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Archives for February 23, 2016

Make edible plants part of your garden design in 2016

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2016 1:24 pm

Make edible plants part of your garden design in 2016

By Jan Nelson

Golden State Newspapers


 As a landscape designer I try to stay abreast of the latest plant introductions and trends in garden design. Many of these new plants work well with our backdrop of mountains and naturalistic settings. Some new trends will appeal to those who grow edibles while some will appeal to the gardener who loves their garden but doesn’t have time to do a lot of maintenance. What’s new this year is a return to some old fashioned ideas.

Many of us are removing overgrown shrubs and replacing them with water smart, easy-to-care-for plants that will stay the right size in smaller spaces. There are new compact and dwarf versions of old plants that have been garden favorites for a very long time. The reason they have endured is because they are reliable. Good reason to look again at some old favorites.

I’ve wanted to grow a Ninebark in my own garden but this beautiful deciduous shrub normally gets too big for my space. Sure I could prune it regularly but I don’t want the ongoing maintenance to keep it the right size. Several new cultivars of physocarpus opulifolius are smaller while providing just as much drama. The varieties Petite Plum and Summer Wine both have that rich, dark purple foliage all season that blends so well with lime colored foliage or pink flowers. This mounding, fast growing, deciduous shrub is adaptable to difficult situations. It’s easy to grow and tolerates drought once established. I can even cut the showy, soft pink flowers to bring inside. The flowers are followed by attractive seed pods making this plant attractive all season long.

A new version of the drought tolerant Grecian laurel bay tree is available now that will only grow to 6-8 feet tall in10 years.  Laurus nobilis is the one that adds the classic Mediterranean flavor to soups and sauces. Little Ragu is compact and handsome in it’s natural form or you can clip it into a formal hedge or topiary shape. When I moved to this area 30 years ago I made the mistake of using our native bay tree for a spaghetti sauce. Now I can grow the real deal and not ruin my sauce.

Other trending looks in the gardening world are to combine ornamental plants with edibles. Well, maybe this isn’t new to you but it’s a good reminder that your veggies don’t have to be in a special raised bed or plot but can by planted throughout the garden. Think tomatoes, pole beans and other vining veggies trained on a metal obelisk within a perennial bed. Or compact versions of beans, eggplant, chard, hot peppers, tomatoes or edible flowers like nasturtiums planted among your other plants or along path borders. These can be planted from seed where they are to grow making them super easy to enjoy later on.

Even if you’re not redoing your whole garden you can plant a small section or vignette using a more toned down palette. Whether its shades of pink or white or blue this look will give your garden a calm feeling. Add a place to sit and you’ll want to relax there with a book or beverage.

Everything old is new again from old fashioned flowers, bicolor blooms, and solar lights for the garden, sharing extra produce with neighbors and super fragrant plants.

nJan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. E-mail her at, or visit to view past columns and pictures.

  • Discuss


Monday, February 22, 2016 1:24 pm.

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3 Design Tips From the Dreamiest Tiny Cottage in New England

Joining a bustling parade of fabulous micro dwellings, this recently completed weekend home in the woodsy small town of Foster, Rhode Island is an utter small-space dream. But the 530-square-foot Dwell-aprroved abode, designed by Providence-based firm 3SIXØ, with landscaping work by the client, artist Allison Paschke, also holds a couple of clear design takeaways for those aspiring to a similarly modest-yet-dreamy retreat.

1. Do the Wright thing…that is, employing a low-ceilinged front entrance that opens up to a soaring interior—which, in Dwell‘s words, is “a classic architectural trick borrowed from Frank Lloyd Wright that pumps up the spatial drama.”

2. Recessed nooks are your friend…key components of this home—the kitchen, bed, writing desk—are all built into the wall, which helps declutter the one-room space.

3. Keep it simple…Stick to a few natural materials that create a coherent look. All the floors and built-ins in this cottage, for example, are made from Douglas fir.

Head to Dwell for the full story and gallery.

All photos by Anna Moller via Dwell

All photos by Anna Moller via Dwell

· 5 Small-Space Decorating Tips from Interior Designers [Curbed]
· 5 Impressive Tiny Houses You Can Order Right Now [Curbed]
· Easy-to-Build Tiny House Makes a Sweet Minimalist Retreat [Curbed]
· Groovy New Tiny House with Full-Size Appliances Can Sleep 8 [Curbed]

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In Long Island City, a Community Seeks to Reclaim an Urban Wilderness

Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed’s series of photo essays by Nathan Kensinger. This week, a look at the possibilities for the Montauk Cutoff in Long Island City, Queens.

Up on the old Montauk Cutoff, the last freight train has passed and nature is now having its way. Pokeweed, mugwort, and white snakeroot have sprung up between the railroad ties, mimosa trees and oak saplings are growing from abandoned sidings, and feral cats sun themselves along the line’s six bridges, which connect the Newtown Creek with the Sunnyside Yards. Constructed in the early 1900s, the cutoff runs just one-third of a mile, traveling above some of the last industrial streets in Long Island City, Queens. After a slow decline of many years, it has now been deemed inefficient and unnecessary, and most of its length is being decommissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has put forth a call for ideas, hoping to find someone to reimagine its future. “It’s pretty rare to have a segment of track like this one,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the MTA. “We’d love to see a broad, creative range of ideas come forward.”

On a recent winter night, a diverse crowd of locals gathered in a bike shop near the north end of the tracks, to discuss their vision for the future of the cutoff. “As a community, we are going to put together a stronger proposal than if we are competing with each other,” announced Paula Segal, one of the meeting’s organizers, before leading a read through of the MTA’s Request For Expressions of Interest (RFEI), with responses due in February. Many attendees had already been up on the tracks for a tour hosted by the MTA, and a brainstorming session soon followed, with suggestions for the viaduct ranging from a dog run to a food court to a film shoot location. By meeting’s end, the group of assorted professors, architects, construction workers, and train fans had decided to organize themselves into the Cutoff Coalition, and to work together on a larger proposal for the MTA. “It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to shape the built environment,” said Segal, the director of 596 Acres, an organization which has helped reclaim and revitalize many vacant publicly-owned spaces throughout the city. “Whatever happens in this little 4.2 acre strip is really going to impact the rest of the neighborhood.”

The Montauk Cutoff’s glory days as a uniquely isolated urban oasis, ripe for illicit activity, may soon be a thing of the past. Over the last decade, as freight traffic decreased, several sections of the line, hidden from view behind trees and fences, became home to a wide variety of unsanctioned uses, including guerrilla gardens, cat shelters, hillside shanties, and an artist’s campsite complete with a bonfire pit. A walk along the viaduct in 2008 revealed an overgrown haven, surrounded by industry and lined with unused tracks, rusted bridges, graffiti covered warehouses and other slowly crumbling infrastructure. “There used to be homeless camps all over the wooded sections. There were six or seven different well-embedded encampments,” said Mitch Waxman, the historian of the Newtown Creek Alliance.

Today, the cutoff is a somewhat less wild space, at least for humans. The guerrilla garden has taken a lease from the MTA, becoming the Smiling Hogshead Ranch, and the homeless camps were all left empty after Hurricane Sandy flooded the area in 2012. Several well-established footpaths still lead up to the cutoff, but few people appear to access them on a regular basis, other than adventurous teenagers and one brave commuter, who was recently spotted riding a fat-tire mountain bike down the line. “I got the bike a year ago. Sometimes it can be a real challenge,” said the biker, who pedals to work every day along the tracks. “Biking in the snow is kind of a hard slog. You really have to push down hard.” Other than these rare visitors, the viaduct has mostly been surrendered to nature. “I gotta say, I personally don’t see many people crossing up there,” said Mitch Waxman. “Most of the people I see accessing the tracks are young Urban Explorer types, or railroad fans who know that there is an inactive section of tracks.”

The recent decommissioning of the Montauk Cutoff has also put it on the map of secret event organizers, and just a few nights after the Cutoff Coalition was formed, a much different crowd gathered at an anonymous street corner near the Sunnyside Yards, awaiting instructions on how to access the train line. The clandestine meetup was organized in part by Sextantworks, a group known for hosting parties in water towers and dinners in sewers. Following a purposefully convoluted path, invitees slowly progressed down empty streets to the edge of the train line, before scaling up the side of a bridge onto its embankment and walking down the tracks single file, in pitch darkness. Few of the guests seemed to know where they were. “This is part of the Newtown Creek?” asked one, when told of the nearby Federal superfund site. “I’ve never been here before.” A hidden prohibition-style speakeasy was the destination, where bespoke rye cocktails were poured and an accordion player in a red bowler hat serenaded the disoriented audience. It was a much different vision for the future of the neighborhood. 

Abandoned or little used train lines across the city have become increasingly popular in recent years, from the cavernous Freedom Tunnel to the wild Rockaway Beach Branch, which some Queens community members hope will become a High Line-style park called the Queensway. However, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is quick to dispel any similarities between the Montauk Cutoff and the city’s best-known elevated tracks. “Before anyone jumps in and says this is going to be another High Line… it’s not quite that same scenario,” said Donovan. “The land around it is completely industrial, whereas the High Line is in the middle of a residential area.” However, the MTA is open to all proposals, and has several suggestions for how the tracks could be used in the future, including an urban farm, museum, or sculpture garden. “We are hoping that folks will come to us to share ideas of what could potentially be done to reuse this area,” said Donovan. “We would like to have some group come in that can act as a caretaker of the space.” 

One major consideration for anyone interested in making a proposal is the MTA’s expectation that groups using the tracks will be responsible for a significant portion of their upkeep, from landscaping and security to snow removal and maintenance. “There’s no electricity, there’s no sewer hookup, no water, no gas, so that would need to be taken into consideration,” said Donovan. “Whoever would seek to reactivate the space would need to maintain the bridges over the streets, so they would have to repair any corrosion or spalling of the concrete, and any vandalism that could occur.” After a hundred years of rumbling freight trains, floods, rain, and snow, this might prove to be a very expensive caveat. The Montauk Cutoff is currently in rugged condition, and several of its bridges, which date back to 1908, have significant cracks visible in their concrete walls, eroded by the elements. 

Another challenge facing any plan to create a public space along the cutoff lies at both of its ends, which are home to two of New York City’s largest and most complicated Superfund sites, the Sunnyside Yards and the Newtown Creek, highly toxic areas still used for freight traffic and heavy industry. For Mitch Waxman, who has explored these sites extensively for The Newtown Pentacle, returning some semblance of nature to this blighted area would be an appropriate outcome. “I’ve been talking about an LIC greenway…more of an elevated garden,” said Waxman. “To me, it is an area that is inextricably linked to Superfunds, and the idea of putting a big green sponge up there for storm water, and to alleviate the heat island effect in that part of Long Island City, is a massive opportunity.” With the MTA’s call for ideas open until February, it remains to be seen what the fate of the cutoff could be. 

The Smiling Hogshead Ranch, a 1.5-acre community garden at the north end of the Montauk Cutoff, started as a guerrilla gardening project more than four years ago, built on top of an unused spur of tracks. 

The ranch now leases its property from the MTA. It is the only section of the Montauk Cutoff at street level, and its boundaries are included within the MTA’s request for ideas. Any proposals for reactivating the cutoff will determine the future of the ranch.

The ranch is built on top of long-abandoned tracks, which have been paved over at street level. Within the garden, they are used for composting and vegetable crops, including garlic, fava beans, and ground cherries.

Before becoming a garden, the spur was an overgrown wilderness, as seen here during a 2007 visit.  “Pre-Hogshead, the triangle of land that they are on used to be homeless camps and an illegal dumping ground,” said Mitch Waxman.

Farther into the ranch, an outhouse with a composting sawdust toilet looks out over a larger gathering space, as the tracks continue their rise above street level. “For the ranch, we did not have to treat it like an architectural project at all,” said Segal. “It’s a pretty simple intervention, in terms of raised beds and trees.”

This hidden area of the ranch is a popular place for teenage visitors, who also enjoy strolls along the cutoff. “The tracks go down for a ways. It’s really far,” said this pair. “It’s really beautiful, though. It’s safe to walk on them, and it’s a nice walk.”

Feral cats are a common sight along the tracks. There are several large collections of handmade cat shelters hidden in the overgrowth along the length of the cutoff, including one with at least 10 cat homes. 

The old spur is completely overgrown as it approaches the higher track level. In the fall, it is home to a variety of birds, plants and trees—a rare spot of wilderness in this highly controlled industrial environment.

North of the Smiling Hogshead Ranch, the tracks cross Skillman Avenue and descend into the Sunnyside Yards. “This section of track had been used by freight rail only. It was not used by passenger trains,” said Donovan.

Trains traveled across the Sunnyside Yards to the Arch Street Yard, which was also recently closed down by the MTA. “The last freight train rolled over the tracks in March and after that, we decommissioned the old yard,” said Donovan.

The tracks continue south toward the Dutch Kills and the Newtown Creek, passing underneath the Long Island Expressway, where a wide footpath leads down the embankment to the street, underneath the constant flow of traffic.

Railroad spikes and broken sections of track are littered across the embankment, which also shows signs of frequent visits by graffiti artists.  

The cutoff continues above several busy streets, before turning into an isolated, quiet area surrounded by industry, including a lumber yard, scrap yard, and concrete plant. 

Dust from the concrete plant covers a long-abandoned siding at the edge of the Dutch Kills, a tributary of the Newtown Creek. Industry still lines the banks of the creek, which has very few public access points. It is unclear if the MTA will accept a proposal that grants access to the waterway.

On the Cabin M Bridge, the last bridge along the cutoff, the Dutch Kills is in full view. The MTA’s boundary for the current RFEI ends here. “That whole area was just one big, giant swamp in 1900. There was literally nothing there,” said Waxman. “The earliest reference I have found to it being called the Montauk Cutoff is 1906.”

South of the Cabin M Bridge lies the still-active DB Cabin Bridge. A wooden pier once linked the two, and was still partially accessible in 2007, a peaceful oasis above the polluted waters. It is now inaccessible and collapsing into the creek. “I don’t know if it was Sandy or just 100 year old lumber,” said Waxman, of the pier’s demise.

A homeless campsite once existed near this shoreline path, which now connects the two bridges. “He was an artist. He used to hang canvasses so that they would touch the water at high tide and all the poison would soak up into his canvasses,” said Waxman. “It was weird stuff, like red devils and burning middle eastern cities.”

The DB Cabin Bridge at sunset, a quiet haven in the center of an industrial landscape. Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge pushed up the Newtown Creek and into the Dutch Kills here, before flooding the Midtown Tunnel. “I haven’t seen a sign of any homeless camps along Dutch Kills since Hurricane Sandy,” said Waxman. “I imagine they either flew the coop or got washed away.”

In the evening light, the old tracks take on a different tone. “You know, once you get rid of a section of track it’s very difficult if not impossible to ever get it back,” said Donovan. “We hate to completely abandon any segment of track, in the off chance that deep in the future, we may potentially need it again.” 

As darkness falls, geese and fish congregate on the Dutch Kills, one of the liveliest places along the Newtown Creek for wildlife, which will hopefully continue to have a home along the Montauk Cutoff. “You can certainly characterize this as a unique piece of property,” said Donovan.

At night, the dark tracks have few visitors, outside of crowds brought for curated events. “It’s a unique property, but it’s one that has challenges, and so that’s why we wanted to go out and tap into the creativity of the whole community,” said Donovan.

· Nathan Kensinger [Official]
· Montauk Cutoff coverage [Curbed]
· Camera Obscura archive [Curbed]

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ANN LOVEJOY | Low-pollen planting

I’ve been blessed to be involved with a beautiful community project that will soon culminate in Owen’s Playground, an interactive site that will be accessible to everyone. The inspiration comes from Owen’s family, who saw how his brief life enriched many, many people. This playground is just part of his legacy to his family and community and even before groundbreaking began, the project was attracting a galaxy of talent.

The Bainbridge Island Parks Recreation Department quickly offered Owen’s Playground a home, and landscape architect Chris Cain of Studio Hanson Roberts (which specializes in designing zooscapes and botanic gardens) offered pro bono services as well. Many other folks have also chipped in with time, skills and donations of all kinds.

I’ve been selecting plants for various parts of the playground, especially a sensory garden area. The site presents challenges local gardeners will recognize; full sun, hardpan subsoil, limited irrigation, and deer. As well, accessible playgrounds serve everyone from babies to grandparents, including people who are variously compromised. Thus, the site must accommodate walkers and wheelchairs as well as strollers, and plantings must minimize potent allergens, from pollen to bee stings. Despite these restrictions, we need a palette of plants that will look good all year.

As a lifelong gardener, I find it ironic (and intensely annoying) that I am sensitive and/or allergic to many kinds of pollen. So are plenty of other folks, yet lists of plants that trigger allergies or strategies for avoidance are rare. Not everyone tolerates the seasonal use of antihistamines, but once you know which plants set off allergies, you can often eliminate or avoid them. To decide which specific plants are giving us trouble, we have to play detective, since some pollens trigger a quick response while others can take eight hours or more.

The maritime Northwest offers many reasons to sneeze. Some, like willow and alder pollen, are pretty hard to avoid; that’s what those antihistamines are for. However, with some planning, we can at least make sure our gardens and landscaping aren’t contributing to our discomfort. (Muscle soreness after extensive outdoor chores doesn’t count.) For starters, many common woody plants are sexed, having both male and female forms. A lot of landscaping trees and shrubs are males, often chosen for their lack of messy fruit. Unfortunately, male trees and shrubs produce the lion’s share of pollen.

Unless you’re willing and/or able to remove offending trees (my neighbors’ sequoias are off limits), you’ll just have to figure out when they shed pollen and do your best to protect yourself from exposure. To minimize effects, keep house and car windows closed; wash your car often; and shower, change and wash your clothing as soon as possible after time outdoors. If your eyes are affected, it helps to wash them gently several times a day, because pollen tends to cling to our eyelashes.

Retrofitting a pollen-rich garden may be expensive and difficult, but new gardens can avoid heavy pollen shedders. A good plant nursery can help you find female cultivars even in famously troublesome families like maples, willows and elms. To eliminate pollen from an established high-pollen hedge (think boxwood), shear before buds open. Because shrubs are the building blocks of the garden — framing and defining the spaces — choose low-pollen shrubs such as azaleas, camellias, native ceanothus, escallonias, rhododendrons and weigela. To bring your low-pollen borders to life, we’ll look at low-pollen grasses and flowers next week.

Contact Ann Lovejoy at 8959 Battle Point Drive NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or visit Ann’s blog at and leave a question/comment.

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Garden symposium set for March 5

WATERLOO — The annual Green Scene Garden Symposium will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 5 at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St.

Registration is from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

Seminars begin at 8:30 a.m. with Bob Frost, owner of Frost Tree Farms, presenting “Tree Pruning Protocals,” followed at 9:30 a.m. by North Iowa Pond and Koi Club’s Mary Hennesy-Schwake presentation of “Pond Plants and Water Gardens.”

Matthias Landscaping’s Dan Foss will offer “New Trends in Landscaping” at 10:30 a.m., followed by lunch. After the break, Rob Pruitt, executive director of the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Garden, will discuss “Mosaic Cultures,” followed at 1:30 p.m. by master gardener Vaughn Griffith, who will share the arboretum’s orchard project.

Registration fee is $35, and includes all five seminars and lunch. For tickets, make checks payable to Green Scene Symposium and send to P.O. Box 2004, Waterloo 50704.

A gardeners’ market also will be open featuring displays and products from seminar speakers and local retailers.

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‘The Sims 4’ Stuff Pack Review: ‘Romantic Garden’ Brings More Landscape Objects, Wishing Well Gameplay

The Sims 4 Romantic Garden Stuff released Feb. 9. This DLC pack brings an abundance of statues, flowers, and most importantly, the infamous Whispering Wishing Well gameplay to TS4 . CAS additions are not the highlight of this game pack. However, this stuff pack does expand landscaping options to help you design romantic backyard scenery.  

There is a shortage of furniture in Romantic Garden Stuff. The Sims team does give you two stone benches and a picnic table, but no chairs. There is no indoor furniture included, but that is expected seeing the focus is clearly outdoors. Stone archways, rose lattices, perfectly manicured shrubbery, fountains, and rustic statues make up most of the objects. There are two outdoor lamps, a new fence smothered in shrubs, a medium height window, and a flower box as well. While there are only 7 new plants, there is a myriad of color variations for each that make the plants look like different. No new terrain paints accompany the plant options. View screens of all 33 objects via The Sims Community blog. 

Take a look at the 5 stylized outdoor spaces below:

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 ‘Romantic Garden Stuff’ The Sims 4 Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 ‘Romantic Garden Stuff’ The Sims 4 Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 ‘Romantic Garden Stuff’ The Sims 4

The majority of CAS options are for men. There are no shoes, hats, or accessories for either gender. There is one new mens hairstyle. It’s wavy and medium length with the usual hair color options.  Most of all the clothing options in the Stuff Pack have solid colorways if you’re not into the spring floral theme. There are 5 new tops, including a long sleeve collared shirt rolled up at the elbows, a vest with a plain tee underneath and scarf on top, a flowery vest atop a collared shirt with rolled up sleeves, a floral suit jacket with a heavy scarf (comes with matching bottoms, also solid color available), and a heavy v-neck sweater. There are two sets of bottoms, shorts and long ankle khakis, which both match the floral suit jacket. Two styled looks are included. The first, a suit with a vest and plaid, ankle-length slacks. The second is solid shorts paired with a long sleeve blazer and heavy scarf.

The females also get one new hairstyle that has a wavy, messy look with angled bangs. There is one top with a subtle flower and a mid-length skirt with a lu-ao floral design. Three outfits are included: a floral dress with solid trim, a solid v-neck dress with a waist belt, and shorts with a plain-tee and gradient cardigan. The available styled look is basically just the floral dress with solid trim and cute flats.

There are two hairstyles for children. The girls get a new do with sharp bangs and a bow on the top. For both boys and girls, there is a medium-length hairstyle with bangs pushed to the side. The unisex top is a short-sleeve button-up. The girls get two outfits. The first, is a short dress with solid trim, and the other is a floral skirt, with a solid tank and cardigan.View screens of all CAS items in this pack via the Sims Community blog. 

As for new gameplay, the Whispering Wishing Well spices things up. Beware, it’s extremely moody and there’s a pretty even chance you won’t get what you ask for. With a single Simoleon, bestow your deepest hopes and desires upon the Whispering Wishing Well. You can even bribe the Well with an “offering” of extra cash for a positive outcome. Unfortunately, evil children are not a negative outcome like TS3. Instead, upon wishing for the negative outcome is a ghost child. If your wish is granted, a child with the genius trait will rise from the well. There are over over 50 outcomes based on the mood of the well at the time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 The Whispering Wishing Well in ‘Romantic Garden Stuff.’ The Sims 4

Another highlight of this Stuff Pack is the Gluteus Maximus Fountain.  Sit along the fountain’s edge to cuddle and flirt by gently splashing water on your lover. If your Sim is feeling whimsical, they may want to get wet, play around and splash a friend. Toss a coin into the fountain to have a little fun. Mischievous Sims may not be able to resist adding soap to the fountain and watching it fill will bubbles. Nap on the side of the fountain or share a romantic smooch.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 The Fountain of Gluteus Maximus in ‘Romantic Garden Stuff.’ The Sims 4

The Sims team included one new park venue: The Lost Gardens of Healing. Don’t forget to check it out. It makes great use of the large stone archways, vined lattices and oxidized statues.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9 The Lost Gardens of Healing in ‘Romantic Garden Stuff.’ The Sims 4

Romantic Garden Stuff is simple and focused, unlike the last Stuff Pack Movie Hangout. The theme is clear and outdoor objects add a nice touch to any park or whimsical backyard. The abundance of mens CAS options was a nice surprise, and of course the Whispering Wishing Well is the true highlight.


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February gardening tips


Since we are in the midst of our winter weather, the gardeners among us may be suffering from cabin fever. To get our minds occupied with happy thoughts, Jason Reeves, curator of the University of Tennessee Gardens in Jackson, sends some wisdom to help us preserve our landscape in the event of more heavy snow or ice. Mr. Reeves says brush wet snow off evergreens as it accumulates, or as soon as possible after a winter storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage can be caused to limbs by heavy wet snow. Also, avoid using salt to melt snow and ice from your walks and driveway, as it can be harmful to your plants. Several environmentally friendly products are available at home improvement stores.

Some indoor activities for gardeners in February include sowing broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seed indoors. Harden them off before transplanting in March. Extend the life of your Valentine’s Day flowers by changing the water daily and recutting the stems every couple of days, making sure the foliage is kept above the water line. Remove dust from your house plants by rinsing them in the shower.

As for outdoor activities for gardeners, there is plenty of work to do. Bluebirds are already looking for a place to nest, so clean out your birdhouse soon. If you are in need of a good bluebird house stop by the Extension Office and pick up a set of plans to make your own.

Late February and March are good times to trim trees and shrubs. If the limb is larger than 2 inches in diameter, or heavily weighted, use the three-step method for removing the branches. Make the first cut on the underside of the limb about 6 inches away from the trunk, cutting about one-third of the way through the limb. On the top side, cut through the limb 3 to 6 inches beyond the first cut. Finally, make the third cut close to the trunk while not disturbing the branch collar. This cut should be at 45 degrees to the trunk. Remember when pruning to remove dead or diseased branches first and then take out any rubbing or crossed branches. Prune to maintain a natural form unless formality is appropriate for the design. Postpone pruning of spring-flowering and early summer-flowering shrubs like azaleas, forsythia, spirea, and mophead hydrangea until just after they flower.

Spot-control weeds in a dormant warm-season lawn by pulling them or by applying a broadleaf weed control. Apply dormant horticulture oil, such as Ultra-Fine, to fruit and nut trees to eliminate scale and other pests. It must be applied before spring growth appears. These oils also can control scale insects on hollies, euonymus and camellias. For best results, be sure to completely spray the entire plant including the underside of the leaves.

By Tom Rison

Extension Agent


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Master Gardeners Provide Gardening Tips at Various Events

In 2015, 163 Master Gardener volunteers contributed 12,863 hours in the Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties. Their volunteer service is valued at $296,749 (using an estimated dollar value of volunteer time of $23.07 per hour as calculated by Independent Sector).


Master Gardeners have several large events scheduled in our four county Extension Unit.

Stop by their informational booth at the Peoria Home Show on February 26-28 in the Peoria Civic Center. They will answer general gardening questions, provide information to those interested in being a Master Gardener, and distribute informational brochures and bookmarks.

The 17th Annual Gardeners’ BIG Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 30 at Spoon River College in Canton. Attendees will hear speakers, visit vendors, see gardening displays, and tour the campus grounds and gardens. Register early because this fills very quickly.

JP_CDL_2-5-11_DIANNE_NOLAND__GBD_Keynote_Speaker_photo_by_Mary_Lou_Kuchan (1)

Another event that fills very quickly is Tazewell County’s Plant Bingo, scheduled for June 2 at the Morton Knights of Columbus at 6:30 pm. This is a fun evening spent socializing with gardening enthusiasts, sharing stories, and learning about all kinds of plants….all while playing bingo. Doors open at 5 p.m. Space is limited and this event is very popular, so plan to arrive early.

Peoria Master Gardeners invite you to join them for a free informational garden program. Held on the third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 for social time and speaker at 1:00 p.m. Programs are held at the University of Illinois Extension office in Peoria at 4810 North Sheridan unless otherwise indicated.


Some events are still in the planning stage. Each year Master Gardeners have information booths at various Farmers Markets. In 2015 those included the Peoria Riverfront Market, Canton market on the square, and E. Peoria market.

The Peoria Master Gardeners educate about specific plants each year during their Plant Sale. Usually held in May, this sale includes many herbs, vegetables, and flowers grown by the Master Gardeners. Plants go very quickly, so watch for the date and arrive early!

Join us at a program near you. More information about all of our University of Illinois Extension programs is available at or by calling 309-543-3308.

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Florham Park Garden Club will hear tips on planting vegetables

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