Making a garden transformation

2016-05-01 17.21.39There were several steps to our recent garden transformation.

  1. Create a mood board in pinterest for inspiration
  2. Share with our landscape person to get help with clean up and structure
  3. Add focal elements and features to match our taste
  4. Get plants, pots and trellises
  5. Acquire some additional garden sculpture
  6. Replace old chairs on our deck

Admittedly, we had some landscaping help with the beginning of the task. Weeds were cleared, weed barrier put in place, gravel and river rock added, and a rock or two were migrated from various parts of our property. All things that appeared beyond either our energy, or our collective ability to lift.

When we bought the house eleven years ago, there were many plants already in place. Some of those were to our taste, though others were not. We struggled with a rhododendron just inside the gate that failed to be lovely. Whatever wee beastie that was eating it made it look like it had mange. The fern next to the farm-style water spigot managed to hide it, but had gotten a little unwieldy, and grass seeds had propagated. A pile of gravel left over from another project had half migrated to the area, along with bulbs left by the squirrels. In its favor, the sweep of the path down to the lovely magnolia, provided a good structural element. However, none of that was helped by the state of disarray. Enter the landscaper.

Sadly, while good work was done in cleaning up and preparing the space, we failed to connect on the design having some variation of scale and a focal point. We wanted a suggestion of a river bed on the downward slope between the path and the fence, curving down to our fabulous tree. We did get some of that, however, all the scale was knee height or below. The space was crying out for some focus, some greenery, and some love. This brought us to this weekend.

2016-05-01 17.23.42 HDRDuring the week, I ordered a couple of garden sculptures online. A couple of metal cranes, some temple pagodas and a nice little cairn of rocks. We put those to one side and started moving around existing materials like pots of grasses, bamboo poles, a peaceful statue and some bricks and rocks. Turned out we really could move that stuff ourselves. One of the pots was too large, but round. When turned on its side, it rolled nicely. That let us get it into place without doing ourselves a mischief. It moved in front of an electrical outlet standing in the middle of the yard (it needed hidden). We placed some more pots to frame the statue, scattered a wandering path of black river rocks and headed for the craft store for inspiration.

2016-05-01 17.22.44 HDRBags of tumbled blue and clear glass followed the meandering path of black rocks, pooled in a couple of places and burbled down the hillside, catching the light as if it was water. Now we had our suggestion of a creek bed. It didn’t need to be exact.

That left us with an area on the other side of the courtyard that was now empty. We 2016-05-01 17.21.24cleaned up, sweeping up leaves and detritus. Making use of a couple concrete pavers, plus a couple of rocks, we built up a tumble of stones in the middle of that area. A peacock statue that was living in the entry foyer of the house migrated outside to sit upon the rocks. After a trip to the garden store, a maidenhair fern and a lacey green plant joined the peacock. A blue fescue moved alongside, together with a couple strands of solar powered lights.

We are looking forward to a lovely summer in our restful courtyard.

2016-05-01 17.20.55 HDR


The scent of relaxation

Scent and memory

Do you remember the smell of baking in the kitchen, the rich aroma of fresh bread and the tantalizing spices from holiday meals? These are scents you will often find in candles and oil diffusers. It is no secret that scent and memory are connected, and the scents that remind us of home or safety vary from person to person. For me, the sharp citrus tang of oranges reminds me of summers from my childhood. Somehow summer equals oranges. Together with the lemon of my grandmother’s furniture polish, combined with the heavier fragrance of sandalwood and cedar, the spicy sweet frangipani and gardenia wafting in from the garden, these are the smells of home. Weekends added the dusty, sharp, resinous aromas of the Australian bush and the salt and seaweed wrack from the beach.

Nowadays, I burn sandalwood incense near the front door, use gardenia bath products, and keep apple and citrus guest soaps handy. In the winter, I like to keep mulled wine on the stove, and all year around I cook curries that keep the whole house fragrant with aromatic spices. The scents help me remember the good things.

About aromatherapy

Aromatherapy makes use of a variety of scents to change moods, to alter surroundings, or to craft a specific kind of atmosphere in a space. Beginning to work with aromatherapy can be as simple as using scented candles, or as complex as blending custom scents for every area of your life and home. I like to take an approach where I research the herbs and plants, and then make my own blends. Then I can change them as the mood takes me.

Spreading the aroma through the house

An incense burner can be a terrific way to spread the scent through a room. However, if smoke bothers you, it is easy to use the essential oil directly with an oil diffuser. There are handy ones that plug into a wall socket and do not require open flame. There are also really pretty glass, brass or ceramic ones that float the oil on water and heat the oil via a votice candle underneath a small dish that sits on top of the diffuser. This works much the same way as heating brandy to release the full flavor.

Some thoughts for playing with oils

  • For calming end-of-day relaxation, try jasmine and cedarwood, lavender and sage.
  • For subtle changes in atmosphere, try light pear, vanilla or sandalwood candles.
  • To become more energized, add some citrus scents like grapefruit, orange or lemon.
  • If you want to sharpen your thoughts, try some lemongrass, peppermint or carnation.

Blending your own scents

The main thing to keep in mind if you are going to blend your own scents is that you want essential oils rather than fragrance oils, as these are extracted from natural sources like plants, roots, fruits and flowers. They do not have additives that weaken the scent. Scents that traditionally come from animal sources such as musk and civit are now available as synthetics at a reasonable price; a plus is that this eliminates the element of animal cruelty that was associated with the animal based products. Win.

When blending the scent, you need a base, middle and top note

  • Base note – the scent that lingers for the longest, and is the foundation of the scent
  • Middle note – the body of the blend, or the main scent that gives the character
  • Top note – the lightest scent that you notice first

There are scents that fall into categories such as herbs, spices, alpine flowers, tropical flowers, resins, gums, roots, fruits and seeds. Some complex blends include elements from multiple categories, while most simple compounds may use two or three elements to combine into a single fragrance.

Testing a sample fragrance blend

To begin, select a couple of oils that you like, and using a separate fresh toothpick for each bottle, put a drop of each of your chosen oils onto a piece of blotting paper, next to each other. Wave the blotting paper a couple of inches away from your face and when you breathe in, you will be able to perceive how the scents work together. Do you like it? does it need more of one or the other? If so, add one more drop of the fragrance you want to increase. Does it need anything else? Try adding another fragrance to the mix, one drop at a time. Write down how many drops of which essential oils you use as you go. This becomes the basis of your recipe.

Making the final blend

Take a look at your notes and see what the proportions are from your test. If you have three drops of sandalwood, two drops of jasmine and two drops of vanilla, then your proportions are 3:2:2. I usually add a mixture in increments of 1 part = 5 drops, so the three drops of sandalwood would become 15 drops with an eyedropper, two drops of jasmine becomes 10 drops, and two drops of vanilla becomes 10 drops. I put this into a glass bottle with an eye dropper, shake it to mix together and then decide if I like it once I have this quantity. I repeat the process (always using a separate dropper for each essential oil to avoid contaminating the main bottles, until I have a full bottle of my blend.

Diffusing fragrance in a room

If I have made a scent and now want to diffuse it through the room, I can add a couple of drops of my mixture to a diffuser and light a candle under it. I can add the mixture to a special sponge/blotter and insert that into a plug-in diffuser. I can also dilute the mixture and use an atomizer to spray it around the room. If I choose the latter, I add it to purified water. To use it as a perfume, I may add it to ethyl alcohol, and to use as a massage oil or perfume oil, I may add the mixture to pure almond or jojoba oil.

Sources for essential oils

Go to and search for essential oils, or go to and do the same thing. Both will turn up lots of places where you can order small kits (6 oils), medium (12-24 oils) or large full sets of 64 oils. Personally, I love kits, so this is the route I recommend. You can also find essential oils at vitamin places, bookshops or massage supply locations.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Leave the work day behind

Putting on the work clothes in the morning is part of getting ready for the day; likewise, changing clothes at the end of the day tells me that I can put down the things of the day, walk away from the email, and pick up a book. Another part of the evening ritual is hanging up the jewelry and grabbing my comfy PJs. Sometimes that needs to be delayed until after dinner, if dinner is waiting for me when I get home, but sooner or later, it’s hot tub and shower, PJs and a nice cup of tea.

Then I can settle down on the couch and chat about news of the world with my sweetie. Recently, there was a great story in Scientific American about creative folks; we passed it around during the day, after a chum posted it to facebook, and I sent it along home as well. We got a big kick out of scientific study that shows we creative types are eccentric for a reason. Here is the link about the Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric.

Kicking back and chatting about the things we’ve discovered in the world that day renews that creativity, and encourages me to get out my creative tools and make jewelry, or create a blog entry or two.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

15 minute vacation

From Metten (

A mini vacation practice is to take 15 minutes a day to reflect and be still. Leave the phone behind, take a walk away from the desk, and find somewhere with a view. Look at nature, take deep breaths, and allow the world to pass by.

While not everyone likes to meditate formally, the art of mindful day-dreaming is a great way to relax and renew your spirit. For me, I like to let the eye wander, rather than focusing on any one thing.

I like to look at rocks and tree formations, and notice the patterns, whorls, and imperfections that create variation in form and texture. This is something I can do near my office; there is a garden with rocks and trees in a somewhat random pattern. Across from the office, there’s a water feature as well, and I often watch the sky reflected in the water, together with the breeze making tiny ripples. You may prefer to look at flowers, or watch people as they wander past. Try it and see how much more relaxed you feel.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved