Before & After – the basement bed


Two months makes a big difference!

Oh how I love before and after photos!  This is a recent one from last season.  I call this the basement bed because you can see the entrance to the basement to the right in the “after” photo.  It’s pitched downward, so it was important to me to choose plants that could handle a small slope and the inevitable pooling at the bottom where it levels off.

First, a couple of photos before last year…  This is what the back looked like when we moved in, and after ripping up the huge deck and putting down a nice stone patio:

So, I had some work to do.  First we got all the rocks and debris out of the area, tried to level it as best we could, added topsoil and grass seed, and scraped and painted the foundation of the house.  Finally, in August of 2010 I was ready to plant.

(click on the image to enlarge)

  • Agastache Black Adder (3) – this is the huge fast-growing plant in the middle.  Agastache can be very pushy in the garden, dropping seeds everywhere, but this variety is sterile.  It’s supposed to be much darker than it turned out to be (hence the name “black” adder) but I still like it.
  • Coreopsis Moonbeam (2) – another really gratifying plant, it also grows fast and blooms profusely.  Since it’s in the front of the bed and low growing, I don’t mind if little seedlings pop up, I’ll just make the bed bigger!
  • Gaillardia Tojaker (1) – I planted two on either side of the Agastache but one didn’t make it through the winter.  You can barely see the orange on the right of the photo, because it’s being overtaken by the Agastache.  It does require some staking because it gets floppy, and I’m not really enamored with it but as long as it’s alive, it will have a home.
  • Rudbeckie Hirta “Black Eyed Susan” (1) – admittedly, I had no home for this plant and had a space to fill with the absence of the Gaillardia that didn’t make it, so I put this in.  It’s to the left of the Agastache and took all summer to bloom.
  • Caryopteris Longwood Blue (1) – this is a woody shrub that really started to grow at the end of last season.  I expect it to bloom pretty blue flowers this spring, it is on the right side edge, and I brush past it each time I go into the basement.  It’s one of my favorite shrubs.
  • Pasque Flower (2) – this is another plant that had no home, so I put it right in front of the Agastache, flanked on either side by the Coreopsis.  It is the first of all the flowers in this bed to bloom, and then takes a back seat with unassuming foliage for the rest of the season.

This year, I’m going to prune the Agastache so that I get more blooms in the front, and so it stays in it’s boundaries on the left and right side.  I may divide it at the end of the season, depending on how vigorous it gets.

Here are some more photos from last year.  Thanks for reading.  :)


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Labs4Rescue Newsletter article: Training basics


Hello Lab Lovers! Below is the article I wrote for the April issue of the Labbie Ledger newsletter for Labs4Rescue. Since space was limited, I decided to expand on the training ideas we have used for our two Labradors: our American Yellow Labrador girl Ginger and our English Chocolate Labrador boy Brinkley.

Please come back and read the rest of the series. I’ll be including step-by-step instructions and videos of how we’ve accomplished the over 30 commands the dogs know now. In the meantime, here’s the article:

Training Tips for New Adopters

Our newly-adopted Ginger was an angel for a whole week.

Then the leash pulling, counter surfing, and selective hearing started! Although different dogs will present different training challenges, it’s a common tale. But a good plan goes a long way with training and once you know the basics, you can apply them to your dog’s individual personality.

When training, I keep these general guidelines in mind:

  • Thwart unwanted behavior, as it is happening. The greatest success I’ve had with curbing Ginger’s counter surfing was when I caught her in the act. Your best window is extremely short – I assume 5 seconds at the most. Any more than that and she will no longer associate my reaction with the problem, no matter how guilty she looks.
  • Praise for successes, even if you sound silly. The better the accomplishment, the better the celebration! If I correct Ginger before she gets to the counter and she moves away from it, I praise her. She learns that she will get corrected for being bad, but even better, she gets love for being a good girl.
  • Be consistent with your commands. Decide on them ahead of time, so you know exactly what to say when the opportunity arises. Using more than one command for the same thing will only confuse them. I use “down” for when I want them to lay down, so I don’t use it for when I want to jump out of the tailgate of my car. Instead, I say “off”.
  • Set aside fifteen minutes a day to train one command. Any longer than 10-15 minutes may start to work against you if they get bored or impatient. We like to train just before mealtime because lets face it, Labs will do just about anything for food, won’t they? This adds an additional benefit of reinforcing your leadership, since the one who controls the food is the one in charge.

We also practice the “Nothing In Life is Free” approach. Before we give attention, praise, treats or even meals, we give them a command to reinforce our role as their leader. Rather than thinking of it as conditional love, consider how much they enjoy interaction with us. That includes training, which is quality time together that everyone benefits from.

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Flower greeting cards in time for spring


With my new Etsy shop, I’ve been concentrating on getting new items available. From what I’m reading on the Etsy forums, you need to provide enough stock in your shop to cater to different tastes. Makes sense to me. Since probably 75% of my photographs over the years have centered around nature and flowers, I’m thinking that spring is the perfect time to start.

I played around with different greeting card designs over about two weeks, asking family and friends their opinions. I currently have six designs:

Water Lily Pond

Water Lily Pond

Peachy Dahlia with Bee

Peachy Dahlia with Bee

Peachy Dahlia

Peachy Dahlia

Field of Tulips

Field of Tulips

White orchid

White orchid

Shakespeare Garden bench

Shakespeare Garden bench

I do plan to add more, but have switched focus for now to prints, which take me less time to get ready to list.

Thanks for looking :)


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