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Archives for October 2, 2013

Bay City in Bloom honors color, variety and well-maintained gardens – The Ann Arbor News

BAY CITY, MI — With fall on its way and summer annuals on their last hurrah, mums, sedum, annuals and other fall plants are still offering up plenty of color in the garden.

Fall also is the time avid gardeners thoughts turn to spring with the big question, “What am I going to do next year?”

May the Bay City in Bloom committee offer a few suggestions. August award winners were chosen by Kathy Brannigan, who heads up the awards committee.

Throughout the growing season – June through September – various members of local service groups scour the Bay City area looking for gardens, then award one residence, one business and one institution an award for going above and beyond in the curb appeal department.

For a peak at past winners or to nominate someone for next year, log on to baycityinbloom.


Site: 5320 Brookway Drive

Owners: Chuck and Mickie Leibrand

Judges comments: “It’s attractive from the street,” said Brannigan. “Multiple beds enhance the property and there is so much variety and color. It’s eye catching.”

Of note: Outlining beds filled with ornamental grasses, evergreens, and other bushes and perennials with large begonias make this landscape pop. The eye is also drawn to the pots of petunias, geraniums and tapien on the porch, where a fountain gives the area a peaceful feeling.

Tip: The secret to that eye catching color is annuals, which bloom from early spring into fall says Mickie Leibrand. Water, fertilize and throw a few mothballs in the garden to keep the bunnies away.

Owner’s comments: As a member of the Northeastern Michigan Rosarians, the couple have helped picked Bay City in Bloom winners, and managed to pick up an award a few years ago themselves.

But, says Mickie Leibrand, when Brannigan knocked on her door, she was shocked.

“I’m truly surprised and elated,” she said. “I do believe there are other gardens out there as beautiful as mine.”


Site: Dr. Robert Malicki Dental Office, 512 S. Trumbull

Judge’s comments: Coming down Trumbull, I noticed how attractive it is,” said Brannigan. “I turned around and came back. It has a nice variety of plants, nice color and neatly manicured.”

Of note: The layout all began with a new sign for the office. That led to beds of Knock Out Roses, Black Eyed Susan, evergreens and Spiraea with eye catching purple and red petunias and geraniums in large urns on the porch. Malicki gives all the credit to employees Lauren Halstead and Mary Drzewicki offering up ideas of their own to the crew from Bay Landscaping, who did the work. He also credits son Andrew for his weeding skills.

Tip: “Listen to suggestions from others,” said Malicki. Have a watering system, fertilize and keep it weeded.

Owners comments: I feel good about winning,” said Malicki. “I never thought about winning an award. I was surprised.”


Bush School, 800 Nebobish, Essexville

In charge: Kendra O’Leary, assistant director of Bush Child Care and Preschool

Judges comments: “They are beginning a new project with Bay Landscaping,” said Brannigan. “I was driving by and saw the sign that they were beginning a process. I wanted to give encouragement to where they are going.”

Of note: The idea for this mixture of flowers and vegetables was to give the children the connection between gardening and food since farming is so important to the area. It’s the kids who plant, weed, water and pick the vegetables.

“I wanted to promote healthy eating,” said O’Leary. “I told them for every serving of vegetables they eat, that’s the number of wet sponges they could throw at me.”

This is a new project for the school, and something they are hoping to build on, says principal Shannon Flippin.

Tips: Water, water, water, even when it’s hard. “We don’t have a water source outside,” said O’Leary. “The kids haul little buckets of water outside.”

Comments: When I told my ‘kids’ they were ecstatic,” said O’Leary. “They worked very hard all through the summer.”

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Information & The Music of Your Life

WORTHINGTON – It’s been a long summer of detours in Worthington, but the target date for the Highway 59 project opening is October 11. According to City Engineer Dwayne Haffield, the hope was to have the detour gone by the end of this week, but delays in the work complicated the process.

When the project is done, a new culvert will be in place, there will be full turn lanes from the north and south on Bioscience Drive, and infrastructure will be in place on the west side of the highway for future growth. Bioscience Drive will be extended to the west to make it available for more development, Haffield said. Before MnDOT would allow another street to be set up, they wanted turn lanes in so those streets have the least impact on the through traffic.

The total cost of the project is just over $3.56 million. The city’s share is $1.45 million, with other money coming from the state.

JACKSON – The Jackson Public Library will once again offer an interesting variety of presentations during its fall Brown Bag Lunch programs on Wednesdays from Oct. 2 through Oct. 30.

The sessions will run from noon until 1 p.m. in the library meeting room. The public is welcome to attend and bring a sack lunch. The library will provide coffee and tea.

The first program is today, featuring “Getting Ready for Fall with Your Landscaping” presented by Gail Dunker. This program will provide ideas on how to landscape a yard during autumn. Dunker will discuss whether to put away or transition containers into the next season. She will show trimming and covering techniques for shrubs and roses. Attendees will also learn how to protect trees from rabbits and deer.
Future programs include “The Ultimate Road Trip – North to Alaska,” “Germany and Denmark, Summer of 2013,” “Loon Lake Cemetery” and “Crafting with Gourds.” For more information, contact the Jackson Public Library at 847-4748.

LAKE PARK, Iowa — A couple of dozen goats spent this past weekend at a lake in northwest Iowa, doing their part for a shoreline restoration project. The goats grazed along the shore of Silver Lake, which is on the edge of the city of Lake Park in Dickinson County.

The goal is water quality, according to Catherine Sereg, the watershed coordinator for Silver Lake. She said the goats come in and clear away all the unwanted vegetation eating away all the leafy plants, so big trees can be cleared out.

Once the goats and bulldozers have completed those tasks, native prairie grasses will be planted along the shoreline. The animals doing the initial work at Silver Lake come from “Goats on the Go” — an Ames-based company that rents goats to help clear away weeds, brush and invasive plants without the use of chemicals. The goats arrived at Silver Lake Thursday and grazed there through Sunday.

Silver Lake covers more than a thousand acres and has almost 10 miles of shoreline. Trappers Bay State Park is on the north side of the lake and the city of Lake Park wraps around the east and south sides.

EMMETSBURG, Iowa – A North Carolina man was seriously injured Tuesday morning in a construction accident at the Project Liberty construction site near Emmetsburg. The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office says 31-year-old Elvin Diaz of Greensboro, North Carolina was working on the top of some cooling towers when he lost his footing and fell about 37 feet onto some concrete.

Diaz was transported by ambulance to the Palo Alto County Hospital in Emmetsburg and was later transferred by air to a Sioux Falls hospital. The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office and paramedics with the Palo Alto County Ambulance Service were called to the scene around 9:18 a.m.

SIOUX FALLS, SD – The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public for help in finding a burglary suspect. David Jeremy Neuroth Jr. of Sioux Falls is suspected in a burglary call that occurred last Wednesday night around 7:30.

The Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to 6601 N. 9th Ave. in Sioux Falls for a burglary in progress. The caller said a man with a gun had broken the window in the front door and was trying to get inside. The occupants locked themselves in a bathroom, called 911 and waited for officers to arrive. The victims identified 36-year-old Neuroth as the suspect. Neuroth is also wanted on an unrelated outstanding warrant.

The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office does not want members of the public to approach Neuroth, but is asking for information as to his whereabouts.

Anyone with information should call 911, or crime stoppers at 605-367-7007.

MINNESOTA – Five Minneapolis girls who had been reported missing Tuesday have all been found safe. According to a post on the Facebook page that was set up to find the missing girls, they have all been found. The families had been looking for the girls for more than 24 hours, as they had gone missing following school on Monday.

The girls who went missing range in age from 11 to 13 years old. All five girls are sixth- or seventh-graders at Seward Montessori.

MINNESOTA – Minnesota’s online health insurance marketplace is active. MNsure went live Tuesday, after a slight delay pushed the opening of the site into the afternoon. MNsure launched around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
While the site is up and running, it wasn’t without its glitches. Some links of the site opened to unavailable pages. Certain aspects of MNsure are not quite ready yet. MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov said there would be some delays in certain aspects of the site, including for small businesses who want to buy insurance for their employees.

Todd-Malmlov also asked that Native Americans wait a week before they sign up, because the system was having trouble with special provisions for tribal members.

Consumers can survey options according to ZIP code. Premiums in Minnesota will vary depending on a person’s age, where they live and whether they smoke.

While there was a delay in Minnesota to get the site up and running, for some perspective, there are reports it was a tough opening for many of the exchanges nationwide, with heavy traffic and some sites struggling to handle it.

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Energy Action Month begins

Energy Action Month begins

Posted 10/1/2013   Updated 10/1/2013
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by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

10/1/2013 – BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  — Buckley’s Energy Action Month kicks off at the beginning of each October to raise energy conservation awareness and achieve a reduction in facility energy use.

In 2012, the Air Force met or exceeded four major goals: reduce energy intensity by 21.2 percent; reduce potable water intensity by 18.1 percent; reduce non-potable industrial, landscaping and agricultural water consumption by 4.6 percent; and ensure renewable electricity accounted for 5.5 percent of electricity consumed.

Energy Action Month is a time to think about how energy consumption impacts our lives, our mission and at home. In April, an energy policy was implemented by Air Force Space Command to minimize the base’s $8 million electricity usage, removing things like small personal office appliances and cell phone chargers.

“AFSPC has continued this trend by replacing high pressure sodium light bulbs on the street and parking lot lights-the ones with the familiar orange glow-with high-efficiency-light-emitting-diode lighting on Buckley Air Force Base,” stated Kenneth Webb, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron energy manager. “This move will save Buckley AFB over $31,000 annually, decrease the manpower needed to replace lights due to the longer lifespan of LEDs, and provide better quality lighting for those operating after hours on the installation.”

The Air Force is always looking for new energy conservation ideas and solutions. Conservation efforts could be monumental if every Airman remembers to shut off a computer monitor or flip off office lights at the end of the work day. Just being aware of the differences between an LED light bulb and an incandescent light bulb used in an office or dorm room could save more than $300 in purchase and replacement costs during the lifespan of a bulb.

LED light bulbs, solar panels, electric cars and bio-fuels are some of the operational renewable energy projects the Air Force has been implementing since 2012. These projects are in place to reduce costs and to push for more improvements toward green power.

“If we had our own renewable energy and sustainable energy source per base, that would essentially free up the Air Force from depending on the local area for power,” said Airman 1st Class Gregory Coyle, 460th Space Communication Squadron network infrastructure technician. “It would be cleaner and our equipment would not take any power hits. Our equipment would have greater up-time, and we would have greater efficiency at being able to do our job.”

Energy Action Month provides an opportunity for Airmen to learn about the impact energy conservation and neglect can have on the Air Force and its mission.

For more information, visit or

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Lakewood gives top honors to beautiful and water-saving, homes – Long Beach Press

Steve and Lydia Howatt’s home was recently named a Lakewood Beautiful Home winner for their exterior landscaping. The project took approximately 18 months and blends the craftsman style with Japanese accents. (Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

Water Wise rebates

• Lakewood residents can receive a total of $915 in rebates with $115 coming from device rebates and $800 from replacing water-hungry turf with low water use landscaping.

• The devices include water-saving rotor sprinkler heads, hose end timers, drip irrigation kits, irrigation timers and drip-line emitters. Residents must purchase items listed on the approved device list and install them. A list of approved water-saving devices, rebate application form and FAQs are online at www.lakewoodcity .org/devices.

• Residents can save $1 for each square foot of turf removed by applying for a Turf Removal Rebate. Projects must be approved before a yard makeover starts. Sample plans, application forms and FAQs are online at

— Phillip Zonkel

lakewood Steve and Lydia Howatt slashed their utility bill by 20 percent after landscaping their front yard with a variety of drought-resistant flowers and plants, not only saving them money but earning them two top awards last week from the city.

Steve Howatt designed the 900-square-foot space as a Japanese-influenced garden with bonsai trees, Irish moss, dwarf euonymus and pink, orange and yellow ice plants along with two trails made from small rocks and a Japanese lantern.

The project cost about $5,000, but the couple received an $800 credit from the city on their utility bill because they took advantage of the city’s turf removal program. Residents can save $1 for each square foot of turf that is replaced with water-wise landscaping, irrigation and water-permeable surfaces.

“I wanted to do a Japanese-style garden for a little while. When I heard about the turf removal program, it was like extra sprinkles on the donuts,” Steve Howatt said Monday during an interview outside the couple’s 1,300-square-foot home in the Mayfair Neighborhood.

“I’ve loved Japanese-style gardening since I was a kid,” he said. “I always thought they were beautiful.”

The city of Lakewood also thinks they are beautiful.

The Howatt’s 1944 bungalow was one of 27 homes recognized Thursday at the 32nd annual Lakewood Beautiful Home Awards at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Vista Lodge at Monte Verde Park.

Those homes received Distinguished Recognition, the top honor, while 110 homes received Honorable Mention.

The 137 winning homes were chosen from 465 nominated residences, the highest number of nominations in recent memory, said city spokesman Bill Grady.

Homes were evaluated on landscaping, property maintenance and overall appearance.

Seven homes, including the Howatts’, also received a Water Wise Award for efficient irrigation and/or landscaping with drought-tolerant plants.

“This reception allows us to offer our personal thanks to each of you hard-working homeowners who make it all look so easy, but the truth is, it’s a lot of effort to get a house to look like this,” Mayor Steve Croft said at the awards program. “The investment of time, money, creativity and energy deserves recognition.

“All of us on the council and in your community applaud the dedication and good taste you have shown in beautifying your homes and gardens,” he said. “We also salute your community spirit and pride of ownership.”

A three-judge panel of a professional architect, landscape designer and senior staff member of the city’s Community Development Department judged the homes. Criteria include landscaping, property maintenance and overall appearance based on a review of photographs taken of the front-facing portion of the home and yard.

Water Wise criteria included having water-efficient irrigation and/or landscaping with drought-tolerant plants. The judges, senior city landscaping and water department staff, noted how plants were grouped within the garden, giving high marks to gardens where plants with similar water needs are together. The use of water-permeable ground covering and hardscape were also criteria.

The Lakewood Beautiful program was founded in 1981 by the late Jacqueline Rynerson, a former Lakewood mayor and council member, who wanted to encourage residents to improve their homes and gardens and to thank those who did.

Contact Phillip Zonkel at 562-714-2098.

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Become water wise at Autumn Garden Festival and Symposium in Atascadero

In keeping with Atascadero’s Centennial Celebration, this year’s Autumn Garden Festival on Oct. 12 will be held at the historic five-acre Portola Inn, where apricot trees planted by E.G. Lewis, founder of Atascadero, still yield a plentiful harvest.

The inn is the perfect outdoor classroom for the Atascadero Mutual Water Company’s festival to celebrate sustainable, low-water landscaping.

Beginning with a continental breakfast at 9 a.m., registered attendees will hear seven 30-minute presentations during the day, with breaks for exhibits, walks and picnics throughout the spacious oak-canopy grounds of the inn.

Topics include a history of urban farming, rainwater harvest, backyard beekeeping and vermicomposting (worm composting), to name a few. The presentations come alive on the grounds, where owner Tom O’Malley has already incorporated many of the day’s topics on his expansive property.

O’Malley has created rainwater and graywater collection areas on his slightly sloping grounds, allowing for plenty of water for thirsty plants such as kiwis. Handicap-accessible paths in switchback designs slow down the flow of rainwater and direct it to catch basins.

As guests meander down these paths, they are treated to a variety of mature plantings that have created their own microenvironment under the oaks. O’Malley knows each plant and system intimately, having purchased this property next door to his childhood home 19 years ago.

“I remember helping my neighbors pick the apricots at age 7,” he recalls.

Going back 100 years, in 1913 E.G. Lewis, the founder of Atascadero, had a vision of sustainable landscaping. His idea was that colony residents would have one- to twoacre parcels where they could grow enough food for their family, with room for a small orchard, vegetables and chickens.

The lots in Garden Farms, River Garden and throughout the community reflect this. Lewis’ advertisements focused on the advantage of living in the city while having enough property to farm at home. He chose a quote from Abraham Lincoln to adorn the entry of the now-restored City Hall: “The most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.”

“Lincoln’s quote is applicable to the theme of the event, as we want local homeowners to know they can have beautiful and productive gardens with less water use,” said Jaime Lien Hendrickson, conservation manager at the water company, who started this event in 2006.

“After the drought of 2003, the Mutual Water Co. realized the need to educate homeowners about how to lower water needs,” she said.

This autumn festival has became the vehicle for that message, and along with a rebate for lawn replacement and focus on drought-tolerant plants, John Neil, general manager of the water company, reports that water use has dropped from a 10-year average of 2 billion gallons per year to 1.8 billion gallons in 2012.

Neil, Hendrickson and O’Malley share a common goal for the educational event: “We want locals to be empowered to incorporate these ideas in their home gardens, and to know that drought-tolerant does not just mean rocks and cactus,” Neil said. “With over 150 low-water plants to choose from, they can have a new and beautiful garden with lower water use and a lower water bill as an added bonus.”

The event promises to be informative and inspirational for the 100 who register to attend. If this sounds appealing to you, use the information on the sidebar to register right away, as space is limited and the event may sell out.

See more photos »

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Touring Greenwich’s (Newly Price-Chopped) $140 Million Copper Beech Farm

It’s easy to miss the discreet white gates that lead to Copper Beech Farm. Tucked into high stone walls covered in foliage, they swing open onto a winding 1,800-square foot driveway surrounded by woods in nearly every direction. Hidden from the street by the copper beech trees for which the property is named, sits a grand white Victorian mansion and behind it, as that long driveway ends at a cul-de-sac once used by horse drawn carriages, a breathtaking panoramic view of the boat-studded Long Island Sound.

This is Greenwich, Conn.’s last Great Estate, an opulent robber baron-era property enveloping 50 prized acres along the tony New York suburb’s waterfront. And it all contributes to an equally breathtaking price tag: $140 million.

Copper Beech Farm first came to market in May asking $190 million, an unprecedented number that made it far and away the most expensive home for sale in the U.S. In September, that staggering sum was slashed by $50 million, or 26%,  to $140 million.

At the current asking price, it is now technically the second most expensive home for sale in the country behind the “off-market” Owlwood estate in Los Angeles quietly asking $150 million. If this Greenwich compound were to fetch a sum remotely close to its asking price, it would dash records to become the biggest home sale in American history.

FORBES’ has been offered an exclusive tour of the property.

On a sunny autumn afternoon, Copper Beech Farm’s real estate broker, David Ogilvy, whose eponymous firm is affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate, strides across the lawn, past lush gardens displaying palmettos, rose bushes and an alley of flowering crepe myrtle trees.“The star of this property is really the water that’s all around,” he says, turning toward the sea. “We use the word unique in our business way too often but this really is.”

Copper Beech boasts roughly one mile of water frontage including a strip of private beach and a tree-studded island off the coast that the owners row a boat out to on summer weekends for picnics. A 16-sided pool faces the Sound, accompanied by an adjoining spa and a nearby Victorian tea pagoda turned pool house. The banks of the property are perched above a sandy beach accessible by wooden stairs. The backyard sits 40 feet above mean tide, meaning it remains safe from storm surge associated with hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy.

A cast iron gate swings open onto gardens meticulously manicured, the landscaping updated by an alum of the New York City’s Botanical Gardens. Tropical plants like palm trees grace the terraced lawns, which move into a hot house at the edge of the property during the winter. There’s an apple orchard, and past that, a grass tennis court.

Stairs lead from the gardens up to the back of the French Renaissance-style main house, a white manse comprised of angular windows, ivy-covered columns and terraces stretching the length of the structure. “It seems like a Newport Mansion and is very reminiscent of the same period, only a lot closer to New York,” says Ogilvy.

The house spans 13,519 square feet across four floors. It has 12 bedrooms scattered among the top two floors, seven full baths and two powder rooms. A dark cherry wood-paneled library with curving corners and glass-fronted bookcases typical of the Victorian era sits off of a three-story wood-paneled entry. The dining room has oak columns, a fireplace and an ornate plaster tracery ceiling. There’s also a garden room, with walls of windows looking out on the water, and a solarium with stone-tiled floors and a fountain adorning the back wall. The kitchen, tucked down a hallway accessed by discreetly hidden doors in the wood-paneled entry foyer, sits at the end of the house. Its dumb waiter allows access to the home’s original kitchen, located in the basement among the former staff quarters.

Fireplaces adorn nearly every entertaining space and many of the bedrooms open onto sleeping porches once used during summer months before the advent of air conditioning. In the entry space, an antique open-air elevator that one might expect to find in a throwback Parisian hotel chugs slowly between floors at the push of a button.

Yet despite all of these features, the home itself could use some updating. It doesn’t have central air conditioning, for example, because the current owners prefer to live without it. And the private beach doesn’t have a dock either.

So why the nine-figure price tag? “There were several appraisals done on this property by the owners…and the appraisals came up with numbers that are extremely high,” says Ogilvy. He adds that other waterfront properties in Greenwich has commanded between $4.5 million and $9 million per acre.

The lofty value of Copper Beech Farm can be sourced to its acreage, which used to be a gentleman’s farm (it still hosts several greenhouses and a cow milking station inside a stone carriage house). The property’s size is unmatched in the high-end New York suburb and it has the ability to be subdivided. Currently it has been approved to be divided into two major parcels, one comprised of 20 acres and the other of 30. But development could potentially include as many as 10 to 12 lots, estimates Ogilvy, given the fact that this area of Greenwich is a two-acre zone and that development beyond the two large parcels would require a builder to relinquish about eight acres to parkland according to the town’s laws.

That possibility has extended the buyer pool beyond billionaire house hunters to investors as well. Still, the initial $190 million asking price proved too pricey, spurring the owners chop it significantly. So far, says Ogilvy, it’s drummed up fresh interest: “When you start exploring at a different [price] level, it opens the buying public to a very different group.”

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Gardening courseoffering lots of tips

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    Helenruth Schuette/Master gardener: Garden tips to ready for winter


    BEMIDJI — After the summer we’ve had — with hot temps and little rain — we should still depend on these time-honored tips from the Minnesota Extension Service to prepare for our Minnesota winter.

    Empty and clean outdoor containers of flowers or vegetables once the plants are no longer attractive or productive. Outdoor freezing and thawing cycles can crack or break almost any type of pot, especially if there’s soil in it. Add the soil to a compost pile or spread it around gardens. Once they’re clean and dry, store containers in a protected place such as a garage, basement or garden shed. I don’t always do this but I do tip my pots and get the soil to dislodge so the pots are less likely to crack over the winter. Likely the deep leaf mulch protects them from cracking.

    Continue to mow the lawn as needed and rake fallen leaves so grass doesn’t mat down, which encourages snow mold to develop. Grass continues to grow and likes to see the sunlight. If the leaves are too deep, run a power mower over them several times. This chips them into little pieces that filter harmlessly through the grass to the soil, recycling a small amount of nutrients as they break down. Otherwise, use the leaves as mulch to protect bulbs and flowering perennials, or compost them.

    Visit your local garden center to choose flowering bulbs to plant for spring display. Plant bulbs early in October if you haven’t already put them in the ground. Water them well every week to 10 days unless we get good rainfall. They need to develop roots before the soil freezes in order to come through winter in good condition. Once the soil surface freezes, often early October in our area, apply several inches of mulch to help prevent fluctuating soil temps and premature spring growth. Occasionally, different resources offer conflicting information about zone hardiness. A tulip rated Zone 3 in one reference and Zone 4 in another may be successful if planted in a microclimate with well-drained soil and straw mulch. So take a chance on it — you may have a pleasant surprise come spring.

    Above all, at this time of year, enjoy your harvest, enjoy some rest from garden chores and enjoy planning for next year’s garden. To learn about more current information to help you with your fall gardening, check out this bimonthly University of Minnesota Extension website:

    Think about purchasing a University of Minnesota Extension calendar for 2014: it will have lots of gardening tips and other information on horticulture in Minnesota. It is great for keeping records of rain and snowfall, temperatures and when you planted and harvested.


    To find specific reliable information about gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website


    Local master gardeners will also answer your gardening questions via a voicemail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call.


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    A Garden for Wandering

    Van Valkenburgh lived in Boston for more than 25 years, and though his firm, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., is now based in New York, he has an office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a home on Martha’s Vineyard. When the museum’s building committee and director Anne Hawley were visiting gardens by the top nominated candidates for the Monks Garden project during the selection process, Van Valkenburgh was at his Vineyard home, so he invited them to his own private garden there, which is nearly the same size as the Monks Garden (and, we’re sure, gorgeous). That sealed the deal.

    “Coming to the garden is not a practical experience,” Van Valkenburgh said as he stood in the museum’s Spanish Cloister during a preview event, nodding to the finished garden seen just outside through the Chinese Loggia. “I thought of the garden as a place to get lost.”

    Your mind just may take a break basking in the foliage of 66 trees and more than 7,000 perennials (2,100 bulbs are scheduled still to be planted). And the 530 feet of winding paths placed in the garden’s 7,545 square feet might turn you around a bit, but you won’t truly lose your way — you’ll enjoy just being in the garden, and then walk one of the many paths back. “It’s not about getting here or there or anywhere,” said Van Valkenburgh, adding that like the museum, which invites personal exploration and study rather than presenting a singular, direct path to view the artwork, the garden is meant for meandering. A pause in nature during a museum visit.

    Courtesy of Alex S. MacLean, 2013.

    An aerial view of the Monks Garden shows the historic building on the left, the curved brick wall at the top right, and garden filling the space between.

    You can enter the garden either through the historic building’s Chinese Loggia, where plants are pressing up against the glass walls, or you can emerge from the contemporary glass connector, which links the old building with the new. There, the garden has a softer edge, welcoming visitors in gradually. Curvy walkways made of dark clay with specks of shimmery mica schist expand the space by creating numerous pathways and vantages, and the fullness, achieved from ferns, wild ginger, daylilies, Hellebore, Japansese Stewartia, gray birch trees, and red and white camellias, juxtaposes with the openness of the museum’s central indoor courtyard. No bricks were cut for the project — an interesting detail that achieves an organic quality around the path’s edges.

    Courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella, 2013.

    Shimmery mica schist gives the clay bricks sparkle.

    Historical photos of the Monks Garden are on the museum’s website, and the history is interesting to follow. Gardner’s initial design was, not surprisingly, Italianate, with tall trees planted in rows. Within a few years, she enhanced the garden with a pergola covered in vines. After her death, museum director Morris Carter added more shrubs and a rock garden, but when Roland van N. Hadley became director in 1970, he hired Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Massachusetts, to re-grade the garden and plant new trees, shrubs, and ground covers along a bluestone path. That was how the garden looked until the museum briefly closed to prepare for the opening of the new wing in 2012. Now, we’ve got Van Valkenburgh’s interpretation of Gardner’s vision to enjoy.

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