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Archives for October 2, 2016

Going green with design

Imagine stepping into a bathtub, and instead of bathroom tiles lining the wall next to you, there’s a fresh vertical garden, lush with bright green ferns, lavender, baby’s tears, mint and other fragrant plants.

San Francisco-based design studio Siol created just that a few years ago for one home.

Unusual ways to display indoor plants run the gamut, from built-in shelves and containers in and along walls, countertops or tables, to wall pockets and terrariums.

Article Photos

An assortment of terrariums, vases, jars and succulent displays bringing an otherwise ordinary corner of a home to life.

Photo via AP

A snake plant is displayed in a bullet planter.

Photo via AP

California-based Siol Studios designed a living garden bathroom wall at a home in San Francisco.

Photo via AP

“Decorating with plants is still one of the easiest ways to make a home feel lived in and relaxed,” said James Augustus Baggett, editor of Country Gardens magazine. “There are so many different ways that people can incorporate plants into a home’s design.”

For that living green bathroom wall, grow lights and a self-circulating drip water system were built into the 10-by-10-foot wall to promote indoor growth, said Siol co-owner and principal Jessica Weigley, 38. Lavender plants added a spa-like dash of aromatic beauty.

“We were joking that you could pick the lavender and put it into the bath with you,” Weigley said. “Bringing nature indoors is huge. It still requires care and attention, like any other garden. It’s just on your wall.”

Of course, a full green wall is also incredibly pricey – it can cost customers at least $10,000, at about $100 to $200 per square foot, Weigley said, because of its embedded lighting and watering system.

A much cheaper indoor-garden alternative is pockets made of various materials – including ceramic, glass, plastic, wood, metal and even macrame – that can hang directly on a wall and be filled with plants, said Baggett. They can run about $20 to $100 each.

Easy-to-care-for indoor plants include snake plants – also known as sansevierias – with long, pointy green leaves that reach upward; dark green, cast iron plants; wall-crawling ivy; dangling spider plants; succulents; and foxtail ferns. Snake plants and cast iron plants, especially, require little light and watering. Bonsai trees, bay laurel trees and small fig trees can also be displayed indoors in both planters and partitioned floor areas padded with soil and rocks.

Those living in smaller homes can get creative: “Vertical gardening is the hottest trend for not a lot of space,” said Baggett. “There’s the floating shelf – a shelf that’s just sticking out of the wall – and the half wall, a waist-high wall, with plants on top of it. Recessed wall niches are also popular.”

Miniature gardens, from terrariums – landscapes in glass containers – to fairy gardens, have caught on for both space-conscious adults and fun-loving kids, he said.

What are fairy gardens? They’re small, whimsical sceneries decorated with itsy-bitsy figurines, houses, moss, milkweed pods, pine cones and tiny plants.

Kokedama, a Japanese plant art that means “moss ball” in English, involves forming a moss-covered ball of soil around the roots of a plant and wrapping it with twine. Suspending these moss balls as hanging plants is also a trend, Baggett added.

Those with a retro aesthetic can display succulents and cacti in vintage tins and decorative pottery. Molded fiberglass bullet planters, popular in the 1950s, have also been making a comeback. The size of an ice bucket, the planter is held aloft on a three-pronged stand.

“Plant stands are handy. You’re raising those plants to eye level,” said Baggett. “That pulls your eye around that room. It’s the same way in an outdoor garden that people use color to pull the eye around the garden.”

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City Council to consider University Drive master plans Monday

The Pine Bluff City Council is scheduled to consider a proposed resolution that would authorize the mayor to contract with Cromwell Architects and Engineers of Little Rock for $37,000 of professional services along University Drive.

The proposed contract between the city and Cromwell Architects would have Cromwell perform landscaping; designate pedestrian crossings; install bush shelters, benches, trash cans and signs. The project would last for six months.

Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. is sponsoring the proposed resolution. He said these measures would set the stage for bringing in businesses to that area of the city.

“This is an effort to get this project going,” Holcomb said. “I am looking to improve our city in every aspect in this project and all other aspects as we revitalize our city.”

In conjunction with these measures, Holcomb said he considers education to be a cornerstone toward development.

Lori Walker, assistant director of Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development, touts these projects as improving the quality of life for residents. She said the master plan is helping to identify sites in the area that are ready to be built based on lot sizes and recommended uses.

Walker said the planning part is focusing on the area around three new businesses: Family Dollar, a Dollar General and a gas station. She said there has been about $2 million in private investment along University Drive.

The Family Dollar is being built to new design standard in accordance with the City Council’s passage of a measure in December 2015.

Walker said there is $270,000 to do streetscape work as well. This money was leftover from the Transportation Community and System Preservation Grant through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

The streetscape will improve the pedestrian environment, Walker said. There will be public meetings in October with the Family Community Development Corporation to allow residents and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff students to share their ideas.

“In the realm of streetscape, $270,000 is not a lot of money,” Walker said. “We are going to rely on planners to plan the streetscape.”

The council is also scheduled to consider the following items:

*A proposed resolution that would authorize the mayor to contract with Mehlbuger Brawley Firm of Little Rock for professional services regarding the Southwood Elementary School sidewalk and the 42nd Avenue/Fir Street intersection drainage improvement project.

*A second reading on a proposed ordinance that would set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2016, to clear Main Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues;

*A proposed resolutions that would set a millage for the Firemen’s Relief and Pension Fund and the Policemen’s Relief and Pension Fund for the city of Pine Bluff;

*A proposed resolution that would set the millage for general purposes as authorized and prescribed by law for the city of Pine Bluff;

*A proposed resolution that would set the millage for the operation and maintenance of the Pine Bluff Public Library:

*A proposed resolution providing for the placement of costs of correcting certain nuisances on tax books and delinquent taxes.

*A proposed budget adjustment that would transfer existing money to pay for police officers to have bullet-proof vests.

*A proposed budget adjustment that would transfer $4,000 to pay for collection agency fees.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers at the civic complex. Committee meetings begin at 5 p.m.

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THIS OLD HOUSE: Arlington Arts & Crafts (New)

Discover America’s leading home improvement series, the Emmy® Award-winning THIS OLD HOUSE®. Follow home renovations from start to finish with America’s favorite team of experts – Norm Abram, Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey, Roger Cook and Kevin O’Connor.

In Arlington, Massachusetts, homeowners Nick and Emily plan to restore and expand their early English-style Arts and Crafts home, built in 1909. The Arlington project will feature 16 all-new episodes, as the team brings back the home’s traditional aesthetics while also updating and moving the kitchen and bathrooms, and adding a master suite and home office. Landscaping projects abound.

Courtesy of Anthony Tieuli

The Deldons and their 120-pound Newfoundland. In Arlington, Mass., the homeowners plan to restore and expand their early English-style Arts and Crafts home, built in 1909.


Episode 1: “Arts and Crafts Class Begins” airs Saturday, Oct. 1 at Noon – In Arlington, homeowners Nick and Emily plan to restore and expand their early English-style Arts and Crafts home, built in 1909. On the first floor, Kevin checks what has been preserved. Richard talks about plans for mechanical and plumbing systems.

Episode 2: “A New Look, Inside and Out” airs Saturday, Oct. 8 at Noon – Homeowner Emily sorts through colors and wallpaper ideas for the living room. The old plaster walls are demolished. Landscape architect Kim Turner presents her plan to Nick and Emily and a certified arborist begins removing the old silver maple.

Episode 3: “Make Way for the Family Room” airs Saturday, Oct. 15 at Noon – The heavy lifting and dirty work are underway: installing a new steel beam to provide support for the addition, removing an oil tank and digging for the new foundation. Meanwhile, Norm visits local examples of English-style Arts and Crafts houses.

Episode 4: “Foundation Fundamentals” airs Saturday, Oct. 22 at Noon – A new foundation is built using insulated concrete forms and precast stairs, while the old exposed foundation is reinforced and waterproofed. The homeowner goes shopping for specimen trees.

Episode 5: “A Steely Den” airs Saturday, Oct. 29 at Noon – Tommy and Kevin follow steel beams from fabrication to installation on the addition. Richard works on the HVAC plan for the 2nd and 3rd floors. After the front porch is removed, new footings are placed. Kevin learns how to size a new firebox.

Episode 6: “One Brick at a Time” airs Saturday, Nov. 5 at Noon – The homeowner apprentices with the mason on the fireplace. Kevin joins the homeowners at a custom cabinetry shop in Maine as they begin to design their new kitchen. Tommy changes the pitch of the two small dormers in back.

Courtesy of Kevin O’Connor

Fireplace. In Arlington, Mass., the homeowners plan to restore and expand their early English-style Arts and Crafts home, built in 1909.

Episode 7: “To Paint or Not to Paint” airs Saturday, Nov. 12 at Noon – A custom range hood is fabricated, and on the roof a rebuild of the original chimney. The homeowners meet with the designer to talk about options for the first floor, including the living room panels.

Episode 8: “A New Look to Match the Old” airs Saturday, Nov. 19 at Noon – The new foundation is parged to match the old stucco. Richard uses some creativity to drain the new master bath shower and the electrician starts work in the new powder room. Tommy and Charlie replace the living room windows.

Episode 9: airs Saturday, Nov. 26 at Noon – TBA

(Episodes 10-16 TBA)


Full episodes are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone or tablet. We offer Passport videos on ROKU! Activate your benefit now.


This Old House is on Facebook, Pinterest, and you can follow @ThisOldHouse on Twitter.


THIS OLD HOUSE is produced by THIS OLD HOUSE Productions, Inc., for THIS OLD HOUSE Ventures, Inc., and is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. Executive Producer is Deborah Hood. Director is Thomas Draudt. Producer is Jo Sagar. Series creator is Russell Morash. THIS OLD HOUSE Ventures, Inc., is owned by Time Inc.


Sneak Peek | The 37th Season of THIS OLD HOUSE

Host Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, master carpenter Norm Abram, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook start off the 37th Season of THIS OLD HOUSE by restoring a home in a dense suburban neighborhood in Arlington, Massachusetts where they will tackle everything, from the fieldstone foundation to the top of the chimney and more.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.

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Candidates for County Commission, City Council address questions from public

With the Nov. 8 general election quickly approaching, 10 candidates vying to represent Laramie and Albany County gathered at the Albany County Public Library on Thursday to tell voters how they plan to lead if elected.

The League of Women Voters hosted the forum where the eight candidates for Laramie City Council and two candidates for Albany County Commission who prevailed in the primaries were given the opportunity to answer questions submitted by the more than 50 people in the audience.

Former gubernatorial candidate and current Downtown Clinic Director Pete Gosar moderated the forum. Questions were posed to the council and commission candidates respectively, along with questions posed to both.

Some questions were directed at all candidates while others were tailored specifically for council or commission candidates.

Though they both attended the July primary forum, Ward 1 candidates Willy Swett and Charles McKinney were absent.

Questions for all candidates

Question: “Can the city and county work together on a plan to increase parks and paths to the National Forest?”

County Commission:

Mary Byrnes: “I do believe the city and county do need to collaborate and work together. … As commissioners, we must look to serve all people and work on collaborating to find unified efforts on comprehensive plans that make sense that bring together the county and city to make it livable.”

Terri Jones: “The concerns I have about having parks and trails going to the national forest are the private property rights of all the people these trails are going to go across. No one should be forced to have trails go across land they do not want. Neither the city or county are in a position to be purchasing these properties.”

City Council:

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “I agree the city and county could work together to develop parks and trails toward the national forest. I don’t think we need to be stepping on any private property toes. It would only be the people who were willing to give an easement or whatever it takes.”

Erik Molvar: “There is one single landowner that goes all the way from the city limits to the national forest. By purchasing that land in one fell swoop, you could not only provide the opportunity to create recreationally, but more importantly you could prevent development that possibly threatens our aquifer.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “As far as I’m concerned, the city has its hands full worrying about infrastructure without worrying about trails going over private property and the rights they’re stepping on. There’s always been a lack of cohesiveness in meetings between the City Council and County Commissioners.”

Tanna Nagy: “I see it as recreation being a huge, integral, important part of our development and growth. It’s not necessarily that can we work together, but if we’re working for the people in our county and city, it’s what we should do.”

Jayne Pearce: “Let’s hope we can all work together. Obviously, this is a great issue and it’d be great if we could. And I would be fully supportive and put forth every effort it would take to do this.”

Joe Shumway: “There seems to a myth that the City Council and County Commissioners don’t work well together, but we do. … To take these trails, there’s going to have to have an agreement where we work together to identify the place that’s most logical, making sure it doesn’t hurt anyone’s private property.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “When I was on County Commission and Joe (Shumway) was mayor, we all worked together. I just received my political signs that say ‘Let’s work together.’ We have to work together — there might have to be a little give-and-take there.”

Brent Roth: “Getting landowner permission and an easement through their property would be difficult. But as far as city and county working together, I don’t see any problem with that. I’ve been in contact with all the county commissioners and as far as they’re concerned, there’s no animosity.”

Question: “Please address your position on the Casper Aquifer: Does it need protection?”

County Commission:

Mary Byrnes: “I believe the process we should look at is to still investigate. This divisiveness between the city and the county has been looked at without fully vetting perhaps the nature of the concerns and to really drill into this and find out what’s going on.”

Terri Jones: “Right now, the water in the aquifer is very good, and what has been done to keep the water clean is working. So, until there’s science that indicates otherwise, I believe the aquifer is in very good shape and will continue to be as long as it’s monitored.”

City Council:

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “Maybe it’s time to enlist the help of someone who doesn’t live here, who does not live in Albany County or the city of Laramie to help us with our problems. … I do believe we should not be building as many houses or setting up septic tanks over our aquifer.”

Erik Molvar: “If you don’t want to spend $50 million to build a water treatment plant for our city well … then what we need to do is think very hard about how you’re going to plan for growth so you’re not putting the kind of development over the aquifer that will further pollute it.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I’m not quite certain where this big concern is. Not to say we shouldn’t protect things, but there was, last year, a 700-gallon oil spill at the dump and nobody did anything about it.”

Tanna Nagy: “It’s our drinking water, and I would hate to approve a project and in 20, 40, 60 years later and say, ‘Why did we do that?’ It seems like everything is working now and we need to continue to monitoring that.”

Jayne Pearce: “Without hesitation, without any pause, we absolutely have to protect the Casper Aquifer.”

Joe Shumway: “I introduced what is now known as the Casper Aquifer protection ordinance. We were able to pass that so we had a plan for us to do what we could to protect our water supply.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “Maybe we need to have some kind of summit, or whatever you want to call it, between city, county, all of the geology experts here at University of Wyoming and around the region to make sure we’re doing the proper things.”

Brent Roth: “I think what we’re doing right now is probably working for right now. I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people a heck of a lot smarter than me … Someone else mentioned we have this vast resource at the University of Wyoming — let’s utilize that.”

County Commission candidate questions

Question: “What is your position on the proposed state land swap that will leave several thousands of acres of county land landlocked and without public access?”

Terri Jones: “I am absolutely against the land swap. It would not benefit the citizens of Albany County, it doesn’t benefit any of our neighboring counties.”

Mary Byrnes: “It does not play well for Albany County. We lose about 8,000-10,000 acres of public access land for an extremely little amount of $6,000 in potential tax revenue.”

Question: “What is the greatest issue facing the county and how would you address it?”

Mary Byrnes: “I would think the greatest is the budget. I was listening today to Sen. (Phil) Nicholas and Sen. (Chris) Rothfuss discuss the budget and reductions that may be coming to our counties so it’s going to be tight. But I also think we’re in a great position for all the great things going on in this county. … One thing we do need to solve so we’re not so divisive is to work out a comprehensive plan with the city and county on the Casper Aquifer.”

Terri Jones: “The budget is the big deal. We’re just going to have to tighten our belts, hang in there and get through this. But I agree we have a lot of great things going on. I would really like to see the university work with the county and get more tourism and conventions in here. People that come to conventions spend a lot of money and would have opportunities all year round to do things.”

Laramie City Council candidate questions

Question: “What is the greatest issue the city is facing and how would you address it?”

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “What I hear from my constituents in Ward 1 is the lack of infrastructure. In West Laramie and in the northern downtown area, we still have streets that aren’t paved. The reason they’re not paved is because we don’t have good storm water drainage.”

Erik Molvar: “One of the things the city should continue to do — the city has been doing a good job of this with a lot of foresight — is to try and create the opportunity for synergy between research and development at the University of Wyoming and the private sector.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I feel, in my opinion, that the atmosphere in the city with respect to welcoming businesses has not been friendly. I think that should be lightened up a little bit, not be so stringent. But instead, we seem to be more concerned about recreation and downtown murals.”

Tanna Nagy: “We’re looking at a very tight budget ahead and that affects everything. One of the things I’m excited about if I become a city councilor is working with (the University of Wyoming). … The university is a huge, integral part of our community.”

Jayne Pearce: “Statute defines where and how we get our money. So we need to need to be thinking of different revenue streams or we need to change the statutes.”

Joe Shumway: “We can assure the citizens we have, we will provide for the citizens not only good infrastructure, but beautification, good recreation and a good community we can be proud of.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “We’re going to have to work with department heads and other city councilors … We’re going to have to do more than less. There’s an economic downturn around the state, and I don’t think anyone really knows right now when thing are going to turn around.”

Brent Roth: “The city needs to continue to support Laramie Chamber Business Alliance and work with them to bring in more businesses and continue to go after state grants to fund these programs that bring people in, increase revenue, increase our budget.”

Question: “City Council has been divided recently on staff recommendations for development and land use regulations within the city. How do you balance the need for develop and the need to plan?”

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “We need to look at aesthetics when we plan our developments. I think it’s important for Laramie to step up its beautification efforts so we can attract more businesses and we can attract people to live and stay here with young families.”

Erik Molvar: “I don’t think there’s a dichotomy between planning and growth. If you have growth without planning, you end up with a mess and if you have good planning, you have vibrant business and communities.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I find it ironic that for the most part, the public is always very sensitive about government interference in our lives. They don’t want the government to tell us what color to paint our house or what trees to plant, and they we turn around and vote in people who are all for government involvement.”

Tanna Nagy: “I don’t think that these codes are so set in stone there can’t be any discussion if someone wants to change something or if someone is having issues with how they landscape.”

Jayne Pearce: “The good thing in Laramie is we do have a substantial amount of public input on these projects at different phases. … Of course we’re going to have different opinions about it, but that’s what this is about.”

Joe Shumway: “You want to make sure you’re very careful to listen to businesses and very careful to listen to staff — the professionals who bring us our ideas for landscaping and development and things like that. … We’re trying to strike that balance to say, ‘How can we encourage economic development and how can we guarantee this is a very attractive, safe place for us to live?’”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “There certainly has to be give-and-take on these codes. I think the City Council initially approves things, then developers come before council and say, ‘This is not working.’ So I’m certainly open to that and trying to do the best for all concerned.”

Brent Roth: “We basically adopted, not fully adopted, the (Unified Development Code) from Fort Collins (Colorado). There’s a lot of things that didn’t quite work with our community that does make it expensive for contractors to build.”

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7 tips for putting your garden to bed this fall

Planters are beginning to resemble a collection of shrivelled brown sticks. After the dry summer, hostas with crispy edges are faltering and lady’s mantle yellow blooms have faded to brown. It’s time to start putting those gardens to bed.

We asked two expert gardeners for their advice on winding down the season for your lawn and gardens.

1. Resist temptation

Trim off what is dead, including brown leaves and flower heads, but resist the temptation to cut back the whole flower bed in the fall, our experts said. 

‘Don’t leave fruits and vegetables out all winter to attract animals and set seed.’
— Heidi Riley

“Pruning encourages new growth, which will be too tender to survive the winter,” said Heidi Riley, who’s trained as a master gardener. 

Clip off any dead flower heads, unless you’d like them to add visual interest to the garden in winter. Plants including ferns, peonies and sedum have a neat look, and the seeds of echinacea and rudbeckia will attract and feed birds all winter, Riley shared. 

If you don’t prune back your plants to the ground, their stalks will hold new spring growth straighter — Annabelle hydrangeas, for instance, won’t grow in floppy, shares Barb Trainor, who’s also trained as a master gardener. 

Barb Trainor clips dead parts off lady’s mantle in her garden but doesn’t trim the plants to the ground. (Submitted by Barb Trainor)

Trainor and her husband maintain about a hectare of perennials and lawn, container gardens on their deck and a large vegetable garden. 

If you insist on cleaning up things like hostas, wait until after a hard frost when it’s completely dead, Trainor said.

There are exceptions: irises should be cut back to about two inches above the ground — their leaves attract the irises borer which can kill the plant. Daylilies can be cut back to the ground as well as bee balm, because the fallen stalks are susceptible to mould, said Riley. 

2. Don’t divide

“I would not divide and replant this time of year,” said Trainor. “Always in the spring. Same with composting and additives to amend the soil.” Otherwise, you lose nutrients over the winter. 

3. To mulch or not to mulch

Mulching, too, is not necessarily needed over the winter — or ever, said Trainor, who likes to work her soil in the summer. She has never lost a plant because she does not mulch her garden in winter, she said.

Heidi Riley, pruning a globe thistle, says it can be left standing over the winter and birds enjoy the seeds, but watch out — the plants produce a lot of seeds which will all germinate in spring. (Submitted by Heidi Riley)

Other gardeners wait for a hard frost, then pile evergreen branches on the garden to insulate it against freeze-thaw cycles, she mentioned, although she has never tried it. 

Riley, on the other hand, is all for mulch — noting that bare ground is rare in nature. After spreading compost on her flower beds in the fall, she gathers seaweed and dresses her garden about three inches deep. 

“Seaweed is full of micronutrients that enrich the soil and feed the plants. And it’s free!” she enthused.

4. Leaves and lawn 

“Don’t put all those leaves in bags for the garbage trucks to take away,” advised Riley. Instead, run the lawnmower over them, and “worms will pull the small pieces into the ground and enrich the soil.” said Riley. Isn’t nature cool?

Now is the time to spread lime on your lawn and gardens, not spring. Lime needs time to break down into the soil. “Flower and veggie beds need twice as much lime as the soil,” advised Riley. 

5. Rugged roses

Know what kind of roses you have, if possible. Keep the tags that come on the plants, and check what zone they are hardy for, reminded Riley.

Some roses bloom well into October, so now is not the time to prune them. (Sobhana V )

“Anything zone four or under does not have to be protected for the winter,” she said. To make this easier, grow only rugosa or explorer roses, which are hardy and don’t need protection.

Now is not the time to cut back your roses, either — wait until spring, unless they are tender roses like tea roses labelled zone five or higher. For those, cut them to about a foot tall, making the cut right above a node, instructed Riley, then surround them with chicken wire and fill the tube with dead leaves. “

Pile up and and cover with soil taken from a different part of the garden,” said Riley, wrapping them up, “like mummies.” Now that’s devotion.

“Pruning encourages new growth, which will be too tender to survive the winter. Cut any diseased branches, branches that are rubbing against each other and causing a wound just above a leaf node,” she said. 

6. Don’t eat and run

In the vegetable garden, harvest everything — “don’t leave fruits and vegetables out all winter to attract animals and set seed,” said Riley.

Cut back irises to a couple inches above the ground to prevent disease, experts advise. (Submitted by Heidi Riley )

Pull out all the dead plants and compost them, especially tomato plants. You can work the soil, add compost or manure and mulch, or wait til spring.

You can leave sunflowers, kale and Jerusalem artichokes, said Riley.

7. Turn on to bulbs

Plant bulbs like daffodils and garlic now according to directions, advises Riley. Tulips, hyacinth and other bulbs can wait until late October or November, or even later. 

If you planted dahlias in the spring, you’ll need to dig them up and store them in a cool, dry place like a basement or garage. They’re a lot of work, but the colourful showy and long-lasting blooms can be worth it. 

“Surprisingly, gladiola bulbs will survive if they were planted at least six inches deep,” reveals Riley. 

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Garden Tips: Plant fall container gardens now – Tri

Last weekend, I decided it was the end of the season for the two large flower container gardens that sit on each side by my front door. The most recent bout of wind decimated the large coleus plants and the beautiful petunias were finished flowering. Now the containers are empty because I have yet to decide whether to fill them with fall flowers, plant them with spring flowering bulbs or simply finish the cleanup process and get them ready for next spring.

I like planting frost-tolerant fall flowers in my planters to extend the season, but often wonder if their relatively short display of beauty outweighs the time and expense. While combinations of the typically available choices of mums, flowering kale and pansies can be attractive, they do not lend much versatility to fall container garden design. However, creative gardeners can use perennial herbs and flowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs and even frost tolerant vegetables in the planters for something different. The perennials that survive the winter cold can then be relocated to the garden next spring.

Better Homes and Gardens suggests using colorful coral bells (Heuchera), Heucherella, asters, grasses and sedges, kale, swiss chard, dead nettle (Lamium) and silver sage (Salvia argentea) in fall planters. Look through a vegetable garden catalog and check out the foliage of kale, Swiss chard, beets and lettuce. Their leaves can provide interesting color and texture, plus you can eat the fall crops. Also, the blue-gray foliage of garden sage (Salvia officinalis) and rosemary contrast nicely with purple-leaved kale and chard.

Before planting perennial and woody plants in containers, consider that they need to be watered regularly during the winter to keep the roots from drying out and dying.

If you decide to depart from the ordinary and plant perennial flowers, herbs or even shrubs, even plants hardy for our region (Zone 6) may succumb to winter cold. This is because the roots of plants in containers are subjected to colder temperatures than if planted in the garden. When planted in the ground, the surrounding soil insulates the roots, providing protection from severely cold temperatures. Roots are the least hardy plant tissues, making plants more susceptible to cold damage when planted in containers.

Several years ago, I planted two dwarf globe arborvitae in my front pots, and they survived a winter that was not excessively cold. However, the next spring I removed these shrubs from the planters so I could plant colorful annuals. Plus, I found it tiresome to water the containers during the winter.

Before planting perennial and woody plants in containers, consider that they will need to be watered regularly during the winter to keep the roots from drying out and dying. Also, these plants may succumb to winter cold, but if they do survive and you want to change your container garden display from year to year, they will need to be replanted in the landscape.

I am still in a quandary about what to do with my planters. There are so many possibilities. I am tempted to plant some traditional bright yellow mums along with the less conventional veggie garden kale, chard and herbs. I also like the beautiful variegated foliage of the many new coral bells and Heucherella cultivars. However, I also want to try planting bulbs. I need to make my decision soon before it’s too late to plant anything.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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