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Archives for February 14, 2013

Our supporting ecosystems

For a long time, humans have somehow convinced themselves we’re separate from the ecosystems that support us. I think that some of this is the result of religion on the one hand and technology on the other.

According to some religions, or at least some interpretations of those religions, we can have dominion over nature and use it to our best advantage. Unfortunately we have taken the short-term view of our advantage. On the technological side, we’ve developed energy generation, transport modes, housing and communications systems that appear, at first blush, to separate us from the environments in which we reside, work and play. We seem to think we have overcome nature.

However, as we’re increasingly finding out, nature, as represented by weather, is capable of rendering us much more humble than we’ve been over the past few decades. Think of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the wild fires of California and Australia for example. We’re also seeing increasing numbers of bacterial and virological diseases that we’re finding increasingly difficult to combat. Think of C. difficile, for example.

We need to become much more aware of the support Mother Nature provides to our social and economic well-being through the ecosystem services that have evolved over millennia. That support enables us to accomplish much of what we do on a daily basis. This includes everything from breathing to a more or less moderate climate, from our water supplies to pollinating many of our fruits and vegetables. That support translates into millions if not billions of dollars of services we don’t account for in our calculations of gross domestic product or our economic input-output tables.

As you look into the future of your businesses, think about the supports Mother Nature provides to enable you to make a profit and for which you don’t currently account. Does your business or its suppliers or customers compromise those ecosystem services in any way? If yes, what would it cost you to replace those services if you had to so? I recommend you access the summary of the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2007, and especially the part that focuses on the implications for business. It’s sobering.

The Assessment has concluded that humans are seriously degrading more than half of the ecosystem services that support our social and economic well-being, and most of the others are under threat. We can’t continue to believe some superior power or improved technology will save us. The latter will likely buy us time, but whether technology can do so at the scale required to ensure the climate remains moderate, that all of our food crops will be pollinated, that pests will not become resistant to treatment, and that bacteria and viruses will not mutate more quickly as a result of anti-bacterials, is still an open question.

Some corporations have begun to realize they depend on these ecosystems services and are beginning to develop ‘profit and loss’ statements that factor in their negative impacts, and account for positive changes they’re making to replace those services. Puma is one example. Patagonia has for many years considered ecosystem services in its activities. Several other corporations in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in several different sectors are also exploring how to proceed.

This is an aspect of business planning and operations that hasn’t received much attention in the past, and in Canada we’re now talking about doing away with – or at least reducing the scope of – environmental impact assessments when arguably we should be putting more emphasis on them. Business relies extensively on many ecosystem services and will not financially be able to replace them without bankrupting themselves.

How does this translate into practical things for Burnside and other business parks? Some ideas include constructed wetlands to filter runoff instead of large sewers; holding ponds for landscaping water; cisterns for industrial washwater instead of using drinking water; solar walls for heating; solar thermal panels for hot water instead of using oil and electricity; and natural areas and wildflower gardens to attract pollinators such as bees and birds.

Ray Côté is a Senior Research Fellow with the Eco-Efficiency Centre and Professor Emeritus with the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University.

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Valleygreen Flowers Brings Small Town Feel to Bethlehem Pike

Ambler Patch: When did you open your business?

Valleygreen Flowers: 1986. Valleygreen Flowers and Gifts in Spring House is celebrating their 25th anniversary. Valleygreen is owned by the Hammond and Bergey families. Fran Hammond and Dave Bergey grew up in Oreland where they were neighbors at age seven. They have been friends for more than 50 years and now business partners for 25 years.

AP: Who is your ideal client or customer?

VGF: We are a full service flower and gift shop so our ideal customer varies greatly, from new brides, party hosts and prom attendees to people looking for the perfect gift or holiday decoration. We are a full service flower and gift shop, our ideal customer varies from one stopping on impulse for a floral bouquet to  new bride, to a family or business planning a party, prom attendees or people shopping for holiday home décor or a perfect gift.

AP: What makes your business unique from others in your field?

VGF: We strive to make the designers at Valleygreen very accessible! We welcome customers to walk through our production room and see us hard at work designing beautiful arrangements and encourage them to exchange ideas with us.

AP: What made you decide to open a business?

VGF: Growing up, Fran Hammond and David Bergey worked on numerous jobs together Later in life, as second jobs, they did landscaping, Christmas decorating outdoors, and opened mall Christmas specialty shops at Plymouth and Montgomery Malls. This eventually evolved into opening a full time floral and gift shop in the Spring House Village Center in 1986. In 2007, they purchased a property on Bethlehem Pike next to First Niagara Bank which is their present location.

AP: What make’s your community special?

VGF: Even though we are located along Bethlehem Pike, a major route, we still have a small town feel.  We recently teamed up with the ”I Like the Pike” movement to help promote the businesses along Bethlehem Pike.  This is just one example of how we all come together to make the community a success.

AP: What’s your most popular item?

VGF: One of our most popular items are the Byer’s Choice Carolers. They are popular worldwide and are handmade in Chalfont, PA. Our customers can always count on us to have the latest Carolers in stock!

AP: What are some brands that you carry?

VGF: We carry Byer’s Choice Carolers, Possible Dreams Santa’s, Angle Dear, From the Blue Bag and many more! Valleygreen shops the New York Gift shows twice a year to order to find unique and trendy gifts.

AP: Where can customers find your specials?

VGF: We often post promotions on our Facebook timeline ( Also, we utilize our email list to let our customers know about the latest sales and events happening at Valleygreen.  Of course the old fashioned way of direct mail works too!  One of the great services we provide is the reminder card.  If you place an order with us for a birthday or anniversary we will mail you a postcard the following year reminding you to place your order.  We have kept many customers out of the dog house with this service! 

Valley Green Flowers, located at 1013 Bethlehem Pike in Spring House, is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Learn more on their website, check out their wedding planning website, and on their Facebook page.

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Cities Thrive on Village Ideas – Palisadian

Cities Thrive on Village Ideas

By Libby Motika, Senior Editor

There you are on the Third Street Promenade somewhere between Wilshire and Broadway. Hmm, where’s the Apple Store? Where’s Starbucks? Is it between Wilshire and Arizona? Arizona and Santa Monica? This is a familiar conundrum for many shoppers, further complicated by minimal helpful guides: signs and directories are difficult to locate and maps are confusing.

  Helping visitors navigate the three-block outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex is one component of urban planner Doug Suisman’s challenge to revitalize and refresh the infrastructure of downtown Santa Monica’defined by the seven blocks from Ocean to Lincoln and four blocks from Wilshire to Colorado.

  Suisman, a Santa Monica Canyon resident, was hired by Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. to rethink everything in the public right-of-way’lighting, signage, street furniture’that will improve communication and circulation. And, in anticipation of the Expo Light Rail arriving in 2016 with stations at Olympic and 26th and on Colorado at 17th and Fourth, there will be even greater need for visitors coming from far and near to be able to find their way and located amenities in downtown Santa Monica.

  Just a short walk from Ocean Avenue and the stunning views of Santa Monica Bay, Third Street has been a center of business in Santa Monica from the town’s birth in the 19th century to the post-war growth that made the corridor a busy commercial strip. By the 1960s, with the completion of the Santa Monica Freeway, this north-south corridor was converted into a pedestrian-only zone’and the mall concept was born.

  For the next 20 years, most businesses thrived on what was dubbed ‘Pedestrian Paradise,’ but its popularity withered with competition from the Santa Monica Place shopping center in 1980. Suisman says that the city fathers weren’t entirely sure that re-imagining the mall would be successful, but they embarked on the ambitious investment that would become Third Street Promenade.

  Opened in September 1989, the Promenade project was part of a larger redevelopment effort, and an ambitious gamble. Despite the recession in the early 1980s, urban design got a jump-start in 1984. ‘The City Council created the Third Street Development Corporation [now Downtown Santa Monica] and with a $13 million initial investment, got the ball rolling,’ wrote architect and urban designer Rick Meghiddo in ‘Cultural Weekly,’ in July 2012. ‘It was the beginning of the present-day $500 million real estate, which attracts 10 million visitors every year and produces $300 million in annual spending.’

Suisman, a licensed architect who ‘loves cities,’ brings 30 years of experience to the job. Since 1991, Suisman Urban Design has been helping public agencies, private developers and community groups shape the urban environment. His firm developed the architectural identity for the Metro Rapid program as well as the gateway signs to the Convention Center and Staples Center downtown. Recently, he developed plans for a more pedestrian-friendly downtown Hartford (his hometown) connecting parks, museums, vistas and corporate byways.

  Suisman’s main focus for Santa Monica’s business district will be to bring cohesion to 20-plus years of ad hoc improvements.

  The easy part of the plan is to implement technological advances of the last two decades into the design. ‘The lighting fixtures, for example, need to be upgraded to be more efficient and dark-sky friendly, particularly for astronomers, which means that the direction of the light is face down,’ Suisman says.

The question of circulation both for pedestrians and cars will be key in considering a thoughtful urban design. ‘At the opening of the Promenade, wayfinding was modest. Maybe there were only 12 kiosks that displayed maps; they [the developers] didn’t even know if people were going to show up. It was a real gamble.’

  Through observation and interviews Suisman and his team conducted, certain problems stood out. The ‘ambassadors,’ who were stationed on the Promenade to assist visitors, were not visible, Suisman says. ‘They were wearing Band-Aid salmon-colored shirts; now they wear bolder blue shirts with graphics. This was one of the first things we did. In addition, over the years, the public spaces have collected more and more signs. Layer upon layer of signs becomes confusing and defeats the purpose.’

  In solving some of these problems, Suisman looks to his own experience and at historical examples.

  ’Signs are no good if they are too small,’ he says. ‘Parking structures will be identified for each block, cross streets (Arizona, Santa Monica Boulevard) will be identified on taller kiosks so visitors can see from far away where they are going or want to go. These are issues of scale. This comes from city planning as far back as Rome. The city accommodated pilgrims by putting up obelisks so that wayfarers could see them from far away on their journey from church to church.’

  Maps need to be large enough so two to five people can look at them at the same time. With two maps on every intersection, kitty-corner from one another, visitors can rely on the map being there. The maps will also be turned 90 degrees so they are parallel with the Promenade, not perpendicular.

  ’Our goal is to strengthen the downtown’s identity,’ Suisman says.

  ’Many people ask, ‘Where is downtown Santa Monica?’ It surprised me how unclear that is to people. As downtown fills out in a good way, its sense as a district should be strengthened.’

  Suisman says that the new park at the old Rand site on Colorado will help to re-center Santa Monica, probably more to the south. To provide balance and variety, Suisman says that Wilshire at Third must become an alternative destination in its own right.

  He is working on ways to extend the Promenade across the street so that it doesn’t end at Wilshire. This can be accomplished by calming traffic and adding lighting, seating, landscaping and cultural elements.

  Colored pylons stationed at both ends and along the Promenade will help shoppers and visitors navigate. Blue will indicate way-finding, directions and tie in with the bus stops and the Expo Line. Green will indicate infrastructure, e.g., fountains where one can drink water or fill a reusable bottle. Red will indicate cultural and historic features in Santa Monica. One suggestion is that the blank sidewall of Sur le Table on Third Street north of Wilshire could be used as a poets’ and writers’ corner to celebrate the written word of Santa Monica writers, both living and dead.

  ’In the early summer, a pilot version of our suggestions will be in place at Third and Wilshire that will display the designs for news racks, street lights and benches’all the upgrades we have been proposing,’ Suisman says.

  ’Santa Monica wants people to be able to walk. That’s why there is so much new housing on Sixth and Seventh and at the Village development near the Civic Center. There will be tremendous walking systems built into the system.’

  In considering Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades, a third of the population, Suisman notes that despite the fact that one is a city and the other a town, ‘they’re both walkable environments.’

  Pacific Palisades is just the sort of village that has found its right size. In fact, Suisman and his wife, Moye, love the fact that 11-year-old Teddy, a fifth grader at Canyon Elementary, plays basketball at the Recreation Center. Older daughter Claire, 13, an eighth grader at Revere, begins PaliHi in the fall.

  ’Pacific Palisades is remarkable given that it was created with an important vision of community,’ Suisman says. ‘It’s better that it wasn’t created in the 1950’s model of a bedroom community and a shopping mall. The closeness of the houses to the Village is a testament to town living, where residents play, worship and enjoy a cultural life.’

Having said that, though, Suisman says that the Village is too dominated by the car and bisected by a major thoroughfare. ‘Sunset should be redesigned going through the Palisades,’ he suggests. ‘You need to make it feel like a series of east-west pathways. This can be accomplished with bump-outs (curb extensions), a series of crosswalks, speed tables and narrower lanes. Why should people in Pacific Palisades have an environment that improves the commute for people going to Malibu or downtown?’

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Snowdrops melt the heart

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    Homeowners can help reduce harmful runoff into the bay

    Water resources engineer Joseph Battiata was driving with his wife in the pouring rain one day, struggling to explain how difficult it is to manage stormwater runoff in ways that protect water quality.

    “Where do you think all this water goes?” he asked her finally.

    She paused for a second, then replied: “Away.”

    Battiata drew laughs with that exchange Wednesday morning, but it illustrated the serious, central issue of a two-day statewide summit in Williamsburg: how to educate and convert the public to conservation landscaping — starting in their own backyards.

    “Protecting Water Quality Through Actions on Urban-Suburban Properties” brought together an array of stakeholders, from academics and landscapers to conservationists and government representatives, to share experiences and ideas about sustainable funding, model programs, best practices and public outreach and education. It was hosted by the Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch in partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

    Private property owners in Hampton Roads, in particular, can play a crucial role in restoring water quality, living within the 64,000-square-mile watershed but also directly on the bay, which has suffered from nutrient and sediment overload for decades. Virginia is on a federally imposed “pollution diet,” or Total Maximum Daily Load, to reduce pollutants draining into the bay.

    Fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture have long been targeted as pollution sources, but summit speakers noted that private property owners also bear responsibility. Among the culprits are common yet environmentally unsound landscaping features such as chemically fertilized lawns, impermeable paving stones and rain gutters that feed stormwater into the street.

    Better landscaping options, speakers said, include rain gardens, rain barrels, living shorelines, green roofs, permeable pavers, dry ponds, no or reduced fertilizer use, and replacing grass lawns with native plants and trees.

    Adopting even one conservation feature could make a difference, they said, and could be as simple as setting lawnmower blades to a minimum 3 inches, recycling grass clippings or installing a rain barrel.

    “We had some success with a rain barrel program,” said Christin Jolicoeur, watershed planner for Arlington County. “What we found was that rain barrels were the gateway drug.” Once homeowners had one, she explained, they were ripe for more buy-in to sustainable landscaping.

    But reducing enough residential runoff to make a difference will take buy-in from the public on a massive scale.

    “We need tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of homeowner load reductions to make it meaningful,” said Tom Schueler, executive director of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network.

    Convincing some homeowners to give up fertilizers won’t be easy, said Battiata, president of the Center for Watershed Protection based in Ellicott City, Md. “It’s like guns in Virginia — ‘You’re not taking my fertilizer away.'”

    The challenge is educating the public about their role in the watershed and also empowering them to reduce the amount of runoff that drains off their land and into the bay with every rainfall.

    Localities, too, need to be brought up to speed on their new responsibilities. According to Ginny Snead with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, many localities aren’t aware that revised state regulations that went into effect in 2011 require most of them to operate their own local stormwater management program.

    Arlington County initiated a pilot project in 2012 called StormwaterWise Landscapes to promote best management practices (BMP) to homeowners, offering soup-to-nuts assistance, Jolicoeur said.

    Homeowners applied, sites were assessed and selected. Project plans were submitted, installed and inspected. At the end of the year, homeowners were reimbursed for about half their costs.

    Project costs varied, she said, but in general homeowners spent about $500 for conservation landscaping and about $1,000 for features such as rain gardens. Costs are expected to increase in 2013.

    The 2012 program budget was $44,000 to service 40 homeowners and maintain part-time staff. For 2013, they’ve lined up $112,000 to service at least 60 homeowners.

    Key to a successful program, besides acquiring funding, Jolicoeur said, is providing “a lot” of technical and moral support to homeowners, who are often bewildered by the process.

    Nissa Dean, Virginia director for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, said replacing “big, green lawns” with native plants and trees that draw birds and butterflies can be its own reward.

    “And know for peace of mind we’re protecting the bay and the rivers that flow into the bay at the same time,” said Dean. “Together, we can get the public to think differently about their backyards.”

    Article source:,0,3560924.story

    Spring Forward

    New England may not be widely known for its public gardens, but those that do grow here inspire passion in the hearts of hardy-zoned green thumbs. The Glebe House, for example—the Connecticut birthplace of the Episcopal Church in the New World—also boasts the only extant American garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll, whose impressionistic style turned landscapes into flowing paintings. The other side of the state offers the Gothic Revival-styled Roseland Cottage (owned by Historic New England), with its vibrant mid-nineteenth-century boxwood-edged parterre gardens: “an elaborate, rather rare place, planted beautifully,” according to gardener Alan Emmet ’50, RI ’77, who wrote the authoritative So Fine a Prospect: Historic New England Gardens.

    She also favors the normally private Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, in Seal Harbor, Maine, designed by Beatrix Farrand, that is open to the public, by reservation only, one day a week in the summer. The estate’s “huge, fabulous” main lawn is bordered by countless varieties of lush flowers, Emmet says. Equally thrilling is the series of woodland scenes and outdoor “rooms” Farrand created, filled with hostas, ferns, and other shade-loving greenery, set along mossy paths that wind their way to a walled garden. “The paths also hold a lot of Asian sculpture collected from the Rockefellers’ trips,” such as stone Buddhas and towers, Emmet reports. “And the moon gate that you step through into the walled garden in the woods is just magical.”

    In the interest of (temporarily) satisfying those late winter yearnings for blossoms and fresh greenery, and for planning excursions once the ground thaws, Harvard Magazine has produced a selective look at what’s growing where—now, and this summer—in zones 3b through 7a. Although “the greatest public gardens are probably in the South,” admits Roger Swain ’71, Ph.D. ’77, writer, gardener, and former longtime host of the PBS television show The Victory Garden, “what is here is definitely worth attention: certainly not shabby!”

    For example, he says the greenhouses at Wellesley and Smith Colleges are “better than a ticket to Jamaica!” The Wellesley College Botanic Gardens has 16 of them (in addition to its arboretum and other artful landscapes). The spaces include sections devoted to succulents and desert plants, a fine array of unusual ferns, and tropical and subtropical trees and flowers, along with an orchid room and the 130-year-old Durant camellia, which came from Wellesley’s founders, Pauline and Henry Fowle Durant, A.B. 1841. An entire “camellia corridor” is walkable at The Botanic Garden at Smith College, as is an invitingly humid palm house, with coffee, banana, and cacao plants. The Australian fern trees are also worth a visit, and the college’s annual spring bulb show (March 2-17) is a popular tradition.

    When the snow is gone, Swain urges a trip to discover “all the early bloomers, the spring ephemerals, the marsh marigolds, and skunk cabbages and other lovely early signs of spring” at the Garden in the Woods (home of the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, Massachusetts). Enchanting pathways wind around various habitat displays, such as bog and swampland plants, meadow flowers, and an inspiring rock garden. Visitors can also take longer loops through woodlands and over the Hop Brook.

    Later in the season, fans must get to “the best new public garden in New England—the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens,” Swain avers. More than 10 meticulously designed garden spaces have already been created on the organization’s 248-acre tract in Boothbay; all are open year-round. Classes, dinners, and other events are available (although the buildings are closed from December through March). Miles of walking trails wind along the shoreline, through the mossy woods, and past small ponds.

    The gardens opened in 2007 after 16 years of planning and planting by hundreds of volunteers and a core group of residents, some of whom mortgaged their homes to help raise money for the ambitious project. “It’s a very creative and whimsical place for people of all ages,” says marketing director Kris Folsom.

    The unique Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden is designed around well-known books with a Maine connection. Kids can sit atop “Sal’s Bear” from Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries For Sal, meet Miss Rumphius (by Barbara Clooney), who tells stories in a giant, handmade wooden chair, or search for E.B. White’s Charlotte the spider in the Story Barn. There are a real rock cave and tree stumps to jump among, water pumps and fountains, as well as living roofs to study and a pond that highlights the local art of lobstering. A “fairy garden” offers miniature houses and other scenes crafted from moss, bark, pine cones, and mushrooms that involve fantastical creatures (fairy events are held on Fridays in July and August). “Adults love the children’s gardens, too,” according to Folsom, “because the landscaping and color from the annuals there are spectacular.”

    On the other side of the property, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses provides a rare opportunity to enjoy the natural world in ways that go beyond our usual overdependence on visual beauty. There, paved stone pathways and elevated gardens ease the way for those with wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. There are herbs to smell and taste, a “popcorn plant” (Cassia didymobotrya), strongly scented flowers, and a wide variety of textured plants: “soft and fuzzy, others with jagged edges,” Folsom explains. “You will use all your senses as you go along.” The central water feature is a pond and waterfall that runs down over a stone wall: “You can run your hands along it and feel wet and cold water that travels from one pool to another,” she says, and listening to and keeping the water on the same side assures the vision-impaired that they are always moving forward through the gardens. “Even the labyrinth is made of stones whose sizes change as you walk toward the center,” she adds. “Take your socks off and walk the path to incorporate reflexology or experience it as a meditation—or just as a fun thing to do.” (Horticultural therapy sessions and classes are also held in the garden.)

    There are also rich rose arbors, a kitchen garden, perennial beds, shoreline trails, loads of rhododendrons, and a hillside garden lined with moss, boulders, and an unearthly, glowing glass orb sculpture by Henry Richardson. “If you are up in Maine and you come to the turnoff for Boothbay, you’d better take it,” says Swain. “You can stop for lunch—there is a restaurant; walk in the gardens. It’s been beautifully planted and has sculptures. Everyone who goes there falls in love with the place.”

    The 132-acre Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, is another dynamic year-round destination—especially for those seeking ideas and inspiration for what they can accomplish at home. Various kinds of gardens (e.g., vegetable, winter plantings, and evolutionary) are on display, and woodland trails lead to diverse locales: a wildlife refuge pond and a mid-eighteenth-century English-style managed woodland with native species, a folly, and a Greek “temple of peace.” Two glass houses, the Orangerie and the Limonaia, help take the edge off New England winters with citrus trees and blooming camellias, calla lilies, and bird-of-paradise flowers—along with other nonhardy plants from around the world. “People tell us their stress level decreases as they come up our driveway,” says marketing and public-relations director Michael J. Arnum. “Tower Hill is a rejuvenating place, an oasis.” As the home of the Worcester County Horticultural Society (founded in 1842), Tower Hill is also an educational wellspring. The library is open to the public, as are concerts, classes, workshops, art exhibits, and flower shows, such as those coming up on African violets (April 20-21) and primroses and daffodils (May 4-5).

    “The beauty of botanical gardens today,” says new executive director Katherine F. Abbott, M.P.A. ’88, “is that they have grown so much beyond being a plant museum to really being about larger conservation issues: connecting people to plants in every way, shape, and form in terms of plants being a part of the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink, as well as our spiritual, psychological, and emotional well-being.” The “systematic” garden, for example, which demonstrates plants’ relationships, is based on American botanist Arthur Cronquist’s taxonomic classification and is ordered evolutionarily: it begins with a primordial pool and moves through ferns to conclude with the Aster family, “the most complex compound flowers,” Arnum says. One centerpiece of the systematic garden is a Southern magnolia that is espaliered against the brick of the Orangerie, “and even blooms once in a while for us if it’s mild enough.”

    “The systematic garden is a lovely introduction to what’s related to what—a teaching tool,” Roger Swain declares. “Worcester gets lots of credit for its teaching and shows.” But his favorite part of Tower Hill is the antique apple orchard. The garden purchased its first acreage from a dairy farm that also had an orchard, which has been nurtured and now includes 238 trees—among them 119 varieties of pre-twentieth-century apples. (Samples are available on Columbus Day weekend, but enthusiasts can order scionwood—cuttings from a tree—for grafting to their own trees and look forward to edible fruit.) Picnics, with wine and beer drunk in moderation, are allowed, or visitors can eat at the in-house Twigs Café, where food is served indoors or on a stone terrace with views of the Wachusett Reservoir.

    To understand the depth and beauty of a 30-year collaborative artistic passion, visit Naumkeag, a National Historic Landmark built by McKim, Mead White for lawyer and diplomat Joseph Choate, A.B. 1852, LL.B. ’54, A.M. ’60, LL.D. ’88, and his family in 1885. Now owned by the Trustees of Reservations, the Gilded Age, 44-room house in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is open to visitors from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, but the grounds alone, with their current designs by Fletcher Steele (who took landscape architecture classes at Harvard) in partnership with Choate’s daughter, Mabel (who also studied garden design), offer lessons in grace, harmony, and scale. “They ended up creating an amazing monument to twentieth-century landscape design,” says Mark Wilson, the Trustees’ west region cultural resources manager.

    The two worked on realizing their vision from 1926 until 1956; Mabel died two years later, bequeathing the property to The Trustees. Now a $2.6-million restoration of their work, which has deteriorated somewhat over time, is under way. “We have a five-fountain system and an 80-year-old piping infrastructure, with over eight acres of long-running pipes,” Wilson says. “We have to look at sustainability and isolating some of that water.” (Fundraising is in progress to match a $1-million challenge donation.) Meanwhile, everything is still open and operating for visitors.

    The project includes masonry repairs to the terraced Art Deco-style blue steps (made from a then brand-new building material: cinder blocks) that lead from the house to Mabel Choate’s extensive cutting gardens through an ethereal arbor of 75 white paper birches, which are near death and will be meticulously replaced. The serpentine lines of the 16 beds of roses sit in a sunny section by the house (designed to be seen from Choate’s bedroom); new varieties will be introduced and existing bushes rejuvenated. Restoration is also planned for the Chinese garden, which includes a temple designed by Steele. Entered through the “Devil’s Screen” and exited through a moon gate to bring good fortune, the garden holds carved lion and dragon stonework, foo dogs, and stone lanterns—treasures from Choate’s extensive travels abroad—along with Asian plants and trees, including nine ginkgoes hovering over large-leaved butterburr. The temple “took 20 years to complete,” Wilson notes. “The roof tiles came from Peking.”

    Other foreign accents lend personal warmth and history. A cast-iron pagoda, containing a sacred rock brought from China, leads to the Berlin-style linden allée inspired by a trip to Germany; a statue of Diana greets walkers at the end. Another sculpture, Young Faun with Heron, commissioned by architect Stanford White from Frederick MacMonnies, was moved by Steele from the front of the house to his more intimate side “outdoor room,” known as the afternoon garden. The Italian-style courtyard is framed by Venetian gondola poles originally painted teal and red, with gold accents (all now faded), and held together by ship’s rope. In the center is a shallow oval pool with four fountains surrounded by stone chairs in the classical style. “We’re not a flower garden,” Wilson points out. “Mabel was moving away from the heavy maintenance of flower beds and extensive lawns to more ground covers and mass plantings, or open fields, and using trees and bushes as sculptural elements. And Steele was telling people not to use DDT [its insecticidal properties were discovered in the late 1930s] on the property. They were really ahead of their time.”

    Coastal Rhode Island offers another, very different, example of a grand old house and gardens. “Blithewold is an early-twentieth-century place with wonderful old trees and roses and a beautiful setting on the Narragansett Bay,” says Emmet, who particularly loves its old-fashioned rose varieties. (Hybrid roses, she says, “hold no romance for me.”) Inspired by the English Manor style, the stone and stucco mansion with steeply pitched roofs sits at one end of an elegantly graded, 10-acre lawn that sweeps down to the water.

    The entrance garden features 100-year-old climbing roses and dozens of shrub roses, including modern cultivars, as well as annuals and perennials, such as complementary blue and purple delphiniums and lavender—all immaculately maintained. The chestnut rose, with its thousands of pink blossoms, is among the largest in the country. The roses peak in mid June, with another round in late summer, but the house and grounds, open year-round, are worth touring any time. Bessie Van Wickle (later McKee) was an accomplished horticulturist who hired landscape architect John DeWolf to help realize her dream of creating a gardener’s paradise. She and her daughters, Marjorie and Augustine, lived at Blithewold at least half the year, from 1896 until the death in 1976 of Marjorie, who also gardened actively and developed the estate, now owned by the nonprofit Blithewold, Inc.

    The 33-acre property is also known for its 1,500 trees and shrubs, including rare specimens and a century-old sequoia. Willows, cottonwoods, and Japanese maples surround the 1920s water and rock gardens, where a man-made pond is home to wildlife. Stone walls and a bridge add heft, while English yews and Eastern red cedars planted long ago also help shield tender plants from the coastal winds and salt sprays. The delicate task of managing the plantings, increasingly vulnerable to both storms and drought, holds lessons in climate adaptation for gardeners everywhere.

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    Master Gardener Tips

    This information was provided by the Coos County Master Gardener Program.

    – If you would like to become a Master Gardener, call or write the Coos County Extension Office, at 541-572-5263 or 631 Alder Street, Myrtle Point, OR 97458.

    – To learn more about seed packet information, seed starting and garden basics, you can join fellow gardeners at the Fertilize Your Mind seminar and take gardening guru Jennifer Ewing’s “Gardening 101” class or her class on Seed Starting on Saturday, March 30.

    – For more seminar information or to download registration forms, go to Follow the “Fertilize Your Mind” link. 

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    Home & Garden Show Birmingham 5 tips from 2013 show – The Birmingham News

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    Garden Designers Turn Dreams Into Reality For Ellerslie

    14 February 2013

    Designers Turn Dreams Into Reality For

    Dreams have started to become reality
    today when dozens of designers begin the process of creating
    their exhibition gardens for the Ellerslie International
    Flower Show.

    After months of planning the designers can
    finally begin constructing their gardens on-site in North
    Hagley Park in preparation for their judging on Monday, 4
    March and for their public unveiling on Wednesday, March

    While the professionals move in today, the aspiring
    professionals have to wait until Saturday until they can get
    started on their entries in the show. That is when those
    competing in the Emerging Designs – Student of the Year
    competition can start putting their creations

    For Wellington landscape design student Bayley
    LuuTomes the start of Ellerslie cannot come soon enough. He
    is excited about participating in the prestigious show and
    having the chance to compete for gold.

    “It has been an
    amazing journey to date with so many wonderful people in
    this industry. I can’t wait to get there,” he

    For a group of enthusiastic amateurs from Raumati
    School in Kapiti, March 2 is D-day. That is when they will
    arrive at North Hagley Park to begin work on their
    exhibition garden – the first ever by a school.

    goes without saying that we are all extremely excited to be
    coming down and taking part in the Ellerslie International
    Flower Show,” says their teacher Diane

    Preparations for the opening of the Ellerslie show
    are well underway. Fifteen large marquees are being erected
    on site, which along with Hagley Park’s two large geodesic
    event domes, will create a garden village

    There are a total of 73 horticultural exhibits
    this year including 26 outdoor gardens. Putting the show
    together is a team of 50 full-time and contract staff
    assisted by around 200 local volunteers.

    International Flower Show Managing Director Dave Mee says up
    to 200 people will be on site during the next week with
    numbers building to 1000 in the days leading up to the
    show’s public opening.

    “This year’s show is all
    about flowers and it has a new edible component too. With
    more than 200 exhibits in total and a quarter of a million
    flowers, there will be plenty to see and do during the
    five-day show,” he says.

    The Ellerslie
    International Flower Show is on in North Hagley Park from
    March 6 to 10.

    Tickets are available from the website, all open Christchurch City
    Council Service Centres, Mitre 10 Mega Stores in
    Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru, Terra Viva, EziBuy
    Christchurch and Nichols Garden


    © Scoop Media

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    Remember, City Council, Forever Is a Really Long Time

    It’s a request the City Council should deny.

    The last thing New York needs is to enshrine the aging and oppressive Garden, which may be the world’s most famous arena but is also one of the ugliest and, for millions of commuters using the station trapped beneath it, a daily blight.

    The Council could grant a 10-year permit, enough time so that the Garden and the various parties responsible for the station can come up with an appropriately aggressive plan to improve the site, a plan that should include discussions about a possible future home, elsewhere, for the arena. Renewal of the permit is one of the few points of leverage the city has over the Garden.

    The special permit approval process starts with Community Board 5, which is to vote on the request Thursday evening, after which the Manhattan borough president and City Planning Commission will make their recommendations. Then the City Council will rule.

    The Council should also deny the Garden permission for signage of up to 17,300 square feet on the building (that’s more than five times the current amount). This would include signs of up to eight stories high on the corners of 31st and 33rd Streets on Eighth Avenue, and a 5,300-square-foot “media wall” on that avenue’s facade. The wall would no doubt create an appalling floodlight of announcements and advertisements that could only further degrade the neighborhood: an immense, flashing electronic billboard would be the first thing many visitors to the city see if Amtrak ever moves, as intended, to the James Farley Post Office building across the avenue.

    The Garden, as compensation, proposes also to add directional signs on the surrounding streets and install a few semicircular benches and decorative concrete paving, along with “interpretive pavement inlays commemorating significant people and events associated with Madison Square Garden,” according to the Garden’s land use application. That’s what passes in the application for public amenities.

    On their own New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak have banded together to hire the design and engineering firm Aecom and James Carpenter Design Associates to devise ways to bring a little light and air down into the bowels of Penn Station. But so far the plans, hamstrung by the arena, seem only to recommend modest changes and perhaps the partial closing of 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue, to create a small pedestrian plaza. Serious change to the area, to heal one of most painful wounds the city has ever inflicted on itself, must involve the Garden.

    Its owners, the Dolan family, have been pouring a billion dollars into upgrading the arena. New York taxpayers are effectively footing part of the bill. In 1982 the New York State Legislature, worried that the Knicks and Rangers might leave town, granted the Garden a tax abatement that last year alone saved the Dolans $16.5 million, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office. In 2008, by which time the abatement was estimated to have cost the city $300 million, the City Council recommended that it be ended, but the state legislature declined.

    Penn Station was designed half a century ago when some 200,000 riders a day used it, but now 650,000 do, and that number is growing. With the Garden on top of it, relief is not likely. The City Planning Commission, which recommended the demolition in 1963 of the old Penn Station, now has, for the first time since then, a chance to atone by giving the permit a time limit. The permit that has just expired was for 50 years.

    Several years ago the Garden entertained a proposal by developers to vacate its site and move to the back of the post office. Having just spent a fortune on improvements, the Dolans probably have no desire to entertain a move now.

    But a decade of wear and tear should help to amortize their investment and make the notion of a new home more palatable, especially compared with the endless prospect of sinking yet more millions into an already decrepit building. The Garden has already moved twice since its establishment, in 1879. Another move, one that sustains the arena’s mass-transit link, could provide an opportunity to build what the Garden should be, the newest and best sports and entertainment facility in the city: an architectural landmark as opposed to an eyesore, lately made to look even worse by the arrival of the spanking new and striking Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    New York deserves better, not flashing signs, decorative paving stones and more of the same, in perpetuity.

    Follow Michael Kimmelman on Twitter, @kimmelman.

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