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Archives for February 22, 2015

TIFs: Not getting a fair shake from City Hall?

There’s growing frustration among developers and city councilors about what’s perceived as a subjective, secretive way in which Sioux Falls awards an incentive that can make or break a major project.

A handful of city officials are deciding whether certain projects should apply for a TIF, or a tax increment finance district. There’s strong interest in the business community about TIFs, but some developers have been warned that they shouldn’t apply. This has taken place outside of the formal policies meant to ensure that City Hall isn’t favoring one project or developer over another.

The result of this off-the-books policy means that projects are being turned away by Mayor Mike Huether’s administration without there being a formal application and paper trail. The projects in question include downtown developments as well as multimillion dollar manufacturing facilities that would bring hundreds of new jobs to the city.

Pat Costello, the commissioner of economic development for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said there are manufacturing businesses that have considered building in Sioux Falls. Those projects are in limbo in part because the city won’t agree to TIFs.

“They have certainly showed their reluctance to do TIFs,” Costello said. “They’ve repeatedly been approached by a number of different entities for a number of different TIFs for a lot of reasons.”

Formally, the city has just one current application for a TIF — a workforce housing project near the Sunshine grocery in downtown. But Darrin Smith, director of the community development department, which oversees TIF applications, said developers are coming in on an almost weekly basis to inquire about tax-assisted financing.

Yet some are being discouraged from applying, officials say, which means the City Council and public don’t have an opportunity to weigh in on their merits. The lack of transparency is troubling to some and compounded byconcerns that some developers are favored by City Hall over others.

City Councilor Greg Jamison, who waged an unsuccessful campaign against Huether in the last mayoral election, said he has heard that favoritism complaint from developers more than once.

“There’s an idea that if you are an adversary of the administration, you’re going to have a difficult time” getting a TIF, Jamison said. “The discretion from the administration in saying, ‘Yes, you are a winner or, no, you are a loser,’ I don’t agree with. And the individuals who are being chosen as losers, they’re saying, ‘Now wait a minute. There’s nothing in the criteria that is a problem.’ It’s that their name is the wrong name; that’s the problem.”

Smith said Jamison’s words suggest he doesn’t understand how much time and effort community development puts into evaluating each TIF proposal it sees.

“It is very disappointing that someone has to resort to making integrity allegations, but sadly, it is part of the process every now and then,” Smith said.

Of Jamison’s allegation, Huether would only say that he believes the formula being used in community development to evaluate TIF proposals is working.

“The approach over the last four and a half years has been consistent, and that is, always listen to special interest groups but don’t be beholden to them,” the mayor said.

Pushback from city councilors

The topic turned testy last week at the City Council’s weekly informational meeting. Smith had stopped by to update the council on the TIF program — a common routine for him in recent weeks as he’s given similar presentations to the city Planning Commission and the Minnehaha County Commission.

Councilors wanted to know how only one formal application had been submitted in the past 26 months, though Smith said his staff was having conversations with developers about TIFs every week.

Councilor Michelle Erpenbach in particular pointed to a city ordinance passed late in 2013 that said applications requesting the establishment of a TIF shall be completed and submitted, and that Community Development staff shall provide the council a recommendation on those applications.

But the council isn’t seeing anything, she said.

“I know that you’ve had conversations with folks who are interested in having TIFs, but they’ve been discouraged from even applying, even though the ordinance says shall apply and that your staff shall make a recommendation,” Erpenbach said.

Smith said his office has not discouraged anyone. “We don’t tell anyone what they can or can’t do,” he said. “We don’t discourage anything.”

Smith insisted that most TIF ideas fall by the wayside early in the discussions, before much work has been done on them. Most die in the idea stage and not the detail stage, he said.

But Erpenbach said she is aware of a number of projects that have been heavily researched and advanced that never got to the point where the developer pays the $2,500 application fee and brings it forward.

“I don’t think (community development) can deny them the ability to make the application,” she said. “I’ve been told that’s what’s happening.”

School for deaf campus

Last year, Lloyd Cos. shelved its vision for redeveloping seven acres on the Communications Service for the Deaf campus in east Sioux Falls after being discouraged by the city from applying for tax increment financing.

Lloyd had an agreement to buy the land and a plan to turn it into a mixed-use project. It would have included a retail center along East 10th Street and new town houses behind it.

The plan also called for converting two historic buildings on the property into affordable apartments and renting a former call center space to a new tenant. Lloyd planned to apply for tax credit assistance to redevelop the historic buildings but also needed tax increment financing to pull off the plan.

“I think it was a bit of a weak pitch in the beginning,” Smith said. “So we said, If you’re checking our temperature, I’m not seeing it, and the environment isn’t such that is was three or four years ago with the need for TIF for some projects.”

Smith said he had heard of other parties interested in the land and wanted to “let those things play out.”

Lloyd’s agreement to buy the land expired in December, and it’s now back on the market.

“There are just too many challenges, and trying to figure it out is a tough, tough process,” Lloyd said. “If it doesn’t have support, it’s not going to happen in our world.”

Right conditions for TIF district

Smith’s reference to the environment three or four years ago falls into one of the four categories he said his office uses in evaluating TIF proposals today, namely what he calls situational factors. TIF projects might have made more sense during the recession when development slowed and it could act as a stimulus, he said. But in the red-hot economy of today, the need to stimulate diminishes.

But even beyond that now, these projects need to prove what their financial need is, he said. They need to show that use of TIF dollars will provide a public benefit, such as environmental remediation or infrastructure improvements. They must show significance and input, whether it’s providing needed housing or cleaning up a blighted area.

Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr. said those are good standards to operate by, and he believes Smith’s office is using them fairly.

“It’s a nice tool,” Anderson said of tax increment financing. “But it should be utilized when there’s a public good. You have to ask yourself, ‘Do we use the public’s money for public good, or do we use the money to help a profit margin?’ And to be honest, I don’t hear anybody complaining about it.”

Though the Sioux Falls economy is humming these days, Erpenbach, Jamison and others are worried about what is being lost because of the conservative approach Smith’s office is taking on tax-assisted financing. Smith made reference to it himself at the informational meeting when he suggested that the day may come when Sioux Falls needs to use TIF as a competitive tool.

“The necessity category may be judged not so much by a financial gap,” he said. “It may be we’re competing with another city or cities for a project, and we need to do something big to get that.”

Erpenbach asked him: “Are we too conservative, and things are being left on the table because you and your staff said, ‘enh.’ ”

He personally didn’t think so, Smith said.

But Costello, who, like Smith is a former Sioux Falls city councilor, said Sioux Falls risks losing out on some multimillion dollar projects that would generate hundreds of jobs because of the city’s reluctance to use TIFs. He said it’s “atypical” for projects of that size in South Dakota not to use TIF, because TIFs are one of the few economic development tools that the state has.

Ultimately, the projects could go to other cities in South Dakota, which would be fine by the state, Costello said. It’s up to each community to decide what attributes they can offer for economic development and whether TIF districts should be a part of that.

“That’s a decision they have to make, and if they’re not comfortable with it, then they shouldn’t do it,” Costello said.

Possible solutions

So what are the answers? Councilors said they would like more feedback on the conversations Smith’s staff is having with developers. Jamison suggested a committee composed of two councilors, two county commissioners, two school board members and Smith’s staff to hear TIF proposals.

“I think the process needs a little work,” he said. “And I’m really concerned about the drought, 26 or 27 months. I don’t think it’s a good sign.”

Others councilors were less enthusiastic about that idea, though they believe the process needs more transparency. “What I find troubling is not hearing about the (conversations) that just disappear,” Councilor Christine Erickson said. “Maybe keep a spreadsheet, a document and send it to the City Council on a quarterly basis.”

Smith sounded like a man willing to look at any idea. But he also made it clear that developers would be skittish about having wide-ranging discussions with committees on proposals that often are very competitive in nature, very early in concept, or could potentially involve investors who have not signed on yet.

“To me,” Smith said of the different ideas being suggested to him, “it feels a little like Mom saying no, let’s go see what Dad says.”

That might be, Erpenbach said. But the City Council has been adamant about supporting economic development in Sioux Falls, tax increment financing is the one tool it has to help spur that, and virtually no one is walking through the door, she said.

“The reason I voted to put the (TIF) ordinance in place is, we’re going to do it more, and we’re going to do it better, and we’re going to make it a process that we’re all involved in,” she said. “And that’s not what I’m feeling.”

What is TIF?

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is based on determining a defined area’s property value and comparing it to the projected future value. The difference in property-tax collections between the values — the increment — can be used to finance public-oriented improvements within the district. A TIF district does not involve additional assessments on businesses, making it different from a business improvement district. A TIF district uses property-tax revenue that would be due anyway. Typically, TIF districts are created around project sites to help fund improvements such as parking, demolition, lighting or landscaping. In Sioux Falls, they primarily have been used for redevelopment projects downtown and in older neighborhoods.

Changes to TIF uses and purposes

In Mayor Mike Huether’s first term, the city approved nine new tax increment finance districts, about half of the approved districts in the city’s history.

But since 2013, there hasn’t been a new one.

Darrin Smith, the city’s director of Community Development, says there is less need for TIFs now that the economy has improved.

Todd Meierhenry, a Sioux Falls lawyer who sets up the districts, says there probably are political reasons as well. Counties have been complaining about TIFs, in part because they forgo property tax revenue for a period of time when a TIF is created. At least one bill in the Legislature would have severely curtailed the use of TIFs.

Proponents of the bill included the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners while opponents included the South Dakota Municipal League. The two groups often are allies on issues.

“I think a lot of it is from the politics of what the counties are doing,” Meierhenry said of the slowdown in TIFs in Sioux Falls.

At one time, state laws restricted the use of TIFs to blighted areas. But lawmakers loosened that to include TIFs for economic development projects.

Dean Nielsen, the former finance director for Sioux Falls who oversaw TIF projects for the city, said they initially were used only to help development projects downtown. The sites downtown might include pollution that would need to be remediated or old buildings.

“Those types of things pretty much made it difficult to do development downtown without some type of help,” Nielsen said.

TIFs were administered by the planning department, but under Huether they were moved to community development. The City Council under Huether also expanded their use citywide, and two outside of the downtown urban renewal area have been approved: One for the Costco development and one for the Sanford sports complex area.

Cities across the state use TIFs for different reasons, Meierhenry said. Meierhenry has helped cities develop policies for TIFs. Ultimately, the governing boards have the discretion to approve TIFs and set policies.

“If the legislative branch doesn’t say, ‘Those are the policies we want to follow,’ the administrative branch can set their own policies,” he said.

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Home and Garden Show Educates Texomans

Can you still garden during the drought? That was a main focus of this year’s home and garden festival.

At the annual show, Texomans can get landscaping ideas, see new products, and enjoy a little spring time preview.

Guests can also get some helpful tips on how to make their gardens grow, even in this persistent drought.

“You know people don’t need to be afraid to garden. We still have plenty of plants that will do fine right now with our no watering situation, and we can help you with that. We can show you how to plant them and how to take care of them, and what plants to use,” Katherine Smith, owner of Smith’s Gardentown.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend today you can check things out tommorrow.

Doors will open at 11 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the event.

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Duncan: Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off others

This is one those rare opportunities where I get to talk about sports and business — two of my favorite things in life.

I read a story on USA Today’s website this week about how former NFL players are finding second careers as entrepreneurs.

The player referenced first was former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George, one of my personal favorites from that 1999 team. I know Southern Illinois fans remember that team — the one that fell one yard short of tying the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in the final seconds.

The story told a tale about how George retired after nine years in the league and used his degree in landscape architecture from Ohio State to help found a landscaping and design company with a couple of locations in Ohio and one in Tennessee.

That got me thinking: Many NFL players have short careers and still need to continue to make a living after it’s all said and done.

The minimum NFL salary is about $400,000, but the average career length is about three and a half years, according to the NFL players association.

While I would love to make that much money, it wouldn’t be enough to never work again.

In regards to NFL players, there are stories about going back to school and earning degrees or starting a business after careers end.

However, for those of us who aren’t good enough to play pro football, having the entrepreneur spirit doesn’t need to be tempered.

While starting a business can be a scary adventure, it can be extremely rewarding.

If you find yourself in a rough place, unemployed or wanting to try something new, then starting a business — or at least exploring the possibility — could be a potential avenue.

Of course, all of us don’t make $400,000 a year, but there are avenues to obtain funding for small businesses. There are even organizations in Southern Illinois that will help entrepreneurs create a business plan to increase their odds of getting funding, such as the Small Business Development Center in Carbondale.

Am I telling you quit your job? No, but if you have an idea that you think will successful, it doesn’t hurt to bounce it off somebody else to see if it sounds good to other people.

If it seems like it could work, explore it further.

It’s not worth sitting on what you think could be a great idea and could make you self-employed, just because you are scared of what other people make think of your plan.

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Swihart follows passion with career in horticulture

Lori Swihart sees every landscape like a blank canvas ready for some splashes of plant art all over it.

It’s the creative aspect of gardening that first drew Swihart to a career as a horticulturist. She could imagine all kinds of container gardens, impressive landscapes and beautifully designed gardens. The possibilities were endless.

And the best part: It made people happy, she said.

Swihart admits she was never much of a “science person” growing up. She was just intrigued by the flowers she found her in grandmother’s garden.

“I just remember my grandmother’s garden, she had peonies in it and the ants were always all over them. I always wondered why,” she said.

That curiosity sparked a lifetime love of gardening for Swihart.

So when she found herself bored and unsatisfied in an office job, Swihart decided it was time to make a change. She took a position as a part-time employee at Wilson’s Garden Center, finally getting the chance to put her passion for gardening to good use.

Eventually the garden center hired her full time and the rest, as they say, was history.

She went on to become a Master Gardener with the Ohio University Extension program and a writer for Ohio Gardener magazine before she found her way to the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County, becoming the instructor/coordinator of the school’s Professional Landscape and Nursery Training program.

Swihart has come a long way from someone who wasn’t into science to a horticulture educator. The path has been just as much a surprise to her as anyone else, but it’s one she is passionate about, she said. And it’s a passion she hopes to pass on to her students.

“When you have a passion for something, that joy just comes out of you and it helps bring others to the career,” she said. “This is a field that is losing people, kids these days are losing interest in this. But if we can insert some technology into it and show students how amazing the field of horticulture is, that could change.”

To help do that, Swihart looks for every opportunity for hands-on learning experiences in her classroom. Her students learn the basics of plant anatomy and identification, but they also take care of their own plants in the learning gardens. This year, the class will also participate in a pollinator research project, looking into what pollinators are attracted to native Ohio plants.

The class will also help work on landscaping for the Net Zero Energy Model Home.

When students are considering futures in STEM, they might not think about horticulture as an option, Swihart said, but they should. Not only is it a field that combines science and with a little bit of creativity and art, but it’s one that will prove to be vital in the coming years.

“It’s quite interesting and it’s really needed,” she said. “As fast as we are consuming plant materials out there we are really needing to bring new plants in.”


Twitter: @emmaddern

About this series

This story is part of an ongoing Business Advocate series about women in STEM careers. If you have a story suggestion, email

Meet Lori Swihart

If you could have any job — no limits — what would it be?

I would stay in this field. The last two years I have learned that I really enjoy teaching it, but maybe I would lean more toward horticulture therapy. Either way, I’d still be here.

Favorite celebrity or politician?

Princess Diana and Mother Theresa. They just inspired me with the great compassion they had.

Favorite comfort food?

Dark chocolate. I recently read that eating chocolate three times per week was good for you, and I’m up for that.

Favorite pastime?

It seems like my life is consumed with horticulture, but all my spare time is spend in the garden. It sounds like that’s all I do. I do also enjoy reading, doing anything creative, re-purposing.

Biggest pet peeve?

Double negatives. I tense up anytime I hear it.

Dream vacation?

Australia. It’s just so diverse and the landscapes there are beautiful. It’s always been on my bucket list.

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It might as well be Springfest


Nineteen years ago, a greenhouse was built at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, which planted the seed of holding a spring flower and garden show.

David Wright, of David Wright Landscape Architect LLC, in Branchville; Brian Hautau, of Hautau Landscaping Inc., also of Branchville; and Tony Cerbo, of Cerbo’s Nursery, in Hampton, put together the show that was held in the newly constructed greenhouse building during a snowy March weekend.

“The greenhouse still had a dirt floor. We hadn’t poured the concrete floor yet. And it snowed quite a bit,” Wright said. He recalls the show did draw a few visitors.

Wright, director of the Springfest Garden Show for 19 years, said Springfest has grown from its initial one greenhouse building to include the greenhouse, adjoining Conservatory, Farm Fun Building and several tents. The show now spans four days and is a breath of spring for the winter weary. Over the years, in addition to an increased number of flower and garden exhibits, the show has added educational lectures, a cafe and multiple vendors, and is attended by thousands of people.

The show opens at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 12, and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 15 at the Sussex County Fairgrounds on Plains Road in Augusta. Admission is $12 for adults; $9 for seniors 65 and older and free for children under 12 years old.

On Senior day, March 12, admission for those 65 and older is $8. The show is rain, shine or snow, as it is all under cover and indoors.

The area’s landscape companies, including Wright’s, have been busy all winter designing their displays for the show, forcing flowers from winter dormancy, and building the gardens that will inspire visitors with the latest outdoor-living trends or perhaps a new planting to enhance curb appeal.

For anyone considering an outdoor project, visiting the garden show is a way to meet with representatives of landscape companies, chat with the owners and peruse their portfolios. Landscape architects, such as Wright, can advise how to draw a plan for your garden.

Wright will be celebrating his own 30 years in business with an exhibit showcasing 30 gardens over 30 years, he said. Visitors also will see gardens created by Hautau Landscaping Inc., Three Seasons Inc., Garden State Koi and Aquatic Center, Farmside Landscape Design, Erik Enterprises Landscaping LLC, Anthony Group Installers and Lakeview Landscaping, all of which can provide inspiration.

A panel of speakers will present lectures throughout Springfest on a wide variety of topics, including First Aid for the Garden; What Is Wrong with This Plant and How Do I Fix It; Deer Resistant Plants You May Not Know About; Lovely Roses; Winter in the Garden and Remarkable Perennials. Daily bonsai plant demonstrations will be done by bonsai master Martin Schmalenberg, of Stillwater Studio.

The still-life competition will grace the entry garden, where arrangements by amateurs and pros compete for a blue ribbon. The Kids Plant Your Own Zone is where children can discover the enjoyment of gardening. An especially popular feature for kids is the treasure hunt. The Garden Cafe, with its creative decor, encourages visitors to linger while they enjoy lunch or pastries with gourmet coffees, teas and wine bar.

For more information visit: or call 973-948-9448.

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A step up from fake-looking stones: Boulders elevate landscaping (photos)

Did you notice the large boulders in the outdoor environment created by Northwest Outdoor Living and Landscape at the Portland Home and Garden Show?

The boulders are a perfect height — 7 inches — to be comfortable steps. Other large stones are used to form a fire pit and elevate a curved, cushioned bench that can hold a dozen people.

The sides of the stones are irregular, as in nature, and yet they fit together like puzzle pieces.

You guessed it. Fake stone. Rosetta Hardscapes by Castohn can be installed without involving a quarry or special equipment, and the boulders are about half the price of real ones, explains designer Robert Lussier of Northwest Outdoor Living and Landscape.

The stones also define a pond, which is part of the elaborate outdoor living space, one of 14 entries in the garden show’s Excellence in Landscaping Competition through Sunday.

Overlooking the pond are ease-inducing Adirondack chairs from Terra Casa Home. To match the Pacific Paradise theme, the chairs are painted in tropical colors: mango, Caribbean blue and palm leaf green.

Other businesses contributing to the look were Eldorado Stone, One by One for You and NM Nursery.

The Portland Home Garden Show at the Expo, 2060 N. Marine Drive, Portland

Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 and Friday, Feb. 20, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22.

Admission: $10 (kids age 12 and under free

For more information: 503-246-8291,

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Are herbal remedies safe?

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2015 12:00 am

Are herbal remedies safe?

By Bob Beyfuss


Before I continue with the topic of herbal medicines I want to share some cold weather tips with you. If you did not put rodent guards around the base of your fruit and ornamental trees, this would be a good time to shovel away the snow at their base and either install plastic guards or wrap hardware cloth around the lower 2 feet or so. Mice, voles and rabbits will tunnel under the snow, quite happily, and eat the bark off, possibly killing the plant.

If your houseplants are looking a little sickly due to darkness and indoor dust, take them in the shower with you. Be careful with rock salt around garden plantings, use Calcium Chloride or one of the newer “plant friendly” alternatives. In a pinch, ordinary garden fertilizer such as 5-10-5 will melt snow and ice. Now back to herbs!

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Sunday, February 22, 2015 12:00 am.

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PEG TILLERY | Tips gleaned from the flower and garden show

I always visit the Plant Amnesty booth at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and this year was no exception.

I picked up four free informational handouts: “6 Ways to Kill Your Tree;” “5 Reasons to Stop Topping Trees;” “How to Prune” and “Plant Amnesty’s Guide to Pruning (Northwest Pacific Maritime List, Sunset-Western Climate, Zones 4-5).” Plant Amnesty’s website,, is a fantastic resource for gardeners. Some information on the site is free but I recommend subscribing to a yearly membership. Members have access to free info sheets on how to properly prune every conceivable type of plant. These sheets normally sell for 50 cents each (or more). Plant Amnesty also offers purchase of founder Cass Turnbull’s book “Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning” possibly the best book on pruning ever. This book is also available at local bookstores and at Kitsap Regional Library branches.

The key message in all Plant Amnesty’s educational information is “Remember that pruning, shearing and other trimming of woody plants, shrubs and trees always stimulates the plant to grow.” Which is the opposite result of what many gardeners desire when they butcher plants. (Oops, I meant when they prune plants.) Here are the 6 ways to kill your trees: forgetting to water; trenching, covering up or compacting the soil in the root zone; leaving on the tree stake ties to girdle the tree; planting a big tree in a small space; topping your tree or making repeatedly cutting off branch tips; and weed-eating the bark or bashing the trunk with the mower.

You will also want to know how your shrub, tree or plant grows if left on its own. Some have a normal mounding habit, some grow from canes that shoot up from the ground and some are treelike. For mounding plants grab and snip. Cut cane growers to the ground. Treelike plants only need thinning. The exceptions to these are pruning for fruit trees. And that is a whole separate topic — too long to discuss in one column. Watch for fruit-pruning classes at many of our local nurseries and through the Peninsula Fruit Club.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (from New York’s Cornell University) is one of the best resources for learning about birds throughout the United States. This year at the Flower and Garden Show, the lab partnered with Subaru, providing a display full of information about feeding birds, how to watch for nesting birds and even information on the songs of birds. Cornell is looking for citizen scientists (individuals and families throughout the U.S. and Canada) to log on to their website and record information about the birds in their gardens. One way to participate in the citizen science project involves nesting boxes. For information on how to build, site the birdhouse and place a camera in the nesting boxes, visit Another way to participate in Cornell’s studies is through Project Feeder-Watch. It’s a combined project with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Call 800-843-2473 or visit For abundant information on how to care for and observe birds and their life cycles, visit

Bees need our help. It’s estimated that 65 percent or more of our food is dependent on bee pollinators. Home gardeners can plant more pollinator plants to keep their populations strong. They can also reduce their use of pesticides and become educated on the problem. Sources are: the Bee Informed Partnership (, the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability/Pollinator Conservation ( and Washington State University ( for information about bee pollinators.


This year at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, nearly every show garden featured at least one Edworthia chrysantha (also known as paper bush), a deciduous shrub native to China. It has clusters of small fragrant flowers blooming on bare branches. The scent was extremely enticing. Some varieties were in tree form and some in bush form. Cultivar E. chrysantha “Snow Cream” had clusters of deep yellow tubular flowers splashed with bright yellow. E. chrysantha “Red Dragon” had clusters of white tubular flowers with red (or deep orange) centers. I’m planning on adding the shrub form of this appealing and enticing plant to my own garden this year.

Peg is a retired WSU Kitsap Extension Horticulture and Stewardship Educator and current WSU Master Gardener. Contact her at

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Nonprofits offer native plants, gardening tips in spring sales

Spring is in the air and so are the seasonal plant sales by nonprofit groups.

You can get gardening advice to go with the plants you buy. Several events also will have other outdoor items that help you grow and enjoy your gardens.

Here’s a round-up of what you can find.

  • March 5-7, Green Valley Gardeners
  • , Continental Shopping Plaza, 210 W. Continental Road. Among the typical landscape cactus, succulent and flowering plants for sale are what organizers call “orphans and oddities,” leftovers from nurseries and extras from members’ gardens. Civano Nursery co-owner
  • Alex Shipley
  • will talk at 9 a.m. March 5 about how to care for some of the plants for sale.
  • March 10-14, Desert Survivors
  • , 1020 W. Starr Pass Blvd. The nursery sells native plants. This sale will feature white prairie aster with tiny blooms, daisy-like blanket flower and fragrant mist flower, which attracts queen butterflies.
  • March 14, Organic Garden Fair
  • , St. Mark’s Church, 3750 E. Second St. The event is put on by the Tucson Organic Gardeners. Vendors will sell organic and non-organic starts for spring edible gardens, including tomato, pepper, squash, melon and cucumber. Compost and composting units also will be for sale. A petting zoo and informational booths will be set up.
  • March 15, Spring Rescue Sale
  • , 4342 N. Fourth Ave. Barrel, hedgehog and small saguaro cactus are among the wild plants rescued from development sites by the Tucson Cactus Succulent Society. They will be on sale alongside landscape succulents from vendors.
  • March 21-22, Tohono Chul Park
  • , 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Plants in the sale come from the botanical garden’s propagation efforts as well as local nurseries. A large section will feature plants native to Pima County, including scarlet bugler and many other penstemon varieties, butterfly-attracting narrow leaf milkweed, desert ferns and purple rock pixie.
  • March 22, Gardeners’ Spring Fair
  • , Continental Shopping Plaza, 210 W. Continental Road. Green Valley Gardeners and the Tucson Cactus Succulent Society organize gardening seminars by local gardening experts and plant sales from as many as a dozen vendors.
  • March 27-29, Native Seeds/SEARCH
  • , 3061 N. Campbell Ave. Tomato, pepper, squash and melon starts are among the edible plants that will be for sale. Landscape plants such as blooming wildflowers, young saguaro and chaparral bush also will be offered, as well as gardening items from the retail store.
  • April 11, Pima County Master Gardeners
  • , 4210 N. Campbell Ave. Unusual plants among the stock of succulents, cacti, perennials and berries include spidery Peruvian daffodil, leafy umbrella plant, nierembergia with cup-shaped flowers and 3-gallon containers of slipper plant, a twisty flowering succulent. The sale includes used pots and gardening books and garden art created by master gardeners.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Garden tips: From ice to melt

icy branch

icy branch

Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 6:00 am

Garden tips: From ice to melt


DON’T TOUCH: Ice-encased branches can be especially brittle. Allow the ice to stay put until it melts of its own accord. Prune broken branches to prevent further injury.

CHEMICAL KILLERS: Winter ice and snow-melt mixtures can do plenty of damage to our landscape. There’s not much you can do to keep municipal road chemicals off your yard, but you can control your personal use of salt and ice-melt products. Try sand or kitty litter instead.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015 6:00 am.

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