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Archives for January 18, 2013

Killington to consider formal plan from private store owners

Jan 17, 2013

KILLINGTON – The Select Board will consider a plan by five
private businessmen to turn Bill’s Country Store over to the town
of Killington within the next two years, so it can become a public
welcome center with the advent of federal and state grant
The iconic red barn at the corner of Route 4 east and Route 100
north was purchased by businessmen Chris Karr, Howard Smith, Steve
Durkee, Aris Spanos and Phil Black late last year with the
intention of creating a welcome center and home for the town’s
Chamber of Commerce, which is headed up by Karr.

But the partnership, which purchased the store at auction for
$355,000, has recently said plans have changed to include handing
the store over to the town so they can use grant money to develop

Town Manager Seth Webb said Jan. 10 that he intends to present
the Select Board with some ideas for the store within the next
week, following a recent meeting with Town Planner Dick Horner and
two of the businessmen.

In an interview last year, Karr said,”Prime retail is not our
intent at all. We will offer services to meet (travelers) needs.
There are no public restrooms in town and the only welcome center
before Killington is the one in Quechee. We desperately need this
and it gives us a great opportunity to be a conduit to direct
people up the Killington Road where there is a lot more opportunity
for retail of all types.”

At a Select Board meeting Jan. 10, Selectman Jim Haff said the
owners want to turn over the property within six weeks to two
years, to which Karr nodded his head confirming this statement.

The plan for the store coincides with the development of a new
streetscape along that stretch of Route 4, some of which the
municipality has already acquired grant funding for.

The plan includes landscaping, designated parking, a park and
ride in front of Base Camp Outfitters and reduced speed limits from
the Sherburne Pass east to Route 100.

According to the town, the streetscape plan is contingent upon
state and federal grant funding of more than $2 million and
$546,000, or $75,000 a year, in local funding. The intent is to
start construction on the first phase of the project in 2014.
Haff asked that the Select Board think of residents and taxpayers
when considering the acquisition of the store and asked for the
public to vote on the idea this March at Town Meeting Day.

“We should put this up for a vote and let voters decide,” Haff

Select Board Chairman Chris Bianchi said he supported the store
being a mix of public and private ownership.

Selectman Bernie Rome said “the problem with these things
(public/private partnerships) is that the public can’t be a strong

“If it’s our job to make Bill’s Country Store what it can be, at
worse that’s wrong. At best, we need a strong commitment from them
to do what they say they are going to do,” Rome continued.

Webb confirmed that the town, and taxpayers, would have to use
town monies to match grant funding.

Rome replied, “I agree with Jim. I know we represent the people.
We can’t put them on the hook for money down the road.”
Webb said he agreed.

The selectman agreed they wanted to see the plan from the
businessmen before moving forward.

Cristina Kumka at

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Community Center is sporting a new look inside and out

The front of the Bourbon Community Center recently got a much-needed facelift. Work has also been completed to the inside of the building and there are plans for new landscaping in the spring.

The Bourbon Community Center, first established in 1993, has been showing off its new exterior improvements lately. The new look is thanks to the volunteer work of Tom and Mary Buhrkuhl, who repainted and upgraded the main signs, and board members Leonard Armstrong and Richard Seidel, who took the signs down and moved them to their new home on the facade of the building.

    The parking lot was resurfaced by Midwest Paving and will be re-striped this spring. The last item on the “bucket list” for the exterior is to evaluate the landscaping, which is original to the building and has gotten overgrown. The board is putting out a call for a volunteer to make suggestions and assist with the landscaping adjustments.
    The interior improvements, which involved renovating the foyer and the two bathroom areas was completed during the fall of 2012. In 2013, the center will have to replace its interior lighting because the current lighting is being phased out. The board will also continue to modernize its meeting facilities to meet the needs of the community. All of the work done in 2012 was completed through grants and by the generous contributions of individuals and organizations in Bourbon and Crawford County. Financial contributions are always welcome and will be put to good use.
    The Community Center is the Bourbon home of the Ozark Regional Library and the senior citizen lunch program, sponsored by the Cuba Senior Center and the Midwest Area on Aging.  The building also provides meeting and event space for organizations and family events at very competitive rates.
    Since the installation of the modern audio-visual system and the new tables and chairs rentals of the center have been up, but there are still lots of dates open for 2013. If your group or your family would like to reserve space, contact the Rental Manager Debbie Rakes at (573) 732-4370 (or at her office at Town Country Bank 732-4433).
    If you are over 60 and have never participated in the senior citizen lunch program, stop by the center Monday through Friday and enjoy a balanced meal for a nominal fee and social time with your neighbors and friends from Bourbon. Free music and other activities are planned throughout the month.
    The board will have its first meeting of 2013 in February. If you have any ideas, comments or suggestions about the center, contact Board President Barbara Condren at 732-4773.

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Lost Train Depots of Los Angeles

Compared with those that followed, and especially to Union Station, Los Angeles’ first passenger depot was a modest affair. In the days before tourism became the lifeblood of the region’s economy, after all, there was little point in expending capital on an impressive structure or decorative embellishment.

Serving Phineas Banning’s Los Angeles San Pedro Railroad, the city’s first station was a tiny wooden structure on the southwest corner of Commercial and Alameda streets. When it opened on October 26, 1869, freight was at least as important as passenger service to the railroad’s operations. Accordingly, amenities were sparse. Chronicler Harris Newmark was not impressed:

Really, it was more of a freight-shed than anything else, without adequate passenger facilities; a small space at the North end contained a second story in which some of the clerks slept; and in a cramped little cage beneath, tickets were sold.

The Los Angeles San Pedro’s life as an independent railroad was brief; in 1873, the Southern Pacific acquired the 21-mile line, and for a brief time the Commercial Street depot served as the terminal for the Southern Pacific’s overland route to Los Angeles.

In 1876, the Southern Pacific opened a new depot on the current site of Los Angeles State Historic Park (the Cornfield). Known as the River Station, the two-story depot offered separate “ladies’ and gentlemen’s reception and waiting rooms,” the Los Angeles Star reported, and was “finished on the outside with redwood rustic, all material being used of the very best quality.” The railroad later upgraded the facility with many more passenger amenities, including a hotel and restaurants.

Though the River Station welcomed many of those drawn by the land boom of the mid-1880s, its location came to be seen as less than ideal. It was surrounded by the Southern Pacific’s freight yards and, as the city’s Anglo population shifted south of the historic plaza into the new central city, it was situated far from many passengers’ ultimate destinations. Later depots, beginning with the Southern Pacific’s Arcade Station, would be located to the south.

In 1888, the Arcade Station opened at Fourth and Alameda. Built on the former site of William Wolfskill’s pioneering orange groves, the depot was flanked by gardens and landscaping meant to showcase Southern California’s salubrious climate. A fully-grown Washington fan palm, moved from a site nearby, stood outside the station’s entrance, symbolically welcoming newcomers to a supposed subtropical paradise.

The depot itself was a massive, wooden Victorian structure reminiscent of European train stations. Five hundred feet long, the depot’s rail shed featured skylights and an arched roof that soared 90 feet above the platforms below. The Los Angeles Times praised the Arcade Station as “second to none on the Pacific Slope.”

Less than 25 years later, though, the newspaper was describing the depot as “ancient” and “unsightly and inadequate” as it welcomed the arrival of a new Southern Pacific depot, which came to be known as Central Station. Designed by architects John Parkinson and George Bergstrom, it was located at Fifth and Central, next to the Arcade Station. It was the city’s most impressive depot to date. The white stuccoed building offered passengers an elegant waiting room with chandeliers, fine woodwork, and marble wainscoting. Steel umbrella-style train sheds replaced the arched roof of the Arcade Station, which tended to trap soot and smoke.

Central Station opened to passengers on December 1, 1914. The Arcade Station, meanwhile, “passed into history unhonored and unsung,” the Times noted. There was no public outcry as wreckers dismantled the old wooden building to make way for new service tracks.

Several blocks away, at the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and Second, the Atchison, Topeka Santa Fe Railroad’s La Grande Station had been welcoming tourists and overland emigrants since 1893.

The station’s exotic design incorporated several architectural styles, but what stood out most was its hulking Moorish dome that, wrote the Times, was “a suggestion of the Orient.” Like the Arcade Station, the La Grande station boasted about the region’s climate with lush gardens planted with palms and other exotic species. And although, unlike most Santa Fe depots in the Southwest, it did not include a full-service Harvey House restaurant, a Harvey lunch counter did open inside the complex in 1900.

The La Grande depot was also notable for its red-brick construction, selected because it signaled the station’s importance and because it followed a rash of fires that had destroyed wooden depots. Unfortunately, the station’s engineers failed to consider whether masonry construction was well-suited for earthquake country. When the 1933 Long Beach earthquake shook the region, the depot sustained serious damage. The Moorish dome, damaged beyond repair, was removed.

By then, plans were already well under way for a new, unified passenger terminal. The Union Pacific, having lost its depot on the east bank of the Los Angeles River to fire in 1924, had already moved its passenger operations to the Southern Pacific’s Central Station. Now, the Santa Fe would join its two competitors at a grand new station, located on the site of Old Chinatown, where trains could more easily be separated from the city’s bustling automobile and streetcar traffic.

By 1939, Chinatown had been razed and its residents displaced, and the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal opened to a huge civic celebration. The two legacy depots, meanwhile, faded into obscurity. The La Grande station, which despite the earthquake damage continued to serve passengers until 1939, became a freight terminal. It was torn down in 1946.

Central Station suffered a similar fate. The Young Market Co. acquired the site, and the old depot was demolished to make way for a meat-packing plant. Though the station had welcomed countless tourists and newcomers to Los Angeles, the end came with little fanfare. On August 22, 1956, the Times reported the station’s demise in a 92-word story on page B-2.

Commercial Street Depot — Los Angeles San Pedro

The depot of the Los Angeles  San Pedro Railroad, the city's first, stood at Commercial and Alameda streets. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

A circa 1900 photo of the depot, long after it had been replaced by the Southern Pacific's River Station and then, later, the Arcade Station. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust, and C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

River Station — Southern Pacific

The Southern Pacific's River Station stood on the present-day site of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. In 1901, it was torn down and replaced by a new station, also called the River Station, across the street. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust, and C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

Undated photo of the Southern Pacific's River Station. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Arcade Station — Southern Pacific

The Arcade Station's rail shed was five hundred feet long and ninety feet high. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Streetcars await passengers in front of the Arcade Station in this ca. 1900 postcard. Courtesy of the James Rojas Collection, Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

Three trains could fit inside the Arcade Station's rail shed. Soot and smoke from the steam locomotives collected inside the building, annoying passengers. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

A fan palm greeted tourists and emigrants when they arrived at the Southern Pacific's Arcade Station. Circa 1890 photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

The Arcade Station palm tree was already mature when it was moved from San Pedro Street near Second in 1888. The tree was moved again in 1914 and stands today in front of the Los Angeles Coliseum in Exposition Park.

The Southern Pacific built its Arcade Station on the Wolfskill ranch, where William Wolfskill pioneered the growing of oranges in Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

La Grande Station — Santa Fe Railroad

Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

A burro-drawn covered wagon awaits Death Valley-bound passengers at the La Grande Station in 1930. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

Outside La Grande Station, a garden of exotic plants welcomed newcomers to the supposedly sub-tropical climate of Southern California. Courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection, USC Libraries.

Circa 1904 postcard depicting La Grande Station. Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

La Grande Station's open-air concourse doubled as a waiting area. Circa 1937 photo courtesy of the Herman J. Schultheis Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Passengers wait for a train at the Santa Fe's La Grande Station, circa 1937. Courtesy of the Herman J. Schultheis Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

1924 aerial view of the Santa Fe's La Grande station. Courtesy of the  Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Damaged beyond repair by the 1933 Long Beach quake, the station's Moorish dome was removed. Circa 1937 photo courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Although normal passenger service moved to Union Station in 1939, La Grande station was called into service once more during World War II. Japanese Americans bound for internment camps departed from the historic depot. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Central Station — Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads

Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library

Fourteen one-ton chandeliers hung inside the Central Station's lobby. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

The Southern Pacific's white-stuccoed Central Station stood at the intersection of Central and Fifth.

A crowd gathers outside the Central Station. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

In 1924, the Union Pacific moved its passenger operations to the Central Station. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

An abandoned Central Station, circa 1956. The historic depot was replaced by a meat-packing plant. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here provide a view into the archives of individuals and institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

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Rutgers’ Home Gardeners School to Help Green Thumbs Cultivate Lush …

The 37th Annual One-Day Educational Program Will Be Held on March 23, 2013

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – January 17, 2013 – The Rutgers NJAES Office of Continuing Professional Education (OCPE) is holding the 37th Annual Home Gardeners School on March 23, 2013 in New Brunswick, NJ. Featuring thirty-five workshops covering a variety of topics related to gardening and landscaping, this is a wonderful opportunity for both novice and experienced home gardeners to receive expert instruction, learn new horticulture skills, and connect with others who share their interests.

This full day event will feature speakers from the OCPE’s commercial horticulture and landscape design programs, along with Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) faculty and staff. These highly energetic and knowledgeable speakers will share their gardening wisdom and give attendees practical information that can be used to enhance existing gardening practices or implement new techniques. Students will leave with the know-how to prepare their gardens for the spring and beyond.

The thirty-five gardening workshops cover a wide range of topics, including composting, irrigation, lawn care, tree care, beekeeping, and pruning techniques. Some workshops include hands-on activities, such as building a water garden, creating a terrarium or learning the art of fresh flower arranging.

This year’s Home Gardeners School also includes sixteen brand new workshops covering topics ranging from gardening using social media to bird-friendly landscapes to shade-loving plants. Attendees can create their own schedules by selecting the workshops that are most relevant to their gardening interests for a truly exciting day of learning!

The Saturday program will be held in Hickman Hall on the Rutgers University Cook/Douglass Campus. Coffee/tea and registration begin at 8:00AM and workshops will run from 9:00AM-4:00PM, with a one-hour lunch break at noon. All participants will have an opportunity to attend the keynote lunch presentation, “Where have All the Stinkbugs Gone?” featuring Dr. George Hamilton, Rutgers University Extension Specialist in Pest Management and stinkbug expert.

Registration for Home Gardeners School is available by calling 732-932-9271 or by visiting Participants may purchase an optional boxed lunch or bring their own. Space is limited and admission to workshops will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so participants are encouraged to register early.

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Great Gardening: Gardens are more than flowers and trees

When we think of gardens, we think of flowers and trees. The plants are our stars and the reasons we love our gardens.

The plants, however, are only part of what makes an exceptional garden or landscape, and they may have less impact than you think. Consider a painting without a frame, or a stage play without a set: Impressive? Dramatic?

In a garden, the frame and the set are what we call “hardscape.” Carrying the analogies further, a shabby frame or a distracting stage set can totally undermine the impact of that painting or play. Bad or absent hardscape can ruin or diminish the beauty of your plants.

Mistakes and missed opportunities: An elementary garden design class first exposed me to basic elements such as backdrop, line and focal points. We looked at pictures of a perennial garden in an open lawn, and the same garden with a fence behind it. We saw flower gardens without décor, and the same gardens containing a statue, fountain, bench or path. It became obvious how hardscape makes or breaks the effect of a garden.

Yet one of the biggest errors that gardeners or homeowners make – myself included – is to ignore structural elements. Instead, that is where we should start – considering paths, walls, arches, pergolas, raised beds or islands, with our vision of the plants in mind. Build first; plant later.

Hardscape does not have to come from a professional. Many gardeners build good beds and structures. A fine path may be made of mulch or found flagstones; an attractive garden bed can be built by stacking loose stones. But whoever does the job – skilled amateur, qualified professional or their opposites – can make a huge difference in the appearance and durability of the project.

I asked some CNLPs (certified nursery and landscape professionals) to comment on common landscaping mistakes they see. Two themes emerged.

The first: bad technical and foundation work. Steve Bakowski (CNLP, Beaver Landscaping Inc.) said he commonly sees “improper installation of sub base (stone) and drainage underneath and behind hardscape.” Done correctly, he says, means that “the structures can withstand the freezing and thawing that moves them during our changing seasons.”

But people tend to make the above-ground structure look good, in the summer, without regard to what’s happening underground.

Second, untrained gardeners or landscapers typically miss design opportunities. Joseph Han (CNLP, The English Gardeners) notices how rarely he sees hardscape elements used to create “destinations … for people to relax in.” Consider building a deck, gazebo or pergola out in the yard, away from the house, where it’s attractive to see from your windows.

Or, he says, use hardscape elements “to create dimension in a composition, and let us see it from different views when moving through the garden.” He also suggests we look for “focal points to define the view. Garden art – urns and statuary and pergolas – deserves a place in every garden.”

At least that element has entered the Western New York gardening scene dramatically in recent years. Garden Walk Buffalo and other National Garden Festival gardens featuring art have been photographed for national magazines; our artful gardens even led to the phrase, “a Buffalo-style garden.” We’re getting it. Gardens aren’t just the plants.

Costs and choices: Professionals give different answers on how much homeowners should budget for hardscape features, compared with plants. At the basic level – say, a good walkway and some enclosed planting beds – a couple of CNLPs said the hardscape would cost nearly half of a new installation (figure $2,000 on a $5,000 job), depending on height and length of walls and walks. But if you are purchasing entertainment centers, night lighting and hand-crafted pergolas, the hardscape cost could be three times the cost of the plants and soil. For the do-it-yourselfer, allow at least double your plant budget and time for the structural work and hardscape.

Develop your vision and plant list, analyze your style and find pictures of gardens you love before hiring anyone, and then communicate what you want.

Products and taste: One of the most polarizing topics, when landscapers and homeowners talk in generalities, is the subject of hardscape materials and taste. The stereotype – gardener speaking about landscapers – is: “Those landscapers all put up the same fake-looking walls and paver sidewalks, no matter the style of the house!” The landscaper stereotype of the gardener’s job: “They make these walls that fall down, sidewalks that crack and weedy paths that they can’t keep up!” Both statements are true some of the time, and neither is necessarily true.

Landscape pavers first came to America 37 years ago and have come a long way since. Products like polymeric sand and sealers eliminated many problems such as weeds and durability. More dramatically, the concrete industry had a significant breakthrough recently.

Dave McIntyre, general manager of Unilock Corp., explains: “Pavers and walls now have 1.5 times the strength and less than half the water absorption of the older units. The increase in long-term durability and life cycle cost will truly be incredible.” Steve Bakowski added that some of the new natural-faced stones and pavers are the best new thing in many years, for attractiveness, cost, ease and speed of installation.

If you prefer natural materials, you can find bamboo, natural stone and hand-crafted wood structures – plus professionals who design with them – more readily than ever. Check out the Western New York landscape and nursery professionals at Plantasia in March and find your own hardscape style.

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.

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Restoring the work of landscaping pioneer Henry Nehrling

MIAMI – During the summer, the kudzu and air potato vines came creeping back, threatening to reclaim the ground that dozens of volunteers had cleared only months earlier.

By October, the vines were snaking up oak and magnolia trees, some more than a century old, that had once been the subject of federal research programs but had been overgrown by invaders. The volunteers launched a late-fall counteroffensive, cut back the new runners, then set to work uncovering more trees. They sawed through the sturdy vines, slowly peeled them back like a carpet from the trees they had taken over, used crowbars to pry their roots from the soil. Then they planned more workdays to fight the invaders.

In the midst of all this greenery, the tangle of desirable and the undesirable, stands the former home of Henry Nehrling, a botanist who nearly a century ago tested and introduced to Florida some of the plants that are now staples in landscaping throughout the state.

The historic Central Florida property is on the National Register of Historic Sites and has been certified as a Florida Historic Landmark. It is the headquarters of the nonprofit Nehrling Garden Society, which is rescuing and restoring the home and grounds.

But whether it is the invasive vines that keep returning, financing that vanishes just as it is on the verge of landing in the bank, or a compromise with the wary neighbors, the society’s efforts often sound more like a battle than simple conservation.

“We are doing it foot by foot, yard by yard,” said Theresa Schretzmann-Myers, the society’s vice president and volunteer coordinator.

On the grounds is a sago palm that was already more than 100 years old when Nehrling planted it a century ago. Enormous magnolias he hybridized. A tall eucalyptus that Nehrling planted and that has been dead for 30 years but is home to giant pileated woodpeckers. A huge golden bamboo with lime-green trunks and gold leaves, masses of amaryllis and caladium, towering bunya pine and bay laurel.

“It’s just such a treasure,” said Angela Withers, the society’s president. “It’s rare to find a place with such a combination of elements … the history, the science, the beauty – a site where a man who was really quite extraordinary did his work. It was an amazing passion and he grew these amazing plants. There are plants here that are over 100 years old. It’s a living laboratory.”

The property is a house of dreams. In an architectural rendering, the run-amok greenery has been curbed and neatly organized into a palm collection, a bromeliad collection, demonstration gardens. Walk the grounds with Withers and Schretzmann-Myers and they will point out the Nehrling Society’s ambitious vision. In addition to reclaiming the garden and the house, they want to turn the garage – added in the 1980s – into an education wing, build a gazebo, plant a palm allee, build a lakeside observation boardwalk and add Henry’s Bookshed, a small library.

“For me it’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Richard Nehrling, Henry’s great-grandson and a volunteer and advocate for the garden. “It’s really sad for me, knowing how important this garden was. David Fairchild was on plant-collecting trips all over the world and he was sending samples back to my great-grandfather to test. He tested over 3,000 species.

“As I look at that in 2012, I think how sad that nobody even knows about this garden, that it doesn’t have a place in our history. That story got lost for 70 years.”

Like the other society members, Nehrling wants his great-grandfather’s story known, his homestead to be a public garden again, a place for plant research.

But the society’s dreams are tempered by the cost. It needs to raise money to pay off the mortgage – right now, there’s only income to cover the interest – as well as to hire staff, renovate parts of the house, launch an educational program. Right now, all the work is being done by volunteers; the only person being paid is a fund-raising consultant.

It’s all part of the legacy of a man whose passion for tropical plants made a mark throughout Florida.

Late in the 19th century, Nehrling, a Wisconsin schoolteacher and naturalist, bought 40 acres in the German-American settlement of Gotha – about 12 miles east of what is now downtown Orlando – to grow tropical and subtropical plants. His land evolved into Florida’s first experimental botanic garden, which he named Palm Cottage Gardens.

Nehrling grew more than 3,000 species of plants for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction. He wrote books and articles about horticulture. His expertise included palms, bamboo, bromeliads, amaryllis, gloriosa lilies, orchids and caladium. He is considered the father of Florida’s multimillion-dollar caladium industry.

Some of his work was for David Fairchild – the famous plant explorer and one of the founders of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami – when Fairchild worked for the USDA.

In the archives at Fairchild’s gardens is this comment by Fairchild about Nehrling:

“I have known many with a passion for plants. I have met many who were keen to collect and dry their fragments. I have known others who lived to make gardens, but none who quite so fully combined their passion for observation with their skill in the propagation and cultivation of a variety of species, keeping them under their constant attention so that they were able to accumulate through many years’ observation clear pictures of their characteristics.”

Another visitor to Palm Cottage Gardens was Thomas Edison; Nehrling would later create an orchid garden at Edison’s winter home in Fort Myers, Fla. Some of the orchids he attached to trees are still there.

After Nehrling lost thousands of plants to a freeze in 1917, he bought acreage in Naples, Fla., for his most tender tropical plants. That garden is now known as Caribbean Gardens, home to the Naples Zoo.

Nehrling died in 1929, and the Gotha property changed hands several times. Pieces of it were sold off. There were periods when the house was unoccupied and vines poked through the walls. Many of his plants died; others were taken by neighbors who assumed the land was about to be bulldozed.

The nonprofit Nehrling Garden Society was established in 1999 by people who wanted to save the property and Nehrling’s legacy. The group tried for more than 10 years to buy the property, but each time a grant or other financing seemed about to come together, a new obstacle would crop up. Wary neighbors worried about noise and traffic had to be sold on the plan as well. Barbara Bochiardy, who owned the property, was willing to sell it to the society for significantly less than the asking price if they would save it.

Finally, in 2009, a local entrepreneur loaned the society $350,000. With that and $100,000 it had raised, the society bought what was left of Palm Cottage Garden: 5.9 acres, a house more than 100 years old, and a neglected greenhouse from a later era, with many of its glass panels broken or missing.

But buying the property did not solve the financial problems. Withers said the group’s biggest challenge is raising money to pay off that $350,000 loan, which doesn’t carry the cachet of donating money for a specific project – like converting the unfinished garage into an education wing – that the donor’s name could be attached to. The society is already doing other things or has plans to: offer classes for a fee; rent out the property for events; sell plant sponsorships; partner with a nursery to develop and sell Nehrling-branded seeds and plants.

The society took possession in May 2010 and began organizing volunteers – Boy Scouts; Girl Scouts; garden clubs; service clubs; arborists; middle and high school students; plumbers and roofers; Disney employees; church groups; even German studies students from Rollins College, where Nehrling taught.

“We have had unbelievable help from the community,” said Schretzmann-Myers.

They worked almost year-round, taking a break in the summer. For protection, they wore long pants and long sleeves, the kind of clothing that is unbearable after a few minutes working outdoors in Florida’s heat and humidity. They ripped up invasive plants – kudzu, dog fennel, cat’s claw, Brazilian pepper and air potato, the latter the very species Nehrling had warned in his writings not to bring into Florida. They pruned desirable plants and planted Florida native species in the newly cleared ground by Lake Nally at the back of the property.

As they did, they discovered some of Nehrling’s original plants, mostly trees and bamboos, still living. “These are plants that have survived with benign neglect for a long, long time,” Withers said.

And they found junk. In one spot, long ago overrun by plants, they found an old still used to make moonshine from orange juice. Cleaned up, it sits in the garage now.

“It’s exciting. Every time we do a clean-up, we find something else,” Schretzmann-Myers said. “There’s living history here on the property.”

As the restoration continued, neighbors came forward with cuttings or seeds from plants that originated in Nehrling’s garden. The group replanted Nehrling’s amaryllis garden at the front of the house with bulbs rescued from a nearby abandoned garden, almost 700 bulbs that were descendants of plants Nehrling had introduced. They planted a big bed of caladiums, too.

Right behind the house, they created a “pollinator garden” with thyme, blue sage, coreopsis, passion vine, milkweed and other plants to attract bees, butterflies and moths.

While most volunteers worked on the grounds, others worked on the house. They spent the first two years making the property safe, rebuilding stairs that had rotted through, building supports under the sagging back porch, replacing railings and screens. The society uses part of the house as an office, part for exhibits and part to sell Nehrling’s and other garden books.

The property is zoned for agricultural use. Unless it is rezoned, the society can give only private tours by appointment; it cannot set regular hours that the gardens are open. That is one of the society’s goals, which they hope to achieve in the next 12 to 18 months, but with the property set in the middle of a residential neighborhood, they must win over the neighbors.

So the Nehrling Society continues to work on that bridge between past and present, between the research that Nehrling did and the plants that go into Florida gardens today. They have done much but still have work to do – the constant battle against invasive plants, cataloging the plants they uncover, digging, cutting, clearing, planting, pruning. And perhaps most importantly, educating.

“The beauty of a place like this is it’s a place where you can get your hands dirty,” Withers said. “You go to these immaculate gardens and say, ‘Isn’t that lovely.’ We want to show people how they get that way. Very rarely do people understand the joy that comes from growing a plant from start to finish.”


Nehrling Gardens

What: The Nehrling home and gardens are in Gotha, Fla., about 12 miles east of downtown Orlando. They are open to the public only on private tours arranged in advance.

Help: In addition to cash, the Henry Nehrling Society is seeking donations of gardening tools, cleaning supplies and other goods. It is also looking for volunteers. The website has a wish list as well as information on how to donate or sponsor a plant identification marker.

Information: 407-445-9977,

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Walker: Here are some tips for starting seeds indoors

The tomatoes I grew last summer were eaten long ago. So I turned to the grocery store for more red globes.

The picture here of the tomato is one of the tomatoes I bought. That “blemish” wasn’t there when I chose it at the store. It appeared days later and I watched it grow as it sat on the countertop.

Do you know what’s causing the blemish?

Since the tomato sat in the warm kitchen near a south facing window, filled with its own juice, the seeds had the perfect medium to sprout. And one of them did just that! It’s been fun watching it grow under its parent’s skin. You can see the root at the top and the two green leaves.

The seeds we buy don’t have that advantage. They’ve been extracted from their perfect growing medium, dried and kept in cool conditions until we humans decide when to let them grow.

Why do we start seeds indoors anyway? The number one reason is length of growing season. Most of the vegetables we grow are native to warmer parts of the world with much longer growing seasons. The Treasure Valley has the warmth in the summer to grow these plants, but not in the spring. Even the flowering non-vegetable plants we grow can get a head start by germinating indoors.

Starting seeds indoors also gives seedlings protection from things like hungry slugs, snails, bunnies, etc. Indoor germination also keeps seedlings safe from spring floods, late season frosts, hail and more.

To start plants indoors, you’ll need a starting medium (sterile potting soil, but never garden soil), enough light, warmth and moisture. You’ll also need pots.

A lot of things can be used for pots, but some things shouldn’t be used. Good pots are any plastic containers that are deeper than they are wide like yogurt cups or some sour cream tubs. A wider container is harder to keep warm in the center where the seed is. A shallow container doesn’t allow roots to grow deep.

Some people like to use old egg cartons, containers labeled as “peat” pots or newspaper formed into cups. The problem with these types of containers is that the roots tend to grow into the sides, then you either have to tear off tender root tips when removing the plants from those containers or plant the container with it.

If you do plant the container with the plant and the top rim of the paper-based pot sticks out of the ground, it acts as a wick and causes the soil to dry out faster.

That’s not good for newly transplanted seedlings. Tearing off the root tips isn’t such a good idea, either. While roots tend to grow into the sides of the pot, it’s difficult for them to completely penetrate those types of pots and grow out the other side.

In two weeks, I’ll present Part II of seed-starting techniques.

If you have particular questions about gardening you’d like to see addressed in this column, send them to

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Tips for indoor winter gardening

You don’t have to wait until spring to have a home filled with gorgeous greens. Fill your rooms with herbs, ferns and other indoor plants during the colder months.

Twinkle's Garden

You can have fresh greens and herbs all year long inside the house. Germinate your seeds in a damp, dark place (you can place trays inside paper grocery bags.) Once the plants have grown to at least 1” seedlings, transfer into pots and place on windowsills and around your home.

Don’t forget the sun in winter. Inside plants need at least six hours of natural light a day, or 14 hours of artificial light. Without enough light, you might see a little herbal
Seasonal Affective Disorder in your once-perky plants.  

Twinkle's Garden

Ease back on fertilizer and water during the shorter days of the winter season, but when the days turn longer, you can begin adding a bit of compost.  

Good drainage is important, especially if you are using pots or containers without a built-in drainage system. Using a fork, occasionally break the soil up very gently to ensure good drainage and prevent the soil from packing down over time.

Twinkle's Garden

Winter means less humidity in many regions. Heating systems can make your home arid and dry, and your plants brittle. Adding a humidifier will help keep the air moist throughout the drier, colder months and benefit not only your houseplants, but also everyone else living in your home.

Another way to keep your plants from drying out is to occasionally mist them with water with a sprayer, once or twice every 3-4 days.

When February rolls around, your plants will love all the extra sunlight, and by March they begin to flower. Start migrating them outdoors in April. Soon, you and your plants will be back outside, in the sunlight and in the garden.


Twinkle's Garden

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Chic city garden boutique

Gorgeously merchandized, the store sells live plants and cut flowers, a variety of glass, wood, and porcelain vessels, reclaimed furniture, wood containers, stone accent tables, woven baskets, and antique objects Hall finds on scouting trips around the world. He lures shoppers with tempting little groups of vignettes that stir inspiration and offer a vision of how his many wares could fit into a home or garden.

Glass pieces throughout the store are mostly from Sempre, a Belgium-headquartered company that has simple yet fanciful designs often in oversized shapes. These large glass domes intrigue by showcasing Hall’s artful plant styling.

Along with snipped buds, long boughs of cut branches, orchids, and baskets of pinecones, there’s bright live greenery like these cypress plants in porcelain vases (small $40, large $50).

A slice of lava stone ($75) holds 25 tea lights and tops off a lava stone cube (or any surface), making an ordinary patio or garden something much more romantic.

Hall has timed his spring orders so that when he returns from a Paris buying trip in March, he’ll begin to introduce new collections while continuously blending in new and antique items. Complete remerchandising is expected by the end of March with the focus, he says, on “outdoor products designed to enhance outdoor living spaces.”

Hall’s business plan includes remerchandising and styling at the turn of each season. He plans to do it all while keeping up with Marc Hall Design and the prestigious floral services and events it brings in. Busy man.

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Brian J Huntley’s Kirstenbosch Recommended for Garden Design Inspiration

Brian J Huntley’s Kirstenbosch Recommended for Garden Design Inspiration

KirstenboschIn an article for the Weekend Argus, Kay Montgomery has suggested some starting points for those planning their gardens for the year ahead. Landscape design shows are useful for gathering ideas as they reveal trends for the upcoming year, Montgomery says. She also recommends Brian J Huntley’s newly published book, Kirstenbosch: The most beautiful garden in Africa, for garden design inspiration:

Cape Town – January is the time to sit back and gaze at your garden. Look carefully at the way you have designed your beds and planted up the borders, and consider what you might do differently this year.

Each year, landscape design shows reveal design trends for the upcoming year. Many gardeners look to the Chelsea Garden Show to glean the latest garden design trends, and this year’s 100th show (May 21-25) is set to be a major event on the international gardening calendar.

Book details

Image courtesy Shutterstock

Cats: Nature, Non-fiction, South Africa
Tags: Brian J Huntley, English, Garden Design, Gardening, Ideas, Inspiration, IOL Lifestyle, Kay Montgomery, Kirstenbosch, Landscape Design, Landscaping, Nature, Non-fiction, South Africa, Struik Nature, The most beautiful garden in Africa, Weekend Argus
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