Saturday, August 8, 2009

Something to Chew on...

… “There is a story about a beautiful bird that was known for it’s great singing. It would sit at the top of a tree and make lovely melodies. One day a man walking through the woods passed by the tree and heard the beautiful bird singing. The bird saw the man and that he was holding a box

“what do you have in the box?” the bird asked the man.

The man replied that he had large juicy earthworms in the box. “I will sell you a worm for one of your beautiful feathers,” he offered.

The bird pulled out a feather and exchanged it for a worm. He reflected to himself, Why should I work hard to get worms when it is so easy to get them this way?

The bird and the man repeated this process over the course of many days, and soon the bird no longer had any more beautiful feathers with which to pay for worms. Furthermore, he could no longer fly, nor was he still pretty. He did not feel like singing beautiful songs, and he was very unhappy.

Think about it…

from – “An Enemy Called Average” by John L. Mason

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Extreme Yard Makeover - News

Extreme Yard Makeover unveiled
Posted: Jul 07, 2009 12:03 PM CDT

Extreme Yard Makeover unveiled

by Natalie Sparacio

MOSINEE (WAOW)-- They've gone through their fair share of hardships,following the death of their husband and dad, the day before Christmas Eve.

But this morning, a Mosinee family received the surprise of a lifetime.

Less than 2 weeks ago, Holly's yard looked nothing like this, the swing set didn't have a swing, the front walkway... was breaking, and there was no landscaping.

Now, to name just a few of the changes, she have a nice cobblestone step into her home,her 2 small kids have a swing set with a race track around it, there's a fire pit, a waterfall, invisible fence for their dog Ramsey,and newly planted trees, shrubs, and grass.

Holly says, "... this is a like a dream come true it's way better than I imagined, and that they did this in a matter of a week is just beyond what Icould even expect and Ijust really want to thank everyone for your hard work and it means a lot to us. "

The landscaping crew made a point of keeping the old and mixing it with the new. In honor of Holly's late husband Tom, family and friends capped off the celebration by planting a tree... in his honor.

Holly says,"... I was crying in the shower this morning just thinking this is all awesome and totally wonderful, but ... the person I would want to share it with the most isn't here to share it with me."

A bittersweet experience that's brought strangers together, and truly made a difference to everyone involved.

James Merritt, with Living Color Landscape, the company who spearheaded the project says, "... it's great feeling of joy and's very cool to know a group of people from within our company and in the community, plus all the sponsors came together and made a difference in the lives of a mom and two small kids and at the end of the day what else is there..that's a good day."

Holly says, "...I'm just truly happy that good things are happening in our life, even though we had a rough year we feel very fortunate for all the people who have reached out to us in the community as well, I just tell people I've never been so lonely and yet felt so loved in my whole entire life."

Online Reporter: Natalie Sparacio

Thursday, June 25, 2009


“Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so
called scientific knowledge.”
- Thomas Edison

Last week we challenged conventional thinking with an organic approach to feeding our lawns and gardens. I had no idea that after submitting my article, that later that afternoon I would meet a gentleman named Arnie, who is a field rep for Specialty Turf. Arnie is a walking seminar on organics, biology, crop science, and some stuff that made my brain itch. I guess my point is that you never stop learning, and I feel better informed this week than the last. I would like to pick up from where we left off last week and talk a little about the important fundamentals of developing and maintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn.
Let’s start with preparation. The majority of turf problems begin here. If you are planning on installing a new lawn, make sure that you have at the very minimum 4” to a preferred 8” of good humic topsoil. This allows strong root development and moisture retention. Typically this is an area where I see landscape clients try to cut back on to save money. …Bad idea. Inadequate topsoil amounts open the door to thin and patchy turf, requiring excessive amounts of water and chemicals. And, over time costing you more in dollars and frustration.
Next you will be facing an important decision; “To irrigate or not to irrigate…That is the question”. I was speaking with Wally Skic of Green Lawn Sprinkler Systems, and he told me that “the installation price of a basic irrigation system for a city lot runs between 3,000.00 to 3,800.00.” All things considered, this is a bargain! When seeding a new lawn, you will need to keep the area damp through the germination process then watering heavier until you have established turf. Skic said; “Water until you get the desired color… (Nice and green), then back off until you see a bit of a change”. “You need to experiment a little, because it all depends on the amount and type of topsoil under your turf”. “For thinner topsoil 4” or less, you will want about 1/3 of an inch of water about every other day – For ideal topsoil depths of approximately 8 inches… 1/2 inch of water twice a week will produce a lush and beautiful lawn”.
OK, it’s TOOL TIME… We are heading for the land of facial hair and Adam’s Apples. It’s time to talk about maintaining that patch of paradise. Now that we have cultivated our green pride and joy, we need to think about some crucial aspects of turf maintenance… Let’s talk mowers.. “Ehh, Ehh, Ehh”. Yes there is a definite “thing” that a lot of us have with our riding mowers. We head out to the garage on a Saturday morning and fire up the John Deere and ride off into battle. We take pride in our lawns and at times invest heavily in them. We seek a neat, groomed appearance, but often times our approach works against our desired outcome. Cutting with dull blades and “scalping” or cutting too short are two of the more common mistakes. “Short Cutting” retards root development, requires more water, and invites weed invasion – especially annual weeds such as Crab Grass. We should maintain a height of 2 to 3 inches for the common types of turf in our area (Fescues and Bluegrass) and observe the “one-third rule” (Never removing more than one third of the leaf area per mowing”. Following proper installation and maintenance guidelines will give you the results you are looking for. Information is available on line or the Public Library on best practice turf techniques, or, consult an industry professional. The results are worth the investment!

“The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you still have to mow it.”
- Anonymous

James Merritt/ Landscape Designer

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Deadheading in the Dog Days"

"Summertime... and the living is easy... It's hard to believe, but we have reached the mid-point of our summer season. The gardens are beginning to yield there bounty, days are long and life is good! However, I know that I am not alone in the feeling that time is racing by, and before we know it we are going to be up to our knees in leaves.

There are a few topics that I believe are important for this point in the season. The first being a practice called "deadheading". If you are a Boomer, you may be thinking tie dyed T shirts, a VW van and a road trip to an outdoor music festival. Sorry, but that's not it. What I am talking about is the practice of removing spent flowers from our perennials and shrubs to encourage re-blooming and healthier plants. Deadheading the spent flowers and seed pods will give planting beds a neat and well kept appearance, and will help the plant channel its energy to strengthen itself rather than using that energy to produce seeds. This will encourage re-blooming for daylilies, and will also reduce the likelihood of self seeding that occurs with plants such as Rudbeckia and Liatris. French and Common lilacs will benefit from the removal of the seed heads below the spent flowers. This will produce more prolific blooming next season. You want to be careful to not prune too far down from the old bloom as to avoid nipping off next year's buds. We recommend using a quality by-pass pruner such as a "Felco" #2 Classic model. Pruners and sheers should always be kept sharp and clean. Using Clorox wipes or a bleach solution on your pruners when moving between different species of plants will prevent disease transmission. A shot of WD 40 and a wipe with a cloth will remove sap, lubricate the blades and prevent rust. For detailed information on what and when to prune, check out the UW Extension Bulletins. Another great resource is Ortho's "All About Pruning "available on

An important thing to keep in mind during the "dog days" is watering! During the first few growing seasons and especially during times of drought, it is critical to water trees and shrubs deeply. Five to fifteen gallons at a time, allowing the water to penetrate down to the bottom of the root ball. Check the moisture content regularly as the soil types vary in our area. Sandy soils will require more frequent irrigation than plants in heavier clay soils. One should monitor the moisture of plants in clay soil areas to prevent the "Bathtub effect"; where the plant drowns from being installed in a clay basin.

And finally, this is a great time to take inventory of what went right in the garden and what changes you would like to make. Transplanting time is coming up in September, and there will be more changes coming after that. So relax, put your feet up and enjoy the rest of the season. These are the "good old days". Soon enough we will be thinking... "What a long strange trip it's been"

James "Motor" Merritt/ partner

Living Color Landscapes


Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Your Own Private Eden"

What is it that draws us outdoors? What is it that compels us to plant a garden, or landscape our homes, or hike a national park? For the past two weekends I have spent my leisure time in the front yard of my house re-landscaping with my wife. We are on a mission to correct the flaws that we have tried to ignore for the last five years since purchasing our home. We had made a decision, and before I could say "pass the ibuprofen", we were cutting sod, tilling the soil and creating new planting beds. Our driveway is now a holding area of compost & mulch piles and containers of shrubs and perennials. Together we labored to create a more ideal environment, or to say it better, our own private Eden.

The Garden of Eden has long been synonymous with paradise on earth. …A paradise lost. I asked Pastor Lou Rossetti of Wausau Alliance church about the Biblical connection of this underlying attraction we have for nature. He referred me to the first book of Genesis Verses 28 and 29 which covers the command that God gave man to have dominion over the earth. The word dominion according to Merriam Webster is defined as; domain, supreme authority or sovereignty. The command that God gave Adam was to tend the garden; so in essence, we are all ancestors of the very first gardener. The positive feelings that we get from spending time in the great outdoors is a direct link to our DNA. How cool is that?

Now while I am on the subject of the pursuit of paradise, I would like to address something that I refer to as; "The paradox of the project". Often times during the design process, we will inventory the wish list of a client, along with the needs of the site. We will then draw a detailed plan and present it along with a proposal for the work. What often happens is that the client will go into analysis paralysis. They now have a road map to their desires, but the reality of the price sends them into an altered state. There are two important things to remember here. First, never limit your possibilities due to a perceived price or budget. This is where real creativity comes into play - Getting the desired result even with a less than desirable budget. A wise man once posed this question to me. Sure there is a price to pay, but what is the cost of not doing it? And second, understand that your project can be implemented in phases. Doing things well, and at a pace that you can cope with will allow you to have quality craftsmanship and materials, and an outstanding result. And over a time line that you can live with. (Typically three to five years). I often recommend that our clients only implement what they are truly comfortable with. After all, what good is your piece of paradise if you are financially stressed by it? Eat the elephant in small bites.

The bottom line is that things of beauty often take time. The Good Lord did it in six days, but we aren't that good. However, with planning, patience and an "it's possible" attitude, you are well on your way to creating your own private Eden.

James Merritt/ Living Color Landscapes


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Love Lives Here

We got a call yesterday for an impromptu dinner invite to the home of some now dear friends. Not being one to stray too far from a good meal, I have learned from the few previous times when I was blessed by their hospitality that this is one invitation not to pass up! The secret is excellence. Plain and simple. Love lives at that address and it makes a regular appearance in the form of food and fellowship severed generously at the Lombardo's.

I have asked them to become bloggers and to stop in and share the goodness of their kitchen. I have managed to beg a few recipes from the Lombardos and will get busy and post them. However, the real good stuff is yet to be revealed. This is a definite treat and the wonderful preparation of fine Italian delicacies from family recipes dating back generations should be shared with food enthusiasts everywhere. This is a gold mine folks and I hope that it will spark a mother load from others out there in the world.

Hey - Did I mention that I love Thai food... Anybody out there?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Idea Garden

OK, I knew a guy who once knew a guy, who worked for the next door neighbor of the guy who invented the internet. So I feel that I have an inside track on this technology thing.

We are planting a garden here. I am encouraging friends and strangers alike to check in, add your wisdom and contribute to the Idea Garden.

We are looking for Martha Stewart type tips, We are looking for the Killer Tomato story, we are looking for healthy alternatives to the junk that we as a nation consume. We are looking for cures, and anecdotes and Grand Ma's pickling recipe. We are looking for things that feed the spirit and the belly. I know that many of you have it in you.

Yes we are busy. Yes we have the 5 second mentality with all things internet, but this is a project that will grow on you. As I had mentioned, I will be posting the articles that I write for the Wausau Daily Herald as they are published, but that is only part of the story. You make up the rest.

So bust loose with the good stuff. Be a blessing to others and share your goodies.

Want a great Kahlua turkey recipe? - "It's da kine bra"!
Stay tuned -