Summer's Surprising Polka Dots: Alliums

Polka dots are sweet and dainty, while being a great companion to other bold patterns. Yes, the polka dots in my garden are sweet, but they are also tough as nails and take center stage. My garden's polka dots are two lovely summer-blooming alliums: Allium 'summer beauty' and Allium 'millennium'.

I discovered summer blooming alliums a few years ago and fell in love.  I was familiar with many of the spring-blooming alliums, but didn't realize they could spread cheer throughout the heat of summer.    

Allium 'summer beauty' was the first one that captured my heart.  Ironically, it was the foliage that first struck me...long, narrow slightly twisted leaves (similar to daffodil foliage), compact and beautiful spring through fall.  This allium truly is a summer beauty from striking foliage to perfectly light purple (almost pink) globe flowers in mid-July through mid-August.  After a couple of years I was brave enough to divide my solitary plant in order to spread good cheer in other parts of my border with great success.

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Last year I stumbled across Allium 'millennium'. Initially thinking it might be 'summer beauty' I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a different cultivar.  'Summer beauty' starts blooming about a week earlier, so when paired with 'millenium' your garden gains an extended celebration of color. 'Millenium' also has deeper purple flowers and is a few inches shorter.  I just had to open my heart and garden to this allium too.

Allium 'summer beauty' opens its flower buds about a week earlier than 'millennium'.

With all the crazy Midwest weather we've had the last couple of years (summer droughts, extreme winter cold, soaking wet spring) my alliums always look great. They are not only beautiful, but so tough and reliable! 

This image shows how different the purples are for each allium. 'Millennium' is much darker.

To grace your garden with lovely purple polka dots in the heat of summer include both of these amazing alliums.  P.S. I have another secret: In a few weeks I'll share another allium with that blooms even later! It really can get better!


Zone: 4 to 9

Height: 18-24"

Spread: 20-24"

Bloom time: mid-July to mid-August

Bloom color: very light purple (some even think of it as light pink)

Exposure: full to part sun


Zone: 5 to 8

Height: 15-20"

Spread: 10-15"

Bloom time: late July to late August

Bloom color: purple

Exposure: full to part sun

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Simple Lettering for Landscape Plans

Each year when I teach hand lettering in my landscape graphics class ultimately someone says "I can't do this. My printing is too messy."  I truly believe anyone can sharpen their lettering skills, so I created these simple tips to help. In the end, your design looks more professional if your lettering is legible and organized, so its well worth the effort. For those that create landscape plans digitally, enjoy this tutorial for doodling, scrapbooking, card-making, and sketching instead. As a bonus, I've included a lettering video at the end of this post too!

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1. Draw guidelines at the height you desire. Please use light lines, so these don't compete with your lettering. I suggest a hard lead pencil like a 3H to a 6H. Never use ink for guidelines. You can use a ruler to measure these or a handy-dandy Ames Lettering Guide.

2. Draw your lettering in pencil first (with hard lead once again). This will help you get the spacing correct.  If these are light enough you don't even have to erase them after the ink is applied.

3. Now you can ink in your letters. Once you become more confident you can skip step #2.

4. When drawing your final letters make sure they touch both the top and bottom guideline. When you stray from this your lettering becomes messy. 

5. Another key component to nice lettering is keeping the vertical lines parallel to each other. Even if you want to italicize your letters, just be consistent with your angles.

6. How do you keep verticals parallel? Use a ruler! This is a great way to add neatness if you have a shakey hand.  Just free-hand anything with a curve or angle (like Rs,Ps, Ks, Os, etc.). 

7. Keep all your horizontal connections at relatively the same level. If the cross bar on your A is high, keep it high on your other letters. Consistency is key. 

8. Always use simpler lettering for plant labels, while saving fancier lettering for a page title.

9. Plant labels are typically 1/8" tall, while labels for areas and structures can be slightly larger.

10. Practice and enjoy the process!

I've also included a video below to show how I create basic lettering, plus one with a little bit of flair.  

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Preserving the Garden

As I work on my next tutorial, I thought I'd share what's been filling my limited spare time: preserving goodies from our garden.  

My husband is a crazy vegetable gardener.  We keep some of his edible growies, while giving most of it away to friends, neighbors and food pantries. For those that we keep, freezing is our preferred method of preservation. One of my favorite recipes is for freezer pickles, given to us by my mother-in-law.  I posted this last year and thought it needed a reprisal to help those overwhelmed with a cucumber harvest. As a bonus, I threw in some extra tips for other goodies we freeze way below.


4 cups of sliced cucumbers

2 cups of onions

4 teaspoons of salt

2 tablespoons of water

3/4 to 1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of cider vinegar

1 teaspoon of dried dill

Mix cucumbers, onion, salt and water. Let stand two hours and drain (but do not rinse).

Add sugar, vinegar and dill.  Let stand.  Stir from time to time until sugar dissolves and liquid covers cucumbers.

Pack in glass or plastic jars with 1" head-space.  Freeze.

Makes four 1/2 pint jars.


These are so simple. I just clean them, remove the greens, slice in half (or keep them whole), pop into a freezer bag, then into the freezer for winter. That's it! If you love strawberries and have a small space, I encourage you to grow a few plants. They do like to spread though, so make sure you contain them well. 


Pick leaves, clean them, and remove the stems. You can blanch spinach or simply place leaves and a little bit of water into a blender, then freeze in ice cube trays. I like to pop one spinach ice cube into a smoothie. You really don't taste it, but it adds lots of vitamins.


Pick broccoli heads, clean and chop as desired. Soak them in a bowl of salted water for 30 minutes to remove any insects.  

Blanch by placing in boiling water for three minutes, then directly place them in cold water.  Now you can pack them into freezer bags and place them into the freezer. {You can also blanch green beans this way too...minus the salted water part}

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Lovely Links: Planting Design

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The Power of Weeds

Here in the Midwest the rain has been pouring, so the weeds have been celebrating.  If we don't stay ahead of them they can take control of our gardens and make us feel powerless. I challenge you to take a step back and change your perspective towards these unwelcome guests. Rather they having power over you, how can you create power by their presence?

I enjoy weeding (there, I said it). Why? Because I feel powerful around them.

I earn the power of physical activity. It's a great way to add variety to your exercise routine (if you have one and if not, you just earned a little sweat).

I am rewarded with the power of contemplation. Weeding gives me the chance to slow down, let my thoughts wander, and open my mind to new ideas. 

I am bonded with the power of connection. Weeding allows me to get closer to my plants, learn more about them, watch their progress, and simply helps me develop a better relationship to something I created.

I am fulfilled with the power of accomplishment. Some days I feel like I've rushed through life and not achieved a single thing. With weeding you see (and feel) accomplishment within minutes.

Change your perspective and celebrate the power of weeds.

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Free Garden Printables

I am so excited to share a gift with you (actually, several gifts)!  

I've made a collection of my illustrations into free printable .pdfs (all 8.5" x 11").  Most are educational, so please feel free to use them in your classrooms or simply as inspiration for yourself. I'll continue adding to these over time, so keep checking in.

You are welcome to share this post with anyone that might need a freebie for the day.

Just click below to find these garden goodies:

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The Pop-Up Garden: Creating Outdoor Rooms

When you walk through a fabulous garden, do you ever wonder why you're so intrigued with it? It's often because that garden was successfully organized into lovely rooms. Each room has it's own focus such as a place to dine, a lawn to play croquet, a quiet reading nook, a beautiful area to dry laundry, a garden to grow vegetables and many others. These rooms (as in your home) are composed of a floor, walls and ceiling. As you design your garden, think in these terms for the start of great spaces. Below I've described each of these garden room components, then I've included a pop-up garden template and video so you can design your own outdoor room.


When designing your garden think about what you'd like to be standing on. Is it lawn, brick, gravel, stone, wood, or moss? What activities will take place on this surface? Eating, playing, resting, or are you just passing through? Brainstorm a list of possible materials, textures, and colors that could be used on your garden floor.  


What is happening on the walls of your garden? The walls can be very powerful, since they have the authority to create lovely, unique, and comfortable space. Traditional walls could include a fence, hedge, perennial border, trellis, brick wall or even the side of your house or garage. What other elements could be used as a wall in the garden? Perhaps an old window, glass blocks, tree trunks, free standing vine structures and the list is as endless as our imagination. Walls can be 12" or taller.  They do not have to be tall.  Their main purpose is to give your room a defined edge and hopefully make it feel like it's own space.


Once you've established the floor and walls, think about how you can add sparkle to the ceiling. In most cases your garden room will simply be open to the sky. Though, if you'd like more enclosure to provide shade, shelter or added comfort think about how a third plane above can provide that special touch. Some typical garden ceilings include tree canopies, arbors, pergolas, tents, and umbrellas. How can you add extra touches to these ceilings? Think about dangling lights, weaving fabric through wood structures, and criss-crossing brightly colored banners.


To design your own garden room, cut out the template below.  It will allow you to dream up a garden floor, walls and ceiling for your outdoor space.  Create one or several designs.  This is a great activity for adults and children.  Just click on the image below and it will generate a .pdf that you can print out.


I've also created a video so you can see how I used the template above to design my own garden room. And it doesn't end there.  I'm always adding to my garden planes board on Pinterest too. Just click here for a peek. Enjoy!

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Spring Tintinnabulation

Yes, I had to look up that word too.

TINTINNABULATION: The ringing or sound of bells (

A few days ago I asked readers on my Facebook page to shout out their favorite (non-garden) words, so I could happily reconnect those words to the garden.  This is a great way to stretch your creativity (try it).

Many great words popped up, but this one intrigued me, plus made me think of my favorite bell-shaped spring flowers: Lily of the Valley, Virginia Bluebells and Daffodils.  It also made me realize how many bell-shaped flowers exist...crazy!  What are your favorites?  Big thanks to Foy from Foy Update for suggesting it.

While we're ringing in this lovely spring I wanted to give you a quick heads up on one of my big projects.  In the next couple of weeks I'll be revealing my new website.  It will be expanding this blog a bit and hopefully help you be able to sift through all my posts and tutorials a little easier (so they can be a resource for you). It will also fold in my illustrations a bit more.  I can't wait to show you!

I'm also working on a fun garden post to help you think (and create) your garden in three dimensions.  If all goes well, that will be my first post on the new site. My time is in competition with spring weed-pulling right now, but I'm attempting to stay on track! To those in the US, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

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