The History of Cupolas

Good Directions Cupola and WeathervaneCupolas are both ornamental and functional in design. They are placed on top of domes or roofs and provide ventilation and natural light. This natural light is great for attics and loft spaces. The word cupola comes from a Latin term “little cupo” or little dome. Cupolas are made from an assortment of materials, which include aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and vinyl. The tops of the cupolas can be covered in either traditional shingles or copper.

The Humble Beginning of the Cupolas

Cupolas began to appear in Islamic architecture around the 8th century. These first cupolas were very large and contained one or more balconies by which criers would call for prayer. These large cupolas were placed on top of minarets.

Later on, these architectural structures were not limited to government building but could be found on homes in the Middle East and India.

Later on, nomadic Moors brought them to Europe by way of Spain. Cupolas are very prevalent in Bavarian and Austrian churches where the domed roofs topped with cupolas prevented snow from accumulating and collapsing the structure.

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What Time is It? The History of the Sundial

sundialSun clocks or sundials are the oldest device known to man that was and still are used to tell time.  The principle behind a sundial is very simple.  As the sun rotates around the earth and moves from east to west, it casts a shadow.  This shadow is then used to predict time.

Ancient Sundials

Egyptians were the first ones to use sundials.  These beginning time telling devices consisted of a t-shaped cross ban with a vertical stick.  This stick was marked with five lines that represented five hours.  In the morning, the stick was placed facing east and measured the next five hours.  Afternoon times were measured by moving the stick so that if faced the west.

Later on, obelisks were built by the Egyptians and Babylonians that were used to calculate time.  These structures were very important in the calculation of the longest and shortest days of the year.

Eventually, smaller, more portable sundials were designed that resembled smaller versions of the obelisk.

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The History of Rain Chains and How to Use Them

rain_chainRain chains are a wonderful addition to any landscape. They can add sound and direct water in a stylish way while meshing cultures.

Rain chains have a unique history that starts in Japan several hundred years ago.  In this culture they were called ‘Kusari doi” and were used as both a decorative element for downspouts in both temples and homes.

Later on, rain chains appeared in the American culture when the 1998 Winter Olympics were held at Nagano, Japan.

In both of these situations, rain chains were used to enhance the sound of the water running out of the gutter.  This sound element not only tied into the Japanese-style of landscape design but also utilized the vertical realm, which in many landscapes is underused.

Rain chains come in many different forms but three common styles exist.  The first style can come in two sections and can be personalized according to ones interest, zodiac or style.  The first section is referred to as the leader.  This leader tops the chain itself, which also can have a design element.  This chain can consist of simple links or can be broken down into sections that are separated by other design elements such as teacups and flowers.

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The History of the Home Conservatory

orangerie-gardensHome conservatories are a general term that can also include orangeries and greenhouses.  While many individuals may feel that conservatories are a relatively new concept they really are not.

The history of these structures starts out in the early times of the ancient Chinese and Roman Empires.  Both of these cultures were exploring the world in the great age of Exploration and needed a way of protecting fragile plants from the cold winds of winter.  Conservatories provided this protection.  These decorative glass houses provided not only protection but also a way of stylishly displaying ones exotic plant material.

At this point, the structures begin to become more specialized with the collection of citrus fruits.  This type of plant material collection moved from Italy northward toward Holland.  The Dutch then took the Italian orangerie design and made it more sophisticated.  This splendid development can be seen at Louis XIV’s orangerie at Versailles.

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Staging the Landscaping for a Quick Sale and Sanity Preservation

curb_appealIt’s a little hard to imagine spring while most of the country digs out from under feet, not inches, of snow. However, before you know it, spring will arrive at our doorstep, and that signals the beginning of house-selling season. Sellers, it’s time to stage your landscape for potential buyers. In this market, all other things being approximately equal—square footage, interior layout, amenities, etc.,—the landscape can close the deal—or kill it.

Staging the landscape goes far beyond curb appeal. While curb appeal is critical in getting potential buyers to your front door, your property will sell on its merits and proper pricing. According to the Journal of Environmental Horticulture, you receive a return of $1.35 for every $1 you spend on the landscaping.

Many homeowners consider the patio and backyard an extension of the house. When properly staged, a hospitable outdoor environment is an additional selling point for those buyers.

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DIY Amazing Maze or Labyrinth Garden

labyrinth2Labyrinths and mazes have their beginning in European countries where Kings and Dukes would petition a labyrinth or maze for their castle.  But in recent times, labyrinths have found their way to spas, hospitals, and retreats where mental exercise or contemplation is needed.  Mazes on the other hand, have been used by farmers to create agritourism opportunities, parks as an attraction, and even in the common home landscaping.  But to create your own labyrinth or maze one must understand the difference.

Labyrinths are typically designed to define a sacred space that has one entrance/exit.  The paths are designed to go in one direction and lead to a predetermined destination.  While an individual walks along the path mediation and contemplation occurs.  The goal of a labyrinth is not how one gets to the predetermined destination but instead the journey itself.

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The Mysterious Silica transparencii or Bottle Tree

10 Bottle tree closeupThere does exist a very rare and magical tree that can be found worldwide but is very hard to find for any botanist or forester.  What could this tree species be?  Well it is the illusive Bottle Tree (Silica transparencii), which translated means clear glass.  This tree species has many different cultivars that range from The Pride of Kentucky which is a tree that is all green to Uncle Sam that has a red, white, and blue color scheme.  But the most valued of all the bottle trees is the Cobalt Goddess, which is all blue.  But where did this tree originate?

The bottle tree has a simple beginning that started in Northern Africa where glass was first made around 3500 B.C.  Then in 1600 B.C. individuals in Egypt began to make hollow bottles.  Then in Alexandria around 100 A.D. clear glass bottles began to be produced.

During this same time period, in the Kongo, natives were honoring the dead through their tree altars.  These altars were set up at the gravesite by the relatives of the deceased.  Family members would bring plates shaped like mushrooms and hang them on these tree altars.  From these tree altars, the concept of the bottle tree was born in the ninth century.

Bottles throughout history have had a unique importance as far as capturing evil spirits.  Stories of moaning coming from bottles started to appear in many different texts.  It was believed that evil spirits, bottle imps, or haints could be trapped inside bottles.  These bottles could be corked and thrown in the water.  This would kill the evil spirits.   This in turn moved to the bottle tree and the belief grew that evil spirits would get trapped inside the bottle during the night and when the sun rose would be killed.

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Designing a Nontraditional Lawn

2succulent-landscapeThere exist two schools of thought when it comes to mowing the lawn. One school of thought is the dread of having to mow the lawn. The amount of time that is wasted doing this chore is viewed as a negative when it comes to homeownership.  The second school of thought is one of pure joy.  The thought of being outside in the fresh air, getting exercise, and the feeling of accomplishment makes having a lawn worth it.  But what can the homeowner do who dreads the first day of spring and the thought of another mowing season or the homeowner who can no longer mow the grass. The solution is to create a nontraditional grassless lawn.

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DIY Meditation Garden

night__firepitMerriam-Webster defines meditation as the act or process of spending time in quiet thought or the act or process of meditating, but in the modern stress filled life that all of us seem to be in, meditation means just a few minutes to ourselves. Meditation has been found to aid in the treatment of depression, reduces blood pressure, and can help clear the mind for the next task at hand so it is important to have a special place that can be dedicated or at least multi-purposed for meditation.

Any outdoor space can be converted into a meditation garden. Backyard, patios, and even an apartment balcony can become a meditation garden with a few basic elements. Meditation garden elements are made up of the four earth elements of water, wind, fire, and earth. Water elements consist of a small fountain, bowl of water, or even a stream. Wind elements are not as simple as placing an item in the environment. Plant material that blows in the wind such as native grasses is one possible component along with wind chimes and windsocks. The fire element while literally can be a decorative outdoor fireplace or fire pit but can also be interpreted as candlelight. But for safety, if candles are used, only light when present and place them in enclosed glass containers such as mason jars or LED lights. The earth element is the most flexible of all the elements. It consists of anything made from earth bound material. This includes plant material dead and/or alive, stone, or wood just to name a few.

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Exploring the Benefits of Using Gas For Patio Heating

Patio ComfortYour patio is one of the most comfortable places in your home, where relaxation and memories happens every day.  Patio heaters are a fantastic way to extend the “open hours” on your patio allowing you to spend more time in that cozy space.  Available in a wide variety of styles, you can pick up a patio heater that runs on electric heat, propane or natural gas.

These machines have a primary heat source that is distributed over your patio space using radiant heat.  This design makes the unit safe and comfortable to be near.  You’ll generally get around 300 square feet of warm space, plenty large enough for a group of friends or family.

The power of your patio heater will determine the area that is heated and these products come in different shapes and designs.  An efficient and economical choice, natural gas patio heaters deliver a host of benefits as well as hours of warmth and comfort to your family.  Discover why they may be the best choice for your backyard.

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