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Archives for March 2, 2014

4 gardening tips for this spring

By David Scott
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Posted Feb. 28, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

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New home? Tips for getting to know the garden

Americans are a restless bunch. They change locations with a frequency that would tire a migrating songbird.

But there is more to moving day than unpacking boxes; there’s also learning to care for that garden inherited with the new home.

If you were thinking ahead, you asked for an inventory of the plants and accessories that came with the house.

“There’s no problem with asking owners for a list of landscape items and for an explanation about the plantings,” said Shirley French, an agent with the Woodstock, Va., office of Funkhouser Real Estate Group. “Usually, the owners are more than happy to give you a list. In fact, if they know the purchasers are interested, that will make for good feelings on both sides.”

But where to start with a newly purchased property?

Michael Becker, president of Estate Gardeners Inc. in Omaha, Neb., suggests that new owners put safety first.

“Check out the dangers,” said Becker, a spokesman for Planet, the Professional Landcare Network that certifies green industry professionals. “Are the retaining walls stable? Are any trees leaning or diseased with dead branches?

“Assess the hardscape,” Becker said. “Is anything heaving, creating tripping hazards? Examine the drainage around the house. More often than not, it isn’t correct and may be damaging the structure. Bring in some professionals to help sort things out.”

As for plantings, be patient with the perennials.

“Learn what things look like in your yard,” Becker said. “Determine if it’s aesthetically what you want, or if it’s so high-maintenance you won’t have the time to care for it. Most perennials need pruning and deadheading.”

Other things to consider when dealing with an unfamiliar landscape:

•  Do soil tests. Map the yard for sun and shade. “If you live in the city and all you have is a porch or a patio to work with, where is all that water going to go that you’ll be putting on plants?” asked Josh Kane, president and head designer at Kane Landscapes Inc. in Sterling, Va. “Also, where do you get the water? You’ll have to figure out how to care for everything.”

•  Water fixtures. “Look for care instructions when dealing with special features,” Kane said. “A lot of people get put off or are scared of things like koi ponds, pools and fountains that require startups, maintenance and attention during the seasons.”

•  Don’t try to do everything the first year. Mulching will keep the weeds down. Composting will improve the soil. Bringing in some annuals for window boxes, hanging baskets or containers will provide instant color. “Nothing gives you as much impact in a garden as planting annuals,” Kane said.

•  Anticipate. Avoid planting trees or shrubs near sewer or water lines, to prevent root damage. Study the plat map for restrictions that could prevent expansions or additions. “A lot of people might want to build a big outdoor room or pool and find they can’t do it because of an easement on the property,” Kane said.

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EARL MAY: Tips For Creating An Indoor Garden

Posted on: 9:24 pm, March 1, 2014, by

Tim from the Waukee Earl May said many people are trying to escape the bitter winter with an indoor paradise like a garden.  Fun and tropical plants can help boost your mood during these nasty winter months and let people remember that spring is on the way.

Stop by Earl May for more gardening tips on how to create your own indoor garden paradise.

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Ridgefield Library Hosts Seminar On Four Season Garden Design

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — The Ridgefield Library will host a seminar with gardening expert Donna Katsuranis on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. 

Katsuranis is an interfaith minister and an advanced master gardener who lives and gardens in Brookfield. She lectures and guides walks year-round on garden and nature-related subjects.

Registration for the program is recommended as space is limited. Click here to reserve a seat. 

The Ridgefield Library is located at 21 Governor St.

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Again, just be for something

No doubt low taxes and smaller government will be a popular theme. After all, ahem, it’s working so well. Bashing the other guy’s ideology also surely will be a popular tactic — although I’m not sure how much ideology is required to make our streets safe, our roads smooth and our schools racing to the top rather than the bottom. But so it goes.

So while our political hopefuls search for the magical formula that will deliver them to seats of power — or, a cynic might suggest, an easy gig with good pay and benefits — might I offer some free political counsel that is hardly new but is guaranteed to get attention and probably votes.

Be for something!

That’s right, offer up some ideas, yeah ideas, about how to make our community and state better places. There is plenty to be done, so pick one or two initiatives and make them part of your platform. Remember platforms? They were political positions, made up of “planks,” that is, a series of ideas, upon which candidates stood for election before we devolved into the empty but amazingly effective no taxes and less government strategy.

Need some ideas? I’m glad you asked, albeit they come from an old country newspaper editor and habitual voter and not some Tallahassee political guru.

Beautify the gateways to Ocala/Marion County. Let’s be honest, our I-75 interchanges are hideous conglomerations of concrete, plastic and florescent lights. Imagine what some flowers, landscaping and attractive welcome signs would do.

Support a civic center where concerts and graduations and trade shows can be held. Something that’ll hold 5,000 to 6,000 people. We are a bona fide metropolitan area with no place to hold metro-size events and gatherings.

Come up with a funding plan to keep our roads and streets paved. The county alone is falling behind about $10 million a year on such work, and the cost of rebuilding roads instead of simply resurfacing them is seven to 10 times greater.

Do something about the amassing litter. Our roadsides are filthy with trash. While you’re at it, embrace the preservation and promotion of our incredibly scenic roads. They can attract tourists and tourist dollars if we will let them.

Make education and job creation an objective of everything government does, whether at the city, county or state level. Quit ignoring what’s going on in our schools. Enough said.

Water. Ocala/Marion County is ground zero in the ongoing Florida water war and Silver Springs the bull’s-eye, and our leaders at every level should be leading the charge to protect what water we have left.

There is plenty more that needs to be done. But if candidates want to capture our votes, maybe they should try offering ideas. Be for something — for a change.

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Get out and be inspired at the Porter County Home & Lifestyle Show

Here’s your chance to discover great new ways to optimize the space, natural assets, comfort and style of your home.

The annual Home Lifestyle Shows sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana (HBA) will once again be bringing together local builders and associated industry professionals at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso next Friday through Sunday, March 7-9.

This year, the all-new Kids Korner will be a welcome adventure for kids who are tired of being cooped up at home thanks to the crazy snow storms and subzero temperatures we’ve been experiencing.

“I’m really excited about Kids Korner,” HBA Executive Officer Vicky Gadd said. “We always try and add something fresh and new to the Home Lifestyle Show each year, and after the winter we’ve had, there’s no doubt parents and kids alike will enjoy the opportunity to get out and have some fun.”

Kids Korner will be open Saturday and Sunday March 8-9, and kids are invited to participate in the following activities:

• Face Painting – 11am to 3pm

• Bounce House – 11am to 4pm

• Free photo booth -11am to 4pm

• Porter County Sheriff distributing ID kits – 2 to 5pm Saturday 12 to 3pm Sunday

Also, in addition to concessions from LeRoy’s “Hot Stuff,” which will be served all three days of the Home Lifestyle show, Kids Korner treats will be available from Culvers, Sticky Fingers Candy Company and more with a very special guest – the Culvers mascot – making an appearance on Saturday.

Plus, the HBA is looking forward to hosting an inaugural Building Contest featuring LEGO® bricks on Saturday, March 8.

Children in two age categories – ages 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 – are invited to participate. With just twenty spots open in each age category, Gadd recommends registering early using the online registration form at or by contacting the HBA office at 888.812.9099 or

“Judges will score each child’s house based on five criteria: design, details, colors, landscaping and appeal,” she said. “We will give away first, second and third place prizes to the winners in each age group, and each child will receive a certificate and participation prize. We are very excited about sponsoring this fun event for children.”

Of course there will also be plenty of complete solutions for any challenges you’re experiencing with your home.

“The Home and Lifestyle Show has been in existence for 30-plus years now,” Angie Panayi, Home Lifestyle Show committee chair and an HBA associate member with Anton Insurance Agency, said. “It’s all about showcasing our vendors. People can walk through and meet good, hard-working people who are committed to what they do. For the most part, they’ve been members of our Association for a very long time, and everyone is insured and bonded.”

Join them for expert advice, fresh ideas and sensible solutions to all your home improvement, remodeling and home purchasing needs.

“As a more traditional builder show, our focus in on the exchange of ideas,” Gadd explained. “It’s about inspiring people to enjoy their homes. What’s really great about the Home Lifestyle Show is the fact that you’ll be primarily talking to small business owners, the people who in most cases are doing the work. Not only are they experts in their fields, they keep up with new ideas and will be displaying the latest trends. It’s all here, under one roof.”

From kitchens and baths to floors and doors and patios and garages, the Home Lifestyle Show features all the products and expert advice you need to make your home more safe, comfortable, energy-efficient and down right gorgeous.

You can explore the latest trends in entertainment systems, sunrooms, heating and cooling, home security and window treatments. Get tips from the experts on tackling home maintenance issues, greening up that lawn, exterminating pests and enjoying the great outdoors this spring.

“Come out and explore all types of home and lifestyle improvement,” Panayi added. “Along with the great displays, our talented vendors look forward to advising people so they will be re-inspired to do great things for their home.”

Look for a complete schedule of events, including details on what’s cooking when during the popular cooking demonstrations, at

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Springtime means landscape renewal

Adult admission is $1, and in addition to plant sales, the show features a Kids Gardening Zone as well as gardening seminars.

The second show is March 22 and 23 at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, 4700 SW 58th Drive in Gainesville. Adult admission is $8, and in addition to plant sales, the show features music and a plant auction on Saturday. These local garden shows offer a chance to shop, ask questions, pick up new ideas and talk with experts about how plants perform in various soils and micro climates.

Spring’s agreeable temperatures offer an excellent time to evaluate existing plant materials, install new plants, add mulch, adjust irrigation and perform other duties necessary for landscapes to excel in the coming spring and summer weather. March 15 is generally considered the last date for this area to have damaging frost. While it is possible to have frost after this date, the duration is rarely sufficient to damage new plant growth. Wait until after March 15 to prune or fertilize woody ornamentals, actions which cause tender new growth that is susceptible to cold damage.

A great deal of information — and misinformation — exists concerning fertilizer. In most cases, once ornamental plants are established, fertilizer is not needed. If plants are performing poorly, prior to applying fertilizer, obtain a soil test to determine what should be applied, if anything at all. Soil test kits are available at local Extension Offices, and are pre-addressed for submission to the University of Florida Extension Soil Testing lab, where for $7 a sample, residents may obtain specific information for their landscape. Samples should be taken to a depth of six inches, at several locations in the landscape bed and mixed together, then laid out to dry for a couple of days prior to submission to the lab. About one-half cup of soil is needed for testing. The respective Extension Office receives a copy of your test results, so if there are questions on the report, call the office for discussion.

Pruning is another question that arises during spring. Pruning should be done with a purpose in mind — to improve plant health, control growth or influence fruiting, flowering or appearance. If succulent perennials have been damaged by cold weather, prune plants back to the green portion of the stem. For blooming plants, i.e. azaleas, wait until after the plant flowers, then prune within a couple of weeks, as next year’s bloom sets soon after flowering. Woody shrubs should be examined for dead wood or crossing branches, and these should be removed. Mulch is recommended as one of the nine points of Florida-friendly landscaping. Mulch enhances soil properties, inhibits weed growth and helps retain soil moisture. In landscape beds and under large trees, mulch helps protect trunks and roots from mower and string trimmer damage and offers an answer for shade areas, where turf often does not perform well. There are a variety of mulch materials available. If the site had mulch previously, it is a good idea to rake across the old mulch as this can become matted over time, which inhibits water and air from getting to plant roots. Keep mulch three or four inches away from the trunks of plants and trees. If you will be mulching a large area, consider purchasing mulch in bulk quantities rather than in bags. Sometimes, neighbors can get together and share the cost of a load of mulch which leads to bulk purchase savings and not having to deal with empty bags. Mulch purchased in bulk quantities is sold by the cubic yard, with one cubic yard containing 27 cubic feet.

Spring calendars fill quickly, and the warm days of summer will soon be upon us. Be sure to budget time in your spring weekends to attend to landscape needs before the steamy days of summer arrive.

David Holmes is Marion County extension director. Contact him at

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Late winter a good time to plan garden

Marci Gore
Read More From Marci Gore


March 1st, 2014 11:00 am by Marci Gore

Rizanino Reyes, a horticulturist, gives a rose bush some last-minute pruning before putting it in the ground. AP photo.

Although we’re not completely out of the woods yet, the warmer, sunnier weather we’ve had these past few days does hint at the end of what has been a very long and very cold winter.

Local gardening expert and horticulturist Roy Odom II says now is the perfect time to think about getting our gardens and landscaping ready for spring and summer.

“February is a great time to prune fruit trees and fruit bushes,” Odom said. “Mainly what you want to do is just remove any overgrowth, anything that’s just really sticking out.”

However, don’t prune anything that blooms in the spring, Odom advises.

“Anything that blooms before June, things like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia, dogwoods, red buds, you don’t want to be whacking on right now. If you prune those right now, you’re cutting the bloom buds off,” he said.

Odom says February is also a great time to check for any winter damage.

“With the cold weather, there’s a lot of burned foliage. But don’t get too eager to start cutting things back. Keep in mind that just because foliage is burned, this doesn’t mean that the stems and trunks are dead,” Odom said.

It is also a good time to cut back liriope, sometimes called monkey grass, Odom said.

“It’s definitely been burned during the winter months. Get rid of the ugly ‘over stuff’ to make it look better in your landscaping,” he said.

February is also a perfect time to pay some extra attention to your lawn.

“Now is a great time to over seed [casting seed onto an existing lawn] and have your soil tested. Our soil here is very ‘clay-ey.’ It never hurts to add some organic material. With the over seeding, this is a great month to do that because you kind of want to get those grass plants established before the heat hits. And it seems like that happens earlier and earlier now. Normally, when I was growing up, it didn’t seem like it got hot until June. Now, it seems like the month of May we can have some 80-degree days. And, because of the rain we usually get in March and April, grass that’s planted right now, has a better chance of surviving,” Odom said.

If you do test your soil and discover it is too acidic, Odom said now is the time to add some dolomitic limestone. And, if it is too sticky and clay-like, add some gypsum.

Just like grass seed, Odom says now is a good time to plant trees and shrubbery.

“If you didn’t get trees and shrubbery planted in the fall, this is a great month to get those things in the ground now. It’s cool and it’s damp and those roots can grow and get out into the soil before the heat of summer,” he said.

Don’t neglect your containers either, Odom says.

“Get those containers out and check them and make sure they’re not cracked or broken to see if you need to replace them, because you don’t want a nice weekend in April, when you can plant, you don’t want to have to be running to the garden center to pick out new pots,” he said. “And if you need potting soil for your containers, now’s a great time to go ahead and go out and stockpile that.”

Vegetable gardens can use a little TLC right now, too.

“It’s probably too damp to get in and turn a vegetable garden. But it’s a great month to go ahead and hit the garden centers and pick out your vegetable seeds and begin to plan out what you’re going to do,” Odom said. “You could also do some cleanup in the vegetable garden. If there’s any debris left over from last year, you can remove it and compost it. Or, if it was diseased, I like to just remove it completely and get rid of it. I think you are asking for trouble if you try to incorporate diseased material into your garden.”

And since no garden is complete without birds, Odom says if you’ve been feeding them throughout the winter months, don’t stop right now.

“You need to go ahead and keep feeding them at least through the end of March when it starts warming up and there are some insects for them to eat,” he said.

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Gardens at historic Villa Artemis win landscape award

The gardens at historic Villa Artemis on Thursday night won the third-annual Lesly S. Smith Landscape Award, given by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

Nievera Williams Design created the extensive landscaping as part of a recent and extensive renovation undertaken at the North End estate. The oceanfront Villa Artemis, at 656 N. Ocean Blvd., was completed in 1917 for the Guest family and has been owned for several decades by members of the Rosenthal family.

Landscape architect Mario Nievera and his business partner Keith Williams collaborated on the landscape design, which respects the estate’s original understated grandeur but emphasizes updated plant choices, Nievera said.

Michael and Jane Rosenthal Horvitz live in the estate’s main house, while her sister, Cynthia Rosenthal Boardman, occupies the newly built guesthouse.

Boardman, Nievera and Williams attended the award presentation during a Preservationist Club dinner at the foundation’s headquarters on Peruvian Avenue. The Horvitzes were unable to attend.


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