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Archives for July 22, 2013

Gardening tips

Three ways to store your produce

1. Dry onions, shallots and garlic, then store them in a frost-free shed or garage, keeping them in net bags hung up so the air can circulate around them.

2. Only freeze top quality, fresh produce, so aim to pick and freeze the same day. Freeze leaf beet, carrots, French beans and broccoli.

3. You can leave some produce in the ground until you need it, including carrots, leeks, parsnips and beetroot, but when winter comes cover the vegetables with cloches or fleece to protect them from frost damage.

What to do this week:

Cut back: Prune larger-leaved evergreens including laurel

flowers: Pick flowers such as sweet peas and dahlias to encourage further flowering

geraniums: Give hardy geraniums a haircut with shears to help them stay compact

lavender: Cut lavender for drying, just before the buds open fully, and tie in loose bunches, hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated, warm spot

garlic: When the foliage of garlic starts to yellow, the bulbs should be ready for lifting

tomatoes: Regularly remove side shoots from tomatoes

grass: Keep recently laid lawns well watered at all times

salad: Continue to sow rocket, lamb’s lettuce and claytonia.

fruit: Prune summer-fruiting raspberries when they finish cropping.

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Summer gardening tips

While you’re standing at the BBQ, sizzling chicken on the grill and handing out chilled drinks to your friends, remember that your garden friends will be extra thirsty this month too.

Gardens should explode with colour and fruit this month, as long as you don’t let them dry out.

A heat wave is settling in for the time being, so now is the perfect chance to take some time out and relax in your garden. While you’re there, you may find a few things to do to keep your garden healthy.

To assure your garden’s tidy, you could: 

Dead head bedding plants to keep them flowering for longer

Cut back and feed Delphiniums and Geraniums to encourage a second flowering period

Tie in climbers such as Roses and Clematis to trellis, fences, and walls.

Train new growth diagonally or horizontally to encourage more flower buds.

And to maintain your perfect garden, you could: 

Save water by mulching borders – a layer of 2-3 inches will help keep down weeds too

Move pots and containers into the shade to stop them drying out so quickly

Water well throughout July and August as plants prefer a regular, deep soaking to help develop strong roots

Water in the early morning before the heat of the day

Hoe your borders to ensure that weeds don’t take over if you go on holiday.

Now to protect your beautiful flowers, you could:

Try a weed killer or, if you prefer a natural approach, dig them out.

Cut down wilting stems to ground level and the surrounding soil sprayed with a fungicide.

Treat any black spots you may find on your Roses.

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Gardening in Des Moines during July

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by Liz Sanborn
King County Master Gardener

I have been asked several times how I became a King County Master Gardener. The short answer is that I applied to the program, completed the training and the rest was history.The long answer involves a divorce, a need for change and a renewed passion for gardening. That story would require a margarita in hand so I will only give the pertinent details here.

The King County Master Gardener Program is part of the Washington State University education system. If you click on this link it will give you instruction for applying for the 2014 classes – and follow the clicks to get to the right page. The 2014 classes will be twelve consecutive Saturdays beginning January 11th, 2014. The cost is $ 275.00. Some of the information that you will need to access is on the internet so hi-speed internet access and E-mail is required to take the class. The internet work can be done at home, so you do not need to bring a laptop. The final exam is open-book and there are several quizzes along the way- which are also open book. It would be extremely difficult to not succeed if you show up for the classes. I will say this – to get accepted into the program a strong volunteer background is helpful on your application. The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer organization and to keep you certification you will need to volunteer at a Master Gardener clinic and also complete continuing education credits every year.

Since I am on the subject of gardening groups I would also recommend a membership in the Northwest Horticultural Society. NHS is a community of passionate gardeners and your membership includes garden tours, classes, Newsletters, lectures, discounts and access to fabulous plant sales. The lecture series is worth the membership price alone. I had the pleasure of attending a lecture last week at the Center for Urban Horticulture that the NHS put on – the speaker was Billy Goodnick and his topic was garden design and creating the garden of your dreams. It was an inspiring lecture preceded by a thirty minute reception for snacks and an opportunity to purchase plants from a guest nursery. The website for the NHS is You will find all the information you need there, including how to join.

It was inspiring to listen to an expert landscape designer talk about design in a way that was not only understandable but translatable to the home garden. The first step in all design – especially for the garden, is to identify what you want your garden to feel like. Do you want a space to relax and unwind in? A place for the kids to play? Or grow vegetables? Think about your garden as a series of rooms to extend your living space – what do you want those rooms to feel like. Once you have that vision you can design with trees, shrubs and plants to create what you envision. Look through garden books and identify what you are attracted to and keep a notebook filled with pictures and ideas.

Billy talked a lot about color in the garden and what color does in terms of creating a feeling. I had always thought I wanted a cool color palette in the garden, but what I have learned from the plants I am attracted to is that I actually prefer warm colors- red, corals, oranges and yellows. I took a photo of my garden this morning and this is what I saw:

From left to right: a yellow Viburnum shrub in the background, in front of that very chartreuse smoke bush, and the tall orange spikes are orange foxtail lilies. To the right of that is bronze fennel. There is nothing cool about this area of my garden and I love it.

If you are passionate about gardening but need some inspiration I would recommend joining a group – any gardening group that works for you. There are garden clubs all over our area – even a Des Moines Garden Club. Look for them on Facebook and join. It is always inspiring to get together with other people who share your passion.

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Posted by on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 11:36 am 
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Sussex garden designer off to bloomin’ good start with Chelsea Flower Show win

Sussex garden designer off to bloomin’ good start with Chelsea Flower Show win

By Ellie Thomson

Jack Dunckley

A multi-award-winning young garden designer’s Sussex business is blooming after gaining a top industry award, writes Ellie Thomson.

Jack Dunckley is encouraging all generations to root success in their gardens this summer after winning a Silver Gilt medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show for his garden Juxtaposition.

The 20-year-old said: “I am very proud to have been awarded a silver gilt and I now aim to go for gold next year and break a record by being the youngest garden designer to achieve that level of award in the 100-year history of the Chelsea Flower Show.”

At his Birchfield Nursery in Henfield, Jack currently employs 17 members of staff, six of whom are fellow past pupils of Hurstpierpoint College.

He said: “It has been a very busy year for the business with the new landscape design studio and a coffee shop called the Cloudtree opening at the nursery.

“One of the kindest compliments I have received recently was from a customer who said that the whole place is one big, beautiful show garden.”

The nursery has more than 500,000 plants in stock with more than 3,500 different varieties to supply wholesale and retail markets.

Alongside the nursery, Jack and his team create gardens for a range of clients from family homes to businesses, new builds and developments using sophisticated 3D computer software and hand-drawnillustrations.

On Saturday Jack was hosting the opening of Birchfield’s new Cloudtree coffee shop which will be serving from 10am until 4pm.

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Garden designers vie for award

Three young garden designers compete to create the Best RHS National Young Designer of the Year Garden 2013

Three up-and-coming garden designers have made it to the finals of the RHS National Young Designer of the Year 2013 – this year, with the theme ‘Eco-Innovations’.

Florian DeGrosie (above left), Christopher James (above middle) and Tony Woods (above right) are the successful finalists who now have the opportunity to build show gardens at the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park and show off their designing prowess.

How they intrepret ‘Eco-Innovations’ is up to the designers- in their choice of plants, landscape material and design.

Meet the designers

The Bees GardenFlorian De Groise (23) from Cambrai in France harnessed horticulture from a young age from his grandmother. He completed a course at the London School of Garden Design at Kew and now runs his own landscaping company. In The Bees Garden  (above) he wants to get across that you can achieve sharp and striking designs using inexpensive and recycled material.

Escape to the CityTony Woods (27) runs his own garden design and build company, The Garden Club London. This year is his first time managing a show garden having had experience setting up exhibits at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. In his garden Escape to the City (above) Tony will convey that you can achieve tranquility and escape even in an urban garden.

GreEnCO SenseChristopher James (28) acquired a love of gardening from his grandparents and now manages design projects for Graduate Landscapes Ltd. He has a strong appreciation for the technical aspects of design as well as plant knowledge. His garden GreEnCO Sense is a haven for garden wildlife and brings to light ecological concerns through materials and design. 


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Plans proposed for making downtown Concord a destination

Over a 100 years ago, a young painter from Philadelphia ventured to Paris to follow his dream and study with legendary artists Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin. Unfortunately, World War I soon intervened causing George Washington Smith to return back to the States. After participating in San Francisco’s Panama Exhibition in 1915 at the Palace of Fine Arts, he settled in Santa Barbara until the war was over and it would be safe to return to France.

In order to make a living, Smith went back to his regular vocation of being an architect and started building houses. One might ask what does this have to do with Concord’s plans to develop its downtown area and make it an attrative destination where residents and visitors can shop, be entertained, and enjoy the ambiance of Todos Santos Square? As it turns out, a lot.

Smith used for his design inspiration, the farm houses and homes in the French/Basque countryside that can be found in Cezanne’s impressionist landscape paintings. These residences drew a striking resemblance to the network of missions constructed when the Spanish colonized California in the 18th century. Smith, whose success lead him to residing in Santa Barbara until his death in 1930, has been credited with being the father of the Spanish-Colonial Revival School Of Architectural Design.

This early California style can be found throughout the State most notably in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Carmel and Sonoma. Concord has several of these style buildings especially in the area around Todos Santos. Making local building codes conform with these Spanish inspired structures, open air markets, arches, fountains, and tile roofs, has a good deal of support from Concord’s Ad Hoc Downtown Steering Committee. (AHDSC)

Ideas for Concord CA Grant Street Development

In order to do this facades of new construction and landscaping in the Downtown area would need to incorporate these elements that partially replicate what was around when Concord was first settled. This concept falls in line to what many people want for the downtown as opposed to strip mall world that many critics of Concord perceive the city to be.

It must be asked what is more important between making the area between BART and Todos Santos a special area or meeting housing quotas being pushed upon the city by the One Bay Area Plan from The Association of Bay Area Governments (AGAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission? (MTC)

Into this decision making process bring on futuristic designer Matt Wilson who AHDAC Chairman Ron Leone had address his group’s July meeting to augment the ideas of the paid consultants from the firm of Perkins Will. Wilson, whose resume includes such diverse projects as a 4 billion dollar rotating hotel complex in Dubai to multi-million dollars Zoological exhibits in Ft. Worth Texas, is a believer in out of the box type of thinking.

As a long time resident of the area, Wilson feels “Concord has been stagant for so long that unless the community as a whole embraces a radical design, it will continue its present course of being invisible to the outside world.” He wants to “evoke a special feeling that will make people want to visit the area again and again.” Wilson cited such places as Pier 39 in San Francisco, Old Town in San Diego, and State Street in Santa Barbara as examples of what Concord should strive for.

In contrast to prevailing urban planning theme at the Avalon Project at the Pleasant Hill Bart Station which features large multi-level housing projects with retail below, Wilson favors curved walk ways, alley’s shops, restaurants different sized building, lush landscapes and water features along the corridor on Grant Street from the BART Station to Todos Santos. (see attachments) His objectives include:

1. To radically enhance the aesthetic value of the area.
2. Temporary street closures and special events to draw visitors to Concord.
3. Create a venue location to hold annual events.
4. A destination place to put Concord on the map
5. Focus attention for those who arrive on BART on the new Grant Street shopping corridor to the revitalized Todos Santos
6. Create jobs and dynamic retail opportunities
7. Put Concord on the map as a destination location.

Rather than traditional urban planning where shopping areas are created from residential and office construction, Wilson’s concepts through his company Outdoor-Republic favor emphasizing themed retail first. It is postulated that by creating an environment which will attract visitors, developers will be encouraged to build offices and housing that will enhance the area.

Along with this would be added revenue streams from new jobs, sales, and property taxes which bring need dollars into the city’s treasury. Such considerations are especially important today with redevelopment funds being taken away by the State of California to help balance their budget. It is thought that in the future, new projects will be undertaken where the most favorable conditions exist for developers.

Matt Wilson, members of the Ad Hoc Steering Committee and other residents of the area who have spent their time putting forth their visions for the future development of Downtown Concord, realize this is a long process that will go on for at least the next quarter century. What is being discussed today will likely be the building blocks for the next generation when these plans may come to fruition.

Concerning the entire planning process Councilman Leone commented “I’m excited that Concord is looking at developing a future vision of our downtown BART area and it’s connectivity to Todos Santos and the rest of the downtown area. We have an opportunity to create a truly exceptional downtown, and make it a place of destination for our entire region.”

Hopefully when the dust settles, George Washington Smith will look down and be proud of the Spanish-Colonial Revival going on in the pueblo that later became known as Concord.

Richard Eber is a member of the Concord Ad Hoc Downtown Steering Committee. The contents of this article reflect his own opinions and not the Steering Committee or the City of Concord.

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Hinkle: Affordable Care Act – where’s the ‘affordable’ part?

A few months ago, Obamacare critics were pointing to alarming predictions that some insurance rates would spike when the law took effect — by as much as 41 percent in Wisconsin, 85 percent in Ohio and so on. In Virginia, though, the potential increases are not all that bad.

Some are actually much worse.

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission soon will assume control over insurance policies offered through the new state-level exchange. That’s where those who don’t get insurance through their employers will shop for policies they will be forced by law to obtain.

Recently the SCC asked Virginia’s major underwriters to provide information on what they charge now and what they will charge starting Jan. 1, when Obamacare regulations take effect. Specifically, the SCC asked for rate estimates in the individual market and the small-group market.

In the individual market, the SCC asked for the rate for the most popular insurance plan for a 29-year-old male; a 45-year-old couple with two children; and a 60-year-old couple. For the small-group market, the SCC sought quotes for a business with eight 29-year-old male employees; a business with four male and four female employees, all 45; and eight 60-year-old female employees.

Ready for the results? Brace yourself.

Aetna says its most popular policy for a 29-year-old man currently costs $118 per month in Richmond. Once Obamacare kicks in, the rate will jump to $225 — an increase of more than 90 percent.

Obamacare supporters say this is only natural, because one of the ideas behind expanding coverage is to get young, healthy people to help pay the health care costs of sicker, older people. (Not exactly a point they stressed during debate over the bill, but never mind.) That’s why the law forbids charging the latter more than three times the rate charged to the former. Jacking up rates for “young invincibles” is supposed to help hold down rates for old vulnerables.

But it doesn’t appear to be working. Aetna says its rate for the family with two kids is liable to jump 36 percent, and the rate for the older couple is liable to jump 44 percent.

The CareFirst BlueChoice outlook is similar: Premium increases of 108 percent, 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively. For Group Hospitalization and Medical Services (an independent licensee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield), the percentage hikes are: 113, 89 and 69.

Where’s the “affordable” part in the Affordable Care Act?

For small employers, things could be equally grim. Take Optima, which operates in the Hampton Roads area. Optima says the premium for a policy covering eight young male employees — a landscaping business, say — could jump 132 percent. A similar policy for Anthem HealthKeepers would double in price.

Not all the premium increases are this bad, and the increases for companies with female employees are smaller. Obamacare’s defenders may seize on that as proof that the president’s signature policy is working. There’s just one problem: It isn’t working according to the president’s own standards. “If you already have health insurance,” candidate Obama promised, “the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less.” The law’s advocates echoed the talking point; MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, for instance, said, “What we know for sure the bill will do is that it will lower the cost of buying non-group health insurance.”

To be fair, many people will be eligible to receive subsidies offsetting part of the bill, and some of them — though by no means all — might see lower costs year over year. But this does not reduce the actual cost, it only shifts some of it. And cost-shifting — such as a hospital charging ten bucks for aspirin to subsidize emergency-room care for the uninsured — was supposed to be something Obamacare would reduce, wasn’t it?

The ACA’s cheerleaders also might argue that what happens in the state exchanges is a sideshow, since most people get their insurance through their employers anyway. This is not an argument made gracefully by those who, during debate over the bill, lamented the 45 million Americans without health insurance. They were supposed to be the chief reason for the law’s passage. Some sideshow.

What’s more, the non-group market will grow more relevant, not less so, as time wears on. Thanks again to Obamacare, companies are either dropping health-insurance coverage altogether, shifting employees to part-time status to avoid providing coverage, or (if they’re small) finding ways to avoid crossing the 50-employee threshold for mandatory coverage. Partly because of such developments, the leaders from three of America’s biggest unions, including the Teamsters’ James Hoffa, wrote to the administration complaining that “you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat.” Their support for the president, they said, “has come back to haunt us.”

The administration has delayed the employer mandate for a year. But when it kicks in, it will dump many more people into the exchange market. There — if the news from the SCC is any guide — they will get a rude awakening.

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Parade of Homes: Award-winner a jaw-dropper

The annual Parade of Homes is underway and Puebloans are flocking to see the new real estate throughout the city.

On Saturday hundreds of people passed through the doors of brand new homes looking to either buy, gather ideas for their own homes or just to check them out.

Cole Proctor, owner of Domega Homes, was busy showing off one of his company’s award-winning houses at 5006 Almondcrest Drive on the South Side.

The home swept up the awards, winning every category in the $250,000 to $300,000 classification. The awards included best kitchen, master suite, interior design, floor plan, landscaping and best overall.

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The Week Ahead: Guided Garden Tour, Wall Art Projects

Woodbury Democratic Caucus

Woodbury Democrats will endorse candidates for their slate for the Municipal Elections in November at the Woodbury Recreation House Monday night. 

Guided Garden Tour of Pine Meadow Gardens

Well known landscape designer and owner of Pine Meadow Gardens, a nursery and landscaping service in Southbury, Wesley Rouse, has invited visitors to tour his personal gardens.

Woodbury Budget Vote

A third referendum vote will take place on Thursday, July 25, at the Community Center. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Drop-in Crafts: Make a Frisbee

Drop into the teen department for fun crafts. This week, drop in and design your own mini frisbee! All materials supplied.  Free and open to grades 6 and up. 

Recycled Paper Tube Wall Art Project

Teens currently attending high school are invited to the Middlebury Public Library to learn how to turn everyday items such as paper towel rolls into beautiful wall art.

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