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Archives for May 10, 2013

Group considers ways to rebuild Rural Retreat’s downtown



Rural Retreat residents interested in rehabilitating downtown gathered Tuesday night to discuss revitalizing the area.

Led by officials from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the group brainstormed strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities facing the town.

Next, from the brainstorming lists, they picked the top areas in which to invest. Among the top vote-getters was the town depot, aging infrastructure and buildings, showcasing local talent and connections with Dr. Pepper.

“You want to give young people a reason to stay here,” said Community Development Specialist Doug Jackson of HUD. “In the best towns, you want to be there and there is a sense of community. The depot is a possible gathering place. It is a magnet to draw people in, but what kind of experience will they have here?”

Several residents offered ideas about how to rebrand the town. In addition to highlighting the depot, ideas included advertising local outdoor activities, area musicians and the natural beauty of the town.

Businessman Jack Weaver said whatever the town does, it has to be unique. He suggested luring artisans and agri-tourism to the area.

“If we want to be another me-too town, all we will be is another me-too town. You want to bring in something unique and different,” he said.

In February, the town qualified for $35,000 grant to create a master plan for downtown. To receive the funds, the town must complete certain steps toward its revitalization goal. Once the process is complete, officials will apply for construction grants. Construction would start in late 2014 or 2015.

Tuesday’s meeting was one of the first steps in an effort to receive the planning grant money.

The Virginia Housing and Community Development Department’s mission is to make Virginia communities better places to live, work and do business,” said Community Development Specialist David Adams. “What does that mean? How do you do that? The first step is ideas associated with needs. What is the number one community development need in Rural Retreat? You are telling us the number one need has to do with downtown.”

After the town decides what its primary needs are downtown, a local task force, along with state officials, architects and engineers, will work to come up with a roadmap of ways to meet those needs.

The third step in the process is to find money for the projects, which includes applying for Community Development Block Grant. The grant is federal money that comes through the state agency.

“Our funds are not the only source,” Adams said. “Most projects need more than we can supply. I’m 99 percent sure about that.”

According to Adams, the department funds four types of programs: housing rehabilitation, infrastructure, community service facilities like medical clinics and daycares, and economic development.

Included in economic development is Business District Revitalization, which concerns downtown infrastructure, sidewalks, exterior improvements, landscaping, lighting and streetscaping.

When deciding whether or not to award a grant, officials look closely at community involvement, Adams said.

“We want to see the people of the community involved. It’s a grass roots effort,” he said.

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 228-6611, or email

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Even before the house was planned, Mrudula Alla had compiled what she calls her wish file, a folder of designs and décor ideas, of what her future home should look like. It all went into creating the dream home she shares with her husband, mother-in-law, three sons and their dog. The 7000-sq.ft home was built around five years ago, and Mrudula worked closely with architect Sudhir Reddy to create a space that was roomy and stylish and at the same time warm and inviting.

A strong emphasis on nature is evident everywhere. Huge boulders originally on the plot were incorporated into the landscaping, and every room has balconies, sit-outs and great views of the greenery outside.

The ground floor, besides a bedroom, has sitting rooms, dining room and an open kitchen/bar, all flowing one into the other, the idea being to create a large space for entertaining. Ceiling-to-floor glass sliding doors wrap the garden side, from where lawns, flowering trees, and a massive koi pond can be seen. A stark wooden staircase leads to the first floor with its four bedrooms and den. There’s also a gym right on top.

Local stone like Tandur and Kadappa are used throughout, while the koi pond is lined with slate. Old wood was used for cabinets, cupboards, windows and doors. The home is full of practical and yet elegant details, such as wooden louvered doors for cross-ventilation.

The interiors complement the home. A NIFT graduate, Mrudula has collected bhajan lamps and intricately carved wooden panels from Godavari, and old cast-iron gas lamps from Charminar. Animal hides and dowry boxes from South Africa share space with painted plates from Morocco and quirky furniture from Thailand and Bali.

A colourful Afghan jacket is framed against a bare grey wall, while a wooden sofa is upholstered in bright red leather. Moroccan lights are strung from one tree, while glass-bead parrots hang from another. The walls are adorned with Ramesh Gorjala and Laxma Goud.

Ask Mrudula what her favourite part of the house is, and she says it’s the little sit-out overlooking the koi pond. She loves to sit there, sipping tea and watching the colourful fish.

Location: Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

Owner: Mrudula and Rajesh Alla

Architect: Sudhir Reddy, Kruthica Designs

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Blooming ideas for Mother’s Day – WOOD 8 – WOOD

CALEDONIA, Mich. (WOOD) – What mom doesn’t like being spoiled with beautiful flowers? Flowers are a fool-proof Mother’s Day gift that can keep on giving, especially if you invest in long term blooms like hanging baskets, planters and flowering trees.

At Harder and Warner Landscaping , their garden center is packed with colorful gift ideas for your mom. A hanging basket is a great gift that blooms all summer long. With only a little bit of maintenance it’s something that your wife or mother can enjoy for months to come.

Take a walk through their Perennial Park and pick out some pops of color and build your own container garden. The experts at Harder and Warner can help you pick out a pot and the best blooms for the size.

Another idea is a flowering tree that your mom can watch flourish over the years. Currently pear, crab and magnolia trees are in full bloom!

Check out what Harder and Warner Landscaping to pick out your Mother’s Day gift today.

Harder and Warner Landscaping
6464 Broadmoor SE
Caledonia MI 49316

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Wombat Hill opening for historic cascade

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  • Secretary of the Friends of Wombat Hill, Patrice O’Shea.

THERE is a cascade effect as life renews in the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens in Daylesford.

The gardens’ 150th anniversary will be celebrated today with the official opening of its historic rustic cascade.

The Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov, will formally open the cascade, which is the centrepiece of the fernery at the heart of the botanic gardens.

It will mark an important milestone, not just for the botanic gardens themselves, but also the restoration work carried out by the Friends of Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. 

“It’s been a long time coming. The cascade hasn’t been operating for 40 years,” says Friends of Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens secretary Patrice O’Shea. 

“It cost the Friends about $30,000. Overall, we’ve raised $120,000 to restore the fernery, which I think is phenomenal.

“The Hepburn Shire doesn’t have the rate base for such a major project, which prompted the Friends to get down and dirty, and do the work.

“It was a tiny organisation, now it is a really big organisation. We started with 20 people, now it’s 150. It seems to strike a chord with people.”

The fundraising effort started 18 months ago. The stone masonry work began in December, with other work around the project done by volunteers.

The rustic cascade is the first major project to be completed in the renovation of the gardens.

“This is only the start. There is a lot more of the fernery still to do,” Ms O’Shea says.

Apart from replanting ferns, a new irrigation plant is to be installed, while the slatted shade house will be rebuilt to cover the pump and pond.

The heritage-listed botanic gardens are an example of 19th century provincial garden design and landscaping, and is situated on the summit of an extinct volcano.

It was established 150 years ago, with plants donated by the Daylesford community and trees gifted by eminent botanist Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, and was designed by noted landscape designer William Sangster.

Ultimately, the intention is to return fish to the cascade pond at Wombat Hill and return the fernery to its original condition.

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David Thorn of Russell turns vision into reality at Thorncreek Winery and Gardens

David Thorn ThorncreekDavid Thorn, owner of Thorncreek Winery and Gardens and DTR Associates reviews additions to his landscape design plan.
The entrance sign to Thorncreek Winery and Gardens on Treat Road in Aurora includes the subhead “Outdoor Visionaries.”

Apart from being a clever play on words, it described owner David Thorn’s process in developing the property.

The 8-acre commercial property blends Thorn’s three businesses, DTR Associates, a high-end residential landscape design firm, the winery and an event venue.

Thorn, a Russell resident, bought the property in 2005. It was an existing winery that needed a thorough sprucing up. In fact, what it needed the most was a vision, and a visionary to revitalize it.

Thorn said both his accountant and his lawyer tried to talk him out of it, but, he saw it as a future headquarters for his landscape design business and a venue for creating and displaying permanent gardens.

In addition to designing and installing gardens for his clients, Thorn had created temporary gardens for the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and the National Home and Garden Show.

Although the temporary gardens provided creative venues, he began to feel it was a waste of effort and plant material to tear them down.

“I was looking for a continuing large-scale project to showcase my firm’s work,” he said. “Temporary gardens stress-out the plants, and I’m someone who likes to nurture and salvage things. It went against my grain.”

He bought the property over the winter. When the snow melted in the spring, he took a good look at it with a tinge of buyer’s regret.

“I thought, ‘Oh my, what did I get into,’” he said. “But giving up was just not an option.”

The grounds were swampy and needed work before he could construct his gardens.

Thorncreek Winery and GardensView full sizeA recycled cart repurposed into raised beds for an herb garden provides fresh herbs for food prepared and served at the winery. The fence in the background is a recycled snow fence. Photo by Scott Pease.

With a conservation theme in mind, he carefully moved several existing crab trees on the property to provide flowering specimen plants and shade for intimate outdoor seating areas, rather than simply cut them down and purchase new trees.

He rescued a river birch tree he found cut and topped off along the road. That tree, pruned and replanted in one of his gardens is now a healthy specimen, and one of Thorn’s favorites.

Thorn and his team spent about two years renovating the existing building, landscaping the property, adding outdoor patio areas and creating gardens. He worked on one section at a time, using reclaimed materials as much as possible to lessen the impact on nature and the earth, as a whole.

Thorn’s initial plans did not include keeping the winery, however, the idea began to grow on him.

“I thought we’d use the wine cellar as a garage to work on our trucks and machinery, but we kept it and added new wine making equipment,” he said. “I had an existing customer base I knew appreciated fine design, good food and wine. And, with the right people who could take my ideas and run with them on a day-to-day basis, I became convinced it could work.”

The winery offers some prepared food and 11 varieties of wine to choose from – starting at $13.99 a bottle for a sweet white to a reserve cabernet that sells for $32.99 a bottle. Most of the grapes are imported from the California wine country, but some are locally grown.

Thorn carried his conservation ideas indoors, using tree trunks as seating and as decorative elements. In the outdoor gardens, old birdhouses became sculptures.

A discarded snow fence became part of a fenced-in herb and vegetable garden. Plants from the garden are used in the winery’s food preparation.

An old shovel and pitchfork became handles for the garden gate. An old iron base and wooden cart are used as a platform for the herb garden.

“Reusing existing discarded items is good for the earth and good for nature,” he said.

They also add interesting design features. Thorn’s vision for the property was to add walkways and paths that lead to hidden gardens, rather than have all of the features visible at once.

Thorncreek Winery and GardensView full size Good enough to fool Mother Nature, Thorn’s four-tiered, 1,500-square-foot waterfall provides a nice water feature on the property.

New this year is a 1,500-square-foot, four-tier water feature that resembles a natural waterfall. It adds visual effects along with the sound of a natural waterfall. Completing the look is a stone-lined natural-looking streambed.

Another addition is a large outdoor stone patio with a sculptural tent to provide ample room for wedding parties on the grounds. In fact, the facility already has 30 weddings booked this year.

“We strive to accommodate individualized weddings and corporate parties,” Thorn said. “One client wanted a ultra modern twist. They brought in white leather sofas and a lighting crew to create their vision.”

He said other couples want a more rustic approach with tree trunks for tables and the bride walking barefoot in the grassy lawn.

“On clear nights, the best part is to enjoy a glass of wine outside under the stars,” Thorn said.

He credits his team of managers and employees with the success of the companies. His management team includes Patrick Cunningham, general manger, Megan Sullivan, business manager, Steven McClellan, sales director, and David Mazzone, who makes the wine.

The winery’s hours are noon to 9 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

A special “Red, White and Bloom” event is planned noon to 7 p.m. May 26 with music, grilled food and wine to kick off the summer season.

Stop in or call the winery at 330-562-9245 to plan a special event. If it’s landscape design work you want, call 330-562-1811.

See more local news at

Phone: 216-986-5474. Twitter:@JoanRusek

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Cowboy gardeners use photoshop to create portfolio

It’s not just models who are airbrushed to perfection.

The Malvern Spring Gardening Show has discovered that rogue gardeners are turning to Photo Shop these days too.

“We’ve heard of people being shown computer-enhanced images of gardens that a tradesmen claims to be his.

“Some were completely reworked, bearing no resemblance to the original job whilst others were the work of professional landscape architects downloaded from the internet and nothing to do with them” said Sharon Gilbert, communications manager for the Show.


The internet and the recession are seen as the main culprits for the increase in door-to-door gardeners.

But, as well as the potential to be bogus, more worryingly is that many can employ aggressive tactics.

According to Trading Standards Officer Mark Strain of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, the number of complaints they receive about gardening services and home improvement work is escalating and they received over 1K such complaints in the last year alone.

One Worcestershire resident received a number of unsolicited calls about garden maintenance and, despite being clearly told that his services were not required, the tradesman became aggressive and continued to call in an attempt to badger the householder into submitting to his demands for work.

Mark makes these recommendations before hiring someone: “Make sure you have the person’s name, address and contact details before they start so you can track them down if anything goes wrong.

“Ascertain that they have insurance and, once you’ve agreed to a job, it’s a legal requirement to include a cancellation notice allowing a 7 day cooling off period.

“This stops more vulnerable people being bullied into agreeing to work they don’t want or need.”

Professional gardener of 35 years, James Hyde, will be offering people advice as part of the Malvern Spring Gardening Show’s ‘Landscaping Live’ workshops, especially on what to look out for when hiring a landscaper.

Commenting on the problem, he said: “The internet and mobile phones have impacted on the speed people can advertise to spread the word about their work, and have also made it easier for customers to get hold of ‘gardeners’.

“I’ve seen examples of shoddy workmanship throughout the UK which, to the professionally-trained eye, is obvious.

“And, whilst appearance is important, poor workmanship can damage plants and lawns, ending up costing people more in the long term”.

Some advice on how to spot rogue gardeners:

Where possible, find a professional via personal recommendation.

Visit gardens they have worked on and talk to the owner.

Get three separate, written quotes – these should not be charged for nor imply any obligation to commit to work.

Be specific in your remit for the work – does it require specialist knowledge e.g. tree cutting or more general maintenance.

Write a written brief if necessary so that your gardener does not add jobs along the way, increasing the cost.

Know your garden and what lies beneath – no gardener, however well qualified, has x-ray eyes.

Water pipes, mains supplies and even rubble can all cause delays and add to costs.

Consider using someone with professional qualifications – this does not necessarily mean more expense.

The Association of Professional Landscapers which concentrates on private gardens (, has a Government-endorsed Trust Mark.

The British Association of Landscape Industries deals with more commercial work ( Both vet contractors by checking referees and will arbitrate in the event of a dispute.

However, many smaller contractors are not members because of the time and cost involved in becoming a member.

The Arboricultural Association ( is the governing body of tree surgeons.

Again, the contractors pay an annual fee (having been rigorously vetted) and the Association has a disputes resolution service.

Cheapest does not always mean the best – landscaping can increase the value of your home, over-and-above the cost of the landscaping itself.

Check out websites – those that are professional looking and better designed usually reflect someone who’s in the business long term and takes a pride in their work.

Factor in the British weather to add delays to a project.

Be on the watch for inconsiderate landscapers who disturb the neighbours by working unsocial hours.

Be wary of landscapers who use contracts with all sorts of clauses that involve additional charges. Your costs will just keep growing.

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‘Organic Gardening Tips 101’ Introduces Garden Video Centre

Penn Yan, NY — (SBWIRE) — 05/09/2013 — ‘Organic Gardening Tips 101’, an online organization offering detailed tips and resources related to growing of a successful organic garden, today announced the addition of Garden Video Centre on their website. The section would include interesting and informative videos related to all aspects of gardening including designing and developing organic gardens, best ways to grow particular vegetables, details about plant diseases and related prevention and cure, insects that can benefit the garden, latest news related to the field and common mistakes people make while gardening among others.

The site already has more than 45 videos, with the company adding more every day. Speaking on the occasion, a representative of the company said, “The basic idea of adding a garden video center to the site is to provide a user friendly atmosphere that is free of distractions and can help viewers garden with ease. This can lead to living a healthy lifestyle, while consuming home grown organic foods.” She further added, “We would also like to use the section as a medium to make people realize the benefits of an organic lifestyle.”

According to the sources, growing a garden successfully needs a lot more understanding of details including type of soil, techniques to keep it pest free and in turn lead an organic life, and the videos would help viewers understand the details. Phil Nauta, book author, owner, and creator of the Smiling Gardener Academy, an online gardening course once said, “If you want to grow an organic, pest-free garden that’s overflowing with nutrient-dense food and flowers, it’s important to learn how to test soil and how to fertilize.”

The site aims to attract those as well who do not believe in an organic living and the video section is the first step in the direction. Ruth Martin, the president of Organic Gardening Tips 101 added, “Even though there is a lot more recognition today, worldwide, about the health benefits of an organic lifestyle, there are still many individuals who do not even begin to realize the benefits, and have no idea how to grow their own food. We aim to change that.”

About ‘Organic Gardening Tips 101’
Organic Gardening Tips 101 is a website and blog that provides tips and resources to help others learn how to grow a successful organic garden. The company aims to educate individuals on the many health benefits of eating and growing organic foods. A lot of free information is available, as well as video teaching.

Contact Information
Contact Person: Ruth Martin
Address: Penn Yan, NY

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Saturday is Plant Sale Day

By Carol Stocker
This Saturday is the biggest day of the year for plant sales by garden clubs and plant societies. Rarities and bargains dug from thousands of local backyards are yours to seek out.

May 11, 8 a.m.-noon, The Milton Garden Club Perennial Plant Sale, in front of The Milton Library on Canton Ave.

May 11, 8 a.m.-noon, The Amateur Gardens of Milton Annual Plant Sale, in front of Milton Town Hall on Canton Ave.

May 11, 9-11 a.m., The Marblehead Garden Club’s 82nd annual plant sale, benefiting the Jeremial Lee Mansion, at the Gerry 5 VFA, 210 Beacon St., Marblehead.

May 11 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Bilerica Garden Club Plant Sale, 25 Concord Road, Billerica.

May 11, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., The Garden Club of Concord Plant Sale, Middlesex Bank, Main St., Concord.

May 11, 10 am. to 1 p.m., Kingston Garden Club annuual spring plant sale, Faunce School, 16 Green St., Kingston.

May 11. 9 a.m. to noon, Bridgewater Garden Club Plant Sale, Bridgewater Cole-Yeaton Senior Center, 10 Wally Krueger Way, Bridgewater off Rte. 18/28.

May 11, 9 a.m.:Easton Garden Club Plant Sale, Yardley-Wood Rink, 388 Depot St., S. Easton

May 11 The New England Daylily Society [] is holding a Plant Sale on in Wakefield at the First Parish Congregational Church, 1 Church St. Sales tables open: 10:30-12:30. Auction of more expensive daylily hybrids at 12:30.

Members of the New England Daylily Society will be there at the sale to answer your questions or help you to choose a daylily for your gardens. Hundreds of daylilies will be available for purchase. Be there at the start of the sale for best selection.

Daylilies are not Lilies or bulbs. They are herbaceous perennials. Daylilies grow very well in average garden soil and although they perform better when watered during the growing season, they are drought tolerant.

If you have questions about the sale, please contact NEDS president, Adele Keohan at
For more information about daylilies, visit the American Hemerocallis Society at

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Gardening tips for the area’s weird weather

Hummus made from colorful vegetables makes for fun eating

Hummus, a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, is traditionally made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), olive oil, sesame seed paste, lemon and garlic. As the popularity of the dip spreads, so does the variety of recipes. Pinterest recently yielded recipes for orange sweet potato hummus, green lima bean hummus and even a hot-pink hummus made with roasted beets.

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No yard? No worries with these yardless gardening tips


Having a beautiful garden may seem like only a dream for people without a large outdoor area, but yardless gardening offers the perfect solution.

Five Steps for Planting an Edible “Yardless Garden”
Living in an apartment or townhouse without a yard to call your own doesn’t mean you need to give up the benefits of an edible garden. From windowsills to kitchen counters, the options for ‘urban’ gardening are plentiful. Start your spring on a green and healthy note by planting a ‘yardless garden’ at your home.
Here’s how to get started:

Choose Your Plants and Herbs
For a simple, indoor garden that will quickly reap rewards, start with common herbs like parsley, thyme, basil and oregano. Strawberries and tomatoes can also thrive indoors. Steel tomato ‘cages’ are available that allow the vines to grow upward and remain contained without draping all over your furniture.
Imagine a plucking a ripe heirloom tomato from your own vine for dinner!

Prepare Your Planter
It’s essential to give your plants room to grow roots and to provide the ability to drain excess water. Although traditional terra cotta or plastic flower pots can serve your purposes well, if space is limited, you may want to consider square or rectangle planters made of copper or wood that sit in a row and fit neatly on a windowsill or table, consolidating your garden and embellishing its visual appeal.

Gather Your Tools
Even though we’re taking our garden indoors, you’ll still want a small trowel, cultivator and hoe to properly maneuver your fragile seedlings and adult plants. Miniature garden tools are affordable, widely available and allow for easy maneuvering.

Plant Your Seeds (and Seedlings)
Healthy plants start with healthy soil, so give your seedlings a base of potting soil mix that includes compost and natural materials such as sphagnum peat moss and perlite, helping to retain moisture and minerals near the plants’ roots.

Protect and Nurture
Don’t be too concerned if a few leaves on your plant yellow or fall off – it’s a natural occurrence for house plants, and you should never respond by overwatering or adding excessive fertilizer. To promote growth, however, an organic fertilizer can help to stimulate healthy roots and aid in flowering and fruit production. Likewise, pests and weeds can attack indoor gardens just as they do in the backyard, so consider a light or natural herbicide and pesticide treatment to keep your garden thriving.

If you’re unsure about how much water is too much, a small moisture monitor that sticks into the soil can let you know when your plants are getting thirsty.

No matter your living situation, an indoor garden offers a beautiful way to bring nature into your home, as well as helping to reduce stress and purify the air. If you have children, all the better. The kid-sized tools used for indoor gardening offer a perfect introduction to where our food comes from and how plants grow.

The information above was provided by Alana Heart from The Home Depot.


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