ISSUE 6  |  Romance in the Garden

Ask the Expert: 5 Tips to Design a Beautiful Edible Garden

February 16, 2017 5:56 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

The steps to creating a kitchen garden sound deceptively easy: build some raised beds, plant vegetables, harvest. Recently when we featured LA garden designer Art Luna’s work, he revealed his secrets for raised bed gardens:

Dig Deep

edible-garden-raised-beds-turf-lawn-pam-rownak

Above: Most of the kitchen gardens Luna designs are built and maintained afterward by Pam Rownak of Culver City. Luna’s beds are often 24 inches high (slightly taller than average), a feature that has several benefits. Roots can develop and spread out easily in soil that’s a luxurious 2 feet deep. The design is visually appealing and practical, as well, because it’s a comfortable height for a garden who wants to sit on the edge of the bed while weeding. Photograph via Pam Rownak.

Repel Slugs

Above: Luna frequently designs beds that are detailed with copper edging. Copper tape repels slugs and creates a finished, tailored look. Photograph via Art Luna Garden.

copper-slug-tape

Above: The tape “comes in different widths to accommodate the size wood you choose to build the raised beds,” says Luna. If you use 6-inch-wide copper tale, it will give you a 2-inch lip on each side of a 2-inch top edge. A 13-foot-long roll of Copper Slug Tape (1.25 inches wide) is $9.95 from Gardeners Supply.

A Uniform Layout

Above: Uniformity in size, shape, and height creates a pleasing arrangement in a kitchen garden. Photograph via Pam Rownak.

Wine Barrel Planters

Above: Luna often adds wine barrel planters to a kitchen garden design. Not only do they provide visual contrast, they’re also “a nice alternative for anyone who doesn’t have the space,” he says. Photograph via Art Luna Garden.

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Above: A repurposed oak Wine Barrel Planter is $169 from Viva Terra.

Teepees for Climbers

Above: Plant teepees lend support to peas and other climbing plants.

This is an update of a post originally published Nov. 3, 2012.

 

ISSUE 7  |  The Considered Garden

Gardening 101: Witch Hazel

February 16, 2017 6:00 AM

BY Kendra Wilson

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis: “Faith Healer”

Hamamelis has fragrance, as well as arresting looks. In the darkest months of winter, its colors and spicy scent couldn’t be more desirable, and a branch brought indoors is the easiest kind of arrangement. It’s a mystery then, that witch hazels are mainly appreciated by winter garden aficionados. You just need a little patience, and some winter chill, to enjoy the spidery magic.

Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

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Above: The word “witch” in the case of witch hazel alludes to the old English word for pliable or bendy. It just happens to have a passing resemblance to hazel.

The wild witch hazel found in the United States, Hamamelis virginiana, has flowers which are not showy but the scent makes itself known in woodland clearings. Its leaves, stems, bark, and wood were boiled down by Native Americans and distilled as “magic water,” and knowledge of its curative powers was passed on to the first settlers.

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Above: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ has glowing flowers, scent, and good autumn foliage.

Growing witch hazels in pots increases your options in a smaller garden: backlit flowers in winter, placed by a window, can be wheeled to a less conspicuous place in summer (but keep the pot moist). They do need sunshine for good flowering.

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Cheat Sheet

  • The best floral colors come from varieties of the hybrid Hamamelis x intermedia.
  • Autumn foliage is an attraction that is being bred into newer hybrids, bringing color in fall that is almost as dramatic as the flowers that follow. ‘Jelena’ is one of these; look out also for ‘Vesna’, ‘Frederic’, and ‘Diane’.
  • Witch hazel is a large shrub that can become a small tree. Like hazel (no relation), it can be kept in check through pruning.

 

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Keep It Alive

  • Flower production is immune to cold but plants do need sheltered sun. Wind can be fatal; at any rate it will carry away the scent. Hardy to zones 5-8.
  • Good soil moisture in summer is more important than levels of acidity (it generally prefers neutral to acid). However, Hamamelis doesn’t like to be waterlogged and needs good drainage. Conserve moisture through mulching.
  • Be patient: witch hazels take a while to settle in and won’t grow much for the first few years. Expect 10 feet or slightly more after 10 to 20 years.

 

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Above: Best witch hazels for color: Yellow will glow best in the gloom but if you place witch hazel where it will be backlit in the low sun, burnt orange and intense red are spectacular. Yellows: ‘Pallida’, ‘Barnstedt Gold’, ‘Jermyn’s Gold’. Oranges: ‘Aphrodite’, ‘Vesna’, ‘Gingerbread’. Best reds: ‘Diane’, ‘Livia’.

hamamelis-britt-dyer-1

Above: The best scents come from varieties of the Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis; look for ‘Boskoop’ and ‘Jermyn’s Gold’. Of the hybrids, choose from scented ‘Aphrodite’ (orange-red), ‘Aurora’ (gold-orange), and ‘Arnold Promise’ (Shown).

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Above: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. As leaves drop in autumn, buds become more noticeable as they prepare for witch hazel’s glory time: deep winter.

For more shrubs to add interest to a winter garden, see Gardening 101: Mahonia.

 

ISSUE 7  |  The Considered Garden

Hardware 101: Smart Doorbells

February 16, 2017 4:00 AM

BY Barbara Peck

We’re not saying you’re lazy. Who wouldn’t want to see who’s at the door without even getting up off the couch? And maybe even be able to unlock the door so guests can walk right in?

If that sounds good, then maybe a smart doorbell is in your future. What does “smart” mean in this case? It means the doorbell is connected to a live video feed, so you can check your smartphone to see who just rang. You might be sprawled comfortably on your couch—or you might be on the other side of the globe.

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Above: A Vivint Doorbell Camera is $199.

Why would I want a smart doorbell?

Once it’s connected to your Wi-Fi network, the device sends a view of your front porch to your smartphone (or tablet) and lets you speak to visitors, even if you’re not home. People with limited mobility will especially appreciate the convenience. You can see who’s there before you go to open the door, or leave the door closed if it’s a solicitor. If you’re at work, you can check that your kid has gotten back from school safely.

Smart doorbells can increase home security. You can use the intercom to make would-be intruders think there’s someone home when there isn’t. You can keep an eye out for delivered packages. If a break-in or theft happens, the stored video might help you or the police identify the culprits.

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Above: A Ring Video Doorbell Pro is $249.

Are all smart doorbells alike?

Most offer some or all of the following functions:

  • A video camera that shows (and in most cases records) the action outside your door.
  • An app to interact with the system.
  • Two-way audio so you can converse with whoever’s at the door.
  • A motion detector. Alerted by someone approaching, it activates the video camera and sends a push notification to your phone (sometimes even a call). Some devices let you make adjustments so the motion detector isn’t set off by passing cars and the like.
  • Night vision, so you don’t need to leave an outdoor light on for the device to capture good video.

How do I decide which one is right for me?

Start by reading up on what’s available, searching reputable websites where the various contenders are compared and contrasted. Be aware that this technology is changing all the time. A smart doorbell whose low-definition camera got poor reviews last year may have a newer HD version. Make sure you’re reading about current models (and don’t trust all the reviews on Amazon).

You’ll soon learn how the devices differ. Some can be installed wirelessly, others hardwired so there’s no need to worry about batteries losing power. Some store doorbell videos on a memory card, others on the Cloud.

Not all smart doorbells work with both iOS and Android devices. Some can be linked to other smart home devices, like those made by Nest and August.

Since most smart doorbells are wider than traditional doorbells, you’ll need to check the dimensions to make sure the casing won’t overhang your doorframe—especially if your doorframe is narrow.

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Above: From August, a Smart Doorbell Cam (R) is part of a system that includes a Smart Lock and Smart Keyboard.

What does a smart doorbell cost?

The popular, best-reviewed models come in the $200 range. Some charge extra to store video footage, while others provide that service for free or as part of a security package.

Will I have to change my current set-up to add a smart doorbell?

Generally, you’ll be able to keep the same buzzer or chimes (or clapper). But if you’ve already upgraded to a digital doorbell, you may need an adapter to make it work with your doorbell cam. So before you buy, you should know whether your existing doorbell is digital or mechanical.

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Above: Upgrading your buzzer? Consider a Door Bell Clapper, “an electrical ringing mechanism from the 1960s, with a formidable electro-technical capacity inside a black thermoset housing,” says retailer Manufactum. “Both activate a 4-centimeter-long clapper made of nickel-plated brass inside an 8-centimeter-deep horn-shaped gong made of nickel-plated sheet steel.” It’s €64.

Can I install a smart doorbell myself?

That depends on how handy you are—it can be more complicated than installing a mechanical doorbell. Manufacturers’ websites provide videos and/or step-by-step instructions showing you how to hardwire the device into your existing connection. Some devices require you to hire an expert.

Which smart doorbells should I consider?

Here are some of the top contenders right now:

SkyBell Video Doorbell

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Above: A SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell is $199.

The SkyBell HD is the top pick at CNET and The Wirecutter, earning high points for its excellent 1080p HD video camera, easy-to use app, and assortment of features including full color night vision.

If you have an existing hardwired doorbell, the SkyBell is easily installed by simply connecting the wires from your old doorbell so the device can be powered by your house current. Then download the app to your smartphone and connect the doorbell to the app.

LED bulbs provide light to help you see who’s at the door after dark. You can turn the motion detector on or off, but you can’t control its sensitivity. SkyBell offers free Cloud storage of your videos.

You can link a SkyBell HD to several smart-home platforms, including Nest and Amazon Echo. The doorbell comes in silver or aged bronze, but the plastic housing may not please all buyers.

Nice touch: Thanks to its theft guarantee, Skybell will replace the doorbell if it’s stolen.

Ring Video Doorbell

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Above: A Ring Video Doorbell Pro is $249.

As with the Skybell, you must have an existing hardwired doorbell to install this one. The earlier Ring Video Doorbell (still available at $199) had a built-in rechargeable battery that bulked up the device considerably. The newer, hardwired Pro is much slimmer, and comes with four interchangeable faceplates in different finishes. It offers high-quality 1080p video and a motion detector that you can customize by designating actual shapes, such as your front walkway or mailbox.

The night vision camera provides clear video when it’s dark outside. Storing your videos on the Cloud will cost an extra $30 per year.

If your home has a SmartThings or Wink hub, you can link the Ring doorbell to it.

Ring also will replace the device for free if it’s stolen.

August Doorbell Cam

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Above: An August Doorbell Cam is $199.

Fortune magazine rated this the best doorbell, and its handsome design gets top nods from other consumer sites. The latest version has motion-detection and video-recording abilities, as well as Cloud storage ($50 per year).

Besides its style, the August Doorbell Cam offers great HD video—as long as the available light is adequate. Unlike the Skybell and Ring, the August has no LED lights. That’s fine if you keep your porch light on all night, or your entrance is illuminated by street lamps. If not, night-time videos won’t be of great quality.

If you’ve installed an August smart lock on your door, you can use the same app to unlock the door. Let’s say you’re at work when your trusted Fed-Ex guy arrives: You can let him in to leave your package inside—and watch to make sure he closes the door behind him. (You can also thank him for his help).

The August Doorbell Cam comes in two colors, silver and dark gray. At 2.9 inches in diameter, it might not fit on a narrow doorframe.

Vivint Doorbell Camera

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Above: A Vivint Doorbell Camera is $199.

If money’s no object, consider Vivint. The doorbell itself is around the same price as others ($199), but it only comes as part of a five-year smart home-monitoring package that requires you to buy other devices and pay a $60 per month fee. For that you get a sleek small device, professional installation, and all the expected features.

Are there any inexpensive options?

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Above: Yes, but you won’t get all the bells and whistles. A  VTech IS741 Accessory Audio/Video Doorbell Camera $49.95, and has a video cam that lets you screen visitors who ring the doorbell, but you’ll need a VTech IS7121 series phone to operate it.

What’s on the horizon?

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Above: A Chui Face Recognition Doorbell lets you program familiar faces into the device. It will then open the door when it recognizes you or your family members, while barring strangers. So far only a beta model is available from this crowd-funded startup. As with most smart devices, you’d be smart to wait till all the bugs are out.

N.B.: See more of our Hardware 101 design guides for Gate Latches and Gate Hinges.

 

 

 

 

ISSUE 7  |  The Considered Garden

Sleek Teak: A New Outdoor Furniture Collection by Barber & Osgerby

February 16, 2017 2:00 AM

BY Annie Quigley

We’re in constant search of outdoor furniture that looks polished, not clunky, and is built to last. New from London designers Barber & Osgerby: Tibbo, a sophisticated six-piece teak furniture collection. Here’s a look.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Table and Chairs

Above: Designed for outdoor furniture company Dedon, the Tibbo collection includes four dining tables, two benches, a side table, a coffee table, an armchair, and a lounge chair. The second-to-largest dining table, shown above, comfortably accommodates six chairs.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Armchair

Above: The teak Tibbo armchair has a curved back and rounded armrests. The seat is made of Dedon’s signature woven fiber, which is they say is “unrivaled for strength, durability, weather fastness and luxuriousness of color, texture and touch.” It also recyclable and non-toxic.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Armchair

Above: The armchair (shown) and lounge chair are available with “chalk matte” (white) or “volcano matte” (black) woven seats.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Lounge Chair

Above: The lounge chair sits slightly lower to the ground. If used outdoors, the teak wood will take on a slivery gray cast over time.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo ChairsAbove: Both armchair and lounge chair have removable cushions.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Dining Table

Above: The second-to-smallest dining table. Each dining table has rounded sides and flat edges, allowing multiple tables to be placed end-to-end, in case of a large outdoor dinner party.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Bench

Above: The collection also features two sizes of bench to use with the tables or as extra garden seating. Shown here: the larger, 51-inch bench.

Barber and Osgerby Dedon Tibbo Coffee Table

Above: A low teak table is a perfect companion to the lounge chair.

For information on where to buy the Tibbo collection, see Dedon.

In the market for dependable outdoor furniture? Check out our posts: