Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for October 17, 2015

Sandy Parrill: When life hands you chaos, take a trip

101815 Garden waterfall

A stream runs through the gardens; tumbling over waterfalls, under bridges, through feathery, lush ferns and quiet pools in Garvin Woodland Gardens at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

101815 Garden mums

Great sweeps of begonias and other annuals line woodland paths and chrysanthemums not yet in bloom march through towering pines in wide bands of color in the Garvin Woodland Gardens at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

101815 Garden dragon

A quartz crystal-holding dragon at crystal mine resides at an RV park in Jessieville, Arkansas.

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2015 1:59 pm

Sandy Parrill: When life hands you chaos, take a trip

Chaos is chaotic, with black walnuts and acorns everywhere, webworm nests dropping from trees and black walnut leaf stems littering plants in a thick layer.

We finally threw up our hands in despair after vainly trying to keep paths raked and deck swept so we could walk without sliding around on debris. We called our cat sitter and went on a road trip.

Arkansas has some magical places, and we wanted to visit a couple of the best ones. Scenic Byway 7 wound us through dense pine and hardwood forests to ancient, mystical Ouachita Mountains and the small village of Jessieville. A few miles north of Hot Springs, Jessieville’s main claim to fame is its proximity to quartz crystal mines on nearby Miller Mountain. We thought we needed a few more rocks.

Arkansas is noted for some of the best quality quartz crystals in the world. Quartz veins run in the Ouachita Mountains, from Mount Ida (known as the “quartz capital of the world”) to Jessieville, Mina and Story.

The mines consist of pits and hillsides where veins of quartz crystals are often blasted open, with backhoes and bulldozers removing crystal-bearing clay and rock. Direct digging in most mines is not allowed for safety reasons; instead, huge buckets of clay containing crystals are dumped where rockhounds like us can dig to their hearts’ content. It involves getting covered with red clay until they resemble Arkansas Razorbacks, but everyone goes home with buckets of crystals (and a lot of pretty garden rocks). A small daily fee allows diggers to keep whatever they find; if one is really lucky, sometimes huge, boulder-size clusters are unearthed. We’ve not yet been that fortunate — though I don’t know how we would get one home if we did find it — but have added many nice clusters to our rock collection and gathered lots of crystal points for wire-wrapping. Not to mention it’s some of the most fun we have ever had.

This was not our first trip. We have been crystal digging three or four times in past years and have learned to wait for cool fall temperatures and to wear old clothes and shoes we can throw away as gooey, sticky Arkansas red clay does not wash out. Next October we plan to go for Crystal Days, a huge rock and gem fair with prizes at some mines for the biggest crystals found.

This year, I found a nice pocket of that gooey, sticky red clay known as “peanut butter” for its consistency and dug some to bring home. I’m not a potter, and the last thing I need is a new medium to try, but the stuff was irresistible. I can’t wait to get my fingers in it. Ideas are flying through my head.

The second morning of our Arkansas escape took us to Garvin Woodland Gardens at Hot Springs. Built on a 210-acre peninsula on Lake Hamilton, the garden was started in the 1930s by the late Verna Cook Garvin and is now operated by the University of Arkansas School of Architecture and Design. A 25-year master plan was created in 1999 to renovate and improve upon the gardens, and by 2002, it was officially opened to the public. By 2012, it was recognized as one of the top five most spectacular gardens in America.

Though I have known of Garvin Woodland Gardens for years, it always seemed (at a five-hour drive from Joplin) to be a long way to go for maybe a two-hour experience, but it was worth a look while we were already there. To our amazement, we spent a good four hours there marveling at the creative and beautiful landscaping, and we still didn’t see it all before we had to leave for the drive home. Our next crystal digging excursion will certainly include an entire day at the gardens. A week would not be enough time to explore every corner and walk every trail.

We marveled at amazing bridges, admired perennial gardens around the great lawn, watched tiny trains in the model train garden, had lunch at the Chipmunk Cafe, met a peacock (minus tail feathers — it was molting season), exclaimed over the fairy garden, and listened to the carillon bells and gaped at the soaring heights of beautiful Anthony Chapel Complex. And there was so much we missed: the Children’s Adventure Garden, Nature Preserve, Eagle Point and many smaller trails with points of interest, with no time to just sit on the many benches in wonder.

Workers were wrapping trees and bushes in millions of blue and white lights, covering arches and arbors, outlining paths and even streams in preparation for the Holiday Lights festival in November and December. Every nook held tall lighted wire trees and glowing angels flew high overhead. It was already a breathtakingly magical wonderland, and they had only just begun.

Construction was underway everywhere: new gardens being built, trees and shrubs planted, walks laid. It will only get better.

Gee, do you think I liked it?

Please visit our Facebook page for lots more pictures and links to crystal mining and Garvin Woodland Gardens.

Sandy and Jim Parrill garden at Chaos, their acre of the Ozarks in Joplin. Sandy is a lifelong gardener and a Missouri Master Gardener. Jim is a former garden center owner and landscaper, and both are past members of the Missouri Landscape and Nursery Association. Email them at and follow their Facebook page, A Parrillel Universe of Wonderful Things.

We have sent a confirmation email to {* emailAddressData *}. Please check your email and click on the link to activate your account.

We’ve sent an email with instructions to create a new password. Your existing password has not been changed.


Friday, October 16, 2015 1:59 pm.

Article source:

How women and men manifest heroism, plus a jazzy ‘Bumblebee’

Women and men manifest heroism differently — women as group leaders and men as loners, a prominent psychologist said Thursday.

“Women are heroes when it comes to organizing social networks because women live in social networks,” said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University. “Men in general are loners. So most of the military heroes are single guys. It’s almost never a group of men working together.”

Zimbardo spoke during a Chicago Ideas Week program called “Genius: A Peek Inside the World’s Most Brilliant Minds,” and he also expressed concern about the effects of video games on young men.

The event took place Thursday at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and it featured 14-year-old pianist and composer Emily Bear, who performed a jazz version of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” She also created impromptu pieces to a series of scenes suggested by host and Chicago Ideas co-chairman Eric Becker.

Zimbardo founded the Heroic Imagination Project, a research-based organization that aims to develop the “everyday hero” in every child, he said.

“Heroism starts in the mind,” Zimbardo said. “Our job is to help you express it in positive ways. I’m working against the traditional notion of heroes as male-warrior killers, loners.”

'Getting out of our own way'

‘Getting out of our own way’

Chicago Ideas Week kicked off a week of events Monday with 3D-printed body parts, batteries, creativity, “frictionless commerce” and 2016 election talk.

The week’s first day of talks, hands-on labs and artist-in-residence events culminated in a “State of the Union” event at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace…

Chicago Ideas Week kicked off a week of events Monday with 3D-printed body parts, batteries, creativity, “frictionless commerce” and 2016 election talk.

The week’s first day of talks, hands-on labs and artist-in-residence events culminated in a “State of the Union” event at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace…

(Meg Graham and Cheryl V. Jackson)

Zimbardo said he’s concerned about the effects on young men of video games and online pornography — keeping them from learning in school, advancing in jobs and establishing intimacy with partners.

“The video game industry is a multimillion industry,” Zimbardo said. “They work to capture the eyes, the fingers, the brains and even the hearts of young men. The games are designed for men. They’re about dominance. They’re about aggression. They’re about conflict.”

He added: “My concern is playing these games in excess and playing in social isolation. When you start playing young enough — kids now 6, 7 and 8 years old — you don’t learn basic social communication. You don’t learn how to talk to people.”

The program also included biomedical inventor Robert Fischell, who talked about creating devices that prevent epileptic seizures and that alert patients to heart attacks, even before they feel chest pain.

Research scientist Jennifer Eigenbrode of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center discussed her work with the Curiosity rover project and the prospects of life beyond earth.

“There’s a lot of science behind all of the particulars for life to evolve, for life to spark,” she said. “Whether we find life elsewhere or not, the answer is going to be of great interest to all of us.”

Other events Thursday and Friday included:



Economic thinkers in finance, government and journalism gathered to debate China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and U.S. fiscal policy Thursday night. David Brancaccio, host of Marketplace Morning Report, moderated.

Brancaccio asked Bianna Golodryga, anchor for Yahoo News and Finance, and Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, whether the September jobs report alarmed them. The report showed that U.S. employers added 142,000 jobs, far below expectations.

“I think (workers’) biggest concern now is not actually finding a job but getting higher wages,” Golodryga said. She said she finds “tepid” wage growth more concerning than job growth.

Sonders emphasized concerns from businesses about finding qualified job candidates.

“This is a major problem right now,” she said, “and I think something we’re going to be talking about for quite some time.”



Jason Roberts took the “act first, apologize later” approach to a new level in his Dallas neighborhood.

Roberts, co-founder of a nonprofit organization called The Better Block, explained his approach to neighborhood improvements Friday during a conversation at Morningstar on reimagining city infrastructure.

A trip to Europe inspired Roberts to create more spaces for neighbors to interact, drawing on the ancient buildings and plazas that create a “legacy” for cities in other countries, he said.

When Roberts discovered that city laws made business and sidewalk improvements such as patio seating or outdoor landscaping expensive, he set out to prove to Dallas officials that the laws should change, he said.

Rather than generate drawings of improvements and wait for municipal approval, Roberts and his team launched initiatives to temporarily build such spaces in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, he said. They brought in dozens of planters for shrubs and trees, added bike lanes with chalk paint and tape, and built a fountain square with hay bales, he said.

“People can actually experience it and feel it and fight for these things afterwards,” he said.

Isis Ferguson, program leader of Place Lab at the University of Chicago, also talked about community improvements and revealing a city’s potential.

Ferguson co-leads ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, a program in Gary that received funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“They’re betting on something less evident: They’re betting on what ArtHouse can reveal,” Isis said of the funding organizations. “We’re redeeming the contested value of a place.”

Cheryl V. Jackson is a freelance writer.

Article source:

Watch out for myrtle spurge, a noxious weed


Watch out for myrtle spurge, a noxious weed

Teresa Nees, coodinator for Mesa County Noxious Weed and Pest Management, holds a myrtle spurge plant. This noxious weed can shoot thousands of seeds up to 15 feet away and regenerate from the roots year after year making it diffiult to eradicate.

Myrthe spurge contains milky sap that can cause health problems, such as rashes or breathing difficulties. It is poisonous to animals.

MIKE TOFEL/Special to the Sentinel Yellow flowers from myrtle spurge caused this blister and rash on 2 1/2-year-old Gemma Tofel’s face after she and her twin sister picked the flowers and smelled them.

When Mike and Clarissa Tofel saw their twin daughters playing in some pretty yellow flowers in their yard, they thought nothing of it.

They’d moved into the house the previous November, and in the spring their yard came to life with the landscaping they were just beginning to notice. It wasn’t anything spectacular, just different from the plants they were used to in Gunnison, where they lived before.

Playing in the flower garden area seemed harmless, so they didn’t really even pay attention when 2 1/2-year-old Gemma and Nina picked the yellow flowers, smelled them and rubbed them all over their faces.

Just a few hours later, both girls had irritating rashes on their cheeks, and Gemma’s rash erupted into a giant, fluid-filled blister covering one side of her face. By dinnertime, the family was headed to the emergency room.

“The people at the emergency room had no idea what it was,” Mike Tofel said. “We didn’t know to tell them that she was in a patch of this spurge.”

After they came home, they remembered the girls playing in the flowers. Clarissa Tofel took a photo of the plants and posted them on Facebook, and a friend identified them as donkeytail spurge, also known as euphorbia myrsinites or myrtle spurge.

This attractive succulent not only has pretty yellow flowers in the springtime, it harbors a dangerous secret: its sap, also called milky latex, can cause severe health problems.

The Tofel girls were actually lucky. There are cases where contact with myrtle spurge can cause respiratory problems in addition to skin irritation. The plant is toxic if ingested.

For these reasons, myrtle spurge is a “list A” noxious weed in Colorado, making it illegal to distribute and a priority for eradication on all properties.

Mesa County’s weed team has battled it all summer. With grant funding from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Mesa County Weed and Pest Coordinator Teresa Nees and her seasonal weed warriors have been successful in helping eradicate myrtle spurge from 35 properties within the county, and an additional 22 properties in the Grand Junction city limits.

This was an initial push to help homeowners gain ground on battling the noxious weed on private property, Nees said.

Myrtle spurge is what weed folks refer to as an “escaped ornamental,” meaning someone thought it was cool to plant at one time, and then the weed aggressively took over the landscape.

About 45 new locations including myrtle spurge or cypress spurge were found by her crew or reported by homeowners this year, Nees said. Only 12 were reported in 2014, so it appears area residents are becoming more vigilant about identifying the plant.

“We really appreciate all the efforts from homeowners,” she said. “The word is definitely starting to get out about these weeds.”

After the emergency room scare, Mike Tofel and a friend spent hours digging out all the myrtle spurge from the yard. There was so much of it that a previous homeowner clearly had planted it on purpose.

“Even to this day, I just saw one yesterday and had to pull it,” Mike Tofel said.

The seeds, which are extremely prolific, are viable for eight years, which means even if homeowners remove the weed initially, they must remain vigilant to nip any future spurge in the bud before it resurfaces.

One bit of advice Mike Tofel has for other homeowners is that they carefully check for this noxious weed on their property, lest they have an unpleasant experience like his family did.

If you think you might have this plant in your yard, but you’re not sure, Nees is available to help with identification and can be contacted at 970-255-7121 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Mike Tofel wishes he’d known to check when they bought the house. “My advice is, know what’s in your yard,” he said.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.

Article source:

PCC Vocational English as a Second Language Program Offers New Green …

South Pasadena Rolls to Win Over Blair in Rio Hondo League Play

South Pasadena High Rolls to Sixth Straight Victory

South Pas Police Disarm Violent Woman Armed with Shears

<!– More –>

Article source:

Tom Karwin, On Gardening: Welcome to the agrihood

I never expected to be impressed by a housing development in the San Jose area, but late in September, Santa Clara launched an extraordinary project that City Council member Lisa Gilmor said is “the first of its kind for Santa Clara. I don’t think we’ve done anything like this in the past.”

The council selected a developer, The Core Companies, to lead master planning and development of a 6-acre site on Winchester Boulevard, near the Valley Fair and Santana Row shopping centers.

The project concept combines housing with several familiar elements: a small organic farm, community gardens, a children’s garden, California native plant edible landscaping, roof gardens, solar energy production, a farmers market, a rainwater garden, an outdoor kitchen and much more.

Overall, the project qualifies as an “agrihood,” a newer idea that focuses residential housing on a working farm, rather than a pool, tennis court or golf course. An agrihood also engages residents in creating a sustainable food system for the entire community.

This concept could be appealing to people of all ages, but the United States has only a short list of existing agrihoods. The Santa Clara project appears to be the only agrihood in an intensely urban environment, and an exceptional showcase of several ideas in sustainable gardening.

Santa Clara selected this project among eight competing proposals because of its creativity, vigorous community support and the history of the site, which had been part of an agricultural research station operated by the University of California beginning in the late 1950s.

A visionary neighbor, Kirk Vartan, galvanized community support for this project. He found a creative and knowledgeable ally in Alrie Middlebrook, a landscape designer and leader of the California Native Garden Foundation, a nonprofit group that demonstrates innovative gardening ideas and supports the development of school gardens. Middlebrook’s ideas are evident in the rich array of gardens in this agrihood, which has been called the Core/CNGF project.

The California Native Garden Foundation will be involved in managing the project’s urban agriculture open space. (Full disclosure: as a longtime member of the CNGF’s board of directors, I have had opportunities to monitor this project’s development during the past several months and had a very limited role in its creation. The CNGF board’s primary role is to review schools’ applications for the planning and development of learning gardens.)

Agrihoods could become the evolutionary next step beyond community gardens and community-supported agriculture. Through this project in nearby Santa Clara, we can see the leading edge of innovative strategies for relating research-based gardening and community relationships.

Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999-2009). Visit

Article source:

Light up your landscape: Great grasses for fall and winter

‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass features upright flower stems, with heads turning golden in the fall. 

Looking to give your fall and winter landscape a visual boost? Grow ornamental grasses. The movement alone of these low-maintenance, easy to grow grasses will give you a big bang for your landscaping buck.

There are seemingly endless varieties of grasses to choose from. And since they are available in different shapes, sizes and textures, they lend tremendous versatility within your garden, container gardens and landscape setting. As such, you are bound to find several great grasses to suit your needs.

The best part is that ornamental grasses can turn a seemingly seasonal garden into one that suddenly dazzles in all seasons. The leaves change from their summer color into arresting autumn hues. And the showy plumage of many transforms the horizon with such ethereal beauty. That’s when their star power really shines, especially when backlit by the morning or afternoon sun.

Once winter arrives, these grasses provide a living framework of drama that not only adds perpetual interest, but also revives a sense of inspiration during a season of dormancy.

After the ground is laden with early dawn frosts or the occasional light dusting of snow descends, their floating plumes, towering stalks and pendulous oatlike spikes continue to embrace the scene with shimmering splendor after many plants have ceased to put on a show.

Designing with grasses
Grasses grow in a medley of sizes, from a ground-hugging 6 inches high, to an impressive display towering to 12 feet or more.

A giant of the ornamental grass world, plume grass (Erianthus ravennae) reaches impressive heights of 8 to 12 feet once flower spikes appear.  

Use tall grasses like zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’), ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) or plume grass (Erianthus ravennae) as focal points in the landscape, or group them together to form natural screens or attractive windbreaks. The smaller varieties are ideal as border edgings and ground covers.

Both small and medium types make ideal container grasses for adding beauty to your patio, porch, deck or courtyard. Grasses in the medium height category also look stunning when grown in masses, or mixed amid flowering annuals and perennials where they will work as anchor plants in the garden, showcasing texture, color, and volume year-round. Planted among woody ornamentals, grasses accent with graceful plumage as well as fill in bare spots. And when planted with evergreens, they bring softness to beds and borders.

Whether you nurture low-growing grasses, massive giants or any size in-between, one thing is for sure. Ornamental grasses will enliven your fall and winter landscape with seasonal appeal, amazing movement, great texture and color. But they also contribute a great deal of attraction to any garden or landscape, with an ever-changing beauty that shines at any time of year.

–Kris Wetherbee

Seven great grasses for fall and winter

1. Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) grows 2 to 3 feet tall as a symmetrical fountain-like mound. Its graceful, blue-green, evergreen to semi-evergreen foliage provides a striking contrast to the rising golden, straw-colored feathery flower panicles that emerge in spring and last into autumn.

2. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) grows 1 to 3 feet high, depending on the variety. Though this perennial grass dies back in winter, its graceful mounds of arching leaves turn from green to coppery orange in fall. The bamboo-like leaves of H. macra ‘Benikaze’ turn to various shades of red in autumn. And both ‘All Gold’ and ‘Aureola’ have yellow-striped green leaves that turn chartreuse in dense shade, with foliage sometimes infused with pink when weather cools.

3. Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is another bamboo look-alike minus the invasive quality. Also known as sea oats or bamboo grass, the leaves change from green to a striking copper once frost descends. And the long-lasting, silvery green, chevron-shaped seed heads turn a stunning shade of copper in fall and last well into winter.

4. Reed grass (Calamagrostis), with its feathery plumes that persist well into winter, is a spectacular winner for any garden. Two feather reed grass standouts include ‘Karl Foerster’ (C. x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and ‘Overdam’ (C. x acutiflora ‘Overdam’), both with foliage and flower heads that change to a shimmering golden color in fall.

5. Sedge (Carex) consists of many low-growing, grasslike plants, with evergreen types that take on striking coppery brown tones in winter. Palm sedge (C. muskingumensis) turns a stunning coppery color in fall and lasts into winter when the plant goes dormant. Orange New Zealand sedge (Carex testacea ‘Orange Sedge’) features finely textured clumps of orange-bronze foliage that changes to orange in winter, when it seems to flicker when exposed to sunlight.

6. Silver grass (Miscanthus) is highly attractive in fall and among the showiest of ornamental grasses. Its silvery to pinkish or bronze plumes last well into winter, with graceful leaves that change to shades of yellow, orange, or reddish brown in most species.

Japanese silver grass (M. sinensis) and its cultivars are especially striking, with pink to copper-colored flowers that take on a white or silvery sheen as winter approaches. Giant silver grass (M. x ‘Giganteus’) is quite majestic, growing 10 to 14 feet tall. Its flower plumes–which come out as tan and open to silver–rise an additional 1 to 2 feet above the purplish-green fall foliage.

7. Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) grows 2 to 4 feet tall, standing through winter by casting its billowy form with plumes topping out the height at 4 to 7 feet tall. Leaves of many varieties turn yellow in fall, with some having foliage that turns gold, orange, red, or wine. Airy clouds of pinkish to pink-bronze to reddish plumes add texture that, when grown in mass and viewed from a distance, appear as an overall pinkish to purplish haze.

Article source:

Breslau gardening expert says snow is no excuse to stop gardening

Waterloo Region could see its first snow fall of the season this weekend, but that’s no excuse to pack away your gardening gloves and trowel according to a local gardening expert.

“You can do an awful lot of things come this time of year,” said Perry Grobe, owner of Grobe’s Nursery and Garden Centre in Breslau, in an interview on The Morning Edition Friday with Craig Norris.

Here’s Grobe’s list of five things to do before the ground freezes:

1. Fertilize your lawn

“If you haven’t fed it for fall it’s a good idea to do that even now, because the root system of the turf will grow right through the winter. The sugar in the leaves of the grass will build up and they’ll be much more cold tolerant if you do that.”

2. Go ahead and plant something

“The lion’s share of the plants that you plant right now–shrubs and evergreens and such like that–there is no problem, because they’re grown with containers, so the root systems are all contained. If you plant them and you water them well as the ground gets more frozen, you’ll have very few issues.”

3. Guard your new trees from wind

“If they’re planted this late, they really haven’t had the benefit of rooting in all summer. So, it’s in your interest to try and maybe protect them from drying-out winds. So, you might have to put up a barrier or apply an anti-desiccant spray, like Wilt Proof, to try lessen that moisture loss in the winter time.”

4. Protect your bulbs from squirrels

“You can put down barriers. There are chicken wires and things like that you can put over top of the areas where they’re planted. That’s a lot of work and a lot of people don’t like doing that. The other fairly successful method that we’ve had is that there is a product that’s a hen manure base product that doesn’t smell, that acts as a fertilizer, that applied to the area where the bulbs are planted actually deters them.”

5. Buy new container herbs next year

“It sometimes doesn’t pay to bring some of those herbs in for the winter. Sometimes it’s easier just to start fresh herbs with seeds…. Usually the root systems will freeze in the containers if left out there and a lot of herbs don’t like that. You’ll have a few that might winter over, like mint, but I have to say it can be problematic bringing them inside in terms of adjusting to the new conditions that are there.”

Article source:

Love gardens or want some inspiration for your own? You are in luck with …

OKLAHOMA CITY-This year six home landscapes will be on the tour, representing Oklahoma’s growing passion for beautification and landscape excellence.

The tour is Saturday, October 17 in Edmond, Oklahoma from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The tour includes the one and a half acre country cottage garden of recognized garden writer Dee Nash and has several homes in upscale neighborhoods around Oak Tree Golf Course and Lake Arcadia.

The beautiful home of Robert Daniels on Oak Tree Drive was artfully landscaped by Mike Lindsey, owner of Scapes, Inc.  A short drive away on Saratoga Way is the classic English country garden home of Cindy Stewart who relies upon plant expert Linda Vater for advice and inspiration.

Garden Design Associates and John Fluitt present another outstanding home landscape design in this year’s tour, as does Shaun Doering of TLC Nursery and Joe Coffin of Total Environment Inc. Descriptions of the gardens along with address can be found on the “Garden Tour” page.

Map of the Garden Tour for Connoisseurs 2015


Article source:

Garden designs delight (+competition)

Garden designed by Mark Read and Richard Neville, Remuera. Photo / Supplied

If I were a real gardener, by now I’d have the beds turned over, the spring veges planted, seeds under way for December transplanting. Possibly built a new path or at least pruned all the spring growth off the hedges.

Sadly, I’m not one of those gardeners, much as I’d love to be. Happily, instead, I can take the trek around some of Auckland’s most beautifully landscaped gardens in the bi-annual Garden DesignFest and pretend that’s exactly what I’d be doing if I had the time, money or taste.

Launched six years ago by landscape designer Rose Thodey, the festival fills a gap between the generic home and garden tours or local garden fetes. These are real gardens for real — albeit very lucky — people. Rose and her team of enthusiasts modelled the festival on a long-running one in Melbourne, to feature the work of professionals from the Garden Design Society of New Zealand. Designers submitted recent work to a panel of fellow designers; there’s a pretty rigorous selection process and 20 gardens made it into this year’s festival. The panel is careful to cluster gardens so you’re not trekking across the isthmus for only one viewing, and have places from Castor Bay to Mt Eden in the south.

One gorgeous spring day, Rose and fellow organiser Deb Hardy ran me around a few of their picks to give me a taste of what the weekend-long event will be showing. I had to laugh as they peered over fences and slowed the car down to spot potential candidates for their 2017 festival but, as they pointed out, it takes a while for a new garden to be settled and grown enough to be put on display. They don’t repeat a garden, ensuring enthusiastic ticket-buyers see something new. The money goes to Ronald McDonald House, the schools’ Garden to Table and children’s charities supported by the Rotary Club of Newmarket, you can buy pretty Picnic Box lunch boxes to eat in some of the gardens, it all seems very good value for only $65 for the whole weekend.

It also takes a lot of work for the owners. As we raced around the suburbs, Deb and Rose were checking logistics for gate-keepers, ticking off maintenance schedules (those lawns and hedges, they blast away between now and the middle of November) and chatting to gardeners digging in punnets of coloured flowers that will hopefully be at their peak in four weeks’ time.

The gardens range from a teeny inner city courtyard (all of 5m by 10m, I estimated) to a sprawling eastern suburbs mansion that could put any public park to shame. Rose and Deb have deliberately chosen gardens that demonstrate different styles, from formal English to colourful Mediterranean, with lots of terrific relaxed native gardens too.

Garden designed by Trish Bartleet, Westmere. Photo / Supplied

“We wanted to showcase what can be done with a design approach,” says Rose. “People can see a style and say ‘that’s what I want for me’, but also just admire other people’s styles, too. Every owner has told us what a difference having a garden like this makes to their lives, that’s why I’m so enthused about this.”

My shopping list is groaning. I wanted the Moroccan/Mediterranean courtyard that Trudy Crerar had created for a couple with Lebanese roots who host large family meals and love cooking. The tiny space still had room for a dining pavilion, complete with punched metal roof, a gravel walk edged with Dr Seuss-like clipped trees, cool rusted steel panels framing views of the neighbouring industrial wall — even room for a clothesline. This was only garden one, and already I was realising that all the magazine clipping and Pinterest dreaming in the world would not create this as a DIY job. There were fruit trees (dates, pomegranates, citrus), there was fragrance, there was bubbling water. If Spain’s famous Alhambra gardens were miniaturised, this would be their distilled essence, right here.

Then there was the native garden from Mark Read and Richard Neville of Natural Habitats. The pair had transformed a scruffy bit of stream and an ordinary concrete patio into a native garden retreat, complete with chunky decking, gravel bush paths and a bridge over the now-cleaned-up stream (not so sure about the eels that have taken up residence).

In Westmere, Trish Bartleet, always known for her architectural eye, worked with architect Jack McKinney to create a garden so integrated with the house that it is hard to tell the boundaries, with a sculptural pool and clever mix of native plants and tropicals — it is hard to imagine the owners would ever want to leave their own private resort.

Garden designed by Trudy Crerar, Freemans Bay. Photo / Supplied

Landscapers in Auckland are lucky enough to capture our stunning views — from Rangitoto to up-close views of One Tree Hill.

Classical designer Barbara Garrett has a way with greenery, from clipped hedges of various sizes, Italianate cypress avenues to fun mop-haired trees, not to mention clusters of perfect topiary balls in the courtyard garden rooms.

There are more gardens I long to see, I finished the afternoon with a list of suppliers and ideas (all handily detailed on the festival website, along with extra photos and stories) and a determination that this summer I will do better.

Need to know

Auckland Garden DesignFest, November 14 and 15. Tickets from iTICKET, garden retailers (see website for details) and also at the garden gate. All Garden Tickets (whole weekend) $65, single garden $10 each.

Be in to WIN

Weekend Life has two fabulous Auckland Garden DesignFest prize packs worth $400 each to give away. Each pack includes four All Gardens passes for the event, complimentary morning and afternoon tea and a scrumptious gourmet Picnic Box lunch each. And as a money-can’t-buy bonus, you’ll be invited to the post-event Garden Party (only available to designers, homeowners and event organisers), to meet the designers over a glass of wine at stately Highwic on Sunday night.

To be in to win, go to, enter your details and the key words Auckland Garden DesignFest by midnight, Wednesday, October 21.

Weekend Life

Article source: