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Archives for August 6, 2016

Burgon & Ball supports new generation garden design

Burgon Ball has been encouraging young garden design talent with support for Lilly Gomm, a finalist in the RHS Young Designer competition at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

Lilly Gomm used Burgon Ball tools for her award-winning design
The Sheffield-based manufacturer supplied a range of tools and equipment for use during the construction of the garden, as well as props and accessories that were used to ‘dress’ the finished garden to create the perfect look.

The RHS Young Designer competition, now in its eighth year, was created to give young designers the opportunity to showcase their work at a high profile horticultural event and really kick-start their careers. Previous Tatton alumni have gone on to design gardens at the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, including Hugo Bugg (2010 winner) and Sam Ovens (2014 winner).

This year three finalists were selected to design a show garden based on the theme of Health, Happiness and Horticulture. The garden that Miss Gomm created using Burgon Ball tools was entitled ‘A Space to Ruminate’, an area designed to draw visitors into the garden through the use of a stepped wooden pergola and reclaimed scaffolding path.

Said Miss Gomm: “I’m so grateful for the support from Burgon Ball: it felt like Christmas when the tools arrived! It made the build of my show garden a lot easier, as the team had exactly the right tools for the job at every stage. Trying to get established in a career in garden design is far from straightforward, and it’s great that a company like Burgon Ball is helping young people like myself.”

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How to dog-proof your garden design

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Cleaning a standstone top on brick wall

Q: How do you clean a sandstone top that sits atop a brick wall? Thank you for all previous information you have given me; it has been very helpful. — via email

A: There are different types of sandstone, and the cleaning recommendations vary depending on its type.

If it is a calcareous sandstone, it should be cleaned by washing it with an alkaline cleaner. But if it is one of the other sandstones, it should be washed with a hydrofluoric acid-based cleaner. This should be done only by an experienced contractor.

Don’t use any of the following: other cleaners that contain acid (bathroom, grout or tub cleaners), ammonia, bleach or vinegar, or alkaline cleaners not formulated for that type of stone. Stay away from dry, abrasive cleaners that would scratch the stone.

You may want to try using a dishwashing detergent applied with a soft-bristle brush, followed with a clean water rinse. It may or may not work, depending on the kind of dirt on the sandstone and the depth of penetration.

Once clean, seal the stone with Dupont StoneTech Bulletproof Sealer, following the instructions on the container. Be sure to use a paint pad to apply the sealer, never a cloth.

Q: We had Marblestone installed in our master bath as a vanity top and a shower surround. The fabricator and installer said to clean it with water only and to seal it once per year. With each passing month, the shower gets cloudier and water stained, even though we squeegee it after every use. Our town is on well water, and we soften it with iron-removing salt. We have unsuccessfully used water, diluted dish soap, an ‘’all natural’’ cleaner and Granite Gold Daily Cleaner — and still it gets worse. We were instructed not to use vinegar, which seemed like a logical solution. Can you offer any advice? — South Elgin, Illinois, via email

A: The granite cleaner you used etched the marble, as would any product with an acidic base, such as vinegar. The dish soap you used may have had an acidic base, as many do. Try using Dawn dish soap, which has an alkaline base.

Another suggestion is to try to clean the shower walls with Super Shine-All or other brands of cleaners specifically made for cleaning marble, which you should be able to buy in stores selling marble and some hardware stores.

If none of the above works, you may want to try Hillyard Citrus-Scrub, which has a neutral pH.

Hillyard has several distributors in Illinois. Its website is On the top line, click on ‘’Hillyard Locations,’’ enter your ZIP code in the search box at the top right and click the search icon.

Q: I read your column regularly in the Daily Herald newspaper and have found it to be very helpful.

Our house is lower than the next two houses on our street. The landscaping between these houses channels their water in the direction of my house.

Over the years, and rain upon rain, we have experienced seepage primarily on the floor of our north basement wall and commonly on the floor of our west basement wall. I have done many things to address this problem:

1. Replaced window well covers.

2. Installed downspout extenders putting the water 15 feet away from the house.

3. Laid down a total of 18 cubic yards of dirt on the west and north sides of the house to remedy the negative grade toward the house.

4. Cleared out the window well drain top ‘’filter.’’

My wife and I are tired of the seepage. A month ago, I replaced the two window wells on the north and west walls and sealed them against the house. I covered them with clear window well covers.

When the north window well was replaced, the installers told me that the drainpipe was cracked 18 inches down. They also said that because the window well drain hole was deeper than the window well, dirt and pea gravel had washed into the window well drain. Instead of having them fix the broken pipe, I thought it would be best to have a plumber out to let me know the extent of the problem.

The plumber scoped the drains with a camera and found that the drain was plugged. Also, the window well on the south side was plugged under the basement floor in the laundry room. He used a GPS locator to detect where his camera was in the pipe.

I am told of something called a water jet that can clear pipes. If the water jet works, it would seem most likely to work from the sump pump pit back up into the drainpipes where the content would naturally drain back into the pit. Would a water jet damage the pipes?

The window well installers said they could dig down to the foundation and either cut the pipe and clear out the remainder, or clear out the pipe altogether. Ideally, I’d like to have the south drain cleared as well, but that could possibly involve busting up the basement laundry room floor to replace the clogged portion of the pipe.

Do you have any thoughts, questions, ideas? Thank you for any help you can provide. — Carol Stream, Illinois

A: You have raised the negative grade, extended the downspouts, replaced the window wells, and covered them, and you still have leakage?

Something does not add up to a surface water problem around your house. If previous leakage occurred through the window wells, it is most likely because of negative grading next to them, since you had covers over them. Your grade corrections should have taken care of this problem.

Since the leakage occurs during long periods of rain, it may be that the drainage from your neighbors, which may include their roof water, is not only percolating into the soil, but also reaching and running down your foundation. The latter should have been cured with your grade corrections.

It is also possible that there is a spring close to your foundation that swells in these lengthy periods of rain.

In either of these scenarios, repairing the window wells’ drainpipes would not solve the problem. No water should enter the drywells with proper grading and effective covers. So you need to ask yourself if it is worth the expense of getting the drainpipes cleared up or replaced before making sure that they are responsible for the leakage.

I suggest that you be patient, try to determine if either of the possibilities I mentioned above is the culprit, and if it is, how best to deal with it. The difficulty will be to ascertain which of the two it is, and that’s a hard one to figure out.

If you can determine for sure that the problem is coming from the neighbors, building a curtain drain between your uphill neighbors and your house to catch the water is one way to deal with it. But it would not help if the leakage is caused by a swelling spring.

The better way to deal with the leakage — if it still occurs — is to install a drainage system inside the basement, leading to a sump pump. This would cover both possibilities — a spring and runoff from the neighbors.

This can be done by installing a drainage system around the perimeter of the basement below the slab, or a surface system at the joint of the slab and the foundation walls.

Please write again if you need more information on these drainage systems.

Henri de Marne’s book, ‘’About the House,’’ is available at and in bookstores.

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Trump’s a Micromanager: What’s Wrong With That?

Originally, comparative advantage referred to the trade between nations. Today, the same concept is applied to positions within an organization. For example, the CEO might be better at being the CEO and doing bookkeeping than the bookkeeper. However, if CEOs did bookkeeping, they would not have the time to be as effective at leading their companies. Therefore, bookkeepers (and everyone else in the company) are better off if CEOs devote full time to running the business and let the bookkeepers take the bookkeeping chores off of their shoulders. That way, CEOs can make more “deals” for the benefit of all in their organizations.

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Rider and bike data gives Pacers Bikeshare officials info to study, share

Nearly 26 times a day, someone checks out a Pacers Bikeshare bike from the station at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets.

It’s the most active of the bikeshare system’s 27 stations—busier than the one at White River State Park and busier even than the ones on trendy Massachusetts Avenue.

What makes this fact more interesting: The Washington/Meridian station wasn’t even in the program’s original plans.

But the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a local not-for-profit that runs the bikeshare, sought public input before the program’s launch in April 2014, and people said they wanted a station at the busy intersection. That was a challenge, remembers Kären Haley, executive director at the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, because the high-tech bike racks need power and take up space, making the station compete with the trail’s landscaping.


But demand for a station was so strong that organizers chose bikes over blooms in that spot.

“I think it was the right decision,” Haley said.

In fact, bikeshare officials know it was a good move, thanks to the program’s sophisticated data tracking system. All 251 bikes are outfitted with GPS equipment; at any given time, staffers can identify their location. Software tells how many times each bike gets checked out, how long each trip is, and where the bike goes.

If a bike needs immediate maintenance—it has a flat tire, for instance—staffers can lock it into a station so no one can check it out until it’s fixed.

And the data collected from sign-ups for daily and annual passes helps staffers determine that annual members are more likely to use the program on weekdays, and that usage among this group spikes at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m., correlating with commuting and lunch patterns.

In contrast, daily users are more active on Saturdays and Sundays. Among this group, the usage chart looks more like a gentle curve, with peak ridership in the hours of 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The data also represents “a very unique opportunity” for academic researchers, said Jeff Wilson, professor of geography and associate dean for research at IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts.

 Se e which stations are used most, who rides the bikes and more.

About six months ago, Pacers Bikeshare started sharing its user data with IUPUI for research purposes.

This data set, Wilson said, includes 13.5 million data points—GPS information gathered whenever the bikes are in motion.

“It’s an incredibly huge data set,” he said. “You need very powerful computers to process it and work with it.”

Right now, researchers are cleaning up the data to make it easier to use.

Once that’s accomplished, Wilson said, the information could be useful across a variety of disciplines: geography, public health, physical education, health behavior and tourism management.

Researchers could look at how much physical activity bikeshare use provides in comparison with recommended levels of exercise. Or they might discover efficiencies—ideas for locating bikeshare stations so the system runs more smoothly.

The bikeshare concept is still relatively new in the United States. Wilson said he’s not aware of any other bikeshare research that uses GPS data with the degree of detail the Pacers Bikeshare has provided.

“We’re really excited about the project.”

The data also is helping Pacers Bikeshare consider its future.

When the service launched, money for the equipment—all the bikes and stations—came from a $1 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the Federal Highway Administration.

Haley said she intends to apply for a similar grant this fall. If Pacers Bikeshare secures the grant, it would use the money to double the number of bikes and stations in coming years.

Usage data will be key in deciding where the new stations should go, and whether the bikeshare should expand its footprint to include more off-trail stations.

Because the bikeshare and the Cultural Trail are intended to complement each other, Haley said, bikeshare data can also help with trail planning.

“It helps us plan for what’s next,” Haley said. “Where are people riding that’s now off-trail?”•

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Hot Property: Signed, sealed, delivered

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There are aspects of houses and home deals that just scream out for one’s attention. Among them are A-list celebrity owners, secret rooms, jaw-dropping interiors, magical gardens and framed NBA jerseys. Murder also makes the list this week, as does a way-over-asking sales price.

Neal J. Leitereg and Lauren Beale

They had us at Brando

A Hollywood Hills residence where actor Marlon Brando once made his home has sold for $2.73 million.

Besides the legendary parties thrown by the Oscar winner during his ownership, the property was later known as the site of a star-attracting yoga center. Actor Stacy Keach, actress Tina Louise and singers Carole King and James Taylor are among those who frequented the studio.

Through the years, other occupants have included rock star Frank Zappa, actress Barbara Hershey and “Kung Fu” actor David Carradine.

Is that not enough? A bookshelf in the study of the 4,000-square-foot home can be moved to reveal a hidden room — a feature of the Prohibition-era design.

The former home of Brando sold in Hollywood Hills for $2.73 million. (Nick Springett | Inset: Getty Images)

Over the top

This is one way to get a soap star’s autograph. Galen Gering of “Days of Our Lives” has sold his Hollywood Hills home for $2.55 million — far surpassing the actor’s $1.695-million asking price.

The 1920s Spanish Revival-style house is a showstopper with intricate details and graceful interiors. “Lush” falls short of describing the landscaping, which artfully surrounds patios, decks, an outdoor fireplace and an open-air meditation house.

We would like to start a fan club for this house. Props to Gering and his wife, model-actress Jenna Gering, for creating this L.A. Shangri-La. They bought the house in 2000 for about $755,000.

Gering sold his home in Hollywood Hills for over the asking price. ( | Getty Images)

Where are they now?

A childhood home of socialites Paris and Nicky Hilton has come on the market in Bel-Air for $7.25 million.

The stately Traditional, built in 1931, was owned by family patriarch Rick Hilton, a grandson of hotelier Conrad Hilton, from 1980 until the early 1990s.

So what are the heiresses, who furthered their fame on reality television, up to these days?

Paris Hilton, now 35, still makes tabloid fodder. She was recently spotted near the Mediterranean island of Ibiza flashing some skin in a black swimsuit.

Meanwhile, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, 32, has been out and about in New York with her newborn daughter.

The early childhood home of the Hiltons is for sale in Bel-Air for $7.25 million. (Tom Hunter Photography | Getty Images)

A supermodel home

So. Darn. Pretty. That’s our reaction to the Hollywood West house that supermodel, actress and television host Rachel Hunter has put on the market for just under $5 million.

Hidden behind gates and privacy hedges, the 1930s English Country-style house has been brightened up with contemporary details.

But it’s the leaded-glass windows, pointed Gothic arches and charming Dutch door entry that have us drooling. That bathroom chandelier shaped like an old-timey sailing vessel? Not so much.

Hunter put her English country-inspired home in Hollywood Hills West on the market for about $5 million. (Pierre Galant | Associated Press)

Parting with party pad

NBA All-Star Tyson Chandler has sold his rookie-year crib in Riverside for $798,000.

Set behind gates on about an acre, the Mediterranean-style home is tricked out for entertaining with a wide covered patio, a built-in barbecue and a fenced swimming pool and spa. Attached and detached garages can park up to 11 cars.

Among rooms in the 4,000 square feet of interior space was one decorated with his framed jerseys.

Chandler, 33, averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 66 games for the Phoenix Suns last season. He has another home in Hidden Hills for sale at $8.995 million.

Chandler, the former Dominguez High star and NBA veteran, sold his home in Riverside for $798,000. ( | Getty Images)

Blast from the past

After 47 years of ownership, actress Eve Plumb of “The Brady Bunch” has sold her oceanfront house in Malibu for $3.9 million.

She bought the bungalow in 1969 when she was 11 years old for $55,300, records show. That was the same year she became a television staple as middle daughter Jan. Not a bad place to park her earnings and watch them grow.

The 1950s cottage, which sold with plans for a whole-house remodel and expansion, has three bedrooms and 1.75 bathrooms in 850 square feet of space. Decks wrap around the home, which takes in views of the sand.

Plumb sold her oceanfront home in Malibu for $3.9 million. (Nick Springett | Los Angeles Times)

Brave new owners

The so-called Los Feliz murder house has sold for $2.3 million to civil rights attorney and television legal analyst Lisa Bloom and her husband, Internet entrepreneur Braden Pollock. Bloom’s mom is high-profile civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.

The infamous Spanish Colonial Revival is where in 1959 then-owner Dr. Harold Perelson killed his wife in the master bedroom before taking his own life, according to archives from The Times.

Subsequent owners never moved into the three-story home, and it sat dormant for more than half a century — becoming a local landmark and an attraction for thrill-seekers.

The 5,050 square feet of interior space will require a total remodel and, perhaps, an exorcism.

Bloom paid about $2.3 million for the infamous murder house in Los Feliz. ( | Nicole Madau)

Remember when?

Twenty years ago, actor Hugh Grant picked up a furnished Beverly Hills home for lease at close to $11,000 a month. The London resident was in the film “Extreme Measures” that year. This month, he stars with Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

Ten years ago, actress Sharon Stone listed a Beverly Hills home she had bought a few months earlier at $12.5 million. Rumor had it the place was an impulse buy and love at first sight didn’t last.

What we’re reading

— The sound of four hands clapping: The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced that it will require buyers of luxury homes in Los Angeles and other California counties with pricey real estate to reveal their identities when making cash buys through shell companies. Self-interest aside, we have long suspected that these secret buyers sometimes pay more for homes, distorting property values.

— Is it just our imagination or is L.A. getting hotter? In response to the region’s prolonged drought, tens of thousands of homeowners replaced their water-guzzling lawns last year with dry landscapes. Now researchers are taking a look at what the loss of this “natural air-conditioning” is doing to our temperatures, reports The Times’ Deborah Netburn.

— We’re digging this idea. Take a two-block stretch of vacant and abandoned homes in Detroit, raze them and erect 25 tiny homes of 250 to 400 square feet each. Then rent them on a lease-to-own basis to people who earn less than $9,000 a year. The experimental project, reported at Deadline Detroit, hopes to help low-income people become homeowners, upgrade a blighted area and create energy-efficient living spaces that reduce the carbon footprint.

— Potential L.A. home buyers continue to face an uphill climb to own in the current market, even with an uptick in supply, Inman News LA reports. In June, the overall supply was 2.4 months, according to data compiled by Redfin. Typically a well-balanced market will have six months of supply.

For more luxury real estate, visit us at the Hot Property blog and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

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When garage and garden collide: Quality Collision fills site with landscaping, vegetation – The Herald

Joshua Wells, 9, enters his father’s garden at Quality Collision. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times.

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Horticultural mentors can change the landscape – The San Diego Union

Mentorships can be found in the horticulture industry, but they are not required. And when one presents itself, it’s not necessarily a young college graduate who lands it.

Dave Ericson earned a B.S. in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly Pomona in 1976, then set out on a career as a landscape contractor. In 1994, he responded to an ad for a landscape consultant at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

“The general manager offered me the job, then admitted, ‘You were our third choice,’” Ericson recalled. “When he asked if I would accept the position, I said, ‘I’ll take the job if I can get your first choice, too.’”

Chuck Kline, SeaWorld’s former horticulturist, in his home garden in 1990.

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Chuck Kline, SeaWorld’s former horticulturist, in his home garden in 1990.

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First choice was the late Chuck Kline, retired director of horticulture at SeaWorld. A master plantsman, Kline became a legend in the 1970s when he transformed a salt marsh into the lush gardens that was SeaWorld San Diego. He did this by installing small mounds of top soil throughout the property which served as barriers between the delicate roots of the flowering plants above and the saltwater below.

When Ericson tried to enlist Kline’s assistance, he accepted with a few conditions. “Chuck said, ‘I’ll do this at no charge, but nothing political and I won’t go to meetings,’” Ericson remembered.

Curious, Ericson asked why he was willing to do it. “Because you’re the kind of guy who will pass it on,” Kline told him. Ericson embarked on a mentee relationship with Chuck Kline until Kline passed away in 2005, then “paid it forward” by mentoring other budding landscape professionals.

Ericson recalls his first lesson from Kline was about “inside out” landscaping.

“One day Chuck said, ‘If you don’t remember anything else I teach you, remember to look from the inside of a house out, and landscape it accordingly to the view,’” Ericson explained. “Another principle Chuck taught me was using different size plants for variety as they grow. In nature, nothing is the same size.”

After retirement, Kline returned to SeaWorld part time in the 1990s and was generous in sharing his knowledge with others, including co-worker Stephanie Shigematsu.

A garden designed by Bill Teague.

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A garden designed by Bill Teague.

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“When I started to work at SeaWorld, it began as a part-time job while I studied for my CPA exam,” she recalled. “I was inspired by Chuck and Susan Anderson, also a colleague, to learn all I could about horticulture, which I did by taking classes, reading no less than 25 horticulture journals and magazines and hanging on to all the information Chuck shared about his experiences.”

Shigematsu went on to become horticulture manager, then director of landscaping at SeaWorld before leaving to join the staff of The San Diego Zoo, where today she is curator of horticulture.

Kline introduced Ericson to the late Bill Teague, horticulturist at San Diego Botanic Gardens (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens). Teague was also known for landscaping the city of Del Mar, including City Hall, the library and even the median strips. He occasionally opened his private garden to the public.

For Katie Pelisek, meeting Bill Teague was life changing.

“I met Bill in his front garden under a Forest Pansy Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) tree during a tour of his gardens,” she recalled. “I had recently moved from the D.C. area and knew nothing about Southern California plants. He encouraged me to take the docent class at Quail Botanical Gardens.

“After I graduated from the class the spring of 1999, the first opportunity to volunteer was helping with the Del Mar Fair display. When I heard Bill was the master designer, I signed up, then worked with him on the display for 11 years.”

During her time working with Teague, he shared his tips and tricks.

“When Bill would add a path, it was a meandering one so the focal points were revealed as you went around each bend,” she recalled.

“He always considered the sun when he planted, how it would rise or set and how that would backlight a tree to set it aglow — especially his favorite ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud tree.”

Most importantly, he encouraged her to apply her degree in graphic design.

“Bill told me to ‘paint with plants’ and encouraged me to start a landscape design business,” she said, adding that in 2002 she started Pelican Design.

Chuck Kline created a technique known as mounding for the SeaWorld landscaping. It facilitates saltwater drainage, resulting in healthier, more beautiful plants.

SeaWorld San Diego

Chuck Kline created a technique known as mounding for the SeaWorld landscaping. It facilitates saltwater drainage, resulting in healthier, more beautiful plants.

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Jeremy Spath is owner of Waters Path — Landscape Design, and curator for Rancho Soledad Nursery in Rancho Santa Fe. He was young, and laments being brash, when he met Teague a decade ago.

“In one of our first interactions, I told Bill that I often heard that he was a ‘big deal’ and a great landscape designer, but that I didn’t think his gardens were so great,” he recalled. “My intention was not meant in any rude or malicious manner, and he knew that. In fact, his response was, ‘I know you don’t, Jeremy.’”

“When Bill would come to the garden, I would always find a way to work with him,” Spath said. “Over time, I gained an appreciation of the subtleties in the landscape and the need for flow, elevation changes and boulders throughout the design, for maximum interest.”

A passion they shared was discovering new and unusual plants that could be incorporated into landscapes.

“The philosophy of mimicking nature as much as possible in design was one I carried on further as I left the gardens after five years,” he said. “I began to seek out more and more natural habitats around the world, of the plants I loved to grow at home.”

Today, Spath gives presentations at the San Diego Botanic Garden, the Cactus and Succulent Society of America and other venues, discussing photographs he’s taken of indigenous plants on his travels to South Africa, Madagascar, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cuba, Panama, Columbia, Peru and Mexico.

Cox is a San Diego freelance writer.

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Gardening column: Tips for raising healthy Hibiscus plants – Living …

The hardy Hibiscus plants are in full bloom at this time of year and slowing traffic in several front yard gardens along the streets I often travel. This dazzling plant is easy to grow, can survive our coldest winters, and offers weeks of pleasure each summer.

In the hope of enticing you to add these plants to your landscape, I’m including a little history along with how easy they are to grow and care for:

• This plant is not the fussy tropical plant we have to take inside in winter — this one is wild at heart. These are yard shrubs that are winter-hardy as far north as Zone 4.

• This plant with its dinner plate-sized blooms originated from wildflowers that were hybridized from family members such as Hibiscus, rose mallow, althea, rose of Sharon, giant mallow, swamp mallow and so on.

• “John Bartram was stunned by these flowers. As early as 1807, the catalog of John Bartram and Son in Philadelphia listed the precious seeds of the wild ones. John Bartram (1699-1777) was one of the earliest and most famous plant explorers from Pennsylvania who traveled in the New World to find new plants. Specimens grown of the mammoth-flowered plants were an instant sensation in Europe. But the wild versions are mostly swamp dwellers and/or rangy tall shrubs with few flowers. Of course in time, brilliant hybridizers would solve all those “problems” and more. A few hardy hybridizers have done wonders with the species. Imagine how Bartram would be thrilled if he could see the dressed-up descendants of his discoveries today!” (Ray Allen, Founder of

• If you purchase these plants you can choose from one color or many — some displays I’ve seen this summer the gardener had planted a variety of colors so it reminded me of a rosy red and yellow rainbow of huge delicate looking blooms all nodding their heads at us as we drove by.

• These plants are easy to grow. Fortunately, they are adaptable but they do want to be grown in full sun in well-drained soil.

• You can purchase transplants from a nursery or online, or be given seed from a friendly neighbor.

• If you grow from seed nick the hard seed coat at the wider, rounded end of the seed with a clean sharp knife. Soak the seeds in a small bowl of hot water for up to 24 hours. Fill a planting tray with moist seed-starting mix, usually a soilless product that combines perlite, vermiculite and peat moss.

• Before transplanting to the garden, amend the soil with compost to counteract the clay we have in abundance in Allen County.

• These plants are deciduous and leaf out really late in spring. You might think the plant is dead and remove it — but don’t! Wait and before long you’ll see early foliage appearing.

• They aren’t going to bloom until summer but once they do, they continue into fall.

• Prune cautiously to shape the plant, also to remove dead stems and to encourage new growth.

• Once the bloom begins, the stems can become heavy and can flop a little so prepare by adding a little structure to support them.

• You can add bloom booster once the bloom begins — but don’t overdo it. Also don’t overdo watering the plant once it is established. When dry summer weather happens, many plants are drowned because we think we need to water more than we do. Consistency is the key.

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

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Love to garden but have physical limitations? Here are some tips

Some of what we learn in life comes out of books. Some is taught by family. But there’s a whole bunch we learn just by being humans and living in this world for enough years.

I grew up loving gardening. We lived in suburbia, so I had all the room that I needed and parents who encouraged me. With youthful energy and enthusiasm, I saw no limits.

I soon learned that limits were close ahead. My first was a restriction by space. I started college while living at home (College Station), but when I moved to a small room adjacent to Ohio State, all I had was a windowsill. But my three little windowsill plants pulled me through — along with Sunday afternoon visits to garden centers and greenhouses.

In graduate school, I always had a greenhouse for my research. When I taught high school, I had a greenhouse for my students. When we moved to DFW so I could work for Texas AM as extension horticulturist, I bought a small greenhouse. Then we bought a small acreage outside DFW so we could raise our kids in the country. (They never went outside.) With a couple of acres to call my gardens surrounding our house, I knew virtually no limits.

That was until I started to develop aches and pains and I was told that I had psoriatic arthritis. Suddenly, those two acres began to seem daunting, and I started to condense my gardening activities into more manageable spaces. “Wants” started giving way to “capabilities,” and my life gradually adjusted.

From all of that, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me immensely. Some are obvious, so if you’re light-years ahead of me, please be patient. News gets to horticulturists slowly.

Making gardening easier

Here are things that have worked for me. Hope they’re of help as you garden.

• Use a smaller scale. I no longer build 50-foot beds and fill them with color. I use smaller plantings, and I position them where they’ll receive the most views — entries and patios.

• Look for longer seasons of color. Annuals are colorful for months. Even my favorite perennials bloom only for two or three weeks. My daylilies have given way to coleus, crotons and copper plants. They’re colorful from spring until frost.

• I’ve invested in large, decorative pots that let me tend my plants without having to stoop or kneel so many times, and I’ve bought tools that make the tasks easier. Timed-release fertilizer is my ally for all of my potted plants, and water wands and water bubblers make that job faster and easier.

• Buy only plants that are perfectly adapted. Before you check out at the garden center, ask a veteran nurseryman, “Am I about to make any mistakes in buying what I have in my cart?” Let them advise you of any high-maintenance crybabies you’re about to adopt.

• Keep your plants properly watered and fertilized. Healthy plants are a lot less work than sickly plants that become invaded by insects, diseases and weeds.

• Buy tools to make your chores easier. Really good hardware stores and the very best nurseries have supplies of gardener-friendly tools. The good ones are smaller, lightweight and have better handles.

• If you’re gardening indoors (or assisting someone who does), choose plants that will hold up for many months and that will do so without a lot of care and attention. Sansevierias, aglaonemas and ponytails are three great choices. If you have ample light, grow African violets in self-watering pots.

A learning experience

The good thing about gardening, as I proved back in college, is that you can practice it just about anywhere.

Each Monday afternoon, our grandson Joseph (just turned 7) and I take leftover flowers from a local flower shop to the senior living center where his great-grandmother held him only months before she died.

We’ve been doing that for two years, and the (mostly) ladies in wheelchairs line up near the door when they think he’s coming. They love to decorate with their flowers, to set on their windowsills, and Joseph takes great pride in choosing flowers for each of his friends there. I stand off to the side smiling. And sometimes shedding a few tears of joy.

Meanwhile, he has learned empathy, patience, kindness, peace and acceptance. He’s learned that not every lady will want one of his flowers on a given day. He knows she might change her mind the following week, and he’s willing to wait. Meanwhile, it’s on to the next friend as he says, “Hope you’re having a great day. Would you like a flower?”

Yep. You really can learn a lot while you’re gardening. Joseph continues to teach me.

Finally, on a somewhat related note, I’m going to admit that I now have a handicapped permit and occasionally use a cane when walking long distances. I’ve even ridden a cart — two years ago when visiting Disney World with our family.

What I’ve observed is that you might as well be invisible if you’re riding in a wheelchair or on a cart. Not only do people dart back and forth right in front of you, but many also ignore you when greeting the rest of your family. One could easily feel “in the way” in that setting, and that made me sad — not for my plight, but for our society.

I was taking photos of all the beautiful plants those four days, but I learned a lot more about people.

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