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Archives for July 16, 2016

Chelsea judge James Alexander-Sinclair is UK garden design’s man of the moment

Not many professional gardeners have quite as many strings to their bow as James Alexander-Sinclair, the British landscape designer, RHS judge, television presenter, writer and general brains behind the gardening app/online magazine known as IntoGardens.

He is probably best known to Irish gardeners in his role as presenter of the popular garden series, The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge (where would-be designers competed to create a garden on Chelsea Flower Show’s prestigious main avenue). Viewers may also remember his frequent television appearances as the friendly face of that same annual flower show’s judging panel.

Alexander-Sinclair will be in Ireland later this month to give a talk in Altamont gardens as part of the Carlow Garden Festival. It’s a measure of his popularity as a public speaker – he’s well known for his easy wit and particularly British brand of playful eccentricity – that the event is close to being booked out. But if you want further evidence of the latter, then check out the cult series of YouTube videos, Three Men Went To Mow that Alexander-Sinclair has made with two of his fellow British garden designers, Cleve West and Jo Swift. Funny and irreverent, they show why Alexander-Sinclair is the man of the moment within the sometimes stuffy world of British horticulture.

A self-confessed layabout as a young man, he certainly didn’t expect to become a gardener. “I left school when I was 17 and didn’t go to university, but instead did a variety of low-paid jobs until my mid-20s.” Instead, it was Alexander-Sinclair’s sister who suggested that he try his hand at horticulture. To his surprise, Alexander-Sinclair discovered that he loved it, and in particular the process of designing and creating gardens. Since then, he’s spent much of his time working with clients around the world. “Not only is it exciting, creative work, but there’s also great charm in the idea that you’re doing something that will leave the world a better place.”

Landscape design remains his great love, despite his other parallel careers within the world of horticulture. As one of the Chelsea judges, what are the show gardens that particularly stand out in his memory? “Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth-inspired design at last year’s show is one of them, as is James Basson’s exquisite garden, which was inspired by the landscape of Provence. As for this year’s show, I really admired Hugo Bugg’s Jordanian garden, while I’m always a fan of Cleve West’s work.”

When it comes to the thorny topic of why so few female garden designers end up creating show gardens at events such as Chelsea, despite the overwhelming preponderance of women working within this field, or the surprising absence of any women from this year’s Chelsea judging panel, Alexander-Sinclair sounds a rare note of frustration. “The RHS can only work with what it’s got. In other words, if only a handful of the designs being submitted for any show are by female designers, then already the dice is loaded in favour of the men.” As to the possible reasons why women might choose not to exhibit or to judge at these prestigious events, he points out that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. “For example, I don’t design show gardens . . . although never say never . . . [at present, as an RHS judge, he’s precluded from doing so at any of the RHS garden shows]. And being a judge can sometimes be quite confrontational; you have to justify your decisions, sometimes in the face of strong criticisms. Not everyone wants to be part of that process. But we’re doing our very best to get more women involved, both as designers and judges. ”

Now an established landscape designer, Alexander-Sinclair’s large garden in Oxfordshire is a place where he enjoys experimenting with new planting ideas and design techniques. But he’s also a keen garden visitor, something that he’s long valued for its ability to provide fresh inspiration. A personal favourite is Bury Court in Surrey, which contains gardens designed by Piet Oudolf and Christopher Bradley-Hole. “It’s an exceptional garden, and one that was formative in my own education as a designer; I first visited it in the 1990s.” Another is Rousham House, whose gardens are the work of the famous 18th-century landscape designer, William Kent. “No colour, just this wonderful classical landscape and huge vistas.” But great gardens aside, this eccentric Englishman also finds design inspiration in the most unlikely of objects. “I once designed a garden based on a paper clip”. How did it turn out? “Very well,” he says with a chuckle.

Dates for your diary
Saturday, July 23rd-Monday, August 1st:
Carlow Garden Festival , guest speakers include James Alexander-Sinclair (see above), Mary Keen, Diarmuid Gavin, June Blake, Dermot O’ Neill, Helen Dillon, Neil Porteous, John Massey, Gethyn Gibson, Gordon Ledbetter, Seamus O’Brien, John Grimshaw, Carl Wright, Thomas Pakenham, giving talks at a range of great Irish gardens including Altamont, Burtown, Lucy’s Wood, Newtownbarry, Huntington, Shankill Castle and others, see 

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Midland DDA reviews downtown streetscape plan



Project designers presented a streetscape draft plan to the Downtown Development Authority board Wednesday, with recommendations that include turning Ashman and Rodd into two-way streets, removing traffic signals along Main Street and converting some blocks to parallel parking.

SmithGroupJJR, along with MKSK and DLZ of Michigan, have conducted multiple public input sessions and presentations with local stakeholders, including downtown business owners and property owners, and have worked over the past few weeks on a streetscape concept design plan as part of a contract agreement with the DDA.

Bob Doyle is the project lead and reviewed about 300 online and drop-in surveys that provided residents with an outlet to view and vote on streetscape options.

“The 120 people who came to a face to face encounter for a project like this is phenomenal. Typically if we get 35 or 40; we are ecstatic,” Doyle said.

Results from both online surveys and workshops were combined, with some interesting results, Doyle said, like that most people don’t have trouble finding parking. It was a “pretty good mix of public opinion” that spanned a wide range of options across five categories that represent different elements of the streetscape project.

Doyle then went through those results and the recommendations from the project team, that consider best practices for designing downtown districts today along with a traffic study conducted by DLZ of Michigan.

Options for turning Ashman and Rodd streets into two-way roads or leaving them the same were evenly spread, Doyle said, and he recommended changing the streets in order to accommodate visitors and allow more entry points into the downtown district.

He also said they are recommending the removal of all three signals on Main Street at Ashman, McDonald and Rodd to emphasize a more pedestrian focus for the district and keep cars from waiting for longer periods of time at intersections.

Another recommendation was to convert 2.5 blocks of Main Street, between Gordon and Rodd to parallel parking, and maintain angled parking in the rest of the downtown district. This would result in the elimination of 20 to 25 parking spaces, Doyle said, but would allow more sidewalk space for programming needs such as outdoor dining and seating areas.

As for the aesthetics of downtown Midland, project designers heard a lot of input that residents and visitors like the flowers and trees that offer shade and color. Recent information indicated that some of the downtown trees are not healthy and are nearing the end of their life span, so Doyle recommended changing up the tree pattern.

“In the end, let’s develop a new planting configuration that includes flower beds and includes trees installed with new, healthier standards,” Doyle said.

Respondents reacted positively to ideas about how to configure street corners and the streets themselves for festivals and events, he added. Project designers are recommending festival-style blocks along Main Street that will not have curbs and instead use construction elements to indicate traffic patterns for pedestrians and motorists.

“They really liked the idea of having this living room style intersection,” Doyle said, showing an illustration of curved flower planters and seating areas at corners of downtown intersections.

Doyle showed an image of the blocks along Main Street, with ideas such as landscape treatments at either end of downtown near Jerome Street and the Poseyville Road Bridge, which he said shows some promise as a downtown feature.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunity there to pull the curb in on both sides of the bridge … to create some transition,” Doyle said. “We think there’s some great opportunity there.”

He also went through variations of light fixtures, some with a Dow inspiration; benches; awnings or tents; brick pavers; tree grates; low planters; amenities, like fire pits, chess or checkers tables or swings; and bollards to keep traffic in line and break up pedestrian versus motorist space.


Ann Ward, owner of Imagine That! Artists co-op located at 147 E. Main Street, told the DDA that she wanted to make a pitch to keep angled parking in front of her shops. She pointed out that most people voted to have a combination of angled and parallel parking, and that her customers would not be happy having to parallel park.

“It’s a real psychological thing,” Ward said. “I think we need to let these people know we hear them. … I think that’s better for all of us.”

She also said outdoor dining can be used parts of the year, but angled parking is truly appreciated during the winter months when there is less visibility.

Midland resident Regina Bellotti told the DDA she was concerned about safety when it comes to the festival-style blocks that do not have curbs.

“I’d be interested in what other places have implemented that system and addressed that issue,” Bellotti said, adding that she is also worried about light pollution downtown.

Having a Main Street without curbs has its advantages, Doyle said, and gives some flexibility of use for the area. He talked about elements like bollards, metal posts evenly spaced along a roadway, that can be combined with landscaping to prevent motorists from driving into pedestrian areas.

Bike lanes and racks were another big request from residents, he added, that will be considered when the final concept design plans for Midland’s streetscape are being created.


During a board discussion, Marty McGuire reminded others on the board of why Ashman and Rodd were created as one-ways and the lack of the need for that design in today’s downtown.

“The streetscape was designed when there was a far greater traffic carried by that Main Street,” McGuire said. “With the changes that have been made with the ball diamond rather than the 47 building, and those kinds of things, I think that really screams for a new look.”

Bo Brines, DDA board member and owner of Little Forks Outfitters, said originally he did not embrace the idea of festival-style streets but said he thinks it can help the district.

“We don’t need to create a parking lot on Main Street, instead we need a place to be together and participate in the community,” Brines said.

Allowing space for outdoor dining could also help encourage other restaurants to consider moving or opening up downtown, said DDA board member Paul Barbeau. As executive director of Momentum Midland, Barbeau has seen about 300 people each night the Larkin Beer Garden and has not heard any complaints about a lack of parking.

“Those are outdoor, programmable spaces. Some of those might be outdoor dining in a restaurant, or may soon become that, but in the meantime there’s a lot that could be done there,” Barbeau said about sidewalk space that would open up with parallel parking.

Selina Tisdale, City of Midland’s community affairs director, said the draft plans will be presented to the Midland City Council at its next regular meeting on Monday at City Hall, 333 W. Ellsworth St., in order to keep them up-to-date on the public input process and streetscape options.

Residents will also have a chance to review the draft plans and provide more feedback at a public open house on July 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall. Project designers will be present to answer questions and receive feedback.

“Once we know what all the elements are, we’ll have some idea of the costs,” Tisdale said, adding some community foundations have already indicated interest in supporting the streetscape project financially.

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Thieves target young entrepreneurs in Detroit

A group of young entrepreneurs in Detroit were targeted by a thief who  stole valuable tools used to mow lawns

They’re all under the age of 15 and have their very own company called Quarter Quts. The teens say they are a grass and snow removal company.

Vaughn Arrington who runs Team Strength bought an old store front for the neighborhood teens, thinking it could be a community center for them. The kids had other ideas.

“The answer ended up being they wanted the building to produce money for them,” Arrington said.

The teens stored their lawn care and snow removal equipment inside the building but they say someone broke in, and stole the valuable equipment.

“We help out the community and then we got customers  try and make money and stay out of trouble”

The teens say they still have some equipment, but could use some help from the community to replace what was stolen. 

The young entrepreneur’s could use anything from lawn mowers, rakes, snow blowers and other useful landscaping equipment.

If you’d like to help out, Quarter Quts can be reached at 313-757-1162.

Copyright 2016 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.

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A long walk into depths of Brittany’s old soul

A trek through bucolic landscapes in Europe is often chock full of dazzling surprises, but when the riverfront path I was following with my friend Lisa opened upon a scene right out of “Downton Abbey,” it still left us breathless.

Beyond a low slate wall stood a grand stone chateau with a tower reaching for the clouds — our destination, the centuries-old Chateau de Sourdéac in the Breton countryside.

Inside, a stately Renaissance-style room held a table set for dinner with flickering candles and elegant dishware and cutlery. On the walls hung deer antlers, ornate hunting knives, various taxidermy specimens (including a wild boar’s head) and paintings depicting aristocratic men on horseback, reflecting the family hunting tradition of our owner/hosts, Louis de Cacqueray and his wife, Sylvie.

Lisa and I — we were the only guests that night — stumbled into the room, dumbstruck, and took our places at the table as delicacies tumbled out from the kitchen: poached shrimp; wee scallops and caviar; a duck confit pie stuffed with potatoes and onions; and baked apple slices. Although it certainly wasn’t Carson who served us, that didn’t stop Lisa from gleefully squealing, “It’s like we’re in ‘Downton Abbey!’ “ Our hosts smiled ruefully, doubtless having heard this exclamation from many of their guests.

This was our first stop during a week-long trek along a towpath paralleling the Nantes-Brest Canal starting in Redon, a town founded in the 9th century, and ending in Pontivy, home to exceptional Napoleonic architecture. And although no other part of our almost 80-mile journey brought us as close to believing that we might run into the Earl of Grantham, each day along this traffic-free greenway took us deeper into the heart and soul of Brittany and its fiercely independent people, who treasure the traditional while also embracing the contemporary.

As walkers go, Lisa and I are less than an ideal match: We both suffer from geographic dyslexia, meaning a lot of time spent lost and turned around. And being clueless on unfamiliar terrain in a land where neither of us spoke the language didn’t at first seem like a pleasant way to spend our annual girls’ getaway. Yet Lisa had her heart set on Europe, waking each morning in a different charming village. We both sought something active — cycling, hiking or brisk walking – but Lisa didn’t want to wind up a sweaty mess. These caveats led us to walk along the Nantes-Brest Canal: It’s relatively flat and well defined (you hardly ever lose sight of a river), enveloped by verdancy yet never far from civilization for a pleasant lunch and overnight stops.

The planning was time intensive. Although I purchased a guidebook, “The Nantes-Brest Canal” by Wendy Mewes, it required a generous dose of supplemental, online research. And knowing that we would be traveling during high season, I booked all the inns in advance, deciding on those that were located at a comfortable walking distance and that kindly answered my litany of questions. Packing required great thoughtfulness, because we each had to carry everything in a slim backpack and a petite shoulder bag.

Centuries ago in Brittany, locals had plenty of motivation for canal building. With several wars negatively impacting the coastal waterways, they needed to link Nantes in the east and Brest in the west, both with military arsenals, and, in doing so, to improve the economic development of the rural communities in the interior. This Napoleonic initiative took decades of work, with the construction of more than 200 well-engineered locks before the full canal opened in 1842. But eventually, as rail travel improved, transporting products via the canal fell from favor. Although the canal is no longer a preferred route for commerce, it’s a perfect venue for walking.

Louis graciously offered to walk the entire 10 miles with us the first day when we arrived in Redon, sharing his favorite spots as a way of introducing us to the Breton culture. We veered off the canal path to Auberge de Courée, a popular lunch spot for local workers. Joining plumbers, electricians and carpenters, we crowded around one of the tables covered in plastic cloths while overhead fans spun. A mere $14 got us a hearty meal: cold buffet fixings plus a choice of grilled andouillette sausages and more than a half-dozen other hot entrees, a cheese course and several dessert options. (The lemon mousse was bliss.)

Bellies full to bursting, we walked on. Instead of sticking with the canal path the entire way, Louis guided us on a series of nearby trails paralleling the Oust river to a clearing in the pine forest where the granite Abbey of Saint-Méen, stood nestled. Lisa was delighted to see angels perched on the slate rooftop, but Louis clarified that these were not, in fact, angels but the hermine, a symbol of Brittany, which looks much like a coat of arms.

Each June brings a religious feast, Pardon, to Saint-Méen-le-Grand, as well as the onset of the nearby four-month-long Festival La Gacilly Photo. “You shouldn’t miss it,” said Louis, who explained in La Gacilly the next morning that thousands come to the town from all over for France’s largest outdoor photography festival, held there every year. On this brief detour from our canal walking, Lisa perused the myriad artisan shops in search of a silver hermine pendant necklace while I scoped out impressive photographic images posted in unusual spaces — along cobbled alleys, inside a labyrinth of foliage and circling a vegetable garden.

Each day of our journey reinforced to us just how much the Breton people cherish their land and all things locally sourced. Near the town of Peillac, our next inn, La Louve Blanche, was equipped with a small kitchen garden that, along with its chickens, supplied much of the fixings for breakfast, an elaborate affair of plump raspberries and berry syrup (to swirl into yogurt) as well as freshly made rhubarb, quince and yellow plum jams that we spread on thick, homemade raisin bread. Reflecting an ever-present proud patriotism, a toothpick bearing the flag of Brittany impaled a creamy stick of butter.

Well nourished, we set a good pace through the verdant Oust valley, where a chorus of chattering and chirping (from swallows, kingfishers, finches, moorhens and other birds) followed us as we ambled toward the villages of Saint-Congard and Malestroit. At times, the sun burned brightly, while other segments of the walk offered some relief as we navigated a tree-shaded path along the canal. The sunlight coaxed captivating abstract shadows from the limbs and leaves of the trees as well as a spectrum of sparkling green hues from the water, which was dotted with lily pads. A carpet of feathery snowflakes – actually poplar pollen – lay underfoot.

Set at regular distances along the towpath, the locks and accompanying lock-keeper’s houses have distinct personalities, with brightly hued shuttered windows and landscaping resembling miniature botanical gardens. Many beckoned as postcard-perfect picnic spots or just places to rest and sunbathe. We spied one bloom-bedecked house decorated with a wooden ladybug, while another facade was embellished with yellow ceramic vases, each painted with bunches of bright purple grapes. Nearby, the ubiquitous Brittany flag fluttered from a flagpole. I wondered how so many of our friends and colleagues back home could have thought that we would find the scenery monotonous.

After walking 13 miles to the medieval town of Malestroit, most trekkers would have called it a day by relaxing in the placid square, La Place du Bouffay, fronted by half-timbered buildings and near the impressive Saint-Gilles Church.

The umbrella-covered tables and cafes with alfresco seating tempted us, or rather tempted Lisa, with icy drinks. I, instead, followed a map with a suggested hour-plus self-guided walking tour that offered insights into historic features that might have gone unnoticed otherwise: a restaurant set in a former 15th- or 16th-century guardhouse retaining the original stone carvings along the doorway; and an ornate unhinged wooden door propped in a niche beside a store crowded outside with racks of T-shirts.

Back together again, we ended up resting our heads that night at an 18th-century flour mill given a new life as Le Moulin de la Beraudaie, an antique-laden inn where each of the five guest rooms is named for characters in the legend of King Arthur. (We slept in the Fee Morgane, a.k.a. Morgan le Fay, room.) Not an arbitrary choice: the Forest of Brocéliande, where the legend unfolded, isn’t far.

We joined 11 other guests for a leisurely, family-style dinner prepared by owner Pascal Labeeuw, who sat down with us, serving as our warm host and nimble translator — most of the other guests spoke French or Breton, an endangered Celtic language. The multi-course meal offered an abundance of fresh seafood and was capped by a homemade signature dessert, Breton far, which resembles flan except for the inclusion of cider-soaked prunes. Lisa remarked on the simplicity of life in Brittany, where the ubiquitous sense of calm felt worlds away from bustling Paris.

A broad swath of society flocked to this part of the scenic towpath: mothers pushing strollers; older locals reading on shady benches or biking home with wicker baskets crammed full of fresh baguettes; serious cyclists garbed in sleek racing gear zooming past; and tourists, some pulling trailers on their bikes, yelling “Bonjour!” Colorful barges, single-mast boats and other pleasure vessels lazily floated by as skippers and passengers alike waved.

As with all long-distance paths around the world, those who walk or bike the Nantes-Brest Canal gravitate to like-minded folks. In the village of Le Roc-Saint-André, we discovered La Chaumière, a creperie with a lovely, lush garden terrace ringed by old stone walls. While waiting for our order (a galette stuffed with sliced chicken, cream and mushrooms, and an onion confit omelette), we chatted with a young cycling couple, their bike gloves and helmets piled atop the adjacent table. Planning to pedal all the way to Brest on the coast, they showed us their enviable guidebooks — having greater details, with more cafe recommendations than the ones I toted — as we compared lunch stops, accommodations and not-to-miss sights. Next, we spotted two gentlemen in their 60s carrying nicely crafted wooden walking sticks and bulging backpacks. As they paid for their lunch, they told us they were trekking along the entire 226-mile stretch. For one of them, this clearly wasn’t a challenge: He already had Spain’s Camino de Santiago under his belt.

Lisa and I strolled at our own pace, luxuriating in our surroundings — the sweet fragrance of maritime pines covering the slopes; the splashing sounds of water cascading downstream at the locks; the sight of fluttering grey herons, wild ducks and other waterfowl and shorebirds; and trellises curiously hung with old shoes and boots, used as planters for bright blooms, a tradition popular among the Breton people as a way to garden in a limited space.

Once, we noticed a man in high boots stomping through the tumbling waters to toss his fishing line for carp and pike. “I feel like a kid on an adventure,” Lisa said. “Every day is a surprise.”

With our senses piqued at every bend in the canal, we hardly noticed our mileage those first several days. But after enjoying those long hikes, we were grateful for the short six miles that would get us to Josselin by 11 a.m., leaving the rest of our day gloriously free to explore this historic town. A little more than halfway there, we spotted the soaring steeple of Josselin’s Basilique Notre-Dame du Roncier, a dramatic sight in the distance. Then we came upon the massive and intact 14th century Chateau de Josselin, with three of its four towers clustered together.

After roaming Josselin’s steep cobbled lanes, we were drawn into Espace Zen, Henri-Pierre Thouzeau’s atelier housed in one of the city’s medieval stone towers.

Among this sculptor’s creations, whimsical papier-mâché works — some batlike — are displayed inside and out, including hanging from the whitewashed wood ceiling beams.

Though Josselin provided plenty of distractions, especially with la fête de la musique — an all-day music festival with everything from light rock to traditional Breton dancing — in full swing, we were drawn to the comfort of our BB, Le 14 St-Michel. Like the city, it mixed the timeworn and the contemporary.

The house, dating from the late 1800s, is replete with contemporary art, such as the mixed-media piece in our room that resembled the cabin of a canal boat, as well as traditional touches: gilded mirrors, an antique school desk and a framed metal etching of an old-time notary.

The innkeepers, Viviane Le Goff and her husband, Patrice, treated us like old friends and made sure we were well fed for our trek the following morning. Breakfast was homemade yogurt, light-as-clouds crepes with freshly made rhubarb conserve, fluffy croissants and fragrant Josselin-made honey.

Finding it difficult to leave this Eden, we eventually dragged our packs into their lush backyard garden for a few more minutes of tranquility — a quality inland Brittany has in abundance.

Jeanine Barone, based in New York, is a freelance travel and food writer.

If you go

Where to stay

Chateau de Sourdéac, 56200, Glenac, 011-33-2-99-08-13-64, Located in a pastoral setting, this centuries-old chateau melds modern-day comforts with an old-world vibe. Rooms for around $90 for two, including breakfast.

Le 14 St-Michel, 14 Rue Saint-Michel, Josselin, 011-33-2-97-22-24-24, This bed and breakfast is centrally located with a verdant backyard garden that, in nice weather, makes for an idyllic spot for breakfast. Rooms from around $88, including breakfast.

La Louve Blanche, 2 La Touche Morin, Peillac, 011-33-6-11-81-62-37, Walking distance from the town of Peillac, this modern stone inn was mostly built by Philippe, the owner, who, along with his wife, Martine, decorated the three themed guest rooms. Rooms from around $79 for two, including breakfast.

Where to eat

La Chaumière, 6 Rue Nacionale, Le Roc-Saint-André, 011-33-2-97-74-94-09. This pleasant creperie looks fairly nondescript until you step into the sunny backyard bedecked with flower boxes and ringed by old stone walls. Main courses include poulette and omelette oignons confits (an onion confit omelette with fries and a salad) for around $8.

Le Guethenoc, 11 Place Notre Dame, Josselin 011-33-2-97-70-69-57. With an ideal location on the main square across from the Basilique Notre-Dame du Roncier, this casual restaurant with alfresco dining specializes in tasty pizzas. Pizzas include La Timadeuc (topped with cheese from Abbey de Timadeuc, peppers, cured ham, tomato sauce and mozzarella) for around $14.

What to do

Espace Zen, 6 Rue George le Berd, Josselin, 011-33-6-28-014-708, In his tri-level studio-shop, artist Henri-Pierre Thouzeau displays his petite and grand works sculpted in a variety of media, including papier-mâché, clay and bronze. Open July-August, every day; April to June and September to October, Thursday through Sunday.

Gardens at Chateau de Josselin, Place de la Congrégation, Josselin, 011-33-2-97-22-36-45, A wild English garden with massive shade trees and a meandering stream; row upon row of fragrant rose species; and a tidy formal French garden make this expansive green space a must for horticulture aficionados. Open April to mid-July and September from 2 p.m.-6 p.m.; mid-July to August from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is around $10.


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Summit County Garden Tour offers a feast of flowers

Need a little inspiration for your garden this summer? Stop by the 26th annual Summit County Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 to get Pinterest-like ideas from some of the best looking gardens in the county.

This year’s tour features seven Breckenridge gardens that grow and flourish between 9,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation. The self-guided tour showcases a collaboration of designs from homeowners to professional gardens created by 70 members of the garden club.

Registration is from 8:30-10:45 a.m. on Saturday morning and will include a continental breakfast of beverages and baked goods made by garden club members. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Garden Center or on Eventbrite and tickets can also be exchanged for self-guided tour books. Registration will also include watercolor paintings created by garden club members. Be sure to arrive early as tickets will not be available to be exchanged after 11 a.m.


Jim and Barbara Calvin have participated in the annual garden tour for two years. They have resided at their Tiger Road home for the last nine years.

Each summer, Barbara creates a new garden or expands on a previous year’s garden. The Calvins have traveled all over the world and like to incorporate flowers from Switzerland, England, Arvada and Fort Collins into their Breckenridge garden.

Barbara has been gardening from the time she was little. She never enjoyed indoor chores, so she chose to work outdoors instead. Most of her garden is perennial, however she has a few annual flowers such as foxglove, violas, orange zinnias and lobelia that she loves to plant seasonally.

Barabara’s favorite garden is at the back of the home, which includes a waterfall pond, statue and dozens of beds of colorful flowers. She also has numerous flower baskets and planters.

Barbara also uses fresh herbs in her cooking. The herb garden includes everything from oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender, parsley, mint, along with edible flowers, which she loves adding to salads to give them more color and beauty.


Each piece of the Calvins’ garden is symbolic in some way. Columbines are spread throughout because Barbara taught at Columbine High School. Daisies lie in front to pay homage to Barbara’s mother’s favorite flower. There is also lambs ear — which had covered her garden in Switzerland — and day lily, from her gardens in Fort Collins. Barbara has organized her gardens to be English-styled instead of French, which are very formally planted.

Barbara says, “In England, I was able to learn more about English gardens, where the flowers are mixed. You don’t need specific flower beds, but instead lead with one kind of flower that weaves a trail from one garden to another.”

Another highlight is the garden Barbara has created for her husband Jim. It is a mix of various shades of orange and blue flowers to support the Denver Broncos and also includes a Nike swoosh symbol. This garden was brought to life last summer and is still being expanded upon, along with Barbara’s current initiative of covering her front bank with wildflower growth.


Make sure not to miss out on this and many other beautiful gardens featured on the tour. Alpine gardens are not easy, but these gardeners have done amazing things to keep the summer blooming in the mountains.

The self-guided tour consists of seven gardens that are available to view at your own pace. Each garden will have a story and directions to the next stop on the tour. There will also be stops at restaurants along the way for refreshments throughout the day. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that can handle uneven ground, rock and gravel terrain. Don’t forget your camera. This tour is a photographer’s dream.


The proceeds from this event will fund a scholarship for a Summit High School senior that plans to study plant-related science such as botany, landscaping, environmental science, etc. The scholarship will be given out when the scholarship applicants apply the following year. Additional funds provide grants to other county and town public gardens.

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Hot Property: Piedmont Pines home exudes storybook charm



Victoria Robinson drove through Montclair wondering whether she had made a mistake. She and her husband had just closed on a four-bedroom in the Piedmont Pines part of Montclair, yet she could imagine a time when the uphill commute home would grate on her.

That day never came.

“It’s a five-minute drive. No exaggeration,” she said. “And it’s a gorgeous transition from urban to more rural. We’re above the fog 80 to 90 percent of the time, with views of the bay.”

The newly listed home is also quite easy on the eyes.

“It’s an architecturally significant design from the 1930s with a Storybook garden and bay views,” said Ben Kahn of the Grubb Co., who is co-listing 6256 Melville Drive with Grubb’s Judy Cain for $1.595 million. “It’s definitely not your typical Montclair house.”

Storybook charm is evidentfrom every angle. Look no further than the saloon-style pedestrian gate and brick pathway leading to the front door. The graceful tapering along the gables contrasts with the facade’s stout, chimneys and meticulous half-timbering. Dormer windows peek from rooftops at everything from the bay, to forests to twinkling city lights.

As for the location, the sloping lot is close to Redwood Regional Park. Montclair Village — and all of its boutiques, parks and restaurants — is a mere ride away.

“You can get 90 percent of what you need on any given day in Montclair Village,” Robinson said.

The home’s location and welcoming spaces provides an ideal setting for quiet evenings or celebrations. Period details like inlaid hardwood flooring and original mill work lend a degree of formality, though tall ceilings and abundant windows establish openness and hospitality. Built-in shelving and workstations make the most of the home’s approximately 3,000 square feet of living space. The kitchen — one of the Robinson’s remodeling projects — is defined by a greenhouse-style window framing bay views.

When the Robinsons unpacked in 2007, the immaculate interior had just been expanded to include a family area opening to a masterful garden. Designed in the early 1990s by Berkeley landscape architects Gillian Garro Hugo Larmin, the backyard mingles roses, a modest lawn, brickwork, stones and low-maintenance plantings. Gardens along the third-of-an-acre lot embrace the rolling landscape.

“The landscape architects were brilliant; there’s so much variety,” Robinson said. “It’s clear they know how to arrange plantings because everything thrives. We didn’t have to do anything with the garden but keep it maintained.”

Upstairs, an alluring master suite with a marble bathroom and walk-in closet stands out among the home’s four bedrooms and another refreshed bathroom.

The home’s detached, oversized garage includes a bonus space with leaded windows. The secluded space would make for a fine art studio, office or exercise area.

Now empty-nesters, the Robinsons are selling simply because there’s no need for all the square footage. But pragmatism doesn’t equal simplicity.

“It’s definitely not an easy place to leave,” she said.

Visit www.6256 to learn more.

Listing agent: Judy Cain, Grubb Co., (510) 612-0204,; Ben Kahn, Grubb Co., (510) 260-7141, bkhan@grubb


Address: 6256 Melville Drive, Piedmont Pines, Oakland

Price: $1.595 million

Features: Four-bedroom storybook home sitting atop a third of an acre near Redwood Regional Park in Montclair. The master suite enjoys a marble bathroom and many of the public rooms feature period details. A brick patio and pathways complement the sloping lawn and low-maintenance landscaping.

Open home: 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

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Blossom end rot

Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2016 12:30 am

Blossom end rot

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media

Vegetable gardens are growing at the fastest rate of the season right now as we enter the middle of July.

Soils have warmed to well above 70 degrees and as the root system expands, the top growth shoots up exponentially. I cannot really comment on the drought because some of our region received as much as 6 inches of rain last week while others had an inch or less. I hope your garden was somewhere in the middle, with about 3 inches.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016 12:30 am.

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Gardening column: Some summer tips to get through the rest of the growing season

Our 2016 gardens are well on the way to producing veggies and/or blooms by now — so we are pretty much in maintenance mode. For this column I decided to share a potpourri of ideas and suggestions such as be sure to use those herbs you planted or they will go to seed and fade away.

• If your herbs are planted in the garden, clip to use after the dew has dried on the leaves in the morning. By doing this you will stimulate the plant to keep on growing. (The same advice goes for those in containers.)

• I have a lot of mint which is great for cool drinks, salads and other edibles — but this plant is prolific so I’ve discovered by pruning often then tossing some in the garbage can and on the compost pile it covers any bad smells the summer heat produces.

• Chop up mint or any extra herb cuttings you might have and spread on the soil under plants to prevent pests from bothering. Most critters don’t enjoy herbs like we do.

• Give your annual flowers a haircut when they look like they are getting leggy and blooms are all on the ends of the stems. Gently gather up the leggy stems and prune off at least a third all over the plant. Add some bloom booster to the watering can and then stand back. Soon you will be rewarded with a plant that looks fresh and new with lots of blooms again.

• Weeds are plaguing us this year (don’t they always?) and you have to be more persistent than they are to gain control over their numbers. Don’t kill yourself pulling, digging or however you are tackling the problem, but be consistent and everyday spend some time until you get the upper hand. You know gardening is excellent as a workout for the body and if you are a competitive person think of those weeds as the competition. Just tell them they aren’t going to win this one.

• If you have too many to pull or prefer not to use herbicides, use the weed eater or lawnmower and chop the tops off before they can go to seed. Continue to do this if you see them trying to make a comeback and eventually even weeds will have to give up.

• Weed seeds can live in the soil for decades and when brought up to the surface by tilling and digging, they will germinate if given enough sun. This one thing, the sun, is the reason mulch is very important.

• Do you want to add a gazebo, pergola, deck or trellis this summer? Be your own landscape architect. Take a picture of the area you have in mind, print it out then pencil in the object. Doing this will help you visualize how it will look and save costly mistakes.

• Often we see pictures of landscapes that appeal to us but in reality do not fit in with our lifestyle at all. To really enjoy your yard and garden, look at how you like to live and plan around that. Maybe you enjoy a more casual style of living or you like a garden that is mostly containers, a grill, outdoor fireplace and furniture — in other words make your outdoor room fit you. At the same time, if you like things very casual (even a little messy) and if you have neighbors, always think of how what you do (or don’t do) could affect them.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to She also answers gardening questions with horticulture educator Ricky Kemery noon-1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month on “The Plant Medic,” a radio show on 95.7fm. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.

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Gardening: Follow these tips to keep your lawn from stressing in this heat – Florida Times

Lawns love this hot weather as long as water is not a limiting factor.

I, on the other hand, am not excited about mowing and working outside when temperatures are in the mid- to upper 90s. But things can head south quickly, so it’s important to venture outside at least every other day to check lawns. Find cooler times of the day for lawn inspections and fix problems before it’s too late.

Here are a few tips to help keep lawns healthy through the summer months.


When it’s dry and temperatures are in the mid- to upper 90s, it’s hard to prevent lawns from suffering drought stress. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system and the grass is dry in spots, make sure to check the system during daytime hours to see if you are getting good coverage, or if heads are not working.

When lawns are drought-stressed, lawn blades fold lengthwise and eventually turn a straw color. Don’t mistake this for chinch bug damage, which can mimic drought stress (

Some lawn types like Bahia grass are forgiving and will come back once the rains resume, but this will not happen with St. Augustine grass. Monitor the lawn for dry spots and adjust the nozzles to improve coverage, or use some other means of irrigation. Once an area gets dry, soils will sometimes repel water — it runs off without soaking into the soil. Try watering manually using a hand nozzle to soak the soil and see if the lawn can be revived.

Don’t waste water; know how long to run the irrigation system to deliver between ½ to ¾ inch of water. That amount will wet the top 6 to 9 inches of soil. If you are lucky enough to get rainfall, keep track of the amount of rainfall by using a rain gauge. Based on the amount of rainfall, you may be able to reduce the amount of supplemental irrigation or skip it altogether.

To determine how long to run your irrigation sprinkler or portable hose, determine how much water you are putting out by calibrating your sprinkler system. Even if you use a portable sprinkler and hose method, it should be calibrated. If you have multiple zones, this test needs to be done for each zone.

To calibrate, place five to 10 flat-bottom straight-sided cans within an irrigation zone. Run the system for 15 minutes and measure the amount of water that accumulates. Some will have more water than others based on the distribution. Add the amounts together and divide by the number of cans to come up with an average. Then determine how long each zone should run to apply between half to three-quarters of an inch of water. If there is a dry spot, make adjustments to the irrigation system or hand-water the drier areas to supplement.

Always water in the morning hours when there is less wind movement and there is already dew on the grass. Avoid watering late in the afternoon or early evening because this practice promotes disease problems like gray leaf spot.


If you mow your own lawn, this is one practice that you have control over that has a major effect on the health of your lawn.

One of the biggest mowing mistakes made by homeowners and commercial landscape maintenance companies is cutting the lawn too short. Mowing height differs by grass type and variety.

The mowing height for Bahia grass is from 3 to 4 inches, Bermuda grass from 0.5 to 1.5 inches, Centipede grass from 1½ to 2½ inches, St. Augustine grass from 2 to 4 inches and Zoysia grass from 0.2 to 2½ inches. Note the large mowing height range given for St. Augustine grass and Zoysia grass. That’s because varieties have different growth habits that directly relate to mowing heights. For example, standard St. Augustine grass varieties should be mowed at 3½ to 4 inches and dwarf varieties like Seville, Captiva and Delmar at 2 to 2½ inches.

Lawns that are mowed at the proper height develop a stronger root system that is less needy (for water or fertilizer), plus they help shade out unwanted weeds. When mowing, try to change the direction each time you cut the lawn.

Never remove more than one-third of the grass height when mowing. Removing too much at one cutting will stress the lawn and contribute to thatch problems. For example, if you are maintaining St. Augustine grass at 3 inches, it should be cut when the grass reaches 4 to 4.5 inches.

Keep lawn mower blades sharp. Grass blades are wounded when cut and heal quicker from a clean cut versus a jagged cut. Lawns cut with a dull mower develop a brown appearance because the grass blade is actually torn, not cut. This creates more stress for the lawn and makes it more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Avoid mowing the lawn when it is under severe drought stress. Lawns go into dormancy during droughts, become brittle and are more prone to bruising especially from the weight of heavy mowers. To prevent this from happening, mow the grass after a rainfall, or after your irrigation day.

Never mow the lawn with a rotary mower when it is wet.

Clippings from wet grass will clog the lawn mower, causing an uneven cut plus clippings will clump more, potentially creating a thatch problem.

Let the clippings fall back on the lawn instead of bagging them. As long as the grass is cut at the proper height, this will not create a thatch problem but will provide a slow release fertilizer to the lawn. If the grass accumulates in clumps, use a leaf rake or blower to disperse. On average, as clippings decompose, this contributes 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year,

When mowing, aim grass clippings back onto the lawn and away from streets, storm drains or bodies of water. Either blow grass clippings back onto the lawn with a blower or sweep/vacuum to remove them from streets, sidewalks or driveways. If mowing near a water body, bag the grass clippings within a 6-foot area bordering the water to reduce nitrogen content going into our water bodies. Also, keep grass clippings away from storm drains to prevent clogging.

If the lawn is growing too quickly, don’t apply nitrogen fertilizers during the hot summer months. If lawns need greening up, try using iron instead of nitrogen. This will green up lawns without causing excessive growth. Use 2 ounces of iron sulfate per 3 to 5 gallons of water over a 1,000-square-foot area, or use chelated iron. This will last for two to four weeks and is especially important if the soil pH is alkaline (over 7.0) or if the water source is alkaline. Iron will stain concrete, so when spraying, keep it off sidewalks and driveways.

Follow these lawn tips for an enjoyable summer while being proactive to avoid stressing over your lawn.


Terry Brite DelValle is a horticulture extension agent with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

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Hang ’em high: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on taking care of plants in hanging baskets

I wish I had a pound for every faded hanging basket I’ve been asked to preside over by friends and relations.

They are planted up in May, hung outside in June when danger of frost is past and fed and watered… well, whenever the householder remembers. 

Ah, but you see, that is not enough. I mean, put yourself in its position. There you are, a fully stuffed hanging basket, slung from a bracket on a sunny brick or stone wall and they expect you to flower your hat off with very little help.

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