»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Happy Earth Day You Pansy
Apr 22nd, 2010 by

To celebrate Earth Day today, plant something.

To celebrate Earth Day today, plant something.

Pansies get a bum rap.

Sure, they’re pretty and delicate-looking but they’re also one of the toughest little flowers. They can stand up to high winds, torrential rain storms, and temperatures that dip near the freezing point. And that’s why if you can’t wait another month for the weather to warm up in the Boston area your best bet is to plant pansies.

Lowe’s and Home Depot already have geraniums and petunias in stock but I wouldn’t risk buying them until the last week in May.

The RootsLiving gardeners purchased a bunch of pansies this week and planted them in window boxes and a few decorative urns. They’ll provide spring color until next month when our attention will turn to warm summer winds.

Container plants are a great way to supplement color in tulip beds.

Container plants are a great way to supplement color in tulip beds.

Tips on Container Planting For Novice Gardeners

Buy a bag of potting soil and fill up the container. Do not pack the dirt down.

Stick your fingers in the dirt and dig a small hole as deep as the dirt/root ball you’ll be putting in it. Now, pinch the dirt up at the bottom of the hole to create a small hill inside the hole.

Tap and/or pinch the bottom of the throw-away plastic container that came with your plant. Gently tip the container over to release the plant.

Split the rootball in half gently with your fingers and place each half of the rootball over the small hill you made inside the hole. (The reason you do this is because the roots of the plant have been squished in a small container and the plant’s survival depends on it being able to extend its roots into the new container.)

Fill in the hole, making sure that where the stem of the plant meets the soil is just a little higher than the surrounding soil.

Water.

Here's a neat trick. This bowl of flowers fit perfectly on top of this urn..

Here's a neat trick. This bowl of flowers fit perfectly on top of this urn.

‘Beacon Hill’ Backyard Makeover (Slideshow included)
Aug 3rd, 2009 by

Here's the RootsLiving backyard after a "Beacon Hill" makeover.

Here's the RootsLiving backyard after a "Beacon Hill" makeover.

(Click here or the photo above to see a slideshow of the new backyard. To watch it full screen, click on the arrows in the lower right corner of the slideshow.)

Last year, I wanted to turn my small backyard in Malden, Mass. into something rivaling a Beacon Hill garden.

And this is what the yard looked like before the makeover.

And this is what the yard looked like before the makeover.

My home is right outside of Malden Square and friends and family are often surprised at the amount of privacy we have: we have more privacy in the heart of the city than most people have in more suburban neighborhoods.

Yet, the yard was run down so I sought inspiration on Beacon Hill. Every year the Beacon Hill Garden Club has a tour of the hidden gardens there and so as news editor of Boston.com I conveniently decided I would create a photo gallery of the tour.

I knew I wanted to replace the old, crumbling asphalt walkway with bricks and extend the brickwork into a small patio. I also knew I wanted to add some small trees and bushes along the back fence. And I also knew none of this would be cheap, so I did what I usually do before starting a big project: I consulted a design expert so I wouldn’t miss any unforeseen opportunities to improve the yard.

This peace of mind cost about $250. For that, landscape designer Sally Muspratt came to my house and gave me suggestions for about an hour. She liked my basic plan and told me the best way to accomplish it by making a few structural suggestions and by letting me know what plants would do well in each area of the yard.

Here's another look at my urban oasis before improvements were made.

Here's another look at my urban oasis before improvements were made.

And here's the after-shot of the same scene, after the work was done.

And here's the "after" shot of the same scene.

The most important thing she told me was not to waste money planting along the back fence, because a Norway Maple tree in the neighbor’s yard was putting its roots into my yard and would make it difficult for anything to survive. Instead, she suggested I build raised beds there where small trees and shrubs would be able to put down their roots.

I decided to buy the raised beds online at a site called, Naturalyards. And I also decided to buy two trellises; one in each raised bed at Trellis Structures. My friend, Jay Martinez (who works in engineering) supervised and helped install the trellises and build the beds. He also lent me his wheelbarrow, which came in handy when the local nursery dumped five yards of dirt in my driveway for the beds.

The two L-shapped raised beds are mirror images of each other. I planted the same plants in the same location in each one: two Japanese Stewartia trees; two climbing hydrangeas to climb up the trellises; two Japanese Maple trees; six low-bush blueberry plants; two Virginia Sweetspire; and two Redvein Enkianthus.

A look at the side yard before the makeover.

A look at the side yard before the makeover.

And a look at the side yard now.

And a look at the side yard now. Bricks replaced broken asphalt and cobblestones replaced crumbling cement borders.

All of the plants are historically accurate to go with my 1848 house. In other words, most of these plants were readily available in the Boston area during the second half of the 19th century.

For the brick walkway and patio, I got three bids and they ranged from about $5,000 to $15,000. I went with the lowest bid, not only because of the price, but also because I had used these masons before and was a big fan of their work.

After the structural elements were in place, I tended to the smaller details: replacing an old, worn out patio table with a funky, painted, farm table; adding urns, window boxes and planters filled with flowers; and even stepping up the efficiency of my barbecue area by adding a baker’s rack someone was throwing out in the trash.

I may not be able to afford to live on Beacon Hill just yet, but now when I step in my yard, I feel like I’ve arrived.

(Photos and text by Mark Micheli)

Check out other RootsLiving home projects.

Under the Summer Moon
Jun 19th, 2009 by

Video: Watch this Moonflower open up in real time.

Video: Watch this Moonflower open up in real time.

It’s not too late: not too late to start planning to see one of the most amazing natural phenomenon of summer. I’m talking about Moonflowers (includes audio).

They are the exact opposite of Morning Glories. Instead of blooming each morning, Moonflowers bloom each evening: large 6-inch or more white flowers pop open right before your eyes in a matter of a minute or two.

Video: Even Carlos Santana's guitar sang the praises of the Moonflower. (Photo courtesy of focusonthemusic.com on Flickr)

Video: Even Carlos Santana's guitar sang the praises of the Moonflower. (Photo courtesy of focusonthemusic.com on Flickr)

You can still get these babies at most local nurseries. I picked up a few at Mahoney’s in Winchester, along with a few Morning Glories. I like to plant them side-by-side and have them twine up along my 2 front-stair railings.

The Moonflower plant, just home from the nursery.

The Moonflower plant, just home from the nursery.

But the ideal place to plant them is somewhere you’ll be at night: maybe your back deck or patio or near your outdoor firepit, or perhaps along the fence of your swimming pool. That way you’ll be certain to see them.

And because they only take a minute or two to open each evening you can watch this phenomenon in less time than it takes you to finish that glass of Chianti. Cheers!

»  ¬©2010 RootsLiving; Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa