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April
11

10 Perennials to Plant for Almost Any Yard

If you want to enjoy a beautiful yard, now is the perfect time to get started.  Don't have a natural green thumb? No worries! Creating beautiful flowerbeds is easier than you think when you plant these easy-to-care-for perennials. 

  1. Peony
    With large, gorgeous, blooms that are both colorful and strongly-scented, the Peony is one of the most popular perennial flowers. They're also extremely dependable. They often bloom for three or more years, and some continue to come back and bloom for many decades! 
  2. Black-Eyed Susan
    The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) creates cheery-looking blooms that resemble daisies. The petals come in shades of yellow or orange and have dark centers. They're naturally resistant to insects and drought and most varieties will continue to bloom year after year. 
  3. Bearded Iris
    With eye-popping flowers that resemble a crown, the Bearded Iris is one of the most stunning perennial flowers you can add to your garden. They come in a wide variety of colors and often boom both in the spring and in the fall. Even when they're not blooming, the foliage creates a beautiful backdrop for your yard. 
  4. Oriental Lily
    The Oriental Lily can grow up to seven feet tall and creates a large, pendulous flower with an unmistakably pleasant scent. This species of flower is easy to care for, and since they spread, you'll enjoy more flowers year after year. 
  5. Salvia
    Salvia, also known as Perennial Sage, is coveted for its deep blue blooms. There are many varieties of Salvia, some of which do well in cold climates, and others that are great for hot and humid states like Florida. If you trim them back after they're done blooming, you're also likely to enjoy a second late-summer bloom. 
  6. Purple Coneflowers
    The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) used to come in only one variety but is now available in many colors. These flowers grow up to three feet tall and will bloom in your garden from early summer until the fall. They also attract butterflies and are excellent for making indoor bouquets.  
  7. Penstemon 
    A tubular flower that comes in white and shades of pink, purple, blue, and red, the Penstemon thrives in sunny areas. Some have blue/green leaves, which can create a beautiful contrast within your flowerbed.  
  8. Coral Bells
    Often planted at the front of flowerbeds, Coral Bells (Heuchera) are popular for their colorful, crinkly-looking leaves. They also grow tiny perennial flowers on stalks that stick out above the leaves. These plants prefer sun or partial shade and bloom in late spring. 
  9. Moss Phlox
    A very versatile plant, Moss Phlox creates a dense mat of foliage that has a tendency to creep. It grows to a height of six inches to two feet and gives off highly-fragrant blooms in the springtime. It's great for planting in rock gardens, in the front of your perennial flowerbeds, or alongside sidewalks and other paved areas. 
  10. Whirling Butterflies
    How can you not love a plant with a name like Whirling Butterflies? This North American Wildflower blooms for several weeks at a time throughout the summer and fall. Its name comes from the small, delicate flowers that look like butterflies when the wind blows. They tolerate drought well once they're established and do best when planted in areas with full sun or partial shade. 

If you're thinking about selling your home this spring or summer, adding some flowerbeds for curb appeal is a great way to get started. 

April
4

7 Tips for Using Rainwater Around Your Home

Rainwater is pure gold that falls from the sky. Harvesting this clean and clear resource can trim your utility bills and minimize your environmental impact while reducing strain on regional water treatment facilities. When properly designed and installed, a rainwater collection system is an investment whose dividends benefit the entire community. The following are seven tips that will help you squeeze every last drop of value from your rainwater collection strategy.

  1. Determine Consumption & Availability
    Rainfall is variable, and the amount of rain that falls in your area may not be sufficient to meet your needs. You must calculate the water consumed by your lifestyle and landscaping needs. For example, water consumed by dishwashers, toilets, showers, sprinklers, etc. Next, you will want to determine whether regional rainfall is sufficient to meet these needs. As a general rule, you can expect annual rainfall to meet about 50% of your water needs. 
  2. Consider Your Roofing
    Shingled roofs can leach toxins into rainwater making it unsuitable for drinking. If you want to use your water for cooking, etc., consider replacing your roof with terra-cotta, slate, wood shingles, or concrete.
  3. Choose Barrels Carefully
    Choose barrels that are sufficient in size and construction to meet your collection needs and any freeze/thaw cycles inherent to your climate. Barrels should be opaque to minimize algae growth and comprised of materials (either wood, metal, or ideally, plastic) that won't leach toxins into the water. 
  4. Regularly Clean and Cover Your Barrels
    Position your barrels so that you can access and clean them every six months. Once every two years, your tank should be thoroughly de-sludged. This helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and ensures your water remains fresh.  

    It is also advisable to conduct monthly tank inspections to ensure that filter screens, covers, and locks are functioning properly and preventing access to the tank by children, insects, pets, and other wildlife. If any damaged seals or locking mechanisms are discovered you will want to replace these without delay. Keeping your system closed off is essential for keeping the water clean and free of biological pathogens and insect infestations.  
  5. Shield and Clean Your Gutters
    Installing gutter shields and regularly cleaning the gutters on your home will help limit sludge buildup within your rainwater collection tanks. If you want to use your rainwater for human or animal consumption, you may also want to replace any soldered seams with rivets as soldered seams can leach lead into the water supply.
  6. Be Careful When Installing the Spigot
    Screw your spigot down so that it is hand tight. This helps prevent stripping of the threads and damage to the plastic, wood, or metal of the rainwater collection barrel. If you screw the spigot down too tight, the damage you create can cause leaks that negate your efforts. 
  7. Stay in the Grey
    Safely using rainwater for drinking requires significant investment and training. For this reason, most homeowners opt to use the rainwater they collect for showers, dishwashing, clothes washing, and irrigation. Using your water for these purposes will significantly reduce your water consumption without putting the health of your family at risk. 

Rainwater collection systems are worth their weight in gold. Using this free, 100% natural resource helps reduce your utility bills and minimizes your impact on the regional water supply. Collecting rainwater is an eco-friendly solution that is guaranteed to help beautify your landscape while adding a little extra padding to your monthly budget. A small investment of time and resources is all it takes for you to reap these rewards season after season.  

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