Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Visiting Wildlife...

video
This little family of deer passed through our yard each evening through most of the summer...

How to Make Your Own Bottle Tree...Free!

As I promised in my previous post, here is how I made my own Bottle Tree for free, or very little cost. Since I will assume you already know that you want a bottle tree in your garden, I won't go into the history and reasoning behind this interesting garden decor. If you would like to know more about the tradition of the Bottle Tree, just type in a Google search, there are tons of sites out there, just pick one!
 


I discovered bottle trees quite by accident online, and have wanted one every since. They just look so darn pretty sparkling in the sun, and since I love both recycling and making junk art, it seemed like the perfect fit. Now, you can go online and order a ready made iron model, some complete with colored bottles! There are many talented artist out there making some really amazing sculptures. But since this is a DIY blog, and I am, OK, I admit it, CHEAP! I decided to make this one myself...
 
  When a beloved maple tree died in our front yard, I was very disappointed. It held attachments to my father as well as a good friend, both of whom are now gone. After digging it out, my crafty friend  said, "Why don't you make it into a Bottle Tree?" Brilliant! So as soon as we were finished planting the replacement garden, I got to work. The first step was removing most of the remaining root system. I trimmed it down to just the largest roots, cut in such a way as to allow the tree to stand up on it's own. I then began to snip off the smallest branches, and branches that were too close together or crossing each other. I cut away any extra branches that wouldn't support a bottle. There is no way to tell you how it should look, each tree will be different to start with, but just keep trimming until you like the look of it. Try to stagger the ends, so that your bottles will be displayed to their advantage. I chose to set my tree up in my little herb garden, it gets too much shade for a lush growth of color, so I wanted the glass bottles to brighten it up a bit...
   After standing the tree in place, I covered the "base" with good garden soil. I also added a circle of larger stones, and built up a bit of a raised bed surrounding the bottle tree, as I wanted to add some perennials next Spring. After that, it was just a matter of adding the bottles that I had on hand, after washing them and removing the labels. Try soaking them first, if that doesn't work, try some Goo Gone, or other label remover. I have continued to add bottles to my tree as I find interesting styles. Places to look are, bars, liquor stores, thrift shops, yard sales, and ask your friends to save them for you. Some liquor comes in special colored bottles for the holidays...

  The orange and turquoise bottles in the photo are painted, which wasn't apparent at first glance. I expect these will lose their color over time, but as I only spent 25 cents on each, I am not too worried about it. You could go out and order the bottles special, or buy antiques online, but I think half the fun is the treasure hunt of finding them cheap or free...
  A bottle tree can be a real conversation piece and I look forward to enjoying mine for years to come. I hope this inspires you to make your own bottle tree, send me pictures when you are done!
  (see the little ceramic birds I added, just for fun?)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Creating a Butterfly, Hummingbird, and Bee garden...

This summer it was time for my daughter to choose her senior project. She decided, that in keeping with her intention of training in the field of enviormental science, she would build a hummingbird, butterfly, bee garden. We had a small island garden in the lawn, where we had lost a maple tree to a late spring freeze. So it just made sense to tear out the dead maple, (which I eventually turned into a bottle tree) and enlarge the garden to include wildlife essentials...(look for my post on bottles trees, coming soon...)
After some research online, she made a list of plants that would both provide for our intended tenants and grow in our northern climate.
 The plants chosen were, Butterfly Bush, Columbine, Rudbeckia, 2 different colors of Bee Balm, and a multiple variety plum. In the wheel barrow she planted annuals, Nicotiana, Petunia and Bacopa. There are already many plants in the surrounding gardens that are attractive to critters.
We had to pull the maple tree, and rather than hand dig it, we used our tractor...

It was almost more than the tractor could handle, but in the end it got the job done. This has been a very handy piece of equipment, could have used it years ago...
Here is the plum tree, all snuggled into his new home, yes, I said "his". His name is Stanely!
There are four varieties of northern plum, grafted onto the same trunk. Next we dug out the surrounding turf, sized so the riding lawn mower can mow around it in one swipe...

Here is the plan she worked out on paper, nothing fancy, just need the basics... 
Now it's time to dig out the grass, this part was tough, there is a lot of gravel in our soil, we will need to amend it later with compost and steer manure...

Dig it out, shake out the soil, and remove the sod, back breaking work, but she is young... 
Almost done with the clean up, look, Bandit is helping...Now is the time to add the amendments, mix them in really well. Next we lay down landscape fabric, to reduce the need for weeding, and cover everything over with woodchips for mulch... Then we placed each plant where it was supposed to grow, checked the layout, and made any changes. When we were happy with the look, we pushed aside the woodchips , cut a hole in the fabric and planted each plant...
and here it is, the completed garden! Not a lot to see right now, but give it some time to fill in...
Here it is midsummer, we are very happy with the gardens progress, it is in full bloom and already has some winged visitors...

Here is my daughter, posing with her little garden after a season of growing, it seems to be thriving, and has already attracted hummers and bees, hoping for butterflies next spring...Hope you enjoyed this post...

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!
 I have never created a blog before, but I thought it sounded like a fun place to talk about all the changes taking place in my life, and to show you all the fun things my friends and I like to create! I live in an area surrounded by natures beauty and a ton of creative, unique, crafty, independent people. So here is the place to come and learn how to do just about anything you can think of. If you have a subject you would like me to write about, then please let me know, I love to teach and share. If I don't have an answer, I likely know someone who does! So here are some tips on living, loving, letting go, as well as crafting, building, gardening and cooking. Sound like life to you? Then come on in and join me...