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Archives for June 15, 2013

Looking for the ‘perfect’ dad

Today is Father’s Day and we have put up a microsite on our website to celebrate dads.

Unlike the tribute we received on Mothers Day last month, the response this time has been more hesitant and muted.

Mothers are more fun to photograph, a colleague said, explaining why there were fewer contributions this time around.

Fathers are more distant, another colleague a father himself said. And we don’t care for such celebrations, he added.

Perhaps, as my friend said, most dads don’t buy into the day and as children, we’re not going to argue with that because it also means we don’t have to foot out S$12 (RM30) for a stalk of rose. Still, what struck me when discussing Fathers Day with colleagues and friends outside the office was how fathers generate a complicated response.

The question “what’s your relationship with your mother like” is almost guaranteed to give you a gushy reply about how great mum is. But “what’s your relationship with your father like” brings quite a bit of hemming and hawing and furrowed brows.

I’ve heard very few “oh, my dad’s such a great guy” type of responses.

Are dads less lovable than mums? Are mothers better parents than fathers?

Biologically, at least, mums are one up on dads because of oxytocin, a hormone that increases during pregnancy and which helps women bond with their baby. Most women have an innate ability to know what their children want. Traditionally, too, mums have the advantage of spending more time with the kids at home and being there for them.

Fathers, on the other hand, tend to take on the role of disciplinarian, spend longer hours at work and are less expressive.

Given all this, it’s perhaps understandable why mums are more popular than dads.

That’s certainly been the case for me.

While I’ve always been close to my mother, my relationship with my father was more complex. He loved me and I loved him, but what I remember most about him was his unpredictable temper. Even today, more than a decade after he died, his violent temper clouds many of my memories of him.

It’s strange how, when my sister and I reminisce about him, she remembers just the good stuff whereas I bring up the bad bits.

And there were many good things about him. He was generous with his money, he struck up friendships easily, was creative, enjoyed books and was curious about the world. He had many hobbies and plunged into them wholeheartedly.

Although he made a decent living from his landscaping business, his head was brimming with business ideas. He concocted a heat rub balm by reading chemistry books, bottled and sold it. He made perfumes. He came up with orchid hybrids and cultivated bonsai.

When computers arrived on the scene, he had a brainwave that manual typewriters would become a collector’s item. He imported more than 50 from Sri Lanka. They remained inside our storeroom for years because he couldn’t find a buyer.

I used to be wary and weary of his many projects why is dad always hopping from one idea to the next, I used to think, exasperated. I realise now I was unkind to think that. They weren’t whims. He was merely looking for ways to make more money to give us a better life.

They say a woman’s relationship with her father shapes her view of men, and perhaps it does. My father didn’t quite fit my idea and my ideal of what a “perfect” father was someone with a steady nine-to-five job, who was quiet, calm, good-tempered and measured and I’ve spent a large chunk of my life looking for a man who was all that.

When I finally got married, it was to a man who fitted (mostly) what I was looking for. He was also already a father.

H was divorced and had joint custody of his then five-year-old daughter, living with her on alternate weekends.

It wasn’t an easy decision for him to leave her in Britain and come back to Singapore with me, but once he decided, there was no turning back and no point moping. They Skype a few hours every Sunday. It’s not an ideal or even normal father-daughter relationship, but they make do, or at least he does.

We often wonder what she thinks of him. At the back of our minds, we worry too. Is he being an adequate enough father? Can one be a good absent dad? And if no, what might the consequences be?

In any case, we’re visiting her this week. And yes, it’s Father’s Day today. Hopefully, it’ll be a special one for him, and for her. The Sunday Times/Asia News Network

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Bonnaroo 2013 camping music festival

Maroon 5 on The Today Show

Check out Adam Levine and Maroon 5 performing live on Friday, June 14, 2013.

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Drake’s 7 Dees closes east county garden center after decades

The big, green metal-roofed building along Southeast Stark Street still gleams in the sunlight and the big rock fountain in front still bubbles with water.

But there are few plants outside and what’s left inside will be gone by the end of the month as Drake and Lynn Snodgrass close the garden center that has been in their family for several decades.

Drake’s 7 Dees
will keep a smaller store purchased five years ago on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road in Raleigh Hills. And its busy landscaping and design business will remain headquartered on 1.5 acres behind the garden center at 16519 S.E. Stark St.

But the couple, prominent in Oregon politics and charitable activities, will lay off 12 employees June 30 and try to find another use for the garden center’s buildings on 2.5 acres.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Lynn Snodgrass. “Drake and I love east Multnomah County … we’ve been here and invested our personal and business lives here.”

Although a series of wet springs and a sour economy hurt all nursery-oriented businesses, Lynn Snodgrass said, the garden center could not overcome the demographic changes in the Rockwood area of west Gresham.

“Garden centers thrive on home ownership in a five-mile radius, and there’s just not enough here anymore to sustain us,” she said. “There’s just a different spending pattern with apartment dwellers.”

When Bob and Meryle Snodgrass opened the center in the early 1960s much of the surrounding area was undeveloped, and their business grew as east Portland and Gresham filled with single-family homes. Drake Snodgrass bought the garden center from his parents in 1974 and expanded into landscaping.

But during the past 15 years, the area has changed dramatically. Apartments, many of them subsidized, abound. Original homeowners aged and moved on, selling or renting their houses. The city of Gresham has declared much of the area “blighted” to qualify for urban renewal programs.

Social programs in the area are generally overwhelmed by demand or underfunded. Gangs prowl the area; two shootings — one fatal, the other involving 30 shots — recently took place at apartments two miles east of the garden center.

“We appreciate what Gresham is doing and the area is revitalizing, but it’s going to be a long time and just not soon enough for us,” Lynn Snodgrass said.

With a regional clientele and 25 employees, Lynn Snodgrass said Drake’s 7 Dees Landscaping is healthy and growing. The question will be figuring out what to do with the 6,000-square foot garden center building they designed and constructed in 2001.

“We’re open to ideas, and we don’t want the property to sit vacant,” she said. “We’d like to keep it in retail because that may be best for the community.”

Lynn Snodgrass, 62, served in the Oregon Legislature from 1994 to 2000, including two sessions as House speaker. She is considering ramping up her outside activities.

Drake Snodgrass, 63, is on the boards of a low-income medical clinic in Rockwood, the Japanese Garden, the Portland-area Salvation Army and was recently given a community service award by a national landscape organization.

“The stress and sadness of closing the store is hard,” Lynn Snodgrass said. “But change can bring new ideas and energy. You have to try to look at change in a positive way.”

–Quinton Smith


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Lessons in landscaping

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Foliage surrounding the Grey Towers mansion in Milford grows lushly diverse these days, as though decked out for festivities Cornelia Pinchot had in mind when she began landscape design in 1914.

That was the year she married Gifford Pinchot, governor and conservationist, and Grey Towers became their summer house.


Grey Towers National Historic Site, also known as Gifford Pinchot House or the Pinchot Institute, is just off Route 6 west of Milford in Dingman Township. For information, call 570-296-9630.

Now Grey Towers is federal property, a gift of the Pinchots. The U.S. Forest Service that Gifford Pinchot started maintains it.

What’s in bloom

“There is always something blooming at Grey Towers, either the annual containers throughout the gardens, in the Long Garden, along the Allee” — the drive approaching the mansion — “or on the Swimming Pool Terrace,” said Elizabeth Hawke, Grey Towers horticulturist.

“The landscape plantings are varied — some historic, some new, some native, some not,” she said. “For example, the plantings in the visitor parking area are all native species to demonstrate what grows in this region and to cut down on maintenance.”

When James and Mary Pinchot, Gifford’s parents, lived at Grey Towers, from 1886 through the early 1900s, the landscape was practically barren, said Lori McKean, Grey Towers Visitor Services, Partnerships and Communications spokesperson, “though James tended an extensive rose garden.”

But over the years, she said, “especially after Cornelia arrived, the gardens have transformed the landscape into more of an estate-like setting.”

The Forest Service maintains Cornelia’s historic plantings, such as the wisteria, the beeches, the cherry tree, climbing hydrangea and Boston ivy, Hawke said.

“And the Forest Service has completed numerous restoration projects, such as the Allee, to bring it back to how it looked when the Pinchots lived here,” McKean added.

Landscape plan

Planning the gardens, “Cornelia Pinchot used numerous landscape architects of her time period, such as William Bottomley and Rose Standish Nichols. But later in life, Cornelia Pinchot took the credit solely as her own,” Hawke said.

“She wanted to extend the living area from inside to outside the mansion. She set out to create garden rooms, to enjoy with family and guests,” Hawke said.

The Swimming Pool was once the Pinchot family pool, filled with water from the Sawkill, McKean said. Now the area is a stone patio with a pergola vined with climbing hydrangea that the Forest Service tents six months of the year to provide outdoor public program space.

Below the Swimming Pool is the Fingerbowl, a stone pool on another pergola-covered patio, entwined with wisteria, that served as an outdoor dining room.

“Cornelia floated her food on the water in wooden bowls and on balsa wood rafts,” McKean said.

Brochure coming

A new brochure, “The Trees of Grey Towers,” will be available soon, along with wayside exhibits for the more significant trees, and tree identification signs with special codes that can be used to learn more about the trees.

Pedestrians are welcome on the grounds at no cost from dawn until dusk, year-round,” McKean said. “However, the gates are open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., so cars must be parked outside the gates after regular business hours. There is pedestrian access through the gates.”

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Fine Living: Inspiration blooms in ‘World’s Fair Gardens’

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THE ENDURING IMPACT of world’s fairs on gardening — private, public and municipal — prompted Cathy Jean Maloney to pen her latest book, “World’s Fair Gardens: Shaping American Landscapes” (256 pages, University of Virginia Press, $40), which covers the nine major U.S. world’s fairs from 1850 to 1940, what she considers their heyday.

On June 20, she will share her insights from researching her book in a talk, slide show and book signing focusing on San Francisco’s three expos — the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, sited in what is now Golden Gate Park; 1915’s Panama Pacific International Exposition, now the Marina district; and the Golden Gate International Exposition from 1939 to 1940 on Treasure Island.

The author, who lives in a cottage on the grounds of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed estate with a Jens Jensen landscape in Chicago, was intrigued with world’s fairs gardens after researching the World’s Columbian Exposition, which took place in 1893 in Chicago.

“It was a game changer for world’s fairs, not just in America but in the world,” she explains. “It was the first time that a landscape architect, (in this case) the noted Frederick Law Olmstead, who was hired to do the landscape, was at the same table as the architect, art sculptors and engineers.”

And, she points out, it was also the first time that landscape architecture was considered an important

art form, “where landscape was considered as an integral part of the plan along with the building designs and outdoor art, not an afterthought.”

The Chicago Expo, she explains, sparked the nationwide City Beautiful movement, “with the idea that when you plan a city, you want to incorporate nature and parks.” Out of the City Beautiful movement came Edward Bennett, who created the ground plan for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Expo.

Through their exotic flora and artful landscaping, “world’s fairs have shaped American gardens and green spaces,” Maloney says. “Nurserymen, growers and florists who exhibited at a world’s fair would win medals and ribbons for certain plants or flowers, such as a winning gladiola for example, and then they’d publicize that in all their catalogs so that everyone back home would buy a lot of the award winners.”

She admires John McLaren, the designer of Golden Gate Park, whom she deems “the coolest guy.”

“In the world’s fairs that I studied, only San Francisco picked a native son to work on all three of their expositions. He was the go-to guy,” says Maloney.

From him, fairgoers were exposed to plantings of staggered heights and using native plants, or at least what grew well in that area.

“That was happening in other fairs,” says Maloney.

With the Pan-Pacific Expo, McLaren had a problem, she says.

“Bennett had created a compact fairground with huge buildings that could feel overpowering when you walked by, just like being in downtown Manhattan,” she says.

To solve his problem, he cleverly planted trees in a graduated manner from the building down to the walkway.

And, in what is a foreshadowing of the now-popular trend of vertical gardening, McLaren built huge frames to screen the fairgrounds from the bay for blocks, installed irrigation and planted them with ice plant.

“It looked like an ivy-covered arch and it was all that people were talking about,” she says.

It went well with the idea that the Palace of Fine Arts was designed to look like a Grecian ruin, which McLaren enhanced with creeping vines.

The lagoon, which predated the expo, exuded a sense of informality and naturalism that began to change American’s taste from the formal, Victorian mosaic, or geometric, garden style that they were used to seeing.

In 2001, the U.S.’s membership in the Bureau of International Expositions became inactive apparently because of a lack of funding. Still, Maloney says, “San Francisco lobbies hardest to bring the World’s Fair back to the United States.”

Just what new inspirations would be on the landscape if the city succeeded?

PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield, CA 94914, or at

if you go

What: “World’s Fair Gardens: Shaping American Landscapes”
Where: Walt Disney Family Museum at the Presidio, 104 Montgomery St., San Francisco
When: 6 to 8 p.m. June 20
Admission: $40
Information: 441-4300;

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Garden apps dig deeper for experts, novices – Tribune

Jessica Walliser
Freelance Columnist
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Tribune-Review Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts ‘The Organic Gardeners’ at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including ‘Grow Organic’ and ‘Good Bug, Bad Bug.’

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Saturday – June 15, 2013

Friday – June 14, 2013

Thursday – June 13, 2013

By Jessica Walliser

Published: Friday, June 14, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Updated 7 hours ago

While most gardeners prefer to leave their smart phones and iPads inside when working in the garden, your phone and tablet can, in fact, be a valuable gardening tool. Smart phones and tablets have a plethora of apps (short for applications) tailored to gardening. A quick search will yield many apps related to gardening. Some cost a few dollars and others are free. Here are a few of my favorites.

Garden Buddy: This is a handy little tool available on iTunes does “garden math.â€� It helps estimate things like how many cubic yards of mulch you need, what size pond pump to purchase, how much lawn fertilizer you’ll need, and how many plants should you get to fill a certain space. A similar app for Androids called Landscape and Garden Calculators also measures for bricks, blocks and pavers.

Botany Buddy: A terrific iPad-only app for identifying trees and shrubs, Botany Buddy lists more than 2,000 plant species and hosts nearly 10,000 images. It’s also a perfect way to search for the right plant for a particular site in your own landscape. A collaborative effort between professional gardeners and landscape designers, this app is a personal favorite for its advanced search features and extensive photo library.

FlowerPedia: With more than 1,300 images of flowers from around the world, this app is great for helping you identify flowers by answering some questions (leaf structure, petal number, etc). It also enables you to share the location of flowers you found with others and to access unusual plant sites located by others — both at home and abroad. FlowerPedia for iPhones and iPads has growing information about each plant as well.

Gardening Toolkit: Great for both organizing your garden and learning some new how-to techniques, this iTunes app is probably the most versatile I have found. It allows you to add pictures, track harvest times and sowing dates, search its extensive database of plants for the “perfect� one, look through a garden glossary, track your watering, and follow month-by-month gardening advice for your hardiness zone plus much more — great for vegetable and ornamental gardeners. A similar app for Androids is Essential Garden Guide and Blackberry users will like Burpee Home Garden Coach.

Audubon Insects and Spiders: Hosting images, identifying features and descriptions, this app is all about bugs. With over 500 common insects featured, it’s useful for learning about the critters you come across in your garden. Enter a few identifying features and scroll through the resulting images to discover what’s bugging you. You can even keep a history of all the insects you’ve found. It is available on both Google Play and in iTunes.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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Rain Rain Go Away?

By Carol Stocker
I will be on line live Friday, June 14, 1-2 p.m. to answer your gardening questions.
Actually, all this rain is good for plant life, and humans too, as it refills aquifers and reservoirs. And after digging all those new plants into your garden, aren’t you glad you don’t have to water – yet. Never fear. The hot dry days will be here soon. Right now, we can pretend we live in the northwest where the gardens are always lush. Here’s a tip: it’s much easier to pull out weeds with taproots, like dandelions, and small self seeded trees like those pesky Norway maples, when the soil is deeply moistened like this. When you get outside this weekend, do some weeding! Those roots will slide right out of the soil with a tug. And here’s another tip…most weeds are annuals and pull up easily. This is good to know if you are weeding in a perennial garden and don’t know which are the real plants and which are the weeds.

Here’s some upcoming events at Elm Bank this summer:

June 23, Sunday
Elm Bank Antique Auto Show
Do you love old cars? Does the sight of a classic Corvette or a car
with tail fins make you smile? Then be prepared to do a lot of smiling
on Sunday, June 23rd because that’s the date of the 11th annual Elm
Bank Antique Auto Show. Elm Bank is located in Dover; its entrance is
on Route 16 on the Wellesley/South Natick town line, a mile south of
Wellesley College.

August 3, Saturday
Mass Marketplace Festival
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
New England farmers, specialty food producers, and artisans will come
together for the 17th annual Massachusetts Marketplace at the Gardens
at Elm Bank in Wellesley. Featuring homemade crafts, soaps, baked
goods, popcorn, teas, herbs, fine art, and annual plants from vendors
located throughout Massachusetts and New England.

For more information, google the Massachusets Horticultural Society.

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GOOD TO GROW: June Gardening Tips

Denise Norma talk about what we should be doing in our gardens landscapes during this hot, hot month of June…including fertilizing, mowing, and checking for pests.  In this online-only extended interview, Denise Norma also talk about what to do to prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes and whether it’s still ok to eat those unsightly tomatoes.  Aired June 15, 2013.

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Gardening tips abound at Meet Me in the Garden series

4H-ers help with garden

4H-ers help with garden

Submitted photo Four-Leaf Clover 4H Club members Nancy, Jasmine
and Cheney Ilar and leader Jean Jonjak weed the vegetable garden at
the Hayward Community Food Shelf.

Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013 8:00 am

Gardening tips abound at Meet Me in the Garden series

Gardens got off to a late start this year with the cool, tardy spring, but they are getting ready to sizzle now with recent rains and warming temperatures.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013 8:00 am.

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Tips for maintaining a vegetable garden

W e have been getting a lot of questions about vegetable gardens lately. If your garden is not doing so well, bring in a sample or perhaps the answers below may help.

Q: My tomatoes look horrible with leaf spots, distorted leaves and some leaves have only the main vein left.

A: The average tomato cannot tolerate Florida summers. The heat keeps the flowers from forming into fruit. Cherry tomatoes may survive the heat, and other cultivars are being developed but the cultivars you grew up north usually will not survive. Frequent rains will also cause fruit that does set to swell and crack, allowing rot to set in and ruin the fruit.

The high temperatures and humidity also cause tomatoes to get leaf diseases that cause spotting, browning and leaf drop. There is little you can do to prevent this without frequent fungicide applications. Leaving space between plants and training the vines to allow good air circulation will help the leaves to dry quickly when wet and discourage leaf diseases.

You can prune tomatoes to thin the number of branches and allow better air circulation but be sure you have an indeterminate cultivar. Indeterminate means it will keep growing taller and flowering/fruiting as long as conditions for growth are right. Determinate means that it will stop growing and flowering after a certain period. “Patio” cultivars are often determinate because they are selected to be small enough to fit easily on a patio.

Distorted leaves are probably caused by leaf miners. The larvae of these insects tunnel through the middle of the leaves, leaving whitish tunnel lines that cause the leaves to curl and be distorted. Because the insect is protected by the leaf, there are no contact insecticides that can be used and a systemic insecticide would not be safe on a food crop. There are beneficial insects that will kill the leaf miners, so it is best to encourage a diversity of insects in the vegetable garden.

If your tomato plant is looking like it only has stems left on it, you have a caterpillar eating the leaves. The tomato hornworm looks so much like a tomato stem that it is hard to find on the plant. When you start to see stems and no leaves you need to carefully check the whole plant and pick off and destroy any caterpillars before they eat all the leaves. An insecticide dust can be used, but it is most effective when the caterpillar is small. Always follow label directions.

Q: My sweet potatoes and beans have holes all through the leaves. How can I stop this?

A: There are many insects that eat holes in leaves. Plants can stand to have bits of the leaves removed and still thrive and produce a good crop. It may look unsightly to you, but the plant is still fine, and using too many pesticides to try and keep everything looking perfect may cause other unforeseen problems with beneficial insects. Unless the leaf canopy is seriously affected (greater than 50 percent), you are probably better off to live and let live.

Q: I bought some beautiful ornamental sweet potatoes. Will I still be able to eat the tubers?

A: The tubers on the ornamental sweet potatoes are edible, but they won’t taste very good. The plants have been selected for their good looks, not their good taste. When the plants die back in the winter, the tubers will remain unless dug out, and regrow in the spring, but may or may not be the same ornamental color.

Q: Clouds of small white moths fly up when I brush the foliage of my eggplants. What are they and are they a problem?

A: It sounds like whitefly. Whiteflies attack many plants. These pests will suck the sap from the plant, causing the plant to be less vigorous, but more importantly they transmit diseases. The adults resemble small whitish moths, and the immature insects look like clear greenish scales on the undersides of the leaves.

My favorite control in the vegetable garden is sticky yellow traps. The insects are attracted to yellow and the sticky coating catches them. You can purchase ready-made traps, or make your own with a yellow plastic picnic plate coated with Tanglefoot (a commercial brand of sticky goo) or sprayed with a thin coating of STP oil treatment. Keep it a thin coating — too much and it will run off.

Hang the traps at canopy level and within the leaf canopy to catch the whitefly as they fly around. You will need to change the traps frequently because they are not effective when covered.

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

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