Memorial Options for Loved Ones

When we lose someone we love the overwhelming loss can mean trying to find a way to sufficiently remember and honor the person. There are many ways to do this at the memorial service and funeral but beyond that there are further ideas to memorialize loved ones.

Some of these stand in tribute physically while others give to others. Choosing one that fits the views and lives of those lost can mean many options. Here are some ideas to start finding a way to honor your loved one.

CancerCare has a fund established in individual names that supports the work of cancer research. It’s hard to find a life not touched somehow by cancer – it destroys families and takes friends far too soon.

Commemorative gifts to a university or college either a particular school for an alumni or one which was supported in other ways.

800px-Flowering_cherry_treeA living tree is another way to plant a memorial that can last for years. If you don’t have room or stability to plant something there are farms that have sponsorships to allow productive, “green” tributes. A tree or garden gives to others as well as remaining a visible memorial.

Organizations that the loved one was involved in is another way to give – be it a particular interest such as a breed of cattle or hobby or more general in helping people.

Organ donations are the ultimate way to give to others and continue a life but this isn’t always something that can be done. Tributes can be however.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA sitting area in the back yard, butterfly garden or bird feeding areas are other ways to keep the memory alive. Donations to a zoo, wildlife center, organization or many other recipients are also possibilities.

Still others make their own way, such as Troy Nealey said “just in case” before he went to Iraq – he was clear what he wanted. When he was killed a sportsmanship scholarship was set up for beef, sheep and swine showman at the county fair, rewarding not just winning. College scholarships and a wide range of other ideas are possibilities.

There are dozens of ways to remember our friends, family members and others in ways that also remember their lives, not just that they’re gone. These are just a few ways to begin looking at ideas. Some, such as a small butterfly garden, can be done in a back yard while others take no space at all. Increasing in popularity are online memorials. Whatever your choices for honoring loved ones, memorials carry their name on. Giving to others is perhaps the best gift of all.

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Find Landscaping That Fits You and Your Home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALandscaping should accent the home with a pleasing look. There are a host of ways to landscape, from a rock garden with a fountain to edible landscaping that is decorative as well as productive. There is lighting considerations as well as the landscape design itself.

Landscape designs often offer trees, shrubs, smaller plants which could be herbs or flowers and a focal point. This might be a decorated corner of the yard with a seasonal decor, or a fountain or birdbath with feeders nearby. The costs can vary from a few hundred for the frugal person that recycles others unwanted items and does the work themselves to thousands of dollars for a team hired in. Professionals can advise to the adult height of the plants and things to consider that perhaps you haven’t thought of. A good landscape design software program will have this information too and can often give a sketch type view or with some programs, a 3D view.

Landscaping_in_sandWhether you use a professional or a landscape design program, consider carefully the amount of work and expense not only bringing the design to life but also maintaining that including trimming and mulching. A good landscape design plan, done to scale, can save you the headaches of having a hole for a tree ten feet too close to the house because it looked “about right.” Make sure your spacing is right to account for the grown trees and bushes, not just the small ones you’re planting!

For the person creating a do-it-yourself landscape design, check and double check the plants. Consider things like fall leaves, mowing around the landscape, weed prevention and watering. If you have a network of landscaping in front be sure to consider access to a faucet and if water needs to be piped near enough for soaker hoses or other low visibility solutions to summer watering. If you are looking at edible landscaping – leave enough room to get all the way around those fruit or nut trees to be able to get the bounty harvested.

Still others may look towards landscaping that does multiple things, such as an herb garden that doubles as a sitting area for an afternoon reading outside on a warm day. The herbs may be a mix of containers and in the ground, scented and edible. Other than occasional weeding and mulching herbs are perhaps the ultimate in self reliant landscaping.

Don’t forget lighting. Proper planning for the landscape lighting design should dovetail in with the plants, rocks, water and other decorative elements. For the energy aware, a plan for low-voltage landscape lighting design can offer spot lighting that accent a landscape rather than dominate it. Modern options also include solar lighting for areas that get enough sun to charge the lights. If you have an area that regularly gets 8-10 hours of sun and just want an accent lighting there, these solar lights can be a good alternative to running electric to the front. It eliminates digging holes as well as overhead wires.Remember that many plants need the dark also – too much light can actually be bad for them.

Look thoroughly at several options and see what landscape design best fits your ideas, your personality and the look of the home. Consider the full design to best accent the home and improve the look of the big picture. The results are worth it! Enjoy your home both inside and out.

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Create a Back Yard Paradise

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe advantages to having a back yard are many. There’s room for pets and children. There’s privacy and a place to entertain guests. There’s a place to just escape and “get away from the world.” As expenses increase these factors can take on a greater importance. A bad yard can be more than just a fenced area of grass. Make your back yard a paradise! A good garden design can mean an enjoyable place to be and a place that you WANT to be.

There are many types of garden designs and which one suits you depends on your individual tastes. Some would find an herb garden too “busy” while others find it an asset to their home as well as an area to relax. Your personality and preferences are design considerations. Ideally a good design combines well with not only the home but the person.

Look at your yard and how it naturally lays. Is it flat? Is there a slope to one area? What do you find relaxing? How much “do it yourself” skills do you have? Before digging make sure there are no wires or utilities to cut this is often a legal requirement. Are there meters that utility people need to have access to? There are several garden design software programs that can help greatly in planning your project and some allow a 3D image as well as allowing for mature heights of plants used.

Costs for your paradise may vary depending on location, how much work you are willing to do and how much you are willing to recycle. To some degree creativity enters into the picture too.

Flower garden design can be as individual as you like. Some nurseries and mail order places offer plants with a “map” for planting tailored to a certain sized area, for example around a mailbox. Most are for sunny areas but some also offer pre-planned gardens for shady areas. There might be color themes, for example a red, white and blue. Several options have come up lately for pink flower garden plans that benefit breast cancer research. Still others take a random approach, preparing an area for a bed and scattering wildflowers or a cut flower mix that allows for a burst of random color.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA perennial garden design might include flowers or might be perennial herbs. Invasive plants such as many mints should be contained but many perennial garden designs can be low maintenance. Some might also be flowers, such as a perennial flower garden that sows itself every year.

Using edible landscaping can be yet another type of paradise that of producing your own food. An effective vegetable garden design considers the size of each plant as well as what plants benefit each other. Sometimes called companion planting there are some plants that grow better together and others that should be kept away from each other.

Don’t overlook raised bed areas if you find it difficult to bend over to tend a garden. Gardening shouldn’t be difficult bring it UP! Use an old ladder or other old gardening items as something to grow vines on or secured over a raised bed, allowing hanging plants on the ladder as well as the plants in the raised bed.

Oxford garden design brings an elegant yet simple area to the back yard. Think an English garden with wood furniture in a sitting area near abundant flowers. Some care and attention to the wood furniture periodically is needed as well as the weeding and upkeep of the plants.

Japanese garden design is very popular in some areas, less so in others. Think bamboo, bonsai and water. Remember the movie “The Karate Kid” where the back yard was a beautiful oasis behind privacy fence, with sitting areas and lights to enhance the mood.

Still others find shrubs and plants too difficult to maintain. A water garden design can offer fewer plants, typically with a rock area, water that recycles down a waterfall or “brook” or a small fountain. A garden pond design can be raised or embedded in the ground, with some choosing a liner that is flexible and others preferring a preformed pond. Either are an option for keeping some koi or other fish. With some creativity and enough area in a garden pond fish can be raised for food as well.

A good garden design should incorporate your tastes, your time, finances and preferences. Some are at home with a western theme of coyotes and horses while others prefer the lushness of green with a waterfall giving the illusion of nature even if just in the back yard. Consider plants, seating, lighting and traffic. Make your garden design a paradise without leaving home.

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Bird Watching in Your Back Yard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABirds, like all creatures, need some basic things. Food, water, shelter and, as a prey creature, protection from being dinner.

There’s a huge variety of bird feeders and other accessories for your yard. Planting shrubbery to give birds cover helps bring them to the feeder. Protection from cats is a factor as is protecting the food from squirrels. Water, in a dish that prevents a bird from getting in the water and drowning. A small pump for running water helps, as does a small secured branch.

There’s a wide variety of bird seeds, suet and other things marketed for birds. Look at what is around you. What do you have to work with? If you have two green bushes in the corner of the yard this can serve as a safety for the birds…you can secure the bird feeders near this. Remember to check the feeders and remove any seed that gets wet, molds and/or otherwise spoils.

In a corner of the yard if you don’t have bushes make a brush pile. Sticks, an old (unsprayed) Christmas tree can be the basis of the pile, with sticks blown down from storms or prunings adding to the pile. This forms a small habitat for birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATube type feeders can be found very inexpensively. There’s pan type feeders available that should be used only if there are no cats to pounce on birds feeding and the feeder can be protected from getting wet and spoiling the seed. Suet is another type of feed – avoid using this when it’s over 80 degrees as it can turn rancid. Hopper feeders are typically put on a pole and hold several pounds of feed. The granary type feeder in the picture was purchased at Tractor Supply for under $6. Thistle feeders are specific for tiny nyger thistle seeds for goldfinch, pine siskins and others. Hummingbird feeders are another type of feeder.

Keeping squirrels from the feeders is a problem for some. Squirrel baffles are of some use but keep in mind they can jump six feet and are adaptable to coming from a tree down a string to the feeder. Some bird feeders simply give up and in a nearby location feed the squirrels with corn.

A bit of research as to the birds in the area and what they like will pay off. Black oil sunflower seed is a bird favorite. Millet is in many bird feeds as well as cracked corn. The latter tends to soak up moisture. Milo, wheat or oats is used in some low priced blends – but keep in mind many birds discard these, and food unusued on the ground tends to attract rodents. However, some birds such as pheasants, quail and doves will eat these foods – if you’re feeding ground feeding birds and in an area to attract these it may pay off for you. Niger thistle is a favorite of many finches but tends to be a bit more expensive – use a good feeder to prevent waste. Suet can be placed in special cage feeders or net onion bags. Keep it out of reach of dogs. Peanuts and fruit are also favorites of some birds.

Did you know you can make hummingbird nectar? Use one part sugar to four parts water; boil briefly to sterilize and dissolve the sugar crystals. Keep feeders clean – red coloring doesn’t *have* to be added.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFeeder location is important. Place feeders at different levels – some birds feed at shrub level, some at tree level, some on the ground. Protect birds from windows and cats.

The Audubon society recommends disinfecting the feeder and birdbath in a 9-1 water-bleach solution, rinsing thoroughly at least once per month. Keep the bird bath clean and discard old seeds/hulls.

Bird watching can be done in your back yard with a minimum of expense. You can also go to many parks with habitats for birds. Feeders, hooks, feed can be set up initially, with a little creativity, for well under $50. You can watch the seeds birds eat and use one feeder for your own special mix based on what they eat the most of.

Birds are not difficult to attract and dress up a yard in a unique way. Our feeders are set up in the corner of the yard, about 50 feet from the home, with small bushes nearby, large trees nearby and some medium sized trees on the back side of the property. The feeder and steel hook cost roughly $18; some cardinal mix seed on sale for $8 for 10 pounds and within the day the two cardinals had brought several other cardinals to the feeder as well as wrens and other birds. A nijer thistle sock hangs on the feeding area as well as a berry suet holder, giving birds a variety of choices which has become a bird favorite in a short amount of time. Because it’s in a fenced yard I don’t have to contend with squirrels or roaming cats as I have dogs that may or may not come into the yard at any time. It’s inexpensive, takes minimal effort and attracts birds I enjoy watching. The added thistle sock and suet holder was roughly $6 plus three packs of suet on sale at Tractor Supply at .88 cents each. There’s enough suet to last for some time! A few more feeders will be added in time as well as a small fountain.

Look at your yard with new eyes – use a corner for a special type of conservation by providing for songbirds. If you live in the country consider a wildlife belt.

This is a hobby that can be done anywhere. The birds may differ by region by all can provide enjoyment. Plan yours today!

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Tips for Pruning Rose Bushes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnowing when to prune can make for healthier rose bushes and sometimes more roses. Roses grow larger blooms when properly pruned and cared for.

Use good, sharp pruning shears that make clean cuts as ragged edges can leave openings for disease and pests. The ideal time to prune roses is when they are dormant after a couple of good frosts in mild climates. There are three main times to prune, each for a different reason.

During the growing season cut the withering roses by cutting just under an inch above the node. This insures the rose bushes continue producing flowers all season. Remove brown or yellow leaves as they are seen.

At the end of the season once the leaves begin falling remove excess branches to reduce damage from snow and ice. In the spring comes the pruning “pre-season pruning” to remove dead canes and branches.

Start by clearing away the dead grass, leaves, mulch and other material that can shelter insects around your rose bushes. Once you have a clear base around the rose bush cut all the dead, woody, diseased and damaged canes. Any with striations or deep furrows also come out, leaving the healthy green canes to continue on. Open up the bush by removing canes that cross together, leaving a vase shaped bush of a few healthy canes. No two rose bushes are alike so it takes looking for moderation to find the best look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIncluded in your pruning should be any shoots coming out of old woody canes so that all is left is the healthy canes. In the long run this makes for healthier roses. When down near the ground level make flush cuts at the bud union area so stubs aren’t left to begin health issues.

Cut just above the bud at a 45 degree angle going away from the bud. Getting too close to the bud can kill it so adjust to cut just above it. When cutting watch the center of the tissue and prune back to where it’s clean, white tissue. Especially in cases of older woody canes, there sometimes are brown spots in the center of the cane. Cut back to where what remains is solid white center.

Remove any suckers. These are underground roots that take hold and bring new canes several inches from the ‘parent’ plant. Trim back to 1/3 the plant height that you started with. Moderate pruning such as described here is best for most roses.

Newly planted roses often need pruned too, selecting the strongest, most vigorous canes to take hold in their new location. Because you are pruning during the dormant phase, have some sealing compound on hand to dab on the ends that have been pruned. This helps the plant stay healthy and heal and doesn’t take a long time to do.

Mulch the roses to conserve water and eliminate weeds. As the roses come out of the dormant stage fertilize and prepare to enjoy a season of beautiful roses!

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Dress Up the Garden With Functional Trellises

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe use of trellises in gardens can add both decoration and function. Depending on the material used, they can offer contrast or accents. They can vary somewhat from the trellis to train-climbing roses on to a wedding trellis for staging wedding photography.

A garden trellis might frame in the edge of a garden area and give vines a place to grow up instead of out. A garden accent can also be created with use of a trellis that forms a corner of the yard, with flowers or other plants put in front of it. A standard garden trellis might be up to seven feet high and four feet or more across. While there are many custom-made trellis designs available, one possibility is putting two posts in the ground so that a standard 4 feet by 8 feet panel of lattice fits between them. These can be an inexpensive way to block a view when the plants grow up as well as creating shade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother accent might be a tomato trellis on the side of a patio area, where tomatoes are planted in front of it and then tied to the trellis instead of being staked. If it is on the patio itself, placing a planter or planter box in front of it makes use of space to grow plants as well as food.The cage on the left is shown on the off season, but during the summer it supports tomatoes and is covered (below).

In areas suited for grapes, a grape trellis can be a great way to add decorative area to the edge of a deck or even landscaping’ around a home. A bonus is having a small but productive area for food. In larger areas, the trellis is simply wires stretched between posts, allowing the grapes a means of growing support on those wires.

Trellis designs can vary from a flat panel type trellis to a fan both with and without a planter in front of it. Also popular are the full arbor type structures with trellis up the side, allowing for plants to grow up and over an arched walkway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrellis construction can vary from ordinary wood to vinyl and iron. A vinyl trellis can be easy to clean with minimal damage with a high pressure washer once per year and occasionally with the hose in between times. Iron trellis is also a good option with the ability to be painted, needing little maintenance and black iron gives a classic look to many situations.

Deciding where you want a trellis in relation the home can dictate style of the trellis as well as use of it to some degree. Close attention to detail can mean having a trellis that is a decorative and functional part of the home outdoor area.

Be creative. It doesn’t have to break the budget either!

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Please Eat the Flowers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany people pass on flower gardens as being purely decorative. “We need to make use of space!” As food costs climb, this is an understandable factor. Plan ahead and with a little research there is no reason your flower garden can’t also be productive for food, decoration and more. They fit a variety of flowerbed designs and a variety of uses.

A corner of the yard can be home to Rosa rugosa with edible and nutritious rose hips for the kitchen as well as flowers and a dense border. Chives, basil, mint all have flowers and are useful in many ways in the kitchen from tea to flavoring food.

Nasturtiums have pretty red, yellow and orange flowers and cover an area and add a peppery taste to salads and other dishes as well as a splash of color. Zucchini blossoms are another edible treat. Rosemary, sage and other herbs have flowers as well as well known uses in the kitchen. Lavender, marigolds, chives and thyme all fit in flowerbeds but also produce food for the table.

There are a number of vegetables that can be planted in the flower bed also and offer bold splashes of color and a wide range of green to brighten up a flower bed, a raised flowerbed in front of the house or a corner of the yard. If you have a larger area a few bush cherries in the back of the bed can produce a host of flowers in the spring and cherries later in the year as the other flowers come on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet creative with flower garden designs and there are tasty rewards. The bright green of pepper plants offset with dainty white flowers gives way to bright red peppers or yellow, purple or even light colored fruits. Pansies are a popular spring garden flower can be added to salad or make a delicate looking jelly.

The variety of plants available can fill a larger flower bed as well as small areas and even containers in the corner of the deck or even hanging baskets. Think vertical as well as square footage! For vines or climbing plants take two “T-posts” and drive in the ground about six feet apart take a section of lattice and wire to it. While one plant grows on it a row of sunflowers can be planted behind it, providing they get sufficient sun.

Think about your options for a flower plant and not only common flower gardening but things many don’t think about can be used to beautify an area as well as being productive. Look with new eyes: beauty is productive!

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