Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Old sign letters create new art – designing on a budget

Practically free art that’s really cool…

Recently I had the opportunity to give a 15 year old teen boy a bedroom makeover.  If anyone was deserving of such a makeover, it was Van.  His family is faced with a lot of challenges (his parents are legally blind and his sister has Down Syndrome).  We wanted to give him a dream room so that he had a special place to hang out with friends and enjoy alone time.  To learn more about the project visit the  McLean Makeover page on Exterior Spaces‘ web site.

My special project for his room was spelling the word, “Skate” on his wall.  Sounds simple, but let me tell you, that’s what made the room awesome.  My son’s uncle owns RBI Sign Installation & Service, so I sent him over to his uncle’s shop to look for old letters.  An hour later he sent me the picture below.  I was so excited!  The letters were perfect.  The S, k, e were old letters from a Perkins sign and the A T were from an old Weight Watchers sign.  I couldn’t wait for him to bring home the letters so I could get started.

All for the price of two cans of paint, we were able to create a unique art piece leaving all of Van’s skater friends wishing their room was as cool as his.  Words cannot describe Van’s reaction when he saw his room.  The big hug I received seconds after he saw it confirmed his love for his new room.  When I saw him the next day he told me that he couldn’t sleep the night before because he couldn’t stop staring at his new room.  It goes to show that something so simple, can go a long way.

Being involved in the community is important to Exterior Spaces.  We strive to use our talents to help others in need.   Over the years we have learned that helping someone makes us feel really good inside and puts a warm happy glow on the outside.  We strongly believe that helping someone creates a rippled affect of positive things in many peoples lives.  One thing is for sure, this makeover changed our lives.


Fall is for Planting

So the summer has been pretty rough on your grass, garden, shrubs and flowers; huh?

Well now is the time to kick revitalizing into full gear. September is a great month to get a head start on preparing things for the winter.


Head out to your local garden store because now is the time to buy things that bloom in the fall, like ornamental grasses. For a great selection of ornamental grasses, visit the Garden Supply Co in Cary, NC off of Old Apex Road. If you like them on Facebook, you’ll also received special discounts and coupons that the general public do not receive.  The staff at the Garden Supply is so friendly and helpful and the owner’s are such generous people.  On October 8th, our community outreach division will be holding a fundraising event at the Garden Supply for our first home makeover.  More details to follow shortly.  Visit the Designed to Care Web Site to learn more about our Outreach Division and how we are doing good in our community.



Green Grass Secrets…

September means its time to fertilize that fescue lawn.  Its also time for aerating and over seeding – just wait until mid to late September since the beginning of September is still pretty hot. If you live in Cary, NC, you can apply for a watering permit that allows you to water everyday for two weeks, which is vital since seeds need to stay wet to germinate and grow. Check the Town of Cary’s Website closer to the end of the month to apply for your permit.  It is also important to keep that lawnmower as high as possible during the hot summer days.  Yes, you will have to mow your lawn more often, but it sure will be healthier and greener as a result.

Get out that shovel, its time to plant…

September is also a great time for planting trees, shrubs, evergreens and annuals. And if you are really ambitious, sow sweet william, delphinium, sweet peas and snapdragon seeds now to bring color in the early spring.

Since you are already playing around in the yard, its time to rejuvenate the vegetable garden. Clear the garden of tired veggies and replace with cool season veggies like radishes, onions and asparagus crowns, which grow from November 15 – March 15.

It is also time to be thinking about the placement of bulbs since October is a great time to get them in the ground for the spring crop.  My favorite spring bulbs include tulips and daffodils, which flower from mid February to mid May.

Some Important Bulb Tips:

  • When purchasing, make sure the bulbs you choose are firm
  • Buy early so you can get first pick
  • If the bulbs have nicks or loose skins, don’t fret, this does not effect the bulbs negatively.  In fact, this condition encourages the root process.
  • Keep cool (50-65 F) until you are able to plant.  And keep away from ripening fruit since they produce ethylene

Soil Preparation:

  • Be sure to have good drainage
  • Since our soils in Wake County, NC are mostly clay, mix (up to a 50% mixture) an organic amendment such as peatmoss or compost to the clay
  • However if your soil contains mostly sand, mix and organic amendment to increase water holding capacity.
  • Soil pH should be within the 6-7 range.  You can buy a soil testing kit at your local home improvement store or you can contact your local extension office for a soil sample test.

Look for next months post to learn how to plant bulbs and when to water and fertilize.  Exterior Spaces is always available to answer your fall landscaping questions.

A Children’s Museum in Downtown Cary for Children of all ages…..



Downtown Cary Children's MuseumThat’s right, a museum in Downtown Cary, NC!  

And we aren’t talking about any old museum either.  The Downtown Cary Children’s Museum would cater to toddlers to school-aged children and focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Plans for the project are only about six months old. But if all goes as planned, we hope to have it opened in 2013.


You can help us win $25,000…

We entered our Project for the Pepsi Refresh Project.  We are excited to announce that we were randomly selected as one of 1500 applications.  What does that mean?  If we are one of the top 15 projects, we win a grant from Pepsi.

Here’s how it works…

Boost our voting power…

Pepsi Power Votes!!!


Freshly Picked Flowers

For the love of flowers…

At Exterior Spaces we love fresh cut flowers in the office.  The beauty, color and scent really brightens our moods and makes us a little happier.  Today we headed to the garden to see what we could gather for a display, and we so very please with our bounty.  Today we were able to gather beebalm, purple coneflowers, and hydrangeas.  The pinks and purples really brighten things up and the smell of the beebalm is refreshing.

Other great fresh cut flowers… 

Daisy, Black-eyed-susan, Day Lily, Sunflower, Salvia, Butterfly bush, Daffodil, Summer phlox, Iris, babysbreath, and

Making them last…

  1. The time of day matters – cut them in the early morning or later in the day when it is cooler.
  2. Cut with a very sharp knife (not serrated)
  3. Make the cut on a slant to expose more stem surface area.
  4. Remove any leaves that will be underwater
  5. Get them in water immediately!
  6. Feed them.  If you don’t want to use plant food purchased from the store then try the recipe below:
  • Add one part lemon-lime soda (not diet) to 3 parts water.  Then to each quart of this solution, add 1/4 tsp bleach.  Thereafter, add 1/4 teaspoon bleach after each 4 days of use.

Flowers make us happy…

A behavioral study conducted by Rutgers found that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods.  The study concluded that:

  1. Flowers impact happiness.  Receiving flowers invokes such nice feelings of love and happiness.  Think about the last time someone sent you flowers.  Did it make you smile from ear-ti-ear?  You probably were in a good mood for the rest of the day.  For me, flowers are instant happiness.  I love flowers, especially those picked from my garden.
  2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods.  Don’t you just feel better when flowers are sitting around your office or home?  I usually take the time to enjoy their fragrance or simply stare at their beauty.
  3. Flowers make intimate connections.  The last time your significant other gave you flowers you probably paid a little bit of extra attention to him or her that day, right?  🙂  Or perhaps that flowers you sent grandma for her birthday caused her to call and talk to you more because she was reminded of you every time she look at the flowers.
  4. Seniors find comfort with the presence of flowers.  Research has shown that flowers reduce depression and improve memory of seniors.  So the next time you head over to visit grandma and/or grandpa, take them some flowers….it sure will do them a lot of good.

Go out and pick some flowers!  It’ll really brighten your day.  🙂

Much love, Heather Foust
 Exterior Spaces

A picture is worth a thousand words…

This couldn’t be more true for a landscape architect trying to convey their design intentions.  Often it is hard for the untrained eye to look at a 2D/plan view drawing and really understand what the space will look and feel like when the hardscape and plantings have been installed.  That is why rendering with actual photos of the space is such a valuable tool.  Here are just a few quick renderings Exterior Spaces recently completed for a client.  Pictures are just one of many tools Exterior Spacesuses to help our clients experience their landscape dreams.

Backyard Before Design Visualization

Backyard After Design Visualization

Backyard Before Design Visualization

Backyard After Design Visualization

Before Design Visualization

After Design Visualization


Strawberry-Basil Ice Pops

Strawberry Basil Popsicles

Strawberry Basil Popsicles

Strawberry-Basil Ice Pops

Wondering what to do with the strawberries you  just brought home from the farmer’s market?  Better yet, did you grow strawberries yourself?  At Exterior Spaces we planted strawberries in a pallet and watched them grow and produce bunches of strawberries (see previous post on pallet gardening). Do you have a bunch of basil growing in your yard?  Then I’ve got a treat for you…

This recipe comes from the recipe book, “Ice pops”, by Shelly Kaldunski.  The blend of sweet strawberries with the anise flavor of basil make this a smashing combination.  Last summer when I made these I couldn’t keep them in the freezer.  I think I’ll be making some of these later today.

I use a Zoku quick pop maker.  This gadget can be purchased from Williams-Sonoma for around $50, plus some more for any additional odds and ends.  I purchased extra “sticks” to use with mine.  The Zoku is great because you can have frozen popsicles within minutes of making them.  However, making popsicles does not mean you need a fancy freezing machine, any freezing method will do.  Enjoy!

Zoku Popsicle Maker


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and basil.  Pour in 1/3 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and a syrup has formed.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the basil syrup into a blender or food processor, discarding the basil leaves.  Add the strawberry halves, lemon juice and salt. Process until nice and smooth.

If using conventional ice pop molds, divide the mixture among the mods.  Cover and freeze until solid, at least four hours or up to three days.  If using sticks, insert them into the molds when the pops are partially freezer, after about 1 hour, then freeze until solid, at least three more hours.

If using an instant ice pop maker (such as the Zoku), follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fill the molds and freeze the pops.

I hope you all enjoy these popsicles as much as my family does.

Happy Gardening and Much Love
From the Exterior Spaces Family!

Pallet Gardening

If you are like me, you don’t have a ton of space for vegetable gardening.  So this summer, I’m going to work hard to bring innovative gardening to my yard.  My first experiment is with a pallet – so far, so good.  I’m excited to share my pallet gardening process with you here….

First things first, this project is about repurposing a product.  I’m excited to say the project is very inexpensive and is great for the environment.  If you see a company that has a pile of pallets sitting around, they will most likely give you one or two or ten of them.  They don’t want them, but you do, so just ask.  I was able to pick a few up from my favorite garden center, The Garden Supply Company in Cary, NC.   Special thanks to the folks over there.

Lets get started!

Supplies Needed:

  • Plants
  • Dirt
  • Pallet
  • Burlap
  • Chicken wire, unless you can secure some really heavy-duty burlap
Step 1:  Choosing your pallet
Its best if you have the opportunity to look through the pile of pallets and choose which one will work best for you.  Be picky!!!  Choose one that doesn’t have a lot of nails sticking out.  Make sure it still has most of its structure as you’ll need that support to hold everything in.  You don’t want a pallet that is missing a lot of slats.  Before leaving, make sure to flash your pearly whites to the person that is graciously giving you the pallet (and remember a good ol’ southern hug goes a long way).  
Step 2: Preparing the pallet
Once you have all of your supplies in front of you, set aside at least one hour for the assembly.  After you’ve inspected the pallet for any lose staples or nails, give it a good cleaning – scrub brush, hose, and dish soap style.  Before the cleaning you might decide that some of the slats in the pallet need to be removed.  I was fortunate enough to score a pallet that had the perfect distance between the slats for planting.  However, some pallets have several slats side-by-side (much like your back deck) and need to be modified to fit your gardening needs.  
Step 3:  Assembling the pallet
Flip the pallet to the back side.  You’ll staple or nail the burlap to the back and sides (although my next pallet may have its sides left open so that I have other places for planting).  Burlap can be purchased in the form of a roll from garden centers, home improvement stores or even farm supply stores.  If you are able to find burlap that is free and was used for something else in its previous life – even better!  If you are so lucky to find used burlap, we’d love to hear where you got it.
Prior to adhering the berlap to the back, its a good idea to make some “shelves” .  This is a way to control where the dirt goes – once the pallet is standing up, its hard to keep the dirt from falling out of the front slats.  Use burlap to make these little shelves and place them where you think they will be most beneficial.  For my pallet, I did not use the shelving method for every row.  Staple the burlap in such a way that makes them invisible to the front side.  Keep in mind that the picture below is the back side of the pallet.  When you look at the finished product, you should not be able to tell that the shelves are part of the pallet.
Now that your shelves are in place it is time to cover the back and remaining sides you do not want to plant.  Roll the burlap (or piece together your free pieces) onto the back and anywhere else you want to cover, such as the sides.  Secure the burlap in place with staples or nails.  We found it was difficult to use staples in our pallet because of the hard wood used to make the pallet and because of the small sized stapler we were using.  Eventually we used a combination of staples and nails to make it work.
This next step is necessary if you do not have heavy duty burlap.  The burlap I used was pretty flimsy so I needed a way to reinforce the back so that I could fill the pallet with dirt and plants.  To do this, I nailed old chicken wire to the back (this is another item you may be able to find for free somewhere).   If you are fortunate enough to find a supply of used chicken wire for reuse, let us know.
Step 4:  Planting the pallet
Here’s where the fun begins!   Sadly, I didn’t take pictures once I started filling in the pallet with dirt, but I think you can get the idea.  Start at the bottom.  Once you get a base of dirt, add your plants.  Dirt is important here.  Think of the pallet as a container.  You do not want to go out and by planting mix, which is used for planting directly in the ground.  If you want to purchase ready-mixed soil, be sure to get an organic potting soil suitable for vegetables.  I used a combination of potting soil and black cow (AKA cow manure).  I recommend using small plants – they have all summer to grow!  My strawberry plants were a bit large.  I really had to rough them up to get them in the pallet.  If you do have to rough up the roots, don’t worry, they can handle it as long as they stay in tact.  Work your way on up the pallet until it is filled up.  Just remember the plants are going to grow, so don’t crowd too much in there.  I chose strawberries for the bottom two layers.  If I had purchased more strawberries, I would have filled the whole pallet – they seem to be doing so well and the strawberries are very visible and easy to pick.  The bottom two rows of my pallet are filled with strawberries and the top rows are filled with herbs.  Other plants that would work well are flowers.  How pretty would this be filled with flowers?!?  I just might have to plant one of those next.  I think lettuce would also work well.  When choosing your plants, just keep in mind the growth habit.  Tomatoes and other plants that grow tall and upright probably aren’t the best choice.  You also don’t want to plant things that require too much room for their roots, like potatoes and onions.
Step 4:  Watering and Fertilizing
Your new vertical garden needs to be watered daily, especially if you live down South.  Our summers are so harsh.  If it is a sun-loving flower garden or a vegetable garden it will need to be in a sunny location, so it’ll need lots of water.  Check on it every day.  You’ll need to water it twice during really hot days.  My next pallet will have drip irrigation installed – that way I can be sure it gets watering even when I’m not around to provide it.  I’ll be positing a few picture once I’ve completed that project.
Fertilize as you would normally.  I highly recommend Garden Tone.  Its an organic fertilizer that I’ve been using for years.
Well there you have it!  My vertical pallet garden fits nicely with the other plants in my garden.  I actually picked a salad for lunch today.  I can’t wait for my onions, okra, tomatoes, and eggplant to bear fruit!
I will soon be planting squash and watermelon.  Since they hog up so much room, I have ideas for taking them vertical.  You’ll just have to check back to see what innovative design I create for that!
Happy Gardening!!!!
Happy Gardening!
Much Love, Heather Foust
Exterior Spaces