Monday, 15 September 2014

"MIRACLE GROW" part 1 of the garden of #43

I didn't always enjoy gardening, but it was something I became very passionate about in the late 80's.

#43 with the outline of the garden and the old climbing rose

My interest grew over time until it came to pass, that during the 1990's , I was in the garden more than I was out.   I knew all of the botanical/ latin names of all of the plants in my garden and by the time I sold the house, I had cared for and cradled my wonderful garden, from its tiny infancy into its glorious maturity.

that was way back then.

Over the last 10 plus years, I have enjoyed my present garden a little
 less each year.   It is so big that I all I ever seem to do is clean it!  It is hard to sit in it and fully enjoy it because whenever I look anywhere, there is some job staring back at me calling my name
or just crying out

Anyway, most of this past summer was all about the avoidance of my REAL GARDEN and gearing up for the work on my miniature garden of
#43 Green Dolphin Street.
Since my last post, I have been working night and day on it. 
NOW I had to try and remember what grew when, where, and how?   I pulled out some of my dusty gardening books, searched the internet, and looked out of my studio window at my rather neglected, Real Life Garden, and tried to get ideas and encouragement for what I thought I wanted to do in miniature. Most of all, I tried to  learn how to evoke the impression of and an interpretation of of a Romantic English style garden.

I have just completed the entrance and the right side of the garden in front of the kitchen window.
I shall begin again, with the front steps and then the make-shift rose that really got the ball rolling.

Your GARDEN TOUR starts now

Almost all of the plants in my garden "grew" the same way; that is, by"cut and paste."
I cut portions of existing floral materials and pasted them onto other cut pieces and then unified the whole with paints.

Most of the plastic plants came from the thrift stores but I also bought some from Michael's craft store, on-line at Factory Direct Craft, and the local dollar stores.
I look for stems that have tiny leaves in all shapes, interesting stamens,  and tiny flowers or fuzzy bits that can be cut and re-configured. 
I give an example here of some of the simpler plants, but the idea carries through to nearly all of them. I haven't begun the flower kits yet, as they are for the other side of the garden.  

the foam balls that I cut from the stems for the ground cover

As you may recall, I had some moss growing on the front steps.
My intent though, was to have as much growing in the garden as I could muster up for this house and so I decided to add ground cover plants that would creep out over the stone and soften the look of it.
I chose to represent SWEET ALYSSUM  in both the white and the mauve colors.
I used some green railroad model foliage for the base and used snippets of artificial foam flowers that I clipped from an artificial "mother plant". 

(see above )

I draped the plants so they conformed to the shape of the stone stairs.  I wanted the white alyssum to be the most dominant but the purple to weave itself through it for added interest.
the sweet alyssum mix
the new garden entry 

 And now for THE ROSE

I reworked the rose that I originally made right after Janine and Fatima were last here in for our Miniteers Meeting.
That same evening, I made roses out of white photocopy paper, trying out a tutorial that I had seen on Pinterest for scrapbooking.
After I made a handful, I glued them to some greenery that I had.

(I seem to like working backwards)
So what you see in the second photo from the top of the page is what I did several months ago.
I wasn't about to make any more roses, but I knew that I did need to shape up the rose structure and make it appear more rose-like.  I ended up gluing on some more leaves which I clipped from a vine purchased from
It had a fern like plastic vine twining around some other greenery.  I snipped off the fern, and groomed the leaves back to 5 only.  I used Quick Grip glue for plastic to make them stick.
When everything was on, that I wanted on, I shaped the rose to a more compact version, and began to paint the new base and stems, to unify it all.
I have found that glass and tile
air dry PERMA ENAMEL water-based paint, will really stick to the plastic and not puddle. 
 I painted it with straight acrylics after I got the color on the canes and the leaves, then I touched up the roses and made the centers with grated yellow wax crayon.
Using the wax crayon worked better than I thought and now I am determined to get a full box of
Crayola crayons and grate even more colors!
I used  a very fine grater, but a nutmeg grater would work too.

the finished rose
the red red rose
and a little brown bird

After the rose was planted by the front door, I turned my attention to the cement wall that would have the garden running along the inside.  Because of some previous re-thinking about a waterfront property and the revised property in town which I talked about in my last post, I was needing to level the gap between the top of the lawn and the retaining wall.  I pinned it in place with wooden toothpicks and backfilled it with chunks of styrofoam, painted first with brown acrylic paint and then white glue and used dried coffee grounds for the look of a very rich looking soil.
To finish the open end of the garden, I used draping plants, a
BROAD LEAF FERN, which was originally from a fish tank medley of greenery, purchased about 6 years earlier, from the thrift store.  I bought it during my "I'm not into miniatures" phase that lasted a full 12 years.  Obviously, the sub-conscious desire was still there, because I held onto it, regardless of my supposed disinterest.
I made a HOSTA from the silk leaves of some plastic bundle that I got from somewhere and glued a piece of fabric coated wire from the tip and all along the length which extended about an inch and a half, to allow for insertion into the dirt.  I shaped it and painted it with
to cut some of the shine. 
later on I decided to add the off-white flowers that grow from it although they would not be in season until later.  
call it 
I made the BLOOD GRASS from a larger grass bundle that I simply cut down the center of each blade to make them to scale and then tied the ends with a very fine beading wire.  After which, I then poked a hole in the dirt and squeezed in some glue and planted the bundles and fanned them out.  I love the effect that they give.
Right behind the Blood Grass is the
SWITCH GRASS. This grass was from a floral decoration that I bought from the thrift store.  The pot was ugly, the flowers were ugly but the grass was PERFECT!
Not only was the scale right but so was the color.  It lifted out of the floral foam easily, and since it was already bundled at the ends, I just cut it to the length I wanted and retied it and planted it along the cement wall.  It moves with every gentle breath and the feather bits give the garden a fairy tale quality that I truly adore.

Although I have NOT had any luck growing ORNAMENTAL ONIONS in my Real Life garden,
I was pleased with my successful endeavors in miniature.  The ball heads represent two different varieties. Originally purchased as a part of a larger plastic flower with white fuzzy balls attached, I was able to dye them with purple ink and then roll them in clear gel glue, followed by a pinky mauve flower foam.  I drilled a hole with a push pin and inserted a green wire stem and planted them next to the grasses.  As a companion plant, I then added
YARROW, using for stems a ferny looking plastic greenery purchased from the dollar store.  The vase shaped tops were filled with white Foam Glue and then dipped into grated Yellow Wax Crayon.  When dry, I lightly went over the tops with 'Yellow Moon' Folk Art acrylic paint.The combination of golden yellow and purple/pink is very pretty to me.
Next up...

I have never seen a  Nigella plant before so I had to go entirely by a photograph.
I chose to include it because it was said to be a popular English Cottage garden favorite, commonly called
"LOVE IN A MIST" and it had a feathery foliage that I already had on hand, compliments of the dollar store's fish tank supplies.
The paper flowers came from a floral vine from
Factory Direct Crafts, which I separated from the vine, removed the top layer, cut the petals, glued on plastic stamens robbed from another source and then dipped into a yellow fiber that I made.
The flower were bunched and tied, planted and painted.  Afterwards, I found some old air fern that I also poked into the plant which gave it an even more ethereal appearance.
below is a close-up

At the end of the row is a cone-shaped pine which use to be a topiary in a christmas theme miniature pot.  I cut the pot off and left enough of the dowel to insert into the styrofoam.  It serves as part of the foundation planting.  I left it much as it was when I found it.
I used a collection of tiny rocks that had flat bottoms and placed them in front of the border and then inserted more SWEET ALYSSUM and BLUE FESCUE grasses and allowed them to spill over the rock border to soften it.  The bits and pieces that fell off the plants and onto the lawn, I left in place.  

After I built the rose,  I was not sure how to fill the space next to it.  I had a tall shrub which I suppose was a holly because of the tiny red berries.  I bought it after Christmas season and just removed the disk that it was inserted into and stuck in the ground at the corner of the house.
I wanted a big floral something next to it so I took the entire head off a plastic stem and reformed it and tried to make it look like a
DAPHNE or HEBE.  By inserting tiny green plastic leaves, I feel it looks close enough.

To the right are a patch of
FRENCH MARIGOLDS.I used the button flower centers from another plant and dipped the heads into glue and yellow wax crayon.  I then added gold, orange and red and glued the heads onto more aquarium foliage torn into sections and secured with Quick Grip Glue.  Because the green plastic is almost fluorescent, straight from the package, it Really needed to be painted. I painted it first with a base coat of the REVLON'S MATT NAIL VARNISH, and then a number of different green acrylic paints.  The gold and green echo the Yarrow just opposite.   

French Marigolds
Sweet Alyssum and French marigolds
Just before I added the Marigolds, I made a bed of
The blue grasses were chopped from a branch of green plastic tufts which I painted to match the ones that I have in my Real Life Garden.  They have a sea urchin appearance but make a lovely foil for the Marigolds that I later planted in front, as well as, the Sweet Alyssum that now weaves and spills over the rocks.


I tried a lot of different ideas out before I settled on the AJUGA a.k.a.  BUGLEWEED. I love this plant in Real Life and now I have some in my miniature garden too!
There are a number of different varieties on the market but I have chosen
Catlins Giant which is nearly black with green, blue, brown, red and silver shot through it.  Trying to get the right color was the trickiest part of the procedure.  The plant itself is simply glued layers of sections of a plastic round leaf plant, stacked up and spread out to get the form.  Then snippets of a glass beaded wire stem were cut and curved at the base and glued in as if it were growing out from it.  Everything was painted in situ, using a photo as a reference and guide.
Just for fun I took a section of plastic iron railing and placed it against the cottage wall.  The garden pitch fork is dug into the earth leaning against the shutter.  Perhaps the gardener is getting ready to lift out the
TULIP BULBS that have already finished blooming?
Can you see the yellow tops of the finished flowers?

This plant is called
PURPLE HEARTI love the colors and the look of it.   I again had a stem that had smaller parts that when cut and bunched together were reasonable facsimiles of what I was trying to grow.
After I installed this plant, I decided to add the 3 spent TULIPS.  They show only the leaves and the stems,  (which were originally the pale but very interesting stamens of another full-sized silk/ plastic flower).  They are to the right and in behind the PURPLE HEART.
You can just make out the green leaves of one of the tulips at the extreme right  in the photo below.  
And Last but not Least is the coral pink GERANIUM.  The flower heads are from dried flowers that I picked off and crushed, then dipped sections of plastic flowers into glue and then the dried bits.  When set they were painted and inserted into old foliage that started out as aquarium plants.  The Geranium is growing along the garden entry with the Sweet Alyssum just below.

A view through the garden gate

grrrrrr ><  
Of course, what is a garden without a DANDELION weed or two?  
(such a wonderful idea that I owe entirely to 
Tatiana of 
"My Little Dream" )
But the weeding will just have to wait,
 I'm going in now


toodles  everyone

and thanks again for stopping by


Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Do any of you remember the annual t.v. cartoon special 
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"?
 Every halloween, Charlie Brown and his friends would go Trick or Treating in the neighborhood.
All of his friends got candy in their bags, but poor old Charlie Brown always got... A ROCK.  (Such a rotten thing to do to a kid, but it was very funny at the time. )  In retrospect, I really admire Good ol' Charlie Brown for not loosing his cool. What extraordinary self-control that little guy possessed.  He always responded to adversity with these words
"Good Grief

I bring this up because all of last month, I was collecting a lot of rocks of my own.

Here is where I am, as we speak
 This is just a temporary arrangement.                                            
   Nothing IS now, as it will later become.                        
I just had to show you something colorful because the following photos are all pretty dull.

 the insulation board glued in place and painted with a coat of gesso

A while back, Betsy the Daydreamer, of "About My Dollhouses " blog, showcased her wonderfully creative usage of pink foam insulation board.  She cut and carved it into a room- dividing brick wall in her Conservatory makeover.  I was very impressed and had to get me some.  I bought a sheet from the Home Depot and stood it behind the door in my Studio and then I just looked at it for several weeks.  I still had the 3rd wall of #43 to add the egg carton stones to, but I couldn't do that until I got the back of roof on, which eventually I did and of course... it didn't fit the first time, so I struggle with that until I figured out a better solution rather than having to shave down the top of bathroom wall.
Good Grief! 
(that was a very long sentence)

Next up, was to determined where the chimney would run. But what kind of a chimney?  So it was back to Pinterest and many more days of looking... and looking... and looking. Too many choices.

 I couldn't make up my mind.
 I got extremely tired of my indecision.

 Finally, I opted to NOT tackle the stoning of the 3rd wall-  as yet,  
 do any more thinking about the chimney
 I was itching to do some 'real work' and NOW, before the summer drew to a complete close, so I turned my attention back to that pink insulation board, propped behind my door and dove right into building some rocks.
The idea was to have the cottage above grade.  I had never tried this kind of structure before but I thought it would be fun.  Betsy had built a hill for her Folly, which looked great so I thought I would like to give that a try.
Trying to decide on a landscape layout was not as much 'fun' as I thought it would be.  I don't do well without FIRST- a clear vision in mind of where I think I am headed.   I won't go into great detail of how much anxiety groping around within the dark recesses inside my head, caused me, or the sleepless nights I spent scrolling through pages and pages of English real estate photos as well as Pinterest.  
The house itself was
dead silent,
and no help to me at all. 
 I couldn't find anything Anywhere, to inspire me, even in books.    
After an entire week, with the foam board glued onto the plywood base, I still had no clue what to do next.  Janine had earlier given me some thick scraps of white styrofoam packing, 
(leftovers from her RL kitchen renovations.) 
   I started cutting and shaping the slabs with a serrated bread knife.
it looked like a styrofoam bomb went off inside my studio; it flew everywhere!
 okay, whatever....

I wanted the house to be countersunk into the landscape and so I built the grounds up around it.  I was still able to remove the cottage when necessary.  After I got a rough outline of what I thought was interesting to look at, I painted everything with Gesso to make it all cohesive; then a thin coat of Spackle followed on top of that. 

another blank slate.

  But then out came the modeling gel medium, something I had demonstrated over a year ago  August, when posting the finishing of the cottage walls in 
"Such a Little Kitchen"
 and later again I used it for my fireplace hearth tutorial in 
"Light My Fire"

I used a COARSE AND AN EXTRA COARSE  gel medium for the  first 2 coats of texture.   I laid it on with a trowel and boy was the texture rough looking! 
over the coat of Spackle,  I applied the gel medium
In fact:
 It was Too Textured you might even call it 'Volcanic', and it took at bit of extra work to make it look a little less rough. Eventually, after some painting and aging, I smoothed it out with a light over-lay of Matt Gel Medium which filled in some of the most extreme irregularities, but to tell you the truth, I tried to keep as much of the rugged look as I could. 
 Now This was Fun!
  I really enjoyed playing with the FAUX STONE surface.  I  merrily continued to paint and age it over several more days as I tried to make the steps up to the house look as though they had been well worn and carved out of rocks.  
But afterwards, I had an entire garden space that looked bleak and barren. It made me think of the water's edge, therefore I changed my direction mid-stream and decided to add some seawater to the left corner that you can see carved out below.  I made some BIG ROCKS that would be sunk half-way into the water.  The rocks looked like something found near the ocean.  

The above photo show the rocks I made and the styrofoam on top is what it started out as.

And this is a close up of the texture of the rocks that were going to be part of the shoreline .
Oh, I was so happy with the way the rocks were looking, but then I had to ask myself.....
So it was back to Pinterest to see if I could find at least one other crazy person in England who had built their house this dangerously close to the incoming tides. 

Naturally, I couldn't find anything anywhere. 

The only thing that came remotely close, was the home of Dan Peggotty, Ham, Mrs. Gummage and little Emily, all living in that capsized boat which had been washed ashore from the novel
 "David Copperfield." 
I ended up watching the Freddie Bartholomew movie version just so that I could see that humble upside down house- boat planted so snugly in the sand.
Not exactly what I had in mind for this project so after more stalling, I had to decide what was more important to me; 
A)  a house of grey rocks sitting on a patch of  brown rocks with some deep dark water on the side, 
B) a house of grey rocks sitting on a patchy green lawn with a garden full of colorful flowers surrounding it?
Thus,... I filled in the shoreline 
Earlier, I had contemplated the idea of a surrounding stone garden wall just like that of my friend 
Janine at"MINWORKS". 
see her post "Vegetable Garden"

 Her "trusty man", the Mighty Bruce, had built her the most Marvelous enclosed side garden for her French house and he had even made 2 custom iron gates for 2 of the surrounding stone walls.  I already had an iron gate that I had purchased many, many years ago.  Above is what I had been originally contemplating before I had decided to do the water. 
  I felt that my original wall was too high, so I cut it down and tried to fit what was left, around the new in-fill of the old shoreline.  I did a rough cut; but I found that I liked the effect and decided to keep the wall raggedy.  I liked the look of it being broken and needing repairs.  The iron fencing on top use to be green plastic farm yard fencing. Currently, it is precariously balancing on top of the wall, until I can decide how I want to secure it.  I almost have enough of the fence; but not quite.  I shall have to make some adjustment somehow to get this to look as it should.
To get the texture that I needed for the lower wall, I laid on a thin coating of Spackle and then dashed it with Bird Gravel. ( see photo above) I had run out of the Coarse Gel Medium and I didn't want to buy any more so this worked as a good base coat.
But I still needed more layers and more texture. 

To get the wall to this stage, I did a little experimenting.  I mixed  SPACKLE with WHITE  TACKY GLUE, SAND, BLACK AND WHITE ACRYLIC PAINT,  BIRD GRAVEL and WATER.  It became very thick and plasticy like Mastic Putty, but it applied Beautifully, dried hard like cement and cleaned off the knife with soap and water.   By going against the grain as it was setting up I was able to emphasize the irregularities of the wall and by allowing some of the base coat to show through, I got a bit more visual depth. 
I recently discovered several tutorials on Pinterest,  on how to make your own Textured Gel Paste, which I tried out and Highly Recommend if you don't want to spend the money on the commercial brands.  The mix I used above was my own idea,  but inspired by what I had previously seen.
check them out on youtube
This is a close up view of the new/old cement wall.  
Who would know that this began life as pink foam board insulation?

 ( trick shot) I had to see what it looked like from the front Parlor window! 
This is the corner of the left side of the retaining wall, almost done.  Still adjusting the paint color.
My intention is to eventually add growing things in the cracks and crevices.
I really enjoyed making this wall, and I am so glad that I gave up my stupid ocean side idea.

This is supposed to be a city house after all on 
"Green Dolphin Street!"  
So now that I have a house with a yard, the next question is what part of England is it suppose to be in? 
 The house looks a bit French with these bright red shutters against the stone finish.  Of the hundreds of photos I have previewed of English cottages, I have NEVER Yet seen shutters on ANY English stone cottages.  ONCE I did see, shutters on an English wood- sided building.  That  surprised me. 
I didn't even know that the English HAD wood-sided houses..... Duh!  But generally speaking, it appears that the English don't seem that keen on shutters, at least from what I have seen through Pinterest.  If I am wrong please correct me.   Every time I discovered a photo of a stone cottage with shutters, it was French or from another European country.  
Janine and Fatima said it doesn't matter. 
 I reluctantly concede defeat. 
 But Next Time, I shall do the required research FIRST instead of LAST. 


So my English stone cottage, is not so English after all, and looks more French..... *shrug*
c'est la vie

(  still I'm very grateful that the French like shutters!)
And as to the garden, well.... that is still under consturction.  The  photo above is where I began the garden. ( The black front step you see here, is not the current one but only the understudy, the new stoop is in the photo below.)  
With any project there has to be a beginning so not knowing exactly which direction the garden should take, I took the front steps and began there. 
After all of those monotone photographs above, I had to leave  you with a little taste of color and how my  French/English garden is 'growing'.  Tai the cat, has jumped from the chair by the front door, to sun himself outside on the new stoop.   The climbing red roses are just temporary stand in's for the better ones yet to be made.  Meanwhile, I have ordered some flower kits from England's
"the Miniature Garden"

they have just arrived today.
 I am really looking forward to assembling them.  

The flowers are Euphorbia and Snapdragons by Georgie Steed.  I am working towards a lot of color against all of this stone.
As I awaited the arrival of the flower kits, I tried my hand at some faux iron work and
 I  made a handrail for the front step just to see if I could.

This vibrant grouping are some of the plants that I made last year, 
see my post
By piecing together bits of assorted plastic plants, I made a lot of flowers that really needed a home.  I have bushels of plastic flowers that I have been collecting both for this as well as future garden projects.  As you can see, red and acid yellow will be bright additions to the colorful chaos that I have in mind.
My fellow Minteer,
Fatima of Beauminis, 
has been very busy making armloads of Peonies that are Simply Fabulous 
 and she has promised to make some for me. :))

I shall really need to figure out a planting plan for the garden....
But all of that is for a little later on.

 I have still a lot of work to do on the cement retaining walls and attaching the iron railing.
Not to mention the 3rd side of the house which is still unfinished and still needs it's egg carton stone.  I have to make the gate posts and secure the front gate, as well as  the slate roof shingles to make and then install  and also the brick/ stone chimney which I am still unclear about ....

 and as Charlie Brown would say-
"Good Grief!"

 (will these projects never end? )

 Unlike poor ol' Charlie Brown who did not enjoy the rocks he was given every  disappointing halloween , 

 I am EXCEEDINGLY Thankful for every assorted rock of mine and I Love them All  
what an experience



elizabeth :D