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Archives for February 15, 2015

Home and Garden Show Helps Plant Ideas for Spring Projects


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Couples bond over home improvements

MOUNT ZION — Taking an alternative to the traditional chocolates and roses, some couples spent Valentine’s Day exploring home improvement options Saturday at the annual Metro Decatur Home Builders Association Home Show.

By late afternoon, the home show generated about 300 visitors to the Mount Zion Convention Center, which housed about 50 local and area vendors showcasing products ranging from siding and windows to fire extinguishers and vacuums.

After enjoying a Valentine’s Day lunch, Charlotte Hanks and her husband Tom Malenshek attended the home show and perused the various booths to see what new offerings exhibitors had.

“We’ve come almost every year for at least the past 10 years,” Hanks said. “We like to see what’s out there and what new products they have. By having it all in one place, it’s a one-stop shopping for products and services.”

Having moved into a newly built home four years ago, the Decatur couple didn’t have much interest in large-scale remodeling projects, but they were on the lookout for different window treatment and landscaping options, Malenshek said, adding that they found a contractor to build their home at the show several years ago.

Perry and Kim Sills, of Oakley, who focused on comparing different window vendors at the home show last year, took a more open approach with their browsing this year.

“We’re seeing if anything strikes us,” Perry Sills said. “If not, we can get ideas by looking at what’s new and different.”

In addition to connecting homeowners with a variety of businesses face-to-face, the home show serves as a way for individuals to generate ideas on how to improve their home at any level, said Marianne Stehr, executive officer of the home builders association.

“The home show can give you ideas for how to approach a big project or do small projects you can do for yourself,” she said. “A lot of people can’t afford to go into a grand remodel, but we’re seeing more little things being done, which is good. Anything that makes you feel as if you’ve upgraded.”

Joseph Anderson, sales representative for AAA Window Siding Doors, said the Lincoln-based company does a lot of exterior home improvement projects in the Mount Zion area, and having a booth allows potential customers to see the products up close without needing to travel to another town.

“The folks here are looking to do more with their homes, and they can see exactly the type of quality they can get,” he said.

Several vendors had displays promoting greener, energy efficient options, including Cramer Siding and Window of Champaign.

“Everybody likes the idea of going green,” Cramer advertising manager Chad Ritter said. “It’s the more expensive option, but it saves you money in the long run since energy is not going to get any cheaper.”

Also featured in the home show were Girl Scouts from Troop 3274, who sold more than 120 boxes of cookies throughout the day. The home show will continue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

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Go Knoxville’s fun things to do


The Dogwood Art’s House Garden Show concludes at the Knoxville Convention Center today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show will offer an array of garden landscape designs and interior design ideas; home-focused workshops; a cooking stage; and displays and booths by retailers and manufacturers exhibiting products or offering services and advice on indoor and outdoor home improvements and designs.

Cost is $10, $8 for 65-plus, $5 for ages 6-12 and no charge for under 6. Info:


The Arts and Culture Center will present a professional development seminar for artists and other creative people called “How to Price Your Work” from noon-1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the Emporium Center, 100 S Gay Street. R. L. Gibson, artist and Editor of, will talk about how beginning artists can learn to price their work competitively. The seminar is free for members and $5 for nonmembers. Pre-registration is required.

For info or to register, visit


Jesse Newmister, executive chef of Northshore Brasserie, will be guest chef at the Feb. 22 Sunday Supper at the Public House, 212 W, Magnolia Ave. The event will be held 5-9 p.m.

The menu includes a selection of appetizers, house tacos made with belly carnitas, braised beef shank or chorizo for $3.50 or a selection of specialty tacos for $4.50.

Reservations are required by calling The Public House at 865-247-4344.


A free preview screening of the documentary “American Denial” will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, at Scruffy City Hall on Market Square.

“American Denial” looks at the current state of racial dynamics in the United States through the lens of Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s 140 study of the social and economic situation of black people living in the American South. Myrdal found a deep contradiction between the values that people espoused — such as freedom, democracy, and equality — and the oppression and discrimination practiced throughout the South.

Info: 865-595-0220 or

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5 things to look forward to this week in Entertainment

Sunday: Celebrate Chinese New Year at many events being held throughout the Portland area this week and into March. The holiday is traditionally marked with symbolic food, lion dances to scare away evil spirits and the color red for good luck. has a list of events here.

Sunday: NBC will throw a splashy, three-and-a-half-hour birthday party for the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live” with “The SNL 40th Anniversary Special,” which promises to bring back some of the show’s biggest names, including Eddie Murphy, who hasn’t returned to “SNL” since leaving in 1985. A red carpet special begins at 7 p.m. (KGW/8p.m.)

Tuesday: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Broadway’s latest revival of the 1957 made-for-TV musical, features a new storyline with a social-justice bent: Cinderella crashes the ball to alert Prince Charming to the wrongdoing of his villainous agent. But you’re likely to forget the progressive message amid the big-budget razzle dazzle, including a Tony-winning array of costumes. Feb. 17-22, Keller Auditorium.  Tickets:

Wednesday: Portland Jazz Festival will take over music venues across Portland for nearly two weeks with concerts featuring local favorites and international stars. Bossa nova royalty Bebel Gilberto will start things off on opening night Wednesday and the music will run until March 1, when bluesman Lucky Peterson will wrap up the festival at the Aladdin Theater. Along the way, there will be jazz conversations, solo piano performances, small combos, big bands and a pair of shows devoted to Frank Sinatra’s centennial.

Thursday: This year’s theme for the 68-year-old Portland Home Garden Show at the Expo Center is “Hot Summer Nights.” There will be garden supplies, accessories, outdoor art and seminars presented by gardening gurus. There will also be three tiny houses on display and the popular landscaping competition featuring 14 showcase gardens. The show runs Thursday through Sunday at the Portland Expo Center. Admission is $10 (kids age 12 and under free). Details: 503-246-8291,

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Flood fix eludes pricey plans

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No matter how many millions of dollars are eventually spent on stormwater improvements in Pensacola, some areas will still flood if there’s another rainstorm like the one April 29, engineers say.

The cost of reducing flood levels by even 1 foot in some spots, such as along Ninth Avenue near Romana Street and Bayfront Parkway, is estimated to be in the range of $1 million to $3 million.

That could still leave certain roads temporarily impassable in the event of another so-called 500-year storm when more than 25 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Still, mitigation that doesn’t achieve complete flood prevention can pare damage to nearby homes and businesses.

All this has engineers and planners at Pensacola City Hall and Escambia County assessing where to start spending federal grant money they are applying for — if and when it comes — and how much in stormwater outlays is really justified in some spots.

“In a nutshell, the cost-to-benefit curve is somewhat exponential in nature, meaning that you quickly reach a point where the spending starts to significantly get ahead of the value achieved, which varies by location,” said Derrik Owens, the city of Pensacola supervising engineer and director of public works.

Owens, who also volunteers as president of the Florida Stormwater Association, a statewide group of government officials and private industry engineering veterans, acknowledged that although the city’s studies identify $130 million in possible improvements to existing stormwater infrastructure, “we have to determine what is practical and feasible, and how far do you go before it no longer is.”

“We want to make sure people know we’re working hard on their behalf but we need them to have realistic expectations. Some things we can do and some things we can’t,” Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown said.

There’s a touchy political side to fixing stormwater trouble spots if and when federal grant money becomes available. For one thing, it’s doubtful that much of the roughly $400 million in federal grants that the city and county have jointly applied for will be available before 2016, and even then it will probably come in relatively small payments on a project-by-project basis.

That means some neighborhoods that experienced flooding could languish for years waiting for actual improvements, rather than the restoration of damaged infrastructure that existed before the April 29 downpour that is now underway.

Even now, local government officials and the volunteer Stormwater Advisory Team led by Mary Gutierrez are considering how to set priorities.

“The focus will be on areas that have been historically impacted through rain events.”

But the engineering studies have identified dozens of trouble spots, with some intersections and relatively short stretches of roadway needing work estimated to cost from about $2 million to more than $10 million each.

The city and county coffers contain a total of only about $5 million in reserves for stormwater improvements, not enough to go very far.

“As with almost any situation of this magnitude, funding drives the end result and that is where we are at this stage,” Owens said.

Among the realities that emerge from the city’s $296,000 engineering studies:

Floodwater levels in some areas could still reach several feet if another storm of April’s severity hit even after spending $130 million, about 2 ½ times the city of Pensacola’s entire annual general revenue from taxes and fees.

Despite the public workshops that featured ideas about natural solutions to flooding such as landscaping that includes swales and rain gardens, most of the engineers’ recommendations are for traditional measures: bigger underwater culvert pipes, hydraulic pumping stations and more retention ponds.

The popular notion of digging up creeks and streams that have long been paved over by residential and commercial development in order to create natural waterways that transfer excess stormwater probably isn’t cost effective, due in part to the expense of buying lengthy easements through private property.

Indeed, Brown said, “Engineers love concrete and asphalt because they holds form, but they don’t let water percolate down very well.”

As for the city’s current invitation to residents to fill out forms specifying preferences for the types of stormwater improvements in their neighborhoods, their yearnings may not mean much. Even though they have been encouraged to suggest lush rain gardens, vegetation-laden swales and bubbling streams, it turns out that soliciting ideas is a formality required by some federal grant requests.

The city’s public workshops at which the invitations for ideas were passed out came after the engineers’ studies were completed.

Meanwhile, although the city’s engineering studies do address alternatives based on expected flooding in what is described as a rainfall that might occur once in 100 years, Owens described such a storm as a “statistical anomaly that is not practical or feasible to address, so our target has to be a realistic and practical one.”

He notes that municipal standards nationwide “typically address storm events ranging from 10 to 100 years, with 25 being a common benchmark, which is the one currently adopted in Escambia County building codes that regulate the city of Pensacola.

Brown is pressing the Escambia County Planning Board, a volunteer panel appointed by the commissioners who are his bosses, to raise the standard for new buildings to 100-year flood protection measures. Such a change could result in a series of new and expensive requirements for developers, including elevated construction on some lots, larger and deeper retention ponds and more extensive drainage systems.

To be sure, every suggested fix in the city’s four engineering studies, each posted on its website under “Recovery Information,” comes at a price.

Consider the Atkins engineering company’s suggested improvements along a stretch of Ninth Avenue from the intersection of Romana Street to Bayfront Parkway, a target for developers of future residential and commercial sites. Atkins estimates that area experienced floodwater of up to 5.9 feet at the lowest point of the roadway during the April 29 storm.

The engineers’ suggestions focus on larger drainage pipes and a nearby retention pond. Their study lists six versions of such a fix; the most effective one would cost $9.57 million and reduce flooding by about 3.6 feet, or $2.7 million per foot of flood water.

At another high-profile location, the downtown block of Palafox Street between Garden and East Chase, engineers recommend a new hydraulic pump station and larger drainage pipes at a cost of about $11 million.

The pump, depending on which model, would be about the size of a sport utility vehicle and could reduce the worst-case flood level by 6 inches, enough to keep it from rising above the curb.



Lowering The level of flooding on ninth Avenue in Pensacola near Romana Street Buy as little as 1 foot in a major storm could cost $1 million to $3 million engineers say.
Rob Johnson/News Journal correspondent

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Stu Hawbaker: Gardening resources galore

On cold winter days in February, there is not much to do except let your mind wander and dream of warm days filled with sunshine. If you enjoy flowers or like to take care of a small garden, you can always get out those garden catalogs and dream. Believe me, the photographs in flower catalogs look like flower gardens that have a full-time staff who takes care of them. They are absolutely beautiful and would be on any flower garden tour in the country.

The same thing applies to vegetable garden catalogs. None of the photos show any puny, misshaped veggies, or any tomatoes with a big chunk eaten out by a squirrel. But they are sure fun to look at and dream. In addition, they give you plenty of information about new varieties, planting instructions, disease resistance and more.

If you don’t receive flower and garden catalogs, you can visit your local library, county extension office, or you can go online and type in garden catalogs. There will be plenty of the catalogs you can browse through and enjoy the great photos. You can also sign up to receive news releases, plus you can actually order seeds, plants and more.

Winter is also a good time to visit local bookstores, lawn and garden centers and other stores that sell publications on landscaping, flower gardening, raised bed gardening and container gardening. Some stores often discount these publications in the winter and you can get some good buys. Your local extension office also has many publications and books that are available through the University of Illinois at reasonable prices. Local libraries also have a good selection of these kinds of books.

If you are not a gardener, but would like to learn more about gardening on a small scale, there may some classes available either through your Extension office or your local community college. There really are plenty of resources available to help you learn about vegetable and flower gardening. In addition, most communities have garden clubs which also are great ways to learn more about these subjects.

Now is the time to:

  • During the last half of February and early March is the best time to prune grapes, brambles, and some fruit trees
  • Prune apples, ornamental crab apples and pears during this period
  • Wait until just before bloom for peaches and nectarines
  • Prune dead or diseased wood from shade trees
  • Some shrubs can be pruned now but check for exact timing based on specific varieties
  • Indoor seed-starting season normally starts between Valentine’s Day and lasts until St. Patrick’s Day. Seeds started then usually produce plants ready for transplanting in May when the danger of frost has passed.
  • Check germination on leftover seeds. Discard those with poor germination percentage
  • Have your lawn mower serviced, blades sharpened, and oil changed
  • Check your houseplants regularly
  • Keep feeding birds
  • Make sure outside dogs have shelter and fresh water

Call of the Week

Q: How do you know how much to prune off grapevines and raspberries?

A: Best bet is to get a good publication that shows you exactly how to do it. There are also good videos online which show proper pruning techniques. Often, people do not prune enough.

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Five spring gardening renovation tips | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Garden renovation is a lot like de-cluttering your indoor space with a fresh look and clean sweep of the overgrown, overdone and overwhelming plants and design elements in your outdoor space.  Here’s the top five tips for renovating your garden this spring:

1. Prune, snip and saw away the overgrown.

The gray weather in Western Washington demands that maximum sunlight be allowed into windows and any homeowner that hates to prune will find that the inside of their homes grows darker as  trees and shrubs around the house grow larger.  Don’t procrastinate with the excuse that the season is not quite right for pruning. Prune anyway.

2. Grow your health by planting more herbs and vegetables.

Simple ideas like adding a pot of mint near the back door for herbal tea or a bed of basil in a hot spot for summer fresh pesto will make even the most inexperienced gardener a success as a backyard farmer.

3. Start a collection and grow what you love.

Life is short, live with more passion. Take out the back lawn and replace with raised beds for your growing collection of dahlias or just make this the year you finally get rid of the junipers and design a more pleasing display of compact or dwarf conifers.

4. Rejuvenate  the gardener

Gardens have been sanctuaries ever since Eden and making your outdoor space a place to de-stress and enjoy is as simple as practicing mindful moves such as gentle stretching while gardening.  Use the right tool to avoid muscle sprains. Decide to “garden” instead of “doing yard work” and dare to leave the cell phone indoors. You’ll plug into the sounds and sites of nature as you allow your mind to slow down and wander while actually enjoying the repetitive but instant gratification of weeding, watering and planting.

5. Move your plants.

Rearranging the furniture inside your home can open up a whole new perspective and rearranging your landscape plants can have the same effect. We live in a mild winter area and February is the perfect time to image that  your plants have wheels. Large plants may require lots of digging to remove and replace into new planting holes but we all need more exercise and putting the right plant in the right place fulfills the promise of  both the renovated garden and rejuvenated gardener.

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Garden tips: Cut bloom boosters for Valentine’s Day

long-stemmed rose

long-stemmed rose

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015 9:00 am

Garden tips: Cut bloom boosters for Valentine’s Day

By JEN KOPF | Staff Writer

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Friday, February 13, 2015 9:00 am.

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Home And Garden,


Valentine’s Day,



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Melinda Myers of "Melinda’s Garden Moments" offers tips to jump start your garden

Columbia County Sheriff’s officials say there’s been a suspicious inmate death at the Columbia Correctional Institution.

Inmate is 40-year-old male.

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Kitchen gardens yield delicious spring bounty

“Start with a design,” says Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of The Complete Kitchen Garden: An Inspired Collection of Garden Designs and 100 Seasonal Recipes (Stewart, Tabori and Chang $24.95) and a professional kitchen garden designer. “Think about the location and how it integrates with your landscape and how it will fit into your daily routine. And when you prepare the garden area, think long term. Make sure that it is on level ground, that weeds are completely removed—without using chemicals—and that you build the soil with compost and aged manure—from a local farm and not from bags. Finally, have fun. Too often we think of a garden as work, so create a space where you want to spend time. Add a bench for simply sitting and observing nature as it lives in your garden.”

Ogden, who lives in Vermont, will be at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, Michigan on Saturday, February 28 presenting two programs for designing inspirational and artful kitchen gardens. There is also a luncheon with Ogden that day. In the afternoon Hands-on Design Workshop, participants will work one-on-one with Ogden to develop new ways to grow a productive and beautiful edible garden. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos and drawings to show Ogden. The prerequisite for this class is attending the morning The Art of Growing Food Lecture and Book Signing.

Ogden’s themes and designs are plentiful and include the Heirloom Maze Garden, Children’s Garden and The Organic Rotation Garden. Her Salad Lovers Garden can be as small as a one-foot plot perfect for those with limited yards.

“Or the salad garden can be a matrix of geometric designs,” says Ogden, co-founder of The Cook’s Garden seed catalog, explaining how she combines artistry, garden design and growing food for her kitchen. “For new gardeners, lettuce and salad greens are the easiest and quickest garden crops to grow and are ideal to plant in a small kitchen garden.”

Ogden suggests using this garden as a starting point to grow tender cutting lettuce and arugula and then add a variety of peppery mustards, spiky cress and ornamental kale.

“Plant a full range of European and American heirloom greens such as Claytonia, whose tiny, exotic, lily pad–shaped leaves add unusual visual twist to a bowl of greens,” she says.

Sidebar: Ellen Ecker Ogden’s Advice for Designing Your Garden

Start with a clean canvas: Soil is the key to your success. Feed your soil with compost and care, and it will feed you.

Get to know your materials: A true kitchen garden is built on a wide range of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, combined in an aesthetic style. Knowing when to sow seeds, which ones are best to sow directly in the garden, and how to successfully germinate a range of varieties takes a bit of experience. It takes years to really get the rhythm of when to sow, but eventually you will get the hang of it and it will become second nature.

Follow the rules before you break them: Plants need sixteen different elements for life, growth and reproduction. Fertilizer and soil amendments often have three numbers that represent: nitrogen, phosphorous r and potassium. Learn what these mean and how they will improve your soil and the health of your plants.

Maintain a neat workspace: Weeds produce an enormous number of seeds, and one plant can quickly disperse baby weeds in profusion. To prevent weeds from taking over, keep the soil cultivated by gently running a hoe along the row between the plants to dislodge weed seedlings, as well as to aerate the soil so that it can more easily absorb water. Do this often, from early spring right through fall.

Learn to draw a straight line: Enclose the perimeters of your kitchen garden with a low stone wall, a boxwood hedge, a row of espaliered fruit trees, or a rustic split-rail fence. This will do more than simply keep out dogs and deer. It is like putting a picture frame around your garden, to enhance its natural beauty.

Develop individual style: We often think of vegetables as ground-hugging plants, yet many ornamental edibles enjoy climbing, rambling, and spreading from above. Height is remarkably effective in creating drama in a kitchen garden design. Provide an assortment of trellis materials upon which pole beans, cucumbers, gourds, and tomatoes can grow upwards, creating a wonderful vertical tapestry in the garden landscape.

Take care of your tools: Garden centers are like kitchen stores; they offer many more tools and gadgets than you actually need to get the job done. Some may look tempting, and they may offer time-saving techniques, but in the end they will only create clutter in your tool shed. Plan to invest in a set of good tools that you can rely on each season. Hang them up and bless them each fall.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Accept perfection is unattainable. There are no mistakes in gardening, only opportunities to learn more. Start small—learn how to manage a compact space before launching into a larger garden.

Keep a sketchbook of ideas: Get out and visit other gardens, take pictures, clip magazine articles, and read as much as you can about new plants and ways to combine them. Learn about European influences and American adaptations and bring your own creative ideas back to your garden design.

For more information, visit



When: February 28. First program starts at 10 a.m.

Where: 13988 Range Line Road, Niles, Michigan

Cost: Admission for the first program, The Art of Growing Food: Lecture and Book Signing, starts at 10 and runs to 11:30; cost $20. Lunch with Ogden costs $30 and runs 11:30 to 12:30. Hands-on Design Workshop, from 1 to 4pm costs $40. All three programs combined are $85 for non-members; $68 for members. Register by February 25.

FYI: 269-695-6491;

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