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Archives for February 22, 2013

County urges design goals for affordable housing in Marin neighborhoods

Design guidelines for affordable housing projects in Marin County’s unincorporated area neighborhoods are under review at the Civic Center.

County planners convene Monday to study “multifamily residential guidelines” for lots outside city limits.

The guidelines, in part a response to a federal edict that county government doesn’t do enough to provide affordable housing in Marin’s affluent suburban neighborhoods — and thus jeopardizes transportation and related grant funding — will be at issue when the Planning Commission meets at 1 p.m. at the Civic Center.

Planners are scheduled to consider a spectrum of design goals and development expectations for projects in a variety of residential settings. The proposals, ranging from sidewalk and parking to roof and porch design, were drafted by a consultant following several community meetings, review by a “working group” of architects, civic activists and others, as well a “visual preference survey” that drew more than 300 responses.

The result is “a lot of good ideas” indicating that given the right location, sensitivity to context and appropriate design, “density can be accommodated in Marin,” according to Nona Dennis, who monitors planning affairs for the Marin Conservation League. “However, we are very concerned that these guidelines will be codified and used to enable ministerial review of specific multifamily development projects, leaving the neighborhood and general

public out of review,” she said.

Rich Gumbiner of Kentfield, a San Francisco realty broker who served on the working group advisory panel, called the proposals “a little more restrictive than I’d like to see.”

And San Rafael housing activist Dave Coury, noting the guidelines “do not address the key issue of segregation,” observed that at present “there is virtually no land zoned for multifamily housing to which these guidelines would apply.” Nevertheless, he called the program a “step forward.”

“Aside from implementing existing policies, the guidelines can provide an effective tool addressing community concerns about the compatibility of multifamily and mixed use proposals with adjacent neighborhoods,” according to a report from veteran county planning staffers Stacey Laumann and Jeremy Tejirian.

The guidelines, drafted with the goal of promoting “greater diversity of housing opportunities to all Marin residents while respecting those qualities that make Marin livable and attractive,” come at the same time county officials are proposing 30-unit-per-acre zoning allowing affordable housing at Silveira Ranch, Lucas Valley, Strawberry, Marin City and elsewhere.

In addition, in an effort to speed development proposals of all kinds, officials will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. March 7 at the Civic Center to discuss cutting red tape that slows the permit process.

Turning the tables on skeptics who are wary of affordable housing in their backyards, the staff report stresses the guidelines will help county officials “make sure that medium- to high-density projects enhance rather than detract from local towns and neighborhoods.”

In general, the proposals advocate development plans that fit in with the natural environment and context of the neighborhood, balance privacy with the need for socializing, promote walking and provide diverse housing that serves a variety of income levels “including families, seniors and the local workforce.”

As a result of outreach, including a survey of community attitudes about facades and exterior materials, “the clearest preferences were for street design that incorporates on-street parking with a landscape strip planted with street trees,” the staff reported. “In mixed use areas, sidewalk furniture such as outdoor tables is also strongly preferred.”

Although “street and frontage improvements are likely to be part of every substantial project,” frontage improvements on county maintained streets can be costly for the county roads maintenance budget. Because of that, the guidelines call for continuing existing frontage policies on county streets — while imposing new policies on privately owned streets.

Among a variety of guideline goals: “One hundred square feet of shared open space should be provided per unit for new multifamily residential developments” although “private open space and open space for public use may be provided in lieu of up to 50 percent of the shared open space requirement.”

Other guideline proposals include goals for building mass and spacing, rooflines and eaves, street facades, porches, stoops and verandas, landscaping, drainage, building materials, lighting and a host of other matters.

The guidelines were drafted by consultants Dyett Batia Urban and Regional Planners under a $55,000 “Focus” program grant from a regional consortium including the Association of Bay Area Governments, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and others. Key goals of the program include increasing “compact” affordable housing.

Following approval from the Planning Commission, the proposals will be considered this spring by the Board of Supervisors.

Contact Nels Johnson via email at Follow him at

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Ralph Johnson, Grant Park activist, dies at 70


Tribune staff

When Tampa officials needed someone to revive the long-dormant Grant Park Civic Association, they looked to Ralph Johnson.

He accepted the challenge.

The low-income community lies just within the city limits, off 50th Street between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 4. As a long-time resident, Johnson was familiar with its problems but optimistic about the future.

“I think we’re going to bloom,” he told a reporter in 2006 as he sifted through a folder stuffed with copies of letters and emails he had sent to city officials seeking help for Grant Park. The retired city employee had a list of suggested improvements, from filled-in potholes and repaved roads to more activities for children and improvements to the recreation center.

Johnson died Saturday of a heart attack. He was 70.

Under his leadership as association president, Johnson brought Grant Park’s issues to the attention of city officials.

“He was a pioneer,” said Shannon Edge with the city’s neighborhood relations office. “That was the hardest, most challenging neighborhood to get going. He became family to us.”

Johnson grew up in Plant City and moved to Tampa in 1971. He played professional baseball as shortstop and pitcher in the Negro Leagues.

He worked as a job counselor for Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. “He made so many friends there because he not only provided employment assistance but also so much mentoring,” said his son, Kevin Johnson. “He always had a warm smile. … He was always there. He didn’t know how to turn his back on anyone.”

Johnson took an active role in Grant Park’s crime watch program. He lobbied the city and East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership for financial aid to better the neighborhood.

Johnson served for a time on the partnership’s board. The volunteer group works with city officials on strategies for ending blight within the East Tampa special tax district.

A portion of property tax revenues must be re-invested in community projects in the district.

In the past six years city projects – some paid with tax money collected within the district – were undertaken including repaving more than 80 streets and installing new fencing at the Grant Park Recreation Center.

A storm-water retention pond was excavated and landscaped to ease flooding. Last year the city’s Clean City division, code enforcement and volunteers did a massive clean-up of trash and debris in Grant Park.

Volunteers on “days of caring” have spruced up the recreation center and planted landscaping.

Last week√ Johnson led what turned out to be his final civic association meeting.

As usual he was asking members for ideas on how to keep Grant Park’s children busy, out of mischief and safe. “He was just the glue that brings everyone together,” said Tampa Crime Prevention Officer Rebecca Jones.

Though he had not been in good health recently, she said, “He pushed through trying to get people involved. I’m just hoping and praying someone steps up to carry the torch he carried for so many years.”

Johnson is survived by his wife of 49 years, Betty; sons, Darvin Johnson and Kevin Johnson; two brothers and a sister; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held today (Feb. 23) at 11 a.m. at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 4008 E. Cayuga St. Harmon Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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Edible landscaping gains popularity

Landscape designs for homes are now including elements usually found in farmer’s fields.

More than shrubbery and flowers are accenting sidewalks and decorating mail boxes. Edible plants are beginning to add an exotic or whimsical element to lawn beautification and function.

For those with limited yard space, adding vegetables to the flower patch, hanging baskets or trellis can be colorful and what’s for dinner.

Garden stores and catalogs sell baskets already planted with strawberries or tomatoes, or a mix of plants. It’s as easy as picking what appeals and learning how tall a plant grows, how much sun or shade it can tolerate and how much water it needs to create a landscape both pretty and practical.

With snow still in the forecast, garden enthusiasts are considering this season’s landscaping ideas, browsing catalogs and magazines for food and flower combinations.

“Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting,” said Kim Toscano, host of the TV show Oklahoma Gardening and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

She encourages people to enjoy the freshness and flavor of home-grown, fully ripened fruits and vegetables. With careful planning, gardeners can have a yard that is flavorful, practical and visually pleasing with the wise use of fruits, herbs and vegetables.

“Gardeners are able to control the amount and kind of pesticides and herbicides used on plants,” she said.

Other benefits include cutting down on the grocery bill, increasing food security and variety, and the fun of being outdoors enjoying nature.

Those with greenhouses can garden all year long, wintering over large plants inside and starting seedlings in February or March for outdoor planting.

Gardening and cooking enthusiast Lisa Blancher loves spending time in her greenhouse, often reading there when not pruning, watering or debugging. Even professionals have to fight unwanted pests like aphids. En route to the greenhouse, her winter garden grows spinach, broccoli and lettuce.

“I’m all about people growing their own vegetables,” Blancher said. “Lettuce and members of the cole family – cabbage, broccoli, spinach and onions – can all be planted in the ground right now.”

The ground temperature has to be 40 degrees to plant.

“Even with a cold snap, it won’t effect the seeds, unless it maintains a temperature lower than 20 or 28 degrees for an extended period,” said Blancher.

Her greenhouse is 90 degrees, even with vents and doors open, she said. It is filled with many varieties of blooming plants including hibiscus, begonia, aloe vera, cactus and succulents. She recently planted pots of vegetable seeds.

“I brought in coleus of each color to grow through the winter,” Blancher said.

She cuts stems 1/4 inch below the leaf node of the plants she brings inside, then puts the stem in room-temperature water or dips it in root stimulator and puts in a mixture of sterile soil, peat moss and sand.

“You can put plants together if they have the same light, fertility and water needs,” Blancher said.

Blancher said she keeps her seedling pots in trays. Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and egg plant can root now if kept inside.

“Once they sprout, they need light 10 hours a day, from a grow light or sunny window,” she said.

Rainwater is her choice for watering, which she collects and reuses, especially for potted plants.

Mid April or the first of May she’ll begin moving or replanting most of her greenhouse plants outdoors.

“Gardening vegetables is important to me,” Blancher said. “My grandmother was an excellent cook, and my mother, but I’m a better cook than she is, my daughter is a better cook than me and my granddaughter will be a chef when she graduates soon.”

Some decorative flowers that are also edible include chrysanthemum, day lily, rose, marigold, violets, pansies, lavender and yucca, said David Hillock, OSU Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

“The flowers are usually used in soups,” Hillock said.

When cooking with flowers, use those grown yourself, he suggests, since pesticides or herbicides could have been sprayed on flowers from a florist or garden center. And beginners might want to sample just a few in the beginning, in case of allergic reactions.

Fresh herbs can be grown in pots and are great for cooking, such as mint, basil, thyme or sage. Hillock said.

Lavender, an herb with beautiful and fragrant spiky purple blooms, makes an attractive hedge along a sidewalk; a butterfly bush can grow more than 10 or 12 feet and blueberry bushes can be a decorative and edible edging along a road or fence line.

“People like to plant flowers around to attract bees to pollinate vegetables,” said Roger Williams, OSU Extension educator, “Salvia are good pollinators.”

There are two schools of thoughts on marigolds, Williams said.

“Marigolds are supposed to attract spider mites; some people think they attract them and keep them away from vegetables, others think they just attract them.”

A number of people are planting blueberries in their landscapes to also get something edible, he said.

Fruit trees and pecan trees, knock-out roses, ferns, spider plants, potatoes and onions are among the plants and trees already on sale at local stores, like Atwoods. They also carry greenhouses for most budgets.

“Greenhouses are good for starting seedlings and protecting them from the elements,” said greenhouse specialist Mandy Bear. “Choosing the right location is important and the right soil. We have different soil options, like alkaline and sandy.”

Trained in horticulture, Bear can help new gardeners determine which plants are shade- or sun-loving.

Cold-crop vegetables are ready to put out, said Atwoods assistant manager Lee Sullivan.

“Cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce and some tomatoes and others are coming in this week,” Sullivan. “But I’m not the expert. We’re glad to have someone with a degree in horticulture [Mandy] to look after our plants this year.”

Water in the morning before the sun comes up and in the evening when the sun goes down to avoid scorching plants, Bear said.

“Seedlings can be planted in pots with rocks in the bottom for drainage,” Bear said. “And water them two or three times a day.”


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Late winter is a time to work in the garden, Neil Sperry says

Most North Texas landscapes could stand a little touch-up/tune-up after several months of off-season conditions. With the growing season just moments, days or weeks away, here are some quick and easy ways to make things look a lot better.

Scalp your lawn by dropping the mower down one notch. You’ll eliminate many of the early-spring weeds, and you’ll remove the brown stubble so that greening grass can show up more quickly. Two cautions: First, this is a dusty job. Wear goggles and a quality respirator, or you’ll need to plan an immediate visit to the allergist. Also, remember that scalping is primarily an aesthetic task. But, since making things look better is the reason we called this meeting today, it does fit into our topic.

Mulch all your beds. I prefer finely ground pine bark mulch, but you may have others that you like better. The big issue is that mulches provide a continuity to our landscaping, a “carpet” for those “rooms” in our gardens. Mulches repress weed growth in the spring, and they help soils retain moisture during the dry times. They reduce splashing, and they cut down on erosion. There just isn’t a downside. (No, they do not attract termites.) This is a great time to stock up on mulches and get them spread out in your landscape.

Reshape overgrown plants. Do so, whenever you can, by sculpting them carefully with lopping shears and hand pruners, not hedge trimmers and power equipment. You can trim most shrubs back by 20 to 30 percent without any bad long-term effects. However, if you do that repeatedly, or if you remove greater amounts, your plants may not recover. It may be that you just have the wrong plant in that place, and you might be better served by removing it and replacing it with something that stays more compact.

If you have groundcover beds that have become somewhat uneven, this is probably the time to give them a trim, too. Asian jasmine beds can be mowed. Regular mondograss and liriope have very leathery leaves that are difficult to trim with most tools. Gasoline-powered hedge trimmers work best, but be very careful not to cut into any new growth that may be emerging. If you cut this year’s new blades, you’ll be looking at the stubbly ends for the next 11 months. Actually, that same advice applies to trimming large pampasgrass clumps that have browned due to cold.

Plan for consults. If you’re aiming to do landscaping that’s much more extensive than just a bit of trimming, get your plans started now. Nurserymen get busy by mid-March, and wise gardeners schedule their consultations early and have their plans drawn up now. Most nurseries have designers on staff. Their plans will be worth the cost, because they’ll help you avoid major missteps.

Start transplanting now. If your ambitions call for the relocating of established trees or shrubs, you must finish that work before they start budding out for the spring — that means now. Carefully dig the plant with a sharpshooter spade, holding its root ball intact. Reset it immediately into its new home. Plant it at exactly the same depth at which it was growing before. Pack the fill soil around its root ball, and soak it thoroughly to get air out of the root zone. Remove 30 to 40 percent of the plant’s top growth to compensate for roots lost in the process of digging.

Add spots of color to your late-winter landscape. Many of our showiest spring annual plants can actually withstand frosts and light freezes. What many of them will not be able to handle will be the heat of late spring into early summer. That’s why late February is the best time to plant ornamental Swiss chard, sweet alyssum, larkspurs, poppies, English daisies, stocks, snapdragons, petunias and even colorful leaf lettuces. These plants can be grown in beds, or they can also be planted into large patio pots and other decorative containers.

This is also the time to tune up your irrigation system. Lots of odd things happen over a winter, and it’s rare for a system to be fully operational come springtime. Run the controller through all of its stations manually, checking for broken, clogged or misaligned heads, sticking valves and broken pipes (major leaks when the station is pressurized).

Soil testing. Finally, keeping your lawn and landscape looking good during the growing season depends on maintaining good fertility in the soil. The only way to know precisely what your plants will need is to have a dependable soil test every couple of years. The Texas AM Soil Testing Laboratory does that. Instructions and application forms are online. Have one test on your flowerbed and vegetable garden soils, and a second on turf and shrub beds.

Neil Sperry publishes “Gardens” magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 11 a.m. Sundays on WBAP AM/FM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227 or 214-787-1820.



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Spring into action – register for Let’s Get Growing workshop

Talk about it

    The University of Minnesota Extension Douglas County Master Gardeners invite you to their annual “Let’s Get Growing” workshop on Saturday, March 23 at Alexandria Technical College, Office and Information Technology Center. Register between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and also visit vendors and enjoy refreshments before the keynote speaker begins at 8:45 a.m.

    Don Engebretson is this year’s keynote speaker on “The Renegade Gardener.” Engebretson wants to help gardeners severely limit the “staggering failure” part of the equation, and does so in his presentation, “Top 10 Gardening and Landscaping Blunders and How to Avoid Them.” Engebretson says, “Gardening is America’s number one leisure time activity.”

    To make Engebretson’s list, three important criteria apply: 1.) must be a common mistake; as common as crabgrass 2.) the blunder must impart a truly gruesome effect on one’s landscape and 3.) it must be a blunder that Don has made, at least twice, during his 20-plus years as a gardener.

    Engebretson is a nationally recognized authority on landscaping and garden design. He has spoken frequently at industry events and many other consumer, university and trade symposiums across the U.S. He has published five books on gardening and landscaping, and is field editor and garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens. His articles have appeared in many local, regional and national magazines and newspapers. He is a six-time winner of the Garden Writers Association Garden Globe Award for Excellence in garden writing. He is the owner of Renegade Gardener Landscaping, a Hennepin County master gardener and belongs to other organizations important to the field of gardening.

    Participants customize their day, choosing four sessions of interest in addition to the keynote from the many breakout sessions including: 12 Must Have Vegetables; 2013 New Perennials; Adding Season-Long Color to Your Landscape; All American Vegetable Winners; Annual and Perennial Open Chat; Apples and Other Fruit for Zone 3; Container Gardening Through the Seasons, Part I and II; Ferns, Part I and II; Flower Disease: A Public/Plant Health Perspective; Gardening with Native Plants; Ground Covers: Cooling Your Soils and No Mowing; Grow Nutritious Food Year Round: Microgreens and Sprouts; Growing Herbs in Minnesota; Healthy Lawns; Heirloom Plants from Seed to Harvest; How Plants Get their Names; Lakeshore Landscaping: Using Wildflowers and Shrubs; New Shrubs; Power and Permanence: Using Natural Stone in the Landscape; Summer Bulbs; and The Essential Gardener’s Bookshelf.

    This workshop has sessions to please all levels of gardeners and exciting vendors to visit and see all the latest and newest in the gardening world. Numerous door prizes will also be given.

    Early-bird registration is $30 if received by March 13. Anyone interested in registering after March 13 should do so the day of the event at the door for a $35 cost. Registration includes refreshments, lunch and sessions. To register or to receive more information, contact the University of Minnesota Extension, Douglas County office by phone at (320) 762-3890 or e-mail For a full brochure with registration material, visit the website and look under hot topics on the homepage. The Extension office is located in the Douglas County Service Center Building (same building as the Douglas County Library and License Bureau) located at 720 Fillmore Street in Alexandria to register in person.

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    Lawn & Garden Show gets French accent

    The 24th annual Nashville Lawn and Garden Show will blend French history, gardens and architecture along with its many floral and landscaping exhibits, displays and galleries, bringing an international flavor to the annual Middle Tennessee event.

    A crowd of 18,000 horticultural connoisseurs is expected for Feb. 28-March 3 event, at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, according to Randall Lantz, one of the organizers.

    This year’s theme, Jardins du Soleil, French for Gardens of the Sun will feature a lecture series by Frederic Nancel, the operations and events director of the Chateau de Chantilly near Paris. Nancel will discuss the makeup and upkeep of one of the world’s most famous historic gardens and how the modern gardener may learn from the past.

    “The 2013 Nashville Lawn and Garden show will be unlike any show we’ve done before,’’ Lantz says. “While we continue to honor the Southern gardener, we hope this show will bring a little bit of international flare to the show’s designs. Gardens like those found in England and France are world-renowned, and we look forward to giving many of those designs some Southern exposure.

    “It’s about making gardening interesting and having fun with it. We look for new trends and we wanted to branch out and feature international gardens.’’

    Along with Nancel’s lectures, Troy Marden of Nashville’s Garden Design Consulting will speak on, “Les Beaux Jardins,’’ Inspiration from the World’s Most Beautiful Gardens, and Martha Stamps, well-known Nashville caterer, will discuss, “Life in the Garden: Contentment in the World Outside.’’

    New Tennessee gardeners

    Twenty floral gardens from Tennessee will be showcased. Those gardens will join the rest of the massive exhibits that will take over close to one acre of space at the fairgrounds.

    “It’s good entertainment. When you come in, you walk in the door and it’s warm and full of blooming things and green stuff. It’s just magical. That’s the biggest thing. People want to know about gardening, the environmental things, but most importantly, I think they want to lift their spirits after a cold winter,” Lantz says.

    Another blooming trend in the world of gardening will debut at the show this year with instruction on incorporating fruit and nut trees into home landscaping.

    Lantz says the lawn and garden crowd waned for a few years as the generations turned over. Now there is resurgence, he says, in those under age 50 that are more interested in vegetable gardens instead of the traditional flower gardens.

    “We noticed this new wave about seven years ago,” Lantz says. “Now the younger generation is interested in outdoor cooking, food gardens, etc. We’re even seeing kids get into gardening.”

    In addition to the exhibits, there will be 150 vendors.

    Despite the name being the Lawn Garden show, there is more to do than just walk through the floral exhibits.

    After 5 p.m., the lights will be dimmed and the exhibits take on a new life. The calm, sophisticated and exciting setting will make for a great friend outing or a date night, Lantz says of his favorite time of the show.

    A wine tasting will also be offered on Friday and Saturday night. The entire show will be offered indoors.

    Parking at the fairgrounds is $5. Tickets/information:

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    Tips: Garden expo, explosive science, Tuvan singers

    Science is a Blast … Saturday

    What kid hasn’t done the old shake-up-a-soda-bottle-and-watch-it-explode trick? Darryl Baynes takes that natural curiosity in children and runs with it during his “Explosive Science” program, coming to the Bright Side Opportunities Center Saturday at 10 a.m. Baynes is the co-founder and president of the Minority Aviation Education Association’s Interactive Science Programs, a national organization designed to encourage kids to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields. The program is presented by the North Museum of Natural History Science. Explosive Science, geared for kids from third grade and up, uses hands-on experiments that demonstrate weight, speed, structure and always a crowd favorite, volatility. Yes, there will be exploding soda bottles! Yay! In conjunction with Black History Month, Baynes will also highlight stories of historic and modern-day scientists, including lesser-known contributions from minorities and women. “We are excited to be working with Darryl Baynes again. His dynamic approach instantly grabs the attention of children while encouraging them to explore the world of science and STEM-related careers,” says Margie Marino, executive director of the North Museum. Admission to Saturday’s program is $8 for adults and $6 for children. The center is located at 515 Hershey Ave. For more information, call 291-3941 or visit

    Get Up And Grow … Friday-Sunday

    Close your eyes and remember your garden last spring. First came the peeking of the crocuses before winter even said goodbye. Then the perky yellow daffodils and aromatic hyacinths. Ahhh. Ok, snap out of it. It’s still February. But your springtime fantasies can come true this weekend as the Pennsylvania Garden Expo recreates the rainbow of colors, heavenly smells and floral magic of spring this weekend at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. This year’s annual event fills three halls of the complex with displays, exhibits and vendors. One hall features the work of 14 landscapers, filling 40,000 square feet with a variety of gardens, including those using boulders and water. Outdoor living specialists fill another hall with a backyard design featuring a full-sized swimming pool, outdoor kitchen and elaborate landscaping. The third hall features more than 150 garden-themed exhibitors offering a plethora of supplies, tools and more. Landscaper John Gidding, from HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” will be one of the featured speakers. New this year is a nighttime “Glow,” during which lights will be dimmed to show the gardens lit up for evening entertaining. The show is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $13 or $20 for a weekend pass. Saturday is Family Day with special reduced admission of $5 and children 12 and under get in free. For more information, visit

    Pitches Perfect … Saturday

    Most people need a duo or trio to come up with harmonies during a live concert. Not so the Alash Ensemble. When this trio sings, there might be six or even eight or 10 voices on stage. Find out how when Alash performs Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince St. Alash Ensemble are world-renowned Tuvan throat singers. They are masters of a technique that enables one singer to sing multiple pitches at the same time. This technique has been handed down generation to generation for hundreds of years in the Republic of Tuva, which is located in south-central Siberia in Russia. Although the group is steeped in tradition, the members are fans of Western music as well, and they infuse their concerts with elements of “our” music, creating a style that transcends tradition. Alash has performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. The concert will be opened by Music from China Duo, a chamber ensemble that performs both contemporary and traditional Chinese music. Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for students. For tickets, call 872-3811 or 871-2308 or visit or

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    Dreams of Being Green: Gardening Tips for a Brown Thumb

    Hi, it’s Terri Higgins back at it again!

    As the Calgary Home + Garden Show’s Group Manager, I love meeting people who have experienced rich and unique careers within the home and design sector.

    Meet Jeff de Jong. He has had an exceptionally diverse gardening career, with his passion leading to exciting opportunities. From lending his teaching skills to gardening classes in college or local gardening clubs to hosting the only two hour gardening radio program in the West; Gardening 101, he definitely knows his way around the garden. Currently, he is a professional, award-winning horticulturist, instructor and Site Manager at the renowned TLC Land Conservancy Abkhazi Garden.

    Jeff will be hitting the Garden Stage at this year’s Home + Garden Show to share his advice on the benefits of perennials: work horses of the garden!. He’ll show you thirty plants with exquisite beautiful flowers and several other attributes to warrant the title of being the best of all perennials.

    In the meantime, check out Jeff’s tips for those of us whose thumbs aren’t quite as green:


    1. How did you get started in Landscape Design?

    I started by learning more about plant material such as trees, shrubs and perennials.

    2. What inspires me when creating a Landscape Design?

    The homeowner has to be my main source of inspiration.

    3. What’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given?

    Don’t plant the landscape as a botanical zoo, meaning one or two of every plant variety, instead of capitalizing on specific plants that work!


    A front garden design by Jeff de Jong

    4. What are your design pet peeves?

    I have a few pet peeves! I don’t like it when homeowners are afraid of bold shapes and color. I also can’t stand walks that are too narrow, stepping stones, staking plants, weedy gardens and boring plants, such as cotoneaster or spruce.

    5. How would you describe your landscape style?

    Each landscape is unique to the homeowner, so my design style is not cookie cutter; I mold my style depending on what they’re looking for.

    6. What is your favourite landscape you’ve worked on?

    A favourite design was one I did for a front and back garden. The design had a naturalistic back garden but the front was more formal with a fountain and stained glass in the fence.

    7. What is a key tip for the “brown thumb?”

    To learn where certain plants grows in their native place and then duplicate everything.


    Jeff’s Calgary garden

    Jeff de Jong will be one of the experts presenting on the Garden Stage at the Calgary Home + Garden Show, which takes place from February 28 – March 3, 2013. Click here for the show’s stage schedule.

    I’ll be interviewing many more design experts, so keep checking back for insider advice and visit the Calgary Home + Garden Show website for any additional information:

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    Red Butte aims to ‘seduce’ with new water conservation garden

    If the words “water conservation gardening” bring to mind gravel and cacti, Greg Lee has some plants he’d like you to meet.

    There’s zauschneria, a red honeysuckle-like flower commonly known as California fuchsia, and penstemon, a brilliantly colored native Utah plant that comes in a variety of colors.

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    “You can have a beautiful garden that’s very well adapted to the climate here, so you don’t have to apply huge amounts of water,” said Lee.

    As the executive director of Red Butte Garden, Lee is in a position to teach by example: the botanical gardens located near the University of Utah hopes to open a new water conservation garden in summer 2015.

    “It’s going to be our most iconic garden,” Lee told the U. Board of Trustees, who last week gave approval for design and construction work to start.

    Conservation is especially important in Utah, Lee said, one of the driest states in the country and also one of the most thirsty. Utah comes in just under Nevada for the amount of municipal and industrial water use per person. Most of that water — 65 percent — is used outside, according to a 2009 federal study.

    The new three-acre garden at Red Butte is planned for an undeveloped mountainside between its fragrance garden on the northwest and the children’s garden to the southwest. The initial design shows a gently sloped, triangle-shaped area bounded by water filtration gardens and waterwise borders.

    A path winds down the length of the space, which would have sections featuring ground cover, flowering shrubs — and, yes, even a gravel garden.

    “It’ll have a number of ‘rooms’ that will focus on different aspects of water-wise gardening,” Lee said.

    The garden is projected to cost $5.87 million, paid for through private donations. After several years of fundraising, officials are about $250,000 away from that goal.

    They’re looking to break ground by spring 2014, and hope to have the garden complete by the summer of the following year.

    The water conservation garden will be the 11th themed garden on the 17 developed acres at Red Butte. The non-profit was established in 1984 on 100 acres of Fort Douglas land the Army gave to the University of Utah, Lee said.

    When it comes to watering the other Red Butte gardens, “we have some areas that are already water-wise, some areas that are less so because of more traditional plants that were selected. We’ve been trying to slowly convert a lot of areas to less water usage,” Lee said.

    Salt Lake County has another water conservation garden, the Conservation Garden Park, located in West Jordan and run by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. The 6.5-acre garden showcases six examples of gardens, from traditional to completely native, said garden manager Clifton Smith.

    In the years since the garden was built in 2000, water usage in the district has dropped from 251 gallons per capita to about 205 gallons, he said.

    “Getting out public awareness of the need is difficult because it requires some behavior change, but we are definitely seeing that slowly,” Smith said.

    While education is also important to Red Butte, Lee said beauty is tops in their plan.

    “We want to seduce them into wanting to garden this way,” Lee said. “A lot of people think they should. We want to make them want to.”

    Twitter: @lwhitehurst

    Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    New Oakland business creates gardens with style – Tri

    OAKLAND — Stafford Buckley brings a lot of baggage with him into his recently started business, all of it good.

    Throughout his life, he’s had a passion for gardening and collecting information on architecture and garden design. Now he’s put these interests together to create Garden Restoration, a business that offers garden design with a nod to a home’s style, historical background and its neighborhood, combining time-tested traditional charm with contemporary concerns of sustainability and conservation. Buckley spent his early years in Piedmont, already collecting pieces of his hometown’s architectural history and gardening.

    “I’ve been a gardener forever. My first memory of gardening is dividing hens and chickens with my mother,” he said. “Through college and after, I did gardening for clients in San Francisco.”

    After 20 years in San Francisco, Buckley returned to the East Bay, and in 2005, he moved to Oakland’s Rockridge-Temescal area. During this time, he began searching out old gardens, training as a docent for Mountain View Cemetery on Piedmont Avenue and joining the Piedmont Historical Society. In 2008, as his career in event planning was coming to an end, the question arose about what to do next.

    “It came to me that what I really like to do is clean up gardens, so garden restoration just seemed like the deal,” he said. “That way, I could couple my interest and knowledge of history and architecture with my gardening


    A series of courses in planning and garden design at Merritt College provided the basics, and Buckley set out his garden game plan, ideally to go into a garden and be hired over a period of time to transform it, working with its’ framework to return it back to its essence and work forward from there.

    “I try to make the initial imprint on the land relevant,” Buckley said.

    With a nod toward water conservation, the garden restorer doesn’t remove established plants and enjoys working with drought-tolerant varieties. For garden structures and accents, he prefers to use recycled materials, often already on the property.

    “I see what’s there and what we can use,” he said. “I think things with a little age, patina lend the style and add tone to the garden.”

    With his background in reading a lot about architecture, Buckley’s intent is to create a match between the home’s architecture and its’ garden. For one of his projects, a Spanish Moorish home in the Berkeley hills that hadn’t been taken care of for years, he turned to cactuses, succulents and California natives, leaving in place large plantings of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, established plants requiring less water.

    While garden restoration is his avid interest, Buckley also enjoys working with clients to design and install new gardens; develop master, planting and concept plans for garden structures and do consultations. He’s also a popular speaker choice with local garden clubs.

    Buckley believes that it requires a rotation of seasons to firmly establish a garden and takes several things into account when planning a restoration, including the neighborhood context, the sun, wind, exposure and microclimates.

    “All of those things taken together create the sense of place, and that is really important to me,” he said.

    Taking into account the client’s needs and preferences in terms of how they plan to use the garden and creating an outdoor space more sustainable than it was before, thus reducing the carbon footprint, are two of Buckley’s goals.

    “We have to go out into a world that’s increasingly rough-and-tumble, and I want people to have something to come back to,” he said. “The garden should be a thing of beauty.”

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