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Archives for January 17, 2014

Youth facilities to get a whole Lotto cash

YOUTH facilities are set to be boosted in South Tyneside, thanks to a £1m Lotto bonanza.

The Big Local scheme aims to improve life for people in central Jarrow over the next decade.

Residents were this week given the chance, at a drop-in session at Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, to say how they would like money from the Big Lottery Fund spent to improve life in the town.

And one of the main demands was for better youth provision in the town.

Grandmother Sheila Spour, 76, of Greenbank Villas, Jarrow, said: “There is simply not enough for young people.

“We need to spend some of this money to get young people working and give them something to do.”

Big Local representative Linda Clark agreed, saying boosting youth provision would be one of the scheme’s priorities.

Mrs Clark said: “Young people came out on top in the list of demands. We aim to provide training opportunities through the scheme and get young people into employment, plus give them something to do at night.

“Hopefully, one of the major elements of the scheme will be the appointment of a youth detached worker, to work with young people and open up training and other opportunities.

“We are also planning a gardening and landscaping project, involving 16 to 19-year-olds.

“The plan is to spend around £120,000 in the first year of the scheme.”

The Rev Roy Merrin, chairman of the Big Local partnership board for central Jarrow, said this week’s drop-in event at his church was just the latest in a series of public consultation sessions held over the last 18 months.

He said: “We have provided for a community chest, are making bids and will put ideas to a local trust as part of Big Local.

“This will hopefully release funding from the £1m to be spent over the next 10 years.”

There are 150 Big Local schemes across England, the nearest one to Jarrow being in Whitley Bay, all aimed at making what officials call “a massive and lasting positive difference to their communities”.

Individual applications, worth up to £500, can be made through Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, based at the Eco Centre in Windmill Way, Hebburn.

Call 428 1144 for details.

Twitter: @terrykelly16

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House of the Week: Room to Entertain

Lysander, N.Y. — Kim and Bob Holt weren’t looking for a new house.

Kim dropped by an open house at 7647 Poplar Field Circle about five years ago to get some ideas.

“I thought maybe I’d get some good design tips,” she said.

But when she walked into the house, she found herself enamored. She and her husband both liked the home’s combination of contemporary and Craftsman-style elements.

It’s not a cookie-cutter house, Kim said. An architect designed it as a dream home for himself and his wife.

The property also gave Kim and Bob the chance to put their own stamp on it. The interior wasn’t complete. The walls weren’t painted, the landscaping outside hadn’t been done and much of the woodwork inside still hadn’t been stained.

The couple took full advantage of the somewhat blank canvas. They widened the driveway and added a 104-foot sidewalk that leads to the front of the house.

They also added hand-painted designs to areas of the home, including the ceiling in the kitchen and walls in the dining room.

Bob and Kim are retired from their work as owners of a painting company and now earn a living as Internet marketers. They’re selling the home to downsize and plan to split their time between Central New York and Florida.

One of Kim’s favorite parts of the house is its open floor plan. The home has hosted two wedding receptions, and Bob and Kim have had as many as 80 guests inside.

But the house also includes decorative columns and other elements that provide a sense of separation across its open spaces, Bob said. It doesn’t feel like just one big room on the inside, he said.


Address: 7647 Poplar Field Circle, Lysander, N.Y. 13027
Price: $524,900
Size: 3,627 square feet
Monthly Mortgage: $2,105.28 (based on this week’s national average rate of 4.41 percent by Freddie Mac for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20 percent down payment. Fees and points are not included.)
Taxes: $12,720
Built: 2004
School District: Baldwinsville

Kitchen: The large kitchen includes a fireplace, dining area, bar area, wall ovens, wall microwave oven and doors that lead to the exterior patio in the back of the house. The ceiling and walls also feature hand-painted designs. The range built into the room’s center island includes an extra-large, high-powered burner.

Living room: The room has a wall of windows facing the back of the property and French doors that lead to the patio behind the home. It also has a fireplace and is open onto the kitchen. A balcony on the house’s second level looks down onto the space.

Master suite: The master suite, located on the first floor, has its own bathroom with a whirlpool tub nestled next to a window. It also has separate vanities, a separate shower area and a walk-in closet. The sleeping area of the room is positioned so noise from the rest of the home is quieted, Kim said.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: The home has four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Two bedrooms on the upper floor have their own bathroom and a sitting area. The other bedroom on the first floor was designed by the home’s previous owner with a wheelchair in mind, Kim said. It has wider doors and a bathroom designed to fit a wheelchair.

Dining room: The formal dining room features arched ceilings and hand-painted designs on the walls and ceilings. More large windows offer great views, Kim said.

Laundry room: The laundry room is off the oversize three-car garage. A mudroom is also nearby. Outside the home, a patio extends along the back of the house. It can be accessed from the kitchen and living room.

Agent: Kathy Pawlowski
Coldwell Banker Prime Properties
6800 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville, N.Y. 13066
Phone: (315) 427-7604

An open house is scheduled at the property for Jan. 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

To nominate a listing for House of the Week send an email to Contact Kevin Tampone at or (315) 454-2112 and follow him on Twitter @ktampone.

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Landscape designer joins team

Maineville, Oh. – Thornton Landscape recently announced a new addition to the team of landscape professionals. Dan Lynch, a landscape designer with more than 26 years in the industry, joins the team as a landscape design sales manager. He will assist primarily residential customers as they plan and design their outdoor environments.
“I was pleased to be able to work with a firm that has such a great reputation. Thornton Landscape is known for its high quality of work and its unique projects,” Lynch said. “I look forward to working with our clients to help them gain focus, learn what they want to accomplish in their outdoor space, understand what they want and then prioritize their wants and needs.”
Thornton Landscape offers truly custom landscape design for both residential and commercial customers. With more than 50 years in business, the company is a consistent award winner for its landscape designs. The landscape team also includes a large number of certified landscape technicians and professionals, as accredited by the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA).
“My goal is to get clients – all of the decision makers – here to Thornton Landscape to show them all that we have to offer. We can go over pictures and walk around the grounds to get landscaping ideas and help them imagine the possibilities,” Lynch said. “But one of the best things we can do is help clients phase their project over time – giving them a beautiful space that is always evolving and improving.”
Lynch’s education includes design and horticulture at the University of Cincinnati as well as classes in computer-aided design and drafting at Southern Ohio College. He is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and is a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) from the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA).
In his previous work in the industry, he has installed, managed and designed award-winning landscaping projects for Xavier University, Homerama homes and displays at the Fifth Third Home Garden Show and Cincinnati Flower Show. He was a featured landscape designer in the October 2010 edition of Housetrends magazine.
“We’re excited to have his experience and knowledge on board at Thornton Landscape,” said Andy Doesburg, president of the company. “He has worked on some truly great projects. His customer focus and philosophy of guiding homeowners through the landscape design process is spot on with how we serve our clients.”
Lynch said he looks forward to meeting with clients and encourages them to get started thinking about landscaping now. The winter season is a great time to plan for projects that can break ground in the spring, he said.
“I enjoy that in this business each day is a little bit different. Each project has its own personality and each client has specific needs and wants,” he said. “I love the constant change and the constant challenges.”

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Destroy garden soil insects, weeds now

Remember all the weeds and insects that invaded your vegetable garden last year? Well, spring planting of home gardens will be here before you know it. And believe it or not, now and not later, is probably the best time to eliminate pesky soil insects, as well as weed seeds. The reason is, once you have planted your garden, there is often very little you can do to control soil insects like white grubs and wireworms or troublesome weeds during the growing season.

A home gardener’s best defense against soil insects and weeds is to avoid them and physically destroy them before they have a chance to take over your vegetable garden later in the year. By taking action now, you can save yourself a lot of time, trouble and expense later on this summer.

Since several of the more commonly used soil insecticides, like diazinon and Dursban, are no longer available to homeowners, so your best option for controlling bothersome grubs and other sol insects may be your rototiller. That’s right. Using your rototiller to turn your garden soil now while it is cold exposes insects, insect eggs and weed seeds to cold temperatures and drying winds. When the soil is workable and not overly wet, rototill your garden to eliminate weeds and kill as many insects as you can.

If you think this sounds harsh, just think ahead to what these little subterranean critters have planned for your vegetable plants. White grubs and wireworms are actually immature beetles. They will feed on plant roots and seeds. They may not kill the plant outright, but they can and often do seriously stunt plant growth.

The key to reducing problems with soil insects in your garden is to keep a clean site. Making sure your garden site is weed-free now will help you be pest-free later. Soil insects are there before you plant. If the garden is host-free now, insects won’t be as attracted to the site and you are less likely to have soil insects after you plant.

Once you start planting, you can avoid many of the early-season problems by using transplants instead of seeds. If you do want to seed, however, be sure to wait until the soil warms up so your vegetable seeds can sprout and grow fast. Aside from soil insects, most other insect problems, like aphids, cucumber beetles and stink bugs, occur after you plant.

Once your garden crops begin to sprout and come up, monitor for insects and control them when necessary using a simple solution such as physical removal of pests. A lot of people don’t realize that if the numbers of pests are limited and you don’t have a huge garden, keeping a close watch and removing insects by hand may be the most efficient control method. Large insect outbreaks, however, may require the use of an appropriate insecticide.

For additional information related to gardening, landscaping, pest and turf management issues, go to the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture’s website at and click the ‘Factsheets’ tab. There you will find 260 informative factsheets on a host of environmental and horticultural topics written by University of Georgia County Extension Agents and Specialists.

Randy Drinkard is a retired technical writer for The UGA Center for Urban Agriculture and ANR Agent for Troup Cooperative Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Recycling nature: He makes rustic furniture from garden ‘debris’

David Hughes, a Doylestown landscape architect with an affinity for native flora and natural landscapes, often finds himself ripping out dead, overgrown, or otherwise undesirable plants to make way for new.

But he doesn’t haul that nasty Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese white mulberry, or Norway maple to the dump, curb, or chipper. Hughes is that rare soul who prizes what other designers and gardeners despise, more so if it’s scarred by deer browsing, insect damage, or disease.

That’s because, in addition to designing ecologically responsible landscapes in the Philadelphia region, Hughes, 46, is a skilled woodworker who makes rustic furniture from garden “debris,” a kind of plant-world Dumpster diver.

“To me, it’s a nice marriage, landscaping and woodworking,” says Hughes, whose five-year-old business, his second, is called Weatherwood Design. It comprises about 70 percent landscaping and 30 percent woodworking.

Storm-felled trees and gnarly vines make good raw materials. So do pruned branches, old barn boards, and stuff plucked, with permission, from the side of the road.

An arborist friend scouts out intriguing branches and discarded trunks. Hughes helps the Natural Lands Trust and local preserves thin out invasives or dead trees. And every July Fourth, again with permission, he rescues unwanted driftwood from death by bonfire at a public beach on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The wood might sit for years on the one-acre property Hughes shares with his widowed dad, Merritt Hughes, a retired English teacher. Logs, planks, oddball sticks and scraps are stacked along the driveway, in the yard, and in and around Hughes’ densely packed, unheated 8-by-12-foot workshop.

“It’s hard to throw anything out,” he says a bit sheepishly of the jars of nails, screws, and bolts, the bits of this or that, and the saws, planes, and other tools of his trade.

Drying wood outside is challenging. But if rain and snow are his nemeses, water is also a friend. “My best ideas come in the shower,” he says.

Those ideas – for chairs, tables and benches, garden gates, and screens, trellises, arbors, railings, and birdhouses – are time-consuming. A simple-looking chair can take 35 hours to make, at $45 an hour, not counting time to find and dry the wood and do research.

“It’s like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle. There are no square edges to anything,” says Hughes, who is itching for some land of his own so he can grow hedgerows of the native trees – alder, sassafras, Eastern red cedar, black locust, Osage orange – he likes to work with.

He also wants to live off the grid and build native plant, meadow, and woodland demonstration gardens. Four acres, at a minimum, would do it, though so much real estate would involve a lot of deer-fencing.

But fenced it must be; deer are plentiful, and Hughes has had Lyme disease 14 times since the early 1990s.

That he has worked through such a scourge reflects a lifetime of loving plants.

Growing up in Glenside, Hughes was “always out playing and getting muddy and dirty,” often in Baederwood Park. Foreshadowing the landscape architect he would become, he spent hours in the attic constructing vehicles and buildings with Legos and Lincoln Logs.

As an 8-year-old, guided by his handy grandfather, Sylvester “Cookie” Cook, Hughes built metal cladding to reinforce a toy castle, and carved sticks to support a leather-covered tepee.

“I loved the outdoors,” he says, including time spent at his family’s vacation home outside Wellsboro, Tioga County.

Hughes is a graduate of Abington High School and Pennsylvania State University, where he knew almost instantly “I was doing the right thing” in studying landscape architecture. He also did graduate work at the University of Massachusetts.

His resumé includes jobs at plant nurseries, landscape architectural and planning firms, and the U.S. Forest Service. He has restored wetlands and woodlands and worked on suburban subdivision landscapes, meadows, and residential projects, including a highly idiosyncratic Bucks County second home belonging to New Yorkers Todd Ruback and Suzanne Schecter.

The couple’s 21/2-acre property, overlooking the Delaware Canal in Upper Black Eddy, features a converted century-old barn that backs up to a gravelly 200-foot red shale cliff that was choked with exotic vines. Hughes cleared the cliff and literally carved a landscape into it, choosing wildlife-friendly plants such as Eastern prickly pear cactus, the region’s only native cactus, that grows almost exclusively along the high cliffs of the Delaware River.

“He’s not bringing in eucalyptus trees,” Ruback says. “He’s making use of what local, Bucks County nature is giving us.”

And much of what Hughes takes away from “Bucks County nature” goes toward his rustic furniture. The results, says a mentor, Daniel Mack of Warwick, N.Y., are both sturdy and playful, and demonstrate “a poetic sensibility.”

“Nobody actually needs any of these chairs. There are plenty of chairs in the world already, thank you,” says Mack, a rustic-furniture teacher and author. “You’ve gone beyond need, and you’re into another realm.”

It’s a realm, Mack says, that “engages us with the landscape in a way you don’t see with more-anonymous furniture.”




As part of the quot;Art in Naturequot; series at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, 1635 River Rd., New Hope, landscape architect and rustic-furniture-maker David Hughes will host a workshop, from 1 to 5 p.m. March 8, called quot;Woodworking With Invasive Plants: How to Make a Small Whimsical Chair.quot;


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For 2014, think perennials and edibles

SALISBURY — While most gardens and landscapes are asleep for the winter, those in the landscape and gardening industry are busy trying to determine what will be the big seller for 2014.

Plant materials and landscaping are often as trendy as clothing in the fashion industry. Trying to guess what will sell for fickle gardeners and be the big hit in landscape and gardening can be a bit overwhelming. Continued advances in breeding plants seem to have created a neverending supply of new plant material.

So what’s the future in landscaping? Merchandisers and growers can’t really predict the future, but they can look at trends which can give them an idea of what will and won’t sell.


Over the past few years, perennials have enjoyed increased popularity and are becoming more accepted as a permanent part of the residential landscape. Some relatively new perennials were considered weeds just a few years ago. There are many reasons why perennials are gaining in popularity. Perennials require less work because the plant material is permanently established. Perennials eliminate annual planting, reducing time needed to implement plantings.

There are hundreds of new perennial plant materials available at local garden centers and retail outlets. Some nurseries specialize in perennial plant and herb culture. These materials are available in many colors and textures. Herbs are also considered perennials and are being offered as a part of the perennial garden. Another important aspect is perennials adapt to many cultural situations that exist in the landscape.

Hot pots or accessorizing

Sounds more like a caption from an interior design magazine, but traditional landscapes are giving way to more creative accents in the landscape. Imported glazed pottery, metal containers and statuary are making their way into landscapes filled with non-traditional plant materials such as grasses, small trees and vines. Other landscaping accessories such as colorful garden benches, lighting fixtures and paving options are adding spark to the landscape. New technology allows high-quality materials at a fairly low cost.

Warm season turf

Even though cool season fescue is the turf of choice, warm season grasses such as zoyzia, Bermuda and St. Augustine are gaining in popularity in the Piedmont. Cold tolerance and longer green color in the fall make this turf a viable option. Warm season grasses require less water and are able to survive with low water requirements.

Edible landscapes

Many gardeners are opting to integrate small fruit and fruit trees into their landscape and create an “edible landscape.” The economy and popularity of the local foods movement have many interested in applying this idea to their landscape. Edible landscapes, if properly maintained, can be as attractive as an ornamental landscape. Blueberry, fig bushes and dwarf fruit trees can be easily integrated into most landscapes. Ample sunlight is an important factor.

Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. 704-216-8970;

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This week’s gardening tips: bare-root roses, root crops and Louisiana irises …

Don’t let the recent unusually cold weather throw you off. Planting cool-season vegetables and bedding plants continues through the winter. Although exceptionally cold weather can occur through February, we should still expect winter weather to be mostly mild. Watch the weather and avoid setting out transplants when a freeze below the upper 20s is predicted.

  • Bare-root rose bushes are arriving at local nurseries and garden centers. January is the best month to plant them. They should be planted by the end of February at the latest. Containerized roses also may be planted as soon as they become available at the nurseries.
  • Louisiana irises may benefit from a light application of a general purpose fertilizer now or in early February to encourage vigorous growth and abundant flowers. Control weeds and keep the planting mulched. Louisiana irises enjoy wet locations. They love the regular rainfall we have been getting this winter.
  • Root crops, such as radish, carrot, turnip and beets, should be direct seeded in garden beds where they will grow this month. Young plants may need some protection from temperatures below the mid-20s.
  • Harvest green bunching onions by digging up the entire clump, separating off half for use and replant the other half back into the garden for continued production. Harvest cabbage when the head feel very solid and hard.

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Gardeners’ Dirt: Seasonal gardening tips for wintertime

  • Tips By the Month

  • January

    •  Plant spring bulbs

    •  Trim perennials

    •  Begin adding new trees

    •  Mow winter weeds


    •  Prune carefully

    •  Mulch heavily

    •  Apply pre-emergency herbicides

    •  Prepare equipment for use

    •  Expand and repair irrigation …

  • SHOW ALL »
  • Tips By the Month


    •  Plant spring bulbs

    •  Trim perennials

    •  Begin adding new trees

    •  Mow winter weeds


    •  Prune carefully

    •  Mulch heavily

    •  Apply pre-emergency herbicides

    •  Prepare equipment for use

    •  Expand and repair irrigation system


    • Weed, weed, weed

    •  Divide perennials

    •  Build new beds

  • For more information

  • •  “Texas Garden Almanac” by Doug Welsh





Having endured those first frosty mornings when the thermometer affirms that winter has settled in, gardeners take a deep breath and dig in – literally. The time is nigh.

Plan, prepare

January, for gardeners, marks the beginning of the road to spring and all those lovely plants, trees and blooms that enliven spirits in spring gardens. It is time to work in the plant beds, enrich soil gently and prepare for the beauty to come with spring. January is the perfect time to begin planning those new beds that have been dancing in gardeners’ heads since last spring.

Plant prune

Haven’t already started planting those spring crocuses, daffodils, tulips and narcissus? Why not? January days are still ahead when the temperatures cooperate and when working in the garden is heaven.

When hyacinths poke their fragile heads above the soil and begin to bloom in profusion, spring has arrived. It’s time for bluebonnet transplants, too, but keep watch for pesky bugs that love to nibble on them.

Prune your perennials. Trim back those perennials that have ugly deadheads after the freeze; perk up cool-season annuals with a bit of high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Put in trees, tend to grasses

Winter is the best season for putting in those trees that have been dancing in dreams since last spring. Plant living Christmas trees outdoors in a shady location after giving them a week to adjust to the cooler outdoor weather.

Mow winter weeds and water lawns thoroughly if rainfall doesn’t hit at least 2 inches in January. Lightly fertilize fescue and bluegrass and overseeded perennial ryegrass.

Plan rose beds, check out equipment

While hard freezes still occur in south Texas, the arrival of mid-February usually means the last freezing temperatures can be anticipated. It’s also the time when gardeners start to plan their rose beds. It’s easy to remember to prune roses on Valentine’s Day.

Heavy mulching now will not only help retain winter moisture in the soil but also introduce air in the soil as it is tilled in to decompose as spring arrives.

Apply pre-emergence herbicides and save muscle strain in April. Fertilize trees, shrubs and vines now so nutrients can be absorbed before spring growth begins.

Check those irrigation systems and make repairs or additions. Check out mowers, weed whackers and other engine systems that will be cranking up in spring; repair shops are usually more available now.

Smell beginning of spring

March shifts gardening into a higher gear. Gardeners can smell spring coming about this time and do not hesitate to jump into gardening with the longer days. There will be a lot of weeding this month.

Divide fall perennials and ornamental grasses so they can reestablish before the hot days of summer. Look for new growth and cut back dead foliage from ornamental grasses. Make sure annual and perennial flowers get a bit of fertilizer.

Amend soil, finish pruning

Start adding larger quantities of organic matter, but be careful not to significantly alter the soil. If you add both sand and organic matter to clay soil, the largest, strongest adobe brick known to humanity may result. Pine bark and compost perk soil up without altering the soil base. Let the winter moisture carry plants through March.

If pruning has not been finished, now is the time to finish up. Freeze-damaged perennials should not be pruned until new growth has begun.

Crank mower, then fertilize

Time to crank the mower for San Augustine and Bermuda grass; mow 1 inch lower than ended last year to remove winter-damaged foliage and make way for spring growth. Hold the fertilizer until April. Fertilize vegetable gardens with high-nitrogen granular fertilizer. Check fruit and nut crops – insects and diseases also like March.

Begin planning, planting and preparing

It is time to start planning, planting and preparing new gardens. Often, spring brings dreams of butterflies, birds and squirrels. Provide plants that will provide food, shelter and a place to raise young.

Even deer are welcome wildlife companions if care is given to deer-resistant plants such as dogwood, cast-iron plant, lantana, split-leaf philodendron, vitex, star jasmine, hummingbird bush and hundreds of other desirable plants that will grow beautifully in the garden while being unwelcome to grazing.

Spending time during these winter months in preparation for spring will bring you a great deal more time to enjoy all that comes with gardening.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at

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Brigade arms Garden City seniors with cyber security tips

<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 15

Senior citizens are known for respecting authority and being trusting. It usually works in their favor except when it comes to identity theft.

Zana Macki, a four-year presenter from the Michigan Attorney General’s Senior Brigade, spoke to a small group about the topic at the Garden City Public Library Tuesday. The Brigade has been in existence since 2009.

“These scammers are targeting seniors,” Macki said. “Seniors only make up 13 percent of the population but one third of consumer fraud is committed against seniors. The scammers know what buttons to push.”

Scammers can be articulate and seniors often welcome a friendly voice at the end of the telephone line when they call.

“Technology can be friend or foe,” she said.

Although Macki mentioned the recent security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, she said that her talk wasn’t designed to address those two companies specifically because it is still under investigation. Identity theft occurs because thieves have the right personal information.

“They may take your charge cards, clone them and empty out your account,” she said. “They may try to open up new accounts.”

Become aware

Macki said that consumers need to become aware. She, too, was a victim of identity theft 10 years ago.

“You feel violated,” Macki said.

Filing a police report to develop a paper trail and shutting down that account is essential. She advises consumers to copy the fronts and backs of credit cards and put it in a safe place, as well as retain bank account numbers, and contact credit reporting agencies regularly.

“Don’t ever give your Social Security number out,” Macki said. “That’s a gateway for these thieves to steal your identity. Beware of someone who says they are from the bank asking for that number.”

She also asked the audience: “What’s in your wallet? Aren’t we an open book for thieves?”

She advised shredding documents with a cross shredder which does a better job.

“Don’t put everything in one bag, either,” she said. “They are piece-mealing somehow.”

Macki also told residents to not give out their Zip Code numbers or phone numbers to cashiers at stores because that information might be sold for marketing purposes.

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Houseplant tips; ground cover that attracts hummingbirds

In the Garden

Houseplants are a must for every home. They provide a link with nature, add beauty and, most important, play a key role in purifying and adding oxygen to the air inside the home. The problem is to find attractive houseplants that will thrive in our low-light conditions in the Pacific Northwest, especially if your abode lacks big west or south windows.

Fortunately, provided a room has enough light to read a newspaper, there are some incredible houseplants that will perform admirably. Pothos (Scindapsus aureus) is a vining plant with glossy green leaves splashed with yellow that glows. Dracaena is another great choice for low-light conditions. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, but a favorite of mine is D. “Lime Lite,” with bright, golden foliage that glows in a dark corner.

An old-time favorite often used in Victorian mansions is the cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). Every bit as adaptable to dark conditions is the mother-in-law tongue (Sansevieria). This attractive, sword-leaved variegated plant is indestructible, but it’s definitely not a good plant to have around pets, children and, evidently, mothers-in-law. Its common name comes from its capacity to paralyze the tongue of anyone who tries to eat it.

Finally, if you want an attractive choice that not only does well in low light but is also famous for cleaning the air, peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is your plant. Studies have found that Spaths purify air better than any other houseplant. They’re also one of the few houseplants that will actually bloom in low light, featuring white calla lily-like blossoms that turn green with age.

The key to keeping houseplants flourishing in dimly lit rooms is to water very sparingly. Give them a drink only when the leaves begin to droop or the pot feels light. Your variegated plant may fade if left in dark conditions for a long time. If that happens, send the plant off for a little RR by placing it near a bright window, out of direct sunlight. Before you know it, your plant will be restored and ready to go back to add beauty and cheer in the darker rooms in your home.

Give Rufous hummingbirds the blues

If you’re looking for a showy, small-scale ground cover for a sunny location, Lithodora diffusa is an excellent choice. The vines of this dark-green evergreen will cover from 4 to 6 feet, and beginning in early spring they are covered with brilliant blue flowers that often continue blooming until midsummer.

Lithodora looks fantastic in a rockery, planted in gaps between stones, or spilling over a wall. Best of all, hummingbirds love the flowers, which begin blooming right when the Rufous hummingbirds return from their winter migration to Mexico. Don’t be worried if the Lithodora in your garden turns pitch black before winter ends this year. This often happens after the plant suffers a hard freeze, such as the one we experienced earlier. The vines may have been killed, but the roots are hardy to around zero degrees. In early March, simply cut the blackened vines back to about an inch above the root mass. Your Lithodora will grow back strong and attractive, and may even produce a smattering of blooms on the new growth this summer.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on 5.

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