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Archives for January 13, 2016

PEG TILLERY | Conifers add interest to winter landscape

This time of year when nearly every deciduous tree and ornamental plant is mostly nude, providing interest only from structure and bark, it’s a perfect time to turn our attention to the incredible coniferous plants just perfect for winter interest.

Conifers are plants (usually trees and shrubs) with seed bearing cones. The most common conifers found in our region are: larch (deciduous), pine, fir, cedar, spruce, hemlock, cypress, arborvitae, dawn redwood/metasequoia (deciduous), and yew. There are more, but these are perhaps the most common.

This time of year, pause to really notice the conifers in your own gardens; notice those in the surrounding landscapes when taking a neighborhood walk; visit Bloedel or Heronswood and notice the conifers in those landscapes; and visit local nurseries. You’ll be amazed at the wide array of conifers from the tiniest to the tallest. You may also be amazed by the wide ranging foliage colors and textures on local conifers.

Shades vary from silver to blue to deepest, darkest green. Some conifers even have foliage this time of year in hues of bronze, gold, rust and nearly white. Forms vary even more. You’ll be able to find miniature and dwarf varieties/cultivars and be able to choose from fast growers (several feet a year) to very slow growers (only one to a few inches per year). Shape and structure choices are abundant. Some form little round balls, some sprawl freely and others are slender and quite tall. You’ll even find conifers serving as interesting ground covers.

Most conifer selections suitable for gardens in our region are relatively pest free. However some spruce are prone to aphids. You’ll want to do your homework when selecting from spruce cultivars. Check at your favorite local nursery, and ask their staff which conifers will work well for your particular landscaping need. Also ask if there are pests to look out for when caring for the conifer you wish to select.

Online there are several websites to peruse for ideas. Stanley and Sons Nursery in Boring, Ore., has pages and pages of photos with descriptions of conifers. You won’t have to travel to Oregon to find conifers though, because our local nurseries carry a wide selection (some of which are supplied by Stanley Nursery).Visiting the website at will provide lots of ideas as a starting point.

Also visit and then look at the section of the website for the western states. has photos and information with wonderful conifer temptations. It’s also a good way to research and learn about conifers and ask questions.

Here are just a few conifer choices to explore: Tsuga mertensiana (mountain hemlock) with darker green foliage and is usually tall and slender; Abies koreana (Korean fir) with curled needles and gorgeous purple cones held aloft; Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ (weeping atlas cedar) an incredible specimen tree; and Cupressus arizonica glabra ‘Blue Ice’ (aka icicles cedar) with silver green foliage, deep magenta stems and interesting bark. All four could serve as an anchoring conifer in a landscape, could easily take center stage or be interspersed throughout the landscape.

Mountain hemlock and Abies koreana are slow growers, and weeping atlas cedar and icicles cedar become quite large and tall and grow rapidly in good garden soil. Also check out Calocedrus decurrens (incense cedar) and various Picea (pines). There’s always our native cedars and firs too. But give them plenty of room to grow and never top or shear them; they are meant to be stately trees, not hedges.

For smaller gardens the miniature and dwarf conifers are perfect. They require very little care and take decades to reach any substantive size. Many choices abound for container gardening, rock gardening or front and center along the border where your eye can enjoy them frequently. It’s astonishing how many choices are available on the market now. Remember that container grown plants require more frequent watering than plants in the landscape.

Peg Tillery is a retired WSU Kitsap Extension Horticulture and Water Quality Educator and current WSU Master Gardener. She writes for West Sound Home Garden and emcees “Gardening with Peg” for the magazine blog. Reach her at

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Philly Home and Garden Show to debut at Expo Center in Montgomery County

UPPER PROVIDENCE It took business owner and TV’s home improvement guru Chip Wade a decade to build his design and construction know-how, but it will take homeowners coming to the Philly Home and Garden Show in Oaks this weekend a lot less time than that to benefit from his expertise.

“Basically I’ll be taking 10 years of television and private client design experience and sharing a lot of different projects in my approach to design and how I help people take the same approach to as closely guarantee success as possible,” Wade said during a phone interview.

Wade’s ingenuity will be bundled under the moniker “The Art of the Amazing Space: Lessons Learned from 10 Years of TV Make-Overs” and presented three times throughout the weekend at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks: Friday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Wade won’t be on hand on Sunday, the third day of the event that is making its debut at the Expo Center.

At the start of each session, Wade said he will hone in on the areas of home improvement that the majority of folks are interested in.

“I kind of feel everybody out and what kinds of projects individuals are working on, and custom-cater the project I’m talking about specifically to those people. When I’m talking to the entire group I focus on one or two parts of the home based on the projects that most of the individuals are interested in.”

From the basement to the attic to the exterior of the house, no area is off limits for discussion, he said.

“I’m really ready to go in any direction. So we can talk about kitchens, living areas, indoor-outdoor areas, master suites. We can talk sporadically throughout about materials and the fabrication processes. When it comes to setting up your project and how to get the most for your money from a design standpoint, I have some very specific go-to things that I do in my process that work great for the average homeowner to incorporate into their process,” Wade explained.

For a little one-on-one time with Wade, the master designer recommends getting in line quickly after the talk.

“Afterward, people will line up and I’ll take the time to speak with everyone about their projects. Typically, I talk to 75 to 100 people that have specific project questions. Or they’ll want a picture autographed and I’ll stay to accommodate those folks as well,” Wade said.

If a project appears to be a “keep your hands off and hire the right guy” deal in lieu of a DIY adventure, Wade said he will not hesitate to tell you.

“There is a clear demarcation on what you should do yourself and what you should not do,” he said. “I pride myself on being able to do a whole bunch of stuff and I feel like I’m competent to do just about anything when it comes to design and construction. However, there are things that I don’t recommend doing even for myself, just because of the nature of how the construction industry is set up. There are things that I will talk about specifically. If there is anything that takes you longer than three consecutive weeks to do yourself,” he added, “I strongly recommend outsourcing a portion of it. It’s really more about the time value and the efficiency of the project.”

The show is the first rural local production for MarketPlace Events, a company that produces 39 consumer shows across the US and Canada, including the Philly Home Show, for the past 35 years in Center City (This year’s Philly Home Show is set for Feb. 12, 13 and 14 and 19, 20, 21 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center).

“They have expanded to a second show in the Philadelphia region this year based on the value the company sees in the market,” noted Jeff Cronin of public relations firm DDC Works, who added that the show “is not affiliated with the Suburban Home and Garden Show that previously occupied the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks.”

Adding the element of “garden” to the suburban show’s title was not an arbitrary decision, he allowed.

“We’re kind of catering toward the suburban market outside of the city and we have the space to focus on the outdoor living space too, so you’ll see experts on site dealing with landscaping. The outdoor oasis is a huge thing now, so you’ll see a lot of that there. We’ll actually have six gardens that will be built inside the Expo Center.”

With his craftsmanship heritage rooted in a long line of carpenters, Atlanta native Wade began working with his father at an early age and over the years developed an interest in carpentry, landscaping and renovation. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, Wade earned his certification in residential construction while he was working for an Atlanta-based home builder.

He made the leap into television nearly 10 years ago, showcasing his carpentry skills on HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” and eventually appearing on the network’s “Curb Appeal,” “Showdown” and “Design Star.” As the host, designer and contractor in the upcoming “Elbow Room,” he takes a concept through full construction to show DIY types exactly how it can be done, Wade-style.

Wade is also the owner and lead designer of Wade Works LLC, a design, staging, inspection and custom construction firm and is also the face of several national brands. His appearance at the Philly Home and Garden Show is sponsored by Bright Covers, manufacturers of residential patio covers, awnings and commercial canopies.

“I am the national spokesperson for a couple of brands but there’s nothing that binds me to one brand over another,” he said. “I do have a mild approach when it comes to specific recommendations, and I’m not there so much to talk about specific recommendations of service providers, but there are products that I am very opinionated about. In my line of work I’ve seen a lot and I’ve had the opportunity of putting my hands on and working with many different brands and I absolutely feel that there are ones that are better,” Wade added. “So when questions come up I will try to stay as neutral as possible but I will give my opinion. If there is a superior product out there I’m not afraid to share it.”

The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks is located at 100 Station Ave., Oaks.

For ticket information, visit

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Full-time farmers hired at Fort Bend County community

  • Harvest Green will have an on-site farm with full-time farmers at the 1,300 acre Fort Bend County master-planned community (Johnson Development)



Harvest Green in Fort Bend County hired a somewhat unusual set of employees for the new master-planned community: full-time farmers.

Johnson Development’s community is the first in the Houston region to have an on-site farm and backyard vegetable gardens along with the new homes. The Richmond area community will have farmers from Edible Earth, a local landscaping firm.

The 1,300-acre master-planned community is located at the Grand Parkway and West Airport Boulevard.

“When I heard of Harvest Green, my first reaction was, ‘Wow, we need to be involved in this,'” Edible Earth co-founder and professional farmer Scott Snodgrass, said in a statement. “With our team of full-time farmers dedicated to Harvest Green and the vision of Johnson Development, there’s no question this can be an amazing community.”

The farmers at Harvest Green have already planted lettuce, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, beats, turnips and snow peas on 2.5 acres of fenced land near the new model homes in the community. The residents of the community will be able to purchase weekly supplies from the garden. 

The 300-acre farm will also allow those interested in starting a farming business to lease land and use the facility’s equipment.  The community will soon break ground on the community’s farm where they can grow their own food and where weekly farmer’s markets will be held. The farm will also be along the path where children from the high school, middle school and elementary school will walk. Classroom space will be available for courses in agriculture.

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Gardening Tips for Beginners: 3 Growing Mistakes to Avoid (Video)


There are three common mistakes that many beginning gardeners will make at some point when planning and planting a vegetable garden. Overcrowding, ignoring nature, and planting everything at the same time are all sure-fire routes to a less-than-optimal harvest.

Our video will show you how to plan a garden successfully and avoid these gardening mistakes to save yourself some hard work and heartache. This year, get your vegetable garden off to a great start!

Get More Gardening Tips for Beginners

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.

Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and also runs Stonegrass Farms Soap Co. in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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How to Transform Penn Station: Move the Garden

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Students design sustainable community garden space

Architecture students from California State Polytechnic University recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to support their local community garden. The team’s innovative plans include the use of rammed earth construction, recycled shipping containers, and solar power.

The Huerta del Valle Community Garden serves low and middle income people in the Ontario, greater Los Angeles region. Locals pay US$10 per year to rent a plot of land measuring a 20 x 10 ft (6 x 3 m) in which they can grow their own vegetables. Another section of the site produces veggies to sell, with the money raised going toward running costs.

Currently, events and meetings held at the community garden take place in tents, but students Hana Lemseffer, Necils Lopez, and Kirill Volchinskiy spent a year designing several new amenities and buildings. These comprise an amphitheater, library and classroom, a shaded structure, and a shipping container-based kitchen and playhouse.

The amphitheater will be used for weekly meetings. Volchinskiy told Gizmag that its construction will involve excavation, with car tires used to retain the soil and make seating. The library and classroom, meanwhile, will make use of the same excavated soil with rammed earth walls, topped by a timber roof, covered in greenery.

“Rammed earth is a construction method which can yield compressive strengths comparable to those of concrete,” explained Volchinskiy. “It’s possible to reinforce the construction with a re-bar lattice cast into the foundation, making earthquake safe buildings. Typically 10 percent cement is mixed with soil and other aggregates are necessary to stabilize the earth. It creates a very hard wall, comparable to concrete in terms of touch.”

The team also plans to build a shaded structure that will house tools and materials, and sport a solar panel array that produces electricity for the site, with the surplus being fed back into the grid.

The Kickstarter campaign was launched solely to fund the kitchen and playhouse structure. This will be constructed from two shipping containers modified into semi-outdoor spaces with ample ventilation. The containers will feature heavy canvas curtains to protect them from harsh sun and rain, and should be suitable for use in summer and winter during daylight hours, said Volchinskiy.

The students hope to raise $17,000 toward the scheme and in the future would like to explore the possibility of expanding to other derelict plots of land around LA.

Sources: Huerta del Valle, Kickstarter

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The best way to get shade is plan for it

Big overhanging trees can make it fun to be outdoors on even the hottest day.

And here we are, the fuss of Christmas Day is over, you have welcomed in the New Year in style letting your hair down, now it is time to just sit back and relax and enjoy the holiday period. It is summer.

If you did the hard work for the rest of the year, this is the time to enjoy the benefits. You will have planned, you will have cleared, planted, weeded and, in particular, I hope, you will have mulched.

This way your plants will keep the moisture in and their roots will be cool, thus not suffer in the heat. Just like you! You will not suffer in the heat if you have planned some good shade for your garden, so that you can use your outdoors even on scorching days. As usual, the secret of success is in the planning and preparation.

Even if your garden is not shady now, it probably will become so in the next 10 years, because that is just the natural course of affairs when it comes to landscape.  The good news is that generally a shady garden needs less work. During the development of a garden, as sun-loving plants gradually peter out, replace them with shade-tolerant perennials. That way you will have a nice looking shady garden for you to enjoy in the summer.

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There is good shade and bad shade.  Shade that’s good for some plants and for you, and shade that kills the plants you like, the sun-loving ones. Shade constitutes a bigger problem for city gardens than for country ones, as nearby buildings, walls and fences tend to create shady areas for at least a few hours a day.

Also, shady positions can be very dry because obstructions that cast a shade also create a rain shadow. And of course big trees and neighbouring beautiful vegetation may be great for them, but may well be a shade problem for your garden.

However, a shady garden is not such a terrible thing as you may think. With plants it is possible to bring life to corners that are devoid of sunlight. Nature has given us many plants that thrive only in these circumstances.

You should choose shrubs that brighten the atmosphere instead of making it lifeless, and choose evergreens with shiny leaves, which are highly reflective of light. Variegated leaves produce a light effect, hostas cope well in the shade and some varieties have gold or white borders or are striated.

Other plants, like Nandina domestica have cheerful red berries; clivias enjoy dry shade and I even have a rose that thrives in this situation, it’s called Rhapsody in Blue. Walls can be painted a light colour to reflect more light for plants and trickery with mirrors can be used to make small areas look bigger and more planted than they actually are.

Shade-loving plants can be positioned to lean on to house walls, such as helleborus and bergenias for late winter; primroses and convallaria for spring, followed by hostas for the summer. These old faithfuls die down in autumn and winter, but will reappear all of a sudden when it is their season. They are brilliant gap fillers, too.

When it is hot, even shade-loving plants will still need some watering, so choose carefully when creating shade. The beauty of some shade-loving plants is that they flourish in damp microclimates and so give you lush foliage. It is important, though, to keep scale in mind when planning the shade garden.

The easiest way to create a garden that will give you shade in the summer is the obvious: use New Zealand natives. They are evergreen, have a light texture, will survive all extremes of weather, they are always there for you and require minimal maintenance. Some, like pittosporums, grow well in tubs too, so they can be used on decks or courtyards, even enabling you to move them around to different positions during the year for best advantage.

Hard materials too come into play to create shade. Trellis or fences beside a deck do a good job. Pergolas and arbours cast their own shade, then if you have a climber on them, you will get dappled shade or solid shade as you prefer.

If you live in the country you will have the luxury of planting large trees that have thick canopies. This will give you the benefit of having plants that need full sun and then you get the shade below, for the shade-loving plants and for yourself.

It is important to plant a garden that will have plants at their culminating point when you have the time to enjoy them. I love my old copper beech this time of year, and even my daughter has been spotted nestled in the bough, reading a book in the shade.

But as usual, I cannot stress the following enough: the secret is in the planning. If you think your garden out well in advance, come this time of year you will be able to enjoy your break sitting outside with your favourite drink without roasting or gasping for air.

 – Stuff

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News 9 Helps Kickoff 2016 OKC Home & Garden Show

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and Kingfisher County deputies are investigating a fatal crash near Dover.

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Meetings set for public to view plans for future Collierville High School

Collierville is investing tens of millions of dollars in a new high school, and members of the public can take a look at the latest proposed building designs at two open meetings later this month.

The first meeting takes place 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at Collierville Town Hall, 500 Poplar View Parkway and is organized by the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.

Architects will present ideas for the building’s appearance and the usage of space within it and will also seek input from those in attendance, said school board member Kevin Vaughan.

Anyone who misses the first meeting will have a second chance to hear plans and give suggestions at the Jan. 26 regular school board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., also at Town Hall.

The dates of the presentations were announced Tuesday at a school board meeting. Also at the meeting, the board voted unanimously to ask the Collierville town government to annex the site for the new school, which stands at Shelby Drive and Sycamore Road.

The school project is one of the largest public building efforts in the history of the fast-growing town. The proposed new school will be big enough to accommodate 3,000 students.

The government voted in July to borrow as much as $95 million in bonds to cover the cost of construction as well as related costs such as site planning, landscaping and infrastructure.

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Spat over Lake Erie sediment dumping far from being settled

A long-running battle over dumping sediment dredged from Cleveland’s harbor into Lake Erie still doesn’t seem settled even after Congress weighed in on the debate.

Ohio’s environmental regulators and the federal agency that maintains the lake’s shipping channels have been locked in an argument for years over what to do with the tons of mud, soil and sand.

And both sides don’t appear to be budging.

Congress in late December approved a bill that included a stipulation preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from dumping hazardous dredged material in the lake without meeting requirements set by the state.

The director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Craig Butler, said Congress has now joined the Legislature and regulators in telling the federal agency that it can’t dispose of the sediment in the lake if it’s not safe.

“I don’t understand how the Corps cannot clearly get that message,” he said.

Army Corps spokesman Bruce Sanders said Tuesday that the agency has no plans to put dredged sediment in the lake without a water-quality certification.

But the head of the agency’s district based in Buffalo, New York, still believes some of the sediment from the Cuyahoga River is safe to put in the lake based on its scientific research — an assertion disputed by the Ohio EPA.

“Our proposal is safe for drinking water, protective of the environment, and in the best interest of the American taxpayer,” Lt. Col. Karl Jansen, commander of the Buffalo district, wrote in a letter last November.

Ohio officials are reviewing the request from the Army Corps for a water-quality certification that would allow the agency to dump sediment in the lake.

“It’s largely the same data they’ve used in the past, same application,” Butler said. “I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I doubt we will be able to issue it to them.”

The two sides also don’t agree on who should pay for putting the sediment into a containment facility instead of the lake.

The state last year sued the Army Corps after it said it wouldn’t dredge the shipping channel until Ohio paid $1.4 million to put the material in the containment facility.

A federal judge later ordered the dredging to continue, but the lawsuit over who pays is still to be decided.

Both Ohio and the Army Corps have been working on finding new ways to get rid of the tons of silt that is dredged from harbors in northern Ohio to keep them navigable.

Some of those ideas include using it for landscaping, leveling farm fields and filling the basements of houses that have been torn down.

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