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Archives for February 28, 2014

Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour announces 2014 homes

Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014 10:15 am

Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour announces 2014 homes

The Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour has announced the eight homes that will be featured for the 2014 Tour. On Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 10-12, visitors may tour these beautiful lakeside residences, which range from a comfy cottage to a 9,000-square-foot stately home. Five of the homes are located in Franklin County, and three are in Bedford County.

“We are pleased to be able to announce the homes that will be on the 2014 Tour so early in the year,” said Denise Tuttle, executive chair of the SML Charity Home Tour. “We are especially grateful to the eight homeowners, who so generously will open their homes for three days this fall to benefit local charities.”

The SML Charity Home Tour is the only tour in the nation that visitors can access by car or by boat. Six of this year’s homes are located on the Roanoke River channel, and two are on the Blackwater River channel.

Homes on the Roanoke River (and channel marker numbers):

  • Keith Brownell and Jennifer Shaw, Isle of Pines, Moneta (R-20)
  • Charles Diederich, Mountain View Shores, Huddleston (near W-1 on Witcher Creek)
  • Patrick J. and Donna A. Massa, Montego Bay, off-water, Moneta (near R-15)
  • Jeff and Diane Munn, off Lakewood Forest Rd., Moneta (R-27)
  • George and Michele Moonan, Winding Waters near Park Place, Moneta (R-23)
  • Paul and Nancy Van Dyke, near Smith Mountain Lake airport, Moneta (R-20)

Homes on the Blackwater River:

  • Mark and Jacqueline Oliver, The Oaks near Boxwood Green, Wirtz (B-26)
  • Bob and Pat Wetherel, Contentment Island, Union Hall (B-11)

“This year’s tour showcases large and small homes, brand new and remodeled homes,” said Kay Allen, the tour’s home selection chair. “We’re excited to offer tour visitors many great ideas for decorating and landscaping, as well as a look at lake-living lifestyles.”

The local charities that will benefit from 2014 Home Tour are Agape, Bedford Pregnancy Center, CASA of Central Virginia, Feeding America Southwest Virginia, Free Clinic of Franklin County, Lake Christian Ministries, SML Good Neighbors and STEP, Inc. (Support to Eliminate Poverty).

Each of the eight participating charities provides volunteers to help administer the tour and receives a share of the proceeds, which come from sponsorships, as well as ticket sales. Participating charitable organizations qualify by delivering services to people in need in the Smith Mountain Lake area. In its 24-year history, the tour has provided more than $3.7 million to local charity operations.

Submitted by Carla Laseter


Friday, February 28, 2014 10:15 am.

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Dream Home Showcase offers remodel ideas

Turning your home into the dream home you have always wanted doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process.

The first step in making this dream come true might be attending the Madison Area Builders Association’s Dream Home Showcase (formerly the Home Products Show) at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Feb. 28-March 2.

This event gives attendees the opportunity to draw on the collective expertise of hundreds of seasoned building professionals. With a stronger economy, and consumer confidence growing, more people are making the decision to invest in their existing homes. Visitors to the Dream Home Showcase will learn about the latest trends, products and services in the home-building industry from more than 150 exhibitors. The showcase is also the perfect place to compare solutions and products and find the best value for your construction budget.

Waunakee exhibitors include Andersen Windows, Classic Custom Homes of Waunakee, Hellenbrand, Premier Builders, Simon Builders, Stagecoach Plumbing, The Groutsmith and Waunakee Remodeling.

“You can see more in a few hours than you could see in several days of traveling to independent showrooms,” added Bill Evers, sales representative for Andersen Windows.

The Latest Trends

Building and remodeling trends are constantly changing. Demand for sustainable design and building, and products made from recycled materials, continues to be strong. As baby boomers downsize into smaller homes/condos, creative storage and organization solutions have never been in higher demand.

Advanced technology is driving many of the new products on display during the show. Smart-home technology is increasingly popular for controlling lighting, stereo systems, TVs, garage doors, thermostats and security systems.

According to Nicole Hartmann, job operations manager at Classic Custom Homes of Waunakee, customers have increased interest in livability and originality, combined energy savings.

“We are a custom-home builder, so we’ve always been focused on singular customer design needs,” said Hartmann. “Now, however, with Pinterest and Houzz, there are a lot more creative solutions and ideas that people bring to us, such as hidden rooms, appliance houses in the kitchen and bookshelf doors.”

“Sun tunnels” are also becoming more popular as a free-energy light source. 

“They are a great way to get natural light in normally dark areas, such as bathrooms or closets, and are easy to install,” added Hartmann.

Seminars and Stage Presentations

How-to seminars going on throughout the showcase include how to select a builder, refacing or replacing cabinets, fireplace design, bath and kitchen remodels, metal roofing, color trends, energy efficiency, outdoor lighting, building a dream floor, innovative use of interior space and creative outdoor landscaping.

For Evers, the best part of the showcase is meeting new people and helping them find solutions for their specific projects. 

“It is fun to interact with customers and learn about their unique projects,” he said. “Providing them with the information they need to make an educated choice is our goal.”

This year’s Dream Home Showcase non-profit partner is the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation, which will receive a portion of the ticket sales. Throughout the show the foundation will conduct free health screenings, raffle off a wine refrigerator, and host coloring contests for children. Other highlights for kids include a Home Depot building project and activities about fire prevention and safety at the Fire Safety House.

For more information about exhibitors, seminar schedules and maps and directions, visit

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Get ready for spring

val0227home and garden showWebThe official start of spring may be three weeks away, but homeowners can get in the mood at the fifth annual Stillwater Home and Garden Show this Saturday, March 1, at Rutherford Elementary School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More than 70 local landscapers and home improvement experts will be on hand to inspire homeowners with exciting project ideas and assist with quality installation at reasonable prices. Admission is free with a nonperishable food donation to Valley Outreach or $3 at the door.
This year’s show includes 23 new exhibitors and three presentations that will help do-it-yourselfers get the most out of their landscaping and remodeling projects. Kitchens of Stillwater’s “Avoiding Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Mistakes” will save homeowners time and money; Vickie Kaiser Designs’ “Easy Ways to Freshen up your Home for Spring” will provide simple ideas to give any home a new look; and St. Croix Valley Landscaping will inspire homeowners with new spring and summer landscaping ideas.
This year Acapulco Restaurant, Dunn Bros. Coffee and Squeeze It will provide food and refreshments throughout the day. KLBB will be broadcasting live from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Stillwater Gazette is a sponsor of the Stillwater Home and Garden Show. It is produced by The Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.
Rutherford Elementary is at 115 Rutherford Road, Stillwater.
For more information visit or contact Dolly Parker at

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Think spring at the PA Garden Show of York this weekend

Kathy Savino takes photos of some of the artwork on display at the Pennsylvania Garden Show of York in Memorial Hall.

Within five minutes of entering the Pennsylvania Garden Show at the York Expo Center Friday, Deborah Maeder of Manchester, Md. was inspired by the many ideas for her garden.

There are at least 125 vendors and eight landscapers who built awe-inspiring gardens with the theme “Once Upon A Time” at this year’s show.

Maeder did not waste any time and took many photos that she wished to use as inspiration for her yard. “I’m here for ideas for my garden and look for unique features,” she said

Her favorite part of the show is the way landscapers used water features and fountains in a small property.

Cher Kondor, consultant for the Pennsylvania Garden Show , is excited that people will be able to see the “Fairy Tale Garden,” which will give York County a hint of spring. “This is a breath of spring. It’s an infusion of beauty, energy, and life.”

The show is split into two areas, one is the market where people can purchase related garden items.

Another is the flower show where people can vote for their favorite plants and flowers. A related companion is between landscapers.

Kondor said the landscapers had four days and $50,000 to create a garden with the fairy theme in mind. “The competition is fierce,” she said.

For those who are looking for a family night out with the flowers, stop by at 5 Saturday.

Children can meet Humpty Dumpty, Little Red Riding Hood and more. Children and adults are encouraged to dress up for the occasion.

A group of artists will also play on the fairy tale theme by painting a mural during the show. Kree Wiede is resident artist of Marketview Arts who was invited to paint during the show.

Wiede said he invited other artists like Jacquie Willoughby of West York, and Nancy Alice Cridland Baum of Lititz in Lancaster County to collaborate on a painting that will be donated to the Jewish Community Center.

Patsy Myers of Elizabethtown checks out the jewelry of Nancy Jane at the Pennsylvania Garden Show Friday.

The Red Brick Bakery and Tea Room of Red Lion joins the show for a second time and will have an Afternoon Garden Tea Party with a three-course meal Saturday. A variety of other events and workshops will be held during the weekend.

Kondor said everything in the show is about showcasing the community through collaboration and education.


What: Pennsylvania Garden Show of York

Where: Memorial Hall at the York Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: Tickets are on sale at or at the door: $10 for adults; seniors, 62 and older, $9; multi-day pass, $15, and children 12 and younger are free.

Best bet: Saturday is Family Fun Night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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LI garden shows cure winter woes

A display garden offers inspiration at the 2013

A display garden offers inspiration at the 2013 Hicks Nurseries Flower Garden Show in Westbury. (Credit: Hicks Nurseries)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnistJessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

bio | email | twitter


Jessica Damiano demonstrates how to repot a houseplant.
Dig This!


Petunia: Repels aphids, leafhoppers, Mexican bean beetles.
16 plants for a healthy garden

FOR FEATHERED FRIENDS: In the absence of snow
Helping critters in winter

Native alternative: Carolina phlox (Phlox Carolina)
Invasive plants and local alternatives

Web links

Volunteers plant groundcover on the side of the
Blog: Garden Detective

With this winter’s big chill and relentless snowfall, I think
I speak for us all when I say we are in dire need of some spring. And I can’t think of a better escape — other than fleeing to the tropics — than hitting up a garden show. Fortunately, we’ve got a perfect pair opening next weekend right here on Long Island.

Dees’ is for displays

The Dees’ Nursery and Florist’s 5th annual Flower and Garden Show kicks off Saturday with plenty of warmth for gardeners’ struggling winter souls. There will be colorful themed displays, including a seaside landscape, vegetable patch, waterfall garden and a space sponsored by HGTV that will showcase the television network’s brand of flowers. Free educational seminars will cover topics such as lawns, container gardening, seaside landscaping, pond maintenance and floral arranging. An herb cooking class is on the roster, too, as well as free planting events for children. The show runs March 8-16 and is open daily from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (closing at 6 p.m. on Sundays). The Dees’ Nursery and Florist is at 69 Atlantic Ave., Oceanside. Call 516-678-3535 or visit for more information.

PHOTOS: Plants that promote a healthy garden | Invasive plants and alternatives | Your garden photos | Helping critters in winter

MORE: Garden Detective blog | Gardening 101

Hicks’ features wide variety

Head north, and Hicks Nurseries’ Flower Garden Show will be basking visitors in its own taste of spring. This year’s theme is “Garden for Life,” with plants and ideas inspired by “health and wellness through the joy of gardening.” Visitors will glean inspiration from indoor display gardens such as the “Relaxation Garden,” rife with palm trees and water features; the “Easy Garden,” which focuses on planting the right plant in the right place for best results; the “Earth Friendly Garden,” which features clever recycling ideas; and the “Learning Garden,” which includes an interactive schoolhouse geared toward children and families.

The 16-day exhibition, set to start Friday, is longer than the 10-day shows previously held at Hicks, so the nursery will be changing its displays during the show’s run to encourage repeat visits. In addition, a schedule of 35 educational seminars will include topics such as grape growing on Long Island, natural lawn care and bees. Children’s activities also are planned.

Hicks Nurseries is at 100 Jericho Tpke., Westbury, and the 24th annual show, which runs through March 23, will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. For more details and a schedule of events, call 516-334-0066 or visit

When attending these and other indoor garden exhibits, be sure to bring a camera and take notes; you’ll want to remember the names of all the plants you loved and jot down plant combinations you’d like to re-create at home.

Be warned, however: Tulips will never bloom alongside dahlias in your own garden. That’s just part of the fantasy.

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Northshore Garden Show and Plant Sale March 14-15 in Covington – The Times

After a winter with icicles, sleet and freezing temperatures, gardens are in need of some revitalization and rejuvenation. The Northshore Garden Show and Plant Sale will be held on March 14 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and on March 15 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the St. Tammany Parish Fairgrounds, 1304 Columbia St. in Covington. Hours on Friday have been extended this year so working gardeners can attend.

“The purpose of our Garden Show and Plant Sale is to kick off the spring season by allowing local vendors to display and sell a wide variety of plants and garden art and accessories,” said Ty Guidroz, chairman of the show along with Julie Deus. “We expect about 3,000 people to attend the sale where they can buy items for their gardens and landscape, receive horticultural education from LSU AgCenter experts and St. Tammany Master Gardeners. Proceeds from our sale go towards the Bobby Fletcher Scholarship fund, as well as many horticultural education projects throughout the Parish. Vendors will display plant materials such as gardenia, azalea, fruit trees and vegetables, too much to list. We will have a garden art market place where vendors will have bird houses, bird feeders, bird baths, wooden furniture plus much more.”

Committee members include Susie Andres, Peggy Goertz, Pam Peltier, Rodney Cross, Wes Goostrey, Kappy Goodwin, Judy Wood, Cindy Manger, Barbara Moore, Lisann Cheaney, Eileen Gremillion, Dede Hanby, Chris Stellingworth, Anne Ciggali, Debi Schoen, Lyn Monteleone, Donna Dicahrry, Kathleen Guidry, Susan L’Hoste, Linda Deslatte, Glenda Nanz, Karla Partridge, Bob Doolittle, Kay Hanson and Pete Hanson.

Gardening and landscaping enthusiasts also will find camellias; hardwood trees; ferns; hanging baskets; herbs; ornamental flowers, both perennials and annuals; vegetable plants such as tomatoes, bell pepper, squash and mirlitons; blueberry bushes; exotic plants; tropical plants; ceramic pots; wooden swings and outdoor furniture; yard art; pine straw and pine straw rakes.

There will be a Plant Corral available free of charge, where shoppers can leave their purchases until they are ready to leave. Plan to bring plant-related problems to plant pathologist Nick Singh, “the Plant Doctor.” There also will be a booth sponsored by the Master Gardeners, with activities for children.

On March 14, speakers at the Garden Show will include Mariah Brock, associate county agent for St. John Parish, speaking at 10 a.m. about Conventional and Organic Insect Control for the Home Gardener; Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter professor/director of the Hammond Research Station presenting 20 Considerations for 2014 Garden/Landscape at noon; Scotty May, county agent for Washington Parish speaking about Watermelons in the Home Garden at 2 p.m.; and Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter consumer horticulturalist talking about Ornamental Grasses for Your Landscape at 4 p.m.

On March 15, presentations will include Chefs Nealy and Keith Frentz of Lola Restaurant doing a cooking demonstration at 10 a.m.; plant breeder Buddy Lee speaking about Southern Living Plant Varieties at noon; and Ron Strahan, LSU AgCenter professor talking about Weed Control and Plant Care at 2 p.m.

St. Tammany Parish Master Gardeners will present Table Talks about Culinary Herbs, Old Garden Roses and Birdscaping on March 14. Topics on Saturday

March 15 will include Softwood Propagation, Birdscaping and Steps to Become a Master Gardener.

Admission to the Northshore Garden and Plant Sale is $5 and includes free parking. For information, call 875.2635. Last year, about 2,500 people attended the event.

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Making gardens great for less

Potting Bench, £29.99, Aldi

GETTING the garden ship shape ahead of the summer needn’t cause financial strain or back pain.

Aldi is stocking a huge range of gardening tools, equipment and accessories this spring, making beautiful gardens a breeze.

Eco warriors can pick up everything from compost and flower pots to belle cloche at just a snip of the usual cost, ensuring environmentally friendly gardening doesn’t cost the earth.

These ranges will go into store on February 27 and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

The 220L Composter, priced £17.99, is fully assembled so there’s no need to add DIY to your ever-growing ‘to do’ list. It’s made from 100% recycled materials so you can keep the garden spick, span and debris free.

If you’re keen to grow your own pick up a Propagator Set 3s, priced £3.99, and watch your seedlings sprout. Suitable for use in the home or greenhouse, each pack comprises three trays with clear, shatterproof lids and twenty four cell inserts.

Gearing up to grow your own fruit and vegetables can be costly before you’re able to enjoy the fruits of your labour, but not with Aldi Specialbuys’ grow your own range.

Stocking potting benches, gardening gloves, trays, sieves and canes, aspiring horticulturists can pick up an array of excellent quality gardening gear and start sowing seeds.

Get started with the Three Tier Greenhouse, priced £14.99. With steel push-fitting joints, it’s both sturdy and easy to assemble and comes with a removable transparent PVC cover.

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Gardening Tips: Planting a spring veggie garden

Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014 11:25 am

Gardening Tips: Planting a spring veggie garden

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Between the rain and snow, it’s been quite a wet winter. There may yet be more rain, but thankfully the temperatures are slowly creeping upward. If your garden soil is dry enough to work, then you might want to start thinking about planting spring vegetables.

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Friday, February 28, 2014 11:25 am.

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PvZ: Garden Warfare Class Tips and Strategy Guide

Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is no different from the other shooters out in the market, but to really get the hang of things in the game, you have to get familiar with the different classes available in it.

Both Plants and the Zombies have very similar classes but there are some very important differences. First of all we would like to introduce the classes of Plants.

For more help on Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, read our Tips and Tricks, Team Vanquish and Co-op Garden Ops Strategy Guide.

Garden Warfare Class Tips


At the start of the game, this is your go-to class. They act as a scout and their shots do a splash damage which comes in handy when you are dealing with the hordes or taking down the tombstones.

Peashooters run fast and can jump really high; they can cover the long distance in a speed. They are equipped with chili pepper grenade which is an explosive attack that does enormous damage.

The ultimate skills of the peashooter transform it into a Gatling gun which does a lot of damage to oncoming enemies.

Its variant is Fire Pea which can withstand huge damage from the opponents. Another variant is Ice Pea which can freeze the zombies with just a few shots. Third one is Toxic Pea, it does a lot of damage to the opponent and anyone who comes nearby.

Fourth variant is Commando Pea which are brilliant assault troopers and can take down multiple zombies with their rapid fire. Finally, there is Agent Pea; their shots are very focused and do more damage when aimed correctly.

Chompers are extremely strong but vulnerable and they don’t have any ranged weapon. The strongest asset of this class is their giant mouth as they can eat the whole enemy, when they attack from behind.

Shielded enemies take a lot of damage when attacked from the front by the Chomper. However, there is one problem, whenever Chompers eat an enemy he takes a few moments to digest it and sometimes these moments are enough time for opponent to kill them.

Its first variant is Hot Rod Chomper, who upon swallowing the zombie, he gains a speed burst. The second variant is Toxic Chomper who can do a lot of damage because of its poison.

Third variant is Fire Chomper, who has a flam-spray that hits rapidly without any breaks and can take down multiple enemies. Fourth variant is Power Chomper, they are most suitable for the close range battles.

Fifth variant is Count Chompula, who can upon taking down an enemy, gains health.

This class is a healer of the game. Their starting skill will heal all players who have set up defenses nearby. Another skill allows them to deploy healing flowers that automatically throw out sunshine to the players nearby. Third skill allows them to shoot out a ray of high damaging sunlight.

Sunflower’s main weapon is a machine gun with high bullet count.

Its variant is Mystic Flower, which has a little ammo, but all the energy can be charged to fire an extremely powerful shot. Second variant is Power Flower, it gives you some extra speed and damage factor to the Sun Pulse.

Third variant is Fire Flower, it combines the health-draining functions of a fire weapon with the speed and versatility of the Sun Pulse. Fourth variant is Shadow flower which has a faster rate of fire than the standard Sun Pulse.

Fifth variant is Metal Petal, it can take huge damage from enemy fire.

Cactus is the sniper of the plants. Cactus can do a lot of high damaging shots with the scope. Cactus have the ability to plant mines which will blow anyone with a single blow.

The major skill of Cactus has to be the Garlic Drone.

It is remote controlled flying garlic which can do a lot of damage with the machine gun and can call down Corn Strikes. However, the Cactus have very low health and can die very quickly.

Its variants are Camo Cactus, who are actual 100% Snipers. Second variant is Fire Cactus, who can fire damage from far away. Third one is Ice Cactus and it can freeze the zombie enemies from a long range.

Fourth one is Power Cactus, who fires electric burst which goes really fast from a long range. Fifth one is Future Cactus, who can be used for the medium range fights.


Let’s take a look at the opponents of Plants, the Zombies.

Foot Soldier
Foot Soldiers most useful skill is their poison cloud which blinds certain areas and it damages the opponents upon contact. Then they have a ZPG (Zombie Propelled Grenade) which is a heavy hitting skill.

Foot soldiers will be a good choice at the start of the game.

Its variant is Camo Ranger, who does extra damage for the Critical Hits it gets from the primary weapon. Second variant is Super Commando, who can be valuable with its crossbow for the long and middle range combat.

The third variant I General Supremo, who has unlimited ammo for the Golden Gatling.

Fourth one is Tank Commander, who uses mega cannons which do a lot of damage to the opponents. Fifth variant is Arctic Trooper, who make the plants freeze with their shot and can take them out with the ZPG.

As the name suggests, the engineers are the fixers of the groups. They can build up turrets and can ride a devastating jackhammer in to the battle.

The engineers also have stun grenades which can be put to a good use; they stop the movement of the target for a short time. Their weapon of choice is Shotgun: it is slow but extremely effective.

Its first variant is Welder, who does a lot of damage on impact and sets the plant on fire for extra damage. The second variant is Electrician, who are most useful for close combat.

The third one is Mechanic, who fires nuts and bolts at a very fast speed and can take down multiple enemies. Fourth one is Painter, who have slow weapons but are very effective in close combat.

Fifth variant is Plumber, who has the same weapon as Engineer but water is also added to do some extra damage in the large blast radius.

The scientist has the best escape skills. It can easily warp past enemies which really confuse the players and gives the scientist enough time to finish the job from behind.

He has sticky grenades and if you combine both the warp and the grenades, it can prove to be a shattering combination. He can deploy healing stations which will heal any of the zombies that walk past it.

Its variant is Marine Biologist, who has a Dolphin Blaster that gains a bit more range compared to the standard Scientist Goo Blaster. Second variant is Dr. Toxic, who is valuable asset in close combat.

Third one is Physicist, who can cause electrical damage to anyone that stands in its way. Fourth one is Astronaut, who is more valuable in a long range battle. Fifth one is Chemist, who has a very short range weapon but is useful in close range combat.

All-Star is wielding a large weapon and has a lot of health. His ability to drop the tackle dummy is quite scary as it deals a lot of damage to the opponent.

The downside to that is his inability to move fast, making All-Star the slowest class among all. He has the ability to do the tackle by lunging forward and it packs a huge punch.

Its variant is Cricket Star, who deals fire damage to the plants. Second one is Goalie Star, who deals ice damage to the plants and freeze them.

Third one is Baseball Star, who fires the faster and accurate All-Star Weapon. Fourth one is Hockey Star, who has great rate of fire with the weapon.

Fifth one is Rugby Star, who has the most powerful weapon among its class.

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Perk up your patio

Photo of Garden Designer Diarmuid Gavin (PA Photo/Handout)

Garden designer Diarmuid Gavin offers tips on how to prep your patio ready for spring

If the rain ever lets up long enough for us to venture out on to our patios, we’ll need some quick fixes to brighten them up in time for the warmer, and hopefully drier, months of spring.

But, aside from jetwashing them, what should the average gardener actually be doing to these patios…?

Garden designer Diarmuid Gavin, who last year added a wraparound balcony and cast iron columns decorated with swathes of wisteria to his own patio in Co Wicklow, Ireland, has some ideas.

Bulbs planted in patio pots back in September may have rotted if they haven’t been given good drainage and were standing on pot feet, he says, but even if there’s no sign of them, all is not lost.

“Even now, if you just lift the pot to allow them to drain, the bulbs and plantings may be all right.”

In addition to the practical, Gavin, an ambassador for the Karcher watering range, has some easy patio design tips too.

“You can brighten up the patio with instant colour, but be innovative about what you plant and how you do it.”

He suggests going to your local restaurant or take-away to see if they have any large metal containers which once held olives or other food. Drill a few holes in the bottom, put a layer of gravel at the bottom and fill the rest with well-drained compost and either put in a selection of wonderful herbs like basil or marjoram or even some salads like Lollo Rosso or Swiss chard, or even nasturtiums and marigolds, and you will have results fast.

“Another thing I love is to get big oil drums from reclamation yards for next to nothing, clean them up and paint them in Caribbean colours. If you have a collection of them you can cut some of them down to size and they make the most fantastic containers.

“Large containers like these will take a good quantity of manure and topsoil. If they’re big enough, you can plant birch trees or clumps of bamboos to create borders and long-term planting once you`ve top-dressed and had them irrigated.

“Be innovative about your choice of container and then make sure you have a good solid medium for them to grow in.”

If you want to invest in new garden furniture there’s a wealth of choice too, adds Gavin.

“Fifteen years ago if you wanted garden furniture you got a picnic bench or a plastic chair that cost £2.99. There’s been a radical change in furniture, with durable woven plastics, colourful seating and the new thing we’re going to see are cabanas.”

If you want to hide unsightly eyesores like water butts, you can just put a big pot in front of them, he says.

“People often make the mistake of corralling eyesores behind bits of trellis or fencing. If you do that, you make the garden look smaller and draw more attention to what you’re trying to hide. Maybe have a light framework of planting such as the Russian vine (mile-a-minute plant) which, if kept under control, will be fantastic.

“If you’re trying to hide something in the shade, go for a light framework of honeysuckle, which emits a fantastic scent, or some rambling roses. Simplicity is key in this to avert the eye away from the offensive article.”

Spring planting could incorporate double daisies (Bellis perennis), Bachelor buttons (cornflower) or cheiranthus (wallflower).

“Use traditional bedding in a more radical way. And if you didn’t plant bulbs, buy some which are about to come into flower, whether dwarf daffodils, hyacinths or tulips and surround them with bedding or with ivies in pots.”

“Don’t try to be too tasteful. When I grew up in a very suburban street I grew up with blue and white and blue and white. Mass-plant different shades of blue together, while clashing colours of bedding can be incredibly exuberant.”

Permanent plantings on patios of milder gardens could include some pittosporum and hebes.

“If you’re in a sheltered courtyard garden, I love a hint of the exotic with Dicksonia antarctica,” he adds.

“If you have a border, a good one takes planning. Build up a collection of plants with structure in the back, climbing plants and something exciting like the wall shrub Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’, a Japanese maple or an interesting birch and build at the front of that with medium-sized shrubs and colour.”

Put a simple pot of herbs as your centrepiece which are tactile, or plants with aromatic leaves like a lemon-scented geranium, he advises. As you progress to summer, go for dwarf sunflowers – by then, we’ll hopefully have forgotten about the rain.

:: Diarmuid Gavin is Karcher’s Watering ambassador. Find out more at

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