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Archives for December 3, 2014

Garden design time

The other day, as the temperatures started to plummet and the snow started falling in earnest, we got our first seed catalogue: hurray! It’s an event! Mom and I always used to make a pot of tea, get a plate of her delicious baking, sit down in her cozy kitchen, and thumb through the catalogue, thinking ahead to “next year” in the garden. We’d pick our favorites and say “Let’s try that!” I know Mom was with me in spirit as I did the same this year.

If you get the T T catalogue, be sure to check out the picture of the “Taiwan Winner” cabbages on page 7:  these cabbages were grown by “Glen from Yorkton”. This is actually our own Glen Tymiak, who with his sweet wife Lena, are members of the Horticultural Society and are amazing and enthusiastic gardeners!  Congratulations on having your cabbage pictured in T T, that is very exciting! We’re all proud of you!

The T T Seeds catalogue is a great catalogue, brimming full of colored photos of all the many things you and I can grow next year. (But we’d have to get tips from Glen for the cabbage!) I started making our order, and I think each row will have to be only about a foot long so that we can fit in everything I’d like to try! We might have to edit down our order a bit! Some observations:  if you get the T T catalogue, you will notice a block in the lower right corner of the cover that says “NO GMOs: We do not carry any GMO products”. What is a GMO? That stands for “genetically modified organism”, which means that genetic engineering has changed the DNA of the seeds.  This brings new traits to the plant; some might be good, some not. From a gardener’s point of view, most gardeners are gardeners because they want to form a wholesome connection with nature; many grow their own food because they know exactly what it is and what has or has not been applied to it. Using modified seed might not fit into this scenario.  

On a more global scale, feeding the world’s population becomes more difficult if big companies own the rights to seeds. Will the poor little farmer in Africa or South America have access or be able to afford seeds to grow food to feed his family? It’s a very complex issue.

This awareness is part of the mandate of wonderful groups like the Assiniboine Food Security Alliance. Their lovely website ( says, in part, that food security is “Supporting local, regional, family-scale, and sustainable food production; Building and revitalizing local communities and economies; Bringing people closer in touch with the source of their food; Ensuring that individuals have access to a Heritage Seed Bank.”

And guess what? That is another thing that T T Seeds offers: a selection of Heritage seeds. I know many of you save your own seeds for next year’s garden, but if you are trying to find a variety that you have not seen around for a while, they might have it!

Congratulations to Barb Greenstein who became an honorary lifetime member of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society at our AGM recently. Barb was our treasurer for many years, as well as being an avid gardener and supporter of Society activities. Her support over the years has been invaluable and we are honored to have her as a member!

A big “Thank You” to Liz Jones, our Horticultural Society president, for organizing our annual AGM/holiday supper. Thank you to everyone who brought items for the auction, everyone who bought these items, and everyone who attended! Thank you also to the wonderful people at Melrose Place who made us such a delicious meal! It was a lovely evening!

Have a great week!

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Garden design event adorns Taipei City

In the News

Garden design event adorns Taipei City

The tree corridor at this year’s Taipei Garden Design Exhibition offers a serene getaway from the city’s hustle and bustle for urbanites. (UDN)

The Taipei Garden Design Exhibition, part of the 2014 Flora Festival, was recently launched at Taipei Expo Park, featuring a permanent display of the exhibits at the venue for the first time and sprucing up the cityscape.

“The exhibition is certain to boost the city’s profile as a world design capital for lovers of garden planning,” an official from event organizer Taipei Expo Foundation said. “It will also attract visitors seeking to be charmed by various horticultural scenes.”

According to the official, the event features two design themes: Southeast Asia and Green Paradise. The first section includes a sculpture of a child by renowned local artist Wang Hsiu-chi and a waterfall flowing into a pool. The second section provides a precious tranquil haven for urbanites, with a tree corridor and stone trail along a water lily pond.

The former was created by landscape company Yi Hsin Garden, and the latter by Leaf Design Studio. The two teams were selected from six winners of past events.

The exhibition also installed nighttime lighting to create a romantic atmosphere, the official said. “It is the perfect place for couples and families to come and enjoy a relaxing stroll.”

In addition, the event offers 35 self-guided activities and workshops for all and sundry on subjects such as home-based aroma therapy, potted Christmas plants and a healthy diet before wrapping up Feb. 28, 2015. (DF-GW)

Write to Taiwan Today at

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Students pitch cost-cutting ideas

Nathan Shrader says he knows how to save the University of Minnesota money. His plan: reduce its heating bill.

The management senior said a new company called 75F could save the University millions of dollars by installing a heating system that recycles air and reduces energy consumption — one of many cost-cutting ideas students are proposing as part of a contest that aims to trim the institution’s spending.

“It’s taking different processes that haven’t changed for decades and revamping them to cut significant costs,” Shrader said.

The student-run innovation group Co-Lab and the Minnesota Student Association are offering a $1,500 reward to the student who can submit the most creative and feasible option for saving University funds. The contest, dubbed OPEX, is designed to help students contribute to University President Eric Kaler’s “operational excellence” initiative to slash $90 million in administrative spending by 2019.

“Everyone has a role to play in Operational Excellence,” Kaler said in an email statement. “This competition, created and executed by our students, is an innovative way to advance a shared goal.”

Any University student can post an idea or contribute by commenting and voting on other students’ proposals, said Co-Lab Director Martha Radtke.

Based on students’ “up” and “down” votes, the two student groups will choose finalists on Jan. 19. Faculty specialists and the Co-Lab team will then help them develop their ideas before the students present to a final panel of judges Feb. 19. Shrader’s idea is currently in second place on the student-run forum called The Echo Spot.

Ideas must be designed to optimally reduce waste, whether that means environmental detriment, unnecessary costs or excess time allocated to menial tasks that keep the University running, Radtke said.

“To run a university of this size, it takes a lot of money, and unfortunately a lot of this money … has to be spent doing things that [don’t] really add value,” she said. “If we can heat a building cheaper, that means that we can take that money and pump it into research.”

Student proposals include implementing energy-efficient building strategies, developing a University navigation app and focusing on native plant species for University landscaping.

Although many of the ideas may not make up a large part of the total $90 million in savings Kaler is calling for in his recent cost-cutting initiative, Radtke said, they could still help improve the University community or make it more efficient.

As a way to control the cost of attendance, MSA has also advocated at the state Capitol for a tuition freeze, said John Reichl, the group’s vice president. But he said targeting smaller University expenses is another way to address cost spikes.

“It is going to be a lot of small solutions added together, as opposed to one big swipe,” he said.

MSA will support students by recruiting top administrators to be involved with the competition, Reichl said.

Capital Planning and Project Management will be an important partner, Radtke said, since it can implement student ideas into the University’s long-term plans.

To Shrader and other students, the competition is an incentive to affect University policy.

“What’s cool about this contest is that it connects … people with ideas to the people who have influence,” he said.

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Parma council plans for new town center: City Council recap

PARMA, Ohio — Cuyahoga County Planning Commission Executive Director Glenn Coyne on Monday presented ideas for a Parma town center to City Council.

The goal of the Mayor’s Town Center Task Force is to create a plan for the town center based around Ridge Road and West Ridgewood Drive that features the renovated Shoppes at Parma, the Parma branch of the Cuyahoga Community Library, City Hall, Byers Field and University Hospitals Parma Medical Center.

One idea presented was to include a park-like area with a walking and bike path, and council liked the suggestion.

Council President Sean Brennan said he hopes the revitalized mall and new town center will keep people in Parma and attract new visitors.

The task force came up with 44 recommendations and divided those into three groups: transportation, design guidelines and branding, Coyne said.

One idea Coyne mentioned was keeping the building character and landscaping to a specific theme, saying, “when you’re in there you know you’re in that unique area.”

Another idea the task force suggested for transportation is to have a trolley or shuttle to bus people around the city center area.

Coyne suggested to council that they “go find some money” through grants to fund the town center development.

Councilwoman Debbie Lime said she loves the ideas but hopes this isn’t something that “sits on a self and collects a little dust,” she is hoping the planning moves forward into a reality.

DeGeeter said members of the public were also encouraged to give input on the planning process.

The planning commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss Shoppes at Parma renovations.

Also at the meeting:

Council approved a resolution on first reading to support West Creek Conservancy’s Clean Ohio Greenspace Grant Application. The grant funds, if received, will help with the West Creek Greenway Phase 4 and Baldwin Creek Corridor.

Phase 4 is part of the West Creek Confluence plan to revitalize the land and connect West Creek Reservation and nearby neighborhoods to the Towpath Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Mayor Tim DeGeeter honored eight seventh-grade Girl Scouts as citizens of the month for their community spirit.

Parma Girl Scout Troop 70443 is made up of Isabella Bisesi, Taylor Danczak, Amelia Greiner, Morgan Jackson, Grace Jindra, Madison Legg, Madison Myers,  Danielle Ramser and Troop Leaders Jennifer Bisesi, Audrey Greiner and Stephanie Legg.

The troop was honored for one of their service projects, Backpacks for the Homeless, which filled 46 backpacks with hats, gloves, emergency thermal blankets and socks as well as food, such as crackers, juice boxes, peanut butter. The girls also filled gallon-sized bags with personal care items and filled several bags for children and included coloring books and crayons, Bisesi said.

“They do service every month, but this was their biggest project yet,” Bisesi said, adding that the brought the bags to Frontline Services in Cleveland.

The girls are already on to their next project of collecting 3,000 socks for the homeless.

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Montgomery gathering ideas for dealership sites

With all options still on the table, the city of Montgomery is working to decide what should replace two abandon car dealerships at the southern gateway to the city.

“It is time to start looking proactively from the city standpoint of what we want to do with these properties. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it is time to start envisioning,” Community Development Director Frank Davis said.

The city obtained the 11.6-acre site, which includes the old Chevrolet and Ford dealership sites and a small piece of land from Hamilton County, earlier this year. The city bought the Ford site for $2.8 million and the Chevy site for $2.8 million on bonds, which includes the cost of demolition and site preparations.

Davis and City Planner Tracy Roblero presented the results of the open house Nov. 11 and asked the Planning Commission Dec. 1 for its input on what should be done with the site. Davis said he will also discuss the sites with subcommittees of council and council, and will eventually take requests for qualifications to developers.

Roblero said ideas from the open house varied from condos to mixed-use residential and commercial to a community gathering place, but most residents shared the same concern.

“Overwhelming traffic is the main concern for people. Traffic on Montgomery Road is the major concern for not only this site, but the city in general,” Roblero said.

Members of the Planning Commission picked their most important considerations for the redevelopment off a list of 30, provided by Davis.

The commission’s most important considerations were a traffic signal being added between Cross County Highway and Main Street, family-oriented sit-down restaurants, emphasis on streetscape, vertical mixed use buildings, access to Cross County and below-grade parking.

“The biggest issue is what to do with the cars. Where do we put them and how many do we want to bring in?” Davis said.

The city has received plans for the sites from developer dating back to 2007. Each of the plans had underground parking or a parking garage and mixed-use office, retail and residential buildings.

Davis said the plans greatly varied in the number of residential units from about 90 to more than 220. He said previously the land was zoned to allow 12 to 18 units per acre and not more than 160 in total.

Davis and Roblero said city council leaning more toward having a professional office development, than a residential development, on the site.

“Professional office is our beard and butter in terms of earning tax and revenue,” Davis said.

Though every member of the commission wanted to see vertical mixed use buildings, they also had a residential component as a priority for the site. Commission members Vince Dong and Jim Matre said they would both like to see high-end apartments, while members Barbara Steinbrey and Michael Harbison said they would like affordable condos. Member Barbara White said she would not want rental residential housing on the site.

“I think there should be some offices in there, but I don’t think it should be the primary use,” Dong said. Steinbrey said a stable business on the site would be good to attract more residents.

The Chevy building was scheduled to be demolished Dec. 1, but was delayed. Davis said the city still expects it to be demolished by the end of the year. The city applied for a $100,000 Community Block Development Grant for the demolition of the Ford site.

Want to know more about what is happening in Montgomery? Follow Marika Lee on Twitter: @ReporterMarika

Planning Commission’s most important considerations

There should be a traffic signal between Cross County Highway and the Main Street split to accommodate traffic entering and exiting the site.

There should be two to three restaurants, including a family oriented sit down restaurant.

There should be an emphasis on streetscape, including landscaping, street furniture and outdoor seating areas.

There should be vertical mixed use buildings (first floor retail, second floor office or residential).

There should be direct access to westbound Cross County Highway, even if it means increasing the density to gain ODOT approval.

Some of the parking needs to be below grade, even if it requires additional subsidy from the city.

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Reusing greywater has promise as sustainable option

I know that some large buildings filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping. Is there an affordable way to do this at home?

— Bill P., Salem, Oregon

Now that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across the country, reusing so-called greywater —that is, the waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines — for landscape irrigation may be the next frontier in the greening of the American home, especially if you live in an arid region where water use is restricted. In fact, reusing your graywater may be the only way to keep your lawn and garden healthy without taking more than your fair share of the community’s precious freshwater reserves.

“Using water from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate plants is a way to increase the productivity of sustainable backyard ecosystems that produce food, clean water and shelter wildlife,” reports Greywater Action, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to educating and empowering people to use water sustainably. According to the group, a typical U.S. single family home can reduce water use by as much as 30 percent by installing some kind of greywater reclamation system while simultaneously reducing pollution into nearby water bodies by filtering out contaminants locally. Capturing and reusing greywater can also be part of the battle against climate change, given that you’ll be helping grow plants that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide while reducing demand on a regional wastewater treatment facility that’s likely powered by fossil fuels.

The simplest way to get into home greywater reuse is to install a “laundry-to-landscape” system that sends washing machine wastewater outside via a diversion tank and hose that can be moved around to irrigate specific sections of the yard. Equipment costs for such a set-up max out at $200, but labor and expertise may tack on another few hundred dollars. Handy homeowners can do much of the work in setting up such systems themselves, though those without much home repair or plumbing experience might at least consult a professional. Greywater Action suggests one way to reduce costs is by digging trenches for diversion pipes and mulch basins yourself — or enlist friends who want to support the effort and learn about residential greywater reuse in the process.

A more comprehensive system can draw wastewater from sinks, showers and tubs, too — and then filter and distribute it to backyard landscaping via a drip irrigation network. Getting such a system professionally installed can run upwards of $5,000.

Either way, once the greywater diversion system is in place, you’ll need to be careful about what goes down the drain, given how it might affect the plants and soils right outside. “In any greywater system, it is essential to put nothing toxic down the drain — no bleach, no dye, no bath salts, no cleanser, no shampoo with unpronounceable ingredients, and no products containing boron, which is toxic to plants,” adds Greywater Action.

For more information on installing a greywater reuse system yourself, check out the resources section of Greywater Action’s website, where you’ll find diagrams, written instructions and even videos to make the job go smoother. Those more inclined to hire a professional can browse through listings of qualified installers across the country. And if you want to see how it’s done first-hand, sign up to attend one of Greywater Action’s one-day workshops on how to install a greywater catchment and diversion system in a residential setting.

EarthTalk is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine ( Send questions to:

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Gardens that define the term

Vertical garden at 3109 King Street; photo Tom Dalzell

Vertical garden at 3109 King St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

“Quirky” has one thing in common with “obscene.”  When Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was presented with what the State of Ohio had deemed an obscene movie, he famously wrote:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

So it is with “quirky,” especially as applied to gardens. Many, long posts could be devoted to landscape architecture in Berkeley, and there are many arguably quirky gardens. Here I present only those which hit the upper scale of quirky, the kind of landscaping which you know is quirky when you see it.

For starters, I find vertical gardens quirky.

Vertical garden at 830 Camelia Street; photo Tom Dalzell

Vertical garden at 830 Camelia St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Vertical garden at 3109 King Street; photo Tom Dalzell

Vertical garden at 3109 King St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

If that is not quirky enough for you, there is the living roof, aka a green roof of vegetated roof, described by the City of Berkeley. Not to be confused with a rooftop garden, the living roof is the surface of the roof.  I have found three, but am sure that there are more.

Living roof at 1100 Spruce Street; photo John Storey

Living roof at 1100 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey

Living roof at Northside Community Garden; photo John Storey

Living roof at Northside Community Garden. Photo: John Storey

Living Garden at Eco House; photo John Storey.

Living garden at Eco House. Photo: John Storey.

I haven’t seen these next two myself, but Berkeleyside has.

Living roof at Freight and Salvage.  Photo: Eden Teller.

Living roof at Freight and Salvage. Photo: Eden Teller

Living roof at Berkeley Animal Shelter.  Photo: Emilie Raguso

Living roof at Berkeley Animal Shelter. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Quirk can also be provided by the container in which the plants have been placed.

Bathtub planter at 1632 62nd Street.  Photo: Tom Dalzell.

Bathtub planter at 1632 62nd St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Car planter at 1645 9th Street.  Photo: John Storey

Car planter at 1645 9th St. Photo: John Storey

Wheelbarrow planter at 2901 King Street.  Photo: Tom Dalzell

Wheelbarrow planter at 2901 King St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Mosaic planter at 1321 Lincoln Street.  Photo: Tom Dalzell

Mosaic planter at 1321 Lincoln St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Sculpted planter at 2339 Curtis Street.  Photo: Tom Dalzell

Sculpted planter at 2339 Curtis St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Car planter at California and Tyler Streets traffic circle. Photo: Tom Dalzell.

Car planter at California and Tyler streets traffic circle. Photo: Tom Dalzell

This last photo, of the traffic circle planter, is Berkeley at its quirky best — a group effort, toy car embellished with mosaics, and tasteful succulent planting — in a traffic circle.

For a fuller treatment of the quirky gardens of Berkeley, see Quirky Berkeley.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. This is the fourteenth installment in the series.

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for your local news? You can support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside Member. You can choose either a monthly payment or a one-time contribution.

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Great gifts for the gardener

Living on the Gulf Coast makes it easy to find holiday gifts for the special urban and suburban gardeners in your life. Gardeners are a varied lot, but with just a little thought, you can select that perfect gift.

Venture out and consider everything from gardening tools, garden art, outdoor planters and ceramic pots, water fountains, bird baths, birdhouses, stepping stones, wide-brimmed hats and gardening gloves.

Here are some places and gift ideas to get you started:

• JR-C Concrete Products,994 S. Fairfield Drive, offers a vast selection of cast-aluminum furniture, mailboxes and lamp posts as well as concrete planters, bird baths, water fountains, columns, balusters, sconces and statues. A field of animal statues includes lions, alligators, squirrels, rabbits, pigs, ducks, geese and frogs. JR-C also has a selection of concrete angels, Greek women, children and more. Prices vary. You can spend less than $5 to hundreds of dollars. The Nicholson family opened the business in 1978 and always has someone on hand to help and answer questions.

• Bailey’s Produce and Nursery, 4301 N. Davis Highway, is more than a popular spot to pick up fresh produce and plants. It sells original hand-crafted metal art. A whimsical, colorful metal dog clenching a white bone ($45) greets customers at the nursery entrance. Other favorites: metal flying pig ($24), metal birdhouse/flower sculpture ($68), metal lounging frog ($60), metal sunflowers ($24, $32), wrought-iron reindeer planter ($36), Kansas City Art pineapple fountain ($350), spindle bird bath ($145) and white-glazed ceramic tea pot planter ($49).

• The Dove Garden Shop/Arc Gateway,1020 E. Fairfield Drive, is a must-stop to shop for gardening pals. Check out the Ollie the Owl set of birdseed ornaments ($14.50), Birds Beyond acorn birdhouses made of bamboo, heather, seagrass and coco fibers ($8.95), parasol hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders ($24.95), African violet pots created by Arc clients ($12), metal owl rain gauges ($30.99), Regal Art solar light mushroom stakes ($26.99) and Songbird Essentials wooden mother-in-law suite camper birdhouses ($29.99). Don’t miss the Womanswork display of garden gloves with arm savers ($29.99), weeder gloves ($8.25) and matching hats that block UVA and UVB rays ($30.99).

• Floral Tree Gardens, 3601 N. Davis Highway, makes it easy to meander away an afternoon looking at unique, practical and simply fun items for gardening and landscaping. Shoppers discover everything from Wonder Grip gloves ($7.99) to Corona round-point shovels and bow-head rakes ($21.99) to Bond hand tool kits ($19.99) to Corinthian Bells wind chimes hand-tuned to the scale of C ($49-$199) to Gift Craft’s artsy metal frogs ($44.99) to a Westminster outdoor clock and thermometer ($69.99). Floral Tree’s varied stock includes a large variety of glazed pots and outdoor art including a massive metal fish ($499), pitted concrete seahorse ($329.99) and metal trellis ($369.99).


Tour Milton for the holidays in all its charm and splendor

Christmas Caravan: St. Christopher’s home tour decked with history

Your garden grocery: Grow healthy vegetables indoors this winter

Hand-crafted metal flying pig with pink wings, Bailey'sWhimsical hanging metal frog, Floral Tree Gardens.Large assortment of concrete planters, JR-C ConcreteGiant metal fish sculpture, Floral Tree Gardens.Various sizes of hand-crafted hanging metal sunflowers,Birds  Beyond coconut and acorn birdhouse, Dove GardenSongbird Essentials wooden mother-in-law suite birdhouse,Concrete elephant water fountain, JR-C Concrete Products.Cast-aluminum lattice table and chairs and street light,Four-foot Grecian woman statue, JR-C Concrete Products.Stained concrete lion wall water fountain, JR-C ConcreteCorona bow-head rakes, Floral Tree Gardens.Two-tiered pineapple water fountain, JR-C Concrete

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