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Archives for October 25, 2016

Plano’s new Chase campus will take some design cues from Rockefeller Center

There’s no ice-skating rink.

And you won’t find a big gold statue of Prometheus.

But when JPMorgan Chase opens its new Plano campus in 2018, the planners for the 1.4 million -square-foot project hopes to take some design cues from New York City’s landmark Rockefeller Center.

David Arena, head of global real estate for JPMorgan Chase told developers meeting in Dallas Tuesday that planners for Chase’s new 6-building office campus near the Dallas North Tollway studied great urban landscapes when laying out the project which is part of the $3 billion Legacy West development.

“At Legacy West we studied some of the best street thoroughfares in the world,” Arena said at a meeting of the Urban Land Institute, the country’s largest commercial real estate organization. “We more our less copied the distance at Rockefeller Center where the channel gardens are to try and create more animation and a streetscape.”

Designed by Dallas architect HKS, Chase’s 49-acre campus just south of State Highway 121 includes office buildings, parking garages and open space.

The channel gardens Arena referenced include landscaping, fountains and walkways and run between the high-rise buildings fronting on Fifth Avenue.

Chase’s new Plano campus – being developed by KDC – will house about 6,000 workers when it opens.

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Onetime home of silent film star ZaSu Pitts lists for sale in Cheviot Hills

A Cheviot Hills home built for silent film actress ZaSu Pitts has come to market for $4.385 million.

Built in 1938, the French Normandy home is in the whimsical storybook style popularized during that time period. Later restored by architect and contractor Robert Glaus, the vine-wrapped two-story has decorative timbering, picture windows with square and diamond grilles and a round tower topped with a cone-shaped roof.

Inside, formal living and dining rooms, a family room, a wood-paneled office and a custom wine cellar are included in more than 3,200 square feet of interiors. French doors off the updated kitchen open to a brick-lined patio with a fountain feature.

The master suite has vaulted ceilings and a pair of walk-in closets for a total of four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. There’s also a guest suite on the lower level.

Preservation the theme at Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society conference

By Mark Ambrogi

Preservation will be the theme at the annual Indiana Native Plant Wildflower Society conference.

“Our mission is not only to protect native plants and wildflowers but to utilize them in our gardens and landscaping,” said Tom Hohman, conference leader. “Some years the theme is more native plant gardening. This time it’s more on preservation-type issues.”

The 23rd annual conference will be from 8:30 to 5 p.m. Nov. 5 at the 502 East Event Centre, 502 E. Carmel Dr., Carmel.


“Preservation: Keeping What We’ve Got, Restoring What We’ve Lost” is the title of the event, which is open to the public.

The keynote speakers are Dr. Reed Noss and Dr. Robbin Moran.

“That’s one of the nice things about our conference. It gives us a chance to hear some national speakers, and the other speakers are from Indiana,” Hohman said. “So it adds to that by giving a local spin on things. It’s a really great opportunity for people all over the state to come together and hear about native plants and conservation issues. It’s certainly not common to have that opportunity to hear those kinds of speakers all in one place.”

Noss, the Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Central Florida and President of the Florida Institute for Conservation Science, will discuss the changing values, concepts and themes of conservation and decisions that need to be made between competing values.

Moran, the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden, will focus on some of Indiana’s more interesting and unusual ferns.

Others speakers include Cliff Chapman and John Bacone, who will provide an update on preservation of natural areas in Indiana. Alyssa Nyberg, nursery manager at Kankakee Sands since 1999, will examine “the marvels and mistakes of a prairie 19 years in the making.” Bill McKnight’s talk will expose some of the common myths of gardening.

The cost for INPAWS members is $75, non-members $90 and students $40.  Online registration ends Oct. 29 ( Hohman said registration will be available at the door if the conference isn’t sold out, but lunch can’t be guaranteed.

What’s Growing On: Be a joiner to enjoy better gardening experiences

Several years ago, after I had retired, I read a notice in the Linden newspaper that there would be a presentation on “Pruning Camellias” at the local garden club meeting in Linden. I went because I wanted to learn how to prune camellias. I learned much from expert Harry Dedini on pruning camellias and he later became a friend and advised me on grape pruning as well. After the meeting, I was invited to join the garden club even though they had never had a male member. Hence, I became the first male in the club and I have benefited greatly from that serendipitous joining.

The National Garden Clubs, of which Linden, Ripon, Lodi, Modesto and Stockton Garden Clubs are members, offer many courses that enhance gardening skills. I took a four-weekend course on landscape design that was taught by a landscape architect professor from the University of California, Davis. We learned a lot about what landscape architects need to know and do to create public and private landscapes and gardens and we learned how to do the same for ourselves or anyone needing design help. I received a landscape design consultant certificate, but my only consultation was for my own landscape.

My next NGC venture was Flower Show School, a four-weekend course on flowers which I love and wanted to learn more about. I didn’t realize it in the beginning, but the purpose of this school was to produce flower show judges. So I became an accredited flower show judge after writing a flower show schedule, passing several flower show judging point scoring exercises and a very rigorous final exam. Hence, I became a flower show judge because I like to finish what I start— even though initially I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Subsequently, I have been a member of the Valley Judges Council; a new venue for friendships, learning, service and competition. We exhibit in horticulture and floral design as well as do judging exercises and we also judge at fairs and flower shows, which unfortunately are all too rare these days as it takes a lot of work to stage flower shows. Our own San Joaquin County Fair Adult horticulture show, where I collected many best-of-show ribbons, has apparently gone the way of the dodo bird.

Recently, I was asked by someone who reads my garden column, “What is the difference between a master gardener and a landscape design architect? Having the landscape design course under my belt and being a UC Master Gardener enabled me to answer her question reasonably well. A landscape architect has a lot of college training in design and engineering resulting in a bachelor’s or master’s degree. They are not always as knowledgeable about plants as your local nursery person, but they know a lot about the physical and material aspects of designing a garden to suit public or private needs.

On the other hand, master gardeners come from varied backgrounds and are volunteers helping homeowners and communities with garden problems. We take a rigorous 18-week course through UC Co-operative Extension in a wide range of topics that cover many areas of gardening including basic plant biology and physiology, plant identification, weed management, landscape tree and turf management, as well as aspects of disease and pest identification and management. A master gardener is required to serve a minimum of 50 hours in the first year after completing training and to take 12 hours of continuing education.

I applied in 2007 to participate and I almost missed the deadline for the program. I was ambiguous about it, because with 10 acres to manage, I didn’t think I would have much time to devote to helping others. However, my wife encouraged me by reminding me that it was something I was well suited for and I had always wanted to teach. My mother was an excellent gardener and my father was a farmer so I grew up with plants and gardens. With a background in biology and ecology, it was relatively easy for me to complete the science-based master gardener training.

As for time to devote to the program, I apparently enjoyed it as I was the second person to complete 1,000 volunteer hours. What could be better than working and socializing with fellow gardeners and helping others to enhance their gardening knowledge and skills? Joining can be a life-enhancing experience. I hope you will find some happy garden joining adventures.

The deadline for applications for the 2017 UC Master Garden training has closed, but of course, late applications will be kept on file until the next training in 2019.

— If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at (209) 953-6112. More information can be found on our website:

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How an iron fence defines the garden at a famous novelist’s Concord home

Every garden tells a story, but in Gregory Maguire’s even the fence has narrative drive. “I wanted unusual, something you wouldn’t expect,” he says. Author of the 1995 novel Wicked, on which the Broadway musical is based, Maguire lives with his husband, artist Andy Newman, and their three children in Concord, Massachusetts, in a single-story house bought the year of the book’s release. A second floor was added in 2002 by builder Halsey Platt of Platt Builders in Groton, Massachusetts, packed with two more gables than the House of the Seven Gables. That done, Maguire cast a dreamy eye upon the staid suburban plot and began to question the universal themes of lawn and patio. “I’m not a gardener,” he says, “but I love to play with color, shape, form, and movement in my surroundings.”

Enter landscape architect Greg Bilowz of Bilowz Associates in Sterling, Massachusetts, accompanied by Ray Ciemny, ironworker extraordinaire, whose firm, Artisan Iron is in Groton. Led by Maguire’s imagination, the trio began a multiyear journey of discovery. Their first project was a small, fenced-in seating area by the front door. Crafted by Ciemny with granite posts and iron, the work reveals its magic in the details, with rods that punch through twisted and irregularly spaced spindles. Nearby, a brick path disappears around the house to the second project, an alleyway gate with similar bones and a goblin face carved into the top of the cane bolt. “Ray responded to the impish in my work,” says Maguire.

Novelist Gregory Maguire stands under his gateway with a stone bench to his right.
Novelist Gregory Maguire stands under his gateway with a stone bench to his right. —Eric Roth

In the front yard it is all sunshine and flowers, with steppingstones leading to the other side of the house, where a double Ciemny gate beckons visitors to enter the side yard. As the latch clicks shut, a fence begins to define the narrow space, and it is here that things begin to get strange — though not at first. The fence initially appears almost Victorian in its probity, but a few feet in, on the third panel “something happens,” says Ciemny, “perhaps to the DNA of the fence itself.” Beginning with a sketch by Maguire, and drawing inspiration from 18th-century botanical prints, Ciemny’s design warps the flora into fantastical beings not entirely plant, not quite animal. Straight iron bars start to swirl and contort, while ribbons of metal slice through the granite posts. As the path continues, the fence devolves and a frantic internal dialogue begins. Flying primates and withered spores reach out on mutated spindles to spread news of some unspeakable drama.

Bilowz worked closely with Ciemny, placing boulders as landing zones for a fence that has abandoned physical laws and conventional footings. “I had to create a base for Ray to dance his work off of,” says Bilowz. Just as it all seems about to fall apart, with the final granite post left deconstructed with a crack through the middle, a clenched spike rises up from the chaos in the victorious spirit of Excalibur.

Then, as suddenly as the crisis began, it is over. The situation calms down and the fence flows gently, free of the constraints of posts and form, as it transforms into the back of the stone bench Bilowz designed for outdoor entertaining. The existing fieldstone patio, shaped like a turtle, was bumped out a bit to accommodate a large maple-sugaring cauldron used as a firepit, where Newman and Maguire’s family and friends gather in the darkening hours. To enhance the atmosphere, Ciemny made holders for colored votive candles that Maguire hangs on the fence for parties.

The cracked granite post symbolizes the near complete destruction of the fences former world.
The cracked granite post symbolizes the near complete destruction of the fence’s former world. —Eric Roth

The fence — if it can even be called that anymore — begins to rise at the end of the bench to become a cresting wave, hovering midair over an exit to the backyard, where Bilowz cut an opening in a stone wall original to the property. It is a happy, exultant finish, complete with a metal hummingbird sipping from a flower. And all the time Ciemny was working on this black iron opus, “Gregory never once asked to see what I was doing.”

At this point everyone thought the story was over, so they packed up their shovels and rivets and went home. Then Maguire spent a winter considering the new work as viewed from the living room and realized that the gateway to the backyard needed another side. Bilowz had already positioned a hollowed-out stone across from the wave, as if it might drip into the basin, and it was here that Maguire posed for Ciemny, demonstrating the “yearning” the new side should have for the other. With this coda completed in 2015, the fence now reads from every angle.

Beyond the known world of the patio, the yard opens up to the emerald-green lawn, where a loop of granite and brick, more of a delineator than a path, leads to a studio built from an English greenhouse kit. “I thought I’d write here, but that didn’t exactly happen,” Maguire says. However, the whimsical structure serves a purpose as it pulls the eye back and gives the property a destination. In the writer’s mind, the giant white pines rise behind it “like mountains,” he muses, but that would be another story.

The path from the front yard leads through a deceptively normal garden gate. Off in the distance, a whimsical structure built as a writing studio gives the backyard focus and destination.
The path from the front yard leads through a deceptively normal garden gate. Off in the distance, a whimsical structure built as a writing studio gives the backyard focus and destination. —Eric Roth

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