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Archives for December 20, 2016

‘Late Bloomer’ teaches garden enjoyment for second half of life

It’s not difficult to please the gardeners on your holiday shopping lists.

So endless are our wishes, wants and needs that we’ve probably been dropping more than just hints to our nearest and dearest.

My favorite received gifts are also the ones I like to give to others.

I don’t remember exactly when a dear friend gave me a folding garden seat that can also be used as a kneeler. It must have been at least 15 years ago because I can’t remember not having it in my garden.

It allows me to sit and weed instead of squatting (God forbid) or bending over. I rarely use it as kneeler, but when I do, I’m grateful for the handles that allow me to pull myself up.

One could, I suppose, have too many garden clippers, but I suspect most of us aren’t there yet. One year, my sister-in-law — also a gardener — sent me a nice pair with a feminine flourish of flowers painted on its handles.

While these clippers always get positive attention at my garden’s club meetings, they aren’t likely to be borrowed and not returned by male gardeners, which is not a problem for me but could be for you.

Garden clogs and/or boots in colorful floral rubber make slogging through mud almost a fun activity.

My sister-in-law had a birthday last weekend, so I sent her a hand-painted garden scene on a slate plaque customized with the words “Bethany’s Garden.”

It’s from Pipberry Tree, one of several vendors on Etsy that sell similar plaques.

It’s always good to have a nice new pair of gloves awaiting when you can’t find a mate to an old pair or when they’ve gotten too stiff to tolerate. I love the relatively inexpensive form-fitting ones that come in pastel colors.

Some gifts, like birdhouses, bird feeders and heavy garden accessories, are best when they are accompanied by a statement like “I’ll install that for you, too.”

Or how about a present that makes you remember the giver throughout the year whenever the latest edition of the gardening or nature magazine you asked for arrives in your mailbox?

I can’t wait to get my newest periodical, Flower magazine, which carries out its simply stated mission, ”Enriching life through flowers,” with lots of articles on floral design, great gardens and home decorating.

When it comes to books about gardens and gardening, ask for exactly what you want by title and author.

The greatest gift I could get is one no one can give me: more energy, strength and resolve to do the work and finish the projects my garden desperately needs.

That doesn’t come in a box with a bow, but the book “Late Bloomer” (St. Lynn’s Press, $18.95) has plenty of practical advice and philosophical grace to inspire any gardener young or old.

Author Jan Coppola Bills claims to be a late bloomer at gardening, but she looks young and fit in her photographs. And she is nimble enough to use knee pads for weeding instead of the folding garden seat with handles I mentioned in the beginning of this column.

But I knew we were sympatico when I read this statement I her book:

“One thing is certain: I am and have always been a self-proclaimed lazy, cheap gardener who loves to create balance, ease and beauty outdoors. I believe our gardens should be our love, not our labor of love.”

I can also stand up and clap for her credo and add a few of my own words in italics:

The book covers some basic tips experienced gardeners probably already know like choosing the right plant for the right place and keeping the size of the plant at maturity in mind when you install it.

I know that, and you know that, but who of us has never put a tiny seedling of a huge plant in a place that quickly became totally inadequate for it? Hmmmm. Not seeing many hands in the air.

Bills is a proponent of sustainable gardening and recommends practices that save on water, weeding and labor.

To reduce weeds — the bane of all gardeners — she recommends installing more plants. A lushly planted garden typically has fewer weeds than those with lots of space between plants.

She also advocates laying down cardboard in open spaces between plants and covering it with a layer of mulch. The cardboard smothers weeds.

Bills’ book is full of useful tips for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. It includes lists of low-maintenance plants for various conditions; guidelines for purchasing healthy plants, elements of garden design and more.

“Late Bloomer” is available at and

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New Burger King with ‘Garden Grill’ design fills a void


It was only a matter of time.

In a country full of fast food drive-thru restaurants especially off of major highway exits, one busy area off of Exit 61 on Interstate 81, the exit for Wertzville Road in Hampden Township didn’t have any drive-thru restaurants in the immediate area until earlier this week.

Filling the void is Burger King which opened on Wednesday in the front of Hampden Marketplace next to BBT Bank. With an increase in daily traffic due to the arrival of Giant in 2014 and several other businesses in the area in recent years as well as the PinnacleHealth West Shore Hospital that also opened in 2014, it was only a matter of time that a drive-thru restaurant would open for business.

This will be the first Burger King in the state with Burger King’s new Garden Grill interior and exterior which includes a cafe look with cafe-like seating and leather chairs, according to Royal Food Group, which owns the franchise. 

The Enola-area Burger King is located at 4301 Marketplace Way, and plans to hold a grand opening celebration in March. The Burger King has two drive-thru lanes.  Both the lobby and the drive-thru are open 24 hours a day. The Buger King plans to employ 45-50 people.

The Royal Food Group which is based in East Pennsboro Township, owns this Burger King as well as a combined Burger King/Sunoco at 370 Allen Road in Carlisle that opened last year. The group hopes to open additional Burger Kings in central Pennsylvania.

In addition to Burger King and BBT Bank (formerly Susquehanna Bank), Hampden Marketplace includes a Giant Food store, Toninos Pizza, Lin’s Wok, Great Clips, a Giant gas station and Capital Blue. PNC Bank, PinnacleHealth FastCare and Starbucks are also located within the Giant Food store. A Weis store is also currently under construction in the area.

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GARDEN MAIDEN: Visions of moon gardens dance in my head

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Shift in landscaping as field embraces sustainability


Landscaping consultants describe how the sector is undergoing a transformation, with new technologies coming into play


A tastefully landscaped yard, a beautiful garden and well-manicured lawns make an attractive addition to homes and buildings. Landscaping involves intricate, elaborate, complex activities combining engineering, art and science, and is always the outcome of careful consideration and design.

Middle East Consultant engaged with two landscaping consultant practitioners for their take on the business. It was back to basics as we asked both for their perception of landscaping and what it entails.

“Landscaping, put very simply, is the modification of the visible features of an area of land using or enhancing natural elements such as the topography to arrive at an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable and creative environment,” explains Michael Mascarehnas, CEO, Desert Group, a firm founded in 1988 which has grown into one of the largest landscaping companies in the Middle East.

He adds that landscaping has since evolved and seen the introduction and care of living elements, such as plants, animals or fish. “We have seen the introduction of ‘hard’ elements such as paving, structures, sculptures and fountains, and the introduction of related elements such as lighting, drainage, irrigation, woodwork and other similar additional items create spaces for human interaction and enjoyment. Landscaping requires expertise in horticulture, construction, maintenance and artistic design.”

Nev Connell, the principal landscape architect with over 30 years’ experience who heads AECOM’s operations in the UAE and Oman, is more concise in his definition. “Landscaping is the enhancement of external spaces. It is a complex combination of art and science incorporating spatial, functional, ecological, microclimatic and aesthetic considerations.”

“Designers consider all aspects of a site as well as beyond the site when planning the landscape,” continues Connell, noting that technology plays a pivotal role in shaping designs. “Technological advances generally revolve around the production of detailed design for the construction of unique elements. Specialist digital software is now commonplace, generating new ideas and allowing them to expand into areas not previously possible.”

“Landscaping must be examined from a composite perspective, the sum of many parts. It must resonate with the broader home and community development plan and not just developed in isolation. It can and should be individualised and customised to meet client-consultant briefs, demands and specifications,” says Dubai-based Sasan Niknam, design manager at U+A Architects, an international firm offering architecture, interior designing, urban planning and landscaping services.

In Niknam’s view, landscaping entails many facets, from engineering to designing, planning, terrain, topography, geography, water availability, the environment and the ecosystem. “Sustainability and conservation are key priorities, as also are functionality and aesthetics.”

Virtual reality software allows designers to better present their ideas to clients. Fabricators have been able to use technology to produce complex shapes and forms in landscape elements such as landscape furniture, paving, modular and bespoke pre-cast elements.

These technological advances are not lost on Mascarenhas. “The growth in technology is reflected in the garden through the introduction of composite materials, Wi-Fi areas, smart LED lighting systems, smart irrigation systems, solar heating systems, fibre optic lighting, algorithm driven shading systems and so on.” He believes technology is advancing exponentially, and that the trick is to use that technology to push the creative elements in a way that enhances the natural outdoor experience without becoming gimmicky, costly and difficult to maintain.

The first and prime question is the use of space when providing landscaping ideas. “Once the desired purpose of the area has been established, then other decisions become simpler. Pets can often dictate landscaping decisions, and there are other factors as well that range from environment and climate, sun or shade areas, wind direction, views and orientation and even soil,” he says.

Landscaping is also about individuality, aesthetics and style, he observes. “The interior and exterior style of the property should create the feeling of unity between the two areas. The outdoor space should make people feel happy and relaxed. Garden styles used commonly here include desert, tropical, formal, informal, Japanese and modern.”

Regional adaptation

Landscaping has been around much longer in the Middle East than in many Western countries. The development of Islamic gardens has been an inspiration to garden designers around the world.

“The current major differences for gardens in our region is probably the need for a constant supply of water for irrigation purposes. All the other factors in Middle East landscaping are fairly similar after taking into account our rather harsh and hostile climate,” Mascarenhas notes.

This view is echoed by Connell. “Many of the principles that apply to design in other areas also apply to landscape design in the Middle East. However, designers in this region must also consider the intense climate and limitation of resources – water, for example.”

What is driving demand for landscaping in the region? According to Connell, in many cases the demand for a high-quality lifestyle environment is what drives the development of urban areas in this region. “As in most areas of the world, design of the built environment, such as buildings and landscapes, are becoming less regional and more global in style, with references to local character in the detailing of elements.”

Mascarenhas sees the desire to create an external experience that satisfies our senses to see, smell and touch greenery as a factor for increased landscaping demand in the region. “There is a young, well-educated, well-travelled and growing population, a large portion of which have reasonable disposable incomes. Governments are investing in infrastructure such as recycled water systems and social infrastructure such as parks, gardens and urban greenery.”

In his estimation, the strategic location of the Middle East countries, as an important transportation hub and tourist destination, has been one of the main drivers for the demand for high-quality landscaping from developers of residential properties and hotel groups.

The biggest changes in Middle East landscaping and customer demand and consciousness over the past five to ten years is the move towards sustainability through the use of more and more native species and the drive for ever greater irrigation efficiency. “To that end, we at Desert Group have established a very large native plant nursery and developed a new smart irrigation controller that reduces water consumption by at least 30%,” he points out.

Connell also indicates that customer demands have remained largely the same – create a high-quality environment with the least expenditure, and always have it ready yesterday!

The Middle East is rapidly evolving despite the arid terrain and paucity of water resources, and has done remarkably well in terms of water availability and ‘greening’ the desert, notes Niknam, who has been extensively involved with Dubai’s Marasi Business Bay Development, Dubai Holding’s AED 1 billion ($273 million) mixed-use waterfront destination spanning 12km of waterfront promenade along the newly inaugurated Dubai Water Canal. “Waterfalls have a way of attracting visitors anywhere, in public facilities, malls, city centres or residential communities, and the affinity for water and the serenity of water bodies such as ponds, pools, canals, lakes and associated lush vegetation in the vicinity is the growing trend in the region,” he indicates.


As in any sector, challenges abound. Mascarenhas opines that there is equal responsibility for landscape architects, consultants and contractors to focus on innovation. “The client then can be better advised. We have to address the big goals of sustainability, water conservation and designs that do not flatter but optimise scarce resources. There must be an immediate focus on inclusiveness as well. For far too long in this region, the agency concept of products has stymied innovation. It’s time to depend less on the core that must be imported and look at how we can use what is available in the region.”

His advice for designers and entrepreneurs in the landscaping industry? “There is endless potential within the landscaping industry, but let it be known that like any other industry it is hard work. While there is a dearth of good horticultural and landscaping skills, any service or solution will have to meet the new goal of affordability. Hence start small, conserving cash, assess the market as you go along – and deliver.”

What does it take to get to the top of the landscaping industry? Customer focus, persistence, innovation, patience and the most important element – a team that is motivated and delivers a quality product each time, on time, Mascarenhas notes.

“This region has been blessed with some visionary leadership. Part of the ethos is some great landscaping. Now it’s for us to deliver solutions that can make a positive difference to our habitat and society at large. We must continue to focus on what matters most to this region, and right at the top is water conservation. A greater focus on delivering innovative solutions is the need of the hour,” he emphasises.

With his international background, Niknam says total commitment and dedications are key attributes for success in any enterprise, including landscape. “Smart yet sustainable designs, technologies, aestheticism and concern for the environment are vital considerations that will give landscape professionals the competitive edge and success in the industry.”

For Connell, regulatory requirements tend to constrain creative and non-standard design ideas. “Often, this means there are limited opportunities to create the uniqueness that clients want to see,” he rues.

“Listen to your client. Create and develop your ideas, and have confidence when pitching them” is his counsel for his peers in the business. “To get to the top of the landscape ladder, you need to be creative, responsive and have a good sense of humour,” he concludes.

Landscaping Trends

COLOUR: Customers are becoming more adventurous with regard to the colours used in the landscape. Walls, fences, furniture and paving is all now being used in a wide variety of colour that wasn’t generally used in an external setting before. Paint colour of a building or structure definitely affects what a garden looks like, often creating a vibrant background for setting off plants in the garden. There is also appreciation for subtle colour ranges and even monochromatic gardens. Details of a stone wall, interesting edging or delicate patterns caused from the sun shining through carefully designed pergolas can add a strong positive element of interest to an area.

NATIVE VEGETATION: There is definitely a greater understanding of the use of natives in the landscape by landscape architects and developers. Again we have seen requirements for species that were not on the asking list earlier. Thus inclusiveness, sustainability and water usage are key drivers of this new trend.

RETHINKING OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES: Everything you have inside you can have outside, be it grills, covered areas, areas with cooling, heating, lighting. The fire pit, for example, seems to be trending quite strongly at the moment. The use of composites rather than hardwoods is gaining popularity due to environmental considerations, price and maintenance.

STYLISH AND PERSONALISED OUTDOOR FURNITURE: No longer limited to a few pieces of wicker furniture, there’s a growing movement toward individualising outdoor spaces through the use of a wide range of available fabrics and accessories. The outdoor space is now becoming an extension of the house and reflects the various uses as found indoors – social area, dining area, play area, cooking area and so on.

MANAGEABLE MAINTENANCE: Clients are far more aware of the need to use design principles that include manageable maintenance: thoughtful plant selection, choosing a planting scheme that matches how people want to live in their garden, and selecting a manageable plant palette characterised by fewer plants, each plant well-chosen and doing its job.

SUSTAINABILITY: There is definitely a move toward landscapes that are sustainable but also very aesthetically pleasing. So it’s no more ‘just build’, but a cost consciousness towards lifecycle costs.

LED: LED lighting is quickly changing the way we use lighting as an important part of an outdoor space. Though the initial cost is higher, there are long-term energy savings and the quality is getting better and better. LEDs can be ‘warm’ coloured and are available in many forms.

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Selectmen still split over Route 28 plan

CHATHAM — Rick Leavitt only spoke for a short time, but he kept repeating one point: proper landscaping and lighting will give the town the 25 miles per hour on Route 28 it wants with a redesign instead of the 35 mph the state intends.

“They are not intended to make West Chatham pretty,” he said. “They do make West Chatham pretty, but what they are intended to do is slow the traffic down.”

Leavitt was speaking to selectmen Tuesday after Peter Cocolis, chairman of the planning of board, ran through a number of landscape and hardscape ideas his committee, and the historic business district committee, came up with after three public meetings.

The ideas are meant as an alternative to Mass DOT’s lighting and landscape plans for the stretch of roadway, which is scheduled to be reduced from three lanes to two and include two roundabouts.

Selectmen listened to the report, but it won’t be forwarded to Mass DOT yet. One of the major sticking points is that although town officials did request a redesign of the road, much of the town, and many of the businesses in West Chatham, want the road pretty much left as is.

That sentiment was on Selectman Seth Taylor’s mind when he made his motion. He asked that Tom Temple, director of the department of public works, reach out, again, to the abutters on the road and see what they want. He said that without their cooperation and input landscape changes won’t work.

Although not super excited about the prospect, particularly since the town just held an additional three meetings, selectmen Cory Metters and Dean Nicastro agreed.

“I am willing to take the extra step,” Nicastro said.

Selectman Amanda Love readily agreed as she, along with Taylor, is firmly against the project. She initially suggested the board not listen to the report because town meeting voted to abandon the project, and the then board of selectmen continued to approve it. The town meeting vote was non-binding.

But the rest of the board thought the discussion was worth it, particularly since they had requested the report.

“We are a far cry from making recommendations,” said Metters, who was chairing the meeting in  chairman Jeffrey Dyken’s absence.

Metters said it was important to bring the framework to Mass DOT so officials could get “some hard numbers.

“We don’t have the costs associated with this at the moment,” Metters said.

As part of the project the town would receive state-funded landscaping and lighting, but many in town don’t want the state to dictate the trees, or the lights chosen. The document put together by the two boards makes suggests of more native trees and also less lights.

The state won’t pay for extras the town wants, say officials, but there is the possibility of reducing the lighting and switching the saved funds to landscaping.

When, or if, the report is sent Bill Tuxbury, of the West Chatham Association, asked that there be an addendum saying that “numerous townspeople” and “90 percent” of nearby businesses were not willing to comment on a project they didn’t support.




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Do this, not that

Much of being successful in business has to do with doing the little things very well. However, many of the little things the successful green industry professional needs to do are very simple and often overlooked. We tend to gravitate towards those “magical silver bullets” that will solve everything. The truth is: there are no “magical silver bullets.” Success in our industry, in my experience, comes from an unrelenting focus on the consistent application of a few tactics. So, here are three Do This, Not That ideas:

1. Screen every prospect that calls your office; don’t just run out and see them without having a conversation on the phone first. For years, I would take a lead, not ask any questions and just run out of the office to meet someone, anyone. After many “dead runs” I changed my approach. You have to spend our time with prospects that fit the profile of your “ideal client.” So, here’s what you do going forward. Every prospect that calls you gets asked questions that help you make sure they are someone who might be a good fit for your services. Questions like, “Where did you hear about us?”, “What is your budget?”, “When do you need this work done?” and, “Have you worked with a professional landscaper in the past?” all will help you see if they are a fit. So, screen prospects; don’t just go see everyone and anyone and hope they will hire you.

2. Call your existing clients to make certain you have done everything you possibly can for them before you go marketing to new clients. Look, marketing is an essential part to building a business. No firm can grow without creating awareness in the marketplace. However, the mere notion that sending out postcards or putting an ad in an upscale magazine will help you grow is silly. A lot more goes into it. So, start by making sure all your clients are shown what’s possible for their properties. Your job, as a professional, is to show them what’s possible. If they’ve purchased from you once, there’s a great chance they will buy from you again. It’s a lot easier to sell a lighting system to a client who has already allowed you to install some landscaping than to sell a lighting system to someone responding to one of your postcards.

3. Follow up with each client that does business with you via a survey or phone call. Again, a lot of us are going so fast, we end up taking our clients for granted, and not following up with clients who just completed transactions with you is a big mistake. We get busy though and don’t slow down long enough to realize the importance of doing this. In fact, many of us, rather than thanking an existing client are on to talking with a new prospect that hasn’t done anything with you yet. I’ve done it and if it weren’t for the process we’ve put in place to survey our clients that is followed automatically by our office, I’d probably not get it done either! (Just being honest.) So, are you asking your clients if they’re happy? 

All of the above are simple things we need to follow to make our businesses work. 

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Singapore always surprises

Yes, it’s a tourist trap. Yes, I had to queue up in a long, steamy line to reach the bar.  And yes, I paid $50 for a couple of drinks.

But I’m a traditionalist. And skipping a Singapore Sling here would be akin to snubbing scotch in Scotland, Cognac in France or vodka in Russia.

So I waited my turn, took a seat in the storied Long Bar at Raffles Hotel and ordered the pretty pink drink that bartender Ngiam Tong Boon concoted 101 years ago. As the tale is told, the Raffles’ mixologist created the fruit-juicy cocktail for ladies, mixing gin with pineapple and lime juices, grenadine, Benedictine, cherry brandy and Cointreau.

It still looks — and tastes — like spiked fruit juice, and the Long Bar, a clubby-looking dark mahogany space, adds just the right amount of colonial-cool atmosphere to complete the illusion. I was transported to another place and time.

The gardens, founded in 1859, were landscaped in an  English style and resemble British pleasure gardens and parks. This layout has survived the passage of time, and the park is also dotted with many historical buildings.  

The most colorful part of the park is the National Orchid Garden, which has more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids on display.

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Georgetown’s Kaminski House Museum garden restoration efforts boosted by private donation

A donation to the Friends of the Kaminski House by Georgetown County residents David and Kathryn Kossove has paved the way for the completion of the museum’s garden renovation.

The Friends used the couple’s donation of $21,000 to match funds generated from a Capital Campaign that allowed the renovations to begin. The Kossoves presented the check Dec. 14 to Friends President Frankie Hills and Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville.

“It has taken months to raise the matching funds needed to complete the restorations and upgrades,” Hills said. “We retained Waccamaw Landscaping to design upgrades on the gardens between the house and the Sampit River and the firm will be completing the work by the end of the year. …

“This will begin the end of a journey that was started in 2013 when bricks were taken off the house and reused to pave the garden … before, the garden was just dirt and mud, and today it is a beautiful edition to the house.”

The terrace garden will be named the Kathryn and David Kossove Garden, and Scoville said the couple represents the epitome of Georgetown generosity.

“Kathryn and David are two of the finest residents and business owners we have in Georgetown,” Scoville said. “They came here in 1999, and by 2005 they were heavily invested in Georgetown.”

The Kossoves own Augustus Carolina Fine Home Furnishings and Augustus Carolina Outdoor Living on Front Street in Historic Georgetown.

David Kossove said the monetary gift he and his wife gave to the museum reminded of him of why they moved to Georgetown.

“We felt like this was a very unusual city – almost a diamond in the rough along the South Carolina coast,” David Kossove said. “We wanted to make a commitment to leave Georgetown a better place when we leave this earth than it was when we arrived here. …

“Kathryn and I believe that our donation will help sustain the work in the gardens, and there’s no better place to support than one of the oldest homes in Georgetown.”

Hills said the garden will enhance the museum’s ability to use the space for public programs and rental events.

“The terrace garden,” she said, “will also secure a sustainable revenue source for the museum.”

Constructed circa 1769, the Kaminski House Museum was home to many prominent Georgetown residents. Harold and Julia Kaminski were the home’s last residents, and upon her death in 1972, Julia left the home and its contents to the City of Georgetown. The home opened as a museum in 1973 and was operated by the city of Georgetown for many years. The Friends of the Kaminski House assumed management of the house in 2013.

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A Grand Idea in a Land Like Oz

Author: Carl Francis Penders

“I felt like I’d stepped back in time a hundred years,” I said recalling my magical feeling, taking my first ever steps on the Chautauqua Institution’s grounds. 

“It has that Oz like quality,” replied Dennis Galucki, a man who gets an idea and then gets it done, as evidenced by his 2005 trip to Portland to ask Richard Moe, then president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “What would it take to bring this conference to Buffalo?”  Moe’s “Give me a good reason” reply caused Galucki then the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier’s director to compile good reasons.

Leading the Charge

“Why wouldn’t we want to have this conference here?” was a question Galucki began asking Buffalo’s preservation community.  A spring 2006 Saturn Club assemblage listened to Chicago Architiecture Foundation President Lynn Osmond, formerly the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s executive director, extoll the benefits a National Trust conference would bring.  And later Ms. Osmond would tell me “Dennis was leading the charge.”  Fall 2006 found Galucki and interested parties traveling to Pittsburgh for the National Trust’s annual gathering.  Eventually the charge would lead to a successful 2011 Buffalo conference.

Initial Chautauqua experiences caused Oz like ideas to crystalize in the Galucki mind.  “Imagine Buffalo Niagara in the 21st Century: The Buffalo Chautauqua Idea,” were Special Studies courses he taught at Chautauqua in 2006 and 2007, and his next foray at instilling an ambitious vision.  Intending to spread a little Oz like dust around a Rust Belt town, he worked with the Buffalo Erie County Central Library.  There he’s made the Imagine  lunchtime lecture series a Tuesday happening.

From Throwback to the Present 

Invoking some Oz like merriment, it was like days of yore eyeing that Buffalo Day at Chautauqua banner, with Galucki drawing on regional nostalgia when neighborhoods and towns would designate their day at Canada’s Crystal Beach Amusement Park.  But more than frolic lay ahead in this seventh year that Chautauqua and co-sponsors The Buffalo News, WNED-TV, and Visit Buffalo Niagara, and Galucki’s C-SAAHN (Center for the Study of Art, Architecture, History Nature) invited Buffalo area residents to visit the hallowed grounds on the house.

Delighted to spend the day (August 9, 2016) in an idyllic setting, the Rust Belt residents were a small, though passionate minority.  Who had dared venture into a realm where knowledge, education, and a quest for wisdom reign, to hear from wizards working to revive the Rust Belt town. 

“I’ve been exploring this Buffalo Chautauqua idea for ten years,” said orchestrating wizard Galucki.  Energized by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s morning lecture on a changing world in a digital age, he maintained America needed Chautauqua in 1874, an assertion President Theodore Roosevelt made in a 1905 Institution address proclaiming “Chautauqua is typically American in that it is typical of America at its best,” as “the president seemed to acknowledge the central place of the Institution in American culture,” wrote Jeffrey Simpson in Chautauqua An American Utopia.

“I’m trying to infuse one city with the culture that is Chautauqua.  I’m from Buffalo … So I picked Buffalo.  And the world needs the Buffalo Chautauqua Idea in the 21st century,” Galucki boldly declared, referencing the Arts, Religion, Recreation, and Education, Chautauqua’s four pillars. 

He addressed Buffalo’s ups and downs.  Acknowledged that virtually the same public relations apparatus that labeled it and similar cities as declining, virtual dead zones, now pronounced it to be rebounding.  He quoted principles from Chautauqua co-founder John Heyl Vincent’s 1886 The Chautauqua Movement.  And asked his audience to imagine Chautauqua’s culture being incorporated into the metropolitan mindset. 

I wondered what had gotten into Galucki.  Speaking mainly without notes he was more focused than I’d observed previously.  You could say he was on fire.  Could actually being at Chautauqua, presenting to a full house in the Smith Library’s Heritage Meeting Room stimulate such intensity?  Call it the Chautauqua effect that so inspired this speaker.  Count me among the many that Chautauqua similarly impacts.  Its culture’s consequence has brought nine U. S. presidents to its grounds. To this day its platforms present prominent speakers.  On its stages perform talented, inspiring artists.

An Evolving Vision 

While its founders Lewis Miller and the aforementioned Vincent knew in their era how to bring people together, and direct them to a higher plane, for decades Chautauqua remained a white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant enclave.  However in a July 4, 2010 Buffalo News’ story entitled “The Chautauqua Challenge,” Melinda Miller wrote “While the population is skewing younger, a harder change has been diversity of color.” Outgoing President Thomas M. Becker acknowledged as much, saying “Painfully, slowly we are not as monochromatic.” 

Emulating Vincent and Miller I imagined Galucki’s vision is to bring this Chautauqua idea to Buffalo is such fashion that Buffalonians be as dedicated to lifelong learning as he and the room’s occupants appeared.  That citizens would turn away from televisions.  Cease endlessly devouring what the late Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People called mindless sitcoms.  Residents would empty area movie theaters.  Turn their eyes away from screens filled with similar, maddening mindlessness. Be compelled by the Buffalo Chautauqua Idea.  And march, yes march to their libraries and lecture halls.  Instead of surrendering their minds and will to those who know how to direct the masses to their vision of a citizenry enslaved to mediums filled with messages of malaise.  Rather these citizens would dedicate themselves to a passionate, joyful life of learning. 

The Health of a Community

“If someone wants to make a point here,” Becker told Miller in the 2010 piece, “they have to go beyond slogans and really explain what they are talking about.”  Neither Chautauqua nor this Buffalo Day was ever intended to be about bromides or sloganeering.  Instead speakers raising questions, awareness, and offering potential solutions were invited to open minds.

“Is Buffalo a healthy community? asked Phillip L. Haberstro (lead image – right), The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo’s executive director.  Weighing in too regarding the populace’s health was Larry Brooks, author of Buffalo Niagara: Diagnosis and Prescription for Change.  Both Haberstro and Brooks referred to the University of Wisconsin’s Public Health Institute’s County Health Rankings Roadmaps.  The Institute rated Niagara and Erie County at 55 and 57 respectively out of 62 New York State counties. 

A community’s health is determined by civic, economic, biological, and environmental factors said Haberstro.  He asked listeners to consider the region’s social capital, a term from Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam which examines the trust people have in one another, and in agencies serving them.  Equally important is reciprocity, a social capital yardstick measuring how well people work together.

In the early 1980’s a Toronto physician named Trevor Hancock initiated the healthy communities movement said Haberstro.  The first International Conference on Health Promotion was held in Ottawa in 1986.  For the moment, the movement appears to have bypassed Buffalo, for the sober reality Haberstro said is that culture trumps strategy, a quote frequently attributed to management expert Peter Drucker, who wrote Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  While no one apparently can definitively pin the phrase to Drucker, several variations have made their way into the reinvention rhetoric, such as culture beats strategy.  However, most appropriately to Western New York, no matter how well intended the region’s revitalizing strategies, particularly concerning health, the local culture eats strategy. 

Considering that very culture’s impact on regional health, Brooks cited Dr. David Kessler,  from the PBS documentary In Defense of Food.  “Take Buffalo Wings.  What are they”? asked Kessler, formerly the Food and Drug Administration’s chief.  “You start with the fatty part of the chicken wing, usually fried at the manufacturing plant first.  That pushes more fat into the chicken wing.  Then fried usually again in the restaurant.  The red sauce on the side.  What is it?  Sugar and salt.  The white creamy sauce.  Fat, sugar, and salt.  What are we eating?  We’re eating fat on fat on fat.  Fat, sugar, and salt.” 

“This is Buffalo culture,” Mr. Brooks said.  “And we’re so proud of this bad contribution to American cuisine that we celebrate it with a festival that features a binge eating contest.  And our culture features food festivals from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  We need to change that culture.  And dial down our love affair with pizza and chicken wings.” 

 “As adults we all want to have choices,” said Jerry Spegman, a University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute community coach in reference to the Kessler quote.  “But when we collectively celebrate unhealthy foods as iconic parts of our culture, that is problematic.”  

While the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus burgeons with buildings, ostensibly to care for a population not always aware of its own best interests, Mr. Brooks mused on “A future in which the campus shutters some buildings and lays people off, because the population is so healthy that demand for medical services is reduced to a point where we don’t need them much anymore.  That’s imagining a healthy, wealthy community.” 

Sprawl entered into Brooks’s talk, noting the numerous, often overlapping governments, rather than a regional, consolidated body, hinders progress.  As an example he pointed out that Cheektowaga has four separate school districts, each with its own superintendent, who do not come cheaply, nor do all of the separate, individual fiefdoms, with all their elected officials, department heads, etc., another unfortunate aspect pertaining to a regional culture often resistant to change.

Expanding, Stretching Boundaries

Clotilde Dedecker

Clotilde Dedecker the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s executive director said the foundation serves 8 Western New York counties, and is committed to expanding and stretching boundaries.  A Cuban native, Dedecker said her family was settled in Buffalo through Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program.

She spoke of a robust arts and cultural community.  She said the foundation’s partnership with Say Yes Buffalo is a developing success story.  That in 3 years the high school graduation rate has risen 12.8%, from 48% to 61%.  She also noted that 82% of persons of color from ages 16 to 24 are either employed or in school. 

The improving numbers are a positive, hopeful sign.  However Ms. Dedecker indicated much expanding and stretching, if not downright boundary tearing down remains.

“Buffalo is the sixth most segregated community in the country,” she said, drawing upon data from an analysis of the 2010 census by the Brookings Institution’s William H. Frey and the University of Michigan’s Social Science Data Analysis Network. 

“Segregation harms the local economy,” Ms. Dedecker continued.  “And we live in a community with an 88% isolation index, meaning that on any given day, there’s an 88% chance that a white person will not have a meaningful interaction with a person of color, despite the browning of America.”  (The isolation index is term originating from a US 2010 Discover America in a New Century study, conducted by the Russell Sage foundation and Brown University.)

In a follow-up interview Ms. Cunningham said the foundation has been working on “Increasing racial and ethnic equity for the last ten years,” but that many “people don’t see this, don’t recognize it as a problem.  The first step to a solution is awareness of the problem.”

Growing a Botanical Image

 “I’m about making positive changes,” announced Sally Jean Cunningham, a frequent Buffalo News contributor who wrote Rodale Press’s Great Garden Companions. “And there’s probably no better way to make positive changes than through gardening and landscaping.  But so many things people do are not contributing to the ecology.  Rather than shoot rabbits, kill coyotes, and spray insects,” Ms. Cunningham asserted that “most insects are good.  And we need to move out of this mindset that has people killing everything that’s crawling.  Biodiversity is the bottom line.”

“This is the American paradigm,” Ms. Cunningham said, showing a picture of “a perfectly respectable home landscape … Clean front lawn, tidy shrubs, neatly mulched.  You’ll see this in Amherst and Orchard Park.  But there’s nothing there for nature.  Nothing for a bird or a butterfly.  And the lawn’s a water guzzler.  We need to teach the landscaping industry to choose flowering plants in front of the house.”

“Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun.  Much later, those delicate and fragile beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species.  Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them.  They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics.  Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live,” wrote Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth

“We’re losing our connection to nature,” Ms. Cunningham maintained, referencing Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.  Though something as simple as … As organic as flowers is providing inspiration, contributing to resuscitating Buffalo’s image.

“A gardener moved into 16th Street,” Ms. Cunningham said in a follow-up email.  “Started planting out front, then another did the same,” replacing lawns with gardens.  “Someone helped an elderly neighbor with her home.  Soon several homes looked amazing.  People got to know each other, pride crept in, home values increased.  Now the area is a destination for garden tours.  In 2017 Buffalo will host the national Garden Writers Association conference.”

“I worked with a garden writer from London on the recent Garden Walk.  Imagine.  A garden writer from London.  Garden Walk is a big positive, changing Buffalo’s image, similar to the beauty of homes and gardens at Chautauqua.”

Modeling Past Success

Buffalo’s culture change will no doubt require adopting the can do spirit that drove yesteryear’s Buffalonians to prominence.  Among them was architect E. B. Green, possessing “Abilities to get a job done right and in a hurry,” wrote Ed Evans in Hidden Treasure, The Chautauqua Commission of Buffalo’s E. B. Green.

“Green was Chautauqua’s architect from 1905 to 1916,” Evans said while leading a tour to some of Green’s Chautauqua works.  “He and partner Franklyn Kidd designed 21 projects on and adjacent to the grounds,” pointing to the Colonnade administration building before us, and the Smith Library behind us.“Everything had to be done and ready for the season,” Evans pronounced.  So when in October 1908 Chautauqua’s Colonnade administration building, a Bestor Plaza landmark was destroyed in a fire, Chautauqua would witness firsthand the tenacity required to change Buffalo’s culture today.  Evans wrote Green was “personally involved,” seeing to it that the rebuilt Colonnade was ready “for the 1909 summer season.” 

Simultaneously Green and his firm, Green and Wicks, demonstrated persuasion mastery, influencing Chautauqua’s trustees to construct a new post office, also completed in 1909.  In 2000, that 1909 Chautauqua post office won the Smithsonian Institution’s Great American Post Office award. 

Green too designed the 1907 Amphitheater renovation to accommodate the Massey Organ’s installation, the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ.  And in a tribute to Chautauqua co-founder Lewis Miller, in 1911 Green and Wicks designed the Institution’s most iconic symbol, the Miller Bell Tower. 

“The whole of life is a school,” wrote John Heyl Vincent in The Chautauqua Movement.  “With educating agencies and influences all the while at work, from the earliest moments to the day of death.” 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo, the PBS documentary produced by Buffalo’s WNED-TV closed for an overflow Hall of Christ crowd, 2016’s Buffalo Day at Chautauqua.  In the question period afterwards Mary Roberts, the Frank Lloyd Wright Martin House Complex’s executive director was asked about partnering with academic institutions. 

“We do all kinds of things along those lines.  Student tours.  Oh my goodness … I almost hesitate to say this … But nursery tours … We had the Doodle Bugs there this week.”  Ms. Roberts went on to mention tours for elementary, high school, and university students, and work with educational institutions throughout Western York and Southern Ontario.

Fortunately Ms. Roberts overcame her reticence, and proceeded to proclaim that yes, we even do tours for the youngest of minds.  For to reiterate Vincent’s postulation that “educating agencies and influences (are) all the while at work, from the earliest moments,” if this Buffalo Chautauqua Idea is anything at all, it ought be a community wide embracement and celebration of exposure to empowered learning at the earliest of ages, and a fostering of such scholarship till “the day of death.” 

1881 – The Buffalo Day at Chautauqua banner is displayed at the Chautauqua Institution’s Main Gate.

1185 – Philip L. Haberstro, Executive Director of The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo addresses the Buffalo Day at Chautauqua audience at Chautauqua’s Smith Library.  Larry Brooks, author of Buffalo Niagara: Diagnosis and Prescription for Change looks on.

1887 – Clotilde Dedecker, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo addresses the Buffalo Day at Chautauqua audience at Chautauqua’s Smith Library.   

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