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Archives for April 16, 2014

Why Southwest Airlines Is Building Parks in Each of Its 90 Cities

Over the last 47 years, Southwest Airlines has built a vibrant-if a little goofy-airborne community. Now some of that culture is fueling urban improvements on the ground. Southwest’s new initiative called the Heart of the Community is working to build parks and other public spaces in all of the 90 cities the airline flies to, thanks to a partnership with the Project for Public Spaces.

“Southwest has always been a very people-centric airline,” says to Marilee McInnis, Southwest’s senior manager of culture and communications. “We’ve always been associated with community and taking people from place to place.”

A few years ago, the company was looking for a more sustained way to make a difference in those communities and stumbled upon the work of the Project for Public Spaces. Southwest realized that the organization’s concept of placemaking-working closely with nonprofits and community groups to improve public and civic spaces-fit perfectly into their mission, says McInnis: “We loved the idea that the process of placemaking was all about creating places around the ideas and wants of people who live and work there.”

Since 2013, three parks have been built or renovated in Detroit, Providence, Rhode Island, and San Antonio as part of a pilot program, and grants have also helped fund the research and publication of a white paper at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. In addition, the pilot projects have become case studies, shared on PPS’s website.

Earlier this month the partnership unveiled its latest project, a revitalized Travis Park in San Antonio, where Southwest paid for new electrical infrastructure, a bike-sharing station, and general furniture, landscaping, and maintenance updates. The 2.6-acre park was selected for both its central location and its history-it’s one of the oldest municipal parks in the country, and was in desperate need of a refresh.

But Southwest also has emotional ties to the park: It’s located right across the street from the hotel where co-founders Herb Kelleher and Rollin King first scrawled the business plan for Southwest on a cocktail napkin.

Here’s the important difference between Southwest’s engagement-which doesn’t have a specific dollar amount attached-and simply feeding charitable gifts to a nonprofit partner: Southwest isn’t planning to toss some trees into a town square and split.

Part of the grant funds for each space are going towards programming to make sure the parks are maintained, well-used, and loved. That means classes, events, festivals, and even community clean-up days will all be spearheaded by the airline.

This is also where Southwest is able to offer another key component: The volunteer power of its almost 45,000 enthusiastic employees, who are always looking for ways to give back, says McInnis.

Two things seem especially promising about Southwest’s approach. First, partnering with a group like Project for Public Spaces, which is so established and well-respected in this area, is very smart. PPS will work with the airline to outline more opportunities in its 90 cities and also vet local groups like San Antonio’s Center City Development Office, which can represent the needs of stakeholders and act as stewards of the spaces. The plan is to accelerate existing ideas and programs, not to start from scratch.

Second, placemaking is a very smart way for a company-and specifically an airline-to invest their money. Instead of say, sending money off to a vague-sounding charity, they are actually impacting the physical appearance and quality of life in the cities they are working in, which in turn are making them better destinations for customers.

McInnis had an even better take on why this was important when I asked her about it. “These cities are where our customers visit,” she said. “But also where our employees live and work.” [Project for Public Spaces]

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Summer vegetable gardening

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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East Riding plays host to European study visitors

The East Riding recently took the opportunity to showcase some of the excellent volunteering activity, which is taking place in its many voluntary and community organisations, when European partners from the Volunteers for European Employment (VERSO) project embarked on a study visit to the area.

VERSO is a pan-European knowledge-sharing initiative, which aims to combat increasing unemployment across the European Union and help get people into employment through innovative approaches to volunteering.

VERSO brings together local authority and knowledge partners from Denmark, Greece, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain (Catalonia), Hungary, The Netherlands and Bulgaria to share good practice and East Riding of Yorkshire Council is leading local involvement here. The ultimate aim of the project is to transfer the good practice from one particular national, social and cultural context to another.

The visiting partners attended the East Riding Voluntary and Community Sector Conference 2014 at Bishop Burton College, organised jointly by East Riding Voluntary Action Services and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and were included in the day’s programme. They gave presentations and ran a workshop to raise awareness of the volunteer training and mentoring work, which is going on in other parts of Europe.

As part of the study visit, European partners visited The Sobriety Project at The Waterways Museum, in Goole, learning of the many ways in which volunteers are engaged, such as maintenance of canal boats, gardening and landscaping, painting and work within the museum.

The second visit was to The Courtyard, in Goole, (a multi-cultural resource centre) where VERSO partners learned about the various volunteer-involving organisations and projects based there, including the work of The Green Team, Home-Start and projects embracing residents from Eastern Europe.

The final visit was to Densholme Care Farm, in Great Hatfield, where volunteers are heavily involved in helping with supporting the clients, care of the animals and helping with the organic community orchard. The European guests were driven about for the day by a volunteer driver in a Beverley Community Lift minibus and enjoyed the varied programme showcasing the work and importance of volunteers within organisations.

Councillor Jane Evison, cabinet portfolio holder for economy, investment and inequalities, said: “It was a real privilege for the council to host our VERSO colleagues from overseas. This visit was an excellent opportunity to share ideas and best practice on a range of economic issues.

“Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills and boost employment and career prospects, most volunteers will tell you they got so much out of the work and it provides the opportunity to try new things.

“Getting people into work is a top priority for nations across the European Union and by working together through initiatives like the VERSO project we can identify new ways to grow our economies to the benefit of all our residents.”

The VERSO project will produce a Best Practice Catalogue in 2014, which will be available to learn from the work which has taken place over the course of the project and will ultimately result in a range of research-based policy recommendations, which will identify effective forms of volunteering and indicate how they can be transferred to contexts across Europe.

For more information on the VERSO project, or to get involved in volunteering in the East Riding, contact Anne Watkins at East Riding Voluntary Action Services at or by phoning (01482) 871077.

The VERSO project has been co-financed by the European Union European Regional

Development Fund (ERDF) and made possible by the INTERREG IVC Programme.

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Sara McCool Leads Gardening Classes At YWCA Darien/Norwalk

DARIEN, Conn. – Sara McCool of Ungemack McCool Landscape Associates is returning to the YWCA Darien/Norwalk to teach Landscape Design and Practice, Outdoor Green Garden, and Perennial Garden this spring.

In Landscape Design and Practice, McCool focuses on property designs with an eye on needs and budget and will discuss how shrubs, ground covers, trees and the use of tested planting techniques can beautify grounds. As a bonus, she visits each participant’s home to review current landscaping and offer advice on the latest in landscape design. This five-session class is offered in both mornings and evenings.

The dates and times are Mondays, April 21, 28 and May 5, 12, 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. or Wednesdays, April 23, 30, and May 7, 14, 21 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The cost is $95 for members, $120 for nonmembers.

In Outdoor Green Garden, McCool discusses and demonstrates proper care for property’s plantings. Common diseases and pests that can threaten gardens are reviewed, and countermeasures are suggested. McCool also discusses and demonstrates the art of pruning. This class takes place Saturday, April 26, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. The cost is $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers.

In Perennial Garden, which takes place Saturday, May 17, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., participants learn how to keep a garden blooming from Feb. to Nov. by using perennials and bulbs. She also shares care tips on maintaining healthy plants. The cost is $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers.

Class size is limited, so early registration for gardening classes is recommended. For more information or to register for classes go to or call 203-655-2535.

The YWCA Darien/Norwalk is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving women the support and tools they need to transform their lives, be confident in their choices and raise healthy families. Its national mission, eliminating racism and empowering women, translates locally into a vision to create opportunities for growth, leadership and empowerment for all women and families.

The YWCA Darien/Norwalk is located at 49 Old King’s Highway North in Darien.

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5 Best Gardening Tips For Planting Seeds


Here are some of the best gardening tips for planting seeds. This advice is vital for a new gardener!

Plant Seeds In A Pot
Planting seeds in a pot is easy. But, if you want your plant to grow well and to have best results, you need to plant the seeds not too deep into the pot. For vegetable plants, seeds need to be planted at least 2 inches deep into the pot. For fruits, one and half inch is more than enough to plant your seeds.

Plant Seeds In A Tray
Trays are flat, so it requires more soil. The more soil in the tray, the more seeds you can plant in. However, you should know which types of plants are suitable for a tray. This is the best gardening tip for planting seeds in a tray.

Plant Seeds In A Cup
Small plants are well-suited for a cup. Fill half the cup with wet soil and then place the seeds over it. Make sure that the seeds are not buried into the soil, not even half way into the cup as it can wither away from lack of oxygen. The seeds need to be planted over the soil in the cup.

Plant Seeds In A Garden
This is the easiest spot to plant seeds. All you have to do is reach into the soil about a metre in depth and place the seeds. Make sure to gently cover the seeds with a little more soil and pat it over using the palm of your hands. This indeed is one of the best gardening tips for planting seeds.

Plant Seeds In A Glass Jar
A glass jar is a little too delicate for you to grow plants in. For tiny plants like the pea plant, the glass jar is appropriate. Fill the glass jar with three-fourth soil and place the seeds in the middle of the jar.

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Spring 2014 Home & Garden Design

This edition of Home Garden Design features remodels that raised the ceilings in a mid-century home, took a spec home to special, gave a a modern take to a conventional home and added radiant floor heating, as well as how to create a stress-free garden.

Light motif

Transforming a mid-century home with low ceilings

From blah to distinctive

What happens when artists move into a spec house

Modern, but no ‘museum’

Remodel took traditional in a new direction

Finally, warm and toasty

Yes, it’s possible to have radiant floor heating and new hardwood floors

Go to your happy place

Creating a stress-free garden in four easy steps

Past editions of Home Garden Design

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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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