Category Archives: garden

Flower Power: Big Bundles of Hosta Flowers

A bucket full of hosta flowers | This American House

“I don’t know,” I said to my friend Joan. “If you ask me, I think hostas are just weeds that we tolerate.”

I uttered those words earlier this spring. I had just dug up and moved what seemed like the one hundredth hosta that’s planted around the house. At that time, the hostas were these small, uninteresting plants that felt more like a burden than a joy.

“Oh, just you wait,” Joan replied. “You’re going to love them.”

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The Great Outdoors: From Polar Vortex to Summer Sundays

When we closed on the house back in November 2013, the first snow had already fallen on the Dream House. By January 2014, when the above video was shot, the polar vortex had settled on the Midwest and the snow with it. I shot this video one snowy morning after The Mister had gone back to the city. I was feeling as blue and lonely as the weather would suggest.

Considering the harsh winter that we survived, you’ll have to figure us if we’re a little giddy about summer. For only now can we truly enjoy what’s outside the house. While it was great excuse to focus on interior projects over the winter, it’s positively dreamy being able to shift our attention to the outdoors.

For months we would stand at the window and look out over a blanket of ice and snow. We would have spirited conversations about what might lie beneath all that snow. We dreamed about how the big bare trees would look once their leaves had grown back in. We planned our garden and guessed about tree species while we counted down the days until summer.

Here it is, late June, and we have been relishing every moment of the season. The big leafy trees rustle in the wind and sound like ocean waves. The green grass provides a lush carpeting across the ample lawn. I’ve even become one of those guys who enjoys mowing!

Viva summer!

Images: This American House

Test Lab: Does the Pocket Hose Really Work?

Does the Pocket Hose Actually Work? | This American House

I tittered at the name splashed across the package. “Pocket Hose. The House That Grows.” My inner thirteen-year-old boy found the sexual innuendo absolutely hilarious. I snapped a photo and put it, along with a witty caption, on Instagram months ago. Beyond the seemingly obscene name, does the expanding Pocket Hose actually work? Now that we have a house with a lawn and garden, I decided to find out!

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Sorry Earth: Why I Exchanged the Battery Powered Lawn Mower for a Standard Gas Powered Mower

Toro Gas Mower on This American House

For all those folks who said that the battery powered mower wouldn’t work for us, I’m giving you this one chance. Go ahead, say it. I TOLD YOU SO! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to explain.

When I bought the Kobalt Cordless Electric mower back in April, I was fully committed to making it work. After my first use, it was clear that I would never be able to mow our entire yard in one session. And I thought I was OK with that. So I’ll split my mowing into two days, i said to myself (and anyone else who would listen).

As the season has progressed and the grass has started growing at a faster rate, using the battery powered mower has required up to three days to get the entire yard done. I could finish most of the front and side yards in one session and then I’d have to recharge the batteries. The next day I could knock out most of the back yard before the batteries would lose their juice and I’d have to stop. By day three, it started to seem totally ridiculous.

I really wanted the rechargeable lawn mower to work for us. The thought of using gas and oil to trim down nature’s bountiful beauty seems completely wasteful. And yet spending three days seems like a waste of time. Until battery technology can catch up with my mowing needs, I’ll have to face the facts. Our yard is just too darn big for green technology.

I had purchased the battery powered lawn mower at Lowe’s because I knew that there was a chance I’d have to return it. But when I checked the return policy on the receipt I saw that I was about seven days past the 30-day window for returning the mower. Curses to procrastination! I called the nearest Lowe’s (1 1/2 hours away from the house!) and explained my situation. It takes three days to mow my yard, I said. I want to exchange the battery powered mower for a gas mower, I explained, but I’m a little past the return/exchange period. Oh, that’s no problem, the Lowe’s manager said. We’ll definitely honor the return, he promised.

I made the long trek to Lowe’s and lo and behold they did indeed accept the returned mower, no questions asked. I chose a Troy-Bilt gas powered mower as the replacement and in the end saved about $150 compared to the price of the battery powered mower.

I used the new Troy-Bilt on Monday and was pleased with the results. It’s louder than the battery powered mower, of course. And instead of a push button start like the Kobalt cordless mower, the new Troy-Bilt mower has a rip cord starter. But, hey, life is all about compromises. What I’ve lost in eco-responsibility and peace and quiet, I’ve gained in time saving convenience.

Sorry, Earth. We tried being kind to you!

Image: This American House

Welcome to the Carriage House: An Artful Mess

the original carriage house at the Delbert Meier House

Back in 1917, when Delbert and Grace Meier had their American System Built home constructed, they built what would have then been called a coach house. This is where the couple would have parked their Model T or Monroe Roadster or whatever they were driving at the time. A small boxy structure, the carriage house is covered in the same stucco as the house and topped with the original slate roof. It’s no longer used for housing an automobile but it’s very much a useful part of the house.

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