30 April 2013

april garden sights

Let's start with Fritillaria (a.k.a. Mission Bells, Checkered Lilies, Snake's Head, Frog's Cup), which are in full bloom adjacent to some tired looking Hellebores.  These guys always seem to brighten up the shady woodland corner, although almost mournfully so with their nodding blooms!  I have both white and purple in this area--their checkered petals are always a welcoming sign of spring.  I have planted all these from bulbs over the past few years, however I recently bought some seeds from Butchart Gardens that I'm going to try planting come Fall. 
Fritillaria meleagris

A common sight, but it's no wonder considering the scent that these flowers produce.  The evergreen leaves provide an almost tropical look that is covering a large section of chain link fence in the backyard. 
Clematis armandii

The emerging untwirling leaves of Hostas have got to be one of my favorite sights of spring.  Completely covered with mulch, I often forget where they live until they emerge from their winter slumber.  Beautiful!  Below, my top three cultivars. 
Hosta 'Golden Edger'

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears'

Hosta 'June'

This double-flowering Hellebore from the 'Winter Jewels' series was a show-stopper in February.  This is exactly the reason that Hellebores are always at the top of my list of flowering perennials--although a little tired looking, this is almost THREE months later and the flowers are still gorgeous.  In fact, some of my 'Ivory Prince' and other Orientalis varieties flower's will last well into JULY!  What more could you ask from a plant?  Lovely everygreen folige, some of the longest-lasting flowers out there, winter-interest, no need to fertilize, deer-proof, slug-proof, every colour of the rainbow available from white to yellow to green to purple to almost-black, and fine in sun or shade.  Just cut back their leaves when the flower stems start to show, and they're happy as can be.  Some of mine even look like they're self-seeding for the first time this year!
Helleborus Winter Jewels™ 'Painted Doubles'

This is one of the most asked-about plants in the garden--and rightfully so; beautiful dark leaves of all different shades of red, burgundy, and rust, it is a fabulous accent next to anything green, and it gets an early start and long season interest, although a little leggy looking in late summer and Fall.  Very cool plant!
Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'

A northern California native and new addition to my garden, I'm trying out this moisture-loving groundcover next to some dark-leaved Lobelia 'Russian Princess'. 
Petasites palmatus 'Golden Palms'

I divided this peony in the Fall and it looks like I'll only get a few blooms this year.  Often they refuse to bloom the first year after division.  But no matter--the foliage alone makes this plant worth growing.

Epimediums (a.k.a. Fairy Wings, Barrenwort, Horny Goat Weed) are quickly becoming one of my favorite groundcovers for shady spots.  Quaint and unassuming, the slugs don't seem to bother with their charming heart-shaped leaves, and the tiny nodding star-shaped flowers make it one of the earliest show-stoppers in the spring garden.  They spread very slowly, and the leaves can even remain evergreen in mild winters.  Just chop em back in late winter for year-round interest for those tough shady areas. A little on the pricier side but well worth it! 
Epimedium brachyrrhizum

Epimedium x rubrum

Of course, the daffodils put on a great show this year and now the tulips are in full swing.  I'll post about those next.  Happy Spring! 

24 April 2013

main bath reno: before and during

This is a project that we started in January.  It's been slow-going, as usually only one day a weekend gets assigned to it!  But this is just fine with me--we have another full bathroom to use and we can just close the door to this one when we're not working in it.  I don't know how people manage to renovate having only one bathroom.  I guess you would have to move out temporarily and work on it full time, none of this 4 hours a week laziness! 

This first photo is what it looked like when we first moved in.  Since then, we have painted the walls, cabinets, and replaced the toilet.  I liked the slate tile floors but they were very cold in winter and extremely hard to keep clean.  Never was fond of the shower-jetted tub combo, but it was fine while it lasted.

4 years ago (realtor photo).

We decided that in order to fit a separate tub and shower, we would have to reconfigure the entire room.  So up came the floors and out came the drywall and insulation.  We did find some beautiful fir hardwood flooring, probably from the 30's when the place was first built, but it wasn't really enough to justify salvage. 

The demo day
Of course, in renovating such an old house with so many previous renovations already done, we've learned to expect the unexpected.  We found a ton of old newspapers under the floorboards, which were very cool to read through (now I just have to figure out what to do with all of them?!), a fair amount of rodent waste, some water damage to the roof trusses, some rotting around the skylight, and definitely some questionable plumbing and electrical.  

Now for the fun stuff!

The tub is a standard 5'  soaker tub made by Hytec in Armstrong, BC.  The 3' square shower will be tiled adjacent to the tub with a custom glass surround.  All the fixtures are from the Grohe 'Atrio' line- ceiling-mount rainshower head, adjustable bar-mounted spray showerhead, and wall-mounted tub filler and lav faucet. 

As for the tile, we're going with something really different for the shower floor.  It's a small area so we can afford (barely!) the $40/sqft price tag, and it will add just that extra bit of vintage charm in an otherwise modern room.  

'Julia Mosaic' 3'' x 3.5'' ceramic floor tile made by Walker Zanger.

The shower walls, vanity and tub backsplashes will be a stacked grey and white marble.

'Bianco Macchiato' 5/8'' x 6'' marble on 12'' x 12'' mesh sheet made by Ames Tile & Stone.

 I realize this is a very classic look at first glance, but I think modernizing the tile will be made fairly easy with the addition of concrete counters for the tub surround and vanity top, plus the fir window, vanity, and towel shelf.  These were my two primary inspiration photos:

As for the floor, I really wanted to do a polished concrete because a) we could pour it ourselves, therefore saving money ; b) the smooth surface would be a dream to clean--no grout lines, unnevenness; and c) it would match the countertops nicely so that there wouldn't be more than 3 different solid surfaces in a small area.  Alas, I've had to nix that idea because you need a minimum 1.5'' of space on top of the heating wire in order for it to meet minimum code requirements for concrete.  Right now we have about 3/4'' which would be just enough for a tile floor.  And I don't really like the idea of a 3/4'' step up into the bathroom.  So my plan is to wait until the concrete counters are poured, and then try to match them up as close as possible to a large porcelain or stone tile. 

I think that the vanity is really going to be my favorite part of the entire bathroom.  This is where I got the initial inspiration for the reno.  Excuse the photo quality; it is one of those 'i-phone camera taking a picture of a picture' type of photos.   

Of course, there isn't enough room to do the double-sinks (or double-drawers for the matter) in this tiny bathroom, but the basic floating style with cut-out drawer pulls and the wall-mount faucet will be there.  We've had the plumbers push the p-trap drain back as far as possible so that drawer space is minimally affected.  There won't be any storage for towels, so we are also having a floating shelf made of the same material as well, to be mounted on an adjacent wall.  The sink will be a rectangular undermount made by American Standard. 
American Standard 'Studio Undercounter Sink'

As for lighting, we've installed 5 low-voltage halogen potlights - plenty bright so we will also add a dimmer switch as well.  And instead of sconce lights flanking either side of the vanity, I've ordered two Edison-style bare bulb pendant fixtures in keeping with the vintage-modern look I'm trying to achieve.  However, unlike the bulb pictured below, I have ordered replacement bulbs at a longer length (inspiration below right).  The ceilings are vaulted and quite low on the vanity side of the room, so if we find the longer bulbs hang too low, we can just swap em out for the ones that came with the fixtures.

(L) Bare Bulb Filament Pendant from Restoration Hardware; (R) inspiration photo.

Our Toto dual-flush toilet will stay, as it's pretty much still brand new.  A very luxurious addition will be the heated towel rack, which will be mounted behind the door and next to the shower.  And last but not least, the ├╝ber-cool electronic deck-mounted skylight.  It opens via a wall switch, and even has a built-in rain sensor in case you forget to close it after your shower!  Yes, completely and totally overkill and unnecessary but a great party trick, no?

Toto 'Aquia II'
Velux curb-mounted electric-venting skylight
Amba 'Quadro Q-0233' towel warmer

So, where are we at now?  The floor has been re-framed and re-sheeted.  Heating ductwork has been re-routed.  New plumbing and electrical has all been roughed in.  We've got all the plumbing fixtures in the house.  Haven't ordered any tile yet.  Pouring concrete tub surround tonight.  Plans for the vanity will be submitted to our cabinet-maker this weekend.  Still need to find/make a mirror.  Spray foam insulation coming next week.  I'll keep you posted! 

19 April 2013

i've missed you too

omg! Has it really been 5 months since my last post?  I have a valid excuse, really.  Google wants me to PAY a monthly fee to store my photos because apparently my storage space is maxed out.  I was furious when I saw this message so I decided to go on a blogging strike.  But now I'm back, mainly because I really need a place to talk about plants and post photos so that I can look next year and see what was happening in the garden.  It's been so useful looking back on photos from last year.  I often forget about many perennials that have not shown their faces just yet.

Also, I need a bragging outlet for my recent wins at the local garden club meeting.  These members take their parlour shows very seriously so I was ecstatic to have won both categories I entered; "stem of Camellia with foliage" and "5 different spring flowers".  I also ended up winning 3rd overall for my Camellia--and then had to make a speech in front of the 100+ members!  Judging criteria is pretty detailed-- no blemishes, no discolouration, no insect damage, crisp, firm petals, correct proportion of vase to arrangement,  complimentary colours, strong stems, flowers in prime blooming state.  Whew, I found myself gently wiping Camellia leaves with a damp sponge to remove fir tree pollen about 5 minutes before I left for the show.  I stopped for a moment and realized this is who I have become.....

My Camellia stem, and vase arrangement for '5 different spring flowers'; 2 type of Hellebore, Fritillaria, Clematis, Narcissus.

Oh, and remember those Tom Dixon pendants I spoke about - I ended up buying Chinese knockoffs, but OEM and 10% of the price--I'm not complaining.  I haven't mounted them yet but when I do I will be sure to post a pic or two. 

I'll be back soon to post some photos to show what my garden is up to lately....


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