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Archives for December 14, 2015

The New Leaf Gardeners: Horticulture supporting mental illness

The New Leaf Gardeners Horticultural Vocational program at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in Ewing Township supports recovery from mental illness, improves outlook and life satisfaction, helps clients to cope with and recover from stress, improves concentration and sense of accomplishment. Evidenced-based research demonstrates that simply viewing plants has been shown to reduce fear, anger, blood pressure and muscle tension.

The New Leaf Gardener Program (NLG) is one of several therapeutic and vocational training opportunities available to clients at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. This specific program began in 2011, but the tradition of gardening at the hospital goes back before World War I and even the Civil War.

The 400-bed Trenton Psychiatric Hospital is a Joint Commission accredited health care facility, one of four psychiatric hospitals governed by the State of New Jersey, Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

There is a tree on the campus that was planted by Dorothea Dix in 1848 when she founded the institution, and Frederick Law Olmsted is said to have later redesigned the grounds to create a placid, pastoral atmosphere. The existing greenhouse program was reinstituted in the late 1970s as part of the Rehabilitation services department and provided occupational therapy, horticultural therapy and vocational rehabilitation services.

Today, patients and staff working with the horticultural vocational program can benefit from the Serenity Garden, where they can relax, reflect and enjoy the beauty of nature. In 2011, the Serenity Garden received the Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society. The Community Greening Award recognizes the horticulture efforts of individuals, groups, garden clubs and businesses that are dedicated to improving the quality of life through the beautification of public green spaces.

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher joined Department of Human Services, Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly on Nov. 6 to tour the NLG program where they visited a plant design class, toured the greenhouses and potting shed and viewed retail items available for purchase including houseplants, seasonal floral arrangements and birdhouses.

In addition, they toured the hospital grounds to view areas that have benefited from landscape design, installation and hardscaping projects.

“Growing and working in a garden provides many benefits to people, such as physical activity, concentration and a sense of accomplishment,” Fisher said.  “As a result of this program there could be employment options for the participants in the nursery and greenhouse field.”

The NLG Program treats clients with various mental illness diagnoses (most common diagnoses: Psychotic Disorder NOS, Schizoaffective Disorder). The hospital admits patients between the ages of 18 and 65. The average age of patients in NLG program is 32-years-old. New Leaf Gardener workers receive three hours of education classes and three hours of paid work each week. Patients learn skills like nursery production, interior plantscaping, greenhouse management and landscaping and job skills in the greenhouse industry. The New Leaf Gardeners program also provides opportunity to learn valuable skills like communication, responsibility and cooperation. NLG workers gain knowledge and experience in the field of horticulture while also earning a wage for discharge related expenses.

“The TPH horticulture program educates students and teaches practical skills used in the landscape and horticulture industry,” Connolly said.  “The main goal is to prepare students with job readiness skills and competencies to obtain entry level employment in the green industry. The program encourages students to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills that are applicable to the horticulture industry and life.”

John Hoagland, Institutional Trade Instructor, said, “The Horticulture program gives clients the opportunity to learn how to care for plants and understand the science behind the growing of plants, giving them the job skills that they can use upon discharge. The other benefits are the life skills and critical thinking that go along with growing and caring for plants and their selves. We are working on all aspects of care for plants from germination of seeds and propagation, to design, care pruning and installation of a landscape.”

Craig Dupee, also an Institutional Trade Instructor added, “It is a rewarding experience working at TPH in teaching marketable job skills to the patients, which in turn provides hope and helps in building self-esteem for their reentry into the community.”

Derrick, a New Leaf Gardeners participant, said, “The horticulture program provides opportunities that will prepare me for reentry to my community by increasing job skills that will take me to financial freedom.”

The Green House is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. It is at 100 Sullivan Way in West Trenton and can be reached at 609-633-1898. The Greenhouse and store can be seen from the roadway. Patrons should park in the lot and walk up the gravel path.

Benefits of the NLG Program to the community

According to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital Deputy CEO Robyn Caporoso, the benefits of the NLG program are widespread. “Patients gainfully and realistically contribute to society. Having a mental illness does not diminish that,” she said.

Items produced in the New Leaf Gardeners program at TPH benefit the patients, hospital community and the community at large. Wanda Skarzynska ,  TPH Acting Supervising Rehabilitation Counselor, said, “The Greenhouse is a great place to host social and cultural events, helping to strengthen local communities. Over the last year, our clients had a chance to host several events: Arbor Day, Open House, Farm to Table, Anti-Stigma and Holiday Bazaar.”

In 2014, New Leaf Gardeners joined forces with staff from Howell Living Historical Farm to plant a special crop of potatoes to be donated to the Greater Mercer Food Cooperative and other local hunger projects. New Leaf Gardeners provided donations of fresh vegetables to the Trenton Soup Kitchen.  New Leaf Gardeners workers also have a chance to practice gained knowledge by making seasonal flower arrangements and retail projects which can be purchased during the holidays.

Some local businesses have helped the program. A funeral home drops off flower bouquets that clients learn how to take apart and re-assemble.

New Leaf Gardeners also grow vegetables. Travers’ (a treatment building on the TPH grounds) clients bring the vegetables to cottages, and with staff support, can prepare a meal. Some of the vegetables and herbs go to campus cafeteria. The rest is sold to local residents. The sales give clients an opportunity to practice customer service.

Job Readiness Training is offered in community outings to the following local employers: Kube-Pak Greenhouse Growers, Allentown; Sieck-Wright Floral Products; Hightstown; Cherry Grove Organic Farm, Princeton; Mountain View Golf Course, Ewing; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton; Howell Living Historic Farm, Hopewell; NJ Plants, NJNLA Trade Show, Edison; Pleasant Run Nursery, Rutgers Display Gardens, New Brunswick.

Laura DePrado is a horticultural therapy practitioner. Email

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

The New Leaf Gardener Program at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital supports all eight dimensions of wellness. Gardening is considered a moderate- to heavy-intensity physical activity and has been linked to significant beneficial changes in total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. The Program educates students and teaches practical skills used in the landscape and horticulture industry. The main goal is to prepare students with job readiness skills and competencies to obtain entry level employment in the green industry. This program encourages students to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills that are applicable to the horticulture industry and life. 

The dimensions of wellness:

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Buy a house in a top school district

If you have kids and want to live in a top-rated school district, you don’t have to look much farther than the Lower Hudson Valley. Turns out that 25  local high schools have made the Best Public High Schools in New York State list, according to, a website that researches, explores and ranks thousands of public and private schools and districts across the nation.

“If you have school-aged children, the school districts are important factors when house-hunting,” says Melanie Dobbs of Coldwell Banker in Dobbs Ferry.

“If clients haven’t already done their own research, it’s one of the main questions they ask me. There’s no reason to look at a house if you’re not going to also look at its schools.” Dobbs also cites a monetary aspect: “A house in a strong school district will keep its value up.”

Two more factors: People moving up from New York City are looking for an improvement in their quality of life, which, for those with kids, includes great school districts, says Dorit Katz at Realty Teams Corp. in Pomona. “Also,” she adds, “because Rockland’s large school districts include a variety of towns, a family could find a home in a town that suits their budget  better than other towns in that school system.”

We did some digging and found it needn’t cost an arm and leg — relative to each town, that is — to buy a home and educate your kids in a coveted school system.

Here are eight homes on the market in districts with the highest-rated high schools on the list: four in Westchester, three in Rockland and one in Putnam.



ADDRESS: 79 Old Lyme Road, Chappaqua

PRICE: $769,000

LISTING AGENTS: Toni DiMichelo at Houlihan Lawrence, Chappaqua, 914-227-5300 and Cindy Schwall at Houlihan Lawrence, Scarsdale, 914-672-6424

Own this uniquely designed contemporary that’s on the market for the first time since its construction in 1976. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors included in just about every room lead to the great outdoors and overlook the in-ground pool and grassy backyard. A huge, homey stone fireplace is the focal point of the living room. Elsewhere, windows line a wall in the kitchen, and serious cooks will appreciate its expansive counter space. Here’s an opportunity to update and renovate this four-bedroom, three-bath home that occupies a level acre.


ADDRESS: 34 Corell Road, Scarsdale

PRICE: $1,095,000

LISTING AGENT: Cindy Schwall at Houlihan Lawrence, Scarsdale, 914-672-6424

It’s a Tuscan-style house that oozes character! The unique architecture, initial finishes and immaculate details make this stone abode ideal for casual yet sophisticated living. Though built in 1936, the interior was updated to 21st century standards and retains such original features as the wood beams and hand-crafted stone fireplace in the living room, classic ironwork banisters and lovely archways. A private terrace complements the master bedroom, while a large two-car garage offers extensive storage space and brand-new, carriage-house-style wooden doors. The estate-like property, with landscaping that blooms in every season, includes two outdoor patios that are perfect for easy entertaining.


ADDRESS: 19 Sand St., Rye

PRICE: $825,000

LISTING AGENT: Judy Croughan at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s, Rye, 914-262-5323

Kids can walk to the Rye Middle/High School from this home on a tree-lined neighborhood that’s between Playland Parkway and Boston Post Road. Three bedrooms are among its 1,242 interior square feet, and the large living room window draws in lots of welcome natural light. The two bathrooms and kitchen have been renovated, the wood floors shine and a central air conditioning system banishes the sight of room units hanging out the windows. Kids and pets are free to play and roam in the spacious backyard. Tons of fun at Playland and its Long Island Sound beaches are a walk away, which avoids the cost and hassles of parking a car.


ADDRESS: 50 Talcott Road, Rye Brook

PRICE: $779,000

LISTING AGENT: Marcia S. Rogull at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s, Rye, 914-325-3618.

Talcott Woods condo has an open floor plan with soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, glass walls and a fireplace in the living room, which create an ideal space for entertaining. A unique lighting, mirrored bedroom-closet doors, circular staircase and ultramodern bathrooms give this contemporary plenty of character. Several sliding-glass doors lead to the large deck. The homeowners association amenities include snow removal, gutter cleaning, and care of the pool, lawn and grounds. The driveway holds lots of cars.


ADDRESS: 14 Whitehill Place, Cold Spring

PRICE: $525,000

LISTING AGENT: Dianne Minogue at Houlihan Lawrence, East Fishkill, 914-204-7120

This Cape Cod’s setting — the last house on a cul-de-sac and adjacent to woods — has a terrific private location. The two-sided brick fireplace will take the chill from the living and dining rooms. The first floor boasts two bedrooms and a full bath, while the second floor sports two more bedrooms with many built-ins and a half bath. The spacious enclosed porch overlooks the private yard with a patio, and it features heating and cooling units, which makes it accessible throughout the year. Bonus: It’s even within walking distance to the Hudson, Metro-North station, and to village shops and restaurants.

SCHOOL: Ramapo Central’s Suffern High School

ADDRESS:  214 Haverstraw Road, Suffern

PRICE: $325,000

LISTING AGENT: Donna Budoff at Coldwell Banker, New City, 914-393-5361

Kids and their friends are free to romp on the vast front lawn of this Cape Cod situated on almost 2 acres that back to park land. The main-floor master bedroom sports a master bath and skylight, while the upper level includes two bedrooms, a full bathroom and a large storage room. The bright living room with a stone fireplace opens to the large eat-in country kitchen highlighted by lots of windows. A large, covered back deck overlooks and steps down to property that’s private and nicely landscaped.

SCHOOL: Clarkstown’s Clarkstown North High School

ADDRESS:  40 Trevor Lake Drive, Congers

PRICE: $429,000

LISTING AGENT: Margo Bohlin at Better Homes and Garden Rand Realty, New City, 845-304-4140

Go jump in a lake or two — Swartwout and Congers — from this townhouse in the Bridgewater community. There are two bedrooms (the den could be a third bedroom), two bathrooms and a half bath, along with a modern eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, second-floor balcony and living-room fireplace. The master bedroom suite sports a master bath with a whirlpool tub and walk-in shower. Cathedral ceilings and plenty of windows add to this unit’s airy feeling. Entertain guests on the back patio, which is about 20 feet from a lake. Central air conditioning makes living cool and easy. The town home is in move-in condition.

SCHOOL: Clarktown’s Clarkstown South High School

ADDRESS: 13 Lindbergh Lane, New City

PRICE: $385,000

LISTING AGENT: Kathleen Kushner at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, New City, 845-641-0707

The 2014 updates of the central air-conditioning, roof, hardwood floors, electrical system and a full paint job makes this Cape Cod with picturesque views of mountains a steal. A finished basement sports a wet bar, a laundry room and a large garage with a workshop. Four bedrooms and two bathrooms are among its 1,787 square feet. The eat-in country kitchen with a breakfast nook, peninsula, desk and lots of cabinets leaves room for the whole family. And speaking of ample room, the brand-new hot tub out back holds seven.

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Book features Waupaca hospital’s garden

The Riverside Reflection Garden along the Crystal River at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.  Submitted PhotoAnother view of the Riverside Reflection Garden along the Crystal River at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.Submitted Photo

Growing people by cultivating plants

Jim Beard has a philosophy of teaching that seeks to grow people.

Beard is the lead horticulturist instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. He tells students that “when you come in the program you learn how to grow plants but I will grow you. At the end of your time here you are going to know how to make a living and a life.”

It’s a philosophy he shares in and outside the classroom. Whether it’s teaching about landscape design and hydroponics or leading a landscaping project or playground build, Beard is showing people how they can grow as a person.

“Everyone wants to make a living but don’t always know how to make a life,” he said.

His philosophy was the inspiration behind a book he cowrote with Chris Jossart, an FVTC colleague, called “Growing People: How green landscapes and garden spaces can change lives.”

The book features individual stories about lives changed through introducing people to simple ways of exploring organic growing systems and landscape structures. It sprinkles in ways to grow organically and with methods such as straw bales, barrels and raised beds.

“It becomes a healthy way to grow vegetables and some feel good stories in the front,” said Beard.

Also included are many local projects including Appleton Medical Center’s raised beds and straw bale gardens and the Riverside Reflection Garden along the Crystal River at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.

Beard said growing sustainable gardens is important, and the book serves as an easy blueprint for anyone to customize one to their liking. But what is more important are things that feed the soul, like community service projects.

The Riverside Reflection Garden project is one example. Beard was contacted to help design the garden.

But it isn’t the garden beds, pergolas and the gravel system that filters street run-off before it goes into the Crystal River that make the garden, said Beard. It is the people, over 80 of them, who put their time and love into the project, from the students from Fox Valley Tech to city officials and physicians and nurses and other medical staff.

“I can remember a time when I didn’t have any money,” he said. “I remember thinking the most important thing for me was my time. So the most important thing to me is to give my time.”

If people lived the same way, “the results and responses can be amazing,” Beard added. “I think it should not be about the money. It’s too easy. Everybody can find an hour or two hours or three hours if they really want to give it to somebody.”

For information about “Growing People: How green landscapes and garden spaces can change lives,” visit



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Six tips for beginner gardeners

Formal gardens need to be planned within an inch of their lives to be successful.

Though some beautiful gardens may appear to have grown as if by accident, in reality even apparently haphazard spaces have planning and design elements to them.

Kiwi backyards have long since moved on from being a simple strip of lawn with a concrete path leading to a windmill washing line, but that doesn’t mean you have to go big to be beautiful. Sometimes the beauty is in the simplicity or uniformity rather than the grandeur.

Here’s some pointers for the beginner gardener to keep in mind:


* A strawberries and cream theme
* 10 best roses for scent
Gardening tasks for the week

Consider what is important to you about your garden. Is it that it simply remains low maintenance and tidy, or that you can cut fresh flowers all year round, or perhaps you want a garden that is laden with scent on summer evenings.


When choosing a theme, consider how much time and energy you want to devote to your garden.

It might be that formal gardens float your boat or maybe you’re a sucker for the romance of a cottage garden. But when you are thinking about which theme to go with, be sure to consider whether it will work with your property. For example, those hollyhocks and foxgloves may set off a shabby chic cottage but they may not be as suited to an uber-modern executive residence.


We’re a nation of gardeners and you’ll find they’re generally a friendly bunch who are keen to share their knowledge and advice. If you don’t have friends, parents, grandparents or neighbours who are in the know, head to the web where you can find oodles of advice.


It can be hard bide your time but patience is virtue successful gardeners are well-acquainted with.

Getting your garden to be just so can be a lengthy and expensive process depending on whether you’re starting from scratch, salvaging existing plants, or even just strapped for time. Don’t be tempted to speed up the process by planting any old thing instead of what you really want.


For many people the pride of finally having a garden to take care of comes in conjunction with owning a home for the first time – in other words, when there’s not much spare money to be had. Take leaf out of our parents’ book and think about splitting and swapping where possible with friends. There’s much joy to be had in growing something beautiful and saving dollars at the same time.


Unless you have a team of helpers, a la gardening television programmes, then it’s likely there’s just you and maybe another to achieve your garden glory. Yes it’s can feel productive to take the slash and burn approach by decimating anything green within sight, but chances are that unless you have new plants at the ready, the only thing growing in the short term will be weeds. Better to look at an old shrub or rose bush you loath than face constant weeding.

 – Stuff

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From Christmas plants to water iris ideas – your weekly gardening tips from …

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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,” siad Doris Taylor, Plant Clinic manager at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill. 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 said, 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 said.

Wait to prune trees and shrubs until after the holidays to be sure they’re dormant, she said. But you can cut back the dead foliage of perennials now. “Good housekeeping is essential,” Taylor said, 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.

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Maricopa County Home Show offers new ideas for 2016

The 24th Annual Maricopa County Home and Garden Show, the largest home show in the Southwest, is returning for its first show of the year January 15-17 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Attendees will be inspired by home, landscape and DIY seminars, herb garden planting 101 and tips and tricks from Tiny House Expedition blogger and media personality, Alexis Stephens.

“We are excited to connect homeowners with over a thousand local companies all in the convenience of one place,” said Katie Jones, Show Manager of the Maricopa County Home and Garden Show. “Our biggest show of the year will kick off our smallest feature ever, the Tiny Homes Street of Dreams featuring over six (6) trendy miniature homes displayed in a real life neighborhood setting.”

WHO: Maricopa County Home and Garden Show, 1000’s of home improvement, design and landscaping products and services being offered with exclusive pricing for three days only.

WHAT: Unique Show Attractions Include

  • Tiny Homes Street of Dreams, get an eyeful of mini houses and see how adventurous homeowners live comfortable in only 100 to 400 square feet. Tiny House Expedition blogger, Alexis Stephens, will show attendees how to focus on sustainability and affordable living by making the most of smaller space.
  • Stop and Smell the Roses, Phoenix Rose Society will host free seminars and how to demonstrations all weekend long.
  • “How-To” Seminars with Debbie Hernandez from Home Depot, learn cost effective ways to transform cabinet color mixed with fresh ideas to update your kitchen without the expense, plus storage and organization tips and tricks.
  • Attend Master Gardener seminars, learn about herb and container gardening in the desert, do’s and don’ts of raised beds, how to properly prune your trees, bushes and more
  • Visit the Arizona Rare Fruit Growers who promote the culture and preservation of fruiting plants that most would not associate with Arizona’s arid climate.
  • Interior Design Competition, featuring local up and coming student designers.
  • Transform your ordinary backyard to a striking sanctuary with creative plant selections, lush water features and more!
  • Support the 6th Annual Heroes Raffle, and enter to win up to $18,000 in fabulous prizes. Proceeds benefit local law enforcement along with firefighters and their families through the 100 Club of Arizona.

January 15 – 17, 2016
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Arizona State Fairgrounds – 1826 W. McDowell Road Phoenix, AZ 85007

COST: Admission is $5 daily for adults, kids ages 3-12 are $2. Children 2 and under are free. Senior Morning will take place on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and guests 60+ will receive free admission. Customer Appreciation will take place Friday evening: Attend the show between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for free. Current members of the military will receive free admission with valid military identification all three days. If your birthday is in the month of January, show ID at the gate for free admission. Sign up for discount tickets at There is onsite parking for a fee, a large food court and ATMs onsite for your convenience.

Donate a case of bottled water (24-pack) to the 100 Club at the entrance and receive 2 free admission tickets to the show. The Maricopa County Home and Garden Show is teaming up with the 100 Club of Arizona. As a 501(c)(3), the 100 Club is dedicated to standing behind the men and women who stand behind the badge and for more than 40 years has provided assistance to statewide public safety agencies, officers, firefighters, paramedics and their families.

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Tropical Gardening: Christmas is time to give living gifts

It is less than two weeks until Christmas, and soon the days will be getting longer. As the days lengthen, our garden plants begin to swell with the anticipation of spring.

Even in Hawaii, where winters are mild, we feel the pulse of new life.

Christmas is a perfect time to fill your home and lanai with flowering plants. It’s also a great time to give a natural, living gifts to those you love.

Now, many nurseries and garden shops are bright with potted poinsettias, bougainvillea, hibiscus, bromeliads and orchids.

If you still have a list of friends and relatives for whom you haven’t found just the right gift, then stop by a few local nurseries or garden and flower shops to complete your holiday shopping. You would be surprised at how many different plants make appropriate Christmas gifts.

Christmas is a time of birth, of life and hope. Giving a plant is a symbol of this season. Some plants are more in keeping with the holiday than others.

In giving living plants, use your imagination with the containers, in decorating and with the wrapping. You can put more love in this type of gift than most other types unless you consider hand-made bedspreads, homemade cookies and such. Plants as gifts are not nearly as fattening as cookies and candy.

Watch for the many varieties of hibiscus.

Even the common Chinese hibiscus, with its red flowers and green foliage, is appropriate. The gardenia with its white flowers and green leaves also is ideal.

Another gift that is a natural is the ever-blooming Jatropha tree. It’s an ornamental addition to any home landscape and ideal as a holiday gift with its bright red flowers and dark green foliage.

The tree will grow to about 15 feet with spreading branches, and is ideal for the small garden. If you want to keep it small, you must plant it in a container for the patio. The false aralia, or Dizyogotheca elegantissima, also is popular.

For a frosty effect, give the silver buttonwood that also forms a large shrub or small tree with blue-gray foliage. Other possibilities are the snow queen hibiscus and white poinsettia, (Euphorbia leucocephala) with its miniature flowers. The latter also is known as the Snows of Kilimanjaro. It is in full bloom now in Kona. The white poinsettia and the common poinsettia are easily grown from cuttings after they finish blooming.

Many palms also are ideal as Christmas gifts.

The pygmy date palm and Chamaedorea are miniatures. Palms with red and green foliage such as the Latania palm with leaf stalks and fan leaves are unusual and rare. This slow growing palm develops blue-gray leaves in maturity.

Other Christmas palms include the Manila palm, (Veitchia merrilli) with its red fruit, the red princess palm, (Dictyosperma rubum) with green and red leaves and the sealing wax palm, (Cyrtostachys lakka).

Blooming orchid plants and anthuriums are just a few other ideas.

Don’t forget the popular Norfolk Island pine as a living gift. Used as a living Christmas tree, it can be planted outside after the holidays or kept in a pot for several years.


Christmas in the tropics can be a challenge. The surf and beach still are a big attraction. There are folks who miss the snow and the bite of frost in the air. They long for the coziness of an open fireplace and the smell of holiday cooking in the kitchen.

But remember, most of the things we associate with Christmas have little to do with the real meaning. We make it special by giving and sharing.

Yes, there are cynics who complain about the holiday. They see it as being tainted by commercialism with everyone having to give gifts and buy this or that, but gifts given with a loving heart are what counts.

When it comes down to the place of Christ’s birth, palms were probably more common than pine trees. The use of the Christmas tree is thought to have originated in Germany.

During the eighth century, a missionary, St. Boniface, was trying to stamp out the rite of sacrificing people to the oak tree. He led these tree worshiping people into the forest in the dead of winter to show them the only tree with no cursing stain of blood on it.

This was the evergreen fir, which lives and grows when earth is darkest. The missionary showed them that the tree pointed upward toward the Christ Child. He told them to take this tree into their homes as a symbol of their newfound faith.

The holly, for thousands of years, has had all manner of mystical charms and qualities attributed to it. The use of holly at Christmas likely came from the Teutonic custom of hanging holly in houses. They did this so the tree sprites might have a warm, safe shelter from winter storms.

The mistletoe originally had nothing to do with Christmas, it was considered sacred by those same tree worshipers because it grew on oaks. To this day in Europe, amulets and rings of mistletoe are worn as an antidote against sickness.

Christmas really is about what is in the heart. In Hawaii, it is the ultimate essence of aloha. Christmas truly is the celebration of the gift of life and love in the purest sense.

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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WSU students to present Mill Creek concepts to Council – Walla Walla Union


Courtesy illustration

An aerial view of a WSU conceptual landscaping plan shows a design where the parking structure currently covering Mill Creek has been removed to create a community gathering area. Gone are also several commercial buildings along Rose and Colville streets.

Student engineers from Washington State University are returning to Walla Walla this week to once again provide their ideas on how to create a more accessible and usable Mill Creek flood channel through town.

At a City Council work session Monday at 4 p.m. at Whitman College’s Olin Hall, a team of eight WSU landscape engineering students will present their conceptual plans to convert what is, in part, the closed-off concrete walls of the downtown channel.

Their goal is to come up with concepts to turn it into a mixture of parks, river walks, overlooks and community plazas.

“One of the things we realized with this natural resource that we have in the city is that there is a disconnect,” said Michael Sanchez, WSU assistant professor of landscape architecture. “We have boxed it up as a way to protect us from stormwater, but what we also see as a result is our disconnect from nature.”

Last year, a smaller group of WSU engineering students presented plans for a longer stretch of Mill Creek, from Third Avenue to Goose Street.

This year, a new team has developed designs for the downtown core, from Third to Park Street.

Sanchez said concepts being developed by WSU students are coming on the heels of proposed $3 million comprehensive study that would look at the needs and costs of a future Mill Creek renovation project.

If all goes as planned, supporters of a multiuse Mill Creek would like to see the student’s concepts be included in later community discussions on how best to rebuild the Mill Creek flood channel.

“What we are trying to do here is not have this topic start cold in the community when it comes time for planning,” City Council member Allen Pomraning said. “We all have ideas but we all need to come together. And the way to do that is to start having visioning meetings.”

Last year, Pomraning made public his visions for a new Mill Creek channel that would serve as a multipurpose facility for flood control, public parks and include restaurants and shops overlooking the creek on the upper banks.

Pomraning said that since then others have joined him in his vision, which eventually led a small contingent of Mill Creek enthusiasts to ask WSU students to come up with the landscaping concept.

But those concepts, Sanchez noted, are not looking at structure, only landscaping design.

The designs to be presented Monday include adding plazas, river walks and overlooks. And the students also looked at the idea of removing public parking spaces that currently cover the creek to make room for more parks.

“A lot of the concepts we have been involved with bring the people down to the water’s edge,” Sanchez said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at or 526-8325.

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