Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Hummingbird Lady

While I was looking for hummingbird photos yesterday,
I came across one that took me by surprise
because it showed a woman feeding hummingbirds out of her hand.
The lady's name is Abigail Alfano; she and her husband live in Pine, Louisiana.
Mrs. Alfano has gained a reputation as "the hummingbird lady"
because of this photo:

She and her husband explain in an online article
how she was able to gather the hummingbirds to her.
Read her story here:
and see if you might have the same talent.

It's an amazing account, and I can't help but think 
that Mrs. Alfano must be one of those gentle spirits
that birds and animals know they can trust.
Nice to know there are people like that out there.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


This morning I was having a cup of coffee on my deck.
I was listening to the water in my garden fountain and writing in my journal.
Suddenly, a small hummingbird flew up to the pink ivy geranium plant
which was about five feet in front of me. 

Now I had seen the little one out there a time or two this summer.
But this morning its arrival brought a surprise.
A day ago, I was thinking about my husband's mother
who passed away ten years ago. 
We still miss her terribly.
The twilight of a summer day sometimes make me melancholy,
so I had been thinking of her, feeling the loss,
wondering if her spirit was still near.

She always had a great number of hummingbirds at her front porch feeders,
and many mornings we had coffee together there and watched the hummingbirds.
So when I saw the hummingbird this morning, 
I wondered if it was a sign from her that she was still with us. 
I immediately dismissed the idea as wishful thinking.
But a moment later, the hummingbird veered away from the geranium blossoms
and flew right at me and hovered there in front of me
within several inches of my forehead.
Too close for comfort, really.
I could feel the vibration from its wings.
For a second, I wondered if it could have seriously mistaken me for a flower 
and my heart pounded as I waited to see if it was going to go for my head.

But after what seemed an eternity,
the little hummingbird flew off and lit on an oak branch nearby
and preened for several moments.
I turned back to my journal, 
looked again, and the messenger was gone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Flower Pots and Planters Gone Wild

Yesterday I shared some images of beautiful garden pots and planters
filled with exquisite mixtures of flowers and greenery
set within manicured gardens.
Of course, most of us end up with at least parts of our gardens that remain untamed,
often because we give way to indifference or self expression. 
Self expression sometimes includes finding creative uses for discarded items
instead of following the rules of formal garden design.
So here are a few that you may--or may not--want in your own gardens.

One of the first that caught my eye 
was the use of tires as planters 
as seen in this photo by "Recaptured Charm":

I would say if you have committed yourself to going the tire route,
than you should consider decorating them a bit like these:
painted, stacked and horizontal:

How about using discarded drawers
as in this photo by "Queen B and Me"?

Using old chairs seems to be a common choice.
A careful combination of chair, pot, and flowers like these
does lend a certain charm to a cottage garden:

Here's one from "Cottage at the Crossroads"
that re-purposes an old grill:

It seems people will use anything as a planter 
as long as it has an empty space to fill with soil. 
Including old books:

But other planters I found on line: volley balls, chicken feeders,
old shoes, boots, baskets,  old toilets, kitchen colanders,
wheelbarrows, wash tubs, and even an umbrella:

I would say some of these "upcycles"
end up looking clever and cute and others don't.
It reminds me of an admonition I once heard:
 even though we can, it doesn't mean we should.
Regardless, it's fun to see what other people come up with.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Flower Pots and Planters

I grow a lot of flowers in containers, pots, and planters
because we have poor soil, heavy shade, and dry conditions around the house. 
If I were a more accomplished gardener,
I would devote more time to developing the soil, 
but that idea seems to be forever in my "one of these days" column.

My potted plants are pretty enough, 
but lack the spectacular lushness I've seen in photos on the web.
For example, this combination, 
which includes violet and white wave petunias and bright pink cosmos,
wouldn't fail to garner extra attention:

Here's another with pink wave petunias, chartreuse sweet potato vine
and a tower of red geraniums. I wonder how they got those geraniums so tall:

I love this one too. 
The tiny flowers and mounding habit give this arrangement a refined, yet casual feel:

I've read that the key to a successful flower planter 
is to have a tall plant, a medium filler plant and then a trailing plant.
This next planter seems to confirm that advice:

I love the vivid colors in this next planter,
but I have a feeling it takes a real green thumb 
to achieve this kind of gardening success:

Of course, the flower pots and planters in these photos
are at home in their manicured surroundings.
There is a sense of order and style.
But what happens when flower pots and planters venture to the wild side?
We'll look at those in tomorrow's blog post.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Creative House Number Ideas

Yesterday's blog looked at using garden pots
for house numbers.
But it turns out, a lot of people take the creative spark
a little further, all the way from unusual to truly unique.
Here are a few of my favorites from around the web:

If you are old enough to remember front door handles
with back plates such as these, then this house number idea
might be for you. However, I would close the gap between each 
and put them all on the same level. I find numbers on a diagonal unsettling.

This next one would require some skill with a hammer, 
but it's pretty cool if you are able to keep all the nails the same height.
I fear it might turn out to be an exercise in frustration for some of us:

If you've got a green thumb--or maybe access to artificial grass--
this one may be to your liking:

I like this one because they've used the written house numbers
as background for the numeric ones:

This is truly unique, but if you take a nap and mess up the pillows,
you might wake up and think you were at another house:

If you like wine and know someone who can fuse glass,
this one's for you:

All in all, these are a bit too "out there" for my house,
which is a two-story mash-up of the Federal and Colonial Salt Box styles.
But sometimes knowing what won't work
gets  you half way to what will.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Creative House Numbers

"House Numbers on Garden Pots and Planters"

For most of this summer's blogging,
I've explored garden arches and arbors, paths, and gates.
And in searching for images to share,
I came across so many crisp and creative front doors and entryways.
 I also found something I hadn't expected:
creative ways to display house numbers.
And it seems painting your house numbers on garden pots and planters
is a very popular choice.

This first photo is on multiple web sites:

This next one is a bit more lighthearted.
I love the yellow  marigolds:

If a long line isn't appealing, how about two levels?

Some people stack them instead:

This small planter set on a plant stand is simple
but the stylized white lettering really stands out from the black:

While I was looking at all these creative house numbers on garden pots,
it occurred to me that I need to rehabilitate
my own house numbers.
The brass ones on the mailbox have been covered by the Madison jasmine;
the painted ones on the curb have faded with age.
So I'll be exploring more ways to post house numbers.

Join me tomorrow for some house numbers 
that make painted ones on garden pots
look downright conventional.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Most Popular Front Door Colors

Most popular front door colors--
and what they say about personality

I'm not sure when the color of one's front door
became so important to home fashion.
In past decades, it seems very little attention was paid 
to front doors and entryways beyond their functionality.
As long as the hinges didn't squeak, all was well.

But now the front door is also the doorway to personal expression.
And paint companies have devoted lots of research 
to popular door colors and the psychology of those color choices.
For example, some say that yellow front doors symbolize that the owner 
favors mental clarity, intellect, and sociability.

A 2012 article on the Dow web site
"Five Popular Front Door Colors and what they (might) Say about You"
describes the Paint Quality Institute's research results
for the five most popular front door colors and how those color choices
symbolize one's personality.
Here they are, beginning with the fifth most popular.

#5 Brown

The Institute says a brown door can be read two ways.
Brown can symbolize warmth and homey-ness
or a brown door can signal that the homeowner
 is isolated and wants to be left alone.
Good to know.

#4 Red

A red door is said to convey passion and energy.
Apparently people who choose red doors 
are supposed to have a lot of excitement in their lives.
I have a red door, but I don't know that I have a particularly exciting life--
I guess it depends on your definition of excitement.
If it's being awakened by barking pekingese who want breakfast,
then yes, I have plenty of excitement.

#3 Black

According to the Paint Quality Institute, a black door
says that the owner is sophisticated, intelligent, and worldly.
It is also supposed to signify power and importance. 
But to me, black is also a very "yin" energy color, 
meaning it is a color of slumber and winter.
Regardless, I do like the look of a glossy black door.

#2 Green

A green door is said to signal safety, comfort, and health,
so it is a positive message. When I was searching for green doors,
I found few dark forest green doors, and only one or two spring or Kelly green
as in the photo above. It seems the favored green for a door
is actually a chartreuse or electric lime green like this:

And the #1 paint color for front doors in the USA?
It's blue:

Why blue? The Paint Quality Institute
cites numerous studies showing that blue front doors
symbolize tranquility and calm.
Serenity--always a good choice for a home.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Front Door of a Different Color

Depending on where you live,
you may have to follow homeowners' association rules 
about what color you can paint your front door--
which is the case where I live.
If you are a follower of feng shui, the art of  arrangement 
for achieving good energies,
you may adhere to the rules for front door color  based on compass direction,
thus limiting your choices.
But some people have no restrictions on the colors they choose.
They go with their hearts, and that results in some unusual color choices 
on front doors out there. 

What about a baby blue front door? 
This seems like a good choice for a beach house:

Maybe grape is your thing:

On the other hand, perhaps pink tickles your fancy:

What about tree-frog green?

An orange door definitely says individuality:

When you just can't decide,
go for true artistic expression:

Tomorrow, the most popular choice for front door color in the USA
and what your door color might say about your personality.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Front Doors and Feng Shui

Feng shui experts place great importance
on the color of front doors.
They say that the choice of paint color must take into account
which direction the house is facing
if there is to be positive or auspicious energy for the house.

Deep yellow gold is said to be best for a door that faces southwest:

When I look out the front door of my house,
which is on a cul-de-sac, 
I see front doors painted deep red, blueberry blue,
deep forest green, Williamsburg blue and glossy black.
My own front door is a bright cardinal red,
a common paint color choice for front doors in the south.
I didn't really choose that color for feng shui reasons,
but I do like the energy of a bright red door.

However, according to the feng shui for front door page
on the web site, red is not the most auspicious color 
for my house because it faces northeast.
The feng shui recommendation would be an earth tone or even pink
(that's definitely not happening)
neither of which sound at all appealing to me.

Blue tones are said to be good for a southeast facing door:

This spring green door would bring good energy to a house facing east:

To me, the most amazing front doors are the ones 
painted in colors that reflected  unique combinations
 of personality and architecture, regardless of compass direction.
Tomorrow, we'll look at some front door paint colors
that are one of a kind.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Window Boxes

Houses are built to live in and not to look on:
therefore let use be preferred before uniformity.
                                 --Sir Francis Bacon

I once read a book written in the late 1700s by a single woman
who decided to move to the Massachusetts countryside and
start her own chicken farm.
With a bit of humor and the wisdom 
 that comes from viewing one's life in retrospect,
she recounts the frustrations of being taken seriously
by  her neighbors, the merchants, and workmen of the time.

 At one point, she decides she is going to fix up the outside of her house
with bright paint and colorful flowers to show the country folk
how to bring a little beauty to their plain, unpainted houses.
So she succeeds in making her little home a colorful jewel
 there along the main road--but to her chagrin,
travelers keep mistaking it for a bordello.

Fortunately, nowadays we are free to decorate and embellish our houses
with any paint color or flower that strikes our fancy.
And window boxes have to be one of the ultimate expressions 
of fanciful house decor.
Here are a few more of my favorites from around the web:

Here's one filed with violet and burgundy petunias, 

Here is one for spring, filled with cheery yellow daffodils:

Here's one filled with winter plantings from Southern Living magazine:

I tried a winter window box once with a miniature spruce
and Irish moss. The spruce got too big and the moss died, of course.
But it was pretty for a while.

I love this casual window "box":

Another beauty from Southern Living:

Sir Francis Bacon didn't know what he was missing.