fire-ring-kits copyOur summer took its sweet time arriving this year.  Before we knew it, it was time to buy back-to-school clothes and take in the cabin’s dock.  If our summer flew by too fast for you, there are ways of extending our summer’s warmth – with fire.

We are all familiar with the in-ground fire pit.  They are typically made with a 36″ corrugated fire ring.  You dig down about 12″, place the ring in the center of the hole, and line the bottom with 3/8″ white limestone, pea gravel or sand.  Fill in the sides around the fire ring with dirt.  For the “Up North” feel, place 6-12″ field boulders around the fire ring or you may use pavers as pictured above.

For a more upscale look, you’ll want to consider a fire boulder.  These are truly a one-of-a-kind fire pit – because every boulder is unique.  Typically sold as a kit, you get a carved boulder, a stainless steel burner, stainless steel flex line, key valve and lava rock.  Your fuel would be from a hidden propane tank or a natural gas line – running through the flex line to your boulder.22 inch Fire Boulder CROPPED copy

These fire boulders are gorgeous, quite a conversation piece and they give off a ton of warmth for those chilly fall nights.

Harmony Stone Brick Oven copy

Another fire choice gaining in popularity each year is the outdoor wood-burning brick oven.  Sometimes called a pizza oven – pizza oven is a misnomer.  Anything you can bake in your kitchen oven (breads, meats, etc), you can bake in your outdoor brick oven and you can use it year round, too!

Another fire choice is the outdoor fireplace.  This option has been around for years, of course, but now it is typically part of a total outdoor living area.  These outdoor rooms combine all the elements together – paver patio, seating wall, water feature, fireplace, brick oven, fire ring, outdoor furniture and even sometimes, an outdoor HD television.

HarmonyWESFORD004 copy

 For more ideas, go to www.hedbergrocks.com.  We’d love to have you call us or stop by.

Get “Fired” up for Fall

Experiencing the Eco Experience


The twelve best days of summer are here, in my opinion. The Minnesota State Fair is in full swing, with rides and barkers, livestock and everything-on-a-stick. Part of the fun of the fair, for me, has always been seeing what’s new.

Entrance to Eco Experience
The entrance to the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience

This year’s Eco Experience delights me by showing not only what’s new in sustainable building, landscaping, energy and transportation, it brings it together at the community level. Solar energy for groups of neighbors, for example. Rainwater collection to service a group of homes. Whether you look at implementing some of these ideas on an individual or group basis, the Eco Experience gets you thinking.

I’ve been in that building more hours than most people spend walking the whole Fair. Hedberg helped build the Green Street display and our employees are staffing it from 9-5 every day to answer questions. It’s really fun to share our knowledge with folks who are curious about improving their impact on the environment. We installed the permeable paver walkways and the 1,000 gallon RainXchange rainwater harvesting display next to the raingarden display. We also pulled together a couple short videos that explain the technologies behind the beautiful landscape features. You can see them here if you’re not going to the great Minnesota get together. We also posted a collection of photos from the Fair here

visitors on the Green Street
Green Street visitors enjoying the rainwater harvesting display.

When you go to the Fair, look for someone in an orange Hedberg shirt – that’s us. Ask where the 1,000 gallons of stored water is hiding and how RainXchange, permeable paver and raingardens will save the planet. Check out the rest of Green Street, and the whole Eco Experience, too. I hope that in addition to your bucket of Sweet Martha cookies, pickle hat and stuffed whatever prize from the Midway, you’ll take home a few ideas for greening your lifestyle. I’d love to hear what you learned – leave a comment here and let me know.

 By the way, that recycled rubber mulch that’s everywhere – you can buy it at Hedberg.

Eagle Lake Mini Golf Course Isn’t Your Typical Putt Putt


According to the most widely accepted account, the modern game of golf originated in Scotland around the 12th century, with shepherds knocking stones into rabbit holes on the current site of the Old Course at St Andrews. Now we use highly engineered balls and clubs, keep score and pay for the privilege. Last week I played on a course where stone is stunning design element.

Eagle Lake mini golf course panorama

The Eagle Lake Mini Golf course features tricky greens and stone landscaping

Situated on the site of two old farmsteads, Eagle Lake Regional Park features three golf courses that are perfect for beginner golfers to learn the game or more experienced golfers to take in a social round. The new mini golf course features 18 holes that are fun and challenging. No windmills or clowns here, instead you’ll test your skills reading tricky greens studded with chunks of stone. Limestone is the dominant design feature of this mini golf course. Limestone edging borders each hole, and limestone outcroppings serve as accents, seats and obstacles. Chilton slabs and glacial boulders create dry creek beds that wind throughout the course. Native plants and slender river birch grace the course. It’s so beautiful you may want to take a seat and listen to the birds for a while before you squint at the next tricky green and try for a hole-in-one.

Mini golf course hole

This stone-lined course is a fun challenge for golfers of all abilities!

The cost for adults is $6, and $5 for kids. Play a second round for $2, or purchase a 10-play pass for $40. Visit their website for more information and directions.

If you want to create a piece of this in your backyard, Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies sells all the materials you need, including putting green supplies, limestone outcroppings, chilton slabs, boulders, trees and native plants! We can also refer you to contractors who specialize in building backyard putting greens. Ask us for help, we’ll be glad to help you create something amazing.

Big Timin’ it with National Geographic


Today’s guest blog is provided by Angie Hong, one of our Blue Thumb colleagues.  You can read her bio at the end of this post.

“National Geographic just called,” read the email subject line from Rice Creek Watershed District educator Dawn Pape, “and I’m so excited I could Scream!” Reading her email, I began my own little chair boogie and immediately interrupted the two colleagues I was meeting with to share the news. It’s not every day that we Minnesotans brush with fame and when Pape first picked up the phone, she was understandably skeptical. “I almost hung up on him, thinking he was a telemarketer!” she exclaimed, “Then when he said why he was calling, I was like ‘Wait! Tell me more.’” As she soon learned, National Geographic’s Blue Legacy team was planning their Expedition Blue Planet 2010 and they had selected Minnesota as the first step on their itinerary.

Expedition Blue Planet is an innovative 138-day, 14,500-mile exploration of water issues across the U.S. and Canada, led by Alexandra Cousteau, the granddaughter of legendary French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Combining live production of stories in the field with social media engagement, a coordinated local and national press tour, curriculum-aligned classroom materials, and a significant catalog of online information, the 2010 Expedition hopes to engage a mainstream audience in a meaningful discussion on critical water issues. The expedition is also connecting with local community events along the tour route and helping to organize celebrity performances, fundraisers for local watershed projects and opportunities for families to get involved in restoring and protecting watersheds.

With their giant biodiesel tour bus pointed north to Minnesota, the Blue Planet folks began calling around to learn what new and innovative efforts might be underway to protect watersheds in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Time and again the expedition team was referred to Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water, a regional partnership started by Rice Creek Watershed District that promotes the use of native plants, raingardens, and shoreline plantings to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting lakes, rivers and streams. There are nearly 60 Blue Thumb partner organizations in and around Minnesota, including local governmental units, non-profit and community organizations, and nursery and landscape professionals, and in just three years, the partnership has launched thousands of individual and community projects.

Blue Thumb partners leapt at the opportunity to join Expedition Blue Planet, and three weeks later, the big blue bus arrived at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, just in time for the 4th of July festivities. This “blue team” worked together to distribute 3000 native plants to event attendees, coordinate fun and educational children’s activities and talk to area residents about preventing stormwater pollution with water-friendly landscaping. They also showcased the efforts of one Blue Thumb partner, Metro Blooms, a non-profit organization working with community members to install 100 – 150 raingardens as part of an effort to improve water quality in Powderhorn Lake (http://metroblooms.org/neighborhood-of-gardens.php).

The next day, while the scent of fireworks still hung in the air, the Blue Planet Expedition team started up their bus with a hum and headed west to Colorado, the next stop on their tour. Although, our brush with fame was fleeting, this National Geographic moment has energized local Blue Thumb partners and we feel honored to be a part of such a big time event. If you are interested in following the expedition team as they continue on their journey, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/water. An image gallery and video blog will feature footage from their stop in Minnesota and there is also a Twitter feed to keep followers up to date. To find a Blue Thumb partner near you, visit www.BlueThumb.org

Angie Hong is an educator for the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine – St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, Stillwater, West Lakeland and Willernie, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-275-1136 x.35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

Hedberg is proud to be a Blue Thumb Partner, providing native plants at Hedberg Nursery in Stillwater and other raingarden materials, such as mulch, rock, edging and drainage products at Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies locations throughout the metro. Hedberg supports sustainable landscaping and planting for clean water.

Minnesota’s First Blue Community Makeover(TM)


Diamond Lake in south Minneapolis, subject of Minnesota's first Blue Community Makeover, managed by Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies

Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies is pleased to be involved in a hundred residential landscaping projects in south Minneapolis that will reduce stormwater runoff and help improve the quality of Diamond Lake. Projects include raingardens, permeable paver driveways, RainXchange rainwater harvesting systems, rain barrels, trees and native plantings. The goal is to stop raindrops where they fall, capture the water for reuse later or allow it to soak into the soil, rather than run off driveways and lawns and into the streets. When stormwater hits the streets, it picks up pollution like automotive fluids, road salt and garbage, channels all of it into storm sewers and dumps it into Diamond Lake. The lake currenly has an “F” water quality rating.

It also has an active group of residents who care about it. Area residents want to reverse the damage and asked Hedberg for help lining up the products, technologies and installation resources to help them “Go Blue!” Together, two neighborhood organizations (Friends of Diamond Lake and Hale Page Diamond Lake), the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies applied for and won competitive grant funding to help residents offset part of their project costs.

A raingarden installed as part of Minnesota's first ever Blue Community Makeover.

Planning for the Blue Community Makeover started in November 2009 and continued throughout the winter. Stormwater plans were developed by Metro Blooms for all sites this spring and ten contractors attended a mandatory meeting in May to learn the specific requirements of the project. Work began on June 8, 2010 with the installation of a dozen raingardens and will continue through the summer. Major projects are also planned at Diamond Lake Lutheran Church and Pearl Park, both of which currently contribute runoff directly into the lake.

As more projects are installed in the neighborhood, word is getting around about the citizen-led initiative. “I have had lots of conversations with my neighbors who are learning about raingardens as well as the clean water grant to help clean up Diamond Lake.” Sally Hoover, Minneapolis resident and Blue Community Makeover Participant.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Blue Community Makeover(TM) and how you can become part of the movement in your neighborhood, please contact Tina Plant at tplant@hedbergaggregates.com.

“I have had lots of conversations with my neighbors who are learning about raingardens as well as the clean water grant to help clean up Diamond Lake.” Sally Hoover, Minneapolis resident and Blue Community Makeover Participant.

Hello world!


Greetings from Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies! Keep an eye on this blog for posts about landscape and masonry trends, design ideas, products, installation and maintenance tips, photos and discussion. My goal is to help you enjoy the enduring beauty and timeless art of stone inside your home and outside with fabulous new and improved living spaces.

Cool and Creative Container Gardens


Local Renegade Gardener™ Don Engebretson calls containers “the throw pillows of exterior design.” Don gave class attendees a thorough and illuminating hands-on demonstration when he taught “Crafting Cool & Creative Containers Seminar” at the Hedberg Nursery near Stillwater on Saturday, May 15. The seminar was free and open to the public. Guests enjoyed coffee and treats while they unlocked the secrets to designing beautiful container arrangements.

Don Engebretson is quite a character. In his words, “I gardened for years before it occurred to me to grow plants in containers. I was a man, damn it, and grew my plants in the ground – where they belonged. I wasn’t going to fool around growing pansies in a pot. But now ……. I’ve become an absolute container junkie.” Don’s a home-grown lad turned national authority on landscaping and garden design. He used containers as singles and in groups, demonstrated the design secrets to creating artistic, long-lasting container arrangements, and shared his tips on creative ways to use containers throughout the landscape.

Another person everyone loves at Hedberg Nursery is Mike Philion, the branch manager. He looked forward to hosting Don’s seminar. “We’ve recently taken on an exquisite line of handmade Asian Clay Pots and we were excited to see how Don decorated them,” Mike said. “Our full service nursery–including annuals, perennials, native plants, shrubs and trees plus eco-friendly fertilizers and soils–was available for Don’s use. We hope people had fun and got a ton of ideas of what they can do in their own backyards.”

Hedberg Nursery is located off Highway 36, about one mile east of I-694. Look for the Hedberg billboards and orange flag on the north side frontage road. It’s definitely worth the drive to visit our landscape supply yard and nursery near Stillwater. If you’re in the area, please drop in. To learn about other classes being held at Hedberg, please visit  www.hedbergrocks.com/doityourself/SeminarsAndEvents. Hedberg Nursery features specialty perennials, native plants, raingarden materials, trees and other eco-friendly supplies. And, of course, containers.

For more information visit http://www.hedbergrocks.com.

Best Things About a Rain Barrel


This 75-gallon rain barrel holds a LOT of water!

I was going to was poetic about how much I love my 75 gallon rain barrel, but I’ll spare you the superlatives and give you a list instead.
1. Rainwater is the best thing to use for plants, much better than treated tap water.*
2. Rainwater is free. A rain barrel will pay for itself!
3. You can water your gardens from a rain barrel, even on restricted watering days.
4. It gives you a source of water outdoors before/after the outdoor water supply is turned on/off.
5. You get to reuse our planet’s most important resource slowly and allow it to soak back into the soil.
6. You can reduce stormwater runoff, 55 or 75 gallons at a time. Urban runoff is the number one cause of pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams.
 
If you’re interested in getting a rain barrel, there are several options at different price points. As with all things, you get what you pay for and the cheapest option isn’t always the best. Make sure the rain barrel you select has an outlet for overflow so that excess water doesn’t pool around your home’s foundation and that it has a screened lid to prevent mosquito breeding. A lid that snaps on and locks is a plus to prevent accidents. Other than that, go with the style and color you like. You may want to raise it up on blocks for easier access to the spigot. My rain barrel pictured at the top of this post is available at Hedberg Landscape & Masonry Supplies for around $199. It’s made of heavy duty plastic, contains recycled material and holds 75 gallons. It has a planting groove in the lid to add some beautiful flowers and vines. You can get a recycled oak wine cast rain barrel at Hedberg for about $189. It holds 55 gallons and has a rustic look. It smells great, too. 🙂

Minneapolis homeowner Chris Thillen with two new rain barrels.

Finally, you can find inexpensive plastic rain barrels in various colors around town or online that hold 55 gallons. Some folks decorate these barrels by painting them or planting around them.
Here’s a five minute video about how to install a rain barrel.  Watch the video.
*Some experts recommend you do not water vegetables with water that has run off an asphalt shingle roof.

10 "Must Have" Features in Today’s New Homes


Home features, like fashion, change over time. With the move toward smaller homes with more cost effective architecture, what was “in” a few years ago isn’t hot anymore. Casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces are key to what today’s home buyers want. You can read a full article on this topic provided by Marketwatch on Yahoo Finance.

At this year’s International Builders Show in Las Vegas, Lavender Design Group presented an analysis of AVID Ratings most recent survey of home buyer preferences, reporting the following ten “must have” features in new homes:

1. Large kitchens with islands

2. Energy efficient appliances, high-efficiency insulation and high window efficiency

3. Home office/study

4. Main floor master suite

5. Outdoor Living Room

6. Ceiling fans

7. Master suite soaker tubs

8. Stone and Brick Exteriors

9. Community Landscaping with Walking Paths and Playgrounds

10. Two plus car garages

Desirability of features varies according to a buyer’s stage in life – first time buyers vs. relocating vs. empty nester – but overall the move is toward features that promote economy of space and family togetherness.

What’s important to you in home design?

3 Important Things You Need to Know About Sustainable Landscaping


I’ve been studying eco-friendly building and landscaping products and practices for several years. Early on the question arose, “Why all the fuss?”

 
Why? We have a real problem. That’s the first important thing.

 
 
1) Water is our most precious resource and there’s a real issue with both the quantity and quality of water. Even here in the land of 10,000 lakes, we experience drought, watering bans and peak shortages of municple water supplies that compromise emergency services like fighting fires. As for quality, urban run-off is the #1 cause of pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates that 40% of our waterways are impaired by conventional pollutants. For the enjoyment of our generation, our grandchildren and generations to come, we have to stop this alarming trend.The good news is the second important thing: several “best management practices” exist for reducing urban run-off and pollution and reusing that most precious resource.

2) Capturing the rain that falls on your property and allowing it to soak into the soil dramatically reduces stormwater run-off and filters out pollutants. Several sustainable landscaping techniques can be used.

The third important thing is that YOU can have a direct impact on solving the problem by doing something, no matter how small.

3) Take action now. It’s not hard to take a small step, and then another. You can turn the powerless “What can I do?” into the adrenaline rush of “We are making a difference!” See how a neighborhood in south Minneapolis is Going Blue thanks to the leadership of concerned neighbors. A quote written on the Berlin Wall said, “Many small people in many small places doing many small things can alter the face of the world.” Do something small – it adds up.

Are you already practicing sustainable landscaping? What are you doing in your yard to help your local environment? Leave a comment and let me know!