The Dappled Willow

A former neighbor of mine tore out the old landscape in the front of her house one afternoon and started fresh. She stripped her place bare. She was a master gardner and knew a thing or two about plants so I was curious to see what she chose and hopefully learn a thing or two.

My very favorite thing she planted that spring was a Willow. I only knew this kind of Willow Tree.

She introduced me to the Variegated Willow also knows as Nishiki Japanese Dappled Willow or Salix integra ‘Hakura Nishiki’.  A beautiful shrub that is nearly perfect in every way.  It is fast-growing, largely deer-resistant, hardy and has long season of beautiful color.

This past weekend I found some Dappled Willow standards at a nursery and figured I would give them a go.  I underplanted with white wave petunias and am looking forward to some pretty color to really pop once the weather warms.


Here is the shrub form.  My neighbor’s ended up to be over 6 feet tall and the pink, green and white leaves were just stunning up close.  It has an airy way about it so even so close to her house, it didn’t feel oppressive like a bigger yew or rhododendron can.

The Front Door

My mom went to visit Holland years ago and came back talking about the beautiful doors there. She returned from her trip and tracked down a paint kit at a local paint store that promised the same European mirrored finish.  It was the Fine Paints of Europe Dutch door kit.

The process is not for the faint of heart.  From what I understand, the technique takes quite some time to master, the right tools and a lot of sanding.  My mom tried and ended up abandoning the project as it was just too difficult.  We all know how frustrating high gloss paint can be – it is tacky and highlights every brush stroke and imperfection.

Years later, forgetting about my mom’s Fine Paints of Europe debacle, I first start thinking about laquering something/anything after seeing a couple of Miles Redd’s rooms.  I knew my husband would never agree to laquering the library (the paint is not cheap!) so I figured maybe the front door was the compromise. After a little bit of research, a lot of Pinterest browsing and a friend who tracked down just the right painter for the job, our door is getting a very special treatment today.


That is a can of Fine Paints of Europe Hollandlac paint in their Brilliant finish.  A mouthful!  It is a Dutch marine-quality oil-based enamel with a high gloss sheen and a deep rich color.  It is different from our domestic high-gloss oils.

The crew of two arrived early this morning and sanded away.  They were pleased with our door’s condition as apparently it had not been touched much over the years.  There were not the layers of paint so typical of houses this age.

About an hour in they cleaned the workspace of dust and started applying the first coat.


My hardware is going back to the shop for a good polishing and the cloth is to protect the door from the pollen, rain, dust, and anything else.

Here is my neighbor’s finished door.  Stunning!  You can see your reflection in it and the paint feels like it is going to wear like iron.


The next step for my door will be to sand the door before the last coat.  The second and last coat will really give it that glass look.

The storm door I chose will also get a two coats of the Hollandlac Brilliant in black.  This front door should look quite different soon enough.

This weekend those poor pots will finally get some attention and color.  The stairs are fixed, the landscaping has improved, the door will be prettied up which means the shutters will now stand out like a sore thumb.  I guess I know our next project.




Project Curb Appeal

The stairs are finished!  Another box checked off on the improving the curb appeal checklist. They are more welcoming, less intimidating, and, of course, accommodate the flower pots I am going to doctor up with some hydrated lime.  Will explain more in a later post assuming it’s not a total flop.


The clouds lifted this morning and it was time to tackle the last vestige of the old yard.  I didn’t take a before but here is an older picture.  You can see the yew on the bottom left corner – its day of reckoning had arrived.


The remnants.


And, the after.  A couple more boxwood and some perennials will round out that part of the bed.


Tomorrow the big pots will hopefully have some ornamental trees to fill them.  The trellises against the lab have a bit of green growing on them.  That was a great surprise as those things sat stacked one on top of the other in the garage for more than 3 years.  When our crew finished that semi-circular bed last fall, I dropped them in and figured I would deal with them in the spring.  Something left over on the trellis rooted and is growing and thriving.  Hopefully it blooms as maybe then I will be identify whatever vine it is that clearly thrives on neglect and a lack of soil to root in for 3 years! IMG_2075

The blue and white pots were planted on a whim the other day when I ran into some Gardenia standards.  Too well-priced to pass up, I bought them without doing a lick of research into their care and just now read that spraying them daily will help them to bloom.  Did I read that correctly – daily?  We’ll give it a go and hope for the best with that one.  IMG_2072

We are on the hunt for a dining table and chairs to fill the space that this lonely, chairless table currently occupies.  An enormous umbrella would be nice as well as by July, we will be able to retire the grill and cook on the bluestone instead.

The little bit of shade we do have in the yard is under this grove of trees.  “The grove” is one of my favorite spots – just imagine a hammock hanging between two trees.


The grove was also where our arbor has lived since we moved into this house.  There wasn’t a clear place for it like there was in our country house and I wondered if it just didn’t belong here.


I was determined to find a permanent but thoughtful home for our arbor and that we did today.

A little brick finessing and we set her down in just the right spot.  The dead branches twisted and twirled around the trellis work was once a massive cluster of ‘Sweet Autumn’ clematis.  That particular variety of clematis blooms just around my boys’ birthday in September and was a treat as not much in the garden blooms towards the end of September.

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Here is the greener part of our backyard.  The sod did really well and we have a concrete bench that I am thinking could look at home under the Japanese Maple tree.


And, another green grass picture.  This is huge as I am not sure there has been grass in this backyard since the 1970s!IMG_2076

More project updates to come this week!  And, a hint of what’s to come . . .

Fine Paints of Europe

So Many Pots to Fill

I have 10 pairs of urns/pots to plant in the coming weeks.  Typically I go to the nursery with no plan other than I know I need something tall and then some spillers and thrillers.  The color combinations work themselves out when I get there and some years’ combinations are more inspired than others.

This year I am determined to come up with a plan and I am going to go all hotel on my garden.  Is that even a thing?  Essentially each pot will be planted with the same combo.  We were at a hotel in Texas and the hundreds of pots around the grounds were a variation on the same theme.  I loved it.  It will unify all the different vessels and hopefully bring a sense of calm to this yard that is a bit of a roller coaster landscape.


Most of my pots are set against a green backdrop which means a little white would pop.

I am thinking our new pot-accomodating stairs may need a little flower treatment when finished.  A lot like this:

Or maybe this on a smaller scale.


To follow, a post on flower pots.  It’s been a decade-long hunt and one that continues . . .