New projects

I went to Alabama last week and wouldn't you know, as soon as I leave, there is a glorious week of sunny weather in Washington. Thankfully, the stroke of clear weather extended itself after I returned. Michael and I hit the ground running and we have just about exhausted ourselves with knocking off some major projects.

First - staining the fence. We did this on a clear day with no clouds whatsoever but it was not hot, just pleasantly warm. I actually broke out the shorts and the tank top. The stain is called "Mahogany Flame" which I think would make a good drag-queen name. This is what our friends used on their fence in Portland and we really liked it. Our neighbor across the street commented and said that it glowed in the sunset. I will take that as a compliment.

Michael stained the fence and I took on the gate and arbor. Painting all those slats and criss-cross panels just about drove me insane. I do hope this is not a project that will have to be repeated soon. Notice the Weeping Goldenchain tree on the left is leafing out!

We next tried the stain on our garden bench. It looks brand new! Amazing what a coat of stain will do.

Next up was the deck which was in a pretty sad state. We had intended to rent a pressure washer and clean it. However, the guy at Home Depot advised against it and said that pressure washing it would open the pores and cause moisture to seep in and cause trouble down the road. He recommended that we use a product called "30 Seconds" which everybody uses here to clear off the moss and algae. This was more back-breaking work as we had to use a scrub brush but lo and behold, it did an impressive job.

Trying to decide what stain to use was more of a headache. Have you researched deck stains lately?  Ugh. Since the wood on our deck is old and weathered, we learned that it would not be easy to achieve that fresh, wood stain look. We wanted to use the same stain that we used on the fence but a test area proved disappointing. Michael wanted it to match the house so we finally decided on a solid stain tinted with our house color (thanks to the previous owner who saved every paint can used in this house!). It matched perfectly.

Here are the rails stained with the "Coastal Beige" tint.

And here it is completed. The steps and underpinning are in bad shape so we are hiring the guy who built our fence to come back and repair them.


Now, some happenings in the garden - 

Rhododendron "Ramapo", a dwarf variety that I purchased to go next to the front door.
Variegated Solomon's Seal, an existing plant in the garden
Sunday morning, it was on to Hortlandia, one (if not THE) biggest plant sale of the season. I volunteered to work 3 hours and I had a great time. I met lots of wonderful people (thank you Nancy Goldman for introducing me to everyone and taking me under your wing!!). Of course, the best thing was shopping for plants. It was overwhelming but I managed to practice a bit of restraint and get out with one tray of plants.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Totally awesome! I love the transformation on the deck! Thanks for sharing the process. Can't wait to see what you do next! PS: Love the drag-queen name! Haha. ;)

  2. So glad you enjoyed the plant sale. And the deck looks great.

  3. Everything looks great! Love that chartreuse grass you brought home!!! Should go well with that drag queen fence!!! Hahaha!! ;-)

  4. Nice work! The fence looks awesome and the deck, too. It sounds like you are really settling in here. And Nancy Goldman is fabulous, isn't she?

  5. Only one tray of plants! You must have still been catatonic from all that hard work. Everything you touch is turning to gold. It looks great.

  6. You showed great restraint Phillip! I doubt I'd be able to stop at one tray. Love seeing your new home take shape!

  7. Nice stain work Phillip....reminds me why I had my deck built out of the Trex material when we moved some 15 years ago...although, sadly, only one color, gray, was available at the time, at least I haven't had to stain it!

    1. Trex would be wonderful. We we probably have to redo it down the road. I hope we can afford to use it.

  8. I have researched deck finished until the cows come home. My cedar deck was getting pretty ugly. I found a great oil-based product, TWP-100, but unfortunately (like all good things from the old days) the state EPAs banned it here in Virginia & the northeast. (I found it is still available in Texas, though.) I got the company's water-based product, TWP1500 and it seems to be holding up well.

    1. We ended up using Sherwin Williams Super Deck, water-based opaque stain. So far, we are pleased with it.


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