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Archives for May 16, 2016

Chelsea Flower Show 2016: garden design that jumps the language gap

There has been a meeting of East and West not only in the design of Chihori Shibayama’s show garden, but also in its construction. Chihori’s Japanese team don’t speak much English, and her British team from Landform Consultants don’t speak Japanese, and this language barrier at first seemed like it would be the most difficult hurdle to get over. But having met on site at Chelsea, it became clear since everyone has solid work experience in the same industry, they can actually communicate without words. This has amazed and delighted the first-time designer, and given her a huge sense of relief.

Although this is her first Chelsea, she has worked in the landscape department of the Watahan Group in Nagano, Japan, for 20 years, with Yano Tea as her mentor for the past three.

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Rossmoor Woman’s Club hosts successful 13th annual Outdoor Living and Garden Tour

The 2016 Rossmoor Woman’s Club (RWC) Outdoor Living and Garden Tour is as much about socializing as it is about gathering ideas for your own home. You meet old friends along the way, and make new friends while chatting. Proceeds of ticket and ad sales go to the many good causes supported by RWC.

This year’s Tour featured six homes with themed front and back yards, plus an Outdoor Store and open house at Antica Extra Virgin Olive Oils Vinegars.

We started our tour of Rossmoor at the western end of Rush Park, where we bought tickets that also served as a four-page glossy brochure, showcasing Tour Sponsors and giving background about the Rossmoor Woman’s Club.

The Woman’s Club Outdoor Store was spread out on the Park’s grass, with vendors offering jewelry, purses, and yard art. Quite a selection, quite a temptation!

The tour is self-guided using the map at the center of the brochure/ticket. You can visit the homes in any order. We chose to start at home #6 on Copa de Oro Drive because it was the southernmost, themed “Front Yard Entertaining.” We would then be able to work our way north and east, counting down through the list of homes.

You should allow an hour or two for the full tour of six houses — then add on more time if you want to shop the Outdoor Store and visit Antica. Remember that for next year, if you were unable to make the Tour this year.

Front Yard Entertaining

House #6, Front Yard Entertaining. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #6, “Front Yard Entertaining.” Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

This home in the southwest corner of Rossmoor started a repeated motif of poolside living — with a front yard pool. A clean and neat design allowed plenty of room for water play, for pool-side seating, and a mobile barbecue all tucked in the corner made by the garage and front wall of the house. Privacy was maintained by a high wall that screened off the area from the street, while still leaving room for landscaping on the street-side.

The backyard continued gracious outdoor living with a patio area — large enough for two tables — surrounded by lush landscaping that included a tiered fountain.

Peaceful Living

House #5, Peaceful Living. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #5, “Peaceful Living.” Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

This house has enough curb appeal to have been chosen as the banner graphic for this article. Clean lines, elegant details, and neat front yard landscaping lead to a quiet back yard that seems designed for family get-togethers rather than boisterous block parties.

This garden rewards an eye for detail that doesn’t skip over the small raised vegetable garden (hiding on the far side of the fireplace), the tiered water feature surrounded by bougainvillea, and the whimsical ocean-themed mural painted on the back wall of a neighbor’s garage.

English Garden

House #4, English Garden. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #4, “English Garden.” Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

The ultra clean lines and welcoming front yard landscaping of this home on Wembley Road give visitors no clue of the pool that takes up most of the back yard space, leaving room for a good-sized patio and bar area snuggled up to the house.

How could you not want to linger with friends long into the night, sipping good wine, nibbling grilled veggies, and dabbling toes in the pool?

Pizza Oven Party House

House #3, Pizza Oven Party House.quot Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #3, “Pizza Oven Party House.” Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

This home on Foster Road offers another surprise — an outdoor pizza oven right beside the pool!

Many details make this back yard personal, like a statue of St. Francis tucked in a corner, and a cross set in tile in the back wall. A water chute falls from an artificial rock pile, no doubt doubling as a slide for the young and young at heart.

Another surprise — friendly neighbors!

This backyard and the neighboring backyard are open to one another, with no wall separating them, making for a very generous outdoor living space away from those driving past on busy Foster Road.

Mediterranean Villa

House #2, Mediterranean Villa. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #2, “Mediterranean Villa.” Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

This house is my personal favorite because of the space dedicated to neatly laid out vegetable and herb gardens. Screened from the street by a wall, no one driving by would suspect this lovely edible landscape that includes a good-sized patio with fireplace.

The backyard is filled with a spa and pool. An outdoor cooking area is tucked in a back corner. Nooks and crannies are filled with right-sized leafy and flowering plants.

Owners Dr. Dan and Anne Serafano should reap bushel baskets full of fresh tomatoes and artichokes, seasoned with fresh herbs and shared with friends and family in the gentle light from the late-setting summer sun.

Ultimate Entertainers Delight

House #1 in the 2016 Rossmoor Womans Club Outdoor Living and Garden Tour. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

House #1 in the 2016 Rossmoor Woman’s Club Outdoor Living and Garden Tour. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

The wide-open and inviting front entry of this, our final home on this year’s tour, includes seating and a wall fountain, but the real action can be found by following the driveway up the north side to the back.

Wow. This home backs onto busy Seal Beach Boulevard, but you would never know it — water circulating through pool filters has been cunningly designed to return through two falls that provide “white noise” masking the traffic.

The pool surround is multi-level and dramatic, including a spa and outdoor fireplace in one corner. It steps up to a high point at a tent-covered platform along the Rossmoor perimeter wall. The garage has been taken over as a game room (billiards, pinball), with an entire wall enclosed as a wine cellar. Free-standing planters raised to easy-working height shelter a selection of vegetables.

Antica Virgin Olive Oils Vinegars

The last stop on the tour was at Antica Virgin Olive Oils Vinegars, 11110 Los Alamitos Blvd., Suite 103. Owner Yasemin Altuner is always happy to explain her virgin oil olives and vinegars, and holds frequent events. For more information about Antica, call the store at 562-430-0320, email, or visit

About Rossmoor Woman’s Club

For more than fifty years, the Rossmoor Woman’s Club (RWC) has raised money and volunteered time in support of Los Alamitos High School, military families, Casa Youth Shelter, Interval House, and Pathways to Independence. RWC is a social club that believes the most fun and best time is found in helping out.

Want more information? Call 562-810-7139 or visit

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How Miami became the capital of affluent Latin America

The Miami skyline seen lit up at nightImage copyright
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More than half of Miami’s population is Hispanic

In just a few decades, Miami has been transformed from a sleepy Southern city into an energetic Hispanic metropolis. How?

Ask Americans about Hispanic migration to the United States. For many of them, the first image that will come to mind will be one of impoverished migrants walking across the Arizona desert to enter the country illegally.

But alongside the millions of undocumented men and women who have arrived with little money or formal education in recent decades from Mexico and other Latin American countries, the US has also received a smaller but significant inflow of more affluent migrants from south of the border, many of them choosing to live in Miami.

Armed with work permits, university degrees, and high expectations of upward mobility, many of them buy houses with swimming pools, big lawns and access to good school districts. Elsewhere in America, politicians like Donald Trump promise to build big walls along the border with Mexico.

But Miami seems more at ease with the overwhelming influence of Latin America in this metropolis of 2.5 million inhabitants, where close to 70% of the population is Hispanic, Spanish is spoken almost everywhere and most of its current residents seem to be fine with it.

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Getty Images

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Miami’s new Hispanic arrivals mostly did not cross the US-Mexico desert border to get there

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Cubans no longer flee to Miami in the same way as they did in the 1950s

Juan Pablo Restrepo is originally from Colombia. He lives with his wife and son in the upscale neighbourhood of Key Biscayne, near the beach. He works as a music curator for Mood Media, a company that provides music played inside retail stores across the country.

“Miami is very attractive for Latin Americans. They get to be in the United States, with all its advantages, but keeping familiar cultural roots,” says Mr Restrepo.

“It is also a very efficient bridge between both cultures, Anglo and Hispanic. If you go to other places in the country, you feel the cultural and racial tensions to a much larger degree,” he adds.

Mr Restrepo is part of a Latin diaspora that has turned Miami into the US metropolis with the largest percentage of foreign-born residents, close to 51% of the population, according to Guillermo Grenier, a professor of sociology at Florida International University.

BBC News World On The Move is a day of coverage dedicated to migration, and the changing effect it is having on our world.

A range of speakers, including the UNHCR’s special envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt, and former British secret intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove, will set out the most important new ideas shaping our thinking on economic development, security and humanitarian assistance.

You can follow the discussion and reaction to it, with live online coverage on the BBC News website.

“Cubans began coming here (after the Revolution) in 1959 and after that, you had layer upon layer of Latinos coming in from different countries,” says Mr Grenier.

In the past few years they have been followed by around 100,000 middle-income Latin Americans from countries including Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil among others, he tells the BBC.

“If you are a business owner in Latin America you can come to Miami, you have an audience, a market, you can make five calls, in Spanish, and set up the infrastructure for your business,” he adds, remarking that close to 25% of businesses in the state of Florida are owned by Latin-American immigrants.

Mr Grenier sees Hispanics in Miami occupying a different position in the power structure compared to elsewhere in America.

“In Los Angeles, when you hear Spanish, it is often the language that the waiters or the cutters doing your lawn speak in the background. In Miami, the people who own the restaurants and the lawn are the ones who speak Spanish.”

Famous in Miami

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The Miami connection – Pitbull, Estefan, Martin and Arnaz

  • Rapper Pitbull, who was born to Cuban parents
  • Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan
  • Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin
  • Cuban-born actor Desi Arnaz, most famous as I Love Lucy co-star

Opponents of immigration claim it places an economic burden on the host society. But here, many see business opportunities in catering to the newcomers.

Mercedes Guinot, a real estate agent, sells many houses to well-to-do Latin American immigrants. She estimates that 80% of her clients are from Latin America, paying an average of about $450,000 (£311,000) for three or four-bedroom houses with a large yard and a swimming pool.

“They tend to pay in cash”, she says approvingly, before taking off to see a prospective client in Weston, a Miami suburb of manicured lawns and lush landscaping that is home to so many Venezuelans it is often referred to here as “Westonzuela”.

So, has Miami avoided completely the controversy around immigration raging elsewhere? It certainly did not in the not-so-distant past. Local residents remember the tensions that followed a 1980 referendum declaring English as the official language of the city, a measure that stayed in place until the early 1990s in the vain hope of containing the growing influence of Spanish.

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Cuban migration to Miami increased after the 1959 Revolution, says sociology professor Grenier

And over the years, vast numbers of Anglo residents uncomfortable with the demographic tsunami that changed their city from a sleepy Southern resort into a largely Latino metropolis have voted with their feet, leaving town once the balance of power in Miami tipped decisively in the direction of the Hispanic community.

Only around 15% of Miami Dade county’s current residents are white non-Hispanics, says Guillermo Grenier from Florida International University.

And nobody should think that life is all that easy for Latin Americans migrating to Miami, even for those from comparatively well-to-do backgrounds, warns Kathy Riano-Lopez, an immigration lawyer originally from Colombia.

“The first immigration case I won was my own,” says Mrs Riano, who arrived in the United States in 2004 claiming asylum from political persecution back home.

Despite graduating from prestigious universities in Colombia and Spain, she remembers it took years for her to get her degree recognised here.

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Immigration lawyer Kathy Riaño-Lopez represents mostly Venezuelans that are fleeing political and economic turmoil

Around 70% of her current clients are from Venezuela, fleeing the country’s chaos. “Many are willing to come to this country to do jobs they would never consider at home,” she said.

Still, the allure of this city, in many ways an embodiment of affluent Latin-American aspirations of a life of safety, stability and comfort, seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

And Miami itself appears ready to continue to embrace the cultural diversity they bring with them, along with the economic prosperity they have helped to create in their new hometown.

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Biz Buzz: Communal workspace opens in Chesterfield



Svetlana Papasov’s new venture is the Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence.



Actor Alan Sader is featured in one of the new commericial Burford Advertising is making for charity ChildFund International.



Produce available from Seasonal Roots



This photo from earlier in 2016 shows construction under way for the Jim’s Local Market in Newport News.

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2016 10:30 pm

Biz Buzz: Communal workspace opens in Chesterfield

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Svetlana Papazov wears various hats — including pastor, businesswoman and entrepreneur.

She is merging those concepts in a new venture called the Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence.

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An All-Volunteer Squad Of Farmers Is Turning Florida Lawns Into Food

Rows of greens grow on the front yard of Gary Henderson's house. He's one of a handful of homeowners in Orlando, Fl., who've given up their lawn to Fleet Farming. Once you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense, Henderson says.i

Rows of greens grow on the front yard of Gary Henderson’s house. He’s one of a handful of homeowners in Orlando, Fl., who’ve given up their lawn to Fleet Farming. Once “you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense,” Henderson says.

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Catherine Welch/WMFE

Rows of greens grow on the front yard of Gary Henderson's house. He's one of a handful of homeowners in Orlando, Fl., who've given up their lawn to Fleet Farming. Once you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense, Henderson says.

Rows of greens grow on the front yard of Gary Henderson’s house. He’s one of a handful of homeowners in Orlando, Fl., who’ve given up their lawn to Fleet Farming. Once “you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense,” Henderson says.

Catherine Welch/WMFE

In Florida, homeowners have a propensity for landscaping. They take great pride in the green carpet of grass in front of their homes. But one Florida man is working on a project that’s turning his neighbors’ lawns into working farms.

Chris Castro has an obsession — turn the perfectly manicured lawns in his Orlando neighborhood into mini-farms.

“The amount of interest in Orlando is incredibly surprising,” Castro says.

Surprising, because he’s asking Floridians to hand over a good chunk of their precious yards to volunteers who plant gardens full of produce. His program is called Fleet Farming, and it’s starting off small, with 10 of these yard farms. Most of them sit smack in the middle of the front yard. Lawns are a thing here. Urban farms? Not so much. But so far, no neighbors have complained.

“We’ve been lucky,” Castro says.

Fleet Farming volunteers Michele Bimbier, A.J. Azqeta and Blake Addington prepare freshly picked vegetables.

Fleet Farming volunteers Michele Bimbier, A.J. Azqeta and Blake Addington prepare freshly picked vegetables.

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Catherine Welch/WMFE

Castro squeezes this project around his day job: He works on sustainability in the mayor’s office. Castro’s parents are palm tree farmers in south Florida and he has a degree in environmental science – a background that’s a perfect combination of his day job and side project. Thanks to his work in City Hall, he knows Orlando allows residents to farm on up to 60 percent of their yard.

Castro makes sure every garden is meticulously maintained – including homeowner Gary Henderson’s.

“I just think that the whole idea of lawns, especially in a place like Florida, is absurd,” says Henderson, standing amid rows of tomatoes, sweet lettuce, carrots and arugula growing smack in the middle of his front yard. Henderson donated the use of his yard about a year ago, after noticing other Fleet Farming gardens on his block.

“If you look across the street there, there’s a garden,” Henderson says as we stand outside in his yard. “That’s my partner’s daughter’s house. I looked the other way and there’s one at the church, and[I] said, this might be something good to get involved with.”

All of Fleet Farming’s volunteers only ride bikes, going from garden to garden to harvest the produce. They were just at Henderson’s garden.

“The Fleet people came in a swarm of bicycles,” Castro says. “There were probably 15 people here, and they harvested lettuce and kale and arugula and gosh, not even sure what else they had, Swiss Chard.”

Because the program is biked-powered, Castro keeps the yard gardens within a mile of the local farmer’s market, where Fleet Farming sells most of the produce.

When I visit the farmer’s market, Michele Bimbier is working the booth at the market, selling produce she and a few volunteers picked and washed just that morning. Lisa Delmonte saw Bimbier riding her bike to the market, and stopped by for some veggies. She’s a fan for two reasons – the produce is local, and she says it tastes better than produce that’s bumped around in the back of a delivery truck.

Fleet Farming produce for sale at a farmer's market in Orlando, Fl.

Fleet Farming produce for sale at a farmer’s market in Orlando, Fl.

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“I think the things that I buy at the grocery story — even the organic things at the grocery store — just don’t have flavor,” Delmonte says.

Along with sales at the farmer’s market, Castro sells kits to start Fleet Farming in other communities. There’s a Fleet Farming program in Oakland, Calif., selling produce to local restaurants.

Among Fleet Farming’s fans is Curtis Stone, a Canadian author and farmer who tours the U.S., spreading the gospel of urban farming. (He’s got a farm in his yard.) He says Fleet Farming’s patchwork of donated yards delivers more than local access to fresh produce.

“Land is often out of reach for many young people who want to get into agriculture,” Stone says. “But if you eliminate that idea altogether, there really isn’t a barrier to entry.”

As he looks out over the rows of veggies growing in his front yard, homeowner Gary Henderson offers this advice to anyone thinking about replacing their lawn with a garden.

“You know, I would say give it a try,” Henderson says. “And once you get to the point where you realize that you can eat your lawn, I think it makes a whole lot of sense.”

And so do 300 other residents of central Florida. That’s how many people are on Fleet Farming’s waiting list, ready to eat their lawns instead of having to mow them.

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Urge to live with trees, nature may be leading wildfire to our front doors

At first glance, it looks like Mike Flannigan is playing in a pile of dry garden wood chips on the campus of the University of Alberta, but really it’s science at work.

“We have a simple test. If I drop to my knees and then stand up — if my knees are wet, it won’t burn.”

The University of Alberta professor of wildland fires says what we place in our gardens could make the difference between our homes catching on fire or not. 

“Fire is opportunistic. It finds a path, it probes, it searches.”

Mike Flannigan

University of Alberta wildfire expert Mike Flannigan says fire is ‘opportunistic.’ (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

After the devastating fire of 2011 in Slave Lake, Alta., Flannigan recalls seeing the front walk and driveway of one home in the community lined with mulch. That led the fire right to the front door, but the home’s green lawn was untouched.

“It just needed a wick, it just needed a path and away it went.”

In recent days, images of the devastation left by the wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., where entire city blocks were destroyed, have seemed eerily similar to those of Slave Lake after its fire five years ago.

The Slave Lake wildfire cost an estimated $700 million in damage. One of the 374 buildings lost was a fire hall.

“Looking back on it, a bunch of spruce trees led right up to it. We had a bunch of pallets that we used for training stacked up maybe 10 metres away from the fire hall,” says Lesser Slave regional fire Chief Jamie Coutts.

The building, made of asphalt shingles and clapboard siding, was constructed with the wrong kind of materials, Coutts said.

Five years and $3 million later, it’s a different story.

Changing landscaping around buildings


Lesser Slave regional fire Chief Jamie Coutts stands next to the new fire-proof fire hall in Widewater rebuilt after the wildfire in May 2011. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“Our new fire hall is metal everything and there’s no trees around it and the grass is kept short,” Coutts said.

This is a technique dubbed FireSmart across Canada and Firewise in the United States.

But Coutts says no matter what you call it, it boils down to returning to the lessons that kept Canadian pioneers alive.

“Homesteaders would come out and they would say: ‘Down this line, they would cut all the trees down and that would be your field starting here. Then the woods starts there.’ “

Coutts says our love for nature and desire to live alongside trees puts us in danger, enabling fire to arrive at our front door.

“To a forest fire, houses are just another kind of tree. So there’s nothing special about them, it’s a burnable piece of material.”

The sooner we look at our homes as potential fuel for a wildfire, the better, Coutts says.

What homeowners can do


An area on the outskirts of Slave Lake, Alta., has been thinned as part of the FireSmart technique. (Adrienne Lamb)

Coutts believes Canadians must push back the bush and create fire breaks around communities. 

Meanwhile, individual homeowners need to get smarter about building materials and landscaping to prevent megafires in the future.

Coutts suggests removing items that can burn from the first 10 metres around your home, including woodpiles and shrubs.

When it comes to the exterior walls or shell of your house, Coutts says metal, stucco, brick and concrete are preferable to wood and vinyl siding.

Deadly lesson from Down Under

Some homeowners in Australia have gone even further in terms of fireproofing, creating private bushfire bunkers similar to underground tornado shelters in North America. 

The catalyst for a move to bunkers and stricter building codes came in February 2009, when the Black Saturday bush fires swept across the state of Victoria, killing 173 people and injuring 400 more.

They were the worst wildfires Australia ever experienced, says Kevin Tolhurst, associate professor in fire management and ecology at the University of Melbourne.

Tolhurst says the fire’s intensity was off the charts. Those charts had measured fire intensity with five categories: low, moderate, high, very high, and extreme, says Tolhurst.

But when the Australians realized the fire was two to three times hotter than “extreme,” they were forced to change the fire warning system, adding a “code red” or “catastrophic” category.

More intense fires

Tolhurst, who earned the Order of Australia for his insights into fire, says the intensity of modern fires is beyond our planning and our design criteria and that “all bets are off.” 


The aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, Australia, on Feb. 7, 2009. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Flannigan agrees. He’s seeing a similar growth in intensity in the recent catastrophic fires in Canada. 

When it comes to sifting through the aftermath of a fire in places like Fort McMurray or Slave Lake, Coutts says in some cases which houses are left standing and which aren’t can be explained. 

“We look at overhead pictures and say … ‘Remember how that house was built and it had wooden decks all around it or remember that guy who had three winters’ worth of firewood stored underneath his deck or that yard where there was 150 spruce trees on the lawn.’ “

You can hear more on CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy on Monday, May 16 at 9:05 p.m. 

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Beyond the Gates garden tour to benefit Hardin Center

The Hardin Center is providing the public a chance to visit some of the more spectacular private backyards, gardens, pools and views in the greater Gadsden area. The Beyond the Gates tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $20 per person and are available now and through the duration of the tour at the Hardin Center. All proceeds benefit the center’s programs and projects.

“It’s like a tour of homes, except that this tour takes place completely on the exterior of the homes,” said event organizer Deborah Hawkins. “We are grateful for the people who have generously opened up their private spaces to support the Hardin Center.”

Tour-goers may take the tour in any order they choose, but the day begins with a reception in the Hardin Center’s New Orleans-style courtyard. Visitors will enjoy a sampling of shrimp and grits, jambalaya, spinach and artichoke tart, and a mimosa, all prepared by Courtyard Café. Lori Lee of Rococo Floral Studio will present a special demonstration in the courtyard at 11 a.m.

The tour features nine other picturesque stops. Judy and Don Bacon, Todd and Christi Brown, Brook and Jennifer Finlayson, Dawn and David Gregerson, Holly and Bobby Ostendorf, Joan and Ricky Ray, Chip and Susan Tucker, Rick and Linda Vaughan and the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection all have opened up their exterior spaces for the tour.

For more information, call the Hardin Center at 256-543-2787 or visit

Maps and directions to the spots will be available at the Hardin Center. Tickets will not be available at the individual tour stops.

Beyond the Gates is sponsored by Exchange Bank, FLD Landscaping and Garden Shop, Jay Hedgspeth/First Federal Mortgage, Karen Godfree Griffith/Bone Realty, Standard Tile and Proscape of Alabama.


More information about the featured spaces:

Hardin Center Courtyard, 501 Broad St., Gadsden

The Hardin Center’s courtyard features brick pavers, gas lanterns, the Basil Gilchrist memorial fountain, Venetian lights strung overhead and beautiful trompe l’oeil murals painted by artists Steve Temple, Rob Johnston and Mario Gallardo. Many of the improvements to the courtyard over the years have been funded by the Serendipity Dance Club. The courtyard is the venue for the annual Courtyard Concert Series each Friday and Saturday night, April through August. Local musicians perform free concerts and Courtyard Café provides food and beverage service.


Judy and Don Bacon, 555 Reynolds St., Gadsden

Judy and Don Bacon purchased their home in the downtown historic district in 2002. Judy is a Master Gardener and designed the cottage garden. She says that she has a deep love of flowers and feels that planting is a major form of stress relief for her. The garden includes 70 hydrangeas in a shade garden stocked full of various species of ferns, toad lilies, and Lenten roses. Climbing roses and clematises cascade from four arbors spaced throughout the garden. A pond and four fountains add visual interest and seating is placed to enjoy the garden from different angles. Known for her roses, Judy’s garden includes 220 rose bushes and she will discuss her roses and growing techniques at 2 p.m. during the tour.


Todd and Christi Brown, 113 Ridgeway Ave., Gadsden

When Todd and Christi Brown purchased their home in 2001, they found that it did not offer anything for the outdoor enthusiast. Todd, along with Tim Hart, created a design that transformed the space into an extension of the home and provided a wonderful area to entertain family and friends. The area includes a deck with an outdoor kitchen, spa and bath. The Browns enjoy using their space as a living and dining area throughout the seasons. Todd’s company, Proscape of Alabama, maintains most of the outdoor area with the exception of the garden that the homeowners take care of as their personal therapy.


Brook and Jennifer Finlayson, 2250 Cedar Bend Road North, Southside

The Finlaysons built their home on property they purchased from Jennifer’s parents in 1981. She later inherited the surrounding property to give them a total of 12 acres. Three of the acres are dedicated to the family landscape company, FLD Landscaping and Garden Shop. Jennifer designed all of the outdoor spaces and built them with the assistance of her landscaping crews. The property is a casual country garden with natural entertainment areas, wooded walking trails, and working edible gardens. Jennifer says the space is designed to be a casual, rustic environment meant to be lived in, played in and occasionally worked in. The swimming pool is beautifully situated to be viewed from the seating areas and enjoyed year-round. It features a large swimming area, a shallow area for children and a hot tub for the winter months. Two natural stone waterfalls cascade into the pool providing the tranquil sound of falling water and beautiful visual accents. The working garden is just beyond the pool and is often visited by family and friends who pick fresh berries or vegetables to put on the grill at the pool’s kitchen.


Dawn and David Gregerson, 179 Azalea Drive, Gadsden

The Gregersons bought their home in 2008. The potential for the incredible view was the biggest draw in the decision to purchase the property. They have renovated the home, the landscaping, and the outdoor areas to suit their tastes and to maximize the breathtaking view of Gadsden. Dawn and David enjoy fun with family and friends in the backyard and pool area, but they also treasure their ability to get away without leaving home. The pool features a beach entrance, seating ledge, waterfall and a fire bowl, all of which combine to produce a resort-like feel with an infinity view of Gadsden. The landscaping around the pool is accented with pink LED weeping cherry trees that were imported from China. An outdoor kitchen and seating area compliments the pool and includes a fire pit with rock wall seating for family nights of roasting marshmallows. A short walk through the backyard leads around to the hot tub deck where the couple enjoys their morning coffee with the feel of a Gatlinburg mountain view.


Holly and Bobby Ostendorf, 500 Wildwood Road, Gadsden

The Ostendorfs purchased their home a few years ago and enjoy the beautiful view from their side patio overlooking Gadsden, Rainbow City and the mountain ridges in the distance. The large patio is surrounded by trees and plants selected to give it a natural feel. Their outdoor décor is an eclectic mix of Pottery Barn purchases and estate sale and flea market finds, combined with landscaping and rock walls that were original to the home. The space features a potting shed completed by contractor Michael Greer that doubles as a fun place to watch Alabama football. The potting shed is one of the family’s favorite and most used areas. It features a rustic wooden ceiling, walls, and cabinets and a concrete countertop. The Ostendorfs are installing a new wooden fence, grapevines and terrace gardens. Copelandscapes will be adding a large rock patio with a fire pit scheduled to be completed in time for football season.


Joan and Ricky Ray, 372 Azalea Drive, Gadsden

After purchasing and renovating their home in 2003, Joan and Ricky Ray began planning their landscape renovation in 2008. Joan is a Master Gardener and worked with landscape designer Bob Elam on the design of the garden. Proscape of Alabama completed the initial installation and occasionally helps maintain the space, but the homeowners enjoy doing most of the maintenance themselves. The garden has a European feel with more formal areas near the house that back away into a woodland garden. The garden house and the parterre bed are the focal points of the space and the area also includes an outdoor kitchen, a dining terrace and a gathering terrace. Other elements of the garden include a fountain, arbors with climbing roses and wisteria, a perennial bed enclosed in rock walls and a lower terrace with a water feature and sitting wall. The woodland garden has many oakleaf hydrangeas and a curved sitting area with a fire pit. A potager garden is beyond the garden house and it features blueberries, fruit trees, raised vegetable beds and a cutting garden.


Chip and Susan Tucker, 126 Kaylu Drive, Gadsden

The Tuckers purchased their home and 6.5 acres in 1986. They have completed several renovations over the last 30 years, the last of which in 2008 resulted in their outdoor living space including a pool, cabana, outdoor kitchen and patio. The plan was derived from years of saving pictures from magazines and from their ideas of what they wanted as a family. The planting area was designed by Bob Elam. The rest of the space was designed by architect Pat Sherman after listening to the family’s ideas and suggestions. Susan’s sister, Joan Ray, assisted with the supervision of the project. The outdoor living space features a complete kitchen under the cabana that also serves as an entertainment space with a television and a pool table. The structure was formed with reclaimed beams to give it a rustic feel. The massive rock fireplace provides warmth during the cool months and visual interest year-round. A patio extends beyond the cabana and encircles a swimming pool that reflects the surrounding palm trees. The Tuckers enjoy hosting family gatherings in their space and utilize the casual, relaxed area throughout the year.


Rick and Linda Vaughan, 100 Rockview Drive, Gadsden

Rick Vaughan purchased his home in 1998 before he and Linda were married. Besides a few plantings, the property was unremarkable. Rick began working in the yard initially as a form of therapy and the space evolved into a refuge from the stresses of the world. After Rick and Linda married, she helped him transform the entire property into a showplace. They removed 63 trees from the wooded yard to create multiple terraces of plantings and hardscapes. The space includes rock elements, planting beds, a waterfall, an incredible koi pond, a swimming pool, statuary and urns. The Vaughans also enjoy a hot tub and an outdoor room that extends from their home. While the couple loves to travel, they say that their outdoor retreat is their favorite spot to be.


The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 113 Brown Ave., Rainbow City

Work began in the garden at the Church of the Resurrection in 2002. Since that time, the space has grown and evolved into a beautiful sanctuary for reflection and prayer. It is also a favorite spot for fellowship and informal gatherings. The garden is maintained by church members and is open to be enjoyed by the community. A diverse selection of plantings and hardscape accents fill the garden and many of the elements are in memory of or in honor of members of the parish or their loved ones.

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Five tips for painting garden wood

1. Colours for garden wood have come a long way since you could get brown or green and little else.

Now you can choose from a myriad of different hues, so your outside space can be just as colourful as the inside. Cuprinol Garden Shades offers a wide range of colours that are currently on offer at BQ – two 2.5ltr tins for £30, instead of £22 each.

My favourite combo is Pale Jasmine (a pretty pale creamy yellow) for the shed or summer house, and Urban Slate (a gorgeous dark grey) for the fences. These colours work together beautifully, but there are many more to personalise your garden with this spring, and Cuprinol Garden Shades promise four years of weather protection.

2. Before giving your garden wood a makeover, clean it thoroughly – unless it’s new, it will probably need a good scrub with a cleaner designed for garden wood, such as Ronseal Decking Cleaner Reviver (£9.83 for 5ltr, BQ), to remove algae, dirt and moss. Allow the wood to dry out before starting to paint, and consider applying wood preserver first.

3. One of the pitfalls of painting a fence is navigating nearby plants, which can make the job tricky. Cover them with plastic sheeting as much as you can, or tie them back out of the way.

If the plants are growing against the fence and quite large, you may have to wait until they die back at the end of the year to paint the fence properly. In fact, you may find that fences you can hardly see now, and so don’t need to paint, will be much more visible in winter.

4. If your fence has horizontal planks, paint in a horizontal direction, and if it has vertical planks, use vertical strokes. Painting a fence or shed with a paintbrush can be very time-consuming and is much quicker with a paint sprayer.

Not all garden-wood paint can be sprayed, but if you want to make life easy, choose one that can. Cuprinol Spray Brush (£30, BQ) is a really innovative paint sprayer because it’s a brush and sprayer in one, so you benefit from the speed of spraying and the precision of using a brush for the edges and fiddly bits.

5. Another good way to clean garden wood is to blast it with a pressure washer. The top-of-the range Bosch AQT 45-14 X (£279.99, Argos) is particularly powerful and designed to tackle larger, heavy-duty outdoor cleaning jobs quickly and easily. This model has lots of special features and accessories and is brilliant for cleaning patios and decks.

If your deck’s painted, start by doing a small tester patch because a pressure washer may remove the paint as well as the dirt. Painting a deck will transform it, but ensure it’s clean and dry first. Some decking paints, such as Cuprinol Anti-Slip Decking Stain with Pad Applicator (£39 for 2.5ltr,, come with a useful paint pad that can cover large areas in no time.

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Garden Guru: Tips for growing a big crop in a small garden – Charleston Gazette

When I first moved to Charleston seven years ago to take the job as a WVU agriculture extension agent, I had high hopes of finding a small house outside the city with enough land for a small farm or at the very least a large garden.

Despite having the first-time homebuyers tax credit at my fingertips, my hopes were dashed when everything in my price range was just this side of a dilapidated shack. Nothing I could afford would pass a mortgage inspection without lots of work.

In the end, I traded my dream for convenience and a soon-expiring tax credit and found a small house on a small lot just four blocks from the extension office in Kanawha City. I’ve been there ever since.

And by small, I mean small: I live in a 1920s kit home that was originally part of the housing for one of the glass companies, wedged in a “shotgun lot” measuring just 25 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Add to the house a patio and storage building, and there isn’t a lot of space to garden.

I grew up on a farm, where my parents had a large garden (still do), and my grandfather had a truck farm. We had large fields with rows and rows of corn, beans, tomatoes and more, with the rows spaced about three feet apart. Such traditional methods of gardening take lots of space, something at a premium in my tiny lot.

Still wanting the satisfaction of a bountiful harvest in my new home, I turned to raised bed gardening and intensive plant spacings to grow more food in a smaller space.

One of the beautiful things about gardening in raised beds is eliminating some of those wide walking rows you have in a traditional in-ground garden. You are able to plant much closer together in raised beds.

There are several techniques put there for this intensive spacing. The most popular among home gardeners is called square foot gardening.

The square foot gardening method was developed by a man named Mel Bartholomew and popularized in his book simply titled “Square Foot Gardening,” originally published in 1981. The current edition of the book is called “All New Square Foot Gardening, 2nd edition.” Bartholomew, who I had the pleasure to meet one year at the West Virginia Master Gardener Conference, passed away on April 28 at the age of 84. He leaves behind a legacy that will change the way many people garden for years to come.

The basic premise is simple enough. Eliminate the rows between plantings and just use the in-row plant spacing for all directions within a single, square-foot area. For example, if the seed packet says to sow the seeds three inches apart in rows that are three feet apart, just ignore the three feet part and space all of the plants three inches apart within a one-foot-by-one-foot space. You can actually put 16 plants in a square foot if they have a three-inch spacing. This is adequate for small crops such as radishes and carrots.

If the spacing is four inches, you can get nine plants per square foot. This works for beans, beets, turnips and more. Six-inch spacing equals four per square foot (greens, herbs, corn) and so on and so forth.

Some plants, such as tomatoes take more than one square, but you can plant short stuff around them to take advantage of space.

There are several ways to lay out this spacing, from using grids to just eyeballing it. I got crafty one day and picked up square foot vinyl tile at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I drilled large holes in the tile to develop planting templates for each spacing. I just lay the tile on the ground, drop seeds in (or mark planting spaces) and plant. It is beyond convenient.

The big fallacy for small space gardening is that you should opt for compact, bushing varieties. If given the option, you want plants that are long and vining and put them on a trellis to take advantage of the air space above the garden. Some things, like zucchini, are big bushy plants that don’t have vining varieties. I decided early on to ban zucchini from my garden since they are space hogs. Plus, everyone else is growing them, so they are easy to come by.

There are some benefits to close spacing, including reduced weeds and soil shading that reduces water loss. One of the big issues with close spacing is disease pressure. Lots of the same plant in one area increases the likelihood of diseases. If you follow square-foot gardening to the letter, you have no two side-by-side squares with the same plant. To increase efficiency, I use a hybrid model were I use the square-foot spacing but plant in larger groups. I have so few plants that it usually doesn’t pose a problem.

This week in the garden

n Seed annual flowers and lima beans.

n Plant sweet potatoes, large pumpkins, peppers, okra, and cabbage.

n Plant or seed melons.

n Fertilize houseplants.

n Harvest established asparagus.

John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter at

@WVgardenguru and online at

or 304-720-9573.

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Garden Tips: Trees beneficial to humans, environment – Tri

I hope you celebrated Mother’s Day with some pretty flowers or plants. They can help moms live longer. Recent research from Harvard University shows that higher levels of green vegetation are associated with decreased mortality in women.

Harvard researchers also found that women living in the study areas with the highest levels of greenery had a 12 percent lower mortality rate. The lead researcher attributes this lower mortality rate to less air pollution, greater physical activity, more social interaction, better mental health and decreased depression. This is proof that green spaces, including parks, street trees and even turf, are important to our health and well being.

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Too stressed to think about it? Trees and green spaces can help. A university study in Scotland measured cortisol levels (the principal human stress hormone) in men and women over the span of a day. Individuals experiencing everyday life stresses had lower cortisol levels if they were surrounded by green spaces.

If you find these benefits too vague, consider that trees and green spaces provide economic value to communities. A 1990 study in Sacramento revealed that residents whose homes had shade trees planted on the west and south sides saved an average of $25.16 on power bills throughout the summer. While not impressive on an individual basis, the savings were significant considering the number of homes in Sacramento.

A university study in Scotland measured cortisol levels (the principal human stress hormone) in men and women over the span of a day. Individuals experiencing everyday life stresses had lower cortisol levels if they were surrounded by green spaces.

A study in Portland found that street trees added an average of $8,870 to a home’s sale price, as well as raising the value of nearby houses. Those conducting the study extrapolated these numbers to include the entire city, and found that Portland street trees have a capital value of $1.1 billion and provide an annual benefit of $45 million. Considering the increased property tax revenues because of homes with street trees, the trees bring in $15.3 million each year. This is greater than the estimated $4.6 million in annual maintenance costs of the trees. This has Portland seeing green, and as a result, they have focused efforts on planting many more street trees.

Need more convincing? Consider that studies show paved streets shaded by trees last longer and require less maintenance over time, saving potentially up to 60 percent of repaving costs over 30 years. Other documented benefits of trees and green spaces have shown that they improve air quality by trapping pollutants and particulates, decrease asthma and other respiratory problems, increase physical activity levels, improve mental well being, lower stress levels, provide protection from UV radiation, reduce noise pollution, calm drivers and slow traffic.

And there is more. Trees store carbon, reduce the heat island effect in cities, reduce violence and crime, and increase a sense of community.

Trees store carbon, reduce the heat island effects in cities, reduce violence and crime, and increase a sense of community.

Kudos to Kennewick, Pasco and Richland for their dedication to improving our communities with trees and green spaces. Each city has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The award acknowledges these cities for addressing the core standards of urban forestry management, which are maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, celebrating Arbor Day and spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry. All three cities celebrated Arbor Day last month and worked with volunteers to plant trees in our city parks and along our streets.

If you find this as exciting as I do, a free seminar called Quality Trees, Quality Cities is planned from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 1 at the Richland Community Center at Howard Amon Park. Attendance is limited to 30 people. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources Urban Community Forestry Program is presenting the talk about managing our community trees. For more information, go to

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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