Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for February 12, 2013

Heroes responded to child in danger

Tuesday February 12, 2013 5:05 AM

The death of 5-year-old Elijah T. Walker, pulled from an icy pond, is made even more tragic by
the loss of a good Samaritan who saw the little boy going under, jumped out of his car, and then
drowned in a rescue attempt.

James Russell Jenkins, 30, is a hero. Witnesses said he was driving by the pond at the Hartford
on the Lake apartment complex on Thursday evening when he spotted the floundering child; Elijah had
been playing on the ice with friends, as kids are apt to do, when he fell through. Columbus
firefighters and police officers also are heroes; several voluntarily jumped into the 39-degree
water in an hour-long rescue effort. Jenkins died Thursday night; the child succumbed on

Jenkins was the father of a son who is the same age as Elijah. No doubt, his instincts as a
parent kicked in, and he didn’t stop to consider his own safety. As Jenkins’ father, Walter Jenkins
of Gary, Ind., put it, “There’s still some people out there that will lay their life down for

The large storm-water pond, which meanders among apartment buildings off S. Hamilton Road, has
claimed at least four other victims since 1998. Last week’s drowning is a reminder for people to
stay away from these ponds, which are commonly used to reduce storm-water runoff and beautify
landscaping. Though pleasing to the eye and environment, they can be deadly.

Long-married pair offers Valentine’s Day advice

Most people associate Valentine’s Day with the kind of romantic infatuation that is heady but
often short-lived. So it’s refreshing to be reminded around this time of year that love can last a

Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a California-based “Christian marriage-enrichment program,”
searches each year to highlight a U.S. couple whose exceptionally long marriage provides an example
and inspiration. This year’s couple is John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, Conn., who celebrated 80
years of marriage in November.

The couple surely has good genetics and good luck on their side, in addition to dedication: John
is 101 and Ann is 97. They were married on Nov. 25, 1932; since then, they’ve had five children, 14
grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

The beginning of their marriage had the stuff of romantic fairy tales: Both were members of the
Syrian community in Bridgeport, Conn., where Ann’s traditional parents had arranged a marriage for
her. But Ann had other ideas, and eloped with John to get married in Harrison, N.Y.

That type of willfulness may not be the secret to a lasting relationship, though. Asked what
advice they would give to others on how to remain happily married, the two say to “compromise and
don’t hold a grudge,” according to ABC News.

Ann added that “unconditional love and understanding” have been key in their years together.

Article source:

Expanding outdoor living space adds value to your home

(BPT) – Even during a challenging economy, the outdoor living trend remains popular as homeowners seek to add lasting value and functional living space under the sky and stars. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself patio or a professionally installed outdoor kitchen, the beauty, usefulness, value and ease of maintenance in outdoor living space is limitless.

Extending living space outdoors is as old as time itself. “Creating an outdoor room is a natural extension of your indoor living space,” says landscape architect John Johnson of Burnsville, Minn. “By creating a space in the open air and adding elements like fireplaces, pergolas, water features and greenery, you get a very different feel. People want and need that connection to the outdoors.”

Adding value

Without erecting the traditional four walls and roof, outdoor living space can be easily added to large, small, twin or town homes. Enhancing an outdoor space with hardscapes adds value and can be adapted for multiple uses.

“Homeowners continue to embrace the trend of maximizing outdoor living space, whether it’s an outdoor kitchen or patio living room with a fire pit,” says Lonny Sekeres, a landscape designer with Villa Landscapes in Oakdale, Minn. “Real estate experts say that for every dollar you invest in landscaping projects, you could see up to a $2 return when you sell your home.”

Do-it-yourselfers will find easy-to-install, maintenance-free pavers and segmental retaining wall systems are budget-friendly for patios, walkways, courtyards, raised gardens, fire features and wall projects. New construction should include plans for exterior hardscapes, and remodels can benefit from the advice of design-build professionals or experts from a landscape supplies retailer, says Sekeres. 

“There are so many solutions to fit any budget and need,” says Sekeres. “Products like Willow Creek permeable pavers allow rainwater drainage if needed, and retaining walls come in colors that complement any environment.”

Al fresco living

As a natural extension of the home’s ground floor, a patio expands a family’s living and entertaining space significantly. It provides a perfect gathering spot for guests and family who will be drawn from indoor dining areas to this enticing space.

A popular trend is to expand kitchen space with outdoor grilling areas, stone fireplaces for cooking wood-fired pizza, or stone counters around a grill for food preparation. “Because the kitchen is typically the customary gathering place in the home, it’s a natural extension for family and entertaining guests,” Sekeres says.

Warming accents

A fire feature such as a fireplace, pit, table, pot or ring creates an inviting outdoor focal point as well as a functional spot for entertaining, says Sekeres. A half-circle seat wall or outdoor furniture around a fire pit or table creates a cozy nook, and adding a grill, pub set, chaise or settee can transform a patio into a lounge for gatherings well into the evening and late in the season.

A newer trend is the green or living wall, says Sekeres. Products like the VERSA-Green Plantable Retaining Wall System from VERSA-LOK lets do-it-yourselfers and professional installers alike easily add drama and beauty to retaining walls. “A living wall planted with herbs near an outdoor grill or a landscaped wall of flowers is an eye-catching, eco-friendly and unique use of retaining walls,” says Sekeres.

Adding ambiance

Pathways created with pavers, stepping stones and permeable pavers can join both back and front outdoor living spaces. “New homes and older homes make good use of the longstanding porch design,” says Sekeres. “It’s easy to create a paver walkway linking the front and back or an outdoor kitchen to a lounge area.”

Lighting installed within steps and along paths can also add a unified ambiance to a home’s hardscape. Adding decor such as pergolas, trellises and arbors covered with natural materials like bamboo or fiber screens is great solutions for privacy, shade or continuity of design.

“There’s no limit to the hundreds of ideas to enhance your yard,” says Sekeres. “Many products are easy for the do-it-yourselfer with manufacturer instructions, seminars and other resources. Talk to a landscape professional, visit a home and garden show and landscape supply stores, or search the Internet for inspiration. Take advantage of the outside to easily expand your living space.”

For more information on VERSA-LOK products, visit its website or call (800) 770-4525.

Article source:

Workshop set on Ishpeming project

ISHPEMING – The Ishpeming Downtown Development Authority is holding a public workshop Wednesday to discuss the plan for visual and functional improvement in the downtown area.

The workshop is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Public Library. The DDA, along with Upper Peninsula Engineers and Architects, will discuss visual and functional improvements to Hematite Drive and Main Street. The project includes landscaping, paving, sidewalks and crosswalks.

The project is being funded by a $399,000 Michigan Community Development Block Grant that will be matched with $300,000 in DDA bond funds. The work is set to begin this summer and coincide with a water and sewer extension project.

Local business owners and residents are invited to attend Wednesday’s workshop to share their thoughts and ideas on the project design. The workshop will begin with a short presentation of project goals and concepts, followed by opportunities to share thoughts and ideas on the project. Refreshments will be served.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.

Article source:

NJ Flower and Garden Show Brings Mardi Gras Atmosphere to Snowy Winter


Despite cold and snowy weather, Mardi Gras is the theme of the 2013 New Jersey Flower and Garden Show at the Convention Center in Edison.

The show will feature display gardens, seminars, photography displays, and special events. It runs from Thursday, February 14, Valentine’s Day, through Sunday, February 17.

According to the Daily Record, display gardens to be featured will include “Bourbon Street Retreat” by Grounds Keeper Inc. from Matawan, “Venetian Masquerade” by Crossroads Nursery from South Brunswick; and “Beads, Bands Good Times” by Belgard Hardscapes, whose regional headquarters are located in Manasquan.

And Branchburg’s High Tech Landscapes will present a display garden featuring colors inspired by Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Brazil and Italy.

The Daily Record reports that horticulture, gardening, and landscaping seminars demonstrations will be held at the Flower and Garden Show. And there will be a spring fashion show along with an event for food and wine exhibitors called  “Gourmet Grape: A Food Wine Extravaganza.”

The event also features a Standard Flower Show by the Garden Club of New Jersey, and a “Growing Up Green” program for the kids. According to, any of more than 25,000 patrons expected to attend can talk to a professional at the show for help with backyard design issues.

Hours for the show will be 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Show tickets can be ordered here.

Article source:

Hawks’ Owner Focuses on Beloved Landscape Business – Alongside Stein

After 20 years of running a garden center, and 10 years as a professional landscape architect before that, Joe Kresl could be forgiven if he just wanted to scale back, relax and let someone else run things.

And Mark Birmingham, as a successful CEO of one of Wisconsin’s premier brand names, Allen Edmonds shoes, and now CEO of regional garden center leader Stein Gardens Gifts, could be understood if he wanted to just take over a smaller, independent business in a great location.

That isn’t the plan for either man.

Hawks Nursery and Stein Gardens Gifts could hardly seem more different, but Kresl and Birmingham think exactly alike. They’re both looking to grow, and they intend to do it together while remaining independent as businesses.

As reported Sunday in Wauwatosa Patch, Stein is leasing and will begin operating Hawks’ retail garden center operation on Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa. Hawks, under Kresl, will continue its landscaping services business from the same site.

But that’s only half the story. Through a joint operating agreement, Hawks will also staff 11 more regional Stein Gardens Gifts stores with landscaping design and installation experts – services Stein has never provided before.

And with Stein’s high-volume buying power, customers, so the plan goes, will get Hawks’ quality services at Stein’s lower prices.

What’s old is new again

Once upon a time, Hawks Nursery dwarfed even what Stein has become. It had vast nurseries in Upstate New York and here in Wauwatosa, the largest a 100-acre farm at Burleigh Street and Highway 100.

Kresl, who revels in the history of the business, says that at its height in the 1920s, Hawks employed 400 salesman throughout the East and Midwest.

As with all businesses, the Depression hit it hard. And after World War II, even as business returned with a boom, it changed, as did the landscape. The big farm and its other nursery sites became too valuable to grow trees when they could grow houses instead.

Ornamental flowering plants for suburban yards became a bigger market than farming out fruit trees. The Burleigh farm was sold.

The buildings from the farm were picked up and moved south to what was then 38 acres on Watertown Plank. Over the years, subdivisions bought up 30 of those acres, too.

When Kresl came along in 1992, he had a mind to buy the shadow of what was left of Hawks and build it up into his own landscaping business. With a landscape architecture degree from UW-Madison, several years of experience each in terms working for firms in Madison, then Minneapolis, and then Milwaukee, he was ready to go it alone.

“I think everybody has a dream of doing something,” Kresl said, “and it’s whether you carry it out. I had a dream of owning my own business, and this was my chance.”

The price was right for the dowdy old garden center, and Kresl thought he’d close quickly. But there was a catch. The buildings were actually on the verge of falling down.

“The City of Wauwatosa stepped in and said, ‘Look, these buildings are rotting. They need to come down. We’ll probably condemn them,'” Kresl said. “Suddenly, I had a lot more on my hands than I’d bargained for. But I decided to go ahead, even though it took a lot more time – 18 months – and a lot more money.

“I designed the garden center, and we opened in 1994.”

Chasing a new dream

If dreams die hard, why is Joe Kresl giving over his living, breathing vision of what a garden center ought to be?

“It’s a lot more fun building and growing a business than just maintaining one,” Kresl said. “Several years ago, the business started to just plateau. It had done well, but it wasn’t growing.

“And along the way, I’d gotten away from doing what I really love, which is landscape design. I’d become a manager of people and inventory.

“I started thinking about this about two years ago, getting out of that side of it and back into just focusing on the landscaping services, but it was this summer that I picked up the phone and called Mark Birmingham.

“He was interested, and we started talking seriously right away.

“The way thing worked out, I’m opening up a huge new market, all over Southeast Wisconsin, and Stein is opening up a whole new market of services that we can provide.

“We’ll be profiting off of the installation, and they’ll be selling the stock at Stein’s prices.”

An old brand needs a new kick

Mark Birmingham had a tough decision to make three years ago. He was being asked to leave a position he had been groomed for at Allen Edmonds, one of the top names in men’s dress shoes worldwide, to take over a regional garden center business from a dying man.

Jack Stein, the last scion of leaders in the Stein Garden Gifts family, would live only three months after Birmingham stepped in.

“Yes, after 13 years in the shoe business, three as CEO, I was brought in by the Stein family to a 65-year-old business,” Birmingham said, “and I saw it as my job to see to it it stayed in business another 65.”

“You had a great brand, a well-known name, but it had gotten more than a bit static,” Birmingham said. “There is something so important about brand. Coming from a brand like Allen Edmonds, I just wholeheartedly believe that the customer drives the business.

“Customers vote with their wallet. As a brand, you have to continually reinvent and reinvest to remain vibrant as a company.”

Birmingham found that Stein stores were regarded as bargain bins. They were not kept very clean, and they were stocked with a bewildering array of products no one seemed to know how to use. He set out to make Stein stores “more attractive, and more shoppable.”

Cleaning up the shelves and aisles

Birmingham’s business acumen addressed inventory, staffing and internal communications first. He found that there was a redundancy of products in, for instance, pesticides – the stores had shelves filled with every brand available, simply confusing the shopper with too many choices.

He wanted his staffs to be as helpful and knowledgeable as those at smaller, independent garden centers.

And he wanted his stores to look better.

“We’ve completely refurbished two of our stores – we’re calling them test stores,” Birmingham said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in them, and customers come up to me and ask if I work here, and I say, ‘Yes, I do.’ And they say, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.'”

Stein’s smaller store, Hawks’ bigger market

Under their agreement, Stein will lease and control retail sales on 3 acres, indoors and out, while Hawks landscaping service will work off the remaining 5 acres in back and continue to use design space in the main building and offices in a smaller building on the west end of the tract.

For Stein, that’s a big change toward small. The other Stein stores are about 6 acres. For Birmingham, it can’t be about fitting 2 tons of fertilizer in a 1-ton truck.

“We’re just going to have to be very thoughtful about not overcrowding,” he said. “Hawks has a very loyal customer base, and we can’t turn them off with that.”

Birmingham also hope to hire as many Hawks retail employees as are willing to stay.

“Joe and the Hawks team have built that business on service,” he said. “The Stein team has to live up to that, and with that in mind we’re bringing over as many of those familiar faces as possible.”

For Kresl, growth is going to be mainly a matter over having and managing people remote from the center that has been at 12217 Watertown Plank Rd. for 85 years. But that’s his new and welcome challenge, overseeing landscape design and installation on a regional level.

As the change comes, and quickly, Hawks will shut down Sunday with a target reopening date of April 1 – as a Stein Gardens Gifts.

In the meantime, though, Kresl will be establishing his new business model over five counties.

“This is my new vision,” Kresl said, “my new dream.”

Article source:

Couture Décor: Refashion Your Home With Musings From Colorado Garden …

Spring is in the air! In Flight by Flowers By Maria Photos By Eric S. Goitia

Spring is in the air!
“In Flight” by Flowers By Maria
Photos By Eric S. Goitia

With below freezing temperatures and snow in the forecast, a dose of springtime may be just what the doctor ordered for your monotonous winter blues, and the 54th  annual Colorado Garden Home Show offers up a cure.

Held at the Colorado Convention Center from Feb. 9-17, the annual home improvement show ( is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi.

The 400,000 square foot space boasts more than 700 local companies represented by 1,400 booths designed to awe, entertain and inspire with the latest home technologies, products and trends.

“Getting to the show takes a year of planning and more than 30,000 man-hours from 3,000 workers including exhibiting companies and landscaping contractors who build the show’s gardens and exhibits.”

— Jim Fricke, Executive Director of Colorado Garden Show, Inc.

Walking into the entrance off the frosty concrete jungle of downtown 14th Street, a delightful floral perfume greets visitors – of 15,000 flowers, 200 blooming trees and 500 shrubs making up 14 intricately designed display gardens sure to please the ache for springtime.

Besides the flora eye candy, home improvement experts and gardening gurus await you to answer questions (like ‘What’s my Sleep Number?’) and spark inspiration for your abode.


home. (2 of 23)No need to be a “Tim The Tool Man” Taylor to visit. The event has something for the seasoned green thumb to the wannabe Martha Stewart to the curious apartment renter. The show is open to the public. General admission costs $12, while children under 12 are free.

And the money goes to a worthy cause. All proceeds go the Colorado horticultural community for grants and scholarships. To date, the Colorado Garden Show, Inc., has donated $5.5 million.


The Artisan Shop - build the kitchen of your dreams!

The Artisan Shop – build the kitchen of your dreams –  motorized cabinets and all!

Get plugged in to the latest and greatest in home interior design and improvement and be the envy of your block with new technologies and trends in:

    • SPAS
    • AND MORE…

Besides perusing the booths, sit in on one of 53 seminars and how-to demos like “Six Secrets Every Designer Knows That You Don’t.

When I attended the show this past Saturday, I was on the hunt for the unexpected. My photographer and I happened upon the beautiful, transfixing and maybe even a little bizarre.

We appreciated a sample of hand-painted sink bowls covered in precious metals from the Granite Depot, pinpointed our Sleep Numbers, and learned about how Namasté Solar’s photovoltaic cells can harness the power of the sun.

Pausing a moment, we appreciated the beauty of outdoor sculptures pairing nature and art from the Masters Gallery, warmed up next to Colorado Hearth Home’s out-of-the-ordinary fire pits, and admired Designer Palms’ life-sized stainless steel and copper palm trees.

The Lighting Outlet - Brand name lighting for a bargain

The Lighting Outlet – Brand name lighting for a bargain

Other highlights included 9News Hot Product, JM Kitchen Bath’s cabinets and countertops made from Urban Wood. Urban Wood is wood derived from trees that have grown in an urban setting and have been chopped down due to storm blow-downs, natural damage or development.

Perhaps the booth that blew us away was the custom cabinetry and woodworking from The Artisan Shop. Using rustic wood from around the world, even putting Colorado’s own reclaimed beetle-kill pine to good use, The Artisan Shop creates custom wood projects that amaze with motorized pop-out cabinet doors, flat-screen T.V. slide outs and Bloom kitchen drawer hardware to stow every utensil you could imagine.


“Flowers and Flight” - The entry garden, a 5,500-square-foot air- and space-themed oasis, displays aircraft from Wings Over the Rockies Air  Space Museum.

“Flowers and Flight” – The entry garden, a 5,500-square-foot air- and space-themed oasis, displays aircraft from Wings Over the Rockies Air Space Museum.

The Colorado Garden Home Show is held at the Colorado Convention Center (700 14th St.) on the second floor.

Parking is available on site for $12, or park at Coors Field for $5 and take a free shuttle to the center.


The Colorado Garden Home Show runs through Feb. 17. The show is open Monday through Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information visit Get inspired!

  • Nab discounted tickets at all Tickets West Outlets located in King Soopers for $10 or bring a non-perishable food item for $2 off admission.
  • Feb. 11 admission is free for military and veterans.
  • Preview the exhibitors at to make a list of your must-sees prior to your visit.
  • Give yourself ample time to walk through. To see everything could take up to a few hours!
  • Get a head start on your springtime planting. Attend the show’s flower sale Feb. 13 for $2 per potted plant.


Brittany Stevens is a zealous antique hound, loves all things vintage and cannot get enough of HGTV. She is bringing her lifelong love of fashion to a new realm – the home. Who says the décor we surround ourselves with shouldn’t be as fashion-forward as what we wear?

Have a story you would like to see in Couture Décor? Contact Brittany here.

Article source:

It’s time to share some tips with Interior Alaska’s gardeners – Fairbanks Daily News


It’s time to share some tips with Interior Alaska’s gardeners – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Gardening


default avatar

Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.


Login|My Dashboard|

  • Story
  • Comments


Create a hardcopy of this page

Font Size:

Default font size

Larger font size

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 2:03 pm

It’s time to share some tips with Interior Alaska’s gardeners

Linden Staciokas / For the News-Miner


FAIRBANKS — As usual, I begin my season of gardening columns by clearing out bits of papers that I have accumulated since we last met.

Artichoke savvy

A reader sent me a

picture of his artichoke,

asking what was wrong with it. Nothing, unless he planned to eat it; this lovely specimen has gone to flower. You need to pick off the globe when it is a fairly uniform green in color and the bottom leaves of the bud have just started to separate from the rest of the globe. (If you are growing Gourmet Violetta or Canadian Star, you are looking for a nice purple rather elongated globe, not a green sphere.)

No sprouts secret

I grow potatoes every year, and it is frustrating to me when they start to sprout before we can finish them. That is why some years I end up making day after day dinners of potato soup or cooking and shredding dozens into hash browns for freezing, to use them up before they are beyond redemption. However, the September/October 2012 issue of Countryside Small Stock Journal suggested that placing a bundle of dried sage, lavender or rosemary in with the potatoes prevents them from sprouting. “According to Ron Smith, horticulturist at North Dakota State University Extension Services, the oils from the herbs inhibit bacterial growth and suppress sprouting.” And, of course, don’t store onions with potatoes, as this will increase sprouting. This winter I tried using the sage and it seemed to work.


Herbed butters

Organic Gardening suggested preserving herbs by freezing them in oil or butter. I always use oil but had never considered butter. According to the article, “Each herb’s distinctive taste and aroma come from aromatic oils in the leaves, so preserving them in fat protects their authentic flavors. Packed in flat, thin layers in heavy-duty zip-top bags, frozen herb butters and oils are easy to store … and can be broken off into pieces as needed.” They suggested washing and drying the herbs, and then using a food processor to mash two to four tablespoons of leaves into a half a cup of butter. I don’t have a food processor, so I used a mortar and pestle, and incorporated about four times as many tablespoons of leaves into the half cup of butter. More flavor, less butter and less expense.

Storing bulbs

Another great use for your shredded paper, courtesy of Martha Stewart: storing bulbs like dahlias. Come spring, you can add the paper to your compost heap. (Swan Island Dahlias still recommends keeping dahlias in dampened peat moss or vermiculite in newspaper-lined boxes, kept between 40 to 55 degrees.)

Female follies

Finally, from BBC Gardeners World: “Encourage tuberous begonias to concentrate all their energy into producing big blooms by pinching off the small female flowers. These form on either side of a central male flower. You can tell the difference between the flowers by checking for a winged seed capsule, which form at the base of female flowers only. Simply nip off all the female flowers.”

See you in two weeks!

Linden Staciokas has gardened in the Interior for more than two decades. Send gardening questions to her at


Monday, February 11, 2013 2:03 pm.


Welcome to the discussion.

Or, use your
linked account:

    Janet Shafer, Fortune Properties

    Janet Shafer, Fortun…



    Fairbanks Family Wellness

    Fairbanks Family Wel…



    Walmart Supercenter



    Beaver Sports

    Beaver Sports



    Rich Kelley Realty



    Stanley Nissan

    Stanley Nissan



    Gene DuVal Real Esta…



    Submit your best photos

    Share what you’re doing and seeing in Interior Alaska. Submit your best photos here. If you have news to share, you can do that here as well.

    Submit news


    Or, use your
    linked account:


    Article source:

    A guide to gardening holidays

    RHS launches its first ever garden holidays brochure, Hannah Stephenson finds out the questions green-fingered travellers should be asking before they book

    Themed holidays have been around for a long time, suited to hobbyists whose pastimes have included painting, cooking or indeed gardening.

    While garden-themed holidays simply used to involve trips to well-known gardens to admire the scenery and perhaps enjoy a guided tour, today’s offerings are more sophisticated, and if you pick the right holiday, you may have smaller groups, visits to private gardens and even a bit of hands-on experience.

    Tailor-made garden cruises featuring talks by TV gardening experts, visits to exotic gardens where guests can sample the locally grown tropical fruits and trips which incorporate some of the major horticultural shows are all available.

    Kew-trained horticulturist Sue Macdonald, who founded Boxwood Tours ( in 1990, which specialises in quality garden holidays, says that green-fingered travellers are becoming more discerning.

    “They want more private visits and want to meet the garden owners or head gardeners. That’s a big draw on a tour. They want to hear about the garden, how they cope with recent weather difficulties and plans for the future. They need someone there who can tell them the key information.

    “Gardeners want a tour leader with a horticultural background, rather than just going around a National Trust property without meeting anybody, just looking. They want questions answered.”

    Some organisations offer workshops for people who want to learn some practical gardening, but they are difficult to incorporate on a garden-themed holiday, Macdonald explains.

    “Setting up tours which are more practical is not easy to do because it involves extra insurance if people are using knives or pruning shears or digging.

    “Gardens also have to have enough space to bring people in for hands-on gardening experiences, so they might need enough space to take a group of 10 people, for instance, to take cuttings from a shrub.”

    But the yearning for knowledge among travellers is ever-increasing, she points out.

    “We have started looking more at different plant groups, which we’re doing on our Cornwall tour this year, so the head gardener is going to talk about and demonstrate the propagation of camellias, but it’s not set up like a workshop.”

    The Royal Horticultural Society recently launched its first ever RHS Garden Holidays brochure in conjunction with escorted tours expert Collette Worldwide Holidays, featuring horticulture-themed holidays around the world, including itineraries to the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, The Azores, France, Italy and Spain.

    Celebrating the centenary of RHS Chelsea Flower Show, its China tours follow in the footsteps of the original plant hunters and offer visitors an element of discovery.

    “For somebody who really wants to get down and dirty in plant hunting, looking under rocks, in damp bark, under leaves, up in the trees, in search of orchids or clematis or magnolia or whatever we are looking for, following in the footsteps of the original plant hunters, the plant seekers’ trip would be one for them,” says Sue Biggs, RHS director general, who has a background in travel.

    Biggs notes: “A lot of people will be happy to go to beautiful gardens, be told what the plants are and where they grow best and how to grow them at home, but if you want really top level – where you find out the Latin names, how to cultivate and graft plants, the real horticultural knowledge, then it would be best to choose a tour that’s escorted by an RHS curator or horticultural specialist.”

    So, what should holidaymakers check when choosing a garden-themed break?

    :: Check the inclusions because you may discover that food is not included and optional excursions can bump up your costs.

    :: Take note of single supplements. Many gardeners go on horticulture-themed holidays on their own.

    :: Look for unique experiences where you won’t be on a well-worn trail behind a fleet of other tourist coaches.

    :: Try to find out the calibre of your tour escort – are they just a courier or a horticultural specialist with plenty of knowledge?

    :: Consider the schedule carefully. How many gardens a day will you be covering? You might only be doing three or four gardens in the whole tour and be at the hotel the rest of the time.

    :: Watch out for the term ‘private visits’ because the garden may be privately owned but open sometimes to the public. You may be greeted by crowds if you go on a day when it’s open to the public.

    :: Don’t always go for the peak time. There’s a broader season and lots to see – without the crowds.

    :: Check group sizes. A good yardstick is 25 maximum to be able to see and hear most things, but if you are visiting a small garden, even that can be too many.

    Article source:

    Perennial Flower Garden Design

    Have you ever seen a garden that just took your breath away?  You visit two months later and the garden is again in full glory and you wonder how do people do it?  How do you design a garden that offers visual interest through the seasons?  University of Illinois Extension offers many resources to help you create your very own eye-stopping flowerbed.

    The Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design program has helped many gardeners create amazing outdoor spaces. Created by Martha Smith, extension educator in horticulture, this program is available online at There you’ll find lessons designed to help the homeowner evaluate their landscape, select a garden site, and follow a step-by-step approach to creating a perennial garden suited to their own personal tastes. The information is free and available anytime you are ready to begin.

    If you prefer a face-go-face program, don’t miss this year’s Gardeners’ Big Day. I started this annual event in 2000 in partnership with Spoon River College and am proud of how the event has grown and expanded over the years. This year’s Big Day will be at Dickson Mounds Museum on April 6th. I will give the keynote presentation to kick off the day. My “New Plant Runway” presentation will highlight the top new plants for 2013. Every year new plants are introduced to fit a particular horticultural need or garden niche. The best of the best is promoted each year through the various gardening organizations and plant testing groups. See the top plants this year and select a few to try in your own garden.

    Another popular Extension program is the 4-Seasons Gardening Telenet Series. The 2013 series begins on April 9th with “Spruce Problems” and ends October 1st with “Landscape Design.” In between are programs about pollinators, tomatoes, your yard after the drought, plants for dry sites, winter garden tips, and more. These are broadcast simultaneously to Extension offices all over Illinois.

    While on our website, be sure to visit my horticulture and blog pages. My “ILRiverHort” blog provides general garden information and the “Community Garden Programming” blog is a place to learn more about community, school, and youth gardens. In the Master Gardener My “Eye-Spy on Current Plant Problems” Master Gardener page gives information on current plant issues and pests. The horticulture pages provide links to other sites. You’ll also find links to my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and our YouTube garden sites.

    Finally, if you prefer to talk to someone in person about your plant or garden design questions, our 200 Master Gardener volunteer covering Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties are happy to “Help Others Learn to Grow.” You might even consider being a Master Gardener too.

    More information about any University of Illinois Extension horticultural program is found on our website at or by calling your county Extension office at 547-3711 (Lewistown), 543-3308 (Havana), 347-6614 (Pekin), or 685-3140 (Peoria).

    I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming program. Have fun designing your new garden!



    Article source:

    Friends of the Rouge Offers Native Garden Design Workshop

    Homeowners with little or no experience in gardening with native plants are invited to an April 24 workshop on how to create a native wildflower garden, hosted by Friends of the Rouge. 

    According to a flyer for the 6 p.m. event, attendees will be able to meet with experts and talk about plant selection and garden design. Other dates and locations are available. Learn more at

    Article source: