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Ventless fire containers are made in many styles

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Planika Fires products are a stylish way to bring the lure of flames indoors without installing a full fireplace.

Planika Fires products are a stylish way to bring the lure of flames indoors without installing a full fireplace.

The ventless fire containers burn a type of denatured ethanol called Fanola, a plant-based fuel. They don’t need chimneys because ethanol burns clean, producing only carbon dioxide and water vapor.

The fireplaces come in a range of styles, including some that are wall-mounted, freestanding or incorporated into coffee tables. You even can surround a wall unit with stone or brick for a more traditional fireplace look.

Because they are considered biomass heating stoves, some models are eligible for a federal energy-efficiency tax credit of 30 percent.

The fire containers range in price from $675 to $6,500. Products can be ordered from the company at 201-933-7787. Some products are available at www.chanticousa.com online.

Color-enhanced mulch fades less

Q: I cannot seem to find wood mulch that does not fade. Is there a type that won’t?

A: All natural wood mulches will fade over time, some more quickly than others, said Chris Hattery, sales manager for Earth ’n Wood Products in Jackson Township, Ohio. The only fadeproof mulches are permanent mulches, such as stones.

Color-enhanced mulches keep their color longer than other mulches.

If you use dyed wood chips, however, be sure to apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen to the beds you’re mulching. Wood chip mulch typically isn’t composted, and fresh wood can cause the soil to be robbed of nitrogen.

Veggies, flowers grow together

Pamela Crawford believes vegetable plants can look just as good as they taste.

Crawford’s “Easy Container Combos: Vegetables & Flowers” focuses on growing vegetables that appeal to both the eye and the palate. She teaches readers how to choose the right containers for vegetables and combine them with flowers for an attractive display.

Crawford started her research by planting 1,768 vegetable plants in containers, 1,376 of which failed. Instead of being discouraged, she looked at that as an achievement: She’d helped her readers by narrowing their choices to the plants that had the best chance of success when grown in pots.

The book contains how-to information and a good deal of advice learned from her successes and mistakes. She tells readers which vegetables look good growing by themselves, which don’t and why, and she helps them choose flowers or other veggies that will disguise flaws such as spindly stems and unattractive leaves.

She also offers plant combinations that take the guesswork out of designing a pot.

“Easy Container Combos: Vegetables & Flowers” is published by Color Garden Publishing and sells for $19.95 in softcover.

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