Best Free Green 2014 | Leslie Halleck, Halleck Horticultural | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

She's dropped the gardening know-how on WFAA's Good Morning, Texas and has a new book (Best Garden Plants for Texas) slated for spring, but for now, it's her free green advice on the web that Dallasites should be following. Leslie Halleck is the self-described plant geek behind Halleck Horticultural. As she explains, she provides technical horticultural consulting and business strategy consulting for industry, but "much of [her] time is spent generating horticultural content for green industry companies so they can better educate their audience." Impressive to be sure, but it's the byproduct that benefits Dallas' brown and wannabe green thumbs most — the free gardening advice Halleck shares on the Halleck Horticultural blog, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Instagram account. From her East Dallas hub, Halleck and crew provide peeks inside the industry as well as more intimate scenes from her own garden. She offers suggestions, like what to do with an overabundance of tomatoes or alternatives to planting tulips in a row; a series called Cocktail Gardening, complete with recipes; portraits of garden critters (including her own pets); a glimpse at urban homesteading; and seasonal planting tips.

If 2014's ice storms were anything to go on, tree pruning and maintenance aren't matters to ignore. Power outages, blocked roads and home repairs caused by fallen trees were big news. That's when homeowners new and old started learning and re-learning the importance of keeping trees trimmed. According to the certified arborists of Preservation Tree, not only does pruning create "aesthetically pleasing" trees, but also ones that are "structurally sound." Reducing the weight of the canopy "reduces incidences of breakage" when windy and icy times put stress on branches. And that's a good thing. But the peace of mind from choosing Preservation comes from the fact that their degreed arborists are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. They don't just saw branches; they get up high, close and personal with limbs, studying them for crowding and disease. With three-story trees and oak wilt no stranger to Dallas, that's major. And they're thorough. Dead tree? Not only can they remove it, they'll make it like a tree so it leaves. There's no pile of stumps waiting for bulk trash day. It's gone to a mulch pile far away. While tree maintenance seems expensive at first consult, that's just it — the first time is the worst. Preservation becomes cost-effective when it achieves its eponymous goal.

Orange alerts and haze and gross. Dallas has seen it all this year. Anything to breathe better and cleaner is welcome, if not passionately celebrated. This falls under passionately celebrated. Oncor and the Arbor Day Foundation, once again, offered two free trees for qualifying homeowners this fall. By just filling out a simple survey — OK, maybe the dragging of the house map lines required a steadier hand than expected — one could apply for and see ideal planting location and potential savings from 8,000 available trees including burr oak, cedar elm, Chinkapin oak, Mexican white oak, pecan and Texas redbud. The decision was difficult with such a nice variety to choose from, but there was no wrong answer (except maybe that redbud). While the potential energy savings was the primary focus of the offer, the secondary improvement to air quality (thanks to HVAC savings and, well, more trees) really is an exiting bonus to come.

We've shopped high-end eyewear shops, one-hour mall chains and small, locally owned discount stores on the cheap. One thing they've all had in common is that no matter what sort of frames we've bought, from fancy lightweight titanium gems to standard plastic Buddy Holly types, once the person behind the counter gets done adding up all the add-ons and special mystery lens gewgaws, our reaction is the same: "How much?!" (We swear we once bought anti-rust undercoating on a pair of plastic lenses once.) Glasses are damned expensive no matter where you go, it seems, but the truth is we've always been happier with snazzy, high-tech, fashionable specs — within reason. We'll drive a cheap car, wear cheap clothes and drink cheap booze (lots), but for the stuff we hang on our faces and use to see, we'll indulge. Vision City offers eye exams on-site, one-hour turnaround for basic lenses and accepts vision insurance. But they also sell glasses from designers such as Tom Ford, Fendi and our fave, Silhouette. (The shop has tons of rimless.) The prices are about what you'd expect from anywhere else, but what the heck. Steel yourself with some cheap booze and indulge. This is your face we're talking about, and frankly, some of us can use all the help we can get.

Rock N Roll Vapes offers a vaping experience enhanced with a rock 'n' roll theme. By turning a broken guitar into a work of art and broken records into seat covers, owner John Smith infuses his passion for music in every aspect of his store. Offering signature e-juice flavors with heavy metal monikers like School's Out, Stand & Deliver and Summer Breeze, Rock N Roll Vapes blazes past its corporate contemporaries.

In a drab plaza on Wycliff Avenue, the hair salon next to a Dickey's barbecue shop from the outside looks indistinguishable from all the other hair salons that dot strip malls across North Texas. Inside, however, is a pleasant surprise — a youthful boutique filled with bags of long hair and lots of pink. Delilah Hair is really two businesses — one is a brand of hair extensions created by local hairstylist Marcos Venegas in 2007. The extensions, real hair that comes from China, Malaysia and Russia, are installed into clients' hair using cold fusion and tape fusion methods, which Venegas found to be less damaging than the harsh heat and chemical methods still used by many brands. "Delilah's first rule of business is keeping your natural hair intact," Venegas writes on the Delilah website. The salon, called the Delilah Damage Free Extensions Salon, opened in January, employing stylists who are trained in installing the extensions, and in keeping with the theme, have long, thick heads of natural-looking hair themselves. This salon is definitely partial to long, fluffy hair, but they're also happy to give regular-old short haircuts, no extensions necessary. Stylist Stephanie Meier recently gave a creative graduated bob cut to a Dallas Observer employee who was missing a large chunk of hair from the back of her head because of an at-home hair-cutting accident.

There are a few human beings equipped with a big enough reservoir of internal motivation that they can endure several months of arduous, time-consuming training. The rest of us occasionally need a bit of external motivation, and aside from a vein-bulging drill sergeant, there's nothing quite so effective as a large group of fellow runners quietly shaming you for sitting on your ass. The Dallas Running Club is such a group. It's open only to members ($40 per year), but otherwise there's no hurdle. There's space for 6-minute milers and 12-minute milers.

Dallas has made some drastic improvement in terms of making certain neighborhoods more bikeable, but sometimes it's getting between those 'hoods that seems daunting. While cycling from East Dallas/Lake Highlands to Deep Ellum hasn't traditionally been difficult, it's made inherently easier by the Santa Fe Trail. For a particularly tasty day without too much exertion, start out at T&P Hill at White Rock Lake, and jump on White Rock Creek Trail for a nice downward slope toward the Santa Fe Trail, taking it on to Deep Ellum. The five-and-a-half-ish miles have a few modest hills and plenty of intersections, so pedal pushers should be mindful of right-of-ways. But this isn't your typical fitness path. We chose this as our best bike trail because sometimes one just wants to leave the spandex at home (but bring a good bike lock). Once in Deep Ellum, Monkey King Noodle Company is our cycling destination for soup dumplings on the roof (BYOB), then it's the Cane Rosso patio for some Neapolitan carbs, or Pecan Lodge's patio for burnt ends in honor of bike butts everywhere. If timed well, Twilite Lounge, Cold Beer Company or Black Swan can provide some refreshment between stomach linings (drink responsibly). On the return, the Lot offers a final cold drink or sweet treat before reaching the bike racks back at the lake.

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