April 27, 2011

A Trip to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

On a recent road trip to Texas, we were looking for something 
to do on a Sunday morning and found that 
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 
was open and nearby.

( If you are not old enough to know who Lady Bird Johnson is,
she was the wife of Lyndon Johnson,
 who became president when John Kennedy was assassinated back in 1963.)

 One of the causes that was dear to her heart was to
 save native wildflowers and encourage others in the
 country to use them as much as possible. 

 When you see wildflowers  growing along interstates, 
they are there mainly due to her efforts.
  She said "We have impressive and valid reasons 
for using our native plants
---reasons of the soul and pocketbook". 

The most famous of her native Texas
 wildflowers is the Bluebonnet. 
 Normally, it would be abundant along the roadsides 
in Texas in April but due to the drought there this
 year, almost the only bluebonnets we saw were in gardens 
where they had gotten water by means other than rain.   

If you are ever near Austin, Texas, and you like gardening,
 you should take a trip to The Wildflower Center.

They have wonderful examples of how to use native 
wildflowers in fields and in gardens large and small.

The Display Garden section at the center shows that 
"whatever style garden you like, native plants provide the
 beauty, form, and texture you desire". 

The center teaches that native plants don't require as much
 water as conventional garden plants and thus saves our water resources.  Here are some examples from that area:

In very arid areas, a garden area could use texture and visual interest with sand and (something that looks like) sea glass
 (but I really don't know what it is exactly).

This was a mix a low-growing ground covers:

The center also had water features:

Even though I like to look at gardens, I don't do
 much gardening myself, so probably my favorite thing
 at the Wildflower Center was the beautiful use of 
native resources of logs and stone work there in 
the colonnades, buildings, and other structures.

                    My favorite structure was an observation tower. 
It featured a stairwell that had some treads on the 
interior and some treads on the exterior.

There were plants growing along the staircase and 
along the top wall at the top of the tower.


      Hopefully, you will find something in these pictures to inspire
       you in your garden no matter how large or small it may be. 


April 22, 2011

More Grass Centerpieces

Here are more ideas for ways to use the fun (to watch grow)
and economical (only pennies each) grass centerpieces.
 The original post about how to grow the grass can be found by clicking this link
 I recently grew a batch of 30 grass centerpieces for an event.
They still looked great even after the event,
 so I got to use them in other fun ways pictured below.

Well, this is not officially a centerpiece since it is on my
 mantle but the same idea could be used on a table.
Amazingly the roots of the mature grass intertwine and keep the soil from falling off
when the grass is taken out of the container. To water the grass to keep it from dying,
you just put it back in the original growing container every few days and water well. 

I used a layer of cork to protect the mantle from the
 moistness of the grass out of its container but
 if you are going  to grow your grass in an attractive 
container, you would not have to do this.

I put skinny candles already in a glass holder 
(from Dollar Tree) directly on top of the square of 
grass and pushed it down a little until it was level.

Since the event was in the first part of April, 
I got to use the grass as if it were Easter
grass in some instances but I think the grass looks good
 any time in the spring and summer.

In other information I have read on growing grass for centerpieces, it says that you can grow the grass in large containers and then cut the grass sod to fit in the container you want to use. I wanted to
try this as an experiment to see if it works.
Ummmm...maybe I did something wrong but mine was a muddy mess on the sides.

I guess my lesson from this is that if you are going to cut the grass to fit in a prettier container, make sure it is not see-through. 
 (You could GROW the grass in a glass container  if you don't mind seeing the roots or a piece of ribbon  or scrapbook paper could be added to the outside of the glass to hide the roots from view.)

From that little experiment, I had a square of grass
 with a hole in the middle. 

I threw away the muddy mess, cleaned the glass container,
 and put a chunky candle in it. To protect the table, I put the whole thing on a 1/2" thick piece of cork from another project.

Here is the same set up but with river rocks around
 the base of the grass.
This covers up the roots somewhat if you don't like 
the look of them without a container.

The whole idea of growing the grass to NOT be in a container came from a picture I saw where a floral designer used the live grass on river rocks only (no container) down the center of a table.
Here is my try at that:
If you try this, be aware that you need to put rocks underneath the entire patch of grass
to protect the table (or hide something waterproof underneath it all).

Here are a couple of instances where I did try to cut the grass to fit non-transparent containers. Since the containers were deeper than my grass, I packed them with plastic bags to make the grass the correct height.

You can even add flowers directly to the grass.  Mums, daisies, and other hearty flowers will last about 12 hours without wilting
 (if they not in a hot area).  

Water picks could be stuck into the dirt if you 
 would like to use something more delicate like roses, etc. 

Here is another illustration of mums stuck directly into the dirt. 

This patch of grass was cut to fit in an old "silver" container I got at a yard sale. I tried to make myself think it looked like a golf trophy
to illustrate how you might use the grass centerpiece idea at a golfing event.

If that looks more like "the rough" to you than a green,
 you cut trim the grass with scissors

The grass will not last AS long as it would if it were
 still in its growing container but it lasted
better than I thought it would.  

Instead of watering the grass from a pitcher, I just spritzed
it well (away from wood furniture, of course) every day.

I know this post is getting too long, but if you want to see the growing grass process
 for the above grass squares and the event they were originally used for read on...

The event was a kick-off dinner for a baseball league for handicapped folks called "Miracle League".

I started the grass three weeks before the event. 
 I already had the grass seed so every
thing else I needed (including the potting soil!) 
came from Dollar Tree.

Because I was planning on the squares of grass being used
without any container at the event, I just used disposable
aluminum pans to grow the grass seeds in since they will 
not be on the table at the dinner.

I usually end up putting a thin layer of potting soil on top 
of the seeds which are spread only one seed deep but 
completely covering the base layer of potting soil.  

Here are the seed squares planted.
Since the weather was warm enough, I had these outside
most of the time. I had to bring them in the house at night
a few times when it got colder or it was raining. 

Encouraging signs of life at about 10 days 
after planting...

At the end of three weeks, they looked like this...
...loaded in the car and ready to go party. 

Other elements of the centerpieces included a 13"
cardboard baseball (I ordered off the internet),
 and cork  squares to protect the tablecloths from
 the (as dry as possible) dirt and roots.

To personalize the baseball for the event, I printed out
 "Rooftop Friends" (the name of the group sponsoring
 the league)  "welcomes Miracle League" on a full-page
 clear label computer paper and stuck it on the baseball.

The cardboard baseball was too wobble-y to stand up in 
the grass by itself so I painted the tops of craft and
skewer sticks white (to make them less noticeable) and
 glued them onto the cardboard to make it stand up straight. 


  Most of the cork came from rolls of thin cork 
from Hobby Lobby. The rolls were cut into squares to 
mimic a baseball diamond. Then scrapbook paper strips
were glued on to represent the base lines.  

I ran out of the thinner roll of cork but found squares
of thicker cork at Michael's to finish up the centerpieces.
  The thick cork was actually MUCH better
 (but it was more expensive).

Thin cork base

Thick cork base

Tom Kat is always a good helper when I get into a time
 crunch (which happens a lot).

After the event, we put the grass squares back in
 their little aluminum holders and gave them a good watering. 
After using them in other applications (some of which are 
at the first of this post) they lasted about 5 weeks total. 

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