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Archives for November 1, 2016

Editorial: Newton leaf blower plan goes too far

When the City Council takes action on proposed restrictions of leaf blowers it should substantially amend the plan drafted by the Programs Services Committee.

More than a year in the making and the subject of multiple public hearings, the full council seems poised to finally vote later this month on the proposed ordinance that would, among other restrictions, ban use of the blowers from Memorial Day to Labor Day and mandate that each device has a manufacturer’s label indicating a noise level of no more than 65 decibels.

Unfortunately, Programs Services’ final draft didn’t incorporate any elements of a compromise plan offered by an alliance of landscapers, local colleges and businesses. That plan would have eliminated the summer ban, but restrict use during those months to the 65-decibels leaf blowers. Under the ad hoc coalition’s plan, the more effective, commonly used 77-decibels models would only be permitted for use in the spring and fall, when they’re essential for cleanup.

Another aspect of the PS draft that should be amended by the full City Council involves hours of operation: The committee’s proposal of 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays wouldn’t pose too much of a problem in the spring and summer, when the days are long. But during the peak period of yard cleanup in November, the days grow short, stripping landscapers of an hour’s work time. Moreover, the existing noise ordinance allows construction work to begin at 7 a.m. Last time we checked roto-hammers, rattle guns and power saws had substantially higher decibel levels than leaf blowers. This is a glaring inconsistency in the committee’s proposal.

The voices of those bothered by leaf blowers have been heard loud and clear — especially during the past couple years. Their complaint is understandable: The blowers are indeed noisy and at times they are improperly utilized. Even many landscapers understand this.

But the regulations as proposed by PS go too far — and in some cases could exacerbate the situation through unintended consequences. Consider this: If the 65-decibels limit were to be enforced (it currently is not, even though it is on the books) it would take two blowers to do the work of one, requiring more manpower by landscapers and probably taking longer per job. In other words: more expensive landscaping bills and an extended duration of noise.

The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few. While there are many residents who are disturbed by the leaf blowers, enough to desire over-regulation of them, they are most certainly a minority in a city known in large part for its beautiful lawns and gardens and where a majority employs a landscaping company.

Newton is a wonderful place to live, but it shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of utopia. Leaf blower noise is simply a price we have to endure in order to keep the Garden City as picturesque as it is.

The City Council should keep this in mind when it considers the proposed ordinance.

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5 garden tips for the week starting Oct. 29 – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Winter harvest

Plant cool-season vegetables within the next few weeks. These include beets, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach. You also can plant Swiss chard in its variety of colors, as well as parsley and more. Some will be ready to start harvesting in December.

Time to act

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, if you want to plant drought-tolerant shrubs and groundcovers, get them in the ground now. The roots will develop over the next several months, so they can be fully drought-tolerant next year in case the drought continues. Consider planting ornamental grasses, lantanas, manzanitas and more. But do it soon.

Rain on the way

Prepare your property for hoped-for winter rains. Start by providing pathways for proper drainage (hopefully not into your neighbor’s yard). Clean rain gutters. Maybe even purchase water barrels to collect and store the rain that comes down from the rain gutters. And check your roof and any skylights or vents. They may need a new application of water sealant to prevent leakage; old sealant often shrinks or cracks during hot, dry weather and needs to be repaired.


Take time to clean up your garden by removing any fallen fruit, old vegetables, plant debris and weeds. Many weeds are releasing seeds now, so timely removal will greatly reduce the threat of weeds, and your efforts now will help to prevent problems from pests and diseases in your garden next season.

Smart option

Aspidistra is a good evergreen ornamental to put in very dark, shady areas. It does not produce noticeable flowers, but it is always attractive and stays under 2 feet tall. Its wide arching leaves look rather tropical. Called the “cast-iron plant,” it grows happily in conditions that would kill many other plants — including in containers indoors. Once established, it is nearly drought-resistant. A rich-looking variegated form also is available.

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White House floral designer to speak at B’ville Garden Club meeting

White House floral designer Cathy Miller will share her award-winning expertise at the next meeting of the Bernardsville Garden Club at 9:30 a.m., Tursday, Nov. 15.

Miller, the author of “Harvesting, Preserving Arranging Dried Flowers,” will discuss her self-taught and lifelong floral design expertise.

During the program, titled “It’s Holiday Time,” Miller will create a fresh fruit and flower centerpiece, a Christmastime arrangement of fresh greens and flowers, and a complete large dried garden flower arrangement. Miller has received numerous floral arranging awards, published dozens of assignments for 49 national magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens, appeared on 32 television shows, including The Discovery Channel, is a past New Jersey garden club president, and 62 of her home-grown dried floral arrangements have graced the White House through five presidencies from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush.

The Bernardsville Garden Club meets the third Tuesday of the month at members’ homes and works on numerous community projects throughout the year to beautify the borough. To register for the event and receive the meeting location, contact Gale Fitzgerald at (908)766-5309 or email Visit the club on Facebook page or go to for more information.

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Design Books for Holiday Gifts

’Tis the season for meh blockbuster movies and really great design books. Here are a few not to be missed:

Grace Bonney, the founder of Design*Sponge, the website dedicated to the creative community, and author of the national bestseller Design*Sponge at Home, took on In the Company of Women (Artisan) as a project of the heart. Long a proponent of makers and female entrepreneurs who start creative businesses, she profiles over 100 women of multiple races, ages, and industries, and shares their insights and advice.

Rebecca Atwood is an artist and textile designer. Her book, Living With Pattern: Color, Texture, and Print at Home (Clarkson Potter), is filled with clear, DIY ideas about how to use pattern in your home.

Gardenista, an offshoot of the website Remodelista, has gathered together garden design ideas that are approachable and beautiful in Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces (Artisan Books). Perfect inspiration for dreaming about next spring’s gardens.

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Horticulture Hotline – Fall is for planting – here’s how to do it

Man, what wonderful weather we are having. We need rain, but the last few weeks have been most enjoyable.

New annuals are adding fresh color to our Lowcountry landscape and ryegrass is popping up on many lawns (and in some beds).

Fall is for planting, so now is the time to get those plants in the ground. I have noticed several people re-sodding areas as well. The many parks and public plantations the Lowcountry has to offer are great places to get design ideas for your yard, or just to spend some time alone or with families and friends.

Planting can take several forms. A random new plant, a small renovation, landscaping an area that was not planted in the past, and planting a whole new yard all require some basic skills and knowledge. Some people will do it themselves, and others will hire a professional.

When planting new plants there are a few things you might want to consider. How tall and wide is the plant going to be at full maturity? If it gets too big, you might be transplanting it in a few years. Is it going to grow into your house and ruin your paint? Are the roots going to tear up your sidewalk or foundation? Do you have overhead wires that the plant is going to grow into, leading to a safety issue? Is the plant an evergreen or is it going to lose its leaves in the fall? If you have a bed of sun-loving shrubs, do you want to plant a live oak that will shade them out in a few years and then have to replace the shrubs? Is it going to shade your house in the summer but let light in during the winter, saving electricity? Is it going to shade out the turf you love so much?

A landscape designer can help you through some of these questions. Choose a designer whose work you have seen and like. Some designers include lighting, irrigation, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, bricks, sidewalks, fountains, statues, walls and drainage in their designs, and other designers stick more with the basics. If you like the more elaborate features but cash is a little tight, most designers can break the project into phases. Working in phases is nice because you are working toward a goal, and when you are finished, you have the landscape of your dreams.

When you choose your plant material, it is best to go to a local nursery/garden center. They have the varieties of plants that do well here in the Lowcountry. The local nursery/garden center is going to have an employee who works daily with local plants, knows the plants’ advantages and disadvantages, knows if the plants are susceptible to any insects or disease, and might even know where you can drive by to see a particular plant growing.

If there are new varieties of a certain plant that are available and resistant to disease or insects, those are the ones you want to plant, and your local nurseryman (or woman) will be able to direct you to them.

So much to cover, so little space, but I will be back next week. Until next week, treat for mosquitoes (Cyonara, or EcoVia (organic)), Large Patch Fungus (Brown Patch) T-Methyl, rats and mice, roaches (Invict Gold), Neem Oil for overwintering insects and disease, and winterize lawn with SeaHume and 00-00-25. Any salt damaged areas use Possum’s Salt Free to leach the salts through the soil profile.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s has three locations 481 Long Point Rd in Mt. Pleasant (971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600), or 606 Dupont Rd, in Charleston (766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at You can also call in your questions to “ The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA (The Big Talker).

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Double-decker buses proposed for beach

The developer of the Portofino Island Resort on Pensacola Beach is proposing double-decker buses to shuttle beach visitors around Santa Rosa Island.

Developer Robert Rinke is also pushing for a face-lift to the beach toll booths.

Money for the projects would come from the Portofino Island Improvement Fund. The fund, which brings in about $250,000 a year, was created in the early 2000s when developers first proposed the large, luxury, condominium tower project on the eastern end of the beach. Under the agreement between the developers and the Santa Rosa Island Authority, the fund is used for public projects intended to improve conditions on the barrier island. Expenditures from the fund must be approved by the Island Authority, which oversees development on the beach, and the developers.

Previous projects paid for by the fund include three open-air trolleys that currently serve the beach, dozens of palm trees that line Fort Pickens Road and Via de Luna, road widening and crosswalk improvements in front of the Portofino Island Resort and various beach landscaping projects.

Rinke said the open-air trolley buses have become so popular that larger versions are needed.

“On a typical summer day, there will be as many as 1,000 people riding the trolleys. They are super popular. A lot of times they are standing room only,” said Rinke, who would like to see the exiting beach trolleys used in downtown Pensacola once they are replaced with the double-decker models on the beach.

The double-decker buses cost about $380,000 each with upgrades including wheelchair lifts, flat-screen televisions, bike racks and special coating to prevent salt corrosion.

The larger trolleys would help alleviate traffic congestion on the beach while also providing a fun experience for beach visitors.

Rinke also hopes to convince the Island Authority to invest in a face-lift for the toll booth station at the foot of the Bob Sikes Bridge. The toll booths are the main entrance to the beach and the first impression many visitors have of Pensacola Beach.

Dave Pavlock, chairman of the Island Authority, said he is open to Rinke’s ideas for the improvement plan money, but he questioned the need for larger buses.

“I am not excited about buying new buses when we have buses that only have 10 months of use on them. It would be nice to have the larger buses, but I have questions about that,” said Pavlock, who plans to meet with Rinke to learn more about the various projects.

Island Authority board member Karen Sindel said she also plans to meet with Rinke to hear his ideas.

“I love the fact that someone like Robert Rinke is being forward about transportation and traffic issues at the beach,” she said.

Sindel said Upgrades to transportation and infrastructure benefit the entire county.

“This isn’t just about tourists or people who live on the beach,” she said. “The beach is the county’s largest park and we need to look ahead at what is going to be needed out there over the next five, 10 and 15 years.”

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CCCTC displays new location for Landscaping and Design classes

Dylan Schaefer, who is studying in the program from the Crestview district, was showing off the hydroponic plants in the greenhouse. Growing beets, lettuce and cucumbers as part of his project, Schaefer said one day they planted the seeds and in less than 24 hours, when the students returned to the greenhouse, there were sprouts.

“It was just amazing,” Schaefer said, talking about his project.

In addition, Schaefer has been learning about the different needs of different types of plants. How some need more shade while others require more sunlight. He notes with some of the plants in the greenhouse the students have learned to turn the lights out over them during the overnight hours, because those plants only like about 12 hours of light. While his mother used to move crops in her garden, Schaefer said he now has a better understanding about why she would rotate where they were planted from year to year.

He also has been using some large equipment at home for years, but now he has a chance to learn other equipment and to become certified at operating it.

“I will have all the hands-on experience I need,” Schaefer said if he plans to run a business when he graduates, adding he will just need to money to finance it.

Schaefer was one of several students talking about the program and showing off the equipment for those who dropped by the open house. Some former students came by to see how far the program has advanced.

Instructor John Garwood pointed out those students were the ones who gave the CCCTC board the confidence in the program to renovate the no longer in use horse arena area for a program which can give students a variety of career paths in the future.

“This is a dream come true for a lot of the generations of future students,” Garwood said.

Garwood was also giving tours of the facilities, talking about a pile of dirt in a box on the floor, where students are learning how to measure and design grades so water runs away from some areas and toward drainage areas. Students last year got to watch while greenhouse was planned and watch actual drainage issues addressed by leveling the area and the construction of a retaining wall.

In another part of the same, large and heated facility, Garwood points to paver stones, which students are using to learning to build patios, walkways and outdoor fireplaces. The equipment which they are using to learn how to level the project on completion was also sitting nearby.

Garwood notes this program allows for a lot of creativity, encouraging the students to bring their ideas to their projects.

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