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Archives for October 11, 2015

This Gorgeous Backyard Treehouse, Complete With a Bicycle Elevator, Is a …

In 1999, when he was 8 years old, Ethan and his family moved to an 8½-acre plot on the outskirts of Sandpoint, Idaho, near the Kaniksu National Forest, a lush 1.6 million acres that spill across Idaho, Washington, and Montana. Nestled along a creek, the family’s land was full of fragrant evergreens, conifers, and deciduous trees: grand fir, white pine, hemlock, western larch, western redcedar, cottonwood, Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, and Rocky Mountain maple.

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Candidate Q&A – Todd Pullen, Avondale Estates City Commission

Todd Pullen. Photo by Jonathan Phillips contacted every candidate running for office in Decatur and Avondale Estates and provided them with a list of questions. Todd Pullen is running for election to the Avondale Estates City Commission.

Here are his responses: 

1) Why are you running for this position?

Avondale Estates is my home and I care deeply about its future. This city is going through some significant growing pains in the forms of Development, Population and Education. I have never been one to sit on the sidelines and talk about what should be done. I jump in and make things happen. I have been involved with the city with various roles since I moved here in 2002, most notably ten years on the Historic Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board. This position is a natural progression where I think I can make a more significant positive impact on our community.

2) What makes you the most qualified candidate for the job?

There are several reasons that make me the candidate most qualified for the job:

I have lived in Avondale Estates for over 13 years. I  lived in and developed the Locust Lofts, the only multi-family development in the business district, up until the last 10 months.  Over that period I became deeply engrossed with the business district, which many of us also know as “Ingleside.” I have gained friendships with many of the business owners who have come and gone. I have witnessed firsthand the successes and failures of our business district. I have experienced the business district as a walking community. There were periods of time when I would only use my car on weekends. Avondale Estates cannot consistently support this way of living in its existing state. The dynamic is therefore constantly changing. I have been mentally developing a plan on how to make it better since day one. Now is the time to share that vision with the rest of the City!

My daily occupation is in high-end residential design and landscape design.  The different facets of the multi-million dollar projects I work with parallel the functions of many of the City’s planning processes.  I take ideas from napkin sketches and turn them into physical brick and mortar, controlling budgets and supervising contractors, working within zoning confines until a tangible product is achieved.  It is going to take this sort of skill set to help lead our city through this period of growth.

I have a keen eye for building design and aesthetics.  I think this is an expertise our board has lacked until the presence of Mayor Elmore.  There needs to be more of this proficiency though, it is crucial that our business district retain a cohesive aesthetic, and remain connected to the town centers being developed around us. Decisions about this need to be made now and clearly presented during planning to avoid costly adjustments in the future.

It was also my design skills and passion for our city that led me to almost immediately join the Historic Preservation Commission.  This commission helped hone my skills in design. I was ecstatic to participate in many continuing education courses on Historic Preservation as well as Urban Development.  These classes introduced me to many leaders in these professions who I still am in touch with today. These relationships will be quite valuable to our city. The Historic Preservation Commission also introduced me to many of our City’s citizens. I heard first-hand accounts of our City’s history beginning with a resident from the Homestead that pre-dates Avondale Estates through entertaining accounts from some of our most known staples of the community like Ray Belcher, of Rays TV and Rays Indian Originals. But there were difficult parts of the position as well. I was a successful mediator when the meetings were not so sentimental. That is a difficult position to be in when everyone is your friend and neighbor. My ability to remain a neutral and just  party when emotions are high enabled me to resolve conflicts , devise plans that work toward linking both sides together, and to work toward the greater good for all. We have to remember to look at the big picture.

As a part of the HPC I also participated in the draft of our Historic Preservation Guidelines, the rewriting of the Preservation Ordinance and the creation of the Architectural Review Board and Ordinance.  I worked alongside the other boards such as Planning and Zoning to help modernize our Zoning ordinance.

Perhaps some of my greatest experience with the board, that I believe will be vital to this commissioner position is that I was on the HPC and ARB when Century/AG/Armstrong came through with their development plans.  I am extremely well versed in how to visualize, read and communicate our current master plans.  I know what it is that developers have to offer, and what we have to offer as a city.

3) Proposals to annex more property into the city of Avondale Estates could be revisited over the next four years. Do you support annexing more property into the city? 

This was probably the single most position that determined the last election, and I do not see it going away until all of unincorporated DeKalb is eaten up, especially in light of DeKalb’s most recent headlines. Annexation seemed more lucrative when there was opportunity to annex commercial property.  I need some strong documentation to support a different initiative. I think it is even more important to include the entire City in this decision. There is some fear in the neighborhood that annexation will diminish certain amenities our city has to offer and that it has the potential of changing the dynamic of our community. If annexation is to happen we need to make sure we have policy in place to keep what makes the current residential neighborhood special special. The fact of the matter is that we are due to radically change our population with or without annexation, which does not ease this fear. I think the roles of Historic Preservation Commision, the Architectural Review Board and the Planning and Zoning Commission need to be a major part of this discussion outside of the financial implications.

4) As a city commissioner, what will you do to support and improve educational opportunities in the city of Avondale Estates?

Everything I have the power to do. It pains me to hear of people who leave the neighborhood because their child was not able to enroll at the Museum School. The Museum School has been a wonderful solution for many residents, but it is only a band aid, not a panacea. It starts with parents getting involved. We need more to do so. One of the benefits of population growth is that more people means more families. Perhaps one day this will make a difference. We need to be persistent and stay the course.  I  love the idea of a possible partnership with the Decatur School System, and with our needs and their growing needs, take back some of the vacant schools around. There is so much potential! I think this would mean taking the issue to the state level. I am honestly not sure how realistic that is, but one has to dream big to make things happen.

5) The development of the Euramex project will be a big issue facing city leaders over the next four years. Do you have any concerns about this development, and what will you do to ensure it balances the needs of the developer with the needs of residents?

I love our downtown business district. This is the main reason I am running for this position. I am a perfect candidate to facilitate this process for many of the reasons I have already mentioned. This is the opportunity to make our city stand out in the metro area for the next hundred years. Euramex needs to step up to the plate and make us proud. The East Decatur Station and Kensington Marta Station developments have raised the bar. Euramex has yet to give the public anything to which we can relate. I have not gotten a warm feeling about them from our current BOMC either. If we are to make concessions with Euramex,we need them to present us with a more holistic vision. They need to offer something for the whole city, not just the most desirable property frontage on North Avondale.

6) The downtown business district has grown over the last few years. As a commissioner, what will you do to support the continued development and growth of the downtown business district?

We have four acres that can be used in many different ways to help support the business district. Out of this four acres I think we need at least two for a central green. I would love to have select businesses surround the green; places that make people loiter, like restaurants and galleries. Outside of the green we need businesses that operate during regular business hours so that the traffic is not an increased burden on the neighborhood. It needs to be a balanced appealing destination.  Again, this is going to prove to be even more difficult to find this formula with the surrounding developments proceeding at such a rapid pace, but I am excited about it and will be a part of making it happen no matter what the outcome of this race.

7) What do you think Avondale Estates should do to address the need for additional parking near the downtown business district? 

I believe the best plan for adding accessible parking is to break it up in pockets. It should offer shade and reprieve through decorative and purposeful landscaping. This type of plan has a proven successful throughout history. It’s much more beautiful than larger clusters of concrete parking lots.  I have already mentally placed many such parking pockets on my many walks through the business district.  Perhaps part of our plan with the four acres is to work with developers to help realize this goal. I have heard of ideas of a building a parking deck behind City Hall. Such an idea is so disconnected from where the need is. Parking decks aside from being an eyesore, are expensive to build, and expensive to maintain. I do not think it would really help our business district grow.

8) Over the last few years, concerns have arisen about the level of transparency from city officials. Do you have concerns about the transparency of Avondale’s government? If so, what would you do to make city government more transparent and accountable to residents?

Timing is key. . I vow to be completely transparent. I prefer to listen, then react to the public. While I have my own ideas about how I would like to see this city grow, it is everyone’s city and I will merely be its servant.

9) Avondale Estates is a historic district. Do you support the current historic preservation standards, or do you think they need to be revisited?

I gave ten years of my time to the HPC. I left the HPC because I did not think it was practicing pure Historic Preservation, yet I firmly believe it is one of the most important boards to preserve the character of our community. As the city grows, I do think we need to constantly evaluate whether or not the guidelines are meeting our needs and adjust them as necessary. I commend this board and all that they have to do. This board as well as the Architectural Review Board is critical to keeping Avondale Estates special.

10) What are your feelings about the current effort to upgrade and renovate Willis Park? 

Part of the upgrade was to revitalize a park to give it appeal again. The kids from the Museum School gave it the love it needed again. Perhaps we spent a bit too much on it, given that it had found the love it needed. We could have shared the wealth with other green spaces. Ultimately I am glad it is happening though.

11) If elected, do you promise to behave in an ethical and transparent manner?

I have often been told I am too honest. I will be completely transparent. I understand that sometimes it is the timing that is important. I hope I can hold back when it is needed.

The election is Nov. 3 and early voting begins on Oct. 12.

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Advocates push city of Seattle to use orphan properties for affordable housing

You see them all over Seattle and wonder how they could be improved.

They seem almost a waste — underused, short of their potential, perhaps available to offer others some help.

The city of Seattle owns 210 such properties deemed surplus, excess or underutilized.

What Is affordable housing?

City, state and federal policies on affordable housing start with the premise no one should spend more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing.

Policies then focus on area median income (AMI). Let’s say a policy is aimed at tenants below 60 percent of the AMI. For a single person that means income below $37,680.

That translates into an affordable rent of no more than $1,008 for a one-bedroom apartment, including utilities.

If two or more people make up a household, or if a household needs two or more bedrooms, the incomes and rents change accordingly.

Advocates with divergent politics are pushing City Hall to use these orphan properties for affordable housing.

In response, members of Mayor Ed Murray’s staff say they’re doing it to some degree and will consider using more surplus parcels for housing. But they are skeptical about the advocates’ more ambitious ideas, such as using the city’s credit card to build affordable housing on orphan lands, or reinstating the city’s Growth Fund, which once dedicated a portion of new construction taxes to low-income housing.

Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), is still pushing. Lee said she was scrambling on a recent Friday to find weekend shelter for a family with a 3-day-old infant. City and King County officials told her in emails they were sorry, but they had nothing to offer.

State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, and LIHI architect Mike Pyatok personally paid to put the family in a hotel for the weekend, Lee said. “That’s a totally unacceptable situation,” she said.

Murray’s 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee recommended the city prioritize its surplus properties for affordable housing. The city could develop housing on the properties, the committee said, or sell them and steer proceeds to affordable housing.

Lee, City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Roger Valdez, an advocate for builders, have called for a bolder step. They argue the city should use its borrowing, or bonding capacity, to finance affordable-housing developments on its underutilized land.

Some of these lands are undeveloped and intended for landscaping, drainage, green space and roadways never built. Others have structures once or still used as fire stations, sign-making shops or senior centers.

But a recent report to the City Council cast doubts on that idea.

The city now has bonding capacity of $1 billion, budget director Ben Noble said. But borrowing that amount could hurt the city’s AAA bond rating, he said. That could lead to higher interest rates on city debt.

And, the city would still need to find funds — new or redirected from existing uses — to pay off the debt. Rents from affordable apartments would not cover the costs of developing and maintaining new buildings.

Using the model of a 100-unit building, with rents affordable to incomes ranging from low to moderate, rents would cover just 47 percent of the project’s debt and operating costs, according to the report. That would leave such a building needing an annual subsidy of $1.4 million.

A smaller building could be used as a model, Noble said, but some cost efficiencies come with buildings closer to 100 units.

Land for such projects isn’t as plentiful as you might think. The city’s Office of Housing screened out parcels smaller than 15,000 square feet, reasoning that a 100-unit building needed about that much space. It also excluded parcels owned by Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities because assets of those ratepayer-funded agencies can’t lawfully be used for purposes such as housing without the city paying fair-market value for the land.

That leaves just 33 of the city’s 210 underused properties that could be considered for sizable apartment buildings, according to city officials. “The point is, there’s not ginormous amounts of free land out there,” said Miriam Roskin, Office of Housing deputy director.

Some of those 33 sites may not be suitable because they lack access to public transit, or are in areas not zoned for housing, Roskin said.

Lee believes the Murray administration skewed its review of the proposal.

Financing models need not presume all apartments in a building would be subsidized, she said. A project could mix market-rate and affordable units, to increase rent revenues and decrease subsidies.

The city could also look at much smaller buildings, including existing single-family homes, as a way to cut the costs of affordable housing, she said. She pointed to a city-owned vacant four-bedroom Capitol Hill house, which had housed teen parents, as an example.

And, she said, Murray has not advanced one of the HALA recommendations calling for the city to reinstate its Growth Fund, which was eliminated in 2002. The fund used a formula to calculate tax revenues tied to new construction downtown and used a share of those revenues to rehabilitate and develop low-income housing.

Murray staff members say they’re looking for more creative ways to fund affordable housing, and making progress. Only Los Angeles and New York have more housing for the homeless than the Seattle area, said Viet Shelton, the mayor’s spokesman.

With a “linkage fee” on development and a proposal to double the city’s $149 million Housing Levy, Murray is seeking new and expanded sources of funding for affordable housing, Shelton said, “in a way that doesn’t threaten, or isn’t at the expense of general fund programs.”

The mayor’s proposed fees on development alone are estimated to collect about $540 million over 10 years, Shelton said.

Although the City Council and mayor have not set a policy of prioritizing surplus lands for affordable housing, the city has been doing it in practice, Shelton said.

Murray announced in August the city had sold a parcel at Sixth Avenue South and Yesler Way for $1.4 million to a developer. The developer agreed to keep all the apartments in the building affordable to moderate-wage earners for 50 years.

The city is now selling the house on Capitol Hill that Lee pointed to as vacant. The council voted to dedicate proceeds from the sale to affordable housing.

As for the Growth Fund, it was eliminated after the city was constrained by a law limiting property tax increases to 1 percent a year, unless otherwise approved by voters, said Robert Feldstein, Murray’s top policy adviser.

Murray’s new development fee and his proposed inclusionary zoning — which requires new residential buildings to either include affordable units or pay a fee in lieu — are carrying out the goals of the old Growth Fund, but without using city tax revenues.

HALA members were told to consider all ideas, Feldstein said. But they did so “without making tough choices” about competing interests for city funds, he said.

“The question now is what are the available tools we have to shrink the gap between rents and city debt obligation,” Sawant said. “And my office will be looking at these closely.”

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Try experimenting with garlic varieties – Tribune

Next week is garlic planting time at my house. Mid-October is the perfect time to settle the cloves into the soil for their long winter nap. In spring, green spouts will emerge and the bulbs will begin to form. By mid-July, the garlic will be ready to harvest.

One of my favorite things to do is try different garlic varieties. Much like a Brandywine tomato differs in flavor from an Early Girl, each garlic cultivar has a subtly distinct flavor. It’s fun to experiment in the kitchen and discover what flavor each variety can lend to a dish.

When selecting which garlic varieties to add to your garden, think about whether they’re hardneck or softneck types.

Hardnecks are more cold-hardy than softnecks. They produce the curled flower stalk, or scapes (which are great to use in the kitchen).

Hardneck types are great for northern gardeners, but they only store for a few months. Hardneck garlics produce about eight to 10 cloves per head.

There are hundreds of named hardneck garlic varieties, and the diversity they offer the kitchen is unparalleled. There are so many unique flavors.

Many softneck garlic varieties aren’t as cold-hardy as the hardnecks, but they’re great for braiding because the stalks are more flexible. Harvested softneck garlics store for a long time, sometimes as long as nine months. Softnecks do not form a scape and produce more cloves per head. There are only a few dozen named softneck garlic varieties.

No matter what type of garlic you choose, they should be planted in well-drained soil that has been amended with compost. The best pH for bulb development is between 6.0 and 7.0.

To plant garlic, crack the head apart and separate it into individual cloves. Leave the papery tunics intact. Plant the cloves about 6 inches apart and 2 inches deep. Separate your rows by 10 to 12 inches. Once planting is complete, mulch the area with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter. I use straw or shredded leaves.

There’s not much else to do to properly care for your garlic, except make sure the area stays free of weeds. In May or June, snap off the scapes from any hardneck garlic varieties as they form. This will divert energy back to the bulb.

In July, when the plants have turned about halfway yellow, pull the garlic and hang it in a cool, well-ventilated place to cure for two weeks. Then cut off the stalks and store the heads in a brown paper bag or a mesh bag in a dark location. Alternatively, you can braid softneck types when the stalks are still flexible and hang them in a well-ventilated, cool area out of direct sunlight.

Here are some of my favorite garlic varieties. Look for them at your local garden center or farmers market, or buy them online from, or

Hardneck varieties

Music: This mid-season garlic produces well in my garden, making many thick, white- and pink-skinned cloves. It has a traditional garlic flavor and is very cold tolerant.

Mt. Hood: Producing huge heads with large cloves, this variety is easy to peel. I think the flavor is a little more mild than some of the other garlics I’ve grown.

German White: A variety that’s particularly good for gardens with poor drainage, this one seems to tolerate wet soil better than other types. It has white flesh and is very spicy.

Georgian Fire: If you want a super-hot garlic, this is the variety for you. I find Georgian Fire produces fewer, but larger, cloves than most other varieties. Once you eat it, don’t plan on kissing anyone for a few days.

Softneck varieties

Inchelium Red: One of the few softnecks I regularly grow in my garden, this mild flavored garlic is buttery and stores for a very long time. Last year, my heads lasted nearly a year.

Silver Rose: This softneck finds a home in my garden every few years. It has pure white cloves and a mild to medium garlic flavor. I find it stores very well, often lasting for six to nine months.

Polish Softneck: This is a good one for gardeners who like their garlic cloves on the pudgy side. The plump cloves are easy to peel, but the flavor is super-hot and spicy, even once it’s been fully cooked. Don’t eat it raw or you’ll be tasting it for weeks!

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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ANN LOVEJOY | Tips for gardeners affected by allergies

I recently learned that the fastest growing population of serious gardeners is young men between the ages of 18-30. That thought gives me hope that the decades to come will bring vigorous advances in home food growing techniques, since that is also their greatest interest.

However, the great majority of today’s gardeners are aging boomers. Our concerns certainly include growing food but also focus on ornamental gardening. Those of us who are stretching the boundaries of middle age are also apt to find ourselves increasingly sensitive to various allergens, including molds, mildews and pollen. All of these can be found in any healthy garden at some point, whether coming from plants, soil, garden waste or compost.

Sadly, plant pollen allergies are increasingly common, yet also treated quite perfunctorily, since they are not give much shrift in medical schools. Thus, medical personnel usually recommend antihistamines, but they are rarely able to offer strategies for avoidance or discuss plants that often trigger allergies.

Happily, knowing which plants set off allergies allows us to avoid or eliminate them. When we know we have pollen allergies, we can discover the specific plants that trouble us. Easiest to identify are pollens that cause a quick response (within half an hour or so). Others take more exploring, since allergic response to some pollens may take up to eight hours or more.

The maritime Northwest is rich in allergens. Some, like alder pollen, are hard to avoid; that’s what antihistamines are for. However, with some planning, we can minimize discomfort from our gardens and landscaping. Many woody garden plants are males, preferred for their lack of messy fruit. Sadly, males produce the most pollen, making them significant allergens. When offending trees aren’t ours, we can learn when they shed pollen (often listed on allergy websites). To minimize exposure, keep house and car windows closed, wash your car often, and shower and change/wash clothing as soon as possible after time outdoors.

When renovating or planting a new garden, you might well consult a book called “Allergy-Free Gardening” by Thomas Leo Ogren. (He also has a website you can visit for plant lists and resources.) You can also select female shrubs rather than males. Plant nursery staff can suggest lower pollen females, even for notoriously pollen-rich families like elms, maples, and willows and elms. Shear pollen-shedding boxwood hedges before they bloom, or consider replacing them with low-pollen shrubs such as azaleas, camellias, native ceanothus, escallonias, rhododendrons and weigelas.

While some herbs, such as artemisias and chamomile, shed plentiful pollen, pollen-sensitive gardeners have lots of less troublesome choices. Many of the lowest pollen-producing herbs are the most popular, including basil, chives, dill, mint, thyme, lavender, fennel and rosemary. While some folks may be triggered by a fragrance (notably lavender), such sensitivity is rarely pollen related.

In addition, large, showy, scentless or lightly scented blossoms are mostly female and/or pollinated by critters rather than wind. Wind-pollinated flowers (common allergy culprits) tend to be small and insignificant, so dramatic flowers make better choices. Bird-friendly plants are also preferable, since most are pollinated by nectar-seeking birds. Sterile hybrids are always safe choices, since they produce no pollen at all. Reliably low-pollen lovelies include anemones, bellflowers, begonias, coleus, columbines, foxgloves, pansies, petunias, salvias and verbenas.

For those with serious bee and wasp allergies, low-pollen plantings have the further advantage of being less attractive to insect pollinators. To gain these multiple advantages, choose plants that please the eye without offending the nose.

Contact Ann Lovejoy at 8959 Battle Point Drive NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or visit Ann’s blog at and leave a question/comment.

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Revised KID drought plan makes trees, gardens a priority

The Kennewick Irrigation District board has revised its drought plan after listening to concerns, many of them from homeowners, at an August town hall meeting.

The revised plan will give the same priority to residential trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens as given to farmers’ perennial crops in case of an extreme drought.

The board approved the original drought policy in spring 2014, outlining the district’s goals and the tools available to give direction to staff, said Seth Defoe, KID’s land and water resources manager.

The first chance it had to use the plan was this year, but the district did not need to go to the prioritization list, Defoe said. Watering times were restricted, but district members were not prohibited from watering lawns or vegetation.

The changes clarify how water use would be prioritized in an extreme drought to make the best use of limited water and to make the policy consistent with state water law, Defoe said.

“KID recognizes that water users who have a water allotment and who have beneficially used water on their property have protected property rights that are shared in common with all other similar KID water users,” says language added to the plan.

During years with adequate water, KID does not attempt to prioritize irrigation use beyond limiting the amount of the annual allotment, it said. During drought years, the district will attempt to deliver shares to users as equally as possible given limitations of its system and available water.

But if so little water is available that dividing it equally would give no user enough water to save vegetation, KID will prioritize water to allow at least some landowners enough water for beneficial use, according to the revised drought plan.

State law directs water managers to allocate water among potential users “based generally on securing maximum net benefits for the people of the state,” the policy said.

Previously, perennial crops were listed as the top priority.

The revision adds language covering other plants, including residential and commercial landscape trees, shrubs and other perennial vegetation. It also adds residential fruit and vegetable gardens and public space trees, including street trees, plus shrubs and perennials.

It specifically excludes hay, alfalfa, lawns and grass from the top priority.

The board and staff considered the financial costs of replacing residential and commercial landscaping in making the change, Defoe said. Removing dead trees and replacing them, for example, could be expensive.

The second priority would be annual crops, or those that must be planted every year, like potatoes. “We’re talking people’s livelihood,” Defoe said.

Third would be public space lawns — such as parks, cemeteries and lawns — on the theory that such green space is a community asset that benefits everyone. Golf courses also are included because they have an economic component.

Last on the list are residential lawns and flowers that are replanted each year.

Lawn grass that is not watered can go dormant for up to six weeks, Defoe said. It may turn brown, but it is still alive, as can be seen by lawns that are recovering around the Tri-Cities now as the weather cools.

But most trees and shrubs don’t go dormant. They die, he said.

“Prioritization is not what we want to do,” he said.

The list has been updated in the drought plan in preparation for only the direst conditions, he said.

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‘Holiday Homecomings’: Tupelo Garden Club hosts Alabama floral designer

Thomas Wells | Buy at
Tupelo Garden Club members Yvette Slocum, left, and Nancy Diffee, right, along with Jody’s owner Rosemary Gaines, are excited to present floral designer Benny Campbell at the club’s fundraiser this month.

By Ginna Parsons

Daily Journal

TUPELO – If you need some fresh ideas for holiday entertaining this year, the Tupelo Garden Club has just the event for you.

“Holiday Homecomings” on Oct. 27 at St. James Catholic Church will feature renowned floral designer Benny Campbell, who owns and operates Attalla Florist and Design in Attalla, Alabama.

“At the last fundraiser we hosted, we had a mother-daughter team from Greenville who came and spoke and afterward I was talking with them and they suggested Benny,” said Ann Godwin, president of the garden club. “I checked with other garden clubs and after talking with him two or three times, I thought he would be just perfect.”

Benny Campbell. (Courtesy)

Campbell, whose designs have appeared in Southern Accents, Southern Bride and People magazines, will share his secrets for creating arrangements in his signature style that is both airy and lush. Using an eclectic array of material and containers, he will instruct, inspire, and entertain with his imaginative ideas for enhancing fall and holiday tables.

“Our theme is holiday homecomings and he’s going to do arrangements for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Godwin said.

The fundraiser will begin at 11 a.m. in the Catholic Life Center where lunch will include chicken pasta salad, a cold vegetable medley, corn muffins, fruit, chocolate mousse and cookies.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased in advance at Jody’s, Mid-South Nursery, Philips Garden Center, Reed’s Gift Shop or from any garden club member.

And if Campbell’s talents and lunch aren’t enough, Tupelo Garden Club members will also present six tablescapes to inspire participants. The themes are Thanksgiving Dinner, A Football Spread, Elegant Pheasant Hunt, Thanksgiving Children’s Table, Winter Wonderland and New Year’s.

“The doors open at 11 and he’ll start his presentation a little before noon,” said Yvette Slocum, food chairman. “Lunch will be served as you come in, but you can opt to look at the tablescapes first and then eat.”

There will also be floral design items for sale at the event, and Jody’s will be raffling off a dining room centerpiece featuring a cutting-edge design of permanent botanicals that will be transitional from fall through Christmas. The retail value is $350 and raffle tickets are $2 each or three for $5.

Proceeds from Holiday Homecoming will go toward Tupelo Garden Club projects, including the Lee County Library, Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet, Music Bend, Sanctuary Hospice House, Tupelo’s Wildflower and Cherry Blossom Projects, Junior Gardening, National Garden Week and the gardens at the Pvt. John Allen House.

For more information about the event, call (662) 610-9406.



What: Holiday Homecomings with Benny Campbell.

When: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Catholic Life Center at St. James Catholic Church, 1911 N. Gloster, Tupelo.

Who: Tupelo Garden Club, Jody’s and Tommy Morgan Realtors.

Cost: Tickets, which include lunch, are $25 and available in advance at Jody’s, Mid-South Nursery, Philips Garden Center and Reed’s Gift Shop or from any garden club member.

For more info: Call (662) 610-9406.

Click here to leave a comment!

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London College of Garden Design engages leading plant specialists

The London College of Garden Design (LCGD) has launched a unique new 6-month planting design course aimed at professional designers and landscape architects that engages some of the UK’s leading plant specialists.

The course will be led by Andrew Fisher Tomlin with the support of leading designers and horticulturists that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the plant world. Leading nursery specialist Rosy Hardy, Neil Lucas The UK’s leading ornamental grass specialist, Tony Kirkham Curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield will all lecture on the course. Inspirational lectures from designers that include RHS Chelsea Gold medal winners James Basson, Jo Thompson, Paul Hervey-Brookes and Amanda Patton will also contribute.

LCGD Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “We’ve wanted to provide a new course specifically on planting design for a number of years. This is in direct response to requests from landscape architects in particular who want to expand their skills into this area. We have already had a huge response from across Europe with garden designers and landscape architects signing up from a number of EU countries including the UK.”

The course will start in January 2016 with practical workshops, quickly leading to inspirational lectures and visits. It explores not only contemporary ideas around planting but also traditional techniques and planting for heritage settings and parks.

Fisher Tomlin added “There is a now huge interest in the benefit of a considered approach to planting, appropriate for the setting. Nearly every large public open space project is taking a plant led approach and this has fuelled professional interest in taking a course that has a wide range of appeal as well as developing personal planting design styles and skills.”


About the London College of Garden Design

The London College of Garden Design aims to offer the best professional garden design courses available in the UK. The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one year Garden Design Diploma which is taught from the Orangery Conference facilities at the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Short courses are offered at Kew, RHS Garden Wisley, Regent’s University in central London and our new satellite hub in Crewe.

To find out more visit
For more information you can also contact Andrew Fisher Tomlin on 020 8542 0683 or
07957 855457 or email

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A small, urban garden is turned into an outdoor living oasis

GARDEN DESIGNER Scot Eckley specializes in creating spaces for outdoor living. But when it came to the small urban garden he shares with his wife, Devin Fitzpatrick, and their baby, Eden, he faced quite a challenge.

“It was a typical sloping Seattle backyard, in a so-so neighborhood, with panoramic views of the neighbors on all sides,” is how Eckley describes their less-than-auspicious property in the Maple Leaf neighborhood. But what design-build guy doesn’t like a challenge?

The dripping urn muffles noise from the freeway while serving as centerpiece to the back garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The dripping urn muffles noise from the freeway while serving as centerpiece to the back garden. The bed at the rear of the garden is only 4 feet deep, but looks wider planted in tall birch trees and white, mop-head hydrangeas. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

“I try to make an environment,” says Eckley, who managed to squeeze a potager, sunken outdoor living room with fireplace, dining room, al fresco kitchen, utility/potting area and place for play into what was once an exposed and dreary little back garden. His philosophy? “I don’t do anything just because it’s pretty. Everything has at least two or three purposes.”

A low retaining wall serves as bench and planter, and even the stone-walled vegetable beds are a graphic component of the garden, especially in winter when the plants die down.

Eckley and Fitzpatrick worked together to integrate their 1930s home to the garden, and extend their living spaces outside. Now a Dutch door opens the old house to sun, breezes and a view of the back garden. Bluestone steps lead down into a gravel-floored dining room and sitting area. Fitzpatrick, an interior designer, had a long list of what she wanted in the garden, and acted as both client and collaborator on the project. “We had a plan on a napkin, didn’t we?” she asks Eckley, as her husband describes the process of taking their own garden from mess to modernistic.

First came the hardscaping, which included leveling the property to create terraces and dry-stacked stone walls to divide up the space. Eckley chose golden-toned gravel for the floor of the dining room to reflect the light and make the space seem bigger and brighter even on gloomy days. “I always think a garden has to look great on the worst day of the year, even on January 6th,” he says.

Changes in level create intimate spaces like this stone-floored outdoor living room, softened by hedging and a climbing hydrangea scrambling up the back of the house. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Changes in level create intimate spaces like this stone-floored outdoor living room, softened by hedging and a climbing hydrangea scrambling up the back of the house. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

A row of birch trees, with their rough white trunks, stand out in winter, and at night when their trunks are lit by up-lights. In summer, cardoons, hydrangeas, crape myrtles and snowy white ‘Casablanca’ lilies star. “Each plant has a purpose,” says Eckley, whether it be a scrim of tall, white allium to loosely separate spaces, or bay tree standards for year-round height and structure. Eckley prunes the hedges twice a year to keep a crisp edge on the layers of yew, boxwood, olive, English laurel and Leyland cypress.

Devin Fitzpatrick and Scot Eckley, with their daughter Eden, sit at the backyard dining table centered in the gravel courtyard. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Devin Fitzpatrick and Scot Eckley, with their daughter Eden, sit at the backyard dining table centered in the gravel courtyard. The outdoor dining room is floored in pale, warm-toned gravel to keep it bright and inviting, even in winter. The raised bed at left holds a crape myrtle underplanted with brunnera. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The garden seems pleasantly roomy despite its 100-by-46 feet footprint. “It’s what I call the church social approach to landscaping,” explains Eckley. “You leave the center of the garden open.” He’s planted evergreen layers and taller deciduous trees for privacy around the garden’s perimeter. The spaces are partitioned by low walls, plantings and changes of level so you walk through various spaces as you make your way through the garden. The planting beds are narrow, and the green and white minimalist color palette contributes to the garden’s sense of spaciousness. Your eye is caught less by flowers and more by distinctive, year-round touches, like stairs carpeted in grass and an old urn holding a statuesque cardoon. A large fountain serves as focal point while masking traffic sound from I-5.

Clean-edged design in the garden includes grass-carpeted steps meeting up with dry-stacked stone walls and gravel terracing. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Clean-edged design in the garden includes grass-carpeted steps meeting up with dry-stacked stone walls and gravel terracing. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

When it came to plants, there was controversy. Eckley likes a strong, clean-lined contemporary look. He thinks of plants in a supporting role, valuing them more for foliage color and texture than flowers. Fitzpatrick prefers a more traditional English garden and wanted flowers for fragrance and cutting. She ended up with plenty of lilies, anemones and hydrangeas to cut for the house, along with the nostalgic touch of a pleached hedge. Yet the overall feel of the garden is clean-lined and contemporary, simple in design yet richly atmospheric in execution.

Together, Eckley and Fitzpatrick have created a harmony of yin and yang by combining textures, layering, modern materials and traditional sensibilities into a smart, little garden for outdoor living.

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