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Archives for December 20, 2013

Experts serve up tips for keeping dinnerware company-ready


Most of us store away our silver and silver-plated flatware for most of the year and take it out for only the most special of occasions.

Rory Richmond has a different idea.

Use your silver, said Richmond, who manages silver fulfillment operations at Replacements Ltd. Silver develops a patina with handling and use, which improves its appearance and gives it character, he said. That patina actually comes from tiny scratches in the surface that create a soft finish.

In addition, exposure to air causes oxidation, which produces a desirable darkening in the little crevices of the pattern. That darkening makes the design stand out more, Richmond said.

When you do use your silver, wash it immediately after use, and wash it well, he said. It’s particularly important to remove salt and citrus, which can damage silverware – especially silver plate, because it has just a thin layer of silver over a metal base. Mayonnaise, vinegar and eggs can also be problematic.

Don’t let silver soak in water for a long time, he cautioned. The water is corrosive and can also loosen the glue used to attach handles.

He recommended hand washing, because the heat of a dishwasher can damage the silver over time and loosen glue. And as with china, avoid detergents with citrus. The invisible residue they leave can cause rust, he said.

Use a soft cloth to wash the silver and dry it immediately with another soft cloth to prevent water spots.

If you’re storing silver long-term, use felt bags or a silver chest with a tarnish-resistant lining. Don’t store silver in airtight containers.

To polish silver, the company recommends starting by dusting with a lint-free cloth or soft toothbrush, and then washing. Dry each piece thoroughly, and use a blow dryer on a low setting to dry hard-to-reach places.

Apply a top-quality silver polish in a gentle, circular motion, and let the pieces sit according to the polish instructions before removing the polish with a lint-free cloth. Wash and dry each piece thoroughly to remove any excess polish.

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More From the Widder Curry on the “Hippie House” of Sunset Cliffs

Scott Stephens 02 far

The “Hippie House” on Sunset Cliffs Blvd at Adair. (Photos by Judi Curry)

Scott Stephens, the owner of the “Hippie House” on Sunset Cliffs and Adair told me today that he has had over 100 people stop and talk to him about the beautiful designs on his wall.

Everyone that has stopped has been enthralled with the designs, the layout, and the landscaping being done. After all, the house has been a rental for years and not in very good condition.

He, along with his significant other Layla, talked over the designs they wanted for their landscaping – native garden; peace poles; murals, etc., and worked with artist Adelaide Marcus in putting their ideas in motion.

Needless to say the final mural is spectacular and reflects the life style of Scott, Layla and his band Liquid Blue.

The landscaping, which is also unusual but beautiful was done by John Noble of Coastal Sage and Clayton Tschudy Eco Designs did the design. All of the plants are strictly California native plants. This corner lot may bring on a lot of discussion, but it was thoughtfully planned out and is eco-friendly.

Scott Stephens

Scott Stephens.

But, you ask, who are these people? They move into a beautiful neighborhood –  purchase an expensive “fixer-upper” and break the stoic mold of south Ocean Beach. (Actually, the area is called the “Peninsula” area of Sunset Cliffs.)

Scott is the founder, activist, vocalist, hype man of Liquid Blue, a party band based in San Diego, California.

Numerous awards include “Entertainer of the Year” (recently bestowed on the band by both Event Solutions and Biz Bash magazines), “Best Cover Band” at the San Diego Music Awards, “Pop Album of the Year” at the Los Angeles Music Awards and “America’s Best Independent Artist”.

The band has performed sold-out shows all over the world. The 9-minute short film “2010 Promotional Video” features the band live-in-concert on six continents. Scott and his band have performed in over 117 countries. They are well traveled and offer a world perspective in many different areas.

Layla is a disc jockey, currently performing on a Princess Cruise where she can see the same things that Scott can see from his Sunset Cliff windows.

The following is taken from their own website and gives a broader look at their beliefs:

 Liquid Blue was officially designated a “Green Business” by the County of San Diego, Department of Environmental Health, Community Health Division on May 22nd, 2009. The band also received a 2nd green certification in 2012 when Grent Point Rating (Build It Green) issued Liquid Blue an Elements Rating.

 Through the power of music, Liquid Blue strives to increase public awareness on issues such as a clean environment, world peace and human rights. We talk about the issues; sing about them and most of all strive to live our lives according to these principles. The band has received recognition from various “socially conscious” organizations.

 The wall may not be to the liking of everyone in the neighborhood but it certainly reflects the individualism of the new owners. Let’s welcome them with smiles and acceptance. It isn’t often that we get to know people that are so aware of the world problems today and have a plan to help fix it.

And if you really want to show your support – the band will be playing at Viejas on the first Friday and Saturday in January beginning at 9:30pm – let’s go hear them!



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Teachers, public servants share ideas for Christmas thank-you gifts is your source for free news and information in Columbia and the Midlands.

They bring your mail each day, teach your child long division and protect your neighborhood. If these people are on your Christmas shopping list but you aren’t sure what to buy, several have offered ideas and hints.

Giving gifts to public servants like police officers, town or city employees and others do come with some regulations. Ethics laws state there must be a $20 limit on gifts, and not all agencies accept monetary presents.

There are still several ways you can say “thank you” to those people who make daily life run smoothly.

Harry Spratlin, South Carolina spokesperson with the U.S. Postal Service, said giving gifts to postal workers is welcome but said the $20 limit should be observed. He discouraged cash gifts and instead suggested baked goods or a small gift card.

“A box of cookies or something of that nature is best,” he said.

Since mail deliverers are used to just retrieving outgoing mail, Spratlin said many miss that an envelope or package is addressed to them. He encouraged people to meet their postal carrier at the mailbox to hand deliver a gift or leave a large note on top of their stack of mail to make the person aware.

“And put your return address on it in case it’s missed,” Spratlin added.

People are also more than welcome to bring a Christmas gift to their local police department, fire station or town hall. Officials suggest something for people to snack on during their shift.

“We accept cookies, cakes any type of food items,” said Lexington Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Matt Davis. “No money, gift cards or presents are allowed.”

West Columbia City Clerk and Public Information Officer Mardi Valentino said people can make a larger contribution to West Columbia police by way of the West Columbia Police Officers Foundation. Established in 2008, the nonprofit raises funds for departmental needs such as new body armor that the budget cannot provide along with assisting officers who are injured, have a long-term illness or lose possessions in a fire.

The Lexington Police Department has a similar program, Adopt-a-Cop. Cayce citizens can help enhance their community by donating to the Cayce Beautification Foundation, which gathers funds to improve signage, landscaping and other green space projects.

Valentino said a simpler show of appreciation is also a good idea this time of year.

“Even sending a card is great. Let the employees know that you acknowledge what they do is important,” she said.

Many parents also are buying gifts to show their appreciation for those who spend hours with their children each week at school. Teachers agreed they’d enjoy something just for themselves but that they also like to shop for items for their classroom and students.

“We like gift cards to places like Educational Wonderland, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-A, Office Depot and any school supply donations,” said Stephanie Walker, theater teacher at Saluda River Academy for the Arts.

“Gift cards are great because they’re dispensable and can be spent on anything,” said Andrea Baker, instructor with Seven Oaks Elementary’s Media Magnet program.

Mary Wyatt, Seven Oaks Elementary instructional assistant and public information officer, also suggested iTunes cards and massage certificate to help teachers relax over Christmas break.

“We also like anything hand made by students,” Walker added.

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SIUE Art and Design Building recognized

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Art and Design annex – certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold building – has captured a notable design award from the American Institute of Architects.

The $9 million, 29,000-square-foot addition, adjacent to the original facility and completed in Fall 2012, is the recipient of an AIA Central States Citation Award of Excellence in the commercial architecture category. The AIA region includes five states—Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. St. Louis-based Trivers Associates was the project architect.

Certified by the USGBC as a LEED Gold building in September, SIUE’s Art and Design Building was awarded the AIA honor in late October. LEED’s detailed credentialing system recognizes the owner and architect’s commitment to understand and practice green building practices. To achieve certification at the Gold level, the Art and Design Building surpassed the total number of design points (60) required in these categories: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; material resources; indoor environmental quality; and designing a building that has a high level of safety and health for occupants.

This is SIUE’s first building to receive LEED Gold certification, but not the first time the AIA has honored the campus’ design. In 2007, the AIA Illinois Council featured the University’s buildings among the top 150 Illinois Great Places. According to the AIA, SIUE design ranks with such popular structures as the Illinois State Capitol, the Old State Capitol, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Wrigley Field, the home of Abraham Lincoln and locally Cahokia Mounds.

“SIUE is committed to environmental stability both inside and outside the classroom, and the Art and Design Building is testament to that,” said SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe. “We’re grateful to the AIA for this select honor.”

Trivers Associate Joel Fuoss, AIA LEED AP and lead designer on the SIUE project, said both the University and design firm were committed to creating a sustainable building with the utmost provisions for both health and safety.

“Safety was a huge priority for all of us,” said Fuoss, adding that a special consultant was enlisted to protect the building’s occupants – particularly those teaching and learning art-related substances – of any potential environmental impact. “There is off-gassing (evaporation of volatile chemicals) and other substances utilized in art creation, and they’re not to be dealt with lightly,” he said. “As the design team, we were committed to recognizing and exemplifying the University’s goals and approach to a sustainable environment. To be recognized by the AIA for this project is truly exciting.”

The two-story building’s positioning of the drawing and painting studios on the north side of the upper floor offers artists many options for use of natural light. “The Art and Design Building, from the core, lauds the wonderful and extensive natural environment that surrounds the SIUE campus,” Fuoss said.

The new building’s second floor also houses the art education and faculty offices, with the university’s art gallery and art history auditorium on the ground level.

More than 95 percent of the construction debris from the project was recycled or reused, according to Fuoss. Eighty-four percent of locally sourced materials also contributed to the project’s AIA commendation. “Even the limestone for the facade was sourced within 500 miles of Edwardsville,” he said.

Incorporating the building addition’s design to complement and enhance the adjacent, original 47,000-square-foot Art and Design facility was a key design objective. “Making the addition highly visible to engage both the campus and the community with the arts was extremely important to the University,” said Fuoss. “The general design concept was to link to the rivers and bluffs that are prevalent in our area,” he said. “The pedestrian flow on the addition’s western side is metaphorical to the river flows.”

SIUE’s award-winning building uses 40 percent less water than a comparable facility that is not designed according to LEED Gold standards. Additional sustainable features include: the state-of-the art heating and air conditioning systems to reduce overall energy consumption by 26 percent; the use of prairie grass in landscaping to eliminate irrigation and set aside green space for the building; and occupancy sensors to regulate lighting when spaces are not in use.

Central to SIUE’s exceptional and comprehensive education, the College of Arts and Sciences has 19 departments and 85 areas of study. More than 300 full-time faculty/instructors deliver classes to more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty help students explore diverse ideas and experiences, while learning to think and live as fulfilled, productive members of the global community. Study abroad, service-learning, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities better prepare SIUE students not only to succeed in our region’s workplaces, but also to become valuable leaders who make important contributions to our communities.

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See the top 10 cruise ship innovations of 2013

The year of 2013 was a big one in cruising, showcasing several amazing new ships. Norwegian Cruise Line launched the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway (the largest ship ever to homeport in New York) and Princess Cruises introduced its first new ship in five years (as well as the line’s largest ever), the 3,560-passenger Royal Princess, with royal fanfare — the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) serves as the ship’s godmother.

Not to be outdone, European lines Hapag-Lloyd, MSC Cruises and Compagnie du Ponant each brought out a new ship. River cruise ships increased even more dramatically in number, with Viking Cruise Line alone launching 10 technologically advanced, 190-passenger “longships.”

Onboard the ships, 2013 also brought a bunch of innovations.

Waterslides/thrills. The five water slides on Norwegian Breakaway include some of the fastest and longest at sea, while the ship’s ropes course provided guests with the opportunity to harness up and walk off the ship on The Plank. The Carnival Sunshine focused on catering to speed fans with the new Speedway Splash water slide, while on the Disney Magic, the Donald Duck-themed Aqua Dunk — a super-fast, three-story water slide — got passengers taking a feet-first plunge.

PHOTO TOUR: The AquaDunk is just one thing we love about the revamped Disney Magic

Beefed up entertainment. Cruise lines battled it out on the entertainment front this year. Norwegian Breakaway brought to sea the Tony-nominated classic rock musical Rock of Ages, as well as the sultry dance show Burn the Floor. Crystal had a hit with “Magic Castle at Sea,” featuring pros from Hollywood’s renowned private magicians club. Holland America Line captivated music lovers with new venue B.B. King’s Blues Club, showcasing world-class musicians. Carnival and Princess each got new, streamlined show productions. Look for this trend to continue in 2014 — the Tony-nominated musical Legally Blonde will be on the soon-to-debut Norwegian Getaway and the ABBA-influenced Broadway hit Mamma Mia! will rock the house on Royal Caribbean‘s Quantum of the Seas, coming in November 2014.

Dancing With the Stars. While a lot of ships offer dance lessons as an activity, Holland America Line latched onto the dance craze big time with “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea,” a program tied in with the hit ABC show. Pros and celebrities from the show make appearances shipboard (on six cruises next year) and all 15 ships host dance contests where willing passengers are paired with a member of the shipboard show team for a dance competition (which culminates with a dance-off on a Champions Cruise).

SEE MORE: The best cruise ship shows at sea

Top Chefs. Norwegian had a hit on Breakaway with “Chopped” judge and “Iron Chef” Geoffrey Zakarian opening seafood venues and TLC’s “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro launching a shipboard Carlo’s Bakery outlet. They’ll be back on Getaway. Other celebrity chef appearances on cruise ships in 2013 included Tom Colicchio and winning contestants on the first-ever Bravo “Top Chef” cruise by Celebrity Cruises.

Gourmet Booze. The cocktail craze hit the high seas in 2013, with Princess launching flair bartending (like Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”) on Royal Princess. Norwegian partnered with Diageo Reserve World Class this year for training of the line’s bartenders in new drink and pouring trends, while Celebrity launched a new craft cocktail experience with drinks concocted by noted cocktail creator Josh Durr. Crystal, on the other hand, turned its attention to craft beer — with the addition of such limited-edition options as Samuel Adams Utopias (priced at up to $300 per bottle).

Booze packages. 2013 was a good year for those passengers who plan to imbibe and prefer to pay upfront. Holland America, Azamara, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and MSC Cruises (on the Divinia, now year-round out of Miami) were among lines introducing new all-you-can-drink alcohol plans.

Kids/Family Focus. This year brought a renewed focus on kid-friendly cruising. Royal Caribbean launched Barbie Premium Experiences, with special stateroom accouterments and activities for fans of the doll (most for a fee). Carnival teamed up with Dr. Seuss for a new program that will bring the Cat in the Hat and other classic characters to the high seas. Disney provided the opportunity for kids to do “super hero training” with a new Marvel’s Avengers Academy on Disney Magic and an exclusive Royal Court Royal Tea — where passengers can mingle with Disney royalty (for a fee) — on Disney Fantasy. Disney also became the first cruise line to have lifeguards stationed at its main pools.

Greenery. Several cruise ships went green this year, with more live plants onboard than ever before. Crystal added freestanding vertical gardens, or “living walls,” including a chef’s herb garden and live olive trees on the Lido Deck on Crystal Serenity. River lines also got in on the shipboard landscaping trend, with Viking showcasing herb gardens on top of all of its “longships.” The herbs are used in the cuisine served onboard.

Exercise Mania. The exercise craze on the high seas expanded drastically in 2013, with both Norwegian and Celebrity adding Zumba classes. MSC Cruises’ Divina introduced first-at-sea aqua cycle classes held in a pool, while new ship Norwegian Breakaway (and sister ship Getaway) brought such nouveau fitness equipment as FLYWHEEL cycling and the first-at sea Nexersys interactive flight training module, where you do high-intensity interval training against an avatar. Norwegian Breakaway also debuted special exercise classes developed with the ship’s high-stepping godmothers, The Rockettes.

GUILT-FREE CRUISING: Explore the best cruise ships for fitness junkies

Smoking bans. Several lines announced rules prohibiting smoking on cabin balconies this year, including Royal Caribbean, Disney and Cunard (beginning early 2014). Seabourn, one of the last lines to allow in-cabin smoking, said it would implement a ban next year that will also cover most cabin balconies. MSC Cruises tightened smoking rules for its Divina — with smoking limited to a Cigar Lounge and designated outdoor areas.

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Roots and Shoots: Master Gardeners Recommend Gifts for Holidays

December 19, 2013

By Pamela Doan

Since tilling the soil at this time of year is out of the question, it’s a good time to plan for spring. Give your favorite gardener a gift that will help them create the landscape or vegetable garden of their dreams. Once the holidays are over, a helpful reference book or beautiful design book can be the inspiration and guidance they need. I asked the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, a group with diverse experience and backgrounds, for recommendations to create this gift guide.

Master Gardener Robert Madigan recommended Botany for Gardeners Revised Edition by Brian Capon. He said, “It’s an easy read, has clear concepts and is not overly technical or complicated. I think it would be a good choice for gardeners who might not have ever had any formal gardening or horticulture education. This book plugged a lot of small holes in my knowledge about the topic and also gave me a broader insight about how plants work.”

I’m a fan of this book, as well. It’s been a long time since I took biology in high school and this book took me back into the magical world of how life works.

Weeds of the Northeast was the pick by Elizabeth Apgar Triano. With it, you can begin to identify everything growing in your yard and learn how to tell friend from foe. It’s especially useful in the spring when plants are just coming up and you can’t tell a weed from a desirable plant. It can also help you make friends with weeds. Just because you didn’t plant it there, doesn’t mean it’s a nuisance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to weeds and though a certain plant may not have value for you, it might be important for something else in the eco-system.

garden gift booksZshawn Sullivan Smith recommended the New York Gardener’s Guide, by Ralph Snodsmith, who hosted the “The Garden Hotline” radio show for 35 years and died in 2010. This book has something for both the beginner and more experienced gardener alike. Filled with tips and good advice, Snodsmith understands the unique features of gardening in our region and can help anyone overcome the challenges.

Dianne Olsen, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Senior Educator in Putnam County, chose a book about landscape design as her top pick. What Perennial Where by Roy Lancaster has, “categories of plants for specific sites, plus plants for specific purposes, like “architectural leaves, and groundcovers.” The book is filled with photos and all the information a gardener needs to create a perennial landscape, including the height, color, light and water requirements, and hardiness of each plant. Your favorite gardener can design a gorgeous flowerbed with this reference book.

Since garden books can also be lovely to look at, I’d add a couple of coffee table books to the list. After visiting Innis free Garden in Millbrook for the first time last summer, I’ve got the photography book Innisfree: An American Garden by Lester Collins, the landscape architect who largely created it, on my wish list. Graceful, peaceful, natural landscaping shaped the nearly 200 acres around a lake into a series of rolling vistas. This is the book to use as a muse for inspiration.

The recently published Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley by Jane Garmey with photographs by John Hall, would make an excellent gift, too. The book documents 26 private gardens in our area, certainly enough to stoke ideas and give any gardener something to aspire to. Since it only covers private gardens, most people won’t have a chance to experience these gardens firsthand and the photos will have to suffice. It’s a rare peek into an off-limits world with the setting our own area with its waterways and mountains. Maybe you’ll want one copy to keep for yourself.

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The Hidden Gems in Our Favorite City: Lisa Novick, Theodore Payne Foundation …

This post was co-authored by Cathy Weiss, artist and educator living in Laurel Canyon.

The Theodore Payne Foundation is a great place to visit. Theodore Payne moved to Southern California from England in 1893, and while working as a gardener on a local ranch, he grew to love the special beauty of our native plants. He felt that most people did not appreciate their beauty or their value to the local ecology. As the city grew, natives were quickly being replaced with imported plants like palm trees, eucalyptus, bougainvillea, and roses. In response, Theodore Payne opened a nursery with native plants and seeds, and he helped design native wildflower gardens at Exposition Park, Griffith Park, Descanso Gardens, and many other places. If you visit the Foundation today, you can see hundreds of varieties of native plants in the nurseries, learn about the Native Americans indigenous to Southern California, and practice twisting rope out of reeds. Here we interview Lisa Novick, The Foundation’s Director of Outreach and K-12 Education: Lisa not only studies native plants, she has made them an important part of her family’s home.
For information about visiting, see

Lisa Novick by

Can you tell us something about the Foundation?
Theodore Payne wanted to honor and cherish the California landscape as nature made it. When he came here in 1893 he saw people chopping oaks, plowing under poppy fields, planting species not native to California. He fell in love with matilija poppies, wildflowers, and fields of lupine. He saw people ignoring those and rushing to plant exotic species. He spent his entire life trying educate people about the native flora of California and awaken them to the beauty we’re losing and that works so well for our climate and soil types – the hot, dry summers, cool rainy winters. There are over 3,000 species and sub-species of California native plants. The different exposures on mountains, our four mountain ranges west to east, our varied distances from the equator – all these different exposures make different habitats. We have geological and landform richness – we are a biodiversity hotspot almost as good as the Amazon. Most of my own kids’ classmates knew incredible facts about Amazon, but didn’t know anything about the plants and animals in our own backyard.

Why are native plants important?

Did you know if you plant certain plants, you can attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and you will be helping them survive? 90 percent of insects have co-evolved with plant species native to their region, and can only digest that combination of chemicals. Insects are essential as pollinators, food for other insects and animals, and decomposers. Insects are the foundation of any food web. The caterpillars of most butterflies and moths can only eat a few types of native plants. Without those plants, they go extinct. Butterflies and moths are important because they are pollinators and their caterpillars are the main food of baby birds. Without caterpillars, we lose birds. In the U.S., populations of many bird species have fallen between 60-90 percent in the last forty years.
A native oak feeds up to four hundred species of beneficial insects, where a non-native maple feeds relatively few. Native plants also use much less water.

San Gabriel flannel bush,

What can we do as individuals to help our ecosystem?

We are entering the sixth mass extinction on Earth, and this one is because of human activity. The other five were from natural causes. The extinction rate now is 1,000 times the normal background extinction rate. What we do in our urban and suburban areas with our landscaping is hugely important. Doug Tallamy wrote a beautiful book called Bringing Nature Home, which talks about how we can use our residential neighborhoods to restore native habitats, even in small ways.

What do we need to do?
Only 4 percent of the US is left as wild land. 41 percent of our land is agricultural use, and 55 percent is urban and suburban usage. How we use our gardens and landscaping is hugely important for stopping species loss, and providing homes for the bees and pollinators who service the insects and animals whose ecosystem services we need for our own wellbeing. For instance, birds give us seventeen different services, including reforestation and pest control. Without birds, we would lose a lot of beauty and all the things they do for us for free. A butterfly garden can feed butterflies and caterpillars. It takes 450-600 insects or worms to feed a family of four baby birds from the time they hatch until they fledge seventeen days later. Native plant gardens make thirty-five times the number of caterpillars of non-natives. Celebrate the holes in your leaves – non-native gardens usually have little bird or insect life. Holes in plant leaves mean that someone – an insect or bird – is actually there eating. A garden with no holes is a dead garden.

What influenced your appreciation of nature?

What made a huge difference was the first time I spent real time in a forest. Before fifth grade, I went to summer camp, where we slept in a teepee and woke up to dozens of different bird calls and the wind moving through the leaves and forest sounds instead of helicopters, car horns, and traffic noises. Being serenaded in the morning was beautiful and had never happened to me. When my own kids were born I started seeing climate change affecting species loss and habitat loss and making species numbers plummet. So many problems seemed so overwhelming – there was so much bad news out there. Habitat restoration using native plants is something everybody can do no matter where they live – on a balcony, parkway strip, or little hillside behind a house. Anyone can do this. We can bring nature back. That’s the restorative, positive message about why gardening with native plants is so essential for our souls and our planet – the beauty has been here all along and can be here again if we nurture it.

How has LA changed during your years of living and working here?

I grew up in west LA and saw migrations of painted lady butterflies – we don’t see that any more because we have lost the habitats. You can see them in the desert because the desert is more intact. Not only has the landscape changed, but I think people’s appreciation for what’s still here has changed – people seem to be less aware of what’s here than they were. Years ago, people would have understood that there are trees that are native to LA. Now, at outreach events, people at city government say, ‘There are no trees native to LA.’ The level of disconnect to the natural environment seems larger and larger and makes our education efforts even more crucial.

What should children know about making a positive contribution?

Children have it in their power to do something right now to make the world better – by planting even one native plant in their backyard or parkway or in a container. That one plant can support insects and butterflies. When that plant’s flowers are pollinated, those will become seeds or berries or nuts of some kind, and those will feed birds – either migrating birds or those that live here full time, and will feed a host of other insects as well. Plant just one in your yard, and you can begin to see the ecology shift.

California bay nut,

How have you changed from doing this work?

Working here has been a privilege because I am constantly around other people who know so much, and I see all the different native plants that our production crew is propagating. I get to see new species and subspecies all the time and learn about them. There’s always a new butterfly I notice feeding on a plant. There are 1,600 known species of California native bees. I’ve only seen a couple dozen. Some are emerald green and fuzzy, others are pewter colored. Native bumblebees are black and yellow striped, or mostly striped with one little yellow stripe – there are all sizes, shapes, and colors. That variety is what people need to understand.

Can native gardens help us with the crisis in bee health and pollination?

Native gardens give you all different types of pollinators by their sizes and shapes. There are different shaped insect bodies with hair on different parts of their bodies, and the those sizes and shapes attract different pollen grains and take on different flowers. You will get a better yield from your vegetable garden if you have native flowers around it. This will work better than if you just have European honey bees, with only one shaped body. Working here has exposed me every day to more and more richness of the local natural environment, and I know this is possible for everyone. We shouldn’t have to drive to Joshua Tree or Yosemite to experience the beauty of nature in our yards.

What is your own garden like?

When I moved into our La Canada house, there was grass and roses and Mandevilla and thirsty willows. The landscaping was shamrock green, and there was hardly a bird or bee to be seen anywhere in that garden. It satisfied conventional perceptions of what’s pretty, but if you sat and waited for birds or butterflies to come in, they didn’t. There were no food sources for them. So we killed the lawn and let the dogs girdle the English willow tree. We replaced it with a native elderberry that our kids made into giant green cave. It has platter-sized clusters of blossoms that are butterfly landing pads in summer. When pollinated, it grows big bunches of berries that are delicious off the tree or in pies. We planted a Toyon shrub, native bunch grasses; we ripped out privet and planted native cherry trees for an informal hedge. Blue jays zoom in all the time to eat the cherries, and so do our daughters. We have native grape, buckwheat, and sage. In our front yard we killed the Bermuda lawn and planted a native garden. Amongst it all I have a vegetable garden. It all works together and complements each other.

Is there a story that demonstrates the joy a garden can bring?

Theodore Payne Foundation and L.A.’s Best were involved in planting a native and edible garden at an elementary school in North Hollywood that had just been moth-eaten Bermuda grass area with a sickly walnut tree remnant from the old groves. We installed a native garden with a line of edible boxes around the edge. We put in about 20 penstemons. As we were watering the garden with the kids, a hummingbird zoomed in and went from plant to plant to plant feeding from all the flowers. He took up residence in the walnut tree and built a nest. The kids were over the moon. I had told them, if you plant them, they will come – everything will follow. The kids wondered, ‘is this really true,’ and the hummingbird zoomed right in

Try this:

Plant a bush for butterflies. Manzanita plants come into flower at exactly nesting time – that’s an example of co-evolution. A tiny insect as big as a pinhead lives in the flower, and that’s what parent birds feed their babies.

Manzanita flower,

Did you know?
Hummingbirds use fuzz from the back of sycamore leaves and clean spider webs to make their nests.

Did you know?
Mother butterflies can smell from up to seven miles away the chemical signal of the kind of leaf they need to lay their eggs. If they can’t find it, they will lay their eggs on what smells as close as possible. But if the caterpillar digestive system has not co-evolved with that particular ratio of chemicals, usually the caterpillar will die – it can’t digest the leaves. Butterflies prefer certain plants that they have co-evolved with in their own eco niche. There are over 90 specific California species that will only lay their eggs on certain species of leaf, like the monarch on milkweed, because that’s what the caterpillars can eat.
That’s why it’s important, when planting butterfly gardens, to think about what the babies will eat in addition to nectar for the adults.

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