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Archives for March 2, 2016

BBC Gardeners’ World Garden competition for budding garden designers

image002Beautiful Borders and new Edible Borders

BBC Gardeners’ World Live, is a hotbed for emerging talent in garden design, and Show organisers are on the search for this year’s hottest to take part in the Beautiful Border and all-new Edible Borders.

At just a few square meters, the Beautiful Borders and Edible Borders are a superb opportunity for budding garden designers, horticultural students and gardening clubs to get involved with this renowned gardening Show. It’s an unbeatable opportunity to show off your skills in garden design and savvy ideas for small spaces.

Beautiful Borders have a literary theme for 2016, so there’s no shortage of inspiration! Will you glean ideas from Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden, or maybe the symbolic Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier? Alternatively, use one of the famous literary anniversaries in 2016 as your starting point; such as Charlotte Bronte and Beatrix Potter.

New this year, Show organisers have introduced Edible Borders to the Show. With a 5-a-day theme, designers are encouraged to look at the range of edibles grown in gardens to come up with creative and fun designs that will appeal to visitors of all ages.

2015 Beautiful Border Gold Medal winner Lisa Niemy, of Beautiful Borders Garden Design, Guildford, says:

“After a lifetime of watching others produce stunning borders at garden shows and on TV, it’s fabulous to turn your hand to designing and building a Border at a show. A rollercoaster of challenges, it has helped kick start our business and really put us on the map.”

APPLY TODAY! Applications are open until 8 April. Each accepted Beautiful and Edible Border application will be given £50-worth of National Garden Gift Vouchers to contribute towards plants for their border at the Show. Get in touch with the Show team for more information and an application form:

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Faribault’s Future class begins work on IRIS house

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Does Green Space Make Better Students?

On a couple of occasions, I’ve written about the work of Marc Berman, a University of Chicago psychologist, on the concept of “attention-restoration theory,” how it’s grounded in the effects of green, natural space on the mind and the implications for that in how we design our surrounding environment.

The basic idea is simple: exposure to certain types of natural environments can restore our our ability to pay attention and reduce our mental fatigue. Green space essentially makes our brains more resilient and better able to deal with difficult tasks, such as doing academic work or taking care of a difficult child.

One of the pioneers in that work is a University of Illinois professor of landscape architecture, William Sullivan, and he has a new study out, led by graduate student Dongying Li, on one possible practical application: school landscaping.

Li and Sullivan are extending recent work by Rodney Matsuoka, who also teaches in UIUC’s landscape architecture department. Matsuoka looked at 101 high schools in Michigan and found “consistent and systematically positive relationships between nature exposure and student performance,” including graduation rates and how many students planned to go to a four-year college.

But Matsuoka’s study was correlative; Li and Sullivan wanted to know about causation. So they set up an experiment investigating the effects of visual exposure to green space on stress and mental fatigue on high-school students in central Illinois. They set up shop in five different schools. In each school, one classroom had no windows, one had a “barren” view, and one had a view to greenery.

The green view was nothing special; we’re not talking about a lush, perfect Frederick Law Olmsted expanse. Really, this is all it is.

From Sullivan and Li’s study, three different conditions for two schools: no view (left), a “barren” view (middle), and a view to greenery (right).

They gave the students a stress test, had them work for half an hour, tested them again, gave them a 10-minute break—inside the classroom—and tested them again.

The results lined up with what you’d expect from attention-restoration theory. Physiological stress declined after the break for all three groups but declined most for the green-view group. For attention, the score increased after the break for the green-view group—but basically didn’t change at all for the no-window and barren-view group. But the effects only kicked in after the break; having a view to green space didn’t change stress levels during the work period.

Which really does line up with attention-restoration theory. Having exposure to green space—even just a view, for a relatively brief period—gives the brain a chance to restore itself and reduce fatigue, but you need a chance to actually take the green space in. Just having it around while you’re working isn’t enough, because the brain is focused on the task at hand. It needs that pause that refreshes.

I spoke to Li and Sullivan about attention-restoration theory, how the study fits into it, and the implications for how we can use it to better build our environment.

What is attention-restoration theory?

Sullivan: It’s a really robust and helpful theory. It says, in essence, that you have two modes of attending to things. One is what we call involuntary, and the other we call directed attention, or what normal human beings call paying attention. You can look at each of those two kinds in terms of two dimensions. One dimension is the amount of effort it takes. Involuntary attention takes no effort at all; if a hawk lands outside your window right now, your attention’s going to be called to it.

There’s many, many things like that. Waterfalls, fires in a fireplace, wild animals, babies. There’s another kind of attention, directed attention, paying attention. That does require effort. The work that you’re doing right now, listening to us, the next piece that you’re going to write, that takes effort on your part.

The first kind, involuntary attention, doesn’t fatigue. You can look at that fire in the fireplace for a long, long time, and you won’t get tired. You might get bored, but it’s not going to fatigue you. But writing a proposal to write your next book, or working on a budget for some project, that kind of attention, using that directed attention, does fatigue.

The reason it fatigues is pretty clear. When you decide to pay attention to something, your brain works to exclude two sources of competing stimuli. One source of competing stimuli is all the stuff that’s going around you in the physical environment. The conversation down the hall, the smell of popcorn someone’s cooking two doors down, all that stuff can come into your attention and fight with you for your focus.

The second source of competition for your attention while you’re focusing on the work at hand is all the stuff running around in your head in one moment. All the stuff that says, Hh my goodness, I forgot that deadline, or forgot to pay that bill. This top-down attention mechanism keeps that stuff at bay, and allows us to add salience to whatever we’re focusing on in the moment.

The problem with that mechanism is that it fatigues. For me, I have a good hour in the morning when I can focus hard, often I can focus really well for an hour and a half. But after that 90 minutes, I find I need a break. I have to stop my writing, editing, analysis work. That mechanism is starting to fatigue. It’s taking increasing effort just to focus on what, an hour ago, didn’t seem to take much effort to focus on at all.

The brilliance of attention-restoration theory is to say that physical settings contribute to our use of attention, directed attention, and to our capacity to recover from mental fatigue when that mechanism is fatigued.

Why is it that natural views are especially good for attention restoration?

Sullivan: I think the consensus is that they’re softly fascinating. You can think of fascinating things along a continuum. Some sporting event that you’re deeply fascinated in—that’s hard fascination. There’s not much space in your head other than what’s happening in the next few seconds in this particular game. Movies are like that too. With a captivating movie, you don’t have time to ruminate on what you’re going to do tomorrow. You’re totally sucked up into the story. That’s referred to has hard fascination.

At the other end of the continuum, looking at a campfire for instance, or taking a walk in the woods, that’s pretty soft and fascinating. It leaves you engaged with the activity, but there’s still a lot of space in your head to have things bubble up. You can gently ruminate, think about the issues you’re dealing with, think ahead. I think the notion is that natural environments, or even urban environments that include green infrastructure, are softly fascinating, but they don’t demand us to use that top-down mechanism. And have the added benefit of not completely filling our head.

It’s been interesting to me, following the research, is that I immediately went to the idea of evolutionary psychology…

Sullivan: Like Gordon Orians’s work on landscapes and habitat selection? It’s fascinating. It talks about how any animal that can move seeks out any habitat that is most conducive to their survival and reproduction. It’s kind of the foundation of habitat-selection theory. Animals that can move seek out and compete for favorable environments. I think Orians and [Rachel and Stephen] Kaplan would argue that humans are hard-wired to function effectively in natural settings. And therefore our brains respond to them differently than intensely urban environments.

What was interesting to me about your study is that the exposure to green space was not that intense.

Li: We followed up with the Matsuoka study because, for one thing, he measured school-wide student performance. It’s a correlational study. There can be other things effecting school environment and school-wide student performance.

Sullivan: He couldn’t prove cause and effect.

Li: We tried to figure out if we could establish a causal relationship between views onto green space and students’ attentional capacity, and how they would perform in tests.

Sullivan: We did a randomized, controlled experimental design, in which we randomly assigned kids to three different kinds of classrooms in their own high schools. That kind of study has a great strength in terms of proving causality, but it’s less ecologically valid than the Matsuoka study that looked at 100 high schools over a much longer time frame. But together, the weaknesses and the strength of the two studies combined start giving you a sense that, my goodness, there’s something really interesting going on here, and maybe the findings have implications for how we design schools and school neighborhoods.

How does it work in terms of causation? You found two pathways in which it does.

Sullivan: We wanted to test two pathways because both could be impacting students and their capacity to learn. A student that is mentally fatigued is not as good a learner as the same student who is less mentally fatigued. And the same is true for stress. If a kid is less stressed, she’s in a better state to learn.

But there’s an underlying, geeky reason to do it too. There’s some discussion in the literature, some debate, whether stress leads to mental fatigue. Or whether mentally fatigued people end up being physiologically stressed. This research allows us to look at the main effects and interactions, and to see mental fatigue was mediated by stress, for instance. It gave us a nice research design to explore these various ideas, some of which have policy relevance, and some of which are relevant only to geeks.

Was there anything that surprised you in the results?

Li: What was surprising for me was that during the class activities, the window view doesn’t matter. But when the students are taking a break, it matters a lot if you have a green window view.

Sullivan:If you look at the charts in the paper, you’ll notice that at the end of the period in which they were engaged in the academic activities, and we tested it after they paid attention, there were no differences in the students in the three kinds of classrooms. So while they’re focusing on the work at hand, we found no impact on the setting on their attention function.

But after the 10-minute break, there is a significant measurable boost for the kids on the green room, while the kids in the barren room, and the room with no window, it was like they didn’t have a break at all.

I thought about how when I was in college, and spring came, teachers would be like, let’s all go outside and have a class! And I always found it very difficult to concentrate.

Sullivan: Oh my goodness, going outside for class is a huge waste of time, if your intention is to teach anybody something. Here at the university, I see people outside in the quad—and it’s almost always graduate students taking kids out—and I’m just thinking, It’s impossible to get anything academic done in that setting. Because it’s so rich with stimuli, especially if you’ve been cooped up all winter. It’s nearly impossible to concentrate. There are way too many demands on your function.

While you’re trying to concentrate, what you want in that situation is a setting with few distractions. Not much or no noise, no elements in the physical environment that compete for your attention. If you try to go into that kind of setting and focus, it’s going to generate a lot of mental fatigue. Because you’re going to be fighting against the constant urge to see who’s walking by, to watch those birds, smell the barbecue over there, or whatever’s going on.

I was surprised that the green space environments, there was nothing dramatic. Just a typical view.

Sullivan: None of the settings would make a photo that would be reproduced in Chicago magazine, or National Geographic. They were not in any way spectacular or wonderful. They were just everyday examples of exposure to nature.

When you talk about possible policy implications, one is obviously how we design these spaces. It seems to suggest that they don’t have to be dramatic interventions.

Li: Our group has a study suggesting that trees at people’s doorstep might be more significant in bringing health benefits than parks in central locations.

Sullivan: We’ve invested huge amounts in Chicago in Millennium Park, or the new Northerly Island park, or even the 606 park. Wonderful cities have great parks like Millennium Park and Northerly Island. But it’s clearly not enough. It looks like what you need is nature at your doorstep. You need nature out your window. And what neighbors need is green space that pulls them outside that increases the opportunity for them to see each other.

When neighbors see each other, they begin to recognize each other, they begin to treat each other as neighbors. Greener neighborhood spaces are really important in terms of developing neighborhood social lives. While parks are great, and we have to have them, and they’re necessary, they’re not enough. They’re not sufficient to create healthy individuals and healthy neighborhoods.


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Wellston continues process to obtain grant, third meeting held – Jackson County Times

Whitaker Wright

Whitaker Wright

Whitaker Wright, with Community Development Consultants (CDC) of Ohio, is pictured talking to a crowd of Wellston residents from the southwest area of the city. Wright is showing off a map of possible projects for that area based on the door-to-door surveys that were collected.

Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 3:47 pm

Wellston continues process to obtain grant, third meeting held

By Jeremiah Shaver
Times-Journal Writer

The Jackson County Times-Journal

WELLSTON— About 23 Wellston residents showed up for the third CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Grant meeting that was held on a cold and snowy evening in January.

Whitaker Wright, with Community Development Consultants (CDC) of Ohio, gave an overview of the Neighborhood Revitalization Grant Development process once again. He also discussed and outlined the door-to-door resident surveys that were collected.

The door-to-door surveys were collected during the months of October and November in 2015. There were 182 residents that responded to the door-to-door surveys. Only four people declined to participate.

“I want to talk about what we got from the door-to-door resident surveys that were collected,” explained Wright. “What I did was I mapped out the information so everyone could visually see the possible projects.”

Wright said, “What I would like to do over the next month, is to have you all think about and make recommendations to the mayor and ngineer, as to what you think the most important projects are that we can get cost estimates for.”

According to Wright, Wellston’s southwest neighborhood is considered 52.3 percent Low and Moderate Income (LMI) and would be eligible for the opportunity to apply for the $300,000 grant. The date to apply for the new grant is June 2016. If the grant is awarded, Wellston will have a two-year grant period, September 2016 to August 2018, to use the funds along with getting the volunteer projects done.

“In 2013, the State recognized with the recession that communities did not have a lot of money as matching funds,” explained Wright. “Historically, they had expected on a $300,000 grant, that the community would put in $150,000 for match.”

Wright continued, “The State was very smart and said what we will look at instead of money is volunteer projects. What they meant by that is, they would use volunteer projects as a measurement of how interested the community is in getting this grant. They recognize that the cities didn’t have the money in the bank for the match. The State considers volunteer projects and hours as match for the grant. The State is normally looking for about six volunteer projects.”

Wright then went over some volunteer project ideas. Some of the ideas, Wright went through was a bus shelter, community garden, playground equipment, gazebo/shelter house, signs to parks, gateways to neighborhood, neighborhood park and landscaping. Those were just some suggestions given by Wright.

If there are any organizations that are interested in volunteering to help the City of Wellston with the match on the grant, please contact Wellston Mayor Connie Pelletier at 740-384-2720 or Tami Phillips with “Making Wellston Beautiful” at 740-418-7830. They will be the ones who will be coordinating with volunteer organizations to get the hours and projects needed for the match.

The fourth public meeting is set for Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. in the Wellston Council Chambers on the second floor of the City Building, located at 203 East Broadway Street in Wellston. Residents that live in the southwest target area are encouraged to come.

Writer’s Note: For readers who missed the initial grant meeting visit and search for “Residents show support for next grant venture in Wellston.”

More about Wellston

  • ARTICLE: Nona Joye Saltsman
  • ARTICLE: Residents recycle more than 2.7 Million pounds in 2015
  • ARTICLE: Dupree honored for 35 years of service with fire department
  • ARTICLE: Westside Tire Lube servicing Wellston community

More about Cdbg Neighborhood Revitalization Grant

  • ARTICLE: Wellston continues process to obtain grant
  • ARTICLE: City of Wellston to hold Neighborhood Revitalization Grant meeting
  • ARTICLE: CDC of Ohio gives Neighborhood Revitalization Grant update
  • ARTICLE: Neighborhood Revitalization Grant work ongoing

More about Third Meeting


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Tuesday, March 1, 2016 3:47 pm.

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North Iowa Home Show seminars off advice from the experts

Seminars are always an important part of the annual Home and Landscaping Show, and this year a variety of experts will address topics for the home and yard.

A new presenter at the Home Show is Iowa Arboretum Horticulture Project Manager Joe McNally.

McNally has worked in the retail and wholesale horticulture industry in the Pacific Northwest 12 years before joining the Iowa Arboretum in 2012. He manages the arboretum’s plant collections, plant sales and greenhouse.

Learn techniques for selecting, planting and maintaining woody ornamental plants for the landscape. Gain the skills to be successful in your garden, from proper watering to “right plant right place” and many more tips on how to create a beautiful garden that fits your landscape lifestyle.

Also learn how, when and especially why to prune woody ornamental plants. Gain knowledge of what happens when you prune plants and use this knowledge to turn your yard into a well-groomed garden with confidence. From selecting the right tool to proper pruning timing, you will be ready to get out and start sculpting.

Linda Forthmann, a certified kitchen and bath designer with 18 years design experience in the Mason City area, takes a different approach to kitchen design when she presents “Kitchen Disasters.”

Forthmann gives examples of designs gone wrong and how to avoid them.

Landscaping is always a popular topic, and Shawn Davis has been one of the show’s most popular speakers on paver design. Davis has loads of useful examples, tips and ideas to create a backyard oasis that really stands out.

He has worked in the nursery and landscape business for 35 years, owning his own landscape company for 17 years before joining Midland Concrete Products in 2013.

Jamie Beyer will share tips needed to create a stunning water feature, and what you need to keep in mind when making your plans.

Beyer has been actively involved in the design and construction of water gardens for more than 50 years. He is the author of “All About Garden Pools and Foundations” and is a frequent speaker on all aspects of water features and water gardening.

Beyer will also talk about dealing with wildlife in the garden. He will discuss all types of critters and go into techniques on how to attract the good and deter the bad.

Art Stenzel has helped countless people work through the process of building a new home, from buying land, to financing, choosing a contractor, what permits you’ll need and more.

His seminar is a Builders 101 and participants will walk away with a variety of information including a free binder full of insider tips and practical guidance.

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Ann Arbor deer cull ends with 63 deer killed in city parks

ANN ARBOR, MI — Ann Arbor’s first deer cull has concluded with 63 deer killed and zero safety incidences, city officials reported on Tuesday.

All 14 city parks and nature areas where weekday closures were in effect for the shooting are back to normal operating hours.

That concludes two months of intense controversy, protests and litigation, though the community debate over having sharpshooters kill deer in the city is likely far from over.

The city is planning to conduct culls annually under a four-year deer management program approved by the City Council last year, with the city also giving further consideration to non-lethal options heading into next year.

In the meantime, cull opponents are going to try to force a public vote on a city charter amendment in November in hopes of prohibiting future culls.

City officials said a total of 63 deer were killed by U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters hired by the city to carry out the cull for up to $35,000.

Overall, the city budgeted $90,000 for deer management activities this year and city officials are now discussing how much to budget for next year.

The sharpshooters were instructed to kill up to 100 deer as part of the first cull this winter. The city’s stated goal is to reduce the deer population in order to reduce negative deer-human interactions, such as complaints about damage to gardens and landscaping, and to support biological diversity in nature areas.

City officials noted on Tuesday more than 1,000 pounds of venison from the cull were donated to Food Gatherers to feed the hungry.

While the cull has been supported by many people, particularly those in the north and east sides of the city where the deer population is most concentrated, many others, including multiple citizen groups and the Humane Society of Huron Valley, see it as inhumane and unnecessary, and not worth the strife it has caused.

In April, the city will launch an online survey to gather feedback from citizens about deer management efforts.

An assessment of cull activities will be developed and included in a report to the City Council in May.

The city last week released the results of a Feb. 18 aerial survey of the deer population, showing 202 deer were counted. That’s up from the 168 deer counted the last time the city conducted a helicopter flyover in March 2015, despite the fact that dozens of deer were killed between the two counts.

The city emphasizes the count results are not intended to be a comprehensive census of the entire deer population, but rather a number that gives some insight into the minimum deer population in certain areas at one point in time.

The city of Ann Arbor released this map showing where 202 deer were spotted during a helicopter flyover on Feb. 18, 2016. Some city officials have observed there still are deer clustered in areas of the city that might require getting the University of Michigan on board with culling in places such as the Arb next winter to reduce the population in those neighborhoods.

Members of the activist group FAAWN, standing for Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, demonstrated against the cull again at Monday night’s City Council meeting, carrying “Stop the Shoot” signs and speaking out as they have done at the last several council meetings. They say they’ve observed people, including joggers, dog walkers and sledders, entering and exiting parks at times when the parks were closed for shooting, and people were unaware of the shooting taking place, a situation FAAWN believes is dangerous and could have proven fatal.

Opponents of the cull also complained to the city last week that there have been reports via the Nextdoor online app of deer being shot with bow and arrow, including one in Bird Hills Nature Area that reportedly collapsed in front of a runner.

The sharpshooters have been using firearms, not bow and arrow, so some believe illegal poaching has taken place during the cull.

Lisa Wondrash, a spokeswoman for the city, said city staff looked into the alleged incident at Bird Hills the day it was reported.

“City staff went to Bird Hills to try to find evidence of the deer and they were unable to find signs of it,” she said, adding staff did encounter a woman on site who repeated the story that was reported on Nextdoor. “However, staff could not locate the deer or signs that a deer had been hurt in the area.”

Mayor Christopher Taylor said the City Council has directed a four-year cull with a non-lethal element in the upcoming year.

“I expect that staff will draft and release its report in the spring and that during the budget and thereafter we will have continuing conversations about deer management in the city,” said Taylor, who opposed the cull.

“The authorized killing of deer in the parks, shooting of weapons in the parks, has been a disruption to our community,” he said. “It has materially degraded many residents’ sense of their city and their home, and I expect that we will have a full conversation going forward about how we address our deer population.”

Council Member Jane Lumm, an independent from the 2nd Ward who brought the deer issue to the council table and lobbied for a cull, said she’s thankful to the city’s staff for implementing the council-approved cull in a safe manner.

“Job one for the cull was safety,” she said. “Although the number of deer removed was less than we were targeting, this was the first year and we learned a lot without any safety issues, so that’s a plus, and it was appropriate to focus on safety.”

Council Member Jack Eaton, D-4th Ward, another cull proponent, said at this point he doesn’t see a reason not to continue with the four-year culling plan.

“The staff has promised us a report to follow up on the cull and I’m going to wait for their comments before I really judge how this went,” he said.

But given that the cull got off to somewhat of a late start and was reduced in scope, he said, he thinks it went fairly well.

“I think it was about as effective as it could be under those circumstances, as far as the number of deer taken,” he said. “But I still want to hear details on where the deer were taken and what the staff observed.”

The city’s administration originally planned to allow a three-month cull from Jan. 1 through March 31, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources approved a permit that limited the cull to two months — Jan. 2 through March 1.

It’s unclear exactly when the shooting began, but it didn’t start right away. The first deer reported shot weren’t until the week of Jan. 18-22.

The city’s administration originally proposed allowing shooting daily in more than two dozen parks and nature areas. That caused a community debate, and ultimately city officials scaled back the scope so there would be no shooting on weekends, and the cull was further limited to 14 parks and nature areas.

The DNR also declined to permit shooting within 450 feet of people’s homes without homeowner consent, which limited where sharpshooters could go.

Lumm said the recent aerial survey, though it’s not perfect and doesn’t capture the total population, shows the city’s challenges with deer haven’t gone away.

She said she expects the council will continue to pursue population control measures in the future and she supports that. She said she doesn’t expect the council to abandon its commitment to trying to reduce damage to natural areas, deer-car crashes and complaints from residents about deer.

“I am also hoping we can bring U of M on board to support these efforts,” she said. “I think we absolutely need to collaborate.”

She said there are high concentrations of deer impacting Nichols Arboretum, North Campus and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

“We need to partner with them on this to be effective,” she said. “And we need to find a way to design our culling efforts so we can be more strategic in terms of addressing the deer overpopulation problem in the neighborhoods.”

Lumm suggests reaching out to neighborhood associations to get feedback on what would be an acceptable approach to address their concerns about deer.

“In the 2nd Ward, there are so many neighborhoods that have been significantly impacted by deer overabundance,” she said.

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at

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Jay Cronley: Lazy gardening tips for people who don’t know what they’re doing

Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 12:00 am

Jay Cronley: Lazy gardening tips for people who don’t know what they’re doing

World Columnist


Each spring I do a piece about yard and gardening tips for people who have no idea what they’re doing.

Here’s this one.


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    Question: Can I go ahead and start planting?

    Answer: Probably.

    Here’s why. The local TV weather guessers said we could have snow today. What that means is garden toward the opposite.

    It’s like maintaining a friendship with a lousy horse race handicapper. Being wrong is the next most helpful thing to being right. It actually might not freeze too much again, if at all.

    Q: What should you do if your dog tries to bring you a small black live snake?

    A: Don’t let him in the house.

    Don’t let him on the back porch.

    Tell him its OK to bury certain things anywhere.

    Q: What’s the best thing to put in pots?

    A: Container gardening is the best kind.

    As shade and moods change, you can move the containers around for new looks each month or so.

    This works beautifully in big pots: roses.

    What’s popular in the rose field today is a plant that has had another variety, or color, grafted onto its main stalk. This can produce color combinations you’ve never seen before. Grafted roses are obviously more expensive. They show early in the season and are quickly sold. If you see a color you like, get two.

    I have six rose plants in pots on the patio. Here’s how many survived the winter: all six. Thanks, El Niño.

    Q: What’s the deal with El Niño?

    A: Early violent storms have been pushed south and east.

    All you could ask of a true weather miracle is to relocate tornado alley.

    Q: I was working in my home office and saw a squirrel stagger from a neighbor’s yard and fall dead in my front flower bed. Am I within my rights to pitch the dead squirrel back into the neighbor’s yard at the point where it crossed onto my property? Like when a golf ball goes into a hazard?

    A: Doubtful. You should play it where it expires.

    Q: What can I do to keep the electric company from cutting off some beautiful limbs from near my wires?

    A: Price what it would cost if you had to pay for it, then hush.

    Q: What’s the worst plant there is?

    A: My vote would go to the barberry bush.

    Though beautiful in the spring and fall, these things have what knuckleheads call “stickers.” A thorn from a barberry bush seems to have a life of its own and is able to burrow inward toward the bone.

    Q: What does replacing a small shaded patch of fescue with monkey grass that just sits there sound like?

    A: Genius.

    Jay Cronley 918-581-8362


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      Gardening Tips: How to get rid of weeds the "easy way"

      In addition to the Kosciusko County Sheriff, two other men are facing charges, Kevin Bronson and Mark Soto. Both have deep roots in Kosciusko County. The prosecutor started the news conference by playing a YouTube video, showing Bronson talking about his career as a Hall of Fame Martial Arts competitor with a black-belt. He talks about his history with drugs and gangs, and how he found God. 

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      Gardening tips for March in Minnesota

      1. Listen

        Minnesota spring gardening: What you need to know

        48min 27sec

      Consider a growing mix of herbs to spice up your cooking this spring and summer. Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

      Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast

      With record temperatures this winter, and more warm weather headed our way, Minnesota gardeners are beginning to dust off their gloves and dig out their trowels.

      Mary Meyer, professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to offer early gardening tips and to answer listener questions.

      “I think everything is pointing toward the fact that it could be an early gardening year,” Meyer said. “The soil is going to start warming up quickly.”

      What to know about starting your first vegetable garden

      Plant your vegetable garden in full sun, with well-drained soil, if possible.

      While you can start your garden from seed, “I would encourage you to buy plants for tomatoes, peppers, cabbages — you have a much better head start with plants,” Meyer said.

      Use a mulch around your vegetables to minimize weeds, and be sure to provide enough fertilizer.

      To kill garden slugs, grab a six-pack

      If slugs are sliming up your garden, consider opening a beer or two.

      “Slugs really are attracted to beer,” Meyer said. “We think it’s the fragrance.” Sink the open cans of beer in the ground as traps. Slugs will crawl to them, fall in and drown.

      Identify your garden pests

      Knowledge is power when it comes to battling garden pests. If you are unsure what kind of bug is feasting on your plants, photograph it and contact the University of Minnesota Extension. Staff there can help you identify the pest and determine the best course of action.

      Plants your vegetables at the right time, depending on the weather

      Peas, spinach and many lettuces “will grow much better in cooler conditions than they will in hotter temperatures,” Meyer said. With the current forecasts, these could be planted as early as this month.

      For warmer weather plants, wait until the frost has passed. This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.

      Have a Plan B for your ash trees — you will likely have to replace them

      Emerald ash borer continues to be a devastating problem for ash trees in this region, and yours may need to be replaced with a different species. Monitor the health of your trees and be ready to remove them.

      Trim back your ornamental grasses

      Ornamental grasses do best with an extensive spring trim. Cutting the grasses allows light and water to reach the center and spur growth.

      Don’t worry about cutting them too low, Meyer said. “Their growing point is down in the soil,” so a severe trim won’t harm them.

      Do not prune early-flowering shrubs now

      Leave your magnolias and lilacs alone right now — if you prune them, you will remove the buds.

      For more gardening tips from Mary Meyer, use the audio player above.

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      Some tips to create a stunning pocket garden

      Viewing some of the exhibit displays from the Philippine Orchid Society’s Garden Show have provided us with some lessons on how to create a stunning or attractive pocket garden.  Vacant outdoor spaces that are modest in size can be viewed as opportunities for creating gardens that are both visually stunning and highly functional. Pocket gardens are small areas, usually about 6 to 12 square meters in size, which are landscaped by providing both hardscape and softscape to create an aesthetically beautiful scenery.l1l1

      Hardscape is the physical component of the landscape like boulders, driftwoods, bridges, arks, posts, statues, display structures or shaded canopy structures. The softscapes are the plants itself like orchids, bonsai, background palms, flowering annuals, cacti and succulents, ferns and many others.

      One has to choose available hardscape structures or elements in the house, or you might opt to purchase some of them based on your  design.  Hardscapes are installed first before the plants and need to be properly and firmly installed to prevent being dislodged in place or from falling down on its side.  They create a 3-dimensional projection of your landscape, and they can also be places where you can attach or hang some of the plants.l2l2

      There are also a lot of landscaping style, wherein some are elaborately colourful like a orchid floral arrangement, a western or Victorian formal arrangement, a desert cacti setting or that of a simplistic Japanese landscape.  It is better for you to have a previous picture or a layout of your design before you can execute in putting things together in order to prevent having lots of trouble in the end.

      Next, you have to know your plants-which ones are good for full sun or for shade, and how large will they be.  This will prevent plants from being scorched in direct sunlight or becoming ugly and weak when placed in the shade.  You might want to consult a landscaper, or your local garden club for this.  Also, use appropriate plants for specific places. Remember, some plants, even though they are beautiful, could be poisonous to children or have thorns or not good for pets.  Knowing the cultural requirements for growing your plants is important for them to last long in your garden.l3l3

      Pocket gardens maybe permanent or temporary.  The physical hardscape can be permanent, and the plants can be replaced occasionally everytime some of them wilts or are no longer beautiful.  With this, you can always display the best plants in your garden in your showcase pocket garden.  Pocket gardens also tell stories by having distinct characteristics or elements.  This makes every pocket garden unique and distinct.

      Some ideas of pocket gardens include the following:

      1. Medicinal or Culinary Herbs Pocket Garden — Culinary herbs such as pandan, wheat grass, chives, onions, kinchay, dwarf basil, lavender, and oregano fit nicely into small pots or  openings of concrete blocks. Terraced or hanging arrangement can be done.  You might also like to include some flowering or colourful herbs, arranged by groups.  Herbs need especially strong borders, as many of them spread quickly and sprawl.  With it, you can daily harvest leaves for cooking or for your tea.

      2. Salad or Vegetable Garden  — A beautiful collection of red- and green-leaf lettuce, onions, upland kangkong,  cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, kale, and fruiting egg plants can be grown in a salad bowl shaped pots, large painted clay pots  or in hanging pots.  Recycled wine bottles, stuck into the ground upside down, can also make an unusual green glass border.  A winding walkway through the garden could be a attractive passageway through the area. Colorful painted windmills, stork figurines, or dwarf statues can be added to attract children.

      3. Majestic Flower Pocket Garden.  — This can be made by installing or erecting driftwoods made from old coffee trees or driftwood made for orchids.  Colorful flowering orchids like Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Vandas, Oncidiums, or any blooming orchid in season can be added.  Colorful bromeliads can be added in the bottom.  A black screen or tall palm plants can be used as a background at the back.  Colorful ground covers maybe used to cover the soil or using medium sized pebbles to prevent soil from eroding.

      4. Colorful Annual Flowers Garden  — This could be made of different colourful blooming annual plants like chrysanthemums, daisies, sunflowers, asters and violets.  They are arranged according to height.  It’s nice to place a bench at the back with a winding walkway to the front and the plants arranged around it.  Other objects and statues can be used as a hardscape decoration.

      5. A Hidden or Secret Children’s Garden  — People might be interested to build an area in the middle of the garden for children to play but never border it with anything other than some landscape timbers to keep the pea gravel or woodchips in place.  Trees of different sizes can be used to border the place. One may place a wooden sawhorse for children to ride or a sturdy support for grapevines that children can also climb.  A stone table or sitting area are good added hardscapes. Do not place any plants that have thorns or those that can injure or poison a child.  One may attach flowering plants or hanging ferns way up a child’s reach, also adding shade to the play area and preventing the plants from being pulled or damaged by children.

      6. A simplistic Japanese Garden  — a Japanese garden can be just composed of a few plants, a small flowering tree, bamboo clump, or 2-3 bonsai, a moderately wide sandy middle area occasionally swept to create circular lines or waves, or a stony outcrop depicting a cliffy side of a mountain.  One may include a small pond with a few Koi Carps.  It is actually simplistic and is used for solitude and meditation.

      Actually, your creativity is the limit.  Most of the ideas above are for outdoor pocket gardens.  However, pocket garden can also be made inside the home or inside buildings.  It actually takes a lot of skills and experience in executing and designing a pocket garden, and Filipinos are one of the best and artistic landscapers.  Locally, you have a lot of plants to choose from, and a lot of materials available.  You can make your pocket garden as colorful, intriguing, creative and interesting as you want it to be.  This can be accomplished by having actual inspection of real landscaped pocket gardens, and most of them are available during garden shows.  So, why not visit the Philippine Orchid Society’s Garden Show at the Quezon Memorial Circle at Diliman, Quezon City up till March 7, 2016.

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