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Archives for September 28, 2013

Energy future could rest on ‘green’ building

One of Austin Trautman’s heroes is Joseph Eichler, a midcentury California developer who brought beautiful architecture to the masses.

Eichler, however, didn’t bear the burden of knowing how energyinefficient all those expansive glass walls, skylights and atriums could be.

Trautman, an environmentalist with a degree in kinesiology from Arizona State University, does.

He has spent the past three years researching the best way to build a net-zero energy home, east of downtown Phoenix, that produces all the power it consumes.

Trautman tagged Valley architect Matthew Salenger of CoLAB Studio and builder James Trahan of 180 Degrees, known for building some mammoth modern luxury homes, to create a prototype that celebrates both modern design and green building.

“I like big puzzles,” Trautman, owner of Vali Homes, said from the finished house, where he talked in detail about its airtight building envelope, lack of waste during construction and its efficient wall system with “half the wood and three times the insulation of a typical home.” Because the home is relatively small, with airtight walls and well-placed windows, a 3.6-kilowatt photovoltaic solar-energy system will power it.

Although the Valley has plenty of inefficient older houses, Trautman’s project is one of many that is challenging standard homebuilding practices and pushing energy-efficient technologies.

Another was just completed in north Phoenix, where a team of architecture, engineering and construction students from ASU and the University of New Mexico collaborated to create a net-zero energy home — one that is also transportable.

On Thursday, the ASU/UNM team will compete against 19 other entries at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in Irvine, Calif. The event is a Super Bowl of sorts for solar-powered homes aimed at creating a new generation of builders who think green.

The event is held every two years, because it takes that long to dream up, engineer and construct these sustainable homes, which are judged on performance, affordability and livability.

One of the biggest innovations in ASU/UNM’s 850-square-foot SHADE home (an acronym for Solar Homes Adapting for Desert Equilibrium) is a radiant heating and cooling system that uses water-filled capillaries above a plaster ceiling as a way to cool or heat the home. The capillary system is made by Beka USA in Goodyear.

“It’s an effective system,” said Alia Taqi, an ASU graduate student on the decathlon team. “It works really well in dry climates, and it’s a little more costly than a traditional HVAC cooling system. But, in the long run, it uses almost 40 percent less energy.”

SHADE cost about $285,000 to build and will produce all its own energy, saving an estimated $150 per month compared with a conventionally built home of the same size. Net-zero homes tied to the grid pay only the minimum monthly fee to their utility company — about $10 to $17 per month for billing and meter reading.

The team is also testing material in the floors that absorbs energy when a room is warm and releases it when the temperature drops, evening out a room’s thermal profile.

SHADE also is testing a thermal battery (used in some commercial buildings) that freezes water at night and uses ice during the day for a glycol and water solution carried to the cooling systems.

Interior walls coated in clay plaster help regulate humidity in SHADE, and a tilted solar array serves as a roof over a 200-square-foot porch that extends the living space. An exterior screen of 2-by-4s, meant to mimic the look of cactus needles, helps shade the exterior walls.

Next year, a SHADE home will be installed at Steele Indian School Park as an example of sustainable living as part of the city’s Phoenix Renews development plan.

C.R. Herro, vice president for environmental affairs at Meritage Homes in Scottsdale and an industry leader in green-building technology, said he believes heating and cooling systems that use liquid rather than forced air may be the future. They’re considered more efficient and more comfortable. But, he said, it will take time for the systems to become affordable.

Herro, who will speak at the Department of Energy’s net-zero energy summit during the Solar Decathlon, said he remembers when the event’s net-zero energy homes seemed like spaceships.

Today, he said, net-zero is a no-brainer. Since 2011, Meritage sells only Energy Star-certified homes that, with optional Echo photovoltaic solar-power systems, can achieve net-zero status.

Meritage’s net-zero homes start affordable — in the $200,000 range, depending on location. And several local homebuilders offer solar packages. Herro admitted it’s not the average customer who understands and opts to invest about $30,000 in solar panels to create a net-zero Meritage home.

Local utilities and Arizona SmartPower, a non-profit that helps educate homeowners about solar choices, say it’s hard to find many true net-zero homes in the Valley that create all their own power, because air-conditioning uses so much energy in the summer months.

Ed Fedoruk, a custom homebuilder who used to sell photovoltaic systems, is a net-zero homeowner. Fedoruk said he pays Arizona Public Service Co. $10.54 per month — the utility’s minimum monthly charge for meter reading, billing and having an account — to power his 3,000-square-foot Carefree home.

“It’s not science fiction,” Fedoruk said of living in his net-zero home, which is well-insulated and powered with a 6-kilowatt Sanyo solar-power system. “It’s like living in any home, really. … You don’t have to worry about scrimping on the air-conditioner. When you don’t have big electricity bills, it helps with the budget.”

Herro said the challenge going forward is educating consumers and adopting technologies that continue to make homes increasingly energy-efficient and extremely durable — even stormproof.

For that, many companies are testing new wall systems that are superior to standard wood framing with fiberglass-batt insulation.

This past spring, in time for Earth Day, Meritage unveiled a new prototype green home in Goodyear using a poured-on-site wall system of insulated concrete panels by the Arizona company HercuWall. The 7-inch- thick walls are quiet, watertight and resistant to mold and termites.

Nathan Day, a luxury-home developer at Sterling at Silverleaf in north Scottsdale, is testing energy-efficient wall panels by i-Frame Building Solutions in Scottsdale (used mostly for commercial buildings) that employ steel studs and embedded interlocking insulation.

In Phoenix, Trautman’s spec home has another feature that Herro has mentioned as a homebuilding technology of note: vented siding.

From the outside, the Vali home looks like a modern, steel-wrapped rectangle. The envelope of perforated steel panels keeps radiant heat off the insulated exterior walls and vents heat. Under the steel siding, the walls boast foil-wrapped rigid-foam insulation, blown-in cellulose insulation and wooden studs placed 24 inches apart rather than the typical 16 inches.

Trautman said they took great pains during construction to seal any air gaps using flashing tape, rubber gaskets and polyurethane foam. He also installed a fresh-air system that helps eliminate dust and contaminants and recirculates the air in the home every three hours.

“The airtight construction, less wood (because wood is a poor insulator), more insulation and a fresh-air system are currently somewhat specific to green building, but I’m certain (they) will be standard in the next 10-20 years,” Trautman said. “Minimum codes are moving steadily in this direction, and many of the ideas we have used are already standard in places like Canada.”

A lot has been cleared for construction on another Vali home. Trautman has listed the first 1,500-square-foot home for $400,000 — $266 per square foot, or more than 2.5 times the median Valley home price.

Ultimately, Trautman hopes to continue building, making the modern green houses more affordable. A good portion of the initial cost is research and development, but Trahan, Trautman and Salenger say that after months of running the plans through modeling programs that estimate cost and energy efficiency, they were able to get the initial building cost down to about $140 per square foot — or about $210,000, not including the landscaping and steel cladding around the courtyard.

“It did become a big balancing act,” Trahan said. “We went through hundreds of line items of cost.”

Trautman would like to find a city lot large enough to build several at once, further lowering the cost to customers.

Overall, he said, his goal is to create houses that are so peaceful, comfortable, durable and well-designed that the green features don’t call attention to themselves — they simply work.

“Apple and Tesla are probably my favorite companies as examples,” he said. “It’s not so much about all the features (the iPhone) has — it’s extremely simple, it’s got one button, somehow it intuitively works well, and I use it because it’s not a pain. … Hopefully, that improves your life rather than adds complication to it.”

That, he said, is how we should build a house.

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Council to hear landscaping plan for MacCorkle Avenue – Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A median with trees and green space, improved pedestrian crossings and parallel parking could all one day become reality on MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City, under a local consulting firm’s plan.

In addition, 50th Street could resemble more of a park setting with the addition of a “green spine” consisting of trees and landscaped space.

The plan, dubbed the “Kanawha City Corridor Study,” was commissioned by the city of Charleston and was first publicly presented at the annual Kanawha City Community Association meeting Thursday night.

Charleston-based GAI Consultants created the plan based on a year’s work of research, said David Gilmore, a land development services manager with GAI. GAI is the same consulting firm that developed a recently released plan to put bicycle lanes along Kanawha Boulevard West and assisted with Imagine Charleston.

For now, the plan is just that – a plan.

None of the ideas proposed are funded, Charleston Planning Director Dan Vriendt said. But, the plan will go before city council for approval, and if it passes, it can be used to apply for federal and state grants for the next decade or two.

“We can’t make an application unless we have a plan,” he said.

The MacCorkle Avenue and 50th Street improvements are all possible without the city obtaining any additional land.

Gilmore said the city-owned rights-of-way in Kanawha City are huge – 80 feet for Mac-Corkle Avenue and 100 feet for 50th Street. That means the city has great flexibility when considering improvements.

“It really frees us up to do a lot of interesting things,” Gilmore said.

Historically, he said, Kanawha City was planned around pedestrians and slow-moving vehicles – not modern automobiles.

Once use of the automobile became mainstream, the consultants said, MacCorkle Avenue became one of the main thoroughfares into Charleston from the south before the interstate system. That traffic load caused the neighborhood to lose some of the walkability it had originally.

“Those ideals are still there, they just need to be resurfaced,” Gilmore said.

The plan also divides Kanawha City into districts, beginning with the Medical District around CAMC General Hospital on the northern end of the neighborhood. The districts then transition into the “Village District,” the “Professional District,” “Main Street” (50th Street) and the “Retail District,” which includes much of the large retail stores at the southern end of the neighborhood.

Gilmore said each district could have its own vibe and unique decor, if that’s what the city decides. There could also be different changes to MacCorkle Avenue depending on the district.

For example, parallel parking and formal parking lots – all in areas the city already owns – could be added along parts of MacCorkle with a higher density of shops or restaurants. In other areas, MacCorkle Avenue could remain the same as it is now.

Residents present at the meeting were largely supportive of the plan, but wanted to make sure other problems – like parking – would be created by the plan.

“We’re not trying – and we don’t want to – push traffic into those neighborhoods,” Gilmore said of areas east and west of MacCorkle.

Gilmore said the plan will soon be available online at the city’s website for public review. In order to become an official development plan for the city, the plan will have to be introduced in city council, pass one or more city council committees and then be brought back to council for final approval.

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Great Days of Service soon

Final preparations are being made for Great Days of Service Mayes County and the excitement is catching on.

The week-long event began in 2007 and features county-wide participation in a food drive as well as community projects.

More than 17,000 pounds of food was gathered last year. Volunteers complete beautification projects around their communities. Blankets and quilts are made and distributed.

This year, the food bags will arrive at residences on Monday, Oct. 7. Each paper bag will have a letter attached with instructions as to the pickup of food as well as suggestions of food pantry items.

“All of the food collected in each community will stay in that community,” Pryor Area Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Hawkins said. “Every participating community has a local food bank that can be helped by those donations.”

Grocery pickup will be Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Thunderbird Youth Academy cadets will join other volunteers to canvas communities picking up food donations.

Pryor’s Your Place Church is hosting a backpack program food drive to benefit the Boys Girls Club who send backpacks full of food and snacks home with their kids weekly.

Several beautification projects are taking shape in Pryor. Volunteers will clean up welcome signs and do some landscaping. Pryor Rotary Club has adopted Centennial Park for a day of cleanup on Oct. 12.

Participants in the latest Mayes County Leadership Academy recently completed their extensive project at the Mayes County Fairground. The group secured funds to construct a new entrance to the exibition building, including painting and wood staining in the entryway and repair of the bathrooms.

High School Leadership students will be paired with L.O.F.T. (Leadership of Future Tigers) fourth, fifth and sixth graders in the coming weeks to do cleanup projects at the local elementary schools.

The O.D. “Jock” Mayor Foundation has been key in funding assistance for Great Days of Service, not only in Mayes County but in Grayson County, Texas.

Because of available grant money, Hawkins was able to share the funds.

“If the chambers in the other communities want to plan a project, we can offer them up to $1,000 with matching funds and it can be in kind,” Hawkins said. “In kind” means that the communities who participate can match funds with labor provided by volunteers for the project.

“The Great Day project must benefit the entire community,” Hawkins said. “For example, if volunteers wanted to paint a building on Main Street, we could supply the paint and accessories (with the shared money) and they could do the work.”

Hawkins suggested if residents have project ideas for their community, they should contact their local Chamber of Commerce.

Great Days week also serves as the kick-off for the PACC Angel Tree program. More than 800 children in Mayes County were served last year in the Angel Tree program.

In September, there were several collection efforts for children’s underwear and socks, including area churches hosting Undies Sunday. The need was realized last year, which marked the first time the Chamber oversaw the massive program.

“We know how much children need underwear and socks and we were somewhat amazed at how expensive those items can be,” Hawkins said. This year’s collection effort was very successful and donations are still being tallied.

Hawkins admits last year was a learning experience and the assistance they received was invaluable.

“We are so grateful for the help we received from the counselors in the Pryor School system,” Hawkins said. “They went far and above in their efforts to assist us and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

For more information on Great Days of Service, to volunteer, or to share project ideas, contact your local Chamber of Commerce. Pryor: 825-0157, Chouteau: 476-8222, Locust Grove: 479-6336, Salina: 434-8181.

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In ‘The Garden Of Words’

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

“The Garden Of Words” marks animator Makoto Shinkai’s fifth major work, and the only major criticism I can muster is that he doesn’t seem to like producing feature-length projects.  Of the five, only two, “The Place Promised In Our Early Days” and “Children Who Chase Lost Voices,” run long enough to qualify as feature length. I’m wondering if he prefers the compactness of shorter stories, but it certainly has no effect on his ever-expanding mastery.

“Children Who Chase Lost Voices” was a fantasy story (with some science-fiction trappings thrown in) and allowed for plenty of fantastic creatures and landscapes.  “The Garden Of Words” returns to an earlier idea of Shinkai’s, first expressed in his “5 Centimeters Per Second,” to tell a story with neither science fiction nor fantasy elements. In a genre, anime, where such elements usually dominate, this is a bold move.

The story opens with a teenage boy, Takao Akizuki (voiced in Japanese by Miyu Irino, in English by Patrick Poole), who lives with his mother and older brother. Takao is bright and ambitious, but something of a misfit at school. His ambition is to become a shoemaker, slightly odd in an era of mass-produced footwear. But Takao spends all of his spare time studying the intricacies of his chosen trade. He even acknowledges that he lacks natural talent and will have to work hard and make many mistakes, before achieving mastery —unusually insightful for one so young.

Takao decides to skip school one day — actually, he skips school fairly frequently, much to the chagrin of his family and teachers. This rainy morning, however, he passes through a local park and hides under a shelter to sketch shoe designs. There he finds Yukari Yukino (voiced by Kana Hanazawa and Maggie Flecknoe), a woman in her 20s, drinking beer.

As the story spins out, the two misfits find themselves forming an odd attraction to each other; an attraction foregrounded against the lushness of their surroundings. Shinkai opens with some Tokyo traffic scenes even brighter and more complex than his previous accomplishments in that area. His primary focus, though, settles on the park where the two always meet, with its lush trees, landscaping, and varying rhythms of rain, sometimes refracted through Takao’s transparent umbrella. (The gardens are actually modeled on Tokyo’s real-life Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, although a disclaimer at the end of the DVD advises that in real life alcohol and tobacco use are forbidden on its grounds.)

Yukari Yukino is a mysterious person, perhaps wary of the age difference between Takao and herself. She confounds the young man by speaking in strange verse which turns out to be a tanka — an ancient Japanese poetry form, usually consisting of five lines in varying lengths.

To convince Yukari to speak back to him, Takao must search his memory for the rest of the tanka. Then he must put up with her odd and evasive behavior, even as he works to befriend her. Yukari has secrets, and as the anime’s 46 minutes roll on, Takao discovers a few.

The revelations will make him unpopular, even bullied, at school, where he’s already not terribly popular. The toxic nature of the schoolyard rumor mill threatens to overwhelm him.

Without spaceships, mecha suits, aliens, or fantasy monsters to work with, Shinkai focuses intently, and brilliantly, on the two characters, their escalating affection for each other, their respective dilemmas, and their struggles with their increasingly mutual dilemma. He works with nature until it effectively becomes a third character in the drama, especially the ever-shifting, increasingly poetic, patterns of the rain, mixed, eventually, with tears. “The Garden Of Words” marks another step forward for the master animator, and should inspire other artists to work with strictly dramatic stories in anime. (end)

“The Garden Of Words” is available on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Check your local video store for availability.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at

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Five Students Spend Summer Outdoors as Philipstown Garden Club Interns

September 28, 2013

Longstanding program is also supported by Putnam Highland Audubon Society and Masonic Lodge #236

By Alison Rooney and Betty Monroe

Each summer, interested students from area public and private schools vie for one of five internships at local nonprofits, where they spend a minimum of 20 hours a week throughout the summer working on a variety of designated tasks, largely outdoors. The program is sponsored by the Philipstown Garden Club (PGC), with support from the Masonic Lodge #236 and the Putnam Highland Audubon Society.

This past summer, students — who must be entering their junior or senior year of high school or freshman year of college — from Haldane and O’Neill High Schools were placed at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary; The Garrison Institute; Glynwood Farm; Manitoga; and Stonecrop Gardens. The process is competitive: the students must display an interest in horticulture and/or the environment, and submit an application and then undergo an interview with Garden Club members. Interns, who must write a report detailing their experience, receive a $1,000 stipend, the cost of which is split between the PGC and each nonprofit.

Betty Monroe, from the PGC, met with each student toward the end of their internship and reported the following:

PGC intern Yem Carabello (center) at Glynwood, with Jarrett Nelson, left, and Dave Llewellyn

PGC intern Yem Carabello (center) at Glynwood, with Jarrett Nelson, left, and Dave Llewellyn

Yemajha Caraballo, a recent graduate of O’Neill High School, spent part of his summer working at Glynwood Farm. Glynwood, a non-profit, is dedicated to promoting locally grown food and sustainable agriculture. It has also maintained a commitment to the highest standards in humane animal husbandry. Glynwood’s mission is to improve the regional food system for the sake of human, animal and environmental health.

Yem’s responsibilities included the many necessary steps involved in agriculture such as weeding, transplanting, thinning, harvesting, and pruning in order to produce the vast array of produce at the farm. “I learned so much from my two supervisors, Dave Llewellyn and Jarrett Nelson, about proper plant care and treatment,” Yemajha said.

He also credits the many interns and apprentices working at the farm who were always more than happy to do additional work without complaint, and who were happy to impart their years of experience. He enjoyed their diversity and their common love for healthy organic farming, and the superior results it provides as opposed to store-bought produce. Parts of the experience he particularly enjoyed were pick-up days, when he got to meet people from surrounding counties who have a love for fresh produce and the benefit it provides for body and mind.

Russell Cox, a senior at Haldane High School, has been doing a lot of physical work this summer on the four miles of walking trails at Manitoga in Garrison. Manitoga, named after the Algonquin word for “place of great spirit” was the home of industrial designer Russel Wright. Today the home, studio and 75-acre woodland gardens express Wright’s ideas about creating design which works in harmony with nature.

Garden Club intern Russell Cox at Manitoga

Garden Club intern Russell Cox at Manitoga

During July and August, Russell, under the supervision of landscape designer Emily Phillips, helped to maintain Manitoga’s grounds and general landscaping. The summer’s heavy rains did not make this an easy task. The heavy run-off eroded paths, clogged drainage ditches, knocked out sections of the natural landscaping, and brought down many heavy tree branches. Russell enjoyed the hard work afforded by this experience. He was also part of a team that worked at Manitoga’s day camp to create a new location for campers to congregate. This was done in an effort to allow the overused Mary’s Meadow, to reestablish itself. He recalls the highlight of his experience as the day he built a stage for the young campers in the pouring rain.

Haldane senior John Hughes, who is interested in environmental engineering, was selected to be the first PGC intern to participate in the program at The Garrison Institute. The Institute is the newest community member to join the internship program. Founded in 2003, it has been host to more than 40,000 participants at retreats and events held during the past 10 years. Forests and fields and contemplative gardens help to germinate ideas and practices conducive to personal growth and social change.

Garden Club intern John Hughes at Garrison Institute

Garden Club intern John Hughes at Garrison Institute

John was very complimentary of the staff and found everyone at the Institute to be friendly and outgoing. Under the direction of Paul Blasak, John was given various responsibilities caring for the center’s beautiful gardens and grounds. Weeding, watering, mulching and controlling invasive species were part of his daily routine. One of the most challenging, and the most fun for John, was clearing the large tracts of invasive bamboo found in various sections on the property. John’s favorite week at the Institute was getting ready for a scheduled outdoor event. The area where the affair was being held needed to be cleared, weeded, planted and mulched. “It was cool to see the transformation. It went from a very ugly area to a really nice flower bed.”

Garden Club intern Ashley Cooper at the Marsh.

Garden Club intern Ashley Cooper at the Marsh.

Recent Haldane graduate Ashley Cooper spent her final summer before starting college interning at Constitution Marsh. The Sanctuary, a 270-acre tidal marsh, is a New York State Bird Conservation Area and a Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. The marsh provides refuge to the wildlife of the Hudson River Estuary and the group provides stewardship to the fragile wetland. Their goal is to give visitors a chance to observe river life and to gain insight into the conservation of the natural world.

Ashley was involved with setting up groups for the educational programs. She also acted, on occasion, as a tour guide. She was involved with marsh and stream studies, providing information about ecology and identifying various species. She also worked with other interns to control an invasive plant, phragmites, which is found in the marsh. By tarping the invasive reeds for a period of two years, heat will destroy the invasive species. Although a rather muddy endeavor, it was one of Ashley’s most enjoyable experiences.

Her most memorable day at the marsh was with a group of teachers from Westchester. They used a telescope and located a Bald Eagle’s nest. They were able to observe the bird in its natural environment, a truly wonderful experience.

Garden Club intern Kieran Austin at Stonecrop.

Garden Club intern Kieran Austin at Stonecrop.

One beautiful sunny day and a chance meeting brought a realization to Philipstown Garden Club’s intern, Kieran Austin. As he was going about his daily assignment, a mom walking by with her young daughter commented, “You’re really lucky to work here.” It became his most memorable moment, as it made him aware that working at Stonecrop seemed more like a vacation spot than a work destination. Stonecrop’s gardens cover an area of approximately 12 acres and comprise a diverse collection of plants found in woodland and water gardens, a grass garden, raised alpine stone beds, cliff rock gardens, and an enclosed English-style flower garden. The entry to Stonecrop is highlighted by a glass conservatory at the edge of a water lily pond. Walking the winding pathways leads visitors through what seems like a storybook wonderland.

Kieran, a senior at Haldane, is interested in biology. He was first introduced to Stonecrop by his parents when he was a boy. Through his experience at Stonecrop, he learned that “horticulture is a lot less precise than he thought … it is kind of taking nature as it is.” Under the guidance of Stonecrop’s Emily Detrick, he learned how to prune, start plants from seeds, transplant seedlings, and properly mulch, water and dead-head various plant species. Kieran found transplanting and pruning to be a relaxing task which provided the most enjoyment because it allowed him to see the direct impact his actions had on the plants.

Images courtesy of Betty Monroe, Philipstown Garden Club

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Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9


Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Helianthus maximilian

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9


Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9


Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

Bamboo Muhly

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Texas native plants seminar

What: A panel of horticulture experts will present on why Texas residents should use plants native to Texas in their gardens

Where: Thomas Leroy Education Center, 9020 Airport Road

When: Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.

Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2013 12:34 am

Landscaping with Texas Native Plants Seminar set for Oct. 9

By Linda Crum
Montgomery County Master Gardener

Houston Community Newspapers

Several years of drought and water restrictions in Southeast Texas have brought about a renewed interest in landscaping with native plants.

Native plants use less water and serve as a food source for wildlife. A hesitancy to use native plants may be lack of knowledge of how to landscape with them or a lack of availability in local nurseries.

The Montgomery County Master Gardener Association will sponsor Landscaping with Texas Natives seminar Oct. 9 at the Thomas LeRoy Education Center, 9020 Airport Road, Conroe at 7 p.m.

Door prizes include native plant books and everyone will receive a native plant. Two speakers will be featured at the seminar.

Alan King of College Station, Texas is an award-winning, registered landscape architect. He will make the case for why residents in Texas should be using native plants in the landscape.

He will present basic elements of good landscape design including style, scale and color.

King has won several awards for his landscape designs including one from HGTV. He is passionate about landscape design and will give information needed to make a good design

Diana Foss, wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, is not only an expert in managing wildlife in urban environments, but has an intense interest in native plants and resource conservation.

She will give recommendations of native plants specific to Southeast Texas.

Those interested in planting for wildlife will learn why native plants are so important in designing wildlife gardens.

Native plants are used in all the demonstration gardens at Texas AgriLife Extension. The garden on the north side of the Extension building is devoted exclusively to native plants.

Come early to the seminar and take a tour around the gardens. And do not forget to come to the 2013 fall plant sale Oct. 12.

The Master Gardeners will offer many native, well-adapted, vegetable and herb plants for your garden.


Saturday, September 28, 2013 12:34 am.

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Fertilizer restrictions go into effect Oct. 1

What kind of lawn fertilizer should I use in the fall? There are so many kinds with different numbers and different chemicals and some with zero chemicals.

Glad you asked. The Maryland Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 kicks in fully on Oct.1. The law, aimed at protecting the Chesapeake Bay, limits the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer products. We have a new publication on our website that explains the new rules. Go to

The chemical numbers you’re referring to is the fertilizer ratio, a designation on all fertilizers. Its three numbers stand for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, always in that order–often called “the N-P-K.” Both nitrogen and phosphorus are the big polluting nutrients harming the Bay. Because phosphorus levels in most Maryland soils are adequate, it will no longer be automatically included in lawn fertilizers (and appear as a zero in the ratio), but can be applied if a soil test shows it’s needed. Nitrogen can be applied yearly in the proper amounts.

See our publication “How to Fertilize Your Lawn Responsibly” for simple fertilizer charts of what, when, and how much.

Is there is really such thing as a book worm? Some old books in our book case are chewed right through cover to cover.

Termites love books, and magazines, and newspapers, but they aren’t reading. Good to know as we accumulate paper products for recycling. Paper, including cardboard, is wood pulp in another form and provides nourishment for termites. See how to identify a termite and what to do for termite control in both our Plant Diagnostic or the Publication section, under Pest Control, on our HGIC website.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the Week

Feather Reed Grass ‘Karl Foerster’

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Named the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, ornamental grass Karl Foerster provides three generous seasons of interest. Sturdy green blades emerge early from winter dormancy, growing 2-3-feet tall. Feathery and purplish inflorescences (flower stalks) shoot up high in summer, moving gracefully in breezes. By August, they become narrow and tan, making a strong vertical statement. Effective as single specimens or in masses, Karl Foerster grows best in well-drained, moist soil but adapts to heavier clay soils and drier sites. Plant in sun to prevent inflorescences from flopping. Cut the clump back to about 6 inches in late winter or early spring before new growth. — Debra Ricigliano

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7 Tips for Growing an Herb Garden in Your Kitchen


No matter the weather outside, Emily Dickinson (no relation to the poet!) can always add fresh-from-the-garden herbs to her home-cooked meals. If she wants a sprig of rosemary for spaghetti sauce or a bunch of basil for pesto, she simply snips just the right amount from her kitchen herb garden.

“I love to cook, so I grow herbs indoors,” says the architect who lives with her husband in a row house in Washington, DC. She grows tasty selections such as basil, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, and chives on her kitchen windowsill.

“I like having the herbs in the kitchen, so I can easily throw them in while I’m cooking,” says Dickinson. “And since I’m typically cooking for two, I like the convenience of being able to harvest only what I need.”

If you want to enjoy a continuous supply of garden-fresh herbs in your own kitchen, keep these tips in mind.

1. Choose plants carefully. Opt for small-leaved herb varieties when possible, as they do the best indoors. In basil, for instance, you’ll find Fino verde, which has half-inch leaves. Some herbs naturally have small foliage, like oregano.

Buy established herb plants in the nursery or via mail-order, or grow your own from seeds or cuttings. Dickinson grows her basil year-round by periodically letting older plants go to seed and then scattering the seeds in the pot. To grow mint, she roots clippings.

Start herbs from seed in a soil-less potting mix in a warm location. Hasten germination and get the plants off to a good start by growing them on a seedling heat mat. Once the herbs reach two inches high, take them off the heat and repot them in regular potting soil.

2. Provide plenty of light. Most herbs grow best in a bright location, such as near an unobstructed southern window. Eastern and northern windows can also work, if you provide supplemental light from full-spectrum lighting. Western windows receive afternoon sun, but get warm and may burn foliage, especially in the summer months.

If your kitchen is windowless, grow herbs in a hydroponic growing system that comes with its own special lighting.

3. Ensure air-circulation and cool conditions. Herbs grown in stuffy, warm rooms attract pests like scale insects and mealybugs, and they grow weak and spindly.

“Herbs don’t like it warm in winter, even if you do, so place them in cool areas, such as on windowsills,” says Denise Schreiber, greenhouse manager for Allegheny County Parks in Pittsburgh and author of Eat Your Roses. “Air circulation is also necessary,” she says. “Locate the herbs near an overhead fan or in an area of the kitchen that receives air movement from another room.” Cracking windows open occasionally also helps.

4. Watch watering. Avoid overwatering your indoor herb garden or letting pots sit in trays of water, as soggy soil will quickly lead to root rot. Water when the first inch of soil dries out.

5. Rotate often. Leggy, weak growth is a common problem with indoor herbs. Help ensure they grow straight and strong by rotating the plants once a week so that all sides receive adequate light.

6. Fertilize monthly. Keep your herbs growing healthy and strong by feeding them on a regular basis with a half-strength solution of a well-balanced, liquid fertilizer, such as a 15-15-15.

7. Prune regularly. Fortunately for your cooking, herbs require frequent pinching for the plants to stay bushy and healthy, so make sure to prune often. The more you pinch, the more the herbs will grow, and the tastier your cooking will be.

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GARDEN, Atlanta’s Boutique Landscape Firm, Says Gardens are Moving Inside

Atlanta’s go-to destination for all things urban landscaping
and southern flora, is launching GARDEN terrarium kits so people can
easily add green to the inside of their homes. While Matthew Klyn,
GARDEN’s founder and owner, has designed some of the city’s most
appealing outdoor landscapes, the GARDEN terrarium kits
mark a move to empower anyone to build and maintain their own small
ecosystem indoors.

idea behind the terrarium kits was all about making growing something
beautiful accessible to everyone, even inside their homes,” said Klyn.
“So we needed to develop
the best way to package and ship them so that you could literally pick
one off the shelf and build yourself a self-sustaining tiny ecosystem
that thrives on neglect.”

kit features everything needed to cultivate your own terrarium: a 100%
recycled glass terrarium, available in 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch
sizes, along with charcoal,
orchid mix, terrarium soil, moss, gravel, stones, decorative accents
and building and care instructions.

you’ve established your terrarium, you can adorn it with additional
plant kits including mini orchids, greens, Tillandsia and succulents.
The GARDEN team hand selects
all plants seasonally. All plants can be purchased in-store or at

The GARDEN terrarium kits are available in-store at GARDEN, located in West Midtown. Additional retailers can be found on


is Atlanta’s boutique landscape and garden design firm and retail store
known for using modern aesthetics to elevate urban design.

on sustainable, green principles, GARDEN offers a complete range of
services, from design and consultation to full-scale installation. Each
GARDEN design is a thoughtful
creation incorporating the client’s personal style into an organic
extension of the natural environment. Calling upon its deep knowledge of
native flora, soil biochemistry, and horticulture, GARDEN provides
long-lasting design solutions that require light
maintenance, from exotic and unusual to modern and artistic landscapes. 

west-side retail store offers a wide selection of signature terrariums,
striking floral arrangements, container gardens, and elegant scents and
oils. GARDEN also
houses a seasonal collection of home-ready accessories handpicked for
the discerning shopper.

The Reynolds Group contributed this article to Midtown Patch

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James van Sweden Dies at 78; His Designs Urged Lawns to Grow

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said Lisa Delplace, the chief executive of Oehme, van Sweden Associates, the firm Mr. van Sweden founded in 1977 with Wolfgang Oehme, a fellow landscape architect, to spread their gospel of a kinder, shaggier horticulture.

In books, lectures and an expansive oeuvre of gardens, the two men led a revolt against the staid American lawn, with its evergreen plantings cosseting the house, manicured grass stretching to the curb and few herbaceous flowering plants. Their alternative was to put shrubs like yews toward the street, where they could grow unclipped and provide privacy for an inner space crammed with surprises like fountains and fine ferns.

Other surprises — actually carefully concocted visual effects — came with the passage of time as the light changed, shadows grew and the seasons turned. Even changing winds were considered.

And the bigger the effect, the better, even if acreage was minimal. “You have to think big,” Mr. van Sweden told The Washington Post in 1998. “Think huge leaves, enormous grasses and flowers big as dinner plates. The worst thing you can do is be ditsy.”

The result was gardens that “move in the breeze and sparkle like stained glass,” Mr. van Sweden wrote in “Gardening With Nature” (1997). The designers called their vision “the new American garden.”

Mr. van Sweden immodestly called his collaboration with Mr. Oehme (pronounced EHR-ma) “a partnership of genius,” and plenty of prestigious clients agreed. Their work has graced embassies, universities and private homes, including Oprah Winfrey’s elegant French chateau-style country house near South Bend, Ind.

In Washington their work can be seen at the Treasury Building, the National Gallery of Art, the United States National Arboretum, the Federal Reserve building and the National World War II Memorial on the Mall. Ronald Reagan National Airport, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Francis Scott Key Park in the Georgetown district also carry their signature.

In New York, they created pieces of Battery Park City and Hudson River Park. Their work extended to Minneapolis, Chicago and West Virginia.

The son of a builder, James Anthony van Sweden was born on Feb. 5, 1935, in the large Dutch community in Grand Rapids, Mich. He learned a sense of order from his mother, who hung laundry on her clothesline hierarchically from small to big, socks to sheets, The Post said.

He earned an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Michigan and did postgraduate work in city planning in the Netherlands. He then spent 13 years as an urban designer in Washington.

In 1957, his future collaborator, Mr. Oehme, came to Baltimore from East Germany as an already respected landscape architect. Mr. van Sweden was awe-struck when he saw a garden Mr. Oehme had designed.

“I had never seen such a beautiful garden in my life,” he wrote. “I knew right then that Wolfgang Oehme was somebody to grapple with, to be involved with.”

When Mr. van Sweden bought a row house in Washington’s Georgetown district in 1970, he asked Mr. Oehme’s help in creating a garden for his narrow backyard. The result was an unusual mix of huge ornamental grasses, magnolia, holly, Japanese snowball and witch hazel. Mr. van Sweden thought others might appreciate a similar amenity, and he proposed that the two men set up a firm. Their partnership began in 1977.

In a memorial to Mr. van Sweden on its Web site, the Cultural Landscape Foundation praised him and his partner for their environmentally benign approach: they eschewed pesticides and favored perennials. It lauded their fecundity: they planted flowers and bushes not by threes and fours but by the thousands. It called Mr. van Sweden’s sensibility “painterly,” and indeed he claimed inspiration from masters like Johannes Vermeer and Willem de Kooning.

In its online appreciation, Landscape Architecture magazine said “legions of designers and home gardeners embraced the firm’s style.”

Many learned the details of that style from Mr. van Sweden’s books, including “Gardening With Water” (1995); “Bold Romantic Gardens” (1990), written with Mr. Oehme and Susan Rademacher; and “Architecture in the Garden” (2003), written with Thomas Christopher.

That latter book discusses the garden’s surroundings and interior elements like paths, edgings and artwork, areas in which Mr. van Sweden specialized. Mr. Oehme took the lead in horticultural matters.

Mr. Oehme died in 2011. Mr. van Sweden’s marriage to Linda Nordyke ended in divorce. He is survived by his sisters, Karyl Mangus and Christie Kauffman.

In “Architecture in the Garden,” Mr. van Sweden recalled the problem he perceived when Ms. Winfrey commissioned him, for a reported $9 million, to improve the grounds around her country home in Indiana: nothing separated it from the surrounding farmland.

“Over the next four years, we worked together to create an architectural context around the house, including newly installed terraces and walls,” he wrote. “The materials we selected, brick framed with limestone, echoed the house, yet this architecture also conformed to the surrounding countryside, adopting its long, horizontal lines. In this way, we quite literally pulled the house out into the site.”

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