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Archives for May 18, 2013

Go North Young Realtor?

The Westmark Inn, with its cheerful façades straddling both sides of Fifth Avenue, brings welcome colour to the infinite greys and blues that mark winter in Dawson City. Photo: Luke Brocki.

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In high summer, vacancies here are the stuff of legend. People seeking shelter find it in greenhouses, tents in the hills, rafts on the river. It’s winter now though. And no, this isn’t Vancouver, but those are all valid housing ideas for back home. I’m in Dawson City, Yukon, getting a lesson on development in the far north. Locals insist 20 below zero is balmy for February, but I’m wearing enough layers to stop a bullet. An endless dusting of white powder — flakes as fine as icing sugar — quietly buries snowfall records of years past. People in parkas climb ladders to push waist-deep snow off sagging rooftops. Down the road, ravens the size of toddlers feast on food scraps pulled from a compost bin outside a conflicted rec centre that also serves burgers in the lobby. Nobody minds that everybody is always late for everything: Dawson Time, they call this. Keeping with local custom, I’m running a good 15 minutes late as I trudge downtown to meet a man looking to ease Dawson City’s perpetual housing crunch. He’s also the only real estate developer I’ve ever met who lives in social housing.

When I first found Hector Renaud several nights back at a gathering of food security advocates, a little senior jumped between us, waving her arms and begging me to ignore whatever poisonous stew this outsider developer devil was oozing in my direction. This, of course, made him an irresistible interview.

“I’m not doing a heck of a lot here other than making my opinions known, sometimes for the good and sometimes for not!” he told me good-naturedly after the older dame had departed.

We meet again in the lobby of the Downtown Hotel — the same place I later decided it a terrific idea to down a glass of whiskey buoying a severed human toe. Renaud, 57, a heavy man with a prominent nose and loud belly laugh, suggests we drive around. He doesn’t walk much anymore after a nasty fall off a tall ladder compacted several discs in his back. So we hop into his white minivan, where I learn he used to be an industrial farmer in southern Ontario. He grew tomatoes for Heinz and corn for Green Giant, but eventually got out of the business of growing food and into the far more lucrative business of buying farms and turning them into subdivisions of single family houses. Like most residents I speak with, Renaud ended up in Dawson by accident. Two years ago, what was supposed to be a summer visit with his son turned into a permanent residency when the older man fell in love with the little town, archaic land laws and all.

“The previous council, in their wisdom, decided this lot should be single-family residential,” he says as we pass another property of interest. “This should be rezoned to allow for multi-family residential properties.”

We cruise around the Gold Rush time warp marveling how this sleepy outpost could have been North America’s biggest city north of San Francisco for a spell in the late 1800s. I also hear Renaud’s take on local current events as the tires crunch fresh snow. The shiny new secondary waste-water treatment plant, product of a recent referendum on how to best quit dumping unprocessed shit into the river, is so large officials have to import effluent just to keep it running, he says. And the equally new hospital across the road, while generally a welcome addition, actually cost the town some affordable housing units, as the Yukon Housing Corporation put vacant suites aside for a medical staff that’s yet to arrive, he tells me. Under its rent-geared-to-income model, those doctors will pay more than the underemployed seeking shelter. Bizarrely, Renaud also lives in one of the units. The semi-retired man got one of the coveted subsidized units for $430 a month. He knows his affordable home is a privilege and wants to bring more of the same to would-be homebuyers in town.

“They don’t want to talk about this yet because they don’t have the zoning in place,” he says as we stop at another vacant lot he’s trying to secure in the center of town, on the corner of Second Avenue and York Street. “I have a plan in front of council at the moment for 16 residential units.”


Downtown Dawson City, where thick blankets of snow guard inexpensive view lots waiting for developers infected with enough frontier spirit to chance tearing through glaciation to erect their next condominium complex. Photo: Luke Brocki.

He estimates construction costs at about $1.2 million. Financing would be easy enough, based on pre-sales of the condos he’s proposing to build. In a perfect world, he’d sell each two-bedroom unit for $169,000, the costs reflective of the foundation stabilization, thickset insulation panels and multi-pane windows needed for human comfort atop permafrost. The harsh winter conditions also add the pressure of deadlines.

“There is a major sense of urgency. We only have about a hundred days of construction available to us. By the end of February, if we’re not in a position to order materials, we’ll lose the season,” Renaud adds. “I don’t believe there’s going to be any major construction in this town in 2013. Until the new zoning bylaws are in place, my hands are tied. I have people in Whitehorse right now telling me to come to town and build. But I like this town. I’m a Dawsonite now.”

Meeting the mayor

The following day I again set out across town on foot, this time heading toward the treeless scar in the hillside above Dawson, the consequence of an ancient landslide. According to local lore, the slide happened at the behest of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, which tasked a shaman to roll a massive tree down the mountain to inhume some cannibals whose culinary traditions, as you can imagine, were starting to annoy the neighbourhood. Today the slide is my compass to the mayor’s house.

Wayne Potoroka, 43, greets me in a black zip-up fleece, jeans and thick red socks poking through a pair of Birkenstocks. His Casual Worship welcomes me into his home to talk about the reality of building anything this far north. I quickly learn the mayor dreams of sewer and water lines in a world of septic fields and visits from drinking-water delivery trucks. We sit in the living room, an addition to his large cabin-style home, while his four-year-old daughter Hazel interrupts with deliveries of nonsensical Boggle words and loud giggle spells.

Potoroka’s arrival here was unremarkable: just another restless kid from Dauphin, Manitoba hitching a ride north instead of working on the family farm. He spent the next two decades landscaping, mining, laying water and sewer pipes, freelance editing for a northern publication and then doing communications work for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the same people who brought us that badass shaman above. Eventually, Potoroka took an interest in politics and became a city councillor, serving some seven years across two discontinuous stints before winning the mayoralty last fall. He kept his job with the first nation, since the city’s six-million-dollar budget only nets him a part-time salary of $10,000. Just the same, I grind his gears about construction delays.

“The town is not erecting any impediment for anyone to develop in this town,” he replies, suddenly stern. “And anyone who says so, I don’t know where he gets off saying that.”

“Hector Renaud says it’s a zoning issue.”

“He doesn’t own the land. How about buy the lot and then tell us what you want to do with it?”

Where I come from, that’s not how officials and developers interact, for better or worse. But Dawson’s official community plan was only finalized days before Potoroka became mayor, and modernizing outmoded bylaws will take time. Another problem, Potoroka says, is the murky state of land ownership. A good chunk of the city’s prime downtown real estate is in private hands, but some of those hands are either dead or out of town. And while the City itself also owns some properties, many of them have never been serviced with the types of amenities North Americans have come to take for granted.


If a scrappy twin-propeller tin can doesn’t drop your nauseous body at the airport 20 minutes out of town, you’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted with the Klondike Highway, which, before turning into Front Street in Dawson City, snakes along frozen nothingness all the way to the territorial capital of Whitehorse, which slumbers some 500 km to the southeast. Photo: Luke Brocki.

“The town has lots of land. What we don’t have is the money to bring the infrastructure to these vacant properties,” Potoroka explains.

“How much is a vacant lot downtown?” I say.

“About 30 grand.”

But that’s just for the land, naked save for a thick blanket of snow. To prep that lot for construction, add the cost of water and sewer lines, keeping in mind materials and strategies to battle bedrock, glaciation and incline concerns. That could push the bill to $100,000.

“I wouldn’t pay that for a lot and you gotta ask yourself who can?” says Potoroka. “What do you do in a situation where you have highly develop-able land that would be incredible, those would be beautiful view lots, but the cost of putting them in there might be prohibitive?”

While he ponders that puzzle, Potoroka want to push through some other bylaws to bring back the town’s frontier spirit. In addition to backyard chickens and bees, he also wants to make it legal for people to build garden homes on their properties.

“You guys call them carriage suites. I’d like to call them cribs,” he says with a smirk while pulling up an old brothel photograph on his laptop. “That’s Ruby Scott’s place. That was the last operating cathouse in town. ‘Cribs’ were where the ladies of the evening would ply their trade.”

He thinks locals might enjoy these planned changes.

“It kind of helps roughen up the edges a little bit. We’re a Gold Rush community, we’re a town of 1,300 people,” he grins, eyes ablaze in a frontier daydream. “Go north and you’re not going to hit anything. No evidence of civilization.”


Thirteen hundred people, said the mayor. A few more than that this week, thanks to the mushers, handlers, doctors, drivers, volunteers and superfans of the Yukon Quest 1,000-mile international sled dog race. Scores of them have pulled into town, competitors on sleds and all the rest in massive trucks. They’re here to rest and refuel with dog food, supplies, gas, cigarettes and booze. I crunch around the tiny city center counting one liquor store and seven other watering holes, eight if you consider the weekend casino. My favourite bar, The Pit, a dank place with loud live music and the town’s most famous painting — a Gold Rush era sex worker kneeling in front of a Mountie in Red Serge, her face obscured by the wide brim of his Stetson ’cause he’s a classy guy — starts serving liquor at 9 a.m.


Luckily for Dawson City’s Florian Boulais, who has been toiling on his beloved log cabin (left) for months, the decrepit structure next door is leaning away from his soon-to-be cafe. Photo: Luke Brocki.

A short walk away sits a thin dilapidated shack leaning awkwardly away from what appears to be a brand new log cabin. It is here a musician friend suggested I look for Florian Boulais, an outlandish 38-year-old Franco-German hybrid of modern engineering and cosmic-karma study who’s often to be found in a pair of work overalls. Ever since he started taking apart remote-control cars and computers as a kid, the man’s been good at fixing and building things, from optics and laser technologies to holograms and jet engines at Lufthansa in Europe. He brought the savings from that last gig to Dawson where he’s since been a dishwasher, blackjack dealer, cashier, logger, landscaper, carpenter and log carpenter. He also takes random classes at the college, runs food security meetings and environmental film screenings, works odd jobs fixing Apple computers and — most impressively — builds houses for shelter and investment.

I find him up a staircase out back, covered in dust inside a rental suite he’s erecting atop the traditional log cabin he built by hand the year prior, mortise and tenon joints and all. He financed it with an equity loan against a third project, another cabin, he built across the river.

“Because I built it to code, I’ve been able to insure it and then take a little mortgage out. And since I’ve done everything myself, I’ve saved so much money. I’ve been very lucky. This land I got for 20 grand because people supported my project. And then I went out logging, got wood myself, mostly local lumber. And then I’ve been working here all the time, you know? Doing everything,” he says with a humility I can’t begin to understand.

He rents the original cabin out for an income and lives in a tiny shack he hammered together from scrap wood behind this latest project. To my amusement, Boulais speaks in existential riddles that touch on everything from Chernobyl, big oil and vegetarianism to corporate greed, the role of the media and the need for healthy communities:

“There’s a lot of male energy out there right now. The male energy being the energy that takes things and shapes things into forms and takes more and more and more,” he says, upset, until he grins and adds this: “And the feminine to me is more the earth and giving back and giving up things and caring for things. Not much of that these days.”

I eventually figure out he hopes to turn the downstairs log cabin — the place whose wooden beams bear intricate carvings of mantras such as “know thyself” and “less is more” — into a co-operative coffee shop run by women.

“It’s gotta be ladies running the place!” he says, still grinning. “People are not gonna come to The Pit to talk about important stuff. They’re gonna get wasted and they’re gonna have a good time.”

“So the cafe won’t serve booze?” I ask.

“No, you get excellent coffee,” he says. “It’s about the energy inside. A healthy meeting place.”

Not your typical real estate entrepreneur, but there is no typical anything up here. Boulais hopes to have the cafe operating later this year, but there’s still a ton left to do and one man can only move so fast. By Vancouver construction standards, progress is crawling along lethargically. But here in the vacuum of Dawson Time everything is right on schedule.  [Tyee]

Read more: Travel

Luke Brocki is a journalist, essayist and broadcaster. He lives in Vancouver.

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East End homeowner uses color and form in creative ways in her garden

Think about a garden with a patchwork of colors and whimsical form, working in harmony with the natural environment. Ponder an eclectic use of textures and geometric shapes, all coming together to complete a botanical “quilt.”

Concepts like these keep Sandra Beebe busy during the warmer months, when she’s not at work inside her house making ornate fabric quilts. This longtime Boisean draws from her vast quilting experience to create an eclectic garden space that accentuates her East End Victorian-era home just off Warm Springs Avenue.

“Gardening, like quilting, is about dividing it up into color and function. In your yard, you’re essentially working with patterns,” Beebe explains, pointing at a cluster of ready-to-burst delphiniums, skirted by a locally hewn sandstone-block border that leads to a small pond.

She has created an environment around her house that is both floral and edible, based on a belief that home gardens should produce food as well as ornamental plants. Her property is an amalgam of flowering fruit trees, mature rose bushes, perennial flowers, berry brambles, raised vegetable beds and scattered-about culinary herbs.

“I’m a haphazard gardener. I do what I feel like,” Beebe says.

“I’m open to anything. I just planted some hops next to my garage. I like the way they creep up like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.'”

Her yard, which boasts a colorful array of native and non-native plants, has a country feel to it, especially for being so close to Downtown Boise.

“I told my daughter that I wanted five acres in the city. Well, I came close,” she says with a chuckle, surveying her almost one-acre property near the Boise River.

In 2006, Beebe purchased the two-story Queen Anne-style house (built in 1898) after living in the same neighborhood and admiring the place for many years. But not long after moving into her new digs, she realized the landscaping needed a serious overhaul.

“The yard was an unfriendly, uninviting place. I tore down a big, ugly fence that was blocking the flow from the front yard to the back, and there was an oak tree I had to remove to make some light for my vegetable garden,” Beebe recalls.

“But the yard had good bones, you know, a good structure to work with.”

In order to get her yard in balance, Beebe hired her close friend Nancy Day of Cottage Gardeners (, a Boise company that specializes in landscaping and garden design, to join the evolving project.

“I helped her more with plant selection and maintenance than I did with the actual design of her garden,” Day says.

“Sandra is an artist. Because of her quilting background, she understands the importance of color, and she’s an excellent gardener.”

There is a reason why Beebe and Day carry on like old friends: The two used to run in the same circles back in their younger days when they were growing up in Southwest Portland, a much wetter climate than the high desert of Boise.

Day often works on projects that involve mature landscaping, typically found in the yards of older houses. She told Beebe what she tells her other clients when they buy a home that’s been around for decades.

“People have to think about how to use the existing plants, or if they want to use them at all. This can sometimes be a challenge, ” Day says.

In Beebe’s case, it was all about her and Day coming up with a master plan, one that included supplementing what was already growing there.

“Some things came with the house, and I wanted to work those into my landscaping ideas,” Beebe says.

She also had creative input from family members, like her daughter and son-in-law, Heidi Beebe and Doug Skidmore, who are both architects. They designed and built the garden space – four sections of raised vegetable beds, with a spiral of grass – in the front yard. This is the spot in Beebe’s yard with the heaviest output of food production, even though there are edible plants everywhere around her house.

“I grow more zucchini than most people would even want to, because my daughter makes these delicious stuffed squash blossoms with them,” she says.

Beebe also grows strawberries, green beans, basil, radishes, carrots, tomatillo-like ground cherries and a variety of heirloom tomatoes, to name a few, some of which get canned in the late summer.

Her yard is not without its natural enemies, though. Beebe’s dog, a friendly yellow Lab named Ruby, if left unattended, is capable of mass destruction.

“She likes to dig and chew on stuff, and occasionally she jumps in the pond,” Beebe says, looking down at a trench that Ruby recently scooped out in one of the raised beds.

Outsmarting the deer is an ongoing game for homeowners near the Boise River as well.

“Everyone around here has no tulips because the deer eat the buds before they can bloom,” Beebe states.

A few years back, Beebe commissioned local iron artists to fabricate a front gate and fence, a rustic creation that looks like giant blades of grass, but that doesn’t always keep hungry deer from dining in her yard.

“They eventually got in and ate some flowers,” she says.

Beebe admits there aren’t as many unknowns in quilting as there are in gardening. When it comes to the garden, though, she believes in just going with the natural flow of the seasons, considering each year presents its own set of problems, and seeing how things pan out.

“I do try to keep a notebook for garden journaling, but I don’t always get my ideas down on paper,” Beebe says.

“But my garden usually turns out pretty good.”

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Weekend DIY Ideas: 7 Projects To Tackle Before Throwing An Outdoor Party …

Outdoor parties are a must for warm spring weather. If the weatherman’s forecast is correct, this weekend is a great time to host one. Round up your friends, but cover your bases first, including building an outdoor bar area.

So go on and scroll through our list of DIYs and get ready for party season.

Loading Slideshow

  • Hang Outdoor Lights

    Not only are these easy to install, but ambient lighting is a great way to set the perfect mood for an outdoor party. The key to getting the lights to stay up? Screw-in or heavy-duty adhesive hooks. Just drape lights between hooks, making sure that the end plug is near an electrical source. For more details, head over to a href=”” target=”_hplink”Home Garden Ideas/a.

  • Create Container Gardens For Your Patio

    From porches to front yards, any space can benefit from a pot of pretty blooms — and your patio is no exception. The key is to use a lightweight soil mix, which will provide excellent drainage and aeration. Head over to a href=”” target=”_hplink”HGTV/a for all the details.

  • Create An Outdoor Bar

    Spring weather is perfect for outdoor parties. But if you’re bothered by constantly running in and out to grab drinks, making an outdoor bar is a great solution. The easiest way? Positioning an inexpensive tiered rolling cart off to the side of your entertaining space. Simply stock the heaviest mixers (and extras) on the bottom level, unbreakable glasses or cups on the middle shelf and then line up bottles across the top of the cart, allowing enough space for mixing. Cut garnishes (lemon and limes) in advance, so guests can help themselves.

    For a full tutorial on how to create a great outdoor bar space, visit a href=”
    ” target=”_hplink”eHow/a.

  • Get Your Pool Ready

    Now’s the best time to set up your pool before the weather gets too hot (you should be relaxing in it, not working!) After sifting out the debris, give your pool cover a good cleaning before boxing it away. Then you’ll want to check the water and pH levels for good measure before firing up the pump. For more details and a step-by-step tutorial, swing on over to a href=”” target=”_blank”Do It Yourself’s website/a.

  • Clean Your Outdoor Umbrella

    If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your patio umbrella, then now is probably a good time. First you’ll want to pull the canvas/fabric off of its base and fill up a garbage bin with a mix of bleach and water (one cup of bleach for every gallon of water.) Let your cloth soak in the solution for fifteen minutes and scrub down the dirtiest parts. While it’s still wet, place it back on the base and make sure it expands (this way you avoid shrinking the material.) For an easy-to-follow visual guide, head on over to a href=”” target=”_blank”DIY by Design’s tutorial/a.

  • Build A Fire Pit

    It might take the whole weekend to finish, but the end result is something you can admire and use for years. The steps involve digging a trench, filling it will gravel and assembling the walls. For the step-by-step instructions, visit a href=”,,1636191,00.html” target=”_hplink”This Old House/a.

  • Fix The Fence Gate

    Fence gates that sag into the ground can be difficult to open. First, check if the gate post (the pole that hinges to your gate) is wobbly. If that’s the case, then simply secure crushed stone around the post with a sledgehammer. However, if the post is rotten, you’ll to unhinge the gate, dig up the post and replace it. For the step-by-step guidelines, visit a href=”,,20284513,00.html” target=”_blank”The Family Handyman/a.

  • Mow Your Lawn The Right Way

    Secure your goggles, keep your kids and pets indoors and fire up the lawn mower. The trick to achieving a nice even gloss is to glide your machine emacross/em the hill, not up and down. Also, be sure to avoid obstacles that get in the way (that includes sprinklers, people!) More details about this project can be found on a href=”” target=”_blank”HowStuffWorks’ feature/a.

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Enter the dragon: One-of- a-kind house near Jazz Fest

When Erick
Blaudeau and Bill Dailey and first saw the rambling house on Verna Court in the Faubourg St. John
neighborhood, the building evoked a strong response.

“For Erick,
it was ‘No, no, no,’ but I could see the potential,” Dailey said. “We owned
about three houses at the time and we sold all of them except for a condo that
Erick could stay in if the project went badly.”

Dragon House Verna Court 2013

It didn’t, of
course, and now almost 10 years later, their purple “dragon house” stands out
among its neighbors on the tiny side street between Esplanade Avenue and the Fairgrounds (a
stone’s throw from the New Orleans Jazz Fest’s Acura Stage). Painted a striking
eggplant color with coral and pea green accents, the Craftsman style house
displays atop its porch roof a copper dragon finial, the source of its name. A
spectacular garden of palms, ferns, cacti and bromeliads fronts the two story
house and complements the home’s vivid exterior.

“It’s a far
cry from what it looked liked back then,” Dailey said. “When we first saw it,
it was painted a muddy brown color all over. There was no landscaping at all
because the previous owner had cut down all of the oaks that had surrounded it.
Most of the Craftsman details were hidden by awful awnings.”

According to
Dailey, the inside was even worse. A ceiling threatened to collapse in the
stairwell, filthy pink shag carpet covered floors in some rooms, and holes had
allowed moisture – and varmints – inside.

“Erick is a
radiologist and he was working long hours at Charity, so to preserve his
sanity, he stayed at the condo downtown most of the time,” Dailey said. “Our
friend David Padgett agreed to lend a hand on the renovation and he and I got
to work.”

Out went the
carpet, uncovering gleaming wood floors. Dailey and Padgett also removed
acoustical tiles from the ceilings and used baby oil to rub down the home’s
magnificent millwork to moisturize it and bring out its luster. They pinned up
sagging ceilings, patched holes, removed the awnings and got the house ready
for the next phase: Painting, furnishing and landscaping.

“We spent
all day, every day here working,” Dailey said. “When I couldn’t work anymore,
I’d flop down on a mattress on the floor and go to sleep. There were times that
I was so tired I didn’t care what crawled over me in the middle of the night.”

brilliant hues on the home’s exterior hint at the vibrant palette to be found
inside. A stair accessed through a door on the front porch leads the way to the
upstairs quarters (the partners’ main living area) and signals what to expect
in the way of décor. Painted a vivid melon color, it features a hand painted
ceiling and an expansive array of art work on its walls: Antique prints of palm
trees, papier maché masks, vintage black and white photos, and small paintings
all mix comfortably with one another.

At the top
of the stairs is the living room, where works by artists including George Dureau
appear on walls and easels and where the furniture flaunts exotic upholstery.
Forget about isolating a single special piece of artwork on one wall; these
walls exhibit all manner of art and artifact side by side. Consider, for
example, that a painting by Fernando Botero, the well-known Colombian artist,
can be found on the wall of the laundry room.

“I just ran
out of walls,” Dailey explained.

A lime-hued
dining room follows, centered on a long narrow table with high-back, woven rush
chairs. The hearty brick dining room fireplace relates to the one in the living
room in grandeur and scale. Overhead, dark wood beams crisscross the rooms’
ceilings. A sitting area off the dining room used to be an open porch before
the previous owners closed it in and installed casement windows.

“We decided
to keep the enclosure because we liked the light from three sides,” said
Dailey. “But what we didn’t like were the casement windows, which were all one
piece of glass.” Dailey studied the home’s architecture, especially the
configuration of panes on the windows, then made wood grilles to attach to the
exterior of the sunroom’s windows to create the illusion of multi-paned sash.

Blaudeau and
Dailey have travelled the world and display their collections throughout their
home. Wood carvings from a cannibal tribe in Bali, glimmering fabrics from the
Far East, tribal cloths from Africa: All can
be found.

The kitchen
connects to the dining room via a pantry, its shelves covered with fanciful
paintings of monkeys, a favorite theme of Dailey’s. The partners decided that a
dramatic updating of the kitchen was not what they wanted for the house.

“It was the
era of sleek granite countertops and stainless steel appliances,” Dailey
explained. “Those just did not seem to fit what the house is all about.” So the
original cabinets remained and the room was repainted in Dailey’s signature
Crayola style: Golden yellow for the walls, red for the wainscoting and coca
for the trim and cabinets. The colors serve as a perfect backdrop for the
owners’ collection of oversized folk art.

Blaudeau and Dailey reserve the downstairs of the mammoth
house for a constant stream of family members and out-of-town guests, especially
over Jazz Fest weekends because of the home’s proximity to the Fairgrounds.
With 11 rooms on each floor, there is plenty of space for everyone. Guest
quarters exhibit the same personality as the upstairs, but the house would not
appeal as much as it does without the lush front garden.

“I put in a
traditional garden at first,” said Dailey, who with Richard Sacher owns American Aquatic Gardens
on Elysian Fields Avenue.
“But when I drove up one day, I realized it was all wrong for the house, so I
took it out and started over.”

Today, fan
palms and ferns of many varieties complement one another in the space. Cacti
and bromeliads add texture. Proportions are perfect, thanks to Dailey’s
knowledge of how to arrange greenery of varying sizes and textures. A striking
metal orb serves as a fountain and various garden sculptures – a Thai lion, for
example – nestle into the foliage. Along the driveway, vintage doors painted
with exuberant sunflowers serve as a privacy fence. The sunflowers – like the
“rug” on the downstairs floor and the patterns on the stairwell ceiling – were
painted by Dailey, whose studio occupies a room downstairs at the rear of the

“When we
first bought this house, one of my friends broke down in tears, certain that I
had gone over the edge and would go bankrupt trying to fix it up,” Dailey said.
“Now they make the downstairs their second home and love the place as much as
Erick and I do.”

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Tips for creating a subtropical landscape

When I first moved to Central Florida, I thought that with little effort I was going to have a yard with gorgeous tropical plants. I wanted my yard to look like it was from the set of Tarzan or Jurassic Park. Little did I know that most lush, tropical foliage plants need moderate amounts of water and plenty of relief from the afternoon sun.

After my first investment of fuchsias kicked the bucket within a month, I knew it was time to rethink my landscape plans.

One of the reasons I have difficulty growing tropicals at my home is because Lake County is in a transition area. We are considered to be in a subtropical climate, which is between tropical and temperate. Some plants like ixora and tibouchina are best suited for Orlando, Tampa and south Florida. These plants have no business being planted as a perennial in our area.

After my failure with both fuchsias and tibouchinas, I was on a mission to find plants that looked tropical but would survive Central Florida’s frosts and freezes. I poured through magazines and Internet resources to find ways to achieve that tropical look. Large, thick and bright foliage seemed to be a recurring theme.

There are several plants we can grow in Lake County that fit this description. One example is variegated shell ginger.

This plant grows along the front entrance of Discovery Gardens to give the viewer that lush tropical feel. It has large, yellow striped leaves and is hardy in our area. It can withstand most frost and freezes, especially if grown under a tree canopy. Var iegated shell ginger does prefer light shade but can take both full sun and full shade. Shell ginger without variegation (yellow markings on the leaves) is a similar option.

Bromeliads give instant gratification to the home gardener as you don’t have to wait for a bloom to enjoy their beauty. Their foliage is coarse, thick and colorful. Colors can vary from light orange, to chartreuse green and burgundy red. The heights can also vary as some bromeliads can reach three feet tall while others may only reach six inches.

Bromeliads will need protection from frosts and freezes and most will benefit from afternoon shade. Morning sun is also beneficial as it brings out foliage color.

When shopping for bromeliads look for cold hardy types such as puya, aechmea, nidularium, and vriesia.

Other favorite tropical plants include the green, white and hot pink stromanthe, the wall-climbing magenta bougainvillea, and the variegated pothos vine.

Plant any foliage plant with large leaves and bold colors and it may look like Tarzan will walk out of your yard, too.

“Saturday in the Garden” is a new speaker series offered by UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County on the first Saturday of each month. The speaker series will be held at 10 a.m., June 1, and will feature an hour-long class on Florida friendly landscaping.

Learn how you can have a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape while protecting Lake County’s beautiful environment.

To register for the Florida friendly landscaping class, go to The fee for the class if $5 for adults, and free for children under 16 years of age.

Following the class, feel free to explore the Discovery Gardens, our 3.5-acre gardens next to the ag center. The gardens will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 1 and every first Saturday of the month. You may enjoy the gardens without attending the class, and picnics are encouraged. Entrance to Discovery Gardens is free.

Visit both our plant clinic and Discovery Gardens from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays, at the ag center, 1951 Woodlea Road Tavares.

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Hawken students restoring garden

Hawken School’s seventh-grade students continue taking steps to restore and improve the environmental landscape at one of the 23 Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park near University Circle.

Unanimous approval by the Cleveland Cultural Federation was given to the students’ Master Conceptual Plan for the American Cultural Garden, which the school has overseen as a delegate since 2008.

The garden was then known as the American Colonial Garden. The idea to adopt it as part of a commitment to active community service and involvement came from former seventh-grade teacher Karen Doyle, now a staff member in the admissions department.

“Karen learned the cultural federation was looking for a delegate to take over the garden and she brought the idea to the seventh-grade team, who decided to go with it,” said Anna Tuttle, a seventh-grade science teacher at the middle school at the Lyndhurst campus.

Since that time, Tuttle said the biggest accomplishment has been the recent creation of the master plan, which was begun by last year’s seventh-graders. It includes benches, walkways, trees, and landscaping that will include native plants and an American flag made of seasonal flowers at the garden that sits between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and East Boulevard.

She said it’s a challenge because anytime a visual change is proposed, a plan has to be presented for approval by the executive board of the CCF, who then must give a recommendation to the city of Cleveland about the change.

Also at the garden will be a grand ellipse that will feature the busts of Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Anna Ochs, a Clevelander who originally founded the American Garden in 1935 with donations of pennies from schoolchildren.

Tuttle said she learned that many busts formerly in that and other gardens were vandalized decades ago and removed, but she said some students did some research to uncover one of theirs.

“Our students did some great detective work to find the bust of Mark Twain in a box in the basement of Public Hall. After that, they had to gain possession of it from the city of Cleveland and restore it before bringing it back to the garden,” said Tuttle, who notes there still are missing busts of Abraham Lincoln, John Hay and Artemas Ward.

Each year, the seventh-graders at Hawken, 67 of them this year, work on the project specifically by joining one of four committees headed by the seventh-grade teachers. The committees are dedicated to community outreach, history, landscape, and event planning and fundraising.

“The committees offer a diverse opportunity as they tap into the different interests of the students,” said Tuttle, who oversees the community committee with Middle School Director Matt Young.

Strides have also been made in providing water access for the garden. In March, students Andrew Gerace, David Kim and Anna Shaulis, along with their faculty advisor, researched the issue and set up a meeting with the Cleveland Water Commission to discuss that need. It resulted in a commitment of partnership with the Federation from Interim Water Commissioner Alex Margevicius and his staff.

It is now their hope that a fully functional water flush box, giving them access to tap into the water supply, will be opened before summer.

“We’ve been working on gaining water access for years,” said Sheila Murphy Crawford, president of the CCF, “and are so thankful for the assistance of Hawken’s persuasive students.”

Besides using the garden for curriculum, the students engage in various events there each year, including a scavenger hunt in the fall and community picnic, currently scheduled for May 24, in the spring. The latter is open to all, especially students from Michael R. White Elementary School, the nearest school to the garden and whose students collaborate with Hawken’s.

Grant proposals and fundraising are slated for the next school year. Tuttle estimates at least $10,000 is needed to make the master plan a reality.

The master plan for the garden was drawn by Dorer Associates landscape architects and can be seen, along with the history of the garden, at

See more Lyndhurst news at

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6 tips for Manitoba gardeners this long weekend

Planting the garden on the May long weekend is a rite of spring for many Manitobans, but with cooler than usual temperatures earlier this season, should gardeners wait?

Some garden experts say those with itchy green thumbs should hold off on putting some plants in the ground, especially those that came from a greenhouse, in order to avoid damage from spring frost.

But for those itching to get into the garden — even with rain in the forecast for much of the weekend — there are at least six things that can be done right now, according to David Hanson, founder of Sage Garden Herbs in Winnipeg:

  1. Weed your garden.
  2. Clean up your perennials. Trimming out the old growth would allow more room for them to grow.
  3. Plant seeds for vegetables that can withstand cooler ground temperatures, such as beets, carrots, potatoes, peas and lettuces. Raised beds are great for these.
  4. Plant seeds for flowers like calendula sunflowers and poppies.
  5. Get your planters and pots done. A smaller amount of mud warms up faster. And since it’s not in the ground, you don’t need to worry about frost.
  6. Pick up trees and shrubs from the greenhouse that have wintered outside. These can be put into the ground now.

As for whether to plant now or wait, Hanson is in favour of waiting.

“The farmers’ tradition would be to wait until the first new moon in June, which can actually be up to the second week of June. The reason for this is there’s still cold coming up out of the ground,” he said.

“If you take those nice greenhouse-grown plants and you put them into the somewhat chilly ground, even if the air temperatures have gotten beautiful, they resent it a little bit.”

Nicole Bent of Shelmerdine Garden Centre is also urging impatient gardeners to wait, especially if they want to plant annuals or perennials.

“You do not want to plant your tender annuals into the ground, or any planter that’s difficult to move,” she said.

“Spring frost is going to do serious damage to any annuals or even perennials…. Most of the perennials that you find in your garden centres are greenhouse-grown, so they are just not ready for the outdoors just yet.”

Bent estimated that spring frost in June occurs about once every four years.

Home, garden stores will be busy

Meanwhile, garden and home stores are expected to be packed this weekend with customers keen to work on their homes, yards or cabins.

Ron Borthistle, one of the owners of the Home Hardware in Selkirk, Man., said it’ll be one of the busiest weekends of the year at his store.

“There’s a lot of basics going on there, from yard cleanup, patching roofs, fixing that plumbing that maybe failed over the course of the winter, raking lawns, staining decks,” he said.

Borthistle said despite the long lines, customers are generally pretty cheerful because it’s a holiday weekend.

What is your long weekend plan?

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Gardening Tips Are Just a Click Away

With the long Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, chances are more than a few Land O’ Lakes residents are preparing to dig in and tackle a lawn or landscaping project.

Those with questions on how to proceed to make sure their efforts pay off with a look that can survive Central Florida’s drought-prone climate might want to check with the Pasco Cooperative Extension before getting started.

On its website, the extension office features a variety of resources for homeowners that want to make landscaping improvements that are environmentally friendly.

Some of those resources include:

  • Principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping
  • Tips on lawn care and irrigation
  • Information about pests that might be chewing up yards

To find out more, just visit the Pasco Cooperative Extension online.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your garden? How did you beat it? Tell us by commenting below!

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Top gardening tips from the experts

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    Top gardening tips from the experts

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