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Archives for November 22, 2015

Editorial: A Vision for Route 12A

The closings of a Pizza Hut and a Friendly’s restaurant in recent months say more about those stale franchises than they do about Route 12A, the Upper Valley’s retail hub. But those now-empty spots, along with the long-shuttered Shaw’s in the Upper Valley Plaza, suggest that the shopping district could use some fresh ideas.

Lebanon planners are currently promoting a “visioning’’ process for the city’s downtown, inviting all comers to share thoughts about the business and land-use mix, marketing and branding, character and design, transportation, parking, events, public art, historic preservation and more.

When they’re done with that, they should turn their eyes to the Route 12A shopping plazas, which sprang from farmland decades ago without the benefit of much city planning. The lure of shopping, and lots of it, and the lack of a sales tax have made it successful.

But with some national chains sputtering — financial news reports say Staples, Best Buy, Kmart/Sears, JCPenney and others are challenged by online competition — new initiatives on 12A have been lacking.

If planning didn’t get us here, it might offer a way forward. First, the city needs buy-in from property owners and the corporations that operate there. That won’t be easy, since out-of-state companies may have a large national footprint, but not necessarily a deep local connection. Inattention from business interests is already evident in small ways — year-round potholes on privately owned roads off the main drag are one example — along with the shabby former Irving gas station on 12A. The recent outbreak of temporary signs on rights-of-way — hawking jobs, mattress sales, flu shots and more — seems more suited to yard sales, not major commerce.

There are many opportunities for a new vision. As we have noted previously, the 12A district utterly fails to make use of views of the Connecticut River. Walking in the area is unpleasant, and feels dangerous at some intersections. The district would benefit from cafes and businesses that invite patrons to linger, rather than shop and go. The city could explore allowing taller structures, and encouraging residential development, as is now happening at Centerra on the other side of town.

It would be fascinating to hear what the public really desires for 12A. Online discussions seem to begin and end with yearning for Target, but there are more possibilities. As long as we are welcoming visions, a state-of-the art movie theater would be a draw, and perhaps even a bowling alley, now that the Upper Valley Lanes in White River Junction is gone.

Unleashing the creativity of artists and designers for public spaces would be a plus — the overall aesthetic now is American Random. The city missed an opportunity with the last round of 12A improvements, which helped traffic flow but created tedious traffic islands. Public art, anyone? Or, more modestly, nicer landscaping?

If we are on the cusp of a new retail era, where brick and mortar stores must transform themselves, they should be interested in this discussion, as should the city, since a hefty chunk of the tax base is at stake.

Could Route 12A be better? Let’s talk.

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TEMECULA: Vail Ranch restoration nearing completion – Press


• Buildings from the historic Vail Ranch are being preserved in a project that mixes the buildings with a new retail center.

• The facility will act as a living museum and retail hub.

• Developers hope to have the site open in 2016, possibly as soon as April.

Mom and dad sip coffee drinks at the cafe while their youngsters hitch a ride on the stagecoach that weaves around the property.

Meanwhile, over at the steakhouse, visitors from out of town are just finishing up a big tri-tip sandwich and are trying to decide whether they should get some pie or ice cream for dessert.

At the blacksmith shop, men hammer out a replica branding iron that will be used to decorate the barn of a Wine Country resident while a jug band plays period music on a small stage.

In early 2016 – possibly as soon as April – these scenes could spring to life at the Vail Ranch Headquarters, a 4-acre historic site in south Temecula that is being transformed into a living museum and retail hub.

For Darell Farnbach, co-founder of the Vail Ranch Restoration Association, it will be a satisfying conclusion to decades of work behind the scenes.

“I’ve been imagining it for over 20 years,” he said Wednesday during a tour of the property.

The nonprofit association was formed in the mid-1990s when a development threatened the historic headquarters. The grand compromise that preserved the site while allowing for the construction of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Margarita Road and Temecula Parkway was forged after a lawsuit and countless meetings over the years.

The Mahlon Vail family bought the land that would become the Vail Ranch in 1905. The sprawling expanse of 90,000 acres extended from the present-day community of Redhawk in south Temecula north to Clinton Keith Road, west to Camp Pendleton and east to Vail Lake.

The headquarters was set up at the spot that’s now along Temecula Parkway because of the proximity to the Temecula Creek and its location on the Butterfield Stage Route, which was carved out by the Mormon Battalion in the 1840s.

The city and Riverside County signed off on the renovation of the site years ago, but the recession sapped financing for the project. The improving economy has allowed the Pomona-based Arteco to secure loans and start working again.

Some of the historic buildings at the site date to the mid- to late 1800s and early 1900s. Others are being constructed to mimic the style of the historic structures.

“It’s pretty gratifying to see a project close to fruition,” said Jerry Tessier of Arteco, which has owned the property for around 10 years. “It’s the most gratifying of any project I’ve ever worked on because of the time involved.”

Major construction on the largest buildings is mostly complete, but there is still a lot of painting, landscaping and touch-up work to do.

“That’s kind of the fun part,” Tessier said Thursday.

The team working to lease out the various structures has some tenants lined up, Farnbach said, including a coffee shop, an ice cream vendor and one who plans to run a tack shop and stable her horse on the property.

The plan right now is for a soft opening in the late spring and then a full grand opening in the summer, Tessier said.

Members of the association plan to tell the property’s story during special events that could feature people dressed in period clothing and manning exhibits that illustrate life in the 1800s and early 1900s.

In addition to those historical offerings, Tessier said his company wants to bring in entertainment that will make use of the property as a venue. A drama company recently asked about doing a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the ranch.

At the time, the property was not ready, but by next year those sorts of ideas and projects will be considered.

“That’s part of our agreement with the county, to make it available for community events and public events,” Tessier said. “We welcome any and all ideas on how to make it a destination, a community resource. It’s not just another shopping center; there’s something a lot more unique to it.”

Contact the writer: 951-368-9698 or aclaverie@pe.comTwitter: @PE_Claverie

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Guest commentary: Concord residents can act to alleviate drought’s impacts

Winter is on the way, but the drought’s not over. Even as the peak watering season come to a close and an El Niño winter looms on the horizon, we need to set the groundwork for long-term water conservation.

As mayor of Concord, I believe that government must do everything possible to set our region on the right track when it comes to managing local water supplies.

Ultimately, it is the individual actions of local residents that will get us to our conservation goals.

In the short term Contra Costa County residents are saving water in a number of ways by changing behavior. Residents limit when and how much they water outdoors, and even what type of hose they use to wash their cars. While behavioral changes are helpful when the urgency of the drought continues to bear down upon us, they will not be enough in the long run.

Last year was the hottest year on record in California, and 2013 was the driest. Of the 37 million people in our state, 27 million live in areas facing exceptional drought conditions. Water reserve levels are dangerously low. Even if we get rain tomorrow, we need to find permanent ways to use less water. Fortunately, there are painless ways for homeowners to reach this goal and even save money in the process.

Because outdoor water use averages 50 percent of a home’s water use, landscaping is the first place to focus conservation efforts. The Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) offers a lawn to garden rebate program to its customers.

There are ready-to-implement “New California Landscape” designs available online, and residents can sign up for a consultation with a professional landscape designer and get reimbursed upon project completion.

The many residents who have converted their yards to “New California” gardens have discovered that drought-tolerant landscaping doesn’t have to mean “cactuses.” Many beautiful plants thrive in our climate, including pollinator-friendly plants with plenty of color and variety. There are also drought-tolerant trees that provide shade.

This type of landscaping takes less work than a turf lawn, and much less water. CCWD’s Lawn to Garden website has all the information homeowners need to get started.

Converting a turf lawn to drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial turf requires an up-front investment. To help homeowners get past this potential stumbling block, the city of Concord welcomed financing companies like the HERO Program to offer a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to residents. Homeowners can use PACE to bring their efficient landscaping ideas to fruition.

PACE financing can be leveraged for many projects that improve a home’s water and energy efficiency. A single assessment can pay for investments in efficient windows, additional insulation and new solar panels.

Residents who leverage PACE finance the entire cost of efficiency upgrades and then pay for them over time through their property taxes. In the meantime, they’re saving money on their utility bills. Over the past 11 months, 135 Concord homeowners have completed renovations to their properties with HERO financing, representing $3 million in long-term investments in water and energy efficiency.

Concord was the first city in Contra Costa County to launch this innovative program. Since then, Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton, Danville, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Martinez, Oakley, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, San Pablo, San Ramon and Walnut Creek have all authorized HERO. About 300,000 homes — half of all homes in the county — are now able to leverage PACE financing.

Water and energy efficiency renovations in the county have brought homeowners $14 million in lifetime utility bill savings, and have generated almost $11 million in local economic stimulus.

I have witnessed the commitment of our city and our residents to take action and save water. In the face of this epic drought, residents throughout the Bay Area must keep expanding efforts to accomplish the water savings needed for a sustainable future.

Tim Grayson is mayor of Concord

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A few easy steps will keep deer away – Tribune

Protecting trees and shrubs from browsing deer has become a yearly autumn chore for many gardeners, myself included. Though the deer mostly stay out of my garden during the growing season, as soon as the weather cools and the leaves fall from the trees, our local deer herd starts jumping the fence and feasting on the trees and shrubs in my garden.

If I don’t do anything, the deer regularly nibble the growth off our young apple and plum trees, graze our arborvitae to the nub, chomp the tender new shoots off many of our evergreens and “pruneâ€� our blueberries and Japanese hollies. But, if I take a few simple steps now, I can protect my trees and shrubs throughout the winter and early spring.

My first line of defense, of course, is to plant trees and shrubs the deer don’t favor. It’s why you won’t find a single azalea or rhododendron on our property. Instead, you’ll find deer-resistant boxwoods, junipers and ornamental grasses.

But, we do have a few of Bambi’s favorites on our property, either because I can’t live without them or they were already here when we moved in. For these trees and shrubs, I employ a few deer-deterring techniques.

All of our young fruit trees are surrounded with a large cylinder of 5-foot-tall boxwire fencing every winter. The cylinder extends a foot beyond the outermost branches of the tree to keep the deer from accessing the plant. Once the trees reach a height of 6 to 7 feet, I no longer need to protect them as the branches are too high for the deer to reach.

In early spring, immediately after the fencing is removed, I regularly spray the branches with a liquid deer repellent such as Liquid Fence or Tree Guard to keep the deer away from them. I don’t have to spray during the summer, but I could if I needed to.

We have several evergreen shrubs scattered throughout our gardens that are regularly visited by deer during the winter months, if we don’t protect them. For these, I use black plastic deer netting. I cut a piece of netting large enough to cover the entire plant, plus a little extra for good measure. I lay the netting over the top of the shrub and use clothespins to fasten it closed and hold it in place.

Where I have a row of several deer-plagued shrubs, rather than protecting each individual plant separately, I build a temporary fence around the whole area. I hammer green, metal T-bar stakes every 5 to 6 feet around the perimeter of the planting bed. Then, I attach a layer of black plastic netting to the fence posts. It’s easy to take down in the spring, and I reuse the same T-bar stakes and netting every season. Once the netting is taken down in spring, just as with my fruit trees, I apply a liquid deer repellent to the shrubs for the next few weeks.

Lastly, to protect young trees from bucks rubbing the velvet off their antlers, wrap their trunks with chicken wire, hardware cloth or plastic fencing from late September through winter. If you extend the fencing underneath the mulch at the base of the tree, it also will keep bark-munching rabbits, mice, and voles away from the trunk all winter long.

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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Corey Jones shooting: Rally ends with prayer for peace, answers

After some had feared of unruly or violent protests at The Gardens Mall on Saturday, harmony reigned to a soundtrack of drum beats beyond the line of nearly 30 cars parked with open hoods along the southbound Interstate 95 exit ramp at PGA Boulevard.

A month and three days before in this place, Corey Jones and now-former Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Nouman Raja came face to face in a confrontation in which fear fueled violence, and Jones ended up dead.

Photos: Corey Jones protest in Palm Beach Gardens 11-21-15 gallery

Photos: Corey Jones protest in Palm Beach Gardens 11-21-15

On Saturday, the site of Jones’ Oct. 18 shooting death became the climax for a protest that drew about 100 people. The picketers are calling for an indictment against Raja, who was in plainclothes and showed no badge after he drove an unmarked van against traffic and approached Jones as the drummer waited for a tow truck in or near his broken-down SUV.

Though there have been other rallies since then, the protest at the mall drew the most scrutiny so far after it was proposed. Mall officials last week stressed to protesters that they weren’t welcome to protest inside the mall, and even Jones’ own relatives called for people to behave responsibly.

The result was a demonstration that was as heartfelt as it was smooth, beginning with a picket line centered around an intersection of PGA Boulevard.

corey jones rally crowd photo

Bruce Bennett

“What I want people to know is that we’re not against anybody,” Bo Barber, one of the protest leaders, said Saturday. “The people who are trying to make it an us-against-them thing are really the ones who are trying to sabotage the protests.

“We’re not against police officers. We just say when one of them does something wrong we need to deal with it so it doesn’t happen again.”

A group of more than a dozen bikers from the One Fist Ryderz Motorcycle Club split up and spread out along all lanes of the intersection where protesters held signs along the sidewalks. Then as the lights turned green, they rode slowly, making sure each motorist saw the “JusticeForCorey” signs.

Corey Jones protest photo

Daphne Duret/Palm Beach Post

Many honked in response.

Among the protest observers was Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, who said the city is trying to be as “user-friendly” as possible. He watched as people held signs, played in a drum circle and spoke into megaphones.

“It’s been very peaceful, and I’m really grateful for that,” he said.

corey jones rally photo

Bradley Goldstein, whose Resilience Communications firm is handling questions related to the protest for the mall, stood with Jablin and said he agreed.

Barber and others, like Rae Whitely of the Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy and Nicholas O’Neal of the Palm Beach County Clergy Alliance, helped build support for Saturday’s rally.

Derrick McCray of McCray’s Backyard BBQ stepped in to broker a meeting between the protesters and community leaders last week, where they discussed everything from Raja’s recent termination to body cameras for police officers.

Corey Jones photo

McCray said one of their ultimate goals is to get a “Corey Jones law,” which would strictly limit the circumstances under which plainclothes police officers approach the public and address how they identify themselves when they do interact. Whitely, O’Neal and an aunt and uncle of Jones were among a group that included other local leaders who traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with lawmakers in hopes of starting that process.

“It’s time we wake up and be a little more intelligent about how we go about fighting this fight,” McCray said, referring to the push for new policies, federal legislation and voter participation.

The protesters Saturday also called for a citizen review board and for Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg to take a closer look at other fatal police-involved shootings. McCray specifically referred to the case of Seth Adams, the 24-year-old Loxahatchee Groves man who died after he was shot by an undercover Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy in the parking lot of his family’s landscaping business on May 16, 2012.

Corey Jones shooting: Rally ends with prayer for peace, answers photo

Damon Higgins

People are frustrated, McCray said, and the rally gave them a chance to vent.

Riviera Beach resident Abasi Hanif, part of the drum circle along PGA Boulevard, said he can relate to Jones, although he didn’t know him. Hanif is the same age, hosts the Livin’ the Rhythm Drum Circle every Thursday night at Harold’s Coffee Lounge in West Palm Beach’s Northwood neighborhood and has been in a broken-down car.

So where a month ago gunshots took Jones life, protesters and some of Raja’s former colleagues stood feet away from one another and exchanged smiles and banter as Hanif and others beat healing rhythms into their drums. Because Jones was alone in his broken-down car waiting for a tow truck when he was killed, the protesters popped their hoods, too.

Corey Jones shooting: Rally ends with prayer for peace, answers photo

Damon Higgins

Protest leaders said they were happy with the turnout despite rumors of plans for people to “flood the mall” and do other things that would get them arrested. The talk prompted Jones’ older brother, Clinton “C.J.” Jones, Jr. to ask publicly for peace, and it led some who had intended to participate to tell people like Barber that they were staying away.

On Saturday, just days after a group of protesters in New York City held signs with Corey’s face during a protest at the Rockefeller Center, C.J. Cones responded to to the show of support with gratitude.

“I’m speechless right now. This what I’m talking about. I like this,” he said when he saw photos from the local gathering, adding the phrase that their father, Clinton Jones, Sr., coined to describe their quest for justice: “Keep the beat alive.”

Corey Jones shooting: Rally ends with prayer for peace, answers photo

Bruce Bennett
Corey Jones shooting: Rally ends with prayer for peace, answers photo

Bruce Bennett

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Tropical Gardening: Thanksgiving mahalo

The terrorist attacks in Paris and other tragedies occurring around the world reminds us again to give thanks for living on this little speck of paradise we call Hawaii.

Sometimes, it seems better to stay at home, but just about that time an opportunity comes to reach out and share our good fortune with others. America’s Farmer to Farmer Program funded through Peace Corps and several non-governmental groups give folks here a chance to volunteer to help others. If you are interested in short-term volunteer service, check out and Partners of the Americas.

As an example of service, folks such as those at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill are partnering with the Salvation Army and others to make sure everyone has a special turkey dinner. Free meals will be served there from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day for anyone in need. If you are interested in helping with preparation and serving, contact Paul at 326-0209.

Almost 100 turkeys will be cooked with kokua of other restaurants including Buns in the Sun and Fish Hopper to be served at Jackie Rey’s. For anyone housebound, call the Salvation Army at 326-2330 for free meal delivery.


If you can take the time to have a really amazing experience, Haiti is just a short distance from Florida. Haiti is a beautiful country that shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic. Compared with almost 30,00 square miles of land surface on Hispanola, our 4,000-square-mile island is a mere speck.

Although Haiti is considered one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere, it has wonderful scenery and delightful people. Because of an undeserved reputation, few folks visit there.

The tropics have many places with as much beauty as Hawaii, and there are many places where you can find friendly people. What is unique about Hawaii is that not only are the Islands beautiful and friendly, we also have a form of government that allows us to live in relative safety and prosperity.

Our form of government attempts to allow for rule of the majority with protection of the minority. It is just enough capitalistic that it rewards free enterprise and just enough socialistic that most folks have food, shelter and medical care.

Now, some readers would disagree, but compared to most tropical African, Asian or American countries this is rather unique. Haiti fought for freedom from the French centuries ago, but its own internal politics left it a country where one never really feels safe. Most people live very close to hunger and ill health.

They are enduring, tenacious and hard working, but without an environment that allows their talents to prosper, they struggle to thrive. Some of the farmers with whom we have worked would be millionaires if they lived in a place like Hawaii.

In America, Thanksgiving for some might be all about eating too much rich food and the worry the weight gain likely will continue through New Years Day. Unlike much of the tropical world, we don’t usually have to worry about from where our next meal comes.

However, this time of year should remind us to sincerely give thanks for all the many blessings around us and be willing to share when we have the opportunity. Not only do we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, we are blessed with the abundance of a great variety of food crops.

Many fruits grow wild along the roadside and, of course, in our gardens.

Hawaiian gardeners can grow tropical fruits such as bananas, citrus, mangoes and avocados, but we should not overlook some favorites from warm temperate climates such as low chill apples, peaches, loquats, pomegranates, figs and persimmons.

Persimmons are among the favorites and can be found in the market now. Eating persimmons is an easy way to sweeten any day the healthy way. Also known as the “kissing fruit,” the persimmon tree grows here and produces heavy crops. The rather familiar name comes from the puckering qualities of unripe fruit. As you bite into the fruit, it can remind you to make love not war.

Aside from the amorous tendencies, the persimmon long has been a popular dooryard fruit in the cooler upland sections of Hawaii. The generic name, Diospyros, literally means “food of the Gods.” This prestige began ages ago in China and Japan.

The flavor of the fruit is excellent. It is a concentrated food because all of the sugar is quick energy producing dextrose. However, most persimmon varieties are astringent, or puckery, until fully ripe.

Persimmons do best upon lighter upland soils that are well drained. You are in luck if your property has a good soil, but if it doesn’t be sure to spend some time improving the soil with fertilizer and compost.

Persimmons like full sunlight and ample elbow room. So, the planting site should be an open space no closer than 20 feet from the nearest tree canopy.

If the planting site is a lawn area, practice clean cultivation around the trunk of the tree. In removing weeds, do not dig deeply, as many feeder roots of the tree grow close to the surface of the soil.

Fertilizer requirements for persimmons are vague. But the trees seem to thrive on applications of a good garden fertilizer mixture containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potash plus minor elements. A standard type such a 1-1-1 is satisfactory. Where the soil is high in nitrogen, look for a bloom aid formula low in nitrogen. Apply the fertilizer in the spring as new leaves flush.

Two close relatives of the persimmon also can add interesting and delicious fruit to your garden and table.

The black sapote, Diospyros ebenaster, from Mexico is grown occasionally in Hawaii. The tree is evergreen, up to 25 feet, with a fairly compact rounded habit and handsome in aspect. The leathery leaves are bright green and shiny. The fruit is round, from 2 to 5 inches in diameter, and dark olive green at maturity, with a conspicuous persistent green calyx like the persimmon. The thin skin encloses a soft pulpy flesh that is a dark chocolate-brown in color. The pulp is soft and sweet. Addition of orange, lime or lemon juice improves the flavor of the fruit that can be eaten fresh or cooked.

The mabolo, Diospyros discolor, is rare in Hawaii except on Round Top, above Honolulu, where it can be found growing wild. This Philippine tree is of medium size, with leathery, oblong, pointed leaves 4 to 10 inches long, light and smooth above, much paler and more or less silky or hairy beneath. The fruits are 3 to 5 inches in diameter, covered thickly with short reddish brown hair. The flesh is cream colored, rather dry, sweet and aromatic, usually with several rather large seeds. Seedless forms are known with moister and sweeter flesh of good quality.

Check with local nurseries for these fruit trees and more to make your home gardening fruitful.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. For further information about gardening and landscaping, contact one of our master gardeners at 322-4892 in Kona or 981-5199 in Hilo.

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Top 5 tips to build a winter garden safe for pets and wildlife

For fur parents, holidays present a host of joys: – dressing up your pup or kitty in all kinds of ridiculous costumes for Halloween. Then comes fall and raking up leaves, which means all kinds of piles of scarlet and gold for Rover to jump through, into and race around. With Christmas, pet stores everywhere offer pet parents opportunities to take photos with Santa, purchase caps, beards, and even candy-apple red jackets to look like Santa. For the wee ones, it’s not too hard to find supplies to dress Rover up like Rudolph or Clarice, Frosty or the Grinch’s dog.

But while all these fall rituals for our loved ones occupy our time during the change of seasons, let’s not forget what is happening outside.

Ever think about what might be hiding in, around, or under those leaves? When you rake up those leaves or pull up what appears to be just “a pile of weeds,” those piles might actually be sheltering some friendly insects, such as caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers and others that later that not only are critical to the ecosystem for their contributions, but also are a food source for bats, birds, opossum, raccoons and other critters that reside up the food chain.

Along with the fall and holiday rituals of pet ownership, now as we set about building our winter gardens, what about being as mindful to greenery as we are to making sure everyone with four paws stays safe during the change of seasons? Many fur parents keep a “humane backyard” in offering birdseed, fresh water sources and safe spaces to wildlife by ensuring their four-legged loved ones do not endanger wildlife.

To build on this “humane backyard” principle, Nancy Lawson, editor-in-chief of All Animals, a magazine of the Humane Society of the United States, offered a list of tips in a column she penned in spring 2014:

1) Leaf it! A fine layer of leaves offers warmth and protection for the Luna moths before they are moths (the chrysalis stage) as well as various butterflies, who seek out brush piles, piles of garden greens, and tree cavities to spend the winter.

2) Stick it! Sticks might be hazardous for walking or romping in the yard, but choose wisely those that might need picking up. Dead stems and stalks actually could be host to hundreds of insect eggs. Mantid eggs, writes Lawson, resemble dead leaves. She also recommends leaving out stalks of plants that could provide seeds and needed sustenance for migrating birds.

3) Cruise the grass! Before mowing, talk a walk through the greenery: you never know who might call it home. Rabbits, turtles and other small nesting creatures might be endangered by a loud, unwieldy mower. Also consider the type of grass you grow: native grasses and sedge are more hardy and a friendlier host to wildlife.

4) Keep it clean! Artificial lawn fertilizers and pesticides generally are hazardous to lawn residents and most insects in their egg forms. Consider adopting organic practices, such as mixing a poultice of hot pepper with chopped garlic and positioning several around key points of a green space. Otherwise, artificial chemicals can cut short the lifespan of many wildlife species.

5) Beauty is skin deep! Late blossoms and last vegetable produce are a thrill for the last splash of color they provide to a yard – what’s prettier than that last tomato or those last miniature roses? But remember, our winged, migrating creatures could use the sustenance those plants provide as they head south. Leave the blossom. Think about leaving the tomatoes, too (consider cutting them up and scattering them in the leaf pile; they taste pretty gross this time of year!)

For more information on keeping a backyard safe for our fur kids, see the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For additional information on maintaining a humane backyard for wildlife or a backyard that is a haven for all creatures, see the Humane Society home page or Nancy Lawson’s Humane Gardener feature.

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Garden Tips: Hostas are a great shade plant – Tri

During the past 30 years, local gardeners have wisely planted trees for shade. This has yielded cooling shade around our homes, but has also resulted in areas of the yard and garden becoming shaded. Since most perennial flowers perform best in full sun, a shaded garden becomes a challenge.

Shade-challenged gardeners should consider planting hostas. Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are perennial plants prized for their tolerance to shade. These plants are native to Japan, China and Korea and were first introduced to the U.S. in the mid 1800s.

Today’s gardeners treasure hostas for their diversity of colors that range from pretty dark greens to bright greens, grayish blue-greens, and even golds, as well as their shapes, sizes, textures and variegation. With more than 2,500 cultivated varieties, there is a hosta that will fit into almost any shady garden.

Just because they are prized for their foliage does not mean hostas lack pretty flowers. Hostas produce stalks of lavender, violet, pink or white lily-like flowers in summer, as well as some cultivars with showy flowers and some that are fragrant.

Most plants develop a mounded round form, but their size varies. Hosta growers classify hosta into categories based on mature plant height from the tiny minis (shorter than 8 inches tall) up to the big giants (taller than 30 inches).

While often touted as shade-loving perennials, hostas actually grow best when they receive morning sun or only dappled shade

Along with their beauty, hostas are prized by gardeners because they are easy to grow. Like so many plants, hostas grow best in a well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. If preparing a bed, it is advisable to incorporate some organic matter in the form of compost, coconut coir fiber or peat moss. Because the plants spread horizontally, be sure to dig a generously wide hole when planting individual hostas.

Hostas grow from rhizomes that are planted in the spring, either from rhizomes or potted plants. The soil should be kept consistently moist but not wet. As light feeders, they only require light fertilization.

Hostas are also winter hardy and most can survive in zones as cold as USDA Hardiness Zones 3 or 4. They have few pests, except for snails and slugs that love to gnosh on the leaves. Also, black vine weevils have a predilection for notching hosta leaf edges.

While often touted as shade-loving perennials, hostas actually grow best when they receive morning sun or only dappled shade. While some cultivars will tolerate full shade, they do not thrive in it. If hostas receive too much heat or too little water, the leaf edges will develop crispy brown edges. If subjected to the Mid-Columbia’s intense summer sun, leaves will develop sunburn, or the entire plant may turn brown and dry.

In a six-year hosta variety trial at the Texas AM University, the cultivars rated the best overall were Royal Standard, Blue Cadet, So Sweet, Albo-Marginata, Sugar Cream, and Blue Angel. You can find hostas at local nurseries, but if you want to try some unusual specialty cultivars, check out online sources like Sebright Gardens ( or Plant Delights Nursery (

If you had told me 30 years ago that I would write a column about growing hostas in our area, I probably would have laughed because there was so little shade here then.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Maine Gardener: Natural gifts for gardeners bring ideas for new growth

Natural and resilient gardens are a trend. People want their gardens to be more than a pretty place to look at and spend time in, but also an area that improves the world.

Two books that crossed my desk this year feed into that trend, one more successfully than the other.


“Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes” is a detailed, scientific guide to making attractive and sustainable landscapes in urban and suburban areas where humans have destroyed the original wilderness.

The authors – Thomas Rainier is originally from Alabama and Claudia West from the former East Germany – call the book a “manifesto dedicated to the idea of a new nature – a hybrid of both the wild and the cultivated – that can flourish in our cities and suburbs.”

They don’t care if a plant is native, but do care that it will grow in the soil and climate conditions involved without much help from humans. They want the ground covered with plants, with ground covers on the bottom, trees above, understory plants and fillers below. While you have to tend the plants when they are new, they think gardens should take minimal maintenance once established. They disapprove of the gardens many of us have – bare soil covered in mulch with just a few plants.

They divide gardens into four types: grasslands, woodlands/shrublands, forests and edges. Those natural landscapes are the inspiration for the garden you want to create, and you should pick the one closest to what you now have.

Illustrations and pictures throughout the book are excellent and helpful.

“Planting in a Post-Wild World” by Thomas Rainier and Claudia West, Timber Press, $39.95.

“Grow Your Own Natural Garden: Taking Inspiration from Nature” has a similar theme, but is more traditional in its approach, caring more about how a garden looks than its role in sustaining the world.

Author Carol Klein is English, so she does not include forests in her breakdown of natural gardens, instead divvying the landscape up into woodlands, seaside, exposed, hedgerow, wetland and meadow. The photos are excellent, and there are some good ideas – but many of the plants she recommends would not stand up to the Maine climate.

“Grow Your Own Natural Garden: Taking Inspiration from Nature” by Carol Klein, with photography by Jonathan Buckley, Octopus Publishing, $34.99.

“Growing the Northeast Garden” is the perfect book for a beginning gardener – although I admit that I, a seasoned gardener, picked up a number of good tips, too.

After a brief introduction to the elements that make up the Northeast’s geography, the book jumps into the plants that work here. Plants are divided into the backbones of the garden, and then by season for the plants that will shine from spring to winter. More than half the book is devoted to the sections on plants.

The end of “Growing the Northeast Garden” offers clear, concise information on design, growing and potential pests. A photo spread shows seven Northeast gardens. Author Andrew Keys lives in Massachusetts, but photographer Kerry Michaels has her studio at Flying Point in Freeport.

“Growing the Northeast Garden” by Andrew Keys, with photographs by Kerry Michaels, Timber Press, $24.95.

“Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood” is not a biography of the ground-breaking English garden designer, but rather a description of the relationship between the designer and her home. Many of the concepts that Jekyll introduced remain mainstays of garden design today. Jekyll has a Maine connection (once removed) in that Beatrix Farrand – who created many outstanding gardens on Mount Desert Island, including her own Reef Point – visited and was inspired by Jekyll and ultimately rescued Jekyll’s records and papers, which now are housed at the University of California.

Since I had enjoyed author Judith Tankard’s “Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes,” I figured I would enjoy this book on Jekyll. Jekyll made no effort to preserve Munstead Wood, in Surrey, located just outside London. She was, however, an excellent photographer, and the book includes many of her photos of the estate, as well as artists’ renderings of the gardens during her life and photographs taken more recently. So far, I’ve only had a chance to skim the book, but I expect an in-depth reading will bring color to the gray days ahead this winter.

“Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood” by Judith Tankard and Martin Wood, Pimpernel Press, $39.95.

“Beardless Irises: A plant for every garden situation” is for the plant geek. Beardless irises are a broad variety of plants, including Siberian, Japanese and species iris that are commonly grown in Maine. The book includes a detailed chapter on how to hybridize beardless irises. Interestingly, Currier McEwen of Harpswell, who died in 2003 at age 101, has more hybrids listed in the book than any other person – even though he did not begin hybridizing irises until he retired from a distinguished medical career.

“Beardless Irises: A plant for every garden situation” by Kevin C. Vaughn, Schiffer Publishing, $29.99.

And here’s a quick look at other gardening books that showed up in my mailbox in 2015:

“Gardening for the Homebrewer” by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon, Voyager Press, $21.99. This book combines two of my passions: gardening and beer. It describes how to grow and use plants in making not only beer, but also wine (both grape and fruit), ciders, perry (or pear cider) and liqueurs.

“The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright” by Derek Fell, Frances Lincoln Limited, $29.95. This is a 2014 revision of a book published in 2009, but I received it early this year. Wright’s buildings tie in seamlessly with their surroundings, and the gardens emphasize that. Excellent photos with concise, clear and colorful text.

“Compost City” by Rebecca Louie, Roost Books, $16. This how-to guide starts with the basics, then moves on to more exotic practices such as bokashi, which is fermenting waste, a practice that works well for people who want to compost animal products and have limited space.

“Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening” by Vermont resident Peter Burke, Chelsea Green Publishing, $29.95. This guide shows how to grow salad greens in trays of soil, using no special equipment or lights. It clearly describes the method and then offers recipes and descriptions of specific seeds.

“Epic Tomatoes” by Craig LeHoullier, Storey Publishing, $19.95. Everything you need to know about the crop that for many gardeners defines summer. The book covers varieties, growing instructions, recipes, tomato troubles, seed-saving and creation of new varieties. Well-organized, clear and interesting with instructive photos and illustrations.

“The Crafted Garden” by Louise Curley, Frances Lincoln Limited, $25. This book offers 50 ways to turn the plants you grow or forage into home decorations, divided by the seasons. It’s more a crafts book than a gardening book, but who wouldn’t want a winter-squash vase?

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at [email protected].





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Filipino artistry, design take center stage during Apec dinner affairs


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With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Week in full swing, Filipino artistry and design take center stage as the Apec economic leaders are treated to several dinner affairs featuring Philippine hospitality and entertainment.

Renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue is the creative director of the welcome dinner last Wednesday. Projecting the image of the “Global Filipino,” Kenneth used natural materials and natural themes incorporating 21st-century sophistication. He also wanted to show that Filipinos are rooted in the past yet focused on the future.

With that as his focal point, Kenneth drew inspiration from rice terraces for his designs. Transforming the entire space into a huge outdoor garden, his main challenge was how to transform the coldness of the huge SM Mall of Asia Arena into a warm and cozy venue.

A grassy circular stage was set in the middle of the arena for dinner. Dramatically hanging over the setting were colorful anahaw leaf designs that changed colors digitally.

The chairs used for the 21 economic leaders were based on Kenneth’s Yoda chair design that was inspired by blades of grass. Some adjustments were made to suit the needs of the leaders at the event.

Check out the showroom of Kenneth at San Lorenzo Tower, Residences at Greenbelt, Arnaiz Road, Makati City for other unique and truly global Filipino design pieces. Roselen Ocampo, the showroom director, will gladly show you the stunning works of art.

Swatch Fiesta

Another Filipino-themed affair was the Swatch Fiesta held at the Swatch Swatch building on Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City. Swatch creative director Carlo Giordanetti and vice president for sales Gonzalo de Cevallos found the event to be the perfect opportunity to present to our National Artist, Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, the second watch he designed for Swatch—Ode to the Flag.

Directed by Rowell Santiago, guests were transported back in time to the early 20th century of Philippine haute cuisine. Creative set designer Gino Gonzales made hanging lamps with BenCab prints and silkscreened a BenCab image on the grand piano next to the artfully arranged table setting.

Swatch grand dame Virgie S. Ramos put together an event pulling together our Spanish-Chinese culture, with the heady influences of 20th-century France and America.

Rustan’s BenCab collection

BenCab also launched a new home line at Rustan’s, the country’s premier destination for luxury goods and quality products. An avid supporter of the arts through its partnership with notable artists from both the local and global scene, the retail giant collaborated with the talented hands and brilliant minds of renowned Filipino artists such as Arturo Luz, Ramon Orlina and Nemiranda.

The “Rustan’s X BenCab Collection,” a limited-edition home-merchandise collection featuring embedded artworks by legendary National Artist BenCab was recently launched at all Rustan’s stores.

Hailed as the master of Philippine contemporary art, the famous Filipino painter and printmaker celebrates his five decades of success as an art icon this year through a much-anticipated exhibit that highlights a retrospective of his life’s work in seven participating museums. In line with this special milestone, Rustan’s—one of the artist’s retail partners—held an event in honor of his significant contribution to the nation’s embodiment of visual arts.

The launch of BenCab’s special 50th anniversary edition home pieces had the presence of the artist’s family and friends, media members and Rustan’s loyal patrons.

Signature subject

A signature subject that recurs through BenCab’s works, “Sabel,” an image inspired by a real-life scavenger whom the National Artist photographed and sketched in 1965, is present in the home items in beautifully-made drawings composed of a balance of vibrant colors and unique abstracts that emanate a drive of intense emotions.

From the sophisticated-looking porcelain plates to unconventional mugs, extraordinary cushion covers, attractive fans, decorative trays and nice utility boxes, the collection unveils classic visual interpretations of the Filipino culture in the olden times through design elements of mother and child illustrations, monumental figures, traditional masks and different portrayals of women at work. In addition to the wonderful collection, a free tote bag with a printed BenCab artwork is given for every single receipt purchase of Rustan’s X BenCab collection worth P10,000.



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