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Archives for March 25, 2014

Easy gardening tips

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Tips to Green Your Home and Garden this Season – Reporter

Tips to Green Your Home and Garden this Season

Tips to Green Your Home and Garden this Season

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 1:00 am

Updated: 3:33 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

Tips to Green Your Home and Garden this Season


(StatePoint) Going green at home doesn’t have to turn your life upside down. There are simple measures you can take in your kitchen and garden to run a planet-friendly home.

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    Tuesday, March 25, 2014 1:00 am.

    Updated: 3:33 am.

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    MP urges high standards of design at Ebbsfleet garden city

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    Interiors By Design: Consider The Garden Stool

    The hordes descended upon Pier 94 for the annual Architectural Digest Home Design Show. Last week, a mishmosh stew of appliance dealers, carpet hawkers, builder suppliers, gimmicky artists, hipster Brooklyn furniture makers, glass blowers and fuzzy craftspeople plunked their wares down in an un-unified, unedited jambalaya. Added to the confusion was a noisy stream of “celebrity” chefs, designers and architects, and self-proclaimed style makers spicing up this tilt-a-wheel carnival with cheesy proclamations booming over crackling cheap loudspeakers. I couldn’t escape soon enough.

    Albeit, not without observing that every other furniture booth displayed some iteration of the ancient Chinese garden stool—a ubiquitous furniture accessory appearing in every catalogue, shelter magazine, blog, sitcom and home décor store. The garden stool has wormed its way into the hearts of “decoristas” by way of its flexibility, practicality and sculptural potential. Besides its versatility, it is relatively inexpensive, easy to clean and works outdoors as well as indoors.

    Garden stools appeared as early as 960 A.D. in Chinese gardens formalizing the Buddhist act of sitting on a tree stump and contemplating “oneness” in the garden. Originally developed for use in the typical Chinese ancestral home, which was built around a courtyard, the garden stool was first conceived in a barrel shape with rounded nails pounded into metal rings that held the wooden staves. These barrels stored herbs, seeds, bulbs and flower cultivars as well, but fabricated in wood, these lidded barrels rotted outdoors and soon lost their essential purpose—that of a strong seat on which to rest one’s weary back after planting. Chinese artisans began creating garden stools in sculpted rock, glazed stoneware and porcelain. Even now, the barrel shape with rings or nail head detailing (evoking the drum as well) is still extant on the porcelain garden stools one finds available today.

    Still to be found in specialty Chinese antique shops are the wonderful elmwood or calamander wooden garden stools, carved with fretwork, dragons, lotus blossoms, and painted in polychrome, red and often gilded. But because these had to be brought indoors during weather fluctuations, they were abandoned for the more durable stone and porcelain varieties.

    By the early 17th century (Ming Dynasty), garden stools were popular across China and, as is the Chinese wont, the stools were elaborately decorated with images of peacocks, dragons, phoenix, lotus blossoms and peonies as well as scenes of domestic life. These garden stools were exported to the West for almost 300 years, though their popularity has risen only since the mid-20th century, and of course, they have been enjoying a raucous revival in the last few years.

    With the current delight in outdoor living, garden stools fit the niche as a decorative, solid side table that won’t blow away in the wind or rot in the rain. The porcelain stools act as a shimmery counterpoint to the dry matte surfaces of teak furniture. But they also add weight and grounding to a furniture grouping consisting of primarily spindly iron furniture. Do not, however, expect your porcelain or earthenware stools to survive the winter outside or you will find, as I did, a heap of cracked shards awaiting you after the snowdrifts melt.

    Due to their popularity, the garden seats have run the gamut from the more traditional barrel drum shapes to rectangular cubes, to modified hourglasses and simple cylinders. Sculpted in undulating waves or sharp zig-zags, there exists a garden seat design for every design proclivity, be it modern or traditional. Colorful or subdued, black or white, lushly glazed or roughly textured, they can fit into nearly any setting.

    Typically featured as a side table or a drinks table, the garden stool can also lend weight indoors to spindly 18th-century or ‘50s Sputnik furniture. Pulled up as a pair under a parsons-style console, it adds a chic touch to an entry hall and also provides slide-out seating. Though relatively hard to sit on, these stools function well in a pinch when an overflow of guests need a place to sit.

    Because garden stools are solid and sturdy, I find them perfect for side tables edging into the high traffic areas, where a child or eager Labrador can easily knock over a leggy cigarette table. As cocktail tables next to my outdoor chaise lounges, I find them irreplaceably functional, holding up to wind, rain, over-served guests, spilled cocktails and greasy suntan lotions. And as the weather-beaten garden can benefit from the finish, finesse, shine and apparent luxury of porcelain, garden stools can zest up the terrace with decorative thunder.

    Getting back to the AD Design Show, where the garden stool was interpreted in glass, copper, gilded wood, enamelware, wool and upholstery, I found this simple object catapulted to the foreground of home design. Carried to the level of abstract painting, RS Ceramics of Long Island City, in particular, showcased a dynamic explosive rendering of garden stools worthy of placement at LongHouse, Madoo or trailing alongside our marvelous Parrish Art Museum. Brought indoors, they could hold their own in the sleekest of contemporary lofts.

    Though short in stature, the garden stool has found its place in the sun and designers, artists, homemakers and style setters are reveling in its versatile practical charm.

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    Tahunanui: Our big, big sandy beach

    readers gallery

    DOG WALKERS’ PARADISE: One man and his dog take a sunset stroll along Tahunanui Beach.

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    “How about we meet under the yellow rocket?” was a popular invitation when my children were young. We spent countless happy hours in the Lions playground at Tahunanui, and also on the beach itself.

    Many years later, Tahunanui is still a cool place to visit for all the family. The brochures say “Tahuna is Nelson’s gem by the sea; a beautiful safe family friendly swimming beach, with a fantastic climate, restaurants and activities for all ages”.

    And that about sums it up, but my column is 800 words so I will have to expand on this and offer some more ideas for getting out and about at Tahunanui on the next sunny day.

    Tahunanui Beach was known as “The Sands” until a competition was run in 1902 to suggest a name, with a one guinea prize. The Maori name Tahuna was selected, meaning “sand-bank”. This name also applied to a post office in Morrinsville, so ‘nui’, meaning ‘big’ was added – and this beach is indeed big, with 1.75km to walk along and play on.

    According to the NZ Gazetteer, the name Tahunanui is not yet official – a bit like the North and South Islands were up until late last year. So, there’s still time to come up with something different!

    Over the past seven years, the area adjacent to the beach and beside the Lions playground has been extended into a series of sheltered and linked spaces. Clever landscaping makes these spaces welcoming for youth, families and the wider community.

    The Tahunanui Youth Park project was completed in 2013 and is part of a drive to create more recreational spaces for young people in Nelson. It is a great place to chill out, with shade sails, furniture and art, lighting and planting.

    New play equipment, designed for young teens, form part of the park and a mosaic by Nelson artist Tejas Arn is the centrepiece of the chill-out space.

    The community barbecue area reserve includes a shelter, paths, a stage and artwork by local sculptors. There are coin-operated barbecues and this is the perfect venue for a birthday party or end-of-season cricket party.

    An invitation I have had many times recently is, “how about we meet at the BBQ area?”

    Up by Rocks Rd is Abel Tasman Park, which was formed from spoil stored on the dunes during upgrading work on Rocks Rd.

    As well as Abel Tasman’s statue there are itinerant food vendors and even bean bags that you can sit on to survey beach sights from above.

    Nearby is the Nightingale Library, which was built in 1961 with a bequest from Nellie Nightingale, a Tahunanui resident. Opening hours are limited so check before rocking up to change your books.

    For those seeking more action, the fun park to the west has mini golf, bumper boats, a hydroslide and Indy 500 track. There is also a roller skating rink, public tennis courts, Natureland Zoo, the Modellers Pond and a BMX track. These are excellent venues for birthday parties. I’ve been to them all at some stage.

    And now for the beach. The teenagers not at the youth park are preening themselves on the sand, trying to get an even (nearly all-over) tan, drinking beer, taking selfies, talking intensely about important things, and playing Frisbee.

    Younger children are building sandcastles, eating sandwiches with sand in them, and getting excited by the gentle waves. In the distance to the east I can see children at the rock pools making exciting discoveries.

    Other people are reading books, strolling on the beach and splashing in the water. A few are paddle boarding, kite surfing and kayaking.

    No-one is windsurfing, which is odd as there are perfect wind conditions. I know this because my husband is studying the waves and decides it is the perfect breeze for sailing and he’s not sure why he’s on land with me.

    So he doesn’t mourn lost sailing opportunities, I decide to tempt him to a cafe or bar. There are numerous options within five minutes’ walk.

    Ever-popular is the Beach Cafe. I also have good memories of Mr Whippy and the van selling real fruit ice-cream. These were popular in our yellow rocket days, and the long queues show that they still are.

    Even though the air has a definite autumnal feel, there is still plenty of time to enjoy being out and about in Nelson. Tahunanui is well-worth a visit, even if your kids have passed the yellow rocket stage.


    Dog beach – if you have a dog, keep to the Back Beach. Dogs are prohibited on the eastern two-thirds of Tahunanui main beach.

    Commercial activities – some of these are seasonal, so check opening hours before you turn up, particularly post-Easter.

    Litter – if you take it with you then take it away, or put it in the bin. There is nothing worse than finding other people’s food wrappers and half-eaten items. Well, the seagulls and ants will be happy with you, but no-one else (and birds will poop on you as punishment!)

    – © Fairfax NZ News

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    Monday at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week: finding a $50000 idea for coastal … – The Times

    The sixth edition of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, expected to draw 5,000 attendees, opened over the weekend with a trio of business pitch contests for youth entrepreneurs, an around-the-clock hackathon aimed at developing technologies for the tourism industry and a half-day session on growing restaurant businesses.

    Monday begins the festival’s week of business hours events taking place at Gallier Hall. Events include he $50,000 Water Challenge for entrepreneurs with strategies for managing coastal and water issues, and a talk by Andrew Yang, who founded Venture for America, a twist on Teach for America that deploys college graduates to work in startups across the country in similar fashion as the education group places people in schools.

    The Water Challenge, sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Foundation and The Idea Village entrepreneurship hub that produces Entrepreneur Week, includes four startups seeking money to advance their projects. The ventures include an environmentally minded landscaping company, a social journal for people to report potential effects of climate change that they notice, a coastal protection system based on growing oyster beds and a green construction company.

    The pitch competition takes place from 3:20 p.m. to 5 p.m. Discussions and exhibits on water management and environmental strategies begin at 9:30 a.m., including an 11:15 a.m. speech by Sen. Mary Landrieu.

    Yang, the Venture for America founder, speaks at 3:30 p.m. on the challenge of recruiting talented college graduates to help build startups.

    Other events throughout the day include discussions of crowd-funding rules under the federal JOBS Act, public relations strategies for business owners, legal issues facing businesses, learning from failure, how to test business ideas and an event called the Salesforce-Silverline Challenge, which offers a business coaching course to a winning participant. 

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    Area chefs heat up cooking patio at REALTORS® Home & Garden Show

    The 90th REALTORS® Home Garden Show sponsored by Unilock is heating up State Fair Park. Now through March 30, the expo is highlighting more than 350 home and garden professionals with ideas and tips to accomplish everything on a to-do list.

    Among the experts, are some of the area’s seasoned chefs. They are adding flavor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Cooking Patio with daily demonstrations that are sure to entice appetites.

    March 23, the expo kicks off with a day of Latin flair as Greg Leon of Amilinda, a new Venezuelan/Portuguese/Spanish restaurant slated to open this spring in Walker’s Point; Nicholas Ramos of Antigua; and Sean Henninger of Atomic Chocolate, with chocolates sourced from Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador; spice up the day with flavor.

    Karen Gill of Down to Earth Chef, a personal chef who hangs her hat on wholesome, in-home meals, visits the show at 6 p.m. March 26 and 27. March 26, Gill introduces the art of raw cooking, followed by cooking with cinnamon March 27. Arrive early for her sessions and take advantage of free parking. The first 500 cars to park after 5 p.m. March 26 and 27 will enjoy free parking, compliments of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    March 28, Cody Kinart of Colectivo Coffee Roasters; Kyle Cherek, host of “Wisconsin Foodie”; Karen Gill of Down to Earth Chef; and Yollande Deacon of Afro Fusion Cuisine will share ideas in coffee brewing, farm-to-table cooking, savory ways to use chocolate and Jamaican cuisine.

    Jarvis Williams of Carnevor; Chris Hatleli and Nick Burki of Coquette Café; Zach Espinosa of Harbor House; Kyle Cherek, host of “Wisconsin Foodie”; Karen Gill of Down to Earth Chef; and Yollande Deacon of Afro Fusion Cuisine round out the March 29 lineup. Hatleli and Burki will present a Lakefront Rendezvous Biere Cheese Soup, while Cherek continues to keep things local with Wisconsin ingredients and great pairings. Switching gears to more worldly fare, Gill returns to the stage with tips on cooking with cinnamon and Deacon divulges secrets to African cuisine.

    The final day of the show, March 30, features Cody Kinart of Colectivo Coffee Roasters; Greg Leon of Amilinda; and Dan Jacobs of Odd Duck. Best practices for brewing coffee at home and small plate preparations are themes for the day.

    A complete list of topics and times for all chefs are available at

    Visit the gardens and enter to win $1,000
    Another popular area of the show is the Garden Promenade. Showcasing 12 gardens and more than 10,000-square-feet of living landscape displays, guests are invited to tour these retreats and vote for their favorite. People’s Choice voters will be entered into a giveaway that will award one lucky attendee $1,000 from The Equitable Bank. 

    New this year, 16 outdoor sculptures by four Midwest artists are the gateway to the Garden Promenade. Peter Flanary, Bruce Niemi, Beth Sahagian and Jason Verbeek are the featured sculptors at the show.

    Peter Flanary from Mineral Point, Wisc. is showcasing “Round River,” “Sundial,” “Polka Dot Rock” and “Beet Wagon.”

    Bruce Niemi, a returning artist to the show from Kenosha, is introducing four sculptures of soaring proportions –“Power of Three,” “Glorious Ascent,” “From Within” and “Visions of a Palm.”

    “Spring Bronze,” “Chrysallis,” “Medusa’s Mirror” and “Fossa Bronze” are pieces being shown by Milwaukee’s own Beth Sahagian.

    Jason Verbeek of New Lenox, Ill. is showcasing “Vertical Vegetation,” “Conjoined in Stone,” “Tethered” and “Prairie Joint.”

    Show-goers will also notice the sculpture theme carried throughout the Garden Promenade as small and large pieces are discreetly and prominently integrated into the 12 gardenscapes.

    Sustainable Solutions Park
    Tour the latest energy-saving concepts and environmentally friendly landscaping ideas at the Sustainable Solutions Park by Breckenridge Landscape. Showing homeowners that sustainability can be both aesthetically and financially pleasing, featured applications include gabion walls, a bubbling water feature, native plantings and permeable pavers – put to the test with twice-an-hour rainstorm demos each day.

    MPTV Great TV Auction Art Preview
    Preview the MPTV Great TV Auction’s collection of art antiques and collectibles available for bid during their televised auction, April 25 – May 3. Over 1,000 items will be on display along with entries from the “Art is for the Birds” Birdhouse Contest. Be among the first to see the 2014 Featured Art Collection and get a head start on auction shopping by placing proxy bids on favorite items. Raffle and sweepstakes tickets will also be sold.

    Garden Market
    If large projects are not on the list, enjoy a boutique shopping experience at the show’s Garden Market. Offering a wide selection of garden ornaments, tools, pottery, plants and more for purchase, the collection of shops is stocked with one-of-a-kind treasures and eclectic décor to complement even the most unique landscaping designs.

    When to go
    The 90th REALTORS® Home Garden Show presented by Unilock is at State Fair Park now thru March 30 (closed March 24 and 25). Show hours are Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, free for children 12 and younger, and free for active military with ID. To learn more, go to or call (414) 778-4929.

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    Home Help: Embrace spring with DIY home and landscaping projects

    Posted Mar. 24, 2014 @ 2:01 am

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    Digging up ideas for a spring garden

    When Brian Koch, owner of South San Francisco’s Terra Ferma Landscapes, drove through Napa during the post-harvest season, he was always struck by the sight of expired vines piled into gigantic orbs that dot the open fields. Feelings of melancholy mixed with a little regenerative inspiration stayed with him as he visited with clients in the area.

    Those mounds of spent vines that ultimately get burned are part of what distinguishes the Wine Country landscape and were the inspiration for his firm’s show garden, titled Vintage California. The garden will be one of 20 on display and judged at the San Francisco Flower Garden Show in San Mateo.

    The show, under new ownership this year, is the nation’s third largest and runs next Wednesday through Sunday. It focuses on connecting leading home gardeners with landscapers, designers and garden educators.

    Aside from the show gardens, the event features thousands of flowers and floral designs, innovative gardening products, cooking demonstrations from Bay Area chefs and hands-on science activities for kids. It will include in-depth seminars on topics like fruit and vegetable carving and DIY wedding flowers and speakers discussing issues like drought-friendly gardening, edible gardens and sustainability.

    Five members of Terra Ferma’s staff have worked on the design of their display since last December when they learned that they were selected to participate.

    “The show’s been on my radar for many years and we’ve been waiting for the right time,” said Koch about making a display. “Collaboratively we felt that this was a good idea to move forward with.”

    Countless hours have gone in to creating the garden from the original grapevine inspiration, and Koch and his staff are pleased with its evolution from a single vision into a layered garden experience. The display will act as an example of how their business creates detailed landscapes every day focused on a holistic approach.

    The centerpiece of the garden is a vine orb, measuring approximately 12-feet in diameter and handwoven from harvested and dried grapevines. Visitors will be able to walk inside, sit, contemplate and enjoy the space, both inwardly and outwardly.

    With a 682-square-feet display space, every inch and angle is maximized to help tell the story.

    “This globe is a tribute to those vines and all their hard work,” Koch said.

    The garden’s Vintage California theme is a play on the word vintage, harkening to the area’s older estates.

    “The design is a regionally appropriate rendition of this romantic notion of what a vineyard is to many,” said John Hreno, Terra Ferma’s design studio director.

    The region’s topography is replicated by the use of plants, tiered in layers and each representing the wine country’s microclimates and the plants that the region supports. From the use of cypress and California redwoods, shrubs and ferns that thrive in the fog belt, to a water feature that flows into a twisting gravel bed, each layer represents the region’s diverse ecosystem.

    The rows or lines on the lowest elevation of the garden speak to the linear rows of the vineyards and other California agricultural crops.

    “Our goal was to show visitors that any of these layers can be applied to your own climate,” Hreno said.

    Other custom design features and materials include illuminated inverted wine bottle-concrete pavers, tight-fitting stacked stone walls using stone from regional quarries and found steel troughs cut in half to funnel water as part of the waterfall.

    “Those troughs represent the way water used to be transported from higher elevations to low-lying areas,” said Koch.

    Besides using California natives and other drought-tolerant and Mediterranean plants, Koch turned to found and reclaimed objects to help with the garden’s nostalgic and regenerative message.

    “Even the vine orb we created was repurposed from an item that would have been burned and put back in to the soil,” said Koch. “To be resourceful requires a lot of creativity.”

    The garden was built in stages outdoors and inside the firm’s Petaluma warehouse during the last three months and had to be broken down and recreated inside the Expo Hall this week. Even the woven vine globe – constructed so that it could be transported from Petaluma to San Mateo in two halves – had to be reattached once it arrived.

    Great lighting and a bit of theater go into the installation of these show gardens. Associate designer Adam Nugent reflected on his own high school and college theater experience when designing the landscape.

    “This is a unique thing,” he said. “The temporary nature of designing a set and the mystery of knowing you have nothing behind the walls is similar to this project, plus you’re dealing with living plants and have to support them.”

    For Hreno, he is ready for Terra Firma to show of their design and building skills to create fantastical gardens.

    “Part of our role as landscape designers and builders is making our clients’ dreams come true, so this is a fun experience,” he said. “Our goal is always to create tasteful, provocative and thoughtful gardens without being gratuitous.”

    San Francisco Flower Garden Show

    10 a.m.-7 p.m. next Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr, San Mateo. All show 5-day pass is $30; adult day tickets are $20.

    Sophia Markoulakis is a Peninsula freelance writer. E-mail This story appeared in the Sunday Peninsula Zone.

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    Janice Peterson: Five useful landscaping tricks for beginners



    I love to garden but I struggle with garden design. Even when I take the time to plan out a bed I eventually undermine the design by moving plants and adding freebies friends have given me. I admit it; I am a “plopper” not a “planner”. I try to keep some semblance of order in the front of my house but my backyard is more like a big “experimental station”.

    Occasionally someone new to gardening will ask me for design advice (seasoned gardeners know better than to ask me!). However, I do have a few useful tricks for beginners:

    1. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. My neighbor saw a great looking perennial bed in a magazine and brought it in to her local garden center. They helped her recreate the look, substituting some of the plants with more appropriate ones for her yard.

    2. Check out your neighbor’s landscaping. Notice any plants in their yards that look good and are growing well? Chances are they’ll look good and grow well in your yard, too! If you don’t know what the plants are then this is a great reason to meet your neighbors and chat about their yard. Who knows, you may even go home with some plant divisions.

    3. Go to McDonalds. Or a gas station. Any local business that has nice looking grounds. Garden designers may think these landscapes are boring but there’s a reason they work. These are plants that are attractive, easy to grow, aren’t extra fussy and can handle some abuse. I’ve noticed in commercial properties more use of ornamental perennial grasses, which are one of my favorite landscape elements. Check out the neat switchgrass (Panicum sp.) at Woodman’s.

    4. Visit a local botanical garden (Rotary Botanical Gardens immediately comes to mind!). You will find great design ideas and best of all many of the plants are labeled. Make sure you record the names of the plants you love.

    5. Be wary of those ready-made perennial gardens from catalogs. The picture will show every plant in full bloom at the same time. Ha! The reality is that perennials bloom for relatively short periods of time on their own schedules. Also, depending on where the catalog is from, some of those “perennials” won’t even survive a Wisconsin winter.

    Part of the fun of gardening is trying new ideas and seeing what works and doesn’t work in the garden. Thomas Jefferson, that eternal gardening optimist, wrote of “the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another.” Oh, I’ve been there, done that!






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