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Archives for May 1, 2016

Domed greenhouses form heart of botanic garden design by Delugan Meissl

Tropical, desert and aquatic plants will be housed in a trio of gridded glass domes at the centre of these botanical gardens planned by Austrian firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects for Taiyuan, China.


Vienna-based Delugan Meissl – whose portfolio includes the Porsche Museum in Germany and the Festival Hall in Erl, Austria – designed the Taiyuan Botanical Garden for a site in the Jinyuan district of the city in northern China.


The heart of the attraction will be three vaulted glasshouses fostering distinct environments for plants that thrive in different climates.

Two of the three domes are designed to house species from arid or tropical environments, while the third – half-submerged in a lake – is for aquatic varieties.


“The project introduces a vibrant artificial landscape with an attractive topography with mountains and hills, wild and elegant vegetation, lakes and waterfalls, paths and buildings,” said the architects.

Related story: Amazon wins approval for Seattle headquarters inside giant orb-shaped greenhouses

“Nature and architecture communicate here in a harmonious way – the green space assuming a leading role.”


“The architectural concept is based on the already existing landscape plan and balances natural landscape, architecture, technological and ecological solutions,” they added.

“The choice of materials follows the subject-matter, using natural elements to create the atmosphere.”


The glasshouses are to be joined by the Bonsai Museum, a spiralling display area for stunted and ornamental shrubs that will be integrated into the park’s sloping topography.


At the entrance to the gardens, a visitors building with a cantilevered viewing platform above the pond will double as a botany museum.

This building will be connected to the street by large car park for the visitors it hopes to attract.


Further into the site, a series of cubic structures with tree-planted courtyards at their centres will form the Research Centre, which will be equipped with laboratories, offices, lecture halls and a library.


Numerous greenhouse structures have been built around the world in recent years, with the best-known examples including Gardens by the Bay in Singapore and the Eden Project in the UK.

Danish firm CF Møller recently created a similarly domed tropical greenhouse in Aarhus, which features a quilted covering made from inflated plastic.

The Taiyuan Botanical Garden is awaiting planning approval, but is scheduled to complete in 2019.

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Project credits:

Project manager: Sebastian Brunke
Project team: Diogo Teixeira, Bernd Heger, Tom Hindelang, Klara Jörg, Rangel Karaivanov, Leonard Kern, Kinga Kwasny, Toni Nachev, Petras Vestartas
Coordination: Yiju Ding
Structural engineering and facade: Bollinger + Grohmann Ingenieure
Electrics: Cody Energy Design
Landscape design: Valentien + Valentien Landschaftsarchitekten und Stadtplaner

Taiyuan Botanical Garden by DMAA
Plan – click for larger image

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Former English professor creates garden designing firm with only native plants

Benjamin Vogt’s garden is a protest. 

He relies on Nebraska’s native plants to design environmentally sustainable and low maintenance plantscapes.

“Our gardens and landscapes can be wildlife refuges, especially when linked to one another,” Vogt said in an email. “Such gardens are protests for the modern default landscape mode of intensive lawn and chemical inputs – you can easily have a landscape that’s lower maintenance than a lawn, gorgeous, organic, and supports the biodiversity that has provided us with rich soils, clean water and abundant food.”

What began in Vogt’s backyard now spreads around Nebraska through his consulting and design firm, Monarch Gardens. 

Vogt said Monarch Gardens interprets the tallgrass prairie of Nebraska and stylizes it for home and business landscapes.

“We design 100 percent native plant gardens,” Vogt said. “Even further, we try to use straight species plants – not cultivars or hybrids bred in labs. Straight species may provide superior benefits to wildlife and be more adaptable to climate change. We’re pretty unique in our vision and love making a difference in our client’s landscapes.”

In addition to consulting and design, Monarch Gardens offers online classes on topics ranging from native flowers to tips for designing a sustainable garden, a monthly newsletter and online garden plans so those curious can try native plants in their landscape.

“I also speak nationally on native plant design and garden ethics in a time of climate change, among other topics,” Vogt said. “I write a weekly garden column at which has been read by over 2 million folks.”

Vogt did not always plan to work in horticulture. In January, he quit his job as an adjunct English professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln to pursue landscape design full time. Vogt said this decision was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Even as an academic, Vogt incorporated environmental elements into his work.

“My Ph.D. included a memoir on gardening with my mother, as well as the history of garden design,” Vogt said. “After I graduated, I wrote a memoir on my Mennonite family settling the Oklahoma prairie – that memoir required many field trips and much research on prairie wildlife and ecosystems.”

Vogt said his English degrees taught him how to think outside the box. 

His wife, Jaclyn Cruikshank Vogt, also has a background in English scholarship. As the photo librarian for NEBRASKAland Magazine and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, she draws connections between her academic background and valuing native plants and wildlife.

“Gardening with native plants rewrites a master narrative, challenging the view that human experience is more important than the lived experiences of the nonhuman,” Cruikshank Vogt said. “Gardening for wildlife – by using native plants – is a protest.”

As Vogt worked to begin Monarch Gardens, Cruikshank Vogt was a key sounding board for him. She saw the beginnings of Monarch Gardens when Vogt was in their backyard garden.

When Vogt began his own backyard garden, Cruikshank Vogt said, he found a black, yellow and white striped caterpillar eating a milkweed plant.

“He almost went into the garage to look for something to spray on the leaves to kill the bug, then he thought better of it,” Cruikshank Vogt said. “He did some research and realized it was a monarch caterpillar.”

Cruikshank Vogt said that’s when Vogt got how closely tied everything in our ecosystem is, ourselves included, how important native plants are to our local insect, bird and other wildlife populations. 

Ultimately it was this realization, Cruikshank Vogt said, that was the impetus for Monarch Gardens.

As winter changes over to spring, Vogt has been consistently busy with projects throughout the state. For one of his upcoming projects, he will design a 3,000 foot garden at the Cornhusker Council Boy Scouts of America headquarters.

In just his fourth month of full-time operation, Vogt has big plans for Monarch Gardens.

He is currently hunting for 40-80 acres to start a nursery, seed farm and restore prairie and for a “newly minted” horticulture major to run it all. 

“On that prairie, we’ll have an artist residency program and host all kinds of events from weddings to educational classes,” Vogt said.

Over time, Vogt intends to expand his design capabilities in Eastern Nebraska and beyond.

In Monarch Gardens, Vogt is cultivating his passion as well as countless native plants. To this, he attributes overcoming the logistical challenges of establishing a design firm.

“Have a passion and run with it,” Vogt said. “It will grow on its own if you keep feeding it and stay the course, being humble and learning – and failing – as you go.”

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The inside secrets of clever garden design: Bunny Guinness reveals how she created a low-maintenance Hampstead …

How do you set about creating a completely new garden? Designer Bunny Guinness starts with a roll of tracing paper. “I spend an intensive day with the clients in their garden, listening to what they want, drawing what I think, maybe even marking the space out with pegs and string so they get a feel of how the design will work,” says Guinness.

“Then they have something to criticise, which crystallises their thoughts, and I keep sketching ideas until everyone’s happy. Often people only discover what they really want by seeing what they don’t want.”

The people who took on this overgrown Hampstead garden only knew they wanted a space for entertaining that was low-maintenance and they didn’t want the upkeep of a lawn. Guinness obliged with a stylish green space that has a central focus of two weatherproof rattan sofas and a firebowl. 

She made a smooth transition from house to garden with a terrace of Indian stone setts and used Breedon gravel as an easy-care flooring, marking the outline of a central “rug” with timber, which also edges the surrounding raised beds. On one side, squared trellis elevates a brick wall for privacy, while on the other, a cedarwood slatted fence makes a sleek backdrop.


Four medlar trees, providing shade as well as structure, stand on either side of the sofas. Guinness planted them in handsome terracotta pots that had their bases removed, so the trees simply grow through them. 

“I do this a lot, because it raises the plants, giving them a frame and making them more important,” she explains. “They’re better for frost resistance as water doesn’t pool in the base and freeze, and if they are in the front garden, the plants can’t be nicked. These are from Italian Terrace, who cut them for me, but it can be done with an angle grinder.”

Box balls of varying sizes make tactile, green mounds in the raised beds. “They’re still small,” says Guinness, “but the idea is that when they grow — this is a new garden — they can make what I call a lumpy-bumpy hedge, similar to cloud topiary, but less precise. It’s easier to clip than rectilinear and is very effective.”  

The garden is divided by a mature yew hedge, with an opening to one side. The hedge concealed a garden shed, which dominated the space that also contained a swamp cypress tree and little else. Guinness moved the shed to the back of the garden and painted it a dark shade to make it less obtrusive, then concealed it with evergreen planting.

She also installed a pond reached by a curving pebble path. “In town gardens that get hot in summer, a garden pond makes a cool, tranquil feature, and needs little maintenance, aside from removing pondweed twice a year and topping up the water level.”

A circular seat around the tree makes an ideal spot to relax and enjoy the pond in this more naturalistic area. In summer, back in the main garden, pink and white Mexican daisies froth around the raised beds, while Purple Sensation alliums, followed by magenta-flowered Canna ehemanii, add spots of bright colour around the sofas. “The garden flows into the house, making a lovely connection,” says Guinness. “A garden should always flatter the house — after all, it’s the biggest thing you’re looking at when you are outside.”

She enthuses: “You can make a really gopping house look stunning by the way you treat the garden. Just a series of plants in pots, creating a line of green foliage at eye level, won’t block anything but is enough to deflect your eye from awful architecture. 

“We’ve been known to tone down a sea of red brick with a pale whitewash, and transform pebbledash walls with render and a false stone finish. If there are nasty-looking windows, painted white, we might make them recede using a soft blue-grey paint as well as fitting extra glazing bars.”


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Woodneath Farms wows Parade visitors with seven entries

Hundreds of visitors flocked to Woodneath Farms the first week of the Spring Parade of Homes, lured in by the opportunity to tour seven new model homes by some of the Northland’s top homebuilders.

“The Parade of Homes typically draws a crowd,” explains Sherri Cole, ReeceNichols agent and co-community manager with Linda Ludy. “But with seven Parade entries and many other completed homes open to tour, Woodneath Farms is a one-stop-shop for those wanting to see all that new home construction has to offer.”

Woodneath Farms’ entries include homes by Aspen Homes (No. 62) at 8604 NE 90th St.; Homes by Chris (No. 63) at 8601 NE 90th Street; Klopfenstine Construction (No. 64) at 8507 NE 90th St.; McFarland Custom Builders (No. 65) at 8608 NE 90th St.; Olympus Custom Homes (No. 66) at 9519 N Lane Ave.; SAB Homes (No. 67) at 8505 NE 90th St.; and Summit Custom Homes (No. 68) at 8600 NE 90th St.

Cardinal Crest Homes and Signature Builders have additional floorplans in various stages of construction.

To add to the fun, visitors are encouraged to participate in a Spring Scavenger Hunt hosted by Hunt Midwest, the community developer, for a chance to win prizes including Chiefs suite tickets, Royals tickets and a Visa gift card. Kansas City themed items representing local sports teams, landmarks and businesses are hidden throughout each of the Parade homes. Once the item is spotted, visitors take a photo and post to social media using a designated hashtag and winners will be randomly chosen from the entries.

“Our guests have really enjoyed the scavenger hunt,” explains Cole. “Parents have used it as a way to entertain their kids while they get to take their time walking through each house. And who doesn’t want to win Royals tickets?!”

Woodneath Farms has long been a destination community with rolling hills, larger home sites, grand residences and a long list of luxurious amenities. Its prime location in the Liberty School District on Flintlock Road north of Missouri 152 have made this award-winning neighborhood the perfect place for hundreds of families to call home.

Woodneath Farms amenities were designed with families in mind and include a competition-size swimming pool, lake and fountain, walking trails, playground, nature areas, tennis court, picnic pavilion, recreation area, generous landscaping and brick entrance monuments. The Mid-Continent Public Library Woodneath branch and Shoal Creek Elementary are situated on either side of the community’s entrance, adding additional conveniences within walking distance of home.

“When you drive into Woodneath Farms, you know you’re somewhere special, making this one of the most popular neighborhoods in the Northland,” said Cole. “If you’ve ever considered buying a home in Woodneath Farms, this is the time to do it. We have a limited number of premiere homesites now available and just one phase remains before the community is complete.”

The Spring Parade of Homes, presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City, offers free admission to tour over 300 homes throughout the Kansas City area, each open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily April 23 through May 3. Parade guides may be picked up at any home on the Parade or at the HBA office at 600 E. 103rd St., Kansas City, near Interstate 435 and Holmes Road. More information can be found at

Whether you’re in the market for a new home, just starting to explore the idea of building new or looking for redecorating and remodeling ideas, the Parade offers a low-pressure, no obligation way to view hundreds of homes.

Hunt Midwest Residential has been an industry leader in master-planned community development for more than 20 years. The Kansas City-based company is owned by Lamar Hunt’s family, owners of the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League.

All of Hunt Midwest Residential’s master planned communities are marketed exclusively by ReeceNichols. For more information about Hunt Midwest, visit

Woodneath Farms

Prices: Starting in the upper $300,000s

Location: 8604 NE 90th Street

Directions: Interstate 35 north to Missouri 152 west. Go ½ mile to Northeast Flintlock Road, then one mile to the entrance of Woodneath Farms.

Hours: Homes open daily 11am – 6pm

Contact: Sherri Cole or Linda Ludy at 816.781.7925.


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The incredible shrinking lawn: It’s a movement that should grow

The lawn at our house is disappearing nearly as fast as delectable desserts do.

Our half-moon metal edger has a big appetite. It nibbles back turf to enlarge perennial beds. It carves around the expanding drip rings of fruit trees. It swallows swaths of grass to extend the vegetable garden.


FOR THOSE READY to downsize their lawn, the first question becomes “what do I replace it with?” Look for a diverse array of native shrubs and trees and perennial plants, preferably ones that suit the soil and conditions of your site.

TAKE TIME to plan and consult resources like the Cooperative Extension’s bulletins Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape and Native Plants: A Maine Source List.

FOR IDEAS on alternative plantings, read Evelyn Hadden’s “Beautiful No-Mow Yards” (or her website), Pam Penick’s “Lawn Gone!” and Douglas Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home.” If you retain a smaller lawn, manage it organically (see Paul Tukey’s “Organic Lawn Care Manual” for guidance).

TO SHRINK your lawn by small degrees, remove and compost sod. To replace larger areas, consider smothering the lawn through the slower but soil-enriching process of sheet mulching. Shrinking your lawn makes it easier to maintain with a reel mower, which produces no noxious fumes or greenhouse emissions and offers healthy exercise.


Through each planting season, we are shrinking the lawn and growing a more diverse and edible array of plant life.

I didn’t realize at first that this mission was part of a (un)grassroots movement going back decades. There were always a few “lawn dissidents” (as Michael Pollan calls them), but the ranks of rebel homeowners, gardeners and activists appear to be growing.

Calls for “lawn reform” may sound extreme, but there are myriad reasons to reconsider the dominant yard aesthetic inherited from Europe of expansive (and expensive) turf grasses.

Turf grasses in this country now span an area of about 49,000 square miles – larger in size than Maine and New Hampshire combined. Turf represents roughly 2 percent of the surface area in Maine and the nation as a whole, but in a few states (like Massachusetts) it claims up to 20 percent of the surface area.

Across the United States, lawns, playing fields and golf courses “constitute a vast … and terribly impoverished ecosystem,” Sara Stein notes in “Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards.” Green in color only, lawns are far from sustainable.

In much of the country, turf grasses are ill-suited to the climate and require routine watering. Nearly a third of the nation’s residential water use goes to landscaping (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), consuming nearly 9 billion gallons a day.

Despite having no food value, turf grass is now the country’s predominant irrigated crop, taking up at least three times more acreage than corn does.

Turf can hasten soil erosion, a growing concern as heavy downpours increase with climate change. Beneath woodlands, a dense network of roots creates sponge-like soil conditions that readily soak up rainfall. By comparison, “as much as 90 percent of the rain falling on a lawn is immediately lost as runoff, and with it the soil’s mineral fertility,” Stein writes.

Whereas trees and other plants act as a valuable “carbon sink,” taking up excess greenhouse gases, lawns can aggravate global climate change. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Management revealed that close-cropped turf grasses with fuel-intensive mowing and fertilizing regimes produce more greenhouse gases than they absorb (particularly nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that can deliver hundreds of times the warming potential of carbon dioxide).

Noxious air pollution from gas-powered lawn mowers contributes to ground-level ozone and health concerns. Those operating gas-powered lawn equipment have direct exposure to volatile organic chemicals – many of which are linked to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer and neurological conditions.

Lawn applications of fertilizers and pesticides represent a diffuse pollution source that is notoriously hard to control. In Maine alone, residents purchase roughly 6 million pounds of pesticides annually for their homes and gardens.

Chemical-soaked lawns endanger wildlife, children and pets, and runoff from these applications contaminate soils and waterways. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control has found evidence of more than 25 herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in waterways, many at levels that could harm aquatic life.

Even if lawns are managed without chemicals, they still represent a wildlife wasteland – with only a few species like American robins and Japanese beetle grubs that value these monocultures.

Lawns have inherent ecological challenges because their maintenance runs counter to the cycles of nature. We repeatedly thwart the impulse of lawn grasses to grow and go to seed while simultaneously feeding their futile growth through fertilizers. “Lawns are nature purged of sex and death,” Michael Pollan writes. “No wonder Americans like them so much.”

The solution is not to manage lawns better, but to manage our yards less. Rather than fighting continually to establish dominance, at great cost to other species and ourselves, we need to recreate healthy ecosystems in which we participate.

Marina Schauffler is a writer who runs Natural Choices ( and a volunteer Master Gardener.





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Enota ‘brainstorming’ includes plan of construction delay for ideas to preserve garden

Why not delay construction of a new building for Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Nate Early asked in two “brainstorming” sessions Saturday at the school.

Early asked, “is there a third way?” for a new school to be constructed.

He spoke in sessions about a garden plan and campus operations — and said a delay could result in a better plan.

“Is it an option to wait a few years and come up with a great plan to save the garden?” he asked in the first session.

“Why are we rushing,” Early asked in the operations meeting. He said it seems the current planning for Enota is “contingent on a construction project at Centennial (Arts Academy) being completed on time. That seems ridiculous to me.”

About 20 people attended the sessions Saturday morning at Enota. Principal Wesley Roach said, “We don’t want to leave any good idea undiscovered” in introducing the topics.

Three of the topics focused on the move of Enota students from the current school and then back to a new building — campus operation, events and program and communications.

The fourth one was about the Smartville garden: keeping it as is, starting new to create a garden or establishing another process.

Roach also said the school system is preparing an electronic survey for parents or residents to make comments about the entire process. Superintendent Wanda Creel said she expects that survey to be available through the system’s website,, this week.

Architects and engineers presented the outline of a plan Thursday that would create a retaining wall where the outside wall of the school is now along the end of the building. The school tract would be leveled by reducing the level of the current school area 6 feet and moving that dirt to the current playground area. The new school building, which is planned for two stories, would be 25 feet from the retaining wall.

Making the site level would help meet federal laws and state regulations that have been created since the school has been built, officials said, particularly making the site accessible to people with disabilities.

Creel said the project could be delayed, but conditions at the school are such that the students there do not have the same quality of instruction as at other city schools.

She cited pipes that “sound like a foghorn” when toilets are flushed, bringing classrooms to a halt, and the physical education teacher’s desk in a hall along with storage for equipment.

Creel said the Board of Education must balance support for the garden, and its value, with the need to provide Enota students the same kind of educational opportunity that other city students have.

“That is the urgency,” she said.

Before the sessions started, Roach, talking about the garden, said, “We want to know how’s the best way to go forward and to remain true to our commitment that Enota will have a garden.”

Parts of the suggestions from school officials were dismissed by participants in one session. Preserving plants to be replanted in a new garden is “not feasible,” Mildred Fockele, one of the garden’s organizers, said.

“Probably 10 percent of the plants out there are salvageable,” she said. “Most of them have been in the ground too long and are too big.”

Allowing community members to “adopt” plants for the period of school construction would not work either, she said,

“It really needs to be done by professionals,” she explained, adding the plants would have to be dug up properly, the root ball maintained and stored to maintain them.

Supporters of the garden also complained about the lack of commitment from the city schools to a new garden. Money has not been designated for a new garden, several noted. The $100,000 for landscaping is for the entire site, not a new garden.

Board chairwoman Delores Diaz said Thursday a portion of that money probably could be used for a new garden.

Mark Fockele, who designed the rainwater harvesting drain system for the garden, said more than $100,000 was spent on the current garden.

Gail Sargent said she would like the board to commit to preserving the garden to “honor all the heart and soul and all the hours and all the money” that has gone into it.

Early said a delay in the project could be done because the SPLOST money, which will pay for the new building, is a five-year process and this is the first year. A delay, he said, “gives us time to come up with a better solution.”

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Book offers advice on how to create earthy landscapes

“Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide” by Barbara Ellis, an Eastern Shore Maryland gardener, focuses on “conservation landscaping,” or all the good things that people can do to make their landscapes not only beautiful but healthy for people and other living things, according to the author. Most gardens spotlighted in the 328-page book are located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“As a garden writer and horticulturist, I was already quite interested in the topic, plus I was an enthusiastic gardener in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” she says.

Ellis lives on Kent County’s Worton Creek, which is one of several creeks that lead directly into the Chesapeake Bay, she adds.

Gardeners who live directly on the water appreciate the challenges of gardening in tidal flooding situations where salt water impacts roots and winds desiccate foliage.

For Ellis, it’s brackish water, and figuring out which spots are damp and or wet and which ones tend to be dry.

“Matching plants to sites is at the core of becoming a successful gardener,” she says.

“It means that you start a garden by selecting plants that will be happy with the soil, exposure, and other conditions on that site. Matching plant to site stacks the deck in favor of success. There is lots of information on this principle in ‘Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping,’ along with lots of lists of different kinds of plants for different site conditions.”

But, even gardeners who do not live directly on the water should care about and help improve the water quality and environment as a whole, she says, because water that runs down a driveway and its carried off in a gutter eventually makes its way to the Chesapeake Bay and waterways nationally.

“Gardening for the bay helps improve water quality in the bay itself along with all the rivers, streams, and creeks that feed into it,” she says.

“It also creates healthy, beautiful spaces for people, their pets, and wildlife. Using the six principles I describe in the Introduction and Chapter 1 of ‘Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping’ helps readers create gardens that are both beautiful and environmentally friendly.”

Here, Ellis cites her favorite plants from different chapters in the book:

Chapter 4: Shrubs, Trees and Vines for Landscaping. In addition to being handsome shade trees, native oaks, Quercus spp, support a huge diversity of insects, which in turn support a wide variety of other wildlife, especially birds.

Chapter 5: Ground Covers for Chesapeake Landscapes. The native Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, isn’t used as much as it could be. It thrives in partial to full shade, is evergreen, and is attractive year round. The plants prefer rich, moist soil, but they also tolerate dry soil and drought once they are established.

Chapter 6: Flowers for Chesapeake Gardens. Orange coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, is tough, adapts to nature and blooms a long time. Like other members of the aster family, Asteraceae, rudbeckias are valuable plants for pollinators and butterflies.

Chapter 7: Plants and Gardens for Shade. The top bloomer in my shade garden is probably wild blue phlox, Phlox divaricate, she says. It bears flowers in shades of lavender, plus white, from late spring to early summer, and the foliage persists well into winter. The plants self-sow, and once they are in your garden, they pop up in both shade and surprisingly sunny spots.

Chapter 8: Water, Rain Gardens, and Wet Soil. For these sites, Ellis favors Joe-pye weeds for their late bloom, the massive numbers of butterflies they attract, and their value to a wide range of pollinators.

Chapter 9: Gardens for Wildlife. There are lots of plants that attract wildlife, Ellis says, but she likes native viburnums, Viburnum spp., such as arrowwood and possumhaw viburnum. Viburnum berries provide valuable food for birds and other wildlife late in the season, plus they bear pretty flower clusters and attractive foliage.

“The book has loads of information on a wide variety of great native plants for our area, but as a gardener, I think my favorite part are the six steps that anyone can use to make their garden more bay friendly,” says Ellis.

“I use those steps to figure out long-term and short-term projects so I can plan beneficial projects that fit into my schedule. I also use them to help guide me in plant selection — plants for pollinators or plants to replace lawn, for example.”

About the book

“Chesapeake Gardening Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide” by Barbara Ellis, an Eastern Shore Maryland gardener, features six design and plant selection principles any gardener in the Mid-Atlantic Zones 6-8 can use, including:

  • Reduce lawn.
  • Build plant diversity.
  • Grow native plants.
  • Manage water runoff.
  • Welcome wildlife.
  • Garden wisely.

Former managing editor of gardening books at Rodale Press and publications director at the American Horticultural Society, Ellis is the author of “Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping with Colorful, Low-Maintenance Ground Covers,” as well as other books. The 328-page, hardcover retails for $40; for more information and to buy the book, visit University of North Carolina Press at

Kathy Van Mullekom is the garden/home columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. Follow her on Facebook@Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom, on Twitter @diggindirt and at Pinterest@digginin. Her blog can be read at

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Plan your weekend: Home and Garden Show, Bike for Mike and more

Gardens and cars

Check out the Binbrook Country Home and Garden Show Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Binbrook Fairgrounds, 2600 Regional Rd./Highway 56. See what’s new in gardens and landscaping, home interiors and exteriors, and much more. The Classic Car Show and Swap takes place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3, free for children under 12.

Walk and ride

Mandarin MS Walk, 2 km and 5 km: Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and walk at 10 a.m. on Sunday starting at Confederation Park, 680 Van Wagners Beach Rd.

Bike for Mike Ride in honour of Mike Chamberlain and his dream of making Hamilton fun and safe for cyclists on Sunday: First ride begins at 8:45 a.m. at Bayfront Park. There are five routes this year, ranging in length and difficulty, so everyone, regardless of cycling experience, can pick a route that fits their skill set. After the ride, stop off at the park for refreshments, live music and a bike expo. Check the website for times.

Spring Sundays

Celebrate spring with a trip to Westfield Heritage Village on Sunday. Explore more than 35 heritage buildings staffed by authentically costumed interpreters and discover what life was like in earlier times and places. The village, at 1049 Kirkwall Rd. in Rockton, is open 12:30 to 4 p.m. Admission: $9.50, six to 12 years $5.50, seniors and students $8.50.

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Through the garden gate: Everything’s coming up roses for annual landscaping tour

The 14th annual Through The Garden Gate Garden Tour, presented by Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, is May 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour provides the public a unique opportunity to see gardens designed and maintained by MGVOCC.

The tour features seven gardens, including four home gardens, a community garden, a school garden and a woodland nature park.

“The gardens featured on the tour demonstrate to the public how the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County maintain their own landscapes,” said Tammy Bates, Garden Tour Chair and Master Gardener Volunteer since 2008.

This tour focuses on pollinators and water conservation. The tour allows enthusiasts to see plants that attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc.), demonstrates the many ways of collecting rain in some form (rain barrels, bogs, frog ponds, etc.) and will inspire homeowners, conservationists and educators to create environmentally-friendly gardens of their own.

“This tour is an educational experience because we show our guests how they can create and maintain a beautiful garden with a do-it-yourself attitude,” Bates said.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on tour day. Visit for tickets and more information. Tickets include all the gardens on the self-guided tour, and 100 percent of the proceeds fund MGVOCC projects and activities. In 2015, MGVOCC supported 49 schools and 14 approved projects. In 2015, MGVOCC volunteered over 20,000 hours.

The following garden descriptions were provided by MGVOCC: 

The Gambon Garden

Home of a youth education community volunteer who is devoted to restoration, soil recovery, and garden education, the Gambon garden demonstrates a commitment to reducing our carbon imprint. Compost education, earth ambassador classes, camps and landfill reduction school programs that are at the heart of this gardener’s work and are reflected in the garden’s water-smart installations, pollinator plants and ecological pond, along with modest hardscapes designed with the ecosystem in mind.

The Burson Garden

Butterflies flock to the many perennials in the Burson garden that has been a work in progress for over 25 years. Garden beds in the front, back and side yards are adorned with hostas, heucheras, clematis, salvia, hydrangeas, Japanese maples, azaleas, camellias, tropical plants and roses. The garden includes many pass-a-long plants, along with colorful pots and garden art. In the very back of this lot is a sunny spot for blueberries and raised beds for herbs and vegetables. This primarily sunny yard, with a few shady areas, supports a diversity of plants for year-round bloom.

The Stockton Garden

Making the most of its Southern woodland setting, the Stockton garden makes good use of shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals for partly shaded areas. It is a certified wildlife protection area, making a home for many species of birds, including a family of Marsh Hawks. The sloping backyard, gently cleared to make room for hydrangeas, camellias and boxwoods, allows rainwater to flow undisturbed through the back of the property and supports local wildlife. Many plantings have caused the owner to call it a “wonder” garden; “I wonder why we planted in that spot.” The perennial border along the house and unusual small trees tucked in along the stone pathway will surprise you, and the garden barnyard animal art additions will make you smile.

 The Strawn Garden

Located in the Indian Hills County Club, this landscape maximizes a cul-de-sac lot with a design that promotes year-round interest. An English Cottage garden path utilizes a variety of perennials, annuals, and bulbs that work in the South. The garden attracts bluebirds, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. Various roses, including a climbing rose that was propagated from the owner’s 103 year old Grandmother’s rose, line the terrace and are strategically placed throughout the garden. Members of the MGVOCC Rose Warriors will be available to answer your rose-related questions at this location. Still in the planning stage is phase two, which are areas dealing with deep shade and sloping terrain. Landscape Designs for phase two will be available to view.

 Fair Oaks Elementary School

Teaching children about gardening is a hot topic. The Fair Oaks Garden was created in the fall of 2008 and features an herb garden, vegetable garden, and a berry patch. Rain barrels were installed around the shed to collect rainwater for the vegetables and flowers. Led by teacher master gardeners, the school hosts a garden club for the children that meets after school every week.

 Crossroads Community Garden at Chestnut Ridge Christian Church

Families grow produce and learn organic methods in this community garden that is home to 59 leased beds. Twelve beds are focused solely on growing food for the Feed the Hungry Food Pantry and five additional plots support other produce such as asparagus, herbs and other additional vegetables. Being a part of a community garden is a great family activity filled with exercise and fresh air. 

Jean and Elwood Wright Environmental Education Center

This property belonged to the Wright family since the mid 1940s. Mrs. Wright was very deliberate in adding plants to the property that would attract pollinators as well as birds and wildlife. Environmental education classes are taught by our Cobb County P.A.R.K.S. and Recreation Department to schools, scouts and other groups. The trail system meanders through the entire 19-acre property passing through old growth and new growth. Many plants native to Georgia thrive in the park. This property is not open for general public access so take advantage of this opportunity to see this oasis in the middle of east Cobb.

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FROM THE FARM: Landscaping and gardening tips from the UT Gardens

April is the month for gardeners. All the world seems to be in bloom and gardening enthusiasts are just waiting for assurances that the last frost for the spring has passed. For much of the state April 15 is the “safe date” but estimates are available from the National Weather Service for specific locations.

Jason Reeves, curator of the University of Tennessee Gardens, Jackson, offers these tips for coordinating a few of your outdoor efforts as you struggle to install landscape plants and gardens:

· Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, basil, sweet potatoes pumpkin and gourds resent cool temperatures, so despite your enthusiasm, wait until night temps are consistently above 50 degrees F to plants. Wait also for the ornamentals vinca, lantana, ornamental sweet potatoes and caladiums.

· Prune spring-flowering shrubs (azaleas, flowering quince, Forsythia and Loropetalum) soon after they finish flowering, but only if they need it. Selectively cut old or unruly branches by reaching deeply into the shrub leaving no visible stub, making the cut just above a joint. This pruning method will keep them from looking like meatballs.

· A good option for Loropetalums that have outgrown their space is to tree-form them. They can easily be limbed up by removing lower branches. Loropetalum ‘Crimson Fire’ is a new dwarf from that has proven to be hardy in all but the coldest part of Tennessee. As with all Loropetalums, they are best planted in spring or summer in insure proper establishment before the winter months. It will mature to 3-ft tall, and can be seen growing at the UT Gardens in both Knoxville and Jackson.

· Kerria japonica, also known as Japanese kerria or yellow rose of Texas, often has dead branches. Follow them to the base to cut them. Remove older branches the same way to keep the plant looking good. Older, overgrown or neglected plants can be cut to the ground for rejuvenation.

· Azaleas often show symptoms of lace bug and spider mite infestations during the hot months of summer. This damage can be prevented by a one-time, early application of the systemic insecticide imidacloprid. This insecticide should be poured in liquid form around the root system as the flowers fade, spreading the active ingredients throughout the plant tissue where it remains effective through the growing season. Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control is a common brand that contains this safe and effective insecticide. Always follow label directions when applying any pesticide.

· You can direct seed easy-to-grow flowering annuals and vegetables. Some easy flowers to grow from seed include marigold, zinnia, sunflowers and cosmos. Beans, peas, corn and okra are some easy direct sow vegetables, while dill, basil and cilantro are some easy direct sow herbs.

· Try the annual moon vine, Ipomoea alba, this year to attract sphinx moths to your garden. Nick the hard seed coat carefully with nail clippers and soak in water overnight to hasten germination.

· Spring is a good time to freshen up the mulch in your landscape. Remember not to pile it around the trunks of your trees and shrubs. If using a pre-emergent herbicide, be sure to apply it before spreading your mulch to prevent the sunlight from breaking it down. It also forms a more effective barrier when allowed to bond with soil particles. Remember it is not necessary to fertilize well-established trees or shrubs. If you are trying to encourage faster growth on new plantings, a balanced granular fertilizer scattered on the soil surface is effective. Be careful not to overdo it. Tree spikes or drilling fertilizer into the root zone is unnecessary and expensive.

· Cut back any woody perennials that may need it, like rosemary, rue, lavender, Santolina and Artemisia. If done before the danger of frost has passed, new growth may appear, and a freeze can kill that new growth and sometimes the entire plant.

For additional tips, visit the UT Extension website: and click on the menu link to “Publications.” Enter the term “landscaping” or “gardening” in the search engine. You can also contact your local county UT Extension agent.

Rusty Evans, 648-5725

Montgomery County Extension Service

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