lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

french flower pot makeover

This is, without a doubt, one of my easiest makeover projects ever and the results are beautiful. I’ve had these French flower pots for many, many years. I stumbled upon them at a flea market for next to nothing and knew they’d be perfect for my plethora of summer flowers.

As the years have passed, however, their colors faded and they began to rust. Here’s a shot of 2 of them from a couple of summers ago, packed with lavender from our gardens.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover original

You can see on the rim of them where they were rusting. so I took a bit of sandpaper and sanded the rusty spots down. After sanding, I rinsed them off, wiped them down and let them dry.

Then, with a few light coats of spray paint that I had on hand, I now have beautiful, bright French flower pots again.

lola rugula french flower pot easy makeover


The sage green color I used here is XO Rust gloss in Reed and the orange is Premium Decor gloss in Banner Orange.

This was an easy one-day makeover project that makes me feel like I have brand new flower pots.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover

The gorgeous flowers are compliments of my husband, who surprised me with them one night, for no other reason to except to say “I love you”.

Spray paint is such an easy way to make over small items, such as these pots. You want to start with as smooth and clean of a surface as possible, making sure the surface is dry before painting. Shake the paint vigorously for a minute or two and then always do a test spray on a piece of paper or cardboard. Then, apply the paint from at least a foot away, using sweeping motions as you paint, to help prevent drips.

Let each coat dry an hour or so before applying the next coat. These pots have 3 coats of spray paint on them.

Of course, you should always use spray paint outside or in a large, well-ventilated area.

Have you done any spray paint projects lately? I’d love to hear about them!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

easy to grow flowers part two

In case you missed my recent post, it was part one of easy to grow flowers here in zone 5…at least for me. Currently, the crocus and daffodils have already bloomed, while the tulips, lilacs and bleeding hearts are all blooming here in early May. Just getting ready to strut their stuff are our very short-lived but beautiful alliums. These are sun lovers that don’t take up a lot of space but stand tall and beautiful on their own. They only bloom for a couple of weeks, but they’re so much fun and they’re part of the onion/garlic family so therefore, I love them.


Also, just getting ready to pop is all of our columbine. Columbine spreads, so be warned, but it’s a beautiful perennial that’s available in a wide range of colors. Bonus for me is that they are shade plants, though they do well in partial sun also.Wet, dry, cool, hot…once columbine has started to grow and bloom, it doesn’t seem to care very much about the conditions.

lola_rugula_purple-columbine lola_rugula_columbineHow can you resist their unusual flowers and colors? I sure can’t. My columbine bloom for a month or so but, because I have so many of them, it goes on longer than that, due to varying stages of their plant maturity.

Just a week or two away from blooming is my clematis. I love clematis but ours blooms only briefly due to the fact it gets only afternoon sun. Clematis likes lots of sun and can be a bit of a water hog if it’s quite dry, but its show blooms are worth it. Try and plant yours in a sunny spot and leave it…it’s not partial to being moved around but you’ll reap the rewards when you leave it be and let it do its thing.

lola_rugula_clematisAll of the above flowers are perennials for me here in zone 5. Some annuals that I love and that are easy here are cosmos and zinnias. Find a sunny spot, loosen up the dirt, toss in a little compost and then sprinkle some seeds around. You barely need to cover them; I sprinkle just enough dirt over them to keep them in their place. Keep damp for 5-7 days and you should see some sprouts. Then, just keep watered enough to keep the sprouts going and before you know it, you have flowers that go on and on and on and on. Trust me on this one.



I love cosmos and zinnias for their long lasting, colorful display…you really can’t go wrong with them.

Of course, for another perennial, coneflowers are beautiful and do well in all sorts of soil and light – I have a lot of luck with them in a few different areas in our yard.


Our irises are just a week or two away from blooming and they’re always a showstopper, especially in flower arrangements. lola_rugula_irises

Irises need to be divided every couple of years, so keep that in mind when planting them. If they become overcrowded, they won’t bloom as prolifically and will often push their bulbs out of the ground, due to crowding.

Our moonbeam coreopsis is another perennial that does really well here in Zone 5. I have some in full sun and some under some pine trees in partial sun and they all do really well. Their bright yellow flowers are a joy to see and they will spread if left in one place long enough.


Back to annuals, my final favorite for now is nasturtium, which is not only beautiful but edible, too. Oh, that’s right. You can eat nasturtium, fresh off the stem. We enjoyed their blooms in salads for their colorful and spicy kick. Just make sure that the nasturtium you pick has been grown in organic conditions and not treated with anything. Here’s a shot of a patch of it we grew last summer:

lola_nasturnium and salvia

In case you’re wondering, that’s purple salvia alongside it. I’m not a huge fan of salvia, althought it does well here in Zone 5. My complaint with salvia is that it grows too quickly and too tall, so I’m stuck with a big, broken circle of foliage very early on in the season. It doesn’t make for a very pretty presentation, although I admit the flowers themselves are beautiful. Well, really, what flowers aren’t beautiful?

Tell me your flower and zone stories…I’d love to hear what does well where you live and what doesn’t. Thanks for stopping by and happy planting!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

easy to grow flowers part one

Spring is upon us so I have flowers on my mind. Okay, who am I kidding? I have flowers on my mind all year long. If I’m not planting or growing them, I’m digging through catalogs and looking online for them. My husband and I spent many hours in the gardens this weekend, planting and relocating flowers (and veggies) galore. All of my flower gardening experience comes from trial and error; some things work, some things don’t, and some things just don’t like the spot they’re in, so they get moved. I’m not an expert, nor do I play one on T.V.

This is by no means a complete list – we have a lot, and I do mean a LOT of different types of flowers, shrubs, trees and plants in our yard. These are just a tiny selection of flowers that are easy to grow for me here in zone 5 – I will try and follow up soon with some more of them. Here’s a shot of a small section of one of our patios last year:


Mostly what you see here are dahlias to the left, some cosmos around the birdhouse and catmint to the right. I love all these different colors and prefer it when the gardens are just a little wild looking; to me, it just seems more sensual and exotic this way.

Crocus are one of our first flowers to peek their heads up in early spring; they will even bloom in the snow. They are very small plants, but their early burst of color each year is always a joyful sign that winter has finally ended, which makes me a happy woman, indeed.


Daffodils are next to show their colorful faces, followed closely by tulips. Both of these bulb flowers bloom just a few weeks, tops, but their beauty is well worth the effort of planting them.


lola_rugula_pink_tulipNot a flower, but worth mentioning, mostly because I’m intoxicated by their perfume, is lilacs. We have a few different varieties and all of them are gorgeous and all of them are currently either blooming or getting ready to. Give them lots of sunshine and they’ll reward you with an unparalleled scent each year. They require little upkeep, aside from some minor pruning and occasional feeding. What they do not particularly like is being moved, so find a sunny spot where they have lots of room to grow and they’ll be happy.


Blooming with the lilacs right now in early May are all of our Bleeding Heart plants. These grow great for us and, as a bonus, they do best in the shade, adding a burst of color to the not-so-sunny areas of our yard. They also grow bigger each year and are easy to divide and transfer.


Last but not least, at least for now, lilies are usually next to bloom, though I have to admit – the area deer tend to enjoy them before we ever get to see them bloom. Because of this, we’ve planted some close to our house and have been rewarded in our efforts. Beautiful and, apparently, tasty too.


Have you had luck growing any of these flowers? If so, or if not, let me know your zone and what issues you’ve had – I’d like to hear your stories.

Hopefully, if you’ve made it this far, you enjoy flowers as much as I do and can appreciate the labor that goes into growing them. Peace to all and happy blooming!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

my adventures in gardening…continued

Finally, the warmth is overtaking the cool temperatures and our gardens are starting to burst, bloom and flourish.

I always like to give an update or two each summer on how my gardens are doing and what I’m growing.

This year, I decided to try some new veggies – veggies we love but that I don’t typically grow or veggies I’ve tried to grow and had very little luck with.

For anyone wondering, I live in Zone 5  in Northern Illinois, so this may be of some help to you in your own garden adventures.

First up is the plant that I’m most excited about: artichokes! I started my Imperial Star artichokes indoors in early February and put them out in our garden in early May. Here’s what one of them looks like now:


We’ve tried artichokes in the past by starting them outside and not had any luck at all with them. Artichokes aren’t a perennial in Zone 5 so they have only one season to grow and produce, meaning you better give them a damn good head start. Here’s what one of them looked like as a baby on March 1:


So far, so good. I’ll keep you posted on their progress. Wish me luck…we love artichokes!

Cool weather veggies that I planted early this spring and didn’t have any luck with are my watermelon, black and daikon radishes. None of them bulbed for me, though my Easter Egg radishes did fine, as usual. I will try again in late summer, for fall crops, and see how they do.

My peas are getting ready for harvest in just another week or two. If you’ve never had fresh green peas right off the vine, you’re truly missing out. Yes, it’s some work to pick and shell them but oh…they’re simply heaven. I’ve not grown peas without edible shells (think sugar snaps and snow peas) for over 10 years now, so I’m really looking forward to these.


Fresh green peas off the vine are like fresh sweet corn right off the stalk…pure bliss. For the record, I’m growing fresh sweet corn this year, too. It’s about a foot tall right now and going strong. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve grown sweet corn so I’m looking forward to awing my husband with it’s deliciousness.

Aside from artichokes, peas and corn, I have all the usual suspects growing. Tomatoes, red bell peppers, jalapenos, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, beets, scallions, lettuce, spinach, and all my herbs.

Other new things I’m growing this year are fennel, Parisian carrots, purple kohlrabi and leeks. The fennel is doing awesome and my carrots are on their second planting because the first ones didn’t take. Kohlrabi is supposed to be pretty easy and fast by mine aren’t moving along very quickly. Leeks look great but we’ll see how they’re doing in another month or so.

Hopefully I’ll also be posting some new recipes again soon. Gardening takes up some time but it’s oh, so worth it.


lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

photo of the day

Okay, technically, this is a “photos of the day” post. I thought I’d share with you some of the stunning dahlias we’re growing in our gardens this year.

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I hope you all are enjoying your summer, so far! Tell me what’s growing in your garden – I’d love to hear about it!