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Archives for December 24, 2013

How to make Flower Bouquets Last

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This week’s gardening tips: fruit trees, weeds and holiday cactus edition

this winter and early spring, such as peach, apple, pear, plum, fig, blueberry, grape and nectarine, you must choose types and cultivars adapted to our mild winter climate. Contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension office for a free copy of “Louisiana Home Orchard,” or click here for the online version.

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When planting hardy fruit trees this winter and early spring, such as peach, apple, pear, plum, fig, blueberry, grape and nectarine, you must choose types and cultivars adapted to our mild winter climate. Contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension office for a free copy of “Louisiana Home Orchard,” or click here for the online version.

  • Keep garden beds free from weeds. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch will prevent most cool-season weed seeds from sprouting. It’s more effective to keep weeds under control with regular efforts than to try to correct a situation that has gotten out of control due to inattention.
  • After your holiday cactus plant stops blooming, don’t forget to move it into a sunny window for the rest of the winter. Keep it evenly moist but not constantly wet as this promotes root rot.
  • As we move into the coldest part of the winter, don’t forget to keep materials handy to cover tender plants in the landscape during freezes.
  • Bare-root roses become available area garden centers in January. These should be planted by February while they are still dormant. Plant them into well prepared, sunny beds with excellent drainage.
  • Though they should have already been planted by now, you can plant spring flowering bulbs, like Leucojum, Ipheion, Anemone, Narcissus, Zephyranthes, Ranunculus, Ornithogalum, daffodils and Spanish bluebells, and still expect good results.

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After harvesting, air-dry garlic before storing

Why are my garlic cloves brown? I grow it from certified disease-free heads and rotate the garlic to avoid disease.

We see from your photo that you’ve cut off the stem and roots. We suspect the garlic is not curing sufficiently before you store it. When you harvest, air-dry the garlic out of doors, out of direct sun, with the leaves, stems, and roots intact, for one to two weeks. Store retaining at least 4-6 inches of the stem and also the root. You can tie them into bunches to hang in your basement and have garlic all winter. See our website vegetable profile on garlic for more tips.

Is it safe to burn wood that had poison ivy on it after the bark has been removed?

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  • Garden QA Archive

    Garden QA Archive

  • Plant of the week

    Plant of the week

As you are obviously aware, all of the residual plant tissue from the dead poison ivy retains the toxin. This raises an interesting question concerning the remaining root material that was clinging to the tree’s bark. It seems quite possible that there could be some toxin remaining in the bark of the tree. However, if the bark has been removed from the host tree, there should be no danger of toxic fumes from the poison ivy.

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

Golden Stars or Lady Fingers cactus

Mammillaria elongata

A plant for people who tend to kill plants, Golden Stars cactus requires little watering and accepts a variety of light levels. Three to four hours of direct sunlight is optimal, though all but a north window should work. Water sparingly; more sparingly in winter. In summer, it enjoys a stint outdoors yet can take temperatures down to 40 degrees. It also flowers easily. The yellowy recurved spines allow Golden Stars to be a safe cactus for homes with curious little fingers. A native of Mexico, this 6-inch cactus pops out offsets from the base. These can be removed to start new plants. —Ellen Nibali

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In the Garden: Tips to extend the life of your holiday greenery

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes the beauty of boughs and bouquets. We may be given the gift of a beautiful centerpiece, gorgeous poinsettia or amaryllis bulb. Our porches, doors and mantelpieces may be graced with evergreen wreaths and garlands.

All of these require a different method of care to keep them fresh and festive and often, homeowners struggle with falling needles, wilting leaves and a general lack of “shelf life” for these living holiday decorations.

The following tips will improve the overall longevity of indoor evergreens:

  • Mist wreaths and garlands with water on a daily basis, wetting both the stems as well as the needles. Use a general household spray bottle for this task and be sure that you are misting the wreath or garland in a location where the water will not cause any damage to walls or furniture. Another option is to apply an anti-transpirant once a week. This is a clear, odorless liquid that dries to a film and slows the loss of water from the needles. Anti-transpirants are available through floral-supply outlets. Read entire label carefully before use. If greenery is decorated, it may not be possible to use sprays.
  • Best greens for indoor use are true fir, Douglas fir, pine, false cedars, juniper, yew, holly and boxwood. Don’t use spruce or hemlock indoors because the needles drop quickly.
  • Keep greens away from direct-heat sources such as furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters and very sunny windows. Exposure to additional heat and drafts will speed the drying process and decrease the life of your greenery. If you start to see areas of your wreath or garland that are becoming dry or brittle, consider removing these pieces from the arrangement to keep a fresh appearance. Dry greens can easily become a fire hazard.

Here are some tips for poinsettias:

  • Check soil moisture daily. If the soil feels dry to the touch just under the soil surface or the container feels “light” when lifted, add water until some liquid runs out the bottom drainage hole of the pot. If using a saucer to collect excess water, drain the excess so that the poinsettia pot is not kept in standing water. Standing water will cause root injury and stress to the plant.
  • Poinsettias prefer to be kept at 65 to 70 degrees and like to be put in a sunny location (such as a south-, east- or west-facing window) free from drafts. Do not let the foliage touch the cold glass of the windowpane as damage can occur to the leaves.
  • Although poinsettias can be kept and forced to re-bloom, it is a complicated process and may be beyond the scope of most home gardeners.

Happy holidays from WSU Chelan County Master Gardeners!

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Eron Drew is one of four columnists featured.

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The Potted Desert Garden: The Basics of Container Design

In recent weeks, I’ve offered several ideas about pot combinations, and have talked a little about design within the pots. However, I have not yet discussed the basics of container design.

There are three basic principles when you are combining plants within a container: You need a vertical element, a mass or featured element, and filler elements, which might be cascading.

I always think of the vertical plant as one that provides the stature or structural backbone. The upright plant will be the tallest in the pot, of course. I often use a perennial, but some tall annuals can work as well. This plant is at the back or at the center of the pot, depending on your focal points.

Speaking of the focal point: The mass or featured plants should be placed at that focal point. They are what draws the eye to the pot, either with strong flower color or foliage; you want large flowers or leaves to make a bold statement.

Filler or trailing plants finish the look off, generally in the front of the pot and/or on the sides. I love to find successful trailing plants that cascade over the pot, covering it to some degree. If the trailing plants have flowers, you want them to be of a smaller size and in contrast to the focal-plant colors and texture.

If you only have 20 minutes in your desert potted garden this week: If you have petunias, the long growth period can make them leggy. Cut them back to where you see new growth, and they will last nicely for another two to three months!

Marylee is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. E-mail her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
, and follow The Potted Desert on Facebook.

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Designs for Senate office building nearly done — and battle over project …

Designs for a new state Senate office building near the Capitol complex are nearly complete, but the controversial project will face renewed scrutiny early next year as House lawmakers — many of who felt blindsided by the proposal — take the project up for a vote.

Lawmakers, architects and officials from the Department of Administration went over almost-finalized outside renderings and three-dimensional models of the $90 million office building last week, a modern-looking glass structure that will sit on the Capitol’s north side. Construction is supposed to start sometime next spring, with the building slated to be complete in 2015. Its construction will coincide with a massive project to renovate the 105-year-old Capitol building.

But before that can happen, the project must clear a public hearing in the House and Senate rules committees, likely sometime in January. Few expect trouble from senators, but some House lawmakers are miffed over how the proposal passed last session.

Senate Democrats included the building in the tax bill in the 2013 session’s final hours. While that bill passed off the floors of both DFL-controlled chambers and was signed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, House Democrats and the governor say there was little talk about the provision until after session ended.

“I understand that the Senate, just like the House, doesn’t like the other chamber interfering in their design-making, but when it’s an expenditure of public funds, especially such a large expenditure, I think the House should have been more involved,” DFL Rep. John Benson, vice-chair of the House rules committee, said. “Unless I can be convinced differently, I’m pretty skeptical of it.”

New building offers public space

But advocates of the project say the building was designed with Minnesotans in mind — not senators.

The new building will include three massive hearing rooms that can hold hundreds of spectators. The need for larger hearings rooms was illustrated last session, advocates say, as huge crowds gathered for high-profile hearings on gun control and gay marriage.

Roughly $27 million of the total project will be spent on a public parking ramp and tunnel level parking for the disabled. There would be a public entrance space and gallery, according to recent renderings, and the building would be home to additional space for the Legislative Reference Library. The library is currently housed in the State Office Building.

Senators on the second and third floors would have offices hugging a front wall of glass facing the north side of the Capitol, and office-level floors are dotted with smaller conference rooms for work. Early brainstorming sessions for the building included a fitness room and a reflecting pool, but those ideas were nixed in the most recent designs, Department of Administration spokesman Curt Yoakum said.  

LOB in situ

It was those details that sparked the interest of Dayton, who recently expressed concern that the new building was going to become too costly and wouldn’t fit in with the “Minnesota modest” spirit of its neighboring Capitol buildings. Yoakum said they’ve been working to accommodate the governor’s concerns and keep the project in budget.

“Administration has been working with the design build team on things such as changes to the mechanical systems and landscaping to keep it within budget. I think on top of that, administration is also undertaking a benchmarking process for this to compare this building with similar government buildings to make sure the costs and design are in alignment,” Yoakum said. “You aren’t looking at anything out of line here.”

House critics warn of ‘overbuilding’

Republicans have criticized the project since session ended, and the building is subject to a lawsuit from former House Republican lawmaker Jim Knoblach, who says putting it in the tax bill violates the single subject rule in the state constitution. The tax bill is about taxes, not buildings, he said.

DFL House Capital Investment Chairwoman Alice Hausman agrees. She says the new building should have been vetted in bonding committees. She also doesn’t like using a lease-to-purchase bond sale as the financing method for the project.

“It was a way to go around the process and it was a way for this to go to the head of the list over all the other projects we should have done this year,” Hausman said. “Lease-to-purchase is an expensive way to do it, because it requires us in the future to always appropriate for it.”

What’s more, she said the building doesn’t achieve the goals laid out by the Senate, which included providing swing space during Capitol construction and permanently housing all senators from both parties in the same building for the first time in decades. But early renderings show only 44 senator offices for the 67-member chamber in the new space, Hausman said.

“They have made matters worse. They now have some senators in an office building, and some in the Capitol,” she said. “My concern is that we are overbuilding, and for what?”

Originally, the bill was only to go before the Senate rules committee, Hausman said, but she managed to add a provision at last minute that required a House hearing as well.

“Given the reports I’ve seen in the news, I think we have to look very critically at what comes in front of the rules committee,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL- South St. Paul, who sits on the panel.

Benson, a fiscal moderate from Minnetonka who is retiring next fall, said there are far better ways to spend state dollars. “We’ve got bridges and roads and all kinds of things that need public financing,” Benson said. “I think senators and representatives can stay in their cubby holes a little longer.”

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The life of an architect in the construction cycle

December 24, 2013

The life of an architect in the construction cycle

The construction industry requires many different players to make it run efficiently. Most non-construction people no doubt assume that the role of an architect is directed primarily, if not exclusively, to the design of new buildings and the spaces in and around them, as well as helping with the restoration and reuse of old, listed or existing buildings.

However, architects are often involved in a project from start to finish. Their role does not end with drawing up the plans to be submitted for planning and building permission. They also work closely with other professionals involved in the execution of the project, such as quantity surveyors, contractors and subcontractors, engineers and landscape architects.

On some projects, the municipality’s architect (or other design professionals) may also be responsible for a number of managerial functions associated with project execution. Finally, the architect will also carry out site inspections to make the related responsibilities of payment certifier. Potentially, there are four distinct phases in which an architect may be engaged by a municipality in relation to the execution of a given project. They are:

— Initiation: The architect establishes the client’s needs, expectations, project requirements and budget. This information is collected to prepare a written document called the design brief.

Procurement Perspectives

Stephen Bauld

— Design Phase: The architect analyses the design brief, site conditions, features and constraints and determines the best location and orientation. The architect begins to develop ideas through rough plans, sketches and models. These ideas are brought together into concept drawings that satisfy all planning, aesthetic and resource management requirements.

— Design Development, Documentation and Building Consent: The architect compares the concept design drawings with the design brief and develops the technical detail for the project with the project team. Detailed drawings and specifications are prepared to enable the builder to construct the project. The drawings are lodged to obtain local authority building consent. The method of engaging a builder for the project is determined.

— Implementation/Construction: The architect works with the builder and other project team members to ensure the project is constructed in accordance with the drawings and specifications.

In a typical design-bid-build arrangement, the architect (or other design professional) will provide advice on the best ways in which to implement the municipality’s plans within the constraints set by budget constraints, as well as concerning building regulations and planning permission. The goal is to convert the municipality’s capital facility requirements into a financially viable and technically feasible buildable solution. The stage in the process is sometimes referred to as the production of the project brief.

The project brief will usually cover such matters as the building type, the critical features of the project, including such matters as the number, style, size and spatial planning of rooms, and the adjacencies of various activities within the building to each other. Other critical aspects of the project brief include the general total project budget (i.e., the target price, as opposed to the detailed workout of the price, which is produced later), the time line for completion, site requirements (and, if a site has been selected, the site details), the construction method and technology to be employed, and special features that the project is to possess.

A final area of concern is the blend of the project into its surroundings, so the project brief will need to deal with such matters as pedestrian and vehicular flow, parking requirements, public areas and landscaping. In assembling this information, the architect is not simply expected to record passively the instructions given.

As a design professional, it is the role of the architect “to create total environments, both interiors and exteriors, that are functional and exciting places in which to work and live.”

Stephen Bauld, Canada’s leading expert on government procurement, is a member of the Daily Commercial News editorial advisory board. He can be reached at

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Food hub to fill gap in the market

Streat Kitchen

AL FRESCO DINING: Some of the Streat Kitchen cart’s first customers tuck into lunch served up in a vacant lot between buildings in Bridge St.

Streat Kitchen

The vacant site where a building was demolished on Bridge St is taking on new life with a plan to turn it into a street food hub and lunchtime park.

It has started with Streat Kitchen, run by chef Michael McMeeken and his partner Tami Mansfield, who have plans for others to join them.

The idea has been inspired by a visit to Ms Mansfield’s hometown Portland in Oregon where the city centre has food cart villages.

”They have 60 food carts lined up side by side, taking up one and a half city blocks.  It was incredible seeing on Monday lunchtime the footpaths packed with people just for the food carts.”

”They had every type of food – French, Egyptian, fish and chips, dumplings.  The most popular was for a cart that sold just one item, a Mexican salad with some secret sauce,” said Mr McMeeken.

They also found ”cart pods”, usually in a little car park or a section of land, some with six food stalls, others up to 20, including a beer cart.

”They had put in a bit more effort, had a few tables and a bit of landscaping, and that’s what I’m hoping to achieve here,” he said.

The Bridge St site now has the rough ground covered in a floor of crushed mussel shells and customers sit on blue chairs around cable reel tables.

The Streat Kitchen is fitted out with a professional kitchen and Mr McMeeken cooks each dish fresh, offering a fish, meat or vegetarian  option daily.

He has worked in top overseas restaurants for 10 years, including for Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing in London and Thomas Keller in New York.

In Nelson he worked at the Boat Shed Cafe, and now with his Streat Kitchen he wants to provide restaurant-style food in a street takeaway environment.

”There are a lot of food carts doing sushi and baked potatoes but nobody is doing restaurant-style food to order.  That’s what my training is in and it’s possible to do it fast.”

On his first day he was searing pork with beans and pickled onions, serving orange roughy with crushed peas, mint, and new potatoes, and his vegetarian dish was Romano’s tomatoes with basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella.

Customer Bob Berry said: ”I’m surprised to have this quality food without the bricks and mortar (of a restaurant).”

Next month a Filipino food cart will be the first of others to join the site.

Mr McMeeken has a vision for the site to become eco-friendly, including using solar power, and seasonal local produce.

His ideas for using the site by coincidence were similar to those of Nelson architect Rachel Dodd, of Arthouse Architecture.

She had approached the site owner, Brian Jones, with the idea of creating a portable pocket park, and he put the two in contact with one another.

”We had similar visions to create something special in the heart of Nelson,” said Ms Dodd, who is also a trustee of the City of Nelson Civic Trust.

The trust has provided some seed funding for tables, trees and planters, and everything must be mobile so it can be moved to other sites.

”People are concerned that there will be other buildings coming down. It’s important that the people of Nelson can see empty spaces being used in a positive way and putting life back into the city,” she said.

Her idea to use the empty site came about through wanting an outdoor place to eat her lunch, and hopes other city workers will use it, even if they bring along their own lunch.

Funds to develop the set up are also being raised through PledgeMe.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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Historic Homestead in Middletown Sells for $480000

This Colonial built in 1744 has nationally recognized landscaping and gardens as well as large rooms with high ceilings. See this and other Middletown homes that were recently purchased by new owners.

15 Laurel Grove Road, Middletown

The Middletown Town Clerk reports the following incidents:

  • 12 LIBERTY STREET — Franklin E. Rusconi to QR Properties LLC on Dec. 9 for $100,000
  • 38 WILDFLOWER LANE — Mark E. McQuade to Christopher M. and Whitney E. Abel on Dec. 9 for $240,000
  • 67 TROLLEY CROSSING LANE — Frank J. and Phyllis M. Siddons to Scott R. Gotta on Dec. 9 for $110,000
  • 797 MILLBROOK ROAD — Maureen L. Sidman and Ralph Levy on Dec. 11 for $368,000
  • 600 WADSWORTH STREET — Louise T. Goodwin to Samuel Eddinger on Dec. 10 for $100,000
  • 721 BARTHOLOMEW ROAD — John and Grace Magyar to Scott A. and Elizabeth Heidecker
  • 227 CARRIAGE CROSSING LANE — CitiMortgage Inc. to Linda Healy on Dec. 13 for $97,000
  • 167 NEJAKO DRIVE — Josephine L. Panebianco to Tanya S. Ortiz on Dec. 13 for $190,000
  • 43 MCKENZIE STREET — Laura Krueger (half interest) to Debra Weeks on Dec. 13 for $54,920.49
  • 53 SCHUYLAR AVENUE — Thomas M. Lombardo and Christine Martin to Luke R. Eddinger on Dec. 13 for $125,000
  • 199 MARKHAM STREET — Estate of Rachel C. Imlah to Thomas J. Devine Jr. on Dec. 16 for $125,000
  • 203 CARRIAGE CROSSING — Secretary Housing and Urban Development to Matthew L. Santoro III
  • 15 LAUREL GROVE ROAD — Juana Maria G. Hagg, trustee of the Juana Maria G. Hagg Revocable Trust Agreement dated Jan. 22, 2001 to Helen Barnard on Dec. 16 for $475,000
  • 48 EGAN ROAD — U.S. Bank National Assoc. as trustee for RASC 2007-K52 to Piela Andrzej on Dec. 17 for $111,799
  • 15 WOODLOT LANE — Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. as trustee for Morgan Stanley Real Estate Capital Trust to Jimmy Vu on Dec. 17 for $90,169
  • 21 SONOMA LANE — Sonoma CT LLC to William H. and Carol J. McGee on Dec. 17 for $380,584

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Designers Turn Landscape Architecture Up A Notch At Spaulding Rehabilitation

Healing gardens have been sprouting up at healthcare facilities as designers and owners garner a better understanding of the connection between access to nature and healing. These places are designed for respite and offer areas to sit as well as artwork and sculptures to inspire serenity.

When Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital began making plans to relocate to a waterfront site at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the idea of an outdoor garden seemed like a natural fit. But Copley Wolff Design Group (Boston), which was hired to do the landscaping and public realm improvements, saw the opportunity to do more.

“The owner and the architect didn’t realize the value of the site in their mission,” says Lynn Wolff, principal, Copley Wolff Design Group. “They understood it as an aesthetic kind of commentary on the city side and the harbor side, but to be able to incorporate and get the patients outside and interacting with the community was something that they honestly had never thought about.”

The landscape architecture and planning firm held a series of meetings and workshops with the staff who said they wanted an active space as opposed to something more retrospective and quiet. “That’s when [the idea] started to take hold, because the therapists recognized that it was a great opportunity,” Wolff says.

“We had a strong commitment to being able to provide a range of experiences to patients and to prepare them to be out in the world, not just back in their homes,” says Paula Hereau, vice president of hospital operations at Spaulding. “Plus we’re in an absolutely spectacular location. There aren’t many hospitals in the world built on waterfront property.”

Creating real-world scenarios

While the hospital’s former site in a commercial area of Boston had room for a couple of bricks, a section of concrete, and a curve where patients could practice walking on different surfaces with their therapists, the new three-acre site houses a quarter-mile walking path with pavers that are inset with dimensional stripes every 10 feet so patients can measure their distances.

Within that loop, there’s a 6-foot-wide concrete therapy trail designed with slopes and undulations to help individuals practice real-world challenges. More advanced patients can further their rehabilitation on a secondary walkway, which features inclines as steep as 4.8 percent, says Sean Sanger, principal, Copley Wolff Design Group. “That’s a common slope condition that architects and designers use because it doesn’t require handrails,” he says. “So once you get out beyond the hospital world, you see that slope a lot.”

A range of walking surfaces throughout the setting includes boardwalk materials, crushed stones, and field stones, and there’s also a 6-inch curb and a series of steps.

The north side of the building is a haven for sports with a putting green, 7-foot-tall wall that’s mounted with stainless-steel bars for upper body activities, and a hard-surface activity area with adjustable-height basketball hoops.

 “A key piece was creating an environment and custom tailoring it to rehabilitation to serve individuals’ needs and interests,” Sanger says.

Designing for mind and body

Within the physical rehabilitation elements at Spaulding is another overlay devoted to exercises for the mind. During the brainstorm meetings, Sanger says the physical therapists had expressed a desire to also address cognitive rehabilitation and brain injuries. The design team commissioned a local artist to create 3-D sculptures of local fauna that are scattered throughout the therapy trail. A therapist can use those elements to create a scavenger hunt for patients.

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