved  (coming from England where pools are few and far between!) so its been a huge learning curve and they require quite a bit of commitment in terms of time and finances – and that’s just for a modern pool. Let alone one that needs totally remodeling!

The pool is definitely on the back burner of things we need to do remodel wise, but as posted previously, it needed some immediate attention when we moved in. We got it up and running and so it was clean and safe and we thought that would be it for a year or two till we could get round to re-modelling it. We were wrong!

This week the 20 yr old sand filter packed in, so there was a huge pile of sand sitting in the bottom of the pool and the filter was  totally mangled.

It needed immediate attention to stop the water going stagnant and  repair was not an option given the age of it. So we were looking at a new filter for a cost of $1500…yikes!!! At a time when all finances are being carefully monitored to repair major things like the roof and the kitchen etc this was not something we had planned for to say the least.

This is when having the new home owners insurance was a blessing. We didn’t think much about it at the time – our realtor had  given it to us as a gift  and part of the sale of the house and being new to the US home owning scene we weren’t sure what to do with it, but wow has it come in handy right now!

We were able to get a brand new filter for the pool for only $60 and the other upside is that this new filter (the Crystal Water Aqua Clean by Waterway) is more efficient and cheaper to run than our previous one so here’s hoping that our bills will reduce (tho to be honest they haven’t really been as high as we thought in the first place).

The other thing – and the one that i’m most excited about – is that its smaller, so we can finally tear down this monstrosity of a collapsing mini shed and replace it with a smarter looking and safer box! This will free up valuable space in the walkway here and also put the equipment firmly out of reach of little hands!

In the future we will upgrade everything to include heating equipment as we know we will get more use out of the pool if we can use it at any time in the year, and its likely that the position of this equipment will shift as we redesign this entire area…but that’s a fair way off!

Landscaping: Part One

11 Oct

Whilst we are waiting for the final plans from our architect (we made a few minor revisions) and for them to be submitted into the planning commission – we decided to crack on with something that didn’t require any official input – the garden!

Given that we are about to head into winter this might seem rash but there was some major landscaping we needed to do so that we could plant a lawn and have it grow slowly over the winter to be ready for next spring.  We wanted the top bit of garden as flat as possible to be a kid friendly play space so we’ve had to do some additional terracing work. We also needed to clean up the border lines between us and the neighbors as they were all over the place and wildly overgrown.

We had a lot of bushes to cut back and debris to remove  from up here but once we did we gained almost another 2 feet wide of garden! We’ve had to cut back our redwood tree to allow more light into the house, and remove a few other dead or severely diseased trees. I don’t like ripping trees out but these ones were necessary. Then the earth had to be rotated as it was dry and needed some life putting back into it. All this work filled yet another Grange debris box – that will be our 4th so far!

Then our landscaper Pablo and his team dug large trenches so that we could build retaining walls to hold all the earth in place and to even out the level of the land.

Here’s some work in progress pictures:

The posts to support this wall are 3ft deep, and held in with concrete.

This is the new fencing and retaining wall that sides with our neighbors. Prior to this there was a gaping big hole and a pile of trash!

Phase one of this project is almost done- we need to add in some stairs to the new levels and then a safety fence but more images to come on that!

The Garden

25 Sep

Oh the garden. What a garden it is.

This is by far our most challenging aspect of the house remodel. Not being remotely green fingered we are at a  bit of a loss as to what to do and will certainly need help in this dept. The garden is simply enormous , close to half an acre, and it has great bones. The old man who lived here before was very proud of his garden, he apparently spent a lot of time caring for it – there’s rose bushes, fruit trees and amazing retaining walls that he hand built. He installed irrigation and drainage- all that heavy stuff so we wont have to do that which is a blessing.  But it now needs further attention after a few years of nothing and we want it to be kid friendly.

So far we focused on removing all the trash out of the garden so that it was a safe place for Jack to run around – did I mention the 3 dumpsters worth of trash??! But now that its safe(r!)  and we have time on our hands whilst we wait for permission to start building we are thinking about what we could and would want to do.

There’s 3 levels to think of , the house level – which has a front garden, a side rose garden (see below) and a patio that is all uneven and cracked.

Then there’s the pool level and  what we’ve deemed will be the outdoor eating area..

This is all on one level so the plan will be to re-tile the pool and whatever stone we use around the pool will flow into this eating area. Plus we might extend this out a little as it feels a bit narrow currently. We think the old man had a greenhouse here at one point as there seems to be some kind of foundation posts and there was a LOT of glass  in this area!!!

The final level, up at the top of the plot,  is the biggest challenge for us, but also has the most opportunity. This level is mostly flat and is about 7,000 sq ft in its own right! There’s about 10 fruit trees up on this level and 2 vines growing grapes. We have to rotate the earth and put down some new soil as its super dry from the Californian summer.

Up here there’s a corner plot that will become Jack’s play area with a structure built by Jon, we need to plant more trees for privacy and wood chip the area so its a soft landing. Then in the other corner Jon is going to have a chipping green and bunker built!!!  The rest will be lawned over, the alive fruit trees will stay and we will build a mini railing to stop anyone falling off the terrace and into the bushes below.  The views from this level are amazing – you can see Angel Island, the city and the bay, so making the most of this area is one of our priorities for the garden. Its sunny all day up here and is the only  place for us to have a big green lawn – truly British style!

We have a landscape gardener , the awesome and super talented Pablo, who’s going to come and help us turn this massive garden into something functional and fun for the whole family, but I imagine its going to take quite a long time and the house will have to take priority !!

By next summer tho we hope to be the venue of choice for  pool parties in the neighborhood 🙂

%d bloggers like this: