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Cottage Gardens Adapt to 'Burbs

February 17, 2001|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BOOKS

Think of Great Britain and what comes up? The Tower of London, waving royalty, soccer hooligans? Cottage gardens might not be on the top of the list, but Stephen Westcott-Gratton

feels they're one of the country's most remarkable features. His "Creating a Cottage Garden in North America" ($30, Fulcrum Publishing, 2000) tells you why they're special and how to raise one of your own.

Westcott-Gratton notes cottage gardens have been a fixture in rural England for centuries,

started by peasants who grew plants in small areas to feed livestock. Later, fruits and flowers were added, and these gardens, following careful design patterns, became known for their variety and richness of color and fragrance.

It's "a profusion of flowering plants and produce, all growing together in a glorious jumble," the author gushes. "This arrangement suits our needs . . . since English cottages had about the same amount of garden space as do modern homes in many urban centers."

He then tells which greenery works best (there's a good section on the hardiest flowers), how to set up the space and ways to ensure the garden prospers year-round. Things to consider include wind, altitude, rainfall, soil, crop rotation (yep, even if your area is tiny), pests and diseases.

The Eco-Friendly Edifice

Daniel D. Chiras stresses ideas in his "The Natural House" ($35, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2000) that would challenge most traditional contractors, but anyone who's eco-friendly (and why wouldn't you be?) should pay attention. He's all about finding ways to conserve resources when building a home.

Many of his plans seem radical, even revolutionary, but Chiras points out they've been used for centuries. He explores using materials such as straw bales, Papercrete (made from recycled newspapers) and Cast Earth (liquid earth poured into forms), among others, for construction. Beyond these techniques, his book is a rallying cry to protect the environment.

THE WEB: Allergies? Curb Fido, Fight Mites

In an e-mail, a Santa Ana reader mentions she's been plagued by home-based allergies for years. It's a common complaint, often requiring a doctor's help and medication. But before making an appointment, you can get good information and several related Web links at the American Lung Assn.'s site http://(www.lungusa.org/asthma/asthomecon.html).

The association notes the most common allergy triggers at home are pets (and some pests such as cockroaches), mold and dust. Serious allergy sufferers probably shouldn't have dogs or cats, but weekly pet baths can help reduce the dander that falls from fur and skin. Also, keep pets out of the bedroom and especially off the bed. "Goldfish and other tropical fish may be a good substitute," the association says.

Dust (more specifically, microscopic dust mites--thousands can live in a pinch of dust) can be a big problem. Control dust and mites by cleaning regularly and putting mattresses and pillows in airtight covers. Wash all bedding weekly in water at least 130 degrees. Remove bedroom carpet or rugs.

Take out stuffed furniture and stuffed animals that attract dust. Take special cleaning care in closets. Because vacuums kick up dust, wear a dust mask while vacuuming. And because mites love moisture, keep rooms dry; even consider getting a dehumidifier.

As for mold, clean and dry is always a good approach. A dehumidifier could help, and at the least you should make sure problem areas have air circulation. Because mold may grow on foam pillows when you sweat, wash them weekly and get a new one every year.

Molds also form in houseplants, so you may have to put them outside.

* To have a book or Web site considered for this column, send information to: Home Design, The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Mark Chalon Smith can also be reached by e-mail at mark.smith@ latimes.com.

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