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Archives for May 4, 2014

Sounding Off: Plano readers tell us what issues they think the City Council …

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Share your own opinion online at dallasnews.com/sendletters. Sign up for Sounding Off or submit a guest column (and include your full name and contact information) by visiting dallasnews.com/voices.

Early voting for the May 10 general election began Monday. What issues concern you the most? If your city is not holding elections, what initiatives, if any, would you like to see your City Council take on this year?

Jerry Frankel, Plano: As a longtime Plano resident, there are several areas where our community does not provide vital services. In Plano, we have thousands of residents who lack access to health care because they are under- or uninsured. Many suffer in silence, eventually forced by severe illness to go to the ER late in their illness. Plano is a wealthy community, and nothing is more important than one’s health.

Besides establishing primary clinics throughout Plano, elected officials need to discuss with county commissioners how to re-establish hospital services for the uninsured as it was done before selling off the county hospital. There are several affordable options to provide these services besides building a public hospital. Related to public health, the air we breathe is polluted by a cement factory south of Dallas. Elected officials need to exert their authority as the responsible party for a healthy environment and urge the EPA and the state to clean the air we breathe by taking appropriate action against polluters and, if necessary, sue the major polluters of our land, water and air.

Charles Raper, Plano: My fear for the future of our nation is the loss of constitutional government and the laws which protect it. Another concern is the overt attacks by the administration on Christianity, the religion which has been the root of our form of government. I think Plano is a well-managed city, but I think we should go to single-member districting to get more people involved in the management and reduce the cost of running for city positions.

Carol MacDonald, Plano: My current pet peeve is drivers sitting in the right lane but not turning right. Especially during rush hour at Plano Parkway and Preston Road. Because there is no designated right turn only lane, it can take several cycles to make a simple right turn because one car is holding up six cars wanting to turn right. Perhaps there are other such intersections needing new lane designations?

Something the City Council needs to address soon is the deplorable condition of many of the aging community walls along our major thoroughfares. Back where I grew up outside of Texas, ownership of property extended from curb to back line and driveway to driveway. But not in Texas. Our homeowners associations are supposed to take care of the walls and landscaping facing the streets outside the walls. Evidently landscaping remains HOA responsibility, but walls are city responsibility. It’s quite clear that some walls are being ignored by both and those walls need to be identified and repaired. Perhaps a team of vigilante digital photographers can help document the worst areas. Park, Parker, Independence, Coit, Custer and Alma come to mind, but there are other areas as well.

Bob Jackson, Plano: We are very fortunate to have City Council members who study the issues from all angles before making any decisions with how our tax money is spent. For this we should all be very grateful. I’ve lived here for almost 40 years now and can truly say that for the most part, during those 40 years we have elected citizens who take their job very seriously and represent themselves in a very responsible manner. I really do not have any suggestions or ideas at this time. I truly do appreciate the time, efforts, and commitments that these men and women serve our community in representing our needs and making our city such a desirable place to live.

Ted Gold, Plano: The three most important issues to address both a locally and statewide: water, water and water. Nothing else to say.

Don Proeschel, Plano: I would first like to focus on what is right with Plano, having lived most of my last 34 years in Collin County and Plano. The changes in our population size — from 72,000 to 270,000 — and the addition of a number of world-class companies since 1980 have been wonderful to observe. We have an excellent public school system, low crime and numerous well-maintained libraries, parks and trails.

With the city nearly completely built out for constructing new residences, I believe our focus needs to be on continuing to attract new jobs and businesses to Plano, maintaining our infrastructure (roads, bridges and utility lines), eliminating decay in our older homes and apartments, and continuing to implement the county’s open space plans by building and repairing hike and bike trails.

Let’s energize our community even more to help repair and clean up aging residences. Recently, the Love Where You Live projects, involving more than 300 residents, many churches, businesses and city staff working together, was a terrific success, with potential for even greater impact. Finally, we need to determine how we can best serve the needs of our increasingly diverse population in our schools, places of worship and businesses.

Arnell L. Engstrom, Plano: In this time of serious drought and severely low lake reservoir levels, I would like to see Plano more vigorously pursue lawn sprinkler violations because, if truth be told, they seems a bit lax currently. And do it even if that means more money spent on enforcement monitoring.

I would also like to see Plano set up an annual or semiannual community-wide garage sale at one of their recreation centers the way Dallas does at the Campbell Green Recreation Center.

We want your feedback

The Dallas Morning News is always exploring new ways to serve our audience, and you can help. Sign up to join the DFW Opinions Matter Advisory Panel. If you’re selected, you could earn exclusive gifts and special offers. If you are curious about how people get their news in a digital age, you’ll enjoy offering feedback on our products and services, often before they are available to the public. Your input could make a difference. http://d-news.co/vZzt

Article source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/plano/headlines/20140504-sounding-off-plano-readers-tell-us-what-issues-they-think-the-city-council-should-tackle.ece

Your landscape can be greatest show on earth

Color is the candy of life. Without splashes of color, our world would become tasteless and much of the sensory enjoyment we derive from our surroundings would cease. Colors season our world with delicious excitement and beauty, both indoors and outdoors.

That is why it is so important to consider the many shades and hues of plants, trees and even outdoor furnishings when planning our yards. Making sure that, as much as possible, there are ever-changing splashes of color outside our homes during each season and also ensuring that those colors complement each other is key to making a splash with our landscapes.

Get Your Summer On

For five Sundays, the Home Garden section will feature great ideas to get your outdoor space in shape. Here’s the lineup:

May 4: Many shades of color

May 11: Room to grow food

May 18: Fire up the grill

May 25: The right equipment

June 1: What homeowners want and need

Hard to believe, but summer will arrive. (We promise!) That means it’s time for our backyard makeover contest.

For the third year, Daily Herald readers submitted photos with essays telling us why they needed to get their patios and yards in shape as part of our “Get Your Summer On” series and contest.

The responses this year had a, well, they had a desperate tone to them. After being cooped up for the last several months because of the winter that would never end, we know how much you want to spend some time outdoors. And you need an attractive backyard to do that.

A panel of experts selected 15 backyards, which will be featured for the next five weeks in Home Garden, along with transformation ideas from our contest sponsors to fit various tastes and budgets. All 15 of the finalists will receive a $50 gift certificate from Northwest Metalcraft.

In the end, four winners will receive backyard improvement packages ranging in value from $1,000 to $5,000 each, consisting of donations from a variety of our sponsors. The winning entries will be featured June 15. Check online for more photos and ideas from our contest sponsors — everything from patio furniture and grills to outdoor lighting, patios and landscaping. Go to dailyherald.com/summer.

Check each week to see if your yard was selected. Even if your yard wasn’t picked this year, we know you will get lots of ideas on how to spruce up your outdoor living space.

In addition, make sure to check out our Food section starting on Wednesday for advice and tips on how to give that grill of yours a workout.

Our five-week grilling university offers recipes and advice on cooking everything from burgers to pizza to grilled side dishes, as well as tips on the drinks to serve your guests.

Hey, the weather is finally warming up. It’s time to get your summer on!

Jean Bragdon, operations manager at Lurvey’s Garden Center, 2550 E. Dempster St., Des Plaines advocates the use of evergreens and colorful perennials in garden beds, interspersed with annuals, which bloom from spring to fall.

“Bright, bold colors, like tangerine, purple and bright greens, are hot this year. They are more popular than pastels right now,” she said. “But you can do whatever you want and we also suggest planting bulbs that will come up early in the spring and using colorful garden art like gazing balls and bird baths to make a yard look instantly bright and cheery.”

Bragdon also loves to see portable gardening containers of various sizes, filled with annuals and set out on decks, porches and patios.

“They enhance what you have and make your landscape instantly look alive. Buy a pre-made hanging basket and cut the wires off if you want to use what someone else already put together, or pick the flowers and put them together yourself. We usually say that you want a thriller (a tall, upright plant), a spiller (a plant that cascades over the side) and a colorful filler.”

Colorful resin Adirondack-style chairs, as well as deep-seating sectionals and other seating with colorful cushions, also add splashes of color to local yards. The Adirondack chairs, which are comfortable without cushions and come in more than 15 different colors, are particularly popular around fire pits and along front porches, according to Dan Mayer, owner of Northwest Metalcraft, 413 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.

“We are also seeing a trend toward more lounging furniture. People are still dining outside, but they also want to sit out there and kick back and relax in their free time on round or L-shaped sectionals and while the wicker or aluminum frames are still mostly brown, black, gray or beige, the cushions being chosen are generally colorful,” Mayer explained.

“People are entertaining more at home so they don’t have to drive anyplace and they want their yards to look nice. They want to live the whole outdoor lifestyle, even in this climate. It really adds to their living space. So, it is amazing how much money people are putting into their outsides these days,” he added.

Colorful free-standing umbrellas that swivel 360 degrees and come in different shapes are also dotting yards around the area. Most people today seem to choose solids instead of patterns, stripes or florals, according to Mayer, and the umbrellas are so large that they cover much more furniture than the smaller ones we remember from yesteryear.

“But this isn’t Florida, so you don’t see as many homeowners choosing bright colors as you would find down there. Most people in this area are still pretty conservative. They try to have their umbrellas blend in, using beiges and browns. But you do see primary colors every now and then,” Mayer acknowledged.

Those gorgeous colors should not just fade away when the sun goes down, however.

If you choose your exterior lighting carefully, those beautiful colors in your gardens and on your patios and decks can continue to enhance your home after dark, according to Thomas Reindl Jr., commercial lighting manager for NorthWest Lighting and Accents at 600 E. Rand Road, Mount Prospect and at 2414 W. Route 120, McHenry.

There is much more to selecting landscape lighting than just going to the store and buying something that looks nice, Reindl said. You need to have a professional who understands the intricacies of lighting consult each fixture’s specifications to see where it falls on the color rendering index in order to correctly light up your landscape’s unique attributes.

On a scale of 1-100 percent, you want the lights you choose to fall in the mid-80s to 90s if you want the lights to correctly illuminate your home and landscaping. Unfortunately, those ratings do not appear on the boxes of most outdoor lights. They can only be found in the fine print of the online specifications or by making a phone call to customer support for the manufacturer.

Hence, it is important to consult a knowledgeable professional before you choose either a low-voltage halogen or an LED landscape lighting system.

“Without getting into too much detail, halogen bulbs are very biased toward reds, yellows and oranges and without adding colored lenses to the bulbs, they don’t adequately light up blues, blacks, greens and purples. It is like when you have a hard time telling the difference between navy blue and black when you are standing under an incandescent bulb, but it is easy to tell the difference under a fluorescent bulb,” Reindl explained.

Similarly, he said, LED bulbs are biased toward the blues, greens, purples and blacks. An amber lens needs to be added to an LED bulb if you want it to highlight red flowers, brick or natural stone.

“Red is the hardest color to illuminate with an LED bulb,” Reindl said.

Despite their limitations, Reindl recommends the use of LED bulbs because they last much longer, use less energy and need smaller transformers and less wiring because they are so much more efficient.

“Because of those savings, we can now install an LED system within 10 to 20 percent of the cost of installing a low-voltage halogen system. So, it is starting to make sense for the average homeowner,” he stated. “These systems also lend themselves very well to do-it-yourself projects. You can just plug the transformer into any outdoor outlet and it is easy to run the low voltage wires and since you don’t need as much wiring, you don’t have to spend hours trenching.”

But, Reindl cautions, no matter what you do, do not purchase the inexpensive solar lights that you see in some big box stores. On that 1-100 scale, they average 65 and consequently, they tinge everything blue.

“Anything you light with them just dies under those lights,” he stated.

Article source: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140504/entlife/140509525/

Landscaper Charged with Stealing from Uncle’s Croton Garden-Supply Business

Landscaper Charged with Stealing from Uncles Croton Garden-Supply Business

Pictured: Anthony Congello, Jr.

CROTON, N.Y. – The nephew of the owner of a Croton garden-supply store has been charged with a litany of felonies for stealing more than $140,000 from the business, as well as failing to file his New York State personal income taxes.

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox said Friday that a joint investigation by the Croton-on-Hudson Police, the DA’s Office and the Department of Taxation and Finance, resulted in the arrest of Anthony Congello, Jr., 26, of 10 Pennyfield Ave,, the Bronx.

Congello was charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny; two counts of first-degree identity theft, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument; and one county of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud – all felonies.

DiFiore said that Congello is the nephew of the owner of Croton Country Gardens, a garden supply store in Croton. Congello was helping his uncle keep an eye on the finances for the store and, in return, his uncle allowed him to keep equipment from his own landscaping business, Anthony’s Landscape and Construction, at the store.

DiFiore said that between Aug. 27, 2012 and Jan. 8, 2014, Congello began to steal from Croton Country Gardens. She said that he initiated an automated bank draft from the store’s account to pay a loan and he cashed checks from the store’s account with his uncle’s forged signature on them.  He also allegedly made cash withdrawals using withdrawal slips with his uncle’s forged signature on them, and made unauthorized ATM withdraws using the store’s credit card at various Atlantic City casinos. DiFiore said he also charged large sums onto the store’s credit card to benefit his own business.

The approximate amount of the larceny is $140,658.

In addition, the indictment charges that Congello failed to file his New York State personal income taxes for tax year 2012.

Congello was arrested by the Croton-on-Hudson police. He is due back in court Wednesday. DiFiore said that, if convicted, he faces up to 15 years in state prison.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Mayes of the Economic Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the case.

 

Article source: http://hudsonvalleyreporter.com/westchester/2014/05/landscaper-charged-with-stealing-from-uncles-croton-garden-supply-business/

Best Tips To Grow Radish In Containers

CACTUS GARDENING TIPS

Size of the container – Before starting with gardening radishes in containers indoors, you must decide on the size of the container. The size of the container will help you to understand how many seeds need to be planted in the container. The container should be big enough for the seeds to grow properly and get all the nutrients equally. The container should also be able to give proper space to all the plants. This is a good gardening tip for radishes.

Select the radish type – You must select what species of radish you want to grow in your container. For gardening radishes in containers indoor, you should be sure of what radish plant you want to grow. Cheery Belle, Icicle and Scarlet Globe are some of the options you have. You can choose the radish type according to your liking.

Soil – Before planting any seeds you must make sure to get the pre mix soil which contains enough nutrients and natural fertilisers that would help in the growth of the radish. Soil is an important characteristic which is needed for the growth of any vegetable. It holds the same importance for radish as well. The soil should be good enough to carry water as the plant roots have just one source of water and minerals. A good gardening tips for radish is to use a good soil mixture that would help in accelerating the plant growth.

Water – After seeding, germination will take place in a week or so. Once the seed is germinated, you need to start watering the plant on a regular basis. Do not use a lot of water as radish grow underground. The plant will rot if there is excess water.

Harvest – Once the plant above the ground in the container starts drying off and it becomes long enough, you must harvest your radishes. The white and red vegetable will be ready for harvest in a month or so of planting the seed. You will get good results of gardening radishes in containers indoor.

Supervise – An important gardening tip for radishes is that it needs a lot of supervision initially. Radish is a delicate plant which grows generally in the winter. But when you grow it in a container, it needs more care.

Article source: http://www.boldsky.com/home-n-garden/gardening/2014/how-to-grow-radishes-in-containers-039778.html

Gardening Tips: Dealing with lots of moisture as a gardener

Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014 1:55 pm

Gardening Tips: Dealing with lots of moisture as a gardener

By Matt Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC

|
0 comments

Some of you may have noticed that we’ve had a little bit of rain lately. Well, more than a little bit, I suppose. With three major storms in a week’s time on top of an already wet spring, most of the area is sopping wet. Thankfully, it looks like we’ll have a break from the rain for at least a few days.

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Friday, May 2, 2014 1:55 pm.

Article source: http://www.rrdailyherald.com/opinion/columns/gardening-tips-dealing-with-lots-of-moisture-as-a-gardener/article_f5bad1d0-d222-11e3-8613-001a4bcf887a.html

Ask a designer: Tips for flea-market shopping

The arrival of spring means that flea markets are reopening for business around the country. Shoppers will hunt for treasures amid acres of used goods. A few will come home with just the right vintage art or quirky piece of furniture to make their homes more beautiful.

Jaime Rummerfield, co-founder of Woodson Rummerfield’s House of Design in Los Angeles, sometimes mixes flea-market finds with high-end new furnishings to decorate the homes of her celebrity clients.

“The beauty of flea markets,” she says, “is you never know what you will find. There’s nothing like being outdoors or in a place off the beaten path rummaging through old treasures.”

Interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, creator of the FlynnsideOut design blog, also hunts for vintage pieces: “Vintage and thrift is the best way to add one-of-a-kind flair to a space without insanely high cost.”

There is luck involved, of course. But skill also plays a role. How can you find the treasures that will give your home an infusion of style while avoiding decorating disasters? Here, Flynn, Rummerfield and another interior designer who shops for vintage decor – Lee Kleinhelter of the Atlanta-based design firm and retail store Pieces – tell how they do it.

When to go

Many people shy away from hunting for their vintage finds when it’s cold or gloomy, Flynn notes, so the market will be less crowded at such times. (Winter and early spring are perfect for flea-market shopping.)

“I usually show up just as the flea market opens to ensure I see every new item as it’s put out on display,” he says. “When you wait until the end of a flea market’s run to check out its stuff, you’re likely to find mostly leftovers, things priced too highly which others passed over, or things that are just way too taste-specific for most people to make offers on.”

Time travel

“It is amazing to see what people cast away,” says Rummerfield, who occasionally finds signed artwork and ceramics by noteworthy artists at flea markets and antique malls. Read up on the designers and artists from your favorite periods, she suggests, and then hunt for their work or impressive knockoffs.

A single flea market might offer goods from every decade of the 20th century. Can you put a lamp from the 1970s on a table from 1950? Yes, if the shapes and colors work well together, Kleinhelter says.

If your home has contemporary decor, it can be powerful to add one statement piece – a side table, say, or a light fixture – from a previous era.

But “a little bit goes a long way. Use vintage in moderation with contemporary spaces,” Rummerfield says. “It will highlight the uniqueness of the vintage item. You don’t necessarily want to live in a time capsule.”

Fixer-uppers

“Hands down, upholstery is the best deal to walk away with at flea markets. Just make sure you train your eye to pay no attention to the existing fabrics,” Flynn says. “Zero in on the lines of the frames instead.”

Kleinhelter agrees: “I usually gravitate toward the bones and frames of vintage pieces, and I make them my own by adding fun fabric or lacquering the base.”

The same goes for lighting. Buy it if you love it, but get the wiring updated by a professional. Flynn usually estimates an extra $50 to $75 per fixture for updating the wiring, so keep that cost in mind as you bargain.

Mix and match

Be on the lookout for pieces you can use together. “You don’t need multiples of the same chair or sofa to make a room work,” Flynn says. “Stick with those which have similar scale and proportion, then recover them in the same fabric.”

Once you get home, use flea market finds sparingly, Flynn says, mixing them in with the pieces you already own: “A few big pieces mixed with some smaller ones added to your existing stuff can instantly take an unfinished space and make it feel way more finished and remarkably personal.”

Money advice

“The best way to get an amazing deal is to buy a bunch of different items from the same vendor,” says Flynn. “This way, they can actually lower their prices since you’re guaranteeing them more sales, which in turn also makes their packing up and leaving much easier.”

You should bargain, but don’t go so low that you’ll insult the seller. One option is to negotiate for a 25 percent to 35 percent discount. And do bring cash.

“Mom-and-pop dealers don’t have the luxury of taking credit cards, due to the charges acquired,” Flynn says. “If you bring enough cash with you, you’re more likely to be able to negotiate successfully.”

Personal taste

Above all, choose items that delight you. And be open to serendipity.

“When I’m looking for furniture, I always stumble across a good vintage jewelry or clothing vendor and end up with a fun bauble of a bracelet or necklace,” Rummerfield says. “Prices are usually so reasonable, you come away with a good amount of loot. It is always a day well spent.”

Article source: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/05/02/3825682/ask-a-designer-tips-for-flea-market.html

Fine Living: Head beyond the garden gate in Rosss

IF YOU’RE a fan of Beyond the Garden Gate, the popular garden tour of great Ross gardens on Mother’s Day weekend, make sure you go this year — there won’t be another until 2016.

“We are trying to pace our volunteer efforts over a two-year budget,” says Erica Hunt, chairwoman of the May 10 tour that benefits Ross School’s fine arts program. “Ross is a very small community with 800 homes, and finding homeowners who are gracious enough to open up their gardens to us should be easier on a biannual cycle.”

To tempt you, she and her team have assembled a roster of four gorgeous landscapes distinguished by their A-list creators — Janelle Hobart, Brandon Tyson and Michael Yandle.

“Visitors will enjoy a variety of gardens that offer not only beauty and elegance, but also incorporate practicality ranging from an edible garden for family dinners to smart use of natural resources through recycling rainwater and catching irrigation run-off,” she says.

Here’s a preview of each garden:

• “Magnificent Mediterranean” is a hillside landscape on a grand scale, designed by Michael Yandle of Michael B. Yandle Landscape Architecture.

Its stunning components include a beautiful entrance fountain, magnolias and live oaks, white azaleas, climbing roses and clematis, rose-planted terraces, stately cypress and palm trees.

The pool and pool house have spectacular views of Mount Tam, and it has a potager and a grape arbor over a dining area defined by limestone columns along with an outdoor fireplace.

The garden also includes a tropical waterfall and a stone-edged pond.

• “Japonesque on the Hill” is a garden inspired by the owner’s love of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park and designed by Sonoma County-based designer Brandon Tyson.

It honors the tradition of Japanese design without the precise adherence to its strict principles.

The centerpiece is a moon bridge that crosses a pond, bordered by carefully selected boulders, lending sound and movement to the garden.

A path meanders through the garden full of various trees and plants that celebrate the Japanese influence on gardening. Japanese maples, weeping cherries, conifers and cypress give the garden dimension and color in shades of greens, reds, gray-greens and purples. Smaller plants introduce black leaves, spiked bunches and lime-colored mounds.

• “Sunny Respite” is a productive garden designed by Janell Hobart of Denler Hobart Gardens that marries edibles with ornamentals.

A large oak shades the remnants of an old Japanese garden with mature camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons in one area. More shade comes from valley oaks and redwood trees. White crabapple trees border the pool terrace, behind it is a garden filled with roses and foxglove for summer color and at its end is a small orchard of apple, peach, and pear trees nestle.

Behind the pool house is the vegetable and cutting garden composed of raspberries and blackberries, espaliered apples and pears, and masses of blueberry bushes.

Tuteurs and obelisks decorate the raised boxes that are filled with rotating summer and winter vegetables, flowers, and bulbs.

• “Family Frolic,” a second garden on the tour created by Hobart graces the sloping site of a brown-shingled home. Its several layers have been created for family fun.

There are daffodils, tulips and flowering trees that bloom in spring, and roses, hydrangeas, foxglove, anemones for summer color.

An old stone retaining wall borders the lawn that leads to a new terraced flower garden with each bed of roses and peonies centered by a pyramid tuteur.

Another flight of stone steps leads to the family playground with trampoline and swings and where two antique fountains offer a charming bath for birds and support for the climbing clematis.

PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at DesignSwirl.co. She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield, CA 94914, or at pj@pjbremier.com.

if you go

What: Beyond the Garden Gate garden tour
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 10
Where: Ross School and Common Park, 9 Lagunitas Road, Ross
Admission: $40, $50 at door
Information: rossgardentour.org
More: Shuttles leave to tour headquarters at College of Marin’s Lot No. 15 on Kent Avenue every 15 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; optional boxed lunch costs $10, pre-ordering recommended

Article source: http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_25662419/fine-living

When planning a garden, do your homework

As a veteran nurseryman who appreciates how gardens affect real estate values, I’m pleased to be a part of this new section. Horticulture is my primary passion, and I’m our third generation to run our family business. Over the years I’ve composed articles for local newspapers, nursery industry publications, Yankee Magazine, and others, and I enjoy giving presentations to groups who want to learn more about using plants effectively. I’m hoping you will find my comments interesting and relevant and, of course, that they add to your enjoyment of the plantings around your home or workplace.

This column will soon be answering your questions about plants and garden design, and I await your inquiries. Gardening should be fun and rewarding. I’ll show practical and economical ways, even for “non-green-thumbers,” to simplify what may seem overly complicated. To start, a few universal fundamentals apply whenever we use plants, trees, and shrubs in the landscape. Once these elements are addressed, the steps that follow become a lot easier to accomplish.

Continue reading below

First, discuss and describe in detail the effect you’re trying to create and how you will want to use the space you’re improving. What is the purpose you seek to achieve: an appealing view from the street, framing a pleasing vista or screening an undesirable one, an attractive entry to your home, play space for children, an outdoor-dining room, a particular garden (herb, vegetable, orchard, etc.)? Fully defining the function you desire for your design will help simplify your choice of plants.

Next, it’s critical to understand how the trees, shrubs, and plants you are using will change as they grow. So many gardens that look beautiful that first year or two soon become overcrowded and in need of revision because how different the plants become as they mature was not considered in the design. Understanding this needn’t be time-consuming or expensive. Lots of information is readily available at your local garden center, from specialists like landscape designers and architects, in publications, and on the Internet. Before investing in your plantings, be sure to do your homework by taking the time to ask questions about your choices and consider alternatives.

Last, and possibly most important for the continuing health of your plantings, be sure your soil and locations are suitable for growing the plants you’re choosing. Few plants are adapted to thrive in all soils or exposures; most have particular preferences for best performance. It is unwise to expect a tree that enjoys humusy soil to do well in a sandy, dry location, or a shade-loving shrub to prosper in a hot, sunny area. Many disappointing results can be traced to root systems being ineffectively nourished by soils that are not properly prepared. When you visit your local garden center, describe your site and ask the experts for their advice; most offer kits for basic soil testing. More detailed recommendations are available by sending samples to the Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for professional analysis.

Article source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/05/03/when-planning-garden-your-homework/dCb6nTwQcLgxLoyH48saLK/story.html