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Archives for December 23, 2016

London College Of Garden Design launches innovative new design …

Courses at the LCGD

Courses at the LCGD

The London College of Garden Design has launched it’s 2017 short course schedule with the aim of promoting different ways of looking at garden and planting design. The new courses include subjects ranging from designing gardens for children in their earlier years to designing for dementia.

Andrew Fisher Tomlin who leads the College’s innovative new Planting Design Diploma said “There is an incredible volume of research that is going into the value of green space and we wanted to reflect this in promoting new skills for professional garden designers and landscape architects as well as the keen gardener”

The College is uniquely placed to offer these courses through it’s partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley Garden. Some of these courses are supporting the RHS’s own campaigns for schools gardens and health.

Fisher Tomlin added “I am particularly pleased that we are able to offer a course on designing gardens for dementia. It’s an area that is becoming even more important but with people staying at home with this condition there has until recently been very little support to show how you might design gardens for keen gardeners who have got dementia in later life. This course will go some way to address that.”
The courses run throughout 2017 and can be accessed at

About the London College of Garden Design

The London College of Garden Design aims to offer the best professional garden design courses available in the UK. Over the past 6 years LCGD graduates have won all but one of the Society of Garden Designers Student Awards and have gone on to win ‘Future Designer’ Awards and RHS medals at some of the Royal Horticultural Society’s main shows.

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one year Garden Design Diploma which is taught from the Orangery Conference facilities at the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. In 2016 they launched Europe’s first specialist planting design course aimed at professionals that is taught over two terms from January to July.

Short courses are offered at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, RHS Garden Wisley and Regent’s University in central London.

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

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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Longue Vue House and Gardens showcases the Essence of Design

As its gardens are some of the prettiest in city, it was a natural to have world-renowned master floral designer Rene van Rems as the guest speaker for the three-day Longue Vue House and Garden’s 25th annual Essence of Style Design Symposium.

Originally from Amsterdam, van Rems now calls California home, and his work has been featured in national magazines, TV and in books, such as “Rene’s Bouquets: A Guide to Euro-Style Hand-Tied Bouquets.” and “Rene’s Bouquets for Brides.”  Fans got to meet him at the Designer Reception, Nov. 17 at the home of Douglass Lore. Among those enjoying the cocktail meet-and-greet were event co-chairs Kathy Weidner and Suzanne Krieger, Longue Vue Executive Director Tony Chauveaux, Flowers magazine Managing Editor Alice Doyle, Margaret Zainey Roux, Rene J.L. Fransen and Eddie Bonin, Holley Haag and Patrick Quinn, Elesha Kelleher, Carol Hall, Lydia Sneed, Dr. Erin Fleming, Mary Lou Carter, Barbara Bossier, Joan Hickman, Lucie Whitley, Mary Ellen Miller, and Lynne and Hugh Uhalt.  The floral arrangements through the house were lovely, and van Rems did one arrangement that the committee used as a basis for the others.

The next day was the lecture and luncheon at the Audubon Tea Room, followed by holiday centerpiece workshop at Longue Vue on Saturday when van Rems showed how to create a seasonal centerpiece using flowers and foliage.


To reach Sue Strachan, send an email to or call 504.450.5904. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @suestrachan504, with the hashtag #nolasocialscene. Visit her on Facebook. And, come back to for more New Orleans area event and party news and photos.

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Williamsburg Board reviews courtyard plans

Students at Williamsburg High School are making progress to having an outdoor space for learning and relaxation.

At the Wednesday, Dec. 14, meeting of the Williamsburg Board of Education, a panel of three instructors gave a brief presentation highlighting the progress of a proposed courtyard design.

Kevin Wilkerson, Krystle Stehno and Tanya Lemburg shared elements of the design which reflected students’ input and ideas for an outdoor gathering and learning space. The approximate cost of the current plan is $124,773, although that figure is based on hiring others to complete the work. Wilkinson noted it was his intent for students to have hands-on involvement with much of the work, as well as applying for grants and soliciting donation of time and materials from local businesses to lower the finished cost. The project will be done in stages.

Board members gave their approval for the project to proceed, although they stressed a need for ease of maintenance of the finished landscaping, which may include garden and water features.

The board approved an unusually high number of requests for early graduation, including seven current seniors and one student who wishes to graduate at the end of her junior year.

Dr. Chad Garber, superintendent, noted these requests may become more commonplace since students’ ability to take advanced placement and college level classes during their high school career blurs the transition between high school and college.

Junior/senior high school principal Lynell O’Connor said all the students meet the requirements for graduation.

The board approved a trip to Spain by the Spanish Club in December 2017. Approximate dates for the trip are Dec. 27 to Jan. 3, which minimizes the amount of school that students and accompanying teachers would miss. The eight-day trip will cost approximately $2,800; students will have fundraising options available. The trip will be open to any junior or senior who has successfully completed Spanish 2 at the time of the trip. Based on previous trips, the estimated number of students who will participate is one or two dozen.


In other business, the board approved:

* A pay request from S and S Plumbing for $7,600.

* Change orders as follows: Hawkeye Electric, rework electrical circuits, $1,118.08; Hawkeye Electric, lower speakers, $1,446.72.

* Board member Mark Armstrong as a delegate to the Grant Wood AEA Director District Convention to be held Jan. 5. Board member Kim Finn was appointed alternate.

* The replacement of the heat exchanger for the swimming pool at a cost of $28,475. S and S Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Marengo, will do the work.

* A resolution of support for the Promise of Iowa Public Education Campaign. This campaign focuses attention on the future of Iowa public school students and rallies citizen support for investments in public education.

* One open enrollment request for a student leaving the district.

* The following resignations: Tom Pope, as head custodian at Mary Welsh, effective Jan. 31; Kelly Lichty, as instructional associate at Mary Welsh, effective Dec. 16; and Levi Montague, as baseball coach for the upcoming season.

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Landscaping / Exteriors Projects | Sustainable Design | HCD …

Your Source for Healthcare Exteriors Using Sustainable Design

Sustainable design is a critical factor for healthcare facilities, which must practice what they preach in terms of providing healing environments for patients, staff, visitors, and families. The exterior of a building, whether it’s a hospital, clinic, or medical office building, is just as important as the interior in presenting a positive image of health, support, and community. Healthcare Design magazine recognizes the fact that landscape designers have a unique opportunity to build sustainable design features—such as water reclamation systems, the use of local flora and vegetation, solar energy, green roofs, and more—into the overall healthcare site aesthetic.

These green design features also help healthcare facilities achieve LEED certification. Healthcare Design includes stories on the multiple ways designers can build green practices and sustainable features into attractive, functional healthcare exteriors and landscapes.

Outdoor Healing Gardens Serve Patients and Families Alike

The families of hospital patients play a critical role in their healing process, and providers know that designing for families in healthcare is a key to success. To this end, many designers and healthcare providers strive to include outdoor healing gardens, children’s activity centers, labyrinths, and walking paths to enhance the landscape and the hospital exterior.

Designing for families in healthcare, both inside and outside the facility, serves to improve the patient experience because their loves ones will stay longer and feel more comfortable in the overall environment. Research shows that the role of nature in healing is profound, which is another reason why landscapes and exteriors must be well-tended to provide healing views of nature for those who can’t get outside.

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San Jose: Paradise Art and Garden closing in Rose Garden

Paradise Art and Garden will close by the end of January because the former gas station site it has occupied on Park Avenue the past 13 years must be cleaned up from a decades-old gasoline spill.

State authorities informed the property’s owner several months ago that the soil beneath the art deco-style building, built as a gas station in 1940, needs to undergo an intensive cleanup.

Emelina Flores, a 42-year Rose Garden resident, bought the building for $25,000 in 1972. It had been a service station for about 30 years, but Flores removed the pumps after the spill 26 years ago.

“I didn’t want to have it as a station anymore because the guy that was there, one of the tenants, he spilled some gasoline,” Flores said in an interview. “They let it run and I thought that was a danger.”

Flores said that when she received a letter from the state ordering her to clean up the property, she asked the owners of Paradise Art and Garden to move out.

“We have to clean the gas spill,” Flores said. “The tenant that was renting the station, when they were putting the gas in one of the tanks, they were talking and they let the gas run after the tank was filled. It spilled gas around and that has to be cleaned, the dirt has to be cleaned, and that’s why the state sent me a letter that it’s time to do the cleanup.”

Although Flores had done an initial cleanup and monitored the land afterward, she was told a more thorough cleaning is needed.

“Some cleanup was done almost to the surface, but there is something deeper,” she said. “It went deeper and we have to bring machinery and clean it up.”

The building will have to shut down for about a year, but the owners of Paradise Art and Garden, Trieu and Kim Dao, are not sure whether they will return, according to their daughter, Vivian Dao.

Dao said her parents are sad to leave and “would welcome the chance to come back,” although health problems may prevent that.

“I have my own career, so I don’t think it would be something I’d take over,” she said. “At this point everything is up in the air.”

For years, locals have enjoyed strolling through the lush outdoor display. Many would cut over from the sidewalk just to wander through the maze of large ceramic pots and bamboo, admiring the koi fish pond and peeking through the windows at Trieu Dao’s vivid abstract paintings hanging inside his studio.

Trieu Dao, who immigrated from Vietnam with his wife decades ago, is an award-winning, self-taught artist of 46 years who has also worked as a landscaper.

Working in the landscaping field likely got her parents interested in opening the shop, Dao said. Using an artist’s eye instead of a computer program to design yards and gardens made her father a favorite with clients, she added.

“He would hand-draw and hand-design everyone’s garden,”  Dao said.

Paradise Art and Gardens will remain open for business daily until the end of the month and only on weekends in January. The shop will close permanently after Jan. 29.

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Growing a ‘better gardener’ is easy to do with a little work





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Gardening tips for December

Cold weather does not mark the end of the gardening season. This is an ideal time of year for some important gardening activities. One nice benefit is that we can work outside a lot longer without passing out from heat exhaustion.

Another important fact is that almost all trees and shrubs planted at this time of year get established sooner than those planted in late spring and summer.

If you have plans for a new flower bed, vegetable plot, rose garden, or landscape section in the coming months, I encourage you to go ahead and start soil preparation now. Obtain your soil amendments that you plan on using (compost, aged bark, peat moss, aged stable manure, fertilizer, limestone, etc.), and when the soil is dry enough to work, break ground and incorporate your soil amendments. Even if you don’t plant right away, the soil will be prepared and in great shape, ready to grow new roots whenever you finally do plant.

Don’t put up the mower just yet. Not all leaves have blown off the trees. Use the mower to chop up and recycle the tree leaves back into the lawn, or collect them for mulch or the compost pile. Don’t let fallen leaves remain on the lawn all winter. Fallen leaves left on the lawn can cause disease problems if a thick layer keeps the grass wet and dark. However, mulching chopped up leaves into the lawn does not cause problems, and is a good way to deal with them, since our mild southern winter allows microbes, which break down organic matter, to continue to grow and do their composting work.

Did you buy some bulbs earlier this fall? Still haven’t planted them? Not a problem, but plant them this month for best results.

Remember to provide food and water for birds this winter. If you put out a variety of seeds, like sunflower, thistle, safflower, and millet, plus suet, you will draw a large diversity of birds. Once you begin putting out bird food, continue feeding them through the springtime.

Don’t get in a hurry to prune woody trees, shrubs, and fruit trees. Late December through February is the optimum time.

However, if you want to trim some hollies or other berry plants for indoor decoration, go right ahead. But do not ruin the beauty and natural form of the trimmed plants. Also, keep in mind that holly berries are poisonous, so keep them out of reach of youngsters.

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column appears weekly. 

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BBC gardening presenter Steve Brookes accused of voyeurism

  • Steve Brookes, 55, is accused of watching lodgers ‘doing a private act’ 
  • The celebrity gardener is charged with seven counts of spying on tenants 
  • Brookes is due to appear at Leamington Magistrates’ Court in January 2017
  • Grandfather became known as ‘Mr Rotavator’ in the 1990s for his work on educational Channel 4 shows and visiting schools to encourage horticulture 

Anthony Joseph for MailOnline

A BBC gardening presenter has been accused of voyeurism and spying on tenants living in the flat above his home.

Steve Brookes, 55, from Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, is accused of watching lodgers ‘doing a private act knowing that the person did not consent to being observed for your sexual gratification’.

The celebrity gardener is charged with seven counts of spying on tenants living above his £500,000 property between November 2015 and September this year.

Steve Brookes, 55, from Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, is accused of watching lodgers ‘doing a private act knowing that the person did not consent to being observed for your sexual gratification’

The celebrity gardener is charged with seven counts of spying on tenants living above his £500,000 property between November 2015 and September this year

The celebrity gardener is charged with seven counts of spying on tenants living above his £500,000 property between November 2015 and September this year

Brookes was charged on Monday and is due to appear at Leamington Spa Magistrates’ Court in January.

The grandfather, who has worked for the BBC since 1993 as a gardening presenter broadcast live from the Chelsea Flower Show this year.

Brookes became known as ‘Mr Rotavator’ in the 1990s for his work on educational Channel 4 shows and visiting schools to encourage horticulture.

He won the Royal Television Society Award in 2000 for his series Growing Plants and was chairman of Stratford’s In Bloom project until earlier this year.

Brookes regularly presents The Greatest Gardening Tips in the World stage show and travels the world as a celebrity lecturer on cruise ships.

On his website, the celebrity is described as ‘fun, charismatic and popular’ with ‘an enthusiastic approach and subtle humour’.

Steve Brookes, 55, from Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, is accused of watching lodgers 'doing a private act'

Brookes lives with his partner Stephanie Lester, 54. He has three grown-up children and five grandchildren

Brookes lives with his partner Stephanie Lester, 54. He has three grown-up children and five grandchildren.

On his website, Brookes boasts of keeping 40 finches, an aquarium and 150,000 honey bees at his home. 

Brookes refused to comment today on the charges.

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Red tip photinia rarely seen in landscapes

Q: I was recently in a nursery looking for a red tip photinia to plant along a fence. They advised me that they hadn’t carried them in years. Is this true? — Willis Dobbs, Atlanta

A: It is true that red tip photinia is rarely sold in nurseries now. The reason is that, 40 years ago, photinia was planted by the millions in the metro Atlanta area. Homeowners sheared them in winter so the striking red new growth would emerge in spring. But, it turned out that the new growth was extremely susceptible to a deadly leaf spot. When the fungus infected a shrub, it was very difficult to control and it spread throughout any photinias that were planted nearby. Nurseries got tired of replacing the shrub, so they stopped selling them. There are other shrubs, like holly and arborvitae, that are better screening plants and that are not so disease-susceptible.

Q: Are any of the ferns I see growing in landscapes edible? — Brad Johanson, Atlanta

A: One is, the rest are not. A few local gardeners grow ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, in wet places in their landscapes. The fiddleheads (emerging fronds) that appear from a rounded clump each spring can be snapped off when small and then sauteed or boiled. Some compare the taste to asparagus. All other ferns, including our native Christmas fern, are best left untasted.

Q: I found a small Japanese maple tree growing near a bigger one, so I dug it up and planted it in a pot. Now it is 2 feet tall. Should I leave it in the pot indoors for a while? — Bill Dischinger, email

A: I think the maple would be much happier if you kept it outside. You can either plant it now in a permanent spot or make a holding bed to keep it until you decide where to put it.

Q: My Norfolk Island pine has grown to over 10 feet tall. It’s too tall to easily fit inside. Can I cut off a few feet at the top to make it fit? — P.G. Randall, email

A: Yes, you can cut off the top of the tree with no harm. Over time, a new sprout may emerge from the trunk where you made the cut, but that will be easy to remove as well.

Q: I have heard that you can’t plant tomatoes in the same place year after year. But, we have the perfect place in our yard to grow them, and have planted them in the same place repeatedly. Pickings have become slim. Can we rejuvenate the soil? — Bonnie Stanford, Walton County

A: The main reason for moving tomatoes from one area to another is that diseases and insects can build up if they are planted in the same spot year after year. But, if your tomato plants seem insect- and disease-free, you can repeatedly use the same place. It’s a good idea to dig the bed deeply each spring. Add some organic matter to the soil each year and fertilize appropriately. The tomatoes should perform just fine.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook fan page at for more garden tips.

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