Tuscan Garden Design Plants For Italian Gardens

TUSCAN GARDEN DESIGN: Plants that provide structure

Tuscan gardens and Italian gardens in general have been based on strong garden structure from their Arabic origins, where a strong emphasis was already being placed on geometric form.

If we take some of the more indigenous, evergreen, Mediterranean plants like rosemary, myrtle, lavender and evergreen oak we can establish strong structure and form in our Tuscan style gardens. Plants that can be clipped into strong forms have been utilised for centuries to provide hedges and topiary and have formed the basis of the geometric, Italianate garden.

The use of plants to form geometric structure in gardens was at its peak in the Renaissance period in Italy and saw geometry taken to an extreme in gardens like Villa Lante (Bagnaia) in Viterbo. This image of elaborate geometric garden design has remained as a strong symbol for anyone attempting to make an Italianate garden. Although maintenance costs inhibit the use of such elaborate garden structure it is still essential to base any Italian garden design on a strong evergreen structure. Basic garden structure can be achieved by using the same, classic Mediterranean evergreens.

With the minimum of planning from the outset we can ensure a rational and coherent base for our Tuscan garden, without incurring a Renaissance style maintenance budget.

Evergreen plant structure in the garden is best planned on paper using a scale drawing. This enables us to decide upon a balanced design, without incurring expensive mistakes, such as moving large trees and shrubs when the garden is finished. By using slightly more modern plants, that were introduced during the Renaissance, we can apply at least some Italian form to our Tuscan style gardens. Plants like boxood (Buxus sempervirens) we can add a minimum of topiary structure, in the form of small spheres or spirals and by using old classics like the holm oak (Quercus ilex) we can form large cylinder shapes.

Zen Garden Escape

Everyone needs a place in their home that they can call their own. A place to retreat, contemplate, relax, or just be alone. It’s a place that exudes a sense of calm in an otherwise hectic life. In my house that place of refuge is in my Zen garden.

Otherwise known as “karesansui” or “dry garden”, this is a landscaping feature commonly found in homes, temples, and many public places in Japan. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the western cultures began to understand the principles of the Zen garden and its application was used in various architecture, landscaping and art forms.

No matter what the form, the results should be the same. To create a harmonious, meditative respite using feng shui and other principles that reflect an alignment with nature.

Steps to creating your own Zen garden:

Set aside an area away from the road or other distractions and decide on a size and shape. It can be a large area incorporating walking paths and waterfalls or a simple rectangle. Create a barrier to contain your rock that may include using railroad ties or 2 x 4’s, stone or brick, and stretch out a base of landscape fabric to prevent weeds. You don’t want to be distracted by thoughts of weed pulling or fertilizing.

Fill with sand, gravel, crushed rock, or river rock to a depth of at least 2″ and level off.

Start adding features to your garden; taking time to consider different textures, shapes, colors or items that have particular meaning for you. Add sparingly, however, a Zen garden should never appear cluttered. This is a part of your life that should reflect simplicity and calm. Choose shades of green that symbolizes the heart of summer in various shapes and designs of evergreens. Also consider adding plants that have a presence in all the seasons. The Japanese Maple is a striking summer plant, but also boasts ornamental fall foliage. Interesting rocks or evergreen moss shine in the winter.

Select a focal point that may include a pine tree, an essential part of a Japanese garden. Bamboo also works well as a barrier.

Choose stones to represent mountains and submerge them slightly in sand or gravel. Traditional Zen gardens have 5 groups of 3 stones, but you should do whatever works for you. These mountains or islands symbolize good health and longevity and are an important component of any dry garden.

A water element conveys a sense of calm and cool and represents the passing of time. It can be as simple as a small pond, bird bath, or in a dry garden takes on a solid form. Rake your sand and gravel in wavy rows to symbolize gentle rippling water. Have fun experimenting with new shapes and patterns that feel right.

Subtle lighting or a small bridge connecting various areas may also be added. Complete your garden by adding a comfortable seating or meditation area.

Landscaping a small garden space

Landscaping a small backyard can actually be a great thing to do. Most homeowners want large grassy yards and lots of landscaping. They see pictures open yards with few trees and plants. Now that sure does look great but it requires lots of maintenance . Imagine mowing, mulching, weeding and pruning. Still want to have that yard? No I don’t think so.

If you have little space you can still make a great yard. In addition, it’s low maintenance . Read on to learn how to landscape your small backyard.

Landscaping A Small Backyard

Landscaping a small backyard can actually be a great thing to do. Most homeowners want large grassy gardens and lots of landscaping. They see pictures open yards with few trees and plants. Now that sure does look great but it requires lots of maintenance . Imagine mowing, mulching, weeding and pruning. Still want to have that yard? No I don’t think so.

If you have little space you can still make a great yard. In addition, it’s low maintenance . Read on to learn how to landscape your garden.

Flowers In A Small Backyard

If you are going to be planting flowers in your backyard you are best off with using containers. They are small, inexpensive and look great.

You can also grow plants and vegetables in planters.

Curves Not Lines

Most backyards are square but you can add depth and style by using curved flowerbeds and walkways.

Curved walkways and paths that lead along rounded planter beds create the illusion of more space. They flow from one area to the next and have a way of making you feel that you are walking in a much larger space then you really are.


In small yards fountains and mini ponds look absolutely great. Ponds and containers full of water aren’t huge. Do what fits your area.

Water features can be store bought or made from materials you buy. All that is needed is a small pump, a few containers and, of course, water! A birdbath can also double as a water feature. Some come with fountains that please both you and the birds and are great features to add when landscaping a small backyard.

Detached Garden Extensions

No matter the size of a property, sometimes homeowners want a space that they can relax or escape in – a sanctuary away from the main property. As a result, detached garden room extensions that are located in the midst of a garden can be a great way of providing much needed space for loved ones to use and enjoy.

This can also be a great solution for homeowners who require extra space, perhaps to accommodate a growing family, but may not have the means to do so within the main house, perhaps because of architectural constraints or limited space within the property. Alternatively, they can work especially well for those who work from home as it can offer a place to work in isolation away from any domestic distractions.

Choosing to build an extension is an investment that should not be taken lightly, and as a result there are a variety of steps that should be considered to ensure the room achieves maximum longevity.

1) Design The aesthetics of the extension tend to be the first consideration of homeowners. This is generally a good place to start, but there are a few factors that should be thought through before picking the style of extension.

Detached extensions, if designed well can allow for a high amount of creativity with the old architecture of a house sitting comfortably against the modern design of a detached extension. Similarly a classical style extension can suit properties of all eras.

However, the style of the extension will invariably come down to who is going to use the extension. For example, if it is to be used as an additional space to enjoy the views of the garden then it is worth incorporating sliding doors that can be opened up to create a seamless space between extension and garden. If it is however going to be used as an additional bedroom for guests then it is imperative to ensure that adequate privacy is provided, perhaps by placing a roof lantern to gain sunlight but without compromising on privacy. The ultimate thing to remember here is that an extension should be a balance between form and function.

2) The practicalities of an extension It may sound obvious but the nature of these extensions mean that they are often vulnerable to the harsh conditions of all seasons – snow and hail, wind, rain and extreme sunlight to name a few! As a result, it is vital to invest in the right materials to ensure that the extension can cope with these fluctuating conditions and also to ensure that the room is usable all year round.

The choice of material will make a huge difference, so speak to a designer or architect about which material is best suited to your needs. However, generally speaking timber can be a great insulator and often outperforms rival materials such as uPVC, and it can often last longer too.

It follows on from the above point, that the positioning of the extension can also impact how susceptible it is to the harsh weather conditions. South-facing extensions without any shelter tend to attract the most sunlight, and can obviously become warm in the summer months, and so careful consideration is required when it comes to glass and glazing.

Why To Use Garden Netting For Your Vegetable Garden

kitchen gardens are still pride possessions of many British households. They are the source of fresh veggies and fruits year round. The approaching spring is the time when you once again consider planting pods for some great harvest. While you are at the garden it becomes necessary to protect the pods and plants from harmful pests and birds. Garden netting can be an excellent choice in protecting plants.

Not only protecting plants from insects and birds, garden netting has found more than one usage in British gardens. Following are the reasons to use garden netting for better produces.

Prevent pests: We all know that chemical pesticides are harmful and can cause several health issues in one. Some of these chemical pesticides stay in the food even after cooking. To protect plants from pests without using pesticides, garden nets are ideal. Garden netting would block the insects and pests from plants.

Fruit netting: Birds love fruits and hence they would be quick to locate a fruit tree. To protect fruits from birds and bats covering them with garden fruit netting is great. These nets wouldn’t suffocate the tree by allowing enough sunlight and moister while prevent intrusion.

Shading: Different plants may have different requirement for light and shade. Garden netting can be used for shading plants and help them thrive in less hospitable conditions. These may also prevent the young plants from harsh sunlight during hot summer.

Frames or Trellis Netting: Some plants and climbers thrive vertically. Trellis garden netting helps in putting the plant in the upright position. Vertical plants help adding dramatics to your garden decoration. Further, these are ideal for gardens with space issues. Garden netting can be used in giving them the frame where they can grow without problem.

How to choose right garden netting

The popularity of garden netting is soaring. These have the visual appeal and at the same time have multiple usages in a garden. The technological advancements in garden netting manufacturing have been quite remarkable. Now, along with the old Victorian type glass bell jars a wide range of polyetheylene nettings are also available in the market.

The wide range of garden netting includes- grow netting, insect netting, birds and deer netting, trellis netting, adjustable greenhouse, cold frames and so on and so forth. There is also stretchable and non-stretchable version of garden netting. Hence, it is important to analyse your needs beforehand to find the best netting materials.

One can now also shop on-line to find wide range of garden accessories and equipments, including netting. There are now ready to set-up garden netting which you can simply unpack and unroll over the flower bed. Also available are traditional cloth nettings and glass jars.

While shopping on-line you may shop around and compare prices on different websites before buying. You can further save on on-line purchases by checking for the discounted deals. However, make sure of buying only from authentic and reputed websites to avoid disappointments.

Garden netting can make great investment if you are a gardening enthusiast. These nets are likely to last several harvests and are budget options against chemical pesticides.

The Benefits Of Adding Mulch To Your Garden

If you have ever shopped at one of the local home and garden centers in your area, you may have seen people hauling enormous bags of mulch around in carts or on dollys. These individuals obviously have some gardening chores to complete, but what exactly do they plan to do with all of this organic material? Actually, there are many benefits to mulching in the green spaces around your house.

Do you have a problem with weeds in your garden? These unwelcome plants are notorious for leaching valuable nutrients from the soil, but it can be backbreaking work to pull all of these unsightly growths out by their roots. Plus, the job is never done. Instead of spending hours every weekend removing these from your garden, try spreading mulch over the areas where they grow the most. The wood chip mixture inhibits weed germination and replenishes the soil of its vital resources. Then, after the material starts to break down, you can think about planting flowers or shrubs there. The soil in that area will be way more nutrient-rich after the addition of the organic material.

Those that want to exercise a green thumb in colder climates often use mulch to control soil temperature fluctuations that can kill plants and wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy garden. In the winter, the ground cover traps moisture in and protects plant roots from the cold. By that same token, mulching is done in warm, sunny climates in order to keep roots cool on even the hottest of days.

The best type of mulch to use will depend on the type of climate you live in and the area of your yard in which it will be spread. Experiment with different material compositions in order to see how your plants respond. Wood or bark chips look neat and attractive when spread in different beds. They are also slow to decay, so gardeners will not have to worry about replacing them for some time. However, if you want to use a form of mulch that is more cost-effective, try putting down grass clippings, compost, old leaves, hay, or straw. These are options that homeowners can find and mix together for free.

With this information in mind, you might be quite eager to begin an outdoor improvement project. Just make sure you do your research before you begin mulching with the material of your choice. You will get optimal results by spreading the product evenly and strategically.

Garden Soil – Naturally Sterilizing Garden Soils With Solar

Most garden soils and especially organically created garden soil will never need the extremity of sterilization. However, in some instances such as nematode infestation, it may be desirable to completely sterilize the soil. The major drawback to this, whether naturally or chemically, is that it also kills beneficial soil organisms. However, depending on certain circumstances, it may be necessary.

It’s almost impossible to eliminate all weeds seeds, diseases, nematodes, and insects. And especially organically or naturally. However, it is possible to cut the population of most to just a few simply by using the heat of the sun in the hottest part of Summer. That is, in most climates. I’ll explain more on that later.

In the hottest part of Summer, usually August or July, it’s possible to raise soil temperatures over four inches deep to above 120 degrees using clear plastic sheeting. Simply till or spade manure into the surface soil as deep as you can get it. The manure will help to generate heat.

Next, moisten the area and cover with clear plastic sheeting. Keep the sheeting on the ground and make sure all edges are tucked tightly, covered with dirt, or held down in another way. This will basically create an oven that will produce soil temperature often above 120 degrees. This will generally -cook- the largest percentage of unwanted soil problems. Keep covered and moist for at least four weeks.

In cooler climates where even Summer temperature don’t get very high, it’s possible that this method will actually help germinate some seeds and multiply unwanted soil diseases. It basically creates a cozy greenhouse atmosphere with good temperatures for germination.

On a smaller scale, you can have better success and possibly eliminate all unwanted diseases, weeds, nematodes, and insects. Placing soil in black pots, moistening, and covering tightly with clear plastic will produce soil temperatures in excess of 150-160 degrees. Keep covered for two weeks and make sure it stays moist. Not much can live in that.

Again, keep in mind that this also kills beneficial soil organisms. However, the tradeoff may be necessary. And you can rebuild the structure of the soil over time by adding lots of organics to the soil.

Article by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design Site which offers free landscaping advice, tips, plans, and ideas to do it yourselfers and homeowners. For more landscaping ideas, visit his site at:

Market Gardening On A Budget

Market gardening is a great job. Bringing fresh healthy food to appreciative customers can be enjoyable and profitable. But if you are on a budget, how can you start market gardening without breaking the bank? Here’s some suggestions to get started growing for market on a budget.

Step 1: Finding land to start market gardening. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to own a farm to be a farmer! In most rural areas, there is good land that is underused. Put the word out to your neighbours that you are looking for a small plot for a market garden. You can also find land by driving around and looking for fields that appear un-worked, without animals grazing. Ask local farmers if they might be interested in renting you a small plot; they may even take a share of the vegetables you grow in exchange. A plot as small as 5000 square feet can produce an amazing amount of food for sale.

Step 2: Covering your start-up costs. Here’s a way to raise the start-up capital you will need for seeds and equipment. Approach your friends, family, co-workers, boy scout troop, hockey buddies, in short everybody, and tell them you will be raising delicious, fresh, naturally-grown vegetables, and if they hurry they can get on the list to get some. You can ask them for a deposit to secure their share of the bounty from your garden, or even get them to pay you in advance for veggies they will receive throughout the season. This model of market gardening is known as Community Supported Agriculture, and is a popular and successful model to start gardening for money.

Step 3: Getting your equipment. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on market gardening equipment to get started. You can hire a local farmer to plow and disc your garden space for you. A simple light stand for starting seeds indoors can be built with florescent shop lights and 2 by 2 lumber. Shop light usually come with chains that will let you adjust their height as your plants grow. A market garden of up to an acre can be managed with mostly hand tools, often available cheap at farm auctions. If necessary, you can buy a used rear-tine roto-tiller, or rent one as required. Other recommended supplies include drip or soaker hose for irrigation, and a roll of floating row cover to protect your plants from weather and insect damage.

Step 4: Ordering seed. This is one place where you don’t want to skimp too much. Check the seed catalogs from different suppliers, and find the best prices and sizes of seed packets that suit your growing needs. It’s better to order too much rather than too little seed; if you run out in the middle of the season, more seed may be hard to find. And most seeds will keep for several years, so anything you don’t plant can be used next season.

Step 5: Putting it all together. You now have your land, some customers, start-up capital, and market gardening equipment. Now you actually have to grow the delicious vegetables your customers are expecting. To start with, you need a production plan for your garden. You need to figure out how much of each crop you need to grow, when to start growing them, and when they need to be replanted to ensure a continuous harvest. Your planning will be based on such factors as the length of your growing season, your date for last frost in the spring and first frost in the fall, the number of customers you have, and the equipment you have available. For example, if you have ten customers that each want one head of cabbage from you each week, you will obviously need at least that many cabbages available for harvest on a weekly basis. And since not every seed germinates, and there will be some losses due to weather or insects or disease, you should allow for a ‘safety factor’ when determining how many plants to start. To be sure you will have 10 cabbages ready for harvest, you might start 15 seeds to allow for losses. Follow this kind of analysis for each crop you plan to grow.

Step 6: Maintaining your market garden. Market gardening is real work, requiring regular daily attention to be successful. You will spend time each day in watering, weeding and feeding; the gardener’s WWF. One key to this is, don’t start too big a garden the first year. Perhaps just grow vegetables for a few friends, then as your experience grows you can increase the size of your garden.

Are Garden Umbrellas a Necessity for your Garden

You like to keep your garden lively and gorgeous to the best of your capacity.

You take care of several things in order to keep your garden healthy and attractive. Also, keep on searching newer ways to enhance it more and more. If you have tried everything else but not the garden umbrellas, you are at a loss. Your garden would be lifeless without this attention-grabbing decorative as well as functional outdoor item. Garden umbrellas contribute to the overall visual appeal of your home and surrounding.

You treat your garden as a wonderful way of showing off your taste and creativity. Other than that you know that a garden has many meaningful utilities. It would be many different things including a barbeque party, garden party, private gathering, sitting and reading a book or talking online with your friends, dining with family and pets, or just sitting alone on a lounge chair and savoring the beauty of the surrounding. All these you can enjoy only if your lawn is done impeccably and decorated with useful items.

It is natural that you look for some quality time outside. If so, it doesnt come as true until you bring a garden umbrella which offers you enough shade and comfort. You cannot stay or sit leisurely without the shade and it is not necessary that you have shade providing trees all over the lawn. Even if you have some trees around, it is not necessary that they are located in a place where you love to sit and enjoy. Here you go. You have umbrellas which are made with UV resistant fabrics and sturdy frames and poles. What you merely need to do is find out the best stuff and bring home. Install it in a place where you feel comfortable. This is a valuable investment which gathers a lot of attention.

Quality material used for canopy, the stuff used for umbrella rib and the poles, the opening mechanism, all these things should be checked out sensibly. In any case, you dont want to end up buying a garden umbrella that falls apart even at the slightest hint of an adverse weather! Quality really matters and finding out the quality product is not a Herculean task anymore! The internet umbrella retail stores help you out with a lot of ideas including product descriptions, price comparison and other perks. Quality is assured when you search for yourself and find out the best out of them.

After examining prices and quality, look for its visual appeal too. You have different patterns and colors which may a perfectly support your overall garden design scheme. Multi colored umbrellas are a visual treat while you have other floral patterns too to select from. If bright colored stripes are a popular option among beach lovers, the garden enthusiastic loves subdued colors as they come as so natural for a garden. Whatever it might be, the truth is that it reflects your personality rather than anything else!


Honor Your Pet With A Garden Pet Urn

Urns have been used for thousands of years as a way to honor deceased individuals. These days, it is common for pet owners to have their deceased pets cremated and then to place the ashes of their pet within a special urn. A garden pet urn is a meaningful way to honor your pet.

Many types of pets spend a great deal of time enjoying their backyard environment. You probably have many memories of playing with your pet in your backyard or watching them enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in your yard. What better way to remember them after they are gone than to place their ashes in their favorite spot?

If you are planning to purchase a pet urn that will be placed in an outdoor environment such as your backyard, it is important to ensure that the urn is designed to be durable enough for the outdoors. It should be stable and heavy so that wind will not knock it over or carry it off. It should be unbreakable in case a tree branch or other heavy object falls on it. Finally, it should be waterproof to prevent damage. To meet all of these objectives, it is best to find a pet urn that is specifically designed to be placed in an outdoor environment.

Many outdoor pet urns are designed to look like a natural stone and offer an easy way to insert your pets ashes. These urns will keep your pets ashes safely inside the urn no matter what weather or outdoor elements come your way.

To personalize your pet urn, have a special plaque added to the urn that includes the name of your pet and/or a special poem. You will also find that there are outdoor pet urns available that already come inscribed with meaningful poems or sayings such as, Gone yet not forgotten, although we are apart, your spirit lives within me, forever in my heart. You may have a special poem in mind that can be added to the urn as a way to honor your pets memory.

After you have found a pet urn, choose a location in your backyard that you and your pet enjoyed spending time in. Set up a bench or chair so that you can spend time in that special place to remember your pet and to work through the grieving process. With time, the special place you have set aside for your pets urn will become a place to recall fond memories of your pet.