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Archives for November 16, 2015

A Year Without a Garden

The Year Without a Garden

Here’s something I love about Rodale Inc. Last month, when we had an all-employee meeting where we asked employees to submit questions to me and other Rodale executives–anonymously, of course!–this was one of the questions I received:

In one of your final “Maria’s View” articles for Organic Gardening, you wrote you were going to leave your garden fallow this summer. After years of mixed success of growing vegetables, I can’t imagine not tending mine for an entire season. No matter how much time I spend in my garden, it’s never even close to enough. So let me ask: Did you really follow through on that promise? Was it wonderful and liberating, was it hollow and horrible, or something else entirely?

So, mystery questioner, here is my answer!

I had decided to take a break from having a vegetable garden last spring because I knew I was going to be traveling a lot; my middle daughter was graduating from high school and heading off to college; and to be brutally honest, after 30 plus years of having a vegetable garden, I was tired. And maybe even a little bored. After all, I can get everything at the local farmers’ market now, right?

First, though, a note of clarification: I have a rather large yard with lots of landscaping and perennials, so I wasn’t off the hook completely from gardening. And even without vegetables to tend, I spent quite a bit of effort tackling those damn thistles. But I didn’t plant annuals to fill in the gaps, either. So overall, it really was a break.

Here is what I did plant: some parsley, basil, and herbs in a container by my kitchen door. And two tomatoes–two because one was a gift, and I was told it needed a mate. So yes, I do believe I followed through with my promise.

Was it wonderful and liberating? A little bit, yes! There’s no way I could have kept up with things, given my summer schedule. And I had moments when I sat smugly by the pool knowing that I didn’t have to harvest and make sauce with 60 pounds of tomatoes because they all ripened on the same day. And moments when I looked at my spindly container basil and told myself I was sick of eating pesto, anyway. During the three weeks when I was traveling with my daughters, I didn’t think once about what was going to waste in my vegetable garden or wonder if the weeds had taken over (I went the truly lazy route and covered the beds with a foot of straw mulch, Ruth Stout style).

Was it hollow and horrible? Truthfully, no. I really did need a break. But in that break, I relearned why I love to have a vegetable garden. Sure, the farmer’s market has great stuff–but I had to get in the car and go on a Sunday morning and carry heavy bags down the street…when I could have just walked outside in bare feet and picked what I needed when I needed it–or left it on the vine until I was ready to cook with it. With a garden, you don’t have to buy in bulk and watch it rot in the fridge or on the counter–you just have to go out and get it when it’s ready (or opt to watch it rot on the vine).

There truly is no greater pleasure for a vegetable gardener to wonder what’s for dinner, then go outside and have a look-see and make something wonderful from the bounty.

Earlier in the year, I had been having a “discussion” with a friend about organic hydroponic basil versus nonorganic basil from the supermarket or farmer’s market. I kept saying it wasn’t as good; I didn’t care if it was organic, it just wasn’t as good as “real basil.” But it wasn’t until about August that I realized that most Americans never taste real basil. Even the stuff from the farmer’s market is half dead by the time you get it home. There is NOTHING quite as strongly delicious as a giant patch of basil, all types, picked moments before a meal and eaten fresh in food made simply. And dagnabbit it, I DO miss my homemade pesto! I’m heading into winter for the first time in ages without a shelf in my freezer filled with bright green pesto for a quick weeknight meal that everyone loves.

The other thing I noticed is that because I hadn’t planted any annuals, there were a few weeks in the summer when there was nothing in the yard for the butterflies to eat. I realized that those annuals aren’t just for prettiness! They serve a purpose! All of my milkweed may have planted a bit in vain without the sweet nectar of zinnias and nicotiana for the butterflies to drink from.

However, the real moment I decided I could never go again without a vegetable garden was the when I walked into Prince Charles’ walled vegetable garden at his Highgrove Estate in England. Just opening the garden gate cured my boredom, and I found inspiration again. I’ve already started making a pile of ideas for next year’s garden!

But what may have sealed the deal was one of my all-time favorite vegetable gardeners just passed away–my father-in-law, Louie Cinquino. At 94 he’d finally gotten too old to have a vegetable garden, and he had spent this past summer in and out of the hospital and a nursing home. In retrospect, it was kind of a way of bowing down to him not to have a garden in his final year, since he couldn’t have one either; it was a way of sharing that journey a little bit with him. It seems right that he passed away in the autumn, like a garden being put to bed for the season.

But when spring comes around, it will also be my way of honoring his memory and passing the tradition on to my daughters to get back out there and grow vegetables and annuals and a variety of herbs again. In fact, I’m not even going to wait for spring because at his funeral I picked up a few of his garlic cloves and garlic needs to be planted in the fall. So I’ll be planting that garlic this weekend.

So, yes, gardening is work, but it’s the best kind of work. Yes, gardening is hard, but it makes us stronger. And yes, it was nice to take a break. But it will be even nicer to start over again.

Thank you for asking!


For more from Maria Rodale, visit

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Apps can provide edge in finding ‘right’ home

Before she became a Realtor several years ago, Roseline Cristanelli was an electronic resources librarian in the Valley and was even the first distance-learning librarian in the state. And just as her tech-savvy ways once assisted library patrons with tracking down the books and information they wanted, those same strengths now help her find the dwellings of interested home buyers’ dreams.

“Providing information to clients and trying to educate people is just in my blood,” said Cristanelli, broker and owner at Reliance First Realty in Tempe. “I’ll always be like a librarian, I guess.”


Thanks to technology, she even runs her business just about as paperless as possible. That’s something she’s and other Realtors have been able to do more efficiently nowadays thanks to the advent of the smartphone and with the assistance of electronic signature tools such as DocuSign and the client portal in MLS (Multiple Listing Service).

In the client portal offered by Arizona MLS, agents can send clients important details about homes for sale that they might be interested in, tax information and a mortgage calculator to assist clients in determining whether or not they can afford a particular house.

Realtors can even click on an icon to arrange a showing of a given home with a potential client, who is then sent a notice about the showing.

“The only thing the client won’t see on the MLS portal is the showing instructions,” she said. “This site really gives us the most comprehensive and most accurate and up-to-date information. As a client looking or a house to buy, the data you get is what Realtors use. We don’t use Zillow when researching houses for clients.”

Improving the odds

Even though many clients don’t use a smartphones to aid in their home search and prefer getting an e-mail over a text, Cristanelli noted that using the latest technology to improve one’s odds of finding that perfect place is especially important in a tight market.

“You never know when the ‘right’ house is going to come on the market, and if a house is priced right and is in move-in conditions, it’s going to be gone in a few days,” she said. “People think that because it’s the holiday season now, the market will be slower, but it’s not. It’s a seller’s market, and when a house is priced right and in good condition, there are plenty of buyers out there so we have to be really diligent.”

That’s why she encourages clients to collaborate with their Realtors using — or at least trying to use — apps on their smartphones. It’s an easy-enough introduction to technology for most folks, and apps like Homesnap and Houzz are fun to use.

Good apps

Homesnap, for example, displays the property record, estimated value and other public information of any home you photograph with your smartphone or iPad. The app uses GPS within your mobile device to determine the home’s location.

Interior shots may also be available if the home is listed for sale.

“I love Homesnap for my clients, because the search interface is so easy to use when you are out and about the neighborhood you are interested in,” she said. “Snap a photo of the house and there, you have everything on your fingertip. In addition the app uses GPS to find where we are and shows me all of the listings in the vicinity. The MLS site can’t help you find your location like that. And, on Homesnap, you can even move the map to go far out to find other listings.”

As for Houzz, Cristanelli likes it because it’s full of inspiration. Homebuyers (or plain old shelter aficionados) can use the app to make an online inspiration board, a digital version of the old-school inspiration book buyers are typically encouraged to create with photos torn from home magazines, paint chip samples from the home-improvement store and fabric swatches.

Photos of all kinds of interior design are posted on Houzz, along with landscaping ideas, and designers’ profiles and portfolios are also available to view online.

“It’s a great place to find designers who might be able to work with you,” she said.

Still, as good as technology is now and as good as it might get, Cristanelli said real estate still calls for a human touch.

“This job is all about building relationships with people,” she said. “Technology is great, but I don’t think it can replace a human.”

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Elkhart leaders looking to bring Toll Road drivers into town – WSBT


With plans to scale back travel plazas along the Toll Road, Elkhart leaders are looking to benefit.

When those plazas scale back what they offer travelers city leaders want draw people into town.

The tourism office will do a study to find out what might work at the interchange — including new entertainment and recreation attractions.

“Transient travel for our destinations, just like many destinations, is about 30 percent of the total number of people who come into our area either visiting friends and relatives or just driving through,” said Diana Lawson, with the Convention Visitors Bureau.

Word that the two nearby Toll Road plazas would be scaled down was seen as a chance to fill the void.

“When the Toll Road announced their plans for the future of the travel plazas we did see an opportunity to continue to try to work at positioning our exit, as a premiere destination for food services, restaurants, lodging facilities, lots of visitor amenities,” said Destination Manager, Mike Huber.

So they began looking into what could be done, to make the area near the toll road exit a destination point for Toll Road travelers.

 “What we really just need to determine and this is what the study is going to do, what may best, what may attract people and what may create an enjoyable experience at Exit 92,” said Lawson.

Right now, it is early on in the process to decide what would be a good fit in the area of North Point Plaza. To act as a draw for traffic off Exit 92 on the Toll Road a lot of factors will come into play

“There are a number of ideas, that may come out of this, in terms of what may fit well,” said Lawson, “That could be entertainment, that could be recreation, that could be a number of things.”

The city already added sidewalks and is making street and landscaping improvements to the North Pointe area near the Toll Road exit.

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Event showcases drought-tolerant landscapes – Visalia Times

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Yardsmart: Chickens teach ‘Live Free or Die’ couple valuable gardening lessons


Church rings in its 50th anniversary celebration

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Pics: Landscaping award winners named

Cape Town – Winners of the Corobrik Institute for Landscape Architecture in South Africa Awards of Excellence 2015 were announced at an event at the Cape Town Club on October 3.

A total of 32 entries was received in three categories from three areas within South Africa – the South, North and KwaZulu-Natal panels. Fourteen Corobrik Ilasa merit awards of excellence were presented for projects judged in the Western Cape or South Panel, and included two international projects.

Clare Burgess co-ordinated the judges for the southern area and the panel included landscape architect and urban designer Rene Brett, urban designer Rudi Botha and architect Ian Gray.

“The quality of projects submitted for this year’s event was extremely high and show that the landscape architectural profession is gaining status in the built environment,” said Burgess.


About the awards

Every second year Ilasa calls for submissions for the awards, with the aim of acknowledging and promoting excellence in the landscape, architectural and environmental planning and management through peer review recognition.

Professional practices submit projects which they believe showcase the diverse range of work that falls under the portfolio of work undertaken by a landscape architect. Judges adjudicate the written submissions and visit most of the completed projects.

In the publications category, landscape architect Bernard Oberholzer was presented with a merit award of excellence as well as the prestigious president’s award, for his educational publication, Reading the Landscape, aimed at the landscape and built environment professions. The award is the highest award available for landscape architecture in South Africa.


City of Cape Town awards

Ilasa presented the City of Cape Town’s City Parks Department with a merit award of excellence for Phase 1 of its Smart Parks concept. The first three parks in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Blikkiesdorp were designed by landscape architect Nicole Strong.

The City’s Spatial Planning and Urban Design department also picked up two awards. The first was presented for the landscaped gardens around the Human Settlements Contact Centre, the first green star-rated City of Cape Town Council housing offices in Manenberg, and a second award for Phase 1 and 2 of the rehabilitation of the open spaces and footpaths along Main Road, from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay harbour.


Vergelegen’s East Garden

OvP Associates, designers of an exquisite new garden at Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West, were also recipients of a merit award of excellence, one of four presented to the company for 2015.

The garden, known as the East Garden, was completed in December 2012, the 18th garden to be constructed on the 315-year old estate. It incorporates a massed planting of agapanthus, a children’s adventure playground and a maze.

More than 15 000 agapanthus 15+ cultivars were planted in bold diagonal bands, showcasing the variety of colours, sizes and flowering times of these beautiful plants. The maze is positioned to the side of the agapanthus garden, and its “walls” have been planted with vines.

“Our brief was to complement the newly-created Stables family restaurant and extend the indoors to the outdoors, while capturing the distant mountain vistas,” said landscape architect, Johan van Papendorp.

“Our challenge was to echo the axial nature set by the manor house and octagonal garden three centuries ago.”


Rosary House at Springfield Convent School

Tarna Klitzner of Tarna Klitzner Landscape Architects (TKLA) with her team, Kathrin Krause and Gabi Booysen, picked up the merit award of excellence for their work on the gardens surrounding a new retirement home for Dominican nuns, within the precinct of Springfield Convent School in Wynberg.

This feminine garden comprises a number of landscaped rooms – an indigenous garden, a vegetable garden, meadow orchards and roses sprinkled about the plantings. The plantings have resulted in an abundance of visual and sensory experiences, which add to the healing value of the landscape.

“Most surprising for us has been the response from the school community who pass the garden on entering and leaving the school,” said Klitzner.

“Mothers have phoned to tell us how much delight they experience daily when viewing the garden.”


Oasis Luxury Retirement Resort gardens

Landscape architect Jacques Dohse and his team at Planning Partners received a merit award of excellence for the landscaped gardens in the Oasis Luxury Retirement Resort in Century City, one of three awards picked up by the company at this year’s event.

The exquisite gardens, restful water features and plantings live up to the development’s name, becoming truly an oasis for residents to enjoy.

A palette of indigenous plants, groundcover, shrubs and trees were used in the landscape.

Water features consisting of streams and ponds were included for tranquillity.

The pond and streams utilise double-treated grey water which is purified through the Intaka Island wetlands system.

“The linear nature of the space lends itself to a series of garden experiences which are tied together by the repeated use of hardy and attractive plants and lawns, and the overall impact is that the Oasis Retirement Resort is defined by the quality of its landscaping,” said Clare Burgess.

Kay Montgomery, Independent HOME

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