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Archives for December 9, 2014

Gardening tips from Sally and Jim Strand



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    Tips from the Strands

    Sally and Jim Strand turned their golf-course-like Plymouth yard into an Asian-themed haven with dozens of distinct gardens. Here’s what they learned along the way:

    Go to nurseries every two weeks, and they’ll be selling what’s blooming at that time of year. That way, you can have something blooming throughout the season.

    When working with green-heavy Asian gardens, learn to layer with shades of green.

    Study your garden from different heights. “When we had a guy helping with our underwater sprinkling systems, I sent him up on the roof with a camera. You could do that from a ladder. If you have a deck, see how it looks from there. Or get down on your hands and knees and shoot upwards,” Sally advised.

    Use fertilizers carefully. For those with gardens near bodies of water, most fertilizers are not a great idea. The Strands recommend Melorganite, an organic nitrogen fertilizer.

    Think about bees and other pollinators. Plants thought to be bee-friendly might be anything but. Sally learned plants “at a big-box store I won’t name” contained neonicotinoid, an insecticide that is widely believed to contribute to the decline of bees. “Before purchase, always ask if plants were treated with this insecticide,” she said.

    Bill Ward

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    inside the StarTribune


    Holiday how-tos: the trickiest holiday conundrums, solved


    Cookie Finder: Recipes for 12 years of winning holiday treats


    Light up the season with these Twin Cities holiday displays


    State of Wonders: Amid a golden land, beauty in the details


    Play Upickem: Pick the games, win prizes


    Viking stadium construction cam

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    10 Tips to organize your child’s closet

    Are you tired of the never ending battle of keeping your kids’ room clean? Making a few modifications can help create space so everything has its place. Get your kids involved in the organization process by having them make labels, sort toys into bins and put clothes on shelves. Participating in the process of setting up a system will encourage them to take ownership of keeping their room tidy and clutter free. Try these 10 organizing tips to win the battle over bedroom and closet chaos.

    1. Shoes can clutter a closet quickly, so put a small set of shelves at the bottom of your child’s closet to stack the shoes. Put boots on top and slippers on the bottom shelf. You can also buy shoe organizers or make your own.

    2. Space can be tight in your child’s closet, so consider placing two clothing racks on top of each other so you can hang two tiers of clothes. On the other side, add shelving to store foldable items, such as pajamas, bath towels, and other items you want to have easy access to. You may even place games on the lower shelves so it’s easy for kids to help put things away when they’re done playing.

    3. Provide a laundry basket for dirty clothes after bath time. This ensures that when the dirty clothes come off, they never hit the floor.

    4. When you put clothes away, hang outfits together to save space or if you use shelves to store clothes, keep outfits folded together, making it easy for your child to get dressed in the morning.

    5. Use clear stackable plastic totes, as they are great for storing toys with multiple pieces like puzzles, blocks, cars, or craft supplies and you can see what is supposed to go inside. If there is a place for everything, it is more likely that the kids will get involved in keeping things tidy and picked up.

    6. Kids are more involved when parents help them pick up toys or put away clothes, because it is a process of teaching and modeling the behavior that you want to see them adopt.

    7. Ask your children for their input on how they would like their closet organized, because everyone’s sense of organization is different. Some kids might want pants together, tops together, etc., and others might want colors together or outfits together. If the closet is organized based on their sense of organization, then it’s much easier for them to participate in putting their clothes away and keeping things tidy. If the closet is organized based on the parent’s way of doing so, then your child may not buy into the process and you will constantly be battling to keep the closet and room picked up.

    8. Buy colored hangers for different items. For example, sweaters can hang on red hangers, pants on green hangers, shirts on yellow hangers, etc. Then your child can hang all of the same colored hangers together.

    9. Make it easy to put things away, and don’t create more work than you need to. For example, athletic uniforms, training kits, etc. that are used on a daily basis when in season, get worn and washed daily. Instead of folding them and putting them away over and over and over again, keep a special bin for your child’s current sport and just toss the items in there so stuff is easy to grab and easy to put away for both parent and child.

    10. Only fold what you have to! Does it really matter if boxers are folded? Probably not, especially since they are inside of a drawer usually. The easier you make it, the more likely, your child will buy into putting his or her clothes away.

    Whether your child is 3 or 13, they have a desire to please you. Getting them involved in chores early will teach responsibility and pride in their work. As they get older, give them more of a say in how they want to have their room and closet organized. As they see the benefits of a clutter free room, they will be more enthusiastic about maintaining it on a regular basis.

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    Fantasy through the arts at Drumthwacket

    The 2014 holiday season at Drumthwacket will showcase New Jersey’s vibrant cultural arts community, First Lady Mary Pat Christie announced today. This year’s theme, “Fantasy through the Arts,” features a unique partnership between The Garden Club of New Jersey, New Jersey Ballet Company, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

    “The holidays at Drumthwacket are a timeless tradition that the Governor and I enjoy very much,” said First Lady Mary Pat Christie. “We are so fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant cultural arts community represented in part, by our collaborative organizations, which bring excellence in dance, music and theater to audiences throughout the Garden State. This year, we are especially pleased that visitors to the historic residence will have the opportunity to experience the collective artistry of these fine groups.”

    Once again, the Garden Club of New Jersey has contributed countless hours of work to adorn the Governor’s Official Residence for the holidays. Club members have been working since summer to create and design arrangements to compliment this year’s theme, Fantasy through the Arts. Participating Garden Club members are: Dogwood Garden Club, Essex Fells Garden Club, Keyport Garden Club, Mountain Lake Garden Club, Shrewsbury Garden Club, Warren Garden Club and West Trenton Garden Club.

    The Drumthwacket Foundation Holiday Open Houses, which are open to the public, are scheduled for Dec. 10, 14 and 16.

    Reservations are required and can be made at School field trips and groups of more than 15 people should contact 609-683-0057, Ext. 5.

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    Getting Kids Into Environmental Activism

    Dear EarthTalk: Do you have any tips for helping me get my kids involved in environmental protection advocacy? – Jeanine Black, Charlotte, NC

    There’s no time like the present to teach kids to respect their environment and be willing to stand up to protect it. Of course, any good environmental education starts at home: parents should always keep in mind that they are role models for their kids, and should act responsibly. And most schools today incorporate issues of sustainability into their curricula. But kids who want to do more can sync up with one of any number of nonprofits focused on getting young people involved with volunteering and advocacy on behalf of the environment.

    One of the best places to start is Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!), a nonprofit that runs a national speakers’ and workshop tour around the U.S. and beyond as well as summer camps devoted to teaching kids how to take action on behalf of the environment. The group also runs JAMs, bringing together “young changemakers” from local communities to brainstorm ideas for solutions to local, national and international environmental problems. The YES! website features information on a wide range of environmental topics as well as videos focusing on organizing and coalition building around shared environmental goals.

    Another great resource is the Center for Biological Diversity’s Generation Wild program, designed to help kids learn about and help protect local wildlife. The program’s website offers kids tips on things like how to write an effective and compelling “letter to the editor” for publication in a local newspaper, creating a backyard wildlife sanctuary, encouraging teachers and schools to undertake projects that help local wildlife, and spreading the word via social media.

    Meanwhile, Earthforce, Inc. helps kids ages 10-14 develop citizenship skills and address both local and national environmental problems. Participants get hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn about the issues and develop skills that can help them become lifelong leaders in addressing them. Another leading youth environmental group is Tree Musketeers, which empowers kids to use innovative approaches in launching their own environmental campaigns where they live. Through its Young Executive program, the group provides resources to help kids learn the practical, logistical and personal skills to lead environmental actions and spread the word about the need to live more sustainable lifestyles.

    Yet another nonprofit vehicle that helps kids get active is SustainUS, which focuses on sustainable development. Its Agents of Change program sends youth delegations to United Nations conferences on climate change, sustainable development, women’s issues and biological diversity—and its Lead Now Fellowship trains and supports young people in becoming leaders in advancing sustainable development.

    Last but not least, TakingItGlobal is an international network of young people working to tackle global environmental challenges. Its Digital Youth Engagement, Global Education and Social Innovation programs focus on creating the next generation of environmental leaders around the world.

    Young people can also get involved in environmental protection efforts right in their own backyards even without the support of a non-profit. Examples include organizing a local e-waste recycling drive, asking schools and businesses in the area to refrain from using noxious chemicals for landscaping, and coordinating carpools to reduce traffic-related greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, kids can learn a lot by finding a local green group and volunteering to help canvass for funds, clean-up a beach or waterway, or lobby local officials to take sustainability into account. Indeed, our common future may well depend on i

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    45 Companies with 40+ Growth

    Well over 100 entries were submitted for the first-ever Landscape Industry Hidden Gems list from Green Industry Pros. This list is designed to highlight a variety of landscape and lawn care companies, regardless of sales volume, that have shown a strong post-Great Recession growth trajectory, innovative business practices, and a commitment to sustainability and community.

    Download the list, as seen in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Green Industry Pros magazine.

    As part of the initial entry process, applicants were required to disclose annual sales volume (in 2007 and 2013), along with their number of full-time and seasonal employees. While sales volume is not included, this list does show a six-year sales growth percentage (2007-2013). Companies growing by at least 40% are included on the list. Additionally, employee base is generalized in one of three ways: less than 10 employees, 11-20, more than 20. This gives you a general picture as to how large a given company is. This list also includes the primary services offered by each company.

    As you will see, some of the companies on this list have many employees, while others have just a few. Now, naturally, smaller companies have a better chance of realizing explosive sales growth (as a percentage) than large companies do. Thus, some larger companies might cry “foul!” where this list is concerned. But the point of this list is to simply highlight companies that are “on the move”, so to speak. We can all learn from companies, big or small, that are growing and on the move.

    On that note, surrounding this list you’ll find more background on many of the companies that are included. Here you can read about the innovative business practices these companies are undertaking to grow sales and increase market share.

    We hope you find this first-ever Landscape Industry Hidden Gems list to be both interesting and informative. Like any new endeavor, it remains a work in progress. Tweet us @YG_PRO #GIPHiddenGems, comment on our Facebook page, or email us at to let us know what you think or ask how to apply for next year’s list. We know there are many more Hidden Gems out there. Do not be afraid to say, “Hey, I think I might be one of them.” If you are growing your business, creating jobs and doing good things for your community, you more than likely are.

    Now onto the Business Best Practices from this year’s Hidden Gems. You’ll find a host of opinions, strategies and tactics on the topics of Building Company Culture, Environmentally Sustainable Landscaping; Retention, Referrals, and Building a Business; and Ideas for Unique Add-on Services.

    Building company culture

    Over-performing companies typically have a well-defined vision that employees understand and buy into. This, in turn, helps create a culture of over-performing from the top of the organizational chart all the way to the bottom. In a service business like landscaping, where the field employees are the face of your brand, company culture becomes increasingly important as you look to grow.

    This year’s Hidden Gems point to several best practices that help them build a good culture, including:

    • Clearly define your business model and how you want to be perceived in the marketplace
    • Involve employees in the problem-solving process
    • Commit to employee education
    • Share in the successes you achieve
    • Sell the virtues of a Green Industry career to fresh, young talent

    Rock Hill council approves plan to upgrade Cherry Road

    Local News

    New downtown Rock Hill apartments backed by city incentives

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    Ball State groups rethink East Chicago

    EAST CHICAGO | Three groups of Ball State University students presented a range of ambitious ideas for economic and social revitalization in the city Monday afternoon.

    The students focused their studies on the ongoing environmental rehabilitation of the city’s waterways, the South Shore train station’s position as a commuter transportation hub, the area’s industrial legacy and its future, and the challenge of creating “connections” in a city of neighborhoods divided by water, roads and railroads.

    “The city of East Chicago is thirsty for ideas,” Mayor Anthony Copeland told the gathering before the presentations began.

    One group proposed an “Iron Necklace” to connect the city, borrowing Frederick Law Olmsted’s late-1800s planning of an “Emerald Necklace” to connect Boston’s neighborhoods to the city center through a series of linked parks.

    “We wanted to give a nod to the industrial heritage and history of East Chicago,” the group’s Josh Barkley said.

    The group also called for “the return of East Chicago’s water resources to its people,” including the Lake Michigan Shore, the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, and Grand Calumet River.

    “The whole concept behind this is to bring people back to the water and back to nature,” Mackenzie Thibault said.

    They suggested creation of centers of business activity linked by greenway trails and offering a variety of retail and living options.

    Those goals were common among the three groups.

    Another group built their ideas around the city’s central location: “We really saw East Chicago as a potential anchor in the region,” group member Adam Beauchot said.

    The group sees the opportunity for a “maker district” — art studios, fitness and recreation, a microbrewery — north of the South Shore Line station, which would anchor an area of business and residential development targeting commuters.

    Group member Debra Lake said East Chicago could take advantage of the heavy industry in its history — and the environmental remediation left over — to test new ways to clean water and soil and become a leader in developing new methods.

    All the groups suggested ways to make commercial strips, particularly Indianapolis Boulevard, more people friendly — turning The Boulevard into a boulevard, one might say.

    Widened sidewalks, bike lanes, perhaps parking lanes and landscaped medians between vehicle and pedestrian traffic would create that environment.

    The third group said the feedback they received from citizens included the idea that pedestrians were not a priority in the city. Their plan would promote mixed-use development, added bus stops, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

    “Everything is meant to promote pedestrian access to the city, and bike access to the city,” Billy Stratton said.

    Other recommendations included community gardens — both on the ground and on rooftops — plans to rejuvenate Marktown, and using industrial features, particularly BP’s storage tanks, as “canvasses” for public art.

    The studies, prepared by a total of 29 students guided by two professors, began in October when the Ball State group spent three days in the city, meeting with city officials and a variety of residents.

    The students — undergraduate and graduate, all in the urban planning and landscape architecture disciplines — presented the full repertoire of modern urban thinking. Mayor Copeland was enthusiastic about their work, and realistic.

    “It’s so much that sometimes it dwarfs you,” he said. But, he said that the city could focus on the ideas of connectivity, and the aesthetic changes, including lighting and landscaping, along thoroughfares.

    He said the city’s financial condition allows it to being making investments, and to be able to qualify for matching grants.

    “Accent the positive,” Copeland said. “Start improving things as much aesthetically as you can.”

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    Home of the Day: Light-filled Spanish in Venice

    French doors, wood-framed skylights and a large picture window invite natural light into the interiors of this updated Spanish-style residence in Venice. Decorative tile and southwestern hues in the kitchen keep the eye moving while adding a splash of color. Outdoors, raised-bed gardens, succulents and cacti evoke a desert vibe.

    Location: 724 Brooks Ave., Venice 90291

    Asking price: $1.999 million

    Year built: 1924

    House size: 1,509 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms

    Lot size: 5,203 square feet

    Features: Hardwood flooring, skylights, picture windows, French doors, family room with wood-burning fireplace, breakfast patio, country kitchen, dining room, patio, pool, tropical landscaping, raised-bed gardens

    About the area: The asking price of homes for sale in the 90291 ZIP Code has decreased 5% since December last year, according to Redfin. The number of home sales for that area has increased 140.7% year-over-year.

    Agent: Tiffany Rochelle, Pardee Properties

    To submit a candidate for Home of the Day, send high-resolution color photos via, permission from the photographer to publish the images and a description of the house to

    Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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    Mercer Botanic Gardens Winter/Spring 2015 Program Schedule Released

    SPRING, TX – The Mercer Botanic Gardens has released their Winter/Spring Program Schedule Schedule…


    Lunch Bunch: North Carolina Garden Safari. Wednesday, Jan. 14, noon – 2 p.m. Join Mercer’s own Jeff Heilers and Chris Ludwig as they recount their experiences from an official tour of public and private gardens in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Commonly known as the “Triangle Area,” it is internationally renowned as a plant lover’s paradise. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    Landscape Problem Spot? Not for Long! Wednesday, Jan. 21, 8:30 a.m. – noon. Develop creative solutions to your landscaping problems with Darnell Schreiber of Landscape Problem Solving. This class is limited to 16 participants, so it will fill up fast! To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    Texas Gulf Coast Gardener, Tier 3: The Art of Landscape Design. Mondays beginning Jan. 26 through March 2, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Learn all the steps involved in building a perfect backyard oasis from experts. The class includes informative presentations from guest speakers in the mornings followed by practice analysis and landscape design in the afternoons. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    Sustainable Landscape Conference: “Resetting the Meter: Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Parking.” Friday, Jan. 30, 8 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. During this one-day conference, experts will share strategies to create environmentally-harmonious parking schemes that can also enhance surroundings. Six CEU credits are available, approved by LA CES™. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.




    Lunch Bunch: Native Trees and Plants for the Landscape. Wednesday, Feb. 11, noon – 2 p.m. Join a fact-filled conversation about native trees and plants for the landscape with presenter John Ross. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.




    March Mart Volunteer Training. Wednesday, March 11, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, March 14, 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. New and experienced volunteers learn about the March Mart process and what to expect at the event. For additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    Lunch Bunch: March Mart Preview. Wednesday, March 11, noon – 2 p.m. This annual PowerPoint presentation will whet your gardening appetite for the biggest and best plant sale in the Gulf Coast region. Plant guides will be available to plan your garden purchases. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    March Mart Preview. Saturday, March 14, 10:30 a.m. – noon. This annual PowerPoint program will whet your gardening appetite for the biggest and best fund-raising plant sale in the Gulf Coast area. Plant guides will be available to plan your garden purchases. For additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.


    March Mart – TMS Members Only Early Entrance. Friday, March 20, VIP: 8 a.m. All membership levels: 10 a.m. Members of The Mercer Society (TMS) can take advantage of early entrance to this year’s plant sale to get first pick of the vast plant selection. Become a TMS member to enjoy these benefits and more by calling Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731 or visit to learn more.


    March Mart. Friday, March 20, noon – 4 p.m. and Saturday, March 21, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. One of the Texas Gulf Coast region’s largest and most anticipated horticultural events, this plant sale features high-quality plants rarely found at local retail nurseries. Plan to attend and discover the diverse array of hard-to-find and hard-to-resist plants. Complete your day at the park with lunch in the café located in the Visitor Center, followed by a visit to The Gift Shoppe with stylish garden art, unique mementos and gifts. Proceeds benefit the gardens and programs at Mercer.




    Lunch Bunch: Aquatic Plants – Not as Hard as You Think. Wednesday, April 8, noon – 2 p.m. Dave Lee with Aquarium World in Houston will explain how to properly care for aquatic plants. To register or receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.




    Story Time in the Gardens. Third Monday of the month, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mercer volunteers share some of their favorite nature books with children and their parents in the Mercer gardens. Check in at the Visitor Center for the specific location in the gardens.


    Lunch Bunch. Second Wednesday of each month, noon – 2 p.m. Join fabulous speakers at these free presentations that cover various topics. Participants are encouraged to bring lunch to enjoy during the events.


    Chrysanthemum Society. Fourth Friday of most months, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. These monthly meetings include discussions about growing chrysanthemums and floral arrang­ing. The Society also provides plants for Mercer’s collection.


    Cypress Creek Daylily Society. Sundays, Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 22, and April 26, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Meet in the Visitor Center to learn about gardening with daylilies.


    Upcoming Events


    Summer Color Conference and Sale. Saturday, June 13, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. This popular annual event features a sale of fantastic summer garden selections coupled with inspiring lectures that will help you choose the right plants and grow them to perfection. This year’s event is being held just before Father’s Day. Give dad a gift that grows!


    Children’s Summer Programs. Tuesdays, July 14, July 21, and July 28, 9 a.m. – noon. To learn more, please call Mercer Botanic Gardens at 281-443-8731.

    ·         July 14 for children entering Kindergarten and Grade 1

    ·         July 21 for children entering Grade 2 and Grade 3

    ·         July 28 for children entering Grade 4 and Grade 5

    With leadership from Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, Mercer Botanic Gardens is a Harris County Precinct 4 Parks facility located one mile north of FM 1960 at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble, 77338. Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical ability. Anyone seeking additional information or requiring special assistance to participate in any program should contact Mercer at 281-443-8731 or online at

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