Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea

Commonly known as Tropical Sage, Hummingbird Sage, or Scarlet Sage, this beauty sports brilliant red flowers with kelly green, heart shaped leaves. A native to hardiness zones 8-11, it is a sun to part shade, low water plant worth taking a second look at.  

Tropical sage

This beauty is a constant bloomer that starts in early spring and goes on until the first hard freeze.

Considered an annual after particularly harsh winters, it will reseed readily and make a comeback every spring. While it’s hardly invasive, it may require some management over the years, but I like that it will fill in empty spaces. 


Perfect for a Xeriscape garden in light conditions from full sun to part shade. Maturing at about 2’x 2’ish, it is a hummingbird magnet that creates drama in the landscape and makes a statement in mass. 

If you’d like help with a low water, low maintenance and deer resistant plant selections in the Austin and surrounding area, contact me for an online or in person Educational Consultation or browse my blog for more great choices. 

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

Landscape Design, Stress Free (as can be)

One of the greatest values of the landscape is the sense of peace it provides. Our yards should supply privacy, sustenance, flowers, texture and a small window into nature. The more time you spend surrounded by the green, the more in touch with our planet you become.

Our landscapes are an extension of our home and an asset to our lifestyle when executed correctly. From the smallest space to the largest, a plan helps direct us to the visual we desire.

Landscape design, austin

Little Gem Magnolia Espalier

Functionally a space needs to work as well as make a statement. Rocks should be used sparingly (below they’re used for controlling erosion on a slope) and the balance should make sense with the design.

Paths should be created to make the space inviting and practical as well as to keep you and others out of the beds you’ve prepared. It’s important to lead our guests into the depths of our garden. There should be more views than just from the patio. We own the whole property so why not take advantage of unique perspectives. 

Seating in various places make the space seem larger and makes it more functional over all. Remember to use consistent materials throughout the landscape to establish continuity. Add lots of great composted soil to your beds and avoid sandy loam. 

Understated seating, native rocks and step stones blend in well with the landscape. Rocks and stepping stones are an excellent filler and once completed are little to no maintenance and a great way to eat up water hogging sod. 

In the last many years life has certainly had its share of challenges, but your landscape shouldn’t be one of them. Neither the exchange with your contractor or the process of installation should be something less than exciting. If you’re feeling pulled in and are confused about your choices, it’s time to take a step back.

Here are my top 5 points to a successful landscape with little stress and maximum rewards.

1) Don’t Let Your Contractor Twist You in Knots.

 You and your perspective contractor should be speaking pretty much the same language. From the beginning you should be getting the feeling that they’re adding to your experience and not taking away from it. If this isn’t your first reaction, keep moving; the process isn’t going to be easier during construction. Take your time and reach out to your personal sphere and neighborhood groups for solid references and let them know how you found them. This also tells them a bad review can be shared as well.

2) If It’s a “Do-it-Yourself” Project, Start Your Process in Bite-Size Pieces.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your garden won’t be either. Landscapes and successful gardens are a lesson in deferred gratification. Planning to execute over the course of several seasons can make your project more manageable, enjoyable and successful overall. Many times I encourage my clients to   start with the hardscapes (rock, stone and permanent fixtures) and move forward with the plants and mulch as you can manage it. When you install the plants, work your way “out” of the beds to avoid trampling your new soil. 

3)Choose Native and Adapted Plants and Trees Only.

Choosing indigenous plants and trees greatly reduces the stress factor when choosing plants. This also means you have to choose plants for your correct sunlight. Take photos of your space at various times of day to determine rather it’s shade, part shade, or full sun. If you can make proper selections to begin with, the stress for both you and the plants is greatly reduced. Remember Xeriscape means low water garden, not necessarily cactus and rocks. Always select deer resistant plant varieties when needed. Then leave plenty of room for each plant to grow to maturity.

4) Plan Out the Installation in Proper Order.

Hardscape such as rock, stone, metal or projects like raised beds, patios, pools, paths and pergolas should be the first part of the project. The “softscape” such as plants and lawn should be added at the very end for best results. While the plant part is very exciting, putting them in before the fence is replaced or concrete was brought in can simply mean you’ll be replacing them later.


Pace your project in the order of priority and consider the impact each aspect has on its surroundings. Planting in Central Texas should only be done in cooler temperatures that are well into the 80’s of spring and fall and trees should be planted over the fall/winter months and as late as early spring. 

5) Create a Cohesive Plan.

Use your survey to create a square foot grid and calculate the actual number of yardage for each material to see the reality of your vision. Bring in various contractors to give bids on those ideas and then execute them as the budget allows. Create a simple concept design (below) as a vision board. Reduce the variety of materials you introduce to the space as too many substrates can look chaotic.  Stone can change from the rock yard to your space so ask for samples of each material from your contractor or visit a local rock yard and take your selections home to be sure the color is correct from morning to dusk.

Design sketch

Even the most rudimentary layout can start the conversation with a contractor or give you direction for where to begin yourself. If you’re looking for something more definitive, contact an educated Landscape Designer like me to draw out a long term plan. If you have challenging topography a Landscape Architect may be required. 

Here are some landscape designs for motivation. 

And here are some finished projects that will give you ideas on materials that can be used. 

In conclusion, remember to take your time, use lots of rich composted soil in your beds and quality top soil beneath the sod. Use only native and adapted plants and trees. Start with the Hardscapes and finish the project with the softscapes for best results. Hire a contractor you trust for the difficult tasks and save the fun stuff for yourself.

Take several bids and get EVERYTHING in writing. The details matter when you’re paying good money for a product and your contract should include the full amount of materials and timing of each task. Negotiate the payment allotment in a way you feel comfortable with even if it means the contractor does small projects at a time to earn your trust. 

Make it your own, but consider the resale benefits of the changes you plan to make. Always address runoff and grading issues with intelligent design. If you’d like help with a design feel free to contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com.

Create a space you look forward to enjoying for years to come. Enjoy the ride and be thoughtful about it’s value to resale and functionality and you’ll be off to a great start. 

Happy gardening!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

 

“Garden Itis”

I suppose I truly developed garden-itis in my youth. I had a bedroom full of potted plants who were my only true friends, along with my shadow of a dog, Kenobi. She was a full blooded German Shepherd who was as loyal as she was beautiful and never told my secrets. I actually named all of my plants and could remember them but I’m still not good with people names. My Grandparents we’re avid gardeners with whom I spent a lot of time as a child, so as I grew older I ventured into outdoor gardening and became a certified rock and plant-o-haulic.

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Unfortunately, as I grew older and got on with life which was more complicated, I got a lot more “Itis’s”, and a lot more “Ologist’s” to go with them. The last 16 years of my life have been a roller coaster of pain and depression followed by weight gain and an overall crappy outlook on life.

About 8 years ago I went to my Dr., looked her dead in the eyes and told her I would decide my “shelf life” if I couldn’t find resolve. This was not the life I believed I should be living. After 12+ Doctors and hundreds of sleepless hours reading and googling my symptoms ad nauseam, I decided to radically change everything. I started eating all the good fats I could eat, I started Yoga instead of kick boxing and I went to therapy for pain management to learn how to retrain my brain. I had an undiagnosed Autoimmunity, a constellation of pain and a pretty wicked case of anxiety disorder, PTSD and on top of that I had two children with Autism. Let’s face it, I had some challenges.

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I would have loved a “Lisa Consultation” to get my mental house in order, but I had to do the groundwork while working with my limitations. In that transition, I discovered I could no longer tolerate heat, I had muscle issues, migraines, joint pain from arthritis, weird inflammatory digestive and skin reactions to things that had never been an issue and a lot of stress in my life. Even with removing the stress factor I would forever be affected by pain and I’ll never know when it’s coming…or going.

You have to do the work

 A common mistake people make is to just take the pills. This quick fix is a modern Americana horror story. At one point this Earth Momma actually had a shelf full of pills I never took more than once. I knew it was wrong for my body and I knew it was wrong for me.

No one asked me about my weight and eating habits, I would bring them up. No one asked me about my lifestyle, stress level or environment until I brought it up. During a consultation for your landscape I always tell people you have to start from the ground up, so it only makes sense to do that for ourselves when we don’t feel balanced.

I had been doing a lot of good things, I didn’t eat fast food, I don’t drink, I exercised fairly regularly, but aggressively. So I flipped the script as it were and it started a chain reaction in our home. I felt in control for the first time in a long time and it was contagious!

I reduced my responsibilities and did more of what gave me happiness. I started saying no to others and yes to myself. I removed toxic people and situations from our family life, I began only accepting clients who were a good fit for me and I got rid of my long term contractors who didn’t appreciate my value. Much like a garden, our body doesn’t like being neglected. It was an important lesson that consistency with small changes can give great rewards and even greater rewards for larger efforts.

Conclusion, much like gardening, the body has some basic hard and fast rules. You are what you eat, and even too much of a good thing can be bad. Environmental hazards are the devil and some ailments/challenges or handicaps are permanent and we are obligated to manage them as best we can for ourselves and others. It’s not always the same solution however. You have to do the work and you have to embrace the evolution that’s required for this change to come about.

Step out of your comfort zone and try something new…

In our diet, it comes down to eliminating everything we eat and start over with a limited pallet, then begin introducing new things as we can tolerate them. Eventually, you have added all that you wish and learn along the way what to avoid. The same rules apply to gardening. Less is more, and quality is everything…

When your yard is a mess, it has clearly taken you a minute to get there. When your health or life is in chaos, most times it can be traced to a few common denominators. Chemicals are not always (very seldom in fact) the answer. Our children are Autistic and have responded beautifully to chemical therapies so we would be negligent to suggest there is no purpose, but it should be the last resort, not the first.

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A landscape consultation with a low water, organic plant and landscape specialist can be a great tool to cure the problems you can’t seem to work out, but sometimes it takes a team. The internet is a wealth of information on all things gardening and you need to research organic protocols, native and adapted plants for your hardiness zone, understand the proper sunlight in your space and you need to feed your soil like all our lives depend on it. 

Compost, compost, compost 

Much like any diet or exercise regimen, it begins with a plan of attack and a basic education. You wouldn’t just take a fistful of pills without reading the label, so that applies to what you use in your yard as well. Plants, trees and organic protocols are important but so is proper technique and timing. 

Remember that Xeriscape doesn’t have to mean cactus, it means low water plants and trees. Self care doesn’t mean deprivation, it means prioritization.

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What we put the most energy into is what we get in exchange.

If your circle brings you grief, find a new one or create an outlet. If your garden is a mess, you don’t know where to begin or you have these weird little spots that give you grief, seek some input and guidance. Create a plan and routine that makes sense to you and stay true to it. Remember your garden needs vitamins, (compost), water, (plants need it once a week or less), lots of good, whole food (organic fertilizers like seaweed, Molasses and liquid compost) and rest (winter).

If you’re looking for some life changes in your health, I wish I had all the answers but much like Autism, each person is unique. If you’re looking for a health tuneup in you’re landscape, I can help but you have to be willing to do the work. If you aren’t in the Austin or surrounding area, just remember to start from the ground up, and you’ll be on the right path in no time.

If you’re anywhere in hardiness zone 8, Email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com to schedule your online or in person Landscape health checkup/Consultation or low water, Landscape Design.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you

Lisa LaPaso

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Full Sun Plants for Austin, Texas

Struggling to find full sun plants that won’t quit on the job? Here is a taste of some of the incredible Texas native and adapted plants that can really take the heat.

Furman’s Red Salvia, 3 x 3’

Salvias Greggi are not only great for sun but they’re deer resistant too. 

Pink Skullcap, 2×2’

A low mounding plant that blooms all summer and stays evergreen in the winter. 

Bearded iris 2 x 2’

Bearded Iris are Texas rough and come in a variety of colors and some are everblooming. 

Yellow Bells Esperanza 6 x 8’

Like a ray of sunshine, Yellow Esperanza loves the heat and requires little maintenance.

Gulf Muhly 3 x 3”ish

Native Grasses do great in Central Texas and soak rain deep into the soil.

Mystic Spires 2.5×2.5’

This plant is not only beautiful but feeds bees and hummingbirds.

Tropical saliva 2 x 2’

This hummingbird feeder takes from full sun to shade and provides color all summer. 

Walkers Low Catmint, 2 x 2.5’

Deer resistant, low water and evergreen. Beautiful silver foliage and lavender flowers.

Texas Betony, 2 x 2.5ish

Another hummingbird feeder that stays green all year and sports spikes of coral red flowers all summer. 

Evergreen Wisteria, 15’+

This stunning jewel of a vine is a show stopper in the landscape. Unlike the Japanese variety, it is non invasive and supports native bees and birds. 

Rock Rose Pavonia, 3 x 3’

Pink hibiscus flowers all summer long followed by leaves with fall color. Can reseed readily but is easily controlled and shared. Super low water and deer resistant.

Cinco De Mayo Rose, 4 x 4’

You may not think of roses when you think Central Texas, but you’d be wrong. There are many hardy varieties that are disease resistant and low water. Look for Earth Kind when possible. Search this blog for more varieties.

Globe Mallow, 3 x 3’

This silvery leaves beauty has coral orange flowers and interesting leaf structure that makes it a standout in the landscape. 

Daylily from 2 x 2-3 x 3’

Daylily does beautiful in hardiness zone 8 and come in a variety of colors and sizes. 

Gopher Plant 2×2’

Silver Spurge or Gopher plant is part of the Euphorbia family and loves a dry, stunner bed, excellent for xeriscape and rock gardens. Deer resistant.

Texas Fall Aster, 3 x 3’+

Fall Aster is aptly names because of its fall bloom cycle but it also blooms in the spring. Cut it back after the season and it returns right away for the next show.

Silver Sotol, 4 x 4’

Sotols, Yuccas and Agaves are also excellent sun plants if this is your bag, they produce flower spike and require little maintenance. 

Althea, Rose or Sharon from 3 x 3’ to 10 x 8’

Althea can be found in various sizes and colors and are low water, deer resistant and consistent bloomer. 

Mountain Laurel Tree, up to 25’ at a snails pace 

While a super slow grower, the Mountain Laurel is a highly coveted tree for its stunning flower display that smells like grape bubblegum. Evergreen and deer resistant.

Little Gem Magnolia, 15 x 25’

Little Gem Magnolia tree is a beautiful specimen tree that is evergreen and flowering. Growing to 25’ it is a much smaller variety than one you may be used to.

Mexican Bush Sage, 4 x 4’

This all star can be seen from HOA’s to commercial parking lots and for good reason, it loves the heat. Low water and deer resistant repeat bloomer.

Anacacho Orchid Tree, 8 x 8’ish

One of my favorite small trees for good reason. Sporting fragrant white blooms a few times from spring to fall, evergreen and deer resistant.

Skyflower Duranta 6 x 6’

Like a cascading waterfall of purple flowers followed by yellow berries, it makes a statement in the landscape. 

Moonflower Duranta 6’x6’

Stunning saucer sized white flowers that open at duck and attract Hummingbird Moths. Excellent for a moonlight garden. 

Mexican Mint Merigold 2.5 x 2.5’

Many herbs are evergreen and perennial and bloom in colors of yellow, lavender, pink and white.

Society Garlic 2 x 2’

Texas tough this baby handled snowMageddon like a boss and thrives in full sun to part shade.

Jerusalem Sage, 3 x 4’

Evergreen, deer resistant and low water. The Jerusalem Sage blooms yellow crowns of flowering bouquets on silver green foliage.

Firemans Cap Coral been 8×10’

Fire engine red flower spikes that extend over 2 feet in length. This is one you have to see to believe. Super low water and deer resistant.

Pride of Barbados 6’ x 6’

One of those plants you never forget. Super drought tolerant, deer resistant and a butterfly magnet.

Texas Sage Bush 6 x 8’

Referred to as the barometer plant for its bloom cycle just before rain. This Evergreen and deer resistant shrub is a silvery green beauty with delightful purple/lavender flowers throughout the summer months.

Desert Willow Tree 15 x 25’

A master of the Texas heat, this ever blooming tree is both elegant and notable in  the Central Texas landscape. With long narrow leaves and large pink/mauve flowers that carry fragrance throughout the space, it is one you will want to try.

Firecracker fern, 2 x 2’

Firecracker fern is a funky little plant that has really interesting Leaf text her and long tubular coral red flowers that attract hummingbirds nonstop. Semi evergreen, deer resistant and low water once established.

Thryallis Golden Showers 3 x 5’

Thryallis is one of those plants you should see everywhere but you don’t. With well-established deer resistance and profuse blooming cycles, it makes an excellent hedgerow or  specimen plant.

Edible and perennial landscape design

Edible perennial plants, trees and herbs

Last but not least, there is an abundance of food that does beautifully in full sun. Fruit trees such as peach, plum, pear, apple, persimmon and pomegranate as well as herbs such as thyme, oregano, mint and much more. Unlike tomatoes, peppers and other annual foods, these perennial plants stay evergreen or return each season.

So now that you’re inspired, incorporate some of these interesting varieties of flowering plants, trees and food into your sun gardens and enjoy them for seasons to come. If you would like help with a plant selection in the Austin area, contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com for an Educational Landscape Consultation, or complete Landscape Design!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees Deserve Respect

Owning or leasing property with saplings or mature trees is not only a gift to you, it is a gift to our planet and to our children’s future. Did you know that one mature tree produces enough oxygen for two people’s lifetimes? As if that’s not impressive enough, one mature 30 to 50’ shade tree planted on the west side of your home can save you 12% a year in energy costs.

Aside from the obvious privacy, sound barrier, oxygen giving, wildlife hosting, food bearing, flower producing and shade providing, they are people too.

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Rethink the way we look at trees

One of the most erksome books I’ve ever read was “The Giving Tree”. I read it in my early 20’s because someone gave it to me thinking I’d appreciate it, but it actually peeved me off. It was a book about a dude who took everything the tree had, chopped it to the ground and sat on its face. Who do we think we are, exactly? What was sustainable about it?

Anacacho Orchid Tree

The first time I knew who I was going to be was in third grade. We had a substitute teacher who brought in this huge projector and played ‘The Lorax’. My whole life changed that day and I’ve made a great effort to become “Lisa the Lorax” for the rest of my years. As a child I wanted to be a tree.

More to the point however, in spite of my inability to become a tree, I am able to share their message. Trees need our help. I swear if you listen, you can almost hear them crying. Truth is, they do have a heart beat that is measurable and they use their voice to send messages to one another to let them know a disease or pest is coming. In response they can literally close themselves, vessels (xylem and phloem) and leaves off to easy access. Furthermore, some trees such as oaks, release a toxin to let other plants know to back off.

Here’s what I know trees don’t like

Trees don’t want your nails, sign posts, tire swings, chain or rope swings, and they don’t want our rock piles, tree tombstones, patios and pools built up to their root flares.

This is no bueno.

Building a tombstone of bricks is a trend I’d like to see end. This tree will eventually grow right through the enclosure if it’s lucky enough to survive the foot of dirt and mulch that’s been placed over its trunk. This tree was buried alive and already showing fungal disease. 

Mulch on mature trees should be a flat ring at ground level. The tree below has mulch applied way too high up the trunk. Over time this will promote disease and pest issues. I recommend this mulch be leveled to a flat ring that exposes the base of the tree trunk where is naturally meets the ground. Make tree rings as wide as you can to eat up lawn and allow the tree some room to grow.

Solutions

I designed this space to compliment the existing trees. Beds should be flat and look like a part of the natural landscape. 

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When our trees are buried too deeply by careless builders, landscapers or years of debris, it’s our job to remove the material and allow the trees to breathe. Remember roots can grow bark but bark cannot grow roots.

When a mature tree is built around, it is imperative to create a well that maintains the natural ground level. Too many builders just fill in the hole and this is a long term death sentence for our beautiful, mature trees. I tell my clients that we all must be the advocates for our trees and you have to insist on this protocol when building on new or established properties that need to be regraded.


It’s easy to see why the older neighborhoods in Austin are so desirable. It’s not the just the convenience of location but they are also filled with shade and established trees. These trees increase the value of our homes as well as the value of our lives. 

Diversify 

In my designs I use as many varieties as I can fit into your space at varying heights. This creates a canopy of layering trees that looks more natural and creates homes and food for wildlife. 

Aside from the obvious native and adapted tree choices like Oaks, Texas or Mexican Redbud, Mexican Sycamore, Elm, Texas Ash, Buckthorn, Bigtooth Maple and others; you might also consider the many fruit trees that do well here too. 

Edible

Fruit trees for Austin

I love fruit trees as shade and flowering specimens. Peaches  pears, plums, pomegranate, persimmon and more do very well in Central Texas. Moreover, as long as you don’t have a yard full of squirrels, you will get a really nice spring flowers and a crop each year. 

Peach Trees

Flowering

One of my favorite kinds of trees is a flowering one, and we have a lot of beautiful choices besides Crepe Myrtles. If you’re a fan of Crepes make sure to choose a disease resistant variety. Those with Native American names are a good clue. If you’re seeking more native and unusual varieties, look for Desert Willow (below), Anacacho Orchid, Chitalpa, Eves Necklace, Buckeye, Palo Verde, Mexican Plum, Smoke tree, Kidneywood Tree, Mountain Laurel, Sumac or Magnolia. 

Proper Planting

Ultimately, even with the best selections the planting technique is imperative to its success.

I always recommend additives like liquid root activator and compost which promote root production before the summer heat. Deep watering for the first couple of years is also important to the success so don’t think a tree is self sufficient after it’s planted. Tree stakes should be used on saplings and removed after the 2nd year. Be sure to keep the ties loose to avoid damage to the trunk and limbs (girdling). 

For mature trees, this is a proper view of how a circle of mulch should be applied. The root flair or bell shape at the bottom should be fully exposed as well as any roots that have bark on them. 

Feeding and Timing

Fall to spring is the best time of year to plant trees in Central Texas. It’s really important to establish our trees before the summer heat. Compost your trees with a 1/4-1/2’ top dressing every spring and winter for year long feeding, moisture retention and nutrients for the growth of Mycorrhizal fungi which are essential to all plants and trees. 

Proper Trimming

NEVER DO THIS(below)! This is cruelest of injustices to a tree of any kind. This practice destroys the natural shape and exposes the tree to disease and weak branches that can no longer support the weight of its flowers and seed pods. 

Proper trimming is important to all trees because they have a natural bandaid which is called the tree collar. This wrinkly bit at the base of every stem is your trimming guide. Cutting close, but not too close allows the tree to heal quickly.

Improper cut

Correct technique

Wrong and right, (below)the cuts in green show the right way to trim and they are already healing. The red mark will take years to seal off and compartmentalize. The black marks are tree sealant which when used on a proper cut seals the wood immediately. Spray each cut as you go to  prevent Oakwilt and other pests and diseases from attacking before the tree compartmentalizes. The trees own defense  takes about 3 days to seal wounds on its own. 

Treatment of girdled roots. 


Get to know your trees so you recognize changes. Look for injury, pests and nutritional needs.


Timing for trimming Oaks is June through January to prevent Oakwilt and I recommend you only use certified Arbors to trim your mature trees. 

Conclusion, trees are the gentle giants of our planet; they teach us patience, strength and virtue. Give them plenty of room, sunlight and water as needed, even once established.

Mother Tree

I believe they are also great for hugging. Trees take in our negative vibes and exchange it with positive spirit. When we are stressed, sitting among the trees can invigorate and replenish our energy, clear our mind and ground us.

Hug Your Trees and Thank Them

To plant a tree now is to have hope for the future…if you need help selecting low water trees for your landscape in and around the Austin area, contact me for an Educational Landscape Consultation at Lisalapaso @gmail.com!

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Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design 

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

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