Create a Sprawling Garden: Summer Flowers for Beginners

After highlighting summer crops in last month’s edition of Create a Sprawling Garden, Tree Classics will now take a look at four lovely flowers that are perfect for beginners. Not only are these blooms easy to grow. They also handle the extreme heat of summer very well.

1. Red Valerian

Most other plants wither under the summer sun, but the red valerian thrives in such conditions. In fact, this drought-resistant plant can exist in just about any condition except for wet climates. Originally from the Mediterranean region, red valerians are now commonly found in most western states such as California, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Depending on how you look at it, the self-sowing seeds of the red valerian can either be a convenience or a nuisance. If you don’t want them to overpopulate your garden, make sure you deadhead your red valerian before the next bloom. A bi-weekly watering schedule and some bone meal placed in the soil should also be enough to take care of this summer bloom.

Let red valerians cascade from an elevation or grow along paths, rough slopes, and steep banks. Their lasting blooms enliven any dull and listless garden.

Red Valerian
Photo from M Hillier via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

2. Moonbeam Coreopsis

The moonbeam coreopsis flourishes even in the brightest of daylight. You can plant this perennial flower in average or poor soil and it will still blossom radiantly. Because of its endurance, the moonbeam coreopsis is ideal for gardens in humid states, such as Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas.

As with most summer plants, this coreopsis cultivar does not require too much attention. One thing to note, though, is that for the moonbeam to bloom without hassle, you must regularly prune the flowers right after they fade. You can do this for a few times during the summer, and then allow the plant to go to seed at season’s end to reproduce new ones.

The pale yellow bloom of the moonbeam coreopsis adds contrast to the large leaves typical of perennials. Use the moonbeam coreopsis to balance the rich purples and blues of other blooms.

Moonbeam
Photo from F. D. Richards via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

3. Daisy Fleabane

Native to the West Coast, fleabanes are considered one of the most durable summer flowers. It regularly blooms all throughout the harshest conditions of the season, from June to September.

In planting your daisy fleabanes, keep an eye out for “legginess.” It is a condition in which the plants do not get enough sunlight. They grow long thin stems that do not stand upright. When this happens, cut off these plants and remove them from under the shade.

If you’re looking for flowers to place in front of stone walls, then daisy fleabanes are for you. The slender ray petals give a splash of vibrancy to the naturally bland color of stone. Also, the long stalks make these cultivars a classic choice for flower arrangements.

Daisy Fleabane
Photo from wackybadger via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

4. Goblin Blanket Flower

Also known as the kobold, the goblin blanket flower can withstand arid climate and, with enough leaf mulch, remain in bloom through winter. Similar to other summer flowers, it can survive even on low-quality soil as long as it has good drainage. If you plant them in moist garden loam, the stems tend to grow too far apart.

True to its namesake, the goblin blanket flower has an unusual way of growing. Unlike other plants that develop better in rich soil, this flower benefits more from thriving on poor earth. It is not advisable to enrich the soil by adding compost or other fertilizers. Goblin blanket flowers also do not grow properly in heavy clay.

The dark maroon center and golden yellow tips of the petals give the goblin a sunny appeal. Baring some striking resemblance to the sunflower, it also has a wide bloom that ranges from three to four inches. When planting the goblin in a group, you can place it beside taller flowers with warm tones.

Goblin
Photo from Sarah Korf via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Flowers have a unique way of enlivening any space. Try planting these colorful summer blooms to help you define the aesthetics of your outdoors.

4 Classic Games that Boost Brain Power

Spending summer indoors gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up an old hobby or learn a new one. While some hobbies exercise your body, others help you sharpen your mind. You will find that a simple game that improves memory and concentration will allow you to take on everyday tasks with clarity and renewed passion. This summer, Tree Classics is bringing back those timeless board games and puzzles that boost brain power.

Chess

It’s all about strategy, strategy, strategy. In a game of chess, a lot of analytic thinking is used to come up with a strategy. You must bolster every attack with a purpose. Winning every move may not always guarantee winning the entire game. This forces you to concentrate and lengthen your attention span as you move towards your ultimate goal of taking down the king on your opponent’s side. Players can never be complacent even for a moment.

Tree Classics Brain Games
By podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rubik’s Cube

This 3D puzzle is about aligning cubes to show only one solid color on each side of the bigger cube. The activity brings you to focus on each step and analyze each shift. It also improves your short-term memory when you recall the tricks you’ve learned. The toy may come in different forms. Some puzzles merely use colors; others sequential numbers that make it even more complex. The point is to use both the left and right sides of the brain for logic, memory, and creativity.

Scrabble

If you want to sharpen your semantic memory – your ability to remember meaning – Scrabble is for you. This 75-year-old board game looks simple. But it is engaging because you have to use your faculty for language as well as your analytic and logical thinking. Since each letter tile has a corresponding value that adds to your individual score and extends the word connections, the amalgam of letters you create not only improves your ranking but also paves the way for you to add on more words as the game progresses.

Crossword

Crossword also exercises language by tapping into the parts of your brain involved in semantics, word association, and spelling. A way to expand your vocabulary by examining the witty word clues, crossword puzzles may be the mental push-up you need to keep sharp.

These mentally stimulating board games have never faded from our memory! In fact, they help improve memory and focus. What are your favorite brain games?

Fantastic July 4 Fireworks Displays

 

It’s almost the Fourth of July! Time once again to take out those sparklers, light up the warm summer sky, and commemorate American Independence. If you’re looking for a good old fashioned fireworks display, check out Tree Classics’ list of the top pyrotechnics shows across the country and the best vantage points to watch them from.

1. Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular – New York City, New York

The most popular fireworks extravaganza in the country, the Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular over the Hudson River began in 1976. Since then, it has become part of New York City’s Independence Day tradition. This 26-minute show attracts an average of two million spectators every year.

If you’re planning on heading to the Big Apple to watch this spectacle, get on board the Independence Day Family Cruise. You can enjoy a fabulous dinner with loved ones while marveling at the breathtaking view from the Hudson.

2. Kaboom Town – Addison, Texas

What this Texan town lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in its stunning fireworks show. Highly regarded by the American Pyrotechnics Association, Addison’s 30-minute Kaboom Town spectacle is watched by 500,000 gazers annually.

Avid fans of Kaboom Town watch the fireworks show from one of the 170 restaurants found in and around town. If you don’t want to get caught in the huge crowds, you can view the whole event from Cantino Laredo. Try out their amazing Mexican delicacies for a full experience. 

3. Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular – Boston, Massachusetts

Residents of this great New England city are no strangers to festive fireworks displays. For over 40 years, Bostonians have kept this Fourth of July celebration running. People line up along the Charles River on picnic blankets to witness the pyrotechnics show while the famed Boston Pops Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

For an intimate celebration with the family, you can set up camp at the Larz Anderson Park down at 23 Newton Street in Brookline. Aside from being a great vantage point for the 21-minute extravaganza, this open area also has room for games and other activities.

4. Go 4th on the River – New Orleans, Louisiana

While the entire show lasts for only 13 minutes, watching the beautiful reflection of the fireworks on the Mississippi River is what sets the Go 4th on the River celebration apart from all the others. Some 200,000 people crowd the Big Easy every year to witness this grand Fourth of July spectacle.

Check out the view of the evening sky from the deck of the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans’ French Quarter. You can also soak up the local jazz scene after the pyrotechnics show.

Wherever you choose to commemorate Independence Day, whichever spectacle you decide to watch, the most important thing is to celebrate the true meaning of this holiday. The Fourth of July is about being able to savor the joys of fun and freedom!

DIY Classics: 3 Ways to Make Vintage Clothes Look New

Vintage clothes shopping is a fun way to look for unique items that can still be made fashionable today. But it’s not too often that an absolutely gorgeous, wearable-off-the-rack piece turns up. Fortunately, there are ways to make vintage clothes look new again while highlighting your love for classic elegance. Here are a few ideas:

update vintage clothes
By …love Maegan / flickr

 

1. Make It Your Size

Make it all about you! So start off with the size. Vintage finds look fashionable only when the garment fits you to a T.  Among the areas that typically need adjustment are the hem, sleeves, bust, and bias.

Remember: Shop for vintage clothes that are at least two to three sizes larger than yours. When it’s time to snip off a few inches here or tuck in a few inches there, you would still have enough of the fabric to work on.

2. Repair the Damage

Sure, there are stains and rips. But these little flaws don’t always render vintage treasures useless. Instead, examine the extent and type of damage to figure out a creative way of repairing, strengthening, and even embellishing your piece.

Cover holes and tears with pockets of a different pattern to make the outfit snazzy. Is the collar wilted? Change up the fabric or cut it off altogether. Replace buttons and zippers to add a more modern touch. You’ll be surprised that a good repair is all you need to make an old garment look fab again.

3.  Revamp the Style

Of course, some vintage pieces are fine just as they are, but refashioning them gives you the benefit of creating a completely unique piece. Snip off dated sleeves, remove those puffy shoulder pads, and change up that droopy neckline to give the piece new life.

One trick we love at Tree Classics is to put a new spin on old things. You can update a dress by having the skirt end just above the knee – a modern style that matches any pattern or material. A short dress with a classy and classic appeal is perfect for the summer!

Vintage clothes are gaining more popularity, thanks to hit period dramas like Mad Men and Pan Am. While not all finds are wearable instantly, a lot of these are great candidates for upcycling.

Create a Sprawling Garden: Summer Crops for Beginners

July is almost here! The warm weather is setting the stage for an amazing harvest. But are you having trouble jumpstarting your own summer garden? Even if you’re still figuring out how to till the soil and prep your seeds or seedlings, it’s not yet too late for you to create a sprawling summer garden that looks professionally made. Tree Classics recommends four hassle-free (well, relatively hassle-free) crops that flourish this season. So let’s get diggin’!

String Beans and Green Beans

Our favorite would have to be snap beans, otherwise known as string beans and green beans. They are best grown in warm soil as they decay easily in damp dirt. You need not dig deep when sowing them in since they have shallow roots. Growing them an inch deep and three inches apart is fine. Place them in a spot that gets a lot of sunshine. Water them once they start to sprout but don’t let the soil turn overly moist. Allow the plants to continue sprouting throughout the season by regularly picking the mature beans.

Eggplants

 

Another summer crop that loves the full sunlight is the eggplant. Our favorite would have to be the rich dark purple Asian variety because they add so much color to a summer garden. Grow this crop in a fertile area where you had not grown eggplants a year before. You can grow the seeds indoors first before planting them in containers outside when the weather starts to warm. Remember to water the eggplants generously.

Tomatoes

Always a favorite during the summer, tomatoes have different varieties to suit any dish this season. For beginning gardeners who love fresh salads, Tree Classics recommends growing cherry tomatoes. Unlike other varieties, cherry tomatoes enjoy just a moderate amount of sunshine and can be grown in containers. Water them generously at the base of the plant. Harvest your cherry tomatoes once they have turned bright red orange and firm.

Cucumbers

 

One summer crop that requires both full sunlight and constant moisture is the cucumber. Whether you’re growing slicers that are best served fresh or picklers that are best preserved, you will find cucumbers to be an essential part of a sprawling summer garden because of the beautiful way their vines grow. If you want them to crawl out gloriously, set up a trellis in your garden. If you’re more of a practical gardener, you can also plant them by making mounds or rows with drip irrigation. Water them well as cucumbers turn bitter when they lose moisture.

Summer is the best time to get your hands dirty even if you’re just starting out as a home gardener.

7 Creative Ideas for Your Kitchen Island

From simply being an extension of kitchen counters, kitchen islands have taken on a number of innovative and creative designs. No longer just an old block of wood sitting in the middle of the kitchen, the island has turned into a statement piece as well. If you have one installed but are looking to update its style, then you’ve come to the right place. Tree Classics presents you a slideshow of seven amazing designs for your culinary workstation.

1. The Old Cottage Look

Modern kitchens often do away with the island. But if you feel you want to infuse this contemporary space with a bit of vintage charm, then an antique table placed in the middle of your kitchen instantly gives it that old cottage look. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the costs of having one built! This substitute for the permanent kitchen island is easy to incorporate: you no longer need to install it.

2. Creative Storage Spaces

One of the primary advantages of having a kitchen island is being able to maximize every nook and cranny as extra storage space. Most homeowners choose to have cabinets, drawers, and shelves added to a kitchen island for easy access.

3. A Statement of Style

Aside from its functionality, a kitchen island can also become an ideal showpiece. Surprise your friends and family with a repurposed item that shows off your creativity. An old sewing machine table, for instance, works as a sturdy island while exhibiting unique metal detailing.

4. Extra Seating

Some kitchen islands also serve as breakfast nooks. Adding a few stools helps maximize limited room, especially if you live in a small apartment. This also lets you interact with family or guests while you prepare meals.

5. Sleek and Sturdy

For a lustrous appeal that lasts, install a stainless steel kitchen island. The metallic finish exhibits a smooth and sophisticated profile. The durability of steel also means you won’t have to worry about wear and tear over the years.

6. Countryside Charm

If you’re not a fan of industrial home designs, opt for a wooden workstation instead. The natural texture and aroma of teak and cedar bring the wonders of the countryside into your kitchen.

7. Going Places

An island on caster wheels allows for easy mobility even within a very small kitchen. This space-saver is not only efficient, but it also creates a look of minimalist chic.

Create a one-of-a-kind look for your kitchen by upgrading your culinary workstation with these creative ideas.

Have a Fun Summer Potluck with the Neighbors

As the summer sunshine becomes too hard to resist, people are becoming more eager to get out of the house and mingle with each other. You, too, can take advantage of the fine weather to make new friends: spearhead a summer potluck! A neighborhood get-together gives you the chance to cultivate good relations with the members of your community. Here are four easy steps:


Tropical Patio by Milford Appliances Clarke

1. Gather Your Neighbors

A little morning chit-chat while you walk the dog or bring in the paper will do wonders when you are trying to get your neighbors on board. The best approach would be to hold a small afternoon tea at your porch or in your kitchen so you can begin asking them specific details, such as what day of the week they would be available for the event. In the process, you might even be able to learn a little more about them: what work do they do, or what recreational activities would they be interested in.

2. Plan the Menu as a Group

And since this is a potluck, you can take comfort in the fact that you do not have to prepare all the dishes. But as the party host, your job is to provide the venue, invite the people, and make sure everything goes according to plan. So how exactly does menu preparation foster good will among neighbors?

They begin to understand each other’s taste preferences. Not everyone may agree on the same choices. But the beauty of a potluck is that it allows everyone to contribute to the group what they themselves enjoy – from the food to the activities – while being able to take part in a community affair.

Create a general guide to give your guests more freedom to pitch ideas. Divide the menu into segments: 1) main dish 2) sides 3) beverage and 4) dessert.

If there are neighbors who would rather not cook up a dish, give them the chance to contribute by decorating the venue, organizing games, or coming up with party favors.

3. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

At the event, remember to relax and chat with your neighbors. Since summer potlucks are more of a collaborative effort, people are more laid-back than they would be at dinner or cocktail parties. No more fussing over dessert running out or having to wear fancy outfits (unless, of course, party guests are required to wear a costume!). By the time everyone has gotten a plate full of heartwarming treats, guests will begin chatting away. And once their tummies are happy, they will be ready to take part in all the festivities.

4. Give a Little Extra Treat

The best way to make friends with neighbors is to express some thoughtfulness. While others may volunteer to bring party favors, you can prepare your own set of giveaways. It can be anything from a souvenir photo of you and your guest to baskets of homemade treats. If you can, give it a personalized touch. Note the person’s favorites, such as sweets or trinkets, early on and hand them something they would truly appreciate and remember your summer potluck by.

Cultivating good relations with your neighbors through a summer potluck is a fun task in itself. At the end of all the festivities, the best part about fostering camaraderie with them would have to be witnessing your friendship grow.

At Home with Tree Classics: Creative Ways to Save Closet Space

Rummaging through your closet to dig up an item buried under clothes, blankets, and shoes is a tell-tale sign you’re running out of closet space. Chances are: the items crammed inside it may be better stored in another location. Use other areas of your home as creative storage spaces – and let your closet breathe.

1. Shoes

The bottom of the closet may be a convenient shoe storage space for some. However, shoes and shoe racks take up more room than you think. Free up the area for other items by storing your shoes in an under-stairs cupboard. Keeping them out of the bedroom will also prevent their dirt and grime from entering your personal space.


Contemporary Closet Organizers by London Closet & Home Storage Designers Clive Anderson Bespoke Furniture

 

You can also use shoe racks or cubbyholes in the mudroom to keep your footwear from tracking mud indoors. You can use the top part of this area to store your frequently used coats, jackets, and windbreakers.


Spaces

 

2. Pillows and Blankets

Use your closet space mainly for clothes and move your pillows and blankets to another area. A good place to keep these items in is an underbed drawer. Storing them under the bed allows you to keep them handy if you need to change sheets or add more pillows to the bed. If you don’t have a drawer, keep them in a storage chest or a slide suitcase under or by the foot of the bed.

3. Off-season Items

Clothes and accessories that are seldom used can be kept in stackable storage boxes and labeled according to the items they hold. The space underneath a window seat can double as a treasure trove for various odds and ends that may not have an immediate use but may hold sentimental value. Place hand-me-downs in this secure and convenient spot.


Eclectic Home Office by San Francisco Interior Designers & Decorators Story & Space – Interior Design and Color Guidance

 

For vertical spaces that are often under-utilized as storage, hang bags, coats, or hats by using valet hooks and Velcro fasteners that can hold enough weight. Do prevent this area from becoming an eye sore by eliminating what looks like clutter. Hang only items that can also serve as decorative pieces when displayed.

Save closet space for the more valuable items. Scout other areas in your home that you can use as storage for other unique pieces.

Tree Classics Weekend Fun: 5 Benefits of Kite Flying

After a long and busy spring, it’s time that you unwind and take in the beautiful summer sunshine. What better way to de-stress than through a classic activity: kite flying. Tree Classics shares with you five great benefits of letting these colorful aerial wonders take flight.

Relieving Stress

In today’s fast-paced world of high-tech computers and complicated electronic gadgets, people get stressed out quickly. Spending hours working on and with devices can take a toll on the mind and body. To combat technostress, a simple hobby such as kite flying comes in handy. 

Kite flying may not depend on sophisticated technology. A sturdy thread, your kite, and the wind are all you need. But it allows you to forget the anxieties of the world. 

As you watch your kite while it is in the air, your mind focuses solely on making it stay in flight. When you end up ignoring the distractions in your environment, your mind enters into meditation. While you’re doing this, both your mind and body start to relax. 

a kite
Photo from Jonf728 via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Sharpening the Mind

Ever wondered how monks are able to stay calm even in the most challenging of situations? This is because they have reached a state called mindfulness, and it can also be achieved through kite flying.

But learning how to focus isn’t the only benefit of this activity. Because kite flying entails mastering maneuvers and performing them over and over, the whole process improves memory and learning, based on a research study by the American Psychological Association.

a man and his kite
Photo from heatheronhertravels via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

Keeping the Body Fit

While most enthusiasts of kite flying will tell you that you don’t really need to run to make your kite fly, you’ll find it difficult not to. If you’re used to being confined in a four-cornered office all day, you’d want to soak up the freedom that the outdoors accord you.

Run around and break a sweat as you let your kite fly through the air. This will help improve the blood flow in your body as your heart rate begins to rise. Your breathing will become better as your lungs adjust to the oxygen intake while running.

Socializing with Others

One unique thing about kite flying is that it is a social activity as well. In countries, such as China, Japan, and the United States, hundreds of kite flying enthusiasts gather in festivals and competitions. Their common love for the sport allows them to bridge age and even cultural gaps.

A beautiful kite is also an excellent conversation starter. It’s a good reason to create fond memories with loved ones or strike up a friendship with a fellow kite flyer at the park or beach.

making a kite
Photo from stevendepolo via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Communing with Nature

Similar to fishing and camping, flying kites allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Working all day in an office exposes you to too much artificial sunlight from lamps and too much processed air from air conditioners. These weaken your body. It’s about time that you pull yourself away from work and reconnect with the earth.

Heading off to a park or beach to fly kites will not only allow you to bask under the sun and take in natural air, but it will also let you enjoy the sight of clear blue skies and lush green trees. According to a study by the Oxford Journals, communing with nature helps promote a positive outlook in life which eventually leads to a healthier mind and body.

kite festival
Photo from New Brunswick Tourism | Tourisme Nouveau-Brunswick via flickr. CC BY 2.0

The simplicity of this activity and the carefree attitude it fosters make kite flying the definition of sheer summer fun.

 

3 Heartwarming Ways to Celebrate Fathers’ Day

Remember when your dad first took you out to the lake to fish? When he took you to your very first ball game? Or when he taught you how to ride your bike without training wheels? These were the good old days when it didn’t matter if you didn’t catch a fish, your team lost, or you fell from your bike more times than you could count. Spending time with your dad was all that mattered.

This year, it’s your turn to let Dad know how much he means to you. Tree Classics looks back at timeless father-and-child activities that you can still enjoy as you celebrate Fathers’ Day.

Father and Child
Image by Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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