The 4 Things To Know About Perennial Garden Design

Our last hurrah

When it comes to designing are garden it can be difficult to know where to even start. Even if the garden already has a rough layout, it’s difficult to say which plants go where, how they should be planted and what combinations will work.

Over time you’ll develop an instinct for this kind of thing, but here are a few things that you should bear in mind until those instincts kick in.

Make Your Flower Beds Wide

It’s a basic fact of garden design that a skimpy flower bed is nigh on impossible to make look good. Give those beds plenty of breadth, ideally at least a foot of width for every three feet of length. If you’ve got a fifteen foot perennial flower bed it should be at least five feet wide. That said, you don’t want beds any wider than ten to fifteen feet wide, otherwise people will have trouble seeing the flowers at the back of the bed!

Plant Thickly

Do you enjoy looking at dirt? Of course you don’t, nobody does. It’s dirty, it’s brown, it occasionally has worms crawling out of it, it’s not anybody’s idea of an aesthetic treat. So why make the visitors your garden look at it Pack those perennial flower beds so that there is barely an inch of soil visible between them. If there are bare spaces it looks like the plants are too young, or you’re too cheap to get enough plants.

Make Sure the Garden Reflects Your Tastes

Like anyone who does anything creative, a gardener’s work should tell you a little about his or herself. It’s an expression of their tastes and personality. So bear that in mind when planning your garden. Take a look at the surroundings – if you’re creating a garden for a rickety cottage in the Cotswolds, there’s no point trying to go for the same regal atmosphere of a stately home.  But at the same time, always remember, this is your garden, and at the end of the day the first person you need to please is yourself.

Step Back

Gardeners spend an awful lot of our time on hands and knees, barely a nose’s distance away from the ground, working on all the hundreds of tiny details that make up a garden. But every so often it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the garden as a whole. There are essential questions you need to ask yourself about the garden, such as: What is the experience like when you walk through a garden, how do the opposite ends of the garden react to one another when they are  both in your eye line at the same time? Does this look like someone was creating it with a plan or just making it up as they went along? What’s the first emotion you feel as you step through the garden gate?

Getting the answers to these questions right can make the difference between a good gardener and a truly great one.

Featured images:

Rob Whitehead is the principal of the Pickard School of garden design.






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Painful Plants: Five Houseplants That Can Cause Injury

It’s not something that you hear about on the news all that often, but your houseplants might be a serious source of injury and illness for you, your family and your pets. Though most of us aren’t going around trying to ingest the flowers and plants growing in our gardens and homes, a curious cat or a child that leaves your sight for a minute can seriously injure themselves by touching, picking or eating a plant. While most of these plants won’t lead to death, knowing the potential dangers that might be lurking in your home is a great preventative step to avoiding a trip to the hospital or vet.

Chrysanthemum

These beautiful flowers with a very long name can be a great addition to your home’s garden or a vase at a dinner table. They’re also a great way to keep vermin such as rabbits from digging in your garden, and have insecticidal properties too. However, chrysanthemums can be potentially dangerous to children and curious pets wandering around in search of something to play with or munch on. The flowers, which are toxic, can cause irritation to the skin and lead to condition known as dermatitis if left untreated. Though not terribly injuring, chrysanthemums can lead to a need for allergy medication and cause severe inflammation of the skin.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea are incredibly alluring to children. To the young boy or girl with an active imagination, the puffy, colorful, bush-like plant can look appear quite similar to cotton candy. Hydrangeas, however, are anything but edible. Those who ingest the flowers of the plant can suffer from itching, sweating, weakness and vomiting. In severe cases, the plant can lead to even more severe conditions such as coma and blood circulation problems, and someone who ingests the plant may not experience the symptoms for several hours causing confusion to a less-than-knowledgeable parent. For pets, ingestion can lead to an unfortunate death. Though there is an antidote, preventing any negative side effects in the first place is obviously much easier and less nerve wracking for a concerned parent.

Aloe Vera

Though we usually associate this plant with its healing properties, and thus think it’s relatively safe to keep in our home, Aloe Vera can be a hidden danger in your home. Though the clear gel inside can be beneficial and soothing to burns are painful injuries, touching or ingestion of the outer skin and inner layers of the plant can lead to irritation of both the skin and intestines if swallowed. Thus, be careful when thinking this sometimes-beneficial plant can’t cause any harm to your child or pet!

Mistletoe

That’s right, the plant we typically associate with excuses for embarrassing kisses around the Christmas and Winter holidays can pose a significant harm to humans. Though usually hung far out of the reach of pets and small children, the berries of mistletoe are actually poisonous when ingested. Again, though most of the time the plant is far from prying and curious pets or children who might want to eat the berries, parents and pet owners should be careful when decorating their home not to leave the plant unattended and in reach of those vulnerable to its allure.

Daffodils

The Narcissus family of plants, which iare more commonly known to most as daffodils, are some of the most dangerous plants you might have in your garden or vase at home. Though they have a beautiful, cheery appearance and are often seen as the early signs of spring, their innocent appearance belies more serious potential dangers. Ingestion of their bulbs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, and even tremors. In some cases, ingestion of the bulbs can lead to a fatality if untreated. While a great addition to your garden, ensuring the safety of your children and pets is crucial when choosing to plant daffodils in your yard.

Meredith “Shelly” Troberman is a co-founder and lawyer at Carroll Troberman Law, an Austin, Texas based law office that represents clients in cases of criminal defense, injury and DWI cases. Though she’s never gone to court against a hydrangea, Troberman is serious about preventing all injury — big or small, and cares for the safety and well-being of everyone whether you’ve been in an accident with a drunk driver, or simply have a child who loves to explore and try the taste of the leaves of a houseplant.

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An Outbreak Shouldn’t Mean A Break Out: 3 Insect Repellants Gentle Enough For Your Skin

Insect repellent is a summer essential unless of course you want to become bug food within a matter of minutes. Bug bites can damage your skin causing blisters, scars, and some even carry diseases so you want to keep them at bay. While a good repellent can work wonders in keeping insects away, they can be oily, smelly and make you feel greasy and uncomfortable so what do you do? You look for one that repels the bugs, but doesn’t repulse you. Below you will find almost everything you need to know about insect repellent and how to find one with the active ingredients  that are right for you.

DEET

The strongest and most popular bug spray out on the market is DEET. It is America’s most used repellent a 2008 study showed that more than 200 million people use it worldwide. When used in high concentrations it is likely the most effective repellent on the market. As is the case with most chemicals, too much of a good thing turns out to be bad. If used too frequently, repellents with a high concentration of DEET can cause rashes, scarring and blisters. These conditions are rare and even less likely if you are diligent to wash your skin after you return indoors and the repellent is no longer necessary. If you are in a situation where a quick shower isn’t really possible—like a camping trip or long hike—then a wet  wipe or moist toilette should do the trick. Products like Off! Deep Woods Sportsmen,contains 30% DEET and tend to be longer lasting.

Lemon Eucalyptus oil

If you are looking for a natural solution to your bug biting problems then you should certainly consider the oil of lemon eucalyptus. It is one of only three repellents that are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency. It derives from a species of eucalyptus tree and research has shown that it is one of the most effective plant based insect repellents. You can find it in Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus, Bite Blocker Xtreme and Burts Bees All Natural Herbal.

Picaridin

This ingredient derives from pepper and is more widely available in Europe and Australia. In the United States it is used in lower concentrations that may be increased in time after more studies have been conducted. The repellent can irritate your eyes if there is direct contact, but there have been no signs or reports of it damaging or severely irritating anyone’s skin. It has also been shown that Picaridin lasts about 70% as long as DEET making it a close second to the more potent solution. It is the active ingredient in Natrapel 8-hour and Cutter Advanced which promotes having both a light and clean feel, and is fragrance free.

Keep in mind:

Insect repellent is a chemical and like most chemicals it shouldn’t be used on babies. The age limits vary based on the product and the potency, but most are consistent in their warning against the use on babies. When you apply insect repellent to children use your hands to rub it on them and never put it on their hands as they tend to put them in their mouths. Also remember to avoid using too much. Never spray in an enclosed area, and avoid places on the skin where there are wounds or irritated skin.  Only apply on the skin that is exposed and not under clothing. Lastly, to properly apply to your face, use your hands instead of spraying your face directly and never forget to wash it off after you are indoors.

Dr. Steven Zimmet is an Austin dermatologist at Zimmet Vein & Dermatology. His practice is dedicated to venous and dermatological advancements including body contouring, acne and sun damage treatment, and skin resurfacing.

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