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Archives for August 2013

Curb appeal: In the business of home ownership, a little landscaping can go a …

If you have ever bought or sold a home, you are probably well aware that curb appeal ­— that wow factor that makes your heart beat faster when you espy a home — is vital. But did you know that beyond creating desire, excellent front landscaping actually increases your home’s value? Yup, those blooming hydrangeas, the spiffy front door and the snazzy stone walkway you invest in can produce a solid return on your money. Carson Arthur, landscape designer and TV show maven, is the source of this wisdom, and he has solid advice about where and how to make money when you
update your home’s outdoor living space.

According to Mr. Arthur, there are three main ways to improve your outdoor experience and in doing so, add value to your home: curb appeal, decking and hardscaping. You’ll notice there is no mention of creating large perennial gardens, adding a pool or creating a water feature. There are reasons.

For one thing, and this might be shocking to many, he says that enjoyable outdoor living does not include gardening. While some of us love weeding, deadheading and watering, most want no part of that, so to them, a large perennial garden is considered an issue not an asset. That said, flowers, trees and shrubs do increase property value if they make your home more appealing, so choose a landscape design that is impressive, attractive and, very important, easy to maintain.

Curb appeal is the No. 1 place to invest, according to Mr. Arthur, as excellent landscaping will up the house’s value by 7%, or $42,000 on a $600,000 house. Some money-making ideas include a stone walkway to your front door, with a matching stone driveway, and attractive plantings (but they shouldn’t be too full as they may seem high-maintenance to a non-gardener). Also, install a gorgeous front door. An appropriately placed bench in your front yard will earn you $1,000, as will a tree. Pass GO by putting the bench under the tree!

Pools, as you’ve probably heard, do not add value to a home, but they don’t detract either. If you spend $60,000 on a pool, you will likely recover 20% to 50% of that money if you sell before the pool ages (according to Mr. Arthur, pools have a 10-year life span). Again, low maintenance is key, so don’t surround your pool with a garden that will make potential buyers think they’ll be spending time with a trowel instead of a towel.

Bob Gundu/MicroPro Sienna

Add a water feature if you love a gurgle and splash, but don’t expect it to make money for you. Ponds, waterfalls and streams do not provide a return on investment, unless you count personal satisfaction. Where they come closer is if the sound of water helps to mask traffic noise.

Hardscaping is the use of natural stone or concrete stones or similar to define spaces and pathways, usually patios for living and dining. Patios enjoy a return of 12% and last 35 years or more. Larger is better, he says, now that we are fully furnishing our patios as outdoor living and/or dining rooms.

Decks are also a great investment as low-to-no-maintenance options look great for 20 to 25 years and see a return of 10% to 15%, depending on the design and materials chosen. Again, go large to accommodate that sectional sofa you are eyeing. For backyard shade, consider an awning, pergola or tree — they add $2,000 to $3,000 each.

Front yards, decks and patios are all excellent investments. The caveat is that they need to be well designed

Front yards, decks and patios are all excellent investments. The caveat is that they need to be well designed, well executed and, like gardens, low maintenance. That is why a professional such as a landscape architect or landscape designer should be called in.

When it comes to design, there are many considerations. Property usage is the big one, as you need to determine how you want to enjoy your outdoor space, and how much you are willing to invest. A professional will design according to environmental factors such as light, shade and wind, and plan such structures as a pergola, garage, garden shed, deck, patio, gazebo, fence and retaining wall, as well as gardens, trees, ponds and pools. He or she can dispense advice about low maintenance decking composites; insect-repelling, natural or other wood products; concrete or natural stone; trees for shade and privacy; and appropriate flower and shrub choices. For our summers, a drainage plan is as vital as a watering scheme. Some landscape architecture firms offer turn-key services from design through installation, so you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.

Using a landscape architect (find one via is wise, even if you are not doing a total makeover but want to add a deck or patio, as they know bylaws and can advise about safety, standards and stability so that you invest wisely. That way, your deck has the support it needs, your retaining wall retains and your driveway of pavers does not sink under your tires over the winter. And the city is happy because your fence has a permit and is the right height. Beyond that, your property will look terrific and give you the outdoor living space you crave — and the ROI you expect.

Fall is an excellent time for landscaping, as soil is at its warmest to welcome new plants. And there is also the investment lure as professional landscaping adds more value than a kitchen or bathroom renovation and provides a recovery rate of 100% to 200%. Quick, grab a shovel and make a few bucks before the snow flies.

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Top tips for avoiding injury and strain while gardening


(BPT) – There are so many reasons it’s rewarding to tend a garden throughout an entire season. Every month offers new plant growth and well into autumn you get to enjoy nature’s bounty as well as mental and physical health benefits. And enthusiasm for gardening is high: Nearly half (49 percent) of American homeowners have gardened in the last 12 months, or 164 million people, as stated in a 2012 report on But one unwelcome part of taking up gardening as a hobby is the potential for strain and injury.

To get the most out of your time gardening, consider these tips for avoiding physical discomfort:

1. Start with a few stretches

You wouldn’t go for a jog or attend a workout class without warming up, so why would you garden without taking a few moments to stretch first? Before grabbing your tools and heading to your yard, spend five or 10 minutes doing stretches focusing on your arms, legs, back and neck. You’ll be moving and turning a lot, so be sure to stretch and loosen muscles to avoid strain when you’re out tending your garden.

2. Avoid bending and lifting the wrong way

Chronic back pain is an issue for many Americans both young and old. Just because you have back issues doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy gardening. Consider installing raised garden beds, which allow you to garden without having to bend over. Additionally, container gardens can be placed on tables or deck railings for easy access. If you don’t suffer from back pain, avoid back injury by bending and lifting the right way. Remember to maintain good posture, minimize quick twisting motions, bend at the hips and knees only, lift items in a slow and controlled manner, and enlist help if necessary.

3. Protect hands and wrists

Gardening can be physically demanding, and the repetitive motions of weeding, hoeing, raking or shoveling can be problematic for the hands and wrists, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. Minimize irritation by wearing a supportive glove, like Imak arthritis gloves, commended by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. These specially designed gloves provide mild compression that helps increase circulation, which ultimately reduces pain and promotes healing. Washable and made from breathable cotton, the gloves are great for the garden enthusiast. Plus the extra protection helps gardeners avoid painful blisters.

4. Protect the skin from the sun

One of the best parts of gardening is you get to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but that can mean extended time in the sun so it’s important to protect your skin. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light cotton clothing that covers exposed skin are good first steps. Always apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum lotion that is SPF 30 or higher at least 15 minutes prior to going outside, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.

These simple tips will help position you for a full season of gardening delights. Without injury or other physical irritations, you’ll be able to savor the fruits of your labor in the beauty of Mother Nature.


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AJ Petitti presents fall gardening tips at Ohio Design Centre

H01PETITTI.JPGView full sizeA.J. Petitti will talk about how to adding fall color, like this fall anemone, to your garden when he speaks at the Ohio Design Centre.

Gardening and outdoor living expert A.J. Petitti will speak at the Ohio Design Centre on Friday, Sept. 6, to kick off the centre’s First Friday speaker series. The luncheon series provides homeowners and design professionals with insights into design industry trends.

Petitti will discuss fall gardening details such preparing the soil, appreciating the beauty of fall flowers, extending landscape colors and creating beautiful container gardens. He oversees the nine Petitti Garden Centers in Northeast Ohio, and hosts a weekly gardening show on WJW Channel 8.

His talk at the Ohio Design Centre starts at noon. Registration is $10 and includes a light lunch. The center is located at 23533 Mercantile Road, No. 118, Beachwood.

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Gardening Tips: Sign up with Extension to become a Master Gardener

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 11:16 am

Gardening Tips: Sign up with Extension to become a Master Gardener

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


It’s been a busy week at the Halifax County Extension office. With something completely different coming up each day, it’s represented a pretty accurate capsule of what my job is like. On Monday, I presided over the monthly meeting of the Halifax Northampton Beekeepers Association in Halifax. On Tuesday, I was in Nashville for our area strawberry production meeting. Wednesday night I spoke to farmers in Whitakers, and last night and today I made preparations for our Master Gardener booth at the Littleton Lake Gaston Festival Saturday. Since I’ve worked myself into Master Gardener mode, let me take one more opportunity to share about the program and upcoming training.

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Friday, August 30, 2013 11:16 am.

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Garden Chatroom 1 pm Thursday

The Trustees of Reservations has just completed Phase 1 of an extensive 5-phase, 3-year, $3 million garden and landscape restoration project designed to rejuvenate Naumkeag’s gardens. The transformation is remarkable, the most noticeable being the renovation of Fletcher Steele’s iconic Blue Steps — one of the most photographed garden features in 20th-century American landscape design — which are celebrating their 75th Anniversary this summer. More information can be found here and a few photos are below:

Naumkeag is a National Historic Landmark located in Stockbridge which is visited by thousands of garden, landscape and history enthusiasts each year. Formerly owned by the Choate Family of New York before it was bequeathed to The Trustees in 1958, Naumkeag is a 44-room Berkshires “Cottage” from the Gilded Age is filled with arts, antiques and collections around from around the world. It is also one of the only remaining intact cottages from this time period open to the public. Naumkeag’s gardens are a masterpiece of 30 years of collaborative, creative work by former owner, Mabel Choate, and her dear friend, Fletcher Steele — America’s first, modern landscape architect. Featuring a series of unique garden rooms and described by the Library of American Landscape History as a “playground for the imagination” Naumkeag’s gardens are one of the nation’s finest examples of early American Modern landscape architecture and a rare surviving example of the work of Fletcher Steele still open to the public.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation is holding it’s “What’s Out There in the Berkshires Weekend” on 9/21 22 offering free tours of two dozen beautiful spots which could be a good time to come out and tour some other properties – and the fall foliage is gorgeous at that time of year too. More info here:

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Purely Organic Lawn Care Highlights End-of-Summer Gardening Tips

Purely Organic Lawn Care provides insight on vital gardening techniques that homeowners should consider as summer comes to an end.

PHILADELPHIA, PA, August 30, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ — As summer slowly draws to a close, Purely Organic Lawn Care recognizes the importance of maintaining a garden. Most people feel as if they can put their landscaping days on hold until the fall rolls in. However, it is important for homeowners to pay attention to some crucial details in their lawn. Just because the weather is getting cooler does not mean that gardens should be neglected.

In a recent article posted by Fauquier Now, experts highlight several gardening tips for the end of the season. They stress that homeowners and lawn care enthusiasts should pay close attention to their properties. Purely Organic Lawn Care agrees that the end of summer carries just as much responsibility as the beginning.

One of the first steps for gardeners is to categorize dormant plants and dead plants. Before removing dead vegetation, it is crucial to mark and label any plant life that will come back next season. Homeowners want to ensure that they are eliminating the right plants that could eventually turn into weeds.

Weeding is necessary before seed setting. This will help control weed growth and development in the future. Before the seed heads form, gardeners should take out any green sprouts and turn them into compost. Weeding in the late summer is beneficial for garden growth because it lessens root competition. The fewer weeds there are, the more water and nutrients that are available to growing plants.

Purely Organic Lawn Care recommends carefully inspecting mulch. Mulch that has not been used for a while may become compacted and stiff. It is wise to fluff up any compacted mulch and then spread it around decomposed areas. A layer of approximately two inches is optimal for prime lawn health. This layer provides insulation that will help the soil maintain a consistent temperature while reducing moisture loss via evaporation. The mulch also breaks down into organic materials that will benefit the soil. Over-mulching should be avoided as this can inhibit water from reaching plant roots.

Gardeners should continue their regular watering habits. The best practice is to water directly at the plants’ roots. This allows for better absorption than topsoil watering. Plants that are grown in containers will need more water than in-ground vegetation. Hanging basket plants are more prone to dehydration due to heat and wind. A simple test to see if plants need watering is to stick a finger in the soil and see if it is dry.

A Purely Organic Lawn Care associate states, “You should check with a professional service to see if your lawn is healthy. Conduct a soil test and find out what your lawn needs. You want to catch any problems early on so that you can take care of them as soon as possible.”

Lastly, gardeners should make it a priority to clean up their lawn regularly. They should remove fallen leaves, branches, fruit, and litter. It is especially important to look for stray fruits or vegetables that have fallen as they can attract bacteria and mold. These materials should all be destroyed or disposed of properly. Purely Organic Lawn Care states that infected fruit or vegetation should never be added to a compost pile.


Purely Organic Lawn Care has been in business for six years. With a team of six knowledgeable employees, they provide a long list of services for organic lawn care. These services include weed and crabgrass management, mosquito and tick management, soil testing, aeration, over-seeding, and seed-o-vating. All employees are licensed for pesticide usage in the states of New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. They employ the use of products that are environmental-friendly, organic, and natural.

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GARDEN TIPS: The best time to completely establish a new lawn

“Life,” I Wrote

Life Editor Ivan Lajara talks about living in the Hudson Valley, language, the Web, cats and even politics. But he shouldn’t.

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The Artist’s Garden Counsels Tight Spaces Do Not Equate Poor Design

The team at The Artist’s Garden is speaking out on how all homes, regardless of space, can be aesthetically pleasing.

PHILADELPHIA, PA, August 30, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ — The Artist’s Garden, which creates unique outdoor living spaces, knows that space constraints can significantly impact the design of a living area. However, the team feels that small spaces do not have to suffer from poor design or lack of fluidity. Because of this belief, the professionals applaud a news piece highlighting innovative ways to get around tight living conditions.

The article explains that an unconventional approach can help a homeowner to maximize the space they do have, without focusing on the drawbacks of the area. Architect Ben Maguire calls navigating tight living quarters, “the puzzle of urban living.”

Architects and contractors are often forced to get creative due to urban living conditions, and they are doing it successfully. For example, a recent townhome project features extra bedrooms and a bathroom, creating an appealing guest area. The main floor features the master bedroom, as well as an entertainment room, a kitchen, and a dining area. Though the home is split up into various levels, residents can enjoy a one-level lifestyle.

Architect Deborah Battistone explains that a little creative thinking is all that is necessary to maximize a small space. She states, “You really have to find a way not to be limited by a small footprint.” She has done this with her own home, turning one level into her business’s headquarters and converting the third level into a living space and garden area.

Rob Johnson has a similar approach to his condo, which has four levels but is designed in such a way so that excessive stair climbing is not necessary. The first floor serves as a guest area and an office, and the second level is reserved for laundry facilities. The third level is an entertainment area and also features a kitchen. The bedroom sits on the fourth floor. Due to this approach, he explains, “You could get up and make some coffee without having to use the steps.”

This functional method is what many urban dwellers are seeking. They want a floor plan that looks inviting, and many are also turning their attention to the green space outside.

These homeowners are finding ways to make the most out of their gardens, maximizing the green areas that exist in their urban surroundings.

Daniel Rothschild, of Rothschild + Doyno Collective architecture firm, comments on the needs and desires of urban homeowners stating, “You can’t simply stack levels like pancakes and hope it does something. We want to make it flexible and open and, with that drama, create a meaningful experience.”

The professionals provide words of advice for those looking for innovative uses of indoor and outdoor living space noting, “Don’t forget the importance of the garden. It will add value to your home and will enhance your quality of life. The city garden should be considered another room in your home.”


The Artist’s Garden is focused on enhancing the natural beauty found in urban settings. The team helps city-dwellers make the most of small green spaces, adding a sense of peace and serenity to a sometimes chaotic environment. They handle all aspects of patio and garden design, allowing them to turn patios into beautiful and functional works of art for their clients.

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Design Approved for Rain Garden Sculptures

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Aug. 28, 2013): The only major action item for public art commissioners was approval of Joshua Wiener’s design for artwork in a new rain garden at the southeast corner of First Kingsley.

Joshua Wiener, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A drawing of Joshua Wiener’s proposed rain garden sculptures at First Kingsley. (Image provided in the AAPAC Aug. 28, 2013 meeting packet.)

His proposal entails creating white metal images of five small mouth bass, in varying sizes, that appear to be emerging from the landscape and pointed toward the Huron River. Two of the sculptures will be large enough to serve as benches.

Because the artist’s contract of $23,380 is less than $25,000, it does not require city council approval. The sculptures would likely be installed during the spring of 2014.

Commissioners also received several updates during the meeting, and reviewed a new spreadsheet designed to track more effectively current and potential projects. [.xls file project tracker] Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, reported that a selection panel picked Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass., as the artist for a major public art project on the East Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor. However, the panel is asking Widgery to revise her proposal before presenting it to AAPAC and the city council for approval. The project has a $400,000 total budget.

Other updates covered projects at Argo Cascades, the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Arbor Oaks Park, a memorial for Coleman Jewett at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, and the “Canoe Imagine Art” community project. Additional potential projects were mentioned, including possible artwork for the new bike share program and the public skatepark, which is now under construction at Veterans Memorial Park.

Commissioners also viewed a short video produced by Ashlee Arder, one of the newest members of AAPAC. The intent is to promote the commission and the city’s public art program. The video is already available on YouTube, and Arder plans to post it on the commission’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account, @AAPublicArt.

The meeting was attended by six of the seven commissioners, including Marsha Chamberlin, who participated via conference call. There are two vacancies on the nine-member commission. At the city council’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting, Devon Akmon was nominated to fill one of the vacancies. Akmon is an Ann Arbor resident and the new director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. At its Sept. 3 meeting, the city council is expected to vote on Akmon’s confirmation to AAPAC .

No name has been put forward publicly for the second vacancy. One of the two vacancies resulted when Tony Derezinski was not reappointed. The other stemmed from Wiltrud Simbuerger’s resignation earlier this year. Her term would have ended Dec. 31, 2013.

First Kingsley Rain Garden

Commissioners were asked to vote on Joshua Wiener‘s schematic design for public art at a planned rain garden, to be located at the southeast corner of First Kingsley. [.pdf of staff memo, including itemized budget]

At AAPAC’s March 27, 2013 meeting, commissioners had selected the Denver artist to work with landscapers and incorporate public art into a new rain garden at that location, which is in a floodplain. The project has a $27,000 budget, though the artist’s contract would be for $23,380.

Wiener visited Ann Arbor on July 15 to present his design to the public. He gave a presentation at city hall, and attended the Townie Party to talk with community members about the project. His proposal is for sculptures showing the outlines of five fish. They’re small mouth bass, in different sizes, made of white epoxy-painted steel and pointed toward the Huron River. The largest sculpture will be just under 8 feet tall, 20 feet wide and about 5 feet deep. Two of the fish will be large enough to serve as benches.

From the artist’s statement:

The significance of water on this site is represented by having fish on the land. They are emerging to articulate how this rain garden is an extension of the river. The fish evoke water and the shape of their bodies creates waves that give an additional suggestion of water on the land. As the audience passes the piece, the fish will change positions in relation to one another. The sculpture will have a kinetic feel without any moving parts. The fish will appear to be swimming and the outline of their fins will create overlapping waves, adding to the feeling that water is moving on this site. The landscape and the art have been woven together. The plants will be placed in a way that conveys the surface of water with long flowing lines along the same orientation as the fish. There are also shapes in the landscape that suggest shadows of the fish.

Kingsley First Rain Garden: Commission Discussion

At the Aug. 28 meeting, Bob Miller expressed surprise at some of the items included in the staff memo, which indicated that the artist would need to provide a plan for removing graffiti and proof that the sculptures would remain secure and permanent. Where did those items come from?

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, indicated that those were the result of questions raised by the task force that had recommended Wiener for the work. [Task force members are Connie Brown, Jerry Hancock, Claudette Stern, John Walters and Jeff Kahan.]

John Kotarski asked about the color of the fish sculptures. The artist had proposed white, but some members of the public had indicated a preference for cor-ten steel, which is a rusty brown. Cor-ten is a more expensive material, Kotarski noted, so that would have meant fewer fish sculptures, but the rusty brown color would stand out more in the winter.

Connie Brown reported that the task force had discussed this issue at some length, but opted to go with the artist’s preference. Miller said his only concern was about the maintenance of powder coating, which is the process that will be used to paint these sculptures. Brown replied that the artist has been directed to provide something that’s as maintenance-free as possible, with the understanding that every kind of artwork needs some kind of maintenance. Wiener will be developing a maintenance program for this work, she said.

Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, pointed out that because the artist’s contract is less than $25,000, it does not require approval by the city council. However, he recommended that AAPAC provide a formal communication to the council about the project.

Outcome: Commissioner unanimously approved Joshua Wiener’s schematic design for the rain garden sculptures.

Life after Percent for Art

Bob Miller, chair of the public art commission, reported that he and John Kotarski had been meeting with Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, to talk about how to move forward following the elimination of the city’s Percent for Art program earlier this summer.

Bob Miller, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bob Miller, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission.

From 2007 until this June, the city had funded public art through a Percent for Art mechanism, which set aside 1% of the budget for each of the city’s capital projects for public art – up to a cap of $250,000. However, at its June 3, 2013 meeting, the city council voted to eliminate the Percent for Art approach in favor of one that allows for discretionary incorporation of public art into a particular project.

Now, city staff will work to determine whether a specific capital improvement should have enhanced design features “baked in” to the project – either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. The funding for any of the enhanced features would be included in the project’s budget and incorporated into the RFP (request for proposals) process for the capital project.

On Aug. 28, Miller described the conversations with city staff as positive, but noted that there’s no clear process in place. He hoped to invite Deb Gosselin, who handles the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), to AAPAC’s Sept. 25 meeting. Gosselin had attended AAPAC’s Feb. 27, 2013 session to explain how the CIP process works.

Life after Percent for Art: Project Spreadsheet

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, passed out a new spreadsheet to use for tracking public art projects. [.xls file project tracker] The spreadsheet is divided into three categories: (1) projects that have already been approved under the former Percent for Art program, with funding identified; (2) potential projects, either using remaining Percent for Art funds or private funding; and (3) potential capital projects that could be “enhanced” with public art under the new public art program. About $840,000 in Percent for Art funds are unspent.

In the third category, the potential “enhanced” capital projects are in the pipeline for the fiscal year 2016 and beyond. The idea is to identify those projects early on, so that AAPAC can work with staff to incorporate public art into the design process. Examples of those potential projects include:

  • Decorative “stamping” for new sidewalks.
  • Decorative “street access” (manhole) covers.
  • Stadium Boulevard reconstruction, from Hutchins to Kipke.
  • Improvements at the intersection of Dhu Varren Nixon.
  • Detroit Street improvements.
  • East Ellsworth reconstruction, from South State to Platt.
  • South State Street improvements.
  • Improvements at Cobblestone Farm and Leslie Science Nature Center.

Projects that have already received preliminary approval from AAPAC, which could be funded with remaining Percent for Art funds, include a mural program, as well as artwork at the city’s new wastewater treatment plant, Arbor Oaks Park, the new roundabout at South State and Ellsworth, and the Forest Avenue plaza. A memorial for Coleman Jewett and a community project called “Canoe Imagine Art” also might be eligible for remaining Percent for Art funds, although the primary source of funding would be from private donors.

Seagraves also listed a range of other potential projects that have not yet received approval from AAPAC. Those include artwork at the Ann Arbor skatepark, which recently began construction, as well as art for the new bike share program, street and sidewalk stamping, utility boxes (signal control cabinets), fences (including a section next to new sidewalks along a stretch of Scio Church Road), and “permission walls” for graffiti.

For each project, the spreadsheet includes a traffic count at the closest intersection, to indicate how visible the location might be. Also indicated is the general geographical quadrant for each project’s location – for example, whether the project is in the southeast, central, north or west quadrant of the city.

Commissioners were supportive of the new approach. Connie Brown asked for information to be added about each project’s potential timeline.

Connie Brown, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Connie Brown.

Nick Zagar asked about the skatepark project. Brown reported that when initially approached, skatepark organizers were “not very receptive” to the idea of incorporating public art into the project’s design. “They might have a different mindset now,” she said. [The skatepark, to be located in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park, broke ground earlier this month.]

Zagar thought it would be a great location for a “permission wall” – a place where graffiti is allowed. “It seems like it’ll be unpermissionedly tagged up anyway,” he said. Seagraves noted that if art is located in the skatepark, it would be the only public art so far that’s located west of Seventh Street.

Bob Miller suggested a “permission wall” out by Argo Cascades, pointing to the wall under the trestle there that currently is covered with graffiti.

Marsha Chamberlin said she was the impetus for this new spreadsheet, as a way to help push projects forward and allocate remaining Percent for Art funds. She noted that two projects she’s working on that are mostly funded with private donations – the Coleman Jewett memorial and the “Canoe Imagine Art” community project – would benefit from public art funding. If the city commits funds to such projects, she added, it’s easier to raise money from private donors. “Money upfront gets more money.”

She hoped that AAPAC could make some funding decisions soon. “Craig [Hupy] has been telling us since April that we need to pay attention to allocating those [Percent for Art] funds,” Chamberlin said.

John Kotarski reminded commissioners that there are constraints associated with Percent for Art funding. The Percent for Art mechanism set aside funds for public art that were originally designated for infrastructure like roads or utilities. Because the money was taken from restricted funds, a thematic or geographic link must exist between the funding source and the public art expenditure. “It’s just not money that we can allocate at will for something we’d like to see brought forward,” Kotarski said.

Chamberlin pointed out that the spreadsheet indicates what category of Percent for Art funding could be used for each project.

Miller said it might be possible to vote on funding allocations for some of these projects at AAPAC’s September meeting.


Ashlee Arder recently finished a short video to promote AAPAC and the city’s public art program. She had shot footage of commissioners at their June 26, 2013 meeting, as well as at their booth at the July Townie Party.

Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Screenshot from a video by Ann Arbor public art commissioner Ashlee Arder. The film is black and white, with spot color. This poster was part of AAPAC’s booth at the July 15 Townie Party. (Image links to the video on YouTube.)

Commissioners watched the roughly 2-minute video at the end of their Aug. 28 meeting. Arder plans to post it on the commission’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account, @AAPublicArt. It’s also posted on YouTube.

Commissioners also spent part of their Aug. 28 meeting watching a video presentation of national public art projects that have won awards from the Americans for the Arts. Marsha Chamberlin, who participated in the meeting via conference call, gave a brief introduction to describe the annual awards process. The presentation included the award-winning work Cloudbreak by Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass., who was recently selected by an AAPAC task force for a major public art project at the East Stadium bridges. [An update on that project is provided later in this article.]

Project Updates

Several projects were discussed briefly during the Aug. 28 meeting, by way of updates. Additional information was also included in a written report by Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator. [.pdf of Seagraves’ report] These projects were either already in progress when the city council temporarily halted spending on public art late last year, or don’t use Percent for Art funds.

Here are some highlights.

Project Updates: East Stadium Bridges

In early August, Catherine Widgery of Cambridge, Mass. was recommended as the artist for public art on the East Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor. She was picked by a selection panel from four finalists who had submitted proposals for the project, which has a $400,000 total budget. [.pdf of Widgery’s proposal]

Seagraves reported that the selection panel is providing feedback to Widgery and is asking that she revise her proposal before it’s presented to AAPAC and then later to the city council for approval. Members of the panel are Wiltrud Simbuerger, Bob Miller, Nancy Leff, David Huntoon and Joss Kiely. A conference call with the artist has been scheduled for Sept. 6 with panel members to discuss the proposal. [.pdf of panel feedback]

Revisions to her proposal are due by Oct. 4. Bob Miller reported that the selection panel is trying to focus her work on the connections between East Stadium Boulevard and South State Street, which runs below the bridge.

Seagraves indicated that Widgery’s revised proposal would likely be presented to some of the city’s boards and commissioners for feedback, before presentation to AAPAC. Connie Brown praised the outreach efforts that Bob Miller and John Kotarski have already undertaken for this project. They’ve made presentations to various groups, including the Ann Arbor District Library board and the park advisory commission, among others. The intent is to create community buy-in before a project is finalized.

Project Updates: Bike Share Program

Seagraves reported that he met with staff from the Clean Energy Coalition about a new bike share program that CEC is managing, with a targeted launch of April 2014. They talked about the possibility of including public art at the bike share station locations, he said, or possibly on the bikes as well. The CEC team is interested in drafting a proposal to present to AAPAC in the future, he said.

A detailed presentation about the program was made to the Ann Arbor District Library board on Aug. 19. See Chronicle coverage: “Library Board Briefed on Bike Share Program.

Project Updates: Argo Cascades

Three finalists had been selected for artwork at the Argo Cascades, but one of them – Andy Dufford of Denver, Colo. – subsequently dropped out, Seagraves said. The remaining two finalists are Jann Rosen-Queralt of Maryland and Mags Harries Lajos Heder of Cambridge, Mass. [.pdf of staff memo on Argo Cascades public art]

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aaron Seagraves, Ann Arbor’s public art commissioner.

The artists came to town in early August to meet with the public – including a presentation at the Workantile on Main Street, and a reception at Argo Cascades. John Kotarski reported that the artists had the chance to kayak through the cascades while they were here, as did he.

Proposals will be due in early October, with presentations by the artists during the week of Oct. 14, with a specific date to be determined.

AAPAC had approved a $150,000 total budget for the Argo Cascades project on April 25, 2012.

Project Updates: Coleman Jewett Memorial

At a special meeting on March 7, 2013, AAPAC had voted to accept a memorial for Coleman Jewett as an official AAPAC project. The original proposal was for a bronze Adirondack chair at the Ann Arbor farmers market. Jewett was a long-time local educator who died in January. After he retired, he made furniture that he sold at the Ann Arbor farmers market. A private foundation has committed $5,000 to create a memorial at the market, in the form of a bronze replica of one of Jewett’s Adirondack chairs.

A memorandum of understanding has been negotiated between the Jewett family, the city, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which will act as a fiduciary for fundraising. The plan now calls for two full-sized replicas in bronze, at an estimated cost of $15,000 each. Materials for fundraising are being developed. Marsha Chamberlin, who is taking the lead on this project, said about 300 personalized letters to potential donors will be sent out within the next week or so.

The next step will be to write a formal request for proposals (RFP) for doing the work.

Project Updates: Canoe Imagine Art

Marsha Chamberlin has been working on a canoe art project with other local organizations, called Canoe Imagine Art. The project will use old aluminum canoes from the city of Ann Arbor’s Argo canoe livery, which artists and community groups will turn into artwork that will be displayed throughout the downtown in 2014. Partners in the project include the Ann Arbor Area Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Main Street Area Association (MSAA), the Arts Alliance, and the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). Task force members are Chamberlin; Cheryl Saam, the city’s canoe livery supervisor; Shoshana Hurand of the Arts Alliance; Mary Kerr of the CVB; Maura Thomson of the MSAA; and Laura Rubin of HRWC.

Seagraves reported that a formal agreement has been reached between the city and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which will act as fiduciary for the funds raised on this project. Fundraising materials are being developed.

Project Updates: Arbor Oaks Park

The first task force meeting for possible artwork in the Arbor Oaks Park is set for Sept. 5. At AAPAC’s June 26, 2013 meeting, commissioners approved setting up an exploratory task force for this project, located in the Bryant neighborhood on the city’s southeast side. Members include public art commissioners Malverne Winborne and Nick Zagar; Derek Miller, deputy director of the nonprofit Community Action Network (CAN); and CAN board member David Jones.

It’s being conceived of as a community art project, Seagraves reported.

Project Updates: Wastewater Treatment Plant

Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, had approached AAPAC earlier this year about the possibility of incorporating public art into the wastewater treatment project. The city is building a new wastewater treatment facility and renovating its existing facility in Ann Arbor Township, at 49 S. Dixboro Road. [.pdf of memo describing the wastewater treatment plant renovations]

Hupy had noted that of the remaining amount in the Percent for Art funds, much of it – about $448,000 – came from wastewater-related projects, and must be spent on public art with a “nexus” to wastewater.

John Kotarski is taking the lead on this project. He reported that he met recently with Hupy and Earl Kenzie, manager of the treatment plant. He’s also been in touch with the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and University of Michigan, about possible participation in this project. The intent of any artwork would be to “train, teach, entertain and inspire,” he said.

Commissioners talked about the possibility of taking a field trip to the plant site, which is still under construction.

Project Updates: Fencing on Scio Church

At AAPAC’s June 26 meeting, Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator, suggested a possible public art project related to fencing. The city is putting in sidewalks along a stretch of Scio Church Road, and will also be installing a fence there. The city staff was planning to install the kind of chain link fence that they usually use, but Hupy thought there might be an opportunity for something more creative, if AAPAC wanted to explore that possibility. The construction work would likely occur next summer.

On Aug. 28, Marsha Chamberlin reported that she has collected about 30 examples of different fencing designs used in other municipalities. Bob Miller suggested that Chamberlin could present that information at AAPAC’s next meeting.

Commissioners present: Ashlee Arder, Connie Brown, Marsha Chamberlin (via conference call), John Kotarski, Bob Miller, Nick Zagar. Also: Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, and Craig Hupy, the city’s public services area administrator.

Absent: Malverne Winborne.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in the basement conference room at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. [Check Chronicle events listing to confirm date]

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Garden designers turn focus from flowers to foliage

What’s the obsession with caramel-leafed heucheras and variegated, well, everything?

“Flowers are fleeting. Foliage is forever – or at least longer,” wrote Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, authors of the book “Fine Foliage: Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container,” in an email.

Foliage can stand to go solo or can act as a picture frame for floral favorites.

“In many less sunny climates, if you only rely on flowers, the garden is only showy for a small percentage of the year,” the authors noted. “Where’s the fun in that?”

If you’re interested in creating dynamic perennial gardens, containers and/or mixed borders that don’t require hours of planting flats upon flats of blooming annuals every season, cruise past the racks of short-blooming mums and head toward the back of the garden center where the perennials and shrubs are tucked away. There you’ll find plants with leaves in every color of the rainbow. It’s not just the burgundy, black or multi-colored leaves that deserve your attention, though.

“There’s a big range of colors across the greens,” said Sheri Chisholm, co-owner and designer at Flora Landscapes in Wilmington. “You can find plants in shades of olive, lime green, blues, grays – there’s a lot of contrast just within the color green.”

Design made easy

All of this sounds lovely, but it involves design – a dreaded word for many gardeners. If you’re serious about upping your game in the garden, it helps to find a book that clearly and succinctly explains design in a way that “regular” people can understand and implement. I’m a fan of a practical book, one that you can open to a specific project and have all the information you need to hit the ground running. This is where “Fine Foliage” stands above the rest. (Salwitz dedicated the book “To ‘foliage-a-holics’ everywhere … gardeners who find design inspiration first in the leaf, then in the flower.”)

The highly structured book is divided into three parts. The first is an overview on how to use the book to easily create your own beautiful foliage combinations in the garden. The second and third are two-page spreads of plant combinations for sun or for shade that give detailed information to either a) recreate each combo exactly as shown or b) create similar foliage combos.

The book is 7-by-7 inches, the perfect size to tuck in your purse or under your arm while you shop. Most of the plants mentioned in the book will grow in our area.

Local favorites

Wilmington designer Chisholm places a high priority on foliage in her designs for Flora Landscapes clients.

“I’m just not an annuals girl,” she said.

Her recommendations for high performers in our area: “Kaleidoscope abelia is great because you have the yellow foliage on red stems, and it’s evergreen. It provides tons of visual interest, whether or not it’s flowering.”

Conifers also have lots of variation in color.

“I just designed a conifer garden with ‘Blue Star’ juniper, ‘Golden Mop’ Chamaecyparis and Andora juniper, which turns a bronze color in the winter,” Chisholm said.

She urges us not to forget about trees.

“‘Ruby Falls’ is a weeping redbud with red foliage, while ‘Silver Cloud’ has white foliage,” Chisholm said. “The New Hanover County Arboretum has a spectacular mimosa tree with red foliage. It’s called ‘Summer Chocolate.'”

Beyond color

Chisholm and the authors of “Fine Foliage” note another layer of design – leaf texture.

“Mix fine, medium and coarse textures of foliage,” Chisholm said. “For coarse textured plants I recommend fatsia, elephant ear, hydrangeas, hosta and cast iron plant,” she said. “Fine textured plants include ferns, ornamental grasses, podocarpus, conifers and amsonia. Everything else is lumped into the medium texture group.”

Focusing on foliage will also help you design a garden that stays exciting throughout the year.

“Go for plants that have more than one personality trait. For example, a plant that might have some great foliage color that happens to be evergreen and changes color in winter is a huge advantage,” Chapman and Salwitz wrote. “Blending three distinct textures of foliage will also take you a long way in your quest for long-lasting seasonal interest.”

Rule of threes

“The way you’d design a flower arrangement, that’s the same way you design a landscape” Chisholm said.

That is, you follow the rules of threes: three colors, three heights and three textures.

Chapman and Salwitz recommend testing your combinations in the shopping cart before taking them home.

Features: 343-2343

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