Friday, December 11, 2009

Growing Up


Individuals have been gardening since the dawn of time, using plants for food, medicines, building materials, clothing & simple decorative purposes. Although lately it is gaining in popularity, vertical gardening is not a new concept. Vertical gardens are found through out history. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, is one of the earliest know examples of a vertical garden. Vertical Gardens or Green Walls are becoming increasingly popular, especially in large cities where there is little land for traditional gardens but plenty of skyscrapers & condominiums.


Vertical gardens fall into two main categories, green facades & living walls, both of which utilize walls for plants to grow up. A green façade is the more popular version where climbing plants are planted directly in the ground & attached to a structure like a trellis, column, fence or wall. These types of vertical gardens can take years to create full coverage.


A Living wall is a self-contained vertical arrangement of plants that can be free standing or attached directly to the exterior or interior of a building. They typically use soil-less planting media & an irrigation system. Living walls can be created using a modular system, pre-planted panels, planted geo-textiles, or even simple stacked pots. Modular systems come in a variety of materials including plastic, polystyrene, fabric & metal.


There are many benefits to a vertical garden. Beside the fact that they are aesthetically pleasing & use less space than a traditional garden, an exterior living wall will reduce the ambient temperature, provide shade, remove airborne pollutants, filter noxious gases, produce oxygen, reduce noise pollution and help hide ugly walls as well as protects from UV damage. A beautiful example of an exterior wall is at the Musee du quai Branly a museum in Paris, France created by artist Patrick Blanc who is the leading pioneer of green walls.


Interior living walls have many of the same benefits of exterior living walls and they improve indoor air quality, reduce stress, use less water due to hydroponics style growing & can provide possible LEED points in new or renovated office spaces. The benefits for both interior & exterior living walls will vary depending on size & style of your living wall structure as well as types of plants & the site condition. Interior living walls can be free standing with basins that hold additional plants & even fish & have a pump irrigation system or they may be hung on a wall as a living piece of artwork. An artful example of a smaller interior living wall is the Living WallScape TM created by Backyard Getaway. No two green walls are the same. It is important to consider plant selection, Sedums; Succulents & Mosses are great choices. Climate conditions, such as temperature, light & maintenance, are also important when planning your vertical garden. Just like a traditional garden, your vertical garden has live plant materials & requires maintenance like adding water & nutrients on a regular basis. Choosing plants that are conditioned for your space will reduce the amount of maintenance needed. There are endless possibilities as to the creativity of your vertical garden.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday Special from Backyard Getaway

Cyber Monday Specials from Backyard Getaway

Shop our online store today through saturday Dec. 5th & receive FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $25.

Enter coupon code "CMFS" at check out to receive free shipping in the US!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

What is a BeeMat

What is a BeeMat?

We are very excited about a Florida green company that we found that has come up with an innovative way to naturally clean up green mucky stagnant water in lakes & ponds. If you live near a lake or pond that is green & filled with muck you know how unpleasing it is to look at not to mention the smell, yuck. One solution is to add an expensive fountain or aerator. Don’t get me wrong an aerator or fountain is a good thing. They will help to circulate the pond creating more oxygen which will break down the inorganic matter. The down side is they run on electricity. Another more eco friendly solution is to add plant life to the pond. I won’t bore you with the details of how it works but what it boils down to is the plants will act as a biological filter helping to clean up the pond. Adding plants can be difficult if the pond is deep & especially difficult if the pond water levels fluctuate. Most aquatic plants are considered bog plants or marginals & can only survive when planted in a few inches of water or just barely getting their feet wet. You plant them close to the edge & when the water levels drop they die while others that can go dry thrive but become so tall you can’t see the water. Submerged plants like water lilies do best in about two feet of water but who wants to wade out into the muck to plant them. Beemats, LLC has come up with a perfect inexpensive solution.

BeeMats, LLC uses interlocking mats, combined with aquatic plants in perforated pots, creating a suspended shallow water environment. This not only takes care of fluctuating water levels, but also produces oxygen, takes nutrients and pesticides out of the water, and provides habitat for wildlife utilization. Their patented floating plant mat consists of puzzle cut mats held together by nylon connectors. These mats may be assembled in any size or shape. After the mats are connected, plants are inserted into pre-cut holes. The plants may be any species of emergent aquatics. The mats can be attached to anchors or shoreline stakes or left to float freely around the pond. Keep in mind that if you anchor the island it will be easier to renovate or change the plants if you decide you want a new look.

Floating Islands are not new & there are several companies out there who offer their own variation on this idea. What’s unique about the BeeMats is that they are thin & lightweight making it easy to plant & transport to the pond & even easier to keep afloat. They also utilize a specially designed pot that is cone shaped with several slits in the sides allowing the plants roots to emerge from the soil creating a root mat under the water’s surface. Not only does this provide a perfect hiding place & food for the pond fish it creates a thicker aerobic layer which increases nitrification & accelerates the nitrogen cycle. This is a good thing, helping to eat up the nutrients that would otherwise be feeding the algae bloom. Adding biological filtration to a pond will also eliminate the need to add harmful chemical algaecides which may soon be restricted by regulatory agencies. BeeMats also come in smaller sizes for your decorative backyard ponds. If you would like more information on BeeMats contact Lisa at


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wasteland to Paradise

Here it is! The complete Ultimate Backyard Makeover from Barren wasteland to paradise!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's day three of the makeover & the yard is really starting to take shape. We now have a beautiful arbor & paver patio with retaining wall seating that is perfect for a cozy firepit & of course the pond is starting to take shape. Thanks to Michelle Donner Photography spending three hours in that nasty sun yesterday we get to show you a sneak peak into the backyard.
Dave left at 5:30 this morning to beat the heat & to get a head start on today's installations. It's going to be a busy day... Historic Shed will be transporting the made to order potting shed all the way from Brooksville. Hydro-Taste farms will be installing the HydroStacker gardens, Dave & David with the help of a couple of volunteers will finish up the pond & lay the walkway, Laurie & Roger will be on hand to plant the Plumeria trees they donated & Florida Native Plants inc will be bringing out a truck load of plants for us to plant tomorrow. Thanks also to Roger Gaille for coming out to help. He said he saw Dave, David & their one volunteer yesterday on Bay News 9 & decided to help out. Roger & his wife Laurie are with the Plumeria Society & have donated Plumeria trees to the makeover. In case you didn’t hear Dave & the Patoray’s are now famous Bay News 9 visited the site on Wednesday & taped a segment which ran all day yesterday once every hour. Any one who would like to lend a hand on our last day tomorrow with the planting please feel free to contact Lisa at:
I have to include one more picture that Dave took. This is the homeowner Joey, he puts a whole new meaning to "whistle while you work". He is so happy he's skipping. To see more pictures of the site visit Michelle Donner Photography’s link below

Saturday, October 3, 2009

what's new: makeover updates!

It’s hard to believe two weeks have gone by since the Backyard Makeover voting has ended & the winners were chosen. You probably think it’s been a quiet two weeks after all that craziness of the voting frenzy. In fact the opposite is true, we’ve have been busy organizing, scheduling, ordering & meeting with the winners, contributing business members & local reporters. So busy in fact that I am writing this during the only free time I’ve had this week, as we drive to Orlando to pick up some of the donated goodies & to attend a landscape trade show. We thought it was time to give everyone an update as to what happens next.
First we didn’t want the 10 finalist to go home empty handed so we asked all of the participating businesses to help us fill a packet with coupons & freebies that we will be sending out to them on Monday. We also gave the second place yard, Michelle #5, a $50 gift certificate for Backyard Getaway & the third place yard, Derek #8, received a gift certificate to Bone Appetite. In case you aren’t familiar with Bone Appetite it’s a local pet boutique that carries all natural pet foods & treats & some of the cutest accessories.
The makeover officially begins Monday with a visit form Sunshine Dig. Sunshine Dig is a non profit that offers a free service to homeowners & contractors. Before you dig in your yard they will schedule all the utility companies to come out & check for underground wires, cables, plumbing, etc. Joey, our winner, found out the hard way the other day & cut through their cable wire while trying to remove a stump. Shame on you Joey, you should have called “811”. Don’t worry we know you were just trying to make the yard pretty for us.
Just like any project this one had a couple of hiccups. One of our original contributing businesses will not be able to contribute. I panicked for about a minute then after a few quick phone calls we were back on track. There truly are some amazing business owners in our area. Two companies came forward to help knowing that they would not reap the benefit of all the advertising & promoting we had been doing over the last couple of months. Trucking Southern Style agreed to supply us with the ground cover items we lost & Ruck Brick/OldCastleCoastal will be supplying the flagstone for the walkways Dave will install. Please visit click on the local contributors link & view the info about these companies. Another concern we had was due to a mistaken assumption on my part. I didn’t realize that the shade sail did not come with it’s support post. I was told that I would need to get 4” schedule 40 galvanized pipe at 16’ long. Where was I going to find that! I called Brad at All phases Welding (one of our contributors) & he stepped up & offered to donated them too.
On Tuesday we will lay out the yard marking where each feature will be installed. Wednesday will be the day we break ground. Digging for the pond & setting footers for the arbor & shade sail. Thursday & Friday will be very busy days with installation of the pond, arbor, shade sail, shed, hydroponics, landscape lighting, paver patio and walkways, all while being followed by our videographer & photographer. Oh, almost forgot there will be a couple of other surprises Dave has up his sleeve. Don’t worry Joey & Heather, there won’t be any mini grills, ponds or sheds.
Friday afternoon Joey & Heather will be sent away to the Best Western Midtown to spend a relaxing night & to keep them from seeing the finishing touches that we will be installing on Saturday. They will return home Saturday evening to their new $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover & we will be off planning our next project. I think a party at the Patoray’s sounds like more fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What the Flock?

We came home to a very unusual sight last night. It seems we had been flocked. A flock of pink Flamingos had mysteriously migrated to our yard. Ok, maybe not so mysteriously. Our new friends & backyard makeover contest winners, Joey & Heather, thought it would be a fun way to say thank you for the contest. I think they were very brave, since we will be taking over their backyard in a couple of weeks. Evidently you can flock any one in Manatee county just by calling the Palm View First Baptist Youth Group. The youth group will deliver & pick up the flock for a nominal donation of only $20. This has to be the most unique way I have ever seen for a youth group to raise money for their church. I can't think of a better way to say Happy Birthday or congratulations or in our case thank you. Of course, the person being flocked never has to know who flocked them. Flock someone you love today by calling Palm View First Baptist at 941-722-5077.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Heather & Joey Patoray they are the winners of our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest. Joey & Heather are so excited & are extremely greatful for all the votes they received during the contest. The actual makeover will take place the second week in October. Visit to see updates & photos of the work in progress. Photo courtesy of Michelle Donner Photography

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Startup Nation

We are contestants in the startupnation home based 100 competition. Please vote for us at:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heeere's Dave

Hi everyone, this is Dave with the Backyard Getaway. This is normally not part of my job description. I leave this part to Lisa. I wanted to write today & talk a little about why I decided to host the Backyard Makeover contest.I came up with the idea of having a backyard makeover contest over a year ago after watching different programs on HGTV & DIY. Have you ever noticed that they are all in California or NY? What’s wrong with Florida? So I got to thinking, what could we do locally that would be like what you see on those home improvement programs. I didn’t want to just give away a pond. I didn’t want to copy the shows either. What I wanted was to offer something different & fun. I put the idea on the back burner until a few of months ago. What I came up with was to offer a contest to local homeowners. One where you could enter to win a makeover that was not only offered by our company but also included other local companies. We wanted to be able to show everyone that there are a lot of great local companies willing to not only stand behind their work but offer their goods & services to a project that will benefit someone in our community. All of the companies including mine are giving their services for free! You don’t see the big box stores doing that!
We were both so glad when we found & they were interested in sponsoring our contest. Even though I’m not a women Wes was happy to include me on his site. Thanks, Wes. I feel that we couldn’t have found a better place to promote our contest. Ok, I’m done brown nosing.
I knew I couldn’t pick just one winner so the idea of having people vote sounded really good to me. I was also hoping that it would give people a chance to work together to pick one lucky person to win the contest. Of course I would like to win this contest myself, who wouldn’t, it‘s a great opportunity. I hope that everyone has fun with the voting process & takes the contest in the spirit it was offered. I love the positive comments. We plan to offer this contest again next year. Don’t worry we also have other ideas for giveaways that you won’t have to work so hard for. Just remember how wonderful the local companies are the next time you decide to shop online or at one of the big box stores. Don’t forget to vote everyday for your favorite ugly backyard, they can’t win if you don’t vote. last note: I have Kim & Amy’s shovels ready & waiting for them.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bigger than American Idol?

Have you checked out the voting frenzy for the $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest going on over at It's like our own little American Idol of ugly backyards. The 10 finalist were posted on September 3rd & the site has been abuzz ever since. People are casting their vote day & night for their favorite ugly backyard! Click on the following link to go directly to the finalist & voting page:

In case you haven't heard about this contest, it is hosted by Backyard Getaway & Sponsored by There are over 17 local independent businesses that have donated their goods &/or services to bring this contest to homeowners in Manatee & Sarasota County. The winner will receive a water feature courtesy of Backyard Getaway, a garden shed, pavers patio, landscape lighting, hydroponic gardens, Florida friendly landscaping, a rain barrel, one of a kind garden art & more. Entries were submitted during the month of August. Voting will run through Sept. 18th & the winner wil be announced on Sept. 23rd on

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Congrats to our finalist

Congratulations to Gale, Tracey, Heather, Cathie, Tracy, Michelle, Derek, Lisa, Jim & Cindy our 10 finalist in the $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest! You get to decide which one of these lucky contestants will receive a yard makeover. Vote today at

Saturday, August 29, 2009

And now a word about our sponsor

We want to thank for sponsoring our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest. WQ Magazine is Sarasota’s premier women’s magazine. WQ recently launched an interactive online community “e-zine” for women, where you can become a member & contribute your own stories, post events, photos, video, & much more. You can log on each day to see your daily horoscope, promote your business, check out the latest style trends, read a story about healthy living or just catch up with friends. And don’t forget the contests! New contests are featured every week from local companies offering anything from a Retail gift certificate to our $16,000 Backyard Makeover contest. In less than four months they have over 10,000 subscribers to the WQ Daily Scoop, their e-newsletter & more than 1000 online members. Log on to & become a member today! Don’t forget to vote starting September 3rd for the best “worst” backyard in our Backyard Makeover contest on

Friday, August 28, 2009

Web Presence

How many 17 year olds do you know that own their own company? I know of only one & am proud to say she is my niece. Kayla Wakefield started her company when she was 16 years old. She started by helping set up websites for a few not so computer savvy small business owners, myself included, who were also short on time. Word started to spread about what a great job she did & after working pro-bono for several months for friends & family, and repeated suggestions from her “clients“, she decided to go into business for herself. She now specializes in small business websites at an affordable price. When I say affordable I mean affordable, a four page website starts at $100. She is also the youngest chairperson for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Society & is the webmaster for the local Sarasota Chapter. Whether you are looking to set up a new site, have someone jazz up your existing site or just maintain it for you contact Kayla at Click Web Creations also offers a social network setup service (facebook, myspace, twitter, linked, etc.) Kayla has donated a site for our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover contest. You can visit our site at where you will find more info about each of the local businesses contributing to our contest. Make sure you log on to to enter!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Behind the scenes

For the last couple of weeks I have been sharing information with you about all the great companies that are donating their products & services to our Backyard Makeover Contest. I would like to also tell you about some of the businesses that are sort of behind the scenes. Premier Video Productions, Inc. established in 1989 by LaJuana Pruitt, a local videographer, will be producing a digital video of the entire makeover from start to finish & a copy of the video will be donated to the winner of the contest. Premier Video offers full service video production from the conception of your project to finished delivery. They videotape in digital and HD, serving both local & national cliental ranging from the legal & medical communities to fine arts & entertainment. Recently Premier Video completed a video taping of a television pet show. To learn more about Premier Video visit their website at or call 941-753-1910. Only 5 days left to enter the $16,000 ultimate backyard makeover contest only on

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Living your passion

“What is the single illuminating thing which shines its light on all the elements of the best parts of your life (the sound of which makes your heart sing and your feet dance)?"Answer that and then you know: that is the thing you must do..” Mary Anne Radmacher
This quote was sent to me by a friend a few days ago & it made me think, who do I know that is doing what they must do, another friend came to mind, Michelle Donner. Michelle has been taking photographs her whole life, and always loved it. She made a decision earlier this year to “live my passion” & launched Michelle Donner Photography. She now spends her days doing what she loves best, taking photographs of wildlife, pets & people. Her work can be seen in several local magazine ads & on Michelle will photograph & record small events to family portraits. She says she loves to make people smile! Michelle will be taking photos of our backyard makeover & will be donating a garden portrait of the winners of our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest in their new backyard. To view Michelle’s photos visit win you must enter, so be sure to log on to .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free Staycation

Every so often we need to get away from our daily routine & recharge our batteries. This can be difficult to do with work, kids & the demands of our busy schedules. Why not consider a staycation? Take a long weekend or even a single night & stay in one of Sarasota’s fine hotels. One of Sarasota's best hotels, the Best Western Sarasota Midtown provides lodging in the heart of Sarasota, near downtown where you will find wonderful local restaurants, entertainment & shopping And minutes from the Sarasota gulf beaches. The Best Western Midtown was recently remodeled & now features all new rooms. All rooms are now non-smoking & for those of you with pets....the Best Western Midtown is a Pet Friendly Hotel! Cusic Daniels of Charter One has provided us with a room at the Best Western Midtown for the lucky winner of our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest. That’s right if you win you get a mini staycation too! While we are slaving away in your backyard you can be relaxing by the pool. Make sure to check out the Best Western Midtown at & hurry, before it’s too late to enter the $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest on

Monday, August 24, 2009

Getaway in your own backyard

There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting on our porch in the evening listening to the sound of trickling water as it runs over the waterfall & into our pond, watching the Koi gliding gracefully through the water as the butterflies & dragonflies are darting around the flowers. This is the most relaxing part of my day. A time where I can take a few moments & let go of the days business & enjoy the peace & quiet. It’s like getting a mini vacation all year every day long! Then I remember, this is what we get to do for a living, create a place for you to get-away from the world without having to leave your home. A peaceful retreat in your own backyard. The Backyard Getaway will be creating a one of a kind water feature for the winner of the $16,000 ultimate backyard makeover contest. If you would like to see pictures of some of the beautiful water features created by Backyard Getaway visit our website at or contact Backyard Getaway at 941-752-POND to set up a pond consultation & of course don’t forget to enter the Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest on .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hurricane Season

It’s that time of year again, hurricane season. This is a good time to start thinking about replacing your old windows & doors with hurricane impact resistant windows & doors. Installing impact-resistant windows will not only protect your home from high winds, rain, and the destructive force of wind-borne debris they will also provide energy savings, noise control, UV protection and peace of mind.
There is a bonus, installing Energystar impact resistant or energy saving rated windows in your Florida home could qualify you for local utility rebate programs & a federal tax credit of up to $1500 (or 30% of the original cost). Of course you don’t want to install those windows yourself that would be a pane. Call our good friends Bill & Bill at NDC Carpentry (941)524-0930 or email them for more info at The guys at NDC Carpentry are local general contractors specializing in custom interiors. kitchens, baths, windows, doors, Custom trim, arbors & decks. They are donating a garden arbor for our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover contest. Time is running out to enter make sure to submit your entry to

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gulfcoast Plumeria Society

Palma Sola Botanical Gardens in west Bradenton has a new Lei garden containing over 75 Plumeria Trees thanks to the Gulfcoast Plumeria Society. You may not know that the Plumeria is the beautiful flower that is used in traditional Hawaiian Lei. Plumeria are actually know by many names including, Frangipani, Melia, or Temple Tree. Native to tropical America these trees are considered Florida friendly & are widely used in tropical landscapes around the world & is usually associated with temples. The Gulfcoast Plumeria Society is an organization that is dedicated to furthering public knowledge of the Plumeria. They meet the 2nd Saturday of each month at 11am at Palma Sola Botanical Gardens in Bradenton under the oaks. The meetings are free & open to the public. Laurie Galle, president of the society has graciously donated a couple of her beautiful Plumeria trees to our Backyard Makeover contest. If you would like to learn more about the Gulfcoast Plumeria Society please contact Laurie or Roger Galle. 941-758-3588. To enter our $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover contest log on to .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Carbon footprint, greenhouse gases what does it all mean?

Have you thought about updating your home or office to make it more environmentally friendly but don’t know where to begin? Maybe you are overwhelmed with all the “green” information that you think why bother, it will cost too much or take up too much time. Did you know that going green can be as simple as changing your halogen light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs & unplugging or turning off electronics that are not in use. Of course there are larger steps you can take like adding solar panels to your roof. Not every one is ready for that big of a step but every little step you take will add up in helping to reduce your carbon footprint. Ok, carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, green washing, if these terms are Greek to you there is someone who can help, Steff Marcusky founder of Your Green Home Resource. Steff started her business with the belief that we can leave the world a better place for our children. She tells us that there are three facets of “green” living: energy/water efficiency, air quality & environmental stewardship. Learning the importance of these facets will help in your journey. Of course, taking that first step is important & Steff will help you start the process by educating & coaching you & your family as to what steps you can take to make your home & office “green”. Your green home resource isn’t about forcing anyone into a choice that they are not comfortable with & suggests starting slowly, maybe try something new every six months. To learn more about Your Green Home Resource visit . One more thing, If you win our $16,000 Ultimate backyard makeover contest you will receive a complete home consultation from Your Green Home Resource. Remember to enter at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Super Summer Sale

Join us on Saturday August 22nd 9am-2pm for our Semi Annual One day pond "yard" sale.
Enjoy savings up to 75% off select pond decor, fish food, new & used equipment & more.
Aquatic plants starting at $2 each, Sale on Koi too.
For more info & directions contact us at

Keeping it clean

It doesn’t matter where you live these days in every neighborhood you will find at least one house that is empty because the owners are either trying to sell the property or it’s in foreclosure. You know the one that has grass & weeds growing knee high, paint peeling & is basically an invitation for trouble. That property doesn’t have to be an eyesore. There are companies that are available to help maintain the property. D & T Handy Girlz is one such business. Doris & Terry have over 15 years experience in caring for both commercial & residential properties. They specialize in securing, cleaning & maintaining foreclosed properties. Not only are these Handy Girlz landscape experts they can fix & install tile, paint & wallpaper & do many small household repairs. We are pleased to have them on our landscaping team for the $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest. If you know of anyone in need of a home preservation specialist have them contact Doris & Terry at 941-713-1387 Don’t forget to enter to win the Ultimate Backyard Makeover contest on

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trash to Treasure

Have you ever heard the saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? In this case, every one’s trash is one women’s treasure. Patricia Gormley is one of those people that has a talent for making something beautiful out of what most people would consider to be garbage. Utilizing a plasma cutter & a mig welder she makes whimsical garden art & useful interior art sculptures out of old car parts, metal furniture, hardware, lawn equipment & what ever else she can find. Patricia has been a silversmith since 1991 & in 2007 decided to start her own line of hand crafted sculptures using 100% recycled materials. Patricia has graciously donated a unique piece that she is creating especially for our backyard makeover contest. This one of a kind artwork will be revealed during the Backyard Makeover. To view some of Pat’s most recent work visit her new website at or contact her directly at Enter to win the $16,000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover at click on the backyard makeover link & add your yard picture & why you would like to win. Hurry contest ends August 31st.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Going Native

What’s all the fuss about planting native plants over exotic or non-natives? Planting Native or Florida friendly plants in your landscape is important for so many reasons. To begin with they will require less water, saving you time & money. Native plants have been exposed to Florida’s pests conditions for many generations which has helped build up their resistance to insects & disease. They have also adapted to the weather conditions allowing for them to need less fertilizing. Butterflies, birds & other wildlife depend on native plants for food & shelter. Natives bloom & leaf out when they are needed most by wildlife. This means by doing something as simple as planting a native or Florida friendly plant you will be helping the environment by conserving water & eliminating the worry of chemical run off into our local waterways as well as providing food & shelter to wildlife.
If you aren’t sure what qualifies as a native plant or Florida friendly plant ask the experts Laurel Schiller & her partner Dan Walton owners of Florida Native Plants, Inc. FNP is a local owned business that was founded as Florida Scrub Growers & has been growing native plants from seeds & cuttings since 1982. To learn more about Florida Native Plants visit . I’m sure you have guessed by now Laurel & Dan are donating some of their wonderful native plants to our $16,000 Ultimate backyard makeover contest which you can enter to win at

Friday, August 14, 2009

It’s summer in Florida you know what that means… rain nearly every afternoon. This is a good time to install a rain barrel to harvest rain water. We may not be thinking of watering right now but soon the rain will stop & out will come the hose. Most rain barrels are made out of 55 gallon drums & don’t take up much room, like the ones you can purchase from Eco Essentials in Sarasota. A small rain barrel may not provide all the water you would need to sustain your garden but it will help to supplement your watering schedule. Imagine this, a 1” rainfall will generate roughly a half gallon of water per square foot of roof area, or 1000 gallons of water for a 2000 square foot roof, that’s a lot of water! You can save a substantial amount of water over a period of time using stored rain water. Jodi John of Eco-essentials has even teamed up with a local artist to paint the barrels she sells so they will fit in to any décor. She tells us that larger barrels are also available for people with large yards. Personally we have two 55 gallon barrels & a 150 gallon container that we use for our ponds & gardens. It does help. Jodi has kindly donated one of her rain barrels complete with spigot, overflow hose & mosquito netting. Eco Essentials also offers earth boxes, worm farming & an Organic Shitake Mushroom buying club. You can contact Jodi at or at 941-954-6035.
Don’t forget to enter to win our fabulous backyard makeover contest on

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hydroponic gardening made easy…
What is hydroponic gardening? It’s the science of growing plants with an inert medium like gravel, sand, pumice & even sawdust instead of soil. A nutrient solution is added to the soil-less culture that contains all the elements needed by the plant for growth. Now that we have that out of the way, wouldn’t it be great to be able to grow all your veggies & herbs in a small 14” space, using less water & not have to use traditional insecticides or fungicides too?
Local inventor/grower Chester C. Bullock has the perfect solution. He invented the HYDRO-STACKER system a vertical hydroponic growing system. I have seen these unusual systems in action at the Hydro-Taste you pick farm, it’s amazing! The HYDRO-STACKER system saves up to 400% of water usage over traditional gardens using only 3 quarts of water for 20 plants in 14 square inches. Chester believes that the system should be easy to set up, easy to use & give great results. To learn more about the Hydro-Stacker system visit for directions to the farm visit . One more thing, if you win the Backyard Makeover contest you will receive two of these innovative systems. Make sure you enter at by August 31st.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finding art in unusual places

What do aluminum trailers, stainless steel kitchen backsplashes, fire hose racks & metal sculptures have in common? These items & so much more can be custom made for you by All Phases Welding & Fabrication Inc. All Phases is a local independent business based out of Ellenton. Bradly Ranney & Stefanie Gross founded their company in 2008, offering over 15 yrs of experience in all aspects of welding. They pride themselves on offering quality workmanship, honesty, integrity & great value.
What’s interesting about this business is that they also do artistic projects too. Last year All Phases partnered with Electra Lee Arcotte Magnet School for the Arts 8th grade class for a sculpture project funded by a grant from The Arts Council of Manatee County. They worked side by side with the students for six weeks to design this sculpture for the school. What is even more exciting is that Stefanie & Bradly have agreed to create two one of a kind solar lamp post for our Backyard Makeover Contest! Now we can’t show you pictures of the lamp post, you will have to wait for the makeover to see them, but we are including a picture of the Lee middle Sculpture. To see more on this project & what else they offer visit Remember you can only win if you enter so be sure to log on to & click on the backyard makeover link.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tiki, Jewelry & Candles...oh my!

I love it when I find something unique & out of the ordinary especially when it is hand made. There is a quant gift shop hidden amongst the stores along Gulf Dr. on Anna Maria Island. When you walk through the courtyard you would never guess that inside the store you would find so many beautiful items. The Hive Creations carry several different unique hand crafted lines. We found a beautiful hand made jewelry line, Nectar Jewelry, The Illustration Nation which includes illustrated children’s book, cards, paintings & hand printed clothing, AnnaMariki Tiki a collection of hand carved woodworks & Tiki, and some fabulous hand made Palm oil candles that I couldn’t resist.
What makes this shop stand out from the others is the fact that all of these lines are created by jewelry designer, Rachel Vanatte Noyes & Illustrator, Justin Kingsley Noyes. This talented couple have donated two of Justin’s hand carved Tiki for our backyard makeover contest. Justin told us that the wood carving started by accident. One evening he picked up a piece of wood & started carving & before he knew it AnnaMariki Tiki was born. Another interesting tidbit, Justin’s Illustrations were featured in last year’s motion picture The House Bunny. Make sure the next time you are on the Island you stop in to see Rachel & Justin. To learn more about this interesting couple check out their website at & make sure you enter the FREE $16,000 Backyard Makeover contest on

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Christmas...In August?

Isn’t it funny how every year when it’s time to put up your holiday lights they always seem to be a tangled mess & when you do finally get them straightened out half the bulbs are blown? I know it’s a little early to worry about holiday decorating but this year I plan to be prepared. No, I am not going to start untangling those old strands of lights, I am calling Decorating Elves. Can you believe it, there is a company that will install your holiday lights for you! What‘s even better is that they will maintain them (change out blown bulbs, etc) through out the season then take them down & store them for you. Best idea I’ve heard of in a long time!
Don’t let the name fool you there is more to these guys than just holiday lights & decorations. Decorating Elves & it’s sister company Tampa Bay Landscape Lighting, also offer traditional landscape lighting with free demonstrations, as well as lighting for special events, wedding receptions, parties, graduations, retail & event displays, corporate events, restaurants and clubs. Decorating Elves was started as a small business venture by Nick Schriver to help homeowners Avoid the Holiday Hassle. To view their portfolio & see what they have to offer visit or . And yes, you guessed it, they are part of the fabulous $16,000 Backyard Makeover contest sponsored by . Decorating Elves will be installing a set of 10 low voltage landscape lights complete with transformer in your new backyard.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some yard projects are better left to the professionals

Have you ever tried to do a home improvement project in your yard only to have it look worse than it did before you started? Laying pavers can be one of these type of projects. It’s important to make sure your area is level & you have the correct base before you lay the pavers. As much as I enjoy working in my yard this is one project I would rather have installed professionally. Choosing an installer who will do quality work is as important as choosing the pavers you want to use that’s why we are so glad that Sarasota’s Paving Crew Inc. will be installing the pavers patio & retaining wall with seating for our backyard makeover contest!
Paving Crew Inc is a company specialized in installation of interlocking brick pavers, old Chicago pavers and retaining walls. Brick pavers are today's most durable solution for patios, around pools, decks, driveways, porches, and paths. To get a glimpse of what a beautiful & artistic job the Paving Crew does visit their website at & remember you can’t win if you don’t enter. Enter exclusively on post a picture of your yard & why you need a new backyard (or front yard). Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What would you do...

What would you do if someone gave you a brand new shed? I don’t mean those metal kind that come in a kit & rust so quickly or the plastic ones that the doors always fall off. I mean a handcrafted wood shed that will not only stand up to our Florida weather but will make a beautiful accent to your home. I can think of a few uses, how about a home office, a craft room, a home gym, a playroom for the kids or a “man cave” for the man in your life. For me the perfect use would be a potting shed to hide all my plant baskets, planting medium & potting tools that seem to always be scattered around the yard. Hmm, have you thinking don’t I? Can you imagine having a shed valued at $1800 given to you!
Jo-Anne Peck co-founder of Historic Shed has donated one of their sheds to our Backyard Makeover Contest. Historic Shed is a company that was founded by the historic preservation professionals at Preservation Resource, Inc. to meet the needs of historic-home owners for affordable and attractive garden sheds and accessory buildings that complement and enhance their historic homes. Joanne & everyone at Historic Shed pride themselves on being eco-conscious by using true preservation practices through recycling & repair. To learn more about Historic Shed visit & don’t forget to enter the Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest on .Be sure to include a picture of your yard. Hurry contest ends August 31st 2009. Remember you can't win if you don't enter!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Green Gardening

Gardening Green

It seems simple, plant a garden & your helping the environment. The truth is what you plant will determine how much you will need to water, fertilize & spray for pests. It is important to know how your landscape & gardening practices can have both positive & negative effects on Florida's environment. Below are several sustainable gardening tips you can adopt that will help you conserve & protect our natural resources.
Mulch helps to keep water in the soil rather than evaporating into the air, which will cut down on watering needs. As mulch breaks down, it will provide nutrients to the soil, which can help reduce the need for fertilizing. Make sure you use mulches that are from sustainable forestry practices like Melaleuca Mulch, not Cyprus mulch. Melaleuca or Punk Tree is an invasive tree in Florida.
Reducing Lawn Areas
This is my favorite tip! Lawns require frequent maintenance… mowing, fertilizing & chemicals to kill weeds & pests. Planting native wildflowers, bushes & trees to replace lawn areas will reduce the need to mow. Gas lawnmowers produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to the air pollution that causes global warming. Or better yet add a water garden to replace the lawn area. A pond provides food, water & cover for wildlife & plants. Having native plants in your garden will help you to maintain a healthy, natural ecosystems and reduces your time and labor working on the lawn leaving you more time to enjoy it.!
Xeriscaping is an approach to landscaping that minimizes outdoor watering while maintaining soil integrity through the use of native, drought-tolerant plants. With our current watering restrictions this is the best way to have a beautiful yard without the need for daily watering.
Removing Invasive Plants
When exotic or non-native plants are used, they can upset the delicate balance of a local ecosystem and sometimes will push out native plants to the point of extinction. Wildlife benefit when native plant communities are restored to their natural habitats, providing the best source of food for wildlife. Non-native plants will also require more work than native plants.
Water Conservation
To conserve water you should water, only on your designated day, with a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system. You will have less water evaporation than you would with a sprinkler, and it will provide targeted watering. Also, you should use a timing device with your watering system. Another great way to conserve water is to install a rain barrel that catches rainfall from your roof. The collected water can be used to water your garden.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Win A $16,000 ULTIMATE Backyard Makeover!

No time or money to fix it up?
Getting complaints from the neighbors?

If you’re a homeowner in Manatee or Sarasota County, you could win a complete yard makeover valued at $16,000. Enjoy your very own “backyard getaway” without getting your hands dirty.
We are looking for the ugliest, most bare, uninviting yard!

Contest runs from August 1 through August 31,2009
Winner will be announced September 23, 2009

Sponsored by:
Hosted & organized by:

On August 1st 2009 Log on to
Click on the Ultimate Backyard Makeover for details
To view the 17 + local companies that are participating in this contest visit:

Miss Attitude

Miss Attitude is blogging about our $16000 Ultimate Backyard Makeover Contest.
Check it out at:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Check out the latest issue of Watergardeners e-magazine from Microble-lift. The front cover photo is our home pond. There are several pictures through out the magazine of ponds that were on our pond tour this past may!

We also have a two page feature article in the 2009 Water Gardens from Country Decorating of an above ground pond that Dave created in Sarasota

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden like an Eqyptian or an Italian or …

Most people, when looking for inspiration for their water garden, think of Koi & Japanese Gardens. You may be surprised to find that the Japanese were not the first culture to keep water in their garden. In fact there are many very diverse cultures that influence today’s water gardens.
The earliest depictions of a planned water garden actually dates back around 4000 years. Egyptians would plant their gardens inside the walls that surrounded their homes. Ancient records show hieroglyphics & paintings of formal water gardens, rectangular in shape, filled with fish, ducks & lotuses & surrounded by fruit trees, ornamental plants, & date palms. The Lotus was believed to be a symbol of the sun, to them, it represented creation and rebirth because it would close at night & re-open in the day.
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon created by Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife. These formal Persian walled gardens with their pools & irrigation canals symbolized paradise in an otherwise hot & arid climate. There were rooftop & terrace gardens & fountains to cool the area. Water was brought to the top of the artificial mountain from the river below with a system of buckets, pulleys & pumps & men to power the system.
In the hills of northern Italy is the Villa d’ Este palace. This 16th Century garden is dedicated to water features of all sizes. The neatest fountain at the palace is called the Organ fountain. The organ’s pipes which are hidden under the water actually play music. Everything there is turned into a water feature from cement statues to stairs with rivulets. Another 16th Century garden is the Villa Medici which is very similar to the Babylon gardens. Unlike the Persian gardens, the Italian garden is on a hillside making it much easier for the water to flow over the waterfalls.
Many Roman gardens where built in conjunction with the public baths giving them a serene spot to meditate.
Moorish gardens from the 13th to the 16th century in Spain were primarily created with water, fruit trees & shade. The pools with ornate tiles & spouting fountains would be the center piece of the courtyard garden surrounded by shade trees & colorful plantings.
For 2500 years classic Chinese gardens have contained one or more ponds along with pavilions, bridges & bright colored flowers. These peaceful gardens are usually surrounded by white walls with a fancy gate or doorway. The Chinese use four elements in their gardens, water, plants, rocks & architecture, they believe that the garden symbolizes a living organism with the rocks being the bones, the water is the blood & the plants are the dressing. Chinese gardens are meant to bring balance, soothe the spirit & be spiritually uplifting.
Japanese gardens may be famous for their beautiful graceful Koi ponds but they draw inspiration from the Chinese gardens. A Japanese garden is a reflection of a larger natural landscape. Although water is a very important element in Japanese garden along with manicured shrubs, stone & moss it doesn’t necessarily have to be literal, as in a Koi pond, stream & small basin. Water can be simply represented by a dry stream or raked bed of pebbles surrounding a large boulder.
With varying tastes & styles, modern American gardens use elements of historic gardens from all over the world. The gardens of Europe being the biggest influence on North American water gardens. If you ask me a garden isn’t a garden without water.

"Of all the elements, the Sage should take water as his preceptor. Water is yielding but all-conquering. Water extinguishes Fire or, finding itself likely to be defeated, escapes as steam and reforms. Water washes away soft Earth or, when confronted by rocks, seeks a way around. . . It saturates the atmosphere so that Wind dies. Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility, for no power can prevent it following its destined course to the sea. Water conquers by yielding; it never attacks but always wins the last battle." (John Blofeld's The Wheel of Life)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Floating Salad Bar

Have you ever thought about growing your own veggie & herb garden but decided against it because you thought it would be too much work or you wouldn't have time to care for it? Aquatic gardening is just the answer. Aquatic plants are some of the easiest plants to grow & just think, you never have to water them. A pond or water garden can be more than just a habitat for wildlife, Koi & beautiful Water Lilies, it can be a floating salad bar too. I'm sure you are familiar with Water lilies & Lotus but did you know that there are over two dozen different aquatic plants that are edible including the Lotus!

Following is just a few of both some common & exotic aquatics that will not only add beauty to your water garden but can be useful as well. Please remember if you are going to eat plants from your pond that you do not add algaecides or other chemicals to the pond water. Yuch!

We'll start with the Lotus (Nelumbo sp).This plant is almost entirely edible from the seeds to the tubers. The Tubers are the "root" of the plant & are similar to sweet potatoes. The seeds have a nutty flavor to them & can be eaten peeled or whole. In Japan there is a traditional Lotus ceremony where wine is drank from the hollow stem of a lotus flower.

A couple of common or more well know aquatic plants are Taro(Colocasia spp.) & Water Chestnut (Eleoricharis spp.). Go to any health food store & you will find Taro chips. Of course if you go to a Chinese restaurant they will have water chestnut in many of their dishes. How about Wasabi, yes it's an aquatic. Water Cress (Nasturtium officinale) & Bog Cranberry (Oxycoccus) also aquatics, can be found in your grocery store.

A few of my favorites bog plants are Aquatic mint, Water Celery & Lemon Bacopa. Aquatic mint is very similar to the mint you grow in your herb garden but with a different root system. The leaves can be added to cake, ice cream & of course mint juleps. Boy does it smell good! Water Celery (Oenanthe javanica) is a bit different. The leaves of this small plant are beautiful changing from green to pink & add a peppery taste to a salad. Lemon Bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana) is used as a seasoning & you guessed it, it has a lemony taste to it.

A Cattail (Typha latifolia) is probably not a plant you would think about eating, but believe it or not all of it is edible. The pollen, shoots, hearts, young spike heads & seeds can all be cooked & eaten. How about Duckweed (Lemna minor)? The small floating plant you see covering the surface of many natural lakes & ponds, it is a perfect garnish on a salad.

Some aquatics are even used for medicinal purposes like the Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis). It is used as a cough suppressant, immune system booster & as a wound healant. Pennywort (Hydrocotyle spp.) is used for arthritis relief.

I could go on & on but I'm starting to get hungry. I think I'll go out & have a snack, maybe a couple of Odorata Water Lily flowers & some mint tea, yummy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Here fishy, fishy, fishy…
One of best things about having a pond is watching our graceful Koi gliding in the water. I’ll leave the technical stuff to the text books, but in case you are not familiar, Koi are in the Carp family. There are hundreds of categories of Koi & they come in so many different colors & patterns, but we‘ll talk about that another time. Today I want to talk about feeding Koi & goldfish in your pond. Every day I receive calls or emails from my customers asking me when to feed, how much to feed, how many times a day they should feed & what to feed. Search for Koi feeding on the internet & you will get many different answers to these questions. If you look on the Koi food package or check the manufacturer’s website you will find they tell you to feed 3 to 5 times a day. Of course, we all know they are trying to sell you more food. The best rule of thumb is to feed your Koi in warm weather only once or twice a day only what they can eat in three minutes time. Any more than that & you will be feeding the waste in your pond making it hard to keep your filters clean & your pond healthy. Truthfully, you could easily go two weeks or more without actually feeding them. Koi are bottom feeders by nature & will eat the algae & muck from the bottom or sides of your pond helping to keep it clean. If you have a problem with algae or muck built up on the bottom of the pond then you are feeding too much! I can here some of my pond buddies groaning right now “but I love to feed my fish“. I have a solution for you, try substituting fresh fruits & veggies for Koi pellets a couple days a week. Our Koi go crazy for watermelon & bananas. Sounds strange doesn’t it? We also feed them Zucchini & frozen peas. If it’s good for you then it’s good for your Koi babies. Plus this is a great way to use up those over ripe fruits & veggies that you hate to throw away.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Did you know that the latest watering restrictions in Manatee County now say that if you have a fountain or water feature in your yard that you are only allowed to run it for 4 hours a day? What they don't tell you is that if your fountain, pond or water garden sustains life, (fish, turtles, frogs, plants etc.) that it is exempt from this restriction & can run 24/7. This restriction was obviously included by someone who doesn't really know much about water gardens or ponds. Now, let me start by saying that we agree with the restrictions if you have a small decorative fountain that splashes water out of the fountain you should turn it off.To clarify, ponds & water features are in fact a recirculating system & do not "use" water on a daily basis. The water in the pond recirculates with the use of a pump & filter & if installed properly will only lose a minimal amount of water due to evaporation. Even if the pond is off it can still lose this small amount of water from evaporation. Another interesting point is that a pond or water garden actually uses less water than your lawn.A water garden is considered eco friendly, because, unlike the lawn it does not need fertilizers, weed killers or pest control. The fish in your pond provide natural fertilizer for your plants & also provide pest & weed control as well. You should see how our fish love to eat the bugs that land on the pond. At the same time, your water garden provides a habitat for many wildlife creatures from butterflies, birds & squirrels to frogs & turtles. The best part is that you can grow a huge variety of beautiful aquatic plants & lilies with out having to have a green thumb!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ponds, Water Gardens & Pools Oh My!!!

Who doesn't enjoy the soothing sound of a waterfall, the wonderful scent of water lilies or the graceful movement of butterfly Koi moving in the water. Join us for our fourth Annual Parade of Ponds water garden tour.

Visit 12, yes 12, of Manatee & Sarasota Counties most beautiful private water gardens where you will see everything from container gardens & disappearing water features to Koi ponds & even a pool that was converted to a pond.

Don't forget this is a charity event. The proceeds will be used by Mr. Florio's mentally challenged class to create a wildlife habitat at R. Dan Nolan middle school in Lakewood Ranch.

Tour Date: Saturday, May 9th 9am-4pm

To purchase tickets & tour books contact us at

Free Hands-On Pondless Waterfall Class

What's a pondless waterfall? It's a water feature without a pond. Well, sort of. There is a pond but it is hidden in the ground with rocks. The waterfall has the appearance of disappearing into the ground.

Join us on April 18th 9am-4pm in Bradenton for a hands on class on how to create a pondless waterfall. Anyone interested in attending the class should contact us at for address info.