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Archives for January 19, 2014

Missoula County course offers business tips to prospective farmers

When Bryce Christiaens and his partner began Native Ideals Seed Company in the Jocko Valley, the duo planned to sell native wildflower seed for large-scale restoration projects.

Six years later, they grow a variety of flowers and harvest the seeds mainly for retail sale to people interested in water-wise landscaping. To do so, they had to change their business plan and perfect the way they grow and harvest through a series of modifications, Christiaens told participants in an Envisioning Your Farm class at the Montana State University Extension’s Missoula office.

Today, Native Ideals seeds can be found in about 80 retail locations across the state in packets that a grant helped fund and produce, he said.

Tapping into other state resources, such as Made in Montana, also helped boost sales and connections, he added.

Saturday’s class was the first in a four-part series of Planning for On-Farm Success courses offered by the Community Food Agriculture Coalition of Missoula County, which partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several other groups to put on the series.

Christiaens’ presentation highlighted what class participants should consider when setting goals for their own operations and for coming up with a plan that will help them secure financing, said Annie Heuscher, the organization’s program manager.

The CFAC’s mission is to increase local food in the food system, which means helping new farmers be successful, Heuscher said.

Doing so is especially important considering that the average age of Montana farmers is 57 to 59 years old, Heuscher said, and most of the agricultural land across the state is expected to change hands in the next 20 years.


People are interested in picking up the torch. However, many don’t realize the resources that are available or how to access them, she said. “It’s hard for people to know where to start.”

Knowing that there’s interest in starting farms, the CFAC is offering the classes for the first time to help get people connected to resources they need and to keep agriculture as a viable part of the economy, she said.

Top hurdles for new farmers – whether they are young, middle-aged or old – are acquiring land and financing, Heuscher said.

Many new farmers don’t have the benefit of generational land and they need to find their own, which can be a difficult process because of development pressures, she said.

More than 60 beginning farmers are signed up for the CFAC’s Land Link program, which connects beginning farmers with land that’s available, showing there is interest from people who don’t currently own land and want to farm, she added.

Financing also is tough for beginning farmers to secure, and one of the classes will focus on different resources for better understanding finances so farmers can do more with smaller budgets, Heuscher said.

The first class was helpful to Hunter Lydon, who decided after a year-and-a-half of working through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms that farming is his calling.

Hearing from another farmer who’s successful and being told about resources bolstered his plans to start a farm in the Potomac area, where he and his partners plan to grow medicinal herbs, mushrooms, ginseng and more.

“I really want to grow my own food, know where it comes from,” the

37-year-old Missoula newcomer said.

While his heart is dedicated to the work, his brain is not as strong as it could be on the business side of things, he said, and the class was helpful in giving him resources.

“If anything, it’s made me think about more things,” he said, adding he hopes to begin growing this year.


Mary Bricker and Noah Jackson already are growing mixed vegetables and have laying hens and feeder hens, but are pursuing their dream of a pick-your-own berry operation.

The young couple decided after growing their own food last year at their H-Brace Farm that they should expand their operation to make the time and effort more worthwhile. Both are biologists, but said they would like to become full-time farmers.

In order to expand, they needed more land, but couldn’t find any they could afford in Missoula because of the development-driven prices. Recently, they purchased a spread in Hamilton and are transitioning.

“It’s a long-term game,” Jackson said, but one they’re willing to play for the community connection and environmental impact they can make.

The class enabled them to think more constructively about different pieces of the business canvass, such as what their market would be and managing risks, Bricker said.

“Getting some good tools and framework to put that all together,” she added.

Joe Naiman-Sessions dreams of starting his own farm on 10 acres in the Helena area and came to the class to learn more about tapping into financing from both traditional and non-traditional sources.

Other than backyard experimenting, he doesn’t have an ag background.

“But I have a passion for food and growing,” the 28-year-old said.

Ideally, he would have an orchard, poultry and a market garden that would keep him busy full time.

Completing worksheets on goal setting and information from the class will be helpful, he said. “I took pages and pages of notes.”

People can still register for upcoming classes, which include marketing your products, Feb. 8; planning for financial success, March 1; managing risks and assets, March 22.

To help facilitate people’s participation, the classes are offered in person and online, Heuscher said, adding she’s pleased by the turnout so far.

Participation in the classes will provide people with a network and support in between sessions to flesh out their ideas, she added. “What we’re hoping will come out of it is to really build a partnership between all the people who will be presenting.”

For class costs and more detailed information, go to or contact Heuscher at or 406-763-6862.

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EPA webinar highlights Norman for environmental accomplishments

When people know their jobs count, they can make a difference. Starting in 2005, the city set a course to implement green strategies, in part by energizing employees in every department to look for ways to conserve energy, reduce waste, and make Norman more environmentally friendly.

The city’s Green Team is made up of city employees from every department, and nowhere have results been more successful than in the utility division.

On Thursday, Norman’s efforts were recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as the city was featured in a nationwide webinar.

“It’s a huge honor. There are thousands of wastewater treatment plants just in Oklahoma alone,” said Utilities Director Ken Komiske. “For them to pick us is an acknowledgment that Norman is proactive. We have the support of council and our customers. We couldn’t do it without them.”

The webinar highlighted Norman’s energy efficiency accomplishments and green initiatives which resulted in the reduction of an average monthly electric bill from $43,00 to $30,000.

Water Reclamation Facility Superintendent Steven D. Hardeman told webinar viewers that city green initiatives in 2007 caused utility employees to look at the energy management at the southside water reclamation facility — the city’s sewer plant.

Power is one of the highest expenditures at the plant which uses advanced secondary biological treatment of wastewater. Employees who work in the plant and have daily experience made some of the first power saving suggestions, then the city’s partnership with Garver Engineers resulted in more ideas and more savings.

Hardeman said that 63 percent of the operations and maintenance cost at the wastewater treatment plant is utility cost, and 85 percent of the electric used is spent at the aeration basin.

Microbes clean Norman’s wastewater, eating harmful bacteria and other waste products so that the reclaimed water can be released into the river where nature finishes off the job of cleaning and filtering the water. Just like human beings, those microbes need oxygen to survive and the more they work, the more oxygen they use.

The aeration basin is infused with dissolved oxygen to meet the varying demand of the microbes. The city learned that savings are produced by taking the system operations off auto mode, where it goes full force all the time, and putting it onto manual.

The city saved more than $24,000 per year just by changing procedure. Then, in 2009, it partnered with Garver and found a long term solution by reducing overall aeration energy usage and peak demand. By managing use to avoid peak hours and take advantage of a lower kilowatt cost, even more money was saved.

A grant from the Department of Energy for $1.1 million along with an investment by the city of $1.2 million paid to replace the heat exchangers to bio-efficient heat exchangers in additional to all of the electrical work at the aeration basin.

Hardeman said the mission to go green resulted in utility employees gaining a new understanding of how the system works. The city reduced its peak demand charges and saved in electric costs, but the process also opened their eyes to look at other equipment that had a peak demand they had not known about. They can now operate according to peak demand charges and reduce the kilowatt price tag.

Environmental Services Coordinator Debbie Smith reported on the city’s many green initiatives during the webinar. The Environmental Citizen Advisory Board was appointed to study possible improvements in the city’s environmental policies in 2006. In 2007, ECAB made several recommendations.

Goals include reduction of emissions, adoption and enforcement of land use policies, increased transportation options, increased use of clean, alternative energy, sustainable building, fuel efficiency, water conservation and more.

As a result, Norman increased its fleet of CNG vehicles and opened a CNG fueling station, adopted a native planting policy for city landscaping, hosted rain barrel workshops, created a water quality protection zone to buffer the Lake Thunderbird watershed, and adopted a fertilizer ordinance.

One of the most remarkable accomplishments was the gray water ordinance. Norman was the first city in the state to adopt a gray water ordinance to allow residential water reuse from showers, tubs and washing machines for irrigation purposes. Now, the city is working on an educational campaign to teach plumbers and others how to run piping for gray water use.

This month, the city approved year-round odd/even watering as a water conservation measure.

Water reuse continues to be at the top of the city’s agenda. Currently, the University of Oklahoma golf course uses reclaimed water for irrigation and reclaimed water is used at the southside water reclamation facility, but Norman wants to use reclaimed water in more applications, including on its compost.

Public education initiatives include Water Wise workshops, poster contests in coordination with local elementary schools, tips in the newspaper and more.

Recycling initiatives and hazardous waste collection events help residents live a more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

A new lighting ordinance saves energy and reduces commercial light pollution while the city’s installation of LED traffic signals and street lights is racking up even more savings. Two brand new LEED certified fire stations are more energy efficient, and the greenbelt commission and tree board work to protect green spaces and trees within Norman, while the Bicycle Advisory Board has increased the number of bike lanes and is updating the Bicycle Master Plan. Norman has been recognized as a tree friendly and bicycle friendly city.

Coming soon, the Southside Water Reclamation facility will be upgraded as it enters the Phase II design which will add UV disinfection, odor control, and replacement of equipment that has been in operation since 1965.

Komiske said UV disinfection will use more power, but the cleaner discharge will be better for the environment. A public hearing on the proposed Phase II upgrades of the Water Reclamation Facility is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at city hall, 201 W. Gray.

Joy Hampton




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10 for the Road

Getting outside

CONNECTICUT The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s “No Child Left Inside” Winter Festival is Feb. 1, with ice fishing, snowshoeing, wildlife tracking, a bonfire, and more, at Burr Pond State Park in Torrington. Free.

‘Male Intellect’?

DELAWARE From Jan. 23-26, Delaware Theater Company presents Robert Dubac’s The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? It’s a one-man, multi-character show that tackles the battle of the sexes with precision and wit.

Community winterfest

MAINE Celebrate winter with ice and snow carvings, music, hot food, family crafts, and winter fun at the annual Camden Winterfest, Feb. 1, at Camden Public Library and Amphitheatre.

Jews in the Civil War

MARYLAND Learn how the Civil War was a crucible for American Jewish identity, and how it laid the groundwork for Jews’ integration and Americanization. “Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War” is at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore through Feb. 28.

Winter birding

MASSACHUSETTS Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend in Gloucester is Jan. 31-Feb. 2. See loons, grebes, gannets, sea ducks, alcids, and gulls gather. Join experts on a tour of Cape Ann’s birding hot spots – including a sea trip on a whale-watch boat.

Art and football

NEW JERSEY Just in time for the Super Bowl, the Barsky Gallery in Hoboken showcases “Art’s Salute to Football”, an exhibit of football sculptures: Full-size footballs reimagined by artists. Jan. 25-Feb. 8.

Winter carnival

NEW YORK The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, begun in 1897, is Jan. 31-Feb. 9 in the Adirondacks. Enjoy winter sports, live music, craft shows, a wide array of food, a parade, and fireworks. This winter destination village sits in two upstate counties, Essex and Franklin.

Quilts on display

PENNSYLVANIA At Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, handmade quilts are competing for more than $1,500 in prizes in eight categories: traditional, applique, creative, Amish, quilted clothing, student, kids only, and potluck. All quilt entries are displayed in the Village Gazebo.

Boat show

RHODE ISLAND The 21st annual Providence Boat Show is Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. It showcases boats for every pocketbook.

Home and garden

VIRGINIA Enjoy three days full of ideas for your home and gardening needs Feb. 7-9 at the Greater Richmond Home and Garden Show. See remodeling solutions, landscaping ideas, the latest in interior design trends, furnishings, and how to make your home more environmentally friendly!

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Sales underway in Phase II of Lakoya at Lely Resort

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Stock Development has released for sale Phase II of Lakoya in Lely Resort. The second phase is the final single-family home neighborhood in Lely Resort.

Stock Development will be hosting a Grand Opening Weekend Event Feb. 22 and 23. This will be the first chance for the public to tour Lakoya’s 16 new furnished models and the completion of a two-year expansion and renovation of the Players Club Spa.

In Phase II of Lakoya, Stock is marketing 216 new homes, available in seven series of floor plans ranging from 1,882 to 4,155 square feet under air.

All of the homes will feature the extraordinary standard features packages that Stock is known for. Stock was named the 2013 Collier Building Industry Association (CBIA) Builder of the Year, the second time the company has won the award in the past five years. It is also a member of this year’s nationwide Builder 100 list and Lely Resort recently won its sixth consecutive Community of the Year Award from CBIA.

“Lakoya has been an amazing success story,” said Tim Clark, vice president of sales at Lely Resort. “We have all of the homes under construction within Phase I and only a few homes remain. Several are available for immediate occupancy.”

Lakoya is a meticulously planned 242-acre enclave with sculptured landscaping, classical gardens, choreographed fountains and paved walking paths. It is surrounded by subtropical woodlands and The Classics 18-hole golf course, which features gentle undulations and tree-lined fairways. An elaborate series of lakes has been crafted throughout the neighborhood, giving the homes an array of water, golf course and nature preserve views.

Lakoya residents have access to Naples most comprehensive amenities package. Lely Resort boasts three championship golf courses designed by some of the greatest architects in the game — Robert Trent Jones Sr., Lee Trevino and Gary Player, as well as two golf clubhouses.

Stock is undertaking a two-year expansion plan that will dramatically increase the size of The Players Club Spa. The Players Club Spa provides an extraordinary value for nongolfers with an abundance of activities coordinated by a full-time staff. It has already completed 13 new tennis courts in the new Tennis Complex, as well as the new Spa Fitness Center, which debuts this weekend.

“Stock’s expansion plan is nearing completion and greatly increases the size of the entire Players Club Spa and ensure its amenity offerings are the most comprehensive to be found,” said Melissa Speach, director of lifestyle. “We are adding nearly 13,000 square feet under air to the existing structure. Work is nearing completion on a second resort pool.”

The new pool is in addition to a 7,500-square-foot resort style swimming pool plus a 2,500-square-foot exercise and lap pool with cabanas. There is a new full kitchen at the Tiki Bar, which has seven 50-inch flat screen TVs and a tennis facility. A Bark Park is also open for the exclusive use of members who are dog owners.

Stock Development has received more than 400 local, state and national industry awards for its architectural design, amenity complexes, interior designs and sales and marketing performance.

Lely’s central sales center is at 8020 Grand Lely Drive, with entrances on U.S. 41 East and Collier Boulevard. From Interstate 75, take Exit 101 (Collier Boulevard) south five miles to Grand Lely Drive. The sales center is ahead one-half mile on the left. Online at Stock Development is on Facebook at

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Grow bog plants and moisture lovers to stop your garden flooding

Choose your plants

In winter, do soil preparation and put in paths or other hard landscaping, then start planting in spring as moisture-loving plants become available. April is the best time, though pot-grown plants can be added all through the summer even when they are in flower.

For a wild and natural look: choose native moisture-loving species and their close cultivated relatives such as lythrum, lysimachia, epilobium, marsh marigold, Equisetum scirpoides, flag iris, gunnera and bogbean. 

For a cultivated/glamorous look: choose monarda, sanguisorba (pink, fluffy bottlebrush flowers), hosta, astilbe, rheum, Primula rosea, P denticulata and candelabra primulas such as P japonica and P pulverulenta.

For partial shade: choose hosta, primrose and ferns, especially ostrich fern and soleirolia (the ground-hugging, mind-your-own-business plant).

Winter interest

Most bog gardens look their best from mid- to late summer so in winter, when the perennials have died down, you need to add visual interest with a sculpture, gnarled tree stump or natural-looking ornaments. There are plants for winter effect: if space permits, plant red-, orange- or yellow-stemmed shrubby willows and either coppice them every two to three years in spring, or grow one as a tree and pollard (prune) it regularly so it has a trunk topped with a spray of young shoots. 

Hydrangeas will thrive in the damp area around the bog garden. Their late flowers will dry out naturally on the plant and last well into autumn. 

Make full use of early spring species such as marsh marigold (and its cultivated varieties with double flowers), early primulas and peltiphyllum (pink flowers in spring before the leaves appear and in autumn, large saucers on stick-shaped leaves that take on colourful tints). 

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Moorings Park at Grey Oaks’ floor plans offer a spacious solution

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The garden home residences at Moorings Park at Grey Oaks provide retirees an opportunity to downsize to a spacious, elegantly appointed home in a maintenance-free environment. At the same time, because Moorings Park at Grey Oaks offers residents the combination of a vibrant country club lifestyle and an ongoing continuum of health care, the community eliminates the need to move more than once.

The two, two-bedroom plus den, two-and-a-half bath floor plans at Moorings Park at Grey Oaks include a private elevator vestibule, an entry courtyard, a great room, adjoining island kitchen and breakfast area, a wet bar, vaulted ceilings and a large master suite with walk-in closets and a master bath. Both floor plans offer lanais and balconies with outdoor kitchens. The plans come with premium quality finishes, including porcelain tile flooring in the living areas, wood flooring in the den, carpeted bedrooms, granite kitchen counter tops, marble counter tops in the baths, and maple cabinetry in various styles and stains. Products from high quality brand names such as Kohler, Jenn-Air, Kitchen Craft, Dynasty, Omega, Keyes Granite, Mohawk Flooring and others are included.

Early buyers are invited to make their finish selections at the Moorings Park at Grey Oaks Design Center located within Grey Oaks Country Club. Optional features and finishes are available.

The 3,007-square-foot Indigo garden home floor plan is base-priced at $1,205,800. This floor plan is designed for those who love to entertain and includes an impressive gallery hallway, a formal dining room, a gourmet island kitchen with island bar seating and a 528-square-foot covered lanai with conversation and dining areas and a fully equipped outdoor kitchen.

The 2,873-square-foot Verde floor plan is base-priced at $1,152,100. This plan includes a gallery hallway, dining and breakfast areas, a gourmet island kitchen with island bar seating and a covered lanai with conversation and dining areas and an outdoor kitchen.

Adjacent to Estuary at Grey Oaks, at the corner of Airport-Pulling Road and Golden Gate Parkway, Moorings Park at Grey Oaks presents Mediterranean-inspired architecture that celebrates the outdoors with courtyards and views of fountains and Southwest Florida’s natural landscape.

One-hundred percent of the reservations required to begin Phase I construction have been secured and construction of Phase I is expected to begin first quarter 2014. Phase I will include construction of the community’s first 32 residences in four buildings and the completion of the Aqua Gardens that will feature a resort-style pool with landscaping. Total build-out of Moorings Park at Grey Oaks will be completed over four phases with all 96 residences completed at the end of Phase III and the clubhouse completed at the end of Phase IV.

Moorings Park at Grey Oaks presents an opportunity to enjoy a holistic approach to living well in an enclave of elegant garden homes that provides the high-quality continuum of care and lifestyle programs of a renowned retirement community along with the amenities and activities of Grey Oaks Country Club. A Sports Membership at Grey Oaks Country Club is included with each Moorings Park at Grey Oaks residence.

The Moorings Park at Grey Oaks campus will feature three gardens 200 feet wide and 400 feet long designed by JRL Design Studios of Naples. In addition to the Aqua Gardens that will be completed in Phase I, the design includes the Jasmine Gardens that will feature a butterfly and a fragrance garden, and the Viridian Gardens that will provide an open green space adjacent to the community’s Grand Place which includes the community’s clubhouse, the Center for Healthy Living, an Extended Congregate Care Licensed Assisted Living Center and Memory Care Center. The clubhouse will feature casual and fine dining venues, as well as a lounge, library, pool, spa and salon. Plans call for the open multipurpose lawn areas to be finished with fine grasses intended to host activities, including bocce ball and lawn bowling. A central pedestrian and golf cart corridor lined with royal palm trees will link the three gardens and the community’s three neighborhoods.

The Moorings Park at Grey Oaks lifestyle includes a continuum of care designed to provide experiences customized to each resident right on campus. The community’s 7,208-square-foot Center for Healthy Living will offer doctor’s office visits, a fitness center, outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Moorings Park’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Gloth, a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society, will oversee Moorings Park at Grey Oaks’ fellowship-trained Geriatricians and a Physician Services Program designed to provide participants patient-centered medical care on campus at the Center for Healthy Living through the community’s Primary Care and Primary Care Plus programs. Assisted Living and Memory Care suites are slated to provide extensive wellness programming, recreation and private dining. Residents will have the additional benefit of access to many of the amenities at Moorings Park’s Goodlette-Frank Road campus, including the Center for Healthy Living’s fitness, theater, spa and salon services, dining at the Trio dining venue and an invitation to the Bower Chapel Concert Series and worship services.

Reservations for residences at Moorings Park at Grey Oaks are being accepted. The Moorings Park at Grey Oaks sales center is within the Grey Oaks sales center at 2406 Grey Oaks Drive N. Online at visit

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GARDENING TIPS: Earl May Shows Off Winter House Plants

Posted on: 8:02 am, January 18, 2014, by , updated on: 05:00am, January 18, 2014

Earl May gardening experts showed the different plants that flourish even in the dead of winter.  Many different floral house plants can grow all winter long and can keep the inside of the house looking green.

Earl May experts said winter house plants should be misted and spritzed but not heavily watered.  These plants should stay moist but never be dry or drowning in water.

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Extension Connection: January Garden Tasks

By Rhonda Ferree
Horticulture Educator,
University of Illinois Extension

Posted Jan. 18, 2014 @ 10:50 am

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Tips from Toby: Home, lawn & garden essentials

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Toby Tobin has spent the past 30 years fielding questions about the home, lawn and garden. Now he’s put together some tips for each month of the year. Here are some great tips for January. Many you can do while you’re just walking around the house and others just take a matter of minutes but they’ll make a big difference at your home. 

Let’s talk about your windows. That’s where so many of the cold drafts come in our homes. Make sure the windows are closed and latched properly. Fix any windows that are misaligned. Also if you have storm windows, close them. Just these three simple steps can make it a lot more comfortable and save you almost 15% on your heating Bill.

Turn down your thermostat just one degree. This easy tip won’t change your comfort level much but will save you another 5 percent on your heating bill. Be sure to change your furnace filter. Check it for a bunch of build up and replace it regularly. A dirty filter makes your furnace run less efficiently and can even shut the whole system down.

Check out my favorite seed catalogue companies online. This is the time to start planning your spring herbs, veggies and more. You can even grow some of your favorites in patio containers. Growing your own food is much more delicious and saves some cash on your grocery bill.

Call our friends at Anthony Plumbing, Heating and Cooling and schedule a water heater flush. This simple step of getting a tune up and draining out sediment build up can extend the life of your water heater by up to two years. Plus if you’re water heater is gas it’s a good time to make sure there are no leaks.

For the outside of the house, pick up those piles of leaves that have blown up close to your foundation. This is a great place for critters to hide and get in your home. Plus they’re a fire hazard. Also if any of your ivy or plants have attached themselves to your home, this is a great time to pull them down now while they are dormant and easier to pull away.

We’re all busy but if you keep up on my easy tips each month you won’t believe how much you can save!

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Seattle puts a lot of art into garden show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Seattle’s really big garden show, the second biggest in the U.S., is just around the corner and we have a great prize for you to win – a three-night hotel package that comes with all sorts of perks and goodies.

But first, let me bring you up to speed on the show itself, which is called the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

It was started in 1989, which makes the one coming up the 26th. The event is held in the same spot every year, the Washington State Convention Centre on Pike Street in downtown Seattle.

The show will be held for five days from Feb. 5 to 9.

About 70,000 people attend, including many from Canada, which makes it is the second biggest show in the U.S. with only the Philadelphia Flower Show, the world’s oldest garden show, being bigger.

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

For gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle show signals the imminent arrival of spring. It has become a rite of passage in many ways for gardeners to flock to the show to get a whiff of spring because displays always contain lovely drifts of daffodils and fragrant hyacinths and other spring flowers.

Highlights at the show will again include at least 25 professionally landscaped display gardens as well as a marketplace comprising more than 300 exhibitors, selling a wide range of garden products, plus a comprehensive seminar program with dozens of speakers from the U.S. and Canada.

More about all of that in a minute. Letme tell you more details about our special prize draw.

Here’s what you can win:

– three nights at the Crowne Plaza;

– three gift certificates worth $200 each for the restaurants, Metropolitan Grill, El Gaucho and Daniel’s Broiler;

– Two tickets to the Opening Night Party on Feb. 4;

– Four two-day passes to the show.

To enter, all you have to do is go here.

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The theme for this year’s show is Art in Bloom, which means the 25 main display gardens will all attempt to interpret the theme in a creative way.

The most obvious approach, of course, would be to look to artists who have made a name for themselves painting gardens or scenes in gardens.

Kristy Ditmore, of Under the Arbour Landscape Design, will seize the opportunity to do a Monet garden in which she will explore the idea of which came first – “art as an inspiration for the garden or the garden as inspiration for the art.”

She says her Monet Dreamed Here garden will be a “tribute to both” as garden and art becomes “a unified expression capturing mood, composition, texture, colour, sound and light.”

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Other designers will be exploring the theme through a broader interpretation of the word “art”.

For instance, there will be a Poetree: Rhythm and Rhyme garden, featuring a central, sculptural “poetree” decorated with poems, set against the light from a pale crescent moon. Sounds romantic.

The poetry will be the work of high school students involved in the Hands-for-a-Bridge program that promotes dialogue and understanding through artistic expression.

MOFA (Museum of Foliar Art) will be a garden that uses plants to create three “living walls”, each with a different style, as landscape paintings. The display will also include large installations of sculptural topiary and”moss mobiles” as a form of kinetic art.

Tranquility, beauty and calming flower colour will all be key components of many of the show gardens with a strong emphasis on creating relaxing, stress-free, peaceful sanctuaries.

Peace in Motion – Sanctuary of Peace, for example, will be an “Asian contemporary meditation garden” witha hand-crafted Buddha statue and stone dragon heads, all placed in a typical Pacific Northwest setting full of native plants.

Titles for other gardens with a similar theme include The Art of Retreat, The Art of Zen, A Sanctuary of Tranquility for Everyday Life, and Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Garden Aesthetic: Celebrating Traditions, Transforming Visions.

Orchids will figure prominently throughout the show. One garden will feature more than 50 “shades of orchids” in a bid to create a giant painter’s palette in a rainbow of colours.

Darwin’s Muse – Art Imitating Life will take a more art-science tack by using blown glass Darwin orchids to pay tribute to Darwin’s hypothesis that ultimately lead to the discovery in 1907 of the gigantic Congo-moth.

One garden that makes no reference to art or artistic endeavour but is clearly creating art in a garden is Circles All Around Us.

This will use white flowers, white variegated foliage and white containers to build a collector’s garden in which the circle theme will be emphasized through a circular patio, large vertical iron rings with smaller sculptural rings inside. Sounds intriguing.

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The seminar program has been beefed up this year with more than 30 new speakers added. These experts will offer tips and insights on a wide variety of topics from succulents, edible plants, gardening with chickens to small-space vegetable gardens, the art of ikebana, and good garden design.

Other popular features at the show include The Vintage Garden Market, where designers will show how to make creative use of recycled materials and products; 14 lavish small-space container gardens; an ikebana display, and the Funky Junk section, where high school horticulture students present unique garden displays.

Terry O’Loughlin, producer of the show, believes the event has become so established over the years that people look forward to it as a way of marking the start of a new season.

“It is a signal that spring is right around the corner. We know people look forward to it because they have even been giving tickets as Christmas presents and using them as stocking stuffers.”

O’Loughlin says the show has become a “gathering place” for gardeners, a place to recharge their enthusiasm and get their creative juices flowing for another season.

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Display garden at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

“Our goal has been to expand what we have always done, only try to do it better. We have made a special effort to attract the younger generation. We know they are our future and without them the whole gardening industry will be in peril.”

O’Loughlin says it is a mistake to assume that just because people become homeowners, they will become gardeners.

“That is not always the case. What we have to do is invite them to discover the joy and fun of gardening as a lifestyle. We need to show them that it is possible to enjoy being with your family and enjoy the outdoors without a lot of angst through gardening and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”

The most significant trend, he says, is that people are coming back to their gardens. “There is a good feeling throughout the gardening industry that we have turned a corner and things are moving back in a more positive direction.”

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What: Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

When: Feb. 5 to 9

Where: Washington State Convention Centre, Seattle.

Show times: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Highlights: 25 show gardens, 300-exhibit marketplace, seminar program, children’s garden area, plant market.

Admission: $22 at the door; $31 two-day pass; $10 half-day; $5 13-17 year olds. Free for children under 12 accompanied by an adult.

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