Ever since volunteering at the art table during a Real School Gardens event, I’ve wanted to do this craft with Jason and Jenna. It’s messy, but the results are awesome and I love how these stepping stones look in our yard.
We started by letting the kids select their favorite materials from a huge batch of stones, beads, marbles, buttons, glass rocks and other leftover craft materials I had on hand. We didn’t use any Legos (because I didn’t think of that), but my son commented that we should use Legos next time … as if we don’t already step on enough Legos around here.
Mixing the concrete is the hard part. We used Quikrete and mixed it into a bucket without wearing any gloves. FYI, I highly recommend using gloves if you’re going to mix the concrete by hand. Once the concrete was mixed, we poured it into shoe boxes and other similarly-sized boxes that we saved.
We let Jason and Jenna decorate the stones by pressing the materials they had selected into the wet concrete. You don’t need to press it in very far for it to stick, so this part isn’t messy and can be done without gloves.
We let our stones dry overnight, but it seemed like they were fairly dry within a few hours. Once they were completely dry, we placed them in the yard and let the kids start stepping, jumping and running on them.
This weekend I attended a class on vertical succulent gardening at the Dallas Arboretum. I don’t think I would have figured out how to create a structure strong enough to support sideways plants and soil, so I was pretty excited to have an expert walk me through step-by-step. And I haven’t yet installed my garden along a wall, but when I turn it sideways, it seems to stay in place pretty well.
We started with the following materials:
Wooden Frame (our instructor made his own out of fence wood)
Light soil suitable for succulents (our instructed recommended this soil mixed with crushed shells)
Here are the steps we followed:
Step 1: To create a strong framework, we cut the plastic netting and black mesh into rectangles that were slightly larger than the size of our frames. We pressed the plastic netting into the frame and stapled it along the inside of the frame; we repeated this step with the mesh fabric and trimmed both so that there wasn’t any extra coming out of the frame.
Step 2: Fill the frame with soil. We used a mix of lightweight soil and crushed shells. While sand is often mixed into soil for succulents, our instructor cautioned against this because it adds extra weight to the structure.
Step 3: Secure the flat piece of wood to the frame using screws.
Step 4: Once the framework was complete, we selected our succulents and arranged our design by setting the plants on top of the grid before we started planting.
Step 5: To plant each succulent, we cut a small square out of the netting and mesh – cutting an almost 2-inch square per 3 inch plant. Inserting each plant into the grid was the hardest part. We had to push all of the soil in the frame out of the way and then push the plant in, using a pencil to help push the base of the plant further into the soil.
This is our first spring in our new home, and we’re in the process of evaluating our yard to determine what’s working and what needs work. This weekend I attended a class on ‘Texas Tough Plants’ at the Dallas Arboretum with a hope of learning more about low-maintenance plants that are well-suited to our area. The instructor described the class as an “intro to plants that are hard to kill,” which was perfect for me since it matched my strategy earlier this year for buying and maintaining houseplants.
After the two-hour session, I left with a better understanding of the plants we already have and a list of new ones to add to the mix. Our initial plan for this season was to identify what is doing really well in our yard and plant more of it, but the class gave me a bit of confidence to introduce a few new plants too.
With that in mind, here is a list of native plants that are in our yard or likely to be added soon:
I may be going a little overboard with the plants in our house. At last count, we had 32 plants (including Jenna’s indoor flower and vegetable garden). That’s a lot of plants, but the truly amazing part is that I’m keeping them alive. And as my plant collection grows, so too must my planter collection. I’m always on the lookout for simple, beautiful containers to add to my collection.
Last night I joined a flower workshop with the amazing team at Bows and Arrows. I’ve admired their work via Instagram for awhile, so it was great to learn a few tricks from these talented folks. If you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I highly recommend taking a workshop – they have a photography and flower class coming up this weekend and a two-day workshop in Marfa this summer.
I’ve never been great at arranging flowers, but I was pretty impressed with the look I was able to create last night (photo above). A few things I learned:
It takes some time to style an arrangement. In the past, I’ve always spent 15 mins or so on an arrangement. During the workshop, I spent over an hour creating my masterpiece. While this won’t always be possible, starting early and allowing lots of time is definitely key.
Always use floral foam to hold the stems in place and make sure the foam is tightly placed within the container. After soaking the foam, you can press it gently against the top of your container to make an impression and then cut along those lines to create a perfect fit.
Start by defining ‘the bones’ of the arrangement: a tall piece and a low extending piece, for example.
Don’t be afraid to mix heights. In the past, I’ve always tried to cut each stem the exact same length. In looking at the Bows and Arrows arrangements, I realized that they have a mix of shorter and taller stems, giving the overall piece some movement as well as the quirkiness I love.
Here are a few more scenes of the floral awesomeness from last night:
I love having lots of plants in our house, but I don’t have the best track record keeping them alive. Every spring, I fill my house with plants, only to have most of them heading for the trash bin by the end of summer. This time around, I’ve been reading up on indoor gardening and have even started selecting plants based on hardiness. I’m especially encouraged by articles about plants that seem to thrive under any conditions. Surely, I can make keep a few of those alive.
Here are a few of the articles I’ve found most helpful:
One of the best things about moving is dreaming of all of the updates you’ll make to your new home. When we first visited the house we’re buying later this month, I barely even noticed the storage shed in the backyard. In fact, I didn’t even look inside until we returned on inspection day. But once I came across the picture above on Pinterest, and I immediately realized the potential of our little shed. Someday little shed, someday.