Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for January 5, 2014

Inside Ohana project, Longboat Key – Sarasota Herald

It’s not unusual for architects to be pitted against one another when large public projects are being planned. Design competitions are not so common when the project is a house. But the Canadian owners felt one was needed when they were planning Ohana, a recently completed renovation and 7,000-square-foot addition on 2.6 acres of Longboat Key beachfront. The property recently came on the market at $22 million, a record list price for a local house on the MLS. Deborah Beacham has the listing for Michael Saunders Co.

ohana1In 2007, as the once-booming real estate market was early into its freefall, the owners asked their general contractor, the highly respected Michael Walker, to select four architects to compete for the job.

“That is a huge assignment,” said Walker, “and not usually one that comes my way. I offered to help them write the narrative for the program” — the client’s needs and wants for the property — “and then selected the four firms to invite.”

Walker was not willing to name the three runners-up, revealing only that they were all local firms. “Everyone was very aggressively pursuing this project,” said Walker, “because if you read the program, it was unlike an invitation that a typical firm would have gotten.”




It was also an especially dry period for architects, and this was a chance to land a substantial project, with costs exceeding $1,500 per square foot, that would keep an office busy for quite some time.

“I was drilled very hard by all four firms for information” about the owners’ requirements and desires, as stated in the program, recalled Walker. “I remained neutral; I was there to represent the owners’ best interests to get this project to move forward.”

The owners flew in for one day of interviews. Each architect had 90 minutes to make his case.

“It was a very intense day,” said Walker. One of them was Guy Peterson.

“Guy hit it on the head,” said Walker. “He absorbed the program and did a marvelous job of getting it as close to the mark as the owner desired, and we took off from there.”

Drawing from the owners’ desire for vernacular design elements from the tropics, Peterson created an addition that is rich with siding of mahogany, a wood that he has used previously as an accent material.

The addition, in three pods on a common elevated concrete floor, is inspired by the soaring volumes of Balinese architecture.

Client instructions

“We were given a very definitive brief from the client for what they wanted,” said Peterson. “I can’t say this is my idea of having this kind of language to the architecture. An architect has to be a good listener, and we had to listen to the client’s desires, based on their travels and certain aesthetic qualities that they liked.

“It was based on primitive African and Balinese architecture — modern in the sense that it is not contrived, but has honesty to it,” said Peterson. “We were given the ingredients of what they were thinking about, and that helped drive the design process.”

For Peterson, who has won a lot of design awards doing more rigidly modernist houses with rectangles and gleaming white masonry, Ohana was a chance to expand.

“Clients come for specific reasons with specific programs,” he said, “but this was such a unique program and it let us, as architects, get engaged in a kind of architecture we normally don’t get engaged with. Different materials and things like that. It became an alternative to me.”

And if the clients had just come to his office with the address of their lot and a big check?

“We wouldn’t be sitting in this house,” the architect said. “The client had, not a prescriptive, but a definitive look they were looking for, and I am thankful for that. It wasn’t canned in any sense. It wasn’t, ‘Do this,’ but, ‘Capture this.’ ”

What Peterson and Walker captured were traditional vernacular forms like those seen on tropical islands, and even in South Florida’s Miccosukee Indian villages. Three chickee hut-like structures punctuate the estate.

“We have poles and Dutch hip-type forms,” said Peterson, “ with a lot of wood. This captures some of those primitive ideas with the way we treated wood, but it is done in a refined and sophisticated manner. It is not trying to look rustic, but it is trying to capture some of that essence.

“It is a certain way of using the word organic, but it has a warmth and natural quality, using real materials in an honest way.”

Despite his portfolio, Peterson said he has always liked to use wood in his houses. But given the environment, the execution by Walker and installation by his subcontractors was a key to the project.

“We are using wood here that is going to withstand the climate,” said Peterson. “The beach is a harsh environment, so we have materials that will withstand that, and they are not inexpensive. We are using amazing quality. The way Michael builds —there is not a piece of wood that touches the ground. Water is not going to get in. Everything is built for low-maintenance, but durability.”

“We really worked hard on permanence here,” said Walker. “I have been fighting water for 39 years, and we are really getting close.

“Rain, wind, salt. You have to really pay attention to your details, because as you put them together, you have to be able to take it all apart if something is wrong. We have a pretty rigorous regimen. We water-test as we go.”


Walker expects the mahogany wood will hold up well on the beach, but maintenance is a must.

“This is a ship, and it has to be maintained, just like any good ship,” he said, noting the mahogany is finished with a premium marine coating. “The house will have to be coated twice a year, and once we get some mileage on it, once a year.”

Walker’s company writes maintenance manuals for every project. “This one has a pretty rigorous maintenance regimen that will have to be followed, which we are doing until it sells. Estates like this have full-time staff, and it is an important part of the permanence of the building.”

The project, which included renovating a 1960s house on the property along with the intricately detailed addition and a complex landscape plan that was executed by Raymond Jungles of Miami, took about 18 months to complete.

It helped that Peterson and Walker have worked on many projects together.

“Guy started drawing and we collaborated — we have a great synergy together,” said Walker. “He draws; I interpolate. We feed a lot of details back and forth — we have done enough now that we have a pretty good system going.”

“This is a project we are extremely proud of,” said Peterson. “They all have different qualities, and I hope this matches the best of the best in terms of the qualities that are important to the clients and us as architects. It is at the top tier of projects that I feel are substantial.”

Views and location

The clients were enchanted by the property’s secluded views, and that drove the design, Peterson said.

And it became a big part of the $22 million price tag. Unlike Peterson’s highly visible, and controversial, Spencer House on Orange Avenue in Sarasota, Ohana, which means “family” in Hawaiian, is hidden behind gates and landscaping near the northern end of Longboat Key. It has sweeping views of the beach as it juts northwestward into the Gulf of Mexico. A seawall, a rarity on the beach, adds to the value of the property.

“It is the erosion control line for this end of the island, and our setback was measured from the seawall, not the mean high-water line or the erosion-control line,” said Walker. “So we gained all that real estate to develop the pool. We would be even further back (from the beach) if we did not have that, and we would not have that long view.”

Walker said Ohana has raised the standard of waterfront luxury homes.

“The bar has gone up everywhere,” he said. “The price, the quality of the architecture, the quality of the workmanship, the quality of the amenities.”


Article source:

rural oasis is designed for hosting

Much has happened to Paul Schaff and Brenda Rosin-Schaff’s New Berlin home since it was built in the 1890s.

It started out as a small four-bedroom farmhouse. Then it more than doubled in size when a former owner added a 10-car attached garage.

When Paul bought it about 10 years ago, the house was sound structurally, but it needed updating. So he gutted the kitchen and turned part of the garage into a bar and TV area with bedrooms above.

But the biggest changes happened 5 ½ years ago when Brenda moved in and the couple merged households.

She painted and redecorated the home’s five bedrooms, 4 ½ baths, kitchen, dining room, living room, large entryway, bar, TV area, laundry room and a common area on the second floor. At the same time she made extensive repairs to outbuildings on their 3-acre property, then furnished them mainly with pieces she repurposed.

“The barn and chicken coop were in poor condition,” Paul said. “The roof in the barn was riddled with holes, and rain would come in. The chicken coop was on the verge of collapse….We either had to pay money to renovate them or pay to have them torn down.”

Today their property — called Wildcat Creek Farm after the creek that runs alongside their property — is warm and comfortable, with distinctive pieces at every turn.

“Paul allowed me the freedom to decorate the house and outbuildings any way I wanted,” Brenda said. “He trusted my judgment.”

“She knows how to put things together, especially in reusing materials,” Paul said. “I had renovated the house, but she took it to a whole new level. And the barn and chicken coop, that really was her major undertaking.”

Repurposing pieces is something Brenda loves, in part because she was brought up not to waste things and to be creative.

“I have a lot of creative energy,” she said. “Every day I wake up and I’m excited because I always have a project to work on.”

These projects often include using pieces that have sentimental value, an interesting story or are given to her by friends. She also hunts for pieces at rummage sales and discount stores.

Two favorite pieces with sentimental value are an antique fishing lure and a mounted lake trout in the home’s TV area.

“Paul’s not a fisherman, but he caught that fish,” Brenda said. “The fishing lure is the first gift he gave me — not flowers. That hooked me. It was the fact that he listened to what I told him was important to me.” For Brenda, that was nature and conservation projects.

She said that after they met, Paul joined the Badger Fisherman’s League, the oldest non-profit conservation league in the state. She has been a member of the group since she was a child, and both are now on the board. Paul is a co-owner of Schaff Funeral Home in West Allis; Brenda does volunteer and community work.

No matter what area of the property she’s working on, Brenda does much of the work herself but gets help from professionals as needed.

Two helpers she counts on regularly are her grandmother, Bev Bolling, and Bev’s friend Maybelle “Toots” Pezewski, both of Sussex.

“They’re my cohorts in crime,” Brenda said. “My grandmother helps me with a lot of sewing things. She helped me make curtains in the silo, cornice boards in the kitchen and dining room and runners for our wedding. Paul and I were married here two years ago. I come up with the ideas; they help me execute them.”

During a late-fall visit, the couple talked about their home and how it has changed over the years.

Q. What are some of the home’s amenities?

Paul: The chicken coop and barn. We also have two gas fireplaces in the house, original beams in part of the kitchen and the dining area, and a field stone basement.

Q. How do you use the outbuildings?

Brenda: We use them for entertaining friends and family, and we’ve also hosted a few events in them for friends and family members. I’d like to use them to host charity events one day.

Q. What are examples of pieces you got from friends and repurposed?

Brenda: I’m using an old copper sink with a pump and an old farm table in the chicken coop. I reupholstered and painted four church pews for the barn, and I turned an old work bench into a buffet/bar with wheels for the barn.

Q.What’s your favorite room in the house?

Brenda: The yellow bedroom with the four-poster bed, because I just redid it. It has lots of light and good views of our courtyard. Also, the back bedroom, which is done in gray. From there I can see the wood bridge on our property and the barn. That room has the best views.

Paul: The pub. It reminds me of being in Europe in a pub. It’s where family and friends meet over a glass of beer. It’s homey to me.

Q. Your favorite spots in the outbuildings?

Brenda: I like to relax on the leather couch in the chicken coop. If the window is open, I can hear Wildcat Creek. I also like to sit on the couches in the barn’s lower level because I can look out the window and see nature.

Paul: The lower level of the barn, too, because I like looking out the windows. When I’m there I wonder what it was like when they actually used it as a barn in the early 1900s.

Q. Which of your five bedrooms do you use?

Brenda: We use all of them now. When we were first married, Paul’s daughter and son and my son lived here and used some of them.

Q. Who painted the bird motif in the first-floor bathroom?

Brenda: Paul’s mom, Sandy Schaff of West Allis. We call it the birdbath. I put a birdcage in there.

Q. How big is your home?

Paul: Just shy of 5,000 square feet, and we have a four-car garage. But we can only get two cars in there. Brenda stores pieces in there that she plans to repurpose one day.

Brenda: I’m not a hoarder, but I do save things I can use in some way down the road.

Q. What are the pluses and minuses of having such a big property?

Brenda: We have so many spots where we can entertain. The downside is there’s a lot to keep up.

Q.Any setbacks since you started making changes?

Brenda: Wildcat Creek has flooded the coop and the barn more than once. This year improvements were made to the creek, and it hasn’t flooded since. When we started remodeling the outbuildings, we were trying to save them from the flooding….We kept going to the next level.

Q. Did you make changes in the gardens?

Brenda: When I moved here, there was landscaping immediately around the house. I added more gardens, a number of waking paths and an allée on the north side of our house that runs from our courtyard to the backyard. Allée is a French word for a walkway lined with trees and shrubs. I got a lot of the flowers from friends; some I even found on the curb. I’m also a member of the Elmbrook and New Berlin Garden Clubs.

I also added a lot of mulch this year. When the creek would flood, I’d lose a lot of plants and mulch. This year I hauled 70 trailers of mulch from the recycling center.

Q. What’s in your court-yard?

Brenda: A hot tub, herb garden, arbors, decorative metal fencing and a fountain I found on Craigslist.

Q. Any more projects to do?

Brenda: We have two separate basements. I call one the creepy basement, and I’d like to turn it into a wine room. It has stone walls and was a natural cellar. It’s too cool of an area architecturally not to do something with it.

Do you, or does someone you know, have a cool, funky or exquisite living space that you’d like to see featured in At Home? Contact Entree home and garden editor Tina Maples at (414) 223-5500 or email

Article source:

Plan for Levee Park nearly done; committee will seek feedback from community

Nearly a year after a committee began work on how to revitalize Levee Park, there’s no concrete plan in place.

But one is close — and those involved say they’re looking forward to creating a sustainable future for a neglected park that saw several bright moments this year — from a popular new restaurant to live music performances.

Mayor Mark Peterson, for one, is ready to have some solid ideas on the table.

Peterson ran his 2012 campaign in part on the dream of bringing the park back into the public spotlight, and in February 2013 formed the Levee Park Committee to explore options.

“I hope I see from (the committee) a plan that they all embrace and share with the community so they can get excited about it,” Peterson said.

The committee has put in substantial work throughout the year, though the

work suffered from a number of delays, including consultants dealing with unexpected personal issues. So Peterson said he’s not worried about waiting another month. He’s satisfied with how far the committee has come, he said.

“I’m realistic,” he said. “It’s a journey, not a race. It’s going to happen.”

In order to speed up the process, the committee and the hired

consultants from the University of Minnesota have decided to release the final plans and then seek comments about them. The initial plan was to hold a public input meeting in October, but the meeting was canceled due to some of the delays.

Committee member Frank Pomeroy said the committee has found other

ways to get input, including from those who attended a number of community events, including the Live at the Levee music and arts series that drew hundreds of people.

‘Make it attractive. Make it active’

Committee members don’t have a clear idea of what new park designs might look like — they’re waiting on the consultants to produce final renderings — but they know what they want the park to accomplish.

They want it to connect to downtown, to be seen from blocks away, to be a destination for residents and tourists, both those on foot and those docking boats on the Mississippi River.

As former Winona city manager and committee member Eric Sorensen said: “Make it attractive. Make it active.”

The city has taken steps in that direction already, with officials and volunteers planting flowers and creating a pavilion

on the spot where the Wilkie replica steamboat sat before it was torn down in 2008. It hopes to build on that success with landscaping and other features.

There are challenges to that vision that can’t be solved.

There’s the location, tucked behind downtown buildings. There’s the concrete levee, which while doing an essential job protecting the city from flooding doesn’t offer much by way of river views.

And others that can’t be easily solved, such as the tall fence that protects the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Spokesman Mark Davis suggested there may be wiggle room for change, but he maintained in an interview what the railroad’s view has long been: Any changes need to keep people from wandering away from designated crossings and not include development on railroad property.

The railroad, however, has shown it supports the efforts, donating about $1,500 to events held at the park.

And others have found creative ways to solve issues such as location with a new restaurant and hosting high-profile events that have drawn hundreds to the park.

Complementing efforts

The Boat House opened in May on the levee, offering a full lunch and dinner menu, as well as occasional live music.

And a separate group of artists and community leaders came up with plans to spotlight the park with the Live At The Levee series, which debuted in October, offering a day of free live music and activities. The organizers didn’t wait for winter to end to hold the next one, hosting the second event in a large heated tent in December. An estimated 2,000 people or more attended the two events, organizers said.

One organizer, Will Kitchen, has a bit of perspective on launching arts events — he’s been involved with the creation of Theatre du Mississippi, the Great River Shakespeare Festival and the Frozen River Film Festival. He said he’s never seen excitement for an event grow so quickly as it did for Live at the Levee.

Committee members  all said the events have been a complement to the new vision for the park.

“We really wanted to do this to support the Levee committee,” Kitchen said.

“Thank God they did,” Pomeroy said.

It’s proved, Peterson said, that there’s ample interest in the community in spending time at the levee. Now, he said, it’s up to the committee to come up with a long-term, financially sustainable plan.

Pomeroy agreed.

“Good things are coming from this,” he said. “No doubt about it.”

Article source:

Woodland’s CityPark may get new play structure

Just as Freeman Park did earlier this year, City Park may also be getting a makeover.

Woodland City Councilmen will decide Tuesday whether to submit to an application for a grant of around $100,000 that would replace the park’s play structure.

Additional park improvements such as additional lighting may be included depending on the amount awarded to the city. City Park is located at 626 Cleveland St.

Staff estimates the city will be eligible to receive between $100,000 to $125,000 from the Housing Related Parks Program grant from the state. The play structure will cost around $94,000 to replace, according to a staff report.

Last year the city received $97,775 from the Housing Related Parks Program, which were used for the irrigation, landscaping and walkway improvements at Freeman Park, 1001 Main St.

“City Park was selected as the project site for the grant funding based on a number of factors,” said Senior Planner Dan Sokolow in the staff report. “The park is not located within an existing landscaping and lighting maintenance district. As a result, its operational and capital improvement costs are generally borne by the general fund.”

Last year, a play structure vendor completed a play equipment needs assessment for city park facilities, Sokolow added. The vendor rated the urgency of replacements on a scale of 1 to 3 with 1 being the most urgent need. The existing children’s large play structure at City Park was ranked in the top tier, Tier 1.

“Because City Park is located in a low-moderate income census tract, the city qualifies for the ‘disadvantaged community’ funding bonus in the Housing Related Parks Program,” said Sokolow. “The Play Equipment Needs Assessment estimated that replacing the playground structure at City Park would cost approximately $94,000. It should be noted that additional related improvements would also be needed for the playground equipment installation (possible ADA improvements, etc.).”

Housing Related Parks Program grant funds may be used for the creation, development or rehabilitation of park and recreation facilities, such as the acquisition of land, sport play fields, informal play areas, non-motorized recreational trails, play structures, outdoor recreation, community gardens and landscaping.

Follow Elizabeth Kalfsbeek at

Article source:

Home Gardener Day: Learn how natural gardens bring out the best in life

Ecology is on many gardeners’ minds these days.

Gardeners who value the science of relationships between living things and their environments increasingly want to know more about those connections — how toxic chemicals worsen a yard’s overall health and why bees, birds and butterflies are crucial to our daily lives, for example.

To help gardeners sort through the options for gardening naturally and responsibly, the Virginia Horticultural Foundation spotlights the theme “Natural Gardens” during its Home Gardener Day 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Marriott at City Center in Newport News.

“We have a responsibility to support the land that we depend on for our own survival, and that responsibility includes thoughtful choices about how we landscape our own tiny spot of Earth,” says Carol Heiser, habitat education coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game Inland Fisheries.

During Home Gardener Day, she discusses “Habitat at Home: Landscaping for Wildlife.” The conservation program, outlined in great detail at, encourages public, private and corporate landowners to provide habitat for songbirds, mammals, amphibians and other native wildlife. Free, downloadable information for home yards and schools is available at the website, as well as lists of native plants, water features and shelter options.

Other speakers Jan. 16 cover modern meadows, easy organic gardening techniques, garden journaling and gardening for birds.

“The overuse of chemical or inorganic fertilizers has serious consequences including the leaching of nitrates into the ground water supply,” says Lisa Ziegler of The Gardener’s Workshop and cut-flower farm in Newport News. Her workshop topic, “Thinkin’ Downstream,” helps you learn that what you do in your yard seldom stays in your yard.

“Your actions touch something downstream. Fertilizer run-off into ponds, lakes and streams over stimulates algae growth, suffocating other aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish. Killing weeds along fence rows removes seed-producing plants that host the insects that young animals often depend on to grow.”

Heiser says naturalist Doug Tallamy makes the best case in his book, “Bringing Nature Home,” about the critical connections between insect and plant communities.

“Insects and plants co-evolved for millennia and have developed intricate inter-relationships,” she said.

“Unfortunately, over the past 300-plus years of American history, we’ve replaced a substantial portion of the natural landscape with non-native plant species from other continents — most notably European and Asian countries — and the result has been an altering of the food web,” Heiser said.

“This, in turn, has had the effect of depressing insect populations that depend on specific ecosystem patterns, along with an associated decline in bird populations which rely on insects to feed their young. Although land clearing and development are certainly contributing factors to the loss of habitat, the introduction of non-native species has had an insidious but far-reaching, deleterious outcome.”

Habitat gardening, which is more accurately called conservation landscaping, around homes is one way of “putting back,” or making an attempt to mimic the original native plant community, she continues.

This means removing exotic invasive plant species like nandina, barberry, butterfly bush, privet, autumn olive, Bradford pear, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and periwinkle, and replacing them with their counterpart native species.

“Also, there are other non-native plants that may not be invasive but [are] nevertheless equally useless to insects and other wildlife, such as crepe myrtle, hosta, liriope, boxwood, fescue — the list goes on and on,” she says.

“Responsible habitat gardening includes replacing these species with native plants, too. We have to get away from the idea that ‘habitat gardening’ is just a cute patch of flowers for butterflies, and that it’s OK if the rest of the yard is a mono-cultured acre of turf grass.”

To acquaint yourself with habitat gardening, Heiser suggests first going online to look at photos of invasive exotic plants and learn to identify them. Then, take a clipboard and walk your yard, listing any invasive plants.

“When that list is done, make another column of all the other non-natives that aren’t invasive but exotic just the same — you’ll probably be surprised that most of your favorite ‘ornamentals’ are non-native,” she said.

“They’re called ‘ornamental’ because they’re just that: decorations without any biological purpose.”

Next, go back online to find out what native species are best for your growing needs, she advises. This spring, select one non-native plant species in your yard, remove it and replace it with a native species, many of which can be found at local garden centers, as well as at master gardener, native plant society and Virginia Living Museum plant sales.

Article source:,0,5139274.story

Gardening Etcetera: A kinder, shaggier garden

When we moved to Flagstaff from Southern California 11 years ago, we inquired about landscaping after we’d settled into the house. With various moves throughout the years, I had developed six gardens from the ground up. I thought that at 75 I would like someone else do it, especially since I was still recovering from a triple bypass. Getting the bids was a mistake. They were exorbitant, and nearly everyone came with drawing boards, diagrams, T Squares, graph paper, curve templates and rulers.

Landscaping is an art, and artists don’t start with the tools of mechanical drawing. They start with imagination and then use the tools.

As Walker Evans said, “Photography isn’t a matter of taking pictures. It’s a matter of having an eye.” The camera takes on the personality and character of the photographer. As with the camera, landscaping begins in the eye. We recreate ourselves in how and what we see and how and what we fashion.

So I set about developing my seventh garden from the ground up, a decision which helped my recovery. It has taken 11 years, and it’s still not finished, nor will it ever be. I once asked an artist friend of mine, the late primitivist painter, Louis Monza, when he knew he had finished a painting.

He replied, “I paint my dreams. Sometimes, in the middle of the night I’ll jump out of bed to sketch a dream I had so that I wouldn’t forget it and then begin painting it in the morning. I never finish. I stop and go on to the next dream.” Life and painting for him was the space between the beginning and the end, a space for becoming rather than being.

Paraphrasing Heraclitus (540-480 B.C.), “No one can step into the same garden twice. The garden’s not the same, and the gardener’s not the same.”

Landscaping is a reflection of our environment as well as the creation of our eye. Often we attempt to force favored plants from our past onto an environment where they won’t thrive. I tried with a couple of plants but soon realized the futility of it all. Since our environment is so spectacularly beautiful, I decided to cooperate with the inevitable rather than combat it. We’re best off taking our cues from flora around us. As 17th century theologian Jeremy Taylor said, “If you are in Rome, live in the Roman style: if you are elsewhere live as they live elsewhere.”

In terms of design the late landscape architect, James Van Sweden said, gardens should “move in the breeze and sparkle like stained glass” and “catch the flow of time and wind, of shadows and seasons.”

We landscape for the winter as much as we do for the spring, summer and autumn. The architecture of a leafless Gambel oak in winter, a ponderosa pine with its boughs laden with snow, a red Oregon grape holly in a field of snow and a leafless oak etching a steel blue sky are as much a part of a garden’s landscape as are the burgeoning delights of spring, the lush exuberance of summer and the deep fluttering colors of autumn.

Better a lawn of native grasses bending to the wind than flattened lawn with a military buzz cut without shape or form. Water-thirsty lawns and their dreadful substitutes, gravel yards, bear no resemblance to the dense green of our forests, the sweep of our meadows and the crystalline blue of our skies. Consider for a moment what a gravel front yard reveals of the householder!

The forest, the meadows and the mountains are shaggy with surprising twists and turns. Straight lines straiten the imagination while twisting and turning paths draw us beyond what we see and know. Neat geometrical lines leave no place for our minds to wander beyond our frustrations and limitations allowing us to relax and renew.

Happily, at our door we have The Arboretum at Flagstaff (774-1442), where gardeners have living resources to help in landscaping their gardens for authenticity in the high country and with fidelity to their eye.

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun. Smith emails at and blogs at

Article source:

Garden Q&A: Tips to limit sage plant’s flopping – Tribune

Question: How can I maintain my Russian Sage plants in an upright position? I love the plants, but they have a tendency to flop over and lay on top of the other perennials in my garden. If I cut the flopped-over branches, I lose the colorful flowers. Do you have any idea of what I can do to keep the branches more upright?

Answer: Russian sage ( Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful, drought-tolerant perennial. Its silvery stems are graced with blue-green, feathery leaves and topped with spires of blue flowers that cover the entire plant with a blue haze for many weeks each summer.

This member of the mint family is not used as a culinary herb, but the foliage does have a sage-like aroma when crushed.

Russian sage is a woody perennial that’s fully hardy here in Pennsylvania. It thrives in well-drained soil and full sun. By its nature, it is a very floppy plant, prone to tumbling over other perennials. I enjoy the loose form of this plant, preferring to give it a lot of space in the garden by keeping it a 3 or 4 feet away from other plants. That being said, there are a few things you can do to limit its relaxed habit.

Full sun is a must for this perennial. If it is in partial shade, the stems will grow more leggy as they reach for sunlight.

Do not provide this plant with any fertilizer beyond an annual top-dressing of compost. Over-fertilization (particularly of nitrogen) leads to weak, overgrown stems that are unable to support themselves and stand upright. You might consider staking the plant early in the spring with some bamboo stakes and twine.

Pinching helps limit the growth. In late May, remove the terminal portion of each stem by using your thumb and forefinger to pinch off an inch or so of growth. This will cause each stem to branch out and remain more compact. It will, however, delay the flowering by a few weeks.

One more thing to consider: there are a handful of Russian sage cultivars that were bred for a more upright growth habit. “Blue Spire� reaches 3 feet tall and produces stems that reach for the sky rather than their neighbors; “Little Spire� has a similar habit but grows only to 2 feet; and “Longin� is a beautiful, very rigid selection with loads of feathery-blue flowers that grow on 3- to 4-foot-tall plants.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

Article source:

Great and small: How to design a stunning front garden

What to plant?

Avoid putting in potentially large, fast-growing or invasive plants, or any that generate lots of mess or prunings. Also avoid a dense planting scheme that will obscure your windows, making your front rooms dark and dingy.

Hedges take a lot of upkeep and can look too chunky in a small space, so opt for a long, narrow bed instead. Choose tallish, airy plants to create a semi-see-through screen – the idea is to give yourself some privacy while still being able to see out.

For year-round interest, try mixtures of Thalictum “Hewitt’s Double”, Salvia uliginosa, Verbena bonariensis and tall evergreen grasses.

Pots and tubs

Small tubs are an easy target for thieves, besides needing frequent watering and re-planting. Instead, use large tubs planted with year-round plants and let them root through into the ground so they can’t be moved.

For year-round looks, grow architectural shrubs such as bamboo, Fatsia japonica, phormium, box topiary or a standard-trained bay tree. Keep them well watered to encourage roots to reach down deep, and once established, the plants will rarely need watering.

Article source:

What’s up, and coming, for gardening 2014

HUMANS HAVE been planting and tending gardens for at least 10,000 years. So what do trends have to do with it?

Sometimes trend-spotting gives us a fresh vision, or maybe just a laugh. Like how the Garden Writers Association called out compost-making as a 2014 trend. Really? If it’s been happening for millennia, it’s probably not a trend.

Much of the trend talk is, of course, nothing more than marketing. Or gardeners with strong opinions making their voices heard. And because most gardeners have strong opinions, trend-spotting in the age of blogs can get downright clamorous.

While searching out what’s new for 2014, I was surprised by what I didn’t find. Not a single trend-with-an-edge, like the surge of black blooms a few years ago, or new, more modern hardscaping materials. Surely the specter of climate change must influence plant breeding and plant choices? Couldn’t finger a trend there. And how about environmentally friendly pest-control products that don’t poison our pets and biodegradable pots for nursery stock? Gardeners would greet such innovations wholeheartedly.

Instead the Garden Writers Association trumpets “Dress Up Your Yard,” advising decorative planters and candleholders. And “Drink Your Yard,” meaning green smoothies and home brewing. To be fair, “Bee-neficials: more than 85 percent of Earth’s plant species require pollinators to exist,” made the list.

Here in the Northwest, we’re lucky enough to have Crown Bees, where Dave Hunter educates us about the value of mason bees and how to nurture them. Then there’s Seattle Bee Works and Puget Sound Beekeepers Association. We’re starting our own bee-tending trend here in the Northwest; may it spread far and wide.

I just can’t figure out some of the trends on the garden writers’ list for 2014. Does “Geometric gardening that has fractions and dimensions with explosions of colors and textures that isn’t necessarily neat and tidy” make any sense to you? I’m better able to understand the item noting that more gardeners are growing “superfoods” such as kale and blueberries, and another saying we’re appreciating trees for how they reduce noise and increase property values. Still, nothing too edgy there.

White flowers, such as iris, peonies and lovage, stood out as a clear trend at the venerable Chelsea Flower Show in England last spring. Familiar native flowers, including foxglove and cow parsley, showed up in many of the show gardens.

Space-saving vertical gardens aren’t a new idea, but they were everywhere at Chelsea this past year. Many were as simple as trellises, screens or wire framework planted with vines. A star of the show was an innovative garden featuring a “bee hotel.” Log sections were drilled with holes for bee homes and inter-planted with succulents to create a functional, beautiful garden element.

The online design magazine Lonny interviewed Stephanie Schur, owner of Botany Flowers in Los Angeles, about what’s trendy in floristry. Schur says bouquets are becoming more casual and unstructured, picked fresh from the garden and plunked into a vase.

Garden Design magazine, available only online, looked at trends from cutting-edge Australia, calling out productive gardens and dramatic, outdoor night lighting as newly fashionable. In Sydney, people are planting gardens on rooftops to take advantage of views and sunshine.

The Australians put water features and garden bling in the category of “declining trends,” in contrast to the garden writers’ enthusiasm for tarting up the yard. Clean-lined, modern gardens are what’s happening Down Under.

Garden Design recently announced it’ll publish two paper issues in 2014. Now here’s a trend to celebrate — our favorite gardening magazines coming back into print.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at

Article source: