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Archives for February 26, 2016

Friday Opinuendo: On Maplewood history, bugs, parking and more … –


In anticipation of Maplewood’s 60th anniversary, local history buffs have teamed up to write a story each week for the 60 weeks leading up to the anniversary on Feb. 26, 2017.

Stories are released each Thursday on Twitter, Facebook and Maplewood’s #60Stories webpage:

In one on the “Ghost town of Gladstone,” Heritage Preservation Commissioner Peter Boulay writes about the now-vanished city at English Street and Frost Avenue that later was absorbed into modern-day Maplewood.

In 1886, William and Mary Dawson founded Gladstone, named after the British Prime Minister, Boulay writes. It was a working man’s town with two large manufacturing businesses, the St. Paul Plow Works and the shops of the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. Soon there were three saloons and one nondenominational church.

The town, he reports, also had a constable, “Two Gun” Allen, and “the town wasn’t shy to form an armed posse, as well, when the need arose.”


Ready for Minnesota’s 2016 precinct caucuses on March 1? The state’s official Precinct Caucus Finder is online at

Enter your address and it displays caucus locations provided by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Republican Party of Minnesota.

The office of Secretary of State Steve Simon reminds us that caucuses are meetings run by the state’s political parties, which this year include a presidential preference ballot.

To participate, Minnesotans must be eligible to vote in the November general election, live in the precinct and “generally agree with the principles of the political party hosting the caucus,” according to a statement from Simon’s office.

Those interested in caucusing with one of the state’s minor political parties should contact their party directly for dates and locations. A list is at


School District 197 in West St. Paul, Mendota Heights and Eagan is the first in Minnesota to pass a resolution to make its operations “pollinator-friendly.”

The resolution approved by the school board earlier this month calls for buildings-and-grounds efforts to reduce the application of insecticides that are harmful to plant pollinators, including honey bees and butterflies.

It also calls for efforts to include trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers and other plants favorable to pollinators in the district’s landscaping plans, as well as communicating to families the importance of creating and maintaining pollinator habitat.

In St. Paul, the City Council in January committed to making the city more pollinator-friendly.


Smartphone convenience has entered a new era on the streets of St. Paul.

With an app, users can pay for metered parking, remotely add more time to their meter and even get a reminder when their time is about to expire.

St. Paul is among more than 50 cities using the service, announced earlier this month by the Public Works Department, which said it would initially be available downtown and later around the Capitol and University Avenue.

The PassportParking app is available for free on the Android and Apple iOS operating systems. Links for downloading the app are on the city’s website.


Congratulations to Carleen Rhodes, the former St. Paul Foundation CEO who will join an Edina-based investment management company as a special adviser for “impact investing.”

The goal of impact investing is to “yield both a benefit to society and advantageous returns to investors,” says a statement from the company, O’Brien-Staley Partners.

“Very few firms can creditably bridge societal purpose and financial performance,” Rhodes says in the statement. “That’s what excites me about working with OSP as it directs private-sector capital to thriving businesses” in low-to-moderate income areas, striving families with first-time home purchases and reviving properties with energy-efficiency upgrades.


With publication this winter of their book “The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World,” Minnesota activists Michael McConnell and Jack Baker say events have come full circle since they exchanged wedding vows in 1971.

Their story includes the couple’s “long and complex relationship” with the University of Minnesota: Baker studied law there and served as student body president. Repercussions of their activism included the rescinding of a university job offer to McConnell that played out in court for several years. Archives at the U – the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT studies – house the record of their legal battle “for the right to live and love openly.” Now, the book is published by the University of Minnesota Press, where the authors say, “our story lives on.”

Further, abuzz among bloomin’ ideas, Opinuendo sayeth not.





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The First Great Millennial Novel

The quartet of protagonists in Tony Tulathimutte’s first novel, Private Citizens, are a set that could only have been brought together by the diabolical forces that conjure undergraduate dormitory assignments. The college in question is Stanford, class of 2005, and the core ensemble is ripe for a type-by-type satire of down-at-the-heel elite 20-somethings in the last days of the Bush administration. There are Linda, a tattoo-sleeved hedonist in flight from writer’s block who weaves a semi-professional path through parties and sex dungeons, fueled and numbed by alcohol and various powders; Henrik, a burnt-out, laboratory-bound grad student with a secret history of manic-depressive breakdown; Will, an Asian-American freelance coder with a porn addiction almost as debilitating as his identity-based inferiority complex; and Cory, a dreadlocked, Jewish, queer-curious, and lonely liberal activist with an eating disorder and a habit of checking her privilege to the point of personal stasis. Tulathimutte is a slapstick curmudgeon who goes hard on his characters, setting in store for them sufferings that run to extremes of physical disfigurement. The novel is as funny as it is dark, and things get very dark, indeed. Eyeballs are amputated — the technical term is enucleation — and the hyperbolic elements occasionally make the reader’s eyes roll, but who ever said realism was worth it for the laughs? It’s tempting to call Private Citizens an “identity politics” novel, and the idea of identity is the object of a lot of its satire. On a deeper level, it’s about four people passing through the jungle of what they can’t help but think of as “piddling” 20-something dramas on the way to figuring out who the people are beneath their personal brands.

An initial setpiece places the four principals in a car on the way to a northern California beach two years after graduation, at the end of the summer of 2007, the last time we’ll see them together, with the exception of flashbacks, until the novel’s end. The first two-thirds proceed in pairs of chapters that grant each character their own novellas, told in close third-person narration. It’s hard not to sense the spirit of Jonathan Franzen hovering over Private Citizens, both in its structure and in Tulathimutte’s way of dealing his characters bespoke moral corrections. Like Franzen, he can at times turn his narrative into a snowblower of up-to-the-minute lifestyle detail. But in Franzen’s last two novels, the information overload had the whiff of secondhand trivia gleaned from old media. Tulathimutte gives the impression of having done his fieldwork, even if much of it transpired behind a screen (as it must in the millennial trenches).  Social novelists who place limits on their internet access now do so at their own peril.

The sections in Private Citizens devoted to Cory and Will veer into workplace and Web 2.0 satire. Linda and Henrik live at the economy’s precarious fringes, and are granted more generous backstories. The book’s heart is with them; Cory and Will more often carry it into sociological terrain. After Cory’s boss dies at his desk — the first of many more or less forgivable plot contrivances — she learns he’s bequeathed her the company, a nonprofit called Socialize. Its feel-good-about-partying business model (“We promote culture, send business to local merchants and venues, and route disposable income to social causes”) has turned out to be nonviable, and the same goes for Cory’s love life, as well as her attempt to start a warehouse commune. With not a little shame, she goes pleading to her father, an eccentric, self-made millionaire provider of moving, cleaning, and landscaping services. He directs her to a cultlike Silicon Valley management-training course called Handshake Workshops, which activates her capitalist management skills without derailing the narrative for too long. It’s worth noting that Cory has managed to graduate from Stanford in 2005 and hold down a job without learning to use email — the most improbable aspect of her misbegotten quest for ethical purity. But its setting aside, Private Citizens doesn’t quite qualify as a “Silicon Valley novel”; even Will the coder sits outside its culture — he’s a slacker. The “techbros” overheard in the novel and glimpsed at parties are roundly disdained.

The riffs on Socialize are funny, but Tulathimutte finds sharper, more absurd satirical fodder in the entrepreneurial aspirations of Will’s girlfriend, Vanya. She is a cunning creation, and indeed may be said to embody the characteristics Tulathimutte is most interested in mocking. She’s a former teenage beauty queen, and a vain one, who maintains and enhances her looks with various surgeries. She’s unstoppably “aspirational,” and a determined lifecaster bent on turning pro. She’s also paraplegic, paralyzed below the waist as a result of a beauty-pageant accident that might be offensive if it weren’t so silly:

[A]t fourteen, she finished third for Miss Teen Dixie Doll, behind identical twins who’d split the tiara. During the onstage group photo, the flashbulb caused one of the eliminees at the top of the bleachers to snap a kitten heel and crash forward onto the quarterfinalists, the semifinalists, then Vanya and the twin queens, all sixteen cascading down the steps in an anorexic avalanche. Under the scrum of Misses, Vanya broke her nose and fractured her pelvis and spine. A stray flake of bone had her in agony until after two days she awoke with no feeling below her navel.

Vanya’s start-up is Sable, a new kind site for the disabled: “Disability forums tend to devolve into group therapy,” she tells Will. “Sufferers bursting to swap sympathy and pain management tips. It’s not fun. It’s a conversation able-bodied people can’t participate in, and the biggest threat to mainstream penetration. Sable will fight negativity content filtering, crowd moderation, and aggressive brand management.” The result is well-funded by VCs, and monstrous. Vanya and Will become the stars of a 16-hour-a-day self-surveillance webcast called WHEEL and DEAL. In Will, Vanya is paired with, scrutinized by, and becomes the tormentor of her dialectical antithesis. Her feel-good public projections are matched by his multivalent self-loathing. His is the shame of the child of immigrants and the porn addict, two vectors that converge as he’s holed up at home while Vanya’s away raising money and he moves from watching to editing — “there was one way to get Asian men into porn: in post production.” The sequence is one of the novel’s comic peaks. Will volleys between fits of self- and hard-disk erasure, and Vanya-induced overexposure. The sacrifice of his privacy comes at a tremendous cost.

Anyone who objects to satirizing the wheelchair-bound should refer to the assassins of Infinite Jest, but a more striking parallel between that book and Private Citizens, though there’s no telling if Tulathimutte intended it, is Linda, who, in her addled nocturnal wanderings, struck me as a cousin of Wallace’s disfigured beauty Madame Psychosis/Joelle Van Dyne. As a stunted writer, Linda is also the voice of Tulathimutte’s drive-by lit crit:

[S]he tried a fiction writing workshop, where, inspite of its idiotic mission of focus-grouping literature, she could at least set her own agenda. But she quickly wearied of her classmates’ manuscripts, about characters with pounding hearts and wry grins who’d sig and shrug and fail to meet her gaze, who held dying grandmothers’ hands’, helmed starships, attended dorm parties, came out. They were so serious about it! And they got foot rubs of praise, the bland reading the bland—product of a contemporary literature rife with domestic angst, ethnic tourism, child prodigies, talking animals, period nostalgia, affected affectlessness, atrocity porn, genre-crossovers clad in figleaves of literary technique. No ideas, only intellectual property; no avant-garde only controversy; no ars poetica, only personal essays; no major writers, only writing majors.

Well put! (Tulathimutte is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.) The criticisms leveled at Linda’s own writing — that she’s “contemptuous” of her characters, “dictionary-happy,” and deficient in the “empathy” department — have the ring of anticipated knocks at Private Citizens. A more generous reading might see them as the hurdles of his own style the self-conscious Tulathimutte knows he’ll have to leap before the novel’s end. For his characters, there are pits to climb out of. Linda hits bottom after a party where she recklessly and unwittingly smokes heroin, the victim of a hit-and-run that puts her in traction and knocks out her front teeth. The accident reunites her with Will, never a close friend, and as such, one of the few her hedonist hustling hasn’t alienated, and Henrik, who also comes to Will after a hiatus from medication, induces a breakdown. So begins the novel’s redemptive downslope.

Henrik, the son of an itinerant Vietnam veteran who kept him out of school until he clandestinely self-educated through correspondence schools and improbably got himself into Yale, then transferred after a suicidal brush to Stanford, is the novel’s black box of depression. We hear him as he tries to talk his way into the middle-class liberal mind-set of his peers — just the bourgeois mentality Linda relentlessly rejects. Without sacrificing any of its antic humor, its characters’ habits of constant self-criticism, or its recourse to brutal moral comeuppance — even Vanya, at last rejected by Will and reduced to crawling away from him with her elbows, becomes an object of readerly sympathy — Private Citizens resolves into a comedy of remarriage and a traditional arc of reckless youth adjusting to the humbling requirements of adulthood. The loose bonds of friendship trend toward the familial. Will, Cory, Linda, and Henrik will have to go about the tedious business of learning to care for each other. We know millennials as bogeychildren of alarmist trend pieces and the catchall hand-wringing of an aging commentariat. Tulathimutte is on the front line of writers showing that they’re also worthy heroes and heroines of the American novel. 

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Improving our landscapes – San Antonio Express

Improving our landscapes

Turn to a pro for advice or bone up at design classes

February 26, 2016

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Neil Sperry: Getting the best use of spring-flowering shrubs

Spring has come a little early this year.

Flowering quince is finishing its annual bloom. Fringeflowers have been colorful for several weeks, and forsythias, Indian hawthorns, bridal wreath, azaleas, oleanders, gardenias and pomegranates can’t be far behind.

But you have to use these plants carefully to get maximum impact. Each brings its own personality and requirements to your landscape.

Where we drift off-course

We’ve all done it: You go into your neighborhood nursery, and there by the door you see a cheerful shrub in glorious bloom. “I need that,” you say, and the next thing you know, it’s in the back of your car headed home to be planted … where?

You suddenly realize you’re not even sure what it needs in terms of sunlight and soil. And you say to yourself, “I’ve done it again. I’ve bought a plant for my place without a place for my plant.”

Most spring-flowering shrubs only bloom for a couple of weeks.

Let’s scroll through a few of the important details.

If color is your main goal in planting this shrub (or shrubs — maybe you bought a trunk full), remember that most spring-flowering shrubs only bloom for a couple of weeks. The rest of the year they’re just other green plants mixed in with the rest of your landscape.

Most, in fact, are even bare in the winter, and some are quite unattractive when they’re not blooming. Those demand special care in their placement.

So we’ll start with the deciduous flowering shrubs like quince, forsythia and bridal wreath. You probably won’t want to use these directly in front of your house.

Since they’re bare five months each year, using them as main landscaping shrubs near your home will leave visual gaps in your plantings.

It’s better to plant deciduous flowering shrubs where they’ll have dark, contrasting backgrounds behind them. Large, evergreen shrubs work well as long as you give all of the plants ample room to grow to their mature sizes.

Or use these plants in the “outback,” that is, out back by the fence where they’ll be viewed from a distance. It won’t matter, then, that flowering quince and winter honeysuckle aren’t exactly handsome in late summer and fall.

It’s better to plant deciduous flowering shrubs where they’ll have dark, contrasting backgrounds behind them.

Some of our better flowering shrubs, by comparison, are evergreen, so they’re able to carry their share of the landscaping load even when they’re no longer blooming.

Azaleas are attractive plants for sites with morning sun and afternoon shade, and the newer selections such as Encore and Deja Bloom azaleas will flower two or three more times during the season.

However, azaleas require acidic planting soils consisting of equal amounts of finely ground pine bark mulch and sphagnum peat moss. Bed preparation will cost more than the plants themselves. Gardenias and fringe flowers (loropetalums) fall into the same category.

Indian hawthorns are outstanding evergreen shrubs even if they never flowered, but when they produce their masses of pink, rose or white flowers, that’s all the better. Unfortunately, they are succumbing to Entomosporium fungal leaf spot just like their cousins, red-tip photinias have, so we’re using them less often now.

Texas mountain laurels usually bloom in late March and April. The shrubs grow to 8 to 12 feet tall, and the flowers are borne in grapelike clusters of extremely fragrant lavender blooms. The plants are evergreen. They require perfect drainage, and they are tender to extreme North Texas cold.

Oleanders are handsome evergreen, spring-flowering shrubs. They grow to be 6 to 10 feet tall in our area, although they’re subject to occasional damage by cold winter weather. Note that oleanders are poisonous. Many people opt not to use them for that reason alone.

That takes us up into late spring. That’s when three of our largest flowering shrubs begin to bloom. Pomegranates are handsome with their orange-red, carnationlike blossoms and the deep red fruit that follows.

Several new varieties have come into the market offering options beyond the old favorite called ‘Wonderful.’

Althaeas, known more commonly as roses-of-Sharon, are actually sisters of tropical hibiscus.

Althaeas, known more commonly as roses-of-Sharon, are actually sisters of tropical hibiscus. They grow to be 6 to 15 feet tall, depending on variety, and their first blooms arrive in May and into the first hot days of summer.

Finally, crape myrtles pick it up by late spring. Early varieties sometimes flower in late April, and several more will bloom during May.

June is their prime time, however, and if the plants haven’t been brutally pruned (“topped”), they will often produce three or four rounds of flowers over the summer.

These final three shrubs actually grow tall enough that you can use them as accenting plants at the corners of your house, 8 to 12 feet out from the eaves. Since they’ll be that far out from the walls, you’re likely to have low evergreens behind them, and that keeps them from looking as stark when they’re bare in the winter. They actually take on the function of small, anchoring accent trees in your garden design.

My details may leave you wondering if I really do like the spring-flowering shrubs, and the answer is definitely yes. But if you’re not careful in how you place and plant them, the results may not be what you expect.

Neil Sperry publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WBAP/820 AM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227. Online:

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Event showcase gardening, design, and redesign

“The Property Brothers,” Jonathan and Drew Scott, will headline the Feb. 26 through 28, Capital Remodel Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center along with DIY Network’s “Old Home Love’s” Candis and Andy Meredith.

More than 375 companies will be on hand to showcase the latest products and services in remodeling, home improvement, gardening, landscaping and home décor. More than 4,000 square-feet of landscaped gardens highlight the event with five landscapers using water features, gardening accessories, greenery and flowers to create “dream gardens”.

The expo will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online and tickets from the cancelled January Home Remodel Show will be honored.

The weekend will feature several events and talks, but there are a few highlights.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, Jonathan and Drew Scott the hosts of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” will be speaking at 1 p.m. for one appearance only. The Scotts have become household names in real estate and home renovation through the popularity of their show. Both brothers are licensed real estate agents, but on the show Drew first scouts fixer-upper homes for his clients and then enlists the help of his twin Jonathan, a licensed contractor, to expertly overhaul the property. The brothers will share their favorite projects with attendees and offer a question and answer session after their presentation.

Candis and Andy Meredith, the hosts of DIY Network’s “Old Home Love” will be speaking three times, on Friday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 27 at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Utah couple is on a mission to save as many historic homes as possible. Candis has been restoring homes for 12 years, and her husband, Andy, joined her full-time two years ago. Together they have created their company Old Home Love. They have a passion for preserving history and restoring these special houses for new families to enjoy. The show follows them and their seven children as they restore old homes with a unique type of tender love and care. Their love of restoration and sharing through social media rewarded their efforts with their own show. Attendees will be able to see their before and after progress and ask the couple about their own restoration projects.

While at the expo, also be sure to experience the five Dream Gardens, which is 4,000 square feet of haute horticulture designed by local landscapers. Complete with water features, modern gardening accessories and lush greenery and flowers. There is every inspiration to create a garden worth envying.

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Outdoor Living and Landscape Show: what’s new for 2016

Next weekend marks the fifth edition of the Outdoor Living Landscape Show at Century II.

Spring fever is already running high because of warm weather, and the show only fans the flames with its smell of soil, promise of color, and new varieties of plants and other outdoor items.

Here’s a preview of the show and of some of the new plants that will be on the agenda for summer 2016:

Number of vendors: About 150, an increase this year. Exhibitors will feature items and services related to the garden, landscaping, yard and other home and outdoor projects.

Number of centerpiece gardens: Eight, also up this year.

Attendance in past years: Has been steady at about 15,000 people.

Hours: Reduced a bit this year, staying open to 7 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and closing one hour earlier on Sunday, at 5 p.m. rather than 6.

Freebies and giveaway: The first 300 people each day will receive a garden kneeling pad, and you can register for a chance at a $7,500 backyard makeover in the southeast corner of Exhibition Hall

Celebrity speaker: Paul James, the “Gardener Guy” who used to have a show on HGTV will drive up from his home in Oklahoma. He’s always been a Wichita favorite and will interact with the audience twice at the show — at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. March 5

Educational garden theme of the Extension master gardeners: Mulching

Seminars: Master gardeners will be among those speaking on a variety of garden topics including watering, water gardens, trees, backyard wildlife and container gardening.

New plant varieties

Rita Arnold of Arnold’s Greenhouse in LeRoy will give two of the seminars at the show — one on what’s new in annuals and vegetables, and another on new perennials, roses and shrubs.

She gave a preview earlier this week at a meeting of the Prairie Winds Daylily Club. Here are some of the innovations in plants to look forward to this year, which also includes a continuation of emphasis on plants that provide food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators:

Heuchera: For shade, new varieties of coral bells including Grape Soda hold their flowers from April to August, which Arnold says is “unheard-of.” “It’s almost an ever-bloomer,” she says. Red Lightning keeps its leaves through our winters.

Heucherella: An extra-value plant, you can take cuttings from the shade garden of such varieties as the new Autumn Cascade to put into your shade containers to spill out and provide foliage color and bloom. When the summer is over, you can replant the heucherella back in the ground.

Hosta: Arnold is really excited about Royal Wedding. “The flower scapes really set it off. They almost look like a magnolia bloom and they’re very fragrant.”

Hydrangea: Incrediball Blush has flowers that grow to bowling-ball size. “It’s a wonderful way to really make a spotlight in your garden.” Kansans especially will gravitate to Ruby Slippers, whose flowers turn from white to pale pink to ruby red over the growing season.

Butterfly bush: Lo Behold Blue Chip Jr. is small enough to go into a container, providing nectar flowers that feed adult butterflies.

Daylilies: “We’re looking for extended bloom and rebloom,” Arnold says, such as is found in Desert Flame, When My Sweetheart Returns and Persian Market.

Hibiscus: The perennial Mars Madness blooms top to bottom and all the way around with large bright red flowers that have a magenta undertone. Look for dark foliage on Starry Night and Mocha Moon.

Salvia: The perennial Autumn Sapphire provides late-season food for butterflies and hummingbirds.

Miscanthus sinensis: Oktoberfest maiden grass goes into fall in a variety of colors.

Roses: The David Austin Rose called Pat Austin is a color breakthrough in bright copper. The grandiflora Black Baccara is a blackish red that’s the closest rose to black.

Calibrachoa: There are always fun new colors in these annual Million Bells petunias for containers; Proven Winners is predicting a hot seller in Superbells Holy Moly, its yellow flowers splashed with dark pink.

Celosia: Dragon’s Breath is all over the trade magazines, with red flowers blooming above olive-green foliage that’s shot through with red.

Geraniums: Variegated foliage adds interest to annual geraniums, as in the Variegated Brocade Cherry Night, Fire, and Fire Night. Glitterati Ice Queen’s leaves are an unusual olive green in a maple-leaf shape.

Outdoor Living Landscape Show

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 6

Where: Century II Expo Hall, 225 W. Douglas

How much: $9, $7 seniors, $4 ages 5-12, free for children 4 and under;, 316-219-4849, at the door. Free parking will be available at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore, with free shuttle service to Century II


Show seminars

Friday: noon, shade gardening by master gardener Kathy Bagwell; 1 p.m. hybridizing daylilies by Terry Pitts of Teardrop Farm Daylily Patch; 2 p.m. water conservation and drought by Kay Drennen, environmental water specialist for the city of Wichita Water Center; 3 p.m. mulching by extension agent Matthew McKernan; 4 p.m. the need for trees in Wichita by Barney Barnhardt of ICTrees; 5 p.m. backyard wildlife by Jim Mason of the Great Plains Nature Center

March 5: 10 a.m. water features and pond building by Mike Kandt of the Kansas Pond Society; 11 a.m. Paul James, “the Gardener Guy” formerly of HGTV; 1 p.m. mulching; 2 p.m. new annuals and vegetables by Rita Arnold of Arnold’s Greenhouse; 3 p.m. new perennials, roses and shrubs by Rita Arnold; 4 p.m. Paul James

March 6: 1 p.m. herb gardening, by master gardener Lisa LaRue; 2 p.m. 11 ways you may be sabotaging your containers by Dan Parcel of Kaw Valley Greenhouses; 3 p.m. Container Gardening 101, by master gardener Peggy Griffith.

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Preparing For Spring: Home and Gardening Tips

Preparing For Spring: Lawn And Gardening Tips With Jeremy Warren

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Tips for using ‘grey water’ in the garden

SOUTH Africa is a semi-arid country that receives an average of 490mm of rain every year. Currently, the country is experiencing a serious water shortage because there is less than 1 000m3 of water available per person per year. This figure will decrease as our population expands, pushing us into a greater water crisis.

Municipal water use, which includes domestic water and water used in the garden, makes up an average of 27% of the total water used in the country. A major component of domestic water consumption is gardening, estimated at 31% to 50% of total household water use.

How can you reduce your water use in the garden?

Using water wise gardening concepts and drought-resistant indigenous plants, along with mulching of soil to preserve soil moisture and efficient irrigation systems and irrigation scheduling will help reduce the amount of water you use in the garden.

You could also use rainwater harvesting and reuse wastewater (grey water) and apply soil improvement process like composting.

Why should I reuse grey water?

There are many reasons why using grey water is beneficial. Firstly, using grey water means using less of the country’s valuable potable water and saving thousands of litres of drinking water. Secondly, this will reduce the impact on natural water resources because you’ve reduced your water consumption. And lastly, you will save money on your water bill.

What is grey water?

Laundry water

Kitchen water

Shower and bath water

Handbasin water

Using grey water in the garden

Grey water should not be used on fynbos or proteas either. In general, tough, drought-tolerant plants will do best with grey-water irrigation.

Grey water is typically alkaline, so avoid using it on acid-loving plants such as azaleas, begonias, gardenias, hibiscus, camellias and ferns. Grey water should not be used on fynbos or proteas either.

Plants watered with grey water will benefit from an occasional flushing of rainwater or tap water to remove any grey-water residue on the plant leaves, especially if you’ve used the “sprayer� system.

Pay attention to what your plants are telling you.

Dry, wilted or curled leaves can be signs of lack of water, while wilted shoot tips or soft plant tissue can mean over-watering.

Examples of plants that thrive on greywater irrigation include olives, rosemary, bougainvillea, lavender, Cape honeysuckle, Italian cypress, bearded iris and petunias.

Tips for grey water use

Using environmentally friendly soaps, detergents and cleaning products will positively improve the quality of your grey water, and be an advantage to your garden.

Also, don’t always irrigate in the same place with grey water. Constantly move the sprinkler watering system in the garden.

How plants benefit from grey water

Grey water contains small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are potential sources of plant nutrients. The soapy nature of grey water can act as a pest repellent too.

Grey water systems

A grey-water system can be very simple. For example, you can use a bucket to carry your bath water outside to water the garden. Or, you can install a state-of-the-art system that does everything for you.

The goal is to find a system that makes maximum use of your greywater, while minimising costs for the purchase, installation and maintenance of your system.

Bucket system

Use a bucket to transport the greywater, by hand, from the bathroom to the garden. It is the cheapest system but may be slightly inconvenient.

DIY pipe system

Connect a pipe from the outlet of your bathroom to a hosepipe. When ready, lay the hosepipe in the part of your garden that needs watering.

Commercial grey-water system

The grey-water system is connected directly to the outlet pipes of the bathroom, and the grey water is collected in a closed storage tank. The grey water is filtered to remove hair and lint.

From the storage tank, the grey water­ is pumped into the irrigation pipes and distributed to the garden.

Health and safety grey-water tips

• Do not use grey water if it contains oil, faeces or urine.

• Only store your grey water for a maximum of 24 hours.

• Don’t let children or pets play in or around grey water.

• Use a nylon stocking or a sock on the end of your drainage hose to filter out lint and hair.

– Property24.

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Get your essential gardening tips at Garden Discovery Day


In Clackamas County, OSU Extension Master Gardeners offer free gardening advice year-round by phone, over the Internet, and in person during the summer at area farmers’ markets. Among all the educational offerings, the crowd favorite continues to be Garden Discovery Day. In its seventh year, Garden Discovery Day will take place from 9 a.m.-noon on March 5 at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 Kellogg Creek Drive, Milwaukie.

Garden Discovery Day is designed to help home gardeners jumpstart the growing season. At this event, Clackamas County Master Gardener services will be available in one place. Want to learn something new? Choose from 12 short classes (25 minutes each), packed full of practical, proven gardening tips. Have other gardening questions? Visit the Master Gardener clinic for help. Educational displays and free handouts offer information about common gardening practices, such as how to amend and improve soil, how to manage moles and gophers, and how to identify common bugs in the garden. For a full schedule of this event, visit

This year’s classes will appeal to new gardeners as well as those with more experience. For example, new gardeners interested in edible plants can get some help at these classes: Starting Your Vegetable Garden, Raised Bed Gardening, Growing Blueberries and Growing Tomatoes. Seasoned gardeners may glean new ideas from Pruning Ornamental Plants, Landscaping with Edible Plants and Lawn Care.

No space? No problem! Container Gardening shows how to create a healthy and attractive mini-garden. Or try Attracting Pollinators and Mason Bees for strategies to garden in harmony with nature and wildlife. Of course, all gardeners will benefit from a review of Top Ten Weeds to Know and Managing Slugs and Snails before venturing out.

Class content focuses on what has been proven by research and each class ends with a short list of actions this spring. Participants take home a handout which succinctly captures key points shared in the class.

In addition to dispensing gardening tips, Master Gardeners will also test soil pH that morning. Why? Soil pH tells the acidity (sourness) or alkalinity (sweetness) of the soil which determines if nutrients are available to the plants. In Western Oregon, rain tends to leach out minerals and results in soils that become more acidic.

Be sure to follow step-by-step instructions on how to collect soil sample under the 10-Minute University tab at Because plant requirements vary, submit separate samples for your lawn, vegetable garden, rose garden, and perennial bed. Each client may submit up to four soil samples. Even if the weather is cold and wet, don’t wait. The sophisticated instruments used by Master Gardeners are not affected by these conditions.

Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by Oregon State University in the science of gardening. This free event is offered by OSU Master Gardeners of Clackamas County who also put on the annual Spring Garden Fair at the Canby fairground, bringing together 8,000 gardeners and 180 plant and garden-art vendors. Log on to for more information about the 32nd Spring Garden Fair, to be held on April 30 and May 1.

Garden Discovery Day is offered in partnership with the Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Program, North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District and the Milwaukie Center.

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