Well then, What about Plants for Moist Shade?

Dear Readers, In our last post we talked about plants for dry shade. Several of you wanted to know what to do with areas of moist shade. They also are problems, as molds run rampant, the plants can’t get enough sun, and often are close to drowning in the moisture.

Unlike plants in dry areas where a good layer of mulch holds in moisture, we don’t mulch moist areas; it just encourages mold, mildew, slugs, and other foliage eating pests. But such areas do still want a composted enriched soil.

A few good plant choices for these areas are:Miniature Mat Daisy

BELLIUM MINUTUM, “Miniature Mat Daisy”, which covers itself with a multitude of 1/2″ white daisies from late spring all through summer. It’s a dainty plant with tiny, light green leaves that form a dense mat of foliage in shade. It’s not picky about soil, but may need watering to keep the soil moist. This is a good substitute plant for Creeping Thyme where it’s too shady for thyme. A small plant that will get lost amongst ground covers, but great between flagstone or pavers in shady spots. Zones 5 – 9

Comfrey-Hidcote BlueHIDCOTE BLUE, “Blue Flowering Ornamental Comfy” has clear blue nodding flowers that look great with yellow daffodils. It spreads by underground stolons to form a dense, weed resistant carpet of deep green foliage. Grows in most soils in zones 4 – 9  

COTULA SP., “Tiffindell Gold” /Creeping Gold Buttons is a vigorous, deep rooted groundcover that grows in both dry and moist conditions, in partial or dappled shade. It develops a carpet of mosslike bright green foliage that blooms in late spring with golden button-like flowers. Accepts most soils except wet clay. Zones 5 – 10   COTULA-Creeping Gold Buttons Plant

Sharon Breay, Principal of Breay Design has been helping homeowners with their interior and exterior design problems for many decades, She is a popular, certified, awarded designer, instructor, workshop facilitator, speaker, and author on design. Contact her by clicking the Contact button at the top of this page.

Plants for Dry Shade

 So many of you readers are from western US, with dry climates and lots of sun. Thousands of plants to choose from–but what about those “shadey” and dry areas? They can be a challenge. Usually those areas are under trees or shrubs, which also keep rain and snow from getting to the ground. If you have one or more of these areas, don’t blame “poor soil” for the total reason plants won’t grow there.  The soil is just very, very dry–and usually malnourished as well. Here’s some good advice from David Salman of High Country Gardens.

To solve this problem, loosen the dirt down to at least a foot and amend it generously with compost. This reduces root competition, improves moisture retention and gives new plants a head start to getting established. Water these new plants frequently. Remember, the trees and shrubs are taking much of that moisture. Any pine needles under trees aren’t bad; in fact they give some acid to our very alkaline soils.

What to plant in such shady, dry places? Here are three toughies that generally will thrive. Know that these plants are often related to as invasive weeds because they are so strong and spreading. But in the place we’re describing, they work very well.Variegated Bishop's Weed

AEGOPODIUM PODAGRARIA “Variegatum” , better known as Variegated Bishop’s Weed is one great solution. The varigated green and white foliage helps lighten the shady corners of your yard. It is not fussy about soil type. But use it under a large tree or group of shrubs, so you’re not always pulling it out of another area it spread to. And I still occassionally water mine in the dead heat of summer so it doesn’t dry up and go dormant until next spring. Zones 3-9

BIG LEAF PERIWINKLE, “Variegated” is a large leaf evergreen that is as enthusiastic about spreading as any you will find. Dark glossy leaves, most varieties of periwinkle have  1″ sky blue flowers in sping. Excellent for covering slopes, and deer resistant as well. Can take Zone 3 winters, too! Will grow in sun or shade.

CERATOSTIGMA PLUMBAGINOIDES “Hearty Plumbago” creates large drifts of blue flowers in early fall. As the flowers fade, the leaves slowly turn a vivid mahogany red coloHardy Plumbagor. Thrives in most soils, and grows well in either sun or shade. However, it does need good drainage. Hearty plumbago takes it’s time in leafing out in the spring, so don’t panic about it dying; it’s probably just not up yet.

Sharon Breay, Principal of Breay Design, has helped homeowners with their interiors and exteriors for many decades. She is an awarded, certified, designer, instructor, public speaker and workshop facilitator, and autor on design. Contact her by clicking the Contact buton on the left of this page.

Just In–Horticulture’s article on Downey Mildew on Impatiens

Readers–I just within a couple days ago posted some information on mildew on our landscaping plants. This article from Horticulture Magazine seems to fit so well, I’m sending it on to you.


Avoid Impatiens and Try These Other Shade Annuals


new guinea impatiens

New Guinea impatiens, which aren’t affected by downy mildew and may be grown instead of Impatiens walleriana.

Impatiens is a shade-loving tender perennial (often grown as an annual) that blooms in a wide range of beautiful colors such as reds, purples, pinks, whites and oranges. While they are popular selections with long-lived, eye-catching blooms, they are becoming more and more susceptible to a widespread, rapidly killing disease known as downy mildew.

Downy mildew, Plasmopara obducens, is specific to Impatiens walleriana and is a type of “water-mold” or oomycete that thrives in damp, cool conditions. Even though downy mildew has been around for years, lately it has swiftly spread to decimate impatiens in a wide range of regions, from Florida to the Northeast and into Europe, growing in intensity since 2011.

The spores of downy mildew are very easy to spread, often disbursed when splashed with water or carried away in the wind—hence why the disease is so quick to take over. There are two types of spores: “short-lived”—which spread by the ways listed above and is found on the underside of leaves, and “resting spores”—which often take over the stems and can spread within the soil, establishing itself from growing season after growing season and infecting new plants.

At first the symptoms of downy mildew may be subtle. So if you have impatiens, it is important to check them often.
•    The leaves will start stippling—curling at the ends, with color beginning to yellow.
•    A down-like, white “mildew” is often present on the underside of the leaves.
•    Eventually the damaged leaves will start to drop, leaving the stems bare.
•    Lastly, the impatiens will slump over and die.

What to do:
Sadly, there isn’t much you can do if you have or want to grow impatiens. Some have tried fungicides with minor success, but because this disease flourishes in cool, moist climates and spreads simply by a splash of water touching its spores, it is no wonder that even fungicides will often fail. You can constantly check on your impatiens, removing possibly infected plants and growing them in a sanitized greenhouse or location; however, it is much easier to just discard of impatiens all together and settle for other charming alternatives instead. Try different varieties of shade-loving, flowering plants such as New Guinea impatiens (which aren’t affected) and begonias. You can also try shade lovers that are grown for their colorful leaves, like caladium. For a list of more shade annuals click here.

Although impatiens are striking plants that often enhance borders and surround tree trunks with bursts of impressive color, with the prevalent downy mildew destroying any impatiens in its path, it is safer to settle for equally exquisite alternatives.

What’s the difference? Powdery Mildew vs. Downy Mildew?

PLANT-MILDEWWHAT happened to the post you were to get Friday??? I don’t know! But here it is, sorry for tardiness!

      At this time of year, most of us really try to make our yard look great, It’s early summer, and we have great plans for a picture perfect yard. Then funny things begin happening to our lovely plantings. One is (e-gads!) mildew! Even western climates have problems with mildew.

Trying to diagnose whether it’s Powdery Mildew or Downy Mildew is difficult, and they are each treated a bit differently. So I contacted “fine Gardening” magazine and got this information:

Powdery mildew generally affects the topside of the leaf, while downy mildew can be found on the underside. The top of a leaf infected with downey mildew has yellow lesions. Downey Mildew also has a different texture; more cottony or fuzzy than powdery mildew, with looks like white dust.

Both occur in times of humidity. Powdery mildew thrives in warmer temperatures around 80 degrees, whereas downy mildew likes things a little cooler, around 65 degrees. Wind spreads powdery mildew, but it takes splashing water for downy mildew mildew to move.

Both diseases overwinter on leaf debris, so cleaning this up in autumn goes a long way to stemming or preventing infection. Buds or stems can be infected, and these should be removed to prevent to spread or recurrence of the disease. Proper siting and spacing are also important. Plants need some air circulation around them.

Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D., Allied NSA, principal of Breay Design Associates is not only a popular, awarded designer with degrees in design from University of Michigan, but is also a speaker, instructor, mentor, and author on design and design issues. Contact her by clicking the contact button on the left of these pages.

What does Buddhist architecture, Islamic architecture, Notre Dame and Mies Van der Rohe’s Farnsworth all have in common?

golden-ratio of a RoseWhat does Buddhist Architecture, Islamic Architecture, Notre Dame, and Mies Van der Rohr’s Faarnsworth house all have in common?   Sacred Geometry!

Sacred Geometry, as architect Robert Armon  has described to reporter Erika Christiansen, ASID, is based on the Golden Rule, that “map” of divine proportions which simultaneously reflect the beauty of the human body’s proportions, the proportions of the nautilus shell, and everything else in  the natural universe. Studies have found that humans tend to feel more at ease and more energized whey viewing and experiencing structures with sacred proportions.

If this is so, then =sacred proportions can increase individual and employee emotional wellbeing—-which can cascade into positive effecdts for physical well being, and on to employee productivity. Compare this with similar outcomes of many environmental design practives, such as using natural light and no volatile organic compounds, and we can see that sacred geometry may be as practical as “green”/environmental design.

Green/environmental design is focsed on life-style, comfort, health, safety, welfare and respect fot the Earth. The same with the sacred arts, the ultimate goal being the metaphysical state, or enlightenment, rather than the basic physical realm. Change the thinking and the physical will follow.

Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D., Allied NSA, principal of Breay Design Associates is not only a popular, awarded designer with degrees in design from University of Michigan, but is also a speaker, instructor, mentor, and author on design and design issues. Contact her by clicking the contact button on the left of these pages. She often asks clietns, when discussing their spaces, “Does the Shoe….FIT “you” …..like your favorite shoes do? If not, then some adjustments are necessary.

More ways Design is Fighting Obesity

Child-on-StairsHello again!  Last post (March 31, 2013), we described some ways design is helping to battle obesity problems in our society. Here are  a few more:

* We are beginning to see traditional school chairs with attached desks set up in rows being avoided for a more open space environment. The idea is to encourage movement within the classroom. There are stand-up tables, beanbag chairs, and WittFitt yoga balls with udders that prevent rolling. Furniture that stacks & rolls not only allows students to move around, but also permits others to configure space as they wish.

* Shower and locker facilities need to be safer to encourage exercise rooms; bike storage areas also need be more safe. Often these areas have been tucked in dark corners. N ow, they are beginning to be more exposed. For instance, in a multi-family residence, you may find a gym for adults with a glass wall separating it from a play area for children. The kids feel secure that the parents are watching them, and the parents feel secure seeing their children, so they tend to spend more time in the gym.

“The goal of active design is not to make exercise more convenient for those who already do it, but to increase everyone’s activity level. ” Many thanks to ICON (ASID, American Society of Interior Designers) Magazine, Spring/13.

Sharon Breay, ASID, Principal of Breay Design Associates is a certified, awarded, and popular designer, speaker, workshop facilitator, and author on design issues. She has been in the field for 24 years; starting Breay Design Associates in 2002. Contact her at sbreay@breaydesign.com.

Design is about more than “pretty;” what you’ll be seeing…..

Child-on-StairsHi Readers!  I’ve mentioned before that true design must not only be lovely–it must be functional for the user. Most designers are very interested in their client’s and the general public’s well being. As such, you are/will be seeing more and more design meant to counter todays obesity in America. Data tells  us that simply posting signs that say “Burn calories, not electricity,” near  elevators can lead to a 50% increase in taking the stairs. Stairs will become more attractive than elevators, with bright colors, artwork, etc.

In the workkplace, a treadmill desk called the Walkstation allows an office worker to do more than just sit long periods. Sitting for long periods not only aids obesity, but also contributes to several other health problems.

The office copy/fax/print machine(s) will once again go back to a central place on the floor, as opposed to the last several years of having small units in each workstation to make the worker more efficient.

Stair landings will be increasing in size, as will corridor niches, equipped with benches and drinking fountains. This is to encourage impromptu meetings with coworkers, generating better creativity and better ideas than locking oneself into the office or cubicle. It also means getting the workers to move about more, thus fighting obesity.

Next blog, we’ll talk about some ways design is helping children to battle obesity. Until then….

FOR ALL OF MY JEWISH FRIENDS—Hope your Passover was Deep, Meaningful, and full of Joy
FOR ALL OF MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS–Hope your Eastertime is Happy, Spiritual, and full of Light.
FOR ALL OF MY MUSLIM FRIENDS–May the teaching of Mohammed fill your mind with Joy, Love, and Understanding
FOR ALL OF MY BUDDHIST AND NOT YET MENTIONED FRIENDS–May the Ever Faithful coming of Spring Blossoms give you renewed Peace, Wisdom, and Happiness.

Ice Dams do Interior Damage!

Icicyle-2This blog is concerned with interior and exterior design; I seldom write about our roofs. However, so many people this winter are being blasted by heavy snowstorms. And in Colorado, our heaviest snows are always in March. There are precautions we can take to save both our roofs AND our interiors from water damage. I got this information from my trusted roofer, Jim Cambron of JBC Roofing & Gutters.

So what are ice dams on our roof? Ice will build up on the edges of the roof, and can cause serious damage when  some of it melts, seeps around the shingle nails or at cracks and openings, and runs down into our walls or through our insulation to interior ceilings.Even on a good roof, the ice dam can grow as it is fed by melting snow above it; the dam will limit itself to the portions of the roof that is below 32 degrees–and freeze. Overhangs are often colder than the rest of the roof, and icedams are common on north facing slopes. Since the ice forms on the edges of the roof, it must melt from a heat source coming from the house itself or from the sun shining on the roof.

You may wish to remove the heavy snows from the roof with a roof rake. but this is dangerous. For a long-term solution, prevent ice dams by using ice and water shield under your shingles. (I always specify it to go 3′ up the roof, from the eave.)

Another solution is to have heating tape installed on the roof’s lower edges. Do not wait until you have ice to turn on this tape, which is laid in a zigzag pattern across the lower roof.  You need to turn the tape on as soon as it snows, to keep it from freezing as it melts and runs down to the lower/colder portion of the roof, creating an ice dams.

If you’ve ever had the shock of water dripping from the ceiling–and the concern about the ceiling caving in, or watched the drywall turn to mush, and wallpapers get bowls of water behind them, slowly moving down the wall and ruining the wall—you’ll wish you’d thought of ice dam prevention!

Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D., principal of Breay Design, is an awarded recognized designer, speaker, and author on design. Her degrees are from University of Michigan; she currently resides just west of Denver, CO in a mountain canyon.

L.E.D.’s are Improving–

People I’ve talked with that tried the new LED (light emitting diodes) light “bulbs” have disliked them. This new way of producing light for our homes and offices uses MUCH less energy to produce light than any other artificial light source so far. (The sun, not an artificial light source, is obviously the brightest light.) We’ve been able to retrofit our recessed can light fixtures, and our exterior light fixtures with LED lightiing. We’ve purchased pucks to use as undercabinet task lighting. ……And we just haven’t liked any of them.

 The LED light is glaringly blu-ish, reminiscent of yesteryear’s fluorescent bulbs, before technology discovered how to build a full spectrum, color corrected fluorescent. People prefer a warmer looking light for their homes; it “seems” more relaxing and cozier. This is part of our psychology, because back in our cave-inhabiting days, the cave fire-pit gave us warmth and protection. The cave fire-pit light was warm colored. We associate feelings of comfort and security with warm colored light.

But LED’s, unlike fluorescents, aren’t lit by a gaseous arc to spark a light within the bulb. In fact, there is no actual “bulb” to an LED.Scientists have discovered that by combining the black body radiation curve, which relates light wavelength to light intensity within an incandescent bulb, with a  logarithmically-based dimming technique, and then correcting for temperature variation, a light is produced  in LEDs with the color between amber and white, much like the warm colored incandescent bulbs we are so accustomed to. And the extreme energy efficiency still exists. 

Now this is more like it! By people expressing their dislike of a product, it is being improved, and soon we may all like the looks of LED lighting!

Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D., is a certified, awarded, and widely recognized interior designer and yard-garden designer. She works with clientele at Breay Design, speaks frequently on the subject of design, and has authored several booklets on the subject of design. To contact Sharon directly, hit the Contact Us left button on her website (http://www.breaydesign.com)

This room is too narrow! It’s like a bowling alley!–Part 2

Last blog we discussed three things you can do to make a narrow room more functional, as well as long good. We discussed lighting in a narrow room, color, furniture scale, and creating furniture groupings for areas of activity. Here are some examples concerning furniture groupings:

You want to fully utilize the space. Think about a small dinette or game table with chairs added to a living room or bedroom space. You could add a rather solidary area for one or two, just for reading, with some bookshelves in this area of the room, a few more chairs just for this area, and perhaps a round table with table lamp. Area rug(s) can define an area of activity.

Fireplaces are always a wlecome, cozy addition to any room; even warmer climates in the U.S. have chilly (if not darn right cold) evenings. It needn’t be an expensive built-in fireplace; think about the thousands of choices of portables, in the style to fit your decor.

If the Dining Room is the “wind tunnel” of your home, take away its strickly dining mood. Add some bookshelves on either side of a window, with a rocker and table with a table lamp. Add a settee or even a sofa perpendicular to the table seating arrangement for people who may wish to visit without dining. Add a portable fireplace in this room, as mentioned in the paragraph above. Use a few dining room tables, instead of just one long one (that will accentuate the too-long room). Make the room livable; so many dining rooms are rather formal and “set” for only one activity–dining.

Your spaces need to fit you like your favorite shoe. Ask yourself, “Does the Shoe FIT?” If you need help, contact us. We have clients cross country, thanks to electronics. Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D. is an awarded, recognized, certified interior designer and garden-yard designer, speaker, author, and instructor on these subjects.