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Archives for September 1, 2014

Take it Outside

Backyard bashes worth the effort

There’s something intrinsically special about being invited into someone’s home. It’s more intimate than meeting at a restaurant. It takes more thought. It’s entry, for a little while, into someone else’s world. But for whatever reason – the huge numbers of great Houston restaurants, the extra effort entertaining requires, the fear of pulling it all together – the option of entertaining at home sometimes gets overlooked.

Shelly Schultz is known for serving Jell-O shots when she entertains. (Photo:

Shelly Schultz is known for serving Jell-O shots when she entertains. (Photo:

So as Houston weather peaks and we all want to exit the air conditioning for crisper outdoor climes, it’s time to call some friends, make a date and take it outside. To the backyard.

That’s what Shelly and Jeff Schultz have been doing for the past two-plus years. “We had built our house, and we had this huge backyard with just grass,” says Shelly, a program coordinator for MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Blood Bank. Eventually Shelly convinced Jeff, her dentist husband, to think about landscaping, even though he wouldn’t initially acquiesce to a pool. But one thing led to another, and the couple and their now 10-year-old daughter wound up with what Shelly calls “a party house,” complete with a pool, hot tub, arbor, fire table and custom swing bed. “It’s like a couch, but it’s a swing,” Shelly says of the giant bed-swing that guests inevitably gravitate to and fall in love with.

“Cole Parish, our landscaping architect, changed our lives and the way we live,” Shelly says. “He took our house from a blank slate to my fantasy backyard.”

After the redo, Shelly and Jeff began entertaining outdoors often. “We went from our bungalow to a bigger house so that we could have friends come over, so that’s what we do. We’re not fancy entertainers; we just invite people over for beer, host school socials and have kids’ swim parties.” When asked if she cooks, Shelly says, “No. That doesn’t work. I’m not a cook and I don’t bake. My skills with decorations are limited. I work full-time, life is busy and full, so to entertain it’s take-out and having people over.”

Shelly’s favorite take-out menu is barbecue from the Old Hickory Inn in Meyerland. “That’s our favorite sausage place, and people go nuts for it.” She’s also known for her “skinny” sweet tea vodka-lemonades and her Jell-O shots. “Everyone talks about the Jell-O shots,” she says. “We make them with vodka and different flavored Jell-O, and we have a kid version and an adult version in different colors so we don’t mix them up.” Shelly is a purist. “There are so many fancy Jell-O shot recipes I’ve thought about doing, but who has time for that?

David and Cathy Herr invite people into their backyard just about every Sunday. (Photo:

David and Cathy Herr invite people into their backyard just about every Sunday. (Photo:

“By the way, I’m also the pool boy,” she adds.

Cathy and David Herr entertain similarly, having built a backyard pool five years ago. “That’s when it all started, and this whole thing of Sunday parties kind of kicked off,” David says. The energy trader, his wife and their two young children host friends every Sunday the family is in town. “They aren’t big raging parties,” David says. “But there’s an open invitation to friends and neighbors if we’re in town.”

While David is quick to demur – “We’re not making five-course meals, just chicken and sliders and hot dogs” – his entertaining style falls a bit closer to the foodie end of the spectrum, with more attention paid to the menu, than that of the Schultzes. “I like to be on the grill, and I’m always cooking something,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll look for recipes, like this weekend I’m going to make a peach chutney pork dish that I found when one of those summer grilling ideas popped up on my computer. I just thought it sounded good.” Note: David made the pork and sent an update with the recipe: “The peach pork chops were a huge hit and complemented Cathy’s salad perfectly! I highly recommend them.”

The Herrs don’t have a signature drink, but they do keep their fridge stocked with beer and wine, and they’ll often make margaritas. Generally, decorations are minimal. But for both children’s birthday parties, they strung up Christmas lights from the back fence to the house. “Week to week we keep it simple,” David says, explaining how they manage to make it happen every Sunday.

Syma Levy takes backyard entertaining up a notch. The party planner and owner of Oulala! What an Event has ideas upon ideas of ways to theme parties and make them “cohesive.” She likes to elevate a backyard barbecue with burlap linens, yellow rose centerpieces in galvanized tins and longneck beer “coozies” printed with something like, “Thank your lucky stars you’re in Texas.” Instead of barbecue, she suggests grilling steaks – and then branding them with the hosts’ name. (She orders brands at “You could serve Texas wines, maybe have a Texas wine tasting,” she says. “And serve Blue Bell ice cream with miniature pecan pies for dessert.” (Syma suggests ordering the mini pies from House of Pies or Goode Company Barbecue.)

Syma Levy used printed brown bags as invitations to a backyard crawfish boil. She sent instructions for guests to bring the bags to the party to use for crawfish shells. (Photo: Mark Lipzcynski)

Syma Levy used printed brown bags as invitations to a backyard crawfish boil. She sent instructions for guests to bring the bags to the party to use for crawfish shells. (Photo: Mark Lipzcynski)

For a crawfish boil, she decorated with lots of sunflowers and wrote menus on galvanized chalk boards. Mason jars served as glasses for iced tea with mint, and favors were personalized Tabasco bottles that said, “Thanks for spicing up our party.” Syma says, “You could use kraft paper to print your own labels on the computer. Just manually feed it through the printer.” Other readers like to add quartered muffalettas, the New Orleans ham, cheese and olive salad sandwiches, to the crawfish mix. Zapp’s Cajun Crawtator or Who Dat? potato chips and Abita and Dixie longnecks bring more Louisiana to the party. (Go to to buy the chips or source more ideas for favors, menu and décor.)

Syma is all for comfort food – mac and cheese, grilled cheese, fried chicken. “It’s generally taboo, but it’s fun to eat it all when we’re given the excuse. I can’t tell you how many parties I throw, and we spend thousands of dollars on tenderloin and sushi, but the adults wind up eating the greasy burgers and waffles meant for the kids.”

With all her creative ideas, the bottom line, Syma says, is that it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Pick and choose a few details to focus on, and let the rest happen. “We all get dressed up and go out to dinner on Saturday night. But entertaining and being invited to someone’s home refreshes us, gives us something to look forward to,” she says.

“Sometimes we try to make things so different and special, but really we just need to go back to basics and give people comfort – that’s what they love. Keep it simple. People will like it.”

(From left) Christine Dodson, Michelle Felch, Shelly Schultz and Sharon Cantrell enjoy jello shots outside.

(From left) Christine Dodson, Michelle Felch, Shelly Schultz and Sharon Cantrell enjoy jello shots outside.

Shelly Schultz’s Jell-O Shots

3-ounce envelope Jell-O flavored gelatin powder
1 cup boiling water
1 cup Pinnacle Cool Whip flavored vodka
Plastic shot cups (Shelly buys hers at Spec’s)

Stir Jell-O and boiling water until the powder dissolves. Add vodka and stir. Pour equally into shot cups, and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Shelly Schultz’s Skinny Sweet Tea Vodka-Lemonade

Firefly Skinny Tea sweet tea flavored vodka
Lemonade of choice

Mix vodka and lemonade to taste. Shelly adds 2 shots of vodka to each glass of lemonade.

Lauren and Hudson Herr like to help their parents entertain family and friends in their backyard. (Photo:

Lauren and Hudson Herr like to help their parents entertain family and friends in their backyard. (Photo:

David Herr’s Grilled Pork with Peaches
From a Southern Living recipe

½ cup peach preserves
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 pork chops or 2 pork tenderloins
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix the preserves, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard together to form a marinade. Place the pork chops or tenderloins in a resealable plastic bag; add the marinade. Seal the bag and turn to coat meat with the marinade, reserving extra marinade. Chill the marinating pork for 2 to 4 hours. Remove the meat from the bag and discard used marinade. Season pork with salt and pepper, and grill as desired. During the last five minutes of grilling, baste with the reserved marinade.

Shelly, Haley and Jeff Schultz entertain often in their backyard. Making s'mores is a favorite part of that. (Photo:

Shelly, Haley and Jeff Schultz entertain often in their backyard. Making s’mores is a favorite part of that. (Photo:

Cathy Herr’s Arugula Salad

Baby arugula
Cherry tomatoes
Goat cheese
Peaches, cut into chunks
Store-bought raspberry vinaigrette

Mix all the ingredients together in quantities to taste.

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Labor Day campaign trails cross in Nevada – Las Vegas Review

This Labor Day weekend, the two top candidates for lieutenant governor, Lucy Flores and Mark Hutchison, were sure to cross paths as they made the campaign circuit of parades, fairs, pancake breakfasts and rib cook-offs across Nevada.

State Sen. Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, planned to attend the Elko Parade and Fair, the Winnemucca Parade and Fair, the Fallon Parade and the Virginia City Parade and rib cook-off, his campaign said.

It’s all part of his retail campaign style. Hutchison has made at least 500 campaign stops, hitting big cities, small towns and dusty outposts across the Silver State’s 110,000-plus square miles since he began campaigning last year. His campaign team keeps a Google map that shows each pinpoint as Hutchison shakes hands and does meets and greets for votes.

This Labor Day weekend, Assemblywoman Flores, D-Las Vegas, planned to hit the Elko Parade, the Buckaroo Pancake Breakfast and the parade in Winnemucca, and the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival and parade, too.

Flores, while campaigning, has frequently traveled out of state to raise money to boost her chances against Hutchison, who is backed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. She has the backing of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who’s up for re-election in 2016. He might want a Democrat in the lieutenant governor’s office so Sandoval doesn’t get any ideas about not finishing his second four-year term to, say, run for the U.S. Senate. In that case, the No. 2 would move into the governor’s job.

Flores has employed another tactic in her campaign besides retail campaigning: sitting down for interviews with national publications to raise her profile as a young Hispanic up-and-comer with a political future. The latest piece was published in “Elle” magazine and showed Flores posing with her fists raised, like a prize fighter.

“At the beginning, this campaign was considered high-risk, high-gain, but now it’s something people are getting comfortable with,” Sam Lieberman, a former state Democratic Party chairman, told the magazine.

We’ll find out by the end of Nov. 4 which tactics worked best: old-fashioned retail campaign or high-flying candidate.

— Laura Myers


U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has been making the rounds as a growing federal advocate of medical marijuana for her Nevada constituents, and name-dropping counterculture on the way.

The former University of Nevada, Las Vegas political science professor invoked the name of the Marxist revolutionary whose likeness is widely used as a counterculture figure of rebellion while describing how impressed she was during tours of dispensary businesses in California.

“This wasn’t your little head shop on the corner with a picture of Che Guevara on the wall,” said Titus to laughter during a gathering of the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association. “This is a very professional, very scientific, most impressive kind of operation.”

Guevara was a leader of the Cuban Revolution with Fidel Castro and later executed by CIA-assisted Bolivian troops before becoming a pop culture icon.

— Arnold Knightly


Neal Patel was named communications director for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., replacing Chandler Smith, who departs for a new communications job with the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

A South Carolina native, Patel was a spokesman for the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight before joining Heller’s staff earlier this summer. Smith, a Georgia native, joined Heller’s staff in July 2011 as his press secretary.

In a press release, Heller spoke highly of Smith.

“Chandler has served the people of Nevada with great respect, determination, and loyalty,” he said. “She was an asset to my office and will be missed tremendously.”

As to Patel, Heller said: “Neal’s addition brings experience and value to our team.”

— Peter Urban


There’s a game of musical chairs afoot in the world of government affairs.

Brian McAnallen, formerly with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce as vice president of government affairs, will join the city of Las Vegas as government affairs manager on Sept. 22.

He replaces the city’s former manager, John Lopez, who held the job about five months before Cox Communication wooed him away as their government affairs manager.

McAnallen had been the chamber’s vice president of government affairs since July 2011.

McAnallen’s career in government affairs spans 20 years and his experience included two of the city’s legislative priorities, including the Tule Springs National Monument and the proposed Interstate 11 highway project.

As the city’s top lobbyist, his salary will be $110,000 and he will work to ensure that the city’s legislative agenda is carried out at the federal, state and local levels. McAnallen will play a key role at the 2015 Nevada Legislature, according to the news release issued Friday.

Oddly, the city has no bills to submit to the Legislature, a sign McAnallen will be there to play defense instead of offense.

— Jane Ann Morrison


Following a recent one-hour tour of the Sartini Plaza, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said she will talk to officials in charge about the poor janitorial services.

Little did she know that on Thursday, the janitorial services contract approved by the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, which manages affordable housing, was let to two other janitorial companies, and Jani-King of Las Vegas, the one responsible for Sartini Plaza, was out of the picture.

Tarkanian didn’t fully agree with resident Bud Simpson, who has lived there for 14 years and said Sartini Plaza was filthy. But it was not as clean as she thought it should be.

Among the problems she spied — and not all of them were the responsibility of the janitorial service — was a dirty laundry room, dirt under the mailboxes, dry mops shaken out over the plants, cigarette butts not picked up in the the entryway, and dead plants in the landscaping.

“Maybe they weren’t as well-trained as they should be,” said Tarkanian, who represents that area, referring to the janitorial workers who were on site five days a week. “I didn’t see bugs or spider webs.”

She had been taking it up with officials responsible for the affordable housing.

But there might not be a need. E J Janitorial and Kindom Janitorial have the contracts now, each receiving $157,250 a year.

Jani-King’s bid wasn’t successful, said Deborah Laine, the authority’s director of procurement. That company didn’t submit a low enough bid to be considered.

Simpson credited Tarkanian for prodding for better cleaning six years ago, but when conditions deteriorated, he reached out to a Review-Journal reporter, who reached out to Tarkanian.

Without a doubt, if the contract hadn’t changed, Tarkanian would have shaken up authority officials to make sure the cleaning was done properly.

— Jane Ann Morrison


The city of Las Vegas government has its own Facebook page, which it used last week to promote a city proposal for a $200 million downtown soccer stadium.

A proposed deal between the city and the private partnership of The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports Entertainment showed the private parties were contributing only 22 percent of the financing toward the $200 million stadium, while public financial sources accounted for 78 percent.

The city’s Facebook post drew opponents as well as backers. And one opponent wasn’t shy about her opinion.

That soccer stadium foe was Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who weighed in with a comment on Aug. 27 at 1:02 p.m.: “No public funding. It’s time to cancel the contract.”

The city government’s response on the Facebook thread: “We’re going to share more financing info soon!”

The city government acting as stadium cheerleader appeared odd when you consider the city still needs “to share more financing info.”

— Alan Snel

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at or 702-383-0275. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison. Contact Laura Myers at or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at or 202-783-1760. Contact Alan Snel at or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel. Contact Arnold M. Knightly at or 702-477-3882. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.

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Back in slowly to reverse-angle parking issue

If reverse-angle parking is such a good idea, why not test it out in local government’s own back yard! Start with the small lot between the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse and the police station, a parking lot designated for use by staff, commissioners and police. Move on to the employee lot west of the BSB Public Archives and then the steeper lot adjacent to the jail. Survey staff and observe issues over the winter to formulate solutions.

Implement reverse-angle parking adjacent to the police station, mandate use with proper signage and other provisions. Step back, evaluate, proceed or don’t proceed based upon lessons learned. Then and only then proceed to a street that has been suggested such as Mercury, with reverse-angle parking that will include a bike lane and see how that works.

This issue is much more than just the cost of paint for stripping or the fear of change. In order to effectively implement a significant change in the way people park it will require an integrated approach. An approach that includes storm water control, street landscaping, and pedestrian bump-outs that define the parking and protect the public — along with historically appropriate lighting, traffic signals and signage that assists visitors to “find their way” within our National Historic Landmark District.

I attended the presentations and reviewed the documentation provided by an out-of-town consultant. It all appears logical and is backed by statistics; but can it be implemented effectively in Butte, America?

Mark Reavis

842 W. Galena St.


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Brave new gardening for brave new climates – Richmond Times

Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2014 10:30 pm

Brave new gardening for brave new climates

Associated Press |

Ripping out the front lawn and its bordering rhododendrons and replacing them with a landscape of native grasses, groundcovers and perennials once seemed an unfathomable act of defiance. No longer.

Gardeners nationwide are feeling the effects of climate change. In the East and other areas where heavy downpours have become more intense, a sustainable garden might include native grasses and other plants that do well in heavy rain and the dry weather that can follow.

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Bill Virgin: Weyerhaeuser’s move says a lot about the company and Federal Way

Local News

Larry LaRue: Limited movement doesn’t limit Tenino man’s world

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Shorelines | Lake & Garden: Outdoor Oasis

This landscaping story begins in the early 1980s when Charlie and Theresa Converse lived in Rochester, New York. A friend had a koi pond that intrigued and inspired them.

“We were drawn to the koi,” said Theresa, “and we both liked the concept of having a pond and the sound of running water.” 

The couple started with a store-bought pond and one fish, but the koi collection quickly grew to 38 after they purchased additional fish and those had babies. They also rescued damaged koi and nursed them back to health. They decided to add another pond. 

“Everything my husband does is larger than life,” Theresa said. “Pretty soon, he had a backhoe and was building a larger pond from scratch.”

When Charlie retired from his job as line forman for the Rochester Gas and Electric Company in late 2001, the couple decided to move south, in part because koi prefer long, warm summers.

“In New York we only had about three months of weather that was warm enough for them,” said Theresa. “The water has to be 55 degrees [Fahrenheit] for the fish to awaken from dormancy. In Rochester, sometimes it was May before they became active.” 

Theresa discovered Smith Mountain Lake while traveling for her job as a healthcare consultant. She visited Roanoke and and fell in love with the area. In March 2002, they came to look at property. Charlie didn’t plan to be on the water, but Theresa really wanted a lakefront home. 

“Charlie grew up on a lake in New York, so I hired a fishing guide to take him out.  I told him, ‘If you come back with a big fish, we’ll buy a lakefront home.’ He joked that it would have to be a big fish. Six hours later, he came back with a string of three huge fish. When he held them at chest level, the tails touched the ground. So we bought a lakefront lot and built an Arts and Crafts-style house.”

After purchasing a lot in The Water’s Edge, challenges started to arise. The couple’s Rochester house sold before their lake house was finished. They had to move the koi from the sold property, but the proposed ponds at the lake had not yet been built. After some brainstorming, they hit on the idea of temporarily housing the fish in a 4-foot-deep above-ground swimming pool.

Once the lake house was ready, they bought large plastic bins to transport the fish. They put enough water into large plastic bags to cover the fishes’ backs, put one to three fish (depending on their size) into each bag, filled the bags with pure oxygen that would disseminate into the water slowly, and knotted them closed. Each bag of fish went into  separate plastic bins, which were stacked in layers and filled the bed of the couple’s pickup truck. 

“We had no idea what would happen to them,” Theresa recalled. “We drove nonstop for 10 hours to get them to Virginia. It was midnight when we arrived at the house.”

Immediately, the Converses released the koi into another above-ground swimming pool they had prepped in their garage. There, the fish awaited their new outdoor home.

The Converses built a series of naturalistic ponds and streams that wandered through the back woods on their gently sloping lot. After a few years, they decided a more formal design would better suit the style of their house. They drew up rough plans for the design they envisioned, and then brought in Lynchburg-based landscape architect Norman Tharpe to finalize and implement the design with assistance from nearby Lakescapes Nursery. 

“We looked into several people, but chose Norman because he has the most experience at the lake with koi,” said Theresa, noting Tharpe’s 30 years of expertise in design, installation and maintenance of  water gardens and koi ponds around the region.

Unfortunately, the home’s septic lines ran right through where they wanted the upper pond. They solved the problem by building a shallow, above-ground “settling” pond five feet lower than the deck off the back of the house. Well above ground and over the septic lines, the upper pond is too shallow for fish. Instead, the Converses planted water hyacinths, an ideal plant for biofiltration to purify the water that cascades to the fish pond below. The lower pond’s depth (6-8 feet) and steep sides provide no access for wading, foiling local herons that would relish a feast of koi. 

A stone wall hides the mechanics of the raised pond, and blends with the stone fireplace on the deck. To this hardscape, the Converses have planted a garden that focuses on foliage with various textures and myriad shades of green, blue, yellow and red. 

“There’s not a lot of color,” said Theresa, “and no annuals.”

Instead, the couple has planted hostas, euonymous, nandina, spirea, lorapetalum, rhododendrons and azaleas. 

Charlie and Theresa Converse are passionate about koi and about landscaping. These two loves are a winning combination for this year’s Lovely Laker Landscape Contest. The couple takes home $1,000 in credit to use on plants, materials or anything else available at Lakescapes Nursery.

Catriona Tudor Erler is a freelance garden writer, photographer and speaker who divides her time between Smith Mountain Lake and Charlottesville. She is the author of nine books on gardening and landscaping.   

Koi Facts

•    Koi can live 80-100 years; owners often write them in their wills as property to pass on to loved ones.

•    A valuable koi can sell for up to $20,000; they are shipped from Japan on ice to keep them dormant during the journey.

•    A koi is valued by its coloration, patterning and scalation (clarity or shininess of its scales).

•    The word koi or nishikigoi means brocaded carp.

•    Koi first were developed from common carp in Japan in the 1820s.

•    Koi are domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that are selected or culled for color; they are not a different species but a subspecies, and will revert to the original coloration within a few generations if allowed to breed freely.

Foiling the deer

Charlie and Theresa Converse brought 500 hostas from New York and lost them all to hungry deer. Determined not to let that happen again, they have developed a successful, three-pronged system to stop the pests in their tracks: 

1. Throughout the year, they keep bars of soap (Dial brand) hanging in the trees around the perimeter of the property, replacing them 3-4 times per year. 

2. As soon as the hosta first appear in spring, before the deer have a chance to get a whiff of them, Theresa sprinkles the granular Deer Scram Deer Repellent around the property boundary. She respreads it after every rain. 

3. Beginning in early spring, Theresa sprays Bobbex Deer Repellent, a topical foliar spray, on the leaves of her plants. She reapplies every 10 days.
“I’ve seen a doe and two fawns stand on the edge of the garden, sniff the air and leave,” said Theresa.  

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Make the Most of Labor Day with Gardening Tips from Garden Media

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Gladiator Alliums from Longfield Gardens

Spending time outside in your garden this Labor Day weekend while the weather is nice is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on spring,

Kennett Square, PA (PRWEB) August 29, 2014

Labor Day marks the end of summer and time to prepare the yard and garden for Old Man Winter.

“Spending time outside in your garden this Labor Day weekend while the weather is nice is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on spring,” says Suzi McCoy, president of Garden Media Group, a public relations and marketing firm specializing in the garden industry.

Put gardens on the fast track to success this fall with these Labor Day gardening projects from Garden Media Group:

Plan Which Flower Bulbs to Plant This Fall

One of the most relaxing Labor Day activities is walking around the garden and planning what flower bulbs to plant this fall. From tulips and daffodils to allium and crocus, bulbs from Longfield Gardens are an easy and economical way to guarantee flowers and give gardens a pop of color this coming spring. For a fool-proof way to jumpstart gardens, research the best bulbs and when to plant.

Stop Stink Bugs with RESCUE!® Stink Bug Traps

Labor Day is the time to put up guards against unwanted fall pests. Put up the RESCUE!® Stink Bug trap on Labor Day weekend to catch stink bugs before they reach the house. It’s important to break the lifecycle now so they don’t hibernate in the attic over winter and attack gardens in spring. Stock up on RESCUE!® Stink Bug traps at The Home Depot, Walmart and select garden centers.

Plant Blueberries Now

Got a spot in the flower bed where a shrub is needed? Now is a great time to plant a BrazelBerries® edible blueberry shrub. BrazelBerries® thrive in patio pots and directly in the garden. Home gardeners and cooks agree these small edible fruit shrubs are both beautiful and delicious. Plant one this Labor Day and reap the benefits next spring.

Give a Houseplant to College Students

As students head back to school after Labor Day, get them interested in gardening with a houseplant. Indoor plants spark a smile and friendly conversation while scrubbing the air clean. Easy-to-grow “O2 for You” houseplants from Costa Farms are a low-maintenance gift with loads of benefits. Snake plants, ZZ plants, ponytail palms, peace lilies and Chinese evergreens brighten otherwise bland dorm rooms.

“If you get in some gardening chores over the long Labor Day weekend you’ll be able to enjoy spring a little easier next year,” McCoy says.

Garden Media specializes in home and garden, horticulture, outdoor living, lawn and landscape industries, offering innovative PR campaigns designed to secure top media placements and partnerships.

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A beginner’s guide to garden photography

“The first is by Magdalena Wasiczek,” he says. “It is the rhythm of this
photograph (Upside Down, below) that expresses its subject so well. The
delicate soft light and the impossibly balanced butterfly – all the elements
come together in a fleeting moment of fragile beauty. It is like a soft
melody in a minor key.

Magdalena Wasiczek’s Upside Down

“The second is by Marianne Majerus (Tracery in the Mist, main photo). This
photograph is also like music, but this time it’s jazz. Breaking all the
rules of composition, it manages to exude life and vitality in a
disorganised part of the garden that becomes more harmonious and beautiful
as you gaze at it.”

Professional landscape and garden photographer Andrea Jones knows how much
work goes into the creation of such images. Jones has spent the summer
travelling the country, camera in tow, photographing private and public
gardens. Though the evening light can be beautiful, there is something
special about the early mornings, she says.

“At this time of year, mornings in the garden are truly magical. There is dew
on the grass, the birds are tweeting, there are squirrels running around and
you’re starting to get beautiful cobwebs,” she says. “To get the best light
for photographs means getting up at 4am. You have to be in position ready
for the light to come up. You get a stillness, a mist, a different light
quality. It’s a privilege to be in the garden at that time; when no one else
is there.”

Penstemon Sunrise by Dennis Frates

Clive Nichols, who has been photographing gardens for 25 years, has tracked
the rising interest in his area of expertise during that time:

“When I first started there was hardly anyone shooting gardens, you could
count them on your left hand. In the Eighties and Nineties, you had an
explosion of television programmes – Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock,
for example – which, in turn, increased demand for garden images.”

Philip Smith of IGPOTY, a photographer in his own right and author of Better
Plant and Garden Photography (Garden Photo Press), has these tips for anyone
wishing to take better pictures of their garden:

How do you plan a shoot?

The best planning process is the weather forecast. You need to see exactly
what the weather is going to do. If it’s windy, above 10mph, then you may
have problems with plants moving. Look out for a nice, still morning with a
bit of sun and a bit of cloud. The weather doesn’t always play ball, but
that’s part of the challenge. If I’m photographing a garden, I will make at
least two visits before I go with a camera. I’ll look at where the best
angles are and where the sun is in relation to the garden. If you can
photograph with the sun in front of the camera, it can add a magical

What is the best light to shoot in?

My favourite light changes through the seasons. In autumn, I like late-evening
light because it’s very warm and orangey. That light can give a warm and
cosy feeling to images of fruits and vegetable gardens. In the spring, I
like shooting in overcast conditions. A lot of pale plants are coming
through, and it’s possible to achieve a lot of detail. For example, when
it’s overcast, you can photograph snowdrops so you can see the veins on the
petals, but in bright conditions the detail can disappear and the petals
will look uniformly white.

Which colours work best together?

It’s vital to understand the relationship between colours; whether they’re
harmonious or contrasting. Both play a big part in garden design.
Contrasting colours give you an image full of drama, harmonious ones provide
softness and romance. But the most important colour is green. Green sets off
everything else in the image. A pale-pink geranium will be very dramatic
against a dark green background. My favourite colours would be contrasting
blues and yellows. Photographically speaking, I like red and green. But they
all work, because that’s the nature of plants.

How do you compose a shot?

With a flower portrait, make the composition as simple as possible. Remove as
much extraneous visual information as you can. One way to achieve this is to
use a large, wide aperture on the lens. This lets you get the background out
of focus and concentrates the mind on the thing you’re interested in – the
flower itself.

One way to compose a view of a garden is to look at what the designer has
done. They will have created viewpoints that invite the visitor to explore.
These could be as simple as an archway through to space beyond, or a statue
that leads the eye deeper into the garden. These elements allow the
photographer to invite the imagination of the viewer into the space.

There are also compositional techniques that artists and photographers have
found useful over the centuries, such as arranging objects in a rectangular
frame. It can be useful to follow those rules, but it’s also important to
break from them and create a more original image.

What is the ideal time of day to shoot your garden?

In the summer, it’s often best to photograph gardens and plants early in the
morning or late in the evening. The sun will be low in the sky and not
harsh. Sometimes, it can also be great to photograph gardens at midday, but
only if there is some cloud cover. A bright but overcast day can provide
good conditions all day long.

In the summer, professional photographers will start at about 5am, but any
time before about 8am can work well. At the other end of the day, from about
7pm until sunset can create a lot of atmosphere. At other times of the year,
in autumn for example, it can be good to shoot in late afternoon.
You’re looking for light that creates a sense of dimension and texture,
which means soft shadows. This will give a three-dimensional feel.

What lenses do you need? And what settings do you recommend?

If you have a DSLR camera, it’s essential to have a macro lens of around 105mm
in length. If you have a compact camera, without interchangeable lenses,
look for one that has a macro setting. This will allow you to get closer to
the plant than a normal camera.

Any tips for editing photos?

If you’re shooting JPEG files, find the largest setting on your camera. This
will give you the maximum amount of data in your image file, which you can
then process. The purpose of processing is to use software to bring out as much
detail as possible from the picture that you’ve taken. If, for example, your
photograph has a lot of dark shadow, you can use the computer to bring up
the levels to show more detail.

Generally, the more detail, the more satisfying a photo is to a viewer. If
you’re developing your photography to a more advanced stage, using RAW
format instead of JPEG format will vastly increase the amount of processing
that you can do.

What makes a winning photo?

The IGPOTY judges don’t look for fixed qualities – they wait for the
photograph to talk to them. They want to see a strong element of
originality; an eclectic approach to plants and a creative view of how
plants can inspire photography. It’s not simply about recording a picture
that you might see in a magazine, we’re looking for images that show us how
the photographer has reacted to that plant creatively and what emotion
they’re able to communicate to the viewer. It’s going beyond what’s there to
the feeling that’s communicated by the plants themselves.

The International Garden Photographer of the Year competition 2014 is open
for entries , deadline October 31. For further details on how to enter, see

Article source:

Hot tips for a cool (shade) garden

By Carol Oneal
for the Mail Tribune

Posted Aug. 31, 2014 @ 12:01 am

Article source:

Home & Garden Show tips will help yard sparkle all year

Temperatures will soon be dropping and leaves will follow, but your yard can still hold its head

A landscape can be appealing year-round, although beauty in the cold months might not come as
naturally as summer blooms.

“Anyone can plant flowers, but if you can make a garden interesting in the wintertime, you’ve
really accomplished something,” said Michael Leach, who runs Enjoy Your Landscape and blogs for the
website Heartland-

Leach and several other gardening experts will offer tips for the winter garden and other advice
during the “garden guru” segment in next weekend’s Home Garden Show and Holiday Fest at the
Ohio Expo Center.

The show will feature seven gardens, 180 vendors, celebrity guests, cooking demonstrations,
children’s activities and holiday crafts. The garden gurus will appear at 1 p.m. Friday.

Homeowners can take several steps this fall to give their winter garden some pop. They can start
with a general cleaning, said Nick Besser, a landscape architect with Riepenhoff Landscape.

“Clean up leaves and gather up dead branches,” he said. “An empty bed looks better than a bed of
dead material.”

Homeowners should think of a winter garden as a new opportunity, not simply a poor substitute
for a warm-season design, experts say.

“People need to look for subtle colors and textures in winter,” said Tom Wood, owner of Wood
Landscape Services. “But each season has its own flair to it.”

Follow these four principles for your winter garden.


Evergreens are the easiest source of winter garden color, but don’t be fooled by the name.
Evergreens can come in a wide palette.

Blue spruce might be the best-known variation on color, but other evergreens offer hints of
silver or even yellow.

“We can get everything from a bright gold to a deep blue,” Besser said. “By combining the colors
and the textures, you can get a fabulous look.”

Besser especially likes the gold of fall cypress and an arborvitae variety called Mr. Bowling
Ball, which takes on a burgundy shade in winter.

Closer to the ground, boxwoods are a safe bet for winter greenery, along with holly. Few items
accent a snow scene more than holly berries. Bayberries and crab apples also add a winter

In addition, some bulbs planted in the fall can’t wait to show their stuff, sometimes flowering
while snow is on the ground. Leach likes the early blooming snowdrops and snow crocuses.


Even in winter, a lawn can offer a variety of heights, shapes and details.

Many common Ohio shrubs and trees offer visual treats even without their leaves. The branches of
red-twig and yellow-twig dogwoods, for example, might get lost in spring and summer, but in winter
they stand out.

With its smooth white bark, the sycamore might be the most striking winter tree in central Ohio,
but most homeowners stay away from the size and mess of the species. Instead, homeowners can look
to river birch, paperbark maple and Winter King hawthorn for interesting bark.

Among shrubs, the oakleaf hydrangea’s twisting branches and exfoliating bark offer year-round

Ornamental grasses can also add screening and wavy texture.

Focal point

Spring and summer have nothing on winter for showing off garden sculptures or other permanent
lawn fixtures.

A statue overshadowed by greenery much of the year can become the star of the show in

Homeowners without lawn art can look elsewhere.

“One of the things people overlook is you can put color out there in the winter, maybe a bench
or chairs or a piece of sculpture, or maybe a weather vane, to provide some focal point,” Leach

Experts also suggest giving nature a boost by arranging twigs or other items in flowerpots and
garden urns.

“If you’ve got 12 containers around your house, pick four of them for winter decorations,” Wood
said. “Add some pine cones or just a lot of cut evergreens to provide color and textures.”


Lighting is often overlooked in winter landscapes, but it can turn into the most important

“It’s dark when we leave and it’s dark when we get home during the winter,” Besser said. “So put
some lights in there. Good-quality landscape lights can accent the textures and colors available in

“Even just looking out in the backyard and seeing a shade tree up-lit, even though it’s bare it
can be beautiful.”

Japanese maples or sweetbay magnolias can look especially attractive when illuminated during the
winter, but almost anything can highlight a lawn, Besser said.

“Any big tree, if it’s a big old natural native canopy tree, can be a focal point,” he said.

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