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Archives for July 22, 2016

Garden art can bring drama and design to outdoor spaces

AllModern via AP In this photo provided by AllModern, the Trigg wall vessel, designed by Moe Takemura for Umbra, is functional art that could serve as an herb planter or receptacle for keys, etc., on a balcony or terrace. Clean, geometric lines give the piece a pleasing, artful modernity.

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The Benefits of Sustainable Business Landscaping

By Megan Wild

If you run a business with a physical, brick-and-mortar location, it’s likely that the most overlooked aspect of your office, warehouse or storefront is its landscaping. Forgetting all about the living things growing around your building is a mistake. Appropriate landscaping makes your building more attractive to customers, and it can help set you apart from the competition as a good neighbor as well.

With people all over the country more interested than ever in green products and supporting more eco-friendly enterprises, you can use your landscaping to up your sustainability bona fides. Turning your property into a model of sustainable landscaping helps the environment and lets you show your customers that you care about the planet — a boost to your overall brand.

Here’s how sustainable landscaping can make a difference for your business.

Sustainable landscaping saves water

One of the major features of a sustainable landscape is that it cuts down on the amount of water it needs to grow and thrive, which is great for your business’s bottom line. When you think about landscaping for water conservation, consider choosing native plants for foundation plantings and borders. These plants are adapted to your area’s typical weather conditions, so they won’t need much extra care or irrigation.

Another way to conserve water in your landscaping is to eliminate large swaths of lawn. Though green grass is often the default way to cover large areas, maintaining a lawn takes a great deal of water and fertilizer, which can run off into local waterways and harm wildlife. Eliminating the lawn in favor of xeriscaping and native plants both protects waterways and conserves water for other uses.

Shade trees cut utility costs

Another way to make your business’s landscaping more eco-friendly is to add shade trees to your property. Deciduous trees like maples and oaks planted on the southern and western sides of your building will block the sun’s rays during the hottest parts of the day in the summer, which in turn will reduce the amount of energy you burn to keep the air conditioner running. In the winter, the trees will lose their leaves and allow the afternoon sun to warm your building, reducing your heating bills as well.

The judicious planting of shade trees cuts your carbon footprint by cutting your energy needs, and trees also directly absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, which helps cut down on harmful greenhouse gases and pollution. Healthy trees also beautify your property, but they do require some specialized care. Bald spots, discoloration, and peeling are all signs of disease that should be checked by a professional to maintain the health of your business’s sustainable landscape.

Sustainable landscaping supports local ecosystems

When you add trees, shrubs and other native plants to your property, you invite birds and other animals to shelter there. You can support native species by planting favorite food sources. For example, many birds seek berries and seed pods, while hummingbirds look for nectar sources. Monarch butterflies famously need milkweed to survive, and you can consult with a local expert to find out how to attract these colorful creatures to your landscape with the right plantings.

Your landscape is also home to millions of tiny organisms that you can’t see, but that are crucial for the health of the soil and act as the foundation for your ecosystem. Soil microbes help break down organic compounds and create natural fertilizers for your plants. They also aerate the soil and keep it healthy. You can protect these important microorganisms by minimizing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and using organic compost to build healthy soil instead.

Final thoughts

When you look at your business, consider how you can green your landscape with some of these ideas. Even the tiniest storefront can benefit from a window box full of greenery or a sidewalk planting strip that replaces water-hogging grass with pretty native plants. If you have a large parking lot or loading area, consider hiring a landscaper to help you find ways to remove some pavement and bring back green spaces. You don’t have to do everything at once. Small steps can have a big impact!

These changes will also help you enhance your brand. When you beautify your space, you draw positive attention. You should also feel free to let customers know you’re committed to sustainability — they’ll be impressed with your commitment to the environment, and those choices are likely to influence their opinion of your business in positive ways. Sustainable landscaping is the right thing for the environment and for your business, so it pays to get started on a greener look for your business today.

Image credits: 1) Vectorbeast via Unsplash; Sven van der Pluijm via Unsplash

Megan Wild writes about sustainable residential and commercial construction. When she’s not upcycling one of her latest thrifty finds, she can be found tweeting about sustainability and building trends @Megan_Wild.

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Palmer renews auditorium, beautifies campus entries

An architect’s rendering of the $11.8 million Palmer College of Chiropractic project. Shown is the new visitors entrance, redesigned retaining wall, and the former alumni auditorium, which is being repurposed as a fitness center.

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Garden walk branches out to Essexville July 30, 31

ESSEXVILLE, MI — A garden walk put on by the Valley Garden Club of Bay County is showcasing “beautiful properties” in Essexville this year.

The club, founded in 2011, hosts its third garden walk Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, featuring seven area gardens that represent a diverse collection of sizes, plantings and features. The event runs noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. 

“It’s easy to see the pride these homeowners take in crafting a space that is uniquely their own,” said Gene Cianek, president of the garden club.

Tickets for the walk are $10 and are available at the homes listed below on the day of the event, in addition to several area businesses, including Begick Nursery and Garden Center, 5993 Westside Saginaw Road; G.T. Homestead, 109 Third St.; Keits Greenhouse and Floral, 1717 S. Euclid Ave.; My Secret Garden, 600 Saginaw St.; Bay Landscaping, 1630 SE Boutell Road; From Buds to Blooms, 1515 E. Center Road.; Abele Greenhouse and Garden Center, 3500 Wadsworth Road, Saginaw; and Warmbier Farms, 5300 Garfield Road, in Auburn.

Proceeds from the event go toward beautification efforts throughout Bay County, Cianek said.

The following homes are being featured in this year’s garden walk:

The Williams Family: 1055 Rosemary Lane

Wisteria-laden arbors adorn a sunken garden in the front yard, while a koi pond provides a relaxing backdrop on a summer’s evening, and a dry creek bed adds character and a sense of adventure.

The Super Family: 518 N. Farley Road

The original Nevins rural schoolhouse was repurposed through several owners into a private home. The current owner’s artistic ability to repurpose materials is well-applied here, including the arbor made from a downed willow tree and the boardwalk made from repurposed wood.

The Derocher Family: 1154 N. Farley Road

This rustic, country-style garden has been 45 years in the making. Featuring annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, all of the plants were picked to ensure blooming throughout the season.

The Anderson-Fleming Family: 865 W. Borton Road

This home is known as Stoney Creek. Visitors will notice an array of perennials, annuals, fruit trees and a manicured vegetable garden.

The Gonea Family: 1136 W. Borton Road

The Gonea gardens offers something for everyone, including a wide variety of perennials, monkshood, and a bergenia feature in the eight consecutive gardens.

The Weaver Family: 1468 Wallinda Drive

The homeowners describe their gardens as “the ultimate stay-cation.” Privacy and relaxation are the theme here witha beautiful landscaped pool area.

The Prokopenko Family: 1458 Wallinda Drive.

The Prokopenko gardens surround the backyard pool area. Manicured boxwood hedges provide the feeling of an English garden.

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Plants, not politics: The stories behind The White House gardens

WASHINGTON — In the height of a contentious election season, author Marta McDowell is putting partisan politics on pause and focusing, instead, on plants. More specifically, the White House gardens.

In her new book, “All The Presidents’ Gardens,” McDowell takes a close look at the evolution of the White House’s 18 acres over the past 200 years, and their role in history — from the initiation of peace talks, to the signing of treaties and even the exchange of vows.

“I call them the Forrest Gump of gardens. If you remember Forrest Gump, he was kind of always in the background of these really key events, and that’s been true of the White House grounds as well,” McDowell said.

“If there are protests out front, the gardens are right in the background, diplomacy goes on out in the gardens. … We have history going on, right in this garden space.”

McDowell introduces one of the White House’s first garden enthusiasts, John Quincy Adams — who used to garden in the early hours of the morning before tackling his presidential duties — and chronicles the changing landscape of the grounds through the subsequent administrations.

For years, large greenhouses were attached to the White House, until President Theodore Roosevelt tore them down and built a colonial-style garden.

“That goes out, and Mrs. Wilson designs an Italian-age garden,” McDowell said. “You have different fashion styles going on in gardening.”

In 1971, the Rose Garden was transformed into a wedding venue where President Richard Nixon gave away his daughter, Patricia, in marriage. Later in the decade, President Jimmy Carter built his daughter, Amy, a tree house nestled in the branches of the blue atlas cedar on the White House’s South Lawn.

When Hillary Clinton was first lady, she filled the White House’s gardens with contemporary sculpture exhibitions. Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden gave her fodder in her fight against childhood obesity.

“They have sort of this mirror effect [for what’s going on in history],” McDowell said.

Come January, the gardens could get a whole new look — or return to a more familiar one.

“Whatever Trump would do [to the gardens], I am sure it would be over the top,” McDowell said.

If Hillary moves into the White House for a second time, she anticipates art will once again populate the political oasis.  

“And the first gentleman would have some latitude on what went down in the garden as well,” she said.

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© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

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Helpful tips from The Garden Plot

A SOLUTION TO PREVENT TOMATO WILT: As tomato plants get taller and begin producing, many of the vines will develop yellow wilting leaves at the bottom of the plants. You should apply an application of Daconil which is anti-fungal spray that comes in a spray bottle that can be purchased at hardware’s and in garden departments of Lowes and Home Depot. Spay around the affected leaves and upward to the tops of the plants. Apply liquid tomato fertilizer and give the vines a new energy boost.

APPLYING A LAYER OF PEAT MOSS WHEN PLANTING MID-SUMMER VEGETABLES: The late July soil is hot and dry and a layer of peat moss applied to newly sown seeds will help the seeds retain moisture from summer thunderstorms as well as improve the texture of the soil, Peat moss is a totally organic soil booster that acts like a sponge to retain moisture and improve soil tilth as well as adding organic matter.

INVEST IN A CORN SILK BRUSH: The corn is now in season, so take advantage of this timely harvest and freeze some for a winter treat. In preparing corn for cooking or freezing, a good tool to have on hand is a corn silking brush, which can be purchased in houseware departments of many stores. These brushes have stiff bristles that make the silks easy to remove. A good brush costs around two or three dollars and will last for many years. Always shuck and silk corn outside on the porch or deck to avoid a mess in the kitchen.

A SHORT-LIVED CORN HARVEST: Corn is a crop that requires a 90- to 95-day maturity cycle, and many gardeners do not have the space to grow a corn crop, but that does not prevent obtaining a supply of fresh corn for eating and freezing. Many farms sell corn by the dozen and many will sell a burlap bag of twelve dozen ears for a good price. There is nothing any better in the dead of winter than a meal of corn from the freezer, thawed and fried in an iron frying pan. Store bought and canned corn does not have that moist, juicy flavor and sweetness.

A SIMPLE RECIPE FOR FRIED CORN: If you use fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cob and then scrape the cob. Use about eight ears of corn. Use an iron frying pan (other frying pans also work well), place a half cup of Crisco corn oil or 1½ sticks of light margarine in the pan and heat it up, add the corn to the hot oil or margarine. Reduce heat and fry until golden brown, add salt and pepper to taste. Usually the corn will be ready to remove from the pan in about five or six minutes. If the corn is not sweet enough for your taste, add a tablespoon of white Karo syrup or a teaspoon of sugar.

CORN PUDDING: A VEGGIE AND A DESSERT: Corn is good no matter what season you serve it. This is a corn recipe you can use with fresh ears of corn or with a can of creamed yellow corn and both will make a nice pudding. Use eight fresh ears of corn, cut from the cob and chopped in pieces or run through a blender in “chop” mode, or you can use a 16oz can of cream corn and ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, one cup sugar, one tablespoon vanilla, two teaspoons cornstarch, three eggs and one cup of milk. Beat the eggs, salt, pepper, sugar and a half of a stick of margarine, milk and vanilla, Add the corn and cornstarch and mix again. Spray a baking dish or pan with PAM or Baker’s Joy. Pour in the pudding mixture and bake at 350-degrees for 50 or 60 minutes. Stir the pudding two or three times during the baking process. When the pudding gets stiff, it is done. You can set the oven on broil and brown the top if you would like, but don’t let it burn.

RABBITS LOVE VEGETABLES, BUT THEY WILL HATE THIS CONCOCTION AND RUN FROM IT! Gardeners love their veggies and so do rabbits in mid-July! Other than blasting them with a shotgun like Elmer Fudd would do; this stinky solution is less harmless but will move the “wabbit” on his merry way. In a plastic bucket or pail, mix a tablespoon of dish detergent, ½ cup of ammonia, a cup of urine and two tablespoons of hot sauce. Mix this concoction in a gallon of water and pour into a sprinkler can and pour around (not in) the row or bed. You may want to pinch your nose while applying a mixture!

A PERK UP FOR PUNY TOMATO VINES IN JULY: The Dog Day heat does its part to stress out tomatoes. There is a special natural perker upper called Alaska fish emulsion that will give tomato vines a shot where they need it. The emulsion comes in bottles and is mixed with water and poured around the bottom of the vines. Yes, it does smell like fish and it may attract a cat or two to the garden plot, but the cats will drive the rabbits away! Fish emulsion is a powerful solution and all you will need for a gallon container is four or five tablespoons. Your vines and tomatoes will quickly respond to this application and you will see quick results.

FREEZING FRESH EARS OF SUMMER’S CORN CROP: You can freeze yellow or white ears of corn but yellow corn is sweeter and more flavorful for the freezer. The most tasty way to freeze corn is to cut the kernels from the ears after washing and silking. After cutting the kernels, scrape the milky liquid from the cob into the cut kernels. Cover the kernels with warm water and boil for three to four minutes. Stir and allow the corn to cool before pouring into quart or pint plastic freezer containers. Leave one half inch space at the top of the container. When ready to use, let frozen corn thaw in the container for an hour. Pour into an iron frying pan or skillet. Add salt, pepper, bacon bits or light margarine and simmer for several minutes.

STARTING CABBAGE AND BROCCOLI PLATS FROM SEED: Late July is the time to start cabbage and broccoli from seed and it is easy to raise your own plants and know exactly what you are starting. Start a packet of broccoli and a packet of cabbage in a medium flower pot filled with seed-starting medium mixed with prescribed amount of water. Reserve a hand full of prepared medium. Sprinkle seeds on the medium and cover the seed with the reserved prepared medium. At the end of two weeks, they should be ready to transplant into individual pots and ready for the garden in 14 to 20 days. As the days get hotter, place seedlings in shady area.

Ray Baird

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Garden tips: Protecting tall plants, prepping the fall garden





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