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Archives for September 28, 2016

Linda Cobb: Spartanburg Community College holds arboretum benefit

The School of Horticulture at Spartanburg Community College is preparing to hold its annual fundraiser.

Arboretum Adventures is an event designed to invite the community onto the campus in the form of a benefit to raise money for the gardens on campus. This year’s program is at 6 p.m. Oct. 13.

The guest speaker is Jenks Farmer, an author and expert in garden plants and gardening. His lecture is titled “New Southern Gardens with Old Southern Roots.” You will not want to miss this lecture. 

Farmer is a prominent South Carolina horticulturalist who designed and built Riverbanks Botanical Garden in Columbia and Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City. He has lectured for The Smithsonian, Wave Hill, Epcot, Garden Clubs of America, and the Northwest Flower Show. In addition, Farmer has written for Fine Gardening Magazine, Horticulture Magazine, and Botanic Gardens Conversation International.

He is the author of the book, “Deep Rooted Wisdom, Lessons from Generations of Gardeners.” Farmer and his partner, Tom Hall, run the lily farm with a team of interns. Farmer is also the East Coast authority on crinium, a tough Southern plant suited for our climate.

Dinner will be served after Farmer’s lecture. Farmer also will sell copies of his book.

Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple. The dinner and talk will be held in the Tracy Gaines Auditorium at the college, located at 107 Community College Drive in Spartanburg. The price of your ticket also includes a membership to the SCC Friends of the Arboretum.

Tickets should be purchased by Oct. 6. Tickets are available online at or by calling 864-592-4624.

In addition to the dinner, a lunch program also will be held on Oct. 13. Cultivating Conversations will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a lecture by Brian Upchurch. He is one of the horticulture industry’s expert grafters and founder of Highland Creek Nursery in Fletcher, N.C. Following his lecture, a box lunch will be served and a panel discussion will be held with members of the horticulture industry. To attend the event, call Linda Cobb at 864-590-1957 or email her at Seating is limited.

On Oct. 14-15, the weekend culminates with the Spartanburg Community College and Spartanburg Men’s Garden Club fall plant sales. The events will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the garden pavilion on the college campus.

The college plant sale offers annuals grown by the students, as well as perennials, shrubs and some trees.

The Spartanburg Men’s Garden Club also will hold its plant sale on the college campus in the same location. The club is selling dwarf crape myrtles three for $35. For a complete plant list of the club’s plants for sale, go to, then click on “Year-Round Plant Sale.”

Hatcher Garden Woodland Preserve, located at 820 John B. White Sr. Blvd. in Spartanburg, will hold its fall plant sale from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday. Go online to, click on “Fall Plant Sale” to get directions and download the plant list. The African Violet Fall Plant Sale will also be held at the garden during the same hours. For more information, call 864-574-7724.

Just a reminder that fall is a great time to plant in your garden. There are many reasons to plant in the fall season as opposed to the spring. First and foremost, there are a lot of pretty great plant sales because the nurseries do not want to carry over a big inventory through winter into next year. The second reason is the weather is cooler and more conducive to planting. And the last reason is the plant should spend all winter settling into the spot where it is planted. And when spring arrives, the plant will be ready to grow and bloom in that spot. The plants that are planted in the spring tend to go into shock and have a delayed growth symptom. Consider these points when shopping for plants this fall at the plant sales.  

Linda Cobb is a master gardener who lectures, teaches, and does garden design in South Carolina. She can be reached at 864-574-8493 or email her at Visit her website at

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An ‘urban farm’ flourishes in Grover Beach

Sandy Warren in Grover Beach has allowed her son-in-law, Trent Burkett, to take over her backyard to grow an urban farm. Every inch is covered with raised beds, wine barrels and flowering natives. The unassuming front yard does not give a hint to the abundance of food growing in this hidden garden.

In 2014 Burkett removed some of the grass along the fence line (because it was not very kid-friendly) and started planting low-water natives. Burkett is an artist by trade, which shows in his garden design.

Even though it is mostly a vegetable garden, the space is an explosion of color, texture and variety. At his studio he started propagating natives to help keep the costs down and then decided to plant vegetables so his son, Eli, could learn how food is grown. Some vegetables were then planted at the grass edge with the natives.

In March 2015 all the Bermuda grass was removed and raised beds were built. To kill the grass, Burkett said, he used weed barrier cloth, two layers of cardboard and then mulch. Cinder block was used for the raised beds to avoid an “edge effect” — so that vegetables could be planted up to the edge of the block as the cement seems to act as insulation.

Burkett also plants alpine strawberries in the holes of the cinder block to use every inch of the garden.

Heavy-gauge wire fence panels were secured in the beds to allow plants with vines to grow vertically rather than along the ground to save space. Among the vegetables growing this way are delicata squash, pumpkins, Romano pole green beans and Italian zucchini.

Sprinklers were converted to drip irrigation using T-tape with 8-inch intervals. Every 8 inches, a vegetable or flower is planted. Because plants are grown close together, there are few weeds.

To help keep the garden healthy, Burkett maintains two cinder block compost bins at the side of the house. He saves carbon scraps (brown) and nitrogen scraps (green) in separate smaller containers. He then combines the scraps in the large cinder block bins and waters as needed. The compost is hand turned to increase the internal heat of the pile and accelerate decomposition. Burkett believes he saves 1,500 pounds to 1 ton of green waste annually by home composting.

Black soldier flies, which are not considered pests or vectors, but are as essential as red worms in breaking down organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil, have also found a home in Burkett’s compost piles.

Due to the lush vegetation, hummingbirds, bees, lizards, raccoons and possums are attracted to the garden, but gophers are not really a problem because the ground is mostly sand. The plants are very healthy in the garden and ward off most pests, with snails being the biggest problem.

Burkett likes to experiment each year with unusual varieties of plants, such as Korean radishes and Japanese bunching onions. Planted in some of the numerous wine barrels throughout the backyard are fingerling potatoes, cardoon artichokes, lime, lemon and Mandarin trees. Multi-colored Indian corn, heirloom dandelion greens and Amish snap peas help fill in the beds.

Enough lettuce and other greens are picked daily for a family salad. In one corner is an island mallow bush (native to the Catalina Islands) that has been pruned to a tree. The pink blooms last all year in Grover Beach’s temperate climate.

Every inch of this beautiful backyard garden is filled with vegetables, flowering natives or herbs.

Even though the front yard is beautiful with a lawn, succulents and small trees, this may soon become Burkett’s next edible landscape project. With his artist’s eye of combining colorful natives with edible plants, it appears a couple of vegetables are already growing along the grass edge that Warren hasn’t seen yet!

Tami Reece is a gardener and food preserver living in Paso Robles. If you know of a unique garden, email her at

Garden tips

▪  Try experimenting with varieties of vegetables that you like but are grown in different cultures.

▪  Plant annual and perennial flowers to attract as many pollinators as possible.

▪  Growing vertical is a great space-saver for smaller gardens.

▪  Compost helps to keep your garden healthy and can be purchased commercially. Cal Poly is a great resource for compost.

▪  Even if you do not have a yard, you can grow your own food in wine barrels and other containers.

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Dubai gardening guru Kamelia has designs on a world title

Kamelia’s previous work ‘The Beauty of Islam’ won the silver gilt medal at the Chelsea Flower Show

Kamelia Bin Zaal is a world class gardener. The Emirati is currently in Japan, representing the UAE in the World Gardening Championships, against nine other finalists.

She has previously taken home a Silver Gilt Medal for her ‘Beauty of Islam’ garden (pictured above) at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show. Kamelia was creative director at Al Barari for eight years, and has started up her own landscape design studio, Kamelia, this year.

When she’s not working on gardens, she’s spending time with her son.

We chatted to Kamelia in between creating her newest piece ‘The Seal of the Prophets’ for the world championships on October 1.

Why gardening?

I grew up watching my father and grandfather in the garden. My father has always loved flowers and the sense of peace a garden can give, and my grandfather used to grow vegetables and loved pottering about in the garden too. We also used to press flowers together that we collected on our walks. I have always loved the outdoors.

I worked in the government for four years and while I enjoyed it, I felt as if something was missing. I studied A-Level art and felt I was not nurturing my creative side. At the time, my father (Zaal Mohammed Zaal) was planning the concept of Al Barari, a plant nursery, maybe a horticultural school, and it was this conversation that made me think of garden design. Within a month I was at the Inchbald School of Design studying garden design.

Kamelia Bin Zaal

Of all the projects you’ve designed, do you have a favourite?

No and yes, it’s a very hard question to answer as I put everything into all my gardens so all of them are special to me in one way or another, for different reasons. But I am most proud of ‘The Beauty of Islam’ because I was able to use my gift of garden design to communicate a positive message to the western world about Islam and Arabic culture.

Tell us about your Islamic designs…

There are principles of Islamic garden design such as the use of light and shade, and water as a key element. Islamic gardens are not just a place of refuge from the harsher outside environment, but also a productive garden with fruit and herbs. However, I believe that with all gardens it’s a place for nurturing the soul and ultimately that applies to any garden or natural environment. My gardens tend to somehow incorporate Islamic patterns as I find them so inspirational.

What is your favourite garden?

Every natural landscape is a garden to me so I don’t have a favourite garden. Nature is my garden. However, the Islamic garden designed by Michel Pena for the gardens of the orient exhibition in Paris that was organised by the Arab World Institute in Paris was beautiful. Not only did it incorporate Islamic garden design but played on perspective. It was very contemporary and traditional all in one.

And how is your own garden?

Terrible, I don’t have time for my own garden at home, as I’m too busy worrying about my clients!


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Students inspire RMC redesign | The London Free Press

The replacement of Regina Mundi Catholic College is set to begin next year with some designs inspired in part by students themselves.

The London District Catholic school board has decided to go with a plan to build a new facility in front of the existing 1963-built school. It will keep the existing north gym, while most of the rest of the school will be demolished when the new one is ready.

Nicholson Sheffield Architects and about 30 students from the school’s Specialist High Skills Major program brainstormed ideas for the school’s siting, architecture, landscaping and design.

Some of their initial ideas — including an outdoor pool and boating dock for the wetlands and pond area — quickly made their way to the nice-but-no category, said Grade 12 student David Sloss.

Others, though, including a peace garden and an outdoor amphitheatre, got widespread support from students and architects.

“It helps with ideas coming from students because we know what we need,” Sloss said.

Student Sadie Pridham won’t get to walk the new halls as a student — she will have graduated by the time the building is expected to be done in 2019 — but it will be fun to know her successor students will be able to enjoy elements she helped bring to life.

“If I had the opportunity to do it again, without a doubt I would,” she said. “I think it’s great that ­students got a chance to design the new building and its surroundings.”

She said the current building is “nice for its age,” but has significant issues, including a lack of air conditioning.

Its exterior is also crumbling and maintenance costs throughout it are escalating.

Last November, the province committed $19.3 million to a new building.

The concept trustees approved Monday night falls within that budget, said superintendent Jacquie Davison.

Students’ ideas about the landscaping and other exterior features have been invaluable in ensuring natural features of the site are integrated into the overall vision for the new building, she said. “These kids have the opportunity to look at the future and what it looks like.”

Much of the property, on Wellington Road in deep south London, is provincially significant wetlands and woodlands.

Trustees had concept options that included keeping the gym and chapel and starting construction to the east of the existing building, but that would have intruded on the wetlands and sparked an environmental impact study. They also considered building on the soccer pitch behind the Catholic Education Centre, but that would have added to costs.

Regina Mundi College opened in 1963 as a junior seminary for teenage boys contemplating entering the priesthood. Later, it became a boarding school for teen boys.

In the 1980s, Regina Mundi turned co-ed and became the city’s second Catholic high school. The gym and tech wing were added.

It looks much the same from the outside as when it was built 50 years ago, although portables at the back are a more recent addition.

— — —

RMC rebuild timeline

Oct. 2016 – Feb. 2017: Schematic design

Dec. 2016 – July 2017: Contract documents drawn up and tenders issued

Aug. 2017-Aug. 2019: Construction

— — —

By the numbers

$19.3M: in provincial funding

700: student capacity

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Cool home: Tempe homeowner creates urban habitat

The third time is usually a charm. But for Karen and Dutch Schedler, it was a turning point.

Three green front lawns. Three failures. One big decision: xeriscape.

“As a new home, there was nothing, but bare ground for landscaping. Like everyone else, we tried a green front lawn, but each was attacked by some pest or disaster,” Karen Schedler recalled. “We then sat back and wondered why we weren’t working with nature.”

Xeriscaping conversion

Schedler, a longtime educator, dove in and began attending free classes about water-wise landscaping offered through the city of Tempe. In 1991, the couple made the leap.

“We were the first in this block to convert to xeriscaping and have watched as most others have now followed suit in their front yards,” she said.

The Schedlers transformed both the front and back yards at their south Tempe home into desert gardens and, along the way, created an urban habitat for lizards, birds, butterflies and more.

The goal, Schedler said, is to work with nature to provide a haven for wildlife and pollinators.

“Of course, not needing all that water to maintain a green lawn — plus the lack of mowing — is a benefit as well!” she said.

Schedler’s garden is one of nine being featured on the annual Tour de Bird event Nov. 5 organized by Desert Rivers Audubon Society. The self-guided tour showcases bird-friendly, water-wise gardens and parks throughout the East Valley.

Labor of love

The Schedlers were newlyweds when they bought their new 1,200-square-foot home in 1972. It was typical of tract homes of that era and the neighborhood today retains the same 1970s feeling.

Two years ago, Karen Schedler lost her husband and now shares the home with her two dogs, Jibwa and Savanna. Her grandchildren are frequent explorers in her garden, peeking under rocks for critters or trying to capture butterflies.

The cozy home is filled with antique furniture — treasures from various family members — and also an eye-catching stein collection that belonged to Dutch. Windows throughout offer views of various parts of the front and back gardens.

The property’s transformation has been a labor of love. The front garden features a mix of trees, bushes and cactus that are almost exclusively native plants from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. The backyard includes a variety of trees and bushes, potted plants, two raised vegetable beds, and a composting area.

Well-traveled habitat

The property has become a well-traveled habitat for wildlife. On any given day, the gardens are alive with the sights and sounds of hummingbirds flitting around a Baja fairy duster or verdins nesting in the large Palo Brea tree or bees buzzing up to a desert lavender.

The property has received designations as a certified wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation and a bird habitat from Desert Rivers Audubon Society. Schedler also decided to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, which seeks to increase the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes.

“The bird and pollinator habitat signs (in the front garden) raise inquiries and offer me the opportunity to help promote the message of conservation, both of water and of wildlife,” Schedler said. “Pollinators worldwide are in serious trouble so whatever I can do to promote their welfare ranks high on my list of priorities.”

Relaxation spot

Several years ago, the Schedlers added a pergola to the backyard, and it offers the perfect place to relax with a book or watch the wildlife at work in the yard, Schedler said.

“They’re pretty fascinating if we just take time to listen and observe,” she said.

“I love the solitude and time for reflection I have in my little piece of the world,” she said. “I can watch bees, butterflies, lizards, and a number of different bird species move about my little ‘sanctuary’.

“It offers me a chance to commune with nature without ever having to leave my yard.”

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Features – THE TOP 100: No. 76 | Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping

Having offered both retail and landscaping services since its first year of business in 1981, Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping is no stranger to sharing knowledge from both specialities to create solutions for customers. Retail manager Greg Steele discusses the ways Willow Ridge plays to its strengths and gives clients full-spectrum service for their home projects.

Q: What would you say your market has come to rely on Willow Ridge for?

A: Obviously our plant material is there, but we also specialize in water gardening, fairy gardening and outdoor living products — especially high-end things like benches and tables, but our fairy gardening department and our water gardening department really sets us apart from a lot of others. Of course, the plant material is what most people come to us for.

Q: How long have miniature gardening and outdoor living been major categories for you? How did they grow into the focus points that they are today?

A: Fairy gardening started probably about eight years ago, but it’s grown considerably over the years even though some people thought it was just going to be a fad. It has stayed the course, so probably a quarter of our interior garden center building is devoted to fairy gardening products.

As far as outdoor living, that was really brought about by our landscaping department. We actually added a section onto our outdoor display area that was basically to show people what we do in landscaping. We also host events in our outdoor living area, special fundraising events for local organizations and people who want to rent out the space for their parties and different clubs and associations.

Q: Your website has some sections dedicated to planting advice and consulting. What can you tell us about these extra services?

A: That is one of our focuses on the retail end, because a lot of people like to do the work themselves, they just don’t know where to get started. We have a program called “We Plan, You Plant.” [Customers] bring us pictures and measurements of the area and what kind of sunlight they have, then we go through the nursery and just suggest things to put in different areas … and [how to have] the right plant for the right place. It takes the guesswork out of just trying to do a landscape. You get some professional advice on what to do and the homeowner does the work themselves. We also offer that same service on the water gardening end. There’s a lot of people, do-it-yourself type people, that want to build their own water gardens and water features: ponds, waterfalls and things like that, they just don’t know the technical aspects of it. It’s a free service.

Water features became a large segment of Willow Ridge to supplement its landscaping services.

Q: How has 2016 been for your so far?

A: The spring was pretty good. We had a warm, early spring, which can be a help and a hindrance in some ways. It got everybody out early but then you pay for that on the latter end. Then of course, it got really hot and dry really quick, so … months like June, July and August have been wanting. On our landscaping end, we’re good year-round. That part of our company has only grown since we’ve been in business.

Q: What else do you think keeps Willow Ridge competitive? What are your plans for future growth?

A: “For the most part, we’re forward-looking. We’ve partnered up with some business coaches. We’re doing a lot of social media — I’m sure everybody is, but we’re not just floundering with it, we’re trying to be coached on it. We’re just always looking for ways to improve what we do and how we do it. All of our key employees go to seminars, they go to different shows and things that have training programs to help increase our knowledge of not only marketing but customer service, new plant introductions and new products. All of those things, we do all year-round. We continue to try to help ourselves grow and help our employees have a better knowledge base.

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Bringing themed gardens to the customer

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

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

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

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

Themes on display include rock, shade and pollinator gardens.

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this story from the July issue here.

Photos courtesy of Winter Greenhouse.

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A New Company Specialising in Urban Gardening Will be Launched on October 4th, 2016

MONTREAL, QUEBEC–(Marketwired – Sept. 28, 2016) – Tête de courge – based in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood – designs, builds and sells urban gardens, for gardening both inside and outside.

Urban gardening is becoming more and more popular in Quebec. With the price of food ever on the rise, a lot of people are taking to gardening in their backyard, or on their balcony, in order to have fresh, organic fruit and vegetables. Gardening in the city is a way to get one’s hands dirty and have a little piece of nature close to home. However, year-round gardening, inside the home, is less common. Tête de courge is launching a range of gardens that can be set up in various types of indoor spaces. The idea is to make the most of ‘lost’ spaces, to make them more conductive to the cultivation of fresh fruit and veg. A lost space can be anything from a windowsill to the unused corner of a room. Some garden designs can even be used as a bookcase – making that space doubly useful!

These products are available online at and can be shipped all over Quebec. For products that require installation, the necessary hardware is included, along with an instruction guide. An installation service is available for customers residing in the Montreal area. A booklet with hints and tips for first-time gardeners is also included, to help customers make the most of their purchase. The main aim of Tête de courge is to make urban gardening accessible and practical for everyone!

Tête de courge also runs a blog full of gardening tips and answers to any questions the gardener – amateur or otherwise – might have.

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Melinda’s Garden Moments – Harvesting Tips

Nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moment television segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Home gardeners throughout the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative. Here, Melinda shares garden tips which expand on the information provided in her one-minute TV segments.

New topics will be added throughout the growing season, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! To view online streaming video of Melinda’s Garden Moments, click here.

Harvesting Tips for Greater Productivity

Increase your harvest and flavor without adding more space to the garden.

Pick leaf lettuce when the outer leaves are 4 to 6 inches. The plant will keep producing. Place your harvest in a bucket of water to keep it fresh. Use the same technique with Swiss chard. Harvest just the outer leaves when 8 to 10 inches. The plant will keep producing and looking good all season long.

Remove just the full size firm head of cabbage. Leave the lowest leaves and stem intact. Several smaller heads will develop. That’s a lot of cabbage from one plant.

Remove just the main head of broccoli when the flowerbuds are tight and bright blue-green. Then harvest the smaller side shoots that continue to develop on the plant.

Harvest eggplant when the fruit are full size, skin glossy. Gently press and release. If just a small indentation remains, it is ready to harvest.

A bit more information: Produce a creamy white head of cauliflower with blanching and proper harvesting. Cover the head of cauliflower when it is the size of a quarter.

Leaves of self-blanching varieties will naturally do this. Loosely tie the leaves of other cauliflower varieties to cover the developing head, so it stays white and has a mild flavor. Check in 5 to 7 days and harvest when the head is full sized.

Visit for more gardening tips, videos, audio tips and more.

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