(BPT) – Get active outdoors with a hobby more satisfying than binge-watching another television series. As a pastime, gardening can help you eat delicious, more flavorful food while transforming your patio or yard into a colorful hangout for butterflies and bees.
Many people don’t realize how easy it is to have a fresh supply of crisp veggies, fragrant herbs or fresh-grown flowers. Whether you have a balcony, rooftop or patio, gardening is a hobby that quite literally allows you to harvest big rewards.
One of the most exciting parts of gardening is deciding what to grow. With thousands of plants to choose from – flowers, vegetables and herbs – a small pot of soil can be a canvas for creativity.
To find the most popular flowers and plants this year, we checked in with Ball Horticultural Company, a global leader on all things gardening, to see what the top trends are in 2018.
Strong and colorful
When spring arrives, we all crave color and warmth to celebrate the end of winter. To get that wow factor – and get it fast – try planting flowers that grow and fill in quickly and thrive in extremes. The Megawatt Begonia brings magnetic color even in shaded spaces. It’s also a low-maintenance option if you’re new to gardening. Likewise, the Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita is a perennial flower that returns each year with stunning red blossoms.
For foodies who want to show off
Every chef knows the secret to tasty cooking is great ingredients. For many gardeners, the truly magical combination is finding that edible veggie that looks as good as it tastes. Take 2 Combos combine two sweet pepper plants with a touch of heat and beautiful orange and yellow fruit. There’s also a combo of a slicer and cherry tomato perfect for small spaces and for snacking and cooking. Speaking of peppers, a new, attractive variety is Candy Cane Red Pepper. It has green fruit striping that ripens to red and offers up crisp, sweet flavors, much like a candy cane!
A refuge for bees, butterflies and beyond
There are dozens of reasons people choose to garden: fresh food, interior and exterior decoration, relaxation, stress reduction and more. One emerging trend is that people want to make their garden a destination for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A few captivating flowers that attract these beautiful and helpful creatures are:
* Lucky Star Pentas – Provides butterflies summer-long flower clusters in eye-catching colors
* Copper Prince Ornamental Millet – This thriller makes a dramatic statement with foxtail plumes that birds feast upon
* SuperBlue Lavender – A deeply colorful and fragrant bee magnet
Gardening helps you relax and decompress. What’s more, there is a huge amount of satisfaction involved in seeing your vegetables and flowers grow. Follow these trends and watch your plants blossom and beautify your home and yard. After all, we could all use a little more color in our lives.
Plan your next vacation like a pro
(Family Features) If the chance to unplug, recharge and just get away is calling your name, it’s a sign that it’s time to plan a vacation. Whether you envision a trip around town or across the country, getting organized and doing a little prep work can help you make the most of the experience.
A destination like California offers cities big and small with an assortment of activities, theme parks, shopping districts, beaches, restaurants and more to be explored. Start planning your next getaway with these travel tips from the experts at Visit California:
Last-minute trips can get you deals, but you might also be limited by what you’re able to see and do. Ticketed attractions that sell out quickly may be off the table, and the most desirable hotels can fill well ahead of time, too. Planning ahead often allows you to map out the most successful adventure.
Set a Budget
Be sure to consider transportation, accommodations, meals and admission to various attractions. Consider which aspects of a vacation are most important to you and budget more money to those areas, like a five-star meal, ocean view room or priority pass to a favorite park.
Take Advantage of Visitor’s Guides
Using tools such as visitor’s guides can help you make the most of your trip, from identifying must-see attractions to finding the best places to eat and sleep. Many guides are available to download for free online so you can immediately start exploring. For example, the “2024 California Visitor’s Guide: The Best of California” is a testament to the Golden State’s playful spirit, featuring “58 Reasons Why California is the Ultimate Playground,” and is filled with travel tips from passionate locals, like cover star Zoey Deschanel, including:
- “8 New Trails to Explore,” showcasing freshly constructed paths in California’s parks
- “Sustainable Sips,” a guide to some of California’s eco-friendly wineries
- “Plan-Ahead Travel Guide,” where readers can learn how to score a spot at the state’s most coveted attractions
- “6 Fabulous Film Locations,” a jet-setting guide from movie scout Lori Balton
- “California Shopping: A to Z Guide,” a comprehensive guide to shopping throughout the Golden State
“From surfing dogs and summer skiing to cosplay conventions and a world-renowned culinary scene, California’s options for play abound, accommodating every type of traveler,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “That playful spirit is ingrained in every aspect of what makes our state so special and this year’s guide will help readers discover how they can experience it firsthand.”
Staying comfortable throughout your journey ensures you can focus on the experiences. Be sure you’re familiar with the climate, including the forecast during the time you’ll be visiting. While summer days can be quite warm, evenings on the coast often warrant a light jacket. Also be sure you’re prepared for the activities you’ve planned, such as adequate footwear for hiking, long pants for horseback riding and sunscreen for time outdoors.
Create an Itinerary
Even if you prefer a more spontaneous getaway, having at least a loose idea of how you’d like to spend your time traveling can help you be more efficient and avoid wasting time. Think about the things you want to accomplish and fit them together so you can avoid awkward gaps or unnecessary travel and ensure you get to pack in as many experiences as you’d like.
Start planning your next trip by visiting VisitCalifornia.com/travel-guides to order a guide and find additional tips and helpful tools.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (women hiking)
6 tips to prepare your home for winter weather
(Family Features) Winter weather, while often beautiful, can prove challenging for homeowners. Snow and ice accumulation can cause damage or disruption to many components of homes and properties, including heating systems and appliances, communication and access to and from property.
Utilizing a reliable, efficient and affordable energy source like propane can help power critical systems – home heating, cooktops, ovens, fireplaces, boilers and water heaters. Because propane is stored on-site, it’s resilient enough to withstand some of the dangers of winter weather, such as power outages that interrupt access to the electric grid. Available in a variety of capacities to fit the needs of any size home, propane-powered generators can provide supplemental power in as little as 10 seconds after an electrical grid failure, ensuring vital systems like home heating, cooking and smoke and fire detection systems are not interrupted when you need them the most.
Consider these tips from the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council to help prepare your family and home for winter weather and find more resources at Propane.com.
Get to Know Your Propane System
If you’re unfamiliar with your propane system, take a few minutes to review it. Identify core components, including the tank, regulators, meter, piping and supply valves, as well as any appliance vents. Locate the main gas supply valve in case you need to turn off the propane in the event of an emergency. Call a propane professional to inspect the system before restoring it.
Ensure an Adequate Supply of Propane
Establish a regular delivery schedule with your propane provider – particularly during the winter months – or call to schedule a delivery when the tank gauge reads 30% to give your provider enough time to make a delivery and ensure you have an adequate supply in your tank.
Mark Your Tank
Especially if your home’s propane tank is buried, be sure to mark its location with a brightly colored stake or flag taller than the maximum anticipated snow depth. This will help propane suppliers easily locate your tank, ensuring they can refill it during scheduled appointments.
Ready Your Furnace
If it’s time to upgrade your home’s climate control system, it’s a smart idea to do your homework and explore all options. Consider propane-powered furnaces, which last 50% longer than electric heat pumps for a lower lifetime investment. Propane furnaces also provide warmer air than other heat sources (115-125 F), are less impacted by outdoor temperatures and produce 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electric furnaces and 12% less than fuel oil furnaces.
Take Advantage of Your Fireplace
The warm glow of a fire isn’t only comforting; it can be a practical and effective way to increase the heat inside your home. Not only do propane fireplaces offer 5-6 times the heating capacity of electric fireplaces, they’re also more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, convenient to use and easier to install than woodburning models. They also emit less soot and other emissions.
Install Gas and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Installing UL-listed propane gas detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can provide you and your family with additional peace of mind. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location and maintenance.
Propane Education & Research Council
Efficient ways to warm your home
(Family Features) Creating reliable and efficient heat for your home during the winter months may be easier than you think. Using propane appliances like furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and kitchen appliances alongside other energy sources, like electricity, can help reduce the strain on the electrical grid.
With the capability to power all major systems in a home, propane offers homeowners an affordable, comfortable, reliable and efficient energy source. It’s a clean, low-carbon option that is made in the United States and available right now.
Consider these energy-efficient, propane-powered appliances and their benefits compared to other energy sources, according to the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council.
Not only are propane-powered furnaces more efficient than other energy sources, but they can also provide a lot of comfort. They heat air to 115-125 F, making the indoor air feel consistently warmer than other options. Heat from air source heat pumps often supply temperatures lower than 100 F and are more affected by outdoor temperatures.
A propane-powered furnace has a 50% longer lifespan than an electric heat pump, reducing its overall lifetime costs to a homeowner. Energy Star-qualified propane furnaces can save up to $75 in energy costs each year and are 15% more efficient than standard propane models. In addition, propane-powered residential furnaces emit up to 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electric furnaces and 12% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than fuel oil furnaces.
A propane-powered fireplace is a great source for secondary heat and can be used in all climates. They provide 5-6 times the heating capacity of an electric fireplace and emit less soot and other air-polluting emissions than wood-burning fireplaces.
In fact, some parts of the U.S. have banned wood-burning fireplaces due to their negative effects on the environment. What’s more, traditional wood fireplaces are about 15% efficient as secondary sources of heat while high-efficiency propane fireplaces are up to 90% efficient.
Many homeowners appreciate the versatility of propane boilers, which offer high-level performance and space savings while also providing heat, hot water and even snow melt capabilities. This versatility also extends to the type of heating delivery system propane boilers serve, including hydronic baseboard systems, in-floor hydronic systems or even forced-air systems, in which hot water from the boiler (instead of a furnace) acts as the heat source.
Propane boilers have an expected lifespan of up to 30 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but many boilers can last longer if serviced and maintained properly. Thus, the initial investment can provide long-term value beyond other heating alternatives. High-efficiency propane boilers also result in significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions compared with those fueled by heating oil.
Learn more about how you can rely on propane to heat your home at Propane.com/ForMyHome.
NEWS1 year ago
2 hurt, 1 jailed after shooting incident north of Nocona
NEWS4 months ago
Suspect indicted, jailed in Tia Hutson murder
NEWS10 months ago
SO investigating possible murder/suicide
NEWS1 year ago
Wreck takes the life of BHS teen, 16
NEWS7 months ago
Murder unsolved – 1 year later Tia Hutson’s family angry, frustrated with no arrest
NEWS10 months ago
Sheriff’s office called out to infant’s death
NEWS1 year ago
Bowie Police face three-hour standoff after possible domestic fight
NEWS1 year ago
Driver stopped by a man running into the street, robbed at knifepoint