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Archives for November 2, 2014

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Many gardeners keep their houseplants outside during the summer and move them inside for the winter. Typically this is a good strategy but with moving plants in during the winter the plants experience stress due to changes in temperature and light levels. Tropicals and other cool temperature sensitive plants should be moved inside before the temperature drops below 50 degrees F. However, if this is not immediately possible most can survive temperatures into the 40s. Anything lower significantly increases the risk of cold damage. Here are some tips to improve the transition from outdoor to indoor.

As stated before, make the transition before the temperature drops. The less temperature changes the better. Large temperature changes make the water inside the plant cells to expand and contract. This causes stress to the cell wall and results in the wilted look.

Provide supplemental light for plants that require high light levels. Most indoor plants require lower levels of light, but a few require higher light levels. For most, simply placing the plant on a window sill will suffice. If this is not available, florescent grow lights are an economical option.

Water indoor plants only when they need it. While inside plants are in a more contained environment and more sensitive to erratic watering practices. A good way to test if a houseplant needs to be watered is to place your finger into the growing media. If it feels we an inch deep, the plant doesn’t need to be watered. Keep in mind; this is a very general recommendation. Plants such as orchids have very specific watering needs.

Go easy on the fertilizer. When plants show winter stress and don’t look as lush as they did during summer it is very tempting to pour the fertilizer on them. This can be a big mistake. For blooming plants it is acceptable to fertilize moderately, once every two weeks. For others, once a month is sufficient.

Remember, that when plants experience a change from outdoor to indoor, leaf drop and a lees vigorous looking plant are inevitable. Be patient and trim off any dead parts. Most will eventually recover and become healthy looking again.

Good luck and good gardening!

Read all of my gardening articles at:



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Tips on spiders and fall planting from the Lurie Garden – WLS

Halloween weekend means you probably see a lot of spiders, both real and fake ones. They don’t have to be frightening though. In fact, they are pretty useful for our yards. You can find plenty of spiders at the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The Lurie Garden is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014.

Horticulturist Laura Ekasetya with the Lurie Garden joined us live during our ABC 7 Eyewitness News Saturday Morning to talk about spiders and to share fall planting tips.

Gardening tips from the Lurie Garden:

  • Stop using insecticides. Learn to tolerate a little plant damage and you’ll help welcome a healthy insect population to your garden.
  • Spiders serve an important purpose. They eat more insects than any other creature on earth, which makes them great biological control agents. The orb weaver is a spider that has colorful patterns on its back and a classic web shape that reminds you of “Charlotte’s Web.” There are also funnel-webs and grass spiders.
  • Fall is also a great time to plant bulbs for spring and to think about adding ornamental grasses to your garden.

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Fall tips for the garden

● Water: If we haven’t had significant rain, water perennials, shrubs, trees, including evergreens. Do this until the ground freezes.

● Mulch for perennials: Clear diseased leaves and weeds from around the base of the plant. Most plants should not be pruned in the fall. Have the mulch ready to go, whether it’s leaves, pine needles, straw, dirt, or hardwood mulch. After the ground freezes (test it with your trowel or shovel), apply a few inches of mulch. The idea is to let the roots freeze, then keep them frozen with the insulating blanket of mulch.

● Trees and bushes: Around the bottoms, sprinkle 2-4 inches of your mulch of choice. Mulch should not touch the trunk.

● Protect: New transplants or particular plants you’re concerned about can be further protected with screening, cones, and/​or an anti-desiccant spray.

● New bed: If you know where you want to create a bed or kill profuse weeds in an existing bed, cover the area with about eight layers of newsprint (not glossy) pages, cardboard, or black plastic sheeting that’s bricked or staked down. Cover newspaper or cardboard with four inches of leaves or shredded leaves and spray with water.

Contact Tahree Lane at: or 419-724-6075.

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Denver Botanic Garden’s pyramid points toward its future

The Denver Botanic Gardens gets credit for bringing the city closer to nature, but its reverence for man-made objects has been equally important over the years. The gardens’ buildings were designed by a who’s who of the city’s best architects.

Jules Jacques Benedict’s 1922 Waring House with its graceful Tudor touches. The boldly modernist Boettcher Conservatory, created by Victor Hornbein and Edward D, White Jr. in 1966. David Owen Tryba’s remarkable 2009 parking garage, fully integrated into the landscape. These are some of Denver’s superstar structures.

The Denver Botanic Gardens has undergone several changes to its space, including the new $6 million Science Pyramid next to the sunken concert area.

Ben Niamthet’s new Science Pyramid recognizes the tradition and understands what makes it great. The overall shape — the pyramid — is nearly as old as architecture itself. But like the designers before him, Niamthet tapped present-day engineering and aesthetic ideas to make it a building of its time.

The pyramid concept was actually the gardens’ idea, specified in guidelines sent out for the design competition Niamthet won. Its master plan — overseen by Tryba — called for the form as a complement to both the classical statues and fountains that dot the 24-acre grounds, and the giant, flat-sided bowl next to it where the gardens presents its popular summer concert series.

The pyramid is an inversion of the bowl — as if the mass that was within it was scooped out in one swoop and laid on its back.

Niamthet had his own ideas for a building that could house whiz-bang displays that teach about plant life in remote parts of the world. He conjured a 5,000-square-foot structure that appears to be rising out of the ground like a mountain, pressed into being by the grind of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Like many of Colorado’s tallest ridges, the building has an irregular outline; it is fractured down the middle, a design move that allowed for an uninterrupted slot of daylight to enter the building

The new modern bistro The Hive is next to the Monet Pool at the gardens.

“We didn’t want to it to become just a four-sided triangle,” said Niamthet, a principal at Denver’s Burkett Design. “We wanted to make it something a little abstract to fit in with current architecture.”

Niamthet “pushed and pulled” his pyramid into an object with 17 facets. It looks different from every angle and even takes on a ship-like bearing as it slips into the pond that surrounds it on the west side.

Pyramids — especially those in gardens that emphasize environmental sustainability — come with unique challenges, and Niamthet worked his out with help from engineers at Studio NYL in Boulder. The buildings are, by their nature, nearly all roof. This one is clad in a dark gray layer of a material called Swisspearl, composite facade material more often used on vertical walls.

The material is cut into hexagonal panels, each four feet in diameter, then anchored to the structure just an inch apart and spaced a few inches above the steel frame. The panels give the structure a honeycomb look while the spaces allow air to circulate around them, preventing the building from overheating in the sun.

Inside, the engineering is fully exposed. Tubular steel rises up from the sides, similar to a teepee. The structural elements were worked out digitally in close cooperation with the steel company, which manufactured parts off-site.

Assembling all the elements within the confines of the gardens, around fragile plant beds maintained for decades, was an “extreme challenge,” according to NYL’s Christopher O’Hara. Construction materials and equipment needed to tread lightly. “Everything had to be designed around what we could get to the site,” he said.

The $6 million Science Pyramid is the latest addition to the Botanic Gardens, which has spent millions over the past decade remaking itself as an institution that welcomes visitors to see its exotic vegetation while increasing its work behind the scenes researching botany on a world-wide scale.

Among the additions: The $15 million Greenhouse Complex; $3.7 million Visitors Center; $1.1 million Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden; $3.8 million Children’s Garden.

The gardens is concurrently unveiling its $1.4 million Hive Garden Bistro, also designed by Niamthet. Unlike the pyramid, it’s a more organic place, constructed out of pine and cedar, with all of the seating outdoors. A row of American Hackberry trees pops up right through the dining deck.

All that comes with some minor adjustments across the grounds, laid out by the master plan, which improve views as guests meander. The Perennial Walk, just off the main entrance, for example, was altered to frame a view of the Waring House rather than hitting a visual dead end.

All the changes underscore how the gardens is fine-tuning the visitor experience so that the science of plants is better integrated into leisurely escapes from the urban surroundings.

The science, of course, is a harder sell. So placing the pyramid in a prominent place and making it an attractive element was key.

It is full of buttons to push and peek-a-boo holes to look into. There’s a giant globe that visitors can manipulate to project various geographies and soil conditions. Before they know it, guests are learning about the life in pinyon-jupiter woodlands or the phenology phases of flowers.

“When people talk about science, they use the same language as when they are talking politics or religion,” said CEO Brian Vogt. The gardens’ goal is to change that distant, hesitant tone into something more comfortable.

“We want to inspire people about science in their daily lives.”

Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, or

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Move right into house or villa in Stonegate Reserve

The perfect home means different things to different people. Some demand quality construction, distinctive floor plans, spacious lots, walkout basements or cul-de-sac home sites. Others are looking for friendly neighbors, easy highway access and an award-winning school district within walking or biking distance. All of these are reasons why people are calling Stonegate Reserve home.

Nestled at the front of the community is a neighborhood of homes that provides villa style homes with elegant tile roofing. The rest of the community offers distinctive houses with unique floor plans. Outside builders are welcome with the approval the developer, Mariner Real Estate Management LLC.

“Respected custom home builders in our community include one of the top builders in the Kansas City area, Lambie Custom Homes,” said Kim Winnett, who markets the community for Keller Williams Realty Partners Inc. “Other top area home builders include Bickimer Homes; Scott Wheeler with Wheeler Design; A M Developers; Inspired Homes; Roeser Homes; Allan Schlupkin; and Mike Schlup, developer of Corbin Park.”

Owners can move right into the 11/2-story reverse plan built by Lambie Custom Homes. Priced at $482,754, this model home is at 16300 Mastin St. This Sicily plan has four bedrooms, three full baths, two living areas in the lower level, two bedrooms on the main floor, an oversized pantry, extensive landscaping, side-entry garage and tile roof. The main-floor master suite boasts an oversized walk-in closet that opens to an adjacent laundry room. Doors off the master and eating area open to an upgraded outdoor patio and fountain.

“By staying on top of the market with new ideas and plans, we assure the quality and elegance designed to exceed customers’ expectations,” Jim Lambie said. “The Sicily is just one of the many new plans Lambie Custom Homes has to achieve this goal.”

Also ready for immediate occupancy is a 11/2-story home at 16308 Wedd St. The Stonegate by A M Developers, which is priced at $469,000, features a two-story great room, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, second-floor reading nook, three-car garage and tile roof. Homebuyers will also love the entertainer’s kitchen with spacious island, double-entry walk-in pantry, birch cabinets and granite counter tops. The first-floor master is an oasis with an en suite featuring a vanity, whirlpool tub and dream closet.

Homebuyers will only have to wait 30 days or less to move into the two-story home being built by AZ Custom Homes at 16212 Mastin St. The Legacy III has a grand two-story entry, large, open concept great room and second-floor laundry room. The entertainer’s kitchen boasts a pantry, island, granite counter tops and birch cabinetry. It also has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, first-floor office, superior trim package, tile roof and three-car garage. It is priced at $399,999.

The Wexford being built by A M Developers at 16228 Mastin St. is scheduled for completion in just 60 days. Priced at $399,000, the two-story plan offers four bedrooms, 31/2 bathrooms, backyard patio, tile roof and two-car garage. Homebuyers will not want to miss seeing the large great room lined with oversized windows overlooking the backyard. The kitchen has a walk-in pantry, spacious island, granite kitchen counter tops and birch cabinetry. A whirlpool tub, walk-in shower and dream closet can be found in the upstairs master bedroom.

The Legacy IV is being built by AZ Custom Homes at 16312 Farley St. Priced at $439,990, the kitchen of this two-story home has a walk-in pantry, spacious island, granite kitchen counter tops and birch cabinetry. The home also features five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a deluxe trim package. It is scheduled to be completed in 90 days. Two additional homes in the community are under construction and are expected to be ready for new owners in 150 days or less.

Wheeler Designs, Bickimer Custom Homes and Inspired Homes all have 11/2-story reverse and 11/2-story homes underway without the community’s required tile roof, which gives potential homebuyers options.

“There are still a dozen or so unique lots available,” Winnett said. “Many are the highly sought after ‘greenspace’ lots our buyers love. All of our lots will go fast as the community has gotten a lot of attention among buyers since the 2014 Fall Parade of Homes.”

Because Stonegate Reserve is in the popular southern Overland Park area, residents are within a short drive of a wide variety of dining, shopping, entertainment and recreational opportunities, in addition to close and easy freeway access to other parts of the metropolitan area.

Children living in Stonegate Reserve attend Cedar Hill Elementary, Pleasant Ridge Middle School and Blue Valley West High School. All are in the award-winning Blue Valley School District.

Stonegate Reserve

Prices: Homes from the $400,000s to the $600,000s; lots listed from $72,900 to $129,000.

Location: 163rd and Switzer, Overland Park.

Hours: 12-5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

Contact: 913-927-9939 or 913-660-4469; 913-461-5558 for more information or to schedule a showing after hours.


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Modesto man advances in Stanislaus Innovation Challenge

Luke Rocha of Modesto won the latest round of the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge with products that could be used in airsoft tactical war games.

He was among seven people who pitched business ideas Wednesday night in Patterson, the third of four regional rounds leading up to the Dec. 10 finals in Modesto. The overall winner will receive $2,500 in cash and the same amount in professional services.

Rocha said his products could be of use to people in law enforcement and the military. He was a finalist in the Oakdale regional Oct. 8 and was chosen by the organizers to also take part in Patterson.

Joel Gutierrez Campos won the Oakdale regional with a mobile app that allows residents to offer ideas to Realtors and developers on filling vacant properties. Fred Axton won the Modesto regional last month with an idea for disabled-access showers. Still to come is the Turlock round Nov. 12.

The contest is open to people who live in Stanislaus County or own businesses or attend college here. The organizers choose five to seven people for each regional round; they do not need to live in that part of the county. Voting is by an expert panel and the audience.

Each event starts with two-minute pitches, followed by 10-minute QA sessions for the three finalists. The other finalists in Patterson were Tim Ramos of Oakdale, with an idea for drought-tolerant landscaping, and David Soiseth of Denair, with a product for woodworking and various construction uses.

The Stanislaus Business Alliance is putting on the contest, co-sponsored by Wells Fargo, The Modesto Bee and the Stanislaus/Merced Angels investment group.


Turlock regional: 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 12, Turlock Chamber Of Commerce, 115 S. Golden State Blvd. The entry deadline has passed.

Finals: 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Kirk Lindsey Center, 1020 10th St., Suite 102, Modesto

More information:

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Final piece of riverwalk connecting Uptown Bay City to downtown not expected …

BAY CITY, MI — Grant dollars are secured, but a 350-foot strip of riverwalk that is to officially connect Uptown Bay City to its downtown counterpart isn’t expected to be constructed until next summer.

As steel continues rising from the ground at the multimillion dollar Uptown development along the Saginaw River, Bay City officials are waiting on grant dollars to become available to spend and are working to secure an easement on the land where the riverwalk would be installed. It’s currently owned by Consumers Energy.

Sara Dimitroff, a project manager in the city’s economic development office, said for that reason, the final piece won’t be installed until summer 2015.

“It’s close,” she said. “It’ll take awhile to get through these final steps, but it’s worth the wait.”

It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk from the riverwalk from Wenonah Park in downtown Bay City to the day docks at Uptown. Today, a plot of grass divides the two sections of riverwalk, beginning just south of the gazebo near Veterans Memorial Bridge, but it’s still walkable.

Cost for the final section is about $294,000. The city secured $202,237 from a Michigan Department of Education grant that required some matching funds, which were obtained through the Ronald K. and Greta A. McGillivray Saginaw River Improvement Fund. In June, the Bay Area Community Foundation, which oversees the fund, presented the city with a $69,558 check.

Earlier this year, the Bay City Commission approved spending $36,251 in city bond funds that are in the city-owned Riverfront Redevelopment Land Improvement account to pay for the remaining costs of the riverwalk after the city was unsuccessful in securing a Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative grant. Only $22,205 was needed from that fund to cover the costs.

The nearly $300,000 project is to cover construction of the 10-foot-wide sidewalk, landscaping, lighting, benches and a rest area.

Since February, community leaders have worked to come up with ideas on how to connect Uptown and downtown Bay City, with the riverwalk being a main focus. As Uptown is further developed, one idea included starting a group-share bicycle program.

John Kaczynski, director of the Center for Public Policy and Service at Saginaw Valley State University, who specializes in urban transportation, said the most logical and cost-efficient mode of transportation to connect the two districts is a good pair of tennis shoes.

“In Washington, D.C., people walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the National Mall and they don’t even blink — they don’t realize that they just walked 4 miles,” he said in February. “That’s the perception that we need here. It’s not even a mile. It’s 10 city blocks.”

Candace Bales, director of Bay city’s Downtown Development Authority, said the connecting Uptown to downtown committee no longer meets to share ideas.

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Friends remember Dougherty County man who drowned in pond – WALB


Family and friends are mourning the loss of a Dougherty County man who lost his life after he fell in a pond at his home.

Will Jenkins says he received the worst call this morning, that his closest friend, 82-year-old Ronald Beaty died.

“I just knew he was calling me to come stoke up some of this wood so he could burn it,” said Will Jenkins, Beaty’s Friend. “John had his phone, that’s the only way he had my number. It’s a big shock.”

Friday night emergency responders pulled Beaty’s body out of his pond at his home on Cordele Road.

Beaty’s caretaker says earlier that afternoon he went out to take care of some yard work, and fell in the pond while setting up a turtle trap.

“He’s like a grandfather to me,” said Jenkins. “He said Will, you’re one of the only people I can really depend on like a best friend.”

Family members say Beaty was very patriotic, and served in U.S. Air Force. He worked at the Marine Base for 30 years, and enjoyed doing landscaping. In fact, Jenkins was helping him with a project before he died.

“That was everything to him, the flowers and all and his gardens,” said Jenkins. “He was trying to get it all finished up. We just had a couple more months and we’d have everything perfect.”

Jenkins hopes Beaty will be remembered as hard-working man, who created masterpieces in his yard.

“That’s what he would want people to remember him by, is his beautiful place out here,” said Jenkins.

The Dougherty County Coroner says it’s possible Beaty died of natural causes.

Family members say Beaty’s body will be cremated, and they will hold a private ceremony in Florida.

Copyright 2014 WALB. All rights reserved.

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Napa Valley wine country for the budget-wise traveler

Sky-high hotel and restaurant tabs are commonplace in the Napa Valley wine country, but with a little advance planning you can still eat and sleep on the cheap. We scoured Napa and Sonoma counties — from Calistoga in the north to Napa in the south and Santa Rosa in the west — looking for deals for travelers. Our penny-pinching tips include hotels and restaurants, including some of the priciest in the region.

We discovered nightly rates as low as $79 for a double during the week and $99 on weekends. In all, we found six great little hotels with reasonable rates and nice-to-excellent accommodations.

We also found 10 restaurants where you can get a wonderful meal for $20 or less. Many are locals’ favorites — places where you’ll line up with Napa and Sonoma residents to get a super deal on a super meal.

We want you to hobnob with the trust-fund class. Just don’t tell them how much less you’re paying for the privilege.


Here are five ways to save money on a visit to Napa Valley’s wine country:

1. Visit during the off-season, November to April, when lines are significantly shorter and prices lower.

2. Stop at the Napa Valley Visitor Center (600 Main St., Napa; (707) 251-5895, as soon as you arrive and pick up coupons for deals on wine tasting and other activities. They vary, but some offer significant savings.

3. Saturdays are the worst days to visit — and to drive on crowded wine country roads. Additionally, most hotels require a two-night stay on weekends. You’ll find lower prices on midweek visits.

4. Take along a designated driver and don’t try to visit too many wineries in a day; experts recommend four or five as the limit.

5. Many wine country fans say to sightsee in Napa but eat and sleep in neighboring Sonoma County, where prices are lower.


6 money-saving hotels in Napa Valley wine country

Want to spend a few days tasting wines but can’t afford the tab? Raise a toast to the six hostelries below, where you can stay for as little as $79 a night. Rates listed are for the off-season, beginning this month.


El Bonita Motel

St. Helena

Pretty landscaping, friendly desk staff and super-low prices create a winning combination at this roadside motel in St. Helena. El Bonita — named for former owners Elmer and Bonni — is a ’60s-vintage motel with wings added in the ’80s and ’90s. At $79.99 weekdays and $99.99 weekends, it is one of the best deals in the region. 195 Main St., St. Helena; (800) 541-3284,


Flamingo Conference Resort Spa

Santa Rosa

You’ll find a sleek and cool look at the Flamingo, a Midcentury Modern hotel with lots of personality. As a matter of fact, it’s part of the Personality Hotels group. Ask for the renovated rooms, which are gray on gray with touches of pink (flamingo motif, of course). Internet specials, which begin at less than $100, are common in the off-season. Doubles begin at $129 weekdays, $139 weekends. 2777 4th St., Santa Rosa; (800) 848-8300,


Calistoga Inn Restaurant Brewery


If you’re looking for cheap and cute, this turn-of-the-last-century Napa County inn might be what you want. The only drawback? Shared baths. Remodeled a little more than a year ago after an attic fire, the inn has fresh paint, plump duvets and low prices. But you may have to wait in line for a shower. Doubles from $119 weekdays, $149 weekends. 1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga; (707) 942-4101,


Jack London Lodge

Glen Ellen

The great adventure writer Jack London would be proud of this small hotel — and even prouder of the colorful saloon next door that’s also named for him. The nicely landscaped lodge has a pool, fluffy duvets, free Internet and flat-screen TVs. Walk to tasting rooms nearby. Doubles from $99 weekdays, $129 weekends. 13740 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen; (707) 938-8510,


Sonoma Creek Inn


If you’re fond of the retro California look, you’ll love this inexpensive motel in downtown Sonoma. Vintage furnishings, Sunset magazine covers and photo-illustrated lampshades decorate the small but stylish rooms. Doubles from $79 weeknights, $129 weekends. 239 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma; (707) 939-9463,


Ivy Hotel Napa Valley


This Best Western hotel, four miles from downtown Napa, offers some nice perks, including a free breakfast buffet and fitness center. It also has 42-inch flat-screen TVs, a pool and guest rooms furnished in rich blues and browns with white duvets. Doubles from $169 per night. 4195 Solano Ave., Napa; (800) 937-8376,


10 restaurants for $20 or less in Napa Valley wine country

You can chow down on pumpkin tamales, smoky barbecue or bruschetta to go in wine country without emptying your wallet. Great meals can be found for $20 or less — if you choose carefully. Here are 10 places where you can dine finely for not too precious a price.


Kitchen Door


The words “local, seasonal, handmade” set the theme for Kitchen Door, a contemporary cafe that specializes in Asian-inspired comfort food. Fans praise chef and owner Todd Humphries for his mushroom combinations and unique flavors. Try the out-of-this-world mushroom soup ($8.25) and the wood-fired chicken wings ($9.95), a local favorite. Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st St., Napa; (707) 226-1560,


Auberge du Soleil


This dreamy hotel on a hillside overlooking the Napa Valley has a Michelin-starred restaurant, a multimillion-dollar view and an A-list clientele. It also has a menu that fits our criteria. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace overlooking the valley or lunch in the bistro, also on the terrace; both menus offer many items for less than $20, including the three-cheese Margherita pizza ($18). Then ask at the front desk for a key that will allow you to roam the grounds, explore the sculpture gardens and indulge your dreams. 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford; (800) 348-5406,

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Plant bulbs now, don’t fret about water, and be dazzled by spring

Drought or no drought, your garden can have bling in spring.

But to enjoy this miraculous March show, you need to get to work now.

Planted in November, spring-flowering bulbs turn a blah brown landscape into a smile-making spectacular display.

“The way I look at bulbs is like accessorizing the garden,” said garden designer and author Rebecca Sweet, who uses many bulbs in her Northern California landscapes. “Bulbs let you kick it up a notch.”

These surprise packages are like buried treasure in drought-tolerant gardens. Without much water and almost no care, they magically appear each spring to bring color and fragrance.

“People don’t realize it, but most bulbs are very drought-tolerant,” said Tami Kint of Sacramento’s Green Acres Nursery and Supply. “They prefer not sitting in water or getting a lot of water anyway. They like it dry.”

Nature designed bulbs to cope with dry times like these.

“Bulbs are food storage vessels,” explained Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Longfield Gardens, a major U.S. bulb house. “They’re a way for plants to store energy from one season to the next. This gives bulbs a big advantage over plants that only have a root system. In the spring, bulbs need some moisture to get started, but once they’ve sprouted, they are remarkably resilient.”

Their low water needs have made bulbs very popular with gardeners looking for beautiful ways to be make their yards more drought-tolerant.

“You’d think the drought would slow landscaping down, but my business has tripled,” said Sweet, who owns the Los Altos-based design firm Harmony in the Garden. “Everybody wants to rip out their lawn and put in drought-tolerant gardens.”

Bulbs allow Sweet to add bursts of color and play with contrasts. Those assets also are among the garden secrets she includes in her latest book, “Refresh Your Garden Design With Color, Texture and Form” (Horticulture, 160 pages, $19.99).

Several species of bulbs survive years, even decades, with little water and less care, she observed. “Think of those pink naked ladies (amaryllis) on old farmsteads; they keep coming back year after year. Or daffodils; there’s a reason they naturalize so easily.”

Species bulbs – those varieties that are non-hybridized and closest to their original traits – tend to be the most drought-tolerant, Sweet observed. But some hybrids of old favorites have the best of both worlds; they’ve retained their durability while offering other favorable qualities.

An example is crocosmia, she said. The old-time orange variety can be invasive, but the lipstick red Lucifer hybrid is better behaved.

In her low-water gardens, Sweet has discovered some new-old favorites. Masses of muscari (grape hyacinth) form dark blue drifts in spring. Freesias offer candy-colored hues and equally sweet scent. With interesting silver-patterned foliage as well as charming pink flowers, ivy leaf cyclamen grows well in dry shade, such as under oak trees.

“I love Reticulata iris; they look like little purple exclamation points,” she said. “And they’re wonderful combined with yellow tulips or crocus.

“I plant fairy lily – Zephranthes candida – everywhere,” she said. “It’s become my No. 1 plant. I really like alba, the white variety. That little bulb is amazing. The foliage is practically evergreen in our area; it’s very green and grass-like but it’s not a grass. And it has these beautiful crisp white flowers. It’s very drought-tolerant and you can put them everywhere, including partial shade.”

For big pops of bright blue, Sweet turns to the Peruvian lily (Scilla peruviana). “It’s such a crazy fun flower,” she said. “It has these big brilliant blue flowers; they’re a wonderful contrast to yellow or orange. It’s summer dormant, so it doesn’t need that much water.”

When people think spring bulbs, they usually envision tulips and daffodils.

“For spring-blooming bulbs, tulips and daffodils are always the best sellers,” said Longfield Gardens’ Langeveld. “There are hundreds of different varieties of tulips, but the most popular are Darwin hybrids such as Pink Impression, Blushing Apeldoorn and Olympic Flame. They are big, strong plants with very large flowers. In the daffodil world, trumpet daffodils are consistently top sellers. They bloom early and are great for naturalizing.”

In Sacramento, “daffodils definitely are the best sellers,” Kint said. “But bearded irises probably are a close second. They’re very drought-tolerant, too.”

Customers gravitate to big, bright colorful flowers, and new bulb hybrids satisfy that craving every year, Langeveld said.

“We’re also seeing alliums get more and more popular,” he said. “People love the big, round flower heads and also love the fact that alliums are deer-resistant. Deer can be a big problem for many gardeners and the easiest solution is to plant things deer won’t eat. Alliums are in the onion family and fortunately, deer don’t like the taste of onions.”

For Northern California, Langeveld recommends bulbs from other drought-prone regions.

“Many flower bulbs, including anemones, iris, alliums and crocosmia are native to arid climates,” he said. “Other bulbs that grow well in low-water conditions include eucomis (pineapple lily), nerine (Guernsey lily) and amaryllis.”

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


Bulbs are a wonder of nature. Each bulb is actually an underground flower factory, containing everything that plant will need to sprout, grow, bloom and reproduce. That’s one reason they’re ideal for low-water gardens. They don’t need much moisture to start and complete this flower-making process. Thousands of bulb varieties are available for gardeners from amaryllis to zephyranthes. Do some research before buying for your specific garden needs.

▪ Some bulbs – such as tulips and hyacinths – need to be chilled before planting in Northern California. That re-sets their biological clock and cues the bloom cycle. In areas with snowy winters, these bulbs get chilled in the ground. In Sacramento, they need to spend six weeks in the refrigerator before fall planting. While the bulbs are chilling, avoid keeping apples or pears in the refrigerator; those fruits emit a gas that can rot the bulbs.

▪ Plant spring-blooming bulbs in fall, September to early December. If possible, stagger the plantings over three or four weeks to extend the bloom season next spring. Bulbs planted now will bloom in March or April.

▪  Bulbs need good drainage but not much water until they sprout. Ideally, they like sandy loam, but will tolerate almost any soil. If your soil is heavy clay, add compost to improve drainage. Add a little bone meal or bulb food to the flower bed or container just before planting.

▪ Plant bulbs two times deeper than the height of the bulb. Most bulbs are planted pointy end up. Put a teaspoon of bone meal in each hole before placing the bulb or, for a group planting, spread a handful of bone meal over the bottom of the planting hole. Back fill with soil to cover the bulbs. Water deeply just once. Then, wait.

▪ Before you forget where you planted them, make a map of bulb locations including varieties and planting dates and keep it with your garden notes. Place garden markers at bulb locations before or after they sprout.

▪ Winter rain usually takes care of any irrigation needs for the bulbs before they sprout. If there’s no rain for a month, give them another slow, deep watering. But bulbs prefer to be kept relatively dry.

▪ After they bloom, leave the foliage on the bulbs. That’s gathering energy and restocking the bulb’s underground reserves. Once the foliage has died back, it can be trimmed. Most bulbs can be left in the ground undisturbed. (They like dry summers.) Dig up tulips and hyacinths to re-chill.

Planting bulb ‘lasagna’

Bulbs can form an intense display when they’re overplanted in layers, “lasagna” style. This can be done in the ground or in a large container, at least one foot deep with good drainage.

If planting in a container, cover the bottom with at least 4 inches of potting soil. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of bone meal for every dozen bulbs. Place the biggest bulbs (such as tulips or daffodils) in a layer on the bottom, pointing up. Space them about 2 inches apart. Cover with 2 inches of potting soil.

Plant another layer of bulbs such as hyacinths or alliums, leaving about 2 inches between each bulb. (Don’t worry about where the spaces line up; the bulbs underneath will find the gaps.) Cover with another 2 inches of soil. Sprinkle another tablespoon of bone meal. Scatter over the top of the soil some shallow-rooted corms or rhizomes such as anemones or ranunculus. Lightly cover with more soil.

Gently tamp down the soil and soak. Your “lasagna” bulb garden will sprout in late February or March.

▪ Another form of lasagna planting with fewer layers is to use annual flowers over the bulbs. (The annuals also can replace the top layer of anemones or ranunculus in the three-layer example.) After the bulbs are in place, overplant shallow-rooted annuals such as pansies or Iceland poppies on top. While you wait for the bulbs to bloom, the annuals provide color through the winter.

Also try planting crocus or daffodils under low-water herbs such as thyme or oregano. The bulbs offer bursts of spring color and a surprising touch to herb gardens or borders.

Bulbs in containers

Pots of almost all sizes can be used for tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring bloomers. The main criteria for bulb containers are enough depth (daffodils and tulips need about 6 inches, measuring from the base of the bulb) and good drainage.

Fill the bottom of the container with potting mix up to the planting depth. Sprinkle a layer of bone meal and mix lightly into this bottom layer. Place one to three bulbs in the center, then arrange others in circles around those middle bulbs until the container is filled. It’s OK to crowd them in with only an inch or two of separation.

A dozen bulbs fit easily into a 10-inch pot; six will fill a 6-inch container. A half wine barrel can hold at least 30. (Ironstone Winery, known for its massive bulb displays, puts 75 bulbs per half wine barrel.) Cover the bulbs with more potting mix until they sit at their proper depth.

To add a little winter color before the bulbs emerge, overplant with shallow-rooted annuals such as pansies or violas (six plants work well for a 10-inch pot). Place in a sunny location and water as needed.

In February, the bulbs will start pushing through the annuals and bloom in March or April, giving you a changing bouquet through late winter into spring.

Because these flower are in pots, you can move your display around as needed. (You can even bring them indoors for a day or two.) After the bulbs fade, move the container to a less conspicuous part of your garden where the bulbs can recharge for next year’s bloom.

Debbie Arrington

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