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Archives for September 13, 2013

How to Survive a Swedish Winter



The Swedes curse their long dark winters, but for Johan and Anna Gorecki, a house-hunting couple in Stockholm, the season turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Winter Light

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Mattias Hamren for The Wall Street Journal

The Goreckis transformed a closed-in, 4,842-square-foot, 1930s villa in the Stockholm suburb of Djursholm into an open-plan, five-bedroom home.

In October 2008, a large 1930s Functionalist villa in the prime Stockholm suburb of Djursholm went on the market with an asking price of 16 million Swedish kronor or $2.45 million. At 4,842 square feet, the eight-bedroom, five-bathroom house was big, but its most important rooms—including the kitchen and the living room—had a closed-in feel, worsened by the low ceilings preferred in Swedish modernism. In Stockholm’s winter gloom, the house was a hard sell.

“Nobody was interested,” says Ms. Gorecki, a 37-year-old interior stylist, who creates images for advertising. “Only us.”

The couple, who have three children between the ages of 3 and 8, paid about $306,000 less than asking price—and went about remaking their new home. Work began in early 2009, and the couple moved in later that year. The family now lives in a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home, with a redesigned two-bedroom, one-bathroom guest apartment—plus new landscaping, a brighter facade and a design-rich, user-friendly interior.

Some of the structural interventions have been dramatic. The living room and an adjoining unheated conservatory have been transformed into a continuous space by cutting through a shared wall. The cramped living room now has the feel of a light-filled gallery, and the conservatory contains a heated, sunken living area with plenty of natural light.

“When we first came here, I thought the living room was boring,” says Mr. Gorecki, a 39-year-old entrepreneur. Now—outfitted with an app-controlled sound system and a Spotify hookup—it is an ideal place to listen to music.

Off the dining room, the newly purchased villa had a small kitchen along with two downstairs bedrooms and a bathroom. The Goreckis decided to convert the four smaller rooms into one big kitchen. “This is where we put in a lot of effort,” says Ms. Gorecki.

The idea came from her husband. “Johan isn’t into design,” says Ms. Gorecki, “but he has good ideas.”

Enlarge Image


The new L-shaped kitchen has limestone floors and wall trimming to echo the vintage 1930s limestone fireplaces elsewhere in the house. Designer touches include orange fiberglass Eames chairs around the extra-long kitchen table, two Bauhaus-era Wassily lounge chairs, and a large brass light fixture by Swedish modernist designer Hans-Agne Jakobsson.

Ms. Gorecki, who designed her new home’s interiors, found the gray leather Wassily chairs at a local auction house, and the Jakobsson fixture at an antique store. The SieMatic kitchen fittings came with Miele appliances. The warming orange and brass tones contrast with the sleek cooking area, with white cabinets and counters and black light fixtures.

The rest of the downstairs is similarly eclectic. The dining room features a 1920s conference table, first designed for office use by the Stockholm department store Nordiska Kompaniet, that Ms. Gorecki bought at auction. It is complemented by a 19th-century gilded chandelier. In the living room, she has set off austere Danish Modern furniture with a playful pinkish neo-rococo dresser.

The house is an early example of Functionalism, the boxy architectural style that held sway in Sweden for much of the 20th century. But it contains a few crucial elements of an earlier neoclassical style, known as Swedish Grace, which is most commonly associated with early 20th-century Swedish glass design.

The cool geometry of the house is softened by a pillared portico in front, and by a curved staircase leading from the entryway to the upstairs bedrooms and family room.

Carpenters installed a new oak staircase in place of the earlier one covered in green carpet, but left behind a distinctive railing, wrapped in leather ribbon—now a fashionable add-on in high-end homes.

“It costs so much to make those new,” says Ms. Gorecki, “so we were happy it was already there.”

The house’s third major intervention took place around the master bedroom, which originally had a small en-suite bathroom and a nearby additional bedroom. The couple turned the bathroom into a walk-in closet and converted the bedroom into a new bathroom, lined with green Swedish marble.

After the interior was finished, the couple slowly got around to working outside. Inspired by the slate floor in the former conservatory, they replaced the villa’s surrounding gravel with matching slate paving stones. Standard suburban bushes were replaced with roses and lavender. And this summer, after much consideration, they have finally finished painting the house, which was lightened from terra cotta to salmon.

Up next: a swimming pool, set to replace an outdoor sitting area.

The couple aren’t without regrets. They installed a high-tech geothermal heating system, which uses an underground pump, but didn’t extend it to the new kitchen, equipped with new electric-powered under-floor heating. “In winter, electricity bills are terrible,” says Ms. Gorecki.

But cold weather is still the couple’s friend. The home, built on a ¾-acre lot, rests on a slope and the views down to the Baltic Sea are obscured by foliage for much of year.

“The view is nicer in autumn and winter,” says Mr. Gorecki, looking out on a sunny summer day. “There are no leaves and you can see the water.”

A version of this article appeared September 13, 2013, on page M8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: How to Survive The Winter In Sweden.

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Breaking it down: A snapshot of Macalester’s expanded composting program

Decomposition is at work all over Macalester’s campus. In kitchens, bathrooms, and central meeting spaces, waste is slowly being turned into “black gold,” otherwise known as compost.

As the school year kicks off, the composting program at Macalester has come into full swing. After the success of last semester’s pilot program, where four buildings on campus had compost bins installed, the program has expanded to include all of campus. These green-topped bins are now located in the common areas of non-residential buildings, kitchen spaces in the dorms, and bathrooms that have paper towel dispensers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), composting is nature’s way of recycling organic materials back into the soil through the process of decomposition. Although many products are compostable, these items are often unnecessarily thrown away and eventually end up in a landfill. In 2011, the EPA found that the United States generated more than 36 million tons of food waste and only four percent was diverted from landfills and incinerators through composting. Similarly, on an institutional level, Macalester found that 45 percent of the college’s trash is actually compostable through a waste sort in 2010.

And so students, faculty, the administration, Facilities and others on campus put their heads together to bring composting to campus. “Everyone has their hands in the cookie jar,” custodial shift supervisor Kyle Wright said.

A new movement

This solidarity around composting is relatively recent. Recycling was first becoming mainstream only 40 years ago; putting cans in a separate bin was still a novel concept. The environmental movement led the push for recycling all across the country, and institutions like Macalester jumped on the bandwagon. On Earth Day in 1970, Macalester’s recycling program was born.

Fast-forward to the present, and curbside recycling is ubiquitous across the U.S. Most people don’t think twice about recycling a glass bottle, and the recycling symbol has become iconic.

Today, the composting movement mirrors the history of recycling in the U.S. in many ways. For most people, throwing a banana peel in a compost bin rather than the trash can is still an unnatural move. But as metropolises across the U.S. begin to implement citywide curbside composting programs with cities like San Francisco and Portland taking the lead, the concept of composting is becoming increasingly popular and accepted.


Planting the seeds

Macalester’s composting program grew out of a larger goal to achieve Zero Waste by 2020. Rick Beckel ’15, a sustainability assistant at Macalester’s Sustainability Office, said that Macalester has spearheaded a number of initiatives to achieve this goal including purchasing recyclable and compostable dishes and cutlery; offering Onesies to students at the Library (homemade spiral notebooks made of recycled paper with printing on only one side); and facilitating swap and exchange programs since setting the Zero Waste goal in 2007.

“Composting is a very essential part of reaching [the Zero Waste] goal,” Beckel said. “It was only a matter of time before we worked with everyone to get everything to line up in the right place.” All of the food waste from Café Mac has been going to a pig farm for feed since 2008, but the rest of food scraps on campus and other compostable materials were thrown away in the trash until composting came to campus.

The move to single-stream recycling at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year was a huge help in bringing the composting program to fruition, Beckel said. Single-stream recycling means that plastic, cardboard and glass do not have to be separated and can all be thrown in the same bin. Beckel said that this opened up another spot in the main buildings for compost bins, thus avoiding additional work for custodians. “Recycling has been around for a long time, but condensing to single-stream makes it easier for everyone,” Beckel said.

Scaling up

A pilot composting program was implemented in four locations in the winter of 2013 and as of the beginning of this academic year, the program has expanded to include all campus buildings. Facilities executed the expansion this summer with the help of student workers. They did a walk-through of buildings on campus, identifying all the possible locations where either paper towels or food waste would be thrown away, and put bins and compost signs in each of these locations.

Facilities organized a meeting with all of the custodians explaining the changes and providing a lesson on what is compostable and what is not. Sustainability Manager Suzanne Savanick Hansen brought a jar of soil to the meeting to show what compost looks like in its truest form. “It was super dark and rich,” Wright said. “You could just tell it was amazing dirt.”

In addition to the small bins throughout the campus buildings, there are several 90-gallon containers where custodians unload the contents of the smaller bins. When these larger containers reach capacity, they are brought to the main dumping site on campus, a large container on the corner of Snelling and St. Clair behind the Veggie Co-Op. This is where Macalester’s waste disposal contractor Allied Waste picks up the compost. The compost is brought to the Mulch Store in Empire Township, where it is mixed with compost from all over the Twin Cities and sold to landscaping companies.

Smelling for a good cause

So far, all seem to agree that the composting program is off to a great start. There is increasing awareness and dialogue on campus about composting, according to Abaki Beck ’15. “This year compost bins became a lot more visible,” Beck said. “It seems hard to avoid composting [on campus].”

But that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been glitches along the way. Although compost is taken out every day or every other day, Wright said that he has heard various complaints around campus about the smell. In the dorms, he said, you’re inevitably going to have food composting for 18 to 24 hours before it is picked up.

Wright believes that you have to think of the smell in a positive light. “It’s smelling for a better cause!” he joked. “At least it’s not going to landfill. But it’s new to a lot of people and it’s going to take time to get used to.”

The issue of smell also arose last semester during the pilot program, when a Daily Piper announcement was sent out to students about smelly compost being brought to campus.

The announcement said that students were bringing compost from their homes or dorms to bins on campus and that the smell was affecting people working and studying in those areas. “We are asking that you be respectful toward the people who may be affected by your ‘smelly’ composting,” it said, recommending that students bring their compost in compostable bags to prevent the smell issue.

Meg Reid ’14 said she was surprised when she received the Daily Piper announcement. She was living off campus with friends and they had been bringing their compost in brown paper bags to the compost bin on the first floor of the Campus Center. They were under the impression that the cans were emptied often and weren’t in areas where people hung out.

In response, Reid sent an email asking where compostable bags could be purchased. “She made it seem like the composting bags would be expensive, so we stopped composting,” Reid said. That was last semester and their house hasn’t composted since. Reid has stayed optimistic, though, and hopes that they can resume composting soon. “I would love it if we could easily compost on campus—the system already exists, and it seems like it would be relatively simple to set up a place to collect off-campus compost materials,” Reid said.

To fend off confusion, Facilities and the Sustainability Office now encourage the off-campus community to bring their compost to the two main compost dumpsites on campus—one on the south side of campus on the corner of Snelling and St. Clair behind the Veggie Co-op and one on the north side in the parking lot next to Patagonia. As opposed to the smaller bins in the academic buildings and dorms, bringing the off-campus compost directly to the outdoor dumpsites does not create any more work for Facilities, Wright said. And this way it doesn’t matter that it smells, Beckel said.

To compost or not to compost

Beckel urged the off-campus community to bring their compost to the two main outdoor dumpsites, but emphasized that students must be cognizant of what can be composted and what cannot so as not to muddle the current system. “Facilities is vital to make this program successful,” he said. “We need to be really respectful of Facilities to make sure of the long-term success of the program by following the system to a tee and making sure we’re composting the right things.”
Beckel continued that, unlike backyard composting, an industrial composter can break down many more products. All food scraps (including meat and dairy), non-recyclable paper products (paper towels, napkins, paper bags, paper cartons, etc.), coffee grounds, compostable dishware and pizza boxes can all be composted. “Anything that was once made of living things, it’s all compostable. It all breaks down to the same stuff,” Beckel said. But plastics, Styrofoam, oil, condiment packets, chip bags and candy wrappers are a no-go.

Maria Langholz ’14, the Sustainability Student Coordinator, said that one of the main challenges for students is that their perception of composting is often based on the backyard variety which is more limited in scope than institutional composting. Backyard composting doesn’t include meat, dairy or any of the paper products. “It’s hard to restructure how you think about compost,” Langholz said.

As Langholz was talking, a student walked by and threw an orange peel in the trash. “Ideally, she’s walking inside and there would be a compost bin right there and clear messaging that’s the same wherever you go,” Langholz said. The Sustainability Office is continuing to work on its consistent messaging throughout campus that makes it easy for people to do the right thing.

Wright emphasized that paper towels are one of the main products that get thrown in the garbage when they could instead be composted. He said to spread the word and say something if you see someone throwing away a paper towel: “Hey! You know that’s compostable, right?” Wright joked.

A cultural change

These interpersonal interactions are crucial for creating a composting culture on campus. Beckel said that although Macalester’s institutional endorsement of composting is crucial, students are key in making the program as successful as possible. “When it comes down to people using the system in the wrong way, it takes small-scale action and one-on-one conversations,” Beckel said.

Among our generation, many people see composting as a liberal, hippie activity. Part of changing people’s behavior is making them understand that composting has benefits for everybody, including the college as a whole, according to Langholz. Unlike trash, compost is not taxed, so Macalester has the potential to save money through composting.

This behavior change will occur naturally as people begin to see the composting bins around campus and see their fellow students composting, according to Beckel. “If we can make this something that is normative and is a natural behavior for first year students, they will carry that with them for the rest of their time here and that will ensure the long-term success of the program.”

But it goes beyond just students’ time at Macalester. Once students become accustomed to composting on campus, they will carry these ideas wherever they go after Macalester. “If people bring this knowledge and behavior out into the world, that’s going to catalyze a lot of change.”

From cradle to grave

Although composting and recycling are important steps to achieving Macalester’s Zero Waste goal, there is still a lot more to learn about where our trash is going. “The waste fight isn’t over until we know where everything goes from cradle to grave.”

Students should be making purchasing decisions that cut down on their need to compost or recycle anything at all, according to Beckel. “I like to see people carry their lunches to school in repurposed yogurt containers rather than dumping them in the recycling, bring their unwanted binders to the free swap rather than throw them away, and give their unwanted sandwich to a friend rather than compost it,” Beckel said. “Also, people should eat their apple cores.”

These long-term visions of more transparency in our waste disposal system are important, but for now the implementation of the composting program has been a great short-term success. “Even though we’re a small campus, I think it will make a big impact,” Abaki Beck said.

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Officials embrace plan to improve Civic Center campus

Click photo to enlarge

Although details remain sketchy, a plan to give the northern entrance to the Civic Center campus a sweeping facelift cheered top officials who embraced the prospect of improvements that benefit pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists while beautifying the area.

Ideas developed by consultants are preliminary, but officials were clearly pleased at plans for design improvements along North Civic Center Drive and the Marin Veterans Memorial Building. The plan includes pedestrian and bicycle facilities that link a new SMART train station to a paved farmers market site on the “Christmas Tree” parking lot, along with landscaping, signs and lighting.

“This is the beginning of what I consider to be an ultra-marathon run

by a centipede,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey, noting “so many moving parts” are involved in a program involving city, county and regional agencies, as well as the public and commissions involved with planning, cultural affairs and Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy.

“We’re asking all of them to run in alignment” before Dec. 17, when the county board will sign off on a final “concept plan,” he noted.

The county Cultural Commission will meet with the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy at 11 a.m. Sept. 25 at Marin Center to review the program. A public workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at Marin Center, and another at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 in the Board of Supervisors chambers at the Civic Center. A session of the San Rafael City Council has been tentatively set for Oct. 21.

The preliminary design of the ambitious makeover was developed by Harris and Associates of Concord for $451,000. Final design work and related studies, along with project development costs, will bring the overall tab to about $3 million.

The program ties in with a nearby SMART train station plan under review in San Rafael. The planning effort includes pedestrian connections from the train station to Marin Center, the Hall of Justice and other Civic Center facilities; bicycle, traffic and access improvements, including a “roundabout” configuration at the intersection of Peter Behr and Memorial drives and landscaping and sidewalk improvements.

The county has a deal with the Agricultural Institute of Marin, operator of the Sunday and Thursday farmers markets, in which the institute pledges up to $1 million to pave the Christmas tree lot and construct bathrooms. The county will provide $1 million for that project as well, in addition to $2 million it has set aside to pay for road, bicycle, landscape and related improvements elsewhere.

“Currently, there are no pedestrian facilities along the west side of Civic Center Drive between the Merrydale overcrossing of Highway 101 and just south of Peter Behr Drive,” principal civil engineer Pat Echols noted in a memo to the board. “There are also no bike lanes between McInnis Parkway and Peter Behr Drive/Memorial Drive. A project goal is to provide such facilities.”

Echols added that “preliminary concept plans include provisions for new sidewalks, bike lanes, multiuse path and transit stops” along with “gateway improvements such as landscaping, lighting and signage.” Bike lanes are planned in both directions along Civic Center Drive. A pedestrian path will run along the west side of Civic Center Drive.

“We as a board have a special responsibility to honor the vision of Frank Lloyd Wright,” Kinsey noted. “We need to have good opportunity for public participation.”

Supervisor Susan Adams, noting the area now has a generally “shabby” appearance, called the program “a very exciting change” and said the community was “very excited to having this revamped.”

“What better time to launch this project than at the 50th anniversary” of the campus,” she said.

Contact Nels Johnson via email at Follow him at

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The Garden Guru: Stay in the shade

Sad, sad. So sad when a shade tree fails, taking with it the dreams of the gardener who planted it lo those seven years ago. All the hopes of a massive beauty to pass on to the grandkids, gone the way of borers or bacterial stem canker. Don’t you just hate it when that happens!

And did he just write “seven” years? A tree that only lived seven years? Could you possibly buy such a tree? Wouldn’t it be like buying short-lived fruit flies as pets?

Indeed, there are trees that average less than 10 years of healthy contributions to our North Texas landscapes, and you know them by name. Purpleleaf plum. Weeping willow. Oh, and globe willow and corkscrew willow while we’re at it. Arizona ash. Flowering peaches. Insects are the big threats to these trees, and in each case it’s a species-specific type of borer. Peach tree borers get peaches and plums. Cottonwood borers attack willows, too. And Arizona ash has its own mortal enemy, the emerald ash borer. And there’s not much you can do to slow the damage these pests do to trees’ trunks. Sure, some trees will live longer, but many will die after just three or four years.

Moving on up to the trees we might expect to live up to 15 or 30 years, we pick up a bunch more of our favorites. The group includes ornamental pears, Leyland cypress, Eldarica pines, mimosas, fruitless mulberries, American elms, silver maples and catalpas. Some of those might have been expected to live a lot longer than just 30 years, but serious insect and disease outbreaks have begun to threaten them terribly. Leyland cypress and Eldarica pines, as two examples, have really struggled with alternating wet and dry years. Diseases are ruining them all over our area — enough so that veteran nurserymen will advise you not to use them in new landscaping.

There is a very acceptable group of landscaping trees, several of them small accent trees, that might be expected to prosper for 25 to 50 years, and into that list, my experiences would put golden raintrees, redbuds and Mexican plums. It doesn’t bother me to think about having to replace a tree that I’ve used to highlight an entryway or pool area if I know that tree served its surroundings faithfully for 40 years. It was probably time to remodel the rest of the landscape anyway.

It’s more upsetting to have to replace a large and relatively permanent shade tree after those same 25, 30 or 50 years. Shade trees ought to be reaching their prime by then, so I’ll take a pass on the likes of sycamores (anthracnose), lacebark elms (cotton root rot), cottonwoods (messy anyway) and red maples (cotton root rot). When I want a shade tree, I want something that’s going to shelter my grandkids’ kids.

Growing old gracefully

So now we’re down to the golden group — the trees you can plant with a child and know with some certainty that the child will be able to come back two generations later and say with excitement, “I helped plant that tree when I was a kid.” That’s a lesson I learned from my dad. Omer Sperry co-founded the Range and Forestry department at Texas AM, and I could drive past 50 trees today (all oaks) that he and I planted together 55 years ago.

What specific trees would go on that “most durable” list here in North Texas? It’s a hall of fame group, and we’ll work our way to the top.

Eastern redcedar. If you want an evergreen with staying power, this North Texas native is your best choice. It makes a great privacy screen.

Japanese maple. One of our most popular small accenting specimens, the various green- and red-leafed types of these small trees must have almost total shade.

Tree-form hollies and crape myrtles. If you train yaupon, Nellie R. Stevens or Warren’s Red possumhaw hollies to grow as trees (exposed trunks), they’ll make great accent specimens for 75 to 100 years. You can do the same thing with taller varieties of crape myrtles.

Ginkgo. This northern shade tree also survives beautifully in Texas. It’s just slower-growing. Beautiful fall color (gold) and dramatic branching; 75 to 100 years.

Chinese pistachio. We haven’t had these yet for 75 to 100 years, but we’ve had them half that long, and there’s no reason to worry that they might not make the full century.

Cedar elm. You’ll find old natives growing in parks and on hillsides, and some of them must be pushing 100 years. This is the best of all elms for our area.

Southern magnolia. Life expectancy with this tree will depend on the soil you have for it. With deep soil and constant moisture, count on it to live well past 100.

Pecan. There are documented pecans that are more than 100 to 150 years old here in North Texas. This is a durable, very large shade tree if you have room.

Oaks. These are the superstars of survival. Bur oaks, chinquapin oaks and Shumard red oaks can live for 100 to 150 years, and live oaks are still punching the clock 500 years later.

So do you really care if a tree will be here 500 years from now? Does it really matter? Well, taking a life lesson from the Three Little Pigs, yes, maybe it does.

Neil Sperry publishes “Gardens” magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday on WBAP AM/FM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227.

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Garden created for Campus Pointe

Once just a cluster of buildings linked by concrete pathways, the definition of an office park has evolved over the last few years.

Todayís office park is focused not just on the mechanics of a busy work environment, but also on sustainability and the well-being of tenants and employees.

This approach is evidenced in one of Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architectsí most recent projects: the Campus Pointe Office Park in the UTC area.

Offering a site-conditioned approach to planning and landscape architectural design, the 24-acre life-science laboratory campus sits at the rim of several native San Diego canyons within a Torrey Pine grove.

Working with client Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. (NYSE: ARE), the company’s focus has been to design and create a series of sustainable spaces.

To achieve this, the architects extended the canyonsí fingers into the park, creating an open, natural feel.

A core component of the landscaping at Campus Pointe is an organic garden — which sits on the canyonís rim — planted with vegetables, fruits and herbs all used in the new Campus Point Bistro.

The garden, which was completed as the first phase of the project, encompasses two distinct areas: the public and the production zones.

Visitors enter via the public zone, passing through an ornamental garden to reach the lawn and shaded event patio. Site elements then guide pedestrians to the production zone, directing sightlines to views of the neighboring canyon.

The production area has flowers and fruit trees, as well as vegetable and herb gardens; there is also a small composting area.

A citrus orchard blankets the northern slope of the site, stabilizing against erosion.

In addition, fingers of native plants extend through a fence, blending the garden with the adjacent canyon vegetation.

Spurlock Poirier designed and is now building an entry boulevard flanked with Torrey Pines and native planting, which leads the way to parking lots lined with vegetated swales between the parking stalls as a way to collect and treat stormwater. Each building entry is adjacent to plaza-like spaces for gathering and the gardens.

Two additional gardens are also incorporated into the landscaping. One is terraced with amphitheater steps, stairs and groves of trees, as well as canyon and succulent plants, and lined with curved steel walls. Another is a succulent and grass garden.

Additional spaces include a basketball court, a multipurpose lawn, a fitness center, a 0.8-mile loop trail, chess tables and outlook areas.

The project is slated for completion in early 2014.


Gertler is an associate principal at Spurlock Poirier.

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Kate Frey on Gardening for Bees and Birds’

Looking for new garden ideas? Join local garden designer and consultant Kate Frey on Tuesday September 17, 2013, 7 p.m. at the Ukiah Civer Center for a presentation on creating pollination gardens.     

This talk will focus on what plants to include in your habitat garden, and will have many examples of colorful and unique garden styles to consider. Habitat gardens that attract and support bees and birds are flower filled gardens, making us happy and sustaining many organisms at the same time.  Flowers have nectar and pollen resources, that many insects and birds require at all times or specific times in their life cycles.  Over 90 percent of birds feed their young insects, so when there are insects there are often healthy bird populations.

Kate is a world class specialist in sustainable, biodiverse, ecological gardens and landscaping, She designed and managed the famous edible and biodiverse gardens at Campovida, formerly Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland, California for twenty years. In May 2003 her garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in London won a silver/gilt medal, and in 2005 and 2007 her gardens illustrating many elements of biodiversity and sustainability, won gold medals and were visited by the Queen. In addition to participating in global flower shows, Kate is the coordinator of the Sonoma State University Sustainable Dept. of Extended Education Landscape Program.  She currently works as a consultant, designer and a freelance writer, specializing in sustainable gardens that encourage a diverse array of flora and fauna. Kate earned a B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Distinction in English at Sonoma State University in 2006.

This Peregrine Audubon sponsored presentation is free to the public, though donations will be welcome. The Ukiah Civic Center is located at 300 Seminary Ave. To join Peregrine Audubon Society and receive a newsletter with regular announcements about programs and field trips, please send $20 to PAS, P.O. Box 311, Ukiah, CA 95482. For more information on a wide variety of topics related to birding in Mendocino County please got to

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Urban Gardening Tips from Evan Hanczor


The executive chef of Parish Hall in Williamsburg, Even Hanczor is more than aware of where his produce comes from. That’s because restaurant owner George Weld has a 6-acre farm upstate, where Hanczor frequently goes to help harvest the squash, beets, beans and lettuces that will eventually constitute the evening’s meal.

Of course, in his own life, Hanczor has to make due with the constraints of city living, which means culling his dinner from a tiny community plot, instead of the lush, expansive pastures of Goatfell Farm. So whether you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard or patio, or are merely making do with a windowbox or fire escape, Hanczor has a few helpful tips for the at-home urban gardener.

click to enlarge

    Getting Started: You’d be surprised how similar urban gardening is from growing things traditionally, in raised beds. Either way, you have to plan well. And in extra small spaces, it’s particularly important to maximize productivity while minimizing waste, which means, only grow what you want to eat. Also, you’ll want to practice succession planting, which means putting down seeds or plants a couple of weeks apart, so you have things ripening continuously. If everything comes up all at once, it’s difficult to make sure that everything gets used.

    Basic Plant Care: Start with good quality, aerated soil, seeds and plants from reliable suppliers. Otherwise, you risk breeding diseases right into your produce. Make sure to be thoughtful about where to place your plants. Some require more sun and some less, so plan accordingly based on the sun exposure patterns of your windowsill or plot. Water each morning or evening, once the sun is low (wet leaves scorch, otherwise). Weed often…plants need all the precious space and nutrients they can get in windowboxes and pots.

    Seeds vs. Plants: We’ve had better success with herbs when using starters, but have been totally fine with vegetables from seed. Since the season can be kind of short here, it’s helpful to start things like tomatoes, peppers, chard, etc. indoors while it’s still a little too cool outside, and then move them out to your windowsill/pots/garden plot as soon as the weather allows!

    What to Grow Indoors: Plants that seem to do well are mainly herbs, like basil, mint, parsley, oregano, chervil or thyme, as long as you have them near a window that gets some sun.

    What to Grow Outdoors: Most vegetables do better outside, in a raised bed in a community garden, or a large pot on a stoop or patio, because they’ll have the space and nutrient availability to stretch out. Tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, cucumber and peas all seem to work well in our garden. A great herb called lovage has taken solid root in our plot and produces like crazy! Skip zucchini, squashes or pumpkins, which need a lot of room to expand along the ground.

    Handling Herbs: Herbs are generally easy to grow in small places in the city (especially hardy herbs like sage, parsley, mint, chives), but be careful, or they can take over your plot! To harvest, either pick a couple leaves off for a small quantity, or snip off branches where there is other new growth, to allow the new growth to continue while you use the fully-grown portions of the plant.

    How to Harvest: The basic rule for harvesting is, if it looks ready (and is easy to pull off the plant), it is ready. Remember, we’re hardwired to notice ripe fruits and vegetables, so trust your instinct! Better to harvest a little too soon than let something get overripe and rot. Besides, I’ve learned from experience that there’s a good chance I won’t get to cooking or eating a vegetable I pick on the same day, so if something’s a little underripe when I pick it, a couple days in the fridge or on the counter may give it time to fully ripen. Of course, picking the “perfect” tomato is always ideal!

    Parish Hall: 109 N 3rd St.,(718) 782-2602

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    Ruth’s Tips: Opuntia leucotricha — great dry-garden centerpiece – Enterprise

    Walnut Creek’s Ruth Bancroft is a national authority on drought-resistant gardening. Twice a month, she and her staff share their knowledge with readers.

    Q At the Ruth Bancroft Garden, I saw a prickly pear, which had grown large enough to have a woody trunk like a tree. What struck me was that the trunk was hairy. What is this?

    A Prickly pears belong to the genus Opuntia in the cactus family. The cactuses are native to the Americas, and Opuntia has the broadest range of any group in the whole family, from southern Canada all the way to Argentina. Few people are aware of how widespread these plants are in the U.S.; they occur in 45 states, the exceptions being Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire

    and Vermont.

    Some are diminutive creepers, which never reach more than a few inches tall; others have a shrubby growth habit or form thickets; and a few, such as the one you noticed, actually form a trunk and become treelike. The name of this last species is Opuntia leucotricha, which refers to the bristly, hairy appearance of the trunk. This unusual trait makes the species easy to identify.

    Opuntia leucotricha, which is native to central Mexico, can grow to a height of 12 feet or so. It has yellow flowers about 2 inches across in spring, and an abundance of small, pale yellow fruit in fall. The fruit is edible and one of the kinds featured on the autumn Ruth Bancroft Garden Fruit Tasting Tour. This Oct. 18 event affords an opportunity for visitors to taste several of the garden’s prickly pears and other fruits.

    Because they grow in such widely divergent habitats, the different species of Opuntia vary widely in cold tolerance. Some come from tropical places such as the Galápagos Islands and will not tolerate low temperatures, while others occur in places like North Dakota and can endure temperatures of well below zero. Opuntia leucotricha is somewhere in the middle, but it is frost-hardy enough to survive our Walnut Creek cold spells, which can sometimes dip into the mid- to low-20s.

    Opuntia leucotricha is easy to grow, and severed branches or individual pads root readily. This plant makes a dramatic focal point in a dry garden, but it should be situated in the middle, rather than at the edge. This allows room for the large size it eventually attains, and keeps it away from paths where its spines might prick the unwary. Like other prickly pears, it has tiny, easily dislodged spines, in addition to the larger, obvious ones. These tiny spines, called glochids, detach easily when anything comes into contact with them.

    Email questions on drought-resistant plants to

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    Pick and prune – this week’s garden tips

    As well as picking the top of your crop, don’t forget about your roses. Make sure you deadhead them for a strong re-growth next season.

    – Leave tomatoes on the plants until the weather turns, to allow them optimum time to ripen.

    – Leave nets over brassicas to stop pigeons feasting on them.

    – Reduce the watering and feeding of greenhouse plants.

    – Continue to deadhead roses.

    – Trim hornbeam, beech, Leyland cypress and thuja hedges, if you haven’t already done so.

    – Take hardwood cuttings from roses, choosing healthy stems of the current season’s growth.

    – Root cuttings of lavender directly into gritty soil outside or in a cold frame.

    – Pick crops at their best including marrows, runner beans, ridge cucumbers, spinach, sweetcorn, beetroot and salads.

    – Sow hardy annuals like calendula, godetia, larkspur and candytuft outside where you would like them to flower.

    – Plant tubers of Anemone ‘De Caen’ and ‘Saint Brigid’ at intervals to extend their flowering next spring.

    – Sow poppies where you want them to flower next year.

    – Lift Lilium regale clumps and re-set, planting them about 15cm (6in) deep in well-drained soil improved with compost and grit.

    – Give autumn green crops a light dressing of general fertiliser hoed into the soil around them.


    Best of the Bunch – Japanese anemone

    Don’t confuse the low-growing, brightly flowered anemones you find in late spring with Japanese anemones, which bloom from late summer until the first frosts of October.

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    A. japonica (A. hybrida) stands 60-120cm (2-4ft) high, producing saucer-shaped flowers in white or pink with a central boss of golden stamens.

    Good varieties include  ‘Honorine Jobert’, a tough, late-flowering plant on strong stems carrying single white blooms, which flower for up to eight weeks and reach 100cm (3ft) in height, and ‘September charm’, a slightly smaller pink variety which reaches about 60cm (2ft) in height.

    Japanese anemones will grow in any well-drained garden soil in sun or semi-shade. They look great in the autumn border alongside asters and chrysanthemums or can be used in front of shrub roses and large shrubs. In a small garden they make reliable back-of-the-border plants behind summer bedding, which can be removed when the anemones are ready to bloom.


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    Garden Tips: Think fall with these suggestions

    By Heather Prince

    September 12, 2013 2:36PM

    The container pictured here can easily be transitioned from fall to winter, keeping the ivy and the berries and adding more greens. | Courtesy of Heather Prince

    Updated: September 12, 2013 2:48PM

    School has started and our schedules suddenly seem crammed. Try to take a moment to stop and savor the harvest season.

    Plant a row of lettuces, radishes or spinach for a late season salad. Soon pumpkins and gourds will arrive, making delicious meals and fun decorations. Mums and asters are starting to take the stage with starry blossoms. Ornamental grasses are beginning to bloom and showcase their many pretty seedheads.

    Many of our late summer prairie plants are still looking great and offering a much-needed food source for migrating butterflies and hummingbirds. Birds are migrating, too, and are looking for food and water. It can be a great time to spot warblers making their way south for the winter.

    Stop and smell the last roses of the season and leave their blossoms to form rose hips for winter interest.

    And get outside and take a walk in the woods to enjoy the beginnings of fall color.

    Or if you’re looking for a place to enjoy some old-fashioned fall fun, check out The Growing Place in Aurora during its fall festival from Sept. 21 through 22. Enjoy crafts, seasonal foods, hayrides, live music and more.

    Garden Tip is courtesy of Heather Prince, The Growing Place, 630-355-4000,

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