July 30, 2016

Artificial Turf: Stage II

Newly installed artificial turf in back yard under canopy of redbuds.
My back lawn this morning after artificial turf installation and a cleansing rain.
Anyone who follows this blog (or who lives in my neighborhood) knows about the huge gardening risk (with the even larger payoff ) that I took last fall when I installed artificial turf in my front yard. I wrote about the extensive decision process of choosing (a) which synthetic turf product provided me the most realistic look and feel, (b) what my priorities were in artificial turf selection, and (c) the elaborate, labor intensive process it involves... in a blog post here. Oh, and the company I used, and that I would HIGHLY recommend (and, no I don't get a kickback, LOL) is NEXGEN LAWNS (here). You can follow them on FB here (and yes, that is my house as their FB header. ) Since the the artificial turf in the front has been such an incredible improvement in every way over my real turf,  I decided to install it in the back as well......as soon as my thrifty self would allow.

Water and heat stressed turf in mid-summer in my back yard.
Testing samples of turf options and blade density for the back yard.

And that was this week.

Back lawn with real turf this spring.
How the back real grass turf looked this spring. Not unlike how the artificial turf appears now!
Like my front landscape, the back had very little grass. The beds that border the turf are deep and the rather large 'entertainment' or deck area off of the kitchen door is gravel and flagstone. Once again, it is just a 'throw rug' of lawn......which I think is the perfect application for NEXGEN LAWNS (here) artificial turf use. Like my front lawn, the back turf looked incredible in spring and fall...after considerable effort, watering, seeding, edging, mowing, and on and on. But as soon as those high temperature and humidity levels hit.........WHAM!!!!  That turf raised the white flag of surrender and no coaxing or intervention could keep it alive and thriving, much less  replicating its beautiful appearance in the spring and fall.

Two inches of existing turf and topsoil is removed.
Removal of the struggling turf begins.
Also like the front, I kept the same bedlines, the same stepping stone placement (this was one of my criteria for selection....whether or not the company and the product could work around the stepping stones---a signature feature in my garden, both practical and pretty), and the same appearance and contours of the edging. 

Two to three inches is dug out to make room for depth of synthetic turf.
Turf removal is a labor intensive job; more exacting than you would think.

Basically, exactly how the real turf looked. NEXGEN (here)  worked with me to get exactly the look and feel I wanted. I won't go into all the details of installation again....you can find them here, but between myself and the installers, we managed to get just the right, and realistic, look I wanted. Briefly, here was the installation process with one departure...

The process is back breaking and labor intensive.
And yes, it took a village. Of hard-working, sweaty, good-natured guys. And some good tunes on the radio.
Mess first, beauty later.
Existing brickwork and brick border was left undisturbed and in place.
Thankfully it rained the night before rendering turf removal much easier.
After the turf removal, flexible edging was put in place using the old bed lines as a template. These guys were uber accommodating as I moved the edging an inch here and an inch there.
Workers look over the edging and work done thus far.
Edging is in place on west side! Workers survey the work thus far.
Stakes hold the parabola of the curves  in place.
I made sure there was a void between the brick and the grass. This was very important to me...I think it enhances the realism of the synthetic turf, softens the look, and really mimics the way I have always trimmed, groomed and mowed my turf in the past. Aka, the 'signature' look in the garden I have worked hard to create. And, it just makes me pleased and happy with the overall appearance of the garden, no matter what the season.
Stakes driven into soil hold edging in place.
Ground covers, like ajuga, golden moneywort, and golden oregano grow in gaps between the bricks. This too was left in place and softens the appearance overall.  It also provides extra textural interest, and gives me more variety in things besides grass to grow.
Gravel is wheelbarrowed in.
Large quantities of crushed gravel was brought in as the base to the synthetic turf.
They then put down a layer of black porous weed barrier inside the edging. Here is where I made a departure from the front process of installing the grass. Rather than using the Airfield Systems (here) grass drainage system (if you want to see installation images of my front lawn, they used it as a case study on their website here)  I opted to use gravel as the substrata to the turf. Largely because the area was so small and sinewy in a tight space.
Another labor intensive process: bringing large amounts of crushed gravel
Copious amounts of first crushed gravel, then a slightly larger gravel were wheelbarrowed in and then shoveled and tamped and prodded into place. Again, with exacting detail. I was so impressed with their professionalism and craftsmanship.
Stepping stones are placed, leveled, and then 'graveled'  in.
I then, with their help, strategically placed the stepping stones where they had been before. We took pictures to ensure the look and cadence of the placement was the same.
Minor tweaking of the edging was not an issue for them; they were eager to please.

Then with both manual and motorized tools the gravel was leveled and tamped into place making sure all was stable (particularly the stepping stones) and even under foot.

Quite honestly, after this step, it looked so good I was almost tempted to stop and just leave a gravel surface! Had I a different style home....where, I think, this look is amazing....I would do so.

Compacted gravel and stepping stones is handsome without grass!
The packed gravel looked so good I was tempted to leave it that way!
Notice that the gravel is now level with the top of the edging, and border is tailored, crisp and neat.
 With the undergirding in place, they then laid the turf, and cut and trimmed it into place.

I pretend to help secure the turf.
They thought I should at least help a bit by securing some of it in place...as I was so fascinated with the process.

turf is cut around stepping stones.
Cutting around the stepping stones is an exacting, slow, careful, methodical process
As before, they carefully mimicked the look of the edges, then power brushed large amounts of sand into the turf to weigh it down and make the blades stand up.  I am thrilled by the excellent drainage I will now enjoy......poor drainage always having been an issue in the past. An added benefit to the finished product........which looks spectacular.  Examine the images below noting the real turf and the faux gras as Husband calls it. One can barely tell the difference. In fact, as I loaded these images it was very hard for me to tell what was real and what wasn't. Only the blooming borders provided the answer for me! The entire installation process took only two days.

After completion: artificial turf.

After completion: artificial turf

Real turf in early summer. I can hardly tell the difference!
Real turf, late spring.

After completion: synthetic turf, mid - late summer

 The biggest difference in the images isn't the turf, it's the quality of light when the photos were taken.

Back lawn with real turf this spring.


 After on the left, before on the right.
Artificial on the left, real on the right.

No maintenance or water on the left.....water, seed, fertilizer, fungicides, mowing, edging, blowing and frustration on the right.


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July 26, 2016

How to Create an Instant Late Summer Bucket Bouquet

Garden chairs, boxwood cones in pots and a bucket full of summer blooms sits on the stone porch in front of french doors.
A bucketful of sunshine sits on the porch of  the back studio.
It is the time of year when the garden is stingy and sticky and buggy. This gardener is surly and sour and out of sorts. Hundred degree temperatures will do that to a garden and a gardener. Gone is the softer light, easier beauty, and floral bounty of earlier in the growing season. We have to look a little harder and be a bit more creative to tease out the beauty of the garden....but it is still there, I promise.

If you are entertaining this weekend, having summer guests, or simply in dire need of a jolt of garden optimism, here is a simple and effortless way to create an instant garden vignette and hopefully, a few smiles in the dog days of summer.

Potted box, wood chairs and perky blooms make a pleasant scene.
Weathered wood chairs and sunny blooms in a bucket makes a charming vignette.
Keep it easy-breezy. It is far too hot to compose anything fussy or fancy. A simple bucket of any sort will work, but one with a little more personality is nice and a bit more special. Visit THE BUCKET OUTLET (HERE) for a huge array of this garden staple in a wide variety of materials, colors, finishes and sizes.

Brown faux leather bucket from Bucket Outlet
Faux leather bucket from Bucket Outlet.

(I am especially fond of the brown faux leather bucket here, which would be handsome pressed into service in either the garden OR the home. I plan on acquiring a couple simply for use as cut flower trugs.... or perhaps brimming with gourds and pumpkins in the fall?)

Grab some pruning sheers and clip away at one or two, at the most three, things in your landscape that have the audacity to continue looking good even in this heat. For me, that would be the stalwart 'Goldsturm' rudbeckia and sunny yellow helianthus. To that I added a couple-three seed heads of lavender veronica to float above the golden flower heads. Humble and unsophisticated? Maybe.

Jaunty black-eyed Susans, helianthus and veronica seed heads make a simple late summer bucket bouquet.
But happy and golden and sunny? Yes. This arrangement isn't rocket science. You have probably done it yourself one time or another. But it is intentional...by which I mean I had to rouse myself from late summer ennui and deliberately look for a way to resurrect the floral charm that came so easily in the cooler weeks. A horticultural anti-depressant if you will. You could substitute anything in your garden, or even along the roadside to get the same effect. Foraging in late summer

Dark centered rudbeckia, veronica and helianthus scream dog days of summer.
for what beauty still surrounds us. Fresh or dried. Wild or cultivated. Even humble weeds can look beautiful en masse elevated by the beauty and form of a good looking vessel...or bucket.

When not on flower duty during the growing season, this bucket (and its slightly larger identical companion) serve as workhorse ash buckets for the kitchen fireplace.)

Put it by your back door. Your favorite garden chair. By your FRONT door. Or bring it inside and
let it reside on the hearth. Next to the fireplace and your leather chair. Where you can daydream about cool Fall days, and a fire at night. Where you will see it and be cheered each time you walk by.

Bucket of blooms sits on the fireside hearth, in clear view from the kitchen.

Galvanized metal bucket with sunny blooms spilling out.


of a hot and tired, but still giving, garden.

Weeping pussy willow sits in center of box edged potager. Rudbeckia flanks the gate through the arbor.

Coming up later this week: changes to the back yard and garden.

July 24, 2016

Five Garden Inspired Wedding Gift Ideas

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Young lovers hold hands in a field of grasses.
Ah...Love is in the air
Cupid has been working overtime in my family and social circles of late, and the result has been a flurry of weddings, receptions, save-the-dates and, of course, wedding gifts. Since I see everything in life, including wedding gifts, through a gardening lens, I thought I would share 5 Garden Inspired Wedding Gift Ideas for gardeners like myself who want to give something personal, something memorable, and something designed to celebrate gardening and the great outdoors.

White ceramic bowl stuffed with hydrangeas and roses sits amid crystal and silver.
Gorgeous hydrangea and roses take center stage on a rehearsal dinner table in the garden of a friend.

(This was also the topic of last Friday's 4 YOUR GARDEN (HERE) segment. Watch it and past segments here). Here's a rundown on some gifts I have given in the past...and no doubt will give in the future. As long as romance is alive, so to speak. 

Picnic basket with all the necessities: plates, flatware, wineglasses...

1.  A Beautiful Picnic Basket

Rustic or refined, vintage or new...a picnic basket for two or more, is a wonderful and unexpected gift that goes beyond the wedding registry at the mall.  Like this one tricked out to the max, from Pottery Barn here, or this great variety of picnic ensembles at Picnic World (here). Flea markets and antique shops are great places to source old-fashioned and retro versions that you can personalize and stock yourself. Romantic? I think so.

Galvanized metal lantern with battery operated candle inside, accompanied by pink Mandeville vine.
Galvanized metal lantern hangs next to the doorway and hot pink Mandevilla vine.

2.  Outdoor Lanterns

One can find good looking and good quality lanterns almost anywhere and at any price point these days, from TARGET (HERE) to TERRAIN (HERE). An added bonus is that many retailers put their outdoor decor items on sale at the end of the summer. Pair a couple of lanterns with battery operated candles, found in many sizes and styles at

Wooden lantern on wood post stands above garden flowers and foliage.
This special outdoor lantern sits atop a post amidst flowers and foliage in the garden.
 AMAZON (HERE). Guaranteed to continue flickering even in strong Oklahoma wind.

Leather bound ten year journal from Lee's Valley makes a great wedding gift.

3.  A beautiful leather Garden Journal

I have given this beautiful ten year leather bound journal from LEE'S VALLEY (HERE) as both a wedding gift and house warming present many times. Tuck some of your favorite flower and veggie seeds into the gift box to personalize it further. Give it to them just in time to record the first 100 degree temps of the summer...

Wood raised bed planters fit right in with furniture and guests on the slate patio.
Two Raised Bed Planters grow herbs on the patio.

4.  A Raised Garden Bed Kit

Newlyweds may have neither the time, inclination or space to put in ambitious, in-ground garden beds, but still like the idea of eating and cooking with garden fresh herbs and veggies. The perfect solution, and a perfect wedding gift, would be a raised bed garden kit. Options abound, from Home Depot and Lowe's to on-line sources like WAYFAIR (HERE). Have this wedding gift shipped directly to the nuptial couple...just make sure they are not apartment dwellers... and if they are...

Farm fresh produce from your CSA.
5.  A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Membership

that will provide garden fresh produce without their even getting their hands dirty.  In OKC consider GUILFORD GARDENS & KAM'S KOOKERYor LOCAL HARVEST (HERE). If the couple doesn't have time to cook, but love the indulgence of fresh flowers in their home year round, why not get them an annual subscription to a service like BOUQS (HERE) or a local grower from your Farmers' Market. Options that are cut flower beautiful, but with a garden bouquet aura.

Bouquet of sweet peas, artemisia, and wildflowers.
Fresh Cut flowers from the garden, destined for the vase. Very romantic, and I think, very wedding appropriate.
Bride and photographer make magic with sister and mom looking on.
One of several wedding photos taken  in my back garden.