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Archives for February 5, 2016

Kathy Ragsdale Retires After 30 Year Career at Utility

When she started working for Georgetown’s utility in 1985, Kathy Ragsdale jokes that it wasn’t her computer or customer service skills that were key. “Their biggest concern was if I bowled or not,” says Ragsdale, who worked out on the City bowling team and went on to stay for the 30-year career with the utility department.

Kathy Ragsdale headshot 300Her first position was as a cashier in the Utility Office, which was located on the Courthouse Square at 103 W. Seventh Street, current home of the Visitors Center. At that time Georgetown’s population was about 15,000 and billing was done by hand with deposits recorded in a book. By the early 1990s, the City was using an IBM main-frame computer with customer service representatives working at terminals to access account information.

The Utility Office moved to the old Post Office on Eighth Street in 1992. Ragsdale had become the manager of the Utility Office before it moved to the Georgetown Municipal Complex on Industrial Avenue in 2003.

One of the major innovations that Ragsdale helped to direct was the introduction of automated meter reading in 1998. Georgetown was one of the first utilities in the nation to implement the system that uses radio signals to transmit meter information. The move to the automated system limited the need for meter readers, but led to the creation of a technical staff to support the system.

After 26 years in the utility billing and customer support office, Ragsdale moved to a new position at the utility when she became the manager of Conservation Services. Since 2011, Ragsdale’s department managed the solid waste and recycling contract and enhanced programs in water and energy conservation. Two recent projects include the creation of a drought simulation structure and educational gardens at the new West Side Service Center to promote the use of drought-tolerant plants and low water-use landscapes.

Ragsdale says her most enduring legacy will be her work on a landscaping ordinance that was approved in 2014. The ordinance limits the irrigated turf area in the yards of new homes and requires six inches of top soil to promote wise water use. The new rules will have a big impact on the growth of irrigation water use for new homes built in Georgetown.

After serving 10 mayors and five city managers, Ragsdale retired from the City last month. She says retirement means spending more time with eight grandchildren at her home near Weir.  And she and her husband will be planting spinach, radishes, squash, and egg plant in their vegetable garden with the help of their new green John Deere tractor.

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Jeff Lowenfels: In the post-yard era, native plant species deserve a 2nd look

The January catalog season is over and we have a little lull in gardening activity, so I can take some time to respond to one of the biggest onslaughts of emails I have received over the past 40 years of writing this column. It is astonishing, actually. Many more of you than I thought apparently agree with the idea that the time for the Great Alaska Lawn is gone. 

One question asked is, what do we do about it? How do you get rid of a lawn that has been the backbone of a yard ever since the good topsoil was taken away and the lawn was installed? 

The only answer I can give is that right now, I do not know. I do know that replacing a lawn is not an easy thing to do. It has to be done properly. In my book, that means without a huge expenditure of money and effort.

So, this idea is going to take some study. Lots of it, actually. And each of us will have to confront some tough questions. I am quite sure the place to start is my friend Doug Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants.” If you have not read it, you really should, whether you intend to reduce the size of your lawn or not. You can get copies at Alaska Mill and Feed or on the Internet.

Now, the idea of reading something that will help Alaskans who already have plenty of wildlife in our gardens (and are not really looking for any more!) get more might seem a little silly. It can be a bit difficult to imagine we have a lack of biodiversity in our yards when we are still surrounded by millions of acres of natural biodiversity and are already landscaping with native trees — birch and spruce here in Southcentral Alaska. This as opposed to places in the Lower 48 that haven’t seen a native tree in a century.

Still, we have created some big islands of non-native plants and we surely want to start being a lot more careful about that. These islands shouldn’t get bigger. We have to start paying a lot more attention to the reality of invasives, as well as ensuring things we plant don’t attract and support disease and insect populations we don’t want.

“Bringing Nature Home” will stimulate some thoughts, though the native plants suggested in the book don’t really work here. Still, if we don’t understand the basic tenets professor Tallamy lays out in this book, I am convinced we will continue going down the wrong road. 

Yes, there is the philosophical aspect of all of this. What is wrong with what we have? (Doug will set that all out.) And all native plants? Isn’t that going to be too dull? How does a more sustainable system fit into our Alaskan gardening scene? Do we need more animals?

Of course, there are some “easy ways” to convert a lawn into more useful space. How about making the lawn all food plants instead? (Oh, the weeding — but oh, the eating!) This wouldn’t be a natural ecosystem, and Tallamy would surely suggest moderation. Or how about planting more native trees? That makes sense. So does the idea of sharing large patches of native bushes with neighboring yards.

The point that Tallamy drives home is that we need to change our thinking. It isn’t that lawns are evil. It is just that we have been so biased toward creating a green lawn and then yardening for color and what I will call “Versailles” aesthetics, that we missed the point: to have a healthy ecosystem where we don’t need to pesticide anything, or add to air and noise pollution, or displace whole populations of animals that were here before we came.

Now, just to be sure, I am not suggesting that we get rid of vegetable gardens or that we do away with non-native perennials or even grass. There is a place for both. They just don’t have to be the whole yard. And I am not suggesting we wipe out botanical gardens and colorful annuals.

So, Alaskan yardeners, it is the winter lull, and I am suggesting that we all read a book that explains much better than I can why we need to be a bit smarter about what plants we use and how we use them. I know, after 40 years of writing this column, that Alaskans are thinking gardeners and that we can not only learn to appreciate gardening and landscaping without destroying our natural diversity but also figure out a way to put this knowledge into practice.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Stored bulbs and plants: Check to make sure the soil is slightly moist on fuchsia and the like that are in storage. 

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join and keep checking the website ( as new classes and workshops are being posted all the time.

Seed starting: It is really too early. Most folks start with celery and Brussels sprouts, which take about 14 weeks. Start in February.

Jeff Lowenfels has been writing this column for 40 years and never missed a week. He is the author of the best-selling, award-winning books “Teaming with Microbes” and “Teaming With Nutrients.”

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KAEC signs deal for landscaping Al-Talah Gardens’ new phases

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) has signed a contract with Ruzaiq Abdullah Al-Jadrawi Al-Thubaiti and Company for the infrastructure and landscaping of Al-Talah Gardens Phases 4 and 5.
The contract valued at SR244 million is for the development of an overall area of 1,130,132 sqm leveled land.
Al-Jadrawi company will develop the roads, walkways, landscaped green spaces and public parks, the water and electricity networks, a sewage system, a drainage system, the telecommunications network, and install street lighting.
The project has been planned by a team of international civil engineers, led by SOM, a company with extensive experience and following the highest quality standards.
“KAEC has successfully attracted a large number of investors, and national and international capital, requiring the provision of appropriate accommodation for all segments of staff. This includes luxury villas and seaside apartments, which KAEC offers complete with a world-class infrastructure, quality facilities and modern services at all levels to provide ideal living conditions,” said Fahd Al-Rasheed, group CEO and MD of King Abdullah Economic City. “KAEC is making continuous progress with various developments all over the city, in line with its strategic forward planning.”
Al-Talah Gardens is situated at the heart of the city’s residential areas, with wide open spaces, walkways and bicycle lanes stretching for 1 km across the district, amid ample green landscaped areas. The district claims to have a highly developed infrastructure and world-class public services.
Residents will get an exclusive, luxurious living experience, benefitting from a range of existing and future lifestyle elements.
In addition, KAEC has a variety of beach and marina waterfront dining options, retail outlets, world-class healthcare and educational facilities, and mosques.
The city is in the process of developing luxury sporting and entertainment facilities.
KAEC covers 181 million sqm land and is being developed into a fully integrated city.

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Garden Docs: Tree pruning tips

Alan N. of Santa Rosa asks: Before I get out there and start pruning my shade trees, is there a difference in the way I should prune them, or should they be pruned in the same way? Any tips would be helpful.

Good question. You would do a little more pruning on a young shade tree than on a mature tree of the same kind.

First let’s start with pruning the young tree. Here are few pruning guidelines:

1. Cut back any limbs that extend beyond the natural shape (crown) of the tree. This may mean pruning it a few inches or a foot or more. Cut back to a side branch that is growing outwards.

2. Prune out any broken branches, any that criss-cross each other and those that are growing inwards towards the trunk .

3. If a competing branch is trying to outgrow the main (central) leader, prune it back to its origin. One central leader (central trunk) will be more structurally sound than two that compete with each other.

4. Remove any root suckers and sprouts coming from the base or from under the canopy.

Guidelines for pruning mature shade trees:

There’s a lot less pruning to do here because, when they were young, you did the necessary pruning to help them develop a nice framework.

1. Prune any branches that are rubbing against each other, leaving the one that is growing in the best direction and that will continue to maintain the tree’s natural shape.

2. Prune off dead or broken branches.

3. If necessary, for low growing branches that hit you in the head whenever you walk by or perhaps hit when you open the car door, prune them back to the point where you can still maintain the shape of the tree. If that’s not possible, prune them all the way back to the trunk.

4. Prune out any sprouts that grow vertically from the branches. These are usually called watersprouts and need to be removed. They will compete with the leader and have the potential to snap off in a strong wind. They also deter from the natural shape and beauty of the tree.

5. Prune out any suckers also growing from the base of the tree or around the base.

Be sure to use sharp, clean pruners to make clean cuts.

John R. of Santa Rosa asks: What does “chilling” mean in regards to fruit trees?

Chilling is a term used for the accumulated number of hours a particular variety of fruit tree (or bush) needs, below 45°F, to influence the bud break, fruit set and fruit development. The number of hours need not be continuous. Most varieties require between 200 and 1,000 chilling hours each winter to break their natural dormancy. Insufficient chilling due to mild winters may be the most limiting climatic factor for apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines and peaches.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in print and online at

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Designer’s garden vision sees community and art linked together

17:30 04 February 2016

Anna Wardrop and Emma Molony outside Thelma Hulbert Gallery.


Anna Wardrop, a Sidmouth-born garden designer who lives in Combpyne near Axminster, is at the forefront of Honiton-based Thelma Hulbert Gallery’s front garden redesign.

Work has started on transforming Thelma Hulbert Gallery’s garden into an open green space thriving with biodiversity.

The design has been drawn up by Anna Wardrop, a Sidmouth-born garden designer, who lives in Combpyne, near Axminster.

Mum-of-two Anna was working in London when she realised, being indoors all the time, that she was in fact more of an outdoorsy and country person, and garden design was the perfect antidote to working in London.

Beginning with garden maintenance, she then opened a plant shop in Columbia Road advertising garden design, which led to her working on a variety of projects.

This included designing and managing the vegetable garden at The River Café and creating the herb and vegetable garden at Shoreditch House.

Since moving back to East Devon in 2009, Anna has worked both in London and locally with primary schools creating their vegetable and sensory gardens.

When asked why she took on on the project at THG, she said “Having already done a degree in art, I liked the idea of creating a garden that linked the art gallery to the local community and working with a range of groups to create the garden for young and old combined.”

Anna’s designs envisage a community garden thriving with local wildflowers and fruit trees and interactive areas for families, complete with bug hotels, edible plants and more.

It will also feature peaceful seating spaces for visitors.

THG is now planning to hold planting days in March, which the public can take part in.

Emma Molony, project co-ordinator at THG, added: “We felt there was lots of scope to open up and make the space around THG much more accessible and engaging.

“This project will create a little green space that’s open to everyone in Honiton and should be interesting for all ages, with vegetable beds, seating, sensory walkways, fruit trees, willow tunnels and imaginative planting.

“It is exciting working on this project with Anna and we really appreciate all the support from the community and local charitable trusts who are funding the work.”

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How a new garden design has eased the pain of what’s been lost

The raised vegetable beds are an early favourite in Diana Madgin’s new garden.

“I think the answer lies in the soil”  was the comic line in an old BBC radio show when the farmer offers his wisdom as the universal solution to all problems.  As a child, I thought his rustic accent hysterically funny, but it wasn’t until I was a grown-up gardener that these words rang true.

I’ve written before of the heavy clay in my Heathcote garden.  Clay needs plenty of gypsum to break it down, so I put generous handfuls in the bottom of a big hole and lots of compost in with each plant.  You do need more water than for solid clay, because compost does dry out and clay holds water, but good loam builds up remarkably quickly.

I wanted a garden design to both complement the architecture and to make the garden seem bigger.  Rob Watson’s plan was aesthetically exciting, and he encouraged  me to express my own ideas within his framework. 

From red-zoned River Rd I had brought hundreds of plants and a broken heart, and Rob was a sensitive listener and  comfortable to work with, even though his knowledge is vastly more than my own.

Retrieved pavers have been used to create the impression of distance.

3 gardening jobs for the weekend
Hedges you can eat

I love my raised vegetable beds. About 45 centimetres deep, 180cm wide and 280cm long, constructed in untreated macrocarpa lined with black polythene, the four beds form a pleasing design when viewed from the house.

Each bed is edged with a flat sitting frame, comfortable and convenient for weeding and picking; don’t make them so wide that you can’t reach to the middle.  Fill the beds with  compost mixed with plenty of rotted stuff, zoo-poo, mushroom, horse and cow manure – so long as it’s well aged.  Don’t fill them with soil: it sinks and compacts. 

Plant cuttings are free and grow well when liberated into good soil.  Save your money for a good design and a skilled builder for the raised beds, wide shallow steps where needed, archways and trellis for climbers.

My gardener, Chris, dug up all the pavers from my mother’s abandoned garden in Dallington.  He could see that the formal design of our new house could be enhanced with  formal paths in the garden. 

I was overwhelmed at the time over the loss of my Mum, but he stacked them all at our house site, and when we finally established the bones of the garden, he set them into the lawn in a straight line that takes the eye along the side of the house and disappears down the slope into the back garden creating an impression of distance.

Along this northwest side of the house, beneath its wide eaves, the clay foundation is impregnable, so big tree pots are filled with Ilicium anisatum (false anise), an  evergreen that grows to 6 metres with fragrant  bark and flowers.

The soil at the front of the house has been deeply disturbed for in-bound pipes and cables.  As well, it has a wickedly high water table so the deep roots of the magnolia succumbed to mould as did the tree peony. 

But I did find a bloke at the last Ellerslie Flower Show to shift the big round boulders from my neighbour’s Japanese-style garden on River Rd  and dump them, yi-ching style, onto the front garden, where I built a fulsome display of  herbaceous plants and trees around those rocks right out to the footpath.  All those plants love damp feet or are shallow-rooted enough to thrive, and having no fence keeps me in touch with the neighbours when I’m gardening in the front.

The best garden feature, in my book, is the farm gate to the street.  On the Southland farm where I grew up in the 1950s, all the fence posts were totara. 

Builder Paul Hall took my old farm gate to pieces and re-constructed it using seasoned totara, rimu, and some West Australia jarrah.  He painted the original sliding bolt black and added a black chain.  Our farm was called “Browngate” –  and so is my garden.

 – Stuff

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Summer is not too early to be planning your winter brassicas

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The 6th Annual International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards Call for 2016 Entries

A’ International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards organized yearly by A’ Design Award Competition Announces Call for Entries 2016

Como, Italy (PRWEB) February 03, 2016

A’ Design Award Competition has released its 2016 call for entries to the Annual International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards. The A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Award is looking for outstanding project by Landscape Designers, Urban Planners, Garden Designers, Municipalities and Landscape Design Companies from all over the world.

The A’ International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards is free to enter, projects from Landscape Designers, Urban Planners, Garden Designers, Municipalities and Landscape Design Companies can be submitted at A’ Design Awards for 2016 competition period. Firstly, uploaded works will be evaluated with a preliminary score. Projects that pass the preliminaries can proceed with nomination, however it shall be noted in advance that there is a fee to be paid as a last step of nominating design for Landscape Planning Awards jury consideration.

Deadline for entries to the 6th Annual A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards is on February 28, 2016. Winners of the A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards 2016 will be announced on April 15.

Every winner of the International A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards will be granted the highly coveted A’ Design Prize which contains a series of PR, marketing and publicity tools to celebrate the winning status of the Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards. Moreover, the A’ Design Prize for A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards includes: Design Excellence Certificate, Lifetime license to use Design Awards Winner Logo, Yearbook of Best Designs, Exhibitions of Awarded Works in Italy, Exclusive Design Award Trophy, Two-Person Invitation to A’ Design Awards’ Gala-Nigh as well as inclusion in World Design Rankings.

In addition all the laureates of the A’ International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards will also get an exclusive interview which will be published at Designer Interviews website as well as included in the Press Kits. The Winners’ Press Kits are distributed among thousands of press members who have gained press accreditation from A’ Design Awards together with the world’s most prestigious magazines and blogs.

About the A’ Landscape Planning Design Awards

The International A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards organized by A’ Design Award Competition has been established to recognize the best design works by Landscape Designers, Urban Planners, Garden Designers, Municipalities and Landscape Design Companies from across the globe. The International A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards aims to create a global awareness and understanding for good design practices and principles by recognizing the best designs in every country. The ultimate aim of the A’ Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards is to push designers, companies and brands worldwide to develop outstanding and innovative projects that will benefit society and create value for future generations.

To learn more about the A’ Design Awards and the A’ International Landscape Planning and Garden Design Awards please visit

For the original version on PRWeb visit:

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Glenvar High School has a new face for the future

The face of Glenvar High School may have changed, but the feeling of community within its walls has not. After a lengthy renovation, made more difficult by inclement weather over the last year, the school is now finished.

Nearly 18 months of planning went into designing and modernizing the school.

“The architects met with teachers a little over a year ago and gave them an opportunity to share ideas they had for their space,” said Principal Joe Hafey. “The architects really listened to the teachers’ input and incorporated many of these suggestions into their designs.”

A lot of attention to detail went into planning Glenvar’s new special education wing. An example of this is seen in the cork flooring that runs throughout the classroom, chosen to lessen the impact of bumps and stumbles. Life skills are vital to the core curriculum for these dozen students so the two education suites were designed with that in mind. In addition to the standard classroom setting, a full kitchen and designated laundry area was added to assist with teaching home-keeping skills. A large, handicapped-accessible bathroom now has showers large enough to accommodate not only the student, but also their teacher or aide, if needed.

“The best part of this room is outside access,” said Hafey, pointing to the door leading to a gated and protected courtyard in which the students can play and ride their bikes. In the spring, landscaping will be done and include small shade trees. The special education teachers were given the green light to move into the space at noon on a Monday and by 1:30 p.m. were teaching there.

English teacher Tara Rowland, also the adviser over the yearbook staff, is not only thrilled with her roomy new classroom, but also the attached computer lab created to accommodate the extracurricular activity.

“It’s so nice for the [yearbook] staff to have their own space,” said Rowland.

The hallway entrance allows students to come and go without interrupting a class in session.

Senior and yearbook co-editor Hannah Truslow said with a laugh, “It’s great not be shoved in the back of the English room anymore; we have our own work space.”

The consumer sciences department also got an impressive overhaul. Four kitchen areas, complete with modern stainless steel appliances and spacious work areas were designed so the teacher could stand in the center of the room and provide instruction and supervision. Overhead retractable electrical outlets were installed in the other half of the room so that many students could use home-keeping appliances, such as sewing machines, without the hazard of tripping over cords.

The science department is impressive in its own right. Six modern labs are divided into classroom/lecture space and experimental work space. This not only allows students to work independently, but also for lab experiments to be set up all day. Each lab is fitted with a fume hood that exhausts toxic fumes and gasses and provides for a larger spectrum of experimentation. A “prep room” is shared between two labs. Each prep room has ample storage, a refrigerator to keep necessary elements cool and a dishwasher to properly sanitize tools and equipment.

Since much science is learned from being outside, a gated outdoor classroom has been added, complete with landscaped raised beds, giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty for the sake of learning. Likewise, a state-of-the-art greenhouse has been added to give students the opportunity to learn everything from botany to hydroponics.

Teacher work space has also been given an upgrade. Each academic department has its own workroom, complete with a printer/copier — a necessary convenience for teachers today. A kitchenette with modern, stainless steel appliances allows teachers to have a brief respite for lunch or planning.

The arts — band, choir and  theater — are now grouped together and located in close proximity to the new auditorium. The spacious band room, formerly the boiler room, now has double doors that lead directly to the outside for marching band practice or game performances. Storage rooms have been added to house instruments, uniforms and music.

The choir room, once part of the old cafeteria, was designed with acoustics in mind, making even conversation melodic. Hidden, retractable wall storage was installed to keep music organized and out of sight.

The theater department was given a most professional upgrade. Now located directly off the auditorium stage is a classroom and storage space for costuming.

“You’ll have to excuse our mess,” said theater teacher Steve Franco. “We are trying to unbox two years!”

Newly added dressing rooms, complete with the traditional lighted mirrors, give students the feeling of really being on Broadway.

Principal Hafey praised his staff, saying, “Our teaching staff has spent an inordinate amount of time here over Christmas break; they really have gone above and beyond!”

He noted also that students were wide-eyed upon arriving back to school.

“They really have been respectful of the space,” said Hafey.

The students, too, have been active in the move, volunteering to carry boxes and help unpack, among other jobs. 

Glenvar High School is about 99 percent complete, with only small cosmetic finishes such as painting and landscaping left to do. An open house in being planned for the community at large in the spring when everything is completed.

“This truly has been a labor of love; everybody has been so invested in this process,” said Hafey, himself a 1974 Glenvar graduate. “This is more than a building; this is about preserving a culture for generations of students to come.”

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Long Beach Councilmember Lena Gonzalez to Unveil Revamped La Reina Way

Prepare to revel in the glory of a reconfigured, safer La Reina Way.

This Saturday, February 6, Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez will unveil a revamped La Reina Way, near Chestnut Avenue in the Willmore City Historic Neighborhood. To commence at 9:00AM, the unveiling will celebrate the “increased sense of community” and walkability of the downtown neighborhood.

The city will close the street to vehicular traffic for the ceremony, which will highlight the brand spankin’ new permeable pavers, drought-tolerant plants, bike racks and benches.

“I always encourage my residents to get together to come up with real solutions to changes that they want to see happen,” said Gonzalez in a statement. “This is a perfect example of ideas turning into positive realities, and I encourage other neighborhood groups to use La Reina Way as an inspiration for improvements in their own neighborhoods.”

Funded by a $170,000 Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Grant Program through Proposition 84 and $50,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant funds, the pilot project that improved the green space also includes stormwater improvements and will be evaluated for possible incorporation at additional courts and ways in the area.

The original courts and ways—various walkways and alleyways throughout Willmore City—were first developed in the neighborhood’s infancy in 1882, providing access to front doors and yards from some residents and side and rear yards for others. They also served as entry points to garages and storage sheds, according to a city release. In the 100-plus year since their creation, many of the courts and ways have fallen into disrepair.

The Willmore City Heritage Association (WCHA) helped plan the needed improvements and has made a 20-year commitment to maintain the makeover, complete with custodial services, repairs, maintenance of landscaping and more.

“Our Courts and Ways are so much more than alleys,” said Kathleen Irvine, WCHA president, in a statement. “They are an essential character-defining feature of our historic urban grid, and they provide a vital, connective tissue for the daily lives of most Willmore residents.”

Above left: File photo. 

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Things to Do, Feb. 5: Home and garden show opens; Daddy Daughter Date Nights; casual classical concert

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The Seventh Annual Great Big Home + Garden Show, opens at 11 a.m. and runs through next Friday at the Cleveland I-X Center.



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