Category Archives: Friday Inspiration

Garden Update: Early May 2017


It has been a while since I shared progress on my new garden. So much is been accomplished, while there is so much that still needs to be completed.

Today, I want to celebrate the successes.

First off, with the help of friends and my wonderful husband, I was able to dig up my old garden and transfer it to the new yard. Everything except a small flower bed was removed. All the plants ended up in boxes in our front yard waiting to be transplanted. And then they got moved to the backyard to also wait to be transplanted. Last week I emptied the last box! Yay!

A listing of plants transplanted:

  • hundreds of daffodil bulbs
  • (13) hydrangeas, some ever blooming, a few Oakleaf and a few paniculata
  • (12) roses, all but three are thriving and even these look like they will survive.
  • (15+) hostas and sedum
  • three types of irises
  • (8) peonies
  • (20+) echinacea
  • (10) Verbena bonariensis
  • lots of bread seed poppies (Papaver somniferum)
  • lots of Asiatic lilies and other random lilies
  • a honeysuckle and a clematis vine
  • and other onesies and twosies of various flowering plants

I also owe great thanks to my husband, who completed the Herculean feat of getting all the pea gravel transferred during a long weekend in March. Now all the big components of my old garden are moved over, and I have been busy getting everything set up and ready for the growing season.

In early April the holly hedge was pruned back to allow more sun to hit the south facing flower bed I wanted to install. With the generosity of a neighbor this bed received a dense layer of leaf mulch, and now I am in the process of adding another layer of compost. I am planning on turning this bed into my dahlia border. It still needs some more attention before I can plant the dahlia tubers. However in my eyes, even being only halfway there, it looks beautiful!

This area of the garden is going to be my densely planted annuals, like zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, gaillardia, and nicotiana.  This first row is going to be Naomi’s garden, where she chooses what is going to be planted.  And this is how I prepped the bed to help supress any existing weed seeds and give her a good growning foundaion.

Four sheets of clean and blank newsprint/packing paper were placed on the ground…

and then a 2-3 inch layer of compost was placed on top, workind down the bed with my dependable garden wagon with a dumping feature.

And this is how it looked when the row was all covered with compost.

Here are the flats of seedlings I began, a bunch of items have already germinated and I will need to act fast in preparing the other four rows before my seedlings get to leggy.

A view of how the garden looks now.  I will be making more obelisks for the climbing roses I have in the garden, and several other things that need attention.

Here is a view of the lilac that came with the yard and a small bed filled with a bunch of delights.  A very established peony, some irises, day lilies, and two Gallica Roses, I think “La Belle Sultaine”. 

So much to do, and so happy to be in the new garden.


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First Day of Spring

Happy First Day of Spring!!!

I thought I would share some of my favorite springtime images from last year in my old garden.

Early March, when the bulbs were just beginning to peak out.  Those yellow daffodils are some of the earliest bloomers, if the winter is mellow they sometimes bloom the first week of March!

And my back boarder with some “bouquet” tulips.  I loved them in the garden, but they did not ever make it into the studio for a painting.

I have been busy digging up my old garden and enjoying all the time in the sun.  I will be recreating a long row of purple bearded irises in the new garden, I always loved this view.   However I now realize that irises need to be dug up every 4-5 years or they get out of control!  Even though it looks fantastic.

Sweet William, and Centura in the foreground.  The really tall, fun architectural green stems on the left was a rogue bunch of goldenrod.  At first I did not know what it was, but I allowed it to grow because I like how tall and structured the vertical stems looked,  and they looked great in late August, though they are aggressive and choked out my seaholly and echinacea in this bed.

…and my beloved nicotiana.  I love this plant and its beautiful scale, I think this year I am going to plant it with my dahlias.

Wishing you a very happy Spring season!


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My New Garden

“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” ( Gertrude Jekyll)


It has been a while since I posted here. I find in times when so much is going on and with the ability to share small snippets via Instagram and Facebook, my tendency to share deeply also goes away. However this month I am choosing to slow down, and to start sharing more, in a slower, more meaningful way.

Garden Plan 1st draft
{first draft of my garden plan}

This morning I am going to share with you what has me so excited, my new garden.

The autumn of 2016 was a whirlwind of effort that culminated with the purchase and move to a new home. November and December were all about packing up and physically moving into our new home. December and January were a whirlwind of boxes, gallon paint cans and all the paraphernalia that goes with a rapid push to get some of the rooms of our new home freshly painted and set up for how we want to live. There is still more to do inside however since February, my attention has been turning outside in focusing on how to move my previous garden to my new outdoor space.

This is what I have to work with, a beautiful, large yard that already had an established vegetable patch in the central open area that receives full sun for at least half of the day. I am so excited about what I’m going to grow here.
9032 Buckner backyard 2

9032 Buckner ext backyard 1

{the existing backyard}

The existing vegetable patch will be host to some vegetables, however mainly annual flowers like zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers will go here. The surrounding flowerbeds that I am creating will host my perennial plants.

Garden Plan final design 20170308

{the plan as of today, it may change, but pretty much this is what I am planning on implementing}

As you can see by my notations, I will have a main central garden, based on  classic English cottage gardens, with pebble paths and gathering areas.  The main one will be for meals and hanging out, and a second play space is for Naomi.  She still has her playhouse and sandbox, and this time the flower beds that surround her area will be filled up with flowers and plants of her choice.  Plus in the middle of the two squares that have (4) “L”s in them will be the peach trees she has been asking for.  She loves peaches and since I told her about how my grandpa had a peach tree in his backyard so he could go out and pick sun-ripened peaches, she has latched onto the idea and has been requesting to grow peaches in our backyard.  So this spring we will pick out two peach trees for her.  The Dahlia bed that will run along the north side of the yard may or may not be implemented this year, it all depends on how much I get done this month with regard to the rest of the garden.

Today the garden is still a construction site with some plants already placed with the vast majority of plants still over at the old garden. As you can see, the layout is established with the black garden fabric that denotes where the gravel paths will be. I used the lasagna method of establishing flowerbeds, this utilizes a layer of cardboard placed on top of the turf with a thick layer of compost and leaf mulch placed on top (5 to 6 inches deep). I then place my plants in each flower bed as I have planned and fertilize everything.  I will then layer another layer of mulch on top of everything once things are settled.
9032 Buckner today 20170308-01

9032 Buckner today 20170308-02

9032 Buckner today 20170308-03

March is going to be a crazy month, full of digging, lugging and relocating my beloved plants. Some plants are especially sentimental as they are from dear friends and now I almost consider them family.

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Why are Simple Things Special?


Have you ever wondered what makes simple objects
so special and remarkable?

This is something I ponder, and have never found an exact reason it is so.

Instead, my reaction is more from the gut, often I respond emotionally to a scene on a very unconscious level, where I just feel a sense of happiness, connection, and warmth. I think these feelings are universal, and have always been a part of our lives.

Still-life painting by Chardin

{Basket of Peaches, with Walnuts, Knife, and a Glass of Wine by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin}


In 18th Century France, when art was dominated by the highly refined Rococo style, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin chose to celebrate the common, treating still life with a respect that was hardly given any attention by his contemporaries. At the time, history painting was considered the supreme classification of art, and the genre of still life was relegated to only being the decorative background to more “serious” work.

Instead Chardin imbued his paintings with a beguiling sense of appreciation for the here and now, celebrating the present by identifying the beauty found in common household objects. Simple groupings that still resonate today because his paintings present scenes of common objects that evoke the sense of looking through a window, not our own and not of our time, but still reminiscent of our own lives.

I still remember the first time I was exposed to Chardin’s work. It was as if my world had just expanded.  And my attitude towards the simple objects that populated my life had just gained a new level of appreciation, because everything was now given an opportunity to be seen as special and unique. This awareness made me more willing to pause, observe, and appreciate the simple things in my daily routine.

Do you think simple things are special?


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Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool


This is not specifically an art book, however I believe it is an essential read if you strive to improve your craft and want to become a better artist.

A few years ago I learned about the idea of “deliberate practice” by reading Cal Newport’s blog StudyHacks. I immediately began applying some of the ideas of deliberate practice to my daily studio habits and within months began to see the results in my paintings. When I found out that the father of deliberate practice, Anders Ericsson, was publishing a new book for a wider audience rather than his academic book on excellence, I preordered it and then devoured it.

Instead of waxing poetic about this book, I will share some my own notes from the book.


Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Learning is about developing one’s potential, not as a way to reach your innate potential. So by deliberate practice, one can learn how to expand and grow your expertise.

Gaining expertise is made up of:
1. Improving one’s mental processes (even the mind-body coordination)
2. Long-term dedication to the process, 10+ years of purposeful practice. (Purposeful practice is slightly different than deliberate practice, but you need to get comfortable with completing purposeful practice before you can tackle deliberate practice as it requires higher levels of concentration and effort.)
All effective deliberate practice techniques involve:
1. Asking what works and what doesn’t in driving changes in the body and brain.
2. And to keep working to shifting these practice sessions outside our comfort zone.

Q. What makes purposeful practice distinct?
A. 1. Purposeful practice has well-defined
.specific goals, this means breaking down the big audacious goal into small baby steps, that once all are accomplished and achieved the large goal is reached.
2. Purposeful practice is focused
. Attention is given throughout painting sessions.
. Full attention is focused on the exercise.
3. Purposeful practice involves feedback
. You must know where you are succeeding or where you are failing/falling short. Only with feedback can you adjust and make corrections to improve your skills.
4. Purposeful practice requires a lot of time at the edge or beyond your limits
. By moving beyond your comfort zone you will improve. This means doing things you have never done before and making the most of your skills.
. This does NOT mean try “harder” but instead to try “differently”

(crib notes)
1. Get outside your comfort zone in a focused way
2. Have clear goals for each painting session
3. Have a plan of how to reach those goals
4. Monitor your progress
5. Maintain your motivation (this means taking little bets that help you see the completion of paintings that stretch your skill set)

DELIBERATE PRACTICE is something more than purposeful practice! Deliberate practice is about harnessing adaptability in yourself.
. Humans are adaptable, but the body craves homeostasis, so you have to challenge yourself
. By always striving for just outside your comfort zone you change the mind and build your own potential, just be careful about pushing too far – risk of injury occurs then.

Q. What is a mental representation in relation to deliberate practice?
A. a mental representation is the mental structure that corresponds to an object, an idea, a collection of information, or anything else, concrete or abstract, that the brain is thinking about. Much of deliberate practice involves developing ever more efficient mental representations that can help you in the activity you are practicing.

Characteristics of MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS include:
. Even when the practice is mainly physical, mental representations are required – its about developing the ideal image of how to move.
. Mental representations are skill specific, they do not cross over easily

Q. What makes mental representations so powerful?
A. Mental representations (MRs) enable one to hold and process large amounts of information quickly. MRs can be understood as a conceptual structure to sidestep short term memory and to have access to the wealth of memory focused in long-term memory. It is the quality and quantity of mental representations that set experts apart from others. These mental representations allow experts to make faster and more accurate decisions and to respond quickly to a situation. (Think about how quickly Rob Liberace can block in the human form including all the subtle shifts in anatomy and light and shade and how to handle the different edge qualities. He can do all this so quickly and apply the information to paper accurately because he has years of building his MRs and speeding up the process.)

***the symbiotic character of deliberate practice and mental representations***
The more effective the mental representations are, the better performance will be. Mental representations don’t just result in learning a new skill, they can also help us learn. Honing a skill improves our mental representations, and mental representations help hone the skill.

The main purpose of deliberate practice is to develop effective mental representations and as you progress MRs play a key role in deliberate practice, because as one does deliberate practice the mental representations become better, making for improved performance.

1. DP develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do. The practice regime is designed by a teacher and overseen by them.
2. DP takes you outside of your comfort zone, it is not enjoyable and asks for near-maximal effort.
3. DP involves well-defined, specific goals and often focused on a target performance.
4. DP requires a person’s full attention. Concentration and focus on the specific goal must be maintained throughout each session.
5. DP involves feedback and adjustments and efforts as a result of the feedback. This self-monitoring of actions requires effective mental representations.
6. DP both produces and depends on effective mental representations. MRs make it possible to monitor how one is doing, both in practice and in actual performances.
7. DP involves building and or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically.


These notes are just the tip of the iceberg, the book is full of ways to apply deliberate practice methods into your life. If you are curious to learn more, I want to encourage you to purchase a copy of this book and to find ways on how you can improve your skills as an artist.

Since reading this book in April 2016, I have been inspired to up my game as an artist and to find ways to better understand what I do as an artist and how to better express my ideas.

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise


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