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Archives for March 3, 2016

Master of Dutch Wave Garden Design

By Ann Rosmarin

Piet Oudolf, one of the worlds’s most famous and innovative garden designers, lives in Humelo, a village in The Netherlands that is essentially flat, with verdant pastures, and often coated in mist and perpetual rain. I left Sonoma in the worst drought in decades and I wondered what I could learn from this watery landscape to incorporate in my garden designs in Northern California. I was soon to discover a man who combines a wealth of knowledge and artistic vision.

Oudolf, master and protagonist of the Dutch Wave Garden Movement, is a tall, taciturn fellow with rugged good looks and passionate about plants and gardens. His signature style focuses on woody plants, long-lived perennials and ornamental grasses, with a natural look, valued for their structure and combined in masses to float seamlessly in hazy clouds of colours and textures.

His contemporary designs are inspired by nature and even more dramatic in fall and winter: Plants are left to fade, wither and die as the seasons wind down into winter and left to cut back in stages so there is always seasonal interest. Plants transform from light pastels, deep blues and rich purples into browns and blacks, architectural and sculptural, stripped bare. Seedpods and stems are left to create textural contrast and visual interest as well as providing food for birds and insects and shelter for wildlife.

Oudolf selects plants that have inherent, sturdy form, rather than relying solely on the blooms: Meadow like, able to withstand being flattened by rain or frost. He talks about the importance of structural, re-blooming plants providing vivid interest throughout the seasons and filler plants that are “only used for foliage colour, becoming formless or even untidy after midsummer”. He also uses a wide range of plants to create a “matrix planting”, a backdrop and within this restrained matrix, he designs waves of densely planted, repeating and blended perennials in layers, creating a rich tapestry of colour and texture. 

Piet’s gardens display a seemingly spontaneous but planned wildness, a sensitive awareness of the site and the climate he is working in. He is a master at framing the view, “borrowing” landscape features, and the effect of these ephemeral landscapes is dramatic, especially when set in contrast to the glass and steel of urban settings such as the gritty New York Highline area and Chicago’s Millennium Park (The Lurie Garden).

Here in Sonoma County, I have designed our gardens to echo some of the ideas of the Dutch Wave Movement and these include a mixed planting of rugged perennials that can withstand drought and deer. The beauty of this approach is that the density of planting discourages weeds and the seasonal combinations of perennials and transparent effects of grasses continue to create a show well into winter.

It is only when walking through Oudolf’s own personal garden in Humelo that one grasps the uniqueness and magical beauty of his garden. Paths are narrow and winding, forcing one to touch and interact with the plants, lose sight of the horizon and lose oneself in the details. Tall grasses sway in the breeze, and butterflies and birds alight. Plants are discovered in ever-changing combinations, creating an atmospheric world, often blurring the edges.

Walking within this wild, mesmerizing and stunningly beautiful garden, I was transported to a feeling of time long ago, and wondered whether the blurred edges were part of his design or simply my emotional response to a masterpiece.

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Residents can find inspiration at weekend’s Home & Garden Show

Those looking for ideas for the home and the vendors to provide the inspiration, labor and materials can do so at this weekend’s North Central Florida Home Garden Show presented by the Builders Association of North Central Florida and The Gainesville Sun.

The 17th annual event is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at West University Avenue and Gale Lemerand Drive at the University of Florida. Admission is $4 per person, or free to those 16 and younger. Parking is free.

The show will feature more than 150 booths showcasing such products and services as home sales and construction, remodeling, furniture, decorating, roofing, gutters, painting, landscaping, nurseries, plumbing, cabinets, heating and air, window treatments, windows and doors, solar energy, home security and electronics, pest control, financing, insurance, animal care and new cars. Visitors can register for prize drawings.

Margie Krpan of the Builders Association said the show gives people the opportunity to talk to different people in the same field as they look for ideas.

“I think it’s a great event in that you can come in with a lot of questions and come out with a lot of answers and get some ideas you weren’t thinking of,” she said.

A guide will be inserted in the Sun on Friday and will be available at the show.

The show is offering fewer seminars than in past years, but the most popular gardening seminar remains at 1-2 p.m. both days titled “What’s Wrong With My Plant?” by Denise DeBusk, environmental and community horticulture agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office for Alachua County.

DeBusk said she will help people identify plant problems and what to do about them. She said it can be difficult to distinguish between problems caused by insects, diseases and environmental issues. The wrong conclusion can lead to unnecessary pesticide use when the problem is caused by environmental problems, instead of insects.

A lot of problems start with the wrong plants in the wrong soil, she said. For example, azaleas may die off in soil with a high pH level from limestone or close to homes made of concrete that will leach into the soil.

“You have to become a plant detective,” DeBusk said. “Think about what you’ve done with the plant, what’s happening in the environment recently, if there’s a lot of rain or really cold and really hot, and then figure out what are the telltale signs of issues going on with your plant in order to actually solve the problem.”

Vendors said the trend they are seeing is consumers looking for ways to save money.

Bobby McAfee of Crime Prevention Security Systems and Custom Home Entertainment said a lot of people keep their landline phone service just for home security monitoring, but they can now handle that with their smartphone.

“That’s critical because now if you can eliminate one bill from your life, that frees you up to be able to do more things,” he said.

In addition to controlling home security by smartphone, he said, customers can also control their lights, locks and thermostat using the same app.

Among its three displays, Fairbanks Construction will showcase its replacement windows in a small room with heat lamps outside to demonstrate that the heat is not penetrating inside.

“It highlights our windows and how cost-effective they are by keeping the heat out and the cool in,” Kaitlyn Wilson said. “People are always looking to save money on heating and cooling costs.”

Fairbanks will also have displays for its sunrooms and bath liners.

“We’re just looking to inform people and set them up with appointments if they’re a fit,” Wilson said.

McAfee said Crime Prevention will have technicians and consultants on hand to talk about new technology and answer questions from existing customers about their existing technology.

“People are really interested in security. Once they realize all the entertainment we provide they love working with just one company on that,” he said.

The 41-year-old business has expanded to Orlando and Jacksonville, but McAfee said the Home Show is the biggest event they participate in every year.

About 2,500 people attended last year, said Lynda Strickland of The Sun.

Krpan said more builders starting coming to last year’s show as interest has picked up in new home sales. The increase in home prices is good for people interested in making a move, which has a domino effect on the types of businesses at the show.

“It’s one of those things that is good for the economy and a lot of these are local businesses that have been around here for a long time,” she said.

Article source:

James Brown Plaza renovations could bring major changes to downtown – WRDW


 “Well I ask how much money does the city want to make when you talk about how much does it cost,” Williams said. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — Augusta’s Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell wants city leaders to continue pushing forward on projects he helped get going downtown.

To Steve Cassel it’s the sound of progress, work is moving forward on the James Brown Plaza and it’s already turning heads.

“You gotta keep from the project stalling, its gotta move forward, you either move forward or you’re taking a step back,” Cassell said.

Plans are full steam ahead to completely change the plaza to bring the area to life. Commissioner Marion Williams wants 4 rotating lighted statues around The Common, interactive music, and lights at the statue, and more.

“This place is going to be overrun people just to see this statue,” Commissioner Marion Williams said.

Clearing out all of the landscaping at the plaza was phase one, now city leaders will have to decide on all of the features that will go in here to attract even more people to downtown.

One of the ideas is to construct a veranda across the whole plaza, extending about the parking areas. A second level Williams says would make the attraction even bigger and better.

“We haven’t nearly finished, we just started the work this is the beginning stages of it,” Williams said.

Cassell wants the work to continue with no delays, like it is right now.

“Sort of make this a whole seamless process and tie it in with the common as well as hopefully to the river,” Cassell said.

The one obstacle that Williams says they need to tackle next, is getting the money to create his vision.

“Well I ask how much money does the city want to make when you talk about how much does it cost,” Williams said.

In Cassell’s address yesterday to the commission he emphasized the need for the city to support a plan to bring the downtown area up to ADA standards, especially for the disabled vets that live in our area.

Have information or an opinion about this story? Click here to contact the newsroom.

Copyright WRDW-TV News 12. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished without express written permission.

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Hall students shine in science

One duo created a 360-degree “virtual reality” model for a house, complete with details such as tilework and storage space.

Two more boys designed and refined a portable charger for electronic devices.

A third pair used drones to show time lapse photography of a school building project, with a software package that combines multiple formats

And a fourth set created a 3-D model of a “supermall.”

Those are four of the 52 projects from Hall County students that will be in the Georgia Educational Technology Fair on Saturday in Macon.

Hall County will have 78 students in the state event. More than 1,000 students will compete.

Students compete in 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 grade categories. Hall County has students in all but the 3-4 grade category. Thirteen Hall County schools will be represented.

Michele Hood, co-director of the Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy, said 2016 is the third year Hall County students have competed in the state event. The county had 18 projects in 2014 and 48 in 2015, she said.

The students finished first in region competition to qualify for Saturday’s event.

Several of the projects combine a number of software programs into one presentation. Winners will compete in 3-D modeling, video production, animation, digital photography, game design, graphic design, Internet applications, non-multimedia applications, multimedia applications, robotics, mobile apps, audio production, device modification, programming challenge and literacy challenge.

Jake Smith, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, described the “virtual reality” project he created with Jake Shewbert.

“This project will allow us to show the level of customization and uniqueness that can be obtained using these programs in conjunction with the Oculus,” Smith wrote in an email.

“Our goal in this project is to create a realistic, 3-D model of a house using virtual reality that can be viewed at anytime, anywhere while accurately representing the original house.”

Smith added that the two have been “involved in problem solving and technologically-based extracurricular activities since our days in elementary school.”

Christian Johnson, a senior at North Hall High School, said he and his partner, Chase Lovell, a junior, created a portable charger for electronic devices — “You can forget it for years on end,” he said.

Johnson and Lovell won the state competition last year with the same concept — and since then have reworked it for “smaller size, more power.” The charger now is less than an inch wide, less than four inches long and weighs less than a pound, Johnson said.

“We modified it in a way to where it should be simpler and easier to carry,” he said. The pair first used a 9-volt battery, but they now use an A23, which is smaller than a AAA battery but has 12 volts of power.

Johnson noted he is a camping and hiking enthusiast, and people active in the outdoors “really love the idea of portable chargers.”

Noah Wagner and Jackson Roush, eighth-graders at Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy, have used their drones to make video of the progress toward a performing arts center at North Hall High and show that in a multimedia application.

“I love flying them,” Noah said about his drone. He takes a video of the project once a week.

Noah goes through the video and selects parts that will be posted.
Jackson uses that video to put into the application — the two started used, which can combine multiple formats, such as iMovie and PowerPoint, in a single presentation.

The two said their work has applications in landscaping and real estate. Noah noted Carroll Daniel, the contractor for the North Hall High project, has posted his video on its site.

Carson Alverson and Connor Nichols, also eighth-graders at Earhart-Edison Academy, have used 3D modeling to create a “supermall” — an elaborate theater and entertainment complex.

“He’s kind of the engineer. I’m kind of like coming up with the ideas for it,” Connor said.

The two use Google Sketchup, a software program they can use free for all year. It allows for small details, such as parts of a game or an individual package of candy at the concession stand.

Both are robotics and jazz band participants.

Carson also was a state winner in 2015. Connor wants a career in film and movie design.

Hood explained she was looking for an outlet for the students when she got them involved with the technology competition.

She noted the regional fair, held here, has about 40 judges, including academics, professionals and businesspeople.

“What you’re doing is having the children teach you about the process,” she said.

Article source:

Green Earth & Illinois Native Plant Society to hold native plant sale and symposium

(KFVS) –

The southern chapter of the Illinois Native Plant Society, University of Illinois Extension, and SIU Carbondale Department of Plant Biology will host the 2016 Illinois Indigenous Plants Symposium on Saturday April 2.

This will also coincide with a Native Plant Sale organized by Green Earth and the Illinois Native Plant Society.

The symposium and sale will be held at John A. Logan College in Carterville, IL.

There will be a kick-off to the symposium on Friday April 1 featuring a guided hike at Rocky Bluff, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.

The event will conclude with a guided hike along Round Bluff nature Preserve at Fern Cliff State Park on Sunday April 3.

The plant sale will last from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature more than 40 species of native perennials, grasses, ferns, vines, and shrubs grown by Southernwood Gardens in Alto Pass.

Experts will be there to answer your plant questions.

A preview of the plant selection is available at and

The sale is open to everyone and you need not be registered to purchase plants.

The keynote speaker at the symposium will be Karen Midden, professor of Landscape Design.

The title of the address is “Native Landscapes:  Landscaping with Natives.

Professor Midden is a Landscape Architect and “contributes much of her interest and inspiration in ecological landscape planning to her growing up in Southern Illinois.”  

She also leads many projects with students on the SIUC campus and is a co-author of “Gardening with Young Children” stressing the importance of young people having contact with nature.

There will be a “Landscaping Track” focusing on home landscaping with native plants, creating sustainable habitats, and a “Ecology Track” exploring horticulture economies prior to maize to the holistic restoration of natural landscapes.

For more information about the symposium contact Sonja Lallemand, at:

To register for the symposium visit:

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.


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Cell tower industry taps talent pool of ex-offenders

After four years in prison, Antonio Crum tried to start his life anew. He married, focused on fatherhood and got a degree in electrical engineering at a local trade school.

Friends helped get him jobs here and there — most recently as a part-time driver for an outpatient surgical center — but his own efforts to find stable work went nowhere, he said.

“People were telling me it doesn’t matter how many years ago (my crime) was; they couldn’t trust me,” said Crum, 35, who was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2008 after serving time on a burglary conviction.

“It almost makes you want to go back to what you used to do.”

But instead of falling backward, Crum seized a chance to climb — sometimes to stomach-flipping 100-foot heights.

Crum is part of the inaugural class of the Wireless Field Engineer Training Program, a collaboration between the nonprofit Safer Foundation and a local cell tower site development contractor who hopes to marry his industry’s need for skilled workers with the ex-offender population’s need for good-paying jobs.

“It’s not a noble venture on my part,” said Duane Gilmore, chief operating officer at Tower-MTM, the employer partner in the program. “It is just a smart business move for me to find smart, good people and put them through their paces.”

The class of eight, which graduated from the 12-week program late last month in a quiet ceremony downtown, offers a glimpse of the potential for what Gilmore calls an “upside so high that it is scary.”

As wireless technologies advance, data usage skyrockets and the 70 percent of Americans who own smartphones expect connectivity wherever they are, demand is strong for trained workers who can scramble up cell towers to upgrade and maintain equipment.

Supply is weaker, Gilmore said. A contractor for wireless carriers, Gilmore said he has flown in trained workers he knew from Latin America to take jobs because there weren’t enough people domestically with the proper skill sets.

Meantime, 42 percent of Illinois’ adult population — 4.1 million people — have arrest or conviction records, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project. While the unemployment rate of those with criminal records is not tracked, they face well-documented employment challenges that can have dangerous and expensive consequences.

By partnering with Chicago-based Safer Foundation — a nonprofit that helps people with criminal records prepare for employment — Gilmore hopes to give those with records a leg up while saving companies the time and cost of training workers themselves. He plans to offer apprenticeships to each of the graduates through his own contracts and is in talks to get fellow tower builders on board as well.

“We need to find ways to not screen people out, but to include them,” said Gilmore, who is also recruiting military veterans to the program.

Apprentices will start at $15 an hour, move to $19 after six months and to $23 after a year. Within two to three years, the hourly wage could reach $35, which is more than $70,000 annually for full-time work.

Trainees received 15 federal or industry certifications that are both portable and stackable, Gilmore said, allowing them to work a variety of jobs almost anywhere.

“It’s an opportunity for our clients, many of whom are coming out of poverty, to go into a growing field, with a good middle-class wage, with further advancement opportunities,” said Victor Dickson, executive director of the Safer Foundation, which paid the bulk of the cost of the training program while Gilmore paid the rest.

Quentin Jackson called the program “a godsend.”

Jackson, 42, avoided much of the gang trouble that snagged his friends while growing up in the Rockwell Gardens public housing development on the West Side and several South Side neighborhoods. “Always a schoolboy,” thanks to the influence of his mom and good teachers, Jackson went to college in North Carolina with a partial scholarship to play the trumpet.

When school got too expensive, Jackson left and eventually started a landscaping business, got married and had a daughter. But his life fell apart when, he said, he was betrayed by a business partner who bought equipment with a stolen credit card and ensured that he took the fall.

Jackson was convicted of felony obtaining property under false pretenses and was ordered to pay $29,000 in restitution and spend five years on probation.

As his marriage fell apart, Jackson returned to Chicago to live with his mother and struggled to find a job. He applied for openings in office mailrooms and hospital maintenance but never got calls back. He went to temp agencies and got put on “some of the worst assignments” at warehouses or slaughterhouses.

When Safer told him he was eligible for the tower technician program, Jackson was game to try but didn’t think it would be a career for him. The syllabus was unfamiliar and overwhelming: construction drawing, introduction to power tools, construction math, rigging, material handling, fiber optics. Five days a week, he left home before dawn to pile into a van with his classmates, traveling from Kankakee to Lynwood for instruction and returning home well after dark.

Jackson ended up being a top student and the class’s unofficial morale booster.

“It is one thing to preach hard work and dedication,” Jackson said. “But for (my daughter) to actually see me going through it on my own, it makes things worthwhile.”

The tower technician program is part of the Safer Demand Skills Collaborative, an employer-driven initiative that reflects a broader push in the workforce development field to better match training to market needs.

The collaborative trains clients in middle-skill jobs, which are those that require education beyond high school, but not a college degree, in high-growth industries including technology, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation and health care.

Steve Wilder, president and COO of the Communication Industry Training and Certification Academy, which provided the trainers for the cell tower program, said he was thrilled to be involved in giving trainees a second chance.

Wilder doesn’t anticipate resistance from employers to hiring ex-offenders. He recalls that one tower erector at a recent wireless industry conference told him his workforce is one-third ex-offenders and they are his best employees.

“If there was one common message at the conference it was: We need good people; we need qualified people,” said Wilder, whose company is based in Bourbonnais, Ill. Climbing towers “is a young kids’ game,” hard on the legs and joints, so there will be continued demand for new workers, he added.

Article source:

Southern Idaho gardening events: All about trees, low-water landscaping, more

Wednesday, March 9, and Saturday, March 12

Tree Pruning: 6 to 8:30 p.m. March 9 and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 12 at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Free, but register at or call 608-7700.

Thursday, March 10

Fruit tree prunning: 7 to 9 p.m. at Nampa City Hall, 411 3rd St. S. Learn the best time and way to prune fruit trees to keep them healthy, well-balanced, open to sunlight and maximize fruit production. Presenter: Jim Jenkins, CWI professor. Free. 468-5858,

Wednesday, March 16

Tree Selection and Planting: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Free, but register at or call 608-7700.

Thursday, March 17

Low Water Landscaping: 7 to 9 p.m. at Nampa City Hall, 411 3rd St. S. Learn how to achieve a low-water landscape that looks great. Topics include hydrozoning, irrigation and planting design. Presenter: Dan Schults, CWI horticulture professor and certified nursery professional. Free. 468-5858,

Wednesday, March 23

Tree Problems: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Free, but register at or call 608-7700.

Saturday, March 26

Ready Your Outdoor Pantry: Cool Season Veggies: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn what to get started in your garden, and the tools, timing and tricks you need to start your spring garden early and maximize your success with edibles. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Wednesday, March 30

Lawn and Irrigation: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Free, but register at or call 608-7700.

Saturday, April 2

Tree planting and pruning demonstration: 10 a.m. to noon at Lakeview Park, Garrity Boulevard and 16th Avenue North, Nampa. Hands-on tree planting class to learn proper planting and pruning techniques. Presenter: Earl Moran, city forester. Free. 468-5858,

Get the Mix Right: Best Practices for Planting, Soil Prep and Irrigation: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn the essentials of how to prepare your soil, what fertilizers are best for your garden and the tools you need to help make the job easier. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Wednesday, April 6

Roses and landscape: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Free, but register at or call 608-7700.

Thursday, April 7

Tree disorders, insects and diseases: 7 to 9 p.m. at Nampa City Hall, 411 3rd St. S. Learn about some of the most common insect related problems found on local trees and most common problems created by people. Corrective suggestions will be given to help maintain healthy trees. Presenter: Dan Schults, CWI horticulture professor. Free. 468-5858,

Saturday, April 9

Rose pruning and care: 10 a.m. to noon at Lakeview Park, Garrity Boulevard and 16th Avenue North, Nampa. Learn basic techniques to produce beautiful, healthy roses. Presenter: Lucas Navock, Nampa Parks employee. Free. 468-5858,

Spring Plants and Design: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn about the best spring plants and how to incorporate them into your garden with companion plants, bulbs, etc. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, April 16

Get Drought Smart: Design and Plant Now with Natives and Water-wise Plants: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Designers will guide you through the process of creating a sustainable garden to fit your gardens needs. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, April 23

Foodscaping: Innovative Ways to Grow Edibles: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Discover ways to integrate your edibles within the existing garden to maximize your space. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, April 30

Container Garden Drama: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Designers will guide you on the best practices to create a seasonal container for your patio or porch. Bring your ideas and containers. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, May 7

Vintage Vogue: Roses, Peonies and Hydrangeas: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn how to design with David Austin roses, peonies and hydrangeas in your garden. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, May 14

Moveable Feast: Growing Edibles in Containers: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Discover how you can create colorful and aromatic edible container gardens you will enjoy all season long. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, May 21

Growing Up: Trellis and Vines: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Discover how trellis and vines can be utilized to hide areas or create ambiance in your garden space. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Saturday, May 28

Art in the Garden: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Discover how to utilize garden art to reflect your garden style and create a focal point in your garden space. Free. RSVP: 995-2815,

Article source:

Free gardening advice for charity members at department store

A free in-store gardening event and skills session for members of a charity was hosted by a department store.

Horticultural experts shared top gardening tips, with hands-on demonstrations including seasonal planting and how to utilise grow bags on Wednesday (February 24), at BQ, in Marshall Road, Leyton.

Members of Waltham Forest Age UK, of Hall Lane, Chingford, took advantage of the practical gardening sessions.

The group are planning to redesign their own community garden.

BQ is donating plants, tools and other essential gardening items and staff have volunteered to help with digging and planting.

Emma Tozer, senior manager at Age UK Waltham Forest, said: “A massive thank you must go out to BQ Leyton, which organised a really informative day for our local senior members.

“It’s wonderful to have the support of the store for the development of our new garden too as Age UK relies on the generosity of the local community.

“We are looking forward to the garden being completed in the next few months.”

Article source:

Gardening tips for visitors, new residents

It’s true that we can garden all year round here. There are some trees and bushes that are bare in the winter but most are evergreens. The turkey oaks still have some red leaves and the live and laurel oaks are much thinner in the winter, but new leaves will push off the old ones during March.

Bananas look terrible in the winter even while they’re producing fruit. If we get a real freeze they look even worse and have to be cut back, but we leave them looking ugly until all threat of frost is past because the dying leaves give some protection to the trunk.

Gardens vary depending on what is growing in them. Vegetables mostly have fall and spring seasons, the latter which is just beginning. But it’s possible to have some vegetables to harvest all year round. We can now plant green beans, okra, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and melons.

Our citrus trees have suffered gravely in recent years from greening disease, but I still have some sweet kumquats, a few oranges and a large grapefruit that are still giving fruit but not nearly as much as they did a few years ago. I keep hoping next year will be better.

I have one more big bunch of bananas ripening. And we get pineapples every so often all year round.

I have plenty of flowers throughout the year. Some are dormant in winter, but the azaleas and powderpuff shrubs are blooming and so are several kinds of kalanchoe succulents, plus the sprawling torenia, ageratum, alyssum, petunias, pansies, some impatiens, crown of thorns, orange ground orchids, pentas, nasturtiums all over – even some cosmos. There is also much foliage color from crotons and ti plants. Some will need covering if we get a freeze.

For gardeners who are new to Florida, there is much frustration. I had to learn gardening all over again when we moved here from Iowa in ‘87, but you learn quickly here because of our year-round experience. I’m still learning and finding new plants.

We have upside-down seasons. Some of the plants you have grown in the summer up north will here do best from fall through spring and die out in the summer. Some of the plants we loved there will not grow here at all: peonies, most daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and lilacs. But there are 10 new plants to learn and enjoy for every one you miss. I see bulbs of plants for sale in some of the chain stores that will not grow well at all here, so check before you buy them.

Some plants that were annuals up north will be perennials down here and vice versa. We can leave the caladiums and gladiolus in the ground year round. What you have learned before will be a help as long as you adjust. Newbies to Florida have an excuse for any failure for at least five years. But you will have some successes from the very beginning. In our second summer here we had the best eggplants I’ve ever grown – before or since.

The soil here is almost pure sand and it needs much amending. A column on just that is coming soon. I co-authored with Betty Mackey the second edition of “A Cutting Garden for Florida” in 1992, and the next year she published my book “Florida Gardening, the Newcomer’s Survival Manual.” A second edition of that one came out 15 years later with many more of my mistakes that you can avoid by reading the book.

Now’s the time… to tell you that one of the best ways to enjoy and learn about Florida gardens is to go to any public garden. You can even volunteer and learn from the people you work with. Some of these gardens like the Discovery Garden at the extension office are free. USF Botanical Garden and the one in Largo are very inexpensive and excellent. I go to Eureka Springs often and learn something every time. There are wonderful public gardens all over Florida and all over the country.

Today’s pick is the arrowhead plant, a houseplant up north but a vine to control in Florida. The ones with light and different colors make good container plants for indoors or out. But I pull out all the plain green ones because they can take over, climb every tree, take the paint off the walls of your house and have no special beauty. If you have a container outdoors, be sure it doesn’t spread. The less green in the leaf, the more control and interest you can have.

Upcoming event

The Tampa Bay Orchid Society will have its annual show and sale Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Egypt Shriners Activities Building, 4050 Dana Shores Drive, Tampa. You will see hundreds of gorgeous orchids in all colors, sizes and shapes. Some are even fragrant.

For details, call (813) 368-7353 or (813) 765-9271.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 12 gardening books who can be reached at Her website is

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Your garden in March: Sean Murray’s tips for North East gardeners

Meadow planting is becoming increasingly popular and recent research has made a whole new world of planting more accessible to the keen gardener.

I am sure at some point we have all been captivated by the sight of an English meadow in full swing. Most of us have craned our heads whilst travelling to get a glimpse of scarlet poppies dancing across a cornfield. Or it may have been that famous chocolate advert where a seductive maiden paints on a rain-splattered canvas engulfed by a dazzling jewel-coloured meadow.

I have always thought meadows were for those with vast gardens as in the meadow seen on the approach to HRH Garden at Highgrove. Even if I had the space, I thought it tricky to establish, needing poor soil or a starvation regime to squeeze out the bullies and allow the more delicate species to thrive.

One of the most breath-taking sights I can recall rivalling a rose garden in full flow or even the exquisite prairie planting of master plantsman Piet Oldolf was nature’s own creation on local wasteland.

A mosaic of purple, yellow, silver and white emerged as drifts of native grasses, thistles, dock, buttercups and cow parsley jostled to form an insect friendly carpet of colour. All the human hand did was not to interfere.

Sean Murray is enjoying wildflower meadow planting and would love to see more in public spaces
Roundabouts and verges can be a haven for wildlife with meadow planting, and it can enhance a sculpture too

It’s true that establishing a meadow used to be a long-haul. Experts suggested sowing yellow rattle in year one to destabilise the coarse grasses and thistles allowing the meadow in consecutive years to establish, with selective mowing, collection of grass cuttings and introduction of plug-planted perennials de rigueur.

Well all that’s changed – you can now sow an annual meadow mix onto fertile soil in an open situation, after the last frosts and have the meadow look in 8 to 12 weeks. How amazing is that?

Professor Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University, now the world’s leading centre for naturalistic planting, has developed an annual seed mix with a range of colours and styles. Perennial meadow turf is also available this year, which you just lay like a lawn and watch it develop. See

I am sowing generous 100 square metre drifts of the Pixie annual mix this spring in a couple of gardens I am designing in Northumberland. It grows to 60cm and includes 14 species, including Nigella Damascena Miss Jekyll, Linum grandiflorum Rubrum, Iberis Umbellata and Silene Armeria Electra.

My clients will have the meadow look by no later than July and I can’t wait to see it develop. This mix is perfect for small gardens, corners of allotments and even containers.

This year I am planning a micro meadow at my allotment, just a small patch using Chiltern seeds special pollen and nectar meadow mix at £2.40 a packet, enough to sow a 1-2m square patch.

Wouldn’t it be inspiring if our local councils were maverick enough to replace the costly and somewhat outdated bedding plant schemes with glorious meadows on roundabouts and in public spaces. Great for the environment and great for our souls. Come on you parks people it’s time to lob out that bedding lobelia and be brave!

In your own garden if you’re tired of endless scarifying, feeding, weeding and cutting that diva of a lawn and your nerves can stand it you could just let it go and see what nature intended. You might be pleasantly surprised by its reversion to daisy, buttercup and dandelion.

Annual meadow planting appears to be catching on, just as nature intended. It’s human and wildlife friendly. What’s not to like? Long live the meadow!

Sean Murray runs a garden design company based in Ashington, Northumberland, www.

Sean Murray is enjoying wildflower meadow planting and would love to see more in public spaces
Meadow-style planting can well with sculptures

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