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Archives for June 5, 2014

The Great Outdoors

Enhancing your space for the summer months

Villa Vici

Cheryl Gerber Photograph

As the mercury rises, so does the amount of time we spend outside enjoying the outdoors. We asked local businesses for ideas on how to enhance your outdoor living spaces during the warm weather months. Experts in everything from the mailbox at the front curb to the pool in the backyard, provide us with advice on how to beautify your home for summer as well as how to make it more comfortable and energy-efficient. Their know-how can help make a difference when the heat is on.   Few outdoor amenities are as coveted as a pool. In business for 30 years, Earl and Lisa Hardoin, owners of Paradise Pools and Spas, cover every aspect of pools and spas, from design and construction to maintenance and repairs and have their collective fingers on the pulse of the latest trends – such as naturalistic aggregate finishes, glass tiles along the waterline, automation that can be controlled from your cell phone, ledges, and LED lighting. In a city where summer temperatures routinely reach the 90s, the Hardoins also offer features like pool coolers that lower the water temperature in a day or so, as well as water features including waterfalls and fountains, which can have a slight cooling effect. “We adhere to the highest standards construction wise, but at the end of the day the client wants to truly feel confident in who they are dealing with,” says Earl. “The relationships we build with our clients far exceed any pool we’ve done.” Paradise specializes in turning clients’ ideas into beautiful, working pools and spas – even when space is limited. “Some of our favorite projects have been in smaller areas whether in the French Quarter or in a side yard,” adds Earl. “They end up being the most dramatic transformations.”

The lawns, gardens and other green spaces that surround our homes and businesses are integral to the way we live in summer. While most landscapers recommend late fall as the optimum time for a landscape overhaul, planting does occur year ‘round and there are ways to make sure your efforts aren’t in vain. “If you decide to plant, you need to keep it irrigated,” says Tommy Benge of the family owned Benge Landscaping, which specializes in irrigation, lighting, shutter walls and outdoor entertaining areas like kitchens, patios and pergolas. In addition to traditional irrigation systems (which tap into the regular water source), Benge installs irrigation systems with their own meters, a money saving alternative for clients. “It’s a longer process but we make it seamless and easy,” says Benge. Other ideas that Benge advocates for summer are the use of shade trees, which help reduce heat and energy consumption, and outdoor misting systems, which can lower the temperature by as much as 8 or 9 degrees. “With people saving money going on stay-cations instead of going on vacation, we’re pushing the idea of investing in your outdoor living,” says Benge. “For the price of a resort style vacation, you can have a vacation in your own backyard.”

Another way to maximize the beauty of your outdoor space is to consider buying some new furniture. Tanga Winstead of Villa Vici says that with their increased space at the company’s new location, “We’ve mixed it up and brought transitional furniture outside for increased living space and versatile products that serve multiples functions.” Villa Vici’s new outdoor collections feature lightweight cement, aluminum, teak, resin wicker, marine vinyl and slipcovered Sunbrella to provide texture, durability and resilience.  Additionally, she says, “Our cast polymer pieces light up the night sky as a bar or decorative object. These items can also be brought inside for multipurpose use. “

Paradise Pools and Spas

Max Home, which builds and remodels outdoor spaces, takes a custom approach designed to ensure customer satisfaction. In business for 10 years, owner and CEO Larry Closs says sunrooms are a foolproof answer for anyone looking to improve their outdoor living space. The reason: a sunroom combines outdoor and indoor living in one. “Heat, bugs and humidity – all the problems of outdoor living – a sunroom gets rid of them,” says Closs.  “It’s nice to enjoy the outdoor with air conditioning.” Max Home sunrooms can be screened in, enclosed with glass, outfitted with windows that open and with air conditioning. Closs says pergolas, often used as part of a garden concept or to cover a hot tub, are also an attractive option for keeping cool.

Maintaining your landscaping will go a long way toward giving your outdoor areas a finished look and keeping your plants healthy even in the dog days of summer. An all-natural product Gomez Pine Straw, sold at wholesale prices and delivered free of charge, has a host of benefits. It’s easy to use, biodegradable and soil-enriching. It’s also a renewable resource. “There’s no better mulch to use than pine straw,” says George Gomez, owner of the Mandeville based business.  “In the summer, it retains moisture and in the winter, it protects plants from dryness and cold.” Gomez adds that pine straw, available in needles and crushed form, is visually pleasing with indigenous trees and plants, in contrast to dyed mulches. He prides himself on his company’s excellent customer service. “You can call us and we can get it to you the same day,” he says.

Benge Landscaping

No outdoor space will look its best or be worth the investment if your home itself is suffering from deferred maintenance. If you’re looking to replace tired, timeworn windows, LAS Enterprises, in business for nearly 60 years, manufactures and installs vinyl windows designed to stand up to Southeast Louisiana’s climate. With hurricane season beginning June 1, LAS also offers other ways to renew the look of your home while safeguarding it from damage.  Their Home Guard Shutter Line (available in Colonial, Board Batten and Bahama styles) is comparable in price to wooden shutters and Florida Building Code (FBC) rated for hurricane protection. “Unlike wooden shutters, that crack, chip and fade over time, our shutters have the look of wood and are essentially maintenance-free,” says LAS owner, Rick Maia. “We know shutters, and we know hurricane protection. We have carefully engineered and manufactured our shutters for protection and security while maintaining aesthetics and keeping costs down for our customers.”

Pressure washing is another way to maintain your home and have it looking its best for the summer. It costs considerably less than painting and done annually can extend the life of your paint job. “Your appreciating asset deserves an annual bath,” says Kyle Kloor, who owns the family owned and operated Audubon Pressure Washing. With 20 years of experience specializing in commercial and residential jobs, the team at Audubon Pressure Washing prides themselves on their attention to detail. They tape all doors, windows and electrical areas to prevent water intrusion and use top-of-the-line machines with adjustable temperature settings and both hot and cold water technology. They have a range of detergents and antimicrobial agents to retard growth of mold and mildew (which is worst during summer heat and humidity) and they begin each job by covering plants and foliage with water to protect them. After cleaning fences and decks, they also can stain and reseal them.

Kloor and his technicians cater to the specific needs of each client and most jobs are done in a day.


You’ve Got Mail!

Electronic mail chimes to get your attention, so why not add a few bells and whistles to your snail mail? A custom aluminum mailbox from The Mailbox Guy is hand-cast and because of the nature of the molding process, no two are alike. “We’re extremely custom in what we do and how we do it,” says Wayne Schaub, co-owner of the business. “Our boxes are just that unique, not to mention the quality.” The Mailbox Guy offers eight designs (the most popular is the Ol’ New Orleans, which has fleur-de-lis accents) and a variety of colors and faux finishes ranging from French Quarter green to copper. Locally made and professionally installed, each comes with a 90-day warranty. Schaub notes that incorporating one of the company’s mailboxes into the front garden (versus at the curb) has become a popular trend with locals. “Mailboxes have almost become a garden accent,” he says. “It’s something different.”


This article appears in the Summer 2014 issue of New Orleans Homes Lifestyles

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How to select the proper trees for a new home’s yard

How could the proximity of the neighbors come as a surprise? The average lot size for a new house in the Washington area is a generous 7,200 square feet, with a width of 60 feet. But the houses built on these lots are big, occupying about 40 feet of that width. This leaves only about 10 feet for each side yard and 20 feet between you and your neighbors, said Dan Fulton of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Reston, who has studied the Washington housing market for more than two decades.

The second challenge: You can’t just go down to the big box store nursery and select a good screening tree. In a new-home community, you have to do some fact checking first.

The local homeowners association (HOA) may have rules on your landscaping choices, dictating not only acceptable tree species but also the height in some instances, including that of a “living fence” between side yards, said Rockville lawyer Thomas Schild, who represents condominium and homeowners associations in the Washington area. Most HOAs in Maryland and Virginia do not address this, but some do. For this reason, homeowners should check the HOA documents before developing any landscaping plans, he said.

You’ll also have to locate the swales on your property because you can’t plant trees or shrubs in them. A swale is a shallow ditch. In new home communities, they run across individual lots channeling rainwater into the storm sewer system. Swales are often so shallow that homeowners have no idea they are there, especially when the grading is so subtle the yard appears to be essentially flat. Despite its near invisibility, a swale serves a critical function. Legally you cannot plant anything in it that will impede the flow of water or affect a neighboring property.

The location of the swales will be indicated on the site plan of your lot, which your builder included in the documents he submitted to get a building permit for your house. If your builder is still active in your community, you should be able to get this information from his sales agent or someone in his construction trailer. If not, you may have to go the office where your builder applied for a permit to get a copy of your site plan.

Once you get the site plan and study it, you’re likely to discover that a swale runs along one or both of your side-yard property lines (half of it is on your side and half on your neighbor’s), exactly where you envisioned a “living fence” of screening trees. You may still be able to implement this plan if the swale is narrow enough, said Jim Baish, a Frederick landscape architect and land planner who has designed the land-use plan for many new-home communities in the Washington area. For example, a 5-foot-wide swale down the middle of the 20-foot-wide area between houses would leave you 71/
2 feet to work with, enough room for a row of small evergreens, he said.

Your site plan may also indicate a utility easement running across your front yard where underground lines for electricity, gas, cable and phone are buried, Baish said. The easement can be as wide as 15 feet from the curb toward your house; inside this area, a utility has the right to remove a tree if its roots are causing a problem. This is far less likely if you contact “Miss Utility,” a local service (District and Maryland, 800-257-7777; Virginia, 800-552-7001) that arranges for each utility to come and locate its lines, usually by spraying a different stripe across your lawn, so that you can factor this into your tree-planting decisions.

When you’re finally ready to start selecting trees, you’ll discover that much of the advice has changed since you bought a tree for your old house 20 years ago. Back then, the emphasis was on ornamentals and bigger trees that looked good and were easy to maintain. The easy-to-maintain part is still true, but ecological and environmental considerations are the new starting point.

Today, local foresters and horticulturists urge homeowners to favor native tree species wherever possible because they have a much higher tolerance for Washington’s cold winters, hot and occasionally dry summers, and changing climate. Urban forester Samantha Wangsgard of Fairfax County’s Urban Forest Management Division said her office also urges homeowners to pass on widely planted native species such as the red maple and consider less familiar ones such as the swamp white oak. A neighborhood with too many of the same tree can quickly become denuded if those trees become diseased, she said.

At the same time, the experts also said that sometimes a nonnative is your best option. For example, the flowering dogwood, whose blossoms are the state flower of Virginia, is susceptible to a debilitating fungus. Wangsgard said her office now recommends the hardier Appalachian spring dogwood, a cultivar that was developed in Maryland to be more disease resistant. It’s a pretty seamless substitution, she added, because the cultivar’s blossoms so closely resemble Virginia’s state flower that only an expert will notice the difference.

In many new home communities in the outlying suburbs, another desirable trait in a tree species is leaves that are distasteful to deer. Sterling horticulturalist Josh Kane has found that deer do, in fact, have preferences, avoiding some evergreens, including the native eastern red cedar and the nonnative arborvitae family. But Kane was quick to add that nothing is completely deer proof. In harsh winters like the one we just experienced, Kane said, “deer ate everything. If deer could eat it, they were eating it.”

Some issues with tree planting are the same as they have always been, new house or not. Many homeowners grossly underestimate the eventual size of a small, 1-inch-diameter “starter” tree and plant it too close to their house. Ten or 15 years later, when the tree’s branches are pushing up against windows or stopping up gutters, it will have to be removed.

Such a costly mistake can be avoided if you put your trees in spots that can accommodate them at maturity. If a tree may reach a height of 50 feet, you need to plant it in a spot that will accommodate both the canopy of such a big tree (a circle with a diameter equal to the tree’s height at maturity, in this case 50 feet) and its root system, which will eventually occupy about the same sized area. To keep a 50-foot tree from hitting your house, it should be planted 20 to 25 feet away, Wangsgard said.

This means that you’ll have to shelve your ideas about a large, sheltering shade tree for your front yard because it will be too shallow. For a typical 60-by-120-foot lot, there’s only 20 to 25 feet from the curb to the house. But you could put a large shade tree in your back yard, which is typically 55 feet deep for this size of lot.

When you factor in all these considerations, what trees are good candidates for your new yard?

The most suitable tree for a privacy screen along your side yard is the nonnative arborvitae, a cylindrically shaped evergreen with scale-like leaves instead of needles. There are more than a 100 varieties of arborvitae. Wangsgard said the two her office recommends — the dark green American arborvitae and the Columnar oriental arborvitae — do well in the Washington area. In addition, both do well in wet soil, a periodic circumstance if you plant them next to a swale.

On the downside, each one can grow as high as 30 feet, and they require pruning. The emerald green arborvitae, which Baish has recommended, does not grow as tall but still requires pruning. The maintenance required with an arborvitae may sound onerous, but Baish said it’s fairly easy because with arborvitae you can do the pruning with electric shears.

Distance: Because the arborvitae is so widely planted, Wangsgard suggested intermixing it with Foster’s holly or Nellie Stevens holly, both nonnatives that will require periodic pruning that can also be done with electric shears.

Though the neighbors at the back will be farther away than the ones to the sides of your new house (with a typical backyard depth of 55 feet, the neighbor’s house directly behind you would be 110 feet away), you may want some privacy screening around your back yard to create an additional private outdoor living area that you can use during the warmer months. Two native species that Wangsgard recommended are the eastern red cedar (which looks like a large juniper bush) and American holly. Both of these can reach a height of 30 to 40 feet, so you should plant them at least 10 feet inside your lot line.

Shade: You will certainly want to plant some shade trees in the front, and there are plenty of choices that are appropriate for a smaller front yard in a typically sized suburban yard of a new house. The downey serviceberry, the Allegheny serviceberry and the eastern redbud are three hardy native species that reach a height of only about 20 feet, Wangsgard said. And if you hanker for dogwood, there’s the nonnative Appalachian spring.

Back yard: A 55-by-60-foot back yard of a typical suburban lot could accommodate one majestic shade tree that could eventually exceed 50 feet in height, such as the aforementioned native swamp white oak or the native sycamore. You could also consider smaller native shade trees whose mature height will be somewhere between 25 and 50 feet, including the river birch and the persimmon, Wangsgard said.

For a comprehensive list of recommended trees species for this area, which includes helpful information on native species, projected tree canopy and environmental tolerances, go to

. The most helpful information is on pages 65 to 78.

Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, she can be contacted at salanthousewatch@gmail.

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More shade? More flowers? Less work? Summer is the time to evaluate your … – The Times

Have you noticed how your garden is constantly changing? Plants grow larger; new ones get added; others die; and trees may be lost in storms. Over the years, a landscape can change radically from its original look.

How your family uses your yard also changes over time. Kids grow up and no longer a need a play area. As gardeners age, they often have to adapt the garden to make it less labor intensive.

Now is a great time to study your landscape and develop plans for needed changes. Spend the summer refining your ideas, and you will be ready when our prime planting season for trees, shrubs and ground cover arrives in late October.

First, analyze your landscaping needs. Sit down with the family and decide what the yard needs to provide. Determine whether you need to screen unsightly views, open up space by remove overgrown shrubs, create shade or privacy, provide an area for children to play, change or enlarge the outdoor living area or give your home a more attractive appearance.

Once you’ve decided how you’d like your outdoor space to look, consult landscaping books to help you refine your ideas and gardening books tailored to our area to help you select the right plants. Also talk to other local gardeners, LSU AgCenter Extension agents and garden center and nursery staff for advice.

Some points to keep in mind:

  • Consider the future maintenance of your new plantings.
  • Select insect- and disease-resistant plants that are well adapted to our area. Make sure that they will not grow too big for the location where you intend to plant them.
  • Choose plants that will thrive in the growing conditions of the location where they will be planted. Consider the amount of sun and drainage they will receive. Remember flowerbeds are high maintenance.
  • If you feel you’re simply indulging yourself when you purchase trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, here’s some information that will make you feel good.    

Landscaping brings quite a few economic benefits. A well-landscaped home generally sells more quickly and at a higher price than does a comparable home lacking a nice yard (there are even TV shows on improving curb appeal, and landscaping is a big part).

Trees and shrubs, unlike many purchases, appreciate in value as they grow larger and more beautiful.

Trees also add economic value to homes by helping to reduce heating and cooling bills. Trees work as nature’s air conditioner and heat pump, providing shade in the summer and sheltering your home from cold winds in the winter. Summer is a great time to decide where more shade is needed.

Landscaping also benefits the environment. A mature tree removes 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and releases approximately 13 pounds of oxygen. Plants, such as lawn grasses, control water runoff, a major source of water pollution, slow erosion and allow water to be more readily absorbed into the soil.

Trees, shrubs and flowers in the landscape also provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

It’s nice to add to the value of your property and help the environment, but the most important benefit of landscaping is the personal enjoyment it brings to outdoor living. So go ahead and indulge your love of gardening. It will pay off in the years to come.

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HOMEFINDER: Tidy grounds make a good first impression

Niki Ottosen, a certified horticulturalist, says something as simple as spreading fresh bark mulch in garden beds can enhance the overall look of the yard for home sellers. - Don Descoteau/News staff

Green, freshly cut grass, healthy plants or flowers and generally tidy grounds go a long way when it comes to selling your home.

Says Victoria Real Estate Board president Tim Ayres, typically not one to trot out clichés, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The state of a home’s outside property is literally the first thing people notice when they arrive for a showing or a drive-by viewing.

“You can probably get a pass on your landscaping in the winter, but once spring and summer come, everybody notices. It’s a big deal to have a nice-looking property,” Ayres says.

In terms of bang for the buck, spending $200 to $300 on bark mulch and potted plants can be one of the best investments a home seller can make to spruce up their lot, he adds.

Niki Ottosen, owner of Gardener for Hire and a certified horticulturist, often gets phone calls from homeowners or real estate agents looking for help tidying up homes before they’re put on the market.

“They want a quick cleanup and they want ideas on how to make it look good before they take pictures,” she says.

For simple freshen-ups, she advises clients to redefine the edges of garden beds, spend some time weeding and add some bark mulch to gardens or around plants. “It adds curb appeal and shows people that you take care of your place.”

With people living busy lives and spending precious spare time on things they enjoy more, not everyone will be interested or motivated to go to town on their yard, Ottosen says.

“What I find is a lot of people find gardening overwhelming. They’re OK doing painting and stuff, but when it comes to gardening (it seems like) a lot of work. It’s hard work and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and double your workload. But with a few little trade secrets it can make your work easier.”

Some homeowners don’t know how to get started so they don’t want to get started, she says. “We do know the short cuts and know how to do it really fast. And after, people are very thankful for the help.”

That fact – not to mention Greater Victoria’s mild climate – has helped the local residential and commercial gardening and landscaping industry blossom in recent years.

Ayres, an admitted “non-gardener,” has a go-to landscaper he works with on a regular basis for situations where the homeowner may not wish to tackle the job, or on vacated properties for sale that need to be maintained.

While a neat and tidy lot is a must, there’s a fine line between having a nice garden and one that looks like way too much work, he says. “Having too elaborate a garden might turn some people off. But you might also get someone who sees it as a real plus.”

Ottosen agrees.

“When they’re looking to buy a home, people look for what they have to do. If the gardening part of it is already done, it’s a weight off of them,” she says.

Ayres, the veteran Realtor, leaves home sellers with a simple plan:

“If you’re trying to sell your home this spring or summer, keep your lawn green. Use your watering days.”


Scrub away the dirt – Clean moss-covered or stained pathways or concrete areas with a power washer, and use it on outside walls too, if not painting the house.

Freshen up the colour – Put a coat of paint on arbors, fences and gates and other wooden elements to cross that off the buyers’ to-do list

See your yard from the inside out – View sight lines to the garden and grounds from inside. Place tasteful garden art in prominent places near windows; perhaps colour-co-ordinate the item with interior decorations.

Stage your patio – Set outdoor tables with place mats, and attractive plates and flatware, as if guests were coming over.


SELLER’S TIP | Check the Better Business Bureau or chamber of commerce for qualified landscapers



» 714 / 659 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES MAY 2014 / MAY 2013

» 1,509 / 1,428 — NEW LISTINGS FOR MONTH, MAY 2014 / MAY 2013

» 4,672 / 4,783 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS PEAK MAY 2014 / MAY 2013

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Tour of Mountainside Gardens

Two of the six Mountainside Gardens on view during the June 7th Tour of Mountainside Gardens are specially themed and staged for a Garden Wedding and a Tuscan Garden.

The Appletree Lane garden is in the backyard of a beautiful brand new home.  It is newly landscaped by Harol Landscaping and the lush expansive lawn area will be staged and ready for a Garden Wedding.  Featuring seating in front of a wedding arch and tables designed by Christoffers Florist, Millburn Florist and The Mountainside Restoration Committee, this yard is spectacular.  Linda Condrillo will be on hand to show and sell her fantastic photo cards and prints – many of which are photos taken in our gardens.

On Rolling Rock Road, a garden which is owned by a florist becomes a tranquil Tuscan oasis.  With a variety of Tuscan-inspired clay pots and urns planted with unique specimens, this poolside garden is reminiscent of the Italian countryside.  Visitors to this lush and gracious garden will be calmed and inspired by its serene tranquility.

The six gardens on the Mountainside tour are located on Rolling Rock Road, Wood Valley Road, Stony Brook Lane, Appletree Lane, Meetinghouse Lane and Robin Hood Road. Each garden is uniquely themed and inspires guests with ideas for their own gardens. They can be visited in any order.  Visitors are also encouraged to enjoy lunch at Mountainside’s Publick House restaurant whose management is generously donating the proceeds of lunch ticket sales back to the Mountainside Restoration Committee. The tour runs from 10am to 4pm.

Advance tickets for Mountainside’s Garden Tour are $45 for Tour and Lunch or $30 for Tour only and can be purchased online at or at Christoffers Flower Gift Shop located at 860 Mountain Avenue in Mountainside.  Limited tickets will also be sold on the day of the tour at each Garden Tour location for $35 for tour and $15 for lunch.

All proceeds from the tour and lunch will be used by the Mountainside Restoration Committee for restoration and maintenance of the historic Hetfield and Levi Cory houses.  The Mountainside Restoration Committee (aka, Mountainside Historical Committee) is a 501(c)(3) registered not-for-profit committee of volunteers governed by the Borough of Mountainside.  Their purpose is to restore and maintain the Deacon Andrew Hetfield House and Levi Cory House and collect and save historic information and items from destruction.  For further information, please call (908)789-9420; or, go to:

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Field Trip: Wave Hill

Wave Hill trellisFirst Governors Island, and now the Bronx: Who knows where we’ll go next?

I visited Wave Hill about 20 years ago, when I was still in that phase where you think you need to explore every nook of the city. It didn’t make much of an impression, but then I was in my early 20s, when pretty views and nice landscaping tend not to be top of mind. Plus, my friends and I walked from the subway on a hot day, which was a grind.

Wave Hill runs shuttles from the subway and from Metro-North, I learned from the website, but Adam had just joined Zipcar and was dying to try it. So we picked up our car, named Jeanine and smelling like she’d been driven hard the night before, at a garage on Worth Street. We arrived at Wave Hill around 11 a.m., arriving just in time to avoid the overflow lot (which is free but involves a shuttle).

From the website: “Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.” What Wave Hill really does is foster intense envy—to have the stone house, with its incredible location! Chief among the pleasures of visiting is walking the grounds, imagining that you’re lord of the manor. That said, the house is nice but not grand in the Newport manner, and there’s no furniture, so your imagination gets quite the workout. And while I believe there is a garden (we kind of missed it), the landscaping is more park than garden. I don’t mean to diminish the place at all. It’s a relief, in may ways, not to have to always be looking at something in particular; instead you can enjoy it in general. There may be no lovelier place in New York City to sit and read.

We were drawn by a photography exhibit: Gregory Crewdson’s “Fireflies” series, which we’d only seen in a book. They’re exquisite pictures, especially for anyone who loves fireflies. (I’ve been enraptured by them since I saw my first one at age 25.) Knowing Crewdson tends to work big, we didn’t realize the actual images are the same size as the ones in our book. Still, there were a lot of images to admire, and I grabbed a promotional postcard to put over my computer. The other exhibit, Kristyna and Marek Milde’s “Hills and Valleys of the Sofa Wilderness,” involves a sofa and chair made to resemble the woodland floor.

We enjoyed a coffee on the café’s terrace, but Adam wasn’t feeling the café food—run by Great Performances, with an oddly limited menu on weekends (isn’t that when more people go?)—so we drove back south and ate at Co. in Chelsea. If I were to return to Wave Hill, I’d probably take a picnic. You’re not allowed to eat just anywhere—there’s a designated area with tables—but that’s OK; I’d rather sit at a table anyway. And I’d make sure to visit the shop: We only checked in at the start, and then we forgot to go back, which is too bad because it looked like it had worthy gifts.

You should probably go soon. Electronics company LG is about to ruin Wave Hill—and the Palisades in general—by building a 143-foot office tower across the river. As we wandered around, the specter of it loomed over the entire experience. What are they thinking? I will never buy an LG product.

Wave Hill main houseWave Hill riverWave Hill pompom treeWave Hill cafe tablesWave Hill bridgeWave Hill gift shopWave Hill garden seatWave Hill ivyWave Hill greenhousePrevious Field Trip posts:
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance

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Living Smart: Swimming pool design ideas and tips

Are you considering taking the plunge to add a pool or update an existing one?

Do your homework before you dive in to making a hot summer’s daydream come true. Our team recently interviewed top-rated pool pros and gathered the following trends and tips to help your project go swimmingly:

Cost: The average starting price for installing a pool made of concrete or similar materials, such as shotcrete or gunite, is $50,000. The cost of additional pool components can range from $20,000 to more than $100,000.

Finishes: A pool’s interior finish material will make the biggest design statement. Popular choices include basic white plaster or quartz. Other options include pebbles and crushed abalone shells. The pool finish alone can cost $8,000 to $10,000.

Features: Options include sun decks, tanning ledges, waterfalls, bubblers, fountains, water arcs and zero-entry. When it comes to the pump, which can cost $1,000 or more, consider a variable-speed type that you can program.

Shape: At a 5 to 10 percent increase in cost, a pool can be custom-shaped to reflect your property and lifestyle.

Automation: Systems are available that automatically provide water-chemistry readouts and control temperature, lights, music, the pool cover and more. Automation features cost from $500 to several thousand dollars.

Lighting: LED lights in white or other colors are popular. They cost more initially than other bulb types, but can last at least six times longer.

Decking: The material surrounding the pool can be as simple as brushed concrete, at an average cost of $5.50 per square foot installed, to something more upscale, such as flagstone, which averages $26 a square foot.

Travertine tiles, at $8 to $11 a square foot, resist mold and heat and are slip-resistant. But because they’re soft, they need to be sealed annually if you have a saltwater pool.

Saltwater: Saltwater pools are popular because they offer high water quality and are relatively gentle on eyes, skin and hair. But be aware that saltwater can damage softer decking materials. If you want a sandstone pool surround, for instance, it will need to be sealed.

The cost to convert an existing system to saltwater ranges from $1,500 to $2,000, about the same price as including a saltwater system with a new pool. Be aware that the quality of a saltwater system’s cell, which converts salt to chlorine, can vary. The metallic coating on some cells may erode, requiring replacement that can cost about $900.

(Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.)

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Tips for high yields in a small or thirsty garden

How can you get the most yield from a garden where space is limited, and water is, too?

Plant smart, and pay attention to the soil.

“Your garden is only as good as your soil,” says David Salman, chief horticulturist at High Country Gardens, a Santa Fe, New Mexico, catalog that specializes in native and low-water plants.

Find out what nutrients your soil has — and what it’s missing — with a soil test, available through local cooperative extension offices at a nominal fee (home soil-test kits are less reliable).

Encourage plant health by fertilizing with natural, organic fertilizers, which include fish emulsion and liquid seaweed, says Salman. Limit the use of chemical fertilizers because they don’t help build the soil.

“You will have more nutritionally complete vegetables if you have healthy soil,” he promises.

One trick Salmon recommends, especially for gardeners living in new housing developments, is adding a soil inoculant called mycorrhiza, a beneficial fungi. It’s found naturally in healthy soil, but often needs to be added to a new garden.

“New gardens in new subdivisions, their soil is scraped off as part of construction,” says Salman. “You need to put beneficial fungi back in.”

Peas, beans and soybeans could benefit from legume inoculants, which are species-specific (a soybean inoculant cannot be used to improve peas’ growth). Read product labels carefully or ask your gardening center for assistance.

“Your beans will do OK (without it), but if you really want to crank out the beans, you can do that with the inoculant,” says Salman. “It’s kind of a ‘grandma’s secret’ to growing great beans.”

Plants that can offer high yields with low watering include leafy vegetables such as kale, lettuce and spinach; beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas; and some varieties of cucumbers and squash, he says. Plant vining beans and peas if you have space or can grow them up a fence or trellis; plant bush beans and peas in large pots if space is limited.

Sarah J. Browning, an extension educator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, suggests planting radishes, carrots, peppers, zucchini and summer squash for summertime bounty. Peppers grow well in dry conditions, says Browning, and root crops don’t need frequent watering.

Plant radishes early in the season or in part shade, and mulch them and other plants to retain moisture and combat weeds.

Browning recommends the cherry tomato cultivar Sun Gold and the slicers Big Beef and Celebrity as great-tasting high producers. Also look for disease-resistant tomato varieties, which are easier to grow.

Browning refers tomato lovers to Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences Extension’s “Tomato Report 2011,” which lists the best varieties in its tomato trials.

Melissa Ozawa, a features editor for gardening at Martha Stewart Living magazine, recommends growing okra and Swiss chard; both are heat- and drought-tolerant. Melons also can handle less water once established because of their deep root systems, she says.

Prolific, water-wise herbs include basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary, says Browning.

Salman offers space-saving planting tips for herbs: Plant lavender and oregano along the dryer edges of your garden, since they’re the most heat-tolerant, and plant Greek oregano and dill, plus annual herbs such as basil and cilantro, among the root vegetables.

Try growing perennials such as rosemary, English thyme, tarragon and lavender in your ornamental beds. They don’t require your vegetable garden’s mineral-rich soil, says Salman.

Drought-tolerant flower varieties include coneflowers, hummingbird mint, salvia and blanket flowers, according to Ozawa. Other cutting-garden winners are cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers and larkspur, says Salman.

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A design for life: Can new garden cities solve Britain’s housing shortage?

A design for life: Can new garden cities solve Britains housingshortage?
Homelessness charity Shelter’s design for a new garden city (Picture: Shelter/Wolfson Economics Prize)

We build these cities… we build these cities on rock and knolls.

Well, that’s the plan, at least. Earlier this year, the coalition government announced that up to three garden cities would be constructed in a bid to halt Britain’s housing shortage.

A garden city is an attempt to combine housing and green areas in one. Although the basic idea is an old one – the garden city movement was founded at the end of the 19th century – urban planners, politicians and economists believe it could shape the nation’s future.

The government has set aside funding from a pot of £2.4bn to potentially build three garden cities and chancellor George Osborne has earmarked Ebbsfleet in Kent as the first of those sites, which will see the construction of 15,000 new homes.

The garden city movement was founded in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard on the principle of providing a mix of the urban and the natural in a riposte to the poor conditions and overcrowding of the time.

MORE: George Osborne announces plans for new 15,000-home garden city in Ebbsfleet, Kent

The world’s first garden city was established in Letchworth in Hertfordshire – and was home to Britain’s first roundabout. Almost 70 years later, Milton Keynes, which became notorious for its roundabouts, was formed as a ‘new town’, taking inspiration from the garden city template. Howard’s ideas led to the formation of Welwyn Garden City, also in Hertfordshire, which became Britain’s second garden city in 1920. Ebbsfleet will be the nation’s third proper garden city.

In yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, there was a government pledge to reform the planning system to pave the way for new garden cities.

The concept’s current standing has been emphasised by this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize. The second most lucrative economics award after the Nobel Prize, it has asked its entrants to design a new garden city ‘which is visionary, economically viable and popular’.

Five entrants were shortlisted yesterday for the overall prize – worth £250,000 – out of almost 300 applicants. The winner will be announced in early autumn. Applications came from architects, planners, surveyors, economists, students and children from all over the world.

The five shortlisted designs, which were judged anonymously, are made up of entries from planning consultants Barton Willmore; housing development expert Chris Blundell; urban design specialists URBED; housing charity Shelter and planning company Wei Yang Partners.

The Wolfson Economics Prize was founded in 2011 by Conservative Party peer Lord Simon Wolfson and is run by the Policy Exchange think tank. In a survey published this week to coincide with the shortlist announcement, it emerged that three out of four Britons are behind new garden cities as a means of tackling housing shortages.

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Miles Gibson, director of the Wolfson Economics Prize, said that if all five of the proposed garden cities were built, they would provide homes for 400,000 people and construction jobs for 400,000 workers.

‘There are opportunities to improve the quality of people’s lives by building garden cities, rather than tacking 50 odd houses here and 100 houses there on to the end of an existing settlement,’ he said.

‘We can’t continue shutting people up in what are the smallest homes in Europe at just 76 square metres. People are entitled to aspire to better quality housing for themselves and that does include a reasonable amount of outdoor space.’

Gibson said a garden city must be green and have plenty of open space. ‘It has to be a mixed use place with jobs and offices and retail facilities to create a community,’ he added. ‘It needs to be well connected to the existing transport network but not necessarily so well connected that it becomes a commuter town. It’s got to have a life and an identity and a community of its own.’

But can these spaces become a reality?

‘We haven’t done garden cities in the UK for 100 years and we haven’t done new towns in the UK for 40 years, so there’s no doubt there’s a skill and collective memory issue that would have to be addressed if any of these were actually to be built,’ said Gibson.

‘Nobody is expecting anything overnight – this takes careful planning. We hope that what the prize has done is make people feel it is possible. Our entrants all argue that this can be done and what it needs is a national political consensus that it should be done and then it will happen.’

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, whose shortlisted design proposes a development at Stoke Harbour that could eventually accommodate 150,000 people, said: ‘Creating new garden cities is an essential step towards building the homes we need. From families struggling to keep up with their housing costs to young couples seeing the dream of a home of their own slip away, we’re all feeling the effects of our housing shortage.’

Rising property prices are caused by a shortfall in new builds, according to Shelter, who say 250,000 homes need to be completed each year to meet demand. It said Britain is short of that target by about 100,000 houses a year.

‘New garden cities can’t solve the housing shortage on their own,’ said Robb. ‘They must be combined with other measures that will get us building the homes we need right now, from helping small and medium sized builders access the finance they need, to ensuring that land is made available for building new affordable homes.

‘Soaring prices and years of rock-bottom house building have pushed the housing market to crisis point. We need to see urgent action to give hope to all those watching their dreams of a home of their own slip further out of reach.’

For more information on the shortlisted designs go to

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Dunckley to design 360 degree garden for Hampton Court

By Matthew Appleby
Wednesday, 04 June 2014

Garden designer and owner of Birchfield Nursery in West Sussex, Jack Dunckley is striving to be one of the youngest ever winners of a gold medal at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, 8 – 13 July 2014, with his garden The Just Retirement Garden; The Journey Through Retirement.

Jack Dunckley's Hampton design

Jack Dunckley’s Hampton design

The garden will be the largest at Hampton Court at 20x8m. Visitors can view the garden at 360 degrees – the first time this has been allowed at the show.

The garden takes inspiration from the progression to retirement. Plants will be sourced from Italy to accompany those grown at his own nursery.

Featured plants include Lavandula, Echinacea, Artemisia and Salvia.  Custom-made Chilstone panels are also incorporated into the design, to allow for separation and add an aperture for people on the outside to get a glimpse though to the main part of the garden.

 He said: “I’m excited to be back at Hampton Court and with a garden I feel exceptionally proud of.  At 21, retirement is not something that is in the forefront of my mind so it’s been a challenge making sure the three stages in the garden (youth, maturity and retirement) capture these moments in time.  

“I’m hoping the wide variety of tranquil plants, in particular Lavandula and Echinacea, raised borders, custom made Chilstone panels and pavilion will illustrate these key life stages to visitors and that they will be able to relax and take in the senses the garden stimulates.”





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