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Archives for November 24, 2014

How to choose the best Christmas tree for your home

Choosing a pot-grown tree:

Container-grown Christmas trees should have been grown for at least one season in their pots, according to the BCTGA, and you should be able to lift them out of the pot to inspect the root system. After Christmas they can be planted out or re-potted, so at least you will be able to enjoy it for years to come. But the BCTGA warns: “It is seldom possible to re-pot trees in this way for more than one season.” And let’s face it, few of us have the room for more than one or two Christmas trees growing in our garden.

What sort of Christmas tree?:

The traditional tree of choice is the Norway Spruce, with its classic pyramid shape and familiar pine scent, although the Blue Spruce is an elegant alternative. If you want a tree that doesn’t drop its needles as fast as the spruce, Dobbies’ Steve Guy suggests a Nordmann Fir for its soft, glossy, dark green leaves. “Its ability to hold onto its needles right up to Christmas makes it ideal for the minamilist-style home, as it is suited to being dressed in fewer decorations,” says Steve. He also recommends the Fraser Fir for those who want a tree that will suit a small room. “Leaner in shape with a much denser foliage, it has the added bonus of having a beautiful Christmassy scent,” he says.

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Design Recipes: Add sparkle to your holiday d�cor

Local News

Paso Robles tourism group updates logo with new design

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Dubai development being promoted at Chelsea Flower Show

Dubai ‘botanic garden’ real estate project, Al Barari, is creating a show garden at the UK’s Chelsea Flower Show 2015, called The Beauty of Islam, which is designed by Kamelia Zaal, the development’s Creative Landscape Director

A Dubai developer has found a blooming great way of promoting its ‘botanic garden’ real estate project – through a garden at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show.

The Beauty of Islam, which provides a sensory reflection of Islamic and Arabic culture, is designed by Kamelia Zaal, the first Emirati landscape designer to have a garden at Chelsea and Creative Landscape Director of the Al Barari development in Dubai.

Al Barari includes six themed gardens with more than 16.4 kilometres of naturally landscaped lakes, freshwater streams, cascades and waterways, and is described as being more like a botanical garden than a residential community, so it fits in perfectly with Chelsea Flower Show, which runs from 19-23 May 2015.

It also features a 1.2million square foot Plant Nursery, which ensures the sustainability of the gardens and landscape areas.

Based on a traditional, Arabic pattern that is set into a 45-degree angle, The Beauty of Islam breaks away from the typical, traditional courtyard quadrant and instead features “multi-purpose spaces and pockets of calm.”

Kamelia Zaal says, “I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to share my passion for Arabic and Islamic culture at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015. The garden is intended as a true celebration of heritage, art, design, culture and the diversity of the UAE’s plant life. I do hope that visitors enjoy the journey!

The Beauty of Islam is a garden designed to be both a sanctuary in which to feel inspired and relaxed. I have channelled the movement and sound of water to draw visitors into a mix of sensory experiences, directing them through the garden.

“The use of poetry, calligraphy, sculpture, textures and a play of shade and light come together in the garden to celebrate Islamic and Arabic culture. Poetry, which is heavily rooted in Arabic tradition, is engraved into marble and aims to pull visitors further into the garden.”

Modern and classic materials from countries touched by Arabic and Islamic culture, including Turkish white marble, form the foundations of the garden’s design and Mother of Pearl, representing the art of pearl diving, integral to the UAE’s heritage, runs through it.

Four walls create different ‘rooms’ in the garden and enhance the theme of discovery, with water flowing throughout each section. Dividers of stainless steel and cement add a contrast of textures, off-setting the diversity of plant life throughout.

Planting and hard landscape patterns reflect those found within Islamic culture. The variety of plant species features orange, olive, fig and pomegranate trees and cardamom, pepper, tumeric, plus jasmine, rosemary and papyrus.

The garden maps the growth of the Arabic empire through its history, rooted in trade and tells the story of the Spice Route, which spread by sea and overland from the Indian Ocean, the Far East, India, the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and into Europe.

Kamelia Zaal, trained in garden design at Inchbald School of Design, London and now lives in Dubai and runs landscape architectural practice, Second Nature.

Ms Zaal is also the Creative Landscape Director of Al Barari (meaning ‘wilderness’), the luxury residential estate that is owned and developed by her family.

Al Barari, which means wilderness, includes 189 luxury villas and 34 themed gardens with more than 16.4 kilometres of naturally landscaped lakes, freshwater streams, cascades and waterways.

Mohammed Zaal, Chief Executive Officer of Al Barari, says, “The Reserve at Al Barari is unmatched in quality and is the realisation of a vision that started as our family’s personal journey to create a living space that fulfilled our own requirements and definition of luxury.”

The development, designed and constructed by local contractors, Sustainable Builders, also includes The Farm restaurant that serves fresh, locally-sourced produce and a spa and health club, signature shops and a boutique hotel.

The Reserve is located in the royal enclave of Nad Al Sheba, accessible by the Emirates Road, and is just 10 minutes from downtown Dubai.

Residents can benefit from facilities including a large communal pool, fully equipped gym and fitness centre with sauna and steam room and two tennis courts

By Adrian Bishop, Editor, OPP Connect
Twitter: @opp_connect

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Colleges prepare for Ideal Home Show garden design competition

The contest, organised by TV Gardener David Domoney in association with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, launched on 20 November.

The annual competition celebrates young green talent and sees six of the UK’s leading horticultural colleges go head-to-head to create a sustainable garden that will be visited by thousands at the Ideal Home Show.

The show, held on March 20-6 April, will return to its original home at Olympia London, after decades of being hosted at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Each college attended an introduction to the project at the Ideal Home Show at Christmas at the Earl’s Court in London last week.

Further Education lecturers in horticulture Ben Wincott and Simon Watkins are providing guidance to the Writtle team of students who are designing and building this year’s Writtle College entry.

Wincott said: “Our entry last year focused on the theme of reclaimed urban space and the team created a pub that had been taken over and adapted by nature. We were thrilled to win gold last year and hope to build on that success this year.”

Watkins added: “This competition is a wonderful way for our students to gain experience of constructing a show garden to a brief, developing creative ideas and working under the pressure of very tight deadlines.”

This year’s show gardens will be judged by an expert panel, which includes horticulture industry leaders, home and garden magazine editors and garden designers. 

Each college is given a 5.5m x 4m plot and the teams will need to both plan and design a garden that will demonstrate an understanding of harmony and sustainability. The garden should also incorporate a sense of proportion and clever use of the important vertical dimension in small, urban gardens and terraces.

Constantine Innemee, of The Prince’s Foundation, said: “With the help from an array of talented young gardeners we are once again highlighting the importance of green spaces in urban living, and the amazing things you can do with even the smallest amount of space. The variety of quality and creativity in the entries always amaze us, and we’re already looking forward to seeing what our competitors come up with this year.”

David Domoney, organiser of the competition, said: “Now in our fifth year, we will have given over 250 students the opportunity to create show gardens at a national show before they even leave the college gates. This is a great experience for them – many will be our garden designers and landscape stars of the future. This year sees a great line up of young hopefuls pitching their skills against rival colleges for the title of Young Gardeners of the Year.”

Along with Writtle College, the participating colleges are: Chichester College, Sussex; Capel Manor, Middlesex; Askham Bryan College, North Yorkshire; Pershore College, which is part of the Warwickshire College Group; and Shuttleworth College, Bedfordshire.

Neighborhood of the week: Goodwater Loop at The Landings

Value and design functionality.

That is what AXIOM Homes offers to families who are looking for a floor plan and home design with charm, quality and affordability. Located within The Landings, Goodwater Loop is a smaller “pocket neighborhood” within the larger community. AXIOM Homes will debut its first six home builds on this special street.

“Goodwater Loop is a little subdivision within a subdivision,” said John Claybaugh, Director of Sales for AXIOM Homes. “The pride of ownership is evident on this street. It has a totally different feel than the rest of The Landings, but still affordable.”

Jeremiah Steckman and his partner Jason Stirtz are co-owners of AXIOM Homes, a custom and semi-custom homebuilder in the greater Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area. The design/build team has purchased six lots on Goodwater Loop, which Joel Pearl Group is marketing for them.

“We want to keep the integrity of this street,” Steckman said. “We see this as an opportunity to continue and participate in that.”

AXIOM Homes is offering two plans in Goodwater Loop, three bedroom/two bath single-story homes from 1,300 to 1,540 square feet. Vinyl fencing with a gate, and front yard landscaping with a timed irrigation system are included. Upgrade packages are available, including a technology package. Homes feature an open great room concept with a split bedroom design. The master bedroom suite includes a walk-in closet and dual vanity sink.

Although AXIOM Homes is a new company (incorporated in June 2014), Steckman and Stirtz are not new to the industry, with thousands of homes under their belts. Steckman has a degree in

Design and Drafting, with over 18 years’ experience in construction, design, and project management. A background in construction gives him a practical understanding of building and project management. Stirtz has a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management Information Systems. He’s been working in the home building industry for the last 11 years. Positions as purchasing manager, director of purchasing, estimating manager and general manager have taught him the skills needed to succeed in their sector of the market.

Steckman and Stirtz were co-workers who became friends. They recognized that they had similar ambitions, and decided to combine their skill sets and form AXIOM Homes. “We realized we had the nucleus of a company,” Stirtz said.

“We have a real commitment to quality,” Steckman said. “We want to be proud of any project we’re involved with.” A major tenet of their building company is designing homes that fit a family’s needs and budget.

Oftentimes, clients have clear ideas of what they want, but it comes in over budget. That’s where Steckman and Stirtz come in. They collaborate on design and product knowledge to offer the client the best options within their budget. Steckman designs and Stirtz prices out as they go.

“The reality is, most people can’t have everything they want,” Steckman said. “We want to give them good alternatives and, in the end, help them achieve their goal.”

One way AXIOM helps homeowners reach their goals is evaluating how a family lives.

“We design homes around the way people live,” Steckman said. “The design makes a big difference.” They focus on using space well to obtain functionality. They currently have 8-10 projects in the works, and are always interested in talking to potential clients.

“We’re hitting the ground running.”

Joel Pearl Group is the exclusive listing brokerage for AXIOM Homes. “They’re coming along with us on our journey,” Steckman said. “They’ve been a driver to our business. We partner with people we trust.”

The existing homes on Goodwater Loop are primarily ranchers, although a few have a bonus room upstairs. The houses are architecturally similar in style, so there’s a consistency throughout the street: exteriors feature rustic rock accents, stained shakes in the gables, and HardiePlank siding. All of the homes are fenced. “They stand out from most homes in The Landings,” Claybaugh said. The current residents are mostly empty-nesters.

The Landings is conveniently located in the middle of Kootenai County. It’s easy to get to Post Falls and Spokane, but is still close to the services that Coeur d’Alene and Hayden offer. Perched at the edge of the prairie, the neighborhood offers stunning views, surrounded as it is by Canfield, Signal Point and Rathdrum Mountains. And the Prairie Trail is close by, so you can access the network of bike and walking trails that crisscrosses our area. You are truly in the midst of everything.

The crown jewel of The Landings is 11-acre Landings Park, featuring a playground and splash pad; basketball, volleyball and tennis courts; paved bike trails and walking paths; a disc golf course; covered gazebos and restrooms. In the spring and summer, the community sponsors special events in the park.

For more information about AXIOM Homes, visit their website at And if you’d like to be one of the lucky few to live in an AXIOM home on Goodwater Loop, contact John Claybaugh at (208) 916-8667 to find out more about this unique opportunity.

If you have a neighborhood that you’d like to feature in this series, contact Beth Hanggeli at

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Ask a Master Gardener: Not a good time for transplanting – Springfield News

Q: I will be moving soon but would like to take some of my favorite plants with me. Is this an OK time to transplant hosta, lavender and daylilies?

– O.P., Springfield

Answered by: Mark Bernskoetter, Master Gardener of Greene County

A: This is not a good time of year to transplant much of anything. Transplanting is stressful for plants to endure and to attempt it with winter coming on (or in the heat of summer) is not advised.

Roots could be easily damaged because they will not have a chance to develop before hard freezes occur. Some areas of ground may already be frozen and difficult to dig.

Transplanting could also stimulate some plants to send out new shoots, and freezing weather will quickly kill the tender growth.

There might also be considerations if you sold your home with the plants in place. The new owner may be expecting them to remain.

If you transplant anything now, it may not survive, and if it does, it will probably be stunted for a couple of years.

Spring is usually the best time of year to transplant, although many trees, shrubs and some perennials do well with fall planting.

Perhaps you could discuss with the new owner the possibility of dividing some specific plants some nice day next spring.

Q: I bought a home and will be moving in after the first of the year. There is almost no landscaping, so I am looking for ideas. What suggestions do you have?

– C.G, Nixa

Answered by: Mark Bernskoetter, Master Gardener of Greene County

A: This is a great time of year to begin landscape planning. This is true for someone who has a yard that is a clean slate or for a person that has several gardens — and everyone in between.

Start by considering if there are things you definitely do or don’t want in your landscape: colors, sizes, thorns, birds, butterflies, native plants, etc.

Find gardening magazines and catalogs with pictures and information about each plant to help you decide things you think you may want. Get books from the library, bookstore, or find information online about landscape design ideas. Don’t get too complicated and keep in mind some of the basic concepts they will explain.

Start with one or two areas of the yard for next year and plan out some ideas for them. Many people try to change over large areas of their yard or create several gardens in one year, and it becomes too overwhelming in time, effort and expense.

Some people have good luck ordering plants online or by mail. They can usually find some interesting and unusual varieties. However, those plants will often be smaller and slower growing than ones you may find at a local nursery.

Keep an eye out for classes that may be offered by gardening organizations about landscaping. In April and May, visit local nurseries to see what they have on hand — and ask the workers if they have any suggestions.

Readers can pose questions or get more information by calling 417-881-8909 and talking to one of the trained volunteers staffing the Master Gardener Hotline at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Greene County located inside the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807.

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Collier, Lee companies spend months making it look a lot like Christmas

NAPLES, Fla. – It’s not even Thanksgiving, but the Christmas lights began appearing on trees in early November — even August and September in some gated communities.

But in the competitive world of holiday decorating, preparations for the Christmas season begin long before that.

At one Naples company, two employees begin tying red Christmas bows in May, completing 350 a week. Most firms head to a national Christmas design expo in the spring, in search of new ideas, techniques and decorations.

There are only a handful of businesses in Collier and Lee counties that focus solely on Christmas — and they have their hands full.

“We don’t market, we don’t advertise and we have to turn people away,” said Sharon Brimmer of Brimmer’s Custom Décor in Naples. Anyone who calls now, she said, would have to wait until the week of Dec. 12.

“In August, September and October, we go out and install all the lights everywhere,” she said. “We put them up very early, but they don’t turn them on. Many people don’t even notice they’re there.”

Brimmers, along with its competitors — Fort Myers-based Whited Holiday Decorating, Trimmers Holiday Décor of Naples, Holiday Lights in Naples and others — decorate in phases, starting months early, with barely visible small lights snaking up tree trunks, branches, around palm bulbs and sometimes into fronds.

It’s a competitive world, with accusations of competitors spying to steal new techniques, being forced to one-up competitors or desirous residents and developments trying to “keep up with the Joneses” — from decorating an entire tree trunk, to making larger “necklaces” of lights on bulbs under palm fronds and using ladder trucks to decorate fronds.

There are even bragging rights: Kurt Brimmer says he was asked to decorate the White House during the Reagan administration. Trimmers’ owner, Bill Kilgus, brags that he was asked to decorate Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

This month, Kurt and Sharon Brimmer, whose employees increase from three year-round to 30, are working 16 hours daily, four to five days a week.

Sharon Brimmer, who runs an insurance agency, takes 30 days off to help her husband. Bud Brimmer, 78, who once operated Gene’s 5th Ave. Florist in Naples — where the local holiday decorating business started in the 1970s — arrives from North Carolina to help his son’s company.

Brimmers does most of the golf and country clubs in Collier and Lee counties and many clubhouse interiors.

“You name it, we do it,” Sharon Brimmer said, adding that costs range from $5,000 or $10,000 to $20,000-$30,000 — even higher.

Most communities prefer white lights, but Brimmers often matches a clubhouse’s interior décor.

“If it’s brown and aqua, we don’t use red and green,” she explained.

Kilgus, who also once worked at Bud Brimmer’s florist shop, turned his Trimmers landscaping business into a holiday decorating firm years ago.

“We start making bows May 1, 350 a week,” Kilgus said of two employees, adding that one woman does most of the work before others begin working in warehouses Aug. 1. “We buy thousands of rolls and get 160 bows out of a case. We do about 10,000 bows every holiday in about 480 communities from here to Tampa.”

He started his company 25 years ago, with Waterside Shops as his first commercial client, and it grew through word-of-mouth.

“We start decorating September 15, seven days a week, nonstop,” he said.

Now, he franchises to others, including Tom Bradley, a former painting contractor who heads the South Collier and Marco Island franchise, which decorates Naples Bay Resort, Fifth Avenue South, Third Street and others.

The work is lucrative, bringing in $2,000 to $50,000 for larger clients, Kilgus said. It allows him and his wife to do charity work, including installing pink lights on trees on Third Street for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and decorating at Liberty Youth Ranch, where they also teach the children how to decorate the tree.

“That’s the good part of the business,” Kilgus said. “We love the charity work. We try to pass that along to our franchisees.”

Chris Whited, whose decorating company has more than 100 clients in Collier and Lee counties, begins work at its 8,000-square-foot Fort Myers warehouse in March, with light testing and design work. Without naming clients, he said his smallest pays about $2,000 and his largest job is $60,000.

He doesn’t spend money on advertising or his website, adding, “What would I do with more business?”

The company began more than 40 years ago, with his father’s tree lot, which still supplies many Rotary and civic groups with trees for tree-lot sales and the city of Fort Myers with a 35-foot tree. It also hauls a 1,000-pound, 25-foot blue spruce tree from Michigan and installs and decorates it at The Mercato shopping center in North Naples, which is known for its distinctive entry, “snowfall” lights dripping from trees and its 90 lit palm trees.

“They’ll take your breath away,” Whited said. “It’s a high-end shopping center and they want to look like who they are — unique.”

Whited also decorates Tanger Outlets in Fort Myers, many developments within Pelican Bay and Pelican Marsh in North Naples and the Ritz-Carlton, decorating the hotel Thanksgiving Day, and at 11 p.m., working all night in the lobby, hanging garlands, bows, lights and decorating the Christmas tree.

“They wake up,” he said, “and the next day, it’s beautiful.”

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Great Bend Beautification Committee

In 1996 the Great Bend Beautification Committee started. Committee members are Chairman, Linda Dougherty; June Hillman; Violet Hiss; Mary Kummer; Deon Lupton; and Loretta Miller.
2014 projects included:
Great Bend Post Office painting and landscaping. Landscaping includes bricks from the curb to the sidewalk, two bronze whooping cranes, new paint by Stephenson Painting, and landscaping by Northview Nursery.
Christmas decorations of stainless steel 3D snowflakes and trees by BB Metal Arts of Hoisington for the 13 large pots on Main Street.
Past Projects include: the Broadway islands; library landscaping and four bronze statues; airport painting and landscaping; pots on Main Street; and maintaining the many gardens around town at the parks and public areas.
The committee also sponsors the Garden Tour at the June Jaunt “Kicks K96 Tour.”

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Commentary: 5 designs for park inside Presidio are all over map

Construction of the Presidio Parkway project continues behind Crissy Field and the Sports Basement in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. Green landscaping will cover the tunnels linking Crissy Field with the Main Post. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle / ONLINE_YES

If the competition to design a park for 13 uniquely visible acres within the Presidio has taught us one thing, it’s that oversize gimmicks are not what anyone wants between Crissy Field and the historic Main Post.

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Water features needn’t be shut off in winter

For many people with backyard ponds, fountains and other water-garden fixtures, the arrival of
cold weather means draining the pipes and pulling the plug.

But water gardens can be attractive in winter, too, with the right preparation and

Turning off a garden’s water fixtures might not be necessary, said Keith Folsom, president of
Springdale Water Gardens in Greenville, Va.

“We had an extremely cold winter here last year, but it wasn’t a problem,” he said. “Pay
attention and know how much water you’re using below the ice. You have to keep that flow topped

Ensure that waterlines and fixtures are drained if you do decide to turn them off so they won’t
expand with freezing and break, Folsom said.

“Running water, on the other hand, prevents icing. That’s one of the reasons I tell people to
keep them running.”

Landscaping around water fixtures can mean adding a few evergreens for contrast against snow, or
stringing some lights around the ice.

Here are tips for preparing a pond for winter.

• Remove debris before it can decompose. That prevents organic rot, loss of oxygen and an
accumulation of toxic gases that can affect fish.

• Use netting. Cover the water with a screen, sweep the surface with a long-handled net or
install skimmers like those used for swimming pools.

• Prune. Pinch off aquatic plants as they die back. Reposition your hardy potted waterlilies
into deeper water.

• Stop feeding the fish when the water drops below 50 degrees.

“They go into a deep slumber and do not digest the food they may eat,” said Tavia Tawney of

• Use a bubbler or tank heater if you have fish.

“We use an aerator bubbler to add oxygen to the pond if the falls are turned off,” Tawney said. “
Below 20 degrees, we use a supplemental heater to help the bubbler keep a dinner-plate-size hole
in the ice.”

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