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Archives for July 21, 2013

Homeowners devise plan to reclaim Cramer Mountain

Alliance Bank has yet to accept the offer, but Cramer Mountain resident Eric Vargosko hopes that with a united front of his neighbors, the property will soon be owned by the community.

Light in the darkness

Overgrown grass sways in the summer breeze on golf course greens.

The pool sits empty, and weeds have sprouted through cracks in the tennis court.

Chandeliers inside the clubhouse hang in the dark.

But Vargosko and a group of his neighbors see a light in the darkness — a repurposed, updated club.

Vargosko moved to the Cramer Mountain community 10 years ago. He’d played the golf course at the club for several years and moved from Charlotte because the atmosphere attracted him.

“I moved out here because I liked the seclusion and the convenience of the neighborhood,” he said.

Vargosko was disheartened when the club fell into foreclosure. He started talking with neighbors and a group of about 10 people came up with an idea.

The group has since started working with a consultant and negotiating with Alliance Bank.

Selling local landmarks

Graham Bell owned Cramer Mountain Country Club.

Bell filed for bankruptcy in August, and the property, along with The City Club in Gastonia, eventually fell back into the hands of the bank.

The properties were foreclosed on in June. They’re now up for sale.

Consultant Ned McConnell is handling the Cramerton property for Alliance Bank, and New Dominion Bank is in charge of the City Club.

McConnell said he’s seen interest in the country club from several parties.

Lindsay Talbot with New Dominion said she wasn’t aware of any serious offers on the City Club, but Realtors handled a lot of the process.

While Vargosko’s group may not be the only one with designs on the country club, McConnell said the bank is definitely interested in their proposition.

“It’s been our desire that we get some kind of an offer in the community because it would be the best for the community and the town of Cramerton,” McConnell said.

Dropping the ‘country’

The Cramerton property comes with a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse, an 18-year-old golf course and 225 acres of land.

Vargosko says the landscaping, programming and image of the country club needs to change, starting with the name.

The idea in the works would change the name to The Cramer Mountain Club, dropping the “country.”

A new, larger pool would be installed, and the golf course would be renovated.

Areas for games would be added along with options that appeal more to today’s lifestyles, such as takeout food choices, family activities and healthy meals, according to Emma Littlejohn, consultant for the group of homeowners.

Littlejohn said she’s seen country clubs close in the struggling economy, but she’s observed others getting new life by modernizing.

Support from homeowners

Vargosko and Littlejohn said it is too soon to talk dollars and cents.

For now, they’re working up a presentation that they want to unveil to residents in October. That plan would list membership fees, dues and what’s needed to renovate and reopen the club, Vargosko said.

By then, he and his group will have been working on the project for more than a year.

Vargosko and Littlejohn sang the praises of what a community-owned country club could accomplish.

They said if Cramer Mountain residents are willing to support the movement, home values could increase and the neighborhood could reclaim its once close-knit feel.

Vargosko said he brought up the proposal at a homeowners’ association meeting in October 2012. According to Vargosko, 97 out of 105 homeowners voted in favor of pursuing the idea.

If the group gets backing and the project takes off, Vargosko said a board of directors would be formed to oversee management and money.

‘Starting from scratch’

Neither the banks nor the Cramer Mountain homeowners have talked publicly about how much money would need to exchange hands to make the project viable.

Court documents point to potential asking prices of $750,000.

Littlejohn said documents are in the works to give the homeowners group time to develop the plan without the fear of a competitor swooping in and buying the property.

McConnell said that no documents have been signed thus far, but he wouldn’t speculate on what might happen. Things change regularly in real estate, he said.

“There seems to be a serious offer in the works from parties within the gates, and we hope to have a formal agreement,” he said.

If the parties can reach an agreement, Cramer Mountain residents could gain control of their neighborhood mainstay and possibly put into action Vargosko’s idea for a new, family-oriented gathering place.

“We’re starting from scratch again,” said Vargosko. “The club is going to be what the neighborhood makes of it.”

You can reach Diane Turbyfill at 704-869-1817 and twitter.com/GazetteDiane.

Want more? 

You can look at ideas for Cramer Mountain Club on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thecramermountainclub.

The group’s website can be found at thecramermountainclub.com.

 

Article source: http://www.gastongazette.com/spotlight/homeowners-devise-plan-to-reclaim-cramer-mountain-1.175417

Long Beach’s most unusual park bloomed with grassroots effort: Rich Archbold – Long Beach Press

At first glance, if you’re driving along 14th Street in central Long Beach, you wouldn’t notice what may be the most unusual park in the city.

If you look more closely, you will see young children enjoying themselves on playground equipment. Older youngsters are shooting baskets on the basketball court; others are swirling around on the area’s gem, a skate park.

What’s so unusual about the park is its physical layout. The park is a series of five parcels of land located between Chestnut Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. Each parcel is 316 feet long and 60 feet wide, making median strips between the east and westbound lanes of 14th Street. And each parcel is separated by major north-south streets.

The land originally was owned by Pacific Electric Railway, which abandoned the property in the 1920s. The city bought the property in 1950 but did little to develop the land, except for some minor landscaping.

For years, the median strips became hangouts for gangs and other undesirables. They were not places for families and others wanting to enjoy themselves in an area so short of park space in the Washington Middle School neighborhood.

In the 1990s a playground for smaller children was built, but not much else was done and the area continued to suffer from the effects of neglect by the city.

That started to change about 10 years ago when grassroots activists from different areas of the

city created Better Balance for Long Beach. These activists felt the city needed a “better balance” of services in low-income areas. One of its first projects was to take back the 14th Street Park and return it to the neighborhood so the 5,000 children in the impacted area would have a place to play, according to Jane Kelleher, one of the group’s co-founders

Little by little, parcel by parcel, the group has succeeded with the help of neighborhood groups and city officials, most notably then-Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Parks Director Phil Hester and, now, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia and first lady Nancy Foster.

Also playing an important role was former Councilman Mike Donelon who has almost single-handedly spearheaded Long Beach’s skate-park program, which now includes eight parks, one of them, the Michael K. Green Skatepark at the 14th Street Park, a huge hit in the neighborhood.

Donelon gets emotional when he talks about these kids. He told columnist Tim Grobaty, “There is a disconnect between the haves and have-nots. These kids are just as wonderful, just as smart as any other kid, it’s just that they’re low-income. They just need an opportunity.”

There still is one parcel of land in the 14th Street Park that needs to be developed. It is now a parking lot next to a Louisiana Fried Chicken outlet at Long Beach Boulevard.

Residents and city officials have been meeting to discuss their ideas for use of this final piece of the park. The overwhelming favorite of residents is using the area for health and fitness activities.

The Parks Department is coming up with a design for the parcel. When that is finished, there will be further public comment and then a groundbreaking.

The 14th Street Park then will finally be complete, a living legacy to volunteers like Jack Smith, Linda Palacios, Dan Pressburg, Jane Kelleher and Mike Donelon. They, along with city officials, Washington Middle School officials and business people, have proven what citizens can accomplish when they get together in a common cause to make neighborhoods better.


Rich Archbold is public editor for the Press-Telegram and a member of the Los Angeles News Group Editorial Board. rich.archbold@presstelegram.com.

Article source: http://www.presstelegram.com/opinions/ci_23699615/long-beachs-most-unusual-park-bloomed-grassroots-effort

Bridge House eyes ‘dramatic’ impact on Boulder’s needy with new kitchen

How to help

To learn more about Bridge House’s mission to serve Boulder’s homeless and working poor — or to volunteer in a variety of capacities — visit the organization’s website at boulderbridgehouse.org .

Pounds upon pounds of potatoes. Bundles of bananas. And a massive amount of milk.

The flood of food delivered to Bridge House’s newly opened commercial kitchen in east Boulder on Wednesday only served to emphasize what the 2,700-square-foot facility means to the nonprofit organization and the meals it provides Boulder’s needy through its Community Table program.

With walk-in coolers, state-of-the-art equipment and vastly more space than its old cooking digs, the aptly named Community Table Kitchen greatly improves Bridge House’s ability to churn out the estimated 60,000 meals it produces annually for the city’s neediest residents, staff members say.

Meals will be fresher, as food can be cooked all week and served the next day instead of five days worth of meals being prepared over two days in the kitchen of Bridge House’s neighbor — Boulder’s First Congregational Church — and frozen until it’s time to be served.

The food will be more nutritious, staffers say, utilizing fresh produce from the Bridge House’s garden and fresh dairy to provide more balanced meals.

And improved food quality is just the beginning. The facility also provides an opportunity for Bridge House to expand its Ready to Work job-training program for its homeless clients into the food service realm.

In its first week of operation, two recently homeless Bridge House clients helped out in the kitchen, receiving competitive wages — the program pays $8 an hour initially — and on-the-job training that the nonprofit organization’s staff hopes will help them land jobs with private employers in the near future.

“I think the

impact is going to be dramatic,” Bridge House Executive Director Isabel McDevitt said of the Community Table Kitchen. “We are marrying our two missions: to provide nutritious meals for the homeless and working poor who don’t have access to other food, and to create jobs for homeless individuals looking to get back to work through our Ready to Work program.”

‘This feels like fate’

Emphasizing what an upgrade the kitchen is, McDevitt noted that the Bridge House day shelter and base of operations — the historic carriage house located near Pine Street and Broadway, behind First Congregational — is about 1,200 square feet, or less than half the size of the new kitchen at 5345 Arapahoe Road.

And that is

without considering the 900 square feet of office space located above the new kitchen. Bridge House staff including the development director, volunteer coordinator and nutrition/kitchen director Shari Leyshon will work out of that space, McDevitt said.

The kitchen project, which included buying the building, renovating it and outfitting it with completely new equipment, costs about $990,000, McDevitt said, all of which was provided by an anonymous donor. Things moved quickly, with staff finding the space in September and closing the deal in October.

“This whole project really went off without a hitch,” McDevitt said. “This feels like fate. We were 100 percent on time with our construction, our team worked really well together

and this is what we have.”

‘Providing good nutrition’

Leyshon has been involved with Bridge House for five years, spending the last year-and-a-half as a paid employee. She has experience as a pastry chef and artisan food broker, helping small food producers sell their products to distributors.

She spoke enthusiastically Wednesday about how the kitchen would impact the 60,000 servings of food Bridge House prepares annually, a number she expects to ramp up to 70,000 in the near future.

Community Table dinners still will be held at First United Methodist Church, Mountain View Methodist Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Leyshon said she’s excited to cook hot breakfasts for the first time

for the program, as well as provide healthier meals with more fresh veggies.

“Homeless people really have a backlog of nutritional deficiencies, so providing good nutrition is really a way to support their recovery so that they can reach their highest efficiency,” Leyshon said.

Leyshon said she became involved with Bridge House because she liked its broad impact, connecting the homeless with counseling and other resources to address their physical and mental health needs while also helping them move toward stable housing and employment. She said she’s happy to see the program grow through the kitchen, where Ready to Work participants will prepare meals side by side with community volunteers.

“Our clients become connected to something bigger than themselves,” she said of her kitchen trainees. “The opportunity they have to invest their skills and their abilities and to participate has almost an instant impact on self esteem, and that is just so powerful.”

‘It’s been incredible for me’

Douglas McKee can speak to that power.

The 57-year-old former Bridge House client was part of a Ready to Work crew that performed clean-up and landscaping jobs in downtown Boulder until just recently.

McKee spent two decades working in restaurants in the Aspen area, though he simultaneously was dealing with drug and alcohol addiction that contributed to his homelessness. His kitchen experience helped earn him a full-time position as the Community Table Kitchen’s sous chef.

“I literally went from picking up cigarette butts to being in staff meetings, which was mind-blowing,” McKee said. “To be able to open this, it’s been incredible for me personally.”

The excitement was evident on McKee’s face when he spoke about cooking in the facility, floating ideas about fresh soups and in-house baking. The Army veteran was optimistic about doing some catering out of the facility in the future to help make it self-sustaining.

He said his main goals are giving back to the homeless community through nutritious meals, leading by example for Ready to Work trainees and being able to do it all while clean and sober — a status he has maintained for three years.

“For me on my end, I hope to set a good example that you can get out of homelessness if you want to,” McKee said. “You can get off the drugs and alcohol if you want to. But it starts with you. You have to make that decision.”

‘I am trying and I don’t give up’

McDevitt said the goal is to have five Ready to Work trainees working in the kitchen by year’s end, but for now there are two: Samantha Nelson and Fred Foster.

Nelson, 36, is staying with a friend now, but was most recently homeless for a year-and-a-half after quitting a job as a certified nursing assistant because she said she disagreed with her employer’s politics.

She outlined the challenges the homeless face when seeking employment, whether it’s stigma — “They see your backpack and see you’re sleeping in a bush and they fire you” — or not having the proper paperwork and ID, or trying to keep a regular schedule when you have to move around every night to avoid camping tickets.

“It’s not easy out there and there are a lot of prejudices. Some people have given up,” she said. “I have good people in my life right now. I’m trying and I don’t give up.”

Nelson said Bridge House “understands what happens to street people,” citing examples such as some homeless not having Social Security cards because they’ve been stolen, or showing up to work wet because they had no place to get out of the rain.

“Bridge House really gives a hand to people who are trying to change their life,” Nelson said. “There are people out there who do want to work. It’s awesome that this program helps people like that. It really does build your self-esteem to go and cash a pay check.”

‘Cooking looks like a pretty good thing’

Foster, 57, first experienced homelessness following his divorce in 2008. His wife was the primary breadwinner and Foster admits he was unprepared for life after marriage and went through a period where he didn’t care about anything anymore.

He’s staying at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, where he is part of its transition program, designed to help clients move into sustainable housing.

Two weeks ago, Foster joined the Ready to Work program, first as part of the unpaid “internship” portion where Bridge House staff work with clients to ensure they can keep a work schedule and meet other obligations before moving to a paid position.

While he previously toiled as a short-order cook, Foster said he has never worked in a commercial kitchen before. Tuesday was his first day working in the Community Table Kitchen. He said he most enjoyed spending time with the volunteers who helped with the cooking, calling them “great people.”

“I figure this will give me experience, and I’m getting to the age now that cooking looks like a pretty good thing to me,” Foster said, adding that he sees Ready to Work as a way to better his circumstances. “I want desperately to be out of the shelter. I’m thankful, and it’s a place to lay my head every night, but I’d love to get out as soon as I possibly can.”

‘A total win-win’

Wednesday’s 3,100-pound food delivery to the kitchen came courtesy of Community Foods Share, a longtime Bridge House partner and the designated food bank for Boulder and Broomfield counties. When Bridge House was working out of the First Congregational Church, weekly food deliveries ranged between 1,200 and 1,700 pounds.

Michael StaffordCrane, Community Food Share’s director of operations, and Michele Harvey, the food bank’s programs manager, helped unload the delivery Wednesday. Both commented on the benefits of the space, including having better storage, and tools such as a blast chiller, which will cool food more quickly and allow the kitchen to cook greater quantities of food while still meeting food-safety standards.

Harvey said an estimated 58,000 people live below the poverty line in Boulder County and hunger is a growing issue, which she feels the Community Table Kitchen will be a valuable tool in combating.

“We all feel it when we miss a meal,” Harvey said. “For folks that might be only getting one meal a day, it’s important to be able to get a full day of nutrients, which we know is the goal of Bridge House in every meal they serve. And Community Food Share is able to support that through the types of food we procure and donate.”

McDevitt said Bridge House has much left to do to make its continuum of care for the homeless the best it can be, but she feels the Community Table Kitchen is a huge step in the right direction.

“It’s a total win-win,” she said. “It’s taking Bridge House to the next level.”

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com.

Article source: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/boulder/ci_23700067/bridge-house-eyes-dramatic-impact-boulders-needy-new

Gardening: Crape myrtles thrive as trees, shrubs or foundation plants – Florida Times

Crape myrtle, known as the lilac of the South, is one of the most popular landscape plants in the Southeast. And rightfully so because they are easy to grow and create landscape interest year-round.

Most of its popularity is from the crepe-like, crinkled flower petals in shades of red, pink, lavender and white. Now is the showiest season, with vibrant 4- to 16-inch-long flower clusters that, depending on the variety, begin in May and continue into fall.

Crape myrtles, Lagerstroemia spp., are deciduous shrubs or trees native to southeastern China. The crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, was introduced into England in 1759 and met with dismal failure because it didn’t flower. But when it was brought to the South via Charleston in 1786 by plant explorer Andre Michaux, the plant flourished.

Upon rediscovery of L. fauriei in 1965, breeding programs hybridized L. indica with seedlings of L. fauriei to create popular cultivars like “Muskogee” and “Natchez,” which have increased disease resistance, beautiful exfoliating bark and increased cold hardiness.

In addition to the National Arboretum breeding program, Carl Whitcomb (Lacebark Inc.) has created hybrids with new and enhanced color, plus other desirable attributes like disease resistance, drought tolerance and cold hardiness. The University of Florida/IFAS, under the direction of Gary Knox, plays an important role by growing these new varieties in field trials to determine those that are best suited for Florida.

Versatility is another benefit because crape myrtles can be matched to the site based on height requirements. Mature heights vary from dwarf shrubs (4 to 6 feet), semi-dwarf (6 to 15 feet), intermediate (12 to 20 feet) and standard (20 to 30 feet).

Depending on the variety, they can be used as foundation plants, street trees, framing trees, hedges, in groups, or as a specimen tree. They are usually grown as multitrunk plants but can be purchased as standards with a single trunk. If purchased as a small tree, remove the smallest stems leaving one main trunk to develop a single leader tree or select three to five main branches to create a multitrunk tree. 

Unlike spring blooming plants that need winter-chilling hours, crape myrtles actually need heat to flower, so plant in the sunniest, warmest area of the landscape. With the exception of standing water, they tolerate most soil types and are drought tolerant. Although they will tolerate dry conditions, they grow better if provided water during dry periods to avoid stress.

Powdery mildew is the main disease concern, but resistant cultivars are widely available and include Acoma, Comanche, Fantasy, Hopi, Kiowa, Lipan, Miami, Natchez, Near East, Osage, Pecos, Sioux, Townhouse, Tuskegee, Tuscarora, Wichita, and Yuma. If you purchase a cultivar that is not resistant, plant in full sun and away from buildings or other groupings of trees to improve air circulation. Thinning the branches may also help improve air flow through the tree.

Crape myrtle aphid is the No. 1 pest and feeds on leaves while excreting a sugary substance called honeydew. Honeydew serves as a food for the fungus sooty mold that creates a black residue on leaves and branches. Aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soaps, but some nurseries actually plant crapes to attract beneficial insects and wouldn’t dream of spraying to control the aphids. Left untreated, aphids on these trees will build up a population of beneficial insects like lady beetles, green and brown lacewings, predatory plant bugs, assassin beetles and others.

Now is a great time to shop for crape myrtles because they’re in bloom. Some nurseries don’t label trees by cultivar, so this is the only time you can be sure of the flower color; still, the mature size will still be a mystery. Check for nurseries that sell named cultivars so you can match the plant to your landscape needs based on color, shape and mature size to avoid unnecessary pruning.

Knox has grown many varieties in trial gardens and recently presented his top picks for North Florida. For the small shrub category up to 5 feet, he suggested Cherry Dazzle (low mounded plant), Sacramento (rose pink flowers, mounded almost weeping plant), Pixie (white flowers, rounded plant) and New Orleans (deep purple flowers, spreading plant). Unfortunately, the smaller shrub cultivars are not very resistant to powdery mildew.

For patio trees that range from 8 to 15 feet tall, he recommends Cheyenne, a hybrid from the U.S. National Arboretum, with bright red flowers, rounded plant form and good disease resistance. Another is Hopi with medium pink flowers, beige bark, with a broad rounded plant form. For a white flowering variety, Acoma was his top pick with creamy beige bark, excellent powdery mildew resistance, and a spreading, pendulous growth habit.

For larger trees reaching 20 to 30 feet in height, the best red flower color is Red Rocket, which has an upright, rounded growth habit and tan bark. Osage is the best pink with large compound flower panicles, dark orange bark, glossy foliage and a round plant shape. Natchez is the most planted white blooming variety with great cinnamon bark and excellent powdery mildew resistance. The best lavender in this height category is Apalachee with dark green leaves, beautiful cinnamon-orange bark and light lavender flowers that are slightly fragrant.

In addition to flower color, some varieties have spring growth that is burgundy or bronze that fades in mid-summer. Examples include Burgundy Cotton, Houston, White Chocolate, Pink Velour, Raspberry Sundae and Royal Velvet. One that will soon be released is Black Diamond Series Delta Jazz, which boasts burgundy leaves all spring and summer. 

As the days get shorter, look for fall leaf colors in shades of yellow, orange or red. Miami, a great selection for Florida, is a larger tree maturing at over 20 feet tall with dark pink flowers, chestnut brown bark, with good orange fall color. If trees are not butchered by pruning, winter adds yet another dimension to the landscape because they create a living sculpture.

Many have interesting shapes with exfoliating bark that peels off, unveiling interesting colors like cinnamon-orange or rich dark brown bark that add to the winter interest.

For more information on crape myrtles: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg266 or www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/CrapemyrtleGallery/.

 

Terry Brite DelValle is a horticulture extension agent with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

Article source: http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/home-and-garden/2013-07-20/story/gardening-crape-myrtles-thrive-trees-shrubs-or

Garden column: Crape myrtles are the Southeast’s versatile landscape choice … – Florida Times

Crape myrtle, known as the lilac of the South, is one of the most popular landscape plants in the Southeast. And rightfully so because they are easy to grow and create landscape interest year-round.

Most of its popularity is from the crepe-like, crinkled flower petals in shades of red, pink, lavender and white. Now is the showiest season, with vibrant 4- to 16-inch-long flower clusters that, depending on the variety, begin in May and continue into fall.

Crape myrtles, Lagerstroemia spp., are deciduous shrubs or trees native to southeastern China. The crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, was introduced into England in 1759 and met with dismal failure because it didn’t flower. But when it was brought to the South via Charleston in 1786 by plant explorer Andre Michaux, the plant flourished.

Upon rediscovery of L. fauriei in 1965, breeding programs hybridized L. indica with seedlings of L. fauriei to create popular cultivars like “Muskogee” and “Natchez,” which have increased disease resistance, beautiful exfoliating bark and increased cold hardiness.

In addition to the National Arboretum breeding program, Carl Whitcomb (Lacebark Inc.) has created hybrids with new and enhanced color, plus other desirable attributes like disease resistance, drought tolerance and cold hardiness. The University of Florida/IFAS, under the direction of Gary Knox, plays an important role by growing these new varieties in field trials to determine those that are best suited for Florida.

Versatility is another benefit because crape myrtles can be matched to the site based on height requirements. Mature heights vary from dwarf shrubs (4 to 6 feet), semi-dwarf (6 to 15 feet), intermediate (12 to 20 feet) and standard (20 to 30 feet).

Depending on the variety, they can be used as foundation plants, street trees, framing trees, hedges, in groups, or as a specimen tree. They are usually grown as multitrunk plants but can be purchased as standards with a single trunk. If purchased as a small tree, remove the smallest stems leaving one main trunk to develop a single leader tree or select three to five main branches to create a multitrunk tree. 

Unlike spring blooming plants that need winter-chilling hours, crape myrtles actually need heat to flower, so plant in the sunniest, warmest area of the landscape. With the exception of standing water, they tolerate most soil types and are drought tolerant. Although they will tolerate dry conditions, they grow better if provided water during dry periods to avoid stress.

Powdery mildew is the main disease concern, but resistant cultivars are widely available and include Acoma, Comanche, Fantasy, Hopi, Kiowa, Lipan, Miami, Natchez, Near East, Osage, Pecos, Sioux, Townhouse, Tuskegee, Tuscarora, Wichita, and Yuma. If you purchase a cultivar that is not resistant, plant in full sun and away from buildings or other groupings of trees to improve air circulation. Thinning the branches may also help improve air flow through the tree.

Crape myrtle aphid is the No. 1 pest and feeds on leaves while excreting a sugary substance called honeydew. Honeydew serves as a food for the fungus sooty mold that creates a black residue on leaves and branches. Aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soaps, but some nurseries actually plant crapes to attract beneficial insects and wouldn’t dream of spraying to control the aphids. Left untreated, aphids on these trees will build up a population of beneficial insects like lady beetles, green and brown lacewings, predatory plant bugs, assassin beetles and others.

Now is a great time to shop for crape myrtles because they’re in bloom. Some nurseries don’t label trees by cultivar, so this is the only time you can be sure of the flower color; still, the mature size will still be a mystery. Check for nurseries that sell named cultivars so you can match the plant to your landscape needs based on color, shape and mature size to avoid unnecessary pruning.

Knox has grown many varieties in trial gardens and recently presented his top picks for North Florida. For the small shrub category up to 5 feet, he suggested Cherry Dazzle (low mounded plant), Sacramento (rose pink flowers, mounded almost weeping plant), Pixie (white flowers, rounded plant) and New Orleans (deep purple flowers, spreading plant). Unfortunately, the smaller shrub cultivars are not very resistant to powdery mildew.

For patio trees that range from 8 to 15 feet tall, he recommends Cheyenne, a hybrid from the U.S. National Arboretum, with bright red flowers, rounded plant form and good disease resistance. Another is Hopi with medium pink flowers, beige bark, with a broad rounded plant form. For a white flowering variety, Acoma was his top pick with creamy beige bark, excellent powdery mildew resistance, and a spreading, pendulous growth habit.

For larger trees reaching 20 to 30 feet in height, the best red flower color is Red Rocket, which has an upright, rounded growth habit and tan bark. Osage is the best pink with large compound flower panicles, dark orange bark, glossy foliage and a round plant shape. Natchez is the most planted white blooming variety with great cinnamon bark and excellent powdery mildew resistance. The best lavender in this height category is Apalachee with dark green leaves, beautiful cinnamon-orange bark and light lavender flowers that are slightly fragrant.

In addition to flower color, some varieties have spring growth that is burgundy or bronze that fades in mid-summer. Examples include Burgundy Cotton, Houston, White Chocolate, Pink Velour, Raspberry Sundae and Royal Velvet. One that will soon be released is Black Diamond Series Delta Jazz, which boasts burgundy leaves all spring and summer. 

As the days get shorter, look for fall leaf colors in shades of yellow, orange or red. Miami, a great selection for Florida, is a larger tree maturing at over 20 feet tall with dark pink flowers, chestnut brown bark, with good orange fall color. If trees are not butchered by pruning, winter adds yet another dimension to the landscape because they create a living sculpture.

Many have interesting shapes with exfoliating bark that peels off, unveiling interesting colors like cinnamon-orange or rich dark brown bark that add to the winter interest.

For more information on crape myrtles: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg266 or www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/CrapemyrtleGallery/.

 

Terry Brite DelValle is a horticulture extension agent with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

Article source: http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/home-and-garden/2013-07-20/story/garden-column-crape-myrtles-are-southeasts-versatile

Landscape Now: Do Your Own Rain Garden This Summer

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Instead of letting storms ruin your fun, get something out of it by putting the rain to work in a rain garden.

The installation of properly designed rain gardens can offer many benefits to your landscape. Rain gardens can reduce storm water overload in streams, rivers and in storm drains, help to increase groundwater recharge, provide habitat for wildlife, birds and butterflies, require less maintenance than lawns and increase property values. These gardens offer an alternative to traditional lawn and water runoff that may cause pollution to be carried into local waterways. A well-designed rain garden can hold water, help settle out pollutants and return runoff to the groundwater table.

What are Rain Gardens?

Rain gardens are depressions in the lawn designed to catch runoff water from roofs or paved surfaces with help from planted shrubs and perennials that catch the water and help return it into the ground. This allows runoff to infiltrate the soil in your yard preventing water from leaving your property and ending up carrying pollutants into local streams and rivers. Along the coast rain gardens can serve as buffers collecting runoff before it heads into salt water ponds or the ocean. Properly sited rain gardens help to moderate flooding by holding excess water and giving it a chance to infiltrate the soil before running into storm drains.

Locating Your Rain Garden

Depending on your site, rain gardens can be positioned in an area directly out from a downspout (at least 25’ from the foundation to keep water from entering the basement) in the lawn. Keep gardens away from septic areas, low, wet areas on the property (you want to encourage water infiltration into the soil which will not happen in a wet, pond area), wells or deep shady spots. In sunny areas with a properly constructed garden ponding should disappear in 4-6 hours and all water will be infiltrated into the soil within 24 hours.

Sizing Your Garden

Typically the rain garden will be 30-50% of the size of the impervious surface you are draining into the garden. For example if the downspout is catching water off 1200 square feet of roof area your rain garden should be about 480 square feet (40% of 1200 sq. ft.) to catch the runoff. There are more detailed formulas for calculating the size of rain gardens…see URI Cooperative Extension, Rain Gardens: A Design Guide for Homeowners in Rhode Island and UConn Cooperative Extension System, Rain Gardens in Connecticut: A Design Guide for Homeowners and CT NOFA, www.organiclandcare.com.

Drainage in Your Rain Garden

The type of soils you have will determine the depth and drainage materials you will need for your garden. Try a small percolation test where you want to install a garden….dig a test hole 6-12” deep and fill with water…if it has not completely drained in 24 hours you will need to provide additional drainage materials. Typically, for a simple rain garden with good drainage, a depression will be excavated at least 12” deep and building a berm on the downward side if the area slopes. Make sure the material in the excavated bottom is permeable and will allow water to seep through…if not you will need to dig deeper and fill the bottom with crushed stone, place a layer of textile fabric over the stone layer and add soil for planting leaving an approximate 6” depression in the center and sloped areas on the sides. Poorly drained sites will require extensive excavation, several layers of stone, mat, soil and ultimately 3-4” of mulch after the plants are installed.  

Plants for Your Rain Garden  

This part of the rain garden process should be fun! There are many lists available for choosing your plants, Rhode Island Wild Plant Society (www.riwps.org), New England Wildflower Society (www.newfs.org) and the URI Cooperative Extension Sustainable Tree and Shrub Guide. Several good native choices are: winterberry, blue flag iris, panicum, carex sp., summersweet, lobelia, iris sp., monarda, dwarf fothergilla, Joe Pye weed, interrupted fern, wild geranium and woodland phlox.

Mulching Your Garden

Once the planting is done the entire garden area should be covered with 3-4” of a natural (non-dyed) pine bark mulch. The mulch will help to filter the water, slow the runoff off and help to prevent weeds from growing in the garden. In the event of a heavy storm it would be a good idea to install an overflow pipe on the downside berm so water can escape in an unusual rain event. Periodically, a refreshing of mulch, dead heading and pruning may be necessary for the plants in the garden to thrive. Inspections after a rain event will be wise to monitor how the garden is functioning and completing any additional planting or adjustments to the garden.

Landscaping for Droughts and Water Bans!

In my next article I will detail ways to landscape during droughts and maintaining your gardens and landscapes during water bans. It begins with water conservation, preparing your plants for droughts and selecting plants that will perform well with minimal watering!

“With landscaping you never seem to reach the point when you feel the job is complete.”

 

Frank Crandall, Horticultural Solutions. Frank is a R.I. resident specializing in coastal landscaping, organic land care, small business consulting, writing, speaking photography and will be submitting biweekly articles about Landscape Solutions. Frank just published his third book, Creating a More Peaceful, Happy and Successful Life! You can read more about his book on his website, www.FrankCrandall3.com. Comments about Frank’s articles are welcome by contacting him at FrankCrandall3@gmail.com.

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