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Archives for May 28, 2016

Chelsea Flower Show winner Andy Sturgeon: ‘My partner would have been so proud’

Sturgeon didn’t look back. He wrote Planted which was considered fresh and innovative, and then Potted, produced newspaper columns, and became a TV regular.

The final piece fell into place when Sarah came back to London in autumn 1998, engaged to an Australian, forcing Sturgeon to get his skates on. “There was a bit of an imperative, yeah,” he admits.

Three months later, Sarah was pregnant with Luke. Within two years, they had moved first to Surrey and then to Brighton. Their other two sons followed swiftly.

“It was tough – launching a business, while going up to Birmingham to film TV. I remember one time the floor was being re-laid, and seeing Sarah holding one of the boys, then a baby, skipping across the joists. I worked long hours to keep things going.”

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BBC/RHS Hampton Court Flower Show garden design prize winners revealed

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5 Creative Garden Design Ideas

A garden can be an outdoor refuge that allows you to escape the stress of everyday life, show off your gardening skills to family and friends, or even be an outlet for your creativity. You can make your design truly unique with labyrinths made from tall hedges, cobblestone paths and strategically placed water features. There are many different ways to create a garden. No matter what your design preferences, you’ll find something that speaks to your gardener’s heart and soul.


Hugelkultur is a process for composting. Basically, fallen wood and other natural debris is used as the base of a raised bed with a growing compound placed on top. The process is similar to what happens in the forest naturally, creating a nutrient-rich, moist environment for plants to grow. This type of gardening works well for areas that are a challenge to gardeners, such as urban lots or areas with poor drainage.

Hanging Gardens

If you don’t have a lot of ground space, hanging gardens may be the perfect addition to your home. Hanging gardens are a beautiful accent to your indoor or outdoor décor. The best veggies and fruits for hanging gardens include: lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, peas, some smaller types of peppers and Asian eggplants. Herbs also make excellent plants for hanging.

Keyhole Garden

Keyhole gardens are popular in Africa, but have made their way to the United States in areas where it is hot and dry. If you were to look at a keyhole garden from above, it looks like an old-fashioned keyhole, round with a notched area on one end. This notched area is where a compost pile is kept to add rich nutrients to the raised-bed structure of the garden. Use stones for a natural look to build up your keyhole garden. You can also add a pipe down the center for better irrigation.

Vertical Gardens

Urban areas in particular can benefit from vertical gardening. This means utilizing a wall and allowing plants to vine up it. One example might be to place a long rectangular container against a wall and plant tomatoes in it, but to also have cucumbers vining up a trellis that is placed against the wall.

Hanging vertical bags can be used to grow strawberries. You can also build a vertical herb garden out of two-by-fours and rectangular planters. A PVC pipe with holes drilled in it can hold a variety of smaller plants.

Enchanted Food Forest

This is a design that is meant to mimic food being grown the way it would in nature. The key to this type of garden design is to make sure everything is working well together, including anything living in the garden — plants, animals, bugs. For an enchanted forest garden to work well, you must plan out how each plant works with others and place them so they help one another. For example, you have to create layers of vines, tall trees, shrubs and groundcover.

These are just a few of the garden designs you can use to overcome gardening challenges and make the most of the space you have. Today’s gardening focuses on sustainability and making maintenance easier. The right design will allow you to get the most out of your garden and feed your family healthy foods for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.

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Building Boom Fuels Economic Recovery, But Outlook Mixed – The Vineyard Gazette

Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, Martha’s Vineyard is showing strong signs of recovery, including in the areas of construction, hospitality and real estate. But a predominantly seasonal economy and lack of affordable housing continue to challenge the year-round population.

The northeast region, and Massachusetts in particular, didn’t suffer as much as some parts of the country during the recession that began with the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, so in some regards the Vineyard had a shorter road to recovery. Nancy Gardella, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that many Island businesses are still struggling to recover. But in general, she said, things are looking up.

“When people in New York are doing well and Washington D.C. are doing well, then the Vineyard does well, as does Cape Cod, as does Nantucket,” she said. “In those East Coast metro areas, people are doing well, and that is good news for us.”

Ms. Gardella noted a 14 per cent increase in visitor spending in 2014 (using the latest data available from the Department of Revenue) and short-term growth in the fall shoulder season. She said she sees signs of a gradual shift toward a three-season economy, which could open the door to industries beyond tourism, but that will mean addressing the Island’s affordable housing shortage and increasing opportunities for job training.

“We are at a critical juncture because housing is a crisis issue,” she said. “Housing and employment and how we grow our economy all go hand in glove.”

Data from the American Community Survey, which supplements the 10-year U.S. Census reports and provides a shorter-term snapshot of the Island economy, also indicates a general upswing. Total employment in Dukes County has grown steadily, with about 8,760 adult residents in the workforce as of 2014, according to the survey. Total payroll was around $289 million in 2014, up from around $253 million in 2008.

Construction, real estate and landscaping are often touted as the main drivers of Island economy, although Ms. Gardella argues that none of those industries would survive without tourism. For everyone who builds a house on the Vineyard, she said, we can most likely thank tourism. “It started with a boat ride across to see the Island, and now they’re in love and they’re staying,” she said.

But the devil is often in the details. Construction may be booming, for example, but not all the numbers have returned to pre-recession levels. And while the total number of construction workers on the Island (including in the winter) is on the rise, there are still fewer than the 824 counted in 2008, just before the national economy crashed. Retail sales as a whole have been mostly flat since around 2009.

“The economy is not improving,” said Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market in West Tisbury and Vineyard Haven, noting that construction is only one piece of the puzzle. “What I’m seeing in the grocery store is a customer very conservative, very careful, not in a party mood.” Rather than an improving economy, the longtime businessman said he sees people adjusting to a new reality. “We are coping better,” Mr. Bernier said.

He said sales at Cronig’s have been flat, and many products are harder to find then before the recession because suppliers are still keeping a tight budget, he said. He said a quarter of the items he would like to carry are often out of stock, compared to about five per cent before 2008.

Other indicators also paint a darker picture. Despite the increase in total payroll, for example, about 11 per cent of the Dukes County population in 2014 was living in poverty. And between 2012 and 2014, the number of people earning less than 50 per cent of the poverty level grew from 823 to 1,236, an increase of 50 per cent.

But many would say there are reasons to remain hopeful, especially when it comes to the summer economy, which by all accounts has been on a strong upswing since 2013.

Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank president Paul Falvey said this week that all the usual indicators, including real estate sales and pre-bookings at hotels, are up again this year. He tied the upswing to the health of the financial industry in general in the Northeast. “When those firms are doing well, bonuses are good, people are a little less concerned about potential layoffs and downsizing,” he said. “I think that translates very much so to activity on the Island.”

Ms. Gardella said increased room occupancy was one indicator of a growing shoulder season, although it was probably less pronounced in the up-Island towns. She said Arts Martha’s Vineyard has been aggressively promoting the Island as a fall cultural destination, and those efforts have finally begun showing results.

As another indicator, the Steamship Authority reports a 12 per cent increase in traffic to and from the Vineyard so far this year, and small but steady increases in fall shoulder season traffic at least since 2010. And while the number of small vehicles from 2010 to 2015 followed the usual peak and lull, the number of large trucks (including deliveries) has been on the rise in each of the past five years from May to October. Sales of excursion tickets for year-rounders grew by 11,000 over the same period.

Some anticipate the Island becoming more of a year-round destination. Ms. Gardella said most of the business people she knows live here at least nine months out of the year, and bank deposits often remain solid into the late fall. “I think there are more jobs lasting longer, more jobs available, a broader diversity of Islanders for longer periods of time,” she said.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission director Adam Turner also said he sees a shift toward a more year-round economy, with more businesses open longer, but he shared Ms. Gardella’s concern about seizing the opportunities for industries beyond tourism. “We need to look at doing a much better job of training and having a workforce that is ready for what we are going to see here,” Mr. Turner said.

Our Island Club, which provides discounts to Island businesses for year-round residents, may offer another view of the changing trends. The club had about 6,300 members as of last year, representing more than half the adult year-round population. Co-founder Geoff Rose said he has seen significant growth in membership in the past four years, especially among seniors, who represent a large sector of the population.

But the increase doesn’t necessarily point to an improving economy. Much of it is due to a 20 per cent discount now offered at Cronig’s (up from 15 per cent last year), which Mr. Bernier said was an effort to support year-rounders and had nothing to do with an improving economy. Membership also increased sharply following the recession, Mr. Rose said, when more people needed the discount.

Meanwhile, real estate trends have continued their upward march, with single-family home sales increasing across the Island. For the first time in years, said Mr. Falvey, some brokers are even worrying about running out of inventory. Edgartown had by far the highest dollar value for its single-family homes last year, he said.

Perhaps equally revealing are patterns related to wastewater in the down-Island towns. Unlike other Island towns, Edgartown bills its wastewater customers by the number of drains on a property, offering a unique window into the town’s current building trends. Wastewater superintendent David Thompson said the number of sewer permits related to retrofits and subdivisions in Edgartown has skyrocketed this year, with many houses having more than 30 drains. (The state average is 10.)

“You used to have a four-bedroom house with two full baths and a half bath,” Mr. Thompson said this week. “Now you have a six-bedroom house with six full bathrooms . . . . It’s a hotel disguised as a residence.” Mr. Thompson has seen houses in town with as many as 50 drains, although the average for Edgartown is 14. “The plumbing fixture business must be outstanding,” he said.

Charging by the drain, rather than by the gallon, has helped eased the burden on year-round residents, Mr. Thompson said, since total wastewater flow quadruples in the summer. Volume has increased only modestly in the last few years, largely because new connections are limited to the Edgartown Great Pond watershed. The town’s year-round customer base has likely been flat or even dropping, Mr. Thompson said.

But wastewater in Oak Bluffs, where homes are generally more affordable, may tell a different story. Volume at the Oak Bluffs wastewater facility showed small incremental growth over the past four years, mostly in April and December, which may further reflect increased business activity in the off-season.

Looking ahead, Ms. Gardella stressed the need for housing and job training to support a three-season economy. But she also noted a new level of collaboration among Island businesses. As one example, she pointed to efforts among all three business associations — in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown — to share ideas and develop marketing plans.

“It’s a real testimony to the Vineyard recovering from such a brutal recession a little bit more quickly than other resort areas,” she said.

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Event celebrates community spirit in Swoyersville – Wilkes Barre Times

SWOYERSVILLE — Samantha Wender grew up on Noyes Street and “lived” at the playground across the street from her family home every summer.

But once she moved to New York, her trips back home left her with a question.

“Where are the children,” she would wonder when she looked at the playground, overgrown and in need of some work.

On Friday at the borough’s first community cookout, she was again given opportunity to enjoy the recently spruced-up playground complete with not only jungle gyms, open areas and careful landscaping, but also hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and cupcakes.

Her 6-month-old son, Braiden, settled in her arms as children filled the play area shooting hoops, racing each other excitedly and not hesitating to make a lot of noise.

The event was the brainchild of Mayor Chris Concert, who not only took his turn behind the grill, but also was quick to grab some sidewalk chalk and sit down with young attendees to play tic-tac-toe.

“I only won one game,” Concert said, laughing. “And I played a lot.”

Concert recently spearheaded an effort to brighten the borough and bring its residents together for food, fellowship and family.

Resident Mary Jane Cwalina said she thoroughly enjoyed coming out on a balmy night to spend time with her family.

Cwalina, whose husband Pete Cwalina is a council member, said she thought that the gathering was a wonderful idea and hoped it would become an annual tradition.

Giovanni Genaro, a resident of Noyes Street, said she recently moved to the borough from Florida and is impressed by the spirit of community reflected in family events.

Genaro, a single mother of seven, said she was very excited for a chance to bring her children, one of who is autistic, out for some fresh air and exercise as summer approached.

Young attendees also had the opportunity to request balloon creations in a variety of shapes.

Lorraine Bartolai, a resident of what Concert called the “Noyes Street group,” said everyone on the street contributed their particular talents to the event.

“I love to cook,” she said. “I’m always available to prepare food or cook.”

Bakers Maryann Gritzen and Jean Kozokas were up late Thursday night preparing chocolate cookies and cupcakes.

Concert said he is already planning other ideas geared to the young and the young at heart.

He’s considering trading in his sneakers for polka shoes for a night of dancing or possibly a “tea and crumpet” event.

Wender, surrounded by her children, nieces and nephews, said the night was a chance to, “pass the park experience on to the next generation.”

By Geri Gibbons

[email protected]

Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons


Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons

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Detroit among 5 cities leading the way in urban innovation

In 2008, for the first time in history, more human beings lived in cities than in rural areas. The United Nations projects that by 2050 nearly two-thirds of the world’s projected 9.7 billion people will be urban.

Some urban planners scratch their heads about how it’s all going to work. As ever-denser, more populous cityscapes continue to emerge, the eternal struggle to balance growth and quality of life shows few signs of abating.

Yet some ideas that address these types of problems are in place already and gaining traction in a handful of cities, including a few that are right under our noses.

To find out what urban-development policies and experiments currently hold the most promise, we asked more than a dozen experts — urbanists, architects, planners — what cities they think are worth watching now.

Their choices were illuminating. While the world’s megacities — Tokyo, Jakarta, Shanghai, New York City — get a lot of attention, for the most part the experts we asked picked cities a tier or two lower in size. None of the cities they highlighted, they thought, were doing everything right. But in all cases, the cities are taking some actions that the experts say demand our attention.

The five we ended up with aren’t meant to be exclusive. A larger list could have included London, considered by many to be the world’s most dynamic city, despite increasingly unaffordable housing. Seoul and Amsterdam, meanwhile, are among the leaders in putting “smart city” tools into the hands of their citizens.

With that in mind, here are five innovative cities that are worth watching.

Singapore: Managing extremely limited resources

Most experts agree: In many ways, Singapore is a model of a successful, 21st-century city. It fosters business, promotes education and maintains a government largely free of corruption, though it also places strict bounds on personal behavior. But what deserves the most attention is how it manages its severely limited resources, a situation that cities around the globe will increasingly face.


Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

The island city-state depends on neighboring Malaysia for much of its water. It imports 90% of its food and relies in part on a large group of nonpermanent residents — about 30% of the population — to maintain economic growth. It also has to find ways to house its 5.5 million inhabitants, while keeping traffic moving in a dense yet bustling city that covers roughly the same area as New York City.

Singapore is “a city innovating under constraint,” says Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University. “You have a limited amount of land — you have to make sure you’re not wasting it.”

Take traffic. The city was a pioneer in “congestion pricing,” charging motorists for driving into the central business district during morning rush hour. A quota system restricts the number of new registered vehicles. Going forward, the city wants to require all vehicles to have a satellite-linked device that can calculate exact driving distances and make it possible to adjust tolls depending on traffic and the time of day.

Then there is water. The growing need for clean water will be among the biggest challenges this century, and Singapore is trying to squeeze more use from limited supplies. Two desalination plants can produce about 100 million gallons a day from seawater, about a quarter of the city’s needs. Singapore also looks to the sky: About two-thirds of the land surface funnels rainwater to be treated for drinking, and high-rises use it for flushing toilets. Changi Airport — frequently ranked among the world’s best — collects rainfall from runways to water the plants in the airport nursery and irrigate outdoor landscaping.

Singapore also has one of the world’s most ambitious wastewater-reuse systems. Four water plants using advanced-membrane filters and ultraviolet light as a disinfectant produce water that Singapore’s public-water authority says is clean enough to drink. However, the recycled water is mainly used for air-conditioning and for industry, including semiconductor plants that require water even purer than drinking water.

Houston: Thriving but affordable

Many successful cities — most notably, London and San Francisco — have a glitch in their operating systems: Though they are growing rapidly, too many people are finding they can’t afford to live there.

Not Houston. From 2010 to 2014, the Texas city added more than 140,000 people, a 6.7% increase and second only to New York in the U.S. But the difference between Houston and other high-growth cities is that it has expanded its housing stock to accommodate its new residents. In roughly the same period, the Houston metro area issued construction permits for 189,634 new units, the most in the nation. It is not surprising, then, that more than 60% of homes in the larger Houston metro area are considered affordable for median-income families, according to the National Home Builders Association, compared with about 15% in the Los Angeles area.


No zoning makes it easier and faster to build in Houston.

Houston has “shown a capacity to grow without the kind of massive real estate inflation that makes settling into places like New York, San Francisco, Boston, as well as London, all but impossible for middle-class families,” says Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

Many factors contributed to the recent growth spurt: Houston is the hub of the recently booming oil industry, which is now going through a painful bust. It boasts a nationally recognized medical center and is home to a thriving port. But affordable housing also contributed, Kotkin and others say, thanks to pro-growth policies and a light regulatory touch, especially the lack of traditional zoning.

No zoning makes it easier and faster to build, especially in response to changing economic conditions. A developer can avoid a lengthy and expensive rezoning process to build a townhome complex in a declining neighborhood of aging single-family homes. It might have to upgrade sewer lines and streets, but development costs are still low compared with other places. Although prices have risen some as builders replace older homes with nicer housing, the city stays affordable because so many new homes can quickly come on the market to keep up with demand.

The lack of zoning “actually does give the developer and design communities the ability to do things unlike anywhere else,” says Tim Cisneros, a Houston architect.

Says Kotkin: “While many on the ocean coasts yearn to restore the 19th-century city, the Texas cities are creating a template for this century.”

Medellín, Colombia: Making high-profile investments in poor districts

Like many struggling cities, Medellín has looked to eye-catching building projects to revive its fortunes. What makes this Andean city different, however, is that it has placed some of its highest-profile projects in some of its poorest and previously crime-ridden neighborhoods.

F.A. Alba/

Medellín’s Metrocable, a public-transit gondola system that serves mountainside neighborhoods.

Known to many as Pablo Escobar’s drug-and-murder capital of the 1980s, Medellín has undertaken a series of modernizations, such as a public-transit gondola system, the Metrocable, which serves poor mountainside neighborhoods surrounding the city. Striking new public buildings include the Spain Library, a group of giant stone-like monoliths overlooking a quarter once infamous for drug violence.

Perhaps the most ambitious project has been a system of outdoor escalators built in one of the city’s poorest districts. The escalators, which extend about a quarter-mile up steep hills and feature several small plazas, have won international innovation prizes. Tourism has grown, and the projects bring visitors to neighborhoods they might otherwise avoid.

It is still too early to know whether such expensive investments—the escalators cost about $6.7 million to build—will do much to improve the economic lives of those in poor neighborhoods. But they have done much to reconnect severely disadvantaged areas, which helps the whole city, says Michael Mehaffy, executive director of the Portland, Ore.-based Sustasis Foundation, a research and education foundation focused on neighborhood development. “It is in everyone’s economic interest to ensure that the poorer parts of the city are improving as well,” Mehaffy says.

Detroit: Reducing red tape for neighborhood redevelopment

Detroit, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2014, doesn’t have a lot of money for revitalizing all of its neglected areas. So it is trying something more radical: setting aside areas where normal development rules don’t apply.


Lights are strung across the street at night as cars move along Monroe Avenue in the Greektown neighborhood of downtown Detroit.

Developers and designers complain that, like many cities, Detroit’s onerous and outdated rules make it too difficult to rebuild or repurpose long-neglected retail areas. To try to reduce those obstacles without a time-consuming and expensive rezoning process, the city is proposing a handful of “pink zones,” where red tape will be cut to help small developers and entrepreneurs open new businesses and revive aging commercial strips. The goal is not to eliminate zoning but to ease some of the constraints faced by new projects, like minimum-parking requirements or environmental-impact reports.

With a $75,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the city planning department intends to recruit designers and planners to come up with a general framework for anyone who wants to start a new business or build in those areas. This might include preapproved plans that can be used by builders to speed up a new development.

“You can create a great place, and you won’t have to go through months of red tape,” says Maurice Cox, Detroit’s planning director.

The idea of pink zones has been rumbling around planning circles for a few years. In the U.K., where it is called pink planning, it mainly aims to remove obstacles to new residential developments. It is part of a larger effort called “lean urbanism” that aims to reduce the regulatory tangle that can hinder new business.

Andrés Duany, a planner and architect who in the 1980s helped popularize the New Urbanism idea of walkable neighborhoods with a mix of housing, jobs and retail, is a leading U.S. proponent of lean urbanism. He says the idea came from all the young entrepreneurs and artists who in recent years were drawn to Detroit by cheap housing and space for launching new ventures. Detroit’s recent bankruptcy made that possible, he says, because the city wasn’t able to enforce its development rules and hinder the pioneering newcomers.

Detroit’s pink zones pilot program is the first test of this idea and is expected to serve as model for efforts to spur small redevelopment projects in other cities. “The city is ripe, the time is ripe,” says Douglas Kelbaugh, a professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan.

Vancouver, British Columbia: Improving walkability

Everyone knows walking is good for you. Vancouver wants to make it the top transportation priority.

The Canadian city may not be the most walkable city in the world, though it regularly makes the top 10. What makes it noteworthy are all the ways it is working to make the city easier, safer and more enjoyable to get around by foot.

Vancouver has made walking a key part of its public-health and “green city” goals. Roadways are being built and redesigned to favor pedestrians, for example, by installing pedestrian-controlled traffic signals on busy streets.


The sea walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in downtown Vancouver.

It also has changed development codes to make streets more attractive to walkers. The city’s zoning rules encourage density, which places more destinations within walking distance. Downtown buildings have storefronts and restaurants on the street level, while residential neighborhoods feature townhouses with raised porches.

“It is a big selling point,” says Lon LaClaire, the city’s acting transportation director. “People want to have good experiences walking around the city.”

The efforts are paying off. Residents walk exclusively for 26% of all trips within the city; the number is higher for those who live downtown, LaClaire says. Vehicle trips have declined citywide over the past 15 years, he adds, and the number of cars entering downtown has dropped 20% since 1996. As a result, Vancouver is ranked fifth by Walk Score, a unit of Redfin, which measures the walkability of more than 140 North American cities.

Michael Totty is a news editor for The Journal Report in San Francisco. He can be reached at

The article “Five cities that are leading the way in urban innovation” first appeared on

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Concrete Out, Gardens In: Outer Sunset Program Aims To Address Overtaxed Sewers

Houses in the Sunset have million-dollar values and plenty of architectural charm, but there’s one element most lack: a green front yard.

Typically, fogbelt homes are fronted by a few square yards that are planted with a small hedge, or in same cases, left to grow weeds. Most homes’ concrete driveways extend to their property lines, diverting water to an overtaxed sewer system. The extra paving may create room for additional parking, but each square foot of concrete diverts 12 gallons of rainwater per year into storm drains.

In 2014, District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the Surfrider Foundation and Friends of The Urban Forest launched the Front Yard Ambassador Program (FYAP). The project, which only covers the Outer Sunset, uses city funds to subsidize the cost of tearing out concrete and planting yards with drought-resistant plants.

If participants can organize five households on a single block, each paying a sidewalk landscaping permit fee of $100, FYAP will cover the cost of removing concrete and buying plants and mulch.

Before-and-after photos of an FYAP home. | Image: SF Board of Supervisors

“Depending on size and scope,” FYAP estimates that the work is worth “roughly $1,500 per yard,” according to an outreach letter that applicants are encouraged to share with neighbors. Since the program launched, FYAP estimates that 7,035 square feet of concrete have been removed, diverting 84,420 gallons of water from the sewer system each year.

In an update to her Facebook page, Tang said FYAP removed more than 1,000 square feet of concrete during its spring planting. Volunteers planted five gardens on 30th Avenue, and seven gardens on 47th Avenue.

FYAP estimates that paved yards cover 160 of the Sunset’s 2,300 acres, or 7 percent. Converting 25 percent of that area into permeable landscape would prevent 20 million gallons of water from flowing into San Francisco’s sewers. 

Sunset Boulevard Greenway rain gardens. | Image: SFPUC

As part of a citywide sewer improvement program, SFPUC is also planting rain gardens as part of the Sunset Boulevard Greenway projectThe project will add drought-resistant native plants along Sunset Boulevard between Irving and Taraval, to “improve stormwater management for more than 20 acres of paved surfaces.”

According to the project description, the work will also create tiered rain gardens and a learning lab, which will give people a chance to learn more about green infrastructure projects. It’s slated to be completed before the end of 2016.

Outer Sunset homeowners who’d like to create their own slice of Eden should act fast: FYAP is only accepting applications for its fall planting through May 31st. Application forms are available in both English and Chinese.

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Meijer Gardens to celebrate Japanese Garden anniversary Meijer Gardens to celebrate Japanese Garden

Meijer Gardens to celebrate Japanese Garden

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A visit with style icon Carolyne Roehm in her Connecticut garden

  • Carolyne Roehm loves roses and peonies in her garden, where Annie, her dog, is a constant presence. Her latest book, Carolyne Roehm at Home in the Garden, tours the gardens of her Connecticut estate, Weatherstone. Photo: Contributed Photo / Connecticut Post contributed



When it comes to high fashion, Carolyne Roehm made her mark decades ago as a New York City designer, trendsetter, a highly regarded businesswoman and an A-list socialite. Her friends and mentors included fashion designers Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, and her former husbands included successful financier, Henry Kravis.

The now-divorced 65-year-old author, who was raised by her parents in Missouri, added a new chapter in her life years ago, building on her talents for color and design by turning to her passion for gardening and photography at her Sharon estate, Weatherstone. Today, its amazing acreage boasts lush shade, parterre, rose, wall and pool gardens, all the subject of her most recent book, “Carolyne Roehm at Home in the Garden.” She made time for a chat with us in her greenhouse over glasses of iced tea.

Q: Here you are on your 59-acre estate with 20 acres of breathtaking flower gardens and magnificent landscaping. Where did you take your first step when it came to creating this “living room in the garden?”

A: When I first bought this place with Henry, there was a string of Concord grapes in one little section and another section with a little vegetable garden and a perennial border that was kind of dinky. And there was gravel all around the house and I thought, “I have to look at cement every day in New York City, I don’t want to come and have to look at it here.” So with a neighbor, Mrs. Schilling, who looked after the house when we weren’t here, we planted a small rose garden in the front of the house. We used string to lay it out and chose roses in colors that I liked and would do well here, and that is how it began. Then I got into what the previous owner called a prayer garden, although it was just a place with bricks and grass. I beefed up the perennial garden by making the borders bigger and more defined with a yew hedge that the deer started nibbling at. And then added to the vegetable garden.

Q: When did the big leap occur?

A: When we first bought this place, our lives were very different. I drove Henry’s car and he drove a U-Haul because we didn’t have much for Weatherstone. We had a party rental table, four bamboo chairs, two lamps, one of which got broken when we were transporting it on the way up. I was working with Oscar de la Renta then and had run to Macy’s to buy fabric for a tablecloth. I asked him if he could let some of the ladies help me make this tablecloth so there would something for the table. I was sad to lose that tablecloth in the fire we had here in 1999. But then Henry’s business started getting bigger and better and I was doing well in the design industry and Henry, who liked to fish, started talking about a trout pond and improvements that I knew I could not handle. We brought a team in and their ideas included the pond and waterfall and a plan that had me saying, “No one is going to live long enough or have enough money to do this.” We ended up with some Disneyland things, like a lake waterfall, but it was catastrophic. The waterfall kept breaking and the pond was too shallow, so we had algae. The original plan was much grander than what we have here now. And, actually, if I had the money, I would bulldoze half of what’s here and start over.

Q: Give me the Carolyne Roehm mini-course on getting your hands dirty and making something beautiful.

A: Choose your favorite flowers and then look them up. Find out everything you can about them and make sure it’s a good fit for the climate. I have tried to have delphiniums forever here and have given up. In this area of the state, delphiniums are an annual, not a perennial like they are supposed to be. One year I planted 700 of them and the next year, I could only find about 45. Don’t give up if something fails after you plant it. If that were the case, I would have no gardens here.

Q: What is your favorite flower?

A: If you put a gun to my head, I would say roses and peonies.

Q: Tell me about the new home in Charleston you are working on.

A: When I turned 60, I thought, “Where am I going to grow old?” I thought about France, but I thought to myself, “Do you want to be doing that traveling when you are 80?” The architectural beauty and heritage in Charleston was appealing to me. My intent is to leave Connecticut, and that breaks my heart. Weatherstone is my home, but I do want to be somewhere warmer in winter. And this is a vast property that is a financial burden.

Q: Any other projects?

A: I am working on a new book about the Charleston project, but not just about that, but rather the spirit of the South. There are some awful things there, the puppy mills and the fact that it is the No. 1 state when it comes to abuse of women. I want to get to know the people who are working on these issues. I’m also in the midst of working with a woman in London on coming out with a new line, not clothes but some embroidered tabletop things. I started painting and I want to do botanical plates, too.

Q: You’ve been divorced from your second husband, Henry Kravis, for more than 20 years. Would you get married again?

A: No, because I am too old to have children. There’s no point. And I have been in a relationship for 14 years with Simon (Pinniger). He’s Australian. I think part of our success is we spend time apart. We’ve had our ups and downs, but have been through a lot together. I had a bicycle accident and ended up with a concussion and brain surgery. At the same time we found out he had prostate cancer.

MaryEllen Fillo is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor.

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Gardening tips and tricks for the summer months

Versatility is the spice of life, and that’s what you have in a garden. There is something for everyone no matter what your situation — sun, shade, dry or moist.

While most gardeners have already planted, there is still time for you. The choices can be overwhelming, but take it one step at a time. First, determine how much space you have and if it’s sunny or shady. It also depends on how much time you have to spend on your garden.

Perennials, vines, ground covers, sedums and succulents all require minimal maintenance; they come back every year. Perennials may only flower for a short time each year (such as irises, lilies, bleeding hearts, or peonies), but they are pretty when it bloom, and they don’t have to be planted every year. Perennials can also flower all summer (such as Shasta daisies, daylilies, Russian sages, salvias, coreopsis), and they multiply each year, giving you more for your money.

Annuals last only one season but flower profusely. Some annuals will drop their seeds, and a new plant will come back the next year, so they are like perennials. It really depends on their location and the weather. I have had portulacas and purslanes seed themselves and show up the next year. Pansies are fun because they withstand winter and flower until it gets hot.

Herbs are perennials and annuals. I plant basil every year, but this year, several little plants have shown up, which must have seeded themselves from last year. Parsley lasts two years and then must be replanted. I love to grow basil, flat Italian parsley, chives and oregano every year and harvest as needed.

Don’t lose the faith when a plant dies. It’s trial and error — experiment! If a plant doesn’t make it in one place, plant it in another location, and it may do much better. Share plants and also share information with others. Not only is it healthy to be outside, but you end up talking to neighbors who are walking by. Gardening can be a stress reliever. Play in the dirt.

My first experience with digging in Oklahoma was like digging bowling balls. I have clay, so little by little I have been replacing the clay with garden soil, vermiculite and sometimes sand. Mix it altogether and work the mixture in your beds. I mulch every year, and some of the mulch works into your soil. If you can’t bend down, try raised beds. There is no end to your options.

I like to deadhead my flowers, pull weeds around them and cut back the plants such as coleus, petunias, ivy and mums. The more you cut, the bushier the plant becomes. Pay attention to your plants. They need sun and water. I don’t like to use chemicals, but sometimes you need to in order to save the plant. Use borders to help keep out weeds and use ornaments to doll up your beds.

Plan your garden so there is also something blooming. If you have a small area to plant, then buy dwarf plants or ones that don’t grow over 12 to 14 inches. If you have a large area, you can plant taller plants in the back and work forward with shorter varieties.

Last year, I planted tomatoes as I always do, but even though the plants grew, I wasn’t getting any tomatoes. I usually pull the plants in the heat of summer, but last year I didn’t pull the plants up. Come September, I was getting a heavy crop of tomatoes. Just before the first frost, I pulled the plants and wrapped each green tomato individually in newspaper and brought them in the house. As the tomatoes began to turn red, I would put them on my counter to continue to ripen. I was still eating tomatoes from my garden in January.

I save all my tags from year to year, label each tag with the year it was planted. By doing that, you can go back and see the name of the plants that did well and the names of the plants that did not. Now you have the name and variety for a permanent record. Happy gardening!

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