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Archives for May 31, 2014

Slideshow: Growing potatoes in containers

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North Boise garden offers mini-retreats

Walking through Ann Guardiola’s yard is like exploring the different rooms of a house – small spaces with distinct personalities and purposes. There’s a circle of mossy rocks around a fire pit, a place to hold Tiki parties or to “sit and meditate.” There’s a courtyard created by the parallel walls of her house, equipped with a barbecue, speakers and dining table, looking out on a fountain and greenery. There’s a hot tub next to a wall of bamboo, which thrives beside the warmth.

The space has come a long way from six years ago, when Guardiola remodeled her 1921 home in Boise’s North End, tore down an old garage and found herself with dirt for a backyard. She had attempted gardening starting in 1988, when she bought her first house, but admits, “I really didn’t have the eye for it. I still really don’t.”

So she turned to Kecia Carlson, principal designer and general manager of Madeline George Design Nursery off Hill Road. Guardiola came in with ideas about what she wanted – a place to entertain, privacy from nearby neighbors – and thoughts about the types of plants she found appealing, such as pine trees. Carlson took those wishes into consideration, along with practical matters, including the size of Guardiola’s yard and the fact that her dog would need adequate grass and space. All of that went into her final design plan.

Carlson said she tried to stay true to the architectural style of the home, a bungalow, with a simple design, mixing evergreen hedging with classic perennials. Over the years, Guardiola has acquired a “nice, tight collection of plants,” she said.

Guardiola said she wanted to include a number of plants that stay attractive even when covered with snow – things like boxwood shrubs and bay laurel, as well as plants like rosemary, which has evergreen needles.

“It’s nice to have that green in the winter,” she said.

Lavender, daylilies, roses and gold thread cypress add color to the garden when the weather is warmer. Carlson said some of her favorite plants are included on the grounds: electric blue cedars, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea and hellebore. She also lists ninebark shrubs, which Guardiola said she was initially skeptical of. But Guardiola said she learned that plants she didn’t immediately respond to were more appealing once she saw how they looked mixed with other things.

Carlson notes that Guardiola’s garden is able to transition from Asian inspiration to native, high-desert plants because of the way it is separated into distinct spaces. She encourages anyone who needs help trying to create a landscape plan to break up their yard into sections – “bite-size pieces” – and give them each a name or theme to help organize the space and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the task ahead.

“It makes it more fun,” she said.

Guardiola’s garden has evolved over the years. It took her a while to fully embrace Carlson’s insistence that it was good to experiment with plants and move them around if they didn’t work right away. She accepted that gardening involves a lot of trial and error. And she said it was helpful to work with a designer – someone to offer solutions to problems and a different perspective. For instance, a door on the side of Guardiola’s home was Carlson’s suggestion. The pathway in Guardiola’s courtyard is made of blocks of salvaged sidewalk Carlson got from a friend.

Carlson also told Guardiola not to be afraid to plant more in the front of her home. Before, Guardiola said, she had kept plants close to the walls of her house and away from the edge of the sidewalk – just as most of her neighbors do. With Carlson’s guidance, she extended the planting area farther into her front lawn.

This is advice Carlson gives often. She doesn’t know why people tend to limit planting to the border of their home but says it can give houses a compressed feeling. Planting farther out adds more depth to the property, she said.

Guardiola is planning to sell her home – but not before expanding her garden by adding succulents on the hot, sunny south side. Without hesitation, she says she will undertake a gardening project in her new space as well.

For now, she enjoys the “private little space” she created in her small, urban backyard – a sanctuary for reading the newspaper in the morning or holding parties. She hopes it shows other people who don’t have a lot of property what is possible.

“You can do a lot with a little space,” she said.

Allison Maier worked as a reporter in Montana and New York before joining the Idaho Statesman, her hometown newspaper, as a copy editor.

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Greenery at the Green

The graceful “Winged Figure Ascending,” by the late, internationally recognized sculptor Stephen De Staebler, greets visitors as they approach the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.

Inside the courtyard at the entrance to Weill Hall is a grander sculptural display: 12 16-foot-tall pieces wrought by Mother Nature over the course of 118 years.

A building as striking as the finely-tuned music box designed by renowned architect William Rawn deserves an approach that conveys venerability. That was achieved with these ancient Sevillano olive trees — six on each side of the courtyard — with their gnarled trunks of multiple branches braided together over more than a century.

The olives trees, harvested from a doomed orchard in Corning, trucked in and then carefully placed in trenches beneath the limestone pavers of the courtyard, are among the most significant features within the outdoor spaces surrounding the hall.

With its barn-style door in a concert hall that opens to terraced grass seating, the center is truly designed to offer music without walls on a fine summer day. So the grounds needed to offer the same serenely simple beauty found inside the hall itself.

Observant homeowners and gardeners can glean ideas from public spaces like the Green Music Center, taking note of anything from natural architecture like trees and plantings to pathways, lighting and courtyards such as the entry to Weill Hall.

The grounds are the work of both Bill Mastick of Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning of Santa Rosa and the husband and wife team, Larry Reed and Cinda Gilliland, of SWA, an international landscape architecture firm with local offices in Sausalito and San Francisco.

Quadriga came up with the overall site plan for the 52-acre Green Music Center, including the parking lot, the front of the center and the 12- to 14-foot acoustic berms that provide a sound buffer from nearby road noise.

A total of $8.55 million of the $145 million music center project went into the grounds, from the courtyard and colonnade to the west and south lawns, site grading, structural fill, berms, signage, pathways, trees, landscape plants, lighting and outdoor sound equipment.

The long delay had an unexpected upside. The first part of the project to go in back in 2000 was the parking lot, dotted with London Plane trees. By the time the center opened two years ago, they had grown into the mature shade trees Mastick had envisioned.

In fact, time has softened and cooled the whole front of the center. A long line of Chinese elm trees and blue oat grass also are maturing and helping to conceal the plain walls of the classroom wing of the center.

One of the last areas to be developed was the courtyard, made possible by the $12 million infusion from the Weills that finished off the hall and landscaping.

Old olive trees were not part of the original design for the courtyard. But Reed, whose company was brought in to finish the grounds work, said Sandy and Joan Weill pressed for these ancient trees that project an image of both old California and new Wine Country.

They and Reed hand-picked the trees from an orchard near Chico owned by Troy Heathcote of Heritage Olive Trees.

“The olive industry is really going downhill. They’re tearing out these old trees and starting to plant walnuts,” said Heathcote, who buys up old orchards before the trees are bulldozed and tries to sell as many as possible. But he figures he is only able to find homes for about 7 percent of them. Price is a big factor, with each tree costing up to $3,000 or more. Removal, shipping and planting easily double that cost.

The Semillanos are actually good for landscaping because their fruit is larger — more for stuffed olives and martinis — and thus not as prolific and messy.

The other dominant trees in the Green Music Center landscape are redwoods. The giant evergreens, purchased in 15- to 84-gallon boxes, will provide screening around the periphery of the lawns. The trees also needed to be tall, said Reed, to be in proportion to the stately Weill and Schroeder halls.

The understory plantings are natural and typical of the North Coast — anemones, pennisetum or bunnytails, rock roses.

Reed said the economic downturn also took its toll on the landscape business.

“With the economy going south, growers had to start chipping plant material because they couldn’t sell it,” he said. “These are the last of the trees of a good size that we were able to get.”

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at or 521-5204.

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Creating a lasting oasis

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When Barb and Len Eaton had their house remodeled, they didn’t stop with the inside. With it came a picture-perfect remake of the garden and landscaping, complete with an outdoor dining room and fireplace.

It’s the crown jewel of the 19th annual Spring Garden Tour organized by the American Association of University Women of Ashland.

If you go

What: 19th annual Spring Garden Tour organized by the American Association of University Women of Ashland

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 8

Tickets: Cost is $20; available at Paddington Station, the Grange Co-ops of Medford and Ashland, and at

The self-guided tour, which benefits scholarships and social programs for women, as well as the environment, runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 8. Participants can tour five gardens and enjoy refreshments at Grizzly Peak Winery.

Entering the rear garden, visitors are stunned by the classic symmetry of this “Mediterranean-theme oasis,” as it’s called by Kelly Eaton, its designer — and the daughter-in-law of the Eatons. Her husband, Jason Eaton, of Conscious Construction, remodeled the house.

A lovely fireplace nestles under a pergola, dominating the west wall. It’s surrounded by a tiled dining area with a table for six and another table for four. Flagstone walkways wind about the secluded yard, threading between mature Ponderosa pine and oak trees.

There seems not a blade of grass out of place — and the effect is deeply meditative, with views of mountains (but not neighbors) in every direction.

With the region in drought, the AAUW this year is emphasizing two big ways to cut water use: reduce grass and increase drought-tolerant plants. The Eatons’ landscaping does just that.

The city of Ashland is co-sponsoring the event as a way to promote its Water Wise and Fire Wise programs, offering water audits and wildfire audits through the city Conservation Commission, says Mimi Pippel, co-president of the Ashland AAUW. For details, see

A rich selection of flora lines the walkways of the Eaton garden — salvia, barberry, day lilies, heather, hardy geraniums, fuschia, pin cushion flower.

“This is my sanctuary,” says Barb Eaton. “My garden is my best therapist. It’s pure joy to be out here with the bees and butterflies.”

The south part of the garden offers bleeding heart, pineapple guava, echinacea, day feather, flowering currant, yew, dogwood and redbud. In the northwest corner, vegetables grow apace.

The wood fence is adorned with hanging sculpture, including lots of Green Men and a Dionysus. One plaque appropriately notes, “If you love the life you live, you will live the life you love.”

In addition to the Eatons’ oasis, four other gardens are on the tour:

  • A former orchard with native plants near the forestland interface. Foxes have been seen here, munching persimmons high in a tree. A pond edged with local rocks provides habitat for frogs, birds, opossums and others. Native plants include camas, dogwood and currant.
  • A flowering woodland with a dramatic gate provides an example of lawn converted to the “whimsical ambience” of daffodils, irises, tulips, Asiatic lilies, hyacinths, gladiolus, rhododendrons, sage, lilacs, strawberries and more.
  • A neighborhood garden above Siskiyou Boulevard uses simple, natural materials, native plants, modern lines, edible gardens and sculpture, with a cottage, an alpine creek and a concrete-and-steel bridge. Grapes, ornamental grasses, heathers, rhodies, ferns and drought-loving maples help form the landscaping.
  • Lots of young fruit trees, including apple, pear, peach and plum, combine with artistic features and views to give visitors lots of ideas for their own gardens. Roses and clematis climb the rear fence. Raised beds contain veggies and herbs. Deer don’t find much to munch here.

The Ashland AAUW raised $22,000 last year for young women’s scholarships and other programs. The tour sold more than 400 tickets and netted $6,000. The organization — the largest AAUW in the state — has branched out from scholarships and donates funds to help bring new bedding and kitchen items to Dunn House, a shelter for abused women, says Pippel.

The tour will feature refreshments and live music by More Fools Than Wise Madrigal singers, at Grizzly Peak Winery at the top of East Nevada Street. Tickets cost $20 and are available at Paddington Station and the Grange Co-ops of Medford and Ashland. Tickets and maps are also available on the Ashland AAUW website at

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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Landmark tour: Lush city setting

It’s the type of neighborhood where you have to know someone to buy a home there, jokes Jason Roberts and his partner Bob Farnan.

For years, the couple eyed the Mt. Hope and Highland historic neighborhood near Highland Park, embracing the landscape and the architectural details of homes on Reservoir Avenue.

Their opportunity to purchase a property came last year when they heard from a friend that a bungalow-style home would be for sale. Quietly, Roberts and Farnan made a private offer, and the deal closed without the house ever being on the market.

RocDocs: Latest real estate transactions

“You’re in the middle of the city, but you’re in a world of your own,” Farnan says of the Mt. Hope and Highland neighborhood.

The couple’s Arts and Crafts-style home at 86 Reservoir Ave. will be showcased along with nine other neighborhood homes during the Landmark Society House Garden Tour next weekend.

The annual tour is one of the biggest fundraisers for Landmark Society of Western New York, says director of public programs Cindy Boyer. Tour headquarters are at the Lamberton Conservatory, 180 Reservoir Ave., home to unusual plants and more than a dozen turtles.

The area near the park was the exclusive domain of the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery and the Mt. Hope Cemetery throughout the middle and late 19th century and retains the influences of architects and gardeners of the time.

That tradition is still apparent in the neighborhood, Roberts says. There’s an element of keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to landscaping and maintaining gardens.

As new homeowners, Roberts and Farnan are working on their existing landscaping with a Japanese maple and blooming purple phlox at this time of year. Their home, which has one-level living and three bedrooms, was built by Charles W. Eldridge in 1911 with a low-pitched roof and broad eaves. One of the bedrooms has been turned into a study with built-in seating. The kitchen is updated to modern standards with a skylight to project light into the room.

Across the street at 89 Reservoir Ave., homeowner Terry May has been working on his side-entrance Colonial-style home and his garden for the past quarter century. The tour will be his grand finale. He and his partner, Joel Smith, have sold their home, also through a private sale, and will be moving to Palm Springs, Calif.

Built in 1922, the style of the home is unusual, as it looks to be a Dutch Colonial on the exterior. Painted shingles highlight the exterior, and there is a front porch with access only from inside the house.

Inside, the home retains all of its old world charm with modern updates. Filled with wood trim, May and Smith decorated it in the Arts and Crafts style. Art enthusiasts will find Japanese prints and pottery from Germany.

The garden room was added by the couple so they could enjoy the outdoors year-round. It is adjacent to the kitchen, and while the two work on meal preparation, they can look out the window.

The urban backyard is a retreat in the summer with a small pool surrounded by landscaping. Azaleas are blooming brightly right now with purple allium and phlox. May does not like to use annual flowers but planted some marigolds for the garden tour to give his backyard a pop of golden color.

May and Smith have taken great care in making sure that updates are in keeping with the home’s character. The new owners are thrilled with the mature landscape and the upgrades, May says.

At the bungalow home, Roberts and Farnan have just started to think about their renovation projects.

“We wanted to live in the house for a while,” Roberts says, noting that they want to make sure the upgrades are indeed suitable for their lifestyle.

They will also keep character in mind when upgrading, noting they are just a small part of the home’s history.

“We’re just stewards of this house,” Roberts says.

Garden tour season

Throughout the summer, organizations raise money through home and garden tours. Here is information on some this month:

Landmark Society House Garden Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8.

Where: Mt. Hope and Highland neighborhood. Tour Central is at Lamberton Conservatory, 180 Reservoir Ave.

Cost: $22 in advance (recommended); $25 the day of the tour if tickets are left.

Tickets: Parkleigh, 215 Park Ave.; Landmark Society office, 133 S. Fitzhugh St.

More information:

RMSC Women’s Council Garden Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14.

Where: Begin at any home on the tour. Homes are all over the area; addresses are on the ticket or, if you’re buying the day of, by calling (585) 225-0455.

Cost: $18 in advance; $20 the day of tour.

For tickets:, several garden centers and florists and Parkleigh (full list on website).

Greece Notable Garden Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14.

Where: Six gardens through Greece, with live music, refreshments and more. The Greece Performing Arts Society’s Tour Central is at the Greece Historical Society, 595 Long Pond Road, where a free Garden Market will be set up.

Cost: $15 in advance; $20 day of tour.

For tickets: Frear’s Garden Center, 1050 Stone Road; VanPutte Gardens, 138 North Ave.; Rockcastle Florist, 870 Long Pond Road; Green Acre Farm and Nursery, 3456 Latta Road.

For information: (585) 234-5636.

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Bring on variety when landscaping with native plants – Casper Star

Incorporating carefully selected native plants into your garden is a great way to create a landscape that needs less water, fertilizer and pesticides and that also benefits native pollinators, such as bees, moths and hummingbirds. Many western native plants are adapted to strong sunlight, limited amounts of precipitation, soils low in organic matter and challenging winters. Even putting these benefits aside, many gardeners grow native plants to bring more of the natural landscape around them into their day-to-day lives.

As with all landscaping projects, you’ll first need to assess the conditions in your yard. Take a look at the amount of sunlight and wind you have, the kind of soil and available water. You can then start selecting plants you think will suit the environment. As you begin to research possible plants for your yard, remember that drought-tolerant plants—those that will help you use less water in your landscape—are often adapted to full sun. If your yard is shady, you may need to look for plants that prefer a bit more water.

Also keep in mind that many western wildflowers are short-lived perennials. Many live for three to five years, during which they will often produce seed that—if given the chance—will grow into plants to replace their parents. Expect your yard to change a bit from one year to the next. Self-sown seedlings are great for expanding your plantings or passing along to friends.

Here are some plants you might consider trying in your yard. The descriptions are from the new booklet Plants with Altitude: Regionally Native Plants for Wyoming Gardens, co-written by myself, Amy Fluent with the Laramie Garden Club, Dorothy Tuthill and Brenna Marsicek with the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute

Kelsey’s phlox or marsh phlox, Phlox kelseyi

  • Exposure: full sun to light shade
  • Water needs: low to moderate

This early bloomer is covered in glowing bright-purple flowers that hide its needle-like green foliage. It stands between 1 and 1.5 inches tall and is between 5 and 8 inches wide. It has a long bloom time (at least a month in many locations) and is less likely to suffer from winterburn than more common creeping phlox species (perhaps because it is so short). It’s a great plant for the front of a garden bed. Phlox kelseyi is found in a few locations in Wyoming; the cultivar ‘Lemhi Purple’ was originally collected in the Lemhi Mountains, which are near the southwest portion of the Montana-Idaho border. ‘Lemhi Purple’ is becoming increasingly common in quality regional nurseries.

Rocky Mountain beardtongue, Penstemon strictus

  • Exposure: full sun
  • Water needs: low but adaptable

Penstemon is the largest genus of wildflowers restricted to the new world—mostly north of Mexico. In Wyoming, there are more than 40 species, some broadly distributed and some restricted to very narrow ranges. They usually stand between 18 and 30 inches tall and are between 12 and 36 inches wide. Of the purple/blue penstemons, Rocky Mountain beardtongue is the species most commonly found at nurseries. (It is also easy to start from seed.) With tall spikes of blue-purple flowers and shiny dark green leaves, it is attractive in any garden and very attractive to pollinators, too. Like most penstemons, it has a short blooming season—typically a month in summer. Also like most, it prefers dry soils. With excess water or too much shade, it can develop mildew on the leaves, and the root crowns may rot, especially if it goes into winter with wet feet. Rocky Mountain beardtongue can reseed aggressively, but cutting off the flower spikes after the blooms fade is an easy way to control this tendency.

Narrow-leaf coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia

  • Exposure: full sun
  • Water needs: low but adaptable

These purple-flowered, hairy-leaved plants are tough, standing between one and two feet high and about 12 and 18 inches wide. Though shorter than the much more common purple coneflower, these plants are definitely more drought tolerant. Plants can be started from seed and should be transplanted when small; they are more difficult to transplant when larger because of their taproot. Plants start out a bit slowly and take a few years to bulk up in size. This plant can reseed a fair amount depending on conditions.

Tufted evening primrose, Oenothera caespitosa

  • Exposure: full sun
  • Water needs: very dry to moderately moist

This short-lived plant produces huge, fragile-looking white flowers with a sweet lemony fragrance. The plants are less than a foot tall and between one and two feet wide. The flowers, which are often visited by white-lined sphinx moths (also called hummingbird moths), open in the evening and shrivel in the heat of the day. It can be a vigorous reseeder depending on where it is placed—as a result it will move around your landscape, dying out here, sprouting up there. This plant has a taproot, so transplant it when it is young. (Some other native evening primrose’s spread aggressively underground, becoming garden pests to some —know your Oenothera before you plant it). Rabbits may chew on the plant, especially when food sources are scarce. Given the chance, tufted evening primrose will usually recover very well from this activity.

Western mock orange, Philadelphus lewisii

  • Exposure: full sun to part shade
  • Water needs: low to moderate

Although mock orange might not have visible characteristics of a drought-tolerant plant, its looks belie its hardy constitution. It blooms in early summer, during which the shrub is covered with lovely white flowers that are strongly and sweetly scented. Be sure to site this shrub where it has plenty of room to grow and where its flowers can be appreciated. It came be between four and nine feet tall and wide. This plant can become a bit scraggly over time, which can be corrected with judicious pruning shortly after flowering. The selection ‘Cheyenne’, which originated from the Cheyenne High Plains Grassland Research Station, is especially lovely and easily found in nurseries.

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Gardening Tips: Controlling cedar-apple rust disease

Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 1:01 pm

Gardening Tips: Controlling cedar-apple rust disease

By Matt Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


One of the most interesting aspects of plant diseases is the interaction between the pathogen, the host plant, and the environment. In some years, a particular disease might be nonexistent while in other years it can be devastating. The degree of damage or spread of the disease is often determined by the weather at one or two critical times of the year.

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Friday, May 30, 2014 1:01 pm.

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Hot tips from gardeners

Selangor and Federal Territory Gardening Society’s latest book has lots of practical information, writes Stephanie Choo

I CHUCKLE as I read the introduction of the newly-released book by the Selangor and Federal Territory Gardening Society. Dr Arlene Ngan, the chairperson of the society’s book committee states she has yet to see anyone sporting “green fingers”.

While the term refers to people with the ability to grow plants with little effort, it is actually the devoted, laborious and calloused fingers that create and maintain a beautiful garden, large or small,  over a period of time.

Much can be gleaned from this second publication of the Gardening In Malaysia book series. Written by experienced practising gardening enthusiasts, the first one was Flowering Plants. Volume 2 is titled Annuals, Ground Covers And Herbs.

The book was launched last week at the society’s annual dinner held at the Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur. The cosy affair was made extra special with a good turnout of members and  guests, and the society’s patrons, Tan Sri Dr Chong Hon Nyan and wife, Puan Sri Chong Eu Ngoh.

Lam Peng Sam, a past president of the society and former columnist for New Straits Times, co-wrote the book with Dr Tan Swee Lian, the society president, the late Dr Anthony Santiago, Deve J. Kunaseelan, Puan Sri Suguna Arumugam, Lina Santiago, Mansor Puteh, Salmah Sodhy and Wong Wai Ching. Other contributors include Woo Kum Wah, Janet Yap and Datuk Dr Mahani Mansor.

Some 40 popular annuals, ground covers and herbs are covered in the first few chapters. The botanic name, common name, place of origin, botanical description, uses, propagation ways and cultivation methods of each plant are described in an easy-to-read manner.

The section on cultivation offers practical instructions on how to grow plants successfully — from the sunflower (scientific name: Helianthus annuus) to the ground-hugging Spanish Shawl (Dissotis rotundifolia) and the zesty ginger (Zingiber officinale) — in the hot and humid tropics.

Although annuals mainly flourish in full sun locations, petunia cultivars also fare well in filtered light places. The Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) can be grown here in semi-shade locations with little maintenance despite being a native of the Mediterranean region. Ground covers with flowers and colourful foliage, like the Flame Violet (Episcia cupreata), is a beauty to have in our gardens.

Sweet Honey Leaf (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), a “healthy” alternative to sugar is a short-day plant of determinate growth. The plant grown here can only reach to about 30-40 cm high before it flowers, so the leaf yield is low. Early flowering hinders progress of stevia cultivation in this country.

Several interesting home remedies, other personal experiences in the use of some local medicinal herbs and why we need to eat colourful fruits and vegetables everyday are unravelled in the book too.

There are nuggets of wisdom on growing mediums such as charcoal and sand, the different kinds of soil, how to improve soil quality and the importance of drainage.

The Selangor Gardening Society (as it was then known) was founded by expatriates long before Merdeka. It became defunct in 1950 due to a lack of local support but was reregistered in 1967 by a group of garden enthusiasts. The late Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui was invited to be the society’s first patron.

As the society’s initial project, the founding members — Lam Ramaswamy Vengdappa and the late Kurup Gangatharan — led by its first president, Tan Sri Salma Ismail, took the responsibility of labelling the trees in the Lake Gardens (currently known as the Perdana Heritage Gardens) at their own expense!

Details on the society and book at or send an email to



Guest-of-Honour Lam Peng Sam (left) and society patron Tan Sri Dr Chong Hon Nyan at the event.

The book explains how flowers like the Spanish Shawl cab be grown in our tropical heat.

Forty beautiful annuals are covered in the book’s first few chapters.

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Made for each other: Alan Titchmarsh on perfect plant pairs

In shade I love the ethereal quality of the shuttlecock or ostrich-plume fern, matteuccia, mixed with bolder-leafed hostas. Contrasts are always eye-catching, and these plants enjoy moist soil and shade, yet their appearance is so different as to be dramatic when they are positioned alongside one another. If you are having problems with slugs and snails attacking your hostas, try relatively-new Slug Gone, pelleted wool waste which, when spread around plants and wet, makes a thick mat which the molluscs seem reluctant to cross.

Allium is coming into its own, but the foliage is not a pretty sight. Plant the bulbs through a mixture of astrantia, though, and the sad leaves are hidden, with just the drumsticks of flower stems pushing up among the decorative carpet. White, pink and crimson astrantia can be mixed to form a knee-high rug that will keep on blooming, on and off, right through the summer.

Of course, you’ll find combinations that don’t always work, but when they do succeed you’ll have the satisfaction of having invented them yourself. The pioneering instinct often does pay off. 

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

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House Calls: Lawn care tips – Leader

Posted: Saturday, May 31, 2014 12:00 am

House Calls: Lawn care tips

By Erin Larson House Calls contributor


For many homeowners, it is a constant battle to keep their yard looking healthy, especially during the hot summer months.

Use the following tips to help build and maintain a beautiful lawn.

Water during the early morning hours. This gives the water a chance to soak in and reach the grass roots.

Avoid watering during the heat of the day. Water will evaporate quickly during the heat and wind. Not only is it inefficient, but the water gets warm and may cause the grass to wilt.

Avoid watering late in the evening. Having a wet lawn overnight will increase the chances of weeds or a lawn disease developing.

Consider adding a rain sensor to your irrigation system. This will ensure the system is not watering while it is raining.

If you have new seed, you will need to water daily for approximately four to six weeks.

Mowing advice

Avoid mowing during the heat of the day. The hot summer sun can damage a newly exposed grass blade.

Keep your mower height set at 2 1/2- to 3-inches. When grass is cut too short it can cause brown spots in the lawn, which lead to a higher chance of weeds and disease.

Aim for mowing no more than one third of the blade. Mowing more causes the shaft to be cut and exposed, which damages the grass. Mow less of the height, more frequently.

Keep the blades on your mower sharp. A dull blade begins to shred the grass instead of cutting it.

Watering the day before you mow can help avoid the browning of the grass tips.

Alternate the direction of mowing. This will ensure the grass blades are cut and not bent over as well as prevent “rutting.”

Fertilizing methods

Use 4 pounds of fertilizer per 1000 square feet of yard over the course of the season.

Crabgrass preventer should be applied in early spring before the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees.

It is important to use a slow-release granular fertilizer to avoid surge growth. This will keep your lawn a consistent green color throughout the season while reducing the chance of burn.

Manage the pH level to get the most from nutrients. Lime is used to neutralize the soil pH. It takes adequate rates and time to receive the benefits.

Erin Larson is the lawn care coordinator at RainMaster Lawn Systems, 3445 London Road. House Calls is submitted by members of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. If you have a question for local builders, remodelers, real estate companies, home financiers or other association members, email


Saturday, May 31, 2014 12:00 am.

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