Archive for the ‘Landscaping’ Category

Mulch and Mulching

Posted on: February 26th, 2012 by frank No Comments

Mulch and Mulching

from the DC Urban Gardens web site

visit their site at

Gardeners agree that mulching bare ground and around plants is THE single most important thing they can do to create low-maintenance, healthy gardens. (Gardening guru Paul James calls it “the greatest labor-saving gardening product ever invented.”)  It’s right up there with choosing the right plants and watering adequately.   Yep, I’d say those are the big three.
Oh, where to start?  What’s not to like about something that does all this?
  • Suppress weeds
  • Prevent drying out of soil
  • Prevent erosion
  • Reduce compaction of soil
  • Moderate soil temperature
  • Prevent mud splatter on plant and hard surfaces, like your house
  • Add nutrients to soil, plus enable the soil to better use soil nutrients from any source
  • Increase the populations of earthworm and beneficial soil microbes.
  • Make gardens look well kept and amenable to planting – like gardens.



  • Every year, when soil has warmed, which is midspring in most of North America, earlier in hotter places.  Gardeners in colder climates often do their mulching in the fall, however, to prevent soil heaving through the winter months of freezing and thawing. More mulch can be added in the spring, as needed.
  • AND immediately after disturbing the soil, especially for planting something.
  • AND to cover bare ground at any time.



  • If it’s on top of a layer of compost, add 2 inches. More can be added as that breaks down over the season.
  • If it’s not on top of compost, use 2-3 inches, maximum.
  • Too much mulch will keep moisture out, keep the soil from warming up in spring, and harbor pests, especially slugs.
  • Sunny spots need more mulch than shady ones


  • Remove weeds
  • Loosen top of soil (a tool called the cultivator does this job very quickly), incorporating what’s left of the old mulch into the soil as you do it.
  • Water well.
  • Never mulch on top of plants or have mulch touching their stems and most important of all, don’t pile it up against tree trunks.  (They’re called  mulch volcanoes and though common, they’re horrible for tree health!)
  • And avoid putting mulch against your house, unless you’re trying to attract termites.
If your soil is already good, then you might choose pine needles, shredded wood chips and bark, which are all long-lasting and look fancy.  But if your soil isn’t great, mulching is far and away the easiest way to improve it, as long as you use nutrient-rich, fast-decomposing mulches like compost and leafmold.
Another factor to consider is that some mulches use up soil nitrogen in the process of decomposing themselves, the worst offender being wood chips, which should only be used on paths or play areas, never around plants. There’s disagreement about whether dry leaves, sawdust, and pine needles rob soil of nitrogen, however.  One horticulturist I consulted recently opined that if used in layers of 2 inches or less, there’s no problem.  For an attractive but still natural-looking mulch, bark chips are probably the best choice, but they’re not cheap.
My favorite mulch and the one I use about 10 cubic yards of every year is leafmold, which I use to cover all the bare soil on my property in April.  Then for a fancier look in my seating area I use bark mini-nuggets.
**Look for the asterisks – they’re the best mulches.***
**Compost is plant or animal waste that’s completely decomposed and now looks something like coffee grounds – black gold.  It’s expensive but wow, what a great source of nutrients it is, and a boon to soil structure.  (It’s also better than anything as a soil amendment – meaning something that’s mixed into the soil itself, maybe half and half, often at planting time, though I use free leafmold for this purpose.)
Here’s the other negative about compost: weeds just love it.  So while it doesn’t come with weed seeds in it, wind-blown seeds land on it and thrive.  So compost used as a mulch isn’t as good at weed prevention as the other types.
Oh, and some gardeners, including myself, don’t like the look of it on top of the soil because it looks like, well, soil.  To me a garden that’s “mulched” with compost doesn’t look mulched unless it has some other mulch on top of it, an organic one that hasn’t fully decomposed.
**Leafmold is simply chopped and aged leaves.  Though it’s rarely sold, it’s pretty easy to make and many local governments provide it for free or very cheaply, so check into it. (Or inquire about starting a leafmold mulch program in your area.  Even better are the governments that provide leafmold AND compost AND chopped wood.)
But back to leafmold, it’s superb all-around – nutrient-rich and excellent as mulch or a soil amendment.
Leaves are not attractive unless shredded first, which is highly recommended to speed their decomposition and prevent matting and subsequent smothering of your plants.  This can be accomplished simply enough using a rotary mower with a grasscatcher can be used.
Pine needles are often available cheaply and they’re slow to decompose, but they may deplete the soil nitrogen.  Additionally, they make the soil more acidic, which is fine for some plants but not most.
Sawdust is the worst offender when it comes to drawing nitrogen from soil in the decomposition process.
Cypress mulch is to be avoided because cypress trees are needed where they are – fragile wetlands.
Hay may be cheap but it’s not considered attractive, so it’s used mostly in vegetable gardens.   It also contains weed seeds.
Straw is closer to being weed-free but it’s still unattractive, unless chopped (and even then, not so much).   It can also rob nitrogen from the soil.  It’s used mostly in vegetable gardens.
**Bark is moderately expensive to expensive, slow to break down and good-looking. Redwood is especially attractive but more expensive and not great at retaining water. Cedar bark can crust, preventing water penetration. So pine or “hardwood” bark is best (see next bullet point). Fresh bark can be toxic to young plants, so age first, or buy bark that shows some of the discoloration of age.  And speaking of store-bought, some brands are mixed with large amounts of shredded wood, which bleaches white, so look for an even dark color.  It comes in nuggets and mini-nuggets, or shredded, with the shredded version preferred by many gardeners who’ve seen their nuggets wash away during hard rains.
**Pine Fines are fine-textured pieces of pine bark, aged and screened.  Looks great as a mulch but also outstanding mixed into the soil as an amendment.
Wood chips or shavings are attractive, break down very slowly, and are moderately priced and sometimes free from municipalities or tree companies.  Still, because of their nitrogen-depleting properties, I recommend them only on paths or play areas.  (They won’t do much for your earthworm and soil microbe populations, either.)
Dyed mulches are usually made from waste wood like pallets and the dyes are reported to be nontoxic, but waste woods often contain arsenic and other toxics that leach into the soil. But then they’re so ugly you wouldn’t want them anyway.
Rocks and gravel look good in rock gardens but don’t improve the soil or prevent weeds very well. And after they’re applied in planting beds it’s difficult for the gardener to get to the soil beneath. Plus, stone gets dirty and needs to have leaves and debris blown off and be “freshened” with new stones.
Other nonorganic mulches (rubber, anyone?) may work well under swing sets.

It’s easy.  To determine how many 2-cubic-foot-bags you need to provide 2 inches coverage, divide the square foot area of the garden by 12.  For 3-cubic-foot bags, divide by 18.
DC’s Department of Public Works collects garden waste like Christmas trees and leaves and mixing it all up into what they call a “rough mulch” that’s then free to residents, community groups and garden clubs.
  • Where: 900 New Jersey Avenue, S.E. (NJ and K)
  • When: the website says it won’t be available til March 1, Mondays through Saturdays from 7 to 3. BUT a recent phone call indicated it’s available NOW (January 2008) and the hours are 6:30 to 5.  So you might want to CALL FIRST (202/447-4257 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202/447-4257      end_of_the_skype_highlighting).
  • How much mulch?  You’re allowed to fill up to 3 30-gallon bags that you bring yourself.
  • Larger amount needed?  For neighborhood beautification projects and other larger needs, call 202/447-4257 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202/447-4257      end_of_the_skype_highlighting to make arrangements.
  • Here’s the city’s press release on the subject.
  • What exactly is it?  Just shredded leaves, or are have they decomposed, and how much?  If you’ve seen this stuff, tell us!  (In the comment section below).



Takoma Park, MD provides leafmold mulch, which is chopped leaves that have decomposed for varying lengths of time. The leaves used were vacuumed up from city streets and have some trash in them, but remarkably few weed seeds. Leafmold mulch can be spread on top of soil or mixed into soil to improve it.
  • It’s free for pick up by anyone.  Go to their Department of Public Works at 31 Oswego Avenue, easy to find from Piney Branch Road or East-West Highway – the Mapquest site is correct for this address.  Across the street from their office building is a big mulch pile – just helip yourself, 24/7.  Bring your own pitchfork (the very best tool for the job) and containers.
  • They’ll deliver for a charge on Fridays from 8:30 to 3:30 beginning March 30 and ending when the supply is depleted.  Call Public Works to schedule a delivery at (301) 891-7615 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (301) 891-7615      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.  Payment (check or money order only) for delivery must be mailed and received by Thursday afternoon at the Public Works Department, 31 Oswego Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20910.  The website says, “Mulch deliveries will be made to your driveway only.” then goes on to say “If you do not have a driveway, special arrangements for delivery must be arranged through the Public Works Department.”
  • Resident prices for delivery are 3 cubic yards for $45; 7 or 10 cubic yards for $65.
  • Nonresident prices for delivery are 3 cubic yards for $65; 7 or 10 cubic yards for $105.
  • Your dump truck can also be loaded for a fee of $20 for a small truck and $30 for a large truck. Call Public Works to schedule loading at 301-891-7633 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              301-891-7633      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.



Tip from a long-time user of Takoma Park mulch: Get the full 10 yards (if you have room to put it somewhere) and share it with neighbors.   
College Park, MD offers various products summarized below:
  • Screened compost (called “Smartleaf”) looks like fine black soil and is used to improve the soil, less frequently as a mulch (because it’s an excellent growing medium for wind-blown weed seeds, and also because it looks like soil, not a soil cover).  It’s made of leaves and grass clippings (which provides needed nitrogen for top-grade compost).  It cost $15 per cubic yard.
  • Unscreened “compost” is what others would call mulch. It has a little debris in it and is of a coarser grade, but it’s still great for use either on top of soil as a mulch or IN soil as an amendment. It’s free (up to 5 cubic yards) to College Park residents and $7 per cubic yard to nonresidents.
  • Wood chips are great for paths or other nongrowing areas and cost $5 per cubic yard.
  • Hours for pickup are M-F from 7:30am-11:30am and 1:00-3:30pm.  They can load pickup trucks (with no cap) for no charge. Customers can also bring their own containers and a shovel/pitchfork if they don’t have a truck. Everyone must stop in at the main office before entering the Public Works yard.
  • Delivery: charges start at $20.
  • Call 301/474-4194    


Green wall unveiled at Edgware Road Tube station

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by frank No Comments



Green wall unveiled at Edgware Road Tube station

28 November 2011, source edie newsroom
The Mayor of London's director of environment Kulveer Ranger puts the final piece in place

The Mayor of London’s director of environment Kulveer Ranger puts the final piece in place
A the 200sq m green wall was completed this morning in a ceremony that saw The Mayor of London’s director of the environment Kulveer Ranger, slot the final piece into place at the sit on Marylebone Road.
The project, which has taken a month complete, is part of the London Clean Air Fund, financed by the Department for Transport. It is hoped that the 15 varieties of plants used in the wall will demonstrably improve air quality by trapping particulate matter, mainly deriving form traffic emissions. The aim is to reduce levels of particulate matter by between 10 and 20% and its success will be monitored by scientists frim Imperial College London.The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said of the project: “Delivering cleaner air for London is a top priority for me and this ingenious green wall traps harmful pollution on one of our busiest roads, helping to cleanse the air at this popular spot as well as helping to soften and beautify the local environment.”The fund total is £5m, awarded by the Department of Transport at the request of Mr Johnson. Other initiatives financed by the fund include the installation of 50 planted towers on Lower Thames Street and a scheme to plant 500 new street trees and shrubs, the first 200 of which are currently being planted along the A40.Taxi drivers will also be encouraged to switch of engines at taxi ranks to reduce engine idling time, as will other drivers who are loading, parked or waiting, while diesel particulate filters are to be fitted to buses on selected routes running through central London.

Will Parsons

Philadelphia Flower Show 2012

Posted on: February 20th, 2012 by frank No Comments

 If you have never been The Philadelphia Flower Show is a must see. The worlds largest indoor exhibition of landscape plants. Visit their website for more information. It’s worth the trip.

The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show
“Islands of Aloha”

All proceeds from the Philadelphia International Flower Show, including tickets and sponsorship contributions, support The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and its acclaimed urban greening program, Philadelphia Green. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, March 4 – Sunday, March 11, 2012
Pennsylvania Convention Center
12th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107-2299

Repot rootbound houseplants in March; Keep junipers from growing into giants

Posted on: February 9th, 2012 by frank No Comments
The Seattle TimesWinner of Eight Pulitzer Prizes

Home & Garden

Repot rootbound houseplants in March; Keep junipers from growing into giants

Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, offers tips on keeping rootbound houseplants alive until you can transplant them in March; transplanting deciduous trees in January and pruning shrub junipers before they take over the landscape.

Ciscoe Morris

Special to The Seattle Times


Repot rootbound houseplants in March; Keep junipers from growing into giants

Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, offers tips on keeping rootbound houseplants alive until you can transplant them in March; transplanting deciduous trees in January and pruning shrub junipers before they take over the landscape.



If one of your houseplants tends to wilt, even after you water, it could be a sign that it’s pot bound. To tell for sure, give it a drink and check to see if the water runs right through into the saucer. If that’s the case, the roots are so tightly bound, the water can’t soak in and runs down the sides of the rootball. Even if you water regularly, the plant could still dry out and die.

It’s necessary to wash the soil from the roots and repot. Unfortunately, the middle of winter is not the time to do this operation because semi-dormant plants don’t recover well from root damage that could occur in the process. It’s better to wait to repot until growth begins again in March. To keep the plant alive until then, occasionally submerge the entire pot in a pail full of warm water. Allow the roots to soak up water until the bubbles stop, then pick the plant up and allow the excess moisture to run out. That should keep the patient stable until the time for major surgery in spring.

Transplant deciduous trees, shrubs

I’ll never forget one January several years ago when I dug out an apple tree that had grown too large for my garden. Not planning to keep it, I dug it out with little care, and even knocked all of the soil off the rootball with my shovel. My neighbor asked for the tree, and despite my warnings that it would never live, took it home and planted it. It’s now a spectacular 25-foot tall, highly productive tree!

January is a great time to move deciduous plants as long as the temperatures are above freezing and the soil is moist but not sopping wet. Even larger plants that would be too heavy to move with a rootball can be transplanted successfully by washing the soil off the roots with a gentle spray of water.

However, if the plant you are moving isn’t overly large, it’s safest to move it with the soil rootball intact. Dig a rootball that is 10 inches wide for every inch of diameter of the trunk, measured at ground level. Cut any roots damaged in the digging process back to healthy tissue using sharp pruners. Replant at the same depth in the soil as it was previously growing, and if possible water the transplanted tree or shrub and fill in any air pockets in the rootzone.

Finally, keep the soil evenly moist during the first season after transplanting, and your tree or shrub should thrive in its new home for years to come.

Keep junipers from turning into giants!

I noticed a warning in the Sunset Garden Book stating that in time many shrub junipers can become trees. That’s the understatement of the year. Most shrub junipers are giant Sequoia wannabes!

The worst offender is the pfitzer juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Pfitzeriana’). The tags say they will reach 5-6 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide, but practically every one you see is at least 12 feet tall and wide. Don’t let one of these monsters take over your garden.

They can be pruned most any time and there are only a few rules to follow: Cut only to where there is live growth; try not to remove more than 1/3 of the foliage in one shot; and don’t use shears unless you are a topiary expert. Otherwise your juniper will inevitably end up looking like a ball or doughnut!

Ciscoe Morris:

The Montreal Center for Sustainable Development Boasts a Lush Vertical Garden and Green Roof

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by frank No Comments

PICS: The Montreal Center for Sustainable Development Boasts a Lush Vertical Garden and Green Roof

by Lori Zimmer, filed under: Architecture, gallery, Recycled Materials, Sustainable Materials



Montreal’s Center for Sustainable Development is a collective of organizations for social justice and ecological change headquartered in a building that is just as green as the group’s mission. Commissioned by Equiterre, the building is made from sustainable materials, utilizes many eco strategies and even boasts a beautiful vertical garden and green roof. The new site acts as a think tank, fusing the eco-innovative ideas from nine tenant companies with the purpose of inciting environmental change through the sharing of knowledge.
Equiterre’s new headquarters has helped foster the symbiosis through the tenants it has curated to share the new green design space. Sharing their space also attracts a mix of audience, bringing in the members of the public who may not have heard of the other organizations, but leave the site as new, educated fans. The lobby features a small community meeting room, which can be used for seminars. It also features the art work of sustainable artist Marie-Claire Blais, whose organic designs are screen printed on sound absorbing material that is stretched around the room in angular panels.

Rising from the lobby floor and stretching the height of the building, is a self irrigating living wall, which filters air and brings a pop of greenery into the entire building.
The offices are heated with raised floor heating, which is warmed with hot air located in 12 inch chambers under the surface of the floor, which is controllable by a simple dial. This also keeps employees warmer, as the heat doesn’t have far to reach a seated body, plus saves 15% on energy. The building is heated geothermically, with a 90% recooperation for stalled air located in their top floor air recycling system, which include heat exchangers. Around 80% of the building’s heat needs are met with the 28 geothermic wells that are under the building, and 100% of their air conditioning needs. Rainwater is gathered and recycled, and released in the building’s low flow plumbing system.


Dozens of Beautiful Terrariums Now On Display at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by frank No Comments

Dozens of Beautiful Terrariums Now On Display at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

  •  terrarium, terrariums, terrarium exhibit, terrarium art, terrarium brooklyn botanic garden, brooklyn botanic garden

From sharing terrarium necklace DIYs to making our own terrariums at home, we’ve caught a little bit of terrarium fever, if you haven’t noticed. So we were thrilled to learn that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is currently showing an exhibit filled with dozens of beautiful living terrariums, each encapsulating a unique miniature world in some unusual vessels (think wine decanters and glass boxes). To accompany the terrariums, artist Jae Hi Ahn created a series of flowing, plant-like installations that evoke the natural world. For more of our photos from the exhibit, hit the jump!

The trees may be bare and the flowers aren’t in bloom, but that doesn’t mean Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a waste in the winter. Inside the Garden’s Steinhardt Conservatory, already lush with greenery, a new terrarium exhibit brings new life with dozens of intricate miniature plant worlds. Created by Jennifer Williams, the Garden’s curator of interior displays, the delicate terrariums are currently on display alongside artworks by the Brooklyn-based artist Jae Hi Ahn. Ahn uses simple artificial materials like plastic tubes and wires to build flowing installations that evoke organic forms and plants, which pay tribute to the natural world encapsulated in the terrariums.


Tips on getting African violets to bloom

Posted on: February 7th, 2012 by frank No Comments
The Seattle TimesWinner of Eight Pulitzer Prizes

Home & Garden

Tips on getting African violets to bloom

Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, gives tips on getting African Violets to bloom; using straw as mulch and having soil tested.

Ciscoe Morris

Special to The Seattle Times


Q: Why won’t my African violets bloom? They’re in the same conditions where they used to blossom beautifully, but I haven’t seen a flower for the last two years.

A: African violets are capable of blooming year-round in the home, but they won’t bloom reliably if one or more of their basic needs are not being met.

The most likely reason African violets stop blooming is because they’re in too little light. Although they don’t like direct sunlight, they need as bright light as possible to form buds.

Usually an east or west window is adequate, but in winter extending day light by placing the plant under a grow light for a few extra hours in the evening can be necessary to keep them blooming.

Transplanting into an overly large container is another reason these plants stop setting blossoms. African violets won’t bloom unless they’re fairly rootbound. At the same time, they won’t bloom if the top growth gets crowded, so make a habit of removing any suckers that come up in the pot.

A lack of nutrition and dry air can also cause blooming problems. Feed year round with a half-strength dilution of African violet fertilizer, and keep humidity high by grouping the plants on pebble trays, and misting often.

Finally, keep them warm. They’ll stop blooming if night temperatures dip below 60.



Top 2012 garden and lifestyle trends

Posted on: February 5th, 2012 by frank No Comments

Top 2012 garden and lifestyle trends: cultivate the new good life with the power of plants

(ARA) – In today’s world where news travels at the speed of now, people are searching for balance and purpose and are tapping into the power of plants to cultivate the ‘new good life’.

“Plants are powerful,” says Eric Liskey, deputy garden editor for “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. “Whether it’s enjoying garden-to-table meals or sharing great new plant finds, people are naturally drawn to plants.”

Besides beautifying our homes and gardens, plants play a vital role in our health and well-being. They elicit powerful positive emotions, revive neighborhoods, and influence everything from what we eat to life’s milestones.

“Plants are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for our lives,” says Susan McCoy, trendspotter and outdoor living expert. “Plants can live without us, but we can’t live without plants.”

The power of plants. For a growing army of eco-conscious Gen X and Y’s, recycling, repurposing and upcycling is now a lifestyle.

Dr. Charlie Hall, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M, says, “Gen Y’s are embracing a connection with plants based on economics, environmental impact, health and wellness.”

These rural and urban curators are planting home and community gardens and renewing urban spaces with an eye toward functionality and artistic design.

Here’s what McCoy and her team of Garden Media Group trend spotters see for gardening in 2012:

1. Urban knights. A growing army of ‘urban knights’ are creating oases wherever they can find a patch of earth. They’re planting shrubs, flowers, edibles and pop-up gardens on balconies, in alley ways, and on street parklets – even in abandoned buildings.

From yard sharing and raising chickens to ‘step gardening’ and harvesting rain water, urban knights are finding a ‘new good life’ by getting grounded with the earth.

2. Eco-scaping. From rocks in the garden to rocks in the living room, nature’s influence can be found both indoors and out.

“Borders are blurring between indoors and out as nature becomes more important in our lives,” says Bobbie Schwartz, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. “Many people want their gardens and their homes to be sanctuaries of tranquility, reflecting their ideal concept of nature.”

Beauty and sustainability are key. Liskey says that people want the “beauty and romance” of a garden with less work. “Gardeners want easy, low-maintenance plants that give plenty of color.”

The new Bloomtastic! dwarf butterfly bush Lavender Veil from Hines Growers is low maintenance and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with richly-colored abundant blooms.

“Herbs are popular as cooking shows and healthy eating habits grow,” says Briscoe White, head herb farmer at The Growers Exchange. “It’s easy to pot up herbs indoors and out for fresh ingredients year round.” He recommends planting containers of herbs de Provence for beauty and cooking or edging a landscape border with lavender.

3. Occupy local. People are “occupying” local farmers markets and joining CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) for fresh produce, plants and products.

“Farmers markets are our new backyard veggie gardens and are becoming our local grocery store,” says McCoy.

According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, sales of “locally produced food” reached $4.8 billion in 2008.They project that locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales dominated by fruit and veggies in 2011.

4. Conscious consumption. According to the 2010 Cone Survey, 83 percent of consumers still want to see more brands, products and companies that support worthy causes.

“We’ve finally moved from “me” to “we” and consider our earth and each other when we purchase,” says McCoy.

American Beauties Native Plants‘ partnership with the National Wildlife Federation is a great example of this mind shift. When you buy an American Beauties’ native plant like the new groundcover, ‘Blue Moon’ woodland phlox, for example, a donation is made to NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.

5. Water watchers. “There is no single issue greater than water,” says Dr. Hall. Recent drought and regional water restrictions are causing us to grow plants, flowers and vegetables with less water.

Soil amendments like the new SoilReef biochar are considered by many scientists to be the “black gold” for gardening. Its high carbon content and porous nature help soil retain water and nutrients, saving gardeners time and money.

Look for EcoCover organic mulch discs in all Bloomtastic! plant containers to help save water and reduce weeds.

Hydroponic gardening is hot, allowing plants to grow year-round in nutrient rich solutions that actually use less water.

6. In living color. Neon colors, pop art and color blocking are influencing fashion on the runways and fashion in the garden. From Tangerine Tango, the new Pantone color of the year, to deep purples and soothing greens, colors are all over the landscape.

Rich, gem colors create your own personal piece of paradise. Tropic Escape Hibiscus from Costa Farms produces huge flowers that last twice as long as regular hibiscus and are perfect for decorating patios and landscapes.

Create a technicolor summer with new Bloomtastic! Bambino bougainvillea and multi-colored bougainvillea patio trees. Hines’ new Patio Tropics Desert Rose, Adenium Kissable Pink adds intense tropical color to patios, balconies and poolside.

7. Inner gardening. Decorating our inner gardens with houseplants for better, healthier lives is now the norm. These natural oxygen machines clean indoor air while bringing life to any room.

Whether you want ferns, peace lilies or palms, bring nature in and green up your spaces. To learn more about the benefits of indoor houseplants check out

8. Techno-gardening. With the rise of smartphone technology, consumers are able to go directly into the buying experience. According to TrendWatching, ‘dealer chic’ is on the rise where securing the best deal is not just accepted – it’s admired.

Gardening is going digital with free e-zines. Costa Farms’ “GrowingStyle” magazine brings designer tips and the latest plant info from growers and designers in this free app. Garden products are going high-tech, too. Now’s there’s a way to rid your yard of pesky critters. New motion activated sprinkler repellents from Havahart provide caring control solutions that safely rid animals from your yard.

9. Seedlings. From the White House to the neighborhood schools, kids are learning how to grow their own food and take care of the planet.

McCoy says we’ve ignored two generations of gardeners and need to get kids back to having fun growing things. She says the popularity of fairy gardens is ideal for kids and the young at heart to share the whimsical world of plants and appreciate the joy of gardening.

For a complete look at the Garden Media Group 2012 Garden Trends Report, visit

© 2012, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved.


Phipps Conservatory – Top 10 Sustainable Plants

Posted on: January 30th, 2012 by frank No Comments



Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a great steel and glass Victorian greenhouse, has been inviting visitors to explore the beauty and mysteries of plants since 1893. Set amidst one of Pittsburgh’s largest greenspaces, Schenley Park, Phipps Conservatory stands as a cultural and architectural centerpiece of the city’s Oakland neighborhood.

In recent decades, Phipps has evolved into one of the region’s most vibrant, thriving cultural attractions, bringing fresh perspectives and artists into our historic glasshouse environment. Phipps has also become a strong advocate for advanced green-building practices, sustainable gardening and a new environmental awareness.


Top 10 Sustainable Plants

You may already know that smart plant selection is the single most important way to create a low-maintenance, high-enjoyment garden.

Phipps offers a list of Top 10 Sustainable Plants, selected for their non-invasive habits, as well as their resistance to disease and insects. Once established, they require minimal watering and fertilization. Many of these plants are on display in the Outdoor Garden at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Also, look for the Project Green Heart tag at local nurseries.

 Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2008

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
Cornus mas

Small tree with arching branches that can reach 20-25′ tall. Known for its frothy display of yellow flowers presented on bare twigs in early spring, and bright red cherry-like drupes in summer. Attractive, flaky bark.

 Cornelian Cherry Dogwood

Chionanthus virginicus

Small tree with a wide spreading habit that typically grows 12-20′ tall. Spring-blooming, fragrant flowers feature airy clusters (4-6″ long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals. The blue-black fruit attracts birds. Prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun.


Japanese White Pine
Pinus parviflora

Evergreen conifer with bluish-green needles that typically grows 30-50′ tall. Trees are pyramidal when young, but with age develop a more spreading habit and flatter top. Requires good drainage and full sun.

 Japanese White Pine

Lacebark Pine
Pinus bungeana

Slow-growing conifer which typically reaches 30-50′ in height. Over time, its exfoliating bark reveals a patchwork of white, olive, light purple and silver. Initially pyramid-shaped, it becomes more open and flat-topped with maturity. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun. Tolerant of high pH.

 Lacebark Pine

Dwarf Fothergilla
Fothergilla gardenii

Native deciduous shrub growing 3-5′ tall and wide. It blooms in early spring producing fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers. The blue-green foliage turns flaming orange to burgundy in the fall. Prefers full sun to partial shade and acid soil.

Dwarf Fothergilla

Winterberry Holly
Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Jim Dandy’

‘Red Sprite’ is a 3-4′ tall deciduous shrub that is ideal for a smaller landscape. A female selection, this variety produces bright red berries in fall that remain on the plant through winter. Fruit set requires the male, ‘Jim Dandy’, for pollination. Prefers moist, acid soil.

 Winterberry Holly

Winter Gem Boxwood
Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’

A very cold-hardy and densely branched, broadleaved evergreen that shears well and retains its green foliage through winter, making it an attractive landscape choice. A moderate grower reaching 2-3′ tall and wide. Full sun to part shade.

 Winter Gem Boxwood

Blue Star Flower
Amsonia tabernaemontana

Easy-to-grow, clump-forming 2-3′ high plant with star-shaped blue blossoms in spring. Attracts butterflies. Happy in full sun to partial shade. In fall, the willow-shaped leaves turn bright yellow.

Blue Star Flower

False Indigo
Baptisia australis and cultivars

Upright plant with lupine-like, bright flowers that can reach 3′ in height. The flower stalks rise a foot above plants and bloom in early summer. Makes a dense, shrub-like clump of very attractive blue-green foliage that stands up to heat. Large enough to use as a single specimen. Prefers full sun and room to spread.

 False Indigo

Echinacea hybrids

Big, bold daisies that add oomph to any garden. Plants produce a 30″ flowering clump that blooms from midsummer to early autumn. Attracts bees and butterflies. After flowering, the blooms make attractive seed heads which can be left over winter to feed the birds. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil.


Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2009

Epimedium sp.

Slowly spreading, clump forming perennial has heart shaped foliage that is evergreen in some varieties. Dainty flowers in shades of pink, yellow, purple or white, depending on variety. Grow in fertile, moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil; partial shade. Does well in dry shade once established.


Bottlebrush Buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Exceptional widespreading, suckering, shrub reaching 8–12′ in height and 8–15′ in width. Medium to dark green summer foliage turns yellow-green in fall. Outstanding white, upright, 8–12″ flower panicles bloom in late June to July. Plant this native in moist, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter in full sun to shade. Especially nice for massing.

 Bottlebrush Buckeye

Palibin Lilac
Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’

This small, compact lilac, reaching just 4–5′ in height and 5–7′ in width, is useful in small gardens. It blooms heavily, starting at a young age, with reddish purple buds opening to whitish pink, very fragrant flowers. And, unlike most lilacs, it is extremely resistant to mildew! Plant in full sun (it will tolerate very light shade) in average well drained soil.

 Palibin Lilac

Pulmonaria hybrids

An attractive perennial for shade to semi-shade, lungwort is grown for its attractive, low-growing, clumping foliage which is often spotted. Early spring flowers appear in shades of pink and blue or a combination. Grow in moist to average welldrained soil that is rich in organic matter. Excellent for shade garden and as a shady groundcover. Many excellent and beautiful cultivars available.


Helenium autunmale ‘Mardi Gras’

This deer and rabbit resistant, butterfly attracting perennial features daisy-like flowers with yellow petals edged in bright orange-red, surrounding a deep brown center cone; blooms for 6 to 8 weeks in mid to late summer and grows 36–40″ high by 24–36″ wide. Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Cut back in early spring to promote branching. Nice cut flower.


Paperbark Maple
Acer griseum

This slow growing tree with upright-oval form gets up to 20–30′ in height. Beautiful exfoliating bark, cinnamon to red-brown in color, starts to develop on second year wood. Dark green summer leaves change to russet red, bronze or red combinations in fall. Plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Nice specimen or accent plant.

 Paperbark Maple

Rozanneâ„¢ Cranesbill
Geranium ‘Gerwat’

Attractive, deeply cut green foliage is topped with beautiful, large blue flowers from early summer to frost on this easy, carefree spreading herbaceous perennial. Foliage turns reddish-brown in fall. Plant in moist, welldrained soil in full sun to part shade. Disease and pest free and deer resistant.
2008 Perennial Plant of the Year

 RozanneTM Cranesbill

Hamamelis x intermedia

Large multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, (10–20′ in height), excellent for early bloom and fall color; long lasting, spider-like, fragrant flowers in shades from yellow to red, depending on variety, generally appear in March, opening and closing with the weather. Nice gray green foliage turns to shades of yellow to yelloworange in the fall. Plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.


Hinoki Falsecypress
Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars

Beautiful evergreen with shiny dark green foliage, arranged in fan-shaped sprays. Although the species becomes a very large tree, there are numerous excellent cultivars for landscape use from rock garden size to those reaching over 10′ in height. Grow in most, well-drained soil in full sun to very light shade.

Hinoki Falsecypress

Japanese Holly
Ilex crenata

Dense, multi-branched, broadleaved evergreen shrub with lustrous, dark green foliage year round. Medium fine texture with ½ to 1″ leaves. Grows best in moist, well drained, slightly acidic soil in sun or part shade. Withstands severe pruning, but pruning not generally needed. Drought tolerant once established. Numerous slow growing cultivars are available in a variety of sizes and forms.

 Japanese Holly

Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2010

Autumn Joy Stonecrop
Hylotelephium telephium (Sedum) ‘Herbstfreude’

This 2 to 3 foot garden perennial is easy to grow and boasts broad, rounded clusters of star-shaped, pale pink flowers that appear in late summer to fall above waxy green leaves. It is very attractive to bees and butterflies. Plant in average, well-drained soil in full sun.

 Autumn Joy Stonecrop

Common Serviceberry
Amelanchier arborea

This multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree (15 to 25 feet in height), is beautiful throughout the seasons. Fragrant clusters of snowy white flowers appear in spring, followed by edible violet-red berries. In the fall, colors change from yellow to orange to red, and the bark is smooth and streaked with gray. Plant in average, well-drained soil in part to full sun.

 Common Serviceberry

Dawn Redwood
Metasequoia glyptostroboides

This fast-growing, deciduous conifer can reach 50 feet after 15 to 20 years, and eventually reaches a height of 70 to
100 feet. The redwood has a uniform, conical shape, reddish-brown exfoliating bark and bright green needles which change to brownish-orange in fall. Grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soils and full sun.

 Dawn Redwood

Foam Flower
Tiarella cordifolia

A perennial with wide, heart-shaped leaves, the foam flower spreads rapidly to form a carpeting ground cover. Leaves are green with burgundy-stained veins, and the foliage turns bronze-red in fall. In spring, pyramidal panicles of starry, creamy white flowers emerge. Plant in moist, humus-rich soil, in part to full shade.

 Foam Flower

Fragrant Sumac
Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’

A dwarf selection of fragrant sumac, this dense, low-growing deciduous shrub has aromatic leaves and twigs. The fragrant sumac typically grows 1 to 2 feet tall, and can spread to 8 feet wide. Tiny yellow flowers bloom in early spring. In late summer, male flowers give way to yellowish female flowers called catkins, which precede small clusters of hairy, red berries. Green leaves turn orange and red in fall. Tolerant of a wide range of soils, the fragrant sumac grows best in average, well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.


Japanese Falsecypress
Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’

This slow-growing, hardy evergreen conifer has golden-yellow, scale-like leaves and cascading branchlets which form low, lacy mounds. Medium in texture, it grows 3 to 5 feet high and thrives in light shade, and moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

 Japanese Falsecypress

Lady’s Mantle
Alchemilla mollis

This perennial ground cover has light-green, velvety leaves and greenish-yellow, star-shaped flowers which appear in clusters above the foliage. Leaves are particularly attractive after a rain, as they appear to sparkle with collected water droplets. The lady’s mantle grows best in average to moist well-drained soil and full sun to part shade. 

lady's mantle

Panicle Hydrangea
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Chantilly Lace’

The ‘Chantilly Lace’ panicle hydrangea is a beautiful, fast-growing hydrangea with a smaller, more upright habit than other panicle hydrangeas. Grows 5 to 7 feet tall, with a 4 to 6 foot spread. Large ivory pyramidal flower clusters bloom in mid to late summer, and age to a soft pink. Flowers are long-lasting, and also great for arrangements. This hydrangea grows best in part to full shade, and average, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

 Panicle Hydrangea

Panicum virgatum

This large, ornamental grass grows up to
5 feet in neat clumps. Green blades are narrow and densely packed; they can turn yellow or reddish orange in fall, and tan in winter. In mid-summer, the grass flowers in red to purple large airy plumes, giving a soft appearance. This tough plant will withstand a range of well-drained soils, and is reasonably drought tolerant once established. Plant in full sun. A number of exceptional cultivars are available.



Threadleaf Tickseed
Coreopsis verticillata

With many bright, golden yellow daisies during summer, this perennial attracts butterflies and other pollinators. If pruned occasionally, flowers will bloom into the fall. The threadleaf tickseed has a very fine texture, with thread-like green foliage, and its fall color makes a great addition to the garden. Clump forming and slow spreading, it will grow 8 to 12 inches high, and 18 to 32 inches wide. This perennial is easy to grow, and loves full sun. Plant in average, well-drained soil.

 Threadleaf Tickseed

Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2011

Red Hot Poker
Kniphofia uvaria

A striking member of the lily family, sporting bright orange-red flower spikes on tall stems from late spring to early summer; attracts bees and butterflies. Green grassy, semi-evergreen arching foliage. Will form dense clumps, and grow to a height of 2–4′ and 1–2′ wide. Grows best in well-drained, average soil and part to full sun.

 Red Hot Poker

Blackberry Lily
Belamcanda chinensis

Reliably beautiful, drought tolerant and tough perennial that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Stiff, sword-like leaves form upright clumps. In summer, orange flowers with red and yellow markings appear, followed by clusters of small, glossy black fruits reminiscent of blackberries. Plant in well-drained, average soil and part to full sun. To avoid self-sowing, remove seed heads.

 Blackberry Lily

Lenten Rose
Hellebores orientalis

A hardy, early blooming shade perennial known for its winter interest. Can grow to 18–24″ tall, and 24–30″ wide, slowly spreading. White to pink, cup-shaped flowers bloom in winter and early spring. Thick, smooth leaves are evergreen and deer resistant. Grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil, in part to full shade.

 Lenten Rose

Variegated Fragrant
Solomon’s Seal
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’

A hardy herbaceous perennial for part to full shade. In spring, arched stems support elegant medium-green leaves with streaked white edges. Bell-like white flowers bloom in May and June, followed by spherical black fruits and yellow foliage in fall. Clumps will slowly spread. Plant in fertile, moist, well-drained soil.

Find the Variegated Fragrant
 Variegated Fragrant Solomon’s Seal

Little Bunny Fountaingrass
Pennisetum alopecuroides
‘Little Bunny’

This perennial grass forms neat, compact mounds of pale to medium green blades, which reach a height and width of 12–18″. Large feathery, ivory-colored flower spikes in summer. Leaves and flowers turn a wheat color in fall, and last through winter. Looks best when planted in masses, and will attract birds. Drought tolerant, grows best in average, well-drained soil, and full sun.

 Little Bunny Fountaingrass

Plume Grass
Erianthus ravennae

A giant of the ornamental grasses, gray-green, arching leaves form tall dense mounds, up to 5′ tall, and 4–6′ wide. Large feathery blooms of silver-purple flowers rise to an impressive 8–12′ tall in late summer, and once dry persist through winter. Attracts birds. Grows best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.

 Plume Grass

Virginia Sweetspire
Itea virginica

A hardy shrub with a bushy habit, reaching 3–10′ tall and 3–8′ wide. Arching branches hold bright green, glossy leaves, which turn dark red and burgundy in the fall lasting partly into winter. Creamy white, drooping, fragrant panicles bloom late spring to early summer and attract butterflies. Grows well in full sun to full shade, and thrives in average to wet soil.

 Virginia Sweetspire

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

This large deciduous shrub (3–10′ tall and wide) has an upright habit. Oak-shaped leaves are deep green, and turn crimson and bronze-purple in fall. Huge papery, white flower panicles bloom in summer, dry to rose-pink to tan and provide interest throughout the winter, along with exfoliating, copper-brown bark. Plant in moist soil, and full sun to part shade.

 Oakleaf Hydrangea

American Yellowwood
Cladrastis kentukea

A beautiful deciduous, rounded tree, reaching 30–50′ in height with low, spreading branches. Bright green leaves become a brilliant yellow in fall. Smooth, sandy brown bark grays with age. In late spring, showy, fragrant, long pendulous, white flower clusters bloom on each branch tip, usually on alternate years, but worth the wait! Grows best in fertile, well-drained soil and full sun.

 American Yellowwood

River Birch
Betula nigra

A fast-growing native that is resistant to insects and diseases, this tree can reach 40′–70′ in height. Often multi-stemmed, with beautiful, peeling bark in mixed shades of white, rust-orange, gray and brown. Elongated catkins appear in spring, and medium-green leaves change to a dark yellow in fall. An excellent tree for wet areas, but can also grow in drier soils. Plant in full sun to part shade.

 River Birch

Chilean Hospitals with Green Roofs

Posted on: January 30th, 2012 by frank No Comments

Chilean Hospitals with Green Roofs

Near Santiago, Chile, two hospitals have been designed with green roofs! The two beautiful designs are for large, accessible health care facilities to meet the growing need for both inpatient and outpatient care.The two hospitals, 65,000 m2 each, designed by Architects Barbera (Spain) and
Murtinho+Raby Arquitectos (Chile), each had to serve not just the medical needs of the residents, but also fit suitably in the environment. The architects decided to include green roofs in their design. Hydroponic gardenIn both cases, patient rooms would receive natural sunlight, while functional corridors and non-patient spaces would generally be inset into the landscape. By using the landscape and green roofs, the hospitals are both visually appealing and energy efficient. Additionally, the green roofs also help to reduce air pollution, which is significant in Santiago. Discover Top Rated Mighty Leaf Herbal Tea. Tea lovers love our delicious herbal tea blends. You will too. Save 25% on your first order!