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Water and Gardening go Hand in Hand

I woke up Wednesday morning to a slow and gentle rain; the kind that makes gardeners smile.IMG_1609

Water from Wednesday’s rain collected in my stock tank.

When it comes to July & August, Texas is a cooker.  I feel fortunate I live in east Texas versus central Texas where I lived previously.  On the whole, Central Texas has always been hotter and drier than east Texas. This year was no exception.

This summer, Central Texas experienced several over 100-degrees F (38 degrees Celsius) days, some of which were record breakers.  In contrast, my little town has yet to break 100 F/38 C.  We’ve also seen far more rain than Central Texas.

For most of July, I watered the in-ground plants every 4 days, and the potted plants get a daily drink.  Watering everything can take a couple of hours, so I work to get it done in the early morning when it’s cool, and of course, any drops of rain are deeply appreciated at this time of year.

I water by hand using a garden hose.  I’d love to know how you water.  Is your water costly? Does your area suffer from droughts and if it does, do you do anything special at those times?

Water can be expensive in Texas depending upon where you live.  There have been private corporations that purchased the water sources for small towns and subsequently increased the prices to outrageous levels.

That’s not happened here, thank goodness.

Apparently, our town wants to conduct a rate study for water and would like to install new water meters. Does this mean our water bills will rise?  Maybe.

Related to the water meters, I came across this fake news article that made me chuckle. I thought you might find it funny too.

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Newly planted (June) Globe Thistle, Echinops Ritro, in mulch.

Most of my in-ground plants are mulched with wood chips.  Some may not need as much mulch once established.

From time to time, I read plant articles from other areas of the U.S. with a negative bent given to mulch. Yes, mulch can be ugly, but I believe it is almost essential for healthy plants in Texas.  I’m guessing other areas of the U.S. get more water than Texas, and their hot temperatures aren’t as extreme and don’t last as long.

All of this post is to say, I think as gardeners it’s important to look at how much water we use and to find clever ways to reduce our water consumption or waste when possible.   I do believe in climate change, and I think water will only become more valuable as time goes by.

Finally, unrelated to water, my Kolstad Inn neighbors gifted me all of their concrete stepping stones, which they plan to replace with flagstone.  I was very happy to get them, and I believe I can use them all.

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Above: Stepping stones from my neighbors at the Kolstad Inn.

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Above: A few stepping stones put into place.

I’d love to add black Mexican beach pebbles around the stepping stones, but they don’t sell them here or in Tyler, TX, our closest big city.  In fact, when I called a Tyler, TX gravel yard to inquire about them, the guy said, “No, we don’t have them.  They cost too much.”  Bummer!

Happy Blogging!

 

GardenWeb – Back in the Day

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Purchased from Frazier’s Concrete Statuary.

I know many of you are every bit as addicted to gardening as I am.  I just wonder if a few of you remember GardenWeb,  which is now Houzz?  I am not a subscriber of Houzz, but I was a GardenWeb member for many years.

For those not familiar with GardenWeb, it was a free web-based garden site where gardeners from anywhere could log in and discuss almost any gardening topic.  At its prime, GardenWeb, was a great resource.  I participated in several forums such as the Texas Gardening Forum, the Garden Party forum, the Organic Gardening Forum, the Cottage Gardening Forum and so forth.  I think I became a GardenWeb member in 2002, but I don’t actually remember the exact date.  (If you ever read an ancient post written by Redthistle on GardenWeb, that was me, and it’s true that what you put on the Internet never leaves!)

Back in the day, the GardenWeb dictator– moderator was a guy who went by the name of Spike.  That name says a lot.  It was a name, that if you were a GardenWeb person, you knew well because Spike could make or break you.  How so?

If Spike didn’t like what you posted, *poof* it was gone.  If you posted too many things Spike didn’t like, he could ban you (gulp) permanently from GardenWeb and from that time forward whenever you attempted to log in to GardenWeb, you would be sent to the official website for the magical kingdom of Disneyland   In retrospect, that’s pretty funny.

I used to think anyone who was permanently banned from GardenWeb must have committed some terrible atrocity until I met a lovely woman who happened to wear the stigma of being “permanently banned”.  She was visiting Austin to attend a work conference, and because of our mutual love of gardening, we agreed to meet at a restaurant for supper.  While I don’t remember what she did that warranted her banning, I think in the end she dared to argue with Spike and that was all it took.  Spike controlled GardenWeb, and you didn’t dare offend him.

I, too, had one comment disappear in my many years on GardenWeb.  This particular comment was made in the Permaculture Forum where a deep discussion regarding Monsanto was ongoing. It was apparent World War III was about to break out before I entered the comment fray. I dared to disagree with someone and *poof* my comment no longer existed.  Since I couldn’t see my comment, I wasn’t able to analyze why Spike decided it needed to be removed, but I never challenged Spike so I wasn’t sent to Disneyland. ~ Grin!~

It’s funny how all GardenWebbers would talk about Disneyland discreetly. A short conversation in the middle of an unrelated post would go something like this:

“I think So-N-So was sent to Disneyland.”  “No, really?! Come to think of it, I’ve not seen him post in a while.” “Yes, he emailed me, and he told me that Spike sent him to Disneyland.”

After that, there was silence because you couldn’t side with Spike’s offender or Spike might see your comment, and you could be banned.  People went off of GardenWeb to their private email to discuss the banishment.

GardenWeb was the source of at least three friendships for me, one of which still exists today.

Through GardenWeb I met one woman, Joella, in the Garden Junk forum, and eventually Joella drove two hours to my house to pick up a mannequin leg.  She planned to place the mannequin leg in her garden as “something unexpected.”  Back then, this was kind of a trend.  Well, okay then!

Joella was a fun gardener, and we corresponded for 2 or 3 years via email. My husband and I eventually drove to Joella’s house, toured her garden, and went to Frazier’s Concrete Statuary  and then to lunch with Joella and her husband.

Another gardening friend I met through GardenWeb was Jolana.  Jolana and I wanted to go to various plant nurseries in the greater Austin area, so we made “a date” to meet.  Other than “talking” on GardenWeb and through email, we didn’t actually know each other. We learned afterward that both of us were rather scared to meet in person.  Both of us thought, “Is this person who he/she claims to be?”  We ended up having a blast, but sadly were never able to do it again.  I worked and Jolana didn’t, so my time was limited.

Finally, my most enduring GardenWeb friendship is with Suzi.  I think of Suzi as my substitute mother.  Suzi is also a great gardener and has a wicked sense of humor.  We’ve been through a lot together, such as major plant problems, children with issues, and widowhood to name a few.  Suzi is my go-to person for big issues. We talk regularly and have met in person many times.   Sadly, Suzi doesn’t garden anymore, but her gardening knowledge is still alive and kicking.

As mentioned, GardenWeb was acquired by Houzz. (Wonder if they acquired Spike, too? Where are you, Spike?)  Although I could have signed on to be a Houzz member, I decided against it.  Their membership asked too many questions.

In the end, I have to say thank you to GardenWeb for all it gave to me–friendships, gardening knowledge, plant swaps and plants. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

 

Dressing for Summer Success

First the eye-candy:

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I am attempting to hypnotize you with Cenizo, Leucophyllum frutescens

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As you can see, my Cenizo is dressed for a successful bee-business.  It’s been loaded with bees for two days now.

I’m so thankful I didn’t get around to pruning it.  Pruning was on my to-do list but so was planting three vines & five perennials, watering the entire backyard, painting the top of the car (yes), doing laundry, and so forth…

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I’ll never know whether the Cenizo bloomed because I’d recently mulched around it or because Cenizo (also known as the “Barometer Bush”) felt the change in our barometric pressure when we got rain.

And I just learned in the writing of this post that Cenizo’s leaves can be used to make a tea.  I might try it.

So while my Cenizo is dressed “to the Nines” I thought I’d let you see the trendy outfits I wear in the garden.

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Notice the cute dog paws at the top of the photo?  Elly, the Lab, was my assistant.  She located the misplaced spade for this photo. (Thank you, Elly.) I highly recommend you teach your dog, if you have one, to find your spade.

Fashionable gardeners and homeless people prefer the above look. Dogs like it too at the end of the day.

Let’s pick apart this outfit to see why the successful summer gardener should wear it.

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Notice the frayed collar?  This is a necessity to wick away perspiration.  Cotton is a must. Both the t-shirt and bandana are made of cotton.

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Above: General random holes in the shirt allow additional airflow.

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Above: The essential air hole at the knee for ventilation.

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Above: The clogs have air vents too. Clog storage is important.–I  keep mine outside in a basket right beside the back door.

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Another snazzy little “number” above.  If you don’t own garden clogs, old Birkenstocks will do. Note that it’s important for your shorts to wear some ground-in dirt.  Otherwise, people think you only pretend to garden.

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Above:  Thrift store belt on hat.  If your hat lacks a cord, you can start your own trend by adding a stylish thrift store belt on which to loop shoe strings that act as cords to tie your hat to your head.

I tried to get my dogs to wear some of my gardening hats for this post, but they refused.  I wonder why?

What not to wear:

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Above: This is a sweat catcher.  It catches sweat, bugs, and dirt.  Don’t wear one!  Not sure what men use it for, but please note it does not make a good gardening hat. However, you might try using it as a bird feeder.

And let me tell you the truth.  I really want my garden to pop, sizzle, and shine NOW, but it’s still very much a baby.  This song pretty much expresses my gardening sentiments to some extent.

Have a great day!

More Planting in Progress

My front yard is tiny, and for that, I’m seriously thankful.  Most of the front lawn is made of St. Augustine grass, and I’m grateful for that as well.

St. Augustine often gets a bad rap for being a water guzzler grass, but here in East Texas we get significantly more rain (12 inches/30 cm)  than central Texas where I’d originally heard St. Augustine maligned.  Frankly, I’ve not watered or fertilized my St. Augustine in two years, and it continues to thrive.  My St. Augustine grows in the shade of two old oaks, but where the shade ends, so does the St. Augustine.  In the approximate 12 ft x 15 ft patch of front yard sun, there is a mix of Bahia grass with a little bit of Bermuda grass thrown in for fun.

Until I moved here, I’d never encountered Bahia grass. From what I’ve seen of it, I’m not enamored.

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Bahia grass.

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Bahia grass photographed against my neighbor’s sidewalk.  It’s the three strands of  TALL grass.

Although Bahai grass is drought tolerant, which is almost a necessity in Texas, it’s also coarse and grows extremely tall very quickly.  Suffice to say you mow it and three days later, it needs mowing again, unlike St. Augustine which takes its sweet time to get tall.

Why am I telling you this?  Recently, I decided the Bahia grass had to go so I’ve created a lasagna layered bed to replace it.  The progress, however, has been slow for a  variety reasons:

  • I needed enough cardboard to cover the grass, and it’s taken time to find what I needed.
  • I decided I didn’t want to invest a lot of money and energy in this bed, plus I wanted to use easy-to-grow plants so I’ve shopped one of the Big Box stores for a few weeks looking at their $1-$3 discount plant rack. (Planting in July is always dicey here in terms of plant survival.  If I lose a $3 plant, it’s not such a big deal.)
  • I have a large blister on the pad of my foot so I’ve been off my feet reading old Stephen King novels. (Currently, I’m reading Misery, which in a small blistery way, helps me to better relate to the protagonist in the story.)
  • It’s 90-94 degree Fahrenheit (32-34 degrees Celsius) outside, and this area gets full sun 24/7. I don’t want to be out there for long periods.

From the discount plant rack, I’ve purchased & planted five Salvia greggii (cherry sage), three coreopsis, six Scabiosa columbaria (pin cushion flowers) and one Sedum “Autumn Joy’ in this bed.  Sadly, the Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susans) I purchased all died from a fungus they came home with. I got my money back.

I will to continue to make trips to the discount rack over the next few weeks until the bed is full.  From my home stash of plants, I’ve planted three garlic chives here as well.

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Bed in progress.  The large shrub is Texas Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens).  It gets lovely purple blooms every so often throughout the spring and summer. The Cenizo could use some shaping.

This front bed is far from finished.  It needs more mulch, plus I plan to edge it with some old bricks I have lying around.  I’m not one to hold back.–The bed is not pretty, but maybe at some point it will be.  It makes me happy simply to know I won’t have to mow that *&!!@ Bahia grass anymore.

And finally, excitement for me came last week with the building of the gated arbor in the backyard.  I’m pleased with the outcome, but am still working on the area, which is in flux.

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New gated arbor with old gate.  The potted plants in front of the posts are temporary.

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View from the backside.

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The gate needs a new latch so I’ve been looking for one.

The construction of the arbor has me thinking of the following:  Which potted plants should go by the posts?  Which tallish shrubs should I plant to either side of the arbor?—They need to take some shade.   I also need to strip and repaint the gate. I need to hang a lantern…and there’s more.

I’ve not planted the star jasmine on the arbor yet.  Instead, I sprinkled the area where it will go with a lot of homemade compost and then let the rain soak it in.

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This is the view from inside the arbor looking out to where the rock path will go.  All of that red soil is the subsoil the contractor threw out to make holes for the arbor’s posts. You get the honor of seeing all of this in its “before” state.

The long-range plan is to make a river rock path from the arbor to my other new planting area and to plant bulbs on either side of this path, but it’s all gonna’ take some time!

Wish me luck, and now back to foot soaks and reading Misery.

 

 

 

 

 

Constipated Squirrels

I am pissed.  Look what the nasty bushy-tailed rats did to my statue, the one I worked so hard on to bring back from the brink of the garbage heap.  Oooooh!  Her head has been eaten as well as other parts!

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See those white spots?  The squirrels munched off sections of the statue’s head.

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Look at her tray.  They chewed on it too.

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A very blurry close-up.  My camera doesn’t do close-ups.

THIS MEANS WAR!

No longer will I slow down when I see a squirrel crossing in front of my car.  No. indeed, I will speed up!

No longer will I feel sad when I see a flattened squirrel on the street or a squirrel missing part of its tail.

Not only have the squirrels eaten my statue, they have also pulled out and killed my petunias in the deck planters and other containers.

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See any petunias in this planter?  Neither do I.

They dig up my plants, plant pecans and acorns in all of my pots, knock things over, have chewed on wiring, and I can’t feed the birds because of them.  Every bird feeder I own, and I own three, sits empty because of those Satanic squirrels.

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You’ve seen this image before.  My neighbor, Mr. Harris, says a young squirrel did this.

 

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See any bird seed in this feeder?  Can you guess why?

And my lovely but a bit naïve neighbor put out a pretty bird feeder a week or so ago.  I watched her feeder as one greedy squirrel wrestled every seed from its depths.

Well, I want revenge!—I WILL fix their behinds!  Eating a chalk statue may have left them constipated.  Let me help.

I will feed MY squirrels some chocolate ex-lax.  There will not be a constipated squirrel within 100 feet of my property.

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Photo is courtesy of this link.

I noticed the ex lax box guarantees “relief every time.”  I hope so.  I need relief from these squirrels.

The product description says, “Gentle overnight relief you can trust. Regular strength.” and goes on to say, “When taken as directed, ex-lax is guaranteed to work gently and effectively overnight or your money back. Return product to Novartis, attention Consumer Affairs, for full refund.”

So, if the squirrels don’t get the runs, I can get a full refund.  Thank you, ex lax.

If the squirrels must eat my statue and my plants, then they can do me a favor and fertilize as they go. Not only will my squirrels be on the run, they will be runny!

Take THAT you nasty runny-butted rodents!  (You know, I truly think they’d eat ex lax, if I put it out there in the bird feeders.)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>But I can’t do it…  Darned…I’m on the local board for the Humane Society.  They would kick me off in a heartbeat if they learned I so much as gave an evil look to any animal.

And then there’s the sin of it.  According to my religious go-to people, to “think it” is the same as doing it…So now that I’ve thought it (giving squirrels ex lax) it’s as if I actually did it.

I can see myself in the confessional now:

“Bless me Father for I have sinned.”

“Go on…”

“Well, Father, I was thinking of giving my squirrels ex lax.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  I might be just a little bit sorry. Maybe.”

“Okay well, repeat the prayer of Contrition and say ten ‘Our Fathers’. Please don’t give the squirrels any ex lax. Okay?”

And then the priest leaves mumbling to himself, “That’s all we need around here, squirrels with the squirts…Parishioners could slip in that stuff and fall.”

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there are a ton of websites out there with the words “Satanic Squirrels” in their titles so I’m not the only person who feels this way.  I’m probably just the only person who wants to relieve her squirrels of their constipation.

I went to a Garden Party (A Garden Party for Confused Brains)

Sometimes summer heat and humidity addle the brain…

I’ve been mulling this idea over for the last 2-3 days…Would I be more excited to meet the Queen Mother in person or perhaps sit with actor/actress Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep for a private dinner at a fancy restaurant or instead chat with a famous garden geek in my garden for an hour?  (Okay, I know it’s not nice to label garden designers, landscape architects, and garden writers as garden geeks, but for the purposes of this post, that’s their moniker.)  And the truth is, I think I’d be more excited to have a board certified famous garden geek visit me than to meet with Queen Elizabeth.  (Sorry your royal highness.)

Here is my short list of the “garden geeks” I’d love to spend an hour with:

Cassandra Danz a.k.a. “Mrs. Greenthumbs”.  I own her two books, Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too and Mrs. Greenthumbs Plows Ahead: Five Steps to the Drop-Dead Gorgeous Garden of Your Dreams

Sadly, Cassandra passed away so she’s difficult to get in touch with. However, I’m certain I would have liked her.  She had an offbeat sense of humor and didn’t take herself too seriously.  (I’m still pissed I never got to meet her.)  Also, her house totally blows me away.

Thomas Rainer, landscape architect and co-author of Planting in a Post-Wild World. Rainer’s co-author, Claudia West, could come along too, although I’m not as familiar with her.

Mary Reynolds, UK nature activist, reformed landscape designer, and author of The Garden Awakening. Mary looks as if she would be a fun person to know.

Piet Oudolf, Dutch garden designer, nurseryman, and author of numerous garden books. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Piet?  Seriously.

David L. Culp author of The Layered Garden and owner of Brandywine Cottage. His partner, Michael, is invited to come as well. David seems to be knowledgeable about everything plant and design-related.

Gertrude Jekyll, horticulturalist, designer, and writer, who I believe is probably holding long conversations with Cassandra Danz and Christopher Lloyd regarding the Heavenly Garden and its evil weeds, don’t you think?

Christopher Lloyd, a practical UK gardener and author of multiple books, who has moved on to his new role as head gardener in the public garden in the sky.

William Robinson, Irish gardener and writer who is now the under-gardener to Christopher Lloyd above.

And wouldn’t it be grand to hold a casual garden party and have them all come?

Let’s see, I’d serve tender fall-off-the-bone barbequed brisket, a ham, hot homemade bread with real butter, a variety of veggies and salads, lemonade, tea, coffee, wine, various beers including craft beers, and lots of homemade desserts and ice cream.

Oh, but first I need to finish staining and sealing my deck chairs so I have enough places for people to sit.

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One of two matching deck chairs overdue for the beauty parlor treatment.

I’ll invite Ricky Nelson, since there’s no requirement to be living to attend, and he can dress any way he likes (bell bottoms are fine) and play all the songs that catch his fancy, old or new.  This is not his first Garden Party, but this time, I want him to have fun. (Note – Garden Party video is slow to load.)

I suppose if the Pope wants to come, he can too.  I feel comforted by the fact that Pope Francis would quash any booing at Ricky’s music by giving disrespectful individual(s) one of his famous Donald Trump “looks”.

Conversations would probably go something like this:

So, Tom (Thomas Rainer), my Joe Pyeweed seems to be a loner.  He doesn’t appear to want to be part of the bigger plant community. He was born an only child, the only germinating seed of 30 that survived.  Any suggestions?

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The loner, Joe Pye Weed, above.

Ah, Cassandra, it’s so nice to finally meet you!  Do you know of an easy way to get these weeds under control?  How about ideas for plants that might look good by my shed?  Oh, and where do you think a rusticated arbor would look best? Go ahead, kick off your sandals.  It’s okay.  By the way, what’s it like on the other side?  What do you do all day? (FYI – Gardeners never go to hell because the growing conditions are too hot there.)

David and Michael, thanks for coming. I just love what you’ve done at Brandywine Cottage.  As you can see, I have a lot of dry shade, and the two of you have a lot of dry shade experience.  If you want to give me some tips, I’m all ears. Oh, and what do you think of my planted log?  Did you see it?

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Log planted with baby succulents yesterday.  The red you see is cayenne pepper to keep the squirrels, etc. away.

I’m honored to meet you, Pope Francis. Thank you for being here.  You have the greatest smile.  Please keep an eye out for Ricky over there.  By the way, the wine’s on the potting bench on the concrete patio.  Oh, thank you, I like the yellow irises too.

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Yellow iris enjoying the heat and humidity and doing some bird entertaining on the side.

Of course, anyone reading this blog has a standing party invitation, and yes, you can bring your dog.

Since some of you may prefer to keep your gender unassigned or you’re just not sure yet, I promise I won’t call you “he” or “she”.  I’ll call you by your first name.  Example: “The bathroom is the second door on the left down the hall, Casey.” (My bathroom serves everyone regardless of color, sexual orientation, gender or unassigned gender.)

Ms. Streep, Mr. Hanks, Sir Rod, Sir Paul, & Justin…that is Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney and Justin Bieber…I’m sorry but I don’t have room for the five of you.  Perhaps next time.

So, who would you invite to your garden party?  Also, do you think I’ve left anyone out?

 

 

Garden Art, a Two-for-One Post

Originally, I’d planned to make two separate posts about four pieces of “art” that were recently added to my garden.  I use the term “art” loosely because what’s been added might not be everyone’s idea of art.

Before Christmas, my next-door neighbor and I decided it would be fun to put a stained glass window between our shared fence.  (I’d seen this done with a gate, and I have to say it looked great.)

My neighbor and I agreed to split the cost of the window, and her husband was mandated to perform the installation.  Gosh, poor husbands have it bad!

First, my neighbor bought a stained glass window through Etsy, but it turned out the stained glass was plastic, so she returned it.  Next, we went together to the local auction house where she bid and won several stained glass windows.

I’m pretty laid back so I let her decide which window she wanted installed.  After all, most stained glass is pretty, don’t you think?

The surprise came when my neighbor made the decision to have her husband install two windows instead of one. The windows are vintage…1920’s???

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Two windows installed, but the interiors not painted.

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Here are the windows caulked and painted with the same paint used for the birdhouse in the photo above.

I left the window frames unpainted because they are cedar wood and will eventually age to match the surrounding fence.  I think the windows will look even better once their frames darken with age.

The fence slopes down slightly. This is why the windows may appear crooked.  They aren’t.

And then, way back in February, when Pandora’s Box was having their annual 20% off everything sale, I purchased two identical metal panels like the one you see below.

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The panels’ dimensions were 21-1/2″ x 42-1/2″ or  about 54.5 cm x 108 cm. The blue around the frame is masking tape.

When I buy things, I always ask myself, “Is this a need or a want?”  Do you do that, too?  It’s supposed to help you stay on course with your budget.–Ha!  It didn’t work this time.

Well, this purchase was definitely “a want” because I didn’t need any metal panels; however, the price was so very good…and I knew I’d never see any like them again.  So I was hooked.

The panels sat in my house for five months while I tried to decide what to do with them.  Here were my options:

  1. I could use them butted up together to make a table top.  I already have a metal table base in the shed left by the previous occupants of this house.
  2. I could use them either to make a penetrable roof or as partial sides for my new arbor.
  3. I could transform them into fence art, and then the question would be whether or not to paint them.

I finally decided they’d work best as fence art, and I painted them.

The paint used was exterior grade house paint, which I’d purchased for another project and also tubes of art paint already on hand.

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Sadly, what you can’t see is I painted veins in some of the green leaves using white and blue with art paint.  My simple camera isn’t able to pick up that kind of detail.

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I also painted the fence behind the panels in a faded unobtrusive red.  It doesn’t show well in these photos. (Behind this fence is one neighbor’s garage.)

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Anyway, I’m pleased with the way they turned out, and I wish I could twitch my nose like Samantha in Bewitched so you could see them in person!