Archive for the 'Outdoors' Category

Evil ivy

What’s the deal with ivy? It climbs where it’s not wanted, chokes and kills most other greenery in its path and harbors bugs and spiders. Why would anybody plant this stuff? These are my thoughts as I work to get my home ready for painting. I practically need a crowbar to get ivy "ropes" out [...]

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Succulent salvation?

As you think about new landscape choices during this fall planting season, consider the story of Suzy and Rob Schaefer, whose Rancho Santa Fe home (pictured) seems to have been saved by the succulents surrounding it. While the couple’s once-plump, water-storing aloe did take quite a beating from the extreme heat of the fire that [...]

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Whatever happened to the idea of homeowner-applied flame retardants?

Isn’t technology supposed to make our lives better in ways our ancestors never thought possible? So why are we still simply fleeing from our unprotected homes as fire approaches, like people have done for eons, rather than fighting back in a high-tech manner? Specifically, I’m talking about homeowner-applied flame-retardant foams and gels, which we sometimes [...]

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Curbside Critic: About that overgrown palm tree . . .

First, I want to defend myself: I am a tree lover, tree hugger, tree planter and tree waterer. Indeed, I’ll probably stay on my property until death just to be near the trees I’ve planted: California pepper, gingko, elm, pine and oak. But I must say, I don’t get this SoCal palm tree obsession, though [...]

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Curbside Critic: low-cost, high-style gates

Out walking this week, I came across two stylish gates that really caught my eye. There’s something so agreeable about the juxtaposition of the reddish wood and the lighter wavy panels. (Click on photos to enlarge.) As I got closer, I saw that the panels look like some kind of corrugated metal (not fiberglass), but [...]

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Local designer gives talk on sustainable landscapes

One of Pardon Our Dust’s favorite landscape designers — Pamela Berstler of Flower to the People — will discuss "The Balancing Act of Sustainable Design" on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Pamela is known to TV audiences as an outdoor-living expert. She is a passionate promoter of landscaping that [...]

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Maybe a good time to consider a backup generator?

If you were among the thousands of unlucky Southlanders who lost power during the current heat wave, the thought of a backup generator probably sounds pretty appealing right about now. (See reader comments on power outages.) As far as I can tell, we’re heading into a time of radical weather changes, and so many events [...]

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Free trees for L.A. DWP customers

We’ve got to hand it to our ancestors, whose house-cooling strategies we’re only now beginning to appreciate: straw-bale and rammed-earth walls, sod roofs, cool cellars, even covered porches. Did you know there are straw-bale houses in this country that are more than 100 years old? Planting shade trees is another old-timey air-cooling strategy that needs [...]

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If neighbor’s trees grow to block your view, whatcha gonna do?

I’m considering leasing a darling vacation cabin near Bass Lake, but I’m concerned that the neighbor’s trees across the street will eventually block the cabin’s mountain views. I guess I could ask the neighbors if I could pay to get their trees topped off to preserve my view, when the time comes. (It may take [...]

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Ask an Expert: Repair or replace damaged deck?

Question: My house was built 20 years ago with a second-story redwood deck that is about 250 square feet. The deck has been stained, power-washed and decently maintained. But some of the deck joists and all four uprights have been diagnosed with dry rot/fungus and dry-wood termites. Should I replace the damaged joists and uprights [...]

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Ask a Contractor: Is a retractable glass wall leading to a deck feasible?

Question: We’re adding a deck and are thinking of either a NanaWall (retractable window wall) or going with more traditional French windows. The basic idea is to integrate the outdoor and indoor spaces. Have you had any experience with such construction and/or any tips on what approach is preferable? The NanaWalls are certainly more money. [...]

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Ask a Landscaper: How do we install patio columns?

Question: We are preparing to install a cover on our courtyard and want to use fiberglass columns as the corner braces. Do we need to attach these to our pavers (and how?) or will the weight of the attached cover be sufficient? Answer: From Pamela Berstler of Flower to the People: For this answer, I [...]

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On a day like this, maybe a pool is a good investment after all

Check out this story to find out how Twila Wolfe turned a ragged, wretched Mission Viejo backyard into a natural-looking grotto on a small budget. Here is her secret: “I never pay full price for anything. Never.” Read Twila’s story See more remodels See more outdoors (Photo: KEN HIVELY / Los Angeles Times)

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Ask an Expert: What decking material is best?

Question: We want to build a deck this summer, but now we are confused about what to use: wood or a composite product such as Trex. Any suggestions? Answer: From Pamela Berstler of Flower to the People, a Los Angeles landscaping company known for being environmentally sensitive: Composite wood materials have come a very long [...]

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Rate This Remodel: Losing a garage, gaining a workshop

When Chantal Dussouchaud and Harry Dolman bought this Hollywood Hills home, they had one major objection to it: the massive driveway that dominated the entire front of the house. Part of the couple’s reaction stemmed from the fact that they had been living in Paris (they are both European natives), where the car culture is [...]

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Losing a garage, gaining a workshop

When Chantal Dussouchaud and Harry Dolman bought this Hollywood Hills home, they had one major objection to it: the massive driveway that dominated the entire front of the house. Part of the couple’s reaction stemmed from the fact that they had been living in Paris (they are both European natives), where the car culture is [...]

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Is synthetic grass great? Or gross?

I honestly don’t know about fake grass. In person, it looks terrific. But chewed up tires? Yuck! Here’s how Flower to the People‘s Pamela Berstler, designer of the cool little SoCal yard you see here, explains it: There are a lot of eco-pros and cons to using synthetic turf. In this particular situation, where the [...]

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Trex now more wood-like

There’s a lot to like about Trex or other composite decking materials. They don’t splinter, split, rot or need painting or staining. And they’re made from cast-off stuff like milk jugs and wood pallets. In fact, Trex claims it uses 50 percent of the grocery bags we recycle in the U.S., and that every year [...]

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In lust with an Austin remodel

I know this house is not in So Cal, but it should be. On my property! What is it about this remodel that has me so enchanted? The limestone pathways? The sustainably grown ipe wood benches? (The owner tells me those benches are great launch pads for her young kids to spring from.) Is it [...]

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Cost vs. Value Report: California homeowners don’t lose money on a deck addition

According to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, investment in a deck brings almost a total return on investment when you sell your home . . . if you live in the West, that is. The return on investment for a deck is 91.1 percent for homes in the West, with the average cost [...]

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