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Archives for September 2015

Learning the tricks of the trade

Sometimes cool things have a handy, albeit incidental, lesson within them.

Cory Dent’s “Win the Day” Oregon Duck tailgate bus was certainly a cool addition to Build Oregon Trades Day at Stayton High School on Friday, Sept. 25.

The popular (and according to Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kelly Schreiber “formerly ugly”) converted commercial bus provided a curious attraction — along with an opportunity to step out of the morning drizzle into a comfy padded seating alignment with a flat-screen TV affixed to the rear wall.

About a dozen students were checking out the custom rig’s spiffy interior when freshman J.C. Miller inquired: “How much did this cost?”

Dent, owner of Stayton Tire and Automotive, obliged with a quick lesson about time and money.

“Well, that depends on how you look at it,” he explained to the students. “I have about 600 hours of work put into this.”

“How about for all the stuff?” Miller pursued.

“Materials and everything — about $25,000,” Dent added.

Time-as-money was an important concept of the day, as was the opportunity to get face-time with the employing sector of the Santiam region.

Trades Day formulated via North Santiam School District’s partnership with Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to afford students a glimpse at what is out there, and to provide businesses and employers an opportunity to convey what types of training, skills, or education leads to various job opportunities.

The idea is to provide a scenario of mutual benefit, inspiring students to work toward jobs that exist within the community while helping local industry and employers outline the course to such employment.

While Stayton students visited the various kiosks in the morning, the school opened up the attraction regionally as students from Regis, Cascade, Scio and Jefferson were slated to bus in for an afternoon visit.

“One of my goals and the goals of the district is to better connect students and community,” Stayton Principal Alan Kirby said. “It’s a ‘win-win’ when we can have businesses involved with our students.”

Businesses and other entities responded favorably.

Pacific Power’s Van Schoenborn of Sublimity anchored one end of the field complex area while stretching west from Pacific Power were Modern Building, NORPAC, Build Oregon, Willamette Promise, City of Stayton, Chemeketa Community College, Area 2 Plumber, Tanglewood Timber, DeSantis Landscaping, Best Heating, Freres Lumber, Stayton Police and Stayton Fire.

North and east of the complex toward the football stadium some heavy equipment lured curious eyes, compliments SITECH Peterson CAT, Northwest College of Construction and Siegmund Excavation Construction.

Public safety entities pumped up their popularity with a few cool standbys: Stayton Police K9 Brodie presented his nifty prowess using a tennis-ball prop; Stayton Fire’s recruiter Matt Aalto and volunteer Rochelle Toon furnished hands-on operation of a robust fire hose.

“We weren’t expecting to shoot water today, but they let us do it,” Aalto said. “It’s been a blast. The kids really seem to be having fun.”

It was the sort of fun that comes with eye-opening exposure, between the forklifts and power-line lift trucks, backhoes and fire hoses or customized recreation rigs, maybe some inspired career or trade ideas will sprout.

Or perhaps other ideas: like maybe an Oregon State Beavers tailgate bus? or (503) 769-6338, cell (503) 508-8157 or follow at

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Decrying ‘vitriol,’ Boulder council decides Folsom will return to 4 lanes

Boulder City Council members criticized the community for the vitriolic tone of emails they had received from both sides of the “right-sizing” issue, before backing a transportation staff recommendation to remove protected bike lanes and return to four lanes of vehicle traffic on four blocks of Folsom Street.

“It’s hard to go to sleep at night because you’ve been insulted so badly,” Councilwoman Mary Young said Tuesday night. “I feel like I’m living among a bunch of people who feel entitled to their own without consideration for others. I want you to think about that.”

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel, who pushed for the city to roll back the right-sizing project, said the tone of the debate had set back the cause of bicycle infrastructure, and she criticized bicycle advocates dressed in black who were tweeting about the meeting from the front row.

“My concern with all this vitriol is that it pushes everyone into their own corners and it pushes us backwards, and we can’t make progress on bike and pedestrian safety,” she said.

But Morzel rejected the idea that the city is “abandoning” the Folsom project.

“That is not the case,” she said.

Just a month before, a majority of council members supported continuing the project for at least a year with relatively minor changes — such as removing bollards, lengthening turn lanes and changing landscaping — and gathering data on how well it was working. The project was conceived as an experiment to try a street design that had been tried in many other cities to see how much it improved safety and bike ridership along the corridor.

But the project sparked an intense backlash from drivers who faced traffic jams, especially during the afternoon rush hour.

Go Boulder Manager Kathleen Bracke said the average delay was just 76 seconds on the southbound side, but travel times were highly variable and some trips took much longer.

Last week, city transportation staff members recommended returning that portion to four lanes because minor modifications had not made a noticeable difference in travel times, snow removal plans might not work well and businesses felt customers were being driven away.

The protected bike lanes on Folsom will remain from Pine Street north to Valmont Road, with the block between Pine and Spruce being a transition zone, and from Arapahoe Avenue south to Colorado Avenue.

Councilman Sam Weaver said the portions of the project that do the most to improve safety will remain. Traffic speeds are higher north of Pine, and cyclists will still benefit from protection there.

Councilman Andrew Shoemaker said right-sizing was an experiment, and it has worked as such in that the city learned a lot. He called the return to four vehicle lanes in the central part of the corridor a “minor tweak.”

Councilman Tim Plass supported the staff recommendation but not without hesitation.

“By truncating this project, we’re going to lose some really valuable data from that section of the road,” he said. “I hope we find ways to redouble our efforts to meet our goals for bikes in the transportation master plan.”

Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said she would “reluctantly” support the return to four vehicle lanes and said she hoped transportation planners would still bring forward innovative ideas, but with more public outreach beforehand.

“The direction is not to be less bold but perhaps to be more strategic,” she said.

Bracke said the lessons learned on the Folsom Street corridor could be incorporated into design guidelines for bicycle lanes in other corridors.

Council members said the city should look at possible changes on 19th Street and 30th Street to improve bicycle safety along north-south corridors.

“The public is now on notice that we’re going to do these interesting projects, and we want your input early on,” Jones said.

Erica Meltzer: 303-473-1355, or

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Legendary producer Joyce Rey to speak at Luxury Connect

Inman, the leader in independent real estate and technology news and events, is thrilled to announce Joyce Rey as a speaker for the highly anticipated Luxury Connect in Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 21-22.

In 1978 when Joyce Rey sold Owlwood (the Sonny-and-Cher mansion) for $4.2 million — more than double the amount anyone had ever paid for a home in the United States at the time — she established her reputation for negotiating historic landmark estates and luxury residential sales.

The following year, she formed the first company in the United States to specialize in estates valued at more than $1 million. Since then, Rey has spent three decades selling some of America’s most significant residences, setting record after record along the way. She is currently setting yet another record as the listing agent for the most expensive home on the market listed on the MLS in the U.S.: Palazzo di Amore, priced at $149 million.

As someone whose business is laser-focused on the luxury market, Rey is uniquely positioned to spot trends and see what’s coming down the pike, which gives her the advantage to stay ahead of the game.

I think we’ll see many more technological advances; the smart homes will become even smarter,” Rey said. “There will be greater demands for privacy. There will be imaginative plans for drought-free landscaping, and we will see new ideas for architectural diversity. Also, the baby boomers will be gravitating to condominium living.”

If this is the future of high-end real estate, what can we leave in the past? “Price-per-square-foot is outdated and old news for valuing luxury properties, although the banks will continue to use it as a major indicator.”

For Rey, luxury isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. “Luxury is defined by a state of extravagance and extreme comfort beyond the normal.”

She should know. Rey’s luxury real estate expertise, negotiating power, integrity and passion for personal service are nothing short of inspiring, and the proof is in the pudding. One of the most respected names in luxury real estate, and arguably the foremost leader for Beverly Hills to Malibu, Rey has amassed nearly $3 billion in career sales.

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Today, she remains as dedicated to her celebrated clients’ best interests as her own — which encompass film, art, music, world travel, yoga and philanthropy.

We’re honored to welcome Joyce Rey to Luxury Connect on Oct. 22, where she’ll be sharing her knowledge and expertise on the topic of luxury real estate.

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San Anselmo seniors fight wildlife officials for custody of mallard duck

Schools kids visit “Juanita” the Mallard duck while she was at Bello Gardens Assisted Living in San Anselmo.
Courtesy of Bello Gardens Assisted Living

Juanita the mallard duck, who was rescued at the age of four days nearly two years ago and took up residence in an assisted living facility, may never see her home again.

Found abandoned and barely alive in a local park in February 2014, Juanita was brought to Bello Gardens Assisted Living in San Anselmo. She has lived there ever since. The residents love her.

“A landscaping guy found Juanita and asked if I could take care of her,” said Walter Paredes, a 16-year employee and cook at the facility. “She was a little baby that fit in my hand. She had no feathers, just baby fuzz like a chicken. I put her in a box with some blankets. I cooked her rice, fed her tomatoes and insects from the garden.”

Now she is grown up, Paredes said. “She is nice and beautiful. She likes to be with the residents. Sometimes they have music and she stands in the middle of them and looks like she is dancing to the music.”

Paredes built her a little house, a pool and a waterfall.

But the duck snuck in a little jaunt over the fence Sept. 16 and was found by a neighbor who, thinking Juanita was lost, called the Humane Society, which delivered the duck to WildCare. At first, the Bello Gardens residents, whose average age is 85, didn’t know what had happened to Juanita.

“The residents and their families started taking fliers all around town, putting them up on telephone poles and handing them out. ‘Juanita is lost,’” said Neysa Hinton, executive director of Bello Gardens Assisted Living.

A resident’s daughter called WildCare Sept. 18 and discovered Juanita was there.

Now it looks like Juanita won’t be able to return.


“Anyone who finds a wild bird is required to take them to a facility like WildCare,” said Melanie Piazza, WildCare director of animal care. “Clearly their heart was in the right place, but they raised a mallard duckling and imprinted her so that she is no longer a wild duck and can no longer be returned to the wild.”

The director of animal care said Juanita “is perfectly healthy,” but added, “We are not legally allowed to return her to somebody who is not permitted” to have a wild bird.

“Under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act we would lose our license. Our permit is very specific that we cannot give an animal to a facility that does not have the proper permits,” Piazza said.

Hinton said she had reached out to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding a permit to no avail.

“We can’t even apply for a permit at this point,” Hinton said. “I’m not understanding that process. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has not come out and looked at our facility to see if we can apply for a permit.”

A spokesman for the department was adamant on the point.

“There are a whole lot of state and federal laws that prohibit ducks from being kept as pets. It is against the law to have a pet duck,” said Andrew Hughan of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Ducks fall under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They are federally protected; you can’t interfere with a duck. You certainly cannot have it as a pet,” Hughan said.

“It’s not sanitary. It’s not safe. Wild animals carry lots of diseases that folks could be susceptible to,” Hughan said.


“Your one duck, I’m sure, is not a problem,” Dave Smail of the county’s environmental health services told Hinton in an email Aug. 4.

Smail quoted a San Anselmo local ordinance that had adopted Marin County Code 22.68.020I. The code states, “On any lot in any R district, in addition to any livestock permitted in the district by the terms of this title, there may be kept not to exceed twelve fowl other than roosters, quacking ducks ….”

“We do have what I hope is a happy resolution,” Piazza said. She said Willow, a bird who used to live at WildCare, has passed away, “so now we have space in our permit and our caging to house another mallard.

“We are in negotiations now with permitting to see if we can keep her here,” Piazza said.

When Paredes went to WildCare Saturday to visit Juanita, he was not allowed to see her.

“She is currently still considered a patient and we do not have a permit yet to put her on display as an educational animal,” Piazza said.

“Since she just came in recently, we have to follow all the rules,” Piazza said. “But as soon as we get our permits, she will be able to be in the pond and on display. I would hope that would be in the next few months.”

Meanwhile, Hinton, Paredes and the residents are working to bring Juanita home.

“Our residents and their families are planning to walk the neighborhood this week with a clipboard to collect signatures on a petition,” Hinton said.

“We are a state-run facility and I don’t see why an exemption can’t be requested,” Hinton said. “They are saying we broke federal law and could be fined. I said, ‘The duck was four days old and we had no way of knowing it was a wild duck.’

“If hunters can hunt these ducks, then I can’t understand why we can’t keep a duck that is domesticated, that they say can’t live in the wild,” Hinton said.

“The seniors are sad. They miss Juanita,” Paredes said. “So do I.”

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Lush landscaping turns a pond into a paradise

Jan Cassell looks over her backyard pond, an 8,000-gallon paradise for some three dozen fish, countless frogs, toads, dragonflies — and her.

“This is my de-stressor, my salvation,” she says. “People say, ‘Isn’t it a lot of work?’ But it’s not work when it’s your passion. It’s great exercise. That’s so much better than going to the gym.”

Cassell and her husband, Marty, had the pond installed behind their St. Charles home on land that previously was used for a dog run and a volleyball court. They did plenty of homework before the first shovel hit the dirt.

“We went to 10 years of pond walks,” she says.

One thing they noticed, when they found a pond they really liked, invariably it had been built by the same company, St. Charles-based Aquascape, a designer and builder of ponds, water gardens and other water features, and designed by the same person, Brian Helfrich. That made the choice easy for the Cassells. They then did more research, talked to people and took free classes Aquascape offers. Only then did the project begin.

“There were no drawings,” Cassell says. “It was the vision that decided the design. There’s an old Russian proverb that translates something like, ‘The work will show you how.’ That’s how this was built. Each step shows you the next step.”

“Jan and Marty wanted a one-of-a-kind water feature, and they left us on our own,” says Chris Hanson, a construction foreman at Aquascape. “The hardest thing to figure out was the plumbing.”

Aquascape’s work on the pond took about a month. When the project was completed in spring 2008, the Cassells had a big waterfall, a bog garden, smaller streams and the pond. Jason Lenox of Ponds Inc. of Elgin installed two fire pits and a patio and the paths that pulled it all together. The entire project required between 150 and 200 tons of granite and limestone.

Impressive — but Jan Cassell’s efforts took it to a higher level.

“We tell people, we can build you a beautiful pond, but if you don’t have the landscape …” Hanson says, his voice trailing off.

That’s where Cassell excels. The 40-by-20-foot water feature is surrounded by a variety of carefully chosen trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, annuals and perennials alike. The result is a natural-looking environment.

“The pond is a sculpture-free zone,” Cassell says. “That’s important to consider: Are you going to have mermaids, birds on a stick, gazing balls? We’ve seen a lot of ponds that are beautiful but are destroyed by the cuteness factor.”

A pond owner can also break some rules. “Certain plants only grow in the shade,” she says. “But if you put their feet in water, they can grow in the sun — regular impatiens, New Guinea impatiens. You can plant hostas in the water.”

Care is also taken to choose plants that benefit wildlife — such as plants with berries, seedpods or flowers that attract birds (echinacea for finches, for example, and hibiscus for hummingbirds).

“We (choose plants) with one thought,” Cassell says. “What can they do for the wildlife?”

The ponds that Aquascape builds and designs vary in price. An 8-by-11-foot pond, for example, with some plants in and around it, starts between $8,000 and $11,000, depending on the type of rock and other factors. An 11-by-16-foot water feature would cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

Water-friendly plantings

In addition to the plants already mentioned, here are some that Jan Cassell added in and around the pond.

Weeping redbud: Also known as Eastern redbud, the small tree has branches and leaves that grow to the ground, but Cassell cuts them so its trunk is visible.

Ginkgo biloba: The tree provides interest in the fall when its leaves turn a bright yellow.

Hibiscus: Red, pink and white versions, all attractive to hummingbirds.

Water lilies: Cassell has two kinds, perennials and tropicals, in the water. She let the tropicals overwinter last year, but they’re not as robust as she’d like. “Not worth keeping,” she says. “I’d rather start with new ones.”

Potted plants: Cassell places several potted plants around the perimeter of the pool when the weather allows, then brings them inside in the winter, where they’re kept under lights for 16 hours a day. “They’ll scrape by,” she says. Other plants that don’t require so much pampering go into the sun room.

Northern sea oats: Cassell loves this ornamental grass with its fluttering seed heads, but it is an enthusiastic reseeder. “If (I let) the seeds drop I’ll be pulling those things forever,” she says. “So I have to cut the seed heads.”

Marsh marigolds: Native to marshes, swamps and wet meadows, these perennials offer beautiful yellow blooms from spring into summer.

Cattails: There are three kinds — miniature, standard and variegated — in the water, says Cassell. She does not get plants from the wild. “We do not introduce plants,” she says. “There could be critters, parasites, things that can harm the fish.”

Papyrus: Easy to grow, this sedge in Cassell’s pond comes in several varieties and sizes.

Pickerel: Growing to 2 feet, this perennial features spikes of soft blue flowers.

‘Gro-Low’ sumac: Also known as fragrant sumac, this small shrub can take a lot of pruning, Cassell says. It can grow in the sun or shade.

Ajuga, Irish moss, miniature sedum: These are just three of several plants Cassell places between steppingstones.

Junipers: Cassell plants these evergreen shrubs between some of the rocks around the pond but is careful to trim them to keep them in control. In fact, these days she spends most of her time weeding and trimming. “We’ve basically run out of space (for new plants),” she says. “You do have to replace things. It’s not like I look forward to something not making it through the winter, but if that happens, it’s an opportunity.”

Smaller-scale solution

A homeowner who lacks the space or the funds for a large water feature can still get many of the benefits on a smaller scale.

A pondless waterfall — just what the name implies — recirculates water from an underground reservoir. It’s essentially maintenance-free, says Aquascape’s Hanson.

“They can be from 2 feet high to one like we did last year, 27 feet tall,” he says. Capacity can be as small as 50 gallons.

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Growing locally native plants

Fall is the ideal time for planting! Cooler temperatures and the coming rain will bring moisture to the soil, which helps new plants establish their root systems and build the energy for new growth and spring and summer flowers. Although most California natives can be planted at any time of year, now, the fall and early winter, is the best time for planting.

Choosing plants that are native to our area will help ensure the plants’ optimum health and performance in your garden. For us on the coastside, consider selecting native plants that would naturally grow on our nearby coastal bluffs, streambeds, and hillsides. And by using native plants in your garden, your garden will be regularly visited by the many bees, birds, and butterflies that depend upon native plants for food and shelter.

By growing locally sourced native plants, you will:

• Use less water (and less energy pumping that water); save money on utility bills;

• Reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides;

• Attract pollinators, including native bees, butterflies, moths, and birds — for your pleasure and their benefit;

• Provide for endangered species, and enhance corridors and habitat for native wildlife; and

• Have a beautiful, colorful, lively garden; and inspire your neighbors to do the same.

Yarrow, seaside daisy, lupines, Douglas iris, California aster, ceanothus, California poppies, buckwheat, and manzanitas are some of the lovely native plants that will grow easily and do well in most coastside gardens, and can be bought locally. Most nurseries now stock a growing selection of native plants, and there are also many nurseries in our area that now specialize in native plants.

Have you considered reducing or eliminating your lawn area? How much water does a typical lawn in our area require? A 1,000 square foot lawn in San Francisco can use up to 30,000 gallons of water a year. That’s a lot of water! You could shower 24-hours a day for 8 days straight and still not use that much water. The same 1,000 square foot garden, if planted in local native plants, would typically use one quarter as much water or less.

Many native plants can survive with minimal supplemental water once they have become established (after two to five years). Proper watering can present a challenge when first becoming acquainted with native plants. Under watering of young native plants is a frequent cause of death, while over-watering can cause root rot and kill more established species. Some native species can maintain a healthy appearance for much of the year while being watered only 1—4 times per month, and many native plants, once established, require little to no summer water.

For a garden full of thriving native plants, check plant-specific watering needs from authoritative sources. The local libraries have lots of informative books, such as “California Native Plants for the Garden”. Lots of information is available on-line too! The California Native Plant Society (, Gardening with Natives (; and Las Pilitas Nursery’s website ( websites can help you select plants, and include descriptions on site placement in your garden, growing conditions, seasonal interests, and water needs.

Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticide, less pruning, and less of your time. Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants because they are already adapted to the local environment. Plant natives!

(Editor’s Note: Freidel Cohen volunteers locally with the Pacifica Beach Coalition for their Linda Mar and Rockaway Switchbacks habitat restoration projects, and also volunteers at the Mission Blue Native Plant Nursery in Brisbane. She is an avid gardener and a former California Certified Nurserywoman.)

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Michigan Fresh Garden: Tips for pumpkin use, storage and preserving

Fall is just around the corner with its beautiful colors, flavors and produce. Pumpkin is not only for decorating but also a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. Michigan – grown pumpkins are available between August and November. Recommended varieties for cooking and baking are smaller, sweeter varieties known as the pie pumpkin. Some varieties are Peek-a-Boo, Sugar Treat, Dickinson Fields, Baby Pam, Triple Treat, Kentucky Field, Buckskin and Chelsey. These types are good choices for cooking because they are meatier and contain less stringy fiber than the carving pumpkins.

When looking for suitable pie pumpkins avoid bruises, cracks and soft spots and stick to pumpkins in the range of 4 to 8 pounds; they will yield the best pulp. Pumpkins have a fairly long storage life if kept at cool room temperatures. Pie pumpkins are rich in antioxidants and vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, cooked; it is low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.


•Do not store in the refrigerator or in a damp place. Moisture causes rapid deterioration.

•If stored properly, a whole, unblemished pumpkin can be stored for three to six months at 45 degrees to 50 degrees F.

•For best quality and nutritive value, preserve no more than your family can consume in 12 months.

•Wash thoroughly under clear running water prior to cutting or cooking. Do not use soap.

Ways to prepare pumpkin:

Pumpkin can be frozen, canned, pickled or made into preserves. Freezing is the easiest method to preserve pumpkin and will result in a quality product later on. Thoroughly wash the pumpkin, prick with a knife or fork in several places. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F (until tender). Once cooked, remove from oven, let cool to touch, cut in half, scoop out the stringy contents save the seeds if you want. Remove the bake pumpkin from the rind, you may mash or process if desired, pack into freezer bags or rigid containers leaving ½ inch headspace, label, date and freeze. If freezing large quantities of pumpkin, consider portioning based on favorite recipes and labeling freezer bags with favorite recipe and amount frozen in bag. When it is time to bake your favorite breads, cookies, and pies your pre-portioned bags will be ready to go.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that pumpkin only be canned in 1 inch cubes using pressure canning methods. Pumpkin butter, mashed or pureed pumpkin, or winter squash are too dense to be safely processed by home canning methods. Can your cubed pumpkin by washing, removing seeds, cutting into 1 inch cubes. Boil 2 minutes in water. Fill jars with cubes and cover with cooking liquid leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and process in a pressure canner 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts 11 pounds pressure for a dial gauge canner and 10 pounds of pressure for a weighted canner.

To learn more about preserving fall produce MSU Extension encourages you to rely on tested recipes from reliable sources such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Be sure to check out all of the Michigan Fresh fact sheets with recipes, gardening tips and preservation techniques for over eighty Michigan grown foods available for free at

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Horticulture expert Jim Mackay offers tips for budding gardeners now spring …

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Gardening Tips: Start planning to winterize garden accessories

Tuesday, September 29, 2015   by: Susan Richards

There are many objects in the garden that need attention before winter sets in: birdbaths, fountain, statuary, containers, garden furniture and other accessories.

With care, these items will grace the garden for many years to come.

How you handle for your garden accessories will depend on the material they are made from.

You deal with concrete differently than resin, metal, ceramic or wood.

Winter moisture, along with the freeze/thaw cycle that happens so often from late fall through early spring can be very damaging.

First of all, follow manufacturers’ recommendations for seasonal care.

Unfortunately, not everything you have in your garden comes with an instruction sheet.

If you do not have any guidelines to follow, here are some recommendations:

1. All fountains will need the pump removed before freezing temperatures arrive. It should be disconnect from the tubing, cleaned thoroughly and stored indoors in a bucket of water to ensure the longest pump life. The supplier recommends this to keep all pump seals supple.

2. Any water features that are light enough to move indoors can be cleaned, dried and store out of the weather. If you don’t have room in your house, they are fine in a garage or garden shed as long as they are kept dry.

Anything too heavy to move indoors should be covered for the winter. If left out in the elements, the repeated freezing and thawing of moisture that collects in fountain bowls, birdbaths, statues and other items can ruin the finish or cause them to crack.

Turn bowls on their sides so water drains away and ensure the base items are elevated out of the soil. If pieces are too large to tip, remove all moisture from each part (I find a shop-vac quite handy for this task), place dry, absorbent material in each bowl, then use a fountain cover or plastic to ensure that snow can not collect in any part.

NOTE: don’t use a coloured tarp that may transfer colour to the fountain over the winter!

3. All resin items should be cleaned and inspected before they are stored. The manufacturer recommends they be sprayed with clear-coat polyurethane to protect the finish. This may need to be done several times per year.

4. Metal décor, such as furniture, obelisks, arbours, lanterns, etc., are best stored in a dry place for the winter. Clean and inspect objects carefully for any rust that may develop. Use a wire brush to remove loose rust and touch up with matching Tremclad paint.

The manufacture does recommend that any metal items used outdoors be sprayed with a coat of clear Tremclad to protect the finish and prevent rust. If they are to big to move under cover or are incorporated into the garden, be sure to inspect them often for any signs of deterioration.

Deal with problems before winter sets in and be sure there is a protective coating on all exposed surfaces.

5. Most wooden items are fine outdoors year round as long as the wood is sealed. Cedar, teak and pressure-treated wood can be left to age naturally or treated with stain, teak oil or Thompson’s Water Seal. Pine and spruce should always be sealed. Be sure to treat any wood that is in constant contact with soil.

6. Ceramic containers should be brought in for the winter. This material will crack and crumble if left outdoors. The exception would be frost resistant ceramic pots. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for those.

7. Clay pots will also crack if left to freeze while filled with earth. Empty out all soil, clean them well and store inside. They can be left in outdoor sheds if they are stored dry.

8. Most fiberglass, plastic, metal and resin containers are fine outside all winter. These are the ones to use if you are looking for a year round display outdoors!

With appropriate care, the time and money you have invested in garden accessories with reward you with many years of use.

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Your garden in October: Sean Murray’s tips for North East gardeners

As the warm sunny days gradually give way to shorter daylight hours and mornings with a real nip in the North East air, my thoughts eagerly turn to reminders of summer.

The sight of sunflowers can lift your spirits as part of your gardens late autumn crescendo of colour.

Sunflowers are fast growing, and easy to grow requiring full sun, fertile moist but well drained soil. They give you maximum impact for minimal work and can be the star performers in an autumn planting design.

Sunflowers make up the group Helianthus of which there are about 67 species, they are native to the Americas and have helped shaped man’s history through the ages where they have been developed for medicine, food, dyes and oils.

They have been in cultivation for over 1000 years. Captured in iconic form by Van Gogh’s series of sunflower paintings they have more recently been used to extract toxins such as uranium form the soil around the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

Some of my favourite cultivars grown from seed are:- Helianthus Annuus ‘Earth Walker’ which has bronze, yellow and chocolate brown shades.

Italian white has large creamy white flowers with chocolate centres, great for flower arranging.

Allow the flower heads to remain on the stems and you will have large nodding seed heads adding interest and texture to your winter scene, a great source of food for birds too

The Teddy Bear variety only grows to 18” and it makes me smile with each passing glance as it stretches its little open childlike face up to greet me at the edge of my border.

Great planting companions include Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus Tuberosus) with their small sunflower like heads. From the same genius they have a similar form and although invasive they make a fantastic wind break in exposed areas and unlike potatoes their tasty tubers can be left in the ground and harvested throughout the winter as required. There is no need to buy new tubers each year, just leave a few in the ground after harvesting and away they go again.

Innla Magnifica looks great with sunflowers says Sean Murray

If you have room Innula magnifica also looks amazing drifted amongst sunflowers. A huge perennial with massive arrow shaped leaves, shaggy orange daisy like flowers and formidable stem structure to grace you border over winter.

Think about how you can make space for sunflowers in your planting for next year and order your seeds from the many seed catalogues available. Just think this time next year you will have your own blast of autumn sunshine. You won’t be disappointed.

Sean Murray runs a garden design company based in Ashington, Northumberland,

Jerusalem Artichokes

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