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Archives for June 25, 2016

Me & My Job – Stephen Hall, garden designer

How did you get started in the industry? I started mowing lawns and cutting hedges. As my interest in gardens grew I took the decision to retrain as a garden designer at Writtle College.

What advice would you give to others starting out? A good grounding is essential so I recommend finding a good college and take the time to finish a good course, then do some hands-on working in gardens.

What does your typical day involve? Usually drawing a survey plan or working on a sketch design. After lunch I will proceed to work on designs at the computer.

What is the best aspect of your job? Working on the sketch design then presenting that to the client provides me with the most satisfaction.

And the worst? Carrying out a garden survey in midwinter when it’s muddy, cold, damp and dark.

What have you been working on recently? The Viking Cruises Scandinavian Garden for this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. This is a big project and the garden draws on Nordic heritage and is inspired by the wild natural beauty of Scandinavia. The garden evokes a traditional Scandinavian way of life.

What has been your biggest achievement at work? Winning a gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

What does the future hold for the industry? I would like to think that we continue to attract talented designers to the industry and the economy continues to grow to support them. As far as design goes the naturalistic trend continues to inspire and influence our gardens.

How do you wind down after a hard day at work? I love painting landscapes.

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Like your car? Then you’ll like development happening around Southdale

Here’s some heresy for you: People like cars. They like to drive them; they like the freedom that cars afford.

Dense cities often discourage cars and the people who prefer them, and deal with the result. The people who don’t want cars will move in; people who like cars will say “Well, I know when I’m not wanted” and move out.

But if a community is already arranged around the car, it’s silly to punish drivers. Any rational transit proposal should have options for those who don’t have — or don’t want — a car. It should have pedestrian paths, bike lanes, buses that appear more often than Halley’s comet. If people like to drive to Target and load up groceries and bales of bathroom tissue and a lawn chair and a case of beer because everyone’s coming over on Saturday for a cookout, it is futile to tell them to take the bus.

People like cars, and they’re not getting out of them anytime soon. That’s what the ongoing redevelopment around Southdale recognizes. It also shows that designing with cars in mind can be … beautiful.

Of course, even car lovers would admit that the aggregate effect of an automobile-based culture is ugly, especially in the suburbs. Parking lots are necessary, but they’re not appealing. This just doesn’t matter to most people. No one parks and walks across the Target lot thinking, “This vast expanse of asphalt really keeps the area from establishing the sort of architectural compression that makes for interesting, vibrant neighborhoods.”

Why? Because it’s a Target parking lot.

Suburbs are built around atomized, disconnected destinations — towers set back from the road, low-slung office buildings from the regrettable 1960s and ’70s marooned in an expanse of white-striped blacktop, big box stores on the shore of a harbor where the Tahoes and Hummers are docked.

It’s not intended to form anything cohesive. No one is thinking “The architectural details of the Office Depot facade really offer an interesting counterpoint to the signage of the Fuddruckers,” because this isn’t that kind of place. It’s built to service people in cars, and it prospers because lots of people like cars.

It’s a fact of life, even though many New Urbanists believe that everyone — in the suburbs as well as the cities — should live in dense housing with walkable retail. There are people who live in dense nodes of the suburbs (the West End in St. Louis Park is an example) and they should be applauded. Suburbs, like cities, can be improved by projects that bring classic urban accents and ideas to areas that used to be bland expanses.

Another example is the Penn American project in Bloomington. It’s more interesting to drive past the retail/apartment complex than the auto dealership that occupied the space before, but no one mistakes it for Soho or Paris. They could fill all four corners of the intersection with apartment buildings, and the street would still be ruled by cars, by the broad river of Penn Avenue S., the massive ramps to the freeway. And the car would be still be king in this part of town. Why?

Because people like cars.

This was an accepted fact in the late ’50s, when Southdale was built, when the idea of a climate-controlled enclosed town square was the height of New Urban design.

If you read the stories about Southdale by critics who survey the shaky state of malls today, there’s a rueful note about Southdale’s idealism. Its designer, Victor Gruen, believed Southdale would be part of a new way of living — parks, schools, hospitals, apartments, all would arise in this Utopia carved out of dirt fields. The articles always conclude that the vision failed.

But it didn’t. That’s exactly what happened.

Fairview Hospital holds down the north side of the Southdale area. Point of France was the only housing structure for a long time, but now apartments rise on Xerxes and France, as well. Centennial Lakes provides the park; a winding path between the big box stores accommodates the pedestrians. There are benches, too, in case you want to tarry and admire the way the Westin tower catches the sunset.

It took a half a century, but Southdale is becoming what the dreamers wanted.

Equal measures

The other day I drove around Southdale, past the tall colored lights on the median that splits France; swung around a roundabout (a traffic-calming tool suburbs have adopted to great effect) and entered the new Lunds Bylerlys project at France and Hazelton. It boasted big blocks of apartments with beautiful landscaping, a grocery store that comes right up to the corner instead of sitting back at the end of a dead, baking parking lot. Like much of what’s going up around Southdale, it accepts the car without resigning the streets to bleak utility.

When you state the simple fact that people like cars, your options are either to argue that they shouldn’t, figure out ways to change their minds, come up with schemes to force them out of their cars, or seek a design recipe that recognizes reality.

Suburban areas like Southdale — with dense housing that, yes, has big parking lots and side streets full of flowers and greenery — are morphing into a new style of city that reflects how some people want to live. You want to drive? Drive. You want to walk? Walk.

Giving the two modes of transportation equal weight is what troubles some New Urbanists. But people like cars. Insisting that they shouldn’t doesn’t change a thing.



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These Boise neighborhoods offer sense of belonging

Once, on a hillside north of town, cattle grazed peacefully, disturbed only by freight wagons and stage coaches traveling on Cartwright Toll Road. South of the ranch, on the valley floor by the Boise River, a slaughterhouse processed beef from cattle raised on the hills above.

No longer.

Only the geography of the land remains unchanged. Now these acres have little connection beyond relative proximity and a basic concept. The shared concept is the planned community.

Follow Gary Lane north about 7 miles to find the Hidden Springs community. Only the springs remain hidden, however, as this area now supports hundreds of homes with hundreds more planned. Follow Chinden Boulevard and turn toward the river on 36th Street to discover the Waterfront District, a stunning new urban community within a community within a community. Boise wraps around the Waterfront District, but the neighborhood is built on Garden City soil.

Waterfront District

Contractor Scott Asin has built many of the homes in the Waterfront District developed by Jim Neil. Neil was able to keep his vision of a waterfront community moving forward through the recession. Now the area sports 110 finished homes, from single-family houses to three-story townhomes with work/live units. Soon condos will be added to the mix, bringing the total number of residences to 175.

Asin says most of the residents he has met love the outdoors and enjoy access to the river, which, along with the Greenbelt, forms their backyards.

On a recent biking adventure to the area, I met two residents, Megan and Mary (last names withheld) enjoying a spring evening as they sat chatting in Mary’s front yard. When I asked how they felt about the neighborhood, they responded with infectious enthusiasm. They agreed that the area is more than simply a neighborhood — it is a true community designed for those who want connection but are tired of the typical cares of suburban life. Mary loves her three-story row home (four, she says, if you count the underground garage).

Why? It’s a great contemporary design with plenty of space, and the stairs provide a built-in Stairmaster. “Best of all though,” she says, “is the rooftop terrace with its splendid views of the river, Downtown and the Foothills.”

Megan loves the location that she finds central to so much. “It’s only a couple of miles from about everything — Downtown, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, etc.”

But there is more. It’s a place, she says, where neighbors know and value each other, and that is important both to her and to her 10-year-old daughter. As if to prove her point, a couple of neighbors stopped by. One, dressed in his wetsuit and carrying a surfboard, chatted only a moment before heading over to the nearby waterpark, where he planned to give the day a finishing touch. Nick Jezierny came by and added his comments to the conversation. He loves that he now has no yard work. He laid down artificial turf on the small yard that fronts his home. They spoke of informal and spontaneous supper gatherings and “yappy hour” — bring along the pooch!

Despite its name and its origins, Garden City is not generally known for its flora. But as luck would have it, Gossett Landscaping Company owns adjacent property on 36th Street, and its grounds provide curbside appeal right at the entrance to the Waterfront District. The city, too, has made an effort to enhance this stretch of 36th Street by adding street lamps, trees and upgraded sidewalks and parking. Luciano’s, a popular local Italian restaurant, has purchased land on the eastern edge of the development, and soon aromas of lasagna and risotto will waft through the air. A lot of things are going well in the Waterfront District.

Hidden Springs

It was drizzling the day my friend Candy Miller and I headed up the hill to Hidden Springs. Because of the weather we left our bikes behind, choosing instead to walk the community under umbrellas. It was raining steadily when we pulled in, so we headed to the small commercial area near the entrance of the neighborhood to wait out the storm. The Dry Creek Mercantile, a combination general store and eatery, was buzzing with conversation and energy, and the delectable aroma of cooking breakfasts. There, residents had gathered to start their day over hearty meals and steaming beverages. We claimed our own mugs and began talking to the people in the café.

Robert Ostolasa shared that his aunt, who currently lives in the area, once lived in the original Ostolasa farmhouse that has been preserved for its historical value. Located on the far end of the development, it is open to the public for tours. The house and the adjacent “learning farm” help retain a bit of the original rural feel of the area. We met Erin Tippets, the owner of the local preschool located just a few doors down the walkway. She told us that the learning farm, operated by Kristin White and Emerald Clarkston, is designed to engage kids with plants, farm animals and wildlife. It is a place Tippets’ preschool kids visit often to explore and learn.

That portion of Hidden Springs also sports a community building designed for family events including hands-on gardening experiences, guest speakers and the special events for the kids. Families living outside the neighborhood often take part in that event. During the summer months, the action moves back to the commons area adjacent to the Mercantile. There on the grounds, local performers provide free concerts.

We took a damp walk, winding our way through neighborhoods of family homes, community pools and interconnecting paths. Despite the drizzle, kids were out on their bikes and couples walked their dogs along the quiet streets. One couple, Daryll and Candy Olsen, mentioned to us that they particularly enjoyed hiking in the surrounding foothills and the general peacefulness of the area. They moved from St. George, Utah, where the pace had become hectic and the traffic heavy. In Hidden Springs, they found a place that reminded them of the fabled Mayberry of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Not every neighborhood that my friend and I have visited exhibits the sense of connectedness and cohesiveness that residents of these two planned communities enjoy, and not everyone longs to belong. But for those who do, these two markedly different planned communities have strong appeal.

Why buy in planned communities?

“In our fast-paced society, many are drawn to planned developments with the hope of finding a sense of community … and belonging,” says Kim Weissinger, an associate broker with Silvercreek Realty Group. “Even those who might not participate in many events tend to appreciate and applaud the offerings and the resulting positive impact felt in the community.”

About this series

Longtime West Bench resident Ellie McKinnon, in looking for a new home somewhere in Boise, explored each of the city’s neighborhoods by bike — uncovering their best assets, talking to residents, soaking up the vibes — and has been writing a column every month or two that highlights what she’s discovered.

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MN couple’s garden draws tourists by the bus loads

When the yard begins bursting with color, people tell Judy and Larry Bromme, “the magic is coming back.”

Most admired is a creek running down the side yard offset by lush ferns beneath a large willow tree. The city map says it’s part of Buckingham Creek, but the Brommes believe it’s an artesian well; the pair of mallards honeymooning there each summer don’t know the difference.

Off the west bank is a flower bed full of bergenias Larry’s mother, Elsie, planted more than 60 years ago. The oldest roots deep within the acre property, though, happen to be rhubarb.

Stunning are views from the sidewalk, but to venture beyond the white fence and pergola laced with grape vines is like jumping into a painting. The driveway stretches uphill, revealing layers and layers of flowers.

Looking around, there’s more than labor worth admiring, rather a legacy.

“It’s just special,” Larry said. “I’m fortunate to marry someone interested in keeping up the flowers my mother grew.”

They moved into the Skyline house in 1960, making their children the fourth generation to grow up in the home.

Judy has spent the majority of her life in dirt, mainly with soybeans, growing up in southern Minnesota. She’s a self-

proclaimed “obsessive gardener,” and her husband calls himself the grunt.

“All winter I plan. I have this gene. I have to plant,” she said.

Pretty hanging baskets decorate the front porch. The tiered yard is adorned with another pergola and a gazebo. Plentiful are the hostas and irises. Aside from some necessities — lettuce, tomatoes and berries — the focus is flowers.

Benches are purposefully placed to take in the best views, but the retired, 74-year-old couple said they keep busy and leave the benches for the guests. She does all the designing and manicuring, and he mows and does the heavy lifting.

Ideas once sourced from road trips and magazines are now modernized with Pinterest. The online catalog introduced Judy to tiny houses and inspired the Brommes’ most recent addition to the garden — a summerhouse.

An old single garage served as the summerhouse decades ago. Larry’s grandfather moved it up from the lake to Skyline via rolling logs in 1924. He remembers camping inside, listening to the water run.

The structure’s re-creation gives the garden another layer of nostalgia, and landscaping opportunities to Judy’s excitement — she’s already envisioning a stone pathway.

Another project underway is taming what Judy dubs as their “wildlife sanctuary,” and adding monarch-friendly plants.

“The Brommes are wonderful people,” said Bob Kunzy, living just a few blocks west in the historic Arthur P. Cook house.

Kunzy said the Brommes’ beautiful garden encouraged him to take on the grounds surrounding his 1902 bluestone home. After all, he agrees that to be a good gardener, it helps to have a friend who is better.

He’s waiting for his tiger lilies to bloom, but like the Brommes’, his irises are endless, as is his view of Duluth from the top garden tier.

“Gardens are like boats,” Kunzy said. “You always want one bigger.”

The Bromme family lot expanded from one to seven over the years. Often they are asked to host city and church garden tours, to which they have been willfully agreeing to do since their first tour in 2001.

When they noticed other tour buses stopping along Skyline to see the creek, flowers and surrounding greenery, they say it makes their hard work and hobby all the more satisfying.

But there will always be someone special they’d like to invite in for a tour.

“I wish sometimes his mom could see what it looks like now,” Judy said.

A few of the Bromme’s favorites:

  • Irises: Yellow, pink and purple are the first to pop each year
  • Yellow sedum: Low growing, spreads easily and blooms for a long time
  • Delphiniums: Deep colors that can grow tall enough to reach hanging baskets
  • Hostas: If you can keep the deer away, you can’t go wrong

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Maui Nui Botanical Gardens Director Wins Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award

Tamara Sherrill, director of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, has won the Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award for 2016.

The award, which means to take care of the land, was presented on Saturday at the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Lawn and Garden Fair at the Maui Mall.

From Left: Rob Parsons, Tamara Sherrill, Allison Wright, and Adam Radford present Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award at Maui Mall on Saturday.
Photo Courtesy.

Sherrill is highly praised in the landscaping and conservation community for her passion and dedication to promoting the use of native plants and for her efforts to protect and propagate rare species of plants found outside Maui Nui Botanical Gardens’ gates.

Sherrill moved to Maui in 1994 and worked as a landscaper and market gardener in Kula. She began working with native plants when she took a landscaping position caring for plants on the Wailea Point Seawalk.

The North Carolina native learned of and joined the Native Hawaiian Plant Society while she was trimming naupaka and encountered a few native plant enthusiasts. After joining the club, she landed a position as the Nursery Manager and Curator at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens 14 years ago.

In 2006, Sherrill left the Gardens to complete her degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management at UH Mānoa and returned again in 2009.

As the Director of the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens she advocates for and educates the community about the use of native plants through popular plant giveaways, plant sales, and workshops on cordage, weaving, and dye making.

“This award is well-deserved,” said David Sakoda, Maui County Arborist. He has worked with Sherrill for many years on the annual Arbor Day tree giveaway, providing 1,000 native and Polynesian trees to the community. “She’s a pleasure to work with,” he said.

Maui Nui Plant Extinction Prevention Program Coordinator Hank Oppenheimer seconds that statement, citing Sherrill’s passion and determination. He said he entrusts Sherrill and her staff with the propagation of rare lowland and coastal plants for out planting back into the wild.

Sherrill has worked with Oppenheimer and Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons to protect an endangered species of dwarf naupaka found growing in only a few places on Maui. Negotiating access to the site has taken almost four years, and now volunteers with the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens’ Weed and Pot Club are controlling invasive species by stopping them from overtaking the rare plants.

The Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award is presented annually to recognize an individual or business working within the landscape or agricultural community to keep invasive species out of Maui County. The award is sponsored by the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, the County of Maui, and the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

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MARCC tour showcases local gardens – Marshfield News

MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield Area Respite Care Center will be celebrating its 20th anniversary garden tour Sunday.

The tours are available from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and funds raised at the MARCC annual tour benefit the scholarship program to assist those that would be unable to attend because of financial barriers.  This year MARCC will feature six gardens in and around Marshfield.

MARCC provides daycare services for participants experiencing  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other related dementias thus allowing caregivers personal time for their own needs and to rejuvenate. Here is a list and information on the six gardens being featured on the tours:

Guy and Janice Brandl, 503 E. Edison

Formerly a sand and gravel yard, Brandl, Inc. this large 3-acre site has been transformed to include various landscaping elements including ponds, water stream, and a water fall.  The yard has a prairie garden, large stone features and a fireplace.  There is also gazebos and sitting areas surrounded by numerous plantings of beautiful perennials and several upside down trees. Other unique features include metal garden sculptures. This site must be seen to appreciate the years of development.

Doug and Renee Anding, 1527 N. Apple

Perennials and annual flowers along with hostas fill the sun and shade gardens. Red and gold mulch cover the ground for easy maintenance.  They added some unique sculptures, solar lights, potted plants and fire pit to make a living room outside.

Chuck and Kathy Bubolz, 2413 Bluebird Court

Chuck and Kathy built their home 25 years ago.  They have a unique pie shaped lot. As a team, they have done all the landscaping. Kathy enjoys flower gardening with some help from Chuck.

Check out Chuck’s vegetable garden. It is his pride and joy and good eating. Kathy enjoys designing miniature fairy gardens and has them throughout her perennial beds. Enjoy meandering through the gardens. If a white kitty named Otis or a black kitty named Milo are in the gardens, please alert Kathy.

Bill and Joy Mader, 2414 Bluebird Court

The creation of our island flower gardens began as a tribute to Joy’s parents who were both avid vegetable and flower gardeners. Bill has added his own creations of metal garden art, including a bottle tree, and “golf club people.” He built the grandchilden a play set who also enjoy running in all the greenspace our yard provides. Their backyard borders the Galvin Street walking path and when the Korean lilacs are flowering they perfume the walking path.

Nan and Tom Kolbeck, S2573 Robin Rd

Tom and Nan have a quiet rural setting. Upon moving they started to transform the yard which had very little landscaping.  Flower gardening became a hobby for Nan. Tom adds the muscle and enjoys caring for his vegetable garden. The yard has a border of hostas and ferns.  Nan continues to add perennial beds. She enjoys container gardening to add color. The garden art has been collected through the years. They hope everyone enjoys strolling around their yard.

John and Shirley Person, 10847 Wood County Y

Unique Japanese maples and a rock garden of succulents help create a serene and peaceful woodland garden. Walk through the woods to their vegetable garden and orchard. An unusual Koi fish pond and patios of cut stone complement this quiet woodland setting.

A tea will be featured at the gardens of Shirley and John Person’s with cookies and punch in an enjoyable garden setting. A sign up for a door prize and other raffle opportunities will also be available at this site.

Tickets are $10 and will be available at each garden on the day of the tour.  Advance tickets are on sale now at MARCC (384-8478), 205 E. Third St., Marshfield; the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce Industry; and Schalow’s Nursery.

Going Out Reporter Mitchell A. Skurzewski: 715-898-7006; Twitter: @MSkurzewski

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A day to savor the edible landscape – Pittsburgh Post

Gardeners who grow fruits and vegetables have traditionally segregated them in orchards or a patch of ground separate from the ornamental plants.

Edible landscaping is a terrific way to combine form and function in the garden. Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa) and serviceberry (Amelanchier), for instance, are all common landscape plants whose fruit is overlooked by gardeners.

Vegetable gardens are creeping closer to the home, steps away from the kitchen- or even in the front yard, where they can be a visual and edible feature in the landscape. Adventurous gardeners incorporate vegetables in the border, maybe the bold stems of ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard or colorful nasturtiums that can be tossed into a salad.

If the concept of an edible landscape is intriguing, immerse yourself in the  “Summer Short Course: Edible Landscaping,” which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. July 14 in the special events hall of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland. It is sponsored by Phipps and Penn State Extension.

The featured speaker is Lee Reich, an avid “farmdener,” a term he coined meaning more than a gardener, less than a farmer. He has written books on pruning, fruit cultivation and garden care, and articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Martha Stewart Living and the New York Times.

Mr. Reich, who has graduate degrees in soil science and horticulture, advocates naturally grown foods for their flavor, nutrient content, pest and disease resistance and freedom from toxic sprays. In the first of two morning sessions, he will discuss the benefits of an ornamental vegetable garden, which often features fencing and gates and both ornamental and fruiting shrubs.

The 2¼ acres around his home in New Paltz, N.Y., is where he experiments with food production, soil care and pruning. He maintains 15 compost bins to feed his vegetables. A 1-inch layer on top of each bed releases enough nitrogen and other nutrients for an entire growing season. Mr. Reich said he has not tilled his land for more than 30 years and does not see the need for raised beds.

He said that minerals make up about half the volume of most soils. The rest is air, water and organic matter. Nitrogen comes from the air and is “fixed” by soil microorganisms, then incorporated into plants. As plants die, this element is incorporated into the organic part of the soil, then slowly released into the ground for other plants to use.

“It’s a natural, elegant system,” Mr. Reich said.

Other breakout sessions include:

• “Preserving the Harvest: Fermentation Basics” with holistic health coach Jill Ciciarelli.

• “A Walking Tour: Wall and Rooftop Food Production at Phipps” with outdoor display horticulturist Mike Bechtel, who grows food for Café Phipps

• “Growing Food in the Steel City: Challenges and Opportunities” with Heather Manzo, educator for Penn State Extension’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Team and chair of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

After lunch, Andrew Moore, a Pittsburgh-based writer and gardener, will speak about pawpaws, North America’s largest native fruit. His recent book, “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit,” has been named as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Writing and Literature Award.

At the end of program, Mr. Reich will discuss fruits for small gardens. He favors lowbush blueberries, super dwarf apples, currants, gooseberries and other fruits that will fit into small gardens. These plants can be grown in spaces as small as a balcony.

The cost of the Summer Short Course is $105 and includes morning coffee, a light breakfast and a lunch buffet with vegetarian options. Register by calling 412-441–4442, ext. 3925 or at the event page of

Mickey Stobbe is a Penn State master gardener. Columns by master gardeners sometimes appear in place of the Garden QA by Sandy Feather, a Penn State Extension educator.

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Tips For Summer Gardening

The harsh winters in Chicago can give local gardeners nightmares, but we often forget how difficult it can also be to keep your plants healthy during the summer. 

Hot temperatures and unpredictable rains can wreak havoc on your garden, and this goes without mentioning all the bugs that are sure to pay a visit. We talk with Eliza Fournier from the Chicago Botanic Garden about the best way to keep your garden looking great this summer

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We all love football here, but you need to create a healthy work-life balance if you want to remain sharp and doing your best work. That’s why during the offseason, I like to get out into the garden whenever I can. It’s a great way to recharge the batteries — metaphorically speaking, of course, since human beings don’t have batteries. You know, in the future, though, that could change. We could see all sorts of amazing developments and augmentations to the human body, some of which might require batteries to operate at full potential. Gardening is great, though, so I figured I’d share a couple tips and stories that I’ve found valuable over the years.

Get a rototiller. Believe me, just get one. “But Mike, people have been cultivating plants for millennia and didn’t need rototillers!” That’s true, but unless you have a team of oxen and a plow handy, I suggest going with the modern convenience in this instance.

You ever just take time to think about man’s mastery over the natural world? I don’t, because it’s completely illusory and nature could destroy us in a moment if that’s what it wanted to do. But like I said, get a rototiller to break up roots and hard soil in your garden. You have to have a good base to start your garden on, like a 4-3 over. It’ll save your back from a couple days of intense pain, and you’ll get a chance to observe an efficient machine that’s more awkward than Brandon Carter. Love the kid, but I just didn’t get his whole get up.

I love cucumbers. They have a fresh, unique flavor, and a slice goes great in your drink during the summer. Love cucumbers. And pickles! Who doesn’t love pickles? Cucumbers show really good versatility, and you have to admire that. But before you go planting your own, you have to know what kind of plant you’re dealing with, and these bastards don’t mess around. You give a cucumber plant an inch, and he and all his friends will spread out and run mesh routes all over your whole damn garden. You have to bump them at the line and stay on them if you want to keep ’em in check.

Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing.

A couple years back I started planting garlic on a lark, and it’s become one of my favorite pieces of the garden. These little guys have it all. The garlic itself is a staple of cuisines across the world, but I think I love it so much because it’s tough as hell. You give them a good couple weeks to get going late in summer, and they can survive the frost better than a guard from Mankato.

Anyway, where was I? Right, sweet potatoes. It’s a rectangle-square thing, you know?

You ever wonder how humans first discovered that the tubers are the edible part of some plants? If you were dropped onto this planet and had to forage for yourself, how would you ever figure out that you’re supposed to eat the part that’s underground? There had to be thousands of years of process of elimination, and a lot of eating dirt and poisonous stuff along the way. It’s just fascinating.

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How To Grow Your Own Beauty Garden

Botanical extracts, essential oils, and nut butters are all the rage. And for some, “synthetic” is almost a beauty curse word. But who can tell how much “natural” actually ends up in our all-natural products? Which got us thinking, Nancy Botwin-style: How hard would it be to, uh, grow our own?

As it turns out, it’s actually not as challenging as you might think. Tara Heibel of Sprout Home Chicago and Jeannette Graf, MD, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, have teamed up to lay out a plan for growing the most beauty-beneficial plants, and dished intel on their benefits and uses.

Before we dig in, Heibel says there are a couple of things to take into account. “Know your conditions — as in, light — and how you are able to care for a plant,” she says. “Each person’s house is different, and each person cares for plants differently. If your living conditions or lifestyle aren’t suitable for the plant you want, consider other options that would be a better fit.” (That’s her nice way of saying if you’re never home and can’t keep a cactus alive, you may not want to sign up for the most finicky of plants.)

As for actually rolling up your sleeves and using your harvest, Dr. Graf stresses the importance of a patch test or physician consult before trying homemade recipes. Also, for your skin’s sake, be mindful of providing fresh, clean soil. Last time we checked, pesticides weren’t great for our complexions.

Okay, now for the fun part. Click through to check out how to care for and use the following 11 plants in your daily beauty life. You’ll be green-thumbing it up in no time.

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