An Asian style garden becomes an outdoor sanctuary that nurtures a contemplative spirit and softly breathes a cooling calm. This meditative garden of tranquility and harmony disperses an air of enlightenment while unfolding a serene peace into the minds of those who enter. A respective air of wisdom emanates from the balance of simplicity and attention to detail. If you enjoy a contemplative walk or long philosophical discussions, or simply the aura of Asian beauty, then an Asian garden can fulfill your landscaping and spiritual needs.

 

In an Asian garden, a minimalistic style is harmonized with fluid asymmetrical lines. Every seed, rock and ornament is precisely placed with great forethought. The Asian garden is always impeccably landscaped with simple elements and a reverence for depicting the great in the small. Mountains are visible in stones, oceans can be heard in a drop of water, and forests are viewed through one simple tree.

 

Color is not boastful in an Asian garden. There is a lucid calm in flowering fruit trees whispering their beauty amongst the tranquil greens and grays of towering bamboo, hostas, ferns and ornamental grasses, while brighter colors fan out gracefully with the seasons. Forms are possibly even more significant in reaching Asian elegance than color. Japanese maple, azaleas and rhododendrons can be pruned to perfection to display the telling lines of Asia's historical influence in the fine arts and garden design.

 

Bamboo is certainly a necessary element in Asian gardens. Living bamboo should flourish, and the garden's architectural design should include bamboo as well. Bamboo archways, gates, trellises, pergolas, benches and living fences can all contribute to the architectural form of your Asian garden.

Water is fundamental to life – and to Asian garden design. There are limitless ways to create a bamboo water spout to trickle water over rocks, pebbles, or into stone bowls. By simply rearranging the rocks or pebbles, you can change the sound of the water stream. Stone fountains, carefully arranged waterfalls, or a strikingly still pond reflecting the moonlight can all evoke the spiritualness of this transcendent source of life.

 

Along the serene garden path, rock sculptures, stone Japanese lanterns, bonsai trees and Japanese potted plants should fluidly carry the Asian influence. The garden can be further embroidered with a patio table and chairs elegantly distinguished with oriental centerpieces, fabrics and design, carefully set with tea cups that welcome guests to sip their worries away on.

 

If you're longing for a meditative sanctuary and respect the seriousness of Asian influence in garden design, creating an inspirational Asian garden will build you a spiritual retreat to welcome you whenever the wisdom of nature beckons. An Asian garden plan should not be rushed, and it will require a higher level of upkeep and frequent attention – requirements a serious gardener would enjoy. Look within yourself, and if an Asian garden is where your heart is directed, then let your body and spirit start making things grow.

A swinging hammock amongst tall tropical trees. The squawk of a parrot screeching for attention. The sound of rushing water cascading down a stairway of rocks. You don't have to be in Hawaii to enjoy a tropical paradise or in the Amazon to explore a jungle. Just create one in your own backyard.

 

Because of the exotic nature of tropical gardens, your paradise will need careful attention. But if you have a passion for gardening and love the feel of the tropics, then all the attention needed will just be a part of your little heaven. Gardens that are in warmer climates will have a much easier time choosing their plants and enjoying them year round, but that does not mean that Northerners have to be excluded from enjoying a tropical escape.

 

If your garden is climate-challenged for that jungle feel you can take some extra steps to create your vision. Most importantly, first do your research on the adaptability and hardiness of plants before you make any decisions for your design. Plants that need to be moved indoors during the winter can be planted in containers of any size – just add some wheels at the bottom for easy movement from the outdoors to the indoors.

 

Northerners can also make their garden more tropical by adding garden furniture and décor that are undeniably tropical. A swinging hammock, teak, bamboo or rattan furniture, flaming tiki torches, waterfalls, fountains depicting tropical birds, statutes of jungle animals, and even a live parrot in a bird cage multiplies the tropical feel without adding climate-sensitive plants.

 

For a tropical garden, you want an overgrown selection of plants that are large, tall, imposing, hanging and textured. Spider plants, snake plants and banana plants are a must – as much for their looks as for their names. Palms and ferns should be plentiful. Bamboo plants should announce their presence with plants, bamboo water fountains and bamboo furniture. Flowers should be colorful and sculptured. Orchids and Irises can add to the tropical feel, as well as birds-of-paradise, crotons, princess flowers, fastia and bromeliad. Elephant's ear, ginger, citrus trees, hibiscus, dwarf papyrus, and bleeding-heart vine are just a small sampling of other plants that fit nicely into a tropical themed garden.

 

Tropical gardens are lush, bold, colorful, and full of hidden surprises. Hide some ponds inside a circle of thick vegetation. Create a tree house for bird watching. Surprise guests with fresh edible fruit ready to quench their thirst. Hammocks, deck chairs, and beach furniture can welcome guests to sit and relax on their long walk. A table display of coconuts makes a festive centerpiece, and cocktail umbrellas should accompany your home-made fruit punch. Even an etched-on anaconda down a stone stairway, or a pet iguana lurking behind a corner can add a hidden element of surprise. Be beautiful, and be daring.

 

Paradise doesn't have to be a cruise ship away. You can escape to a hammock with a good book and a fruity cocktail in your hand without having to worry about getting seasick. Sit inside on a rainy day and research your tropical choices. When the warm weather comes, you'll be prepared to start growing a little paradise of your own.

The waft of grilling steaks mingling with the fresh outdoor air is almost intoxicating for the outdoor chef. Grilling outside quickly becomes a pleasant addiction, and it can lead to an explosion of fun and festive culinary feasts. When the culinary pleasures of outdoor cooking start to expand beyond what a lone grill and patio table can support, you should consider installing an outdoor kitchen.

 

An outdoor kitchen feeds the hunger for the fresh outdoors, and becomes the fixture that brings family and friends together for enjoyable food and fun. The outdoor chef will have the means to prepare a variety of full-course meals for evening dinners, weekend parties, and holiday get-togethers – without extensive wear and tear on the patio door, and without having to leave good conversation for sauce stored in the fridge.

 

An outdoor kitchen is not an inexpensive endeavor, but it will certainly increase the value of your home and provide you with a lifetime source of outdoor enjoyment. Being able to have the option of cooking indoors or out also breaks up the monotony of weekly meal preparation. A nice leisurely dinner in the backyard can be as refreshing as dinner out at a local restaurant.

 

To plan your outdoor kitchen, you can start by making a list of what appliances you definitely want installed outside. The basics are a grill, sink and fridge, and it's easy to add a dishwasher and microwave to the list. But if you want to design your dream outdoor kitchen, explore all of your outdoor cooking options. Stovetops, wood-fired ovens, pizza ovens, rotisseries, smokers, lobster boil drawers, warming drawers, ice makers, wine chillers, beer taps, and beverage centers are popular options.

 

 

Start with choosing the best grill you can. There are many hybrid choices out there that offer a combination of cooking surfaces and cooking fuels. Finding one appliance that serves two purposes reduces your overall appliance, installation and utility costs. And don't forget to list the smaller appliances as well – blenders, food choppers, and coffee machines will need to be taken into consideration when planning counter and storage space.

Once you create a list of appliances, you can better determine your counter space and storage needs. You will obviously need enough space to install the appliances, with extra measures left for safety requirements. Also plan storage and prep areas to accommodate a scenario of cooking for the largest number of guests you would expect at one time.

 

The biggest difference between an indoor kitchen and an outdoor kitchen is weather. Cabinet doors should be sealed airtight. Stainless steel storage is almost always a safe weather-proof option for all climates. But if you're looking for a softer touch, there are many beautiful decorative materials created specifically for the outdoors.

 

The potential effects of weather should be considered when determining the location for your outdoor kitchen, and when choosing appliances and fixtures. Everything will be exposed to, or need to be protected from, sun, wind, leaves, falling branches, rain, sleet, hail, and probably snow. Also, insect control is important indoors, but it takes on a whole new level when you're planning an outdoor kitchen.

The location of your outdoor kitchen will also be determined by plumbing and electrical requirements. The closer your outdoor kitchen is to your house, the lower your plumbing and electrical installation costs will be. And as with any outdoor home-improvement project, you need to look into your local permit requirements and code regulations before you start building.

 

Once the primary kitchen area is planned, expand your vision to include new seating and dining arrangements, an outdoor fireplace, and a place for after-dinner relaxation. Your outdoor kitchen will evolve into a fresh new living area. But again, plan your outdoor living area for the weather and for insect control so you can maximize your year-round enjoyment.

 

An outdoor kitchen will bring new life to your home. Your routines and menus will take on a fresh new aspect, and you'll find yourself immersing in the pleasures of outdoor cooking and outdoor living. Life outdoors will be simply intoxicating, and you'll never taste a better steak than the first one cooked on your brand new grill that's tucked inside your new outdoor kitchen.

Knocking down an old garage or storage shed can leave you with a muddy mess or a dry barren patch that that needs to be filled. The grass might grow greener on the other side of the fence, but it doesn't always grow greener under old buildings. A strong decorative element can fill the fruitless void.

 

Replacing your defunct dilapidated building with a millstone rock fountain alleviates the question of how to repair the soil. It will give your yard a natural stunning ornament that can blend in with any landscape. It will take a weekend or two to put together, but it's a lot easier than knocking down an old garage.

 

A millstone fountain is made from a large round flat rock that was formerly used for grinding grain. Since an authentic millstone might be a challenge to find, you can use a large flat round rock and achieve the same results. The challenge with not using a millstone is that you will have to drill a hole in the middle of the rock to accommodate the fountain jet and to provide easy access to the tub below. Look for a rock that is about four feet in diameter. While you're at it, start collecting river rocks that are between 1 1/2” to 4” in diameter to fill in the perimeter and decorate the surface.

 

For this project you'll need a plastic tub that is 5' in diameter and 18” deep, a 28” plastic tube, a perforated 6” diameter PVC pipe that is 20” long to accommodate the fountain jet, and three or four 6” diameter pipes 25” long to support the millstone. You'll also need a small submersible pump, some concrete pre-mix – and of course, a shovel. Possibly the most important thing to have is the help or means to move your millstone on top of your tub. It will be extremely heavy.

 

You will need to install the fountain with a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) nearby. You can always install the outlet if one doesn't exist. If your old building was a garage or workshop you might be lucky enough to have one nearby.

 

The first thing you need to do is dig a hole for the plastic tub that's going to hold the water. Once the hole is excavated, use the concrete premix to line the hole with a 4” thick layer of concrete. This will give the fountain the support it needs. Don't insert the fountain until the concrete dries This will take several days. Ideally, you can dig a hole and layer it one weekend, and install the tub the next.

 

Once the concrete has dried, insert the tub so the top is level with the ground. If it's not, your millstone won't lay straight. Just move the surrounding soil around as needed to create a level top edge.

 

Now you can get the pump ready for action. Your three (or four) 25” PVC pipes will be standing up under the millstone rock to help support it (but putting the millstone on your fountain is the very last step). You will have to surround the pipes with river rocks. Set these pipes up to logically balance the millstone, then put layers of river rock around each pipe for support until the rocks are just about an inch from the top of the pipes.

 

The 20” long perforated PVC pipe will be centered and act as a pump cylinder. Connect the tube for the fountain jet to the submersible pump, then put the assembly at the bottom of the standing 20” pipe piece.

 

Once the pipes are positioned and the pump is in place, position the electrical cord safely away from the water, and fill your tub with water. Then plug in the pump. Test it out, and adjust the water flow to the level you want.

 

At this point, it's best to take a break before the next two steps. After you take a breather, gather your strength and get your weightlifting helpers together. Lift up the millstone and place it on the tub with the fountain jet protruding from the center hole.

 

River rocks are the finishing touch. Arrange the river rocks to hide the hole and hardware, scattering some on the surrounding stone to create a visual flow. Then, surround the perimeter of the fountain with a wreath of river rocks.

 

It's up to you if your weekend project is done. You can transform the area to an exotic gardening escape, create an outdoor room with a stoned patio cascading from the fountain, or add lush woodland plantings and create a secluded retreat. Your fountain may have have contributed to your perspiration, but it's just the beginning of inspiration for outdoor living ideas.

Clay, silt or sand – the texture of your soil will define your garden. If you've discovered a patch of soil that looks like a great place for a new garden, the first thing you need to do is define your soil. Once you know the natural state of your soil, you can manipulate the layers to nurture healthy lush foliage. (However, you might also learn that a rock fountain or freestanding deck is better suited for the area.)

 

Soil texture is categorized in three familiar terms: clay, silt and sand. These categories are based on the size of the soil particles. The soil you are considering for your garden will be a mix of these particles. Sand is the largest type of particle, and ranges from a “massive” .002 to .08 inches in diameter. Silt is a soil particle that measures between .00008 and .002 inches in diameter – somewhere in the middle of sand and clay. Clay is actually the smallest. A soil particle that is smaller than .00008 is categorized as clay. A soil with clay, silt, sand and organic material is referred to as loam. Your garden soil can be defined by what type of like particles are combined together. Ideally (although there's always exceptions), you want your soil to be 40% silt, 40% sand,15% clay, and 5% organic content.

 

Sand granules are large and loose. Water drains through too quickly, but there is room for roots to grow. Clay granules are small and tight. Clay holds water, but water and roots get trapped. However, clay does very well at trapping beneficial nutrients. The absorption and flow of water is tempered between the two extremes with silt.

 

You don't have to get out a magnifying glass to separate, count and measure every minuscule grain to determine the mix of your soil. A garden shovel, a pail, a glass jar with a lid, and a little patience can do the job.

 

Look at the area you're considering for your new garden. Within that area, get a few garden shovelfuls of soil that are representative of each part of your garden. Mix them all together in a pail and shake it up real good. Then get a good-sized glass jar (coffee-pot size would be practical), and put soil from the pail into the glass jar until it's about 1/3 to 1/2 full. Then fill the rest of the jar up with water. Cover the jar and shake up the soil and water until all the particles are floating around in the water.

 

Next is the hard part – let the jar sit until all the particles settle. This could take a couple days, particularly if you have a high percentage of clay in your soil. But you will see some soil settling in a couple hours. Sand drops to the bottom first because it has the larger particles. Next will come silt, then clay. Any organic material will just float around or eventually settle on top of the clay. Getting an accurate picture of your soil composition will help you get the best garden for your gardening, so don't rush the process. (Keep in mind that leaving the jar where kids will have fun shaking it up might delay the process.)

 

Once the soil in your test jar has settled into layers, you'll have an idea of what percentages you're working with and what amends you'll need to make for a healthy, lush garden. Knowing your soil composition will also save you from buying seedlings that aren't likely to thrive.

 

Playing in the soil is half the fun of gardening. But before you select your seedings, give a little shake to your soil. Once your soil is situated, you can be sure that you'll plant a garden that will firmly take root – and you can just sit back and watch it grow.