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Archives for September 27, 2014

Hwy. 92 corridor planning kicks off

Residents, business owners and city officials gathered Tuesday to discuss and design ideas for improving the Highway 92 corridor. About 40 people stopped by throughout the day to see the ideas and sketches made by residents and stakeholders, and to offer their own input. lt;brgt;Staff-Michelle Babcock


Residents, business owners and city officials gathered Tuesday to brainstorm ideas and sketch out concepts for improving the Highway 92 corridor.

About 40 residents and area stakeholders attended the community design charrette, a hands-on workshop where community members suggested ideas and sketched them out on large area maps.

Deanna Murphey, a consultant with Sizemore Group, who is helping to organize the project, said the next step is taking all of the concepts that came out of the workshop and combining them into a master plan.

“Woodstock is a really engaged community,” Murphey said. “Really, the goal of this is to come up with a better vision of the 92 corridor. Downtown Woodstock is doing such amazing things, and the corridor really doesn’t do it justice.”

The city of Woodstock was awarded a Livable Centers Initiative grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission, which will provide funding to help improve the Highway 92 Corridor east of Interstate 575, officials said.

At the charrette workshop Tuesday, three tables of volunteers and a few consultants focused on different aspects for improving the area, including transportation, land use and economic development, as well as green space and trails.

Each table focused on four aspects for improving the area: what to preserve, what to change, what to create and how to better connect the area.

Murphey said brainstorming and fact-checking were two activities that dominated the charrette, along with discussion and designing.

Beautification was the main concept to come from the community workshop, Murphey said, adding it could help “to attract new tenants onto the corridor, and new uses like office space.”

“To entice those businesses here, they need the corridor to be something they want to be a part of,” Murphey said. “So, landscaping the corridor, making it more safe for pedestrians and cyclists … those kind of improvements are things that can be focused on in the short-term so we can really start to entice new development.”

Murphey added many people agreed some of the buildings on the Highway 92 corridor needed “a facelift,” and part of the LCI project might include incentives for businesses or property owners to encourage façade improvements.

Along with general beautification, Murphey said another important focus for the project that came out of the charrette Tuesday is expanding or improving transportation options.

Murphey said, while maintaining the area as a corridor for travel, many stakeholders are interested in making the area more walkable and bike-friendly.

A kick-off meeting for the project Aug. 12 drew more than 50 people and a master plan is expected to be presented at a third and final community meeting in mid-November, tentatively set for Nov. 15.

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Colorado Springs Fall Home Show on tap this weekend

Knowing that many of those special comfort foods have “been parked” by modern cooks who are foregoing the butter, cream and sugar, Najafi added her own fresh alternatives and modern techniques in the cookbook “Mother Daughter Dishes.”

These are the adapted family favorites she will pass along to her daughters and the techniques she’ll share during this weekend’s Fall Home Show at the Colorado Springs Event Center. The woman behind, an everyday-
lifestyle media company, will give three cooking demonstrations Saturday and two Sunday.

In a telephone interview, Najafi said she hopes those attending the demonstrations “will walk away with very simple tricks to make everyday food special. The goal is to not add anything to your busy schedule. It’s dependable recipes to make you look like a rock star at the end of the day.”

The Missouri native said that because families have such busy lives, she looks for quick, healthy fixes. When a recipe calls for a can of tomato paste, she opts for fresh salsa. For her mother’s savory, mouth-watering au gratin potatoes, she replaces the traditional Velveeta with fresh cheese such as sharp cheddar and adds a dollop of sour cream.

Najafi’s three teenagers serve as at-home food tasters and “prize bowl lickers.” Sometimes, that backfires a bit.

“When I’m developing recipes, I might get into a groove and do it three nights in a row until I get them perfected,” she said. That’s when she hears, “Mommy, I like your food but not three nights in a row!”

“My outlook on life,” Najafi said, “is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s all about good food.”

However, she’s a big fan of the “attagirl” when the family appreciates her food. After all, Najafi said, “no one gives pats on the back for folding the laundry perfectly, but food’s a different story.”


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Workshop demonstrates native plants are beautiful and practical

WESLACO — Frontera Audubon’s “Landscaping with Native Plants” workshop this past Saturday drew about 20 attendees who picked up useful tips — and even a few plants — to add to their garden this fall.

“Not only did I pick up helpful ideas, I learned some practical information to help me troubleshoot certain landscaping challenges,” said Chris Warren, a Frontera Audubon member and employee.

For instance, plants like Drummond’s Turks Cap with their vibrant red flowers that provide nectar for hummingbirds, while beautiful and useful, will tend to dominate the yard.

“If you are planting one of the natives that spreads quickly and takes over the garden, you can prevent that by putting it in pots,” Warren said.

The workshop was led by Weslaco resident and master gardener, Robert Vanderveer, who presented the basics of native plants and how to incorporate them into a landscape plan.

He says natives are practical because they are well adapted to our climate and provide support to wildlife and the economy.

“Most natives require fewer resources,” Vanderveer said. “They need no fertilizer, use less water, and require little in pest or disease management.”

They aren’t without some maintenance, though. They usually need good drainage, and overwatering is the most common cause of disease and plant loss.

“Most still need to be shaped and trimmed — nothing is totally carefree,” he added.

Landscaping Basics

While native plants have proven to be beneficial to wildlife and easy to care for, aesthetics are also important when choosing native plants for landscapes. Vanderveer suggests looking through books, such as Native Plants of South Texas written by local experts Ken King and Al Richardson, to become familiar with various plant types. Nothing beats seeing the plants in person, though.

“Visit one of the nature parks in Weslaco or one of the nine world birding centers in the area to take photos and observe what the mature plant looks like,” Vanderveer said.

Next, take a photograph of the area to be landscaped from different vantage points, and don’t forget the view from inside, looking out the window. Then zero in on the area you wish to plant. Now you are ready to make a plan.

“Imagine the view you want. Do you want to see birds or butterflies, or both?” he asked. “Are you envisioning a tall shrub or small tree?”

He suggests making a list of plant materials you like noting size, height and width. List also their features, whether flowers, food type and when flowering.

Consider water needs and group accordingly.

Vanderveer said considering maintenance needs is also important as is taking the style of the home into consideration. The more elaborate the home’s size and architecture, the more resources are needed to maintain the landscape.

“A small home, such as a cottage, will be better suited for smaller trees and shrubs. The less formal the home, the more you can utilize a larger variety of plants,” he said.

Vanderveer concluded the program by encouraging attendees to consider certifying their landscapes with Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program.

“If you plant a majority of natives and provide food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young, your yard can qualify,” Vanderveer said.

The designation brings awareness and attention to the cause of wildlife. For more information, visit

The native plant book mentioned is called Plants of Deep South Texas.

Frontera Audubon will offer another presentation in the Backyard Stewardship Series at

10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11. A container gardening workshop and demonstration with master gardener Esmeralda Guerra will be presented. For more information, call (956) 968-3275.

Frontera Audubon is a 15-acre nature preserve in Weslaco, that is a haven for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife that thrive among its Tamaulipan Thornscrub habitat, orchard butterfly garden, wetlands, and ponds. Frontera houses a Visitor’s Center and the Skaggs House, a Texas Historical Landmark, built in 1927. The mission of FAS is to preserve and promote the natural and historical environment for the education and enjoyment of the community.

Save the Date: Tickets are now available for the 4th annual wine tasting event, Autumn Nights. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on the beautiful Skaggs House Lawn under the evening starts on Saturday, Oct 25. The event will feature live music, a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, and a beer and wine selection. Tickets are $65 and benefit the nonprofit organization’s mission.

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Time to put your garden to bed


Posted Sep. 27, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Updated at 6:07 AM

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In Your Garden with Jenny Watts: Xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant Landscaping

Click photo to enlarge

After two years of serious drought, now that the rains are finally arriving and the soil may soon be “diggable,” you may find that this is an excellent time to do some landscaping. California, and other parts of the West, experience periodic droughts that can make it almost impossible to keep landscaping watered in many areas. For this reason, it makes sense to design your landscaping with water use in mind, by grouping plants according to their water needs.

From the Greek word xeros – meaning “dry” – comes the term xeriscape, (pronounced ZEER-i-scape), which is simply landscaping using minimal irrigation. The secret is to use tough, drought-tolerant plants that will grow in the amount of sun or shade available on a particular site.

Most often, xeric plants are used for hot, dry south and west facing areas. You can use plants that like more moisture along north and east facing walls. Don’t mix plants with high and low water needs in the same planting area.

Shrubs that will grow well in xeric conditions include rockroses, California wild lilac, lavender, rosemary, cotoneaster, manzanitas, and junipers. These will give you a variety of sizes and textures to fill large spaces and tumble over rocks and down hillsides.

Add color to the setting with some of the many perennials that tolerate these conditions. Reliable, easy-care yarrows have flat clusters of colorful flowers and finely divided, fern-like foliage. Smaller varieties, like ‘Red Beauty’, are low growing with 18-inch flower stems while ‘Moonshine’ grows to two feet and ‘Coronation Gold’ can reach four feet tall. They bloom through much of the summer.

Coreopsis, with their golden yellow flowers, also bloom over a long season. Lamb’s Ear, known for its “furry” leaves, is very drought tolerant. Echinaceas and Rudbeckias, both types of cone-flowers, are good summer-bloomers as are Gaillardias and red-hot poker plants.

Red Valerian is a well-known plant in many older gardens, where its rosy-pink flowers on tall, floppy stems bloom continuously from late spring through early summer. It reseeds readily and is easy-to-grow.

The sage family includes many colorful landscape plants. However, most of them find our climate too wet or too cold in the winter. Salvia ‘May Night’ is a neat clump-forming plant that sends up 18-inch spikes of dark purple flowers. It is very attractive in a mixed border.

Sedums are often overlooked but these succulents are excellent in sunny spots with well-drained soil. From the low-growing ‘Cape Blanco’ with its attractive silver-gray foliage, to the 24-inch tall ‘Autumn Joy’ with its large domes of bright pink flowers, sedums contrast beautifully with more delicate plants.

Large areas can be planted with a wildflower mix. Now is the perfect time to broadcast these seeds. The mix may include California poppy, lupine, purple coneflower, and gaillardia.

By designing your landscape with xeriscape plants, you can make the most of precious water resources.

Gardening Tips

Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.

Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.

Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.

Pansies, violas, snapdragons, stock and calendulas can be planted now to replace summer annuals.

Wildflower seed broadcast with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.

Jenny Watts is a California Certified Nursery Professional and Co-owner of Sanhedrin Nursery in Willits. Visit

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Seeds: Find inspiration for fall gardening at these events

It’s a Sacramento axiom as old as our valley oaks: Fall is for planting.

To beginning gardeners, this seems counter-intuitive. (Isn’t nature getting ready for its long winter’s nap?) But warm autumn weather creates ideal conditions for strong root development, and a healthy start for new transplants.

So, if you’re considering replacing some of your thirsty lawn with more water-wise landscaping, it’s time to start shoveling.

But what to plant? Due to their natural drought tolerance, many California native shrubs and perennials are often recommended as alternatives to turf or traditional landscaping. For example, the UC Davis Arboretum suggests dozens of native plants in its Arboretum All-Stars, Durable Delights and New Front Yard collections. The Regional Water Authority’s online guide to water-wise gardening features hundreds of native plants, including many not on the arboretum’s lists.

Once you fall in love with a particular penstemon or ceanothus, the next question can be harder: Where can you buy that plant?

Here’s your opportunity – with advice thrown in free of charge. The Sacramento Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) hosts its huge fall sale this weekend at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park. Grown locally to assure the best success, hundreds of native plants will be offered for sale at bargain prices.

With so many plants to choose from, it’s easy to go wild over natives. But even though they’re all Californian, they don’t all have the same needs and wants. Some natives prefer sandy soil in the sun; others like silty clay in the shade.

To help formulate a garden plan and learn how to mix and match natives for success, two workshops will be offered today by CNPS experts. At 11 a.m., Bernadette Balics of Ecological Landscape Design will give pointers for “Creating Bird and Pollinator Friendly Gardens.” At 12:15 p.m., Hedgerow Farms manager Jeff Quiter will show how to use “Native Plants and Grasses in Home Gardens.”

Both days, native plant aficionados will staff an “experts” table to field questions on specific plants (such as which California lilac has the bluest flowers) or general concepts (like integrating natives into an established landscape). Gardening advisers will roam the room to offer tips on plant choices.

Admission is free, but bring cash or your checkbook. You’ll likely go home with a new favorite native to add to your garden.


Want to meet the people behind the plants – and other nursery products, too? Today, El Dorado Nursery Garden in Shingle Springs hosts its seventh annual Plantapalooza, a fun-filled and sometimes wacky way to get gardeners excited about fall.

“This is an outdoor education day that brings many of my suppliers here to answer difficult questions and show what is really new to the garden,” said El Dorado’s Chris Aycock.

At this free event, fruit tree growers Burcell Nursery will offer a tasting of their most popular varieties. Other growers will show off their new flowers, shrubs and perennials for 2014 and explain what makes these introductions different. Kellogg Garden Products landscaping and organic gardening experts will dish the dirt on making better soil.

At 2:15 p.m., barn owl expert Austin Ford will tell how to use these winged predators to solve rodent problems as well as cut down on mosquitoes. (They’re very effective in pastures and vineyards.)

Always a highlight at this event will be Sacramento radio host and master gardener Farmer Fred Hoffman, who will dole out his advice for surviving drought and gardening smarter. At 11:30 a.m., Hoffman will get specific about that favorite subject – food –while discussing “Everything You Need To Know About Fall Veggie Gardening.”

Speaking of food, Plantapalooza boasts a free family barbecue for hungry gardeners and their kin. And this hoedown has its own music makers: The Bonanza King country band will play two sets during the event.

Plantapalooza runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 3931 Durock Road, Shingle Springs. For more details, click on or call (530) 676-6555.

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

• Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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Easy DIY tips for gardening in spring

Easy tips to tidy the garden during spring.

Spring is the time to get outdoors and freshen up the garden with new plantings and completing a few maintenance jobs. Photo: File

WITH the weather warming up now is the time to start pottering outdoors to complete a few easy jobs that will have your garden looking in tip-top shape throughout spring and into summer.

A must-do job, says Bunnings national garden care buyer David Hardie is removing the weeds from garden beds and the lawn. This will help plants recover from winter and get the garden back into shape during spring to encourage healthy growth and a strong planting season, Hardie says. Here’s Hardie’s top tips on how to keep the garden looking fresh in spring.

  • Encourage kids to start a compost bin in the garden to recycle organic garden and kitchen waste into a highly nutritious soil conditioner.
  • Remove new and emerging weeds from the garden by hand or with a hoe. Target stronger weeds with herbicide treatments that won’t damage flowers and plants.
  • Prune fruit trees in early spring before new fruit develops to encourage healthy growth and make it easier to harvest produce. Pruning trees will also help minimise pests and diseases.
  • Prepare the soil and plant seeds in early spring to allow them to grow to maturity as early as possible. Fertilise the seeds to give them plenty of food for growth.
  • Give new life to garden tools by cleaning them with disinfectant or investing in new tools to last the season.
  • Spring is an ideal time to plant vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers to ensure a bountiful crop for your summer salads.
  • Maintaining the lawn in spring will allow it to grow lush and green come summer. Aerate the soil to allow the lawn to breathe. Tackle weeds early and sprinkle fertiliser over the soil to ensure a strong lawn is grown.
  • Repot container-grown plants that have outgrown their current pot. Place them into larger pots with fresh potting mix or trim the roots of the plant and replant them into their existing pot with fresh potting mix.
  • Maintain water features and clean out accumulated rubbish and leaves that may have built up over winter. Re-pot water plants before returning them to ponds to give them a healthy new environment.

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Six gardening tips and tricks to know

If years of fertilising and fussing have failed to prod your turf to perfection, it’s time to change tactics. Although many of us in Pakistan leave our gardens’ fate in the hands of our maalis, it’s great to know how to add value to what can be one of the most serene parts of our house. Make the grass greener on your side by following these tips and tricks to acquire the ultimate lush-green lawn and envious neighbours.

Soup your garden

The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain. Instead, use it to water potted plants and bald spots in your lawn. You’ll be amazed to see how the plants respond to the ‘vegetable soup’.

Use chamomile tea to clear fungus

Chamomile tea, misted onto the soil surface with a spray bottle two to three times a week, will help protect young seedlings from fungus. This tea contains anti-fungal properties, which offset pathogens in the soil. Let the grass in your garden sip this tea and watch it grow thick and strong!

Coffee up the soil

Don’t toss away the used coffee grounds after you have brewed your morning coffee. Since they include trace minerals that help in holding moisture, you can use them to enrich your soil and provide a great base for your flowering plants. Coffee even smells amazing, so you won’t have to hold your nose while you mix it in the soil.

Don’t go too short

Of course, you like a trimmed look for your garden for those weekly chai get-togethers, but grass cut short responds by growing faster. The lower you mow, the more herbicides and water you need. If your grass is three inches tall, don’t cut more than an inch of it.

Don’t mow a wet lawn

Mowing the lawn when it has just been watered will compress the soil, which won’t let the roots breathe. When that happens, the grass dies and you’ll see bald spots in your lawn.

Avoid nighttime watering

Don’t put the lawn to sleep with wet feet. Let the grass dry out before the dew falls, since prolonged moisture invites disease. The best time to water is early morning. You’ll lose water to evaporation by sprinkling it midday. Use this tip to get a grip on your garden.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2014.

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This week’s gardening tips: water container plants, grub control, fall foliage … – The Times-Picayune

If you think you’ve been watering outdoor container plants more often, it’s not your imagination. Plants growing in pots over the summer have increased in size and have filled their containers with roots. This means they can absorb the water in the soil faster than they did earlier this summer. Water as often as needed to keep them happy. Make sure the drainage holes are open and draining freely.

When turning the soil to plant flowers or vegetable crops, you may encounter white, C-shaped beetle larva called grubs. They are common and feed on the roots of plants. Generally, populations are not that high, and simply picking them out and disposing of them is all the control you need.

As we move into the fall, do not be concerned about the declining health of deciduous tree and shrub foliage (deciduous trees and shrubs are those that drop their leaves in the winter). You will begin to see various leaf spots, scorched edges, yellow leaves and other symptoms. These trees and shrubs are getting ready to shed their leaves, and the spots and blemishes are just part of the process. Japanese magnolias (Magnolia x soulangeana) are famous for doing this. They look terrible now, but will be fine.

Flower plumes or seed heads of ornamental grasses can be cut and used in arrangements. Spray with a little clear shellac or hair spray to keep them from shattering. Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is producing especially showy flower plumes now.

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October garden tips, tasks and events

Middle Tennessee gardeners know that fall is a great season to spend time in the garden. Here are suggestions for ways to enjoy these beautiful October days:

• Plant daffodil and other spring-flowering bulbs. The general rule is to plant bulbs — pointed ends up — at least two times as deep as the bulb is high, and deeper if the soil is sandy. Place bulbs of smaller varieties in more shallow beds or holes.

• Perennials you plant now should get established by next spring. Water the plants after you place them in the soil, and use plant markers to mark their place so you can remember where they are next spring.

• Plant garlic. Prepare the soil so that it drains well and mix in a good balanced fertilizer. Separate the garlic bulb into individual cloves, and plant them about 2 inches deep and about 5 inches apart, pointed ends up. Add mulch to suppress weeds. Garlic will grow over the winter and will be ready to harvest next spring.

• Fall weather doesn’t faze parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and sage. These herbs will most likely stay around to flavor your meals throughout the season. Keep herb beds weed-free and watered.

• Some areas of Middle Tennessee could experience early frost, so go ahead and harvest the last of the summer vegetables and tender herbs that could be damaged.

• A sudden chill could harm houseplants that are still outdoors, so inspect them for hitchhiking insects, then bring them inside.

• If you planted fescue this fall, the new lawn should be nice and green by now. As leaves begin to fall, keep them raked off the lawn so they don’t shade the grass as it continues to grow. Place raked leaves in the compost. Shred them if you want them to decompose faster. Shredded leaves can also be placed directly in garden beds as mulch.

• Divide perennials that have grown too crowded. Replant them, or share the leftovers with gardening friends. Clean up perennial beds and add a layer of mulch to get them ready for winter. Put the spent flowers and dried foliage in the compost; discard debris that is diseased or rotting.

• Plant trees and shrubs. Dig a hole that is wider than the root ball, but no deeper, and place the plant at the same depth it is growing. Add soil, water well and cover the soil with mulch (but keep the mulch away from the trunk). Keep newly planted shrubs and trees watered during fall and winter.

• Get ready for cold weather: Disconnect and drain hoses and sprinklers and store them in a dry place. Store terra cotta pots and delicate garden ornaments in a dry place so they won’t be damaged by freezing weather.

• Take care of your tools. Scrape dried mud off trowels, rakes, spades and hoes, wash and dry the tools and coat metal parts lightly with household oil.

• Prepare for next year’s early-spring kitchen garden. Loosen the soil in garden beds and add compost, chopped leaves or other organic matter, and cover with mulch to discourage weeds. The beds will be ready to plant the early, cool-season vegetables next spring.

Oct. 1-31

Cheekwood Harvest fall festival

Stroll the grounds at Cheekwood to see the scarecrows and outdoor model trains, visit the pumpkin patch and take a look at more than 5,000 chrysanthemums in deep autumn colors in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden. Cheekwood Harvest opens today and closes Nov. 2. Complete schedule details at

Oct. 4

Happy Harvest at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center

Time to clean out the garden and put it “to bed” for the winter — and make ice cream flavors with the fall harvest. Noon-2 p.m., registration required for this all-ages program. Details: 615-862-8539.

Oct. 9 and Oct. 11

“Sustainable Kitchen Gardening Year ’Round”

This workshop on growing edibles during the winter months will be led by Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener. 6-8 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Cracked Pot Homestead in Franklin. $45 per person. Also 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 11. Register at

Oct. 11

Flower Fun at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center

Learn ways to use wilted flowers and petals in a workshop for ages 13 and older, led by Sarah Gilmore. 1-2 p.m., registration required. Details: 615-862-8539.

Farm Day at Bells Bend Park Outdoor Center

A family-friendly event with hayrides and farm games, farming equipment, barnyard animals and garden programs. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Details: 615-862-4187.

Oct. 17

Trees of Fall at Beaman Park Nature Center

Enjoy the colors of the autumn woods while you learn to ID trees based on color and other characteristics with naturalist LinnAnn Welch. 9:30-11 a.m. Call 615-862-8580 to register for this all-ages program.

Oct. 21

Perennial Plant Society meeting

Guest speaker is Lisa Freedman of Harpeth River Watershed Association; her topic is “Rain Gardens.” Refreshments at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 7, open to the public. Details:

Oct. 24

Darling, You Look GOURDgeous! at Warner Park Nature Center

An activity for ages 3-5 to learn about gourds, squashes and pumpkins, led by Rachel Koch. 10-11 a.m. or 1-2 p.m., registration opens Oct. 9. Call 615-352-6299 to register.

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