Landscaping Mania!

This is probably one of my most favorite projects to date. Landscaping! Not that I know what I am doing or have a green thumb, but I have dreamed about pretty flowers in the front yard forever.  Over the past two years, I have looked into full sun plants and different varieties that grow in Louisiana. Last year for mothers day, I think, my husband bought me a book called Louisiana Gardener’s Guide. This book has been my go to when laying out the new flower beds. It shows many plants that thrive in our hot weather, as well as when to plant them and how to care for them.

Another great resource was a video entitled “How to design a garden.”   Some of the questions it asks is: What is your purpose? What kind of plants do you need to buy? Focal point in your yard? Everything should be visually balanced.  This video made me make a list.  Far too often I see yards that have all of these plants haphazardly placed and it just looks weird.  I didn’t want my yard to look that way. We pulled up, to the consternation of our neighbors, some of the different shrubs that were scattered across the yard in different places.  I really wanted the front yard to make sense and to be visually pleasing.

The azaleas above we kept. They are on the left of the entry stairway. they are beautiful and did not have much ivy growing in their bed. The bed to the right of the stairwell had poison ivy ropes bigger than my thumb!!! We were always battling “the jungle” over there and decided to just level it and start over. The only thing kept were the two dwarf palmettos. I was looking at the pictures of the house when it was built and I am almost positive I can make out a grainy dwarf palmetto where these two sit. So, it is possible that they are original to the house.

Here is another video about laying out plants and flowers:

Here is a video about: Landscape design basics. This is a simpler design than the previous video.

Another great tip was that amateur gardeners (such as myself), tend to go and buy a bunch of plants and expect them to get along. Sometimes too many plants are bought and not given enough room to grow. These were all things I took in to consideration when sketching my plan.

So, after figuring out what plants would thrive, the next thing I did was visit a few local places to see what they had. I am sad to report that the big box home improvement stores had very little to choose from and that most varieties of plants were not very hearty in our weather.  So, I skipped those and went to Fads and Frames, a local hobby/craft/nursery here in town.  WOW!  Not only did they have an amazing selection of plants, most of them were sourced from area nurseries in Forest Hill and the staff was very knowledgable.  One awesome man saved me from buying three plant looking shrub things that can grow up to ten feet tall!!!  So glad he pointed that out!  I wanted something tall in the back of the bed, but not THAT tall! haha.


My sketched plan!!!!

I loaded up my car a couple times and brought my plants home. According to the advice above, experts say when starting out, pick three colors and bring them all the way down and around the full length of the bed so your eye will follow it and it will be pleasing to look at. I thought this was great advice!  I chose red, white and purple.  The left side of my bed gets partial sun and allll the way to the left, in the summer, it gets mostly shade.  The bed that curves around the house and is on the right side of the house gets full sun. At least 6-8 hours a day.  So, I knew that I needed to pick different flowers for either side. But, I still wanted to keep to my red, purple and white. I poked around a couple days and went back and forth, took pictures, sketched it out and then found enough plants within my color scheme that would work and that were not too fussy or hard to take care of.  This is how it went:



Forgive my photography and my finger in the frame above. I had the sun in my eye and did not know, until right now, that I managed to get my finger. Oops! The first thing we did was lay out black thick trash bags, contractor grade, over the grass that we wanted to kill so we would not have it coming up or taking over our flower beds. We left it like this while the brick work was going on and due to it getting moved accidentally and the high winds, we had a couple spots that got uncovered and the grass never fully died. That, combined with it not really getting very hot and staying cool, it did not kill the grass as well as we hoped. Going back and reading, it is better when you do it and the area has full sun and gets hot. I already bought the flowers, so I really did not want to wait.  I also used round up “everything” killer to spray along the bricks in the back of the bed and also in the front of the bed.  We have a very aggressive variety of St. Augustine grass and I wanted to make sure that it was knocked out in the back and front of the bed. It also helped when we laid the brick border that the grass was already dead.  Our grass has been known to take over stepping stones and bricks. We have had to dig them out.  I will most likely spray round up around the border once or twice a year, just to keep it at bay and out of the flower bed.

On to plan B which was laying kraft paper over the half dead grass and shoveling the new topsoil on top.  You can also use newspaper or cardboard.  Using paper, cardboard or kraft paper is more natural than using landscape fabric. I was reading that landscape fabric is petroleum based and does not really “return to the soil”.  I really wanted whatever we laid out to disintegrate that, and the worms like cardboard and paper. When they eat it, they basically compost it and keep your flower beds rich with microorganisms that flowers like.  So, kraft paper it was. I happened to have a roll left over from another project and interestingly enough, it was exactly how much I needed.

The topsoil I had delivered and pictures of laying the kraft paper.





I used an old hose to map out where I wanted to set up the brick border for the flower bed. We have piles of bricks in the back yard. After the brick mason used all the bricks he needed, that left the rest up for grabs to be used for the flowerbeds. Most of the bricks are from the chimneys that were taken out, plus there are street pavers and old “Rapides” bricks. We did not even take a small dent out the huge pile. Geez! I guess that means I have plenty of bricks for backyard landscaping too!!!


After doing all that. I laid out on the porch with my tongue hanging out telling myself that I was getting too old for manual labor! 🙂 It was then that I noticed that the porch light is hung crooked…..sheesh…another thing to add to the “fix it” list.


We wheeled around the topsoil and mixed in Black Kow manure compost. My kids were absolutely fascinated that we were putting “cow poop” in our flower bed. It was really fun trying to explain. It was even more fun listening to the silly songs they made up about “cow poop”. hehe







Goodness, there is that finger again!  Time to bring the flowers around and to lay them all out according to the plan I sketched to see if everything is going to work out.  The kids helped us with misc. chores as you can see. They had a lot of fun and were excited about it. (Now, even two weeks later, they ask how “their” plants are doing and help me water them. I am happy that they take pride and ownership in this project).





I quickly learned that saying “put the caladiums over here, put the Dianella over there” meant absolutely nothing to anyone but me. So, instead, I just handed them the plant tag and said “go find this plant and put it there”. That worked!



Here it is all laid out. I was pleased to see that I bought enough plants and that everything worked out nicely. I left a lot of space in between the flowers to give them room to grow and spread out this summer. A couple varieties, like the shasta daisies, like to have lots of room.




In the picture above, you can see a very old yellow iris bed. We had an old pecan cut down last year right in front of the bed. It was getting brittle and dropping limbs. Now that it is gone, this bed gets a lot of sun. In the eight years we have been here, I have never seen these irises grow like that!!!!  I was reading that irises need to be culled every 2-3 years and redistributed. I have never done that. I guess, now that I know, I will do that this fall.  I also learned that irises will not bloom unless you cull them and they have enough room to grow and get enough water. They are very compacted, several layers deep. Sounds like a good fall project!!!!

We did have one lonely iris bloom on the edge of the bed. He must be new and got enough water.



After we got them all planted into the ground, we put black mulch on top to keep the weeds out and to make it look purty. 🙂 (There is that dang finger again….sigh…my photography skills are seriously lacking).












Ewwww yuck! We got the job done though!





Dirt pile before, dirt pile after! That is a LOT of dirt…ouch my back!!!!


Anyone need some starter pots for square foot gardening or misc projects? Shoot me an email! Reduce, reuse, recycle!!

Some things you don’t see: the tiny dwarf palmetto we planted all the way to the right of the bed so that we would have a third palmetto. We found it close to one of the other established palmettos and moved him. Rule of thirds. Also, we planted about 3 dozen gladioli bulbs along the back edge of the far right corner by the steps. I have not had very good luck with bulbs. They should start coming up soon as the ground gets warmer. According to the package, April is the time you plant them in Louisiana!

So, there you have it. Amateur gardening. Not sure what will happen, what will die, what will thrive, etc., but I will keep you posted this summer.  If anything bites the dust, I will make a note of it and try something different.  Right after I planted it all and mulched it, I watered the beds thoroughly. The next day we had lots and lots of rain, so that made them even happier. I have tried to go out and water them every other day (they have been in the ground for two weeks now), to make sure they get good and established. There are couple of them that do not like to stay drenched, so I made myself a binder with all of the tags showing the watering schedule.  I am hoping this helps keep them alive a little longer. I am always amazed that there are some plants that do not like too much water. That is almost like bears not liking honey. Its just not right. Haha.

A list of what I planted starting from left to right:

Caladiums (red. white and purple-part shade)

Laguna (purple- part sun)

Coleus varieties (red, purple – part to full sun depending on the kind)

Dianella or wax lily (white spiky grass thing in the back – full sun)

Geraniums (red – full sun)

Shasta daisies (white – full sun)

Senorita rosalita (purple – full sun)

Salvia (purple – part to full sun)

Thanks for stopping by.  I plan on taking pictures throughout the summer to see what happens.


Snow in Louisiana


This is crazy stuff! I am kind of shocked because I really did not believe the predictions of snow.







Here is my neighbors’ house:



We probably won’t see snow like this again for many years to come.

****update: 1/28/14. ^^^Apparently I was wrong. It wasn’t years but only a couple days before we got it again! Lol.






Porch Planters and Kitchen Cabinets

So, the upper kitchen cabinets are planned. I sketched what I wanted and measured the wall and Steven took that and measured again and calculated the amount of materials needed. Hopefully Thursday we will make our (weekly) trip to the home improvement store. To see my inspiration pics scroll down two posts for all the kitchen talk.

I found this book recently. I have had it for a while. I thought it was time to get it out and dust it off.

I want to take all of this:



And make something like this:




I want to put them:



Instead of plain wood, I have pulled some different color stains and semi transparent wood paint from other projects. I am trying to use what I have instead of it going in to a landfill somewhere. My idea is to stain or paint each piece of wood a different color.

***UPDATE: To see how they turned out, click here.

Here are my inspiration pics:

I hope to start them this weekend. If I do, I will post some updated pics on how it turned out. Wish me luck!






RIP Thompson-Hargis Mansion

Last night was very sad for Preservationists in Cenla. The Thompson-Hargis home was irreparably destroyed by fire. At this time we know that it started in the back of the house and according to KALB, the cause was arson perpetuated by a 13 year old girl.  An arrest has been made.

A security guard has been posted at the house remains to deter vandalism until a future disposition of the house can be determined by the family. Built in 1907 (some documents I have say 1902) without the benefit of a house plan by B.F. Thompson, a Canadian, the Thompson-Hargis mansion survived a total of 105 years until its historic reign was brought to an untimely end on September 9, 2012. Rivaling the beautiful and well preserved mansions on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, this mansion was the last one of its kind in Alexandria.

Mansion Row, as it is locally named, will not be the same. RIP grand lady.





The above pictures were taken via iPhone as it was unfolding.  For pictures taken this morning, click here to be redirected to the WeSawThat blog.

P.S. I wrote a short post spotlighting this property in 2008 and made the comment that it would not last much longer in the state that it was presently in.  It has been a top post for the past two days, understandably so.  I am sad that this was a fulfilled prophecy. 😦

Work to begin again….

So, my blog has been dormant for several months.  Yes, I know.  Instead of plying you with excuses and listing everything that has happened between now and then, I will spare you (because I hate reading other people’s excuses when they pick up their blog again) and just inform you that work is going to start up on our house August 29th!

In a nutshell, I filed to receive Louisiana Rehabilitation Tax Credits.  We have been approved and most of our work is lined up to commence and be finished by the end of the year.  August 29th, I have a foundation repair service coming to remove the rotted sill on the front corner of the house and back corner of the porch in the back.  Having these sills repaired will be the catalyst to our other rehab projects.  We could not repair the porch, columns, paint, etc., until the foundation was repaired. 

After the foundation repair, you shall see a new roof, paint and other small projects coming to fruition.  Needless to say, I am very excited!  So, forthcoming will be a post on Louisiana Rehabilitation Tax Credits how to apply and who is eligible and after that, I will be blogging and posting pictures of our progress.

Stay tuned….

Alexandria’s Natural Wonder!

I bet none of you knew about one of the greatest natural wonders in Alexandria!  This natural phenomenon occurs about 3 times a year and is quite consistent.  What am I talking about?  A water geyser!  Of course!


Friday I arrived home and received a knock on my door from the mailman who told me I had water in my yard.  So, I went out to the side of the house and noted a small, sprinkler type spray coming from the ground.  So, I walked over (not too close) to see what it was and to make sure it was not sewer.  We have had sewer blockage problems lately and have had the city out to clean out the block twice this past month.  I smelled chlorine, so I knew it was clean water.  I stuck my hand in the grass and there was a big hole in the ground.  Sticking my hand in the ground changed it from small sprinkle to a shooting geyser.  I went from getting my grass watered to a free pressure wash for my house!

I had to laugh while calling the plumber.  With old houses its one thing or another.  So, one of our friends came out and looked at it.  The old cast iron pipe cracked.  After 100 years it just finally gave out.  In under an hour it was fixed and everything was back to normal.  One side of my house looks really clean.

This phenomenon is quite predictable.  If you drive by next week, you might catch another geyser…albeit in another area of the lawn.  Check back and don’t miss it!


Notes on A Driving Tour of Alexandria

Re-Posted here with permission by Lamar White, Jr.

To see the original post, click here.

Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been discussing Alexandria on a personal level and the potential and opportunities presented by the community’s renewed spirit and by the nearly $100 million infrastructural project known as SPARC.

Last week, Daniel Smith, Melinda Anderson, and I took a tour of Alexandria. We were scoping out provisional historical districts and properties, in preparation for a visit by the State Historic Preservation Office (which was covered in today’s newspaper). Just as an aside, a designation on the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent a structure from being demolished. However, it is an incredibly important distinction, paving the way for various tax credits (when applicable) and demonstrating the importance of a place’s history and local significance.

Our tour was instructive.

We began in Lower Third. There’s a neighborhood near Augusta Street that is approaching the 50 year threshold, and though it probably does not possess the “wow factor” needed for inclusion in the National Register, it appears to be a stable and healthy working class neighborhood, a place in which pride of ownership shows.

We then dipped down to Samtown/Woodside, an area in obvious need of attention, to check out a small area that we had initially believed to be nearing 50 years old (but have subsequently determined otherwise). As I mentioned in a previous post on walkability, Samtown/Woodside has some obvious obstacles– in large part, this is because the area was developed and subsequently annexed into the City of Alexandria, which means that site development requirements were practically non-existent. There are very few sidewalks, and in many places, the roads are entirely too narrow.

I know many, many people who have lived in Alexandria for the entire lives and have not yet been to Samtown or Woodside. And I am personally ashamed that it took me nearly twenty years before I had ever visited this important area of our City.

Which leads me to a broader point: When discussing the needs of our community, we must be objective. Our needs should be discussed collectively– as a community; they should not be steered by the wants and demands of a small group of individuals. The table should have enough seats for all of us.

If you have no notion of the needs of Lower Third, Samtown/Woodside, and South Alexandria– tangible and obvious needs- then you likely have a distorted view of our most pressing priorities.

Much of Alexandria is blighted and in need of immediate attention– both programmatic and infrastructural.

That said, there is a reason I personally believe preservation is particularly important– not just in the area around the Alexandria Garden District but throughout our fair City. To be sure, I think it is foolish to be stubborn on this issue– sometimes, quite simply, some things are beyond saving. But when we can, we must preserve.

After Daniel, Melinda, and I left Samtown/Woodside, we toured an area near South Lee Street– remarkably similar to the character of Samtown/Woodside, and then on to an area known as Sunken Village, which, believe it or not, is technically outside of the city limits. Sunken Village is, in my opinion, a unique urban problem. As its name implies, the neighborhood has a tendency to flood, and although it appears to be primarily occupied by young families, its infrastructure is ancient. Children crowded the streets due to a lack of sidewalks. Something needs to happen there. It’s outside of the City. There’s no homeowner’s association.  Much of the neighborhood is rental property. It’s prone to flooding.

When you tour Alexandria in this way, you have a notion of the scale of blight. It is not isolated to a single area; it exists throughout the City, and therefore, it is a City-wide problem.

Working together means acknowledging our shared challenges.

I implore you: If you haven’t seen your City, go out and see it.

Lamar White, Jr.

“Spirit of Alexandria”


I have been longing for New Orleans of late.  Just like the song says, “There is no place like home”.  I think what I miss most about New Orleans is the fine dining and that everything is always open late.  I loved the low light and ambiance of Houston’s on St. Charles Street.  I loved going to the Apple Seed for lunch in the Business District.  I loved walking up Canal Street and shopping at some of the trendy stores, or looking at the well prepared window displays.  Coffee and beignets?  No problem, Cafe Du Monde is open 24/7.  On any given day, I could get on a Street Car (trolley) and ride the entire Garden District line, just to gawk at the large commanding historic mansions that New Orleans is known for.  All of these things, to me, encapsulate the “Spirit of New Orleans”.

Moving to Alexandria was a shock.  Well, let me back up….moving to Provencal, Louisiana was a SHOCK!  According to Wikipedia, the population is 708 and there are only 300 housing units in the whole town.  This was a shock to me, I swear I have only seen around 200 people and they ALL knew MY business whether I wanted them to or not.

When our jobs moved us to Alexandria, I certainly was relieved and glad to live somewhere I could get high speed internet and did not have to make all of my purchases at Wal-Mart (not that there is anything wrong with that…but, when you have no other choices….).  I viewed my move to Alexandria as moving back closer to civilization.   Now, don’t get me wrong, Provencal had its charms.  It was close to the Kisatchie National Forest, had beautiful rural roads and its very own walking track right smack in the middle of town.  It also has one gas station/pizza place/typical country store that was a Circle K when I lived there, but that everyone lovingly called “Po’s”.  Now its a Chevron.  When I would say I am going to get gas at Circle K, I would get very odd looks from my husband’s family and some of the church people there.  They had no idea what I was talking about.  When they would say, “You mean Po’s?”, that would completely confuse me because nowhere on the sign did the store say “Po’s”.  Needless to say, I am very literal and from the city.  A combination that usually got me off the hook, because people normally just sighed, rolled their eyes and chalked my “ignorance” up to my being a “city folk”.

So, I thought, moving to Alexandria would be an improvement, right?  I guess I got the high speed internet, but I am surprised to find that, even though Alexandria is sprawled across a large area of Cenla, it is relatively still behind other comparable cities of its size.  I find that, even though we have a good Administrative leadership in Cenla, that most entities, businesses, charities and non-profits are still singing their songs solo.  Alexandria severely lacks cooperative involvement from corporations, as well as private citizens.  A lot of people sit around pointing fingers and laying blame at someone else’s door instead of getting up off their tushes and working together as a cooperative whole to find a solution. 

Anyway, I am thrilled to see the two beautiful trolley cars that the City purchased.  Of course the trolley causes my nostalgia all over again but I am hoping that, in time,  it will make the pangs of longing for my hometown subside.  Maybe the City will come up with a tour through the Garden District?  Thrilling!  I am so glad to see some charm rattling down the streets of Alexandria.  What would be even better, is  revitalization of the downtown area.  Alexandria has so much potential with the old store fronts and buildings relatively intact, to host a number of thriving businesses which would cater to the local professionals, tourists, yuppies, bicycle riders, etc.  Can’t you see it?  Coffee houses, music, loft apartments, entertainment.  People leisurely walking the streets enjoying the scenery.  We already have a wonderful orchestra and a great art district.  I think what Alexandria is lacking though is a little “soul”.  I love the quote from Winston Churchill:

“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”

Isn’t that so true?  We need to shape our buildings in the downtown area to become a pleasing recreational place for families, for tourists, for convention go-ers, you name it.  It would give our city a little “spirit” and “soul”.  I wonder if that perhaps is the reason we have such limited cooperation, prevalent racism and negativity in Alexandria?  Is it because our “soul” is gone and we feel empty and destitute which causes us to angrily lash out?  What we need in our city is a little romance and nostalgia from a gentler era of Alexandria’s history.  Whatever they decide to do with the trolley cars, I am 100% for it.  If they ever decide to use it for public tours or transportation, I will be the first in line to buy a ticket!  Thank you City for some putting Spirit back in Alexandria!

The Fun House

(Not to be confused with our home, this is the bungalow next door that we purchased last week)

Living Room and entryway

Living Room and entryway

I use the word “fun” very humorously and saracastically.  Besides the “fun house” color scheme, there is nothing “fun” about this house!  The good thing is, it is in a LOT better condition than the other bungalow we purchased.  It took us nine months to return that house to a habitable state (this one is dubbed the “Little House” by our daughter).  This particular house (we shall name it the “Fun House”), was remodeled right before it was bought in May 2006.  The new owner made only three to four payments before he defaulted on it around late 2006.  On my way to work, I would notice now and again, things missing.  The blinds, a window screen, the flower pots, etc.  On my lunch hour one day, I caught a guy taking things in broad daylight.  He was cleaning the shed out.  He backed up his van and was loading flowerpots and other knick knack things that were housed in the shed.  I called the police.  By the time the cop got their, the other man was gone.  I gave her the license plate and told her that the man just left.  She said she saw him backed up to the house, but that he wasn’t taking anything real important, so she wasn’t really worried about it.  Besides (she said), I know him, he is harmless.  I stood there shocked!  He was stealing…….stealing IS stealing!  Since he was able to do it in broad daylight and the cops not stop him, that led to others coming in and taking what they wanted.  Anyway….we own the house now.  It is all shored up.  When I have the electricity turned on Monday, I will make sure the alarm is reset, have motion lights installed  and that will ensure that no one bothers this poor little house anymore.  I have not had any problems living in my house.  It seems that people will leave houses alone they know are occupied.  However, if they get wind that a house is abandoned or foreclosed upon, they come by looking to see what they can salvage.  But, even the richest neighborhoods are not immune to these happenings. 

Here are some pictures I took this weekend of the Fun House.  Besides a new paint scheme, it is in great condition and has beautiful columns and arches in the living areas.  I can’t wait to refinish the floors and have this little lady gleaming again.  I already have the paint scheme picked out!  The living room, entryway and dining room will all be painted “Timothy Straw” by Glidden, and the hall will be painted one lighter on that chip, “Cream Tan”.  The bedrooms will be painted a “Bone White” by Benjamin Moore and the back bedroom will be painted “Weekend Getaway” by Benjamin Moore and since the bedroom opens into the kitchen (Yes, strange I know), it will be painted a lighter shade on that weekend getaway card, a color by the name of “Aganthus Green” also by Benjamin Moore.  The bathroom will sport “Stratton Blue” by Benjamin Moore and the half bath (If I can talk my husband into it) will be painted a very nice “Spicy Cayenne” by Behr. 

94 color palette

The Benjamin Moore store is able to mix anyone’s paint colors.  I will probably take all of these chips to them and let them mix it.  I love Benjamin Moore’s second tier “contractor” paint.  It is of a much better quality than Behr and it rolls on so nice and smooth.  It has less of an odor than Behr paint too.  Even nicer are Benjamin Moore’s premium paints, but I hate spending so much money on premium when the second tier paints are of a better quality than what you can get at Home Depot or Lowes anyway.

Here is a Lowes Color pallette:

Lowes color pallette 94

 I guess I need to give my paint contractor a call. I am sure you all know her. She also happens to be my daughter. I guess a visit to Chuck-e-Cheese will be in my near future 🙂

employee viv

Wish us happy painting!