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Archives for December 14, 2013

Missouri website helps germinate garden ideas

A screen grab of the Missouri Botancial Gardens website, which columnist Julie Brocklehurst-Woods says has helpful information for home gardeners.

A screen grab of the Missouri Botancial Gardens website, which columnist Julie Brocklehurst-Woods says has helpful information for home gardeners.

Missouri website helps germinate garden ideas

The website for Missouri Botanical Garden is one of my favorite online resources for gardening. Their climate is similar to ours (zone 6, Rochester and northern Livingston County), so most of the plants grown there can be considered for our gardens. Their site contains features I just can’t find elsewhere.

My Master Gardener training encouraged me to rely heavily on the researched-based information available through Cornell and other land grant universities, but Cornell does not have all the information I need or want. The Cornell site, which I plan to discuss soon in a separate article, contains a lot of information pertinent to agriculture and other audiences served by Extension. This can make the information I need more difficult to find. While Missouri Botanical Garden helps connect the public with Missouri Extension resources, they have a much greater focus on gardens.

To find Home Gardening: Google “Missouri Botanical Garden,” then click on “Gardens and Gardening” from the horizontal menus. Click on the center menu title, “Help for the Home Gardener.” You can then choose from several topics on the vertical menu on the left side. Additional topics are under some of the visible titles, so be sure to mouse over all of them.

Today I thought I might focus on the topic of landscape design, as an example for using this site. From that left vertical menu I click on “Lawn, Landscape and Garden Design,” then select “Garden Design.” Voila, you are reading a short article broken down into five steps: locate utilities, define the space, make a plan, select plants, periodic re-design. Embedded in the article are links to various resources you might need, on and off this site.

One of the more difficult tasks in designing a garden is bloom time: making sure you always have flowers in bloom, and coordinating blooming colors. This site includes bloom time data: when flowers in this garden are in bloom, with records available by months and week. For example, you can see what flowers are typically in bloom the third week in July. I am not aware of any other site that makes this information available.

Another outstanding source of information on this site is the Plants of Merit designation. These plant varieties have been selected by the following criteria: easy to grow and maintain; not known to be invasive; resistant or tolerant to diseases and insects; outstanding ornamental value; reasonably available to purchase.

To see a complete list, click on Plant Finder, scroll down to the Quick Search box, check the box in front of Plants of Merit. This will give you a list of 228 plants. If you wanted to narrow this, click additional boxes in the Quick Search.

Now that you know how to get started, you should be able to spend a wintry afternoon getting ideas for that better garden in the upcoming year.

P.S. — I am not a garden designer, but I would probably start a new garden bed with a focal point: a small tree, larger shrub or group of plants to focus the view, then add accessory plants. A larger garden bed may need a path, to break up the planting vistas.


Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County for more than 10 years.


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Design is finalised for Bradford Royal Infirmary garden

Design is finalised for Bradford Royal Infirmary garden

By Kathie Griffiths, TA Reporter

An artist’s impression of the design

Work on Bradford’s first hospital healing garden could be completed in time for spring, sowing the seeds for others across the city.

The idea for the garden which will take root at the Bradford Royal Infirmary’s Duke of York entrance opposite Orthopedics was the brainchild of ENT and neck surgeon Chris Bem.

In the new year, the opportunity to construct the garden will go out to tender in the hope the garden, subject to funding, will be completed in time to flourish for the spring.

Mr Bem was inspired to get a space created in the BRI grounds after hearing from patients and their families that there was no where for them to sit and think.

He had also been to a permaculture conference looking at how people in today’s world have lost connection with the natural world and need to be re-connected.

“Health is a lot about the environment, where we work, how we live and our relationship with nature and the world. I put that and patients’ comments about needing a special space together,” he said.

The idea has been developed with landscaping students at Leeds Metropolitan University who came up with a number of designs after talks with the hospital’s estates staff and gardeners.

Elements from those ideas have now been put into a draft design and will be presented to the hospital in January before it goes out to tender.

Mr Bem is hoping the Duke of York garden will be just the start of a number of healing gardens at the teaching trust’s other hospitals.

“It will be a place where people will like to linger and feel healthy. Hopefully this will be the beginning of new ideas about healing gardens in Bradford,” he said.

Ideas for the new garden so far include long grass beds, nestled seating areas, a central sculpture and meandering paths.

Landscape architecture and garden design students at the university have been working with communities across Yorkshire for 40 years taking on more than 150 design challenges, including the BRI’s healing garden, to date.

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PHOTOS: Spokane Neighborhoods Get Into The Christmas Spirit

Mobile users can view the slideshow here:

KHQ.COM – It’s that of the year again when families light up their houses with colorful lights! If you’re looking for some ideas we’ve put together a slideshow for you above. We also want to see your home decked out! You can either send your pictures to or upload them on our KHQ Facebook Christmas Lights page….you can view the page here:



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Spartanburg park gets new basketball court and horseshoe pit

South Converse Park is on the border of the city’s central business district, but tucked back into a neighborhood at the intersection of South Converse Street and Ridgewood Avenue.

The neighborhood has solid housing stock and diverse residents, with retirees, families and empty nesters choosing to live in the mostly middle-class neighborhood. For years, though, the city didn’t have funds for park improvements or playground equipment. The South Converse Park, with outdated and rusted swings that were seldom used, was considered a threatened park in the city’s 2007 parks masterplan.

The master plan notes, however, the park was an excellent opportunity for reinvestment with a location close to downtown and the park’s close proximity to the Mary H. Wright Greenway.

Ruth Littlejohn, a former president of the neighborhood association, saw an opportunity and applied for and received a 2011 Mary Black Foundation grant for $120,000 and another $50,000 grant from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The park had a much-needed uplift, with a new pavilion, a parking lot and brightly colored playground equipment that families enjoy year-round.

“That park has indeed been a blessing to this neighborhood,” said Littlejohn, who is still actively involved in the neighborhood association. “On warm days in the spring and summer, you wouldn’t believe all the children and families that are out there playing and exercising and just having a great time together.”

There were some funds remaining after the 2011 grant was expended, so Littlejohn said the group decided to relocate and upgrade the basketball court and install a horseshoe pit where the former basketball court had been located across the street from the main park area.

The improvements, which include some landscaping, will be complete by January.

“This park is so very important to not only our neighborhood, but others in Spartanburg County who come to visit,” Littlejohn said. “We want to keep kids involved, and we have some at-risk children in our neighborhood and we believe that this park will keep them active and safe.”

City Community Services Director Mitch Kennedy said South Converse Park now “sets the standard” for improvements planned at various other neighborhood parks this spring.

Kennedy said the South Converse Park improvements were completely resident-driven, with Littlejohn leading the effort.

“The ideas for the park came during a time when the city had no money for parks improvements,” Kennedy said. “But the residents didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer..They would always ask, ‘what are you going to do about the park?’ And the answer was ‘we have no money available,’ but they didn’t allow that to hold them back.”

Kennedy said the neighborhood sought the grant money, and the city was there to support their efforts.

“This is a great example of grass roots leadership and how people can make a project happen,” Kennedy said. “The park is a showpiece now for the city, and we are very excited about what’s in store for that neighborhood and other neighborhood parks.”

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Marin Civic Center traffic safety studied amid pedestrian death

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County leaders are set to consider a sweeping plan for safety, pedestrian and other improvements at the northern entrance to the Civic Center campus that could help prevent collisions such as the one this week that killed a 79-year-old man crossing the street near the farmers market.

The improvement program, coincidentally up for review by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning, includes plans for a “roundabout” traffic circle near Civic Center, Memorial and Peter Behr drives, near the spot Jurgen Traub was killed at 10 a.m. Thursday when he was hit by a plumbing van.

“It’s unfortunate these changes were not in place before the tragedy,” Supervisor Susan Adams said. “A roundabout calms traffic and allows access for pedestrians,” she noted. “It will improve safety.”

San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said Friday there was no new information to report on Traub’s death. She said the name of the driver, a 38-year-old Napa resident, is being withheld until the investigation is complete and police determine whether the driver was at fault.

“All the analysis and measurements and all the things that go into a major accident investigation are still going on,” Rohrbacher said. “These cases are much more involved and detailed.”

Because a detailed investigation of how the accident occurred has not been completed, it would be speculative to say what would have happened if a traffic roundabout was in place in the area, said Pat Echols, county principal civil engineer. But in any case, a roundabout would be a “significant safety improvement” since the configuration by its nature requires vehicles to slow down, he added.

Ideas developed by consultants, then revised after a series of reviews by a variety of agencies, committees and commissions, call for design improvements along north Civic Center Drive near the Marin Veterans Memorial Building. The plan includes pedestrian and bicycle facilities that link a new SMART train station to a paved farmers market site on the “Christmas tree” parking lot, along with landscaping, signs and lighting.

A roundabout configuration would ease traffic flow near the entry to the county auditorium parking lot, where Civic Center, Memorial and Peter Behr drives intersect.

At Tuesday’s session, scheduled months ago by the county, officials will review the latest version of the plan following reviews by the San Rafael City Council, city Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center Conservancy, county Cultural Services Commission, the Agricultural Institute of Marin, train and county transit districts as well as local residents.

Echols said primary goals of the program “are to integrate bicycle and pedestrian connections, improve Civic Center Drive circulation and traffic safety and create a sense of scale and welcoming to the Civic Center campus.”

The project now includes separate bicycle and pedestrian paths along the west side of Civic Center Drive. “The preferred concept plan includes provisions for new sidewalks, class 2 bike lanes, a two-way bicycle path, landscaping, a roundabout at Peter Behr Drive, enhanced pedestrian safety improvements and improved bus transit stops,” Echols said in a report to the county board.

“County and city staff have concluded that a roundabout is the preferred intersection improvement,” Echols said. “Bike lanes are also proposed in both directions along Civic Center Drive,” he added. “A new two-way bicycle path is proposed…along the west side of Civic Center Drive. Landscaping buffers will be provided.”

The county has a deal with the Agricultural Institute of Marin, operator of the Sunday and Thursday farmers markets, in which the institute pledges up to $1 million to move to the Christmas tree lot after paving it and constructing bathrooms. The county would provide $1 million as well.

All that is needed now, Echols said, is board approval of the concept so that environmental analysis can proceed along with design refinements.

The preliminary design of the ambitious makeover was developed by Harris and Associates of Concord for $451,000. Final design work, related studies and construction costs are expected to bring the total tab to roughly $2.8 million. The county board has allocated $2 million for the project and has received a $650,000 federal grant as well.

Contact Nels Johnson via email at Follow him at Staff writer Megan Hansen contributed to this report.

if you go

The Marin County Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss traffic improvements along Civic Center Drive. The meeting is in the supervisors’ chambers at the Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael.

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Inside the gated glens and glades

The lush greenery makes cities in Kerala far more liveable than those outside, but is the fast pace of construction threatening to tarnish that reputation? As nature gets overlaid with bricks and concrete, the lushness, in many cases, becomes nothing more than a figment of imagination. Hence, in the cities in the State, green-starved households are desperately feeling the need for landscaping.

So the work of architects now starts at the gate as they try to create landscaped spaces for people looking for green and peace.

A western idea seeping into the imagination of many clients here is that of the patio, essentially a living room outside the house, cocooned in a natural space.

“Right from the aesthetics of how we make that space in relation to other elements in the garden and the specifications of the structure, all takes time to form,” Suresh Thampi of Thanal Landscapers in the city says. A patio could be just a simple sitting area with sparse furniture or be a grand “Mandapam” or an arched granite structure.

“It seems to be a reflection of a return to a more traditional sensibility in how we perceive spaces. Older structures celebrate the outdoors, and clients now are willing to spend that much extra to make the outside as striking as possible,” Mr. Thampi says. He has renovated old houses whose owners now increasingly say no to covering old wells or such elements but want to leave them more conspicuous.

While landscaping augments a natural ambience, hard structures are an integral component in achieving that end. They could be in the form of pathways, rockeries and miniature hillocks with the counterpoint of a water feature. “We convince clients to avoid using interlocking tiles and concrete paving since it contradicts the philosophy behind natural landscaping. There is no point in having ponds and wells if you pave most of the land since it would decrease the amount of rainwater that could percolate through and recharge them,” Mr. Thampi says.


K. Unnikrishnan, who runs Ullas Landscape Designers based in Kayamkulam, gives landscaping themes — Mughal, Japanese, English Season and so on.

“For instance, a Japanese garden is equated with peace. It could be informal in placement of objects in an undulating area, lending a more wild and easy coexistence of both natural and artificial elements. Symmetry defines the Mughal theme, with ponds and fountains placed to geometric perfection on level land, and a characteristic of an English garden is the smooth lawn, fringed by large trees,” he says.

It is imperative that an architect studies the land from different angles and holds long discussions with the client to reach the ideal solution even if it means going through several blueprints. Mr. Unnikrishnan does not believe that any theme unaltered would fit a particular area, as, he says, everything is in relation to the house structure, an insight of how it would fare in the future and the client’s wishes.

There is thought that goes into every single aspect right from the kind of plant and lawn. For instance, for a Baker-style or a traditional structure, bamboo, oleander (Arali) and hibiscus are the more suited vegetation.

“Setting up the garden is actually the easy part. It’s the maintenance that is demanding, but most landscaping companies, including Thanal, have a separate wing that offers such services. But this is mostly to do with lawns,” Mr. Thampi says.

There are clients who even ask for terrace lawns and here, a whole different set of techniques come into play — an internal pipeline, drainage network and more labour go into elaborate landscaping above the ground level.

From an architect’s point of view, devoting so much focus to landscaping is an extension of the “green era” that the realm of architecture has woken up to. The structure, components and design of buildings underline energy efficiency and sustainability and architects tend to define landscaping as a careful, studied science and art. One of the challenges is posed by confined spaces and how designers must be able to work from areas spanning 50-sq.ft to acres.

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Cosentino: Gift ideas for the grower on your list

It is that time of year again: gift-giving days. I always search for the newest and best for my gardening friends, and this year there seems to be no end to the selection. There is something great on nearly every topic.

My first choice this year is “Succulents Simplified” by Debra Lee Baldwin. I think that it is important because of the rapidly rising popularity of these plants. Not only are succulents very easy to grow, but the varieties are endless. Baldwin focuses on just 100 of the plants, her favorites, and shows how to grow and care for them. She offers some step-by-step projects, too: building a cake stand centerpiece, a vertical garden, and special-occasion bouquets. The book is an easy read and once you have finished it, you are sure to want to start a collection of this group of plants that is so diverse in shape, color and form.

Another area of growing interest is container gardening. Let’s face it: Wanting a home on a half-acre of land is a thing of the past. Not only are we shrinking down to smaller lots, we are concentrating on the areas right around the house and on the patio. Now we grow our flowers in large flower pots of mixed types of plants, our vegetables are growing in boxes, and we even have miniature fruit trees in containers. One of my favorite garden writers, P. Allen Smith, has just come out with “Container Gardens: 60 Container Recipes to Accent your Home Garden.” He shows how to create masterpieces in a very short time by using his innovative recipes that give lists of plants and materials and step-by-step instructions and advice on how to display the pieces.

And then there is this craze about fairy gardens. And they’re not just for children. Imagine a beautiful landscape of small plants and miniature furniture beautifully arranged in a bowl or basket or box that is only a dozen or so inches across. Each adorned with a miniature fairy fixture. My choice for this is “Gardening in Miniature” by Janit Calvo. She has made the genre more general just by taking out the fairies. Her book is a complete guide to creating lush, small-scale gardens, and it has all the information you need to start in this new hobby. She tells how to create, choose the right container and plant, with step-by-step instructions, not only the garden, but the stones, and furniture and the fences. Really a great read.

Gardening book lovers do not have to pay full price for everything. There are a couple of fantastic sources out there that sell older books, even remainders of newer ones. I look at these websites whenever I need to browse for a new topic I might be interested in. I do confess, though, that last year my children gave me a Kindle tablet and I find myself now ordering books for that and reading them there. The savings are quite good, and because I can vary the type size, the reading is very comfortable.

But back to the sources. The first one I order from is Edward R. Hamilton, bookseller. The company is located at Box 15, Falls Village, Conn. I could not find a phone number, but if you are on a computer they are easy to find and I believe that they have no less than 300 books on gardening available. As a matter of fact, they recently sent a 128-page catalog filled entirely with books on home, gardening and landscaping. I am sure they will send you a copy if you drop them a note.

A second good source is Daedalus Books at Box 6000, Columbia, Md. Once you are on their mailing list you will get a frequent mailing of their catalogs. They are online, too, at

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Trowel & Glove: Marin gardening calendar for the week of Dec. 14, 2013

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• The 27th annual St. John’s Tour de Noel house tour is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 14 at four homes in Ross. $30 to $45. Lunch is available for $15. Call 456-1102 or go to

• West Marin Commons offers a weekly harvest exchange at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Livery Stable gardens on the commons in Point Reyes Station. Go to

• The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards on Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 899-8296.

• Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at Muir Woods or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays or 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 561-3077 or go to

• The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions.

• Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

• Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

• The Marin Organic Glean Team seeks volunteers to harvest extras from the fields at various farms for the organic school lunch and gleaning program. Call 663-9667 or go to

San Francisco

• The Conservatory of Flowers, at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, displays permanent galleries of tropical plant species as well as changing special exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $2 to $7. Call 831-2090 or go to

• The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, at Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, offers several ongoing events. $7; free to San Francisco residents, members and school groups. Call 661-1316 or go to Free docent tours leave from the Strybing Bookstore near the main gate at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekends; and from the north entrance at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can call ahead for special-focus tours.

Around the Bay

• Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

• Garden Valley Ranch rose garden is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at 498 Pepper Road in Petaluma. Self-guided and group tours are available. $2 to $10. Call 707-795-0919 or go to

• The Luther Burbank Home at Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues in Santa Rosa has docent-led tours of the greenhouse and a portion of the gardens every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $7. Call 707-524-5445.

• Wednesdays are volunteer days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center at 15290 Coleman Valley Road in Occidental. Call 707-874-1557, ext. 201, or go to

• Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 1 megabyte and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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