Lessons from the Arborist

Backyard photo with a Pin Oak tree

Buying a home in an established neighborhood is great because of the mature trees. There are a number of them in the yard and we knew right from the start that they hadn’t been properly maintained in many years.

The various sucker branches growing every which way was our first clue to their lack of maintainence. We decided to call in an arborist for a professional opinion on what to do with the trees. We are so glad we did, little did we know what was growing in our yard!

When we bought the house, we decided to take down a couple of trees in the back yard. Not only were they over grown but they took up the entire space leaving us with a full shade property.
Our lone maple tree would be the first to go (in the back corner of the lot), it was on the property line too close to the neighbors garage and killing all the lawn in its shadows. The biggest problem with this tree, is that is was inhibiting the growth of the other tree in the back yard. We hate the idea of chopping down trees, but with a small yard and awkward location of the tree, it just wasn’t practical to keep it.

The other tree in the back yard which you can see in the photo was some type of maple, however it surprised us the most. It turned out to be a Pin Oak, a rare find in Wisconsin. In addition, this tree is protected by law. We can only trim it at certain times of the year, and removing it is out of the question since it’s a protected species. Who knew? We had no idea. So glad that the arborist really knows his stuff! We will trim the tree in the fall according to law, and hope that it will continue to grow to it’s full potential.cherry blossoms

The other problem was what do with the fruit trees. We have both a cherry and an apple tree in the yard. Unfortunately, they both have been unattended for a long time and reach far, far to close to the neighbors house. They should have been trimmed back long ago, but if we do it now, they should still produce some fruit, we hope! The cherry tree is almost as tall as the house, that’s a long stretch to do some fruit picking! The arborist can reshape the tree so we can still get future growth and fruit from it. Not sure what sort of cherry it is, I sure hope it’s a sweet variety!

North facing apple tree and cherry trees

The apple tree has many dead limbs among it’s blossoms. It also has a “sucker” tree growing up inside it’s trunk. Usually sucker trees are expendable. They grow from the roots of the tree and should be trimmed back to keep the tree growing well. We contemplated cutting it out our selves, but soon thought better of it for fear that it would kill both trees instead. The sucker however, was apparently another apple tree grafted into the middle of the first, so it would produce two different varieties of apples. Apparently this was a popular thing to do in the 1950’s, little did we know!

Unfortunately, the arborist fears the apple tree is already dying, that it’s hollow inside and will not last much longer. It poses a huge liability to us, being between two houses, and we need to remove it. I am dreading cutting it down.

cherry blossoms indoors

The trees are now in full bloom. It breaks my heart to know that we have to trim them, and cut down the apple tree completely. I refused to let the arborist come and trim the trees until we had been able to experience the blossoms at least once. They are so perfect and lovely. I will miss having them outside my living room window.

It was well worth our time and money to hire a professional for this job. Had we tried to do some of this work ourselves, we would have made all sorts of wrong choices. We plan to be here for a long time, so it is worth the investment in hiring a pro. I will post more before and after pics, as he is coming back to begin the trimming this week.

More to come!


Pallet Planter and Privacy Screen

white pallet planter with flowers


I was scoping out Craig’s List recently, looking for a new project. I happen to come across a pile of free pallets, and I was thrilled to pick them up. I have had this Pallet Planter and Privacy Screen idea in mind for quite some time, just needed the right materials to make it all happen!


The idea came to me last summer. We were walking through some side streets of Chicago and I notice a number of outdoor cafes that had privacy screen type planters along the street. Not only were they beautiful, but they were made from simple materials.

The plantings were simple as well, I love the look of ferns or other leafy green plants for privacy. As lovely as these planters are, I had a simpler solution, to make them out of pallets.


I brought home 2 full size pallets for each privacy screen, plus a few half pieces to use for extra wood here and there. I also picked up a 30″ plastic planter box at the local home improvement center, along with an 8 ft. 2″ X 6″ and some 4″ coated screws for assembly.

cutting the 2 x 6

The 2 x 6 was cut into 6 7/8″ pieces, 3 for each side of the planter.

marking the boards for assembly

The pallet was marked along the edge 4″ from the side for even assembly. We also had a broken board or two on the pallets. These were removed and replaced with boards from one of the half size scrap pallets that I brought home.

the pallet sandwich

We assembled the pallets in sandwich style, using the pieces of 2 x 6 at the top, middle side and bottom side areas. Be sure all pieces are lined up before you screw them together. The gap in the middle is made just the right size for the planting box to slide in.


We used a 6″ screw driver extension to reach between the boards and screw the pieces together. After we put 2 screws in each one on this side, we turned the pallet sandwich over and screwed the other side together for extra durability.

planter with flower box

The planter box fit right into the top.

side view pallet planter

You can see how the three side pieces of 2 x 6 hold the two pallets together.

finished pallet planter

I like the height of the pallets for privacy, it will work great on our patio area to screen us from the neighbors.

paint sprayer

I dug out my handy paint sprayer and went to work painting the planter.

white pallet planter

We had some storms come in and I was only able to get a one coat of paint on it. I will repost more pictures when the weather clears. Summer can’t come soon enough! I was really tempted to buy some ferns at the store, but it is too early to plant things out in our zone 4-5 climate. The planting will have to wait!

white pallet planter with flowers

I have materials for another planter and will finish it soon. Since this was so easy to assemble, I think I can manage to do it all by myself and surprise my husband. We will see!

There are a bunch of us who have been working on Pallet Projects for this little blog hop. I am linking up to this site as well.

Check out these other great pallet projects:

Succulent Cross

Succulents are my one of my all time favorite things, and so are topiaries.  Here is an easy DIY project to add some green to your decor – a succulent cross! 

DIY Succulent Cross|Designers Sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com


It’s finally warm enough to spend some time out on the porch. My first priority of course, are plants and accessories. Never mind that there is no where to sit, or that my pile of rummage sale junk still sits in the corner of the porch. A pretty front door is so welcoming, and something green by the door just makes it so much more inviting.Succulent Cross on door

Succulent Cross materials

Succulents are my one of my all time favorite things, and so are topiaries. I used to work in a green house and we planted dozens of topiaries early in the season. Topiaries were always hot items and they really aren’t difficult to plant. Succulents work well in them because they have shallow roots and don’t need a ton of water. I found this cross topiary online last year and thought it would be perfect for my Easter decor. This would also be a nice project for a grave site planting, as the succulents don’t need a lot of maintenance.

The first step is to soak your topiary in a bucket of water for 10-15 minutes until saturated. Then it’s ready to plant. I only used 6 plants for this project, but I broke them down into smaller pieces as I planted them so they wouldn’t be too big for the narrow parts of the cross.

Succulent Cross close up

I used a screw driver to poke holes into the moss, then inserted the plants. The plants filled up the cross quite well and will grow into place even more over the garden season.

I used a Command Strip to hang it on the glass door.

whole door with cross

I will have to take the cross down and soak it in a tray of water when it is dry since I don’t want to mess up the wooden finish on the door by watering it directly.

cross on the door

I found the blue hydrangea plant recently at Costco. My cross dripped a bit after it hung for a while, you can see a bit of moisture on the lower part of the door. I will have to remember to let it drain for a bit before hanging it up after watering. I have planted the Bunny Topiary in past years, you can read that tutorial here.

Now that my door is ready, perhaps I need to go out and look for an Easter Bonnet?

Enjoy your Holy Week!


Pin this post for later! 

DIY Succulent Cross|Designers Sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com

Five Step Terrarium

Terrarium by designerssweetspot.com

I am dreaming of the garden. I am itching to plant and create anything green. I decided to settle on an easy 5 Step Terrarium. Yesterday I braved the blizzard we were having to run to the garden center and pickup the supplies.

3 little plants for the terrarium designerssweetspot.com


I happened to have 3 mini plants on hand for this project, but I could have also bought them at the garden store. Fairy gardens are hot items these days and our garden shop had loads of miniature plants to choose from. I actually don’t know what variety these are, I am sure I could Google it if I wanted to, NOT.

Truffle bowl side view by designerssweetspot.com

While at the garden center I priced out purchasing a fancy smanchy terrarium bowl. They where in the neighborhood of $40.00, which I thought was outrageous for what is essentially a plain glass container.

I opted to use the Truffle bowl my husband inherited from his Aunt. Since I have never made a truffle desert in my life, this is probably the best use for it. We love how it turned out.

Here’s the Easy 5 Step Terrarium process:

  1. Collect supplies: You will need a truffle bowl, 3 small plants in different colors, height and leaf texture. This makes for an interesting display. I chose a purple leaf, a bright green mossy type plant, and a taller darker green plant. You will also need potting soil, activated charcoal and spaghnum moss. A few rocks decorate the top, but are optional.
  2. Fill the truffle bowl with 1 1/2″ activated charcoal. This helps with drainage and keeps the plants from getting root rot.
  3. Add potting soil until the bowl is 3/4 full.
  4. Plant your little plants in the potting soil, breaking up the roots when you take them out of the container with your fingers. Press soil gently around the plants, add more to cover the roots if needed.
  5. Cover the soil with the moss, working around the stem of each plant. Add a few decorative rocks if desired.

Water gently when soil becomes dry to the touch. You can leave your bowl for display on your coffee table or near a sunny window.

Don’t have a garden center near you? Amazon has everything you need, here are my affiliate links below for this project:

How to Keep Fresh Roses

rose bouquet by www.designerssweetspot.com

The week has flown by. Valentine’s Day has come and gone. We were sick all week so we haven’t done anything special this year. I feel like I am missing all the good things in life lately, with the move, being sick and trying to catch up and get organized.

I am still not on top of things, including blogging.

Valentine Roses by www.designerssweetspot.com

Valentine’s Day came around and I found these lovely bouquets of flowers on the table along with cards and chocolate. My sweet hubby out did himself this year. The second bouquet was for my mother. She was so pleased, she said she has NEVER gotten flowers or candy for Valentine’s Day. What a shame!

cutting rose stems

There are some tricks to keeping bouquets as long as possible. Perhaps you weren’t aware that your flowers need some special treatment when you bring them home from the store.

First step is to pull them out of the vase and trim the stems at a 45 degree angle, at least 2″ or more depending on the size of your container. Both flowers and greenery should get this treatment.

Smashing rose stems

Roses do better in water when you smash the ends of the stems with a hammer. This helps them draw the best water and stay fresh longer.

Roses in the vase

Before you put them back into the vase, remove all foliage below the water line. This keeps the water cleaner and gives the flowers more room to spread out and open.

Fill your vase with water. Add your floral fresh if you have it. A crushed aspirin makes an excellent substitute  for fertilizer. Replace the water in the vase at least every other day or as needed. Your flowers should keep for up to 7-10 days.

Roses and Quote

I hope you got some beautiful flowers for your special day. However if you didn’t, I highly recommend that you pick some up for yourself. Aldi’s has bouquets for $3.99. You can’t get more joy for less money!

Have a great day!