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Archives for January 3, 2016

Green Design Has More Impact When Local Residents Are Involved in the Planning … – Truth

Raindrops are falling slow and heavy on the concrete walkways, children’s playgrounds, and brick, V-shaped apartment buildings of the Bronx River Houses, one of New York City’s largest housing projects. But today’s rain won’t slide off the roofs, walkways, and hard-packed lawns into the Bronx River across the street. Instead, it will gather in the project’s bioswales, rain gardens, enhanced tree pits, and blue roofs, which together can capture 32,000 gallons of water. 

Unlike the monotonous lawns and ordered trees that characterize the landscaping here and at other housing projects, the rain gardens add a splash of yellow, a spray of white flowers, and an explosion of bushiness. “With the installation of the rain gardens came a lot more foliage which brightens up the area,” says David Shuffler, who grew up four blocks from here. Shuffler works with many residents of the Bronx River Houses in his role as executive director of the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, headquartered across the street. “People enjoy how it looks. It adds a lot of color,” he says.

The Bronx River Houses’ rain gardens and blue roof are a pilot project for a $2.4-billion green infrastructure program New York City will roll out over the next 15 years. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has already installed 250 smaller projects, such as bioswales and rain gardens, on streets and sidewalks in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. It also has worked with the New York Housing Authority and the Parks Department to retrofit 10 public properties, including the Bronx River Houses, to better capture runoff. Thousands more such projects are in the works.

New York is not the only US city with such a program. From Seattle to Cleveland to Buffalo, cities across the country are trying to capture and filter storm water and see if they can simultaneously provide aesthetic, ecological, and health benefits to residents. But, in order for cities to achieve these benefits, researchers and community advocates agree, neighborhood residents should be afforded a larger role in green space design, installation, and maintenance. Involving citizens in the planning and decision-making process would give residents a sense of ownership and thus help ensure they are invested in the program’s success. 

At the Bronx River Houses, for instance, there are signs explaining the rain garden’s features and purpose to curious passersby and also describing how it connects to unseen infrastructure, such as storm water chambers and perforated pipes. Despite this effort to interest residents, the garden seems neglected. An Arizona iced tea can, a Doritos bag, a Styrofoam tray, and other trash lie abandoned among the grasses. A low, black metal rail fences out residents.

“A lot of people at first were like, ‘What is this?'” Shuffler says, explaining how residents of the Bronx River Houses first responded to the new green infrastructure. “So I think that’s one area where the city can improve is figuring out ways to integrate the storm water practices and community engagement and ongoing engagement and ongoing maintenance and ongoing involvement. I remember a few years ago there was talk about this being an opportunity for NYCHA residents to get jobs doing some of the maintenance of the rain gardens, and my understanding is that that has not happened.”

Shuffler is nonetheless grateful for the green infrastructure’s role in reducing the pollution of the nearby Bronx River. “We have two of the city’s worst CSOs [combined sewer outflows] in this neighborhood,” Shuffler says. “Why does a community of color like ours have to be impacted by so much of the CSO?”

When it rains too much in a short period of time — as it is wont to do in NYC, which gets 40 to 50 inches of rain every year — the city dumps raw sewage into its waterways. That’s because, like other US cities, NYC has “combined sewers”: Storm water goes into the same tanks and tunnels as untreated sanitary waste from houses, apartment buildings and businesses. When the tanks and tunnels fill up, the city has to open discharge points. “That causes pollution — not just the untreated sanitary flow but also all the things that the storm water picks up as it makes its way into the catch basin from the streets and sidewalks as well, which can also have a lot of pollutants,” says Margot Walker, director of the DEP’s green infrastructure program.

The Environmental Protection Agency, with the authority granted by the Clean Water Act, has placed cities with combined sewers under federal consent decrees: They must stop dumping untreated sewage into their waterways. Each city has worked out an individual plan about how, and when, it will fix its storm water problem.

“That’s sort of the impetus of the green infrastructure program,” Walker explains. “To get to that compliance and improve water quality and do it in the most cost effective way that’s the best for New Yorkers and also provides a lot of those cobenefits: urban greening, urban heat island reduction, CO2 sequestration, providing aesthetic improvements, and there’s an education piece and hopefully a job piece as well.” 

“It’s a rather experimental approach — to see if one can bring a collection of benefits rather than a singular function,” says Dr. Kathy Wolf, a social science researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who studies the effects of green space on public health. “We’re doing this for storm water! And health! And aesthetics! And all sorts of other things that can be bundled together!” 

According to Wolf, time spent in parks or other natural spaces can help reduce stress and anxiety and restore cognitive function, and physical activity in green spaces can help alleviate depression. Similarly, research conducted by Dr. Gina Lovasi, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, indicates that preschool kids who live in greener areas are more active and that parks, especially large parks, are correlated with lower weight and greater physical activity.

More than one third of US adults are obese, so public health experts are interested in preventive measures that could help people maintain healthier weights — and they’re starting to view parks as an attractive option. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that there be a park within a quarter mile of every front door. Wolf says this increased interest has led to increased funding for research about green space and health. “Up until now, this whole idea of understanding nature’s benefit has been seen as New Age or pseudoscience or whatever, but now, because of the health concerns and the expense of those health concerns… it’s starting to be taken seriously as a potential intervention on an individual, household, and even entire city level,” she explains.

One of the benefits of projects like New York’s green infrastructure program is that sudden change provides a rare opportunity to look at the public health effects of green space in a rigorous way, says Lovasi. For example, researchers can look at the health of residents directly before and after street trees have been planted throughout a neighborhood to see whether the trees changed outcomes like body mass index, the prevalence of asthma, and the frequency of physical activity.

Because so many questions remain unanswered, it’s important not to assume that urban greening of any kind will have automatic health benefits, Lovasi adds. She avoids jumping to the conclusion that, “Oh, we can go plant a million trees and that’s going to inevitably lead to some health benefit. I think it’s going to depend how we do it: where the trees are planted, what species, and perhaps even by whom and how it’s understood by the population,” she explains. 

Thus both Wolf and Lovasi remain concerned that the city’s top-down approach of dropping into a neighborhood, installing green infrastructure, and then moving on to another area may limit the program’s touted “co-benefits.” They suggest that the DEP include neighborhood residents in a collaborative effort to build a greener, healthier New York.

But, if the opinion of people like Shuffler is anything to go by, most Bronx resident’s attitude toward the green infrastructure is overall positive. “The direct benefit is that it captures storm water in a neighborhood that is a waterfront community and is plagued by CSO discharge,” he says. “And I think that’s a great effort and it’s a great start.”

Wolf would like cities to do even better. Environmental justice means not just “reducing risk and toxins in the environment, which has been the more traditional emphasis, but now providing green for benefit,” Wolf says. That said, she says it’s equally important “introduce green in communities in a way that’s compatible with the cultural and historic values of that place.”

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Home of the week: A yard of exquisite stonework – Asheville Citizen

Nina Kopesky, left, and Ed Zawaki stand near the fireplaceBuy PhotoElaborate rock work surrounds Ed Zawaki's home in EastBuy PhotoRock steps created by landscaper Matthew Smith leadBuy PhotoA rock sculpture that in warm weather becomes a waterBuy PhotoA stunning view of the mountains can be seen from theBuy PhotoThe fireplace of Ed Zawaki's home in East AshevilleBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's home in East Asheville is powered usingBuy PhotoThe kitchen of Ed Zawaki's home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoA guest bedroom that Ed Zawaki uses for his grandchildrenBuy PhotoEd Zawaki originally designed the landscaped rock pathsBuy PhotoEd Zawaki and Nina Kopesky stand on the back deck ofBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy PhotoEd Zawaki's two-story home in East Asheville featuresBuy Photo

Ed Zawaki has an enduring admiration for stonework, inspired in part by the careers of his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather, one a brickmaker, the other a stone mason.

So soon after moving into a hillside house east of Asheville not long ago, the retiree hired a local stone mason, remaking his steeply sloping property of a little more than a half-acre into a carefully constructed work of art.

“This was all grass,” Ed said on a recent sunny afternoon, standing on a long wooden balcony along the rear of the house that looks out over an ornate backyard.

Throughout the terraced property are dry-stacked retaining walls and staircases.

A succession of hand-picked steppingstones measuring about 6 inches thick meanders alongside mulch and greenery including cypress and thuja trees, among other evergreens. Along the perimeter are more stones, standing up and serving as boundary markers.

Hauled to the property in “many, many” truckloads, Ed said, the locally sourced stones were situated without cement or mortar.

Among the more remarkable features are a lower retaining wall stretching a little more than 50 feet and a star-shaped stack near a fire pit that stands about 6 feet tall. In warmer months, water trickles down its several layers of diamond-shaped stones, some of them finely chiseled.

All told, the makeover was carried out in two phases, the backyard taking about a year to complete. The front yard took a couple of months, finishing in November after the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Asked how many stones now adorn his yard, Ed said, “I have no idea,” estimating “thousands upon thousands.”

Tucked in a subdivision adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the two-story house itself is perhaps most remarkable for its sweeping views of the mountains to the east, featuring large windows looking out onto the landscape.

Built in 1999, it contains about 3,700 square feet, with four bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths. Since Ed became its third owner in 2011, it has undergone little change.

In his mid-70s, Ed spends these days living with his partner, Nina Kopesky, who has lived in the area since the early 2000s. He has one daughter and two grandchildren who live in Alabama.

He is originally from Boston, where he long lived in a big Victorian house with brick and cobblestone accents. There, Ed spent a career in education, including as a counselor and schoolteacher.

After spending several years living with his brother in Florida, he spent about a year and a half searching for a new home, one where there are four seasons and that is close to a town that is culturally and socioeconomically diverse. And, of course, “I wanted something with views,” Ed said.

The Asheville area, he found, fit his criteria.

Upon moving in, he knew that he wanted to remake the property, if only to improve drainage, initially considering terracing it with timber.

But he eventually turned to stonework, compiling a list of local stone masons that he winnowed to three. After interviewing each one, Ed chose Matthew Smith, who he said has a “Zen-like connection with the stone.”

The backyard landscaping was designed by E.V. vonSeldeneck, who owns Mantis Gardens, with some of the greenery coming from Reems Creek Nursery. Another contractor, K2 Services, installed an irrigation system.

While he has lived in a number of other houses, this is the first one Ed has elaborately decorated with dry-stacked stonework.

Giving a tour of his property last month, his fascination with masonry was apparent, as he marveled at the intricacies and patterns of certain arrangements.

“How would you know which stones went where?” Ed mused. Later, pointing to a stone in another arrangement, he said, “Isn’t that perfectly where it should be?”

Moseying up to the front yard, he gestured toward another stone, this one sitting atop a truncated tree trunk near the front door. Featuring a circular depression, it serves as a bird bath.

“It took three men to bring it here,” Ed said of the slab, which came from Lake Toxaway. “Isn’t it perfect?”


The home: A two-story house perched on a hillside in a subdivision east of Asheville that has about 3,700 square feet, with four bedrooms and three and a half baths.

The homeowner: Ed Zawaki. In his mid-70s, he bought the house in 2011 after spending about a year and a half searching for a new home while living in Florida.

Wow factor: The terraced backyard, with its dry-stacked stone retaining walls, staircases and hand-picked steppingstones that meander across a handmade landscape awash in greenery.


To nominate your house or that of a friend for this feature, contact Bruce Steele at Include your telephone number and a telephone number for the homeowner, if not you.


The Citizen-Times is beginning to line up Home of the Week features for spring and summer. If you cultivate a garden or landscape your property and would like to share your home, both inside and out, with Citizen-Times readers, send a description of your house and property and a contact telephone number to Bruce Steele at

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Tropical Gardening: Begin the new year like bamboo

Your garden has many lessons to teach, especially if you have bamboo in the landscape.

If you don’t have bamboo, it is time to get some.

It’s a new year and time to shed those things that do not serve you. That way, you can fill your life anew. Much like the new shoots of bamboo pushing skyward as they shed the culm sheaths that protect them.

Also, with the new year comes a renewed commitment to greening our islands, and bamboo is a great way to accomplish this goal.

So, if you want to learn more about bamboo and obtain some new rare species, come to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society open house and meeting at noon Sunday, Jan. 10. The event will be hosted at Christian Robinson’s Bamboo Zoo in Hawaiian Paradise Park. The address is 15-1110 Amau Road.

Sunday’s bamboo meeting and tour will start with a potluck lunch, so come a bit early to get acquainted and bring your favorite dish. The program about growing and using bamboo will follow.

Expending commercial groves and obtaining certification for local bamboo construction also will be discussed.

Call HCABS president Jacqui Marlin at 966-5080 to RSVP, for directions and for other for details. You also can check out the chapter’s website at and click on “Newsletter” for more information.

Asia is the ancestral home of many locals — people and plants. When it comes to plants, one of the most valuable of these is bamboo. Although there are many species found in Central and South America, tropical and subtropical Asia has used bamboo for thousands of years. It is said bamboo and rice are the very foundation of these cultures.

The Hawaiian ohe kahiko can be found in many parts of Polynesia. The actual genus and species is not clear, with taxonomists and botanists not all agreeing. We do know it is a tropical clumper, probably originating in Southeast Asia.

It is likely a Schizostachyum species. There are vast stands in the mountains of high islands such as Raiatea in the Society Islands. Polynesians there still use it in crafts.

With large tracts of land now available for forestry, and our local interest in sustainable agriculture, bamboo might become one of our major resources. It has many commercial and ornamental uses. These will be discussed during the Sunday meeting along with discussion about bamboo for food, construction, art and crafts.

Some folks only know bamboo from their experience with the rampant running species. Needless to say, these types are not for the small garden unless contained. However, they have been used very effectively to stabilize steep slopes prone to erosion.

That is why we find large stands of Phyllostachys running bamboos on the steep slopes above Waiohinu in Ka‘u or at the back of Manoa Valley and on Maui. The intricate mat of roots and rhizomes hold soil and rocks in place and save roads, homes and streams from mud and rock slides.

Bamboos certainly are a more attractive and environmentally sound approach to steep slope erosion control than concrete, wire or chain link screens. Erosion on East Hawaii gulch roads is a serious problem that could be addressed with certain bamboo species.

Bamboos also are excellent cattle feed and have a place in supplying nutritious greens at a low cost. Society members have been working on the potential of growing bamboos for multiple use sustainable agriculture, incorporating the animal feed component, and it looks very encouraging. There are plans to work with University of Hawaii agronomists in the near future to expand this project by using bamboo for windbreaks and feed.

Even though bamboos are excellent sources of edible shoots and construction material, most folks are interested in ornamental bamboos for their looks.

Bamboos, of one type or another, are a natural for almost any tropical garden. In fact, many of the hundreds of types of bamboos grow in the tropics, but some species grow as far north as New York or Seattle, and can be found growing up to 10,000 feet in the mountains of Asia and Central and South America. Bamboos vary from forest giants of 120 feet to dwarfs of 6 inches.

Many specimens of bamboo are suitable for ornamental purposes. The clumping bamboos are ideally suited for ornamental uses in their area of adaptation. They can be planted in groups for hedges or singly for specimen plantings. They spread very slowly and are easy to keep within bounds.

One of the best for sunny locations is the Mexican weeping bamboo. Others to consider are the Bambusa multiplex forms such as Alphonse Karr, fern leaf, silver stripe and feather bamboo. These delicate clump types range from 10-20 feet high. Other rare clumping types are beginning to show up in our nurseries such as the Chusqueas, Drepanostachyums and Fargesias.

For larger gardens, try Buddha’s belly, Oldham bamboo, punting pole bamboo and Weaver’s bamboo. These are all clumping types in the 40 to 50 foot high range with fancy Latin names and multiple uses.

The giant tropical clumping bamboos need plenty of room since they soar from 50-120 feet tall under ideal conditions. This group includes the larger Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Guadua and Gigantochloa species that can have culms 6-12 inches in diameter. They are grown for edible shoots, construction material, windbreaks and furniture.

One of the most spectacular giant bamboos for large gardens is the Dendrocalamus asper variety “Hitam,” with black culms up to 100 feet in height and 1 foot in diameter.

Miniature bamboos well-suited to container growing are the Sasa species and Shibatea kumasasa. These and other running bamboos such as black bamboo can be kept small or bonsai when contained.

The running bamboos are more difficult to keep in bounds than the clump bamboo. However, many are desirable as ornamental plants because of diversity in their habit of growth, appearance and size.

Bamboo does best in a moist, well-drained soil with some organic matter. Apply complete fertilizer such as organic 8-8-8 or manures four to six times a year to the planting.

Mulch the soil around the planting. Mulches add organic matter to the soil, help restrict the growth of weeds and conserve soil moisture. Dead leaves or dry grass clippings can be used for mulch. Apply a layer of mulching material at least 3 inches deep.

For more details about rare species, check out One of the most popular new species now is Bambusa chungii variety “Barbie.”

Another opportunity to score some rare bamboos will be the plant sale at the Old Kona Airport park pavilion, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.

If you are interested in bamboo culture for economic and agricultural uses, contact your Extension Office for UHCTAHR Extension circular “Bamboo for Forest and Garden,” and be sure to come to the Hawaii Bamboo Society meeting open house.

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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Garden Tips: Master Gardener program enjoys success year after year – Tri

Supposedly Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again but expecting a different result. I wonder if there is a word for doing something over and over again and expecting the same result? For me, the words are repeated success. This January will be my 37th year training volunteers who want to become Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners.

This enormously successful program was started by WSU Extension in 1972 as a way to handle the large number of home gardening and landscape care questions received in local extension offices. When I came here in 1980, the program had already started in the Tri-Cities. Back then, there were about 20 new and returning, or veteran, volunteers who annually received training and volunteered their time, mostly by answering home gardening questions in local plant clinics.

Like any well-nurtured seed, the Master Gardener program has grown and blossomed since it was planted. Now there are about 150 new and veteran volunteers each year who receive training and volunteer their service. Their service includes not only staffing plant clinics as before, but also maintaining a three-acre Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick, teaching gardening to adults and children, and helping establish and mentor local community gardens.

This past spring, the Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners decided to build an outdoor classroom in their demonstration garden. This classroom, with seating for 50, will be used for teaching classes and community events. A crew of dedicated and hardworking Master Gardeners built this impressive Waterfall Classroom, lifting 50 tons of landscape blocks during hottest summer on record with their own hands, hard work and sweat.

The Waterfall Classroom and the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is a public garden worthy of a visit any time, but it is at its best when plants are green, growing and blooming. It is a beautiful place for learning about plants and nature, walking and taking photographs. You can find it behind the Mid-Columbia Library and adjacent to Highlands Grange Park at 1620 S. Union St. in Kennewick.

This year, the Master Gardener education team taught almost 5,000 children and adults about gardening. The Master Gardener food garden team helped establish 15 new community gardens and mentored 33 food gardens. New gardeners learned to grow their own veggies for feeding their families. This team is working on raising funds to build even more beds next year.

I am immensely proud of the success of the Benton-Franklin WSU Extension Master Gardener program and the many wonderful volunteers throughout the years who have made that success possible. We will start a new training program later this month and are looking for new volunteers interested in becoming Master Gardeners.

Training sessions are held locally each Tuesday afternoon, starting the last week of January. New participants are required to attend these sessions and take an online basic horticulture course from WSU. The cost of the training is $115, plus participants are expected to return 50 hours of return volunteer service to the program.

I am excited about this year’s face-to-face training that will include WSU faculty and local experts talking about genetically modified organisms, forensic entomology, climate and weather forecasting, irrigation management, water movement in soils, vegetable gardening, weed management, and much more.

Would you like to become a WSU Master Gardener? Call your local extension office at 735-3551 for an application. The deadline for applications is Jan. 20.

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

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China’s green fingers: Gardening takes off as Beijing’s wealthy look for peace …

Businesswoman Wendy Liang’s favourite time of the day is when she gets to sit in her garden, taking in the pleasant scent of fresh soil and watching her young daughter chase butterflies.

The 580-square-metre private garden was the reason Liang and her husband decided to buy their 13 million yuan (HK$15.5 million) classic French-style villa east of Beijing three years ago.

The couple spent another 1 million yuan hiring a professional design firm to build a pavilion and winding walkways in the garden and plant magnolia trees, chamomile and begonias.

“The expenses have gone beyond my budget. But that’s what you must pay for owning a beautiful garden, isn’t it?” said Liang, an IT manager with a media firm.

More wealthy Chinese families are learning to appreciate their gardens. They install French-style fountains, introduce Japanese landscaping, create grassy lawns like those in America, and plant shrubs more commonly seen in English gardens.

But many often lack gardening knowledge and are usually too busy to get involved in the actual garden work.

Over the past decade, Ma Zhiyu, founder of The Gift Of The Peace, a Beijing-based garden design firm, has helped more than 800 Chinese households design and build their private gardens.

“In the early years, we dealt with a lot of very rich clients. Most decorated their gardens just to show them off,” Ma said.

“They had swimming pools, wine cellars and various kinds of expensive ornamental plants. They were happy to invite people to visit their gardens, but they had neither the time nor interest to care for the gardens.”

Although China is no stranger to the garden culture – it emerged in the country some 3,000 years ago – the practice of keeping private gardens was disrupted in the past few decades because of war and political movements including the Cultural Revolution.

It was not until the 1990s that the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai began to construct villas again. Since then, private gardens have found their way back into the lives of rich Chinese families.

While some families still use the open space in their backyards simply for storage, more are starting to transform their gardens into a serene escape from their busy urban lives in the country’s concrete forests.

Compared with garden owners in Europe or in the United States – many of whom began getting personally involved in gardening in their childhood – most Chinese people have little idea of how to set up or take care of a backyard garden.

Ma recalls a client who insisted on spending 80,000 yuan to ship an osmanthus tree from southern China to Beijing for his garden, despite Ma’s warning that the plant would not survive the northern city’s bitter cold weather. The tree died months later, he said.

“Most of our customers have their first garden only in their 40s or 50s. Their main way of enjoying their garden is to lie in a chair, watch the flowers and sip a cup of tea,” Ma said.

“Few would actually get down to prune the plants, mow the lawn or feed the fish. They think that’s the job of their domestic helpers or professional gardeners.”

Zhang Xiangming, founder of a Shanghai-based garden design firm, said his clients’ taste for their gardens has been evolving.

“In the past, people thought a garden should be built like a mini-version of classic gardens in Suzhou, featuring lakeside rocks, grottoes and Chinese-style pavilions. But as more people travel abroad and grow more familiar with Western culture, they prefer their gardens to be more functional and have a mix-and-match style,” he said.

Depending on a garden’s size and clients’ needs and preferences, designers usually plan a dining area, barbecue zone, a children’s playground, swimming pool, pond and sometimes a vegetable patch, Ma said.

“But in some cases, our Chinese customers want to use some ‘higher-grade material’ in their own gardens compared with the more commonly used materials in foreign gardens.”

For example, Zhang said, some would reject using rubble stones for their walkways although they look natural and have good air and water permeability.

“They would ask us to use marble, which looks more grand.”

Zhang, who has spent seven years serving Chinese customers, said his top wealthy clients were usually not interested in their gardens and spent little time there despite spending a lot on them.

“But this is also changing as more upper-middle-class families who really love gardening will be able to afford private gardens in future,” he said.

Ma is also optimistic. “Rich Chinese are now busy making money, shopping for luxury goods and travelling the world. It will take time for them to slow down and discover that watching a bud bloom and leaves changing colour in their gardens is also a luxury,” he said.


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Cottage gardens for your mountain home

Today’s cottage garden design is a modern interpretation of a long-established practice. Colonial settlers and homesteaders relied on their gardens for survival. They tightly planted fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in small plots close to their homes. Fences were needed to keep animals from trampling the plants.

Over time, the cottage garden concept evolved from its more practical purpose. Remaining at its heart is an appreciation for the beauty and variety of beloved, old-fashioned flowers mixed with a few tasty vegetables and favorite herbs.

While you may not live in a whitewashed cottage with a thatched roof, you can enjoy the beauty and charm of a traditional cottage garden in your mountain home by incorporating a few key elements:

Your cottage

Match your garden to your home’s architecture. You can create a cottage garden whether your home’s style is traditional, rustic, farmhouse, eclectic or contemporary. Simply choose plants and materials that work in harmony with your garden’s largest element, the house.


Find ways to include a fence, arch, arbor or trellis in your garden design, making sure its materials relate to the home itself. More formal houses may have brick walls and columns. Rustic and traditional homes can opt for a split rail or picket fence, stone walls, and arches and trellises constructed with wood or laurel branches. Regardless of the home’s style, natural materials are the common element in cottage gardens.


Walkways leisurely guide our journey through the cottage garden. Use organic materials such as bricks, stone pavers or wood chips to create your paths, either straight or curved. Edges can be softened with plantings or bordered by stones, bricks or small tree branches. Keep the path’s width in proportion to your home’s scale yet wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.


The cottage garden has busy beds with plants tucked tightly together. It frequently combines ornamentals with edibles, a tribute to early gardeners’ practice of mixing plants needed for food and medicines with beautiful, scented plants chosen for simple pleasure.

Try to include annuals, perennials, small shrubs and climbing vines. If space permits, add small trees, especially fruit-bearing specimens, and evergreens. Tuck in your favorite herbs and vegetables in sunny spots.

Classic cottage garden plants are numerous and can provide year-round interest.

Spring-blooming daffodil and tulip bulbs are well suited, especially when allowed to naturalize in swaths of color.

Summer brings the cottage garden into full bloom. Include plants rich in nectar and pollen to provide food, shelter and safe nesting spots for wildlife. Grow a variety of plants to attract different species of bees, birds and butterflies.

Shrubs give structure and extend the season with flowers. The shrub rose is a classic cottage garden queen, cherished for its beauty and perfume. Other beloved flowering shrubs are spirea, hydrangea and buddleia.

Perennials return each year, bringing color and texture. Your grandmother’s garden probably included peony, hollyhock, coneflower, phlox and delphinium plants.

Annuals and biennials give a colorful display quickly and fill in gaps between your perennials and shrubs. Consider classic plants like foxglove, larkspur, cosmos, zinnia and marigold.

Asters, sedums, anemones, alliums and ornamental grasses will take your cottage garden into the fall.

The look you want is one of abundance with texture and harmonious colors. Place an odd number of the same or similar plants together to maximize impact and create visual balance. Repetitive waves of color add to the lush look of the cottage garden. Avoid the “shotgun approach” with a single plant appearing randomly.

Decorative touches

Repurposed items like an old wheelbarrow, metal buckets and tubs filled with colorful annuals can serve as focal points amidst the profusion of plants. Benches, bird baths and sun dials of natural materials are at home in the cottage garden. Finally, don’t forget a hammock in the shade for your relaxing break.

You don’t need to live in the English countryside to achieve this garden look. Your mountain home can have a wonderful cottage garden that is personal, charming and uniquely yours.

This information is provided as a service of the Henderson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program. Got gardening questions? Call 828-697-4891 or email for answers.


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2016 Clarkdale: New businesses opening, historic vibe preserved and enhanced


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Editorial: New policing unit a smart move

The people talked, the Redding City Council listened and now the Redding Police Department will launch a new unit this week targeting crime in the Hilltop Drive and downtown business areas.

The Neighborhood Police Unit is a two-year project that came about after the Redding City Council voted last year to temporarily hire four more officers, according to Capt. Roger Moore with the Redding Police Department. Four officers, a corporal and a sergeant will comprise the unit.

Moore said the council approved the additional officers after hearing from numerous people about problems with burglaries, vandalism and other crime on Hilltop Drive and downtown.

“The council members are listening to the community,” he told us.

While the department hired four new officers, the unit will feature four veteran officers, Moore said.

Those officers will take on a proactive policing policy by regularly patrolling the two areas, visiting local businesses and talking to them about the problems they face. As part of an educational component, officers will give ideas to businesses on how to use design and landscaping to make the areas around their businesses more welcoming to customers and less friendly to criminals.

“They’ll get to know the business owners, and this lets us get back to that community policing philosophy,” Moore said.

Flexibility is key for the unit’s success. Officers will initially work day shifts Monday through Friday, but Moore said they may work some nights and weekends if that’s when crime is spiking. They will mix up how they patrol the areas. Sometimes they will be in marked patrol cars, on bicycles, on all-terrain motorbikes or on foot. They’ll wear a more casual uniform — polo shirts and slacks.

The officers will be dedicated to the unit, and will not be pulled away to handle routine calls in other parts of the city, Moore said.

Moore is excited about the new unit, telling us that he worked on a similar one in the 1990s and found it satisfying.

“You actually see results from your hard work, see the problems being fixed,” he said. “That’s one of the most rewarding things. You don’t see the same problems over and over again.”

The unit will also work with other agencies and organizations in town to help solve problems, be it code enforcement for buildings not up to snuff or social service groups to get help for people they encounter on their beat.

“It’s very proactive,” Moore said. “We’re getting on the front end of these things that are happening.”

This program is a good example of how city leaders and residents can work together to identify a problem and find a solution. Residents and businesses came to the council repeatedly, saying something must be done about thefts, drug deals and vandalism plaguing the business districts. When it came time to hire additional officers to staff the unit, the city didn’t find new funds for the four new officers. It didn’t put it off until a new tax was passed or a grant obtained. Nope, the money came out of the general fund. That means city leaders looked at the budget and found ways to reallocate money to meet this need.

In other words, everyone involved found a way to make it happen rather than throw up their hands and say it couldn’t be done.

Furthermore, the unit will take a more holistic approach, reaching out to other local folks and agencies already working on various parts of the root problem of crime. Such collaboration can be rare, and it’s promising to see our officials taking this step.

Business owners in downtown and on Hilltop are pleased the unit will get to work soon.

“I think it’ll make people feel safer,” Kelli Ercolano with BOARDmart in downtown Redding told us.

Hotelier Ed Rullman, who started the Redding Merchants Crimewatch, said, “I’m looking forward to … meeting the guys and directing them to the problem areas on Hilltop as we see them.”

There’s a lot of work to be completed in the next two years, and we join Moore in hoping the council sees the benefit of the program to keep the unit funded for many more years to come.

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Plan now for spring strawberry project – Tribune

While many gardeners enjoy browsing seed catalogs and planning the vegetable garden throughout the winter, there’s another project you can begin to plan now. Doing so will mean that when spring arrives, you’ll be ready to get planting as soon as the weather warms.

What’s the project, you ask? Growing strawberries!

Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow, and thankfully, you don’t need a lot of space to do it.

Here are three great ideas for growing strawberries in small spaces.

The easiest way to grow strawberries with limited space is in a hanging basket. These small fruits bear plenty of berries, even in the confines of a hanging basket. Typically, three to five strawberry plants are placed in each 14-inch-wide basket in the early spring.

You can choose plastic, paper pulp or coconut fiber hanging baskets for this task; just be sure to fill them with a high-quality potting soil that contains a slow-release, organic fertilizer. Starter strawberry plants can be purchased from many local nurseries or online. Choosing an ever-bearing type results in a handful of berries every few days all season long, versus a June-bearing type which only produces berries in early summer.

Once the berries are planted, they’ll soon come into flower. The ripening berries and any new runners the plant forms will cascade over the edge of the pot. The runners eventually can be clipped off the mother plant and planted in another container for the next year’s crop.

Another great way to grow strawberries in small spaces is to plant them in a fabric pot. These lightweight containers can be easily moved but give you a larger area in which to grow your berries. For strawberries, I like to use a 2- to 3-foot-wide, 12- to 15-inch-high fabric pot (available at Strawberries do quite well in these wide, shallow containers. Depending on the size of the pot, you can fill it with several dozen ever-bearing plants — spaced 4 to 6 inches apart — and it will provide many berries all summer.

One final way to grow strawberries in small spaces is to build an herb spiral. If you happen to have some old bricks, large rocks or blocks lying around, build a spiral by stacking a single layer of bricks into a loose spiral shape on the ground. Your spiral can be anywhere from 3 feet to 8 feet across. Continue layering bricks on top of each other, but with each new layer, skip the very first brick.

When you reach 10 or 12 bricks high, stop. The center of the spiral should be several feet taller than the outer circle (i.e. the bricks spiral upward toward the center). Fill the spiral with a mixture of garden soil and compost, then plant it with strawberry plants.

No matter which technique you use, you’ll need to place the berries where they’ll receive at least six to eight hours of full sun per day, and they’ll need to be watered several times a week when the weather is warm — daily if it’s very hot and dry.

When fall arrives, your strawberry’s roots will need extra protection from freezing temperatures. If you grow them in an herb spiral, put a 2-inch-thick layer of straw around the base of the plants. This will be enough to protect the roots.

If your strawberries were growing in a hanging basket, you’ll need to “sinkâ€� the whole basket, up to its rim, somewhere in the garden or compost pile. This simple practice is enough to insulate the roots. For strawberries grown in a large fabric pot, surround the pot with a few bales of hay for insulation, or drag it to a sheltered site and pile autumn leaves around the base.

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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