Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Our vacuum tests show that some claims need deflating

Three Kenmore uprights lead the pack of the 10 new vacuums just added to Consumer Reports' Ratings, with fine performance where it matters. But it was the claims made for two other uprights, a Eureka and a Bissell, that most caught our attention. And when we put them to the test, we discovered they were a lot of hot air.

The bagless upright Eureka Suctionseal Pet AS1104A (see photo), $160, continues the assault against Dyson that we've reported on before, this time claiming the Suctionseal is "proven to clean carpets better than Dyson DC25 and DC41 for less than half the price." The Dyson DC25 has been discontinued, but in our tests the Eureka Suctionseal and Dyson DC41 scored identically for deep-cleaning carpets—mediocre.

The Eureka excelled at pet-hair pickup, one important point of distinction. The Suctionseal feature, however, was another matter. According to the manufacturer's website, "as you move across carpet, hardwood or tile floors the plates raise and lower, creating a seal to maximize airflow for powerful cleaning performance." But allergy sufferers take note: In our emissions test, which measures particulate matter in the air while a vacuum is running, the Suctionseal got a middling score—meaning it releases more particles into the air than most other vacuums we've tested.

Another bagless upright, the Bissell Total Floors Pet 61C5W, $140, claims to be a "powerful, multi-cyclonic vacuum with the odor-elimination power of Febreze!" Apart from the air-freshener component, we've seen better performance with other Bissells for less, such as the Bissell CleanView Helix Deluxe 71V9, $100. And the Total Floors was only mediocre at keeping in what it sucked up.

And if you have respiratory issues, you may want to think twice about the odor-elimination feature as well. In our recent report, Is poor indoor air quality making you sick? we warn against using certain products, such as air fresheners, if anyone in the household has serious allergies or asthma.

For people who appreciate it, the Febreze exhaust filter is a chief selling point. But if you decide you don't like the filter's scent after using the vacuum, you've got options. The exhaust filter for the Bissell CleanView Helix, sans Febreze, fits just right in the compartment of the Total Floors. Need a vacuum now? Check out our Ratings of 106 upright and canister vacuums, along with our buying advice.

Via: Our vacuum tests show that some claims need deflating

Holiday Fundraising Season

Using only the freshest Northwest greenery, Farmington Gardens is a local producer of outstandingly beautiful wreaths, swags, garland and door decorations. Once more, we offer a simple to follow program for fundraising and corporate giving.

Schools, churches, youth groups, sports associations and other organizations can take advantage of our attractive pricing to maximize their profits. Using our successful selling tools, top results are easy and done over a short period of time.

With little effort, businesses can show their holiday spirit and appreciation to their clients and employees. Top value but quality to be remembered!

Together, with our experience and excellent product, you can have a successful fundraiser and gift giving season.

See store for details or call us at 503.649.4568.

Via: Holiday Fundraising Season

Move over Siri. Introducing Iris, Lowe's smart home hub

First there was Siri, now there's Iris. While Siri can find a burger joint or hotel for iPhone user, Iris can help anyone with a smart phone, computer or tablet monitor their home from afar. Iris, a cloud-based home management system launched by Lowe's, can alert you when your child arrives home from school or enable you to remotely control your thermostat, lights and other home electronics.

Positioned by Lowe's as a low-cost alternative to other smart home systems, Iris will be available at 500 stores by the end of August in three different starter kits. Iris Safe & Secure, $179, uses motion and contact sensors to monitor home security. Iris Comfort & Control, also $179, uses a smart thermostat and smart plugs to allow homeowners to remotely control their home heating and cooling systems. The Iris Smart Kit, $299, combines both and can also accommodate other add-ons sold at Lowe's, natch.

As explained by Lowe's, the Iris Hub, which is connected to a home's broadband router, captures signals put out by smart devices. It's also compatible with WiFi devices. The hub relays the signals to the cloud from which they can be accessed and controlled via a smart phone or web-connected tablet or computer. While the basic service is free, for $9.99 a month Lowe's will provide more functionality including enhanced security monitoring, streaming video of your home and more energy-saving modes.

Lowe's claims that Iris is easy to install, but if all you're looking for is a way to control your energy use, you might want to consider a programmable thermostat instead. Consumer Reports just tested almost 40 thermostats and can recommend 10 of them. At $70, the Lux TX9600TS is a CR Best Buy. Similar models from Lux are sold at Lowe's and Ace hardware. Other top picks range in price from an $80 Honeywell to models from Ecobee and Aprilaire that both sell for $300.

Via: Move over Siri. Introducing Iris, Lowe's smart home hub

Another New Garden Revealed

Readers may remember when I revealed the front garden at my new rowhouse, complaining at the time that I couldnt plant anything in the back garden until construction was done. Well, after seven months of workers and inspectors and three-jurisdiction permit purgatory, my life is at last quiet. And heres where I spend hours a day on this 11 x 17-foot screened-in porch. A bug-free place to work and read and nap, with my three indoor cats. Heaven.

With the porch done, it was time to install the flagstone patio and walkway. Whats left for me to do is to plant more plants, and to make enough concrete pavers to form a path to the storage shed door. A DIY job right up my alley (no skill required).

Plant suggestions?
Above you see the largest area that needs filling in. At the back of this section, along the property line, I planted a Shasta doublefile viburnum, which you have to imagine at 15 or so feet tall, and a Ghost Weigela, which has yellow-green foliage and will soon be 5 x 5. In front of it are three Morning Light Miscanthus from my old garden, and then bare mulch awaiting maybe swaths of a couple of perennials. The space gets about four hours of sun.

Above you see the 3 Abelia species that I planted in April and have seen sprout up with impressive speed. Go, Abelia! Id never grown them before and had always loved their smell. To their right is a Fothergilla, another plant Id never grown before, and I must say its taking its sweet time growing.

Above is the view from the sidewalk at the bottom of the yard, where I planted three Cryptomerias to provide screening. Theyre gorgeous, soft to the touch, and grow surprisingly fast. To cover some of the shed Ive planted a crossvine and a climbing hydrangea.

Heres another somewhat empty and definitely problematic space between the porch and the neighbors privacy screen. On the left are some of the Blue Billow lacecrap hydrangeas I found on sale for 15 bucks each, and on the right, some of the Blue Maid hollies that are supposed to screen the screen. Im looking for someplace to hide the garden hose maybe one of those round terra cotta holders?

Problems, failures so far

  • Some of my new plants are dying! Yes, the Blue Maid hollies are infected with some fungal disease or other (according to the garden center diagnosticians) and you know how that goes those fungicides are much better at prevention than cure. So of the seven hollies I bought in April that are super-important for providing screening, one is gone and another is done for. Damn.
  • Speaking of screening, as I sit on my porch my primary view is of the back-neighbors storage area. So Im wishing Id spent more and bought Cryptomerias already tall enough to accomplish that job. (Patience is something I could use more of in this department.) I checked the before photo of the garden and noticed that a large burning bush did a splendid job of hiding the storage area, but I hated it and it had to go. So this is a case of things getting worse before they slowly get better.
  • Finally (for now), the soil here is crappy hard-packed clay. My original plan to hire someone to amend it with compost was itself amended by the reality of the humongous amount of compost involved almost a thousand bucks worth in bags, since theres noplace to dump a truckload. Instead, I paid a worker just to remove the existing shrubs that burning bush, and a bunch of misshapen azaleas. Soil amendment will have to come plant by plant, as I mix compost into each planting hole. Plus, Im counting on earthworms to turn the nice organic mulch Im using into decent topsoil, eventually. Maybe in time for the next gardener here.

Good news on the mulch front, at least. Theres a huge pile of the stuff just blocks away, free for the taking. My trusty Honda CRV gets called into action regularly for the hauling of mulch and is conveniently pre-dirtied, as my unwitting passengers can attest.

Click here to see a pdf of the garden in plan.

Via: Another New Garden Revealed

Monday, 30 July 2012

Whirlpool wins point in antidumping case against Samsung, LG

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) ruled today that several foreign manufacturers, including Samsung and LG, both of whom have many models on Consumer Reports' recommended lists, are selling washing machines in the U.S. at prices below their fair market value. The anti-dumping investigation came in response to a petition filed in December 2011 by Whirlpool Corporation, another frequent winner in our appliance tests. Today's ruling could result in price hikes for washing machines made overseas, though the case is far from over.

"The Commerce Department's preliminary finding shows that dumping is occurring, which supports the legal action we took on behalf of our employees and the U.S. appliance industry," said Whirlpool Corporation spokesperson Kristine Vernier, in the news release. "Whirlpool is committed to building products in the regions where they are sold and investing in our U.S. manufacturing presence. Our investments will continue as long as we can compete on a level playing field, with all of our foreign competitors playing by the established rules."

The U.S. plans to impose antidumping tariffs for Korean producers LG, Samsung, and Daewoo of 12.15 percent, 9.62 percent, and 79.11 percent, respectively. Cash deposit rates for Mexican producers Electrolux and Samsung are 33.30 percent and 72.41 percent, respectively. The DOC also announced a 72.41 percent cash deposit rate for Whirlpool's Mexican operations, though the company says it has stopped shipping washers from Mexico for sale in the U.S.

In an earlier antidumping case involving French-door bottom-freezers, the DOC also ruled against Samsung and LG. But the U.S. International Trade Commission then concluded that a U.S. industry was not materially injured or threatened by those actions, and so no duties could be imposed. The trade commission will weigh in on this case as well, though not until February 2013, after the DOC issues its final determination.

Via: Whirlpool wins point in antidumping case against Samsung, LG

No longer cursing the darkness

Although a meadow of drought-resistant wildflowers would be great, living under the shade of four big maple trees may be the next best thing. At least this year. This is the first time Garden Walk visitors have complimented me on my shade instead of commiserating. People were talking about hosta and colocasiatwo shade-lovers I use extensivelywith more interest than Ive ever noticed before.

Of course, there are plenty of interesting woodland natives. I am slightly hampered by the root systems that accompany the shade, but continual mulching and other top-down amending seem to alleviate the situation. And its fun to try the lesser-known shade natives. Thanks to an April visit to Plantsmen Nursery in Ithaca, my latest shade discovery is Collinsonia canadensis (stone root, horsebalm, other names). It was purchased on absolute trustnot one shoot of it was showing above the dirt of its pot. It took off quickly however, and now we have this lovely wildflower. The blooms are tiny and yellowyou can just about see them here, but a close-up would reveal a rather exotic little flower. I wish Id bought ten of these, but maybe it will spread.

Collinsonia has a number of medicinal uses; it apparently helps clear various congestions, though its unlikely Ill put it to the test. It is one of a number of new shade natives Ive added. Others include carex grayi (morningstar sedge), carex plantaginea (seersucker sedge), and many of the eupatoriums (which at least tolerate shade). Weve also had our oldest maple properly trimmed to prevent further storm losses. This is not the year to ignore tree healthif theres ever a year when that would be a good idea. This is a year for shade.

Via: No longer cursing the darkness

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Deter Foraging Deer with Natura

Natura products work initially by the smell and then by the taste. The deer are repelled by the fear associated with the smell. Yet, they are smart animals and, after a while, seem to sense that their fears are unfounded. They then come in for a tasty nibble and are surprised by the bitter taste. Off to other pastures they go.

Step One

Start by spraying your area or plants with this formula for an immediate protection.Plant Saver spray with dried blood, hot pepper and garlic oils provides immediate protection against deer & rabbit browsing damage. Lasts up to 3 months per application.

Step Two

Use tablets in soil to fertilize and introduce a bitter compound that the plant absorbs and causes the leaves to taste bitter. Active ingredients bitrex, fertilizer + mycorrhizal, become incorporated into plant leaves & foliage within 2-3 weeks. Remains active for up to 18 months!

Using a variety of different repellents is a good way to train the deer and rabbits to stay away from your yard.

75% OFF While Supplies Last

Via: Deter Foraging Deer with Natura

Please Stop Liming your Soil Based on the pH!

Guest Rant by Phil Nauta, author of Building Soils Naturally: Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners

Soil pH is talked about a lot in the gardening world, but most people dont understand it, so its generally misused.

Im here to rant about it. To simplify what pH is, its basically a measurement comparing how much hydrogen we have in our soil versus a handful of other nutrients mainly calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and aluminum. The more hydrogen we have, the lower our pH is the more acidic it is. The more of the other nutrients we have, the higher our pH is the more alkaline it is.

The scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral, but most soils are between 4 and 9. Its usually best to have a pH somewhere in the middle. Actually, between 6 and 7 is generally considered ideal, which is often be true, but this is where a mistake is often made. If your soil pH is 5.5, the common advice would be to add lime to raise the pH of our 5.5 soil, usually dolomite lime.

Dolomite is calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. The calcium and magnesium in the lime will probably knock some of the hydrogen out of the way. That will give us less hydrogen and more of these minerals, therefore raising the pH, at least in the short term.

So the problem is not that dolomite lime wont raise the pH, but that our pH test did not tell us if we actually needed calcium and magnesium. Perhaps we already have too much magnesium, or too much calcium. Its almost certain that we dont need both in the ratio that dolomite lime gives us. Adding more of the wrong nutrient is just going to make things worse. For example, too much magnesium causes some major compaction, among other things.

The reason Im ranting today is because I dont like to see my friends slowly destroying their soil with annual applications of lime, as recommended in in so many of their gardening books.

Looking at the other end of the scale, some high pH soils are due mostly to sodium and potassium, and they actually still need calcium and perhaps magnesium. We wouldnt know that if we just used the pH number as our basis for liming.

The pH does give us a clue that we may have a nutritional and microbial imbalance in our soil, but this gives us no information as to why that may be so. As such, its of very little use to us.

It is not that pH isnt important to plants and microbes. For the most part, were happy to have it be between 6 and 7 to have the healthiest plants.

Knowing the pH value, however, doesnt help us much with soil management decisions, and it certainly shouldnt be used to determine how much lime to add to the soil. pH is the result of the elements in our soil, not the cause.

Now, the reason were happy with a relatively neutral pH is that most nutrients, particularly the most essential nutrients, are most readily available to plants somewhere in the 6-7 pH range, gradually decreasing as the pH gets further up or down the scale. And a potential problem is that some micronutrients become more available outside this range, especially in low pH soil, sometimes to toxic quantities.

So its not that the acidity of a 4.5 pH soil is harmful in of itself; its that most nutrients arent as available to plants, and a few may be too available. Further, many microbes cant live at an extreme pH, so the soil food web will be lacking. But plants that are considered acid-loving dont actually love hydrogen. Instead, there are various benefits they may get out of a lower pH soil. They may just need certain trace minerals in abundance, and those trace minerals are more available in acidic soil. Or they may just need a fungal-dominated soil fungi decrease soil pH, so it may be that these plants dont care at all about the pH, and they just want their fungi.

Rhododendrons, for example, are often thought of as acid-loving. In reality, they love magnesium, which is sometimes more available at a low pH, and they arent particularly fond of calcium. Theyll grow just fine in a high pH soil if they have sufficient magnesium and lots of organic matter. Ive seen huge blueberry harvests on high pH soils.

Trying to make your soil acidic by applying peat moss or chemicals doesnt give the plants the nutrients they need or the biology they need. And trying to make it more alkaline by applying lime will often give the wrong nutrients, causing serious problems.

In my view, what we need to do is focus on a more holistic approach to soil management, such as creating high quality compost and using things like rock dust and seaweed in order to give the plants the chelated minerals they need.

And then the other important step is soil testing. A soil test will not only tell you your pH, but also which minerals need to be added back. It will rarely be dolomite lime.

When all of these factors are brought in line, the pH will follow.


Just leave a comment, preferably telling us what youve done to improve your soil. The winner will be chosen by Random.org.

Via: Please Stop Liming your Soil Based on the pH!

Friday, 27 July 2012

5 Creative DIY Project: Rubber Door Mat Decor

Im always on the hunt for a unique DIY project. I found these colorful rubber floor mats on Pinterest and I got inspired to find other interesting ways of decorating using floor mats around the home. I never knew you could do so many great things using rubber floor mats, which is pretty exciting when it comes to a DIY project. Check out just a few of my favorite DIY projects other bloggers did that are actually pretty incredible.

1. Colorful Spay painted rubber Mat(s):

Buy a rubber floor mat or a few and spray paint them any color or colors of your choice. A quick and easy little project that will surely give your home more charm. From Camel & Yak.

2. Turn a rubber mat into wall art:

A more subtle take on the floor mat by painting them white and hanging a set of them up as wall art. For more information on this DIY project check out the Salvage Dior Blog.

3. Garden stepping stones:

They make for beautiful stepping stones in a garden. For more information on how to make these stepping stones check out Tiber Press.

4. Block print rug using a rubber mat:

Now this is my favorite one using a rubber mat as block print on an area rug to create a beautiful patterned area rug. Looks so stunning! This is perfect if you have a cheap, old or used plain rug and you want to give it a second chance instead of throwing it way. A rubber mat comes in handy or some other stencil stamping objects you could think of to create a repeating block print. Now thats what Im talking about! A fabulous patterned rug that you were thinking of throwing out looks new again by its new and improved inexpensive rubber mat stenciling. I also wanted to point out, anything involving paint can get a little tricky at times so Id suggest looking at the original post to get all the right instructions and maybe having some help would be best.

For instructions on how to create this yourself check out Apartment Therapy.

5. Paint the floor mat a creative design:

Ok, so these mats arent rubber but you can still create this look with a rubber mat. It gives an ordinary plain floor mat a new life by creating a playful color, pattern, or floral motif.

An ombre floor mat that Domestic Imperfection made.

Lastly, I wanted mention that
most home improvement stores have a pretty good selection of inexpensive rubber floor mats to choose from. So you will not be as disappointed if your DIY project doesnt turn out the way you were hoping.

A photo of a selection of mats from Home Depot that Domestic Imperfection took a picture of.

FLEUR-DE-LYS RUBBER DOORMAT $59 $79 SPECIAL $53 $70 at Restoration Hardware.

There are so many better options these days when it comes to door mats. Restoration Hardware and Home Depot are just a few sources to pick from as options for rubber door mats. I must say theyre not as boring and uninteresting as they used to be which is a big plus.

Do you know of any other DIY projects using rubber or non-rubber door mats youve made or found that youd like to share?

- Xoxo Jessica

Via: 5 Creative DIY Project: Rubber Door Mat Decor

Ad watchdog asks Hefty to slim down its claims for slider bags

Ziploc won a minor victory over competitor Hefty when Hefty's parent company was asked to modify claims for its food storage slider bags. Instead of claiming that the Hefty Slider seals are "2X stronger" than Ziploc's, Hefty can only claim that they are "stronger," according to a recommendation from the National Advertising Division, which mediates such disputes.

NAD noted in a press release that in developed product categories, "improving products becomes increasingly difficult as competitors close the performance gap between product lines. Product improvements, even when small, are beneficial to consumers and encourage positive competition in the marketplace."

To check the claims, the NAD reviewed shake, drop and stacking tests that were performed according to industry standards. The results showed that the Hefty seal "demonstrated superior strength to Ziploc under limited conditions" but could not be quantified as twice as strong. Reynolds, which makes Hefty bags, said it will accept NAD's suggestion "to slightly modify Reynolds' future advertising of its proven stronger seal than Ziploc and how it may benefit consumers."

While Ziploc, Hefty and Glad are duking it out for shelf space, some store brands are eating their lunch. Consumer Reports hasn't tested the new Hefty seal but in our last tests of food storage bags, Walmart's Great Value and Target's Up & Up bags were strong and convenient to close and cost considerably less. And most importantly, they didn't leak.

Hefty was a top pick in our recent tests of garbage bags (Ziploc didn't have an entry) as were two varieties of bags from Glad. But again, there were some store brands that were more economical and performed almost as well including Kirkland, Costco's house brand. Whatever bag you prefer, check unit prices. The number of bags per box varies widely and affects the cost per bag.

Via: Ad watchdog asks Hefty to slim down its claims for slider bags

Energy Star seeks innovative ways to improve dryer efficiency

While energy efficiency is a big component in Consumer Reports' testing of many large appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines, it's not part of our dryer Ratings. Nor will you find a yellow EnergyGuide label or Energy Star sticker on dryers at appliance retailers. The reason is that most dryers sold today use similar amounts of energy, so any comparisons would be meaningless. A pair of government initiatives hopes to change that by driving innovation toward dryer efficiency.

"In terms of technology, the dryer has always been seen as this lowly appliance equivalent to a giant toaster," says Peter Banwell, director of product marketing with the Energy Star program. "It's time to put our collective wisdom toward moving a new technology into the market." To that end, the Energy Star program named Advanced Clothes Dryers the recipient of its 2012 Emerging Technology Award, which recognizes products that have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of dryers, energy savings as high as 60 percent go hand in hand with reduced carbon dioxide.

Heat pump clothes dryers, which extract heat from ambient air and release it at a higher temperature inside the drum, offer perhaps the most promise. These dryers already command significant market share in parts of Europe. Compared with a conventional dryer, a heat pump could save $30 to $40 per year and as much as $700 over the life of the unit. U.S. consumers will need to get used to longer drying times and steeper upfront costs, so manufacturers will be targeting the early adopter crowd with their first-generation models, which are expected to be out next year.

Energy Star is also in the process of developing a specification for conventional dryers that could improve their efficiency by 5 to 10 percent. This will likely be accomplished through a combination of incremental innovations, such as more accurate moisture sensors, improved motor efficiency, and limits on standby power.

Considering that dryers account for roughly six percent of residential electricity, this attention to efficiency is good news for consumers, even if the benefits are not immediate. For now, if you're looking to save energy on laundry, your best bet is to invest in a high-efficiency washing machine (see our latest washer and dryer reports) that will spin the most moisture out of clothes before they go into the dryer. And of course, while the weather is warm, line drying your laundry doesn't cost a thing.

Via: Energy Star seeks innovative ways to improve dryer efficiency

The Story Ends Well For Heronswood

Heronswood, the revered botanical garden created in Kingston, Washington by plant collector Dan Hinkley and his partner, architect Robert Jones, as an adjunct to the nursery they founded in 1987, was put up for a sealed bid auction last month by its owner of the last 12 years, W. Atlee Burpee & Co. . . and won by a Native American tribe, thePort Gamble SKlallam, who have a reputation for careful environmental stewardship and whose ancestral lands include the site of the garden.

Yesterday, I interviewed George Ball, the CEO of Burpee, about the sale. In 2006, unable to make Heronswood work as a business, Ball closed the nursery and moved the catalog operation to Pennsylvania, where Burpee is headquartered. For this, Ball was pummeled in the press and lampooned on the cover of the Plants Delight Nursery catalogas George C. Wrecking Ball. Though Garden Rant, too, piled on, I always felt the pummeling was unfair. After all, no one had forced the previous owners to sell. Yesterday, I interviewed George about his history with the garden and his hopes for its future.

Q: The purchase by the Port Gamble SKlallam Tribe seems to be a happy ending for Heronswood.

A: I like to call it a happy beginning. We had been talking to the tribe on and off for a few years, but they were tentative. Im very happy that they emerged as the winner of the auction a few weeks ago. Working with them since the sale has been like opening the door to an advent calendar. Every day, I learn something new.In their press release, there was language about maintaining the garden not just for the tribe, but for the larger community, that surprised even me. Wed opened the garden three or four weekends a year to the public to benefit The Garden Conservancy. The tribe has said that they will open Heronswood to the public even more. They havent yet announced how they are going to use the garden. They are in the planning process, which is good. I have been very impressed at the long-range view they are taking and the care.

Q: How did you wind up buying Heronswood in 2000?

A: It was a great match for Burpee. We have been in the perennial business for a long time. Mr. Burpee, our founder, was a big perennial guy. But we were doing the broad strokes, while there was a growing interest inles choses belles et tranges. If the customer wants it badlyand as long as it doesnt mean selling destructive invasivesIll see if I can make it a business. Heronswood was a very famous place in the gardening world, and I liked the concept of Dan Hinkleys collecting, since Id been on plant collecting trips since I was 14 years old. I was very impressed by the garden. Impressed, impressed, impressed.

On the other side, Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones said that they were tired of the business side of things. Burpee was a big consumer company. There was the idea that Heronswood could go national.

I made a miscalculation in thinking that Heronswoods plants could go national. Id bought Heronswood for the plant collection between 7000 and 8000 taxa. But Heronswood is in a rain forest. I learned that what did well in Heronswoods wet Zone 8 wasnt necessarily good in Southern Illinois or Indiana. It was a regional nursery. Now, the mail order business Heronswood had established wasnt regional. But it was 10 miles wide, three inches deep. The early catalogs had a huge list of plants. But a lot of things, wed sell four of.

Dan and Robert stayed on as managers. In 2003, I said, Look, guys, this isnt working. Ill sell Heronswood back to you for half of what I paid for it. It was a great deal. But they refused. So the remaining two and a half years of their consulting and management contracts were strained.

When I moved the nursery, it was for operational efficiency. But we also subjected the plants to aggressive and deliberate adaptation tests in the Heronswood Gardens at Fordhook Farm. We are going to continue to offer under the Heronswood name the really great hellobores, tiarellas, hydrangeas that have more of a national market.

Q: When you closed the Heronswood operation in 2006, I read theNew York Times piece about it and was amazed by Dan Hinkleys statement, I would much rather see the garden euthanized immediately than to see it decline over several years. It seemed remarkably churlish, given that hed voluntarily taken millions for the place.

A: I was stunned by that statement myself. Maybe he was saying hed like to euthanize George Ball.

Q: And yet, according to all reports, youve maintained the garden beautifully since then.

A: I love the place. We logged so many hours and so many miles of air travel for it. I sent a guy out there to do the first complete physical inventory of the plants. It took a year to do, since there is a 10-month growing season at Heronswood and the plants dont all appear at once. Ive taken great care of the place.We not only preserved the garden in excellent intact condition, the only plants removed even for research purposes were culls. We never removed a single species from the garden. Thousands of people have visited on the Garden Conservancys Open Days in recent yearsand nearly all of them have had their breath taken away.

Via: The Story Ends Well For Heronswood

Go for the Gold

The top prize for an event at the Olympics is a gold medallion, along with the honor of being the outstanding athlete from among many talented athletes.

We have many outstanding plants at Farmington Gardens but there are some which stand out more because of their gold coloration.

Lysimachia nummularia Aurea has golden yellow foliage and yellow flowers. Commonly known as Gold Creeping Jenny, it is a great spiller in a pot or can be used as a groundcover. I love it in my deep blue pot with the dark leaved fuchsia Gartenmeister

Golden Full Moon Maple Acer shirasawanum Aureum brightens any shady corner. It continues to be an eye catcher in autumn with leaves turning to a bright red.

Chamaecyparis obtuse Fernspray Gold is an evergreen with golden tipped fernlike sprays. This hinoki cypress plays well with others because of the softness of those sprays which you can contrast with dark green solid leafed plants like hostas or blend with a yellow twig dogwood.

Create an edging which glows in the shade using All Gold Japanese Forest Grass Hakonechloa macra All Gold. On a slope, the cascading leaves seem to flow and pull you along the path.

For a sunnier area, Potentilla fruticosa Goldfinger has deep yellow fragrant flowers which bloom all summer. It is a showy star in our Pacific Northwest because it can easily take winter moisture and summer drought.

Cotinus coggygria Ancot Golden Spirit has a name which shows a quality Olympians have. Waving airy plumes of white, this smoketree is a knockout.

Cotinus Golden Spirit

Gold Bar Miscanthus and Golden Glow Juniper do not need to fight for attention. We naturally are attracted to their brightness.

These are but a few of our Gold winners. You will find many more as you stroll our paths.

During the next few weeks, we can enjoy the 2012 Olympics and root for all the athletes. They have already shown themselves to be winners just by having been chosen to represent their countries. In particular, lets keep track of our local Oregonian members of the Olympic team.

Galen Rupp from Portland distance runner

Ashton Eaton from Eugene in the decathlon.

Rich Fellers from Wilsonville equestrian.

Go for the Gold

Tags: Olympics

Via: Go for the Gold

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Inspiration: Brass Desk Table Lamps

Cozy office space of the day with a stand out brass desk lamp!!!

I am loving the look of this white office, especially the brass task table lamp as the best accessory.

The simplicity is what Im drawn to the most, from the white walls, white desk, simple wall art, stylish accessories, a bit of fur and desk table lamp! Below are a few brass lamps I found that are similar to the one in the photo above, that would look awesome in any home office.

Currey and Company Turnbull Desk Lamp in Brass $290.40.

Lightpia- Orbit Antique Brass Desk Lamp- MANUFACTURER: ROBERT ABBEY $217.80

Lamps Plus- Robert Abbey Natural Brass Pharmacy Desk Lamp $192.91

Arteriors- Jana Brass and Marble Adjustable Desk Lamp Vintage Brass and Snow Marble.

Happy Thursday!

(Image: The Every Girl)

- Xoxo Jessica

Via: Inspiration: Brass Desk Table Lamps

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

15 energy-saving tips from the EPA's Battle of the Buildings

It's not quite the Olympics, but the Battle of the Buildings sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off today with nearly 3,300 excited competitors vying for the prize of the biggest energy loser. More of a marathon than a sprint, the contest continues until next April when a winner will be announced. In the meantime, you can take some tips from last year's top 10 and put your home on an energy diet.

Last year, a lowly university parking garage won high praise for reducing its energy use by 63 percent, saving almost $35,000 in utility costs. How did the University of Central Florida do it? By replacing the lights in the parking garage with a combination of fluorescent and LED bulbs. Not only did the school save money but the new bulbs produced better light as well. Collectively, the 245 participants in the 2011 contest saved $5.2 million on their utility bills and prevented nearly 30,000 metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA contest focuses on commercial buildings because they're responsible for about 20 percent of the nation's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion annually in energy bills. By improving the energy efficiency of schools, offices, hospitals and retail stores, competitors can reduce energy waste and save on utility bills while protecting the environment and people's health, says the EPA. Competitors range from a Kmart store on the island of St. Thomas to a crime lab in Phoenix to a federal office building in Nome, Alaska.

This year, the EPA's WaterSense program, in partnership with Energy Star, will recognize top water use reducers as a part of the competition. Here are 15 winning strategies from last year's top contenders that you can incorporate into your own home.

  1. Install weather stripping around entry doors.
  2. Insulate attic ceilings.
  3. Replace old air conditioners with Energy Star units.
  4. Install programmable thermostats ... and use them.
  5. Replace all incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
  6. Repair leaky duct work in heating and central air systems.
  7. Install replacement windows.
  8. Get an energy audit and make recommended improvements.
  9. Turn off the lights in non-peak hours.
  10. Turn off computers and TVs when not in use.
  11. Install timers on lawn sprinkler systems.
  12. Compost all food waste.
  13. Install low flow aerators on bathroom sinks.
  14. Switch to water-efficient toilets.
  15. Clean or replace AC and furnace filters.

Via: 15 energy-saving tips from the EPA's Battle of the Buildings

No wallflower, new Whirlpool wall oven stands out in our tests

When Consumer Reports names a product a Best Buy it gives the designation to models that performed impressively in our tests and also offer good value. Some product categories have more Best Buys than others and some, like wall ovens, haven't had any in recent years. Until now. A $1,300 Whirlpool electric wall oven has just earned this distinction.

In our cooktop tests, the Whirlpool WOS51EC0AS was very good at turning out evenly browned cakes and cookies and excellent at browning broiled burgers evenly. The oven capacity is large and the self-clean feature aced our tough tests, removing our baked-on mixture of eggs, cheese, pie filling and more. This 30-inch single wall oven has an extra large window that offers a great view and touchpad controls, giving it a sleek and modern look. And at that price for the stainless steel model, it's half what you'd spend on the top-rated Thermador ME301E[S], $2,600, and has more usable space. We also recommend the Bosch HBL54[50]UC, $1,900.

A wall oven's companion, naturally, is the cooktop. While ranges are more popular, cooktop-wall oven combos are perfect for homeowners who want to customize their kitchens. Consumer Reports recommends 19 electric cooktops including Best Buys from Whirlpool, Frigidaire and Kenmore. In our tests of gas cooktops, 10 models made the list of picks but there were no Best Buys.

Our latest cooking appliance tests also included five new Whirlpool electric and gas ranges. Most offer an appealing price, but performance wasn't impressive so none are high-scoring recommended models or CR Best Buys. There are plenty of other top range picks to consider including 15 smoothtop, induction and coil electric ranges and 18 conventional and pro-style gas ranges.

Via: No wallflower, new Whirlpool wall oven stands out in our tests

Stop the Madness!

Let us review the brief and troubled history of the Modern Cocktail. It began in the early nineties, when youngsters realized that a Martini was a nice thing to order in a bar. A few variations on the martini followed, most notably the godawful dirty Martini made with excessive amounts of olive brine, and the vodka-based Cosmopolitan, which featured prominently in HBOs Sex and the City. That gets us to about 1999. A few years later, somebody in Brooklyn decided it might be refreshing to order a drink with some whiskey in it, and pretty soon we all remembered about the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned. (See AMCs Mad Men, 2007.)

Around that time, a few bartenders grew out their sideburns, put on vests, and started mixing Prohibition-era cocktails with obscure and interesting ingredients that had to be smuggled in from London because liquor distributors had not yet caught on to what was happening. The smuggling was part of the fun, actually: these bartenders preferred to mix their strange and wonderful drinks in tiny unmarked basement rooms which they called speakeasies, thus allowing us all to pretend we were doing something illegal or at least illicit when at best what we were doing could be called exclusive, which is to say that we were simply paying very high prices for very nice drinks in locations that were (for a short time) not well known to tourists.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, bartenders realized that as long as chefs were working with fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, they might as well get in on the action and infuse some cucumbers in vodka or throw some basil under the muddler. Which was a fine idea.

That brings us to about a year and a half ago, when it all went to hell.

Heres what happened, as near as I can figure: the fancy cocktail movement went on a date with the slow food movement, and they had a few too many drinks, then they went back to the fancy cocktail movements apartment, and things got a little out of hand, and together they spawned the Modern Cocktail.

The Modern Cocktail might have a dozen or more handcrafted, artisanal, obscure ingredients. It might call for such things as freshly-pressed heirloom tomato water, rhubarb-vanilla-ginger simple syrup, a rinse of absinthe or vermouth, a mist of rose water, a few drops of housemade cigar and allspice bitters, and the frothy whites of a freshly-laid egg from a young Ameraucana hen who has been named after a member of the Algonquin Round Table. You may have to special-order an aromatized wine whose name you cannot pronounce. Essential oils may be involved. There could be vinegar or pickling liquid. The glass may be placed atop a board of smoldering hickory to coat its interior in smoke. Spice-impregnated sugar may grace the rim of the glass. A garnish of snap peas, sun-dried beet chips, or imported Italian marasca cherries soaked in Kentucky bourbon may confront the (by now quite thirsty) drinker trying to get at the beverage.

The Modern Cocktail is, in short, a mess. This was illustrated most recently by the short-lived fame of the bone luge, in which alcohol is chugged through a split-apart animal bone so that some of the marrow mixes with the booze as it goes down the hatch.

Awful, right? Makes you long for the days when a good-looking man or woman dressed mostly in black would just stand behind the bar and shake a few ingredients over ice and pour it in a glass and wish you a good evening.

Heres the thing: making really good liquor is complicated enough. Whiskey goes through a very careful fermentation and distillation process in wonderfully crafted copper stills, then it gets aged in a precisely charred oak barrel that maybelieve it or notbe made only from one particular part of the oak tree because the distiller believes that branches make for better booze than trunks do, or the other way around. Gin might have a dozen or more botanical ingredients, with each flavor extracted or infused or distilled in a different manner. Vermouth has a few dozen ingredients, and those crazy old European herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse claim over a hundred. A good classic cocktaila Martini or a Manhattan or a Vieux Carrmight already contain seventy or eighty distinct botanical ingredients, and thats before you add the olive or the cherry or the lemon peel. Does a bartender really need to contribute a few dozen more?

Lately Ive heard of gin infused with cattails, Campari infused with cardamom, and bourbon soaked in barbecued short ribs. No good can come of this.

So heres my advice to you, the recreational drinker, the amateur bartender, the gardener: Grow a little mint in your garden for mojitos and mint juleps. If youve got raspberries or any other kind of summer fruit you dont know what to do with, wash it well, pack it into a Mason jar, and fill it up with decent vodka. In a few days itll be ready to filter and drink. If youre lucky enough to have a citrus tree, by all means make some homemade limoncello. But beyond that? Dont go too crazy. Even a simple drink is already extraordinarily, wonderfully complex.

Heres what Ive been drinking this summer. I dont know if this drink has a name; its just something I mixed up one night when I wanted something a bit drier than Lillet but not quite as strong as a Martini. It contains several dozen herbs, spices, and fruits, all blended together in complicated infusions and extractions on strange equipment in a foreign landbut all you have to do is buy two bottles and mix them together. The Lillet will keep about a month in the fridge after you open it, and if you cant get Gvine (a lovely French gin made from a grape spirit similar to that found in Lillet) use Tanqueray instead. Here, Ill make up a name for it:

Enough Already

3 oz Lillet blanc

1 oz Gvine Floraison gin

Lemon peel for garnish

Shake and pour into a short rocks glass with ice. Add more gin if you feel like it. Drop in a lemon peel. Drink.

This post is from a series called The Drunken Botanist that Im writing for the North Coast Journal. My next book, of the same name, will be out in March 2013.

Via: Stop the Madness!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Design: Industrial Glam Decor

This year it seems that a lot more of us are experimenting with design. A popular style Ive been seeing more of is a little bit rustic and a little bit glam, also known as industrial glam.

Below are a few photos of industrial-glam interiors and accents pieces to help get you started on this chic design style. Enjoy!

This sparse industrial loft layout is very chic and glamorous. Not sure if Im liking the bold pink accents in this space but the lush velvet textiles are a nice contrast with the distressed wood floors and metal stairs, helps tone down the masculine look with the pink velvet sofa, throw pillows and pink coffee table.

The bed frame is made from scaffolding which is a cool alternative to try if youre interested in designing your own bed frame. Also the chandelier is made out of chain mail which helps create an edgy look in this bedroom. I like the pink and grey color combination, a nice mix if youre going for a feminine and modern feel.

Now this is a great looking kitchen! Im especially drawn to the reclaimed wood island with the contrast of the white countertop, looks absolutely stunning. Also, the different shades in the wood in the island gives even more character in this space.

Keri Russell Home via Elle Decor

I have always liked the mix of exposed brick, darker woods with modern light fixtures. However, sometimes the industrial look can come off as masculine, it can be a design turn-off to some. So, try incorporating a few accessories such as throw pillows or a decorative throw to give it more hints of feminine touch to your home. You will still get the industrial feel, but also achieve a cozy, chic and glamorous look as well.

West Elm-Faceted Mirror Side Table $199.00

Overstock- Renate Coffee Table Ottoman $276.99

Houzz- Artistic Pear Chandelier.

Love this. Surround it with some glam chairs for an interesting contrast. Find stool at Joss & Main.

Art- Black & white photography.

Dwell Studio- Throw pillow

What are your thoughts on industrial glam design style? Do you already have this look in your home or are you now inspired to try incorporating this design style in your home or office?

(Images: Nest Design Studio, Marcus Design, Elle Decor, Holzman Interiors)

- Xoxo Jessica

Via: Design: Industrial Glam Decor