Spring Has Sprung! (Unless you Live in California, then it  was Back in January)

We were hoping to share our latest foray into concrete countertops…

…But it just wasn’t meant to be. 

I should know by now that no DIY project goes according to plan.(Especially when you tell all your readers ahead of time-then its a sure thing your project will run over schedule) So instead of showing you our new concrete counters in the guest house, we’ll distract you with pictures of pretty flowers…

Yes we’ve been in full bloom out here in California since January. Lovely weather but unfortunately we all are expecting a long hot summer. (No really the east coast should start selling us snow, we’re in a water crisis over here) 

In the meantime we’ve  taken the opportunity to add a few new flowers and finish another unfinished project that has sat around since last spring. Like these hanging baskets…

Which have been hanging around without any plants, and just collecting leaves all through the winter. (Project procrastination” it’s a real sickness people)

Last year we were so busy landscaping our drought tolerant, “dog proof” backyard, I’d forgotten about the baskets in the sideyard.  

One thing we’ve learned with our dogs is that they are magnets to new plants and fresh soil. (Especially soil mixed with manure – they go nuts for the smell) Therefore we’ve learned to plant “up”. Whether that be with tall pots or hanging baskets, the technique keeps curious wet noses out of our plants. Also when you do plant “up” it means you can add not so “pet friendly” plants to your garden. Like jasmin, lilies and begonias, which may be poisonous to dogs. 

Although the jasmin was not planted in a basket (the papyrus died so we had an extra tall pot sitting vacant) We instead wrapped it with green chicken wire to keep the dogs out. Also the sideyard is shaded  and sheltered enough for the lillies and begonias withstand the summer heat. To conserve water/moisture we’ll probably add mulch to all the pots and baskets. 

We still have more updates for the sideyard and cleaning  up but it feels good to cross another unfinished project off the list.

This area is still one our favorite places to sit in the shade. Now you’ll know where I’m drinking my coffee this morning and beating  the spring heat. Happy Sunday everyone! 

Small California Backyard Transformation: Water wise and Dog Proof!

It all started with a stressful day, one fed up dog “mama” and a shovel…small-backyard-water-wise-and-dog-friendly-makeover-before-pic-.jpg

What should’ve been a quick project, or rather a band aid, for our lawn destroyed by two huge pups…Turned into a week long project of; a few broken toes, half dozen trips to the Home Depot, two bottles of wine and several expletives.

However the end result has been amazing! We now have a  beautiful, water wise, (nearly) dog proof backyard…That we will never have to mow again!

Before we reveal some final pics, we have another great Ikea hack and our new pergola to share.


We originally wanted to build a pergola from redwood, but reigned our DIY dreams in and realized this project was big enough. We then started hunting for a prefab steel pergola (that was budget friendly). Sears seemed to have the best option for our dimensions…It was also free delivery and on sale! SCORE! (FYI-Last time I looked these pergolas are still available at the same price)


It comes in a box and was super easy to assemble with 3-4 people…We had only 2, a ladder, and several bungee cords. Without going into the gory details, just take our advice and bribe a few friends with beer and pizza before you attempt to assemble one of these on your own.

However we managed to get the steel beast up with only minor injuries…



The next part of the project was to “sew” a custom pergola canopy…And when I mean “sew” that’s code for hacking something from Ikea. In this case we found the Ikea Dyning balcony wind barriers. These are meant to line your balcony or deck railing, but because of their dimensions, and crisp white outdoor fabric they were perfect as a draped canopy. Also at only $12 each on summer clearance, they are cost effective compared to other ready made pergola canopies.


Super easy to install and drape, we will probably take them down at the end of each summer.



Now we finally have a cabana-esque, pergola ready for cocktails and summer BBQs… Our before and after pics…











There are still several more backyard projects to do and little plants to grow, before we have those  “perfect” After pictures. However we couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made and money saved by putting in the labor now. We’re so excited to finally enjoy our low maintenance, dog proof yard. We also hope we inspired a few people to consider a lawn-free, water wise backyard. Cheers! enjoying-the-new-backyard-with-a-glass-of-red-wine-california-small-dog-friendly-water-wise-backyard-make-over.jpg

To a Happy Summer and Happy Sunday everyone!





THIS DROUGHT IS FOR REAL!…Beautiful and Water-wise Backyards

Fourth of July Weekend was a bit of a reality check (and even a little scary) for us…

This is a massive tree branch that fell from our front yard tree, due to “summer drop” an event that can commonly occur in hot and drought conditions. We are regulated by the city to water only twice a week, which can cause stress to trees during the hot summer months…Next was this…wild-fires-in-california.jpg
A nasty little wildfire that came a bit too close to home, and if the wind had been blowing a different direction, could have easily jumped the river in the 100+ degree heat.

If we had any doubts of losing the lawn in the backyard, they are completely gone now. In fact these events only solidified our love for drought tolerant, water wise gardens. Yet many people equate “water-wise” with dry, cacti, or desert. Yet drought tolerant can be lush and beautiful…



elegant lush drought tolerant backyard

drought tolerant elegant lush backyards

We also love lush and tropical gardens. Luckily you can have both beauty and the tropics with water wise gardens. By planting with palms, grasses, succulents, etc you can find plants that can mimic tropical foliage and flowers. Now let me introduce you to our newest garden editions…




Meet “Juan”, (our Queen Ann palm which was bought for a steal of a deal at $50) and these little cuties…



They were part of the Smart Planet plant line at Home Depot, plants specifically tailored for water wise gardens. Now here they are happy in their new home…



We also deviated a bit by adding a Bird of paradise, (closest to the palm for the extra water run off), Canas, hardy Agapanthas and Fortnight lilies. cana-tropicana-in-drought-tolerant-full-sun-garden.jpg
The Canas, and Kangaroo paw really help bring a unique and the tropical look to the yard. Another great trick to achieving a lush yard, and prevent water loss, is by laying large stones and boulders. In our case we used 2 cubic yards of 6 to 12 inch river cobbles and boulders called Feather rock. (A volcanic rock that looks heavy but is actually very light)


We chose larger rocks and boulders, rather than mulch or smaller stones because it makes for easier yard clean up in the fall. (literally the leaves are so crazy that we use a snow shovel not a rake) Also boulders and rocks are fabulous for deterring pups from napping on the new plants. (Sutter thinks my flax plants make great pillows)
All in all, we hope we inspired you to go water-wise and will be sharing some of the final project pics soon. Happy Sunday everyone!


The Dogs Will Be Alright…Tips for Losing the Back Lawn

Disclaimer: This blog post contains “potty talk”…

We were asked by a neighbor, “if the dogs will be alright with losing their lawn?” Which is actually a legitimate question considering the back yard is where many dogs spend the majority of their lives, and also dogs can be picky about their…ahem…potty routines. beginning-the-drought-tolerant-garden.jpg

As you can see in the picture, (photo bombed by Sutter marking the trumpet vines) our dogs have no shame about their routines, especially after their morning kibble kicks in.  Last year we installed privacy screens in order to hide telephone poles but also set aside area for the pups to patrol and do their business. Unfortunately they liked the lawn more and proceeded to destroy it.


Yet with the flagstone installed, most of our backyard is now hardscape, forcing our two pups to actually use the raised garden bed behind the privacy screens…Yay for less mess!

We think the biggest quandary and concern for many dog owners when deciding on losing the back lawn is where will the dogs either roll around, play or drop a deux. Yet we’ve found as long as there is some non-hardscape space set aside, the dogs will be ok.

However some dogs are really picky, so we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to losing the lawn.


tough ground cover for dogs

There are several great options of tough ground cover that can stand up to dog wear and tear. By planting ground cover around stepping stones this can trick your dog into thinking its lawn. The best place to find suitable ground cover is start with your local nursery. Drought tolerant options include; woolly thyme, silver carpet, miniature sedum, and snow in summer. If your dog is prone to eating plants and ground cover check with the ASPCA’s toxic plant list for details on each of the plants listed.


grass grown in a pot

Some dogs eat grass to aid in their digestion, which is why homeowners may feel the need for lawn. This is a trick I’ve recently learned, but many apartment dwellers are familiar with…If your dog is a grass eater, grow grass in a  pot. However the size of the pot matters, large, heavy, stable and wide diameter pots are the best for grass grazing pooches. Keep the pot in a sunny spot and where it will least likely to be knocked over.


dogscaped yard

If you’re worried losing the lawn will mean less play space and less potty space, fear not. Based on your breed type, dogs don’t necessarily need lawn to have a good time or go potty. Our Dobermans are natural guard dogs, and love to run around patrolling the fence perimeter, which is why we built privacy screens and left the back garden beds for potty space. Also you may find lawn isn’t really necessary to make a backyard fun for dogs . Water dogs may just need a kiddie pool, diggers might need a sandbox and other breeds just want to sunbathe. The main point is to keep the backyard interesting and tailored to the needs of your dogs.


pea gravel and dogs

Other alternatives to lawn are pea gravel and DG (decomposed granite) which can act like big huge litter boxes for dogs. One of the reasons many dog parks are made entirely of gravel is due to good absorption and the drainage it provides. Also many dogs love to lay in gravel, and sun bathe in it. A couple downsides are that it can get a little messy when kicked up, dusty and invite the neighborhood cats into your backyard.

All in all our dogs have been alright since we’ve lost the backyard lawn. The trade off has been; ensure there is plenty of shade, and areas to sun themselves, enough space to play and potty, fresh water sources, and tough, drought tolerant plants that can withstand our bruisers. We hope our tips have helped a few homeowners out there. We’ll be showing more pics of the back yard make-over as the summer progresses. In the meantime HAPPY SUNDAY EVERYONE!


Stress=Digging…Does that make me part dog?

As my friends know when all is not right in my world, I do things like this…

And this…

When I’m stressed I like to randomly “excavate” yards. Four years ago I was so stressed that I installed four different flagstone and rock patios in our last home…It’s a sickness. Hubby jokes that I must be part dog, since only puppies seem to dig with a smile on their face.

This past weeks digging attack was due to work. Nothing awful is happening, but we are going through tremendous organizational changes so my little “cubicle world” has been rocked.

Also there was another reason for my need to update the backyard…My fabulous in-laws found us a gently used BBQ at an estate sale (normally $500) for instead $100! Score! We are super grateful for their keen noses for sniffing out that deal! …And what a great excuse to make-over the backyard!

We’ll be sharing the pics of our BBQ “central” in the coming weekends.

Now the third reason…Is well, I have visions of this being my backyard…



But sadly we have this…



A grossly ignored backyard, that was waiting patiently for the day when I’d come home stressed out, and running for the shovel.

A week later, we’re now knee deep into the project and will be sharing the pics as we go. (Right now there is nothing much to show) However we hope to have a backyard deserving of our new BBQ and summer parties very soon…Happy Sunday everyone!

Spring Has Sprung…Let’s Set Them Free!

We actually had a question come our way…“Did your technique for protecting those tropical plants from frost work?”

We decided this would be a great time to put the paint brushes down, celebrate spring, and also our plants survived the winter!

In case you weren’t here for our how-to, we tried a technique that used burlap and wooden stakes. We then stapled the burlap to the stakes, essentially creating a burlap wrap for each potted plant. Then we dumped dried, fallen leaves around the base of each plant. The technique was budget friendly, super easy and honestly…We thought it would never work. (It was a cold and very dry winter; not the best conditions for tropical plants)

Now we’re hooked! The plants made it through! Overall there were a few frost bitten leaves that were exposed to the elements (outer leaves not fully protected)



Yet the plants are already recovering and new growth replacing the old. We’re not sure how well this technique would work in colder climates, but we dipped into the low 30s-high 20s at times. The only downside was having to sweep and dump leaves away in the spring, but worth it for saving our tropical plants from frost.

We hope you are enjoying the first days of spring, and are so excited to unveil some projects in the coming weeks! Happy Sunday everyone!

Defrosting the Ferns…Easy way to Protect your Plants during Winter

Yay! Fall (and in some places Winter) is upon us! Only problem is if you have tropical plants (zone 9-9b+) you know its also time to protect them. We’ve used the special frost fabric, and even old bed sheets in the past, but here is our newest and cheapest technique for protecting plants from winter’s chill. This inexpensive trick was suggested by the garden experts at Green Acres here in Sacramento after we almost fell over looking at pop up “frost tents” ($17 a piece!). All you will need is some burlap (a roll is about $10-$12 at Home Depot), long bamboo stakes ($0.89-$1.50) and lots of dried leaves (we have plenty of those this time of year). As for tools you’ll need only scissors and a hand staple gun. protecting plants from frost 010protecting plants from frost 011

First sink your bamboo stakes, either 3 or 4, to a pot/plant depending how large your plants are.

protecting plants from frost 006

Next wrap your plant with the burlap and attach it to the bamboo stakes using the staple gun or even stapling it to the adjacent fence if necessary.

protecting plants from frost 009

protecting plants from frost 004

Finally add your leaves, and be sure to cover the root ball or base of your plant, as the experts say, its actually not the outer leaves, branches, etc you’re trying to protect but rather the root system. If you don’t have leaves, they suggested purchasing cedar mulch.

protecting plants from frost 005

Now if you have a real hard frost, use any excess burlap to cover the tops of the plants at night, and just remove the covers during the day so they can still get some winter sun, rain and/or if the day warms up. They also suggested to give the plants a good watering during the warmest part of the day at least twice a week during dry, cold stretches. (Making sure the water is penetrating the root system.) This may not be the prettiest idea, but it should protect our tropical plants.  We’ll free the “girls” in the spring and see if this technique actually worked!

protecting plants from frost 013

DIY, Dog Proof Drip Lines…For Dummies?

Dog proof drip line soaker house for pots

I’ll admit it, I am totally clueless when it comes to installing drip lines. Emitters, bubblers, reservoirs, lines, etc. the whole idea just seems way too complicated for watering plants. There had to be a better way?

Dog proof drip line soaker house 001

There also had to be a dog proof way? Anyone who’s raised a teething puppy probably knows drip systems, are prime targets. (Instant chew toy and tug toy rolled into one.) Luckily our dogs leave heavy duty/commercial grade garden hoses alone. Therefore it made perfect sense to construct our DIY soaker hose drip system out of an old hose.

Dog proof drip line soaker house 003

We already had an old black, heavy duty garden hose that needed replacing. However we needed a second one, for extra length since our water source was so far away. The last of the materials were 12 brass hose mender kits, and a 5/8 inch (inside diameter) 50ft black soaker hose.

Dog proof drip line soaker house 004

Then we measured and cut pieces of soaker hose for each raised planter box and pot. (Be sure to purchase the non-fabric soaker kind that doesn’t bend easily.)We were sure each piece could easily wrap around the inside of the planter box, creating a loose loop (and being generous with the lengths) Next we cut the hose, making sure there was enough length to follow the fence line. Dog proof drip line soaker house 007

Then we inserted the hose mender brass fitting into the hose, with the other end being the soaker hose loop. Essentially for each soaker loop/pot you will need two hose mender kits if you want several pots lined up. Be sure to string the metal bands onto the hoses, and tighten them over each hose with a flat head screwdriver.

Dog proof drip line soaker house 008 Dog proof drip line soaker house 009

Dog proof drip line soaker house 010

Then we secured each loop together with black zip ties and sunk them into the soil around each plant. Basically the pattern should be: garden hose, then soaker hose loop in the pot/planter, then garden hose. This pattern allowed us to spread out the pots along our side yard. At our last pot, we created a loop out of the capped end of the soaker hose. Dog proof drip line soaker house 013

Next came securing the garden hose to the fence and soaker hose loops in the pots.We sunk the soaker hose into the pots with garden staples.Then for the next step we used 3/4″shark bite plastic pipe brackets. Dog proof drip line soaker house

These brackets come with nails inside them for easy use. Just put one around the hose, place the hose and bracket on the fence and hammer it in place.

Dog proof drip line soaker house 014All in all, no special drip equipment required, very economical and if your dogs don’t chew garden hoses, pretty much dog proof.

Dog proof drip line soaker house for pots

Also if you have a completely paved area and can’t install a sprinkler system, this easy drip system is a great way to bring a large amount of water to big pots, all you need is a water spigot. A simple solution for busy people (who hate hand watering their gardens).

Starting our Bali Side Yard: Tree Box Planters

cheap planter idea tree box planter

Anyone suffer from sticker shock for a simple item? We had one of those moments recently, and thus needed to find a creative and cheap solution for starting our “Balinese”/tropical garden. Home Depot, Lowes, etc had beautiful pots but not the right price…Ouch!

cheap planter idea tree box planter 002

We have this really ugly side yard, long and narrow, where every drain and vent of the house seems to congregate. Also this side yard does not have a stitch of soil or unpaved area. Thus we needed large planter boxes or pots to start our garden. Searching local plant nurseries browsing and drooling over beautiful clay pots, I found wooden tree boxes tucked away in the corner. At $25 a piece versus $100+…Deal!

cheap planter idea tree box planter 007

Except the problem was tree boxes are made of raw cedar, with huge spaces between the wood slats, where soil can seep out. Hence we came up with a quick and easy solution for this issue:

We stained the boxes with preserva wood stain in redwood left over from all our staining projects, including our guest book adirondack chairs. (Make sure to lay paper or a tarp to protect the ground from stain) Don’t forget to stain the inside of the boxes since moisture will collect there.

cheap planter idea tree box planter 005cheap planter idea tree box planter 006

Then we cut large sheets of professional landscape weed block/fabric and lined the inside of the boxes. (Be sure not to use the thin plastic kind, because it will tear easily) Securing the fabric to the inside using a hand staple gun and staples.

cheap planter idea tree box planter 014cheap planter idea tree box planter 012

Another great feature of tree boxes, with a little chicken wire, the plants are high enough off the ground and safe from curious doggies. Once filled with soil, it was the perfect planter box for the first addition to our tropical garden. We hope to reveal our tropical/”wanna-be Bali” side yard in the coming months. cheap planter idea tree box planter

Quick Fix: AC Drain Container Garden

AC drain container garden papyrus

Do you have an Air conditioner drain pipe in a random place? With 100+ degree temperatures during the summer, this innocent little AC pipe has pumped out a ton of water. Creating a grimy, and muddy mess around our house foundation and side yard patio.

Ac drain garden 002

We tried a couple extenders, but with playful dogs running about the backyard, they just didn’t work.

(tennis ball + running puppy + pipe extender = cracked AC drain pipe)

Luckily we had this large vintage metal wash tub left over from our wedding that we used for part of the decor and never sold.


I knew I was going to find use for it in the backyard, but had no idea it would fit so perfectly under our AC drain pipe. Another bonus is the tub leaks from the bottom and provides some drainage but less grime and less water.

Why not use it as a container garden?

The only challenge was to find plants that could stand low drainage, moist soil, but also looked tropical. Luckily Green Acres nursery in Sacramento has a wide variety of plants and fairly educated staff who steered us toward papyrus.papyrus

This plant can reach 13 to 16 ft tall, under the right conditions! (Admittedly, we may need to transplant it later in order to reach those heights.) It loves moist, shallow, and warm soil. As for the dogs, they sniff it, but pretty much leave it alone. However we will  wrap some chicken wire around it when the dogs are in the backyard without supervision. (Just in case a bored puppy wants a new chew toy and papyrus supposedly can be toxic to dogs) We’ve learned from experience that chicken wire around the plants normally does the job, and until new plantings are no longer at “dog mouth level.” Luckily our AC drain pipe is in a wind and elements sheltered side yard so we’re hoping this plant will love its new home. For now a perfect plant and quick fix as our AC drain container garden. Grow little guy,  grow!

AC drain container garden papyrus