West Coast Sunday Morning Garden Chat: “Furniture & Flowers”

hbm outstanding-arbor

Since you left-coasters complained that you never get to enjoy waking up to a top-of-the-page Garden Chat, here’s a special installment for you, from commentor MaryG:

Higgs Boson’s Mate has far surpassed himself as a builder of garden furniture. Here is my gorgeous arbor in all its glory. He asked me what I wanted in an arbor. I went on the web over a span of a couple of weeks looking at them and ended up with a Pinterest page full, which I sent to him. He did some designs on Blender and we went back and forth until he came up with this final design. He only has a few tools and we weren’t sure if we could make the curved corbels in the top corners, so I bought them online from a woodworker in Colorado in paint-grade wood; HBM stained them and I just get a thrill every time I see the finished product.

You can’t see them in pictures yet, but I planted a couple of seedlings of Sungold cherry tomatoes and Black Krim tomatoes at the end of the boxes to grow over it this summer.
hbm moving-the-arbor

HBM made it in the garage, and then it had to be gotten to the back yard, which because the gate on the driveway into the back is very narrow, meant it had to be dragged down the driveway, across the front yard, and through the patio. He was out of two by fours, and asked me if we could buy a cheap one just to make a temporary brace while he moved it. (I wanted to ask some friends to help, like an Amish barn-raising party, but he is a “better I do it alone because then it’ll be done right” type of person.) I said sure, but he decided it would be better not to waste the money and made the brace out of some of the off-cuts he had. Here it is moving, with Leland supervising, and my messy potting bench in the back.
hbm inside-arbor-detail

Here is my arty shot from inside the arbor. It was about to rain – we got a whole .04 inch this week! I think the year’s total is now up to about an inch and a half.
hbm yesterday-today-and-tomorrow

Blooms are busting out all over. I am seeing so many messages on garden sites on the web talking about how it’s still too snowy to ship to some areas, and I know a lot of you all are still getting the freezing weather, but maybe my pictures will help to remind you that spring will come sometime where you live.

Some are things that have been here a long time, like this “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” bush.

hbm clivia
Right outside the family room doors, there is a corner bed with only one thing in it that is unremarkable most of the year; HBM kept asking me if I didn’t want to pull up the boring plant with the strappy leaves and put in something showier. I said NO, NO, NO and here is why; it’s a clivia.

Blah most of the year, but spectacular when it flowers. This is a close-up, because it did not like the drought and most of the other flowers had already given up the ghost. Usually it breaks out all over flowers that last for months. This year there were way fewer flowers that lasted only a week or two and faded out before I got around to taking a picture of the full impact…

To be continued next week…

87 replies
  1. 1
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Beautiful flowers and a most excellent arbor! Thanks, MaryG and HBM!

    And even though I’m on Eastern time, and not a gardener myself, I heartily approve of the bonus Sunday garden chat thread.

  2. 2
    gogol's wife says:

    I love the story of MaryG and HBM. Beautiful arbor, and Leland looks like a great supervisor!

  3. 3
    Tommy says:

    I can’t wait to get my garden in, but alas I would rather it just was above freezing.

  4. 4
    Scout211 says:

    Oh my goodness! That arbor is so beautiful. HBM is so talented.

    We (here in rural NorCal) are having a late, but beautiful wild flower season. It seems the dry (normally) wet season has kept the grasses from growing like, well, the weeds that they are. The recent rains have produced beautiful and abundant wild flowers that usually have to compete with the grasses and weeds.

  5. 5
    Ruckus says:

    Damn Higgs, you done good!

    Bet everything is lots closer than an 1/8 inch tolerance.

  6. 6
    chopper says:

    ah, nice. well, we here on the central coast got a touch of rain last night, so the plants got watered.

    lots growing, and the tomato plants are already 3 feet high.

  7. 7
    Tommy says:

    I was in Menards the other day and they had those hanging tomato kits on clearance for .99 cents. I assume they must really suck or they wouldn’t be almost giving them away, but I figured what the heck. Might as well give them a try.

  8. 8
    ruemara says:

    Dang. Next SoCal meetup at MaryG and HBM’s garden. Fantastic work. My garden? Um, so far, I have kept my holiday shamrocks alive, bought a small bit of potting soil and uncovered the only pot that I lost out in the weeds that grow in back “yard”. Maybe, in a month, I’ll pot the shamrocks. Assuming they are still alive.

  9. 9
    Gretchen says:

    Thanks for sharing. What are the purple flowers? I love the clivia.

  10. 10
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Wonderful story. The HBM-MG garden grows.

  11. 11
    Mnemosyne says:


    They can work, but they’re really set up for you to not have to fuss with them at all. My brother in northeastern Illinois ended up with a really great tomato plant, and all he did was water it, give it some Miracle-Gro once a week, and trim it occasionally. His friend got one at the same time and was constantly futzing with it and ended up killing it.

  12. 12
    Marvel says:

    Thanks for the late start, Anne Laurie!

    Enjoyed viewing MaryG and HBM gardening adventures.

    We were treated to a week of on-/off-again rain, but not before the plum trees finished blooming (with bees a-buzzing). I was able to get our second flight of shelling pea seeds and a few more lettuce starts in their beds before Nature took over the irrigation chores out back. The grounds are still a riot of daffs and unfurled tulips and the understory is covered with wood sorrel and tons of forget-me-nots and other small nodding flowers. Sunny this AM so we’ll be out there tending the nooks & crannies.

  13. 13
    raven says:

    Really great!

  14. 14
    Joel says:

    Home-related question: How much would it cost, ballpark figure, to take an ugly, featureless house in California (redundant, I know) and make embellishments like:

    1) Knock down a non-structural wall
    2) Add baseboards and crown molding
    3) Replace carpet with decent-quality hardwood laminate
    4) Upgrade windows and doors

  15. 15
    Mary G says:

    Thank you, Anne Laurie! Finally a thread I can participate in live.

    @Scout211: It’s amazing how even a little rain two weeks ago has triggered the wildflowers. Hills that were brown all winter now have some green and flowers blooming.

    Here is a link to someone’s Flickr page showing some local beauties.

    I found it through one of my favorite plant sites, the Theodore Payne Foundation, which has had a hotline for 32 years giving locations for wildflower blooms here in SoCal. It’s a great outing for the price of the gas and for many years I have been going all over to places they have turned me on to. They have a nursery of native plants and sell seeds as well.

  16. 16
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne: For .99 cents figured I’d give it a try. Putting in another raised bed this year and about to run out of space and I have plenty of space on my back porch to hang stuff.

  17. 17
    ThresherK says:

    Serious spring yearning, a la the last thread?

    Ohh, yes. The first of April is nigh. It’s midday and 42F with buckets of rain. And it feels warm to us!

    I feel like I’ve spent the entire last three months about 200 miles north in New England’s mountains.

  18. 18
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Joel: The cost depends on the size, etc., but I can give ballpark numbers for a few of those. Good hardwood floors cost around $5 to $10 per square foot. The baseboards are usually about $4 per lineal foot. We found an independent contractor who would install the floors at $4 per square foot. This included getting rid of the carpet. We paid about $8000 for the replacement windows and a big-ass patio door.

    I don’t think it would cost too much to get rid of a wall, perhaps $500.

  19. 19
    Mary G says:

    @Gretchen: The purple flowers are the “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” plant:

    Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, a tropical tomato relative, has dark purple flowers that fade to lavender-purple on their second day and fade to white the third. More of the pansy-shaped flowers are produced daily, so the plant looks like it has multi-colored blooms. In addition to the flowers, it has dark green tropical foliage.

    That site I found says it only grows in zones 10-11, but I know my grandmother grew it in Austin, Texas.

    @ruemara: Anytime! The neighbor’s son who played the drums incessantly last year has either gone on to other hobbies or been given an electronic kit with headphones, so we could hear each other talk.

  20. 20
    Jerzy Russian says:

    Were those lattices prebuilt? If not, then Obi Wan taught him well!

  21. 21
    Joel says:

    @Jerzy Russian: That’s actually surprisingly reasonable, especially in the context of housing costs in California.

  22. 22
    Joel says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Agreed. That’s some fine construction.

  23. 23
    Tommy says:

    @Jerzy Russian: That is about what I paid for all new windows. But as I’ve found as a home owner you can spend as much money as you want. Windows are a perfect example of this. The range of prices blew me away. I’d suggest you look for deals. I put all hardwood floors in and waited until what I wanted went on sale and got it under $5 per square foot.

  24. 24
    Betty Cracker says:

    Love the arbor, love the soda crate planters, and most of all, love the HBM-MaryG collaboration. Well done!

  25. 25
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Joel: The land prices are a different story, of course. Also, there are a few largish companies who manufacture replacement windows here in Southern California (e.g. Window Factory, Windor). They do their own installations also. Being local might make them a bit cheaper than elsewhere.

  26. 26
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Tommy: Indeed. We got a deal for around $4 per square foot. An to answer Joel’s question, a laminate floor costs around $2 per square foot. They come in every pattern one can think of (laminate is a plywood base, and on top is a “printed” wood pattern).

  27. 27
    Mary G says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Lowe’s made the lattices, but HBM made them look so nice. He put a 1/2 inch cove molding on one side to hide the edges, but since a 2×4 is more like an inch and a half thick, there wasn’t enough room to put cove on the other side. He took some thin wood lath that costs like 57 cents each and cut them in half lengthwise with a box cutter to make homemade moldings for the other side. Both sides look incredibly professional.

  28. 28
    Kristine says:

    Gorgeous flowers, MaryG! And HBM’s arbor is lovely!

    Here in far NE Illinois, it is still cold. 40s today by the lake, even though it could hit up to the 60s/70s in the city and points south. It is sunny, though. Opened a couple of windows for a hint of freshness.

    Most of the snow is gone. And this morning, I spotted the barest hints of daffodil shoots. I am hoping to stick the lettuce seeds in the ground in the next couple of weeks. I ordered tomato plants this year–just a couple of an heirloom cherry variety called Gardeners Delight. I signed up for a CSA share from a local farm, so I don’t need to grow as much.

  29. 29
    Roger Moore says:

    Houses don’t really cost that much more to build in California than in other places; it’s the land that’s so expensive. That’s why you see so many big houses on small lots. For my condo, the appraiser put the value at about 1/3 structure and 2/3 land, even though the land used by one unit in my complex is probably less than the actual square footage of the unit.

  30. 30
    Tommy says:

    @Roger Moore: See where I live we have land in spades. Heck you can get a new 4-5 bedroom house. Two car garage. Around $180,000. I totally get why folks would want to live in NYC or LA but the housing costs blow my mind (and I used to live in DC).

  31. 31
    Jane2 says:

    Fantastic arbor, HBM! And Mary G, your plants are sublime and a joy to look at on (yet another) below freezing day.

  32. 32
    Tommy says:

    @Kristine: I wish I had a CSA option. I am downstate from you and there are more farm fields then you can shake a stick at, yet not the type of options you’d think. I’ve noted here my farmers market is a joke and it sits next to a freaking grain silo.

  33. 33
    Dee Loralei says:

    What an awesome arbor HBM! And I love the flowers MaryG! And thanks to someone in the earlier gardening thread, I went and ordered 20 milkweed plants for my garden. I also ordered 50 personalized butterfly plant seed packets in my mother’s name, to send to family and friends around the country and hopefully they will plant them in her memory.

  34. 34
    🍀 Martin says:

    Wow, that’s really nicely done, Higgs. I’m impressed. You guys have a good design eye as well. Some nice details in that.

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:

    The reason to live in one of the expensive cities is relatively straightforward: access to good jobs and cultural amenities. A lot of the extra pay from those good jobs goes to offset the higher cost of living- especially in competition for expensive housing- but the cultural amenities can’t be replicated outside a major world city. You may be able to afford a mansion, but you don’t have access to the same kind of live entertainment, world-class museums, and ethnic food from every region on earth that you can get in the big city.

  36. 36
    raven says:

    @Ruckus: One talented swab jockey!

  37. 37
    Tommy says:

    @Dee Loralei: Milkweed and bees right :)! Also love you are sending seeds to family members in your mother’s name. In a garden thread I mentioned my grandmother died many years ago and she had a flower garden like you’d see in a magazine. That my parents couldn’t keep it up. The roses were dieing.

    I didn’t realize, but somebody here sent me a detailed overview on how I could take a clipping and start them in my own yard. I can’t wait for Spring and to try. My grandmother was a kind soul that loved that garden of hers. That I might save those plants, well that would be a good thing.

  38. 38
    Ruckus says:

    If you are at all handy most of the work you can do yourself.
    Installing a solid hardwood strip floor is work and requires knowledge. Installing a laminate floor is pretty easy, although some knowledge is required. Laminate floors come in lots of styles and types, from thin top layers of real woods to what basically is a picture of wood. Bought in pallet quantities from wholesalers, prices can be considerably lower than your local home center. I did an entire 1700 sq ft house other than kitchen/bath with one pallet, delivered for $1800 or just over a buck a foot.
    ETA Took me about 3 reasonably full days to do the entire house, by myself, including moving everything around.

  39. 39
    raven says:

    @Roger Moore: That’s the trade-off in Athens the cost of living here is pretty reasonable but decent jobs are hard to come by.

  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    Some of us know more than we let on.
    Grunts are like that too.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Tommy says:

    @Roger Moore: I totally understand and agree with you. I used to live in DC. Capital Hill. I often joked that my local library was the Library of Congress. I was just a few blocks away. Union Station two blocks away to where I could visit the world. I’d often head to see the da Vinci in the National Gallery when I needed a kick in the ass. Some inspiration.

    You are right you pay for culture. When my parents visited me once we went for a walk. They didn’t understand why I lived in DC. The cost of living. That I lived in a $1,800 month apartment not much bigger then a walk in closet. While on the walk I pointed back and said that is the US Capital. I live a few blocks from it.

  43. 43
    Steeplejack says:

    What the hell?! It has been drizzling all day here in NoVa. I just happened to glance out the window to my right, the rain looked like it was coming down funny, and I realized—it’s snowing! The temp is 36°, and the snow is melting as soon as it hits the ground, but, c’mon, this is ridiculous.

  44. 44
    raven says:

    Holy smokes U Conn is runnin Sparty.

  45. 45
    rikyrah says:

    Addicting Info: Ted Cruz Tries To Use Facebook To Prove No One Likes Obamacare And It Blows Up In His Face

    The Tea Party crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a huge snag this week. On March 24, 2014, Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

    Ask a question, get an answer. The question Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz asked on facebook was simple. Are you better off now than you were before the ACA, also called Obamacare, was signed into law, four years ago? Nearly 40,000 comments later, the resounding answer from people all across the country was YES.

    More here


  46. 46
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: We had the coolest/weirdest weather here 6 weeks or so ago. I was out running errands for about 2 hours, so I had a front row seat.

    It went from perfectly clear to thundering and lightning while snow was falling – huge snowflakes that were coming down so fast that I had to brush an inch of snow off my car after just being in a store for 10 minutes.

    That happened at a couple of stops, then the snowflakes got smaller and smaller as I ran my errands until they were like tiny drops of sleet/rain, then that turned to smaller than golfball hail, then it poured for hours.

    Really interesting to experience, but really crazy at the same time.

  47. 47
    Elizabelle says:

    Would you believe it is snowing in Northern Virginia? Rain turned to sleet turned to hail and now big snowflakes coming down amid the sleet and hail.

    They have cancelled the Cherry Blossom kite festival today.

    Although this turn of weather was not forecast. A Sunday lagniappe.

  48. 48
    WaterGirl says:

    @rikyrah: Well, that’s uplifting!!

  49. 49
    WaterGirl says:

    @Elizabelle: Ha! That’s the reverse of the bizarre weather we had. (See my comment just above yours.)

  50. 50
    Steeplejack says:


    Remind me, where is “here”?

  51. 51
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Thank you! I try and hold things as close as possible so as to not get bitten by accumulated tolerances.

  52. 52
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: Champaign-Urbana. Think halfway between Chicago and Carbondale. We are considered central Illinois.

    Or, if you prefer, halfway between BGinChi and jefferyw.

  53. 53
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @rikyrah: Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

    Have you seen the headline: “Top Repubilcan Accuses Administration of “Cooking the Books” on Obamacare Numbers”. Welcome to this weeks’ “Shape of the Earth: Views Differ” debate, AKA, “Obama Fails to Prove A Negative”

    Also, too, the Top Repubilcan is John Barrasso, whose mother had to use google to find out which empty state he represents.

  54. 54
    raven says:

    @WaterGirl: East Central if memory serves.

  55. 55
    Lynn Dee says:

    It’s beautiful. More photos, please!

  56. 56
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: You are so right! I guess I don’t need to say that I suck at geography…

    Perhaps that should have been:

    Or, if you prefer, former home of raven, halfway between BGinChi and jefferyw.

  57. 57
    Kristine says:

    @Tommy: I’m surprised that there isn’t more of a CSA culture downstate, but then again I wonder if folks are so used to growing their own patch that they don’t think there’s a market? Or do they get their veggies at the supermarket?

    My CSA farm held a small early spring market yesterday. Just salad greens and spinach, frozen beef and pork, honey. Popcorn. Today, I’m going to make some of their pork chops for dinner. Braise the spinach. I had some of the salad greens yesterday, and could tell the difference–the leaves had a silky feel, and a little more flavor. My homegrown were the same. The stuff that comes in the plastic clamshells isn’t bad, but there is a difference.

    One reason why I want to move to the Portland OR area is the CSA/farmers market culture. My friends took me to the Sauvie Island farmers market when I visited last fall. First time I visited a farmers market with shopping carts and multiple checkout lines.

  58. 58
    raven says:

    @WaterGirl: I just remember it from Mr Roberts the weather man.


  59. 59
    Elizabelle says:


    I get you and PurpleGirl mixed up. She lives in NYC, I think ….

    Very strange about this year’s weather. We should be like Thomas Jefferson and keep weather diaries — at least a note — so that we can see if 2015 and 2016 are similarly strange.

  60. 60
  61. 61
    ruemara says:

    @WaterGirl: at that distance, Jeffery w needs to send you some samples.

    I just downed a whole Kombucha on an empty stomach. I feel a bit drunk. Not complaining.

  62. 62
    Ruckus says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    Spoken like someone with teeth marks on his butt.

    We don’t always learn fast but we do learn well, those of us who make and measure things for a living.

  63. 63
    WaterGirl says:

    @Elizabelle: Yeah, I know, all us “Girls” look alike. :-)

    I actually have that problem with the “Jens”. Almost certain that it’s JenJen who had Strider, whom I adored, and it’s TooManyJens who lives here in C-U. I think there was a third Jen but I can’t think of who that is at the moment.

    It can get confusing!

  64. 64
    WaterGirl says:

    @ruemara: Had to google that, had no idea what it was. Now I know it’s a cheap way to get drunk, and it’s good for you. Right?


    at that distance, Jeffery w needs to send you some samples cater my meals.

  65. 65
  66. 66
    ruemara says:

    @WaterGirl: it’s, for me, a nice pick me up if I can’t find food, but with my clean lifestyle, it seems the trace alcohol has some dizzying effects. Woo.

  67. 67
    raven says:


    I shared your pix with my buddy with the restaurant, he say you numba one.

  68. 68
    Ruckus says:

    That looks deadly.

    Extremely good, but deadly. What a way to go.

  69. 69
    IowaOldLady says:

    I’m sure CSA stands for something besides Confederate States of America, but I can’t bring it to mind at the moment.

  70. 70
    WaterGirl says:

    @jeffreyw: Oh my gosh, that looks like real ham. Yum.

    @IowaOldLady: I had to google it, myself. Community based agriculture.

  71. 71
    raven says:

    @IowaOldLady: Community Supported Agriculture

  72. 72
    IowaOldLady says:

    @raven: Much better.

  73. 73
  74. 74
    Elizabelle says:

    @Mary G:

    Thanks for info on the wildflower foundation. Bookmarked it.

    Higgs has outdone himself. The trellis and garden are beautiful, as are the wooden soda bottle crates of succulents. You have a beautiful outdoor area.

    More Leland, please.

  75. 75
    satby says:

    @Dee Loralei: That was me Dee. They send you 50 seeds in a pack of milkweed seeds, so I planned to give one neighbor 10 seeds and plant another 15 or so over by the state park. A friend has grown milkweed for years because he just likes them, and he’s going to Johnny Appleseed them around the forest preserves now that he knows how important it is for us to get them reintroduced.

  76. 76
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Steeplejack: Same thing here in South PA. Rain, then hail, then some kind of ice, then snow and now back to rain.

  77. 77
    jnfr says:

    Gorgeous arbor! Wild applause.

  78. 78
    satby says:

    Higgs and Mary, it all looks beautiful! Wish I could see it in person!

    I love snowy winters, but even I was getting SAD this year. And Lake Michigan is still frozen over as far as the eye can see from western MI. The shore looks like a glacier retreated, which is what sort of happened.

  79. 79
    Mnemosyne says:


    One of the commenters there had a very good point — a lot of the “Obamacare horror stories” are turning out to be stories of insurance companies trying to rip off their customers and claiming Obamacare made them do it as cover.

    PSA: If you bought insurance from the exchange and aren’t getting the pricing or coverage you were promised, you need to file a complaint with both your state’s department of insurance and the Department of Health and Human Services to let them know the insurance company is trying to rip you off. If you don’t report it, the agencies that regulate insurance companies don’t know there’s a problem.

  80. 80
    WaterGirl says:

    @jeffreyw: Apparently I was so fixated on the gorgeous sandwich that I never bothered to read the heading!

  81. 81
    Steeplejack says:


    I lived in Rantoul for four years when I was a kid (Chanute AFB).

  82. 82
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: Really! I didn’t recall that you came from a military family.

    I was on base once when it was still military, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to live on one. Then they turned it into some training place, and I was there once for that.

  83. 83
    Steeplejack says:


    Yes, my father was a doctor in the Air Force. I was there in grades 4–8. Had a bit of a rough transition, because we moved there in the middle of the school year, which was always rough, and plus we came from England, where I had gone to an English school, because we lived off base, “on the economy,” as it was called. So I had an English accent, couldn’t write longhand, didn’t understand baseball, etc. Yikes. But I adapted quickly, and I liked it there pretty well. The winters were brutal, though.

    Living on a big base was interesting. We lived in what was called “Capehart housing,” which was a surprisingly modern style that I remember as pretty cool. Example picture here. Suzanne or one of the other architectural types might know more. I am slightly surprised that I haven’t been able to find more pictures of that time on line.

  84. 84
    Steeplejack says:


    Oops. Grades 4–7.

  85. 85
    MomSense says:

    MaryG and HBM, these photos are stunning. You have done such a beautiful job with the arbor, boxes and plantings. Leland is an adorable supervisor!


  86. 86
    J R in WV says:


    Up in northern WV there’s a window factory. About 15 miles further out the road past the factory, they have a warehouse where the “rejects” come back from contractors… many of these are fine, just some workman measured the hole wrong. We got 5 double-hung windows and a 6 ft and an 8 ft slider each with a 1×6 sidelight, all double-pane hi-e glass for about $1200. We also got 3 “eyebrow” windows that we wound up not using, donated to Habitat in that price.

    No warranty, but those often aren’t worth the paper they’re written on anyhoo. At that price, you don’t really need a warranty. I did set off a fire extinguisher in the back seat of the truck, which made quite a mess, as we loaded stuff into the truck. That was interesting.

  87. 87
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: Yikes is right! I always think the kids who lived overseas grew up to be more interesting people. One of my closest friends spent 4 years living in Peru as a child. I think it changes your perspective, in a good way.

    If you’d been a bit older, the english accent would surely have been an asset.

Comments are closed.