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Archives for October 12, 2016

Netherlands: This Dutch design will emerge when Keukenhof gardens bloom next spring

Gardeners at the famed Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam have begun planting more than 7 million flower bulbs that will bloom in spring, some of them in an artistic form.

Dutch design is the gardens’ theme for 2017, which includes a massive mosaic of a work by abstract Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, according to a news release.

The blue, gold, red and white masterpiece will be planted with about 80,00 tulips, muscari (a.k.a. grape hyacinth) and crocuses. It will be planted in two layers so the blooms will last longer. 


This New England town knows the secrets of Motif No. 1

Caption This New England town knows the secrets of Motif No. 1

Motif. No. 1 might look like a modest fishing shack on the waterfront of Rockport, Mass., but there’s more to it. This two-minute video tells the tale.

Motif. No. 1 might look like a modest fishing shack on the waterfront of Rockport, Mass., but there’s more to it. This two-minute video tells the tale.

Readers' summer photo issue 2016

Caption Readers’ summer photo issue 2016

A selection of photos submitted by readers from their summer travels. See more

A selection of photos submitted by readers from their summer travels. See more

Road trip Video: sights, sounds and 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Caption Road trip Video: sights, sounds and 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Our reporter drove all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina. 

Our reporter drove all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina. 

Looking for a place to stay in L.A. on the cheap? Try Hostelling International in Santa Monica

Caption Looking for a place to stay in L.A. on the cheap? Try Hostelling International in Santa Monica

Hostels, where people share rooms with strangers, are a classic low-budget option for travelers. Hostelling International, part of a chain, can accommodate up to 273 guests in a place that’s a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier.

Hostels, where people share rooms with strangers, are a classic low-budget option for travelers. Hostelling International, part of a chain, can accommodate up to 273 guests in a place that’s a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier.

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Linda Cobb: History repeats itself in a historic garden in Columbia

The Hampton-Preston Mansion Gardens are a hidden jewel in the heart of Columbia. The house was built in 1818 and has had numerous uses over the years. Historic Columbia is revitalizing the four acres and grounds surrounding the French/Italianate estate.

A dedicated team of professionals are working on the antebellum gardens. In the 1820s, the Hampton family purchased the home. The mother, Mary Hampton, and her daughter, Caroline Hampton Preston, began to create a garden on the grounds during the 1830s.

The duo transformed the property into a regionally acclaimed antebellum garden that contained a large collection of native plants. In the “Old English” garden, there was a marble fountain made by Hiram Powers, one of America’s distinguished 19th century sculptors.

Historic Columbia is using documentation as a guide to help with the garden revitalization project. The group has a three-phase, multi-year implementation plan. The goal is to grow plants that were grown on the property from 1830 through 1860.

Evan Clements, director of grounds at the mansion, has been restoring each section of the garden. The welcome garden at the front gate is simple, yet dramatic with exotic plants and unusual architecture. Clements describes the front two beds as over the top tropics. He uses Red Russian cannas along with a dynamic annual known as senna alata.

The common name for senna alata is Christmas senna or popcorn senna. This is a large, easy to grow plant that can grow up to 15-feet tall. The yellow, cup-shaped flowers will eventually have brown pods at the bottom. This plant can be found in tropical areas and South Africa and the Pacific Islands. The welcome garden has been made possible by the continuing work of the Palmetto Garden Club.

There are two rose gardens on each side of the mansion. In each bed, heirloom roses such as bourbons and damasks are grown. The beds are lined with plantation gravel.

After a long time of fundraising, the Children’s Garden has come into fruition. In the 1940s, this section was a parking lot. Now it is a magical garden with great atmosphere. Horticulturalist Jenks Farmer worked on the landscape design.

Farmer says, “We need historical gardens to be updated in ways that will bring in all sorts of people and all ages of people. Once in the garden, you just want to smell the leaves and touch the bark. … The updated historical gardens tell stories that remind us and stimulate us to build better gardens for tomorrow.”

The Henry Powell Memorial Children’s Garden is a place of learning, discovery and quiet reflection. The garden was made possible by Kelly and Keith Powell. Farmer designed the garden with a fun area with tree swings and willow teepees. This year, the finishing touch was added when metal sculptor Chris Stuyck created a gazebo from steps from the original mansion. 

The Fountain Garden is a southern shady area. It has a working replica of the original fountain designed by Powers. The space also has two wooden arches along with clipped boxwood parterres. In addition, the garden has many period plantings that include hardy schefflera, cast iron plants, holly ferns and hostas. There is a large collection of palms, including European fan, silver saw, and paradise island. And of course, hydrangeas. 

The team at Hampton-Preston Mansion works hard together to bring this garden development plan into reality. The remaining half of the property still needs to be revitalized. Plans include creating a large tree and shrub arboretum and possibly a conservatory. The property will be restored so it is historically correct using modern cultivars to replace the old ones.

This house and garden can be visited by contacting Anna Kate Twitty at 803-252-7742 ext. 17. The garden also has been used for family celebrations, meetings and weddings.

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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Gardens by France’s Most Revered Landscape Designer

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Henderson eyes ‘parklet’ Downtown

Two Henderson organizations are looking to transform an unsightly downtown space into something not only beautiful, but functional.

Downtown Henderson Partnership and the Henderson Audubon Board of Realtors have teamed up to create a “parklet” along Second Street. A parklet is a space that provides amenities to those using the street or sidewalk.

“When I came to DHP in January, it was one of my side project ideas,” said Assistant Director Sarah Stewart. “I felt a parklet was important in creating community spaces that I feel are beneficial in bringing people to an area they wouldn’t normally gather around.”

Stewart hopes to place a few picnic tables in the parklet with a wooden overhang and possibly a bench with a planter. DHP is working with Henderson architect and planner Tim Skinner on different designs to see what samples would work in the area. Once a design is chosen, the organizations will get estimates on cost.

“An overhang is important for our location because it’s really sunny,” she said. “We don’t want to have to worry about taking umbrellas in and out or them flying off during a storm. You’re creating a green space where there is also seating.”

The space the two organizations are considering sits across from Sidewalk Cafe, beside Second Street Treats and the Cake Stand.

“We have a little cluster of eateries, but our parks are three blocks away from there,” Stewart said. “If we could just have a place where people could sit to be outside of their work office but still be close that would be beneficial.”

The space is eight-feet wide and about 30-feet long, with a raised landscaping bed filled with lava rock and weeds. DHP and the board of realtors are waiting for permission from the land owner.

“It’s owned by someone who doesn’t live in Henderson,” she said. “We have to get permission through them, but the landscaping bed doesn’t serve a purpose of any kind. We’ve heard a few complaints because residents wanted the weeds to be addressed. I realized we had an open space that we could put something there and make it a much more usable space.”

This was not the space DHP originally had in mind though. Stewart was hoping to extend the sidewalk into the street and use as many as three parking spaces to create the space.

“A true parklet is an expansion of the sidewalk into one, two or three parking spots on the street,” Stewart said. ‘The city had some concerns. They felt there were safety issues to look at like who was going to insure it.”

With the finding of the raised landscaping bed, the board of realtors expressed interest in the project and offered assistance through the Micro-Placemaking grant through the National Association of Realtors. NAR handles the grant writing process. The grant is for $1,500 to $3,000. Stewart hopes to apply for more grants to supplement the cost of the project.

“NAR’s Placemaking Program provides technical and financial assistance to help realtor associations and their members initiate placemaking activities — transforming public spaces into vibrant community places — in their community,” said Missy Vanderpool, executive officer of the Henderson Audubon Board of Realtors. “We believe as a place becomes more desirable and welcoming, properties around that place increase in value.”

Some of Stewart’s inspiration for the project came from Covington, Kent. The city has five parklets in their downtown that are privately funded by sponsors. DHP and the board of realtors plan to create a sponsorship package to help cover the costs of insurance, furniture and upkeep.

After this project is completed, Stewart hopes to continue the project by adding parklets to other areas near downtown.

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Rethinking Urban Landscaping: Creating a Utilitopia

October 12, 2016
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As we move back into our urban core, there is a long abiding conversation in this community about greenspaces and living elements in our built environment. Check out this talk by Marcus Descant about new ideas in urban landscaping that build in a utilitarian approach to the relationship between plants and people.

Marcus Descant

From an early age Marcus has always admired the exquisite designs in nature, and questioned the industrialized settings for growing crops. This is obvious in his designs, emulating the curves we see in nature both for beauty and efficiency. He admires ecosystems as complex machines composed of thousands of components and made up of many organisms. In 2011 he started his current business “Urban Naturalist”, to explore a new approach to agriculture. One where we recognize urban spaces as our most recent ecosystem, filled with resources and setbacks, just like any other ecosystem. He began melding agriculture and ornamental landscape practices to create a hybrid which strives for a utilitopian middle ground. His work can be seen in both public and private spaces, each one uniquely designed for purpose and comfort while utilizing light and space as efficiently as possible.

Check out his work on the urban naturalist

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3 quirky DIY landscaping ideas

Your home, your style

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Garden clubs host fundraiser to maintain and preserve Hampton Mansion’s historic grounds

It takes a lot of time, talent and treasure to keep the grounds and gardens of Hampton National Historic Site looking beautiful. With that in mind, a group of local garden clubs has organized a benefit, called “Beauty in Bloom,” to raise money to restore and maintain the landscape of Towson’s only national park and the ancestral home of the Ridgelys, a leading Baltimore County family.

The benefit, which is set for Tuesday, Oct. 18, will be hosted by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District III, an umbrella organization of 26 clubs in Baltimore and Harford counties, and held at the historic home of the Woman’s Club of Roland Park.

The featured events will include presentations on fashion, food and flowers, a luncheon and fashion show, plenty of vendors, and a raffle of items ranging from vacations to Baltimore Ravens football tickets. The activities are designed to be interactive and allow attendees plenty of opportunity to browse vendor tables, listen to presentations and join in discussions, according to Carol Whitman, of Murray Hill, the event chair.

“It’s going to be great fun,” Whitman said.

The Glen Arm Garden Club, for example, has planted and maintained an herb garden at the site since 1966. Garden clubs also have provided funding for a summer intern who plants and maintains the colorful formal gardens at the site, which also features a historic mansion and a 63-acre park that contains several state champion trees and dozens of historic structures.

“They’ve been great supporters for years and years,” Suzie Merryman, the chair of Historic Hampton Inc., said of the clubs. “It’s wonderful that we have their support.”

An historical landscape

Hampton’s gardens were renowned in the 19th Century, Gregory Weidman, Hampton’s curator, said of the estate, which was the home of generations of the Ridgely family.

The family included early industrialists who established an ironworks that provided arms to the continental army during the Revolutionary War, as well as one of Maryland’s early governors, Charles Carnan Ridgely. The house’s mistresses, including Eliza Ridgely, the wife of John Carnan Ridgely, who lived in the house during the mid-19th century, were instrumental in the design of the gardens.

The first gardens, the Great Terrace with its serpentine path and geometric “falling gardens,” were probably laid out soon after construction of the Ridgely home was finished in 1790, Weidman added. Nearby, the oldest trees, catalpas, are probably even older than the house.

Garden layouts were inspired by the formal gardens of Europe. “Terrace gardens like this, with designed plantings, were quite popular in the Chesapeake region, Maryland and tidewater Virginia through the late colonial and early Federal period,” Weidman said, adding that, through the years, the gardens evolved, as tastes changed.

Eliza Ridgely added specimen trees to the formal landscape. She planted the Cedar of Lebanon that now dominates the lawn of the Great Terrace, the saucer magnolias that bloom white and pink in the spring, and the fan-leaved ginkgo at the corner of the house, according to Whitman.

Brooke Derr, the National Park Service horticulturist at Hampton, has a long to-do list. “The older trees need constant care,” she said.

Because voluminous records were kept through the years, park officials have a good idea of how the gardens were planted, Derr said.

However, while historic accuracy is maintained where possible, modern needs have forced some changes. Deer, for instance, have been a problem.

“Because of the deer, we have to pick different plants that evoke the look or function of the original,” Derr said.

Once the Beauty in Bloom fundraiser has wrapped up, organizers will meet with park service staff to determine which projects to fund, Whitman said.

“Garden clubs enjoy beauty in nature, and Beauty in Bloom celebrates how nature inspires so many aspects of our life,” she added. “By supporting the restoration and preservation of the landscape at Hampton, we can see how, through the centuries in America, our lives have been formed and enriched by it.”

For more information on the event, visit

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A helping hand with a green thumb

CASA GRANDE — No one said growing plants in the Sonoran Desert would be easy.

But it’s good to know that Pinal County residents with gardening or landscaping problems have somewhere to turn.

The Master Gardener program — part of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, an outreach arm of UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — has been a valuable resource to local gardeners and landscapers since it started in 1982.

With five working groups in Pinal County, the Master Gardener program consists of about 120 volunteers based out of Casa Grande, Maricopa, San Tan Valley, Saddlebrooke and in the Superstition Mountains area of Apache Junction/Gold Canyon.

The volunteers, mostly senior citizens, all donate their time because they love agriculture and want to continue to see a thriving gardening community within the third largest county in the state.

“Each group has a little different focus, depending on community needs,” County Extension Director Rick Gibson said. “For example, the Maricopa Agricultural Center is a diagnostic clinic, with a demonstration garden and a demonstration orchard.”

Casa Grande, where Gibson’s office is located, helps with a number of different projects, answering questions and putting on seminars and workshops. The San Tan Valley group is the newest, with the largest contingent of volunteers in training, focused on working with San Tan Regional Park and providing educational programs.

The Superstition Mountains group supports the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a state park near Superior, and helps with plant sales, tours, classes and propagation. The one in Saddlebrooke, a Robson community, does problem solving, writes material for community newspapers and offers workshops and seminars.

When the program began 34 years ago, it only had one master gardener volunteer — Phil Bond. Growing to 120 volunteers in more than three decades may not seem impressive, but considering it had half that just five years ago, the program is well on its way.

In fact, Bond, a third-generation Arizona native and master gardener who owns Distinctive Earthscapes at The Avocado Nursery, a retail business between Casa Grande and Coolidge, is still one of those volunteers today. A valued teacher, he has always had a passion for sharing his wealth of knowledge, specifically on horticulture, Gibson said.

Gibson hopes word will continue to spread that his volunteers are available to anyone with questions.

“A good example, if a new pest comes in or a new disease, we’ll do field days, workshops, seminars, anything to help get the information out so producers can make good management decisions,” Gibson said. “That’s the agricultural arena, but we’re always trying to bring new concepts and new techniques to the benefit of the people of Pinal County.”

One of the best parts of the program is that it’s people in communities reaching out to other members of that same community, Gibson went on to say, and helping teach the concepts that work in the desert in order to have more successful gardens, landscapes and farms.

In addition to personalized questions or issues, master gardeners teach concepts on water conservation, soil testing, how to reduce effects of drought, how to grow edible food, how to care for citrus trees, how to start and maintain school and community gardens and much more.

Gibson is a big believer in the effectiveness of landscape plans in a community, believing that the more plants one has, the more shade there will be and the less accumulation of heat during the hot months of the year. An attractive, well-maintained landscape can only increase property value and certainly improve livability in a community, Gibson added.

The master gardeners are constantly answering phone calls and receiving emails from a wide variety of clientele asking for information on starting a garden, advice on maintaining a current one and more.

“We try to provide the best information possible,” Gibson said. “And there’s always more demand than what we have time to accomplish, but we are certainly available to help problem solve and assist anyone starting up.”

Those interested in becoming volunteer master gardeners can start by filling out an application. Prospective master gardeners then go through a training program, which includes one three-hour session a week, about 16 classes in total.

Topics in the classes include botany, soils, water-plant relationship, weeds, xeriscaping and a whole lot more. It’s a very hands-on program as well as taking place in the classroom. Students are required to participate in projects under the supervision of a certified master gardener for at least 50 hours.

The history of the UA Cooperative Extension itself goes back much further than the Master Gardener program. A part of a nationwide educational network of scientists and educators that help people solve problems and put knowledge to use, Cooperative Extension provides a link between the university and the citizens of Arizona.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the first legislation in 1864 creating an education entity also known as the Land Grant College system. With Congress passing the Smith-Lever Act on July 1, 1914, providing for cooperative extension work, the Agricultural Extension Service was organized in Arizona.

The act provides states with federal taxpayer money to carry on extension work as agreed upon by the respective land grant colleges and universities and the federal government. The University of Arizona is Arizona’s land grant college.

Prior to 1914, agricultural extension work consisted principally of institutes and agricultural demonstration trains, farmer short courses and a very limited amount of advisory service carried on by the experiment station staff.

Farmers institutes took place as early as 1901 in Arizona. Beginning in 1905, the state Legislature made appropriations for agricultural extension work, gradually increasing the amount at each subsequent session until 1914. In 1913-1914, 26 cooperative demonstrations were undertaken in the state.

Cooperative Extension has always included youth development, consumer sciences and family development. Boys and girls club work (now called 4-H youth development) had its beginning in the state in 1913, when George P. Peabody organized a boys cotton club in Chandler.

In 1915-16, 318 boys and girls demonstration agreements were signed. By 1915, girls canning clubs were arousing interest. In 1915, a women’s section was added to the third annual farmers short course held on the UA campus.

Since its nationalization under this act, Cooperative Extension work has engaged faculty, students and community members throughout the country in educational activities aimed at developing the full range of people’s contributions to the political, economic and cultural life of their communities, states and nation.

Two basic tenets of Cooperative Extension work have been supported through the years. First, Extension’s mission is to “make science useful.” Cooperative Extension believes in the potential value of science and research to improve people’s lives.

Second, Cooperative Extension is based on the needs of people in communities and counties. Extension work brings people together in local communities to solve local problems.

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Why every garden needs conifers

If there is one group of plants that I could not do without, it is conifers. Flowers, with all their pretty colours and exuberance, capture attention like a star actor in a small town. But in landscapes where winters dominate, gardeners need something else to admire when flowers are but a fleeting memory of warmer seasons long past. In come conifers.

Four seasons of appeal

For many people, the word ‘conifer’ conjures up images of uninspiring ‘pine trees’ often relegated to property boundaries as windscreens or privacy hedges, but conifers offer so much more than that. Because they retain their needled foliage (except for Larches), conifers are permanent features in the landscape providing visual interest throughout the year. And they are not just green. They come in palettes of rich emeralds, yellows and blues and display subtle hue variations and other unique attributes as seasons change. They shine in autumn gardens when brilliant reds and glowing ambers contrast exceptionally against their velvety, evergreen foliage and in winter, a dusting of snow shows off their form. In spring they show off their growing tips: those of ‘Moon Frost’ Canadian hemlock resemble delightful, frosty-white, buttons that eventually disappear, blending into existing, delicately arching, soft grey-green, foliage.

That same foliage is tinged with pink in winter. Other conifers, such as ‘Rheingold’ white cedar, transforms from golden yellow in spring to coppery bronze in fall. And it’s hard to resist the twisting, fanned foliage of Hinoki cypress or the striking purple cones on more tender conifer specimens such as the Silbirlocke Korean fir (Abies koreana ’Silberlocke’). Conifers are a delicious treat for the eyes.

Conifer uses

Needled evergreens are tough: most resist diseases and pests, can take on the heat and the cold and are typically drought tolerant once established. Their hardiness and extremely slow growth rate makes them ideal container candidates even for winter displays. And although most prefer a sunny site, others like yews and hemlocks will tolerate shade. There is a dizzying selection of conifers waiting to embellish your home’s facade and surrounding garden.

Not just pine trees

Conifers come in diverse shapes like upright, weeping, rounded, prostrate and even fancy topiary forms. Low-growing or prostrate conifers cover erosion-prone slopes better than most lawns while upright forms are useful as focal points or to frame entryways. Their sizes (from miniature to giant) and range of textures (fine and feathery to bold and prickly) are equally varied, offering plenty of options from a design point of view.

Dwarf conifers grow extremely slowly, remaining under 6 feet after 10 years. This makes them especially suitable for designing around a home’s foundation, but that doesn’t mean they won’t grow to a hefty size eventually, so careful consideration of the planting space, especially around windows and doorways, is essential.

Designing with conifers

Conifers make an excellent backdrop for most perennials and deciduous shrubs, but also look good mixed into garden borders on their own. I prefer combining them with deciduous shrubs and complementary perennials of contrasting shapes, textures or colours to enhance their best attributes. Blue spruces or junipers makes a bold autumn statement when paired with the tan, wispy foliage of ornamental grasses and a blazing, red burning bush or, for a harmonious blend, with the pink autumn flowers of Limelight hydrangea.

Weeping conifers such as weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Frohburg’) or compact upright varieties like Swiss stone pine (‘Pinus Cembra’) are perfect accents for house corners where their distinctive beauty can be admired.

Winter care

Don’t forget to water newly planted conifers deeply until ground freezes to prevent excessive moisture loss over winter. Most mature evergreens are tough enough to endure some of winter’s worst weather, but you’ll need to wrap any newly planted upright or exposed evergreens no earlier than mid-November to shield them from winter’s drying winds.

Worthy investments

Conifers are more pricey than the average perennial, but their long-lasting beauty together with their hardiness and minimal maintenance make them worthy investments and, quite frankly, essential additions to any northern garden.

End of year sales abound in garden centres throughout the fall and there is still time to plant, so take advantage if you can. In another month or so when cold temperatures and diminished daylight hours have forced the foliage off deciduous trees and shrubs, and perennials have retreated into dormancy, landscapes without the permanent framework of conifers will start to look bleak.

Once you see how splendid conifers are, you may even find yourself transplanting treasured flowers to make room for them in your garden.

Elaine Sanders can be reached at

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Jack Christensen’s garden tips for the week starting Oct. 8

• Cooling trend: Daytime temperatures will soon be getting cooler (believe it or not) as days grow shorter, and plants will require less water. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks you can start gradually reducing the amount of water you put on the lawn and other shrubbery and then stop watering completely for the winter.

• Pomegranate season: Pomegranates are beginning to ripen now. Harvest one or two to check for sweetness. Beware of overwatering — just kidding. However, too much moisture from irrigation or rain causes ripe fruits to split. When whole, undamaged mature pomegranates are picked off the tree and refrigerated, they will keep for over six months.

• Pest control: To prevent nocturnal rodents from eating your maturing avocados and oranges before you can enjoy them, keep the trees trimmed away from power lines, the house and shrubbery, and even up several feet from the ground. Also try wrapping the trunks of the trees 3 to 4 feet high with aluminum sheeting available from local hardware and home-improvement stores, secured in place with wire (only at the top and bottom). Rats can’t climb up the slippery metal. Reposition the sheet metal at least once a year to allow the trunk to grow.

• Prime-time for primroses: Primroses don’t like the heat, but they will get a strong foothold if planted soon, and they will provide wonderful color throughout winter and spring. Choose from the billowy, pinkish fairy primroses (Primula malacoides), or the bolder English primroses (P. polyantha). These come in brilliant colors including yellows, blues and reds. Plant primroses in partial shade incorporating plenty of compost or mulch. Feed lightly with liquid fertilizer about two weeks after planting.

• Root of the issue: Horseradish roots may be harvested from now through spring. Dig pieces of horseradish root from the outer parts of the root clump as you need them. Peel, grate and mix with vinegar or cream to make horseradish sauce. New starts may be planted in late winter or early spring. Easy to grow with regular watering, especially in rich soils.

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