For those who love Asian design and spirituality, Tibetan prayer flags are a fun and affordable way to add meaning and bright color to gardens. They can be seen draped in villages and base camps on documentaries featuring Mount Everest. A string of them is a beautiful and thoughtful way to add color and festive looks to off season gardens when flowers are limited. At well under $20 for a string of them, it’s a great solution for renters that comes with you if you move. Prayer flags may be printed in the original Tibetan or in English to make them more meaningful to the west. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the lovely spirituality behind prayer flags: Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. By hanging flags in high places the “Wind Horse” will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
At the end of the season there are always stalks and branches to be had. And when these are used in the right setting they become a valuable tool for exploiting color, form and contrast. Nowhere is this more doable than in the southwest when the agaves send up their enormous stalks to flower. Some types of yucca do the same and dasilirion, also known as the desert spoon is another contender. All too often these architectural byproducts of plants are chipped, crushed and thrown into the garbage, but if dried and preserved they make outstanding free outdoor decorations. This beautiful example of repurposed agave stalks illustrates how leftover paint can be put to good use. Note the turquoise window trim on the upper right of this photo. The paint left over was used to create a “wash” over well dried agave stalks. A wash is created with ordinary latex paint thinned down with water to create a more semitransparent stain-like application. If the stalk was simply painted, it would be far too uniform. The aged look shown here allows the original surface with its flakes and peels to show through. That is an artificial patina that can be created on any kind of twig, in this case to lend the Santa Fe look when set against a solid colored wall. This high contrast approach is the perfect way to add interest to nooks and crannies of architecture.
Your awesome photos of flowers and gardens can save you big money come holiday season. The trick is to know how to get started turning a so-so photo into a fine work of art. The image below of a stunning cottage garden has long been one of my favorites for making cards. I did a few simple tricks with Photoshop Limited Edition that are easy for anyone to do just as well. Below is the original photo from which this art image was created. Here’s what I did: Crop into a long, wide format like a painter would use. I also cropped out all but the best flowering plants. Increase the color intensity so the flowers pop out. Increase the brightness so there’s not so much dark range as the original shot taken on on a cloudy day so the colors won’t bleach out and few shadows are visible. Use the “Ink Outline” filter in Photoshop to give it the hand-painted look without sacrificing the crispness of a photo. I like to print this one onto canvas sheets you can buy for your printer. I cut out the images and tack them onto a blank card so they can be removed by the recipient to use in other ways. Our just frame yourself and give for pennies compared to buying something for the art and flower lover in your world.
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Download this free, full color eBook for “green” budget holiday decorations created from your garden. You’ll also be inspired to create gifts that help you save big in the coming months. http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php This year, prepare for the holidays outdoors in the garden or on hikes in the country. Avoid overspending by exchanging shopping trips for long walks where you’ll find sticks and seeds and cones to create everything you’ll need to decorate your home. Get the kids involved and teach them the value of what Mother Nature provides and the plants that the pioneers depended on for their own Spartan holidays.
Within every summer acorn lives a mighty oak eager to inhabit your yard! It’s easy to grow a whole forest of them from acorns collected now into fall from locally native trees. Best of all they won’t cost you a penny. An oak tree seedling can have a huge taproot supporting just a few inches of top growth. This is why native oaks started in containers often fail because the taproot hits the bottom of the pot and becomes distorted almost immediately after germination. A straight deep taproot is vital to the tree’s drought resistance. Wildland revegetation experts have proven the best way to plant a tree is from a freshly cracked acorn, and now is the perfect time to get started on your free oak tree forest. Gather only perfect acorns that have fallen and put them in a plastic container and refrigerate. This simulates winter. In midwinter in California or early spring elsewhere, remove from storage and set outside in an empty nursery pot. There the acorns will start to crack proving it is viable as the tap root begins to grow. When the acorn has the slightest new crack, plant in the ground where you want the tree to grow. Set the acorn on its side six inches deep. Nature will do the rest.
All along the roadside in Virginia the tall stalks of teasel are going to seed. This invasive European weed makes an excellent autumn decoration or even natural Christmas tree ornaments that can be gathered for free. Cut with long stems to create dried arrangements or just take the little seed heads to decorate and hang on the Christmas tree or to decorate a wreath. This is just one of the many remnants of summer growth that become our most affordable craft materials the rest of the year. Fuller’s teasel is Dipsacus fullonum heads are prickly, and came to America with the fuller’s trade, which is the creation of felt from wool. The unique spines shown above were first used to raise the nap on wool felt. It was also used to card wool by pioneer women but was later replaced by manufactured wool cards which are much like a cat hair brush designed to align fibers prior to spinning. It is so vigorous it escaped early into New England wildlands and then followed settlers westward. It is unwise to plant teasel in the garden because it self sows like wildfire and spiny stems make it more difficult to pull.
Just like politics, everybody talks about losing the lawn, but few propose practical and attractive alternatives. The best lawns to replace are at smaller homes, where the alternative must above all, take into consideration the needs of the resident user. That’s why this is the first of many examples I’ll be exploring in the coming months to help you better understand what to do in lieu of your lawn. Here’s a great example of how the lawn can be phased out to create a series of smaller planting spaces amidst a field of pea gravel. This food and flower garden uses simple wood edging and natural soil, which is a far more economical than raised beds. You can still walk through it just as you could across the old lawn, so the change doesn’t interfere with your site-wide circulation. That makes this a really practical choice. This kind of layout with geometric beds in an attractive pattern is an old French idea known as a parterre.
In older neighborhoods all over America the hollyhocks are in bloom. Their huge flowers begin low on their very tall stalk, then move upward as it ages. This is how you know to look low on the stalk to find the first capsules of seed maturing in the midsummer heat. These are the easiest seed to collect and just as simple to grow into stately plants next year. Whenever you walk the dog or just take a stroll, reuse an opened bill envelope as seed container. It folds nicely into the pocket, and if you find a plant with seed you can pick a few of the capsules off and drop them in the envelope. Seed gathered from many plants from different locations will yield fabulous flower color variation compared to store bought. Once at home separate the seed from all the other material to ensure there are no micro-seed eating bugs in there that could destroy it in storage. Then store in a clean envelope, RX bottle or mint tin in a cool, dry place. Hollyhock is a biennial that is best in its second year from seed. Sow it directly into the soil in spring after frost. One seed matures into a HUGE plant quickly, some of them eight feet tall! Hollyhocks from seed are a real old fashioned delight that yields an incredible free floral display.
Gardens are among the best places to remember lost loved ones. Each day I’m working out there, a glance at these tiles brings instant memories of my crazy cattle dogs Blue and Dot. My husband made the surreal mosaic of her and we found the little tile that looks like Blue that once served as a coaster beside my chair. Ceramics are weatherproof and make the best images for these little places of remembrance. Adding little things that help you remember people, places and things imbues your garden with more than mere beauty. It makes the space more contemplative and offers artistic accents that actually mean something. So whether it is a pet, a buried ash urn or an artifact of times past, make your garden more than just a pretty place so it becomes a real part of your authentic self.