Energy Efficient Windows Effect On Your Landscaping

window 300x300 Energy Efficient Windows Effect On Your Landscaping

Energy Efficient windows may be a great savings inside the home, but their effect on your landscaping can cause you just the opposite situation, as magnified rays are reflected from your windows directly onto vulnerable leaf tissue.

For several years I have observed the damage in turf grass and garden plants caused by the radiant heating that comes off of new energy efficient windows. In areas exposed to full summer sun for more than 8 hours a day, I have measured temperatures up to and exceeding 160 degrees beamed directly onto plant material. Plants that normally seem healthy fall through spring will begin to show leaf scorch, and die back to the ground. Areas around your house that were lush and green prior to your window installation now look dry and damaged through the hottest summer weather.

How To Discover If Damage Is Due To Energy Efficient Windows:

  1. Monitor your plant life from summer to fall, and spring to summer. Look for drastic changes in leaf production related to warm weather months that are not due to visible pests, and that change once again in the milder months.  Does the problem seem to self correct in cooler months?  Do your shrubs lose leaves at the top, and continue to produce leaves and shoots from the roots?
  2. Check to angle of light on your plants. Physically move into the effected planting beds, or turf area.  Place yourself, or your hand over the plant, and see if you can cast a shadow over the plant.  Energy Efficient Windows have built in layers of glass in them and cast light in several directions. An area experiencing burn-out due to these windows will not show a true shadow, and while a plant you are leaning over will remain totally lit, a very light shadow will appear somewhere far from the actual plant. Any shadow that appears under these conditions will have light refraction shining through it, and have holes of light in it, appearing far too light to be an actual shadow.
  3. When looking for a shadow and excessive light over your plants with your hand or body, see if the area you are standing in feels dramatically hotter than the air around you.  Regardless of how hot the air may be, an area in full sun with light reflecting on it will be significantly hotter.  Windows will reflect heat like a magnifying glass onto you and your plants, and you will be able to discern the difference between this heat, and that of prior windows.

How To Minimize The Effect On Your Landscaping:

  1. Water your plants once per day or every other day to help keep the plant or turf area alive through the hottest days of summer.  Complete all watering on lawn areas after 6PM in the evening, or in the early morning, to ensure that water droplets have evaporated before the reflective heat reaches the area. In planting beds  provide ground level water, with drip hoses, or direct spray below the leaf line to hydrate the plants. Water droplets on leaves during peak sun hours magnify the light even more onto the leaf tissue, and guarantee large amounts of damage.
  2. Change the type of plants you plant in effected areas.  Keep bulbs and flowers in effected areas during the spring and fall months, but leave the summer flowers out of these areas. Concentrate on planting bushes in these areas that can take more heat than the delicate leaves and flowers of perennials, and annuals.
  3. Adjust the shape of your garden beds if the damage can’t be altered by water alone. Low windows that begin two to three feet off the ground give your plants no break from the sunlight from the moment the sun rises, and begin to radiate heat on your plants early on in the day.  Spend some time on a Saturday morning with string or measuring tape, and set them in the lawn or garden to denote and give yourself a visual marker of where the reflective light moves under your windows.  Once you have a good idea of which areas are the worst effected by the excessive heat move the boundary lines and shapes of your garden beds to protect your plants and transplant the landscaping in the greatest danger of sun scorch.

I have found that the worst and lasting damage appears around apartment buildings, where stacks of windows on the side of a building concentrate their burning light on a limited area.  Large bay windows can also be culprits when you see this type of burn damage. 

Creativity can be a great asset when you discover this problem in your yard. Tackle the tips in this list slowly, and avoid transplanting your damaged plants in the midst of the summer months, to prevent adding transplant stress to your plants current issues. Use the early fall months to rearrange and shuffle your plants around.  If you aren’t sure what shape bed to adjust your landscaping to fit, place a garden hose in several shapes in your garden, or on your bushes, and watch how the light plays around it for a few days.  Once you find a shape you like  that will protect your plants from the worst of the radiant heat, you are ready to re-design your bed! For turf areas that repeatedly die back, build a re-seeding program into your fall yard work plans to combat empty spots in your turf, and ensure a constant crop of grass.


Photo Courtesy of: kyz

A DIY Three-Tiered Planter

img 1767 768x1024 A DIY Three Tiered Planter

Here is a creative idea I came across this week that turns three plastic pots into an eye catching three-tiered planter.  This design is easily recreated with various sized planters you may already have at home, this model uses three shallow, wide-mouthed containers, with a section of PVC pipe, and some PVC glue.  Additional Terra Cotta spray paint is optional, but can really improve the appearance with your final product.

How To Use This Idea At Your Place:

  1. To follow this model, place the largest pot on your patio and fill it completely with soil.
  2. Choose PVC pipe with a wide diameter, and trim one piece of it to a length greater than 12 inches.  The section in our model was about 14 inches long, but can be greater in length to allow for taller plants in your middle planter.
  3. Place your medium sized pot on the soil of your base pot, and begin filling it with dirt.
  4. Find the center of your medium pot, and work the PVC section into it, while continuing to add soil to the pot, and to the middle of your “planted” PVC section. Place the rough end of your trimmed PVC section down in the dirt, leaving the smooth end for gluing.
  5. Fill the PVC section with dirt only to the soil line of the rest of the pot to stabilize the structure you are making.
  6. Using the PVC glue, coat the exposed lip of the PVC and center your empty top pot over it.
  7. Leave the structure to dry for 24 hours before touching or filling the top pot.
  8. Use a Terra Cotta spray paint to coat the outside of the PVC pipe, and to tie the Tiered Planter together visually.

One thing I like about this design is the separated containers. Annuals can be changed out regularly in only one level at a time, and the moment one layer of plants begins to fade you can substitute new flowers there right away for perfect long lasting color.  When completely filled and mature the planter looks like a solid cone of flowers, and it looks great on balconies and patios that are short on gardening space.

Your Thoughts: Have you tried a stacked design before in your garden?

Legislation And Green Building In The Future

Maryland is one of several states that has passed cobblestones 300x199 Legislation And Green Building In The Futurelegislation offering up to an 8% tax credit off the total cost for new construction for projects that follow specific guidelines for green construction methods. As the Environmental Protection Agency continues to influence future construction methods across the United States, legislation is moving it’s way to the top of several states priority lists that would tax newly construction roadways that are not built up to new green methods. 

Bills that will tax builders on the installation of impermeable surfaces, like pavement roads and sidewalks, may make our asphalt roads a thing of the past. Pavement roadways and sidewalks have been linked with everything from run-off and pollution issues, to the heat island effect that keeps our cities several degrees warmer than the surrounding suburbs. This new construction trend will not only impact large construction companies, but also the smaller contractors that install driveways, sidewalks and patio slabs around homes.  Pavers may soon become the standard in all home improvement projects that add to your outdoor living space, including areas around pools and garden paths.

Many landscaping companies are already making ‘paver only’ plans for homeowners seeking driveway, patio, and pool area additions as they prepare for this change in building code that they anticipate to occur in the next few years nation wide. How will this effect you?  If you are planning any home additions that will involve pavement in the next few years, always ask a contractor to get you prices for both pavement, and paver installation.  Where pavers were once more pricey than asphalt to install, new taxation on impermeable surfaces may mean that pavers come at a better price, while raising the value of your home at the same time.


Photo Courtesy of: daviddesign

How To: Harvest Seeds From Purple Coneflowers

coneflower 300x200 How To: Harvest Seeds From Purple Coneflowers

A Guerrilla Gardening becomes more popular, so does ‘Guerrilla Harvesting,’ a new trend where gardeners, dog walkers, and generally snoopy people, pinch flowers from other people’s gardens to harvest the seeds for their mischievous purposes!

I won’t ask you where you get your flower heads from, but I am more than happy to help your navigate your way through them to collect your favorite seeds.  Today I’ll help you harvest Purple Coneflower seeds. [Read more...]

Sky Pencil Holly Front Entry DIY Makeover

img 1547 193x300 Sky Pencil Holly Front Entry DIY Makeover

For a quick, no-fuss evergreen entrance way makeover skip the overly familiar Yew bushes, and find Sky Pencil Hollies at your nearby nursery or big box store. 

Sky Pencil Hollies are terrific small trees that grow to a maximum height of 10 feet, and spread only 2-3 feet in a tidy upright form that never needs pruning.  These Japanese natives have soft leaves, and when planted in groups form a year-round background for  your flowers and shrubs. These make a perfect addition to gardens, or architecture, providing a softening effect on the appearance of sharp angles.

The Holly pictured to the right is already four feet tall, and was used with two other Sky Pencils to soften and fill in some room up against the front wall of a modern craftsman home.  I chose to use this plant in a garden area that already featured a 20 foot mature American Holly tree, and rows of variegated Hosta, and Photinia.  After Planting the Pencils, and trimming up the Large Holly and bushes a bit, the garden is ready for it’s close up. For added easy care color, I recommend planting large amounts of yellow Tulip and Daffodil bulbs, to give the entrance way seemingly endless blooms for the first few weeks of spring.  Summer annuals can be planted for seasonal color, or the bed can remain a cool green oasis by the front door for the summer months.

Before                                                                     After

img 1466 300x227 Sky Pencil Holly Front Entry DIY Makeoverimg 1546 300x250 Sky Pencil Holly Front Entry DIY Makeover








Hint:  It’s important when planting larger shrubs and trees to leave room for the plants to mature without crowding each other. Make sure you know just how large and wide your plants will grow when planting, and space your shrubs out accordingly from the get-go to eliminate the need to shuffle your plants around in future years.

Bright Evergreen Color For Raised Planter Boxes

img 1540 1024x768 Bright Evergreen Color For Raised Planter Boxes

I worked with a client recently to change the landscaping in front of her newly remodeled home, including the three tiered planting boxes that framed in her front steps. Like other large planters this one held remnants of miscellaneous flowers, and a large amount of ‘Blue Rug’ Creeping Juniper, but weeds were filling in the open spaces, and the homeowner wanted something more formal and low maintenance.

Large planting boxes can be intimidating because whatever is grown in them becomes such a focal point. The wrong combination of plants necessitates frequent trimming to keep any growth off  nearby walkways, and when near an entrance, a regular schedule of deadheading, and weeding is necessary to maintain a neat appearance. Rather than struggling to contain flowers and shrubs in these architectural pieces, I recommend using combinations of evergreens around front entrances, to provide formal and easily contained color. [Read more...]

What To Do With Christmas Tree Lighting Embedded In Evergreen Trees

img 1816 1024x768 What To Do With Christmas Tree Lighting Embedded In Evergreen TreesIt’s important to perform regular checks on the health  of your trees, even when it comes to double checking that you’ve removed all the Christmas lights from the previous year!

It can be tempting to leave some lights up on trees after the holidays from one year to the next, particularly on the highest branches, but after many years of doing this your trees can actually absorb and grow over twist ties, looped cords and bulbs.  While some trees can grow to absorb these small decorations and continue to thrive, in many situations this abnormal growth will inhibit the growth of your trees, or kill the tree outright.

I was performing a health check on the Norway Spruce pictured above and discovered past years decorations embedded into several of the trees branches. The tree branches in this situation have grown over  looped light cords, and even covered over some of the bulbs. After cutting and pulling out all Christmas tree lights loose in the tree, it was easier to see which branches had embedded lights and ties in them, and to discover why many branches had decreased needle production in recent years.

What To Do With Cords Embedded In Tree Branches:

Objects that trees grow over inhibit and disturb the travel of nutrients inside the tree, even if  a tree is producing apparently healthy bark growth on the outside of a branch there can be serious damage occurring inside the tree.  Ties around the branches can eventually strangle the tree branch and damage the tree permanently, so the safest option for the tree is to prune off the area effected to save the branch from any potential long term damage. I recommend pruning sap producing trees in the fall months, when production is down.  In the case of debris grown into the trunk of a tree I recommend consulting a certified Arborist to help you decide what the best method will be to maintain the health of your tree.

Make sure you take time this summer to check your own trees for decorations and ties, and remove anything on your tree that has been in place for one year. Keeping your trees healthy will help your home retain value, and provide you with shade and beauty in the years in between. 

Native To Know: Penstemon ‘Beard Tongue’

img 1629 225x300 Native To Know: Penstemon ‘Beard Tongue’

Native plants are notoriously tolerant of both the wet spring weather, and the droughts that stretch through the North American summer months, and Beard Tongue (Penstemon) is an airy example of drought tolerance that has the appearance of an English garden staple.

Penstemon comes in hundred of cultivars, but the original native varieties generally are sold under the name “Beard Tongue.” A full or partial sun perennial, this plant is easily grown from seed, or as a live plant.  It does well in naturalized areas near woodlines, or in meadow since it doesn’t need too much water to thrive, and fits in well with other formal garden plants like Lavender, Roses, Daisies, and Purple Coneflowers.

[Read more...]

Tropical Dracaena Container Recipe

Summertime is the perfect time to give your houseplants a new purpose by using them in outdoor displays. Plants like this Dracaena marginata also may need annual root trimmings to properly fit into you interior containers, so a summer repurposing is the perfect time to check on the health of your plants by checking the root system, and cleaning the interior containers out for fresh soil and fertilizing later.

img 1761 768x1024 Tropical Dracaena Container Recipe

Tropical Dracaena Display Recipe

[Read more...]

Using PVC, or a Recycled Water Bottle to Keep Your Strawberry Pot Moist

img 1677 225x300 Using PVC, or a Recycled Water Bottle to Keep Your Strawberry Pot Moist

img 1564 225x300 Using PVC, or a Recycled Water Bottle to Keep Your Strawberry Pot Moist img 1562 225x300 Using PVC, or a Recycled Water Bottle to Keep Your Strawberry Pot Moist

Strawberry pots are beautiful additions to a front porch, or balcony garden, but keeping the moisture and water inside a pot covered with holes can be anything but a walk in the park!  If you are looking online at Strawberry pot recipes, and want to plant flowers and herbs in your container that need moist soil, simply watering the exterior of your pot heavily with a hose can lead to soil loss in each of the cupolas on the side of the container.

What You Need:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Drill
  • One PVC Section (size approximate to your container), or One Water Bottle
  1. Measure the distance from the bottom inside the pot to just above the top lip of the pot. Ideally you want any reservoir inside the container to have its own opening above the soil line. If you are using a PVC section, use the measurement to decide the best length necessary for your reservoir.
  2. Drill 5-7 small holes around your pipe or bottle at differing heights, to allow water to seep gradually out of your reservoir and into the soil of your pot.
  3. Fill the bottom 2 inches of your pot with soil, and place your PVC section (or plastic bottle) in the center of the pot, allowing up to 1 inch of the pipe to be at rest above where your soil line in the pot will be once it is filled.
  4. Fill in the center of your pot with soil, leaving the cupolas empty until your plants are ready to be placed in them.

Fill the reservoir at least once per week, and see if this method of watering won’t take the hassle out of caring for your own strawberry pot garden.