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Archives for May 22, 2016

Made in Chelsea: Alan Titchmarsh’s picks of the best designer gardens

A Modern Apothecary

Sponsor: St John’s Hospice

Designer: Jekka McVicar

Contractor: Crocus

St John’s Hospice has enlisted the help of Jekka McVicar to create its medical garden, A Modern Apothecary, inspired by the healing power of plants.

Herb farmer, author and broadcaster Jekka has been designing, growing and creating herb gardens for more than three decades and has won 62 RHS gold medals during her career.

This is her first show garden at Chelsea. The small, tranquil garden is full of beneficial and medicinal plants, including red-leaved herbs such as atriplex, beta, brassica and lactuca, all of which are high in anthocyanidins and known to offer protection against cardiovascular disease.

A lavender-lined path leads to a water feature and two benches surrounded by scented plants, which form a peaceful spot for sitting and meditating.

The herb garden is ringed by a lawn of British plants and grasses, including chicory, salad burnet and sorrel, so when it’s mown the air is filled with a heady, herby aroma.

After the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has closed on Saturday, the garden will be moved to the London hospice in St John’s Wood.

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Page From the Past: Old Mansion, Future Glory

Untouched for decades, a mansion with a backstory and aesthetic appeal worthy of Hollywood is the newest old kid on the block in Aberdeen.

The massive brick manor — protected and hidden by acres of overgrown trees and landscaping — was nearly forgotten to time until a local builder stepped in recently to reimagine the home as a special event and wedding venue.

Built in 1913, it is one of only a few historic Page family homes that hearken back to a time when wealthy industrialists transformed the local landscape.

A migration of Highland Scots first began settling the Sandhills region in the mid 1700s. Miles of pine-forested lands near the headwaters of Rockfish Creek gave rise to a community called Blue’s Crossing, named after Malcolm McMillian Blue. He tapped the trees for tar, pitch and turpentine around 1850. Following the Civil War, a railroad track and local station encouraged growth in the area’s economy.

In 1880, Allison Francis “Frank” Page began purchasing great tracts of pines and established a lumber mill on Devil’s Gut Creek, later known as Aberdeen Creek. A dam on the creek created Aberdeen Lake and powered a sawmill and gristmill. Between turpentine and timber, the region flourished, and Blue’s Crossing was incorporated and renamed Aberdeen in homage to its Scottish heritage.

Page built a large frame home for his family on a hill that overlooks Aberdeen Lake — an area that became known as Page Hill. As many as 11 homes were built on Page Hill for his eight children and their families.

In addition to being a prominent figure in Moore County’s history, Page was also instrumental in the founding of Cary. In 1854, Page and his wife bought 300 acres of what was then called Bradford’s Ordinary. He was the first mayor and postmaster of the small village, 12 miles west of Raleigh. Using lumber from his mill in Aberdeen, he built the two-story Cary Academy school.

Page named the community after Samuel Fenton Cary, a prohibition leader from Ohio. A staunch prohibitionist and religious man, Page was also active in politics, where he sided with the Whigs in opposing slavery and secession prior to the Civil War.

Several of the couple’s children became notable in their own right as statesmen, educators, ministers and businessmen. Most famously, their eldest son, Walter Hines Page, began his career as a writer, editor and publisher. In 1900, he joined Frank Doubleday to create the Doubleday, Page Company publishing house. Three years later he was appointed to serve as ambassador to the United Kingdom by President Woodrow Wilson, a post Page held during World War 1.

By the turn of the 1900s, Aberdeen had grown to a population of approximately 1,000 people, and the downtown area included retail stores, sawmills, drying kilns, a foundry, a machine shop and two hotels. The Page family pooled its wealth and left a permanent stamp on downtown with the construction of the Page Memorial Library — the oldest continuously operating public library in North Carolina — and the Page Memorial Methodist Church.

The brick Neoclassical Revival church was designed by famed architect J.M. McMichael and built by T.B. Creel. Dedicated in 1913, the church structure continues to beautify the downtown district and remains as it was first envisioned, with four iconic columns, a large lighted dome, and arches of stained glass windows.

The same architect was also commissioned to design a home on Page Hill for Frances J. Page, a daughter of Allison and Catherine Page. She had married a lawyer, Thomas Bonner Wilder, of Louisburg, nearly a decade earlier, and the family quickly grew to include seven children.

The beautiful 6,000-plus-square-foot brick home was built on eight acres in 1913, along Allison Page Road. McMichael designed the house around a traditional center hall with a grand staircase, formal parlors and dining rooms on the main floor. The second floor boasts six bedrooms, plus servants’ quarters with its own set of steps leading directly to the kitchen and butler’s pantry.

“This was a monster-sized house even at the time they built it. But they had the money to do it,” said Aberdeen Mayor Robbie Farrell, himself a well-versed town historian. “Coming here is like stepping onto a movie set. To find a gem like this in the woods and then to find out its place in history. The history of it is what has me intrigued. I would hate to see it torn down.”

Unfortunately, the Wilders’ sole legacy is their home. Little else was left behind to tell their story. The Great Depression wiped out many families, including wealthy industrialists like the Pages and Wilders. The grand home was in decline by the 1950s, when it was sold to Dr. F.B. and Ruby Bishop.

Dr. Bishop was a retired minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church and his wife was a grammar school teacher, who taught in Aberdeen schools for 30 years. The couple brought with them their two young children, Roy and Elva.

“Mama decided to buy the house after seeing the sun dial in the yard. It said ‘Grow Old Along With Me,’ and she fell in love with it and the house,” said Elva Bishop, of the Robert Browning-inspired piece that remains on the grounds.

Over the years, her parents made minor fixes to the house but never undertook any major renovations. The unintended result is a nearly perfect time capsule.

Stepping onto the deep front porch, the house draws you in. Rooms left with period furnishings are significant by themselves. The Bishops purchased much of their furniture and art from an auction at the Campbell House in Southern Pines as it was transitioning to a culture and arts center for the community.

“What I remember most from living in the house is the sound of the wind in the pines and the sound of a whippoorwill,” Bishop said. “We never had air conditioning, but we would use the upstairs sleeping porch in the summer.”

Her mother died in her beloved house, with Elva holding one hand and her brother holding the other.

“I bought my brother out of his half of the house. He wanted to sell it then, but I didn’t want to see it go. I thought I’d move back one day,” she said. “But when I retired, I moved around a lot and have traveled. For a long time, the house just sat. There was no word out that I wanted to sell, but about three years ago there was interest from a developer. They wanted to level the house and I said no.”

As the streets around the mansion developed into large neighborhoods of tract-style housing, the mansion remained hidden behind thick trees. But development interest continued. It was a childhood friend of Bishop’s brother who reached out to local builder Allan Casavant. And like her mother and Elva herself, he found that he was captivated by the house from his very first visit.

“One of the reasons I agreed to sell to Allan was he wanted to restore the house. I had been fielding calls for over a year from people who wanted to tear it down,” Bishop said. “Allan didn’t want to tear it down, but it took us a long time to work out an agreement. I’ve been living in Guatemala — literally on the side of a mountain — so we had to talk through email. There is no phone connection there.”

Casavant said he had not even been aware the house existed until a few months ago, despite working in the immediate area for several years.

“I’m really more of a new construction guy, but this is much more fun. I had refurbished an 1840s beach house in Ocracoke, and now it is one of the most photographed houses on the island. This is a much bigger project, but as soon as I saw it, I thought the house could be saved. I fell in love with it.”

“It was my surveyor’s wife who suggested this would make a great place for weddings. I realized it would be tough to fix it up and sell it as a home, but when I began to see it as a venue, I knew there was an opportunity. When I learned more about the history of the house, that was even more exciting.”

In homage to the massive willow oak trees dotting the property, Casavant has christened the home “Willow Oak Manor.”

A top-to-bottom rehabilitation is in order, but the bones of the house will endure; the goal is to maintain the historically accurate appeal. Rough plans include converting a section of the yard as an outdoor venue space, installing a large semi-circular porch to the rear of the home, building an outdoor pavilion, and adding a catering kitchen.

Initial renovation efforts are focused on clearing out overgrown landscaping around the house and repairs where needed to the exterior. Casavant said the slate roof is mostly in good shape, but some damaged areas will be repaired. More substantial work inside includes replacing all the galvanized pipes and upgrading the electrical wiring to handle modern HVAC equipment.

Also on Casavant’s “to do” list is attracting interest from an investment partner.

“There is so much potential here,” he said. “You run out of money before you run out of ideas.”

Contact Laura Douglass at (910) 693-2474 or

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Woodlanders get ideas for going ‘native’

Visitors come to the home of Gil Walker on Donner Way look over some of the front yard plants he’s using to attract pollinators as well as save money on watering. Walker’s home was one of nine open to the public for the free city-sponsored Water-Wise Landscape Tour.

Visitors come to the home of Gil Walker on Donner Way look over some of the front yard plants he’s using to attract pollinators as well as save money on watering. Walker’s home was one of nine open to the public for the free city-sponsored Water-Wise Landscape Tour.

Nine Woodland homeowners showed off their front- and backyards during the Fifth Annual Water-Wise Landscape Tour, offering ideas on how others can save water.

This year’s self-guided tour drew more than 150 people who were able to travel throughout the community to look at how others have used native California landscaping — or no landscaping at all — to reduce their water consumption.

This year’s tour was also more interactive than most. Jordan Power, water conservation coordinator for the city of Woodland, walked attendees through the simple steps of using their smart phones to access “mobile views” of not only the locations, but information on the types of plants put in place.

Among those showing their work was Gil Walker of 800 Donner Way. Walker had meticulously numbered and named the plants in this front yard and provided a map to visitors so they could see how he had organized things. Walker has no automatic watering system, but does everything by hand. He also uses a lot of mulch to keep the plants from drying out.

Following Friday’s rains, Walker told some people, it might be days before he has to think about watering again.

Other homes available for touring were: Daniel Howard, 112 Pendegast St.; Robert Payne, 220 Barlett Ave.; Roger and Lyndie Boulton, 305 Bartlett Ave.; Jill and Larry Plumb, 909 College St.; Marc Canevari, 911 First St.; Ivan Vonk, 1106 McKinley Ave.; Jan Thompson, 2 Colgate Court; and Graydon Ford, 418 Buena Tierra Way.

People could also tour the Woodland Community College Demonstration Garden.

As well, residents were offered information on “water-wise plants” tips about irrigation systems, landscape design and even where to place specific plants to take advantage of sun exposure.

Power has said previously more than half of the water used by homeowners goes toward irrigation, and that using “water-wise landscapes” is key to cutting water use, which means surviving the continuing drought and spending less money on water.

It was just this past week that the state began allowing local water districts — which includes Woodland — to start setting up conservation limits instead of the “one-size fits all” approach previously used. Under state guidelines, people were being told to cut back water use by 20 percent.

Beginning next month, districts serving nearly 40 million Californians will compare water supply and demand with the assumption that dry conditions will stretch for three years. The districts would set savings goals through January and report their calculations to the state.

On Thursday, Power said the city is in the process of determining what the local conservation figures will be.

Power said she and other members of city staff will be meeting to present a plan to the City Council in June. Technically, the city doesn’t have to submit its conservation standards to the state until Tuesday, June 21 — the same day a council meeting is scheduled. The council has to approve final figures.

Statewide, water regulators considered the localized conservation approach after El Niño storms delivered nearly average amounts of rain and snow this winter in Northern California, filling key reservoirs.

Friday rainfall also helped, but state officials have earlier said it would take years of average rainfall before the current drought could be considered ended.

Meanwhile, in addition to water-wise landscaping, Power has also said residents can apply for water conservation and street tree rebates by the end of June. Available rebates include up to $150 for a Weather-Based Irrigation Controller, $100 for mulch, $150 for two rain barrels, $25 for a rain sensor, and $75 for a residential street tree. Visit for rebate applications and more information.

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Amazing landscaping ideas worth checking out

If you are someone that is living in a home and you have a front yard, well, I am sure that you will do anything that you can in order to make it look as great as possible. So, if you would like to make sure that this will happen, well, you will first need to employ some very good landscaping ideas. If you don’t know where to find them, well, you will not have to worry about that, as you can easily be let in on them on the internet.

So, in order to impress the ones that will pass by your home and will see your front yard, you will certainly find it a very good idea to have some colored flowers planted and grown. People are attracted to colors, especially to colors that they don’t get the chance to see too often, like bleu. For example, there are some tips that say if you water your white roses with water that is blue in colors, they will also get to have a bleu tint to them. That will real make them look special.

Next, there is no front yard that looks amazing without you having a very beautiful lawn. Make sure that when you will get to buy the lawn, to buy it from companies that have a long lasting reputation in the industry. This will make your purchase safe and you will never have to worry whether the lawn will grow when it is supposed to or not.

I see that nowadays when it comes to landscape designing, there are many people that will also choose to have some trees growing in their front yard, small ones of course. They will be by the left and right side of the sidewalk and will provide good shade in the summer time. More to that, if you want, you could also set up a hammock and listen to the band with the same name. I bet you will feel amazing.

More to that, you could make use of river rocks, you know very well what types of rocks I am talking about. They are rounded down and feel so smooth when you get to touch them. They can be purchased in different colors from mauve, to even red, black, white, brown and so on.

Last but not least, if you will employ the yard landscaping ideas that we have discussed about upper, you will see that your front yardwill look amazing.

Are you interested and want to know more about landscaping ideas and landscape designing? If so, please visit us.

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Harding Nursery helps create your perfect outdoor living space

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Spring is for gardening, and almost everybody gardens in one way or another. Whether simply buying houseplants or containers full of blooming beauties, and caring for them. Some folks enjoy buying exotic plants, shrubs and trees for a dramatic presentation, while others prefer to keep it simple.

That’s why the folks at Harding Nursery make sure they carry a wide range of plant materials, gardening supplies, trees and shrubs, garden art, and the right provisions for every type of gardener.

“Spring is an exciting time here,” said Sharon Harding-Shaw, daughter of the Harding Nursery founders, as well as proud mom and grandmother to younger generations of the Harding Nursery team. “There is color everywhere, all kinds of plants are growing and blooming, and there’s a steady buzz of activity.”

The atmosphere at Harding Nursery is energized and eventful, with the helpful staff bouncing between customers and tending to plant materials.  With almost 60 years of experience in the Pikes Peak region, the family owned business knows all about gardening along the Front Range.

Along with growing a large amount of products at their 150-acre growing farm east of Colorado Springs, their tree field in northern Idaho, or propagating them at the 12-acre location on Powers Boulevard, Harding Nursery offers plants that are just right for Colorado conditions.

With three generations of the Harding family actively working at the nursery, the same values they started with are easily kept at the forefront.

“Our goal has always been to provide the very best quality products for the best price,” Harding-Shaw said.  “But, also working with our customers toward successful gardening. Giving them guidance throughout the process of choosing a good plant, achieving successful planting, and then watching it grow to maturity.”  

Harding’s enduring philosophy establishes a knowledgeable and proactive nursery that customers trust to help them achieve the best possible results in gardening and landscaping.  Whether choosing energy saving trees, low water plants, or the newest and hardiest selections of plant materials to make their yards beautiful and healthy.

“Everyone at the nursery is very hands-on to whatever degree of help customers need,” Harding-Shaw said. “We want each customer to end up with an impressive outdoor living space that they are proud to come home to and show off.”

Whether you prefer to keep your space heavily shaded throughout the year, or to have additional shade just for summer, Harding Nursery will help you blend the right atmosphere with wonderful color and just the right flowers and textures to make it exactly what you want it to be.

Maintaining a healthy and flourishing outdoor landscape is easy with top-of-the-line supplies and provisions available at Harding.  A wide range of fertilizers, mulches, fungus and pest control products, (including deer and rabbits) are available for supporting the ideal setting. 

A significant selection of organic gardening supplies are on-hand too, as well as Harding Nursery’s own special fertilizer, which is the only thing they use on their own plants

For your ideal outdoor setting, visit Harding Nursery for all of your gardening and landscaping needs, as well as advice and guidance on cultivating and caring for your outdoor space.

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ANN LOVEJOY | Danger in super-tidy gardens

By Ann Lovejoy

I recently watched a lovely film, ostensibly about the landscaping of Versailles. It left me thinking about two gardens I visited, one lovingly maintained, one tidied within an inch of its life. The first one was alive with birds, and the flowery lawn hosted bees and butterflies. The beds were lively with blossoms, the verges bright with blooming natives. The second was painfully tidy, the lawn tightly mowed and sharply edged, neat beds holding more bark chips than plants. Some of the shrubs were clearly dead, yet they were neatly clipped to match their living neighbors.

These two gardens are perfect examples of divergent schools, not just of garden design but of thought. The first was a companionable garden, accommodating children’s fairy houses as well as bug-eating chickens. Hammocks and mossy benches invite lingering under elderly but cherished fruit trees, each a living sculpture celebrating the processes of age and weather. Small, hand-dug ponds nurtured frogs and salamanders as well as birds and other critters. It was quiet without feeling hushed, serene yet overflowing with abundance.

The second was a model of control, scrupulously shipshape yet curiously inhospitable. The freshly painted wrought iron benches offered no enchanting vistas (and no comforting cushions, either), only views of straight paths and geometric beds. Around a narrow reflecting pool, slab-sided concrete bins held scouring rushes that grew to an identical height. Every shrub was mathematically shaped, despite whatever nature may have intended. The place was neat as a pin and just as sharply delineated. In fact, it looked straight out of the pages of an architectural magazine (where it has in fact been featured).

Though perfect of its kind, this second garden seemed singularly heartless, even soulless. Perhaps because it belongs to a house that is just one of many for its owner, it does not have a homely feeling. The gardeners tend it obsessively yet it does not look or feel as if anybody at all cares for it. A dear, long-departed friend once said that the difference between a landscape and a garden is that a garden is a place to be, while a landscape is backdrop. There seems a deeper truth here as well, a fundamental belief that nature is intrinsically untidy (very true) and that tidiness is to be preferred. The elaborate, formal French gardens were intended to be viewed from above, so their patterns are crisp and clear. Back in the day, only servants used the ground floors of grand buildings; the nobles lived higher up. Such gardens might be strolled through on occasion, but were certainly not places to linger.

That divorced viewpoint lives on in super-tidy gardens where cleanliness seems valued above the natural. Tidiness, too, has an implied value that dates back to times when a large, mowed lawn proclaimed one’s wealth. Sadly, such gardens are often assumed to be “right” while more naturalistic gardens are seen as symptomatic of a sloppy, lazy owner. Today, when bees and other pollinators are nearing endangerment, we simply can’t afford deadly, toxin-treated gardens. Instead of maintaining what New Englanders call “poison neat” landscapes, it is everyone’s duty to create green havens for bees, birds, and other precious creatures. For those who find comfort in tidiness, the good news is that formal, geometric gardens can also become such safe havens. Even a small patch of natural chaos can harbor an abundance of small lives. Green gardening is not a matter of style or design but a matter of deep respect for all creation.

Ann Lovejoy thumbnail

About Ann Lovejoy

Contact Ann Lovejoy at 8959 Battle Point Drive NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or visit Ann’s blog by clicking here.

Chelsea Flower Show 2016: how Dan Pearson sent gardens back to nature

This includes a forage-able herb lawn (with sorrel, chicory and salad burnet), a lavender walk and plenty of red-leaved plants including members of the beet, brassica, lettuce and orach families, which are supposedly good for the heart.

And so we come to Diarmuid Gavin, who, I suspect, does not care what medal he garners.

The raison d’être of The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden (TR348) is a variety of gimmicks, from box balls that bob up and down to self-trimming topiaries and revolving flower-beds. The style of the garden is formal Italian meets Hidcote pavilion, with a hornbeam backdrop. With four “performances” an hour, this is sure to add to the gaiety of horticultural nations, if nothing else.

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4 Tips for Planning an Edible Garden

It’s the time of year when home gardeners begin to set a game plan for the season. Their excitement begins to build, as they know that what starts out as small seeds and plants will turn into a backyard bounty of edible goodness over the course of a few short months. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a horticulture newbie, use these tips to get off to a fruitful start.


  1. Find the right space.

The best place to start digging is one with lots of sunshine and plenty of soil. If you have a designated garden spot, try to rotate the main area every couple of years to help prevent depleting nutrients from the soil. If a new spot isn’t an option, plant items in different spots than the year before — tomatoes on the opposite side of the garden and so on. Also, consider using a combo of raised containers and in-ground beds so you don’t take up your entire lawn. If you live in a wooded area, consider how to set up protection from hungry squirrels, rabbits, deer and other four-legged friends.

  1. Know your annuals and perennials.

Popular home garden choices like tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, basil and summer squash need to be replanted each year. Starting these veggies from seed will take time, so be sure to check seed packages, as they will indicate approximately how long it will take to get to the desired end product. To give your home garden a bit of a head start, visit your local farm or farmers market for small starter plants. Other backyard favorites, like strawberries, blueberries and woody herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano), will come back from year to year. Place these items up against a fence or in some other convenient spot for long-term enjoyment.

  1. Plant things you will eat!

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but growing too many things will lead to a bunch of extra work and extra food waste. Choose foods you know your family loves, and experiment with one or two new additions each year. Once you’ve gotten things in the ground, make a labeled sketch of where you planted them, especially for different varieties of tomatoes and produce you’re less familiar with.

  1. Get the entire family involved.

Let the kids choose a veggie to grow each year — it will hopefully inspire them to eat it. Divvy up the work and assign specific days or chores for each member of the family to tend to the garden. As the season goes on, many foods will need daily picking, and there’s always watering and weeding to be done.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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