Design your dream garden – Part 2


If you are contemplating extensive changes to your yard, you probably should consider consulting a professional designer. This is especially true if your project involves the installation of expensive, permanent architectural features such as terraces, a swimming pool or pond, outbuildings, and stone or concrete walks, or if it involves substantial changes to the topography of your property, changes that will affect the drainage of storm water.

Broadly speaking, professional garden designers fall into two categories, and the type you employ should reflect the nature of your project:

* Landscape architects must be licensed in most states, which means that they must demonstrate a mastery of the techniques of design and construction. Look for the letters “ASLA” on the business card–membership in the American Society of Landscape Architects is limited to those who have completed an ASLA-approved degree program at an accredited university, have passed a professional board examination, and have three years professional experience. The nature of their education makes landscape architects experts on the structural elements of the garden and engineering issues such as grading and drainage. Their knowledge of plant needs and possibilities may be limited.

* Landscape, or garden, designer, in contrast, is a title anyone can assume legally. For a qualified professional, be sure that the person you hire has been certified by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), since that guarantees competency not only in the principles of design but also construction. Landscape designers bring varying experiences and training to bear on garden-making, but most that I have encountered were drawn to their profession by a love of plants and planting. As a result, designers seem often to create gardens of more horticultural interest.


Discovering what species are native to your area makes the task of selecting plants that will flourish on your site much easier. Knowing that your lot was originally prairie, for example, suggests that ornamental grasses would be a smart choice.

You’ll find on-line information about the plants native to each region at the Web site of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (www.wildflower.org). Botanical gardens, horticultural society libraries, and the office of the Cooperative Extension Service are other inexpensive or free local resources that can help you with the selection of regionally adapted flora.


Amateurs create the most interesting gardens, but you cannot beat professional landscape maintenance services for efficiency. Above all, they can tell at a glance the bottlenecks that eat up time and energy. That’s why it’s a smart investment to buy an hour’s time from some such professional to look at the plan of a new garden before you plant. If what you are planning is a makeover of an existing landscape, walk around it with the pro to identify existing time-wasters that should be eliminated. Typical bottlenecks include:

* narrow peninsulas and comers of turf that are hard to mow or require hand-trimming. Replace these with ground cover or mulch.

* weed-infested ground covers, which indicate the use of plants that are poorly adapted to their situation–sun-loving ground-cover perennials, for example, stuck in a shady spot. Replace with a better-adapted species or with a durable, decorative mulch.

* trees and shrubs that outgrow the spot in which they are planted and therefore require constant trimming. Replace these with plants whose mature size fits the location.

* hedges or geometrically trimmed shrubs that need regular barbering. Such features can substitute for expensive architectural features (walls, statuary, etc.), lending the garden a dignified formality, but to avoid a maintenance nightmare they should be used sparingly.

starting SMALL

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We Americans are a notoriously impatient bunch, and when we build a new garden we commonly favor a crash program. We’d do better, in my opinion, to follow the example of our plants. They start small, as seeds, cuttings, grafts, or divisions. Then they extend themselves gradually, which allows them to adapt to circumstances and work around obstacles, instead of running into them. The net result is something much better rooted into the landscape, and achieved at far less cost.


Once you’ve developed a planting plan, try it out with annuals before you commit yourself to more permanent (and expensive) shrubs and perennials. A band of sunflowers could suggest a future hedge or fence; morning glories could stand in for the wisteria or climbing roses you hope to have some day. You may find that the reality is less appealing than what you imagined it would be, or that some details of the plan simply don’t work. If so, don’t worry–the annuals were coming out in the fall, anyway.


Garden structures can be mocked up with bamboo poles lashed together with twine. You may find that the arbor you planned to shade the deck makes that space feel claustrophobic, or that the proposed fence actually follows an inconvenient route. In either case, it’s simple to alter, move, or remove your skeleton structures.

Above all, though, imitate the plants and start small. Confine your planting the first year to a single, modest bed of flowers, or a group of shrubs, or a vine-shrouded arbor. Finish this well and enjoy it. Then build on this success with more projects as you are able. The most common mistake of beginning gardeners is to over-commit, to till up a huge area and then watch with discouragement as it returns to weeds. A small success is a far better beginning than a spectacular (and expensive) failure.


Design your dream garden – Part 1

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Winter, with its enforced idleness, can be a frustrating season for gardeners, but it does provide us with time to think. And thought–careful planning–is essential when you are getting ready to begin any new garden. “Starting from scratch” may translate into something as ambitious as a makeover of your entire yard, or it may be much more modest, accenting the entrance to your house with a bracket of flowers, perhaps, or planting a knot of culinary herbs outside the kitchen door. Whatever it is you are contemplating, remember this: Planning a new garden should begin with an analysis of what you already have.


It’s much easier to work with nature instead of against it–let the character of the site shape both the design of the garden and the choice of what you plant there. Features to consider include the following:

Topography: Is your yard sloping or flat? Does it sit on the top of a hill, or at the bottom–or maybe on the side? Hilltop sites are especially prone to wind and drought; hillside gardens are typically well-drained, but the soil is likely to be thin; sites at the foot of a hill may be damp and, because cold air runs downhill, are especially prone to frost.

Exposure: If your yard slopes, what direction does it face? A north-facing site is cooler in summer, colder in winter, and significantly less sunny. East-facing slopes receive mainly morning sun, west-facing ones mainly afternoon sun. Unshaded south-facing sites are the sunniest and, in summertime, the hottest–a good place for succulents, such as echeverias and sedums, and silver-leaved, heat- and drought-tolerant plants including artemisias and lavenders.

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Soil quality: Take a sample of your soil to the local Cooperative Extension Service to have it tested, not only for pH and nutrient content but also for soil type (loam, clay, etc.) and organic content. This information will help you select plants naturally suited to your site and apply just the fertilizers and soil conditioners your garden needs.

Sun versus shade: Note where the sunny and shady areas are within your yard, and how this pattern changes over the course of a day and as the seasons change. All sunlight is not equal–the midday sun is significantly stronger than that of early morning or late afternoon, and more to the taste of plants advertised as “sun-loving.”

Drainage: Are there areas of your yard where the moisture pools and then lingers during and after a rainstorm? They translate to sure death to plants that require a “well-drained soil.” In an arid western landscape, however, they may be the best spot to plant thirsty shade trees.

New Construction: Often the soil surrounding newly constructed homes is full of roots, left behind when the lot was cleared. Chances are the bulldozer also compacted the soil. For both reasons, plan to dig deep and mix lots of compost or other organic matter into any area you intend to plant.


Make a note, as well, of man-made amenities as you start to plan new gardens. Features, such as vegetable and cutting gardens, that need frequent irrigation should be located near a faucet. Similarly, the chore of carting mulch to the hybrid teas becomes much easier if you set the rose garden alongside a broad, hard-surfaced path.

THE planning PROCESS

I’m the type of gardener who prefers, if possible, to do it myself. But I know my limitations, and when it comes to design, I need a critic–an objective second eye to evaluate my plans and stop my mistakes before they become reality. Fortunately, I have that pitiless eye on hand all the time, right in my closet: The camera doesn’t lie.


Trying to create a visual record of my own garden has taught me how unflattering a photograph can be. Since it’s easier to just ignore the imperfections in my landscape, my eye tends to edit them out; I honestly do not see them. The camera, by contrast, captures every little flaw on film. At the same time, it also creates a virtual version of the landscape that is ideal for experimentation.

When planning a new garden, try placing yourself at all the major points of view–the back door and from steps, the living room window, the deck–using a camera to take pictures (preferably slides) of everything you see. Project the resulting slides onto a screen that you fashion by taping a large sheet of paper to the wall. First, look at each slide to identify all of the strengths and weaknesses you find in the scene. Make note of these on a pad. Then, with bright-colored, broad-tipped markers, sketch in the changes you might like to make.

By this method, trying out new beds and borders, laying in a terrace, and inserting or removing trees and shrubs all become effortless. Replace the paper from time to time and keep trying new drafts until you achieve a composition for each perspective that satisfies you. You’ll find these sketches invaluable as references when you start drafting a plan for garden planting and construction.




Creating your favourite livestyle with those ideas!

Do it yourself

Living in Colour04

Here’s an easy shortcut to laying tiles — with minimal mess

Time-saving treatment Laying ceramic tiles used to be a costly messy job, but Toronto contractor Andrew DelMedico showed us a surprisingly speedy way. Instead of ripping up the existing linoleum floor and tile countertop, he simply applied the new tile overtop. Here’s his step-by-step method for the countertop: (The floor process is identical; just use a larger trowel.)

1. Place new tiles over the existing ones to determine how many you need and which to trim.

2a., 2b. Clean the surface of your existing tile. Mix multi-purpose cement. When your surface is completely dry, apply the cement using a small-toothed notched trowel.

3. Lay tiles over cement — don’t separate them from their attached grid. Dig out any cement lodged between the tile joints with a pencil and damp sponge — this will ensure the grout fills in properly. Do not touch or walk on the tiles for eight to 12 hours.

4. To make the splash guard, DelMedico applied a fine plastic ledge (from a hardware store) one tile high to ensure perfect alignment and a finished top. Next comes the cement and tile.

5. Apply grout and allow 20 to 30 minutes drying time.

6. Wash ceramic tile with a damp sponge. Allow 20 minutes for it to dry and then wash again with clean water. Set for 72 hours before sealing the finish with two coats of a tile sealant.

7. For the counter’s edge, we chose a wood moulding deep enough to cover both tile layers (ours is 1 7/8 inch) and painted it the same white as the window trim.

Bases covered

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The floor and countertops set your kitchen’s tone. Before the make-over, the floor was broken up by three different colours in three different materials — tile, linoleum and carpet. We chose ceramic tiles — made by Midgley & West from Lansing Buildall — in a complementary whitewashed finish for both the floor and counters to give the space flow.

Similar hues and fabrics echoes through hout your home express your personality while soothing your soul

A northern bedroom

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Leaf-print curtains and rustic textures recall a walk in the weeds that inspires a home-away-from-home guest bedroom. Flat yet cosy textures in spicy gold-based tones give the area rug, blanket and pillow a cottage flavour. The glossy finish of a glazed ceramic leaf plate and dark brown accessories introduces a touch of light. Curtains, rug, blanket, bed linens and pillow, all IKEA. Leaf plate, Nestings. Wood and ceramic accessories, the Bay.

An Asian bathroom

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A lively eastern-influenced print shower curtain provides our colour direction for everything from towels to toiletries. A mix of hues and textures — flat woods and high-glaze ceramics — adds depth and a play of light. Shower curtain and towels, all the Bay. Ginger jar, tray, brush and toiletries, all Nestings.

A French country kitchen

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From silk checks to striped wallpaper, painterly fabrics set the stage for a Provencal-inspired kitchen and dining nook. What stops these elements from clashing? One colour or print doesn’t dominate – the reds, yellows and greens share the same clear intensity, in the traditional French style, we also borrowed ideas from other cultures for texture, such as the glazed Moroccan bowls and Indian wicker basket. Pillows and fabrics, all B.B. Bargoon’s. Basket and twig balls, all Pier 1 imports. Ceramic bowls, all Club Monaco Everyday.

A Middle Eastern living room

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Using this sumptuous patterned rug as our anchor, we chose luxurious gold-based plaid and solid silks for curtains, cushions and chair covers. Deeper curry-hued ceramic and metal urns and a lantern repeat the fabric’s sheen. Brighter colours or matte finishes would flatten our exotic yet subtle mood. Fabrics, gold pillow and accessories, all B.B. Bargoon’s. Rug, Elte. Tufted pillow, Nestings


Buyers hungry for housewares: first show in nine month

CHICAGO–Buyers in record numbers are arriving here for the first International Housewares Exposition in nine months hungry for new merchandise for fall programs.

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From preshow reports, buyers will have a bounty of new items and new concepts to satisfy their appetites in McCormick Place and McCormick Place West.

In cookware, for instance, they will see a wealth of higher priced stainless steel placed by Wear-Ever, which is entering the field for the first time, and Regal’s 2000 and Tradition lines.

The microwave oven accessories field is getting an added fillip with the application of SilverStone coating in lines by Du Pont licensees Nordic Ware and Regal. At the same time, Anchor Hocking is making the scene with a line of microwave oven-to-tableware to compete with Rubbermaid.

New tabletop lines, whether ceramic or glass, are being marked by selections in a rainbow of bold colors. Cookware, too, is sporting new hues, toast and soft grays.

In electrics, buyers are seeing an undercabinet-mount appliance explosion as more and more companies jump on the bandwagon launched by General Electric two years ago. Toastmaster is giving the concept a new dimension with its first toaster-oven-broilers.

Then, too, new technology is changing the face of such classifications as irons, humidifiers, and clocks.

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Ultrasonic humidifiers

The iron picture is being sparked by new electronic models from GE and Sunbeam, as well as a cordless number from West Bend. Ultrasonic humidifiers are proliferating at prices as low as $75. With the quartz boom, clocks are becoming thinner and thinner.

From all indications, the new lines will reach a large audience. Mass merchants and department stores are sending larger contingents than usual to the first April housewares show. Many of these groups, what’s more, include a large complement of top executives.

Heck’s, the West Virginia-based discount chains, for instance, is sending a force of 11 men, which includes the board chairman, chief executive officer, and president. The Broadway Southwest, Mesa, Ariz., will have the chief executive at the show for the first time in many years.With inventory in good shape and business outlook bright, retailers for the most part are approaching the show with high expectations. John Gray, divisional merchandise manager of Lechmere, Woburn, Mass., is a case in point: “I can hardly wait for the show. I expect to see some trendy merchandise, some of which we will be testing.”

Similarly, Larry Hund, buyer for Bloomingdale’s, New York, said, “I’m looking forward to it. I hope to find a lot of new merchandise there. Preshow reports indicate as much.”

Mass merchants are equally enthusiastic about show prospects.

Larry Fine, senior buyer for Jamesway, a Secaucus, N.J.-based chain, said, “It should be a good show. I expect to see more new products than at any show since manufacturers missed a January show.”

Rod Wills, divisional merchandise manager for Zayre, Framingham, Mass., said, “My staff likes the timing of the show better. We can now have the products fresh in our minds as we think about our fall plans.”

While some retailers, notably catalog-showrooms, have gotten a preview of new items at the show, most buyers have been receiving only broad hints of what they will find on the new product front from vendors.

Arnold Dreyfuss, Wear-Ever Proctor-Silex chairman, told a New England housewares club meeting that the show should be “one of the finest. Most manufacturers are going out of their way to bring new merchandise.”

Speaking from the buyer’s side, Craig Moyer, buyer for Hess’s, Allentown, Pa., said, “People I have been talking to have been whetting my appetite, from Norelco, with its 40 new products, on down.”

Maureen Beamish, buyer for Gottschalk’s, Frenso, Calif., too has been tipped off to a new items by reps and hopes they will materialize.

Roseann Robinson, buyer for Broadway Southwest, was more vocal about the subject: “There better be something new at the show. Manufacturers have had four extra months to prepare. I expect it will be the most exciting show in years.”

Shaping up to be the most shopped classification at the show is the growing family of undercabinet-mount electric housewares including coffeemakers, can openers and toaster-oves. Other electrics being given high priority are irons featuring new technology, ultrasonic humidifiers, hand-held vacs and travel products.

Everett Purdy, senior vice president of merchandising for Service Merchandise Co., the Nashville-based catalog showroom operation, has not been particularly impressed by the new lines he has seen, but conceded that “under-cabinet-mount appliances will be the biggest growth area in electrics.” He stressed, however, “for now, those sales will take away from other products in the category rather than increase can opener and coffeemaker business.”

Gottschalk’s Beamish reported that General Electric’s undercabinet coffeemakers and can openers have sold “phenomenally.” As a result she will be looking at other lines for expansion.

By the same token, Bill Eades, Heck’s buyer, said the “good track record of GE undercabinet drips and can openers and Robeson can openers has encouraged us to expand this area. We will look into name-brand lines like GE, Toastmaster, and Hamilton Beach.”

David Boyd, buyer at Ivey’s, Charlotte, says undercabinet-mount is a very valid concept that he would like extended to other housewares categories! “Cannister sets leap immediately to mind.”

Like many buyers, Diane Wills, buyer at Meier & Frank, Portland, Ore., will be investigating the wealth of new appliances coming on stream that make use of new sophisticated electronic technology.

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The new technology is probably most evident in irons. Several buyers have just begun promoting Sunbeam’s new iron and are monitoring results to judge the viability of electronic controls. Success or failure of the promotion will do much to determine how these stores approach the new technology at the show.

New technology, in this case ultrasonic, is pushing humidifiers to the fore at the show for the first time in many years.

Not only have stores just completed an excellent winter season, but humidifier prices are beginning to tumble. The prevailing price has been $150. New units are now available to retail as low as $75.

Bob Gunn, merchandise manager for Gaylords, the New Jersey based chain, considers ultrasonic humidifiers a growth category. He and Jamesway’s Larry Fine will be among the many mass merchants shopping the category. He and Jamesway’s Larry Fine will be among the many mass merchants shopping the category carefully. On the department’s store scene, bloomingdale’s Larry Hurd said, “We will be seeking to protect next year the good ultrasonic business we enjoyed this season.”

Sarah Arthur, buyer at Rich’s, Atlanta, is in Chicago with plans to build her upper-end gourmet electrics business with firms like Maxim, Braun and Simac. She is also looking for products to replace kerosene heaters which did not fare well last year.

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Elsewhere in electrics, some buyers see handheld vacs as a promising category this year.

Harry Bilodeau, division merchandise manager for Woodward & Lothrop, Washington, will be here to beef up his tabletop and serveware assortments for a big fall-Christmas push he’s planning. He’s also shopping for microwave cookware.


Styling, high tech spark new lines

CHICAGO–Retailers shopping new lines at this week’s International Housewares Exposition will see a wealth of undercabinet mount electrics, more sophisticated irons, a palette of rich colors in cookware, dinnerware, and glass, along with a proliferation of thin profile clocks.

In short, manufacturers at McCormick Place and McCormick Place West have come up with a new wave of product ideas built on concepts that have been gaining industry acceptance in recent years.

On the undercabinet mount front, Toastmaster and Hamilton Beach are joining the fray, following the lead of General Electric, which pioneered the idea two years ago and was followed by Norelco, Robeson and Sanyo among others soon after. Toastmaster, however, is giving the concept a new twist with the first such toaster-oven-broiler.

Probably the most dramatic innovation can be seen in the electric iron classification, where the electronic has finally hit with such systems being featured in new Sunbeam and GE models; and West Bend has come up with what it claims to be the first cordless unit in the industry. Travel irons are being offered in streamlined versions to appeal to American’s growing mobile population.

The evidence that a new technological and styling wave has engulfed the housewares industry does not end there. In humidifiers, for instance, ultrasonic units from Corona and Douglas at $150 helped revive the classification last season, their first full year at retail. At this show, at least three firms–Robeson, Welbilt and Holmes–are set to move into the field with units retailing as low as $75.

The personal care industry appears to be on a flocking kick in hairsetters, curling irons and brushes. Thin profiles have now become the norm in clocks thanks to the quartz revolution.

But the more imaginative approach to housewares styling is not being restricted to small appliances. Like some electric categories, new cookware is being offered in richer hues, harking back to the color binge of the late 1960s.

Elsewhere in the cookware arena, the application of SilverStone coatings is being extended to microwave accessories for the first time this year.

Contemporary sytling seems to cut across virtually every product classifications. In clocks, for example, it is reflected in the increased use of dark solid woods and bright colored plastic cases. It is manifested in brighter colors in glassware, and growing use of bands in dinnerware.

Licensing, too, is shaping up as a growing force in new lines. Probably the best example of this is Westclox’s new line decorated with American Greetings’ Get Along Gang. Thermos and others who have taken the route before are expanding lines in this direction.

These are just some of the product trends that emerge in reviews of new lines being groomed for this, the first April housewares show that appear throughout this section.