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Archives for October 2013

Lowenfels: With gardening season over, time to settle in for winter reading

This is the time of year when folks suddenly realize that it really is over. There will be no more outdoor gardening for nine whole months. What to do in that void? Obviously, indoor growing should be considered. And, it seems to me that in these dark months it’s worthwhile to catch up on reading. This is a great time to get into some gardening magazines.

I know we all have iPads and computers and get a lot of our gardening information from the Internet, but there is something about a print magazine, especially a gardening or horticultural one, that makes it important to keep them around. I note this because earlier this year the entire staff of Garden Design magazine, one of the few magazines left, were summarily dismissed as the mag went out of publication. Personally, that is a shame. There is a place for these publications in the garden world, even if there may not be in the news world. Gardeners really should support them lest they all disappear. Here are a few suggestions.

Let’s start with one I always push because it is so unique. “Green Prints” ( is the only monthly compilation of what I call “Hort Lit.” This consists of horticultural stories and writings rather than the “how-to” stuff that you find in all the other gardening magazines. This is a thick — 75 or so pages — “Readers Digest-size” monthly compilation of the best of what editor (and my good friend) Pat Stone can find amongst all the garden print. (He must read a lot!) In any case, you will find funny stories, poignant stories, children’s stories and more. As an added inducement to subscribe to Green Prints, I would mention it won the Best Garden Magazine Award from the Garden Writers Association.

Next is Rodale Press’ “Organic Gardening” ( Yup, this is the successor title to the original Organic Farming and Gardening, still going strong after all these years. It keeps reinventing itself, which means it is always changing. If that sounds bad, it isn’t. It keeps the magazine fresher (and trying harder) than some of the others. If you are not an organic gardener as a result of reading this column, perhaps Rodale Press will convince you of how easy it is to drop the chemicals.

“Garden Gate” ( magazine comes out every two months. It is a glossy full of gorgeous pictures and fact-filled articles on all aspects of gardening. The folks who publish it are so sure you will want to subscribe, they are willing to send you a free issue to try. What have you to lose?

“The English Garden” ( is, as you have already guessed, a publication out of England. It is full of fantastic garden pictures and interviews with gardeners who design, build or maintain them. Yes, it is all about gardening in Great Britain and reviews their stuff and people, not ours, but hey, it’s winter here so what does that matter?

“Gardens Illustrated” is another garden magazine from England ( Get ready to do some drooling. This one is full of beautiful pictures of gardens, English gardening advice, and articles about plants worldwide.

“Fine Gardening” ( bills itself as a garden design magazine. It is probably the American equivalent of a high-brow English magazine, and I mean that in a positive way. It has fantastic photography and writing. You won’t just read this in a couple of minutes. If you want you can purchase one month at a time. People use words like “breathtaking” when describing some of the gardens covered, and there is no question yours might seem a bit pale in comparison. Nonetheless, there is always something inspiring as well. Besides, aren’t Alaskan winters for dreaming a bit?

There are other magazines, horticulturally oriented and otherwise, which always devote a portion of their print pages to gardening and gardens. If you have one worthy of note, let me know at It’s a long winter, climate change or not. We have plenty of time to read.

Jeff Lowenfels’ bestselling books are available at and

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Ex-Mayor Daley gives tour of Millennium Park for Ideas Week

Millennium Park is a must-see for visitors to Chicago that generates more than $2 billion a year in tourism revenue.

But before it was completed nine years ago, the park was an idea that then-Mayor Richard Daley had. He talked about his vision with people in town for Chicago Ideas Week.

Daley recalled the intricate planning it took to transform what was a 24-acre eyesore near Michigan and Randolph into a world-class destination.

“Landscaping was the key, very important,” he said.

Taking the tour were some of the people in town for Chicago Ideas Week, interested in learning how Daley’s vision for Millennium Park became reality.

“I’ve been to concerts here, so it’s fantastic to take a tour and learn the behind-the-scenes history of it,” said Gregory Tall.

“As we walk through the park with him, you see his attention to detail manifest itself everywhere in this place,” said Brad Keywell, Chicago Ideas Week.

Development of Millennium Park started in 1998 when Edward Uhlir was brought on board as the project design director. It took more than five years and nearly $500 million to complete. But Uhlir says the park is now a source of inspiration.

“It’s an attraction for people from all over the world who are in government designing their own parks and private-sector people, too, something to Millennium Park to see if there’s a way to do the same thing in their cities,” said Uhlir.

Daley says the goal of bringing a beautiful public space to the heart of the city has been achieved. And he’s looking ahead to more development.

“It gave us a new identity of a public space, which is really unique. Then with Maggie Daley Park, you put them together, it’s going to be sensational,” Daley said.

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Fall Gardening Tips For San Diego

Midday Edition logo

Fall Gardening Tips For San Diego

Aired 10/28/13


Nan Sterman, garden designer, author, botanist, and host of the KPBS television series “A Growing Passion,”


San Diego’s climate is rare. With its hot, dry summers and mild wet winters, San Diego enjoys a Mediterranean climate that can only be found in a few parts of the world.

Nan Sterman, garden designer, author, botanist, and host of the KPBS television series “A Growing Passion,” said most people aren’t aware that Fall is the best time to plant in our climate.

“The ground is still warm, the air is cool so it’s not as hot and dry,” she said. “Plants have an easier time adapting because they don’t wilt.”

Sterman said fall is the time to plant deciduous fruit trees, shrubs, lavender and anything that’s woody or native to California.

That gives you a lot of options. There are 5,500 native plant species in California, more than any other state.

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November Gardening Tips

In November at Cedar Creek Lake we start to experience colder temperatures and usually our first frost of the season. The average first frost day for our area is November 15th. While many plants above ground are moving into a dormant state for winter, there are still many important gardening tasks to be completed in and around the garden.

If you lost plants this summer due to the excessive heat and are looking to replace them, fall is the best times of year to replant. All horticultural professions are in agreement on this point – FALL IS FOR PLANTING. Trees and shrubs planted this time of year get their root systems established for better spring growth and blooming. Plus, it greatly improves their chances of surviving our hot Texas summers.

Preparing your plant and vegetable beds in the fall ready for spring is recommended. Using compost, manure and dried molasses to improve the quality of your soil will give your plants a big head start in the new year. At Cedar Creek Lake there are several different soil types. If you have heavy clay, use expanded shale or lava sand to break up the soil and improve drainage. For sandy soils, amending with compost will improve the soil structure and help hold moisture.

If you are looking to have bright vibrant colors in your home for the holidays or in your landscape in spring, think bulbs. Daffodils, tulips, paperwhites, amaryllis and hyacinths are all available now for planting. Bulbs, especially daffodils, look spectacular in the landscape when planted in clumps or groups rather than standing alone.

According to the Dallas Arboretum, single late tulips grow best in North Texas. They should know, they plant over 400,000 each year! Recommendations include Menton, Blushing Girl and Maureen. Tulips are best chilled in the refrigerator for 4 – 6 weeks before planting to ensure the best flowers.

If you have tropical plants like hibiscus, bougainvillea, palms or citrus fruits that are not winter hardy, remember to bring them inside before the night temperatures get too cold. When inside find a sunny location and continue to water but less often.

Pruning is recommended at this time of year. Pruning trees and shrubs serves two purposes – to remove dead branches that are an entry point for unwanted diseases and insects and to shape and beautify the look. Use sharp pruners and a pruning sealer to protect the cut. Perennials should be cut back to the ground after the first frost.

If your lawn is a warmer season grass like St Augustine or Bermuda it will start to go dormant this time of year. Cut back on watering to prevent fungus and disease from developing.

Happy Gardening

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Gardening Tips – Natural Garden Introduces Practical Ways to Landscape on a …

Steve Kaplan
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Tips o’ the Irish gleaned from visit to Emerald Isle’s gardens

When we travel the world to see great gardens we learn to be flexible.

Our latest tour to Ireland was billed as the castles, gardens and pubs tour, but thanks to our local guide we added a performance of “River Dance” in Killarney and falconry lessons at an Ashford castle where launching a large falcon from one’s arm gives a whole new meaning to the term “flipping the bird.”

Here are a few take-home ideas from the most spectacular gardens in Ireland.

Choose a signature color for your garden. Many of the grand estate gardens used paint to add a repeating color on the wooden structures and hardscaping. Benches, artwork and doorways all matched with bright red, cool blue or turquoise green paint. The flower shades and foliage colors might change from month to month but a single, repetitive tint held the explosion of color together. Choose your own signature color and start painting — the front door is a great starting point.

Frame a great view with a wide path and side planting — or use your window frame. We were awed by the grand vistas at huge estates such as Powerscourt House but even without acres of landscape you can imitate the skill that the Victorians used in framing great views. Just a pathway of lawn or paving material can lead the eye toward a lovely tree, bench or garden art.

Another way to frame a view is to design from the inside looking out — let your favorite window be the frame for the garden view you will be looking at year-round.

Add some height with ivy covered arches, wooden columns or a classic “folly.” Greek temples or contrived castle ruins were used in large estate gardens and these destinations were called “a folly” by their creators as they fooled visitors into thinking the garden was much older than it was. In your own garden you can repurpose or recycle a broken pot laying on its side with a ground cover plant spilling forth from the opening or use a rusty bicycle or wine barrel as a planter to give your garden a sense of history.

In a small garden use structures and archway to add height. Not only do you get the instant gratification of a vertical element but a garden structure won’t outgrow it’s space.

Pot up your blooming plants and move them around the garden. Helen Dillon is an internationally known garden writer and we were surprised to find metal garbage cans filled with flowers and foliage plants framing her formal water feature. Dillon is a color expert in the garden, on display in the way her gray and silver containers blended with the gray paving stone around the dark pool of her water feature. She also grows plants in black plastic nursery pots so she can mingle them in her borders, adding color accents where needed. The black pots seem to blend and disappear into the soil.

Add extra color to your people photos — use garden blooms for a backdrop. You don’t have to be a gardener to add the wow factor to your family or vacation photos. Our group had great fun looking for flowers that matched up with what we were wearing. Posing in front of plants that coordinate with a scarf, shirt or jacket brightens the intensity of all the color tones and reminds us all that you don’t have to travel far to realize that the world is really a beautiful place.

Celebrate the autumn season by posing in front of a fall scene at a public park or garden. Wear something orange, gold or brown. You’ll want to print and frame the colorful result and bring it out for display every autumn.


Want to join us on our next garden adventure tour? We’ve booked a river cruise down the Danube that sails July 1 with stops in Vienna, Germany and Budapest, Hungary, and a custom tour of the gardens of the Sound of Music. Contact or 253-863-2245.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at

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Pratt Mansion Turned into Showcase for Top Design Talent

A Glen Cove home showcasing the talents of 25 of the Metropolitan New York area’s top interior and landscape designers is now open to the public.

“Home Is Where The Heart Is” will turn Standard Oil heiress Lydia Pratt’s 7,000 square foot 19th Century Colonial Revival mansion at 145 Dosoris Lane into a paradise of art. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the American Heart Association. 

Participating designers include: Anne Tarasoff Interiors, Baltimore Design Group, Barbara Page Home, Baron-Goldstein Design Associates, Ltd., Beach Glass Designs, Catherine Brown Paterson Design, Dee Ann Design, LLC, Dyfari Interiors, Elsa Soyars Interiors Ltd., Eva Art Design, Inc., Garden Rooms, Inc.
Greg Lanza Design, Henry Co Design, Karen Joy Rosen Interior Design, Kate Singer/Kate Singer Home, Kim E. Courtney Interiors Design, Loria Design Group
Margreet Cevasco Design, Melanie Roy Design, Suzanne Costa Interiors, The Plant Doctor, Inc., The Rinfret Group, Vasi Ypsilantis Design Associates, Willow Garden Design. 

The showhouse will be open from Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 to Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Showhouse will be closed on Mondays and on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28. 

Admission to the Showhouse is $30 per person or $20 per person when purchased in groups of 20 or more. There will be no admission to the Showhouse 30 minutes before closing. Children under 6, strollers and pets are not admitted into the Showhouse.

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Some Useful Garden Suggestions to Create a Garden to Look Beautiful

Steve Kaplan
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Happy birthday John Brookes, the king of garden design

Anyone interested in design can immediately tell when they walk into a John
Brookes garden that it has been designed. It will have impact. The spaces
will contrast yet work together, it will feel good to be in, it will be
fascinating and it will work.

When John visits a new client and assesses their garden, he invariably takes
on board what the client wants, be it a large eating area, screening from
neighbours, or a children’s play area. Looking at the house inside can be
revealing: “If it is all a bit of a tip, they won’t cope with or want an
immaculate, formal garden,” he says. He will then see what the site needs:
maybe there is a muddle of conifers that are getting a bit above themselves,
views that could be opened up or unsightly views of flats.


The period and layout of the house has a strong influence on the site. Some
garden areas are more important due to their juxtaposition with the house.
Putting a contemporary, asymmetrical design in front of a perfectly
proportioned Queen Anne house would be a difficult mix to harmonise. “A good
design is rather like a well-cut suit – it has to be right,” he says. “No
matter how many decorations you add to it, if the basic cut does not look
good then nothing will rectify it. It also has to be suitable for the
purpose and place, just as you would not turn up to a black-tie affair in
jogging bottoms.”

The whole design process is daunting for those not tuned into designing or
gardens. Now, at 80, John finds the process easier and quicker to get
results that both he and the client find satisfying and exciting. He has
encountered many different sites, clients, climates and budgets and has
developed a repertoire of strategies and techniques that enable him to
create great things from unpromising beginnings.

The process he uses is one he recommends to anyone embarking on a new garden.
The key starting position is to get an accurate survey of the site with the
house included. If you cannot run to a surveyor, your conveyance plan
enlarged to 1:100 or a convenient scale depending on the site, is a great
starting point. With a long tape measure (or two if you can go to
triangulation) you can add on all the elements you wish to keep: trees,
access, doors to the house, and so forth. Levels can be measured with the
help of a mini laser level from Screwfix or similar.

The client needs to compile a list of exactly what they want. For people who
have not had a garden before this is more difficult, but a garden space has
tremendous possibilities and these are expanding all the time.

Talking to a New Zealand architect recently, he said he designed houses with
gardens where anything you could do inside you could do outside too. He has
designed garden bedrooms with beds that could be rolled out so you could
sleep outside, outdoor fireplaces and kitchens.


Their climate is different to ours but we are increasingly pushing the
boundaries of what you can achieve in an outdoor space. Fresh air and more
natural surroundings are a wonderful tonic and in the garden we can exploit
them to contrast with our increasingly technological life.

The next step John advocates is to sketch positions on the plan of what might
go where. Then factors such as the orientation come into play and things are
shuffled round. Sometimes he will use cardboard templates to help this
rationalisation and organisation. The design process then proceeds with
decisions as to whether it will be classic and symmetrical or modern and
asymmetric. Eventually it will evolve into a design that embraces all the
factors. When he presents it to the client he explains the process and why
things are how they are.

John finds working on a new garden is invariably stimulating and exciting.
Much of his time is now spent on large commissions in Russia, Louisiana and
other far flung places which throw up exciting new challenges ensuring that
even someone of his vast experience is not continually within his comfort

Looking back at his designs from 50 years ago he is still proud of them but
they were different then. Today they tend to be larger and more lavish. The
Room Outside has grown — in many ways.

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Tonight: Woodside weighs next steps for Town Center plan

What qualifications should the town of Woodside require of a professional facilitator who would conduct community meetings early in 2014 about the future of the Town Center, with particular attention to buildings and structures, landscaping, signs, lighting, land use and traffic circulation?

The Town Council will meet to address this question tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 29) in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

“It is critical that the facilitator selected be familiar with the culture and history of Woodside, and its deeply-rooted desire to remain a rural residential community,” Planning Director Jackie Young says in a staff report. The town used a facilitator to guide a community task force in updating the general plan, a year-long community effort generally regarded as a success.

The task force working on the Town Center plan held several wide-ranging brainstorming sessions in the spring. The topics of greatest concern were parking and traffic circulation, the report says. Other ideas included public restrooms, water fountains, receptacles for recycling, parking for bicycles, burying utility lines that are now overhead, and possibly amending voter-approved restrictions on Town Center development (Measures J and 1) to allow additional uses, perhaps more parking and a farmers’ market.

At a May 28, 2013, council meeting, many residents vigorously reminded the council of the important role of Measure J in maintaining Woodside’s character. In response, council members repeatedly noted that ideas from brainstorming sessions are just ideas, not plans, that interesting and creative concepts sometimes emerge as a result of considering ideas that are not practical or workable.

Go to this link to view the entire staff report, including detailed minutes from earlier council meetings.

The discussion on amending Measure J had gathered momentum in the context of a new Sunday farmers’ market that had found a temporary home in the parking lot of Woodside Elementary School.

That location, while convenient for traffic on Woodside Road, is not town-owned property and thus makes the popular market vulnerable to dislocation. Ideas for a permanent home for a market included the parking lot area near Town Hall — a proposal that would have required amending Measure J, the town attorney said, and a proposal since discarded.

The school board “invited the market back for the 2014 season” on Oct. 14, according to the staff report.

In July, the council authorized traffic and parking counts. The traffic counts held in September on Woodside, Portola, Canada and Whiskey Hill roads showed a 6.5 percent increase over a study done at these same locations in September 2010, the staff report says.

The results of the parking study will be available in December. Because there is a council election in November, the council is not expected to meet until after the election has been certified, which generally happens around the end of November.

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