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Expand your Space
with Outdoor Living Essentials
April, 2010 - Issue #66
The weather is warm and the real estate market is cold. A bigger house might not be in your future, but a few low-cost improvements to your backyard will make you feel "right" at home.

Take a Seat
In our book, relaxation can only take place in a reclining position. So, to turn your yard into a sanctuary, outdoor living furniture is a must. "Exterior fabrics are made to withstand the outdoor elements and be soft and comfortable for years. We can help you find the right pieces in the styles and colors to compliment your home and create a flow from inside your home outside into your garden," says Kirki Coleman of Green Thumb (259-1072).

Add Interest"Pottery that complements your patio furniture or water feature can really make a difference," reminds Sandy Cudmore of Green Thumb. "Choosing the right plants to go in the pots is the finishing touch. Choose a combination of plants with height, color, texture or plants that trail, so that you have a mini garden within each container."

Maintain the Look
Proper maintenance is essential to making any yard look its best, informs Chad Curtis of Landscape Pros (510-8865). "Often, I see yards that have a landscape that is a little dated, but improper maintenance can make those yards look ancient. Just cleaning up the plants, fertilizing the grass, removing weeds, installing a few flowers and mulching the beds can brighten up the outside of any home," states the pro, whose company specializes in affordable maintenance packages.

Most gardeners don't know simple pruning techniques that make a huge difference in how your plants look. "The easiest and most common way for gardeners to trim plants is with a hedge trimmer. They can butcher shrubs in no time and turn them into many different shapes, most of which don't look good. For the most part, a plant should be trimmed and thinned so it softens and enhances the area in which it's planted," says Curtis.

If they are planted at the right time of year and in the correct location, annual flowers can provide months of great color. "We recommend planting in smaller, denser patches so the impact of the flowers is substantial. Installing flowers a foot apart in a large planter isn't effective and doesn't give you the burst of color you are looking for," opines Curtis.

Mulching is one of the most effective ways to reduce water consumption and have those annual flowers you just planted thrive. Mulch (Not bark; bark is ugly!) reduces the amount of evaporation from the soil and keeps the roots cool and moist. This is especially effective in the warmer months when the ground can turn dry in just a few hours. It also introduces micro-organisms into the soil, which is great for root development and a healthier plant. "Mulch also hides the dirt and rocks that often come to the surface from your gardener tilling the soil," says Curtis. "Considering how much water you will save and how well your plants will do, mulching is inexpensive and very effective."

The Nonessential: Grass
Do you have a water-guzzling, high-maintenance lawn? Get rid of it, says Jeff Brown of NV Landscape, Inc. (286-8888). Most lawns aren't large enough to serve as adequate play areas for kids and animals; they end up wasting space and resources. Brown suggests replacing your grass with a well-thought-out combination of hardscape and low-maintenance plants that can attract hummingbirds and butterflies. "There are many kid-friendly plants that do well in Santa Clarita. Kids can wander through a just-for-them path, handling different textures and playing with different-shaped flowers. They're outside, in their own world, really enjoying their environment," says Brown.

Once you decide to do away with the lawn, your choices become nearly limitless. Is spending time as a family a goal? Install a firepit and make "s'more night" a weekly tradition. Need to relax? A pond, created with natural stone, will provide an incomparable aquatic ambience. Outdoor "kitchen" islands are the perfect addition for entertainers, and, now that the grass is gone, there's plenty of room for patio furniture. May we suggest you pull up a chair next to your new outdoor fireplace?
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