Succulent ‘Seat Cushion’: Hypertufa DIY Planter

I have to say that hypertufa ‘seat cushions’ are my all time favourite DIY upcycle project for the garden! You may recall the chair we upcycled for our back garden and turned into a planter, but the hypertufa planter in that project was store bought. When we stumbled upon a discarded chair at the side of the road last week, hubs and I couldn’t wait to try making our own hypertufa planter from scratch for the first time!

At first glance, we both thought the chair was cast iron, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a plastic imitation. Hubs and I loaded it into the car; luckily we grabbed it before anyone else did!


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Add Some ‘Zen’ to Your Back Garden with a Water Feature

If you read my previous post on how to create a small water feature to add curb appeal to your front garden, you’ll know that we were just warming up for our next pond! That little pond in the front was just a practice run for this bigger one we built in our backyard:

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Low Maintenance Gardening (Part 1): Dry Creek Bed

When we finished installing a patio in our backyard, we were left with a lonely patch of grass in the back corner. It didn’t really make sense to get out a lawn mower every week to mow such a small area; not to mention how awkward it would be to maneuver it past our patio set! More importantly, not using electricity to cut the grass – or water to keep it green – was the sustainable way to go!

Our solution was to install a dry creek bed and rock garden to replace the grass (you’ll see how to build the rock garden in Part 2).  There’s nothing more rewarding than putting some sweat equity into building a sustainable garden when the outcome is this gorgeous!

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Create a Small Water Feature to Add Curb Appeal!

There’s nothing more calming than the tranquil sound of water trickling from a water feature and I can’t think of a better way to great guests to the house than having one right by the front door!

Now that Spring is here, it’s a great time to start thinking about adding some curb appeal by installing a pond. Ready made ponds are a great convenience. Here’s one we installed on one side of our front walkway. Following below is a complete tutorial with the lowdown on how we did it!

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Spring Forward – Building Trellises and Privacy Screens

Daylight savings time is only a few days away. With Spring on the horizon, I find myself thinking about outdoor projects! When you live in a suburban neighbourhood, where the houses are packed in like sardines, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of privacy.

If you build a trellis this spring, you could have a lush green look – and more privacy – by summer!

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When we decided to landscape our front and back yards we searched high and low for perfectly sized privacy screens and trellises – to no avail. The solution? Build our own!

Like I always advise when doing something you’ve never attempted, start small first! Get all your frustration – I mean trial and error of course – out on something that’s manageable in terms of time, effort, money and scale. THEN, you can reach for the sky and go BIG!

The original trellis that came with the house was skimpy and undersized.

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Measure the space

The new trellis is taller and wider; our clematis is much happier to have space to spread!

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Build trellis to the size you want

Doing it yourself has many advantages: you can design whatever your heart desires, build it to the size you want, in the wood you want and pick your own finishes!

For our projects, we went with straight up cedar for its beauty and durability in the great outdoors. We had several areas we felt could use a screen or trellis.

As you can see below, our first trellis projects was by the little pond near our front door. When we finished building our new trellis, this is what the entry to our house looked like when the clematis was just starting to grow:

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The clematis took it it’s new support system right away and has flourished ever since! We still have to ‘train’ it in the spring once it starts to sprout up, but other than that, it’s on its own. Here’s what it looks like in late spring:

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And here it is when the clematis is in full bloom in the summer:

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Another problem area was right by our front door; we had a less than pleasant view of our neighbour’s garbage bins – ugh.

That view went from this…

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Front entry was an eyesore

To this once the trellis was in place:

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View of the ugly garbage cans is camouflaged; once vines are fully grown the view is nicely hidden

This is how it looks when the vines start to take hold in early summer:

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Cedar planter box holds vines that get planted annually

My husband built a planter box that we placed on the porch in back of the trellis so the vines can grow through the lattice and also be viewed from the street (to see more creative planter ideas, click this link).

Before long, the trellis is covered.

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In the winter, we store our ‘summer’ trellis in the garage on hooks…..

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… so we can swap it out for another screen that’s fitted out with outdoor fabric in the centre so it completely blocks our view – and acts as a wind screen too!

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Trellis gets swapped out for privacy screen in winter

We used L-brackets to support the screen by our front door; we purchased galvanized metal and then spray painted it a dark grey to protect it even more from the elements (metal will eventually rust and have to be replaced, but painting it will slow down the damage from the harsh elements of the weather!). Here’s a better look at the L-bracket supporting the screen at the bottom:

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Once we got our feet wet with a few smaller projects, we were ready for the big time – the big Kahuna of all trellises.

After we finished landscaping our backyard, we wanted a HUGE trellis on which to grow vines that would provide us with a sense of privacy and coziness in the back. As you can see from this overview of the lot, we back on to many yards and privacy is at a premium!

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Our requirements? The trellis had to be extremely large to give us privacy and be able to support a fast-growing vine.

Our trellis was built to about 10 feet wide and 8 feet long and perfectly supports and frames our Silver Lace Vine. Not only does it look gorgeous when the vines are fully grown in the summer (when you can’t even see the trellis), but it gives us something interesting to look at in the spring too.

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Trellis overlooking dry creek bed

How did we plan and build something like this, you may be wondering? You might be surprised to learn that the design was drawn in powerpoint:

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I started off by turning on the ruler view. Since I knew I wanted an approximate 10 foot by 8 foot size, I decided that every 1” on the ruler was going to be equal to a foot. I drew dotted lines at one inch intervals – both vertically and horizontally – for my ‘graph paper’ grid.

I used to love playing with TinkerToys when I was a kid, so playing with a bunch of ‘sticks’ – albeit in powerpoint – was right up my alley.

I created long rectangular shapes and first put a ‘frame’ in place for the perimeter of the trellis. From there, I continued to draw rectangular shapes, duplicate them where needed and put them into place.

You might find it easier to sketch something out on paper first, but I just went for it right in powerpoint. I played around with cleaning up some of the lines. For instance, where the four crosses sit in the squares, I sent the crosses to the back to so each cross looked like it was cut to fit into the corners.

Once we had our plan, we developed a cutting plan and we went shopping for cedar. We bought thicker planks and ripped them all down the width of the ‘sticks’ so we could start cutting to size and building.

The Setup

Since the screen was so big and we needed a flat surface to arrange and build on, we put a sheet of plastic down in the garage so we could build away from the elements.

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First two ‘practice’ trellises can be seen in the background

We kept the construction simple. We used a pin nailer with dabs of PL construction adhesive (which we had on-hand) to secure everything together. For the X’s, we mitred the ends so they would fit nicely into the square shapes and then glued and pinned them in on all sides. You’ll need to decide which pieces you want to lay ‘in front’ and which pieces can fall to the back because it’s just a matter of deciding how you want it to look. By laying it all out on the floor first you can finalize the order of how you want to put it all together. Some sections we built like ladders, and longer pieces ended up bridging the width of the whole screen to make it more secure. My best advice would be to continue to learn through trial and error (building on what you learned on your smaller practice piece).

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Assemble frame and larger ‘ladders’ first. Then fill in between with some pieces in front and others behind the frame

Securing it to the fence

We could have gone two routes with a trellis this size – attach the whole thing to large posts by digging out holes and securing it in the ground with concrete (like a fence post) or have it ‘floating’ on the fence and propped up on top of a few rectangular stones. We went with the latter choice.

We placed the three large stones in the garden bed. Then we attached some u-shaped struts to the back of the trellis in several places. The struts we used were deep enough that we could easily get a screw into the middle of the bracket and permanently fasten it to the fence.

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We attached it this manner so we could remove it at some point in the future if we ever wanted to. Now that the garden below the trellis is all grown in with various ground cover, you can’t even see the stone it’s sitting on. And you don’t notice the brackets either – especially when the vines have matured in the summer.

Here are some pictures of how our Silver Lace has evolved over time. It makes a fantastic lush green privacy screen.

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Green and lush in the Summer!

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Silver Lace Vine in full bloom in the fall months – still looks fab!

Our next project was building a privacy screen for my husband so he wouldn’t be staring into our neighbour’s yard between the gaps in the fence every time he barbecued. We used the same principles to build the privacy screen as we did for the winter screen by our front door, except we used bamboo instead of fabric on the majority of it. We built our frame, then staple gunned a roll of bamboo onto the middle section of the frame and used fabric in the top section. This particular screen slips in between the fence and the retaining wall and is supported by ‘L’ brackets at the top of the fence.


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Because the BBQ screen is smaller than the trellis (and our Canadian winters can be brutal!), we remove it every winter and store it on hooks on a wall in our garage. It keeps the fabric, bamboo and wood from aging faster than they normally would outside.


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X & O trellises

Another fabric screen we built was one for my mother-in-law to cover up the fencing around her deck. As you can see in the shot below, the fence is quite open. She has a corner lot and the screen provides a barrier from the traffic and passersby:


Here’s how it looks now with the privacy screens in place:

In this particular instance, we used magnets to secure the screen to the structure. By attaching wooden knobs as handles, it’s easy for my MIL to install and remove since there’s no screws to deal with!

I hope we’ve given you a few ideas to inspire you to think about trellises and privacy screens as your next DIY project … now go build one for yourself and let us know how you get on by leaving us a comment!

If these projects have inspired you, please pin and share on Facebook!

If you’re interested in more garden ideas and inspiration, check out some of our other posts:

And don’t forget to spring forward for daylight saving time on Sunday, March 13th!


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At Birdz of a Feather, we’re feathering the nest… one room at a time. Follow our blog here (link in the footer) or on Bloglovin’ (link below) to see other DIY projects, in and around the home. You can also follow us on our Youtube channel and Pinterest.

UPDATE Jan 2017: There’s now a new category under the Birdz of a Feather family: Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab where you’ll find creative and sustainable craft ideas. Be sure to check it out!

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Like the nursery rhyme, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?, there’s more to landscaping a backyard than meets the eye. The ‘silver bells’ and ‘cockle shells’ referred to in the rhyme were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. In a lot of ways, landscaping is much the same way—full of torture! So I’m officially calling this DIY project ‘the Mother (Nature) of All Projects’.

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I’ve never personally crossed paths with another handy woman crazy enough to build and landscape her own backyard. I used to be able to bench press patio stones with the best of them, but not now. I will likely never, ever again undertake such a strenuous project. NEVER. But then again….. maybe landscaping is like giving birth. You might swear you’ll never do it again, but then you soon forget the pain; especially as you see your creation grow and take shape.

Now, I have to preface my DIY story by letting you know that I didn’t do it all myself, but I did do more than my fair share. I needed my ‘partner in grime’ – my husband – to do some of the heavy lifting (and some of the heavy thinking—but I’ll get to that later).

My motivation for doing hardcore DIY projects is a little different than my husband’s. I had a bad experience at a young age with a contractor who ripped off my hard earned money. I swore that I would never hire anyone again, and have DIY’d just about everything ever since. My husband’s motivation, on the other hand, is that he’s cheap. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s a lot of satisfaction, and financial gain to be had, in improving your investment by feathering your own nest – and learning new skills along the way.

I guess you could call it a labour of love since we quite literally started right before our marriage and started right back up again the day after our honeymoom.  Our backyard project took a year and a half from start to finish (if you don’t count the ‘do-over’ explained at the end). The amount of time might seem excessive when a contractor could whip in and have it done in a few weeks, but a contractor would not have added all the special touches we managed to achieve.

We divided the work into four phases:

  1. Plan/dig/ compact base;
  2. Set pavers, fill in with polymeric sand, plant garden and install rock garden;
  3. Set up the pond; and
  4. Install dry creek bed/ flagstone/moss and build and install trellises so we could grow silver lace vine to bring privacy to our suburban lot).

By breaking the work into manageable sections, we were able to get it done at our own pace, and, I think, at a reasonable price (the budget came in at around $25K for everything).

If you’re not comfortable with landscape design, your local nursery often has designers on staff that will help you draw up a plan and also advise you on the plantings. The fee for this service would probably be around $60 – $120, depending on the time involved, but check with your local nursery.

Important: Before you break any ground, call your utility companies to mark the phone and gas lines so you don’t accidentally dig into these services!

My best advice when attempting a landscape project is to start small (or at least smaller, in our case!). As neither of us had ever installed a patio before, we decided to do our front walkway first – to practice and get all our mistakes out of the way before starting the backyard! Here’s a glimpse of that project, which I’ll detail in an upcoming post on landscaping the front walkway and installing a water feature:

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Practicing on a smaller project first, before taking on the mother (nature) of all landscape projects in the backyard!

Phase One

(Plan, dig, compact base)

Right before we were married, I had planned the design so literally right after we returned from our honeymoon, we broke ground.The goal was to dig the patio and pond, and get the initial base in place by the fall. Our idea was to let nature takes its course over the winter to help compact the base for us. It seems to have worked because nothing has heaved in the near-decade since it’s been completed.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of laying out a design on computer. Since our travertine had multiple different sizes of stone and an established pattern, I wanted to be sure I laid every stone in the correct order. Back then I didn’t have any fancy graphic programs, so I scanned a picture of the drawing, imported it into powerpoint and completed the paver layout there. I don’t know why, but somehow it managed to work it out to scale.

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Hardscape plan and landscape plantings

We really lucked out on the hardscape material. After seeing real travertine marble on display at the stone yard while shopping for the front patio, I fell in love with it… but not the price. My husband let his fingers do the walking and called the manufacturer to see if by any chance they were open to the public and we might be able to get a better price. Our timing couldn’t have been better!  The manufacturer was moving its entire facility and, since stone is expensive to move, they were selling off their inventory at incredible prices. We jumped right on it (even though we weren’t quite ready to start the backyard project quite yet), and placed our order.

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Travertine display at the stone yard

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Delivery Day

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Stages of prep work (clockwise from left): site grading and grass removal, digging the pond and pouring retaining wall, initial base of HPB stone in place to overwinter

Back in the day, we didn’t have a laser level so my husband used an ancient method – a water level – to establish our grade.

To start, measure out from the house where you will be digging for the patio and place some flags or markers at each corner of your project. If your patio is a rectangle, you’ll only need four flags, but we had a lot of jogs in our plan (plus a pond) to account for. Pound wooden stakes into the ground about 2 feet away from each ground flag. Tie some nylon string onto the first stake and stretch it to the one.

For the rest of the steps, I would suggest you watch this excellent video from This Old House. The video demonstrates three different methods for establishing a grade. We wanted our patio to slope slightly away from the house for water drainage so we laid out perfectly level lines, as they did in the video, and then we re-adjusted our lines 1/4″ lower for each foot out from the house to get the gentle slope we wanted.

One thing to keep in mind when you dig out the area for the patio is that you have to excavate BEYOND the size of the patio. For instance, if your patio is 10′ x 20′ you need to add at least 6″ onto each side (ideally, the area should extend past the pavers a distance that’s equal to the depth of the base material or 10′ + 6″ + 6″ by 20′ + 6″ + 6″ = 11 x 21). Of course, if one end of your patio butts up against the house as ours did, you wouldn’t need to add onto that end.

The picture below illustrates the extra width around the perimeter of our patio. When the base material extends beyond the perimeter of the patio, this stabilizes the edge and will allow you to install your edge restraints.

Once the patio is complete, all you need to do is back fill with some dirt and plant grass seed – or put in strips of sod to fill in the gap if you want it to grow in faster (be sure to water thoroughly until grass is established).

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DO NOT skip the step of installing edge restraints around the exterior edges of your patio or it will shift over time and your hard work will be a waste (again, it’s not needed up against the  house). We chose metal edging and installed at least four spikes for every 6 foot length.

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Install a minimum of 4 spikes every 6 feet

As a base material we used a stone called HPB (High Performance Bedding). I have to say that HPB was a dream to work with; it can be ordered through some local nurseries or a stone yard.

HPB does double duty by replacing the bedding layer and the base layer of material with only one material (vs. sand and stone) under pavers. HPB is also a real convenience to use because only one huge pile of material gets delivered to the site instead of two!

Before you have it delivered, but sure to put down tarps on your driveway and along the edge of the grass to keep it contained (you can drape it back over the stone afterwards and weigh it down to keep the tarp from killing your grass). If you don’t prepare your area this way you’ll be picking stone out of your grass for years to come.

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HPB delivery day – make sure to tarp the grass too!

HPB provides excellent drainage and because of the size of the chip (3/8″) it is 97% compacted without any compaction, however I would still recommend compacting it.  Don’t be tempted to dump all the HBP onto the ground and compact the stone only once – it won’t work.

Using a rented compacter, compact the ground first, then also compact after you apply each 4 inch layer of HPB.

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Compacted, graded and ready for HPB

There isn’t a rule of thumb when it comes to the depth of the base material. We used way more HPB than would normally be recommended – which might be overkill, but we didn’t want anything to heave during the freeze and thaw of our Canadian winters. You should ask for advice from your local dealer; Unilock also has a great technical guide that you can read for further information on how to determine how much material for your base (amongst other great information): Unilock Technical Guide

When removing large areas of grass, rent a dumpster that’s specifically made for compost material (as opposed to renovation waste) as it will be cheaper. If you can rent one that opens at the side for easy access, your back will appreciate it; its amazing how quickly the pile builds up! Removing grass is dirty dusty work; here you can see I’m wearing goggles, mask and gloves.

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Forget the diamonds. A wheelbarrow is a girl’s best friend (when it comes to landscaping)!

Don’t forget to trench out for electrical if you’re installing a pond with a pump. When it comes to electrical, be familiar with your local building codes – or better yet, hire a licensed electrician to complete this aspect of the project.

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Electrical wiring is protected in tubing before it’s buried in the trench

When you are doing your own landscaping, and are novices like us, you need to keep a flexible attitude because you’ll likely run into several challenges. We ran into two obstacles:

Our first challenge came after realizing that the side of our house, where the patio was extending fully to the fence, had a drop off to our neighbour’s lot line. It’s very common in suburban areas, where houses are tightly packed together, to have a subtle valley between each house to direct rain water away.This discovery meant we had to find a solution to contain the HPB base and prevent it from falling out from underneath the pavers.

We ended up having to build a retaining wall against the fence that we didn’t plan for. Since we were building a step under our sliding patio doors, we had to construct the retaining wall first. Back again we went to the stone yard to get the proper retaining wall system! Retaining  blocks have ledges that stack together, so you really can’t stack them wrong!

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When the landscaping odds are stacked up against you, you’re going to have to stack a retaining wall – or two!

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In the end, the retaining wall was a nice addition; it frames the privacy screens we built beautifully!

Our second challenge came after discovering that the entry into our backyard would also need a retaining wall of sorts too. I didn’t want a different stone there however; I wanted the travertine to be the first thing you see as your step into the backyard. Since necessity is the mother of invention, I designed a semi-circular step. It entailed making a concrete form and pouring cement so there was a permanent structure to float the patio over. We ended up mixing all the cement ourselves in one of those ‘rolling’ buckets, similar to the one pictured below. By the seventh bag, I was exhausted. If we had to do it all over again, I would plan ahead and look into the cost of getting a truck to deliver a pre-mixed batch so we could pour it all at once.

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Once the cement was poured and cured, I applied stone to the face of the inner curve with adhesive made especially for marble (other adhesives may stain and show through natural travertine). Then we were able to lay the patio stones over the top cut them to size.


Fast forward: when we finally laid the travertine up to the step, we lined it up against the edge, transferred the curve of the step with pencil to the underneath of each stone – adding on a 1″ overhang – and then cut them all on a wet saw.

Be sure NOT to cement the edges down: I know this from experience.  If there is no flexibility at the point where the pavers meet the top of the poured cement retaining wall, these stones could crack and/or heave. The best option is to adding some flexible caulking under the edge of each tile (where it meets up with the rim of the wall) to hold them down and prevent them from gradually shifting forward over the edge. If the pavers do happen to ease forward over the years, you can reapply some caulk and stick them back down.

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Our two extra challenges were a lot more work than we bargained for. However, when it comes to landscaping, as novices, you just have to go with the flow!

Phase two:

(Top up the base, grade away from the house for water drainage, set paving stones and fill in with polymeric sand, shop again – for plant material and pond accessories, install rock garden and plant garden).

After nature took its course and compacted our initial layer of HPB stone, we topped it up in the Spring and did our final tamping and grading.

You’ll need some long metal pipes to do your screeding and final levelling; as you can see here we used aluminum. Lay the metal pipes on either side of the area you’re levelling and set them to the finished height of the string you set up. Make sure you have a straight edge that’s long enough to span the two pipes and then set it on top of the pipes and drag it along, steadily levelling off the top of the stone.

After the first pull through the stone, check with your straight edge to make sure you don’t have any gaps underneath. If you find gaps, throw a little more stone in that spot and then re-screed until everything is perfectly level. When you’re happy with it, carefully pull out the screed rails and fill in the indentations with more HPB and pat it down level (I did this as I laid the patio stones because my reach into the field only went so far!).

This video demonstrates how to screed (they are using sand instead of HPB, but the technique is the same).

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I started laying my stone right in front of the step and retaining wall. I kept a small bucket of HBP with a plastic scoop by my side so I could fill in where the screed was. I also had a small level so I could ensure that everything was still flat before placing the stones.

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Filling in the screed indentations and doing one last check to make sure everything is level

Once all the pavers are laid, wash them down and let them thoroughly dry before applying polymeric sand. Polymeric sand should be swept into the spaces and lightly misted to allow it to set. It’s a great product; it will repel ants and prevent weeds from growing between your beautiful pavers. Check out this Unilock video to learn more about polymeric sand  – and no, I don’t have an affiliation with the company 🙂

Some words of caution when using polymeric sand with travertine pavers: our pavers happened to be ‘unfilled’ and in their natural state… meaning that any natural imperfections, pits and holes on the surface were not filled in. We personally love the rustic look of them, but when you add polymeric sand, keep in mind that it will settle in these crevices and may become noticeable.

There are two common sense solutions to this dilemma: buy filled travertine pavers instead or make sure the colour of your polymeric sand is as close match to your travertine pavers as possible.

Now, don’t laugh too hard but I went the extra mile and came up with a third solution to this problem – a solution that actually sucks! Yes, that’s right, that’s me vacuuming …. the patio! I pulled out my wet/dry vac and sucked all the noticeable sand out of the crevices of the travertine BEFORE I misted them with water so I wouldn’t get what I affectionately call ‘sand boogers’ on the surface of my pavers. #vacuumingsandboogers

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This job really sucks!

Once the patio and garden was done, we completed a rock garden to fill in the left corner of the yard.

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Ginko tree waiting to be planted in its new home

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Final landscaped view of back corner (rock garden in the background)

By the way, in case you’re thinking we must have had a rugged vehicle of some kind all lined up and ready to transport our MANY MANY rock purchases home with us, below is the actual car we used to schlep every piece of rock and flagstone home. It’s literally being held together by duct tape!

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The trusty old beater used for lugging stone home

Now for the exciting part: buying the plants and installing all the ‘softscape’. This is the part I LOVE – seeing it all come together.

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Busy as a bee

Phase three:

(Set up the pond)

After everything else was done, my husband took over to figure out all the mechanics of the pump for the pond.

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We found a concrete bowl, and the plan was to  drill a hole in the bottom and insert a fountain in the centre of the bowl. But because he wasn’t sure about the capacity, he bought two pumps so he could test them both out; one after the other. One hose was mounted in the pond and the other one was set up to recirculate water from outside of the pond—precariously balanced on top of our brand new green bin and weighed down by a patio stone. Upcyling at its worst …and a big mistake, as it turned out!

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The ‘makeshift’ pump

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Closeup of the makeshift pump – don’t do this at home!

One fateful day, when we were out until almost dusk, hubby left the pump with the makeshift hose running outside the pond. Some rascal of an animal knocked over the stone securing the hose to the green bin and ALL the water in the pond drained out and seeped underneath, which floated the liner like the Titanic! It was an ‘Ay Carumba’ moment of gargantuan proportion. By the time we came home, our liner was pointing up to the sky and all the plants were figuratively screaming to be rescued (sadly, even the floating plants were landlocked).

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Disaster struck

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Oh well, it’s water under the bridge…er, I mean the liner

We worked like mad to lift everything out and drain the water before it was pitch dark. But right in the middle of our panic, my father and sister dropped by for a visit. Talk about bad timing. But—take it from me—if you ever want to get rid of uninvited guests, threaten to put them to work. And then grab a tool—any tool—like you mean it! Works like a charm 🙂

See the complete how-to for the pond here.

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Next season after the ‘do over’

Once the rock garden was done, we were at the end of our first season of hard work in the backyard and had to stop to get ready for fall and winter. A LONG LONG LONG LONG LONG INTERMISSION GETS INSERTED RIGHT HERE :)…….The next spring, we re-dug the pond, fit the liner back in and my husband, bless his heart, set the pump up safe and secure and permanently attached INSIDE the pond!

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We finally turned our attention to installing a dry creek bed and replacing the one patch of grass we had left in the yard:

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Lonely patch of grass

We couldn’t really be too upset about the do-over situation when the yard had come so far. Afterall, our pond started out as a dead twig growing out of the ground and ended up as part of a tranquil spot to relax.

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From bare and sparse (to put it nicely)……

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Lonely patch of grass

Phase four:

(Install dry creek bed/ flagstone/moss and build and install trellises)

We decided it would be silly to have a tiny patch of grass left in our garden because it would be too awkward to maneuver a lawn mower through the backyard to mow it. We dug out a flowing shape for the dry creek bed, added in landscape cloth (which we staked into the side to prevent it from shifting) and then filled the dry creek bed with a colourful variety of smooth river rock

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We then went shopping for even MORE stone – this time flagstone – and handpicked the pieces we thought would fit best. Then we did a dry lay before we dug around each one (digging around each one with an edging tool and removing a few inches of topsoil so we could inset them slightly into the ground to keep them in place and prevent shifting).

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We also found the most PERFECT statue to watch over our newly fixed pond. Given the aforementioned pond disaster the previous fall, how fitting is it that we should find a tragedy and comedy mask statue???  It’s like it was meant to be!

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Dry creek bed wrapping around our ‘Comedy/Tragedy’ statuary with Blue Danube Pom Pom Juniper in the background

After the stepping stones were in place we planted moss around them so it would grow in to fill the gaps between the flagstones. We added a few larger stones on the perimeter of the dry creek bed and planted day lillies and some drought resistant (aka low maintenance) ground cover.

We left a narrow pathway between the dry creed bed and the fence that wrapped around the rock garden and ended at the pond; it got covered in mulch to keep the mud and weeds at bay until the moss filled in.

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The moss gets billowy and full as it slowly spreads into the gaps

Our final project was to build trellises to support some vines and a privacy screen for the BBQ area (behind the retaining wall). Click the link for the DIY on how to build trellises and privacy screens.

Early spring

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Late Summer; we planted 3 Silver Lace Vines for this full lush look

By the time fall rolls around the Silver Lace Vine blooms; it’s magnificent!

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Autumn; Silver Lace in full bloom

The garden facinates me as it changes with the seasons. It even looks good in the rain.Be sure to check out our other inspiring garden posts where we show you how to build trellises and privacy screens, a coordinated mirror and shelf to expand any small outdoor space and some creative planter ideas (as shown below)

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After a summer shower

Phew – I’m almost as exhausted writing about the ‘Mother (Nature) of All Projects’ as I was actually doing all the work! So the final word goes to…..


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We’re too cool for this garden!!

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Mirror Mirror on the Fence

If you live in a teeny tiny house on a teeny tiny suburban lot like us, you’ve got to use every trick in the book to make your spaces feel more expansive than they really are. What better way to do that than with mirror? Mirror isn’t just for indoor spaces; it can be a piece de resistance in the great outdoors too.

This faux finish DIY mirror and shelf idea did just the trick for our little garden.

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On one of my Goodwill ventures about 20 years ago, I came across an elaborate (aka gaudy) mirror in a dated brown stain. Not having an immediate purpose for it, I bought it and added it to all my other ‘priceless’ junk finds in my parent’s basement. I forgot about it until about six years ago when I came across a gold plastic hall shelf in my sister’s garage; I remember it hanging in her mother in law’s hallway topped with a piece of white marble. Suddenly the light bulb went on: if I paired it with the mirror and treated both pieces to the same faux finish, I’d have a great little vignette in the garden. My sister was only too happy to part with the shelf.

I picked up some $1 paints at the dollar store (in rust, brown and cream tones) and some glaze at the paint store and set to work. I painted a base coat of the rust color and let it dry. Then I mixed up the remaining two paints with some glaze (to make them transluscent) and applied them randomly with a rag. By the time they were done, they were still looking pretty dull though, so I dug through my crafting stash and found some silver leaf to glam it up. After applying the special glue and letting it dry until just tacky, I rubbed on the silver leaf. It brought all the detail to life! To seal it for the outdoors, I used a water based spray varnish and sprayed on about 5 thin coats (letting it dry between coats). Don’t forget to seal the back of the shelf and mirror too. For the mirror, it’s best to lift the glass right out and seal every inch of the frame!

Looking at the two pieces, you wouldn’t know that they weren’t meant to be together.

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Before we added the mirror near the corner of the fence, the backyard looked like this:

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With the mirror and shelf added onto the fence, there was a big improvement! However the corner still needed something more.

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To round out the vignette, the following year we found discarded pieces of metal in the garbage and used them to form a garden trellis in the corner. We first gave it a fresh coat of white paint:

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Once both the mirror and trellis were in place, it gave the clematis plenty of structure to cling onto – and provided a beautiful burst of colour! Now that corner of the garden is another focal point we can enjoy.

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The mirror and shelf in the garden

The ‘laciness’ of the mirror provides the perfect foundation for the clematis grow through.

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Silver leaf add’s some ‘bling’ but the flowers add a real splash of colour!

When mounting heavy pieces like these to the fence, make sure they’re secure and can’t go anywhere—especially with the mirror. You don’t want it blowing off in the wind and smashing to smithereens amongst the flowers. That would just bring you seven years of bad luck — and a poor substitute for mulch!

I recommend using a heavy-duty interlocking ‘French cleat’ hanger made of either wood or metal (like the one pictured below). One side is attached onto the back of the piece and the connecting piece goes on the fence. To mount, they just slip together and lock into place.


Metal cleat for hanging heavy objects

The marble shelf is impervious to the weather and can be accessorized with a plant or even a yoga frog for a zen effect.

And along the lines of peace and tranquility, the mirror has one added bonus: it’s positioned exactly were we can see uninvited visitors reflected in it as they open up the gate—giving us just enough time to hide 🙂

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For more inspiring ideas on gardening and decor, visit these links:  landscaping a garden and building trellises and privacy screens.

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