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Archives for July 20, 2016

Digging deep for green garden design in Sheffield

Young gardeners from across the region who dig design have an amazing opportunity to bloom at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield.

Young disadvantaged people aged 16 to 24 have a chance to design a garden at the museum as part of a free course running throughout August. Participants will work with garden designers to design a space to the Museums brief.

During the six session course participants will learn which plants will work best in the space, research other gardens to help them decide what will work well and then have their designs realised. It is an opportunity to gain experience in horticulture, design, team work, growing and working alongside specialists.

If a person’s design is picked it will then be used to transform the space.

Dates in August 2016 are: Wednesday 10, Thursday 11, Friday 12, Wednesday 17, Thursday 18, Friday 19. All sessions will run from 10am to 2pm.

Places are limited – you can reserve a space on the course through EventBrite.

For further information call Zoe Cartwright on 0114 384 0265 or 07785 293982 or email

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Pacific Grove proposes to put admission tax, change in business license tax on ballot

If you go

What: Monterey City Council meeting

Where: Council Chambers, 580 Pacific St., Monterey

When: Tuesday, 4 p.m.

What: Pacific Grove City Council meeting

Where: Council Chambers, 300 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove

When: Wednesday, 6 p.m.

What: Marina City Council meeting

Where: Council Chambers, 211 Hillcrest Ave., Marina

When: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

What: Seaside City Council meeting

Where: Council Chambers, 440 Harcourt Ave., Seaside

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Pacific Grove The proposed admission tax and change in business license tax could both be heading to the November ballot should the Pacific Grove City Council approve them Wednesday.

“We have to look at the wording so that it reflects what’s intended and we understand each of them,” said Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Kampe, about the proposed ballot measures.

Kampe is cautious because both taxes have been controversial. The admission tax has been protested against by nonprofit organizations that say such a tax should not apply to them.

The citywide admission tax would apply to ticket sales for attendance at any facility within the city and all attractions, including sports, films, lectures and entertainment events, including admittance to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

At this point, the City Council has determined that the tax would be 5 percent of the price of admission charged by the operator. For instance, a $10 ticket attraction would cost $10.50.

The city justifies such a tax for the management of infrastructure and needed maintenance on city roads, sidewalks and paths, including the Recreation Trail in Pacific Grove.

While the tax has been talked about before, its latest consideration was first brought up in early May when City Manager Ben Harvey presented revenue-generating ideas for the city, which led to a motion by the council to consider putting it on a future ballot. That move led the Monterey Bay Aquarium to send a letter to the city stating that pursuing an admission tax may not be legal in its case because of the aquarium’s nonprofit status.

While such a tax could potentially drive up the cost of ticket prices at the aquarium, it could also raise $750,000 in revenue for the city.

Business tax

In the case of the city’s business tax, the proposed change would modify the existing tax rate from $1 per $1,000 revenue to $2.40 per $1,000. It would also repeal the $3,000 annual tax cap for a business license, which applies only to businesses with annual gross receipts exceeding $3 million. The resolution would also allow businesses to collect and pay taxes for subsidiary vendors and create an exemption for very low revenue enterprises. Pacific Grove has collected its business license tax in its current form since 1970.

Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce President Moe Ammar is adamantly against the change.

“Bottom line, how many taxpayers would accept such an increase of 140 percent?” said Ammar, who noted that more than ever, businesses have to compete with online businesses and those in areas where there is no business license tax. “Your income tax, state franchise tax … what tax on earth would go up 140 percent?”

“I have a lot of faith in the City Council and believe that they will respond to the consensus of the town’s 1,200 businesses,” he added.

Carmel is at $1 per $1,000 while the county has no business license tax.

Also Wednesday, the Pacific Grove City Council will:

• Consider an agreement with the Pacific Grove Public Library Foundation Corporation to fund the Library Renewal Project.

“There are a number of very positive renovations at the library,” said Kampe, noting that it’s one of the most utilized facilities in the city. “We have money specifically earmarked for improvements and this will allow us to take the next step.”

• Consider amending the classification of the chief of police and the appointment of Amy Christey as the city’s new police chief.


The Monterey City Council on Tuesday will consider new regulations requiring massage establishments to have a conditional use permit and off-street parking.

Assistant City Manager Hans Uslar, who noted the stricter regulations put in place by the city about a year ago, said the new regulation mandates that the business must have one off-street parking space per 500 square feet or else it will not be issued a permit to operate. “This additional regulation allows us to go a little into the land use area and requires them to have parking off street.”

Also on Tuesday, the city will look to adopt the state’s requirements for water efficient landscaping regulations.

New legislation requires that new construction projects with landscape areas of 500 square feet or more have to have a water efficient landscaping plan submitted and approved by the city.

The city adopted their present proposed regulations by staff in 2010.

“We did this because we wanted to ensure that we continue to preserve water in the city of Monterey,” said Uslar.

But now, according to Uslar, the state is requiring all cities and counties to adopt the state water efficient landscaping rules, which he said the California Water Commission created for outdoor water use for landscapes in July 2015, which became law in December 2015.

Carly Mayberry can be reached at 726-4363.

Article source:

UrbaNerd: What the Republican Platform Says About Cities


Once New York’s mayor. Always ‘American’s mayor,’ in some crowds at least.


Last night in Cleveland, Rudolph W. Giuliani promised, “What I did for New York City, Donald Trump will do for America,” a vow that likely plays well among people who’ve visited the five boroughs but wouldn’t want to live here. Many actual New Yorkers, on the other hand, might skip the time-machine trip to 1997 Rudy has offered.

But the former mayor isn’t the only one hearkening back to the prescriptions of the 1990s. As they did then, and have consistently since, Republicans in 2016 are embracing “traditional family values,” harsh punishments for criminals and the thinning of the social safety net. When it comes to the portions of the Republican platform that address issues important to cities, there’s little new; the exception is when the policy manifesto reacts to President Obama’s sustainability and livability initiatives.

As noted when City Limits reviewed the Democratic platform earlier this month, the Republican platform is a statement of ideas, not an actual governing plan or a binding contract on GOP candidates who prevail in November. With Donald Trumps’ stream-of-consciousness approach to staking out policy positions, this year’s document might be a particularly poor predictor of what would actually happen in a Trump administration. But we excerpt below some of the city-relevant passages in the draft up for consideration in Cleveland for your perusal:


Because “sanctuary cities” violate federal law and endanger their own citizens, they should not be eligible for federal funding. Using state licenses to reward people in the country illegally is an affront to the rule of law and must be halted.

Family and poverty

We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation. Moreover, marriage remains the greatest antidote to child poverty. The 40 percent of children who now are born outside of marriage are five times more likely to live in poverty than youngsters born and raised by a mother and father in the home. Nearly three-quarters of the $450 billion government annually spends on welfare goes to single-parent households. This is what it takes for a governmental village to raise a child, and the village is doing a tragically poor job of it.


This year marks another important anniversary; it has been 20 years since the landmark Republican welfare reform of 1996 broke away from the discredited Great Society model. By making welfare a benefit instead of an entitlement, it put millions of recipients on a transition from dependence to independence. Welfare rolls declined by half as recipients and prospective recipients discovered a better way to reach their goals. Best of all, about 3 million children moved out of poverty. Today that progress has been lost. Defying the law as it was plainly written, the current Administration has nullified any meaningful work requirement and made TANF a mockery of the name we gave it: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This decision ensures that those families will remain needy and cut off from the economic mainstream of American society.

This is the progressive pathology: Keeping people dependent so that government can redistribute income. The result is 45.8 million people on food stamps and 77 million on Medicaid, plus another 5.7 million in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This is the false compassion of the status quo. We propose instead the dynamic compassion of work requirements in a growing economy, where opportunity takes the place of a hand-out, where true self-esteem can grow from the satisfaction of a job well done.


Our goal is to advance responsible homeownership while guarding against the abuses that led to the housing collapse. We must scale back the federal role in the housing market, promote responsibility on the part of borrowers and lenders, and avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Reforms should provide clear and prudent underwriting standards and guidelines on predatory lending and acceptable lending practices. Compliance with regulatory standards should constitute a legal safe harbor to guard against opportunistic litigation by trial lawyers.

We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes. For nine years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in conservatorship and the current Administration and Democrats have prevented any effort to reform them. Their corrupt business model lets shareholders and executives reap huge profits while the taxpayers cover all loses. The utility of both agencies should be reconsidered as a Republican administration clears away the jumble of subsidies and controls that complicate and distort home-buying.

The Federal Housing Administration, which provides taxpayer-backed guarantees in the mortgage market, should no longer support high-income individuals, and the public should not be financially exposed by risks taken by FHA officials. We will end the government mandates that required Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federally insured banks to satisfy lending quotas to specific groups. Discrimination should have no place in the mortgage industry.

Zoning and planning

Zoning decisions have always been, and must remain, under local control. The current Administration is trying to seize control of the zoning process through its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation. It threatens to undermine zoning laws in order to socially engineer every community in the country. While the federal government has a legitimate role in enforcing non-discrimination laws, this regulation has nothing to do with proven or alleged discrimination and everything to do with hostility to the self-government of citizens.

The current Administration has a different approach. It subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit. Its ill-named Livability Initiative is meant to “coerce people out of their cars.” This is the same mentality that once led Congress to impose by fiat a single maximum speed limit for the entire nation, from Manhattan to Montana. Our 1980 Republican Platform pledged to repeal that edict. After the election of Ronald Reagan, we did.


We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund programs that should not be the business of the federal government. More than a quarter of the Fund’s spending is diverted from its original purpose. One fifth of its funds are spent on mass transit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities. Additional funds are used for bike-share programs, sidewalks, recreational trails, landscaping, and historical renovations. Other beneficiaries of highway money are ferry boats, the federal lands access program, scenic byways, and education initiatives. These worthwhile enterprises should be funded through other sources.

Law and Order

The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment. With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states. In solidarity with those who protect us, we call for mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers.

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On Governors Island, the World’s Smartest Hill

I took the 7-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan to Governors Island last September with a cluster of other journalists. All of us donned OSHA orange safety vests and hard hats, and rode in a caravan of golf carts to see four built-from-scratch hills that, at the time, simply looked like unremarkable mounds of dirt.

Along the way, the expedition leader, 55-year-old Dutch landscape architect Adriaan Geuze, whose firm West 8 won a 2007 competition to design a 40-acre park on the island, waxed poetic about everything from the hum of the park’s new insect population to the prominent white borders that line the park’s new pathways. “They’re soft, like ivory,” he said.

Geuze’s firm established an international reputation with the debut of the Schouwburgplein (Theater Square) in the firm’s hometown of Rotterdam. The otherwise understated design incorporated a series of striking red lamp posts shaped like shipyard cranes with coin-operated controls that allowed members of the public to maneuver them. When it opened in 1996, the idea of a civic space that incorporated electronics just for fun was a revelation, a harbinger of a technologically driven approach to urban culture.

The Hills are a perfect example of the hallmark of 21st century design: objects that are hybrids, part manmade and part natural.

The Hills, by contrast, don’t look much like harbingers of anything. Really, they’re just hills. Each has a descriptive name: Grassy, meant for quiet relaxation, is the shortest at 25 feet. Slide, equipped with a quartet of slides, and Discovery, with a nature trail that wends its way to a wee concrete cabin that is actually a Rachel Whiteread sculpture, are each 40 feet tall.

The highest is Outlook, which, at 70 feet, offers a 360-degree view of New York Harbor, a perspective that’s never previously existed. Out in the middle of the harbor, despite being squat compared to, say, the Empire State Building or 1 World Trade Center, Outlook allows you to see all the way to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge where the open ocean begins, to the Statue of Liberty, to the towers of the Financial District, and to the newly burgeoning skyline of Downtown Brooklyn.

Still, a view is just a view. It wasn’t the thing that intrigued me about The Hills. Rather, my curiosity was piqued by remarks made by the project’s geotechnical engineer, David Winter, the CEO of Seattle-based Hart Crowser. “We made a lighter hill,” he told the assembled group. “We’ve got settlement sensors everywhere.”

Suddenly, I realized that The Hills are a perfect example of what I’ve come to believe is the hallmark of 21st century design: objects that are hybrids, part manmade and part natural. Apartment towers that double as forests, urban rooftops that double as farms, corporate headquarters that double as indoor rainforests. We’re beginning to see a lot of doubling. The boundaries that differentiate urban from rural, and natural from artificial, are getting harder to draw.

Governors Island after completion of Phase 1.
Iwan Baan/Courtesy West8

On a sizzling July morning, I return to look at The Hills with new eyes.

I rendezvous on the ferry with the outgoing President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island, Leslie Koch. For a decade, she’s been leading the effort to reshape the island into a destination for day trippers and development (33 acres are currently available for real estate projects). She’s stepping down in August, weeks after her epic undertaking opens to the public on July 19.

A whip-smart native of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Koch, 54, spent her early professional life on the west coast as a marketing executive at Microsoft. She talks me through the genesis of The Hills on the ride over.

In 2006, what was then called the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation issued a Request for Qualifications. “We had very specific goals for [the] park, aspirations,” Koch recalls. In fact, the RFQ laid out the park’s ideals in flowery language, just this side of Walt Whitman, explaining that it “will be a place to cultivate and indulge in sensory experience and delight—to experience the salt air, fresh air, sunlight, waves, wind and white noise of nature.”

“But,” Koch stresses, “there was no concept of height.”

Courtesy West8

Along came Geuze, from a country where land is routinely reclaimed from surrounding waters and where lifting the ground above sea level was a survival skill even before global warming. Geuze, who hides his brilliance behind boyish insouciance, explains to me that the original island was a “rock” upon which fortifications like Fort Jay and Castle Williams were built in advance of the War of 1812.

Around 1910, fill generated by the excavation of the Lexington Avenue subway added 103 flat, featureless acres to the island, for a total of 172. So the island itself is an example of manmade nature.

“The military made it flat,” Geuze points out. And what can you do with an island that mostly sits below the 100 year flood line? Geuze’s answer: “We could have made a brackish swamp.” But, of course, that wasn’t what he proposed.

Koch recalls that in his first presentation to the competition jury in January 2007, Geuze showed “the idea of The Hills in sketch. With a marker. A hill on island.” The jury winnowed the field down to five finalists, West 8 among them, and then down to two.

Koch describes the final decision process: “We went to the top of Building 877, an 11-story building.” The structure, an undistinguished apartment complex built in the 1960s by the Coast Guard and imploded in 2013, stood on roughly the location Geuze had chosen for his hills.

“We walked up 11 flights of stairs in an abandoned building and stood on a spongy tar roof and looked at the view,” Koch says. And that’s when she realized how much altitude could pump up that sensory experience she’d envisioned. After a round of due diligence (How much does it cost to build a hill? Is it even possible?) West 8 was commissioned to create a whole new topography for Governors Island.

I ask Geuze, “Why hills?” His response is to deny that the four landforms known as Grassy, Slide, Discovery, and Outlook even exist. In his mind, they are indistinguishable from all the smaller undulations with which he’s covered 40 acres of island. “I think we have a rolling landscape,” he insists.

We tend to forget that the tightly gridded, skyscraper-packed isle of Manhattan (of which Governors Island is officially a part) was once a verdant natural place. The Lenape tribe who inhabited the island before the Europeans came along called it the “Island of Many Hills.”

Landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson, whose Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (Abrams, 2009) convincingly reconstructs what the European settlers found when they arrived, has calculated that there were once 573 hills in Manhattan. The tallest ones, of course, were in the island’s rugged northern reaches.

In 1996, the idea of a civic space that incorporated electronics just for fun was a revelation.

But in Lower Manhattan, one called Bayard’s Mount was an impressive 110 feet tall. Murray Hill—which you only notice if you bicycle in or out of Midtown—was once “a large two-tiered structure, from which springs flowed,” according to Sanderson, between 80 and 100 feet tall. Hills were methodically leveled as Manhattan was developed and the 1811 plan for the urban grid was implemented. No one saw any reason to build new hills.

Even Frederick Law Olmsted, the revered landscaper of Central Park, who crafted a pastoral fantasia out of land too rocky or swampy to have much value to real estate interests, didn’t build hills. “They could take a hill away or dam a stream,” wrote Sanderson, “but they couldn’t lift up a hill and move it 30 yards to the right.”

Olmsted built no hills, but in other respects he was the inspiration for West 8’s work. When I meet with principal landscape architect Jamie Maslyn-Larson, 46, who ran the Governors Island project out of West 8’s New York office, she tells me that the team’s mantra was, “What would Olmsted do?”

His influence is obvious. The new paths on Governors Island, often lined with thickets of greenery and wildflowers, meander. When you climb Outlook Hill on the paved path (instead of on the scramble built from remnants of an old sea wall) you do it gradually. The grade is less than five percent (making it ADA compliant), and switchbacks slow your progress. The strategy originated with Olmsted, who, on his second great work, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, never made pathways that ran in a straight line and used landscape design to enhance the perception of space.

West 8 similarly took the “flat flat flat” terrain of Governors Island and manipulated it to make it feel like a place worth exploring. “When we started working with topography, we created mini thresholds, inviting spaces for people to go to, like breadcrumbs,” Maslyn-Larson explains. “As you’re walking through the park, you have these undulating frames in combination with walkways. The topography makes a really lovely walk.”

View of the Statue of Liberty between Grassy and Outlook Hills.

On the other hand, there’s a basic philosophical difference between Olmsted’s parks and the one that firms like West 8 build today. Olmsted wanted to allow city dwellers to hide from the city, to immerse themselves in an Edenic illusion. He took care to keep his park visitors looking inward, toward the greenery and away from surrounding buildings.

Today’s premier parks—the High Line comes to mind—tend to emphasize their urban surrounding while also rewarding visitors with tall grasses, cultivated wildflowers and cushy places to sit. They are a hybrid form, merging the city and the country. The two are no longer opposites. Geuze calls Governors Island “the smallest vacation you can take.” But what you see when you get there is New York City from a new perspective.

The first phase of the West 8 scheme consisted of some basic landscaping. The team built the low-lying areas up with fill, planted them with trees that would be able to survive the island conditions, and carefully sculpted the newly made land. This process was underway when Hurricane Sandy hit in October of 2012.

Koch, alarmed by reports of flooding and uprooted trees across New York, returned to the island as soon as she could and discovered that the newly landscaped areas of the island were “dry as a bone” and only eight of 1,700 trees in the island’s historic district had been lost.

Sandy demonstrated that West 8’s approach was “resilient” before anyone in New York had a clue what that term meant. Koch says that Sandy was “a stress test for Adriaan’s strategy.” Suddenly the project’s second phase, the construction of The Hills, became not just a lovely ideal, but something essential for the ongoing survival of the island.

Governors Island Before, Phase 1 and Phase 1+.
Courtesy West8

That The Hills were now seen as part of the island’s resilience strategy was a good thing because, as it turned out, they were not so easy to build. Initially, they were supposed to be simple piles of fill. It didn’t matter too much what kind. “As long as it drains and as long as it would compact well, we would take it,” says Maslyn-Larson.

The original idea was that The Hills would be composed of demolition waste from the implosion of Building 877 and others. “These buildings were taken down and the concrete and the brick were crushed and processed into eight-inch size or smaller for use inside the hill,” Winter says.

There wasn’t enough usable debris, so dirt and gravel was imported from upstate quarries and brought in by barge. The dirt was, as you might imagine, cheap, but it also weighed too much. “When we did the geotechnical tests at the end of design development, we found out this spot was the weakest part on all of Governors Island,” Maslyn-Larson says.

“There’s about a hundred feet of loose crappy soil before you get down into the hardpan and the bedrock,” engineer Winter explains to me in a phone conversation. There were two potential problems. One was simply that the extra weight would cause the underlying fill to settle too much and Outlook would sink. Worse, Winter says, “there was a risk that there’d be instability and a massive failure as you were building the hill and it would slip off into New York Harbor.”

They could, of course, have moved the biggest hill back, away from the shoreline and onto sturdier ground, but that would have ruined the desired effect, a total immersion in the sights and smells of the harbor. Instead, the hill had to get smarter, less natural and more manmade.

Winter and the other engineers on the project had never exactly built a hill before. But some of them had worked on sharp-edged, distinctly unnatural looking, multi-layered terrain for Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. So Winter borrowed ideas from that project, and from mundane disciplines like parking lot construction.

He began working with West 8 to create a 3D computer model of Outlook Hill, one that would show how the size, shape, and composition of the hill might impact the underlying fill. Gradually they began to shift the biggest hill’s weight by sculpting it, making some of the slopes closest to the water’s edge steeper and strategically depositing lighter material in the portions of the hill over the least solid ground.

“We could have made a brackish swamp.” – Adriaan Geuze, West 8

One idea for solving the weight problem was to fill the hill with a lightweight product called GeoFoam. “These are just big blocks of Styrofoam,” Winter explains. “And they come 4x4x8 foot blocks. You can cut into any shape you want. We were going to construct the big hills out of Styrofoam.”

Maslyn-Larson says they were looking at using the foam for the last 10 or 15 feet of the hill before the topsoil. But GeoFoam is expensive and hard to install in a windy waterfront location. “We didn’t like the idea of using foam in the hill. It didn’t feel right. It isn’t a natural material,” she explains.

Natural is a relative term. On the steeper parts of both Discovery and Outlook hills, for example, a building technique called Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) was used to prevent erosion. Long sheets of special plastic fabric called Geogrid were layered with fill. Geuze described the structural system, typically used in highway construction, as lasagna. Maslyn-Larson explains: “The pressure from the material is creating tension against this material which makes it really tight and strong. So it self supports.”

Outlook Hill is also crammed with electronics. Monitors buried within measured how well and how quickly the fill was settling. “We had deep settlement sensors that went all the way down to the bedrock, so we know where the settlement was occurring and at what rate,” Winter says. Settlement, when controlled and timed, is an asset. It makes the underlying fill stronger.

In the end, the solution to Outlook Hill’s weight problem was pumice, a volcanic rock. “It weighs about half of what regular soil weights,” according to Winter. Mostly it was used in the part of the hill closest to the water. “Maybe one third of the hill got this lightweight fill.”

Slide Hill features four slides, including the longest slide in New York City (57 feet long)
Timothy Schenck/Courtesy West8

At West 8’s New York office, Maslyn-Larson walks me through the construction documents, comprising a large-format book of some 400 pages. In these pages is every detail from the composition of the grass seed mixes to the placement of wire baskets used to control erosion on the steepest slopes. It’s enough detail, one would think, to build a supertall tower or a Gehry Guggenheim. God—or whoever or whatever built Manhattan’s original 573 hills—surely did not do this much work.

“In the end these are just big piles of dirt,” Winter acknowledges. Then he corrects himself. “I mean, they’re engineered piles of dirt.”

“What separates an engineered pile of dirt from an un-engineered pile of dirt?” I ask.

“Well, an un-engineered pile of dirt out there would have slipped into the ocean.”

But here’s the most amazing thing about this engineered pile of dirt. All the thousands of shrubs and hundreds of trees will, presumably, thrive, thanks to built-in irrigation and drainage systems. And eventually nature will take over the job of stabilizing the hills.

As Maslyn-Larson points out, “Their root structure provides the stability.” So, at some juncture, this rigorously engineered, technologically sophisticated mound of rubble, dirt, pumice, and plastic GeoGrid becomes—Pinocchio style—a real hill.

If you visit Governors Island and climb to the top of Outlook, forget about the view for a moment and think about the hill beneath your feet. Consider the fact that it’s a synthetic object, crafted by experts. A skyscraper or a bridge will always reveal the handiwork of its creators, but this artificial hill, if its designers did their jobs right, will someday be just another hill, a technological product that transitions over time into a natural feature.

Or, as Maslyn-Larson says, “It won’t need us anymore.”

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A garden of wonders in Wiscasset

Lucia Droby lives in a veritable garden of wonders. Her home, on Pleasant Street in Wiscasset, looks out over a courtyard full of delightful garden accessories, some old, some new, a variety of ground covers and new plantings, and a series of lime green garden arches.

Living in the Boston area, Droby and her husband Rick Burns had spent summers and holidays in Waldoboro for 25 years prior to moving to Wiscasset. When they bought the 1790 house and 1850s carriage house in 2011, she said that the grounds, now a gardener’s dream, consisted of a not-so-pretty lawn with a few Norway maple trees scattered about. “We spent the summer of 2012 sitting on the porch looking at the lawn, and planning,” Droby said.

The outcome: Carriage House Gardens.

Droby said one of the first ideas for the layout and design of their grounds was a straight path from the street to the carriage house. Her reason? “So that should the carriage ever return it has a way to get to the carriage house.”

In 2013, they began excavating.

A parking area was installed, then they began replacing the lawn with gardens.

After using the carriage house as storage space for lawn mowers and hoses for two years, Droby, who loves art, garden ornaments, antiques, and other treasures, decided it deserved better. She and her husband converted it into a shop, inspired by gardens and nature. 

Droby has an extensive background in landscaping — and a lot of other things. When you start talking to her, you quickly become aware that she’s well versed in pretty much everything involving plants, gardens, landscaping, antiques, historic homes, art and photo journalism.

Suffice it to say, if you go to Carriage House Gardens you won’t be bored, and you may find yourself having unwittingly killed a couple pleasant hours. She’s as interesting and fun to talk to as the menagerie of unusual, whimsical, artful nature and garden-inspired items in her shop.

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in journalism, Droby worked for an underground newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia, the Great Speckled Bird. Then she came back to New England, got a degree in film studies, and worked for a Boston TV station in a videographer/editing position.

In 1984, the Drobys started a family. They adopted four siblings, aged 2, 4, 5 and 6. For obvious reasons, she became a stay-at-home mom.

Droby began taking courses in landscape design at Radcliffe College, graduating after nine years of two courses a year. She directed a non-profit landscape design business for 18 years in the Boston area.

When not tending her shop and gardens, Droby isn’t sitting around twiddling her thumbs. In 2012, she started planning the Wiscasset Art Walk, and she volunteers with the Wiscasset Chamber of Commerce on a regular basis.

Some of the items you’ll find at Carriage House Gardens are one-of-a-kind pieces for the garden by a ceramic artist in Rhode Island, John Fazzino; porch and patio furniture, vases and pots, and paintings by Alna artist Kate Nordstrom. There are some great, colorful garden gloves that Droby said will last for years, and her “favorite 100 percent beeswax candles.”

Droby is in the process of building a ‘menagerie’ collection that includes a pair of large Foo Lions, a family of “sweet little hand-carved wooden owls,” a beaded horse, a full-sized goat and turkey made from recycled metals, and a rocking piggy (with an apple in its mouth) carved in wood. There’s a collection of picnic wares including Fleebag coolers, wicker picnic baskets, and African market baskets.  

As you walk up the carriage path, surrounded by plants, flowers and garden accessories, you’ll see the large lime green iron arches that were installed earlier this summer. They were custom made by Edgecomb iron artisan Peter Brown. They make such a statement all by themselves, Droby is having a hard time deciding whether to plant climbing vines or other plants to twist themselves around them, or just leave them alone.

Droby used to have vegetable gardens, but now she’s more interested in gardens for the eye.

She’s deliberately not creating cottage garden-type plantings with lots of familiar and ornamental perennials. “People love these gardens and know what they look like. I’m trying to identify really, really excellent performers and using lots of them, limiting the plant palette.

“My landscape goal is to create a three-dimensional experience when you walk into the garden, rather than focus on the individual plants themselves.

‘I’m creating an environment where people will come to shop, but they’ll also be drawn to the garden and the courtyard area. I want the garden to be part of the shop experience. The wonder of having your own shop, of course, is to be the curator of goods that you love and want to share with others.”

Visit Carriage House Gardens’ Facebook page and website

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Greenspace: Greenery lovers should gear up for a pair of tours – Post

Visit our other local news sites: — Kankakee, IL — Moline, IL — Ottawa, IL

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Topiary gardens: The art of trees

Planting a topiary — trees or shrubs clipped into ornamental shapes — should not intimidate the everyday gardener.

Upon hearing the word, visions of European gardens filled with ornate shapes may come to mind. But you need not posses garden wizardry to master this form of living art.

Shapes can be simple or sophisticated, depending on the time and skill you want to dedicate in maintaining plants or shrubs. They can be composed into geometric forms or animals.

When Jennifer and Bill Kielczewksi moved into their Ottawa Hills home six years ago, the landscaping was “overgrown and you couldn’t see the courtyard wall.”

Topiary Park in Columbus is known around the world for its landscape of the landscape painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte.’



Mrs. Kielczewksi chose the clean lines of fresh green topiary bushes and trees to draw focus toward the whitewash brick facade. The contrasting green and white give the home street appeal.

Pompon potted eugenia topiaries, with graceful white petunias planted at the base, flank the front door. Boxwoods line the courtyard wall, punctuated with cone shaped bushes.

The chic look of hedged boxwoods lingers all year long. “Even when it snows you can see the green,” she said.

Her topiaries were purchased already shaped; it only requires maintenance. A landscaping company trims the bushes once in spring. She trims the pompon standard as needed. The fast-growing eugenia is native to tropical regions and is housed in a greenhouse during the winter.

Topiaries abound at the formal Shipman Gardens at the Manor House in Wildwood Metropark. Julia Child rose bushes were grafted and trained to grow as trees or standards, as were viburnum shrubs and lilacs, with a leafless trunk and lollipop top. Boxwood hedges are trimmed into defined linear patterns. Evergreen arborvitae stand tall like linked guards, providing cover to those who once swam in the pool, now covered over with grass.

“Topiaries are formal and tidy. It adds a manicured aesthetic [to the garden]. [Pioneering landscape architect] Ellen Shipman may have traveled overseas and was inspired there,” Metropark horticulturist Staci Stasiak said.

Topiaries formed out of woody plants date back to Roman times. “The more ornate representational topiary known to the Romans was revived in Renaissance Italy,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Blog. Shapes included animal, human, and object figures.

Ms. Stasiak tends to the garden that was renovated in 2007, and since has been under an evolving restoration, returning its lush beauty intended by Ellen Biddle Shipman, a renowned landscape architect who died in 1950.

Ms. Stasiak’s tools are hand pruners, hedging shears, and a gas hedge trimmer. The trimming frequency depends on how meticulous you want it, she said.

Trimmed boxwoods wrap Jennifer Kielczewski’s Ottawa Hills home. Pom-pom shaped trees, boxwoods, holly bushes, and rose bushes are pruned into symmetrical shapes.



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For standards, such as the roses and viburnum, she suggests standing back and “look at it from all sides” when pruning them, slowly clipping leaves. She prunes the roses in the spring, paying attention to their flower production. The branches guide its framework.

“I trim a quarter inch above five or more leaflets, that’s where they are going to grow again from,” she said.

For boxwoods’ squared shape she trims off the sprouting sides at a slight outward angle for a narrower top, allowing the sunlight to infiltrate the entire shrub.

Herbs, grown outside or potted inside the home, can also be sculpted into garden art. On a sunny Tuesday morning, volunteers for the Maumee Valley Herb Society were busily working on the herb garden at the Toledo Botanical Garden. It contains a knot garden: Boxwoods encircling barberry bushes, encircling a dome shaped boxwood at the center.

Scents of rosemary, lemon, and other perfumes filled the air. Newly planted rosemary bushes were seen with straight sticks next to them encouraging the treelike growth of a standard. Existing standards were pruned into tall spheres.

Anything with a wood stem can be trained into a standard, said Brenda Scheely, an herb society member and officer. That includes bay laurel plants, lemon verbena, scented geranium, and more.

“People like the look of the design and trying to train things into funny little shapes,” she said. Plus, the herbs smell great, you can use them for cooking, and make beauty products out of some.

For those with a more creative spirit, there’s the challenge of growing plants into objects or animals.

The Toledo Zoo once had topiaries on its property that were cared for by horticulturist Dale Sinkovic. He said ivy plants are fast growing and can be used to cover or fill in frames.

For example, plant ivy in pot and use a wire hanger to form a heart. Wrap the vine around it.

At times the zoo has created animal shaped frames and covered them with sphagnum moss that does not rot quickly. Again, the frame sits on a soil base where the ivy grows, and you train it to fill the frame. The ivy can be pegged to the moss and will eventually root into it. You can water the entire frame, he said.

He recommended beginners read The Complete Book of Topiary, by Barbara Gallup and Deborah Reich.

The zoo stopped its topiary garden around 2005. Over the years, the zoo’s in-house floral growing and planting program expanded, as did Mr. Sinkovic’s duties.

Golden hops on a trellised entry to the Toledo Botanical Garden.



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If you want to take live sculpting to the extreme, take a cue from the Topiary Park in Columbus. It exhibits classical — lollipop, spiral shapes — architectural, and whimsical touches. It is known worldwide for its topiary version of post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte, constructed from the flexible yew shrub.

“The whimsical [topiaries] have an armature because you can’t clip a shrub into a dog, teacup, and people. Rather the topiarist trains the [multiple] shrubs to come together and form one shape. It’s like an outline,” said Carlene Palmquist, executive director of Friends of the Topiary Park, the group that supports the public park. “Whimsical, it is a very artistic endeavor.”

She said becoming a topiarist who can master whimsical creations requires a good eye for design, form, and line in art. And of course, patience.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-724-6133, or, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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DIRT ON GARDENING: A few tips for growing prized clematis plants

I’ve spoken about this cultivar before but I still get queries like: “Why isn’t my clematis blooming this year?” or “My clematis has lots of heavy and green leaf growth but only a few flowers; what am I doing wrong?”

Clematis plants and their vast variety vary greatly so it behooves you to pay attention to tags when purchasing a plant at your local garden center or nursery. Some grow on old wood and some grow on new wood. If that isn’t confusing enough, some even grow on old and new wood at the same time.

It is imperative that the tags are what they say they are and the garden center has correctly labeled them or that a customer hasn’t inadvertently switched tags when reading instructions on an adjacent clematis plant. This can happen easily when purchasing plants that aren’t grown on sight. In our operation, we grew plants from root stock and used tie-tags that couldn’t be removed to eliminate a mistakenly placed soil tag.

I drool this time of year at every one of the clematis seen throughout the countryside and their display of all colors of the rainbow and their intricate petal designs and nuances.

One favorite spot that I witness on a regular basis is next to a cart path on the 11th hole of Black Squirrel Golf Course where a backyard black wrought iron fence stands billowing with purple Jackmanii clematis. It’s one of the most beautiful displays I’ve ever seen.

These successful displays of color happen because clematis is comfortable where it sits and the growing conditions have met its particular needs.

Clematis, to be grown successfully, require exposure to sun and light, but not direct “hot” sun continuously. In other words, make sure they have good exposure with some dappled light or afternoon shade. The second part of the equation is they like “cool” feet and undisturbed soil at the base so plan on resisting the urge to cultivate because their roots drink and feed at the surface as well as deeper. A good practice is to plant a low-growing groundcover at the base of the plant or plant a few annuals that will help shade the area. Another good practice is to feed it bone meal in early spring. When blooming commences they will enjoy a liquid fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number of the 3 ingredients — a “bloom-booster” fertilizer).

When to prune and how much depends on the particular cultivar you have, hence my statement to read tags. As an example: Jackmanii blooms on new wood so they may be cut back to approximately a foot and will bloom on all new growth. Myself, (the jackmanii I grew), I waited until spring when I could determine where green growth stopped (usually about 3 feet off the ground) and trimmed everything off above that. Depending on the cultivar, you might be required to prune moderately shortly after blooming, leaving most of the old wood for next year’s blooms. As for “fall clematis” (tiny white clustering blooms) it is best to leave a substantial amount of old growth for next year’s blooms; some leave all growth from the previous year to serve as a trellis for the following year.

Normal close observance of damage on leaves will help avert a disaster by insects like aphids or caterpillars by using a control especially designed for them. Clematis is also prone to powdery mildew and may require a regimen of fungicidal spray.

Tom Yoder is a Master Gardener who resides in Goshen. He can be reached by phone at 574-533-0172 or by e-mail at

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Gardening guru Lynda Hallinan’s tips for turning citrus into marvellous marmalade

Use any combination of citrus to hand – grapefruit, tangelos, mandarins, oranges, lime or lemons – to make delicious homemade preserves

Whenever I make marmalade, I’m reminded of the folk story “Stone Soup”.

In this old fable, a hungry traveller uses his wits to turn a pebble in a pot of water into a nourishing soup simply by convincing parsimonious villagers that all his miracle broth needed was a little seasoning – carrots, salt and pepper, some chicken bones, and so on. 

To me, marmalade is stone soup’s  jammy equivalent. All it takes to make dozens of jars of the stuff are a couple of citrus fruit and a fairly alarming quantity of sugar. Any citrus will do, from grapefruit to limes, though deep red Seville oranges, if you can get them, make the finest spread.


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Bung a jar of marmalade, spices and a bottle of cheap wine in the slow cooker for a tasty midwinter tipple

Of course, marmalade isn’t just for toast. Use it to glaze your Christmas ham or the crimped pastry around an open apple tart; add a spoonful to a smoothie; use it to sweeten herbal tea; stir through softened vanilla ice cream; or add a generous dollop to the bottom of a steamed pudding basin. 

In midwinter, I make marmalade mulled wine in my slow cooker. For every bottle of cheap red wine, bung in a jar of homemade marmalade, a sliced orange, a cinnamon stick and a handful of cloves. Steep on low all day; it smells as good as it tastes. 


Beat that citrus glut by using the fruit to make marmalade and cordials

My grandma Clarice taught Mum to make marmalade, and Mum taught me.

Grandma’s recipe called for 1 orange, 1 lemon and 2 grapefruit, sliced and soaked overnight in 1½ litres water. Combine fruit and water in your biggest pot and bring to the boil.

Simmer with the lid on for an hour. Add 1.5kg sugar and boil hard, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes.

Test for setting by dribbling a few drops on a chilled plate – it’ll form a skin – or take its temperature with a candy thermometer. At 104°C, it sets firm.

Take the pot off the heat and stand for 15-20 minutes before bottling. This allows the fruit to settle evenly in marmalade, rather than floating to the top of the jars. 

Lynda Hallinan’s cat Snuffles inspects her preserves shelf


Immediately after you take the pot off the heat, stir in a generous splash of whiskey or a citrus liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

Though the alcohol will rapidly boil off, it adds flavour and makes your marmalade eminently more marketable.

Earlier this year, I donated 100 jars of homemade marmalade to Mercy Hospice for our fundraiser at Ayrlies. Half the jars were sold as “Classic Citrus Marmalade” and the other half were labelled “Classic Citrus Marmalade with Whiskey”.

True story: we sold every jar of plonk-enhanced preserves before we sold a single jar of the plain stuff. Keep this in mind when making marmalade to raise funds for a local charity or your horticultural circle’s trading table. 

Lynda Hallinan’s carrot marmalade recipe is handy if you’re caught short of citrus


In wartime, when citrus was in such short supply that Santa stuffed oranges into children’s Christmas stockings as a treat (in the northern hemisphere at least), frugal housewives weren’t afraid to bulk up their marmalades with grated carrot or, if really desperate, mashed pumpkin.

In 1861, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management included a recipe of equal quantities of sugar and carrots combined with lemons, bitter almonds and brandy.

And almost a century earlier, Captain Cook was advised to feed his men carrot jam to ward off scurvy on his voyage of discovery.

My carrot marmalade recipe is easy. Finely slice 2 seedless oranges and 1 lemon, cover with 2 cups water and leave to stand overnight. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft, then add 1½ cups grated carrot and 4 cups sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then boil hard until setting point is reached. Take off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon brandy. Stand for 15 minutes before pouring into jars.  


 – NZ Gardener

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Gardening Tips: Is a hedge the answer to your privacy issue?

They say “good fences make good neighbours.”  That certainly is true if you have issues with privacy, marauding pets or unsightly clutter stored in a neighbour’s yard. 

However, fences are not the solution for every problem. In some cases, the softer look of a hedge might be the answer.

If you want year-round privacy or a windbreak, evergreens are your best choice

  • For wide open spaces with no restrictions on the plant size, consider spruce or pine. Austrian and White Pines are both hardy for our area, have a broad dense shape and will eventually be very large trees. White, Norway and Blue Spruce all make excellent windbreaks and provide good privacy. Spruce grows in a pyramid shape with a wide base and narrower top. Only consider spruce if you have lots of room for them to spread out. Both Spruce and Pine require lots of sun to grow well.
  • If you need a large hedge for a shadier area, consider Canadian Hemlock. This soft-needled, graceful tree will grow in full sun or part-shade but doesn’t like wind-swept areas.
  • If space is an issue but you still want an evergreen hedge, upright cedar or juniper is the perfect choice. Junipers require a sunny location, while cedar is adaptable to full sun or part-shade.
  • Cedar is the best choice if you want a solid, continuous hedge. Planted at 2-foot spacing, it won’t be long before you have the privacy you want. Black or White cedars and their cultivars are the best choice for a tall, dense hedge.
  • If your planting site is quite shady, an upright growing yew such as Japanese Pyramid or Hicks Yew is a better choice. Hicks Yew is a narrower growing plant and perfect if space is an issue. Unfortunately yews can burn if exposed to the cold northwest winter winds.
  • If you are looking for a compact evergreen hedge, consider either Globe Cedar, Holmstrupp Cedar or Boxwood. Little Giant Globe Cedar can be kept at about 3 feet in height and width. Holmstrupp Cedar is a slow growing upright variety that is much hardier than Emerald Cedar plus more compact. Boxwood is perfect for a low, formal hedge. It is adaptable to sun or shade, can be clipped to stay compact and is a broad-leaf evergreen that holds its leaves all year.

If you would rather plant a deciduous hedge, you have many options. Look at the site conditions and think about the overall look you require:

  • Alpine Currant is one of the best choices for a formal hedge. It is one of the first shrubs to leaf out in spring and the last to drop its leaves, has no messy fruit to deal with, will grow well in sun or shade and is a rich green colour.
  • Hardy shrub roses are a good choice when you need a thorny barrier. The flowers are a colourful bonus and the hips will feed the birds in winter.
  • Barberry is a lower growing thorny plant that can be formally clipped. Most varieties have beautiful fall colour.
  • Ninebark will create a dense barrier. Golden Ninebark has bright foliage, Summer Wine, Tiny Wine and Diablo have deep purple leaves.
  • Spirea and Potentilla are good plants to consider for a low, informal hedge. There are many different flower and leaf colours to choose from.
  • For an informal hedge for part shade, consider: Golden Mockorange, Annabelle Hydrangea or Weigela. All have the added bonus of blooms.
  • If you site is damp, there are several shrubs that will work. Two willows have interesting leaf colours: Variegated Japanese and Blue Arctic willow. Winter Berry (deciduous holly) is another option. As long as you plant one male for every eight of females, you will enjoy red berries in late fall.
  • If you site is damp and shady three options come to mind: Snowberry has white berries in late fall, Coralberry has pink berries and Summersweet has fragrant white flowers in late summer.

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