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Archives for April 3, 2013

Granting ideas

The town may see new improvements in park space, renovated churches or even library systems, thanks to possible community grants.

At a meeting hosted by the Cass County Community Foundation, community members were asked to dream up projects in Royal Center that could be completed with a grant. The community foundation has given away $7 million since 1993, according to foundation president Deanna Crispen.

Though the CCCF office is based in Logansport, Crispen stressed to the crowd of about 60 that there were many opportunities in rural towns like Royal Center.

“Honestly, a lot of our donors are from out here in the county,” Crispen said.

The foundation applies for grants or gathers donations and awards them to nonprofit organizations in the county. Ed Schroeder, fire chief of the Royal Center Volunteer Fire Department, said his department, as one of the only nonprofit organizations in the town, can help funnel grant proposals or requests for money to the CCCF.

“We will be the conduit to make that happen,” Schroeder said.

In the past, grants from the CCCF have helped the fire department receive extrication equipment, park tables and transform a building into a storm shelter.

The community received $20 for each person that attended the meeting.

Asking for ideas for improvements from the audience members, Crispen heard proposals like a radar speed sign to be placed outside the school, batting cages for Little League groups and a capital campaign for the Royal Center Library.

“No idea is too big or too small,” Crispen said.

Tim Minnick, pastor at Zion United Methodist, said his Lucerne church, which was built in 1850, would like to find a way to attain historical status to find grants for some repairs in the church.

“Our facility is in dire need of a new roof,” Minnick said.

Crispen said her group could help put them in touch with the Indiana Landmarks group.

Angie Williams of Royal Center offered an idea from her mother, to put a green space in the lot left vacant by the destruction of Moser’s drug store at 108 Chicago St.

Williams said she wanted the space to work as a type of welcome to the town featuring benches or general landscaping. She said while others may not think much of the downtown, it’s important to the residents.

“If you live here there is a lot to it,” Williams said.

Other residents suggested changes to the Lion’s Club Park in Lucerne. Dirk Raderstorf suggested building a sidewalk or perimeter around the park so that older people could enjoy taking walks without struggling through the grass.

“Older people use the parks just as much as the younger people do,” Raderstorf said.

After the meeting Crispen said she expected several emails from residents as they thought up more ideas.

“Every small town has great ideas,” Crispen said.

Williams also said she believed the town had a lot of potential.

“Ours is a small community, but we make things happen,” Williams said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition. 

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Australian planners tour Memphis developments

A group of Melbourne, Australian-area urban planners and developers soaked in Memphis the past two days to get ideas for dealing with their own issues back home.

Which could be humbling to Memphians considering that The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Melbourne as the world’s most livable city.

The group of about 20 toured Sears Crosstown, Overton Square, Broad Avenue, Beale Street Landing, Harbor Town and Downtown on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to see Clarksdale (Miss.) downtown redevelopment, as well as New Orleans, New York and Chicago.

The travelers represent two organizations, the Urban Development Institute of Australia and the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Memphis was their Memphis host.

The New Urbanism design of Harbor Town most impressed Steve Copland, a town planner in Melbourne, and Tony De Domenico, executive director of the Urban Development Institute of Australia.

Asked what he liked about the Harbor Town mixed-use development on Mud Island, Copland said, “Everything.” But he cited the densely sited houses pulled close to the streets, the mix of uses and mix of renters and home owners. “I thought it was just sensational. That whole New Urbanist movement, we don’t have probably any real good examples in Australia … Hasn’t taken hold.”

De Domenico cited Harbor Town’s lush landscaping, proximity to the Mississippi River and “its ambience generally.”

Julie Reid was so struck by the progress made toward redeveloping the long-vacant Sears Crosstown building that she plans to follow the project closely at

She’s general manager of city development for Whitehorse, a Melbourne suburb of 160,000 people.

Whitehorse has a rundown historical building or district, similar to Crosstown, that “lacks vibrancy and the life we really need in that location,” she said. One of the reasons is concern about crime, Reid added.

What she learned from the Sears Crosstown tour is the effectiveness of partnerships among organizations that want to improve their community.

“A lot of private involvement is impressive to me,” she said. “I’m impressed that people involved here have the community in mind. People in Melbourne really value community.”

After 24 hours of flying, some of the group headed straight to FedExForum Monday night to catch the Grizzlies-Spurs game, then closed down B.B. King’s nightclub on Beale. They finished their Memphis leg on Wednesday with a tour of several Downtown apartments developed by the Henry Turley Company.

Turley Company president Jason Wexler led the tour, telling the Australians that before Downtown’s redevelopment many people wouldn’t dare to walk along a nearly deserted Main Street.

“A lot of buildings were rotting away and pretty much on the cusp of being lost forever,” Wexler said.

The steady restoration and adaptation of historic buildings and sensitive new construction have made Downtown the place to be, especially for young professionals, Wexler said. Downtown apartments are in demand.

Laughter broke out among the tour-takers when they spotted the $12-a-day rate for parking in a Downtown garage.

“We would pay up to $80 to go to a two-hour meeting” in downtown Melbourne, said Jennie Jones, a town planner. “So if we go to a downtown meeting, we get a tram or taxi, or walk.’’

They followed Wexler around The Cornerstone, Barbaro Flats, Main Street Flats, Radio Center Flats and Van Vleet Flats.

As Wexler led them to a rooftop patio for apartment dwellers, De Domenico told him, “This looks like one of the apartments in Milan.”

“I take that as a compliment,” Wexler responded. “Thank you.”

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GALLERY: The Illawarra’s landscaping masters

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  • The TAFE Illawarra entry won over the judges at the Royal Easter Show. Pictures: ADAM LUCAS

TAFE Illawarra landscaping students have won the 2013 TAFE NSW Landscaping Challenge at the Royal Easter Show for the second year running.

Students from the Yallah campus battled it out against teams from Northern Sydney, South West Sydney and Western Sydney institutes and took out the top prize for landscape construction and landscape design.

Yallah TAFE landscaping teachers Craig Conway, Travis Butler and Daniel Herbert guided the students to victory at the challenge, which was the centrepiece of the Great Aussie Backyard exhibit at the show.

Mr Butler, acting head teacher of horticulture, said the event gave students an insight into the challenges faced by professional landscapers, including working to tight deadlines.

“The event also exposes students to communicating with other students and teachers about their designs and products used in their displays, which is an incredibly important skill to take into the workforce,” he said.

“We are thrilled to have won this challenge for the second year in a row. It’s a testament to the students’ skills in construction detail, workmanship and meeting brief criteria.

The theme for the challenge this year was “Big Ideas, Small Spaces”.

The Illawarra team’s efforts certainly impressed the judges, who included TV gardening personality Jody Rigby.

TAFE Illawarra floristry students earned a highly commended award for the 2013 TAFE NSW Floral Display.

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Check out Yves Saint Laurent’s famous garden

Yves Saint Laurent’s famous garden provides a stylish refuge from the noise of Marrakech

An example of the use of contrast between yellow and cobalt blue, a recurring theme in the Jardin Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo / Creative Commons

Though there’s no argument about the genius of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, the jury is still out over his artwork. In my family, at least.

After a visit to Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech – one of his former homes with partner and business manager Pierre Berge – I observed that his posters in the Galerie Love looked like hippie-era doodles.

“Bloody awful,” was my considered verdict and my son laughed in agreement, then warned me with a look that we were about to be challenged. My wife and his partner saw them very differently and had been quite charmed.

We did all agree however that these gardens with their cacti, yucca and palms are quite something in their own, restful way. Here are discreetly placed shaded areas, water features of still ponds with lilies, gently trickling fountains and the vivid blue former home of Saint Laurent and Berger as a dramatic and eye-catching centrepiece.

The garden’s location outside the old city wall also offers a glimpse of a rather more ordinary, less touristy Marrakech than that around the exciting, noisy and colourful Djemaa el-Fina plaza at the heart of the city’s medina.

Out here school students and shopkeepers jostle for space on rugged footpaths, children dodge taxis and donkey-drawn carts on the horn-blasting roads, and pedestrians amble hand-in-hand across intersections and roundabouts between a chaotic implosion of scooters, cars, trucks, buses and carts. All of which make Jardin Majorelle an even more restful respite amid the heat, haste and dust.

Although Berge and Saint Laurent – whose ashes were scattered in the garden in 2008 after his death in Paris – are most commonly associated with this very special place, it takes its name from the original owner.

The artist Jacques Majorelle bought the property in 1924, when Morocco was still a French protectorate and began landscaping the sandy soil. He brought together a dizzy array of local and imported plants, offsetting them with the astonishing blue paint, which today takes his name, on the buildings. Equally striking however is the burnt orange or vivid yellow of large vases which are deliberately placed in corners against the “bleu majorelle” walls where the contrast can be dramatic. You can’t be in a hurry in this garden where bougainvillea and jasmine drape above your head because there is so much small detail to enjoy.

Coupled with clear light on a cloudless day, Jardin Majorelle is a photographer’s dream location as hard edges of pure flat colour shimmer in bold contrast.

Doubtless the light and warmth of Morocco were part of what drew Saint Laurent and Berge here, but the designer also found the familiar. He was born in Oran, Algeria, where he lived until he moved to Paris at 18. So in Morocco he used the vibrant local colours, textiles and designs of North Africa which he adapted for many of his dresses in couture collections from the mid-60s onward.

Some of his clothing conspicuously referred to the djellaba, those ankle-length, hooded robes familiar in so many Muslim countries and visible everywhere on the streets of Marrakech.

Saint Laurent also designed turban-like headwear and was drawn to the bright flat colours or multicoloured broad stripes of Moroccan material.

“When Yves Saint Laurent and I arrived in Marrakech for the first time in 1966,” said Berge in 2008, “we didn’t know this town would play such an important part in our lives, that we would buy three properties there. Nor did we know that Morocco would become our adoptive country, our second home.”

The couple – then partners, later separating but remaining in business together – bought Jardin Majorelle in 1980. It had slid into neglect and disrepair after the death of its original owner and they set about restoring it – with the help of, among others, the American architect and designer Bill Willis.

A long-time Marrakech resident and notorious drug user who counted a few Rolling Stones and writer William S. Burroughs among his friends alongside various Rothschilds and Getty millionaires, Willis – who died in 2009 – was a close friend of Saint Laurent and Berge and designed villa interiors for the power couple in Marrakech.

“We used to drive up to the mountains near Marrakech,” he said. “We would see Berber peasant women carrying their bundles of firewood who wore the most wonderful colour combinations – [Saint Laurent] inspired himself a lot from that.”

The extent of Saint Laurent’s passion for the colours of this country was evident in an exhibition at Jardin Majorelle in November 2010 which featured 44 of his Morocco-inspired haute-couture designs, all notable for their vivid tones. Often he found new inspiration in the colours of the city where rich blues, pinks, reds, gold and orange are so prominent.

“This city led me to colour,” Saint Laurent once said of Marrakech. And later he observed, “There are gardens in Marrakech, for which I have a real passion. And the colours that I miss in Paris.”

For the designer, Jardin Majorelle was also a retreat from his increasingly debilitating lifestyle in Europe, which was fuelled by his cocaine and alcohol addiction, although initially it seems he hardly moderated his intake while in Marrakech.

Here, in the gardens he loved, he felt at ease. Photographs of Saint Laurent at home frequently show him bare-footed or in sandals, wearing a djellabah and relaxing with ever-present cigarette packets close to hand.

Often he would come here immediately after showing a collection in Europe to relax and perhaps – Berge has described him as a manic depressive – to collapse. Jardin Majorelle was a place where a man could live softly and unassailed. The walled garden offered solitude, safety and the possibility that for days, if not weeks, the public man could be private.

These casual days and nights were rare in a life of fastidiously dressing up, and of fashionably dressing others.

French socialite Christine Alaoui who conducted soirees for the visiting glitterati at her Marrakech home Bled Roknine knew Saint Laurent well and observed how, over time, the country changed him.

“Yves spent significant time in Morocco after his life had slowed down and he stopped partying,” she said. I knew him in a very different way from many others. He was calm, introspective and personal. He revelled in the simplicity of life here.”

Last December an important new addition was opened at Jardin Majorelle: the Berber Museum, housed in the spacious ground floor of Majorelle’s former painting studio. Here, under muted lighting, are mannequins dressed in the handsome or rustic finery of the Berber people, many dozens of examples of their silver jewellery displayed along with historic photos, film footage from the middle of last century, domestic artefacts, musical instruments and weaponry.

In their clothing you can see hints of what might have impressed Saint Laurent. They possess an exoticism, certainly, but once past that impression, in the loose cut, their often asexual nature and the easy flow of the garments you can see suggestions of their strong influence on Saint Laurent’s eye.

Then you just add colour.

Since Majorelle – who died in France in 1962 – opened his garden to the public in 1947, this special place has been a refuge for one of the most important designers of the 20th century whose foundation now manages it. Today is a magnet for plant lovers, the curious and even those just in search of a quiet place in a noisy city.

Some even go for the poster art of Yves Saint Laurent in the Galerie Love beside the boutique, I suppose.

• Graham Reid flew to London with assistance from Cathay Pacific but paid for his own trip to Morocco.


By Graham Reid Email Graham

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Jada Winery’s owner finds joy in landscaping

Jack Messina’s first encounter with wine was when he walked into his grandfather “Nonno’s” little 4-by-6-foot winemaking room at the back of their home in Staten Island, N.Y.

A child then, Jack remembers the smell to this day, “a beautiful smell,” he says with a smile. His grandfather and his young family had emigrated in the early 1930s from a little town in Sicily.

Jack grew up as a city boy in Brooklyn, but he never forgot that fragrant smell of wine. Years later, after becoming a successful heart surgeon in Tampa, Fla., Jack followed that scent and began looking for olive oil and vineyard properties in California.

He had never heard of the Paso Robles wine region, but when his real estate agent introduced him to a 100-acre farm planted in barley in the Templeton Gap, he “fell in love.” That was 1999, and Jada Vineyard and Winery began. The name Jada goes back to that little fishing village in Italy, where the fishing boat “Jada” was one of grandfather Nonno’s favorites.

The winery operates as a family partnership, with Messina’s son, Josh, and daughter, Ryan, now living onsite and managing the wine and olive oil business. With their award-winning estate wines, tasting room and view patio, shipping, and 2,000 wine club members, they keep busy. Jack is able to spend about six weeks throughout the year at the vineyard property, especially during planting and production times. Also, according to Josh, “My dad is the landscape guy — he loves trees and has planted lots of them wherever he has lived.”

“If I hadn’t become a surgeon, I would have been a landscape architect,” Messina says. It was in 2006 that Messina began fulfilling his dream of adding landscaping to create a setting where the wine would reflect the vineyard’s beauty. He envisioned a flowing combination of vines, grapes and trees that would create an artistic portrait reminiscent of wine regions he visited in Italy and France. He hired landscape architect Steve Caminiti to create a welcoming and artistic entrance with a “statement” on Vineyard Drive. Steve started by planting more than 75 flowering plum trees the entire length of the property, adding rosemary, lavender and trimmed boxwoods underneath. As the trees with their pink blooms, then red foliage, follow the undulations of the road, they create a flowing design that is quite eye-catching.

For the gate, Caminiti used rich earthy hues of natural horizontal sandstone slabs to create curving entrance walls, locating a wide planting space between layers. In this space he placed the low-water California native “Howard McMinn” manzanita, bringing color in its red bark and small white bells. He added yellow yarrow with gray foliage and daylilies to provide strong summer color. Two varieties of rosemary, groundcover and bush, bring purple-blues the palette.

In order to create an established look to the entrance, Caminiti imported six mature Italian olive trees from the Central Valley. Inside the gate, 24 more producing olive trees were planted to line the sloping drive up to the tasting room.

Messina has researched the importance of the olive tree in different countries throughout history. As a heart surgeon, he is interested in the new findings that unrefined olive oil is a major ingredient for good health. “The unrefined phenol-rich virgin olive oil helps blood vessel function.” Messina and son Josh have now added 200 more Italian olive trees and are currently preparing for the next pressing.

After driving up the incline through the olive trees and vineyard, the guest enters a forest of oaks, conifers and coast redwoods surrounding the tasting room and patio, which, by the way, offers a spectacular view across the hills. Because of the property’s higher and cooler location that catches the ocean breezes, Messina can grow coastloving selections such as Grevillea under the shaded canopy. His next proj ect is to add the low-water Grevillea “Noelli,” with its curling red bloom, between the olives.

In gardens near the tasting room, bright pink redbud trees and yellow forsythia, rosemary and yellow-orange Euphorbia all bloom in the early spring, while the iris and then roses and daylilies will provide color as the days grow longer.

As Messina says, “This is a work in progress, and we are learning more each year. Our focus is on excellence and attention to detail.” As the visitor enjoys the landscaping and blooms among the vines, that attention to detail is on display.

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Garden party: 7 creative landscapes will be showcased during tour Saturday

Denny and Sam Johnson’s garden is a comfortable arrangement of cactus and planters. But not every garden is just about the flora.

Tour their garden, and you’ll see a collection of outdoor art and artifacts that ties it all together.

And all these things have their story.

Take the brick wall that encloses a front patio. It curves around large planters, some fan palms and a shade tree — blocking out the street and creating a quiet place to relax.

The wall is made of Mexican brick, Denny said.

The secret ingredients are horse manure, cow manure and, he added: “A little bit of clay.”

The result is an unpretentious wall accented in muted earth tones. It blends in with the comfortable Santa Fe-style home the Johnson have lived in for nearly nine years. They have spent those years building a garden that extends that comfort to the outdoors, with many talking-point touches — like the wall.

They will share their stories from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, as their garden is one of seven featured stops on the third annual Casa Grande Garden and Landscape Tour. Six homeowners and Seeds of Hope will open their gardens to the public.

It’s free, but you have to provide your own wheels.

The Pinal County Cooperative Extension Office and Casa Grande master gardeners sponsor the tour.

The Johnsons’ home backs up to the second hole of Dave White Municipal Golf Course. Denny is a retired Minnesota game warden. Until recently, Sam — that’s her nickname — ran a business designing and creating faux walls.

When they moved in, they started with something of a blank slate. They didn’t call in landscapers for an instant makeover. They built up their garden almost piece-by-piece during the years. Some of the projects, in fact, were a little more hands-on than they anticipated.

The wall, for instance.

“We hired a couple of guys, but they didn’t show up,” Sam said. “And we ended up doing it ourselves.”

Denny suggested they had to do something with the bricks.

“We had pallets of them in the front yard,” he said.

The wall, it happens, fit in with their plans to create a patio with a southern exposure.

“The main focus in having this in the front like this was in the winter, you get the sun,” Denny said.

Sam added they’re from Minnesota, so they often receive guests from their home state. All could appreciate the winter warmth of an Arizona southern exposure.

And while their guests soaked up the sun, they probably asked about the bell. It’s mounted on a wooden frame and looks about half the size of a Mini Cooper.

“It came from Cactus Dan,” Denny said.

Cactus Dan, it happens, is Dan Sudnick. His garden is part of Saturday’s tour. Denny got a lot of cactus from him, too. He’s not called Cactus Dan for nothing. His own garden is like the cactus wing of the natural history museum. He labels his cactus.

But the Johnsons’ cactus garden is a delight as well. It’s in the back. To get there, you walk along a narrow path between the house and the wall on the property line. This in itself is part of the tour. The passageway leads under a grapevine clinging to an overhead trellis.

Then it opens up to the backyard. And here is where nature meets creativity.

And the cactus is a big part of that. In what might be called the backyard’s northeast quadrant are cacti from Arizona to Argentina. The Arizona portion includes a large two-armed saguaro. The Argentine example is the Argentine giant. It’s all arms, spreading out and reaching up.

“The flowers are the size of dinner plates,” Sam said.

Right now, the plant is just sporting small fuzzy buds. But maybe just one of them will open up to full dinner-plate mode by Saturday. The Johnsons enjoy the cactus garden, in part, because arranging cactus is something of an art form in itself.

“When you put them all together, it’s a very creative process,” Sam said.

Both Johnsons can appreciate art and the creative process. Sam paints landscapes and Denny paints portraits.

Even the cactus garden, though, is not without its artifacts. Somewhere back by the prickly pear rise steel shoe forms, the kind once used by cobblers. They’re embedded in the ground. The Johnsons picked them up at antique sales.

West of the cactus garden is a fountain. Nearby seating brings weary souls within the soothing sounds of a babbling spring.

The fountain itself looks like it was carved out of a granite cliff. And, in a way, it was. Water spills from the top of two large pillars of granite.

When the Johnsons saw a fountain just like it at the home and garden show in Phoenix, they made up their minds. That’s the kind of fountain they wanted. They contacted the fountain maker and arranged for the boulders to be installed.

They had a crane lift them over a wall from the golf course.

The rest of the back patio is green with planters and flowers and ground cover. Flagstone connects the fountain area and cactus garden to a covered patio. And, here and there, metal sculptures add art to nature.

Many were made by Jerry Parra, a sculptor who runs a trading post in Oracle.

“He does it all out of mining equipment,” Denny said.

Another sculpture worth noting stands by the front door. It’s a full-size bronze of a warrior in full headdress, poised with a shield in one hand and a lance in the other. Denny and Sam spotted it on the way to art class, near the Holiday Inn.

“The whole street was filled with life-size bronzes,” Denny said. He told his wife: “I’m skipping art class.”

They pulled over. He came home with the bronze warrior that now guards the front patio. And the story behind it.

Just ask. He’ll fill you in during the tour.

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Gardener Ralph Hoare, 104, takes to Twitter to share gardening tips

GREEN-FINGERED centenarian Ralph Hoare is taking to Twitter to share his horticultural tips.

The 104-year-old from Longlevens still enjoys his passion for growing vegetables and cultivating his 200 rose bushes.

  1. Ralph Hoare, 104, with his great-granddaughter

    Ralph Hoare, 104, with his great-granddaughter

  2. Ralph as a baby with his mother

  3. Ralph Hoare, 104, in his garden in Longlevens

Age certainly hasn’t held him back but he allows for his weak knees by using a hoe for weeding and a grabbing tool for picking up items from the ground. 

He also secures the help of his great-grandchildren, aged six and four, who he says are already proficient in deadheading his roses.

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Mr Hoare took up gardening in 1914 when he was himself aged six and has now decided to share almost a century of experience with the Twitter generation.

The former bank worker and RAF veteran – who cites gardening as the key to his long life – will answer questions posted with the hashtag #askralph.

Mr Hoare was identified as the UK’s oldest active gardener by retailer Furniture Village, which led a hunt for an expert to respond to the nation’s horticultural questions.

Mr Hoare said: “I have just sent off my order for my annuals.

“The seed potatoes are sprouting in the spare bedroom and I am waiting for some dry weather for the onion sets.

“The thought of my garden in bloom gives me the willpower to continue through the winter. Gardening keeps me on the move and my mind active.”

Born in Plymouth in 1908, Mr Hoare grew up in Devon where he remembers his earliest gardening experience of growing Japanese anemones.

He has kept the garden at his Longlevens home himself since the death of his wife Dorothy in 2007.

“She used to do all the weeding and I did the planting, pruning and digging,” he said.

The couple, married in 1940 at St John’s Church in Taunton, Somerset, had two children and Mr Hoare is now grandfather to six and great-grandfather to a further six children.

He said: “Now that my knees are not so good, I have to garden standing up and by asking other people to do things for me.”

Members of the public can put questions to Mr Hoare via the official Furniture Village Twitter account (@OfficialFV).

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Gardening tips for green-fingered Warfield residents

Published 3 Apr 2013 12:30

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RESIDENTS are invited to a ‘Vegetable Take and Grow’ event on Saturday.

The event, organised by Warfield Parish Council, will be held at Whitegrove Youth and Community Centre, next to Tesco Warfield, from 10.30am-noon.

Visitors will get the chance to take home free vegetable and herb seeds, seek advice on sowing and swap tips with other keen growers.

Refreshments and activities for children will also be available.

For more information, call the council on 01344 457777 or email

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New patio plants on trial

Pelargonium ‘Pacific Black Knight’ (PA photo/Paul Debois/ Which?)

As gardeners pore over what patio plants to include in their displays this summer, a new trial reveals some of the best performers

Wondering what to put in your patio containers this summer? My pansies and violas are looking so forlorn I’m already thinking I’ll ditch them in favour of some higher achievers in this unpredictable British weather.

Help is at hand, in the form of a new trial from Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine, which last summer tested 47 new varieties of plants for containers or hanging baskets, bought as plugs or young plants in April and then planted into suitable containers.

The young plants were grown under cover until the threat of frost had gone and planted in container compost with added slow-release fertiliser.

The trial found that the easy-care plants which produced plenty of blooms included Argyranthemum ‘Yellow Empire’ (Mr Fothergill’s), a classic marguerite with bright yellow daisy-like flowers which – with some deadheading – produced masses of flowers throughout the summer.

Another winner, which combined well with the marguerites, was Bacopa ‘Atlas’ (Dobies, Mr Fothergill’s, Suttons), a blue and white variety which makes a background for blowsier plants in a mixed planting. This variety also produces unusually large flowers, almost 2cm across, and trails brilliantly. Those trialled flowered continuously for 18 weeks.

Diascia ‘Blue Belle’ (Plants By Post, J Parker’s), a new variety launched at the Chelsea Flower Show last year, cascaded over the sides of the basket and didn’t need deadheading, while Petunia ‘Queen Bee’ (Spalding Plant Bulb Company) proved a vigorous grower, producing a plentiful mix of yellow and deep purple blooms and a succession of flowers despite heavy rain.

Among the best rain-tolerant plants tested was the Pelargonium ‘Pacific Black Knight’ (Dobies, Suttons), an ivy-leaved variety with velvety flowers, which continued to flower until the trial ended in October.

If you want to grow flowers for cutting, have a go with Dianthus ‘Green Trick’, an unusual hybrid sweet William with large, fuzzy green heads, which last at least 10 days in a vase.

There are ways to help your patio plants along. Use big pots, if you can, so there are more nutrients for the plants to root out, and the more compost there is, the more water is retained.

Water the compost thoroughly rather than little and often, to allow the water to seep deep into the pot and encourage healthy root growth, rather than just wetting the surface.

Make sure your compost doesn’t dry out because it can be difficult to rehydrate. If you are using hanging baskets or smaller pots, they may recover if you dunk the base in a bucket of water for a while, to allow the water to soak the compost from below.

It’s also worth adding water-retaining crystals and slow-release fertiliser to the compost before planting, to help retain moisture and avoid the need for regular liquid feeds throughout the summer.

And if it rains – which knowing our inclement weather, it is bound to do – carry out a regular slug patrol on your young plants and pick them off by hand, to save young shoots and leaves from being eaten.

:: The full report is in the April edition of Which? Gardening magazine. Sign up to Which? for a one-month trial for £1 to access its product reviews, test scores and Best Buy or Don’t Buy ratings. For more information, visit

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National Garden Month Tips

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