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Archives for November 27, 2014

Expert tips on choosing the best plants for your garden

Researching plants before buying them for your garden can help produce stunning results.

Researching plants before buying them for your garden can help produce stunning results.
Source: ThinkStock

BUYING plants for your garden will make it a much nicer place to enjoy.

Plants are worth the initial cost as well as the investment of time it takes to nurture and care for them.

Regardless of whether you are buying many plants or only one, you want to make sure they are right for you and that you buy healthy specimens.

To understand the way a plant has evolved is to understand how to care for it in your garden.

A plant’s leaves are a great indicator of the conditions they like.

Leathery, tough leaves can take harsher environments better than soft and tender ones.

If you’re in a salt-air area, choose plants such as rhaphiolepis, coprosma and escallonia.

As a rule of thumb, plants with large, tender leaves like more water and shadier positions.

By contrast, smaller leaves naturally lose less water so are better suited to sunny, dry locations.

Rainforests are a great example of how the large-leaf plants like lots of water and shade whereas a walk through the bush will be filled with drought-tolerant, small-leaf plants.

Selecting the correct plants suited to their conditions will ensure a healthy and successful garden, so do some research about the environment your plants need and replicate those conditions.

There’s more to it than getting the right plant in the right spot because many plants can be doomed from the day they are planted and you need to check them in the following ways to bring the best specimens into the garden.

Appearance is everything, so check that the foliage looks healthy and is free from blemishes. The colour of the foliage should be true to form and lush, showing the plant has sufficient nutrients for healthy growth.

A good shape is also important. The branches and stems should have good form that doesn’t crisscross in a mess.

A few pests living in the foliage is acceptable but an infestation is not, so pass on plants with lots of aphids or scale. If you bring a plant with a pest problem into the garden it will be struggling from the start and could also affect all your other plants.

Check the roots are not bound in the pot. Remove the plant and the soil should not fall away like it has just been potted, nor should it be a mass of roots.

Try not to touch the soil as the nursery won’t appreciate its stock being handled, but it is important to have a good root structure for healthy growth.

— Charlie Albone is co-host of Selling Houses Australia on

the Lifestyle channel and runs his own business,

Inspired Exteriors

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Tips: How to Make the Holiday Season Easy on the Environment

As fall turns into winter, turns its thoughts to hearth, home and how to make the approaching holiday season easy on the environment.

Here are some helpful reminders to sustain you from Thanksgiving through the New Year and beyond.

Make a good first impression. With company coming, you’ll want to have a tidy yard so be sure to collect your leaves and deposit them at the curb for municipal pick up. Leaves should never be raked or blown into the storm drain, which can cause street flooding. Once the leaves enter the storm drain and begin to decay, they also release nutrients that contribute to excess algae growth in waterways.

Keep a fat-free drain. All that turkey—all those trimmings! Holiday cooking can leave behind a big fat mess. Make sure to keep leftover foods out of the kitchen drain and garbage disposal to avoid a back-up in your sink. For proper disposal, throw food scraps in the trash or compost them, and use a paper towel to wipe your dirty dishes before washing. As for standing grease or cooking oil, pour it in a heat-safe can, pop it in the freezer to harden and toss the can out with the trash.

Recycle more, trash less. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of household garbage in the United States can increase by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. We’re not just talking trash here. A lot of what ends up in the garbage may be recyclable. Check your city/county website to find out what’s recyclable in your community. Then fill your recycling container to the brim or set aside a box to take accepted items to a drop-off recycling center near you.

Be a good guest. People so enjoy visiting friends and family over the holidays, which can put your host’s lavatory into overdrive. Our apologies if this question seems impolite, but do you know what not to flush? The list includes: facial tissues, paper towels, baby/personal hygiene/all-purpose cleaning wipes (even if they are labeled “flushable”), cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, cat litter, fats/oils/grease and table scraps from the kitchen. Don’t be the guest that causes a backed up commode or sewage overflow.

Deice Right. You know it’s coming at least once this winter—snow. When it does, remember that you should never use fertilizer as a deicer. When the snow or ice melts, the fertilizer runs off into the storm drains and continues its journey to our local waterways. Try a no-chemical approach by pouring a solution of warm water and table salt on small areas of thin ice, or use sand to improve traction on slippery surfaces. The chemical deicer that is the least harmful to the environment is magnesium chloride. Apply it before snow falls to prevent ice from forming and only use the recommended amount.

Resolve to Live Greener. While many will resolve to shed a few pounds, find a new job or get organized in the year ahead, there is one resolution that is easy to achieve—to live greener in 2015. For inspiration, visit for ideas on how to be a conscientious environmental steward throughout the year, every year. is a resource for all things green in Hampton Roads— from recycling tips and pointers for keeping local waterways clean to water-saving ideas and simple steps to make local living easy on the environment.

Copyright © 2014, Daily Press

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Tips to avoid traffic snarls at the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Galaxy of Lights

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Thanksgiving night is the start of the 19th year of the Galaxy of Lights Driving Nights. The attraction is projected to draw more than 200,000 people this year — great news for the Garden, but a bit of frustration when it comes to traffic.

Carol Casey, Director of Marketing with the Huntsville Botanical Garden says the sooner you go, the better chance you’ll have at avoiding lines.

“Thanksgiving night we’re pretty busy but nothing like Christmas week,”said Casey.

Traffic from the Galaxy of Lights often surpasses the Botanical Garden which means you can run into gridlock even if you’re not attending the display.

“It can back up all the way on 565, so if you see it, know that’s what it is, take the next exit off,” said Casey.

Police officers will also be out directing traffic.

If you’re worried about inclement weather, organizers say there’s not much that rains on this parade of lights.

“The rain enhances the experience if you think about it, because the water on the windshield just magnifies the lights and makes them sparkle even more,” said Casey.

Casey says the only kind of weather that would close the light display is severe ice.

She suggests you allow yourself between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on traffic to see the lights.

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Home and garden briefs for Nov. 27: Williamsburg designer claims a top spot in …

Kathryn Salyer, of Kathryn Salyer Design Inc. in Williamsburg, has won the Thermador Kitchen Design Challenge for a luxury kitchen she created for a local couple.

“The award was given on Sept. 29 at a gala event at the BSH Experience Design Center in Southern California that celebrated the competition’s distinguished entrants,” said Laura Coletrane, a spokeswoman for the event.

lRelated kitchen design
Homekitchen designSee all related

Salyer’s entry was initially named the Mid-Atlantic Regional Winner, and then was one of five national winners and was first runner-up in the Traditional/Transitional category, Coletrane said in a news release.

Salyer’s entry, called “21st Century Traditional,” was built to be the “forever home” for a young professional couple with two small children. The Williamsburg couple juggles children, work and crazy international travel schedules, she said.

“They wanted their home to be a haven, a place to welcome, enjoy and reconnect,” Salyer said in a statement. “The entire home was thoughtfully designed to completely eliminate the typically unused formal areas. Establishing a fresh approach to our traditional architectural heritage was essential for this young family. The foundational design direction was to create an all-inclusive cooking, eating and living space to maximize their coveted family time.”

“In a completely open floor plan like this home, the kitchen is the focal point from the minute you enter the front door, which makes smart function and ease of use mandatory,” Salyer said.

Professional kitchen designers, builders and architects were challenged to enter their most impressive kitchens using Thermador brand appliances.

For more information about the contest and to see other entries, go to For more information about Salyer and her winning kitchen design, go to her website at, call 757-254-4413 or email

Upcoming home, garden events

Mantel Decorating Demonstration. Sunday, Nov. 30. 2 p.m. Courtyard Marriott (Yorktown), 105 Cybernetics Way, Yorktown. Information:

A Village Christmas House Tour. Saturday, Dec. 6. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The Coalition of Powhatan Churches is sponsoring a holiday house tour in Powhatan. The welcome center for the tour is at Village Concepts Realty Group, 3835 Old Buckingham Road, Powhatan. Tickets: $30. No strollers, high-heels or animals. The tour is not handicapped accessible and tickets are non-refundable. Information:

Live Wreath Decorating Workshop. Saturday, Dec. 6. 10 a.m. Courtyard Marriott (Yorktown), 105 Cybernetics Way, Yorktown. Call 757-898-7799 for details, costs and materials. information:

Williamsburg-Style Wreath Class. Sunday, Dec. 7. 1-3 p.m. The wreath is handmade using various cedars and evergreens and is very aromatic. Bright clusters of fresh fruit and bright red ribbon add a classical and elegant decorative addition to your holiday doorway. Participants should bring garden gloves, cutting shears, and a heavy duty staple gun if they have them. Class fee: free for Friends of Fred Heutte Foundation members; $5 for non-members. Materials fee: $40. Pre-registration and pre-payment of all fees are required. 1000 Botetourt Gardens, Norfolk. Information/registration: 757-441-2513 or

Coming Sunday in Good Life

Garden writer Kathy Van Mullekom showcases local holiday home tours in Williamsburg, Gloucester and Yorktown.

Compiled by Felicia L. Mason

Copyright © 2014, Daily Press

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Putting on a show with the first Emirati garden designer at Chelsea

It may be a very British institution, as much a part of the social season as Royal Ascot and the Henley Regatta, but to its many devotees, the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, or “Chelsea” as it’s more popularly known, is the highlight of the horticultural year.

For five days each May, the British passion for gardening and the show’s prestigious, central London location draws an eclectic, 160,000-strong crowd. The public, royalty, celebrities, the media and big beasts from the worlds of politics and business rub shoulders in the normally sedate grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital to watch an international cast of designers, nurserymen, landscapers and florists battle it out for that most coveted of horticultural awards, a Chelsea gold medal.

The show may be more than a century old, but next year’s event will include an important debut: it will be the first to feature a show garden designed by an ­Emirati. “I had goose bumps when I opened the [acceptance] letter,” says the Dubai-based garden designer Kamelia Bin Zaal. “It’s difficult to explain to people who don’t know, but Chelsea is like the Oscars for landscape ­design.

“It’s exciting, but it’s also quite intimidating because it’s so well established. This is Chelsea. It’s the Royal Horticultural Society and the people involved are my mentors. There’s a lot that goes with that.”

Called The Beauty of Islam, Bin Zaal’s design is a contemporary reinterpretation of an Islamic garden and has been accepted as one of the 15 main show gardens that will compete for Chelsea’s ultimate prize, the Best Show Garden award.

Featuring stainless-steel arches, silver walls and a hard landscape of white marble and mother of pearl, The Beauty of Islam will also include Arabic calligraphy and extracts from Flock of Meanings, a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in honour of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE. If Bin Zaal’s decision to include poetry in her garden was partly inspired by a book, The Calligrapher’s Garden by the Iraqi calligrapher Hassan Massoudy, her choice of plants reflects the spread of Islam and Arab culture and the growth of the early Arab empire through trade and along the Spice Route. The Beauty of Islam will be planted with species that reflect that broad heritage, including jasmine, rosemary, orange, pomegranate, olive and papyrus.

“The inspiration for this garden was simply to share true Islamic and Arab culture with the world,” Bin Zaal explains. “With so much negativity in the media and the world today, this was an opportunity to try to break all the misconceptions about Islam and to show people what it’s really about, through the beauty of garden ­design.”

Bin Zaal may be new to designing Chelsea show gardens, but she’s no stranger to their scale or the required quality of their materials and finishes. As the creative landscape director of Al Barari Firm Management, The Beauty of Islam’s sponsor, Bin Zaal has been designing private gardens and landscapes in the UAE for more than eight years – in many ways, the Chelsea design resembles her commercial work.

“The concept behind The Beauty of Islam is that it’s a garden for a couple without children who live in a private villa in Dubai,” says Bin Zaal. “It’s a garden that’s designed to provide them with a place to relax, a sanctuary, that will really tickle the senses.”

Al Barari’s involvement will make Bin Zaal’s appearance at Chelsea a family affair. She’s the eldest daughter of the company’s founder, the plant-loving entrepreneur Zaal Mohammed Zaal; alongside her siblings, most of whom work for Al Barari, she is responsible for the landscapes associated with two of the UAE’s most elaborate residential schemes: the Dh15 billion Al Barari development in Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba and Abu Dhabi’s exclusive Nurai Island, 10 minutes off the cost of Saadiyat.

In May, Bin Zaal was one of the judges for the inaugural Dubai International Garden Competition (DIGC), and it was while she was showing her fellow judges around the gardens and private villas at Al Barari that she first considered entering a design for the 2015 Chelsea show. David Dodd, a member of the RHS Chelsea show garden-selection panel, and Jo Thompson, a Chelsea gold-medal-winning garden designer, were also on the DIGC judging panel, and it was they who suggested that Bin Zaal should compete for the garden designer’s ultimate prize.

“Jo suggested that I help her with her garden at Chelsea this year, so that I could understand what it was all about, and then about an hour later they both said: ‘Why don’t you just put in a design?’

“I found the idea quite intimidating,” Bin Zaal recalls, “but it did give my self-confidence a boost and eventually I thought: ‘Why not?’

A master landscaper, Dodd has constructed 15 medal-winning gardens at the show, and it’s his company, The Outdoor Room, that will be the main contractor for The Beauty of Islam. Bin Zaal also took Thompson up on her offer and worked at the flower show this year as a volunteer.

“I got my hands dirty,” Bin Zaal explains. “Jo had two gardens this year, and I was shifting plants, planting, snipping off dead leaves, everything that was needed. It was great, because it also allowed me to look behind the scenes to see how the gardens are built. I thought: ‘Well, I do this all the time, so there’s no reason why I can’t do this.’”

However, while Bin Zaal may be the first Emirati designer to take part in Chelsea, The Beauty of Islam will not be the first UAE garden to feature at the show. Sheikh Zayed sponsored several Chelsea show gardens throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, winning five gold medals and one of the coveted Best in Show awards in 2004 with Hortus Conclusus, a contemporary garden designed by the British landscape designer Christopher Bradley-Hole. Bradley-Hole designed Sheikh Zayed’s last three Chelsea gardens, all of which won gold medals, including 2003’s Garden from the Desert and 2005’s In the Grove, which was commissioned by Sheikh Zayed, but was only exhibited after his death.

Bradley-Hole, a five-time Chelsea gold medallist, fondly remembers the gardens he designed for Sheikh Zayed. “When you’re designing a Chelsea garden in particular, I think you need to feel inspired by your client or by the sponsor,” the Englishman explains. “And the overriding thing for me was Sheikh Zayed. In terms of planting, I can’t think of anybody who has done more, really. In the most difficult conditions; he regarded planting trees as the epitome of what he should be doing, and to have been able to focus on that while he was running a country was a huge inspiration.”

Although he only met Sheikh Zayed briefly, Bradley-Hole says that his many visits to Abu Dhabi convinced him of the need to use the Chelsea gardens as a tool for educating the British public about Abu Dhabi and of doing this in a way that the show’s audience would understand. “The previous gardens, I felt, had made it look as if there was this very rich man in the Gulf who wanted to show that he had lots of money and to do a garden at Chelsea,” the designer explains. “There seemed to be no connection between what Sheikh Zayed had done and the British public, and I thought that it was very important, at the same time as designing the garden, to communicate what he had done.

“The very nice thing was that they then left me to it, to do something that was really quite abstract. There was never any feeling of having to get across a message or of preaching; it was just a feeling of joy in the gardens, and I think that came across.”

In 2003, Bradley-Hole did this with Garden from the Desert, which featured a three-metre-by-three-metre cube-shaped glass pavilion and glass water channels that were inspired by the UAE’s ancient falaj systems. “The whole theme of the first garden was about irrigation and planting in the desert,” remembers Bradley-Hole. “It was inspired by the oasis and date plantations I’d seen in Al Ain and the use of plants to combat desertification.”

The designer’s desire to showcase Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Zayed’s achievements extended beyond the garden’s design. “We had a man who came across from Abu Dhabi who served coffee to people at the show and we also handed out boxes of dates.

“You get quite exhausted walking around the show and so we handed out bottles of water with specially printed labels saying: ‘The importance of water.’ We did it for each of the gardens and we also produced a slightly different brochure about Abu Dhabi for each show.”

By the time Bradley-Hole was announced as Sheikh Zayed’s designer for a second year, the public had become curious about the designer’s relationship with what was then perceived as a little-known desert country. “The BBC approached me to find out what was going on, so I approached Sheikh Zayed’s department and they said: ‘Why don’t you bring the BBC out to Abu Dhabi?’ They arranged for the Air Force to fly us out into the desert in a couple of helicopters, and so there was a chance to talk about Abu Dhabi in quite a lengthy programme. We went to Al Ain and to the desert and to Abu Dhabi city.”

The film featured as part of the BBC’s coverage of Chelsea in the year that Bradley-Hole’s design not only won a gold medal but was also named as the Best Garden at the show. “I thought that was a big breakthrough really, because Sheikh Zayed got a lot of publicity because of that,” Bradley-Hole remembers. “He was so connected with growing things and horticulture that [designing his gardens at Chelsea] seemed a natural thing to do. There are the corporate sponsors at Chelsea, but I can’t think of anybody else who has had that connection with the show.”

When it comes to representing the UAE at Chelsea in 2015, Bin Zaal shares Bradley-Hole’s sense of responsibility and hopes that her garden will be something that not only resonates with the British public, but will also have an effect at home, especially among her fellow Emirati ­women.

“I’m proud that my country gives opportunities like this,” Bin Zaal explains. “There’s no holding women back in our culture and I hope that’s it’s a symbol for other Emirati women and girls to strive, work hard and to really think that they can achieve anything.”

Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

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Have our visions of future cities become more positive?

My future city contains flying cars, shimmering architecture and vertical parks. Yours is probably different, but whether you’ve thought about it or not you’ll definitely have some conception, some image. There have always been future cities – architects, writers and filmmakers have long dreamt up fantastic visions of them. Some of these have come to fruition, some are just dusty ideas that still inspire, or are forgotten. But visions of tomorrow’s cities populate the past, as well as the present.

Almost 20 years ago, the celebrated prophet of doom and disorder JG Ballard wrote about the future of the city in his novel Cocaine Nights:

Townscapes are changing. The open-plan city belongs in the past — no more ramblas, no more pedestrian precincts, no more left banks and Latin quarters. We’re moving into the age of security grilles and defensible space. As for living, our surveillance cameras can do that for us. People are locking their doors and switching off their nervous systems.

This is something we are now seeing in reality as public space becomes ever more commercial, ever more privatised. Look at Liverpool ONE or the gated communities of New Caledonian Wharf, Docklands or Bow Quarter in East London.

Liverpool ONE. Image: iancarroll.

But it’s not all quite so bleak out there. We may be moving toward a future more positive in outlook, albeit with echoes of the nightmarish cities we thought up in the past.

Future visions

We’ve been dreaming up visions of future cities as long as the city has existed. A recent government report, A Visual History of the Future, examines what such visions sought to communicate and why. Many of these visualisations were never built and remained imaginary – this does not mean they are unworthy of attention. Speculative futures and the technologies projected within them are important. They reveal a lot about how we expect to progress.

The “Garden Cities of To-morrow” by Ebenezer Howard.

Let’s take the legacy of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City vision, first published in 1898. It has been both celebrated and derided. Its combination of bucolic landscaping and polycentric planning captures a very British attitude toward the future. The agenda of much post-war planning in the UK was suburban and provincial. With Britain announcing its intention to build a new garden city by the Thames Estuary at Ebbsfleet, we appear to be regurgitating ideas from over a century ago.

Another future city of around a century ago is that of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), which wasn’t quite so idyllic. Inspired by the Futurist Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia this rapidly industrialised monster city has also been a touchstone for many subsequent ideas for future cities. Metropolis is an automated system of control and hierarchy, with explicit social class division. Wealthy industrialists have privileged lifestyles in high-rise towers whilst the lower class workers live underground.

The fears and desires borne by industrialisation were also the inspiration behind Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World where years are measured “After Ford” in tribute to the influential sponsor of assembly line mass production. Interestingly, this supposedly far future dystopia set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F.) was heavily influenced by Huxley’s visit to the ICI plant in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

These themes were taken even further in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, 1982, where class division is between human and non-human. The addition of flying cars, a familiar and recurrent staple of future city visions, accentuates the dense verticality of a Los Angeles reimagined for the 21st century. The dark, brooding and claustrophobic atmosphere of the city in the film proved popular with those creating near-future scenarios and reflected concerns about cities toward the end of the 20th century. It was reinterpreted in numerous subsequent films including Tim Burton’s Batman, 1989, and Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, 1996.

Spanning across the latter half of the last century we have the myriad dystopias given by Ballard. Cities of the future in his work were above all dysfunctional, often due to environmental and technological apocalypses.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Broadacre City Project, 1934–35. MoMA. Image: Avery Architectural Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Architectural approaches

And of course future cities are not the sole domain of fiction. 2014’s retrospective at MoMA, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal explored Wright’s unease about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s. This was explicit in his work – simultaneously focusing on radical new forms for the skyscraper and his seminal masterplan for the urbanisation of the American landscape, Broadacre City. While seemingly more humane than Ballard’s hellish visions, the reality of such megalomania and consumer-driven design would arguably have been just as unpalatable if built.

So which future is here? Encouragingly, nearly a century on it appears we are shifting toward a more people-based approach. The recurrence and growth of more socially engaged future city visions in the early 21st century is notable. The reemergence of street-level urbanism, which favours the pedestrian and active public realm in the manner of Jane Jacobs, reflects our increasing environmental concerns coupled with technological possibilities. Further evidence also supports our growing worries about the longevity of the city, adaptability to climate change, resource management and resilience of changing social dynamics and populations.

Past visions of future cities have been outlandish, they have been dark and dismal, they have also been clairvoyant. They embody a range of ideas of the cities we have and have had. The power of these images demonstrates deep cultural resonances from the time they were produced.

Future cities, even in fiction, reveal an enormous amount about how a society views itself. So after more than 100 years of dystopian cities of the future it is positive to see that many artists, architects and designers have remembered that perhaps the most important element of cities are their people.

Nick Dunn is a Professor of Urban Design at Lancaster University. He was commissioned by the UK Government Office for Science to write a report on the visualisation of future cities as part of their Foresight: Future of Cities programme.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Final image: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mile High, Chicago. 1956. MoMA. Credit: Avery Architectural Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

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Plans Central Business District taking shape

Peachtree Corners has released preliminary results from a study to create a Central Business District. Residents and business owners and operators have provided input on the study focused on Peachtree Parkway between Medlock Bridge and Holcomb Bridge roads.

Elements include finding ways to improve problem traffic areas, ideas for redeveloping aging strip malls, ways to integrate pedestrian and bike paths and ideas for creating safe, efficient ways for foot traffic to cross Peachtree Parkway.

Plans also include ideas for constructing condominiums adjacent to office buildings in Technology Park, incorporating walking and bicycle trails. Architects Lord Ace Sargent also propose the redevelopment of an aging shopping center on Holcomb Bridge Road and Peachtree Parkway into a mixed-use development that includes a pedestrian bridge.

Plans Central Business District taking shape photo
Plans Central Business District taking shape photo
Plans Central Business District taking shape photo

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An enchanted tradition

Lumina News file photo

Lumina News file photo

At 67 acres of pristine lowlands, marshes, lakes, fields and forests, Airlie Gardens could already be considered an enchanting landscape. Every year for the past nine years however, the enchantment becomes a little more visible after Thanksgiving when hundreds of thousands of lights illuminate the garden walkways.

The 10th rendition of Enchanted Airlie will begin Friday, Nov. 28, when 750,000 multicolored bulbs will cast the grounds in a new light.

Airlie Gardens grounds supervisor Scott Childs is a member of the small team of employees that enchants Airlie every year. With little to no time wasted after each holiday season, the crew begins working on the next year’s display in January.

“We always have a few meetings in January through March to brainstorm ideas and try to figure out concepts to make the ideas possible,” Childs said while driving through the gardens Thursday, Nov. 20. “For the first half of the year we take a day every week to change bulbs, restring lights and then in September we actually start to bring everything out.”

By September it is all hands on deck with the crew working every day to install the holiday lights that lasts less than a month.

“It is a long six months … between September and January it is all Christmas,” Childs said.

Each year the lighting display evolves slightly. Influenced by feedback from patrons and new themes, trial and error drive the evolution.

Due to the amount of fanfare it received last year, the enchanted forest of realistic light-up trees has been expanded for this year with a long walkthrough area of illuminated cherry, maple, birch and willow trees.

“We tested the waters with it last year and now we have it as a walk-through area and greatly increased the number of trees,” Childs said. “We have all the nuts and bolts so now we are able to go bigger on specific projects.”

Nearby, a new lights-to-music feature was programmed by Precision Landscaping, the contractor who also works on Jeff Gordon Chevrolet’s holiday light display every year. Childs said the feature has been hand programmed so each note of each song will trigger different lighting sequences and flow with the music.

Precision Landscaping also helped install large colored Light Emitting Diode lights along the banks of the causeway between Airlie’s two main lakes. This region has never been open during Enchanted Airlie but this year Childs said patrons will be allowed to walk out there to see the twinkling lights reflecting off the ripples of the water and the trees.

“Time is really the limiting factor,” Childs said. “We have some really good ideas; you just have to pick the ones that are most reasonable.”

Although the ever popular LEGO display will not be part of Enchanted Airlie this year, a duo of winter princesses, Elsa and Anna, will make a special appearance at Enchanted Airlie each of the four weekends. The jolly ol’ elf Santa Claus will also be present for photos and listening to Christmas wishes at each of the 13 nights of Enchanted Airlie.

New this year Enchanted Airlie will also be open on some Sundays.

Janine Powell, Airlie Gardens Director of Donor Relations, said the first night Friday, Nov. 28, is nearly sold out.

“We sold out a lot of nights last year and I think people don’t want to miss the chance to get their family out there on the night they want,” Powell said.

Admission to Enchanted Airlie is available by carload, couple’s pass, or single ticket, with children under 4 admitted free. Large passenger vans, limos and buses should call in advance for special arrangements. Enchanted Airlie is handicapped accessible, with wheelchairs available on a first-come basis.

For more information, calendar and tickets, visit


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For $7.4M, Put Down Roots on Connecticut’s ‘Potato Island’

Have a nomination for a jaw-dropping listing that would make a mighty fine House of the Day? Get thee to the tipline and send us your suggestions. We’d love to see what you’ve got.


Location: Branford, Connecticut
Price: $7,350,000
The Skinny: Which sounds more like the name of a $7.35M habitable hunk of rock off Branford, Connecticut, “Dove Island” or “Potato Island”? Part of the Thimble Island archipelago in the Long Island Sound, this 1.1-acre isle is marketed as “Dove Island,” which reeks of a rebranding effort. “Potato Island” is the name Wikipedia recognizes, and Curbed would like to state unequivocally that the humble spud is a namesake befitting such a classy sliver of New England. Supposedly “described as palatial when originally built in 1912,” Potato Island’s 3,871-square-foot shingle-styled dwelling has been renovated with all the modern whistles and bells.

A large fieldstone fireplace anchors the living room. There’s beadboard paneling throughout, and the master bedroom has a built-in bed with a columned pony wall at the head, which isn’t something you see every day. It also has sitting porches on the north and south sides, which is perfect for when you and your partner both want to assert your independence while sampling some cool night air.

A shed and a small lap-pool are also found on the island, which runs parallel to another one of the Thimbles. Mix yourself a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, grab your collection of vintage signal flags, plop down in an adirondack chair and you can gossip with the neighbors across the way.

Click here to view the full photogallery.

· Dove Island [Christie’s]

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North County trees are decked out for the holidays

Local News

Free Thanksgiving dinners in SLO County

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