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Archives for August 14, 2013

Livingston Manor wins top Sullivan Renaissance award – Times Herald

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LOCH SHELDRAKE — The November 2012 fire that destroyed the landmark Hoos Building devastated Livingston Manor’s business district but not the hamlet’s spirit.

Two months later, a larger-than-expected crowd attended “visioning” workshops to craft new ideas for the hamlet. And this summer, a volunteer army led by Livingston Manor Renaissance undertook one of those ideas: a face-lift for Main Street and the town’s information booth.

Their efforts were rewarded Monday when Sullivan Renaissance named Livingston Manor the winner of the $25,000 “Golden Feather” award, the top prize in Renaissance’s annual contest for community beautification projects.

“It was just a whole town effort — from individuals to organizations,” said Kathy Fries, a member of Livingston Manor Renaissance. “It was a terrific summer.”

Renaissance handed out more than $100,000 in grants and scholarships during a nearly two-hour ceremony at SUNY Sullivan.

Friends of Liberty Library won the $3,000 top prize in “Category A,” the smallest of three categories for community projects, for landscaping around the library. Seeds of Hope/Monticello Rotary claimed the $10,000 first prize in “Category B” for a memorial garden at Town of Thompson Park.

“It’s so nice to have these little gems,” Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson said. “And it’s nice to see them spreading and spreading.”

Manor won in “Category C,” with volunteers putting in hundreds of hours to refurbish a caboose that doubles as an information booth, install a new business director and repaint trash cans. The hamlet also revived a garden and replaced glass light-fixture globes melted by the Hoos fire.

Livingston Manor Renaissance had “far more support” this year, Fries said.

Sullivan Renaissance also recognized its first “Mitvah” award winner, the Skolya summer camp in South Fallsburg. Skolya was one of five camps competing against each other in what will be an annual contest aimed at drawing camps into beautification efforts.

In addition to planting gardens, Skolya repaired fencing, painted and did general cleanup, said Mendy Reichman, the camp’s manager. “There’s still a lot to do,” Reichman said.

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Don Spatz: Day job one thing, night job another

  • Woman’s Exchange of Reading
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Don Spatz on Twitter
Don Spatz on Twitter

City Hall’s skeleton staff has left it with plenty of empty offices scattered throughout its four floors.

But one of them is now occupied by Council President Francis Acosta, who uses it several times a week to meet with people and groups who want to talk about city issues.

Acosta is an assistant manager at Fulton Bank’s branch on North Fifth Street.

He said too many visitors with questions or suggestions or complaints about the city were stopping by his bank office, straining the relationship with his bosses.

So he called Mayor Vaughn Spencer last year to ask if he could use one of City Hall’s empty offices instead.

The first two first-floor locations didn’t work for various reasons. Acosta finally got an office on the second floor, not far from City Clerk Linda Kelleher’s office. It’s a spot council uses for committee meetings.

Acosta’s office opened in early July.

He said he’s there two or three evenings a week, after his banker’s job ends.

The city gave the office a new coat of paint, but Acosta said he provided most of the furnishings, such as his desk and the photos and decorations on the walls. It’s not overstuffed; it’s functional.

Other than the paint and the electricity for the lights, it’s not costing the city anything, he said.

But it’s saving his hide at the bank.


Reading’s Gateway Initiative is focused on prettying up the “Welcome to Reading” signs at each of the city’s 16 major entrances.

Those entrances range from the Penn and Bingaman and Buttonwood Street bridges to Oak Lane, Kutztown Road and Perkiomen Avenue.

Some of the signs are missing, and some are on the wrong side of the street.

However, Initiative leader Steve Harrity said the group wants to get a common design for more decorative signs, and maybe also landscaping around them.

Good ideas, but council members had other ideas at last week’s update.

Councilman Jeff Waltman said work on the bigger ones first: the Penn Street Bridge and the Lindbergh Viaduct.

He said he’s embarrassed because the recently renovated Lindbergh Viaduct already is covered in weeds.

“If we can’t keep it clean, the signs don’t matter,” he said.

True, true, but this is not a question of which should come first. Both should.

Contact Don Spatz: 610-371-5027 or

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Design Advice on Reconfiguring an Emptying Nest, Part 2

Ms. Galland started her own firm in New York City, Danielle Galland Interior Design Inc., in 2004. Since 2011 she has taught classes in hand drawing and rendering at the New York School of Interior Design. Previously she taught at Parsons the New School for Design. She received her M.A. in the history of the decorative arts from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Program.

Here is part 2 of her answers.

On Living in Small and Open Spaces

Q. I have recently retired and spend time between a small craftsman in Seattle and the casita of a property in Tucson I bought for retirement winters. My plan was to move into the main house and use the casita for guests, but economic circumstances have changed and I need to continue to rent the main house to afford my sunny winters. My casita is one open, L-shaped, 550-square-foot living space (except for the large bath) with no separation between the living and sleeping areas. The sleeping area is in the angle of the L, and is directly visible from the living “room” and the dining “room.” I often have guests sleeping on the convertible sofa. What options are there for creating the feeling of privacy at night, but keeping the open flow of light and air during the day? As people downsize, and/or try to afford a second home for part of the year, using small spaces wisely seems to be a challenge we need to grapple with, more than just young people starting out knowing they will move up and out in the future. Thank you for any help. — Kathy Huus, Seattle

A. Space concerns and privacy are not mutually exclusive to the young, as Kathy Huus points out. The following are room divider suggestions, some of which you may quickly rule out based on the specifics of your casita:

You could have a wardrobe built that is on wheels and not too long, but say about 5 feet wide by 2 feet deep and about 6- to 7 feet high depending upon your ceiling height. It must be easy to move, built on good quality large casters. You would need to make wall space for this cabinet when it is not out in the room, but when a guest comes, it could act as a central room divider. It could also be useful storage for you when living in the casita full time. You could also apply this central room divider concept to a permanent bookcase, situated in the space between the bed area and dining area. For that, your proportion would be slimmer, at 12 inches to 14 inches maximum depth. The height and width could remain roughly the same. In the instance of a bookcase, you could leave the back open, thus allowing for visual connection. These types of bookcases are out in the market and could be relatively inexpensive if you wanted to try it on as an idea.

Another thought is to make a draw-back curtain. There are so many great fabrics on the market, woven from all types of fibers, thus allowing you to consider whether to have that drapery as a translucent element in the room or a completely opaque curtain. Hung from a ceiling mounted track, with ball-bearing-style glides at the top of the drapery header, this arrangement can give you the most flexibility to allow the drapery to move the full length of the width of the alcove area.

Finally, you could consider a folding screen that would come out when the guests are on the convertible sofa for the night. Generally, I feel as though moving them around can be a bit cumbersome. To make the folding screen really work well, it has to look integral to the room decoration when in its resting location (i.e., when not pulled out for guests). I feel it looks best when it sits within a well-anchored furniture arrangement where it might rest behind a pretty table with a lamp and create an elegant corner composition.

Ideally, with whatever you choose to act as the room divider, the driving factor should be how it integrates into the space during the majority of the time the room is in use. If it feels as if it belongs to the overall room scheme, then it will be a bonus feature when it’s pulled out as a divider.

Q. I was never able to afford a house while my daughter was small; to put her through college, I lived in a studio co-op that I now own. Now she cannot get a job. How can I make a 420-square-foot studio accommodate two women with a lot of clothes? I cannot afford to rent a bigger apartment; I need to save money for retirement or to help her with graduate school. — Landless, Brooklyn

Q. Yes, indeedy, please advise on small space living. There is a terrific exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, which shows living in a small studio (I think the measurement was 325 square feet.) It was fascinating to see how one could live in a small space relatively well but there was not a lot of room for clothing or books or my upright piano. —Bklynbar, Brooklyn

A. Dear Landless and Bklynbar: I think the answer to living well in the extreme conditions of tight square footage is to think outside the confines of the conventional and allow yourself to exploit the priorities of your particular situation. In the case of living with your daughter and all of your combined wardrobe, I would think of the apartment as though it were a giant walk-in closet that is so luxurious you can sleep and have a meal in it. Surround yourself as much as possible with built ins — hanging and drawers and shelves for shoes and folded clothes; close off some of the storage, and expose other elements to allow nicer things to be put on display. Utilize storage from floor to ceiling as well, as spaces like this require making every square foot work. It takes a bit of finessing the layout and expense in getting the storage custom built, but the end result is the functionality you absolutely need to make cohabitation pleasurable for the next few years.

For a Harmonious Living/Dining Blend

Q. We’re planning to make our “final move” in several years. From:two bedrooms, kitchen and three baths, a media room, library/office, living room, dining area, breakfast room and family room, about 3,000 square feet total. To: about 1,600 square feet in a retirement facility, Living room with dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, open den area. We’re planning on no overnight guests, though there is a convertible sofa useful for a guest or for one of us to occupy if sleeping together is inconvenient. We have many books and 40-year-old contemporary rosewood furniture to suit the den. We must consolidate the media room and family room into one space — the second bedroom. Apart from the electronics, it could contain some of the “family room” furnishings, which consist mainly of the work of North Carolina artisans (except for the Kentucky-made convertible sofa), all more-or-less clean-line contemporary. Our current living-dining room is mainly 19th-century antiques and reproductions, mahogany walnut and cherry. Current breakfast room contains a 19th-century New England single-board cherry drop-leaf table plus a modern cherry bookcase and hutch plus modern rush-seat chairs: basically, we have two dining rooms: one cherry and one mahogany. We have more than enough semi-antique and newer Persian rugs to cover the floors, but we like some bare wood. We would continue to entertain, annually 8 people twice, 20 people once and couples 4 times, as we both love to cook. We are in our early 70s. Any ideas? — Julie, Asheville, N.C.

B. Dear Julie: When reading through your description of your moving scenario and your furnishings, the following thought came to the forefront:

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UConn is Sierra Club’s No. 1 ‘Coolest School’


The University of Connecticut has won the top spot as Sierra magazine’s “Coolest School” nationwide for its efforts to encourage sustainability, green technology, and environmental stewardship.

The No. 1 ranking, announced today, is the culmination of UConn’s rapid rise on the list every year since its debut in the top 50 in 2010. More than 2,000 colleges and universities in the United States are eligible for ranking by the magazine each year.

The Sierra Club, the largest environmental grassroots organization in the United States, ranks schools based on sustainability data collected in several subject areas, including energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, and financial investments.

Students in a living/learning community work at the University's Spring Valley Farm, which supplies some of the locally sourced food served in the dining halls. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

Students grow vegetables at the University’s Spring Valley Farm, which supplies some of the locally sourced food served in the dining halls. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

Sierra magazine’s editors lauded UConn for a wide variety of initiatives, including offering more than 600 classes relating to sustainability; reducing water use by 15 percent since 2005; and serving a large amount of locally sourced food in its dining facilities.

The new Sierra honor comes in the same year that UConn topped 215 universities worldwide to win the No. 1 spot on Universitas Indonesia’s GreenMetric World Ranking.

“UConn’s commitment to environmental sustainability is a core part of fulfilling our mission as a land and sea grant university,” UConn President Susan Herbst says. “While we’re immensely honored to be included in these rankings, we know that our work is not done. We continue to seek new opportunities every day to protect the natural world through deliberate, thoughtful policies and curriculum offerings.

Students gather along Fairfield Way for Earth Day Spring Fling on April 18, 2013. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

The annual Spring Fling on Earth Day is a popular event with students. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

“No student should leave here, degree in hand, without a deep sense of responsibility for the protection of the planet,” she adds. “It is part of being a good citizen.”

UConn, which was ranked No. 5 last year, has been singled out in recent years for advances in on-campus recycling programs, which recycle and reuse everything from food and landscaping waste to consumer goods such as used sneakers, appliances, and electronics.

Some of UConn’s other high-impact environmental initiatives include:

  • This year’s opening of UConn’s new reclaimed water facility, the first of its kind in the region. It is capable of treating up to 1 million gallons of wastewater each day for use in the University’s on-campus power plant, replacing and conserving drinking-quality water that previously was used at that facility.

An interior view of the water reclamation facility on April 3, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The new water reclamation facility, which opened this spring. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Tim Tussing points to micro filtration apparatus at the water reclamation facility on April 3, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Micro filtration apparatus at the water reclamation facility. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

  • A detailed Climate Action Plan, which helped guide efficiency improvements at nearly 100 on-campus buildings in recent years – saving about $2 million annually in energy costs and avoiding thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions yearly.

The natural gas fuel cell outside the Center for Clean Energy Engineering at UConn's Depot campus. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The natural gas fuel cell outside the Center for Clean Energy Engineering at UConn’s Depot campus. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Solar panels will support a new microgrid energy system at the Depot Campus. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Solar panels, together with the fuel cell, will support a new microgrid energy system at the Depot Campus. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

  • Progress toward cleaner energy through the installation of a fuel cell and solar-powered microgrid to supply energy at its Depot Campus, and an ongoing grant-supported program to replace many of its oldest gas- and diesel-powered vehicles with electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Proactive water conservation education programs, bicycle- and car-sharing programs, and other initiatives for students, employees, and community members.

UConn bicycles are available for loan outside Homer Babbidge Library. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

UConn bicycles are available for loan outside Homer Babbidge Library. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Hybrid charging station at motor pool on Aug. 9, 2013. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

A hybrid charging station at the University motor pool. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

  • A curriculum that strongly supports the University’s “green” mission through a bachelor’s degree program in environmental studies and more than 600 courses with an environmental and sustainability focus, in areas ranging from engineering to law.
  • “Green” construction initiatives such as rain gardens, green roofs, and porous paving materials. Those building features help manage stormwater runoff and improve water quality in nearby rivers and streams. UConn also has a Vendor Code of Conduct that establishes a preferential standard for doing business with companies that employ best practices for sustainability.

A roof garden on top of Laurel Hall, a new classroom building that has LEED Gold certification. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Green construction includes a roof garden on top of Laurel Hall, a new classroom building that has won LEED Gold certification. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Xeriscaping in Laurel Halls bioretention basins, which collect roof drainage.

Xeriscaping in Laurel Hall’s bioretention basins, which collect roof drainage. (UConn Office of Environmental Policy Photo)

  • Herbst’s appointment of a senior adviser specifically to help shape policy on environmental issues – ecology expert Gene E. Likens, whose work to identify and research acid rain has placed him among the world’s most eminent climate researchers.

Rich Miller, director of UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, says the University’s sustainability successes are a result of initiatives and collaborations across many departments.

“Any time the University is ranked No. 1 nationally in any endeavor, it requires strong leadership and teamwork, and we’ve had both,” Miller says. “The commitment to the environment and sustainability starts at the top and runs deep at UConn with faculty, staff, and students. Many people can take pride in this recognition, knowing that their contributions have made a difference.”

He said categories measured by the rankings range from academic programs to energy, transportation, purchasing, dining services, as well as building, landscaping, and investing, to waste reduction and water conservation.

Students from the EcoHouse Learning Community students educated patrons about recycling on Green Game Day at Gampel Pavilion. Photo by EcoHouse

EcoHouse Learning Community students educated patrons about recycling on a Green Game Day at Gampel Pavilion. (File photo)

“Student involvement is also critical, and we’ll see plenty of EcoHuskies and other student volunteers again this fall at events like EcoMadness in the dorms and ‘Green Game Days’ with Athletics,” Miller says.

In addition to UConn, this year’s Top 10 “Coolest Schools” in the Sierra rankings are:

1.         University of Connecticut (Storrs, Conn.)
2.         Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa.)
3.         University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)
4.         University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)
5.         Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
6.         Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vt.)
7.         Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)
8.         Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.)
9.         American University (Washington, D.C.)
10.       University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, Calif.)

The complete rankings, along with this year’s coverage of higher education’s environmental efforts, are online at

The 'green' roof on Gant Plaza. Photo by Frank Dahlmeyer

The ‘green roof’ on Gant Plaza reduces water runoff from the buildings. (Frank Dahlmeyer/UConn Photo)

Eco friendly parking lot outside of the Hugh S. Greer Field House.  Photo by Jessica Tommaselli

Some campus parking lots have been repaved with an environmentally friendly porous material. (Jessica Tommaselli/UConn Photo)

Staff in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources compost more than 2,500 tons of agricultural waste a year at a special facility. (UConn Office of Environmental Policy Photo)

The University composts more than 2,500 tons of agricultural waste a year at a purpose-built facility. (UConn Office of Environmental Policy Photo)

New Club Sports fields have soil moisture sensors that prevent over-watering.

New club sports fields have soil moisture sensors that prevent over-watering. (UConn Office of Environmental Policy Photo)

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More News About Bee Deaths


Can we stop Colony Collapse Disorder before it’s too late?

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been a looming issue in the news for years as bees die off in growing numbers for reasons that aren’t always apparent. Researchers are sinking all the resources they can into the issue, because bees, like other pollinators, play a key role in the natural environment; they’re responsible for the ripening of many of the crops in your garden along with the spread of plants, trees, and shrubs in nature. So finding out why bees keep dying is, to put it mildly, a very big deal.

There are a lot of theories about the root causes of CCD including pesticide contamination caused by excessive use of chemicals in industrial farming, stress, and climate change. A new study takes another look at CCD, examining not the bees themselves, but the pollen they eat.

The researchers took healthy bees and fed them pollen contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, all chemicals that are potentially found in pollen supplies thanks to the wide use of these chemicals on an industrial levels. In bees exposed to the pollen, the researchers noticed a marked decline in parasite resistance; eating the pollen, in other words, made the bees less able to defend themselves, and consequently, they were more prone to ill health.

Reduced resistance included an inability to fight off infection with a parasite known to be associated with CCD, which kills entire hives of bees all at once rather than just causing a slow attrition in the hive.

That’s really bad news for bees, because agricultural chemicals are endemic in the landscape. It’s not just that they’re found on industrial crops like corn, wheat, and soy, where farmers spray to control for pests and other problems to ensure as large a harvest as possible. They are also widely used to control weeds, invasive species, and other problem plants in nature, and landscaping services employ them to maintain lawns and keep weeds out of the garden. Widespread contamination becomes difficult to check when there are so many potential sources.

Mitigating the effects of chemicals on bees without destroying the agricultural industry is going to require a delicate balance, especially since many manufacturers of such products, of course, want to maintain the market for them. Humane pest control methods are definitely something that need to be more widely adopted, while industry experts such as exterminators in Atlanta and other cities near major agricultural centers need to be thinking about how to do their jobs without causing collateral damage to the bee population.

That might mean adopting products that don’t target bees, working with consumers onnonchemical pest management tactics, encouraging more beekeeping, making bee-friendly gardens, and protecting bees by creating chemical-free zones with hives so bees can flourish. Even though the causes of CCD are incredibly complex and involve some conflicting interests, it’s critical to address the issue, because bees are vital to the national economy: they pollinate not just the crops we eat here at home, but those we export worldwide for annual profits in the billions.

Katie Marks writes for

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New England Grows announces educational programs

Boston – New England Grows will take place Wednesday, Feb. 5 – Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 at the Boston Convention Exhibition Center.

Always on the lookout for emerging trends and industry icons, New England Grows’ 30+ educational programs include:

Jane Knight, Landscape Architect for the Eden Project in Comwell, England. Eden is an extraordinary global garden featuring the largest rainforest in captivity as well as a Mediterranean landscape both growing within huge, geodesic domes. The Eden Project’s sole mission is to “inspire people to care about the natural world.” Jane does that and much more by sharing her experiences and expertise with others around the globe.

Nalini Nadkarni has been called “the queen of forest canopy research,” a field that relates directly to three of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: the maintenance of biodiversity, the stability of world climate, and the sustainability of forests. Nadkarni presents a rich tapestry of personal stories celebrating the profound connections we have with trees and the powerful lessons they hold for us.

Glyn Jones is the Garden Countryside Manager at Hidcote in Gloucestershire, U.K., one of the most influential English gardens of the early 20th century. His mission is to “future proof” the iconic garden against modern threats including climate change, while simultaneously researching and sharing as much as possible about the garden’s enigmatic genius creator: American, Lawrence Johnston.

The Grows 2014 speaker line up also includes well-known experts Bill Cullina on “New England Landscape Dynamics”; Michael Raupp on “What a Warming World Means for Pest Outbreaks”; and Dale Hendricks on “Fashionable Forgotten Plants.”

Garden Center Success – an energizing daylong seminar aimed directly at today’s independent garden center – is back by popular demand on Wednesday, February 5. Along with a variety of industry speakers, Alison Kenney Paul, Vice Chairman and U.S. Retail and Distribution Leader at Deloitte, will present “Store 3.0”- a close look at how traditional brick-and-mortar garden centers can stay relevant in today’s changing retail space.

Trendsetting design speakers include David Culp, Jenny Rose Carey, and Rick Bartel. Mark Bradley of Landscape Management Network, John Hughes of Hughes Nursery Landscaping, and Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development will all share practical, business-building advice. A variety of timely industry topics will also be addressed including permaculture, fruit tree pruning, biological controls, pest and disease management, integrating edibles into the landscape, and living soil.

At New England Grows, green industry professionals can obtain most of their professional Continuing Education (CEU) credits under one roof with recertification opportunities for Pesticide Licenses, NOFA, APLD, LA CES, ISA, CTSP, and most state association credentials.

Registration opens in November. Enjoy special savings for early registration – $49 for all three days – when you sign up by January 15. The early registration price drops to just $45 per person when four or more people from the same company register together. Affordable admission fees, combined with exclusive deals on the expansive tradeshow floor, make New England Grows the best place to do business.

Keep up to date with all things “Grows” when you join New England Grows’ expanding community on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. For the latest program and registration information visit

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Garden shop boss gives tips to buyers

THE manager of an East Staffordshire gardening centre has given money-saving advice to potential house buyers, after new figures showed a rise in prices.

According to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, house prices rose by 3.1 per cent in the year up to June, up from 2.9 per cent in May.

A survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said parts of the West Midlands, where prices have been low are where more homes are being bought.

Robert Osborne, managing director for Burton based retailer, Garden For Less, said the rise in prices could mean buyers would have to buy homes with smaller gardens.

He said: “Simple decisions such as whether to plant perennials or annuals will make savings year on year but still allow people to enjoy their homes and gardens.

“Planting fruit and vegetables can provide glut crops which can be frozen for longer periods of times, and for those who lack the space, allotments are a cheaper alternative to paying a premium for more outdoor space.”

He added that herbs, such as basil and rosemary can be grown indoors in pots on the windowsill.

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Notes From the Garden: Get Ready for Company With These Handy Tips

I’ve got company coming this weekend and I want my gardens to look nice. I can’t make them perfect, but here are some of the things I’m doing — and that you can do, too, whether company is coming or you just want to get on top of garden tasks.

First of all, I am getting rid of all the tall weeds. A flower bed with four-foot tall weeds is much less attractive than a flower bed with the same number of short things creeping around the bed. So golden rod that towers over the daylilies is much more of a problem than 6-inch-tall creeping Charlie that scurries around their base.

A big clump of goldenrod can be a fearsome opponent. It holds on fiercely. But if you are truly in a hurry, you can fix the problem — in the short term — by cutting it off with pruners or a sharp serrated knife. That makes it disappear to the casual viewer. Later, when you have more time, you can dig up that big clump of tenacious weeds with a shovel.

Next, I am buying some plants to fill in spaces. Each year a few perennials die over the winter, and I try to replace them each spring and summer. But this year was so wet that I never got around to doing so. There are places where, I must admit, some flower beds have patches of pure weeds. As I weed them out, I am discovering spaces where I can plant new things.

I recently was at a farmers market and saw a beautiful purple-blue perennial known as a speedwell or veronica (Veronica spicata). It was in full bloom and magnificent with 16-inch spikes of small flowers. I should have purchased three, but was unsure how much space (and money) I had, so I only bought one. Maybe next week there will still be some left and I can buy more.

This is the time of year when daylilies are particularly lovely, so I went to Cider Hill Gardens in Windsor to look through their selection and bought some nice “spider” daylilies. They differ from standard daylilies by having longer petals spaced farther apart — almost like the legs on a spider. I planted them with the veronica — a very nice contrast.

You can divide most flowers almost any time of the year (except peonies, which should only be done in the fall). I have a big clump of a late fall-blooming clear yellow daylily that, over time, was being overshadowed (literally) by a multi-stemmed shrub known as common ninebark, a variety called “Diablo.” Diablo has dark purplish leaves and grows fast. Very fast. Each year — right after it blooms in June — I cut off about two feet from each stem to keep it under control. But each year the shrub sends up more stems from the ground, expanding its diameter. And so this wonderful daylily was being crowded.

I used a drainspade to dig up that big daylily. This is a spade about 16 inches long and 6 inches wide. I pushed the spade into the soil at a 45-degree angle in four places around the perimeter. Each time it was fully inserted into the ground, I pushed down on the handle, lifting the clump a little. On the fourth and final push, I pried it out and carried it away.

At this time of year annuals are in short supply in most garden centers, but if you can find some, they are a great addition to the garden because most will bloom until frost. Just cut them back if they look ratty, and give them some liquid fertilizer.

Until recently, my window box by the front door was pretty pathetic. I yanked a lackadaisical dahlia and replaced it with a colorful pink “Superbena.” Superbenas are hybrids of annual verbenas that do very well in hot, dry locations like window boxes.

Potted plants can be used to spiff up the garden, too. I generally move all my potted plants outside in the summer, placing them on the north-facing deck. But when company comes, I am not above moving a few of the larger ones into the garden. I am careful not to put them in full sun, however, as they’ve been in a fairly shady location all summer and I could easily sunburn the leaves if I put them in too much sun. A nice clivia or papyrus in a decorative pot can be a nice addition to an otherwise drab location.

And finally, mow the lawn the day before your mother-in-law or college roommate arrives. A well-cut lawn is pleasing to the eye, especially if you use a push mower to go in all the corners, or use a string trimmer to do the edges. And it’s even OK to pay someone to do it. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your property with your guests.

Henry Homeyer’s web site is He is the author of four gardening books and a children’s book: “Wobar and the Quest for the Magic Calumet.”

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Trade show speaker offers tips to owners of local garden centers

PHILADELPHIA — Every year the Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show serves as a showcase for nurseries, garden centers and their suppliers.

But one group of lawn and garden sellers with a considerable market share was conspicuously absent from the July 31-Aug. 1 gathering here.

That would be national retailers such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart and Wal-Mart, who are in many cases out-competing locally owned outlets.

All is not lost, however, said Bridget Behe, a professor of horticulture marketing at Michigan State University.

Locally owned garden centers can take back some of the ground lost to the big chains, she said at a seminar here, citing research that she’s doing with Carol Miller, the editor of Today’s Garden Center magazine.

One hurdle to clear is perception.

“‘Gardening’ had a very negative connotation” to focus group participants, Behe said.

The word evokes images of “an old woman with white hair and a floppy hat,” something younger people want to avoid, she said.

“Landscaping” produced more positive responses. Participants saw it as more masculine, vogue and project-oriented.

That simple vocabulary change could go a long way toward helping garden centers shed their stodgy image, she said.

Another obstacle is that many younger people say they lack time for gardening.

The national retailers already have solved this issue, Behe said. They create kits and compartmentalize tasks to make lawn beautification seem more manageable.

Instead of offering a comprehensive landscaping program, they pre-package individual landscaping units, such as a flower bed or water element, that can be set up in a set amount of time.

The ability to say “If you have three hours, you can do this” is critical, because customers want to avoid starting projects that could take over their lives, Behe said.

Independent stores should come up with projects of different lengths, such as whole-weekend projects or afternoon jobs. Garden centers can figure out ways to downscale projects, making ponds or beds smaller.

A third barrier that keeps a homeowner away from the locally owned garden center is a homeowner’s lack of ideas.

Garden centers should hang pictures and have Internet links to give first-time gardeners suggestions.

Those pictures can help start the conversation with the customer. Behe demonstrated, “Here’s that parklike setting, and we can help you do that.”

Younger people also steered clear of garden centers because they felt insecure about their lack of botanical knowledge.

Garden centers have a sometimes deserved reputation for catering to “experts,” Behe said.

Practices such as organizing plants by alphabetized Latin name contribute to this consumer perception.

Customers like the big chains because their salespeople have the attitude that “there are no dumb questions,” she said.

Independent garden stores should adopt this mentality by greeting customers when they arrive, giving them good eye contact and offering to help them make their selections, Behe said.

Owners need to get workers to face the aisle. Employees are good at making the plants pretty, but they need to learn to help customers, she said.

“‘Ask me.’ Put it on the back of the shirt,” Behe suggested.

Independents also can differentiate themselves from the big players by offering coaching and after-sales support.

The chain stores often have the edge with price-driven shoppers, so locally owned garden centers need to play up the added quality and benefits local stores can offer, she said.

Just as she encouraged creating projects for different time budgets, Behe suggested creating grades of plants at different prices.

For example, a retailer could offer hanging baskets of increasing quality for $19.99, $29.99 and $39.99.

Growers will not have to make as many of the highest-end baskets because they will not sell as many.

But having a top option will entice more customers to buy something nicer than the bargain baskets.

“People will buy ‘better’ if there’s a ‘best’ option,” she said.

Garden centers also can improve their visibility and accessibility in the community by getting into the social scene.

Stores can have off-site events such as classes or demonstrations at places where young potential customers congregate. Coffeehouses and farmers markets are prime locations for these programs, she said.

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