Tag Archives: Gardening

Plans for Making Ceramic Sundials

I was talking to my husband, Mark, about the idea of making my own sundial. We couldn’t think of any reason why I could not be able to make one out of clay, if I took care with the planning and design. I looked into sites about making homemade sundials and it seems it is something I would be able to do. In How to Build a Sundial That Keeps Time, author Brian Airman carefully outlines what one must do.  What he says could be applied to a disc of clay. I think I would like to make a mock-up, first, then transfer the measurements to clay. While I was checking out the British Sundial Society, I clicked on some site links. I was intrigued by Sundials on the Internet, in particular, as it clued me in to the fact that I needed to do a little more research. Apparently, calculations must be done to figure out what is called true solar noon. (Whenever I’m investigating something, I never cease to be amazed at how many new terms I learn!) So, from that last site, I moved to this one: Print Your Solar Noon Calendar. The site states that “the time of solar noon depends on the Equation of Time and on the difference in longitude between your location and the standard meridian of the time zone you are in.” It continues to explain that “it is slightly different for every day of the year,” but that their “calculator will provide you with a table showing the exact time of solar noon for your location for each day of the year.” I did not know about solar noon, other than calling it high noon, until was till I starting delving into this sundial business, but solar noon, according to Wikipedia, “is the moment the sun appears highest in the sky.” So, I can make any sundial I want, but I am going to have to line it all up with solar noon for my area when I get to that point. And that is fine, as I have plotted latitude and longitude on many maps. I will also need to know how to set up a sundial, by finding True North. I realize that this is putting the cart before the horse, but I do like knowing all the elements of a project before I begin. One of the trickiest aspects will be making the numbers. I will have to decide if I want to use Roman numerals, which are classic for sundials. They can be molded, as with sprigging, or carved, incised, stamped or made with cookie cutters. Here is a Roman numeral converter, by the way. Once I’ve made my sundial, I can embed it with cement or grout, place it on the top of a pedestal or deck ledge. One thing is for certain…if I want a year ’round sundial, it will have to be glazed, otherwise it would crack.There are still many things to consider, but I’m convinced it’s workable and I’m going to come up with a design and get to work on it.


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The distinct charm of a Secret Garden

The Secret Garden book cover. From The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett via Wikimedia Commons

“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Great Maytham Hall Garden, said to be the inspiration for “The Secret Garden.” By Stephen Nunney via Wikimedia

The secret garden described by Frances Hodgson Burnett exists only in our imagination. I consider this a good thing. It means we can become inspired by this vision of perfection but will never succumb to comparison with our own real-life examples. How could we ever live up to it? But, beyond that, just what is a secret garden, anyway? To me, a secret garden is  an untouched canvas, an area

  •  that is overlooked but nearby,
  •  a green space you make your own, one which has your personal stamp on it
  •  that already has foliage, flowers, bushes, and trees in and around it
  •  which may or may not have water features…bird baths, fountains, etc.
  •  in which you will add furnishings, statuary, garden art, plantings
  •  within which you develop a particular theme, tone, or mood,
  •  walls or natural barriers that make it difficult to find or enter
  •  which is a refuge or getaway

My mini-Secret Garden in a sweet, out of the way nook: ferns, mosses, large stones, and the giant mushroom I made last year.

Several years ago, I began creating a secret garden at the top of our property, in amongst the deciduous trees and understory. It still exists but I didn’t finish it because the area is now the domain of our neighborhood bears. It made me sad to give it up but I didn’t particularly want a surprise encounter with a bear while I was lounging in my hammock.  The fact is, though, a secret garden can be made anywhere, if you put in a little effort. For instance, today, I noticed that a secret garden had formed unbeknownst to me right outside my front door, to the left a bit. It lies to the right of the stairs that wind past an arbor and up the hill. This year, it’s all overgrown, as it’s an area I worked on earlier in the season and not since. It does indeed qualify as a shady Secret Garden. It’s also a moss garden and in it sits the big amanita muscaria mushroom I made last year, a good luck symbol according to German folklore.

Another secret garden - geograph.org.uk - 417484

Another secret garden Doorway into the garden of the Old Rectory, near Cynwyd. From geograph.org.uk, by Eirian Evans via Wikimedia Commons

Unless you already know about the elements of Secret Gardens, you probably want to know more. Well, there are plenty of resources online and it helps to become inspired by landscape designers and gardeners who have experience. According to Garden Guides’ “Secrets to an Almost Instant Secret Garden,” your first consideration is deciding how big your garden will be and whether it will be part of a larger area. Author Carol Wallace says, “You may be shocked at the very idea of dividing up what may already be a pretty small space, but trust me – your garden will actually seem larger if you create separate ‘rooms’ in it.”  Privacy is your next concern. Just how you shield your Secret Garden is a subject that is widely addressed in all the sources I read. Wallace talks about ways to do this, too, stating that you can rely on “either lattice, fencing or shrubs with a ‘door’ leading to the rest of the garden.” Classic secret gardens in Europe have often been created within the confines of an actual wall, as shown in the photograph above, however, yours can rely on “green” walls.

Secret garden sp

A breach in a wall in Vila Madalena. By Jeanjmgs via Wikimedia Commons

Elspeth Thompson, of the Telegraph, wrote an article about such getaways, too. In “Creating your own Secret Garden,” she describes how strongly she was affected by the book The Secret Garden:“It remains one of my favourite books to this day” and “that notion of secrecy, mystery and enclosure is still, for me, a vital ingredient of my ideal garden.” She suggests using curving paths in larger gardens to keep people guessing about what’s around the corner. “The key is not to give away all your garden’s secrets at first glance.” Thompson has advice about small spaces, too. I like her idea of using a “a panel of woven willow” because I had been thinking about making something with twigs myself. She also describes creating a tiny space reached by walking through an arch. What a lovely idea! While it is true that none of the articles I read talked about ceramics or even clay statuary, that shouldn’t bother us too much. It’s all about making something that has the elements that appeal to us personally, so we can place our own creations as we wish, along with those of others that we’ve collected along the way!

Our hydrangea bush bloomed this week! It is so lovely and would make a wonderful addition to a Secret Garden. Periwinkle centers and deep lavender petals.



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Make a bumblebee nest from a flower pot

— Last year, I posted this story too late to make a difference, so I promised myself I’d publish it soon enough to be of use this year! Start collecting your dryer lint! A big thank you to Thomas Winther for his links below…

My neighbor, Jean, likes bees and when I am around her, I like to hear of her ‘bee adventures.’ She is also my ‘go-to’ person whenever I have a question about bees. Two years ago, she told me how to make a bumblebee nest using a flower pot. Based on what she said, I immediately started saving dryer lint, which she uses as nesting material inside the upside down pot. Since I posted about toad homes yesterday, this is a natural for today. I saw my first bumblebee quite early in the year and I was surprised to see it, as we’re having the coldest spring here in 55 years. So, as I walked up my stairs to my house on the hill, I nearly ran into a very big bumblebee motoring along slowly over the landing by our mailbox. I nearly ran into it. Then I looked to the left and saw other bees dotted all over the dark pink of the blooming heather. I wrote to Jean right away, asking her when to put out my nest. She said, “Now!” Well, I became ill and wasn’t able to do it then, but can now. I decided to look into the idea a little more and have some lovely sites to direct you toward for particulars. I’ll be reading them, too, as I only know you use an upside down pot and lint for stuffing. What I’ve seen so far looks promising and I am sure there is a bumblebee out there somewhere who will move into the abode I’ve prepared for it. The bumblebee is an important pollinator and its slow sojourns take it over quite a territory. If you want to attract more bumblebees, grow plants they like. Click here to read a great article about gardening for bees that includes a chart telling you which plants attract bees. And what post about bumblebees would be complete without Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”? Below these links is a video of Croatian Maksim Mrvica’s thrilling version!

How to build a bumblebee nest – part 1 – a how-to about building the nest

How to build a bumblebee nest – part 2 – a how-to about nesting material and placing your nest

Plans for bumblebee nestboxes – how to plus diagrams

How to make a bumblebee nest – the BBC gardening site’s how-to

Join our nest box trial… – the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s how-to…includes several types

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New life for your cracked pottery

I heard the bowl break before I realized what happened. I was lifting a tile to put it up on a shelf; it slipped out of my fingers and crashed in the sink, smashing a bowl (no damage to the tile). Deb made that bowl and it was the one I liked the best. Darn. When it happened, I thought @#&%?!! I considered gluing it back together but thought ‘What can I do with a glued bowl?” A mug can be a pencil jar, but a bowl? Serendipity intervened today in the form of a lovely idea, however. I can still enjoy Deb’s bowl in a new incarnation. My neighbor told me about Maria’s yard a few years ago and I was reminded today. Maria, who has a ceramic studio in her garage, has lovely flower gardens into which she has placed broken and chipped pottery. They aren’t placed haphazardly…she’s put thought into the placement. So, Deb’s bowl will be reborn as yard art. Since I saw Maria’s pottery yard art, I’ve seen other examples. Sometimes I’ll find a yard that has a pretty tea cup placed in the ground at an angle. In some yards it stands alone, in others, someone’s placed a little plant inside and let it spread beyond the cup as ground cover. A charming idea, if done right. I can think of pieces I wish I’d kept so I could’ve used them this way… So, broken pottery can be decorative, can be used as plant pots, or, as shown in the photo below, they can be used for borders. Such a lovely idea…reminiscent of an English country garden.

Chipped plate border. Source: MJIphotos on Flickr


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