Outdoor Living – July 2013

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Greener decorating for your deck and patio

Outdoor living spaces cry out for an eco-friendly touch. Whether you’re adding a patio, updating a deck or livening up your landscaping, the last thing you want to do is harm the environment. Greener decorating and building practices can help you protect and pay homage to Mother Nature while creating a space where you’ll enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

If you’re planning some outdoor decorating or renovating this summer, here are some tips to make your exterior living spaces green and inviting:

Eco-friendly construction materials
For many homeowners, decks and patios are key elements of outdoor living spaces. If you plan to add either this summer, be sure to look for environmentally friendly materials like natural stone or responsibly–harvested wood. When choosing wood, look for products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) as having been harvested following sustainable principles that minimize the impact on the environment. If you’re building a patio, choose reclaimed brick or stone pavers that have been recycled from other installations. If you can’t find reclaimed pavers, look for natural stone that’s been quarried locally or bricks that have been locally produced to minimize the energy spent on transporting the products.

The Sierra Club recommends you seek a deck builder that is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. These builders will have advanced knowledge of eco-friendly practices.

Icing the cake
The accessories – furniture and decor items – that you add to your outdoor environment should be as green as possible, too. Choose patio and deck furniture made from eco-friendly materials, such as recycled plastic (but avoid anything that contains PVC), reclaimed wood or FCS-certified wood. Rehabilitating older iron or wood furniture is also a great way to achieve a singular look while keeping those items out of landfills.

Opt for decor items that minimize their impact on the environment while providing maximum impact on how great your space looks. For example, a wallpaper mural can create an eye-catching focal point and set the tone for your outdoor room. Yet, traditional mural painting can be expensive and traditional wallpaper can involve less-than-eco-friendly paste. A removable wallpaper mural creates a striking visual in outdoor spaces without the need for paste or glue. Murals Your Way offers a high-end product that can be moved and reused hundreds of times without losing adhering qualities. Plus, it clings to virtually any flat surface, including glass. You can choose from a myriad of graphic patterns, nature scenes and other images or have the company produce a custom mural from your original photograph or artwork. Learn more at www.muralsyourway.com

Continue the eco-friendly theme with lighting for your deck and patio. It’s easy to find a variety of solar-powered accent lights online and in home improvement stores across the country. You can even find decorative post caps for your deck railing that are solar-powered. Solar lights create a soft glow at night and provide accent illumination without the expense – and carbon impact – of electric power.

Finally, as you’re landscaping, keep sustainability in mind. By choosing plants native to your region, you not only minimize the transportation impact involved in getting the plant from the production point to point-of-sale, you can also ensure they’ll require less watering and work to thrive.

Plants native to your environment are pre-disposed to do well in your backyard. Be sure to choose plants that will do well in your particular setting, too. For example, if your backyard is very shady, plant greenery that requires less sun. If your yard gets a lot of sun throughout the day, choose plants that can stand up to hours of sunlight without the need for extensive irrigation. Check with your local agricultural extension to find out what plants will do well in your environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a free online listing of extensions throughout the country.
— Courtesy of BPT

Poolside safety

As temperatures start to soar it’s time to start thinking about ways to keep your kids safe and germ-free at those never-ending pool parties, beach days and family vacations and water parks. Kids will be kids and there are bound to be a few bumps and bruises along the way – you can probably hear the lifeguard whistle now!

So whether you have to patch up a small scrape or need a quick fix to washing hands in the public restrooms, it is important to have the proper items to keep at your side and ensure your kids’ safety. After all, being prepared with these easily packable items is key so you can sit back, relax and enjoy your sun-filled day with the family! 

Poolside safety essentials
Kid-Friendly Goggles: We all know the sting from opening your eyes under chlorine water, but as a kid, seeing what lurks in the depths of the pool is just too tempting! To make sure that your little divers’ eyes aren’t red when they come up for air, pack a Fun Kids Dive Mask. The playful character dive masks are fun for kids and comfortable too! Available at www.toysplash.com

Germ Fighting Wristband: With public pools and restrooms comes a slew of germs! Since it isn’t always easy to quickly wash your kids’ hands – and since we don’t always know what exactly they got their hands on–a sanitizer wristband, like Halo Sani-Cuffs keep kids entertained, stylish and germ-free. This healthy accessory – a wearable, refillable, dispenser of hand sanitizer distributed at the push of a button – gives parents peace-of-mind that their little ones are never more than an arm’s length away from fighting germs. Available at select Rite Aid stores and armorteria.myshopify.com

Mini First Aid Kit: It’s inevitable for kids to get a few scrapes while fooling around on the water slides or in the sand. Since we can’t protect them 24/7, we can be best prepared with a mini first aid kit knowing that we will have everything needed to patch them up! Available at www.first-aid-product.com

Fun Floaties: It is always important to bring kids to places where adults and lifeguards are present, but with so many children running around it can be easy to slip and fall-in. With Aqua Leisure Fabric Floaties, kids will not only be safe, but you can keep them stylish as well! These are also a great addition for the little ones who are new to the poolside scene. Available at www.toysrus.com

Insect Repellant: As soon as your little ones are done swimming, the sooner mosquitoes start swarming. To prevent those nasty, itchy bites after a day at the pool, spray your kids down with BiteBlocker – a family safe insect repellent that’s both sweat-proof and safe for kids! Available at www.homs.com

Safe Sunscreen: A day in the sun could mean a night full of tears if your kids aren’t protected from the summer rays. To avoid sunburns without having to re-apply sunscreen each time they take a dip in the pool, try a water-resistant and pediatrician-tested sunscreen like Coppertone’s Wet n’ Clear for Kids.

A garden of fragrant English Roses

Throughout history, gardeners have been passionate about roses. Their dream of bountiful roses cascading over fences and arbors led them to purchase roses that they had no idea how to grow and/or ones that were ill-suited to their area.  The roses ultimately died and the disillusioned gardener gave up and decided that they were too hard to grow. The only rose that survived was a David Austin English Rose.

This was my experience when I purchased 10 roses back in 1998. Nine of them quickly died, but the tenth rose lingered on for years, even though I had neglected it. However, with the right rose and with the right information, I now have a rose garden that is filled with over 60 thriving roses that are a joy to grow, and so can you!

Like peonies, most fragrant roses have one glorious period of blooming in early summer.  However, there is one variety of gorgeous roses that bloom repeatedly throughout the growing season and have surprising fragrances – English Roses. They are a combination of the best qualities of Old Garden Roses and Modern Roses, and they were all created out of the passion and determination of one man – English hybridizer David Austin. He took the best qualities of Old Garden Roses (attractive looking garden shrubs with beautiful cabbage roses, outstanding fragrance and good resistance to disease) and combined them with the best qualities of Modern Roses (wide variety of colors and the ability to re-bloom) to create a new type of rose, which he named the English Rose.

Unlike a Hybrid Tea Rose, they have a variety of individual flower forms reminiscent of old-fashioned roses – button-eye, chalice shaped, incurved, rosette, deep-cupped and cabbage rose form – to name a few.  There are over 200 varieties and come in assorted shades of pink and red, as well as beautiful colors like apricot, peach, yellow, cream and white. 

Best of all, their wide range of complex fragrances are truly extraordinary. Some roses have a Tea Rose fragrance, while others have an Old Rose fragrance. There are others that have fruity fragrances like lemons, raspberries, peaches, guavas and mulberries. The Myrrh fragrance, a scent that is nearly exclusive to English Roses, is exceptional. These scents combine in delicious ways and are what make David Austin English Roses unique.

Purchasing your roses
A benefit of purchasing English roses in pots is that they can be planted anytime during the growing season and are hardy in the Capital Region.  Look for a rose with at least 3 canes, in a large pot (so the roots are more established) which is healthy and well-watered. Canes are the strong flexible stems that come up from the ground from the graft or roots of the rose and provide the framework for the shrub.

Joanne Strevy is a master gardener, garden designer, speaker and the owner of Rosewood Gardens in West Charlton (Saratoga County). She specializes in growing David Austin English Roses. Her English gardens are open to the public in the summer, Thursday – Saturday from 9am-6pm. Visit  www.VisitRosewoodGardens.com for more information.

Planting instructions:
The day before you are plant your rose, water it thoroughly in its pot.

1. Dig a hole 2 ft. across by 2 ft. deep. Remember, this is where your rose will be spending its life, so be sure to do it right.
2. Remove the rocks and amend the soil.  Improve your soil whether you have clay, soil or loam.

Mix together in equal parts:

  • 1/3 existing soil
  • 1/3 peat moss (or garden compost). 
  • 1/3 composted cow manure

    (available in bags at Box stores)

Add:

  • 1 cup Bone Meal
  • 1 cup Blood Meal, and
  • 1 cup Rose Tone Plant Food. 
  • Mix well.  Fill the bottom third of the hole with this mixture.

3. Find the graft of the rose and position the rose in the hole so that the top of the graft is 3-4 inches below ground.  Initially, I do this while the rose is still in the pot.  It is easier to adjust that way.
You can make sure that the graft is low enough by laying a rake across the hole at ground level.  (Use a ruler and measure down from the rake to the top of the graft.) Slide a knife around the inside edge of the pot to loosen it.  With one hand flat on top of the soil in the pot, and the other hand on the bottom of the pot, gently tip the potted rose upside down to remove it.  Holding the plant by the root ball (not the top growth), place the rose on top of the soil in the freshly dug hole. 
4. If you don’t have room for three rose bushes, you can snug two rose bushes right next to each other, effectively making one large rose bush.  They will develop into one nicely-rounded shrub.
5. Fill the hole with the amended soil and press firmly with your hands. Mound the extra soil along the edges of the hole to create a dam (sort of like a pie crust edge) so that you can fill it with water.
6. Water the rose thoroughly with two gallons of water per rose.  Afterward, keep moist with regular and generous watering. 
7. Feed monthly.  Sprinkle one cup of Rose Tone around the base of the rose, scratch in gently and water.
8. Mulch generously with composted manure or garden compost.  This will help keep the weeds down, keep the soil cool and give the rose a good start. If you desire, sprinkle Preen to prevent weed seed germination.
 

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