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Archives for April 16, 2013

Commentary: More on good design, and why you bought that iPad

Commentary: More on good design, and why you bought that iPad

By Eric Livingston

In my last essay, I ended with the question – Why did you buy that iPad? There are other tablets, some of which may be better technologically, offer more options and might better suit one’s particular needs, as well as being less expensive than the iPad. So, why did you buy the iPad?

Aesthetics, good design, a beautiful product can provide pleasure. It simultaneously communicates socially, and is an expression of personal style.

Starbucks spends oodles and oodles of money figuring out how to give customers the experience of sipping coffee in a well-designed space, sitting in comfortable overstuffed chairs, pleasant music, allowing a person a sense of privacy to socialize, conduct job interviews, work or study, read a book/newspaper or simply cruise the Internet while enjoying their beverage of choice. They don’t just sell a cup o’ overly roasted Joe. They sell an aesthetic experience.

For many companies, aesthetics is good business and stockholders enjoy the return on their investment.

So, while we don’t think about it, beautiful design — or aesthetics — is becoming expected in the day to day of our lives and whether or not we admit it, aesthetics adds value to whatever is purchased. Aesthetics is often the reason why we buy what we buy, like the iPad.

In real estate, the mantra is “Location, location, location.” Real estate agents also give roomfuls of advice about the how and whys of curb appeal and landscaping, kitchen and bathroom updates, staging and even suggesting leaving the oven on at very low temperature then a drop or two of vanilla extract next to the heating elements just before the open house begins so that “home” has a welcoming smell of freshly baked cookies. Yeah, location opens the sales process, but its aesthetics that frequently closes the deal.

Cities, in general, have a different relationship with aesthetics.

Historically, a city developed near a reliable source of water, land that was easy to plow, close to a trade route and, typically in the center, was a hill or high ground for a fortress. At the base of the high ground/hill was where the craftsmen and their families lived. Usually there was a wall surrounding them which also provided a place to where the farmers could go for protection whenever invaders appeared on the horizon. There was no city planning, except for military expediency. No aesthetics, no real thought was given to how anything looked, (except for churches), just military architecture. Whatever the king, duke, earl, lord or general wanted, it got built.

However, a lot of time and thought went into how to tax everybody and everything to buy the materials and pay the people that built the buildings. Lots of taxes.

During the Renaissance, artists and architects did begin to think about how cities could look. People like Leonardo, Alberti and Filarete began to sketch plans for utopian cities with a place for every job and rank of society. Oddly, many of their sketches are of circular cities with rings of protection like medieval cities, but with a rational or a grid street plan and zones that put every rank and job in its place.

The rise of industrialization, new technologies and the democratic capitalist system made the last two centuries possible and created how we live today. Now cities have responsibilities far beyond protecting farmers (the food supply) and craftsmen (military armaments), but at the base of how a city functions is how to tax its citizens. Lots of taxes.

All cities, including Edmonds, need money to operate and to provide the services that citizens require. Edmonds, like most other cities, for its tax base, taxes property owners.

What has all that to do with aesthetics? I’m getting to that.

Chief among the duties of Edmonds, (or any city), as far as possible, is to protect the value of the land that it taxes. Edmonds has tools that can be used to do just that. The biggest tool is zoning.

Zoning is how a city decides how its land is to be used. Sections of the city are declared residential; other sections are designated for industry, businesses, schools and government each gets its own bit of land – every purpose, job and social rank has a place. An oversimplification, true, but is more or less correct.
Most of the land of any city is residential; consequently laws are developed so that the parcels are approximately the same size. Like many cities, Edmonds has rules as to the development of those lots and rules that the homes (buildings) should kinda-sorta look similar in style.

It’s the “should kinda-sorta look similar in style” part where aesthetics begins to play a big part in determining a value on which there is a tax to be paid.

One of the biggest factors that can affect the value of a taxable property (location being the biggest factor) is pollution. For the purposes of this discussion, the word “pollution” connotes a negative aesthetic, or a style of ugliness. I use that word because Edmonds has ordinances and policies to control all kinds of pollution. Visual pollution, noise pollution, air pollution and environmental pollution are some pollutions that concern Edmonds.

Which aesthetic/pollution should the taxing authority be most concerned about? I don’t know.

But to give an example of what I mean; earlier I mentioned that a couple of drops vanilla extract in a warm oven can give a positive aesthetic experience by triggering childhood memories of home. Now imagine the value of your new home, which is downwind of the city’s sewage processing plant. Which odor has a greater aesthetic value? Which odor is possibly detrimental not only to the market value but to the taxation value?

Another example, in the Edmonds’ Comprehensive Plan, on page 87, is this statement “B.8. It is the policy of the city to minimize noise created by the railroad” ( The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) gives cities the possibility of having a “Railroad Quiet Zone” if the city meets their criteria. The process is rather convoluted and possibility expensive because the city has to pay for any required safety upgrades in order to meet the FRA’s criteria.

However, the cities that successfully made the investment of time and money to receive a Railroad Quiet Zone, the property values jumped anywhere from 4 percent to 54 percent. A 54-percent increase in real estate values is extremely unlikely for Edmonds. More likely is the typical 8- to 10-percent increase in property values. Such an increase would pleasantly improve the real estate agent’s commission but, and more importantly, Edmonds would greatly benefit from the increased tax revenues.

But of all the pollutants we try to prevent with our policies, ordinances and laws, the most difficult, (and the cheapest) is visual pollution. Difficult because it is the most controversial.

Why? One answer is there is no clearly defined style(s) in the Comp Plan. The Plan (required by the Growth Management Act –GMA) devotes nearly 100 pages, spread over several chapters, regarding various details that buildings have; signage, setbacks, parking, landscaping, curbs, driveways, massing, heights (the biggest controversy), and on and on etc…..

Not one word about style; over and over it states that “good design” is the goal. But there is not one sentence that defines what Edmonds considers “good design”.

However, on page 96 of the Comp Plan you’ll find this sentence: “However, unsightly development – of poor quality and design – does exist in the City and may occur in the future. Aging buildings in some parts of the City, primarily downtown, also create an aesthetic problem.”  What makes that sentence fascinating to me is there is no definition of what is “poor design.” Not one word.

In my last essay on Edmonds architecture, I spent a lot of time and effort to point out some poor architectural design in Edmonds. I didn’t include my list of good architectural design in Edmonds. Here is my list (in no particular order):

Beeson building - (wiki-media) -Mission style.

Beeson building – Mission style. (Wikipedia photo)

Reliable Flooring (wiki-media) – unsure of style, it’d be better if the awning were removed as it’s out of context and not of the original period.

Reliable Flooring – unsure of style, it’d be better if the awning were removed as it’s out of context and not of the original period. (Wikipedia photo)

The condos at 2nd and Bell St - streamlined Moderne style (Wikipedia)

The condos at 2nd and Bell St – streamlined Moderne style (Wikipedia photo)

Vets office – updated shingle style. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

Vets office – updated shingle style. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

Post office – an example of good government franchise architecture. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

Post office – an example of good government franchise architecture. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

WaFed Bank  – architectural hints of a Palladian style. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

WaFed Bank – architectural hints of a Palladian style. (Photo by Eric Livingston)

By now, I hope, I’ve made clear that there is real value in aesthetics. Not only in overpriced computers and coffee, but aesthetics can go a long way toward how Edmonds might want to be perceived. It can increase the desire to live there, tourists to spend time and money in pleasant downtown surroundings and – last but not least – the probability of increasing revenues; not only by protecting the property owner’s land value, but working on ways of increasing the value of their property. Such efforts can reward everyone.

I’d also like to suggest that people send their ideas on what “Good Design” might be, or what architectural styles might be incorporated in the Comp Plan to the Edmonds City Council. Or you can post those ideas here.

About the author: Eric B. Livingston has degrees in art (focusing on sculpture and a minor in music), culinary art, technical writing and has credits towards an MBA.  He has been awarded prizes for photography and portrait sculpture, has had a one man show, as well as having had work accepted in juried art exhibitions in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. He has researched and written papers on “Aesthetic Universals in Art”, “Linguistics of Food/Cookery” (which was submitted to the 2009 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery), a white paper for a non-electric irrigation pump manufacturer and wrote several pieces for Seattle Home Lifestyles magazine. Currently he is a freelance web designer and tech writer. He resides in Edmonds with wife, Eliza, and a dog, Pershing.

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Residents, designers re-imagine downtown Hampton

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HAMPTON — Civil planners did some on-the-spot drafting Saturday, taking feedback directly from residents early in the morning then coming back in the afternoon with designs they say would foster more of a “downtown” feeling in Hampton.

The design work focused mainly on the “village core” area of Lafayette Road between Winnacunnet Road and High Street, especially improvements to pedestrian access to town parking and better utilization of the abandoned railroad behind Depot Square and nearby commercial parking.

Jack Mettee, of Mettee Planning Consultants, summed up the top concerns expressed at the morning meeting as follows:

  • Improve the intersection of Route 27 and Route 1 next to the Old Salt.
  • Turn the abandoned railroad right-of-way into a mixed-use, pedestrian-safe way.
  • Improve access between the municipal parking lot and Lafayette Road.
  • Add more green space wherever possible.
  • Enhance parking.

Hearing those suggestions before 10 a.m., Mettee and his team came back to Hampton Academy at 4 p.m. to show off their mock-ups, which portrayed a re-imagined, green version of Hampton that addressed some of the above suggestions.

Mettee detailed what he described as “nodes” of activity in town that should be connected, including the town parking lot, Route 1 intersections with Winnacunnet Road and High Street, and the civic area, with the library and schools.

“I think the people kind of expressed this idea of, ‘Can we coordinate the activity among these different nodes by making it easier for people to move around?'” Mettee said.

Shannon Alther described some relatively inexpensive ways to clearly describe the downtown by adding welcoming signs in space next to the Winnacunnet Road intersection, for instance, and by using different light poles and banners that would “create a nice pattern and rhythm through the downtown area.”

Alther also introduced the concept of “in-fill buildings to help reinforce the streetscape as a downtown element” by creating new buildings that would sit close to the road in the gaps that currently leave open space downtown and ensuring they have storefront glass to entice shoppers.

This project would be coordinated with an idea that Mettee described as a public-private partnership between the town and Route 1 businesses that have parking behind their buildings on the north side of the road.

The town, he said, could potentially make use of those spaces and unify those lots in a manner that makes sense with the added intrigue of new business that might develop along the railroad right-of-way as it gets more pedestrian attention.

Roger Hawk, one of the planners, said he counted 1,200 parking spaces in the “village core” area and said he thinks only about a quarter of those spaces are used on a consistent basis.

“Our perception is that you have a lot more paved parking than is actually being used because a lot of it is in individual private ownership and it’s not getting fully utilized,” Hawk said. He said the town could amend its zoning ordinance to allow businesses a parking exception if they could prove there’s public parking available nearby.

“That is a very common practice that is used in town centers, city centers all over the country as a way of creating more intensity of use, which you really want to do in your city center,” Hawk said.

Dana Lynch, one of the planners, described what he said could be a “trial run” to see how residents might respond to bolstered pedestrian provisions by extending sidewalks on Exeter Road and running a footpath to the back of Depot Square, bypassing the bridge and traffic.

“Being such a large and intensely developed residential area, it would be nice to create some kind of safe pedestrian and bike way connection to the downtown. This is a good place to start,” Lynch said.

Further designs showed an island that could be introduced into the center of a stretch of Lafayette Road to calm traffic in the pedestrian-heavy retail zone and the elimination of nose-in parking there in favor of parallel parking, the creation of more commercial-oriented alleyways similar to Commercial Alley in Portsmouth and more landscaping and lighting along downtown streets and open parking lots.

Brendan McNamara, vice chairman of the Planning Board, said the presentation was part of a two-year study the consultants started in November.

“The community really came together today with a lot of ideas for the planning professionals to start thinking about,” McNamara said.


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Turn Your Home Into a Sneeze-Free Zone With 7 Allergy Relief Tips – Marketwire

ARCADIA, WI–(Marketwired – Apr 16, 2013) – It’s spring. Flowers are blooming. Warm breezes are blowing. Backyard barbeques are in full swing. While that may sound inviting to some people, it’s the time of year that makes allergy sufferers cringe. From the sniffling and sneezing, to the itchy, watery eyes — spring can be a tough time of year for many.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma Immunology, about 18 million adults and 7 million children have been diagnosed with hay fever in the last year.

“Creating a home that’s comfortable for the entire family goes far beyond just choosing the right furnishings and décor — it’s also important to make it welcoming to those who suffer from allergies,” says Brenda Dillon, VP of Merchandising. “In just a few simple steps, you can start to turn your home into an allergy-free zone.”

Ashley Furniture HomeStore offers seven things you can do to cut down on the number of indoor allergens:

1. Start spring cleaning. Make sure you keep your window coverings, shelves, flooring and furniture free of allergens by dusting and vacuuming about twice a week. But make sure you dust with a damp or treated cloth that attracts dust rather than sending it flying around the room; otherwise it can make your allergies worse. Wearing a face mask isn’t a bad idea. Also, try to minimize clutter in your home, since it tends to collect dust.

2. Change your bedding. While you probably already wash your sheets at least once a week, don’t overlook the other allergy magnets in your bedroom! Dust mites and allergens love to settle into bedding, pillows, and throws. If possible, wash them at a temperature that’s 130°+ and dry them in a hot dryer. Choosing organic materials like cotton is also less likely to trigger allergies. As for pillows, they need to be replaced about every year and mattresses about every seven years. If that’s not realistic for you, use allergen-proof covers.

3. Hit the shower. Allergens stick to fabrics like glue. Just sitting on the couch, the floor or on your bed after spending time outside literally brings the outdoors in. Taking a shower or bath as soon as you come home gets rid of the allergens that stick to your skin and hair. If you have a pet that spends a lot of outdoors, give them baths often, as well.

4. Switch to an allergy-friendly mattress. Did you know that a latex mattress is an excellent choice if you suffer from seasonal allergies? Not only is it a naturally hypoallergenic, renewable and eco-friendly material, it’s also bacteria, mold, mildew and dust-mite resistant. Choose an allergy-friendly foundation, as well, that does not have an area for dust and bugs to dwell in.

5. Close the windows. It may be tempting to let in some fresh air — but it’s filled with allergens! Keep your windows and doors closed (especially between peak allergy hours: 10am-4pm) use your air conditioner or a dehumidifier, and change your air filters regularly.

6. Purify. Reduce dust and pollen by using an air purifier in your bedroom, home office, living room and other areas where you spend a lot of time. Do some homework and choose one with a HEPA filter that removes a range of particles, allergens and chemicals.

7. Change your landscaping. Head to your local nursery and get a list of plants/flowers that are allergy friendly and replace high-pollen producers that can aggravate your allergies.

For other smart design and decorating ideas, or to browse the hottest new furniture collections and accessories, visit

About Ashley Furniture HomeStore
Ashley Furniture HomeStore, the #1 furniture retailer in the United States, delivers furniture and mattresses to customers at over 450 independently owned and operated locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Japan. Ashley Furniture HomeStore is an exclusive provider of furniture from Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., the largest furniture manufacturer in the United States. “Like” Ashley Furniture HomeStore on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or see their design-focused boards on Pinterest.

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Xeriscaping: A garden for the bottom line

In this era of conservation and sustainability, it seems indulgent and rather irresponsible to douse lawns and gardens unnecessarily.

That notion is spreading as one word keeps coming up on landscaping blogs and at garden club discussions over trends of the new millennium: drought.

And as Kamloops residents begin receiving new water meter bills this year, a reactive hyper vigilance over consumption may finally be the catalyst for a new wave in low water landscaping.

“The water meter is a good teacher in the sense that once you decide that you’re paying for every drip of water that runs down your driveway you start to become a little more aware,” said Rae Wilson, Kamloops Garden Club president.

Awareness may fiscal rather than environmental, but it’s still expected to further popularize the landscaping method of xeriscaping.

Pronounced “zair-i-scape,” the term combines the Greek word “xeros,” meaning dry, and “scape” for view to mean “water conservation through creative landscaping.”

The style of low water gardening is a relatively new concept in the mainstream but one that’s been on the City of Kamloops radar for 20 years.

“It’s one of my favourite topics. I love xeriscaping,” said Karla Hoffman, City of Kamloops integrated pest management co-ordinator.

Hoffman’s been in charge of educating the public on the low water gardening through workshops and brochures for years.

But so far, the effort hasn’t made a dent in the city’s water consumption, which is well above the national average.

“That’s partially why the water meters are moving ahead,” said Hoffman. “Even though there has been the education about it folks here tend to water their lawns a lot.”

The average Canadian uses 326 litres of water per day but according to City stats, the average Kamloops resident uses about 850 litres of water per day, peaking during the summer to a whopping 1,750 litres of water per person per day.

Eighty per cent of the water consumed in the summer is used outdoors to water grass as well as hose driveways and wash vehicles, according to the City.

And it’s not like the region is drowning in precipitation to make up for it. Kamloops receives about 21.8 cm of rainfall per year while Kelowna receives 29.8 cm and Vancouver receives 155.5 cm.

Xeriscaping originated with the Denver Colorado Water Department in 1981.

The City of Kamloops was not far behind with a demonstration garden at McArthur Island Park established in the mid 1990s and another at a water booster station on Westsyde’s Harrington Road planted in 2011.

Perhaps it’s taken a while to take off because it evokes notions of brown, brittle flora, thistles, tumbleweed and of course cacti.

A true xeriscape garden is no colourless affair however, as proven by City gardens that bloom with brilliant greens, yellows and reds in lush terrain. In fact xeriscaping can be applied to any form of garden, said Hoffman.

“It can be very, very attractive. You can apply it to a Japanese Zen garden, you can apply it to a traditional appearing garden, you can have your southwest style.

“You don’t have to go with just the yuccas and rocks and whatnot. It can actually be fairly lush looking just by choosing the right plants and putting them in the right spot.”

Xeriscaping incorporates seven principles, among them turf planning, appropriate plant selection and efficient irrigation.

But both Wilson and Hoffman say their favourite tip for effectiveness and simplicity is the use of mulch.

“Most water loss is through evaporation unless there’s some sort of mulch there to keep it place,” said Hoffman.

“And it also helps to keep weeds under control, so mulch is just a good way to go,” said Wilson.

Perfectly good and free mulch is right under our noses, but we consistently throw it away, said Wilson.

“A mistake people make is they cut the grass and take it up to the landfill,” he said. “It’s free mulch and people haul it all the way up to the hill and they go buy mulch. And acts as fertilizer because that’s all grass is, is nitrogen.

“A lot of it’s practical. Grandma did that but we just forgot about it.”

The amount of work needed to xeriscape a traditional garden runs the gamut from a few simple changes to entirely new landscape.

That said however, immediate and major improvements are possible by minimizing traditional lawns.

But try telling an average Canadian and watch the look of horror spread over his face.

The North American love affair with the lawn goes back to the early 19th century.

A famous myth has Thomas Jefferson planting the first American lawn at Monticello in 1806. Although untrue, the story reflects the real reason behind the early popularity of lawns — stature.

Since it took so much effort to tend, grass turf was typically reserved for the upper class. When the everyman saw an opportunity to emulate the gentry without all the labour, he jumped on board.

Thus lawns really took off in 1830 with the invention of the lawnmower.

Today, lawns are the most irrigated crop in the U.S. covering more than 40 million acres, as determined by NASA through satellite images.

Many conscientious gardeners have replaced broad swaths of lawn with smaller patches and covered the remaining grounds with native, drought tolerant plants including indigenous grass, shrubbery and trees.

The change turns the lawn into an accent on the landscape rather than the dominant element.

For those not ready to undertake a complete make over, however, becoming more knowledgeable and aware of existing landscape is a good start.

Two simple steps that could make a substantial difference are altering irrigation to match plants’ actual water requirements and making adjustments to minimize overspray onto hard surfaces.

Wilson suggests longer sprinkler stints a one to two times a week rather than every other day when the City permits it. That way longer roots form, which allows grass to access deeper wells of moisture from the ground.

Hoffman will provide more in depth methods to reduce water consumption during a City of Kamloops xeriscaping workshop at McArthur Island’s xeriscape demonstration garden on May 15.

The course is $15 and participants can register online at

Hoffman said she’s been encouraged by the workshop’s increasing attendance over the years.

“It’s always the one that’s the best attended,” she said. “Sometimes we have wait lists and put extra ones one.”

No one wants an unattractive terrain, said Hoffman, but there are ways to maintain a luxuriant look without luxurious indulgence.

“If we can do both — have a nice landscape and conserve water — than that’s the way to go.”


The City of Kamloops provides extensive advice on planning your own xeriscape garden on its website. Here are few steps to get your started.

Take an inventory

* Sketch a simple bird’s-eye view of your property.

* Take inventory, walk around your yard and note what works well and what could change.

* Measure and locate all elements that must remain (property lines, fences, driveways, walkways, retaining walls, utilities).

* Identify conditions that will affect planting and water usage (sun, wind, shade, slopes, drainage, soil variations).

* Note views you wish to maintain or eliminate and where an irrigation system could be connected.

Make a with list

* Determine what each member of the household would like from the available outdoor space (recreation space, a place for relaxation and entertaining, a showpiece, storage).

* Prioritize the wish list and decide when you would like to complete the project, and how much it will cost.

* Expand your horizons. Go for a drive and make notes on other yards. Visit the xeriscape demonstration garden at McArthur Island, as well as garden centres and nurseries.

* Consult magazines, the library and home and garden shows for ideas

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Mobilewalla: Apps to help you in the garden

Whether or not spring has sprung in your neck of the woods, you still can start planning your summer garden with these helpful apps focused on growing flowers, vegetables and fruits and helping you design your landscaping.

For Apple

Fine Gardening (Free): Fine Gardening Magazine enlists designers, nurserymen and horticulturists to bring readers the best advice on how to plant and grow stylish gardens. (iPad only; the first issue is free, then it’s $29.99 per year.) (Mobilewalla Score: 90/100)

Landscaper’s Companion – Plant Gardening Reference Guide ($4.99)*: A gardener’s encyclopedia, featuring 26,000 plants for your garden. (Score: 83/100)

Eden Garden Designer ($1.99): Virtually design your landscape with this easy-to-use tool. (Score: 81/100)

50 Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds Butterflies ($1.99)*: With this app’s guidance, you can make your garden the favorite hangout of beautiful birds and butterflies. (Score: 69/100)

Garden Time Planner (Free)*: Plan your edible garden, and be alerted when it’s time to plant, transplant or harvest. (Score 69/100)

For Android

Garden Guide (Free)*: Garden advice from Mother Earth News, featuring tips on organic landscaping. (Mobilewalla Score: 77/100)

Gardenate ($1.99)*: Plant vegetables and fruits at the perfect time with Gardenate’s location-specific planting calendars. (Score: 77/100)

Garden Tender ($0.99): If you grow food in your garden, this app will track your yield and help you calculate your total costs. (Score: 71/100)

Vegetable Garden ($0.99)*: This app contains step-by-step guides to growing the top 52 common vegetables. (Score: 70/100)

Permaculture Magazine ($2.35)*: Permaculture Magazine focuses on organic gardening and sustainable agriculture (one issue with purchase; subscriptions or individual issues available at an additional cost). (Score: 69/100)

Apps with an asterisk* denote availability on Apple and Android.

Mobilewalla is a search and discovery engine using breakthrough technology to score every app to help consumers navigate the mobile application marketplace. Apps are scored using an algorithm that weighs several characteristics, including user ratings, position within category and staff recommendations. For more app intel, go to

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Preparations for McLean Kitchen and Garden Tour Nearly Complete


Photo contributed

Col. Pete and Kay Burnell’s garden.

The Woman’s Club of McLean is in the final stages of preparing for the community’s first-ever Kitchen and Garden Tour, planned for Wednesday, May 1 (rain date: May 2), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A formal “kickoff” will take place at Holyrood Drive and Countryside Court in west McLean at 10 a.m., near the six large homes that will open their kitchens and extensive gardens for the tour. Tickets will be available on the tour day for $30 at any of the houses; before May 1 they can be purchased for $25 at Flowers and Plants, Etc., 1378 Chain Bridge Road in McLean; Karin’s Florist, 527 Maple Ave. E., in Vienna; Great Dogs of Great Falls, 9859 Georgetown Pike; and Vinson Hall Retirement Community, 6521 Old Dominion Drive in McLean.

ALL PROCEEDS of the tour will go to Vinson Hall’s Wounded Warrior Transitional Housing Project, which is supported by the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation (NMCGRF; According to the foundation’s executive director, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Kathleen L. Martin, “The vision for this program was established in 2011, with a plan to help young, wounded veterans who have returned home from conflict requiring a special kind of care in an environment that is well suited to their unique needs.” Handicap-accessible apartments are currently being renovated for veterans who have been discharged from inpatient care at Walter Reed Medical Center. With its population of some 200 military officers and government employees is a community “where older warriors can mentor younger warriors by providing a listening ear and words of encouragement,” said Vinson Hall Adm. Martin. The average age of the wounded service members, according to the foundation, is 22-35, with most in their twenties needing transitional housing.

Each tour ticket consists of a guide booklet with directions to the six houses, which are on 1-acre lots and are within close walking distance of each other. Visitors may begin the tour at any of the homes. Ample street parking is nearby. After entering the home, they will pass through the kitchen before exiting into the garden. Many of the large kitchens have recently been redesigned and updated. The booklet describes these and also details each home’s plantings and landscaping, which include such amenities as arbors, winding paths, decks, patios and large and small pools. Visitors will find a huge variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, ranging from “exotic” species to those native to Virginia. Some landscapes are reminiscent of English gardens; one property contains a pond area with lily pads inspired by the famous garden of the French artist Monet. There are 100-year-old tulip poplar trees and recent variations of universally popular flowers, such as the 29 varieties of roses growing in one garden.

THE TOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, known as Countryside Estates, can be reached by taking Old Dominion Drive from central McLean toward Balls Hill Road, bearing right, crossing Georgetown Pike and then taking the second right, Holyrood Drive. The intersection of Balls Hill Road with Georgetown Pike is near Exit 44 of the Beltway.

For more information, call the Woman’s Club at 703-556-0197 or send an e-mail to

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Tips on helping endangered birds

The RSPB is advising wild life watchers on how to help take care of some of our most endangered garden birds.

The results from the annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey 2013 show numbers of house sparrows, starlings and song thrushes have fallen.

Now the RSPB is advising how to manage gardens to support them.

The author of RSPB Gardening for Wildlife, Adrian Thomas, said: “Gardens can offer a real lifeline for wildlife. 

“Just doing a few simple things in our gardens can mean they provide food, shelter and nesting spaces for birds, which are most vital for the species that are struggling.”

Here Adrian gives his tips on helping the struggling species.

House sparrow:

Try leaving some areas of grass to grow long. You can still give it neat edges and make a design feature of it, but crucially this will allow certain insects to thrive and the grasses to set seed. Or why not plant deciduous shrubs where are likely to gather for a good natter? They love a vegetable patch too.


In summer starlings seek out insects such as beetles, flies, flying ants and worms, and especially leatherjackets, so gardens with a lawn will help. In autumn they love fruit like elderberries, so try planting an elder tree. 

You could also put up a starling nestbox high up on the shady side of a house, which is a large box at least 25cm deep with a 45mm round hole.

Song thrush:

Plant berry-bearing bushes and try to avoid sweeping up all the leaf litter as they’ll hop around in it, flicking over leaves to find food. 

They like moist and shady areas, and will really benefit from a garden full of worms and snails, so keep up the mulches in your flower beds, which will help you control weeds too.

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Tips on how to find a professional to manage your garden


As days get longer and the weather gets warmer it’s time to start thinking about how to get your garden into the best shape.

But for those who don’t have time to trim their lawns or prune their roses the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) has published some advice on how to find the right professional to take care of your garden.

Tips include:

  • Ask around and get recommendations from friends, neighbours, colleagues or family. This is often the easiest and safest way to find a good landscaper.
  • Always get written quotes and if you cannot find a recommended landscaper then it would be advisable to get two or more quotes.
  • When comparing the written quotes, make sure that you are comparing like for like and ask for a breakdown to ensure that everything you want is covered. 
  • Always use a written contract for your project as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong and always agree in writing any changes to the original cost that occurs during the work.
  • Ask the landscaper for an example of a recent local job and go and have a look at it before making a decision. Don’t just look at the quality of the work, have a chat with the householder and see whether the job was done within budget.
  • Make sure the landscaper has adequate public liability insurance to protect your property in case of damage (all APL members must have this as a condition of membership).
  • Check out who will actually be doing the work. Does the landscaper sub contract?

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Guide to gardening: Experts offer 13 lawn and garden tips for northeast Oklahoma

Guide to gardening: Experts offer 13 lawn and garden tips for northeast Oklahoma

By BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer on Apr 13, 2013, at 2:25 AM  Updated on 4/13 at 7:57 AM

In arriving to a new place, there’s much to do: find your way around town and not get lost on your way home; secure just the right people for everything from hair care to lawn services; build new relationships; set up house; acclimate to a new setting, and, if you are a gardener, orient yourself with your yard.

Two local gardeners, Tulsa Garden Center Director of Horticulture Barry Fugatt and Stringer Nursery’s Jeff McCants offer some advice that may be helpful to the new northeastern Oklahoma gardener and even be gentle reminders to those who are rather familiar with Green Country.

No. 1 Don’t be hasty ushering in spring

This past week has shown us that it’s not yet time to put in your warm-weather crops. “We have had frost in the first week of May,” McCants said, advising gardeners to quickly plant their cool weather crops if they haven’t already but wait a day or two past April 15 – our average frost date – to get in your annuals. Even then, “don’t dilly dally.”

No. 2. Walk your neighborhood

It can offer inspiration for what you may want on your property and also show you which plants appear to thrive in your area. Fugatt also recommends visiting Woodward Park to check out the many trees and shrubs growing in the arboretum and in the Linnaeus Teaching Garden before going to the nursery to buy plants.

No. 3. Know your soil, work with your soil

“We’re blessed, or cursed, with many different types of soils, some great for growing just about anything – the sandy types along the Arkansas River corridor – and very poorly drained clay types that make growing many plants a challenge.” When gardening in a clay zone, think about using raised planting beds.

No. 4. Get involved with Tulsa’s active garden community

From February until about November, there is a gardening class or other horticultural events around Tulsa. Many events are free, others may have a small cost, and all offer valuable information and people excited to help answer gardening questions.

No. 5. Be skeptical of plant tags

McCants said that while the plant tags are helpful in giving basic information about a plant and what it needs, the insight they offer falls short of what a knowledgeable nursery professional’s guidance on the type of sun exposure an individual species takes. A plant tag may recommend full sun for a plant, “which may not necessarily be true since our full sun is hotter than it is in the rest of the country,” McCants said. Also, the tags often under-rate the mature size on a lot of plants, and it’s common to find plants completely mislabeled, so talk to an expert before leaving the store.

No. 6. Mulch, mulch, mulch

It keeps weed competition down, keeps soil cool and retains moisture.

No. 7. Amend your earth

Adding organic matter such as compost to your planting bed area will tremendously help your garden work, McCants said. The incorporation of amendments shores up sandy-type soil, helping it better maintain water. For clay soils, in adding the matter, you’re loosening up the ground and letting in air, which your plants roots will need.

No. 8. Arm yourself with info

In addition to Tulsa’s Master Gardeners, Linnaeus Gardeners and local nurserymen, a wealth of information on gardening topics can be found online, as well as at any Tulsa City-County library.

No. 9. Seriously consider native plants

Many a seasoned gardener will recommend them to those who are experienced and those who are new to gardening especially in Tulsa’s climate. Native plants are hardy – tolerant of the area’s unpredictable weather and even its periods of drought. They require less water than exotics and are plants that are well-adapted to the region and how it’s changed over time.

No. 10. Know your common Okie plants

By now, you’ve fallen in love with those wine, lavender and white-blossomed trees that are showing beautifully in your neighborhood and just about everywhere in Tulsa right now. They’re Oklahoma Redbud, Floating Clouds Redbud and Texas Whitebud trees, respectively. McCants said the dwarf redbuds do extremely well, if you’re interested in bringing a couple closer to home. And if you were to ask him about some of his favorites to consider, dogwoods are on the list. “It’s a wonderful tree,” McCants said, adding that establishing transplants can be a little tricky but to not let that discourage you. Other trees bursting in bloom right now include crabapples, ornamental pears and really any nature of fruit trees. And who can mistake the yellow brilliance of forsythia.

No. 11. Visit your garden

Gardening is not a one-and-done hobby. It’s something that requires regular work and attention to yield anything you’re proud of. McCants said it is important to take some time to walk through your yard. Observe your plants. Don’t just check for weeds, also check for pests. Be weather conscious and be cognizant of how different weather conditions may be affecting your plants. “Get a feel for what your plants are experiencing,” McCants said.

No. 12. Diversify as much as possible

Gardening with only one type of plant – or a monoculture – is a sure way to throw all the time and money you’ve invested into your yard and garden down the drain if it falls prey to a pest that likes exactly what you’ve been nurturing. Not only will plant diversity ensure that you won’t sustain a total loss if disease takes hold, but also it creates an interesting yard and garden to look at, enjoy and call your own.

No. 13. Try, try, try again

“Don’t fret or give up on gardening when a few plants die,” Fugatt said. “It’s all part of gardening. If you don’t occasionally kill a plant or two, you’re not really trying.”

Handling henbit

The blanket of purple-blossomed weeds in your yard right now may make you want to reach for some herbicide, but Tulsa Garden Center’s director of horticulture and Stringer Nursery’s Jeff McCants says not so fast. Soon enough the henbit will die back on its own, McCants said. If it’s really a bother, mow it down or pull them out.

The biggest concern, their seeds, can be taken care of in the fall with some pre-emergent weed control. Putting it down then will catch the seeds in their germinating season.

Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316

Home Garden

Earth Day celebrations involve more than planting trees

Earth Day is Monday, and planting a tree isn’t the only way to celebrate.

Garden calendar: SpringFest Garden Market set for Saturday

Did you know that in the 1600s,
northern Europeans referred to the
tomato as a “wolf peach” and suspected
it was poisonous? Or that the
debate over whether the tomato was
a fruit or vegetable was settled in
1893 when the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled it was a vegetable?

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Midday Fix: Chalet Nursery’s spring garden tips

Chalet Landscape, Nursery Garden Center
3132 Lake Avenue

April 19
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Tony’s Tips:

Spring is a time of new beginnings and a welcome return to garden season. Enjoy some new plans and tools for the 2013 spring gardening season!

Check out new plants that debut this year, including the hardy Senetti.

New garden tools include a special shovel for women that fits best with their ergonomic needs and body structure.

Welcome spring with new garden accessories, like a colorful tote, a Dirty Dog Doormat perfect for muddy paws.

Have fun experimenting with new seeds this year.

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