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Garden Bench Makeover

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When you get married, you each bring certain items with you. One of the things my husband brought was this bench. It was old and worn even then. Somewhere in our second year of marriage I repainted the metal ends and did a slight sanding to the slats, but it still looked pretty similar.

It sat on the front walk by our old house for many years, and when we moved here it sat by the front door until April of this year.

A few years ago I saw a picture of some peaches on a black bench on Helene's blog. I instantly knew what the bench needed: black paint. However, the funds to purchase paint were non-existent, so it sat there looking just the same.

This year, however, I was able to get some black paint. My husband bought a quart of Valspar satin paint that is good for both metal and wood. With the help of my boys, the bench was taken apart. I painted the metal ends and the metal center strip.

The bench slats were quite warped, and several were split at the ends where the screws were supposed to hold them to the bench. My husband said that those slats were going to have to be replaced, which was not an inexpensive fix. So I waited again.

Meanwhile, we started taking out the rocks in the front yard by hand. I was raking and shoveling the landscaping rocks into a wheelbarrow (we gave the rocks to neighbors who needed their rocks replaced where they had become thin) when my mom drove up. I mentioned the bench slat dilemma to her, and while we were talking, she looked to the end of the street, where a neighbor had just put these two benches out for the trash.

My husband and I walked down to the end of the street and carried those two benches home.

I was just recently able to work on the bench.

The boys again helped me to remove the slats off of the two "new" benches.

My husband and I chose the straightest, nicest slats from the three benches. In the end, we only kept a few of the slats from my original oak bench. The rest came from the two teak benches from the neighbor.

I sanded the slats.

My dad cut three slats down to be skinnier, as the original bench had 3 skinnier slats. (Which I ended up putting back in the wrong places! I won't be moving them any time soon, however).

We found that the holes didn't perfectly line up between the two slats, so my dad also cut the ends of the slats off.


My husband redrilled the holes for me. They're a two-part hole so that the screws can sit in them.

I sanded some more and painted them with two coats of paint.

The boys and I painstakingly put the slats back on. It was a three-person job, holding up the heavy iron ends and getting the slats on.

My husband screwed the metal support piece on the back and helped to tighten the nuts on the back of the slats. We used screw from the neighbor's benches, as they were not rusty like the ones from my original bench.

We then carried the bench to its new resting place in the white garden. I touched up the paint on the slats where it was needed. I'm really happy with it in the garden now!

The roses are covered in buds right now. In a couple of days they'll be open and I'll take pictures of the white garden for the white garden reveal!

Update: You can see the details of my white garden in my white garden reveal post.

This post is linked to the following link parties:

The Scoop, Inspire Me Tuesdays, Furniture Feature Friday, Wow Us Wednesdays, Whimsy Wednesdays, Crystal and Co, My Girlish Whims, Thistlewood Farms, The Vintage Farmhouse, My Romantic Home, Jennifer Rizzo, Feathered Nest Friday, Frugal Friday, From My Front Porch to Yours,

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1000 Flowers

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When I told my neighbors I was planting thousands of flowers in my small front yard, they looked at me in disbelief. Most people put in a few flowering perennials here and consider their yard done--if they have any flowers at all. Annuals are rare here, and bulbs are almost complete strangers in our rock-landscaped front yards in the desert.

So when the zinnias (pictured above) came up in my front yard and started to flower, my neighbors walked over to say something. They loved the flowers. They have come by again and again to tell me how much they enjoy them when they walk by to get their mail.

All I can say to them is, "Just wait until spring. There will be even more flowers."

I think they believe me now.

I ordered seeds in the thousands.

I also ordered 900 bulbs for the front yard.


Most of the bulbs have to be pre-chilled for 6-10 weeks before they can go in the ground, since I'm in a zone 9a, but a few hundred can go in the ground now. For the most part, I chose types that should return year after year (some may be iffy in our warm climate), so that every year I can enjoy these flowers. Some, like the tulips, are a one-time deal, but others will naturalize, which means they will multiply as the years go by.

Most of the types I ordered are still available, so I thought I would share what I ordered if you would like to plant your own white garden (if you live in a cooler zone you have a lot more options, too!). I've ordered bulbs from this company in the past, both at my old house, where I planted several hundred bulbs after the 10 weeks in the fridge time while I was 3 weeks overdue with Ezrom (my husband said he knew it was close to the time for the baby to come when I stopped feeling up to working in the garden) and at this house (the 500 daffodil bulbs that I planted several years ago have multiplied exponentially!)

The company I ordered from is a wholesale company, and not only have they been really consistent with quality, but their prices are amazing. The company is Van Engelen. They have a smaller sister company called John Scheeper's, which sells bulbs in smaller quantities, but I have a thing for planting bulbs en masse. Van Engelen does have a minimum order requirement of $50 before shipping, but you could easily end up with 500 bulbs for that price, depending on the type of flower.
The iris above are 100 bulbs for $11.75, or 500 for $54. (Note: Though the tag says that they bloom in May/June, in a warmer climate like mine they will bloom 2 months before that).

I also noticed that they start marking down whatever bulbs they have on clearance by the beginning of November (except for paperwhites or amaryllis since people buy those for indoor forcing).

Here's what I ordered for my white garden:

Narcissus Curlew (A white daffodil)

Narcissus Ziva (aka Paperwhites--these bloom in November in the ground here in my backyard; since these are being planted now and the others are already coming up in my backyard, these should be up the week before Christmas this year, but next year I expect they'll return in November.)

Tulip White Emperor

Ranunculus White Shades

Ornithogalum Umbellatum (aka Star of Bethlehem)

Leucojum Aestivum (looks like a late-blooming snowdrop)

Iris Reticulata Nastacha (a short rock garden variety)

Iris White Wedgewood

Oriental Lily Casa Blanca

Paperwhites in my garden in November

I'll be taking and posting lots of pictures as these bloom. They should bloom over several months.

So even though I'll be posting a white garden reveal soon, you won't be able to see all of what it can be for a while, because these beautiful flowers will still be hanging out in my refrigerator, waiting to be planted.

The best is yet to come!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I have just been really happy with this company's quality, selection, and cost. And I'm more than a little giddy about all of these flowers, including digging in the dirt to plant them!
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Sneak Peek of the Front Garden

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The heat has been intense; it was 118º for over 10 days right after the garden was planted. After that it cooled to 110º.

Several plants are dealing with sunscald, and several roses are dead (as well as a few euyonomous bushes). The others are struggling. I hesitate to replace anything yet because it will just die again in this heat. I knew we were planting late and I tried to get the project done earlier, but we had many different delays, unfortunately.

I have planted seeds in the front and many are up, but they are still tiny.

I still need to repaint the urn and plinth (the ones in the photo above), and install them (and plant it with flowers). For now it is just sitting in place.

We have several more projects to do out front still. Hopefully by the time those are done our seedlings will have grown into something that you can actually see!
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Front Garden Update

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Neighbors I've never met before are starting to talk to me.

"Stunning!" one man said to my husband and I last week as he came down the street to get his mail.

"It's really beautiful!" said another man.

A woman stopped her car in the middle of the road, rolled down her window, and yelled out that she thinks it's beautiful.

They are full of compliments . . . and we're not even done yet!

With the concrete now poured, they're starting to get a better idea of what we're planning.

I still think they're going to be pretty surprised at how it looks once everything starts growing in.

Even after it looks "done" it won't be done. Of course, a garden is never really done. It's living and growing, ever changing.

The climbing roses will cover the house walls, and that won't be obvious at all for a few years.

The trees will grow bigger, the hedges will fill in, and the bushes will grow larger, and be rounded.

The show that really won't be obvious, however, is the flowers that will be there by next spring.

Some are just a few months away. I'm sowing seeds after we put everything in. Then we wait for the thousands of flowers that will come.

My plan is for a year-round show of flowers. I have flowers planned for every season. All of them will be white.

Since my last update, we have:

Removed the first pile huge of dirt from the driveway to our neighbor's backyard, using the borrowed backhoe. He wanted it and we didn't have to rent a dumpster, so that was a positive for us.

Took the load of concrete, sod, the tree root, and other "junk" from the yard to the dump, thanks to a friend who let us load up his very old dump truck to take a load to the dump.

I purchased and planted 3 dwarf Meyer lemon trees that will be grown as a hedge in the upper planter. They were on sale and I used a $20 off coupon as well. Right now they are being watered by hand.

We dug and installed pipes for the water that will eventually be connected to our drip lines.

We have dug and compressed dirt in the front to have it ready to set forms for concrete.

The forms were set.

Concrete was poured and stamped.

They returned to cut lines in the concrete.

We dug out the old dirt around the forms, in preparation for new dirt. We got rid of yet another pile of dirt after that (the photo above is the pile of dirt after we dug out again right around the poured forms.) This pile was much smaller than the first one.

We brought new dirt in, worked on the valves some more, and attached black flexible piping to the PVC piping.

We returned the backhoe!

I bought and painted the urn that will go in the center circle. I have also chosen what plants will go in it (I had not previously decided which plants I would be using in it when I designed my initial plan. I now have a plan for summer plants and one for winter/spring plants).

Next up:

I need to plant the potted plants that are going in.

I will be attaching drip lines to the black flex hose, and pinning them down the right places with metal stakes.

My husband will work to concrete the column into the center circle, and attach the urn to the column. He also will be running water up through the center of the column and into the urn. Then we will fill in the center section with good dirt.

He will be finishing the valves and installing the valve boxes. We will then finish putting in dirt around the valve boxes, and then all of the dirt will be in.

I will be planting seeds after the drip lines are in.

Hopefully, all of those things can be done this week!

There are still some more things to do, but getting the above things done this week are my goals (My husband may or may not plan to tackle the column this week). It should be getting hotter again towards the end of the week (possibly 120º by Friday), so I really want to get it done before then. It's going to be some hot work this week!

Previous posts about our front garden plans:

Front Garden Update (The Beginning Stages)
Dreaming on Paper (Our Plans)
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Front Garden Update

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Before we started
We are making progress on the front yard. We waited a long time for the HOA to approve everything, and once they did, we got started right away.
So far it's been a lot of moving dirt.

The tree and bushes were chopped up and taken to the dump in our trailer. I think I may have shouted for joy. Those bushes were 5 or 6 feet deep and over 3 feet tall.

That tree is 10 years old--that gives you an idea of how poor the soil is here. (Note to Las Vegas readers: if you don't replace the dirt, your trees and plants won't grow much at all. I have seen 5 -year-old fruit trees that never got bigger than they were in the pot at the nursery, because they needed good dirt in which to grow).

I shoveled and raked up the rocks, and removed them with a wheelbarrow to neighbors who needed new rocks in the spots where the rocks had "disappeared" in their yards.

My husband dug for water and started running water lines.

The photo above shows our dirt and caliche. The pipe is dirty, but it gives you a good idea of the color of our dirt here. Caliche is like concrete; when I bought the fruit trees for the back yard, the cashier at the local nursery asked me if I had already jackhammered my holes. She was not kidding. (We actually did hire someone to jackhammer a hole at the last house for a tree; it took 2 guys all day to dig that way; one with the jackhammer and one with the shovel. That is how hard the ground is here. Caliche is those rocks that you see. My brother-in-law had to dynamite to dig a basement, and it was so difficult that he only ended up building a basement under half of his house. Basements are very rare here.)
The good dirt on top is what good dirt should look like--black. Our dirt here is very alkaline as well; both the water and the dirt have an average ph of 8.2.
This is how the front has looked for weeks, except that the pile of junk on the left is twice as big now, since we ripped out the concrete walkway. You can see the tree root in that pile (it looks like a root-bound potted plant). That dirt is what came out of our front yard, and we've taken out more since then--and there is much more left to still take out. Thankfully, we've been able to borrow a friend's backhoe to do most of the digging. Also thankfully, my brother-in-law knows how to run a backhoe, so he has been the one using the backhoe.
However, my husband has been digging a lot of places for water and power lines by hand.

This was day one of starting to set forms for the concrete footers that go under the walls. We were hoping to avoid doing the upper wall, but if you look, you can see the concrete footer from the block wall that is our neighbor's house (it's his back wall; I think we're the only one in the neighborhood to have a block wall that divides the properties in our front yard. The HOA was really confused when I said there was a wall already in our front yard, until they came out and saw it). Our neighbor's house sits higher than ours, but the concrete footer slopes down. Because the footer is so high, once we dug, it was obvious that we needed a second wall.
This is a better shot of the footer that I took after we built the wall. You can see both original concrete footers, as well as where the previous dirt line in my front yard sloped down. All of my backyard has this, since these houses were built with concrete walls around each backyard. This is why I have stakes and wire mesh out about a foot from my walls in the backyard--I cannot get any closer to the wall.

This is the first day of setting forms from the other direction. Notice the water box in the front yard. Our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, so it sticks into our yard.
The day they came to pour concrete I had to cancel school. The children were too excited to do anything besides watch. The men are pouring the footers for the wall. My husband could have leveled the ground for us to set the blocks, but this was much easier for us and made it much faster to build the wall.
They also poured a 2 foot wide "sidewalk" at the front of the property. Technically it's not a sidewalk (which must be 3 feet wide by law). We wanted it so that when you park in front of our house, you have somewhere to step out (and so that you don't open your door into the plants). Plus, we wanted a sidewalk to the mailbox, which is right past the wall on the right. Also, when I need to work in the bed that is between the wall and the sidewalk, having a sidewalk means I don't have to kneel in the street, which is a huge deal to me! We textured the sidewalk to look like slate. That big blue mat you see is what they use to texture concrete (that's the backside). They spray it with a releasing spray so that it doesn't stick to the concrete. The spray smells just like bubble gum.
We also had them pour concrete by the front door (we took out the existing concrete there, and the center of the new concrete is also textured) and we had them pour a small amount of concrete in the back as well, between the existing patio and the raised bed (which we moved down earlier this year). The raised bed isn't very raised now! We took a lot of dirt from the pile in the driveway and put in on the side of the house to help level it for that concrete, and for future concrete that will be poured there some year in the future. Thanks to more digging, the pile in the front yard is just as big as it was before.

Once the concrete was set we could build the walls a few days later. My husband cut the block for the straight edges and the curved pieces, and I laid most of the walls (it took that long to cut the pieces that needed to be cut). We rented a cutter for the day from Home Depot.
 The bricks stack together with a back lipped edge. We didn't have to use anything to hold them, but we decided to use Liquid Nails (which is a glue; the store recommended it). Winter and Cyrus put down the glue while I laid bricks. I call them bricks, but they are not actually bricks; they are not rectangular, either. They are tapered on either side.
My husband laid the capstone.
We decided to curve the upper wall, since the HOA rules state no walls can be over 24" tall, and this way neither wall is touching (so it isn't a higher wall). Not counting the footer, the wall is 21" high.
You can see the drain pipe that my husband put through the wall. 
Silghtly covered in this picture by the black mixing tub is a block in the wall that has three holes in it, to allow for drainage from the back yard. The two or three days a year where it rains hard enough to have water flowing, it will come from the backyard (the concrete on that side of the house slopes into that drain area) and into my flower bed. My husband will pour a little concrete drain on top of the concrete wall footer to connect the hole and the drainpipe.
Since my friend gave us her old garden dirt from her garden yesterday (looking at the pile, she actually saved me about $600 in dirt), we filled the upper planter with it today. We also dug out between the sidewalk and the wall, down a foot deep in the middle, which is where I plan on planting bulbs (many of which need to planted 8" deep, plus they need room for roots). We put the rest of the dirt from her in that planter and it almost fills it up as well (I could use about 8 cubic feet more of dirt, so I will probably add manure in there with the dirt from her). The dirt covers the concrete so that you will just see the wall. It will be that way on the upper wall as well when we are done.
Also in this picture, you can see where my husband ran electrical for one of the two boxes that will be in that corner, for valves. The pipe sticking up in the front planter by the drainpipe is where we will attach the thick black flex line, and then we will plug our smaller 1/4" drip line into that.
In the upper planter I will be planting 3 dwarf Meyer lemon trees, and growing them as a hedge. They will be green year-round. They should grow to the top of the wall and possibly a little taller.
In the lower planter (which is only 2 1/2 feet wide), I will have 4 carpet rose bushes (they are low growing nad bloom often). I will plant zinnias in the back and vincas along the front edge) in the summer. In the fall I will plant bulbs in the middle of the planter: two heights of Iris (bloom in April), Oriental Lilies (bloom in May/June) and Paperwhites (they will bloom in November and December outside here). I will also plant seeds for white Larkspur, which are fall planted here but bloom in May. I will sow some German Chamomile seeds in there as well, which also bloom in May. During spring, summer, and fall, the planter will have hundreds of flowers.
The vincas will last until frost (sometime between mid-November and mid-December). I will be replacing them with white violas, which bloom here October through April/May. I am not sure if I'll try to start some indoors or if I'll just direct seed them and wait a little longer to have flowers. Most likely I will direct seed them after the vincas die.
The zinnias will also bloom until frost.
The larkspur, zinnias, chamomile, vincas, and violas may all reseed themselves (some will do so more readily than others, and I can collect seeds from the larkspur and the zinnias fairly simply). The bulbs should return each year (though I don't know for sure yet if the taller Iris will in this climate, but the others will for sure).
You can see my original plans here. (Note that I have changed what I am planting in the lower planter from that drawing).
The next thing to do is to get rid of the huge pile of dirt in my driveway. Fortunately, one of neighbors across the street wants it, so we can dump it over there in his backyard (his gate is wide enough for us to drive the backhoe over). Then we can start leveling so that forms can be set to pour more concrete in the front yard. After that it will be digging again, in the beds behind the wall and on either side of the walkway up to the front door, and putting in good dirt after that.
One of my neighbors came up to me when she was getting her mail today and told me that she thinks my wall is pretty. I told her it will be even prettier when there are 500 flowers blooming in front of it. I think she thought I was exaggerrating. . . .
The cutest thing today was when Elsa (my 3-year-old) came out to help. She put on a bicyle helmet (I don't know why; maybe as a hardhat?) and brought out a child-sized trowel, so that she could dig, too. I gave her a spot so that she could help us move the good dirt from the pile in the street to the planter. She smiled the whole time.
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Dreaming on Paper

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White flower carpet rose

I have been dreaming of relandscaping our front yard for many years.

We have the typical Las Vegas front yard: a strange shape of grass, surrounded by rocks, a few bushes and a single tree. (Newer homes are not allowed to put grass in the front yard anymore, per a law that was passed after our house was built). We also do not have a sidewalk.

At our last house, we relandscaped the front yard before we did the backyard.

At this house, we did the backyard first. I'm so grateful that we did; the backyard has been a wonderful source of food and great place for the children to play every day.

I've had a few different ideas in my mind over the last few years about the front yard. A few weeks ago, I finally measured the yard and drew plans for it.

It's a small front yard, and I've been looking at other small (yet formal) gardens for some ideas. I found that the same things kept appealing to me. I basically am looking at a scaled down version of our backyard planters with hedges, including a center round circle planter.

We want to level most of the garden (except for the walkway) and install a short wall a little bit back from the street (We will install a pipe for drainage).

Instead of grass, I want to have a concrete path. This will mean that my husband won't need to bring the lawn mower around the house to mow a tiny patch of grass (which is what he does now).

The more pictures I saw, the more I realized that I loved the impact of a white garden, so I have been planning white flowers that will bloom at different times throughout the year. I have chosen the following flowers (all in white varieties):

Iceberg Roses
Violas (known to reseed; a fall through spring flower here)
Foxglove (grows in shade; they take two years before blooming)
Larkspur (fall planted; May blooming)
Vinca (these have reseeded themselves in my garden in the past)
Star of Bethlehem (a bulb that should naturalize)
Narcissus Curlew (a white daffodil that should naturalize)
Iris (Dutch Iris White Wedgewood)
Lilies (Oriental Lily Casa Blanca; I have some in my backyard already and have divided them, so eventually these should be able to be divided as well for more flowers. May blooming)
Zinnias (summer through frost)
Stock (a fall through spring flower here)
Flower Carpet Roses

I also hope to put in Meyer lemons to form a hedge; these will have white flowers as well. I already have Meyer lemons in back, but we would love enough lemons for lemonade.

I would like to put in two Early Elberta peaches (pink flowers in spring; I have one in the backyard and I would like more for canning and fresh eating) and two Flowering Plums (these have red leaves in summer and pink blossoms in spring; they generally do not fruit).

I plan on planting large quantities of Genovese basil (which also has white flowers when it goes to seed in late summer/early fall), a white alpine strawberry, and I am considering planting white veronica as well.The goal with the basil is to stop buying dried basil and to dry my own.

The hedges will be Greenspire Euyonomous.

I hope to plant vegetables in the planters (spinach in cool months and squash and Aremenian cucumbers in the hot months). I will plant parsley from seed (which I already have) in a few spots as well; I have parsley in two spots in the back and I have parsley in that spot by the front now (but it is going to seed in front). I would like to have enough parsley to stop purchasing dried parsley.

I already have two gardenia plants in pots by the front door, and I recently purchased two white Lady Banks's roses (in a small size) to climb up the house.

I've made several more changes to the plans since I photographed these last week. The lavender, rosemary, allium, and honeysuckle have been cut and I am planting something else in those spots. I've added even more flowers into the overall plan.

To see some of what I'm envisioning, you can check out my front yard pins on Pinterest.

To keep costs down, we are doing several things:

A friend of ours offered to let us use his backhoe. This will make leveling the front yard and digging trenches for the water into quick work, and I won't have to pay to rent one.

We have leftover blocks from the raised bed planter in our backyard that will be used as part of the wall in front when we level the yard (the yard currently slopes to the street). We have been saving these blocks for years with this purpose. I will still have to purchase more blocks, but this will reduce the number I need by about one-fourth.

I am watching for sales and hopefully more coupons from our local nursery. I will be buying smaller plants from the nursery to keep the costs lower. This cuts the cost for bushes and trees in half compared to buying larger plants. I am hoping to buy all plants on sale if possible.

I found a place to buy bulk white flower seeds. I already purchased my flower seeds in bulk (around 2000 seeds for $4.99 for most varieties) from Outside Pride  for foxglove, larkspur, vinca, Genovese basil, white strawberries, stock, hellebore (this beats the cost of plants by a lot on these), and violas.

I will be ordering bulbs in bulk from Van Engelen. These will not be available for sale until June for October shipping. These need to be planted in fall for spring blooming.

I already have white zinnia seeds from Wildseed Farms that I ordered earlier this year.

Many of the flowers I have ordered/will order are naturalizing bulbs and plants that reseed themselves (I should be able to collect seeds from the larkspur and zinnias). This will keep costs down over the long run, plus in years to come, it will mean an abundance of flowers.

There will still be expenses (dirt, plumbing, concrete, blocks for the wall, and plants) of course. Everything will be watered with drip irrigation. I am looking forward to more fruit, more vegetables, more pesto (and enough basil to dry), and more flowers for the table, not to mention the way the flowers will feed my spirit every single day.

I've taken the necessary papers to the neighbors to sign per HOA rules.

Now I just have to get the HOA to approve everything, and we'll get started!

This post linked to Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest.
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Spring Gardening