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Archives for May 7, 2016

Hitchin woman named Grand Designs Live Garden Designer of the Year after impressing judges including Kevin …

08:31 07 May 2016

Jenny Huckstep at Grand Designs Live at the London ExCeL.


A garden designer from Hitchin has come up trumps at Grand Designs Live, winning her category after her work got the thumbs up from a judging panel led by TV guru Kevin McCloud.

Champion garden designer Jenny Huckstep’s courtyard-style garden at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL.

Jenny Huckstep of Cultivate Design beat off competition from three rival finalists to be named Garden Designer of the Year 2016 at London’s ExCeL last weekend.

“It feels tremendous,” said Jenny.

“When Alan Gardner from the judging panel shook my hand and presented me with the award, he said: ‘Faultless’.

“I feel like all the effort has been really worthwhile.”

Champion garden designer Jenny Huckstep’s courtyard-style garden at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL.

Jenny had struggled to put together a team of suppliers and contractors for the final, and was on the verge of giving up just a month ago.

“I was ready to throw in the towel,” she said.

“I literally picked up the phone to call the organisers and pull out. The phone rang once, then I hung up and pulled myself together.

“This was at the Easter weekend. I campaigned through Facebook groups to find people, and by Monday I had a contractor confirmed and three back-ups.

Champion garden designer Jenny Huckstep’s courtyard-style garden at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL.

“Neil Blackham and Dan Moore have just been tremendous – they are more than your average builder. They work incredibly hard, and so well as a team.

“I’d also like to thank Graham Armstrong and Emilie Griffin at Hertfordshire Garden Centre. They sorted out the bamboo timber at such short notice.”

The judging panel was made up of Kevin McCloud, garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair, and the appropriately named Alan Gardner – the pink-haired presenter of Channel 4’s The Autistic Gardener.

Jenny is setting her sights high for the future.

“I’m going to apply to Chelsea next year,” she said.

“I’m also going to be quite busy dealing with the commissions I’ve received through this show.”

For more about Jenny’s work go to

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New QR code and visuals to be unveiled at Glasgow park

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‘Positive Olalla Projects’ kicks off for community

In a time when we’re constantly flooded with bad news and negativity, Lisa Wickens has started a movement called Positive Olalla Projects(POP). And the inspiration behind this idea came from an unlikely pop-culture source.

“I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, and they have town meetings,” Wickens said.

“In the middle of the night one night, I woke up and thought we should have town meetings.”

She took this idea to Ted Macomber, Olalla Elementary’s principal, to see if they could host the meetings at the school. Macomber agreed, and the project effort took off.

“Olalla used to have a lot of community involvement, and we want to bring that back,” Wickens said.

“Right now is a really amazing time with a lot of growth and in doing things. That’s where this group comes in.”

The group isn’t about sharing what is negatively going on in the community, but instead is trying to create new solutions.

“It’s not about vanishing darkness, it’s about adding light,” Wickens said.

Wickens’ class created gifts and care packages to send to soldiers overseas during the holidays. After witnessing the joy these kids had in doing something good for others, the second-grade teacher wanted to create a non-profit to continue that good will.

POP is a stepping stone in doing that.

She believes that kids need to see good to really believe in it and feel that connection to their community.

“This can appeal to so many,” Wickens said. “Instead of (being) far-reaching, this can affect our own personal corner of the world. It’s really powerful and provides a lot of ownership.”

She originally posted the idea on the Fans of Olalla Facebook page, a place for members of the community to share events and ongoings. People quickly responded to Wickens’ idea.

“We already have 165 people in the Facebook group, and we’re making a website for people who aren’t on Facebook to learn more,” Wickens said.

The group’s first meeting on April 20 brought out 45 adults and 10 kids who were all interested in making their community better. Ages ranged from students in kindergarten to 81-year old women who have lived in the community their entire lives.

“It’s open to anyone and everyone,” Wickens said.

“It’s not just for people who currently live in Olalla. One joined and said, ‘I don’t live there now but grew up in Olalla and want to be involved.’”

She said anyone with ties to the community are encouraged to take part.

At the meeting held at Olalla Elementary, sheets with suggestions for projects were handed out to attendees.

Ideas that came back included a chicken rescue, where anyone who is willing to donate grain for the chickens being raised will receive fresh eggs in return; and  beach cleanups and landscaping at the schools.

A man who owns a carpet company offered to help and give discounted work to homes that were damaged in the storms earlier in the year.

But Wickens’ favorite so far was a post on a women’s personal Facebook page that was brought to the attention of the group. A woman who had brain surgery for Parkinson’s Disease had to shave off her hair for the procedure. She wanted to learn different ways of wearing scarves. Many after seeing this post quickly volunteered.

“It’s as simple as getting the word out,” Wickens said. “It can be one person that could use some support, all the way up to big stuff.”

Wickens said she hopes POP can be a template used in other towns to create similar groups, no matter the city’s size.

“So many elementary schools each have their own community, and even big cities have little communities,” she said. “There are no limits, just endless possibilities.”

For more information on POP, and to hear about ways to get involved and to see ideas that are already being generated, visit the Positive Olalla Projects Facebook page.

“People are on fire,” Wickens said.

“This is bigger than us. It’s pretty cool to see children coming up to me in the hallway saying how they and their family are getting involved.

“It’s amazing.”


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Make a Mother’s Day container garden

galvanized steel tub of flowers

Need a unique gift for mom? A container garden filled with flowers, food or herbs is the gift that keeps on growing. Handpick a container and plants that reflect mom’s personal style as a tribute to her.

Container selection

Hanging baskets and half-barrels are popular choices, but any container can be made into a garden. Antique coffee cans, vintage cowboy boots and colorful ceramics make creative container gardens.

Choose a container large enough to fit the height and diameter of plants, and provide plenty of room for roots to grow.

Good drainage is critical to plant health. If the container does not have drainage holes, drill or punch 5-6 holes in the bottom of the container.

Container garden design

Flowers. Create a visually stimulating flower container garden with a combo of 3 plants: 1 tall, 1 trailing and 1 filler. A free collection of ideas and blueprints from the University of Illinois is available at

  • Multiple shades of the same color make a harmonious-looking container. Contrasting colors create a dramatic look.
  • Add texture to the container: soft petals, leaves with smooth grooves or spikes of grass.
  • Mix it up with size: dainty blossoms, big blooms, large leaves or slender stems.
  • Choose a scent mom will love.

Some of my favorite flowers for containers: Coleus, geraniums, sweet potato vines, trailing petunia, basket asparagus, morning glory.

Vegetable, fruit and herbs. A food container garden is the perfect gift for moms who make fantastic salsa or strawberry jam.

  • Mini, dwarf or determinate type vege varieties work best in containers.
  • Most vege, fruit and herb plants require full sun exposure.
  • Some food plants require staking. Make sure the container can support stakes.
  • Edible landscaping plants offer the best of both worlds.

Some of my favorite food plants for containers: round cherry, oval grape and pear tomatoes, chives, sage, aloe, salad bowl lettuce, Chinese 5 color peppers.

Caring for container gardens

There are 5 critical components to care for container plants: soil, sun, water, fertilizer and pollination.

Use potting mix, not topsoil, to fill the container. Potting mix provides superior drainage and soil aeration.

When combining plants in a container, choose plants with similar sun, water and fertilizer requirements. Container gardens require more frequent watering and have higher fertilizer needs than outdoor garden beds.

Vegetable, fruit and herb container gardens grown indoors or in protected areas outdoors may not get insect or wind traffic required for pollination. Provide self-pollinating plants with a gentle shake to encourage pollen movement. If the plant cross-pollinates, brush some pollen from the male flower onto the pistil on a female flower.


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Magical microclimate flourishes in the great gardens of Garinish

If you’ve ever made the short journey from the handsome market town of Kenmare in Co Kerry to Garinish Island in Co Cork, you’ll know that it’s a route that takes you along the curling roads of the Caha Pass, through looming stone-tunnels carved improbably out of mountainous rockface and past a landscape so astonishingly, thrillingly and theatrically wild that it feels for all the world as if you’ve stepped back in time.

If that wasn’t enough, you then arrive in the small seaside village of Glengarriff, a place as prettily picturesque as any postcard. Here, visitors to Garinish, or Ilnacullin as it’s also known, must step on board a small, turquoise-blue ferry that chugs its way gently out of the harbour and into the balmy waters of Bantry Bay, past sleepy, sunbathing seals and a clutch of islands in miniature, each covered in its own thick blanket of golden gorse and wild rhododendron. It’s a boat journey of no more than 10 minutes, but one so atmospheric that by the time Garinish Island comes into view – a leafy oasis rising steeply out of the water – you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled upon Tolkien’s “Undying Lands”.

When the Belfast-born Scottish MP John Annan Bryce bought Garinish Island in 1910, he and his family were already regular visitors to west Cork, seduced by its landscape and the friendliness of local people. Back then, the 37-acre island had no garden to speak of. It took much money, decades of skilled labour, the expert advice of the gifted British architect Harold Peto and the brilliant Scottish horticulturist Murdo Mackenzie (known as “Mac”) to allow the Bryce family to create a garden capable of defying the Atlantic storms and salt-laden winds which are a feature of Ireland’s south-west coast.

It was Peto who gave Ilnacullin its glorious bone structure – that famous Italianate garden with its formal terraces, reflective pool, colonnades, open pavilions, Casita, Grecian temple and curling flights of stone steps, all wonderfully juxtaposed against the garden’s wilder, Robinsonian elements including its “jungle”, bog gardens and woodland glades.

It was Mac who provided the crucial ingredient of expert horticulture, especially in creating a tough, evergreen shelterbelt of Scots and Monterey Pine that would protect the the sub-tropical planting from the rigours of those briny winds and storms. It’s because of this Scotsman’s great skill that Ilnacullin is now home to a treasure trove of choice trees and shrubs – embothriums, acacias, camellias, magnolias, myrtle, rhododendron and azalea hybrids, eucryphias, michelias and tree ferns – that thrive in its protected microclimate.

But it was the Bryce family who breathed life and love into the project, transforming a barren, windswept island into a tiny paradise.

This is especially true of Annan and Violet’s son, Roland, who lived on Ilnacullin for much of his adult life until his death in 1953, contentedly sharing his island home, Bryce House, with his two good friends, Mac the head gardener, and Margaret O’ Sullivan, who managed the house.

A keen botanist, the gardens of Ilnacullin were Roland’s lifelong passion. Before his death, he ensured their survival by bequeathing the island to the Irish people. Touchingly, he did so on the strict condition that Mac and Margaret could continue to live on in Bryce House until their deaths. They both did. After long, happy lives, Mac died in 1983 while Margaret died in 1999; both had devoted many decades of loyal service to Garinish, playing key roles in its transformation into the leafy idyll it is today.

Fascinatingly, the OPW, which is entrusted with the care of the island, has recently completed an utterly brilliant restoration of their island home. Visitors can now catch a vivid glimpse of a way of life that’s passed into history, from Murdo’s (recreated) study with its garden notebooks and old-fashioned plant-labelling devices to Roland’s library with its neat stacks of old gardening periodicals.

Which is not to say that time and a century of Atlantic storms haven’t left their mark on the gardens of Ilnacullin. Over the years, the OPW has carried out vital repairs on the fabric of the garden’s architecture, while more recently, it has taken the first steps in a process that will see the overall rejuvenation of both the planting and hard landscaping. To date, that’s most obvious in Ilnacullin’s wonderful walled garden, in the shape of handsome new paths and sensitive replanting. Work has also begun on the garden’s Casita and its 19th-century Martello tower, while restoration of its formal pool will soon begin. All in all, it’s expected the work will be completed by the end of 2017.

In the meantime, do your best to pay this magical little island – one of Ireland’s truly great gardens – a visit over the coming months. See

nFionnuala Fallon visited Ilnacullin as a guest of the Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, which is offering a special Buds and Blossoms package (from €536 per room) for May and June. This includes two nights’ BB, a dinner, boat transfer to Garinish, and entry to both Garinish and Bantry House and Gardens. See

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8 Frugal Hacks to Get Rid of Garden Pests

With warmer weather comes mosquitoes. Unless you’ve been on a media diet, you’re likely familiar with the threat of the Zika virus and its connection to certain mosquitoes, and may be wondering what you can do to minimize your exposure to them.

But mosquitoes aren’t the only pests with which you may come into contact or have to deal at your home this spring and summer. Most yards have bugs of one sort or another—some of them beneficial bugs, others those we could live without, like those aforementioned mosquitoes.

Here’s another thing about warmer weather—it’s hot real estate time. According to, May is a great month to list your home, with homes listed during the early to mid part of this month selling 19 days faster than homes listed at another time.

If you’re looking to sell your home, then you have to be thinking about curb appeal—both in-person curb appeal and in the pictures your real estate agent will take and post with your ad. Frankly, those garden pests may not want to cooperate in your improved curb appeal efforts.

“The curb appeal of a property can make all the difference in whether buyers want to see its interior or not. The average home buyer knows within seconds of seeing a house whether or not they will consider purchasing it,” says Mary Dionisio Roberge, a McEnearney Associates real estate agent in the Washington, D.C. area. “Unfortunately, with summer, the pests come out and some are on a mission to ruin the hard work you put into your landscaping and gardens. Luckily, with a few simple home remedies, there are ways to stop those pesky insects from infesting your gardens and ruining your home’s curb appeal.”

I’ve pulled together eight frugal hacks that can come handy in fighting common pests. These hacks primarily rely on tools you likely already have around the house.

Launch this slideshow to learn these eight frugal hacks, tips and tricks.

Here are hacks for your lawn and garden, not related to pests!

Leah Ingram’s favorite price is free! She is the author of 14 books, including two on frugal living. Her book Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less was recently released as an audiobook. Leah, a money-saving expert, is the founder of the popular frugal-living blog called Suddenly Frugal. Right now if you subscribe to Suddenly Frugal, Leah will send you an exclusive freebie. Follow her on Twitter @suddenlyfrugal and “Like” Suddenly Frugal on Facebook. Also, check out Leah’s newest venture–Pawsome Doggie, selling awesome dog party supplies!

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Learn how to plant a "Fire Safe Garden"

Two Santa Maria residents were arrested Wednesday in connection to a five-months long investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

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Gardening tips for the summer

The unprecedented heat this last month has had all of us wondering how we can retain any greenery in our gardens, whether these are large bungalow grounds or tiny balcony or terrace gardens.

Expert gardeners such as B.S. Nirody, author of
Flower gardening in South India,
tell us that more plants are killed by overwatering than by underwatering. Here are some tips for staying at least semi-green through the heat of this summer and, as this situation seems likely to recur, the summers to come as well.

Prevent evaporation:

Studies have shown that 90 per cent of water poured on bare soil evaporates.


soil moisture

before watering. Even if the surface is dry, poke a stick into the soil to see if it is moist underneath. Water only if it is dry below the surface.

Water only at the root tips

for plants in the ground. Do not flood the basin with water, because the plant absorbs water only from the root tips; the rest is wasted. How can you tell where the root tips are? Check how wide the canopy of the plant is. The root spread underground will be roughly the same, so water directly below the edge of the canopy.


the soil around the plant, starting a few inches away from the stem — place a thick layer of any material such as compost, dry leaves, hay, sawdust, or brick pieces on top of the soil around the plant to keep it moist and cool. Both potted plants and those in the ground benefit from mulching. Turn the mulch over now and then to prevent insects and fungus.

Let the lawn go:

This is perhaps the first and biggest sacrifice. Yes, velvety green lawns are a joy, gladdening the eye and calming the spirit. Alas, though, they are the biggest water guzzlers. Consider replanting the lawn area with less water-demanding ground covers, such as verbena.

Choose drought-tolerant plants:

The plant varieties described below need no special care; they thrive in ordinary garden soil, in full sun, with very little water.

Oleanders come in a range of colours, from white and cream through peach and pink to a deep rich magenta. Planted in the ground, oleanders can grow into small trees; planted in tubs, they remain small but thrive and flower in ordinary garden soil in full sun with minimal water.

Bougainvilleas love the heat. The drier it is, the more brilliantly they seem to flower. When you want them to grow, water regularly; when you want them to flower, don’t water them. If you withhold water (giving just enough at the roots to keep them alive) for about 2-3 weeks, then water well for a few days, the plants just burst into bloom.

Bromeliads are plants of the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae), native to Colombia, South America. They come in a spectacular range of both foliage colours and inflorescence shapes and colours: yellow and green-speckled leaves with brilliant red flower spikes; dark green leaves tipped with deep pink, black and green zebra-striped leaves with a 1-foot-tall vermilion spathe, and so on.

Like orchids, bromeliads are epiphytes; they mostly grow clinging to trees in their own habitat. But you can grow them in pots in semi-shade. The soil should be
The leaves of bromeliads grow in a rosette around a hollow “cup”; fill this cup with water and water at the roots only once or twice a week. Do not over water. The shallow roots will rot if waterlogged. After flowering the plant will die; however, a new plant will grow from its side. When this has grown 4 to 6 inches, cut away the old plant with a sharp knife; the new one will flower the next season.

Water lilies and bog plants are actually water saving, although this sounds paradoxical. Don’t indulge in a large pond from which water will evaporate rapidly; maintain several mini-water gardens instead. For each mini-pond, place a large tub in full sun and fill it with water. Pot up a water lily plant in a small pot and immerse this in the tub; the leaves should float on the surface of the water. Since the tub needs to be filled just once, it saves water in the long run; you just need to top it up now and then. And the flowers will give you endless pleasure. Put a few fish (guppies are easiest) in the tub to prevent mosquitoes.

Bog plants such as water snowflake, papyrus, and
grow on the margins of lakes, so they don’t need deep standing water. Pot these up in ordinary garden soil; thoroughly drench the soil, then place the pot in a container or shallow tray in an inch or two of water.

Cacti are desert plants, adapted to grow on minimal water. They have interesting shapes and beautiful flowers; some even have edible fruits. Start a collection in this hot season.

Make water-wise gardening part of an overall water-saving lifestyle.

Save all rinse water in a bucket and feed it to your plants—they will love you for it.

Refrain from wasting precious filtered water on washing your cars and the driveway. Fix leaky taps promptly. Happy water saving!

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Garden tips: cow manure; hibiscus; maple; daffodils

Enabling Cookies in Internet Explorer 9

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Enabling Cookies in Internet Explorer 10, 11

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Gardening: Tips for taking care of butterfly bushes

Q: I have planted butterfly bushes the past two springs. The first one did not come back at all. The one from last year seems mostly dead but has one branch that is getting some green on it. I planted both of them in the same spot, in full afternoon sun. They both grew and flowered beautifully over the summer.

Should I have cut them down or put burlap on them over the winter? None of my garden books mentions the bushes.

—Betty Silfies, Macungie

A: My guess is that Betty is having a water problem, she should check the drainage there. An area prone to retaining water would result in poor growth and/or death as a result of root rot. I must admit that I have killed more than my share of butterfly bushes, usually by forgetting to water the young plants. or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

This week in the garden


•Start seed for: Salsify, eggplant, summer squash and winter squash. Continue sewing: Pumpkins.

•Direct sow: Snap, bush and pole beans, cantaloupe, melons, cucumbers, rhubarb, summer and winter squash. Continue sewing: Celeric, celery, cabbage, carrots, collards, bunching onions, onion sets, parsnips and Swiss chard.

•Plant or pot up summer bulbs and tubers such as dahlias, cannas, calla lilies and caladiums.

•Buy annuals for containers, annual garden beds and to fill in bare spots in perennial or shrub beds.

•Plant bare root trees and shrubs. Make sure the soil is dry enough to work. Don’t dig or plant in mud.


•As the weather warms, start easing out your plants that wintered over inside.

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