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Archives for February 18, 2015

Willmar City Council accepts proposed master park plan

The 63-page plan was developed and presented by SRF Consulting Group of Minneapolis after discussions were held with last year with the public at focus group meetings, workshops and a community open house.

The plan discusses system-wide planning and park facilities; proposes establishing two regional parks and six community parks; discusses park maintenance; and implementation, budgeting, funding and cost estimates.

The plan said Willmar residents benefit from a large park system that provides access to neighborhood parks, community parks and regional amenities, which include sports and recreation facilities, lakes and ample open space.

The plan says Willmar’s well-established park system serves a variety of users and provides a wide assortment of activities for residents. But the city seeks to do more with its park system, the plan says.

“Today’s park systems must be programmed and operated to do more with less, support multi-purpose programming and activities, and serve youth, adults and seniors who live in the community,’’ the plan said.

“This plan reaches to the future with vision, innovation and sustainable ideas to reinforce these initiatives. Updating Willmar’s parks will provide safe and relevant amenities that will draw more users to the parks, create places that families and groups that will want to visit and will make Willmar a more attractive community for future residents,’’ the plan said. “Updating the park system will strengthen Willmar’s role as a regional center for business, culture and services.’’

Parks need updating

Willmar’s 37 parks are well used and well maintained, but need updating. According to parks and recreation staff, 80 percent of the playground equipment is over 20 years old. Across the park system, aging buildings, facilities and play equipment have reached the end of their useful life cycles. Many of the facilities no longer meet current standards for accessibility or do not meet current safety codes.

The plan focuses on establishing two regional parks and four community parks. The plan defines a regional park as a grouping of neighboring parks, together acting as one large regional destination park complex. The plan defines community parks as larger multi-purpose parks that serve the entire community.

The two regional parks would be Robbins Island Regional Park Complex and Swansson Field Regional Park Complex. Each regional park would include several smaller parks.

Parks within the Robbins Island Regional Park Complex would be Robbins Island, Hedin, Sperry, Flags of Honor Memorial, Thompson and Rau.

Parks within Swansson Park Complex would be Swansson Field, Baker Field, Lions Park, Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center and the soccer fields.

The four community parks would be Lincoln, Northside, Ramblewood and Rice.

A key component is identifying which parks are within walking distance of the two regional parks and the four community parks.

To help officials prioritize park improvements on a system-wide scale, parks within five blocks of the two regional and four community parks were identified. Improvements at parks may become lower priorities because residents will be able to access newer amenities at the two regional parks and four community parks.

The plan lists from two to four parks within the five-block radius of each of the four community parks. They are: Lincoln — Bjorsell and Gesch; Rice — Selvig and Bjorsell; Northside — Canigo, Bergquist and 7th Street North; and Ramblewood — Westwind Area, Richland Area and Hilltop.

Planning for the future

As Willmar plans for the future of the park system, replacing and upgrading facilities will be an important part of the redevelopment process, and the plan recommends a number of upgrades.

“New facilities will attract more visitors and will provide a more enjoyable and safer experience for park users,’’ the plan said.

The proposed concepts will require a significant investment and several years to plan and develop. Improvement costs are estimated at $22,235,000 ($7,134,000 for the community parks and $15,101,000 for the regional parks) and include removals, asphalt and concrete elements, architectural elements, park elements, site furnishings and landscaping.

The plan states the overall cost is useful for planning purposes, but it’s probable that elements in each park will be developed over an extended period, contingent on funding, project scope and need.

The plan said use of multiple funding mechanisms and additional funding from private and new public sources funds will be needed.

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Tour to include three Bedford, five Franklin homes

The Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour has announced the eight lakefront homes that will be showcased in 2015. Five of the homes are in Franklin County and three are in Bedford County.

The Bedford County homes featured on the 2015 SML Charity Home Tour are:

• David and Holly Adams, on SML Parkway (Virginia 626), past the SML State Park

• Randy and Michelle Berdine, off of SML Parkway, past the SML State Park

• Mark and Sara Chadason, off of SML Parkway, past the SML State Park

The Franklin County homes are:

• Jim and Barbara Grant, The Boardwalk, Moneta

• Jim and Carla Laseter, The Waverly, Moneta

• Jim and Debbie Petrine, off Dudley Amos Road, Moneta

• Terry and Jan Snyder, Park Place, Moneta

• Dr. Jeffrey R. Wetter and Jeff Sayre, Hardy

This year’s mix of new and remodeled homes feature unique kitchens, outdoor living spaces and spectacular lake views, as well as artifacts and collectibles that reflect the owners’ travels and personal tastes. Ranging in size from nearly 9,000 to 2,800 square feet, the homes will offer tour visitors decorating, remodeling and landscaping ideas.

The tour also provides an opportunity to help SML-area people in need. Eight local charities that provide critical community services will receive proceeds from the 2015 Charity Home Tour. They are AGAPE Center (Moneta), Bedford Pregnancy Center (Bedford), CASA of Central Virginia (Lynchburg), Free Clinic of Franklin County (Rocky Mount), Helping Hands of Franklin County (Rocky Mount), Henry Fork Service Center (Rocky Mount), SML Good Neighbors (Moneta) and STEP, Inc. (Rocky Mount).

“We are especially grateful to the homeowners who are participating this year. By opening their homes to the public for three days in mid-October, they play a key role in helping the Home Tour fulfill its mission of providing funds to support local and regional charities through a united volunteer-driven community effort,” said Denise Tuttle, SML Charity Home Tour executive chair.

The Charity Home Tour is the leading charitable fundraising effort in the Smith Mountain Lake region, with cumulative donations to local charities of more than $3.8 million since it began in 1991.

This year, the home tour will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Oct. 9-11 and will feature not only eight  lake homes, but also special events.

Submitted by Carla Laseter

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At Accelerate 2015, local visionaries will present ideas for changing the …

Edwins Restaurant, a hit in Shaker Square, taught Matthew Fieldman the power of a social enterprise. 

CLEVELAND, Ohio–To share economic opportunity, experts agree, Northeast Ohio needs to pull more people into the new economy, where jobs go begging for software developers and computer programmers.

Computer-coding camps have sprung up to retrain people for the lucrative work, provided they can afford a $10,000 tuition bill. For everyone else, Matthew Fieldman has an idea.

He calls it “Cleveland Codes,” a low-priced coding camp for people of modest means, one supported by philanthropy and social enterprise.

It’s one of 25 ideas to be aired Wednesday, February 25, at Accelerate 2015, an idea expo presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center. Someone with a bright idea will walk away with $5,000 to get started.

Matthew Fieldman

“We thought this would be a great way to get people to think about the small changes that can make transformational changes, and start a groundswell,” said Marianne Crosley, president and chief executive of the Leadership Center.

That opportunity attracted a diversity of thinkers, many of them with passion and rare expertise.

Fieldman, for example, co-founded Edwins Restaurant and Leadership Institute, a successful upscale restaurant that trains and employs the formerly incarcerated. Now president of Edwins’ board, the 35 year old is looking for his next crusade.

He said a non-profit coding camp struck his fancy when he read about the Software Craftsmanship Guild, a for-profit Akron coding camp that sends most of its graduates on to jobs.

“I’ve seen the power of bringing career opportunities to lower-income people,” Fieldman said.

He’s not the only one with a vision.

Whitney Hallock and Caroline Wagner boomeranged back from San Francisco and Washington, D.C., with an idea for pop-up parks in the urban landscape. Their Project Parklet would re-purpose parking spaces and excess pavement with attractive seating and landscaping.

Eric Johnson, an executive with RTA, would re-purpose a larger terrain–the Flats. His Cleveland Urban Outdoor Recreation program seeks to promote healthy lifestyles among youth, in part, by making the Flats as well know for recreation as nightlife.

Accelerate is an idea whose time had come, Crosley said.

As a center that trains and connects civic leaders, the Cleveland Leadership Center fosters lots of conversation about how to enhance the quality of life, she said. Plus, it was looking for a new format for its annual meeting.

Caroline Wagner

An idea competition became possible when Bernie Moreno, president of the Collection Auto Group, threw his support behind the concept. He’s co-chairing the event with Thomas Hopkins, senior vice president of Sherwin-Williams.

Whitney Hallock

Twenty-five individuals and teams, winnowed from 64 applicants, will present their ideas to panels of judges in the Global Center for Health Innovation. Five finalists will proceed to the Grand Ballroom of the Cleveland Convention Center. Each will make make their pitch to the audience, which will choose the winner.

Then, maybe, something wonderful will happen.

“We hope it will be the ripple that will become a tsunami for Cleveland,” Crosley said.

To join the audience, register at Admission is $35. The pitches start at 4:30 p.m., the finalist competition at 6:30 p.m. A networking reception begins at 5:30 p.m.

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Beautifying the Miami Valley

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The Montgomery County Solid Waste District began accepting applications for the 2015 Beautification Grant program.

Funding up to $1,000 is available per project. Projects may include landscaping, graffiti abatement and community gardens. The funding is offered through Keep Montgomery County Beautiful (KMCB), to promote volunteerism and community beautification in Montgomery County.

KMCB funded a record number of projects last year, 32 in total, including the Steve Whalen Memorial Mural.

For more information or to get an application, please contact Brian Fowls at (937) 781-3063 or visit The deadline to apply is March 20.


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Last Chance To Register For Spring Garden Symposium

The Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club has the perfect antidote for our current miseries and the right lure to help gardeners turn from winter’s horrors to anticipation of the spring.

Registration is still open for the club’s Middleburg Horticultural Symposium, “The Art of Landscape,” Feb. 28 at Salamander Resort And Spa in Middleburg, but those interested need to register immediately to be sure of a place.

Gardeners of all skill levels interested in landscaping are invited to hear a multitude of gardening tips from four well-known speakers during the annual presentation.

Jeff Lowenfels will give a talk on “No More Chemicals in the Yard,” Jeff Jabco will speak on “Painting the Gardens with Vines and Climbers,” local gardening guru Karen Rexroad presents “Growing Seasons from the Ground Up,” and W. Gary Smith rounds out the roster with “Art to Landscape.”

The club’s mission is to increase the pleasure of country life by the exchange of ideas and information on gardening topics, and the seminar’s goal has been to bring highly respected gardening experts and writers to the area to share their knowledge with local practitioners.

The symposium is now 20 years on from its 1995 debut, chaired by Polly Rowley and received with much public acclaim, according to club Chairman Elaine Burden, a gardener of some note herself. Over those two decades, the club has introduced its audience to a series of renowned experts. Among the many who have delighted the annual audience, are JC Raulston, Dan Hinkley, Christopher Woods, Pamela Harper and C. Colston Burrell, “all superb gardeners,” Burden said.

The Feb. 28 speakers will add their own talents to the list. Lowenfels is sometimes cited as “the Cal Ripken of garden columnists.” The writer of a humorous and entertaining weekly column in the Anchorage News over a 39-year period, Lowenfels’ book “Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web” has won many awards.

Jabco is the director of grounds and coordinator of horticulture for the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College, where he has worked since 1990. Jabco oversees all horticultural operations at the college’s 360 acres, including the maintenance and development of its plant collections, gardens and natural area.

Rexroad has been a horticultural fixture in Loudoun and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area for many years, the source of reliable and deeply knowledgeable gardening information—both at her former retail center, Windy Hill Plant Farm on Rt. 50, and later as a gardening consultant. She is a regular co-host of Meriffield Garden Center’s “Gardening Advisor” television program.

W. Gary Smith is an artist and landscape architect who celebrates the natural connections between people and plants. Audiences find his explorations of ecological design and artistic abstraction both fascinating and a good source of ideas to practice in their own gardens. Smith has undertaken projects at Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, Calloway Gardens in Georgia, and the Texas Arboretum at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Through the symposium, the club has raised funds to support the renovation of the historic Goose Creek Bridge and many other community projects.

Sponsors for this year’s symposium include The Middleburg Bank, Bartlett’s Tree Experts, along with significant contributions from four club members, Burden said.

The symposium will run from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and buffet lunch is included in the admission price of $145. To register, go online to and hit symposium. For more information, either check the website or email

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Homeless man’s garden of hope blooms on LA median

Los Angeles has so many scruffy, unmanicured median and parkway strips that I’ve thought about having a contest to name the ugliest.

But there’s a median in Atwater Village that draws attention for another reason: It’s not an eyesore, it’s really nice, with constant improvements such as rock and seashell gardens, wood carvings and terraced landscaping.

The credit does not go to city streets crews, however. It goes to a homeless guy.

“I like to think of it as a contribution to the universe,” said Jeff Harmes, a 46-year-old Colorado native who told me he’s been homeless since he was 17.

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“I don’t think they’re succulents,” he said, which meant he would have to lug jugs of water from a faucet in front of a nearby business.

Harmes said he has no gardening experience. But he pages through a book called “Gardens for All Seasons” for pointers.

He has a captive audience because cars have to stop next to his garden while waiting for the light to turn green. While I visited with him, one motorist told Harmes that the garden was looking good.

“I’m just trying to show progress,” he told her. “I shaved my head because I didn’t want to pull my hair out over this. Have a good one!”

Another driver rolled down his window and held out a free lunch — a burger and fries from McDonald’s.

“Thanks, dude,” said Harmes, whose fans have donated the garden tools he uses.

“He’s a little bit of an artist in my opinion,” said Luis Lopez, who owns an auto repair shop and is executive director of the Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce. “He’s done a lot better job than the city does of maintaining the median.”

But not everyone in Atwater Village — which has a significant population of homeless people living along the river — is cheering. In January, when a short story about Harmes was posted on the website of KPCC host John Rabe, one reader accused Harmes of stealing plants from yards and another said “he often yells at people” and “he’s scared my child.”

Harmes vehemently denied any thievery, and residents I spoke to backed him up. But there is some truth, Harmes admits, to claims that he has occasional outbursts, especially when vandals have messed with his garden.

“I tell him he has to stop screaming and yelling, because people do love what he’s done here,” said Netty Carr, a neighbor who helped Harmes line up a monthly landscaping job at a nearby business. “When I speak to him he’s not hostile, he’s very gentle, but I do believe he hears voices.”

Harmes told me his troubles began early in life. He was adopted at the age of 5 months, his father died, and his mother married a man who physically abused him and his mother.

I asked Jeff if he ever had a mental health diagnosis.

“Depression with psychotic features,” he said. “I’ve been on psychotropics and everything.”

He used to drink hard liquor every day, but that was years ago, Harmes said. Now it’s beer, and he said he can handle it.

“I don’t shake anymore,” he said.

I asked Harmes if I could talk to his mother (he proudly sent her photos of his garden before his cellphone got stolen). Sure, he said, giving me her number in Colorado.

Sharon Post said Jeff had lots of behavior problems as a boy, and they tried everything from military school to hospitalization. Jeff threatened to commit suicide more than once, Post said, and when his sister died of a drug overdose, he said he always thought he would be the one to die that way.

His diagnosis, Post said, was mental illness and drug addiction, and she was also told that Jeff was believed to be a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. That means his biological mother may have drank enough to cause physical and mental defects in her unborn child — conditions that he has wrestled with his entire life.

Harmes told me he came west in about 1998 and used to sweep the streets when he was homeless in Marina del Rey, trying to make some kind of contribution. He eventually wandered east for no particular reason and found the scrubby median strip that would become his latest contribution to the universe.

Thousands of people are homeless in Greater Los Angeles, and it’s easy to make collective judgments. But Harmes is a reminder that every one of them has a back story.

I’d like to think there’s a way to coax him into supportive housing except that there’s an extreme shortage of that very thing. He told me he’d never go for a shelter bed on skid row — too much chaos.

“I’d rather roll up in cardboard.”

For now, he’s found purpose and made a life for himself. In December, he told me, he got two $100 bills, among other Christmas presents.

As we spoke, he reconsidered his placement of an aloe vera plant, saying that he wanted to replant it where it could be better showcased.

“This is a big project,” he said, his hands covered with dirt, as he surveyed the unfinished work in front of him.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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10 Tips for the February Gardener

More record cold on the way!!! You must be saying “OK Kevin, how many more days until Spring?” Well funny you ask, the first day of spring i…

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Curbed Features

Here’s Design Toscano in a snapshot: the company sells over 6,000 products, spanning the categories of garden items (e.g. vampire and fairy statues), “tongue-in-cheek” novelty gifts (e.g. an armadillo beer holder or knight toilet paper holder), and “serious” furniture based off historical pieces (commonly carved furniture from across Europe). Its products can be seen in movies like Night at the Museum, TV shows like Sleepy Hollow and Blue Bloods, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and, in the case of the giant garden yeti, the main lobby of Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle (and possibly somewhere in Matt LeBlanc’s house). That’s now—but how did Design Toscano corner this niche-seeming market of outlandish kitsch in the first place?

Click here to view the full photogallery.

It all started with Design Toscano co-founder Michael Stopka traveling around Europe as a consultant in the late ’80s, visiting castles and museums, and coming to the conclusion that there’s an untapped market for replicas of historical furniture back in the U.S. Upon returning home, Stopka partnered with a friend in the statuary business, put up some advertising in the back of magazines, and quickly expanded through a domestic mail-order catalog, garden shows, and in recent years, the Internet. According to Stopka, various small companies dabble in Design Toscano’s different categories, be it antiques or fairies, but no one else has centralized all of it to the extent that Toscano has.

Today, Design Toscano releases 300 to 400 items a year, a huge portion of which are designed from scratch by the company’s creative director, Steve Pseno. In a phone interview, Stopka explains that whereas big boxes offer “pretty generic” products, Pseno is all about finding that “Toscano spin,” which usually means experimenting with all kinds of “personalities” for popular categories like gargoyles, or Romanesque columned things.

Zombie%20of%20Montclaire.jpg“The Zombie of Montclaire Moors”

Stopka says that for Design Toscano, you don’t just have angels; you have “art angels,” “sexy angels,” and “vampy angels.” You have skeletons that are (purportedly) suitable for a year-round garden display. You have a mountain-climbing squirrel. The unending procession of garden gnomes goes without saying.

“[Steve] doesn’t like gnomes, so when he does gnomes, he does things that are fun, so like zombie gnomes, biker gnomes, gnomes that are mooning the world,” Stopka says. This spring, Pseno is introducing another Design Toscano exclusive gnome, one “Atlas the Athlete,” who comes outfitted like an early 1900s power-lifter.

gnomes.jpgLeft: a “Far East” gnome set featuring a sumo gnome and ninja gnome; Right: the new “Atlas the Athlete” gnome

Pseno, who’s been at the company for over 20 years, says his creations are partly responsive to what’s trending in the market and partly based on his gut feeling about what would sell. But often, they’re also inextricably linked to what’s happening in his life. “I call the statues ‘My Children’,” he writes in an email. “Many of these pieces follow my life’s journeys.” One angel statue was designed for his daughter when she was born; a fisherman sculpture was created to honor one of the company’s French sculptors who passed away; the idea for a yeti tree sculpture came to Pseno as he was watching a group of kids play hide-and-seek.

As for the world-famous “Bigfoot: the Garden Yeti,” that all started eight years ago, when Pseno asked himself, “What’s the modern gargoyle?” Right away he remembered being captivated by an episode of the ’70s quasi-documentary show In Search Of…, in which the mysterious phenomena of Bigfoot was investigated. (“Yeti,” just to be clear, is the name of a similar creature reported in the Himalayas.) Pseno developed initial sketches of what he thought Bigfoot looked like, and then, working with a sculptor, he created a prototype that ultimately takes after the one seen in the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, which allegedly shows a Bigfoot sighting in California.

ysoFwOE.jpgThe world-famous “Bigfoot, the Garden Yeti”

According to Pseno, when his colleagues saw the first sample of the yeti statue, they thought it would never sell. “SkyMall had to be pushed to run it too,” he writes. “Mike and I took a gamble and ran with it.” Sales were just okay at first, but Pseno says it really took off once “word got around that SkyMall was selling a Bigfoot.” To date, the airline catalog has sold over 10,000 Design Toscano yeti statues.

Though the yeti will be a Design Toscano mascot and bestseller for years to come, the company’s current rising stars can be found in all kinds of animal garden statues, which have “really exploded,” according to Stopka. “People love animals— you watch the Super Bowl ads and you see how many commercials are based on animals, be it exotic like elephants and tigers, or dogs running for Budweiser.”

animalsstat.jpgLeft: the “Shadowed Predator Black Panther”; Right: “Strike a Pose Zen Yoga Frog”

Design Toscano’s consistently top-performing animals include a black panther, lions, bears, gorillas, elephants, dogs, cows, and pigs. According to Stopka, 40 percent of the spring catalog will be dedicated to animal-related products. Once the company sees one kind of animal doing particularly well, they’ll then make it in all different sizes. And often, just by adding, say, one glass surface, an elephant sculpture instantly transforms into an elephant end table.

SkyMall, which put Design Toscano products in the seat-back pocket in front of an estimated 1.6 million people every day, has been a good indication of the brand’s bestsellers. “If it made SkyMall, it was one of our top products.” says Stopka. He says SkyMall’s bankruptcy is painful on two fronts. First, there’s the loss at a financial level, though Stopka holds that SkyMall didn’t drive the lion’s share of his business. According to Stopka, the more pressing loss is that, throughout the two companies’ 15-year relationship, SkyMall has really made Design Toscano products known. “The branding you got from being in SkyMall can’t be replaced,” Stopka says.

“SkyMall has used our products really as their icon products—the zombies, the gargoyles, the yeti,” he explains. “Those are the pictures you saw up on the national news.” Stopka is of course referring to the countless articles that covered the bankruptcy filing, not to mention the Jimmy Fallon segment that featured Design Toscano’s zombie statue. He hopes someone will buy up SkyMall and keep their partnership going, but in the meantime, Design Toscano is already working on expanding into other channels, primarily on the web.

bts.jpgBehind the scenes at Design Toscano.

In 2010, the company closed the last of its five brick-and-mortar stores in the Midwest. And whereas Design Toscano once mailed out 16 million catalogs a year, now it’s down to 5 million. Today, 70 percent of Toscano’s business transactions touch the web. “We’re at the point now that we have an internal person that we hire within Amazon that’s full-time,” says Stopka.

The company is currently in the process of launching on Amazon Germany, where many items, like a Florentine lion sculpture and a “dragon fairy” wall scroll, are now available for pre-order. Stopka also has his sights set on Japan and China, which will bring yet more chances to reintroduce Design Toscano’s all-time bestsellers, such as the yeti, the Belgian peeing boy, and the Egyptian throne chair. There’s a caveat though: something that does well in the U.S. doesn’t always work in other markets. For example, nutcrackers, though super popular during the holidays in America, don’t get much action in the U.K. And the yeti, well, Stopka says, “You bring the yeti there and the English people would say ‘OK’ and they don’t get it.”

bestsellers.jpgSome of Design Toscano’s bestsellers.

In SkyMall’s bankruptcy petition, acting CEO Scott Wiley blames the catalog’s demise on the rise of electronic devices and internet access on planes: instead of getting trapped in SkyMall’s baffling pages, people can now lose themselves in smartphones, tablets, laptops, e-readers, and if they really wanted to, venture directly to an online retailer that sells the very SkyMall item that blew their mind. As former Wired editor Chris Anderson explains in the New York Times bestseller The Long Tail (2008), the advent of e-commerce means people aren’t limited to a finite set of “hits” that physical store shelves can hold, but now have the ability to search and find an endlessly “long tail” of inventory on the web. And so just like music and books, everything Design Toscano produces, no matter how niche or otherwise unpopular, can find considerable-enough demand online, even if it means a little bit at once, for a long, long time.

According to Stopka, of the some 400 new products his company releases each year, one-third does really well, one-third does okay, and one-third does horribly. But these days, even that last third isn’t much of a headache at all. He says that prior to selling on places like Amazon, they would just sell through the initial batch of low-performers and it would be over. But now, they keep the “misses” around, too. In Stopka’s words, “somebody in the world will like it.”

· As SkyMall Lies Dying, Here Are its 15 Decor Must-Buys [Curbed National]
· All Curbed Features [Curbed National]

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Over the moon garden ideas: Northwest Flower & Garden Show display garden …

Every year, the Northwest Flower Garden Show in Seattle draws top garden designers and landscaping professionals together to build phenomenal display gardens for show goers to enjoy, get ideas or find someone to design their garden. For the hard working people who build these gardens from a concept on paper to a complete garden, the process begins early in the year before the show.

As showgoers, we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor and judge for ourselves which ones are our favorites. With our biases and preferences, our favorites don’t always align with the official judges of the show, Anne Raver of Maryland, Troy B. Marden of Tennessee and Linda Engstrom of Oregon. However, it is fun to see our favorites get an award.

At this year’s show, held Feb. 11-15, it appeared that a lot more flowers were used in the gardens. Was it a testament to the theme “Romance Blossoms” or is it a wave of the future?

I heard mixed reviews, some really loved the flowers.

“Finally, they are getting back to how it used to be with more flowers,” I heard one attendee say to her companion.

Another person complained there wasn’t enough plant diversity.

For me, some of my favorite gardens had common plant elements, yet what I loved was how they married the hardscapes with the flora and sometimes fauna, to bring about their interpretation of the romance theme. Any of these designs could change to fulfill a client’s plant wishes.

Founder’s Cup (Best in Show) and Gold Medal: “Over the Moon” by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers–Washington Chapter was designed by Susie Thompson, Lisa Bauer and Katie Weber. You could not miss this garden with its full moon rising high into the rafters of the Washington State Convention Center, and the owls perched high in the air and lit by the moon.

Bauer said, “I wanted something celestial, timeless and related to nature.”

The photo of the large moon printed on fabric was stretched over a round frame. A ring was put over the frame, bolted together and backlit by a bank of clip lights behind. Everything is round in the garden, from the pavilion, pool and the moon.

Pacific Horticultural Society Award and Gold Medal: “Birds Do It…Bees Do It…” was designed by the West Seattle Nursery staff.

When you stepped up to this garden, you knew this design was all about the wildlife. The well-lit garden featured stacks of bee houses nearly to the ceiling and towered over the rustic shed. Everything a bird or bee would need for food, shelter, and water was nestled in alongside a strong plant palette; put this garden up as a favorite among many.

Best Use of Theme Award, Fine Gardening and Gold Medal: “A Garden Built With Love” was designed by Adam Gorski of Adam Gorski Landscapes.

Sitting in this garden, you really believe someone built with love: Love for grape vines, native plants and reclaimed and repurposed materials that filled the space. The garden takes you east of the Cascades and into the sun of Central Washington.

American Horticultural Society Environmental Award and Gold Medal: “Pining Over Yew–A Love for Every Season” was designed by Jumanji Oliana of Oliana Gardening.

I fell in love with the living rain garden. Once I found out what the dripping water from the roof was about, I looked more closely at the design and found that it represented an environmental filtration system where all the water draining from the rooftops and driveway converge. The garden was simply elegant, with native plants, and a refuge for wildlife. And also space to grow vegetables and herbs for the residents.

Gold Medal: “Love the Space You’re In” was designed by Susan Browne of Susan Browne Landscape Design working with Iron Idiom and Green Touch General Contractors.

Designer Susan Browne says the name of her garden actually means “love the space that you have and develop it to what you like.” As I stood next to her admiring the view of her garden, I wanted to be in this space and love it too.

Her color palette began at the hardware store where she picked out her colors using paint swatches. When her choices were made, she stapled them together and over the next seven months the swatches went everywhere with her as she pulled the design together.

“We like to bring to the show a lot of color,” she says.

The color came through in everything from the plant pallet, the doors, pottery and the blown glass pieces throughout the space. In 880 square feet, she really packed the love into it.

Sunset Western Living Award, 425 Magazine Editor’s Choice Award and Gold Medal: “Knotty Nice…Here’s to WE time” was designed by Karen Stefonick of Karen Stefonick Design working with Complete Landscape and Moon Shadows Landscape Lighting.

Curl up in the cozy furniture next to the fire and with the sounds of water any time of the year. This garden full of evergreens provides textural interest all year round. The knotty is found in the pine trees, dotting the garden and in the pine beams used for the pergola.

Gold Medal: “Rekindled Rendezvous” was designed by Jamie and Tiffani Mcauliffe
of Mcauliffe Valley Nursery.

Pieces of columns from an old building were used throughout the garden and an outdoor room was filled with art.

Gold Medal: “Lettre d’ Armorchid” was designed by Joe Grienauer of the Northwest Orchid Society.

Every year, the orchid society dazzles the indoor space at the convention center with exotic orchids. This year, the display gave its audience a visual representation of epiphytes that grow in trees, lithophytes that grow over rocks and terrestrial the ones that grow in the ground. The cliff was a convincing facsimile where orchids clung. The plants came from the personal collections of society members and showcased where we could fall in love with them.

X-Factor Award and Silver Medal: “Step by Step, Side by Side” was designed by Iftikhar Ahmed of Treeline Deignz 360 Design Company.

This display garden was framed by a wall of gabions. Inside the gabions, instead of filling them to the top with rock, garden designer Iftikhar Ahmed chose to fill them part way with stone and make waves of sedum undulating through them.

Ahmed chose a green and white palette, and brought in a punch of red on the floating bed at the back of the garden, “Instead of red hearts and flowers, I used color to signify the romance,” Ahmed explained.

A Portland-based garden designer, Ahmed has clients from Seattle to San Francisco. His award winning display gardens have been in the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, the Yard, Garden Patio Show, and the San Francisco Flower Garden Show.

More silver medal winners:

“Three Phases of Love…Young, Passionate Forever”  by the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals

“Romantic Folly” by Pamela Richards Garden Design and Falling Water Designs

“A Moment to Remember” by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design

“The Romance of Steampunk” by Whitby Landcare Design

“A Bi-O-Cycle Built for Two” by Evergreen Landscaping Ponds

“The Root of True Romance: Beautiful Chaos…Love, Art, Nature” by Elandan Gardens

Bronze medal winner:

“Picture Yourself On Azalea Way” by the Washington Park Arboretum – Arboretum Foundation

“Will You? A Romantic Proposal in the Park” by Fancy Plants Gardens

“A Woodland Nymph’s Dream” by The Grounds Professionals

“Giovanni’s Grotto” by Dakara Landscape Design

Best Small Space Design, City Living’s Best Use of Show Theme, and People’s Choice Award: “All You Need is Love” by Ravenna Gardens.

–Debbie Teashon

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