Category Archives: green

Bottom of the Botanical Barrel

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Consider this a public service announcement/soapbox lecture from your favorite Landscape Architect (unless you are one of my readers who is also an LA, then I don’t have to be your favorite). This time of year, beginning of spring, I drive in to work thinking of two things:

1. I sure love spring!

2. WHY oh WHY on God’s green earth, do so many people still plant those damn Bradford Pear trees?

They are not good trees. This is not just my (educated) opinion, this is fact. Consider that on a list of trees for Kansas City, complied by an extremely knowledgeable local LA* by interviewing certified arborists, urban foresters, extension agents, nurserymen, and researchers that the number one lowest rated tree** is the Bradford Pear. This tree is total crap.

It stinks (opinion), the flowers are not pretty compared to magnolias, crabapples, dogwoods, heck most anything else that flowers (opinion) but they are short lived (fact), horribly branched (fact), weak (fact), and have no redeeming features whatsoever save the one week out of the year that it produces ugly, stinky flowers.

Why on earth would you plant one of these trees? Because it was on sale on Home Depot? Please don’t buy trees from Home Depot.

Don’t plant this tree. You don’t have to cut it down if you are unfortuntate enough to have one on your property (I would though), but let’s not add more Brandford Pears to the world. If you need tree suggestions, I would love to offer my opinion. My educated opinion.

That’s all. One more week and these botanical atrocities won’t be so obvious and I won’t hyperventilate on my drive in to work.

* I want to give credit where credit is due, but I don’t want my blog to be google-able. So, if you are curious I’ll give you the info.

**(The rest of the list of lowest rated trees, if you are curious: (2. Silver Maple, 3. Newport Plum, 4. Cottonwood, 5. White/Green Ash, 6. Amur Maple, 7. Green Hawthorn, 8. Black Locust, 9. Sweetgum (AMEN and AMEN!!!!), 10. Red Maple.)***

***If you want to know why, don’t be shy about asking. Or you can just take our collective word for it.

Weekly Green #2, and more Garden talk

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For the weekly green, I will simply pass on this fun gardening site.
They sell bird feeders, rain barrels, composters, upside-down tomato growers, electric mowers, and a little bit of everything else. I can’t vouch for anything because I haven’t ordered, but it sure is fun to look.

Yesterday I went to the garden center to pick up a few replacement plants and I was enticed to full my little red rider wagon. Our tomato list this year: Golden Boy, Better Boy, Early Girl, Sweet 100, Black Plum, Black Cherry, Razzleberry, Brandywine, Stupice, Pink Beauty, and a few others whose names are too weird to remember. I also picked up some apple blossom begonias and trailing veranda verbena for some hanging pots. The names were enough to convince me to buy the plants, hopefully they look as pretty as they sound. I would upload pictures but my little jump disk has decided to be uncooperative so you will just have to picture in your head how nice it all looks, which (depending upon the strength of your imagination) likely is much more striking than the reality.

Weekly Green

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I have two green tips for today and then I promise I will post pictures tonight. The first tip I came across accidentally and I think most people already do this, but I will still share. I do not believe I could have survived this pregnancy thus far without Gatorade. We have purchased copious amounts of the stuff in the convenient 6 or 8 packs, whatever is on sale. For months, I brought along 2 or 3 plastic bottles to work with me every day (making sure I recycled them of course, even though we all strongly suspect that the cleaning crew still dumps our bins in the trash). Then one day at the grocery store I noticed they sell a nice container of Gatorade Mix for $4, which makes enough cups of the concoction to last me a month. And I am not talking about the nasty lemon-lime mix that always reminds me of having the flu as a kid (thanks, Mom), but they actually have good flavors like Riptide Rush. Not only is it WAY cheaper, it saves a ton of plastic packaging that is really just pure waste. I am constantly amazed at the amount of trash that is generated from wasteful packing by manufacturers. So, tip #1- buy in bulk whenever possible to save money AND packaging.

Tip # 2 came to mind last night as Craig and I made a run to Longview Gardens to FINALLY purchase plants for this season. When buying plants, it is best for a number of reasons to seek out plants that are grown at a local nursery as opposed to buying them at a big box store. I will confess that I am easily swayed by the rows of cheap plants at Lowe’s and the like. I can hardly visit these stores without managing to buy at least a few things. BUT, it is truly best to buy the majority of your plants locally. The biggest benefit is that you are purchasing plants that are adapted to your local microclimate, and not for example, a “Proven Winner” which has been shipped in from Texas or Florida. If you are familiar with the carbon footprint concept, you are also savings tons of emissions by purchasing plants that haven’t traveled at all. And, you are supporting a local business, which always feels good. And the people at these nurseries really know their plants!! We are trying harder this year to avoid Home Depot and seek out more local sources for what we need. It is definitely hard, but we have enjoyed finding all of the neat local stores and this has a huge “feel good” factor. I would caution that a number of nurseries that seem local still ship in their plant material from out of state. Finding a place that has grown their material from seed or cuttings is worth the hunt. And really, this same concept can apply to veggies this time of year and visiting Farmer’s Markets, if you don’t have your own garden.

Green Speak

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I have really been slacking on the “green” posts, and I have no excuse. Having a baby on the way gives me even more incentive to overhaul our wasteful lifestyle. Cloth diapers? No question. There are so many areas of our lives that are wasteful but we just don’t give a second thought to it because we are so used to doing things the way we have always done them. So this post is going to be some easy, everyday changes that you may or may not have thought of that will give our earth a bit of a break. And I don’t mean to be preachy with it, everyone can find their own ways to lessen their footprint, these are just some that work for us.

1. Everyone has heard it already, time to go do it. Compact fluorescents. We have finally replaced all of our lights (with exception of the yellow room which looks way too pukey in fluorescent) and it took some getting used to the color rendition, but now we hardly notice them. I would especially recommend them for a garage. We had been replacing those bulbs a few times a month thanks to the vibrations from the door and now we haven’t touched them in months. It may seem like a big cost up front, but like cloth diapers they pay for themselves really quickly- and save energy.

2. Cleaning products. There are so many good chemical free products out there now that there is no reason to continue with the ajax and electrosol, etc. Traditional products are undesirable for many reasons- the chemicals used to produce them, the chemicals they leave on your household surfaces, and the chemicals that get into the water supply, such as phosphates from detergents. Newer products clean just as well, and have much less impact on the earth. And they smell better too!! We love Method products for general cleaning and laundry, and use Seventh Generation dish washer detergent- both products found at Target and the local Hy-Vee. They don’t cost much extra, might as well give them a try. And there is always baking soda and vinegar!!!

3. Lawn care. I have heard turf lawns referred to a few times as “drug=dependent rugs”. Isn’t that the truth? Unfortunately, most of our neighbors would freak if we converted to prairie grass so we have to make the best of what we have. Hopefully someday turf as the default treatment for unpaved space will go the way of the dodo bird but until then there are a few things to do. The easiest is to learn to live with a few weeds. Forgo the chemicals, use natural fertilizers, and use a muscle-powered rake over a leaf blower. If you have a small lawn- consider a rotary cutter. Quick fact- 5% of air pollution in the US is from lawn maintenance equipment, and each year 67 MILLION pounds of pesticides are applied to lawns (source: Conservation Design Forum presentation). Wow. Anything to reduce that can’t be bad. There are mixes available for short, no-mow prairie if that suits your fancy. This is an area we are still working on with our own yard and we really have quite a ways to go to be sustainable. But we are trying.

4. Trash bags. This is going to be a new one for us. We recycle as much as we can because we are in the position to do so. The ugly truth is that recycling doesn’t make a huge amount of difference in the long haul, even if it has a large feel good factor. Unfortunately, consumerism is the culprit here- we just buy too much stuff and generate a lot of waste. And by we I mean me, I am really super guilty of this. But, I found a site that sells biodegradable trash bags for $5. I think this is a great idea, and I am going to order them right now. What a difference it would make it all trash bags were biodegradable. A reduction in petroleum usage in the production in the sacks, and less landfill waste. In that same vein, this same site sells portable reusable grocery sacks. I am again guilty of using tons of plastic sacks with our groceries. We do recycle them- but it is best not to use them at all. So I pledge to do better on that as well.

That is all for now, I have to save some stuff for future posts. I guess the big thing is that I would urge everyone to think through their choices and the larger impact of those choices. We are all so accustomed to going about our business without much thought the the trail of destruction we leave in our wakes. Perhaps a little dramatic, but honestly it is eye-opening and a little scary to do some research on the impact each person will have on the planet in their lifetime. It is undeniable that we really can’t continue on like that. Not everyone can buy a Prius, but we can all do a little something and all together- it really does add up to making a difference.

Cleaning up my act

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I have put off watching An Inconvenient Truth for a long time. It’s not that I thought I wouldn’t like- I just knew it was going to be very, very depressing. When it comes to news about the environment it seems like every new article makes me shake my head and wonder- what are we doing? What are we thinking? Or, pertaining to the government-what are they thinking???

Craig and I finally watched the movie. Everyone should watch the movie. It is very depressing, but it needs to be heard. I have been an environmentalist at heart for a long time, but I have started to realize that more than just holding certain ideals, I actually need to DO something about them. I received a book for Christmas that I have only begun to delve into- World Changing. And already I know it is a book worth reading because for once, I feel hopeful. Check this book out at the library and give it a glance. The chapeter on “Stuff” is incredibly eye-opening. The book presents solutions instead of the depressing news that I am tired of hearing. I don’t need to be convinced we are screwing up our planet; I just want to know what I personally can do to stop contributing to that.

I think I have always felt that 90% of people do care about this planet, feel a connection to nature, and don’t want to leave a legacy of pollution and disease for future generations. But there is a disconnect between having a belief and knowing how to act on it. Craig and I just now found out about the positive impact of compact fluorescents and switched out our bulbs. We have only recently started unplugging our appliances. This next spring will be the first time we use organic fertilizer instead of chemicals on our lawn and garden. When we paint the kitchen Mocha, for the first time we are going to use a non-toxic paint without VOC’s. There is a learning curve- I want to do things better I just need to know what to do.

So I am going to assume there may be a few other readers out there like me. Who do care, but don’t know where to start. To be helpful we have added new links. These are good links- really worth checking into. Please do. They are not political- I promise, they are just good green sense. And every week or so I am going to offer some ways we have found to lessen our impact just in case someone else would like to try them out as well.

Maybe one person can’t make much of a difference. But I am tired of making excuses for our bad behavior. This one person is committing to change.