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Archives for December 22, 2015

Climb-N-Slide: RiverSport Rapids adds to allure of Oklahoma River

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Your garden in December: Sean Murray’s latest tips for North East gardeners

Mistletoe (Viscum Album) is a challenge for most amateur gardeners to propagate and cultivate, but is well worth the effort for its almost mystical presence in your garden, especially at Christmas time.

I have always been fascinated by mistletoe. It’s a strange plant steeped in mythology and seeing it growing wild in huge bunches with its pendulous racemes it’s an impressive sight. Glistening with frost it makes me think of some winged magical reindeer, its antlers nodding down at us mere mortals.

On a train to London recently I spotted huge bunches of mistletoe growing in tree tops.

Captivated, I just about ran down the consecutive carriages of the train in order to get a better look!

Mistletoe is steeped in tradition and plant magic. Kissing under the mistletoe is a relatively new idea and quite a sanitised notion bearing in mind it was originally thought of as an aphrodisiac and fertility potion.

Alternative uses included fending off witches, treating all manner of disease in man and beast as well as improving crop production if a branch was carried burning across agricultural land.

Indeed, as recently as 40 years ago, due to its pagan links, some parishes were still uncomfortable using it in church as a decoration at Christmas.

Mistletoe grows on trees as a parasite and may eventually kill the branch its growing on.

It favours elderly apple, hawthorn, ash and poplar trees as its host.

Birds, particularly Mistle thrushes are experts at seed sowing. Squeezing the seed out and then wiping their beaks on branches after feasting on the sticky white berries, they inadvertently embed the seeds in the bark of the trees.

Humans on the other hand don’t generally have the same success. I’ve been trying for years after Christmas to propagate it by smearing the berries onto tree branches.

Apparently the best time to do this is March and April when the seed inside the berry is very ripe, most of us have long forgotten the sprig that took pride of place at Christmas but rapidly made its way to the compost heap on twelfth night.

Due to new intensive farming methods mistletoe appears to be on the decline as old apple orchards are becoming rarer. Having said that this year appears to have been a bumper crop due to the long wet summer.

As a decorative item its decline is reflected in the price. My wife is a florist and she recently paid £30 for a small box at the flower market.

When I spotted it I was excited at the thoughts of puckering up, to be swiftly informed it was all for a customer!

That’s made me all the more determined to grow my own. Not to be beaten I have earmarked some mistletoe growing in the wild and have marked the 2016 calendar with a reminder for my spring sowings.

I expect not to be puckering up for some time due to the tricky nature of propagation, but what better way to get the spring sap rising than with a real horticultural challenge, can’t wait.

Sean Murray runs a garden design company based in Ashington, Northumberland, www.

Mistletoe (Viscum Album)
Mistletoe (Viscum Album)

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It’s time to prep your garden

This is the time of the year to take the long view!

For 2016, you can design part of your gardens using five principles presented by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West in Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press 2015). Dr. Doug Tallamy describes it as “the universal how-to guide to sustainable landscaping we have been waiting for.”

Focus on plant relationships

First, Rainer and West ask gardeners to attend closely to the relationships between their plants. Why? Because nature’s vitality is expressed in lush, interwoven groupings. Over time, plants slowly adapt to each other, step by step. By contrast, designing for individual plantings alone is a struggle against this powerful biological aptitude. As you gaze out your window, take a hike, or wait at a stoplight, study how plants relate naturally. What do you like? Incorporate it in your design.

Accept your garden site

Second, the authors encourage gardeners to embrace existing site conditions — wet, dry, clay, rocky, abutting pavement. Identify existing constraints. Then count them as assets by choosing plantings that thrive in just those conditions. As plants cannot walk, plant survivors have developed successful ways to adapt. Rainer notes that rather than lament what is no longer in a site, we must “open our eyes to see the spaces that surround us every day.”

Use dense, vertical plant layers

Third, the authors observe that bare soil is normally a temporary situation. Meanwhile, “overmulching” effectively seeks to enforce an unnatural expanse of bare ground. Instead, they suggest more designing with “green mulch” (i.e., vegetation). For example, interplant a variety of low perennials among larger plants and plants that grow tall once a year.

Messy is a no-no!

Fourth, Rainer and West decry the view that the only sustainable planting is an untamed meadow. While giving nature more play in your garden design, it is important to ask: Does it feel attractive? Would a visitor likely understand it?

To this end, the authors recommend integrating indications of order in garden designs: Frame a robust island of plantings with a low hedge. Start lower growing species in the front or boundary of a bed. Plan an arc of taller, structural plants in the back or center. Emphasize natural colors or textures in drifts or loose groupings. Use a few steppingstones, a short path, a bench, or a low wall to enhance order in your design.

Design beyond the plan

Fifth, because design is inherent in gardening, say Rainer and West, you should expect to manage your garden over time as part of its design. With plants that are happy in your site conditions, tending them should be easier. Nevertheless plants may self-seed or move about in your initial design, filling in gaps when other plantings die. So, neglect is not an option. Look forward to making decisions from time to time to adjust and manage your plantings.

Using these five principles of designed plant communities can improve your property with delightful gardens and improve the environment with sustainable design.

Penn State Master Gardeners are volunteers for Penn State Cooperative Extension. For more information, contact the Master Gardener office at 717-840-7408.

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College of Marin Academic Center wins higher education project award

College of Marin’s new Academic Center has transformed the entrance to the institution in Kentfield.

The design of the new building complex thoughtfully engages the three generations of existing buildings and the arboretum-like landscape, while creating a new sense of “campus.”

TLCD Architecture teamed with Design Architect Mark Cavagnero Associates to create a signature building at the corner of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and College Avenue.

“It was a privilege to work with Mark Cavagnero Associates and TLCD architects. Their collaborative design approach incorporated ideas and feedback from both the college and community members. We are proud that the Academic Center is the capstone project of the 2004 bond measure,” said Dr. David Wain Coon, College of Marin’s superintendent and president.

This is the last of the major projects in the Marin Community College District’s Measure C Bond Program. The Academic Center building was constructed at a cost of $20.7 million.

The objective of the college’s selection committee was to create a strong presence at the campus entry while preserving the existing landscaping and respecting the original 1920’s master plan that included reinstating the great lawn facing Mt. Tamalpais. “We believe these objectives were achieved,” said Don Tomasi, AIA, partner with TLCD.

“The Academic Center is the first thing you see when arriving at College of Marin, providing a welcoming and attractive gateway feature for students, faculty, workers and visitors,” said Brian Wright, AIA, principal with TLCD, and project manager of his firm’s architecture team from 2010 through completion of the Academic Center in the summer of 2015.

The 43,000 square foot building includes administrative space, 16 classrooms, two computer labs, and ESL lab, a meeting room for the school board, a suite for visiting professors and a 100-seat lecture hall. The center is expected to receive LEED Silver green building certification based on the use of sustainable building practices and materials.

Four older campus buildings were removed to make way for new construction, however, a majority of the trees were preserved – including a large memorial heritage oak in the new courtyard. A key feature of the new structure is the large, skylight-covered atrium above the multi-story building allowing easy access to two-tiers of classrooms and other facilities.

The three-story building occupies a sloping site and blends into its environment. The first two levels appear to be the extent of building’s height with the third story set back several yards to match the sloping hillside, reducing the overall visual impact of the structure.

The College of Marin was sensitive to community concerns and invited input for this project during a series of open forums. They invited people to state their views, both pro and con, and kept everyone informed. Many of the issues raised influenced decisions made both before and during construction. This open process resulted in a facility that has been embraced by the college students, faculty, and the community.

The design consultants included ZFA Structural Engineers; Costa Engineers (mechanical); O’Mahony Myer (electrical); Brelje Race (civil engineers); Quadriga Landscape Architects; Charles Salter Associates (acoustic and AV), and Gilleran and Associates (energy and Title 24 consultants). The general contractor was Wright Contracting, Inc., and subcontractors included Lunardi Electric, Intech Mechanical, Davidson Iron Works (structural steel), Berkley Cement Inc., North Coast Drywall and Dreier Fire Protection.

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Gift Ideas for Gardeners

gardening gift ideasYou’re down to the wire, but there’s still time to find some great gifts for the yard and garden enthusiasts on your Christmas List. Cathy Isom has some last-minute gift ideas for the green thumb on your list.

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Excerpts from a publication from Johnson County Government The Best Times, Volume 32 No. 12 December, 2014.

Hoe-hoe-hoe: Wish lists for gardeners

By Dennis Patton

Oftentimes we struggle to find that perfect present. But when it comes to making purchases for fellow gardeners it could not get much easier. There are a number of gift giving ideas that are sure to please.

Like most hobbies, gardening has a myriad of tools and gadgets that make it enjoyable. One of these items may be just the gift for that special person. A few minutes at a nursery or garden center is sure to give you a few ideas. If browsing the shelves is not your idea of holiday fun, here are a few suggestions.

gardening gift toolsTools are a great gift. Most gardeners could use a new trowel, sharp set of hand pruners, or even a sturdy saw. These items wear out, becoming dull and past their prime. Hand tools can range from $5 to $50 or more, depending on the item and its quality. Become a little more adventuresome and there are all sorts of special tools for the job. Many times we just don’t splurge on the latest and greatest, but these novelties make the best gifts.

Reference books are another great gift item. The book lover could get lost in a gardening section as there are so many titles to choose.

Books can be divided into a couple of categories. There are the coffee table books full of beautiful pictures and inspiration. These books whet the appetite and start the creative juices flowing, or cause one to daydream, lost in all the possibilities. The other main type of book is what I call a reference book. These books are short on pretty pictures but have “the meat” or information. Reference books range from topics on different plants, to the basics of landscaping or problem solving.

Books not only help the gardener learn but also pass the long winter days and nights. Who cannot resist curling up by the fire or wrapped in your favorite blanket sipping a warm beverage and dreaming of the upcoming season? In fact, dreaming, as real gardeners know, is all part of the fun and enjoyment of this hobby.

Another great gift idea is to purchase a membership to one of the area’s local botanical gardens. In addition to a membership gift, schedule a couple of outings with friends during the season. This way you are not just giving the membership but also your gift of time.

What a great way to spend time with special friends. What better way to show how much someone means to you than an outing to a beautiful garden, lunch, and time to catch up on life. This gift makes it much more personal than just another possession to pass along. Actually, the thing many people would really like is time to keep and renew friendships. How often have you said something like “it has been way too long” or “we need to get together?” Schedule that time now before it has passed.

If the more impersonal gift fits the bill then gift cards make an excellent choice. Local nurseries and garden centers, or even mail order companies have gift certificates. These can then be redeemed for merchandise that is handpicked by your gardening friend.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent at Johnson County’s K-State Research and Extension Office.

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Crews begin tearing down UNCC landmark

Crews are starting to tear down a University of North Carolina-Charlotte landmark this week.
The historic Belk Tower will be coming down over the winter break and work is set to be completed by Jan. 9.
Some students fondly called the landmark “The Pin.”
“That is going to be so sad,” said student Brandi Vick. “It’s just a huge landmark. Whenever someone is like, ‘What side of campus are you on? I’m by the pin!’ Now there is no more Pin.”
Earlier this semester, the university president sent out a letter to students and staff saying the Belk Tower was deteriorating and that it wasn’t safe. It would cost a million dollars to fix or renovate it so UNC decided the tower had to come down.
Several students, staff and alumni tried to protest. An online petition on garnered more than 800 signatures saying the tower has historically been the site of comfort, protest and vigils.
“It’s something that represents the school in many, many ways,” said student Richmond French.
But UNC leaders said the tower would cost too much to maintain.
On Monday, Eyewitness News saw crews removing bricks to sell as mementos.
Equipment was also lined up to start bringing the tower down.
Some students told Eyewitness News that they understood the decision.
“It’s going to be weird but my take is, if it’s going down for safety reasons, of course, I’m 100 percent for it,” said French.
A UNC-Charlotte spokesperson said a landscaping company has been hired to design a new quadrangle. The school will be also be seeking input from the community for design ideas in 2016. 

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