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Archives for March 18, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Cloche cold frame

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.


If you’ve got lawn trouble then Aldi is coming to the rescue with a whole host of gardening gadgets and accessories to achieve a perfectly manicured lawn. With garden spreaders, lawn repair kits, soil conditioner and lawn feed in store now, watching your garden grow has never been so easy.

Garden Spreader, £14.99

To grow the perfect lawn you need to begin with the perfect foundations. Aldi’s garden spreader, with a 12 litre capacity and 45cm spreading width, distributes seed and feed evenly, not only helping you get a beautiful lawn, but also ensuring the seed goes further.

Lawn Repair Kit, £3.99

You don’t need to relay the entire turf to create a flawless garden. Patch up those bare spots with this two-in-one lawn fertiliser and lawn seed kit.


Prep the garden for the season ahead with pruning shears, cold frames, pressure sprayers, timber picket fences and trio planters – all excellent quality, the great value price will put a spring in your step.

Cold Frame (150 x 180 x 150cm), £24.99

Comprising a coated-green, steel tube frame, heavy-duty cover, four fixing pegs, two roll back opening vents and a protection net beneath for access, this cold frame will protect even the youngest of seedlings and ensure they flourish in a frost free environment.

Five Litre Pressure Sprayer, £8.99

This pressure sprayer has a five-litre capacity, three bar operating pressure and a 1.3 meter flexible operating hose, making it perfect for watering the lawn, cleaning the patio and spraying fertilisers.

Garden Pruning Shears, £2.69

Ideal for cutting roses, shoots and shrubs, these steel shears have a non-stick coating, rust-resistant lower blade and ergonomic handle – perfect for easy-peasy pruning.

Telescopic Tree Pruner, £39.99

With a stainless steel upper blade with non-stick coating for rust resistance and smooth cutting, carbon steel lower blade and saw and handle lengths of 202cm (inner) and 157.5cm (outer), this pruner ensures gardeners can tackle any tree job with ease.


Water water everywhere . . . make nourishing your garden a doddle with hosepipes, long sleeve garden gloves and whole host of other great value, excellent quality watering tools and accessories in store at Aldi.

210 Litre Waterbutt Set (97 x 57cm excluding stand), £28.99

Made from recycled materials with a three part stand to allow easy access to the tap and downpipe filler kit, this handy set has everything you need to start storing rainwater to reuse in the garden.

Submersible Pump, £39.99

With stainless steel housing and a rustproof motor shaft, this submersible pump has an adjustable, automatic float switch suitable for dirty water, a nylon cord for lowering the pump and a cable length of 10 meters.

Aldi’s Specialbuys Gardening ranges go in store nationwide on March 20, and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

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Gardening tips, tricks you need to know

(FOX19) –

FOX19’s Denise Johnson is live at HJ Benken Florist this morning to learn some gardening tips for the upcoming season! 

At HJ Benken, they have been recycling their pots and trays for well over 40 years! They started out using 3″ clay pots and about 20 years ago, they switched to peat pots.

Even now with a logo on their own plastic pots, they are still re-using and recycling. Soil and plant waste are also re-used.

A few gardening tips to know from 

  • Wind up hoses: Don’t waste time dragging around a big hose!
  • Stash your tools: Minimize trips to the shed by keeping tools close. 
  • Keep your shoes on: Stash plastic grocery bags by the door to cover your muddy shoes in case
    you have to go inside.
  • Wash the plants: Collect your produce in an old
    laundry basket. The basket acts as a strainer, allowing you to quickly rinse
    off dirt and debris from veggies and fruits.

  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Radish 

Copyright 2014 WXIX. All rights reserved.

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Floral trends, tips at San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

This year’s San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, from Wednesday to next Sun is shaping up to be a timely event, spurred by topics like the drought, California natives and a greater emphasis on domestically and sustainably grown flowers, specifically from California.

The show’s new Flower Pavilion Stage is spearheaded by Debra Prinzing, author of seven books, including “The 50-Mile Bouquet,” and the nation’s leading advocate for American-grown flowers. Prinzing, along with the California Cut Flower Commission and new flower show owners Maryanne Lucas and Sherry Larsen, has created a forum where visitors can watch demos from leading floral designers and learn about the benefits of using domestic and California cut flowers.

We connected with Prinzing to find out more about her role and what to expect at this year’s show.

Q: How did you get involved in the show?

A: Maryanne and Sherry came to me and asked me to be the floral adviser last summer, and I had a lot of time to approach some of my favorite floral designers and ask them to participate. None of them had ever participated before, so it was the perfect opportunity for these florists that are featured in national and regional publications to connect with show visitors. I’ve had the chance to develop curriculum that is brand new to the show.

Q: What are some of the Flower Pavilion Stage highlights?

A: Each day has a theme. Wednesday is San Francisco Style with popular florists like Max Gill, Studio Choo and Natasha Lisitsa presenting demos; Thursday is Meet the Flower Farmer with J Schwanke hosting several small and large California flower farmers and talking about the cut flower industry; Friday is Succulently Yours with people like author Debra Lee Baldwin and Lila B. Flowers Events designer Baylor Chapman emphasizing succulents in wedding and centerpiece design; Saturday is Meet the Experts/Authors, with experts like Francoise Weeks speaking about her cultlike following of botanical couture; and Sunday is DIY Bouquet Designs with Stefani Bittner and Pilar Zuniga demo-ing eco-friendly edible and alternative bouquets.

Q: Explain your relationship with the California Cut Flower Commission and its participation with the show.

A: The California Cut Flower Commission and I have been mutually aligned for some time. They have been very supportive of my new venture, at, and are an in-kind sponsor of the event and will be providing a lot of product for the speakers. The majority of the flowers used on the stage will come from California, with a few items sourced domestically for other parts of the show. All of the speakers were already big supporters of California-grown flowers.

Q: Bay Area florists appear to be on the cutting edge of floral design. Do you agree?

A: Yes! California’s growing climate is so benign and there is such abundance that there’s no reason to use anything other than California flowers. My florist friends in Minneapolis are envious and tell me that they wish they had access to 12 months of flowers. I’m finding that even florists from colder climates are now sourcing from their local farms when they can and using California flowers when they have to source outside of their growing region.

Q: Any of the speakers addressing some emerging trends?

A: Stefani Bittner, co-owner of Star Apple Edible Gardens and co-author of “The Beautiful Edible Garden,” will be creating edible bouquets on Sunday that are easy and so creative. As a tradition she makes an edible bouquet for her landscape clients from the trimmings of her installed gardens. The company specializes in using and highlighting the ornamental qualities of edibles in landscape design. Things like kumquats and herbs can be put in a vase and put on display.

Q: The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show is the third largest in the nation. How does the expanded flower presence compare to the other top shows like Philadelphia and Seattle?

A: There’s a lot of collaboration from industry professionals and designers. The other shows don’t have as large a presence regarding hands-on floral display. It’s more than just placing arrangements on a pedestal. This show puts a big emphasis on education. I’m all for highlighting growing your own flowers and putting them on display in your own home.

San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Wednesday-next Sunday, San Mateo Event Center. Adult day ticket $20; all-show pass (five days pass) $30. (415) 684-7278.

Sophia Markoulakis is a Burlingame freelance writer. E-mail:

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Local TV personality AJ Petitti to present spring gardening tips and more …

AJ Petitti_Headshoot.jpegA.J. Petitti
BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Want to
know what’s happening in your community? Well look no further because has got you covered. From local government and
school news, to business and community events, it’s all right here.

Here’s a look at what’s
happening in Beachwood.

Local TV personality A.J. Petitti to present spring
gardening tips

Local television personality
and exterior living expert A.J. Petitti of Petitti
Garden Centers
will present tips for successful spring gardening at 12 p.m. March
28 at the Ohio Design Centre.

Petitti will share this
year’s newest outdoor living trends, and teach attendees how to refresh outdoor
spaces after winter. He will also talk about the top 2014 garden colors, how to
create a colorful “drink garden” with seasonal fruits, and ways to define an
outdoor space.

Petitti regularly appears on
local television programs, sharing gardening tips and information. He also
hosts a weekly Emmy-nominated gardening show on Fox 8 and oversees Petitti’s
nine Northeast Ohio retail locations.

Several local interior design
experts also will facilitate a smaller workshop following Petitti’s
presentation. It will focus on refreshing the home’s interior and capturing the
energy of spring with bright interior trends, furnishings and color ideas.

Registration is $10, and
includes a light lunch. For more information, call the Ohio Design Centre at
216-831-1245 or visit

Records Commission to hold semi-annual meeting

The Beachwood Records Commission
will hold its semi-annual meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Members will discuss the next
citywide document shredded event. Click
to see the agenda.

Learn to use Outlook email from Microsoft staff

Staff from a local Microsoft
store will teach adults how to use Outlook, a free web-based email program, at
2 p.m. Wednesday at the Beachwood library, 25501 Shaker Blvd.

Attendees will learn how to
send and receive emails, use the program with social networks and share
documents. To register, click here or visit or search for the Beachwood branch.

Email reporter Chanda Neely with news
tips and information about events in Beachwood.

Follow me on Twitter:

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Pro Tips: Starting your garden this spring

Laura Bruno is an organic gardener and food security advocate with a passion for edible landscaping, year-round harvest and herbal allies. Bruno helped organize Goshen’s Share the Bounty Week, which focused on making locally-grown food more accessible to people around the area.

If you have questions for Bruno about gardening, leave them in the comments below. She has agreed to answer them between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 18.

1. Survey your growing space

Most fruits and vegetables require at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, and sometimes even more for larger harvests. Your ideal garden space for summer staples like tomatoes and cucumbers would offer a southern exposure with dappled shade from the west for those hot afternoons, but see what you actually have. When looking at what’s sunny in March, consider trees that might fill in with leaves and also remember that shadows will be shorter with a higher summer sun. If you can’t find anywhere with enough sunlight, expand your perspective. Does your front yard offer any growing possibilities? How about containers on a sunny porch, patio or driveway? Could trellises, towers, raised beds or hanging containers bring more plants into the light?

2. Don’t give up if you don’t have enough light

You can’t grow tomatoes, peppers and beans if you have just four hours of direct light, but many edibles do grow well in shade. I’ve had great luck with parsley, Chinese greens (bok choi and tat soi), celery and even broccoli. I’ve also grown nettles in an isolated shady plot, which kept them from taking over everything. They’re an invasive weed, but they make fabulous soups, smoothies and provide tonics for just about anything that ails you. (Don’t eat them after they flower. Actually cut them down when they begin to flower, or you’ll have way more nettles than you want next year.) If you haven’t sprayed your yard with anything toxic, then you can also eat those pesky dandelions! The leaves, roots and flowers are all edible and were originally brought to America by European gardeners. Other herbs like potted mint, lemon balm and anise hyssop also grow well in shade.

3. Grow up

If you don’t have much sun or space, then you’ll want to maximize the growing areas you do have. Vertical gardening letss you make better use of space, and it offers a chance for plants to climb out of the shady ground towards more available light. Metal, nylon or wooden trellises allow more airflow, protecting your plants from certain diseases, along with rabbits. Raised beds, especially tiered beds can also help with critter or space issues. A round design will let you grow more plants closer together by creating micro-climates and extra ways to reach for light. People make raised beds and towers from untreated wood, old tires, different size pots, burlap bags or from many commercial products created to look nice and safely house your soil. When recycling old materials, please make sure they’re non-toxic if you plan to grow food in them.

4. Explore community gardens and yard swaps/rentals

Goshen offers lots of community and neighborhood gardens. You can find a list here. The Elkhart Local Food Alliance (ELFA) is a great place to start if you’d like to find a community garden in Elkhart. You can find more information about ELFA and Elkhart opportunities here. In addition to community gardens, ELFA offers workshops on topics like seed starting and building cold frames for extending seasons. Look around your neighborhood, too. Many people with sunny yards don’t have time or the physical ability to garden, but they would gladly share their space in exchange for part of your harvest. Lots of people grow fabulous gardens in a yard besides their own. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

5. Start with good quality soil

Plants are only as healthy as the soil they grow in, so you’ll want to prioritize a good potting mix for containers and a rich, well-draining, composted soil for raised beds or in-ground growing. Garden centers can help you decide what kind of blend would work well for your situation. If you have access to composted organic matter (compost), fish emulsion, rotted manure or worm castings (compost made by earthworms), your garden will reward you with stronger, healthier plants. If planting in the ground, I’d advise a soil test at least to determine acidity or alkalinity of your soil. A more specific soil test will tell you if you need any common amendments like lime, sulfur, magnesium or boron. Organic mulch from leaves, compost and/or untreated wood chips will feed your soil and help it to hold in valuable nutrients and moisture, which means richer soil and less watering for you.

6. Take advantage of free books, classes and gardening gatherings

Public libraries offer lots of books on gardening. Books by experts can save you years of disappointing experiments and mistakes. In Purdue Extension Elkhart County workshops, Master Gardeners offer their knowledge and skills to the community. Beginners and longtime gardeners alike benefit from sharing experiences. On March 22, 2014, Transition Goshen will host an Open Space event for anyone interested in gardening. The meeting will help identify specific opportunities to work together and grow community as well as food. Saturday, March 22, 1-4 p.m. at Goshen City Church of the Brethren, 203 North 5th Street.

7. Know your planting zone

Elkhart County is in growing zone 5b, which is ever so slightly warmer than zone 5. Lower numbered zones mean colder, and higher numbers indicate warmer climates. Plants and seeds usually list a range of zones. Make sure whatever you want to plant grows in zone 5.

8. Once you’ve found a space, choose your seeds or plants

Grow what you like to eat! If you decide to start plants from seeds, heirloom varieties can offer the best varieties for our specific region, as well as unusual characteristics like special flavors or colors. Maple City Market and John Sherck at the Goshen Farmers Market carry organic heirloom seeds known to grow especially well in the area, but you can also find seeds at big name stores or online. You’ll need to follow directions for seed type. A dusting of cinnamon or spritz of chamomile tea helps protect young sprouts and seedlings from developing fungal issues, also called “damping off.” If you’d rather purchase and transplant seedlings (young plants instead of seeds), the Farmers Market lets you purchase from local farmers so that you can directly ask them for growing tips on these particular plants. Many stores also offer seedlings closer to our last frost (usually May 10-15), but you will often need to do your own research about those plants.

9. Grow flowers!

Not only will flowers beautify your garden – they’ll also make your own work easier. Pretty plants like borage, calendula, yarrow, nasturtiums and marigolds deter pests and invite in “beneficials” like bees, butterflies and bugs that eat the bugs that eat your plants. When your garden looks nice, you’ll also derive more pleasure from the sights, smells and tastes of nature.

10. Involve friends and family, especially picky eaters

No store-bought produce tastes as fresh and delicious as fruits and vegetables pulled straight from the garden. Many children who “don’t like vegetables” simply don’t like eating something that traveled 2,000 miles before hitting their plates. Crisp, fresh produce nurtured from seed or seedling brings magic to children, teens and adults. There’s nothing quite like a sun-ripened tomato or a just snapped pea. When people witness how food grows, they begin to connect with their food in new and exciting ways. When people garden together, they begin to connect with each other in deeper and more meaningful ways.

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HelloInterview: Meet Philip Nixon – Garden Designer in England and Pinterest …

HelloInterview: Meet Philip Nixon – Garden Designer in England and Pinterest Influencer! image KVS LRnsQOW1R7NJW5A2q3qF1GvgPMMr2KKvPWA6VVZgZfMhEaYYFKAcMFrzxddw7vehkcm0K8y davjIiaIuMedK74f 8jULPa1MsDsE9BnCYrgnUMs0DgvLKVFHQ

Philip Nixon is a professional garden designer from rural England, just outside of London. He was born and raised in Ireland. Philip works from home but has a “great team of people in [his] office in London.” Some of his most recent garden design work has been as far as New York and Moscow.

“I feel really lucky to be running my own business and doing something that I love.”

When he’s not designing beautiful gardens or on Pinterest, Philip can be found lecturing and teaching, and spending time with his loved ones. Philip’s passion for gardening has earned him over 722K Pinterest followers.

When did you start using Pinterest and what inspired you to make an account?

I stumbled on Pinterest in the very early days when it was really new. I must have been one of the very first users.

Philip and his daughter youngest daughter Emilie

Why do you like Pinterest?

I use images a lot in my design work and Pinterest just seemed like a great way to build up and keep an image library of what was happening in the design world. Then it became addictive so I started using to it look at all sorts of things that interested me or inspired me. I am not a good self-editor so I have too many boards and too many ideas to keep up with myself.

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Philip’s garden at home

You have gained over 722K followers! That’s very cool! What makes your Pinterest unique?

I honestly have no idea. I just pin what interests me and it seems to interest other people too. Maybe that’s the key. My Pinterest is honest and made up as it goes along… it has a life of its own.

Are you from London originally? What do you like about it there?

I grew up in Dublin, Ireland and moved to London in my late teens. London is a great city. I have travelled a lot over the years but London is still my favourite city. The people are great. Culturally it is so diverse and everybody gets on with each other.

What are your favorite places you’ve traveled to? When did you go?

I have been to New York so many times I have lost count and after London, it’s my favourite city. I love city life and London and New York are quite similar. London and New York City have a similar vibe to them.

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Philip’s Pinterest has a variety of boards with 139

What are your favorite Pinterest boards to pin onto and why?

It changes all of the time. There are some boards I used to pin to all the time and now I don’t at all since I’ve moved on. My current slightly bizarre fascination is with the colour blue! I have no idea why. I now have a board devoted to all things blue.

Your Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air board is really beautiful! We also adore your Garden board. Tell us more about these boards and why you made them.

The “Live in the sunshine…” board is because I do live for sunshine and I grew up by the sea so it’s very important to me. I don’t cope well with rainy days so that board just reminds me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that summer is coming. The garden board is there because that’s what I do and it’s what I am. I am a gardener! I love gardens and the act of planting and caring for plants. I could not be without it.

HelloInterview: Meet Philip Nixon – Garden Designer in England and Pinterest Influencer! image O9zsP1uPikDwplMYmxf  sMNmF79PPsSfk Fqm1emzJakgybHyWTbFXwlYD3zM9l8W6N ksLmQceKZLPN6MYqu 6qxd2NxXVqH9vWg0wiC4CJmLfS45DROmOHnMWkw

A garden Philip designed for a client in London.

What is your Pinterest style?

I am fascinated by how things are designed and made whether that be a garden or a camera, a boat or a skateboard, a painting or a motorbike. If I like the way something looks, if it inspires me and makes me feel good, then that ends up being what drives the style of the boards.

Tell us more about your passion for the beach and any hobbies you’re passionate about.

I love being outside and being by the sea is what I like best. I love to cycle and I love to travel, ideally avoiding planes and all that goes with it. So my dream has always been to get in a car and drive, get on a bike and ride, or get on a boat and sail away. I seem to have a fascination with things that facilitate travel: cars, bikes, boats, and so on.

What are your plans and hopes for the future?

I hope to travel more, cycle more, walk more, buy a sailing boat, draw, write, and create and keep on doing it.

Connect with Philip!

PinterestPhilip Nixon Design

HelloInterview: Meet Philip Nixon – Garden Designer in England and Pinterest Influencer! image xh7gQQ5bg053hDMMiqA74 mbIa4jSx9KDwcnmZpI9o OgaWmxs8Nw5UApoYW0zw yDJXGEcJgRbtpRbQDFE SzArJ m0 3ZCqHpunmNEJZuWr8w8jVGKmbCMfPriGA

Philip ‘on holiday’ in France

This article originally appeared on HelloSociety and has been republished with permission.

Find out how to syndicate your content with Business 2 Community.

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Living By Design: Rooftop gardens elevate the landscape

The urban cool of rooftop gardening can easily transfer to smaller cities and rural areas as well.

“Creating a green roof or a roof garden is a great way to utilize space that you already have,” says Corbett Miller, horticulturist at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso.

From the simplistic—potted plants and containers brimming with blooms—to sophisticated seating arrangements, walking paths and plantings, these gardens create more outdoor living spaces or, at the least, turning the top of a small outbuilding such as a garden shed or even a dog house, into a visual focal point that becomes another part of an eye catching garden design.

But, for those of us new to the concept, there’s a distinction between green roofs and rooftop gardens.

“For a green roof, think of it as more like a prairie transported to the top of you building, something solidly planted sometimes with pathways,” says Allan Smessaert, Owner and General Manager at Acorn Markets based in Kankakee, who has created rooftop gardens in Northwest Indiana. “Rooftop gardens are more like a living space with no hardscape. It’s more about the seating with built in and portable container.”

At Taltree, one of only eight arboretums in the world to be awarded Level III accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program sponsored and coordinated by The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, they’ve created a green roof in their Adventure Garden using a preexisting roof structure to harbor species of plants tolerant of weather conditions like high heat and low water. For this particular roof, three varieties of sedum were planted in a diamond shape central design because this hardy perennial, with its thick, fleshy leaves retains water, tolerates both intense sun and periods of drought, requires little to no maintenance and upkeep and look as good in fall as they do in the spring.

Other plants that work well when designing a rooftop garden are hardy daylilies, ajuga—which is good for attracting butterflies and ornamental grasses like Blue Fescue and Maidengrass.

“In the city everyone has a rooftop garden because they don’t have any other space,” says Ann Marischen, owner of Flower Power Gardens and Chicago Mayor Daley’s Landscape Award winner in both 2000 and 2001, who created many roof top gardens in Chicago.

Marischen, who moved from Chicago to Valparaiso over a decade ago, is currently creating a 60-foot-long by 30-foot-wide rooftop garden atop of a converted commercial building that is now a residence in Valparaiso.

“We’re looking a maybe adding a pergola as well as some big planters for trees,” say Marischen, who also creates containers with evergreens, shrubs, grasses and perennials as well – for year-round beauty. “We’ll have seating areas and lounging areas and maybe, because of upkeep, artificial turf.”

Smessaert says sees rooftop gardening as not much more difficult than land gardening except for technical issues.

“You need to consult with an engineer or architect to see how much load an area can hold,” he says noting that dirt adds a lot of weight to a rooftop. “And you have to watch everything you add to the garden because it really adds up. I have an eight foot container that’s eight foot tall and looks like aged copper but it’s not. Those types of containers are perfect for rooftop gardens.

Though flat roofs lend themselves more easily to creating an up top garden, Smessaert says that even pitched roofs can be garden-able.

“They do it a lot in Europe and some even have goats grazing on them,” he says. “And if you just want to have a green roof for energy savings, it’s very doable as long as it’s not too high of a pitch. What is important is that it’s planted heavily and the roots are holding, like you find on a hillside.”

Maddie Grimm, Director of Education at Taltree, says that gardens on top of roofs are a great place to show gardening techniques that are both simple and aesthetically pleasing. She notes that besides being attractive some of the other benefits of a green roof and/or roof garden include an increased lifespan of roofing materials because there’s less erosion and weather damage and the gardens provide insulation by keeping hot sun from affecting inside room temperature in summer and decreasing heat loss through the roof in winter.

Public buildings are also adding rooftop and green roof gardens as both places to gather and to enhance the view.

Bill Hutton of the fifth generation Hammond based Hutton and Hutton Architects and Engineers says that when they worked on the design of the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST), they look at outdoor areas and rooftop gardens as a place for students to study and meet.

“We developed the concept of having several areas with seating and plantings,” he says.

A rooftop garden was also part of the design when planning the North West Indiana Veteran Village in Gary which provides supportive housing as well as other facilities for veterans.

Smessaert, who has designed rooftop gardens in New York where the weather is milder, says that Chicago and Northwest Indiana have more severe weather and the cold and the wind are more intense up on the roof which needs to be taken into consideration when landscaping.

“It’s a whole other world up there,” says Marischen about rooftop gardens. “You really have to make sure everything is weighted down. In the summer it’s very hot, very dry and all year round it’s very windy. It’s easier to take care of a ground garden but rooftop gardens can be so distinctive and so special.”

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Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration

17 Mar 2014: Analysis

From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.

by richard conniff

Restoring degraded ecosystems — or creating new ones — has become a huge global business. China, for instance, is planting 90 million acres of forest in a swath across its northern provinces. And in North America, just in the past two decades, restoration projects costing $70 billion have

Tianjin Qiaoyuan Wetland Park

attempted to restore or re-create 7.4 million acres of marsh, peatland, floodplain, mangrove, and other wetlands.

This patchwork movement to rebuild the natural world ought to be good news. Such projects are, moreover, likely to become far more common as the world rapidly urbanizes and as cities, new and old, turn to green infrastructure to address problems like climate change, flood control, and pollution of nearby waterways. But hardly anyone does a proper job of measuring the results, and when they do, it generally turns out that ecological restorations seldom function as intended.

A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise,

A new study finds more than 75 percent of river restorations failed to meet minimal performance targets.

an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.”

Hence the increasing interest in what Alexander Felson, an urban ecologist and landscape architect at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, calls “designed experiments” — that is, experiments designed by ecologists and incorporated into development and landscape restoration projects to test which alternative approaches work best — or whether a particular approach works at all. The idea is both to improve the project at hand, says Felson, and also to provide a scientific basis for making subsequent projects more successful.

At first glance, the designed experiment idea might seem to echo practices that already exist. Environmental consultants have been a part of most development projects for decades. But they almost never do long-term research on a project, says Felson. “Adaptive management,” the idea of continually monitoring environmental projects and making steady improvements over time — or “learning by doing” — has also been around in ecological circles since the 1970s. But a recent survey in Biological Conservation found “surprisingly few practical, on-ground examples of adaptive management.” In part, that’s because “long-term investigations are notoriously difficult to establish and maintain.”

To deal with that challenge, Felson proposes incorporating ecologists into the design team, so that designers and ecologists build a relationship and complement each other’s strengths from the start. As part of its Million Tree Initiative, for instance, New York City was proposing in 2007 to plant almost 2000 acres of new and restored forest over a ten-year period. The project fit the city’s sustainability agenda to reduce air pollution, sequester

As part of New York’s Million Tree Initiative, a scientific team proposed experiments for the planned forests.

carbon dioxide, control stormwater run-off, and provide wildlife habitat.

But planners didn’t have much basis for determining which species were more likely to achieve those goals, or where to plant them. The usual feedback about whether an urban tree planting project is successful boils down to a single question: “Are they alive or are they dead?” Nor could science provide much guidance. A literature search turned up only a single long-term study of new urban forests planted with native tree species.

So Felson and a team of scientists and designers proposed designed experiments for New York’s planned forests — plantings with different species, in varying configurations, some with compost or other amendments, some without — to learn what worked best.

The proposal represented a compromise between two sensible but contradictory ideas. On the one hand, it is widely accepted that the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago — or, failing that, right now. On the other hand, Felson writes, you “would not build a wastewater treatment plant if it did not achieve water-quality standards, so why plant an urban forest without knowing that it performs the intended function?”

Because experimental plots are not typically scenic, the ecologists worked with park managers to disguise the test plots within a more natural-looking forest. The first test forest went in at Kissena Corridor Park in Queens in 2010, and a second at Willow Lake in 2011, on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.

The ambition is to study traits like carbon sequestration and how species patterns change over decades. But the study is already producing results that may be useful within the context of the Million Tree Initiative, according to Felson and Yale co-authors Mark Bradford and Emily

The Chinese park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff.

Oldfield: If the goal is to get trees to canopy height as quickly as possible, for instance, competition from shrubs will actually make them grow faster, not slower. Some trees, like basswood, do better in more diverse plantings; others, like oaks, prefer less diversity. Compost doesn’t seem to make much difference for the first two years but kicks in during year three.

The designed experiment idea has begun to turn up in restoration projects around the world, notably in China. The northeastern city of Tianjin, for instance, was struggling in 2003 to deal with a 54-acre former shooting range that had become an illegal dumping ground and was also heavily polluted by urban runoff. It hired Kongjian Yu, founder of the Beijing design firm Turenscape, who had trained at Harvard with Richard T.T. Forman, a leading thinker in urban landscape ecology.

The result, Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, opened in 2008, with none of the great lawns and formal plantings seen in conventional Chinese parks. Instead, Yu’s design features a naturalized landscape of ponds, grasses, and reeds, with walkways and viewing platforms for local residents.

Traditional landscape design in China is “based on art and form,” says Yu. “My practice is to find a scientific basis.” The park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff as it moves through the site. Yu calls it “peasant” landscaping, based on traditional rice farms. But the ponds are of different sizes and depths, with the aim of monitoring how

As urban crowding increases, cities may require new projects to deliver multiple ecosystem services.

each microhabitat affects water quality, PH values, and the character of the evolving plant community.

Ecologists on staff at Turenscape and Yu’s students at Beijing University do the monitoring. Among other results, they recently reported that three families of Siberian weasel now call the park home, a remarkable development in a city of 7.5 million people. Yu acknowledges that the experimental results don’t hold much interest for city officials, who have sometimes tried to replace “messy” reeds with playgrounds and formal plantings. But Yu has employed the results from Tianjin to improve his subsequent projects, which also incorporate designed experiments.

The pell mell pace of urban development in China, combined with the often catastrophic environmental after-effects, together create a demand for landscape designs that do more than look pretty, according to Yu. The usual engineering solutions — for instance, “larger pipes, more powerful pumps, or stronger dikes” to handle monsoon flooding — often just aggravate other problems, like the water shortages and falling groundwater levels that now afflict 400 Chinese cities. Yu sees naturalized landscapes as


Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities

Verrazano falcon
As the world becomes more urbanized, researchers and city managers from Baltimore to Britain are recognizing the importance of providing urban habitat that can support biodiversity. It just may be the start of an urban wildlife movement.

urban “green sponges” to retain and filter water, with designed experiments to show whether or not they deliver the promised services.

The goal of incorporating designed experiments more broadly in restoration and development projects is likely to meet resistance on both sides. Developers may regard ecologists as natural adversaries, and research as a costly nuisance. The idea of working within the agenda of developers and government agencies may also strike some ecologists as a fatal compromise.

But China is no means the only place with rapidly worsening environmental issues. As urban crowding increases worldwide and the effects of climate change become more evident, cities may require every new development or restoration project to deliver multiple ecosystem services. The stricter financial standards of the green marketplace will also oblige project managers to demonstrate that those services are real and quantifiable.

“There are certainly problems with what we’ve been doing in restoration projects, but it doesn’t mean we should stop,” says Franco Montalto, a Drexel University environmental engineer who has written about the designed experiment idea. “We should be trying to figure out what doesn’t work and stop doing that, and figure out what does work and do more of it. That’s what you learn from experiments.”

POSTED ON 17 Mar 2014 IN
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RRHBA Spring Home Show is March 28-30 at Salem Civic Center

The Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association, Inc.  is proud to present the 44th annual Spring Home Show at the Salem Civic Center on March 28-30.

Show hours are Friday (March 28): 2 to 7 p.m.; Saturday (March 29): 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday (March 30): noon to 5 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, which is good all weekend with SCC hand stamp, and free for ages 18 and younger.

To plan your visit, go to

The show is all about your home and offers a broad selection of 160 local home-related businesses displaying and selling the latest in products and services. You will find insulation, roofing, pest control, blinds/shutters, HVAC, household items, contractors, energy saving ideas, landscaping, and much more. For the consumer who is planning to build, remodel or enhance their home and/or outdoor living space, it is an opportunity to learn the most current design trends, talk with local professionals, save money by taking advantage of “show only” discounts, watch demonstrations, receive giveaways and win valuable prizes.

This year’s theme is “Bright Ideas,” and attendees are encouraged to ask each vendor/exhibitor the bright idea that he or she has to share.

Meet Rob Jessee, local credit expert and extreme couponer, who will be offering 30-minute sessions on how to cut your grocery bill in half, why everybody should use coupons, the differences in coupons, when you should or should not stockpile, time-saving ways to get organized, and much more. The sessions are located in Parlor A. Here is Rob’s schedule:

  • Friday, 3/28/14: 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, 3/29/14: noon; 3 p.m.; and 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, 3/30/14: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

See Window World’s custom-built Orange County Chopper, built by Paul Teutul, Sr., located in the rear of the arena. Bring the kids to build a free “Build and Grow” wooden project compliments of Lowe’s all weekend and located in the far left of the arena. A tree giveaway tradition will continue and on Saturday (10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), 1,000 white pine seedlings will be given away.

RRHBA is a nonprofit, professional trade association that enjoys a strong membership of more than 300 member firms. Since 1955, RRHBA has proudly served the counties of Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin Roanoke; and the cities of Roanoke Salem. Visit RRHBA at The Spring Home Show’s media partners are WDBJ 7 Television, Star Country (radio), The Roanoke Times and Q99 (radio).

Submitted by Melody Williams, Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association

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While Some Lawmakers Offer Outdated Ideas for Drought, California Proves …

A few weeks ago, I got to see Californians experience something they hadn’t in a long time: a downpour. It was a welcome gift, but it wasn’t enough. Even with the wet weather, roughly 90 percent of California is still in severe or exceptional drought.

California can withstand this drought — and the arid days ahead brought on by climate change — if it expands water-saving measures. These solutions are already benefiting the state. Los Angeles uses the same amount of water today as it did in 1970 despite adding 1 million people.

Water efficiency, recycling, and other local supplies will help California flourish in a drier future. But some lawmakers are stuck in the past.

On Wednesday Congressmen Doc Hastings, Devin Nunes, and other House Republicans will host a field hearing in Fresno. They will complain about NRDC’ court victory last week that put science and health of the water supply ahead of outdated water management ideas. And they will claim that if we strip away environmental protections for the Bay-Delta, build more reservoirs, and allow the agriculture sector to draw more water, then California can return to wetter days.

The truth is you can’t get more water from reservoirs that are empty. The problem in California isn’t environmental safeguards. It isn’t a dearth of storage capacity. It’s a lack of rain. Sacrificing the Bay-Delta ecosystem and building more canals and reservoirs won’t usher in the rain clouds or create more water.
The marina at Folsom Lake, February 16, 2014.

Concrete-heavy approaches were the preferred solutions in the 20th century when the West experienced the wettest time in the past millennium and California had access to plenty of rushing rivers. Those days have passed. California has damned all its major rivers, taken so much from the San Joaquin that it went dry in stretches, and overdrawn from a Colorado River that is running at record lows.

But California has another way forward. It can maximize the potential of its largest sources of new water: efficiency, stormwater capture, recycling, and groundwater cleanup. If the state fully tapped these resources, it could provide more water than California gets from the Bay-Delta. This is a 21st century approach to a changing climate, and it will make the state far more resilient than empty reservoirs.

Indeed, it already has. Homeowners across the state have seen how super-efficient toilets and showerheads, Energy Star washing machines, and drought tolerant landscaping can dramatically their lower water use. And San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles and other cities have seen the benefits of water recycling, groundwater banking, and rainwater harvesting. An NRDC report found that catching rainwater falling on rooftops alone could meet between 21 and 75 percent of the water supply needs of several major U.S. cities.

Cities have also realized that making efficient use of existing supplies is cheaper than building massive new infrastructure. It would cost $2.5 billion to deliver the same amount of water from the proposed Temperance Flat as California water agencies could get for $450 million from recycling programs.

Similar water and financial savings await farmers. Right now the agriculture sector accounts for 80 percent of all water use in California. While some farmers have invested in advanced systems to use their water more efficiently, more than half of the irrigated acreage in California still relies on less efficient flood and furrow techniques. That presents a huge opportunity for the agricultural community to improve crop yields, maintain farm income, and save water.

California’s drought affects everyone in the state, from farmers to fishermen, business owners to suburban residents, and everyone has a role to play in using precious water resources as wisely and efficiently as possible. We can’t make it rain, but we can take charge of investing in solutions that help the state thrive — even when reservoirs run dry.

Photo credit: Jen Estro

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