Give Your Garden the Sparkle it Deserves

If you love having guests over as most people do, then it’s a good chance that your garden will be the ultimate spot for one or many of your get-togethers. And as the host, you want the garden to look extra distinctive and have that undeniable comfortable, welcoming feel.

What not add some classical, lively flowers to your garden? Simply roll up your sleeves and plant a few in prominent spots. Before you know it, your garden will start teeming with life. Here are some of the best flowers you can use during any time of the year.

Poinsettia ( EuphobiaPulcherimma)

This one-of-a-kind Mexican beauty will most likely stand out more than all the other flowers. Its species name ‘pulcherimma’ comes from a Latin adjective ‘pulcher’ which means ‘handsome’ or ‘beautiful’. It is traditionally grown as a flower pot for home use during Christmas. However, it can also be used anytime of the year in the landscapes as an informal flowering hedge or an accent plant for its showy red bracts commonly referred to as the flower.

When planting Poinsettia, ensure that the soil is well moist, fertile and fast draining. Get a pot of about a foot deeper than the root ball or just dig a hole. Fill the pot or hole with enough compost and soil to allow the plant to sit on its root crown flush with the soil level. Water the plant thoroughly but gently. This will control weeds, get rid of air pockets and allow the soil to conserve moisture by mulching with organic materials.

Ivies

Yet another beauty queen, Ivies bring life to a garden with its unmistakable sparkle. Keep in mind that there are several kinds of ivies. The best one, as most landscape experts often state, is the English Ivy (Hedera helix). Trained to grow over pergolas and trellises, the English Ivy is one of the hardest ground covers or climbers.

Plant the ivy in a beautiful hanging basket for a charming and unique effect in the veranda, on the balcony, or inside the house. Be extra cautious about where you hang the flower as the English Ivy will climb any object around it. Keeping it neat and trimmed is a smart idea unless you want it to travel and cover every space it finds. (Some people prefer that effect). Add a sprinkle of lime to the base of the container or planting hole and be patient. English Ivies usually take time to start growing. However, once they start, you will be chasing to keep them in check.

Christmas rose

Like its name suggests, it is one of the best flowers you can have in your garden at Christmas time. It is an evergreen perennial that grows about a foot tall before blossoming with shinny, dark green, leathery leaves. As they age, they produce conspicuous white flowers that turn deep salmon or pink as they mature even further.

Despite the fact that Christmas roses are durable and easy to grow, take note of a few protective measures. Protect the flower from strong winds and ensure they grow in partial shade.  The soil on which you plant the flower must be deep, fertile, well moist and generously enriched with compost or peat moss.

How to Create a Japanese Garden Landscape

Edwin van Buuringen on Flickr
Edwin van Buuringen on Flickr

A Japanese garden is the epitome of peace and serenity, and it represents patient caring and nurturing. But it doesn’t have to take years and years to build one in your back yard. With a few useful tips, you can have your very own Japanese garden landscape ready in no time.

Rocks

Rocks in a Japanese garden are always placed in groups of 3 – depicting man, earth and heaven. They should also be set in an asymmetrical fashion for an authentic look. If you have water features like a pond, then place them – also asymmetrically – around the pond in a seemingly haphazard manner. Water and stone are considered complementary to each other, and represent the philosophy of yin and yang.

Trees

Trees are always grown in small groups of odd numbers like 3, 5, 7 or similar. The obvious trees to pick would be cherry blossoms and Japanese maple, but you can also consider junipers or pines, depending on the climate conditions. Trees should also look like they are emerging from within the rocks, so place the rocks accordingly, and again in groups of no more than three. You can also incorporate bonsai into your Japanese garden, although bonsai gardens are normally exclusive creations in themselves and require years of careful tending; traditional methods of bonsai gardening are not usually amenable to the modern lifestyle and are therefore “pre-installed” in most cases.

Water Features

Water features are almost standard in Japanese gardens. The serenity of water bubbling down a cascade or from a fountain adds to the beauty and ambience of the garden landscape. If for some reason you can’t put in water features, then you might consider using raked white sand to make pleasing patterns that resemble swirling water. In fact, the famous Zen gardens of Japan often used white sand as a replacement for water.

Pathway

The pathway is usually constructed with a bed of gravel over which stepping stones are placed. This is reminiscent of the promenade gardens of yore, which were designed for strolling through and looking at carefully crafted landscape features constructed for the purpose of aesthetic enjoyment. When constructing your Japanese garden pathway, use large flagstones for greater stability, or embed the stepping stones within the gravel bed to make sure they don’t shift.

Stone Lanterns and Water Basins

Another popular element is the stone lantern or the water basin. The former was originally used in Buddhist temples, but later was incorporated into Shinto architecture as well. Basins were meant for visitors to wash their hands before the famous tea ceremony, and were placed at a level near the ground rather than elevated for convenience. These pieces can give a very genuine Japanese feel to your garden space.

The art of building a traditional Japanese garden is tedious and takes many years of preparation and construction. However, with the knowledge of the basic elements used, anyone can convert their backyard into a serene garden reminiscent of Japanese attention to detail and the importance given to the elements of a landscape.

Staying Safe With Your Holiday Landscape Lighting

It may be Spring but are you ready to climb up into the attic and dig around for those ‘ol holiday lights to decorate your home and yard for another festive season? It’s never too early to prepare for the holidays. The holidays are a time to impress the neighbors, look at your landscape with pride, and experience the happiness and joy that accompanies the holidays.

Do you adorn your landscape with lighting? Whether you desire to add a few twinkling lights, or you are the envy of the block, any lighting addition will help to brighten up your landscape and contribute to the holiday cheer.

But wait.  How old are those holiday lights?  And when was the last time you did a test to make sure the lights were working properly? It is important to check your lighting before using them.  Before conducting a test run, check for frayed or twisted cords and broken bulbs and make sure there is no moisture that might have accumulated inside the bulbs.

If you used the same holiday string of lights for a few years, it is a good idea to replace them. It may not be worth the risk.

First and foremost, when selecting new outdoor lighting, make sure they are weather resistant, and don’t plug too many lights into one extension cord.  A weather resistant electrical strip strategically placed away from the elements of Mother Nature would be a safer option.

Have you ever considered solar for your holiday lighting? This is not only a safer alternative, but it is also a more energy-efficient way to decorate your home with colorful lighting. Most solar lighting does not require any type of wiring making it a safer set up, and the use of long extension cords is obsolete for solar outdoor lighting.

Solar lights can be used in a broad range of climates, though the best usage occurs in warmer areas where the sun is out even in the winter months. The solar lights use batteries to store the solar energy and house a sensor that turns the lights on after dusk, so a timer is not necessary. For holiday solar lighting you can also opt for LED bulbs.  They traditionally last 10 times longer. Because of our energy-conscious society, solar lighting has become more and more popular, so your holiday decorating options are more plentiful and cost effective.

In addition to the traditional walk way solar lights, use strings of tree-light type lanterns. Be creative in your design concepts and make your home festive while being safe.

Whether you decide to use traditional lighting or solar lighting or a mixture of both for your decorations, be sure to prioritize safety and you’ll have peace of mind throughout the holiday season.