Living Wall || Mounted Staghorn Ferns

I first became acquainted with staghorn ferns when living in Austin - a good friend who was also a coworker had one in our office, but it had unfortunately seen better days by the time I arrived there.  I tried to revive it, but really didn't know much about the plant despite my otherwise green thumb.  All I knew was that one of my favorite garden centers down there, The Great Outdoors, had a giant staghorn hung from an old live oak tree, and there are few non-tree plants that have had that kind of impact on me.  Every year, the Zilker Botanical Gardens host a garden festival, which was where the office plant originated from.  I picked one up that year only to experience the same failure and disappointment at my inability to get one of these interesting specimens to thrive.  Now several years the wiser, I have realized after many house plant casualties the phenomenon of "loving a plant to death".  Too much water, folks.  It's one of the main reasons that people kill indoor plants!  Once I learned to be patient about plant care, I found that I had much greater success with long term health of indoor greenery.
Living walls have interested me for a number of years now.  With the exception of my studio, much of our house is pretty dim during the day.  However, the living room boasts a large window facing the east, and the room is bright in the morning hours and lit indirectly in the afternoon.  The wall facing the window is long and from the get go I saw it covered in plants when envisioning our new home.  Last year for my birthday, J gave me a birdnest fern, mounted on a tree cross section by a local business, Ghostcat Botanical.  This winter I found a couple of stag horn ferns in 4" pots and finally found a couple of pieces of wood to mount them on at an antique mall over Memorial Day weekend.  One is a box built from old barn wood, and the other is a hand carved panel, presumably from some type of cabinet door.
Mounting staghorn ferns is actually pretty simple.  Supplies include a mount such as a board or tree cross section, sphagnum moss, nails and hammer (or screws, your preference), and fishing line.  Staghorns are epiphytic plants, which means that they do not actually need potting medium - the roots will just attach to the surface that they are mounted to.  Since mine were started in the 4" pots they did have a little soil around the roots, which I wrapped with moist sphagnum moss.  I then set the root ball on the mount to determine where to place my nails.  Using about 6 nails around the perimeter of the root ball, I drove them in about an inch from the edge of where the root ball would be.  You can mark these spots and remove the plant while hammering.  Once nails are in place, position the plant again and make sure the moss is covering all surfaces of the soil.  Tie the fishing line to one of the nails and bring it over and around the root ball in a clockwise direction to a nail on the opposite side and wrap the line around it a couple of times.  Be sure to take the line underneath the flat fronds at the base of the plant and be careful not to damage or remove them, even if they are brown.  From here, take the line clockwise across the root ball again, to the nail just past the first one you tied on to (in the clockwise direction).  Wrap a couple of times, and take the line clockwise to the nail just past the second one you wrapped.  Continue to wrap, bringing the line just past the opposite nail that was previously wrapped until you have gone around the whole root ball a couple of times.  It doesn't necessarily matter exactly what pattern you wrap in, as long as the line is consistently supporting the root ball on all sides.  I wrapped around the base a couple of times as well, before tying the line off to the tail of line where I started and tucked both ends behind the moss. Gardenista has a great tutorial on mounting staghorn ferns as well, which I definitely recommend checking out if you're interested in trying it.
I know it's not exactly what one would call a living wall just yet, but it's a start!  I can't wait to keep adding to it over time and watching these babes grow.  On another note, I'm in the process of harvesting spores from the birdnest fern and plan to try my hand at propagating them.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Tutorial || Ombre Jersey Rug

A few months back, I made a rug as a going away/housewarming gift for a couple of friends moving to Seattle.  The good thing about an ombre or variegated accent piece is that it brings out all shades of a main color and ties in other similarly hued accessories.  In the words of The Dude, "That rug really tied the room together!"  And it's true.



All you need for this DIY is a minimal knowledge of crochet stitches, a pair of scissors, a giant crochet hook (I used size 19, the largest I could find at the time) and a ton of t-shirts.  Buy all the same color (such as green, or red) and then get as many different shades as you can - light, dark, dull, bright, just as many shades as you can find of the particular color you are going to use.  Larger t-shirts are better, since you get more material out of them also.  Once you get all of your t-shirts, I would recommend stacking them or laying them side by side in the order that they will be used.  Line them up from light to dark, to light to dark, etc.  Since some of the shirts will be similar shades you can fade in and out a couple of times and probably get to use all of them.  As far as where to purchase your shirts, I got all of mine at Goodwill.  It's true that this can get expensive quickly, but if you're making a humungous rug is it going to cost more than you would pay to buy one?  Probably not.


Start out by cutting your shirts into long strips, about 1 inch wide.  I typically just cut down the shirt length-wise, from the neck to the bottom edge.  Next, you will attach these strips to each other to make t-shirt yarn.  Here's how:
1. Cut a slit in the end of your first strip.  Take a second strip, and slip the end of it through that slit.  Now you have to secure the second strip so that it does not come out of the first one.
2. Cut a slit in one end of the second strip (while it is still through the first strip).  Take the opposite end of this second strip and place it through the slit on its first end.  Pull to tighten at the joining end.



Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have enough yarn to make a rug the size of your choice.  I usually just add strips as I go, making yarn for one shirt for instance and balling it up, then making more when I get to the end of the ball.  Now you're ready to start crocheting your rug!
Start out by crocheting a chain that is as wide as you would like for the rug to be (or as long, just depending on which direction you want your stripes to go).  Here is a video tutorial on how to make a chain.
This chain is your first row.  Turn and continue down the chain making a single crochet stitch into each stitch of the chain.  Here is a great video tutorial on how to make a row using single crochet.  Once you get to the end of the row, you will need to chain one more stitch as you turn, then begin to single crochet into your previous row of crocheted stitches.

When you get to the end of your second row, turn and stitch back down the row again as established.  You will keep doing this until the rug reaches your desired length.  It's fun to watch the fade in color unfold!  Here's what it will look like when you're done...


This last photo is by courtesy of Sharalee, one of the owners of the rug.  They had a rectangular space, which is why I made it in rows.  However, I've made one in the past that was circular and it looks amazing in that shape!  Unfortunately I have no good photos of that one and it is no longer in my possession because my cat.. ahem.. became a little too fond of it... But to make a circular rug, all you really need to do is chain about 6 stitches, and then begin your single crochet stitch from there in the very first stitch of the chain to join it in a loop.  You will crochet once into each stitch for the most part, but will need to crochet twice into every 3rd - 5th stitch or so to make it lay flat.  As you go along it's easy to gauge if you need to do that more often or less often, as the rug will curl if the outer round has too few stitches or it will bunch up if you have too many stitches.
This is a pretty easy and affordable project that will add some color into your home!