Creating a Color Explosion with Annuals

  • Written by Marianne Binetti, for Molbak’s
Calibrachoas, mini petunias, are spectacular at adding waves of bright color to the garden, with blooms lasting several months.
Spring is the time of year when the earth blooms and color fills the landscape. We are lucky enough to garden in Western Washington with a mild climate that allows bountiful blooms and vivid color almost year round. If you want to color your world with more beauty for less money, invest in some fast-growing annual plants and dig in. Annuals may only live one year but they party hearty and live life in the fast lane  —  and a colorful life is much more exciting.

Color Families for Soothing Compositions

First, choose a favorite focal point plant or your favorite color family. Now, build a color theme using different blooming plants all with the same hue. You could use all pinks that range from the pale pearl of impatiens to the vivid intensity of fuchsias. Or try grouping plants with flowers or foliage within the purple and burgundy color palette. Royal purple verbenas, lavender lobelia and wine colored phlox make a trio of rich colors.

Planting Recipe for a Sunshine Container of Citrus Colors

Want more sunshine? Pot up this combo from the orange and yellow color family.

The focal point plant or thriller in the center of the pot: Canna Tropicanna — big, bold, yellow, green and orange leaves on a tall, tropical-looking plant. In a smaller pot use tall growing yellow marigolds or golden coreopsis.

The Fillers: Brightly colored begonias come in sunset colors and you can also find impatiens, geraniums and verbena that bloom in shades that range from fiery orange to lemon yellow.

The Spillers: Use the yellow foliage of creeping jenny to spill over the edge of the pot or the bi-colored blooms of heat-loving lantana for more floral punch.

When you stick with the colors of yellow and orange you’re sure to have a summer of warm memories.

Color Contrasts to Wake up the Landscape

A monochromatic color theme is both beautiful and soothing to the eye.
Add some drama or garden opera with shocking color contrasts. Play up the boldness of chocolate foliage with white or silver contrasts. Contrasting colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel will shout out loud like a drama mama and really create a scene.

Planting Recipe for a Backyard Patio Bed: Purple and Gold can really be Bold

The focal point or thriller plant in the center of the pot: Spiky cordylines now come in rich purple and reds to provide a dramatic background for the shorter plants.

The fillers: Use vivid gold blooms of a biden “Goldilocks Rocks” or mini marigold plants. The filler plants provide the vivid color contrast with the thriller plant.

Lime green could also be a bold contrast to deep purple. There are new mini petunias called Calibrachoa that have bi-colored blooms of contrasting colors. “Pretty Much Picasso” is a new petunia hybrid with vivid purple blooms outlined with lime green. This plant is spectacular due to great color contrasts. Many coleus plants also have colorful contrasts spilled all over their leaves like a painter’s palette.

The Spillers: Add a groundcover plant  to spill from the sides of a pot. For example the lime green “Sweet Caroline” sweet potato vine would make a great contrast to the deep purple tones. If you use petunias with bi-colored blooms the solid color of a foliage plant provides a stunning backdrop for the big show.

Planting more flowers is a gift to the neighborhood, the bees and butterflies and your beauty-seeking soul.

ASK Christian: Woodinville-Based EnviroShield Takes Lead Role to Rescue Foreclosed Homes

  • Written by Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield

We’ve all read the stories regarding the often dilapidated conditions of a foreclosed home abandoned by its owners and now in the hands of a bank. The issues range from extensive water and mold damage to complete remodels of the interior and exterior of the home, including new roof, paint, carpet, cabinets, light fixtures, etc.

As a member of their foreclosure team, Wells Fargo relies on EnviroShield lead supervisor Christian Morales and his team to prepare homes for resale. We asked Christian to share some experiences from the field.

Question:  What is the toughest part of running these jobs?

Christian:  The coordination between vendors can be intense to meet tight timelines.  In some cases, we have to accomplish several projects at once. It’s not uncommon for our teams to be working to remove mold and water damage while other crew members are painting and installing floors. At the same time other companies are cleaning gutters and windows.

Question:  Tell us about the work you and the teams are doing.

Christian: In addition to our core water and mold remediation, we are also handling home improvements.  During the course of a day, I travel alone or with teams to neighborhoods in Bellevue, Seattle and Des Moines.  One home experienced significant water damage from a leaking water heater in the basement.  We removed carpet padding and wet drywall, dried out the area and installed new materials. There are also mold issues in 3 areas that we are addressing.  Another home needs some general work.  A third home has mold issues in the attic.

Question: What is the hardest physical part of your job?

Christian: There are times when we have to dig out a tunnel to work in a crawl space.  Even though I’m not claustrophobic, those tight spaces can be kind of scary.  In the summer months we can often spend an entire day on our hands and knees sanding a surface by hand.  It gets pretty warm some days.

Craig Hawkins and his team at Enviroshield have more than 20 years of experience in water damage and mold remediation.  For more information visit

Baby Boomers Remodeling to Stay in the Family Home

  • Written by April Bettinger, owner of Nip Tuck Remodeling

niptukNo one wants to think about becoming disabled or too old to safely stay in their own home. Images of sterile nursing homes abound, with wide linoleum hallways, wheelchair ramps and stainless-steel grab bars come to mind.

According to Baby Boomer Magazine, 76 million Americans are reaching the age of retirement. The vast majority (75 percent according to AARP) would prefer to Age-In-Place so that they can continue to live in their own home or community, and many may be considering bringing a parent home to live with them.

In today’s market, professional remodelers and designers can utilize “Universal Design” principles to incorporate beautiful designs that accommodate everyone’s accessibility needs.

If you are considering a remodel, one of the first questions I ask my clients is “what are your intentions with the home?” Remodeling should be considered something you do to maintain your home and keep in line with how you live within the space. If your answer is that this is my last home, you’ll want to consider the following principals to incorporate into your plan:

1. The bathroom is one of the main areas for renovation. Replace the tub with a barrier free shower that creates a comfortable bathing experience. Europeans have incorporated these types of enclosures for years. Today’s manufacturers are producing many options to have a stylish shower that is moderately priced and simpler to install.

2. Grab bars come in many forms and finishes. In fact, often times you may even replace a standard towel bar with one of these options for added stability and safety.

3. Is there a bedroom or room that can be re-purposed on the main floor of the home? 4. Assess doorways and entrances to the home. You will want to have a minimum of 32” and preferred 36” clearance for doorways. Lastly, consider the path to a vehicle. Is there a level path, ramp or sidewalk?

5. Replace door hardware and sink fixtures with lever handles for ease of use.

6. Take notice of the lighting. Entrances, hallways and work areas should be well lit.

7. Assess the kitchen and its ability to allow access.

By incorporating Universal Design into your remodeling project, you can be sure that you will enjoy your space today and in the future. Think about it: Does the space you occupy allow you to recuperate at home or will you have to find alternate arrangements?

April Bettinger, owner of Nip Tuck Remodeling is a CAPS certified professional (Certified Ageing In Place).

Daring creativity blooms in this seasons floral decor

  • Written by ARA

1435177_webA little black dress, a great pair of jeans and a leather jacket — some styles never go out of fashion. Some elements of home decor share that same sense of timelessness and none more so than a simple floral theme.

“Flowers are always fashionable, stylish and on-trend,” says Dani Nichols, a trend-watcher for home decor website “Whether you’re looking for just the right touch of elegance and life for patterned upholstery or modern floral murals to make an accent wall pop, flowers are always appropriate.”

Nichols points to hot trends in floral decor this spring and summer:

Floral walls

“Flowers have always inspired paint makers to create colors that pay homage to both the boldness and the delicacy of floral inspirations,” Nichols says.

This year, paint manufacturers are offering a diverse palette of floral-inspired colors, from dusty roses and iris blues, buttercup yellow and daisy white, to frothy lilac and popping peony.

Floral wallpaper and floral murals are also great ways to incorporate flowers into a room’s decor. A subtle pattern of small, delicate flowers can create a gentle, peaceful feeling in a room. Or, go bold with an accent mural that depicts a single, showy bloom. You can find a plethora of floral options online at websites like


One of the most enjoyable ways to decorate with florals — cut flowers — is also one of the most fleeting. Few beautiful things are as short-lived as cut flowers. This season, look for cut flower designs to trend toward sustainability, as everyone looks for ways to get more enjoyment from their flowers for longer.

While adding the packet of plant food will help keep a florist’s bouquet alive as long as possible, there’s more everyone can do to make their displays more eco-friendly. Look for more florists to use biodegradable packing products, compost their leftovers and choose seasonal blooms that don’t require long-distance shipping.

Daring pairings

When you think of floral design, you probably envision bright, rich hues paired with background neutrals. This year however, florals are going daring, mixing in metallic accents and deep, saturated purples and blues that almost appear black. A touch of silver or gold matched with pure white creates an upscale, classic effect. A dash of bronze or copper married with vibrant yellows or blues is an unexpected and delightful decorating twist.

And while bright or light colors are as intrinsic to floral decor as the background greenery, dark blooms impart an almost mystical aura, whether the hue is natural or dyed. You’ll see these daring pairings pop up everywhere from throw pillows to centerpieces, this year.

Nichols also predicts designers will continue to experiment with combinations of floral patterns. “Long gone is the conventional wisdom that if you had one bold floral pattern in a room, you couldn’t do more,” she says. “It’s perfectly alright to experiment with one floral pattern on the drapes and a complementary — or even competing — one on accent pillows.”

“Few decorating themes afford the timelessness and flexibility of florals,” Nichols adds.

Give grass a fress start this spring

  • Written by ARA

14720132_webGrass is an extraordinary plant, the unsung hero of backyards everywhere. With proper care and feeding, grass can help clean the air, cool the ground, reduce erosion and provide one of the softest outdoor play surfaces. With all of these amazing benefits, it pays to start the spring season off right by giving grass a boost.

The drought and heat of last summer, combined with uncharacteristic winter temperatures in many regions, may have taken a toll on the lawn, but getting it back on the road to recovery is easy. Moderate temperatures and increased precipitation in spring are perfect for repairing, seeding and feeding grass. Well-nourished grass withstands harsh conditions better and provides a lush, durable place to play while squeezing out unwanted weeds by blocking access to sunlight. Follow these tips to take your grass from tired to terrific.


Fill in bare or thin spots with grass seed to encourage a thick lawn, helping prevent weeds from invading your lawn by blocking access to sunlight. Use a high-quality seed appropriate for your region, like Scotts EZ Seed to fill in thin spots and thicken the lawn. To repair larger areas, use Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed with WaterSmart coating.


Grass needs nutrients to grow strong, deep roots that can endure harsh conditions and grow in thick to help block access to sunlight for weeds. If the lawn does not need reseeding, use a high-quality lawn food like Scotts Turf Builder. This lawn food can be used in any season on any grass type, and delivers balanced nutrients for strong, thick grass. Use a starter fertilizer when planting new grass to promote root growth and seedling development.

When seeding or feeding, use Scotts DLX EdgeGuard Broadcast Spreader for larger areas to direct lawn food only where desired — on the lawn and off hard surfaces — and out of storm sewers. This spreader combines the accuracy of a drop spreader with the speed of a rotary spreader.


Set your mower at the highest setting and leave grass clippings on the lawn. Mow frequently to avoid removing more than one third of the grass height, and do so when grass is dry to avoid damp clumps that could smother grass. Leaving clippings on the lawn recycles nutrients stored in the clippings keeping the soil cooler, encouraging deeper root growth and enriching the soil with organic material.

Keep these simple mowing tips in mind every time you head out to trim the grass: Mow your grass at the highest setting, keep grass clippings on the lawn and water only when needed.


Grass that is fed and kept at a taller height develops deep roots which are better able to conserve water and withstand periods of heat and drought. Rely on rainfall as the primary source of water. During periods of drought, the lawn can go without water for an extended time. Even though the lawn may look brown and wilted, it will recuperate after the rain returns. If you do choose to irrigate the lawn, water less frequently for a longer period of time rather than short frequent waterings.

These tips for a great lawn will provide a foundation for a fun-filled summer in your own backyard. For more information on seeding and feeding this spring, visit