Maintaining Ivy

Ivy on Wall
Photography by Rebekah Burder.

A majority of our summer evenings have been spent on a constant cycle of plant, water, prune, weed, repeat. We have a combination of established plants from previous tenants, garden refreshes done by us, and beds and gardens in the very beginning stages of planning and building. The ivy on our house falls into the established division.

We have four different varieties of ivy growing on our cottage, and Frank is constantly trimming and cleaning up the vines, removing them from window frames, making sure they’re growing where we want. It’s really a seasonal thing. Every three months, he heads out and keeps it trimmed up. Here’s a few rules for maintaining ivy  we’ve learned in the process:

Rule 1: Ivy roots need to be shaded, but the leaves can handle full sun.

I’ve always thought ivy needed a lot of shade, and while that is true for some varieties, for others, they can stand a lot of sun and heat. Four of our six vines are growing in near full sun. They’re healthy and whole. The most important part is to shade the roots. You can do this with bricks, tiles, plants or mulch. I chose to use a combination of the two, plants and mulch. I like the way it looks, a little more groomed and settled.

Rule 2: Keep ivy off window frames.

We have wood framed windows, siding under our eaves, and metal gutters. So we keep the ivy off these parts of the house while letting it have free reign on the rest of the house.

Until moving here, I believed the common American assumption that ivy causes structural damage. That is and isn’t true. It does cause damage on building materials like siding (plastic or wood) and stucco. Neither of which are commonly used in Ireland. If you have a home built of stone, brick, or cement, you should be ok. But definitely consult a landscape or construction expert before planting!

Rule 3: Get friendly with little spiders.

We do have a lot more spiders in our house than in any previous dwelling. I’m not completely sure this is due to the ivy, as most of them are on the second floor where the ivy hasn’t quite reached. But I’m definitely more capable of sending a spider to its doom than I was before moving here.


Turquoise and Pink

Turquoise and Purple_2
Photography by Rebekah Burder.

At the end of last year, I promised myself that I would send a gift to each of my nieces and nephews who haven’t graduated high school yet. I decided to get the girls who are old enough to write journals. This turquoise and purple package went to my mischievous niece Annie. She’s bold in personality and style, and I wanted something that reflected that part of her.

Turquoise and Purple_1 Turquoise and Purple
Turquoise and Purple_3

In typical guy fashion, Frank has been sending his nieces and nephews gift cards. I think I’ll have to take over and start picking up journals for the girls. In other words, I’m allowing my journal buying addition to take over.


Bathroom Storage
Photography by Rebekah Burder.

In our cottage, I use what was meant to be the spare bathroom. When we moved in, there wasn’t a cabinet to be found, excluding one little nook built into the shower. Combine that with sloped ceilings, and you have a major design challenge. The redeeming detail? Enough space to add in storage.

I started with hanging the Byger rail, Grundtal hooks, and Asker containers from Ikea used in my office closet in Alabama. I used these for makeup brushes, contact solution, face potions, and various other things that could fit into the containers. I left one hook bare to hang my loofah from, because it is reachable from the shower.

Bathroom Dresser Hanging Storage in Bathroom

I found a three-drawer chest in a soft gray at TK Maxx in Waterford to store the things I don’t want guests to see. 🙂 The chest was a major score, and took about six months of searching for the right item. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for the typical storage you find in Irish department stores. Until I found it, I used a crappy little bookshelf in a revolting shade of pine. Let’s just say I was VERY excited to replace it.

I found a wire basket for face cloths at Dunnes in Kilkenny (part of the Carolyn Donnelly line), straw basket for makeup at Ikea, straw basket (originally a planter) at Ikea for toilet paper storage, and glass containers for q-tips and cotton balls. I packed those in our original house shipment. One is from a thrift store, the other from Target.

Toilet Paper Storage Towel Storage
Towels in Wire Basket

A wire basket hold extra towels  at the base of the sink. Both the basket and towels were purchased at TK Maxx in Kilkenny.

Bathroom Tub After Bathroom Tub Before

While this isn’t storage, it’s more of a simple fix. The bathtub is a bit of an issue. When we moved in, it had a piece of wood blocking it off that was too large. The edge barely fit under the lip of the tub, and it was long enough that it blocked off the back of the tub. There is a portion of the shower door that leaks, and so the wood was also staying damp and allowing mold to grow. I removed it to allow air to circulate, but it looked terrible. I found a smaller piece of wood at a local shop for â?¬11, painted it with a tin of â?¬.50 sample paint on clearance, and propped it in front of the tub. It’s a good short term solution until the tub is fixed and we can put in something more permanent.


Sunrooms Style

Modern White Sunroom
Photo by Amy Neunsinger.

We have this amazing kitchen and eating area that has vaulted ceilings, four skylights, three doors, and banks of windows on three of the walls. They all combine to create this amazing space that is filled with light from the time the sun comes up to the minute it sets, even in winter. There were times during the winter that I just basked in patches of sunlight, like a cat, even on the coldest days. It’s going to be my little project this winter, turning it into a sunroom with a sitting area and smaller dining table. Here are a few images I’m using to inspire myself as I start my research!

Above, a traditional living room is turned into a sunroom with the addition of large scale doors that open completely to the outside. Owned by Shawn Gold & Amy Neunsinger, you can see more of this gorgeous home on Apartment Therapy.

Black Striped Rug Blue and White Sunroom

These sun rooms, featured on House and Home, are done in two very different style. On the left, photographed by Angus Fergusson, butterfly chairs and a black and white striped rug combine for a modern feel. On the right, photographed by Michael Graydon, blue fabric and white detailing create a more country look.

Global Eclectic Sunroom Industrial Modern Sunroom

On the left, dark green shades provide cool shade on a hot day in this eclectic sunroom. On the right, canvas, metal, and wool are used for an industrial style sunroom. Both photographed by William Waldron and featured on Elle Decor.

Stone Fireplace Sunroom White Lounge Sunroom

Although this sunroom isn’t my style, I love the soft greens and blues. Photography by Rett Peek for At Home Arkansas.

Bedroom Sunroom Dining Sunroom

Although this won’t work for our room, I’ve always liked the idea of turning a bedroom into a sunroom style, like this home photographed by Romain Ricard and featured on The Housewife Wannabe.

Modern White Pavillion Small White Conservatory

This Scandinavian house has so many light-filled spaces I had a hard time choosing just one. It has a miniature greenhouse, covered porch, and skylights galore. Visit the Hus & Hem website to see more images from Helene Torresdotter.

Modern Office Sunroom

Another option would be to skip the sitting area and put in an office. Doesn’t that view look divine? Photographed by Stephanie Wiley.


Summer Centerpiece

DIY Peony Arrangement
Photography by Rebekah Burder.

Do you ever get frustrated while viewing a pretty centerpiece online because you don’t know the name of every flower they’ve included? Or they’ve used exotic plants that you have no hope of finding easily? Maybe I’m the only one, but I decided to start photographing the arrangements I put up around the house using flowers from the grocery store and my garden. Peonies have started showing up at Aldi and Lidl (our discount shops), alongside freesia, so they provide the base for this arrangement. I also included ivy from one of my plants, and two stalks of snapdragon from the front garden.

Easy Peony Arrangement Summer Peony Arrangement_14

I prepped the vase by adding water mixed with floral preservative, then created a floral tape grid to provide structure.

After the vase was prepped, I started cutting and placing the flowers. Let me see if I can explain it properly, I cut the peonies, freesia, and snapdragon to three different heights: highest, mid, and lowest. The peonies were the first to go in, trimming each stalk to one of three heights: highest, mid, and lowest. I then added the freesia, cutting each stalk to mid and lowest, and snapdragon, cut so that the end of the tip matched the highest peony. Ivy was the last to go in, adding two strips to the left, and one to the right because I wanted a slightly asymmetrical look.

Summer Peony Arrangement_12
Summer Peony Arrangement White Snapdragons

Because I taped in a grid for structure, I was able to loosely arrange the flowers, allowing the peonies and freesia time to open. Both of which take up double or triple the space they originally require. Here are the peonies after a day or two to open…

Peonies and Freesia
Pink Peony Centerpiece Summer Peony Arrangement_19

I rearranged a bit as they opened to even it out. I ended up with three of the peonies clustered closely together, which I liked more. On the second day, I walked out of my bedroom to see a shaft of morning sun right on the arrangement. I couldn’t resist taking a photo with the dramatic dark background. Just lovely.

Summer Peony Arrangement_15
Summer Peony Arrangement_16

If you haven’t used freesia before, I highly recommend. It’s beautifully scented and will stay in bloom for up to two weeks in cooler rooms. I spent â?¬10 total on this arrangement!