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Archives for December 30, 2013

Open house to be held at Muheim Heritage House

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BISBEE — The Muheim Heritage House Museum committee will be holding an open house on Sunday, Jan. 5, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the historic home on Youngblood Hill Avenue in Old Bisbee.

The committee has some new plans for the home that was donated to the city years ago by the Muheim family, said Doreen Edwards, committee member. They include renting the home as a place for functions such as weddings, birthdays or anniversaries, to expand its use to the public.

The caretaker’s residence on the rear of the old home is up for lease by the month or by the year, Edwards stated.

These ideas will help the Muheim House become self-sustainable and enjoyed by the citizens of the county, which are two goals of committee members Christine Rhodes, Cynthia Conroy, James Bond, Joe Saba, Lyle Reddy, Mary Bond, Mary Killary, Shirley Doughty and Edwards.

Freeport McMoRan, Inc. and the city have helped with the new landscaping and parking lot which the committee members want the public to see, she added.

Sassy Transport will be providing rides up the hill and tasty delicacies from Mornings Cafe and the San Jose Restaurant will be available for visitors.

For more information, call Edwards at (520) 227-4686.



If you find a correction for this story, please contact our editorial department

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Tucson Giving: St. Luke’s Home

In 2014, Ruth Campbell and 17 volunteers with the St. Luke’s Board of Visitors are tweaking tradition: The fundraising arm for St. Luke’s Home will change up its signature fiesta and present a Western-themed 95th Baile Celebration on April 12.

The celebration will combine time-honored customs with fresh ideas, reflecting a similar evolution in the past year at the assisted-living facility for seniors of limited financial means, Campbell said.

“Our new director, Beverly Heasley, has started something very exciting called ‘The Eden Alternative,’ which is about self-determination and involvement and choosing their way of life for St. Luke’s residents,” Campbell said. “It helps them to become very involved in the community through intergenerational experiences and is just wonderful.”

The Eden Alternative is a philosophy of care developed by Dr. William Thomas, a New York geriatrician who based his ideas on the belief that the well-being of seniors can be improved by transforming the communities in which they live to eliminate loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

The antidote is surrounding residents with plants, animals and children, according to Heasley, a certified Eden Alternative educator.

“What we are doing is creating a habitat for human beings. The key phrase is, ‘It is better to live in a garden,’” Heasley said. “Here at St. Luke’s Home we are resident-centered, and all decisions are made as close to the residents as possible to give them purpose and allow them to embrace life on their own terms.”

Heasley said St. Luke’s is nearing completion of phase one in the four-phase process of becoming Tucson’s only registered Eden Alternative assisted-living community. In the past year, residents have adopted their first animal — a desert tortoise they named Daisy Mae — that they care for. The home also is in the process of adding more plants to its gardens inside and out.

St. Luke’s residents also tutor area students, and young people ages 18 to 21 from the Goodwill GoodFutures Program visit St. Luke’s to volunteer with tasks such as landscaping, housekeeping and culinary work, and to share lunch with residents.

Next year St. Luke’s will continue collaborations with the UA Center on Aging and with students from the UA Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health.

“The intergenerational component allows young people and students to share their life experiences and hear residents’ life experiences; our residents can mentor these young people and the young people can mentor the residents as well,” Heasley said.

“Residents can give back to the community as well as receive, and it is very exciting.”

St. Luke’s Home is a 64-unit assisted-living facility that accommodates men, women and couples age 55-plus living on incomes of less than $25,000 a year.

Residents pay based on a sliding scale: Heasley said about 40 percent of revenue is generated by resident rent and service fees; the remainder of the $1 million annual budget comes from donations, grants, private gifts, contributions from people who care about low-income elders and funds raised by the board of trustees and from the Baile, which was Tucson’s first fundraiser.

“The Board of Visitors are an integral part of St. Luke’s Home. I don’t know what we would do without them and the funds and the volunteer hours they provide, as well as the love and caring they have for the people who live here and the people who work here.” Heasley said.

Campbell said the Board of Visitors is committed to evolving along with the facility. She said they are seeking new volunteers on every level — including those who may want to commit for a limited time, volunteer for only certain activities or work directly with residents on specific tasks such as baking or gardening.

“We are looking for people who want to be members of the Board of Visitors even for a short term and for people who may just want to help out at the home. Like many other organizations, we are trying to be more flexible so we can allow people to volunteer at their convenience,” she said.

Ultimately, Campbell is dedicated to helping an underserved senior population of those who are no longer unable to live alone but are unable to qualify for state-supported long-term care.

“St. Luke’s meets a unique need in Tucson that most other places don’t. It is directed at the people who fall in the gap between the truly indigent and those who have the ability to pay at higher-rate resident facility sites,” she said.

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A year of growth in central Delaware

Editor’s Note: Growth in Central Delaware is a feature of the Delaware State News that appears on Mondays. The Delaware State News will share news and information on new business and community projects.

We welcome tips and ideas for this feature. Email

The list of construction, renovation and expansion projects that made up Growth in Central Delaware this past year was quite varied. From schools and businesses, to infrastructure and new housing, there’s been growth in all four corners of Kent County.

•Redner’s Warehouse Market — Camden — A 48,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store with fuel pumps similar to the north Dover store on Salt Creek Drive.

•Cheddar’s Casual Cafe — Camden — The restaurant is on the southbound side of U.S. 13 at the intersection with Lochmeath Way in Camden.

•Milford Food Bank — Milford — Located off of Airport Road, the 8,000-square-foot expansion nearly doubled the size of the previously existing structure.

•Akridge Scout Reservation — Dover — The site will serve as the third camping site owned by the Boy Scouts of America’s Del-Mar-Va Council on the peninsula and the first scout camping facility in Delaware. It will be the peninsula-wide headquarters when construction is complete.

•Polytech High School — Woodside — A 60,000-square-foot addition and classroom renovations. The expansion will provide state-of-the-art classrooms for the school’s electronics, TV and radio, JROTC, and computer programs, as well as a multi-purpose room for sports practice and other functions.

•Old Kent County Courthouse — Dover — A renovation project to a building on The Green in downtown Dover that’s been serving the state since 1874. A $14 million project that created new office space for the Chancery Court, Attorney General’s Office and Administrative Office of the Courts. The law library was relocated there and Courtroom number one was part of the renovation.

•Sidewalk upgrades — Dover — The upgrades included pedestrian safety and access improvements, beginning on the eastern edge of The Green and running east, immediately north of the Old State House and then Margaret O’Neil Building to Federal Street.

•Serenity Place — Dover — The new “no-frills” facility is a 5,900-square-foot, two story, steel building. The layout is designed for maximum space-use efficiency and nearly all materials used will be non-combustible.

•Bayard Pharmacy LLC — Dover — A family-owned independent pharmacy with more than 20 years of pharmaceutical experience on Loockerman Street in the first floor of Bayard Plaza.

•Grotto Pizza — Dover — The 16,000-square-foot restaurant opened in the location that was formally Atlantic Books, 1159 N. DuPont Highway.

•Intersection improvements — Kent County — The intersection of South State Street and Sorghum Mill Road needed safety and operational improvements. The most significant upgrade was the north and south left turn lanes on Sorghum Mill Road. There was also signal upgrades and corner sidewalk improvements.

•Legion Ambulance Station 64 — Smyrna — A new 14,000-square-foot building that can house six vehicles. It also has a separate sleeping quarters for male and female EMS workers, a full kitchen, a boardroom, a fitness room, administrative offices and an Education Training/Meeting Room on the second floor.

•Race Track Car Wash — Dover — The car wash underwent a major renovation. In addition to all new wiring, painting, plumbing and lighting, the facility reuses 85 to 90 percent of its water with a multi-containered recycled water system that removes dirt. The revamped automatic wash is able to run 150 vehicles an hour.

•A new pivot irrigation system — Fifer Orchards — Camden/Wyoming — The new system will allow for a higher product yield. It’s providing water to about 250 acres of fields.

•Painted Stave Distilling — Smyrna — The distillery moved into the old Smyrna Theater at 106 W. Commerce St. in downtown Smyrna. The 6,300-square-foot theater, which opened in 1948, had been vacant for five years. It is the only standalone distillery in the state to make gin, vodka, whiskey and brandy.

•DelTech Science Lab — Dover — A 4,178-square-foot expansion project that includes biology and chemistry labs.

•Hartly Family Learning Center — Hartly — The 6,400-square-feet facility includes classrooms, a large multi-purpose room, a full kitchen, a computer and community resource room and offices.

•Kaizen Karate and Cross Fit Dover — Dover — The sharing of a 12,000-square-foot space in the Enterprise Business Park off Del. 8 in Dover.

•MedExpress — Dover — A patient-centered, full-service, neighborhood health care facility treating illnesses and injuries for all ages in the Edgehill Shopping Center.

•Royal Farms — Dover — Located on Saulsbury Road, the business was built on vacant land. Intersection and water drainage system improvements were needed for construction to be completed.

•Redner’s Warehouse Market — Dover — Opening in the location previously occupied by Super Fresh in the Greentree Shopping Center on Del. 8.

•Odd Fellows Cafe — Smyrna — A restaurant serving fresh farm to table meals in the town’s historic district.

•Intersection improvements — Milford — An overpass currently under construction at the intersection of Del.1 and Del. 30 (Wilkins Road/Cedar Neck Road). This project will enhance safety and preserve capacity along the Del. 1 corridor.

•Frear Building — Dover — A Wesley College project that will allow for at least five new classrooms for the school’s nursing program in the 36,000-square-foot building.

•Liquor license — Governors Cafe — Dover — A business expansion that includes a dinner menu, longer hours and the ability to serve alcohol.

•Road repaving — Dover — A DelDOT project along Loockerman Street from Forrest Avenue (Del. 8) to South DuPont Highway (U.S. 13). This nearly two-mile stretch of road is one part of a larger DelDOT pavement and rehabilitation project taking place in Dover. The repaving of State College Road last summer marked the beginning of the project. Other streets include sections of Forrest Avenue, Division Street, Water Street, Governors Avenue and Walker Road. Work on Governors Avenue began Tuesday night. Work includes concrete ramps placed on curbs, traffic signal improvements and new road striping.

•Tractor Supply Company — Milford — The store is at 609B N. DuPont Blvd. in Milford. The building used to be home to a Superfresh.

•Green Turtle Sports Bar Grille — Dover — Delaware’s fourth location at 391 N. DuPont Highway.

•Copper Run Apartments — Southeast of Cheswold — a multi-family apartment complex consisting of 204 housing units in a total of six buildings. It will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom market-rate apartment units ranging in size from 880 to 1,300 square feet.

•Advanced Auto Parts — north Dover — a retail auto parts store with 3,900 stores in 39 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

•Boating access area — Collins Beach — Work included pavement repairs, resurfacing of the lower parking lot and entrance road, re-striping with accessible parking delineation, and stabilization of the shoreline adjacent to the boat ramp with rip-rap.

•Biggs Museum — Dover — A three-year project to expand the museum and renovate the building. The first two phases of construction, the museum added 50 percent more gallery space, state-of-the art lighting, new flooring, new paint, expanded object storage facilities, improved spaces for academic study and experiential learning, and a new research library to house the museum’s 3,000 volume collection of books. Phase three of the construction project will replace the glass entrance facade to create a three-story sculpture atrium.

•Road paving of Village of Westover — Dover — The paving will bring the road level to the height of the manhole covers and stormwater drains at the base of the concrete curbing.

•Home2Suites Hotel — Dover — The 55,000-square-foot extended stay hotel, 222 S. DuPont Highway, will feature 91 suites with kitchenettes, including eight one-bedroom suites.

•Dover Garden Suites — Dover — A luxury garden hotel lodging on the corner of Martin Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

•Natural gas pipeline — Dover — An Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company project that runs 11 miles of pipeline from Blackbird-Greenspring Road north of Clayton to Fork Branch Road south of Cheswold.

•Shore Speed Indoor Adventure Arena — Milford — Located at 971 E. Masten Circle. Shore Speed is located in a 40,000 square-foot building. Inside there is a timed quarter-mile indoor race track that uses electric cars that can reach speeds of 45 miles an hour, an indoor rock wall, and an arcade with prizes.

•Harvest Ridge Winery — Marydel — The farmland was purchased in 2005 and the first vines were planted in 2011. Featured wines included Viognier, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, and Chambourcin, and several varieties of fruit wines.

•Halpern Eye Care — Milford — A 12,000-square-foot, two-story medical professional center off of Airport Road that includes a 4,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Halpern Eye Center. There is a 1,500-square-foot suite available on the ground floor.

•The Grande — Dover — The construction of a third building that will have 48 apartment homes at a 55+ community. When completed there will be a mix of one-, two-and three-bedroom apartments, with elevator access.

•Heron Run Apartments — Smyrna — The acquisition and rehabilitation of Heron Run Apartments, a 40-unit affordable apartment community. The was the new construction of a multipurpose building, equipped with a meeting room, kitchen and business center. Site improvements included parking lot replacement, ADA accessibility, new exterior lighting, landscaping and playground.

•CR Plaza — Camden — Located on the southeast corner of the intersection at North Main Street (U.S. 13A) and Old North Road, the plaza has two buildings facing Main Street — one building is 9,200 square feet and the other is 2,400 square feet.

•DelDOT maintenance yard — north of Smyrna between Del. 1 and U.S. 13 — The 9,600-square-foot building can hold 6,000 tons of salt.

•El Coqui — Little Heaven — The family-run restaurant, 7821 Bay Road (Del. 1), will be owned and operated by Alexandra Torres and will be serving Mexican, Puerto Rican and American food.

•Public Safety Emergency Services — Dover — The 15-year-old, 16,334-square-foot building is undergoing extensive infrastructure upgrades to its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, an upgrade to all internal computer and phone cable, and a parking lot expansion with security enhancements.

•AMC Museum entrance — Dover — The project consists of a new gate that meets current Air Force standards for security and moves the gate away from the runway clear zone.

•Camden Crossing — Camden — A 9,900-square-foot neighborhood strip shopping mall located at the northwest corner of U.S. 13 and Lochmeath Way.

•Building 639 — Dover Air Force Base — The entire floor plan of this two-story, 35,000-square-foot facility will be redesigned to maximize space. When complete the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 436th Contracting Squadrons and the local Air Force Office of Special Investigations will occupy the space.

•New roof for the Smyrna-Clayton Boys Girls Club — Smryna — Located at 240 E. Commerce St., the program is run out of an 80-year-old building that used to house the Delaware National Guard Armory.

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Stewardship plan for Pioneer property

NORTHFIELD — Former high school science teacher John Lepore spent 1,600 hours crafting a plan for the Pioneer Valley Regional School’s 90-acre property.

“It wasn’t work; it was fun,” Lepore told the School Committee when he presented a summary of the plan.

Lepore volunteered nearly a year’s worth of full-time work to put together the 132-page comprehensive plan, “Pioneering Stewardship: An Action Inspired Design.”

Lepore’s 132-page plan encompasses outdoor learning, student land stewardship, biodiversity and more. It was recently endorsed by the School Committee in a unanimous vote.

The district will seek grants, donations and other funding, to avoid asking the district’s four-member towns to pay for the plan through taxes.

The school’s grounds are the largest of any non-vocational public school in the state.

That’s a lot of room for proposals from a wetlands viewing platform and projects to support biodiversity to a team-building rope obstacle course and three outdoor classrooms, one that would overlook the school and the valley from the hilltop in the northwest.

Many of the plan’s aspects, like invasive plant removal and recovery, could be done by volunteers, or as a class project.

“Kids starting seventh grade could adopt a piece of land, and care for it for six years. They’d really be able to see the results, and they’ll become attached to that piece of property.”

Lepore hopes a student stewardship program would foster a connection with the environment, teaching students to care for the world around them, rather than just exist in it.

Student gardens could also be built and maintained without breaking the bank and they’d provide agricultural education and fresh food at once.

Other parts of the plan will take money, like putting in ground-mount solar-electric panels or incorporating “green” roofing into the building.

Some of those projects could be paid for with open space or land preservation grants. Lepore said many aspects of the plan would be eligible for money from the town’s Community Preservation Act funds, a third of which are set aside for open-space projects.

Lepore, who holds a master’s degree in sustainable landscaping from the Conway School of Landscape Design, consulted experts, school officials and Pioneer students in crafting the plan. It includes an in-depth analysis of the site, and explores possibilities for its use.

While it covers areas like biodiversity, ecological resilience, runoff control and food security, Lepore kept one thing in mind while he wrote every page.

“My number-one philosophy is to do what’s best for the kids,” he said.

Lepore sees a bevy of outdoor educational opportunities on the Pioneer property, but he said it’s going to take a while for students and teachers to get used to outdoor learning. The idea of taking a class outside can be daunting to some teachers, said Lepore.

“Kids don’t know how to be outside. To them, it’s recess; it’s a release,” said Lepore. “It takes time to get them to understand that we’re going into another community (of nature), and that they have to show respect and act responsibly. It’s a process, and it will require support and encouragement for the teachers.”

Once the students acclimate to their outdoor surroundings, they can start to take in the world around them, said Lepore.

A recent walk of the grounds showcased a few of the species those students could come across.

Rabbit tracks intersected with deer prints in the snow by the pond, and a young moose had passed close by. By the pond’s edge, a snow-slide carved by beavers’ bellies led down to the water, where a large beaver den pokes up from the middle of the pond. Overhead, a hornets’ nest lay dormant in a tree’s bare branches. Piles of acorn shells lay at the bottom of trees, implying that a squirrel had been dining above and many a tree was riddled with woodpecker holes.

Though animals thrive near the pond, so do invasive plants. In recent years, the pond area has been overtaken with Japanese stiltgrass, but volunteers have been eradicating the foreign plant. Lepore said that, after two years’ work, 90 percent of the stiltgrass has been removed.

There are a variety of invasive plants on the property. Though they can be removed, Lepore said it’s pointless to pull the weeds unless a restoration plan can be implemented. Otherwise, the plants will come back sooner than later.

Some of these species are just biding their time, waiting until conditions are right for them to take over. All along the woods’ edge, winged euonymus, or “burning bush,” grows and it could creep farther into the forest.

All it needs, said Lepore, is for some of the trees overhead to fall down, letting in light. That’s likely to happen, said Lepore, as many of those trees are toward the end of their lives. Once the canopy overhead opens up, they’ll spread like wildfire.

While there’s a lot to learn from wildlife hikes and invasive plant management, outdoor classrooms would enable a variety of subjects to be taught outside. Each of three proposed classrooms would provide a covered seating and instruction area.

They could also provide lessons in lumbering and construction. Lepore’s plan points out a red-pine forest “in desperate need of management,” which could provide site-sourced lumber for the classrooms.

To see the summary and full editions of Lepore’s plan, visit

You can reach David Rainville at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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Indiana Man Beats Wife and Daughter of Former Boss to Death

u.s., crime, indiana, erb, wife and daughter

An Indiana man, Christian Haley, age 20, who was furious over being fired from his job, was arrested for fatally beating the wife and daughter of his former boss, Indiana State police have said.

Haley lived in Indianapolis and was arrested on Thursday for allegedly murdering Marylyn Erb, age 52 and Kelley Erb, age 23, the wife and daughter, respectively, of freelance contractor Todd Erb, reported Westfield, Indiana police.

The suspect now is facing two counts of felony murder and one count of robbery, along with charges of burglary and theft. Haley allegedly killed the two women inside their home located near the area of 161st Street and Oak Park Court in the suburbs of Westfield, Indianapolis.  The women died after suffering blunt trauma to their heads on Dec. 20. Haley then allegedly stole the credit cards of each female. The suspect reportedly used the cards for various purchases around the area, with the assistance of an unidentified male.

The police are reporting that Haley was fired from the landscaping company known as Sundown Gardens because of his poor attendance record back in June of this year. Allegedly, Haley was enraged by the decision and decided to rob the house of his former boss, Todd Erb, to enact revenge against the man.

While he was there, police investigators allege Haley killed both the wife and daughter of Erb.

One of Haley’s acquaintances supposedly noticed the murder victim’s credit cards being used inside in a store on Christmas Eve.

The alleged co-conspirator stated that Haley wanted to shoot Erb’s home up because he had fired him from the landscaping business.

The man explained to police that Haley admitted to him that he had murdered the two women but that Haley was laughing while he was telling the story, so the accomplice did not know if Haley was telling the truth or not.

Indiana State Police said that Marylyn and Kelley Erb were both struck with a cement block to the head.

Haley allegedly then stole earrings, an iPhone, a gold necklace and two Chase credit cards from the Erb household.

Police released store camera video footage of the purchase by the alleged suspect and co-conspirator. It was this footage that delivered an anonymous tip to officials to identify each person of interest. This led to Haley’s arrest, stated the police department.

Erb found his dead family when he returned home from work on Dec. 20 and he proceeded to call police. His wife and daughter were in the basement of their Indiana home in a pool of blood.

Westfield, Indiana Mayor Andy Cook stated on Thursday evening police were working tirelessly around the clock to try and solve such an irrational crime. He added that the small city prided itself on being named one of the finest places to live and also one of the safest towns in the U.S. The quick work of the police over the past few days shows the city’s intent to immediately capture a suspect trolling their streets, who may had the opportunity to hurt someone else.

Since Haley has been through his arraignment, his family has asked for privacy, due to the legal process.

The murders happened during what the city calls, an increase of break-ins and violence in the otherwise, quiet Indiana suburb. Officials point to the rise of gangs in the city as culprits of the increasing crime wave.

Marylyn and Kelley Erb were buried this past Friday, Dec. 27.

Christian Haley will remain in jail without bond.


By Kimberly Ruble


The N.Y. Daily News

Scallywag and Vagabond News

NWI Times News

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Boxborough Garden Club meets


The Boxborough Garden Club meets at the Sargent Memorial Library, 427 Massachusetts Ave., Boxborough, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 9 a.m. The garden club will welcome Andy Covell, owner of Bird House Ecological Landscaping, for a discussion of plants that hrive in the local climate during winter.

Coffee and visiting precedes the event.

The meeting is free and all are welcome. A brief business meeting is followed by the program.

Covell’s website provides more information at

To learn more about this garden club program, please call Pam Collins, 978-263-3855.

Anyone with any level of interest in gardens are welcome at all garden club programs and may visit

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ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Tips for planting a live Christmas tree

December 29, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Tips for planting a live Christmas tree


Weatherford Democrat
The Weatherford Democrat

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 08:56 AM CST

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners.To submit a question, send it to For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit

Do you have any suggestions for planting a living Christmas tree?

After Christmas, it is best to plant the tree in your landscape as soon as possible.

The hole you dig for the tree should be large enough to allow three to four inches of soil on all sides of the root ball. If the plant was balled and wrapped in burlap, the burlap should be loosened and any wire should be removed before planting.

Settle the tree into the hole and make sure that the planting depth is correct. The soil line on the tree should be level with the surface soil around the hole. Planting the tree deeper or shallower than the original planting will affect the health of the tree.

Do not amend the soil that is used to fill the hole. Plant roots will tend to stay in that nice, rich soil instead of reaching out beyond the hole into the surrounding area. The plant growth will be stunted as a result. Fill the hole three-quarters full, water the tree well and then finish filling. Do not mound the soil up onto the trunk.

Once planted, there are a few things you can do to keep it healthy. Water it deeply and regularly, allowing the soil to dry a little between watering. Add a thick layer of mulch to reduce weeds and conserve moisture.

Keep weeds and grass away from the tree as they will compete with the roots for nutrients. Wait to fertilize the tree until June or July. Planted in your landscape, these trees can add beauty throughout the year and serve as an outdoor Christmas tree year after year.

When should I prune my oak tree?

Now through the end of January is the time to prune oak trees. Oak wilt is a disease that has devastated the population of oak trees in North Central Texas. Live oaks, Spanish oaks, water oaks, black jack oaks, Shumard red oaks and other members of the red oak family are particularly susceptible.

The most important management strategy is to avoid pruning oaks during the growing season when sap-feeding beetles are active. The coldest part of winter is the safest time to prune. This recommendation is critical in preventing the spread of the oak wilt.

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Expert offers tips to help with this year’s garden preparation – Scranton Times

The 2014 garden catalogs are beginning to arrive. Here are a few recommendations that will give you the best outcome. Many of these recommendations come from what I have learned from my own mistakes.

n When ordering perennial plants, get the best quality, most-mature plant offered. Here is an example of a mistake I made: I needed some asparagus crowns to finish out a row of asparagus. I bought one-year-old crowns because they cost a few dollars less than the 2-year-old crowns. As a result, the new plants were small the first year. It took three years before they were growing well enough that I felt I could start harvesting. If I had planted 2-year-old crowns, I would have been harvesting asparagus at least a year sooner.

n When ordering fruit trees, it is wise to order the best quality available and choose dwarf trees. If you plan to care for these trees with annual pruning, spraying, etc., a dwarf tree is much more gardener-friendly. If you don’t plan to care for the trees, then a semi-dwarf or standard tree is a good choice. If you are planting them for wildlife, then go with a standard tree.

n Select varieties of plants that will do well in Northeastern Pennsylvania. One year I planted a variety of cantaloupe that had a 94-day maturity. The plants grew well and produced a good crop. The problem was that they matured in late September. To learn which varieties do well here, talk to a gardening neighbor or ask a farmer at a local farmers’ market what variety they grow. Or go to the Penn State Extension publications website at, and type in “vegetable varieties.” There you will find a 20-page booklet on recommended vegetable varieties.

n If you are purchasing plants from a local nursery, be sure to plant early. Perennial plants that are potted will do much better if they are planted into your garden as soon as possible. Watch local nurseries – as soon as the plant is available, buy it and plant it.

n Finally, have the soil ready when the plants arrive. Have your soil pH in the correct range for the plant. Prepare the site by having all competing vegetation removed. If the plant needs a support structure, have it either in place before or soon after planting. A young tree will grow more quickly if it is supported that first year.

For more information contact your local extension office. In Lackawanna County call 570-963-6842 or email Lackawanna

JOHN ESSLINGER is a horticulture extension educator for Penn State Extension.

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Grand designs on Ecohome garden

A green project is calling on garden designers to volunteer their time to help come up with some blooming lovely ideas for Harborough’s Ecohome.

The Sustainable Harborough group in partnership with Seven Locks Housing is asking for garden designers from the district for their expertise.

The Ecohome is a semi-detached house with extra insulation, state-of-the-art heating controls, solar panels, low-energy appliances and water-saving devices.

Its mission is to show people how they can reduce household emissions and reduce energy and water bills.

Now Sustainable Harborough wants to show how gardens can be used to grow food and encourage wildlife.

Spokesman Gavin Fletcher said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for a local garden designer to join us to design a garden which can be used for family life, encouraging wildlife and food growing as well as having parts which can be replicated by other residents hoping to achieve something similar.”

The garden is to be created in the new year with a team of volunteers and will be on display during special open days.

The Echome has been home since October to the Woolley family, who write an online blog about life in the home. Ayla Woolley (10) said: “The garden is my favourite part of my new home. I love wildlife and flowers and can’t wait to grow some fruit and veggies, although it isn’t wildlife friendly yet unless you like worms!”

Sustainable Harborough is keen to promote local businesses and any designer working on the project will be recognised for their contribution on its website.

Anyone interested in designing the Ecohome garden or becoming a volunteer gardener should contact Sustainable Harborough on 01858 466207 or email

For more information visit

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Get to the point with your garden design

Focal points are a garden’s visual resting spots. In the flashy riot and exuberance of a summer garden, they lead the eye through it all, gently imposing order on a view. At every season, a tall, carefully placed urn, a sparkling birdbath or a handsome specimen shrub doesn’t steal the glory from the rest of the garden — it enhances the scene by giving it direction.

“The most common mistake people make is, they try all these different varieties of plants, and their backyard ends up looking like a tossed salad,” says Mike Miller, a landscape architect at Ewseychik, Rice Miller in Longwood, Fla. “We use a broad, simple palette,” he says, “and create focal points.”

Finding a focal point and settling on an appropriate plant or architectural element to achieve the desired effect may take some thought and effort. Some designers actually give their clients a large, empty picture frame and ask them to walk around with it, defining the important views.

Taking pictures of your garden will also reveal the places that naturally attract your eye as well as spots that need to be screened from view. You’ll be able to forget about an annoying utility pole if you plant a screen of evergreens and place an arbor strategically in your line of sight.

Peggy Krapf, a garden designer in Toano, Va., near Williamsburg, works hard on the details in her client’s gardens. One suburban garden seemed to have all the right elements but simply did not feel welcoming.

“There were all these little bits,” she says. “They had nice plants and paths and a fountain, but they were like separate thoughts.” Visitors were not sure where the garden began or how to approach it, and the existing paths hurried them along without encouraging them to enjoy the experience along the way.

Krapf needed to unify the garden. She first suggested a proper garden gate. The 4-foot-high gate, flanked by evergreen shrubs, makes visitors pause a little before entering the garden, allowing them to take in the scene.

Krapf then placed a bench at the end of the path, creating a destination, and moved a few shrubs to make the fountain the focus of the view from the porch. In another client’s garden, she designed a curving stone bench to put in one corner. The bench draws visitors out to enjoy the flower beds up close and takes the sharp edge off the corner of the property.

In her own large country garden, Krapf put a garden bench at the end of an axis, about 50 feet from her front door. The bench occupies a space with raised flower beds on either side and invites her to sit there and admire her blooms.

From the bench, looking back toward the house, she created a sort of focal point in reverse, framing the view of her own front porch between an oversized urn and a columnar boxwood.

“We often use containers as focal points around a door or on a patio,” says Molly Moriarty, a garden designer and owner of Heart and Soil Design in Minneapolis. “We’re shooting color where we need it.” Pots full of flowers also lend structure to the whole setting.

Containers can be a challenge through the winter in cold climates, but Moriarty fills them with twigs, evergreen branches, dried vines and seed heads. They bristle with texture and look especially pretty in the snow. When spring comes, she replants with cold-tolerant flowers such as pansies and with ornamental kale and cabbages.

Shifting light and shadows will affect the way you experience an arbor. You can enjoy the blooms and perfume of roses or other climbing plants in summer and the tracery of vines in the winter.

A birdbath will attract different complements of visitors at various times of year. A specimen tree planted as a focal point will change through the seasons, too: A crabapple, redbud or another hardy flowering tree might be covered with blooms in spring and with berries or decorative seedpods in the fall and winter.

Even small gardens have room for more than one focal point, but it is best not to let them compete with one another. If you can see three focal points at once, the garden is already out of focus.

And make sure the focal points you choose are in scale and in character with your garden. In general, sculpture, flowerpots or plants used as focal points should be large enough to command attention. Bold strokes are more effective than subtle touches.

An armillary sphere or sundial on a plinth should sit well above the flowers around it or stand all by itself. When your focal point stands out proudly, the rest of the garden seems to come to attention, too.

Trees to consider

Just follow the lines in your garden and you’ll discover where the focal points should be, says Robert Whitman, landscape architect at Gould Evans, a planning and design firm with offices in Kansas City.

“There are always places where your eye is drawn, and it’s good to try to take advantage of that with something special that makes it worth the view,” Whitman says.

Whitman, who worked with local arborists and nursery experts to compile a “Great Trees” list for Kansas City, says trees can be an excellent choice for a focal point.

Trees such as a weeping Norway spruce or a Japanese umbrella pine — not often seen in local gardens — are worthy of a place where they can be appreciated, Whitman says. A weeping redbud, a tricolor beech or a variegated Kousa dogwood would also be a good candidate. Your choice will depend on your tastes and the scale of the garden. The soil, the exposure and the tree’s mature size and habit should all be taken into consideration.

Whitman’s list of evergreen trees for our area, available online, includes more than two dozen choices for specimen evergreens, all of which would make excellent focal points, he says.

Whatever you choose, don’t clutter up your views of it, Whitman says. Keeping the foreground simple increases the impact.

Lists of “Great Trees for the Kansas City Region” and “Evergreen Trees for the Kansas City Region” are both available on Gould Evans’ website.

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