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1097 Landscaping a Home

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,097 – Landscaping a Home.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,097. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Check out our ESL Podcast Special Courses in Business and Daily English that I think you’re going to love.

On this episode, we have a dialogue between Mona and Kellan about landscaping a house, or making the land or area around the house nice and pretty, Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Mona: I want a lawn. I’ve always pictured our new house with a lawn.

Kellan: Lawns require a lot of water and upkeep. I think we should use hardscape for most of the lawn and plant only drought-tolerant plants.

Mona: I don’t want my yard to be full of gravel and rocks. I picture a water feature in the middle, with annuals and perennials planted all around it, surrounded by a big, beautiful lawn.

Kellan: We can have some kind of slow-growing ground cover if you want to, but the rest isn’t practical.

Mona: I don’t know what you mean. We can plant a hedge over there and install planters along the walkway.

Kellan: Who will do the pruning and mulching? Who will pull the weeds and mow the lawn? Who will rake the leaves when the seasons change?

Mona: Well, I guess I will, with your help.

Kellan: Don’t count on me. My motto is: No muss, no fuss!

[end of dialogue]

Mona says, “I want a lawn.” A “lawn” (lawn) is a green area around a house or a building with grass that is typically cut short so that it doesn’t look too long, but it looks nice. A lawn is almost always an area of “green grass” when we use the term in reference to a house or a building. Mona wants a lawn. She says, “I’ve always pictured our new house with a lawn.” She means she’s always imagined having a house with a lawn.

Kellan says, however, “Lawns require a lot of water and upkeep.” “Upkeep” (upkeep) is another word for “maintenance,” for taking care of something so that it looks nice and is in good condition. if you own a house, there is a certain amount of upkeep you have to do every year because houses, like all of us, get older and need repairs and other changes in order to keep them in good condition.

Kellan doesn’t like this idea. He says, “Lawns require a lot of water and upkeep. I think we should use hardscape for most of the yard and plant only drought-tolerant plants.” “Hardscape” (hardscape) refers to hard surfaces that are used in the outdoor areas around a house or a building that take the place of grass or plants. Hardscape is usually something that is made of stone or brick. So, instead of having grass in front of your house or in front of your building, you might have a hardscape, where the whole thing is stone or concrete or another hard surface.

Kellan suggests using “hardscape for most of the yard” (yard). The word “yard” is used to refer to the space either in front of a house – called the “front yard” – or in back of the house, called the “backyard.” So, “yard” is a word that we would use to describe that area, that land. If we’re talking about a building, a commercial building like an office building, we probably wouldn’t use the word “yard” to describe the area in front and in back of the building. We would use the term “grounds” (grounds). The “grounds of the building” refers to the area outside of the building that’s still part of the property of that building.

Kellan wants to use hardscape for most of the yard. He also wants to plant, or put into the ground, only “drought-tolerant plants.” Notice that “plant” (plant) can be used as a verb or as a noun. You can plant trees. You could also say that trees are plants. Well, Kellan wants to plant “drought-tolerant plants.” “Drought” (drought) is when there isn’t enough water. Here in California, we quite frequently have droughts. We don’t have enough water. A “drought-tolerant plant” is a plant that doesn’t need a lot of water, that can put up with, or “tolerate,” a drought – when you don’t have a lot of rain or water.

Mona says, “I don’t want my yard to be full of gravel and rocks.” “Gravel” (gravel) refers to small rocks, especially ones that you would use on the road or on a sidewalk in front of a house. Some of the older roads in rural areas, in areas outside of the main cities in the United States, still have gravel. Not that many, but if you go into an area where there aren’t a lot of people, some of the roads may still be gravel roads – small little rocks instead of a concrete or asphalt top.

Mona says, “I picture a water feature in the middle, with annuals and perennials planted all around it, surrounded by a big, beautiful lawn.” Mona is giving us what she wants in the yard. She wants a “water feature.” A “water feature” refers to something with water, such as a small pool of water – what we might call a “pond” (pond). Or a water feature could be a “fountain” – something that sprays or shoots up water into the air.

The term “annuals” (annuals) refers to plants that only live for a single season or a single part of the year. If you want that plant again next year, you have to put a new plant in the ground, or new seeds in the ground. “Perennials” (perennials) are plants that live two or more years. So, you don’t have to put a new plant in the ground next year. It will keep “coming up,” we might say, each year.

Kellan says, “We can have some kind of slow-growing ground cover if you want to, but the rest isn’t practical.” Kellan talks about “slow-growing ground cover.” “Ground cover” refers to small plants that go across the ground but are not very tall. They’re short. What Kellan is saying is that he doesn’t want all these flowers and plants. He just wants something very simple.

Mona says, “I don’t know what you mean. We can plant a hedge over there and install planters along the walkway.” A “hedge” (hedge) is a tall, thick-growing plant that you cut usually in straight lines and use as a sort of border. So, you might have a yard in front of your house, and along the edge of the yard, along the border of the yard, you might have a plant that goes all the way around your yard, and you cut it, and that would be what we would call a “hedge.”

Usually hedges are somewhere between two and maybe four or five feet. If they are much taller than that, they become more like trees and we probably wouldn’t use the word “hedge.” We use plants called “bushes” for hedges, more commonly. They’re not that tall.

Mona talks about “planters along the walkway.” “Planters” are large boxes, filled with soil, that have plants in them. Instead of putting the plant in the ground, below the surface of the ground, you have a box that has dirt in it, and you put the plant in there. That’s a “planter.” The “walkway” (walkway) just refers to the area where you walk from one place to another in front of a house or a building. A “walkway” usually goes from the sidewalk or the street to the front of the house or building.

Kellan says, “Who will do the pruning and mulching?” “To prune” (prune) means to cut pieces off of a plant or a tree to make it smaller. Sometimes trees or plants get too big and you have to cut them back, you have to “prune” them. Kellan is asking who is going to do all of this work, to take care of what Mona wants in the front yard – who is going to prune and “mulch” (mulch)?

“To mulch” means to put certain kinds of materials on the ground in order to help keep the plants and trees healthy. Sometimes we use the outside surface of a tree, called the “bark,” as mulch. Sometimes we use leaves from the tree as mulch. Notice that “mulch,” like “plant,” can be both a verb and a noun.

Kellan says, “Who will pull the weeds and mow the lawn? Who will rake the leaves when the seasons change?” “Weeds” (weeds) refers to unwanted plants – plants that you don’t want in your yard or garden. To get rid of these plants, you have to pull them out of the ground. So, we have the expression “pull (pull) the weeds.” “To mow (mow) the lawn” is to cut the lawn or to cut the grass that is part of the lawn.

“Raking” (raking) refers to taking what looks like a big room and using it to gather together leaves that have fallen off the trees. There is a verb “to rake,” which means to use an object called a “rake” to gather together the leaves, either to get rid of them or to perhaps use them as mulch around other parts of your yard.

Mona says, “Well, I guess I will, with your help.” Mona is saying she’s going to help do all of this work. Kellan says, “Don’t count on me,” meaning don’t depend on or rely on me doing this work. If you want all this stuff, you are going to have to do the work. That’s what Kellan seems to be saying. Of course, no rational, sane, intelligent husband would talk to his wife this way, but this is an imaginary dialogue.

Kellan says, “My motto is: No muss, no fuss!” Your “motto” (motto) is a short expression of either your belief about something, a rule that you follow, or simply an expression that we associate with a certain institution or certain organization. Mottoes often express a certain standard of belief that you have, a rule that you live by. The Boy Scouts have a motto: “Be prepared,” meaning be ready for anything.

Well, Kellan’s motto is “No muss (muss), no fuss (fuss).” “No muss, no fuss” is a phrase meaning that you want to keep things simple. You want to reduce amount of work that you have. There’s also an expression with the word “fuss”: Don’t make a fuss. “Don’t make a fuss” means don’t cause problems. Don’t complain. Don’t make more difficulties for yourself or for us than are necessary.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Mona: I want a lawn. I’ve always pictured our new house with a lawn.

Kellan: Lawns require a lot of water and upkeep. I think we should use hardscape for most of the lawn and plant only drought-tolerant plants.

Mona: I don’t want my yard to be full of gravel and rocks. I picture a water feature in the middle, with annuals and perennials planted all around it, surrounded by a big, beautiful lawn.

Kellan: We can have some kind of slow-growing ground cover if you want to, but the rest isn’t practical.

Mona: I don’t know what you mean. We can plant a hedge over there and install planters along the walkway.

Kellan: Who will do the pruning and mulching? Who will pull the weeds and mow the lawn? Who will rake the leaves when the seasons change?

Mona: Well, I guess I will, with your help.

Kellan: Don’t count on me. My motto is: No muss, no fuss!

[end of dialogue]

Special thanks to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, for her wonderful scripts.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
lawn – a green area in front of a house or building, with grass that is kept short

* The children are playing soccer on the front lawn.

upkeep – maintenance; taking care of something so that it looks nice and is in good condition

* Older homes are beautiful, but they require more upkeep than newer homes do.

hardscape – the hard surfaces of outdoor areas near or around plants in front of a home or building

* Their home has beautiful hardscape paths with brick and stone pavers, as well as fountains and benches.

drought-tolerant plant – a plant that does not need very much water to survive

* It gets very hot and dry here during the summer, so let’s make sure we plant drought-tolerant plants that can survive for a few weeks at a time without water.

gravel – small rocks, especially for garden walkways or roads

* The cars are always dusty and dirty from traveling over gravel roads.

water feature – fountain, ponds, or other water-based decorative elements, especially outdoors

* They placed a large fountain as a water feature in front of the home.

annual – a plant that lives for only one season or year and then must be replanted

* Most of the vegetables in their garden are annuals that will need to be planted again in the spring.

perennial – a plant that lives for two or more years, continuing to bloom or produce

* If you don’t want to spend very much money on your yard, buy perennials, because you’ll only have to spend the money once, not every year.

ground cover – a small plant that spreads quickly over the ground, but is not very tall

* They planted ground cover along both sides of the driveway and around the mailbox.



hedge – a boundary formed by a thick-growing plant, often cut to have straight edges

* The home is really close to the road, but tall hedges at the edge of the property help to reduce the traffic noise.

planter – a large box that is filled with soil and plants for decoration outdoors

* The front side of the house has planters below each window, and the Hansens fill them with brightly-colored flowers each spring.

walkway – a path for walking on through an outdoor area, especially from the door to the road or sidewalk

* They made a curved walkway from their backdoor down to the creek.

to prune – to cut off pieces of a large plant or tree to make it smaller, healthier, and more attractive

* If you prune that apple tree, it will produce healthier fruit.

to mulch – to spread organic matter, such as bark (surface of a tree) or leaves, over the surface of the soil and around plants to provide nourishment to the soil and to slow or prevent the growth of weeds

* Have you tried using old coffee grounds to mulch your garden?

to pull the weeds – to remove unwanted plants, pulling all the roots out of the ground so that they do not grow back

* They put thick plastic over the soil and under the bark dust so that they wouldn’t have to pull weeds so often.

to mow the lawn – to cut the grass; to use a machine to keep grass short

* During the spring and fall, they have to mow the lawn at least once a week.

to rake the leaves – to use a long-handled tool with many metal or plastic teeth the push and pull fallen leaves into large piles, so that they can be removed from the grass

* They raked the leaves into a large pile and let the children jump in them before they put them into bags.

no muss, no fuss – a phrase meaning that one wants to keep things simple to reduce the amount of work required

* Wearing make-up and having a fancy hairstyle requires too much work, so she keeps her appearance very simple. No muss, no fuss.

Comprehension Questions
1. Where could one plant annuals and perennials?
a) In a planter.
b) In a water feature.
c) In the gravel.

2. Where might one need to pull the weeds?
a) On a hardscape
b) On a hedge
c) On a lawn

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
gravel

The word “gravel,” in this podcast, means small rocks, especially for unpaved walkways: “They didn’t have enough money to pave their driveway, so they decided to put down gravel instead.” Or, “Doesn’t it hurt your feet to walk barefoot over that sharp gravel?” A “gravel pit” is a place where gravel is dug out of the ground, typically so that it can be sold: “The environmentalists dislike the idea of having a gravel pit in a wilderness area so close to the river.” Finally, a similar, but different word, “gavel,” is a small hammer used by a judge in a court of law: “The judge hit her gavel against the desk to try to get the attention of everyone in the courtroom.”

to rake leaves

In this podcast, the phrase “to rake leaves” means to use a long-handled tool with many metal or plastic teeth the push and pull fallen leaves into large piles, so that they can be removed from the grass or yard: “Those trees in the front yard are beautiful, but just remember that if we buy this house, we’ll have to rake the leaves each fall.” When talking about work, “leave” refers to time away from the office when one is not working: “Charles had to take two weeks of sick leave when he had pneumonia.” Or, “How much maternity leave do female employees get when they have a baby?” Finally, when talking about paper, “loose-leaf” refers to pieces of paper that are not attached to each other: “The students wrote their answers on loose-leaf paper and then turned in the sheets to their teacher.”

Culture Note
Turf Removal Programs

As water “scarcity” (a shortage; not enough of something) continues to “plague” (bother; create problems for) many communities, many local governments have “launched” (started; introduced) programs that provide “incentives” (a reason and reward for doing something) to encourage homeowners to remove their lawns. This is because maintaining a “lush” (very health vegetation), “verdant” (bright green) lawn is very “water-intensive” (requiring a lot of water), and people think that water should be “reserved” (kept) for more “productive” (resulting in some benefit) uses.

So homeowners in states or cities with special programs can receive a “rebate” (money paid back after one has made an initial expense), typically a certain amount for every square foot of “turf” (grass) that they remove. This rebate may not cover the entire cost of removing the tuft and replacing it with drought-resistant plants or hardscape, but it does provide an incentive, especially when homeowners “take into consideration” (think about) their lower water bills.

Other homeowners may decide that they do not want to remove their turf or continue to water their lawn. Some of them might just let the grass die, but this is an “eyesore” (something that is ugly and unpleasant to look at) for the neighbors. So some companies now offer to spray green paint over the dead grass, so that it appears to be alive. And other companies will place “artificial turf” (plastic grass) over an existing lawn, so that it appears to have healthy grass. The homeowners are pleased, because they have little or no maintenance requirements, other than “occasionally” (sometimes; rarely) sweeping or vacuuming the surface.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c