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Archives for September 4, 2015

PlumbingMasterNeeds GardenerAs Well

Decorator challenge: Wall color – Part 2 How to: Last week we discussed how your walls are the largest surface to be decorated within your rooms, so what you choose to cover them with will have a huge impact on the finished look. More…

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Fear of frost? Tips to keep your garden growing through fall’s chill

As summer winds down and frost threatens, even avid gardeners may be tempted to pack up their trowels and call it a season. You may think it’s better to leave the victory garden gracefully, than risk the disappointment of watching crops wither in chilly temperatures. But fear of frost and failure don’t have to stop you from enjoying a fruitful fall garden. With the right plant choices and a few tricks, producing a hefty harvest can be easy.

A few facts about frost

Frost occurs when temperatures drop enough to condense and freeze the moisture in the air. In fall, when air temperatures sink, it’s common to find frost layering the ground, leaves and crops. Frost may occur frequently in the fall before the ground really becomes frozen – known as a hard freeze.

While a hard freeze generally heralds the end of the growing season and frost can harm warm weather crops like oranges, some veggies actually do very well – and taste better – when nipped by frost. By stocking your fall garden with frost-loving varieties, you can ensure your garden remains victorious and bountiful right up to the first hard freeze. Not sure when the hard freeze will occur in your region? Check out the USDA Freeze Map.

When you consider the many advantages of fall gardening, frost shouldn’t be feared. Cooler temperatures mean you’ll have a more comfortable experience while working in the garden, and you’ll have fewer insect pests and weeds to deal with.

Frost-friendly choices

Just because the growing season is over for summer crops like tomatoes, you don’t have to give up gardening before the cold winter weather. Instead, clear out the remnants of summer plantings and debris and get the ground ready for fall favorites like spinach, cabbage, collards and kale. These hearty, leafy vegetables – available from Bonnie Plants – actually like the chill weather and can stand up to some frost.

Certain root veggies, such as radishes and turnips, also do well in cooler temperatures. All are packed with nutrients, so you can plant them knowing you’ll be filling your dinner table with fresh, nutritious, great-tasting veggies this fall. For a list of fall-weather favorites, tips and harvest advice visit

Get a good start

When planning your fall garden, time is of the essence. Start with well-established, vigorous plants like those Bonnie Plants offers in some regions at garden retailers.

Starting out with more mature plants not only allows you to get your fall garden growing faster, it helps ensure your vegetables are strong enough to endure unexpected or extreme temperature variations. And remember to choose short-season varieties that will produce quicker in fall’s shorter growing season.

When frost arrives

Even though your fall vegetables might be able to handle the cold, you may want an extra layer of protection for unseasonably cool nights. Fortunately, you can do a lot to protect plants from sudden dips in temps.

Growing veggies in the right spot can make a big difference. Choose a location for your garden that gets plenty of sun, especially in the morning when you’ll want plants to quickly shake off overnight chill. Planting in a raised bed also helps insulate plants and their tender roots from ground freezes. Container gardens are also great for fall; when a severe frost or hard freeze threatens, you can bring plants inside, overnight for protection.

Sometimes you may want to cover plants against extreme cold. One option is a cold frame. Typically constructed of wood and glass or plastic, the frame sits over plants like a portable mini greenhouse. You can build your own – an online search will yield plenty of how-to plans – or purchase a prefabricated one. For less severe situations, simply turning a pot or bucket upside down over tender young plants can be enough to shield them from cold.

When fall arrives, you don’t have to fear frost, or give up your garden. Success starts with choosing cold-hearty varieties that prosper and produce well in cool weather. Visit to learn more about fall vegetables.

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In the garden With Urban Harvest: Cottage gardens go clean, contemporary



Cottage gardens are in a style that mimics the quaint gardens that surround humble English cottages.

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Explosions of color and texture still exist in today’s garden, but curvilinear borders have evolved into simple lines that reflect the ease of the architecture.

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Color and texture are painted in broad strokes in the contemporary cottage garden.

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Edibles find their way into the new garden design. With the exception of canopy trees for shade purposes, fruit trees, depending on type, can replace any of their ornamental counterparts.

Photo: Fischer Schalles

Photo: Suzy Fischer

Cottage gardens, which are in a style that mimics the quaint gardens that surround humble English cottages, regained popularity in the US in the 1980s when “nesters” were no longer satisfied with landscapes that consisted of a foundation hedge and shade tree.

Explosions of color and texture still exist in today’s garden, but curvilinear borders have evolved into simple lines that reflect the ease of the architecture. Even lawns have become a planting element. They are no longer just what’s left over after the planting beds are laid out. Their size, shape and location are a key element to the garden design and often are enhanced with paths and borders.

Gone is the Pointillist approach to plant layout – salvia next to rudbeckia with lantana as a backdrop; repeat. Color and texture are painted in broad strokes in the contemporary cottage garden. Swaths of plantings make bold statements in effortless execution, whether they consist of flowering perennials, ornamental grasses, or shrubs and groundcovers in varying textures and color, again reflecting the architecture.

Edibles easily find their way into the new garden design. With the exception of canopy trees for shade purposes (After all, who wants to be 30 feet in the air harvesting fruit?), fruit trees, depending on type, can replace any of their ornamental counterparts for whatever need the garden may have – spring flower display, evergreen screening, fragrance or specimen focal point. They are also easy to maintain, which is another key element of the contemporary garden.

More maintenance intensive, but worth the effort, vegetables and herbs have found their place in the ornamental garden as today’s “homesteaders” claim their place in the urban landscape. Containers are excellent candidates for edible plantings that change seasonally, leaving permanent plantings intact and allowing for seamless seasonal transitions.

Though if you are one who enjoys the cyclic changes a garden offers, you may consider incorporating herbs and vegetables into raised planters or planting beds. Just be sure ground level beds have positive drainage.

What has not changed is that gardens are places for people. Outdoor living and play areas have always been key garden elements. Today, however, we find these areas are no longer confined to the backyard. Front-yard gardens offer outdoor sitting areas, game lawns, outdoor sculpture, fountains and pools.

A garden is an extension of your home and a good garden reflects your home and your personality. Today we see that reflection from the curb to the back fence.

Suzy Fischer is a registered Landscape Architect and principal of Fischer Schalles, a landscape design/build firm. Contact her at This column is produced by Urban Harvest. Learn about gardening classes, community gardens and orchards, farmers’ markets and more at

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Artsy guitars to decorate downtown Winter Garden

WINTER GARDEN — Orlando artist John Sullivan encourages visitors to lean forward and pick out their favorite rock albums from the collage he created on his colorful guitar sculpture.

He has hundreds to choose from.

There’s “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac. Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” Frank Zappa’s “Hot Rats.” Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy.” The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” B-52s’ “Party Mix.”

Make splashy garden and other keepsakes with mosaic stones

Do it yourself

* YouTube mosaic tutorials are a good place to start.

* Assemble your supplies and clear several hours for the project. There are few tools: tile or glass nippers and protective eyewear.

* Ask for scraps at a stained-glass shop. The glass and variety are great, and it’s less daunting than buying an entire sheet of colored glass at specialty and online stores, says Boylston. Keep an eye on Craigslist’s and classified ads for supplies, says Emmert.

* Accent your work with found objects, jewelry pieces, pebbles, glass beads and more. “Look around you and see what you have just right there,” says Price.

* Outline simple shapes with a string of small ball chain for a striking effect, says Boylston.

* When finished adhering colorful materials, outline the design with painter’s tape, leaving 1/8-inch around the piece. After grouting, and before the grout thoroughly dries, remove the tape. This will create a clean grout line, says Boylston.

* Use an epoxy grout and you won’t need a sealer to protect stones left outdoors, says Emmert. “It holds its color very well,” she says.

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Editorial: Leaf blower conversation not over yet

Posted Sep. 3, 2015 at 7:35 AM


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Larsen set to retire after leaving his mark as parks and recreation director

After 38 years of working in government — the last 10 of which have been with the City of Redmond — Craig Larsen is retiring.

The 64-year-old Shoreline resident will be stepping down as director of parks, recreation and cultural arts at the end of this month.

“My wife Chris and I have a very busy life outside of work,” Larsen said about why he is retiring. “We enjoy travel, landscaping and home remodeling, and I have a serious car hobby including a couple of sports cars and a vintage race car I built and race as often as I can. We bought a beach house last year and I look forward to being able to enjoy it more often.”


With Larsen at the helm of the department, the city acquired four miles of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad right-of-way and built the Redmond Central Connector, according to a City of Redmond press release. He has been also in charge of the department while the city has worked on developing the Downtown Park, purchased and opened Smith Woods Park, rebuilt Grass Lawn Park and Spiritbrook Park, rehabilitated the Redmond Pool, advanced planning for a new Recreation Center and significantly improved business operations in the department, the release states.

“I am very pleased with the Redmond Central Connector and the progress we have made on Downtown Park,” Larsen said about the accomplishments. “Both enhance the quality of life in Redmond, and ensure our downtown is a great place to live and visit.”

He said while he has been with Redmond, they have been able to offer a “diverse recreation program which serves hundreds of thousands of participants each year, including a wide range of senior, teen and all-ages fitness, sports, learning and arts programs.”

“Craig is a creative and energetic leader who has made a tremendous contribution to the city,” said Mayor John Marchione. “His efforts have made the city a better place to live and I am grateful for his contribution.”

Marchione added that all of Larsen’s work increased the quality of life in Redmond.

“Under his leadership we designed and built the Redmond Central Connector, obtained Smith Woods for the new North Redmond neighborhood and revitalized Redmond Derby Days,” the mayor said.


Despite being singled out for these achievements, Larsen credits his department for this programming.

“Our park operations team is the best I have ever seen and we have been able to manage a wide variety of parks and facilities because of our high-quality staff and their efficient approach to the work,” he said.

Larsen added that the people he has worked with in Redmond will be what he misses the most when he retires.

Those who have worked under Larsen’s leadership have equally complimentary things to say about him.

Joshua Heim, cultural arts administrator for the city, said he came to Redmond specifically to work with Larsen because of his strong reputation for supporting the arts. Heim said since he has been with the city, he has watched Larsen create an environment that allowed the arts to thrive — encouraging innovation, putting his trust into the creative process and standing behind the artists.

“I mean, who else goes to bat for an idea to cart five giant golden eggs throughout the streets of downtown Redmond?” Heim asked, referring to the interactive performances artist-in-residence Lucia Neare has put on during the last few years. “Craig did. And I’ll miss him dearly for that.”

Heim is not the only person who joined the city to work with Larsen.

Mark Hickok, recreation division manager for the city, met Larsen at a conference where Larsen was presenting eight years ago and was very impressed.

“When an opportunity came up to work with him, I jumped at the chance,” said Hickok, who came to work at the city in 2009.

He said Larsen has been an “amazing leader, mentor and friend.”


Prior to coming to Redmond, Larsen worked as planning director for King County for 24 years as planning director and parks and recreation director and four years at the City of Lynnwood as parks and recreation director.

It was while he was working at the City of Lynnwood that he met Katie Anderson, who is now deputy director of the department in Redmond and will be acting director of the department until a new director is chosen early next year.

“Craig has supported and encouraged my professional development over the years and in particular has shown me the importance of being simple and clear when communicating with citizens, council and city employees,” she said. “It has been an honor to work with Craig.”

Anderson said Larsen shared his vision for urban design, creativity, innovative and strategic thinking and “out-of-the-box” ideas about parks, trails and recreation programs with the rest of the department.

Ken Wong, teen programs administrator for Redmond, also praised Larsen’s creativity and innovation and his encouraging the same in others.

“I have had the pleasure of working for Craig since he has been with the City of Redmond,” Wong said. “What I have appreciated the most from Craig is his caring to take the time to listen but also ask the tough questions. He loves to hear ideas but makes sure you flush them out…A great leader allows his staff to fulfill the vision that he has created with them and Craig has been that visionary for the city.”

Larsen describes parks and recreation as a “good news business and very entrepreneurial.”

“We build and maintain beautiful places and provide programs and events that people want,” he said. “You get immediate feedback and a real sense of accomplishment when you get it right.”

In the next 10 years, if Redmond stays on its current course, Larsen predicts the city will continue to be a center of innovation and creativity.

“I am an architect, planner and a parks and recreation professional,” he said. “I believe in planning, designing and building the future you want. Important for me is quality urban design, a high quality and sustainable park and open space system and an investment in public art and events.”

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Center for disabled adults hopes to raise profile in community

The Howard Training Center in Ceres turns out more than 12,000 meals a month while employing disabled adults who would not otherwise have the opportunity to work.

Executive Director Carla Strong said she has come to realize many people are not aware of the nonprofit center or have forgotten “we are here.”

As it begins an annual fund drive, the nonprofit hopes to establish a stronger presence and raise the bar for its fundraising.

The center is faced with raising about $150,000 annually for the senior meals program it runs for Stanislaus County, because federal money does not cover the costs of preparing and delivering meals to home-bound seniors.

Strong is talking with officials at the Area Agency on Aging about ideas for long-term planning.

“I am confident they are going to meet our contract for this year,” said Jill Erickson, a manager and nutritionist for the agency. “They need to have a plan in place to raise funds. You have to be a strong nonprofit to continue to raise funds and get support from the community.”

The nonprofit was struggling to make ends meet when Strong took over as director in October. Former director Claudia Miller managed the nonprofit for years but was followed by directors with shorter stints.

According to billing statements, the nonprofit was behind on paying $46,600 to a food supplier and was faced with losing its employee health coverage in December unless it paid $18,500 to Kaiser Permanente. Modesto Irrigation District threatened to turn off electric service over a $1,652 bill.

Strong said the center is current on payments to Kaiser, and she negotiated payment plans with other vendors to pay off back debt and keep current with bills.

Cost-cutting measures, such as stopping a $4,000-a-month GPS tracking service, and other belt-tightening has stabilized the center, Strong said.

Staff members have gone without raises for five years. People hired to replace those who left came in with lesser salaries. Strong said her annual salary is $30,000 less than what her predecessor was paid.

“I will tell you it’s stressful every month but everybody is getting paid and everybody is getting served,” the director said.

Strong, a former branch manager for Westamerica Bank, has brought business skills and experience with community work to the job. The Rotarian has been involved with charitable projects and was citizen of the year in Riverbank in 2009.

The Howard Center’s senior meals contract with the county, which began in 2006, pays a flat rate of $4.50 for each meal served at senior centers and $5 for meals delivered to homes.

Monthly payments from the county are around $73,000 and are not supposed to provide a profit margin. Erickson said the federally funded program requires matching dollars from local government and the service provider.

The nonprofit is required to take care of the 22 county-owned vans that deliver 4,800 meals to senior centers and similar facilities and 11,300 meals to homes each month.

The Howard Center also has catering contracts to provide meals for the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility in Ceres and the Hospice House in Hughson. All of that food is prepared by a kitchen staff of 27 developmentally disabled adults and their job coaches.

Disabled adults are also put to work in a production facility, take care of landscaping in a contract with Ceres and clean rest areas for the California Department of Transportation.

Strong said the employment programs are designed to be a revolving door, giving the clients job skills for moving into the workforce. And some of them are able to work for private businesses.

Families rely on the center to provide day services for lower-functioning adults. The ratio for those services is one instructor for every three clients, Strong said.

Bonnie Moon of Modesto put labels on wine bottles in the Production Unlimited program before joining the kitchen crew.

“I am learning to cook more and better for myself,” Moon said. “We are making meatloaf from scratch today and we just did breakfast.”

Laney Baxley of Modesto said the job definitely “means a lot to me.”

Kayrin Dovichi-Coddington worked as a regional manager overseeing food service for retirement centers before accepting a job as chef for Howard Training Center this year.

“I had been looking to do nonprofit work for years,” she said. “It is a challenge because every participant learns differently. It is beyond rewarding.”

The kitchen prepares the meals under strict dietary guidelines from the county. Staff members said they’re unable to make mashed potatoes from scratch, because a requirement to use a product containing vitamin C and the restrictions make it difficult to economize on food costs.

Among the ideas for improving fundraising is finding a corporate sponsor for the Howard Training Center. The organization with a $7 million annual budget is known for its annual crab feed that helps support day programs; it also has a spaghetti dinner and a trapshooting event to raise funds.

Strong said she’s working on other sources of funding, such as renting meeting space to a major grocery chain and developing its catering business. The center showed off its Arc Catering to the public at Thursday’s Edible Extravaganza in Modesto.

Jo Anne Mooney, who’s on a one-year hiatus from the board, said her sister has worked in the kitchen for 27 years. She believes the center provides invaluable services for disabled adults.

“They have meaningful lives and they learn to be independent,” Mooney said. “These people are part of our community.”

Besides delivering food to homes, Erickson said, the county meals program provides safety checks for isolated seniors.

“Sometimes the only contact these seniors have is the driver who delivers to their home,” Erickson said. “You are surprised how desperate they are for conversation.”

The Howard Training Center is at 1424 Stonum Road, Modesto 95351. For more information, call the center at (209) 538-4000.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321

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Landscaping Is a Gift to the Community

Thanks to a Springs resident who has made a sizable donation to pay for landscaping, Ashawagh Hall, which is owned by the Springs Improvement Society and serves as a center for activities from concerts to art shows and civic group meetings, is sporting a new but natural look.

“It’s quite simple, and it matches the kind of unadorned, unpretentious look that Ashawagh Hall has,” Phyllis Kriegel said in an interview last week. Ms. Kriegel, who regularly attends art openings at the hall, said she had noticed a lack of foundation plantings around the building and offered to have landscaping designed and installed for the entire property.

“The interior is just so filled with the enormous energy and artistic spirit,” she said, “and it seemed to me that the exterior should just introduce you to what’s going to happen inside.” The plantings were kept simple “because of the spirit of the place,” Ms. Kriegel said.

Designed and put in by Marybeth LaPenna Lee of LaPenna Lee Gardens, the new landscaping creates “a kind of unadorned elegance,” she said.

A former editor of New Directions for Women, a feminist publication, Ms. Kriegel went to Italy to study painting when the publication folded. She has dedicated her time to being an artist, studying for many years at the Art Barge on Napeague, including this summer, and has shown her work at Ashawagh Hall.

Just over two decades ago, her son, David Kriegel, then a new architect, set his sights on the house on Old Stone Highway where she now lives. It had belonged to the Bennett family and was among a string of houses built in the days when that part of Springs was called East Side.

He planned to renovate it for resale. But, Ms. Kriegel said, “I decided it was so nice we should keep it in the family.” It became her summer home.

“I think that Ashawagh Hall is sort of the heart and the hub of the people in Springs,” Ms. Kriegel said. “It has so much history to it — the artists who have shown there, the Invitational. . . . I’ve been to concerts there, lectures, even memorial services.”

Realizing that Ashawagh Hall had “such meaning for people,” Ms. Kreigel said she decided that a donation for plantings would be “a way to give my thanks to the community.”

“The building doesn’t need to be dressed up, just augmented,” Ms. Lee said on Tuesday. She planted juniper, boxwood, and grasses around its edge, choosing natural looking and deer-resistant plants. Some daylilies, though attractive to deer, were added for color in corners where she hopes they may be protected and remain uneaten. Mostly, though, the palette remained “plain green and white — nothing fancy,” Ms. Lee said.

Along the Springs-Fireplace Road front, she planted a tricolor beech tree, about 12 feet high. When it takes root, it will fill a space that will be created with the removal of one of the two cherry trees that have been flowering, magnificently, each spring for years, as it is dead. The beech will become “a focal point,” Ms. Lee said.

To mask a box for heating and cooling equipment, she filled a bed with ornamental grasses and bayberry. She installed a pebbled corridor around the exterior walls, for access and drainage, then “neatened things up” with mulch and delineated planting beds around existing trees. Ms. Lee said she enlisted Jason Agudo of Aquaworks to install irrigation for ongoing care and maintenance of the plants.

The Springs Improvement Society undertook full repairs and renovation of the building several years ago, paid for through a fund-raising campaign, a bank loan, and a sizable private donation. There was nothing left for landscaping, however, Ed Michels, the president of the S.I.S. board, said yesterday. Ms. Kriegel’s donation was “very, very generous,” Mr. Michels said. “It was a very nice thing she did.” The board of the community center, he said, is “very appreciative, and can’t thank her enough.” 

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Domestic garden landscaping materials market set to rise

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