How We Designed a Spa Like Bathroom

I know, I am a garden writer but had to share what we have been doing all winter. Its been a long four months since we starting renovations. We decided after having water drip from upstairs on to the kitchen floor that maybe, just maybe we should redo the bathroom. We called around to get the best estimates from three different renovation companies and decided to use Darcy Phillips Contracting. It’s a local business and we already knew him. I was warned by friends to expect the unexpected. I doubt there is a renovation that goes perfectly but we are very happy with the end result. What I didn’t know as a first time renovator is that I would have to shop for all the sinks, taps, counters ourselves. I doubted I would make the right choices. I couldn’t afford to hire a designer but we did have help getting the cabinet layout right.  Where to start? It is pretty overwhelming but we did it and the design choices are ours.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

I didn’t get a before shot of our ensuite shower until it was already being torn out. It’s a standard 3′ shower but the base was never level ever. That meant swishing water down the drain with your foot. The house is 25 years old and so was the bathroom. It was time to fix it up.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

This is a before shot of the ensuite bathroom with it measuring 25 square feet. Pretty small compared to most new bathrooms. How could we make this bigger?

How we designed a spa like bathroom

Between the door to the bathroom on the left and the door to our closet on the right, there is a vanity area. On our original house plans it showed an area where the lady of the house could have a makeup table. It never happened. This was dead space that we could expand on. We could move the doors to the bedroom walls and that’s what we did.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

Work proceeded on the tear out and what a mess that was! As walls went back up, insulation was added and it finally took shape. Our master bedroom became the tool and supply area and we are still not back in there as the closet is now going in.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

We shopped and shopped for all the items we would need. I had a strong emphasis on safety after two hip surgeries. I wanted a bench in the shower and nice safety bars to hold on to. It took over three  months for the shower base to arrive due to the first one being broken in transport. That was the unexpected. It delayed work for three weeks. We knew it wouldn’t be done before the holidays at this point.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

Since our home is a Georgian style I really wanted to add fixtures to suit the style of the house. This is the hand-held shower we chose and we also had a rain shower put in. I wasn’t sure if I would like it but can you say love it? Best choice ever! They also installed a shower light which we didn’t know we needed but it was a good choice.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

You can see by the reflection here that the window is tiny in this bathroom and we only get the morning sun. Due to being fairly dark in there I decided to do an all white bathroom. The white tile in the shower has a bit of a shine allowing light to reflect. The towel bar in the shower is actually a safety bar that can hold up to 500 pounds. I used another towel bar just outside the shower for ease of grabbing a towel.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

With most of the bathroom being all white I need to add colour. I will be able to add bright colours to give it some sparkle like this yellow pot of flowers or by using brightly coloured towels. The white lets me change the colours as often as I want. Right now I am trending to teal and turquoise as accents. I am on the search for another owl soap dispenser so we have his and hers.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

This is the completed look as of last week. Lighting was bought at Design Lighting in Langley, BC. The mirrors were the hardest to find but bought them at a bath store in South Surrey. All our fixtures are the Riobel Georgian collection. The toilets, sinks and shower base came from Kohler. I love my new quartz counters tops from Abacado  Granite and Stone works in Richmond,BC. The cabinets are wood from Montalco in Richmond. Best decisions so far were to install nu-floor heat, have a timer on the fans, go for a more expensive clear glass on the shower, order a niche for shampoo and have Mud Bay Installations do the tile work. Did you know that shower glass is now tinted green? If you are doing a white bathroom the green tends to make your white walls look grey. What would I have done differently? I would not have bought my Kohler stuff from a showroom. It had several delays since their warehouse is in Texas and it held things up. I should have gone ahead and ordered the Kohler products from Home Depot. Their customer service was excellent. I normally wouldn’t recommend a big box store but they came through so many times. When I needed the niche for the shower quickly they delivered in less than a week.

How we designed a spa like bathroom

Best impulse decision ever was the crazy chandelier I bought at Design Lighting. I wanted a bit of glam and it worked. I doubted myself after bringing it home as it reminded me of a disco ball but it reflects the light over the walls in tiny circles everywhere. How romantic! So total size of the new ensuite bathroom is about 70 square feet and we love it. We also had our other two bathrooms done at the same time. They stayed the same size but we added the same dark cabinets and sinks as the ensuite. We are glad to be finished the major part of the renovation. We have decided to do the rest of the work ourselves. As of today a new closet system is going in the master bedroom and we hope to get our bedroom back soon.

So what did this cost? Lets just say I need to sell about 10,000 plants to pay for three bathrooms and a custom closet. Now that’s not hard is it?


4 Amazing Flowers for the Garden


4 amazing flowers for the garden

You know spring is just around the corner when you can collect flowers from the garden. I have been trying to photograph my Hellebore plants for weeks but this old body just can’t get down low enough anymore. I look forward to the day when I can buy some of the new ones that hold their flowers up high. Yesterday I decided that I wanted to collect a selection of what was in bloom in the garden. It’s very spring like here during the day but cools off at night. I grabbed a basket from the greenhouse and my secateurs and off I went. Camellia ‘Donation’ has been in bloom for two weeks so I picked one of the best blooms. It’s the large pink flower in the top left-hand corner. Next to it is one of the white Hellebores and to the far right on top is a Primula bloom.

Starting at the bottom left is a quince flower. I love this shrub although it tends to grow every which way making it a hard one to prune. Each year as we curse it for poking us as we walk by it blooms the most glorious shade of pinkish red. The birds love this shrub so it gets to stay. In the middle on the bottom of the tray are two more Hellebores. The dark purple is the Lenten rose and the one next to it is a seedling I have had for many years. In the far bottom right hand corner are Hellebores, one is a dark black and the other a lime green. It was fun collecting the blooms and I quickly realized I like certain colours, lots of pinks and purples in this collection.

4 amazing flowers for the garden

It’s a birthday weekend here and we are having a dinner party. Normal families place fancy flower arrangements on the table. I can’t do that. With five cats in the house, all my cut flowers get nibbled on with baby’s breath a favourite of all. So what is a girl to do? I knew I had seen bowls of floating flowers at many flower shows. Would the cats not sniff them out? I am in luck as this bowl of flowers went untouched by all the felines in the house.  I think I will have to do this more often although I have visions of water being sprayed everywhere once they do find the bowl.

4 amazing flowers for the garden

So this is my centerpiece for tonight. Not only is it still intact, its stunning selection of spring beauty is sure to wow my guests. So what do these flowers look like in the garden? Lets take a look.

4 amazing plants for the garden

This is what my quince shrub looks like now. Its blooming over a month earlier than normal but that’s okay with me. This shrub is about twelve feet high and ten feet wide so it needs room to grow. It loves a spot in full sun.

4 amazing plants for the garden

Camilla ‘Donation

Camellias can be found in many colours. This one came recommended by the master gardener group I belong to and it has never disappointed. Its large flowers are a beautiful soft pink and the queen of the garden this month.

4 amazing plants for the garden

I love Primula for their late winter blooms. This pink one is a hardy one and blooms for a long time.

4 amazing plants for the garden

Then there are the Hellebores which bloom facing down. What’s nice about Hellebores is the flowers remain for months. They love being under my big oak tree with protection from the afternoon sun.

The First Tomato Seeds are Planted!

The first tomato seeds are planted!

Its tomato seed planting time and I spent an hour this morning washing trays and cell packs to get ready for seed planting. I like to be sure my planting pots are nice and clean especially with my tomatoes. Some seeds I am not as fussy with but tomatoes are so prone to fungal diseases. I like to lean on the side of caution and do it right. I add a bit of bleach to a large sink of hot water in the laundry room and give the pots and trays a scrub with a brush. The next step is to fill them with soil, not any ordinary soil but a seed starting mix. Seed starting mixes are light enough to allow seeds to emerge when germinating. Heavy soils like garden soil or top soil just don’t work. You don’t want to use garden soil as it may bring unwanted pests and disease with it.

The first tomato seeds are planted!

Once I have filled my trays with seed starting mix I give the soil some water to make it moist. That way I can now plant the seeds, add a light dressing of soil over top and I am done. So let’s get started. I grow up to 500 tomatoes each year. They are not all for me as I sell them in May and keep about 20 for myself. If you are growing a few of each for your own use, you would plant just a few seeds in each pot. Because I am growing a larger quantity, I actually plant a whole package of tomato seeds in one four-inch pot. I know, its crazy right? I learned this technique from a  master at propagation. Once all the tomatoes have germinated I transplant each plant into its own four inch pot to grow on. Tomatoes are fast growers. There was a time when I would transplant from a cell pack to a 2″ pot and then again to a 4″ pot. I sell most of my plants at the 4″ pot size. The plants I keep for myself go into pots from 5 gallon size or larger. Most of the tomato plants I grow for myself are being grown for their seed. I grow and harvest seed for the Populuxe seed bank in Edmonton. I will also be growing out some of my tomato seed from last year to see if it comes true. By true I mean that I need to be sure it’s actually the same as the parent plant. Sometimes cross-pollination occurs and I may get a new tomato that’s very different. Mind you it may be a new tomato that no one has ever seen. Could it be possible that I create a tomato variety of my own? You never know. That’s how many of our tomato varieties came about in the old days.

The first tomato seeds are planted!

Without further ado lets look at my list of tomatoes for this year.

Mortgage Lifter- for seed only. The person who invented this tomato paid off his mortgage with sales from it, hence the name.

Fargo Yellow Pear- An improved yellow pear tomato although I couldn’t tell the difference from  Yellow Pear. Extremely rare seed

Snow White Cherry-An off white to cream cherry tomato that makes any salad look great.

Silvery fir Tree-This 18″ high tomato bears medium-sized red fruit with amazing flavour.

Stupice-A very cold hardy tomato with red fruit which is great for a short season climate.

Black cherry-1″ dark purple to black cherry tomatoes. 65-75 days from transplant. Vigorous plants with fruit held in clusters. Indeterminate.

Ivory pear-Ivory coloured pear-shaped fruit, indeterminate plant.70 Days from transplant

Yellow Brandywine- large beefsteak.

Sungold- Year after year this tomato is the top cherry on the market so I have to try it although it’s a hybrid.

Pole Pineapple- Yellow orange tomato with red streaks.

Yellow Pear-This tomato dates back to the 1800’s. Easy to grow and good producer of pear shaped yellow fruit.

Wapsipinicon Peach- One inch yellow tomatoes that are very sweet. A must have for my garden every year.

Black from Tula-10-12 ounce dark reddish black fruit with green shoulders and rich taste.

Marvel Striped-Seed only. Large pleated yellow fruit with red stripes. Heat and drought tolerant.

Giant Belgium-Seed only-2-5lb pink tomatoes which will need staking as they grow quite large. Very low acid tomato

Little Lucky-Seed only-83 days, 4-6 ounce orange fruit with a red blush. Large vine that needs staking.

Rosado de tervel-Seed only

Negrillo de Almoguera- Seed only, large beefsteak from Spain

Early Annie-Early season tomato, excellent for canning, slicing or salads, good producer. 65-70 days from transplant.

Sophies Choice-Early maturing tomato, compact, determinate and productive tomato. Good for small gardens.

Matina- Red potato leafed tomato with 55 days from transplant to fruit. Early producer.

Giant Tree-For seed only. Wondering how I will contain this plant that can grow to 18 feet high. Yikes! Envisioning myself trapped by tomato vines in the greenhouse.

Ananas Noire- Seed only. The name means black pineapple. Green and purple fruit with green flesh and red streaks running inside. Does not keep well so must be eaten quickly. Good producer with great flavour. 75 days from transplant.

Calabacito Rojo- This tomato originated in 1795. Bushy determinate plants with small slightly flattened red fruit.

Peacevine- Best cherry tomato ever, sweet and high producer.

Cherokee Purple- Great flavour and nice dark striped tomato. This tomato was originally grown by the Cherokee Indians and is more than 100 years old.

Gospodar-Red tomato that I received seeds from when participating in the CSA Tomatosphere project many years ago. Looks like seeds are hard to find so I will be growing this one for seed this year. Red 4-5 ounce fruit used for canning and fresh, late season tomato.

Branscomb’s Orange-4-6 ounce deep orange fruit, lovely flavour.

Orange Strawberry- I grew this last year for the seed bank and its an orange strawberry shaped tomato with a point at the bottom. Lovely taste but few seeds.

Morado del rincon- One of my favourite beefsteak tomatoes. Slight scar along bottom but the taste makes up for any imperfections.

If you are looking for tomato plants, my plant sale will be on May 2, 2015.

Spring Brings New Life and Sometimes a New Baby

Spring brings new life and sometimes a baby

I know its still winter but you wouldn’t know it here on the southwest coast of BC. Flowers are about three weeks early here and I am loving it. Gone are the grey days of winter and we are enjoying sunny skies and warmer than normal temperatures. The first ladybugs are out in the garden and dandelions are in bloom. As a gardener spring is my favourite season. Seeing the first buds and leaves unfurl before my eyes has me amazed at the beauty of mother nature all over again. As I check in the greenhouse each day, new seedlings are emerging from the soil. Plants like poppies, bergamot, sage and Echinacea are the first to germinate. Its time to pot them up to four inch pots and make room for the next group of seeds to be planted.

But wait, today is an exciting one as I get an early morning phone call. Its my daughter. She asks what we are up to today. I said not much. She asks if we would like to come see our new grandson. I grin. She has just given birth four weeks early to a baby boy and both of them are doing great. I had noticed on Sunday at her baby shower that the baby had dropped. She didn’t think so. Well, it must have and he was getting ready to enter this world. It happened so fast. Not unlike her mother, she had her first child in less than six hours. Au naturel as she put it as there was no time to consider other options.

As I write I can’t wait to see the new baby. I may have to finish this post a bit later. You know, photos right. Like spring anew in the garden, he has brought new life to this world. Yes its a boy!

Spring brings new life and sometimes a baby

Welcome Gavin Louis to our family. Her he is with his momma at about six hours old. He just wants to sleep after all that work he had to do. What a month it has been! First we lost our mother and mother in law, great grandma to Gavin, and we are still dealing with all that brings. Like they say, life is a circle, when we lose one person , another is born. I think he was born early to bring joy into all our lives at this time. It worked.

Spring brings new life and sometimes a new baby

Congratulations to Laurie and Lindsay on the birth of their first child! May he be the light of your life forever. I know you will be the best mothers ever.


Garden to Do List for February

I have never had such a wonderfully mild winter as this one. Signs of spring abound and if it stays like this until the end of the week, the chance of cold weather has passed. Yesterday we needed some garden therapy so hubby and I took off to the garden. There were leaves to pull back from the garden and be composted. Signs of spring bulbs are everywhere with Crocuses in bloom waiting for the bees to return. As I gardened a friend walked by and told me she saw the first dandelion open. Pruning was on my  mind as I worked in the garden. With so many trees, shrubs and vines it has to start soon.

Garden to do list for February

After cleaning up the garden below this Buddleia it was time to prune. Believe it or not, I have already taken five feet off this shrub. I will probably take it down a bit further as new growth begins. Because it’s a background shrub I like it to grow tall to add some privacy as we are open to a public walkway in behind. If you want your Buddleia to be shorter, you can prune it back harder than this. I tend to be a light pruner and would only go to about 2-3 feet from the ground.

Garden to do list for February

This shrub is near our sitting area and attracts butterflies in summer. I love watching butterflies enjoy this plant. This shrub is considered invasive in some areas but here it doesn’t reseed at all. I wish it would so I could add more to the garden.

Garden to do list for February

February is a good month to transplant shrubs. You want to do this while the plant is dormant. This poor Hibiscus or Rose of Sharon had been shaded out next to a tall tree. You know how it is, you plant a garden and everything grows requiring a few adjustments from time to time. It’s now in a sunny spot where it can be seen as you walk by.

Garden to do list for February

Its Hellebore season with lots of beautiful flowers opening this week. Remember to cut off the old foliage and let the new leaves remain. Hellebores are prone to leaf spot and cutting back old leaves aids in preventing its spread. Leaf spot is a fungus and is spread by the rain. If you live on the south-west coast of BC, there is no way of preventing this fungal disease.

Garden to do list for February

By now your rhubarb should be showing signs of growth. Add some compost around your rhubarb to give it that extra boost it needs.


Garden to do list for February

Camellias look like they will soon be out in bloom. Here it is teasing us with a tiny show of colour.

Garden to do list for February

Camilla ‘Donation;

I just looked at last years photos and it bloomed in March. Does that say we are well ahead of schedule with this warm weather? If you are out pruning shrubs, remember to prune later blooming shrubs like Buddleia and Hydrangea now. Leave pruning of spring blooming shrubs until after they have finished flowering.

Garden to do list for February

Does your mophead Hydrangea look like this? Now is the time to cut back the branches that flowered last year. I leave the flowers on so its easier to prune in spring. The branches that did not flower last season will flower this year so leave them alone. Cut out any dead branches. On Hydrangea dead branches are often hollow and break off easily.

Garden to do List for February

Your Hydrangea will look really bare after pruning it back. New growth has already started here so it won’t be long before leaves emerge. If you have an older plant, you may want to remove some of the thicker stems from the base. It will thin out the plant allowing more light in to the center for growth.

Garden to do list for February

Take time to walk your garden every couple of days. Look to see what needs to be done. Do you need to add soil, sharpen your tools or build some new beds? Perhaps you need to order seeds for the vegetable garden. Yes, it happens all too quickly and not everyone has a helper like mine. Okay, he’s just a supervisor.

Done all this and want more? Check out more tasks for the February garden here.


January Garden Chores in the Greenhouse

Its been a week since I have written a post and I miss writing. So where have I been? I am busy in the greenhouse growing all sorts of plants. I know, its January. What could I possibly be growing? I had a bunch of perennial flower seeds that I wanted to start in the greenhouse. Perennial flowers like Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Poppies can take up to eight weeks to grow. The seeds can sometimes take a month to germinate. The weather is very mild here for January and the greenhouse is heated to around 10C so its nice to work in. What else could I ask for?

January garden chores in the greenhouse

I bought some seed starter mix and got to work. Above you can see that the poppies have germinated. They are tiny but upon removing one of the plants I saw that the roots were almost an inch long. These babies have been potted up to four-inch pots already and will stay in the greenhouse for a couple more months.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

This is what those tiny seedlings will become. I bought the original plant at my garden club one year and fell in love with its peach coloured blooms. The seed heads are large and this seed saver had to collect them. So now I have 45 baby plants with more to come. So if you live nearby I will have plants in April, maybe sooner.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

This is how my greenhouse looks today. The little plants with the blue label are more poppies and the yarrow to the right is up now too. I have lots of potting up to finish. I am growing garden peas and Sweet Peas as well. Peas can be planted in early spring as they are a cool season crop. The peas and Sweet Peas are for a fundraiser so they will leave the greenhouse towards the end of February. After all, I need room for the 30 different types of tomatoes I will be growing. Hubby looked in the greenhouse the other day and said, “Don’t go overboard this year”. Oops, it was too late. Is he kidding? For those who don’t know me, I love to grow everything. You name it, I will give it a try. Okay, nothing illegal of course.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

I soak the Sweet Pea seeds overnight and plant them the next day. They always take a week or so to come up but once they are above the soil, watch out. They grow quickly.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

I am very excited about this Dahlia coming up. Last fall I saved seeds from this Dahlia called ‘Alpen Cherub’. I usually just grow Dahlias from tubers but when I saw the seed I had to try. So far I have three Dahlia seedlings up. This is an experiment as the colour could be different from last year if it has been cross pollinated by bees carrying pollen from a similar plant. Only time will tell but I will keep you updated as it grows.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

This is Dahlia ‘Alpen Cherub’. It’s what is known as a collarette Dahlia with the fringe of petals on the inside.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

I also have lettuce growing in the greenhouse. I was finding the lettuce from the stores is horrible right now. I decided to plant some seeds in a container in the greenhouse so we can enjoy salad greens from the garden. January garden chores in the greenhouse

I am busy doing plant divisions on all sorts of plants. Many of my plants needed to be divided and the weather has been great for working outside. Above are some cuttings of Sedum ‘Angelina’ growing in the greenhouse. This succulent plant is great for front of the border and is evergreen here on the south coast of BC. I will be using this trailer in black containers as the chartreuse green leaves make this a wonderful plant to use.

January garden chores in the greenhouse

How did I squeeze in time to write today. I ran out of soil. Sigh, the garden center doesn’t open for an hour. I have many more seedlings waiting for transplanting. Lets hope spring is just around the corner.

For information on how to collect Dahlia seeds, read my post here.


Okay, It’s Official…


Okay, it’s official. Please let me share some seeds with you. Today while renovations were going on in the house, I decided to go through my boxes of seeds. I had been asked for a list of tomatoes that I will be growing this year. Oh my! My list has 23 different types of tomatoes on it and I haven’t received the tomato seeds I am growing for the seed bank. I love to collect seed at the end of the growing season but now some has to go. There is only so much I can grow in one year so its time to share the wealth. People have been very generous to me and I need to give some away. If there is something on the list let me know if you would like some.

So far I have theses seeds:

Aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’- Commonly known as Columbine, it’s a pretty perennial growing to 3 feet high. I also have ones in shades of dark blue.

Calendula ‘Single Orange’-Edible flower with single orange petals.

Dragon’s Tongue Beans-Purple and yellow beans that turn yellow when cooked.

Golden wax beans

Dukat dill

Cinnamon Basil and probably some Sweet Genovese basil. Please save me from growing 13 flats again this year. I still have seed leftover plus collected seed plus enough pesto to last all winter.

Peppermint Swiss chard -This was new last year and has pretty pink and white stalks.

Samish Spinach

Unknown poppy seeds, some purple, some frilled. I collect poppy seeds but really I don’t need hundreds.

Dahlia Alpen Cherub

Dahlia Alpen Cherub

Dahlia-I collected this seed from a white Dahlia called ‘Alpen Cherub’ and am looking for people to grow it out. It may have crossed and changed colour. I hope to have plants available in April  to test. Okay, you are probably wondering what I mean by crossing a Dahlia. Let’s just say you grew two different Dahlias of the same type. In my case I grew two collarette Dahlias near each other. In the fall, I took seeds from the white flower. It turns out that the purple collarette Dahlia could cross-pollinate with the white one. It may be that the next generation’s flower could be a combination of both. Its fun to experiment in the garden with seeds. Even if it isn’t the same colour I will still get a flower.

Ladner Seedy Saturday 2015

Getting back to seeds, I probably have much more than is listed. Last year someone donated an unknown Nasturtium to the seed swap. I have a huge bag full of seed which I will package up this week into smaller quantities. If you want to trade seeds, much of my seed will be shared at the Ladner Seedy Saturday and Garden Expo 2015. The Ladner Community Garden is having a seed swap at the event. You can bring seed to trade and its so much fun. So look through your seeds, choose ones you would like to trade and bring them down to the Harris Barn on February 21 and 22. I will be there both days and hope to bring home more seeds. Not really. I think I have more than I need.

If you can’t make it to the event, join us tomorrow as we trade seeds online on Seedchat. This event is held on twitter at 6pm Pacific time. Make your list and join us as we trade seeds among each other. Don’t forget to hashtag like this #seedchat. That way your seedy tweets will be seen by the group. For more details hop on over to Seedchat to see how it works.

Do you need more information on how to grow seeds and trading? Check out my previous posts below:

What is a Seed Swap?

Getting Started with Seeds