Friday, November 27, 2020

Where Credit is Due - An Affordable and Effective Carpet Cleaner


I pay a premium for most of the tools and materials I use in landscaping and plant care - it's my profession.

I can't say I always do the best when selecting tools and equipment for my home, but I do try to make an educated decision. 

The living areas in my home are mostly hardwoods; however, a hallway leading to four carpeted rooms has gone from this light camel color to almost brown. My thought was to hit the high-traffic areas and clean the rooms, but I didn't want to deal with all this in one day. I didn't want to pay for a service or rent a cleaner - I wanted to do this on my own time, my schedule, and get a little more focused. 

I researched many carpet cleaners; then found and studied the Bissell HeatPro 2X Revolution, and purchased one. I checked most providers of this product and compared prices. Bed Bath & Beyond's price was already competitive and even after paying the $29.00 fee to join Beyond +, the price still came in below the competition and I received free shipping. Beyond + offers 20% off all purchases (You don't need the famous BB&B coupons.) and shipping is always free. After beating the competitor's prices the discount also paid for the Beyond + membership.

The product as packaged does come with a sample size pet stain and odor plus bacterial formula and one for urine elimination, but you will need to purchase the primary cleaner. I was surprised that I didn't see the need to do so on either the Bissell or BB&B web site, or either I missed this. Verify before you purchase so you don't receive the cleaner, all excited about using it, not realizing you have no cleaning agent. I was able to buy a second bottle of cleaning agent (I haven't yet used.) at Walmart - one more room to go and some upholstery and area rugs.

I don't have pet issues and although I saw the results of using it for pet issues on a few YouTube videos, I was impressed by its overall cleaning ability.

I love the vacuum cleaner format for ease-of-use as opposed to other boxy and cumbersome units. It weighs about the same or less than my Bissell vacuum cleaner - I can't tell. As if we were comparing cars; the carpet cleaner actually handles better and seems more balanced.

The best part about this product is: It works. I did a test run on a heavy traffic area and the results are amazing. That light camel color is now, once again. I later finished the hallway and two rooms - completely impressed. It was great seeing all the dark brown water in the dirty water bin.

I was thankfully surprised that areas I thought I may have to pre-treat or need the CleanShot feature for came clean with a few more or slower passes over the carpet.

Although it didn't reach all the way to the baseboards, it got closer than I imagined. However; those edges receive much less traffic unless you have a pet who loves to snuggle up against a wall (and everything else), like my black lab from many years ago.

After a while, it's not difficult to get into that I'm dancing kind of mode you may with a vacuum clear, yet slow down and be more methodical. However; feel free to do so after you have followed the cleaning instructions and simply want to pull up more moisture for quicker drying. 

I used the Deep Cleaning or Max mode (never tried to understand the difference between the two) using much more water and cleaning agent than needed for Express Clean mode, so the drying took longer - longer than quoted. But, that's okay, as the results were well worth it.

After deep cleaning what is needed I look forward to staying on top of this by using the Express Clean mode.

The HeatPro 2X Revolution has a few other features which make it easy to use.

A Few Thoughts
  • The unit was easy to assemble and seems well constructed. Time will tell with the latter.
  • It comes with an upholstery, stair and pet attachment. I have used neither, yet.
  • Will the clean get dirty, quicker? Historically, many carpet cleaning agents would cause your carpets to look dirtier sooner, after cleaning. This depends on the chemicals used; how much is applied and how wet; and how well the cleaning device removes the residue and water from the fabric. Have to wait and see. 
I am impressed, but I will still register it as I do with most anything.

Do I believe the results warrant the price of the product and the ease-of-use? Yes.

Check it out and give me your thoughts if you purchase one and use it.

I'll follow up with how it works on area rugs and furniture upholstery.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Dramatic Beginning



I usually pass on large sod jobs (see Bend it Like Beckham - A Fun Sod Job), but I do enjoy the smaller, more interesting ones.

The customer contacted me to hopefully address other aspects of her property, but this area of her back yard was her primary objective.

She had already done what you will see in the next image and also shared with  me a picture of something similar, which she loved.

I have installed flagstone walkways, sitting areas and staggered stepping stones as well as a few paver walkways and small patios in lawns. The existing turfgrass provided those huggable borders once the cuts were made for setting individual stones or pavers, or by creating a channel, so-to-speak.

Here, we were starting from scratch and there was no creative flub-room like with flagstone or only dealing with simple tolerances when butting pavers next to one another. This was tedious, setting in soil and then cutting sod strips to fill the the gaps - those which will make this design truly pop over time.

Pavers Set
Zoysia would have been a wonderful choice of sod for this design, but would have been a nightmare to maintain in the growing season unless a groundskeeper were to live on-site. It's extremely difficult to knock down Zoysia with a weed eater and a mower will not keep it level with the pavers.

This is a shaded area, but the best suited turfgrass, St. Augustine, has had issues with pests in this area for the last several years...except for the Tamstar variety, which is also more drought tolerant. It was developed several years ago at Texas A&M. If you are a Gamecock fan (I am), get over it. It's some nice grass.

We had many small cuts which had to be made due to the curves of the outline which is not easy to do with St. Augustine so we didn't manicure the edges and borders. This will need to be done once the sod has established and pavers have set. We used no mortar or polymeric sand (both of which have their own issues over time) so there may need to be some leveling touch-up necessary, but so much simpler once grass and pavers have claimed their respective places.

Oh, the "Y" with the abbreviated trunk (I didn't want to say truncated trunk.), I threw in there for the customer's last name. She was happily surprised. I believe so.

The owner admits the entire property needs a lot of attention, but we both believe this was a wonderful beginning.

If she only keeps the dalmatians off of it. (See 101 Dalmatians Minus 99...Just as Well, So Enjoyable)


Monday, October 26, 2020

Little Lawns...Big Beauty

Both of these properties possess beautiful and substantial homes, on enviable, yet small lots, leaving not much room for much of a lawn. Yet, both owners have and still maintain some of the most diverse and well-designed vignettes, plant beds and border plants out of my portfolio, as if it I can take credit for such.

They both live in the same community; know one another and I don't know if that affords me anything. But, knowing they have similar love and interests in their properties and their plants there-about, makes my job more enjoyable, and challenging. 

I have pruned several trees and shrubs on this property and planted and transplanted several plants and worked on other aspects of its landscape, yet nothing compares to what the owner has provided to accent the home, not to mention the wonderful herb garden and the continual diversity of flowering and fruit producing plants, such as key limes.

There is so much color, textures, and so many blooms occurring on this small, but beautiful piece of land, most every day of the year. I pride myself on my knowledge (always studying - knowing I will never know it all) and here is where I don't mind being the student.

This is a controlled oasis. He may laugh. It's a huge task, but it works. He loves his toils. Oh, the rewards.

The rear of this property, nearest the pond, is interesting and beautiful, as well.

Before I go further, I must say, owners of such properties are not so demanding - the plant life they orchestrate is. 

I have worked on the next property you will see for the last four years. It has large stands of evergreens, a gorgeous cluster of azaleas flanked by some oak leaf hydrangeas in addition to some loropetalums and some cypress hugged by a few sunshine ligustrums. There are also roses and beds of asiatic jasmine which I have shared photos of so many times. It's comforting. The lantanas, which one cannot ignore, were kicking during this photo.

The customer has a screen porch, not far at all (just out of photo shot), and I recently stumbled across her resting along a couch in the recent cooler weather. Who could blame her? This is a comfortable facade of taller shrubs and trees with lower lying perennials and the occasional annual which makes everything work so well. Who wouldn't relax?
I must also mention the front of the property which has the wonderful banks of pittosporum, some beautiful crepe myrtles, a huge berry tree surrounded by an ivy bed and another hardwood with a well-manicured bed of asiatic jasmine. There is a very proud lady banks rose along a wall and confederate jasmine twining the ironwork on the brick wall along the driveway. 

There are inlaid brick borders which define
every area of the backyard and a wonderful stone walkway (not shown); while the front has a beautiful broad tiered walkway leading to an entryway with the rise of the steps covered in manicured fig ivy.

Don't get me wrong, I still find myself taking a liking to most any landscape condition, hoping to see the customer realize the changes and restoration for them or me to capitalize on and enjoy as time passes.

Life Plant Life is Good!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

101 Dalmatians Minus 99...Just as Well, So Enjoyable

Sometimes I simply feel the urge to write about something I experience or enjoy.

Or, I love writing about something which I may believe to be beneficial to you and my customers.

In either case I usually do my best to put my thoughts together, let them sit, edit, edit some more and then publish.

With the following, I hope to do my best, but to get this little experience and tale out in one sitting. I have a customer who wished to move some work to next week, so I am playing with the free time rather than fill it with more work. Everyone needs a break, now and then.

Today was a day supposed to be filled with some office tasks I had scheduled for the morning (mostly fouled by other unexpected demands). And, then on to visit an existing customer's property. I did.

Later, I planned to visit a new prospect, and I did. More about that potential project (interesting) some other time. It was late in the day, and then...

...While she was showing me her back yard and an idea for what she had conceptualized and somewhat began, I was met by her stocky (not fat) and friendly cat while leaning over to check some of the lawn and the patio. We had a few moments of petting while he weaved himself in between my feet whenever I was standing still - handsome guy with the broadest eyes I have not seen on most cats.

Several minutes later another family member opened a rear door and I was suddenly surrounded by two bounding Dalmatians. The owner of same and the property owner seemed somewhat concerned for my safety, but hey. I knock on wood, but beyond having several dogs and cats growing up and several later in life, I have been somewhat familiar with and fortunate with animals from horses to horseflies and snakes to snarling dogs. I'm still working on plants, ha!

Having been around so many dogs, as most of us remember, particularly as children, I had never been around nary a Dalmatian. The one Dalmatian I remember most was the one I would see at the fire house on Meeting Street in Charleston as a child and later when I attended College of Charleston.

One of these two guys, svelte, yet muscular, was more playful, approaching me on hind legs and searching for a hug with his paws practically atop my shoulders. I was flattered and then I saw what I perceived as a showing of teeth.

I moved my head back slightly, slowly, as he was about muzzle to chin with me; yet, no snarl, no anger. The owner said, "He must like you. He's smiling." He was and I later moved my chin forward and he licked my chin.

Today was a day of visiting prospective customers and prospective projects - more money spent, than made. Yet, it was a day well spent with these two new acquaintances and the customer, their owner, as well.

Hell, if I had one hundred and one of these wonderful creatures I'd never get anything done. I'd be content, but someone would have to pay for the dog food.

Oh, back to work.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Hey, Mophead; It's Time for a Haircut! Well, Perhaps Not.

Nikko Blue Mophead Hydrangeas
If you want the best blooms for your mophead hydrangeas next year, THEY say the next several weeks are the best time to cut them back or very close to the ground, but are THEY right?

Well, not really, on both claims.

I can prune almost all hydrangeas, if need be, most any time of year and they will still produce blooms when time comes. It simply depends on their maturity, the intent and knowing how and where to prune. One can cause some ill effects on next season's blooms by simply hacking back without thought or a plan.

To get the best out of them, please don't resort to some hand-me-down advice about cutting them back to the ground each year, immediately after the blooms are spent. You could end up not enjoying the wonderful foliage of your hydrangeas for the remainder of the year and less and smaller blooms next year, not to mention drooping stems/canes, leaving your gorgeous hydrangea looking limp, sickly and a cluttered mess in your plant beds and landscape.

If you wish to leave the pruning to me, I will also remove non-producing/dead stems and unwanted ground-growth and weeds from the base while not damaging any new canes. Depending on the individual plant, its location and your desires, we may be able to do some shaping as well.

If so, please contact me using the CONTACT US form to the right or call Doug at 803-553-5757.

There are other hydrangeas:

  • Lacecap and Mountain - both in the macrophylla species along with the Mophead
  • Panicle
  • Smooth
  • Oakleaf
  • Climbing

Some Hydrangea Tips

  • They do not like really wet feet regardless of what some say about hydra being in its name - not true. Hydrangea is a modern Latin word derived from two Greek words meaning water vessel and has to do with the shape of its seed capsule.
  • Afternoon leaf wilt may occur during the hotter months, but is usually not detrimental and the leaves will recover overnight. This wilt will usually occur in hot conditions and in direct sunlight, but even in dappled light with temperatures over 90 degrees. The beautiful big leaf varieties don't have the safeguard incorporated in their leaves like most other plants and allow the release of too much moisture. If you wish, apply some water to the base of the plant, not the leaves (Plants do not take in water through their leaves.), do not drown it and watch it slowly recover. You may wish to change your watering schedule for big leaf hydrangeas to late afternoon or early evening as to not over-water it correcting for the wilting.
  • Some hydrangeas can be quite finicky when transplanted, even from pot to ground. You may want to monitor them more than those cast iron plants you just threw in the dirt.
  • Some young hydrangeas may not produce new blooms the first year even if they did while in a pot.
  • If the other plants in your bed are healthy and the leaves and stems of your hydrangea look healthy, don't go throwing fertilizer at them; particularly Bloom Booster - another gardening myth.

Whichever species you have, I hope you enjoy them. They are wonderful plants.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Thank You...So Sincerely

I began sending thanks to all our customers around mid-year, each year, several years ago.

Yet, this is obviously, beyond mid-year. My fault.

This year has not been so different for me because of Covid-19 or much else, except for the wettest winter (January and February) this area has experienced in recorded history.

Our last winter (2019) doubled the year before as I had begun to educate so many about how much can be done and perhaps, should be done, during the winter months, particularly, our warm winter months here in the Midlands.

It was fun and we accomplished so much without sweating our asses off. So many took care of their plant and landscape concerns without waiting until the warmer growing season months, when maintenance, just keeping up, precedes true plant care.

It simply was an entirely different winter this year, ever.

Enough of that. This year, since and thus far, we have taken on many new relationships, while taking on many new challenges with old and wonderful relationships.

Each plant is my sole customer at the moment, while the property owner is my ultimate customer. I do my best to keep this perspective. Communication between both parties, in regard to the third, the plants, is key.

I am constantly trying to structure offerings to address the different needs of customers, while continually studying arboriculture and horticulture, and addressing/researching situations unfamiliar. That's my calling.

Further, in regard to Covid-19, for which we have all heard quite enough; I have had friends, family and customers quarantined for possible exposure - some tested positive, most negative - no severe illnesses, no fatalities.

I make no assumptions for what you or others are enduring, but a friend of mine, whose father was dying, not from Covid-19, was shuffled around to places for which no personal contact was allowed. They knew his fate and only had the opportunity to spend time with him during his last week in hospice. We should all be allowed to choose/acknowledge our circumstance and how we and our families deal with it.

Again, enough of that. I am grateful.

The upcoming fall months are filled with opportunities to restore our landscapes, create new areas or rediscover lost ones, and to install new plants and plant beds. Or, to simply refine, revive, or clean up what has been ignored. It's so rewarding, whether performed over a few days, or a few weeks or months.

Let's have a fantastic finish to this year, not so much looking forward to the next, but living, truly enjoying this one and celebrating it.

Thank you, to you all.

I threw this video in just because it just feels so good. You may remember the words if you remember the original by Joni Mitchell. Oh, I threw that one in as well.

Have a Fantastic Year!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Every Little Step We Take...Another Step

You may have never read about or have seen the property which spawned our Every Little Step We Take practice when it comes to restoring properties over time, taking advantage of existing plants, modifying layouts and introducing new plants (if need be), vignettes and points-of-view - perhaps, even some basic hardscaping.

This requires some patience. I have plenty of such for various reasons and a little from the customer helps, which most have plenty of as they slowly see the changes and the beautification of their property.

I worked on the front yard of this property (see related link below), which is heavily shaded, but there was so much potential for the back yard which had been treated as shaded for so long although the several tall pines had grown, dropped their lower branches and allowed for so much more sunlight. It was pretty much a yard of pine straw and the customer was paying to have it put down regularly.

This inspired me to install the curved lawn which is so much an accent to the plants and beds (see related link below) while, in and of itself, captures the eye.

I had spent months, over time, pruning trees and shrubs before addressing all this - first things first. Then we began looking at dealing with content and structure.

Most of the plants you see are existing plants, many transplanted, although I have brought in a few - purple pixie loropetalum, sunshine ligustrum, coleus, farfugium, hosta and a red hydrangea along the side of the home. I have yet to plant the vitex tree and golden mop cypress in the beds in the back...soon.

Hydrangeas, which can be so finicky, if only transplanted a few feet, are all doing well.


This customer, although on the most-wanted-list of mosquitoes is very diligent at watering all her new plants, in-ground or potted. She is becoming a plant person, slowly.

We also took advantage of one of the many shepherd hooks (and other metal things I found lying on or in
the ground - it's dangerous back here). It's now used in the smaller bed for sunpatiens.

The property had so much potential and it also had tons of monkey grass - still does. Most of where it is, it works.

But, it was also in the midst of plant beds where it didn't belong and seemed to be the only previous answer for borders. Oh yeah, and brick.

I transplanted all the cast iron plants which were towering over the deck, acting as a border, along the exposed side of older, rustic and unique shed and then filled in the existing monkey grass deck border with more monkey grass.

There is still more monkey grass to be removed and transplanted or discarded. If this was a small back yard one would feel overwhelmed by monkey grass, but there are still some shaded areas and it does serve as a nice ground cover.

Other areas of the property have and are being addressed and we have added new plants in various locations. But, there are still many other small projects to be done, some review and adjustments and then there is the plethora of brick and stone throughout (enough to build a small home), which most, may simply need a new home.

Another step, yet a long way from where this property was.

Related Links:

Every Little Step We Take - Landscaping Projects
Bend it Like Beckham - A Fun Sod Job