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The Word / The Web

Information really is at your fingertips, whether thumbing through pages or tapping at the computer keyboard. This column will help direct you, both at the bookstore and on the Internet, to sources that will make life easier in and around the home.

March 21, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH

A to Z: Frances Tenenbaum's "Taylor's Dictionary for Gardeners" ($25, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997).

Freddie Olmsted?: This 351-page book may appeal more to the professional or serious horticulturist than to the weekend gardener. Who else would be interested in Frederick Law Olmsted? (The prominent landscape designer in the 1800s created Manhattan's Central Park.)

Still, even the hobbyist can learn stuff useful for a Saturday afternoon. Besides defining arcana such as gibberllin (a plant hormone that can be artificially applied to affect flowers and fruit size) and Buxus (the botanical name for boxwood), the dictionary gives planting advice, shows landscaping schemes, describes diseases and explains tools.

It's a convenient, easy-to-maneuver reference of more than 2,000 entries, from Abies (the botanical name for fir) to zygomorphic (an irregular flower with bilateral symmetry). A plus are nearly 300 drawings of plants and flowers.

Localized: Cindy McNatt puts together "Orange County's Garden Notebook" ($4.50, [714] 731-1697) and recently published the 1998 issue.

The 30-page mini-magazine tells what's going on each month. The San Clemente 46th Annual Flower Show is April 18-19, and the Green Scene Show is at the Fullerton Arboretum on April 25-26.

There are listings of nurseries, public gardens and other local resources. Brief articles, such as "Roses: The Whole Truth" by Roger's Gardens rosarian Stuart Span, are scattered about, along with a few simple line drawings.

The Web

Nailing it: Eager to tackle that home project all on your lonesome? A pair of Web sites that can help.

Measuring up: What separates Home Ideas (www.homeideas.com) from similar sites is a cool area that lets you know how much of any given material you'll need for a job.

Say you want to carpet a room. All you do is type in the length and width of the area plus the price of the carpet per square yard, hit the estimate button, and wait for the figures to come up. There are similar calculators for wallpaper, insulation, wallboard, concrete and fencing, among others.

Detailed help can be found on dozens of topics including appliances, electricity, building materials, doors and windows, bathrooms, paint . . . the list goes on. Another valuable feature is a chat room where you can get advice from other visitors or just complain about that never-ending job you've taken on.

You are not alone: DoItYourself.com (www.doityourself.com) proudly states that "this site has been developed by do-it-yourselfers for do-it-yourselfers."

Just about every subject is covered, from weatherstrip to energy efficiency to what to do about odors, from refrigerators to (no kidding) skunks.

After clicking on the link to plaster repairs, a few pages of straightforward info came up for both small and big jobs.

One tip: To ensure a plaster touch-up dries quickly enough during damp days, use a blow dryer. But don't overdo it; drying the area too quickly can leave spidery cracks.

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