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Archives for April 26, 2014

Baton Rouge Area Foundation seeking firms to craft LSU lakes master plan – The Times

Firms up for tackling a $400,000 project to create a master plan to preserve and beautify the LSU lakes have about a month to submit their pitch to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

BRAF announced Friday the foundation has issued a request for proposals for the project, which will require creation of a “blueprint for enhancing the lakes area with amenities in balance with long-term preservation” of the six-lakes system.

The foundation announced in late March it raised money to pay for the plan. The RFP involves dredging of the lakes as well as planning for the 45 acres surrounding the lakes, including a series of pathways and nearby Interstate 10 gateways.

Answering the request will likely be a mixed team of local and national or international companies, led by landscape architects, who can meet the varied requirements. Planning teams must, the RFP requires, engage residents of East Baton Rouge Parish and gather input for ideas to improve the lakes.

“Plans are instructed to have an open and transparent process…with very important consideration given to community outreach,” a BRAF press release says.

Interested firms have until May 23 to submit proposals. A selection will be made by this summer and the master plan should be completed by summer 2015. Choosing the firm will be representatives from BRAF, which raised private funds to finance the master plan; LSU and the city-parish government, which own the lakes; and BREC, which operates Milford Wampold Memorial Park — formerly known as Baton Rouge beach, as well as some of the land around City Park Lake. 

Preservation is necessary because if nothing is done, the lakes will “turn into mud flats and eventually revert to swampland,” which was their original state before most of them were transformed into lakes in the 1930s. Currently, the depth of the lakes is about two and a half feet, which is far too shallow and creates unhealthy conditions that encourage plants to grow, leading to an eventual swampy takeover.

To keep the lakes healthy for the next several decades, the master plan will build on a 2008 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan for dredging the lakes to an average depth of five feet. The Corps also recommends installing tubes to flush out sediment. “The expectation (if the work is completed) is that oxygen levels in the water will be higher after 50 years than they are now,” BRAF says, which would allow for healthier fish habitats. The foundation already employed an international engineering firm to measure the lakes’ depth. 

The selected firm will also explore how to use the dredging spoils to potentially provide necessary land to build or shore-up recreational amenities, such as walking paths, so joggers don’t have to share the road with vehicle traffic.

The plan should also make suggestions for designs around the westbound and eastbound exists at Interstate 10 and Dalrymple Drive to include landscaping, signage and noise reduction from I-10.

Finally, the plan must identify funding sources for the project and recommendations for governing and upkeep of the area. 

• • • • • •

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Seeds: The groundskeeper’s backyard secret? Fake lawn

Stu Varner knows a lot about lawns and how to make them look great. He’s worked professionally at local golf courses for decades.

Currently, he’s a groundskeeper at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento.

His own front lawn in Folsom is a flawless patch of tall fescue, deep-rooted and a little long – all the better to survive trying times with less water.

His backyard features his own fast-as-felt putting green surrounded by banks of azaleas and Japanese maples under the shade of massive redwoods.

His inspiration? Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters. That Georgia golf mecca is almost as famous for its azaleas and lush landscaping as for its lightning-fast greens.

“I’ve been in the golf business for 50 years,” he said. “I started as a groundskeeper, then worked in the pro shop, ran the concessions. I’ve made the full circle. I’m back to groundskeeping. The golf course is where I get many of my ideas.”

Blooming throughout April, the azaleas thrive in Varner’s private Folsom oasis. But the backyard putting green? Not so much.

“I tried re-planting sod three times, but it just refused to grow,” Varner said. “We have too much shade.”

“No matter what he did, nothing would grow,” added Kathy Varner, his wife. “We didn’t want to cut down the trees.”

So, the groundskeeper found an alternative – and the secret to his own always-perfect backyard green. He went artificial.

The Varners replaced that challenged sod with synthetic lawn. Said Stu, “No mowing, no water, and it looks great. This is a sign of the times.”

See for yourself this weekend during the Gardens of Folsom tour, hosted by the Folsom Garden Club. The Varners’ home will be one of six private gardens featured on the tour, which celebrates the club’s 80th anniversary.

“Gardening teaches you to be flexible,” said Dianna Leight of the Folsom Garden Club. “We gardeners are always learning.”

During this drought, gardeners are employing some creative solutions to keep gardening while saving water, she added. The Varners’ artificial lawn is one of those drought-minded alternatives.

Water saved from eliminating lawn can go to other plants such as the thirsty coastal redwoods, noted Varner.

“It’s a lot less work, too,” he said. “You can clean off leaves with a blower. It’s real simple to take care of.”

Said Kathy, “We’re very timely (for a garden tour) with the drought. We looked at (artificial grass) years ago, but it looked, well, fake. Just in the last few years, it’s really changed. Now, I love looking out my kitchen window. I know I’ll always see green.”

The couples’ dogs – Reggie and Murphy – love the “lawn,” too, she said. “They don’t seem to mind and (the turf) is very pet friendly; no problems. It drains really well.”

Surrounding the lawn is a private woodland, also on a low-water budget. A white gazebo nestles among Japanese maples, flowering shrubs and bright perennials. Tadpoles make the most of a rock-lined frog pond, one of several water features Stu Varner created out of local rock.

“This is all Stu; he’s the gardener,” Kathy said. “When we moved in, there was nothing but dirt.”

The Varners recently joined the Folsom Garden Club, which is going strong at age 80.

“I like the camaraderie,” he said. “Everybody shares a common interest. You get a lot of ideas.”

Said Leight, “Our garden club keeps growing by leaps and bounds. When I joined 10 years ago, we had about 25 active members. Now, we have 140. As different people come in, our network grows.”

Part of that growth mirrors Folsom’s own. Newcomers want to learn from those who have found success in their own backyards.

“You need something to help you learn,” Leight said. “The club is good for that. During the tour, we’ll have master gardeners at each garden to help explain what you’re seeing and answer questions.”

As for real grass, Varner has tips for that, too.

“Fescue lawns should be kept high,” he said, using his own front lawn as an example. “That especially helps in drought times to keep moisture in. Aeration also helps. Fescue lawns hold up better in low-water (conditions) than other grasses.

“In Folsom, we can only water twice a week,” he added, noting current water restrictions. “But our ground holds moisture well and we deep-water.

“In fact, the lawn probably looks better (than in past non-drought years).”

Real turf can get by on less water, but it still needs sun, he noted. As for the artificial turf, it’s just fine in the shade.

And water? Save it for the redwoods.

Prickly opportunity

Dr. Norm Klein has one of the best collections of cacti and succulents in California (or anywhere), growing at his Rancho Cordova home. Passers-by risk getting pricked to pose among his scores of specimens in his front yard.

He’s inviting the public to see his private collection during the Carmichael Cactus and Succulent Society’s annual visit. His garden will be open for free tours from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Just drop by 11139 Mace River Court, Rancho Cordova.

This open garden is a warmup for the club’s annual show at the Carmichael Clubhouse May 17-18.

McKinley garden party

More than 1,200 rosebushes are in full bloom now at Sacramento’s McKinley Park Memorial Rose Garden. And they need a little help from their friends to keep looking this spectacular.

Next Saturday morning, the Friends of East Sacramento will host a morning “garden party” amid the roses on H Street near 33rd Street in McKinley Park. At 8:30 a.m., the Friends will offer a garden volunteer “appreciation breakfast” with coffee and treats; first-time volunteers are welcome. From 9 to 11 a.m., the volunteers will spruce up the garden, “dead-heading” spent blooms and other tasks to keep the roses looking their best.

Anyone interested in helping is welcome to join in the party; no rose gardening experience necessary. Bring gloves and pruning shears. Questions? Call (916) 212-4534.

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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‘Alternative’ landscaping gains popularity

It would make sense that in a region not unfamiliar with drought and dry conditions, an increasingly popular landscaping and gardening practice known as xeriscaping would find its birth.

In 1981, a Denver water employee coined the term xeriscape, a portmanteau of xeros — (Greek for “dry”) — and landscaping, to describe landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Long promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, xeriscaping is gaining acceptance in other areas as water becomes more limiting.

So, in addition to conservation of water, what are the benefits of xeriscaping?

Provides tremendous color, variety and beauty, even in winter.

Gives you more time to enjoy your yard because it needs less watering, mowing, fertilizing and weeding.

Xeriscape plants in appropriate planting design, and soil grading and mulching take full advantage of rainfall retention.

If water restrictions are ever implemented, xeriscape plants tend to survive and thrive, while more ornamental plants may be unable to adapt.

Saves a lot of money.

Availability of options. There are a number of plants that work well in xeriscape gardens, such as Fernbush, Agastache, Panchito Manzanita, Yarrow, Spanish Gold Broom, Catmint, Sage, Japanese Barberry, Juniper, Potentilla, Ice Plant, Lilac and Pampas Grass, to name but a few.

Additionally, natural stone is one of the most versatile elements available for a landscape makeover. Rocks add texture and contrast, serve as a durable groundcover and require little or no maintenance. Wood chips and bark often are used, either alone or to complement.

The rocks you select will help set the tone for your entire layout. For example, tawny beach pebbles or river rocks add warmth, while white marble chips help brighten up shady areas. Flat terracotta stones complement a tropical landscape, but can seem out of place in a more formal garden.

For a minimalist modern landscape or Polynesian-themed garden, black lava rocks are excellent.

Randall Tierney, of American Pride Landscaping of Pueblo West, took some time to reflect on the changes landscaping in Southern Colorado has undergone over the past 50 years.

“Dramatically,” Tierney said of changes in the industry and process.

“Typically, upon building a home or business, the owner would commonly plant a few trees, plant grass seed and surround the sides of their building with some plants and bushes, often doing the work themselves,” Tierney said.

Many a homeowner found out that improving the exterior of a property was a great deal of work that added tremendous value to the property. “So persons began specializing in the various tasks required to install landscape materials. The benefits to the homeowner were many. They were able to enjoy the improvements to the property surrounding their homes in a matter of weeks or even days as opposed to small improvements the homeowner would make during the evenings or weekends when they were not at work,” Tierney said.

Through time, landscapers learned what plants, bushes, shrubs, trees and grasses were best suited to the local climate. The homeowner benefited not only from this knowledge but by the efforts of a dedicated landscaper, who ensured that plants were installed in a sustainable manner which allowed them to thrive year after year.

Noted Tierney, “A major change in Southwest Colorado came in the 1960s, when John Verna introduced using stones as focal points of landscape design. Use of stones eventually evolved in the process of xeriscaping.

“Essentially, John Verna began xeriscaping 20 years before it was given a name,” Tierney added. “The use of natural stone to enhance the beauty of a landscape seemed a normal step for Colorado, where we daily admire the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.”

Landscaping with stone took off and became the centerpiece of Verna’s landscaping business. “John worked at it all of his career and now it has become the cornerstone of the business carried on since the mid-1990s by his son, Kevin Verna, through American Pride Landscape — on the same property his father ran his business on in Pueblo West,” Tierney said.

The company makes much use of Breeze such as Canon Granite, Western Sunset and Byzantine, which comes in a variety of colors, is very compactible and makes for a very firm, stable surface. It is easy to maintain and it doesn’t blow away in the wind.

“Everyone can contribute to the welfare of our environment and the conservation of water by simply using xeriscaping techniques to enhance the beauty of their properties and save money to boot,” said Tierney.

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A gardening tip for every day in May

Christo Brock plants seedlings of mesclun mix in

Christo Brock plants seedlings of mesclun mix in his neighbor Julie Stern’s organic garden. (Credit: Los Angeles / Ricardo DeAratanha)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnistJessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

bio | email | twitter

After months of waiting for signs of life, it’s finally

Lilacs soon will perfume the air and, by month’s end, vegetable seedlings will take their proper place outdoors. Weeds, too, will make themselves at home.

Naturally, this means we need to get busy, so here’s a chore for every day of the month.

1. It’s time to apply mulch to beds and borders.

2. Plant dahlia tubers outdoors when the lilacs bloom.

3. It’s World Naked Gardening Day. Do what you will with that information.

4. Set soaker hoses in a spiral around newly planted trees, extending out over roots as far as the canopy above.

5. Plant Cinco de Mayo and other roses and have a fiesta. Mound soil at the bottom of the planting hole and spread roots over it, then bury.

6. Give cool-season vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and spinach a dose of fertilizer, and apply mulch if you haven’t already.

7. If you didn’t last month, aerate the lawn now.

8. Incorporate compost into prepared vegetable beds to enrich the soil.

9. Sow seeds of summer-blooming perennials and biennials directly in the garden.

10. Begin planting gladiolus: Place corms pointy end up in full sun, 4 to 6 inches apart. Repeat weekly until mid-June.

11. Happy Mother’s Day! Plant annuals (as long as nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees).

12. Plant sweet corn.

13. To make the job easier, wait until after a rainfall to pull weeds.

14. Prune gray tips from juniper branches.

15. Check the undersides of hollyhock leaves for orange pustules, telltale signs of rust fungus. Remove affected leaves.

16. When potato plants reach 8 inches tall, mound soil over the lowest leaves; plants will produce more from buried stems.

17. Deadhead sweet peas to keep the blooms coming.

18. Divide early spring-blooming perennials such as primroses after the flowers completely fade.

19. Transplant herb seedlings outdoors. No need to fertilize.

20. Check asparagus daily and harvest when spears are 6 inches tall, but not if plants are less than 2 years old.

21. Avoid synthetic chemicals: Deal with pests with pyrethrins, Bt, insecticidal soap or neem oil.

22. Start hardening off vegetable seedlings: Set them in shade for longer periods each day for a week before transplanting. Keep watering.

23. Fertilize potted houseplants and acclimate them for their summer outdoors just as you would vegetable plants. (See May 22)

24. Keep African violets indoors; they have no appreciation for the garden.

25. For bushier plants, shear an inch of Dianthus and creeping phlox when 6 inches tall.

26. It’s Memorial Day — time to fertilize the lawn. Use one pound of slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

27. Fertilize tulip bulbs; remove foliage only after it turns yellow.

28. Plant cucumber and squash seedlings around a support. You can also sow seeds directly into the ground now.

29. Replace fading pansies with impatiens, sweet alyssum or Calibrachoa Superbells.

30. Set tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and melons into prepared beds. Add compost to planting holes, then mulch.

31. Prune spring-flowering shrubs immediately after they’ve finished blooming.

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Gardening tips: Local authors says insects are good for garden ecosystem

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With the snow finally receding and the mud drying out, gardeners rejoice! To see the crust of the earth give way to new plant life is all the sweeter this year after a record making winter.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, authors and gardeners Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto will conduct a PowerPoint presentation focused on the major themes of their book “The New England Gardener’s Year” (Tilbury House), including the important role of insects in the garden ecosystem.

Gardening success depends on insects, including pollinators and the many kinds of insect predators that keep the herbivores (plant munchers) under control. Of course, to keep the beneficial insects around, the garden must also have a constant population of herbivores for the beneficials to eat.

This presentation will show viewers how they can attract the pollinators and beneficial insects. It will also point out that caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, are what bird food looks like.

After the presentation, Reeser and Marjorie will introduce their book, “The New England Gardener’s Year,” followed by a book signing for those interested in purchasing their book.


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Don’t throw away those Easter lilies: this week’s gardening tips – The Times

DON’T THROW AWAY those Easter lilies. Once the flowers have faded, remove it from the pot and plant into a well-prepared bed. Choose a location that receives morning sun and some afternoon shade. Easter lilies go dormant in midsummer. When the foliage yellows in midsummer, cut the plant back down to the ground and mark the location so you will remember where it is.

  • IF YOU NEED TO SPRAY an insecticide to control a pest problem,
    spray only those plants that are affected or are likely to be affected
    to minimize the impact on non-target organisms such as beneficial
    insects. Use the least toxic insecticide that will do the job.
  • BE SURE TO MULCH newly planted beds of shrubs or bedding plants with a 2-inch layer of leaves, pine straw, pine bark or other materials to control weeds, conserve moisture and keep the soil from packing down.
  • SAVE SOME OF YOUR OWN SEEDS from your cool-season annuals to plant again in your garden this fall. This time of year, collect seeds from sweet peas, violas, nicotiana, poppies, calendulas and cosmos. Make sure the seed pods or seed heads are mature before harvesting.
  • IF YOU INTEND TO PUT OUT SOIL FILL this spring, remember that shade trees will not tolerate more than 2 inches of fill placed over their root systems. Also, lawn grass will not grow through more than about 2 inches of fill. Avoid spillway sand, as it is more likely to contain weeds.

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Prendergast students in Ansonia learn gardening tips from woman who helped …

FoodCorps member Eileen Garcia of Massaro Farm in Woodbridge, second from left, works with sixth-graders at John G. Prendergast School in Ansonia, building garden beds at the school. Here, they measure out where the garden borders will be placed.
Peter Casolino — New Haven Register

ANSONIA A group of John G. Prendergast School sixth-graders Thursday had fun digging in the dirt and building garden beds behind their school.

The city’s school district is one of the districts in Connecticut served by FoodCorps. The nonprofit organization was established to combat childhood obesity and to teach children how to grow their own food.

New Haven resident Eileen Garcia, a FoodCorps member, said Connecticut is one of 12 states with FoodCorps representatives.

She is stationed at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge and has been assigned to work with students in Ansonia to teach them about gardening and eating healthy.

“We’re doing a garden build,” Garcia said Thursday. “I’ve been working inside with the kids (in grades 1, 2, 4 and 6) and from now on, we’re going to work outside.”

Students measured 4-foot-by-4-foot garden plots, cleared grass and built 4-by-4 raised garden beds with the help of several teachers and Principal Joseph Apicella.

Earlier this month, Garcia was one of six FoodCorps members invited to help plant the White House Kitchen Garden with first lady Michelle Obama.

Garcia said since 2009 when Obama kicked off her Let’s Move! health initiative, the first lady has invited students to help her to plant the White House kitchen garden.

She said she and the other FoodCorps members worked with fourth- and fifth-graders from Washington, D.C., schools in what she described as “a beautiful garden.” Garcia said the White House chefs also “are very invested in the garden.” She said she helped the students create the first pollinator garden on the White House grounds.

“It was a wonderful experience, and I feel very lucky,” she said, to have been a part of the trip to Washington, D.C.

Garcia said children are “so far removed from where their food comes from,” and the gardening project at schools gives them a better understanding of how food gets from the ground to their plates.

Prendergast sixth-grader Emma Brown said learning to garden is “cool because it’s going to teach kids about being healthy and eating healthy.”

Classmate Cheyenne Mitchell-Robinson said it was “fun to help out” with building a garden. “It’s my last year here, and I want every new kid coming here to know about working in the ground,” she said.

Apicella grabbed a shovel and helped students and several teachers break through the grass to ready the soil for planting. He said the staff thinks it’s great the students will learn to grow vegetables.

Apicella said they will be able to use their crops to make salad and toppings for pizzas for an end-of-year celebration.

Have questions, feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at

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A ‘playful’ gold win for Skipton-based garden designers

A ‘playful’ gold win for Skipton-based garden designers

Harrogate Flower Show students Lewis Williams, Alison Crawford, tutor Richard Easton and Suzi Irwin

A group of Skipton-based garden designers have won a gold at Harrogate flower show with their “playful” entry.

Students at the Northern School of Garden Design, hosted by Craven College in Skipton, entered ‘Secret Garden’ in the annual competition. They were in competition with professional designers, colleges and universities, and so are delighted with their gold.

“The garden includes a water feature and, clipped hedges, and was included in the ‘show garden’ category.

Course Tutor Richard Easton said: “The students have done an amazing job and are bringing to life a playful, modern garden, passing from formal entertaining areas to a wild, forgotten corner with a rill starting in a golden bowl of water, passing between stone pillars to the secret area where the ‘Quill’ sculpture rises amongst trees.

“It will be a real visual feast and inspiration for visitors to the show.”

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In Abu Dhabi, A Desert Park With A Secret Garden

In Abu Dhabi, a grassy European-style park requires constant irrigation to counteract the sun’s intensity. With that in mind, the London-based architect Thomas Heatherwick plans to redesign the 30-acre Al Fayah Park to embrace the desert setting while providing a comfortable place for people to gather.

Heatherwick Studio reconceives the Abu Dhabi public park in a way that ensures that the park is attuned to its climate. The park, which is scheduled for completion in 2017, includes 65-foot-high canopies that mimic the fractured look of a cracked desert landscape. Those same canopies shield a garden oasis from the heat and sun, reducing the amount of water lost to evaporation and improving the park’s energy efficiency.

Underneath these canopies, in the shade, visitors will find pools and streams, vegetable gardens, spaces for performances and festivals, a cafe, a library, and a mosque. In the cooler evening hours, people can gather on top of the canopies, to wander.

The design was envisioned “as a way of celebrating the beauty of the desert and its distinct surrounding landscape,” the architects write. “Instead of denying the presence of the desert that the city is built on, we set ourselves the task of making a park out of the desert itself.”

[H/T: ArchDaily]

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