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Archives for December 2, 2016

Local harmony: Medicinal garden and amphitheater in the works on State Street in Northampton

Creating vibrant public spaces is no easy matter. Parks and other such places require a serendipitous combination of scale, public access and visual appeal to make them come alive.

As Jane Jacobs, the 20th-century journalist and urban theorist who championed city street life, wrote in her highly acclaimed “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961), “The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks.”

Local Harmony, a Pioneer Valley-based non-profit organization, is creating an intimate stone amphitheater and medicinal garden on the small, grassy hillside owned by Smith College that runs from the Hungry Ghost Bakery to State Street in Northampton. Jacobs would undoubtedly give Local Harmony two thumbs up.

Local Harmony is the collaborative creation of Owen Wormser, owner of the Leverett-based landscape design company Abound Design, and Chris Marano, an herbalist who owns Clearpath Herbals in Montague. Wormser said the organization’s goal is “to harness the skills of professional landscape designers, horticulturalists and gardeners to join forces with volunteers to create beautiful and accessible public spaces.”

Wormser, a landscape designer who is trained in architecture, said the idea for Local Harmony originated in a project he undertook several years ago. After launching his landscape design firm, Abound, he created the public fountain space at Cooper’s Corner store in Florence as a promotion for his fledgling business.

“I found it was really meaningful for people,” he said. “Cooper’s Corner was very successful in terms of people wanting to use the space. People are very appreciative of it. They take pride in their surroundings.”

After Cooper’s Corner, Wormser kept his eye out for other spaces.

“You need to have sympathetic property owners, and I figured that Smith College and the Hungry Ghost Bakery would be supportive,” he said.

A multi-use space

Local Harmony’s garden will have a variety of uses. It will be a place for educational activities and performances as well as a pleasant space for the public, including patrons of the bakery, which overlooks the garden.

“We want this to resonate with the public so they feel it’s theirs and that they want to be part of it,”Wormser said.

Among its functions will be that of teaching garden; it will be composed only of medicinal plants. Marano called it a “sister garden” to a similar one at Clearpath Herbals in Montague. But the plants have also been chosen for their aesthetic appeal.

“People who don’t know anything about medicinal plants will still find it beautiful,” Wormser said. The herbal plants include commonly known varieties such as catmint (Nepeta) and coneflower (Echinacea) and others including Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Taller perennials will be placed along the border to create a sense of seclusion for the garden.

In addition to the medicinal perennials, the garden will include a border of serviceberry trees (Amelanchier) along the edge where Bedford Terrace curves into State Street. Serviceberry, also known as shadbush or shadblow, is a small tree that’s well-suited to the garden. It has delicate white blossoms in spring and colorful fall foliage, it’s drought tolerant and attracts birds.

Generous hosts

According to Wormser, Smith College, which owns the property, has provided generous funding for the project.

“Smith and Roger Mosier, the college’s associate vice president of facilities management, understand that this was an extremely valuable offer and that Smith, the Hungry Ghost and the entire community will gain from it, Wormser said. “The project wouldn’t happen without Smith’s level of support.”

The Hungry Ghost Bakery has also donated to the project, and will take on a major role in maintaining the garden.

In his role as owner of Abound Design, Wormser provided the professional landscape design, while Marano of Clearpath Herbals has provided expertise and advice about suitable medicinal plants for the garden beds. Ashfield Stone donated the Goshen stone for the amphitheater and pathways. Local Harmony will provide plants and materials at cost. Wormser estimates that $40,000 has been contributed to the project in terms of materials, time and labor. He noted that this is less than half what such a project would cost on the open market.

Another cost-cutting feature of the project is that, with the exception of some of the stonework, volunteers will install it. Wormser projects that between 400 and 600 hours of work will be donated in total.

“We have a large population of younger people in the Valley who want to work, grow food and gardens,” he said.

Enclosed in color, texture

Kevin Potter, 27, was one of the volunteers who helped excavate the site when the project broke ground Oct. 17. He has worked for Abound and studies herbalism with Marano at Clearpath Herbals.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to create a high-visibility community garden,” he said. “It’s huge to have a place to plant herbs and learn about them. It’s a great resource for people. And it’s accessible by foot and by public transportation.”

Wormser and Marano say they plan to have 70 percent of the plants in place this fall, with the remainder to be planted next spring.

“Once it’s completed and the plants are growing, it will feel enclosed with color and texture,” Wormser said. “It will feel like a sanctuary.”

Wormser said he is pleased with the garden’s size and location.

“It’s just manageable. We are able to do most of the work by hand,” he said. It’s not exactly in the middle of the city; it’s a little quieter here. It’s a good spot to watch the city go by.”

Sustainable inspiration

The State Street garden is one of several Local Harmony initiatives. The non-profit recently renovated five large concrete planters in downtown Turners Falls, with help from students at the Franklin County Technical School. Local Harmony is also working with the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst to create an extensive teaching garden that will be installed next spring at the center’s new site on the Hampshire College campus.

“We went through a great design process with Local Harmony that involved thorough thinking about all aspects of the project, including community collaboration, accessibility and the teaching function,” said Casey Beebe, community programs and special projects manager at the Hitchcock Center.

Wormser said he hopes the State Street amphitheater and garden will inspire people to launch similar projects.

“I want people to come here and say, ‘I could do that,’ because anyone can do this,” he said. “I want this to be a model that’s sustainable over time and that can work in any community.”

Inspiration is an important part of the work, he added.

“Our long-term goal is to remind people that our planet is a garden and we’ve wrecked it. But that we can rejuvenate it, make it beautiful and productive again for all living things.”

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at

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The Botanic Garden’s holiday show sizes down National Park Service landmarks

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Garden design competition opens

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Plans for downtown OS green space unveiled – WBRC FOX6 News


The vision for a nearly 2-acre piece of property in the heart of downtown Ocean Springs was unveiled Thursday.

The property borders Church Street, with its beauty enhanced by live oaks and magnolias. The parcel is owned by the Applewhite family, who has a goal: keep the property green and for public use.

Following a Charette, led by landscape architects from Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, plans are now on the books. Improvements include restrooms, a catering kitchen, and a stage area for bands.

“It’s a special place, even if only a couple of people come. There’s something to do or if a whole group comes, it’s a very flexible space that is kind of magical,” David Perkes explained.

There was always one priority for landscape architect Elizabeth Englebretson.

“The main goal was to highlight the live oaks with the stage, not take away from the beauty of the live oaks and the beauty of the natural open space out there,” said Englebretson. 

Vicki Rosetti-Applewhite wanted something special, and now it just might happen.

“I’ve had a lot of ideas, and I’ve heard a lot of ideas, but to see someone actually put them in front of us in a way that everyone can collaborate and see a common vision, that’s very exciting, Rosetti-Applewhite said.

Downtown business owners who saw the design plans are just as pleased.

“It is very exciting,” said Cathy Reed. “As a music and festival lover, I know I would personally enjoy it and I think it would be an artistic topping for our city.”

Everything looks good on paper – the plan, and the vision for the property – but as always, the bottom line question in such a case is how to pay for it.

“We’d love some community partners. We’ve been talking with the mayor about the plan, so it’s time to get some stakeholders involved and see how to make it work,” said  Rosetti-Applewhite.

If it does work, the public will have a venue to enjoy for years to come.

The Applewhite’s hope to meet with the mayor and other city officials in the coming days to get their input on the design, and discuss ways of making the project happen.

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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Spend Less Without Being a Grinch: 8 Holiday Ideas

This article originally appeared on

Between the endless stream of holiday music, window displays and festive events, the holiday season can sometimes feel like a never-ending parade of opportunities to blow the budget. But when you set and stick with a budget you feel comfortable with, you are bound to feel better, and probably more festive as well, knowing the holidays aren’t bankrupting you. Let’s take a deep breath and start the holidays off on the right foot: with a plan to spend less money and experience more joy. Here are eight ways to do just that.

1. Choose a gift strategy. Shopping for gifts for many people can be overwhelming, especially when you are trying to stick to a tight budget. Rather than shopping anytime, anywhere or (even worse) doing a marathon day of shopping at the mall, I’ve found it easiest to stick to my budget and still have fun by setting a few parameters first. Consider adopting one of these ideas for yourself this year:

Buy from local shops. If you enjoy the experience of shopping for holiday gifts, why not support your local businesses while you’re at it? While it’s true that many independent shops don’t have the same big sales as the larger stores, you can often find unique smaller items at reasonable prices.

Go vintage. You are sure to find something unique, and most shops have offerings at all price points. Choose one amazing thing and give it to everyone on your list. It takes a little courage, but if there is one thing you feel strongly about, why not give it to everyone and be done with it?

Shop online. Shop on sites with free shipping and time your shopping for big sale days like Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving).

Related: 15 Quick, Easy and Cheap Holiday Decor Ideas 

fall dining story

2. Set a simple table. A few sprigs of greenery, the warm glow of tea lights, loaves of fresh bread — it doesn’t take much to make a table feel special. Save the money you didn’t spend on holiday-specific tableware and decor, and use it on an experience instead; you will remember it far longer than what your holiday table looked like. And if you do want to spruce up your table with a few new things, may I suggest hitting your local vintage store before buying new? You can find beautiful little cocktail glasses, pretty dessert plates and more, often for less money than new items … and they’ll have more character.

The home of Yvonne and Boris

3. Hold a crafting party or handmade-gift swap. One creative way to get much of your gift gathering done in one swoop is by hosting a crafting party or gift swap. To host a crafting party, gather a group of friends, decide on a project (or two or three), and meet up for a marathon making session. If you go in on supplies for the shared projects, you can save a great deal compared to buying what you would need to make only one or two individual projects, and you can share your skills. To hold a handmade-gift swap, have each participant make a big batch of handmade gifts of one kind, then bring them to the party and swap, so each person comes away with a variety of presents to give.

Related: Create a Craft Corner 

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The Groundskeeper | Landscaping Design & Installation | Oakland, IA – Omaha World

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Home & Garden: Critical element

By Annie Spiegelman, the Dirt Diva

‘Garden as though you will live forever.’—William Kent

Thinking about how you should have lounged around more in your yard last summer instead of trying so hard to keep your wilting plants alive? If you want more chill time in your garden next year, it’s time you learn to love native plants. Many natives are drought-tolerant and most have minimal needs.They are not divas. No whining and no attention-seeking from them. A silent thumbs-up when you pass by is all they ask. They are far more self-sufficient than other plants in your yard.

Best of all, native plants do not require loads of fertilizer or pesticides, so you’re not leaching more chemicals into our local waterways. And, of course native plants are home to birds, butterflies, other pollinators and many beneficial insects. What’s not to love?

A great place to become acquainted with native plants is CNL Native Plant Nursery in Mill Valley. Owner Dan Dufficy was designing landscapes for many years before opening up this native nursery in 2012. When visiting, I recommend a stop into neighboring Proof Lab even if you don’t surf or skate. You can purchase a cool trucker hat or beanie and at least look the part. (Not that I did that. That is so LAME. OK, I did.) Then, as you check out the California native flora—all landscaped by Dufficy and his team—growing around the buildings, mosey over to Equator Coffees Teas, one of the first coffee roasters to support sustainable coffee farming communities in Guatemala.

“CNL Native Plant Nursery is an outlet for people to source organic amendments, native plants and most importantly, good advice,” Dufficy says. “I’m committed to nourishing our rich California habitat. These are plants that want to be here. They like our soil, they like our micro-habits. Our insects need them, our birds need them. It’s a critical element for Marin County.”

Some of his suggestions for what to plant now include native shrubs such as Rhamnus californica (coffeeberry) and toyon, which set up roots through the winter so they can be ready to boost flowers and fresh leaves in the early spring.

“It’s really a way of letting plants acclimate naturally to the wet season without supplemental watering,” Dufficy says. For perennials with lots of color and texture, he likes Monardella (coyote mint), Mimulus aurantiacus, (monkey flower), Foothill Penstemon and gum plant.

Kristin Jakob, co-vice president of the Marin County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, also suggests some native plants that can be planted now: Manzanitas (Arctostaphylos species) and Ceanothus (California Lilac), coast silk tassel (Garrya elliptica), Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) and Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana).

“Late fall through midwinter is the optimal time to plant drought-tolerant California natives—this is their season of growth, following a sort of summer hibernation if growing under our natural summer-dry conditions,” Jakob says. “Let the winter rains and shorter, cooler days help get the plants established, but don’t become complacent—extra water will be needed during winter dry spells and through at least the first dry season after planting.”

When planning natives, some soil amendment can help ease the transition from potting soil to native soil, and plants needing good drainage might benefit from the addition of pumice or lava rock for permanent aeration. Pumice is lighter-weight than lava rock and releases valuable trace minerals.

Dufficy credits his upbringing with his love of plants. The house where he grew up was near Elliot Nature Preserve in Fairfax. “The sweet smells and the sounds of birds, insects and animals had me falling deep and passionately in love with the outdoors,” he says. “When I got older, I worked and trained with the original pioneer of the sport, Paul O’Donnell, owner of O’Donnell’s Nursery in Fairfax. I started with him 23 years to this day.”

In between meetings, deliveries and managing native landscape projects, you’ll find this vibrant landscape designer/ecologist/surfer hitting the waves nearby. “I feel lucky to have found a passion that keeps me tapped into the special things Marin has to offer,” Dufficy says. “The ocean’s natural rhythms help energize my creativity in landscaping with natives. I’m constantly pumped to go to work. It really is a fun balance to my day, start to finish.”

CNL Native Plant Nursery, 254 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley; 415/888-8471;

Extra credit for you bookworms

California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien; The California Native Landscape by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren and Designing California Native Gardens by Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook. For more tips on planting California natives, visit California Native Plant Society: Marin County Chapter;

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The best gardening books of 2016

A good book is a vital part of the gardener’s winter survival kit: when you can’t get outside, you can dream big about next year, lose yourself in someone else’s plot or discover new plants from the comfort of your reading chair. Here’s a selection of my favourite books published this year: all perfect for your Christmas wishlist.

1. Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson (Kyle Books, 16.99)

Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson (book cover)
Photograph: Kyle Books

This is without doubt my favourite gardening book of 2016. Charlotte Mendelson is a novelist who has fallen so hard for growing edible things that she considers it an addiction. Usually these kinds of books are written by people who have at least an acre of ground to play with: Mendelson, on the other hand, has what she calls a “comically small town garden, a mere six square metres of urban soil and a few pots”.

Rhapsody in Green is frank, funny and full of sentences that will make gardeners jump for joy: the wonders of lemon verbena; an obsessive need to lay your hands on at least a ten varieties of lettuce leaf; hunting the neighbourhood for damsons to forage. If you want more of a taster of this book, Guardian Weekend published an extract back in September.

2. Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces by Michelle Slatalla (Artisan, £28.99)

Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla  (book cover)
Photograph: Artisan/Everett / Rex Features

Gardenista is the stylish gardening blog of the same name in book form. It’s packed full of tasteful gardens that offer a welcome escapism from your own sodden/boring/non-existent (delete as appropriate) garden.

There’s plenty of useful advice here, too, although I suspect most of us would rather simply salivate over the ‘twelve gardens we love’ section (An outdoor shower! A beautiful greenhouse!) than get cracking on any of the DIY projects this Christmas. But there’s lots of good advice on designing your garden too, from hard landscaping to planting. The section offering seven classic garden planting palettes is particularly useful.

3. RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants 4th edition, edited by Christopher Brickell (Dorling Kindersley, £75)

A-z Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants - book cover
Photograph: DK

This encyclopaedia is described as “the definitive garden reference”, packed with 15,000 entries, all lavishly illustrated. If you are the kind of gardener who likes to look a plant up in a book rather than go online for an answer, this is a must-have.

This is a beast of a book – the rope handle may look decorative, but you really will need it to haul it about, as it weighs several kilos: it is a coffee table book for the simple reason that it may well break your bookshelves.

4. RHS How Do Worms Work? by Guy Barter (Mitchell Beazley, £14.99)

RHS How Do Worms Work? book cover
Photograph: Mitchell Beazley

The QA is a well-worn staple of garden writing, but Guy Barter, the RHS’s chief horticultural adviser, livens up the format and makes this book a joy to read, with answers to questions like “how do bulbs know when to come up?” and “why is it that pests eat my favourite plants, but ignore the wees”. The best questions, though, are the quirky ones you haven’t even thought of. My favourite is “which is the tastiest soil”? Nope, me neither.

This is a lovely book to dip into, and you may even find yourself reading it cover to cover.

5. Wild Flowers of Britan Month by Month by Margaret Erskine Wilson (Merlin Unwin, £8.99)

Wild Flowers of Britain Month by Month (book cover)
Photograph: Merlin Unwin Books

This is a jewel of a book, containing watercolour paintings of British native plants arranged by flowering month. The painter, Margaret Erskine Wilson, was an amateur botanist and watercolourist who produced the paintings over a period of 45 years, starting out as a guide to help a friend learn the names of service tree, bladder campion and bird’s eye.

From garden escapes such as fuschias to hedgerow charms such as dog rose, the plants are arranged not alone, like botanical illustrations, but as wonderful plant tapestries that can be appreciated as a tool for learning as well as things of beauty.

6. A Botanist’s Vocabulary by Susan K Pell and Bobbi Angell (Timber Press, £17.99)

A Botanists Vocabularly (book cover)
Photograph: Timber Press

If you don’t know your palmate from your pandurate leaf, you may find this well laid-out guide to botanical terms a wonderful resource.

It’s tempting to think that botanical terms are just there to bamboozle the average amateur grower. But by learning the parts of a flower head, or what a viviparous plant can do that others can’t, it’s possible to enrich your whole gardening experience, whether you’re a botany student, a gardener or simply someone who wants to learn more about plants. Simple line drawings help to make the definitions crystal clear.

7. New Small Garden by Noel Kingsbury (Frances Lincoln, £20)

New Small Garden by Noel Kingsbury (book cover)
Photograph: Timber Press

If you are starting out on a new garden in 2017, or even dreaming of doing so, Noel Kingsbury’s book is a great source of ideas. His vast knowledge of plants means this isn’t one of those books on small gardens that just treats the space like a set to be dressed with objects.

Kingsbury is best known for his work with Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf on naturalistic planting, but here he brings some of those principles to a small garden setting. Add to that the beautiful photography by Maayke de Ridder, and this makes for a most covetable book.

8. Wonderful Weeds by Madeline Harley (Papadakis, £25)

Wonderful Weeds by Madeline Harley (book cover)
Photograph: Papadakis

Most of us – gardeners included – are plant-blind when it comes to what we consider to be weeds. ‘Dandelion’ can mean anything with a yellow flower, and beyond nettles and daisies, the rest is just greenery that’s getting in the way of what we want to grow.

This book by botanist Madeline Harley isn’t a weed guide in the traditional gardening sense – it’s not the place to look for the merits of glyphosate versus a dandelion grubber – but it is a repository of information about common British weeds, their uses in folklore and medicine. The photographs show weeds not just in flower but as seedlings, seeds and in different settings, helping you to identify specimens more easily. Sections on pollination and regeneration strategies will be useful for anyone trying to control a particular weed, as well as illustrating the important role they have to play in our garden ecosystems.

9. An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade (Green Books, £24.99)

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade (book cover)
Photograph: Green Books

An orchard sounds like a terribly grand thing, but in this age of dwarfing rootstocks and patio trees, it’s possible to have your own orchard in the smallest of spaces. Naomi Slade’s book is part-practical guide to creating your own orchard, and part inspirational journey through the history and culture of growing fruit trees.
In my experience fruit trees offer the least work for the greatest return of any edible in the garden: you’d be a fool not to get some in the ground (or in a pot) this bareroot planting season. Let this book be your starting point.

10. Petal, Leaf, Seed by Lia Leendertz (Kyle, £16.99)

Petal, Leaf, Seed by Lia Leendertz (book cover)
Photograph: Kyle Books

Is this a recipe book or a gardening book? This is a distinction people are desperate to make, but to me, anyone who grows food should automatically be just as interested in how to cook it. Lia Leendertz has written the perfect book for those of us who are never going to have 10-pole allotments’ worth of produce to use; rather, we have a handful of raspberries or coriander seeds, a courgette flower or two, or if we’re lucky, a brace of banana leaves.

This book shows how to use tiny, unexpected harvests from all corners the garden – some unexpected – to make delicious dishes. We ran an extract of this book, including some of Leendertz’s fabulous recipes, earlier in the year, if you want to try before you buy.

  • Is there a gardening book published in 2016 you’d like to recommend? Please add your thoughts below.

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Master Gardner class set for Dec. 13 in Greene

Are you Ready to Make a Positive Impact on the Community?

Extension Master Gardeners in Greene, Madison, Orange and Culpeper counties are seeking to add new volunteers to their ranks.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program trains participants to become VCE Master Gardener Volunteers in practical gardening and landscaping techniques both, preserving and protecting the environment. The classes are taught by horticulture extension agent, experts, and professionals in different fields.

A class in Greene is scheduled Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Virginia Cooperative Extension office, 10013 Spotswood Trail, Stanardsville.

Primarily, VCE MGVs are educators in the community. Projects include school-based programs, a horticulture help-line, plant clinics, pollinator (at Lenn Park) and vegetable (Carver Center) demonstration gardens, horticulture therapy and others. Volunteering provides a vast array of opportunities to learn and grow as gardeners and as a valuable member of the community.

A Winter Training Course will be held on Wednesday mornings once per week from 9 a.m. to noon starting Jan. 11, at the Greene, Madison, Orange and Culpeper on an alternating basis. The cost for the program is $145, which includes the Virginia Master Gardener Handbook and many other educational materials. More information and application forms can be obtained by contacting the Greene Extension Office at (434) 985-5236 or the Culpeper Extension Office at (540) 727-3435. The application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 14.

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JACKIE POWER’s gardening tips for surviving the cold snaps

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