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Archives for February 2016

Redlands residents get advise on native landscaping

REDLANDS The days of water-demanding landscapes are numbered as Californians work to cut back their water use due to the drought.

Residents and business owners are turning to more natural, water-efficient landscapes to save water, the environment and ultimately a few bucks on their water bills.

To help educate residents on California native plants, “Their Benefits and Role in Water Conservation,” the city’s Quality of Life Department hosted a forum Thursday at City Hall.

Three speakers addressed a full room on the benefits planting native plants has on the property owner as well as the environment, sharing tips and resources.

“Native plants are incomparably useful for supporting native wildlife,” said landscape designer April Garbat.

Native gardens enjoyed by wildlife will have some damage and will require less use of petroleum products if the plants are allowed to grow to their natural shape, she said.

“The easiest way to identify a native plant is to look at it’s ecosystem role,” Garbat said. “How does it interact with the insects and animals? The easiest way for you to do that is to look at the plant community.”

Garbat said in Redlands the plant community includes inland sage scrub, sages, some cactus, chaparral, oak woodland, riparian, willows and alders.

She shared 15 plants for Redlanders to include in their landscapes, such as yarrow, artemisia, California sagebrush, coyote brush, Nevin’s barberry, dudleya, California fuchsia, California buckwheat, penstemon, holly leaf cherry and salvias.

Beginners should plant at least half of their landscape with native plants, Garbat advised, and pay attention to non-native plants’ behavior so they do not spread to other environments.

“You don’t have to be a complete purist unless you’re living in a wild area,” she said.

Don’t go overboard on the species selection, she said. Plants should also be grouped according to their water needs.

“Keep to a few species and learn their behavior,” she said. “Space them out right.”

Native plants can also be planted in a formal style, if residents do not favor the wild look, she said.

Russell Ackerman, sustainability analyst with the city of Santa Monica, shared the city’s “Garden-Garden” project, which compared a sustainable landscape to a traditional one.

City officials identified two homes with similar-sized lawns and sun exposure to conduct the experiment.

It cost the city about $22,000 to plant the sustainable garden versus $14,000 for the traditional garden, he said.

The traditional garden used about 600,000 gallons of water more than the sustainable garden.

“Now we’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars over that nine years,” he said. “So I paid that extra in the beginning, but I’m making that up just in water.”

Green waste was reduced by 45 to 50 percent. It took landscapers four times as long to maintain the traditional landscape versus the sustainable one.

“This demonstration garden was so successful that it began to inspire members of our community to make changes at their homes,” Ackerman said.

Abby Harned, of Three Sisters Farm in Redlands, said one of the biggest priorities for their land in San Timoteo Canyon in the ecological restoration for the health of our ecosystem, watershed and because it’s good for their farm, which is in its eighth year of certified organic production.

“Biodiversity is the key to a successful organic farming operation,” she said.

The native plants in the hills, such as holly leaf cherry, chamise, wild lilac, white sage and coastal live oak evolved to survive the region’s soils and climate challenges, she said.

“They have formed partnerships with the unique microorganisms in our soils,” she said. “Some depend on very specific pollinators and the movement of the animals to disperse their seeds. They have developed deep roots, leaves that reduce moisture loss and aromatic foliage to deter pets. In turn, the wildlife has evolved to depend on the cycles of the plants.”

Harned is also a member of the Caroline Park Endowment Fund. Caroline Park in Redlands is an example of a native park.

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What’s up with stalled work on Gulfport’s Fishbone Alley?

GULFPORT — Downtown merchants are eager to capitalize on a new attraction, but work on Fishbone Alley ground to a halt for a while.

When you tear into the wall of an old house, you sometimes find surprises. So it was with the service alley a contractor is transforming into Fishbone Alley, where pedestrians will soon find historic brick pavers, lighting, vertical gardens, artwork and entry ways into restaurants and bars.

The city broke ground on the alley’s makeover before Christmas, but waited until after the holidays to start work.

Gulf Breeze Landscaping of Gautier began demolition Jan. 3, planning to complete the project in 90 days. On Jan. 20, workers ran into telecommunications lines in the alley’s concrete floor, Gulf Breeze project manager Jason Roberson said.

Other utility companies also decided to replace lines running through the alley because of remodeling work to some of the surrounding buildings. The alley runs between businesses that front on 26th and 27th avenues.

The city installed a new sewer line in a nearby service alley that is being resurfaced as part of the project, said Kevin Mullen, project manager with consulting engineers Brown, Mitchell Alexander Inc.

With all the utility work going on, Mullen said, Gulf Breeze had to stop work Jan. 21.

He said the company should be able to resume work in the service alley Wednesday, then get back to Fishbone Alley, where demolition has been finished and construction will begin.

Gulf Breeze will have 60 days to finish the job, but Roberson said, “We’re going to put more manpower on it and try to get everything done before the 60 days is up.”

The contract price of $250,191 will not change.

Laurie Toups, executive director of the Gulfport Main Street Association, said a number of events are being planned for Fishbone Alley’s opening. But she didn’t want to spoil any surprises.

“Everybody’s ready,” she said.

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2016 Pennsylvania Garden Show of York blooms March 4-6

The Pennsylvania Garden Show of York returns for its 24th season next weekend (March 4-6), giving winter-weary gardeners a sneak peek at spring with indoor display gardens, seminars and a gardener’s mini-mall.

The 2016 show takes place Fri., March 4, through Sun., March 6, in the York Expo Center’s Memorial Hall, 334 Carlisle Road, York.

Nine York-area landscapers are building indoor display gardens around a theme of “Stepping Through Thyme.”

“We’ll have a few surprises for visitors who want to actually step through time,” says Richard Jacobus, owner of the Meadow View Gardens landscape firm and the show’s promoter.

One of them is an antique Atlas delivery truck made in York in 1919 by the Martin and Perry Co.

“We’re also again having a romantic nightscape room with stars overhead,” Jacobus adds. “That’s been really popular.”

Lights are kept dim in that room to re-create the effect of a landscape in the evening with landscape lighting. 

Display-garden builders include Cross Creek Farm, EWBN Landscaping, Fox Ridge Farm and Nursery, Inch’s Landscaping, Meadow View Gardens, Outhouse Storage, Shawn’s Landscaping and Hardscaping, Songbird Ponds, and Strathmeyer Landscape Development Corp.

In the show’s marketplace wing, some 120 vendors and exhibitors will man booths.

Some are informational and educational, such as the Garden Club of York, the York Audubon Society and Master Gardeners from York County’s Penn State Extension office, while others sell a variety of plants, products and garden accessories, including Mechanicsburg’s Rosemary House and the Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses and Lewisberry Gardens garden centers.

The full list of booths is posted on the show’s exhibitor web page.

New at this year’s show is wine.

“We’ll have six Pennsylvania wineries selling their wines with tasting as well,” says Jacobus.

Several cheese vendors are among the marketplace exhibitors for those looking to pair their wine with something to eat.

Area garden clubs will stage a judged flower show within the 2016 Pennsylvania Garden Show of York. 

Also returning is a judged, standard flower show sponsored by garden clubs in the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania’s local District IV. Those creative arrangements will be on display across the front of the show’s marketplace section with judged classes revolving around this year’s theme of “It’s About Time.”

Talks are planned both on the main stage and in a seminar room throughout the three days.

Mark Viette, host of the “In the Garden with Andre Viette” radio call-in program, will speak on March 4 at 6 p.m. as well as host his show on location March 5 from 8 to 11 a.m. The show broadcasts locally on York’s WSBA radio.

York florist Vince Butera returns to do a pair of arranging demonstrations on March 4 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., while Patriot-News/Pennlive garden writer and author George Weigel will do programs on great local gardens March 4 at 12:30 p.m. and on “Smart Gardening” (when to do what in the yard) on March 4 at 3:30 p.m.

Other March 4 programs include a talk on rain gardens at 2 p.m. by Penn State Extension educator Connie Schmotzer, a talk on wildflowers at 3 p.m. by Penn State Extension educator Annette MaCoy, and a talk on repurposing items into flower containers by Carolyn Bupp at 5 p.m.

March 5 talks include author Kate Copsey speaking on “Downsized Vegetable Gardening” at 1 p.m., Master Gardener Mary Prescott (aromatherapy) at 1:30 p.m., Viette at 2 p.m., and a program on brewing with herbs by Bailee’s Home Brew at 5:30 p.m.

March 6 programs include a talk on propagating plants by Master Gardener John Geoghan at 10:30 a.m., a talk on composting by Master Gardener Tom Smith at 11:30 a.m., and a talk on how to brew your own tea from garden plants by Chef Dani Sanders at 12:30 p.m.

The full lineup of talk times and topics is posted on the show website. Talks are included at no extra charge with show admission.

Cooking demonstrations are planned for March 5 at 3:30 p.m. (Chef Todd Courtney) and March 6 at 11 a.m. (Connie Shuff on cooking with herbs).

Special events include Herbal Garden Tea Parties with food on March 4 and 5 and a hands-on miniature Zen Garden workshop on March 6. Those involve pre-registration and additional fees. Details are on the show’s event web page.

The show also features music all three days, and face-painting for children on March 5.

A diamond give-away fund-raiser will benefit the Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing and Peace Garden in York’s Memorial Park.

Show tickets at the door are $10 for adults and $9 for students and those over age 62. Admission passes for all three days are $15.

Tickets from advance-sale locations are $3 off, and tickets bought online are $2 off. Details on those and other discount offers are listed on the show’s ticketing web page.

Parking is free.

More information and directions are available on the Pennsylvania Garden Show of York website or by calling 717-848-2596.

(Disclosure: The author is being paid to do two talks at this show.)

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Mild February creates gardening temptation

It might only be February, but it’s not too early to start thinking about that summer garden.

These frost-free days do create some confusion for plants and gardeners alike, so we asked horticulturalist Kath Smyth for some gardening advice at this time of year. 

The biggest news is that Calgary has changed gardening zones from a Zone 3 to a Zone 4A.

“It’s based on the number of frost-free days that we have, and it’s based on the number of days in the wintertime when we go below -45 C for more than five days in a row,” Smyth said. “Although we still get cool nights, we are extending the growing season.”

Smyth said the zone change “opens up a realm of interesting new flowering shrubs” for Calgary gardeners to grow. 

And while the lack of snow might have many people starting to think about cleaning up their gardens and getting them ready for the growing season, Smyth’s advice for this time of year is simple. 

“Chill,” she said. It’s too soon to start thinking about digging anything up or removing ground cover. 

Green grass blades calgary

Stay off the grass, advises Kath Smyth of the Calgary Horticultural Society. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

“I like to tell people it’s time to really get to the garden centre and see what’s new, what’s exciting,” Smyth added.

“The biggest thing I don’t want people doing is walking on the grass, walking on their soil. By walking on the ground we are creating compacted soil, and compacted soil is really hard for drainage of your property.”

If you’re desperate to get some plants in the ground, try tomatoes, Smyth said. 

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Landscaping tips to gain your new garden’s full potential

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Smart spending tips galore at Home and Garden Show

The Home and Garden Show is underway at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park.

Among those presenting this weekend is the star of HGTV’s Home to Win show, Carson Arthur.

Arthur says his message is very simple: spruce up your outdoor space, adding the money you spend today on a deck or patio will pay off down the road.

“Knowing that you may be in the house for five to ten years is a really smart spot, especially if you look after it and pay attention to things like low maintenance trends and outdoor living spaces, even things like outdoor kitchens or expanded living areas are showing great return on your investments,” he said.

Arthur will be on stage Saturday at 2:30 and 6 p.m. and again on Sunday at noon.

For more information click here.

You can also save some money on the price of admission by buying your tickets online.

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Tips for planning an herb garden that’s pretty and practical

Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2016 12:01 am

Tips for planning an herb garden that’s pretty and practical

BARBARA DAMROSCH The Washington Post

The Press of Atlantic City

For a new herb garden, or even a reordered old one, graph-paper art is essential. The tradition of organizing herbs into squares, triangles and other symmetrical shapes, so popular in Colonial America, dates to medieval Europe – and ancient Persia before that. Gardeners still find it both beautiful and useful.


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IN THE GARDEN: New book celebrates the history of garden design in the United States

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Here’s what I want Mayor Bowser to say when she launches those wretched streetcars

A D.C. streetcar undergoing a round of safety tests, all the way back in December 2014. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

On Saturday, after nearly a decade of false starts, delays, mismanagement and a comedy of unforced errors, D.C.’s streetcar system is expected to start accepting passengers.

It doesn’t matter how it works out. I hate those streetcars.

In the beginning, I was neutral. The city wants streetcars? Fine. Have at it. But now I have been living with the noise and nonsense of this project since 2009.

I was there when Mayor Vincent Gray stood on H Street Northeast and proudly yapped about the arrival of the cars. I fantasized about letting a jackhammer rip during his speech. (Did you know that you can buy one on eBay for a couple hundred bucks?)

I’ve watched ghost streetcars travel back and forth on H Street, bells blaring, for almost two years — empty except for the drivers. I’ve considered lobbing water balloons at them — the cars, not the conductors. After countless delays, I remain skeptical that any civilian will ever ride one.

Still, on Saturday, city officials will gather to (maybe) inaugurate this project. This is the speech I wish Mayor Muriel Bowser would deliver. . .

“Before I begin to thank ‘stakeholders,’ before I start patting the District’s Department of Transportation on the back for salvaging this terribly mismanaged project, before I start congratulating my team, I would like to apologize to the residents of the city. I will refrain from thanking them for their patience because they did not give it willingly or happily. They had little choice.

“I want to apologize for a project that was delayed and over-budget and lacked hard-and-fast deadlines. I’m sorry for jackhammering the same streets over and over and over. Yes, I know that workers would sometimes pour a new concrete foundation, only to rip it up weeks later. I’m sorry. I apologize that we never made any attempts to mitigate the dust and debris seeping through your windows.

Streetcars are moved around the Car Barn Training Center for testing and repair way back in April 2015. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“I’m sorry workers left a cement-curing machine roaring in the street overnight, making it impossible for people to sleep. I’m terribly, terribly sorry for ignoring our own city rules that designate work hours so that we could meet politically imposed deadlines that we ultimately failed to meet.

“I regret that we are so disorganized that we don’t even know how we’re going to collect fares. So we’re going to give you free rides!

“I wasn’t mayor during those early days of the streetcar planning, or when neighbors shared their hopes and dreams (pretty landscaping, a coffee shop!) for the Union Station terminus at a community meeting! But I am sorry that none of those ideas came to pass. I know that what we have created is a truncated streetcar line that is shockingly unattractive in a era when we understand the effect architecture and design have on a community and its people. We had to deal with overzealous regulators, but instead of a thoughtful and considered response, we simply installed multiple layers of mismatched fencing and concrete barriers around the tracks as they cross the H Street bridge. I know that we could have installed something more attractive — concrete planters, for example. I failed you on that.

“I know the streetcar bells are too loud and too plentiful and can be heard from blocks away until the wee hours. I apologize that we have not lowered the volume yet, but I promise that we will.

“I don’t exactly know how we constructed a streetcar system that can’t tolerate leaves or the normal detritus of city streets, but we will stop sending workers with leaf blowers out to clean the tracks in the middle of the night or the pre-dawn hours. I’m so sorry we keep waking people up.

“I’m proud that the promise of the streetcar system sparked development. A lot of wonderful things have happened in this neighborhood. But I still don’t know why we just didn’t increase bus service or extend the Circulator routes. I guess I wasn’t around for that debate.

“This system is not up to this city’s standards. I know that. But I hope people will ride it. And that it will bring some modicum of relief to those folks needing to move from east to west and vice versa down H Street. Yay!”

It will warm my heart to hear her say all of that. But I will still hate the streetcars.

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Resort style in Floreat

The garden is divided into two levels, with a pavilion and pool room overlooking a pool and barbecue area.

After recently renovating their Floreat home, the owners decided it was time to tackle the back garden and called in Denise Staffa from Outside In to completely overhaul the space.

The owners — a busy couple with four primary school-age children and multiple pets — asked Ms Staffa to create, contract and project-manage a resort-style contemporary outdoor living space.

Their wish list included a pool room building that could be used as a gym or spare bedroom with a bathroom with direct access from the pool, an outdoor lounge with gas heating, an outdoor kitchen and dining area and an outdoor shower.

The design retained existing mature palm trees and has a flowing streamlined layout, using lush natural materials including mahogany decking, stone wall-cladding and exposed aggregate flooring.

The flat-roofed pavilion houses a mahogany-decked lounge area as well as a kitchen and dining zone area paved with a combination of Greystone pavers and exposed aggregate.

Ms Staffa said the sloping backyard presented many challenges as the levels were already set and the design had to complement the curved form of the big existing concrete swimming pool.

The backyard is basically on two levels. On one side of the top level is the pool room which is used as a gym. It is big enough to fit a double bed and has an adjoining bathroom. The structure is rendered in neutral colours so it matches the home and has a striking flat roof which extends over the spacious decked lounge area. The mahogany decking is sealed rather than oiled to give maximum durability and was installed by Screenstyle WA.

At one end is the dining and kitchen area, defined by a combination of flooring combining 400mm square Greystone pavers from Fremantle Stone and Acacia exposed aggregate from Holcim. This striking paving combination has also been used around the pool.

LED up-lighting and strip lighting softly illuminates some of the garden’s design features.

A feature stone wall, created using Otway stone cladding from Eco Outdoor in Osborne Park, extends the width of the living space and houses a stainless-steel kitchen with a sink and drinks fridge. The same cladding has been installed above the existing outdoor barbecue on the wall of the home adjoining the pool.

Feature stonework on the front of the pavilion acts as a visual balance to the pool room and a low rendered wall behind acts as a frame for the existing mature golden cane palms. These were originally planted to screen the back and side fences and they add to the backyard’s tropical resort ambience.

The lower area with the pool is on the same level as the home. Both the low wall behind the pool, which adjoins the pavilion, and the planter beds with Canary Island date palms are clad in stone. The stone makes the decked pavilion appear to float above the pool, which had the original tiles removed and replaced with a pool liner.

The decked pavilion appears to float above the pool.

Ms Staffa said one of the biggest design challenges was creating a smooth transition between the two areas.

The clients wanted to keep the three existing Canary Island date palms, grouped in a striking fan shape, which Ms Staffa said provide a sense of maturity and resort luxury to the design.

“Originally, the date palms looked overgrown and very shabby. We had a tree lopper come and do a process called ‘snake skin’, which cleaned up the trunk, and they tidied up all the fronds. This was not cheap but it looks absolutely incredible,” Ms Staffa explained.

Ms Staffa added a soft curve to the deck step, which also serves as a daybed.

The palms and the bed behind are underplanted with the tough but elegant native lomandra Silver Grace which has fine foliage.

“However, I added a soft curve to the deck step on the left hand side, which also serves as a daybed, along with a soft curve to the planter box behind to allow for smooth access into the pool house,” she said.

“By adding the soft curve it tied the design into the pool, as does the slight curve to the decking.”

Three mature Canary Island date palms were retained to dramatic effect.

LED lighting, installed by HZ Grand Electrical, was used to up-light the garden and in strip lighting form was installed under the edge of the deck where it softly illuminates the stone cladding and shows off the design curves.

Construction work was done by Seabreeze Outdoor and LD Total. Ms Staffa project managed the job along with site supervisor Chad Walsh and said that the project created a few challenges.

“The council was the first hurdle,” she said. “Planning approval was rejected and ended up at the council monthly meeting,” Ms Staffa said. “Then the sewer lines and sewer manholes posed set-back issues for alfresco structures and date palms.”

The garden design has a flowing streamlined layout, drawing on natural materials such as stone wall-cladding.

However, she said the pleasing result was due to a well thought-out design created by listening to client needs and lifestyle and good project management.

“An accurate detailed landscape plan is essential,” Ms Staffa said. “It’s all in the planning.”

She said anyone landscaping should consider employing the landscape designer to also oversee construction as he or she could see their way through construction obstacles as they had a thorough understanding of the grand plan.

She said a quality landscape added value to a home and gave the homeowners the opportunity to take pleasure in the time they spent at home.

“The owners had a social event at their home just before Christmas and comfortably entertained 30-50 guests, including all the kids, and enjoyed having loads of space to spread out, sit, dine, relax and swim,” Ms Staffa said.

Outside In, 9450 4922,

The West Australian

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