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Archives for November 2014

Shuttleworthset to design garden for competition

The 2015 ‘Young Gardener of the Year’ competition launched last week and one of the competitors will be our very own Shuttleworth College.

The annual competition, organised by TV gardener David Domoney in association with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, celebrates young ‘green’ talent and will see six of the UK’s leading horticultural colleges go head-to-head.

They have to create a show stopping sustainable garden that will be visited by thousands of visitors at the Ideal Home Show.

Each college will be asked to submit their garden designs before the beginning of February, when they will then have one week to build and plant their garden.

Entries will then be judged at the Ideal Home Show inside Kensington Olympia on March 20, 2015.

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Henry Homeyer: Great gifts for gardeners

It’s that time of year again: time to find the perfect present for Aunt Edna, Uncle Bob and everyone else we love.

Gardeners on my list are pretty easy to buy for because there are so many wonderful gifts to choose from, including selections from under $10 (Atlas nitrile gardening gloves, packets of favorite seeds) to expensive coffee table books and wheelbarrows that cost $300 or more.

Let me offer a few suggestions.

Let’s start at the high end. One of my coaching clients this summer wanted some raised beds that were actually tall enough so that she wouldn’t have to bend over. She ordered some “VegTrugs” from Gardener’s Supply ( or (802) 660-3500). These are wood growing containers made of fir that are about 6 feet long, 30 inches wide and 32 inches tall — about the same height as your kitchen table.

TheVegTrug is V-shaped in cross-section and lined with a fabric that keeps soil from washing through between the slats. This container is deep and holds 380 quarts of soil mix — about 10 bags. We filled it with a 50-50 mix of compost and topsoil bought in bulk, and added some perlite and peat moss to keep the soil fluffy.

It performed very well, growing tomatoes and eggplants in the middle, and shallow-rooted vegetables such as lettuce and basil along the edges. At $249, it’s an investment, but it’s well designed and it should last for years.

My client assembled her VegTrug in about an hour, and some of the others are even simpler. Gardener’s Supply has a number of other kinds of raised beds.

Weeding is the least fun part of gardening for many, and anything that helps to reduce weeds is a good gift. A few years ago I got some rolls of weed mat that came with pre-punched holes spaced appropriately for growing tomatoes or lettuce — or you name it. This is a woven polypropylene mat that the maker claims will last 10 years.

The mats come in 4-foot-wide strips with evenly spaced holes in 8 different sizes and spacings. They block out light, keeping weeds from growing, while also moderating temperature and water loss. From $10.99 for a 6-foot piece to $30.99 for an 18-foot length. Made in Vermont, available from or by calling (802) 498-3314.

Each year I remind readers that in my opinion the best weeding tool made is the CobraHead weeder ( or 866- 962-6272). This is a single steel finger, curved and sharp, that will get under weeds and lift them out, tease out grass roots, or prepare the soil for planting. It is $24.95, including shipping. Made in America, too.

Watering is important in dry times. Plants need gentle streams of water that can best be delivered by a watering wand. These devices have long metal handles with a rose (water sprayer) on the end.

The best wands are made by Dramm, but many knock-offs are sold, too. Go for the best. Why? Dramm has figured out how to aerate the water so that lots of water can come out fast, but gently. My wand allows me to walk along and get water where I want it: on the ground, near the plants, but not on the foliage. Available at good garden centers everywhere. About $20.

Gardeners love gardening books. Designing flower gardens? An excellent book is Julie Moir Messervy’s “Landscaping Ideas that Work” (Taunton Press, $21.95). This is a good overview and introduction to the basics of landscape design, starting with a checklist of the atmosphere, activities and features you would like. It is simple and straightforward with lots of color pictures. Granted, the pictures are mostly of expensive houses and projects, but the author gives readers an idea of the relative cost of various options (brick walkways, or stone, or packed earth) by using 1 to 4 dollar signs next to each.

“The New Vegetable Growers Handbook: A Users Manual for the Organic Vegetable Garden,” by Frank Tozer (distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing, $27.95), is an excellent reference text for anyone who grows veggies. It has detailed growing information on nearly 100 different vegetables and has great tips on practical matters such as how to avoid getting bitter-tasting cucumbers or how day length affects the size of your onions, and why you should plant them early in spring. Want to try new greens? Tozer tells you how to grow komatsuna, mizuna, mibuna and more.

By the way, Chelsea Green Publishing ( has lots of other good gardening and permaculture books.

Record keeping is important if you want to improve your gardening skills and learn from past years. The Moleskine company ( makes many journals, including a gardening journal with 240 pages, including space to record your efforts and useful information such as hardiness zones. It has design grids for planning and adhesive labels for personalizing sections. It’s $19.95 and available at many bookstores.

Santa Claus, if you’re reading this, what I really want this year is another load of manure. Just have your reindeer drop a load of black garden gold anywhere near my vegetable garden. A pickup truck load would be great or, if you think I’ve been a very good boy, a dump-truck load!

Henry Homeyer can be reached at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746, or, or visit

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Altrusa Club of Marshfield to host Holiday Home Tour – Marshfield News

MARSHFIELD — A fun way to kick off the holiday season, and to gather some ideas, is to tour the area homes that participate in the annual Holiday Home Tour sponsored by Altrusa Club of Marshfield.

The homes can be toured in any order during the weekend of the event.

The home of Erin Drawz, 712 S. Oak Ave., is a cozy Cape Cod style home built in 1941. The tour features an eclectic collection of Christmas décor and trees. Christmas is one of Erin’s passions and she has been collecting decorations and ornaments since her first tree in her bedroom as a young child.

As you stroll through the home you will see trees scattered throughout, from the entrance featuring crystal to the upper floor with teddy bears and reindeer. A particular treasure is the Nativity set painted by Erin’s father. Featured throughout the house are collections of Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and elves including a retro themed tree.

It’s a trip back in time when you visit the home of Joe and Jodi Chojnacki, 609 W. Fifth St. This lovely home features historical architecture inside and out and is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes. The family has been lovingly restoring ‘The Hefko House’ to maintain it’s historical style. The maple hardwood floors, custom built-ins, mullioned windows, and leaded glass doors are typical of the late 1880s when the home was built.

The house is decorated with a multitude of white Christmas lights, garlands, nutcrackers, wreaths, and a traditional Christmas tree. Extensive landscaping, fencing, and cobblestone paved driveway continue the historic style of this house which is their home.

The home of Michael and Barb Smith, 9151 Oak Trail, is nestled in the woods and features a vintage covered tree. Beautiful ornaments of Christmas past and present are among the ornaments on 16-foot-tall trees. The bright twinkling lights and glittering ornaments create a serene scene.

The former house at Fox Fire Botanical Garden, M220 Fox Fire, was purchased by Bob and Sam Steiner. The home sat vacant without utilities for four years.

The couple has worked hard to bring it back to life adding craftsmen style elements, new kitchen/mudroom and lots of color. This is truly a labor of love. Double dressed for the holidays, the Steiner’s have readied the home to celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah. Three holiday trees were cut down on their 16-acre property and an unorthodox menorah encompasses the entire width of the stone fireplace. The tour will also include photos and stories about the home from before the renovation. sym

If you go

What: Holiday Home Tour

When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Advance tickets cost $10 per person and are available at the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce office and the Marshfield Public Library. Day of tickets cost $15 per person.

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20+ ideas and tips for making your home a holiday wonderland

When it’s time to decorate for the holidays, some of us relish the task. Others wish an elf would sneak down the chimney and embellish their homes for them.

If you’re hoping for the latter, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

We asked three decorating experts for tips on how to create winter wonderlands inside and outside your home.

Kristyn L. Greenfield — owner of Bloom! Landscaping, a web-based firm that does custom holiday décor for homes and businesses — said the Christmas tree should be your starting point.

“It’s a classic tradition,” Greenfield said. “Everyone likes to have a Christmas tree, and placing it in a key room and in a key position is step one. You want to put in the room where you do most of your entertaining, and in an area where it can easily be viewed.”

Next, she said, select a color scheme and a style of decorations for the tree that’s consistent with the style of your home — but even more important, the style of your interior décor.

Once you’ve decided on the look you want, other areas of your home can be decorated, Greenfield said. Just make sure pieces you add “pull from the tree’s color scheme and ornaments.”

“The decorations don’t have to be exactly the same, but they should have a consistent style,” she said, noting that in most cases, the same look should be kept throughout the entire house, “especially if rooms are connected and pull into each other.” However, she added, if rooms are separated, different looks can be used.

Find your focal point

Carrie Lenz, the owner of Shop to Carrie On, 16980 W. National Ave., New Berlin, said the next step is to identify focal points in your home and to decorate them. A good place to start is at your front door.

“Open it and decorate the first focal point you see,” Lenz said. In some homes, it might be an entryway where you can hang a wreath on a wall, put a centerpiece on a table or wrap a banister with garland. Then move on to other rooms to address their focal points.

“I usually suggest two or three holiday pieces to a room,” Lenz said. “Put something on the wall, something on a table, and maybe something on the floor in a corner. You want to put pieces at different heights.”

When it comes to the outside of your home, Lenz said a natural focal point is your front door.

“Hang a bright and shiny ornament wreath or a long swag on your front door,” she said. “You also can complement your entryway with an ornament garland that frames the shape of the door, or accent a focal point in your front yard such as a fence or a light pole.”

While focal points are important, Greenfield said it’s important that they don’t compete with one another.

“If your eye can’t figure out where to look first, then you have too many competing ideas,” she said.

Check the malls to deck your halls

Maureen Connolly, owner of GreenWorks Plantscapes, 2345 Commerce Drive, New Berlin, whose firm decorates commercial and residential spaces, said homeowners looking for ideas can copy the oversize and over-the-top decorations they see in malls or lobbies.

“Businesses spend a lot of money on decorations, and homeowners can take any of these ideas and implement them in their own homes,” Connolly said. “Just make sure to scale them down in size.”

For full-sized trees, be sure the top of the tree, or your decorative tree topper, clears your ceiling by 4 to 6 inches, and your front door wreath covers about two-thirds the width of the door.

“And if you have topiaries in pots at your front door, your pots should be at least one-fourth to one-third the size of your topiary,” she said.

Greenfield suggested that when using tabletop trees to accent, the base of the tree should be roughly one-third to one-half the width of the table, and the height of the tree should be about one-half to two-thirds the height of the table.

Add sparkle and shine

Homeowners can also get great looks by using this season’s newest colors and trends, said Connolly, who does decorating seminars for garden clubs and businesses.

She said new colors this year are champagne and platinum, and consumers should consider the newer LED lights, which are brighter and more efficient.

Lenz said that the color combinations of silver, gold and black, as well as fuchsia, bright aqua green and celery green, are big this year and that “sparkle is huge.”

Oversize ornaments, some as big as bowling balls, are also trending.

Popular looks that Greenfield sees are mercury glass, items from nature and nautical themes.

“You can put silver mercury glass ornaments on your tree and mercury glass finials on your mantel,” Greenfield said, and anything in burlap and birch bark is “a huge trend.”

And if you’re looking for something unexpected, Greenfield suggests nautical themes on trees, including items such as “vintage seaside fishing nets around ornaments” and starfish.

Protecting your outdoor plants

Kristyn L. Greenfield, owner of Bloom! Landscaping and a landscape designer and horticulturist, said that when decorating outdoors, it’s also important to protect your plants. Here are some tips.

■Remove outdoor Christmas lights from landscape trees by early spring to maximize tree health. Leaving lights on year-round can injure your trees by cutting off their circulation as they grow.

■Use holiday décor to protect your landscape’s evergreens from winter wind and salt desiccation. Lean evergreen boughs against your boxwood and conifer hedges, especially if they’re exposed to salt spray. Tie them on with fishing line or soft ties. Add bows for Christmas, and take them off after New Year’s, or add winter-neutral décor such as red twig dogwood stems or curly willow, which can be left up until early March.

■Wait for ice to melt before removing décor from plants. Breaking stems can diminish the aesthetic value of plants and invite pests and diseases in spring that enter readily through tattered wounds.

More ideas

Here are more ideas from our experts on how to make your home look great for the holidays, as well as tips on how to make your own easy accents.

■ Light landscape plants with a consistent bulb color, style and size for a balanced look with maximum impact. Be sure to light the entire plant. For tall trees, light them to an even height on all sides. (Kristyn L. Greenfield)

■ If you have a symmetrical entrance, add planters with live arrangements in them or a topiary on each side. If your entrance is asymmetrical, do something different on each side. (Greenfield)

■ If you like to use a lot of decorations throughout your home, that’s OK. But be sure they’re consistent with the rest of the pieces in your rooms. You’ll also need to consider temporarily removing some of your everyday décor or your home will look chaotic. (Greenfield)

■ Use pine cones from your yard in baskets or bowls or hang them with ribbon. You also can put ornaments in a basket and accent it with a ribbon to use as a centerpiece. (Maureen Connolly)

■ White fiberfill from your local fabric store can be used to create a snowy base for a Nativity scene, or collections of snowmen or carolers. (Connolly)

■ Put flameless candles on your fireplace, in your windows, or group them together in different sizes to use as accents. (Connolly)

■ When decorating your tree, use a wide ribbon in any color or style and run it through the branches all around the tree. It will fill your tree with color and create a flowing pattern. (Connolly)

■ Birdhouses are a great way to bring the holidays outdoors. Set them on a table with a few pine branches, some berries and a cute red robin. (Connolly)

■ Add clusters of ornaments to your fences or trees. Hang them at different lengths. Put larger ornaments deep into your tree for depth, and the smaller ones nearer the front. (Carrie Lenz)

■ Hang ornaments from your dining room chandelier, or place a pine wreath on your chandelier and hang the ornaments from it. Place a matching arrangement on your table. (Lenz)

■ Don’t forget to decorate your bedrooms. Add a small tree or a wreath, or string garland across the headboard. Add ornaments to the garland and a bow on each end. (Lenz)

■ If you have a collection of Santas, snowmen or nutcrackers, create a theme by setting them throughout your home. You also can do this with non-holiday objects that relate to winter, such as branches. (Lenz)

■ Make a themed tree with pieces you collect. Use wildlife items such as antlers and feathers, or items such as angels, Santas or snowmen. Non-holiday collections such as Harley-Davidson, NASCAR and Disney are other options. (Lenz)

■ Hang an empty wood picture frame on a wall, then put a wreath inside and accent the wreath with ornaments. (Lenz)

■ Set an oversize ornament in your front porch urn or flowerpot, then surround it with pine boughs. (Lenz)

■ Mix matte, shiny and sparkly ornaments of a consistent color scheme to create interesting textural variety. When using metallics this way, your décor will remain in vogue longer. (Greenfield)

■ Clip Annabelle hydrangeas from your yard. Cut them 24 to 48 inches long, then spray paint the flower heads lightly in gold, silver or copper. Arrange them in a vase and set them on a metallic table runner, charger plate or place mat as a centerpiece. You also can add hydrangeas to your Christmas tree for an elegant look. Gently push each flower stem inside the tree branches until the flower head is touching the evergreen branches. (Greenfield)

■ Embellish a burlap table runner with mercury glass candle holders that have ivory candles in them. (Greenfield)

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Outdoors Column: Municipalities pay price of hunting

Deer hunting’s a bargain.

Just ask the municipalities who don’t permit it.

They’re the ones with deer eating gardens and landscaping, destroying the natural forest ecosystem, the ones who risked human lives with motor vehicle-deer accidents and the ones with Lyme disease.

New York statewide deer hunting is winding up Sunday, Pennsylvania opens tomorrow and New Jersey’s six-day popular season starts on Dec. 8.

White tailed deer are the North America’s most popular big-game animal, the most researched. Scientists and even hunters know about them.

In New Jersey, the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Community-Based Deer Management program offers municipalities plans what to do about too many deer. More towns were taking advantage of the service.

Bernards Township is one. Since the recommended culling 14 years, Lyme cases declined, motor vehicle-deer collisions are down two-thirds and two local hunting clubs combined culled 243 deer in 2013-14 from public and private lands. Other hunters killed deer on private land.

Princeton Township has spent more than $500,000 for a pay-to-slay company to kill deer over bait with a silencer-equipped rifle at night. Shotgun hunters were banned years ago, although the township since now permitted archers to hunt.

Millburn bans hunting, and as a result they pay a private company with rifles to kill them and also drop-netted deer and killed them captive bolts. The Division Fish and Wildlife said fees to remove deer ranged $200 to $500 per deer.

Hunters do the job, and pay to hunt.

Birth control drugs were tried in New Jersey in 1997 at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township, in 2003 in Princeton Township, at the Duke Farms in Hillsborough and 2005 Giralda Farms in Madison, and failed.

Eastern Long Island’s spent $250,000 and hoped to kill 3,000 deer last winter, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture killed only 300 deer. And now East Hampton raised $110,000 and hopes to sterilize 1,000 deer from a herd of 32,000 herd in Suffolk County.

Cornell University had a five-year pilot program doe sterilization for $1,200 a deer, but does went into heat anyway and attracted more bucks in the rut, and by 2013 the total deer count was the same as five years ago. Volunteer archers later controlled the population.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania hunters will have good visibility with the snow cover tomorrow, unless rain interferes. But the first day already will be the most productive with greatest number hunters out.


Dec. 1: Lake trout season reopens

Dec. 1: Pennsylvania’s statewide general firearms deer season opens

Dec. 8: Six-day deer season opens; black bear season by special permits in four zones

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Kiley’s work demonstrates landscapes matter as much as structures – Tribune

Landscape architecture is a very much under-appreciated art.

Yet, great landscapes have all the same power as great buildings do to sway the feelings of people who view them, enter them and move through them.

You can see that through the end of this month in an exhibit at the 937 Gallery, Downtown, of some of the awesomely creative and rigorously disciplined designs of Dan Kiley (1912-2004) — who was among the two or three most influential landscape architects of the last half of the 20th century.

That you probably don’t recognize Kiley’s name is exactly the point.

Among knowledgeable designers, he is easily as important as some of the architects he worked with — like Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei, all names well-known to many. But this traveling exhibit was put together by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., last year because there has been too little public recognition of Kiley’s accomplishments.

Significantly, you may well have walked — unaware — through several of Kiley’s designs. There are two Kiley works in Pittsburgh — the Katz Plaza adjacent to Pittsburgh Public Theater and the sculpture garden at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland.

His most frequently seen design, though, is probably the landscaping of the 91-acre park around the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Another is his campus design for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He also did the original landscaping for Lincoln Center in New York City and for Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., although these latter two designs have been altered over the years.

Kiley was a “modernist,â€� and that’s as important a distinction in landscape design as it is in architecture. He dropped out of the landscape architecture program at Harvard in the 1930s because it was too hidebound at the time.

Then, while in the Army Corps of Engineers in Europe from 1943 to ’45, he had the chance to see many of the most famous landscapes in Europe. He was particularly impressed by the work of Andre Le Notre, the 17th-century Frenchman who was most noted for the Palace of Versailles, where he produced a large-scale and rationally ordered landscape out of what had been wild hunting grounds.

This appreciation of rational order in landscape design never left Kiley, and that became obvious in his works. In a sense, he used modern material and forms to create compositions that were almost classical in their rationality. In this sense, he was like Mies van der Rohe, one of the leading architects of the past century.

At Katz Plaza, for example, closely clipped linden trees create a very dense U-shape frame around the half-acre public space, with low, clipped hedges defining the other spaces. This rigorously rectilinear design is then relieved by the amazing sculptures of Louise Bourgeois — including “eyeball� benches and an impressive free-form fountain. Bourgeois and Kiley worked together to develop their complementary designs.

It is particularly hard to define a space on an urban corner, as at Katz Plaza. There’s too much chance that the visual space will, in effect, leak out to the street. Kiley’s dense lindens, with the “Uâ€� opening to Penn Avenue, were exactly the right solution for this site.

At the sculpture garden at the Carnegie, Kiley again used all straight lines, but he angled them as if to give perspective to the sculptures displayed there. Each angled section steps down to negotiate the change in elevation between the first floor of the museum and the parking area at the lower level. He used lines of light gravel to emphasize his angles within dark stone paving.

One of the issues the exhibit raises with its beautiful color photographs of Kiley’s work concerns the impermanence of landscapes. They change considerably over time as plantings mature and grow old, and, perhaps because of that ephemerality, they are not as well protected as landmark buildings.

Yet, they need to be.

They may be living works of art, but they are still works of art. Careful maintenance, and above all, the sensitive and informed replacement of overly mature plantings is important.

Kiley did lots of private gardens along with public spaces. Fortunately, his most notable private garden, for the Irwin Miller estate in Columbus, Ind., is in the hands of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is open to the public for tours. This 13-acre garden surrounds a house designed by Eero Saarinen for Miller, who was the head of Cummins Engine — the big diesel-engine maker headquartered in that city. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect melding of a modern house and modern garden than Saarinen and Kiley accomplished there.

John Conti is a former news reporter who has written extensively over the years about architecture, planning and historic-preservation issues.

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Weed ordinance rewrite in Wyoming: Grass gives way to ‘water-efficient …

WYOMING, MI – Would you be OK if your neighbor’s front yard was planted with showy goldenrod and milkweed instead of grass?

A revised weed ordinance in Wyoming opens the door to more greenery than just manicured lawns.

A cultivated butterfly habitat will be allowed in lieu of a manicured lawn in Wyoming. 

“People have gotten pretty creative in how they’re using their yards these days,” said Tim Cochran, city planner. “You’ve got corn growing in front yards. You’ve got pumpkin fields. You’ve got enclosed gardens with chicken wire.”

Wyoming previously required grass mowed to 12 inches or less in front yards. It still will be a no-no to let grass grow taller than a foot, but other plants and shrubs higher than 12 inches will be permitted with a water-efficient landscaping permit.

Vegetable gardens, however, will be restricted to back yards.

“We wanted to strike a balance where front yards really should be the focal point of the street and they should be manicured, but they can have perhaps more diversity than what we’ve acknowledged in the past,” Cochran said.

“It doesn’t have to be just grass in your front yard.”

Check out the photo gallery above for examples of Wyoming yards.

“I feel my yard is actually a major benefit to the community because I don’t add toxins or poisons to my yard that can get into the water system,” said Gretchen Neering-Clarke, who over the years has replaced some of the grass in her front yard on 34th Street SW with other plants.

“My yard is full of bees and butterflies all summer. Just seeing all the birds and butterflies in my yard is even more beautiful than the plants.”

RELATED: Compost ban in Grand Rapids lifted without ‘silly’ storebought rule

Wyoming’s new weed ordinance also incorporates more guidelines on composting, patterning the rules after rules adopted in Grand Rapids last year.

Matt Vande Bunte covers government for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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7 Gardening Tips for Year’s End

Links of Interest

City of Prescott

Prescott’s YouTube Channel

Prescott Chamber of Commerce

AZ Rep Andy Tobin 
AZ Rep Karen Fann
AZ Sen. Steve Pierce
Governor Jan Brewer
US Congressman Paul Gosar
US Senator John McCain
US Senator Jeff FlakeS Senator Jeff Flake
President of the United States

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Gardening tips gathered froma trip to the Old Country | THE COMPLEAT HOME …

The end of November is the beginning of the winter planning season. Winter evenings are made for garden scheming and dreaming and here are a few ideas to steal from our recent tour of Sicily, a sun- drenched island sitting off the south toe of Italy.

Our small group visited Sicily “off the beaten path” and discovered a people rich in history, wine, olive oil and a slower pace of life based on outdoor living and dining.

Use overhead timbers and wisteria vines to create quick shade in outdoor living areas.

It may not be practical to add shade trees to your own patio area close to the house or to wait years for young trees to cast a shadow.

Villas in Sicily grow almost instant shade by using the foliage of robust vines such as wisteria over pergolas made from wood, stone or even metal pipe. The north or east side of a building becomes the preferred spot for an outdoor living room in a hot climate while back home in rainy Washington the sun drenched west or south side of a home would be a more practical location for an outdoor living room.

Wisteria not only drips with fragrant clusters of flowers in spring and sun-blocking foliage in summer but this vine has the good sense to lose its leaves during the winter months allowing much needed sunlight into the home.

Add color with paint, tile and garden art.

Gardeners in warm climates have always looked for ways to add color that does not require a watering can.

Sicilian gardens are rich with ceramic tiles, painted pots and garden statuary. Stucco walls are painted peach or pink and native stone mellows to gold to create a lovely back drops for plants. In one pool side garden at a resort in Taormina we admired colorful square pots that were made from five 12-inch by 12-inch ceramic floor tiles.

A simple do-it-yourself project, each brightly painted tile was glued to the edge of a 12 inch bottom base tile and secured with construction adhesive. The result is a tile cube open at the top that can be filled with potting soil and heat loving plants such as palms, plumbago, thungbergia, sedums and citrus fruits.

Turn your balcony into a hanging garden.

Traveling the world should always make one appreciate home and visiting a country like Sicily with high taxes and higher unemployment made us very aware of our status as ‘rich Americans.’

All over Europe, fewer citizens own property and can afford the luxury of a large garden. Renting a small apartment does not keep Italians from creating roof top, balcony and even alley gardens. Geraniums spill from terra cotta pots over wrought iron railings, potted palm and orange trees cast needed shade on roof top gardens and vegetable lovers harvest eggplant, tomatoes and basil from narrow alleys where containers may be as economical as recycled olive oil tins or plastic water jugs.

Visiting Sicily showed us there is no excuse not to make the world a more beautiful place by growing plants. Lack of water and money in this country did not mean a lack of gardens or passion for living.

For more information on visiting the ancient Greek ruins, active volcanoes and mountain villages of Sicily contact our excellent guide Rosa Rizza or view excursion options through the website

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from WSU, is the author of a dozen garden book and the host of Dig In Seattle as TV show about gardening and cooking. She can be reached at

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For an exotic evergreen with instant drama and structure, plant Fatsia japonica

It makes a rounded bush, usually up to 6ft high, but sometimes as much as 10ft, and its leaves are striking and hand-shaped with a shiny, leathery texture. The flowers open up about now – which accounts for my mentioning it in November. They are creamy white, spherical, and carried in open-branched clusters at the tips of the stems.

Ideally it is best planted in spring, so that it can establish its roots before its first winter outdoors, but you can buy it now and grow it as a container plant – outdoors but sheltered from the worst of the weather – so that you can enjoy its flowers and its leaves as part of a winter pot group.

As far as growing conditions are concerned, the false castor oil plant is wonderfully accommodating. It is unfussy about soil – coping with light soils, heavy clay and chalk – and happiest in light shade, although it will still thrive where it is verging on the gloomy. And the great thing is that it will look good at any time of year.

If at any time it grows too large to fit comfortably into its allotted space, simply chop it back a bit in spring. It will come to no harm. Oh, and no one will see any possible resemblance to Trumpton.

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

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