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Archives for March 29, 2015

New committee to examine revitalization of North Killeen

An ad hoc committee appointed earlier this month to review the city’s future land-use map and comprehensive plan also will address redeveloping North Killeen at the request of a planning and zoning commissioner.

Mayor Scott Cosper appointed members of the Killeen City Council and the planning and zoning commission to the committee March 17 following a Feb. 26 joint-meeting where the two groups agreed to establish it.

Ad hoc committees are appointed by the mayor, and have a specific task. Once the task is complete, the committee dissolves.

Cosper appointed commissioners Johnny Frederick, Tad Dorroh and Gregory Johnson along with himself and Councilmen Jonathan Okray and Juan Rivera to the committee.

Johnson suggested a committee to come up with ideas addressing North Killeen redevelopment along with Dorroh’s request to have a committee review the city’s future land-use map and comprehensive plan. Both committees were combined into the ad hoc committee.

“They go hand-in-hand,” Johnson said. “This subcommittee allows us to evaluate the city as a whole, while looking at potential opportunities for improvement in the northern part of our city.”


The Killeen Police Department and code enforcement will play an integral role in the success of redeveloping North Killeen, Johnson said.

“We must do a better job of addressing urban blight, such as vacant and abandoned properties, dilapidated buildings, junked vehicles and other nuisances,” he said. “These elements attract crime, and must be addressed in a more aggressive manner. … Crime and grime go hand in hand; therefore to be successful, one cannot be addressed without addressing the other.”

In December, the Herald reported there were 52 robberies, 464 assaults and 255 drug violations within a 1-mile radius of the KPD’s North Precinct on Second Street in 2014, according to the department’s RAIDS online tracking system. The offenses could have occurred elsewhere, but were reported by residents filing reports at the North Precinct.

For comparison, in 2014, there were two robberies, 79 assaults and 23 drug violations reported within the same radius of KPD Headquarters in southern Killeen. But the number of homicides in Killeen was evenly split in 2014, with five north of U.S. Highway 190 and five south of Highway 190.

Since Jan. 1, there have been six homicides in Killeen — four north of U.S. 190 and two south. The four homicides north of the highway include a man who shot and killed three people before killing himself in the 1700 block of Godman Street, and a man stabbed to death in the 4000 block of Trotwood Trail.

When discussing the northern part of the city with residents, Johnson said he’s often reminded of its aging infrastructure and the cost of redevelopment versus new development.

“The truth is, no matter where you stand on these issues, doing nothing is unacceptable,” he said. “For better or worse, these are, and always will be, a part of our city. Just like our bodies, we cannot forego caring for a part of the body without repercussions.”

Johnson said if issues facing northern Killeen aren’t addressed, the rest of the city will follow suit as it ages.

“It is in our best interest to be proactive regarding this matter and evaluate viable options, such as neighborhood preservation and land-banking in the present, so that we are not tackling a much more significant problem in the future.”


The redevelopment of northern Killeen is “imperative” to its future growth and economic well-being, Johnson said. “Revitalization of the aged areas of our city helps to improve the overall image of the community. It helps decrease crime, alleviate Code Enforcement staff strains and instills a sense of pride for our citizens.”

With revitalization of the city’s most-aged areas, Johnson said the city can create opportunities to expand its sales tax base by offering small-business owners an opportunity to open, flourish and expand in “an affordable, business-friendly environment.”

Johnson hopes the committee can reach a consensus on a viable strategy addressing issues plaguing North Killeen.

In 2014, the city celebrated the opening of the first phase of its downtown revitalization plan — a $5.4 million project. It began in August 2012 as an initiative to replace sidewalks, revamp streets, add landscaping, lighting, plazas and decorative crosswalks in an effort to attract residents, visitors and businesses. It’s an effort city officials say is working.

Charlotte Humphreys, city senior planner, previously told the Herald the completion of phase I “created buzz” throughout the region.

Johnson said the revitalized downtown will enjoy limited success unless its surrounding neighborhoods are given attention as well.

“If we take the necessary actions to redevelop North Killeen, it will ensure that the time and capital spent to revitalize downtown Killeen will see long-term returns and investments,” he said, adding the council will have final say in any new initiatives or plans.

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Home and Garden show in Flint teases attendees with thoughts of warmer weather

FLINT, MI — The smell of spring and sound of trickling water filled Perani Arena and Event Center Sunday, March 29.

Although the 40-degree weather outside was not as warm as it should be this time of year, hundreds of people attended the Spring Home and Garden Show confident the temperatures will once again rise.

“I cannot wait until the weather gets good enough to go outside and actually get stuff done,” said Rhonda Speck, of Grand Blanc, who attended the show to get a head start on a landscaping project this summer.

The show started on Saturday, March 28, and ended Sunday. Jeremy Torrey, general manager of Perani, directed the show, which he said has been hosted at the Flint facility for decades and produced by Perani for the past four years.

More than 50 vendors and 90 booths lined the showroom floor, advertising mainly home improvement and landscaping services. A total of 1,500 to 2,000 people were expected to attend the show during its two-day run.

Gary Shultz, co-owner of a heating and cooling company, said the company has been represented at the Flint show for longer than he can remember.

Although the show attracts less people than other similar shows around the state, Schultz said the one at Perani is important.

“It’s the lowest (in terms of) the turnout of people,” he said. “But we still get good leads, so we won’t ever stop coming here.”

For vendors like Andrew Wykes, who owns a landscaping company, the show ushers in the spring time, when people start looking into landscaping and home improvement.

“The weather gets good, and the phone calls start picking up,” he said.

Speck left the show with a wealth of information and ideas regarding her summer project.

“Everybody was really helpful,” she said, holding up a plastic bag stuffed with brochures and pamphlets. “Now it needs to get warmer.”  

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LISD sustainable energy demonstration house progressing

Posted Mar. 29, 2015 at 4:00 PM


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Local food movement growing in Hamilton

If you talk to Alfred Hall, he’ll tell you that there’s a food revolution happening in Hamilton.

“The fact that we have a farmer’s market that’s 150 years old shows that there’s always been some interest in local food,” he said, referencing the Hamilton’s Historic Farmer’s Market, “but obviously, there’s even more now and there’ll be more yet.”

And Hall would know, as executive director of the nonprofit Hamilton Urban Garden Systems, which has been involved in nearly every community or school garden effort in the city in the past several years. Ever an advocate for local produce development and willing to lend a green thumb to any novice or beginners garden group, HUGS has been particularly active in recent months, helping new Hamilton schools and neighborhoods grow their own gardens and supplying restaurants like Ryan’s Tavern with their own produce from their garden in University Commerce Park.

Now, he’s working to create a 2.3-acre produce hub on South Front Street, which would eventually include an organic produce garden and greenhouse, apple orchard, food education center, community garden for the residents of the Neilan Park Apartments, and a co-operative market for the community and area farmers to sell their produce.

“HUGS having 2.3 acres in the Second Ward is really a great thing because they have no real food access down there,” said Hall, who hopes that the full development could be complete within five years. “I’m a great believer that a local food system can have a dramatic effect on the economic development of the city.

While this may sound like a pipe dream, Hall is already hard at work on the first steps, having received $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to fence off the property, bring water to the property, and build the first row and hoe garden and 100 raised boxes for planting.

Bringing produce to the Second Ward

Dan Gorman – who owns the Neilan Park Apartments at 15 Hurm St. and has agreed to donate the property between the two apartment complexes to Hall for 10 years – said that he was happy that the land would be used in a positive way.

“I would love to have a big strip of stands where people are harvesting their own food and selling it, maybe making a little profit,” he said. He and Hall decided to partner on the project, with Hall as the primary grant writer and Gorman providing a letter of support and the in-kind donation of the land.

“There was no sense in us doing it separately,” Gorman said.

Many Neilan Park residents expressed interest in developing their community garden, especially since those with minimal access to transportation in the Second Ward are limited to the U.S. Market at 100 Pershing Ave. or what’s available at Open Door Food Pantry on 800 S. Front St. for food.

Eight-year resident Beverly Sneed hopes to grow yams and potatoes, and will dedicate her part of the garden to her daughter who passed away last year.

“Maybe we can call it Yjonica’s Yams,” she said, smiling.

Sneed said she hopes the garden will help the area children learn to eat better and give them something to do with their time.

“I have 18 grand kids, and I hope that it will help kids learn that vegetables can be good for them, teach them to preserve, harvest, freeze,” she said.

To fully realize the project, Hall said he’ll need to find about $400,000 in grant money and raised funds, but says it’s not a question of “if” but one of “when” it will happen.

“I’m going to do it; it’s just a matter of if it takes me two years or five years,” Hall said. He is in the process of applying for several grants through the Hamilton Community Foundation and other area sources to try and bring the larger projects online soon, but right now the ground is just starting to get plowed to allow the Neilan Park residents to start growing their plots, and HUGS to grow produce to meet the demands of the community.

Fresh produce in the schools, community

While the secured land would provide much-needed access to produce for the Second Ward residents and give HUGS the arena to make a state-of-the-art center for food education, growing, harvesting and selling, Hall said the bigger story is in the larger community.

In recent weeks, HUGS has helped the North End community, the Booker T. Washington Community Center and Crawford Woods Elementary lay down the foundations for community gardens. Five seniors from Miami University Hamilton’s Nursing Program are developing a garden at the community center in the Second Ward as part of their senior year community practicum which the children will then take over as part of their summer programming.

“We want to help develop a sense of community,” said Catherine Snader. Her classmate, Rachel Benzing, said that the idea was for the children to learn to eat and enjoy the produce they grow, and also be able to take the food home and share with their families or even sell it at a farmer’s market.

Tanya Lowry, center director for the Booker T. Washington Community Center, said she hopes the garden will teach the center’s children about healthy eating habits while promoting physical activity and community spirit.

“What we see with our youth is they don’t know how to eat; they know quick, convenient, highly processed foods,” she said. “We want them to learn how to eat well so that later on in their adult life, hopefully they can avoid some of the epidemics that are very common in low socioeconomic communities.”

Lowry also said the center’s new garden and HUGS’ forthcoming hub and garden can only benefit residents of the Second Ward.

“The nearest Kroger is 2 miles away, but it’s 2 miles away across several large roads and train tracks,” she said. “I hope these will both be positive components added to this area of our community where we need healthy things to eat and healthy things to do.”

Lauren Duris, a first-grade teacher at Crawford Woods who is leading the school garden’s development, said the garden would not only give students from low-income families access to fresh fruits and vegetables and teach them nutrition, but provide hands-on scientific opportunities for the students involved.

“It allows us to incorporate reading, writing, science and social science, and also by partnering different grades together as buddies, they can develop social skills,” she said.

Duris said she thinks there is a community push to provide healthier options citywide, whether through gardens or new markets popping up.

“I know that our lunch programs at our schools are always pushing to have healthy options. Pulling in the garden will just help them learn more about healthy eating,” she said.

Stephen T. Badin High School independently started a school vegetable garden this month, where the Service Learning class will grow tomatoes, lettuce, and more, with all produce to be donated to the Community Meal Center in Hamilton.

“This is what education is all about,” said Gina Helms, Badin’s director of campus ministry who teaches the Service Learning class. “The students are … growing vegetables that will be helpful to the meal center and in the process they are serving the community around them.”

Businesses, employers on board

Sheri and Stephen Jackson, who will open Jackson’s Market and Deli in the former Elder-Beerman building by early summer, said selling local, fresh produce from HUGS and other area farmers is part of their mission to provide healthy options to the city’s downtown.

“We found there was so much need in the Hamilton community for healthy options,” Stephen Jackson said.

Area employers are also looking to provide their workers with access to fresh produce. Tentative plans are in the works to create a delivery service for Hamilton city employees, said Lauren Gersbach, city sustainability coordinator and wellness committee member. Currently the plan is to have up to 20 city employees participate in a pilot program where from week to week they can order produce from HUGS online, and HUGS will then deliver the produce to one central city building.

“The wellness committee would be the avenue of communication,” Gersbach said. “We’re just trying to promote healthy lifestyles and give options for city employees for healthy food and exercise.”

The city of Hamilton is also partnering with Miami University’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability in order to link area farmers to city chefs, said Tim Werdmann, deputy city director.

“My interest in this project was spawned by our conversation with a successful restaurateur from the Cincinnati area who thought that Hamilton could capitalize on the farm-to-table movement due to our proximity to agricultural producers,” Werdmann wrote in an email to the Journal-News. “My thought was that we could set the table for an entrepreneurial chef to locate in Hamilton if we already had the farm-to-table infrastructure in place to allow him or her to have one less barrier to entry in this market.”

Hall said the city sees the benefit from economic development and marketing perspectives.

“It’s what I’ve been saying for five years,” Hall said. “There’s so much going on around developing a local food system in Hamilton.”

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Osage woman opens culinary, gardening school

OSAGE | Marina Ludwigson knows a lot about food and nutrition.

After several years of planning, she has opened Minding Victuals, a nutritional culinary and gardening school, at her home in Osage.

“We educate in the fine arts of preparing and gardening all foodstuffs that can be utilized by the human body for nutrition,” said Ludwigson. “This food enhances our total well-being.”

Ludwigson holds degrees in the science of natural health and nutrition, dietary management and a doctorate in holistic nutrition. She has been a personal chef and has 23 years of experience in food service development and organic gardening.

Her passion for healthy living came at the age of 8 when she saw wildlife around her house eating various berries.

“I watched the animals and nothing happened, so I decided to start eating the same things,” she said.

For 17 years, Ludwigson was a single mother raising her children on an 80-acre homestead in Wyoming.

“I decided to open this school because I believe the residents of Osage and Mitchell County are concerned about maintaining good health,” said Ludwigson. “We are always dealing with food and nutrition and we need to know how we can utilize it.”

Class topics include adult cooking and food preparation, nutritional values of herbs, health specific diets, food safety, knife skills, preservation of foods and nutritional gardening and edible landscaping.

Ludwigson recently held a class covering oregano.

“In the class, we learned how you can use it in cooking as well as its medicinal purposes,” she said. “In the class I serve a simple meal with a specific herb being featured and each meal also comes with a fresh, homemade bread.

“People are afraid to use certain herbs because they are being told they may interact with their medications,” said Ludwigson. “We need to be educated on not over-indulging when it comes to eating.”

Ludwigson emphasized she can only give suggestions or recommendations on the use of herbs.

“I always encourage people to check with their physician before making any changes,” she said.

In addition to planning and meal preparation, she is also available to help individuals design their herb and vegetable gardens.

“Now is the time to start thinking about designing your garden that will meet the needs of your family this summer,” said Ludwigson. “There are lots of things we can grow in our gardens that are healthy. It’s just that we are not used to eating some of these items, but you will find out they taste good.”

For more information about classes and meals, call Ludwigson at 641-832-7843 or visit

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Gardening Tips for the week of March 29th – Courier

Plant Pansies! Eat Pansies! We have hundreds of Blooming Pansies!

This delicate flower is a pretty tough character! Plant them in containers or window boxes now.

Pansies protect themselves by allowing moisture to escape their leaves astemperatures fall. Other plants cannot do this, so when the temperature goes below freezing the water in their cells freezes and ruptures the cell walls. That’s what happens when you leave a houseplant on the patio during a freeze. Dry cells, though, can’t rupture. They just go limp. It is normal to see pansy leaves completely wilted at dawn but green and perky by noon. That’s why it is important to keep the soil in pansybeds moist after a freeze…. so their roots can re-hydrate the leaves.

Generally, they can freeze to 25 degrees or so without damage. If it looks colder, put the container under cover or cover with a blanket or some other material.


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Gardening expert P. Allen Smith discusses tips and trends

Smith, one of the most recognizable gardeners in the country, will deliver the keynote address at the Gardening Saturday event April 11 at the Alerus Center.

He is an award-winning designer, gardening and lifestyle expert. He is the host of three television programs, “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home,” “P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table” and the syndicated 30-minute show “P. Allen Smith Gardens.”

Allen will also be on hand to sign copies of his books.

Ahead of his appearance in Grand Forks, Smith talked to the Herald about gardening up north and his trip to the area.

Q. What are you doing on your trip to Grand Forks?

A. I’m coming out to do a presentation on gardening and some design ideas and ways to think about your landscape. I hear the master gardening program around there is really strong, and I’m excited about meeting the people involved in that program.

Q. What are some of the big gardening trends of 2015?

A. That’s a good question. They seem to be consistent with the last couple of years. Container gardening seems to still be the number one point of interest and following in a close second is edibles.

People are very interested where their food comes from and in growing some of their own foods.

You can even take both of those top trends and you can combine them into growing edibles in containers.

Q. Why have you seen a big rise in the interest in edibles?

A. It comes from a number of things. A lot of people are interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it’s grown. I think any time we have these scares where, with industrial agriculture, you have spinach issues, E. coli breakouts, salmonella and all these other things, people think about a home garden a little more.

I also think a lot of people are interested in organically-grown produce, so growing your own organic garden can accomplish that.

Q. Are there any other big trends in gardening?

A. There’s also a big trend in pollinators. People have gotten very concerned with honey bees, the plight of the honey bee and creating honey bee-friendly gardens and pollinating friendly gardens

With these, you’re kind of planting something for yourself but also planting something for insects, such as butterflies or bees that pollinate.

Q. What are some tips you have for people who haven’t gardened before but would like to get into it?

A. I think we all like beauty and all like our place to look the best it can. That’s just human nature. But sometimes, even myself — who has gardened his whole life — I get excited every spring because I’m hungry for spring. Then, I go into a garden center and bite off more than I can chew.

The first thing I try to do is take little steps, especially if you’ve never gardened before.

A good way to start would be with a cluster of containers and to grow a variety of things. Grow some basil and grow some things you can eat, like parsley, and things that are easy to grow and things you can use. Try growing some nastersions and even some edible flowers.

The other thing to do is to do a single raised bed — maybe an eight foot square raised bed — and try your hand at growing a variety of things.

Q. What are some of best plants to start out with?

A. People often ask, what should I begin with? Well, what would you use? What do you love that you see? If you like to cook, then lean toward herbs and some easy vegetables to grow. I mean, there’s no easier vegetable to grow than a radish. And there are other vegetables that are easy to grow, and some of them are quite beautiful like red mustard.

Q. Is it tough to garden this far north?

A. You guys are in Zone 4A, and it gets really cold in Zone 4A. What this is is the hardiness zone, meaning temperatures can range from 30 below to 25 below. So anything that can’t take temperatures colder than that is not recommended to grow in your zone.

It limits some of the plant choices that you might have if you lived in the southern part of the country with regards to shrubs and perennials, but there’s a wide range of annuals and some perennials that you all do very well with.

You know, you have a shorter season than a lot of the country, but you take advantage of that season.

Q. What would be good to grow in North Dakota?

A. All of things that I’ve mentioned would be great to grow. Any of the annual vegetable crops are perfect for you guys. Any of the annual herbs. And supertunias, those are some of my favorites. If you’re looking for color, there’s a supertunia that’s bubblegum pink, and it’s a favorite of mine because it grows like there’s no tomorrow.

Q. What kind of presentation will you be giving at Gardening Saturday on April 11?

A. I’m going to be talking about sharing the bounty and what the garden can do for us. Both in terms of feeding us and what it can do for our spirit or soul and the happiness it can bring you and how you can share that with others.

I’ll also be talking about what we grow at our farm. We have a farm in Arkansas on the banks of the Arkansas River that’s over 600 acres and we have a big flower garden and vegetable garden, so I’ll be showing a lot of what we grow and how we grow them. The idea is to give people ideas for the spring so that when they begin to plan for this upcoming growing season, they’ve got some good ideas to implement.

Gardening Saturday

Gardening Saturday begins at 8 a.m. April 11 at the Alerus Center and is a day-long event sponsored by the NDSU Extension Service and the Grand Forks Horticultural Society, featuring multiple breakout sessions with local experts presenting a variety of gardening topics.

Registration for the event can be done online at and costs $50.

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Learn Chesapeake gardening tips from local expert

CHESTERTOWN — For years, Barbara Ellis has been getting her hands dirty in gardens – from digging up her own plants to writing books on gardening tips.

Now she’s combining her decades of experience in publishing and her personal passion with “Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide,” her first book focused on the Eastern Shore.

“I really wanted to write a book on local gardening this time,” said Ellis, who lives in Wharton Creek near Chestertown. “I hope it speaks to beginners and advance gardeners to how we can become more eco-friendly, and what green gardening is.”

Green gardening, which is allowing the garden to grow naturally and sometimes without the use of chemicals, is neatly explained in Ellis’ book. Principles such as building plant diversity and reducing lawn space, she practices at her own gardens. Some other tips – like growing native plants – she’s still working on.

“All the plants mentioned in my book are all native to the Chesapeake region,” Ellis said. “There’s a few that I haven’t grown yet. I don’t normally grow native, but I want to present the argument on why it’s beneficial – it encourages local wildlife, like insects and song birds.”

Ellis’ passion for gardening was inspired by two women in her family: her grandmother and mother.

She said that her grandmother was interested in house plants, but her mother moved toward a natural garden instead of keeping potted plants indoors.

“I remember planting daffodils in the woods behind our house as a family when I was very young. My mom and dad dug the holes, tipped the shovel forward, and the kids jammed each bulb in behind the shovel as far down as we could get it. Over the years, we planted hundreds of bulbs,” she said.

While studying for a fine arts degree at Kenyon College, Ellis’ interest in gardening blossomed into a career when she discovered a botany course.

“I realized I was never interested in rose gardens,” she said. “I was interested in the process of digging, moving plants and watching the plants work.”

By that point in her collegiate career, none of Ellis’ credits would transfer. She continued her studies at Ohio State, and earned a degree in botany and horticulture in 1978.

She became the associate editor for the American Horticulture Society in 1980, and became the publications director and editor three years later. Ellis edited and solicited articles for The American Horticulturist – now The American Gardener – during her time with the society. She continued her career of editing with Rodale press as the senior editor of garden books until 1994. Since leaving Rodale, she has written countless gardening books, such as “Deckscaping: Gardening and Landscaping On and Around Your Deck” and “Covering Ground.”

All the while she has stayed active in growing her own garden and working in a friend’s community garden, where the food is divided between Chestertown Food Pantry and St. Martin’s food pantry in Ridgley.

In 2009, board member of Adkins Arboretum Carol Jelich emailed Ellis to ask if she was interested in writing a book about landscaping that not only looks beautiful but is also healthy for people and other living things. Ellis developed an outline and list of plants the book would cover, and met with Jelich and Adkins Arboretum director Ellen Altman to refine the ideas into a 330-page book.

“It required a lot of discipline to write this book, because you need to sit and work on it every day,” Ellis said. She conducted most of the research from home since she has a large horticultural library.

Whatever she didn’t know, she looked up online or through her local library.

“Writing the book was like doing a puzzle,” she said. “Each of the bits of information were like puzzle pieces that I needed to make the larger picture. But the pieces sometime change shape and you still need to figure out how they fit.”

One of the aspects of the book Ellis is proud of is the lack of alphabetical lists that are very common with gardening books.

“Most gardeners are handed a list of plants in alphabetical order, with no direction of what to do with the list. So what I’ve done is to divide the book into sections with what each plant needs: sun and shade, oak trees and flowers organized by bloom, plants that need shade, and how to use the plant,” she said.

Ellis is excitedly waiting for “Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide” to release at the end of March. She has a book launch party at the Adkins Arboretum and a book signing at Chestertown shop Twigs and Teacups in April.

In the meantime, Ellis is currently examining her yard, and planning the next project: connecting two separate gardens with native wildflowers, perennials and low-growing shrubs.

“Gardening is a complicated and creative process,” Ellis said. “You can grow plants in several different ways. Each garden has a different and unique flavor to it.”

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Hide and seek: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on creating a secret garden

If you don’t already have a favourite place, then create one.

Put up a gazebo in a far corner and clad it with fragrant climbers, which add to the ambience. Surround it with shrubs, so you approach through a gap between tall, leafy outcrops or, better still, by ducking under a low arch to increase the feeling of isolation, and plant your flower garden inside.

Often you can simply smarten up an old shed by adding a trelliswork porch or veranda and a bit of decking on which to stand a couple of old rocking chairs draped with throws.

Do up the inside with some carpet, shelves, seats and a table, and perhaps a small log-burning stove, a ship’s lantern or some window boxes to give it that cosy touch, and you have a real year-round home from home to escape to.

Screen it behind banks of tall, waving grasses or bamboos to hide it from the everyday parts of the garden to create that elusive miles-from-anywhere feel.

But if you’re making a new garden from scratch, it’s much easier to build in a secret area right from the start. The problem most people have is not knowing how to divide a space into smaller areas.

When you have a long, narrow garden, typical of many modern plots and tightly spaced townhouses, the trick is to make sure you can’t see straight to the very end. That sort of garden is simply crying out for a dogleg in the middle, so separate it into a series of three staggered rooms separated by tall garden dividers that barely mask the view.

Go for a trellis screen planted with clematis, stretching halfway across the garden and with an archway through to your secret area beyond. Or, for a more informal look, use a bed of tall, airy flowers with a few freestanding pergola poles – or even just a row of thick bamboo canes. 

Your three rooms can be square and formal, linked by paths that crisscross the garden at right angles, or more fluid – try dividing it on the slant so you end up with three angular areas. 

Or why not create a series of overlapping circles?

The areas you create needn’t all be the same size – or even the same style – but if you’re planning a major redesign, take your time and work it out on paper before committing time and money. Then when it’s done, you’ll really be able to relax and enjoy it. 

Top-secret checklist

A secret garden needs to be special – a complete contrast to the more practical family parts of the garden. 

So banish the kids’ play equipment and indulge yourself in some sensory treats. Here are the ingredients that every secret garden needs:

SCENT: Cover your gazebo or trellis with powerfully perfumed roses such as Alchemist (egg-yolk yellow), Blessings (pink), Félicité-Perpétue (creamy white), Zéphirine Drouhin (deep pink) or Gloire de Dijon (amber).

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Spring lawn and garden tips

As the weather continues to warm and we see plants budding out, many people are thinking about getting out into their yards to mulch and prune as well as plant and fertilize trees and shrubs.

Mulching can be an excellent benefit to trees and shrubs by controlling soil moisture and temperature, which can help prevent flower damage by late spring frosts. Mulches also reduce the number of weeds popping up in and around plants.

When we think about mulches, there are two types of mulches, organic and inorganic. Both will reduce the growth of weeds and retain moisture, reducing the need for irrigation. But, they do differ in other characteristics.

Organic mulches include compost, rotted sawdust, ground leaves, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and even newspapers. Their light color reflect sunlight, keeping soils cool. Apply organic mulches in layers of 2 or 3 inches thick. Organic mulches have the additional advantage of adding organic material to soils and this will reduce compaction and improve both nutrient and water-holding capacity.

Inorganic mulches can be black plastic, rocks or some other type of rubberized tires. Black plastic mulch works best with warm-season crops, such as peppers and melons, that prefer warm soil. Don’t use clear plastic because weeds will grow beneath it.

Prune summer flowering shrubs like crepe myrtle after the last extremely cold weather but before they leaf out can benefit those plants. You should prune out all dead or damaged wood at this time.

Prune roses in April and begin spraying for black spots.

Perennials, annuals and bulbs may also need your attention by:

Cutting ornamental grasses back to their growing crown and dividing any thick and overgrown clumps;

Mowing (set mower to highest height) can easily remove old foliage;

Planting tender bulbs, corms, and tubers like gladiola and lilies;

Fertilizing perennials as soon as new growth appears;

Dividing and transplanting clumping perennials such as daylily, hosta and Siberian iris.

Planting some cold-tolerant annual flowers such as larkspur, snapdragon, viola, stock, candytuft and sweet peas.

Additional information on cultivating a beautiful landscape can be found at under the publication tab and look for residential and consumer horticulture.

Anthony P. Tuggle is an Extension agent. Programs in agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, and resource development. University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments cooperating. UT Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

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