Decorating · Furniture · Gardening · Paint jobs · Thrifting and antiquing

Zen and the art of living room decorating

Let’s see here… much of the last few days have been garden-related, so let’s start there.

Today the Walmart in Langford had their summer bulbs selection out, and I might have gone a bit nutso. Just a bit.

But I have white-edged purple calla lilies, double stargazer lilies, an assortment of white and pink lilies, coral/pink/purple gladiolus, pink/white dahlias, pink/white dicentra… and I forget what else, but I think my flower garden is now stocked between bulbs, shrubs, perennials, and this year’s annual seeds, many of which will self-seed so I don’t have to buy them again. All I need are spring bulbs which I’ll pick up in September.

It’s possible that I might have too much for the front cottage garden, but meh… my lot is 60′ wide and I eventually want almost no grass in the back, so that just means in between the 12′ deep veggie patch on the north side and the 16′ deep zen garden that will be going in on the south side I can put in some flower islands in the lawn, lol…

Which means more tarps for a couple months.

And now I have to figure out a cool safe spot for my summer bulbs to hang out until after the last frost which is usually in early April.

Oh yeah, the Zen garden…

I’ve always loved Japanese and Chinese gardens, and started thinking about maybe having a little Zen corner somewhere. And I’ve figured out where it can go, just to the west of my palm tree. It’ll be bigger than I thought, roughly 16×15 to 25 with an irregular shape.

And I have most of the plants for it other than one or two Japanese maples and I won’t get ornamental cherries but I will get a couple dwarf fruiting cherries later in the spring which I’ll plant just outside the Japanese garden.

Which probably won’t be a Zen garden per se since to do that well you need space for big rocks and gravel and I’d rather have a pond and more plants.

Plan #1 from the other night:

I popped out to the Gardens at HCP in Saanich today to get some ideas from their Japanese garden, and decided instead of a more oval pond at the end, I’ll make a more barbell-shaped one with a little bridge over the middle.


Maybe I won’t even bother with a pond but will just have a shallow container bubbler and some rocks as a dry stream bed thing. Dunno. Digging a pond would involve digging out a bunch of soil I can then hump up elsewhere in the Japanese garden to make a little landscape, though.

I’ll also screen it off from the rest of the yard with a screen/fence and then have an arbour to enter, probably with some wisteria growing on it. Here’s a couple pics I took at HCP today with ideas I might steal:

The idea is to make it like a room within the garden. Kinda like a surprise.

I also plan to build a gazebo next to it, the diagram shows it as an octagon, but I think it’ll be a rectangle instead.

So, the plants so far:

Gingko biloba.


Japanese black pine, yew, and a cypress.

I could have sworn the cypress tag said it grew 18″ high but low and behold, it goes to 18′. Sorta the Spinal Tap Stonehenge thing in reverse.

That’s way too big for the space I have, and I wanted a low weeper. There was another variety in the same area that I think did stay under 3′ high, so I’ll go back and get it on the weekend, but this guy isn’t a lost cause.

Enter bonsai and another inspiration from HCP (though I had a hunch about this last night that I googled the specific variety of cypress with bonsai and it seems people do bonsai these):

The tag says this variety grows to over 120 feet tall in the wild, and the bonsai is almost 50 years old, but is about 2 feet tall.

I’m going to try to bonsai this fella and see how he takes to it. Then he can live in the gazebo, lol.

I’d already gotten a baby boulevard cypress with a notion to bonsai it, so now I’ll have two experiments. And I signed up for a bonsai class at HCP along with watching a bunch of YouTube videos.

Other garden stuff: I did some light pruning on what I could reach on the big Japanese maple in my front yard and knocked off some deadwood. I’ll need a ladder to get more on it, though I may well get an arbourist to thin it out this time and I’ll maintain it from there. The magnolia could use some similar TLC but that’s definitely a job for an arbourist.

I also put up 3 insect houses on my north fence (they’re about 6′ apart):

And I stuck up a couple lizards on the side of the house on my patio:

I also laid down a 12×16′ tarp next to the other 8×12″ tarped area to fatten up the veggie patch:

And then there was de-branching the bottoms of the evergreen hedge that blocks the view from the patio, or at least the starting of that:

I honestly don’t think that this is going to work. I think it’s gonna be ugly and since what I want is a screen with flowering vines, it’s better to just get Dad to bring the chainsaw and take them down so I can put up a trellis screen and plant my winter jasmine, clematis, and honeysuckle and be done with it. No sense trying to save it… though I may well carry on with the debranching on the grounds that after Dad cuts them down I will have many long trunks that I can then reuse in my screening around the Japanese garden or for the uprights in the arbour entering it, in which case I have to take all the branches off anyway.

BTW: the lattice on the bottom is a screen that was by the previous owner’s existing small veggie patch. It got blown down in a windstorm last month, and for now I’m leaving it. I’ll probably re-use the pieces to screen the compost bins when I get them built in the back corner. Haven’t started that chore yet.

Oh, and I bought a couple peonies and planted one of them:

(Picture of the tag since right now the bud hasn’t even started back through the soil so a picture of the planting just looks like nothing.)

So that’s the outside work. Not bad considering I’ve been sick this week, but weirdly enough, I can breathe better out in the garden. Maybe the cold stops the snot, I dunno.

On the inside, I got a bunch of stuff put up in my living room. I took the main corner and made a double gallery wall with a bird theme, incorporating plaster plaques and framed shell birds I inherited from my grandmother, a giant peacock one I’ve had since I was a kid, a large Uzbek embroidery banner I got on eBay a couple years ago, a small peacock painted on a leaf that my brother brought me from India in the 90s, and some thrift store finds. I also have a swag lamp I thrifted, the antique oak table I’ve mentioned before which will go in the corner of my dining room, and the vintage chairs I’ve mentioned that will go in the mudroom/nook.

Oh, and clutter elsewhere, lol…

The silver candle sconces came from a thrift store (I since picked up some LED fake tapers), the pompom garland from Michael’s at Christmas.

Ignore the mess in the dining room, that will be sorted out in a week or so.

In the next corner by the door I decided to put up some assorted masks I have. There’s also an Indonesian wolf mask that isn’t there yet because I keep forgetting it bring it from my dad’s place.

All of the masks came from thrift stores except the sharp-toothed one on the right, which I got maybe 20 years ago at a pop-up kiosk at the mall in Richmond that had all sorts of exotic arts stuff of the sort one would find at one of those “fair trade” shops now. (The wolf mask also came from there, but like I said, it’s not up yet so no photos yet.)

And here you can get a peek at the next little corner… after all, it is Crafty ROCK Chick, right? Right.

More detail:

Guns N Roses Gibson poster came from eBay 4 or 5 years ago. I was gonna put it upstairs but then with the yellow in the rug and the yellow sheers I thought I should bring it down here instead. Ditto the Prima Donna LP cover (gotten from some Kickstarter thing a few years back and signed by the band… they’re a club band in LA that hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve) and the New York Dolls poster I bought from Sylvain Sylvain a few years ago. He’d posted on a Dolls Facebook group that he was doing a run of posters and would autograph them, and the price was reasonable so I got one, and years later it works perfectly in my living room.

A couple days later another eBay purchase came, this 1981 Rolling Stones tour postcard souvenir:

And I also got a cheesy early 80s Motley Crue mirror in just the right red and yellow color scheme, just have to get it in a new frame as this one is simply backed with cardboard and I don’t trust it to hold if I hang it up that way… should be up tomorrow or on the weekend above the Stones postcard.

I also have an Aerosmith backstage pass that I need to frame that can go next to the Stones postcard.

Lastly, I hung up a tealight chandelier I got at a tiny thrift store in Crofton:

I also bought a new glass insert for the front door because the current one is plain glass with ugly fake dividers, so no privacy. The previous owner solved that problem but putting on one of those privacy window films that mimics stained glass. It’s peeling and bubbling, and I’d rather have actual glasswork despite the pretty colors (the garden will supply the pretty colors in another month or two):

Hopefully Dad can help me install it tomorrow; in theory it’s a quick job as you unscrew the current insert (which I can probably use as part of a cold frame or something out in the garden) and pop it out, then pop in the new one and screw it in.

Moving on, I have a bunch of chairs and a small table I’m doing a layered distressed paint job on and I got the first coat done this evening in the same blue I did on my bathroom cabinets:

All of these came from thrift stores. The chairs were mostly 15 bucks a piece but I think one might have been 12 and another 8. The table was 30 bucks because Value Village is getting kinda steep, lol.

Now, the chairs were all bought for my dining room with the idea that they’d be mismatched but would go together. However, that one in the middle of the front row doesn’t go.

Sure, it has spindles like the rest and a mostly round shape, but it’s quite plain and a little stark.

Not happening.

However, I can put it in the spare room, so it will get a different third layer color than the others to pick up the orange touches I have in my spare room decor items. The table will house my record player and stereo in the living room, so it will get some red and yellow layers before a white top coat. The other chairs will get a dark green and then a medium green layer before their white top coat, and I guess the search continues for the 5th dining chair.

In more practical events, Dad replaced the hot water tank in the laundry room.

Tomorrow I hope to continue the furniture painting and then start on the spare room painting. Once the spare room painting is done, I have to start moving clutter (including the chairs once finished since I’ll want the paint to cure for a month before using them) up into there from the dining room and the family room so we can get some work done in those rooms.

I also have to doublecheck my front garden plan against the seeds, perennials, and bulbs I have and decide what needs to be edited and sent to the backyard.