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Archives for October 22, 2016

Vote for Jersey City parks, approve the tax; United slate backed | Letters

Buried under a dramatic presidential race and another referendum on voting matters, we have a critically important second referendum on Election Day to cast our vote on: should we all agree that homeowners should contribute in each year an extra twenty dollars on their property taxes to help restore, improve and maintain their parks (and historic sites) for every $100,000 of their home’s assessed value on the tax records.  If we say an average priced home in our city is, on the tax records, listed as $ 400,000, then the average person would pay $80 per year.

It is so important that you consider voting “Yes” to helping our parks.  The simple fact is that our city hasn’t had, doesn’t have, and for the foreseeable future will not have any where near what they need in their capital budget to repair or fully upgrade our city’s 14 major community parks to wonderful or “world class” status. 

Our residents should have the parks that we could all most enjoy and feel proud of, the kind that people visiting from other parts of the state or world would always want to come back to see again, that perhaps that would make them want to live here!

Until, the birth of the “community empowerment movement” in the early ’90’s and the JCPC in the early 2000s, there simply wasn’t the willful effort to dramatically restore and upgrade our aging, often not fully developed park system.  In the early 1990’s there wasn’t a single flower in any of the city parks, and  then it began in Van Vorst Park. Then when people began to let themselves dream of what Van Vorst Park could be voices said “But that would cost “ten” and we only have “two.”

But a City is only as great as it encourages its citizens to reach for the greatest dreams possible.  That’s what being American is all about, and with a collective effort we can make the dream come true.  And we can help the government that doesn’t have the money by giving this $80 per year which can then be combined with county Open Space funds and a variety of other grant and fundraising options. 

Then our parks can finally boast the same quality as any others in the world, with some special architectural details – sculptures, creative seating areas, places for performances, special gardens and landscaping in places, simple open lawns in other places, attractive lighting, creative variety of trees with many flowering at different times, attractive and safe play and sprinkler areas for our children, and great pet areas — all fashioned for that park’s unique personality and neighborhood.  Let’s help fund our dreams for parks that could serve future generations.

Vote “YES” on the 2 cents J.C. Open Space Tax


Jersey City United slate endorsed

As a public school parent, I believe that the best choice is to vote for the candidates from the Jersey City United Slate:  Luis Felipe Fernandez (5J), Asmaa Abdalla (8J), and Matthew Schapiro (10J)

With so much attention focused on the upcoming presidential election, we must remember that we have important issues locally in Jersey City as well.  One top issue is the three (3) available seats on the Jersey City Board of Education.  Our city needs to build on the district’s progress of higher graduation rates, fewer suspensions, and improved enrichment opportunities.  We need community members on the school board who lead by example, not by turning back the clock to a time when the old school political machine ran the schools in the service of their friends, rather than our children.

The Jersey City United candidates believe our schools must be safe, that they must reflect our diverse communities, and that they must deliver an excellent education to every child in every school.

Our city is growing and attracting many young families who will stay in Jersey City, sending their children to our public schools.  For our current school children, and our future school children, it is essential to vote not just for our next president on November 8, but also for our three new Jersey City Board of Education members.


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Garden design that will stop traffic | West Milford Hewitt …

Come to NJBG’s seminar and learn from Kerry Mendez


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  • Gorgeous, low-maintenance gardens are no accident. Learn proven design tricks that will make your landscape more beautiful than ever in a program entitled Garden Design Tips for Traffic-Stopping Curb Appeal, presented by nationally recognized gardening speaker Kerry Mendez, this Saturday at 2 p.m.


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  • Photo By Eric Jenks

    Kerry Mendez


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NJBG invites you to learn many exciting Garden Design Tips for Traffic-Stopping Curb Appeal in a program that mixes humor and practical information at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. in the Carriage House Visitor Center for a program presented by nationally recognized gardening expert Kerry Mendez.

Garden Design Tips for Traffic-Stopping Curb Appeal offers great ideas and exceptional plants to beautifully ‘accessorize’ your house. You’ll learn how to disguise less attractive features and show off your home’s best side year round. Drought tolerant plants, perennials and annuals that don’t need deadheading, no prune shrubs, long-lived bulbs, the illusion that you have more plants than you actually do due to their astonishing display – these are just some of the treasured nuggets that will help make your landscape more beautiful than ever. The easy-to-follow, targeted solutions shared in this program can add a real wow factor to your home.

A $5 donation is requested. Seating is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. For more, contact NJBG at

Mendez is dedicated to teaching the art of low-maintenance perennial gardening and landscaping. As a garden consultant, designer, writer and lecturer, she focuses on time-saving gardening techniques and workhorse plant material as well as organic practices. She has been in numerous magazines including Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate and Better Homes and Gardens’ Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living. Mendez was a featured guest on HGTV and hosted Capital News 9’s In the Garden television segment, as well as info segments for Channel 13. She is a garden columnist for Life@Home and Today’s Garden Center magazines, and writes freelance pieces for regional and national magazines. As a presenter for Horticulture magazine’s 2010 and 2011 webinar series, her webinars attracted thousands of gardeners from around the country. Kerry is a self-taught gardener with over 25 years of experience and a ‘passionate perennialist’ that enjoys mixing humor with practical information.

For more about Mendez and her business, Perennially Yours, visit

The New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands, which appears on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, is open from 8 am to 8 p.m. every day. Admission to the Garden is always free. Parking is also free in the fall, winter and spring.

NJBG/Skylands is located on Morris Road in Ringwood, New Jersey. For an event schedule, membership brochure, directions or more information, please call 973-962-9534 or visit


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Wall-to-wall landscaping – Florida Times

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.

“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 pricy — 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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Gardening tips at WOW meeting

YES, it’s true! Women are just as keen gardeners as men, and at the Women of Worth (WOW) meeting on Tuesday, October 18, they listened intently to the guest speaker, Morné Brits, who spoke about plants and what their basic requirements are.

“The health of a plant isn’t just about the plant but the soil. If you have good soil you’ll get a good plant,” Morné said.

He explained if the soil isn’t very healthy you can buy soil fertiliser, although many soils do have enough nutrients already.

He went on to say as a gardener you should know what your plants need so they will grow healthily and provide you with enjoyment. “Especially now with not having much rain we need to be mulching around our plants. Use leaves or extra compost, making sure the base of the plant is well covered which will keep the soil moist after it’s been watered.

“Also try to find more environmentally friendly products to use in your garden. Be careful when choosing pesticides, as these don’t only kill the insects you want to get rid of but other insects too, such as bees and butterflies,” added Morné.

The meeting ended with refreshments and a discussion about the next meeting, which will be the Christmas lunch to be held at a local restaurant.

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Creative pruning: Matthew Wilson’s top tips for transforming your tired garden

At this time of year, a session or three of creative pruning can totally transform a tired garden. “Don’t look at a boring blob of a shrub and automatically pull the trigger,” says Matthew Wilson, garden designer and panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. “After all, if it’s been in your garden for some years, buying that amount of maturity would cost hundreds of pounds.

“Instead, think, ‘What can I do to bring fresh life into this plant?’ With creative pruning, unlike traditional pruning, there is no horticultural diktat telling you what you must do so you don’t lose fruit or flowers. What you can achieve, though, is a fantastic new feature in your garden for nothing.”


Wilson gives an overgrown hawthorn in his garden, as wide as it was tall, as an example. “This autumn, I removed up to half of the branches in the centre, so now, instead of a shapeless green mass, it’s a rather cool and interesting-looking tree. The shape was already there. It was just a case of peeling back the layers to reveal what had got lost over the years.”

In a small garden, an overgrown shrub casts dense shade. “By clearing the stems at the base and taking out foliage, you’re letting in a lot of light, making space for perennials to grow at its feet and making the plant more sculptural. A typical London shrub which tends to get big and shapeless is Viburnum tinus, but you can make it much more interesting by lifting the skirts, opening out the framework and making it multi-stemmed.”

Wilson decided on a more drastic solution for an overgrown Viburnum tinus that was blocking the view on his home turf. “I cut it down to the ground 18 months ago. It missed a flowering season but now it’s a dome-shaped shrub, covered in flowers and nearly 5ft tall.”

Aucuba japonica is a classic Victorian Shrub. “If you trim it up — lift the skirts, take the lower branches out as well as the lower foliage — you reveal lovely glossy stems.”


Then there’s firmer intervention, says Wilson, which is when you dramatically change the shape of the plant. “In my garden, there were a lot of raggle-taggle box bushes, probably planted 20 years ago. Instead of digging them out, I took two approaches.

First, on several box bushes planted close together, I clipped them roughly into a cloud shape.” Wilson stresses you just need to think of billowing clouds, and snip accordingly. “Cloud pruning is a process, not a fait accompli. Get the shape first, then refine it gradually over a few seasons.”

Tabletop topiary is the second, slightly more radical approach. He used it on several large bushes, planted at intervals. “Using a hand saw to cut out the centre, which soon regenerates, I lopped off the top of each bush and then cut back the foliage to get a flat top. Then I planted smaller box cubes beneath them. The result, on different levels, reminds me of the Giant’s Causeway, and looks terrific.

“Tabletop topiary, using yew and box, makes an effective counterpoint to billowy perennials, annuals and grasses, because there is the contrast with leaf colour and leaf shape, as well as the horizontal with the vertical, the solid with the diaphanous.”


It’s about throwing architecture into the garden, he adds. “It’s especially pertinent right now, as we’re going into winter, when structure becomes more important. I’d rather achieve that with plants than buy in an architectural feature.”

If you’re really smart with your secateurs, you can make plants that usually do one thing, do something completely different. “In the gardens at East Ruston, in Norfolk, there is a grid of trees that are underplanted with ivy, but instead of growing up the trees, the ivy makes a knee-high evergreen bush around their bases. You do this by taking the tops out continually, so it grows like a shrub instead of a climber.”


There are a few ground rules to creative pruning, says Wilson. First, you need sharp secateurs, a pair of loppers and, for thicker wood, a bow saw or Grecian saw. After pruning, give the plant a quick-uptake foliar feed of seaweed and iron in a hand-held sprayer.

“If the plant has an interesting structure naturally, go with the flow. Look into the centre of the shrub and stand back every so often, and keep looking. Let it dictate your moves. That way, you’re bringing out the genius of the plant.”


Matthew Wilson will demonstrate creative pruning techniques on different shrubs in a masterclass at the Palm House, Clifton Nurseries, Clifton Villas W9 on Thursday October 27, starting at 6.30pm, with a welcome prosecco and canapés at 6pm. Afterwards, enjoy a 20 per cent discount on all plants and garden merchandise, before the evening ends at 8.30pm. Tickets are £10. Book here or call 020 7289 6851.

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Ann Wright: October garden tips

The recent much-needed rain really invigorated the garden and landscape plants. The trees seem taller, the grasses somewhat bent from drops of rain weighing them down. Apples and pumpkins are being harvested and there are still so many things to do in the garden this time of year. It’s so lovely to see the leaves turning, and knowing there will be plenty of “browns” for the compost pile helps give them permission to fall on the driveway.

Aside from collecting some of the leaves for the compost pile, here are some other tips for late October:

Depending on first frost dates, it’s not too late to plant seeds of spinach, peas, chives and green onions. Garlic is also good to plant now. Cool season annuals may also be planted as well as winter cover crops in areas needing extra nourishment or to help battle the weeds that follow our wet winter. (First frost dates vary depending on elevation and microclimates — anywhere from Oct. 1 at high elevations, to Nov. 20 at lower elevations.)

Although we have a start to our rainy season, the soil is still warm enough to plant ground covers, shrubs and ornamental flowers. Plant cool season annuals such as calendula, pansies (Viola spp.), or stock (Matthiola spp.) Bulbs are also available in such a wonderful variety of colors to anticipate for spring, and can be planted in locations that tend to stay dry in summer. Bulbs will benefit from the addition of soft rock phosphate in the bottom of the planting hole.

This is a good time to clean up spent annuals and vegetables. Remove mummies (not the zombie-kind, but the dried up fruit kind) and other debris from around fruit trees. Remove and dispose of diseased plant material — do not compost as infected plant material can overwinter to infect next year’s crops.

Cut old perennials almost to the ground. Work compost, fir bark, rice hulls or wood chips into the soil.

Assess the location of plants — have growing conditions changed? For example, look to see if plants may now have too much shade, or perhaps they are in competition with another plant that grew like crazy over the spring and summer. Some plants may need to be removed, some relocated. If new fruit trees are desired, consider where they will be planted. Late fall and into winter is a good time to shop for fruit and ornamental trees.

In preparation for pruning later in the dormant season, observe existing fruit and nut trees, especially as leaves fall. Are they growing in the desired shape? Are there remnants of suckers or water sprouts, or are the inner branches a tangled mess? When considering pruning, study the branches; the center should be open enough to allow light to penetrate to inner branches.

Join Nevada County Master Gardeners for the final workshop of the season, “The Art and Science of Pruning Fruit Trees” on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Elks Lodge in Grass Valley, 109 S. School St. The workshop is free and will offer ways to overcome your anxiety about pruning, best times for pruning as well as techniques and proper tools for the job.

For more information about the workshop or other home gardening questions, contact the Master Gardeners at the Hotline office at 530-273-0919 or on-line at

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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Shadyside garden is a symphony in green – Pittsburgh Post

Some great gardens are made, and some are made better.

Gerry and Elaine Barron have lived in their Shadyside home less than four years. The most prominent features of their garden — a towering London planetree in front, a picturesque crabapple tree and well-designed seating areas in back — were already established. Yet there was little color, harmony or visual rhythm accompanying these bass notes.

“When we moved in, the quince, honeysuckle and other vines were dying,” Mrs. Barron recalled. “The beds were empty and the holly and hydrangea were very small.”

In front were a few scraggly shrubs, a privet hedge and some myrtle — all barely surviving in the shade of planetrees likely planted around 1915, the year the house was built. Early on, Mrs. Barron got some good advice from her Roslyn Place neighbor Charlotte Cohen, an avid gardener.

“You need more color in front,” she counseled.

So Mrs. Barron supplemented the myrtle and five small rhododendrons with blue and gold hostas, ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, ‘Fernspray Gold’ hinoki cypress, Japanese pieris and Japanese painted ferns.

Elaine Beck, a Phipps master gardener and longtime friend, continued her education by taking Mrs. Barron to the annual Western Pennsylvania Garden Landscape Symposium. She learned about the importance of scale, color and texture, then began experimenting.

The result is a beautifully composed symphony of hardscape and softscape — shrubs, vines perennials and annuals — that is beautiful year-round. The garden was chosen as the winner in the small garden, fall/year-round category of the Great Gardens Contest. The competition is sponsored and judged by staff members of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

The judges’ favorite spot was the small patio garden in back. Its centerpiece is that beautifully twisted crabapple. In spring, its limbs sprout tiny white flowers that contrast with apricot-colored quince and pink rhododendron and azalea. In summer, its leaves create a green canopy whose small gaps reveal the white flowers of climbing hydrangea and yellow honeysuckle.

Mrs. Barron changes the mix of annuals in hanging baskets and containers each summer. This year, it was begonias, coleus, impatiens and bacopa, with a pot or two of basil for cooking. But her best work is found in the raised beds that were barren when she arrived. Now they are filled with perennials whose foliage adds subtle variations of green and texture even when the flowers aren’t blooming. Woven together are hellebores, heuchera, Jacob’s ladder, variegated Solomon’s seal, liriope, campanula, variegated euonymous, ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis, sweet William, ajuga and — new this year — purple balloon flowers.

Mrs. Barron began gardening in earnest 20 years ago when her beloved sister, Nancy Gordon, died in an accident. Her brother-in-law, Neal Gordon, gave her a cutting from the ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum that grew abundantly on their farm in Michigan. She planted it on their pie-shaped lot in Mt. Lebanon and transplanted it again here in Shadyside.

“It’s my way of perpetuating her memory in something beautiful,” Mrs. Barron said. “We brought her here with us.”

Her garden philosophy has evolved with age and experience. She doesn’t miss a grassy lawn and has abandoned mulch in favor of groundcovers.

“I used to keep a plant even if it looked horrible. Now I discard it,” she said.

She leaves the planting of large shrubs to Bill Lucki and Ron Weber of Natural Garden Design. Twice a year, they add compost to the beds. The Barrons handle the smaller stuff, which they usually buy at Jim Jenkins Lawn Garden Center in Upper St. Clair and Best Feeds Garden Center in Ross.

“I’m the field hand,” said Mr. Barron, a public health professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

He is less interested in gardening than in their 100-year-old house and the street out front — the only wooden one left in Pittsburgh and one of only two wooden streets in the country. But he quickly saw the benefit of removing a breakfast room wall to improve the couple’s view.

“We wanted to be able to see the garden from as many places as possible,” she said. “We feel like we are sitting in the garden when we sit here.”

Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978.

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Design pro Stacie Crooks plants what she preaches in her Edmonds garden

DO GARDEN DESIGNERS take their own advice? How often do their home gardens reflect what they recommend to their clients? We can’t help but wonder.

When we get a look inside the gate of designer Stacie Crooks’ new garden in Edmonds, we find she plants what she preaches. Her new front courtyard is carpeted in the colorful foliage plants she’s known for using in her clients’ gardens. But is it low-maintenance, another hallmark of Crooks’ work? Well, everyone defines that differently, but Crooks doesn’t have a crew. She cares for the garden herself, so you can be sure pots are scaled up and planted in tough, non-thirsty succulents.

In just two years, Crooks has transformed what was a dark and tired old garden into freshly planted outdoor rooms. Both back and front, the spaces are designed to look good from the inside out. On any day of the year, you can gaze out the windows of the 1957 ranch house she shares with her husband, John, and enjoy a colorful garden scene.

Crooks Garden Design

“The front entry was pretty horrible,” she says of the area that now is a paved and comfortably furnished courtyard. A Chinese Empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) of elephantine girth presides, setting the scale and shading the house. “It’s probably the messiest tree on the planet, but worth it,” says Crooks. “Everyone asks what it is when it’s in bloom.”

Designer Stacie Crooks chose a calming, soothing palette for her shady courtyard garden, with shades of blue, purple and chartreuse, accented with a bubbling water pot; round, flat stones; and spiky black mondo grass. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Designer Stacie Crooks chose a calming, soothing palette for her shady courtyard garden, with shades of blue, purple and chartreuse, accented with a bubbling water pot; round, flat stones; and spiky black mondo grass. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Pacific Northwest Magazine: Oct. 23 edition

Steven Matly poses with his son at Mentoring In The Moment, where tech professionals spend an afternoon of games, food and mentoring with at-risk youth. (Sophia Nahli Allison / The Seattle Times)

Steven Matly poses with his son at “Mentoring In The Moment,” where tech professionals spend an afternoon of games, food and mentoring with at-risk youth. Matly is the CEO and founder of SM Diversity, a minority-owned staffing and recruiting firm specializing in diversity and inclusion partnerships. (Sophia Nahli Allison / The Seattle Times)

Crooks kept the purple-blooming majesty of this main tree, but took out an old magnolia, a mal-pruned stewartia, a laurel hedge and all the grass. “It was like a cave in here. We had no idea we’d get so much southern light,” she says of the space that serves as dining room, sitting area and display place for her potted compositions of sun-loving succulents.

Crooks brought in good soil, then planted the ground beneath the Empress tree with silver and green foliage plants that show up well in the shade. Now hellebores, carex, deer ferns, autumn ferns, hosta, blue fescue, bergenia and Scotch moss grow happily in the dappled shade. “I was looking for a calming, soothing palette,” says Crooks of her easy-care plant choices. And the old tree, with a new garden at its feet, is blooming more abundantly now that it has been thinned and gets watered more often. Crooks calls her new entry courtyard the “timeout terrace” because it’s simple enough to care for that even the gardener herself can find time to relax here. Crooks waves an arm and says, “None of these plants need deadheading!”

Stacie Crooks is a local garden designer who has created a new garden in Edmonds.

Stacie Crooks is a local garden designer who has created a new garden in Edmonds. Pavers make up much of the front garden which is also a sitting area with drought tolerant plants, planted pots and a giant tree that provides shade at far left.
This outdoor room is an extension of her home.

Burned out on caring for hillside gardens after her earlier, steep garden in Innis Arden, Crooks was unhappy with the slope of her new backyard. So she brought in five dump-truck loads of dirt to level it out. “The flatness really helps … now I can handle this garden,” she says. She kept the maples, palms and magnolias in the back beds, and planted drought-tolerant perennials like nepeta, rudbeckia, coneflowers, sedums, grasses and heather in large sweeps for color, texture and ease of maintenance. She rolled out a new lawn and laid a patio with the same 24-inch concrete pavers used to floor the front courtyard.

Garden designer Stacie Crooks enjoys a cup of tea in her new front courtyard garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Garden designer Stacie Crooks enjoys a cup of tea in her new front courtyard garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Her favorite part of the new garden? The hot, dry “hell-strip” planting bed along the driveway. She’s filled it with tough plants like yuccas, carex, hardy Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’, blue star juniper and Stipa gigantea. She planted at least three of everything. “I don’t have to do any work out here except to pull a few weeds,” says Crooks with obvious satisfaction.

The garden was planned to offer colorful, compelling views from inside the house, as in this scene outside designer Stacie Crooks office window. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The garden was planned to offer colorful, compelling views from inside the house, as in this scene outside designer Stacie Crooks’ office window. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Even the most experienced garden designers find new enthusiasms. For Crooks, it’s growing vegetables for the first time, and changing out her color palette. Two raised beds sit in a sunny spot at the side of the house. “I’m learning about how to grow kale and tomatoes and basil … these plants are amazing,” says Crooks. And she’s changing up the color scheme she’s used for years. “I planted red geraniums in the backyard pots, and sought out red-blooming sedum, red barberries and heuchera,” says Crooks. “Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have touched red, and now I love it!”

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Everything You Need to Know About Garden Design

“Both interior designers and garden designers create spaces of beauty and refuge,” says Decorators Club president Judy Girod of the series’ theme. “As one of our speakers, landscape architect Thomas Woltz, said recently, ‘I am always looking for the story of a site.’ The lecture series will surely enlighten us with inspiring stories of many sites, from those created in the 18th century to the present day.” Indeed, the program spans centuries of garden design, ranging from a talk by John Phibbs on the legendary English landscape designer Capability Brown to a Bunny Williams–moderated discussion between Gil Schafer and landscape designer Deborah Nevins about their ongoing collaboration. These talks will take place on October 26 and November 9, respectively, and two additional lectures will be held next spring. Individual tickets cost $30 in advance and can be purchased at

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How New Buildings are Going Green

(StatePoint) One of the elements that can greatly enhance the value and enjoyment of a home is beautiful landscaping. But with certain parts of the country facing water restrictions, and many others simply wanting to go green, both residential and commercial property owners are finding it increasingly difficult to keep lawns and hedges thick, green and free of dead zones.

“Many builders and decorators have begun incorporating artificial vegetation in their landscaping treatments, both to sidestep new watering regulations and reduce environmental impact,” says Dallas-based real estate developer, Braden Power of Power Properties. “Although most people haven’t yet begun to notice, ‘faux foliage’ is now sprouting up in various renovation projects around the country, including exclusive hotels and country clubs.”

Power says the new trend to use simulated greenery in building projects is about more than just water conservation:

“Simulated plants are very environmentally friendly,” says Power. “Because insects aren’t attracted to them, there is no need to spray pesticides, so there is zero contamination of the soil and groundwater. And because fertilizer is not used, there isn’t a problem with nitrate runoff into nearby streams and lakes. When simulated grass is used, there is no monthly lawn service to pay for, nor is there any pollution from gasoline powered mowers, hedge clippers, or leaf blowers.”

Despite the environmental benefits, Power says most people who hear the term “artificial plants” are at first quite skeptical, especially when “artificial grass” is mentioned.

“People usually conjure an image of the artificial turf they use on football fields, but they don’t realize that there are hundreds of artificial grass options, varying in color, texture, density, and durability — similar to ratings of carpeting,” says Power. “There’s even a line with multi-colors and a ‘dead grass’ look at the base for realism; and it’s very soft on the feet.” 

Power says he acquired a hands-on education in the use of artificial vegetation during the renovation of a courtyard apartment building in east Dallas. 

“We named the building ‘The Greenhouse’, which is ironic, because although it now has the appearance of a lush botanical garden, there are only two live plants on the entire property,” says Power. “The grass, trees, ferns, privacy hedges, vines and leafy ground vegetation are all stunning simulations.”

Power, who has been renovating multi-unit residential properties for 25 years, says through his exterior design service Bel Air Outdoor Living, he is available to consult with architects, developers and builders who are seeking ideas and resources for “going green” in their next construction or renovation project. To learn more visit or

“With a little imagination and the right materials, it’s easy to create an enchanting eco-friendly, ‘drought-proof’ oasis on virtually any property — one that doesn’t require watering, pesticides, or continual maintenance,” says Power.

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