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Archives for July 26, 2016

UK garden designer wins premier US student award

The garden is designed for a 2-acre site in Surrey, to complement a modern building design. Woodland edge and heathland plants surround the garden while the house is connected to the garden with grey decking walkways.

Views of the neighbouring golf course can be glimpsed through plantings of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Inverleith’ underplanted with Dennstaedtia punctilobula

Finlay said: “I was so delighted to have my design ‘validated’ on an international platform; awards such as this help to launch new careers and for me it’s now a firm step up on that ladder”.

As the Gold Award winner Finlay will be awarded a scholarship and an award to be presented at the APLD’s International Landscape Design Conference to be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on 15 September.

Lead judge Greg Pierceall, Professor Emeritus at Purdue Landscape Architecture, said Finlay’s project was “a stellar site design”.

“At a macro scale looking at the total composition the project is great. The site spaces, plantings and surfacing are well done as is the layout and construction details.

“The project presentation is very well defined, outlined and presented. The plans, images, sections and references work well to convey the weave of plantings and areas within the site design.

Director of the London College of Garden Design Andrew Fisher Tomlin said: “We have always focused our design training to be world-class and Jane’s award for a space that is both calm and yet full of vibrancy is a great reflection of what we want to deliver to our students. Jane’s success is well-deserved and we hope will lead to even greater recognition”.

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Is Hawaii America’s most tropical garden state?

The answer is that it could be and it should be. The International Palm Society meeting last month gave participants a chance to see the “Garden City” of Singapore and compare it to Honolulu and the Neighbor Islands. Hawaii is blessed with spectacular natural beauty, a great climate, a multi cultural mix of people and most of all, Hawaiian foundation of Aloha. However, have we taken the opportunity to use landscaping to fully minimize the negative impacts of high rises and highways?

It has been more than 30 years since I have had an opportunity to spend time in Singapore. It has the unfortunate and unfair reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, you can do it on a shoestring if you know where to stay and go. Last time I visited, I was not impressed. It was suffering some of the growing pains Hawaii was experiencing in the ’60s and ‘70s. It seemed it was in the throws of construction and destruction. Singapore’s history in the 19th and first half of the 20th century was one of political/social anarchy and upheaval until the end of the World War II. From then to now, it has evolved from a dusty, developing nation into one of the world’s most stable, safe and prosperous countries. It is also possibly the best example of how to make a city/nation of 6 million people one of the most beautiful in the world.

By the way, Singapore is a city and also a country. The main island is smaller than Oahu but the country includes around 50 small islands. It is just a short distance from the tip of Peninsular Malaysia. The most impressive thing about Singapore is that the landscaping is so well done that you feel like you are in a forest garden. The 10 kilometer drive from Changi Airport to the downtown is lush with shade trees, palms and flowering shrubs. The Singapore Botanical Gardens and Garden By The Bay are overwhelmingly beautiful. The latter is about two hundred 50 acres of tropical gardens recently created at the cost of one billion dollars. Both are free and open to the public.

In a nutshell, Singapore has set a great example for cities of the future.

It would be worthwhile for our elected public officials, planners and developers to visit and bring home some new ideas on how we can guide our future.

Folks all over the islands are complaining about the hot summer temperatures. And sure enough, temperatures in Honolulu as well as Kona have been higher than what seems normal. When temperatures are reported to be around 90 degrees or more, it feels pretty hot, but if you happen to be in the sun on a shopping center parking lot, it can be well over 100 degrees.

In West Hawaii, where we really need trees for shade and beauty, trees are being cut down in some of our major hotels, roads and shopping center parking lots. Of course, the excuse is always that it is to reduce maintenance, for safety, or the trees are too big. What it boils down to is that these shopping centers were given building permits based in part that they were including attractive landscaping. The community supported the developers plans based on the inclusion of sufficient landscaping. When landscaping is removed or not properly maintained, it is a break of trust. Highway maintenance is another issue. The opportunity to have a really beautiful entrance from our Kona airport to Kailua is ignored with excuses of cost and upkeep. We are a visitor destination that counts on a beautiful environment.

Over the last several years, well landscaped areas along Alii Drive, Henry Street and Palani Road have gradually deteriorated with several hundred palms cut down. It has happened so gradually that most folks don’t notice. These beautiful trees get cut down because they take maintenance or might become a safety issue. There are ways to mitigate the concerns for safety and maintenance if we are willing to explore them. The absolute last resort is to destroy the trees. Unfortunately, one of the great community guardian organizations in Kona, Hilo and Puna, The Outdoor Circle, has lost it support and momentum since the beginning of the Great Recession. At one time, developers and politicians went to these community service groups before any plans were considered. The Outdoor Circle statewide has been instrumental in keeping our islands “Clean, Green and Beautiful.” Thank goodness the Waikoloa Outdoor Circle is still active in these endeavors. What we need around the rest of the island is a rebirth of the local Outdoor Circles.

Over thousands of years human cultures have had an impact on the planet. Some have fought to subjugate the natural order and some have worked within the ecological system. The cultures that seem to have lasted the longest are those that have been in tune with the environment. All this changed within the last few hundred years as our human populations expanded and began to impact one another through territorial wars, colonization and thinking that land or the “aina,” as Hawaiians knew it, was just another commodity to be bought and sold for profit.

During the past 50 years, a new awareness of our relationship with our world has been building. Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring brought environmental concerns to the general public in America. Since then, all kinds of organizations like Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Audubon have expanded and become mainstream.

This same environmental awareness has made a tremendous impact on the agricultural industry. The landscape portion is particularly concerned since it is extremely visible to the typical urban and suburban dweller. Also, we should recognize that landscape installation and maintenance creates jobs.

Even if you are not commercially involved in landscaping, here are some things all of us should know about landscape gardening in a way that is friendly to the other creatures both animal and plant that share the space around us. The concepts of conservation and sustainable gardening in urbanized areas are based on these as well as other principles. These could be encompassed in the theme “as nature would have it”.

Some simple rules to remember are: first to design a landscape using the proper plants in the right place. Massing plant materials to discourage unwanted weeds or pioneer species is one approach. Using materials that are adapted to the location so as not to require lots of extra water, fertilizer, pesticides, pruning and other expensive resource consuming inputs is another. Native plants may be considered where appropriate, but non native or multicultural heritage plants are most commonly used since most of these have been tried and tested in many environments and have proved readily adaptable. Multicultural heritage plants are those that each culture has brought to Hawaii since humans first set foot on our shores. Coconut, Kukui, Noni and breadfruit, for example, are examples of Polynesian heritage plants. Jackfruit and moringa would be plants representing our Filipino culture. Second rule is to use what special resources already available on the land. The value of existing trees, land contours and rock formations should be considered. Remember, it is important that we learn to appreciate nature by practicing wise management of all our resources. Of course, good maintenance practices are important as well. Landscaping is an important element in creating a more enjoyable and healthy life whether we live in small towns or gigantic cities.

Singapore has set an example that millions of people can live together surrounded by clean, green and beautiful gardens offering peace and tranquility in a crowded and otherwise hectic world.

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Groton couple’s goal: ‘Restore dignity’ to dilapidaated Jewish cemetery in Poland

From left, Howie Flagler of Westford and Josh and Amy Degen of Groton will travel to Bialystok, Poland, next month along with several other volunteers for a project to use modern landscaping techniques to restore the city’s Bagnowka Jewish Cemetery.
SUN/Chris Lisinski

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

GROTON — Amy Degen went to Poland last August for a professional forum about Holocaust education. She spent time in Warsaw and Krakow, discussing the importance of remembrance all these years later.

Little did she know she would be back in Poland a year later with her husband, Josh, helping to restore a dilapidated Jewish cemetery in Bialystok decades after murder and diaspora wiped out most of the city’s Jewish population, including her ancestors.

Next month, Amy and Josh, a landscaping contractor and a Groton selectman, will travel to Bialystok, Poland, alongside friends from Westford and a group of volunteers to work in the Bagnowka Jewish Cemetery for a week.

Residents of Groton and Westford will head to Bialystok, Poland, next month to help restore a dilapidated Jewish cemetery. COURTESY PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

They will use money raised via crowdfunding and Josh’s landscaping experience to tackle the project in a new and hopefully more efficient manner.

“At least we can restore some dignity,” Josh said. “It gives a sense of satisfaction to pay it forward.”

Amy works for Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit organization that promotes education about racism, prejudice and genocide, particularly those that have an anti-Semitic tilt. Last August, she was one of more than a dozen educators invited to Poland by the Forum for Dialogue for a seminar discussing Polish-Jewish relations and the lasting specter of World War II on the country.

Poland was particularly ravaged during the war. About 1.

9 million non-Jewish civilians in Poland were killed, and of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, about half were Polish citizens, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At the end of the forum, Amy decided to add an extra week to her trip. She knew she had family members that were murdered in Bialystok during the German occupation, and she wanted to connect with their legacy. So Josh flew in to meet her in Krakow, and the two rented a car and drove to Bialystok in the country’s northeast.

A picture of ghosts

Amy holds an old black-and-white picture of five people posing for a family portrait. Her maternal great-grandparents, Fane and Nachman Neifach, sit in the back row, Nachman neatly wearing a shirt and tie. In front, her granduncle, Gabriel Neifach, his wife, Leytse, and Amy’s grandaunt, Gitel, contort to fit in the frame, all wearing hints of smiles.

Amy is holding a picture of ghosts. Fane and Nachman died in the Great Synagogue Fire in 1941, she said, when Nazis loaded about 2,000 Jews into the synagogue and lit it ablaze. Gitel died during the city’s 1943 ghetto uprising, when a group of Jewish residents launched a revolt against the German occupiers. Gabriel and Leytse were sent to the Treblinka concentration camp, where estimates say 700,000 to 925,000 Jews were killed.

Their trip to Bialystok coincided with an annual memorial to honor the ghetto uprising. That ceremony began at the site of the Great Synagogue Fire, so Amy had a strong connection.

“I put my (family’s) picture at both memorials,” she said. “I was really the only person there that had relatives that were affected.”

Despite those ceremonies, Bialystok’s Jewish population never recovered from the devastation of the Holocaust. The Bagnowka cemetery, which is in serious disrepair, is the city’s only remaining Jewish burial ground; a previous one lies under the central park, and another was paved over to become a parking lot, according to Heidi Szpek, a professor emerita of religious studies at Central Washington University and a member of the restoration projects at Bagnowka.

Bialystok, Szpek said, is like much of Eastern Europe in that it has Jewish cultural festivals and memorials, but very few Jewish people.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Bialystok had close to 50,000 Jews, Szpek said. The scholar Joshua Zimmerman, citing an 1897 Russian census, put Jews as 63 percent of the city’s total population at that time. They played an important social and economic role, and led many of Bialystok’s institutions and businesses.

But soon after the Holocaust, the number of Jewish residents plunged to 900. Many of those who survived then fled, and a “mini-pogrom” in 1968 scared away even more, according to Szpek. Now, although there may be a handful of others behind the scenes, there is only one “active and vocal” Jewish resident in Bialystok: Lucy Lisowka. 

“She is the last Jew of Bialystok,” Szpek said.

Stolen tombstones

The Degens did not get the full spark of inspiration for their project until they met Lisowka. She advocates for the preservation of Jewish sites, gives tours to Jewish visitors and, about 2007, began efforts to repair the Bagnowka cemetery.

At one point, the cemetery had about 30,000 tombstones, but over the years, so many have been stolen that only about 3,000 remain. Those still there are often vandalized, broken or allowed to fall over and sink into the underbrush.

“Tombstones were taken away and used — this isn’t unique to Bialystok — they were used to pave roads and line latrines and buildings,” Szpek said. “They were taken and used sometimes for Christian burials. They took the backside of the tombstone and used them that way. You see the double horror of trying to annihilate the Jewish people and also trying to destroy their heritage.”

Volunteers frequently come to Bialystok to help Lisowka’s efforts, but still, about 60 percent of the cemetery needs to be restored, in Szpek’s estimate.

“For Jewish history, this area was incredible for its business industry, its theater, its culture, so to preserve this cemetery, it honors the legacy of what was created,” she said.

And Josh, with his landscaper’s eye, immediately noticed something while visiting the site: The volunteers were lifting and resetting the stones with a tripod at an estimated rate of two per day. But with the right equipment and workflow, Josh thinks he could do much more.

“He just saw these people working with 19th-century methods,” said Westford’s Howie Flagler, vice president of the Temple Beth El Cemetery Corporation in Lowell and longtime friend of the Degens who will also travel to Bialystok. “Their effort was so pure, but their effort was not efficient. The idea was that if he could go back in with the right crew and the right equipment, we could get so much more reclaimed.”

So they made a pact: This August, they will return to Bialystok for a week and use more specialized techniques to contribute to the cemetery’s restoration. They plan to purchase hand tools and leave them there, as well as rent the big equipment for five or six 10-hour days of work.

‘Snail’s pace’

That idea is not cheap, so in January, they launched a GoFundMe page to raise money. As of last week, they had raised about $6,500 of their $10,000 goal with less than a month to go until the trip.

“Our intent was never to come back the next year. It just sort of fell into our laps,” Amy said. “Heidi and Lucy are thrilled because they had been going at such a snail’s pace.”

On his cellphone, Josh pulls up pictures of tools and maps of the cemetery while firing off ideas — he’ll scrape enough soil to put the headstones into the ground and lower them via a sling attached to a mini-excavator — but those depend on the various volunteers already in Poland digging up and cleaning enough stones before Josh arrives.

“If we meet our goal and we have enough stones, I think I can do 100 per day,” he said. “If we can’t, we’ll get done as many as we can.”

That would not completely finish the project — what remains of the cemetery is simply too big — but the team hopes to make a significant dent and perhaps set a precedent to return the following year.

Szpek’s expertise is part of the restoration, as well. Her knowledge of the cemetery and her ability to translate Hebrew help to ensure that the headstones go back in the right places.

“In Jewish tradition, the tombstone isn’t just some random marker,” she said. “It’s also seen as the place where the soul is anchored to the body until the end of time. If you start placing wrong tombstones with wrong people, think about the religious implications of what you’re doing.”

For the project’s Massachusetts contingent, donating their time to this project is a way to connect with, and honor, something larger.

Those interested in donating can do so on

Follow Chris Lisinski on Twitter and Tout ChrisLisinski.

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Tour features yards that are back in bloom

Darla and James Gallagher of Crown Point just purchased a new home and have been facing landscaping issues for the past three months.

“The foliage around the house is overgrown and the garden looks like a forest,” Darla said, with a laugh, as the couple arrived at this year’s, 16th Annual Secret Gardens Tour, sponsored by the Miller Garden Club. “We need help and we thought coming here would give us some ideas.”

Hundreds of other visitors to the event that featured six landscaping projects in homes situation in the Miller section of Gary had the same mission.

“I’m just getting into gardening and I don’t have a clue about the different varieties of flowers or how to grow then,” said Nz Moore of Gary. “My friend John Purnell invited me to come along with him today. He has a beautiful garden and has been doing this for more than 40 years, so he’s a mentor to me.”

Bringing themes to life

Opened in 1984, Winter Greenhouse in Winter, Wis., is known for maintaining several vibrant and eye-catching display gardens, which inform customers of the various theme garden options available to them.

Gardening is a personal experience. When spending time outside, people like to feel that they’re in a place of their own making — a place that suits them. This may be why gardeners are beginning to see the value of customized theme gardens that fit their own tastes and sensibilities. Garden center retailers are also starting to see the value in displaying and offering ideas for theme gardens that customers can implement at home.

These themed display gardens also have the potential to take a business beyond the realm of retail and turn it into a visual destination that customers will happily take a road trip to see. This has been a particularly successful strategy for Winter Greenhouse.

Located in Winter, Wis., visitors to Winter Greenhouse can tour an expansive display garden area, covering roughly 1.5 acres, and find sections of everything from shade and sun gardens, water gardens, rock gardens, natives, edibles and many other themes. The team at Winter Greenhouse also installs themed gardens and landscapes at customers’ homes.

The landscaping division of Winter Greenhouse offers a highly customized experience for customers, including optional garden themes such as herb, fragrant, butterfly, cutting, native and rock gardens.

General Manager Jim Wilson says the display gardens have been a central aspect of the business since shortly after Winter Greenhouse opened in 1984. The landscaping side of the business has been operating for about eight years. The home landscape installations used to be done on properties up to 100 miles away, but Wilson says the radius has become more focused.

Visitors to Winter Greenhouse can tour nearly 1.5 acres of themed displays.

“Now we try to keep it within 50 miles,” Wilson says. “We’re kind of in the hub of three or four bigger towns that are 30 to 35 miles away, so we have to travel around. [The town of] Winter is just 330 [residents], there’s not much local business for us, so we have to travel a bit.”

Located in rural Wisconsin, Winter Greenhouse isn’t exactly inundated with nearby high-population cities. Wilson says this created a need for the display gardens early on: Customers needed a destination to make the trip worthwhile and memorable.

“From the beginning, when we started, there wasn’t that much going on,” Wilson says. “Our display gardens, for us, were crucial in a way, because we’re so remote, we had to get something to attract people out here. That, plus the variety of plants that we had. We really got into a wide variety because we had to be able to pull people so that they would come and stay for a while and make it worth the trip.”

Our display gardens, for us, were crucial in a way, because we’re so remote, we had to get something to attract people out here.” – Jim Wilson, general manager

A glimpse at the possibilities. Having pretty flowers to look at is all well and good, but Wilson says the goal of display gardens goes beyond appearances. Customers also need information about the plants they’re interested in. By maintaining a variety of theme gardens around the business, Winter Greenhouse shows visitors what they can expect from theme gardens at their own homes.

“For us, the display garden was also to show what’s hardy,” Wilson says. “When people are coming and they’re buying, they can see a fully grown plant and not just a plug or newly-transplanted plant. So, it was more than just the aesthetics of seeing something beautiful. It was practical — ‘what does this plant actually look like when it’s out in the field and how hardy is it?’ It became kind of a combination of that trial garden and display kind of aesthetics.”

Themes on display include rock, shade and pollinator gardens.

“It’s a great selling tool,” he adds. “It’s pretty common, when [a plant is] blooming in the display garden, that people are asking, ‘What is that plant and where can I buy it?’”

By representing various garden themes in the company’s displays, Landscape Manager Kelly Larsen says Winter Greenhouse is able to help customers focus specifically on what plants they’re interested in and what kind of personality they want their gardens to have. Although many customers don’t come to the grower/retailer with a particular theme in mind, the categories exemplified in the displays help to simplify the decision-making process.

“I don’t know how many people are really buying plants according to themes, but on the other hand, when you quiz people about what they want to plant … of course, they’re going to say, ‘Well, we have a lot of shade.’ Okay, so you’re going to go with more shade plants, then you can ask them what their color preference is and try to focus in on what their wishes are,” Larsen says.

Showing home gardeners the potential of their green spaces is also one of the goals of Marin Art Garden Center in Ross, Calif., a nonprofit horticultural education facility with roughly 11 acres of theme garden displays. Although Marin isn’t a retail operation, it has a vested interest in helping visitors visualize their own personalized theme gardens, says Executive Director Antonia Adezio.

Water-themed gardens, or “pond gardens” are used in an interactive display at Winter Greenhouse.

“We are striving to continuously show our visitors new ideas and trends in gardening that are useful for them at home,” Adezio says. “So, we’re paying attention to new plants that come out in the trade and also different ways of using them.”

Adezio says more retail garden centers could benefit from going beyond displays made up of simple containers and beds — living, thriving theme gardens make much better examples for what customers can try at home. The team at Marin Art Garden Center applies this principle when maintaining the facility’s display areas.

“The individual garden areas [at Marin] are mostly comparable to what you might do at home,” she says. “It’s pretty easy, I think, to interpret what we’re doing here and do it in a backyard. To see how plants combine is really important, to see which things are flowering at the same time so you can plan that way. I think the more that you can do that in the garden center, the better you’re going to be at serving your customers.”

Staying current. Displaying and offering a wide range of theme gardens demands close attention to trendy plants and ever-changing customer preferences. Wilson says he sees consumer interest in particular for shade and sun plants, water gardens and rock gardens in his market.

Winter Greenhouse also attempts to encourage patrons to take part in the pollinator garden movement. This is done by promoting and selling special bundles of pollinator-friendly natives.

“We’ve been stressing that especially this year, because we’re concerned just like everyone about pollinators and promoting them,” Wilson says. “That’s been popular also.”

Perennials are tested for hardiness in Winter Greenhouse display gardens to better inform customers.

On the other hand, Wilson says organic gardening is less popular with his customers than he’d like.

“People out here aren’t as interested in natives or organics, although you’d think, being in a rural area … but somehow it’s more of an urban attraction,” Wilson says. “We’ve never been able to really press the organic thing here, we’ve tried. We do it ourselves in our own garden and we believe in it, but the market … people aren’t willing to pay as much out here for it.”

As Wilson has learned in the case of organic gardening, trends are often determined according to the old adage: location, location, location. In California, Adezio says water- and environmentally conscious gardening is a popular theme with visitors to Marin Art Garden Center.

“The [themes] that we’re really interested in focusing on are oriented toward habitat and water conservation because those are really big themes for us here in California,” Adezio says. “We have had to all really start thinking about using water in very strategic ways and changing our backyard gardens as a result of that. So, there’s quite a lot of interest now in learning how to do that and have it still be beautiful. We are definitely trying to help people understand that.”

Themes are also often influenced by seasonal tastes, which can change without warning, Larsen says.

In some of the display gardens at Winter Greenhouse, themes blend together to give customers ideas for mixed gardens at home, such as this perennial/rock garden display.

“It changes every season. In the spring, they want this and that, then in the summer, the phlox are blooming and everybody wants phlox,” Larsen says. “It’s tough to do signage because of the seasons changing and the plants overgrowing and that sort of thing, that is an ongoing challenge.”

A flexible and adaptive staff has helped Winter Greenhouse stay competitive despite the challenges of investing in so many plant categories, Wilson says.

“The type of people that you have working for you have to be flexible and always wanting to learning something new and not minding changing quickly into another department,” Wilson says.

“It requires a certain kind of person and certain kind of organization to be able to do that. So, it’s challenging, but that makes it very interesting and the diversity keeps us going. You’re not dependent on one market … we can keep ourselves going that way.”

When a visitor walks away from Winter Greenhouse with ideas and inspiration for their home gardens, it’s a win. However, either way, Wilson is satisfied knowing customers have enjoyed the atmosphere of the business.

“Because of the [plant] diversity, it creates a certain trend and atmosphere,” Wilson says. “People also come just because of the feeling they get when they’re here, they feel good, they feel peaceful. They like the beauty, of course. That’s why people keep coming back. They enjoy themselves when they’re here.”

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Turning Cities Into Urban Gardening Micro Food Producers

In certain cities across the globe, urban gardening is beginning to take favor over Immaculately manicured green spaces. Image Credit: FreshStudio / Shutterstock

Cities face immense challenges when creating attractive green spaces for their inhabitants, striving to create beautiful, engaging public space while also walking the narrow tightrope of budget and resource allocation. Formerly, city landscaping meant well-tended flowerbeds and the immaculately manicured sprawling green lawn which has become a symbol of wealth and luxury. This type of public green space is attractive, but the truth is that they are also incredibly wasteful.  And yet, a relatively new trend is taking root again — urban gardening in the form of cities being turned into micro food producers. But before we take a look at this movement, lets take a look at how wasteful the current landscaping status-quo is.

  • Statistics for municipal water use are tough to track down, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans use 9 billion gallons of water each and every day, simply to keep their personal outdoor landscapes looking green.
  • Add municipal water use to this already absurd number and we’re looking at a lot of water going to grow something just so we can cut in a week.

It’s not just the waste of these aesthetic landscapes, it’s also the financial cost borne by taxpayers. It can seem downright frivolous sometimes, prioritizing the installation and maintenance of giant expanses of grass or ornamental flower baskets instead of directing those funds toward improving the health and welfare of its citizens, instead. For ages it’s seemed like an either/or proposition, but a new trend in city planning may have found a way to elegantly balance both.

Urban gardening takes root

Urban gardening seeks to reclaim unused or ill-used public spaces and transform them into productive edible gardens which are open to the public or designed to benefit specific social service or non profit groups. Image Credit: Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

Urban agriculture is a unique way for cities to prioritize food over flowers, and a growing number of cities are embracing this concept wholeheartedly. Urban gardening seeks to reclaim unused or ill-used public spaces and transform them into productive edible gardens which are open to the public or designed to benefit specific social service or non profit groups. Some forms of urban gardening look to replace cement or vacant lots with vibrant growth while others try to reframe gardens from just looking good, to tasting good, too.

Wondering what these rich urban gardening projects look like? They truly are as diverse and unique as the vegetable varieties they grow — here are three great examples of urban gardening projects taking root in Europe and North America.

The Edible City

Andernach, Germany, is known as The Edible City, due to their commitment to planting fruits and vegetables on city land, rather than flowers. This initiative officially began in 2010, and has worked to transform over 86,000 square feet of city property into lush vegetable gardens filled with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetable. This urban gardening initiative has met with resounding success, due in large part to incredible community support and involvement. The creative minds behind the project keep community members engaged and interested by continually reinventing the program to feature different plants — planting hundreds of heirloom varieties of tomatoes one year for example, so the public could see and taste the differences between plant types — and constantly innovating and explaining the program.

This creative rethinking of public space wasn’t without its challenges, but an unexpected stumbling block described in an article about The Edible City was that the public was initially quite reluctant to pick the fruits and vegetables as they began to ripen.

The notion of private space and ownership is so deeply ingrained in our modern society that signs had to be put up encouraging people to help themselves to the bounty. In doing so, The Edible City is changing the urban landscape of Andernach but also reframing how its inhabitants think about and use public space.

The Edible Bus Stop

London, too, is seeking to transform public spaces through urban gardening with a collective called The Edible Bus Stop. Image Credit: The Edible Bus Stop (Instagram)

London, too, is seeking to transform public spaces through urban gardening with a collective called The Edible Bus Stop. Made up of landscape architects, garden designers, horticulturists, artists and activists, this group believes that “a brutal landscape makes for a brutal outlook, and that by taking responsibility for our urban environment, we can improve upon the experience of inner city living”.  As anyone who’s spent any significant amount of time within a major city can attest, this idea of a physical environment both reflecting and affecting one’s emotional state is absolutely spot on.

This group works to change drab, dull, and depressing urban spaces with bursts of color and fresh fruit and veggies. As the name would suggest, one of their first projects was to transform three bus stops along the number 322 bus route in London into edible gardens.

It began with one small patch and one bus stop, but the effort quickly bloomed to other spaces as well. The Edible Bus stop group has now expanded their efforts into art installations (check out this fantastic “Roll Out the Barrows” installation, featuring colorful wheelbarrows filled with plants) and pocket gardens which add glimpses of rich green life in the most unexpected spaces.

O Canada

In another urban gardening success story, Victoria, British Columbia has taken advantage of its location in one of Canada’s most encouraging growing climates to transform part of a public square into a food-producing space. A post on the city’s website explains the initiative, stating,

For the third consecutive year, the City of Victoria is partnering with Our Place Society, whose staff, family members and volunteers will plant, maintain and harvest vegetables and herbs to make meals for its lunch program. Seedlings will be provided by the City and will include oregano, kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, basil, dill, red cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes. Sunflowers will be planted to provide color and food in the garden. Existing plants in the edible garden include large artichoke, fig trees, goumi berries, chives, and thyme.

This is urban gardening with a cause — all the produce will be harvested and donated to the Our Place Society, an organization which serves the poor, disadvantaged and homeless population of the city. Veggies will be featured in their lunch program and meals will be seasoned with herbs from the garden as well. Participants in the program can assist with gardening and harvesting the herbs and vegetables, as well as enjoy the delicious (and nutritious) fruits and vegetables of their labors. The program is designed to connect community members through natural spaces while also raising awareness of food issues.

These initiatives featured in Andenach, London, and Victoria are only three of thousands of urban gardening projects growing around the globe. As issues of food scarcity, resource allocation, responsible water use and how to build vibrant and inclusive communities increases, I think -and hope – we’ll see an increase in these useful green spaces, too.

Feature image credit: LUMOimages / Shutterstock

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Landscaping stolen out of Cleveland Cultural Garden


Someone is stealing landscaping from the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, now the people who volunteer and spend their own money bettering this garden hope the thieves won’t be back for more.

Only a year ago the Polish Cultural Gardens in Wade Park was in disarray and neglected. But in a matter of months, a trio of women, all of Polish heritage, turned it around.

“We’re invested in this. It’s a labor of love and we are very sad right now,” said Connie Adams, who serves as Polish Garden Delegate to the Cultural Garden Federation of Cleveland.

No sooner than they got everything planted and blooming, Adams says, they got ripped off.

“Last evening somebody came and stole some very expensive plants, plant material, and we’re a little disheartened by that…a lot disheartened,” Adams said.

There are now deep holes where hundreds of dollars worth of hydrangeas, phlox and hostas were planted. Even more upsetting, the ladies went digging in to their own pockets for the garden improvements.

“We knew we were taking a risk, but we said ‘let’s go for it,'” said Adams.

Other cultural garden delegates and neighbors are also disappointed to hear that volunteers’ time is being wasted, and landscaping is disappearing.

“When people come and steal it, it’s like stealing from all of Cleveland,” said Cindy Fish, the delegate for the British Cultural Garden.

“They’re working very hard and they’re trying to make this area beautiful,” said Gladys Burnett, who lives nearby.

Now they all hope nothing more is taken here or elsewhere, but they still feel vulnerable, given that the garden is open to the public.

“Unless we pitch a tent and have someone on guard which, how ridiculous is that? That’s sometimes what you feel like you have to do,” said Fish.

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Gardening Tips: Enjoy colour with summer entertaining

At the end of July I’m starting some summer holidays. Since we have had major outdoor construction with the addition of several patios, walkways and retaining walls, I will be replanting some shrub and perennial beds that were impacted by the work, as well as finally finishing my container planting.

After all, I have all these lovely areas for summer entertaining that now need pops of colour!

There are still lots of colourful plants to choose from at the garden centre but I will be sure to plant them in early morning or evening if this hot weather continues. It puts less stress on both you and the plants.

Midsummer is the time to reassess your existing basket, window boxes and containers. You may have long, leggy growth that needs to be trimmed back. Pruning always stimulates new growth.

By nipping off the ends of stems you will be encouraging the plants to bush out from the crown and along the stem length. Most trailing plants benefit from regular pinching.

In fact, you can start pinching now even if you don’t have any lanky growth. This regular maintenance task will keep plants lush and full. It’s especially important for the vigorous Supertunias and Wave Petunias.

Some flowers have been blooming for a while now and have started to produce seeds. Seed production takes a lot of energy from the plant. For annuals, it triggers the ‘end of the season’.

By removing the spent flowers and newly forming seeds, plants get the signal to continue flowering.

Fertilizing is critical during the summer. Rain and regular watering washes nutrients right through the soil, leaving little behind for plant growth.

If leaves are looking pale green or yellow and flowers have gotten smaller or sparse, it’s a sure sign that nutrients are lacking.

Use water soluble fertilizer, as it is quickly absorbed by plant roots. I fertilize often but give my planters and baskets an extra feed about a week before I am expecting company. It is a great ‘pick-me-up’ for the flowers.

Even if you plants are looking good now, regular fertilizing is still important. You can use water soluble fertilizer 1/4 strength weekly for a nice, even feed.

As an alternative, apply slow release fertilizer pellets again. Each time you water, as small amount of nutrient dissolves to feed your plants.

Now is the time to check your plants carefully for insect damage. Slugs and earwigs can be a major problem.

Go out at dusk to pick the slugs and snails off the stems and leaves or use organic slug bait in covered containers near the pots. Beer can also be used to attract and drown the slugs. The yeasty smell will attract them.

Use bait stations or low shallow container as traps. Set them out in the evening, collect and empty them in the morning. Use soya sauce with a thin layer of oil over the surface for earwigs.

Also watch for aphids and caterpillars. Deal with your insect problems quickly so that your whole pot is not ruined!

Keep an eye out for mold, Powdery Mildew and other disease problems on your annuals. Unfortunately summer weather is a perfect breeding ground for disease. Trim off badly diseased leaves and spray the plant with copper sulphate or sulphur. Both are natural fungicides.

If you have a lot of moldy leaves at the base of your plants, remove them. Then thin out stems if possible and reduce watering. You need to give the soil and foliage a chance to dry out a bit.

If you have a plant that wilts, investigate carefully before watering. Give it a good soak if the rootball is very dry. If the soil is still moist, allow it to dry out a bit.

Then water only when the soil approaches dryness, not daily if it’s not required. Some plants can collapse due to root rot from overwatering.

If containers need more of a boost, consider removing struggling plants and replacing them with some fresh flowers. I have had to do that with a few of my planters already.

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Stealing garden tips and ideas from the English countryside | THE …

The second week of July you need to take some time to relax and enjoy the garden. Forget about planting vegetables, take a break from adding more flowers and ignore the weeds. The spring rush and June explosion of blooms is slowing down and so should the gardener.

After a recent visit leading a tour to see some of the great gardens of England here are some take home ideas to consider on a summer afternoon while gazing at your own landscape:

Stealing Beauty from Powis Castle:

The claim to fame for this ancient castle on the border of Wales and England is that the layers of terraced gardens on the fortified hillside are still intact despite 400 years of garden renovations. You may not have a hillside retreat looking out over miles of ancestral land but you can steal the idea of making the most of your views.

Cut back shrubs blocking light and views from your windows and consider removing trees that compromise the view of sea or mountains. There are plenty of dwarf shrubs and compact trees to take the place of your overgrown monsters.

Summer is a fine time to clean the closets of your garden and either compost, donate or create firewood out of your overgrown specimens.

Plant idea: Grow the gray foliage of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ if you want a low water-use perennial that is easy to find at local nurseries and you’ll have a direct link to this castle in Wales. Every plant was first started from a random Artemisia plant that volunteered at Powis Castle gardens and was noticed by the head gardener because it did not send up many flowering stalks to reseed about the estate.

Today the Powis Castle, Artemisia is a favorite perennial of designers that want to use silver foliage and home owners that want to cut back on their summer water bill.

Stealing Beauty from the village of Portmeirion:

A fantasy village of turrets, towers and pastel painted buildings, some say this seaside town built at the turn of the century by an eccentric duke was the inspiration for Disneyland.

There were no giant mice dressed up with huge gloves walking around Portmeirion but there was a story book quality to the architecture and a creative use of different building materials. The take home idea is to make use of architectural fragments to build your own arbors, benches and garden sheds.

Create your own style by adding bits of ironwork to a simple shed and use pastel paint to give fences, benches and door frames a dream like quality. Fearless design is the mother of creativity and the collection of hotels, restaurants, pavilions and gardens of Portmeirion was enchanting and original.

(Note: The town charges an entry fee to visitors to keep the streets from becoming too crowded dirt cheap compared to what Walt Disney demanded to enter his magic kingdom.)

Plant Idea: Hydrangeas in pastel shades of pink, lavender and blue dot the gardens of Portmeirion as this shrub thrives in the cool mist along the coast of Wales. Hydrangeas love cool weather so at home grow your own hydrangeas where they are shaded from the hot afternoon sun.

Stealing Beauty from The Lost Gardens of Heligan: In Cornwall

This renovated estate garden of Heligan was rescued from generations of decay to become one of the premier tourist attractions in Great Britain. The huge estate has a walled Victorian vegetable garden, a ravine full of tropical plants, a rope bridge and woodland walks and the famous modern sculptures that feature a troll’s head and a giant lady lying asleep covered with moss and ornamental grasses.

Plant Idea: Heirloom fruits and vegetables are the stars of the edible Victorian garden and the head gardener told our group of American tourists that the best place to order heirloom vegetable seeds was from American seed companies.

Heirloom vegetables are those grown one hundred years ago before our food was shipped to market in trucks. The modern vegetables we now consume have thick skins and slow ripening for ease of transport often at the expense of flavor and nutrition.

The biggest seller of heirloom seeds today is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This family owned company is also known for their seed bank and National Heirloom Expo out of Santa Rosa California. (Check out the for more information.)

Next week: part two of the best ideas from the English Garden tour.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horthiculture from WSU She can be reached at


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Use these six tips for managing your new vegetable garden – Midland Reporter

vegetable garden

Posted: Monday, July 25, 2016 9:55 am

Use these six tips for managing your new vegetable garden

By Jeff Floyd

Texas AM Agrilife Extension Agent-Horticulture

Midland Reporter-Telegram


If you’ve decided to start your first vegetable patch, you’re in luck. To defeat the sometimes short-lived dream of having a garden full of fresh produce, too many beginners make a mad dash to the nursery in search of whatever is available to plant. After returning home with stockpile large enough to challenge the Norwegian doomsday vault (look it up at, these eager would-be gardeners might begin to realize just how unprepared they are.

Here are six tips to help you avoid falling into this gaggle of garden greenhorns.

– Begin with the end in mind.

Select vegetables that your family enjoys. Don’t waste valuable time, money, energy and space on a bed of vegetables just to see if you can actually grow them. Plant your favorites to minimize waste. Radishes might be nutritious and easy to grow, but they’ll end up in the compost bin if your family doesn’t like them. Choose a planting strategy that works for you such as growing the most productive vegetables, the most nutritious vegetables, the most expensive vegetables or the most drought tolerant vegetables and so on.

– Shed some light on the subject.

Locate your garden in a spot where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight every day — eight hours is even better. This is one instance when more is better. Avoid planting too close to trees, walls or fences that cast a shadow over you garden. You can always invent clever methods for providing additional shade, but it’s almost impossible to increase the amount of light that reaches your vegetables.

– Give your veggies a hand up.

Compared to traditional rows, raised beds warm up sooner in the spring, require less effort to keep tidy and drain better. The ease of attaching a low greenhouse tunnel to a 12- inch raised planter box allows you to start earlier in the season and keep plants in production longer. Couple this with the use of mulch to help moderate temperature extremes and you can add more than a month on each end of the growing season. A longer growing season delivers a bigger harvest of the fresh, tasty vegetables you enjoy most.

– Make a big deposit.

Add well-composted, plant-based organic matter to the soil. A tablespoon of soil having as little as five percent organic matter may contain millions of microscopic soil animals. They use materials rich in carbon and nitrogen as a source of food. This lively underground world of beneficial bacteria, fungi and insects improve the soil and create a bank of water, air and minerals highly prized by plants. Soils low in organic matter can easily lose their structure leaving them prone to compaction with fewer water and air pockets.

 – Give them a tall drink of water.

Place your garden near a source of high-quality water. Although a 100 foot garden hose might come in handy for reaching long distances, they become heavy and unwieldy once filled with water. Dragging and untangling a long hose becomes an exhausting task that quickly loses its charm. I prefer to work within 25 feet of a rain barrel or faucet.

 – Don’t stray too far from home.

By positioning the garden near a regularly visited window, you’ll have a pleasing visual reminder to keep up with weeding, watering and other chores such as harvesting zucchini before they take up more space than a baseball bat.

For help in starting a garden contact me at the Texas AM AgriLife Extension office at 432-686-4700. You can also learn how to become a Master Gardener in 2017 by emailing

© 2016 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Monday, July 25, 2016 9:55 am.

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