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Archives for November 29, 2016

Outdoor showers make a splash

Perhaps not surprisingly given our climate and the ever-increasing trend towards resort-style homes and gardens, outdoor showers are becoming more and more popular in Australian backyards.

“Outdoor showers are a fabulous addition to a garden not only because they are functional but also for that outdoor lifestyle feeling they create,” landscape designer Monica Palmer, of Slightly Garden Obsessed, said.

“Our love for pools and coastal living has created a need for a permanent outdoor wash-down area.

Showers are becoming increasingly popular in Aussie backyards. Picture: Tim Davies Landscaping

“And also the outdoor space of the home is becoming a more thought-about area. It really has become an extension of the living spaces inside.”

Daniela Santilli, of Reece Bathrooms, agreed that outdoor showers were a wonderful — and increasingly common — addition to the garden, “whether you’re a block away from the beach or in an inner suburb”.

“Outdoor bathrooms have always been popular with sun-loving Australians, and we’ve seen a surge in appeal with shows such as The Block regularly featuring outdoor bathrooms,” Ms Santilli said. “People are also becoming more open to the idea of bathing outdoors, to reconnect with nature and create a more sensual bathing experience.”

Ms Santilli said adding an outdoor shower was easier than people might think, whether it’s a luxurious outdoor bathroom complete with hot water for bathing, or a simple freestanding cold-water shower for post-swim rinse-offs.

Outdoor showers can be as simple or high-end as you like. Picture: Reece

Installing the latter was almost as simple as fitting a garden tap, with no council permission required — though Ms Santilli does recommend using a licensed plumber.

“Outdoor bathrooms can be as high-end or as simple as you like, depending on your budget and outdoor bathroom requirements,” she said. “You may just need a shower to wash off the sand or chlorine and can simply position a freestanding outdoor shower on your decking or in the garden.

“Alternatively, you may want to transform your garden area into an outdoor bathroom sanctuary and opt for bamboo frames, ferns and additional water features to make it a tranquil escape.”

Ms Palmer, who recently launched her own collection of outdoor shower units, said she was prompted by growing demand coupled with a lack of locally available products.

Monica Palmer has created a range of outdoor showers.

“Over the last couple of years I found I was including an outdoor shower area in just about every garden design,” she said.

“The choice in the market was limited, they were well over $1200 and came from over east or overseas. I wanted to offer my clients a style that would complement their home design. This has now expanded to supplying to industry and customers beyond my clients.”

The collection, which includes copper, brass and matt-black designs, is available from Eco Outdoor in Osborne Park, the Slightly Garden Obsessed design studio in Cottesloe, or from

The West Australian

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For Christmas, give these books to the gardener/reader in your life

With the arrival of winter in Maine, gardening moves inside and into the realm of the imagination. Gardeners exchange rakes and hoes for books, and turn from cultivating gardens to cultivating their (horticultural) minds. It’s merely a coincidence that many of us enjoy receiving books as gifts.

Here are some of the gardening books I’ve read this year and can recommend.

A few others to read

781041-herbs781041-herbs• “Herb Gardening: How to Prepare the Soil, Choose Your Plants, and Care For, Harvest, and Use Your Herbs.” By Melissa Snyder. Countryman Press, 264 pages, $19.95.

A comprehensive book with an easygoing, conversational style, “Herb Gardening” offers everything the herb gardener needs to know.

• “The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Vegetable Garden or Farm.” By Annie Novak. Penguin Random House, 256 pages. $23.

Rooftop gardens have been a trend for a decade or more. “The Rooftop Growing Guide” describes how to plant one, from figuring out weights to picking the right plants to dealing with pests.

• “Garden Design Bible.” By Matt James. Mitchell Beazley, 256 pages. $34.99.

• “Garden Design Bible” offers 40 different garden designs – ranging from small balconies to entire estates – each of which you can create, depending on what sort of outdoor space you have.


 “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World.” By Peter Wohlleben. Greystone Books, 272 pages. $24.99.

1114315_781041 trees.jpg1114315_781041 trees.jpgTrees are a social species. They intertwine their roots, sharing nutrients so that healthy trees can assist those that are ailing. Huge stumps of old trees may be fed by smaller, healthy nearby trees (the stump’s children, perhaps?), getting a bit of chlorophyl, which prevents them from rotting long after they really should have.

Trees warn their neighbors of trouble. When the leaves of an acacia are eaten by a giraffe in Africa, for example, that tree gives off a scent warning nearby trees it is in danger. The neighboring trees then send poisons to their leaves so the giraffe will leave them alone.

“The Hidden Life of Trees,” which contains these nuggets of information, is the most fascinating plant-related book I have read this year. In addition to describing trees’ social network, the book explains why old-growth, wild forests are healthier than planted forests, and it predicts how forests will react to climate change.

Author Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany, so the book concentrates on the beech forests where he works. But the principles are easily transferred to the oak-maple-pine-fir forests of Maine.

 “Heirloom Plants: A Complete Compendium of Heritage Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs Flowers.” By Thomas Etty and Lorraine Harrison. Ball Publishing, 224 pages. $29.99.

“Heirloom Plants” is filled with drawings; it’s designed like an old-fashioned garden catalog. It is the kind of book that’s perfect to dip into when you want to look something up or spend a few minutes learning something new.

The book opens by defining what heritage plants are and presenting arguments for growing, saving and swapping the seeds of open-pollinated plants. Among the reasons you should, it says: by saving the seeds of plants you grow, you can create what are known as landrace seeds, which are precisely adapted to your specific garden.

 “All the Presidents’ Gardens.” By Marta McDowell. Timber Press, 236 pages. $29.95.

1114315_781041 presidents.jpg1114315_781041 presidents.jpgBecause the geography of America is so diverse, it would be impossible to write a history of gardening in the United States – a work like that would run to many volumes. Instead, Marta McDowell writes a history of the gardens of American presidents. She uses presidential gardens as a lens through which to examine gardening trends over the centuries and to give insights into the personalities of the presidents themselves.

Up to James Monroe (1817-1825), all of the presidents were serious farmers, and in the early years of our nation, the White House gardens provided food for the president and his family. Later on, flowers superseded vegetables in importance (although with First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, the pendulum may have swung back), and a greenhouse was built on the grounds.

Over the decades, the head gardeners at the White House have changed less frequently than the First Families, and occasional conflicts have arisen between the gardeners and the families. Whether you approach “All the Presidents’ Gardens” from the perspective of gardening or history, you’ll find the book informative and entertaining.

• “Shakespeare’s Gardens.” By Jackie Bennett with photographs by Andrew Lawson. Frances Lincoln Press, 192 pages. $40.

1114315_781041 shakespeare.jpg1114315_781041 shakespeare.jpgBeyond some bare facts and the plays and sonnets themselves, scholars know surprisingly little about William Shakespeare’s life. But now writer Jackie Bennett has pulled together plenty of facts about the gardens he knew, lived in or created – many of which can still be visited in England today.

Naturally, those gardens have changed in the 400 years since the playwright’s death, changes that Bennett outlines in her totally entertaining book.

“Shakespeare’s Gardens” also addresses how Shakespeare described plants in his works – which he did often – and it explains the symbolism of those plants.

• “The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare and Use Your Own Hops, Malts and Brewing Herbs.” By Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher. Storey Publishing, 224 pages. $16.95.

This is the second edition update of a 1998 book by two brothers who are organic farmers in Winterport. The book is in four parts: The first part details growing hops, from how to get started to dealing with hops pests, including the Japanese beetle. Next comes sections on herbs you can add to beer, malts you can grow and finally recipes. With the boom in Maine brewing, there could well be a home brewer in your life – this book would make a handy gift.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: [email protected]





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KET: Kentucky lawmakers and economic experts debate ideas for state tax reform

By John Gregory | KET

There seems to be unanimous agreement in Frankfort that the commonwealth’s outdated tax codes need to be reformed.

But good luck finding a consensus on what that overhaul should mean for individual and corporate taxpayers as well as for a state with mounting education, infrastructure, and public pension expenses.

Ahead of the 2017 General Assembly session, KET’s Kentucky Tonight explored the latest thinking on tax reform. The guests were Sen. Christian McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill), chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee; Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville), a member of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee; and Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

The Goals of Tax Reform

State policymakers on both sides of the aisle have argued for years that the tax codes need to be updated, but none of them have mustered the political will to make it happen. McDaniel says it will take a strong executive with a mandate to pursue reform and the courage to accept that the process will create winners and losers. The senator says a reform effort should result in one comprehensive bill that addresses all state revenues and brings Kentucky’s tax policies in line with the modern economy.

“If we are going to really do this, everything that government collects will have to be on the table,” says McDaniel. “It’s going to be a tremendous undertaking and one that has to be done very contemplatively, one that has to be done with a great deal of respect for the positive or negative impact that it bears on the economy of the commonwealth.”

Senators McDaniel and McGarvey disagree on whether reform should result in new revenues for Kentucky. The Republican contends that the state already has adequate funding if properly appropriated to budget priorities. McDaniel says tax reform is nothing more than a tax increase if it results in an immediate boosting of revenues into state coffers.

McGarvey argues that the state’s current tax policies are based on a manufacturing economy that no longer exists in Kentucky. The Democrat contends that government agencies and programs aren’t working like they should because their budgets have been cut multiple times in recent years. McGarvey says that’s why an updated tax code must generate additional moneys for the commonwealth.

“We need to make it more modern, we need to make it more efficient, we need to make it more fair so that we have what we need to address the basic needs and obligations of state government and have the tools to also grow and encourage businesses to come to Kentucky,” McGarvey says.

Possible Changes for Individual Taxpayers

That doesn’t necessarily mean a tax increase, though. McGarvey says the state could lower the individual tax rate on most Kentuckians and still have enough money to pay for education, health care, infrastructure and public pensions if lawmakers are willing to broaden the tax base. One option for doing that is to levy the sales tax on more services.

Jason Bailey says Kentucky currently taxes about 28 kinds of services, whereas other states tax more than 150 service categories. He says the state of Iowa taxes a broad range of services but at a relatively low rate. Other states target luxury services such as dry cleaning, professional landscaping, or limo rentals and tax them at a higher rate.

Another reform option is to shift away from personal income taxes and generate more revenues from sales taxes. Since that strategy focuses taxation more on consumption than on income, Bailey says it would disproportionately impact lower- and middle-class Kentuckians. For example, he says that getting 25 percent of state revenues from sales taxes rather than the income tax would, in effect, result in a tax increase for the bottom 60 percent of wage earners while giving the top 1 percent an $8,000 tax cut. Plus, he warns that an emphasis on sales taxes may not generate sufficient funding for state government operations.

Lawmakers are likely to also consider the fate of the state’s inheritance tax. Gov. Matt Bevin and other Republicans want a full repeal of the tax that’s been in place since 1906. Bailey says most Kentuckians never pay the tax because current law exempts close relatives from having to pay for what they inherit. Yet the state still collects about $50 million a year in inheritance taxes, according to Bailey.

“It’s a very progressive tax – it asks more of those who have more,” says Bailey. “Our tax system overall doesn’t do that. In fact middle-income Kentuckians pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Those at the top pay only about 6 percent… So we have sort of an upside-down tax code now.”

Bailey says repealing the inheritance tax would be a tax break for upper-income individuals and deprive the state of needed revenues. McDaniel warns that lawmakers must be careful to craft tax policies that will encourage wealthy Kentuckians to remain in the commonwealth and not be tempted to move to a state with more advantageous tax policies.

Rethinking Corporate Taxes

That philosophy also applies to business and corporate taxes. McDaniel contends it’s all too easy for a company to move their operations to states that can offer them better deals on corporate taxes.

“If you don’t have businesses, you don’t have jobs, and if you don’t have good jobs, you don’t have good incomes,” says McDaniel. “It’s that simple: We have to have reform that attracts and retains the highest quality businesses if we want to have good jobs and good revenue for the commonwealth.”

Several state governments, including Kansas and North Carolina, have enacted major tax cuts in recent years as a way to boost economic development. As appealing as lower taxes are to voters and corporations, Bailey says they don’t necessarily attract new business or help a state’s overall economy. He says the drop in revenues that Kansas subsequently experienced forced lawmakers there to make massive budget cuts and caused the state’s credit rating to be downgraded three times. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s state government, which Bailey says once had the highest income taxes in the South, now finds itself slashing services and hiking public university tuitions to compensate for the revenues it lost to tax cuts.

“You have to make sure that what you’re doing is connected to reality,” Bailey says. “There’s this assumption that if you just lower taxes for businesses or those at the top, that you’ll get entrepreneurs and business to flock to the state. It just doesn’t pan out.”

McDaniel acknowledges that the Kansas tax overhaul did have some flaws, and it assumed mineral extraction revenues that didn’t materialize. But he says the state has experienced more job growth in the past 24 months than it had in the previous 14 years. McDaniel says Ohio experienced economic growth after lawmakers lowered business tax burdens and broadened the state’s tax base. The senator says Kentucky lawmakers can learn from the experiences of other states as they go about crafting a new tax policy for the commonwealth.

In addition to the overall corporate tax rate, many businesses may qualify for exemptions or other tax incentives. Those breaks may make good economic sense on a case-by-case basis, but Bailey says the cumulative effect is astounding: Kentucky tax codes now contain $2 billion more in various exemptions than the state actually collects in tax revenues each year. He says tax reform must include an accounting of each of those breaks and eliminate those that can no longer be justified against the greater need to fund public services.

McDaniel counters that more than 80 percent of the $12 billion in tax exemptions currently written into the tax codes go to individuals and not business interests.

Other Revenue Options

The forthcoming tax reform discussions could revive other issues that have been debated for years in Frankfort. McGarvey says lawmakers should once again explore expanded gaming and allowing medicinal or recreational marijuana if all revenue options are truly going to be open to consideration. He acknowledges that both gambling and marijuana are, at best, “band aid solutions” for generating income, and are unlikely to pass muster with many lawmakers.

The Democrat says legislators could also consider a local option sales tax measure that would enable city and county governments to temporarily increase a local sales tax to fund infrastructure projects. That taxing mechanism would require approval of the General Assembly and voters through an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution.

McGarvey also supports creating a state earned income tax credit to offset some of the tax burden on working families and perhaps even refund some of their taxes to them.

“This is money that’s going back into people’s pockets, and then of course it’s coming right back into the economy” as they buy necessities, says McGarvey. “I think that that’s a fair thing for our working class people in Kentucky.”

When the legislature convenes in January, Republicans will control both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the executive mansion. Even with those majorities, McGarvey says he hopes GOP lawmakers will work with Democrats to craft a tax overhaul plan that will be fair for all Kentuckians.

Kentucky Tonight airs weekly on KET:

Mondays at 8:00/7:00 PM CT

Wednesdays at 2:00/1:00 AM CT

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Parents raising funds for new playground at North Attleboro’s Martin School

Martin School Playground

Martin School Playground

Martin Elementary School fourth-grader Ellie Regan runs around on a map of the United States painted on the current playground.

Martin School Playground

Martin School Playground

A group of students and their parents comprise the Martin School Playground Committee. The group is raising funds to improve the facilities, on the current playground at North Attleboro’s Martin Elementary School.

Martin School Playground

Martin School Playground

A set of swings are one of the few amenities available for youngsters to play on at Martin Elementary School in North Attleboro.

Martin School Playground

Martin School Playground

Martin Elementary School second-grader Bridget McKenna, right, chases her friend Maddy Steel, left, as they play on the current playground at the school, in North Attleboro.

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2016 10:45 pm

Updated: 10:58 pm, Mon Nov 28, 2016.

Parents raising funds for new playground at North Attleboro’s Martin School


The Sun Chronicle


NORTH ATTLEBORO – Martin School parents want a playground fit for the 700-plus kids who roam an empty field and blacktop at the elementary school during recess – and they’re ready to get creative.

Parents from the Martin School Association recently purchased an existing playground from a Watertown daycare for a fraction of the cost of a new play structure, association Treasurer Dawn Regan said, adding it will allow the group flexibility in exploring other play area additions.

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Monday, November 28, 2016 10:45 pm.

Updated: 10:58 pm.

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Landscaping Firm In The Woodlands Celebrates 17 Years In Business

Envy Exteriors offer customers in and around The Woodlands, TX their expertise gained over seventeen years of customer care. The service area includes Spring, Magnolia, Montgomery, Cypress and Tomball, TX.

The Woodlands TX: Envy Exteriors and Courtney Milne are pleased to announce that they have reached a milestone of seventeen years in the business of landscaping The Woodlands, TX homes, and businesses. Since 1999 the company professionals has used the knowledge and creativity to turn ideas into art by landscaping and hardscaping services. They strive to produce eye-catching landscapes which reflect the customers’ needs and preferences. As a design-and-build firm, they offer both landscape and construction expertise.

According to a spokesperson for the firm, “We offer irrigation services, arbor installation, and landscape design. Our expertise includes design and installation of driveways, walkways, and other specialized elements throughout the landscape to enhance the experience of being in an outdoor space.”

He continues, “Our services include landscape lighting, irrigation and drainage, turf, plant and tree treatment programs with fertilization, insect and disease control. We design and build outdoor kitchens and entertainment areas, covered structures, walkways and driveways and pergolas. We can renovate decks and construct arbors. We also design and install patios and pools. No job is too large or too small.”

Crafting healthy, as well as aesthetically appealing landscapes is an important part of Envy Exteriors efforts. They are knowledgeable about plants and their water and shade needs. Enjoying the outdoor living space is more likely when the design is attractive as well as functional. The professionals at the firm can design and install an outdoor kitchen or lounge area, as well as a place to entertain family and friends.

Personal contact with each customer is a requirement promoted by the firm’s philosophy and service model. The customer consultation provides a comprehensive evaluation of the desires and preferences. The desires of the customer are included in the planning and discussion. The skilled landscape designers can then turn the ideas into a workable design which is beautiful as well as functional.

For more information about them, visit the web page at


Contact Envy Exteriors:

Courtney Milne
(281) 884-3080
7 Switchbud Place Suite 192-253K, The Woodlands TX 77380

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