DIY – Bringing Fereldan to My Backyard

If you’ve been following any of my social networks since February, then you know just how I feel about the game Dragon Age. Since starting Dragon Age: Origins, my love for the franchise and everything related has grown exponentially, resulting in a new spot at the top of my favorite all-time game list. That’s right, Carth Onasi, there’s a new guy in town and his name is Alistair!

Do a Google search and there’s an abundance of Alistair (the most popular character/romance option for ladies) love poems, drawings and lengthy discussions about favorite quotes, etc, etc. It’s really quite amazing just how well the female gaming community has embraced this shy, sarcastic and chivalrous stud in plate armor. But moving away from the Alistair love posts, I decided I wanted to incorporate some sort of Dragon Age decor into our geeky little house. I searched the bowels of the internet for days and came up with nothing as far as projects relating to DA decor.

So naturally, I created my own!

My finished Fereldan Herb Garden!
My finished Fereldan Herb Garden!

Since starting to cook more at home, and doing a LOT of it, I have needed fresh herbs on almost a daily basis. Let me tell you something: fresh herbs are expensive!! Even at the local farmer’s market, I was buying them often and usually having them go bad before I could make use of it all. It really wasn’t a financially savvy option for somebody carefully monitoring their bottom line. So with a little creativity, and about $80, I made a great-looking herb garden that ups the geek factor on my backyard and adds delicious (and cheaper) flavor to our meals!

Here’s how I made the magic happen …

Step One: Play Copious Amounts of Dragon Age

This step is my favorite and the most essential. Whenever you’re getting crafty, you need to get into the proper mindset. To find my DA inspiration, I listen to the soundtrack and play the game. It helps to sort of throw yourself into the world and hey, it’s an excuse to play video games!

Step Two: Gather Your Materials

You will need:

  • Garden containers – I went with the sturdy plastic kind because the stone pots are just too heavy for my taste. Choose as many as you need/want for your garden. I picked out three containers: two long planters and one large pot.
  • Potting soil – I used a total of 2.5 cubic feet of organic potting mix specifically designed for vegetable and herb gardens. This was about one and a half bags.
  • Herbs – Take a look at what you cook often or what kind of recipes you enjoy. Do you notice any herbs that keep appearing? Consider starting out simple with rosemary, which is amazing for cooking just about anything (chicken, roasts, rice, vegetables), or
  • Mod Podge – This stuff is awesome and I always call it “Modge Podge” on accident. Ever heard of decoupage? Well the concept is really simple! All you do is essentially glue a design onto a surface and voila, you have a masterpiece!
  • Paintbrushes and Newspaper – Get a few different sizes so you can paint details.
  • Various Acrylic Paints and Spray Paints – Depending on your theme, get correlating colors to bring it to life.
  • Acrylic Spray Sealer – This puts a nice finishing and protective seal on your acrylic masterpiece. After all that work, you don’t want the next Blight to just easily wash it all away.

Step Three: Start Decorating!

Once you have your supplies, you’re ready to begin!

First, you need to figure out the theme. Sure, we have Dragon Age, but what specifically are you compelled to create? For my three planters, I created a Grey Warden theme, a Dragon Age II theme, and a Dragon Age: Origins dragon theme. After I finalized how I wanted these to look, I browsed Google for the three images I wanted. I then printed them out on my regular color printer onto normal paper. After tedious amounts of time cutting out every detail, I put them to the side.

Next, I primed my three planters by spraying them with grey plastic primer. After the coats dried (follow directions on the can) and I made sure everything was covered with a few additional coats, I then sprayed two of the pots with a dark grey acrylic, and the main pot with black. Now it was time to Modge Podge.

Take the graphics you’ve cut out and place them onto the planter where you want them to end up. Take a paintbrush and dip it lightly into the Modge Podge. Sweep the glue over the graphic in a very thin coat. The idea is to adhere the paper to the planter, but you don’t want to use a thick coat – it’ll end up in one giant, goopy mess! Don’t worry about extra glue outside of your design; this is easily hidden or cleaned up immediately with a rag. After a few coats of Modge Podge, the graphic should be firmly adhered to the pot.

Now it’s time to start painting!

I chose to weather my planters to make them resemble something I might find on a street in Fereldan or Kirkwall. I wanted them grungy, just like the game – and really, it’s better because then I don’t worry about them getting natural grime on them in the future. It’ll look more realistic! Paint whatever details, striping, etc you would like to onto your planters. There is no wrong way of doing this – it’s literally YOUR herb garden.

For my Grey Warden planter, I went with a shimmery blue that reminded me of armor, and heavy weathering on the sides and around the emblem. For my DA2 planter, I chose Hawke’s family crest, which I ended up painting over so the red really stood out. I even scribbled a little graffiti on the back of some “drawings,” which you might remember from the game. (Oh, Isabella.) Finally, I mocked the blood splatter design on my dragon pot to make it really look like the cover artwork. For this, I simply dipped my paintbrush in red acrylic and, holding the end firm in one hand, smacked the brush in such a way that the paint would splatter off and onto the pot.

Once you’re done painting, be sure to apply two coats of the Acrylic Sealer to make sure your designs are protected through the elements. Now that the pots are finished, take a few minutes to figure out which herbs are being planted where.

Don't worry about getting it perfect.
Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Weather it and paint however you want! This is a FUN project. 🙂

Step Four: Plant and Enjoy!

So everything is decorated, yay! That means it’s time to actually plant the herbs. For my garden, I chose oregano, rosemary, lavender, parsley, foxwood basil, sweet basil, chocolate mint and peppermint. But surely, they can’t keep such boring names! I renamed each of my herbs and created name markers using mini popsicle sticks and a sharpie.

Get creative with your names.
Get creative with your names by using elements of the game, locations or character names.

In order to plant the herbs, fill your containers with a hearty layer of the vegetable potting soil. Take your plant and measure how deep you’ll need to plant it so that the ball (or roots) is covered in the fresh soil. Now, don’t fill the containers up yet! Place the herbs into the pots to make sure you’ll like how they are arranged and they will have enough room. Once you are happy with the arrangement, cover all of the plant bases with the soil, pat firm, and water. Place the herb markers near each correlating herb so you won’t forget which is which!

And there you have it!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your new garden. 🙂 Make sure your herbs are getting enough sunlight and water (check their potting tags to see what they need). The important thing about herb gardens is that you need to cut herbs off to inspire growth. Be sure to use them in your cooking (wash first)!

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