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Archives for December 28, 2016

HAO Design rearranges Taiwanese home to put emphasis on the garden

HAO Design has reorganised this family home in Taiwan so the residents have to walk through their garden to get inside, creating the feeling of “walking from the city into a country cottage”.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

The Southern Sunshine Home is located in the Kaohsiung municipality of Taiwan. When brought on board to renovate the property, HAO Design first looked at the surrounding environment of the house – picking out its unique strengths.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

“We assessed it and found four major advantages – a large yard, high roof, good natural light and a rectangular floor plan,” said the architects.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

The large yard became the focus for the architects, and they altered the original approach by moving the entrance to the side of the house – meaning that, although residents need to walk around the house to get in, the first thing they see is the yard.

“It’s like walking from the city into a country cottage; your body and mind both relax immediately,” they said.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

A solid wooden platform reminiscent of old Japanese structures was added to the entrance, allowing residents a place to sit and enjoy the garden view.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

Inside, walls were removed to merge the old living room and dining room into one single, open space. The original entrance has been converted into a raised Japanese-style washitsu room.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

Portions of the ceiling were also removed, revealing the original sloping roof structure which is four metres high at its tallest point.

“Even though the ceiling is slightly lower in the kitchen, it is connected to the living room, which gives the impression of a bigger space,” said the architects.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

The house was originally made up of small individual spaces, meaning it received little natural light.

To counteract this issue, a skylight was installed in the master bathroom, and the wooden front door was swapped for glass French doors.

Time Tunnel by HAO Design

HAO Design was founded in 2013. Its past renovation worked include installing swings and a slide in the kitchen of a family home, and adding a wooden bridge-like corridor to connect a master bedroom with a walk-in wardrobe in a house in Kaohsiung.

Photography is by HeyCheese!

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TMS students are designing pollinator gardens

Largely unused courtyards at Talent Middle School are on their way to becoming pollinator gardens in a design and innovation program with students doing the research and creating the plans.

Learning about pollinators, then planning and executing the concept from beginning to end are the type of activities the program was designed to foster.

“This is a big project,” says teacher Heather Armstrong. “They had never done a scaled drawing using a scaled ruler. They are actually doing architectural drawing.”

Students like the challenge.

“I really like doing things I’m slightly not ready for,” says Aiden Watson. “I want to see how things will work out.”

With 48 seventh- and eighth-grade students, the stand-alone School of Design and Innovation within the middle school uses a project-oriented approach to teach science, technology, engineering and math while covering all other education requirements. The program also emphasizes collaboration and teamwork.

The courtyards are on either side of the school’s media center, visible through windows. The smaller east courtyard, 36 by 40 feet, likely will be tackled first and largely devoted to gardens, says Armstrong. The larger courtyard, 36 by 60 feet, likely will end up with class accommodations as well as a garden.

Teachers of other classes have expressed a desire to do more learning in the courtyards. Another class already has removed plants and other items in preparation for the work.

Students have studied the life cycles of pollinators and habitats they need to survive, designed concepts for what the spaces will look like and learned about plantings that encourage bees, butterflies and others. Armstrong estimates students have spent at least one hour each day since the beginning of the school year on studies and brainstorming related to the project.

Knowing the town’s passion for pollinators — Talent was the second in the country to become a Bee City USA — Armstrong approached the city’s Bee City committee about cooperating in the project.

Rianna Koppel, a committee member, secured a $499 grant from the SELCO Credit Union to help with the project. Dolly Warden, who led the effort that made Talent a Bee City, says the committee has met with the students and that more meetings will be held.

Students and advisers will put together costs for the project. Armstrong says she will be looking for grants and in-kind donations to help with tasks such as concrete removal, excavation and building of structures. Material will be needed for raised beds and benches as well as plants and soil.

Design of the gardens may have been the most challenging aspect, says Armstrong. A licensed landscape architect, Armstrong needed to break the process down into “bite-sized chunks” so that students could understand and then perform the designing.

“The most challenging was the scale drawing,” student Lucero Anguiano says. “We had to do three different designs for each courtyard.” Students and an outside team of advisers will evaluate the designs early next year before selecting one to implement.

Armstrong and fellow teacher Marcel d’-Haem have refined the program in its second year. Last year they had a new challenge each week. Feedback told them that schedule was too aggressive, so they have bigger projects this year such as the gardens.

Middle school gardens will be part of a pollinator pathway up Main Street including pollinator habitat at the roundabout, Front Street and at the elementary school. While the spaces are enclosed by the building on all four sides, pollinators have no trouble locating the plants, Armstrong says.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at 

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The pretend gardener: student discovers hidden life of Renaissance spy

Something odd emerged as a Cambridge student began to research the work of a Renaissance garden designer: although the 16th century Italian artist, sculptor and designer Costantino de’ Servi travelled constantly and never seemed to be short of a bob, he seemed to have completed very few gardens – or any other kind of work.

Wherever there was trouble in Europe, however, be it wars rumbling, alliances being forged, or regime change threatened, de’ Servi seemed to pop up. Then the historian discovered that wherever the supposed gardener travelled and whoever he was nominally working for – and he got as far west as the court of James I in London, and as far east as Persia – he remained on the payroll of one of the richest and most powerful families in Europe, the Medici of Florence. Like any good modern spy who keeps a low profile, there is no known portrait of him.

“In the beginning as I trawled through his correspondence in the archives in Florence, expecting to find evidence of many wonderful Renaissance gardens he had worked on, and found nothing, I was very disappointed. Then as I followed the paper trail, I began to wonder if there was something more interesting going on,” said Davide Martino, a history student at St John’s College, Cambridge.

“I’m not sure you could precisely call him a spy in modern terms,” Martino said. “But his role meant that he could go anywhere and gain intimate access in any court in Europe, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that he was constantly feeding useful information back to his paymasters in Florence.”

One of the few pieces of work that de’ Servi definitely completed was a garden design for Henry, Prince of Wales, son and heir of James I – and far more popular than his father. The project came, as so often in de’ Servi’s career, at a politically sensitive time: the Medici were trying to arrange a marriage between the prince and one of their family, Caterina.

According to de’ Servi’s letters, the marriage plans hit a bump when the teenage prince demanded to see a portrait of his potential intended, and the ambassador from Florence refused to provide one.

De’ Servi left a sketch of a beautiful young woman in the prince’s quarters, and when Henry asked who she was, claimed that it was Caterina. Henry became much more enthusiastic, but died of typhoid in November 1612, aged just 18. His death, widely regarded as a disaster, had profound consequences for English history: his frail younger brother Charles would become king, spark the English civil war, and die on the scaffold in Whitehall.

Martino suspects that the sketch which almost made the match may survive, subject and artist unrecognised, somewhere in the vast drawings collection kept at Windsor Castle – but the period is one of the few where he has also traced a finished piece of work on a garden design.

It is suspected that some of de’ Servi’s designs and drawings lie somewhere within Windsor Castle’s archives. Photograph: Peter Packer/Royal Collection Tr/Press Association

King James preferred his palace at Westminster, but Henry liked the old palace west of the capital at Richmond upon Thames, where his father’s second cousin, Elizabeth I, lived out her last months.

De’ Servi created for Henry a plan for a sophisticated Renaissance garden at Richmond, with elaborate planting, formal walks and water features, but the prince’s death meant it was never completeted. So little of de’ Servi’s work survives – one portrait of a very cross looking Medici princess in the Ufizzi Gallery, one painting in an American museum – that the surviving garden design his papers in the state archives in Florence is precious.

Martino’s work in the archives, made possible through a research grant from St John’s, was a true labour of love: the gardener’s files are only partly catalogued, so working on them was a question of asking for all the letters from a particular year, and toiling through them one by one. There were some surprising omissions: despite Europe lying on the brink of the thirty years’ war, a conflict started by divides within Christianity, de’ Servi made almost no mention of his Roman Catholic faith.

De’ Servi was the son of a diplomat, but his role as travelling artist and garden designer was far more useful cover, evading the espionage claustrophobia of the diplomatic circuit. He ended up quietly back in Italy, wealthy, in a grand house and garden of his own design.

“There is much more to find out about this man – I’m certain of it,” Martino said.

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ECOVIEWS: Ideas for disposing of your Christmas tree

What are environmentally sound ways to discard my Christmas tree after the holiday? I responded to this question in a column more than a decade ago. The answer is worth repeating.

The question is inapplicable to the estimated 20 percent of the nation’s households that have no Christmas tree in the home and is easy to answer for the multitude of families with an artificial tree that goes back into storage. But in the nearly 20 million homes with real Christmas trees, where should the trees go when their job is done? The question has several ecologically gratifying answers.

One thing about living organisms is that they die. Of course, a Christmas tree is functionally dead before you take it home, unless you happen to get a rooted one you can plant in the backyard after Christmas. (In my experience, these do not die until the next summer.) But at the end of yuletide, most people have to deal with a dead tree in the house. Although the 12 days of Christmas last through Jan. 5, some people say that if your Christmas tree is in the house past midnight Dec. 31, bad luck will haunt you in the coming year. You do not, however, have to be superstitious or a pagan to acknowledge that keeping in the house a tree that sheds highly flammable foliage, making it a potential tinderbox, might, in fact, be a bad idea.

So, you have a dead tree with needles littering the floor each time you jiggle it. Time to get the lights and ornaments off and the tree outside. Once the tree is lying on its side on the front porch, you can begin to consider your options. One ecologically sound approach is to drag the tree into an out-of-sight spot in the yard. If such a discreet location is not possible, and the tree ends up in a spot where everyone can see it, tell your neighbors you are using it to create “wildlife habitat.” Dead trees do, in fact, create wildlife habitat for wood-dwelling insects and fungi, and occasionally for amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, depending on the stage of decay, type of tree and its location. You are doing what you say, though the inhabitants of your created wildlife habitat may not be obvious.

A second rationale for leaving the tree in your yard is to use the dry branches for building fires in a fireplace. Old Christmas trees make great fire starters. They crackle loudly, burn brightly and are aromatic. If your tree has been up for a week or more, you can probably start using the branches right away. Be advised that some organizations decry the idea of burning Christmas tree limbs in the fireplace because of safety concerns about creosote buildup. You may want to check into the potential hazards before taking my advice on how to start a fire.

Another approach is to throw the tree into your favorite fishing lake to create habitat for fish. A friend who does this every year claims he catches more fish in that spot. He does not mention whether his hooks are snagged by tiny branches well into summer. But whether better fishing is the result or not, I cannot see any environmental harm in discarding old Christmas trees in a river or lake.

One popular solution many communities use for Christmas tree disposal is to consolidate discarded ones into a giant heap of pine, fir and spruce in a designated area. The trees are then ground into mulch for landscaping around town. Finally, a really simple option exists for people who live in a community where trash pickup includes removal of vegetation. Haul the tree to the curb and forget about it. Whichever of these options you choose, you can close out the holiday season with the assurance of having been environmentally responsible with regard to your Christmas tree. Happy holidays!


Whit Gibbons, professor emeritus of ecology, University of Georgia, grew up in Tuscaloosa. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama and his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Send environmental questions to

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Enjoy fresh vegetables year round with a kitchen garden

The kitchen garden should be protected with wire mesh.

Have you ever imagined the magic feeling of grabbing fresh fruits and vegetables at any time straight from your home garden no matter the size of the backyard?

 Even if you are not a fun of gardening, a kitchen garden will gradually motivate you and your children to develop the passion for comfortably growing your own vegetables, for the family to enjoy them fresh all year round.

According to Leonard Muzahura, a professional gardener with CIDI gardening and landscaping institute in Muyenga, a kitchen garden is the small garden you keep as close to your back or kitchen door as possible, where you grow vegetables, mints, fruits and salads of your choice.

“Why you need it close to your kitchen door is because whenever it is kitchen time, you need to visit and continuously harvest from it year round for breakfast, lunch and supper while enjoying the health benefits that come with fresh foods,” he explains.

If you grow in excess, you can decide to preserve some of the vegetables or sell to supplement on your income however small the returns may be, remember it is less costly to maintain this garden.

How to set up a kitchen garden

Solomon Luyimbazi, a gardening trainer at CIDI Institute says that a kitchen garden is a must have in every modern home because of its health benefits especially in the urban gardening.

“All vegetables, spices and mints can be grown in this garden like carrots, cucumber, sukuma, dodo, bbugga, nakati, jjobyo, tomatoes, onions, lemon grass among others. These serve the purpose of fighting diseases, managing hypertension, stress relievers and air filters,” he affirms.

Vegetables flourish in a kitchen garden if looked after.

He continues that to set this garden, one should demarcate the site where she wants it considering its proximity to the kitchen for it to serve its purpose better.

Dig the ground to awaken the soils and if they are not good, add black soil and fertilizers and set the heart of the garden in the middle by erecting a wire mesh in a circular form.

In this heart, you dump whatever is unwanted from the kitchen like cabbage and carrot leaves, tomatoes, onion and cucumber peels. These fertilize the garden with the necessary nutrients when they rot.

After the heart is firmly set, plant the seedlings or transplant the plants from the nursery bed to the garden not forgetting to water them in the morning and evening especially during the dry spells.

For protection from animals and children, surround the garden with a wire mesh to the convenient height that will enable you harvest.

However, Luyimbazi adds on that carefully plan for harvest and succession planting in order to sustain the garden’s continuity at all times.

Muzahura points at some of the challenges of kitchen gardens like having all plants ready at the same time yet the family is small and they don’t wish to freeze or preserve them.

He however emphasizes the need for planning what to plant, when, in what quantity and looking after this garden by protecting it from destruction, watering it and spraying in case of pest attack.

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Grinding of the Greens gives back to the environment

Whenever August Dittbenner posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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Wild Ones native plant conference comes to WI

The pursuit and passion of native wildflowers in the landscape has never been more popular than in recent years. Thanks to organizations such as Wild Ones, the importance of using native wildflowers, trees and shrubs in the landscape is well known among gardeners in our area.

Next month, the national Wild Ones organization will hold their annual conference, Toward Harmony with Nature in Oshkosh. A full range of native plant and native wildflower topics is on the schedule, along with vendors and other organizations promoting the use of native plants in gardens and landscapes.

Toward Harmony with Nature will be held Saturday, January 28 at the Oshkosh Convention Center.

I’ll be there, as well, with my program called Out of the Shadows, featuring great ideas for using and designing with native plants for shade.

Wild Ones is an organization dedicated to spreading the word about native landscaping and its important benefits, not only to wildlife, but to our own well-being.

The renowned national organization is headquartered right here in northeast Wisconsin in Neenah.

The WILD Center, as the headquarters has been named, is a nature center located on the northwest shore of Little Lake Butte des Mort, with walking trails and full blown native gardening demonstration plots featuring some of the most incredible native wildflowers found in Wisconsin.

Each year, in January, Wild Ones hosts their annual conference, Toward Harmony with Nature, a native plants and landscaping extravaganza filled with educational opportunities, exciting speakers, vendors offering native plants and gardening information and so much more.

This year’s conference features a host of exceptional programs, including keynote speaker, landscape historian Rob Nurre. Nurre will explore what our landscape looked like before European settlers arrived and altered it forever.

Conference attendees are invited to attend the keynote session, as well as three separate concurrent sessions throughout the day. Each session features three programs, from which attendees will select one for each time slot.

Some of the topics that will be covered are Prairie Ecology, Using Native Plants in Wetlands, Oak Savannas, Using Historic Land Records in Planning Your Native Plantings, Ways to Protect Your Property, Saving Our Wildlife Through Conventional Landscaping and more.

From native plants as monarch butterfly hosts and pollinator plants to wildlife food plots, berries for birds and more, the use of native plants in our backyards, gardens and landscapes is important to the world around us.

Toward Harmony with Nature offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about the native plants of our area and why it is so important that we incorporate them into our gardens and landscape plans.

The convention is open to the public and will be held from 8:00 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. For more information and to register, visit

Find Rob Zimmer online at On Facebook at

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Garden Terms: Frost Heaving and Winter Mulch

Galen A. Stalker, 95, of Plaistow, N.H., and formerly of Haverhill, passed away Dec. 24, at Lawrence General Hospital. Born in his home on Sweet Hill Road, Haverhill, Aug. 9, 1921, He was the son of the late William D. and Annie C. Stalker. Stalker graduated from Haverhill High School, class of 1939. In 1943,

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LSU AgCenter seeks photos for gardening calendar – News …

Want to enter the contest? Submit your photos by Feb. 28.

If you’re a green thumb or a photography buff — or both — the LSU AgCenter has a challenge for you: Submit a picture for the 2018 “Get it Growing” calendar.

The calendar is a monthly guide to Louisiana gardening and is full of tips from AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Each annual edition includes information on what to plant and when, reminders of when to prune and what to do about garden pests.

In addition, the color calendar features about 40 garden photos by Louisiana photographers, professional and amateur, selected from hundreds of entries.

“The LSU AgCenter is a great resource for lawn and garden information and educational programs, and the ‘Get It Growing’ calendar is a popular source for gardening tips and beautiful photos of flowers, plants and gardens from Louisiana photographers,” project coordinator Elma Sue McCallum said in a news release. “The calendar has become the ‘must have’ item for gardening enthusiasts.”

The 2017 calendar is on sale now for $11.95 plus $2.75 shipping and handling. To order, visit or call 225-578-4646. The current edition includes information on environmentally friendly landscaping and new Louisiana Super Plants and an illustrated section on repotting container plants.

A dozen photos selected for the 2018 calendar will be featured as full-page, color images, one for each month, and one will be used on the cover, McCallum said. The rest will be used throughout.

The photographer’s name will be included with each printed photograph. Those selected for the monthly pages will receive five copies of the published calendar, and other contributing photographers will each receive two copies, she said.

Submissions must be high-resolution digital images on CD with the photographer’s name, address, telephone number and email address attached. All images must be the original work of the photographers submitting them. Submission guidelines can be found on the Call for Entries form online at

“We’re asking photographers to submit their favorite photos of lawns, gardens, flowers, trees and vegetables,” McCallum said. Each person is asked to limit entries to 25 or fewer of their best photos.

The deadline for submissions is Feb. 28. Entries must be mailed to Elma Sue McCallum, LSU AgCenter, 135 Knapp Hall, 110 LSU Union Square, Baton Rouge, LA 70803. CDs will not be returned.

For information, call McCallum at 225-578-2462 or e-mail


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