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Archives for July 12, 2013

Raymond revitalization

RAYMOND – Motorists driving along Route 302 the past few weeks have no doubt noticed a significant change as they enter downtown Raymond, as the formerly rundown Raymond Shopping Center has undergone a complete facelift.

After more than six months of renovation, the 32,000-square-foot center – with six tenants including a U.S. post office, Family Dollar store, a hair salon, meat market, laundry and cell phone store – now features a heavy, timber-framed façade complete with stacked stone pillars, hanging flowerpots, a steel mansard roof and even a cupola.

The work, which is lit up at night by LED lighting, has cost more than the center’s owner, Kevin Gagnon, wants to disclose. But the longtime Raymond resident, who owns many of the Lakes Region’s major shopping plazas, and others in the Raymond business community said the investment is worth it.

According to Wayne Holmquist – a founding member of the Raymond Revitalization Committee, which formed several years ago to rally and galvanize the business community – the shopping center is a boon for the townspeople in general.

“I think it’s a real attention getter for the people driving by, and we’ve heard quite a few comments from people that have come back for the summer and they’re all delighted,” he said.

Sam Gifford, chairman of the Raymond Board of Selectmen and the other founding member of the revitalization committee, is equally pleased, saying the center will drive further improvements in town.

“Kevin Gagnon is doing a marvelous job down there. It catches your eye immediately,” Gifford said.

Gifford said the center’s overhaul, as well as several other new structures in downtown, including the new Chipman’s Farm Stand and several buildings local developer Michael Meyer has rebuilt in recent years, are changing the image of Raymond.

“Aesthetics has improved immensely, as has parking. The possibilities for Raymond are unending,” Gifford said. “For crying out loud, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve been all over the world. We’ve got the lakes; we’ve got everything.

“But the downtown area hasn’t given us the correct branding, and that’s what we’re looking for, and I think that’s coming around. Now you’re seeing the downtown starting to reflect the beauty of the rest of the town.”

Attracting customers

Government and business groups have been talking about ways to improve downtown, but it takes private developers to invest in high-quality projects to actually make the vision a reality, Gifford said. Gagnon, who owns shopping centers in Naples, Standish, Gorham and Mexico, Maine, and bought the Raymond Shopping Center in September 2012, said he is proud of his contribution to the downtown landscape.

“Before we can attract the kinds of tenants the town needs, you’ve got to change the identity of the project and so, I’m just firm on that,” Gagnon said. “You can’t try to lease and make it attractive for businesses to come in here when it’s just old and tired and run down. So, we did that, and this is huge for the town.”

The center has space for more tenants. Gagnon, who has lived in Raymond for much of his life, has several 2,000-square-foot spaces available for lease, as well as a 6,000-square-foot spot he’d like to see filled by a major name outfitter or possibly a grocery store, although he doesn’t want to divulge details. Gagnon, who has been managing shopping centers since 1986 when he built the Naples Shopping Center, said he’s willing to wait until the right businesses come knocking.

“Each tenant will feed off one another if you create the right mix,” he said. “But Raymond, as a whole, doesn’t have much of a commercial district. When you come across that town line, you only have so much time to get a hold of those customer dollars, and I believe if you build it right, you’ll attract people. You’ll attract businesses. They want to be a part of something nice.”

Gagnon is also finishing renovations to a 6,000-square-foot A-frame building he owns near the intersection of Route 85 near Panther Run. He’s aiming to fill that space with doctors and other professionals. Gagnon sees his projects, as well as other recent projects along the commercial strip, as transformational for the town.

“I think it’s a catalyst for what will take place here on Route 302,” he said. “There are some good things that have happened in Raymond. And in our business district, we have to do as much as we can to capture the people.”

Raymond swells to a population of about 12,000 in the summer, with seasonal residents and visitors to camps and campgrounds. Gagnon said his businesses and others have to be attractive and offer what those customers want.

“There is no question that people don’t like going to Windham. Now, I’m not downing Windham, I’m a big fan, but it is so busy during the summertime, so if you’re up here from out of state for a week, you don’t want to spend half a day in traffic. So those are the people we’re going after,” Gagnon said.

He also had the other three seasons in mind when designing the center and luring the “right mix” of tenants.

“It’s busy here from May through the end of October, but even during the winter, you have the snowmobiling, the ice fishing, the skiing, so we can capture those people as well, so we’re going after four seasons,” Gagnon said.

Not only are business advocates in town pleased with the project, commercial tenants in the shopping center are thankful for the aesthetic boost that they hope will improve their bottom lines.

“I think it’s the best thing to happen to Raymond ever. Seriously,” said Glenn Thomas, owner of Lake Region Wireless and Cell Phone Medic. “This thing doesn’t even look like it belongs in Raymond, but it’s going to help the whole town and everybody is going to benefit.”

Lisa Lynch, who bought Raymond Laundry about a month ago, is also pleased.

“The rehab looks great, absolutely wonderful. It has really put some life into the place,” Lynch said.

In 2003, when the Portland Water District installed a water line almost to the Casco border, the Raymond Beautification Committee began creating roadside gardens using grant money. Streetlights were also purchased and an improved sidewalk was built. About 50 volunteers, including residents and businesses, continue to care for gardens along the corridor from the Windham line to Raymond Beach.

Coordinator Sharon Dodson, who owns Aubuchon Hardware located next door to the Raymond Shopping Center, said the shopping center and other recent developments are helping to cultivate the image the beautification committee has long worked for in the part of town that thousands of Route 302 motorists see on a daily basis.

“I think it’s raising the bar. I think he’s setting a really good standard and I feel it’s improving the property values of everyone around there,” she said. “We own a couple pieces of property there, and we’re very pleased to have that happening. The more good-looking businesses we have there, the more customers and people will be interested in stopping.”

Marie Delisle of Casco, who was shopping at the center last week, said the renovation was “beautiful. It’s a big, magical type of thing, really, because it was so down before. It hadn’t been redone for so many years. Now it looks fantastic.”

Delisle said she regularly visits the Naples Shopping Center and said Gagnon, who renovated his Naples center last year in a similar heavy-timber style, is forming a name for himself. She also said the quality architecture reflects well on the town as a whole.

“Anything, any big progress is good for the town of Raymond, or any town,” she said. “It’s gotta look updated, unless it goes down too much and for too long and looks like it’s dying. And this picked it up and makes shoppers like me say, ‘Oh they must doing pretty well around here, I’ll stop here.’”

Tenant search

The renovations – which began in late 2012 and include a large pylon roadside sign and repaving and striping of the parking lot – are complete for the most part, though Gagnon has several more ideas for improving the center. He wants to build a 3,000-square-foot credit union to fill the space between the southern end of the shopping center and the building housing the A La Mexicana restaurant. He also wants to build a larger parking lot to the rear of the building to accommodate employee vehicles and deliveries.

But now that the center’s façade is improved, Gagnon is working with Larry Eliason of Butts Commercial Brokers in Windham to actively seek new tenants.

“We’re exploring everything that is currently needed but that people are currently going elsewhere to get,” Gagnon said of the ideal tenant. “But I’m not going to rush getting tenants in here. You have to get the right tenants. I have to. And if it takes me a year or year and a half to get the right tenant, so be it. I knew that coming into it.”

For his part, Eliason said Gagnon has made his work easy.

“I couldn’t ask Kevin to do anything more as far as making it a marketable product for me to lease,” Eliason said. “The paving, the façade, the signage, the new systems, the new lighting, he’s done everything, so you’ve just got to plug in the right qualified tenant. And now that he’s got that stuff done, we’re going to step up the marketing a little more because the image has changed now.”

Eliason said he’s received some calls on the property.

“There are a lot of people looking – developers and commercial brokers that are out doing site tours, where they are coming out and looking at areas,” he said. “But yes, we’ve had inquiries already on the shopping center because of the activity going on there.”

Eliason said the space is for lease at an annual rate of $11 per square foot, which is comparable to North Windham rates, which range from $10 to $12 per square foot. That doesn’t include heat, electricity, taxes, insurance and plowing fees, he said.

Eliason said he expects the building to fill quickly since “it is basically new space” and that the strip features several other new buildings as well as improvements to landscaping and lighting along Route 302 corridor.

“We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in Raymond, and it’s private investment and it’s also public participation as far as the revitalization committee that’s been involved and the volunteers that go out there and take care of the gardens. Raymond’s really stepped it up,” Eliason said.

More about Raymond

  • ARTICLE: Raymond woman is leaving her legacy in stone
  • ARTICLE: Safety first
  • ARTICLE: Duncanson loved fire-rescue work
  • ARTICLE: Winde determined to ‘evict’ cancer with help from friends

More about Route 302

  • ARTICLE: Time change for meeting on Prides Corner issues
  • ARTICLE: Hotel developers look at Windham
  • ARTICLE: Car bursts into flames in downtown Westbrook
  • ARTICLE: Big Mac bets on Bridgton

More about Raymond Shopping Center

  • ARTICLE: Raymond Shopping Center set for major makeover

Article source:

Alternative dining: Pop-up restaurants popping up around St. Louis

John Perkins thought up a perfect motto for his pop-up restaurant — or, rather, pop-up restaurants, four different concepts he is rotating seasonally through his catering firm’s event space:

“Don’t call it a pop-up. We’ve been here for months.”

Perkins laughs at the silliness of the line. He admits, though, “I still don’t like the term ‘pop-up’ for what we’re doing.”

What would he call it?

Again, he laughs. “I don’t know. A restaurant with a limited engagement? It doesn’t roll off the tongue.”

Perkins is one of several St. Louis chefs redefining what the term “restaurant” can encompass. In some cases, these chefs are embracing the pop-up ethos, offering a one-time-only event inside of another restaurant’s space.

Others have experimented with forms that defy easy categorization, from a dinner series forcing chefs to cook without their usual tools to Perkins’ rotating concepts.

Call it the rise of the alternative restaurant.

In this, St. Louis follows a trend that in recent years has spread across the nation, and even the world, touching some of the highest circles of the culinary scene.

From the latter half of last decade into this one, Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre won critical acclaim for LudoBites, a series of pop-up restaurants. Thomas Keller, perhaps America’s most renowned chef, in 2011 ran a 10-day pop-up version of his restaurant, the French Laundry, inside London’s famous Harrods department store.

After wowing gourmands with his avant-garde restaurant Alinea, Chicago chef Grant Achatz opened Next, a restaurant that offers an entirely different concept every three months. Next’s menus have ranged from early 20th-century Paris cuisine to Thai street food to its current incarnation serving gourmet vegan dishes.

Unsurprisingly, as an alternative restaurant by its very definition exists outside the mainstream, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when the trend began in St. Louis. One reasonable starting point might be the Dorm Room dinner series at 33 Wine Bar Tasting Room in Lafayette Square.

Since the summer of 2009, the monthly (approximately) Dorm Room dinners have challenged local chefs to prepare a multicourse meal for 80 to 100 diners using the kinds of equipment found in a college dorm: microwaves, toaster ovens and hot plates.

Jeff Stettner, who sold 33 earlier this year, says the dinners arose from a conversation at the bar with Kirk Warner, the former King Louie’s chef who now runs a private-events culinary venture called Kirk’s Traveling Kitchen.

“He was talking about these (private) dinners he was doing across the country,” Stettner recalls. “I said it would be awesome if (33) had food like that. We didn’t have a kitchen.”

Warner’s response?

“I don’t need a kitchen.”

The Dorm Room dinners attracted many of the highest profile St. Louis chefs, among them Gerard Craft of Niche, Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus and Josh Galliano of Monarch.

As the dinner series progressed into its second year and beyond, it became less about the college-dorm limitations and more about the spirit of experimentation and friendly oneupsmanship.

“It really became a fun night at 33,” Stettner says. “A bunch of cooks would get together, break bread and drink great wine.

“I knew we’d hit on something when chefs who’d completed a dinner peer-pressured other chefs into doing it.”


Around the same time that the Dorm Room was gaining steam, Perkins was making a name for himself with another culinary trend: underground dinners.

Or, rather, he wasn’t making a name for himself.

He operated anonymously as the Clandestine Chef. His press appearances didn’t include photographs of his face and referred to him, at most, as Chef John.

Perkins abandoned the anonymity as his catering business, Entre, gained a higher profile. In 2011, Entre opened an event space on North Boyle Avenue, near Gaslight Square in the Central West End. Perkins didn’t intend to turn this space into a pop-up restaurant, let alone a series of pop-ups.

“The whole thing has been a little bit of an accident,” he says.

In January, he launched the first pop-up, called Le Coq because most of the dishes featured chicken (often as an accent rather than the main ingredient), because his catering business had entered a slow period.

Its popularity with diners inspired him.

“Well, I’m stupid if I don’t do more of this,” he told himself.

After Le Coq, he opened A Good Man Is Hard to Find, named for the classic short story by Flannery O’Connor and featuring Southern comfort food. Out went the chicken-themed décor; in came a striking wall painting inspired by O’Connor’s narrative.

In June, A Good Man Is Hard to Find gave way to what Perkins describes as its “polar opposite”: a vegetable-focused concept called the Agrarian. 

A fourth concept will open after the Agrarian ends its run in early fall. Perkins plans to repeat the same four concepts next year.

Since he already offers year-round dining, why not just open a restaurant?

“I don’t have the finances to run a full restaurant,” he says. “I don’t have a real bar. We still use paper tickets. We just got soup spoons.”

Perkins points to the tables and chairs arranged around Entre. “This is not mine; this is my landlord’s. I’m just using them.”

Perkins continues, “The convenience of something like a pop-up for me is it allows me to do what I can do and — this sounds terrible — hide under that banner a little bit.”


Thanks to his critically acclaimed stints as executive chef at An American Place downtown and Monarch in Maplewood, chef Galliano was guaranteed an audience for the three pop-up restaurants he ran last year.

He says he undertook his first pop-up, All-Star Fried Chicken Fish, last summer in part because he was “aching” to get back into a restaurant after Monarch closed. It also served as a dry run of sorts for a Southern-themed restaurant concept.

All-Star ran for a single Monday evening at Michael Randolph’s Clayton restaurant, Half Half. The crowd was large, the waits for both a table and takeout long. And though Galliano doesn’t lack for restaurant experience, the realities of a pop-up operation surprised him.

“I was coming at it as a restaurant chef, instead of as an event coordinator,” he says. “The one thing I took away from it: We served good food, but we were selling a dining experience.”

Galliano followed All-Star Fried Chicken Fish with two more focused pop-ups (that is, with tighter, less ambitious menus) based out of Pint Size Bakery Cafe in Lindenwood Park and 4 Hands Brewing Co. in Soulard.

With pop-ups in general, “it’s kind of enticing to be able to say, ‘I have these different thoughts and ideas, but I don’t have a vehicle to put it together,’” Galliano says.

Though he has returned to the kitchen full-time as executive chef of the Libertine in Clayton, he says pop-ups are the sort of thing he’d do again.


Currently, the most active pop-up restaurant is Kitchen Kulture, a partnership between Dressel’s executive chef Michael Miller and Chris Meyer, a server at Blood Sand.

The two had previously worked together at Monarch as well as on landscaping projects. They originally envisioned Kitchen Kulture as a business that would sell kitchen-themed T-shirts for cooks to wear under their chef’s whites and aprons.

Eventually, they decided it would be appropriate to pair a food product with the clothes. They focused on prepared dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, which they introduced last year at the Tower Grove Farmers Market.

When it came time for the market to end, Meyer says, “We didn’t want to go dormant.”

Thus the Kitchen Kulture pop-up restaurant was born. Though to call it a restaurant might not be exactly accurate. Meyer and Miller stuck to the idea of prepared or, as Meyer calls it, containerized food.

“We got used to being creative with containterizing,” Meyer says. “How do you take that skill set and make the food mobile? We are bringing everything (to the site of the pop-up) three-fourths of the way finished and then finishing it (there).”

Kitchen Kulture teamed up with Sump Coffee for a series of brunches. Sump lacks a traditional kitchen and was a perfect match for Miller and Meyer’s approach.

“Everything was run off one extension cord,” Meyer says.

Diners didn’t seem to mind or even notice.

“I feel like more people are focused on the food itself,” Meyer says. “What we take as a really good sign is when people think the food looks great” in spite of its atypical preparation.

Now Kitchen Kulture is also partnering with the Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street for the Preservation Dinner Series. The first dinner, titled Humo (smoke) and featuring smoked foods, took place on July 1.

Meyer says the spirit of collaboration — of matching business with a similar passion for food and drink — is an important part of the Kitchen Kulture experience.

As an example, she says, Sump owner Scott Carey “treats coffee as an agricultural (product), (just as) we’re trying to source the best ingredients we can.”

For the Preservation Dinner Series, Kitchen Kulture is drawing on the Fortune Teller Bar’s unique Cherokee ambiance. Also, a small local firm, Sprouted Designs, is supplying custom napkins.

Galliano agrees that collaboration is key for pop-up restaurants in St. Louis.

“In so many aspects, in this industry you need to make a name for you, and it’s your name that goes on the award,” he says. “We work so much we don’t get to see our friends.”

He says pop-ups, on the other hand, “become a chance to cook with your heroes and have fun.”

Will pop-ups and other alternative restaurants go the way of the underground dinner fad, from which even Perkins himself has retired?

Maybe. But if Perkins is any indication, the alternative restaurant — whether a one-time event or an ambitious plan of rotating concepts or something as yet unknown — speaks to a deeper need among chefs: “I’m trying to cook and make a living and find out how to do that.”

What The Agrarian • Where Entre, 360 North Boyle Avenue • More info; 314-632-6754 • Hours 5:30-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

What Kitchen Kulture • More info

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Passing a Law Is the Easy Part: The Challenge of Building Complete Streets

If Ontario Street in Cleveland, Ohio, is any indication, a complete streets policy is no guarantee you’ll get a safe place to ride a bike, or even a comfortable place to walk.

Now that Cleveland has a complete streets policy, the city is taking this eight lane road and … drum roll … adding sharrows. Image: Rust Wire

Ontario is one of those roads designed to simply funnel traffic to and from a highway — and in fact there’s not much to distinguish the street from a highway. It’s eight lanes wide and devoid of landscaping, or any obstacles to fast driving, really. The most tragic part is, it’s right in front of where the Indians play, Progressive Field, which was sold to taxpayers as a way to enliven the city.

This road just came up for resurfacing, and with the city’s complete streets policy, now two years old, it seemed like an ideal time to correct this mistake. Instead, Cleveland’s traffic engineering department punted, leaving the road basically as is but adding shared lane bike stencils, or sharrows. (Actual bike lanes would compromise the street’s ability to accommodate cars during rush hour, you see.)

And there you have it. A complete streets policy should be a fabulous thing that elevates safety, the economy, and social equity in cities, but it can also amount to nothing more than a few new rules that are easily ducked if officials don’t want to follow the spirit of the law.

Some 500 communities and states across the United States now have complete streets policies, so the good work of enacting these laws is well underway. Implementation is the next frontier.

And it’s not easy, especially in communities like Cleveland where these ideas still feel new. But some cities are doing a better job than others, says Stefanie Seskin at the National Complete Streets Coalition. Charlotte, for example, developed six key steps to implementation and appointed a committee to oversee the process. Seattle passed a special tax levy to help support safe streets improvements for active transportation. San Francisco, in its “Better Streets” guide, prioritizes pedestrian concerns.

“The cities that I listed are leaders because they’ve changed a lot in their decision-making process,” says Seskin. “It’s not like sexy and you don’t have pretty pictures, but when you set a goal for an agency and you realign practices to achieve that goal, I think that makes a big difference.”

Cleveland, meanwhile, has a complete streets task force, but in practice the decisions still lie with the Department of Traffic Engineering — the same folks who designed an at-grade highway for the front of the city’s baseball stadium.

Indianapolis measures how many kids are biking and walking to school as part of its complete streets performance measures. Image: SFbike

Having good city staff — people who are committed to seeing complete streets implemented and understand why it’s important — is crucial. Or, like Charlotte, you can develop and train a working group or committee to oversee the process.

“You have a lot of people that have been around for years that are used to doing things the way they have been doing them,” Seskin said. “You have to change the problem and make them understand they’re solving for a new problem.”

Another key element is performance measures. What does success look like? Boulder, Colorado, set a goal in the 1990s to reduce traffic. Since then, the city has invested heavily in transit and reduced the percentage of trips taken by car, said Seskin. Indianapolis incorporated a lot of easily “countable” performance measures into its complete streets plan, including the percentage of children walking or biking to school and the number of transit stops that are accessible with sidewalks and curb ramps.

If decision makers in your city are still under the impression that moving cars is the most important factor in street performance, your streets probably won’t get a whole lot safer. But some progress is possible even if cities still try to accommodate “peak hour” traffic. Charlotte, for instance, decided to define “peak hour” as the full two hours around rush hour, not the most congested 15 minutes during that period. As a result, they didn’t consider it so imperative for streets to be dangerously wide.

Cities should also be sure to update their design guides. Many communities, after passing complete streets ordinances, develop design manuals that serve as a rough guide for the physical geometry of streets across the city. That way, safety improvements can be applied according to a consistent set of principles whenever streets are repaved, instead of starting from scratch with every street.

“Then, every time a project comes up, it’s not a question of whether this is going to be a complete street or not,” said Seskin. “It’s, ‘How can we accommodate all these users.’”

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R&S Landscaping announces theme for annual photo contest

MIDLAND PARK — The subject of RS Landscaping’s fourth annual photo contest will be New Jersey’s Gardens, the Midland Park-based company has announced. The contest gives local residents the opportunity to submit photographs displaying the beauty of nature for which the Garden State was named.

Previous subjects of the photo contest have been butterflies, hummingbirds and children in the garden. The garden was previously the backdrop for these contests. This year, the garden itself is brought into the foreground to be celebrated, said a company spokesperson.

“In past years we’ve chosen subjects for the contest we’d hoped would be an interesting challenge for photographers to help connect them with nature and learn about the local ecosystem,” said Robert Schucker, president of RS Landscaping. “This year we wanted to focus on the garden itself. Sometimes the biggest challenge is to recognize the beauty that is right in front of you every day.”

The Garden State certainly has no lack of gardens within its borders and in order to illustrate the diversity of these gardens, RS will not discriminate as to the type of garden. It will accept photographs of any garden within the state, whether it is a private backyard, a public garden or a state park.

“This great state has some of the most beautiful display of plantings in the world,” said Schucker. “We look forward to viewing all of the entries.”

From July 8 through August 31, individuals can submit photographs for a chance to win the first place prize, a $100 gift certificate to Kodak. The second place winner will receive a pair of gardening books that detail perennial care and garden design.

RS Landscaping has specifically made this available as a summertime project that’s fun for kids and parents can make educational for the entire family. Kids and adults can learn about flower or vegetable gardening and improve their photography skills in the process.

Submissions should include the photographer’s name, town, location of the photo, and a short story behind the picture. Submissions can be sent via e-mail to All submissions will be posted on RS Landscaping’s Facebook page, and members of the RS team will select the best photograph. The winners will be announced in early September, and the winning photographs will be posted on the company’s website,

RS Landscaping may be reached at 201-447-6205 or

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Gardening news and notes: Getting small; turn scraps into plants; tips for …

avocado.jpgView full sizeThough not hardy in our area, avocados are fun to start from seed.
MICRO-GARDENS: We think that small spaces equal small yields, but the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization considers micro-gardens a crucial way to put more food on the table of urban poor.

“While it’s probably tough to sustain a family on a micro-garden, FAO research shows that a well-tended micro-garden of 11 square feet can produce as much as 200 tomatoes a year, 36 heads of lettuce every 60 days, 10 cabbages every 90 days, and 100 onions every 120 days,” reports Eliza Barclay on the NPR website.

The story links to a site suggesting materials to reuse in a micro-garden, as well as a slide show showing 12 growing systems in which to grow your produce.

GROWING SCRAPS: Instead of throwing garden scraps into the compost pile or recycling bin, a gardener in Millersville, Pennsylvania, saves them for growing into plants. She’s had about a 50 percent survival rate using scraps such as garlic, avocado, pineapple, celery and green onions.

Lynne Brick, president and founder of the gym chain Brick Bodies and Lynne Brick’s Women’s Health and Fitness, makes it clear working in the garden can be hard on the body. No fear, though. She’s got suggestions to keep fit.

“It’s especially important to stretch before gardening if you’re middle-aged or older,” warns Brick, noting that the bending and lifting associated with gardening can be tough on joints and previously injured muscles.

— Kym Pokorny

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Gardening advice: Tips for improving soil makeup in your garden

Q: Someone told me I should add gypsum to my garden soil. What is gypsum, and what are the benefits of adding it to my garden?

A: Gypsum is a soft white or gray mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate and is used in many ways, one of which is in plaster. It is used to decompact clay soil in the western U.S., where the soil composition is different from Indiana. (See turf/tips/2009/04172009 _gypsum.html.)

Instead of using gypsum to decompact clay soil in our part of the country, it is recommended that the compacted soil be amended with compost, aged cow or horse manure (in spring), fresh manure (in fall) and sphagnum peat moss.

Sphagnum peat moss comes in bales at most garden centers and is a dry peat, which is used extensively to amend and lighten soils. It is used in seed starting material, and even as mulch that helps hold in moisture when used in vegetable gardens and in containers. It also acidifies the soil and is an excellent additive to use around acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons..

All of these amendments, when tilled in, will greatly improve the soil’s structure and nutrition. Amendments can also be added to the top of compacted clay soil, such as in an established lawn, around trees and other areas where you cannot safely use a tiller.

Begin the process by aerating the lawn or soil around the root system of trees and established shrubs. You can purchase devices such as a spike aerator or a pair of aerator shoes. These work well if you live in the city and have a small area to work with. You can rent a gas or electric driven aerator from many hardware stores and Lowe’s to do the job on larger landscapes.

After opening the compressed soil, spread the amendments on the lawn — even mix grass seed in the soil mixture — water well and see your lawn grasses improve. Opening the soil and piling on amendments under and around trees and shrubs can make a huge difference in their health and growth as well.

Q: I have been told by several people that I need to add lime to my garden soil. I’m not sure why or if I should do that. Hopefully you can help.

A: The soil in Allen County is mostly neutral, meaning it has a pH of 7 or slightly below, which is about perfect for most plants. So before adding lime, have your soil tested. You can have this done for a small fee through the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension, 4001 Crescent Ave.

Here is an excellent discussion on adding lime to lawns from Ohio State University —

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Your Life: Vegetable garden tips and tricks

Oshawa This Week

DURHAM — Next week’s video series on, is all about tips for planting, growing and maintaining your vegetable garden with horticultural consultant Ken Brown.

Mr. Brown is a certified horticultural judge and is a frequent speaker at horticultural meetings and seminars in Durham. His writing and photography continues to be published in several magazines and newspapers. Mr. Brown’s web page,, is a great source of advice, tips and updates on his own garden. He grows a wide range of vegetables and flowers in some innovative ways to maximize the use of space.

We are about to get colourful and creative. Tune into for the inside scoop on maintaining a healthy vegetable garden.

Series breakdown:

• Monday, July 15: Training cucumbers

Mr. Brown shows you how to use a trellis to save garden space.

• Tuesday, July 16: Keeping fruit off the ground

Do you have a slew of uninvited pests looking to dine at your all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet? Let Mr. Brown help you train your tomatoes to grow around a rope to save space and keep critters away.

• Wednesday, July 17: Cutting side shoots

Get a bang for your buck. In this segment, Mr. Brown shows you how to cut side shoots to increase broccoli production.

• Thursday, July 18: Zucchini in a cage

Putting zucchini in a cage saves space and keeps fruit off the ground.

• Friday, July 19: Seeding in a row

Parsnips are very slow to germinate. Since they are a root, they can be difficult to track. Tune in to see what Mr. Brown uses as a marking device for these delicious veggies.

• Saturday, July 20: Hilling up the potatoes

Learn how to produce an abundant crop by using the hoe.

• Sunday, July 21: Tall climbing items

In this segment, we are growing sugar snap peas. See what Mr. Brown uses as a trellis to maximize yield.

Is there a project you would like to see us cover? Have a project at your home we can film? Let us know what you want to learn. Drop us a line or post your information on our Facebook page:

Reviving the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral

But for the garden, long cherished as one of the capital’s gentlest horticultural enclaves, the yew offers a symbol of recovery. This spring, three reworked subgardens were unveiled, including a space that had been lost for years to overgrown shrubbery; a key entrance was rebuilt; and the gardeners started replacing tired plantings.

The earthquake did little damage to the garden itself, but when the crane turned turtle days later, the boom smashed the Norman arch entrance and destroyed the old border trees that gave the garden its uppermost enclosure. The crane’s counterweights became airborne and landed on stone pillars and took out an old magnolia tree. The boom also smashed into Herb Cottage, formerly a gift shop for the garden’s stewards, the All Hallows Guild.

It was weeks before Joe Luebke, director of horticulture, and his crew could get into the garden. When they did, they found a landscape whose character had changed dramatically. No longer a place of enclosure and shelter, the Bishop’s Garden seemed to carry the whole weight of the battered cathedral now towering above it.

The crane calamity capped a series of setbacks in the Bishop’s Garden, which was built and planted in the early 20th century as a private enclave for the bishop but soon opened to the public. Its designers, principally Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Frances Bratenahl, wife of the first cathedral dean, employed English boxwood and yew as green architecture and used early architectural elements, sculptures and other artifacts donated by George Gray Barnard, a medievalist whose collection furnished the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York.

The Bishop’s Garden has been a favorite of professional gardeners and landscape designers for a long time, because its intricate network of paths, resting points, framed views and changes of elevation combine all the attributes that make for a good garden.

If you are looking for inspiration to rework your own outdoor space, the Bishop’s Garden is the place to go, even in its afflicted state. Light, shade, mystery, enclosure, vistas, circulating paths — all these essential elements of garden design are here to please and instruct. The use of medieval structures and forms could become something ersatz, but they manage to rise above that. One of the sweetest corners of the garden is the Norman Court, whose intimate beauty includes a new stone-carved plaque of thistles in honor of the Scottish gardener here from 1961 to 1992, Peter McLachlan.

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How to Design an Herb Garden Workshop This Weekend

perennial herb garden but aren’t sure where to begin, experienced gardener Donna Wrubel will share her tips and tricks at this weekend workshop. 

And if you’d like to keep in touch with Massaro Community Farm, visit the farm’s blog page and click “get email updates.” 

Details: Wrubel will talk about designing your own perennial garden and uses for herbs. There will be treats to partake in that were made using fresh herbs from the garden.

Time Date: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13

Cost: Suggested donation of $8 per person

RSVP: RSVP by calling 203-736-8618

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Design for rain garden art project in Ann Arbor to be unveiled Friday


The site at the corner of First and Kingsley in Ann Arbor where stone sculptor Joshua Wiener has plans for a public art project in conjunction with a new rain garden the city is planning to reduce flooding in the area. The city demolished a house on the property to make way for the project.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Wiener is an stone sculptor, and his public work can be found in Florida, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

He is currently working on public commissions for San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Denver, Littleton, and Boulder, Colo.

The city issued a request for proposals last November, asking artists to submit ideas for an artwork at the First and Kingsley site. A budget of $23,380 was established for the project.

A selection panel, which included stakeholders from the neighborhood, reviewed more than 20 submissions and selected Wiener.

The artist is expected to be on site at First and Kingsley at 10 a.m. Tuesday. City officials said that will be another opportunity for the public to meet the design team and discuss the plan.

The city’s Public Art Commission also will be hosting an information table at the Ann Arbor Townie Party from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, where the artist will be in attendance and exhibiting the design.

The city stipulated the artwork must generate community interest in the site and encourage common use of the location.

The goal of the artwork is integrate public art into the features of the rain garden. It was a requirement that it must contribute to the purpose of the rain garden, which is to reduce flooding in the sunken, flood-prone area by increasing the potential for stormwater infiltration.

The city had encouraged artists who work with natural materials and have experience creating lasting earthworks art to apply.

To view some of Wiener’s past work visit

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