Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for August 7, 2016

Along for the Ride: Making MetroLink stations more than a place to board, exit

Other than a sea of parking and a few vending machines, the North Hanley Metro station near Interstate 70 offers little for those waiting for buses or a MetroLink train.

Plans already are in the works for big improvements to the area around the station. The University of Missouri-St. Louis is in discussions with private landowners near the station, and by the UMSL South station, to develop additional housing or retail nearby. The university owns land near the stations and is trying to come up with a plan with other landowners to build more densely around them — it could be months away from finalizing a plan with other landowners and developers for construction around the Hanley station.

Later this month, the station itself will get a closer look. It will be the first MetroLink station to get a three-hour “walk audit” to help determine what can be done to make it a place where people want to go for more than just boarding and exiting transit.

The goal is for such a station to become a destination for things to do such as maybe meeting friends for coffee, buying groceries or taking time to relax and unwind, said Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.

“We’re not looking for a to-do list for Metro,” she said, although Metro Transit is involved in the project being spearheaded by Cella’s group, which advocates for light rail expansion, and AARP in St. Louis. Other groups involved include Washington University, UMSL and the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council.

Instead, they’re looking for immediate things that can be done to make the stations better places to be — and for groups that might take on a project to improve a station, whether that’s a government group or area employer. Once they have ideas, they can pursue funding that could be from grants.

Sheila Holm, community outreach director of AARP in St. Louis, said those ideas include everything from adding more benches to new parks, as well as bringing in food trucks and providing places to buy fresh food.

Food trucks would be nice, said Sharron Smith as she waited for a train at the North Hanley station on Friday. So would a cafe like the one in the North County Transit Center, which opened to bus riders in March.

But what she really wants at the station are more basic amenities.

“A bathroom would be the No. 1 thing,” said Smith, of Moline Acres. She also wishes more security officers would be at the station, saying she sometimes doesn’t feel safe.

Cella said better lighting and landscaping also will be examined as part of the project.

“We want to create a sense of confidence in the safety and security of the station,” she said.

The North Hanley station, which is near Express Scripts and the NorthPark business park, is the first of three MetroLink stations to be examined by the architecture and design firm Arcturis. The station will get its audit Aug. 24. Additional analyses will be done at the Forest Park station on Sept. 16, and at the Delmar station Oct. 14.

To join the groups who will be looking at the stations call Citizens for Modern Transit at 314-231-7272, or visit You can email your comments to

A final report is hoped to be completed by mid-November.

Article source:

De Marne: Basement water issues may already have been solved – Tribune

De Marne: Basement water issues may already have been solved

Updated 7 hours ago

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

Our house is lower than the next two on our street. The landscaping in between 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.

— Carol Stream, Ill.

Answer: 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 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 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.

Send questions to Henri de Marne at First Aid for the Ailing House, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106; or email

Article source:

Free house tour showcasing waterscapes set for Aug. 20

Naperville homeowners looking to get away from it all might find what they’re looking for in their own back yards.

That’s the premise behind an Aug. 20 water and garden showcase during which six Naperville homes will be open for self-guided tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Aquascape Inc. Director of Field Research Ed Beaulieu said his company has built anywhere from 250 to 300 waterscapes in Naperville and the tour goal is to show people what they can do.

“Naperville is a very popular spot for us, and we’re hoping people will get some ideas, relax, and enjoy some of the patios, plantings and landscaping they’ll see,” Beaulieu said. “We do only the water features, but many of these homes have had some spectacular landscaping done and we’ve worked to incorporate our water features into them.”

Hyde Park is a Certified Community Habitat

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, has announced there are now 24 certified gardens in the Hyde Park Garden Habitat.

The Town of Hyde Park registered with the NWF to become a Certified Community Habitat on Earth Day in April. Hyde Park and Staatsburg residents are encouraged to get the word out to their neighbors and circles of friends to reach the initial goal of 150 individual residences. Schools, businesses and public spaces also will be getting involved for the Town of Hyde Park to become the third Community Wildlife Habitat in New York state and the first in Dutchess County.

There are now over 202,000 individual certified NWF wildlife habitats, 89 certified Community Wildlife Habitats and 74 communities that have registered to become certified. Each site provides the four basic elements that all wildlife need: Food, water, cover and places to raise young, and they help to create new corridors for wildlife to thrive.

Three public places have joined Hyde Park Garden Habitat: Dutchess County SPCA, the Hyde Park Community Garden and The F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association. Public places — parks, places of worship, firehouses and businesses — are ideal for habitat gardens. Since a bird bath was recently added, Hyde Park Town Hall will be certifying.

Lectures will be advertised to answer questions and share best practices. The benefits of meeting in person were evident at the first Hyde Park Garden Habitat event last month at The Henry A. Wallace Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. Gardeners shared wildlife and conservation information, favorite historical (native) and beneficial plants for pollinators, and enjoyed free seeds and a raffle for iris, thornless raspberries and finished compost.

There was already an apparent interest in beautification through gardening throughout Hyde Park and Staatsburg. Not only did the Town of Hyde Park Board support this community initiative, but the Hyde Park Visual Environment Committee (HPVEC) liked the idea of advertising the project on a bookmark. Information about becoming a member of this volunteer non-profit was added, board member Rob Waters designed it and HPVEC paid for the printing. The bookmarks are distributed at libraries, shops and public places.

As a decades-long volunteer with NWF and as a Certified Habitat Host Trainer, I am a proponent of adding at least one perennial plant that feeds or provides shelter for birds, hummingbirds, butterflies or bees each year to my yard. Native plants are self-sustaining so there’s no need for fertilizer and they provide sustenance for local wildlife. I do refer to them as our “historical plants.” Native plants are those that were already thriving when Henry Hudson’s Half Moon docked off Crum Elbow Point in Hyde Park in 1609.

Benefits for flora, fauna

The Community Wildlife Habitat program is nationwide. Towns, cities and residential associations encourage sustainable gardening and landscaping practices, and provide habitat that is beneficial for butterflies, birds, frogs and other beautiful and beneficial wildlife.

The National Wildlife Federation certification gives communities a unique and positive distinction while improving the environment and quality of life. Landscape maintenance and wildlife-friendly gardens can be done in sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to ensure that the soil, air, and water that both people and wildlife need are clean and healthy.

Barbara Hobens is the Hyde Park Garden Habitat Coordinator and Town of Hyde Park Historian.

On the web

To certify your garden:

Hyde Park Garden Habitat:

Hyde Park Visual Environment Committee:

Article source:

Walliser: In praise of the marigold – Tribune

Walliser: In praise of the marigold

Updated 7 hours ago

Marigolds may not be the world’s most gorgeous flowers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth growing.

While I avoided these humble little beauties in favor of more unusual annuals for many years, I’ve recently become reacquainted with this old-fashioned garden stalwart.

Marigolds have many merits. Though they are often said to repel rabbits, deer and other pests, this hasn’t proved to be true in my gardens. In fact, the slugs and bunnies seem to enjoy my marigolds quite a bit. But, then again, the slugs and bunnies seem to enjoy a lot of plants in my garden.

One pest marigolds do repel are root knot nematodes. These microscopic soil-dwelling pests aren’t typically problematic here in Western Pennsylvania, but in some parts of the world, African and French marigolds are grown as a cover crop and tilled into the soil before food crops are planted to help combat them.

The orange, red and yellow blossoms of marigolds are very attractive to many species of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Having them in the garden helps provide nectar to pest-munching predatory insects, such as soldier beetles and syrphid flies.

Marigolds are drought-tolerant and heat-loving, making them a perfect fit for sunny flower beds and vegetable gardens.

There are many different types of marigolds available to gardeners, and like many gardeners, I certainly have my personal favorites.

Among the most-adored plants in my garden are the gem, or signet, marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia). This tiny-flowered variety produces blossoms that are a mere one-half inch across. The plants form small, round globes of lacy foliage, and there are hundreds of small flowers on each plant. Unlike French marigolds, gem marigolds do not have an unpleasant scent; instead they smell of citrus. I grow “Tangerine Gem,” “Lemon Gem” and “Red Gem” from seed every year by simply tossing a few seeds into the garden in mid-May. The edible petals look beautiful in a salad.

Another favorite are the African marigolds (Tagetes erecta). These massive beauties are the granddaddies of all marigolds. They grow up to 3 feet tall and produce pom-pom flowers that are 3 to 4 inches wide. The plants are highly branched, with flowers that come in shades of orange, yellow, rust, cream and even maroon. African marigolds love hot, dry conditions.

The most common marigolds are the French marigolds (Tagetes patula). These small, bushy plants produce scores of flowers that measure from 1 to 2 inches across. Flowers can be double or single and come in both solid and bi-color mixes of red, orange, burgundy and yellow. Most varieties grow between 8 and 18 inches tall.

French marigolds look lovely tucked along the edges of the vegetable garden or in groups of three or five scattered down the length of a planting bed. I love to grow French marigolds along the driveway as they easily shrug off the heat reflected from the asphalt.

There’s one other marigold worth growing, if you can find seeds or starter plants. It’s called Mexican tarragon, or Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida). The lemon-yellow flowers are produced late in the season, but the main reason to grow this plant is for its foliage. The leaves of this marigold are licorice flavored, and they can be used as a tarragon substitute in the kitchen. It’s a fairly tall plant, reaching up to 2 12 feet tall by summer’s end.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

Article source:

Historic estate gardens in East Grand Rapids to be restored

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) – Nineteen dump truck loads and counting. Landscaping crews have been busy pruning back overgrown trees and shrubs at Brookby, the historic estate built for lumber baron John Blodgett and his wife, Minnie, in the late 1920s.

The goal is to rebuild the gardens as they were originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, whose landscaping firm designed New York’s Central Park, the Biltmore Estate and renovated the U.S. Capitol grounds, MLive ( ) reported.

Jeffrey Sytsma, a historical consultant and landscaper who has researched the Brookby Estate for more than a decade, has scavenged Olmsted’s original blueprints for the estate and the list of the original plantings for the estate on Fisk Lake.

Sytsma is working with Aquinas College, which acquired the home in 2011 and has established it as the official residence for its president. Real estate developer Sam Cummings, who donated the estate to the college after saving it from the wrecking ball 14 years earlier, also is helping out.

The Georgian Revival mansion’s interior has been mostly restored, but much of the five acres behind the brick walls along Plymouth Road and Robinson Road SE are overgrown and were neglected over the decades.

The original grounds, which covered eight acres and took the Olmsteds eight years to design and install, were once maintained by a fulltime crew of several gardeners, Sytsma said. Over the years, the Blodgetts elected to spend less on maintaining the elaborate gardens, he said.

“It’s a huge project, we’re looking at several years,” said Sytsma. “Aquinas really understands they have a historical jewel here and they want to maintain it.”

Funded by $310,000 in donations, the project will begin with a restoration of the estate’s “Chinese Garden” and an adjacent garden that surrounds a circular pool.

For the next few weeks, the ground crews will be preparing the grounds for the “Backyard Bash at Brookby,” an Aug. 16 event aimed at raising more funds for the project.

Over the past three weeks, crews have been trimming back much of the overgrown landscaping on the property, revealing old pathways that were grown over with sod and invasive ground cover.

English Ivy that covered the red brick walls have been cut back, as have the ancient arborvitaes that obscured the Indiana limestone façade have been cut back. A stone bridge over a brook leading from Fisk Lake has been cleared of weeds.

The original Chinese Garden, which was converted to an English-style garden in the 1940s, will be completely restored to its original design, Sytsma said.

Garden walls which have cracked, settled and bowed over the years will be demolished and rebuilt. While some of the materials will be retained and re-used, other materials may have to be replaced, he said.

Non-original plants will be removed and replaced with plants specified by the Olmsteads. More than 80 varieties of shrubs, perennials, and trees were used in the Chinese garden, Sytsma said.

Until three or four years ago, a statue of Buddha looked over the garden from the west wall until it was stolen, Sytsma said. “If anyone knows where it is, we’d love to have it back.”

The adjacent pool garden also will be re-landscaped, restoring the lawn and paths that once led to a raised pergola on the southern edge of the estate.

Elsewhere on the grounds, there’s much work to do as the fundraising continues, Sytsma said.

On the northern edge of the broad lawn overlooking Fisk Lake, a thicket of mature trees, mulberry bushes and ground cover obscure other buildings, including the gardener’s cottage and the chauffeur’s cottage, which was built with eight heated garage stalls.

Studying old photographs, Sytsma said he also has discovered the original purpose of an arched doorway in the brick wall along Plymouth Road. It was used by mail carriers who deposited letters in a mailbox located inside the wall, he said.

From the front of the gardener’s cottage, Sytsma scrambles through an overgrown perennial bed to reveal an arched opening in the brick wall that leads to a brick potting shed that was once connected to a greenhouse that was donated to Windmill Island in Holland.

Next to the patio on which the greenhouse stood, there’s a large open area where the Blodgetts kept a vegetable garden. The Blodgetts won an award for their “Victory Garden” during World War II, Sytsma said.

Only one other spot in Michigan – Concordia University in Ann Arbor – has the remains of an Olmsted-designed garden, Sytsma said. All others were demolished or made into subdivisions.


Information from: The Grand Rapids,

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by comments powered by Disqus


Article source:

5 pro tips from Fairport Gardening Club

As a passionate gardener, I talk to other experienced gardeners as often as possible. I discuss things like my new favorite plant (zinderella zinnias) or a current challenge I’m dealing with, like, what’s eating my sunflowers?

Those conversations become even stronger when chatting with not just one master gardener, but a network of master gardeners.

The Fairport Garden Club, now celebrating 60 years, is full of knowledgeable, nature-dedicated members. It was founded in 1956 by Lois Sherwood and has continued to have strong roots in the community.

Members recently collaborated with several other clubs to present a Blue Star Memorial By-Way plaque and monument on Main Street, next to the Fairport Library. They’ve done recent gardening projects, too, including at Johanna Perrin Middle School and two town welcome signs.

I had the chance to meet members recently at the Memorial Garden in Perinton Park. Buzzing with the sounds of bees and robust with blooming bee balm, echinacea and black-eyed susans, the garden is a product of true gardener collaboration.

“Our aim is to beautify an area of the park for people who are walking or biking by so that they can stop to enjoy the different seasons of the garden,” says Deborah Heintz, the club’s secretary.

Members take weekly turns throughout the spring, summer and fall to give the Memorial Garden the care and attention it needs to flourish. It is located within close sight of the canal path, making is easy to be seen and enjoyed by the public.

As gardeners, there is always something new to learn in the world of plants, soil, pests, you name it. The most valuable tips and tricks that I know didn’t come from a book. It came from avid gardeners.

Knowing that the Fairport Garden Club members have years of being master gardeners, I asked them to share some of their favorite garden tips:


Proper deadheading is key to continuous flowering during the season. Be sure to clip the stem down to the next node. It will force new flowering as well as additional growth from the base of the plant.

— Kathy O’Shaughnessy

Talk to plants

Talk to your plants. They love the carbon dioxide and love hearing your voice. This idea is just for fun, but I do believe it.

— Ann Hedges

Help your garden

If you don’t have room for a compost pile, never fear. Banana skins chopped very small, egg shells that are washed, dried, and crumbled, and coffee grounds will help your garden by adding organic matter, nutrients and they encourage worms to help keep the soil aerated.” –

— Deborah Heintz

Edible flowers

Daylily flowers can be used for decoration on salads, and are one of the many flowers that are edible.

— Marina Nudo

Native plants

If looking for perennial plants on sale at this time of the year, look for native plants such as purple coneflower, California poppy, columbine, butterfly weed, Texas bluebonnet and black-eyed or brown-eyed susans. Once established they are easier to maintain and usually have fewer pest or disease problems. Their flowers attract bees and other valuable pollinators and that’s a win-win.

— Sue Anne Robinson

Jenny Rae Siplo writes about gardening topics. Share ideas at

Get involved

The Fairport Garden Club holds monthly meetings throughout the year and have two yearly out of town excursions to visit other gardens.

For more information, contact Madeline Colombo at (585) 586-6771 or email

Article source:

A few tips for your garden

As long-timer readers of this column already know, I despise black birds, particularly starlings and grackles because they are essentially flying rats and should be, in my opinion, listed as species of vermin in places that categorize such creatures.

My biggest quarrel with them has to do with the annual damage they usually do to my sweet-corn crop. I also despise grackles because they are too darn lazy to rear their own young and propagate their species by destroying robins’ eggs and laying their own eggs back in the robin’s nest, whereupon the poor robin incubates the eggs for a couple or three weeks and then wonders why her babies turned out to be so ugly. But, ugly or not, like any responsible mother, she will feed and see them through child hood until she has unleashed her brood of criminals on the world, at large. 

Over the years, I have discovered that such things as disposable, aluminum pie pans, blank or even used compact computer/recording discs and other reflecting devices will scare them out of my sweet corn. Unfortunately, the first really gusty wind tends to blow them off my corn tassels despite my best efforts.

But this year, I found a 290 feet roll of ribbon-like stuff called “Bird Scare Tape” that really did the trick. It’s about the size of a small roll of Scotch adhesive tape, except it has no adhesive. Red on one side and silver on the other, it glistens like the bright side of aluminum foil. 

It easily attaches to corn tassels by tying it to the top of a row end stalk and then making a single loop every ten feet or so around a tassel as you walk down the row. I only put it on the outside perimeter rows and I never saw a single flying rat or mourning dove (also notorious corn pests) in my garden throughout the growing season.

Several smart Alecs asked if I was getting an early start on Christmas by decorating my corn patch because it certainly looked that way and then I got to thinking that the cheapo aluminum “icicles” that many folks use as a final touch to their Christmas trees would serve the same purpose and be even cheaper and easier to use than the bird scare ribbon. If I’m alive and able to garden come 2017, I will certainly find out. Last year, Dollar Tree had the icicles, two packs for a dollar and that ought to do me. 

Here’s another inexpensive sweet corn tip for you. Neem oil is a non toxic, organic combo insect repellant and fungi preventer. It won’t kill anything that I know of but it will keep insects away and it will prevent most plant diseases. You can find it at most garden centers. It mixes with water and comes highly concentrated so you only have to use a very few ounces per gallon of water. Best of all, it has no dangerous chemicals.

The downside is that it washes off after even a light rain. I probably applied it half a dozen times to my sweet corn and beans and never had a corn worm, silk fly or bean bug in my garden. Potato bugs got to my potatoes and egg plant before I knew they were there. I did use bug stop on them and then sprayed with neem oil and the bugs did not come back. 

Several years ago, I found a little one-quart pressure sprayer at a dollar store for less than 3 bucks and had been looking all over for another one for the last 3 or 4 years. They were available all over ebay for much higher prices than I was willing to pay, and then, one day last month, Loretta came out of the Lancaster Rite Aid with a bag under her arm and wearing that grin that lets me know she’s pulled a fast one.

Turns out, she had found the last two of those little sprayers, exactly like the one I already had, marked down to less than what I’d paid for the first one. They’d been there all along but it never crossed my mind to look for them in a drug store.

They are handier than pockets on a shirt. I keep one full of spot kill weed killer, another for neem oil, another for insecticide, etc. They would also be very handy for window washing, car waxing and about anything that needs spraying, which may explain why the drug store had them in stock.

I can’t promise that you will find them in any other Rite Aids and I know, for sure, that my wife scarfed up the last two in Lancaster.

Article source:

Repot container plants, divide irises: This week’s gardening tips

This week’s gardening tips: After a summer of vigorous growth outside, some container plants may be pot bound. Repot into larger containers if necessary. Plants in pots may grow roots out of the drainage holes and into the ground. Prevent this by lifting the pots occasionally or boost them on pot feet or pieces of brick.

Now through September, dig and divide Louisiana irises, Easter lilies and calla lilies.

When a vegetable crop is finished, promptly pull it up and throw it in your compost pile (as long as it is not heavily infested with fungal  diseases). If you don’t want to plant the area immediately, mulch it with 4 to 6 inches of leaves, grass clipping, pine straw or other materials. Old crops left in place look untidy, allow weeds to grow, and may harbor insects or diseases. The same thing goes for flowerbeds.

Article source: