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Archives for November 29, 2014

7 Gardening Tips for Year’s End

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Gardening tips gathered froma trip to the Old Country | THE COMPLEAT HOME …

The end of November is the beginning of the winter planning season. Winter evenings are made for garden scheming and dreaming and here are a few ideas to steal from our recent tour of Sicily, a sun- drenched island sitting off the south toe of Italy.

Our small group visited Sicily “off the beaten path” and discovered a people rich in history, wine, olive oil and a slower pace of life based on outdoor living and dining.

Use overhead timbers and wisteria vines to create quick shade in outdoor living areas.

It may not be practical to add shade trees to your own patio area close to the house or to wait years for young trees to cast a shadow.

Villas in Sicily grow almost instant shade by using the foliage of robust vines such as wisteria over pergolas made from wood, stone or even metal pipe. The north or east side of a building becomes the preferred spot for an outdoor living room in a hot climate while back home in rainy Washington the sun drenched west or south side of a home would be a more practical location for an outdoor living room.

Wisteria not only drips with fragrant clusters of flowers in spring and sun-blocking foliage in summer but this vine has the good sense to lose its leaves during the winter months allowing much needed sunlight into the home.

Add color with paint, tile and garden art.

Gardeners in warm climates have always looked for ways to add color that does not require a watering can.

Sicilian gardens are rich with ceramic tiles, painted pots and garden statuary. Stucco walls are painted peach or pink and native stone mellows to gold to create a lovely back drops for plants. In one pool side garden at a resort in Taormina we admired colorful square pots that were made from five 12-inch by 12-inch ceramic floor tiles.

A simple do-it-yourself project, each brightly painted tile was glued to the edge of a 12 inch bottom base tile and secured with construction adhesive. The result is a tile cube open at the top that can be filled with potting soil and heat loving plants such as palms, plumbago, thungbergia, sedums and citrus fruits.

Turn your balcony into a hanging garden.

Traveling the world should always make one appreciate home and visiting a country like Sicily with high taxes and higher unemployment made us very aware of our status as ‘rich Americans.’

All over Europe, fewer citizens own property and can afford the luxury of a large garden. Renting a small apartment does not keep Italians from creating roof top, balcony and even alley gardens. Geraniums spill from terra cotta pots over wrought iron railings, potted palm and orange trees cast needed shade on roof top gardens and vegetable lovers harvest eggplant, tomatoes and basil from narrow alleys where containers may be as economical as recycled olive oil tins or plastic water jugs.

Visiting Sicily showed us there is no excuse not to make the world a more beautiful place by growing plants. Lack of water and money in this country did not mean a lack of gardens or passion for living.

For more information on visiting the ancient Greek ruins, active volcanoes and mountain villages of Sicily contact our excellent guide Rosa Rizza or view excursion options through the website

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from WSU, is the author of a dozen garden book and the host of Dig In Seattle as TV show about gardening and cooking. She can be reached at

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For an exotic evergreen with instant drama and structure, plant Fatsia japonica

It makes a rounded bush, usually up to 6ft high, but sometimes as much as 10ft, and its leaves are striking and hand-shaped with a shiny, leathery texture. The flowers open up about now – which accounts for my mentioning it in November. They are creamy white, spherical, and carried in open-branched clusters at the tips of the stems.

Ideally it is best planted in spring, so that it can establish its roots before its first winter outdoors, but you can buy it now and grow it as a container plant – outdoors but sheltered from the worst of the weather – so that you can enjoy its flowers and its leaves as part of a winter pot group.

As far as growing conditions are concerned, the false castor oil plant is wonderfully accommodating. It is unfussy about soil – coping with light soils, heavy clay and chalk – and happiest in light shade, although it will still thrive where it is verging on the gloomy. And the great thing is that it will look good at any time of year.

If at any time it grows too large to fit comfortably into its allotted space, simply chop it back a bit in spring. It will come to no harm. Oh, and no one will see any possible resemblance to Trumpton.

Don’t miss Alan’s column in today’s Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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Master Gardener: Prepare your garden for winter with expert tips

Purple coneflower

Purple coneflower

In preparing your garden for winter, leave last year’s plants such as such as purple coneflower in place until spring. Coneflowers have seed heads that finches love to feed on in winter. BILL SEVIER/Courtesy

Garden tips

  • Don’t forget to keep the compost pile watered. The decay process to produce garden-friendly compost continues if the pile is large enough and kept watered and turned.
  • If your roses have not been mulched, do so now. This is a good place to use those fall leaves that have been shredded with a mulching mower. Mulch not only will prevent cold damage to those plants that are susceptible, but it will also prevent warming of soil on warm winter days, which may promote premature cold-sensitive new growth.

Posted: Saturday, November 29, 2014 12:00 am

Master Gardener: Prepare your garden for winter with expert tips

Ask a Master Gardener


Q: What are some things I can do to prepare my landscape plantings for winter? Melisa, Tulsa

A: The average winter temperatures we experience are normally not sufficient to cause extensive winterkill in established plants rated for our hardiness zone. Most plants that do suffer from weather stress are unhealthy to begin with or are unsuited for our environment.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014 12:00 am.

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Daily Digest

Shelby County, CSX Reach Greenline Deal

Shelby County government has a contract with CSX Railroad to buy the railroad’s old right of way from Farm Road in Shelby Farms Park to the old Cordova train station.

The extension of the greenline will be managed for Shelby County government by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, just as the existing 10 miles of the greenline between Tillman and Farm Road is currently.

No purchase price was mentioned in the Monday, Nov. 24, announcement, but the bulk of the funding for the greenline has come from federal funding.

The contract for the CSX right of way goes to the Shelby County Commission for approval. Planning has already begun on the extension, including its crossing of Germantown Parkway.

With commission approval, bids for the extension will go out early next year with construction to begin in the spring.

Earthquake Research Center in Memphis Gets Grant

The U.S. Geological Survey is awarding a $2 million grant to the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis.

The university says the three-year grant will help the center continue to monitor earthquakes in the central and southeastern United States.

The research center’s seismic network includes 140 seismographs in nine states. It integrates data from an additional 160 stations to process data and information from about 500 earthquakes each year.

With the grant, the center is responsible for monitoring earthquakes from the Arkansas-Oklahoma border to the Potomac River, which includes the New Madrid, Wabash, East Tennessee, Charleston and central Virginia seismic zones.

Lynnfield Place Apartments Sell for $22.4 Million

The Lynnfield Place apartment community in East Memphis has sold for $22.4 million.

Lynnfield Apartments LLC, an affiliate of Hyde Capital LLC, purchased the 400-unit community at 1400 Lynnfield Road, between Park Avenue and Quince Road in East Memphis, from Lynnfield Holdings LLC, according to a Nov. 7 special warranty deed. Hyde Capital LLC lists an address of 3094 Autumnwood Ave. in Memphis, the same address of the 324-unit Autumnwood Apartments, which is owned by an affiliate of Hyde Multifamily Investments LLC.

Lynnfield Apartments LLC filed a $20 million for the acquisition with New York-based Arbor Commercial Funding LLC, according to a Nov. 3 multifamily deed of trust.

The Lynnfield Place complex was built on 29 acres in 1974 and totals 504,438 square feet. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal is $19.4 million.

Bass Pro Pulls Permit for Bowling Alley

Bass Pro Shops is preparing to install a bowling alley inside The Pyramid.

The company has applied for a $600,000 building permit through the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for a 13-lane, underwater-themed bowling alley, which will be part of Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill.

The Bass Pro project also includes an upscale hotel called Big Cedar Lodge, a re-created Delta cypress swamp with 100-foot-tall replica cypress trees, the Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center and an alligator pit that can hold up to 20 of the reptiles. The project will include nearly 600,000 gallons of water features.

The long-awaited observation deck, which was planned when The Pyramid was first built but never was completed, will include a restaurant and glass-bottomed observation decks that jut out from the structure.

The Springfield, Mo.-based retailer plans on opening its destination retail store and attraction May 1, about five months behind schedule. Bass Pro Shops is expected to employ 600 people at The Pyramid.

Dyson to Host Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Banquet

Best-selling author Michael Eric Dyson will be master of ceremonies for the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Awards Banquet Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, 255 N. Main St.

Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, an MSNBC political analyst and author of the recent book “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America.”

The Freedom Award winners being honored at the award ceremony and at a 10 a.m. public forum at Temple of Deliverance Church of God In Christ include journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Civil Rights Freedom Summer icon Robert Moses and NBC broadcaster Tom Brokaw.

East Memphis Hotel Sells for $12.9 Million

An East Memphis hotel near Saint Francis Hospital has sold for $12.9 million.

BRE Amerisuites Properties LLC sold the Hyatt Place hotel at 1220 Primacy Parkway to SREF3 AH Chicago LLC, according to a Nov. 19 warranty deed.

Stephen Sokal, senior vice president of asset management for Hyatt Hotels Corp. signed the warranty deed for the seller. The address listed for the buyer is the office of Dallas-based Lone Star Funds, a private equity firm that invests in real estate, equity, credit and other financial assets. The 74,052-square-foot hotel was built on 2.1 acres in 1996. The number of hotel rooms was not listed in public records. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal is $5 million.

Former Tigers Assistant Coach Joins Grizz Operations

The Memphis Grizzlies have added Glynn Cyprien as a basketball operations assistant and scout. Cyprien returns to the city of Memphis, where he helped guide the University of Memphis to 49 victories and consecutive postseason tournament appearances in two seasons (2009-11) as an assistant coach under Josh Pastner. The Tigers went 25-10 during the 2010-11 season, winning the Conference USA Tournament Championship and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Most recently, Cyprien served three seasons (2011-14) as associate head coach at Texas AM University. Working directly with the Aggie guards, Cyprien oversaw the development of Elston Turner Jr. – the son of current Grizzlies assistant coach Elston Turner – who went on to capture First Team All-SEC and USBWA All-District honors after finishing third in the conference in scoring as a senior in 2012-13.

Prior to stops at the University of Kentucky (2007-09), the University of Arkansas (2006-07) and New Mexico State University (2005-06), Cyprien worked four seasons (2000-04) as an assistant on Eddie Sutton’s staff at Oklahoma State University and played a significant role in coaching current Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.

“Glynn is an outstanding talent evaluator who is as well connected on the grassroots and collegiate levels as anyone in the game,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. “He has recruited and worked with many future NBA players, and that experience will serve him well in his new position.”

Redbirds File $3.5 Million Permit to Renovate AutoZone Park

The Memphis Redbirds are about to launch significant changes to AutoZone Park.

The Memphis Redbirds LLC has applied for a $3.5 million building permit through the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for renovations to the ballpark at Third Street and Union Avenue Downtown.

Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC is listed as the contractor.

Last year, the Redbirds were purchased by their parent St. Louis Cardinals as part of the deal that had the city buying AutoZone Park and leasing it back to the Cardinals on a 17-year term.

As part of the deal, the Cardinals set aside $4.5 million for improvements to AutoZone Park, with much of that aimed at improving the fan experience and reducing seating capacity.

Like a batter mired in a slump, attendance at the ballpark dipped last season to 381,429 for 67 regular-season openings – the lowest total since AutoZone Park opened in 2000.

Redbirds officials have said previously that changes would include a reduction in suites and pulling out chairbacks down the foul lines to get the permanent seat count to around 10,000, down from around 12,500 now.

Methodist North Getting $1.8 Million Facelift

Methodist North Hospital is in line to get a slight makeover.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has applied for a $1.8 building permit through the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to renovate the hospital’s entrance, restrooms, information center and gift shop. Methodist also plans on landscaping and lighting improvements around the entrance and patient drop-off and pick-up locations.

Belz Architecture is listed as the architect and Belz Construction Services LLC is the general contractor.

Volvo Parts Center Begins Operations

Limited operations began this month at the new Volvo parts distribution center in Marshall County, Miss.

The 1 million-square-foot distribution center supports the company’s Mack, Volvo and UD Trucks brands, as well as Volvo Construction Equipment and Volvo Penta.

The facility, called the Central Parts Distribution Center, is the centerpiece of the company’s streamlined North American parts distribution network.

The facility is inside Panattoni Development Co.’s Gateway Global Logistics Center, a 1,500-acre industrial development that straddles Fayette County, Tenn., and Marshall County, Miss.

An official grand opening of the center is expected next summer.

Southwest’s Next Goal: Industrial Training Center

As Southwest Tennessee Community College leaders formally opened a new nursing school building Downtown last week, the institution was making progress toward its next major capital project.

It is a $3.5 million Industrial Readiness Training center to be built at the school’s Macon Cove campus.

The effort has raised $1.5 million so far toward the goal of a home for the industrial readiness training program, which was ramped up several years ago to meet the needs of new industrial employers locating in Memphis.

105 UTHSC Students to Graduate Dec. 12

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center on Dec. 12 will graduate 105 health care professionals. The commencement ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the second floor ballroom of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The 105 graduates are from five of the six UT Health Science Center colleges: two from the College of Dentistry; 21 from the College of Graduate Health Sciences; 24 from the College of Health Professions; four from the College of Medicine; and 54 from the College of Nursing.

By demographics, the graduating class includes 22 African-Americans, four Latino-Americans and 29 graduates who came from out of state to study at UTHSC. Eighty-six of the 105 graduates are women.

UTHSC Chancellor Dr. Steve J. Schwab will preside over the ceremony and give the charge to the graduates. UT System executive vice president David E. Millhorn will confer the degrees.

Inferno Adds New Web Developer

Memphis PR, design, marketing and advertising firm inferno has added a new Web developer.

Kenny Wilson will report to David Zachry, inferno’s interactive manager.

As Web developer, Wilson will be responsible for front end and back end development projects, including websites, emails, web applications and more. He’ll also work closely with the firm’s creative and interactive teams to ensure quality of design and development for both client and agency projects.

Grizzlies Unveil Holiday Gift Packs

The Memphis Grizzlies have announced their holiday ticket promotions – including new seven-game holiday packs and a Cyber Monday deal that offers a one-day only discount on all December home games purchased through

The all-new seven-game holiday packs are available in two options, the “Naughty” or “Nice” Pack, each starting at $105 per pack ($15 per game). With every pack purchased, fans will receive a Grizzmas scarf free.

Both seven-game packs are available for the First Tennessee Club Level I and Terrace I, II, III and IV, and can be purchased by calling 901-888-HOOP or online at

The Cyber Monday sale starts at midnight Monday, Dec. 1. During the 24-hour sale, all First Tennessee Club and select Terrace Level tickets for all December home games – including the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors – are as much as 30 percent off, a savings of up to $40.

Regional One Health Foundation Offering Holiday Cards

Partnering with Mid-South native NJ Woods, Regional One Health Foundation is offering limited edition 2014 holiday cards. The collection includes three different designs, each featuring a winter wonderland scene painted by Woods, a nationally recognized folk artist.

Funds raised by the holiday cards will help the Regional One Health Foundation purchase equipment, provide training and initiate new programs.

Cards are available with a blank interior or a customizable message informing recipients that the sender has made a donation in their honor. The foundation will send a card to a single recipient for a minimum donation of $10, or for a gift of $25 or more, it will send a pack of all three card designs to the donor to hand out personally.

Library Holds Contest to Name New Teen Lab

The Memphis Public Library Information Center and the Memphis Library Foundation have kicked off a community-wide naming competition for the new 8,300-square-foot teen learning lab at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

The entry deadline is Jan. 15. Each participant may submit multiple original ideas. All submissions must be entered via an online submission form at, and the winner will get a $250 gift card and special recognition by the library.

The library is gearing up to break ground on the project in February.

Tennessee College Savings Program Ranked Nationally

The state’s college savings program is being recognized nationally.

TNStars is ranked as the No. 2 plan in the country, according to, which recently released the top 10 direct-sold 529 plans in the nation based on one-year performance rankings.

TNStars is a program of the Tennessee Department of Treasury.

It’s designed to give Tennessee families investment options at a low cost to help them put aside money for higher education expenses, while benefiting from certain tax advantages and special incentives.

Tennesseans can invest directly with the program, without having to go through a plan manager. Money can be withdrawn from a TNStars account tax-free, as long as it is used for qualified higher education expenses.

For more information, visit

Running Pony Nominated for Regional Emmys

Memphis video production company Running Pony has been nominated for three regional Emmy awards.

The nominations were revealed at a ceremony in Nashville. Running Pony was nominated for a commercial campaign produced along with Sullivan Branding for University of Memphis Tigers football, and for a public service announcement produced along with King Quality Communications for Memphis Gun Down.

Running Pony audio engineer Nate Riesman was nominated for an Emmy in the audio category.

Winners will be announced during a live telecast from Nashville on Jan. 31.

IRS Workers to Receive Bonuses of 1 Percent

Rank-and-file IRS workers are again getting a bonus.

Commissioner John Koskinen informed IRS employees in an email that they’ll get a bonus next March of 1 percent of their base salary. The performance awards go to most employees.

“I believe that rewarding our high-performing employees is a vital investment for our nation’s tax system,” Koskinen said in the Monday email that was obtained by The Associated Press.

The annual awards are down from two years ago, when agency workers received bonuses of 1.75 percent. They were delayed in the summer of 2013 when automatic budget cuts hit the agency, forcing unpaid furloughs and other cost-cutting moves.

Some Republicans have questioned the payouts in the wake of revelations that the IRS had wrongly targeted tea party organizations and other advocacy groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“The agency – rife with scandal, mismanagement and unaccountability – is awarding bonuses with the very tax dollars they collect from hardworking Americans,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Hatch noted that a Treasury Department investigation earlier this year concluded that bonuses totaling $2.8 million had gone to more than 2,800 employees found to have broken agency rules of conduct – including 1,100 employees who owed back taxes.

Koskinen said that new protections negotiated with the National Treasury Employees Union would deny bonuses to workers who violate the agency’s code of conduct.

Tennessee Campaigns Ran 23,000 TV Ads in 2014

Political and issue campaigns ran nearly 23,000 television ads in Tennessee to try to sway voters on races including the U.S. Senate and constitutional amendments on abortion and judges.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the ads cost a total of $16.8 million. Spending was heaviest on the constitutional amendments, with $3.8 million going toward unsuccessful efforts to defeat the measure to give lawmakers more power to regulate abortions in the state. Supporters spent $2 million.

The Senate race attracted $4.8 million in TV spending, while $5.1 million went into state-level races.

The Center for Public Integrity reviewed data about political advertising on broadcast television and used research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.

US Economy Grew at 3.9 Percent Rate in 3rd Quarter

The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.9 percent annual rate in the July-September period, even faster than first reported, giving the country its strongest six months of growth in more than a decade.

The third quarter growth rate climbed from an initial estimate of 3.5 percent because of greater spending by consumers and businesses, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The figure followed a 4.6 percent surge in the spring, which resulted in the biggest consecutive quarters of growth since 2003.

Analysts believe momentum could slow to around 2.5 percent in the current quarter but then accelerate again in 2015. They expect growth of around 3 percent, representing a sustained acceleration in activity six years after the Great Recession.

“The question of whether the economy is accelerating or will accelerate is no longer a question; we can say somewhat definitively that the economy has already accelerated,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG.

The economy as measured by the gross domestic product – the country’s total output of goods and services – has been on a roller coaster this year. It started with a steep slide in activity in the first three months of the year when GDP contracted at a 2.1 percent rate, largely due to a severe winter.

New FDA Rules Will Put Calorie Counts on Menus

Whether they want to or not, consumers will soon know how many calories they are eating when ordering off the menu at chain restaurants, picking up prepared foods at supermarkets and even eating a tub of popcorn at the movie theater.

The Food and Drug Administration announced long-delayed calorie labeling rules Tuesday, requiring establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays. Companies will have until November 2015 to comply.

The regulations will also apply to convenience stores, bakeries, coffee shops, pizza delivery, amusement parks and vending machines.

The idea is that people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger if they know it has hundreds of calories – and, in turn, restaurants may make their foods healthier to keep calorie counts down. Beverages are included in the rules, and alcohol will be labeled if drinks are listed on the menu.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. The effort is just one way Americans can combat obesity, she added.

The menus and menu boards will tell diners that a 2,000-calorie diet is used as the basis for daily nutrition, noting that individual calorie needs may vary. Additional nutritional information beyond calories, including sodium, fats, sugar and other items, must be available upon request.

Unemployment Rates Fall in 34 US States

Unemployment rates fell in 34 U.S. states in October, a sign that steady hiring this year has been broadly dispersed through most of the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in just 5 states, the fewest since April. Rates were unchanged in 11 states.

Steady economic growth has prompted more companies to add jobs, though the additional hiring hasn’t yet boosted wages. Nationwide, employers added 214,000 jobs in October, the ninth straight month of gains above 200,000. That’s the longest such stretch since 1995. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent, a six-year low.

Georgia had the highest unemployment rate in October, at 7.7 percent, though that was down from 7.9 percent in September. North Dakota continued to have the lowest rate, at 2.8 percent.

Employers added jobs in 38 states and cut them in 12. The biggest gains occurred in California, which added 41,500; Texas, which gained 35,200; and Florida, which added 34,400.

Nevada reported the largest job loss, a decline of 7,300, followed by New York, where employers cut 5,600, and New Jersey, which lost 4,500.

Slatery Stays Out of GOP Attorney General Letter on Obama

New Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery isn’t joining a group of Republican colleagues from other states in issuing a statement vowing “appropriate action” on President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration.

Slatery’s predecessor, Bob Cooper, was heavily criticized by some Republicans in the Legislature for refusing to join a multi-state lawsuit against Obama’s health care law. But Slatery doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to promise litigation over another presidential move that has riled up Republicans.

Slatery said in a statement that he will be giving “careful consideration to all the relevant facts” about issues of federal overreach to come to an informed decision. The Republican Attorneys General Association letter was signed by 19 current and incoming attorneys general.

HealthSouth Paying $750 Million for Home Health Business

HealthSouth will spend about $750 million on the privately held owner of Encompass Home Health and Hospice in a deal that helps the rehabilitation hospital operator expand into home health care.

The Birmingham, Ala., company said Monday that Encompass, which is owned by EHHI Holdings Inc., will complement its inpatient rehabilitation business. Directors of both companies have approved the deal, which is expected to close before the end of the year.

HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney said in a statement that Encompass has integrated 45 separate acquisitions since 2005. He said they believe they can accelerate that consolidation pace while also expanding HealthSouth’s inpatient rehabilitation portfolio.

Aside from inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, HealthSouth also runs outpatient clinics and home health agencies. It operates in 28 states and Puerto Rico.

Encompass has 140 locations in 13 states.

US Consumer Confidence Falls in November

U.S. consumer confidence fell in November following a big gain the previous month, as Americans became less bullish about the economy and jobs.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell to 88.7 in November, down from a seven-year high of 94.5 in October.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco said that the decline primarily reflected weaker optimism in the short-term, with consumers less upbeat about current business conditions and the state of the job market.

But she added that expectations about future income remained virtually unchanged.

Private economists expect a quick reversal of the November drop, especially given the large declines motorists are seeing in gas prices.

A drop in gas prices acts like a tax cut, giving consumers more confidence and more money to spend on other items. The current nationwide average for a gallon of regular gas is $2.81, down from $3.07 just a month ago, according to AAA.

Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said the November decline in confidence was “hard to square with the recent improvement in households’ financial situations.”

Even with the decline from October, consumer sentiment at 88.7 was still significantly higher than the 72.0 reading of November 2013.

Bank Earnings Up 7.3 Percent in 3rd Quarter

U.S. bank earnings rose 7.3 percent in the July-September quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and continued to lend out more money, which help drive up revenue.

The data issued Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed that the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago.

Banks and other financial institutions insured by the FDIC earned $38.7 billion in the third quarter, up from $36.1 billion a year ago. The percentage of unprofitable banks fell to 6.4 percent of institutions, versus 8.7 percent a year ago.

“The banking industry had another positive quarter,” FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said in a statement. “Community banks, in particular, performed better than a year ago. Most importantly, third quarter income growth was based on revenue growth instead of lower loan-loss provisions. This can be a more sustainable foundation for continued earnings growth going forward.”

Banks loan balances rose by $50.2 billion to $8.2 trillion in the quarter, helped by an increase in commercial and industrial loans as well as auto loans. Mortgage lending activity fell slightly. However, overall lending is up 4.6 percent in the last year, a sign that banks are steadily loosening lending standards after the financial crisis.

With the improving picture, the FDIC still acknowledged some concerns about the banking industry. Banks have been increasingly lending money to higher risk businesses and have been extending loans for longer periods of time. Also the ongoing low interest rate environment has made it difficult for banks to earn money on interest.

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Student news from Somerset and Hunterdon counties

Raritan Valley Community College’s (RVCC) Student Jazz Ensemble will perform in concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, in the Welpe Theatre at the college’s Branchburg campus.

The group is directed by John Loehrke of New York City.

The ensemble will perform pieces by a variety of jazz artists, including Duke Ellington, Joe Henderson, Charles Mingus, Nat Adderly and Fats Waller. The group also will perform music from the great American songbook, featuring work by composers Jimmy McHugh, Alec Wilder and Julie Styne. In addition, the band will play a jazz version of the Pharrell Williams pop hit, “Happy.”

The Student Jazz Ensemble includes: Keith Bernstein, Branchburg; Jonathan Anderson, Hillsborough; Vincent Bickar, Jason Zujkowski, Manville; Mathew Miller, Justice Thyserius, Washington; Max Bradley, Jim Gandenberger, Bridgewater; Maxwell Mellies, North Plainfield; Camellia R. Mooney, Garwood; Eliana Johnson, Clinton; James Conrad, South Plainfield; Antoine Smith, Phillipsburg; Dean Ingram IV, Flemington; John Durso, Belle Meade; and Stephen Pettinelli, Alpha.

General admission tickets cost $12, $8 for students and seniors. For tickets, call the Box Office, 908-725-3420. For more information, call 908-218-8876, or visit

Bowdoin College

Kelsey Gallagher of Belle Mead was honored for academic achievement at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine during the college’s annual Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony in October. The event honors undergraduates who distinguish themselves by excellence in scholarship. Those students who are designated Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars are in the top (highest GPA) 20 percent of each class for the previous academic year.

Emerson College

Robert Fraebel of Whitehouse Station is participating in the Los Angeles-based Emerson College’s internship and residential program. Fraebel secured an internship position in September at Vice Media, and will complete the internship study program in December. The internship is part of the experience at the college’s new facility located on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

ALSO: Kerri Killeen of Scotch Plains, majoring in theater studies at Emerson’s Boston, Massachusetts, campus,, was part of Emerson Stage’s recent production of “Dancing at Lughnasa” production.

Harmonium Choral Society

Harmonium Choral Society offers high school students the opportunity to participate in its 18th Annual New Jersey High School Student Choral Composition Contest. Interested students may view the official guidelines, selected texts, eligibility requirements and additional contest materials at or contact contest coordinator George Moser at The Grand Prize is $1,000 with a Runner-Up Prize of $250. Students must submit their original choral compositions to Harmonium on or before Feb. 16, 2015.

Compositions must be five minutes or less in length with text from the selected works by Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost or a passage from the biblical “Book of Revelation” (see A panel of judges consisting of professional musicians, composers, and music educators will select the winning composition which will be performed and recorded live during the Harmonium spring concert “Apocalypse Now” on June 6 and 7, 2015 at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison.

The contest is open to all students enrolled in grades nine through 12 in any public or private school in the State of New Jersey. It is also open to all students who are legal residents of New Jersey participating in home schooling at the high school level. Every contestant will receive personal comments and advice about their submission from a professional musician and composer.

Harmonium seeks sponsors to support this innovative program. Email: or send contributions by mail to Harmonium Choral Society, P.O. Box 1317, Morristown, NJ 07962-1317. For more information, call 973-538-6969.

Funding has been made possible in part by funds from Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hunterdon County Polytech

Hunterdon County Polytech hosted the second Apprenticeship Information Session on Oct. 29 for its Automotive and Culinary Arts apprenticeship programs. Interested students, parents, and members of the community attended this session to learn about these programs and how to enroll.

Ed Turenne, the county apprenticeship coordinator, spoke about the classroom-related instruction, employment sponsorship, and work requirements for these apprenticeship programs, as well as other apprenticeable trades such as electrical and plumbing. In addition, Chris Scheuerman, the automotive technology instructor, and Chef Paul Ingenito, the culinary arts instructor, each spoke about their respective programs. They explained what is expected from the student and how apprenticeships can benefit their future careers.

Ingenito also presented new Wusthof Professional Knife Sets to students who are currently participating in the Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Program. Mark Stiefel, Shane Lambdon, Brooke Paul and Allan Willcockson are apprenticing at local businesses through Polytech’s program. They are employed in the culinary arts industry at the Holiday Inn of Clinton, Harvest Bakery Café, and Gladstone Inn.

Apprenticeship is a pathway into many careers through technical experience, related instruction, employment, and an industry-issued and nationally recognized certificate. Polytech accepst interested students into the pre-apprenticeship program in their senior year of high school. Qualified students are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, when they are matched with an employer and working full-time.

Call 908-788-1119, ext 2009, or visit Polytech on the web at for additional information.

Rutgers Preparatory School

Rutgers Preparatory School is being honored for its “contributions to the environment” by the Franklin Township Environmental Commission.

The school on Easton Avenue is receiving Organization Environmental Stewardship Award for 2014. “This selection is in recognition of your many contributions to the environment of Franklin Township, as documented by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” Arnold S. Vernick, commission chair, wrote in notifying the school of the honor.

“These contributions include past participation in the Rutgers Green Purchasing, being a River-Friendly School, recent construction of a new LEED certified building, new energy management installations, and development of an effective composting and recycling program,” Vernick wrote.

The award was presented to school representative during the Nov. 25 Township Council meeting.

“We are very proud, and sincerely humbled, by your act of recognition,” Headmaster, Dr. Steven A. Loy said, emphasizing that the school community’s efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainability are “truly a collective effort.”

Rutgers Prep was a member of the Rutgers Green Purchasing program until the university dissolved the program, but still is actively engaged with many of the vendors. The school also has worked closely with Canal and River representatives during its latest infrastructure projects. The most recent building on campus, the Dining and Learning Commons, is a LEED certified building, and is available to any group who might wish to tour the facility.

The school is involved in various energy management programs on campus, including recent landscaping, heating/cooling and lighting projects, and continues to explore additional avenues to emphasize sustainability in our operations. The Dining Commons has a fully designed recycling and composting program, envisioned and organized by faculty and students.

In addition, the school is a member of the United States Green Building Council, and has purchased pollution credits through the efforts of its student clubs. In addition, its Advanced Placement Environmental Science course was one of the first of its kind, and continues to be a priority within the school’s curriculum, according to a school news release.

Susquehanna University

Victor Gonzalez, of Bernardsville, has been elected as a class senator for the Student Government Association at Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, for the 2014-15 academic year. The SGA is a representative student organization that ensures an active student voice and role in governing the university. The Student Senate, the legislative branch of the association, provides a forum for student opinions. It deals with matters of concern to the entire student body and seeks solutions to campus issues.

Sydney Costa, of Neshanic Station, has been selected as a member of the 2014-15 Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania Dance Team. The dance team performs at all home men’s and women’s basketball games and at several campus and community events throughout the academic year. The auditioned group is composed of 11 dancers.

Joshua Hanemann, of Bridgewater, was recently elected secretary of Susquehanna University’s Enactus team for the 2014-15 academic year. Enactus is an international, nonprofit organization that challenges students from more than 1,600 campuses in 36 countries to take what they are learning in the classroom and use it to improve local and international communities. During its competitive history, SU Enactus has consistently placed high in regional and national competitions that measure team success.

Samantha Sekora of Bridgewater, was a member of the production staff in Susquehanna University’s fall musical “Guys and Dolls,” presented by the Department of Theatre Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. Sekora, a creative writing major in Susquehanna’s Class of 2017, served as a member of costume shop and wardrobe staff.

The Hun School of Princeton

The Hun Middle School’s robotics class spent a week building and programming robots that work together to move as a convoy this fall. Inspired by recent automotive innovations including lane assist technology and automatic emergency braking systems, eight students from the sixth and seventh grades worked in groups to determine how they could apply those ideas to Lego-based programmable robots.

Students of Chris Cooper’s robotics class derived motivation for the project from a recent advertisement, the Empty Convoy, in which Hyundai Motors illustrated the capabilities of new technologies in the automotive industry.

“I wanted the students to get excited about this project. The Hyundai video is such a dramatic example of how automation in industry can be creatively applied,” Cooper said. ” It was a great segue for us to begin designing robots to function with a purpose.”

The goal of the project was to create a series of robots that would follow one another, stop when an obstacle got in the lead robot’s way, and resume motion, once the obstacle was removed.

“I really enjoyed working in a group and having the freedom to figure out the best solutions to design our robots,” said Lena Nahas. “There wasn’t a right or wrong answer. There were different ways of solving problems to make our robots work together.”

During the process of the build, students enjoyed a breakthrough moment when they realized they could move the robot’s infrared sensor. By doing so, their robots began ‘seeing’ other robots more efficiently. It also opened the door to greater possibilities in the design of the robots.

US Department of Energy visits Flemington-Raritan Regional School

On Oct. 28, Jason Powers from the U.S. Department of Energy visited Barley Sheaf School in the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District as part of a visit to the district to review energy savings improvement efforts. He met with school officials, district contracted professionals and members of a NJ Department of Education grant study team to review the district’s process and progress in completing its plan.

Meeting participants included: James Shumate, Flemington-Raritan facilities manger; Christine Liaukus, registered architect at the N.J. Institute of Technology; Stephanie Voorhees, Flemington-Raritan business administrator; Mahogany Hendricks, lead grant administrator for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities; Rich Alderiso, district architect from DIGroup Architecture; Tony O’Donnell, an economist at the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey; and Pat Cannata, senior project manager at Ameresco, an energy management firm.

The members of the grant team showcased the Flemington-Raritan School District as a model district that has worked to identify ways to save energy and reduce costs through energy audits and improvement plans. The visit tied into the grant team’s efforts to help organizations implement energy savings initiatives, according to a district news release.

Union Catholic High School

Fifteen graduated senior students and seven current senior students at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains have earned AP Scholars Awards in recognition of their exceptional achievement on AP Exams during the 2013-2014 school year.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement program recognizes several levels of achievement based on students’ performance on AP Exams. Three students qualified for the AP Scholar with Distinction Award by earning an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams. These students are Alexander Boros of Fords, Parnika Celly of Colonia, and Emily Dzioba of North Plainfield.

Four students qualified for the AP Scholar with Honors Award by earning an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams. These students are Jacqueline Behrend of Fanwood, Raeann Dalton of Colonia, Jessica Herren of Colonia, and Bridget Nocera of Colonia.

An additional fifteen students earned AP Scholar Awards by completing three or more AP Exams with grades of three or higher. These students are Cristina Bonner of Clark, Jonathan Boros of Fords, Kyle Borowski of Fanwood, Dana Couto of Union, Thomas Hartnett of Clark, Roxanne Lee of Plainfield, EliseMorano of Westfield, Tonna Obaze of Iselin, Hetal Patel of Union, Dennis Reilly of Colonia, Emily Ryan of Colonia, Richard Ryngel ’15 of Union, Madison Simon ’14 of Gillette, Melissa Titolo ’14 of Fords, and Brianne Trollo of Fanwood.

University of the Sciences

The following Central Jersey residents were named to the summer 2014 dean’s list at University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Selection for this award is based on completing and passing all assigned courses and an academic average of at least 3.4: Muneeb Ali of Bridgewater, Michelle Nguyen, Meghan Patel of Piscataway, and Rushita Patel of Branchburg.

University of Scranton

Matthew Tarantino of Westfield was among The University of Scranton Student Government officers who helped organize more than 400 student volunteers for a clean up of areas in the hill section near campus. The University’s 2014 fall “Street Sweep” was organized by the Office of Student Government in cooperation with the University’s Office of Community Relations, Office of Sustainability, as well as the Hill Neighborhood Association.

Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, Hokie football team to highlight the colors at Boston College game

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets ( and the Virginia Tech football team continue their partnership to highlight the colors during the pre-game ceremony at every football game.

Three football players are selected, because of their performance in the last game or during practice, to carry the American flag, the state flag, and the team’s spirit flag as they lead the team onto the field. They carry the flags the onto the field and deliver them to cadets at the south end of the field.

The cadets performing this honor are also selected based on their performance during their training.

Among the cadets selected for this honor at the recent Virginia Tech-Boston College game was Cadet Sabrina Bachert of Basking Ridge, a freshman majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences ( from Hotel Company in Second Battalion who is a member of Army ROTC (

Wardlaw-Hartridge School Support UNICEF on Halloween

For more than 60 years, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has served as a “Kids Helping Kids” campaign. The students in Ellen Colandrea’s third-grade class at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison recently learned about the realities that countless children in the developing world must endure every day as they struggle to survive in the face of disease, disasters, and other hardships such as poor nutrition. The students also discussed the difference between human “wants” and human “needs.”

According to a school news release, the class was amazed to hear that only 25 cents provides 10 children with clean water to drink for a day, and only $50 can vaccinate 85 children against polio for life. The presentation motivated all of the students in 3C to volunteer to ask for UNICEF donations instead of candy as they were trick-or-treating for Halloween. By making a small sacrifice of their own, the third-graders wanted to give their peers thousands of miles away the best hope for survival.

The donations collected from this year’s class broke all the records from Miss Colandrea’s previous classes with a whopping total of $500! The W-H students can be proud that they have made a lifesaving difference in the lives of many less fortunate children around the globe.

Westfield High School

On Saturday, Nov. 29, Westfield High School is scheduled to host the Westfield Wrangle, a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics Competition. FTC is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams design, build, and program their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams using sound engineering principles. The robot is programmed using a variety of languages. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

A total of 24 teams will compete in matches which will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until approximately 3 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. There is no charge for admission.

The Westfield Robotics Team has two robots competing in this year’s tournament season. Advisors for the team are Westfield High School Science teachers Valentino Scipioni and Susan Marie Terra.

Team Captain and Westfield High School sophomore Spencer Fishman explained, “We started building our robots in September through the engineering and design process. We tested them out, and made revisions and are assembling them now so we will be ready for the November competition.” The teams meet every week from Monday through Thursday after school.

The contest is one of several opportunities for the teams to compete for a spot in the April 2015 World Championship to be conducted in St. Louis, Missouri.

For more information about the program visit the FTC FIRST Tech Challenge Website:

Student and School news appears Fridays. Email

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Ideas for saving water in garden – U

It’s possible to decrease home water use and create another benefit at the same time by growing fruits and vegetables in combination with decorative WaterSmart plants.

Several herbs (rosemary, basil, cilantro and others) are low water users, while citrus trees and cool season vegetables such as arugula, spinach and broccoli are moderate water users. You can offset any increase in water for irrigating edibles by replacing high-water-use landscaping with very low-water-use plants such as yarrow, galvesia or dudleya that need less than 10 percent of the water that a lawn needs. It’s a balancing act, but it’s worth the effort.

The best location for kitchen garden is close to the kitchen in a spot that gets six to eight hours of sun a day. Improve its production by amending the soil with compost. Use drip irrigation to make the most of every drop, and plant cool-season vegetables in fall or early winter.

More water-saving tips are at

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Trowel & Glove: Marin garden calendar for the week of Nov. 29, 2014

Click photo to enlarge


‘GardenSmart’ workshop: Garden educator Lori Caldwell leads a gardening 101 workshop at 3 p.m. Dec. 6. Free. Creekside Room at Mill Valley Public Library, 375 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley. Call 389-4292 or go to

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Muir Beach, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 561-3077 or go to

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions. Go to for more information.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Harvesting volunteers: The Marin Organic Glean Team seeks volunteers to harvest extras from the fields at various farms for the organic school lunch and gleaning program. Call 663-9667 or go to

Richardson Bay Audubon Center Sanctuary: 376 Greenwood Beach Road, Tiburon; 388-2524; First Thursdays: Help improve the native pollinator habitat and create demonstration gardens at 10 a.m. to noon. Bring gloves, hat, sunscreen, any favorite gardening hand tools and a picnic lunch. Rain cancels.

San Francisco

Botanical garden: The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, at Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, offers several ongoing events. $7; free to San Francisco residents, members and school groups. Call 661-1316 or go to Free docent tours leave from the Strybing Bookstore near the main gate at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekends; and from the north entrance at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can call ahead for special-focus tours.

Floral palace: The Conservatory of Flowers, at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, displays permanent galleries of tropical plant species as well as changing special exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $2 to $8. Call 831-2090 or go to

Around the Bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Rose ranch: Garden Valley Ranch rose garden at 498 Pepper Road in Petaluma is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Self-guided and group tours are available. $5 to $10. Call 707-795-0919 or go to

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tips on planting olive trees and has olive trees for sale by appointment. Olive milling available November and December. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Garden volunteers: Wednesdays are volunteer days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center at 15290 Coleman Valley Road in Occidental. Call 707-874-1557, ext. 201, or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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Gazing at the grass in winter is a vision in grace – Tribune

Some of my favorite plants this time of year are the ornamental grasses. They lend a wonderful texture and grace to the fall and winter landscapes. I love watching them move in the wind and the birds taking shelter in their stems.

Ornamental grasses have come a long way in the past decade. It’s hard to believe that, at one time, there were only a handful of varieties regularly available to gardeners. Now, there are literally hundreds of beautiful varieties on the market that offer a vast array of heights, textures, floral architectures and foliage colors to our gardens. Most have been selected or bred from clump-forming prairie grasses, making them tolerant of poor soils and drought. And, as an added bonus, deer do not typically eat them.

My favorite way to use these grasses is in combination with other perennials and mixed shrubs in a border or foundation planting. I’ve seen some spectacular plantings over the years that consist exclusively of various species of ornamental grasses combined together. Mixing silver, green, blue and variegated varieties is far more interesting to the eye than planting a single row of the same species.

Ornamental grasses are low-maintenance plants in the truest sense of the word. To take care of them, one needs only to cut them back to a few inches above the ground every March and divide the clumps every five or six years. That’s all, except to water them for the first season after planting; until they get established. Other than that, they pretty much take care of themselves.

If you’re looking to add a few to your landscape, you may want to begin to narrow your choices based on height. The tallest ornamental grasses can reach 10 feet or more in height, while the smallest measure under 2 feet. Hardy plume grass (Erianthus ravennae) is among the tallest hardy varieties, reaching up to 12 feet in height. I have one growing on the outside corner of my vegetable garden, and it is spectacular.

Some of my other favorite varieties include the 5-foot-tall, blue-green foliage and delicate flowers of blue switch grass ‘Heavy Metal’; the 4-foot-tall stock-straight nature of feather reed grass ‘Karl Foersterâ€�’ and the deep green, delicately arching blades of maiden grass ‘Gracillimus.’

Medium-stature varieties that reach a height between 2 and 4 feet look great toward the front of the border. Fitting in this category is ‘Hameln’ fountain grass, purple fountain grass ‘Red Head,’ little bluestem and ‘Little White Spider’ maiden grass.

The smallest selections of ornamental grasses include ‘Evergold’ carex, purple moor grass, autumn sedge and ‘Goldstaub’ tufted hair grass.

There are literally dozens and dozens of other ornamental-grass varieties that perform well in our region. I encourage you to head to your local nursery come spring and find a few to add to your garden. Their ease-of-maintenance and beautiful nature will surely win you over.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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Master Gardener: Grateful for school gardens

This November, the Great Basin Community Food Coop encouraged us to incorporate locally-grown ingredients into our holiday recipes. This strikes home for me as a gardener, health professional and school garden volunteer. I am grateful this holiday season and all year long to help our area’s children learn about how to grow and enjoy healthy, local foods.

My interest in school gardens comes from a deep passion for promoting children’s health. As a school nurse RN for the past 20-plus years, I know that many of the chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity can be reduced by lifestyle changes that can be taught to young children. The Grow Yourself Healthy program at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, taught by registered dietitians and a master gardener, is an outdoor classroom that incorporates learning about healthy foods, tasting a variety of foods and having the experience to grow fruits and vegetables.

There is nothing quite like the squeal of a fourth grade boy who has just harvested his first potato. Interacting with children requires prep work and patience. I have learned to be flexible, have extra supplies in case a gust of wind blows all the seeds from a student’s hand and to keep smiling when a tender seedling breaks due to overzealous hands. Children learn in different ways and engaging their senses and natural wonder is key to a student’s successful experience.

We grow plants with interesting scents, such as chocolate mint, compare the size of carrot seeds and squash seeds and watch tomato horn worms munching leaves — oh, no! I especially like to grow seeds or plants with interesting names: dinosaur kale, jelly bean tomatoes or green comet broccoli. We have planted gardens with themes: salsa, pizza, salad and butterfly.

Some of my students have special needs: physical, intellectual or emotional. A student in a wheelchair is able to plant a strawberry plant if you plan ahead so he can plant at the edge of the bed instead of reaching into the middle. Some students might need your hands over theirs to hold the trowel or cradle a seedling. A student’s pride in growing a seedling is priceless and might have been the most success he or she has had all week.

Many students might not have garden space where they live but might have room for a container. At our school garden, we plant some vegetables in containers and also have available at our annual plant sale some seedlings that do well in containers. Encouraging families to grow some fresh vegetables is key in helping them to make healthy lifestyle choices.

During my “grow” time with the students, we cover a variety of topics. What is on the seed packet? How deep should seeds be planted? What is healthy soil? How should various plants be watered? What is the role of pollinators? This time to learn in the school garden can be an important part of school culture.

The Grow Yourself Healthy lessons incorporate math, science and reading standards. And, the skills learned in growing food and choosing to eat fresh fruits and vegetables can last a lifetime. In school gardens, children learn where food comes from and they begin to see how they can do their part to be stewards of our land. Are these lofty ideas for our children? I think not. “To plant a garden is to believe in the future” – anonymous.

Kathy Williams is a master gardener volunteer with Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening and landscaping in Nevada, contact a master gardener at or 775-336-0265, or visit

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