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The secret to a healthy garden: Let Mother Nature do the work


Patricia Larenas/Special to the Town Crier
A balanced and healthy yard includes edibles and California native and non-native plants.

By adopting certain practices and designing your garden to include key plant types, you can take advantage of so-called ecosystem services that build a healthy garden.

Ecosystem services are things that nature provides when the right conditions are met. The most important ecosystem services for home gardeners are pest control, pollination, soil fertility through decomposition of organic matter (composting), healthy soil leading to healthy plants, ambient climate control, moisture retention (less watering), food production and even remediation (breakdown) of harmful contaminants. I would add to the list the beauty and sense of well-being that gardens bring to our lives.

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Long live the lawn: Los Altos native offers drought-resistant strategies


Bill Steiner’s grass is green, left, even amid the drought. He followed Max Todd’s water and maintainence instructions after having his lawn aerated, Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Green lawns are not necessarily on the endangered list during the drought, according to Max Todd, a Los Altos native who owns Fairway Lawn Service.

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Buckwheats: Iconic plant of the West


Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Buckwheats are always alive with pollinators and beneficial insects. These plants can range from compact cushions under a foot high to imposing 7-foot-high shrubs.

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Plant placement is important


Courtesy of Mary Dateo
The tree species pictured above and below make great 40-foot trees but not such great foundation plants.

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Artist's downsizing sparks creativity


Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Suzanne Barnett, above, a resident at The Forum, turned a bedroom into a workshop and office. Barnett’s home, left, features eclectic furnishings, including a mannequin whose dress is made of eyeglass lenses, below left, and a see-through, hand-painted side table with bracelets for the legs, below. Her collection of “assemblage art” covers her unit at The Forum, bottom left, proving that downsizing did not stifle her creativity.

Artist and TV host Suzanne Barnett has produced 1,200 shows for KMVT over the years, but perhaps she should have a camera focused on the new home she created for herself at The Forum Retirement Community in Cupertino.

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How to keep your home safe this summer

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Replace your lawn and create memory-making spaces


Mary Dateo/Special to the Town Crier
Weeping Santa Rosa Plum, dwarf Nectarine, Woodland Strawberries and herbs add beauty to the garden as well as food.

Several years ago, a cousin who lives near Cannes surprised me by serving an al fresco breakfast on her patio. That became one of my favorite memories of France and inspired me to steal some space from my lawn to expand the dining area in my yard to give family and friends a similar treat. Many of my houseguests have since told me that our al fresco meal was one of the things they most remember from their stay.

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