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Archives for March 6, 2015

Home improvement ideas abound at Gainesville’s Home & Garden Show

Local residents eyeing ways to improve their homes and gardens can get some ideas at this weekend’s 16th annual North Central Florida Home Garden Show.

Organized by The Gainesville Sun and the Builders Association of North Central Florida, the event will highlight home improvement, landscaping, remodeling, and decorating ideas from vendors across 180 booths.

The theme of this year’s Home Show is contemporary design, according to local home designer Lory Willis. The director of sales at Robinshore Inc., Willis says that homeowners are looking to break down room divisions in their homes, and opting to create more interactive spaces.

“People want a break from their busy lifestyles, and they want spaces in which they interact with and entertain each other,” Willis said.

“Many homeowners aren’t even having a formal dining space anymore. Homeowners want to close in those spaces, and they no longer want the formal or traditional styles.”

Willis also says to look out for white cabinets, quartz countertops, flat island kitchens, porcelain tile and outdoor living spaces as hot items and concepts in the current housing market.

In addition to the booths, the Home Show will host three community seminars each day. Speakers from the Alachua Community Emergency Management team will present “Preparing Your Home For Disasters,” a seminar on preparing for hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms.

The second seminar, “Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Saving Money in the Landscape,” will be presented by Wendy Wilburn, an environmental horticulture agent for UF-IFAS. According to Margie Krpan, deputy executive vice president of the Builders Association, Wilburn will give tips on saving money using natural Florida landscaping.

The Gainesville Police Department will present the third seminar, dubbed “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.” GPD will teach attendees how to design homes that are less inviting to potential criminals.

The Home Show will also be offering new events this year, including an azalea plant sale that will donate proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Lynda Strickland, the Home Show’s coordinator, says the plant sale was inspired by a previous azalea sale organized by The Gainesville Sun. Home Show attendees will also be able to drop off their children at a new kids area sponsored by Home Depot.

Bobbie Robinson, an interior designer at R.E. Robinson, says the Home Show gives Gainesville residents a unique chance to view and admire each vendor’s products and services

“The advantage of the Home Show is that the consumer meets face-to-face with potential remodelers,” Robinson said.

“The word of mouth is always good, and the Home Show gives people an opportunity to see the vendors without making a real commitment.”

Robinson, whose business specializes in remodeling and customer building, says that homeowners have begun seeking out ways to upscale their homes.

“We’ve had a demand for room additions, and many of our projects now involve taking out walls and pushing new walls farther to open up the home and expand it,” she said.

“This trend started at the beginning of 2014. Before, people were more conservative with what they were doing to their home. Now, people are spending money in areas they weren’t spending in the past.”

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Architect John P. Kalmon’s anatomy of a dream home

If you’re serious about making that dream come true, sooner or later, you’ll hear the name, John P. Kalmon.

The 12-year independent Hudson architect and construction manager might be the area’s cream of the crop.

Few architects, at any rate, can match Kalmon’s gift for solving the complex, multivariate equation that’s part and parcel of every custom design-build project.

Kalmon has become known for doing it in a way that sets his clients’ homes well apart from the pack.

“I never repeat anything,” the low-key Kalmon notes during an interview last week at his office at 701 Second St. in downtown Hudson.

“I’ll admit that for some, there’s a certain amount of productivity in continually doing the same thing. … But one of the best things about what I do is working with my clients as individuals and the diversity of working with one client to another. It’s always changing.”

Here are just three examples of Kalmon’s local triumphs to tease your imagination:

—An eclectic, spacious loft — complete with a circular elevator and maple spiral staircase — overlooking the St. Croix River from one of Hudson’s most historic buildings, a 150-year-old stone and brick structure downtown. The owners operate a small street-level boutique and wanted to convert the upper level into their private residence.

—A contemporary home on a steeply sloped St. Croix River bluff, featuring a heated stained-concrete floor; vaulted birch-panel ceilings; and a double-sided St. Croix Valley limestone fireplace with a wrap-around hearth and maple mantel. The fireplace heats both an eat-in island and the home’s great room.

—A rural Roberts remodeling project highlighted by a three-sided fireplace — shared by the dining and living areas — with custom-cut tile and a textured-concrete hearth; select hardwood-oak floors with cedar finishes; and architect-designed lighting fixtures throughout. There’s also a screen porch and hot-tub area under an existing deck, a cedar-framed roof with corrugated metal sheeting and a cedar entry trellis with a stained and textured stoop. 

Local charm

All of them have a unique local character, and it’s no wonder. Hudson-native Kalmon grew up in a home designed by legendary Stillwater architect Mike McGuire. Kalmon still lives on Fourth Street, where he and his wife Martha, an accountant, raised four kids –- Hannah, Sam, Mariah and William.

“Mike McGuire had a real gift. His homes were so interesting to explore,” notes Kalmon. He worked with McGuire for a few months after getting his master’s in architecture from Montana State University in 1994.

“All of them were these neat, atypical ways of treating space, unlike any building I’d ever been in. When you walked through those buildings, it was like an exploration.”

Later came stints at larger commercial architectural firms in the Twin Cities while Kalmon built up a portfolio of independent projects.

He also did design-build projects for a local contractor from 1998 to 2003, when he officially launched his John P.K. Kalmon Architect firm.

Kalmon also takes on commercial projects “now and again” –- SEASONS On St. Croix Gallery and Knoke’s Chocolate Inc. are high-profile downtown-Hudson examples — but residential remains his bread and butter.

“My core interests are sustainable design and affordability. That really drives me, especially sustainable design,” Kalmon explains.

“A home is typically people’s biggest investment, and they’re watching the process unfold right in front of their eyes, so it can get kind of intense. Sometimes it’s challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding too.”

He adds: “I’ve always enjoyed the idea of collaboration. Most of my clients are really involved and have lots of ideas. It’s really a team effort. … In one case, the owner bought a welder and is starting to put together a floating metal staircase on his own based on our collaboration. When people get that involved, it’s really fun.”


Kalmon emphasizes that the term “energy efficiency” is now far more sophisticated than it used to be –- say, in the 1970s and early ‘80s, when a tunnel-vision rush to create “tight homes” didn’t foresee problems with other factors like air-quality and moisture.

“Energy efficiency is very important, but it’s not just energy efficiency; it’s much more than that now,” he says.

“Air sealing is always important, but our climate zone demands a more refined system. You need to have a building that can handle all of the different temperatures, sun conditions and changes in humidity levels we experience here. … You have to have an air exchanger now.

“You can’t just put a 60,000 to 80,000 BTU fireplace or an open wood-fired fireplace in without consequences, for example. We’re always looking at balance. … On a day like today, when it’s well below zero, I can walk into some of these homes, and it’s warm, but the furnace is barely running.”

He adds: “Sustainable design and construction involves questions like ‘Where is your lot?’; ‘How are you going to use your car?’; and ‘Are you interested in utilizing native plants in the landscaping?’ It’s water use inside the building. It’s renewable construction materials. It’s environmental concerns. It’s the indoor architecture and natural lighting.”

Kalmon uses the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system as a basic template for most of his projects. It’s a sustainable-design and construction certification program that recognizes best-in-class strategies and practices.

He also works with energy-modeling, structural and other experts to help him further tailor his projects.

“The shift toward higher-efficiency building really makes a residence more comfortable,” Kalmon adds, now quoting internationally known architect, educator and sustainable-design “guru,” Ed Mazria, whose commercial HVAC innovations also have applications for private homes.

“He said, ‘You can design the most energy-efficient building in the world, but if people aren’t comfortable with it, they won’t want to live in it.’

“So you always have to have comfort –- it’s always at the top of the list. And that involves what people want, how they live, the site we’re working with -– and many other concerns, down to things like figuring all the sun angles out so you can use them to your advantage.”

Then there’s the construction process, which carries another multi-factor equation of its own.

“Quality always has to be maintained, no matter what, and you have to work with a budget,” Kalmon explains.

“You have to keep your eyes on many variables throughout the entire process, and I really enjoy that.”

As a professional, Kalmon also has his eyes on the future, where he sees many opportunities.

The new “tiny house” movement is one example. So are forward-looking multi-residence/multi-family developments and other community planning projects.

“I’ve always had a general interest in building and creating things,” he notes. “That will always be something I’m involved in.”

For more information, go to Kalmon’s soon-to-be-updated website –- –- or call (715) 381-5781.

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The best things to do this weekend

Things To Do

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Enjoy a weekend packed with gardening events


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Master Gardeners offer free landscape workshop

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners in Washington County will present a free landscape workshop on Saturday, March 7, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Oakdale Discovery Center, 4444 Hadley Ave. N., Oakdale.

The public is invited to attend presentations on popular topics for the home landscape. There will also be opportunities to talk one-on-one about their own gardens with trained University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners. Refreshments will be available.

The Landscape Workshop features three 60-minute educational presentations to help attendees improve the appeal and sustainability of their home landscapes:

  • 8:15 a.m. — “Monarch Butterflies: Conservation of an Iconic Insect,” presented by Kelly Nail, a biology teacher, conservation biology PhD student and Monarch Lab worker at the University of Minnesota.
  • 9:30 a.m. — “Landscaping for the Birds and Bees,” presented by Julie Weisenhorn, University of Minnesota assistant extension professor, former U of M Extension Master Gardener Program Director, and horticulture educator.
  • 10:45 a.m. — “Lawn Care and Pruning,” presented by David Paulson, a Washington County Master Gardener, Tree Care Advisor, and Forestry professional.

During breaks between presentations, Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions from attendees, provide tours of relevant gardening websites, and share information on pruning, bees and pollinator landscapes and more.

Master Gardeners are University of Minnesota-trained volunteers who educate the public about a variety of horticulture subjects using up-to-date research-based information. More than 100 Master Gardeners in Washington County volunteer several thousand hours each year teaching Community Education classes, diagnosing plant problems, helping people with environmental issues and answering questions at “Ask a Master Gardener” events such as farmer’s markets and the Washington County Fair. They also maintain the demonstration gardens at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Info: or email [email protected]

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AgriLife Extension to present native plant landscaping program March 12 in Austin

AUSTINThe Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service for Travis County will be presenting another of its drought series programs from 10 a.m. to noon March 12 at its offices at 1600-B Smith Road in Austin.

Low Impact Landscape  Properly designed West Texas landscapes can add beauty and value to a home when the right plants are selected and thoughtfully placed on the property.  Added benefits include reduced water consumption, lower energy bills and less time performing maintenance. (Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service photo by Jeff Floyd)

The Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service will present a program on native plant use in landscaping on March 12 at its Travis County office at 1600-B Smith Road in southwest Austin.  (Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service photo by Jeff Floyd)

“Even though it’s still cold outside, now is a good time to learn about ways to help landscapes and gardens perform in the hot, dry summer months that lie ahead,” said Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension horticulturist for Travis County. “The well-prepared gardener should be thinking about choosing plants and trees and how to best maintain them during the summer, especially under Central Texas drought conditions.”

She said “Using Native Plants in the Landscape” will be the next installment of the agency’s Dealing with Drought in the Landscape series being presented from February through June.

“Native Texas plants bring beauty and function to your garden while being well adapted to handle blazing sun, drought and other weather extremes,” Richards said. “They also provide great benefits to pollinators and birds.”

Richards said Meredith O’Reilly, the agency’s 4-H gardening specialist and Texas Master Naturalist, will guide attendees in choosing the right native plants for their yard and garden.

The cost is $10 per seminar for early registration and $15 per seminar for late or on-site registration. To register, go to

For more information, contact Richards at 512-854-9600 or



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Brian Minter offers tips on ordering and planting seeds

For those in British Columbia who are enjoying spring-like weather, garden expert Brian Minter says it’s time to think about seeds.

Minter says most gardening enthusiasts are eager to start sowing as soon as the weather gets warmer, but “there’s a bunch of decisions” that need to be made. Here are a few things Minter recommends people think about before ordering seeds or planting them.  

Don’t be tempted to grow everything

The photos of lush, colourful vegetables seen in seed catalogues can turn any home gardener’s head, but be realistic about what you can actually grow, said Minter.

“One thing I always do is put your seed order in, think about it overnight, and go back and do another reality check the next day, because you’re not going to grow everything. You’re really not,” Minter said to B.C. Almanac‘s Gloria Macarenko.

Don’t take on more than you can plant

“If we plant tomatoes … we buy two dozen or three dozen seeds and not only that, we buy two dozen or three dozen seeds of 10 varieties,” Minter said. “You don’t need all that. Be specific in terms of what do you like, and what’s realistic.”

Consider your time commitment

Minter says transplants are a good choice if you want to save on time.

“They’re saving you three to four weeks, so in terms of timing, do I really want to do all this, or can I get the same thing and have it already started for me?”

For more gardening tips from Brian Minter, click on the audio labelled: Things to consider when ordering and planting seeds.

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Pet friendly gardening tips

Your landscape is there to be enjoyed by you and your family. It’s the setting for your home and provides a space for outdoor activities. Lawn areas offer a wonderful place for kids to play, and family get-togethers and parties take place on decks and patios. If your family includes pets, your landscape will likely be used by them as well.

In some ways, having pets in your landscape is like having young children. Although pets are less likely than a young child to get hurt in a landscape, you must still take some similar precautions, such as watching out for poisonous plants. Pets can also cause problems in the landscape, but pet owners who love their pets generally manage to tolerate or forgive minor indiscretions.

Pets still raise two major issues – keeping your landscape from harming your pet and keeping your pet from harming your landscape.


All of us likely grow plants in our landscapes that could be toxic to dogs or cats. The good news is, despite the abundance and ready availability of these plants to pets, incidents of plant poisoning are not especially common. In the number of poisoned pet contacts reported to the ASPCA, plants ranked after human medications, insecticides (particularly those applied to dogs and cats for flea control) and people food (like chocolate). Rat poison, veterinarian medications and poisonous plants all had similar numbers of calls. The plants involved were mostly indoor plants, not outside. The ASPCA website has an excellent list of plants poisonous to cats and dogs.

Azaleas, for instance, can be fatally toxic to dogs – and people, too. As they bloom this spring, look around at how many azaleas are in people’s landscapes. Obviously, dogs don’t typically eat azaleas and get poisoned by them. I was made aware of an incident involving a puppy left alone inside a house all day with a potted azalea that resulted in the puppy’s death.

There is one plant, however, that dog owners should be very aware of. The cycad we call sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is not actually related to palms. It is a gymnosperm related to conifers like pine trees and bald cypresses. As such, the reproductive structures are cones.

Sagos come in male and female, and the females present the more dangerous situation. The females form large, dome-shaped cones on top of the plant during summer. The seeds mature in January and February and drop to the ground sometime thereafter. The seeds are covered with a fleshy red coating that dogs must find tasty, because they will eat them.

Although all parts of the sago are toxic, the seeds are highly toxic to dogs, and I’ve heard of numerous fatalities over the years. Seeds from female sagos should be gathered up and disposed of as soon as you see them in late winter or early spring.

Learn which plants are especially toxic to animals – lilies, for instance, are highly toxic to cats – and avoid planting them in your landscape. But I’m not sure how far I would go to radically change an existing landscape – like rip out all of the azaleas – to eliminate all potentially toxic plants.

Other tips

If you leave your dog outside unattended, make sure your fences are up to the job of keeping him inside your yard. Avoid large gaps because curious dogs will generally try to work their way through and get out. If you don’t want to enclose the whole yard, consider a fenced dog run.

Dogs and cats will both use the yard when they relieve themselves, and this can create problems. Larger dog breeds may produce enough urine in one spot to kill the grass. These dead spots will usually fill in with new grass eventually but still look unsightly in the meantime. This can be reduced by flushing the area where dogs urinate with water right after they finish.

Cats will use garden beds as litter boxes. They are especially attracted to freshly turned, dry soil. Never leave a turned bed bare. If you aren’t ready to plant, cover it with a thick layer of mulch, tarp or plastic if cats are a problem. Cats seem to be less likely to use beds mulched with pine straw compared with chopped or shredded mulches like bark and cypress mulch.

It may sometimes be necessary to discourage a pet from an area. Repellents will help with this but must be reapplied fairly frequently over time to be effective. Fences, temporary or permanent, may be necessary to keep dogs from getting into garden areas, such as your vegetable garden, if they have been doing a lot of damage by digging.

Cats generally won’t bother decorative ponds or aquatic features in a landscape, although I have seen one or two eying the fish. But dogs can be a major nuisance. Some breeds are worse than others about getting into the water – labs are especially fond of swimming – so if you are thinking of getting a dog, choose a breed that isn’t so drawn to the water or fence off the feature for existing pets.

The Internet has lots of excellent information on this topic. Simply do an Internet search using “pet-friendly gardening” and you’ll find many links to explore.

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Felder Rushing: Shady tips for garden

I am a neighborhood walker, and notice garden changes every week, all year. Some things are predictable, like now as Forsythia and flowering quince start to flower, or white-throated sparrows started their distinctive spring mating song.

But some changes are slow, take awhile to sink in. One neighbor has gradually lost all her lawn to the old oak trees, exacerbated by a lawn service cutting her grass way too low, slowly starving it of sunlight energy. Another neighbor has re-sodded several times, to no avail.

Fact: Once grass is gone in the shade, it is gone for good. When I studied turf management at MSU, I was taught that if a client has fifty percent or more shade, they are out of the grass business. I can’t tell you how many times over the decades I have seen earnest people, including professional landscapers, try and fail to get grass started or restablished in the shade. Yet I can’t give you one good example of where someone succeeded, at least for long.

This is a huge intellectual blow to people who assert our American right to do whatever we want to do, right or wrong. But facts are facts; it’s time to get over the socially endorsed urge to have wall-to-wall lawn at any cost. Hence the trend towards groundcovers, especially in shade.

As my neighborhood has gone shadier, a lot of my neighbors have added or expanded groundcovers, even in the front yard, and it looks very nice. Actually quite nice. Upscale. There are several emerald green moss gardens in my neighborhood as well, where moss is encouraged and accented with other shade plants like Liriope, Aspidistra, and maybe a Camellia, plus some sort of “hard” feature like a stone, a sculpture, or a bench. But most folks go with traditional groundcovers.

There are a lot of great low-growing plants for covering ground in full sun areas, including spreading junipers, various Euonymus, Liriope, and Asiatic jasmine. But the main choices for shaded front yards, where things need to be kept low and neat without a lot of maintenance, are ivy, Liriope, mondo grass, and the versatile Asiatic jasmine. Mondo grass (Ophiopogon) can actually be mowed once in the spring, and it will look like a dark green lawn, even in the most dense shade.

Bottom line: Groundcovers are perfect solution to filling the void between trees and shrubs, and the lawn.

To email Felder Rushing, go to

Weekend Garden Tips

A compacted lawn where water stands and grass won’t grow can be aerated now to help water, air, and new roots penetrate deeply, quickly. Most equipment rental companies rent aerators by the hour.

Resist the urge to dig daffodils while in bloom, or they will skip a year or more flowering. Mark the ones you want to move, cut the flowers for a vase, and wait until leaves flop over and turn yellow to dig.

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Garden Tips: Learn about lawn care, landscaping, gardening March 14

Local News

The Truss Co. expands with $2.6 million Pasco plant

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