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Archives for May 8, 2014

Local Sculptor Branches Out to Engage Community

By Anne Pawlak

“You know you got a tree down.”
This was a frequent comment heard by Stephanie Jones, a Stevens Point resident, for days after a June thunderstorm dropped a 40-foot basswood in her front yard.  Now, most people would set about trying to get a crew together to get that tree cut, split and stacked as firewood. But Stephanie Jones is not most people.

Jones, 36, is a sculptor, painter, sustainable living proponent, bartender and UWSP art student whose north side home and yard have grown into a sculpture park and outdoor art studio over the past  eight years since she bought the house. “It started with an archway and a few grapevines and just kept going,” she explained. The tree so generously delivered by that storm has pretty much remained where it landed, because Jones is planning its future as a sculpture of a blue whale.

The other figure that captures the eye of passersby is likely the life-size sculpture covered in glass mosaic, dedicated to Mary Boyer, the original owner of Jones’ 100-plus-year-old home. Boyer was too young to vote when the 20th Amendment passed, and had to wait 12 years for the chance to vote for the first time.  The sculpture, named “Suffragette for Obama,” began when Jones (with help from a friend) shrouded herself first in Saran wrap as a protective layer, and then clear tape, which created a mold in which to cast the concrete.

Not far from the suffragette, a cluster of silver concrete-dipped Teddy Bears huddle against each other at the base of the front steps.  A recent project, Jones mused, which involved stacking the concrete-dipped bears atop one another in the fashion of a totem pole. A potter’s wheel and several in-progress vessels occupy one corner of the big front porch, looking as though the artist is ready to resume her work exactly where she left off last fall when the cold and snow of November swooped in on us.  Life-sized busts appear here and there throughout the yard, and around the back, an open air art studio situated near a fire pit provides her with a place to work on current projects.

Tucked in the furthest corner of the yard is the beginning of Jones’ garden for this spring.  As if sculpting, painting, studying, tending bar and seeking out
opportunities for public art is not enough to keep her busy, she also grows her own
food, and employs a somewhat unconventional method: Hugelkultur. That’s German for raised garden beds filled with decaying wood, which provides natural irrigation, air pockets for roots and fertilizer.

When asked if people ever pause and ask to see her yard, Jones said schoolchildren on walking field trips sometimes stop to look, and she has offered some impromptu tours to them, but teachers get a little nervous because some of

the sculptures feature the female form in its most natural state.
Still, she invites anyone who passes by to ask questions, and occasionally, when she finds it necessary to clear some space in her home and studio, she will set up an “art sale” on the sidewalk.

Jones invited me into her home on a chilly April afternoon. Once inside, I was enveloped in a cheery glow emanating from the glass-fronted woodstove topped with a pair of drying work boots. As she fixed me a cup of tea made from mint she grew herself, I glanced around at the walls, most of which are covered with her whimsical paintings.  An enthusiastic Beagle/Pit Bull crossbreed named Bugs greeted me with a hearty wagging and a big smile, and a nearly 20-year- old cat named Zoe lay curled on a chair near the stove.  You would never know this quiet, tidy home had been a bustling trivia team headquarters less than 16 hours prior. “However,” Jones pointed out, “You will note that every single painting is just a little bit crooked.”

Growing up in Wausau and Minocqua, Jones immersed herself in art classes in high school, including jewelry and ceramics courses.  She was advised by a high school guidance counselor that without taking the SATs or going to college, her only option was to “go to flower arranging school.”  Her  short-lived study at a floral design school in Denver left her disillusioned, and she returned to her home state six months later.  While many young artists leave art behind to pursue the business of making a living, she did not. It is clear that what separates Jones from the typical art student is her ambition, organization and drive to seek opportunities to share her ideas, engage her community and find ways to sustain herself via her art.

For example, she was commissioned to create the sculpture “Mirth,” which graces the courtyard of Delta Dental on Hoover Drive in Stevens Point. Her contributions to the Sculpture Park on Stevens Point’s north side include, “Above the Looking Glass” and “They.” Throughout the month of May, she is working on a new piece for the Sculpture Park, “Rapunzel’s Tower.” Jones said she looks forward to working at the park, as “the elementary students come through, and it’s a good chance to interact with them.”

Recently, her proposal was accepted to create “Bounty,” a living sculpture garden on the grounds of UWSP. Her most pressing concern for the sustainable sculpture garden with edible
perennial landscaping is maintenance, as the planned asparagus beds and blueberry and raspberry bushes will need care as the plants establish themselves. In addition to functioning as a garden, it will feature a pathway winding through the garden with pedestals for student sculptures along the path. Jones currently is seeking volunteers to donate a few hours a week over the next three years as the garden establishes itself. If all goes as planned, the student-run cafeteria in the nearby College of Professional Studies will harvest the fruit and vegetables produced by the sustainable art garden to feature on its menu.

Her efforts to reach out to the community with her art go beyond Stevens Point and Wisconsin. Pulling out her project checklist, neatly laid out on an oversized whiteboard, Jones made it clear that her ambition to seek opportunities as an artist beyond Wisconsin is just as strong as her desire to create art in her own backyard. She has applied for two residency fellowships, put together a panel for an upcoming conference in New Orleans, and entered two student art competitions. Just as she extended an invitation to volunteers to help her “release” the whale who lives inside the fallen basswood tree in her yard, it is apparent that this woman regards art as a community endeavor, and aims to extend opportunities for others to get involved.

She has submitted a proposal to lead a panel discussion at the International Sculpture Conference in New Orleans this October.  If her proposal is accepted, she, along with Kristin Thielking and Mike Godell, UWSP Art Professors of Sculpture, and community artists  will discuss the ties among UWSP, the community, local businesses and endeavors like the sculpture park, to show examples of how these partnerships can foster art and culture in our small communities.

“What really impressed me about Stephanie from the beginning was her drive and determination to achieve some very ambitious projects,” Thielking said.  “Her positive attitude, unique aptitude for public work and community-based sculpture, and her ability to connect with some very diverse people all combine in a person with a rare vision and the fortitude to see these projects through to the end.”

How did Jones manage to leave her career to pursue life as an artist? “I took a leap. I quit my job as a realtor and went after it,” Jones replied. “Also, I am not just a painter.  I don’t want to do just little things. Knowing people who build big things is helpful.  I have lots of concrete friends.” Asked if the patrons of the Elbow Room (downtown bar) were aware of her work as an artist, she said, “Of course they are! That’s where I get most of my materials from.  Ninety-five percent of my materials are found, sourced, or recycled.”

And the ticket dress, which was on display at the Elbow Room? That was a sight to behold.  Picture a fish scale dress, with the surface covered in layers of freely-moving scallops or scales.  Now picture a dress with the scales made of . . . tickets, you know, the little tickets you drop in a basket for a prize drawing, which is exactly where the tickets came from.  The Elbow Room hosted a food drive for a local food pantry, and those who entered were eligible to drop their names into a basket for a prize drawing.  After the drawing, Jones looked into the basket of tickets, all bearing the names of her patrons and friends, and the idea was born.  Hundreds of little red tickets were hot-glued to the surface of a dress, which was then displayed on a mannequin at the Elbow Room until a patron purchased it.

Knowing how to market and promote your work is essential to making it as an artist, Stephanie insists.  In that department, she is fortunate to have Thielking as an advisor and mentor. In addition, she has met many inspirational artists and teachers in her travels.  On a recent trip to New Orleans, she connected with Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, a retired couple who run “The Studio in the Woods,” a retreat and studio for artists, students and environmentalists.  Jones expressed a profound interest in providing that same type of retreat for emerging artists when it becomes possible for her to do so.  Given the number of artists and friends she already has in her circle, and her ambition and connections regarding the world of public art, that likely will become a reality.

Article source:

Designers suggest public art, miniparks for NuLu redo – The Courier

With $13 million bankrolled for improvements in the emerging Nulu neighborhood east of downtown, consultants have recommended redesigning part of East Market Street as a boulevard, with a median divider and an 8-foot-wide bike trail on the south side of the street.

They also want to slow traffic, make street crossings safer for pedestrians, put a signature entrance at the I-65 underpass into the district, and develop a string of public art and miniparks. Other enhancements would include upgrading nearby alleys, adding street furniture, lighting and signs up and down East Market.

Those are among the preliminary recommendations that a team of consultants has developed for about 10 blocks of Market from Brook Street near I-65 to Baxter Avenue and the Home of the Innocents.

The ideas will be discussed at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the new Nucleus building, 300 E. Market St. Consultants will present their preliminary conclusions to improve the Nulu neighborhood.

“We encourage attendees to share their thoughts and social, economic, historic, and environmental concerns,” said Rebecca Matheny, the interim executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. The agency serves as the lead organization for Mayor Greg Fischer on most downtown matters, and it is managing the Nulu study.

Despite the proliferation of new galleries, restaurants and businesses in the corridor, businessman Gill Holland said the Nulu district has reached only perhaps a third of its potential. Holland, who has invested heavily in Nulu, said the planned upgrades should spur substantial additional investment and “strenghen the link to downtown, to Frankfort Avenue, to Bardstown Road and to other areas.”

A $13 million budget for the project, including for construction, is firm — $10 million from the state and $3 million from the Metropolitan Sewer District committed for reducing stormwater runoff.

Ethan Howard, the downtown partnership’s business-development coordinator, said several million more is expected to be available from the Ohio River Bridges Project — specifically for work near I-65, where Spaghetti Junction is getting a makeover, or along Market between Floyd and Clay streets.

A team of nine consulting firms is being paid about $340,000 out of the funds. They are led by Carman, a landscape architectural, planning and engineering firm with offices in Louisville and Lexington, and Workshop: Ken Smith, another landscape design firm, from New York City.

Matheny said the Metro Planning Commission and Louisville Metro Council are not required to approve the final Nulu plan. But a variety of city agencies will probably review it, and another public meeting or two may be set.

Construction on the first projects may begin early next year — they will have to be carefully coordinated with the downtown bridge effort, Matheny said. The bulk of the recommended Nulu improvements likely can begin early next year and most of them completed by when the new downtown bridge opens around mid-2016, Carman said.

According to Carman, here are some of the key preliminary proposals for the Nulu arts and entertainment neighborhood:

• Redesign Market Street to have two eastbound and one westbound lane. An eight-foot wide, slightly elevated “bike trail” would go on the south side of the street between the sidewalk and a parking lane.

• The 300 block of Market (Floyd to Preston) and the 800 block (Campbell to Shelby) would have a landscaped median boulevard.

• To assist pedestrian safety, every intersection’s four corners would have “bump outs” or curb extensions to shorten the crossing distance and to slow vehicles.

• 15 to 20 “mini public gardens” would be developed along the corridor with the MSD money, including at some parking lots, to catch stormwater and slow runoff.

Some project possibilities include pocket parks, small groves of trees and other landscaping techniques, storefront and sidewalk courtyards, and upgrading of lighting and signs.

Holland, whose investment has included redeveloping the vast former Wayside Christian Mission complex on East Market, said the consultant conclusions “are the culmination of a lot of public input and thoughtful design work.”

Holland, president of the Nulu Business Association, said the improvements “will enhance all the good things we already have, in terms of the neighborhood’s walkability, being pedestrian-friendly and sustainability.”

Joe Ley, owner of Joe Ley Antiques, 615 E. Market, a pioneer who has operated his store in the Phoenix Hill area for 38 years, said he has concern about construction disrupting the flow of traffic to his store. He said it already has been disrupted to some degree by the recent bridge construction.

But, when all the improvements are done, “it’s bound to be good for everybody,” Ley said.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089. Follow him on Twitter at @sheldonshafer.

Meeting today at 5:30 p.m. at Nucleus

The ideas will be discussed at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at the new Nucleus building, 300 E. Market St. Consultants will present their preliminary conclusions. The meeting will be in the first-floor conference room; free parking is available on site.

In the next day or two, the preliminary concepts will be posted on People can submit comments on the site later, or at the meeting.

Article source:

Eco-friendly New Jersey homes, Blairsden among those on view for 2014 house … – The Star

Many have wished for a two-way fireplace, but how about one lined with brick in a herringbone pattern, viewable, along with the flames, from the family room and an expansive parlor on the opposite side?

And how about a screened porch that doubles as dining area and sleeping room to offer bug-free enjoyment of summer breezes?

These are just two of the dreamy features of gorgeous homes that are also environmentally friendly. Such houses will be open to the public during the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s inaugural house and garden tour. The May 28 event will showcase seven homes and a garden, highlighting the beauty in “green” features.

The previously mentioned fireplace is set in the center of the house, for example, to reduce the heat loss that is more common in those traditionally set within an exterior wall. And sleeping outdoors in summer would not only be fun, it could reduce the need for air conditioning.

A two-way fireplace in a Basking Ridge home on the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s house and garden tour has the luxury of brick laid in a herringbone pattern, but its central placement within the home makes it more energy efficient than a traditional fireplace that can lose heat through placement near an outside wall.  

Any house tour fan knows house tour fundraisers present opportunities to view some of the state’s loveliest residences, often of historical or architectural significance. This season’s roster of tours will satisfy an appetite for opulence and grandeur, with the storied 34-acre Blairsden estate and its 62,000-square foot mansion among properties open for touring. The estate, built between 1898 and 1903, will be open to the public for the first time ever.

But gracious living also can involve eco-friendly solutions that enhance a property. Take the home of Chatham Township Committee member Kathy Abbott, whose landscape includes a certified wildlife habitat, native plants and a front-yard stream that helps keep the basement dry.

“We’re near the Great Swamp, so there is a high water table,” says Abbott, whose garden will be on the tour. “It was a way to turn a liability into an asset.” The system diverts water expelled from a sump pump into a rock-lined stream that attracts birds, frogs and other wildlife.

It is a feature that goes hand-in-hand with the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s mission to preserve and protect the watershed region’s 36,000 acres. The tour as a whole supports its work with municipalities in Morris and Somerset counties to educate the public about regional environmental issues while maintaining open spaces and monitoring headwater streams that feed the Great Swamp.

The art and book filled living room of the Madison home of architect Chris Kellogg and artist Helen Kaar was designed to maximize use of solar power, enhancing natural light while also reducing sun-related heat gain. The house has numerous environmentally friendly features.  

The association’s Executive Director Sally Rubin spearheaded the tour. She says it will introduce tour-goers to the organization while showcasing design and landscaping ideas of Great Swamp-area homes. The homes are in Bernards (Basking Ridge), Chatham, Harding, Long Hill, Madison, Morristown and Morris Township.

“It’s not impossible to do some of these things in your own home,” Rubin says. “You don’t have to be uber wealthy or to start from scratch.”

While she described the tour homes as “lovely, large and gracious,” she notes that at least three are working on LEED certification, an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which requires adherence to certain environmentally friendly building standards.

The home of Chris Kellogg and Helen Kaar is among them. “Part of our LEED charge is sharing the sustainable construction with others.” Kaar explained. Doing so is important, she says, because it helps make the public aware “that you can have a green house that you want to live in just because of the way it looks. We don’t think green building will become the standard unless people want it.”

Helen Kaar in the home’s bathroom with lattice detailing that she designed and a living curtain of pothos and philodendron outside the shower.  

Kaar says the two-story house Kellogg designed for them with her input is the dream home of an artist and an architect who respect the environment and their surroundings. Their studios and office spaces are in the basement. The living area has three bedrooms with two and a half baths. There is a summer sleeping porch and a one-car garage. “We built it for us, and we both work here, so how many cars do we both need?”

The house also was situated for easy access to public transportation and shopping. Its roof was designed to shade the home from the sun’s heat while also drawing its power. Kellogg oriented the house on the lot to get maximum sun exposure for rooftop solar collection panels.

“Passive solar is the best,” Kaar says. “It’s free energy, all you have to do is turn to face it.”

A screened porch not only provides a place to enjoy bug-free summer breezes, it doubles as a sleeping area when cooler summer nights can reduce the need for air conditioning.  

Sari Jepsen, who with her husband, Mads, owns Scandic Builders agrees. Their Chatham home, built in traditional shingle style, was also placed to maximize solar energy collection. Their home and another home they built are on the tour. Like the Kellogg-Kaar home, the Jepsen houses have numerous green features.

“A house tour makes sense because it can show how everything we do affects the environment,” Jepsen says. “This shows how you can build intelligently and environmentally friendly and it still can be a beautiful home.”

The house tour also dovetails with historic activism that prevented the swamp from becoming an airport more than 50 years ago. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge now has federal protection against development.

The historic Long Hill home of Alan and Kathy Pfeil will be on the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s May 28 house tour.  

Kathy Pfeil, whose historic 19th century Long Hill home is on the tour, notes that the association also works to preserve land in the surrounding area where she believes the threat of over development is much more pressing. Pfeil’s home is above Millington Gorge where the Great Swamp empties into the main branch of the Passaic River.

“We have bird habitats, wildlife, ponds, vegetation, deciduous and coniferous trees and countless boardwalks and trails meandering throughout what is one of the few untouched areas dating to prehistoric times,” she says. “We have to thank the people with the vision to preserve the Great Swamp, as well as all those who continue to protect its legacy.”

Related: Upcoming 2014 New Jersey house and garden tours

Kimberly L. Jackson: kim_jackson @

Article source:

Bakersfield horticulturist talks summer gardening at monthly BMOA lecture – KERO

BAKERSFIELD – Horticulturist Amber Beeson spoke in the Bakersfield Museum of Art Sculpture Garden Wednesday morning. 

Beeson shared gardening and landscaping tips and discussed her life growing up in Bakersfield to pursue her passion in horticulture.

Beeson spoke about her work at BMOA, and give tips for spring and summer gardening.

This is part of the BMOA lecture series, which is held every first Wednesday at the museum.

Beeson is founder of the award-winning Giving Tree Project Benefit Corp. and has designed many local gardens including; “Seeds of Inspiration,” “Greenfield Walking Group” Community Gardens, “Train the Trainer” School Garden at William Penn Elementary, among others.

She received the “Pocket of Excellence” award by the Superintendent of Schools in 2013, and named one of the “People to Watch in 2014” by the Bakersfield Californian. 

Article source:

Recycling campaign signs, Master Gardener training, container gardening and …

31MpartyAView full sizeWe hope that all of these old political signs are recycled by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste Management District.

RECYCLE CAMPAIGN SIGNS: Ever wonder what happens to all those campaign yard signs after the votes are cast? Let’s hope most of them are recycled. The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste Management District is recycling plastic and cardboard campaign signs and metal stands. Drop them off between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and Monday, May 12 to Friday, May 16 at at 4750 East 131 St., Garfield Heights.

BECOME A MASTER GARDENER: Ohio State University Extension and Master Gardeners of Cuyahoga County, Inc. have opened registration for the 2014 Master Gardener Basic Training Class. The upcoming classes will meet during the evenings so that people who couldn’t make the usual daytime sessions can participate.

Master Gardeners are dedicated gardeners who are trained by the Ohio State University Extension program and who to educate others on a volunteer basis with timely, research-based gardening information.

Training classes begin Monday, Aug. 25 and continue through Wednesday, Oct. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Two full-day field trips are also planned as part of the course curriculum. Classroom training, lectures and hands-on learning activities are presented by Ohio State University Extension faculty and staff.

Learn more by attending one of three informational sessions. All start at 7 p.m. They are scheduled for:

Tuesday, May 13, Fairview Park Library, 21250 Lorain Avenue, Fairview Park.

Wednesday, May 14, OSU Extension Office, 5320 Stanard Ave., Cleveland.

Thursday, May 15, Shaker Heights Main Public Library, 16500 Van Aken Blvd, Shaker Heights.

In addition to the informational sessions, information on the course can be found on the Cuyahoga County Master Gardener website at

CONTAINER GARDENING CLASS: Add beauty and creativity to your garden with containers and pots. A class sponsored by the Geauga County Extension Service will show you which plants to choose, suggest color combinations, show how to use found materials and teach you tips for keeping your pots blooming. The class is 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 17. Cost is $15 and registration is required; call 440-834-4656.

The class will be held at the Geauga County OSU Extension Office, 14269 Claridon-Troy Road, Burton.

DECORATING HOW-TOS: Decorating can be an overwhelming task, whether you’re tackling one room or an entire house. How do you figure out what style is right for you? Should you tackle the job yourself or hire a pro? An article on Houzz, a home design and remodeling website, walks you through the decorating process from inspiration to arranging furniture. Among the pieces of wisdom:

Create a wish list. Write down everything you would like to do if money were no object.

Start collecting pictures of rooms you like.

If you want everything done at once but can’t afford to do that, save your money and do it all at once later.

Read the entire article here.

Article source:

In the Garden: Tomato 101: Tips for beginners and advanced gardeners

“Tomato 101” is for beginners and advanced gardeners alike. There are many assumptions about the tomato that sometimes get passed on by the most well-meaning aficionado. I take my tomatoes seriously and have developed a routine to hedge my bets for a healthy summer harvest.
When it comes to spring fever the tomato is most abused, most people still plant too early. First, wait until our frost free date (on average this is May 10th, give or take a week depending on where you are located). After the frost free date the average air and soil temperature is usually warm enough for tomatoes to function efficiently. Soil temperatures should be at least 55 degrees and the ambient night-time air temperature should be above 58 degrees otherwise the plant will be stunted and less vigorous.
The ideal conditions for growth, fruit set and ripening are daytime temperatures in the 80’s, nighttime temperatures in the 60’s…the perfect summer, which we have maybe one week out of the whole summer!
Tomatoes love two things: heat and well-drained soil. I can almost guarantee a successful season if you prepare the soil with lots of compost. This provides a slow release of nutrients throughout the entire season; it also dramatically improves drainage while retaining even moisture. Over fertilization can stress the plant so compost is far superior to weekly conventional stimulants. For example, too much nitrogen will encourage leafy growth at the expense of bloom. Lack of magnesium, which aids in chlorophyll production and respiration of plants, can also delay fruit set. Compost delivers a slow, healthy dose of both.
When you plant, pinch off the lower sets of leaves and sink the plant as deep as you can. Additional roots will develop at the leaf nodes thus making a stronger plant in the long run. Once the plant is set then mulch it well in order to control weeds, prevent soil from splashing on the plant (which is one of the primary ways that disease spreads to your plant), and to moderate soil moisture (important in controlling blossom end rot). Use any organic mulching material; I typically use newspaper with grass clipping on top. I have found that the newspaper-grass clipping combo works great as winter mulch for weed control, by next spring it has broken down enough that I simply turn it back into the soil.
I cannot emphasize the use of mulch enough. It means that during times of drought you will have to irrigate very little and it moderates soil moisture and temperature which keeps the plant producing. Tomatoes rather like being a bit on the dry side and rapid fluctuations in soil moisture cause one of the most common tomato condition known as blossom end rot (as well as contributing to blossom drop, leaf curl, and splitting fruit). When plants fluctuate between too wet and too dry a calcium deficiency develops in the plant which then causes the blossom end of the fruit to rot. You can avoid all of this with a good layer of mulch.
I typically sucker my plants (the practice of removing the new growth that emerges between stems and branches) early in the season to encourage good branching structure; I will stop suckering once the tomatoes start to produce their second flush of fruit to ensure that there is plenty of foliage to shade the ripening fruit from the hot summer sun.
Healthy plants that receive a slow, natural source of nutrients; have adequate moisture and excellent drainage will resist pest problems on their own. If you rotate your crop, keep the garden weed-free and mulch your plants you will further avoid many of the diseases that plague tomatoes.
Remove leaves as they appear infected and don’t inadvertently spread it by handling healthy plants afterwards.

Article source:

Top tips for your garden

You shared your best techniques for getting your garden ready for the season and now, we’re sharing them with our readers.

The winners, and their tips, were:

My children and I love the excitement of growing and picking our very own tomatoes in our backyard each summer and we have a helpful tip for growing healthier plants. Since tomato plants form roots all the way along their stems, you can give your plants an extra-strong root system (especially the tall, leggy ones) by planting them on their sides. Don’t forget to remove any leaves that would be covered under the soil to prevent rot and encourage disease.

Anita Archibald, Richmond Hill

Throw away your herbicides and pesticides and grow native wildflowers, including some host plants for butterflies and flowers for the bees. Monarch butterfly populations are at risk, so be sure to include some milkweed in your garden.

Ellen Downe, Keswick

Raised Beds are the best gardening solution I’ve ever tried. We created two raised beds to begin with. We removed the sod and tilled up the earth, then built the frames approximately six feet by eight feet. We added lots of mulch and planted.

The weeding is much easier and you have more control over soil mixtures, fertilizing and watering, when needed. It was amazing how much produce we harvested just from those two small gardens.

I used my raised beds for vegetables only but you could plant, Herbs. Flowers, etc

Linda Hollinshead, Sharon

Below are some other tips we received.

Please note, the tips below are examples and not contest winners:

Use lots of mulch, helps to hold moisture, keep weeds down and gives the garden a clean fresh look.

Margaret Quirk, Sutton

Every third year, after my spring bulbs bloom, I usually have to divide them, as they have multiplied. I dig them out and save the bulbs in mesh bags that onions or other produce comes in. I hang them up in the garage. The mesh bags allow the bulbs to breathe so they don’t rot and are ready for planting in new areas in the fall.

Ingrid Barron, Woodbridge

Having recently downsized from a large property in an older, more established part of Aurora into a relatively new subdivsion, I am creating new gardens to enjoy. As I observe my new neighbours, I am finding they are struggling and hope my tip will help so they are not constantly replanting and replacing their dead plant and bush material (so sad). With the clay-based soil we have here in York Region, you must prepare an adequate bed for the new plants. Dig down eight to 12 inches and go wide. Rather than digging a small hole and sticking in your new (and costly) Hicks Yews along the side of your property to make a hedge, first dig out all that clay, go deep and put in proper soil and compost material so the new bushes have a chance to develop roots. The same thing goes for your new tree. It cannot root into clay and there are no nutrients. One neighbour has replaced his shrubs several times and is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. It’s like when you do a renovation; you have to do all the prep work and the build you don’t see (electrical, plumbing, insulation) for the fruits of your labour to last. Take the time to create a proper bed for your new plants and they will thrive. I also go down one zone level so things will overwinter. There’s no sense in planting a zone five plant (unless it is in a very protected area), as you will be replanting the following year because it will not survive our winters here — especially this past winter with all the ice.

Michele Boyer, Aurora

Save seeds. Saving at least some of your own seeds will definitely mean spending less money on your garden each year, plus you’ll enjoy the convenience of always having a ready supply of plantable seeds on hand. Start with superior open-pollinated varieties and work with vegetables that are typically harvested when dead-ripe, such as dry beans, melons, tomatoes and winter squash.

Seema Rathod, Thornhill

Give your garden a meal!

Adding fertility to your soil is one of the best tips for having prize-winning vegetables, healthy carpet lawns and show-stopping annuals and perennials. Good compost, blood, fish and bone meal, seaweed and fish emulsion and well-rotted animal manures are all suitable. Most plants these days come with identity labels, so you can learn their specific needs. When you give your plants the proper nutrients, they produce strong roots, healthy foliage and a good flower display as a reward for your care and nurturing.

Janet Trezise, Newmarket

Helpful Tips for Building Your Own Herb Garden

By Ethan A. Huff, contributing writer to Natural News

Spring is in the air, which means the sweet essences of flowering citrus, leafy greens and other fresh fare are soon to follow. But for some people, joining in on this bountiful chorus with their own vegetable or herb gardens might sound too intimidating, or they’re not exactly sure where to start. If this is you, the following tips will help simplify the learning curve and get you on track to reaping your own delightful harvest right from your own backyard.

Herbs are among the easiest garden plants to grow during the summertime because they typically perform their best with lots of sun exposure. They can also be grown densely in small spaces, which makes them a preferable option for people who live in condominiums or apartments, or who live on small lots. With just a few square feet, the average backyard grower can maintain a full array of herbs with a lot less effort than you might think.

Place Your Herb Garden Near Your Kitchen

If you have even a little bit of outdoor space, constructing an herb garden close to your kitchen will make it easy for you to access in a pinch. Whether it is a slim edge at the back wall of your house, a corner by the kitchen window or even just a few growing pots clustered together by the back door, even the smallest of backyard spaces can work.

Since they’re typically not as finicky as vegetables, flowers and fruits in terms of their required growing conditions, herbs are an excellent choice for the casual grower looking to spice things up in the kitchen. Just make sure to pick a spot that gets at least half a day of full sun, and plant the herbs that you plan to use the most.

Choose Both Annuals and Perennials

Knowing which herbs grow continually year after year and which have to be planted annually is also important. Many of the most popular herbs, including basil, dill, cilantro and cumin, are annual, which means that they only grow during a single growing season. Perennial herbs like lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme tend to live for several years.

“Annual plants grow for only one season and so must be planted each spring,” explains the National Gardening Association (NGA).

“Perennials live for several years. Their foliage dies back in the fall, but the roots overwinter and resume growth the following spring. And biennials grow for two years, growing foliage the first season, overwintering, then forming seeds and dying back at the end of the second season.”

More information about types of herbs, their soil requirements and how to care for them can be accessed at the NGA website:

Choose a Design That Works For You

Based on these variances, certain herbs will grow better when grouped together with other herbs of their same kind. Annuals, which require optimal soil conditions and regular watering, as well as warmer weather, can be bunched in the same planter or pot. Perennials, on the other hand, can be relegated to edges of flower beds or in other areas, since they tend to require less care.

“Robust herbs such as sage and rosemary stand up to each other, require little watering and a sharply drained soil,” explains “Sage grows prodigiously in summer and will swamp smaller herbs planted too close.

“Herbs such as mint and lemon balm are best kept elsewhere, unless you want a constant battle to keep them from spreading through the other plants.”

*Image of “small herb flower garden” via Shutterstock

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Gardening | Basic tips for creating that picture-perfect garden

The pictures you see of beautiful gardens reflect just a moment in time. The perfect light, peak color and faultless relationships don’t last. Gardens are a work in progress. They change and evolve.

You don’t need to beat yourself up trying to make your garden picture-perfect. You can create an enviable landscape with the help of a few garden design principles and a lot of looking at other gardens.


Develop your garden based on a real or imaginary axis (central reference point). Strive to make both sides equal in visual weight.

Symmetrical gardens are formal with each side a mirror image of the other.

Asymmetrical plans are designed with equal weight on both sides of the axis, but different plants. For example, an asymmetrical scheme might include a large plant on one side and three small plants on the other to give a sense of balance.


Buy and plant in odd numbers up to nine plants. With 10 or more the eye no longer comprehends how many plants are in the group. A single plant is usually lost in the garden unless it is large plant that is used as a focal point.

If you are partial to a certain plant, try using multiple varieties of it – one of a kind can sometimes work in this instance. For example, combine different varieties of shade-loving hosta. The large leaves add coarse texture to the garden, and the plants deliver an attractive mix of sizes and foliage color.

Sun-loving salvias provide a block of fine, textured, airy color as they bloom. The plants offer the opportunity to stagger height as well as select bloom time and color. The viewer won’t be able to determine how many plants make up the many stalks.


Include different plant textures in your garden. A garden full of small-leafed plants with tiny blooms is boring. You don’t need to use every leaf shape and size, but contrast makes a garden more interesting – big and small, shiny and fuzzy leaves, spiky, round, elongated and toothed shapes. The same is true for blooms: big and small, drooping and upright, airy and dense.


Too many different colors look chaotic. Choose a color scheme. Limit your palette to colors that relate well to one another. Know that bright colors hold up in the bright sun; they don’t wash out.

Silvery foliage and white blooms show up in the evening.

Remember that color in the garden does not come from just blooms; it comes from foliage, too. In addition to green, add orange yellow, lime, silver-gray, pink, red, purple burgundy, almost-black and variegated foliage to the garden.


In a border, install taller plants in the rear and decreasingly shorter plants in front. In an island garden all plants become visible when taller plants are sited in the middle and decreasingly shorter plants surround the center spot.

Always consider the mature size of a plant when you include it in your design.

Pay attention to shapes. Plants form triangles, lollipops, balls, columns, mounds; they trail and weep. Various shapes are not just for the back row; work appropriately sized plants with these shapes into your garden at different levels.


Repeat colors, shapes, textures and patterns to unify your landscape. Remember, less can be more. Avoid too many disparate elements.

If a plant doesn’t work, dig it up and move it, recycle it in a container or give it away. You don’t have to leave it in the garden for the entire season, or even a week.

Look at other gardens, the good and the bad; you will see what works and what doesn’t. Take the insight home and apply it to your own garden.

Each year brings another opportunity to create a picture-perfect garden. Try not to miss the magic moment when it all comes together.

Reach DEBBIE MENCHEK, a Clemson Master Gardener, at

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