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Archives for November 8, 2014

Gardening to Distraction: Bulb-planting tips

By Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Posted Nov. 7, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

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OKC Beautiful’s Gardening Tip of the Month: Tulips and daffodils — What to do …

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Gardening Tips: Arborteum to be adored with new life

Matthew Stevens

Matthew Stevens

Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014 11:17 am

Gardening Tips: Arborteum to be adored with new life

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Last week, I made an impromptu visit to one of my favorite places to see plants in North Carolina, the J.C. Raulston Arborteum in Raleigh. The arboretum is fascinating to me. Though I’ve been there many times, I always find something new that catches my eye. Part of that is the arboretum is always adding plants to their collection and making changes and updates to their layout, but much of it is due to the simple fact plants shine at different times of the year.

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Friday, November 7, 2014 11:17 am.

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Seasonal gardening tips for fall 2014

Ornamental Grasses for Texas Landscapes

•  Fountain grass

•  Dwarf pampas grass

•  Purple autumn grass

•  Muhly grass (Texas native)

•  Pink muhly grass (Texas Native)

•  Sideoats grama (Texas native/official Texas state grass)

Bulbs for the South

• Daffodils (shades of yellows and white)

•  Narcissus (white)

•  French-Roman hyacinths (blue, white or rosey pink)

•  Grape hyacinths (deep blue or white)

•  Ipheon (light blue)

•  Dutch Iris (purple and yellow)

•  Leucojum (white snow flake )

•  Tulips and Dutch hyacinths do well, but require a cold treatment prior to planting

The days have gotten shorter and the temperatures have gotten cooler in South Texas. The morning weather is near perfect - if only it would last year round.

There is something about the cooler air that rejuvenates and re-energizes us to pursue our hobbies with a little more gusto. If gardening happens to be one of your hobbies, then I hope this article inspires you to do a makeover in your landscape.

Cool-season annuals

Hopefully by now, your cool-season annuals are in the ground from being planted late October forward. Some cool-season annuals that do well in our climate are alyssum, calendula, dianthus, Johnny-jump-up, pansy, snapdragon, sweet pea and other violas.

After planting them, the next step this month is to fertilize and water them. They need to be able to take the cold weather that will be coming up. A water-soluble fertilizer is fine to use and may be more available than granular products.

If we do happen to get a winter freeze, the blooms and foliage will get nipped back, but the root systems will continue to grow. When warmer spring weather begins to arrive, your fall-planted annual flowers will be bursting forth with a profusion of growth and blooms. While your neighbors are rushing out to buy new plants, you will be able to sit back and enjoy your labors from the fall.

Spring-flowering bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs should now be stored until ready for planting. A good way to store them is in paper bags in the refrigerator or a cool garage or pantry. Don't forget to check them every couple of weeks for signs of decay. If you find decay, remove the damaged bulb from the bag. Decay can be a sign of cooler temperatures or more ventilation needed in your bag. Be sure not to refrigerate bulbs where fruit is stored.

Ornamental plants

Now is a good time to put some thought into your garden design. Consider a mixture of ornamental plants that provide varying textures. Try and avoid the mustache look - all of the same shrubs pruned the same way.

Contrasting textures

Think outside the box and look for fine-textured plants such as ferns and ornamental grasses to contrast with coarse-textured plants such as cast-iron plant, holly fern, etc. Ornamental grasses are often overlooked, but they provide such a unique quality to any landscape.

Low maintenance; virtually pest-free

In addition to their colorful beauty - even in the winter - they require little water, they are virtually pest-free with little maintenance and they are tough and highly adaptable. The one pest to look for with ornamental grasses is the grasshopper.

Soil and mulch

Now is a good time to send soil in for testing. The Victoria County AgriLife Extension Office can guide you on the proper way to do this.

Heavy mulching is also a good idea to prepare beds for any upcoming freezes that may come our way. Speaking of freezes, be sure to water lawns and landscape plantings if the ground is dry and a freeze is predicted.

Lawn care

Watering this time of year is not as important as in our hot summers; however, it is recommended by our extension specialists to water at least once in November if there has not been significant rainfall.

Lawns may develop fungal disease this time of year - most especially brown patch. It is recommended you not worry with a fungicide treatment this late in the year. Instead of treating now, make a note to treat the lawn in February to prevent brown patch in spring.

Vegetable crops

Vegetable crops growing in the winter will benefit from fertilizer. A recommended rate of nitrogen fertilizer is one fourth of a pound of urea per 100 square feet, one-half of a pound of ammonium sulfate or one pound of blood meal. Area farm and ranch centers should have these fertilizers available. In the absence of rain, remember to water your garden thoroughly.

It's also a great time to start an indoor herb garden - for transport outside in the spring.

Remember garden friends

Last, but not least, be sure and provide for birds and squirrels that share our landscapes. Bird seed quality varies significantly. One good way to gauge quality is to notice how much millet seed is in the bag. Millet is a filler seed, and birds tend to sweep this out to get to the good stuff.

Practice these tips for the rest of the fall season before winter officially begins on Dec. 21.

Your garden makeover will then be ready for the upcoming winter months and flourish into the spring.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at



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Who were the great garden designers of Australia?

Who were the great garden designers of Australia?

November 08, 2014 , 5:20 PM by Sian Gard

Anne Vale 1When you walk through a garden do you ever think about its design? Garden’s are places of reflection, beauty, food, growth, senses and more. They are also blank canvases for garden designers to create their own vision of green beauty.


But who were the original garden makers in Australia? And how did their designs influence the gardens we walk through today.


Dr Anne Vale opens the door to the early garden makers and their history.






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Learn from the experts: From beekeeping to garden design there’s a course to …

Constance Craig Smith For Weekend Magazine


However knowledgeable you are about gardening, you can only ever scratch the surface of all there is to learn about the subject. The good news is that whatever your interest there’s a course out there for you. Here’s the pick of the bunch.

● The Cotswold Gardening School in Gossington in Gloucestershire offers a wide range of courses, from half-day classes to longer courses aimed at those who want a career in gardening. Day courses (which cost £95) cover topics such as advanced planting and container gardening, while the professional garden design course involves one day a week at the school as well as homework, takes ten weeks and costs £895.

Enhance your knowledge: Whatever your interest there’s a course out there for you

Enhance your knowledge: Whatever your interest there’s a course out there for you

● West Dean College near Chichester in West Sussex offers topics aimed at all levels. There are one-day courses, which cost £103, on subjects such as planning a low-maintenance garden, planting in problem places and pruning shrubs and climbers. Longer courses, such as the three-day one on designing your own garden, cost £306.

● Jekka’s Herb Farm near Bristol offers the chance to learn from Chelsea Gold Medal winner Jekka McVicar. She’s running one-day masterclasses from next spring on topics like herb garden design and how to use herbs. Courses cost £175.

● The Royal Horticultural Society offers numerous good-value courses all year round at its four gardens in Devon, Yorkshire, Surrey and Essex. Whether you want to learn garden photography, how to keep chickens or make willow wigwams for climbing plants, there’ll be something to interest you. Day courses from £48.

● The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers an impressive array of one-day courses on subjects like gardening in winter, lichen identification and Victorian horticulture. There’s a particularly strong range of courses on botanical illustrations; prices from £30.

● MyGardenSchool bills itself as ‘the world’s first online horticulture school’ and offers courses on gardening for wildlife, meadow planting and contemporary floral design. The impressive roster of tutors includes garden designer John Brookes, florist Paula Pryke and garden historian Toby Musgrave. Four-week courses cost around £145, while the eight-week professional planting design course is £480. Students get weekly pre-recorded video lectures and downloadable notes, and can also chat online with tutors in a ‘virtual classroom’. www. n 


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When one spouse retires before the other

As a recent retiree, Carolyn Prosak has had plenty of time to put together a to-do list for the ranch home she shares with her husband, Victor, in San Jose, Calif. Her ambitious agenda matches her energetic personality: Get the house power-washed and the trim painted. Re-landscape the backyard. “Seniorize” the bathrooms by widening the doorways. Repave the driveway and redo the guest room to make space for her many hobbies.

Victor, who works full time supervising the landscaping for a property management company, has other ideas. His order of business: Replace the roof before tackling the trim and the power wash, and hold off on major landscaping until he retires himself, some five years hence. After poring over the list together, “we’ve reached compromises and set priorities,” says Victor, 65. And because Carolyn, 66, is at home, “I can lay the groundwork,” she says. “I see that as my job.”

The Prosaks are among a growing number of couples who are taking separate paths into retirement. For some, job loss or disability has forced the decision; for others, age disparity (men are three years older than their wives, on average) has played a role. The closing gap in earning power is another factor, says Richard Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute, an independent research group. As women bring home bigger paychecks, “we’re seeing more of them staying in the labor force after their husbands retire.”

Staggering your retirement dates has its benefits. “One is that each partner can retire at the age that works best for his or her career,” says Johnson — say, to get the full value of a pension. The one-two approach also allows the retired spouse to take stock and prepare for when both are out of the workforce. And watching one spouse make the transition to retired life can help the other spouse navigate those waters when the time comes.

Retiring separately also involves challenges, including negotiating financial and personal priorities and adapting to new roles. All that can be tricky, given that about one-third of couples disagree about how they will spend their time in retirement, according to a 2013 Fidelity study. Better to hash out issues sooner rather than later, says John Sweeney, executive vice president of retirement and investing strategies at Fidelity. “It’s important to be aligned in how you want to achieve your goals.”

Carolyn Prosak didn’t choose to retire. She loved her job as a health educator on a research study at Stanford University School of Medicine. But by July 2013, “it was pretty clear that the study was going to end and that we wouldn’t get funding for another version being considered,” she says. In November, she learned that she would be laid off after the first of the year. Rather than look for another job right away, she retired.

Knowing that Carolyn’s job was uncertain, the Prosaks amped up their preparations, including contributing the max to her employer retirement account ($23,000, which included the $5,500 in catch-up contributions she was entitled to make because she was over 50). And they tailored their expenses to fit Victor’s salary. “We figured that if we couldn’t live on Victor’s income, we should know it now,” says Carolyn.

The exercise was made easier thanks to the Prosaks’ conservative approach to finances. “They are frugal and have always been savers, so in that sense they’ve been planning,” says Anne Chernish, a certified financial planner in Ithaca, N.Y., and Carolyn’s longtime friend who has helped the couple with their finances. The Prosaks paid off their mortgage a few years ago and have no debt except for a small amount on their home equity line of credit.

But for other couples, the difference between two incomes and one can be a shocker, especially if the retired spouse pursues an expensive hobby or travels. In that case, discussing the costs up front with the working spouse and carving out money in the budget for a “playcheck” is crucial, says Stephen Oliver, who specializes in retirement planning at Manhattan Ridge Advisors in New York City. “You need to discuss what your life is going to look like. No one likes surprises.”

Even joint expenses need to be anticipated. Initially, the Prosaks planned to wait until Victor retired to take care of the big-ticket items on their to-do list. Upon looking at their budget, though, they realized there was a balloon in major housing expenses five years out, says Carolyn. Rather than take a hit to their finances all at once, they decided to spread out the expenses while Victor still had a paycheck. By the time he retires, “the big things will be taken care of, and we’ll be able to travel and pursue our interests,” Victor says.

Changing roles in retirement — say, from breadwinner to homemaker — can create friction even in strong marriages. But for the Prosaks, who have been married for 41 years, the roles have always been fluid. When daughter Kristin (now 29) was in preschool, Victor spent a year between jobs playing the part of full-time parent while Carolyn worked. His work schedule gets him home at 4:15 p.m., which means he has always been the one to make dinner. Now that she’s retired, she’s taking over more of the cooking and household chores. Although Victor has yet to relinquish dishwasher duties, “he has stopped folding the laundry. I’m starting,” Carolyn says with a laugh.

Jane Bennett Clark,

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

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Plant cold protection workshop Saturday

SEBRING – For some who move to Florida for the warmer climes, thoughts of perpetually-vibrant tropical plants and landscaping come to mind, especially for those who have left the freezing and below-freezing temperatures of their home state.

But to give newcomers and seasonal residents tips and ideas on how to keep their plants thriving in south-central Florida’s relatively moderate winters, tips are available today. In addition, protective cloth will be for sale to keep plants warm.

From 9 a.m. to noon, a free cold protection workshop will be held at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agri-Civic Center, 4509 George Blvd. There, volunteer Master Gardeners from the University of Florida’s Extension Service, who serve educators in the Environmental Horticulture Program, will also be selling frost cloths for plants – $2 per linear foot, with most cloths being 15 feet wide – as a fundraiser. The material is light and can often be left on during the day for those occasions when two or more days of frost in a row is expected.

David Austin, horticulture extension agent for Highlands County, said frost cloths are a good investment and if it is folded up dry and carefully stored it can be used for many years. He said whatever material is used, to make sure it drapes all the way to the ground and is secured to the ground ensuring heat is retained.

From 9 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m., Austin, a 1984 graduate of the University of Florida, will be giving a short presentation regarding cold and plant protection which will be followed by the cloth sale. He said Florida usually has several days of winter when the more tropical plants might be in danger from frost or freeze. When frost is predicted, he suggests residents identify the plants in their yards that are cold sensitive, which can be challenging.

“Trial and error is usually how people discover which plants need protection, but if you don’t want to find out through the school of hard knocks, you might consider doing some research,” he said.

At your Highlands County Extension Office, Austin said home and business owners could also get help from local nursery retailers when buying plants.

“My first suggestion to those trying to protect plants is to make sure the ground in the areas of the plants you are trying to protect is wet as early as the day before a frost or freeze. Wet ground holds more heat than dry ground and if it is wet the day before the frost the sun will warm up the soil for you,” he said. “Since plants can’t create heat they will rely on the heat released from the ground. The heat stored in the soil will radiate up around the plants during the night and help keep the temperature warmer.”

Freezing temperatures of 32 degrees or below for eight or more hours are rare in Florida and usually don’t happen more than a few times of year,” said Austin. However, low temperatures could be the most damaging because they can do actual damage within the stems of some plants.

A plant that might withstand frosts or mild freezes might not bear so well under prolonged freezing conditions and is extremely hard to protect.

For information, call (863) 402-6540.

(863) 386-5855

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CRA agrees to tentative budget for splash pad

CRA tour

CRA tour

Chairman Keith Mixon explains the proposed downtown projects to a crowd of city officials and interested citizens, including several mothers with their children.

Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014 3:00 pm

CRA agrees to tentative budget for splash pad

By Amber Vann

The Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) took a tour of downtown Live Oak on Tuesday, Nov. 4, to show city officials and interested citizens where recently discussed projects could potentially get underway. The projects include public restrooms, park renovations, streetscaping, landscaping, and a splash pad, which drew a few excited cheers from the children who came with their mothers for the meeting.

The first stop on the tour was Millennium Park, a site that has been considered for the potential location for the splash pad. CRA member Tim Alcorn strongly opposed the placement of a splash pad in the park due to concerns over its location next to a bar, the courthouse, the train tracks, and the traffic from a main highway. The park was originally considered because it is already owned by the city and no additional agreements would have to be made with the county.

The landscaping of Millennium Park and Veterans Park was also a subject for change.

“The hedges and shrubbery are pretty,” said CRA Chairman Keith Mixon. “But they limit seating. We have to ask ourselves, do we want pretty? Or do we want more capacity?”

The CRA and other officials were in agreement that restrooms were a priority for the downtown area, and Alcorn suggested building one in the county parking lot behind the courthouse. The proposed building would take away only four parking spaces and would be more private than a restroom in the parks, but people were more concerned about the maintenance of it and how to keep it closed at night.

Other downtown projects on the tour included the sidewalk by the courthouse, which was believed to be too high and in disrepair; replacing the trees in the newly-named Festival Park with crepe myrtles; and putting planters along downtown sidewalks with the myrtles. Mixon also mentioned the controversial palm trees, and suggested that they do not belong in Live Oak.

The meeting recessed to City Hall where the CRA began to pull the ideas from the tour together into a plan of action. The splash pad was the most hotly discussed project of the evening, and CRA member Jacob Grantham argued for the splash pad by highlighting the success of the one in Perry. 

“It’s always busy,” said Grantham. “It promotes a healthy lifestyle, there’s a bathroom facility and a picnic pavilion, and the splash pad is seasonal, so you wouldn’t necessarily have to worry about maintaining it during the winter. It also provides more exposure to businesses around it.”

Possible locations for the splash pad included Millennium Park, Heritage Park, the John H. Hale Community Park and Recreation Center, and a vacant lot near Paul Langford Stadium on Wilbur Street. The members ultimately could not agree on a location for the splash pad, but agreed that it was a good idea and that they were in favor of it.

The CRA had a budget of roughly $245,000 for downtown projects previously discussed at their September meeting. CRA member Jennifer Seaman and Alcorn drafted a tentative dedicated budget for the projects, with approximately $130,000 set aside for the splash pad; $60,000 for bathrooms; $10,000 each for the Warren Street sidewalk, streetscaping and landscaping, Millennium Park renovations, and Veterans Park renovations; and $5,000 for re-striping Warren Street and Pine Avenue downtown. These numbers were rough estimates and Mixon stated that they can be amended in the future.

The CRA approved of the tentative budget unanimously.

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Friday, November 7, 2014 3:00 pm.

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Alabama, Inc.– "Martha Stewart and Me…"

The APR newsroom continues collaborating on the television show about business called “Alabama, Inc.” I profile entrepreneurs from our state to see how they got from here to there. Tonight, you’ll meet Fred Spicer, the head of Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens. His path to Alabama started in his home state of New Jersey…

If I say New Jersey, what comes to mind?

Frank Sinatra from Hoboken?

Steve Buscemi in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire? The show is set in Atlantic City at the turn of the century. I admit it’s a little more obscure unless you have cable.

How about something more comtemporary…like bridgegate?

That’s where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became embroiled in a scandal where roads connected New Jersey and New York were closed down as the result of alleged political retaliation. Most of the cars stuck in the middle of all this had New Jersey license plates with the slogan “The Garden State.” Fred Spicer says it’s true…

“New Jersey was the bread basket , if you will, for New York and Philadelphia markets,” says Spicer. “There’s a lot of corn, a lot of dairy. Which most people don’t know.”

Spicer graduated from Rutgers with a degree in landscape architecture and taught there for fifteen years. Forget coming to Birmingham and running the city’s botanical garden. He admits he almost became a marine biologist…

“I very nearly worked with fish,” he admits. “As I got into the meat and potatoes, I realized I wasn’t going to be a scientist. The math and the hardcore chemistry. “

He got along better with plants. After running his own landscaping business and taking care clients every day, he moved to Birmingham to run the Botanical Gardens. The sixty seven acre complex sits at the foot of Red Mountain. It’s home to twenty five individual gardens housing over twelve thousand different plants ranging from Japanese bonsai to a carrion plant that smells like road kill. The flies really like that one. Spicer says running the gardens isn’t all that different from running a landscaping company…

“I love systems and working with people,” he says. ” I love what the gardens does for the community and what the gardens is in the community, and that’s really important and I feel that the work I do now has a much broader reach.”

But, that job has its frustrations too. Mostly because of how people and plants get along, or in his opinion, fail to. The problem as Spicer sees it that that people relate better to animals. Animals and people walk around, eat many of the same things, and do many of the same things. Spicer says that leaves plants in the background going about their botanical business…

“Famous studies have been shown, that when you show someone a picture of beautiful forest ecosystem, with seventy or eighty different plants in it, and a deer,” says Spicer. “And you say what’s in this picture, the person will say ‘oh, it’s a deer.’ “

And those people needing education include ordinary types, and then there’s Martha Stewart.

Yes, Fred Spicer once crossed swords with Stewart in a nice way. She brought Spicer onto her show for a segment about pruning trees.

Everything went fine…until…

“We actually had to stop in mid-taping because I corrected her,” he says.

“Nobody beat you with a stick or anything, right?” I asked.

“No, she was really gracious about it,” Spicer responded.


“And she thanked me, and she said ‘are you sure that’s what plant is?’ And I said ‘yes, I’m sure.’ And she said ‘okay,’ and we started again and she gave it the correct name,” Spicer recalls. 

And all along the way, Spicer never lost his New Jersey roots, pardon the pun. Alabama may be famous for its Chilton County peaches, but Spicer says his home state has some good stuff too…

“You move to Alabama and you hear about Sand Mountain tomatoes,” says Spicer. “But, in Jersey, you have Jersey tomatoes. And it takes a bit of doing to surpass a Jersey tomato in August. It really does.”

Fred Spicer and I talk about he got from here to there on Alabama, Inc. this Wednesday at 10 p.m. on your local Alabama Public Television station.

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