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Archives for December 27, 2015

Top 10 celebrity home sales in 2015: Gus Van Sant’s own private 15 acres in …

Take two? Film director Gus Van Sant‘s 15-acre Sauvie Island reclusive retreat sold twice in 2015: For $1.35 million in May and for $1.4 million in October. The real estate broker who represented Van Sant, Janet Rajcich of John L. Scott, explained that the first buyer sold because of a job transfer.

The second buyer, who worked with Jeanne Paul of Windermere Stellar, posted on after the story broke in Dec. 5: “Spoiler alert! We are the couple that bought GVS’s little river-front house… It’s actually pretty modest… One of us works for a non-profit raising money for disadvantaged kids/families, the other for a greedy corporation that doesn’t pay it’s fair share (tongue in cheek). It takes all kinds.”

My own private slice of Portland farmland? Van Sant’s former getaway has more than 1,000 feet of secluded beach front and more than 1,200 square feet of river-view decks. The barn was converted into a conference room with an artist studio and small apartment. At the time of the first sale, there was also a manufactured home on the 15-acre property.

The two-story main house was built in 1989, the year “Drugstore Cowboy” earned Van Sant screenwriting awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle and Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics.

Was it the setting? Or goodwill hunting? Let’s wait for the sequel.

Throughout 2015, celebrities cashed in by selling their mansions and compounds for mountains of money. In our look at the Top 10 celebrity home sales in 2015, we include Van Sant’s rustic 15-acre spread in Portland’s Sauvie Island and these nine others based on information and photos from

Johnny Depp’s French village sold for $25 million: The actor spent some of the booty he earned starring in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films franchise to buy a 37-acre village in the South of France in 2001. Depp lived there for 15 years with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis and their two children, and he spent millions renovating and decorating the 10,760 square feet of living space among a dozen of structures that were built when a king named Louis reigned. The couple separated in 2012 and this year, Depp put the compound on the market and married Amber Heard.

The perks: The property has a house and cottages with a combined 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms plus a pirate-themed wine cellar, chapel, bar, restaurant and a staff house. Outside, there’s a skate park, two swimming pools and a workshop/garage. The sale included books, DVDs, furniture and some works of art.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch listed at $100 million: The famous 2,700-acre ranch at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road in Los Olivos near Santa Barbara, California, was stripped of most of the King of Pop’s toys when it was placed on the market this year. The 12,000-square-foot main house was restyled, the zoo animals, amusement park and carnival rides were taken away and the property was renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch. Fans will appreciate that Jackson’s flowerbed clock is still at the walkway entrance (see more photos).

Jackson paid $19.5 million for the oak- and sycamore-studded property in 1988 and rechristened it Neverland after Peter Pan’s island dwelling, according to the Associated Press.

The perks: The main house has expansive, formal rooms, a commercial kitchen and six bedrooms including a master suite complex on two levels with a fireplace in the sitting room, two large baths, cedar walk-in closets and a hidden safe room. The house’s hardwood floors were pulled from an 18th century French villa.

The property also has three guesthouses and a movie theater with 50 seats, a private balcony and stage. There are also several barns, animal shelter facilities, corrals and a maintenance shop. For ultra private fun, there’s a free-form swimming pool, covered barbecue area, basketball court, tennis court and a four-acre lake with waterfall.

Jeff Bridges’ $29.5 million Montecito estate: Academy Award winner, author and musician Jeff Bridges and his wife, Susan, are selling the Tuscan-style estate where they raised their three daughters. The Bridges family has lived in Montecito since Jeff’s dad, Lloyd Bridges, starred in the TV show “Sea Hunt” from 1958 through 1960.

The house, built on almost 20 hilltop acres, was designed by singer Kenny Loggins. The Bridges bought the property in 1994, four year before the release of “The Big Lebowski,” the beloved cult film about a deadbeat bowler.

The living room and other large rooms in the main house have French doors that open to multiple terraces with views of gardens, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands. The second level has five bedrooms, including the master suite, which has a fireplace, huge master bath and a walk-in closet of over 200 square feet.

But the real charm is found on the rooftop terrace and study on the third level. There is also a subterranean home theater and wine cellar. Outside are terraced destinations for dining, swimming next to a waterfall, lawn games, a vineyard and olive trees.

In addition to the 9,593-square-foot main house, there is a caretaker’s cottage, a detached auxiliary garage, a pool house, guest house and greenhouse filled with orchids. This is where Bridges, 65, practiced his passion for raising aloe plants and a niche in a corner of the yard where he occasionally makes pottery.

Although last November’s Jeff Bridges The Abiders concert at the Aladdin Theater was sold out, here you can see his private recording studio where he cut three albums. Or if you’re not into that whole traveling to see a mansion thing, you can wait for the next Lebowski Bash at Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge in Southeast Portland.

Bob Hope’s UFO house in Palm Springs: Renown modern architect John Lautner designed Bob and Dolores Hope’s 23,000-square-foot with the dramatic high undulating roof in 1973 but the desert getaway — the largest private residence he ever design — didn’t garner him praise: It was known as the “volcano” or “spaceship house” and since the comedian’s wife, Dolores, made so many changes to the original plans, Lautner didn’t claimed as one of his designs.

Listed in 2013 at $50 million, the price dropped to $34 million and this year to $25 million.

The perks: The house also has a spa with greenhouse wall, six bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, indoor and outdoor pools. The property includes a pond, putting greens and a tennis court.

Miley Cyrus’ Los Angeles mansion sold for the asking price of $5.995 million: The Cyrus family moved from their 500-acre Tennessee farm to Toluca Lake, California near the Disney studios when a young Miley Cyrus began starring in “Hannah Montana” in 2007. This year, she put the Tuscan-style house on the market for $5.995 million and it sold for the asking price.

The perks: The gated, almost-acre property at 10313 Woodbridge St. has an 8,700-square-foot house with a red-barrel tile roof. The grand entry foyer with curved staircase accented with wrought iron leads to formal rooms that open to views of the pool and lush landscaping.

The house has six bedrooms, seven baths, family room, home theater and a guitar display room. There is a large chef’s kitchen with ogee-edged granite countertops.

Built on two levels, the master suite has a rooftop terrace with fireplace and large walk-in dressing rooms. There are fireplaces inside and outside, as well as lounging and entertaining. A state-of-the-art security system and cameras protect all areas of the property.

Bing Crosby’s $5 million Rancho Mirage golf retreat: Located on 1.36 acres in California’s Thunderbird Heights, the 6,700-square-foot midcentury ranch-style house, built in 1957, has views of mountains and city lights.

The perks: The property includes a private casita with two bedrooms, two baths, a living room and complete kitchen with its own private entrance. President John F. Kennedy stayed there, with — rumor has it — Marilyn Monroe, according to

The house has custom Moroccan wood entry doors, formal living and dining rooms, six bedrooms , six baths, media room and chef’s kitchen with granite and stainless steel.

Glass walls encasing the outdoor entertainment area retract to open up to the pool, patios, outdoor kitchen and bar with mountain and Coachella Valley views.

Lauren Bacall’s $21 million Central Park apartment: The iconic Dakota apartments at Central Park West in New York City is one of the most prestigious residential addresses in the world. The 19th century building — a mix of French Renaissance, German Gothic and English Victorian — is home to famous people in business, sports and films including the late actress Lauren Bacall who bought the apartment at 1 West 72nd St. #46 in 1961 for $48,000 and lived there for 53 years.

Her nine-room, three-bedroom, four-bath home with almost 100 feet facing Central Park and a perfectly positioned a Juliette balcony sold recently for $21 million.

The perks: The 4,000-square-foot apartment has a 70-foot long gallery that opens to great room, formal dining room and library. Rooms have 13-foot ceilings, 11-foot pocket doors, shutter-framed windows and hardwood flooring.

Tyler Perry’s $25 million Atlanta mansion: The independent filmmaker’s 13 most popular movies have grossed more than $600 million and cost less than $10 million to make. He has also profited from real estate across the country. He has more than 1,000 acres in Atlanta, where he will build a new mansion. He put his current 34,688-square-foot French Provincial home, on a 17-acre parcel at 4110 Paces Ferry Road in the tony Buckhead neighborhood with views over the Chattahoochee River, on the market this year.

The perks: The mansion has seven bedrooms and 14 baths, a two-story library and an underground ballroom with catering kitchen.

Outside, there is an infinity-edge swimming pool, lighted tennis court on top of a two-story parking garage, fully equipped gym, spa, theater, hobby house, and formal and informal gardens.

The entire estate has generators, guard house, caretaker’s suite and presidential-level security system including two gated and secured residential entrances.

Danny Thomas’ $135 million Beverly Hills property: The “Make Room for Daddy” sitcom star of the 1950s and 1960s and advocate for St. Jude Children’s Hospital bought 2 1/2 acres at 1187 N. Hillcrest Road on a promontory in Beverly Hills’ Trousdale Estates in the late 1960s. In 1970, he built an 18,000-square-foot mansion in a Moorish style.

The current owner bought the property for $5.764 million in 2012 from Thomas’ three children and completed a total restoration and renovation with the help of French architect Jacques Garcia.

The perks: The eight-bedroom, 12-bathroom home has 360-degree views of all of Los Angeles. There is $2.5 million of Baccarat chandeliers and hand-woven carpets that are included in the sale.

— Homes Gardens of the Northwest staff

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Hot Property: Oprah Winfrey lands a tech-happy ski home in Telluride

LOS ANGELES – Oprah Winfrey has dropped $14 million on a high-tech ski home in Telluride, Colo. – well within construction supervision range of the 60-plus acres she bought last year for $11 million.

The media mogul’s new place was purchased from tech entrepreneur Bob Wall, who served as chief executive for such companies as Theatrix Interactive and Clarity Wireless. The noted African art collector sold the contemporary home furnished.

Set on about 3.25 acres on the slope side of Mountain Village, the five-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom home with 8,700 square feet of living space has some standout features.

The 56-foot-long, 1,600-bottle wine cellar looks like a mining tunnel, complete with piped-in sounds of creaking wood and dripping water and an antique ore cart.

The great room has a glass fiber-optic bridge suspended above it that connects the master bedroom to an office.

An observation deck 35 feet above ground includes a fire pit. Reached by a walkway that Wall set up to sway in the treetops, the deck cost $140,000 to build.

A funicular that looks like an old mining tram leads to the ski slopes. The cost to install the one-minute ride was $240,000.

There’s a tower room, a theater, a seven-person hot tub and two wood-burning fireplaces as well as a guesthouse and a three-car garage. The home also has such Winfrey requisites as a gym.

High-tech remote-controlled gadgetry runs most of the systems of the custom house, built in 2001. But we’re not just talking window shades here. A radiant heat system keeps the driveway snow-free. Driveway sensors alert the homeowner when a car pulls up.

A Finnish-made sauna was altered by Wall to increase the temperature setting and the duration of the cycle. A $70,000 limestone bathtub has a system that maintains the water temperature.

The sale took place outside the Multiple Listing Service, although the house previously had been marketed publicly and featured on

Winfrey, 61, owns real estate in locations including Montecito, Calif.; Chicago; Hawaii; and Tennessee. The billionaire gained fame hosting her own talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She is executive producer of the 2016 series “Greenleaf.”


NBA All-Star Tyson Chandler, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, and his wife, Kimberly, have put their home in the guard-gated Hidden Hills neighborhood of L.A. on the market for $9.995 million.

The professional basketball player put his stamp on the single-level Traditional-style house during his ownership, redoing the interiors while adding a detached man cave/theater room, a detached gym with a steam shower and horse facilities to the 1.34-acre property.

Beyond the vaulted entry, the home opens to a chandelier-topped living room with a fireplace and an adjacent formal dining room with an artistic domed ceiling. Patterned wall treatments, wainscoting, herringbone wood floors and neutral color tones lend a sophisticated look to the 12,000 square feet of space.

Other areas include a country-style chef’s kitchen with a wide center island, a den and a lavish master suite with coved ceilings and rows of picture windows. A total of six bedrooms and 11 bathrooms includes a guest suite complete with a kitchen and private living room.

French and bi-folding glass doors open to a covered lounge area and a swimming pool with a raised spa. Formal landscaping and large expanses of grass complete the setting.

Chandler, who owns other property in Southern California, bought the house five years ago for $5.45 million.

A two-time California Mr. Basketball at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., Chandler was drafted out of high school by the L.A. Clippers in 2001 and immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls. The 33-year-old has played 15 seasons for the Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks, among other teams, winning an NBA title with Dallas in 2011 and Defensive Player of the Year honors with New York the following year.

He signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Suns in the last off-season.


Australian singer-songwriter Sia has added to her real estate portfolio with the purchase of a Toluca Lake compound for $5.15 million.

There’s live-work potential here with both a main house and a 4,500-square-foot guesthouse that had been in use as a recording studio. The seller was a trust for engineer Henry W. Sanicola Jr. and his wife, Jacqueline, who once owned O’Henry Sound Studios in Burbank.

The 1.3-acre gated property has a Traditional-style main house and a large motor court.

A living room, a library/study, an immense family room off the kitchen, five bedrooms, five bathrooms and a powder room are within the 9,500 square feet of living space.

French doors open to a flagstone-surrounded swimming pool, an outdoor fireplace and mature landscaping.

Sia, 39, last year released the album “1000 Forms of Fear,” which included the hit “Big Girls Cry.” She is working on her next album.

Earlier this year she bought a Mediterranean Revival villa in L.A.’s Los Feliz fneighborhood or $4.7 million and four months later listed the distinctive A.F. Leicht-designed house for $4.995 million.


Singer-songwriter Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame has sold his Toluca Lake home to “House of Cards” executive producer Dana Brunetti for $3.85 million.

The Spanish-style house, built in 1929, was once home to Toluca Lake’s original architect, Park French. His movie star clients included Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge.

Original stained-glass windows, wrought-iron railings and wood floors are among the period details. Living, family and dining rooms, a breakfast room, a library, a soundproof media room, a steam room, four bedrooms and four bathrooms are within the 5,426 square feet of living space.

The quarter-of-an-acre property includes a boat mooring and private access to the lake.

A swimming pool, organic gardens, a heated dining terrace and a covered exercise deck complete the grounds.

Stewart, who is also a guitarist and producer, has worked with such artists as Bono, Tom Petty, Katy Perry, Stevie Nicks and Mick Jagger. His latest album, “Lucky Numbers,” was released two years ago.

Brunetti, president of Trigger Street Productions, has produced such films as “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015), “Captain Phillips” (2013) and “The Social Network” (2010).

The house previously changed hands a decade ago for $3.815 million.


A Beverly Hills home that actress Mary Pickford bought for her mother is pocket-listed at $6.5 million.

The Spanish-style villa, constructed in 1929 and designed by Paul Williams, is set on more than a third of an acre on a quiet cul-de-sac. The grounds include Mediterranean-inspired gardens, a detached office/guest house with a fireplace and a swimming pool.

The living room features its original coffered ceiling details. A formal dining room, a den with a fireplace, a library, a breakfast room, four bedrooms and seven bathrooms are also within the 4,807 square feet of living space.

The Oscar-winning Pickford, who died in 1979 at 87, gained fame in the 1910s in such silent films as “The Poor Little Rich Girl,” “Stella Maris” and “Daddy Long Legs.” She was a co-founder of United Artists and helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

At the time the villa was built, Pickford was married to swashbuckling leading man Douglas Fairbanks. They lived in a nearby Wallace Neff-designed mansion dubbed Pickfair and set on 18 acres.

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Gardening lessons of 2015 – Tribune

At the end of every year, I always take some time to reflect on the greatest lessons I learned in the garden during the growing season. Because 2015 yielded yet another summer filled with unusual weather patterns and too much time spent away from the garden, it was chock-full of lessons learned — some good and some bad.

Let’s start with the good.

• This year, I grew pole beans instead of bush beans, and I grew them up an old metal closet organizer. The structure took up 4 square feet of garden space and produced more than 13 pounds of beans! I’m definitely growing my beans on it next year — my garden real estate is just too precious not to. I might try growing my cucumbers up a similar structure to save more space.

• I decided to keep track of how many herbs I harvested from my garden this summer. All told, I snipped slightly more than 60 bunches of herbs, including basil, fennel, dill, sage, oregano, parsley, chives and rosemary. When I checked the cost of these herbs at the grocery store, I learned that I saved nearly $200! That’s pretty great. Needless to say, I’ll be growing more herbs next year. I plan to add French tarragon, lemongrass, turmeric root and stevia to my container gardens.

• My son might have inherited my green thumb. He took a great interest in helping me plant seeds, pick tomatoes, and dig potatoes this season. In fact, he spent more time in the garden than he ever has. I think he finally might be “getting it.â€� It’s a good feeling — even if I still can’t get him to eat peas.

Now for the not-so-good lessons of 2015.

• It is absolutely possible to have too much of a good thing. I had a few crops that went bonkers this year and were a bit too prolific. I ran out of ways to prepare and process all the cucamelons my vines produced. If you’re not familiar with this vegetable, it’s a close relative of cucumbers that looks like a tiny watermelon and is slightly sour. They’re delicious fresh, and even pickled, but I had literally tens of thousands of them. I was giving them away as fast as I could pick them. It was overwhelming. I won’t plant nearly as many seeds next year.

• The deer around here are getting a lot craftier. In late October, they figured out how to trample all my row covers into shreds to access the winter veggies I had growing underneath. They ate all my Swiss chard, beet tops, lettuce and kale. I think I’m going to have to put up a taller fence.

• Probably the most significant negative lesson my garden taught me in 2015 is that, during periods of drought, I probably shouldn’t go on vacation. Instead, I should stay home and pay more attention to watering the tomatoes.

I mulch my vegetable garden very well, but if tomatoes don’t receive enough steady moisture throughout the growing season, blossom end rot is the result.

Because of the lack of rain during July and August, I had my first bout of blossom end rot in years, and while it won’t keep me from going on vacation next summer, it will definitely encourage me to hire a “garden babysitterâ€� to take care of the watering chores while I’m away.

Here’s hoping the New Year brings a gardening season full of more positive gardening lessons than negative.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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Garden Tips: Good offense is best defense against tree borers – Tri

Now that we have almost closed the book on 2015, let us reflect a bit on the extraordinary weather of this past year. It is no surprise that summer 2015 was the hottest on record in the region, with a total annual precipitation of 3.72 inches. That is not much considering that 9.16 inches of moisture were lost through evapotranspiration during August. Plus, some areas experienced limited irrigation water.

This extraordinary year was compounded by the fact that until 2015, 2014 was the hottest on record with 3.44 inches of precipitation, a total evapotranspiration of 9.02 inches in August, and an unusually mild December. Also consider that 2013 was the second hottest summer on record until 2015, with a total annual precipitation of 2.79 inches. Plus, summer 2013 was the sixth year of summer weather with near or above average temperatures.

That is a great deal of summer heat. Heat stresses plants, especially ones not well adapted to our summer climate. Heat stress is compounded by drought stress that results from limited irrigation water or improper watering practices. Drought stress may also be inflicted on a tree because of a lack of an adequate root system, physical injury to the trunk, restricted or girdling roots, compacted soil, or other factors that affect the tree’s ability to absorb or transport water to the top of the tree.

Stress on trees makes them more vulnerable to attack by certain insects, especially boring insects. Because of several years of summer heat stress that local trees have endured, we are seeing an increasing number of wood borers attacking ornamental trees.

Even if a tree looks fairly healthy to you and me, it may become fodder for borers because it is stressed. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to attack by borers because stress causes them to produce volatile chemicals, such as terpenes, that attract boring insects.

In addition, some borers (such as bark beetles) emit an aggregation pheromone (a chemical compound that elicits insect behavior) once it finds a stressed tree. This insect pheromone lets other bark beetles in the area know of the tree’s presence. One bark beetle might not significantly harm a tree, but a bunch of them feeding spells trouble.

Once the volatile chemicals emitted by the tree and the aggregation pheromone get a gang of bark beetles to the tree, they still have to get under the bark. As they start to eat their way into the tree, the sap pressure in a healthy tree will often drown or push them back out. However, in a stressed tree, the sap flow is lower, and they can successfully eat their way in.

The quote of “the best defense is a good offense” may or may not be true in sports, but it is true when it comes to protecting your trees from boring insects. Keeping a tree healthy is not just its best defense against borers, in many cases it is the only defense.

We no longer have the long-term residual insecticides that were once used to protect trees from borers. Insecticide applications as a spray to the trunk are generally not a good offense, and even the systemic insecticides applied to the soil or injected into the trunk are only effective against a few types of borers.

Hopefully, next year we will not experience another summer of extraordinary heat and limited irrigation water. If we do, make every effort to keep your trees healthy to protect them from attack by borers.

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

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In the Garden: Planting the seeds for real improvement in 2016 – Yakima Herald

It never fails. Days after Christmas, gloriously vibrant seed and perennial catalogs spill out of the mailbox, a reminder that there’s a garden out there, sleeping underneath all this snow, and it will reawaken once again. A new year is ahead, full of fresh possibilities, and it’s time to make some plans.

My garden is a work in progress that will never be completed in my lifetime, and I’ve learned to resist expecting perfection. But as I mull over so many of my “woulda, shoulda, coulda” moments in last year’s garden, I know there’s room for improvement. I love new beginnings, and here’s my list of resolutions for 2016:

• Not only will I finish every task I begin, but I will factor in time for cleanup. I will not get out any tools that I will not have time to put away that day. I will not leave piles of deadheads moldering away in wheelbarrows; it’s the compost pile before sundown. And I will actually turn my compost pile once in a while. Sure, compost happens, but it happens much faster with some help from me.

• I will create a long-range garden design plan, and consider having it tattooed on my forehead so I can’t leave it in my other purse. I have a knack for seeing a Plant I Never Wanted, but consumed with plant lust, perceive it to be the very Plant I Can’t Live Another Day Without. After I get it home, I remember that I have no empty places to put it. Or I discover that it is best suited for USDA Climate Zone 7, or needs high humidity, lots of water, and acid soil. A plant like that has no place in my garden. And so, the object of my quickly cooled desire either sits in its nursery pot for months and months, or gets shoehorned into a less than desirable location, just for the sake of getting it planted. So, let me repeat, no more buying plants unless I have a specific spot or need.

• I will continue to pare down the number of plants I grow that are water guzzlers and wilters. I will replace them with plants that not only tolerate drought, but revel in it. As the snow piles up and reservoirs refill, memories of our infernal summer of 2015 fade, but the reality is that clean water will continue to become a more scarce and expensive commodity. Gardeners must adapt to changing conditions and implement gardening practices that are more sustainable.

• I will take better care of my garden tools. I could not do any worse, so there is tremendous potential here. Garden tools are a big investment and should last for years, yet I manage to measure the life of my pruners in hours. I resolve to attach long neon lanyards to all my hand tools so they become beacons in a sea of green. Yesterday, while out refilling the bird feeders, I discovered the handle of my favorite spade sticking out of the snow (I used it on a cold November morning to plant a batch of perennials that were impulsively purchased in June, but had no place to grow). There is no method to my madness, but that’s all about to change in 2016. I’ll be sharpening, oiling and properly storing my hand tools, and changing the oil and spark plugs on my fuel-driven power tools, just like the manual recommends.

• I will make no pruning cuts without good reasons. Cass Turnbull, founder of PlantAmnesty, asserts that 80 percent of the pruning done by homeowners and professionals alike is what she calls “mal-pruning.” To learn to do it right, I’m enrolling in Pruning 101 later this winter. The Yakima Area Arboretum class, led by arborist Sean Tait, includes an evening lecture and an outdoor workshop to practice. Call the Arboretum at 509-248-7337 for information about tree-care classes.

• I will make a determined and sincere effort to share extra food and flowers with neighbors or food banks. Last summer, faced with an abundance of basil, a gardening couple down the street made a simple farm stand in their driveway. Encouraged by a FREE BASIL sign, their oversupply was scooped up in no time by delighted passers-by. I would like to be a more giving gardener, and this generous spirit is just what Yakima neighborhoods need in the New Year.

• Carol Barany and her husband, John, found paradise on 11/3 acres just west of Franklin Park, where they raised three children and became Master Gardeners. Email her at

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Metairie park to become demonstration project for ‘living with water’

Dec 26, 2015 19:23

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The corner of Old Metairie Road and Labarre Road will be transformed into a space that can be enjoyed by residents as well as store water during rain events. Bayou Metairie Park will be built as part of a larger project which also includes drainage infrastructure upgrades.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER — The corner of Old Metairie Road and Labarre Road will be transformed into a space that can be enjoyed by residents as well as store water during rain events. Bayou Metairie Park will be built as part of a larger project which also includes drainage infrastructure upgrades.
Advocate photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A NORA rain garden in Gentilly Thursday, February 6, 2014. The purpose of the garden is to collect rain water and let it gradually find its way into the city drainage system thus mitigating flooding and reducing subsidence. The garden can hold up to 500 gallons of water. A similar project is in the works in Old Metairie.
Advocate photo by JOHN McCUSKER — A NORA rain garden in Gentilly Thursday, February 6, 2014. The purpose of the garden is to collect rain water and let it gradually find its way into the city drainage system thus mitigating flooding and reducing subsidence. The garden can hold up to 500 gallons of water. A similar project is in the works in Old Metairie.

Until last spring, Jefferson Parish had rather conventional plans for Bayou Metairie Park. Nothing ambitious, just a standard landscaping and beautification project with maybe a path and a park bench or two.


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But because of a chance meeting between District 5 Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng and architect David Waggonner, the humble stretch of grass and trees just south of Metairie and Labarre roads will become home to a more ambitious undertaking.

Bayou Metairie Park will serve as a demonstration project on how to use plants, landscaping and building materials to retain rainwater to help combat persistent flooding.

While the park will still feature some of the same elements as other passive pocket parks around the parish, the plants will be especially selected to hold water, and the paths that would typically be paved will be made of a permeable material that absorbs water.

The goal will be to show property owners, developers and government officials how smarter design and carefully chosen materials can be used to help keep water out of streets, yards and homes.

Lee-Sheng said she got the idea for the demonstration project at a planning conference about Metairie Road last spring hosted by the Regional Planning Commission. She happened to be sitting next to Waggonner, of Waggonner Ball Architects, the firm that helped create the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, and the two began discussing bioswales, “water-loving” plants and other ways to better deal with rainwater.

A bioswale is a drainage ditch with gently sloped sides landscaped with vegetation that can remove silt and other materials from surface runoff.

After that meeting, Lee-Sheng decided that Bayou Metairie Park could be more than just an average pocket park. During the next 18 months, the park’s features will be designed by Waggonner Ball and the consulting firm Arcadis and constructed on the site.

Lee-Sheng said the idea is to try to move away, as much as possible, from the “pave, pipe and pump” method of dealing with water. While pumps will always play a key role in getting water from where it is to where people want it to be, “we can certainly take in more water (where it falls) than we are now,” she said.

“I don’t know if people know just how much of our public resources go toward keeping us dry.”

Lee-Sheng said it is not yet known whether Bayou Metairie Park alone will have a measurable effect on the amount of water on Metairie Road during heavy rains, but the idea is to introduce people to a new way of using space beyond simply a choice between pavement and grass.

“That’s what we’re hoping for here, that once we can do a demonstration project, people can see it, and it becomes, ‘Yeah, that’s a smart way of doing things,’ ” she said.

Lee-Sheng said that when she met recently with a developer seeking permits for an apartment renovation, she brought up some of the ideas that could be put to use in the property’s parking lot.

She said the parking lot at Parkway Bakery and Tavern uses permeable materials to better handle rainwater, for example.

Lee-Sheng said the Metairie park is one of the last projects she will do as the council representative for District 5, but the problem it tries to tackle will continue to be a focus when she takes over one of the council’s two at-large seats next month.

Change is not going to happen overnight, she said. But then again, it doesn’t have to.

“This is for my grandchildren’s generation,” she said. “It’s something we need to start changing our mindset about now for future generations.”

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.

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Kelso: Aliens take the prize in Funny Christmas Card Contest

If keeping it weird is an Austin prerequisite, then David Davis’ Christmas card has to be the grand champ in this year’s Funny Christmas Card Contest.

You’ve got two aliens with green faces, chatting up the holiday season. No manger, no reindeer and no stinkin’ elves. Just men from the Planet Zarcon or, perhaps, Manor. Who knows?

+Kelso: Aliens take the prize in Funny Christmas Card Contest photo

Thomas and Susan Rosenthal have planted a cedar tree upside down at their landscape business out at Hudson Bend. What better … read more

“On Earth, he goes by the name Santa Claus,” one alien says. “How much of that night does he spend on each planet?” the other alien asks.

The alien on the left is a Photoshopped version of Davis, a South Austin writer and videographer who created the card and is into all things spacey.

So who’s the alien on the right? Davis isn’t saying. “I kind of like that the other one is incognito,” he said. “That one’s all covered up so I’ll let that one remain a mystery.”

+Kelso: Aliens take the prize in Funny Christmas Card Contest photo

South Austin writer David Davis has this thing about aliens, so his Christmas card naturally shows a couple of them chatting. … read more

Although I think I’ve seen this guy’s picture on the cover of the National Enquirer, standing next to Bob Dole, when they came to take him away. So what’s the big deal with the space creatures, David?

“Well, um, I’m a writer, and aliens are a great writing premise,” he said. “Aliens on Earth is something out of its element, which makes a good writing premise.”

Considering some of the candidates for president this year, I’m not sure aliens on Earth are really out of their element. But Davis’ card brings up a good point. Does Santa travel to other planets on Christmas Eve? And if he does, do the little green children on Mars leave him little green cookies?

+Kelso: Aliens take the prize in Funny Christmas Card Contest photo

Spicewood artist Cindy Taylor is known for peppering her artwork with googly eyes. That explains all the googly eyes on her … read more

Thomas Rosenthal is into a different sort of green. He sent in a card showing the cedar tree he planted upside down at Landscape With Nature, his landscaping business west of town out near the Mansfield Dam.

Why would you plant a cedar tree upside down? If you plant it upside down, does it make you sneeze less than if you plant it right side up? What’s this all about, Thomas?

“I got the idea in Juneau, Alaska,” he said. “There’s a park there in Juneau where they took these fir trees that were close to 80 feet tall. They were dead, so they planted them upside down.”

+Kelso: Aliens take the prize in Funny Christmas Card Contest photo

Austin real estate agent Amy Reinarz sent out a card showing family members dressed as characters from Bill Murray movies. From … read more

Pumped by the idea, Thomas went into the back yard, ripped up a cedar, planted it backward in concrete, and decorated it with flowers.

So has the response been overwhelming?

“The guy next door said that it was a clever way of using a cedar tree,” Thomas said.

I’ll give him that. Besides, if you’re planting cedar, dead and upside down is probably the best approach.

Amy Reinarz, an Austin real estate agent, sent in a Christmas card with a Bill Murray theme.

Dressed as characters from Bill Murray movies are Amy’s daughter Elle, 9, dressed as Bob Wiley from “What About Bob”; Amy as Steve Zissou from “The Life Aquatic”; Amy’s son Cole, 7, as Peter Venkman from “Ghostbusters”; and husband David as Carl Spackler from “Caddyshack.”

So why Bill Murray? Did Amy sell him a house or something? Nope, that’s not it.

“My husband is kind of obsessed with Bill Murray,” she said. Besides, she added, the other 10 or so ideas she suggested didn’t go over well with the rest of the family. “And we had some others that were not politically correct, so we decided to do a safer route.”

If you’re a fan of googly eyes, you’ll appreciate the Christmas card created by Cindy Taylor, an artist who lives in Spicewood.

“I do googly-eyed artwork. I love googly eyes,” Cindy said. She estimates there are hundreds of googly eyes on her card, which might not seem apparent until you look closely at the Christmas ornament held by the Santa on the card. The ornament, Cindy says, is loaded with tiny googly eyes.

“Then there’s the googly-eyed star on the top of the tree,” Cindy said. “And there’s a googly eye on the fish. And there’s a googly eye on the dinosaur, and that’s a human eyeball floating on top of the mountain.”

Cindy put together this year’s card during a monthlong stay this summer in Telluride, Colo. The various items you see on the card were things that popped up during her stay. The flying trout, she says, was caught by a friend on the property. So she took a picture of it and made it airborne.

Now about that sheep on the card: “I met a sheep herder and his two dogs while I was living on the property,” Cindy said.

If she’d met a guy with an alligator farm we’d probably be looking at gators.

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Newton TAB: Letters

Posted Dec. 26, 2015 at 9:59 AM


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