Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from Pine Green!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
Well, it has been several months since my last post, and believe or not it's been a year since we moved to Pine Green. We'll take some time in the coming weeks to update the blog with our latest progress, but for now, we hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer & Sunflowers

Living room arrangement of sunflowers grown at Pine Green
Summer has managed to slow us down a bit, especially as far as yardwork, although we're still managing to put in several hours of work per week maintaining the yard. A couple of months ago I decided to create an experimental "garden" space (as opposed to landscape) on the east side of the property in front of the parking area. We'll likely rotate through various plants throughout the year, but I decided to start by planting a variety of sunflower seeds:

Young sunflowers (foreground) - May 21, 2012
They grew quickly and densely. I decided not to thin them, and although not as big, sturdy, and bold as I might have hoped, they put on a pretty good show:
Sunflowers near their peak in July 2012

We've also been trying to figure out the best low maintenance solution for the chimney's fountain and pond. The water tends to get green with algae quickly; algaecide is limited in effectiveness, and chlorine is too harsh for the pump system we have. So last week, inspired by one of our neighbors, as well as my experiences in lake management, we decided to experiment in converting it to a "living" system by cleaning the fountain thoroughly then adding a water lily and a submersed plant called coontail:

Lily on the right; coontail more difficult to see on the left (underwater)
Lily's flower

Fountain with plantings
The hope is the lily will provide shade, reducing sunlight available for algae to photosynthesize, and the coontail will compete for nutrients in the water as it grows, keeping algae in check. We shall see how well it works in practice.

Other than that, one rainy weekend we repainted the living room and dining room - a subtle change but a nice improvement. We've also added some new lighting and window treatments. I've spent a lot of time outside over the past several weeks working on creating rain gardens to reduce the exposure of the garage and house to runoff. The rain gardens are mainly planted with muhly grass, since it is both drought and flood tolerant. Hopefully it will have some pink plumes in the fall so I'm waiting until then to post some photos. Other newer plantings include cassia, plumbago, lantana, pumpkins, and beautyberry - the latter being a successful transplant from some I gathered in the wild at my parents' farm.

Reid has also diligently been working on converting the playhouse to a personal art studio - he'll be doing a "guest blog" entry on that and more in the future.

And I'm slowly working on re-insulating the attic and starting to gather my thoughts on perhaps getting the house and accessory buildings re-roofed this fall or winter.

Summer has finally brought about some good rains, a richness to the landscape, and a bit of an urban oasis for birds and plenty of other wildlife. As for me, I'm spending more time inside, looking forward to some cooler temperatures in a few months, and crossing my fingers that my pumpkins actually manage to fruit in the fall.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Presenting Pine Green Back to the Neighborhood

We've been working on a lot of things at Pine Green over the past few weeks, mostly in the yard while the weather was still somewhat bearable. March marked the end of Pine Green's last traditional pine tree:

Dead pine behind the playhouse
Most of the pines had either died or been removed over time to protect the house from threat during hurricanes. This last one, upwards of 50 feet tall or more and with a thick trunk, had been looming for a while, standing dead in perhaps one of the worst locations at the southwest property corner, threatening multiple neighboring properties as well as my own. One of our neighbors who is skilled in tree removal did the work for us. It turned out the tree was much more rotten that we had thought, making it unsafe to climb, so he had to use a lift during the removal:

During tree removal 

Pine Gone 
Although best suited for South Florida, we do plan on keeping the one stately Norfolk Island Pine, and perhaps planting a few additional ones to frame the house, so that the namesake "Pine Green" will endure.

Norfolk Island Pine by the garage behind blooming azalea
We also had Zoysia sod installed, and we've planted giant apostle iris, flag iris, coontie, impatiens, sunflowers, philodendrons, perennial peanut, sunshine mimosa (sensitive plant), and more. We've continued to transplant some existing plants to better suited locations, and we've continued to giveaway some that no longer fit the landscape. We also managed to get the most important irrigation zones operable. With the recent drought and all the new plantings and transplantings, we've had to water quite a bit!

Back yard in 2011

Back yard in April 2012

Front yard in 2011
Front yard in April 2012

On a side note, our flag iris plantings were a case of mistaken identity. We had ordered giant apostle iris ("Regina iris") and the supplier ended up sending the wrong species, which turned out to be a type of flag iris (I still haven't identified the precise variety). Turns out it's a fairly common mistake in the industry, although the two types of iris are quite different. So we went out and bought some of the real giant apostle iris as well and planted them to provide some structure to the front yard.

Front yard (northeast side) in 2011

Front yard (northeast side) in April 2012 - giant apostle iris in foreground

The flag irises are more delicate and are struggling a bit now - we're trying to save as many as we can. Both types of irises have such beautiful flowers:

Flag iris
Giant apostle iris (Neomarica caerulea 'Regina')

Most folks we've talked to have loved the fact that we've opened the property up quite a bit and presented it back to the neighborhood. Not everyone of course - some liked the hidden mystery and wilder look. Over time, however, our new plantings will fill in, and we'll continue to add more, still keeping the place open but giving it more character. Maybe we'll win over nearly everyone one day :)

For now however, I anticipate we'll be doing less in the landscape over the summer and instead turning our attention to the house itself, as we still have many projects to work on inside and out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet Sam Stoltz

Sam Stoltz
A few weeks ago, one of my neighbors graciously gave me a copy of Grace Hagedorn's book Sam Stoltz - Artist. Builder. Decorator:

I had been wanting to get my hands on this book for months, ever since I began researching Sam. It's a wonderful biography of Stoltz and covers many of the Central Florida homes he built. Bill Bean, the previous owner of Pine Green, also dropped off some great photos and documents about Sam - a few of which I'm including in this post.

Sam Stoltz grew up in Nebraska, had his own art studio in Chicago, and moved to Orlando in 1925 at age 50 with his wife Patti to start a second career.

Patti Stoltz
Sam did not have formal architectural training, but he had lots of experience growing up and with Patti's help had designed their first home near Chicago. Sam ultimately contributed a plethora of homes to Central Florida, including homes in Orlando, College Park, Winter Park, Mount Plymouth, and Windermere. Perhaps the most unique of Sam's creations are a series of homes in Mount Plymouth built in a storybook style. These are called the Plymouthonians, and many are still in existence today. It is worth a road trip to get a glimpse of these homes (Mount Plymouth is in Lake County, west of Sanford, on SR 46).

Sam also helped with the rebuild of the Dubsdread Club House in College Park after it had been destroyed by fire in 1934. Although it has since been extensively renovated, the Club House still features Sam's classic pecky cypress beams and Florida fieldstone fireplace, which looks very much like the one in my livingroom, albeit larger.

Sam almost always incorporated wildlife into his works in some way. He was referred to as the "world's greatest poultry painter." Sam had a plaster fresco technique with a whimsical artistry that was ahead of his time, as evidenced by the flamingo scene in my bathroom that I previously posted. On the outside of the chimney at Pine Green, we have slowly begun restoration of his plaster flamingos:

Chimney before

Chimney after cleaning
For now we've done a simple cleaning to remove some of the mildew stains. This alone brought much of the color of the flamingos back to light. Eventually, we may add some subtle color to fill in patches that have chipped away over time. We want to preserve some of the aged character of the chimney, so we don't plan to try to clean it back to pristine condition.

Over the past few weeks, we've continued to begin to implement Joe Brook's landscape plan for Pine Green, removing some plants and transplanting others to open the property up more and to prepare for some new plantings. Meanwhile, the huge azaleas are in bloom, reminding us that spring is about to begin, and we're looking forward to watching Pine Green continue to amaze us:

Azaleas right before blooms opened
Azaleas in bloom

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Everything Old Is New Again

So it's been just over six weeks since the closing, and camellias are in bloom (the property has about a dozen, and many are reportedly over 70 years old). We've come a long way in short time all things considered...

Our initial focus was to take care of one big ticket item before we moved most of our stuff in: termites.
Tenting for drywood termites
Although most of the cypress wood is in great condition considering its age (Pine Green was built in 1934), there was enough drywood termite activity and damage to warrant tenting the house as well as the garage and playhouse. We also went ahead and installed Sentricon as a precaution against subterranean termites.

In order to prep the house for treatment, we had to trim away a lot of landscape around the home's perimeter. Even with all the precautions we took, we still lost some plants we wanted to keep once they did the fumigation.

One side benefit of the tenting - the pest control company successfully restored the flamingo sculpture that looked like it had a broken neck when I first saw the place.

Flamingo sculpture before

Flamingo sculpture after

The inside of the home, considering its age, is in great condition.  We've mainly cleaned, moved in some furniture, artwork, and accessories, and have begun updating window coverings.

Living room before

Living room so far

So far we've found one "moneypit" item we didn't anticipate. Turns out the shower pan in the master bedroom had apparently been leaking for years, rotting lots of wood underneath:

What lies beneath revealed (shower area during repair)
It was missed during inspection, but Reid noticed dripping outside a couple of weeks ago, and from there we discovered the problem. It was a significant repair. The tile flooring (but not the wall tile) in the shower was apparently original (or close to it):

Shower before repair

I rather liked it, but since we had to lose the matching flooring in the shower due to the pan repair, we decided to go ahead and retile everything for continuity. We chose a simple natural dolomite marble for an enduring look that would also work with the finishes of the rest of the home. It turned out very nicely:
Shower repaired and retiled
While the shower was out of commission for a few days, we had to use the bathtub in the guest bath... this bath features one of Sam Stoltz's original famous flamingo frescoes:

Guest bath fresco
There is no shower, but I must admit it's quite a relaxing experience being surrounded by the flamingo and weeping cherry scene.

Aside from that, we spent considerable time over the past weeks starting to "contain" the landscape a bit. Pine Green has a marvelous palette of plants... including the largest podocarpus trees (yes, trees) I've ever seen... but it is too overgrown, unmanageable, and a bit of a hodgepodge in some areas. While we love the forest in the middle of the City that is Pine Green, we think the house was a little too hidden, and so, under the guidance of our beloved friend and well respected landscape architect Joe Brooks, we've been selectively removing or thinning some plants in order to reveal and preserve the best that Pine Green has to offer. We've even been giving away a fine stock of plants to friends to use in their own landscapes.

Front view before

Front view so far

Back yard before

Back yard so far

Driveway side before

Driveway side so far

Master bedroom rear side before

Master bedroom rear side so far

Yesterday Joe presented us with a wonderful preliminary plan for updating the landscape and really showing off the place while also respecting its heritage... It will likely be a while (perhaps years) before we fully implement his vision. For now, we've come close to reaching a point where we can pause for a moment and contemplate the future.

Last week one neighbor passing by gave me the greatest compliment: "... it's like watching a present being unwrapped..."

View from driveway before

View from driveway so far
(note the 8+ ft tall professor sargent camellia by the sunroom that was virtually hidden before)

Corner view from street before

Corner view from street so far