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Archives for November 26, 2014

Wintry Gardens: Enjoy water fixtures all year by following winterizing tips

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

Turning off a garden’s water fixtures may not be necessary, depending on where you live, said Keith Folsom, president of Springdale Water Gardens in Greenville, Va. “Their wintertime effect is always different and attractive with the use of landscape lighting and the right plants.”

“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 off.”

Ensure that water lines 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 simply adding a few evergreens for contrast against snow, or stringing some lights around the ice.

“People who live in the South will most likely keep their ponds going and use cold and frost-tolerant landscaping for visual interest,” said Tavia Tawney, technical services manager for Aquascape Inc. in Chicago.

Tips for preparing your pond for the winter freeze-up:

• Remove debris before it can decompose. That prevents organic rot, loss of oxygen and an accumulation of toxic gases. “But the bigger problem comes if you stir it up,” Folsom said. “That can turn up bacteria that will be harmful to fish in winter.”

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

• Prune. Pinch off aquatic plants as they die back. Reposition your hardy potted water lilies into deeper water. “Tropical plants will die after a hard frost and should be removed then, or you can bring the tropicals inside the house for winter,” Tawney said.

• Stop feeding the fish. “It is very important to stop feeding the fish once water temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as they go into a deep slumber and do not digest the food they may eat,” Tawney said.

• 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. “Once we are continuously below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we use a supplemental heater to help the bubbler keep a dinner-plate-size hole in the ice.”

It’s best to maintain water gardens throughout the year rather than scramble to get things done before winter sets in, she said.

“It is not advisable to do any major cleaning once the fish are ‘hibernating’ because that is very stressful for them,” she said.

Aquascape Inc. tip sheet:

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London College Of Garden Design promotes stress free garden design projects


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LCGD - Stress Free Projects

The London College of Garden Design have announced a new series of courses for the New Year aimed at helping designers and landscapers achieve their new year business resolutions and achieve stress free projects.

Mark Gregory who is leading the new courses said “The easiest way to get stressed is when a project fails to live up to expectations so we have invited some of the leaders in the field of design and landscape to tell us how they do it and give us their top tips for running successful projects.” The courses run over three evenings in central London to ensure that busy professionals can come at the end of the day, relax and hear how others achieve effective costing and communication without compromising project quality.

Mark said “One of the hardest tasks for any designer is to get the costing of a project right. Whether it’s maximising their own fees and income or giving accurate guideline budgets when selling their services.” In the first of the evening courses on 13th January 2015 Jason Lock of Deakin Lock and Dan Riddlestone of Bowles Wyer join Mark to discuss how they consistently get their pricing right.

On 24th February leading designers Anne-Marie Powell and Olivia Kirk will discuss and share their top communication tips and on 17th March designer Patricia Fox and John Wyer of Bowles Wyer join Mark to discuss what they do to go onto win awards, successful portfolio projects and guarantee referrals.

The evenings are all held at Regent’s University in Regent’s Park from 6pm to 8pm and cost just GBP39 for all three if booked before 12th January.


About the London College of Garden Design

The London College of Garden Design aims to offer the best professional garden design courses available in the UK. The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one year Garden Design Diploma which is taught from the Orangery Conference facilities at the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and Regents College in central London.

Short courses are offered at Kew, Regent’s University in central London and our new satellite hub in Crewe. The college also has a partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society offering short courses at RHS Garden Wisley.

To find out more visit
For more information you can also contact Andrew Fisher Tomlin on 01276 855977 or 07957 855457 or email:

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Luxury Property in Ibiza

Summer’s over, is it time to bag a second, third or fourth home in Ibiza? José  Pemàn, the charismatic Spanish entrepreneur introduces Calaconta, Ibiza’s first luxury gated property development.

Calaconta is named after its location on Cala Conta. What made you choose to develop in this area?
It is the cala in Ibiza, It’s north of San Jose which is considered remote but only twenty minutes from the airport. Also, it’s an incredible place to watch the sunset – it has the same perspective as Café Del Mar but with fewer people.

Is this your first property development project?
No, I’ve done several around Spain. I was involved in La Finca de Somosaguas the luxury development in Madrid.

You lived in Ibiza back in the day – what attracted you to the island as a young man?
Freedom was a scarce commodity in Spain at the time and to find people there who were creative and forward-thinking was fantastic. I still like it for its sense of freedom. Ibiza is so relaxed.

How easy is it for foreigners to buy property in Ibiza?
Any foreigner can purchase property in Spain. Moreover, the Golden Visa Program further facilitates acquiring a residential permit to qualified foreigners.

How would you describe the design of the villas in Calaconta?
My villas are very modern. I play with very Ibizan elements – the thickness of the walls, the colour of the floors, the lighting. Through the use of light and by blending indoor and outdoor living, we have created a very modern house that takes advantage of all the best aspects of island living – west-facing for the best sunset views, natural and indigenous landscaping, cool interiors and importantly, very strong eco-credentials at its core.

How did you make the jump from banker and teacher to property developer? 
From teacher to banker to developer? Why not?! I am curious, love to explore, and the sequence was very natural for me. I simply love to design and to see my ideas developed and brought to reality.

What kind of people do you hope the villas will attract?
Our buyer profile is in keeping with the international appeal of the island as a whole. So they are British, Italian, Swedish, German, American, Spanish, Russian and Saudi, many of whom are London based. And mostly, these are buyers who have visited and loved Ibiza for years and are now looking for a safe and secure second, third or fourth holiday home for their families.

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Community rallies around injured Mascoutah student

Metro-east news

Community rallies around injured Mascoutah student

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Plans for 186 homes and retail space at State and Textile roads delayed

The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission tabled preliminary site plans for a 186-unit residential and commercial development proposed for the northwest corner of State and Textile roads.

The mixed-use project, called Blue Heron Hills, would include 114 detached single-family houses, 72 duplex-style residential units and 28,900 square feet of commercial space fronting State.

Farmington Hills-based Schafer Development is proposing the project for 127 acres of what is known as the “Cody Farm.”

The company’s owner Steve Schafer said the commission is requesting additional landscape screening along Textile, changes to a park proposed in the development, additional offsite pathways and a larger buffer between residential units and a “feeder” railroad line that bisects the property.

The last request would probably require a reduction in density, Schafer said, though the township wants as dense of a development as possible.

The company is proposing lots ranging from 6,050 to 8,250 square feet, with the smaller lots in the development’s interior and larger lots, which are more consistent with a neighboring development, located on the exterior adjacent to Textile. The 72 attached units would be built in 36 duplex buildings, which would abut the development’s commercial usage.

Schafer said the units would start at 1,500 square feet and feature open floor plans that would cater to empty nesters and young professionals.

“This is a great alternative for people in larger houses where kids have moved on and they want to put those houses on the market. It creates a place in community where they can still live,” Schafer said. “A lot of people commented they would potentially move to a development like this.

“Most lots in the township have been fairly suburban, and we think this offers a new type of housing that’s in need within the community.”

He highlighted the development’s location and proximity to amenities. Neighborhood retail is included in the plans, there are major employment centers just to the north and east, Bicentennial Park and Avis Farms are connected via non-motorized pathways and stores like Walmart and Costco are a very short drive from the site.

“We think this is good, smart growth where people can live near work, live near stores, live near parks … and we’re excited about it,” Schafer said, adding that the company is discussing ideas to commemorate the historic Cody Farm.

In a memo to the Commission, Township Planning Consultant Ben Carlisle highlighted the on-street parking, internal and external sidewalks; a park; commercial space built to the street and connected pathways.

But he recommended several additions to the commercial area, including a streetscape, public seating, landscaping, pedestrian scale lighting and public art that would help create a “pedestrian zone.”

Wetland mitigation of the sites approximately 7 acres of wetlands is also a concern.

The Blue Heron Hills project is one of several in discussion or underway at the State and Textile intersection, which is within in one of the “nodes” marked for development per the township’s master plan.

Construction started in August on the first phase of a mixed-use senior village on the intersection’s southwest corner, and there is preliminary discussion of Thomson Reuters moving part of its company to the intersection’s northeast corner.

As part of the State Road Corridor improvement district intended to spur development by improving infrastructure around State, the township and Washtenaw County Road Commission are planning a roundabout at the intersection with Textile. The Road Commission is also seeking funding to pave a gravel stretch of Textile east of State.

No date is set for the planning commission to review revised plans.

“We plan on turning it around and getting it back to the Planning Commission quickly,” Schafer said.

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The Story Behind The Plan For Kiener Plaza’s Facelift

If there’s a sports-related rally, a festival, even a gathering of protesters or an outdoor civic event in the city, chances are that it will happen in downtown’s Kiener Plaza. In the view of some, Kiener works just fine as it is.

But what if:

  • Kiener got bigger, by more than half an acre.
  • A larger street-level gathering area with a sweeping lawn and adjoining paving replaced existing areas used for events, including the sunken Morton D. May Amphitheater.
  • Kiener had more than twice as many trees, more landscaping and gardens, including a shade garden with moveable tables and chairs for lunchtime visitors.
  • A new interactive fountain with colored lights at the bottom replaced the existing fountain and water cascade. Think red lights, for example, for Cardinals game rallies.
  • You’d find a visitors center, children’s playground and bicycle parking area.

Those are the major elements in a new plan for Kiener Plaza made public earlier this month by the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, the Great Rivers Greenway District and St. Louis, which owns the two-block-long Kiener. It’s also part of a much bigger $380 million plan underway by CityArchRiver to revive the Gateway Arch grounds and its surroundings.

So far, the new plan, estimated to cost $18 million to $22 million, has generated mixed reviews. Some applaud the envisioned changes, saying what’s there now is “tired” and needs to be refreshed. Others like things as they are and say don’t “mess with” and spend money to fix something that’s not broke.

Why was the plan changed?

To help sort it out, we talked with landscape architect Nate Trevethan at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Brooklyn, the firm selected to design the overall Arch grounds project. We discussed what’s on the drawing boards for Kiener and why MVVA decided to remove a beer garden and carousel, which had been part of a previous plan.

“The change in direction is based on new momentum and other development downtown that has come along since other plans were put forth,” Trevethan said. “Ballpark Village has a very large beer garden,” and the idea is not to compete but to have “complementary” attractions, he said.

“The carousel just didn’t seem to make sense anymore, considering we were wanting to build this really big green space with flexibility in Kiener. That made more sense than trying to overprogram the space,” he said.

That big new space – a lawn and adjoining central paved area – would cover 1.38 acres of the 3.05 acres in Kiener now. The lawn would be on the eastern half of Kiener across North Broadway from the Old Courthouse.  It’s where “The Runner” sculpture stands in its pool and fountain. The paved area would extend westward onto the block with the amphitheater.

It sounds like a more flexible and usable design.

The new design, Trevethan said, would bring “approximately 20,000 additional square feet of flexible and completely accessible public gathering spaces” to Kiener.

After the march, many gathered in small groups and talked.

By way of comparison, the amphitheater has about 22,500 square feet. But because of its sunken design and steep slopes, he said, “it is not all useable” and “is difficult for some people to use.”

By putting the new gathering area at street level, he said, it’s all useable “and we like the notion of seeing into and through it … and having a place that’s easy to get to for everybody.”

The western edge of the lawn would rise about three feet and slope gently toward the Old Courthouse, a focal point for the new design.

CityArchRiver spokesman Ryan McClure said the lawn would have seating around it but no permanent stage.

“The paved area around the lawn could be used to set up a temporary stage,” McClure said. “We like the idea of it being temporary so when there is not an event there, the space would be useable and accessible.“

What about “The Runner,” William Zorach’s popular sculpture? And is the fountain being replaced? Will there be new fountains?

The 2011 World Series followed the tradition of turning the water red at The Runner's fountain.

McClure said the sculpture will stay somewhere in Kiener. “We are getting public feedback now” on where, he said. “We want ‘The Runner’ to be part of Kiener, as it has been since the 1960s.”

“It’s not out of the question that ‘The Runner’ could stay in a fountain setting,” said McClure. “That’s why we’re getting public input.”

Another element in the new plan is an interactive fountain in the center of Kiener with seating around it. It would be different but playful like the one at Citygarden, west of Kiener.

Trevethan said it would be 32- by 32-foot square, subdivided into four 16- by 16-foot square “rooms.” Each room would have moving, changing lines of water.

“You could walk into this space and have water come up around you and stay dry, and as the water lowered, you could walk out,” he said.

Colored lights – rather than dyes and harsh chemicals — would change water color for events like Cardinals rallies and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

What other changes are being planned?

North of the fountain, you’d find a bicycle parking area alongside Chestnut Street where a bike lane is coming as part of planned street improvements. Trevethan said there’s also talk at Great Rivers Greenway about doing bike sharing, “so that could happen there.”

Artist renderings show specific accommodations for bicycle riders. Kiener

At least some of the bike parking area would be used for a new visitors center to come later. McClure said the center is included in the estimated $18 million to $22 million price tag for Kiener.

The center is being delayed, McClure said, because “before designing it, we want to explore and get public comments on the sorts of things that should be in the visitors center, what amenities there should be, and what kind of programs everyone wants to see.”

Market, itself, would be different – narrowed, with no planted median and less traffic because of traffic changes in the works.

The median, Trevethan said, “is pretty, but it can be dangerous because of the plantings. And so many parades use Market. This will better accommodate parades.”

Beyond that, narrowing Market and moving the curbline south means Kiener would get bigger – 3.6 acres, versus 3.05 acres there now. But the more important result of the narrowing, Trevethan said, is that “it will make it easier for people to cross Market” to get to Kiener from the south end of downtown.

A children’s playground area would be on the south side of Kiener along Market Street, enclosed with landscaping and possibly a fence.  Also separating a new children’s playground from Market would be a “hallway,” a widened sidewalk with landscaping that would be an extension of the existing hallway between Market and Citygarden.

Why put a children’s playground in Kiener?

Trevethan said the designers still are exploring what would go into the playground. But they know why they want one.

When the Arch garage at the north end of the Arch grounds is removed as part of the overall Arch grounds plan, more people will be parking in downtown, he said. And some will be driving for hours to get there with children in their cars.

“Kiener will become the first place to touch down, and children will have a chance to get out of the car and run around and run off steam,” he said.

“We wanted to do a children’s play area on the Arch grounds, but that was not allowed. By putting it in Kiener Plaza, it complements what’s on the Arch grounds and becomes a more complete park if you see the Arch grounds and Kiener as a park.”

Trevethan said another element of the new plan are five new green areas with trees and shade, angled to focus views on “three really amazing pieces of architecture around Kiener – the Old Courthouse, the Wainwright Building and 700 Market,” designed by Philip Johnson in the 1970s as headquarters for General American Life Insurance Co.

So, again, why redo Kiener?

“It’s basically making improvements to accommodate events,” Trevethan said. “It needs some sprucing up and we have an opportunity now to bring it up to grade and build something that will be timeless, respectful of the Old Courthouse, take advantage of the excitement of what is happening downtown, be a catalyst for future development and celebrate what’s happening downtown.”

As for a possible name change for Kiener, McClure said that “remains to be seen” and that “any name change would be a public process.” Its namesake is Harry J. Kiener, a civic leader and athlete who died in 1960.

Construction should begin next year and take 14 months. It’s to be paid for with private money and proceeds from a 3/16ths of a one-cent sales tax passed in 2013.

McClure said that CityArchRiver continues to seek public imput before the new plan becomes final. You can make comments here.

The architects see the Kiener facelift as a complement to the Arch.

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Green is the word at Judith A. Resnik Elementary in Gaithersburg

Students at Judith A. Resnik Elementary School are hard at work inside their classrooms absorbing the usual reading, writing, math and science lessons, but they’re also learning how to be environmental stewards in the community.

The Gaithersburg school was named a Maryland Green School by the Maryland Association for Environmental Outdoor Education for the first time last spring, but Resnik’s dedication to teaching and engaging in environmentally friendly practices began long before the certification.

“It’s a commitment to stay green and keep that part of our school culture,” said first-grade teacher Marti Wade, who also serves as the head of the school’s Green Team.

At the heart of the school’s green focus is its award-winning courtyard, named Felley Courtyard, which was built 20 years ago with the idea that it would provide students with more than just picturesque scenery.

“It was intended to be an outdoor classroom, not just a patch of grass in the middle of the school,” Wade said.

Two decades later, the courtyard features two ponds that are home to fish, water turtles, frogs, newts, salamanders and other aquatic life and plants, as well a pollinator garden and a myriad of edible landscaping. From the many gardens, trees and plants in the courtyard, students have harvested grapes, kiwis, blueberries, persimmons, paw paws, pumpkins, herbs and many other goods.

A pizza garden, which was planted by students and teachers using an Urban Youth Garden Grant, is home to tomatoes, peppers and basil. Some students have had the opportunity to make and eat their own personal-size pizzas from the fresh garden ingredients.

“Things are here purposefully,” Wade said. “There are lots of things here for whatever grade you happen to be working with.”

To help bring even more eco-friendly lessons and practices into the classroom, the school partnered several years ago with the Audubon Naturalist Society to participate in the organization’s GreenKids program.

One of the lessons, salad science, allows students to grow their own salad greens from seeds, learn about the parts of a plant and their nutritional value, and collect data on plant growth and development.

Fifth-grader Jose Escobar said he enjoyed planting lettuce, tomatoes and other salad ingredients, and caring for them to ensure they grew properly. At the end of the lesson, Escobar said he and his classmates were able to eat their finished product.

Last year, Escobar was a member of Resnik’s school energy and recycling team (SERT), which promotes recycling and implements energy saving strategies. For his role, Escobar traveled regularly to each classroom to empty its recycle bin so that all of the materials could be compiled and readied for recycling.

The team as a whole also works to save the school energy by making sure lights are turned off in empty rooms, computers and Promethean boards that are not in use are turned off, and the blinds are open on sunny days.

“We don’t want to waste energy because if we do that we might run out of fossil fuels,” Escobar said.

As part of an ongoing composting project, Resnik’s students participate in “Worm Wednesdays” each week by collecting uneaten or half-eaten fruits and vegetables in the lunchroom, and burying them in composting bins that contain red wiggler worms in the courtyard. The worms, in turn, eat the food and produce compost that can be used for soil.

Damian Miranda Martinez, a first-grader, said worms can eat items like fresh apples, carrots and pears, but they stay away from tangy foods, like oranges. Miranda Martinez said he has been in charge of the collection bin several times, and his role is to either accept or reject food that is offered for the worms based on what he knows they will and won’t eat.

Second-grader Davette Driscol said she and fellow classmates learned how to make new paper by recycling old newsprint.

“I don’t want to throw things out that can be recycled,” Driscol said.

School staff and students also collect used markers and broken crayons to send to Crayola so that they can be recycled.

One of the school’s newest green initiatives is the “Three Green Things” project, which hails from Audubon. Each classroom will pledge to engage in three environmentally friendly actions, like turning off the lights when possible, and will post their commitment on the wall for all in the school to see, Wade said.

Next year, the plan is to work with the county’s Department of Environmental Protection in the spring to install a wet meadow with native plants at the drainage near in between the school’s parking lot and Md. 124.

“There’s no one thing to do,” Wade said of being environmentally friendly. “You can do all kinds of things.”

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City Breaks Ground on Drought-Tolerant Garden in Reseda – Post

Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield joins other city officials in breaking ground on a water-wise demonstration garden at the West Valley Municipal Center on Monday.Matt Thacker | Post-Periodical
Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield joins other city officials in breaking ground on a water-wise demonstration garden at the West Valley Municipal Center on Monday.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield and other city officials broke ground Monday on the Blumenfield Water-Wise Demonstration Garden at the West Valley Municipal Center in Reseda.

“By replacing our thirsty lawns with California friendly landscaping, the city of Los Angeles is leading the way and educating Valley residents on the range of options for turf replacement, while saving the city water,” Blumenfield said.

The city will replace 20,000 square feet of “thirsty lawn” at the municipal center and neighboring West Valley Library with California-friendly landscaping options.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Los Angeles Public Library and the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of General Services are working with Blumenfield’s office on the project.

City officials hope the garden, which will feature different styles and plant alternatives, will encourage local residents to remove their grass laws in an effort to save water. The garden should be ready within a couple of months.

Marty Adams, deputy senior assistant general manager for the LADWP Water System, said the project will save about 890,000 gallons of water each year.

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced a goal to reduce water use citywide by 20 percent by 2017. As part of the plan, Garcetti said the city will expand its use of drought-tolerant landscaping at city facilities.

The incentive for removing grass lawns was also raised from $3 to $3.75 per square foot.

The western San Fernando Valley has relatively low participation in the rebate program despite having above-average water use on single family residential lots.

“As the city works to reduce its usage, there is no better place to start than here at the West Valley Municipal Center,” Board of Water and Power Commissioner Jill Banks Barad said. “I’m excited for Valley residents to be able to see the variety of options available to change their landscaping and save water.”

The Los Angeles Public Library West Valley Regional branch will incorporate educational exhibits and programming to expand the outreach for the project.

“This is not only about water conservation here at the Municipal Center and Library,” Chief Librarian John Szabo said. “It’s about the decisions we hope people in the Valley and across Los Angeles will make about water conservation and habits that adults and children develop as the result of educational programs the West Valley Branch Library and at libraries throughout the city.”

Michael A. Shull, general manager of the city’s Recreation and Parks, said water resources will become more precious as the local population grows.

“Using smart irrigation techniques and materials as an alternative for gardens and lawns will result in a substantial decrease in water consumption,” he said.

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