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Archives for February 11, 2015

A walking tour of Cupertino, Apple’s surprisingly fascinating hometown

There they are, posed outside Cupertino’s number-one tourist destination. The full breadth of selfie styling is on display. Some stand clutching the 1 Infinite Loop sign, almost woozy with proximity to power. Others crouch. Some do the “Ellen” group shot with Apple’s headquarters in the background, or point to the Apple on the sign. The visitors are admirably racially diverse and gender balanced. They love Apple, and this will make a great Instagram.

Down a cement path, the actual Apple buildings rise in green-and-beige four-story blocks. The only part of the complex open to the public is the retail store, a humble first-floor shop where one can buy Apple hoodies, t-shirts, water bottles, and assorted tech accessories.

While Apple’s products underwent a nearly magical transformation after the iPhone, the company’s office buildings retain the early, boxy Mac aesthetic. They are functional, and not much more. Woz, not Jony Ive.

As the world’s richest and best-known tech company, Apple sits at the center of an almost unbelievably profitable network of manufacturing plants, logistics centers, and retail outlets. The company could increase its revenue by $40 billion this year, which would be more than than half of Google’s total revenue. Apple’s supply chain stretches across the world, emanating from this node in the global matrix. But its headquarters’ centrality is cognitive only. Cupertino is where the most important e-mails come from, but few of the actual raw materials or laborers or products move through its atrium and into the campus.

Apple didn’t need to be here. It did not choose this place for access to cheap electrical energy or for proximity to a river or ocean. The general Silicon Valley location helped, certainly, but Apple’s landing right in Cupertino was mere chance. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak happened to grow up around here, and now hundreds of millions of people have seen the town’s name, immortalized as the default location for all iOS devices.

Cupertino, in other words, was not destined to be a company town, but it became one. Sixteen thousand Apple employees go to work each day in the many buildings Apple controls in the city. They’re interpenetrated by chain restaurants, acupuncture doctors, some of the nation’s best schools, and neighborhoods that seem cut-and-pasted from the 1970s.

Many Apple employees pass through as few of its streets as possible on the way from private bus stops to their buildings. I’ve seen several employees jokingly refer to the town as “Poopertino” on Twitter. And the casual disinterest, or even disdain, for the town has been part of the Apple workforce’s collective attitude since long before the company’s post-iPhone boom. “Other than the mechanics of lunch, traffic, and hotels for out of towners, I don’t recall a single instance of actually talking about the city as its own entity,” said Tim Holmes, who worked at Apple from 1995 to 2002.

“I always found Cupertino to have no there there,” Holmes, a long-time San Leandro resident, said. “Strip malls, few sidewalks and those that existed simply ran alongside six lane roads on one side and on the other tinted glass monoliths full of high tech offices, often empty.”


Think of Apple’s iconic television ads. They often occur in empty space: a well-lit, bright white backdrop of nothingness. Apple has produced ads like this since 1984! Where is this place? Where is Jony Ive always talking to us from? The answer is Cupertino. But what is Cupertino? Cupertino is a pleasant place from which to use screens.

Apple converts real places into ideas. They even have begun to name operating system releases after beautiful California locations. Mavericks, Yosemite: these natural wonders become computing environments.

But Cupertino is a real place. So, let’s fill in the picture. Let’s tour it like people once toured Detroit, gathering postcards from the attractions, pedestrian and humble as they might be.

I. The Crossroads

It’s Friday morning at the Cupertino Crossroads Shopping Center. This intersection—De Anza Boulevard and Stevens Creek Road—has been at the center of Cupertino’s history ever since Juan Bautista de Anza passed through what would become the city in 1776. It was on a knoll not more than five miles east of here that he and his crew became the first Europeans to see the Bay on an overland expedition from the south.

Tiny little Stevens Creek, then known as Arroyo San José de Cupertino, meanders north through Silicon Valley, eventually emptying into the Bay through some marshes near Google’s campus in Mountain View.

Come east, though, from that historic hill, crossing over 85 and past De Anza College, a pretty two-year institution tucked next to the highway, and you reach the crossroads.

This is the heart of Cupertino’s agrarian mythology. It’s where the blacksmith was, when people’s most important tools were made of steel, not brushed aluminum. The general store was here, too. If you were here in 1939, a hand-painted sign would have told you San Jose was eight miles east, Sunnyvale three miles north, and Saratoga four west.

Nowadays, it might be useful to think of Cupertino as very near the southwest edge of Silicon Valley. Go south or west and there’s not much but gorgeous, coastal hills until the Pacific Ocean ends the continent.

Go north or east and you find yourself in a wonderland of computing history: Hewlett-Packard, Google, Intel, Xerox PARC, AMD, Oracle, Yahoo. Youngbloods, too, like Facebook, and ghosts: Shockley Semiconductor, where it all started, and Fairchild.

Now, in this parking lot of the Crossroads, what we have is a TJ Maxx, a UPS store, Staples, a yoga studio, a frame shop, a Starbucks, couple of hair salons, couple of banks, a treadmill store, and Pizza Hut. The only sign that a technology company might be nearby is the presence of a Philz, a coffee chain that ran undisturbed for years in the Mission, before stapling itself to the tech industry (it’s the on-campus coffee provider at Facebook) and seeing its fortunes expand. The chain raised something like $15 million in 2013 to keep growing.

This Philz is staffed with cool kids from the community college, but they know they are located across the street from the beginning of the Apple warren. The guy prepping bagel sandwiches is wearing a purple shirt from Palantir, the secretive software company originally funded by the CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, and which has been used by many agencies in the intelligence wing of the US government. I get a Turkish coffee with mint and cream and sugar and, as at all other Philz, the coffeemaker asks me to try it “to make sure it’s perfect for you.” It is, and I start my walk through Cupertino.


The walking route I took from Apple’s current headquarters to the site of its future HQ.


II. Infinitives

While 1 Infinite Loop is Apple’s headquarters, the truth is that the company has been, as Steve Jobs put it to the Cupertino City Council in 2011, “growing like a weed.” Apple’s current headquarters hold fewer than 3,000 people, but the company has more than 16,000 employees to house. “So, we’re renting buildings—not very good buildings either—in an ever greater radius from our campus,” Jobs explained.

Much of the commercial real estate near 1 Infinite Loop is now Apple controlled, but not all of it. Apple’s buildings sit next-door to music schools and nail salons and markets.

In fact, it has long been this way. The original Mac project team was housed in various buildings along Stevens Creek and a small road called Bandley Drive. So, I head up Bandley, aware that the dominant type of interface in computing was born right on this street.

There’s a Noodles Company on the corner surrounded by nine tall palm trees. The road curves gently past a Cantonese dim sum place, Lei Garden, on the left, and the loading docks of a big Asian grocery store, Marina Food, on the right. On this rare cold, gray morning, only older Chinese people are walking the sidewalks.


The first Apple building shows up on my right. It’s fancy, new, mostly glass. I glimpse kitchen workers getting things ready and skinny-jeaned Apple employees buzzing in and out. Apple buildings show up on my left, too: Bandley 8, Bandley 4, a Ducati office.

Then, sandwiched into this non-campus campus, a slate of businesses catering to Cupertino families: There’s a swim school, a Joyful Melodies music classroom, and Little Mustard Seed, which offers afterschool programs and classes, including English, Mathematics, and Mandarin.

Whether it’s a nursery for Apple or children, it’s all stucco-and-terra-cotta strip mall. The only institution that’s tried to modify the architecture to fit its purpose is The Chinese Church in Christ in Cupertino, which constructed a four-pillared symbolic roof over its entrance with a cross in the gable.

Founded in the 1970s by “foreign students who were studying in the South Bay area,” it’s one of 50 Chinese churches founded in Santa Clara Country since 1980, and one of six branches of the CCIC, which are spread out around the lower rim of the Bay. At CCIC-Cupertino, they worship in Mandarin, like the majority of Chinese churches in Santa Clara County. (By contrast, San Francisco’s Chinese churches are split mostly between Cantonese and English.)

Despite the proximity to Apple’s campus, Johnson Lee, the church’s pastor told me that there’s not much interaction between the company and the church. “We’re a community member. We do service to the community,” he said. “So, Cupertino or Apple are not our main concern. I’m not a city planner or a city council member. I’m not in a position to even think about that.”


There is Chinese Cupertino and there is Apple Cupertino, and the two don’t often mix. Meanwhile, seven thousand miles east in southern China, hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers at Apple suppliers are assembling iPhones and iPads.

Blue-collar work is not what Chinese parents in Cupertino want for their American-raised children. The city has become notorious for its high-quality, ultra-competitive schools. Every single school in Cupertino ranks a 10 out of 10 on the California Academic Performance index.

III. The bus

I continue down the quiet street, passing a shopping cart with an abandoned Safeway deli dinner sitting alone in its belly, then hang a right at Mariani Avenue towards the main campus. On one corner, there’s an acupuncturist, who could be serving either Chinese Cupertino or Apple Cupertino, and on the other, a parking lot, where buses disgorge Apple employees commuting in from the rest of the Bay Area.

In San Francisco and Oakland, these buses have been the target of protesters’ ire. In those cities, tech employees are seen as interlopers who drive up the price of housing (and everything else) without really being full residents of the city. They often leave at 8 a.m. and get back at 8 p.m., spending as many waking hours on the buses down to Silicon Valley as they do in the cities in which they live.

“Where I was born, they were more friendly. But everybody has got money around here.”

In Cupertino, you see the opposite problem: what the buses steal away from a community. While Oakland and San Francisco support thriving cultural scenes, there’s nothing going on around Apple’s campus. No one sticks around after work. They get the hell out as soon as they can shut down their computers.

Watching Apple employees arrive fresh-faced and a little chatty is heartening. An hour-plus commute down 101 every morning would not find me leave me cheery very often.

I watch the people pass by the perfectly symmetrical face of the building, Mariani 1. White guy in jeans and Vans, a gray north face jacket. Indian guy in sensible walking shoes, red backpack. White guy in light jeans, black fleece. Indian guy in black jeans, black shirt, vaguely elven shoes. Indian guy in striped golf shirt, puffy white sneakers. White guy in khakis, toting blue-and-white bag on a self-powered unicycle.

One would not have to be an expert to detect that, yes, we’re near a tech company.


IV. Orange Tree Lane

Crossing De Anza, I pass a boxy, glassy building. The sign says, “The Sobrato Organization.” What’s that? It’s the headquarters of one of the pick-sellers of the digital gold rush. They’ve developed 173 real estate projects in Silicon Valley since the 1950s, riding each successive tech wave. Across the region, people live and work in 16 million square feet of space built by TSO, including 1 Infinite Loop.

The Sobrato family’s net worth is estimated at $4.8 billion. And like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, John and Sue Sobrato have pledged to give it all away philanthropically or leave it to their family foundation. Up through 2013, they’d given away $263 million at a rate of $15 to $45 million per year.

The Apple buildings that surround TSO are unremarkable, Dilberty. I somehow catch up to the unicycle man and watch him powerwalk, wheel in hand, through the doors of a very 70s office.

Even the 6 Infinite Loop entrance, which looks much like the one people pose at out front, seems, absent the pageantry, quite normal. Four stories of greenish glass and sandstone, delivery trucks and a Chevy Volt parked out front, dudes in fleeces coming and going. This is the loading dock to the future, and it feels much more like a loading dock than the future.


I pass through a path that separates the loading dock from Sam H. Lawson Middle School, which is ranked 12th out of the 2,257 middle schools in California. It is figuratively and only just barely not literally in the shadow of Apple’s headquarters.

As I leave the school behind, I am shocked to find myself in a residential neighborhood that resembles the Wonder Years. There’s a house with oversize ornaments hanging from a leafless tree, a blue-and-white Lazy Daze RV parked on the grass next to the driveway. Another ranch has a naked flag pole driven into patch of yellow grass. Bricks climb halfway up the façade and then give way to beige wood.

One squat little home on the corner, flying an American flag, has red-wrapped presents under a garlanded fir tree. A string of lights arcs up to a shooting star on the chimney. It is the middle of January.

A green hose snakes aimlessly through the grass from a spigot. Chimes hang from a gutter pipe above the doorstep, still and quiet.

We are three blocks from the headquarters of the most profitable technology company ever, on Orange Tree Lane.


I turn down yet another deserted street and start wandering back towards Stevens Creek Boulevard and spot a tiny house that looks old, real old. All in, it’s maybe a thousand square feet, with a real tile roof and an awning over the window. The landscaping is well-loved, a trumpet flower tree dripping across the wall near the door. Behind the low brick-and-iron fence, there’s an artistically displayed rusty machine, an agricultural pump.

Out front stands a man in a red fleece and jeans, with a perfectly trimmed white mustache. His name is Sal Mendez, and he’s been living in Cupertino for 50 years. When he moved into this neighborhood, it was mostly orchard. There were four houses on the block. Back home near Visalia in the central valley, he’d worked on a farm. “10 hours a day, no holidays, no vacation. I got tired of it,” he said. “I said, I need a better future for my family. They all went to school, and hey.”

When he arrived in Cupertino in the early 1960s, he latched on with PGE and spent 37 years with the utility. On the day we met, his son had just retired from Xerox. “And my other son retired from Lockheed,” he told me. “If I would have stayed where I was working at, that wouldn’t have happened.”

I asked him how often he thought about being so close to the world’s most powerful tech company. “Almost every day,” he said. “When I tell my friends I live close to Apple, they go, ‘Ohh!’ That’s a nice company.”

Perhaps Cupertino does lack some charm. “Where I was born, they were more friendly. But everybody has got money around here,” he said. “I don’t have money, but I’m comfortable. Some times they say hi. Some times they don’t. It’s OK.” But this is where Mendez has made his home and his life. Everyone expects him to sell his house and harvest the small fortune he’ll make with a quarter-acre lot in such a desirable city. “I’ve got everything close. My church is over here. The liquor store is over here. All the restaurants,” he said. “What more can I ask for?”


V. The Great Divergence

Cupertino has worked out for Sal Mendez and his neighbors. The schools are great. Crime is low. The weather is as good as it is anywhere in America. The area’s unemployment rate is 3.3 percent. The homes might look modest, but the median price of a home sold in the last three months was $1.4 million.

Apple funded a report on its economic impact on Cupertino in 2013. The report tabulated that Apple paid $1.3 billion in salaries to employees living in Santa Clara County, and indirectly paid or induced an additional $1.4 billion in wages. The company’s 1,285 employees who lived in Cupertino alone received collective wages of $159.4 million.

Local companies benefit from Apple’s presence, too. The same report pegs the total impact of Apple’s purchases from companies in the cities of Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale alone at $5.9 billion.

The city government’s tax haul is not huge in absolute terms—$9.2 million in corporate taxes during the fiscal year 2012/2013, and $6.5 million in sales taxes. But that’s a big chunk of the local budget. Additionally, there is the $25 million of local property taxes that Apple paid that year, and an additional $32 million per year that the company expects to pay on its new campus. That helps fund those excellent schools.

“A lot of the things we associate with Silicon Valley were just non-decisions.”

Yet all of these numbers don’t capture Apple’s economic impact on Cupertino and the Bay Area generally. Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti has dedicated much of his research agenda to the question of what “innovation jobs” do for a region. His book The New Geography of Jobs opens with a parable. A young engineer, David Breedlove, was living in Menlo Park in 1969. He liked his job, but wanted more space for his family. From his perspective, Visalia and the smallish Silicon Valley cities like Cupertino and Menlo Park were fairly equivalent. They were at a similar economic level, the schools were similar, and Visalia was a bit safer. It was reasonable to Breedlove to move his family to Visalia.

Nowadays, high-tech engineers do not move out to Visalia. And people who came from Visalia like Sal Mendez would have a really, really difficult time buying into Silicon Valley.

Moretti calls it The Great Divergence. “Workers in cities at the top of the list make about two to three times more than identical workers in cities at the bottom,” he writes in The New Geography of Jobs, “and the gap keeps growing.”

And Moretti argues that a big part of the economic inequality is the “multiplier effect” that high-tech jobs have on the metro areas where those jobs are. His econometric studies have found that for every new tech job a region gets, five additional jobs are created outside the industry (e.g., lawyers, CPAs, teachers, nurses, hairdressers, baristas).

Cupertino, and everyone lucky enough to live there, is on the better side of the divide. The new company town might not have Diego Rivera murals and Carnegie libraries, but it has been insulated from the economic shocks of globalization that have hollowed out the country’s middle class.

The changes are deep and real, but the reasons for those changes—why one geography rises and another falls—are not easy to deduce. “How did Apple end up in Cupertino in the first place?” askedLeslie Berlin, Project Historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University. “It was close to where the founders went to high school. A completely non-deliberate decision. A lot of the things we associate with Silicon Valley were just non-decisions.”



VI. The Rotary Club

I walk down to the end of Blaney, past a convenience store that’s been empty since Marlboros were $5.08 a pack. Then, I swing back out onto Stevens Creek Boulevard, past Asian restaurants of all persuasions, to Pacific Workspaces, a kind of co-working space, where local professionals of all stripes share a receptionist and some basic office machinery, but work out of separate rooms.

Paul Hancock is sitting in the reception area at Pacific Workspaces wearing a blue blazer and gray slacks. He’s a CPA who has been in Cupertino for decades—the kind of guy who is in the local Rotary Club. That, in fact, is where he first heard of Apple in 1979 or 1980. “Two young men came in and they were talking about two 23-year-old guys named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. And they were starting this company called Apple Computer. I remember them describing why they picked the word Apple: It had something to do with some mystic thing of Steve Jobs,” Hancock said. “None of us had any idea what it was going to mean in the long run.”

Hancock sees Apple’s impacts in terms of the effect on other local businesses. He jokingly grumbles about how bad the traffic is—and more seriously wonders what will happen to all those “not very good buildings” that Apple’s been renting when their new headquarters are finished. Will the area around 1 Infinite Loop become a ghost town? At the very least, it might get easier to rent office space.

As we’re wrapping up, the Pacific Workspaces office manager emerges from the back to make sure that nothing negative was being said about Apple. “That might make Apple not too happy with us,” she said. “Oh no, I wouldn’t want to give that impression,” Hancock reassured us. “I have too many clients who work there.”

I bid them a good afternoon and wander past more Asian-shop-filled strip malls towards Tantau, where I’ll swing north towards Apple’s campus. One produce market caught my eye. It had a shelf filled with taro root and kabocha squash and “special yam” topped with three smiling lucky cats, massive rice containers, Little League baseball trophies, and old agricultural implements. A jumble of Santa Clara Valley mythologies, unintentionally arranged.

In 1980, 90 percent of Cupertino was white. This was the suburban dream as marketed to white people by other white people. But this town, which young white people begrudgingly trek to each day from hipper points north, turns out to be a great place to raise kids for Asian immigrants. Cupertino is now an “ethnoburb” — and a much more interesting place because of it.


On the other side of these strip malls lies Cupertino High School. At the city’s schools, a fascinating racially charged situation has arisen. With so many high-performing East and South Asian immigrants packing the city’s schools, white kids have become associated with academic failure, an inversion of the racial structures found in many other districts. Tomás Jiménez, a rising star sociologist at Stanford, has been digging into Cupertino’s schools, doing in-depth research with educators, students, and parents in the community.

Faced with competitive pressure in math and science, the parents of white children respond by emphasizing the other things their kids are good at, beyond academics. “Wait a second. What about our social growth, our emotional growth, this balance?” one parent said to Jiménez. “I think, as Americans, we tend to want to have a more balanced childhood for our kids and we’re interested in academics but we also want to have them do swimming or music or whatever,” said another.

How else can their children grow up to be the ones designing in Cupertino?

Soon, the students of Cupertino High will be just across Highway 280 from the coolest, most awesomely futuristic office building in the world. They’ll eat at the same string of Asian restaurants (Viva Thai, Mongolian Hot Pot, JOY Palace, Sushi Hana) as the Apple employees who choose not to take advantage of their on-site lunch options.

The Roasted Coffee Bean has printed a simple sign, which hangs in the window: “APPLE WELCOME 2ND CAMPUS.”

VII. The big green monster

Gilbert Wong, city council member and two-time mayor of Cupertino, remembers when he first laid eyes on Apple’s new campus headquarters. Steve Jobs had invited him and another council member to 1 Infinite Loop, where they chatted about the plans.

Then Jobs grabbed a special set of keys and led them down a dark hallway. He opened the door and inside was the room-size model of Apple’s completely circular, all-glass headquarters.

Jobs wanted them to be awed by the awesomeness of the plan. “And I was awed,” Wong told me.

“It’s a little like a spaceship landed,” Steve Jobs later told the Cupertino City Council in the summer of 2011, as he publicly introduced the plan for Apple’s campus. The land was originally developed out of apricot orchards to become the headquarters for Jobs’s heroes Hewlett and Packard. It would house 12,000 people in millions of square feet of space all contained in one building. Orchards would be replanted on some of the rest of the site. The only building that it resembles is the headquarters of the GCHQ, the British version of the NSA.

“It’s a little like a spaceship landed.”

Apple estimates that the project has created almost 10,000 construction jobs directly, and bumped up county-wide employment by 12,600 total jobs.

Drone video captured from above this past summer showed the gigantic ring taking shape. “The approval of the Apple Campus 2 is a no brainer, but the devils are in the details, as they say,” Wong said. I ask him what the main sticking points of the negotiation were, and he demurs.

“Let’s just say that a company like Apple has more cash on hand than the US government, and for a company like that to argue over little small things was very frustrating,” he said. “But the deal that we negotiated on behalf of the city and residents of Cupertino was the best deal that we could get for our residents.”

Apple did not return several requests for comment for this story. The company remains as secretive as ever. Several current employees I asked for the most innocuous details were terrified to talk with me. One former employee told me he could only ever talk to me about Apple in person.

As I approach the new campus, crossing over the 280 freeway, I can see nothing of the grandeur of the spaceship building. All 150 acres Apple owns are surrounded by an enormous green wall. The wall is so unbroken and so tall that it resembles a 19th-century fort, some kind of outpost of an empire. It calls to mind the green monster at Fenway or the Green Zone in Baghdad. If zombies were to attack, I am making for Apple Campus 2, as it is known in the planning documentation.


With its new campus, set even further from what passes for a downtown, Apple seems unlikely to become more integrated with Cupertino. Like so many tech companies, it will function increasingly like a semi-autonomous city-state, self-contained and self-satisfied, its leaders controlling a global empire from whatever patch of ground they have acquired. Apple has created an environment for brilliant, creative people to come together and change the world, but they’ve sealed themselves off from their local environments. They are the corporate person, staring at a screen, while the rest of the world passes by, forgotten and less important than whatever is in the glass.

Standing outside the great green wall, the only pedestrian around, staring up at the cranes and construction vehicles, dozens and dozens of trucks pass by me on Tantau. The entire site seems set on a hill. From the street level, one looks up to see the top of a cement mixer or truck filled with aggregate rumbling by. These views, and the inhalation of the dust, are the only experiences available to those outside the wall.

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Higher Ground: This Detroit high school senior wants to open a marijuana …

DeMarius “DJ” Tidwells is a not unusual 18-year-old Detroiter. He is a senior at Covenant House Academy on the west side and expects to graduate this June. He’s wondering about his future — thinking about college or possibly starting his own business. His interests haven’t settled on any one thing, but he talks about possibly starting a transportation company, or a landscaping company, or getting into law enforcement, or opening a marijuana dispensary.

“I believe that it’s a good career, the money is legal, and you’re also helping out people for a medical reason,” DJ says.

Obviously DJ is entertaining a lot of ideas, but for a Detroit youth to consider selling marijuana legally is a new twist on what has long been a road to trouble for so many others.

“To me if you’re just using it for fun, it’s the same as cocaine or any other street drug that you can find,” he says of marijuana. “I don’t smoke it, and I don’t want to try it. For people that need it for a medical reason, I suggest that you should use it. It’s better than popping pain pills all the time.”

DJ has seen the evidence up close. His mother, Joyce Tidwells, 46, has had two surgeries for an aortic dissection, a condition where there is a tear in the wall of the aorta and blood flows where it should not. It’s the condition that actor John Ritter died from. She also reports suffering from high blood pressure, sleep apnea, anxiety, and depression. For the past five years, she’s used marijuana to help keep calm and to control pain. Marijuana is relatively new in her life. She was once a heavy drinker and weighed more than 300 pounds.

“I used to drink,” says Tidwell. “My niece was like, ‘Auntie, you need to try marijuana. It might mellow you out.’ Most of the people that I saw who were smoking weed, they were like couch potatoes. I needed to calm down so I tried it. It was helping me with the pain and anxiety. When I’m in pain, my blood pressure goes up.”

High blood pressure is a risk factor related to aortic dissection, so she needs to control that.

However, Joyce’s health is just one of many bumps that have beset the family. Although it wasn’t related, shortly after starting to smoke marijuana she lost her job because she’d missed too many work days due to illness. Then they ended up in COTS, a homeless shelter, where things did not go well when they heard that Joyce used medical marijuana.

“The counselor told DeMarius, ‘Your mom doesn’t love you because she won’t stop smoking marijuana,'” Joyce says.

DJ says that the counselor told him, “‘I don’t know, DeMarius, it looks like you’re going to be homeless for the rest of your life because she won’t stop smoking weed.’ To me it was disrespectful the way he put it.”

I called up COTS to ask what they would say to a client who was using medical marijuana. I was directed to voice mail in their social work office and left a message, but no one got back to me before deadline.

DJ has stuck by his mom. Today she rents a home on the west side and lives on Social Security disability. She says she always goes into her bedroom and shuts the door when she smokes marijuana so that DJ isn’t exposed to it. A younger son lives with his father.

“When I had my surgery, DJ was the only one here to take care of me,” Joyce says.

DJ does seem dedicated. His social life is limited because of the time he puts in helping Joyce.

“I enjoy being around family, taking care of Mom,” he says. “I don’t get out to hang with friends that much.”

He keeps an eye on her, and she worries about him when he is on the streets. DJ is over 6 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds. He gets stopped by police often enough for her to be concerned, considering the number of young black men who have been shot by police lately. He sees another side of marijuana out on the streets.

“I catch the bus a lot,” he says. “I would hear people talking about they have this or that kind of marijuana for sale, the different types. Some calm you down, some hype you up.”

Joyce is keeping her eye on the situation.

“He’s a big guy,” she says. “People have been approaching him to buy marijuana from them since he was like 13. We’ll be walking down the street and people will approach him to buy marijuana. … He doesn’t have an interest in smoking marijuana. I get him tested.”

Joyce and DJ have an evolving attitude toward marijuana. It mirrors the larger social phenomenon as this gets argued in legislatures and community centers. The biggest change in attitudes comes when somebody gets sick and finds out that marijuana is helpful.

For Joyce, the change is more than just about marijuana. It’s about changing to a healthier lifestyle. She’s changed her eating habits. She no longer drinks or smokes cigarettes. Fast food and sodium are no longer major components of her diet. Her weight has dropped to 190 pounds.

“I’m happy with just the marijuana,” she says. “I don’t think you need to do too much. Weed by itself is not bad. I had to learn that over the last couple of years.”

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Standing in the vegetable garden asking, “Why?”

Vegetables from the garden

Vegetables from the garden

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 12:00 am

Standing in the vegetable garden asking, “Why?”

By Mark E. Rice
Walker County Master Gardener

The Huntsville Item

A good friend with a few acres who enjoys gardening lets me garden vegetables at his place. The soil has been improved for years and I am a fortunate recipient. I only hope that I provide enough goodwill to buy myself into the next year. Before that, my foray into food gardening had been growing tomatoes and peppers and a few other vegetables mostly in containers, with bagged soil.

Where I live, I suffer from a lack of sunlight that vegetables require. I was brave for a year or two and planted tomatoes in the sunnier front “flower” bed where appropriate landscaping is proper for public view. Risking insult to neighbors, I farmed our front entry. My anarchy was shared by one other person on the block that dared to grow eggplant by the fire hydrant on his lot. One day a guest arrived. I thought he might frown on tomatoes in my landscaping, but he commented on how nice they were. He was a cook. He had an appreciation for “fresh.” He was, well, sort of envious. I was smug.

Still, I wondered why I was going through the trouble of growing things when I could just as easily have bought them at the store or a farmers market with a lot less effort and maybe not much more cost. My little attempts worked, but I never really understood why I had this need. Then I found myself at the garden with my friend asking the same question.

He would often holler across the rows as we worked, “why do we do this?” Depending on the time of year and our frustration, the implication was to ask why we were fighting weeds, heat and insects. Why we were in the garden when there were perfectly good stores everywhere with fresh produce? Certainly this was not the best use of our time. Or was it? Somehow we both knew there was a deeper question; something that rivaled asking “what is the meaning of life?” Each time the question was asked, we failed to define what we felt.

There were the usual answers. We wanted fresh. Better taste. We didn’t want to use pesticides or herbicides. We wanted organic or as close to it as we could get. We wanted to see if we saved money. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do it. One not too insane reason was that we wanted the exercise. We wanted to know that in the event of a (insert your favorite catastrophe here) Zombie Apocalypse, that we could survive. I’m pretty certain that Walker County has its share of survivalists that can relate to the desire to become self sufficient. “Zombie Apocalypse” can be defined however you want. No matter the explanation we offered, our answer was incomplete, insufficient and unacceptable.

And then something happened. I found it in a book that sat on my shelf for years without reading. First published in 1977, Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” put together some ideas that seemed to articulate at least part of our search for an answer.

Berry is a farmer and writer from Kentucky. He is both a student and steward of the land. As a keen observer and scribe of the human condition and our responsibility to life and all that it encompasses, he has few peers. The book I cite is far reaching, but my takeaway from a thin part of it, for our gardening question, was straightforward.

We enjoy it and may marvel at what we have done, but many of us may never ask why we do it. We garden not only for fresher food, proof that we can, or to be a survivalist. The truth is we garden because it fulfills a need for which we are programmed as humans. Among the many things that we do, our modern economy has demanded that most of us work at jobs where we trade our wage labor for something we did not produce for ourselves to consume. We have outsourced nearly everything. Our modern world has created for us a great source of anxiety that we really don’t understand. We need to do more for ourselves. Gardening helps. We produce it and eat it. We are fulfilled. Our stomachs and our soul are, at the same time, sated. Berry concludes that as producers we become better consumers. As consumers, we can change the world.

I trivialize his greater story, but the message is that if you are feeling something missing in your life, you might find it in a vegetable garden. As bizarre as it sounds, the Walker County Master Gardeners might just be able to help you accomplish a more fulfilled life. If they can’t, at least you might be able to get some nice salsa in the process. And yes, you can do this in containers with bagged soil.

On Feb. 20, at 10:30 a.m. at the Huntsville Public Library located at 1219 13th St., members of our local Master Gardeners will present a program on vegetable gardening. You will learn what works best in this area and have your questions answered.

Then, on March 14, the Master Gardeners Association will hold their Spring Plant Sale in their LEAF-PRO demo garden at Texas AgriLife center at 102 Tam Road off of Highway 75 North. Among all the things you need to make your landscaping pretty for the spring and beyond, you will find a variety of tomatoes, peppers and herbs for sale. Your soul might not be totally fulfilled, but you might get an answer as to “why?” Oh, and bring the kids. They don’t need to ask why.

Disclaimer: FYI: The Walker County Extension Office is now on Facebook! WalkerCoTxAgrilife has been established to provide updates and information to Walker County residents and landowners on a timely basis. For more information on the Walker County Master Gardeners, please call (936) 435-2426 or go to The WCMG website is a bounty of useful gardening information and citizens are encouraged to peruse it often.

If you have any questions about the information in this article or any of the Extension programs, please contact the Walker County Texas AM AgriLife Extension Office at (936)435-2426, or Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin. The Texas AM University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners of Texas cooperating. A member of the Texas AM University and its statewide agriculture program.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015 12:00 am.

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Green joy for special-needs people

Jeddah Municipality announced on Monday that it plans to open up a garden for people with special needs.
Mohamed Qattan, director general of gardens and landscaping at the municipality, said this would be the first project of its kind in the city.
The park will have 40 tables, 10 benches and equipment for people with special needs to exercise, specially designed walkways, watercourses, and a playground with a theater offering educational and cultural programs.
There will also be free Internet and walls for graffiti lovers to display their art. The park, which is under construction on Prince Sultan Street over an area of 7,700 square meters, is expected to open in May 2015.
A report issued by the municipality recently revealed that green spaces in Jeddah have increased by 370,000 square meters, reaching 17.7 million square meters. There are a total of 540 parks in the city.
Qattan said that the ongoing development of Jeddah’s gardens is part of a program launched by Hani Abu Ras, mayor of Jeddah, in 2014. Under the program, almost 23 gardens have been completed since the beginning of 2015 over a total area of 200,000 square meters, he said.
Qattan also said that the municipality was planning to create a number of women-only parks in Bani Malik, Al-Ajwa’ad district, Al-Raghama area and Prince Majed district.

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Downtown Hartford’s Gold Street Will Be Relocated For iQuilt Plan

HARTFORD — Downtown’s Gold Street will be relocated for a third time since the 1800s, this time as part of the city’s iQuilt plan.

Over the objections of nearby condominium owners, the city’s planning and zoning commission voted 5-1 late Tuesday to approve straightening the street and swinging it to the south.

Construction would start this spring and would be financed partly by a federal transportation grant.

The vote came after a public hearing that stretched nearly three hours, often marked by impassioned pleas on both sides of the controversial issue.

Video: Gold Street Facing Changes

Supporters said the relocation was crucial to iQuilt’s vision of a continuous green space from the riverfront to the state Capitol. Opponents, primarily from Bushnell Tower, argued the straightening would swing the road too close to the condominium tower, adding noise and potentially hurting property values.

Commission members acknowleged those concerns, but some said property values could well be enhanced by the road work and planned landscaping.

“From an objective point of view, I don’t see how they are harmed,” David Blat, a commission member, said. “There are many downtown residents who live close to the street.”

The plans call for straightening Gold Street’s gentle, s-shaped curve, heading it more directly at the venerable Hoadley Gate entrance to Bushnell Park. The move would create a continuous green space on the north side of the street, to be called “Bushnell Gardens,” essentially expanding Bushnell Park to Main Street.

Relocation Of Hartfords Gold Street Headed For Showdown

Relocation Of Hartford’s Gold Street Headed For Showdown KENNETH R. GOSSELIN HARTFORD Downtown’s Gold Street has followed three different paths since the 1800s. HARTFORD Downtown’s Gold Street has followed three different paths since the 1800s. ( KENNETH R. GOSSELIN ) –>

Commission chairman Sara Bronin said the Bushnell Gardens area — encompassing the existing Stone Field Sculpture and possibly, a cafe, greenhouse and public gathering space — would enhance historic buildings in the area. The road would relocate the road from the doorstep of such buildings as the Center Church House.

“The plan would enhance historic assets by giving them some breathing space,” Bronin said.

The road’s new path would traverse city-owned land that has essentially served as a spacious lawn area for Bushnell tower for decades. The condo owners argued the same effect could be created without moving the road, by designing a system of walkways, which would also save the city money and still accomplish the goals of iQuilt.

Sandra Bobowski, the dissenting commission member, said the condo owners purchased their units with the expectation the lawn area would be there.

“And we would be taking it away,” Bobowski said.

Supporters of iQuilt, adopted by the city council in 2010, cheered the commission’s decision after Tuesday’s night vote.

“We truly believe that this is an important piece of the GreenWalk,” said James Carter, iQuilt’s board chairman and managing principal of Carter Realty. “We believe it is going to enhance the Bushnell Tower property, and we think it is great for downtown.”

IQuilt is a vision for tying downtown together downtown cultural attractions and entertainment venues and creating more walkable access to Bushnell Park and the riverfront. Bushnell Garden is considered essential to the vision and relocating Gold Street was the first major redesign and a critical test for executing iQuilt’s vision.

Robert Frank, vice president of the Bushnell Tower condominium board, said, after the vote, that opponents felt their concerns were brushed aside and they found city hall unresponsive.

“We knew we were fighting an uphill battle,” Frank said. “We absolutely support iQuilt, but we are the stakeholders. We live here.”

Frank said it was unlikely the board would appeal the commission’s decision.

The plan won the support of the First Church of Christ, whose Center Church House is on the street. The church had initially opposed the relocation because it eliminated much-needed street parking. A compromise was reached, adding six permanent parking spaces on the street and making Gold Street one-way Sunday mornings.

The street relocation is part of a much larger transportation project, the $25 million “Intermodal Triangle Project,” intended to dovetail with iQuilt, making the streets near Bushnell Park more accommodating to public transportation and of pedestrians.

Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant

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The Mount, Fleetwood: Lofthouse family donate £1m to restore garden

The Mount pavilionPlans will go before Wyre Council’s cabinet on 18 February

A 19th Century landmark on the Lancashire coast is set for a £1m facelift funded by the family behind Fishermen’s Friend cough sweets.

Wyre Council said the Mount in Fleetwood will be “restored to its former glory” thanks to another gift by the Lofthouse family.

The authority said the resort was “indebted” to the family.

The Grade II registered Mount Garden was designed by architect and landscape designer Decimus Burton in the 1800s.

Councillor Vivien Taylor, cabinet member with responsibility for parks at Wyre Council, said the donation means it “can breathe new life into this iconic piece of Fleetwood’s past”.

If plans are approved, the restoration will be done in two stages.

The first includes restoring railings and shelters, as well as landscaping the seaward side of the garden.

The council will then use the remainder of the money to apply for match-funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the pavilion – which is also Grade II registered – gate lodge, rose gardens and landscaping of the landward side.

The Mount in 1902The Mount was designed by architect and landscape designer Decimus Burton

If approved at a cabinet meeting on 18 February, it will follow restoration work under way in two other parks in Fleetwood – Euston Park, which also designed by Decimus Burton, and Memorial Park.

Fisherman’s Friend was originally developed by Fleetwood pharmacist James Lofthouse in 1865 to relieve various respiratory problems suffered by fishermen working in the Icelandic deep-sea fishing grounds.

It remains a family firm and current owners Tony and Doreen Lofthouse transformed it into a global brand which is available in more than 100 countries.

The family set up the Lofthouse Foundation in 1994 and put a percentage of company profits into the charity to fund special projects to benefit Fleetwood.

In 2006, the family paid for the restoration of a replica of the London Eros statue and donated it to the town.

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Tips and tricks for gardening indoors

It is that time of year when one may receive a indoor plant from a Valentine sweetie or a Easter lily from a family member. This article features indoor gardening and suggests some plants which Queens of Spades members recommend for easy, successful indoor gardening.

There are benefits to having plants indoors. House plants naturally filter toxins from the air, add fresh oxygen to indoor air, soften the decorative lines for interior design and create focal points within the home.

The right stuff

Choosing the correct house plant is a matter of style, placement and the ability to understand plant care needs. Consideration should also be given to the container the plant will occupy both as a decorative element and for drainage.

All house plants have a need for a certain amount of light, heat and water. Heat is fairly easily regulated.

Most house plants will be comfortable in your house, if you are, too.

But the transition between nursery, retail outlet and your home may shock a plant. It may take up to two weeks for a new plant to get used to home conditions. In transporting a houseplant from store to home, protect it as much as possible from drying winds and extreme temperatures by covering it with a bag. For a cooler home, Queens of Spades garden member Ann Chandler recommends a Christmas Catus, Catus Schlumbergera. These plants grow well in a south, east or west windows. Because it is a flowering plant, it will go through a cycle of dormancy and growth.

“I used to kill my plants by over watering them,” explained Queens of Spades Garden Club member, Rose Renfrow. Over watering is the main reason that house plants die — they are loved to death. It is safer to under water rather than over water. In a container, roots are confined and will lose oxygen if saturated. “I learned to use a moisture meter to measure the water in plant containers. Now, I can successfully grow plants in my home and I recommend this device for indoor gardening.” said Renfrow. Moisture meters cost between $10 to $15 and can save plants lives. Always use room temperature water, cold water harms roots and foliage, hot water can kill instantly. Avoid getting water on leaves. When watering be sure there isn’t standing water in the pot, drain excess out. Queens of Spades Garden Club member Sue Wheatley suggests Clivia miniata Kaffir lily as a forgiving plant for those who forget to water on a regular basis. This plant is a flowering plant which prefers to be root bound. Clivia requires 4 hours of filtered light in the south, east or west side of the house.

Light is the challenging factor, certain plants need a certain amount of daylight to grow and, as the seasons change, the amount of daylight available in a home varies.

There are apps available for cell phones which serve as light meters and will measure the amount of daylight available in different parts of a house. A quick search of the Internet will show the daylight demands of the houseplant you are growing. Can artificial light work house plants? Yes. However, sunlight is best. There are differences between sunlight and artificial light. Artificial light such as florescent bulbs don’t emit as much energy in the red blue region of the light spectrum as sunlight. Houseplants with high light demands may not grow as well under artificial light. There are special grow lights available for plants, but sunlight is free.

Queens of Spades Club members Ann Chandler and Diane Franchini suggest African violets Saintpaulia as a good all around plant, but it does require 14 hours of light, including artificial light, consistent watering and some fertilizer. “The secret is to water violets from the bottom of the pot,” explains Renfrow who now favors the African violet as her favorite indoor plant. The reward for these efforts will be an array of beautiful flowers which can be displayed as decorative element in the home .

Fertlizer requirements vary with the house plant from none to regular feedings. It is best to research the needs of a specific houseplant online. A good rule of thumb is that a flowering plant would welcome some light fertilizer and foliage plants less.

Another plant recommendation by two Queens of Spades members, Ann Chandler and Shelly Lounsbury Griffin, is the succulent Jade Plant Crassula argentea which likes direct sun and a porous soil. Its flat paddle-like leaves look like jade. It wants infrequent watering because it stores moisture in its leaves. This plant is recommended for the beginning indoor gardener.

Two members of the Queens of Spades, Diane Franchini, and Lori Ballard, included on their list of favorite indoor plants the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant Sansevieria. This plant features long upright leaf blades with yellow stripes and a grayish green pattern presenting an exotic effect. This plant likes four hours of direct sunlight in winter and filtered light in summer, but tolerates moderate watering. It is a fairly easy plant to grow and provides a dramatic effect in a home.

Begonia plants offer a vast array of foliage shapes and flowering plant options adaptable for the indoors. In general, these plants require plenty of bright light, normal indoor temperatures that drop slightly at night and mild applications of fertilizer for consistent blooms. However, they are very sensitive to overwatering. Queens of Spades member Lori Ballard suggest an Angel Wing Begonia Begonia coccinea for its interesting foliage and its easy to grow requirements.

One of the easiest house plants to grow and recommended by Everell Purcell of the Queens of Spades Garden Club is the Peace Lily Spathipyllium. It has long arching deep green foliage and periodic white lily flowers. It grows well under limited light conditions, a few hours of indirect light each day and regular watering is all that’s needed to keep this plant happy. This plant is often used in shopping malls due to its easy care requirements and low light tolerance.

Houseplant picks

Other easy to grow house plant recommendations from club members include:

Spider plant Chlorophytum comosum: Grassy green arching leaves with golden stripes dangle smaller “spider” plants. A dramatic hanging plant as well.

Prayer Plant Maranta leuconeura: Blade shaped leaves with colored veins and with brush strokes of color on backgrounds of white or black, these leaves turn upward at night giving the appearance of praying hands.

Wandering Jew, Inch plant, Spiderwort Tradescantia: Leaves are borne alternatively along thick, trailing stems. Likes low light and will occasionally produce a branch of solid green leaves. Some have purplish stems.

Aloe Aloe: This succulent plant with thick upright spikes of green is a dramatic accent to any home.

Creeping Charlie Pilea nummulariifloia: Often used in hanging baskets or on a pedestal, this plant has dark green foliage with depressed veins giving them a quilted appearance. It is fast growing and cuttings can be added to deter a spindly looking plant.

Lipstick plant Aeschynanthus: This plant offers a range of blooms from light blue to deep red with trumpet shaped blossoms. It demands a lot of indirect light like African violets, consistent moisture and warmth.

Houseplant care

Container plants require some grooming to keep them attractive and disease free.

Dust and dirt on leaves keep light from reaching the leaf pores, harming the plant as well as making it unsightly. Use a cloth or soft sponge dampened with luke warm water to remove dust from smooth-leaved plants. Use a dry, soft paint brush on fuzzy leaves such as on African violets.

Trimming. When a leaf turns yellow or gets a brown tip, it will never be green again. Remove a yellow leaf and trim away discolored areas. Yellow or brown leaves are not always signs that the plant is ailing. Some attrition is a part of most plant’s natural life cycle and necessary for plant growth.

Pinching. Using thumb and forefinger to pinch off a young stem tip will force the plant to branch out below the pinch and become bushier, thus keeping a more desirable shape for the home. Pinching is recommended for soft-stemmed plants such as begonias.

Pruning. If a stem is removed at its point of origin, new growth will take place in the remaining stems or at the base of the plant. This may be necessary to contain leggy growth and stimulate a more compact plant. Vining plants such as Wandering Jew require different pruning methods. To achieve both length and fullness at the top, allow just a few vines to grow full length and keep all the others pinched well back. Pinching induces branching and will keep the plant looking lush.

Repotting should be done cautiously. Remember some plants prefer to be root bound to produce flowers. To see if roots are too compacted, turn the plant on its side and knock the rim of the pot gently against a solid surface to loosen the rootball. If the roots are massed along the sides of the pot and at the base of the rootball, repot the plant. The new pot should be no more than 2 inches larger than the old one. The basic guildine for pot size is that the diameter of the rim should equal one-third to one-half of the plant’s height.


Sharing houseplant starts is a time honored tradition with indoor gardeners. When pinching or pruning, sometimes the trimmings can be rooted in water, starting soil, or other mediums. New plants can then be potted from these cuttings. Dividing encourages plant vigor and the divided plants can be repotted to share. Additionally, some plants produce a “mini-me” version of themselves which can then be potted as an independent plant.

Did you know you can buy houseplants from the Queens of Spades Garden Club? The plant sale is scheduled for May 15 and 16 at the Fairgrounds. Houseplants grown from starts from members plants will be available for sale. It is a good opportunity to economically begin an indoor garden with members favorite picks. If you have a healthy house plant you would like to donate to the plant sale, please contact Queens of Spades Plant Sale Chair, Carol Cummings at 962-2212.

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Year round: Gardening tips from a practitioner

Hemingway, S.C. – We just can’t get any better food than to have fresh veggies on our tables, no matter what the season. Many of today’s supermarket foods are so processed that we really have no idea what they contain. But with home grown veggies, we know exactly what we are eating.

Not only do we get the health benefits of fresh food, but also the benefits of the “Santa Claus Fitness Program,” (hoe, hoe, hoe).Furthermore, we get the advantage of a buffer against the day when a hurricane, a fuel shortage, a labor strike, or an economic collapse means that grocery stores are empty.

In the Pee Dee

A lot of the gardening advice seen in popular media is written for northern gardens. Pee Dee gardeners have to modify some of this advice, and some of it should be tossed into the compost. So I propose to write in this column about some of the things I’ve learned in 60-plus years of gardening, with about half of that in the Pee Dee.

One glory of Pee Dee gardening is that it can be done year around.

Around Good Friday, you’ll see a flurry of garden activity, because that’s the traditional garden planting time. The trouble is, to my way of gardening, this is too late for some crops and too early for others.

Many crops enjoy cool weather, and hate heat. So, if you plant Irish potatoes, English peas, or broccoli on Good Friday, it will get too hot too soon and they won’t amount to anything.

The best planting date for potatoes, onion sets, or green peas is February 1 for the spring crop, and broccoli ought to be set out by March 1 at least. These can also be planted as a fall crop, so they’ll be maturing in cool weather.

Two years ago, February was so wet that I did not get my potatoes in until March 1, and all I got back was about equivalent to the seed potatoes I planted.

Now is also the time to get a soil test. Much of the Pee Dee has nice deep loamy soil, but it’s not very fertile, so it will need help. Our lands have been wave-washed, flooded with tropical rains, and baked by the sun, until much of the fertility is gone.

You can take a soil sample to the county Clemson Extension office and they will lab test it for $6, which is a wonderful bargain.

In another column, I’ll talk about how to interpret these tests.

Bed it up

If your garden spot is flat, like much of our land, you may find raised beds to be a big help. Then the next frog-strangling rain won’t spoil your garden. At the least, hill-up your plantings so the rain won’t flood your plants’ roots.

Raised beds can be edged with concrete blocks, cedar planks, or composite boards that will last a long time. I steer away from pressure treated wood, as it will leach toxic chemicals, and regular pine boards will quickly become termite food.

Make these beds as long as you wish but the width should not be more than twice the distance you can reach. Raised beds work best if you never have to step on them. They are wonderful for folks with bad backs. You can even make them high enough to be workable from a wheelchair.

Next month: Hugelkulter.

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A peek inside Britain’s most beautiful gardens

  • Winners of this year’s Society of Garden Designers awards
  • Outdoor sanctum at a spinal treatment centre in Salisbury, was awarded
  • The Grand Award went to Ian Smith for a private garden in Surrey

Naomi Greenaway for MailOnline



Whether you like a perfectly preened hedge, lush wild flowers or slick modern landscaping, these gardens are sure to get your green fingers twitching.

The breathtaking spaces are all winners of this year’s Society of Garden Designers awards.

Amongst the winners was designer Cleve West who created Horation’s Garden, a peaceful outdoor sanctum at a spinal treatment centre in Salisbury inspired by the tragic death of a teenage volunteer.

Scroll down for video 

Wimbledon Garden by  Charlotte Rowe, in south London, won the Medium Residential Award

Wimbledon Garden by Charlotte Rowe, in south London, won the Medium Residential Award

The judges said Charlotte Rowe's design had 'good proportions, beautiful site lines and an amazing finish'

The judges said Charlotte Rowe’s design had ‘good proportions, beautiful site lines and an amazing finish’

The inspiring garden, packed with wild flowers, was awarded the Public or Commercial Outdoor Space award and also honoured with the People’s Choice Award. 

The designer used herbaceous planting to accentuate the seasons and attract insects, keeping it full of life.

It was named after Horatio Chapple, who volunteered at the centre in his school holidays, and had come up with the idea for the garden.

He was tragically killed at the age of 17 by a polar bear but the outpouring of love, goodwill and donations enabled the garden to be created. 

Designer Cleve West listened to patients, nurses, therapist, doctors and managers to help him inform the design of the garden, which opened in September 2012.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Richard Sneesby explained: ‘This is what healing gardens should be like. It has beautiful planting that works with the scale of the building and helps to reconnect people to nature.’

Millwater Garden in Surrey by Ian Smith at Acres Wild won The Grand Award

Millwater Garden in Surrey by Ian Smith at Acres Wild won The Grand Award

The judges called Ian Smith's Acres Wild in Surrey 'a transformational project'

The judges called Ian Smith’s Acres Wild in Surrey ‘a transformational project’

The Grand Award, the most celebrated award, went to Ian Smith of Acres Wild for this private garden

The Grand Award, the most celebrated award, went to Ian Smith of Acres Wild for this private garden

The accolades were presented at a ceremony in London where 19 awards were announced including recognition for community garden projects, international schemes, excellence in public and commercial outdoor space and a special lifetime achievement award. 

The Grand Award, the most celebrated award, went to Ian Smith of Acres Wild for a private garden in Surrey that the judges called ‘a transformational project’. 

‘This garden achieves one of the most difficult goals in garden design; it feels as if it has been in situ for several decades,’ explained Sneesby. 

Devised as a journey through interlinking spaces, Sneesby said the garden ‘feels composed and perfectly linked and has a period ambiance, exhibiting confidence of scale’.

The River Garden by Rosemary Coldstream, which won the Pocket Garden Award, features plants including the moorgrass molinia ‘heidebraut’, bverbena bonariensis and asters

The River Garden by Rosemary Coldstream, which won the Pocket Garden Award, features plants including the moorgrass molinia ‘heidebraut’, bverbena bonariensis and asters

Tall astilbe bumalda plants lead down to native irises on the river’s edge in Rosemary Coldstream's design

Tall astilbe bumalda plants lead down to native irises on the river’s edge in Rosemary Coldstream’s design

‘It’s a well-executed, integrated design with sharp edges softened by sophisticated planting,’ he added.

The garden was also named best Large Residential Garden.

A contemporary garden in Wimbledon designed by Charlotte Rowe won three awards for best Medium Residential Garden, Hardscape and Lighting Design.

The garden features ‘green architecture’ formed from clipped hornbeam, yew hedging and and box balls interspersed. 

Another award-winning transformation was by Dan Pearson, who won the the award for Historic Garden Restoration for a space that was originally designed by influential British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll.

Sneesby described the design as ‘a sensitive, beautiful and intelligent response to the client’s brief’.

Bold architectural plants and splashes of colour feature in the Curved Contemporary Courtyard by Sue Townsend, winner of the Small Residential Award. 

Horatio's Garden by Cleve West at a spinal treatment centre in Salisbury  earned the People's Choice Award

Horatio’s Garden by Cleve West at a spinal treatment centre in Salisbury earned the People’s Choice Award

Horatio's Garden by Cleve West was described as 'inspiring garden'

Horatio’s Garden by Cleve West was described as ‘inspiring garden’

The River Garden by Rosemary Coldstream in Hertfordshire, which won the Pocket Garden Award, features plants including molinia ‘heidebraut’, verbena bonariensis and aster frikartii ‘monch’.

Astilbe ‘bumalda’ leads down to native iris pseudocorus on the river’s edge. 

Describing her Suffolk Manor, which won the Planting Design Award, designer Sue said: ‘Olive trees, box cubes, lavender, paeonias, irises, yew hedges and pleached hornbeam create intimacy in the courtyard garden whilst Dahlia David Howard and Kniphofia uvaria Noblis pack a punch in the hot borders.’

Sue Townsend's Curved Courtyard, winner of the Small Residential Garden award, looks chic and urban

Sue Townsend’s Curved Courtyard, winner of the Small Residential Garden award, looks chic and urban

Outdoor rattan tables, chairs and recliners  on black limestone patio in Sue Townsend's Curved Courtyard

Outdoor rattan tables, chairs and recliners on black limestone patio in Sue Townsend’s Curved Courtyard

College Crescent by John Davies uses slate, bamboo and box to create a  contemporary look

College Crescent by John Davies uses slate, bamboo and box to create a contemporary look

Commenting on the SGD Awards, Philippa O’Brien, chair of the SGD said: ‘One of the joys of superb garden design is that it looks effortless.

‘These gardens are however the result of years of training and experience, immense skill and razor-sharp attention to detail. 

‘I am immensely proud that the SGD is the professional body representing such finely honed talents and we are able to recognise and celebrate these talents at The SGD Awards ceremony.’ 

The Old Bakery design with geometric beds by Rebecca Smith won the Small Budget Garden award

The Old Bakery design with geometric beds by Rebecca Smith won the Small Budget Garden award

The Old Bakery by Rebecca Smith uses pale stone flags, pebbles, a patio and flower beds native plants

The Old Bakery by Rebecca Smith uses pale stone flags, pebbles, a patio and flower beds native plants


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Two local designers featured at this year’s garden show

Magnolia’s Susie Landscape Designs (Association of Professional Landscape Designers-WA Chapter, APLD) and Queen Anne’s Pamela Richards Garden Design are showcasing their designs at this year’s Northwest Flower Garden Show.

As two of the region’s top Garden Creators, they are embracing the show-wide “Romance Blossoms” theme among the 23 marquee display gardens, using upward of 50 percent more flowers in bloom.

APLD’s “Over the Moon” display features an oversize full moon and a sky full of stars to set the tone for this “night garden.” Large conifers and white birches frame a garden pavilion overlooking a meadow of spring flowering bulbs and colorful grasses. All circular elements in the garden resonate with the moon’s shape, color and spirit.

Pamela Richards Garden Design’s “Romantic Folly” reflects Maude and Parker in love. A romantic bench serves as a focal point in this picnic scene. Flowers fabricated from recycled glass bloom among roses, rhododendron and tulips. Atop stone and grass steps, a gate extends from a metal tree and draws attention to the garden’s center, where water in a picturesque container splashes into a rill and flows to a pond. 

The 27th-annual Northwest Flower Garden Show also includes 110 seminars, a marketplace with more than 350 exhibitors and a new Family Farm Center.

The show runs Wednesday, Feb. 11, through Saturday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Washington State Convention Trade Center. For more information, visit

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