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Archives for April 17, 2016

Effects of social media on students discussed in Westport

DARIEN — Redevelopment plans and proposed amendments to area zoning requirements for the Noroton Heights business district were recently unveiled at a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The results of more than a year of planning by two developers — one representing the Noroton Heights Shopping Center, or Palmer’s, side and the other representing the Federal Realty side — were shown to the public for the first time April 5, including renderings of the proposed Noroton Heights business district transformation.

Attorney Bruce Hill, representing the Federal side, told the commission that the proposed redevelopment seeks to turn Noroton Heights into a “pedestrian-friendly, village-type area.” The plan, Hill said, would de-emphasize the “drive and park” aspect of the current district and instead create extensive sidewalks, public plazas and a more open building design to encourage an open flow of foot traffic.

“This notion of the typical strip mall where you’re totally dependent on vehicular access is really directly contrary to contemporary ideas of proper planning,” Hill said.

He also explained that the proposed plan sought to remove outdated restrictions on building heights and residential and office uses that would prevent a comprehensive redevelopment.

“The intent is to transform the Noroton Heights business district. And I think the intent is to transform it because the transformation is inevitable. I think the idea is to try to manage that in a sensible way,” Hill said.

The plan includes the addition of mixed-use buildings in which the bottom floor would be reserved for commercial use and the top for residential. The residential buildings would require a change in restriction to allow for four story buildings at no more than 55 feet, as opposed to past restrictions of three-story buildings at no more than 45 feet. In exchange for the additional height of the buildings, attorney Bob Maslan, representing the Palmers side, said that all properties should be required to dedicate five percent of their space to public use

As a result of that stipulation, renderings by the developers showed more green spaces, plazas with park benches, fountains, plaques commemorating the area’s history, walking bridges and a large public clock above one of the plan’s designated green spaces. Palmer’s main public plaza would be roughly 100 feet by 70 feet, according to architect Joseph Schiffer of New Haven’s Newman Architects. Residential parking, said Robert Maslan, representing the Palmer’s side, would be separate from commercial, possibly in an underground structure.

Many members of the commission expressed concern at the proposed height of the buildings, but, as Federal Realty architect Seelan Pather explained, the plan calls for a tiered design that would situate the highest of the buildings 50 to 60 feet from the road.

Concern was also expressed by the commission regarding the well being of residents on West Avenue. The plan calls for an arboreal buffer between the shopping district and the residential neighborhood. Additionally, the terraced landscaping and traditional colonial architecture proposed aims to create a first row of redeveloped buildings on West Avenue on the same scale, and in the same style, as their residential neighbors, Pather said.

Commissioner Eric Voigt opined that there was little talk in the plan of connecting the Palmer’s and Federal side, split along Edgerton Avenue.

The reason for the disconnect, Hill responded, is that properties on the south side of Edgerton are not owned by the redevelopers. Additional issues, like water drainage and traffic, are being investigated, said Hill.

At the end of questioning Chairwoman of the Board Susan Cameron expressed one final concern regarding the lack of space allotted for offices.

“What really makes a village is to have the office, the retail and residential. So I hope you’ll consider that,” she said.

The developers will meet again with the commission at 8 p.m. May 3 in the Darien Town Hall auditorium.

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Business Intel: Old health department building has new look

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

The West End Flats has a fully enclosed green space.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

A downstairs hallway at The West End Flats is decorated in art depicting the mountains and areas around Roanoke.

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All the apartments at West End Flats are one-bedroom units but come in different sizes.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

The West End Flats is the former Roanoke City Health Department building bought by developer Ed Walker.

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The West End Flats opened recently in the former Roanoke Health Department building.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

A kitchen at The West End Flats.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

The West End Flats has a fully enclosed green space.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

The rear entrance to The West End Flats.

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ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times

The West End Flats is the former Roanoke City Health Department building bought by developer Ed Walker.

Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2016 12:00 am

Business Intel: Old health department building has new look

By Tiffany Holland

If you pass by too quickly, the exterior of Roanoke’s old health department on Eighth Street Southwest looks pretty similar to what it was a few years ago. But the boarded-up windows have been replaced. The landscaping has been redone. And inside, it’s a completely different place.

The renovation of the building into the West End Flats has been one of the city’s most-talked-about conversions. The former Roanoke City Health Department was constructed in the 1950s but left that property in 2007. The space is now being used for 24 one-bedroom apartments, which recently were made available for lease.

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      Sunday, April 17, 2016 12:00 am.

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      Designing a yard? Here are some landscaping tips from a Boise expert

      Kecia Carlson, founder and owner of Madeline George Garden Design Nursery in Boise, worked on the landscape design of Chris and Ann Vonde’s new home in the Boise Foothills.

      Carlson’s emphasis on “style and sustainability” encompasses a complete design of the exterior aspects of the home, including plants, vegetable beds, edibles, cutting flowers and pollinators. Carlson considers everything from a play area to how to take advantage of the grades and the water runoff, the use of a more drought-tolerant combined fescue and what kind of irrigation system to use.

      “Every piece of the entire exterior landscaping has been thought about,” she said.

      Planning a garden is much more than perusing a seed catalog or local greenhouse.

      “People really underestimate what an impact you can have in your exterior environment when you start moving across these multiple levels of the soil, the watering, the plant material, the organization of your beds, putting shade trees in the right position and putting the vegetable beds in the right area,” Carlson said. There are many different elements in play to bring your landscape “into harmony and flow, but also have it be aesthetic and functional.”

      Here are some tips she recommends for your home landscaping:

      ▪  Define a theme within your garden to help you create a harmonic aesthetic or style. Then work with the “plant palette that resonates with that.” Let that theme guide your plant selections.

      ▪  Always consider the style of architecture of your home.

      ▪  Understand your sun and heat exposure. Keep in mind that rocks and concrete can also play a role in this area. Be aware of how little humidity we have around here and use some drought-tolerant species for that sustainability you’re looking to achieve.

      “Sun exposure, coupled with the arid climate and the heat of the day, can really zap a plant,” she said. “That’s one of the things people underestimate when they’re designing their garden.”

      ▪  Check out the Idaho Botanical Garden, especially the waterwise entrance garden along Old Penitentiary Road, the BLM Firewise Garden and the Lewis Clark Native Plant Garden, for ideas.

      For information about Madeline George, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway in Boise, and to learn about free Saturday classes, call 995-2815 or go to

      Article source:

      New statue celebrates landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted

      If you’ve visited parks in New York, Boston or many other places around the U.S., you’ve probably experienced the landscapes of Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted designed hundreds of parks, gardens and other public spaces, including Manhattan’s Central Park, Boston’s “Emerald Necklace,” the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington and California’s Stanford University campus. He’s considered the father of landscape architecture in America, and The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville is honoring Olmsted’s work by dedicating a statue of him on Friday.

      Landscape architecture didn’t exist in the U.S. before Olmsted began applying principles of horticulture, architecture, engineering, land management, forestry, fine arts and even psychology to create coherent, elegant designs for outdoor spaces. His genius was in creating the illusion of nature in manmade environments. Stroll or drive a meandering road in one of Olmsted’s parks and you may feel like you’re traversing a rustic path that was carved through nature’s own woods and meadows. But virtually every tree, stone, brook and field you encounter was put there by Olmsted, by design. Take a photo of a flowering tree by an Olmsted pond with a stone bridge and it’s his eye you can thank for making the shot so picture-perfect.

      Olmsted was born in 1822 and grew up in New England. He worked as a farmer, seaman and a journalist, and spent months touring gardens, parks and estates in Europe before undertaking his first project: creating Central Park out of rocks, swamps and hog farms. His 1858 design for Central Park, in collaboration with architect Calvert Vaux, led to commissions for parks all over the country, from Buffalo, N.Y., to Louisville, Ky.

      Olmsted was also an early conservation advocate, pressing for preservation of the stunning natural landscapes that would become Yosemite National Park in California. At the same time, he called for roads to make Yosemite accessible to the public. He said it was government’s “political duty” to create parks for “free enjoyment of the people” as respites from everyday life.

      In the Boston area, you can soak up Olmsted’s vibe at Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. But for a close-up look at the history and tools of Olmsted’s work, head to the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, just outside Boston. The property, also called Fairsted, includes his home in an 1810 farmhouse and the offices of what became the country’s first full-scale landscape architecture firm. The business was continued by his sons and others for decades after his death in 1903.

      Touring Fairsted, you’ll see the tools of Olmsted’s trade in the era before computers and Xerox machines: rulers and straight-edges, pencil boxes and ink bottles, and complicated processes for copying blueprints using chemicals and sunlight. Office windows frame verdant views of the grounds, and you can almost imagine draftsmen getting up from their tables to look, then sitting down to work again refreshed, reinforcing Olmsted’s philosophy that “scenes of beauty” spur “reinvigoration.”

      For a unique souvenir, check out the stationery in the gift shop inspired by the home’s wallpaper and other design elements. And while you’re strolling the grounds, walk down a flight of stone steps to a shaded hollow with colorful plantings.

      The last project of Olmsted’s career, before he succumbed to what was likely Alzheimer’s, was designing the grounds for the Biltmore estate in Asheville. The palatial Biltmore mansion and 125,000-acre estate, built for George Vanderbilt, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Today, “Legacy of the Land” tours offered there daily provide an in-depth look at Olmsted’s landscaping, from reforestation of what was clear-cut farmland to invisible components like drainage systems.

      But you don’t have to take the Legacy tour to experience one of the Biltmore’s most dramatic features: the 3-mile Approach Road that everyone uses to drive in. Olmsted designed the road to create a “sensation (while) passing through the remote depths of a deep forest” leading up to the moment when the mansion would come into view.

      “He was an artist,” said Biltmore’s Olmsted expert Bill Alexander. “He created not just scenes, but emotions in his manipulation of the landscape.”

      Olmsted envisioned a research arboretum at Biltmore, but it was never built. The North Carolina Arboretum was established nearby by the state in 1986. While the arboretum wasn’t designed by Olmsted, its gardens, vistas, winding roads and woodland trails celebrate his vision. Olmsted’s statue will sit on the arboretum’s Blue Ridge Court with a view of the Pisgah National Forest behind it.

      Article source:

      Some Las Vegas backyards have ziplines, swim-up bars, livestock – Las Vegas Review

      For years, the typical American backyard consisted of a gray cement patio, black-kettle Weber charcoal grill tucked away in the corner, a round glass table with a hole in the center sprouting an oversized beach umbrella and either a small grassy area or some sort of desert plants scattered amongst various grades of dull boring gravel.

      These days homeowners are demanding that their backyards, and in some instances their front yards, are designed to be extensions of their indoor living spaces. Terrence Thornton, a landscape designer with Laguna Pool and Spa Landscaping, said some homeowners are spending upward of $300,000 for elaborate swimming pools and spas, outdoor kitchens, waterfalls encompassing fire features and in some instances organic vegetable gardens.

      “People are taking materials used inside the house such as travertine tile, granite and glass tiles and putting them in swimming pools and water features,” Thornton said. “As the economy has recovered, people are spending more money on their yards.”

      Black Mexican beach pebble is being used as accents throughout yards, Thornton said.

      While traditional rock costs around $100 a ton, Mexican pebble is $800 a ton.

      “People are using it for the aesthetic look,” he explained. “Some of my clients are using 10 to 15 tons of this rock.”

      One client took the design features of backyard rock to a whole new level. While homeowners traditionally place 1,000 to 1,500 boulders about their yards for accent, this client shipped in eight 6,000- and 8,000-pound boulders that towered from 5 to 6 feet in height.

      “People are also putting in large televisions and elaborate sound systems and automatic fire features that they can control from their iPhones,” Thornton said, adding that the outdoor yard design business is currently very robust. “I have six projects going at once right now.”

      Jonathan Spears, owner of Sage Design Studios Inc., said homeowners are spending anywhere from $600 to $5,000 and in once instance a client dished out $20,000 for a backyard fire pit that incorporated elaborate water features. Some over-the-top designs have included metal sculptures in water with dancing fire. The heated sculptures actually glow and provide added entertainment for family and friends.

      “Water trickling down a wall is very popular, too,” Spears said. “It’s intimate, soothing and doesn’t drown out people when they are sitting around talking … People want to create a place where they can have a staycation and don’t want to go very far.”

      Other elaborate features Spears said he is designing into homeowners’ backyards include basketball and tennis courts, putting greens, bocce ball courts and ziplines. And in some areas of the Las Vegas Valley that are zoned for livestock, people are raising chickens, goats, cows and turkeys, Spears said.

      “People today want to have control over what they eat, and they want to know where their food comes from,” Spears explained. “You can grow stuff in your own garden that you can’t get in the market. It’s a smart approach to using water on your property for good use.”

      Stan Southwick of Southwick Landscape Architects said he designed the landscaping for a 2½-acre estate in Henderson called the Dovetail Residence that utilizes water usage very efficiently. He installed a 30,000-gallon underground tank that collects rainwater for irrigation.

      The system has its own weather station run by a smart controller that reads moisture content in the soil to determine if watering is necessary.

      “I’ve been working here for 30 years and I never did a project like this,” Southwick said. “The tank cost around $30,000 …”

      The Dovetail Residence was designed to achieve LEED silver Other unique high-end features on the property include state-of-the-art lighting that includes high-voltage lights for illuminating the exterior of the home and low-voltage lights to accent surrounding palm trees, plants and shrubs. A 250-square-foot garden was built in the backyard with raised planters for vegetables. About a dozen fruit trees were also planted.

      “The owner(s) wanted a lush tropical feeling here in the middle of the desert similar to their home in Malibu,” Southwick said. “The plant material is really green and lush and there is a lot of texture. Everything catches your eye.”

      Another property Southwick designed with breathtaking features is an estate called the Dragon Ridge Residence at MacDonald Ranch in Henderson. The home, a three-story structure, sits on an acre perched on top a hill that slops down 28 feet. The homeowner has unobstructed views of the entire Las Vegas Strip and one long fairway on the neighboring Dragon Ridge Golf Club.

      “The owner wanted the front of the property to be very desert, and when you step through the metal gate it turns into a lusher and greener look,” Southwick said. “There’s a 35-foot long swimming pool (in the backyard) that has a disappearing edge.”

      A unique feature of the pool, Southwick said, is that the water is level with the edge of the deck. Also, there’s a swim-up bar and outdoor sunken kitchen where people swimming can come right up to the kitchen to eat.

      Southwick said this outdoor kitchen/pool features cost about $200,000. Landscaping for the entire property was around $1.25 million.

      “What people want in really high-end properties are outdoor living amenities that can be used at night,” Southwick said. “They want full outdoor kitchens with proper shade. Fabric shade covers are becoming very popular. You can get a lot of different shapes and colors that people like that really pop when you get outside … They want waterfalls with fire coming out. You can easily spend $10,000 to $12,000 and more for something like this.”

      Article source:

      Preserve homegrown beauty by drying flowers – Tribune

      Preserve homegrown beauty by drying flowers

      Updated 15 hours ago

      Many gardeners enjoy growing flowers for cutting. They add plants such as dahlias, lilies, zinnias and sunflowers to their gardens with the intent of cutting them and enjoying them indoors in a vase. After all, there are few things capable of bringing a smile to someone’s face like a bouquet of homegrown flowers.

      But, if you’d like to take your love of cut flowers one step further, consider adding flowers that are good for drying to your gardening repertoire. These plants produce a plethora of blooms that, when dried properly, hold their color long after they’re removed from the plant.

      I’d like to introduce you to five of my favorite flowers for drying.

      • Globe amaranth: This annual bears oodles of marble-sized, round flowers. The flowers can be purple, white, pink or red, depending on the variety, and they hold their color very well when dried.

      • “Flamingo Feather” celosia: Though many types of annual celosia perform well as dried flowers, this variety is my favorite. The spiky, pink flowers have stiff petals that retain their color through the drying process. The stems of “Flamingo Feather” are longer than other varieties.

      • “Phenomenal” lavender: This lavender cultivar was bred in Pennsylvania and is, in my opinion, the best lavender for drying. It’s a tough, hardy perennial that shrugs off summer’s heat and humidity and produces scores of purple/blue, wand-like flowers. The fragrance is excellent.

      • “Victoria Blue” salvia: Producing tall spikes of bright blue flowers, this annual is heat and drought tolerant in the garden. The flowers are easy to harvest and dry. There may be some petal drop after the flower stalks have dried, but “Victoria Blue” holds its color so well, it’s easy to look past the petal shedding.

      • Fernleaf yarrow: Though most types of yarrow dry fairly well, I think the best one is the golden fernleaf yarrow (Achillea filipendulina). The flat-topped clusters of flowers look striking in arrangements, and the rich golden yellow color is maintained through the drying process.

      There are two popular techniques you can use to dry these and many other flowers.

      The easiest way to dry flowers is by air-drying. For this method, leave the stems as long as possible when cutting the flowers off the plants. Immediately after harvest, gather five to 10 flowering stems into a bundle and fasten them together at the base of the stems with a rubber band. Hang the bundles upside-down in a dry, cool room, out of direct sunlight.

      Depending on the type of flower and its size, air-drying can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. The downside of air-drying is that, when drying plants with outward-facing, open petals, the petals will fold closed as the flowers dry.

      A second way to preserve flowers is to dry them in silica gel crystals. This technique requires a bit more effort, but the resulting flowers retain their shape and color much better than those that were air-dried.

      Silica gel crystals can be purchased online or from craft stores in either one-and-a-half-pound or five-pound packages. The crystals can be used many times.

      To dry flowers using silica gel, pour an inch of the crystals into a plastic storage bin or glass jar with an airtight lid. Then, stick the flowers down into the crystals, stem end first so the bloom is facing up. Sprinkle more silica gel over the flower, making sure to get it between petals. Continue filling the container until all parts of the flower are covered.

      Put the lid on and place the container where it won’t be disturbed. In 10 to 12 days, open the container and carefully lift the dried flowers out.

      Horticulturist and author Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. Her website is

      Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

      Article source:

      Cobb County garden tour offers tips for design, eco-friendly features

      You will find ideas for inexpensive and eco-friendly gardening during the 14th annual Through the Garden Gate Garden Tour.

      The May 7 tour includes four gardens owned by members of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Master Gardeners Michelle Gambon and Debra Stockton offered tips for designing and decorating gardens.

      1. Be smart about plant placement

      Cobb County garden tour offers tips for design, eco-friendly features photo

      Even though a plant that needs a lot of sunlight may look better in shade, the plant won’t be healthy or flourish, Gambon said. Georgia red clay presents challenges in metro Atlanta gardens, including Gambon’s property. Testing the soil is the best way to know what you can grow and where to grow it, she said. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories ( provides soil analysis tests for $6. “It’s the cheapest, most informational thing you can do for your garden,” said Stockton.

      2. Create compost stations

      Compost stations in Gambon’s garden provide new soil. Composting items such as egg shells, unused mulch and leftover plants saves money and reduces the amount of chemicals you put into the soil, she said.

      Cobb County garden tour offers tips for design, eco-friendly features photo

      3. Incorporate unique design

      Stockton enjoys decorating her natural, woodland-style property with eclectic garden art from Think Outside’s “ee-i-ee-i-o” collection (, available at Pike Nurseries). The sculptures and patio furniture are made from recycled oil drums. “I may have a whole barnyard in my garden soon,” Stockton said.

      Gambon’s repurposed shed is made from shingles and lattice donated by neighbors and windows that she found on the side of the road in Alabama. Arbor and Sage, a Canton landscape design/build firm, constructed the shed.

      Cobb County garden tour offers tips for design, eco-friendly features photo

      4. Add water-smart components

      Rain barrels can keep drainage from running over your yard and causing erosion, said Gambon. Her barrels catch large amounts of rain and channel it back into the ground. Meanwhile, Stockton has found a way to channel the water in her sloped backyard. The gutters catch rainwater, which flows through an drainage system under the lawn and onto rock-covered stream beds for birds to drink and bathe in.

      5. Provide a wildlife haven

      Stockton’s garden received certification as a backyard habitat through the Community Wildlife Project, a program by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Garden Club of Georgia ( Her garden is home to birds, including a family of marsh hawks that has nested in two dead trees, called “snags.” Stockton has kept the snags for the hawks to continue nesting, even though the trees aren’t visually attractive. “It doesn’t take a big checkbook or a big footprint to have a green sanctuary,” Gambon said.

      If you go

      Garden Fair and Plant Sale

      When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., April 22-23

      Where: Jim Miller Park

      Prices: Free admission

      14th annual Through The Garden Gate Tour

      When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., May 7

      Where: Various locations in Cobb County

      Prices: $15 in advance, $20 day of tour

      Info: 770-528-4070,

      Article source:

      In the Garden: Tips for garden planning

      Posted Apr. 16, 2016 at 2:19 PM

      Article source: