Kathy Foran - REALTY EXECUTIVES Boston West



Posted by Kathy Foran on 1/22/2017

Consider planting a living fence as an alternative to manufactured fences. There are benefits and disadvantages for both. Often vines, shrubs, small trees, and perennials are placed around manufactured fences anyway. So, why not go nature all the way! A living fence can give you privacy and security, as well as seasonal change. For example, a living fence made of shrubbery can bloom in the spring, be leafy lush in the summer, produce berries and hips in late summer, brilliant colors in the fall, and reveal pleasant branch structure in the winter. A living fence can be grown short (under 4-feet) or tall (30 feet or more) or any height in between. You can determine the width using your imagination or taste in plant material. You can tailor this living structure to your yard. Usually, a living fence needs no building permit as some manufactured fences do. You need not worry about height or width or color limits. Of course, a call to Dig Safe 811 is necessary. Digging into neighborhood power cables is a big no-no. You can plant shrubbery, small trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and even vegetables and fruits or a combination of all to accomplish your desired effect. And you can do this with your neighbor, benefiting both sides of the fence! Robert Frost said it best with his Mending Wall. Living fences tend to outlive manufactured fences by decades. Of course, living fences need water until established, a bit of annual feeding, and the odd pruning depending on plant material selected. Europeans have been enjoying living fences for hundreds of years, calling them hedgerows. They have served as property line demarcations, windbreaks, shelter for birds and small animals for centuries. Establishing a living fence can be labor intensive, but need not be planted all at once. A slower pace would let the fence mature while the planter considers further options. Nursery plants can be used as well as seeds and root cuttings. The desired privacy would, of course, dictate the closeness of the plantings. There are multitude of plant choices to make a New England living fence, but the following are easy options:

  1. Pyramidal arborvitae are most often used in neighborhoods. They are hardy, can be pruned and sheared, and need very little maintenance. They can be grown as screens and windbreaks, but as evergreens they do not provide multi-season interest. They relatively inexpensive and can be planted in any configuration.
  2. Rugosa and Hansen roses have been used in beach plantings but will adapt very well to living fences. They are both extremely low maintenance and can be trimmed from a maximum height of 6 feet. They flower most of the summer, product red hips in the fall as well as yellow and red foliage. In the winter they are a thorney tangle of cover for birds. Depending on the species or cultivar, they bloom red, pink, yellow or white.
  3. Fragrant shrub honeysuckle is also easily maintained to a maximum of 10 feet and provides yellow and white spring flowers, then summer red berries cherished by birds, and yellow and red fall foliage. Winter shows interesting branch structure.
  4. Privet hedges are old standby's but easily maintained and sheered to your liking. Small white flowers and occasional purple berries.
  5. Russia olive trees with their strong late spring aroma and slender gray foliage are also easily sheered to any height or just allowed to grow to 25 feet.
  6. Rose of Sharon bloom in late summer in shades of purple and blue and are easily maintained to any height or width desired.
There are many more species of plants that can be used in your fence. You can certainly mix and match, but have fun with the process. You'll create something beautiful as well as practical.





Posted by Kathy Foran on 1/8/2017

If you've read the news in the last few years you've likely heard about the alarming decline of the bee population. In our daily lives, most of us think of bees only when they're buzzing uncomfortably close to our picnic table. What we don't often realize is the vital role that bees play in pollenating our food supply.

Large farms throughout the country (and throughout the world) hire beekeepers to bring in their colonies for pollination. Without those bees there would be a drastic drop in food production. While drops in bee populations are naturally occurring and fluctuate from year to year, recent years have seen some of the worst declines to date.

Starting to feel bad about swatting at the bees in your backyard?

First you should understand that these declines aren't your fault because you've killed a few bees in your life. Among the stresses that the bee population faces are viruses, mites, climate change, and habitat reduction. It would take a massive culture shift to address all of those issues. But, there are a few things you can do right in your backyard that will lend a small hand in helping out your local bee population.

Know your bees (and what's not a bee)

Many people treat bees, wasps and hornets as interchangeable. Bees are fuzzy pollinators that can sting only once. Common bees include honey bees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.

Wasps are not fuzzy, and therefore not as effective as pollinators. They prey on insects and can be more aggressive than bees. The only wasps that sting are females, but they can sting multiple times.

Hornets are a sub-species of wasp native to North America. They too can sting multiple times and are known for being the most aggressive of the three. Again, they are not the most effective pollinators.

Bees, wasps, and your backyard

If you've noticed an uptick in the number of bees or wasps on you property it's not necessarily a bad thing. If their numbers are low and you're not concerned about anyone's safety you may decide to leave them be. The bees and wasps will help you by pollinating your flowers, eating surplus insects, and leaving you well alone.

Some ways you can keep your backyard bees healthy include not using pesticides on your lawn or garden. You could also plant more flowers and let your wildflowers grow freely to provide an extra nectar source for the local bees.

Too much of a good thing

If the bees in your yard have grown high in number, are becoming aggressive, or you are worried for the safety of your family (bee sting allergies can be life-threatening) then it might be time to take action.

To avoid becoming part of the problem of declining populations, call in a professional. Some pest control companies still use killing the bees as a solution. But there are companies that are more proactive and attempt to coax away bees and relocate them. Seek out no-kill pest control companies for help.

Your local beekeeper is also an unexpendable resource when it comes to learning what to do about bees. Many beekeepers will even relocate the bees to commercial honey-making hives.

With a bit of research and careful behavior, cohabiting with bees can be beneficial for us and for the little bugs that make our honey.





Posted by Kathy Foran on 7/24/2016

There are countless reasons you might want more privacy in your backyard. Whether you live on a busy road and have motorists gawking at you as you cut the grass, or if you live in close proximity with your neighbors and want a bit of alone time on your back patio, we'll cover all of the best ways to get more privacy out of your living space.

Planting your way to privacy

If you want more privacy but don't want to build fences around your yard, one good alternative is to use planned and structured planting to build a natural barrier. This technique is especially beneficial because of the endless variations available on what plants to use. From small shrubs to massive trees, you can determine just how much privacy you want. Similarly, you can choose to layer tress, bushes, plants, and grasses to create a garden-like wall that you and your family can enjoy looking at.

Walls and fences

The standard American household's means of privacy has long been the picket fence. There are a variety of fences on the market and their materials have been updated over the years to become sturdier and less vulnerable to wear than wood. Many old properties have rock walls surrounding their perimeter. If you have a rock wall but it doesn't provide enough privacy, one creative option is to build a small, decorative fence on top of the rock wall. They add a modern look to your wall and increase privacy at the same time.

Take indoor techniques and bring them outside

If you live in an urban area with a very small backyard or patio area one great way to add privacy is to take indoor barriers like curtains and room dividers and use them outside. This will give you the privacy you want but will also make your backyard or patio a cozier place to spend time. Use weather-resistant curtains and dividers when applicable. They will require less cleaning and will last exponentially longer.

Partial privacy options

If you want more privacy but don't want your home to seem like a closed-off fortress there are many partial privacy options to choose from. Some of them are just scaled down versions of the above. For example, you could choose to use dividers or plants only in the area around your patio table. Another great option of partial privacy is to use latticework. To make it more or less private, incorporate plants and vines in the lattice.

Audible privacy

Do you have noisy car traffic on your road? Do you live in the city where there are constant passersby having discussions on the sidewalk? If so you might want to consider some options for audible privacy. Most barriers you put up (a wall or fence, for example) will provide some amount of noise reduction. The properties of the wall will determine just how many decibels will be blocked out. However if you are more concerned with masking or distracting from the outside noise consider using water and nature as a means of audible privacy. Fountains and streams create a pleasant background noise that will drown out some of the background sounds.