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Karen Skandalaris

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  1. A true plant lover! It's great to here I'm not the only one who would drag buckets into the woods! I think I've tried it all... buckets, soaker hoses, even siphoning water from a stream. I once considered burying a cistern in the woods. The soaker hoses worked great for me as well but I just covered them with leaves and forest floor litter rather then burry them. If buried it's just one more thing I might hit when I dig to plant something else. Garden centers and catalogs sell a hose spigot on a metal post that you can attach the soaker to. Place it somewhere easy to access then just attach your regular hose to the other end of it when you want to water. I also used a timer because you want a long soak and l always kept forgetting to turn it off. Don't forget to mulch well with leaves or leaf mulch if possible, try to select plants that are native, and plant smaller. A less mature tree or shrub will acclimate faster and it's less costly if it dies.
  2. My Italian grandfather wove willow baskets for use in his home and gardens. After he was done soaking the willow branches in water he always used that water in his garden. He said it was good for the plant roots. He also always put a cut willow twig in water when starting cuttings from plants.
  3. Whenever I try to create a theme landscape I focus first on the hardscape to set the stage for plantings. This way when you make plant substitutions (because of climate) they are much more believable. Hardscape elements that come to mind for a Tuscan landscape are: White stone and white washed architecture white stone paver tiles, terracotta and stone pots (large), Iron arbors over walkways, fountains, cut stone walls, gravel paths, patios and gravel in between pavers. I also try not to get too hung up on finding precise matches for plant substitutes, focusing more on recreating the overall effect of the plants and hardscape combined. To me Tuscany has a special balance of refinement and wildness. For example the narrow formal look of Cypress trees against a back drop of rolling hills and wild brush. Or large grand pots staged along a path overflowing with bougainvillea. I grow Bougainvillea “pot in pot”, cut back in fall, keep in the house and bring back out in spring. The look of Cypress and rolling hills is bit harder to recreate without knowing exactly how much space you have or seeing a picture. In Tuscany cypress trees line streets and drives, surround patios, gardens and courtyards. They are planted well enough apart from each other to stand as individual sentinels, defining garden areas and ales from the greater landscape. If you don't have a lot of space you could even use dwarf (narrow) evergreens as small recreations of that effect along a walk or at the edge of a garden. Don't over look the power of fragrance to set the theme. Plant rosemary in pots and lavender near walkways. Plant thyme in between pavers and Jasmine in pots. Look for large fragrant roses with tightly packed double petal type flowers… all commonly found in Tuscany. The sky and even light and air in Tuscany have a unique blue cast. Try using plants with dusty blue foliage to get that feel while at the same time mimicking the color of the olive trees. A butterfly bush with a soft flower color as a back ground might work. Oregano (there are ornamental varieties) also has a bluefish cast and is often seen in Tuscan landscapes. Bring in bright clear greens to contrast. Flower colors often used are red, blues and whites. For summer long color consider; Red and white geraniums and Dahlias or blue salvias and verbenas, white roses and petunias. I love the sophisticated look of dusty blue and clear green foliage with just white flowers Now to your specific questions… I don't really think of specimen trees for a Tuscan landscape. Often focal points are fountains or sculptural elements, or groupings of pots. Many trees planted near homes in Tuscany are selected for their usefulness… apple, fig, lemon, and olive. So for a small ornamental you might consider a dwarf apple, crab apple or pear. And finally consider a grape vine or wisteria… Even if the wisteria never flowers its form and foliage lend an air of “old world”. Neither are small vines I know but on a sturdy iron arbor or a support attached along an entire wall of the home they could help transport you to Tuscany.
  4. I made a rock from chicken wire and concrete. I used concrete stain in various colors to make it look realistic. You can get a plastic fake rock but they don't look that much like a rock.
  5. After some trial and error I found that yes a 10" picture will load easily but when it displays in the post the right edge is cut off. You can click on it and it will show the whole picture. Or what I did was reduce the width of the picture to about 4.5" ( before attaching) then the whole image shows with out clicking on it. Gosh I would have saved alot of trial and error if I had looked here first at Steves how to!
  6. The plan view of your house and drive helps. Based on what you've said I'll just guess where the septic field and tank are. I love Janet's ideas but I'm going to take a few steps backward in the design process and make some suggestions of things to think about when planting in your front yard. You need to maintain access for a truck to get near your tank for cleaning or if you need to have the tank replaced. It needs to not be directly over the septic field itself. See the dotted line going from the drive to my guess at where the tank and field are. If you have access on the other side of the tank your all set. If not leave access off the drive. I would take Janet's designed bed and shift it so that it exists on both sides of the drive. See drive area on my drawing. This would help screen the view of the parked cars on the concrete pad and of what appears to be an out building in the back yard. It would also help focus the viewer's eye on the house and front entry. This could be further emphasized by doing a small bed to the left front. It would probably be much further over towards the property line then I have indicated. I do think something more interesting is needed close to the house but because you may need to maintain access and again screen views of the cars and back yard, I would put a larger bed with a focal point plant near the right corner of the house. I know your walkway probably doesn't look as I've indicated… just a suggestion of how you might get that bigger bed and have it tie in with a new walk. Don't get me wrong, I love ponds and water features, but I would not make the investment of time and money for the left of the house location. A water feature needs to be somewhere you will really enjoy seeing it close up, hearing it and keeping an eye on possible problems. Believe me you want to know if something happens to cause loss of water when you invest in an expensive pump. And three times now I've rescued my goldfish when I looked out the windowto see one flopping on the patio.
  7. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) lists peat free and sustainable potting soils. Their search options are limited unless you subscribe. However under links on their home page you will find a great list of resources and organizations concerning organic farming and gardening. Coir is one coco based soil and I have also seen another called Roots Organic at my local hydroponics store There are plugs used for hydroponic cuttings that would be perfect if they sold it as a potting soil. They don't I checked. But the hydroponics industry might be one place to look for sustainable potting soils and bio-degradable non soil alternatives.
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