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Archives for August 27, 2016

The Best Ways To Get The Very Best Garden Design

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Practical Pointers For Garden Design

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On Gardening: Address issues upfront with landscape designers

A friend recently showed me an area that she wanted to landscape, and asked about a designer. I was able to recommend another friend (an accomplished designer) but the project motivated me to review the “design and install” category of landscaping projects.

The basics of landscape design often are described by a few broad guidelines:

First consider how you will use the landscaped area. Too many spaces are created for certain purposes and then are unused because the homeowner doesn’t really enjoy outdoor entertaining, the kids have grown and flown, the design requires too much maintenance, etc.

Then, learn all you can about the area to be developed. Make at least a rough scale drawing of the area. Mark important plants or other features that are to be retained. Indicate significant microclimates, e.g., deep shade, windy areas, water-retaining swales. Diagram that seasonal path of the sun. Have the soil tested.

Bring in a designer, unless you are confident in your own ideas and plant selections. These days, it’s good to find someone who understands and practices soil regeneration, integrated pest management, and organic practices in general. The Green Gardener program lists landscapers with up-to-date training. Contractors with long years of experience might be skilled in — and committed to — outdated methods.

Begin the install process with any required grading and the hardscape elements, e.g., paths, retaining walls, ponds, garden structures.

Missy Henriksen of the National Association of Landscape Professionals recently recommended ways to have an effective partnership between client and contractor. Here are her tips, with my running commentary.

Communicate your long-term vision for your lawn. (Well, lawns are on their way out, because to look really good they need a lot of mowing and edging, and synthetic chemicals. Otherwise, the advice is to be clear about longer-term visions, so that the contractor can provide a phased plan.)

Understand the importance of working with native flowers, shrubs and trees. (Plants that are native to your specific area will thrive in your garden, while exotic imports will require extraordinary efforts to keep them alive and growing, and might still struggle.)

Consider what time investment you want to make in your landscape after the installation is done. (The late gardener and garden writer, Christopher Lloyd, favored high-maintenance gardening, which could entail changing plants frequently to provide year-round color. That practice has made his garden, Great Dixter, famous, but it’s not every gardener’s priority.)

Allow adequate time for your landscape project. (Certainly, the client should accept the reality that everything takes longer than expected, but it’s also reasonable to expect your contractor to make steady progress on your project, and not compromise that progress to work on someone else’s priority.)

Know your budget. (Address financial constraints by a phased approach to your longer-term objectives. A little self-discipline can be frustrating but better eventually than wishful thinking. On the other hand, the best results can result from thinking big.)

Communicate any special community rules. (A good landscaper should know, or found out about, restrictions by local government, or a homeowner’s association. Your standard should be “No surprises!”)

Ask any lingering questions. (A good practice is to require a written contract that covers all significant issues. For larger landscaping projects, refer to “A Consumer Guide to Home Improvement Contracts,” from California’s Contractors State License Board. Accept the contracted work only after satisfaction of applicable standards of the landscaping industry, rather than approval by the local government or a homeowner’s association.)

A successful landscaping project can give the garden owner long-term satisfaction and yield a substantial boost to the value of the property.

Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, president of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener. Visit for links to information on this subject, and send comments or questions to

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Penn Hills Council advances plans for new $11 million municipal building – Tribune

Penn Hills Council advances plans for new $11 million municipal building

Updated 21 hours ago

Penn Hills Council on Aug. 22 took another step toward constructing a new municipal building.

Council approved a conditional use application for the project by passing a resolution 4-0. Councilwoman Catherine Sapp was absent.

Construction for the estimated $11 million project is slated to begin by year’s end at the 15.9-acre site of the former Penn Hebron school on Duff Road.

The municipality bought the school property from Penn Hills School District in May 2015 for $250,000.

Municipal Manager Mohammed Rayan said the municipality has moved from February’s plan of using an estimated $5 million surplus to fund the project; instead, it will pay for construction through a bond, which is to be paid off by 2027.

The current municipal building at 12245 Frankstown Road has been in disrepair over the years, and council decided renovations would be more expensive than erecting a new building.

“All department directors had an input into the design phases … as well as the employees who will be impacted by the move,” Rayan said.

Alberto Jarquin, project manager for Pittsburgh-based Gateway Engineers, presented building designs that include a 43,200-square-foot municipal and police building, a 9,000-square-foot EMS building, a firefighter training area, two 30-foot-wide driveways and 165 parking spots — the current building has 35.

Jarquin said trees will be planted along Duff Road and the perimeter of the building. Two rain gardens will be planted to assist in stormwater management for the facility, and a row of evergreens will be planted to serve as a buffer for residential areas.

Kevin Turkall, an architect with Designstream LLC who is collaborating with Gateway on the project, said the facility itself will include masonry, stone and insulated glass that will make the structure “thermally efficient” despite being significantly larger than the current municipal building.

“Your utility bills will be significantly lower in this building because of the energy efficiency,” Turkall said.

Turkall also presented ideas for the future of the current municipal building site, which included leaving the existing monuments and memorials in place and turning the area into a plaza with gazebos, walkways and landscaping for a “park-like setting” that would be accessible for parades and community events.

Mayor Sara Kuhn said she appreciates the ideas, as she had been pushing for a “town center for the municipality, because Penn Hills really doesn’t have one.” She said the notion of leaving memorials and monuments on the current property is logical due to “the fact that there is more traffic on Frankstown Road than there is Duff (Road), and I wanted everybody to see them when they pass by.”

The mayor said she wants residents in Penn Hills to see something in their community, similar to when she rides through neighboring areas like Oakmont and Verona and sees a “very nice setup” that those communities decorate during the holidays.

Plans for demolition of the current municipal building and any revitalization of the area were not included in the $11 million budget for the new municipal complex.

The municipality will advertise for construction bids for the new facility by the end of September or beginning of October, Rayan said.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7845 or

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Hilltown Voices: Dunkin’ Donuts opens in Haydenville

At 5 a.m. Thursday, several people were already lined up and ready for the opening of the new Dunkin’ Donuts at 142 Main St. in Haydenville.

“I think that is a good sign,” said co-owner Emanuel Sardinha of Sao Joao Realty LLC in Westfield.

Sardinha was at the restaurant on Thursday with a few workers finishing up landscaping and installing signs.

“It was supposed to be completed three weeks ago but we had a few minor things to iron out,” Sardinha said.

Last year, Sardinha purchased the former Berkshire Bank property in order to expand his franchise, which at that time was located in the Cumberland Farms at 37 Main St. in Williamsburg.

Meanwhile, that Cumberland Farms temporarily shut down, gasoline pumps included, on Wednesday for remodeling. The store will reopen Sept. 28.

The new Dunkin’ Donuts has roughly 2,100 square feet and, unlike the previous store, includes a drive-up window.

The plan to build in Haydenville near historic buildings and close to the Mill River originally was met with disapproval from many residents who were concerned about noise, light, and aesthetics in their small, rural village.

After voicing those concerns to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals during the permitting process, various conditions were put on the project.

These included downward-projecting lights in the parking lot, gold leaf lettering on a black background for the logo, none of the standard pink and orange colors on the building, and business hours limited to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The company also agreed to build further away from the river, regrade the area and plant native trees between the parking lot and the river, and install a well-designed stormwater system.

Sardinha declined to disclose the total cost of the project, but said that it was “more money than we are used to spending, but I am glad we did it.”

“We did this because it fits in with downtown Haydenville,” Sardinha said. “We have some locations that are somewhat similar, but none go to this extent.”

The restaurant is across from the town offices and Town Clerk Brenda Lessard was an early morning customer.

“I think it looks pretty nice and I have already had several people in town come in to say what a beautiful job they did on the building,” Lessard said.

But not everyone was a fan.

“This is an atrocity for the town,” said one woman who was passing by and declined to be identified. “I have lived here for 40 years and I think it’s terrible. The building is monstrous and its doesn’t belong in a historic place.”

Sardinha said that once the store is fully staffed, it will have a total of 24 full- and part-time employees.

Tree-planting for Jolly

There will be a memorial tree-planting in honor of Bill Jolly at 11 a.m. Sept. 2 at Russell Park in Chesterfield. Jolly died Aug. 5, 2015.

Jolly was a highly respected and active member of the Chesterfield community who had served as town moderator, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, cemetery superintendent and a member of the Conservation Commission.

Carol Jolly, his wife of over 50 years, will attend the tree planting, along with other members of the Chesterfield community. Anyone wishing to attend is welcome.

Russell Park is on South Street opposite the post office.

Goshen Town Hall

As the exterior work on the Goshen Town Hall nears completion, the public is invited to tour the outside of the building and hear about the recent restorations and repairs that have been made on this architecturally and historically significant structure.

This informative walk-around will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Ideas for this column on life in the Hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at

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Missinne meets growth with change

The second generation Missinne daughters, Mary and Lori, and son-in-law, Chuck Ritchie, continued to expand the family’s operation to include eight greenhouses and offered landscaping services until 2012, when Chuck and Lori started new chapters in their lives.

In this 2013 season, Mary Missinne carried on the family tradition, but changing trends for the family-owned business is prompting yet another change for the 38-year South Range business.

It was a painstaking decision that took about two years to make, Mary Missinne said. However, with more and more of her customers seeking landscaping and containerized garden solutions, Missinne made the decision to let go of the retail side of the business so her 20-plus seasonal employees can focus their attention on growing, designing and maintaining the landscapes and container gardens the staff creates.

“We do so many containers and beds for people, with annuals and perennials, and we install them and take care of them all summer; it’s that part of our business that has grown so big,” Mary Missinne said. “It’s like we need that much more space for it.”

She said with the labor-intensive nature of retail, something had to give. So after two years of careful consideration, Missinne notified long-term retail customers that she will no longer maintain retail hours starting in the 2017 growing season to focus her efforts and those of her staff on commercial and residential landscape designs and installations, maintaining those landscapes and creating custom containers for homes and businesses.

In 2017, Missinne will only order and stock plants for the commercial and residential containers, and landscape customers. Greenhouse plants will be used for custom-design containers, and trees, shrubs and perennials will no longer be available at the South Range business, but Missinne will take custom orders for them.

Missinne said people who drop off containers to be filled with plants can continue to do so.

“Our regular retail clients will drop off five, six containers and have us do them up, and we will still do that,” Missinne said.

However, customers with gift and loyalty cards are asked to use them by Dec. 15.

Missinne said she had considered adding a couple more greenhouses to the family-owned business but that raised questions about staffing.

The change in the business model will allow Missinne to create more full-time opportunities for staff, some of whom have come back every year for 20 to 25 seasons.

She said it just made sense to change the business model.

“The business, it just changed in the last couple of years,” Missinne said. “We’re going to put our energy, our resources, our people into what is making sense.”

Missinne said the decision didn’t come easy; she’s going to miss all the people who shopped at the retail operation.

“I think that’s the saddest part, because we won’t get to see all the people,” Missinne said. “It’s like old home week when we have sneak peek week, and pots and tots. … We’ve watched generations of kids come through.”

However, she said the change is necessary to stay in business, allowing more space to focus on container designs, and a chance to say “yes” to more businesses that have asked Missinne to handle landscaping services.

“We don’t have to give up growing plant material … if somebody needs something, we will be able to grow it,” Missinne said. “Trees and shrubs, if someone needs a specific tree or shrub, we will be able to get it because we will be getting in product all summer for landscaping. We’ll still have mulch, and soil, and that kind of thing. We just won’t have regular retail hours.”

For more information, call 715-399-2527 or visit

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5 Great Ways to Get Your Succulent On

Now that we’re five years into a drought, isn’t it time we gave up our ornamental plantings from other parts of the country (or the world) that are a little wetter than California is?

Aren’t you tired of fighting with local restrictions on when and how you can water your lawn?

You may think that “verdant” landscaping implies green grass and evergreen shrubs, but there’s another type of green plant that can actually survive a drought like this without much attention. In fact, succulents actually thrive in this climate!

Now, I’m not saying you have to plant a Saguaro cactus on your front lawn and call it a day. There are many types of succulents – hailing from Africa and the Americas – to consider bringing into your home (as many make good houseplants) or planting in your garden. Some are huge and make a bold statement, while smaller ones grow in clusters and make good ground cover. Some are flowering, and some bear fruit. Some are even edible, and many are known to have healing powers.

Pretty much all of them create great habitats for wildlife (like lizards) and attract both butterflies and birds (especially hummingbirds).

But since succulents are widely misunderstood – despite their many benefits and their uncommon beauty – here are five great ways to learn more about succulents and explore the world of desert gardens, in order of the level of commitment and expertise they require.

Newbie: Visit a Desert Garden

Probably the best introduction to succulents for even the most casual plant enthusiast is to visit a botanic garden that has some. Most of the big ones in Southern California have a section devoted to native plants (or, as in the case of The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the whole thing) – although, just because it’s native doesn’t mean it’s a succulent. (Remember, LA is not a desert!) The Huntington Botanical Gardens has both – a “Desert Garden” and a “California Garden” – though they mix natives with other dry climate, water-wise plants from around the world. For a real lesson in cacti, visit the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium in Palm Springs. It’s got more than 3000 desert plants mostly from the American Southwest and Mexico; and in its greenhouse, you’ll find rare oddities like the “Old Woman Cactus” and “Old Man Cactus.”

Not Quite a Novice: Go Into the Wild

Now that you know a bit about the many beautiful cacti, agaves, aloes, and jade plants that are out there, it’s time to witness them in their natural, wild habitat. It’s nice to visit them within the safe confines of a botanic garden, but to really understand them, you’ve got to go where they grow without a lot of help from gardeners. Fortunately, our nearest desert, the Mojave, is known for its bristly Joshua trees, a type of yucca plant (which some have argued aren’t or shouldn’t be succulents, but for argument’s sake, let’s say they are). You can find plenty of Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, but the Mojave National Preserve actually has the world’s largest concentration of Joshua trees in its Joshua Tree Forest. There’s also a small but incredibly dense grove of Joshua trees in the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley. And the most famous individual Joshua tree, from the U2 album cover, was actually located in Death Valley National Park – although it has since fallen over.

Intermediate: Take a Class or Attend a Festival

There are people out there who want to teach you about succulents. So help them help you by taking a class or attending a festival for experts and recent converts alike. The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants is a great educational resource even if you just pop by to browse, because whoever is working there at the time will surely jump at the opportunity to give you a quick lesson in native plants and show you around. For something more in-depth, Theodore Payne offers lots of classes and workshops in all aspects of horticulture – some of which are even free. Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley has also begun hosting classes and guest lecturers, and there are plenty of cactus and succulent shows and festivals that devote entire weekends to their offbeat passion, like the Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale, which will be entering its 32nd year in 2017.

Advanced: Join a Club

Many of the available workshops and festivals are offered by various local plant clubs – and if you like what you’ve experienced so far, why not join one yourself? The Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society has been creating a cactus-oriented community since 1935 – mostly in the Valley, where it produces its annual Drought Tolerant Plant Festival. On the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Sunset Succulent Society has been welcoming succulent enthusiasts since 1961 – but if you’re not in the Central LA area, similar clubs also serve the South Bay, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Central Coast, Bakersfield, San Gabriel Valley, and Inland Empire communities. They not only meet regularly, but they also provide a wealth of resources for learning about – and visiting – plants of the prickly persuasion.

Expert: Build Your Own

If you’ve renounced non-natives, and if your idea of “beauty” has evolved, you may be inclined to surround yourself with the plants you know so much more about now than you did before. Fortunately, you’re not alone in your endeavor. The California Native Plant Society is a tremendous resource, both online and via their local chapters, in making sure you don’t do more harm than good with whatever you decide to start growing in your yard. So is the non-profit California Invasive Plant Council. Many local botanic gardens can also advise you on what to plant, where to plant it, and how to do it right – and can even sell you some of the plants themselves. For a more specialized retail experience, you can visit the aforementioned Cactus Mart, California Cactus Center in Pasadena, California Nursery Specialties in Reseda, or Grigsby Cactus Gardens in North San Diego County.

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Who’s Got the Dirt? I-5 Landscape Supply Offers Pickup or Delivery

Making a living doing dirty work is nothing new to Harold and Kristin Buren, owners of I-5 Landscape Supply.

“I’ve been landscaping for 26 years,” said Harold.

He got his start in the business in 1991 when he opened Landsculpture’s Landscaping in Chehalis. He and Kristin purchased I-5 Landscape Supply six years ago and consolidated the businesses last year. 

“The paperwork was just a nightmare. I mean, which bark went where,” explained Harold.

Kristin is no slouch herself. She enjoys expertly operating her JCB mini-cab front loader around the yard.

“Sometimes we get oldtimers in here when I’m not around and they ask her if there’s anyone around who can load them up,” noted Harold. “She’s been driving that thing for six years and she knows what she’s doing. Sometimes she can get pretty firey over it.”

The third leg of the I-5 Landscape Supply is Luna, a 5-month-old French mastiff with eyes that would melt the heart of an ice sculpture in an igloo.

“She’s my guard dog,” said Kristin of her sweet and soon-to-be hulking puppy.

Harold says the location of their supply yard can’t be beat. Tucked along I-5 and the Newaukum River off of Exit 72 along the winding Napavine and Chehalis boundary, the location gives customers convenient access and facilitates the delivery aspects of the business. 

Not only does I-5 Landscape Supply receive 18-wheeler deliveries on the regular, they also hit the road themselves in order to make deliveries of their premium material from Winlock to Packwood, from Pe Ell to Rochester, and everywhere in between. The charge is only about $2 per mile, depending on the distance.

“This business is nice because it’s the same people who come in every year and you get to know them,” said Kristin. She noted that customers often return to show off produce that they’ve grown in their I-5 Landscape Supply amended gardens, or flashing photos of their various home improvement projects.

“We’ve got one customer we make deliveries to who makes cheese, and I always make sure to buy some when we are there,” said Kristin. 

The symbiotic deliveries are one of her ways of keeping the wheels of economy well greased and turning.

The Burens enjoy helping out their customers in order to send them home with the best product for their particular project. On the whole, Harold said their biggest ticket item is soil.

“We get people that say, ‘Oh I need top soil.’ Well what are you using it for? Because we have two different types,” said Harold, who explained that one variety is best for gardens while the other typically works better for lawns.

“Having landscaped around here I know it’s usually just horrible soil. There’s just so much clay,” said Harold. “We do have the most expensive soil around, but it’s the best soil around. I stand by that.”

It seems the transfer of knowledge works both ways at I-5 Landscape Supply. 

“We learn a lot from our customers too,” said Harold, who raved about a soilless method for growing potatoes that he recently learned from a local farmer who frequents the Burens’ supply yard along I-5.

The Burens make their home in Ethel, and with their collective experience and vast supplies on hand, one might expect their home to be a shrine to decorative landscapes.

“It’s a work in progress. We’ve only lived there for eight years,” demurred Kristin with a laugh.

Harold is currently in the midst of building a fir log construction gazebo. It’s a project he’s never attempted before, which he says appeals to his nature.

“If I could I’d stay home all day long and work in the yard, but that’s not reality,” he explained.

The Burens are making plans to expand their operation soon by adding more rock products. Eventually they’d like to add decorative plants to the mix.

“We’re just a little ma and pa operation, so every little bit helps,” said Harold. “We’re just like everybody else, struggling to make a living.”



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