Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for October 25, 2013

Berkshire Trustees Landscapes To Visit

Get Daily discounts and offers on sporting events, plays, concerts, museums and other events around town

Article source:

Tips from an experienced gardener: Use more mulch

I’ve been gardening nearly all my life. One of the things I find most interesting about it is that I learn something new almost every day. And yet there are a number of things we should all know to be better and smarter gardeners.

We’ve talked about these before, but they’re always worth another look.

Here are four to start with.

Use more mulch. If there were ever a workhorse for the garden, it’s mulch. A 3-inch (or so) layer over the soil surface does so many good things for the health of your plants and soil. The aesthetic value of mulch is enough of a reason to use it. It’s like the icing on a cake to provide a polished, finished look to any bed.

More importantly, it provides tremendous benefits overall. Mulch suppresses weed growth by blocking sunlight needed for many weed seeds to germinate. It holds vital moisture in the ground, reducing irrigation needs. Mulch helps cut down on certain soil-borne diseases from harming plants because it provides a protective barrier between certain diseases and foliage. It also insulates soil and regulates temperature by keeping the ground and roots cooler on hot days and warmer on cold days.

Any natural mulch will work. And consider free sources, too. Arborists’ wood chips or shredded leaves are two of my favorite sources.

Drainage in containers. How many times have you been told to add something to the bottom of a container to improve drainage? Examples include small stones, packing peanuts, crushed cans and marbles. But the fact is, adding anything to a container first doesn’t help at all. The reason is that water doesn’t move readily from one substrate to another of unequal pore sizes. It tends to stay or hold much of its original volume in the soil layer. By adding something to the bottom of the container, we are effectively raising the level where water remains. The consequence is damp or potentially saturated soil closer to the surface and surrounding your roots. That can lead to rotting roots and dead plants. Better to simply fill the container with all soil.

Improve pot-bound plants with a box cut. When it comes to pot-bound trees and shrubs, the typical treatment – if we did anything at all – was to slice through the tightly bound root mass. We assumed that by breaking the pattern, we’d enable all the roots to start growing out instead. It turns out that method is far less effective that previously thought. The best method for dealing with such conditions is called the box cut. It involves slicing or sawing off a narrow section of the bottom of the root mass, as well as slicing off vertical sections of the root mass all the way around as well. The result looks like a squared-off root ball. The benefit is a plant or tree that will establish a much healthier and fuller root system.

Plant at the right level. Even printed plant tags tell you to transfer a containerized plant or tree into the ground at the same level that it was growing in the container. That is not always correct, and a bad assumption to make. It’s one of the most common causes of premature plant death. The only correct way to plant something is to know where the tops of the roots are and plant it at that level. It is very common that, even in a container, the roots have been covered up over time at the nursery with several inches of additional soil. At planting time, pull back the top layer of soil until you get to the roots. Then plant at that level in the ground. It’s better to plant slightly high than too low.

Lamp’l, host and executive producer of “Growing a Greener World” on PBS.

Article source:

Gardening Tips: What causes those leaves to change color in the fall?

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 10:55 am

Gardening Tips: What causes those leaves to change color in the fall?

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Before we get into the topic of this week’s column, I want to warn everyone of the impending frost. It looks like tonight/Saturday morning will be our first fall frost, after a few close calls earlier this week. I spoke of preparing for frost a few weeks ago so I won’t rehash all of that, but now is the time to act if you have tender plants you wish to protect.

Subscription Required

An online service is needed to view this article in its entirety.

You need an online service to view this article in its entirety.

Have an online subscription?

Login Now

Need an online subscription?



Or, use your
linked account:

Current print subscribers

Login Now

Need an online subscription?



Or, use your
linked account:

Current print subscribers


Friday, October 25, 2013 10:55 am.

Article source:

Tips for next year’s garden: grow pumpkins vertically to make them fit in …

PUMPKIN_C01PUMPKINE_12993373.JPGView full sizePumpkin vines can quickly take over a small garden, so train plants to grow on a trellis to save space.

Pumpkins are everywhere in fall, and you may wish that you had included pumpkins on your spring seed list so that you’d have a few to enjoy now.

If you have a small garden, you might think you’re doomed to forever buy pumpkins instead of growing them yourself. Pumpkins are notorious for taking over a garden with their vines. Each plant can sprawl over 50 to 100 square feet, because each fruit needs runners that are at least 10 feet long for nourishment.

But it is possible to raise pumpkins on a small patch of land. Think vertical, and train your pumpkins to grow on a trellis with the fruit supported with netting or old pantyhose. This works best with varieties that bear smaller fruit, such as ‘Small Sugar,’ ‘Baby Pam’ and ‘Cotton Candy,’ but larger varieties can be grown vertically, too.

Here’s advice from Horticulture: The Art and Science of Smart Gardening, Organic Gardening,, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac.  Clip and save this information to help you plan next year’s garden:

To grow pumpkins vertically, install a trellis on a prepared garden site. Place your trellis on the north side of the garden to avoid shading it.

Space sturdy posts along the planting area and attach 4-inch mesh to the posts. Tie vine tendrils to the trellis with garden twine.

Use old pantyhose, rags or mesh bags tied to the trellis to create hammocks to support the pumpkins as they grow and to keep them from breaking off too early. Be sure your “hammock” is made of material that will dry after a rain, or your fruit may rot.

Another option is to plant bush varieties instead of vining pumpkins. ‘Sugar Treat,’ the white hybrid ‘Casperita’ and the variety ‘Fall Splendor’ are in this category.

If you’re new to growing pumpkins, here are some general tips:

Start pumpkin seeds indoors about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Harden off seeds before transplanting outdoors.

Pick a site with full sun to light shade.

Pumpkins needs rich soil that is well-drained. Build up hills that are prepared with old manure dug 12 to 15 feet into the ground. Plant seeds 1 inch deep with four to five seeds per hill.

Water one inch per week and keep foliage and fruit dry; dampness leads to rot.

Article source:

Fallen leaves don’t need to be in pieces to use as mulch

Do I have to cut up fallen leaves with a mower before I use them as mulch? I don’t have a mulching mower.

No, you don’t. In fact, many beneficial insects overwinter in leaf litter. You’ll notice that no one chops up the fallen leaves in a woods, yet the layer of leaves decomposes before the next autumn. You can also chop with a regular lawn mower.

How late can I put down fertilizer?

The latest is Nov. 15, according to the new Maryland law. Generally, fertilizer is applied twice in the fall, 0.9 poundsb of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each time in September and October. (The maximum amount of nitrogen allowed per year is 2.7 pounds.) For a simple explanation of how to fertilize, see How to Fertilize Your Lawn Responsibly in the Lawn section of our website’s publications.

Something dug a hole the size and shape of a baseball in my flower bed. What digs such a hole, and do I need to discourage it?

Sounds like the burrow of a hibernating toad. The American toad is a good garden companion, eating pest insects for you. Because it is cold-blooded, its body temperature reflects the environments surrounding it. So in winter, it must burrow down into soil where temperatures don’t get as cold as air temperatures. Fortunately, American toads are good diggers.

When I brought my amaryllis in for the winter, it had a few red blotches on the leaves and now I see a reddish area on the bulb. Is this anything I need to worry about?

Red blotch is a fungal disease that can infect leaves, stems and the bulb itself with reddish lesions. It will weaken the plant, rotting portions, and can infect the bulb. Also, it easily spreads to other amaryllis, so keep this amaryllis separate. You can replace the soil with sterile soil and maintain good normal culture, removing infected portions. If the infection persists, you can treat with a systemic fungicide.

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

American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

“Purple pingpong balls” describes the flashy fruiting of this native shrub. Violet to magenta berry clusters totally encircle the stem, making bigger balls each year as the plant matures. Reaching 3 to 8 feet, the deciduous American beautyberry makes a loose, graceful shrub that works well in a shrub border or backed up with evergreens or a structure that shows off the purple berries. A good conversation piece, American beautyberry grows best and produces the most berries in sun. It likes soil that doesn’t go dry. A white-berried variety is also available, if you prefer your pingpong balls in their traditional color. —Ellen Nibali

Article source:,0,6414327.story

Donzell’s Flower and Garden Center offers important tips to winterize your …

AKRON, Ohio – Much of Northeast Ohio has experienced the first snowfall of the season. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to winterize your lawn and garden beds.

Wayne Kollman, general manager of Donzell’s Flower and Garden Center in Akron, offered tips for folks fitting in yard word over the next few weeks.

Kollman said now is a fantastic time to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips or daffodils. The bulbs must go through a 10- to 12-week cold process in order to blossom in the spring.

“The bigger the bulb, the deeper they go. A tulip, you want to put in about five inches. Smaller bulbs, like crocus, maybe a couple of inches,” Kollman said.

He also recommended cutting back perennials, such as hostas and black-eyed Susans, to prevent overwinter disease from spreading.

“There’s always some kind of blight that can overwinter in the ground and come back and affect your plants in the spring.”

Similarly, Kollman suggested cleaning debris from vegetable and rose beds.

“You might have to dig out maybe tomatoes because they have good root systems, but other than that, if you can pull them out, great… Typically, roses you’re going to just pretty much clean the leaves, maybe trim them back a little bit.”

When it comes to your lawn, Kollman said the fall and winter period is one of the most important times to fertilize.

“It’s just a good health benefit. It sort of puts the lawn to bed, so to speak, and it’s a great time to fertilize,” he said.

He added that homeowners who didn’t aerate their lawn in the spring should do it before the ground freezes in mid to late November.

“It’s a messy process because there are cores that you’re taking out of the ground. It’s a little easier in the fall because the rain and the snow will sort of wash that back into the soil.”

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Article source:

House Haunters

“This looks better than I thought it would,” Mr. Kopelman said. He pointed to the spiky fangs and horns with their creepy decay and added, “I didn’t like the color, so I had my painter go back and add cracks and stuff.”

Mr. Kopelman is a professional haunted house producer and designer, or “haunter” in industry parlance. He opened his first haunted house 30 years ago in Phoenix, and promoted it by driving a huge Frankenstein head around in a truck, making sure it broke down on the city’s busiest corner during rush hour. (“I read P. T. Barnum’s book,” he said.) In recent years, he has designed or promoted multiple “haunts” across the country every Halloween season.

A genial, salt-and-pepper-haired man of 56 who lives in Houston, he isn’t a big fan of horror films or Goth culture — or, for that matter, dressing up on Halloween. He sees haunted houses as a profitable business, and likes the theatricality. “I always had the dream of producing movies,” he said.

He was at the Fairplex to oversee construction of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, a collaboration with the rock musician and horror-film director, based on the gory Rob Zombie oeuvre. The production, Mr. Kopelman said, is the biggest of his career: a $2 million budget; three haunted houses encompassing 33,000 square feet; a “Bloody Boulevard” outdoors; and 150 employees, including three seamstresses and “a guy that shoots you with CO2 as you go through.”

Great American Nightmare may be the best example yet of the upsizing of haunted houses over the last decade, in the vein of “mega haunts” like Netherworld in Atlanta and the Beast in Kansas City, Mo., which have elaborate sets and are staffed by actors and the prop and makeup artists who have found themselves out of work in a C.G.I.-dominated Hollywood.

There are now more than a thousand such large-scale attractions around the country, said Larry Kirchner, editor of, and haunting has become a sophisticated, $1 billion-a-year industry. Even the season itself has expanded: many haunted houses open in late September and extend past Halloween to early November. This year, the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey found that more than 31 million Americans plan to visit a haunted house, often paying from $15 to $30 each.

Ray Kohout, who created one of the first large-scale, themed haunted houses in St. Louis in 1991, marveled at the evolution. “Now there’s animatronics and realistic props,” said Mr. Kohout, who franchised his project, known as Silo X, to nine cities at its peak before getting out of the business 10 years ago. “Back then, it was much more primitive and simplistic, a lot more about blood and guts.”

For Rob Zombie, who remembers the lame haunted rides at carnivals in his ’70s youth, the goal is a Disney-like level of art direction. “Going into the Haunted Mansion as a kid, your jaw drops,” he said. “The attention to detail at Disneyland is outrageous. That’s what I want to be able to do here.”

As with his movies, however, he wants visitors to leave with a vague sense of revulsion. “My approach has been to create that weird, unnerving feeling that you can’t shake,” he said. “I like to screw with your head.”

THE MOST COMMON TRICK haunted house designers employ is the startle scare: the man who jumps from behind a corner; the animatronic skeleton that drops from the ceiling, its jaw clattering; the sudden, bloodcurdling scream. Timothy Haskell, an owner and the creative director of Nightmare, a popular and long-running haunted house in Manhattan, said startles are necessary but “ephemeral.”

A veteran theater director, Mr. Haskell writes a 20-page script every year and “plays upon people’s empathy,” he said, to induce a more lasting bout of heebie-jeebies. Last year, for his serial-killer theme, he designed a set where visitors executed Ted Bundy. “They had to actually flip the switch,” he said. “And feel in their hands the electricity pulsing through.”

Ben Armstrong, of Netherworld, strives to incorporate new forms of technology, he said, which he often finds at the Halloween and Attractions Show, an industry trade show held every spring in St. Louis. Lately, he has been experimenting with projection effects. “I found a particular material that you can see through, but it grabs light,” Mr. Armstrong said. “You see the ghost, but you see past him to the background.”

Article source:

DECOR & DESIGN: Gardening: Growing a living canvas

THE French impressionist Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny is famous for many reasons — the water lilies he painted, the wisteria covered bridge and the Grande Alleé with its carpet of nasturtiums.

Visiting the garden in autumn meant missing out on the water garden’s spring show but the abundance of autumn flowers made up for it. It is the measure of a great garden that in every season there is something to see, and Monet’s late summer into autumn garden is no exception.

The wall surrounding the garden gave only the slightest hints of what was behind: tips of greenery, and overhanging trees. Even the visitor’s entrance blocked any sight of the garden until one stepped through the gate and there it was — an Alice through the looking glass experience.

The first impression was of dazzling yellow rudbeckia reaching for the sky, airy cosmos and luxuriant dahlias with flowers the size of dinner plates and mauve asters on steroids.

The garden and house, which took almost 10 years to restore and was opened to the public in 1980, faithfully recreates Monet’s layout and choice of plants.

Monet did not like organised or controlled gardens, but wanted plants to grow freely and naturally. The gardeners that look after the gardens today remain faithful to his original vision by mixing common flowers planted together according to colour.

This is most evident in the series of overflowing borders on either side of the Grande Alleé. Gravel paths separate the borders and, being autumn, the perennials were at their best. The effect was one of bold, almost overwhelming colour in the foreground that softened to smoky purple and ethereal blue into the distance.

Besides the rudbeckia, there were tall-growing sunflowers, purple asters, dahlias and golden rod with lower growing daisies, dwarf campanula, bedding dahlias, pelargoniums, fuchsia, salvias, snapdragons and zinnias massed around them.

It was like being in an impressionist painting, with new vistas opening up with every step.

The Grande Alleé, which is one of the famous features, doesn’t disappoint. The series of arches runs almost the full length of the garden, framing the view from whichever side you view it.

Pale blue morning glory creepers twine up and around the green steel arches, with yellow and orange nasturtiums tumbling across the gravel at the bottom.

Closest to the house are beds of white and postbox-red geraniums that stop you in your tracks, especially as they are backed by the salmon pink and green trimmed house. It should clash, and it does, but somehow gets away with it.

Underneath its wild profusion, the garden layout is symmetrical and ordered.

The Grande Alleé forms the main axis with the same number of borders on either side and beyond them a cool breathing space; two small meadows shaded by trees planted up with bulbs.

The second part of the garden, which is now separated by a road that runs through it, is the Japanese-inspired water garden. It is accessed via a bamboo forest and in contrast to the exuberance of the flower garden is green, serene and cool.

Neither the wisteria nor the water lilies was flowering but one can still imagine Monet launching his boat into the lily pond and spending hours spellbound by the changing light on the water.

What makes this garden such an inspiration is that it is an original vision and the passion with which Monet created it continues to communicate itself to visitors. That is what a great garden is all about — a passion for plants and an artist’s eye for colour, texture, proportion and form.

Giverny is 78km outside Paris and is reachable by train but it is easier to book a half-day tour or a full day combined with a visit to Versailles.

• Book through the Paris Tourist Office, 25 rue des Pyramides, or via the internet on http.// or Tours cost from €58 per person.

 This article was first published in Home Front

Article source:

Edible landscape epitomizes green living – Las Vegas Review

Recently, I had the good fortune to participate in a panel discussion at the monthly meeting of the U.S. Green Building Council — Nevada Chapter. Appropriately, its meetings are in a beautiful green building built with straw bales, one of several LEED-Platinum structures at the Springs Preserve.

The topic was green homes and my talk encompassed a combination of strategies and techniques that yield the most satisfying results. I mentioned insulation, orientation and thermal mass as the foundations of passive solar design. Daylighting and efficiency were covered, along with renewable energy and even electric cars. There was mention of creating microclimates, edible landscaping and using strategic shade trees to help maintain comfort and keep energy bills down.

The main message was that everyone can make a difference and that improving our homes also can help with big issues such as climate change.

Afterward, I spoke with fellow chapter member and landscape architect Anna Peltier about a project she’s been working on at her home. She is an active member of the organization, serving as the chairwoman of the education committee and often volunteering to help at chapter events. Peltier is the owner of Aria Landscape Architecture ( and when it comes to applying green concepts to her craft, she walks her talk.

At home she is implementing several green strategies including an edible landscape. The backyard features what she refers to as “traditional edibles.” There are dwarf fruit trees producing apples, oranges and pomegranates. A pergola supports interwoven vines of Cabernet grapes, shading a cozy outdoor dining area.

I could almost smell lemon-grass, lavender, sage and rosemary as Peltier described what she grows. The list also includes marjoram, onion and garlic chives, oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and several varieties of mint.

Her traditional garden produces random seasonal veggies. She plants three annual growing seasons: spring, fall and winter. Winter crops are protected by a temporary greenhouse made from landscape piping and clear plastic.

To offset the higher water use of her edibles, Peltier’s front yard features native and near-native species from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, all bearing edible delights. Honey mesquite, Indian fig prickly pear, purple prickly pear plus teddy bear and staghorn cholla produce pods, flowers, pads or fruit that have been staples of the area for millennia. Peltier’s knowledge of desert plants and the food they provide is impressive.

Her edible desert plantings also include ocotillo, wolfberry, Indian rice grass, Mormon tea, banana yucca, Mojave yucca and barrel cactus. One non-native exception is a black Turkish fig tree to help shade the house.

Peltier pays attention to others with innovative ideas and practical solutions. One such person is Brad Lancaster, author of “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” who led a seminar on the topic in Las Vegas this summer. Peltier was there. Now her home’s roof is being outfitted with gutters to channel occasional but sometimes intense rainfall into cisterns. The water can then be used more effectively, when and precisely where it is needed.

The yard also has been graded into a series of mulch-filled basins, acting as sponges to store excess rainwater while reducing evaporation. Three basins drain sequentially into the next and small berms help keep rainwater from flowing into the street. These simple but incredibly effective methods reduce the need to irrigate with potable water.

Peltier says her goal is the satisfaction of having an efficient yard that also provides supplemental food. She acknowledges that native species can never feed the city, but using native plants makes sense, no matter where you happen to live. It creates a sense of place, a connection with the environment that is often sorely lacking in modern culture.

The more we appreciate the beauty of our rich, local biodiversity and integrate it into our lives, the more sustainable our community will become. Aria Landscape Architecture is singing a song that is music to my ears and it’s all about green living. Bravo!

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, visit

Article source: