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Archives for October 2015

First Impressions: Citizens suggest ways to improve Keyser

Posted Oct. 30, 2015 at 4:37 PM
Updated Oct 30, 2015 at 5:11 PM

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The progress the city of Kokomo has made

My wife and I will celebrate a special occasion this week; we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary as Kokomo residents. We closed on our house on South Courtland on Halloween of 2005.

In the last 10 years, our adopted city has changed nearly as much as our family has. Kokomo no longer takes a backseat to anyone in terms of quality of life, innovative governance, or community pride. On the other hand, our backseat is now occupied by two rambunctious little boys. Times change.

Ten years ago in Kokomo, there was only a limited amount of activities. The concerts were non-existent. The restaurant scene was dominated by chains and franchises, and the only “trail” in Kokomo consisted of a single white line on the side of a park street. The city was stagnant enough that our new neighbors skeptically asked why we even moved here.

So much has changed in our 10 years here that it is hard to know where to start. The Performing Arts Pavilion was created, and now free concerts draw thousands of people every weekend during the summer. Trails have exploded all over the city, giving space for runners and cyclists to roam (and creating hundreds of new cyclists in the process). Local restaurants and bars have opened up, driven by skilled chefs and mixologists. New shops and small businesses line the streets, selling eclectic wares and employing hundreds.

Public art and landscaping create a sense of place and pride. We can all “Get Jacked” watching games at the new stadium. Kokomo is a city that other communities look to for ideas and innovative practices. In short: Kokomo is now 36 square miles of kinetic energy.

This transformation didn’t happen by accident. Kokomo is a better place to live because a lot of leaders made the right decisions. The single unifying theme of this transformation is the bold vision and leadership of Mayor Greg Goodnight. His passion for Kokomo is seen in every neighborhood and reflected by nearly every organization and institution in this community.

His ability to create a holistic vision for a city is exactly what you need in the mayor’s office. Goodnight had to make tough decisions, and he had to relentlessly focus on making Kokomo a great place to live and work.

Anyone who has spent time around Mayor Goodnight knows that he doesn’t take credit for the ideas that revived Kokomo. His ideas usually come from economists, urban planners, business leaders, and community groups. Mayor Goodnight takes these ideas and creates a space for others to fulfill their passions. A new YMCA, the Buckeye Street renaissance, Indiana University-Kokomo’s emergence as a destination campus, the growing local tech and marketing scene, shuttered factories reopening, and a growing population did not happen in a vacuum. These positive developments stem from Goodnight’s vision for Kokomo. That is why I support his re-election, and why I will be proudly voting for him.

Mayor Goodnight is unique in his ability to hone in on ideas, create consensus, and execute a plan to improve our community, but he cannot do it alone. He needs a strong, community minded city council to work with. So, if you like what you see around Kokomo, if you like new jobs, new businesses and new amenities, then we need your support for Mike Kennedy, Steve Whikehart, and Bob Hayes for Council At-Large. Additionally, we need to re-elect Mike Wyant, Bob Cameron, Janie Young, and Donnie Haworth to the City Council.

Kokomo is cleaner, safer, and more fun than ever before. Let’s keep up the progress by supporting Greg Goodnight and our council leaders.

My neighborhood has changed, too; the neighbors no longer react skeptically when someone moves in. Ten years ago we were the only young couple in the neighborhood. Now there are seven young families with children on our block alone. This is a beautiful sign of where our city is headed. Kokomo is growing, and we need to make sure that we support those who are committed to helping it grow.

Tharp is chairman of the Howard County Democratic Party.

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YMCA becomes green certified

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

This story appears in the fall 2015 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

A prolonged drought is transforming San Diegans’ perceptions of sustainable landscaping, and that presents new challenges for the people who maintain one of the most beautiful campuses in Southern California.

“We have to change the mindset of landscape management at San Diego State University and do it fast,” said Josh Koss, recently hired for the new position of manager, landscape services.

Along well-travelled pathways bordering the SDSU Library and the new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, thirsty shrubs have been replaced by colorful succulent gardens. Drought-tolerant lantana and ornamental grasses add color to the area outside the trolley station without adding to campus water consumption.

These examples of water-wise landscaping are just a piece of the comprehensive drought response plan to cut back water use on the 280-acre campus. In the January through August period, SDSU’s water consumption fell 12 percent from 2014 to 2015—the result of a strategy that includes reusing runoff from SDSU’s cogeneration plant, collecting rainwater in storage tanks for irrigating the campus and changing out toilets, shower heads and sink aerators across campus.

The conservation efforts have been led by Facilities Services, but next spring, SDSU students will take a turn at converting a 60-by-80-foot grass area on campus into a little piece of sustainable paradise. Diana Gauss Richardson, a geography department lecturer and adviser, is restructuring her Recreational Land Use class into a laboratory for experiential learning.

Guided by Richardson and a professional landscape architect, students will find a grassy space at SDSU that’s underutilized and redesign it with drought-tolerant plants, trees, benches, tile and stones.

“We’ll talk about what makes a space appealing and how we can create that appeal while reducing the amount of water, chemicals, fertilizer and even the energy used by lawn mowers,” Richardson said.

Eventually, students will work with Facilities Services to physically make over the space, supported by a $28,000 grant from the California State University Chancellor’s Office that was submitted jointly by Richardson, Koss and Tom Abram, assistant director for campus sustainability.

There is precedent for student involvement in beautifying Montezuma Mesa. For years, students in Michael Simpson’s biology lab have planted and tended campus gardens within SDSU’s Mediterranean Garden, from which they harvest samples to study in class.

But the endeavor between Richardson’s geography students and Facilities Services takes campus collaboration to a new level, and at a time when students increasingly care about sustainability.

“Our aesthetics are informed by our ethics,” Abram said. “We want SDSU to be a leader in conserving water and adapting to our changing climate conditions.” 

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Sioux Falls City Council to revisit boulevard landscaping

SIOUX FALLS – Many Sioux Falls homeowners like to brighten up their sidewalks by landscaping their boulevards.

The little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb has become a growing problem.

Anyone who drives around Sioux Falls neighborhoods may see flowers, vegetables, or rocks in the boulevards of some homes.

Legally, the only thing which should be there is green grass, but a rarely enforced city ordinance is about to be reinforced.

Concerned citizen and homeowner Teresa Stehly has alerted fellow homeowners with a green thumb that trouble might be growing next to their curbs.

“We just think the public needs to be aware that this is happening. We are hoping that they will contact the city council members, and let them know that they need to just encourage people to continue to beautify this area,” Stehly said.

Sioux Falls City Council plans to revisit and refine a rarely enforced city ordinance which bans any type of landscaping in the strip of land known as the boulevard.

“As this thing gains momentum, we’re concerned that they’re going to be having people rip out the landscaping that they have so lovingly, and so carefully put into those areas,” Stehly said.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Jamison said “they are at risk. The issue right now is, is that the city council has said yes, let’s review this. It’s in our land use committee. We’re going to analyze it, try to figure out the best solution going forward.”

Homeowners aren’t the only ones landscaping in the boulevard, the city also has planted a few of its own curbside gardens.

“How can the city come back then and say residents can’t have this but we will,” Stehly said.

“Properties that the city owns or maintains, say down by the library for instance, any changes or requirements, the city I’m sure will be the first one to make the changes to fall in compliance,” Jamison said.

Jamison wants to ensure landscaping doesn’t become a visual or physical barrier.

“All things, I think are going to circle back to, what’s safe. How can we do this, how can we allow people to grow vegetables, grow flowers, do some landscaping but all do it in a safe way,” Jamison said.

Stehly made note of more than 400 addresses of homes around town with landscaped boulevards. Her postcard campaign advises homeowners to protect their boulevard garden by contacting city council.

Jamison said he hopes city council can resolve any concerns about boulevard landscaping within the next few months so homeowners can be ready to start gardening by springtime.

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Tom Karwin, On Gardening: Avoiding the accidental landscape

As we await El Niño rains, the Monterey Bay area’s familiar rainy season is already late in starting, and we feel the pull of long-term perspectives on gardening.

Let’s consider landscaping with succulents plants, which are gaining appeal for their interesting foliage forms and colors, ease of cultivation and propagation and of course drought tolerance.

Many succulent plants can hold their own in the garden as specimens or aesthetic statements, but when we group several plants, they relate to one another in various ways and we have a landscape, either by design or by chance.

Landscaping by chance is often popular, but with a little planning, gardeners can succeed with more deliberate methods.

Designing with plants involves individual preferences and styles, which we always respect. There are, however, a few broad guidelines to consider.

The first of these is “taller plants in back,” which is about visibility. Take the time to learn the mature height of each plant. Visit for a list of popular succulent plants by height, from succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin.

Another organizing guideline is to group plants by their watering needs. This technique, called hydrozoning, works with nature (always a good idea!) and makes garden maintenance easier.

Using this technique requires knowing the watering needs of the succulent plants in your landscape. All succulent plants need some water, particularly during their growth periods. They need much less during dormancy.

The two broad categories of succulent plants are the “winter dormant,” or plants that grow during the spring and summer, and the “summer dormant,” those that grow mostly during the fall through early spring. For lists of these plants, browse to, scroll down to “culture guide,” then click on “dormancy.”

The landscape designer also could group plants by county of origin. Such grouping is a step toward creating plant communities, which are combinations of plants that are found in natural settings. Such combinations reflect the plants’ common needs for soil, exposure, climate and other factors. Gardening in this way involves detailed cultivation methods. Grouping plants by country of origin is relatively easy, while respecting nature and developing an interesting landscape. The avid gardener can discover a plant’s country of origin from some books and plant labels, or by entering the plant’s botanical name on Wikipedia.

Finally, consider combining succulent plants with grasses, which are another category of drought-tolerant plants. Grasses typically respond to severely dry conditions by going dormant, rather than by storing moisture, and grass-succulent combinations are seen in natural settings. The benefit of combining succulents and grasses is primarily in the aesthetic effect of contrasting the succulent’s fleshiness with the grass’s wispiness. To learn more about grasses, see the book, “The American Meadow Garden” (2009), by John Greenlee and Saxon Holt.

For more comprehensive guidance, Debra Lee Baldwin’s book, “Designing with Succulents” (2007), provides inspiring ideas for planning your own succulent garden area.

Preparing for long-term water shortages certainly includes defensive strategies, but your preparations can include landscaping with succulents as an absorbing and creative exercise.

Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). Visit for links to information on this subject, and send comments or questions to

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Head to Battersea for expert gardening tips

January 19 – February 9

Award-winning garden designer Lucy Summers is holding four weekly sessions of Beginners Gardening workshops at her Battersea gardening school that will run from Tuesday January 19, 10.30-12.30, to Tuesday February 9th at a cost of £235. 

Other workshops for the New Year, starting at £55, include plants for problem places, organic gardening, new plants for free and square-metre salads with edible flowers.

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Pumpkin Carving Tips from a Decoy Master’s Daughter

When Jess Pahl was young, her father, Lowcountry decoy carver Tom Boozer, passed on his love of whittling to his daughter—only her preferred medium was slightly different than his: Instead of wooden ducks, she carved pumpkins. “I have always loved carving them,” Pahl says. “I’ve done everything from haunted houses and forests to owls.” In the beginning, she learned to carve using Boozer’s buck and fillet knives (the larger blade to pierce and remove large chunks, the thinner blade for precision cutting and detail work). Over time, however, Pahl perfected her own technique, and graduated from hunting and kitchen knives to a set geared specifically for pumpkins. But, she says, the knives are only half of the equation when it comes to carving. How you approach your design—and what you do to preserve it after—matter just as much. Here are Pahl’s five tips for rendering an expert-looking, longer-lasting pumpkin this Halloween.

We used Jess Pahl’s tips to carve our own Good Dog pumpkin. (Photo by Margaret Houston)

1. Don’t just wing it. Unless you’re a skilled artist, freehanded cuts are tricky. Instead, trace your design onto the outside of the pumpkin in pencil, then use the point of a knife or even a nail to make tiny dots along the lines. “That way,” Pahl says, “when you carve, it’s just like connecting the dots.”

2. Embrace the shade. Whereas the cut-out portions define your design, the shaded areas lend texture and detail and amp up what Pahl calls “the spooky effect.” To shade, simply cut through the pumpkin skin and peel back the outer layers without cutting all the way through the pumpkin wall. (Further scraping the inside of the pumpkin after you’re done will ensure maximum light shines through.)

3. Dunk your pumpkin. After you carve the pumpkin, submerge the entire thing in a bucket filled with one gallon of water and one teaspoon of bleach. Then, allow it to dry upside down. The bleach solution will kill bacteria that cause the pumpkin to spoil and discourage any new gunk from growing.

4. Seal the edges. When you’ve finished dunking and drying your jack-o-lantern, grab a tub of Vaseline. Yep, that’s right. Swiping Vaseline along the carved edges not only helps your design pop, it also keeps your pumpkin from drying out prematurely.

5. Keep it fresh. You know those little silica gel packets that come in the bottom of shoeboxes? The ones you usually throw away? Well, don’t, Pahl says. They are essentially mini dehumidifiers, absorbing all the moisture around them. Drop one inside your pumpkin (staying well away from any flame) to further prevent mold growth and keep your masterpiece fresh for the duration.

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A moving story: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on transplanting trees and shrubs

The roots would be wrapped in a lump of hessian sacking and I’d be instructed to soak them in a bucket of water before planting.

Nowadays, such experiences are a rarity and most of us plant container-grown stock rather than bothering with the bare-root kind, but I reckon that can be a mistake.For a start, bare-root plants are cheaper – they have not needed the watering, the care and attention demanded by container-grown plants which, inevitably, puts up their prices. 

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‘Rock star’ designer coming to local botanical garden

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Piet Oudolf is an international star where gardens are concerned. Here he is being interviewed at Delaware Botanical Gardens on Sunday, Oct. 18. Oudolf has agreed to transform approximately 1.5 acres into a flowing meadow at the gardens.Considered a “rock star” of landscape design, Piet Oudolf has headlined in gardens worldwide. And he’s coming soon to Dagsboro.

With a thick shock of white hair, this Dutch master of meadows toured Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) the first time on Oct. 18. Located on Pepper Creek, the 37 acres of forest and former soybean fields are waiting to become a world-class public garden a mile east of Dagsboro. Plans call for the first phase to open in 2017.

Oudolf has agreed to transform about 1.5 acres into a colorful, rippling meadow.

“Oudolf is becoming recognized as one of the most transformative garden designers of our time,” stated landscape architect Rodney Robinson. “His influence spans an international scale. I can’t think of a better garden designer to launch the Delaware Botanic Gardens.”

Oudolf’s association with the garden will increase its visibility, said Holly Shimizu, former executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

“It’s wonderful to have someone as well known and as experienced as he is. … His work will bring large numbers of people to come,” Shimizu said.

“We want to build enthusiasm, build support,” Shimizu said. “[We’re trying] to get people excited about the natural beauty of Delaware.”

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Piet Oudolf takes a look around at the area he plans to sculpt into a meadow at the Delaware Botanical Gardens in Dagsboro.Oudolf liked the garden’s goal of using mostly native plants, which he’s aimed for in designing for the High Line in Manhattan, Millennium Park in Chicago, The Battery in Manhattan, Trentham Gardens in the U.K. and many more.

Oudolf said he was especially attracted to the public nature of DBG.

“My work is for sharing,” the designer said. It’s rare for a beautiful tract of land to have the resources to publicly become what the botanic board envisions, he noted.

But that’s why the Sussex County Land Trust leased the land to the garden for dirt-cheap ($1 annually for 99 years). The land will be used by those “who have a greater vision,” said Dennis Forney, head of SCLT.

But Oudolf said the people are just as important as the land, since they’re the ones who will maintain the garden in perpetuity.

Beauty in the meadow

Board member Diane Maddex was blown away when she first saw videos of Oudolf’s “ethereal” Vlinderhof butterfly garden waving in the wind.

“He takes native grasses, and he adds color in the most imaginative ways,” Maddex said of the Netherlands garden.

Oudolf has co-authored several books, which sit in the Annapolis office of landscape architect Meredith Beach.

“The way he puts plant combinations together are incredible … very inspired, very proactive and very colorful,” Beach said. “They’re meadows, but they’re very designed meadows, so they look natural but controlled, so lots of color, lots of activity and texture.”

When Forney, her father, allowed her to come to the garden for Oudolf’s visit, Beach was delighted to potentially see his entire gardening process from start to finish.

“Seeing sort of how his mind puts it all together … there’s so much complexity, so many layers come together to make a designed meadow,” Beach said. “He’s probably the most famous landscape designer that there is. So to have one of his creations [here] is unbelievable. … His designs are iconic. They’ll be landmarks, just like the High Line is.”

The garden will also become a place for landscape architects and designers to learn.

The artist at work

Pausing to look at plants and chat with guests, Oudolf moved through the gardens on his own timetable. While his hosts discussed a soil test, Oudolf walked slowly, snapping photos and just starting to understand the place. He wasn’t ready to announce any big plans yet.

“Do you have any idea when you come somewhere for the first time?” Oudolf said. “The fact is that it’s just impressions that you have. … I’m always sort of blank, open, don’t think too much the first time, just let it come.”

Eventually, his ideas will start to layer upon each other.

Oudolf said he wants people to “feel part of” his creations, although everyone feels something different.

“What does it do to people? Some people see it more as just a nice place, and other people see it as a very emotional place, some people see it as a very interesting place.”

“His work looks so effortless, but it’s so hard for anyone to recreate what he does, and that’s what separates him,” Beach said.

Hovering at the edges is filmmaker Thomas Piper, who is finishing a documentary on Oudolf.

“He lives up to this sort-of romantic notion of an artist. He works by himself, he has no office, he works in his studio alone,” Piper said. “But I think … this is just his outlet. He found his medium. It happened to be plants. To me, it’s no different than being a painter, sculptor or photographer.”

Piper had previously wrapped filming in February. But Oudolf thought the film could end with the start of Delaware’s garden.

“Maybe this is the end of the film and the beginning of something else,” Oudolf said.

“We just have attracted some wonderful people to this project, and it just continues,” said DBG Board of Directors Member Ray Sander.

Oudolf only learned about the project a few months ago. One DBGer was Facebook friends with Oudolf and broached the idea with him. After chatting with the board via Skype, Oudolf added a 24-hour detour to an existing U.S. trip.

After the more formal tour and introduction on Oct. 18, he enjoyed a second, more leisurely stroll the next morning.

Oudolf has informally agreed to work on the garden’s design, with the more official documents to be signed in the coming weeks. But it will cost some money to get a world-class designer involved.

“This signature Oudolf meadow presents a special naming opportunity for a donor who wants to support this central feature of the Delaware Botanic Gardens,” the board stated. “All contributions to making this meadow a reality in the next few years are equally welcome.”

For more information on the gardens, membership and donations, visit or

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