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Archives for December 22, 2016

Paul Rogers: Gift ideas for every gardener

“I would like to give a special gardening gift to a special gardening friend. Do you have any ideas?” 

Indeed I do. We gardeners have loads of ideas, needs and wishes. Let’s start with a membership in a horticultural society. Each membership will provide a year’s worth of entry into the world of gardening. The recipient can be exposed to professional gardening at its best. They will see vegetables and how to grow them successfully, container culture and what and how to upgrade their use on your property, garden design, plant identification, lectures, workshops, an introduction to new plant varieties and the opportunity to mingle with like-minded individuals who share their interests.

Start with the Worcester Country Horticultural Society, which is the parent of Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston. A regular or gift membership costs $55 for one year and provides a host of benefits, including unlimited general admission to the gardens and greenhouses.

Join the Massachusetts Horticultural Society so that you can enjoy their gardens, landscaped grounds and plant trials of new introductions of flowers and vegetables at Elm Bank in Wellesley. The cost for an individual membership is $55, which includes one ticket to the New England Spring Flower Show.

Does your fortunate friend have an interest in native plants of New England and wish for greater exposure to the natural flora of our region? If so, a membership in the New England Wild Flower Society gains them entry into the Garden in the Woods in Framingham. Visit their long-established garden, at least, once each season to view and learn something of the ecological richness that once surrounded us. An individual membership including garden access is $55.

When you contact each of these societies, they will inform you of their library facilities and additional benefits of membership. Their gift shops are fabulous.

Enjoy your shopping.

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Gardening: Go barking up a tree for the answer to this third-grade …

Deeply fissured bark of Aleppo pine (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

Deeply fissured bark of Aleppo pine (Photo by Joshua Siskin)


When considering garden design, having an eye for attractive bark is useful when taking the appearance of your garden in late fall and winter into account.

In general, tree bark is most visible and stunning on wet and overcast days, even on trees that don’t lose their leaves. Smooth cinnamon red bark is especially prized and may be found on two native trees that are grown in our area. The most famous is an arboreal manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita), which can reach a height of 20 feet. You must be patient with this tree and give it less than full day sun for best results. You can find manzanita growing wild on the slopes that overlook Castaic Lake near Lake Hughes Road.

A related native with similar bark is the madrone (Arbutus Menziesii).

Both the manzanita and the madrone have bell-shaped flowers that bloom in winter. Catalina ironwood (Lyonothamnus asplenifolia) has rough textured bark of the same color.

In any season, no tree can match the dignity of the California sycamore. A month or some from now, once its leaves have fallen from its limbs, nothing can compare to the California sycamore as an embodiment of the bare-bones beauty of winter. Its mottled bark and sculptured branches would make it the piece de resistance in a display of winter-dormant arboreal masterpieces.

It happened that a certain student, full of philosophical curiosity, went to a sage, someone steeped in ancient wisdom, and complained, “I don’t understand. Why did God create a world where money is a necessity of life?” The sage paused for a moment. “The real question,” he finally answered, “is ‘Why did God create a world where food is a necessity of life?’ ” Unlike the angels, I think the sage was saying, we are not purely spiritual creatures, but have an inescapably physical side as well.

I thought of this exchange between student and sage the other day when my wife, who teaches third grade, brought me a research topic from her class worksheet on trees. “Very few trees have smooth bark,” I read. “Find out why most bark is rough and has scales or cracks.”

But perhaps the real question that should be asked is why bark, whether rough or smooth, is a necessity of arboreal life in the first place?

The answer may be found in the origin of the word “bark,” which is the same as the origin of the word “birch.” Birch, that familiar tree with white and gleaming bark, comes from a Nordic word for — wouldn’t you know it? — white and gleaming. In other words, birch bark, with a texture that resembles human skin, is the paradigm for bark in general. And just as our skin provides protection from physical blows, from temperature extremes, from fungal and bacterial disease agents, from UV radiation and from harmful chemicals, bark serves a similar protective function in trees.

Trees, like humans, have a strong tendency to want to grow up vertically and even reach towards heaven but, alas, are forever bound to the earth and, like us, require protection from, in Shakespeare’s words, “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1.)

However, I do take issue with the premise of the third-grade investigation mentioned above. I was rather surprised with the assertion that “most bark is rough.” If you look at North American trees, and temperate zone tees in general, this statement may be true. Yet, once you leave the temperate zones and enter the tropics, nearly every tree has smooth bark.

Think of ficus and citrus trees, for example, which are indigenous to the tropics and have smooth bark. When you consider that the number of plant species in the tropics is significantly greater than the number of plant species in temperate zones, you could easily conclude that more trees have smooth than rough bark.

In truth, there are advantages to rough bark and there are other advantages to smooth bark. Rough bark is best suited to withstand harsh changes in weather from one season to the next such as the freeze-thaw cycle from winter to spring. Rough bark also is better able to protect from fires than smooth bark. But smooth bark also has significant advantages, particularly in regards to warding off attack of insect pests. In the tropics, where warm and moist conditions prevail practically year-round, promoting near constant insect activity, smooth trunks are an asset to trees since it is more difficult for insects to gain a foothold on smooth trunks.

A certain species of pine tree growing in the Rocky Mountains was evaluated for the presence of bark beetles, the leading insect pest, in general, where all pine trees are concerned. It was found that young trees with smooth bark were less infested with bark beetles than older trees with rough bark. On the same tree, or even on the same branch, where both rough and smooth bark were found, trunk or stem sections with rough bark were more likely to be attacked by bark beetles than sections with smooth bark.

Keep in mind that several popular smooth barked trees, such as crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), lemon-scented gum (Eucalyptus citriodora) and California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) are constantly exfoliating or sloughing off old bark. This is another defense mechanism utilized by smooth-barked trees to shake free from insect pests before they can gain a foothold, lay eggs, and emerge as larvae to bore into the trunks of these trees.

Bark texture, incidentally, provides no clue as to longevity of tree species. Redwood bark is significantly furrowed while olive bark is smooth. Specimens of both redwood and olive trees may be found growing in California (in the case of redwoods) and in Greece and Israel (in the case of olives) which have been alive for 2,000 years or more.

For more information about area plants and gardens, go to Joshua Siskin’s website at Send questions and photos to

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How To: Holiday decor from the grocery store

Today, Orange County-based landscape designer and style-maker, Molly Wood of Molly Wood Garden Design, is sharing with us simple, easy, last minute holiday tabletop ideas.

Posted:Dec 21 2016 10:51AM PST

Updated:Dec 21 2016 11:19AM PST

Today, Orange County-based landscape designer and style-maker, Molly Wood of Molly Wood Garden Design, is sharing with us simple, easy, last minute holiday tabletop ideas.

  • The best part – every item shown on this gorgeous table can be purchased at your local grocery store!
  •  Why make two – or even three trips for décor items and florals – when you can pick everything up – and your holiday dinner ingredients – all in the same place!
  • These ideas are colorful, easy, and get the whole family involved.

Gorgeous pomegranates OR red apples in a bowl to add color to the table. The pinkish red orbs paired with greenery add a pop of color to any table. You can also cut these open and eat after the party over! 

A fun way to get your kids involved – Make popcorn on a string! So easy – just popcorn and if you’re wanting to add color you can weave in some cranberries – so easy and the kids love creating these edible garlands.

Another way to add color and make the house smell delicious – spiced orange pomander balls  – using oranges and cloves. Poke a row of holes in the orange with a toothpick and push the cloves into the pre-made holes. So easy!

Dehydrated orange slices – use in garlands, wreaths, decorations, potpourri etc.  You can even attach them to a wire to be used in floral arrangements. Here we’ve used them in a mini tree!

Mason jar candleholders – add walnuts, hazelnuts and cranberries, and then add in a tapered candle in the middle. Colorful and fun! Mason jars can be found in most grocery stores these days.

Purchase Christmas greens to add to the table.

Commit to a color scheme and stick with it!

If you’re in the Orange County area this week, stop by Molly Wood Garden Design in Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach for last minute gifts, living arrangements and entertainment essentials — all inspired by nature and with a coastal vibe.

Molly Wood Garden Design also makes tabletop décor a cinch with grab and go garlands, magnolia wreaths, holiday greenery and so much more.

For more information please visit

Copyright 2016 FOX 11 Los Angeles : Download our mobile app for breaking news alerts or to watch FOX 11 News | Follow us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Be a citizen journalist for FOX 11 and get paid – download the Fresco News App today.

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Preliminary redesign sees Portland’s Congress Square as gathering place

  • Delicious

PORTLAND — It could be greener, larger, and maybe wetter.

The potential future of Congress Square was revealed Dec. 15 to a crowd of about 100 people at the Portland Westin Harborview Hotel in a presentation detailing the layout and ideas for public art.

“When you look at this site, there is something missing: the steps,” Keiko Tsuruta Cramer, a principal at Wallace, Roberts Todd, said as she introduced a preliminary concept of sloping park paths between the Westin and Congress Street.

WRT, an urban planning, design, landscape architecture, and architecture firm based in Philadelphia, was selected in May from four finalists in a competition that drew 12 applicants. 

The firm’s concept would also place a stage in a rear corner of the plaza, and the entire effect of a public gathering space would extend to the area in front of the Portland Museum of Art.

With widened sidewalks and the elimination of two turning lanes to Free Street, the Congress Square redesign would encompass the area from the hotel to museum and include the intersections of Congress, High and Free streets.

Cramer said the present open space is “undefined.”

Misa Hsinyi Chen, a WRT senior associate, and independent horticulturalist Patrick Cullina joined Cramer in detailing the overall design of curved walking paths, an outdoor cafe and potentially a center space with water jets, mist sprayers or a very shallow wading area called a “scrim pool.” 

The landscaping now in place would be removed in favor of trees and plantings that would also extend along Congress, Free and High streets. The areas are called “green islands” in the WRT presentation.

“We want to incorporate a dynamic landscape, (to) create a sense of an emergent living component pushing up through these spaces,” Cullina said.

Artist Sarah Sze of New York, selected to work with WRT to create public art for the redesigned plaza, was unable to attend the forum. Her assistant, David Ramirez, detailed the concept of placing three sculptures in the plaza.

Sze has not yet decided on final designs, but Ramirez said she is interested in three sculptures inside the plaza, placed in the planters Cullina hopes to install.

The art would be a “trail of moments … forming a chain of experience,” Ramirez said.

Designers drew from a series of public workshops in October and will continue to accept public comment through Jan. 15 at

Workshop responses stressed equal accessibility and a desire for gathering and performance spaces. The clock from the former Union Station, which was torn down more than 50 years ago, would also be removed, but there would remain room for food trucks.

Details on materials to be used for sidewalks or planters have not been decided, Cramer said. The brick sidewalks would because they are in a city historical zone.

The designers have experience in urban landscapes. WRT has redesigned areas outside a former steel mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Dutch Kills Green in Queens, New York.

Sze’s work has been exhibited in Venice and on the High Line, a park converted from an elevated railroad line in Manhattan’s Lower West Side.

Sze was one of 97 artists competing to work with the winning design team and was chosen in August from a field of four finalists.

Commissions to WRT and Sze have been paid with $225,000 the city Public Art Commission has set aside. No cost estimates have been made on the redesign or art.

Chen said another public forum will be held sometime in February before a final design is made and fundraising begins.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The proposed redesign of Congress Square in Portland would remove steps and add trees and other plantings along new paths.

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The road to the future

WEST POINT – On Tuesday, the West Point Visitor Center made world history by becoming the first place in the United States to unveil a solar roadway and the first location in the world to have drive-over tire pressure gauges that measure wheel depth that is available for free to the public.

The new technologies were installed at the welcome center as part of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s project to create a corridor of safe, sustainable and beautiful highway on the section of I-85 between the welcome center and Exit 18 known as the Ray. The foundation has received support from the Georgia Department of Transportation as well as other public and private entities to fund the project.

“Without your financial support, there would be no highway project called the Ray,” said Ray C. Anderson Foundation President Harriet Langford.

The section of highway where the Ray is located has seen major growth and increased traffic in recent years thanks to the introduction of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia and the related facilities that have recently located close to the factory. That growth is only expected to continue in the near future with the expected addition of Great Wolf Lodge and Sentury Tire late next year.

“We are proud to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to achieve innovative ideas and zero loss of life and also improving our environment,” said Kia Chief Administrative Officer Stewart Countess.

Kia has played a major role in helping with technology, landscaping and funding for the Ray where many of its employees drive almost daily.


The welcome center is now equipped with a section of solar road that officials hope will be able to power the welcome center in the future and serve as a way to test solar roadways in the U.S.

“We’ve come to discover a way to make clean energy on our highway, and also make money, which leads to economic development and technological prosperity,” said Langford. “We’ve unlocked value for our highways around the world. Just think of this: The surface of the roads will have a second life.

“The United States and the state of Georgia are making history. I’d like to say that our first technology that we are most thrilled about is Wattway – our beautiful solar road. Wattway is a first in the United States. It’s a thin, heavy-duty, skid resistant, photo votaive panels that can be directly applied to existing pavement and generate energy from the sun.”

Wattway is a French company owned by Colas which was founded in 1929 and specializes in road construction and rail track construction. Several similar roads have been installed in France, but this section of road is the first stretch of solar road anywhere in the US.

“(We) manufacture and install the electric system in compliance with American regulations,” said Wattway Director Jean-Charles Broizat. “I am very proud to be here in the United States – the land of pioneers and innovations – to inaugurate the first Wattway… site on American soil.”

The actual Wattway panels are covered in a protective resin that mimics the traction of a normal highway, so they would be safe to drive on even during bad weather. The panels are easily installed over currently existing roadways, and if proven affective could revolutionize the energy industry around the world.


The welcome center also became the first location in the world to have this advanced style of tire pressure and tread depth monitor installed. The monitor uses imaging technology to measure weight, pressure, circumference, temperature and tread depth of tires. Earlier versions checked only pressure, but officials hope that by measuring tread depth, motorists will be able to make better, more informed decisions about their tires.

“WheelRight is a state of the art, drive over tire safety system that measures tire pressure and – for the first time anywhere – tread depth, right here at our (West Point) Visitor Center,” said Langford. “It is open and free to the public. … On the Ray, safety is our number one goal. Under-or over-inflated tires reduce gas mileage and efficiency, cause carbon pollution and kill people. We value each life on our highway, and we believe this technology to be a game changer for the world.”

In a 2007 study, the US Government Accountability Office estimated that underinflated tires resulted in .8 percent of driving fatalities, but even that small number is huge considering how easily preventable those accidents were. But even if inflating tires doesn’t save your life, they could save you money and the environment at the same time.

“Efficiency and also the reduction of waste – these are areas that Ray Anderson highlighted in his personal station with Interface,” said WheelRight Chief Executive John Catling. “Without his legacy we wouldn’t be here today, and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to speak with you. He is and was a true visionary.

“We have a vision too. Our vision is to help drivers check the depth on their tires. It is a dirty chore. Most of us don’t want to do it. We ignore them, but we want to make that process simple, easy and convenient for every one of you here who has a car.”

Drivers who want to use the system, just need to drive over the sensor located behind the welcome center then use the provided computer to find out their results.

“What we didn’t fully recognize (at first) was all the potential opportunities such as the vision that they were looking at,” said Kia Chief Administrative Officer Stewart Countess. “… The fact that one in every four tires on a car are underinflated, that presents a problem with regards to meeting safety and vehicle handling and performance and fuel efficiency. The drive through technology that you see here today allows for tire pressure and tire depth with never leaving your vehicle.”

The minimum recommended tread depth is 2/32, and drivers with lower tread depths are encouraged to get new tires.

The Ray

These new technologies added to the hard work that has been underway on the Ray for months, revitalizing the welcome center and beginning work on areas near the exits, and officials ranging from local mayors and city councils to the governor were excited to be a part of this new page of Georgia history.

“I am proud of the hard work Kia Motors Manufacturing, Georgia, the Ray organization and the Georgia Department of Transportation have carried out in collaborating with the state transportation board to bring two groundbreaking transportation technologies to Georgia – the Wattway and WheelRight,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a statement that was read at the event, as the governor could not be there in person due to weather concerns. “I understand that these are brand new to the world, and their instillation in the new visitor center are the first of their kind in the United States.

“This unique partnership between private, non-profit and state partners has made it possible to move Georgia to lead the country and the world in demonstrating technological innovation, enhancing Georgia’s long history of achievement, advancement and leadership in the global energy, technology and transportation sectors.”

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation plans to continue work on the highway, with additional landscaping and technology expected to be installed on the highway January.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.

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Replacement of hotel still under review

Plans for the redevelopment of Worthington’s Holiday Inn are progressing, but remain several months away from completion.

Witness Hospitality — formerly Alliance Hospitality — announced early in 2016 that it plans to demolish the Holiday Inn at 7007 N. High St., replacing the hotel with a mixed-use “village” concept that would include two smaller hotels and several restaurants.

In February, Managing Director Ohm Patel said continued use of the Holiday Inn name after 2017 would cost the company “a tremendous amount” of money, leading to the company’s decision to redevelop the site.

Now, redevelopment plans are with the city’s architectural review board and municipal planning commission, where Witness representatives and city staff are slowly developing the final design for the project.

Lee Brown, planning and building director, said the project is “on the right track,” but will be under review for several months.

“I envision several more meetings on architecture, then we’ll circle back around back to the site plan to talk traffic, lighting, storm water, all that stuff,” he said. “But the next few months will be architecture-focused.”

Witness Hospitality’s plans have remained largely consistent since they were first discussed. They’re still refining color and design — which Brown said will “probably change multiple times,” by the end of the process — but are still showing the same structures.

The highlight of the project will be the new four-story hotel, which exceeds the currently permitted three-story limit, but matches the ideas in the Wilson Bridge Corridor plan developed by the city. Witness is also asking for variances on setbacks from High Street and Wilson Bridge Road and perhaps a parking variance.

But through the process, Brown said nearby residents haven’t expressed too much displeasure with the idea.

“A few of the neighbors are still asking questions about height and landscaping and setbacks and screening, but a lot of that is balanced with, ‘Here are the existing zoning rights; here’s what they’re proposing; here’s what they could do,’ and really focusing on the architecture part of it,” he said.

Brown said he expects the ideas to move smoothly through the ARB and MPC, but didn’t want to predict the outcome.

“From our standpoint, it matches up with what’s been adopted and what’s in the land-use plan,” he said. “So from staff’s standpoint, our recommendation to the boards and commissions would be for approval, just since it matches up with the guidelines.”

As plans are refined, the redevelopment will go through the board of zoning appeals, which will determine whether to grant the variances. Worthington City Council will not need to approve the project.


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