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What’s At The 2008 Flower and Landscape Exhibitions For You?

Hi, all, the 2008 Flower and Landscape exhibitions are now upon us, likely showing now at your local exhibition center. So what are the landscaping supply manufacturers and the landscaping contractors going to try to sell you as this year’s most wanted property enhancement?

Having just returned from an exhibition in the Northeastern states, my mind is full of creative possibilities for this year’s summer projects. The show was filled with the typical big sellers; hot tubs and spas were present in liberal quantities, windows, sun rooms, and man made ponds are always present at these shows, and will likely be back at the spring Home Shows that will be filling the same exhibition centers a few weeks from now. But the tone of our blog focuses on a rustic decoration style, and there was no lack of displays to spawn the creative thought process.

The thing I like the most about the landscaping shows these days is the fact that you don’t just look at a single product at each display. The companies renting floor space do it all up right, and design an entire landscape in their space. You can imagine looking out your back window and seeing exactly what is laid out in front of you at the show. For example, a manufactured paver company put up quite a display, building a complete landscape. Obviously the entire scene was built upward from their pavers, which were arranged in a complex pattern under foot, but they combined efforts with other products from other companies to give a feel for how their product worked with others. Stackable manufactured stones bordered the paver patio, cedar landscape accents were strategically placed, a striking cedar pergola rose from the patio, and a stackable stone island was placed just outside the pergola with a polished granite counter top to cap the stone and provide a resting place for a propane cooktop. Having taken in that whole scene, I have an idea of what my summer project will consist of this year!

Other displays that I haven’t seen too much of until this year included ‘modular outdoor fireplaces’. These displays looked like stone fireplaces built by skilled stone workers, but were actually pre-cast modules that stack together horizontally and vertically to create sprawling outdoor structures. The show piece was a configuration that included five foot counter top units on either side of the fireplace, and the fireplace itself whose chimney extended upward for about nine or ten feet including the chimney cap. This impressive configuration did come at a price; it was tagged at just under $20,000 installed. That’s 20K, as in new car dollar figures. Of course, there were more reasonable configurations set up that displayed gas grills embedded in them with a bit of usable counter space.

Me, I am sticking with the patio-pergola-counter top configuration this summer next to the pool. That will create a nicely usable outdoor room in a section of yard that I’ve been wondering what to do with for quite a few years now. How about you, what’s your summer project for this year? Not sure? Get out to your local Flower Show or Home Show to get lots of fresh ideas!

Have fun,

Ron

Garden and Landscaping Design Tips

When you think designing our garden or landscape, the most important consideration is how you and your family use your outdoor area. Plants, trees, a lawn area – these are all part of the total landscape. But beyond that, there are other issues. Outdoor lighting will help you enjoy your garden in the evenings. Irrigation lines are the best way to get water to those thirsty plants. If you like privacy, fencing is essential. If you want shade, retractable awnings are a must. If you love entertaining, consider an outdoor kitchen barbeque area. If you are lucky enough to afford the cost of a pool and spa, make sure you incorporate these features into your design. And of course, you also must consider outdoor furniture placement.

Plants, Trees and Lawns

When you think of a garden landscape, you first picture lots of green, with wonderful splashes of color. But as water costs rise, that big lawn may be something you want to rethink. Many people are replacing lawns with more water-efficient areas, such as succulent gardens. This also applies to plants, whether they are in containers or planted in the ground. Besides their water needs, the types of plants you choose also depends on how much sun or shade you have naturally in your garden. When you design your layout, think about how the colors will go with each other, and try to incorporate different textures too. Consider your soil too. If you have very dense clay soil, you may want to avoid delicate plants or at least use a tiller to amend the soil before planting.

Irrigation

You certainly don’t want to spend all your time in the garden with a watering can, so irrigation is a must. Figure out where the lines can run from your original water source when you plan your landscape. When you layout your garden design, think in terms of irrigation zones, too, so you can water certain areas that need more water more frequently.

Outdoor Lighting

Once the sun goes down, you really need outdoor lighting. For most of us, lighting should blend in nicely with the overall landscape. There are different options. LED lighting is cost effective in the long run. Solar lighting is becoming more popular as energy costs go up. Lighting can also be used to illuminate specific parts of your garden, such as unusual trees, or an interesting collection of plants.

Fencing

They say good fences make for good neighbors. This is certainly true. Fencing is especially important if you have a pool or water area. Even if you don’t have children, your neighbors may, so you want to keep everyone safe. Wood fencing is often the least expensive option for privacy and security. Composite fencing can be less prone to termite and weather damage. Fences can also be decorative, for example wrought iron fencing can truly enhance a garden landscape.

Retractable Awnings

We’re all aware of the dangers of too much sun, so if you love the outdoors, you will want retractable awnings or some type of shaded area. The retractable awnings are great because they can roll back in when you don’t want shade, such as in the early morning or the evening. Electric awnings are easy to operate too. Just push a button for instant shade.

Outdoor Kitchen Barbeque

For the chef in the family, why stop at a barbeque, when you can have a whole outdoor kitchen center. These centers are built in, providing not only a BBQ grill, but counter space, running water and other features to make cooking a breeze.

Pool and Spa

If you can afford the cost of a pool and spa – or if you already have one – they can not only be something to entertain the family, they can also be a beautiful part of the landscape. One thing to consider in designing a pool is that unconventional shapes can make it more difficult to use a pool cover. When you figure the cost of a pool, don’t forget maintenance. You will need to keep the pool clean, you will have to maintain chemical levels correctly, and you will also need to redo the surface of the pool over time. A spa can be less work, although cleanliness is still essential for good health.

Outdoor Furniture

Finally, you need furniture to enjoy the outdoors. Before buying any outdoor furniture, consider how you and your family use the space. If you entertain a lot, you’ll need multiple seating areas, perhaps a larger table and chair set. You’ll want to place table and chairs close to the cooking area. You may also want to look into lounge chairs, gliders, outdoor swings or other types of seating.

There are many things to think about when designing a garden landscape. But when it all comes together, the result is a garden you and your family will enjoy for a long time.

For more information on garden and landscaping tips see your local home improvement or garden store.

Wind Chimes, Decorative and Therapeutic

Wind chimes can be a soothing, decorative and enjoyable way to introduce some music and personality into any outdoor location. Although they may seem rather simple, unique wind chimes come in a large variety of musical tunings, decorations and sizes all ensuring that you find the right one for your individual needs. Furthermore, you may choose from natural materials such as wood, Bamboo or something more unique such as Aluminum. Gone are the days of identical chimes which all sound the same, there are so many unique wind chimes on the market today that bringing pleasant, relaxing music to your backyard will be hassle-free.

In this hectic society, time for rest and relaxation is at a premium. There is a download available from iTunes which features the soothing sound of wind chimes for meditation. Explore the Feng Shui aspects of chime placement to maximize harmony in your life. There are special Feng Shui chimes which have been tuned to a scale obtained by throwing coins as directed by the ancient book of I Ching. What an enhancement for the practice of yoga or meditation. Take a moment from your busy day to enjoy the sound clips mentioned below. With all of the styles available, it’s possible to take a musical break to find the ones most suitable to your ear and decor.

When choosing which type of unique wind chime to purchase, there are a variety of materials to consider for outdoor use. Chimes are made of Aluminum tubes, Bamboo, glass and a number of other metals. Speaking of metals, brass is often used to fashion either bells or gongs, a popular category explored by many wind chime manufacturers. Another new category is the creation of small chimes which can be used indoors, placed on a desk stand to catch the air current from circulation ducts. Each offers a distinct musicality and decorative element which makes choosing enjoyable.

Aluminum Wind Chimes

Aluminum wind chimes feature durable tubes which can be precision tuned. In fact, Woodstock Aluminum Wind Chimes offer a life-time tuning guarantee. These wind chimes offer a distinct change from earlier chimes which were visually beautiful but paid little heed to tonal quality. With the precision tuning developed by founder Gary Kvistad, these tubular bells are of symphonic quality. One of my personal favourites is the Gregorian chime, which is available in five sizes. The durability of aluminum makes it an excellent choice for chimes exposed to the elements.

Bamboo Chimes

Bamboo chimes boast an ecologically friendly and sustainable build, as well as beautiful decorative elements. Their sound can be a bit more earthy and natural than that of the crisp aluminum wind chime, but their beauty also rests in the unique decoration. Bamboo chimes are tuned by hand and made of non-endangered, renewable bamboo.

Solar Wind Chimes

A smaller category of chimes combines various materials, such as Capiz shells or bamboo, to provide the music with a solar cell which absorbs the sun’s energy to provide illumination automatically when the sun sets. Not only do you have pleasant music for the ear, the sense of sight is also activated by the display of lights.

Bells & Gongs

Garden ornaments are becoming increasingly popular in landscape design. When considering garden ornaments, a choice of garden bells or one of the gongs will provide a delight to the ear as well as the eye. One of my favourites is the Woodstock Water Bell FountainTM which contains brass bells sounded by the continuous flow of water, the ultimate “Water Music,” with apologies to Handel. This fountain combines the soothing sound of flowing water with the harmonious sounding of the brass bells producing an oasis of calm in a hectic society.

Indoor Chimes

Indoor chimes are unique in that they can be placed as an accessory indoors wherever a slight air current will sound them. Feng Shui products have created a lot of interest of late, and there are specially tuned chimes which are based on these principles. Another popular chime features the Amazing Grace song. Other options include a small Gregorian chime and a Peace chime. No longer are wind chimes relegated to the outdoors.

Music has long been recognized as a potent force in relaxation. Tubular bells are believed to be the first musical instrument. Archaeologists have discovered drawings of them dating back 5000 years. Adding music such as this to your modern living quarters, indoors or out, is an easy way to reduce stress and add pleasure in your surroundings. Music therapy is becoming more common in schools and institutions. Add a simple variety of this therapy to your life, powered by the slightest breeze. With a wide variety of tunings from which to choose, you can experiment with various chimes to determine the ones that resonate with you. Hanging the chimes at different heights or in different places also changes the musical mix as they are activated by changing wind currents. All in all, this is customized music which is easy to enjoy, as wind power does all the work of “playing” the instrument.