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Archives for March 22, 2014

Garden Views: Tips on adding a rain garden to your property

A rain garden can capture rain that would otherwise flow down your lawn and driveway into streets and storm sewers, and use it to make your property more beautiful.  It does this if  it is located where rain can be directed into it, built so that it can temporarily hold the water (a rain garden is not a pond), and planted with appropriate plants to add beauty and attract birds, bees and butterflies. While a handy homeowner can
create a nice rain garden, assistance of a landscape professional with experience in rain gardens can be very helpful.

As in real estate, the first three things are location, location and location. The rain garden should be at least 10 feet from buildings. If one of your downspouts drains into your lawn, perhaps you already know where your rain garden should go. If it instead drains onto the driveway, could it be redirected toward a section of the yard?

Does the soil in that section drain readily? Dig a wide hole 6 inches deep and fill it with water. Wait 24 hours. If the water disappears within that time, the location is suitable for a rain garden.

Can you carve out a large enough space to handle the amount of rain you will get during downpours? Rain gardens range from 100-300 square feet and can usually handle rain from hard surfaces (roof, driveway) three times their size. More than one rain garden may be needed to handle rain from larger areas. Use a hose or rope to outline a curved shape for the proposed garden and move it around until you are satisfied with its placement.
Unless it is located in a depression, you will have to excavate between 4-10 inches to form the level bowl of the rain garden. If the site is not level, use some of the excavated soil to make a berm on the downslope side to further prevent overflow. You may also wish to add a border.

Next comes the fun part – planting. Rain gardens can be located in sun or part shade. They have distinct planting areas: the bowl and the upper part and a transition zone between them. The bowl area will need plants such as spiderwort and blue flag that can handle wet feet. Plants for the entire rain garden should also handle dry conditions. Native plants are often preferred for that reason. You can use perennials, shrubs or even small trees in a rain garden. Don’t forget mulch. Choose wood chips made from hardwoods that will not float away. River rock can be used for the inlet.

Mulch will help keep down weeds but you will have to weed, especially the first season. You will have to water your rain garden in dry seasons. The final result is a beautiful garden that captures rain that would otherwise overburden storm sewers and water treatment plants. Step-by-step instructions are at:

The Anoka County Master Gardeners invite you to visit our web page Click on “hot topics” for information about the Home Landscaping and Garden Fair, April 12, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Bunker Hills Activities Center, 550 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW, Andover. There also is information on our plant sale (hundreds of plants at reasonable prices) and the plant diagnostic clinic, which offers expert help with your landscape and garden problems.

Lynda Ellis is an Anoka County Master Gardener.

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Tips To Care For Gardening Tools

Gardening is not just a house chore, it is an art which needs technique and precision. As every art form, gardening also has its ways and methods. Every gardener needs certain equipment for maintaining the garden.

There are certain tools which need to be handy and in working condition to be a good gardener.

Tips To Care For Gardening Tools

In this article, we shall discuss garden tools care maintenance required. Gardening tools are important for every gardener and they should be cared for properly. You may follow these tips to care for garden tools and equipment.


Keep it clean – When you use your gardening tools, they are meant to get dirty and dust covered. To maintain the life and working efficiency of your tools, you must wash them thoroughly and clean all the mud on it. The mud does not go easily if not removed instantly. The soil removing only needs a couple of minutes. Therefore, do not keep your tools uncleaned and care for gardening tools.

Keep away from moisture – The garden tools are generally made form iron and other metals which can rust when brought in continuous contact with water. You must dry the tools as soon as the garden chores are over. This will prevent any rusting of tools because of the moisture. Keep the tools away from water sprinklers and water outlets. You will be giving good care for garden tools by keeping them away from water.

Oil the tools – To avoid further rusting of tools, you can apply a layer of oil on the tools. This helps in preventing any damage to the tools. It is a good tip to care for garden tools. Dip the tool after use every time. Before covering with oil wash the tool. Also, be careful in what oil you are using as the oil will come in direct contact with the garden plants the next time you it. This is a tip for garden tool maintenance, care and proper use.

Keep the tools sharp – There are several garden tools which are used for cutting and trimming. You must sharpen the blades of the pruners, trimmers and scissors at regular intervals. It will help in garden tool care and maintenance. This will also ensure that you will have your trimmers and scissors at handy whenever needed. This is garden care tip for garden tools.

Chemical Applications – There are some garden equipment which are supposed to be used for spraying fertilizer and storing chemical pesticides. The equipment can rust and damage because of the chemicals in contact. Therefore, clean the garden tools thoroughly after any chemical related applications. This is one important garden tools care and maintenance required. Also, use gloves when using garden tools for your own hygiene and safety.

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Alan Titchmarsh gardening tips: How to grow currants

The commonest varieties of Ribes sanguineum (to give it its proper name) are ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ and ‘King Edward VII’. Both are a striking shade of rose pink. Paler is ‘Porky’s Pink’ which does, indeed, have the tone of a fattened pig (but which looks much more delicate) while ‘White Icicle’ and ‘Tydeman’s White’ both fit their descriptions.

If I were you, I’d give a home to any of them – they are such welcome sights in spring, as their buds begin to burst in February before finally opening in late March and decorating the stems with their dangling flowers.

You don’t need to take my dad’s approach to pruning – just trim off any unwanted stems after flowering and, when the bush is getting on a bit, take out one or two older branches fairly low down, so they can be replaced with youngsters.

That way, you will rejuvenate the shrub without it looking too bare.

When it comes to soil and situation, the flowering currant is as accommodating a plant as you could wish for. Well-drained soil and a reasonable amount of sunshine are its preference, but it will cope with a fair degree of shade and all kinds of earth.

Nip down to your local nursery or garden centre now and choose one that is just breaking into bloom; that way you can see exactly the colour of the flowers.

But then, I reckon any one of them will be as welcome as the flowers that bloom in the spring. 

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and every day in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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Design master class: The power of window treatments

The Challenge

A renovation turned the formal dining room of this 17-year-old Chapel Hill home into an inviting gathering space that is now in constant use. Replacing the formal furnishings was easy. The challenge was to design window treatments that would take advantage of the light and views, yet provide interest and polish.

Super Space

Although a formal dining room was no longer desired, the special-occasion china and glassware still needed a home, so built-ins were installed on either side of one wall of windows, creating storage. The traditional chandelier was replaced with a semi-flush fixture made of copper and recycled glass. A sofa from another room was freshly slipcovered and leather chairs were brought in to form a comfortable floor plan conducive to conversation.

Taking off the plantation shutters was one of the best days in the eight-week renovation. Light just came flooding in! Now the 12- by 12-foot space was bright and cheerful, but a bit stark with a touch of glare. We hung custom drapery panels in a creamy white, semisheer fabric with a soft stripe on metal rings attached to a 3-inch diameter rod in an oil-rubbed bronze finish. The draperies feature a tape trim, embellished with antiqued silver metal accents that add a modern touch. Across the top, we ran a different trim that follows the pinch-pleated header – a small detail that adds an easy elegance. Now these window treatments stand out against the walls, which are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Latte.

In the bay window we installed custom roman shades in an Arts and Crafts pattern that brings in red and gold for a warming effect. Raised, these shades connect the room with a view of trees and sky. Lowered, they make the space intimate, cozy and luxurious. The use of red created visual excitement in an otherwise calm oasis, and we continued that vibe with accent pillows and a wool throw on one of the leather Ekornes chairs.

Terrific Trick

Hang window treatments high – often just inches from the molding or ceiling to take the eye upward and make the room look bigger. Use chunky rods in rooms with high ceilings; they look more proportionate with full-length drapery panels and can now be found in big-box hardware stores.

(Not) By the book

Variety adds interest. We varied fabrics, colors and styles in our window treatments. The pulls on the custom cabinetry are pewter, the new light fixture is copper, the coffee table is glass with nickel and a floor lamp features brass accents. The overall color palette is neutral, with a pop of red; the result is visually interesting yet calm. Have a party, read a book, take a nap – this room is ready for it all.

DeCocco Drapes

5012 Tallwood Drive, Raleigh

919-612-6464 or

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Garden State Plaza trying digital locators, innovative design in 22-store addition

With online sales growing four times faster than in-store sales, how can a mall lure customers? Westfield Garden State Plaza is betting $160 million that the answer is a combination of uncommon stores, added amenities and what mall executives call the “wow factor.”

The Paramus shopping center’s newest addition, a 55,000-square-foot, two-story wing, brings 22 stores to New Jersey’s largest shopping center, as well as expanded concierge services and a first-of-a-kind digital storefront with a 7-foot-high touch-screen that shoppers can swipe to search for products or store locations.

The barricades on the new wing came down on Thursday, with several of the stores opening for business on Friday or scheduled to open today.

The entrance to the lower level of the wing will be next to a valet parking service and will have a concierge desk where visitors can check their coats or shopping bags, search the Internet on iPads, relax in a lounge area and watch TV or ask the concierge to make a reservation at a mall restaurant.

U.S. shopping centers are adding lounges and similar amenities as a way of “creating a sense of place for the consumer,” said Jesse Tron, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “The third place is what we call it — it’s not the place where you work, it’s not the place where you live. It’s the place where you go and congregate with friends, and you shop and do all those kinds of things,” he said.

Bryan Gaus, senior general manager of the plaza, said the new wing is intended to give mall customers an “elevated shopping experience.”

The added space has some cutting-edge design features that the mall plans to extend to other parts of the shopping center, including higher storefronts that create more of a presence for each retail space. The storefronts in the new wing are about 22 feet, compared with 14 to 15 feet in most of the mall.

The addition also has multiple seating areas, with charging stations for electronic devices and coffee-shop style tables, and has wider corridors and more open spaces than older sections of the mall have.

The digital storefront display, which is 11 feet wide, is a double-sided device with three touch screens that can be swiped to display pictures of clothes, shoes or other products, or used to access directions to a store. The device was developed by Westfield Labs, the digital innovation division of Westfield, the mall development company that owns the plaza.

Retailers already open in the new wing include the designer apparel brands Maje, Sandro, Vince Camuto and Robin’s Jeans; the cosmetics retailers Lush and Kiko Milano; the sandal shop Havaianas; the food retailers Starbucks and Au Bon Pain; and The Kase, a European company that sells custom cases for smartphones. A Lasaka sushi bar is scheduled to open on Saturday, and a Max Brenner chocolate shop will open in April. A Microsoft store will open in the new wing in May. Several stores in the new wing are their brand’s first locations in New Jersey.

Construction of the wing began in January 2013 with the demolition of the four-story parking garage adjacent to Neiman Marcus. That structure was replaced by a five-story parking deck that allowed the mall to carve out space for the new wing. The L-shaped wing creates a store-lined walkway between the Macy’s and AMC movie theater wings of the mall and a newer section of the mall that houses luxury tenants, including Tiffany and Louis Vuitton.


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Gaston News: Daniel Stowe to host garden design lecture

Garden design lecture: “Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design,” a lecture about Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s newest attraction, “Lost Hollow: Kimbrell Children’s Garden,” will be offered at 6 p.m. April 17 at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont.

Landscape designer W. Gary Smith will discuss his inspiration for Lost Hollow and will show images of some of his latest works at locations across the country, including Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

A reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the lecture 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wine will be available in the Garden Store. Cost is $12 for garden members, and $15 for nonmembers. Advance registration is required. To register, call 704-829-1252.

Pancake Jamboree: The East Gastonia Lions Club will host its 57th annual Pancake Jamboree 5-8 p.m. March 28 at Brookside Elementary School, 1950 Rhyne Carter Road, Gastonia. The meal is all-you-can eat and includes pancakes, sausage and stewed apples. Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for ages 12 and younger.

Peter Rabbit event: Children’s storybook character Peter Rabbit will make an appearance 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 29 at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont. Other characters from the Beatrix Potter story “Peter Rabbit’s Garden Adventure,” including Mrs. Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, will also greet guests.

The event will include stories and hands-on activities. Greg Briley Photography will be available to take spring-themed photos in the Orchid Conservatory. Photo packages will be available starting at $39.95. Photo time availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Food and drinks will be for sale at the Bunny Café, provided by Best Impressions Caterers. Wine by the glass will be available at the Garden Store. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets for a picnic. Carriage rides will be available for an additional charge, weather permitting. The event is free with garden admission. Members are free; adults, $12; seniors age 60 and older, $10; and children 4-12, $6. For details, visit

Lincoln County

New location: Hospice Palliative Care Lincoln County recently moved to a new and larger location. An open house will be held 5-7 p.m. April 3 at the new office at 900 Donita Drive, Lincolnton. Drinks and appetizers will be served. Registration is requested by March 26. For details, contact Tiffany Petti at 704-375-0100 or

Kings Mountain

Shakespeare program: A family-friendly program, “Shakespeare’s Spear: The History of Heraldry,” will be presented at 5:30 p.m. March 27 at the Kings Mountain Historical Museum, 100 E. Mountain St., Kings Mountain. The program will explore the history of heraldry, the art and science of blazoning coats of arms, and it will teach the tale behind the granting of William Shakespeare’s coat of arms.

Participants will be able to create their own family coat of arms. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For details, visit or call 704-739-1019. Compiled by Gina Smith

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Primetime landscaping




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“Before the home gets pretty, the competition gets ugly.”

That’s the slogan for NBC’s new design reality competition show: “American Dream Builders.” A combination of “The Apprentice” meets “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “American Dream Builder” puts 12 contestants, all design professionals from across the country, on two teams. Each week’s one-hour episode features a different design competition that each team has to complete on a budget and in the allotted timeframe. At the end of the episode, the finished projects are judged and the losing team has to meet with the judges, where one member will be voted off. The winner of the show receives $250,000.

Since the contestants have to complete different design projects that cover all aspects of designing a living space, NBC’s show has three very different judges to critique each team member’s performance. Nate Berkus and Monica Pederson are both interior designers, and Eddie George is a landscape architect.

A 1995 Heisman Trophy winner at The Ohio State University and former NFL running back, George says he is excited for what landscape professionals will take out of this.

“I hate to say it, but as landscape architects we’re often overlooked,” he says. “But (the show) did a huge emphasis on curbside appeal.”

Already unlike the typical home improvement show, an interesting aspect is the judging.

“Every week they are judged by a neighborhood council who determines the winner,” George says. “These are people from the neighborhood that know the architecture, that understand the way of living for each specific architectural style, and they determine who wins.”

The losing team then meets with the three judges and their actions are critiqued before a team member is voted off.

Without giving anything away, George says there is one episode landscape professionals  won’t want to miss.

“One week is an outdoor oasis that they have to create,” he says. “And really it’s adding square footage by using the outdoor space; having an open dining area that’s outside. You’re defining the space through plant materials as well as ground materials and pavers and so forth, and creating those intimate gathering spaces.”

While this kind of show may be geared towards everyday viewers, professional landscapers will still be impressed by some of the projects.

“Given the amount of time that they have each and every week is going to be interesting to watch,” George says. “I think most gardeners and architectural landscapers will look at it and say ‘how can I learn to create a beautiful design that’s high end and tells a beautiful story within a week’s time on a budget, without feeling the constraints of that?’ And I think they’re going to see some pretty compelling things on the show.”

As a professional landscaper himself, George says he was drawn to do the show because of the role he could ensure landscape architecture would play.

“For years I was trying to figure out how I could marry entertainment and landscape architectural design and no one was really interested,” he says. “This allows me to not only show the expertise of landscape architectural design within residential homes, but it strikes a balance with the interior of the home, how the two are merged together, are married together. They’re not separate. I think it’s so important that the outside has to be just as beautiful as the indoors.”

George says he was also excited for the project because of what he and other landscape professionals can take from it.

“That’s what really intrigued me because now I get a chance to be inspired and also able to encourage people to really take advantage of what you’re given in terms of the outdoor spaces,” he says. “I think you’ll walk away from watching the show with something you can learn that you can do for yourself at home. You can go to your local Lowe’s and buy some of the materials and install it yourself. And I know for me personally, having my home and seeing what I can do better, I have some ideas of what I want. There are some ideas that I’ve been inspired to do that I think people will get something from.”

The series premiere of “American Dream Builders” is Sunday, March 23, at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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William Kent’s English landscape revolution at Rousham

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Top design firm to unveil ideas for St. Pete Beach downtown

ST. PETE BEACH — Discussion of redevelopment of the city’s Corey Avenue/Downtown District will intensify this week as design consultants return to present their initial findings and suggestions in community meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

The Michael Baker Jr. consulting firm, an international company ranked among the top 10 percent of the 500 largest U.S. design firms, has been studying the city’s aging downtown since last fall.

The group last met with residents, business owners and the City Commission in November to gather ideas and determine what the various groups want most for the area.

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One controversial proposal — rerouting traffic in what officials call a “couplet” of one-way streets — so far has the support of the commission, but with three new members taking their seats Tuesday, all bets are off.

“There are still concerns about the couplet, which should be addressed in the design. These include the potential to make businesses less visible to drivers, possible driver confusion, creating issues on other streets from diverted/shortcut traffic, and disruption to businesses during construction,” according to the Baker firm’s analysis that will be presented this week.

The firm, though, also talked about “much that could be gained” by using the couplet to increase space for street beautification and on-street parking, to improve traffic flow and to significantly increase pedestrian safety.

The goal of this week’s meetings is to focus on the best redevelopment concepts, which the firm will then formulate into a specific set of proposals it will bring back to the city this summer.

Those proposals will use landscaping, design guidelines, signs, gateways and public art to establish a unique look for the Corey Avenue District.

Community members have told the group they want St. Pete Beach’s downtown area to be “colorful and alive,” with an upscale beach style that is neither “whimsical nor garish.” Above all, people want the redesigned “everyone’s downtown” area to be accessible and comfortable, the Baker report states.

The area under study extends from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico on the east and west, and from 77th to 73rd avenues. The Corey Avenue business district is in the center of the study area.

Baker’s report indicates that residents primarily want the area to be more pedestrian friendly, where people could park once and safely walk to all destinations in the area.

Amenities would include extensive signature lighting and landscaping, outdoor dining with flexible “parklets” carved out of roads that can be used for seating, as well as public restrooms.

Events and activities are envisioned to extend from sunrise into the evening. One proposal calls for a fishing pier, boat docks and a marina.

Redevelopment would be encouraged to include businesses, hotels and residences.

“Vacant land and buildings provide key opportunities for redevelopment and reuse. Most obvious is the large parcel at the ‘sunrise’ end of Corey Avenue,” the Baker report states.

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Time to party: A festive theme surrounds Plantasia, this weekend’s garden and …

Getting out in the garden sounds pretty good right about now. Socializing with friends out there sounds even better.

Soon, both can happen. In the meantime, Plantasia – the annual garden and landscape show – is underway today through Sunday at the Fairgrounds Event Center and Artisan Hall in Hamburg.

This year’s theme: A Party in the Garden.

This is the place to see blooming flowers; shrubs; water features; fire pits; grills; outdoor furniture, structures and materials; patios; and garden lighting and decor – some of it party-ready to reflect the show’s theme. Garden displays have been created by local nursery and landscape professionals, and there is a lineup of hourly seminars by local experts that are free with admission. Topics include “Successful Do-It-Yourself Pruning,” “Things Gardeners Should Know but Don’t” and “Fairy Gardens.” You can check out seminar times and topics on the website, for lists of educational seminars, exhibitors, vendors, events, general admission discount coupon, directions and the Aurora Waldorf School’s daily schedule of events for the children’s garden. Parking is free.

Also this weekend: The Greater Niagara Region Home and Garden Show, now in its fourth year, takes place today through Sunday at the Scotiabank Convention Centre across the border in Niagara Falls, Ont. See

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