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Attract Birds And Butterflies

Pleasures Of Public Gardens

Newest Lawn Mowers

Pruning Five Tips

Conserve Water

Survive A Disaster

Energy Saving Bulbs

Cooling Systems

 

 

Beauty Is Waiting In The Wings: Attracting Birds And Butterflies

(NAPSI)—Birds and butterflies add color and excitement to a garden that can’t be found from any other source. And their contributions are much more than aesthetic: Birds help control insects and slugs; while butterflies are important pollinators. Almost anywhere a plant grows will get an occasional visit from these attractive and beneficial creatures. Making your yard a welcoming oasis for them can be as simple as choosing the right plants.

Inviting Butterflies

Butterflies and hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar, a sugary liquid produced inside flowers. Certain plants are exceptional sources of nectar, such as the aptly named butterfly bush (Buddleia), which is a favorite of hummingbirds as well.

Though these shrubs have long been popular, newly introduced varieties offer major improvements. For example, a Miss Molly butterfly bush has intense dark magenta flowers on a compact 4˜−5’ (1.2−1.5m) plant. If space is an issue, you may care to try the Lo and Behold series of butterfly bushes. These shrubs pack all the flower power and attractive silver foliage of their larger kin but in a neat, compact package: Blue Chip is just 24−30” (60−72cm) tall.

White butterfly bushes, such as Ice Chip, make an excellent choice for busy people who can only enjoy their gardens at night. The light-colored flowers appear to shine in the dark and at just 18−24” (45−60 cm) tall, it can be planted in a large pot or as an edging around a deck or patio.

Attracting Songbirds

Numerous species of much-loved songbirds, such as cardinals, cedar waxwings and bluebirds, rely on berries for food. Fortunately, several easy-to-grow landscape plants provide fruit for the birds and beauty for the gardener.

Winterberry holly, a native shrub, is an especially nice choice. Unlike other hollies, it loses its leaves in autumn, making the berry-laden stems extra showy. Some varieties are especially fruitful, such as Berry Heavy, while others are selected for exceptionally bright color, such as Berry Nice. Birds prefer the fruit of winterberry holly when it’s ripe and soft; consequently, the ornamental display remains until mid-winter.

Birds, Butterflies and Lady Bugs

Certain plants are veritable bird- and butterfly-attracting powerhouses, providing both nectar-rich flowers and edible berries. Black Lace elderberry, for example, blooms in early summer with large clusters of pink flowers favored by a host of beneficial insects including lacewings and ladybugs. Once they have pollinated the plant, the resulting fruit is relished by a number of bird species; human garden visitors are equally fond of this shrub with its lacy dark purple leaves and attractive habit. It adapts readily to growing in a container, making it especially suitable for nature lovers with limited space.

Viburnum is another excellent option that provides nectar and fruit. There are many varieties available, but for maximum wildlife benefit, select one that bears abundant crops of fruit, such as the Blue Muffin with its dark blue berries, or Cardinal Candy with clusters of shiny red berries.

Shrubs provide excellent habitat for birds, as their much-branched interiors make lots of perches for building a nest and their foliage ensures good coverage to hide from predators. However, to keep the welcome mat out year-round, it is important to include some evergreen plants in every garden.

Varieties such as Soft Serve false cypress add graceful structure and rich color while providing a safe resting spot for feathered visitors, a service they’re sure to appreciate between the meals you’ve thoughtfully laid out for them.

For more information on the variety of plants that attract butterflies and songbirds to the garden, visit provenwinners.com.

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The Pleasures Of Public Gardens

(NAPSI)—“You can learn a lot of things from the flowers,” as Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” remarked. Here’s a look at a few of the things you can discover among the flowers in America’s beautiful, bountiful public gardens.

Water Conservation

Public gardens use efficient watering practices and have industry insight on responsible irrigation systems. Homeowners can learn how to irrigate their own gardens by exploring and consulting with a public garden.

Native and Adapted Plants

Choosing native plants or plants that have adapted to the local environment can ensure that a garden will be healthy and require less water. Public gardens tend to have huge collections of native and adaptable plants that homeowners can be assured will work in their own gardens.

Landscape Design

Homeowners can find inspiration in the design of gardens and the way gardens are displayed, coordinated and arranged. Landscaping at public gardens can demonstrate which plants bloom at similar times, which arrangements look well together, and how gardens can be beautifully displayed.

Seasonal Considerations

Public gardens have a selection of plants that are right for a variety of seasons. Blooms can happen year-round if the appropriate types of plants or trees are selected. Keeping your garden beautiful can be easier once you see how public gardens arrange their collection.

Gardening Methods

Public gardens often have staff dedicated to botany and are home to specialists who understand the geographical region very well. You can access these industry experts at the public garden and get advice on gardening techniques for your own plants.

Publications

Public gardens usually have publications available to visitors and members that provide resources on gardening and botany. You may find a wealth of knowledge in member publications. Often, there are libraries and bookstores within the public gardens as well.

Plants and Supplies

Public gardens will often sell plants, flowers and trees to garden members, perhaps during annual festivals, providing top-quality additions to your garden. The sale may come with professional experience and advice of the sort that cannot be found elsewhere.

Learn More

The nonprofit American Public Gardens Association has partnered with Rain Bird, a leading manufacturer and provider of irrigation products, to promote gardens through National Public Gardens Day. Many of the nation’s public gardens will mark the day with special events and activities for schools, families and thousands of visitors. For more information, you can visit www.NationalPublicGardensDay.org.

 

Note to Editors: May 11, 2012 is the fourth annual National Public Gardens Day.

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Newest Lawn Mowers Are A Cut Above

(NAPSI)—If your lawn mower is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider a replacement. In the past decade, engineering advances have produced gas-powered lawn mowers that run cleaner, start easier and are more fuel efficient than ever before, while providing a variety of options that make yard care easier.

Gas-powered mowers remain the No. 1 choice among homeowners, accounting for four out of every five mowers sold in the United States, according to The Stevenson Company, a leading consumer research organization. Lawn care experts say they aren't surprised because gas mowers give consumers so many choices when it comes to power, price and options—something they don't get with electric and battery-powered mowers, which are mainly an option for homeowners with small yards.

"Gas mowers provide a range of power to reliably mow any size yard and even tall, thick grass," explains Rick Zeckmeister, a vice president at Briggs & Stratton Corporation, which engineers and manufactures gas engines for outdoor power equipment.

Today's gas-powered lawn mowers, he points out, are also in tune with today's environmentally conscious lifestyles. Since 1995, Briggs & Stratton has reduced carbon emissions produced by its gas engines by 75 percent. According to EPA statistics, all gas-powered outdoor power equipment combined accounts for less than half a percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S. (Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the U.S. Transportation Sector 1990−2003, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, EPA 420 R06 003, March 2006). Based on EPA statistics, if a family replaced a single 75-watt incandescent lightbulb with an equivalent compact fluorescent bulb in their home, it would more than offset the carbon emissions from using a gas walk-behind mower for an entire mowing season.

"Gas mowers have improved dramatically over the years in every way," says Zeckmeister. "It would be like comparing a television from the 1990s to a new flat- screen LCD TV you would buy today."

Other innovations and benefits of the newest gas mowers include:

• Easy starting, with a single pull of the starter rope or the push of a button, like in the newest cars;

• Improved fuel efficiency and advanced muffler systems that produce a more pleasant sound quality and less vibration;

• Ample engine power to mulch grass clippings while mowing, turning them into a natural fertilizer for the lawn;

• A variety of options to make mowing easier, from mowers that automatically adjust to the walking pace of the person mowing to digital dashboards that show the time, fuel level, maintenance reminders and other information.

Briggs & Stratton provides an online tutorial on how to select a lawn mower at www.yardsmarts.com.

For information on environmental and product performance considerations when choosing a new lawn mower, visit www.briggsandstratton.com.

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Five Pruning Tips

(NAPSI)—Pruning shrubs helps produce new and healthier growth plus keeps them at a manageable size.

Here are a few tips to help:

1. Cut at an angle a quarter of an inch above a bud. If the cut is any closer, the bud may not survive and the branch will die.

2. Prune flowering shrubs in late winter or early spring, before they flower, or, for spring-flowering shrubs, after they flower.

3. Every few years, remove about one-third of the branches-including dead wood, weak growth and broken and diseased branches.

4. Winter-hardy shrubs die back to the ground each year. In the spring, cut off all dead branches to about six inches from the ground.

5. Start with the right cutting and collecting tools. For example, The Gardener’s Hollow Leg is a handy recycled polyester sack with a belt attached that can reduce the need to bend over. Worn around the waist, the sack leaves hands free to collect trimmings and debris, deadhead or harvest, making it safer for ladder tasks, too. Comfortable and ergonomically correct, the sack eliminates lugging around a bucket or creating piles of clippings that must later be picked up. A strap on the bottom makes it easy to dump debris into the compost pile when the job is done. It’s a great gift idea for gardeners.

For more information, visit www.thegardenershollowleg.com.

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Do you know where your house is wasting water?

(NAPSI)—Did you know that, across the country, leaks account for more than one trillion gallons of water wasted each year? That’s enough water annually to supply Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado combined.

Each year, the average American home wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water on easy-to-fix household leaks. That’s how much water a family uses to wash 10 months’ worth of laundry, and it could be adding 10 percent to your water bill.

Check your water bill in winter; if a family of four uses more than 12,000 gallons per month, you may have a leak. If your water bill is not measured in gallons, you can easily find a conversion calculator online. Finding and fixing leaks around the home is as easy as check, twist and replace.

Check toilets for leaks by putting food coloring in the tank and waiting a few minutes; if the color shows up in the bowl before you flush, you have a leak. The culprit may be a worn rubber flapper, which can be easily replaced at a hardware store. You should also check your outdoor watering system this spring for damage from freezing temperatures.

Twist the joints connecting your showerhead and use pipe tape to ensure a tighter connection if you’ve got a leak. Outdoors, twist the hose connection tightly to the spigot and replace the hose washer if necessary.

Replace worn gaskets to nip faucet drips; one drip per second wastes 3,000 gallons of water per year! If you need to replace an entire fixture, look for the WaterSense label, which signifies that a product has been independently certified to use less water and perform well.

For information about finding and fixing leaks, visit www.epa.gov/watersense.

Note to Editors: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared March 12−18, 2012, Fix a Leak Week. It’s a time for consumers to remember to find and fix household leaks that can waste water and money on their utility bills, but these tips are relevant year-round.

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Tips On How To Survive A Disaster

(NAPSI)—A disaster can happen any time to anyone and the better prepared you are, the better your odds of surviving it.

Recently, the news has been filled with stories of tornadoes, earthquakes and floods, all of which have caused enormous destruction and, in some cases, loss of life. It has caused many people to think about survival kits and plans.

Making A Plan

What should you plan for and what should your survival kit contain?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security encourages people to consult websites such as www.ready.gov.

In the event of an emergency, it may be necessary to survive on your own. With that reality in mind, the site has a helpful checklist of items to keep on hand, including:

• Water

• Nonperishable food

• Radio, flashlight and batteries

• First aid kit

• Whistle

• Dust masks

• ‑Plastic sheeting and duct tape

• ‑Cell phone and charger or inverter.

Stay Powered

Another key consideration: preparing for a loss of electricity.

A home-based survival kit proves its value in an emergency. And that’s also when a residential standby generator can make all the difference, enabling you to stay in your home in comfort and safety.

Unlike portable units, a home standby generator is hardwired into your home’s electrical system. Teamed with an automatic transfer switch, the residential generator automatically kicks in when it senses a loss of utility power, and it automatically shuts down when utility power is restored.

There are several factors to consider in determining the right generator for your home, including square footage, wattage of critical appliances and fuel preference—natural gas or propane. Fortunately, companies such as Cummins Onan can help you select the right generator for your needs. Once you decide on a model, let a professional electrical contractor handle the installation. It’s not a DIY job.

For More Information

For more information on emergency preparedness in general and standby power in particular, visit powertoprepare.com/ready. There, you will find links to important resources that can help you determine and implement your own plan, as well as helpful videos and eye-opening statistics presented in easy-to-understand graphic form.

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Using Energy Efficient Bulbs With Dimmers

(NAPSI)—Energy efficient lighting has become a top priority for homeowners looking for simple ways to save energy. Many homeowners, however, have found that switching from incandescent bulbs to energy efficient LEDs or CFLs means not being able to use their dimmer to create the same ambience as before.

Most dimmers in homes today are designed exclusively for incandescent lighting. When an energy efficient bulb is installed, homeowners say, their lights flicker or don’t dim as well as with less efficient, incandescent bulbs. Even when the energy efficient bulbs are listed as compatible, there’s a good chance homeowners won’t get the performance expected when combined with an existing dimmer.

Explains Michael Neary, Leviton’s Product Manager for Residential Lighting Controls, “The vast majority of existing home installations prior to 2011 were designed in such a way that the lighting devices are unable to effectively support dimmable LED or CFL bulbs.” He believes dimming products today must meet the necessary requirements of today and tomorrow’s lighting advancements and work effectively with all older solutions as well. Leviton recently introduced its Universal Dimmer, which is compatible with dimmable bulbs, maximizes energy efficiency and eliminates dimming issues for energy efficient bulbs.

Homeowners should keep an eye out for these lighting issues when using LED and CFL bulbs with incandescent dimmers:

• Reduction in dimming range. Dimmers are designed to help set the mood for any room. Mixing certain energy efficient bulbs and dimmers reduces the dimming range—lights can’t be adjusted to full brightness or are limited at their lowest levels.

• Flickering or fluttering of the bulb when dimmed to certain levels. Depending on the level of inconsistency between the bulb and the dimmer, the flickering can be dramatic or faint.

• Inconsistent performance among individual bulbs controlled by one dimmer. Based on the number of LED or CFL bulbs and the varying brands, performance in each can range from practically perfect to pretty poor.

• Bulb packaging. When switching incandescent bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs, be sure “dimmable” is on the package.

For more information about the dimmers, including compatibility charts, spec sheets and what to look out for, visit www.leviton.com/universal.

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Cooling Systems—Repair Or Replace?

(NAPSI)—Learning a few facts about a refrigerant commonly used in air conditioners could help you keep your cool. The refrigerant, R-22, is being phased out as part of an international environmental agreement to discontinue the use of HCFCs, or hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

How does this affect your home’s air-conditioning equipment? While it may not impact your air-conditioning system in the next decade, it’s important to understand the facts if you are told your system must be replaced.

If you own an R-22-based air-conditioning unit, here are a few facts you need to know:

• If your system does not leak or need repair, it may not necessarily have a negative impact on the environment. So there is no need to replace your system until you are ready for a new unit.

• Most air-conditioning systems are designed to last at least 10 years. Because R-22 is available until 2020, it’s wise to budget accordingly.

• R-22 is still one of the most energy-efficient refrigerants on the market. Purchasing a new unit costs three to four times more than repairing existing units and may not be mandatory.

Reputable heating and cooling dealers should disclose this information. Please plan ahead before you pay for a costly replacement.

For more information, visit www.ACfastfacts.com.

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