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Archives for December 4, 2014

Garden tips for December

Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014 12:00 am

Garden tips for December


By Ray Ridlen


• Remove leaves from cool-season grasses or mow with a mulching mower.

• Continue mowing cool-season lawns on a regular basis.

• Continue to control broadleaf weeds in well-established warm- or cool-season lawns with a post-emergent broadleaf weed killer.

Trees and shrubs

• Select a freshly cut Christmas tree. Make a new cut prior to placing in tree stand. Add water daily.

• Live Christmas trees are a wise investment, as they become permanent additions to the landscape after the holidays.

• Light prunings of evergreens can be used for holiday decorations. Be careful with sap that can mar surfaces.


• Apply winter mulch to protect rose bush bud unions and other perennials. Wait until after several early freezes or you will give insects a good place to winter.

• Poinsettias must have at least six hours of bright, indirect light daily. Keep plants away from drafts.

Fruits and nuts

• Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3 to 4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.

• Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.


• Keep all plants watered during dry conditions even though some may be dormant.

• Irrigate all plantings at least 24 hours before hard-freezing weather if soil is dry.

• Order gardening supplies for next season.

• Now is a great time to design and make structural improvements in your garden and landscape.

• Send for mail-order catalogs if you are not already on their mailing lists.

• Clean and fill bird feeders.

• Make sure indoor plants are receiving enough light or set up an indoor fluorescent plant light.

• Till garden plots without a cover crop to further expose garden pests to harsh winter conditions.

• Visit your county extension office to obtain gardening fact sheets for the new gardening season.

• Join a horticulture, plant or urban forestry society and support community “greening” or “beautification” projects.

• Review your garden records so you can correct past mistakes. Purchase a new gardening journal or calendar to keep the new year’s gardening records.


Thursday, December 4, 2014 12:00 am.

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YOUR GARDEN GUY: Tips for a holiday decorating

Local State

Defense: Multiple suspects could have killed man stabbed outside parents’ Lizella home

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Tips: What to Know about Automating Your Home

The “connected home” is one of the biggest areas of technical innovation today, with smart appliances, learning thermostats, app-driven lights, and intelligent door locks taking center stage in home improvement stores and magazines. In fact, by 2017, an estimated 36 million homes throughout North America and Europe will be smart.

For some consumers, the concept of a “smart home” can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

The Basics

Home automation gives you remote and automatic control of a wide array of devices in your home —it’s ideal for convenience and control, and some devices can help with money savings. Home automation can also alert you to events that you might want to know about while you’re gone, like leaks, kids arriving home or security breaches.

For your furry family member, your smart home can distribute pre-determined amounts of food on a schedule so you don’t have to worry about your pet missing dinner while you’re stuck in traffic.

Right for You?

Not everyone is in a place to install a full home automation system. Apartment living, renting, low cash flow, expensive installation fees and advanced technical set-up can all be limitations.

However, with stand-alone home automation devices and apps, you can make your home smart without integrating a whole-home network. For example, smart locks, lighting, irons, coffee makers, security cameras and refrigerators can all be controlled by smartphones without the need for a fully integrated system.

First Things First

With security and access control leading smart home product adoption, a logical place to start is at your front door. Consider trying Kwikset Kevo, powered by UniKey, which was the first smart lock on the market. It makes it possible to open the door by simply touching the deadbolt —without removing your smartphone from your purse or pocket.

Available at many major retailers, it installs easily, within a few minutes, with just a Phillips head screwdriver, making it an excellent example of how one product can usher your home into the era of automation.

From there it’s easy to move on to take smarter control of your home appliances and lighting, and you can make as many or as few changes as your budget and imagination allow.

Smart home solutions are granting homeowners access to information and features that were previously unavailable. Bottom line: you don’t have to be rich or have a fully-connected home to enjoy the benefits. If you’re considering getting on board the trend, do your research and find the best technology and products for you.

More details

Websites to check for more information include, and

Copyright © 2014, Daily Press

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Live reindeer at Frederik Meijer Gardens part of seasonal fun

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Live reindeer are scheduled to return to Frederik Meijer Gardens for the next couple of weeks. They made their debut on Saturday, Nov. 29 as part of the Gardens’ Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition.

The animals were a popular attraction at the Leslie E. Tassell English Perennial and Bulb Garden as patrons took pictures and petted them while learning more from their handlers.

The reindeer will be available from 1 to 4 p.m. on three more Saturdays: Dec. 6, 13 and 20. Santa will also make appearances between 5 and 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Dec. 9, 16, and 23.

It’s all part of the garden’s international display of holiday traditions of more than 40 trees, alongside the holiday-themed Railway Garden. The exhibit runs until Jan. 4, 2015.

Each tree represents a culture and combined they required more than 300,000 lights to decorate. The Railway Garden features a unique horticultural display that incorporates garden design and miniature buildings that represent 30 iconic Grand Rapids landmarks made from natural materials, and model trolleys and trains by designer Paul Busse.

This year’s exhibition celebrates the 20th anniversary year focusing on the theme: Welcoming the World, in light of the upcoming Japanese Garden opening in June.

Highlighted are New Years’ traditions from Korea (hanbok), Japan (kadomatsu), Vietnam (Tet Nguyen Dan) and China (Lantern festival). The exhibit also has a new Ghana display which features woven, handmade clothes that mark the significance of the Ghana people’s colorful history, customs and religion.

The exhibition, Santa visits and reindeer are all included with a regular admission ticket. Horse-drawn carriage rides, performances by the Original Dickens Carolers, and more are also part of the celebration.

Admission to Meijer Gardens, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, is $4-$12, with children age 2 and younger getting in free. Daily hours and more details can be found at

Todd Chance is the West Michigan Entertainment Concierge for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at or follow him on Facebook , Twitter, Google Plus

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The Fockele Garden Company receives Healthcare Design top award

GAINESVILLE — Healthcare Design magazine has honored The Fockele Garden Company with its 2014 Landscape for Healthcare Communities Gold Award. The award is the magazine’s highest honor, and The Fockele Garden Company was the only company to receive the award.

The Fockele Garden Company was recognized for its work on four therapeutic gardens at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville. Since 2009, Fockele has built Anne’s Garden, the Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden, Nell’s Prayer Garden and the Pope Family Garden. All were totally funded through signature gifts to The Medical Center Foundation.

The four gardens are part of the hospital’s vision for developing outdoor therapeutic spaces. Anne’s Garden, the Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden and Nell’s Prayer Garden are all located adjacent to the North Patient Tower and their connectivity allow patients, their families, visitors and staff patients to meander from one garden to the next. The Pope Family Garden is an interior garden in the South Patient Tower and is accessed through the Women and Children’s Pavilion.

“Experiencing a garden environment is shown to reduce stress, and the gardens at the medical center were designed with patients, their families, and staff in mind to provide a respite from stressors often experienced in a hospital, ” said The Fockele Garden Company co-owner Julie Evans, who designed the gardens along with co-owner Mark Fockele. “We enjoyed our collaboration with Northeast Georgia Medical Center and The Medical Center Foundation in the creation of these beautiful gardens.”

Jurors noted several aspects of the gardens in the award, including textural variety and year-round color and the number of plants used throughout, including 80 varieties in the Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden and 60 varieties in Anne’s Garden. Nell’s Prayer Garden even includes a donor’s heirloom climbing rose that was handed down through multiple generations and an old-fashioned blue mophead hydrangea.

Each garden promotes health and healing, is fully accessible and offers many benches and chairs where people can rest and relax while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of nature.

The Fockele Garden Company completed the conceptual designs for Anne’s Garden and The Pope Family Garden, as well as the planting designs and detailed plans for all four gardens on the campus. The conceptual designs for Nell’s Prayer Garden and the Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden were developed by HGOR in Atlanta.

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Holiday tipping etiquette: Err on the side of generosity

Should you leave a present in your mailbox for the neighborhood letter carrier? Should you tip the landscaper who trims your mesquites and sages? And what about leaving a little something for the person who keeps your pool clean and bright?

My feeling has always been that gratitude should be our attitude all year round, not just for the holidays. That includes holiday tipping — giving deserved recognition to people who provide us with services in and around our homes at holiday time.

Here are some issues that come up about tipping:

Generally speaking, individual contractors, like an electrician or a carpenter working in your home, do not expect a tip. But if they’ve become regular visitors or friends of the family, a Christmas card with a gift card inside might be the nice thing and right thing to do.

You may have to be careful about this practice in other situations. State, county and city governments often have strict regulations about employees accepting gifts. Look online at the Arizona handbook for state employees as an example of what the rules are that they have to follow (

Employees of larger home-services and home-improvement companies also could be breaking company rules by accepting money from you.

However, you may want to err on the side of generosity when one of these home-repair employees does you a big favor, like coming to your home in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner to stop a leak or fix the dishwasher. You might reward that rescuer with extra cash for helping out during a special occasion.

During the holiday season, you might want to buy extra gift cards to keep on hand for “emergencies,” situations when you suddenly need to say thank you in a special way.

Most parents can give a teacher a box of candy, but not a lavish gift. Some schools may also have a policy that forbids gifts for teachers. So check with the administration office to be sure you don’t embarrass yourself by going too far.

You may be asking yourself how big those tips should be. Take your budget into account as well as the standards of the city you live in. A dog walker in New York City is probably expecting a whole lot more than one in Phoenix.

Most etiquette experts suggest you give a cash gift to day-care providers, babysitters, house cleaners, your barber and beauty-salon staff, personal trainers, dog walkers and pet groomers. To determine the size of the tip, you could give someone the cost of one of their sessions or visits. In some cases, that might be more than you can handle.

Live-in helpers, such as nannies, home health-care workers and housekeepers, may deserve a more than that — maybe one week of pay.

Everybody appreciates what trash collectors do, but it’s unlikely you would tip them, particularly when a different person drives the truck up to your house at 6 a.m. every Tuesday. They might even think that present you left on top of the can is meant for the trash.

One specific landscaper may deserve a tip, but if a different crew from the landscaping company works on your house each week, it’s probably up to their bosses to reward them at holiday time.

If you have gotten to know you letter carrier well, consider leaving a card in the mailbox with something special inside addressed to him or her. After all, they start and stop your mail when you’re out of town.

You might want to remember the man or woman who faithfully delivers your newspaper on those dark, cold winter mornings.

The etiquette of generosity doesn’t just stop with a tip for your housekeeper. It’s also a good attitude to keep in mind throughout the holidays.

Be gracious to the friend who invited you to a Christmas party — maybe bring a package of gourmet coffee instead of a bunch of flowers. Coffee now costs almost as much per pound as steak. And don’t rush out the door right after dinner.

How about a gift card to the movie theater for the neighbors who stop your dog from running away now and then, or the ones who keep an eye on your home when you’re on vacation?

Next week, we’ll talk about ideas for holiday gifts made in Arizona, grown in Arizona or just plain perfect for Arizona.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated “Rosie on the House” radio program heard in Phoenix from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3). Call 888-767-4348.

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Three brilliant ideas for giving aging urban streetscapes a modern facelift

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 3:37 pm

Three brilliant ideas for giving aging urban streetscapes a modern facelift

By Dominic Basulto
Washington Post News Service

Morning News

As part of a broader vision to make cities smart, connected and environmentally sustainable, innovators are working on creative ideas to update the urban streetscape — think trashcans, street lamps, bicycle counters, bus stops and parking garages — for today’s digital lifestyle. Case in point: a new plan from New York City announced this month to transform the city’s outdated pay phone booths into a citywide network of 10,000 futuristic pillars that will give New York City residents and tourists free, super-fast and reliable Wi-Fi coverage.

1. New York City’s WiFi pillars

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014 3:37 pm.

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Waterville council takes first step toward Head of Falls boardwalk

WATERVILLE — City officials say having a 950-foot-long boardwalk from the Two Cent Bridge north along the Kennebec River would be a great asset for the waterfront at Head of Falls.

To that end, councilors Tuesday night voted 7-0 to spend $2,500 from money remaining in a waterfront bond to develop a design and estimate the cost of such a boardwalk, which would become part of the city’s network of recreational trails.

They said funding for a boardwalk would have to come from grants and gifts, and having a design and cost estimate in hand would make it easier to apply for and get grants.

“I think it’d be a great amenity at that location,” City Manager Michael Roy said Tuesday night. “I don’t think it’s anything that would take away from anything that would come in the future. It would be part of the trail system.”

Roy said Wednesday that the city is not trying actively to market Head of Falls for commercial development, but he said the site is vastly underused and he thinks a public forum about possible uses for the waterfront is needed.

“I think it would be a helpful thing to have a communitywide discussion about the highest and best uses for that property so we don’t bounce back and forth between administrations,” he said. “There are varied points of views, and we’re (city staff) kind of caught in the middle.”

The city had an estimate four or five years ago of about $400,000 for a boardwalk, according to Roy.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Roy said he would welcome any ideas for further improvements at the waterfront.

The city already has spent $1.75 million on improvements to the waterfront completed in 2010. About 10 years ago, the city borrowed $1.25 million and received a $500,000 Municipal Infrastructure Trust Fund grant from the state to install water, sewer and electricity at Head of Falls, as well as develop a parking lot there.

In 2010, a plaza was built near the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, lights, a kiosk and landscaping. Repairs also were made to the bridge.

The installation of the underground infrastructure 10 years ago was intended to help draw businesess to Head of Falls. Economic development advocates at the time said a brew pub, restaurant, offices and other businesses would work well there and attract more people to downtown.

But Mayor Karen Heck, Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, and others have pushed in recent years to maintain green space at Head of Falls. Festivals and concerts are held on the grassy expanse that was once the site of mills and housing.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said Tuesday night that there had been plans for an active kiosk at the plaza in front of the Two Cent Bridge that would include a video and information about activities occurring in the city, but that type of kiosk was not installed.

Roy said officials were worried an interactive kiosk would be vandalized. It also would have to be updated, and there did not seem to be a lot of energy for that.

The Waterville Rotary Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year and is requesting proposals from organizations in the city for a project Rotary could sponsor as a way of commemorating the anniversary, according to Roy. The city could apply for $150,000 in Rotary money to be used toward the boardwalk, which would be about 6 feet wide, have a railing and extend north to where Union Street meets Front Street.

“That certainly would be an eligible project,” Roy said Wednesday.

In other matters Tuesday, Christian Smith, of Macpage, the city’s auditor, said the 2013-14 audit shows the city’s uncommitted fund balance was $4.6 million on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. A city policy states the fund balance should not go below 12 percent of total budget expenditures, and the fund balance is at 12 percent now.

“That means you achieved your goal,” Smith said.

The schools had a fund balance of $677,347, according to Smith.

“So they’re in good financial shape as well,” he said.

The school lunch program did well, having made a $37,000 profit, he said.

Auditors encountered no difficulties dealing with city management in performing and completing the audit and found no deficiencies in internal controls, according to Macpage officials. Also, no disagreements arose between auditors and management about financial accounting, reporting or auditing.

The council also voted to postpone indefinitely a request to rezone 155 River Road from commercial to residential to allow Centerpoint Community Church to transform a bowling alley there into a church. City Solicitor Bill Lee determined no rezoning is necessary.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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Grow flowers and bushes that suit your garden climate

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Flowers, bushes, and flowering shrubs add eye appeal to any home’s outdoor space. If you would like to feature ornamental plantings in your garden, you’ll achieve the best results when you choose species that are suitable for the local climate and your property’s own individual conditions. Not only will they tend to be healthier and better blooming, your plants will be greener in the figurative sense. They will usually need less care and feeding, and you will be contributing toward the restoration of flora native to your area.

Gardening Zone

The first step is to determine the correct gardening climate zone for your location. The USDA issues a plant hardiness zone map, which has been updated several times as new data are incorporated. However there is a limitation to the USDA map, because it indicates only the winter temperature (based on the annual average minimum) for each zone. In response, Sunset magazine has come up with a series of climate zone maps that take into account the total climate of each region, to indicate where various plant types will thrive year round.

Other Climate Factors

In addition to your location’s geographic latitude, a whole host of other climate factors come into play. In windy regions, for example, hardy flowers are less likely to be uprooted by blustery weather. Higher elevations, with their strong sunlight and cool temperatures, also affect plant survival; robust flowers and bushes are best suited for these elevations. Proximity to seawater exposes plantings to salty ocean breezes. Even very local differences such as a garden’s position on a hill can make a great deal of difference. Flowers and shrubs planted on the hill’s side will enjoy warmer temperatures than those on either the hilltop or the valley, for instance.

Soil Quality

The quality of the soil in the microclimate of your own garden should also be taken into account when selecting plants. Different soils contain varying amounts of nutrients and pH levels. Experts recommend testing your soil every 3-4 years, as its composition can change over time. Soil testing kits are widely available through university extension services. In addition, it’s helpful to determine which type of soil you have — sandy, clay, or loamy (usually considered the ideal, as it balances good drainage with moisture and nutrient retention). If you find that it is less than perfect, you can take two actions; first, choose shrubs and plants that will flourish in your soil type and second, remediate the problem by adding organic matter.

Amount of Sun Exposure

Another important aspect of your garden’s microclimate is the amount of sun it’s exposed to. This will be affected by a number of conditions, some of which can be modified. To illustrate, it’s possible to trim overhanging tree branches so that the flowers and bushes in your garden receive more sunshine. However, shadow from your home, other nearby structures, or geographical features is a more permanent situation. In this case, you will need to choose shade-loving plants to make your garden bloom.  

Native Plants and Xeriscaping

There is a growing trend nowadays to fill home gardens — and sometimes even to replace grass lawns — with either native plants or xeriscaping. Native plantings preserve and restore the plants which historically are indigenous to your locale. Native plant societies all over North America work toward this conservation. Xeriscaping, on the other hand, is a kind of eco-friendly landscaping designed to reduce garden watering needs, especially for naturally dry regions. It consists of selecting plants, which may or may not be native to the area, for their low water consumption needs.  

Laura Firszt writes for

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More than simple sustenance found at ‘Basic Necessities’

On a brisk, rainy day earlier this autumn, Nelson residents shuffled quickly inside a quaint house on Virginia 151. It’s nestled in so snug on the side of the road that many passersby tend to overlook it.

Inside, though, is a place unlike any other in Nelson. Inside a small kitchen, soups and cappuccinos are brewing and in a separate section of the room are little gifts and various wines.

Another room is made up completely of wines, and beyond there is a dining room area where customers cozy up next to a fireplace to enjoy a bit of warmth on a chilly autumn day.

Basic Necessities opened in 1997 with the idea of bringing a European vibe to Central Virginia.

“The basic necessities are good chocolate, wine, bread, cheese and coffee. So that’s how the name came about,” co-owner Kay Pfaltz said.

Having been a loyal traveler to France, Pfaltz became accustomed to having what she describes as the “best bread, cheese, wine and chocolate in the world” and found that Nellysford didn’t have as much.

“You go from Paris to Nellysford and there’s a big difference,” she said.

Pfaltz found herself in Paris during college when she was studying at the University of Virginia and didn’t get along with her French classes. In order to be exempt from a French credit, students were offered the opportunity to spend three weeks in Paris — so off she went.

“This started a love for the culture, wine, food and people, so I kept going back,” she said.

At age 19, she took a class at Steven Spurrier’s “Academie du Vin,” a private wine school in France, and from there had the dream of opening a wine bar that might also serve interesting foods.

“[The class] went over my head but did get me interested in wine,” she recalled. “So I picked up a glass in one hand and a book in the other and I self-taught myself.”

Pfaltz lived in Paris off and on for 14 years before moving back to Nelson for good in 1994.

When she arrived back in America, Pfatlz — who holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in English literature — couldn’t find any teaching jobs in the area.

Instead, she found an old bakery shop and opened her business, which she now owns with partners Sallie Justice and Rosie Gantt.

Outside, behind the shop, is an edible garden, where many of the trees came from Edible Landscaping in Afton.

The shop uses much of what is grown in the garden, including apples, pears, raspberries, tomatoes and spices from two large herb gardens.

“We like to show the customers that the food is very fresh,” Pfaltz said. “It’s organic, fresh and seasonal.”

Every year, Pfaltz goes back to southern France to pick up little inspirations for the shop and items to decorate it to make it look like it belongs in France.

This year, she went in September and brought back photographs and tablecloths.

“I love the colorful-

ness of it,” she said of

the tablecloths, with no two designs alike. “Nothing matches. The tablecloths are all different. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s happy. I wanted it to reflect the south of France because I love it, hence all the colors.”

She also has traveled all over the world, picking up items like colorful tiles that are a mix of Tunisian, Mexican, Italian and Provencal. Foreign currencies that are taped on walls near the kitchen from all over the world are contributions from customers — Pfaltz said she spent most of hers while she was abroad.

“Between 25 and 26 I traveled solo around the world to get a taste for different cuisines,” she said. “I spent two week in the hospital in China and gained 15 pounds eating. Though while I traveled all over the world, I find Nelson County to be one the most beautiful, magical and special places in the world.”

The wines are brought in mostly from France, Italy and Spain; however, the shop is proud to support domestic wines and Virginia wines.

The dinner menu at Basic Necessities changes each week but always offers a vegetarian, meat, pasta and seafood option, all sourced from places around the area like The Rock Barn, Timber Creek Organics, Blue Heron Farm and Caromont Farm.

Live music is played each Friday and Saturday night at the shop, and a harpist accompanies Sunday brunch.

From time to time, people have asked if Pfaltz plans to grow her business and the answer is always the same.

“If we grow it away from here, it’s not the same. I’m not interested in growing it. I’m interested in doing what we do really well,” she said. “What matters is what the heart is saying, not what the bank is saying about finances, or what your head may be saying.”

No matter what customers get out of the little shop on Virginia 151, they can all be sure to feel a little bit of “corkiness” from what comes from within the French wine restaurant.

“It’s very romantic and I hope that when people walk through the doors, they get a little bit of magic,” she said.

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