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Archives for December 4, 2015

Frosts scoops Grand Award as nearly 900 professionals celebrate BALI National …

The Grand Award, the BALI National Landscape Awards’ highest accolade, went to Frosts Landscape Construction for its “faultless” execution of a hard landscaping project at 3 Merchant Square in London.

Works included waterproofing the podium slab, formation of reinforced concrete over slabs, installation of bespoke stainless steel drainage and large canal coping stones.

More than 2000sqm of granite paving was laid, featuring radial cut paving for the bespoke water fountain and amphitheatre.

Frosts also installed cast-iron kerbs and benches incorporating hardwood seating, cast-iron walls to form planters and dividing walls.

The project was designed by Townshend Landscape Architects for client European Land, with architect Applied Landscape Design. Frosts also won the Principal Award for Hard-Landscaping Construction (non-domestic) costing more than £1.5m for the project.

Frosts Landscape Construction director Aidan Lane said he was “gobsmacked” to have won the Grand Award. But he said the job itself was incredibly challenging, and winning the award showed high quality landscaping was just as important as other elements. 

Lane singled out project manager Gareth Kinsella and Martin Wiles for their work, as well as ALD Design and Townshend Landscape Architects for the collaborative approach they took to the job.

Winners were drawn from a shortlist of 50 award winners, chosen from 108 entries. 

Judges led by panel chair Greg Allen said Frosts’ work had resulted in “an exciting and inspiring space” and a delighted client.

“The quality and attention to detail has been driven by the client but the contractor has stepped up and undertaken a colossal engineering and landscaping challenge.”

They added that every aspect of the job had been carried out with precision and represented “the very best in hard landscaping”.

Other Principal Award winners in their respective categories included Willerby Landscapes in the Soft Landscaping Construction over £1.5m category for its work on the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch St in London; Linden Landscapes Domestic Gardens, winning the Domestic Garden Construction over £250,000 for its build of an Andy Sturgeon-designed private garden complete with glasshouse, paving and decking aspects; and P Casey Land Reclamation, which won the Restoration and Regeneration Scheme category for its work restoring Cathedral Gardens in Leicester.

The Landscape Group won the Hard Landscaping Construction (non-domestic) under £300,000 for its work on Mandeville Place, the Paralympics memorial garden at the Olympic Park, while Integritas Landscapes (now Nurture Landscapes) took home the award for Grounds Maintenance: Limited Public Access for its work at Capability Green Business Park in Luton.

The event was opened by BALI chief executive Wayne Grills. Horticulture Week’s editor Kate Lowe also addressed the audience. A charity appeal run during the event raised £4,656, to be split evenly between Greenfingers and the BALI Chalk Fund, an education charity funding landscape training.

Read on for the full list of BALI National Landscape 2015, Grand, Principal, and Special Award Winners, plus the award winners that were in contention for principal awards.

The 2015 Grand Award winner – sponsored by Green-tech

Frosts Landscape Construction for 3 Merchant Square, London W2

Design Build Special Award – Sponsored by British Sugar TOPSOIL

Northumbrian Landscaping for The Clock House, Wylam

Best Newcomer to BALI Special Award – sponsored by Penter Wienerberger

Rosemary Coldstream for The River Garden

Domestic Garden Construction – Construction Cost Under £30K – sponsored by MCM

 Principal Award winner: Northumbrian Landscaping – The Clock House, Wylam

Domestic Garden Construction – Construction Cost Between £30K – £60K – sponsored by


Principal Award winner: Creative Landscape Company – Contemporary Courtyard, Warfield Berkshire

Winner: Landscaping Solutions – Private garden in London Borough of Wandsworth

Domestic Garden Construction – Construction Cost Between £60K – £100K – sponsored by Johnsons of Whixley

Principal Award winner: James Bird Landscapes – Private Residence, Sheffield

Winners: Greenmantle – Elsworthy, London, NW3, Robert Straver – The Circus, Bath, The Garden Company – Rear Garden Design Construction, Wiggington

Domestic Garden Construction – Construction Cost Between £100K – £250K
– sponsored by Willerby Landscapes

Principal Award winner: PWP Landscape Limited – Private Garden Design Build, Linton

Winners: Creative Landscape Company – Tranquil Town Garden, Berkshire, The Garden Company – Front Rear Landscape Development, Harpendon

Domestic Garden Construction – Construction Cost Over £250K – sponsored by Europlants

Principal Award winner: Linden Landscapes – A garden in Sevenoaks, Kent

Winners: Bartholomew Landscaping – Private Residence, London, N2, Landform Consultants – Private Hampstead Garden, Bath,  The Cotswold Garden Company – The Hermitage, Bath

Soft Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Under £300K – sponsored by Paynes Turf

Principal Award winner: Gavin Jones Ltd (AKA The Plantation) – Montgomery House, Aldershot

Soft Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Between £300K – £1.5 million – sponsored by The Landscape Group idverde

Principal Award winner: IN-EX Landscapes – Ebury Square Gardens, London, SW1W

Winners: CGM Group – Hopton Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth, Frosts Landscape Construction – 5 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M, Land Engineering (Scotland) – Diagonal Walkway, Glasgow

Soft Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Over £1.5 million – sponsored by Green-tech

Principal Award winner: Willerby Landscapes – 20 Fenchurch Street and Associated Sky Garden, London, EC3M

Winner: Blakedown Landscapes (SE) – Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, London, E14

Hard Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Under £300K

Principal Award winner: The Landscape Group idverde – Mandeville Place, London, E20

Winners: Blakedown Landscapes (Operations) – Memorial Gardens, Tonbridge
The Landscape Group – Wythenshawe Hospital P4 Courtyard, Manchester

Hard Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Between £300K – £1.5 million – sponsored by Quinton Edwards

Principal Award winner: Land Engineering (Scotland) – Burns Statue Square, Dumfries

Winners: Elite Landscapes – Goodmans Fields North West Block, London, E1, Ground Control – Queensland Terrace, London, N7, IN-EX Landscapes – 21 Wapping Lane, London, E1W

Hard Landscaping Construction (Non-domestic) – Construction Cost Over £1.5 million – sponsored by Bradstone

Principal Award winner: Frosts Landscape Construction – 3 Merchant Square, London, W2

Winners: Blakedown Landscapes (SE) – Brownfield Estate Regeneration, London, W14
P Casey (Land Reclamation) – Jubilee Square, Leicester

Design Excellence Award – Overall Scheme Under £50K – sponsored by Lateral Design Studio

Principal Award winner: Rosemary Coldstream, Rosemary Coldstream Garden Design – The River Garden

Winner: Anthea Harrison, Anthea Harrison Garden Design – Tewin Project

Design Excellence Award – Overall Scheme Over £50K – sponsored by Springbridge Direct

Principal Award winner: Patricia Fox, Aralia – Chelsea Creek Rooftop Terrace, London, SW6

Winner: John Wyer, Bowles Wyer – A Garden in St James, London

Community and Schools Development – sponsored by Brett Landscaping

Principal Award winner: Ground Control – St Giles Churchyard, London, WC2H

Winner: Blakedown Landscapes (SE) – Camden Active Play, London, Endrick Landscapes – Cramond Primary Our P.L.A.C.E., Edinburgh

Restoration and Regeneration Scheme – sponsored by Topgreen / Rigby Taylor

Principal Award winner: P Casey (Land Reclamation) – Cathedral Gardens, Leicester

Winners: Blakedown Landscapes (SE) – Isabella Plantation Access Project, London, TW10, Blakedown Sport and Play – Farnham Riverside, Farnham, Gavin Jones Ltd (aka The Plantation) – Walpole Park, London, W5
Ground Control – Payers Park, Folkstone, Ground Control – Forty Hall, London, En2, Historic Royal Palaces – The Royal Kitchen Garden Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, The Landscape Group – West Hackney Recreation Ground, London, N16, Tony Benger Landscaping – Lyme Regis Environmental Improvements Phase iv

Grounds Maintenance – Free Public Access – sponsored by Harrowden Turf

Principal Award winner: The Landscape Group idverde – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, E20

Winners: Complete Ground Management – North North East Parks, Milton Keynes, John O’Conner (Grounds Maintenance) – Ventnor Park, Isle of Wight, The Landscape Group – Jephson Gardens, Royal Leamington Spa, The Landscape Group – Bexhill West Parade (Next Wave), Bexhill

Grounds Maintenance – Limited Public Access – sponsored by Ransomes Jacobsen

Principal Award winner: Integritas Landscapes – Capability Green Business Park, Luton

Winners: Grace Landscapes – Rainton Bridge Retail Park, Sunderland, 

Quality Service – Green Park, Reading

BALI Registered Contractors and Registered Designers Joint Submission – sponsored by EasiGrass

Principal Award winner: Oak View Landscapes Jason Lock – Private Residence, Salfron Walden

Green Roof Installations and Roof Gardens – sponsored by Bourne Amenity

Principal Award winner: Blakedown Landscapes (SE) – Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, London, E14

Winners: Bartholomew Landscaping – Penthouse Roof Terrace Oracle Apartments, London, NW3, Ground Control – Queensland Terrace, London, N7

Best Innovation / Technology used in a Landscape Scheme – sponsored by Makita UK

Principal Award winner: Bartholomew Landscaping – Penthouse Roof Terrace Oracle Apartments, London, NW3

Interior Landscape – Installation Only

Principal Award winner: Nurture Landscapes – Spring Restaurant, London, WC2R

Winners: Gavin Jones Ltd (aka The Plantation) – Atrium 2 – Guy’s St Thomas’ Hospital, London, SE1, Planters Interiors – Leopolds of London, Dubai, Rowan Landscapes – Sonangol Interior Landscape Installation, London, SW3

Interior Landscape – Maintenance Only

Principal Award winner: Rob Flavell Landscapes – Calton Exchange Office Plant Maintenance, Edinburgh

International Award – sponsored by CED

Principal Award winner: Beijing Tsinghua Tongheng Urban Planning Design Institute – Landscape Planning and Design of Haiyang Wetland Park, Shandong Province, China

Winners: Atelier DYJG – Qinglongshan Cultural Plaza, Shandong Province, China, Landform Consultants – Gibraltar Commonwealth Park

Affiliate Exceptional Service – sponsored by Kubota

Principal Award winner: Harrod Horticultural

Winners: Makita UK, SureSet UK

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Andersplus

Principal Award winner: Quadron Services

Winners: Green-tech, Ground Control, Oak View Landscapes

Sponsors of this year’s awards include: GreenTech, Bradstone, MCM, Marshalls, Johnsons of Whixley, Europlants, Paynes Turf, The Landscape Group, Green-Tech, Aggregate, Brett Landscaping, Crowders, TopGreen / Rigby Taylor, QLawns, Ransomes Jacobsen, Makita, EasiGrass, Springbridge, Bourne Amenity, CED, AndersPlus, Wienerberger, British Sugar TOPSOIL, Kubota, Lateral Design Studio, Harrowden Turf, Quinton Edwards, The Landscape Group, Topsport, Willerby Landscapes and Tarmac.

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Group aims to recall several Ann Arbor council members over deer cull

Every member of the Ann Arbor City Council who recently voted in favor of killing deer now has, politically speaking, a target on his or her back.

Sabra Sanzotta, who filed recall petition paperwork this week targeting 2nd Ward representative Kirk Westphal, said she’s only getting started, and she and other deer advocates are taking steps to initiate recall efforts in other wards.

Sanzotta, leader of a group called Save the Deer Ann Arbor, said they’re planning to file petitions to recall every council member up for re-election in 2016 over what they consider an unnecessary deer slaughter and an appalling use of violence.

That includes Sumi Kailasapathy in the 1st Ward, Westphal in the 2nd Ward, Julie Grand in the 3rd Ward, Graydon Krapohl in the 4th Ward, and Chuck Warpehoski in the 5th Ward. All of them voted for the deer cull last month.

Sanzotta said in a statement the group wants to replace the existing council with a more representative, data-driven, humane team of leaders.

“For those council members who can’t be recalled, their re-election campaigns will be much more difficult next year, as this group of deer-friendly residents is now standing up and united to restore Ann Arbor’s image and reputation as a progressive, non-violent, tolerant, educated democracy,” she said.

The City Council voted 10-1 in November in favor of hiring sharpshooters to kill 100 deer in city parks this winter, a moved opposed by Sanzotta and other animal rights advocates who argue there’s no justification for a cull.

Mayor Christopher Taylor was the lone dissenting vote, citing a lack of community consensus on the issue.

Other council members acknowledged they were making a controversial decision that was bound to upset some residents, but they believe it’s necessary to bring the deer population down and restore balance to the ecosystem.

Residents in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of deer have been complaining in recent years about increasing damage to their landscaping and gardens. Council members also are concerned about damage to the city’s natural areas, and the risk of deer-car crashes and Lyme disease.

An aerial survey earlier this year counted 168 deer in areas in and around the city of Ann Arbor.

Per state law, council members who just started new two-year terms in November cannot be subject to a recall until after six months into their terms.

That means petitions can’t be filed at this time against Sabra Briere in the 1st Ward, Jane Lumm in the 2nd Ward or Jack Eaton in the 4th Ward.

Two other members who just joined council — Zachary Ackerman in the 3rd Ward and Chip Smith in the 5th Ward — weren’t on council for the deer cull vote.

The county’s Election Commission plans to meet on Dec. 17 to determine whether the recall petition language targeting Westphal is of sufficient clarity and factuality to allow Sanzotta to proceed with collecting signatures.

Sanzotta would need to collect at least 1,791 signatures from registered 2nd Ward voters within 60 days to force a special May runoff election ahead of the August primary, in which Westphal already will be up for re-election.

As a 2nd Ward resident, Sanzotta cannot personally file recall petitions against council members in other wards, so she’ll be relying on allies in other parts of the city to step forward and file recall petitions against their council members.

Sanzotta said her group has been meeting weekly and they will be deciding this coming Sunday who will be filing the petitions in the different wards.

If they get clearance from the Election Commission to proceed and if they’re successful in collecting enough signatures in each ward, there would be a special runoff election in May and each council member being targeted — all Democrats — would appear on the ballot as the Democratic candidate in his or her ward.

In each ward, there would be an opportunity for one Republican Party nominee and any independent candidates to step forward to challenge the incumbent for a chance to finish out his or her current term ending in November.

With or without a recall, the normal 2016 election cycle will continue with a primary in August and a general election in November for the next two-year term starting in November, and council members being targeted plan to seek re-election then.

Sanzotta said she doesn’t have any candidates lined up to challenge any of the council members being targeted for recall.

“That’s step two,” she said. “We’ll work on that if we even get to the point where the recall petition language is approved.”

Council members being targeted said on Thursday they consider a recall part of the democratic process and it’s anybody’s right to challenge them.

“On the other hand, I’m already up for re-election in 2016,” Warpehoski said. “I don’t see any cull-related votes coming up between now and the time when the election would take place, so I don’t see how this is going to help advance their agenda.”

Though it’s caused a lot of controversy, Warpehoski said he still believes the council’s 10-1 vote in favor of culling deer was the right one from an ecological standpoint.

If he’s removed from office for standing up for ecological diversity in the city’s natural areas, he said, he’ll leave with a clean conscience.

Westphal offered similar remarks regarding ecological balance. He also said he respects the democratic process.

“That being said, in my experience, recalls tend to be used when there’s some kind of extreme behavior problem, not necessarily a consensus vote on a small budget item,” he said of the $35,000 deer cull contract. “So, the inference that 10 out of 11 council members are unfit to serve, well, I suppose I disagree.”

Westphal said other communities have kicked the can down the road to avoid controversy when faced with the question of culling deer.

“But that’s not why I ran for council,” he said. “I’m not serving to avoid hard decisions. I’m serving to reflect the will of my constituents.”

Westphal and Grand both observed that council members serve relatively short terms, so they’d prefer to see the normal election process play out.

Grand said it seems “a little redundant” to force a special May runoff election ahead of the already scheduled August primary and November general election.

“So, I think this is more about their own messaging than about us as individual candidates,” she said.

Commenting on the deer cull vote, she added: “It was a decision we made 10-1 based on a year-long process that included significant public input, that included looking very seriously into nonlethal methods and best practices, and listening to staff recommendations … and the outcome was almost unanimous.”

Grand said she’ll defend her position on culling deer and compete in a special May runoff election if it comes to that, but she thinks there are more productive ways to have that conversation and better ways to be focusing energy.

In addition to making recall threats, Sanzotta, who moved to Ann Arbor this summer, is threatening to bring a lawsuit against the city to stop the cull. She has started a webpage to raise funds for legal costs.

As of Thursday afternoon, the fundraising page had 666 shares on social media and had raised $2,510, with a goal of $20,000.

Save the Deer is planning to work with attorney Catherine Wolfe to bring forward litigation and has retained a wildlife specialist with specific experience in animal law, according to the group’s fundraising page.

“We will challenge the process that led to the decision by City Council, and ensure that it was done according to all applicable procedural law, and we will challenge the validity of their conclusions, using verifiable facts from experts,” the page states.

Sanzotta said between 60 and 100 people have been showing up to the group’s weekly meetings. She declined to disclose where they’re being held.

“It seems to be the group is more organized, there are more volunteers, and financial resources are being put together,” she said.

In a statement released on Thursday, Sanzotta accused council members of ignoring experts who have documented success with deer fertility control programs.

“They pursue their plans to squander taxpayer money on a lethal plan that has only been proven ineffective at reducing the deer population, while putting the human residents in peril from stray bullets and bolting, bloody deer,” she said.

“But now the grass roots movement has grown dramatically — against sharpshooters in our parks at night, to let facts and data prevail, and to find a more humane way of dealing with the deer that share our parks and forests.”

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at

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Library Garden Provides ‘Rest Stop’ for Monarch Butterflies

The pollinator garden

After one year, the pollinator garden has grown exponentially, feeding multiple species of pollinators and creating an outdoor classroom. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.

The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.

We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants.

But some special visitors that stopped by this summer didn’t need those signs. They knew where they were going! They were monarch butterflies migrating from Mexico. When the iconic black-and-orange butterflies arrived, the garden was alive with a variety of blooming flowers, including butterfly milkweed, wild bergamot, pale purple coneflower, rough blazing star and meadow blazing star.

Monarch butterflies rely on flowers with sugar-rich nectar for their food source. Meadow blazing star’s nectar makes it a magnet for monarchs. Another plant important to monarchs is milkweed, which is the only food monarch instars, or caterpillars, will eat.

We have 48 butterfly milkweed plants that provide habitat vital to butterflies. A butterfly lays eggs on the underside of the milkweed leaf, and the caterpillar hatches and eats its eggshell. It then eats the fine hairs of the leaf, and eventually it eats the leaf itself.

An instar hanging in the “J” stage before the chrysalis stage

An instar hanging in the “J” stage before the chrysalis stage. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.

Monarch caterpillars go through five stages, molting as they grow with each stage. After it has eaten enough, it will find a place to hang upside down in a “J” shape. About 16 hours later it molts once more to reveal the chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis the caterpillar metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly. It emerges in about 10 to 14 days.

This summer I carefully collected 12 caterpillars. I gave eight away to teachers and friends and raised four myself to personally experience the miracle of metamorphosis. It was truly a magical experience!

Monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades in part because of the decrease in their habitat. Our pollinator garden here in Princeton helps us do our part for the monarchs.

Our garden attracts much attention and has been the setting for many outdoor classroom events. It’s a thrill to see so many people enjoying the garden. We are grateful for the volunteers who helped us establish it and to everyone who helps us maintain it. We also thank our partners and local businesses, including Bureau County Pheasants Forever Chapter, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Prairie Nursery Landscaping, and Hornbaker’s Gardens.

Our pollinator garden is part of The People’s Garden Initiative, USDA’s collaborative community garden initiative that brings more than 1,300 local and national organizations together to establish community and school gardens across the country.

In its second year our garden has exploded into color and has become a living example of, “if you build it, they will come.” We’re already looking forward to next summer–when the monarchs return from Mexico.

A monarch laying an egg on the underside of a common milkweed leaf

A monarch lays an egg on the underside of a common milkweed leaf. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.

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Winter Gardening Tips To Look After Flowers


Most flowers need attention during winter. Sometimes, the inclement weather can make your garden tattered and weather-worn. But with clever planning, you can keep your garden ready for winter.More importantly, the beauty of the delicate flowers in this season can lift your spirits whenever you are feeling low.During winter, you to need to put your garden to bed and focus on the matter of cleaning up and covering up. Just because it is winter, it doesn’t mean you have to neglect your garden.

All you need to do is prepare your gardens during winter by trying to clean-up the blackened stems and foliage of annual flowers. This will help in averting plant diseases caused by pathogens. It will also eliminate the insect eggs that predominate this season. The cold weather is a perfect time for planting flowers and look after them.Try to keep your garden flourishing in winter by adding winter-blooming perennials and flowers that can grow in cool temperatures. You can even dig, raise beds and do general repairs during winters. Usually, harsh winters can damage plant growth and kill fragile flowers. There is a chance of the freeze causing the flowers to become limp, lifeless, black and twisted.Here are some winter gardening tips to look after flowers.

Winter gardening tips to look after flowers are:

1.Clean up: If you want to know the gardening tips in winter, make sure to dig and fork the soil to loosen it. Try to remove the weeds and then include compost and manure to the soil structure for improving the texture of the loam. Remember that by creating moisture and food reserve for your plants, you will be rewarded with fabulous flowers. Flowers are prone to quite a number of diseases and insect pests. The fungus in winters will make leaves fall and also cause stem cankers. Make sure to tidy up your garden by removing the pest eggs and disease spores that hang around in it.

2.Apply a layer of mulch: Mulch tries to act as insulator by giving heat and moisture to the soil. Mulch protects the root systems of the plants from cold temperatures. It even acts as a barrier keeping the sunlight and winter cold away from the soil. As a protective layer, mulch is an excellent way to suppress the weeds. Mulch protects the perennial flower plants from the freezing of the soil during winters. It guards the winter flower plants from low temperatures and desiccation from dry winters. Then evergreen boughs or pine needles are some of the organic mulches that can be installed on flowerbeds and around trees.

3.Blanket or sheet: If you are expecting a heavy freeze, you can protect your flowering plants by covering them with a sheet or a blanket. This acts as an insulation. It helps in keeping the warm air from the ground intact around the plant. Give them warmth to protect the plants in extremely cold weather.

4.Watering thoroughly: Try to water them steadily to keep the soil moist until new growth appears. Sometimes, you need to lessen the water for specific flowering plants. Most flowering plants would prefer the soil getting dried up to a certain extent before you water them.

5.Fertilize: An important garden tip in winter is to fertilise your plants. Make sure to fertilise your flowers once or twice a month with water soluble plant food, which is a must for flowering plants.

6.Pinching: When young plants begin to snuff out growth, it is time to start pinching out the top half inch of the stems between your thumbnail and finger. You can pinch the lateral stem as well as upright stem. Pinching helps in fast growth and lush foliage. Ensure that the fragile plants are kept in pots instead of on the ground.

These are the winter gardening tips to look after flowers.

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Gardening Tips: Answering questions

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Easy-does-it winter cleanup tips for lawn and garden

If you get a break during the December rush, it’s not too late for end-of-season garden cleanup.

“It’s a good idea to rake the last of the leaves off the lawn,” says Doris Taylor, Plant Clinic manager at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. You don’t have to remove every last leaf, but a matted layer of leaves under winter snow can give rise to fungal diseases in spring.

Don’t worry about how you’ll get rid of the leaves. The best thing to do with them is to rake them around the trunks of trees, under shrubs or over perennial beds as mulch. You may want to shred them by raking them in a pile and running the lawn mower over them: “Shredded leaves don’t pack down as much as whole leaves,” Taylor says, and they won’t blow around as much.

By spring, many of the leaves will have vanished, consumed by fungi, and you can rake up and compost the rest.

In the meantime, they will insulate the soil against sudden warm spells in winter, which can lure plants to come out of their winter dormancy too soon. It’s actually better to replenish mulch once the ground has gotten frosty, because the goal of winter mulch is to keep the ground frozen and prevent frost heaving, not to keep the soil from freezing.

What if you don’t like the look of brown leaves in the garden? “Add them to the compost pile,” Taylor says.

Wait to prune trees and shrubs until after the holidays to be sure they’re dormant, she says. But you can cut back the dead foliage of perennials now. “Good housekeeping is essential,” Taylor says, and the more tidying up you do at the end of the season, the less you will have to do in spring.

Make sure to cut back any plant that had disease problems and clean up any leaves that have fallen from it. Dispose of the entire plant outside your garden, not in your compost. Bacteria or fungal spores that caused disease problems can often survive in home compost piles.

Do the same with leaves fallen from diseased trees, such as crabapple trees with apple scab.

Ornamental grasses are usually left standing for interest over the winter and cut back in February. When it comes to cutting back other perennials, it’s a matter of taste. Some gardeners cut back every brown stalk at the same time; others like the look of dried seed heads and flowers on plants such as echinacea and astilbe.

“You can always cut back the unattractive ones now and leave more interesting ones standing until they start to show wear and tear,” Taylor says.

Beth Botts is a staff writer at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle (

For tree and plant advice, contact the Arboretum’s Plant Clinic (630-719-2424 or

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Top tips for choosing your christmas tree

Don’t put it next to a radiator, or any direct heat, and keep it away from draughts.

As for decorating the tree, Craig Roman from Dobbies Garden Centres advises that you don’t take the wrapping off your tree until you have secured it in its base.

“If you do, you’ll find yourself fighting with branches and crawling underneath the foliage,” says Craig, Dobbies’ Home And Garden Styling expert.

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Wildlife garden at Medina County Career Center earns state honor

MEDINA, Ohio – The berries have been pretty much stripped from the Cornelian cherry dogwood tree and the butterflies have fluttered away for the winter, but the wildlife habitat garden at the Medina County Career Center still has its fair share of visiting birds and other creatures.

The animals already feel at home in the year-old garden in front of the O.C. Dukes Agriculture Building. But now that home is “official”.

The garden and a meandering path through the school’s wooded outdoor learning lab have been designated as WILD School Sites by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.

Horticultural sciences instructor Rick Malone and science teacher Zach Holdridge were presented with official signs for the sites at a ceremony Tuesday in the school’s greenhouse.

The garden in front of the O.C. Duke Agriculture Building at the Medina County Career Center provides food, water and shelter for local wildlife.  

Class of 2015 graduates Dan Phillips and Emma Trapp – now students at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster – were also recognized for their work on the garden project.

Beth Schnabel, education specialist for the Medina County Soil and Water Conservation District, taught the workshop at Ashland University that Holdridge and Malone took for graduate credit that led to the projects.

School gardens and outdoor learning areas must provide food, water and shelter for wildlife in order to qualify for the WILD Site honor. 

“My mission is to make as many (Medina County) schools as possible WILD sites. It’s important for kids to get outside and learn from the environment,” Schnabel said.

The Career Center WILD sites are a two-part project. The first is the wildlife garden that the class of 2015 turned into a senior capstone project last fall.

The second, ongoing project is a series of pathways that meander through the woods behind the school to a wetland area. This area has been used as a land laboratory, but has become overgrown in recent years, Holdridge said.

Holdridge takes his classes there to study the habitat, take water samples and learn about conservation.

In addition to the paths, he hopes to construct blinds for wildlife observation and add birdhouses and perhaps a few bat houses.

“I wanted someplace for my students to go out and study,” he said.

The wildlife garden sits in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows of the O.C. Dukes building, allowing people inside to observe the birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles and small mammals that have adopted it as their own.

Malone and his students planted a variety of flowering plants and evergreens to provide food and shelter for the wildlife. A three-spout rock fountain provides water.

Emma said she, Dan and a few other students took on the design and construction of the garden as their senior project. They had to make a list of suitable plants, get price quotes and seek approval of the purchases from the school administration.

“We had to explain why we picked which plants,” she said.

The students incorporated the idea of a dry riverbed into the design, drew up plans for the project and did the actual installation – which included digging a three-foot-deep pit for the water feature.

“We were covered knee high in mud,” Emma said. “But it was totally worth it.”

She wasn’t so sure that the pond-less water feature Malone proposed would work, but said she is pleased with how it turned out.

The water feature consists of three large, hollowed-out stones. Water bubbles from the tops of each stone – the largest is 2,000 pounds – and trickles down the sides to a rock garden with a few small pools where animals can drink and bathe.

Water runs underground into special crates, where it is collected and pumped back through the fountains at a rate of about 6,000 gallons an hour, Malone said.

Emma, who is studying greenhouse management, said the project was a good learning experience.

“Everything in here has a purpose. There are blueberries and butterfly bushes and winterberries. We have winter food and summer food and fall food. It was fun to learn about,” she said.

Dan, who hopes to be a landscape architect, said he learned a lot about the field while working on the project.

“I learned the backbones of landscape design, budgeting, presenting to school officials,” he said.

Malone said the garden design was inspired by the existing walkway, which curves in front of the building “like a river flowing through.”

He said the group reused some plants already onsite and moved one struggling evergreen from the back of the school property to the garden, where it is thriving in its new environment.

“It all really fit in well here,” he said.

Come spring, the garden will bloom with annuals and perennials, adding color to the school grounds and providing even more habitat essentials for the wildlife.

“We have seen a lot of birds, and we had a lot of butterflies. We’re looking forward to seeing more,” Malone said.

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Decorating a dream home

CORRECTIONVILLE, Iowa | It’s surreal almost, to sit on my comfy couch in our living room by the warm fireplace, sipping a cup of hot cocoa, the Christmas lights twinkling, and looking out the windows at the light snow falling on the rolling hills beyond our acreage. It really is cliché, but this is what we’ve made our dream home.

And yet here we are, a year after moving into our new construction home southeast of Correctionville, Iowa. My husband, Jason, and I had a vision of building our dream home almost from the beginning of our marriage. For 10 years, we saved here and there for what would become our 5,900-square-foot home on the farm – with a corn field surrounding us and a view of the cattle yards (not everyone’s dream location I’m sure!) A year later, I’m still at times amazed, but always grateful, for being here – home with my husband and our 7-year-old daughter, Gabby.

Building a home is absolutely stressful. Slate gray or powder gray for the siding color? Tile or wood floor in the kitchen? Granite or laminate countertops? Outlet here or light switch there? I remember our contractor asking us how we wanted the fascia to look on the exterior. I looked at him like he had three heads and said, “The what?”

But making those decisions became much easier with the help our general contractor. It occurred to us that we had to put a lot of trust in our contractor, and we had a wonderful building experience with HH Construction in Kingsley, Iowa. Lance Howe, co-owner and contractor of their residential projects, made our job easier with his knowledge, patience and let’s-do-it attitude. And we were thrilled with every sub-contractor we had here, most recommended by Lance.

Friends often ask if we would we change anything about the house. The answer is no, not really anything big. We spent almost two years planning, designing and tweaking the architect’s drawings and plans. Putting in a lot of work on the front end of the project saved us a lot of headaches during the building process.

We didn’t get everything we wanted – I had the vision of a second story so we could have this grand curved staircase. The first bid came back for that design and my husband, very budget-conscious, said back to the drawing board. We did a quick redesign and were satisfied with a ranch house, with walk-out basement, open-concept main floor, four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths.

The one room I was willing to sacrifice anything for was a music room. I’ve played piano for 21 years and Jason is a former marching band student, so I dreamed of an elegant room for my grand piano and his various instruments.

Jason’s dream was a theater room. We weren’t going to finish the theater room during the original build to save some money. But once the room was framed and dry-walled, we decided it wasn’t that much more to paint and carpet, and do it while the contractors were still on site.

Another must-have in the design was a large office and mudroom area, since we live on the farm. A lot of time is spent in the office doing the bookkeeping for the farming operation. And the dirty clothes and muddy boots stay in the mudroom. It’s a beautiful home, but it still gets dirty and we’ve already put a small hole in a wall. But like I say, this isn’t a museum – we live here. I have one guilty pleasure in the house – a gift-wrapping station in the office. I blame Pinterest for that idea. Jason’s guilty pleasure is the steam shower and heated towel rack in the master bath.

Although some of our dream features became a reality, we still had to watch the budget. We installed granite countertops in the kitchen and the bathrooms, but used laminate countertops in the office, laundry room and basement bar. I even found a remnant piece of granite to do four of the five bathrooms. The mud bathroom has an onyx countertop.

We waited until Lowe’s ran a special on carpet installation and saved a bundle there. I gave up the beautiful built-in china hutch planned for the kitchen to save some money on cabinetry. Hopefully down the road we can acquire the hutch. And landscaping will be a gradual project for the next few years.

Decorating a home of takes time. I didn’t pressure myself to have photos and artwork on the walls, new furniture in every room or curtains hung immediately. I like decorating – combing through magazines and Pinterest for ideas, finding unique items at little boutiques and bargain hunting. We purchased some new furniture when we moved in, and a few more pieces during the past year. But with the idea of saving money, we’ll eventually add more.

Choosing a color scheme and wood finishes was made easier with photo ideas from (check it out – it’s like Pinterest for house design). It was also helpful to show pictures to our various contractors so they could envision what we wanted. The wall paint throughout is coordinating shades of gray, something I chose as an alternative to earth tones. We particularly like detailed woodwork and features, like the coffered ceiling in the great room, the tray ceiling in the master bedroom and crown molding in the kitchen.

When we moved in September 2014, I immediately put out autumn decorations. But by mid-November I was anxious to decorate for my favorite holiday – Christmas! Fortunately, I was raised by a mother who has a knack for decorating and a Christmas tree in every room. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I inherited the “tree-in-every-room” philosophy.

Three years ago, when we knew we were going to build and we knew the great room would have 14-foot ceilings, I went on the hunt for a 12-foot-high Christmas tree. At a gardening store in Omaha on the day after Christmas, I found that tree, deeply discounted at 80 percent off. I continued to buy trees and other holiday décor on sale and clearance, able to pack it away at our storage unit until I needed it.

The great room tree is done in turquoise blue and apple green with white accents. I saw a similar tree at a floral and home décor store in Omaha. The music room, with its warm mahogany wainscoting and coffered ceiling, has a 9-foot tree done in bronze, copper and gold with touches of red and green. Although the tree was new, those decorations were what I had on our tree at our former house.

I shop at numerous places for Christmas décor – Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Target, floral stores, department stores and even Lowe’s. The guest room tree is a winter wonderland theme, with knitted sweater, owl and penguin ornaments in light blue, red and white – all found at Lowe’s. This year, I hope to add an Iowa State-themed tree in the theater room, and a cowgirl-themed tree in Gabby’s bedroom.

Our second Christmas in our home is just around the corner. We look forward to hosting get-togethers with friends and family, and taking time to bask in the glow of the fire in the fireplace and the Christmas lights.

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Don’t miss these holiday home tours, art sale and pop-up shop Dec. 4-10 (photos)

Whether you’re shopping for gifts or home remodeling ideas, there is plenty to see at these holiday events Dec. 4-10:

37th Annual Duniway Holiday Home Tour Boutique on Friday, Dec. 4: Here is your chance to see inside seven private residences decked out with Christmas trees, ornaments and other festive decor. The Southeast Portland houses range in age and styles, from historic to modern, and several have newly updated kitchens, master bedrooms and landscaping.

Ticket holders ($25, can take a trolley to visit an Arts and Crafts house, an artist’s home studio and an attic converted into a grandkid’s retreat.

The self-paced tour, held in two sessions from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-9 p.m., and begins at Duniway Elementary School, 7700 SE Reed College Place. Attendees can pick up their tour booklet at the Holiday Boutique in the Duniway gym. The boutique, from 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., is free and open to everyone. (Read more about this event.)

Portland Garden Club Holiday Sale on Saturday, Dec. 5: The annual sale, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1132 SW Vista Ave., will have hand-made arrangements, wreaths, garlands, topiaries, kissing balls and other easily assembled decorative items made from natural, readily available materials. The sale supports the club’s events, including monthly presentations on topics such as conservation, horticulture, floral design and photography. Events are free and open to the public. See step-by-step instructions to build an armature.

Clay Circle Studio’s 4th Annual Ceramics Show Sale on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday, Dec. 6: Sara Swink and 10 members of her studio are showcasing their ceramic sculpture, ornaments, gifts and jewelry from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 461 SW Alderwood Dr. in West Linn.

Special guests at the show will be ceramic artist Kicki Masthem and woodcarver Stan Peterson, who collaborated on “Best Foot Forward,” a collection of ceramic and wood, painted and glazed figures that relay humorous stories. (Read more about this event.)


Give Good Gift on Sunday, Dec. 6: Now in its fifth year, this pop-up shop has an impressive lineup of sellers and services, reports Anna Marum.

Check out the wares for sale by Cargo, Hand-Eye Supply, MadeHere Pdx and other local vendors as well as extras like food carts and carolers.

Adding to the fun will be a tattooed Santa and a happy hour. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Union/Pine, 525 SE Pine Street. For more information, read Marum’s story and go to

Historic Zimmerman House tours Dec. 8 and Dec. 10: What was it like to celebrate the holidays in 1874? There was no electricity in the Zimmerman House in Northeast Portland, so candles on Christmas trees provided the twinkling lights, says Twila Mysinger of the East County Historical Organization, which cares for the property.

Lanterns were set on the porch to guide guests and instead of cranking up the iPhone to set the mood with music, people would have singalongs and play the piano, violin, concertina, zither and xylophone in the parlor, she adds. (See more photos and learn more about celebrating Christmas in the late 19th century.)

You can experience an old-fashioned holiday celebration inside the Zimmerman House, at 17111 N.E. Sandy Boulevard in Portland, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 and Thursday, Dec. 10.

Visit to reserve the time you’d like to visit the house. Admission is free, but the suggested donation for this special event is $5 for adults. For more information, call 503-261-8078 or email

28th Ainsworth Holiday Home Tour on Thursday, Dec. 10: The tour opens the door to five stately residences in the hills of Southwest Portland, from a completely restored 1911 Portland Tudor to a John Yeon midcentury modern rebuilt as a Craftsman.

Other houses on the tour have blue-chip architectural pedigrees, including floor plans by John Bennes and possibly Emil Schacht. On display will be examples of Povey Brothers glass windows as well as very modern animal-motif wallpaper.

Showing are from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The fundraiser benefits the students of Ainsworth Elementary by providing computers, enhanced art programs, field trip opportunities, classroom supplies and other means of support to teachers and staff.

Tickets ($30) can be purchased online or at the Ainsworth Elementary School Office, 2425 S.W. Vista Ave. (503-916-6288) or Zupan’s Market Burnside location, 2340 W. Burnside St., or Lamb’s At Stroheckers Market, 2855 S.W. Patton Road. (Read more about this event.)

— Homes Gardens of the Northwest staff

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