The Saturday evening after we'd returned from Jamaica, we threw the kids in the car and went on a hunt for some sunflowers.  Actually, we were headed directly to a friend's house that lives out in the country - she had said we could borrow the sunflowers in her backyard for pictures anytime.  But, when we got there (unannounced), we realized they were having a party in their backyard (where the sunflowers are!).  Obviously we didn't want to interrupt so we turned around to leave.  But then Katie Wynn spotted the cutest double adirondack swing so we had to do some quick swinging before getting the heck outta dodge!

Isn't this swing just the cutest thing you've ever seen?  I seriously want one.  Who wants to help build me one?  (Dad?)

I still haven't actually told my friend that we were at her house and borrowed her swing.  I guess I should probably do that sometime. 

I had already promised Katie Wynn that we'd see some really big yellow flowers, so we set out to find ourselves a different field of sunflowers.  I knew there were some close because my mother-in-law had seen them when they were in town.  We passed one field that looked like it was almost dead, before driving up on a perfect field of the big yellow flowers.

And the first one out of the car and into the flowers was this dude.

Katie Wynn wasted no time finding a broken sunflower that she could carry around with her.  For the whole photoshoot.

I just love how they were planted in evenly spaced rows.  :)

This picture totally cracks me up.  Doesn't it look like she's popping her neck like she's going off on somebody?  

Right across the gravel road from the field of sunflowers was a rusty barn-shed-thing.  We used it as a backdrop for a few pictures.  Some of the cutest ones are on Matt's phone, though!

No pictures of Thomas in front of the barn-shed-thing because he was way more interested in the gravel road.  Of course.

Follow the sun, sunflowers.

Here's a bee, just doing its thing.

Katie Wynn went back into the field...

...and then we lost her.

If she wanted to switch to a different row to walk down, she would look at the sunflowers and then say, "Hey Mama, you open this door for me?" meaning, could I hold the sunflower stems to the side so she could walk through.  

Anywhere she goes, he goes too.

"Hey, wook Mama!  I found a wittle bitty one!"

Did I mention that this photshoot took place on July 11th?  And that it was, like, a thousand degrees outside?  Yea, we were pretty sweaty.

It was a hot and fun adventure.  To be honest, I wish we could do it again, but I'm guessing the sunflowers are all gone now.  (Right?)  I'd like to have a redo and go right after dinner instead of right before.  I think that would make happier kids and be better lighting.  Oh well, next year, I guess!

UPDATE:  Here are a couple bonus sunflower pics from the phone.  :)

Tulips 2015

It's no secret that tulips are my favorite flower.  I've written about them before - from seeing them on walks in our old neighborhood to last year's blooms that were my first to grow myself.   And well, they're still my favorites so I'm going to talk about them again.  :)

I wasn't sure if the 100 bulbs that bloomed last spring would bud again this year.  I'd heard that they don't always survive our super hot summers down in the south.  So to be sure I had some eye candy this spring, I planted another 100 bulbs last fall.  Can't be too safe!  The excellent news?  Not only did my new set of 100 bulbs bloom, but so did last year's!  Over the past couple of weeks, I have had SO many tulips and I've loved every minute of it!  I'm afraid I don't have a single picture that truly captures their beauty.  But I've had several neighbors stop and comment on them so I'm glad others are enjoying them too.  Maybe I'll plant 100 more this fall so that they keep multiplying in numbers!   

Disclaimer:  While oohing and ahhing over all of my tulips, it's important that you try your best to completely ignore all the weeds and dead leaves around them.  They'll ruin the experience for you.

The ones planted by our garage are probably the ones we get to admire the most because we see them everyday while we're coming and going.  And, because they get the most sun, they're the first to bloom.  

Sometimes we have after-church photoshoots with them.  :)

Yes, I let her touch them.  I want her to grow to love them just as much as I do, and I don't think yelling at her every time she touches them will make that happen.  Who cares if we lose a petal or two?  I always encourage her to give them a smell; some of them are actually kinda fragrant this year!

After I took about a billion pictures of Katie Wynn with the flowers, she reached for my phone and said, "Ok, my turn!" and told me to go stand in them.  So I climbed into the flower bed in my church heels and squatted down to be level with the tulips and smiled for her while she just snapped away.  Later I scrolled through my camera roll to see just how corny I looked only to find a bunch of pictures like these.

These two pictures below are of the tulips in our front flower beds.  I took these from a lower angle so that I could get our cherry blossom trees in the background.  Aren't they gorgeous in full bloom??


Now the cherry blossoms are starting to fall off everywhere which is kinda a bummer, but I like the way Katie Wynn describes it.  "There sprinkles everywhere!"

Our last big section of tulips is in the backyard in the same bed where I plant my summertime zinnias.  I probably like them the best because they're the only thing in the flowerbed this time of year, but there the ones I see the least since they're in the backyard.  We try to make a point to go check on them at least once every day.  

I took the pictures below this weekend with my real camera.  There are so many of them and can you believe I haven't snipped a single one?!

Last night while we were outside I noticed a few new colors that were popping up.  It's like we had a second round of buds!  The red and yellow ones might be my favorites, but I'm always a sucker for a solid pink one too.

Last night I was also able to get probably my favorite tulip pictures of the year - they're my favorite because my sweet babies are in them!

Sadly, we're now to the point where our days with the tulips are numbered.  Petals are following off pretty rapidly so it won't be long before all the bright colors are gone.  And then comes the hardest part - waiting for the leaves to shrivel up and dissolve into the mulch.  It's not pretty to watch, but it's what makes them come back (I think) year after year so it's gotta happen!  

If you love tulips as much as I do, might I suggest planting some in your own yard?  They are way low maintenance and such a happy surprise in the spring!

**Update**  I took another tulip picture last night and thought I should add it to this post.  This is Katie Wynn standing in front of the row of tulips that are in our backyard.


Last fall, as Mom and I wandered around Sam's shopping for stuff for Katie Wynn's birthday party, we stumbled across these bags of 100 tulip bulbs for something like 12 bucks.  Tulips are my absolute favorite flower ever, but I had zero experience in planting bulbs.  But for 12 bucks, I really didn't have much to lose!  Needless to say, we both left with a bag of bulbs and figured that if 70-ish of them actually popped up, it'd be a pretty good percentage and worth our HUGE investment.  :)

Fast forward to this spring and all 100 tulips popped up!  I swear, this was so freaking exciting for me!  I know, call me a weirdo but I just really love colorful flowers, especially ones that bloom with minimal effort on my part.  (Although let's not totally dismiss that minimal effort...I planted them last fall in what I thought would be a quick ten-minute task.  Um no, it takes longer than that to dig six-inch deep holes...times 100!  And I didn't have on yardwork clothes so I squatted down to do each one while trying not to get dirty and my little helper was a very new walker that kept falling down and eating dirt.  Oh, and I was freshly pregnant too.  But still - totally worth it!)

tulip check

So everyday after work for about two weeks, Katie Wynn and I walked around the house checking on our tulips.  I loved getting to watch their progress from tiny buds to full blown flowers.  And my little girl seemed to enjoy them too!

I planted 40 bulbs in the backyard, 40 in the front flower beds, and 20 beside our garage.  And yes, I counted every one of them and they were all there!  :)

One thing I never knew about tulips was how often they open and then close back up in cooler weather.  Thanks to the wonky weather we've had this spring, they did lots of opening and closing!  

tulip check
tulip check

Tulips don't really have a fragrant smell, but I told Katie Wynn we had to sniff them each day anyway because really, is there a cuter photo op than this?

tulip check
tulip check

Our bag of tulips were mostly red, orange, and yellow, but there were a couple pink ones that surprised us too!

front yard
front yard

Another day, another round of sniffing...

tulip sniffing
tulip sniffing

Shout-out to ALL FOUR grandparents that noticed Katie Wynn's backwards shoes when I posted these pictures on Instagram.  This is so common these days that I almost don't even notice it anymore.  Just so we're clear, though - if they're backwards, I'm not the one who put them on her.  :)

tulip check
tulip check

I only took pictures of the cute moments, but in keeping things real, yes, several tulips lost petals due to some "aggressive petting" by Katie Wynn.  In fact, that pink tulip pictured above on the right took a pretty good slap right after that picture was taken.  We'll call this a learning year.  :)

Our cherry blossom trees were shedding their petals during this same time, so I taught Katie Wynn how they could be scooped up and thrown as confetti.  SO fun!

confetti petals
confetti petals
confetti petals
confetti petals
tulips in a vase

But back to the tulips...  I did get brave and cut a few stems for a vase.  I had initially told my mom that I just didn't think I could bring myself to cut them, but then decided I should get to enjoy them inside too.  It was a good decision as they lasted for about a week inside (and pepped up more than in the picture on the right).

Now they're all gone and I'm having withdrawals.  So sad.  This weekend I guess I will cut off the stems - but not the leaves! - and just cross my fingers that they survive our hot summer and come back next year.  Actually, I've already told Mom that we have to go back to Sam's this fall to look for more bags-o-tulips.  Maybe this time I'll go crazy and buy three bags!  Tulips for days!

Uprooted and Replanted

Back at our old house, Doc and I had these two hydrangea plants that produced the biggest, prettiest flowers ever!  Seriously, the blooms were the size of my head. Hydrangea Head

While we lived there, I had told Doc over and over again that if we ever moved, we'd have to take the hydrangeas with us.  They were just too pretty to leave behind.  So about two years ago, we started working on splitting them (so we could eventually take half with us and still leave a plant there too).  By the time moving day arrived, we had turned our two hydrangeas into four.

Of course, on the actual moving day the last thing on our minds was digging up plants, so they got left behind to be dug up on another day.  But with the excitement of the new house and projects that were going on there, the hydrangea transfer kept getting pushed aside.

Until August 31st, that is.  I remember the day like it was yesterday.  It was a Friday and our first tenants were set to move in the very next day.  It was the last day our house would be unoccupied and therefore the last day we could be there digging up plants.  Doc was busy that afternoon so I had no choice but to stop by after work and dig them up myself.  It was over 100 degrees with the humidity out the roof and I was in a dress and sandals, but by golly I was not going to leave behind these plants I'd worked so hard on!  Oh, did I mention I was also three weeks away from having a baby??

I pulled up to the house and grab the shovel out of the back of my car and approached hydrangea #1.  It looked pretty pitiful since it hadn't been watered in about three weeks.

The lack of water made the ground ridiculously hard, and I was barely able to get any of the root dug up.  I was sweating buckets and this was all I could get.

I was still determined so I made my way over to hydrangea #2 that looked equally as pitiful.

Thankfully, I found a soft spot in the dirt and was able to get a better chunk of root on this one.

I brought my roots home to the new house and Doc found a spot in the flower bed to plant them.  Of course, shortly after came the baby so we were very inconsistent with our watering.  I peeked out the window at it all winter where it looked like a pile of sticks.  I was sure that it was dead...

...until just a few weeks ago when green leaves sprouted!  A successful plant transfer!!  I am so thrilled that it is still alive and can't wait to see if it actual blooms this year.  I'm gonna be watering this sucker like crazy.

Since I was already a hot, sweaty mess that day back in August, I decided to go ahead and grab these hastas too.  These were a wedding gift from some friends of ours; they had dug up some roots from their yard so we could plant them in ours.

I guess the ground was a little softer back there because I took them all!

And I am happy to report that these are doing just great!

We split them into two and they flank our front porch steps.

Three replant successes.  Now, if we could just get rid of the millions of weeds the previous owners left behind...

Flowerbed Makeover: Phase Three

Get caught up by reading Phase One: Planning and Preparing and then Phase Two: Building and Installing! This is the last phase in this little two-weekend project adventure.  We'll call this one Phase Three: Adding Plants.  It was probably the easiest one overall since planting plants is something we already knew how to do.  Of course, we did it around noon on Father's Day after taking my dad out for brunch.  The sun was bright and hot, our bellies were full, and it was hard to stay awake long enough to knock it out.

Lucky for you all, I don't have any in-progress shots so we can go ahead and skip to the after!  Well, almost.  Let's review what we started with first...a flower bed of five arborvitaes, three of which were tall (but kinda bare), one small healthy one, and one that was dead-as-a-doornail.

First, we removed the trees.

Then we installed a homemade trellis.

And now, finally, here it is fully dressed with plants and the furniture back on the patio!

Before we get up close and personal with the plants around the trellis, let's pan over to the other side of the patio to the other flowerbed.

This flowerbed is one we planted right when Doc moved in 5 years ago, and we like the way it's filled in.  I'm not sure what the dark purple-ish leggy plants in the back are, but between them are two nandinas.  There's a row of verigated monkey grass in front of them and at the very front are a few hostas.  (If you look closely, you can see that the hostas have been eaten up by slugs/snails.  We're working on fixing that...)

So, the point of all that is that we wanted the new flowerbed on the opposite of the patio to match what we already had on the courtyard.  That means that monkey grass and hostas got planted up front.

I hope they grow quickly and catch up with the size of the ones across the patio!

Obviously the point of the trellis was to have something vines could grow up, so we also planted 4 Pink Star Jasmines.  We're told they're fast climbers and we're counting on that.

Right now we have the branches twist-tyed to the trellis so they know which way to go.  Hopefully that works!

We also picked up two more nandinas to add on each side of the trellis.  We still have a small space back behind them where we could add something else, but for now we're going to wait and see how it all goes.

More pics of the finished project.

While we're finished with this project, this was by no means a complete Patio Makeover.  There's still more we could do, like add bricks around the perimetere of this same flowerbed so we can properly mulch it without it all washing out onto the patio.  Our furniture could also use a major face lift.  But let's not focus on those things!  For now, we're enjoying our new trellis and how it has changed the look and feel of our courtyard.  We've already had several meals outside...feel free to come over and join us sometime!