Tag Archive | decor

How to DIY Evergreen Winter Pots

Start by surrounding yourself with all of your materials. Once you do this, a helper usually shows up 😉 I buy most of my bling from the Dollar Store. Anything I can’t find there, I go to Hobby Lobby. If you haven’t searched out any holiday pot ideas, get on the internet and start looking! Ideas are everywhere. If you’re lucky enough to be flexible with your design, you can come-up with some pretty cool ideas. Using ornaments is my new thang. I hot glue them onto sticks or if you’re luck enough to get styrofoam  balls, the stick pushes right on.

A few often overlooked hints and tips:

  • Fresh cut and strip/trim the stem of needles on ALL of your greens right before sticking into the pot. It does make a huge difference as to how long the greens will stay green and especially how long the holly berries will stay on the branches.
  • Be sure where you want to push the stems into the foam, because the foam will break if you change your mind too often.
  • Before using hydrangea, pre-treat them to a blast of clear spray paint to help them keep their form.
  • If your display becomes covered in snow, be sure to clear it by hitting the branches in an UPWARD motion. If you push too hard on them downward, they may break. A broom does a great job.
  • After you have created your masterpiece, wet the display down well. It will freeze and hold all the stuff in place. It will also give some moisture to the cuttings.

Instead of me using a liner for this pot,  I used a tall, steel bucket. This time I did not use any soil, so I filled the bottom with a few rocks and cut the foam to fit in the bucket. This serves three purposes, better water collection for the greens at first, then for it to freeze the greens in place with little expansion, and lastly, a heavy base so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow.

First, place your sticks (birch poles and sticks here) or the largest diameter things first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, and then placing your sticks and busting the foam!! Arrrg! >:-O Yes, I have learned the hard way! Big stuff first!

Think about where your pot will be displayed. Will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of your mailbox? Or on just one side of the door, like this one. I set my sticks a bit to one side (the back) of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front and sides. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on 3 sides of the pot.


I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the bottom. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. This one will be on the ground, so it will be viewed by looking down on it. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you may see when viewing up at it. I’m using Scott’s Pine for my bottom. I love this material, as it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add more to the center, it will flatten out.

On this one, I added Nobel Pine in the rear. Since these two pots are only about five feet apart, I wanted them to be similar. Large birch poles don’t make sense to the location, so I added these mini-birch-on-a-stick! They are best for little pops of color, without the weight of a multiple, large birch sticks.


Here’s my corner pot with the extent of holiday lighting that I do. It’s only about two feet wide. These three on the corner are just out of the shot below to the left.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Winter Display Containers 2017

It’s That time of year again! Winter pot time!!!

We pre-fab these at the office and the crews deliver these to the client’s homes. You can skip many of the next steps if you already have a prepared pot of soil. We make them this way so we don’t have to stand outside and do it! I think this almost falls into that category of, ‘Lazy man works the hardest!’ Ha!


We use nursery pots that closely fit the size of our client’s containers. Cut a plastic sheet to fit over the bottom holes. This slows or stops the water from draining and helps freeze the display in place. Next, add florist foam to the middle for stability of the larger ‘thriller’ items, as these could be rather large birch poles. Then fill the rest of the pot with a 50/50 soil/sand mixture. Be sure to really stuff that soil into the pot. The better packed soil helps hold the display in place from precipitation, the weight of snow and wind.

The design is the standard, Thriller, Filler & Spiller! The Thriller is that one large sprig/evergreen, center piece, or for this season, mostly sticks. Filler are those mid-range sized pieces of evergreen, or other material that is generally wider and less tall that the thriller material. Spiller is just that, floppy evergreen, weaker-stemmed items that hang over the edge of the pot.

A few often overlooked hints and tips:

  • Fresh cut ALL of your greens right before sticking into the pot. It does make a huge difference as to how long the greens will stay green and especially how long the holly berries will stay on the branches.
  • Be sure where you want to push the stems into the foam, because the foam will break if you change your mind too often.
  • Before using hydrangea, pre-treat them to a blast of clear spray paint to help them keep their form.
  • If your display becomes covered in snow, be sure to clear it by hitting the branches in an UPWARD motion. If you push too hard on them downward, they may break. A broom does a great job.
  • After you have created your masterpiece, wet the display down well. It will freeze and hold all the stuff in place. It will also give some moisture to the cuttings.

Want to check out some previous years containers? Click away!!!  2016 ~ 2015 ~ 2014 ~ 2013

I will have a couple of DYI|Step-by-step tutorials coming: However, for now, here’s a GOLD one and a SILVER one.




© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl


Bathroom Renovations Part 2 – Construction

imageSo, I left you, my dear readers, with me still using the freezing basement pooper, mad because I had to buy another can of paint, apply said paint and was running a bit late in the scheduling department. ( Part 1 ) Thank goodness I did not build in a time frame into my contract. I guess as long as it was done before March, I was golden. 😉

By now, my vanity had arrived. I am not afraid to order from Amazon.com, you just need to be a bit open-minded sometimes. Color is the worst thing to deal with. I have had shit luck buying formal dresses, however other clothes have been fine. It arrived well packaged and looked great for the price. These sinks usually go for 3X what I paid (due to the labor) and this one has it’s quirks, hence the lesser price. We’re happy with it, though!

Back on the color matching issue, until the vanity was delivered, I couldn’t shop for any shelves or accessories until I saw the vanity color in person. I knew my hubby could match anything in color via stain, so I was safe buying anything ‘raw’ for him to stain. I had already ordered the raw shelf that would eventually go above the tile. Now for a mirror. We had to go to the Big Depot to buy some grout and ended up finding a matching mirror and medicine cabinet for good prices! Couldn’t pass ’em up and off they went home with us.

So, I’m armed with most of my bathroom ingredients, all staged to go in my garage. It should (did) all flow well now. It was time to tackle the third coat of paint… Since the second can of paint could have been +/-3% off in color from the first, I decided to save some time and tape the ceiling off & not hit it with the third coat. It was white originally and two coats looked great.

I was now ready to apply my faux painting. I have done many faux finishes before: ragging, sponging, linen effect, and faux Venetian plaster. I’m not afraid to try things! Since the Venetian plaster was out, I just perused the paint store for ideas. They had opalescent paint that could be colored in any color I wanted. Perfect. Since there is no window in there, I guessed the opalescence would give the illusion the room is lighter than it is. I picked a color called ‘Cool Avocado’ and bought scrap T-shirt material to apply it, called ‘ragging’. In short, I soaked the rag in the paint and smooshed it on the walls with different angles and pressures. If you really want to know the details, go to You Tube!

wp-1454296245058.jpg The opalescent paint is so beautiful, IMO. I love how it moves in the light. It seems to disappear in places the light hits, giving the illusion that I missed a huge spot on the wall! However, if you shift positions, you can see the shimmery green return to the area. This worked great for my application, however I don’t think this would look good as a stand alone, solid color.

I was able to finish the faux in about 6 hours on a Friday. This was perfect timing, as it dries very fast and we could at least get the toilet set before sundown. Whew! Indoor plumbing 😉

So this is how it all fell together, start to finish, Cliff’s Notes Style!

  • Remove old vanity.
  • Add matching tile where missing under vanity.
  • Unset toilet and remove everything from walls.
  • Center off-center electrical box for vanity light.
  • Drywall, fix holes and sand, and sand, and sand…..
  • Paint 3 coats of expensive, moisture resistant bathroom paint.
  • Faux ‘ragging’ paint in opalescent green.
  • Toilet set.
  • Hang & grout the green glass tile for our ‘back splash’.
  • Hang both the fan light and the vanity light.
  • Install the vanity, sink and faucet. Ah, it’s good to know a plumber!
  • Hang the mirror – we chose to use two screws, not liquid nail to hang our mirror (gesh, overkill!)
  • Hang medicine cabinet, shelf, hooks, towel rod, TP holder, and shower curtain.
  • Lay cute stone cobble rug.
  • Cue dogs for photo bomb of finished product!
  • Done? To Be Continued….

Here’s a picture gallery of the progress:

Yes, the 1970’s called, they want their bathroom back! Not entirely horrible, real oak vanity, large med cabinet… The shower curtain was an experiment. It looked like a Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican Hat Dance) dress! Yes, that was cut from the re-deux.

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First to go was the vanity. We had electrical, dry-walling and painting to do. There were at least 6 coats of paint to deal with around he vanity and old medicine cabinet. Along with the damage where the mirror was glued to the wall. I felt like Karate Kid… SAND THE FENCE! Well, really SAND THE FLOOR, as it was circular motions.

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After all the dry-walling and sanding, it was time to paint. My husband hates painting, however helped cut in the corners. I did write a love note to my husband on the wall behind the vanity. Like a time capsule!

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I painted the whole room. All 5 of the subsequent paint jobs, after the first one (while being built) never painted behind the toilet. If someone really wants to change these fixtures, they could potentially keep this paint job.

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Coming right along! The cute picture in the middle is of my husband’s and Breck’s plumber butt!

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And we’re done!! I’m sure I’ll add some trinkets and perhaps a shelf for junk in the future though.

So, when it came down to schedule, I was about a week over or 1/3 over the originally projected time frame. Eh, that’s pretty par for the course.

And now the big question… How did I do on my budget. Well, as I said in Part 1, a 20% – 30% additional is about right. I have not added these up yet until now, writing this post & after the project was complete. I don’t have enough OCD to know to the dollar what I spent, but let’s see where I ended-up, roughly:

Budget was for $1,700.00 + 30% ($510.00) Gives me $2,310.00 for realsies. I’m not counting labor here.

  • Vanity & associated products – $845.00
  • Mirror – $57.00
  • Faucet – $36.00
  • Medicine cabinet  – $37.00
  • Wood Shelf & stain – $30.00
  • Floor tile & associated products – $80.00
  • Drywall & associated products – $70.00
  • Glass wall tile & associated products -$85.00
  • Paint & associated products – $190.00
  • New vanity light, wall plates + rewiring – $75.00
  • Hooks, towel rack & TP holder – $80.00
  • Shower curtain & rod – $70.00
  • Rug – $25.00
  • Dye for towels – $3.00 (saved me $150 in towels!!)

Aaaaand the total is: $1,683.00!! Uh oh. UNDER budget? Let’s see here… 20, carry the 4, then add the 6… Yup. Technically, spot on budget! I could argue the fact that I still need a soap dispenser (eyeballing one @ $20.00) and I would really like a ‘bath sheet’ (another $20.00). A new bath mat would be nice also ($12.00). Lastly a trinket shelf (about $40.00). That would add $92.00 to the tab. New total – $1,775.00.

What really happened in my head when I came up with the $1,700.00 budget in the first place, was that I really wanted to only spend $1,500.00, but added the extra $200.00 for ‘uh oh’s’ that came up. I didn’t expect to have to buy a mirror, however I didn’t expect to not have to buy towels, either. I expected the vanity light rewiring to be more work and material than it was and didn’t expect to pay an extra $60.00 in the paint department. I think I was just pretty lucky this renovation!!

All in all, I am ECSTATIC about my new pooper!

Next project? The kitchen! =-O

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

2015 Fall Containers

All the basics from designing a summer container still apply when designing the fall pot:

The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller!
•Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest.
•Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature.
•Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

The only small difference you need to remember is that Fall plants do not grow like the Summer plants do. Basically, WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get), you do not need to think about a plant growing into it’s place. Plants won’t get larger, generally they just bloom, think mums or daisies. Fill the pot to it’s greatest extent because this container will only be around for two months at best.

Most Fall plants are also not that tall. We use grasses, sticks and other material to get the height the design requires.

Here’s a huge tip regarding grasses. The whole pot does NOT need to be planted!! We buy 4′ foot tall grasses in a 2 gallon pot. We grab the grass as low as possible to the top of the pot, gathering into a pony-tail, if you will. Take strong tape (we use electrical) to wind around the grass. Prune from pot. Now you have a puff of grass that takes up no room at all in your container. So much more room for colorful thangs!

Here’s a list of our commonly ordered Fall plant material:
•Miscanthus grasses – These add great height & texture
•Pennisetum millet – Height & texture, fuzzy seedheads.
•Heuchera – Coral bells – Great colored leaves available
•Acorus & Carex – A nice bright yellow or white for a great spiller
•Sedums – Great for spillers
•Ajuga – Nice texture
•Rudbeckia – Great reds, yellows and oranges available, also great for height
•Kale – It comes in many varieties from cabbage/round style to tall parsley-looking
•Osaka Cabbage – A staple in most of our designs. Fills those ‘holes’ really well
•Swiss Chard – A wonderful filler that is very colorful also
•Mums – Aren’t they the official fall flower?!? Great filler
•Calibracoa – They look like small petunias, but can handle the cooler temps. Great spiller
•Ivy – Sometimes we reuse the ivy from the summer containers as it still looks great and it’s much bigger than the newly ordered pots
•Ornamental Jerusalem Cherry – Looks like a tomato plant, but use with caution, they don’t take the cool weather well & the ‘cherries’ fall off
•Ornamental peppers – Great way to splash in some color to the filler section
•Crotons – One of my favs! Great for a colorful thriller
•Pansy – These cool season flowers look great and add great color to the pot
•Bittersweet or honeysuckle – This one is not alive, but it is a great finishing touch to the design. Unfortunately, it is a very invasive species, but is grown for the floral industry. I wish someone would get a business together where they would ‘wild collect’ this and do a ‘two-fer’ for society, invasive removal & design enjoyment.

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Click to see 2013’s autumn pots

Click to see 2014’s autumn pots

Cordyline fruticosa – Ti Plant or Good Luck Plant

The name Cordyline comes from the Greek word kordyle, meaning “club,” a reference to the enlarged underground stems or rhizomes. Hawaiians believe planting one in front of your home keeps the evil spirits away. The boiled roots taste like molasses and were used to make a beer that was reported to cure scurvy. Young leaves are used as a potherb. Older leaves are used to wrap food, make clothes, rain capes and for thatch. Use Ti leaves to wrap foods to be grilled, steamed or baked. Dried leaves should be soaked to soften before using.
imageIn tropical climates ti makes an interesting specimen shrub, valued mainly for its magnificent foliage, this plant comes in many colorful varieties. Elsewhere, grow in a container, it rarely grows enough to show it’s woody nature. The white club-shaped rhizomes are high in starch and were a valuable food item for Polynesians and Maoris. Other than bringing good luck to its owner, perhaps the most important use is that the leaves are made into Hawaiian hula skirts!

Light: This plant does well in partial shade to nearly full sun. It needs more water if grown in full sun. Indoors, Ti likes a bright position, but out of direct sunlight. Although it will survive in quite low light, the foliage will never develop its full potential colors.
Moisture: In summer, do not allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Ti needs very humid air to keep the leaf tips from drying out and turning brown. Mist frequently, especially in an air-conditioned room. Another trick is to position the pot on a bed of gravel and water. Fluoride in the water will cause the leaf tips to brown, so don’t use cityimage water!
Propagation: Ti is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, called “logs.” Cut 3-5 in (7-12 cm) sections of mature stem, remove the leaves, and place on a bed of sand, preferably with bottom heat. The “eyes” on the stem cuttings will grow into shoots with leaves. When a shoot gets 4-6 leaves, cut it and its eye from the log, and root in potting medium as you would any cutting.
Prunning: Be careful when pruning as the next leaf grows from the old leaf. Do not cut too far down on the stem, as you will nip the top of the new leaf.

© – Ilex ~ Midwestern Plants



Areca Palm – Dypsis lutescens and Spider Mites, Oh My!!

imageThe Areca Palm (sometimes called the Butterfly Palm), is native to Madagascar and is one of the most popular indoor houseplants sold today. These palms are really needy and can be babies sometimes. Indoors it is a medium-sized  plant that reaches a height of 6-8 feet; outdoors it can be as tall as 25 feet.

Plant your palm in a pot a bit larger than the rootball with a bit of an acid soil mixed with some sand. The soil should drain rather quickly. These palms don’t mind being root-bound, so don’t rush to repot it.

This palm likes indirect, bright light and only to be watered when it starts to droop. It should never sit in water, as this will cause root-rot. It is also very particular about the water it does receive. If you use softened water, the salts will cause spots on the leaves. Regarding fertilizer, use a balanced one (10-10-10 or 12-12-12) at half-strength. Again, fertilizers do have ‘salts‘ in them and can cause spots if used too heavily.

Because imageAreca Palms desire high humidity, they are susceptible to the fungus Ganoderma and Pink Rot . Ganoderma, which is spread through the soil and on pruning tools, causes the lower fronds to droop and turn yellow, then gradually works its way up the plant. Pink rot develops in moist soil and causes the fronds in the crown (top) of the Palm to turn brown and droop. Both of these diseases is a death sentence however, both are preventable by keeping the soil drier.

You should only prune yellow or damaged frons from the plant. Tips of the leaves can by cut off, if unsightly.image

Studies have shown that an Areca Palm is effective in removing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air.

Spider mites can be a problem on these palms, as well as other palms. As a preventative, mist the palms with water occasionally, as the mites don’t like a humid atmosphere. If you can, put your plant in the shower and spray both sides with a 50/50 mix of insecticidal soap* and water. The leaves are somewhat delicate, strong soap can discolor the leaves. Wipe the leaves down to remove any mites. Monitor the plant and reapply if necessary.

*Remember! Do not use regular dish soap as a cheap alternative to insecticidal soap. It may have been ok in the past, however modern dish soaps are mostly detergent now and don’t have the fatty acids needed to kill the insects.



© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl