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Tending the Garden 

Having a beautiful garden around your house can increase the curb appeal, and sometimes the value of your property, lift the spirits of those who live there and delight the neighborhood. Establishing the garden, however, isn't as easy as it looks, unless you call someone like Gregory Martin of Greg's Gardens LLC (by appointment, 392-2342).

Martin can take a yard from barren to verdant and install irrigation systems to keep it green and blooming as well as lighting to show off the high points. He starts with a personal consultation at a customer's house where he looks at the home's architectural style, other gardens in the neighborhood, and discusses a customer's preferences in plants and the budget. He then designs the landscaping, draws out a plan, works with the client to refine his ideas and puts his plan into action.

"In our consultation, I try to grasp what they're looking for and look around the neighborhood to see what (other people are) doing there," says Martin, who started the business in January after 16 years as a partner in Martin's Garden Center in Belle Chasse. "I also look at the style of the house. A one-story might get smaller beds, and a two-story house larger beds. It's also dependent on what their budget is. Some people don't want to spend so much money [up front and elect to buy smaller plants] and others want it to be done fast [and look like it's been there a while]."

Martin also can install irrigation systems, which he places on timers to automatically water gardens or yards according to how dry the season is. In addition, he installs high-quality lighting to accent trees and other aspects of the garden as well as to light walkways. He also designs and installs ponds, fountains and waterfalls in people's yards.

Although Martin does not perform weekly maintenance of gardens, he will give his customers a recommendation of someone he knows and trusts to do that. Martin himself returns two to three times a year to change out plants for seasonal color, freshen the mulch, adjust irrigation timers or "change what needs to be changed."

"I give people quality work and good service," he says. "Most people don't know anything [about plants] and need help planning their yards. After it's done, they're ecstatic."


Border Crossing
Two decades ago, Octavio and Dora Garcia began treating diners at Casa Garcia (8814 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 464-0354) to the finer cuisine of their native Mexico, putting a Spanish spin on everything from pork to seafood to steak.

"I don't want to scare people away by saying it's fine dining," Octavio Garcia says, "but we are a level above the average Mexican restaurant. It's casual but proper. It's very comfortable."

A fountain in the middle of the restaurant lends the ambience of dining on a Mexican patio, he says, and all dishes are made fresh daily.

"I'm very proud of what I serve," he says. "I like to provide to my customers the best possible meal that I can. Everything is made fresh every day. We have no leftovers from one day to the next."

Most of his produce, meats and seafood come from local vendors, but things that aren't available here, such as special peppers and avocados, are ordered from Houston each week.

Reservations are available, but not required, and there is a special room for private parties that can comfortably accommodate up to 60 guests.

The restaurant offers as many as 20 lunch specials Monday through Saturday, sells margaritas by the pitcher or glass, and maintains a varied menu to suit a variety of tastes. Garcia and Chef Jesus Iruegas update the menu two or three times a year, when Garcia finds new dishes he likes during his frequent travels to Mexico.

On the menu, diners will find ceviche; Mexican shrimp cocktail; lettuce wraps that include chicken cooked in pineapple juice with celery, apples and a vinaigrette with bacon; grilled or tempura shrimp salads; mandarin chicken salad; seafood enchiladas; trout cooked with olive oil, white wine, tomatoes and capers; pork; butterfly filet mignon; babyback ribs and more.

Lunch prices range from $6.95 to $10, and the best dinner entrees range from $10 to $14.

Ya-Ya for the Sisterhood
It's time to don your favorite headgear and sit down to high tea and champagne at the third annual Ya-Ya Hat Tea at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans Lobby Lounge (921 Canal St.) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14.

The tea will include informal modeling by Fleur de Paris, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the New Orleans chapter of Dress for Success. Tickets are $26. Call 524-1331 ext. 3200 for reservations.


Beauty On the Move
BGD Makeup Artistry & Beauty Bar last week moved from its previous address on South Carrollton Avenue into a new shop at 1800 Hastings Place (427-1169; www.bgdmakeupartistry). The shop is named for owner Brandy Gomez Duplessis, who has served as makeup artist for stars such as Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Dyan Cannon, and specializes in brows, lashes, makeup and beauty products. &127;

click to enlarge Gregory Martin shows off a garden he planned and installed for a customer in Metairie.
  • Gregory Martin shows off a garden he planned and installed for a customer in Metairie.
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