May 29, 2013

Backyard Magic

In early April I wrote about a decision to change how Betty and I decorated our backyard in the post, A major change after 3 decades. For all that time, in the three different houses we have occupied in the Phoenix area, our approach to maintaining plants and flowers had been the same: year-round. Of course, in the summer that meant daily watering to keep the flowering plants alive in 105-110 degree heat. While a portion of the yard we have owned for the past 11 years has been converted to low water, low maintenance bushes on a drip system, that was impractical for the dozens of pots that graced the porch, Ramada, and yard. Even though we rarely ventured into the backyard during the summer months, those blasted pots still ate up time, money, and water.

When we bought an RV last fall and determined we'd like to be away from the desert for a good chunk of the summer months, the silliness of the flowering pots became even more obvious. I gave Betty a challenge: can we make the yard interesting to look at while we are home but still be gone for several weeks at a time and have what is out there alive when we return? Nor surprisingly her answer was, "Yes."

So, we took on the task of converting the back space into one that allowed Betty to express her sense of whimsy and creativity while I found cacti and succulents that could go for 3 weeks or so at a time without being watered.

The results are pictured below. When she first said she'd like to hang a bicycle from the Ramada, suspend two chairs we bought in Texas from the back wall, and generally use spray paint and colorful pots to make up for the missing flowers I swallowed and gave my blessing. Past experience has proven that when Betty has a vision of something I'll usually not like it much initially but then fall in love with it over time. No surprise, it has happened again.

I will admit that the yard would not be everyone's cup of tea. When it is time to sell the house at some point down the road I'm pretty sure the yard will have to be made to look a bit more "normal." But, based on what kind of budget we had and what our goals were, I think we've nailed it.

Will the cacti survive for several weeks without water? I guess we will find out. The smaller ones can probably be moved into the house or given to a friend to water in our absence. Those in the larger pots should be fine. But, they certainly have a much better chance at living than the flowers, which burn up after 3 days!

I promised to share some pictures of what Betty came up with. Here you go!















Old barn hinges



















Yes that is a bottle tree - with real bottles







Yes, those are chairs.


61 comments:

  1. Just gorgeous! Betty's artistic touch is just amazing. I love all the color and the sense of whimsy. It's very inviting!

    As my husband and I get older, we question how much maintenance we want to do. Our home sits on an acre lot. The lawn needs to be mowed frequently in the summer, and the landscape that we have needs regular pruning,fertilizing, mulching etc. It's beautiful, but a lot of work to maintain from spring to fall.

    We love our neighborhood, but the upkeep involved in our home and outdoor area (including plowing and shoveling in winter!) has us considering our options to downsize to something smaller and easier to maintain.

    It looks like you and Betty have wisely chosen to make the necessary adjustment, as you look to travel more during the summer. What a relaxing oasis! It must be so peaceful to sit out there just enjoying your surroundings.

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    1. As the housing prices recover in the Phoenix area we will be looking a move to a single story home with a small yard, or park next door. Just the cost of a yard service and all the water required to keep the lawn and plants looking good is enough to fund a several week RV trip!

      For now, we like that our dog, Bailey and our grandkids enjoy all the space.

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    2. Luckily all of the big plants are on a drip. When Bob and I downsize we should be able to take most of these ideas and put them on or around a porch. It will make it easier when we take off in the RV!

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  2. How great! I love the color and whimsy.

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    1. Whimsy was what we were going for!

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    2. We live in the Southwest where Colorful pots are a plenty. I sprayed the watering cans to mimic these pots but I'm not totally pleased with the result. What I want to do now is distress the cans so that they blend in more but still have that pop of color. (The big orange watering can hanging in the tree above the grape pot has been distressed)

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, rjack. Betty pulled all this together in 3 weeks.

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    2. I'm not done yet but then again who wants to be done with any project? You sit and look, and then oodles of other ideas pop up and you tweak a little here and there!

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  4. Each year our area presents a 'garden tour' which hosts about twelve or thirteen homes. I love the carefully sculpted,manicured ones,with colorful flowers everywhere, but the one that is always my favorite is the whimsical one - the unexpected chair hanging on a wall, or handmade fountain from a watering can (or hand pump), the arrangement of colorful objects against vibrant green ferns and hedges, a cozy, inviting space to sit and enjoy it all.

    What an accomplishment. Betty has a wonderful imagination and sense of scale and balance - we already knew that from the beautiful photos she takes. This is truly special. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your new space.

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    1. Betty sometimes doesn't believe strongly enough in her own strengths. Comments like yours help her understand the special gifts she has.

      There was one side of the yard that is still a work in progress that wasn't included. She has moved and painted an old bench, covered it in pots, and hung painted metal plates on the wall behind it. Because the pots aren't quite what she wants, she requested that section not be photographed.

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    2. Thanks for that reply! It's nice to get these positive affirmations. Sometimes when I work alone on projects I don't truly see the work done.

      Also thank you for the comment about my photos. I just recently lost all 47,000 of my photos. Not once but twice! I have retrieved most of the originals and about 90% of my edited ones. It was very traumatic for me but it has taught me something. I want to share these things with people. Not just leave them in my computer forever!

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  5. Fantastic. Isn't it amazing what a little color and imagination can do. I just love it!

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    1. What would she do without spray cans? We used a few dozen for this transformation!

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    2. I did something very simple and inexpensive with the lantern above the bottle tree and the close up of the bird cage. I went to our neighborhood Goodwill store and picked up glassware and vases of different colors, individually wrapped them in paper and put them in another bag and tapped them with a hammer, then placed them inside the lantern or bird cage. Sometime I put a drop of hot glue to hold it or a clear sticky dot for positioning. I'm now working on a cross with the extra pieces. This is a very easy project and very inexpensive!

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  6. I LOVE it! I wouldn't change a thing when it's time to sell. It will make your house stand out from the rest :)

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    1. You may be right: unique makes it memorial!

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    2. Thanks Kelli! Sometimes different is good!

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  7. Betty Nailed it......Love it. You are only about a 1/2 hour for me. I will be over for iced tea and to sit in the garden please. Cindy

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    1. Iced tea in the garden and nice conversation. Sounds good, Cindy.

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    2. Our doors are always open!

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  8. Betty is like Deb - she has all the creativity in the family. As you stated it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for many it hits the spot. I found the bicycle and chairs to be nice additions in the pictures, and the liberal use of spray paint adds a lot. Congratulations - looks like you are all set for a summer of RVing!

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    1. We leave for a week long trip next Friday, as a matter of fact.

      Yes, Betty was born with a double dose of creativity and making something out of nothing with a tight budget and even tighter timetable.

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    2. I'm not the only one with an imagination. Take a close look at the pitcher and bowl with the painted brushes sticking out of the pitcher. That was all Bob! He has an incredible imagination in everything he does whether it's planning for a trip, writing a blog or helping me change up a room or a shelf. I think Bob's gift is that he is constantly learning and growing and expanding his horizons. The imagination follows right behind!

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  9. I think it looks fabulous! Love the use of all the vivid colors and textures....what not to love!
    On another note, I have seen glass bulb shaped contraptions that you can fill with water and insert into potted plants. They are supposed to disperse water gradually into your plants. I have never used them....just a thought what might help if you need to provide a little water in your absence.
    Loved the photography....awesome job, Betty!

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    1. I know what you are referring to....I've never used them either but they might help some of the pots. I'll check it out.

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    2. Those glass bulbs would fit beautifully! Great idea Linda!

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  10. I love it-and the chairs are adorable!

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    1. It just needs some quilts, right Barb?

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    2. EVERYTHING needs quilts....ha!

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    3. My favorite is the purple rocking chair. Whoda thought!

      Now about those quilts... Any ideas on using waterproof fabric? Bright colored oilcloths possibly. Maybe in an unusual shape like an arrow. Sounds strange but then again so did the hanging bike!

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    4. Or you could waterproof the fabrics i suppose. Thats what i do for picnic quilts and yard flags and baanners.

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  11. Very inviting, and very whimsical! I feel like I know a good deal about Betty's personality after seeing what she's created . . . funny, unexpected and not afraid to reveal who she really is!

    Our backyard is very tidy, but not terribly interesting and I'm newly inspired to spend some time making it a better reflection of who Mike and I really are. Congratulations to you both, and may you enjoy for years to come.

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    1. Hopefully, you will get to confirm that personality description when we meet up in Portland in August!

      With all of your travels I would guess you have some great ideas to make the Reddy backyard unique!

      BTW, too bad about the wrong weather forecast for Morro Bay on your last trip. That is a nice area!

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    2. Thank you for your comment Tamara. The older I get the more I'm not afraid to reveal the real me. I've always looked at life through a child's eye but not until recently have I had the guts to live that way. When was the last time any of us (Without grandchildren) blown bubbles in the sunshine or made chalk drawings in front of our houses? Anyone up for a good game of hopscotch?

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  12. Betty's creative yard art- work is AWESOME! What a sense of color and decorating she has! My backyard is bland in comparison--Betty has given me some nice ideas for ways to add color and fun and interest without breaking the bank!! What talent! Her eye for color and using everyday things to make ART is really amazing! She could do this for other people ( of course you are both retired so i am sure she does not want to!!!)

    But how lucky you are she does it for you two!!

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    1. She also paints faux walls as well as anyone, so our living room and dining room have kind of a Tuscan glow. She took an old glass door, painted the glass to look like stained glass and hung it over the mantle...very eye-catching!

      Excluding the cost of the plants (larger cactus are not cheap), the makeover cost around $275. We bought the bike locally, the chairs and bottle tree in Fredericksburg Texas, and most of the colorful pots in Tubac, AZ. The rest is from dozens of spray cans from Home Depot!

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    2. Thanks Madeline for those affirming comments! I've always collected junk and turned it into other projects. (I was a preschool teacher for almost 30 years) If I buy something at a garage sale or antique sale I try and not use it for it's original purpose. I'll turn it upside down or on it's side before even buying it.

      As far as doing things on a budget - Bob and I have always not only lived far below our means but almost made a game out of how much we can save and in how many areas of our life! This project started out with three goals - Using plants that can stand not being watered for 3 weeks in the AZ sun so we can go RVing, filling other pots with anything except plants, and using up all of the half empty spray cans that were taking up space!

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  13. Oh my goodness I love it ! When you decide to sell I wouldn't change a thing ! Kudos to Betty

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    1. Thanks, Terry. I wonder what a real estate agent would think? Being memorable is good, right?

      BTW, I clicked over to your profile and scanned the huge list of blogs you follow. I always like to find something new to read so I'll be working my way through your blogroll.

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    2. We'll just be adding more!

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  14. I agree with those who say don't change anything when you sell. The real estate agent will give you the final input, but if they don't like it, I'd switch realtors!!

    Absolutely awesome! Betty DID nail it. Exactly. & it's SO much more practical for a desert area, with water becoming scarcer & scarcer.

    All in all....marvelous! & I might also steal some ideas...which you might see when & if you make it to San Luis Obispo County!

    thank you so much for sharing.....you made my day!

    pam

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    1. Steal away, Pam. If we make it to your place in October I'm sure Betty will be tickled if she recoginzes something!

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    2. I'm constantly writing down or taking pictures of ideas from ALL different places. If that's stealing then slap on those cuffs and take me away! I call it sharing and isn't that why we were all put on this earth? Take all "my" Ha! ideas and make them your very own then pass it on!!! And by the way, I'd love to come your way and see San Luis Obispo!

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  15. Wow, Betty! I love it all. What is the yellow parrot with a chain attached in that first photo??

    I think you should submit the pics and an article to some of the gardening magazines.

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    1. Thank you for that high praise! The parrot is actually an eagle's head that is a hitching post. It was my Great Grandfather's and he had it in the front of his farm and it was used to hitch up your horse. It's made of iron. It's VERY heavy! My Great Grandfather bred American Saddle Horses back east.

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    2. What a neat heirloom piece then. I am betting the barn hinges were from your great grandfather's farm, too. Whimsical decor and garden art look so easy but it's a difficult look to pull off well like you did.

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  16. Wow. Big WOW. Betty, you are a genius. I think people would pay you beaucoup money to do things like this in their yards. No kidding. This is the stuff of high end home and garden digests. Send in some photos...really. I'm so impressed, but not surprised.

    What a wonderful post to visit before I take my break for June. I'm smiling with delight and your creativity and whimsy.

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    1. Thank you for the kudos! My goodness! Just last night I was having the biggest pity party for myself and telling Bob that I haven't amounted to anything or mattered to most anyone. All of you (Including Bob) have nipped that pity party in the bud! Seriously, after reading all of these comments I can see my worth through my friends. (You might be Bob's blogging friends but I'm beginning to see all of you as dear friends also!) Thank you for the support you have given me!

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  17. Very original, very refreshing, and also very green! I think you will provide an inspiration to a lot of backyard "gardeners."

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    1. Thanks! I think pre-school teachers were "green" long before it was popular! Who else would collect 20 meat trays, wash them all by hand several times and use them over and over again for 10 years as paint trays then have the kids make a craft out of them. (By the way, those Styrofoam trays will never see a landfill. Moms never through away their kids masterpieces!) Have a good one!

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  18. Cari in North TexasWed May 29, 08:45:00 PM MST

    I really enjoyed the photos of your 'new' back yard. The bicycle, the watering cans, the barn hinges - all unexpected little touches of whimsy and creativity. This reminds me of my grandmother's using unusual items to decorate with, and they always looked great! My first thoughts were, wow, who would have thought that 'item x' would look so cute used in a new way. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for your comment! It's nice to remember things like that about our Parents or Grandparents. Did your Grandparents live during the depression? I wonder if your Grandmother decorated with unusual items because the usual items were hard to find or buy.I know that both my Parents and Grandparents lived during the depression area and always had to be "creative" with whatever they did whether it was cooking, planting a grape vine in a very narrow walkway or using pie tins as elaborate wind chimes to scare off crows from the vegetable garden. Hey Bob, that might an idea for another Post! "What were quirky, unusual, or creative things your Parents or Grandparents did because of the depression." And... "Do you continue these little foibles simply because your parents did them?"

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  19. I loved, loved, loved everything in the yard! Can't get over how "lush" the landscaping looked especially since it is in the desert. The bicycle and chairs were so interesting. How about a trip to Dallas to do my yard? It must be wonderful to be so artistic and creative.

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  20. The desert can really come alive in the Springtime! It's getting hotter now that Spring is melting into Summer.(It's supposed to be 105 degrees on Sunday - A bit toasty!)Bob just washed the windows so that we can now enjoy the backyard in the cool of an air conditioned room!

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  21. To all those who commented so far, thank you. You have given Betty a real boost and supported my contention that she is amazingly creative. Give her a toothpick and she'll make a sculpture!

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  22. WOW! I think Betty and I would be best buds! I love people who think outside the box...take chances...and just do it. This is genius, Betty. Truly. I love the bicycle (and tricycle). The watering cans, everything is just whimsy and fun and fabulous.
    And Bob, I do love the paint brushes! That was a very cool idea.
    Well done, you two!
    Have a great vacation.
    b

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  23. We really had a fun time with all of this. But it's not over yet! Besides distressing all of the watering cans I have 4 or 5 more spots that need something. We're going to take a break and find some more ideas. It's getting too hot to be working hard outside so we'll probably start up again in late fall or at least when it drops back into the double digits!

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  24. Betty is a genius! I especially love the yellow bicycle. -Jean

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    1. It's my favorite part of the re-do, too.

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  25. Betty, good job. The bicycle is taking all the center of attraction in your backyard. The idea of poring water to the pots through water cans is pretty impressive.

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