Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Winter Landscaping Ideas

Winter generally signifies snow and barren landscapes, where trees have lost their leaves and there are often no greens and blooms in the area. While this might sound boring and pretty drab, it is possible to change the tides and make your outdoors really beautiful and picturesque, even in winters. However, in order to achieve true beauty during these frosty months, it is important to plan and plant ahead. Here are some simple ideas, which when implemented with proper planning, will ensure that your outdoors is beautiful throughout the winter:
·         Evergreen trees: One of the most prominent and perfect ways to ensure a better and more beautiful outdoors during winter is through the presence of evergreen trees. These trees actually withstand the onslaught of the frosty months and provide the most important green color that looks extremely beautiful against the white backdrop of snow. In addition to providing beauty, these trees, when planted properly, can even block the winter winds, thus ensuring that you save on your heating bills.
·         Colorful berries, flowers and conifers: Another important ingredient of any winter landscaping is the colorful berry shrubs and conifers that you can plant. These will provide the necessary bright colors, including those like red and gold, which will enhance the beauty of the pristine environment. Additionally, when planting conifers, you can mix different shapes of cones, which will again add to the beauty of your outdoors. There are several kinds of floral bushes that thrive in the winter months, including those like poinsettias, Iceland poppies etc, from which you can take your pick to add color and vibrancy to the entire outdoor landscape. In addition, there are several others, which grow all year round, such as azaleas, proteas, acacias and camellias. Planning your winter garden well in advance by incorporating these in your regular landscaping will ensure that your garden is in full bloom when the frosty months come calling upon you.
·         Using snow to your advantage: If you live in a place where there is lots of snow, you can definitely use it to your advantage. While the ubiquitous snowman is definitely a possibility, you can actually add a touch of elegance and structure to make it a wonderful centerpiece of your outdoors. Creating snow sculptures of different types and shapes will definitely add to the beauty. Placing them at strategic points will also add to their allure. However, before indulging in these, it is important to plan your landscape and create shapes or structures accordingly that will suit your overall setting. Similarly, you can use ice to build ice castles or even ice globes that will help enhance the beauty of your outdoors. Adding color to the ice while the structure is being formed is yet another idea that can add a touch of color and brightness to your outdoors.
·         Lighting: The winter months are known for the beautiful Christmas lighting that most people use to decorate their homes as well as outdoors. Lights can be used to highlight a beautiful shrub or even a barren bark tree, making the outdoors sparkle and shine. The kind of lighting you use and the way in which you place it will depend on the kind of look you are seeking.

Landscaping ideas for winters are aplenty and all it needs is some ingenuity, creativity and planning and voila! You will have a beautiful garden that reflects your personality in its true sense. Therefore, use these tips as mentioned above to add some color and zing to your winter landscape irrespective of whether it’s bone-freezing cold or just a little chilly.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Garden Fireplace Design Ideas

Fireplaces are extremely beautiful settings, adding both value as well as a touch of elegance to your surroundings. While most people believe that fireplaces are meant for indoors, either in the living room or bed room; designers today are increasingly creating fireplaces that are for outdoors. Just imagine your backyard porch complete with a fireplace coupled with a barbecue or pizza oven and fire pit. Wouldn’t that make the place a completely relaxing getaway? You bet it will. If you are looking for ways to both enhance the beauty and add a touch of elegance to your outdoors, this is definitely the best way. However, despite its obvious value addition, not many are ready to invest in fireplace design ideas, largely due to their lack of awareness regarding what it entails as well as their apprehension with regard to actually constructing such a structure. Here are some simple yet beautiful design ideas, which you can easily create in your backyard:
·         Stone masonry is most common when it comes to creating outdoor fireplaces. The beauty of outdoor fireplaces is that you can actually create it somewhere in your garden or even on the patio. Stone masonry can impart a timeless, beautiful and elegant appeal to the fireplace. One such simple design is creating a stone fireplace in the middle of your garden, where the stones are not merely restricted to the fireplace but continue to pave the flooring, giving it a rustic and traditional feel.
·         Another very interesting design is that of a two way fireplace, somewhere on the south wall of your home, where you have one indoors as well as another outdoors. Being an extension of your home, this structure looks really beautiful, while adding elegance to the setting as well, thanks to the stone exterior. However, if you are someone who does not like exposed brick or stone on the outside, you could always have it painted in the same color as your external walls. Adding some wicker furniture or any other garden furniture will take your entire outdoor look to the next level.
·         Building your fireplace, especially the one outdoors, in a pergola is another way to enhance the beauty of the entire setting. There is no better way to keep the romance in your life flowing than by relaxing in a structure that not only boasts of beauty but will also keep you warm in the fall and winter.
·         Different styles of fireplaces can be adopted depending on the style you want to create in your outdoors. Mediterranean style of fireplaces, fireplaces in white stone, fireplaces near your pool area or even some with water works flowing near it are all designs that are beautiful and can be easily built. Before finalizing a fireplace design, what’s most important is to determine the kind of look you want for your outdoors and the location where you want your fireplace to be. Once these are decided, it is easy to take your pick from several designs and styles that you can find.

The kind of fireplace you want to use for your outdoors is another important decision to be made. This could include good old traditional stone fireplaces or even the more modern and contemporary ones. The decision should solely be based on the kind of exteriors you have and the setting you want to create. It is important to note that fireplaces for outdoors can be built in both small areas as well as larger ones, and irrespective of what your choice is, they can still create a relaxing getaway where you can wash away your blues or host a party. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gardening tips

Whether you are a beginner or a learned gardener who loves his patch of green and toils hard to make the landscape look stunning and inviting, a little help, especially from the experts, can go a long way. What’s more, armed with some gardening tips from experts, you can work smarter and yet have great results to show off. So, here is some little hard-won wisdom from those who know all about gardening inside out: 

·         Plan ahead: Gardening shouldn’t be a rushed job. Rather, you should plan ahead for the kind of trees and plants that you want your landscape to display. According to gardening experts and landscaping professionals, it’s ideal to plan a year ahead for annuals. In case you want to opt for biennials, the planning should start two years in advance, while those looking to plant trees should have a blueprint chalked out quite a few years ahead of the day when actual work starts.
·         Know about 4 L’s of gardening: The loam (soil) of the garden is a quarter of the battle. Another quarter is the light in a garden. The ability of the gardener as well as the love and care s/he takes is the third quarter that matters. The fourth and final quarter is luck. Therefore, to become a good gardener, you need to follow these four L’s in the following order of significance: Loam, Light, Love and Luck.
·         Know you climate: The continental United States is divided into eight climate zones. You need to know your zone and have a clear idea about the types of plants that are best suited for your region. Gardening experts also advise about determining the climate of your individual garden bed with respect to factors like if it receives plenty of sun, has shady areas, or has dark corners etc. It’s also important for you to check if your garden is protected from wind, as your less hardy plants can get damaged if they are in the direct path of winds.
·         Know and improve your soil: You should determine the type of soil on your site as it will help guide your landscape management approach, including soil preparation, watering, planting and feeding. You should feed your soil (with compost, shredded leaves, composted manure, seaweed etc) well as it’s the foundation of every successful garden. Experts emphasize on the need of regular testing of your soil, because it will help you manage your landscape pro-actively and on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting for a problem to crop up and act only when it does.
·         Ensure proper water management: For the survival of your trees, shrubs and plants, it’s important to ensure that they get optimum water quality. Again, you should avoid wastage by having a well planned water management system in place. Sticking to simple and time tested rules too can help. For instance, you should always water in the early morning as it reduces loss to evaporation and facilitates foliage to dry off more quickly, thus helping them to steer clear of diseases that occur due to moist and damp conditions.
·         Weeds and pests: Use pesticides and more importantly, organic and natural methods, to keep your foliage away from pests and diseases. Many gardening experts’ advice taking a walk through one’s garden to scout for insects and diseases at least once every week. After all, when you catch the earliest signs of trouble and take the necessary steps, you can save yourself a lot of trouble, which would have been there if the pests and weeds were allowed a free run.
Gardening is a tough job that demands you to pay attention and take a close look at your landscape to comprehend nature’s intricate network of soil, plants, insects, wildlife, sun and water. The greater your awareness is about these factors, the better you will know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. Therefore, use these gardening tips from experts to create your dream patch of green.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Water-Smart Landscaping Tips

Water is the most important and precious commodity today. Unfortunately, this is also one commodity, which is not available in as much abundance as it was available in the earlier days. The harsh summers, droughts and the unrelenting use of water to meet the daily needs of everyone – all these factors have led to its scarcity in certain regions. Under these circumstances, it is quite obvious that water conservation is one of the most prominent concerns today. When you consider the amount of water that is used outdoors, using water in a smart way is definitely the need of the hour. Water-smart landscaping is all about how you can use water outdoors in a more efficient manner, without incurring any wastage, and yet having the most beautifully landscaped garden. Here are some tips on how you can incorporate water-smart landscaping to suit your needs while not compromising on the beauty of your outdoors:
·         Choose your plants wisely: One of the most important ways in which you can actually save water from being overused outdoors is to choose your plants wisely. Planning your landscaping well in advance is one small way to get started. This would mean studying the climatic conditions of your town or community and choosing plants that are native to that region. Additionally, you could also opt for plants or shrubs that require less water to ensure that you save more while still being able to have a beautifully landscaped outdoor. As mentioned earlier, planning is the key to successful water-smart landscaping. This means having a vision on how you want your landscape to look, once it is finished. This will help you choose wisely.
·         Grouping plants with similar water needs: Another way to a water-smart landscape is to put plants with similar water needs together or close to each other. This will create special hydrozones that will allow you to water the area according to its specific needs, instead of watering each plant separately. Make sure that you separate the turf from the shrubs as both have different watering needs.
·         Limiting or planning well your turf area: Turf area requires the maximum water and by limiting its expanse or choosing well in terms of what kind of turf you require, you can actually save water usage outdoors. When designing the turf area in your outdoors, make sure that you use it only where it is absolutely necessary, like a play area, and avoid where it is not required for any practical purpose.
·         Healthy soils: When planning your water-smart landscape, make sure that you always use healthy soil, which is rich in nutrients, and has the capability of retaining water. Using mulch or any other organic fertilizer will help make the soil rich and healthy, apart from facilitating it to retain more water, which in turn would mean that you have to water these areas less frequently. Mulch is perfect for helping the soil retain water by reducing the extent of evaporation. It also helps in maintaining the right temperature of the soil while also reducing the extent of erosion. Air circulation increases when you add mulch, which again helps in extensive water retention.
·         Watering habits and irrigation: Finally, when you are planning to help reduce water consumption outdoors, it is important to change your watering habits. Make sure that you water your plants when it is cooler to enable more retention. Moreover, make use of irrigation techniques that will use water more efficiently and ensure healthy plants.

Water-smart landscaping is not really difficult if you use the above tips. Though it is hard work, at least in the beginning, the best part is that it is totally worth your effort.