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Archives for July 27, 2016

Stehly: ‘I want to be a voice for families’


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Visioning Program team to present final landscaping designs

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Residents share concerns and ideas as Newport develops a Mariners’ Mile master plan

How to prevent traffic and parking issues along Mariners’ Mile while maintaining Newport Harbor views and creating a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly environment were among residents’ concerns at a community meeting Monday night.

About 50 people split into groups and brainstormed ideas on large pieces of white paper to try to help the city of Newport Beach develop a master plan for the mile-and-a-half stretch of West Coast Highway between Newport Boulevard and Dover Drive.

Guests discussed their hopes for the area, as well as the potential challenges and opportunities of upgrading it.

The workshop was one of a few the city plans on the issue in coming months.

“We have an amazing piece of property that can be so much better than just another piece of asphalt,” resident Tony Valentine said.

In 2011, the City Council identified Mariners’ Mile as one of six zones in need of revitalization. Work in other areas, including Corona del Mar, Balboa and Lido villages, West Newport and Santa Ana Heights, has been underway for years.

However, a decision on how best to use the narrow Mariners’ stretch, which is hemmed in by bluffs on one side and Newport Harbor on the other, has long eluded city leaders.

Mariners’ Mile began as a nautical destination and has transformed over the past several decades into a haven for luxury car dealers, restaurants and yacht businesses.

Recently, landowners Manouch and Mark Moshayedi purchased Ardell Investment Co.’s property holdings along West Coast Highway. The purchase could play a major role in how the area changes, officials have said.

In all, the Moshayedis own about 8 acres along Mariners’ Mile, much of which could be up for redevelopment in coming years.

Several groups spoke Monday in favor of building pedestrian bridges across West Coast Highway and a boardwalk along the harborfront to improve walkability.

The ideas of increasing the number of public docks and potentially parking cars underground also were met with widespread support among attendees.

Several groups also proposed low-profile landscaping that wouldn’t affect views from the cliffs above Mariners’ Mile.

Guests couldn’t come to a consensus about the city’s proposal — outlined in the general plan — to eventually expand Mariners’ Mile to six lanes. The road currently has two to three lanes.

Some said expanding the highway would only bring more cars and exacerbate an already frustrating traffic problem, while others urged the city to do whatever is necessary to keep commuters from bypassing Mariners’ Mile and using neighborhood streets.

The city’s general plan, which guides local development, defines the area as appropriate for mixed-use residential and commercial development. Several residents were wary of adding homes there but suggested if that happened, they would prefer condominiums instead of apartments.

The information gathered at the meeting will be considered as city officials and PlaceWorks, a consulting firm, begin to put together a draft master plan. The document is expected to go to the Planning Commission by October and the City Council by the end of the year.

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Personal growth in professional gardening

Diane Virani’s first career kept her in an office with no windows. In her new career, the 60-year-old Sylvania Township woman has no need for them in her cleaning business.

Mrs. Virani sweeps and makes beds under a blue sky and an often blazing sun. It’s a second bloom for her, and it’s all for the love of green.

And it isn’t the color of money that keeps her energies and passions high.

“I wanted to get out of the office job. I’m just an outdoors person. It’s in my genetics,” she said.

Mrs. Virani said her life bloomed when she and her family moved to the area from Canada, in 2000. At that time, she decided to do away with office walls and turn her hobby into something more, taking a landscape design program at Owens Technical College and becoming a master gardener.

“Owens opened my eyes up. Here I thought I knew everything about plants. I knew nothing,” Mrs. Virani said.

Her career too took a second bloom when she turned her hobby into Second Bloom, a garden maintenance company she began in 2007. She does all the work for her 35 active clients, and except for some mulching help from her husband, Nazim, she has no employees. Her supervisor is that particular customer.

That includes weeding — which is not her favorite thing to do — watering, sweeping, pruning back perennials, mulching, spring and fall cleaning, designing, and installing. She does not climb trees.

“I do the things they don’t want to do themselves. I’m like a housekeeper for the outside,” Mrs. Virani said. “I’ll do anything my clients ask.”

But not always without questions. In fact, that’s what led to her branch out on her own. She worked for a landscaping company, but she quickly became unhappy.

“While I was pruning I’d see plant problems. I couldn’t ask questions without going through layers of people. It drove me nuts,” she said. And she got stuck with weeding. Lots of it.

Her name soon was passed among members of a bridge club, and she decided it would be easy to go out on her own.

“I’m a second pair of eyes,” she said.

When those eyes see root rot or an insect infestation, or any other signs of trouble, she can talk directly to her client and offer her suggestions. “I try to teach them,” she said.

Those lessons can include a gentle lesson about over watering, which is one of her pet peeves, or not placing a tree next to a neighbor’s fence, or not overplanting, or suggesting a client downsize their garden into something simpler and easier to maintain.

“Most of my customers are mature, and they’ve planted all this stuff maybe 10 years ago,” Mrs. Virani said. “But some still want their English gardens.”

Ultimately, she said, it’s her job to do what they want.

“When I come, [the garden] is already there,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of my job is maintenance.”

Her mantra is “right plant, right place,” which simply means that before you go out to buy a plant, make sure the spot you have in mind will give that plant the best chance to grow and flourish as well as make the maintenance go easier.

And that will save money in the end, she said.

Retail garden centers stock plants in full flower, colorful and fragrant blooms that people are drawn to as bees are to blossoms, she said. The flowers don’t last, and if they are planted in clay instead of sandy soil or in full shade when the plant needs sun, the whole plant dies, leaving a frustrated homeowner who just spent a lot of green on something that is green no longer.

Greenery is often overlooked, she said, because once the flowers bloom and fade, as they do, you are left with just that, a green plant. Mrs. Virani said she recommends shoppers gauge the color, shape, and texture. Remember too, she advised, that when you get a plant it’s usually small. But it will grow. Keep that in mind when you plant that tree or burning bush, she said, because as it grows it could impede a favored view or invade your neighbor’s space, which means pruning and trimming, or in other words, a lot of work.

That is where her services come in, and sometimes she said, it’s not a lot of fun, especially in the hot summer.

The exercise she gets outside is gym membership, she said, and most importantly, it’s satisfying to look at a clean and organized garden and face a happy client.

“My clients are the best,” she said, adding that she has a waiting list of people who want her services.

Like Connie Barron-Smith of Maumee, whose home was built in the 1860s and is on 2½ lots. “I always look forward to coming home, and I’m always amazed at the magic she’s worked. ”

Ms. Barron-Smith and Mrs. Virani became master gardeners together, and Ms. Barron-Smith became familiar with Mrs. Virani’s depth of knowledge and her passion, “And she was very willing to do the things I didn’t want to do.”

Not only does Mrs. Virani take care of the mulching and watering of the plants that try to reflect the era in which her home was built — peonies, fox glove, delphinium, viburnum, lots of hydrangea, climatis, day lillies, tons of hosta — Mrs. Virani uses her knowledge to solve problems.

“She’s been helpful in trying to get a diagnosis either through the extension office, and she also helps me when I’m looking to do a woody ornamental plant in a certain location. She does the research.

“I think over time she has become even more knowledgeable; she takes what she’s learned in one place and applies it to the other.”

Ms. Barron-Smith also employs a larger landscaping firm to do the bigger projects, but there are things that a larger company can’t do that Mrs. Virani, or others who run a smaller gardening company can.

Larger companies work under time constraints because of employees and other issues. But Mrs. Virani works on an on-call basis.

Right now Mrs. Virani says she has a waiting list of clients who want her services.

“My customers and I have such a good relationship, it’s like a blank card. I go to do the job for as long as it takes,” Mrs. Virani said.

Contact Heather Denniss at:

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Vertical garden can solve problems with space and soil





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Put some wild in your garden

Occasionally someone will refer to my yard and gardens as a jungle. I am never quite sure if they are overwhelmed by the wildness of the overgrown shrubs and nature-placed trees, or if they delight in the myriad sounds, songs and activity when wandering the areas.

It pleases me when they understand that my attention to nature’s wants and whims can produce a wildlife habitat unlike any garden you are likely to see on a tour.

Before I became so invested in wildlife gardening, I indeed used to fuss and fume over details in plant colors, heights, bloom periods and site selection. Then I observed nature in the woods and in the prairie. I’ve seen her work on wet and dry sites, as well as in sun and shade. Her pattern is a little wild, more akin to English gardens than formal gardens. But what I like most about nature’s care, is that it’s not just about the plants, but the birds, bees and a horde of other critters that call the wild place home.

Fortunately, I don’t have any restrictive subdivision covenants that prohibit individuality or transgression from the “committee approved” form of landscape, which is usually out of touch with current concept and design. Many subdivisions demand chemicals on lawns as well as irrigation systems. Neither is in the current trends of today’s landscaping ideals. My “jungle” or natural wildlife habitat is far more favored by designers over the rigors of older, traditional landscapes.

Sustainable design and eco-friendly gardening are in the forefront now — and for good reasons. Not only is there new awareness for the urgent need to be more earth friendly, but the cost savings is strong. The push for less chemically dependent exotics and lower maintenance plants also frees up time for the homeowner/gardener.

A 2016 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects emphasized the trend for natural areas. One new focus in sustainable design is interest in rainwater harvesting. As homeowners see the water costs rising, as well as the potential for more frequent and widespread drought, their interest in saving and protecting water has increased.

Landscape architects offer several solutions to water scarcity. One is less lawn, which is also on the Top-10 list for 2016 from ASLA. Traditional lawns demand more water than standard garden plants, shrubs or trees. Native plants can be an even bigger water saver once they are established. Traditional lawns also demand more chemicals to keep them green. On the other hand, grasses with a mixture of clover and violets are easy on the eye (with a burst of purple in the spring), easy on the wallet (less money on water and chemicals), and offer wildlife benefit from the clover (bees) and violets (butterflies). Moreover, without the additions of toxic chemicals, you needn’t worry about letting little ones and four-legged friends wander through the yard.

Reducing the size of the lawn means more natural or wild space. Plant natives with a focus on prairie plants. These beauties, once established, will almost take care of themselves. If you don’t have large swaths for the full prairie grasses and plants, fill your garden with low-maintenance shrubs, along with a mix of easy-care perennials like native purple coneflower, bee balm and coreopsis, and watch the birds and butterflies come for pollen, nectar and seed.

Careful selection of easy-care, drought-tolerant plants along with a mixed natural lawn and a sustainable water source will bring more birds, frogs and pollinators to your own wildlife habitat. It will also give you more time to set up that hammock and enjoy your jungle out there.

Lynn Jenkins lives in rural Zionsville, where she is learning to live green. Email her at

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Mary Hunt: DIY gardening tips, tricks and recipes | Columnists …





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