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Archives for February 2, 2016

Greener Living: Virginia Flower & Garden Expo to focus on growing native plants – The Virginian

Hampton Roads gardeners, you are in for a treat these upcoming dreary February weekends.

Leave thoughts of winter behind and bask in what’s to come – gardens, flowers, patios and more.

The Virginia Flower Garden Expo next weekend at the Virginia Beach Convention Center will kick off a three-weekend run of garden and home shows in Hampton Roads. The Coastal Virginia Home and Garden Show will be Feb. 12-14 in Hampton and the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Home Outdoor Living Show will take place Feb. 19-21, back at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

As for the flower and garden show coming up first, the theme is “American Beauties – Celebrating Native Plants” and the focus will be on growing native plants and creating natural habitats for wildlife.

Speakers throughout the weekend will talk about so many things gardeners need to know to put out a welcome mat for wildlife in their yards. You can learn about everything from pollinators to native trees, from native medicinal herbs to foraging for native plants to eat.

For example, gardeners can start very simply with just a little water and a few native plants, said Jessica Ruthenberg, watchable-wildlife biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. She will speak at 2 p.m. Feb. 7 on “Grow Wild! How to Create Habitat at Home.”

Wildlife has four basic needs: water, food, shelter and space, Ruthenberg said. You can start helping out by simply adding a birdbath or water feature, and that will attract not only birds but also other critters like frogs and dragonflies. Adding a native shrub or two offers food, shelter and space, she said.

“Many native shrubs provide a year-round food source for wildlife with their flowers in the spring and summer and fruit in the fall and winter,” Ruthenberg said. “They also provide important shelter and vertical structure for many different bird species.”

Or you can go in depth about what you can do to encourage pollinators to your yard. That includes planting trees, shrubs and flowers that that feed not only butterfly caterpillars but also moth caterpillars, said landscape designer and horticulturist Meg French. She will speak on “Pollinators” at 2 p.m. Friday.

French says that when she thinks about creating healthy gardens for nature and for pollinators, like moths and butterflies, she thinks first about plants on which the insects can lay their eggs.

“Invite caterpillars in and you have bird food that invites birds in and so forth,” she said.

One reason is that soft caterpillars are the primary source of food for baby birds that can’t digest seeds.

Because there are 19 species of moths for every butterfly species, French thinks planting host plants for moths is as important as planting them for butterflies.

“We don’t notice moths since they fly at night, but they are great pollinators, just as are bees and butterflies,” French said.

At the expo, you can even learn about native plants that provide foods for humans, too, from naturalist and herbalist Vickie Shufer. She will speak on “Foraging Through the Seasons” at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Shufer likes to gather wild rose hips this time of year, in addition to edible greens, such as chickweed and cresses. “Right now it’s wild rose hips for vitamin C,” she said.

Shufer chops the rose hips in a blender. She brings about ½ cup of chopped rose hips to one cup of water to a boil, then simmers them about 30 minutes or so until the tea is a rich red color.

Flavor it with the likes of ginger, honey, cinnamon and lemon. To prevent overconsumption of vitamin C, Shufer recommends drinking only a half-cup at a time or cutting it with something like apple cider or water.

There also will be programs on recycling in the garden, worm composting, invasive plants and native alternatives.

Before and after listening to speakers at the expo, enjoy more than 100 vendors selling garden-related products and displays, including children’s miniature landscapes and a special bonsai display, as well as realistic gardens created by local landscaping companies.

No matter the weather outside, you will feel warm inside at the Flower Garden Expo.

Article source:

In Search Of L.A.s’ Slimiest Residents

But most of L.A. is private property, which means that scientists can’t just wander around lifting up every rock and log to see who might scurry away. (That’s called trespassing, and it’s frowned upon by museum higher-ups, and by law enforcement.)

That’s why the newly formed Urban Nature Research Center at NHM has turned to citizen scientists, regular folks who can spot an interesting-looking critter on their own properties, snap a quick photo or two with their smartphones, and upload them to an app called iNaturalist. Researchers can then attempt to ID the observations and combine all the data to understand which species live where. In all, more than two hundred volunteers have signed up to seek out and document the snails and slugs in their neighborhoods twice each month.

Vendetti’s aptly named project is called SLIME, which stands for Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments. (Malacologists seem to revel in the fact that most folks regard their critters of interest as kind of icky; Vendetti is a member of a professional organization called Southern California Unified Malacologists, or SCUM. “Slugs have a gross out factor. I don’t know why, but they do,” she says.)

The recent El Niño-driven storms have offered up a molluscan bounty for gastropod enthusiasts to document. “When it rains, that’s when they’re free to come out and not die of heat and lack of moisture, so they find their mates, lay their eggs, eat, and hang around for a while,” she says. Then they burrow back into the ground or hide under rocks where it’s a bit cooler and wetter, waiting for the next opportunity to reproduce. (You have until April 14 to participate in the museum’s El Niño Snailblitz.)

Lee, an ecology and experimental biology major who lives in Monterey Park and commutes to UCLA, wasn’t at first particularly interested in snails or slugs. As a kid, he spent lots of time crawling around chasing after bugs and lizards, but then he “got sidetracked by others things,” he says, “like video games.” (For her part, Vendetti can trace her interest in the oft-overlooked creatures to a childhood spent exploring east coast tidepools.)

Years later, Lee rediscovered his love of nature and ecology. And after he saw some of the local species in the NHM collections, he marveled at the biodiversity he must have overlooked while working to map local vegetation for a separate project. As of this writing, he’s become the most prolific contributor to the SLIME study, with 161 observations and 27 species, the most of anyone who has contributed to the effort so far. One of them is a new record for LA County.

It’s not just that Vendetti and her colleagues want a census of our slimy neighbors for purely academic purposes, though that’s part of it. Her background is in marine slugs, so when she decided to turn her attention to the terrestrial gastropods (the group of animals that includes snails and slugs) of LA county, she tried to find the right book to study. The problem? “There is no book,” she says. As with lizards and birds and flies and everything else, researchers have historically gone abroad to study biodiversity and all but ignored their own backyards.

Then there’s the practical part. Our native species – all twenty-one of them, or so – mostly feast upon garden detritus, helping like earthworms to decompose dead plant matter, allowing the nutrients locked away in it to continue their cycle through the ecosystem. But some snails and slugs, especially the non-native species, can prey upon native species or carry disease, and can wreak havoc on gardens, farms, and orchards. With two major shipping ports nearby, all it takes is a couple snails or eggs to hitch a ride in a potted plant and a new species becomes introduced. If it’s a hardy species able to adapt to a variety of habitats, it can quickly multiply and spread.

Over the course of a single hour, Lee, Vendetti, and I crawled around three landscaped planters surrounding UCLA’s Powell Library. This is far from a natural landscape. Highly managed and immaculately arranged, it’s likely that the university’s landscaping department brings in new plants all the time. Combined with the time of day (most gastropods are nocturnal) and the moist air, Lee and Vendetti’s expert eyes allowed us to document a total of eight different species. There was the ubiquitous European garden snail of course, the most familiar species to just about everyone, plus common chrysalis snails, garden slugs, a striped greenhouse slug, some appleseed snails, a few glass snail called Oxychilus draparnaudi, and a pair of milk slugs, so named for the milky white slime they leave behind as they crawl along.

Lee also brought a few specimens he’d collected earlier in the week from other spots on campus: slippery moss snails, rounded snails, orchid snails, and eccentric grass snails.

Surrounding one sprinkler control box we found an aggregation of at least sixteen European garden snails, ostensibly taking advantage of the drips escaping the exposed, leaky pipes.

This is yet another reminder that wildlife exists everywhere, that wild creatures have figured out how to take advantage of every nook and cranny in our artificial urban environments. “Sometimes the biodiversity that’s around you is unappreciated because this is where you live, and you feel like its not where [other] things live,” says Vendetti. “We have this idea that nature exists in some place you have to drive to, but biodiversity is around us all the time.”

Article source:

Lake Park Chamber honors members

LAKE PARK — The Lake Park Chamber of Commerce celebrated its members Thursday night at its annual awards dinner.

Among the members recognized were the Lake Park Chick-fil-A (Chamber Member of the Year), Preferred Rental Company (Business of the Year), Fussell Tire Service (New Business of the Year) and Creative Gardens Landscaping (Small Business of the Year).

The theme of the event was “Anchors of the Community” and along with honoring local businesses, several speakers honored both past and present anchors of the community.

Norman Bennett, speaking about Country Johnston, called him “instrumental” in getting the Lake Park Library and the first outlet mall built.

“Country knew what Lake Park and the south of the county is all about,” Bennett said. “He was a visionary.”

“We need more men and women who are visionaries to make America great again.”

In accepting his Anchor Award, businessman Roy Taylor recounted his life: growing up the son the sharecroppers in Coffee County, getting his first job selling second-hand furniture, visiting Lake Park for a cookout and deciding to move there and start a family.

“We wouldn’t have made it in Russia,” Taylor said. “We wouldn’t have made it in England. We wouldn’t have made it in a lot of places. But in America you can make whatever you want out of your life.”

Winners include: Julie Wilbers (Board Member of the Year), Chick-fil-A (Chamber Member of the Year), Michelle Fuhrer (Volunteer of the Year), Preferred Rental Company (Business of the Year), Fussell Tire Service (New Business of the Year), Creative Gardens Landscaping (Small Business of the Year, Dawn Cannon (Chamber Appreciation Award), Brenda Huseman (Chamber Appreciation Award) Larry Paula Carter (Chamber Appreciation Award).

Past Anchors of the Community honored included Ewell Brown, Talmadge Sandlin, Country Johnston and J.C. Cowart.

Present Anchors of the Community honored were Ellis Black, Josh Allen, Roy Taylor, Fran Wilbers, Pat Brown and Ann Peterson.

Stuart Taylor is a reporter for the Valdosta Daily Times.

Article source:

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

Curtain up, light the lights, it’s show time, as they say in Hollywood and nothing heralds the end of winter more than the arrival of the first snowdrops.

Their appearance always gives me the feelgood factor you get while waiting to see a good play or film, that sense of anticipation that something amazing is about to happen. Snowdrops whatever the weather insist that spring is coming. The French refer to snowdrops as ‘Perce -neige’ with translates literally as “pierces snow”.

Great white swathes of them will soon be clothing gardens large or small across Northumberland. Howick Hall and Belsay Hall are among the great places to breathe in their carpets of beauty.

The Romans first introduced Galanthus to our shores and they quickly adapted and took hold. Since then hundreds of cultivars have been created. Some of my favourites include Walrus, Grumpy and Wasp, so called as when the flower is closed it looks like a resting wasp.

Snowdrops prefer slightly alkaline soil, but really aren’t that fussy. They do well under deciduous trees and shrubs where they have light when they are flowering and shade when they are resting.

Sean Murray is a big fan of snowdrops
Sean Murray is a big fan of snowdrops

They should be transplanted immediately after flowering to maintain their vigour and to increase your stock, plant them deep some with good leaf mould and compost and they will reward you.

Snowdrops are big business with societies, galas and coach tours worshipping their simple beauty. It’s not unusual on a cold February day to spot a dedicated Galanthrophile down on their knees, bottom up, notebook in hand exploring a potentially new addition to their collection. I love an eccentric and none more so than an obsessive Galanthrophile.

I can see the charm and appeal of such simple, uncomplicated flowers. And that very appeal has led to increasing snowdrop fever, not quite the Tulip mania as seen in the Dutch Golden Age but not far from it.

In 2008, a rare singular bulb of Galanthus ‘Falcon De Neige’ sold for £265. If that’s not enough to make you feel feverish, Galanthus ‘Modern Art’ with its strong green flush of inner petals will.

OK, it’s true. I have no willpower. My New Year’s resolution to stop collecting things has evaporated. I am gripped by snowdrop ‘Modern Art’s luminous charm and must have it!

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

Sean Murray is a big fan of snowdrops
Sean Murray is a big fan of snowdrops

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A close-up look at Hoyt Arboretum: Plus winter garden care tips (photos)

Winter is a time to leave your perch that looks over a garden and swoop in close. Only then will you be able to see what resting birds do: peeling black bark, the tiniest pink buds and vibrant red berries.

Even the subtle variations of green and cream on leaves of variegated box-leaf azara (Azara microphylla ‘Variegata’) can capture attention when activity is slow and the sky is gray. Or the pop of yellow against white provided by a Christmas rose or the sunburst creation of the Chief Joseph lodgepole pine.

If you need planting ideas for a winter garden, take a stroll through Hoyt Arboretum in Portland’s Washington Park.

The arboretum, which houses more than 6,000 trees and plants from around the world, is an enchanting place during the year’s coldest — some would mistakenly say bleakest — season. Ornamental and native plants are showing off colors, textures and shapes you might not see any other time of the year.

Just look at the twisty, bare bones structure of a corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). Squint and the patchy dark on a light background of Snow Gum branches (Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. debeuzevillei) look like a giraffe’s neck bending to the ground.

Visit the Hoyt Arboretum now and you’ll also be rewarding with a vision of a blooming ‘Showa-No-Sakae’ Camellia sasanqua, a prelude to spring.

Hoyt Arboretum’s winter garden topography “provides viewing windows for the plants and simulates the motion of water in the rockery and drainage creek bed,” says the arboretum’s horticulturist Mark McKinney. “Several plants are currently flowering, such as our hellebores, viburnums, witch hazels and contorted filbert. The flowering cycles of the plants interact with diverse foliage texture and bark colors.”

Volunteers at the arboretum’s Visitor Center are ready with self-guided tour brochures and gardeners say every tree has a story to tell.

Hoyt Arboretum has a story, too. It was founded in 1928 by timber industry representatives, the U.S. Forest Service, the Portland Parks Recreation department and enthusiasts to educate scientists to students about vulnerable or endangered species. The arboretum has Dawn Redwood and other rare plants that it conserves across 189 ridge-top acres.

If you’re interested in adding something unique to your winter garden, check out Hoyt Arboretum’s online Plant Inventory Guide. Better yet, go see for yourself.

Hoyt Arboretum, at 4000 S.W. Fairview Blvd. in Portland, has private, guided and self-guided walking tours. Admission is free. The arboretum is open 5 a.m.–9:30 p.m daily. The Visitor Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (depending on volunteer availability). For more information, visit or call 503-865-8733.

Hoyt horticulturist Mark McKinney lists his favorite winter plants:

For bark and color interest, McKinney likes winter flame Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Winter Flame’), which has a bright coral red bark, and bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’), which he says needs to be pruned of old stems to encourage vibrant stem color.

McKinney’s favorite flowering plants are Christmas rose, pink dawn viburnum (Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’), witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’ and Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Diane’) and Showa-No-Sakae camellia.

And for colorful foliage, McKinney likes the Chief Joseph lodgepole pine, Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Gold Drift’), Nandina domestica, variegated box-leaf azara, variegated false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’), variegated buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’), Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis Aurea’) and a miniature form of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Knaptonensis’).

Mark McKinney of Hoyt Arboretum offers these tips to enhance a winter garden:

  • Prune sooner rather than later for major growth if you have a broken branch or a tree you want to revitalize; make clean cuts.
  • Don’t assume that the soil around a plant is draining. Check around the roots to make sure the plant is happy.
  • If you haven’t mulched your plants already, a good dose of your favorite compost is a great organic boost.
  • If a plant that you are planning to transplant is starting to show new growth, you might be too late; refer to specific plant recommendations.
  • If you can wait until the plant flowers to prune it, then you can also create a bouquet from the best branches.
  • Remember, the garden is always a work in progress.

— Janet Eastman

Article source:

The principles of good garden design: A masterclass with James Alexander-Sinclair

A gardener’s work is never done – that’s part of the appeal. If you want to create a garden fit for all seasons, come along to this inspiring class with James Alexander-Sinclair, one of the UK’s leading garden designers.

During this lively seminar, you’ll learn the principles of good garden design, as well as how to strike the right balance between beauty and practicality. This class is a unique opportunity to be inspired by James’ knowledge and passion for gardening, and learn useful tips to create your own dream garden at home.


  • An overview of the key principles of good garden design
  • Different styles of garden – from sleek modern designs to rustic cottage gardens
  • Assessing the site and deciding upon the main levels and features within your garden, such as trees, hedges and patios
  • Designing your garden based on your lifestyle
  • Balancing beauty with practicality
  • Maintaining a beautiful garden all year round
  • Creative ideas and affordable solutions for gardens, big and small
  • QA – a chance to pick the brains of one of the UK’s most respected garden designers

Tutor profile

James Alexander-Sinclair is one of the leading garden designers in the UK. He’s designed gardens everywhere from Cornwall to London and Moscow. James also writes a regular column in Gardeners’ World Magazine, and has contributed to the Financial Times, Countryfile, House and Garden, and many other publications. James has helped present the BBC coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show since 2008, and was recently a judge in the new BBC2 series The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. He tweets @JamesASinclair.

Gardening month curated by Alys Fowler

This is part of a series of gardening classes specially curated by Guardian columnist Alys Fowler for the month of May. You may also be interested in the these classes:

Keep an eye on our website or sign up to the Guardian Masterclasses newsletter to be among the first to hear about more classes in this exclusive series, taught by some of the UK’s finest gardening experts, foragers and designers.


Date: Saturday 14 May 2016
Times: 10am-4pm
Location: The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Price: £129 (includes VAT, booking fee and lunch)
Event capacity: 36

To contact us, click here. Terms and conditions can be found here.

Returns policy
Tickets may be refunded if you contact us at least 14 days before the course start date. Please see our terms and conditions for more information on our refund policy.

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The benefits of long-term garden design

So, what aspects of garden design benefit most from taking a long-term view? The overall plan is key. This should solve basic problems (such as screen eyesores, highlight views, filter winds, resolve access from house to garden, etc). You might not complete the scheme for years, even decades, and phasing may well be inevitable, but far better this way than scrimping on the spaces and specifications. For example, large paved areas are heavily used and can look stunning, but they eat up budgets. At the outset, use gravel to keep it bold until you can afford the paving – don’t be tempted to shrink the space or use an inferior long-term material.

Flexibility should also be built into the plan to accommodate changing circumstances – perhaps an extension for a home office or to incorporate some extra land. For example, several schemes I’ve worked on already have planting in place to screen a parcel of land that is earmarked for development when coffers need filling.

Planting for the long-term

Microclimate is worth addressing early on. Every time I go out in my garden and hear the wind in the trees, but don’t feel it in my face, I feel smug about the windbreak I planted before unpacking when we moved in 30 years ago on April 1. It nearly led to a divorce as my husband had hoped I would be “playing house” but those tiny twigs, under 2ft high and 20 pence each, are now towering giants and have made life much more comfortable for the rooted and booted.

Trees, we always hope, are for posterity. Planting small bare root specimens (just whips or small feathers), almost inevitably gives you a more naturally shaped tree in the long term. They also won’t need staking and cost far less. Granted, for some schemes instant trees can be brought in almost like sculptures and make a massive impact. On one project we planted huge 20ft multi-stem cork oaks in an Iranian-style courtyard; they look stupendous and have survived and even grown on.

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Shem’s Landscaping – Quad

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2016 1:33 pm

Updated: 3:25 pm, Sun Jan 31, 2016.

Shem’s Landscaping

By Martha Garcia,

This information was submitted by a vendor who will be at the 39th annual Quad Cities Builders Remodelers Association Home Show Feb. 5-7, 2016, at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Ave., Rock Island. 

— Shem’s Landscaping, 14400 Coyne Center Road, Milan, IL 61264


What products and services do you offer?

We do retaining walls, landscaping, patios, excavating.

How did your business get started?

Mowing when I was 15, 33 years ago, for a lady. Went from mowing to plantings to pulling bushes.

What are some of the latest trends in your industry?

We are doing walls nonstop in the warm months, but in between those jobs, something cool we do is make switchbacks down customers’ ravines so any age person can get down any ravine. We load them up with my large supply of hostas — looks beautiful and it’s a practical price.

What will you be showcasing at the Home Show?

For the show, we will have a sitting wall with a patio and stone fireplace. Products from King’s Material. I also have a DVD with all my work playing on it. Years of work on it; I still get a kick out of it.  Customers can take a copy of it home and keep to pass on to their friends or neighbors. Hundreds of my jobs, and everyone has a job similar to one on the DVD.

What about your business makes you most proud?

Me — the owner still gets his hands dirty. You deal with me 100 percent of the time. I keep it to one crew, so you always get the A crew. I keep my prices at a fair price, and you will get the strongest wall guaranteed. You will get the landscaping plants that make the most sense. I’m a horticulturalist and will pick plants and soils to make your landscaping look nice for a long time. What I’m proud of, and customers like, is that I take no money down on any size project until the project is done and the customer is happy.

Anything else you want to add?

When we show up to the job, we come with the most practical tools and equipment. I give free estimates, and ideas for the best option. We will go over different options so you have to spend what is affordable to you.  

  • Discuss


Sunday, January 31, 2016 1:33 pm.

Updated: 3:25 pm.


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Sap-sucking bugs a danger; protecting plants; aggressive bees

Poinsettias thrive on bright natural daylight: at least six hours daily is recommended. Placement near a sunny window is ideal, but avoid locations where hot afternoon sun may shine directly on, and fade colorful bracts.

To prolong the bright red of the bracts, temperatures ideally should not exceed 70 degrees during the day, or fall below 65 degrees at night. Avoid placing poinsettias near drafts, fluctuating air currents, excess heat and dry air from appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts. Poinsettias are sensitive to cold temperatures and outside placement during the winter months is not recommended when temperatures are below 55 degrees Leaf drop will occur if poinsettias are exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees

Poinsettias do best with moist soil so water when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Like other container plants, the best indication of a thorough watering is water begins to seep through the drain holes at the bottom of the pot. Don’t leave them sitting in water or they may suffer from root rot. It is not necessary to fertilize your poinsettias during the holiday season, however, beyond the holidays you should apply a balanced, all-purpose household plant fertilizer to promote new growth.

Poinsettias can be grown year round for lush green foliage.

March or April: When the bracts age and turn to a muddy green, cut the stems back to about eight inches in height. After you cut the plant back, it will probably look rather stark, with bare branches and bluntly cut woody stems.

By the end of May, you should see new growth. Keep the plants near a sunny window.

Around July 4: Cut branches back again about half their length to encourage bushy plants. You may place your poinsettias outdoors in indirect sun when night temperatures are warmer. Continue to water the plants regularly during the growing period. Fertilize every two to three weeks throughout the spring, summer and fall months with a complete, indoor plant fertilizer.

The poinsettia is a plant that requires a long period of darkness and is termed a “short day” (long night) plant. Short-day plants form flowers only when day length is less than about 12 hours. Many spring and fall flowering plants are short day plants, including chrysanthemums, poinsettias and Christmas cactus. If these are exposed to more than 12 hours of light per day, bloom formation does not occur.

November or December: Poinsettias will naturally bloom depending upon the flowering response time of the particular cultivar. This can be tricky to do outside of a controlled greenhouse environment, because any stray artificial light could delay or halt the flowering of the plants.

To make this work, the plants must be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous hours each night beginning Oct. 1. This can be done by moving the plants to a dark room, or placing a large box over them. During this period, the plants require six to eight hours of bright sunlight and night temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. This regimen must continue for about eight to 10 weeks for the plants to develop colorful bracts for the holiday season.

If this seems like too much effort, you can always support the horticulture industry by purchasing another poinsettia.

Peter L. Warren is the urban horticulture agent for the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona. Questions may be emailed to

Article source:

Pat’s View: Mole Invasion

Pat’s View: Mole Invasion

By Pat Cashman

This year’s presidential campaign began with more characters than a Dickens’s novel. Yet, amidst all the debate, rhetoric and blather, not one aspirant so far has said a single word about the terrorism happening in our own backyard. And front yard.

These are terrorists undermining the dirt, sod and root structure of this country’s land—solitary outlaws who creep silently beneath the surface, arising only long enough to ruin the hard efforts of our best lawn care. These terrorists are destroying the very fabric of our America—assuming fabric can be made from grass.

These terrorists are the velvety-furred saboteurs known as moles.
These are not the kind that dermatologists can handle. Freckles, skin tags, seborrheic keratoses and benign lentigines are generally removable—like a drunk at a city council meeting.

But the intruding moles that leave dirt piles everywhere behave like members of a small mammal Mafia: The Talpidae Family, in this case.

And they kill. Lawns. Yours. Mine. Bill Gates’.

Moles don’t care how hard you worked on your landscaping. To them, the underside of your lawn is one big buffet. It’s The Sizzler. To understand moles you have to think like one. So reduce your brain from its normal 1320 grams weight to around 3 grams. In other words, from the size of a large cauliflower to a lentil.

Then, imagine that you have no taste for chateaubriand, lasagna or blackberry pie—but instead salivate for the taste of fresh earthworm. There are no known vegan moles.

Moles love worms and insects like fish love water—and like fish, moles don’t require much air. They can survive in low-oxygen environments, such as a Tupperware party.

Moles breeding season is right about now. Male moles attract female moles with a high-pitched squeal. (To approximate this sound try sitting directly onto a sewing needle.)

But after a family of moles is born, everybody heads in different directions. Moles, after all, are solitary creatures. Even moles hate moles. So when you see a multitude of dirt hills in your yard, it’s likely that one mole, working alone, did all the dirty work. After all, there’s a reason that ‘mole’ is found in the word ‘molester’.

But you’ve got to give it to them: Moles work hard. In fact, a group of them is called a “Labour of moles.”(You can tell by the spelling of ‘labour’ that the word is British—so it only makes sense to send all moles back to England. At least until their immigrant status can be verified.)

The little buggers are able to do their underground tunneling with the help of their powerful limbs—and huge paws. You’d be able to dig like that if you also had polydactyl hands. That means moles have twelve fingers—six on each paw. Specifically, they have an extra thumb. That’s not only good for digging, but also handy for hitchhiking.

There is one type of mole—the Townsend mole—that is said to be endangered in the U.S. That is definitely not the type that’s been at work in my yard. Mine are about as endangered as telemarketers—and just as annoying.

Moles don’t even taste good. An 1800’s English theologian named William Buckland got involved in the hobby of Zoophagy—feeding on other animals. He decided that he would try to take a bite of every creature on the planet—working his way through the entire animal kingdom. He found that rattlesnake tasted a bit like chicken—and that chicken tasted a lot like rattlesnake.

But when he took a bite of a mole, Buckland declared it tasted “vile”—even when covered in mole sauce. There are almost as many methods for getting rid of moles, as there are moles. There are mole-catchers, smoke bombs, poisons and traps. People have tried nitrogen gas, strychnine and calcium carbide and something called phostoxin. Cat litter, blood meal and types of stabbing traps are also sometimes used. The stabbing trap is particularly nasty. Even “Game of Thrones” would find it appalling.

Of course, there are humane traps—where the moles are captured alive so that they can then be transported across town to someone else’s lawn—an idea I highly favor.

The other option of course is just to shrug and give up—because as soon as one mole is eliminated, there will be another to take its place. (See the telemarketer reference made earlier.)

However it is useful to remember the old saying “making a mountain out of a molehill.” In fact there are some geologists that believe that’s how Mt. Rainier got started. So don’t ignore what’s going on in your yard—or climbers may start showing up.

In the meantime, the D.O.T. needs to finally scrap Big Bertha. Throw a mole or two in there. The tunnel will be done in a week.

Pat can be seen on the TV sketch show “Up Late NW” airing Saturdays and Sundays on KING 5 and throughout Washington and Oregon. He also co-hosts a weekly on-line talk show:

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