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Archives for September 8, 2015

Less stress: Create a healing garden at home (photos)

The last place anyone feeling sick wants to be stuck is in a room with no sign of plant life.

Medical studies show that nature is an essential component of health and healing, so many hospitals install therapeutic gardens designed specifically to help long-term patients battling burns, memory loss and other serious conditions.

Patients and their families wander on paths under shady trees and pass fragrant flowers and soothing fountains. Each element was chosen by landscape designers trained in horticultural therapy.

Healthcare design research has proven what we already knew: Gardens are needed where people are healing.

The idea of therapeutic gardens has migrated off medical center campuses and into yards.

“When our elemental connection to nature is strong, we thrive at home, school, work and we feel good inside,” says Portland-area landscape designer and consultant P. Annie Kirk of Red Bird Restorative Gardens. “All designed landscapes should have a restorative purpose, especially because stress is often the root of disease.”

Kirk specializes in designing stress-relieving, restorative gardens at homes and businesses.

“Why keep this powerful design know-how and these powerful spaces only at hospitals?” she asks.

A healing garden can be as simple as a window box of geraniums or as elaborate as a mini forest of Crape myrtle with purple, pink or red conelike clusters of flowers.

Kirk, who is preparing a restorative garden design guide, earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Arizona. Her thesis included 27 components of an effective healing garden.

“In our homes, we can find well-being, peace, delight and bliss, thanks to our restorative gardens,” she says.

Here are Kirk’s tips to creating a healing garden at home to enjoy in sickness and in health:

Design more softscape than hardscape: Having a high ratio of plants is vital. Being able to see from a distance or get close to lush verdant nature supports stress reduction. Research indicates that the more lush a space, the better it feels, says Kirk. Verdant green scenery with a delightful easy gravel path allows for pauses and pleasure along the route. Where will this path lead you?

Balance plant complexity: Plant complexity balance engages all senses, speaks to the season and creates the perfect stop for wildlife. You don’t want to go overboard or be too monotonous. Your plant outfits need to help you say “ah.” Consider microclimates, maintainability and use. Shrub and perennial plant textures mingle with ease. Carefully consider color and texture to delight eyes and bare feet.

Work in seasonal interest: Gardens planted for year-round appeal provide continuing healing and help brains sync with nature’s clock. The texture of grasses can help make the dreary winter fade. Consider the borrowed landscape in helping you tell the time of the season.

Engage the senses: Use all five senses to stimulate different parts of the brain and conjure up positive memories. Sights, smells, textures and sounds help stimulate and make way for positive distractions. What do you want to taste?

Attract wildlife: Positive momentary distractions give our brains a rest from stress and worry, which allows for restoration and reprieve. Make habitat for birds part of your decor and storytelling. Sunflowers are appreciated for their color, low water use, bee habitat and roasting.

Pay close attention to color choices: As our eyes age, our ability to see purple, blue and green decreases. Red, orange and yellow in hardscape, fabrics and plants allow us to enjoy a richer experience longer.

Accommodate for noise: What are the unpleasant noises you hear and how can you mitigate them? The solution may be a water feature, wind chimes or piping music outside. Take into account the sound and movement of plants in different seasons. Consider combing elements of shade, water and fire for an outdoor living experience that buffers you from elements and external stresses. A bubbling water urn creates soothing sounds and encourages bird and bee activity.

Consider use and intention: What unique essence is sought: Remembrance, play, recovery, meditation, aging-in-place? Personalize your restorative garden for self expression and introspection, says Kirk, who has created memorial gardens to honored loved ones, a yard that evokes memories of a daughter’s wedding and places to ponder and play. “Restorative gardens are safe havens for everyone in the family,” including pets, she says.

Sign up for an advance copy of Kirk’s restorative garden design guide at

— Janet Eastman and Kym Pokorny

Stay in the loop. Sign up to receive a free weekly Homes Gardens of the Northwest newsletter and join the conversation at the Homes Gardens of the Northwest on Facebook page.

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Death Row Killer Steven Hayes Is Condemned to Life

“I know what people are going to ask,” Steven Hayes told me, “because I have those same questions.”

When Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled on August 13 that the state could no longer impose the death penalty, calling it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, “no longer serv[ing] any legitimate penological purpose,” I let out a deep breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

The release to the general prison population of the last 11 men awaiting death by lethal injection in Connecticut meant more to me than just the final end in my home state of an ineffectual and often unfairly imposed form of criminal justice and, to my eyes, a debasing way for civil society to punish even its worst offenders. The court also put an end to the absurdity of keeping the last 11 men on Death Row since the State General Assembly had ended capital punishment for all except those condemned to death before April 2012.

The fate of one of those condemned men has never been far from my mind for the past two and a half years. In December 2012 and then in April 2013, I met for a total of six hours with Steven Hayes to talk about one horrible night—July 23, 2007—in Cheshire, Connecticut, not far from my home in New Haven. That was the night he destroyed a family in what would become one of the most sensational crimes in the state’s history, a crime that made Hayes one of the nation’s most reviled criminals.

It was a sunny and unseasonably pleasant early winter day when I first met with Hayes in a small, concrete room directly off Death Row somewhere deep within the Northern Correctional Institute. The squat supermax prison bunker sits amid fields and farms in Somers, a rural town that harbors a massive complex of prisons near the Massachusetts border. Like virtually everyone in Connecticut and beyond, I knew him only as the perpetrator of a horrifically brutal crime. I had plenty of reason to expect I was going to talk to a monster.

The horrifying events that took place in the Cheshire home of Dr. William Petit Jr., his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, through the night and into the morning of July 23, 2007, aren’t in dispute. Hayes, 44 years old at the time, and his accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, then 26, broke into the family’s house where the younger man had earlier in the day targeted the Petits as likely to have money to steal. Komisarjevsky bludgeoned Dr. Petit senseless with a bat as he slept on a day bed. Finding little money, Hayes took Hawke-Petit, 48, to a bank where she withdrew $15,000 from a family account.

Returning to the Petit house, Hayes discovered Komisarjevsky had raped the Petits’ younger daughter, Michaela, age 11, while he was out. Urged on by Komisarjevsky, Hayes then raped Hawke-Petit. During the attack on Hawke-Petit, Komisarjevsky discovered Dr. Petit had fled. Fearing the Petit women would talk, Hayes panicked and fatally strangled Hawke-Petit. After that the men doused the house and the girls, who were tied to their beds, with gasoline originally intended for their getaway vehicle. Then they set the place on fire. The police had been alerted by the bank teller. They stopped the two men as they sought to drive away and arrested them, but too late to stop the flames from consuming the house. The Petit women’s bodies were burned beyond recognition.

The brutal violence in the leafy, well-heeled New Haven suburb, which the New York Times called “one of the most savage crimes in the state in decades,” attracted worldwide press coverage. Books were written; HBO ran a documentary about the Cheshire case. Many compared it to the notorious In Cold Blood murders of nearly half a century earlier. In a state that had executed only one condemned man in more than 50 years, Hayes was sentenced to death in December 2010; Komisarjevsky received the death penalty after his trial the following year. They were the last two men condemned to death in the state’s courts.

Dr. Petit survived the attack and spoke to the press regularly outside the New Haven courthouse during the trials. And political observers say he directly influenced the debate over capital punishment in the state legislature. Most of the state’s legislators favored an end to capital punishment until Petit personally lobbied the General Assembly. A compromise ended future capital cases but left the two men’s death sentences in place, along with those of nine other men waiting to die on Death Row. Although he would likely have had many years, even decades of appeals to come, at the time I met with Hayes, he had every expectation that he would be among the last to die “by state,” as he told me.

Before that first meeting with me, Hayes had not testified or permitted testimony by family or friends on his behalf during his trial. He did not allow submission of potentially mitigating evidence during the punishment phase. He had never spoken publicly about any of the events leading up to that night in Cheshire or about what happened in the Petit home.

Then, after two years on Death Row, Hayes decided he wanted to talk. He intended to write his life story. I am friends with Thomas Ullmann, the New Haven region’s justly renowned chief public defender who represented Hayes during his trial. He arranged for me to meet with Hayes to listen to him and to investigate whether his story might prove publishable.

I have taught a course for prisoners before, some of whom were in for murders. Nonetheless, I felt unnerved coming face to face with a convict I thought of as the worst of the worst. I was shocked by the man the guards brought in to see me.

In the mugshot that accompanied nearly every news report concerning the murders and the trial, Hayes appeared thick necked, with a shaved head, a jowly round face, and a glowering look. The older, bigger, and more menacing looking of the two killers, he was widely reported to be the leader of the night’s violence. Also the first to go on trial, he became the face of what People magazine called “Every Family’s Nightmare.” Dr. Petit told Oprah Winfrey during a nationally televised interview that he could not forgive the pair he called “ultimate evil … the essence of evil.”  

The man I met looked nothing like that. His head was still shaved but at 49, Hayes looked shrunken, brittle, and small within a starched yellow prison jumpsuit. He had lost more than 70 pounds, for which he blamed allergies to the prison food. His paper-white skin hung from his bones so that a dragon tattoo encircled by the handcuffs on his right forearm seemed to writhe as he reached out to shake my hand. He carried a cardboard box crammed with folders filled with notes he had made.

Before he left us alone, the guard chained Hayes’s ankles to the floor at the desk where we sat opposite each other. His cuffed hands moved in parallel each time he picked out a folder from the box, pushed his reading glasses up on his nose, or gestured.

At first he was slow to talk and rarely looked me in the eye. But gradually he warmed and the words spilled out, mostly with barely a question or comment on my part. At times he rambled, perhaps the result of the medications he was taking for anxiety and other psychiatric disorders or possibly from lack of sleep. He said with lights on around the clock in his cell, ill from his food allergies, and noise a constant, he rarely slept.

Hayes told me he started taking drugs as a young teen. “I used drugs to kill pain,” he said. He did not tell me what had happened but said he had suffered some forms of abuse as a child and had had no contact with his father since early childhood. He dropped out of high school. His first arrest came at age 16. “I came out [of detention] and enjoyed it. I partied.” He wasn’t very good at staying out. After that he was arrested 25 more times before his last arrest outside the burning Petit house. Until his final arrest, none of his crimes involved any violence.

But he could not stay off drugs. He said he spent around $100,000 on crack between 2001 and 2003 alone. Then he was arrested again for another car break-in. “I didn’t hit bottom until 2003,” he told me. “Some [addicts] wake up the first morning [after taking drugs] and realize; some like me take 30 years; some die.”

During his penultimate incarceration, he finally got clean. He went to prison addiction recovery meetings where he talked about his life as an addict to the other inmates. “My story reached people,” he said with evident pride. “In prison people came just to see me talk. The meetings were at capacity every time I spoke.” While in jail, he even trained to be an addiction services peer mentor, with designs to help other addicts break free of drugs.

He read recovery literature, but told me at our second meeting about his experience reading A Million Little Pieces, the powerful 2003 bestselling memoir of a narcotics addict that proved to have been heavily fictionalized. He “loved” the book when he first read it, but found the revelation that author James Frey lied throughout “so devastating.” The fact that something so moving and seemingly true was riddled with lies had “shattered” him. He would not do that to other recovering addicts, he insisted: “People base their lives and their recovery on your story. People can die. Look at Cheshire.”


Hayes refused to permit his legal team to mount an adequate defense, even “sabotaged” his cause, he said, “because I didn’t think people would believe it at trial, and I didn’t want my story twisted into what it was not.”

During his trial, he nearly succeeded in killing himself with a massive overdose of the antipsychotic thorazine. “I wanted to die,” he said.

The idea of publishing his life story came to him as a result of the intense interest his case was still eliciting even two years after his sentencing. He said that letters arrived “from all over the world. Most want to know, are you the monster they said you are? Most want an answer to the question, Why? Why did it happen?” He had something to say before—and an audience while at recovery meetings. Now, he felt that he had a much more powerful story to tell but no audience. He hoped his story in book form might reach an audience.

“People may not listen to me, but even if one person does, it’ll save his life. It’s a way to turn this negative into a positive. I need to leave behind me a better legacy than I have. That way when I do die, it’s karma.” At times his red eyes appeared to well up.

He described to me how he had carried out what amounted to his own brand of a recovery meeting, recounting to himself his life story alone in his tiny Death Row cell. He stood virtually nonstop, he said, and spoke to an empty chair. Why the chair? “Addicts,” he explained, “we don’t relate to stories about how it’s going to get better. We do relate to the horror stories. We leave an empty chair [at Narcotics Anonymous meetings] for the ones who died. Everybody looks at the chair and thinks, that will happen to me. I don’t think anybody has a more devastating story than me.”

He walked and spoke to the chair. “It took 29 hours,” he said to recount his entire life. He wrote notes and even drew a map of his childhood neighborhood. “I realized I can’t leave nothing out. Each part leads to the next.”

In winter 2007 Hayes was on parole after serving three years of his five-year sentence. In getting off drugs while in prison, he said, “I fought for recovery just as hard as I fought for drugs.” After parole he went to a Hartford halfway house where he shared a room with Komisarjevsky. The two became friends.

“I got Josh involved in meetings…. I believe his motivations [in attending meetings] were sincere at that point. Mine were.”

That spring, both men, seemingly clean, won release from the halfway house. Hayes went to live in his mother’s small place in Winsted in northwestern Connecticut. Komisarjevsky moved back to the house where he grew up in Cheshire. Both men continued to attend recovery meetings in Hartford. Hayes had a landscaping job and ushered at a Hartford music theater. But, he said, “You need money for a car, insurance, security deposit for an apartment, clothes, phone. A $400 [weekly] paycheck doesn’t go far.” His mother’s car broke down, and he didn’t have enough to repair it. He lost his jobs. He went looking for help. “Everyplace … no, no, no.” He said, “I was giving up.”

He insisted, “If I went out with a firm foundation … Cheshire never would have happened.” Instead, “I started back on my old ways.” He blew his last $700 on crack—smoking three times over a month, he claimed.

Komisarjevsky also had money troubles and, after following Hawke-Petit home one day, called Hayes to join him in breaking into the Petit house. “We had two different agendas,” insisted Hayes. “I needed money. He had other ideas.”

Hayes told me about that night inside the Petit house: “Things were spinning out of control. I was out of my element.” He claimed to have tried to stop things from escalating, but the monster was loosed.

Hayes looked directly at me through his puffy eyes. “Cheshire,” he said, “is the end result of addiction. The monster isn’t Steven Hayes. The monster is the addiction. I was back on drugs only 30 days, and I did one of the worse crimes, and now I’m living in hell.”

While in the Death Row day room, visible through the window where we sat, Hayes said he and Komisarjevsky could see and talk to each other. “I don’t harbor him any ill will,” he claimed. At the arrest interrogation, Hayes said, “he gave a statement putting the crime on me … He threw me under the bus. Since I found out what he was saying, we don’t talk anymore.”

After our second meeting in April 2013, the Connecticut Department of Corrections determined that because I was not officially a member of Hayes’s appeals team, I had no standing to meet with him face-to-face. And he was unwilling to talk to me by intercom through the visitor’s booth glass wall, certain our conversation would be recorded. I haven’t seen him since, though Ullmann has and tells me about him from time to time.

Hayes the addict had never been able to live at peace in the human community. On that terrible night eight years ago in Cheshire, he forfeited any chance that he might live on as just another among the millions of recovering addicts. He insisted to me, “People involved in drugs and alcohol know they’re no different from me.” Spending those hours with him brought home to me that even while waiting for his final moments to arrive—until the court returned him to the general prison population last month—Hayes never lost his humanity.

As he intended his dreamed-of book would do for recovering addicts, Hayes’s story has haunted me now for nearly three years since we last met. I’ve kept my 20 pages of notes from our meetings in a folder on my desk, trying to figure out what message they carried, not just his life story but about the nature of a crime that Dr. Petit rightly termed the “ultimate evil.” Hayes the man and Hayes the addicted monster never managed to coexist. With the monster now permanently contained, perhaps one day Hayes will reconcile himself to the terrible crimes he committed.

During our last meeting, he said to me, “What happened to that family breaks my heart.” That’s not close to adequate payment for what Hayes did to the Petits that awful night in Cheshire, but with the rest of his life ahead of him in prison, it is the only true payment that matters now.

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Winners of the tickets to The Raleigh Home Show

Did you win one of the 10 pairs of tickets to the Raleigh Home Show this weekend?

Read on for the list of winning names and details about the show (including free admission for military on September 11).

The winners are:








Expat in Brazil



Congratulations to all of you! I have sent an e-mail to each of you. Please respond to the e-mail by Thursday, September 10 to claim your tickets. Thanks to everyone who entered and a big thank you to the Raleigh Home Show for donating the tickets!

The Raleigh Home Show Details

The Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center for its fall edition September 11-13, 2015.

On opening day, all active and retired military receive complimentary admission with valid ID.

The show includes remodeling and home improvement ideas, celebrity guests, DIY and interactive seminars, the hottest new products and a towering tree house surrounded by gardens built right inside the building.

Celebrity guests include Kevin O’Connor of PBS’ This Old House and Leanne Lee, Home + Garden Trendsetter of the Year also known as the “Diva of DIY”.

Kevin will share tried-and-true secrets from inside the many seasons of the original PBS series This Old House. As the show’s host, Kevin will bring Raleigh audiences the biggest and best projects and share never aired video and photos from the archives and his private collection. Kevin appears at the show on Friday and Saturday.

Leanne Lee, a blogger and expert in upcycling known as the Diva of DIY, won Marketplace Event’s nationwide search for Home + Garden Trendsetter of the Year, and she’s been sharing creative and trendy ideas with their audiences ever since. Lee will share her ideas of upcycling not only to decorate our personal living spaces but to improve the environment on stage daily throughout the show.

An all new feature at the show is a towering treehouse built right inside the convention center. At the show, guests can escape into a custom treetop mini mansion designed and built by RB landscaping.

Other features include North Carolina’s own Go Girl Shoppe and her Drab to Fab projects – top thrift store finds transformed; an outdoor Autumn Oasis just in time for fall holidays and outdoor entertaining; local and regional experts with home improvement projects and hundreds of exhibitors with the latest home improvement products and services.

Free admission for military on September 11: The show celebrates local heroes on Friday, September 11 with Hero Day at the show – all active and retired military personnel get complimentary admission with valid ID (offer only for military with ID, and only on Friday).

Show Hours

Friday, September 11: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m

Saturday, September 12: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sunday, September 13: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance tickets are available at

For more information, please visit

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Nashville Lawn and Garden Show announces 2016 dates

Online Contact Form
615-444-1358 (fax)
402 N. Cumberland St.
Lebanon, TN 37087

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Thursday’s Green Thumb Gardening Tips lecture in Port Angeles will examine how …


Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Selinda Barkhuis will discuss how gardeners can attract hummingbirds to their gardens all year long during a Green Thumb Gardening Tips presentation at noon Thursday.

The lecture will be in the county commissioners boardroom (160) at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St.

The presentation is free and open to the public but donations will be accepted to help cover copying costs for handouts.

Attendees are invited to bring lunch.

Barkhuis will talk about meeting hummingbirds’ needs for nectar, small insects, nesting areas, cover and water.

She will explain native plants that are closely intertwined with the life cycle of Rufous hummingbirds as well as the best perennials for helping Anna’s hummingbirds survive year-round on the Olympic Peninsula.

She also will talk about growing scarlet runner beans, a pole bean that is a favorite food source for hummingbirds, and demonstrate how to winterize a hummingbird feeder so that it stays defrosted through the worst of winter.

Barkhuis, who serves as Clallam County treasurer, has been gardening the backyard, front yard and side yards of her urban lot in central Port Angeles for the last 15 years.

Her garden, which focuses on organic vegetables and fruit — as well as flowers for hummingbirds — was featured in the 2012 Master Gardener’s Petals and Pathway Garden Tour.

Green Thumb Gardening Tips is a brown bag educational series sponsored by the Clallam County WSU Master Gardeners.

It is presented on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the courthouse.

For more information, call 360-417-2279.

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