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Tips On Selecting A Stain To Protect Your Deck 

(NAPSI)-Whether it's where you sip your morning coffee, host a family gathering or spend time relaxing, a wood deck can extend your living space to the great outdoors and into the fresh air.

However, after the winter, getting a deck in shape for enjoying warmer weather can be a challenge.

"It's a matter of protecting the wood, not just beautifying it," said Carl Minchew, director of product development for Benjamin Moore Paints. He says to look for a stain product that can effectively guard against the two major culprits affecting wood decks--water and UV rays.

According to Minchew, the newest stain from Benjamin Moore, ARBORCOAT, is not only an advanced technology for preserving wood, it is also exceptionally "green" and qualifies as an innovation coup.

"It just makes good sense that if you're staining your outdoor deck or the exterior siding of your home to use a product that's respectful of the environment," said Minchew.

What is said to distinguish this newest generation of stain product is the use of a proprietary waterborne colorant technology. The waterborne formulation was developed by Benjamin Moore and has been incorporated over the past three years into the company's low- and zero-VOC paints. Even the tints that the company makes itself are VOC-free.

For those who prefer to have the natural color and texture of the wood showing through, Minchew recommends Transparent, Semi Transparent or a Protective Clear Coat. The acrylic Protective Clear Coat can help defend against scuffs, scratches and the punishing conditions of the outdoors.

For those wanting to completely mask the wood grain but retain the textural qualities, there is a choice of Semi Solid or Solid finishes. Semi Solid is available in 75 popular colors; Solid in any of Benjamin Moore's 3,300-plus hues.

Minchew also cautions that proper preparation is the ultimate determinant of how long the beauty of a staining job will last. Also, remember that the natural color or grain pattern of the wood itself can greatly influence the final color.

For the best advice on selecting an exterior stain and preparation appropriate for the type of wood on your deck or exterior of your home, speak to an experienced paint and decorating store professional.

To learn more, visit benjaminmoore.com.

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Flowers Make Your Home Blossom

(NAPSI)-People who want to create beautiful home interiors, host sophisticated parties and nurture loving relationships often turn to flowers because they are an easy and versatile way to express individual style and show love and affection.

At home, flowers make rooms feel warm and inviting. For get-togethers, flowers show appreciation to guests and hosts. And they help us express our feelings from a tender "I'm thinking of you" to a romantic "I love you."

When choosing flowers for your home, interior designer Kelli Ellis-who frequently appears on HGTV-says consider the room's style. For a traditional style, bring in an arrangement of flowers with full blooms, such as roses or carnations. In a room with a more playful look, try gerbera daisies or tulips. Ellis also recommends placing the flowers in areas that need softening or could use a burst of color. When it comes to color, Ellis says one of the hottest trends this year in decorating is monochromatic arrangements-flowers of different types that are all the same color. If you need help, Ellis suggests turning to a florist who can recommend flowers for any budget, can design in a vase you provide and can deliver on the same day if you want your blossoms in a pinch.

Adding flowers enhances celebrations, says lifestyle party expert Jeanne Benedict, who recommends looking for unexpected ways to decorate the event with flowers, such as tying ribbons adorned with fresh flowers around candles or placing individual stems in a goblet. If you're invited to a get-together, thank the host by bringing a big bouquet or a flowering plant in a fun container. The host will be instantly happy and remember you long after the party is over. If you're unsure of what type of flower or plant to bring, ask your florist for suggestions.

Flowers convey almost any message, and Christine Arylo-author of Putting Me Before We-says when giving flowers, select the flower that reminds you of your friend's unique spirit and include a note linking the flowers to him or her. If the flowers are for your sweetheart, place the flowers so your loved one will find them by surprise or have the florist deliver them when he or she least expects it. Arylo also suggests sending flowers that are linked to a specific memory or event. For instance, if you met in spring, tulips or spring blooms could be just the ticket.

Ellis, Benedict and Arylo suggest getting to know your local florists so you can rely on their knowledge and experience when making flower choices. To learn more, visit www.aboutflowers.com. To find a florist by city, state or ZIP code, visit www.nationalfloristdirectory.com.

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Flowering Shrubs: More Bang For The Buck

(NAPSI)-Whether you use shrubs as foundation plantings, for a hedge or simply as a single specimen in your garden, you can get double the punch when you plant a flowering variety.

Shrubs are low-maintenance solutions in most yards. They fill larger amounts of space than perennials and can form the backbone of a garden's structure. Some easy-care flowering shrubs offer value-added impact.

• 'Henry's Garnet' sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet') is an excellent replacement for the invasive old burning bush in your yard. Fragrant finger-length sprays of tiny white flowers adorn the shrub in spring, giving the appearance of a white waterfall. In autumn, brilliant red leaves make it a traffic stopper. Perhaps best of all, it's highly adaptable to most conditions. Reaching three to four feet tall and four to six feet wide, 'Henry's Garnet' prefers full sun but takes dappled shade. It likes moist soil but tolerates drought when established.

• For an unexpected jolt of blue flowers in late summer when you least expect them, plant Caryopteris, sometimes called blue mist, bluebeard or blue spirea. The cobalt-blue flowers of "First Choice" or the pure blue flowers of "Longwood Blue" attract butterflies and hummingbirds. For a contrast between foliage and flowers, look for "Sunshine Blue" with yellow-chartreuse leaves and amethyst-blue flowers. Plant blue mist in full sun or in afternoon shade. Most reach three to five feet tall and two to four feet wide.

• Old-fashioned weigelas--dependable growers with showy, trumpet-shaped spring flowers in pink, red, white or yellow--have gotten a makeover in recent years, offering many choices of leaf color. Selections with burgundy, butter-yellow and variegated green and white or green and yellow leaves can perk up your yard even when the shrub isn't in bloom (some will rebloom in late summer or fall). Weigelas come in a wide range of sizes, from about a foot tall to six to eight feet, and are pretty hardy.

• For the longest-flowering shrub, consider a hydrangea. Beautiful mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) now come in reblooming varieties. Hydrangeas in the Forever & Ever series bloom on both old and new wood. Choose from pink (blue in acidic soils) or white flowers or the cute bicolor pink and white of "Peppermint" for a color boost that begins in early summer and lasts until frost. Even then, you can leave the dried flowers on the shrub for winter interest. The new Summer Lace variety grows with a flat-top lacecap form. Grow them in morning sun and afternoon shade in well-drained, organic-rich soil. Most of these hardy plants reach three to four feet tall.

You can locate retailers carrying these plants or get more information online at www.foreverhydrangea.com and on Facebook.

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Trade Your Lawn For A Ground Cover

(NAPSI)-If you're considering what to do about a hard-to-mow patch of your garden, ground cover may have it covered. Most ground covers require less work and fewer chemicals than a lawn--and they never need mowing.

Ground covers do exactly what their name implies: cover the ground with dense plant growth, choking out weeds and lending color and texture to a space. Even hostas and daylilies can be considered ground covers.

Regular turfgrass does a good job if you have a very large, sunny yard. But if you have a smaller area, a spot with shady pockets where turfgrass struggles, a difficult slope where mowing is difficult or another unusual situation, a ground cover can work wonders.

Many ground covers don't like to be walked on, but a few, such as creeping thyme or brass buttons (Leptinella squalida "Platt's Black"), tolerate some foot traffic and look great when planted between pavers and flagstones. Pink Chintz even sports tiny pink flowers in early spring.

If you want color in a partially sunny to sunny area, try the three-part Forever & Everฎ GroundCover Sedum Carpet Collection. Golden foliage and flowers from Angelina, bronzy-red leaves and red flowers from Red Carpet and rich green foliage and yellow flowers from Kamschaticum sedum will light up the space.

Many sedums, including John Creech, Sedum divergens, Blue Spruce and Ogon, serve as reliable and beautiful ground covers whose stems can be left for months to provide winter interest. Just clip or break off the old dry stems in early spring before new growth starts.

Ornamental grasses, which come in various heights and shapes, work well in sunny spaces.

In partial to full sun, try a silver-veined winter creeper called Wolong Ghost, a type of spreading euonymus that just needs regular water to stay looking fresh.

Vinca minor, a stalwart ground cover for shade, gets a makeover with "Merlot." Instead of the traditional blue flowers, you'll get burgundy flowers in spring. Or seek out "Double Bowles" vinca minor, with a ruffle of extra petals in a lighter shade of violet.

All these tough ground covers are available at home and garden centers.

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Get To Know Spunky Ground Covers

(NAPSI)--Ground covers are some of the most versatile plants for your yard. These problem-solving plants can provide color and texture in even the most challenging locations. With just a little maintenance, ground covers suppress weeds and keep soil from eroding. You can have fun learning some of their names and planting one that's right for you.

• Wine drinkers can offer a toast to vinca minor "Merlot." This creeping, trailing ground cover with shiny green leaves and a burgundy flower in spring prefers well-drained soil. It grows best in shade or at least a spot with afternoon shade. Mature plants reach eight inches tall and spread up to 10 feet. The only hangover you'll get is if you let the plants trail over a rock wall or ledge.

• If you're partial to calico-flowered sofas or need something to soften the edges between pavers and flagstones, try "Pink Chintz." It's a tiny thyme with fuzzy gray-green leaves and itty-bitty flowers in early spring. Don't let the delicate looks and girly name fool you; this is one tough grower that tolerates foot traffic. It can spread in a mat up to two feet wide. It likes full sun and needs very little water once established.

• Military types may want to plant brass buttons. That's the common name for "Platt's Black" leptinella squalida, an interesting ground cover with small, fernlike, chocolate-brown leaves with green edges. Tiny golden "brass button" flowers cover the surface in summer. The leaves are small, growing only two inches long and about half an inch wide. Brass buttons can serve as a lawn substitute in full sun to part shade and can rapidly spread if you provide enough moisture.

• Fans of murder mysteries can point out the "Wolong Ghost" euonymus creeping through their gardens. This Chinese member of the winter creeper family gets its name from the silvery veins running through the narrow, dark green leaves. It likes to flit through part-shade gardens but won't scare the children away. Reaching six to 12 inches tall and about two feet wide with minimal care, Wolong Ghost is a good choice for a hill or an area that's hard to reach.

• Cat lovers may purr at pussytoes, the common name for Antennaria dioica. This rugged plant performs well in hot, sunny locations and in poor soil. The white, fuzzy foliage of a pussytoes plant spreads eight to 12 inches wide and produces pinkish-white flowers on stalks six to 12 inches tall, making it great for a rock garden or to edge a flower border. Just don't walk on it--like a real feline, it doesn't like to be stepped on.

These ground covers are part of a larger family of reliable performers in the Forever and Ever GroundCover line, available at fine home centers and independent garden centers.

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Control Weeds, Hit Yield Targets

(NAPSI)-The dramatic drop in glyphosate pricing this year may tempt some growers to rely on increased glyphosate rates to protect crops. But Bob Schoper, an agronomist with Winfield Solutions, cautions against that approach, since high herbicide application rates may not control some tough weeds and could lead to other problems. He offers these suggestions to achieve the best results from postemergent herbicide applications:

Boost Herbicide Performance

Follow recommended rates and maximize glyphosate performance with a good adjuvant system. Look for adjuvants that reduce fine spray droplets and improve herbicide uptake.

Monitor Micronutrients

When plants lack manganese, a postemergent herbicide application can aggravate the deficiency. The best way to identify micronutrient levels is with a simple tissue test prior to the herbicide application. If levels are marginal, add a foliar micronutrient to the herbicide tank mix.

Mix Properly

Together, glyphosate, adjuvants and micronutrients offer a plant-health trifecta, but only when mixed properly. Always add adjuvants, then micronutrients, then glyphosate.

Schoper urges growers to work with their agronomists to develop integrated strategies to achieve maximum yield potential. For more information, visit www.Agrisolutionsinfo.com.

Use tissue sampling to check manganese levels. If marginal, foliar micronutrients can enhance the glyphosate tank mix.

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What Workers Can Learn From Athletes

(NAPSI)-To get injured workers back into the workforce and prevent future accidents and injuries, some occupational medicine clinics are taking their cue from the techniques used to rehabilitate injured athletes.

Studies have shown that workers who engage in physical activities as part of their job may experience the same types of injuries as professional athletes. In fact, sprains and strains are the leading cause of injury in the workplace. The solution? As well as providing prompt treatment, it's important to assess what caused the damage and suggest specialized techniques to reduce further injury.

"When injuries do occur, our work site athletic health specialists [WAHS] use sports medicine techniques to provide early treatment and speed healing," said Mike McCollum, president of Concentra Health Solutions.

Concentra operates over 300 urgent care sites in 40 states and works with employers of all sizes across the U.S. to process claims, provide workforce-related care and get workers healthy quickly using WAHS within their organization. WAHS are experienced health professionals, such as certified athletic trainers and physical therapists, who provide ergonomic assessment of tasks, coordinate injury care services, arrange specialist referrals and conduct safety audits.

With this type of program, companies benefit from an experienced health care professional able to identify the root cause of employee injuries, reduce reinjury, and increase employee safety adherence.

This proactive approach to employee health has already paid off in fewer workers' compensation claims, saving employer costs, and helps to create safer workplaces, fewer injuries and more companies with longer strings of consecutive days without work injuries.

Within the first year of using WAHS, one company prevented 289 urgent care visits, saving over $900,000. The return on investment, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, is 83 percent, with a return of $3 per employee/dollar invested.

For more information about Concentra's employer-focused health care solutions, visit www.concentra.com.

WAHS provide rehabilitation guidance to reduce further injury.

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Have A Better-Looking Lawn On A Budget

(NAPSI)-Got a hundred bucks and a free weekend? Then you've got what it takes to invest in some yard care improvements, according to a top expert on lawn and yard care.

"Some of the best improvements in your yard can be done with a few dollars and a few hours," says Trey Rogers, Ph.D., the Briggs & Stratton Yard Doctor. "When budgets are tight, get more creative and do it yourself."

What can you do with $100 right now?

• Mow the right way starting today. Don't scalp your lawn, thinking you will have to mow less often. Instead, let it grow a little longer, which is healthy for the lawn and saves on gas and wear and tear on your mower. When you do mow, cut only one-third the length of the grass blade. Cost: About $3 for a gallon of gas, enough for a month of mowing for many homeowners.

• Apply a few bags of bark mulch. Few things dress up a yard more than mulch properly applied on flower beds and around trees. It provides that finished look and is good for the plants because it retains moisture in the soil. Cost: About $3 per bag.

• Fertilize naturally. When you mow, leave a light layer of grass clippings on the lawn, which will become a natural fertilizer. Even better, a mulching mower finely minces the grass clippings so they decompose more rapidly. Cost: $0.

• Start a compost pile. This costs nothing but a little time as opposed to purchasing bags of compost at the garden center. It's easy. Start a pile that includes most leftovers from your meals (excluding proteins). Cost: $0.

• Take 30 minutes to maintain your mower. Change the oil, clean or replace the spark plug, and change the filter once a year. This simple task cuts emissions, makes your mower run better and may save you from repair bills down the road. Tune-up kits are available to make it easy. Cost: $10−14 for the average walk-behind mower.

• Let nature water your lawn. Your lawn needs about one inch of water a week to be green and thrive. But if water is costly where you live, let nature handle irrigation. Cost: $0.

With the rest of your $100 bill, splurge on some flowers, inexpensive clay pots and a bag of potting soil to dress up your front doorway, patio or deck. Then sit back and admire what you accomplished on a shoestring.

For more yard care tips and to learn about the Yard Smarts Boot Camp hosted by Trey Rogers, visit www.yardsmarts.com. The Yard Doctor is part of the Briggs & Stratton Yard Smarts program, created to help homeowners achieve the yard they want to have.

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