Great Fall Gardens: How to Get the Look

Autumn brings spectacular colors to your landscape, whether it’s from the trees turning color, plants blooming in familiar fall colors of yellow and red, ornamental grasses that finish out the season with their feathery tassel-like blooms, or containers planted with frost-tolerant blooms that last well into the end of the year. You can make the most of your fall outdoor home décor with these inspirational ideas and tips.


Nothing sets the tone for fall color quite like drifts of native goldenrod (Solidago). Pair it with natural-looking bristle brush ornamental grasses punctuated with a blue-green-hued cedar tree. Plan ahead to achieve this look by planting a large area with perennial goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’, a shorter, fuller version of the wild variety) surrounding a cedar tree — or, similarly, a blue spruce tree planted in the spring. Edge the area with a large swath of ornamental grasses.

·         Get the Look

Prepare a sunny site by amending the soil with a rich layer of compost, tilling it in to the existing topsoil to a depth of about 8 to 12 inches. Plant the tree first, then give it a skirt of the goldenrod. Plant an area of at least 10 to 20 feet around the tree with plants closely spaced to about a foot apart for a lush, full look. Plant a large area with the Pennisetum sataceum “Rubrum” grasses nearby, perhaps in groups on either side or behind the goldenrod.

Water well during dry weather and stand back. By early fall, the goldenrod will start sprouting yellow buds, then burst forth with a wash of blooms as the grasses send up their bristle blooms. Leave the plants in place and they’ll reward you year after year with their spectacular display.




Create a mixed border of small trees such as crab apples, Japanese maples or dogwoods, shrubs such as Berberis and boxwoods, plus perennials such as hardy yuccas, catmint and Heuchera. All of these will lend their colorful fall leaves and textures to the autumn display. Fall-blooming Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) sends up its tall stalks topped with creamy white blooms punctuated with bright yellow centers. If conditions are right, the cool fall air will encourage many perennials to send out a second wave of bloom that lasts well into the fall.

·         Get the Look

Select a sunny location in your yard, perhaps backed by a wooded area, a stand of taller evergreens or a fence. In the spring, till in lots of rich compost to the area to a depth of about 12 inches. Plant the trees first, giving them plenty of space to grow. Next, plant the shrubs in groups of three or five (odd numbers of plants will give the area a more natural look). Finally, fill in the spaces with odd numbers of perennials in groups, repeating as you go along the length of the border.

Be sure to include plants that drape, stand upright or can be trimmed into globe shapes for architectural interest. Give the plants plenty of water the first year or two until they are established. As the weather cools, the plants will delight with their changing hues.




Colorful pots in autumnal hues filled with frost-tolerant plants will add pops of color to your deck or patio. Scour garden centers in the fall for blooming plants such as asters, Montauk daisies, ornamental kale and chrysanthemums that you can plant now for instant blasts of color. Or pull out annuals that have finished blooming at the end of summer and replace them with plants that can take the cooler weather and still provide colorful interest. Create vignettes using pumpkins and squashes readily available at farm stands and garden centers. Group several pots together, then place the fall bounty nearby for a seasonal display.

·         Get the Look

For this seasonal look, hollow out a large pumpkin that can hold a six- or eight-inch plastic pot. Punch some half-inch wide holes in the bottom of the pumpkin to provide drainage for the plant. Fill the plastic pot with potting soil and plant with frost-tolerant Cool Wave White pansies (

Water well and let it drain, then place the pot inside the pumpkin with the top of the pot meeting the top of the pumpkin. You might need to place a brick or some rocks in the bottom of the pumpkin to raise up the pot. Place in a sunny location and keep the pot watered but not wet. Plant yellow pansies in a planter nearby. In the spring, plant the pansies near the edge of your garden beds.

Spring Garden Preparation 101

As spring approaches, avid gardeners begin to get that familiar urge to get their green thumbs outside and into the dirt. But if this spring will be your first foray into the world of perennials and pruning, the many garden tasks at hand can feel daunting. Ease into it by following these simple spring garden preparation tips.

1. Stock the Tool Shed
Every gardener needs the right tools to get the job done. Here’s your basic spring garden list (which will of course depend on the type of gardening you plan to tackle):

  • Standard shovel and spade
  • Metal rake
  • Hoe
  • Trowel (a mini-spade)
  • Spading fork
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Watering can or garden hose with adjustable nozzles
  • Tool caddy 

2. Prepare
If you’ve inherited a yard, you’ll want to ensure it’s ready for planting. First, remove any of last year’s perennial plantings. Then rake plant beds, taking care to see if any contain bulbs hidden beneath the surface. Refresh the mulch in your planting areas to ensure a nice, warm planting zone. 

3. Prune
Dead and damaged branches need be removed in order to promote new growth. Also be on the lookout for plants that may be diseased, and prune those areas too.

4. Make Your Beds
As soon as your soil is soft enough to work with (frozen ground is no one’s friend!), remove weeds and other debris. If you don’t yet have a compost bin, spring is a great time to start one. Spread a thick layer of compost on your plant beds and work it about a foot into the soil with your spading fork — the compost will help enrich the soil to promote healthy plants.

5. Shop and Plant
Visit your local garden center to find seasonal plants that catch your eye. Ask an on-hand expert to help guide you with the perfect plantings for your yard, taking into consideration the amount of sunlight each plant bed receives. Once you have your plants in tow, choose a cool, cloudy day to begin planting — or aim for early in the morning before the sun is too warm. Before planting, though, be sure that all threat of frost is gone. You may need to wait a few weeks.

6. Feed Your New Friends
When new growth appears, fertilize all plant beds with a quality balanced fertilizer. If you have fruit trees, now is a good time to fertilize them as well. Acid-loving shrubs, such as azaleas and camellias, should get a dose of high-acid fertilizer and pine-needle mulch. 

7. Begin to Sow
If you have an interest in growing a garden from those adorable little seed packets at your local garden center, now is when you should begin sowing cool-season veggies such as lettuce, spinach and parsley, as well as flowers such as sweet peas, calendula and poppies.

8. Take the Lay of the Lawn
If you don’t have one already, now is the best time to start a new lawn from seeds. Check with your local garden center on the best grass for your area. If you already have a lawn, you’ll want to start mowing in early spring to encourage growth — but don’t cut the grass too short at first. Make sure it’s growing in a healthy way before mowing at your preferred height.

9. Remember the Birds
Consider adding a little something extra to your yard for your feathered friends, who begin to make an appearance around this time of year. Check your local garden center for pretty bird baths and feeders to attract birds that are native to your area.


How to Decorate with Houseplants

Whether or not you have a green thumb or an affinity for indoor herb gardens, there’s no question that houseplants add a decorative interest to any interior — as long as they’re kept alive, of course! From color, shape, texture and general eye-catching appeal, the options of plants (and planters) are seemingly endless.

How should you add houseplants to your interior décor? Follow these tips and considerations from Julia Mack, an interior designer based in Brooklyn, New York.

Keep Proportion in Mind
Knowing the proportion and potential growth of a houseplant before you purchase it will help determine the quantity of plants that your space will require. For instance, a small, sunny den may need only one tree and one tabletop plant to improve the space. But a large, sky-lit family room with a glass door leading to a deck or patio could likely handle two or three groupings of floor plants at a variety of heights. Ask your local home or garden store how large each plant will eventually grow to help you plan the amount of space that will be needed, as well as the number and size of accompanying plants.

Add Plants to the Kitchen
When adding houseplants to your interior décor, many people start with the living room. But kitchens also benefit from a little greenery — particularly indoor herb gardens. A small indoor herb garden placed on a sunny windowsill or hung on a sunlit wall will provide instant gratification — and your meals will reap the benefits too. Easy-to-grow rosemary, basil, thyme and parsley will flourish throughout cold months and will transition easily to the outdoors in summer.

Consider Your Lifestyle
Selecting houseplants that fit your lifestyle is also important. Some varieties require regular watering and maintenance, so you’ll want to keep your travel schedule in mind when making your selections. If plant maintenance is low on your to-do list, consider cacti or succulents, which require a minimum amount of work to stay both healthy and strong.

Planters = Accessories
Treat planters as an additional accessory in any room and choose styles that complement your existing interior décor. For a room with wood floors and earthy colors, try a bamboo basket or teak planter. A room with antique or period-style furnishings would be enhanced by copper, pewter or antique brass planters. And a modern space would surely pop with sparkling white porcelain or ceramic containers and modern stainless steel planters.

Easy Lawn Renovation Tips to Get Your Yard in Shape

Patches of grass die or thin out for a variety of reasons, but all is not lost. With a little work, some grass seed and water, your lawn will be looking lovely in no time!

Skill level: Intermediate

Tools & Materials:

Power rake (optional)
Core aerator
Grass seed

Before you get started treating your lawn, it’s helpful to have an idea of what caused a problem. A common culprit is overgrown thatch: the matted-down plant debris, such as clippings, leaf pieces or small twigs, found at the base of grass. Another culprit is having the wrong type of grass for your area. And of course, grass can also die if the lawn hasn’t been watered or fertilized properly.

Whatever the cause, taking a couple of steps will get your lawn back on track. Use the tips below to lightly break up the soil and spread the appropriate type of grass seed.


Soil can be loosened in several ways. To renovate a small section of your lawn, use hand tools. In an area where the grass is completely dead, rake up and discard all the plant debris. Simply rake deep into the soil and you’ll be ready to spread the seed. If there are bare patches, just loosen the soil.

Removing thatch from your lawn protects your grass from disease, encourages proper air circulation and allows water to penetrate into the soil. Consider renting a power rake, which is useful for vigorously lifting thatch. The process also creates areas of bare soil where new grass seed can make their start. Run the power rake over the area twice, in different directions, and remove all the debris.

Aerating your lawn can also help grass grow. Aerating equipment, like a core aerator, punches through the thatch and into the ground to extract small cores of soil, which are then deposited on top of the lawn. This process will pep up your entire lawn by improving its ability to access water, boosting airflow and creating opportunities for new grass seed to thrive.


For seeding success, use quality seed that is right for your area. Also make sure the seed makes contact with the soil and keep the area moist.

Grass seed is developed for many different purposes and regions. For areas that get more than six hours of sun a day, select a seed suitable for a sunny area. Similarly, seed developed for shady areas will perform better with less light. Choose a fast-growing variety to fill in your lawn quickly. If drought has caused your lawn to fail, try planting a more drought-tolerant variety.

When you’re ready to plant the grass, check the packaging for application rates. A spreader ensures that enough seed is planted while preventing waste. Walk the spreader through the area in two directions to seed evenly. It’s not necessary to cover the seed with soil. You can cover with a light layer of straw.

Proper watering is also crucial. Seed must stay evenly moist to germinate. Water daily for two to three weeks. In hot weather, water twice daily.

With a little attention, bare patches and thin spots will be transformed into a lush lawn.

Conserving water in the garden – 10 tips

Conserving water and sticking to your budget this summer go hand in hand. Keep this fact in mind: As much as 40 percent of our water usage during the warmer months goes toward keeping our lawns and gardens green. By conserving water in the garden you can save water and money.

Saving water outdoors  is actually pretty simple. And there are many ways in which you can cut back and have an impact. Try these 10 simple outdoor water conservation tips to cut back on your water usage this summer and save some money in the process.

Water Conservation Tip Number 1: You can save water by using a drip irrigation system to water container gardens, trees and shrubs. A typical spray irrigation system wastes water by spraying it into the air. Much of that sprayed water evaporates before it reaches the plants, especially in hotter temperatures.

Water Conservation Tip Number 2: Saving water on your sprinkler system is easy if you install a rain sensor, which ensures it won’t turn on unnecessarily during rainfall. Moisture sensors are great as well; they detect when dew has formed overnight so you don’t need to water the lawn as often.

Water Conservation Tip Number 3: How can you save water with plants? Native plants, which are available at most of your local plant nurseries, are generally more tolerant of the weather conditions in your area, including typical rainfall amounts, and thus require less frequent watering.

Water Conservation Tip Number 4: A good way to conserve water is by fixing drippy outdoor faucets? Fix them! Even a slight leak adds up over time. Start by tightening the nut behind the faucet handle with a wrench. If this doesn’t do the trick, hit your local hardware store for more specific instructions on fixing your system.

Water Conservation Tip Number 5: Rain barrels will also help you save water (Fiskars has good, affordable options). Place them at the end of your gutters to collect rainwater. Use the collected water to hydrate your plants, wash the car and fill birdbaths.

Water Conservation Tip Number 6: Purchase a downspout extension, which will allow you to direct rainwater to the places that need it most — instead of it just dribbling off the side of your house into a wasteful space!

Water Conservation Tip Number 7: Have a pool? Use a bubble-wrap pool water cover when it’s not in use. The cover sits on top of the surface of the water and helps keep pool water from evaporating, so there’s no need to top it off as often.

Water Conservation Tip Number 8: Invest in some mulch! Adding a 2- or 3-inch layer of quality mulch in plant beds helps them retain moisture, thus requiring less water.

Water Conservation Tip Number 9: Replace leaky hoses (Neverkink is a well-tested brand that doesn’t tangle or kink, which is the primary cause of leaks) and nozzles. Also replace the rubber washers on the connections between the hose and the house and/or between the hose and the nozzle. These easy, inexpensive fixes will save you money in the long run.

Water Conservation Tip Number 10: Aim to do all your watering first thing in the morning when it’s cooler. This will ensure that less water will be lost to evaporation.