Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Silver Vase, Inc. Gives Back to Its Community

Silver Vase, Inc., a leading grower of orchids and bromeliads, has recently reached out to non-profit, philanthropic organizations as a way of giving back to the community the company’s employees call home. Here are just two recent sponsorships worth mentioning…

A recent event sponsored by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) in Tallahassee, Fla., hoped to boost recognition for the horticulture industry through education and political leadership. Silver Vase, Inc. donated hundreds of exotic plants to help decorate the event as a way of supporting the importance of beautifying the Earth through the floriculture and horticulture industries.

Silver Vase, Inc. was also a proud sponsor of this year’s 7th Annual FedEx / St. Jude Angels and Stars Gala for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The event was a great success according to event specialist, Paola Cassana, and helped keep Danny Thomas’ dream alive that, “No child should die in the dawn of life.” St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is renowned for its contributions to finding cures for cancer and other diseases that affect children through cutting-edge research as well as providing superior patient care under one roof.

During a tough time for many of us… it’s nice to hear a few heart-warming stories.

~ Leslie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Never Too Late for a Good Thing

So, it was spring… and then you blinked your eyes (It’s okay, I did, too), and now it’s practically summer.

You’ve probably added a few new plant delights to the garden, watched a few of your perennials re-bloom, and maybe added an accessory or two. But, all of a sudden it’s mid-JUNE (what exactly happened to May, I wonder?), and the garden is just not quite yet where you want it to be. I know mine is definitely not.

Well, don’t worry. There’s still plenty of plant material available at your local garden center that will survive the heat of summer. In fact, some plants can still provide blooms for months to come and even bring you a burst of fall interest.

A theme with me lately is selecting plants that are bred and trialed specifically for my region. It’s just a good indicator that the plants you purchase will really flourish in your unique climate. Some national plant brands do test their products all over the U.S. and can be trusted to offer quality plant material that will thrive in multiple climates. Oftentimes, a local grower is a great way to go when purchasing reliable plants just for your garden.

Garden Splendor
is a regional plant brand that selects and grows only the best plants for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions available at local independent garden centers. I know them well, since I help assess and write about these plants.

Garden Splendor even has a special yearly plant line it identifies as Showcase Varieties which epitomize the best of breeding and beauty in a plant for their region. This year, the horticulturists have selected eight such plants deemed worthy of this title:
1. Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem'
2. Dicentra 'Candy Hearts'
3. Echinacea 'Tiki Torch'
4. Penstemon 'Red Riding Hood’
5. Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'
6. Salvia 'Eveline'
7. Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
8. Veronica 'Purpleicious'

The two images above are my favorites, the recently award-winning Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’ (Left) and a hardy variety that provides colorful interest nearly all year, Sedum 'Angelina' (Right). However, they are all beauties, so definitely check them out. And, if you’re in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, listen-up for Garden Splendor on radio gardening programs such as WOR / Garden Hotline with host, Ralph Snodsmith, and Paul Parent Gardening Club with host, Paul Parent!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Relating Plants to Spa Treatments

You know how it feels when you walk into a spa or nice restaurant, and you are instantly turned into the belle of the ball (or prince, as the case might be)? All the selections are suddenly tailored per your tastes and preferences.

What skin type are you? – “No problem, we’ll find the perfect treatment.” What type of food do you enjoy? – “Oh, might I suggest the perfect wine with your seared tuna?”

I’m like most women … I love to be spoiled. And, if I find a product or retailer that does it particularly well, chances are, I’ll go back – a lot. For example, I have been with my bank for 10 years and my hair stylist for six because they are always reliable. Yet, I have owned three cars from three separate companies and will never buy from any of them again. I simply haven’t been satisfied.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when you find a new product that has both superior customer service and quality. We all know how profitable it is to retain current customers as opposed to constantly searching for new ones, and many businesses have made it their goal to tailor products so consumers do not have to guess whether a product or experience will be positive.

J. Berry Nursery, a professional plant grower based right outside of Dallas, TX, has used this philosophy to directly effect how and what they sell. All plants with a J. Berry Nursery tag have been tested and trialed in specific areas for unique climates. The company only sells its plants in the exact regions for which the plants were grown. In this way, plants from brands such as these are similar to visiting a spa – the experience will be gloriously relaxing because you know you are purchasing something tailored just for you. Seems simple, but it’s so often overlooked.

Here are just a few of J. Berry Nursery’s high-quality plants available to those of you who may be planting a garden in Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma (enjoy!):

‘Crown Jewel’ Gardenia – Possesses an extremely compact, dwarf, spreading habit and is hardier than most gardenias. Heavy June flowering will cover this plant in soft, fragrant, white, double blossoms that require little to no pruning. It works well in mass, in containers, or as a low accent plant in the garden.

‘Petite Rouge™’ Photinia – ‘Petite

Rouge™’ is the most compact photinia, ideal for small spaces or mass plantings. It is also highly resistant to the leaf spot disease that plagues most other photinia varieties. New growth is vibrant red. This plant is very low maintenance due to its compact growth habit and disease resistance.

‘Déjà Bloom™’ Hydrangea – ‘Déjà Bloom™’ is a compact, re-blooming

hydrangea with dark green leaves. It is a beautiful plant perfect for many uses and applications in the landscape. This hydrangea is the only re-blooming hydrangea with double flowers!

Alright, all this talk has made me want to garden… and get a pedicure.

~ Leslie

Monday, June 1, 2009

More of Our Preferred Trends and Products from K/BIS…

After uncovering some incredible kitchen and bath product trends at the K/BIS show in Atlanta – and as a follow-up to our initial trade show blog post – here – we wanted to share a second round of insights. Here is our take on several more companies that displayed innovative products at the show…


With more and more of us downsizing, or simply trying to make the most of our available spaces, home organization is king!

The Häfele Omni Track system is a way for all of us to get better organized. A disorganized garage can be a thing of the past.

When we were at their show exhibit booth, Häfele Marketing Coordinator Skye Russell explained how the Omni Track system coordinates everything by seamlessly integrating with cabinet handles, levelers and shelf stiffeners. The sturdy wall track provides the needed flexibility to either be hung on the wall as a single track, or stacked to accommodate larger items.

Unlike peg hooks that come out of pegboard when an item is removed, these hooks are positioned on the track and “locked” with Cover Caps. This feature allows for easy repositioning, yet the “locking” feature of the Cover Caps restricts the hooks from coming off the track when items are lifted off for use.

The design of Omni Track allows the collection to be utilized in many areas of the home and seems to be a means to organize even the most cluttered spaces.


Haier America has three new washers as well as new electric and gas dryers, part of the company’s Encore line.

We were impressed by the fact Haier’s Dual Drive technology ensures clothes come out looking brighter and cleaner, while using significantly less water and energy – a great bonus in today’s energy- and water-conscious society.

The high efficiency GWT950AW features a spacious, stainless steel non-agitator tub with that ever-so-popular brushed-silver display that everyone likes. Proper settings are available for every load, which means no more wasted water on small loads.

In addition to saving water, Haier’s Dual Drive technology improves timing on the quick cycle. Additionally, the Dual Drive system keeps clothes tumbling rapidly so they do not intertwine, which can stretch them. This optimizes performance and helps maintain the appearance and shape of shirts and other items. We noticed a trend towards the latest and best technology in washing and drying at the show, with new and interesting function and form on all fronts.

Haier’s 20.6 Cu. Ft. Counter Depth Refrigerator (PBFS21EDAS) has plenty of room for all the food of a large household, and would clearly bring classic style and appealing order to most any kitchen.

The increasingly popular French door design places whatever is needed at eye level, and also provides that ever-important benefit of energy conservation, since the big doors are not the only way to reach desired items. Kitchen designers we know and with whom we work will love this frig!

Easy-access freezer drawers store frozen meats in the large lower drawer, while other items are easily accessed in the conveniently located upper drawer. I like the Express Chill and Express Freeze features, which preserve food quality by rapidly bringing groceries down to optimum storage temperature.


The concept of ‘mis en place’ (everything has its own place) is successfully integrated in Kohler Co.’s new Karbon articulating kitchen faucet. This model combines industry-focused technology with the design needs of today’s homeowner.

This faucet has all the versatile mobility of a pull-down faucet. While the concept of a pull-down faucet is not new, five pivoting joints of the Karbon faucet allow the user to precisely position – and keep – the water stream exactly where it is needed. This kind of streamlined functionality and ease-of-use was widely noticeable at the show.

Additionally, the faucet offers both spray and aerated water flow options, eliminating the need for a sidespray. All finishes are available in deck- and wall-mount models.

Their new line of Stages kitchen sinks was inspired by professional chefs. In much the same way professionals in other industries help shape product design, professional chefs helped develop this new line. These products provide efficiency and beauty.

From prep and cooking to cleanup, the Stages kitchen sink has been designed to integrate all related tasks around the sink area. These professionals partnered with KOHLER designers to essentially create a hybrid of home and restaurant kitchen sinks. Builders looking to impress a wide range of homeowners should consider this as an option that allows for commercial-quality kitchen appeal.

This sink is different from so many others out there, due to the number of culinary tools that are actually included with the sink purchase. Among these, is a utensil tray, which is perfect for organizing ladles, knives and other accessories used during the cooking process or to soak utensils when cleaning. A dual-sided flip tray serves as both a cutting board and serving tray, and also included is a separate cutting tray to keep the kitchen area more sanitary. Possibly, one of the best features is a wire rack that protects the sink’s basin, while providing a surface for cleaning and drying dishes.

AMBA Products / Beyerle

Bath accessories have become one of the hottest segments in the home and hotel furnishings market. Products such as Amba Products’ Jeeves Collection offers a number of fashionable towel warmers, to keep users comfy. Models are all stainless steel and include straight, curved and shelf configurations, and are available in Polished, Brushed, White and Oil-Rubbed Bronze finishes. I have used towel warmers before, and let me say, it is nice!

Beyerle’s sliding doors hardware combines the best of fashion-forward design with home functionality. For the truly progressive among us, imagine a bedroom or other room adorned with a non-traditional door using these handsome fitments. Styles include Flatec I, Flatec II (pictured), Unotec, Duetec, and Tritec in my favorite, brushed nickel finishes. Sliding door hardware is also available for glass doors, as well. Since sliding doors are growing in popularity, interior designers we’ve talked to and work with are taking note of this kind of innovation, replacing more traditional doors in room re-designs and renovations.


Robern’s great new Uplift mirrored cabinet is yet another shining example of a successful marriage of functionality and style in the bathroom. The Uplift cabinets feature a door that opens vertically. This offers both the aesthetics of a seamless mirror and flexible storage and design options.

As its name implies, the sleek mirrored door of the cabinet opens upward, allowing the seamless mirror to span up to four feet wide. An aluminum handle allows users to easily lift the door and avoid smudging the mirror. It’s position-hold feature allows it to remain in a partially open position.

The Uplift cabinet provides storage solutions for many of the diverse items kept in a bathroom. If a homeowner needs to store makeup, supplies, and medications, etc., the Uplift cabinet includes an option for a flexible organizer shelf with moveable sections. What’s the coolest part? This cabinet offers outlets for up to six electronic devices. It’s also easy to find whatever is needed, since Uplift’s interior lighting turns on as soon as the door is opened.

Another great feature about the Uplift cabinet is the ability to install televisions and radios in bathrooms by using an optional TV mount for an LCD television. Additionally, because people tend to lean into their mirrors to shave or apply makeup, the Uplift cabinet features an optional pull-out 3X magnifying mirror, which creates less ergonomic stress. What a great idea! We didn’t realize there was so much to mirror-cabinet innovation until we came across Robern at the show.


TOTO USA’s new NEOREST Bath Collection exemplifies distinctive design and advanced technology. It is so distinctive; it won the Prestigious RedDot International Design Award. Components of this new collection include:

  • NEOREST II Wall-Hung Dual Flush Integrated Toilet and Personal Cleansing System
  • NEOREST II Shower System with GyroStream

The NEOREST II’s toilet no longer sits on the floor; it is now mounted on the wall. This low-flow toilet features an in-wall tank carrier which creates a streamlined look in any bathroom. The NEOREST II toilet incorporates TOTO’s translucent epoxy resin, LUMINIST, on its push plate, which keeps it consistent with the design of the Collection’s lavatory and soaker tub.

When they say “bathed in light,” they really mean it. Through the surface of the NEOREST II Lavatory, an embedded LED light radiates through to create a glowing atmosphere. Also made out of LUMINIST, the NEOREST II lavatory has the translucent qualities of glass combined with exceptional durability, heat resistance, and scratch-resistance of marble. Traditional “Hot” and “Cold” faucets have been replaced by an elegant, super-slim spout that is positioned at the near corner (closer to the body than traditional tap handles) for ease of use. In addition, it provides instant, precise control of water temperature.

As with the lavatory, the NEOREST Soaker is distinguished by its use of TOTO’s custom hybrid epoxy resin. Bathed in light and warm water, users will experience true tranquility, thanks to the experience that is provided by the gentle light diffusing through the LUMINIST soaker.

When the lights are switched on, the tub gently glows, encompassing the bather in a soothing aura of white light. In daylight, the LUMINIST soaker takes on the appearance of translucence. I bet that is a sight to behold!

Okay, so in exploring TOTO, we were faced with the question, “Ever feel like taking a bath AND a shower at the same time?” TOTO makes it possible in the NEOREST shower. Water flows from one or a combination of sources – an overhead shower, a six-nozzle body shower, or a hand-shower. Water comes from every direction! This shower system is furnished with one-touch shower control and remote control auto-drain.

GyroStream is TOTO’s new water technology that brings the relaxing qualities of a bath to the shower. When equipped with GyroStream, the shower system’s water flows through nozzles that tilt and rotate. This allows for more consistent water distribution. Whole-body drenching encases the individual in warm water, as if she or he were in a bath, and keeps the bather cozy, warm, and relaxed, even if the room temperature is cool.

Wow. I can’t believe how far some of these companies have taken the bathroom experience. With these products, homeowners can truly escape into oasis-like bathrooms, and the designers and builders who create these spaces will be on the top of the “most sought-after home-planners’ list.”

These are just a few more of the many impressive product and design trends we uncovered at K/BIS 2009. Like those in our first K/BIS blog, (or any other blog post we’ve done, for that matter), feel free to let me know if any of these products / companies are of interest. Between our clients and some of the other great companies we know, we will continue to blog in the coming weeks and months about some of this year’s newest and most coveted products in the Home, Garden, Design, and Agribusiness Industries.

If you are a designer, builder or member of the media, please post your thoughts and questions. What do you think of the gamut of home improvement to luxury design available in today’s changing home market?

~ Doug (