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Archives for June 14, 2016

Garden Design Ideas inspired by ancient Japanese Tea Garden

The stunningly beautiful Passage is where garden design ideas inspired by ancient Japanese Tea Gardens. The Passage garden ideas came from the practicing Buddhist owners, and the design was a collaborative effort from landscape contractor and architect, and different artists to create a spiritual retreat to accommodate everyday functions as well as a space in which to be nurtured and find rest and peace.

The Passage is a contemporary interpretation of an ancient design. The garden is on a wooded, 10-acre lot in New England, Massachusetts, on which an existing house stood for about 20 years. An addition was put on the main house, a private temple was turned into a guest house, and a connecting bridge was built between a new bedroom and the main entrance.
The idea behind “roji” (or “passageway”), an ancient tea garden, is that the “garden was designed not to be viewed from a single location, but as a series of experiences along a path leading to the tea ceremony.” It can be appreciated from many locations – not just looking into the backyard from a kitchen window, as we do.
The viewing areas in The Passage include a parking court and entry garden with a curving fieldstone wall that emerges from the woods, a steam garden, a courtyard garden, perennial borders, a woodland path, and a meditation circle. A koi pond, a soaking tub, a ceremonial planter, water basins that collect rain water, an outdoor shower that doubles as a lantern, and a stone path all add to the ancient appeal of The Passage.
The Passage received the Residential Design Award of Honor from ASLA.

At the beginning of the path, at the property entrance, there is a circular parking lot that is enclosed in a curving fieldstone wall. It repeats the bowl shape of the nearby kettle hole.
Similarely, at the end of the path, there is Meditation Circle, “a small terrace overlooking the woods, where the third Tsukubai – the Woodland Bowl – rests.” “Sitting on the rim of the vast kettle hole, one is consumed by nature, and moves effortlessly from the worldly to the spiritual.” (Photos by Brian Vanden Brink)

Also at the entry, is the first of three Tsukubai – the Raincatcher – a cast concrete water feature which collects falling water from the roof. “Water overflows from the Raincatcher into a copper ring filled with washed stones.” (Photos by Brian Vanden Brink)

In ancient tea gardens, one would find a wooden arbor defined with mortise and tenon joints, but in The Passage, an arbor is made up of a grid of copper piping, strong enough for hardy and fast-growing Wisteria vines. (Photo by Brian Vanden Brink)

The Akari outdoor shower also serves as a light tower. Drawing from the design ideas of traditional rice paper lanterns, the shower is constructed of copper pipes and wood slats and is illuminated through a custom fiber optic system. (Photos by Brian Vanden Brink)

In the perennial garden, the second Tsukubai – the Garden Sink – “incorporates copper detailing of the shower and arbor”. (Photos by Brian Vanden Brink)

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Improve the Aesthetic Appeal of Properties with Commercial and Residential Landscape Maintenance Services from …

This press release was orginally distributed by SBWire

Longmont, CO — (SBWIRE) — 06/13/2016 — Rock Solid Landscapes, one of the leading Landscaping Companies in Erie, is now providing commercial and residential landscape maintenance services. The wide range of maintenance services that the company offers includes snow removal, mowing, fertilization, irrigation maintenance, irrigation winterizations and turn-ons, aeration and many others. Their services are supported by a skilled team of professionals who know to transform any dull looking landscape into a lively structure. They chalk out a proper plan according to the landscape to ensure it is effective. They use all the modern tools while rendering these services in order to get effective results. People who wish to beautify the look of their backyards can now contact them for their needs.

Rock Solid Landscapes is one of the most recognized names when it comes to offering a wide range of landscape design services at the most competitive prices. With their team of experienced and dedicated professionals, the services that they offer are sure to meet the needs of their customers. Relying on their services can benefit people in enhancing the appeal of their backyards and adding value to the property. Besides commercial and residential landscape maintenance services, the company also offers outdoor lighting, lawn maintenance, design and construction, hardscape and backyard landscaping ideas in Longmont.

One of the spokespersons of the company talked more about their commercial residential landscape maintenance services, “Rock Solid Landscape’s maintenance division has been providing services to commercial and residential properties for a decade. Our professional staff is all well versed in all aspects of Landscape Maintenance.”

About Rock Solid Landscapes
Rock Solid Landscapes Inc. is dedicated to fulfilling the landscape dreams of their clients by adhering to the highest standards and detail. They are an experienced and professionally managed landscaping company with the necessary manpower and resources to create distinctive and attractive designs for the yard. Their skilled and experienced staff has an eye for every detail; know which design would go best in a yard and aim to give the landscape an exceptionally beautiful look. They provide custom designs that fit the lawn, environmental conditions and personal preferences of the client perfectly.

For more information, please visit-

Contact Details:
Address: 3686 Stagecoach North, Unit A. Longmont, CO 80504
Phone: 303-772-4736

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Life at the top: Artisan tour highlights ‘race cars’ of Twin Cities home-building

If you love gawking at ritzy real estate, June is your month.

This year, though, you won’t have to choose which tour of swanky high-end houses to attend. The Artisan Home Tour, sponsored by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, is the only one.

The Luxury Home Tour, a 15-year institution, won’t be happening, at least not this month. “It was a private business decision,” said Jamie Flaws, publisher of Greenspring Media, who said the longtime tour is only on hiatus, not permanently discontinued.

But that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of upper-bracket houses to ogle, with almost 30 open for touring (21 new homes and eight remodeled homes), compared with last year’s total of 35 for the two tours combined. And the threshhold for making the cut has risen — to $1.2 million for the structure only (not including the lot and landscaping) for new homes, and to $400,000 minimum for remodeling projects.

“We heard from our builders — you’ve got to up the bar a little bit, the world is changing,” said David Siegel, the Builders Association’s executive director.

And if you’ve got the inclination — and the wallet — you can pick up a trophy home of your own during the tour. While most of the new houses on the tour are custom homes built for particular owners, several are for sale, including Home #11, a contemporary twist on midcentury modern that overlooks popular Pamela Park in Edina.

Workshop held on excess US 331 bridge tax funds, bridge park and landscaping

CREWS CURRENTLY installing pilings for the new bridge park’s 400-foot fishing pier. (Photo courtesy of Florida Department of Transportation)

County commissioners, staff and the public recently discussed $6 million available from the state to be used in connection with the U.S. 331 bay bridge expansion project and the new bridge park that is being constructed as part of that project.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) workshop hosted by the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) held on June 1 at the South Walton Annex was the first of two such meetings, with the second workshop to take place on June 6 at Freeport Community Center.
The June 1 workshop was lightly attended, aside from county officials, county staff, and consultants. with about half a dozen members of the public present.
The $6 million under discussion had been funds collected though the county’s bridge tax, which had been approved in 2012 to pay off the loan for matching funds required from the county for the bridge project. The BCC had voted in May 2015 to sunset the tax after more-than-sufficient tax revenues were available, several years earlier than anticipated, to pay off the bridge loan.
Jay Tusa, TDC executive director, led the June 1 workshop, which included a presentation on the park, boat ramp and fishing pier that will be located under the bridge at its south end.
The park is to be known as Thomas Pilcher Park after a beloved Walton County resident, deceased in 2007, who worked the bay for the Florida Department of Conservation for many years.
The park project itself was included with the bridge project cost, and installation is already underway on timber posts for the boat ramp and pilings for the fishing pier, according to information provided by the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
Tusa told workshop attendees that ideas for projects at the north end of the bridge would be discussed, although it had not been determined whether these funds could be used for that area.
County engineering consultant Cliff Knauer presented information on the bridge park, explaining that he had been on the design team for the park and had worked on the utility design for the causeway.
It was Knauer’s opinion that the south end boat launch was well needed. He said the only good launch in the area for boats in the neighborhood of 26 feet or longer was at Cessna Landing on Hogtown Bayou.
The new bridge park, he explained, would be set up to accommodate 28-foot trailers and boats and F-250-sized trucks with 17 feet of clearance for vehicles.
A total of 17 parking spaces for boat trailers and 72 regular vehicle parking spaces are planned, Knauer continued. He told the commissioners that a 400-foot-long pier was also planned on the east side of the park, parallel to the new bridge. Gazebos are to be part of the construction, with one gazebo to be located on the fishing pier, he said.
“It’s going to be a fantastic facility,” Knauer said of the bridge park.
He confirmed that the park had been included in the design-build price for the bridge, noting that additional features could be funded for the park with the $6 million.
One of Knauer’s suggestions was for more parking for boat trailers and/or vehicles in a 300-foot-long area under the bridge.
District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows asked if there would be any chance for a children’s park as part of the facility.
Knauer responded that the challenge for that would be that boats and trailers do a lot of manoeuvring and that it would probably be best not to have a children’s playground in the vicinity of all that activity.
Walton County District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld suggested a location south of the parking area for the children’s park.
The commissioners also discussed a swimming area, which could be roped off to separate it from boat launching activity.
Knauer noted that a multi-use path would extend from Chat Holley Road under the bridge and connect with the park.
Looking at plan drawings for the park, Imfeld observed that there appeared to be a lot of additional buildable area under the bridge. He brought up Meadows’ exploration of new facilities for seniors and suggested that this could be a possible location for such facilities.
Meadows asked about the noise situation under the bridge. Knauer said it is not noisy under the bridge now and did not anticipate any noise problem.
Meadows suggested the addition of security cameras for the park and the addition of showers to the bathrooms and/or the addition of outdoor showers for rinsing off.
Knauer suggested a boat wash down area, as well.
Asked if there would be a specific area for launching kayaks, canoes and yolo boards, Knauer said this was not part of the plans but could easily be added.
Meadows was of the opinion that this should be provided separately from the regular boat launch.
“That’s a great idea,” said Walton County Commission Chair Sara Comander.
She asked if anything would remain upon completion of the bridge project of the previously-existing picnic area along the bay on the west side of the bridge.
Knauer responded no, that removal of that facility was part of the project contract.
Comander asked if it would be possible to fund projects on the north end of the bridge with the $6 million.
Knauer responded that DOT had not indicated a problem with doing so, but that the issue might be with requirements associated with how the tax funds were collected.
Mark Davis, county attorney, commented that the county had been told that spending from the excess tax funds would be confined to the bridge area but that recently there had been indications that it could be expanded to the bridge approaches.
Meadows and District 2 Commissioner Cecilia Jones asked if the following would be provided with the park: electrical outlets, water spigots, and wi-fi service. Knauer said these were not planned but should be able to be added.
“I’d like to make this a really nice facility that people will enjoy and want to come back to,” said Imfeld.
Knauer noted that the park would be fully landscaped and irrigated.
.         Several citizens provided public comment. The first of those, Danny Copeland, emphasized the need to be able to park and throw a cast net from the southwest end of the bridge causeway as has been traditionally done.
He also brought up the old Bay Grove Store area at on the northwest side of the bridge, suggesting that the area be cleaned up—and parking put in there for access to a “beach” area that parents have long used for swimming with their children. Palm trees are already in place on that property, Copeland said.
District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman said he had spoken with the project engineer and had learned that a 15 to 20 foot section on the west side of the southbound lanes should be available for pulling off and throwing cast nets.
He agreed that the bay in the vicinity of the old store area that Copeland had referenced would be a good place for swimming with children. Chapman said he had learned that 2.41 acres were for sale at that location. He was of the opinion that the property was close enough to the bridge that use of the $6 million should be allowed for the county to obtain and fix up that property. However, Chapman said that if that were not the case, funding from other sources would be a possibility, including the RESTORE Act or the Triumph Corporation.
Walton County Administrator Larry Jones brought up that the BCC had recently made the decision to proceed with a look at the county acquiring a former bait store property on the east side of the north bridge causeway. This is between Bay Loop Road and the shore. He said he would be bringing an appraisal of that property before the BCC. The BCC, Jones continued, had also directed staff to look at several properties that could possibly be acquired in the same general area on the west side of the bridge. Based on that direction, staff was looking at those opportunities and possible funding sources, he said. These acquisitions would be aimed at providing for parking, fishing, and other recreational opportunities as have traditionally been available in the same area.
Copeland told the commissioners that people want to fish—and that in his opinion parking for fishing areas in the bay on the north side of the bridge would be as full or fuller than such facilities on the south side. He said that it has been his experience that once people get to the south end, they are headed for the gulf rather than the bay.
Administrator Jones said landscaping for the north approach of the bridge would be on the list of items to be presented to DOT for consideration. This had been requested by Commissioner Jones.
Landscaping that DOT has agreed to install in medians and along the roadside between the south end of the bridge and U.S. 98 was discussed. The county/TDC has committed to maintenance of the landscaping beyond the two-year period that DOT would be providing maintenance, and, with that understanding, DOT has agreed to install irrigation and what was referred to as “lush landscaping,” as opposed to less water-reliant plants, rock gravel and boulders.
L. Jones noted that, based on input, he would be taking a list of requested landscaping materials before the BCC that would be provided to DOT upon BCC approval.
Representing the Scenic Corridor Foundation, Leigh Moore suggested a variety of landscaping, mentioning native live oaks, cypress, muhly grass and saw palmettos. “The use of the palm should be minimal,” she recommended, adding that palms would not be a good idea in the area of the traffic light at the south end of U.S. 331.
Moore also suggested design features to “dress up” the interior walls of the bridge.
The Herald/Breeze spoke with L. Jones on June 7 about the workshop held on June 6 in Freeport.
He said that 18-20 people had attended, with good public comment provided.
Jones said that “better news” from the county’s consultant for the bridge tax referendum had been received in a conversation just prior to the meeting. Based on advice from the consultant, Jones said the BCC should be able to take action to define the bridge approach areas (north and south), which could be included as areas where the excess bridge tax funds could be expended.
Jones said the county’s greatest concern is for the tax funds collected to be used in a way that is consistent with the tax referendum approved by the voters.
He credited the BCC for taking care to proceed correctly with the funds—and expressed appreciation to the citizens who had come to the workshops and provided the county with their thoughts. “There was a lot of great input,” he said.

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Vermont Soap has a Formula for Cleaning Homes the Nontoxic Way

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  • caleb kenna
  • Larry Plesent

The curing room in Vermont Soap‘s manufacturing facility in Middlebury may be one of the most fragrant spots in Vermont. As dozens of soap bars cure on drying racks like aging craft cheeses, the air is laden with the rich aromas of pine, peppermint, lavender, lemongrass and other essential oils.

But, unlike the scents added to most conventionally produced soaps, shampoos, toiletries and home-cleaning products, none of these odors comes from artificial chemicals or toxic ingredients. In fact, the earthy reddish hue of some of the bars is derived from lobster shells.

Vermont Soap, whose unofficial slogan is “Replacing yucky stuff with yummy stuff,” specializes in formulating natural, organic and nontoxic home and garden products. Those include underarm deodorants, oral-care products, antiaging creams, pet and horse shampoos, surface cleaners, fruit and vegetable washes, car cleaners, and even yoga-mat cleaners. Most are U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic, and all are safe and nontoxic. That makes them ideal for consumers with severe allergies or chemical sensitivities, or those who simply have concerns about the prevalence of hazardous materials in the home.

Larry Plesent, 57, founded Vermont Soap in 1992, after he’d learned the hard way what toxic chemicals can do to your body. In the 1980s, Plesent earned money for college working as a Burlington window washer. In an effort to economize, he concocted his own window-washing solution consisting of dish detergent, floor cleaner, windshield-wiper fluid and antifreeze.

For about eight years, Plesent essentially soaked himself in noxious chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, methanol and ethylene glycol, which left him with severe contact dermatitis and multiple chemical sensitivities. Conventional deodorants gave him rashes across his arms and torso that lasted for weeks. Normal shampoos caused his hair to fall out.

He tried one conventional brand after another, but the problems never went away. By 1991, Plesent’s “reactive body” was so sensitive, he couldn’t touch or be around artificial scents, artificial colors or petrochemical products, including most plastics.

Then, one day at a Vermont craft fair, Plesent picked up a bar of soap made with goat’s milk. Just days after he tried it, his eight-year bout of dermatitis disappeared. Realizing that countless other consumers must suffer from similar sensitivities, Plesent decided to turn his disability into a business venture. Thus Vermont Soap was born.

Of course, Vermont Soap isn’t the only producer of eco-friendly home-cleaning and personal-care products in the Clean Mountain State. According to Forbes magazine, Burlington behemoth Seventh Generation does more than $300 million in annual retail sales.

While Vermont Soap hasn’t reached that level, it’s growing quickly as more consumers seek products labeled organic. The company now has 25 employees and sales in excess of $3 million annually; it recently expanded into Asia and is exploring new markets in Europe. Two-thirds of Vermont Soap’s products are now sold under other labels or are added as ingredients to other products.

A June 2015 fire in Vermont Soap’s factory on Middlebury’s Exchange Street shut down operations for four months but ultimately proved fortuitous: It forced a move into a manufacturing facility more than twice as large just down the road. The company still maintains a discount retail outlet at its original location. There, consumers can find deals on Vermont Soap products and visit its modest soap museum, which features antique washing machines, shaving kits, classic toiletries and, of course, old soaps.

In accordance with Plesent’s goal of “doing as little harm as possible,” his new and much larger manufacturing space is all electric and at or near zero emissions. Eschewing landscaping that might expose his employees to pesticides and other allergens, he recently planted vegetable gardens for his staff’s use.

Consumers who typically buy organic meats and produce can shop online at Vermont Soap for similarly nontoxic alternatives to familiar cleaning products. For example, Produce Magic is an organic cleaner that removes waxes, pesticides, and other dirt and residues from fruits and vegetables. Green Car is an automotive cleaner similar to Armor All, except it’s certified organic and contains no petrochemicals.

Liquid Sunshine is an all-purpose spray-and-wipe surface cleaner and concentrate similar to Citra Solv, but it contains all-natural citrus oils. According to Plesent, it can be used safely on cabinets, woodwork and hardwood floors, just like Murphy’s Oil Soap, but it’s nontoxic and easy on your hands.

Sandy Lincoln, owner of Sandy’s Books Bakery in Rochester, sells organic baked goods and says she uses only Liquid Sunshine on all her countertops, glass surfaces, prep tables and dishes.

“So many chemicals on the market leave a chemical, toxic smell behind,” she says. “Liquid Sunshine has a really citrusy aroma that our customers love.”

In 2014, Delicious Living magazine gave Liquid Sunshine its Editor’s Choice Award, noting that the household cleaner contains no volatile organic compounds, which can irritate eyes and cause headaches.

“Is it possible to fall in love with a household cleaner?” wrote managing editor Jenna Blumenfeld. “If it’s certified organic, eco-friendly and made with a mere five ingredients, it is.”

Many of Vermont Soap’s customers suffer from asthma or chemical sensitivities or have compromised immune systems due to chemotherapy and other medical conditions. Over the years, some have reached out to Plesent to seek his advice or thank him for the products he’s created.

In response, Plesent published a free, downloadable 68-page book, The Reactive Body Handbook, which instructs people with chemical sensitivities, asthma and other environmental triggers on how to become a “Sherlock Holmes to unravel the mysteries of your own body.”

“One of the first comments I ever got on our website was from a woman who wrote, ‘Thank goodness you wrote this, Larry. I thought I was the only one,'” he says. “No, you’re not. There are millions of us.”

Vermont Soap, 616 Exchange Street, Middlebury, 388-4302.

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Tree work is latest in Hauberg fixups

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Colfax Garden Club’s Garden & Art Tour set for June 25

   Treed landscapes, flowering hillsides, ripening summer vegetables, drought-tolerant plantings and artists at work – it will all be on view for the Colfax Garden Club’s 2016 Garden Art Tour Saturday, June 25.
   The tours’ six gardens reflect a variety of styles, club president Jewell DeLapp said.
   “There are small ones, large ones, landscaped ones, more free flowing ones,” she said. “(There are) some that are drought tolerant and others that use a lot of water.”
   It’s about showcasing gardens that inspire.
   “(We look for sites) that would have ideas in them that people who are gardeners would enjoy,” she said. “To me (the reason) people go on a garden tour is to find something that would work in their garden.”
   For example, visitors will see how one gardener made the most of deep shade plantings under an oak tree at the Going Native Mostly garden. The hillside scape close to downtown Colfax is a blend of natives and perennials, a press release said.
   The Bushmanor garden takes traditional landscaping and adds casual to the mix.
   “There is a pollinator garden where he tossed out the seeds and everything is starting to bloom for the bees and butterflies,” DeLapp said.
   The property includes a must-see orchid house.
   The focal point at Eden Forest is a large swimming pool that is surrounded by plantings.
    “It’s a fun garden to go through. It’s on a hillside, so you go down stairways – not steep – to the different areas,” DeLapp said. “There are many different plantings. There’s a guest house that people can walk through.”
   At Magan’s Hillside Homestead, another stop on the tour, it’s all about the setting.
   “The garden has a gorgeous view of the Bear River and of the countryside,” she said. “It has a huge vegetable garden below.”
Geist Ranch features a fruit tree orchard and large vegetable garden. There’s a geodesic dome in the back that was used to raise tilapia and fresh water shrimp, the press release said.
   Granite’s Garden has terraced walls, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, garden art and roses.
    There will be working artists in all of the six gardens on tour day.
   Cathy Kiefer, in charge of lining up the artists, said they are all local.
   “There are two watercolorists – the second one is multi-media,” she said. “There’s someone who makes glass. One is an oil painter. There’s a jewelry maker, an acrylics artist and pencil illustrator.”
   Most of them will be working on a project in the gardens, although it is not required.
   “The only thing we ask is that they bring their art work and of course they can sell them,” Kiefer said.
   The search to line up gardens for the tour starts in the fall. Some years co-chairwoman Zee Baird even drives around and knocks on doors when she sees a landscape she likes. The site must also have adequate and safe parking for the 150 to 200 visitors that will pass through during tour day.
   This year three of the gardens were referrals and three belong to Colfax Garden Club members.
   The tour draws visitors from as far away as Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. It’s a yearly must-see for some of them, DeLapp said.
   The garden tour and yearly plant sales raise the funds for the club’s approximately15 projects.
   “This last year we put about $1,300 in downtown Colfax (refurbishing) garden beds. The garden club upgraded everything that wasn’t upgraded,” she said. “We also spend $500 on the hanging baskets. It really makes Colfax look better. The city helps with watering. They don’t do the planting or maintenance. We’re going to be working next year more with Colfax elementary school students with heir youth gardens. Part of the money will go to that.”

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