Improvised Life » garden If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DIY: Carefree Garden in a Bottle Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:00:32 +0000

On Easter Sunday of 1960, David Latimer planted a seed in a glass bottle out of pure curiosity. He had no idea that it would flourish into a mass of greenery that would thrive untouched for several decades. Over half a century later, the sealed bottle garden is a wonder of lush plant life, despite having been watered only once in all that time. Not knowing it, Latimer created a terrarium of extraordinary complexity. Depending on the bottle you choose, bottle gardens can look like living sculptures. (more…)

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A Mirrored Fence to Reflect the Landscape Wed, 12 Mar 2014 20:03:19 +0000

Jeremy L. Thompson

Spring is definitely coming —we just saw some hopeful shoots coming up in the park — and we’re more than ready for warm weather and enjoying the outdoors NOT all bundled up.  Alison Schotz‘ ‘Mirror Fence” installation at Storm King fuels that dream: a picket fence that mirrors whatever is around it.

Although we don’t know the actual practical reality of a mirrored fence, we love the beauty reflected here. (more…)

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Shopping Cart Lawn Chair/Lounger Thu, 27 Feb 2014 00:00:10 +0000

Mike Bouchet and Nathalie Karg / Cumulus Studios

The supermarket shopping cart has always seemed to us to be a splendid raw material, its metal-grid walls and sturdy wheels rich with possibilities. Artist Mike Bouchet figured out how to transform it into a moderne, beautifully-designed object of leisure. (more…)

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Hanging Out/Reading Spots Indoors and Out Mon, 10 Feb 2014 21:00:21 +0000

Lately, we find ourselves collecting images of interesting spaces for hanging out: nests of various kinds both indoors and out. We view these little improvisied spaces as mini vacations —a transporting place to read and dream… (more…)

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air plant hanging sculptures, still-life objets, gifts UPDATE Mon, 23 Sep 2013 17:27:02 +0000 Gentl and Hyers

Gentl and Hyers

We were browsing our old friends’ Gentl and Hyers Portfolio site when we came upon some lovely images of air plants in a stylish bedroom. They are from Bring the Outdoors In: Garden Projects for Decorating and Styling Your Home//, photographed, we’ve discovered,  in a mutual friend’s country home, and styled by Shane Powers. The air plants are cleverly attached to fishing filament, so they appear to just hang in the air. LOOK AT THAT, we thought, like a fab little living sculpture.

Then we googled ‘air plants’ to find out more about them, see if this lovely display was do-able and how, exactly, air plants work. Also known as epiphytes, they need no soil because water and nutrients are absorbed through the leaves. The roots are used as anchors only. That’s the reason why you can tie the roots with fishing filament to hang the plants. (more…)

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cultivating gardens real and imaginary Thu, 05 Sep 2013 08:21:04 +0000
The New Yorker

The New Yorker

Rooftop gardens are still blooming in cities everywhere. No matter how small or large our gardens, or how large or small we gardeners, we all share a farmer’s joys and vicissitudes, so delightfully illlustrated in this New Yorker cover by Ivan Brunetti entitled “Urban Bliss”.
Poet Marianne Moore observed that poetry cultivates “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Kay Ryan seconds the motion in “The Best of It”, a potent little poem about the valiant efforts we can’t seem to help but make… to grow. (more…)
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best of il: diy plant watering globes Wed, 14 Aug 2013 20:04:39 +0000

In tandem with Anthony Giglio’s summer sparkling wine recommendations, it seems fitting to reprise the idea we published a couple of years ago: using water or wine bottles as plant watering globes. These are simply inverted bottles that you fill with water and slam into the moist soil of a containered plant; they will slowly trickle water into your plant’s roots, a great solution for watering plants while you’re out of town for the weekend or just busy.

We first saw the idea in a post at Radmegan: In Words and Pictures.  Crafty blogger Megan described improvising watering globes out of glass Coke bottles and Martinelli Cider bottles (see her images below)

We wondered: why use an ugly bottle with a label when there are so many beautiful glass bottles to be had? Why not figure out some pleasing-to-look at solutions? (more…)

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diy window boxes and planters: modern to rustic Mon, 24 Jun 2013 17:05:55 +0000 julie houston

julie houston

Julie Houston, whose home reno we posted last week, sent us this image of the clever window box she made using some of Hurricane Sandy’s twig debris, glued onto plywood frames (made to order by her husband). It came just as we’ve been collecting images of the various diy planters we’ve spotted around town.


Our local rough-and-tumble garden center is selling planters made from deconstructed shipping pallets, an endlessly improvisable material. (We love the multi-tiered pallet planter posted last year.) (more…)
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solar-powered moon lanterns for summer nights Wed, 19 Jun 2013 18:36:08 +0000 lanterns 3 pearlessenceshop

Installing hardwired, outdoor lighting can be a big, expensive, all-too-often unaesthetic hassle, forcing you to put lights where you really don’t want them, and use commercially produced fixtures that are less than enchanting. One elegant, inexpensive solution is solar lanterns.

My favorites are Allsop‘s faux Japanese shoji solar lanterns available in a rainbow of lightweight polyester that mimics silk. Hang them anywhere outdoors where they receive at least 6 hours of sunlight on the small solar cells located on the top. They begin to glow as soon as dusk falls, and continue until around 4:00 am, when they slowly wink out, one by one.

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improvised stacked stone benches and a secret circle Thu, 13 Jun 2013 23:21:06 +0000 Pat Brodie

Pat Brodie

Landscape Designer Pat Brodie recently sent us pictures of her very cool stacked stone bench inspired by a passing vision:

I was at the stone yard with my client looking at stones for her garden when we saw stones randomly stacked on a pallet and I noticed that it was suggestive of a sofa. We purchased the pallet but of course when we got it to the site we had to reinvent the stacking and came up with this very comfortable seat. It makes me laugh. 

We LOVE the massive, primal, very inviting bench (with foot rest!)  AND the way it came about.


Brodie also devised a clever seat built into a retaining wall. (more…)
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why the fermob tertio table is worth every penny Mon, 10 Jun 2013 17:59:53 +0000 Tertio Pedestal Table by Fermob

A few weeks ago, we wrote about our bistro table hunt, and our dilemma whether to go with the name brand Fermob or a cheap knock-off. While we weighed the pros and cons of each as well as our reader’s thoughtful comments, we periodically surfed the net to see what other possibilities or info we might find to inform our decision. THAT led to the discovery of the perfect table AND of other considerations in the name brand vs. knockoff debate, namely customer service and resale value.

In a Google search, a Fermob Bistro table up popped we hadn’t see before: a stylish, 3-legged folding table the looked like mid-century one we coveted years ago. We called The Garden Gates, whose ad featured the table, to ask if it came in a matte white finish. Yep.

H-m-m…maybe THIS was our answer: a well-made table that would look great indoors as well as out, would last for years, be a worthwhile investment.  We hung up to mull the decision and called back a while later to buy one.

Steven in customer service was silent for a second. “Oh. Uh. That color will take two months to get from France”, he said. Our heart sank. We’d forgotten THAT part of buying Fermob: only a few colors are actually stocked in the U.S; most have to be ordered from France.

“Darn”, we said. “That stymies things. The table won’t arrive until late summer”.

“Well”, said Steven, “we could loan you a table until the one you want comes.” (more…)

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fab diy outdoor clawfoot hot tub Thu, 23 May 2013 17:50:00 +0000 houzz clawfoot hot tub 1

I see these outdoor junkyard tubs featured here and there, but I liked the rustic simplicity of this one, from a diy featured at Houzz: salvage transformed into elemental luxury.

We had one years ago on our back deck in Malibu. I found an old tub for $5 in a junk yard with a flaking ocean scene painted on the rusty sides. I bought a rubber stopper for a dollar,propped it up up on a couple of bricks to level it, and filled it with a garden hose. Helluva a lot cheaper than a hot tub. Or a real pool. No humming filters burning electricity day and night, no chemicals. In fact, no plumbing at all! When we pulled the plug, we watered the surrounding trees.


Everybody loved it. (more…)
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a shift of view yields a ready-made tree trunk chair Thu, 23 May 2013 08:24:40 +0000 Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

While walking in the park across the way, I passed a tree stump left behind after Hurricane Sandy. Overwhelmed with fallen trees, the Parks Department had done their best to remove the huge tree bodies with chain saws that struggled against massive trunks; the cuts were often roughly-made or incomplete like this one: a tusk was left protruding from the akimbo trunk.  I’d walked by it dozens of times and never seen the possibility that had been right in front of me all the time. I had only to turn our head at an angle to see, ready-made, a chair. (more…)

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bistro table hunt: name brand or knock-off? Wed, 22 May 2013 19:06:40 +0000 bistro table comparison

Recently, we went looking for a 24-inch round metal bistro table for our Harlem terrace and hit a dilemma: whether to buy the pricey classic Fermob table (top photo), made in France, (THE table used in many public spaces), whose durable finish we’ve tested in the guise of a rectangular table we’ve stored outdoors for 2 years OR

a good-looking knockof (bottom photo),  made in China and $100 cheaper. It’s 2 pounds lighter, a concern due to the high winds up here, and we have no idea how the finish would hold-up, or how it  looks in person as opposed to a photograph. If it looked cheesey or flimsy, sending it back would be expensive. On the other hand, Terrain, the store that sells it guarantees it for a year. Reviews we read for other Fermob knock-offs complain of easily-scratchable powder coating and flimsy construction. Terrain claims their matte, powder-coated finish is really durable.

Part of our improvised life is making the most of our money, and we LOVE finding less expensive routes to well-designed stuff. It’s a personal challenge we find immensely gratifying WHEN we succeed. But we’ve learned the hard way that going cheap can often be expensive (more…)

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