Category Archives: Plant Ideas
Reviews and suggestions of plants to try out in your landscape.
Their are so many tree options for your yard. It can be hard to decide which one is the right one for you. Let’s discuss a few of the basic differences, but ultimately you’ll want to find out more about each particular tree your considering before making a final choice
Flowering tree’s add texture and color to your landscape. Most are early bloomers, so they give you some of your first splash of color come spring. They are also typically smaller in size and stature so they give you a tree option without requiring tons of space. These would probably not be on the top of the list for helping with utility bills; although they may be a good choice for screening in some situations.
However; shade tree’s are great for helping control utility bills if planted in the correct place. Place a large shade tree near the southwest corner of your house and it will help keep your house cool and shady in summer but allow light and warmth through in winter. Shade tree’s typically have a wide spectrum of fall colors as well, adding to their appeal. This is due to the different chemicals produced in the leaf (some year round) although that is a discussion for another day.
Fruit tree’s serve a very specific purpose and should be considered only if your willing to put in a little extra effort to care for your tree’s. Most of these tree’s all require multiple chemical applications each year to keep them healthy and producing great fruit. It is important to note as well, that for many of the fruits that are popular and grow well in our region, you do in fact, need more than one tree to actually produce fruit.
Evergreens’ are great as sound, visual, or wind barrier’s as they always have needle structure present. (Just a tidbit though, evergreens’ do actually drop their needles, it just happens during the needles thirds year of growth. By then, new needles have started growing so most people never even notice the change.) They also carry a distinct style with many shape and even color options to choose from. From vase shapes to weeping forms, or round wispy tree’s to broad pyramidal structures, you’re sure to find an evergreen that appeals to your sense of style.
No matter what your goal, tree’s add a distinct flare and important balance to your landscape. In your landscape, we refer to them as the ceiling of your outdoor living space. They should not be overlooked. Take some time, do your homework, and choose a tree (or two) that your going to love for many, many years to come.
AS ALWAYS, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!
I’ll admit, I try to get to all the garden shows that are in my area every year. I’ve personally spent many hours setting up extensive unique displays only to see very little return on my and my companies investment of time and capital. The worst part is you know that at least 75% of the leads you draw from a given show (even the pre-qualified leads) will still be a competition between your company and probably two or three others that had displays. At that point, a designer has to ask himself, is it even worth my time to go through this every year, sometimes more than once. I’ll tell you what I found from the show I attended this weekend. And I’ll be honest, if that is the future of Landscaping and Gardening in the Midwest, then we are so far from the “cutting edge” it’s sad. But I guess the good thing is, when your that far from the edge, you can never fall off.
Now don’t get me wrong, this hardscaping is certainly a hot ticket these days. With so many people cutting back on generic spending, they are looking to put their money somewhere they may see a return on their investment. Any sort of outdoor garden expansion generally creates an increase in a properties value since if it is executed properly, the garden should add livable space to the home. Whether that space be for entertaining, playing, or quiet contemplation is solely up to the discretion of the home owner. That doesn’t mean it has to be the same space as the neighbor up the street. Just as “track homes” have lost their flare even to the price conscious, I have to believe that a cookie cutter backyard provides no appeal to Joe and Jenny Home Owner. People are using their space in far more creative and hands on ways, and something like this display just tells me that this contractor doesn’t realize there is more to life than this.
Please don’t misunderstand, I did find a few things I liked at the show. This bubbler rock with a fire “topper” intrigued me a bit. Although not terribly creative, at is still more unique than the average fire pit you saw in almost all the other displays. The combination adds a nice touch of class while still providing at touch of nature at the same time. I would like to see this taken to the next level and instead of being in the garden on the edge of a patio, use permeable paver’s and a rain water harvesting system and put this bad boy right in the middle of your patio where you would install any other fire pit. What bothered me the most is the fact that the last year I was involved in a show display was the last year I saw ANY contractors promoting any sort of rain water harvesting or permeable pavement systems. These sustainable landscape methods are becoming common practice in many parts of the country but are still struggling to catch on here in good ole Omaha, Nebraska. I’m not going to lie, this bothers me quite a bit that more contractors aren’t promoting these methods and systems. That being said, I know from experience, many people feel they are environmentally conscious right up until they see the cost attached. While I do admit, many of these systems do carry a higher up front cost than your typical landscape, can we really compare the two. One is making a patio and planting some flowers, while the other is reducing our carbon footprint, utilizing natural resources, AND STILL creating a wonderful space to enjoy. This coupled with the fact that utilizing these systems will eventually create a “return of investment” by reducing utility costs as well. That being said, it really is a commitment to living more sustainably to leave something better for the future. Okay, I’m done preaching about that, now back to my thoughts on the show.
As I said, I did find a few nice ideas to take away from the show. The unique burner installed on this fire pit gives it some pretty cool character and does create a bit of a break from the norm of its boring old square parents. Still let’s be honest, it still just like it’s daddy, it just got a new piercing to rebel like most kids do these days. Perhaps a figure eight shape melding two round pits each with one of these towering at its center would be enough to wow me these days. I fear I may be becoming just a bit jaded, but with a new IPhone every 6 weeks, I guess I feel like my fire pits should be unique and updated too. Biggest complaint about this is they used river rock in it. Even grey lava would have given this a better texture in my opinion. Although I do have to admit, there is one trend I am riding right now. That is the use of glass chips in fire pits. Again, in my humble opinion, there is no better texture available at the moment for your fire features. And with the myriad of color choices you can really get it to blend with the color pallet of your adjoining gardens.
Even this wonderful, large water feature shows a phenomenal lack of creativity on the part of the contractor. The simply took two very distinct tools out of their “design bucket” and slapped them together in one site. At least in the first picture I shared, they attempted to blend the fire and water. Here they simply dropped a fire boulder right in the middle of the pond. Where’s the “splash”, where’s the thoughtfulness, where’s the NEW? Perhaps had the put the fire directly on the surface of the water, or moved a burner to under the upper falls so that the fire burned behind the water they may have achieved something special. Instead, it just appears like they didn’t have any creative thought process, they simply wanted to show as many items they could shove into one space as possible. Unfortunately, the result doesn’t work for me.
At the end of the day, I can tell you a few things for sure. First, there were far fewer contractors with displays in the show I attended last week compared to the shame show in previous years. Sad, but a testament to my belief that aside from getting your name in front of a potentially large number of people, there is little in the way of returns for an established contractor in these events. Second, of all the contractors in this years show that I have seen there in years past, very few had even CHANGED THEIR DISPLAY FROM LAST YEAR! Now, believe me, I KNOW how much these shows cost us as contractors, but that REALLY shows a lack of creativity or effort on the part of the contractors involved. The way I see it, if your going to spend the money anyway, why not be different and find a niche that you can promote yourself with. Even if it doesn’t blast off, like the the rain water harvesting systems I had in my display one year, at least folks will remember YOUR display over every other patio and fire pit they saw.
Anyway, point of the story is, don’t be satisfied with your grandma’s landscape unless your grandma is the awesome grandma that would sit and play Atari with you before video games were even cool! Their are so many unique things you can do with your outdoor living space, so don’t just jump on the first idea you see. And the last thing I would like to leave you with, is if your going to spend the money anyway, why not try to improve not just your own life and space, but leave it better than when you got here and consider installing some of the more environmentally friendly options available to you. Even if that just means getting “your feet wet” with a rain barrel on your patio (it’s like a gateway drug), trust me you; you won’t regret it!
As Always, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!
During the Christmas season, many of us will likely purchase a Euphorbia pulcherrima, more commonly called a Poinsettia. They are a staple in many folks holiday tradition. Along with that tradition goes the belief that Poinsettia’s are toxic and harmful if consumed. Now, while a handful of my mentor’s and professor’s had the strange predilection to taste plants they come across, this is not something I see as common practice. So, I’m not entirely sure how it came about that people found the plants to be toxic, I can only tell you that (as many of you believe) it is a VERY COMMON belief. But the real question, IS IT TRUE?
Let’s start with some history shall we? The Euphorbia pulcherrima plant is native to Mexico and Central America. It was initially brought to America by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who at the time was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett although an excellent statesman, was also an avid plantsman. He would regularly wander the countryside in search of new varieties of plants and during one such jaunt in 1828 he found this amazing little red flower growing along the roadside. He obtained some cuttings of his little discovery and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina where he began to propagate them. The common name for the new Euphorbia was given by a noted historian and horticulturalist of the era by the name of William Hickling Prescott. (On a side note, W.H. Prescott was the son of the well-known American Revolutionary War Colonel William Prescott who reportedly coined the phrase, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” Though there is some dispute if he was truly the first to say it.) Prescott had just published a historical piece called “The Conquest of Mexico” During the time that Poinsett was Ambassador to Mexico the country was involved in a brutal civil war which is the subject of Prescott’s book. Prescott chronicled Poinsett’s time in Mexico in the book, so as a result he was asked to name the plant. Thus the Poinsettia was born.
Now, let’s talk about the plant itself. Would you believe, those amazing (typically) red flowers that engulf the top of this unique plant aren’t actually parts of the flower at all. The flower itself is only the small center portion of those red parts so commonly attributed to the flower. The red leaves are in fact just that, LEAVES. Technically, they are called BRACHT’s. Bracht’s are specialized leaf structures; in the poinsettia’s case, designed to attract pollinator’s to the flower due to it’s small and inconspicuous stature. Ultimately, in my opinion, they are what give the plant it’s appeal. The Bracht’s grow in many different colors, ranging for the typical red, to oranges, pinks, and even whites. Now growers are even developing multi-colored, or “splotchy” bracht colors. Let’s be honest, we’re all always on the look out for the next big thing.
As far as caring for your poinsettia, it’s actually more simple than you think. Water when the surface soil is dry. Water it thoroughly and discard any excess from your tray. Place the plant away from hot or cold drafts. Keep temperatures around 72 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. As with most of your other house plants this time of year, high humidity is preferable. Follow these few simple tips and you’ll enjoy your poinettia plants well into January. If your really adventurous (or just cheap) I can teach you how to maintain your poinsettia’s year round, but that is a post for another day!
Well, let’s go to the point, I guess. Are these amazing little holiday treasures toxic or not? According to the Mayo Clinic and research by Ohio State University, the answer is a resounding NO!!! Although there is no solid way of knowing where the myth came from that these colorful plants were toxic, it is pretty clear that is it 100% false. The plants have no chemicals in them that are even believed to be toxic to pets, let alone people. The white milky sap has been known to cause an itchy rash upon contact to some people’s skin but this is in no way fatal, and easily treated (we’re not talking poison ivy type itch here, folks). Now, that being said, this plant IS NOT EDIBLE either. That may sound slightly like a contradiction in terms, but let me explain. While consuming this plant will certainly not kill you OR your dog, it will certainly wreak havoc on your digestive system. This would likely cause some unpleasant bathroom experiences for you, or possibly living room experiences, if your dog or cat is the one that ate it. According to PoisIndex (the primary resource for many poison control hotlines across the country) a child who weighed 50pounds would have to eat over 500 poinsettia leaves to reach an even potentially fatal dose of compounds from the poinsettia plant. So while I don’ t recommend eating it, it’s not time to get your affairs in order if you do.
So now you know, and as the old saying tells us, “The more you know, the further you go!” Enjoy your Christmas season, and relax knowing that your home is safe once again!
AND AS ALWAYS, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!!!!!