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Archives for July 4, 2016

#OKC Boxscore for Monday, July 4, 2016

Shade, shade, shade for convention center

Architects are weighing several strategies to mitigate the effects of afternoon sun on the MAPS 3 convention center. The convention center will face west along Robinson Avenue south of Chesapeake Arena and across the street from the MAPS 3 downtown park. Primary options include orienting the building slightly to the northwest — taking advantage of natural shade and ambient light — and designing deep overhangs that could shade entrances and create architecturally engaging spaces. Other ideas include “low-e” glass that emits little heat, window shades and landscaping.

MAPS 3: Park cleanup, whitewater park

•Oklahoma City will open bids July 26 for environmental cleanup of the property scheduled for the upper section of the MAPS 3 downtown park, above SkyDance Bridge. Sites that need to be dug out and filled with clean dirt generally were associated with activities such as auto shops. The estimate for the work is $400,000; the site is to be cleaned to standards considered safe for children at play.

•Work sought by the state Labor Department will improve safety for patrons at the MAPS 3 whitewater park. Fencing is being installed around the conveyor that carries rafts and kayaks between the lower and upper pools, and a warning sign and chain will restrict access to the pump station. The Labor Department has oversight because the park is classified as an amusement ride. 

City’s holiday hours: Heat relief for the 4th

Oklahoma City’s family aquatic centers will be open from noon to 6 p.m. and spraygrounds from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday as the city celebrates the 4th of July. Residents who have trash service Mondays will have a makeup day Wednesday. City offices and the animal shelter will be closed, and there will be no Embark bus service on Independence Day. City recreation centers, senior centers, gyms, Woodson Pool Northeast Pool and Foster Indoor Pool will be closed. The Municipal Court pay window is open year-round from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hike in Martin Nature Park after dark

Naturalists will lead an after-hours hike Saturday at Martin Nature Park, giving visitors a rare chance to explore the park after sundown and learn about the nocturnal activities of park animals. Naturalist Emily Hiatt says fireflies, or lightning bugs, often remind people of their childhoods. She says the hike will give parents a chance to share those memories with their children. The hike begins at 9:15 p.m. from the park’s visitor center, 5000 W Memorial Road. Advance registration is required.

Registration: Cost is $8 per hiker. Go to to register. For more information, call 297-1429 or go online to 

The week ahead

The city council meets at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 200 N Walker Ave.


Mayor Mick Cornett and all eight city council members attended the June 21 meeting. From now through the end of the year, the council’s regular meetings will be every other week.

It’s a fact

Mayor Mick Cornett has begun a yearlong tenure as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Arbitrator bills city, FOP in body-camera dispute

Arbitrator M. Zane Lumbley billed the city and Fraternal Order of Police nearly $9,000 for work on their dispute over body-worn cameras. Both sides support use of the cameras but are at odds over the role of supervisors. Lumbley agreed with the FOP that the question ought to be settled as part of contract talks. Lumbley conducted a hearing Feb. 25. Expenses included round-trip airfare from Austin, Texas, along with a rental car, parking and hotel. The city and FOP each will pay half the bill.

Interesting: Lumbley charges $1,500 per day for his services; he spent $3.44 for gas. 

Email William Crum at Follow him on Twitter, Periscope: @williamcrum. Read his blog at:

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Lawsuit: Missouri mansion was shorted steel fiber

HIGHLANDVILLE, Mo.— The owner of a massive home in southwest Missouri has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that during construction the mansion was shorted more than 70,000 pounds of crucial steel fiber.

Lawyers for Steven T. Huff also said in recent court documents that the steel fiber meant for the 72,000-square-foot home, dubbed “Pensmore,” was used in other construction projects from 2011 to 2014, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The lawsuit claims an employee of the company that mixed the concrete for the home profited from the scheme and threatened to fire workers who raised objections to shorting steel from Pensmore. Huff wants the home torn down and rebuilt.

“The shorting scheme is more widespread than even the whistleblower knew, extending to the highest levels of defendants’ companies,” the lawsuit said. “The whisteblower was challenged and tested through harsh questioning. Put simply, Pensmore did not want to believe him.”

Michael Callahan, the attorney for Monarch Cement Company, of Humboldt, Kansas, and its Springfield subsidiary, City Wide Construction Products, has disputed the lawsuit’s claims.

“(The companies) are known for their high-quality products and longtime commitment to customer service,” Callahan said in an earlier written statement. “They will defend their hard-earned reputations against the plaintiff’s allegations all the way through trial, if necessary.”

Healing waters: Backyard feature calms CG vet with PTSD

CASA GRANDE, Benjamin Decker’s backyard is his oasis. There, soothed by the sounds of gently flowing water and chirping birds, his mind can rest and be at peace.

Decker suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has good days and bad days.

“When I have bad days, I like to come out here to the backyard,” he said. “Just the sound of the water is relaxing.”

Designed by Audrey Rodriguez of AGE Landscape, the backyard was meant to be an oasis and a place to forget, if only for a few minutes, the trauma of war that lingers in the mind long after a soldier has left the battlefield.

“There’s research that shows that water features are good for people with post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “The sound of the water soothes them and eases the mind. It can calm them down.”

Creating therapeutic landscapes is one of Rodriguez’s specialties, and requests for water feature-theme gardens for veterans are on the increase, she said.

In recent months, she’s installed four therapeutic water features for veterans in the Casa Grande area, including the one at Decker’s home, for the nonprofit organization Building Homes for Heroes, which has given away more than 90 homes to veterans nationwide since it was founded in 2006.

Decker is medically retired from a 12-year career with the Army. He spent 16 months in Iraq during the surge in 2006 and 2007 as a chaplain’s assistant with the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Among his duties was to perform last rites for soldiers killed on the battlefield. That entailed going where the action was.

“We lost 57 soldiers in 14 months,” he said. “Twelve were friends and a few were close friends.”

Throughout his time in Iraq, he survived seven IED explosions, resulting in traumatic brain injury as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

After his tour in Iraq, he had planned to remain in the Army, but his injuries forced him to retire early. He has 100 percent disability status.

“When he retired, we knew life as we had known it would change,” Decker’s wife, Sharon, told the Casa Grande Dispatch.

The family moved to Hawaii and rented a home.

They liked the seclusion of their home and the access to the ocean.

“I liked to sit on the beach, listening to the water and the waves. I’d watch the whales and dolphins. It was my zen,” Ben said.

They knew they needed a permanent, stable home, so they completed an application on the Building Homes for Heroes website.

Building Homes for Heroes is a nonprofit organization that gifts mortgage-free homes to veterans to help remove the family’s financial burden and enable them to lead independent and productive lives.

The Decker family, which includes Ben and Sharon and their four children, Dylan, 20, Destiny, 18, Devin, 15, and LeiLani, 5, weren’t picky about where their future home would be.

The family had briefly lived in Casa Grande several years earlier and have some family and friends in the area, but when they completed an application on the Building Homes for Heroes website, they agreed to move anywhere for a home.

“We’re simple people,” Decker said. “We didn’t care where the house was or what we got. We just needed a home. We were at a point where we thought we’d be renting for the rest of our lives.”

In 2015, Building Homes for Heroes gifted the family a home in the Villago subdivision and the Deckers moved from Hawaii to Casa Grande.

“We didn’t even know the address,” Sharon said. “We’d never seen the inside.”

The fully remodeled 3,000-square-foot home exceeded their expectations, they said.

“We were overwhelmed,” Sharon said.

The backyard was their favorite part. It features a fire pit, fruit trees and a waterfall-like water feature.

To Ben, who proposed to Sharon more than 20 years ago while camping, the backyard has special meaning.

“We sit back here in the evening with the fire pit on and the water flowing,” Ben said. “It feels like we’re camping.”

While Ben’s traumatic brain injury has various medical issues associated with it, including memory loss, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder is also difficult, he said.

PTSD is caused by a trauma or life-threatening event, including combat exposure. It can cause recurring and unsettling memories, increased jumpiness, trouble sleeping, anxiety, negative feelings and other issues, according to the National Center for PTSD.

Vicky Liu, construction team leader with Building Homes for Heroes, said the Afghanistan and Iraq military conflicts have brought greater attention to the condition.

“Blast waves from explosions rattle the brain and can cause traumatic brain injuries, which are often linked to PTSD. Most PTSD sufferers repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep,” she said.

Anger, depression, loss of identity and a sense of hopelessness are common results of PTSD, she said.

“Many veterans turn to drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors to seek relief; an alternative form of relief and release is to provide them with access to therapeutic gardens as they undergo treatment,” she said. “We found out sound from a water fountain or any running water sound can calm them. We put a water element in every home along with other easy-to-maintain landscaping.”

Treatment and therapy are helping Ben cope with the lingering effects of his time in Iraq.

But he said landscaping and the water feature in his backyard have also played a big role in helping him move forward.

When he’s feeling stressed or overwhelmed, stepping outside into his backyard helps.

Watching the birds and listening to the water, he feels close to nature. It calms him down.

“The water feature attracts birds,” he said. “I sit back there and watch them. Some of the hummingbirds have become like pets. They come within a few feet of me.”

Keeping the plants and trees healthy requires work and upkeep, which Ben said gives his mind and hands something to focus on.

“This landscaping has forced me to get up and outside to take care of the plants and the trees,” he said. “I take great pride in this backyard, and I love working out here and being out here.”

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Laguna Beach landscape architect Robert Truskoswki’s work graces sports mogul’s spread seeking $52 million

A Laguna Beach-based landscape architect who travels the world creating elaborate lawns and gardens for the homes of wealthy and celebrity clients designed and restored the lush grounds of a 9.4-acre estate that has hit the market in Montecito for $52 million.

Robert E. Truskowski’s landscaping surrounds the Italian-inspired, 21,345-square-foot mansion that belonged to the late Ed Snider, who owned the Philadelphia Flyers.

In addition to the eight-bedroom main house, the estate includes a two-story tennis pavilion with a wet bar and rooftop viewing deck, a two-bedroom guest house, and a swimming pool with a one-bedroom cabana.

Set behind gates, a tree-lined driveway leads to the stately home, framed by stone columns and balustrades. Glass walls and large terraces offer ocean and mountain views.

Part of the grounds originally were designed in 1947 by famed landscape architect Lockwood de Forest Jr., who died two years later. In addition to the restoration, Truskowski integrated parcels that were added later, shaping everything into a single, seamless landscape.

“My goal was to do the new overall garden to appear as it was done by the same hand,” he said.

The house, designed by architect David E. Martin, was built in 2001, replacing an earlier structure. Truskowski said he worked on the project for about five years, from 1996 to 2001, planting “hundreds” of trees, then made site visits and handled upkeep of the grounds until about a decade ago.

Among the highlights:

The restoration of a serene reflecting pool on the back lawn boasting a fountain with cascading water and a jetted, four-story plume.

At the front of the house, he installed a circular pool with a fountain, surrounded by hedges with sheared openings that reveal ornamental urns.

The swimming pool, with its elevated seat wall, was designed to look more like a reflecting pool from the ’30s and ’40s than a typical Southern California backyard pool.

A separate garden with succulents and exotic plants, including aeoniums and agaves, was created as a homage to Lotusland, a well-known, nearby garden.

The wide assortment of trees throughout the estate include Washingtonia, Canary and Reclinata palms, Italian Cypress, Eucaplyptus, 100-year-old Olives, Magnolia, Star Pine and California Live Oaks.

Truskowski, based in Laguna Beach for more than four decades, has designed a shark lagoon for a palace on the Red Sea and a floating massage pavilion at an estate in the Cote d’Azur. He also built the elaborate gardens at Mick Jagger’s estate on the island of Mustique.

The Montecito estate, he said, has a prominent neighbor – Oprah.

Susan Burns of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and Jason Siemens of Sotheby’s International Realty are the listing agents.

Did you miss?

He travels the globe creating lavish gardens

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Tips that every beginning gardener should know





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Garden tips: Mistakes people make and how to avoid them

Rotorua Traditional Landscapes director Mark Pemberton likes using native plants in gardens he designs. He says many of them work well in small spaces. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make, said our experts, is buying trees and shrubs that grow too large.

Rotorua landscaper Rowan Smith said he even warned his parents about their trees years ago.

“They just left them and I said they needed to be cut down and pulled out. It just turns into a bigger cost if you wait. If you can’t drop it in one go, it costs a couple thousand, easy.”

Mark Pemberton, director of Rotorua’s Traditional Landscapes, said hedging plants are fine as long as you choose ones that’ll grow to a maximum height of two metres.

“You don’t want to plant something that’s going to grow at a huge rate that you have to look after it all the time . . . pittosporum tend to do that a wee bit. People want low maintenance in gardens.”

Mark said people also tend to plant trees too close to homes, which can result in blocked gutters and roots running under foundations.

“Especially with a small garden, it’s all about symmetry-the size of the plant compared to the size of the area you’re planting.” He said you must also keep neighbours in mind, and not plant trees and shrubs that will encroach on their property.

Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic horticulture tutor Shane O’Leary said many do it-
your selfers find themselves in a do-over situation if they’ve chosen the wrong plants.

“Five years down the track, they find they’ve made a mistake. And I tell them- it’s a free quote and free advice. If you want me to choose plants, I’ll come in and help.”

Rotorua landscaper John Brewer said even people who read plant labels can be misled.

“If it says it’ll grow two metres high that means in normal conditions, in five years, it will be two metres high. That doesn’t mean it stops growing.”

John said shrubs still need to be pruned to look good, and there’s no such thing as a no maintenance garden.

Vicki Rule, director of Garden Mentors, said some fast-growing vines like wonga wonga start small, but develop a huge trunk. “It busts out their [the homeowner’s] trellis. Knowing about the plant, what size it will get to, that’s a key point people miss out on. It costs them because it can damage structures.”

Another Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic horticulture tutor, Steve Webb, said people buying existing properties often want to overhaul the garden immediately.

“I think it’s a good idea to live there for a while before you start changing too much.”

He said it’s easy to rip out a tree in winter thinking it’s misplaced, but that same tree could offer shade in summer. Steve remembers working as an arborist outside a Victorian villa where a beautiful 70 to 80-year-old magnolia soulangeana was going under the saw.

Small trees and shrubs can add interest to a tidy section. PHOTO/SUPPLIED-GARDENMENTORS

“I said to the people, what does it look like in flower?’ and they said, ‘Does it have a flower?’ It was too late by the time we were having that conversation.”

Vicki said it pays to get expert advice. “The amount of information you have to learn to really know this stuff; it’s a lot easier to just get someone in.”

Rowan Smith said homeowners end up spending extra money on a garden when they fail to build retaining walls. “They’re putting in houses and not doing all the walls and the groundwork first properly. Then 20 years down the track, they didn’t put in a retaining wall that should’ve gone in and now they can’t, because a house is in the way.”

Vicki said you can spend “a truckload of money” buying plants that eventually die. “If it’s sunny, don’t plant hostas, they’re not going to grow.A lot of people won’t think about what the plant needs. Maybe it needs free-draining soil and they’ll plant in clay.”

She said ignorance of plant care also results in dead or sick flora.

“Sick plants are more susceptible to be attacked by bugs, so you’re always having a plant that needs nurtured, or you’re constantly replacing it.”

Vicki said homeowners who buy greenery that doesn’t fit with the overall look of their home and garden also end up ripping out entire gardens after a year or two. “Those are the most expensive and most common mistakes.”

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– rotorualandscape

Make the best use of gardens
Waiariki Bay of Plenty horticulture tutor Shane O’Leary said people with small gardens have lots of options for creating interest and privacy.

One key tip is organising your garden into “rooms” with themes for each.

Shane said, “Small gardens will appear cluttered and busy if they are not highly organised.” He suggests borrowing a couple of items: pollinating trees and landscape
features. This first idea involves learning which fruit trees neighbours have and using them to your advantage.

“By planting a plum on your side as close as possible to the neighbour’s tree you will both get more fruit.”

He said one client even gave a neighbour a fruit tree because space was tight.

The second item to adopt is a landscape feature- something outside your boundary that’s still highly visible. Shane outlined how it worked. In one example, a new garden was planned for a bare section.

“On the horizon 100 metres away a big church steeple was visible. We planned all the paths and gardens so that they were facing towards this direction. By making all the paths directed to the borrowed landscape of the steeple, it appeared as if the garden was connected to it.”

Other ideas include using multi-function furniture, such as pieces that double as storage space; and hanging seats on chains from pergolas to save space. Shane said try planting dwarf fruit trees that will reach a maximum height of two to three metres; and multi grafted trees, where up to three different fruit varieties grow on the same tree.

Finally, think vertical. Shane said walls, fences, posts and pergolas can be used to grow things. “In most cases they will suit climbing plants or trained trees. By planting higher, the garden will appear more established.”

Include hanging baskets and even garden walls made from pallets, which

Shane said are “all the rage”.

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Garden Tips: Flowers attacked by dastardly insects – Tri

It is simple: I grow flowers in my garden because they are pretty and colorful. It is disappointing when insects damage or destroy these blossoms. Here are three dastardly pests that are significantly impairing beautiful blooms in my garden.

▪ Thrips: Western flower thrips cause damage to roses and other flowering perennials. Thrips are tiny, straw-colored insects that feed on flower petals, often before the buds even open. They use their rasping mouths to scrape at plant tissues and suck up the liquids that ooze out. Their feeding causes streaks and blotches on the petals. If damage is severe, the flower buds may fail to open.

Thrips are difficult to control because their populations build up quickly. Prune off and dispose of badly infested flowers and buds. Eliminate plant litter and weeds in and around the garden. Avoid using pesticides that kill thrips predators, like lady beetles and lacewings, or that harm bees visiting the flowers. If you decide to apply an insecticide, apply it directly the buds and blooms. Repeat applications are likely to be needed. For effective insecticides, go to

▪ Tobacco budworm: The tobacco budworm is devouring all the buds on my petunias, including my beloved Wave petunias, before they even have a chance to open. Aargh! The few flowers that are able to open are riddled with holes. The adult tobacco budworm is an unremarkable greenish-brown moth about three-fourth-inch long. Like many moths, it is nocturnal, flying, mating and laying eggs at night, starting in late spring to early summer.

On petunias, the moths typically lay their eggs on the leaves, but on geraniums, they deposit them directly on the flower bud clusters. As soon as the eggs hatch, the little larvae immediately get to work eating flower buds. They will also eat holes in leaves, especially when there are not many flower buds left. Along with the obvious holes in flower petals, buds and leaves, they deposit their telltale small black frass (poop) on the leaves.

Tobacco budworm also feeds on many other hosts, such as roses, snapdragon, zinnia, verbena, chrysanthemum, marigold and sunflower. However, its preferred hosts are petunias and geraniums.

The larvae are hard to detect because young larvae are yellowish-green and blend in well with foliage. More mature larvae vary in color from green to brown, tan or purple. During the day, the larvae tend to hide in the soil at the base of the plant and then venture out at dusk to feed. When using hand picking for control, look for them at dusk.

As the name infers, tobacco budworm is a pest of tobacco, but it also feeds on many other hosts, such as roses, snapdragon, zinnia, verbena, chrysanthemum, marigold and sunflower. However, its preferred hosts are petunias and geraniums.

▪ Sunflower moth: The larvae of the sunflower moth also attacks garden flowers. Its hosts are sunflowers and other members of the same family, such as daisies, zinnia, coneflower and cosmos. The larvae of the sunflower moth feed on the flower centers, eating the developing seeds and leaving webbing and frass .

Most home garden insecticides are ineffective against both the tobacco budworm and the sunflower moth. For effective insecticides, go to

When using insecticides for control of tobacco budworms, apply them as soon as feeding damage is noticed. For sunflower moths, apply them when the flowers start to bloom.

I do not like using insecticides in my garden, especially on flowers that are visited by bees and other pollinating insects. As a result, I have switched to plants planted for the colorful foliage, like coleus and sweet potato, but I just cannot give up my petunias.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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