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Archives for September 20, 2013

Pay raises, lower property tax rate included in new Hillsborough County budget

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners quickly signed off Thursday on a $3.4 billion budget with scant discussion, after a summer of little debate and without the annual last-minute run on turkeys.

Thanks to rising property values, the budget anticipates an additional $28 million in property tax revenues, which allowed the commission to approve pay raises for employees and dedicate some money toward housekeeping.

Here are five things to know about this year’s budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1:

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Your pocketbook: For the 21st consecutive year, commissioners lowered the property tax rate, albeit by a tiny margin. Here’s the upshot: For the owner of a $165,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the savings amounts to 21 cents in county taxes, assuming the value of that house stayed the same. But because property values generally have risen, the Legislature still considers the lower rate a hike in taxes of 2.48 percent, which is how much the commission would have had to cut to keep revenues the same as the current year.

Commissioner Les Miller has voted against the budget in past years, arguing that the recent small tax rate cuts make a statement with little meaning for homeowners. But he broke tradition Thursday to make passage of the budget a unanimous vote.

More raises: For the first time since 2009, employees will get a pay raise of 3.5 percent, generally a cost of living raise rather than one for merit. Actually, select employees got raises earlier this year, mainly the lowest paid workers and some middle and upper managers whom County Administrator Mike Merrill said had been asked to take on additional duties. Recipients of the earlier raises don’t get the additional ones.

Merrill also socked away another $5.9 million for possible additional raises next year, a moved discussed little before now, as he seeks to tie pay hikes more closely to performance and to help workers maxed out due to a cap in the pay range for their job. Any raises would require approval by commissioners, who could opt to spend the money elsewhere.

Roads and sewers: Merrill has balanced recent years’ budgets in part by skimping on upkeep of roads and sewer systems. This year’s budget attempts to return maintenance money closer to historical levels. So there’s an additional $22 million for roads, more than half of which will go to repaving projects around the county. There’s another additional $6.6 million for stormwater projects.

A major deficit remains for building new roads and adding lanes and fixing recurring flood problems. Commissioners are talking to the county’s three city mayors about ideas to address transportation in particular.

Economic development: Commissioners focused much of their budget talks on judging priorities based on how much they assist job creation. That’s why transportation is a priority. But they also set aside $5.7 million, much of it as a discretionary pool to use as enticements to lure new or expanding business.

A portion of the money, $250,000, is an increase in spending for the county’s main business recruiter, the Economic Development Corp. Another $500,000 goes to the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance to continue job training and placement.

Odds and ends: $1.7 million was set aside to start the process of designating parts of the county as economic development areas. Animal Services is getting an additional $1.6 million to beef up its staff in an effort to reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanized. The commission agreed to postpone by a year a plan to eliminate an adult day care program that serves just over 30 people in favor of programs that serve more active seniors.

The commission agreed to chip in $1.3 million toward the new Courtney Campbell Trail, the recreational bridge alongside the highway that crosses upper Tampa Bay. The money is for enhancements such as rest stations, landscaping and shade.

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Two Pasadena parking spaces to become ‘parklets’ for a day

The Pasadena Playhouse District Assn., a nonprofit organization that promotes the 32-block district, will transform two 7-by-20-feet parking spaces into pocket parks from noon to 4 p.m.

The parklets will be on the north and south sides of Colorado Boulevard between El Molino and Oak Knoll, according to the organization.

The pocket parks will be installed on PARK(ing) Day, an international event in which communities turn metered parking spaces into temporary public places.

The event was started in 2005 in San Francisco, when an art and design studio laid sod and placed a bench and potted tree on a parking spot for two hours and rolled it up when the meter expired, according to the PARK(ing) Day website.

The Pasadena parklets will feature greenery, story tellings, displays by a local artist and a pop-up shop restaurant with hay bales and fall decorations, said Erlinda Romo, executive director for the Pasadena Playhouse District Assn.

The Pasadena Playhouse District Assn. will work with Pasadena’s La Loma Landscaping and Cal Poly Pomona landscape architecture students to create the parklets. Romo said the parks will take about two hours to set up.

The parklets are being seen by the association as a “trial run” to setting up permanent parklets on Colorado Boulevard, Romo said.

The association has been talking with city officials about establishing about six pocket parks on the boulevard between Los Robles and Hudson avenues, she said.

The association plans to present ideas to the City Council, which would later vote on the parklets. They would be the first permanent parklets in Pasadena, though they would be removed each year for the Rose Parade, she said.

“Building a park is a way to enhance the pedestrian environment,” Romo said. “It’s getting a little bit of rest aspace. It’s an all-around improvement for the person who comes to shop and dine in the district.”

In March 2012, Los Angeles introduced its first pocket park, Sunset Triangle Plaza, on a swath of pavement on Griffith Park Boulevard in Silver Lake.

The pocket park, funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, features concrete painted lime green with yellow-green polka dots, and a stretch of grass.


Earthquake: 3.7 quake strikes near La Verne

Sheriff’s deputies injured in Pomona crash expected to survive

Porn studio owner accuses group of creating ‘hysteria around HIV’

Twitter: @haileybranson | Google+

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Digest: Learn about landscaping, Nature Night

Sept. 19: No-lawn landscaping: The California Native Plant Society presents Converting a Lawn to a Native Plant Garden at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Morgan Hill Library, 660 W. Main Ave. Landscape designer Deva Luna will share a variety of no-lawn landscaping ideas and practical tips. Details: (408) 779-3196.

Nature Night

The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority invites you to a free Back-to-School Nature Night to learn about nature in your own back yard from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Morgan Hill Community Center. Enjoy a light supper and family-friendly activities, meet live educational animals, and visit with the Authority staff. This is a great opportunity to learn about the Authority’s work and the Conservation Vision they are developing. RSVP to

Chamber mixer

The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce will hold its monthly mixer from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at Westmont of Morgan Hill, 1160 Cochrane Road. Chamber members are invited to attend and network with fellow chamber members. Feel free to bring a small raffle prize. Details: Erin Machado at (408) 779-9444.  

Breast cancer support group

A free drop-in group open to anyone diagnosed with breast cancer is held from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the first and third Thursday of every month at Pacific Hills Manor, 370 Noble Court.Details: Priti Zielinski (408) 842-1248 or Sandy Ludlow (408) 779-8004.

Thursday Night Street Dance

The Thursday Night Street Dance will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 26 at Monterey and Third Street. The line-up of performers will be listed on the Downtown Association’s website. Details: (408) 779-3190 or visit

Sept. 20

Senior Center Friday matinee

Enjoy Friday movies at 1 p.m. at the Centennial Recreation Senior Center, 171 W. Edmundson Ave., Morgan Hill. Everyone welcome. Details: (408) 782-1284 or visit

Sept. 21

Together at the Center

The Learning and Loving Education Center will hold a silent auction and wine heist from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 21 at 16890 Church St., Morgan Hill. Sample hors d’oeuvres from local eateries, along with desserts, with wine tastings from area vintners. Proceeds will benefit the ministry of the Sisters of the Presentation, funded solely by grants and donations. $40 donation per person. Details: or call (408) 776-1196.

Democrats meet

Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate will be the speaker at the next South County Democratic Club membership meeting from 10 a.m. to noon, Sept. 21 at 17775 Monterey St., Morgan Hill. Burgundy cherry ice cream from Alaska Ice Cream shop in downtown Gilroy will be served. Details:

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers meetings are held Thursdays at 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Villa Mira Monte,17860 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the Hampton Inn, 16115 Condit Road, Morgan Hill. All are welcome and free to attend.

Teen basketball, soccer

All teens are invited to play basketball from 10 to 11 a.m. and soccer from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Community Park, 171 W. Edmundson Ave., Morgan Hill. Members and guests (ages 12 to 18) are welcome. Details: (408) 310-4273.

Sept. 22

MH Lion’s Club’s 75th anniversary

Celebrate the Morgan Hill Lion’s Club’s 75th anniversary from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 22 at Morgan Hill Cellars, 1645 San Pedro Ave., Morgan Hill. Catered by Mansmith BBQ. Menu includes tri-tip, chicken, salads, beans, garlic bread, beverages and dessert. Make checks payable to MHLC, mail to: Morgan Hill Lions Club (MHLC), PO Box 464, Morgan Hill, CA 95037 or pay by credit card with Paypal to Details: Sandra Gomez at (408) 892-1500.  

Explore breath and reduce stress

Learn how to use breathing and meditation techniques to reduce stress during a free weekly class from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sundays at the Holiday Inn Express, 17035 Condit Road, Morgan Hill. RSVP requested. Details: (408) 480-4493.

Sept. 23

Al-Anon meets

Al-Anon meets at 7 p.m. Mondays at Advent Lutheran Church, 16870 Murphy Ave., Morgan Hill. AnAlatween meeting (ages 9 to 13) is also held at this time and location in room 10.

Sept. 24

Tuesday Night Bingo

Bingo is held Tuesdays to raise funds to benefit the Senior Center. Bingo is played at the Community and Cultural Center, 17000 South Monterey Road, Morgan Hill. Doors open at 4:15 with registration starting at 5 p.m. Warm-up games are played starting at 5:45 p.m. Regular bingo games kick off at 6:30 p.m. Details: (408) 782-1284.

Overeaters Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous meets from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Advent Lutheran Church, 16870 Murphy Ave., Morgan Hill. 90-day format. No dues, fees or weigh-ins. Details: Tony at (408) 859-8654.

Sept. 25

Senior Produce Market

A weekly Senior Produce Market is held from 10 a.m. to noon every Wednesday in the Centennial Recreation Center main lobby. It is designed to promote affordable and accessible produce for older adults, but is open to everyone. This new program comes through the Y’s partnership with Episcopal Community Services and The Health Trust.

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Tour request for Blairsden in Peapack-Gladstone ensnared in traffic debate

PEAPACK-GLADSTONE – Blairsden, the opulent and mysterious Gilded Age mansion that has long fascinated young and old, could open for a month of unprecedented public tours next spring if the Borough Council grants a special use permit.

The estate’s new owner has agreed to have it host the “Mansion in May” exhibit, a month-long, biannual fund-raiser for the Women’s Association of Morristown Memorial Medical Center.

The popular event, which uses a mansion to showcase the work of interior and landscape designers, drew about 25,000 paid admissions to the 2012 site, Glynallyn Castle on Canfield Road in Morris Township.

But plans to have Blairsden-bound bus shuttles use Highland Avenue, where claims of safety hazards sparked a bitter fight over a proposal to expand the Matheny Medical and Education Center at the end of the road, raised enough concerns at the council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, to delay a vote on a special use permit.

Plans to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17, were later dropped, and the council now hopes to make a decision at its next regular meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the municipal complex on School Street.

Alternate Route?

Last Tuesday, council members questioned representatives of the Women’s Association at length about the traffic plans, with a crowd of about 40 people then weighing in.

Councilman Gerald Gunning said he believed Blair Road, a narrow private road, could be used instead of Highland Avenue, except that a landowner on the road had apparently refused to allow access. Gunning suggested that any approval of the special use permit be conditioned on using Blair Road.

Mayor William Horton objected. “If you make that a condition of approval, you’re effectively killing this application,” he said.

The crowd was split. Residents of Highland Avenue said the event should not proceed if it uses their road; other residents argued that it was only temporary and would have lasting benefits.

A key issue was litigation of the Matheny project. Last month, a state Superior Court judge upheld the township Land Use Board’s 2011 denial of the project, but Matheny has not ruled out an appeal.

Ruth Williams of Highland Avenue warned that allowing Mansion in May to send buses up the road would undermine the borough’s case against Matheny, which she said included a 183-page legal brief on traffic concerns.

“I trust the Borough Council not to take positions contrary to positions you have championed in this litigation,” Williams said. “Let’s not throw it all away while Matheny’s lawsuit is pending.”

But others said the fight against Matheny, which serves severely disabled individuals, left the twin borough with a tarnished image that Mansion in May could restore.

“I’m tired of being portrayed like a Frankenstein movie, where we have pitchforks and are running people out,” said Peter Englemann of Hillcrest Avenue. “We’re tired of all this negative press.

“Having Mansion in May is like another holiday shopping season; it’s going to make us a destination; it’s going to bring people back repeatedly,” he said. “I’d like to see it work out without it being a big political hoopla.”

“This is a good thing,” said Trish Harris of Hillard Lane. “This is something for the town to embrace.”

Joan Dill of Pfizer Drive said showcasing Blairsden was “something for the town to be proud of. For you to deny it will forever put Peapack-Gladstone in a dark place.”

Blairsden, built for Wall Street banker C. Ledyard Blair between 1897 and 1903, features a 60,000-square-foot hilltop mansion and spectacular tiered gardens on 34 acres, down from a peak of 550 acres. The French-style chateau includes 31 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms and 25 fireplaces.

Blair spared no expense in the construction. Famed architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, designers of the New York Public Library, were hired to design the mansion; James Greenleaf, landscape designer for the Lincoln Memorial, was brought in to work on the grounds.

After Blair’s death in 1949, the mansion was sold to the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, who ran it as a religious retreat. In 2002, the Sisters sold the site to the Foundation for Classical Architecture, whose main partner, according to reliable sources, was New York real estate mogul Victor Shafferman, who died in October 2009.

The property was then put on the market and sold in August 2012 for $4.5 million. At last Tuesday’s meeting, borough officials identified the new owner as T. Eric Galloway, a New York developer.

Blairsden is well known throughout the region. The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills web site says Blairsden draws more inquires than any other topic. Some of that derives from a 1999 article in the cult magazine Weird New Jersey, which claimed the mansion was haunted.

Event Plans

As last Tuesday’s meeting began, representatives of the Women’s Association spent about 90 minutes discussing the logistics of their event.

Mansion in May has been held nearly every other year since 1974. Past hosts in the Somerset Hills have included Upton-Pyne in Bernardsville in 1974 and 1991, the Cross Estate in Bernardsville in 2003, the Ross Farm in Basking Ridge in 2006, and Froh Heim in Far Hills in 2008.

Organizers said the event has raised more than $7 million – $1.3 million in 2012 alone – for various projects at Morristown Memorial, including two cancer centers, a children’s hospital, a cardiovascular center, and an emergency room.

Prudence Pigott, a vice president of the Women’s Association and a resident of Far Hills, said she couldn’t recall who proposed Blairsden, but “we were thrilled” to get it.

“The benefits to Peapack-Gladstone are to re-introduce Blairsden and revive its true history and remove some myths and ghost stories,” she said. “We all know Blairsden is one of the most extraordinary homes in the country. It’s being restored amazingly, We can’t wait to tell the story.”

She said the mansion has an early 20th century guest book in which the first entry was the legendary financier J.P. Morgan.

Mansion in May also “gets a lot of good publicity for the town,” she said.

The plans called for the mansion to host up to 40 designers who would bid for rooms to decorate and display. Pigott said the main level and the second floor would be opened for tours; the third floor would not be included because otherwise, the tour would exceed the standard 90 minutes.

The designing work would occur between January and April when the designers would furnish the rooms.

Mansion in May would officially run from May 1 to 31 but would also include preview events on April 25 and 26. There would be a designers’ luncheon for up to 200 people on April 25 and an invitation-only evening gala for 500 guests the following day.

Daily tours in May would run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There would also be four to six night parties for sponsors that would run from about 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

All patrons and volunteers would take a bus shuttle departing from the Pfizer office campus on Route 202-206. The runs would start at 8:30 a.m. for volunteers, with the last shuttle leaving on most days by 4:30 p.m.

Organizers said the routes to and from Blairsden were reviewed with Police Chief Gregory Skinner.

The route from Pfizer to Blairsden would run as follows: Route 206 north, turning right onto Pottersville Road, turning right onto Main Street, left onto the lower portion of Highland Avenue, and left onto a private Blair connector road to Blairsden.

The route back from Blairsden to Pfizer would run from the private Blair connector road, right onto Highland Avenue, left onto Main Street, right onto Holland Avenue, and right onto Route 206 north with Pfizer on the right.

There would be five 25-passenger bus shuttles. Christie Gisser, a Women’s Association member and resident of Mendham, said that on an average day, there would be about 500 visitors; on the busier weekend days there could be 1,000, meaning the five buses would each make eight round trips.

The last Mansion in May drew a record 25,000 people, and Pigott said her group did wish to exceed that number. Because of Blairsden’s popularity, she acknowledged that ticket prices – which were $30 last time – might need to be raised to keep sales within 25,000.

Gisser said that in light of traffic concerns, her group would station volunteers with walkie-talkies along the route, and would be willing to add police officers.

‘Private’ Dispute

Gunning, however, said he had understood that the lower portion of Blair Road would be used to Main Street, eliminating any need to use Highland Avenue.

He said that while the property owner along lower Blair Road – who Horton identified as the van den Bergh family – had rejected its use, he believed Blairsden likely has an easement and can use it anyway.

Horton countered that Gunning was “jumping to conclusions.” He said the borough should not get involved in “a private dispute” between Galloway and the van den Bergs.

Gunning persisted. “If there’s an alternative route to avoid all of these safety issues, it needs to be pursed,” he said.

Councilman William Muller expressed a similar view. “In my fondest hope, it would be an extremely generous act for the owners of lower Blair Road … to permit the use of the entire length of the road.”

Otherwise, he said, “If we OK this (permit) request, we’re opening ourselves to additional problems not related to Mansion in May.”

Horton said he believed the safety issues on Highland Avenue “have been addressed” by the organizers in consultation with the police. Gunning disagreed, saying he didn’t feel Chief Skinner has “expertise in that regard.”

When the meeting was opened to public comments, 15 people spoke for an hour and 20 minutes.

Joan Siegle of Highland Avenue blasted Mayor Horton, saying, “You completely ignore the children and families of Highland Avenue who say they are at risk. You are an advocate for the hospitals and not the people of the community.”

Horton replied that he simply felt the borough has no right to tell the Blair Road parties how to solve their dispute.

John Charles Smith of Branch Road, a landscaping architect who has worked at Blairsden, said that while hoped to see Blair Road used, he also hoped the public would get a chance to see the mansion.

“It’s a beautiful place to see,” he said. “It’s probably the best of all the houses that have been shown” in Mansion in May.

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Beautify your lawn with Florida-friendly landscaping

St. Petersburg, Florida — You can learn how to save water, time and energy as part of the free Florida Style Landscaping Workshop Series. Pinellas County Extension and St. Petersburg landscaping specialists will host the workshops at the St. Petersburg Water Resources Department’s “green” building located at at 1650 3rd Ave. North.

To pre-register, click here. For more information, call 727-551-3177. All classes are from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Here’s the Workshop Schedule:

  • Sept. 26: Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM, Avoiding Bad Plants, Gardening for Wildlife
  • Oct. 3:Protect our Water Ways with Proper Fertilizer Use, Rain Gardens and Rain Barrels. After attending Workshop (this day only), Rain Barrels are available for purchase! ($25.00, incl. tax)
  • Oct. 10:Landscape Design 1- Basics (the first of two classes). Bring your landscaping ideas!
  • Oct. 24: Landscape Design 2- Clinic (continuation from Oct. 10th). Experts work with you on your landscape plan! Also, Proper Plant Installation Establishment (latest research)
  • Nov. 7: Landscape Maintenance – Everything from Proper Fertilizer and Pesticide Use to Pruning, Composting, and Mulching
  • Nov. 14: Sensible Sprinkler Systems and Micro-Irrigation Clinic


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A Tour of New York’s Lesser-Known Parks and Gardens

In fact, New York is surprisingly green. Nearly 20 percent of the city is public park land, a figure that earned it second place this summer, behind San Diego, when the Trust for Public Land conducted its annual Park Score survey of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

That’s a lot of park, and the inventory is more varied than many New Yorkers realize. The superstars hog the headlines: Central Park, Madison Square, the botanical gardens in Brooklyn and the Bronx. At sidewalk level, jaded urban eyes scale down their expectations to the window box overflowing with geraniums, the tub of flowers outside a restaurant, the caged-in plantings clinging for dear life to the trunks of trees.

However, the city teems with unsung small parks and gardens midway on the scale between flower pot and Great Lawn. Some are squeezed in discreet niches between buildings. Others are new and await discovery. Still others have undergone a metamorphosis.

I have had my eye on a number of these gems, and the waning days of summer — the lull between last bloom and first frost — gave me an excuse to put together an eclectic tour. Several of the choices come from the 52 community gardens that the New York Restoration Project has owned and managed since 1999, most of them known only to neighborhood residents. I zeroed in on the handful that stand out for their landscaping and design. I also included two gardens in the city’s parks system, the Bosque and the Gardens of Remembrance. These sanctuaries, developed between 2001 and 2005, have been hiding in plain sight at the Battery, largely ignored by the throngs heading to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governors Island.

The Gil Hodges Community Garden in Gowanus, Brooklyn, one of those owned by the Restoration Project, has been around for more than 30 years, but it has just undergone a makeover, with money from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and from Jo Malone, a British fragrance company. The transformed version opens on Wednesday.

On a plot of around 3,000 square feet, Yvi McEvilly, the Restoration Project’s director of design, has packed in a maximum of plant activity. Up front, a fragrance garden sends out the aromas of calycanthus, daphne and other species chosen for both nose and eye appeal. A wandering series of steppingstones, recycled shards of concrete from the old garden, leads past raised herb and vegetable beds to a birch reading grove.

The garden incorporates several environmentally friendly features. A large section of it relies on rainwater collected in an underground reservoir, rather than city water. On two sidewalks, five rectangular tree beds have been enhanced with native plants like ironweed and winterberry. One is now a bioswale: a giant sponge that takes in rainwater diverted from the street and lets it soak into a subterranean chamber, thereby relieving pressure on the sewer system.

Small can be thrilling. It can also be elusive. The city-owned Lentol Garden in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a sliver of green pressed right up against the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, offers a glimpse of enchantment. Through iron gates, passers-by can feast their eyes on plump hydrangea blooms, purple and ivory butterfly bushes and a magnificent Chinese dogwood, now displaying clusters of raspberrylike fruit.

Getting inside the gates is another matter, unless you are one of the high school students working on summer programs in environmental science administered by the local Y.M.C.A. and New York University.

The Restoration Project’s community gardens, on the other hand, must be open to the public 20 hours a week. Sometimes the hours are posted, sometimes not, and the local organizations that operate the gardens day to day do not always keep to the schedule. I never did manage to penetrate Maggie’s Garden, a seductive, beautifully landscaped enclave on 149th Street near Broadway, in Hamilton Heights.

Even when the gardens keep to their hours, it can feel like a stroke of luck when the gates are open. On a recent weekend, Greg Dava, a Brooklyn resident taking a shortcut to the A train at High Street, walked into the Bridge Plaza Community Garden, near the borough’s downtown area, with a look of astonishment on his face. “This is the first time I’ve ever been inside,” he said. “I’ve only seen it through the gates.”

What he saw was one of the jewels in the community-garden system. Hardly bigger than a postage stamp, it somehow manages to accommodate evergreen trees and shrubs, a Japanese maple, hydrangeas and roses, brick and flagstone walkways, and a lily pond stocked with koi.

A hexagonal wooden bench encircles the garden’s ornamental cherry tree. Off in one corner is a pole with brightly colored birdhouses stacked atop one another, adding a cheery note.

There are others like it, scattered far and wide. Curtis Jackson, the rapper known as 50 Cent, financed a renovation of a community garden in Jamaica, Queens, his old neighborhood. Now named the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden, it opened in 2008.

Six deep-blue metal rainwater collectors, 10 feet tall with a dish on top, stand guard over a neat complex of pathways and raised beds with marigolds, sunflowers and vegetables. A pergola entwined with shade-giving trumpet vines runs the length of the garden along 165th Street.

About 10 blocks away, the Linden Boulevard Community Garden offers a moody contrast, with twisting, moss-covered brick paths that squiggle their way under towering shade trees and past ornamental shrubs like rhododendrons, cherry laurels and Japanese hollies. The colors of spring and summer have faded, but the garden, designed by the parks department veteran Edie Kean, still casts a spell in green.

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What to plant this month and more gardening tips

Petunias, snapdragons, nicotiana, calendula and dianthus are among the
more heat tolerant cool-season bedding plants, and can be planted
earlier than more heat-sensitive plants such as pansies. Plant petunias into the garden now for blooms this fall and next spring.

  • Known as spider lilies, hurricane lilies or naked ladies, Lycoris radiata blooms this month. When the flowers stalks of this traditional Southern bulb have faded, trim the stems to the ground. Watch for the narrow, dark green, silver striped foliage to appear, and be sure not to cut it back during its growing season this winter and spring.
  • Many summer weeds are setting seeds now. Do not let this happen! Pull these weeds and dispose of them to reduce weed problems next year. In particular, stay on top of gripe weed or chamberbitters. This weed looks like a little mimosa tree and sets copious amounts of seeds. Pull them up promptly wherever you see them in beds and make sure the mulch is about two inches thick to prevent them from growing back.
  • Look for ornamental peppers in area nurseries now. They come in an amazing array of foliage and fruit colors and provide long lasting color in autumn displays in pots on porches and patios. Plants display multi-colored fruit of cream, yellow, orange, lavender, purple and red depending on the variety. They combine beautifully with chrysanthemums and ornamental pumpkins and gourds. Also try marigolds planted in pots or beds now for a long, autumn bloom season in yellow, gold, orange and mahogany.

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Tips for Autumn Blooms at Ferraro Garden Spot

Ferraro Garden Spot at 826 Skokie Blvd. has an assortment of autumnal plants to keep your yard pretty for the next few months. 

For people who want to skip the seeds and buy flowers, mums, pansies, asters and hyacinths will provide some scent and color while the weather remains mild. 

Claudia Ferraro says heirloom pumpkins are already popping up and can stay in season until or even into November.

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Folks who want to crouch down and dig up some dirt, Michelle Ferraro suggests planting bulbs in the next month or two. Flowers such tulips daffodils bloom in the spring, but you’ll want to bury them before winter so they grow in time.

Those of you who want something that might make it into the colder months, cabbage and kale are in season now, and sometimes the season’s first freeze can put these vegetables in a state of suspended animation until direct sunlight thaws them. It doesn’t always work out, so you might want to cross your fingers for clouds.

Ferraro’s also has chimineas now. These freestanding, clay fireplaces can be used to burn wood or twigs to release an aroma and sometimes repel some bugs. Plus, the chimineas shape directs smoke upwards, so you don’t have to worry about moving around a firepit every time the wind changes. 

What are your favorite autumn flowers or gardening traditions? Tell us in the comments.

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Tips for planting and caring for a healthy fall garden

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Master gardener offers tips to get your garden ready for the fall

Master Gardener Gordon Kenneson offered his fall tips to gardeners in Windsor. Photos by Lisa Stone.

Gardeners dug into the process of preparing their gardens and other outdoor spaces for the fall at the Wilson Public Library on Sept. 14, when Master Gardener Gordon Kenneson was on hand to offer his advice.

Kenneson, a resident of West Hartford, knows what types of insects and other garden problems this area is experiencing. “I have been a master gardener for over 25 years,” said Kenneson. “I do understand the problems that local resident gardeners can experience and I am happy to help them fix the problems.”

“On the Grow” is Kenneson’s local cable show in the Windsor area. He has taken some time off to give lectures, but he intends to resume his show in the near future. He lectures at several libraries, garden club meetings, garden centers and he also works along with historical societies when they need his help.

“Some insects get a bad rap,” said Kenneson. “You may see ants on your plants, but they do not want to eat your plants. They are just sucking the glucose out of the plant, much like we milk cows. Carpenter ants are a complete other story.  They will not eat your plants, but they will eat your house. But, on the upside, if we didn’t have ants, we wouldn’t have formica, since that product is made of crushed ants. Often times, there are other reasons for the plant not doing well.  You really have to be diligent in looking for the main cause. One woman said she had a woodchuck problem in her garden. Several people offered up suggestions to her. She claimed she was able to get rid of the woodchucks by posting a sign that said “No Woodchucks Allowed.” I guess she felt that did the trick,” Kenneson jested.

According to Kenneson, the typical nemeses for gardens are rabbits, chipmunks and moles. One trick he recommended to keep these pests away from your labor of love would be to use dried blood. It comes in a powder form and should be applied a foot or two away from the vegetation. The animals will get the scent and leave the area. “Planting marigolds around your garden to keep these animals away is a myth,” said Kenneson. “Many of these pests actually like marigolds.”

Barbara Zawrothy of Windsor has been gardening since her husband passed away. “I find gardening to be very therapeutic,” said Zawrothy. “My husband was always the one that did the gardening, so I am just starting to learn how to do it. I have only been gardening for three years or so. I certainly learned a lot today.”

One tip Kenneson had for the class was to get the outdoor spaces as clean as possible. If a few leaves are in the garden, that is fine, as domestic lady bugs need a place to hibernate.  According to Kenneson, the domestic lady bug does a great deal of good for the garden. Allowing them a space to hide for the winter will ensure they are protecting your garden in the spring.

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