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Archives for March 12, 2016

Schools can use alternative tests; ‘revenge porn’ outlawed

PHOENIX — Arizona schools will be able to use assessments other than the one linked to Common Core to determine how well their students are doing.

Without comment, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Friday to let the state Board of Education offer alternatives to the AzMERIT test, the one now mandated by board policy. It also will allow schools to propose their own ideas for options.

Other measures signed by the governor Friday will:

– allow prosecutors to pursue people who post naked photos of others on the Internet with the intent to harm them;

– expand the definition of “child prostitution’’ to include anyone who knowingly provides a means for a minor to engage in prostitution;

– retroactively make it more difficult for formation of “municipal improvement districts’’ where local property owners are taxed for services beyond what the city provides;

– permit crime victims to present evidence in court hearings to determine whether and how much compensation should be provided by those who broke the law.

The measure on “revenge porn’’ takes effect immediately; the others become law 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns.

Current law requires all public schools to annually assess students to determine how well they are doing, both individually and overall.

Those scores become the basis for grading schools on an A through F system.

And that grade, in turn, eventually can result in the state taking control of a school.

The current test, formally known as Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching, are linked to the Common Core academic standards the Board of Education adopted in 2010.

There has been stiff opposition to those standards from some who contend it amounts to the federal government dictating what is taught to children. The Board of Education has formally unlinked the state standards from Common Core, though the basic standards remain in place.

And there are separate objections from some parents who do not want their children subjected to these kinds of assessments.

The Senate earlier this week killed legislation to allow parents to opt their children out of these tests. But they did agree to adopt the proposal by Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, to provide alternatives to AzMERIT.

Under the terms of the law, the State Board of Education would adopt a “menu’’ of assessment tests.

Beginning in the 2018 school year, high schools could choose from anything on the list; the following year options would be available for lower grades.

The education board will have to annually evaluate whether other tests should be added to the list.

Boyer acknowledged that one reason the state has settled on a single test is it makes it easier for all involved, including parents, to see how students are doing at individual schools. But he said his legislation requires the board to ensure that results among different tests can be equated to allow such comparisons.

Not every school will qualify: Schools rated D or F are stuck with AzMERIT or whatever test the education board decides should replace it.

The measure on Internet posting is designed to address “revenge porn.’’

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it’s not unusual for couples to take naked pictures of each other or even for one person to send such a photo to a boyfriend or girlfriend. The problem, he said, is when the relationship ends, often badly, and the jilted partner decides to get even by posting those photos on the web.

Legislation adopted in 2014 to make that a crime ran into legal problems. That forced Mesnard to recraft the measure to build in some limits on who would be liable, including a requirement that prosecutors show the image was disclosed “with the intent to harm, harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce the depicted person.’’

The measure on child prostitution is designed to make it easier for prosecutors to go after pimps.

Existing law already makes it a crime to profit from the earnings of a child prostitute. But Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that requires proof that some of the child’s earnings made their way to the adult.

This new law says an adult violates the law the moment he or she furnishes a child with a hotel, cell phone or anything else designed to allow that minor to commit a sex act for money.

The issue with municipal improvement districts relates to the fact that Arizona law allows property owners to decide they want more than a city provides, like landscaping and street improvements. These are sometimes used by businesses in a particular neighborhood in hopes of enhancing the area.

What’s at issue is that that costs of the improvements become part of the property tax for those in the area. The new law adds an additional burden of requiring the consent of half of the number of property owners in the area who must also own more than half of the assessed valuation for property tax purposes.

The measure is retroactive to Jan. 1, a provision that appears to be designed to kill a district being formed near the area of downtown Phoenix.

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The Courier » University’s board approves building plans

ARTISTS SKETCH SHOWS part of the ground floor of the Center for Student Life and College of Business building at the University of Findlay. The first floor will include a campus communications center, a food court, central gathering space, and a bookstore. (Sketch provided)

ARTIST’S SKETCH SHOWS part of the ground floor of the Center for Student Life and College of Business building at the University of Findlay. The first floor will include a campus communications center, a food court, central gathering space, and a bookstore. (Sketch provided)

The University of Findlay’s board of trustees on Friday approved detailed plans for constructing the Center for Student Life and College of Business building, the university reported.
Site preparation has begun, and construction of the $23 million building is expected to start in April and be completed in three phases in the 300 block of College Street.
The 75,000-square-foot facility will be surrounded by expanded parking and “functional, attractive and environmentally sustainable landscaping,” the university said.
Completion is slated for late summer 2017, in time for the start of the fall semester.
A public groundbreaking ceremony will be held March 31.
“The new Center for Student Life and College of Business will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment and a venue that will encourage engagement among students and faculty,” said Pamela K.M. Beall, the project’s fundraising chair. Beall, a University of Findlay graduate, is executive vice president of corporate planning and strategy for MPLX, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corp.
“The investment in this new facility underscores the commitment by the University of Findlay to build on its strong reputation for a quality education,” Beall said.
“This facility will enhance the quality of life on campus and it is an investment in our vibrant community and the future of our regional workforce,” she said.
University President Katherine Fell said the community and the university will benefit from the new construction.
“The Center for Student Life and College of Business will provide an opportunity for future collaboration with our community and area companies,” Fell said. “The additional space and innovative learning areas open the door to shared initiatives that could move Findlay, Hancock County and the university forward.”
The building is being funded with private donations and financing.
The new building’s first floor will house a campus communications center, food court, central gathering space, a student leadership development suite, a campus leadership room, a bookstore, and office space for the Center of Civic Engagement, the university said.
The second floor will include an investment trading room, computer lab, two auditoriums, a board conference/seminar room, four classrooms, two creative learning centers, two conference rooms, a Dana Chair board room, a “Big Ideas” incubator lab, the College of Business dean’s suite, and offices for the college’s faculty and staff.
The building will also serve as a gathering place for other academic programs, “and as a platform and venue for campus and community arts and entertainment,” the university said.
Fundraising for the project began in 2013 with the expansion of the university’s “Give Voice to your Values” campaign.
The university’s College of Business is now housed in Old Main.



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Landscape Square takes ‘center stage’ at 68th annual KC Home Show

Come and celebrate the arrival of spring at this year’s 68th Annual Greater Kansas City Home Show.

Held the weekend of March 18-20 at Bartle Hall and presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City (KCHBA), the Home Show inspires and provides practical solutions for homeowners to get a jump on spring home and garden projects.

One of the most popular aspects of the Home Show each year is the Landscape Square, an impressive feature that transforms the center of the exhibit hall into a spring garden oasis, providing ideas for a multitude of garden creations.

Several of the most well-known and respected area landscape and garden companies and personalities will be exhibiting their work in the Landscape Square this year, as they compete to be named a runner-up or the winner of the Home Show’s Grand Award.

Among them is Complete Outdoor Concepts (, which has won the Best Landscape Award at the Home Show for the last 13 years. The company will be featuring a roaring fire pit, bubbling rock waterfall, and an eye-catching pergola in their display. Complete Outdoor Concepts is rolling into the Home Show with a new guest this year; the VW Photo Bus will be parked in their driveway.

Rolling Meadows Landscape Garden Center (, will be presenting a spectacular garden center space which not only offers beautiful and functional products and tools, but showcases design ideas and elements around the property to give inspiration.

Home Show attendees will love the approximately 500 square feet of travertine pavers highlighted by a pizza oven bar, grill station, and fridge bar, and a 13-foot tall stone archway, all encompassed with an assortment of flowers and color by Stonehenge Landscape and Design (

The display by the experienced staff at Monumental Lawn Outdoor ( promises to be an amazing showcase of verdant shrubs and trees, multi-hued flowers, a dramatic water feature, and two inviting fire pits.

Backyard Specialists ( and Hyatt Landscaping, Inc. ( are two other landscape firms that will be participating.

Home Show attendees will also find nearly 300 exhibitors, including builders, remodelers, interior designers and contractors, offering a bevy of cutting-edge decorating, design and building trends and construction materials for spring home and garden projects.

“There is sure to be something for everyone,” said Sara Corless, executive vice president of the KCHBA. “For example, members of the Boy Scouts will be on hand to help attendees try their hand at a rock-climbing tower. There will be plenty of concessions so visitors can watch a little basketball on TV while enjoying all of the beautiful lawn and garden displays.”

Other noteworthy attractions this year include the “Ask a Builder Booth,” sponsored by Architectural Cast Stone Stone Mountain, as well as the HBA Build Zone, a Home Show tradition, with The Darol Rodrock Farmhouse. Built on site in Bartle Hall by award-winning builder and Home Show Presenting Sponsor Darol Rodrock, the farmhouse is where he will share not only his years of experience in quality construction and exacting standards, but also display the latest in decorating finishes and products.

Since 1948, the Greater Kansas City Home Show has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Kansas City area residents to view the most current and wide-ranging displays of home improvement, technology, and decorating ideas to make their home a place of comfort and beauty.

Kansas City Home Show

Where: Bartle Hall.

When: Friday, March 18 – Noon-8 p.m., Saturday, March 19 – 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday, March 20 – 10 a.m.-5 .pm.

Admission: Friday-only ticket: $7, Saturday OR Sunday Advance Tickets: $10. Day-of-Show Tickets: $12 at the door. Advance tickets are available online at or at area Price Chopper stores. Kids 12 and under free.


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Her landscaping displays God’s love at Ridgecrest – Baptist Press

Copyright (c) 2016 Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press (, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The original story can be found at

BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. (BP) — Seeds and soil and hanging baskets are waiting for Betty Reaves in the greenhouse at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

When she arrives in her motor home in early April, Ridgecrest’s master gardener will rev up her John Deere Gator and tour more than 100 acres, evaluating what winter has done to the gardens and making lists for her volunteers.

Soon she’ll have the volunteers pulling weeds, spreading mulch and making the grounds into a magnificent testimony at the LifeWay conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“We try to make our gardens point only to God’s glorious creation,” she says, “and we try to have things blooming all the time.”

Gardening at Ridgecrest is a second career for Reaves, who retired nearly 20 years ago from Georgia Southern University. She and her husband George enjoyed traveling and volunteering together at Ridgecrest and other conference centers — she in the gardens, he in woodworking — until he died in 2006.

“When he was no longer here, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I looked for a job and people told me I was too old.”

But Ridgecrest knew her gardening talent and invited her to join the staff, working from April until November each year. In winter she lives in Georgia near her children and grandchildren, with side trips to volunteer in other places, such as the Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Florida. By April, she’ll park her motor home in the campground at Ridgecrest and begin propagating seeds, nurturing plants and growing flowers.

“Ridgecrest has such a long, rich history of being a place where people’s lives are changed,” Reaves says. “We try to keep it eye-appealing so people will know God’s love is everywhere — we can see it in the landscaping.”

Her work saves Ridgecrest thousands of dollars, grounds crew leader James Shook says. Instead of purchasing costly plants from a nursery, she cultivates seeds and cuttings gathered from her own home or from acquaintances. She relocates displaced plants rather than discarding them. She requested a greenhouse to shelter plants in winter and nurture seedlings in spring.

“She’ll also find bushes out in the woods around campus, and she’ll put them in pots until they’re big enough to use in the landscaping,” Shook says. “It takes a lot of time to do that, and you have to know what you’re doing.”

Reaves had to learn new gardening techniques because of the climate differences between Ridgecrest, amid North Carolina’s mountains, and her native south Georgia, where she learned to garden from her father and grandmother.

With an intensive horticulture course in North Carolina, Reaves earned certification as a master gardener. She also met Beth Anderson, who now works part-time alongside Reaves at Ridgecrest. They jokingly call themselves the Grounds girls — Betty Grounds and Beth Grounds.

Reaves’ joy in life is irrepressible, Anderson says. She walks around campus wearing big straw hats garnished with colorful ribbons, which also decorate her office walls. She jokes about Shook as their “bossy little brother.” She charms volunteers into cheerfully tackling tough work.

But her sense of fun is blended with determination, facilities manager Daniel Redding says. “She’s a go-getter. If she’s trying to get something accomplished and waiting on answers from the powers that be, she’ll keep coming back until she gets her answer.”

Reaves and Anderson have begun offering occasional tours of the Ridgecrest gardens and are working to develop a self-guided tour so more people can participate. They’re excited about a new Crown of Thorns plant they’ve added to the greenhouse, which they plan to highlight for Easter.

And in August, Reaves will turn 80 — a number she finds hard to fathom.

“You know, I don’t feel 80,” she says. “But I’m in very good health. I guess I’ll keep going until my body wears out or God calls me home. I’d like to go from Ridgecrest to glory.”


Master gardener at Ridgecrest Conference Center

— Age: 79

— Home in winter: Statesboro, Ga.

— Home in summer: Campground at Ridgecrest Conference Center from April to November

— Before LifeWay: Retired in 1997 as secretary to vice president of Georgia Southern University

— Family: Three children, seven grandchildren. Husband George died in 2006

— On the side: Plays organ at First Baptist Church of Old Fort, N.C.

— Garden glories: Can’t pick a favorite, but loves lots of color. “Let’s put zinnias and marigolds out!”


— 1,300 acres in them Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina

— Can accommodate more than 2,000 guests at a time.

— Hosts more than 64,000 guests each year

— Offers housing, meeting space, recreation and food service for Christian conferences and events

— Hosts summer camps for kids and teens, including Camp Ridgecrest for Boys and Camp Crestridge for Girls

— Provides spiritual retreats and getaways for ministers, missionaries and families

— On the Web at


Ridgecrest Conference Center needs volunteers in a variety of areas, including carpentry, gardening, food service and hospitality. For more information, call 1-828- 669-3589 or visit

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Drought-resistant garden design

Southern California landscape designer Barbara Paul likes to incorporate Mediterranean plants into her drought-tolerant designs. The dramatic purple flower spikes of Pride of Madeira steal the show in this front-yard garden. Remember, even drought-tolerant plants need water while they are getting established, Paul says.

Gardeners can’t take water for granted anymore. Drought-resistant garden design and drought-tolerant plants are the wave of the future.

Southern California is leading the way with water-wise landscaping practices, but even if you live where you can count on a great deal more than their two inches of rainfall a year, water is getting to be an expensive resource. Garden designs that emphasize water-thrifty plants are appropriate everywhere.

Barbara Paul, a landscape designer in Long Beach, California, turns to plants from the Mediterranean region, with its bone-dry summers, for her colorful, drought-tolerant landscapes. Paul teaches classes on drought-tolerant plants and design for the water department in Long Beach, which offers financial incentives and a selection of free garden plans to encourage homeowners to eliminate thirsty lawns and replace them with water-wise landscapes. The program emphasizes front-yard gardens because the water department wants neighbors to see the results.

Removing a traditional lawn and replacing it with a different kind of landscaping doesn’t mean you have to grow cactus, Paul says. Her flower-bed designs place tough, drought-tolerant succulents right next to billowy plants like salvias, which she loves for their long period of bloom and because they attract hummingbirds and butterflies. She relies on freesia, crocosmia and other warm-season bulbs — many from dry areas of South Africa — to give her clients’ landscapes character and long-lasting color.

“I also like to talk about structure — about walkways, dry stream beds and patios,” Paul says. Structural design elements are crucial to defining a garden’s spaces, but they also never need water. A fence, an arbor, a line of steppingstones or a carefully placed bench can dramatically change the way you experience a garden. Suddenly, a swath of lawn seems less essential because there are so many other things going on. “When you work with this for long enough, turf-grass lawns look really boring,” Paul says. Some homeowners want a lawn for children or pets, “but I ask my clients to rethink how much lawn they really need.”

The Long Beach Water Department’s suggested landscaping plans for homeowners are full of great ideas for gardens anywhere. These are not sterile, dreary conversions of traditional landscapes, but inspiring designs that transform turf-heavy front yards into welcoming and interesting gardens. Iceberg roses, Mexican bush sage, penstemons and perennial geraniums all show up on these plans. Small shrubs, tough ornamental grasses, boxwoods and lavender all contribute structure, texture and fragrance to these refreshing and colorful gardens.

California is not alone. Botanical gardens across the country are offering sustainability workshops, developing lists of drought-tolerant plants and including low-water-use display areas to educate visitors and demonstrate that horticultural beauty and water conservation can go hand in hand. Some gardens, such as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, emphasize native plants and naturalistic landscapes. Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin, recently opened a delightfully unexpected gravel garden, densely planted with hardy, drought-tolerant plants, right at the entrance to the garden. On Olbrich’s 16-acre grounds, rain barrels, rain gardens and low-maintenance lawn alternatives show how a lush, first-class botanical garden can lead the way in water conservation.

For businesses that develop and introduce plants, drought tolerance is a big priority these days, says Jeff Gibson, landscape business manager for the Ball Horticultural Company, an international plant company that introduced the popular Wave series of prolific petunias. Gardeners, garden designers and landscape contractors all want environmentally friendly, low-maintenance gardens, he says. Even where the annual rainfall totals normally register well up in the double digits, prolonged dry spells put a lot of stress on plants and lead to high mortality, disappointing performance or high water bills.

To help professionals and gardeners choose wisely, Ball developed a sustainability index to highlight its most drought-tolerant offerings. Dozens of hard-working annual and perennial flowers are on the list, including lantanas, angelonias, coneflowers and vincas.

These durable plants are also tough enough to survive the widespread condition that Gibson calls “self-inflicted drought,” which occurs when plants are grown in exceptionally challenging sites, soils and temperatures. Plants growing along the street or driveway or under trees often suffer from unusually dry conditions, he says. Plants growing next to a driveway are exposed to tremendous amounts of reflected light and heat, so they tend to lose a lot more moisture to evaporation than you might expect. Mailbox gardens or the corners of a yard are often beyond the reach of sprinklers. And trees compete with flowers and shrubs not only for light, but for moisture and nutrients in the soil. Rain doesn’t solve these problems for long, but drought-tolerant plants do, Gibson says.

The best way to grow beautiful plants that need extra water is to use them sensibly, Gibson says. Thirsty plants will thrive in a big pot by the front door, for example, where they will have lots of impact, and where they can be watered relatively easily when necessary. Grouping plants that need extra moisture together, so they can all be watered at once, saves water and time, and it helps ensure that none are neglected. New plants that need water while they become established can be spot-watered with a watering can instead of a sprinkler. Spraying the whole garden when you really just need to water a new shrub is wasteful, and you miss something of the joy of gardening. “Hand-watering is fun,” says Barbara Paul, who admits she keeps a bucket in the bathtub and uses the shower water for her plants. They don’t need much.

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Xeriscape expert leads landscaping, outdoor event


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Xeriscape expert leads landscaping, outdoor event

Lauren Springer Ogden is a renowned expert on waterwise gardening, and is pictured here at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield in Littleton, Colorado. She is the keynote speaker at the Landscapes West and Outdoor Living event on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, at Two Rivers Convention Center.


Landscapes West and Outdoor Living

■ WHEN: Friday and Saturday, March 18–19, at Two Rivers Convention Center.

■ GENERAL ADMISSION: $5, which includes admission to the exhibit hall and free demo talks on Friday and Saturday.

■ PRESENTATIONS: will include topics such as growing lavender, backyard chickens and starting a crevice garden.

■ EDUCATIONAL CLASSES including Lauren Springer Ogden’s presentation, are an additional fee of $35 for Friday and $25 for Saturday.

The lineup of those who will lead the educational classes includes entomologists, horticultural experts and tree-care professionals. The schedule offers talks on getting trees and lawns to get along, common pest problems in the Grand Valley, and proper planting of trees, as well as landscape design basics.

■ ORGANIZERS ask participants to pre-register for the classes. Go to for information, or contact Susan Carter with questions at 244-1834 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

When Lauren Springer Ogden moved to Colorado 30 years ago, she appreciated the natural landscape for its rugged beauty, for the plants that have adapted to live in a harsh environment without loamy soils or abundant water, like some other places in the country.

She was forced to create a garden that fit in, to find plants that performed well in a semi-arid climate, and to let go of some plants that just don’t thrive in this environment.

Through that process, she discovered some plants that do surprisingly well here. Ogden and her husband, Scott, have introduced several new plant varieties they’ve discovered, bred, named or introduced from their own gardens, including their home near Fort Collins, which are now distributed through garden centers and seed companies in the United States. Perhaps the most famous of Ogden’s plants for home gardeners is a plum-colored poppy called “Lauren’s Grape,” which appeared in her garden one year and is now widely available.

It’s all about finding out what fits in this environment, which she’s discovered over decades.

“It’s not like in California where you can just grow anything. Your garden has to have a sense of place. The plants that do well here, they look like they belong here,” she said, referring to the characteristics of plants native to the area, and those qualities also are common in some Mediterranean or central Asian varieties that perform well in rocky soils, with windy and hot conditions and little precipitation.

Ogden will share her gardening expertise as the keynote speaker at the Landscapes West and Outdoor Living event on Friday and Saturday, March 18–19, at Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction.

She’s widely regarded as an expert in xeriscape principles. She designed the waterwise garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens and has authored several gardening books including “Gardening Success with Difficult Soils” and “Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens.”

The horticultural consultant and garden designer also is well-known for her garden designs showcasing plants that thrive in hot, inhospitable areas such as the raised landscaping in hot parking lots. Limited irrigation and tough conditions make it a challenging spot, but she’s successfully shown there are plenty of plants that can survive the “hell strip.”

It’s all about finding the right fit, she said.

“A lot of people move here because it’s beautiful,” she said. “Why wouldn’t they want to recreate some of that? There’s nothing wrong with having a rose or two, but the neat thing is you can make your garden look like an extremely floriferous version of what you can see hiking and in the natural landscape we enjoy here.”

Ogden enjoys introducing people to plants that thrive here with little maintenance, making it easy to have gorgeous, low-water landscapes. Many people haven’t heard of one of her favorites that has it all: the sulphur flower, eriogonum umbellatum. This evergreen perennial provides low-growing, drought-tolerant, year-round beauty to the garden, with bright yellow flowers throughout the hottest part of summer that fade to rust.

Ogden will be presenting twice at Landscapes West, an educational opportunity for garden enthusiasts provided by Colorado State University Extension in partnership with the landscape industry, organized for the first time since 2011. It is expected to be an event full of ideas, featuring garden professionals who can help home gardeners with their landscape dreams.

Her breakout session on ornamental grasses for landscapes is set for Saturday, and her Friday night keynote address will focus on building habitat gardens with native plants. She’ll share her expertise on attracting birds, bees, butterflies and other living things to gardens with the right selections.

For information on Landscapes West, go to

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.

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Friday Q&A: Winona master gardeners spread green thumbs with fundraiser, spring tips

Winona’s Master Gardeners are holding the annual Gardeners’ Day this Saturday at WSU, with speakers, vendors and silent auctions.

The theme this year is sustainable gardening, and featured speakers will be covering range of topics including tips for sustainable gardening, rain gardens and extending the gardening season.

Running from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it also features lightning rounds on other topics, including herbs, container gardening, keyhole gardens and garden diagnostics. Money collected goes to support the educational and volunteer efforts of the Master Gardeners, a national program. In Winona County, they work through the University of Minnesota Extension office to provide educational resources and advice for gardeners of all ages and ability.

In Winona County, efforts of some of the 60 master gardeners include setting up several community gardens including at the Winona Occupational Rehabilitation Center, promoting and developing rain gardens, providing children with gardening classes and schools with library grants.

Marianne Duffy Hohenner and Chris Meyer, both Winona County Master Gardeners, spoke with the Daily News about the importance of the event and what drew them to become master gardeners — and of course shared a few gardening tips.

Gardeners’ Day is one of three main fundraisers for the group?

Chris Meyer: Yes, we also do plant sales.

Marianne Duffy Hohenner: The plant sales primarily go to the library grants. This funds everything else.

Meyer: The event is at Winona State. Our main speakers are from out of town. One of the master gardeners suggested that this year we have a theme and the theme be sustainability. So we really picked our speakers based on that theme.

It’s about how to garden and, say, use integrated pest management instead of using chemicals. How to plant so you don’t need as much water. Tips so you can be easier on the Earth in your gardening.

Hohenner: And one of the things we started three years ago, we started the lightening round. And the Master Gardeners volunteer five-minute spiels on various topics. I’m going to be doing container gardening.

Can people still attend if they haven’t registered?

Hohenner: Yes, for the conference.

Meyer: And people can still register and they can just show up on the day. We’re not always sure there will be enough food for them.

Hohenner: But it always works out.

Meyer: We’re in Kryzsko Commons so we have a big hall. And there’s several venues so we’ll have plenty of seating.

Hohenner: And there’s plenty of parking because it’s spring break.

What does the money raised go toward?

Meyer: We use the funds for educational purposes. So, it helps us out with everything else that we do. We work in the schools. In Ridgeway, in Rollingstone, this year we’re going to be working with Riverway.

Hohenner: And we give money to seven different schools. Usually it’s $700 to $1,000 in books, gardening educational materials … We do the seeds for various gardens. We have a community garden that we do at a church where the produce goes to the food shelf and the churches.

Meyer: We gave away 2,500 pounds of produce last year. And anyone who gardens with us, they can share the produce. We pick a night of the week and anyone can come garden with us … so we do gardening not just with the schools, we’ll do it with other community members.

How are Master Gardeners connected with Winona County Extension?

Meyer: The Master Gardeners are volunteer help for the University of Minnesota Extension. There was a time in the past where they cut back … when I was a kid there was more extension agents and more staff at the Extension office than there is today. When they cut back on that they really wanted volunteer citizens to kind of help fill in.

We get training, horticultural training, and we get a set of resources. And our charge is to give science-based gardening information for the home gardener.

We have about 60 master gardeners in the county, but every county has its own master gardener program. And we have programs that have developed over the years. If you’re a master gardener and you’re passionate about something, you start a program. Which is how the residential rain garden program in Winona started. It’s something I thought was important and I got other master gardeners to help me.

Our main thing is anyone can call the Extension office and we give free advice, free gardening advice. We won’t come out and do (the work) for you, but if you don’t know what something is, or you have some weed you can’t identify, or your strawberries are looking poorly…

Hohenner: Or your raspberry bushes, or tomatoes.

Meyer: You can call the Extension office and there’s one of the 60 master gardeners has an area of expertise. Vegetables, or perennial flowers, or trees, or invasive species on trees, and whoever has the best amount of knowledge will give you a call.

Should gardeners expect particular challenges this spring?

Hohenner: Well, the Farmers’ Almanac says that we’re going to have a really, really hot summer. But we’re about a month ahead of warm weather, historically.

Meyer: I think we’ll have an early spring, but I can’t believe there won’t be one more snowstorm … most perennials are smart enough to know. If they come up this early, they can usually handle the frost. If something came up and it was already budded, and then you got a really late frost, like say in May, then you could have trouble.

Is there anything you’re seeing in trends for gardening?

Meyer: If you want to know about things that are really popular these days, straw bale gardening.

Hohenner: Yes, it is. It really is.

Meyer: And people have been doing it for about five years now.

Gardening in bales of straw?

Hohenner: In bales of straw.

Meyer: Like my sister-in-law, who doesn’t have a lot of garden space … they buy three or four bales of straw, and they plant their tomato plants in there.

Hohenner: And it does have to be straw, not hay.

Meyer: The things compost and disappear after about three years.

Hohenner: If you imagine planting potatoes out there (in a yard) you have to clean them. Plant them in a bale, you don’t need to.

Meyer: It’s a very popular thing. It’s hard to find straw bales, and that’s why.

If it is going to be really hot this summer, what can people do to manage a garden?

Meyer: I think it has to do with what you plant. There are certain things I just don’t try to grow any more.

Hohenner: I plant (next to the house) so it only gets about four hours of sun.

Meyer: Management of any plant is about knowing. You have to know what your soil is like, what you’re planting, what they’re vulnerable too, what kind of pests there are.

Hohenner: And what you have to use.

Meyer: That’s the kind of information we like to accumulate and try to share. There are certain things that work for certain plants.

What about gardening indoors?

Hohenner: Well, I’ve got chives, oregano … parsley. I’ve got a lemon tree and a pomegranate downstairs. You can grow indoors … It depends upon what you grow. I’ve got a grow lamp and a lamp downstairs on my pomegranate. Everyone can grow something.

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Spring gardening tips

Winter may stop us from gardening, but it doesn’t stop questions from coming in. So here are answers to a few of the questions I’ve recently received on topics that are probably on a lot of people’s minds.

Q: When should I prune my shrubs so I don’t cut off the blooms?

Good question. Most spring-flowering shrubs bloom on “old wood” or the previous year’s stems. So if you get out there early in the spring and start chopping back spring bloomers like lilac, azaleas, pea shrub, honeysuckle, chokeberry, forsythia and mock orange, you won’t get blooms that year because you probably chopped them off. Sometimes you have to do this because a shrub has gotten out of control. But, ideally, to make sure these beauties bloom from year to year, prune them shortly after they finish flowering in the spring or early summer.

Q: How long do lights need to be on when you start seeds indoors?

Plants need to get about 12 to 16 hours of light every day when they’re growing under lights, so it’s best to put them on a timer and then you don’t have to remember to flip lights on and off.

If you hang your lights from chains like I do, make sure they are 2 to 4 inches above your seedlings, no higher or they won’t get the light they need. And, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, cool white fluorescent tube lights are perfectly fine for starting seeds. No need to spend money on expensive grow lights.

Q: How far back should I cut ornamental grasses that have turned brown?

Here’s a silly saying that will help you forever remember the answer to this one: If it’s brown, cut it down. So in Minnesota, where all ornamental grasses that are standing or flopping over are brown, feel free to grab a lopper or hedge trimmer and cut grasses back to the ground or to where you see new green growth. Your goal is to once again expose the top of the plant to air and water and sunshine. If you have a compost bin or pile, take a minute to make a few more cuts so you can add manageable-sized pieces of dried grass rather than huge, long stems.

Q: The evergreens in my yard have a lot of brown patches on them. Are they dying?

Probably not. It’s common for evergreen shrubs and trees to suffer winter burn in our harsh climate. Damage, which can look like browning and/or bleaching, is usually most noticeable on the south and southwest sides of plants, but can also be on any side that faces stiff winds. Water loss is the main cause of winter burn. So the best thing you can do to protect evergreens is to keep them watered throughout the growing season—all the way up until the ground freezes, often in late November.

Wait a little while into spring before deciding that a browned evergreen is dead. Often, new foliage will grow out and all will be well. Even if that doesn’t happen, if the damage isn’t catastrophic and only buds and stems are brown, prune those branches back to about ¼ inch above healthy buds. New growth will likely take over from there.

Q: Do I have to throw my Easter Lily away or can I plant it outside?

Traditional Easter lilies aren’t always hardy enough to make it through our winters, but there are many lilies that are sold for Easter that are hardy. If you have one in a pot that you’d like to plant in your garden, go for it. The worst thing that will happen is that it won’t make it.

To give your lily the best start possible, pluck off faded flowers and yellowed leaves, and keep it watered and lightly fertilized indoors until mid-May or so when the soil has warmed up. Then, transplant it just a little deeper in the soil that it was in the pot and give it some water. Try not to fret. It could be a season or two before the lily blooms again.

Check out Meleah’s blog — — for more gardening tips or to email her a question or comment.


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This week’s gardening tips: delay planting eggplants, get ready for …

Delay planting eggplants in the garden until early April. Eggplants are stunted or damaged by temperatures below 55 degrees, and we usually still have cool nights through March. Other heat-loving vegetables that you should wait to plant include okra, sweet potatoes and Southern peas.

As the weather warms up, lawn grasses will begin to grow, and you’ll need to start mowing more frequently. Now is a good time to sharpen your mower blades and have your mower serviced. Delay lawn fertilizer applications until the end of March or early April to allow the grass to recover from winter dormancy before pushing growth.

Don’t miss the annual tree and plant sale sponsored by Parkway Partners and the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon (rain or shine) at 2829 Gentilly Blvd. There will be lots of great native trees and shrubs, bedding plants, vegetables and herbs for sale. Dan Gill will be on hand to answer your gardening questions.

Fertilize roses now and begin spraying regularly for disease problems if you are growing roses highly susceptible to black spot.

For blue-flowered hydrangeas add aluminum sulfate around your bushes now. For pink flowers, apply lime. Flower buds are present so do not prune.


Love to read about gorgeous gardens? Sign up for’s weekly home and garden newsletter, and you’ll get Dan Gill’s latest tips as well as stories about gorgeous local landscapes. It’s easy and free. Just click here. And while you’re at it, head over to the’s New Orleans Homes and Gardens page on Facebook.

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Garden tips: aircon noise; lemon and lime; small shrubs

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