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Archives for June 3, 2016

Schools enjoy second year of Suffolk Show garden design competition

14:38 02 June 2016

Schools gardens at the Suffolk Show 2016 .
L-R James Lake, George Isaacson, Ralph Isaacson.


Youngsters from six Suffolk schools put their green-fingered prowess to good use with the school gardens competition.

School gardens – Lara Gledhill and Arianne Langley

Martlesham Primary Academy, Old Newton CEVC Primary, Stratford St Mary Primary, Great Barton CEVC Primary, Bramford Primary and Crawfords CEVC Primary all crafted special gardens on the theme of wildlife, right through from designing the spaces to planting the flowers.

Old Newton and Crawfords scooped the large gold prizes while Bramford enjoyed the gold award.

Libby Brooks, gardening club co-ordinator at Old Newton said: “It’s terrific and very rewarding to see it – they have worked so hard and shown wonderful teamwork.”

The project is the second time the Suffolk Show has held the competition, which helps children learn about plants and wildlife.

Bishop Martin Seeley added: “They were fabulous designs all round and a wonderful variety to convey what wildlife in Suffolk is like.”

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Don’t Leave City Planning to the Planners

Who decides? Illustration by Michael Kluckner.


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Who should have the last say in our cities’ planning decisions, the planner experts or the non-expert citizens who must live with the results?

If I wanted to make the case for the role of the non-expert, I could say just two words and then stop: Jane and Jacobs. The great urbanist author was the ultimate skeptic and analyst, a non-professional, an observer, and we have been celebrating her centenary and legacy in recent weeks. In the pre-architecture courses I took at UBC around 1970, all the professors were modernists and so told us to read the mega-project loving Le Corbusier and study Brasilia for ideas about the future. Reyner Banham with his love of Los Angeles was similarly fashionable, partly for the novelty of endorsing something as outrageous as a car-captive lifestyle in an architecturally kitschy landscape.

But all I wanted to read was Jane Jacobs. I wanted to live in a diverse, fine-grained, citizen-centric community like the one she described, and found a Vancouver equivalent in Kitsilano in the early 1970s.

Local examples of the Jane Jacobs ilk would be the Davis family, who defied the planners of the 1970s and began to fix up and infill their block of 10th Avenue near City Hall. Eventually, once individuals all over the neighbourhood had begun to do the same with their properties, planners got on board and codified it as RT-6. A similar situation developed in Kitsilano with RT-8 coming out of the efforts of residents to preserve, infill, and maintain very high standards of architecture and landscaping.

Is planning a precise, analytical exercise? The attitude over time toward density in the West End provides an excellent example, indicating how arbitrary the “expertise” of planning can be. Before the 1920s when the nascent city planning system began, builders erected a range of apartment buildings, some as dense as 6 FSR (that is, a floor space ratio where there is six times the floor area compared with the lot size). Many of these buildings survive and are well-maintained today. By 1930, in the wake of the adoption of the city plan by Harland Bartholomew Associates of St. Louis, apartment sizes were only allowed to be a fraction of that size — two- or three-storey walkups became the norm.

In 1957, the city rezoned the West End to allow tall buildings, and in a matter of 15 years about a hundred concrete high-rises shot up, many on the four-lot (132-foot-square) properties of former mansions, most of which had become deteriorated rooming houses. As tall as these buildings were, they left ample open space, including outdoor pools on the decks above parking garages, and were built only to a floor space ratio of 3 or 4.

By 1974, the city had decided that the West End was populous enough, and downzoned it to low-rise. Most recently, the city has changed tack again, now allowing very dense buildings to occupy sites along the edges of the neighbourhood and multi-storey infills in the back lanes.

When planners hated corner groceries

Another example of changing fashions in planning concerns corner grocery stores. Bartholomew, and successive generations of planners, wanted them out of neighbourhoods and onto arterial streets. Now we cherish them and, after extreme pushback from citizens in the case of vintage shops like Le Marché St. George in the Hillcrest area near Main Street, planners are writing codes to allow them to continue.

Is there a distinction between the practices of planning and, say, engineering? There is real science — a kind of absolute truth — in the engineering that allows a bridge to defy gravity, or enables a building with a tiny base and a bulbous top to sway out over the public realm without falling down (Vancouver House, now under construction, is an example).

Were previous generations of planners wrong? No, they were merely reflecting the planning orthodoxy of their generation, which may or may not have been in step with public sentiment.

Who calls the shots?

The social license granted to planners has similarly swung on a pendulum. Bartholomew’s overarching desire in the 1920s was to create neighbourhoods that wouldn’t become slums. This preoccupation with slums and public health led inevitably to the postwar urban renewal era, which had an authoritarian grip on planners’ imaginations until finally citizens in Strathcona (and elsewhere, in Toronto’s Cabbagetown for example) pushed back.

Receiving different political direction in Vancouver, planners about-faced and assumed the role as protectors of the public interest after 1972. They continued in that role as long as they were able to develop brownfield sites with towers on podiums in the 1980s and 1990s. However, that social license was lost when they took the same design ideas into established communities, pushed along by the profit-making potential of plopped-in condo projects.

So what do planners actually do, other than swing in the breezes of fashion?

The genius of planners is to take relatively simple ideas, like the need for shelter, and to translate them into extremely complex codes that can only be understood by, yes, other planners.

The power of any priesthood is reflected in the complexity of its language. Witness the other voodoo sciences: psychology and economics. They swing from one side to the other with each generation. But it’s one thing to endure Ronald Reagan-style economic policy and another to have your neighbourhood turned upside down because a current school of planning dogma says it must be “improved.”

Who’s truly creative?

Planners give license to blandness and architectural sameness through design guidelines and the rigidity of the building code. Olympic Village is a great example — the lack of individuality in the spaces, the dreariness of the detail. There must be the same landscape designer and plant selector for the entire complex. It looks very fine from a seagull’s point of view, but lacks the visual stimulation of an old street with narrow lots or a commercial street with individual businesses on narrow frontages.

Under the current system, planners seem to be unable to influence anything other than the built form. In the current Vancouver case, the market is only responding to the economic, not the social, needs of cities, creating a glut of small one-bedroom condos and a lack of new family accommodation.

Planners see themselves as visionaries, just as architects like to see themselves as artists, but they are in reality the code makers and regulators — a necessary adjunct to the nanny state that enforces the building code and declares that my porch railing is illegal because it’s too low, that my staircase is illegal because it’s too steep or narrow, that my doorknobs need to be replaced by handles. The building code has moved a long way from its initial concern with sensible life-saving issues into a prescriptive form of social engineering.

In praise of skeptics

Why is public involvement necessary? Because the public is essentially skeptical and conservative — they are the only people whose interests in cities extend beyond the economic and ideological. The public provides a necessary brake on the swings of fashion that bedevil the practice of planning and land development.

Are the public NIMBYs? We are hard-wired as a species to defend turf, and the only thing which trumps it is economic gain. Ask any wealthy person of your acquaintance: “do you have a desire to pack yourself in with strangers, or are you using your money to buy space and light?”

It’s the relationship between planners and the property-development industry that is so problematic, because both see the city as a business opportunity, which is philosophically at odds with people who want just to do their jobs, meet their friends, raise their children and be able to live with a reasonable level of security as renters or owners.

Planners, and their bosses, are addicted to change: neighbourhoods may work in practice but if they don’t work in theory they get “planned for the future.” Fixing things that aren’t broken is a way of destroying the natural evolution of cities. Without the check-and-balance of empowered citizens, you get a situation like the 1950s and 1960s, which is on the verge of happening again. It’s called “green” now; it looked exactly the same but was called “progress” then.

However, I’m not making an argument for no change, but an argument for citizens as partners who are given the same status as planners. City-building is like a three-legged stool: planners, the public, and the property industry. If any leg gets too long the edifice is unstable. City Council, which sits on the stool, is then in danger of being pitched off.

There is a truism that “people are experts at knowing how they want to live.” More than 20 years ago, a youngish Vancouver councillor named Gordon Price told me, “You don’t get re-elected by trampling on people’s dreams.” In the final analysis, it’s about democracy; as Winston Churchill noted, it’s a terrible system but no-one’s come up with a better one.

This article is adapted from arguments the author presented against the resolution “Let Experts Plan” at the Cities Debate held May 11 and sponsored by Urbanarium and the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. You can watch the full debate here.

Read more: Urban Planning + Architecture,

Michael Kluckner is a Vancouver artist and author best-known for his 1990 book Vanishing Vancouver and its 2012 sequel. He was the founding president of Heritage Vancouver, chair of Heritage Canada in the 1990s, and is president of the Vancouver Historical Society. His graphic novel Toshiko examines the plight of Japanese Canadians during World War II; the forthcoming 2050 is a murder mystery set in Vancouver of the near future.

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From amateur to expert: 5 gardening hacks you need to know

Posted Jun. 2, 2016 at 4:55 PM

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Getting Under the Hood: Is the TWBTA Renovation Really As Bad As Critics Claim?

The Tod Williams Billie Tsien renovation of the Hood Museum has spurred considerable controversy. But does the proposal truly deserve the criticism it’s inspired?





A rendering of the proposed expansion of the Hood Museum of Art by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, as seen from the north. The new galleries and museum lobby will be located where the Hood’s memorable gate and intimate courtyard currently sit.

Courtesy Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

When it was unveiled this spring, the $50 million renovation and expansion of Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art, devised by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, provoked considerable controversy. The proposal dispenses with significant portions of the 1985 museum, designed by the well-loved, but little-understood, Postmodern architect Charles Moore. The architect’s defenders say the expansion does irrevocable damage to his sensitively planned building. The museum administration, meanwhile, claims the new design is not just ingenious but also respectful. Moreover, the Moore building will live on, just in a different form. The reality lies somewhere in between.

At first glance, the subject of the Hood Museum expansion is rife with ironies, which is why the architectural press has taken up the story so gleefully. Isn’t it ironic, the detractors posit, that Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the architects whose beloved Folk Art Museum was demolished in 2014 to make room for new MoMA galleries, would so callously “obliterate” a gemlike work by another respected architect, Charles Moore? Isn’t it rich that the Hood Museum, nestled thoughtfully among the buildings of Dartmouth College, renowned for its sensitivity to context, should be partially replaced by a building so big, so blind to its neighbors, so…MoMA-like?

When one looks at the project rendering that’s been circulated, it’s hard to disagree with the critics. The image of the Hood’s north wing shows a large, cream-colored box hunkered down in what is currently a delicate courtyard. The only semblance of the original museum is half an aged copper cupola—a vague hint of Moore—off in the distance.

Yet Dartmouth’s administration has repeatedly emphasized that the project is both an expansion and a renovation. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) will be adding new, signature galleries to the museum, yes, but the bulk of the original Charles Moore structure (including seven of the Hood’s 11 galleries) will be preserved.

The Hood’s former director Michael Taylor believes the real reason for the controversy is the project’s supposed connection, via TWBTA, to the loss of the Folk Art Museum. To his mind, however, there’s no irony. “Because [Williams and Tsien] lived through that experience [of the Folk Art Museum]—I was very much working with them at that time and they felt that deeply—they respected the Moore building. This idea that they would somehow disrespect another architect really has no understanding of who they are, what they’ve been through, and how much they value architecture.” Current director John Stomberg has similarly defended the plans, maintaining that the new museum will be a Tod Williams Billie Tsien experience as well as a Charles Moore experience.

The real issue of the Hood expansion is one of preservation. No one—neither a Dartmouth administrator nor any critic—is calling for a re-creation of the original Moore structure. It’s clear, however, that these two parties are defining preservation in radically different ways. The real question, then, becomes more complex. At what point does a renovation, even against its best intentions, destroy the thing it’s trying to preserve? And at what point is Charles Moore’s building, his legacy, effectively erased?

* * *

Moore’s penchant for quirky, sometimes kitschy, details has made it easy to peg him as a Postmodernist. Kevin Keim, the director of the Charles Moore Foundation, and one of the loudest voices of dissent to the proposed revamped Hood, lays some of the blame on the nature of the architect’s buildings themselves—they don’t photograph well. “For Charles, the printed page is simply too flat, it’s two-dimensional,” Keim explains. “What gets emphasized with his work is the decoration, because it’s so vivid. That’s what grabs your attention. What isn’t conveyed—and it’s difficult, because Charles’s buildings were so spatial—is that sense of space.”

Although scarcely recognized today, Moore’s genius lay not in promoting a self-conscious style, but in creating complex spatial journeys. His contribution to architecture lies much more in his design process than in any one building. He was, of course, interested in drawing references to history and pop culture, but for him, sensitivity to place and context—to landscape, as well as the surrounding built environment—was key.

So was listening to the needs and desires of users. “Receptivity,” Moore wrote in 1985, “is at the heart of our beliefs as architects.” He almost always engaged in community workshops and envisioning sessions, in which all stakeholders were encouraged to suggest alternatives and weigh in on a proposal’s pros and cons.

Indeed, Moore ought to be remembered first and foremost as a pioneer of socially responsible, participatory design. It was Moore who, as dean of the Yale School of Architecture, cofounded the Yale Building Project in 1967 and who influenced Samuel Mockbee, the founder of the famous Rural Studio at Auburn University. Stephen Harby, a faculty member at Yale and a former colleague, suggests that Moore’s refinement of the with “expert” architects, is “one of his important contributions to architecture.”

All of these aspects of Moore’s process come together, rather ingeniously, in the Hood Museum.

* *

The Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, circa 1985. On the left of the Hood is Wilson Hall; on the right, the Hopkins Center. Charles Moore took inspiration from both structures, the smokestack from the adjacent 20th-century power plant, and the mills found throughout New England.

Courtesy ©Tim Hursley

Even in 1981, when planning for the Hood Museum first began, it was a Gordian knot of a site challenge. Architect James Stirling, who taught at Yale at the time, even assigned the problem to his students; none came up with a satisfactory solution.

Buzz Yudell, Moore’s former partner, may not have worked on the Hood himself, but he remembers Moore’s excitement at taking on this “non-site,” a swath of land behind and between two radically different buildings. To the east, there is Wilson Hall, a Romanesque brick building from 1885; to the west, Wallace K. Harrison’s Hopkins Center (known as the Hop), a clear predecessor to his Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. According to Yudell, Moore had no great love for the Harrison building, but was nevertheless “intrigued by how one could take all of these disparate, but historically interesting and important, pieces, and be very respectful and thoughtful in how you inserted and developed a whole new piece, with its own strong character.”

To come up with the right orientation for the building, Moore held workshops on Dartmouth’s campus with a committee including the college provost, the president, and the Hood’s director. Julia Miner, a Dartmouth grad who worked with his firm Moore Grover Harper on the project, remembers building a model of the entire site with pieces that could then be taken apart and recombined to physicalize suggestions from the participants. “I was in awe of Moore’s ability to work with a group,” Miner says. “He was just a genius when it came to thinking on his feet, responding to ideas around him, and yet maintaining a sense of integrity about his design.”

After testing numerous schemes, a solution arose. “When the smoke cleared,” Moore wrote in a chapter of Treasures of the Hood Museum of Art (Hudson Hills Press, 1985), “the site tucked back in the center of the block had surfaced as the only one that made sense. The building was brought up to the Green by a connecting link between Wilson and the Hop, with an entrance [gate] and a sign, and was nestled among all the pieces of a very complicated block. I find it a fascinating choice, and I am delighted with it.”

In the end, the Hood, as Yudell explains, is not a building but a series of spatial experiences. It “creates this wonderful sequence of invitation, of discovery unfolding. [It’s] a choreography of experience that works all the way from the outside through the courtyard and inside the building.” In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The only way to understand the building, then, and the extent to which the expansion would change it, is to experience the Hood in person.

* *

The courtyard will be filled in for the expansion of the museum.

Courtesy ©Tim Hursley

As you approach the site from Dartmouth’s sprawling Green, the red-brick turret of Wilson Hall and the five semicircular windows of the Hop are instantly recognizable. It takes a few more steps before the entranceway, the bush-hammered concrete gate that lies solidly between its neighbors, comes into view. Dignified, gray, it announces its presence with four engraved, somber letters: H O O D.

Walk between the concrete columns and you descend into a quiet, meditative space. A small sign clearly signals the Hood Museum entrance to the left, while a small patch of green lies ahead. Pedestrians and cyclists hurry past it as they cut through on their way to class. On the left, a wide ramp unfolds around the courtyard; if you ascend slowly, as the incline demands, you can admire the subtle charm of the space on the short journey to the front door.

And there you will see the conflict at work: the delight of a unique, special place, and the reality that it isn’t being utilized as intended.

When John Stomberg became the Hood’s director this past January (months after the Williams-Tsien project had been approved), he was surprised by the vehemence with which the architectural community reacted to the plans. The Hood was badly in need of a renovation and a reimagining, and TWBTA’s design addressed every single point in its brief, and as far as the college and the museum staff were concerned, brilliantly.

There were many issues to be addressed. When the Hood Museum was built, it had a staff of ten; today, it has more than 30 employees and could easily expand to 40 soon. Because of insufficient classroom space, classes are held in small storage areas. For years, the windows lining the main staircase have been covered up with heavy black scrims to avoid letting in too much light. Six months of every year, the duration of a New Hampshire winter, scaffolding is erected to prevent falling snow from harming passersby. The ramp is closed when ice proves too hazardous, forcing visitors to come in unceremoniously through the back. Windows are leaking and gathering significant mold, endangering the art. Groups of students, lacking a cloakroom for their things, leave mountains of backpacks at the front desk daily. The gradation of the entrance does not meet standards for disabled accessibility. The building envelope is woefully inadequate and inefficient by modern-day standards.

But the staff’s biggest complaint is that the Hood’s entrance, set back from the college Green, and its front door, at the far end of the courtyard, are hard to find. The Hood has grown into the preeminent teaching museum in the country, and the building, the college feels, is not living up to its renown.

When we view the expansion through the prism of Moore’s legacy, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s project feels wanting.

Dartmouth first began seriously mulling over the Hood’s fate in 2001, when it commissioned a speculative study by Rogers Marvel Architects. In 2005, it commissioned another by Machado Silvetti, the architectural firm that designed the Hood’s newest neighbor, the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Then in 2010, it commissioned yet another study, this time by Centerbrook, the practice that Charles Moore cofounded afterparticipatory process, which put users on a level playing field Moore Grover Harper. None created the visual presence—that new front door—that Dartmouth administrators were looking for.

The college began soliciting proposals from a broader pool of architects. A selection committee, including faculty and administrators, winnowed down a short list. In the end, four architects were selected to be interviewed. John Scherding, director of campus design and construction, vividly remembers the TWBTA proposal:

“All of us in the room felt it was brilliant. They were the only firm that suggested disconnecting the Hood from Wilson Hall, allowing Wilson to stand proudly on the corner of the Green. They were the only firm that showed a strong identifiable front entrance to the building, infilled the courtyard to provide program space, and really strengthened the north-south axis. It was a very powerful and simple concept that satisfied all of the needs.”

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien declined to be interviewed for this article, but their plan essentially appears to divide the Hood site into two sections. The southern section, which includes much of the actual museum, will be preserved almost entirely—only one of the 11 galleries (one of the more nondescript first-floor galleries) will be sacrificed, and the southern gateway will be widened. The northern section, which includes the entrance, the courtyard, and the Hood’s administrative spaces, will be demolished, making room for a two-story, L-shaped addition. The base of the L will sit on the Green and accommodate the Hood’s new lobby entrance (or “atrium concourse”), while the stem of the L will extend alongside an expanded north-south passage, with landscaping by Hargreaves Associates.

As the Hood’s director, Stomberg knew the signature Moore gateway would have to be sacrificed for the sake of the TWBTA project—something he feels is necessary for the Hood to have a more inviting, accessible campus presence. He admits that, at first, he didn’t understand the significance of the courtyard, nor why its imminent destruction was arousing such ire. Nevertheless, Stomberg stands behind the decision, for one simple reason. The courtyard is far more beloved from afar than within. In theory, it’s delightful, but in practice, he says, it’s just not used. “That’s the brilliance of [the TWBTA] plan; it turns outdoor space that’s never used into indoor space that will always be used.”

Former director Michael Taylor put it this way: “[Moore’s] design responded to the needs and challenges of 1985. Tod and Billie are responding to 2019.”

* *

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects’ model of its proposed expansion of the Hood Museum, seen from the west.

Courtesy Hood Museum of Art

The delicacy of TWBTA’s restoration will truly be understood only when the expansion is complete. However, the plan already has some clear advantages. It provides for all the teaching museum’s needs within considerable site restraints. It thoughtfully preserves the gallery spaces (one exemplary detail: To preserve the windows along the staircase, and the dance of light along the walls, TWBTA will convert some of the windows into light boxes of stained glass) and will likely improve the museum experience in many fundamental ways. In interviews, the museum staffers, who profess to love the original museum, seem overjoyed: They believe the new scheme preserves the best of Moore’s design while transforming the worst.

After all, Moore wanted his buildings, first and foremost, to serve their users. If he could see the Dartmouth campus now, if he knew the courtyard was being used as a passageway and that the outdoor spaces turn treacherous in the winter months, he would have worked hard toward a new solution. Harby agrees: “If [Moore] were alive today, if he’d been asked to come in and redo his building, I suspect he might well have radically changed it.[…] He wouldn’t have been precious or been a preservationist.”

The new design addresses every single point in the brief, and as far as the college and the museum staff are concerned, brilliantly.

However, the question of how to adapt Moore’s building, to what extent it should be preserved, lies in other architects’ hands. And when we view the expansion plans through the prism of Moore’s legacy, the project still feels wanting.

While the design process for the renovation was nowhere near as secretive or closed off as critics have charged (multiple surveys were sent to the faculty and students, and the project, like the original Hood, was reviewed by stakeholders throughout the college administration), neither was it, as Moore described the Hood’s planning, “the opposite of mysterious.” Although the TWBTA scheme will use a gray-cream brick for the exterior (one far less shocking than the renderings make it appear), the addition seems to show little deference to its neighbors. And, finally, the sequence of experience will likely be irrevocably altered; the new Hood will not be slowly discovered. Indeed, it will be difficult to miss.

But the task of faithfully following Moore’s process was not the brief given to Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Moreover, at no point during planning was an expansion of the Hood Museum beyond its current boundaries seriously considered. Jacquelynn Baas, the Hood’s director at the time of its opening more than 30 years ago, sees this as the crux of the issue: “The college, rather than providing additional space to expand, told these architects they had to basically expand on top of the current building. Which is mission impossible! […] It’s not that these architects are incapable of doing good buildings—they certainly are. The problem is the program they were given was an impossible program.”

In asking for a museum of the 21st century, as Dartmouth had, it was asking for a building antithetical to Moore’s conception of a museum. The 21st-century museum announces itself boldly; it serves as an event venue and public plaza; it integrates smart technology and environmentally conscious building elements; it is a cultural and economic engine. The Hood Museum’s conceit—call it false, call it impractical, call it charming—was to draw you in, to prime you for a special experience, an intimate engagement with art. The Hood had its faults, yes, but it was unique. It’s unlikely the same will be able to be said about the new Hood.

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A host of hostas

In pocketed garden plots dotting five hilly acres, leafy clumps of decorative plants poke through new mulch.

Deep green Pacific Sunrise hostas, with leaves rimmed in neon hues, grow in one section of the garden of Janet Hommel Mangas. Nearby, the massive heart-shaped leaves of the Blue Angel hosta provides a shady stand of cover.

Fantastically named varieties such as Bodacious Blue, Sleeping Beauty and Tickle Me Pink all help create a uniform yet unique looking garden.

“I like the look of them — almost tropical,” Mangas said. “And they’re really easy to grow. You almost can’t mess them up. I bring them home and plant them.”

As the leafy green cover crops that fill out a garden, hostas can get lost by the flashier, more colorful and more exotic plants in the garden. But the hardy, easy-to-grow and increasingly varied hosta can carry a garden entirely on its own.

Thanks to hybridization efforts, many centered in Indiana, the capability and popularity of the plant is expanding.

Enthusiasts eager to learn more about the plants will have the chance to tour 12 of the best-designed hosta gardens in central Indiana, including Mangas’, at a two-day event hosted by the Indianapolis Hosta Society.

“This is an integral part of the hosta society, and every year we have tours of two or three gardens to let the broader club come in and see what they’ve done,” said Andrew Russell, president of the society. “Every garden is different.”

Hostas are originally native to Asia, growing in forests throughout China, Japan and Korea. In the 1700s, the plant was brought to Europe for inclusion in gardens. The hosta made its way to the U.S. in the 19th century.

While the plants can certainly serve as a garden centerpiece, they also blend in with other perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs.

“Many people are into the aesthetics. Hosta plants are partial shade plants, so there’s a big thing to developing the landscape to accommodate other perennials that grow in the shade,” Russell said. “They can be very beautiful together.”

Mangas has always had an interest in gardening but only became interested in hostas in the last eight years.

“I’ve always liked to get my hands dirty. Taking care of these is calming and peaceful and a great chance to be outside,” Mangas said.

The main benefit of the hosta is how easy it is to grow.

The plant tolerates and in most cases thrives in shade. They don’t need to be pruned or shaped, and are tolerant to the wet-and-dry conditions of Indiana seasons.

Mangas pointed to a specific point in her garden to illustrate the point. At the end of the growing season last year, she was mostly finished planting her hostas for the coming year.

One she had left over, she just plopped it on a rock next to a creek bed. Despite that, it has blossomed and bloomed this year.

“I hardly did anything to it. It’s still down there — I haven’t moved it. And it’s beautiful,” she said. “They’re pretty durable.”

She and her husband Steve grow more than 130 varieties of hosta on their White River Township property.

Spread across five acres, they have created a whimsical series of gardens throughout their White River Township property. With numerous trees dotting the rolling hills around their house, each garden plot has the shade needed to grow a variety of hostas.

That’s not to say hostas are invincible, Mangas said. Voles snack on the root system of the plant, and can wreak havoc on an entire stand of hosta if left alone.

Also, avoid planting hostas near a silver maple. Silver maples have surface roots, and they’ll choke out your hostas, Mangas said.

Only in the past 50 years, though, has use of hostas in gardening become popular. Horticulturists have developed an ever-expanding range of hybrids and mutations that have given the plants radiant color, bizarrely large size and unique leaf shape.

Indiana has become a center of hosta innovation and growth. Nearly 20 hybrid growers are operating in Indiana, playing with the breeding to alter the size, color, shading and leaf shape.

The Indianapolis Hosta Society formed in the mid-1990s, when this innovation was just starting to take off, Russell said.

“This group came to place, we came together and the society started to grow. Many of them have grown to be considered experts,” he said.

Indianapolis will host the annual convention of the American Hosta Society in 2017. Hosta enthusiasts will come from all over the country to talk about their latest successes, learn about new cultivars and share in the joy of hosta gardens.

This will be the third time Indianapolis has hosted the convention, Russell said.

Mangas, a member of the Johnson County Garden Club, started taking part in hosta society activities a few years ago. When the local society put a call out for people willing to share their gardens, Mangas volunteered her home.

A big attraction at the conventions are garden tours, with local growers given an opportunity to show off their designs and landscaping. The 12 gardens on the tour this June will also be featured next year when hundreds of hosta lovers come to town, Russell said.

This year’s tour will serve as a “practice round” for homeowners in advance of the 2017 convention.

“Garden tours are a big deal at these conventions. It’s a big reason why people come,” Russell said. “In some cases, there are a lot of modifications going on with people’s gardens, changes to landscape and things like that. Frankly, it’s very competitive. Every one of them really wants to do their thing.”

The Mangas home is the most southerly stop on the garden tour.

The other locations will not be publicized until someone buys tickets. But the descriptions range from small downtown Indianapolis plots showcasing what can be done in urban plots to historic estate homes with wide swaths of hostas accenting the gardens.

“The gardens are very different and very beautiful. There’s a broad spectrum of tastes and how people do things, that are neat to see,” Russell said.

Indianapolis Hosta Society Garden Tour

What: A showcase featuring creative and beautiful use of hostas in 12 gardens throughout the Indianapolis area, including that of Steve and Janet Hommel Mangas in White River Township.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11 and 12

Where: Location maps will be provided when tickets are purchased. The tour is self-guided over the course of two days.

Cost: $20 per person

How to buy tickets:

101 Hosta

Benefits of hostas:

  • Tolerate shade
  • Are low maintenance
  • Are present in the garden from the spring through the summer and fall
  • Blend beautifully with other perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs

Basic requirements for success:

  • Hostas grow best if they have a minimum of six weeks of dormancy each year. That is not a problem in Indiana.
  • Hostas require regular supplies of water. A large hosta will need about 3 gallons of water for its roots each week.
  • Hostas are a shade tolerant plant, but they will not grow where they receive no light. Some hostas even will tolerate full sun if they receive enough water. Some hostas will tolerate deep, deep shade so long as there is some sunlight filtering through the shade above them.
  • Hostas depend upon a healthy root system to produce plant food to support the rest of the plant. Soil that has enough humus to allow the roots to grow and develop is best. If your soil is compacted and fine, you will need to amend it with compost or additives that will loosen it.
  • Hostas prefer a soil with fairly neutral pH level. A pH 6 would be ideal.

Information from the Indianapolis Hosta Society

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New Gardens Planned for Field Museum Grounds

Rendering by Site Design Group via In the Field

Rendering by Site Design Group via In the Field
Rendering by Site Design Group via In the Field

Chicago’s Field Museum has revealed a planned makeover of the institution’s grass lawn along Chicago’s lakefront. Modeled on the natural prairies found throughout Illinois, the project — dubbed the Rice Native Gardens — is being made possible thanks to a gift from the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation.

According to an article by the museum’s sustainability manager Carter O’Brien appearing in the latest issue of the In the Field member’s magazine, the new landscaping goes much deeper than improved aesthetics. “The replacement of turf grass with native plants and permeable pavers will increase storm water retention and carbon absorption, reduce urban heat island effect, and improve the quality of stormwater draining into Lake Michigan by reducing fertilizer usage,” explains O’Brien.

Chicago-based Site Design Group has been tapped to design the Rice Native Gardens which will feature indigenous Midwest flora and fauna in a similar fashion to the recently revamped Northerly Island, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Though its final configuration is still being refined, the reimagined space is also expected to include new opportunities for educational programming.

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Peek inside Newport Garden Walk home

Heritage gardening tips: Pests in the garden

By Faith Baldwin, Master Gardener


Along with the luscious growth of your garden following the rain, comes the insect pests which can quickly undo all your hard work. It is not possible to discuss all of them or how to deal with them, but some of the more common ones will be discussed.

While working at the waterfront last week, a woman stopped to ask about small bright red beetles she was noticing on her lilies. These are easily identified as the red lily beetles, but not so easily conquered.

The first step is to ensure that your plants are healthy, that they have access to adequate moisture and nutrients, best accomplished with compost. When you see holes in the leaves and notice the presence of these beetles, it is easy to manage their numbers by picking them off by hand and depositing them in a container of soap and water. The soap film will prevent their escape and they will eventually drown.

Or if you’re fearless, you can just squish them between your thumb and forefinger. On the undersides of the plant’s leaves you will find irregular rows of red-brown eggs, which should be rubbed off. If left unchecked, these half-inch long beetles can decimate your Asian and Oriental lilies; however they will not infect your daylilies. Early in the season the adult beetles have also been known to lay their eggs on frittillaria. The adults overwinter in the soil, so it is important to clean up the plant’s debris in the fall.

Earwigs are the bane of most gardeners; they are especially fond of hostas and other plants with moist and succulent leaves. They like damp dark spaces and are most active at night; during the day they hide in cracks and under rocks. When disturbed they scurry quickly away, usually startling the gardener.

There are several ways to use this knowledge to your advantage. Earwig traps are simple to make with common household items and will keep their numbers manageable, provided they are inspected and emptied on a regular basis.

One trap can be made with a small can (e.g. tuna) filled with cooking oil or beer and buried to the rim in the soil. Another trap is made with a piece of old garden hose or a paper towel roll, where they will crawl into once day comes.

I stress the concept of managing their numbers as opposed to eliminating them completely. Earwigs are omnivourous and, in addition to eating foliage they feast on other more destructive insects in the garden. They can also be managed by encouraging the presence of natural predators such as toads and birds, by providing suitable habitats for them.

Along the waterfront we are noticing the emergence of the viburnum leaf beetle, which are highly destructive to most members of the viburnum family including the highbush cranberry. The first line of defence is to prune off twigs with visible eggs between October and April. Secondly, apply dormant oil spray in early spring when daytime temperatures are between 5-10 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures remain above freezing.

Thoroughly cover all dimensions of the branches for best results. Both the larvae (caterpillars) and the adults do extensive leaf damage and several years of this will weaken and/or kill the plant. Encouraging beneficial insects such as lady beetles, spined soldier bug and stinkbug will help in the battle.

The North Bay Heritage Gardeners are the volunteers who take care of the perennial and shrub gardens at the North Bay waterfront of Lake Nipissing. To learn more about volunteering with us check our website: or contact us at 705-472-4006 or e-mail: for more information.

On June 8 at 6:30 p.m., Master Gardeners Vicki Doucette and Carol Furlonger will discuss the Design of Waterfront Garden Bed 40 also known as the Seniors Garden which is located behind the sundial at the waterfront. Please bring your garden design questions.

In concert with the Canadian Garden Council Garden days which run from June 17-19, we will host free public tours of the waterfront gardens at 10 and 11:15 a.m. June 18. Each tour will take about one hour depending on group size. See the Canadian Garden Council website for more information on the Garden Days:

Members of the public or Heritage Gardener Volunteers can register for a tour by calling 705-472-4006 or emailing by June 10 at 4 p.m. Registration is limited to 20 people for each of the two tours. We will meet at the Rotary Rotunda Gazebo beside the Marina 10 minutes before each tour so the tours can leave promptly at the appointed times

Topics covered in the tour: history of the area, the waterfront development, and the gardens, as well as history and plans for the Community Waterfront Park.


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Gardening Tips for Curb Appeal

Cary, NC – Whether you are staging your house for the real estate market or you want to give your neighbors something nice to look at, there are a number of simple gardening methods you can use to boost your home’s curb appeal.

Easy on the Eyes

Everyone is taught “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” but we all know we took one look at The Great Gatsby and said, “A giant ghost lady bearing down on an unsuspecting New York City? This is for me.” First impressions count, especially in real estate. And when possible homebuyers look at your house from the street or sidewalk, what they see on the outside is just as important as what they’ll see inside, if not more.

A good way to improve the exterior of a house is proper garden and lawn care. First and foremost, it needs to look like someone has been happily living here. If the lawn is tall and unkept, shrubs are overgrown and ivy is clinging to the walls, it looks bad. Take out your tools and clear away any plant debris that may be blocking windows or paths or otherwise making the house look derelict.

As you start putting in new plants to spruce up your home and yard, pay attention to upkeep. A beautiful flowerbed with weeds is not beautiful and a vibrant patch of trees with brown branches is not vibrant. Put in the effort to mulch, water, weed and trim your yard and garden. Just like a talk show host, it takes effort to make a home look good.


Eye-Catching Color

The best way to add life to a home’s exterior is to add some color. The garden is a great way to accomplish this. Before you start picking out flowers for your home garden, you need to think about your home’s character. Is its architecture old or new? Is it masculine, feminine, both or neither? Is it reserved or energetic? These kinds of choices should guide what kind of a garden it has. A large, bright patch of flowers in front of a simple ranch house will look out of place but a more focused group of lighter colors would do the trick.

If you are going to start adding flowers to your garden or yard, remember not to make it feel too intentional. Symmetry in a home garden looks forced when it should be a reflection of personal aesthetics. Get flowers and plants that feel right and put them where you like. And if you want to use window baskets or containers from a hardware store or gardening supply store, that is fine.

Hopefully, these tips put you on the right path toward using gardening to boost your home’s curb appeal and stand out in your neighborhood. And don’t stop there: make sure you take other efforts, such as cleaning gutters and roofs and painting faded or peeling spots.


Story by staff reports. Coverage on CaryCitizen is sponsored in part by Garden Supply Co. in Cary.

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PHS garden contests open; local winners share tips

A prize winning garden in Chestnut Hill.

A prize winning garden in Chestnut Hill.

by Sophia Salganicoff

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s third annual Greening and Gardening Contest kicked off on May 1st, heralding in another year of beautiful blooms, magnificent landscapes and charming children’s gardens.

The competition runs from May 1 to June 15, allowing gardeners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware to enter their gardens for judging on maintenance, design, horticultural practices, and the variety, color, and suitability of their plantings. Entrants can enter their gardens in one of the 10 garden categories: Children’s Garden; Flower Garden; Public Space; Rooftop Garden; Urban Farming; Combination Garden; Container Garden; Environmental Initiative; Garden Block; and Vegetable Garden. Winners will attend an awards reception celebrating their passion and success in gardening.

Two such winners in last year’s competition were from the Chestnut Hill area. Jean Miller, of Mt. Airy, won Garden of Distinction for her Individual Flower Garden, and Gerald Leube, of Glenside, won Blue Ribbon for his Individual vegetable garden. These contestants are making sure that Chestnut Hill lives up to its name as “the garden district” of Philadelphia.

So, what does it take to have a winning garden? According to Leube, “Passion, patience, balance, color and texture” are all seeds needed to grow a successful garden.

For both Leube and Miller, getting their hands dirty in the soil is something that runs in the family. Leube has always been interested in gardening, a trait that he attributes to his grandparents being farmers in the Carolinas. Gardening has always been a part of Miller’s life as well.

“My father was into gardening when I was little – he was into vegetable gardening only,” Miller said. “My mom did the flowers. I ended up helping them with both and eventually had my own vegetable patch in the yard and added a rock garden and flowerbeds that I worked on.”

Luckily, robust agricultural legacies or nostalgic memories are not requirements for those looking to start a garden, even they are certainly fantastic to have in one’s back pocket. According to Miller, learning how to garden is all about “trial and error,” even for those who have been doing it since childhood.

Miller reports that she cultivated her naturally occurring green thumb by “asking questions at my garden center and reading.”

Leube agrees, saying that even though he has “a little bit of a green thumb,” when he began gardening, he “bought and planted randomly with not much thought of pattern size and height.”

Educating himself about gardening, he said, taught him to “know when things will thrive and when they will not.” Like most disciplines, in gardening, there is always more knowledge to be gained and more experiences to be had.

Can you just pick up a spade and dig in, or do you have to carefully nurture the earth until you can draw life from it in lush symphonies of color and delectably ripened fruits and vegetables? Miller suggests you should start small.

“Even a small flowerbed to vegetable garden can take a lot of work,” she said. “When you pick plants, don’t just go for looks – make sure they are right for the sun/shade of the location.”

Leube said that “you need to make a plan and design of what you would like your garden to be.” He also suggests reading horticultural books, which can help you to plan out your garden as they tell you “how tall or wide plants will grow, if they are sun loving or shade loving, and which plants will tolerate drought or wet conditions.”

Gardening can be a way to relax on the weekends, but its therapeutic benefits can also extend to your whole community.

Miller said that she and her husband “get a lot of compliments on [their] garden, people stop on their walk or even slow down in their cars.”

“It’s inspiring to think we are bringing a little color and lightness to the neighborhood,” said Miller.

Leube said that he “loves sharing [his] garden with friends and garden clubs,” and he also believes that gardening inspires people to “look around at nature and let it become part of you.” Gardening can facilitate community building, a deeper connection with nature, and even increased self-understanding.

So, whether you are a rookie in your first season, or an old timer with a lush garden in need of appreciation, pick up your spade, and dig in. And, make sure to send in pictures before June 15 so that your beautiful garden can be can be considered for this year’s Gardening and Greening Competition.

Anyone interested can enter here.

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