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Archives for February 17, 2017

Author will talk on Southern floral design

Noted author, gardener, floral designer, interior designer, cook and garden-to-table lifestyle expert James Farmer is coming to Tallahassee as a guest of the Tallahassee Garden Club.

The Violet Circle is sponsoring “A Morning With James Farmer” as part of the 90th birthday celebration of the establishment of the Garden Club. Farmer will be demonstrating and speaking about flower arrangements, with emphasis on using floral materials from the Southern garden.

The Tallahassee Garden Club is very excited to bring this charming and talented speaker to Tallahassee. “A Morning With James Farmer,” a floral arranging presentation and book signing will be held at the Carriage House at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Road, from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

Individual tickets are available for $40 at Proceeds from the event will benefit the Tallahassee Garden Club and the programs provided by the club, including scholarships for local high school and college students.

Hailing from the pecan- and peach-laden fields of middle Georgia, James was taught as a boy how to pull vegetables, herbs and flowers from the family farm and kitchen garden to provide much of the food, decor and flavor of his family’s everyday life.

Farmer is the author of seven books, is editor-at-large for Southern Living Magazine and has appeared on national media sites. He is a fresh voice on how to incorporate elegant seasonal garden living into one’s life either on a grand scale or on a modest budget. All of his books are inspired by his life growing up on the family farm, where farm-to-table was a lifestyle, not just a popular notion.

With a passion for the land and Southern culture, Farmer earned a degree in gardening design and then opened a landscape business in 2005. He was soon asked to consult on an important historic garden that needed restoration. News quickly spread about his work and the garden was featured in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Southern Living Magazine, Traditional Homes and, ultimately in the book “Private Gardens of Georgia.”

Because of his love for entertaining from the garden, Farmer began creating floral arrangements and consulting on food for private parties and weddings. Media and word-of-mouth have made a “James Farmer Party” in demand in the South.

For more information, contact Susan Cassedy at 850-556-9693 or

If you go

What: “A Morning With James Farmer,” a floral arranging presentation and book signing

When: 10 a.m.-noon Wednesday

Where: Carriage House at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Road

Tickets: $40 at

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HGTV stars, design and garden trends on tap at remodeling show in Dulles, Va.

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This commenter is a Washington Post contributor. Post contributors aren’t staff, but may write articles or columns. In some cases, contributors are sources or experts quoted in a story.

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For garden sanctuaries like these, simple design is key

NOT ONE OF the gardens in this issue relies on plants for its essence. Each is about lines, space, scale, materials, harmony, repetition, texture, contrast, color and lack of same. As is all good design, whether in fashion, interiors, architecture or landscapes.

For those of us who come to gardening because we love plants (and I’d guess that’s most of us), it can be bewildering to realize that it’s simplicity of line and form that makes for a beautiful and satisfying garden. Yes, even more than a stunning dogwood tree, or a fetching sweep of perennials.

Plants play a supporting role in all three of this issue’s featured gardens, even when the flora is as masterfully chosen for scent and scale as in the garden of Dale and Leslie Chihuly. Or forms the color palette, as in Vanessa and Peter Greaves’ green and white garden. Or, as in Connie Rodriguez’s garden, softens the hardscape while creating privacy for outdoor living.

Pacific NW Magazine: Outdoor Living 2017 edition

Pick up a hard copy on Sunday, Feb. 19 for a Great Plant Picks poster on the inside cover. 

The cityscape at the dining-room end of the deck features year-round grasses, rushes, ferns and a small maple tree in a cluster of gray urns. The dining table is from Crate and Barrel. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)The cityscape at the dining-room end of the deck features year-round grasses, rushes, ferns and a small maple tree in a cluster of gray urns. The dining table is from Crate and Barrel. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
The “cityscape” at the dining-room end of the deck features year-round grasses, rushes, ferns and a small maple tree in a cluster of gray urns. The dining table is from Crate and Barrel. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Come visit The Seattle Times booth at the Northwest Flower Garden Show at the WA State Convention Center, Feb. 22-26, 2017.

Whether you call it elegant simplicity, minimalism or modernism, pared-down gardens are as inviting and welcoming as plant-driven ones. Maybe even more so. They’re less needy, easier to care for, more satisfying to the eye (if not to the plant cravings) and gentler on the environment because they require fewer ongoing resources.

You won’t see any maintenance-intense roses — no roses at all — in any of the gardens in this issue, nor vast lawns or abundant perennials. But you will find wildlife-friendly and native plantings, spaces to relax in, herbs and edibles, art and the soothing sound of water. Also the personal touch of every garden owner, from a forest of Chihuly glass to a food writer’s raised herb and vegetable beds by the front porch.

How to turn a jumble, or perhaps a wilderness, of plants into a calm and serene sanctuary of a garden that best fits the needs of your family? Here are a few tips from local designers on how to design for simplicity, whether you’re renovating or starting from scratch.

Garden designer Stacie Crooks is known for her textural tapestry effects. “Think big brush strokes,” she advises. “Massing fewer varieties will create a calmer, more peaceful tone in the garden.” How to renovate a garden grown thick with plants? Crooks says to ask yourself hard questions about how often a plant needs pruning, and whether it contributes to the overall design. “Gardens need to breathe, like we do. Opening up your garden will create breeze corridors and views through the garden.”

Lauren Hall-Behrens is a much-published designer in Portland who loves plants and clean, modern lines. “Think of your garden as a whole, and create contrasting feelings or experiences,” she suggests. “Locate and prioritize the best views in your garden, and pay more attention to the big players, like large trees, the openness of the sky and surrounding views. Declutter; remove plants or garden elements that don’t really need to be there.”

Landscape architect Jason Morse of AHBL suggests focusing on a few key building materials and keeping your plant list relatively short. He emphasizes repetition: “Choose one hardscape material, and use it in different ways throughout the landscape for a sense of continuity,” he says. “Monochromatic color palettes can lend a feeling of serenity … Variety may be the spice of life, but it can make your garden feel downright chaotic.”

Morse, who takes his inspiration from nature, explains the power of horizontal lines in garden design. “The gravity that holds all of us down has caused our natural world to arrange itself in horizontal layers. These layers are powerful conveyors of comfort and serenity.”

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From remodeling to landscaping, NARI show all about the home

If the roller coaster nature of this winter’s weather seems a little wacky to you, imagine how confusing it must be to plants.

To grow or not to grow — that is the question. With temperatures expected to hit the low 50s for a stretch starting this weekend, is there anything we can do to help our plants make it through the winter?

That’s a query gardening expert Melinda Myers expects to hear when she takes the stage at this year’s Milwaukee NARI Spring Home Improvement Show, which runs Thursday through Sunday in the Expo Center at State Fair Park.

“This winter has been tough because we’ve had warm, but we’ve had it right next to cold — where it’s been 14 degrees and then 48 degrees, and then down to 30 and up to 40 and down to 5,” said Myers, who will be on stage Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday. “It’s that up-and-down, up-and-down.”

Myers, known as “The Plant Doctor,” recommended taking a walk through the garden during the warm spell to see what’s happening, especially whether the freezing and thawing have pushed up shallow-rooted plants like coral bells.

“If anything is pushed up out of the soil, just reset it or gently tuck it back in so the roots aren’t exposed to the air and drying out,” she said.

The good news, she said: “You may lose your flower buds on your early daffodils if they sprout, or your tulips, but a lot of those plants are pretty tough and survive. I’m always amazed what survives and what doesn’t in a winter like this.”

While Myers and some others at NARI’s 55th annual spring show will be zeroed in on the outdoors and landscaping, the Expo Center will feature more than 300 exhibitors and contractors, many of them focused on indoor and exterior home remodeling and repairs ranging from the must-do’s to the want-to-do’s.

One of the key goals of the show is to give homeowners a place for “dreaming and coming up with great ideas for their next home improvement project,” said show official Randy Miller.

“Our theme is ‘Remodeling Done Right,’ and I feel as a NARI member you get just that,” said Miller, the owner of Allrite Home and Remodeling in Milwaukee.

Miller said every exhibitor space at this year’s NARI show — NARI stands for National Association of the Remodeling Industry — is taken.

Also appearing on the Pella Doors and Windows of Wisconsin Presentation Stage this year for educational seminars and tips will be members of Milwaukee Blacksmith and Nick Kerzner, “the Construction Guru.” In addition, the NARI show will feature a Culinary Stage with cooking competitions and chefs preparing their favorite recipes. Chefs include Mad Dog Merrill, the Grilling Buddies, and former Green Bay Packer LeRoy Butler.

Among displays at the NARI show:

  • The Kohler Bold Experience Tour, a traveling display that showcases Kohler products and technologies.
  • The 220-square-foot Dragonfly Unique Tiny Home from Utopian Villas, which has sleeping room for as many as three adults.
  • The Kids Creative Zone, open Saturday and Sunday, featuring the Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe Healthy Mobile Tour, which includes an interactive digital kiosk that introduces kids to the Keep Spriggy Safe game. Spriggy, the mascot, encounters dangerous situations, and his mission is to teach children how to stay safe in the home, around the home, and on the go.

The NARI show will host a career fair on Thursday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the second floor of the expo building, with more than 25 association members seeking employees for positions in carpentry, drywall, flooring, HVAC, painting, roofing, plumbing, siding, window installation and more.

The show is open from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets for seniors 60 and older are $8, while children 17 and younger and active and retired military personnel with military identification are admitted at no charge.

For more information on the show or to receive a free copy of the annual membership directory along with the booklet, Milwaukee NARI’s Remodeling Guide, visit or call Milwaukee NARI at (414) 771-4071.

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Wild Ideas: Pollen, hashtags and spies in the wild

The approaching pollen season, a Twitter hashtag for actual living scientists and an amazing miniseries on PBS’ “Nature” attracted my attention recently.

Pollen on the way?

Pollen season is almost upon us and, thanks to the relatively warm winter, may arrive sooner than expected. The culprits spewing what, for some of us, is an annoying allergen are members of the juniper family. This is the only tree pollen I seem to be allergic to, and it creeps up on me most years, being the last thing on my mind when I stare out at the bare winter landscape.

By Pam Owen
Eastern red cedar is among the first tree species to pollinate, dispersing pollen by wind.

Only three juniper species are native to Virginia. One, the common juniper (Juniperus communis), is indeed the most common juniper in the world. But the range of this cold-loving plant extends only down to just north of Rappahannock County, so not likely to be a problem for me at home. Another juniper, the Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), grows only in the southeast coastal area of Virginia, so also not a problem.

The junipers that do cause problems are the nonnative ones used extensively for landscaping, as in the Fairfax County suburbs I grew up in, and the third native one, eastern redcedar (Juniperus  virginiana). Ubiquitous throughout Virginia, it is one of the first woody plants to take hold in disturbed open land, such as fallow pastures, forest and road edges, and medians. I noticed a bumper crop in the median of Rt. 211 just west of Warrenton as I was driving the other day.

Rather than having flowers that produce pollen, the eastern redcedar has tiny cones. The female cone is only about a quarter inch long, at most, with a waxy, bluish outer coating that makes it resemble a berry. The male cone, which holds the pollen, is about half the size of the female’s. Males release their pollen into wind, which carries it to females, starting in mid- to late February. In relatively warm winters, such as this year’s (so far), they can begin sooner. Also carried on the wind during mild weather is leaf mold, mixing in to give me a double shot of allergens.

While I dread redcedar’s pollen season, enduring it is eased by knowing its “berries” give gin its characteristic flavor, and I do like martinis, and gin and tonics. And, as the Virginia Department of Forestry’s book “Common Native Trees of Virginia” notes, the redcedar’s berries are also a favorite food of many birds, including waxwings and bobwhite quail, and its dense foliage provides excellent roosting and nesting cover for birds. The foliage also serves as emergency winter food for deer.

An inspiring Twitter hashtag

On a happier note, I discovered a wonderful hashtag in my Twitter feed recently: #actuallylivingscientist. I usually don’t get into social media much, mainly because it can be a huge time suck, but with all that has been going on politically recently, I’ve dived back in to see where the country stands. This hashtag is refreshingly upbeat for anyone who enjoys and supports science and scientists. It provides a sort of “meet the scientist” meme, in 240 characters or less, often with accompanying photos or videos. With unsettling news creeping into even my nature feeds, I find just putting in the hashtag, as I did on Feb. 5, brings up a happy crop of tweets, such as from . . .

  • Katey Duffey ‏@UnciaKate: “I collect snow leopard scat for DNA bacteria analysis, often while singing camp songs or something from The Hobbit #actuallivingscientist”
  • Christian Kammerer (‏@Synapsida): “Hello, I’m Christian, a paleontologist studying mass extinctions and the ancestors of mammals. #actuallivingscientist #fossils”
  • Amina Yonis (‏@IAmInAPlace): Hi, my name is Amina and I’m an #actuallivingscientist. I study the effect of cortical proteins on cell division cancer. #DressLikeAWoman”
  • Anne Hilborn (‏@AnneWHilborn): “I am an #actuallivingscientist. I pick up cheetah poop. Sometimes I drop it on myself. #DressLikeAWoman #distractinglysexy”
  • Jaydeep Sidhaye ‏@jsidhaye: “I am Jaydeep, an #actuallivingscientist at @mpicbg. Using zebrafish, I am studying how organs form in the body. Here is a sneak peek. [includes a video]

“Spy in the Wild”

Another mental pick-me-up recently was the start of an amazing five-part miniseries, “Spy in the Wild” on PBS (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.), part of the long-running, always always-educational and entertaining “Nature” series. This new miniseries features footage from more than 30 animatronic spy cameras disguised as animals that were sent into mammal social groups to secretly record their behavior in the wild.

By Stephen J. Downer/© John Downer Productions
An orangutan in Borneo inspecting Spy Orangutan in program 2, “Intelligence,” of the “Spy in the Wild” miniseries on PBS.

Other cameras were used to give full coverage of the animals, including recording their interaction with the “Spy Creatures.” Through the eyes of the animal spycams and the other cameras, we get an intimate look into the lives of the animals, from chimps to elephants and prairie dogs. They exhibit a range of emotions and behaviors that should be all too familiar to us Homo sapiens, from curiosity to empathy. In some cases, the animals treat the realistic Spy Creatures — which can move and broadcast actual recorded sounds of the species they infiltrate — as toys, pets or even members of their species. As the “Nature” website puts it, the Spy Creatures “explore the rarely seen emotions of animals,” revealing whether they are “as strong and complex as our own.” In one instance the animals seem to mourn one of the Spy Creatures when it “dies.”

By Stephen J. Downer/© John Downer Productions
When a protective crocodile mother being spied on by Spy Croc Hatchling carried her recently hatched young to water, she also brought along the spy cam, in program 1, “Love,” of the “Spy in the Wild” miniseries on PBS.

The first show, on love, was inspiring and should convince anyone that animals have emotional lives. Other shows focus on intelligence, friendship and bad behavior. On Mar. 1, the series concludes with an episode on the “Spy Creatures” themselves, which include an animatronic orangutan, croc hatchling, meerkat, egret, tortoise, prairie dog, macaw, sloth, cobra, bushbaby, squirrel, adelie penguin and baby hippo.

By Matthew Gordon/© John Downer Productions
A troop of langur monkeys in India looking at Spy Langur (on the log) in program 1, “Love,” of the “Spy in the Wild” miniseries on PBS.

All the episodes can be streamed from the Nature website after they have aired.





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Welcome Mat: Cottage, lakefront show returns Thursday

Grayling Ceramics is all about growlers

Every Christmas, my extended family battles it out during a group gift exchange. Each relative is given a number. My cousin calls numbers one by one and each person draws a gift from a table. The next person has the choice of stealing an earlier gift that was opened or drawing a new one. So what was the hottest gift to “steal” this year? Growlers. Growlers, usually large ceramic containers for beer, are all the rage these days, especially for beer enthusiasts who love to brew their own suds. Grayling Ceramics is a Kalamazoo-based ceramics company that is hand crafts growlers. They come in a range of sizes: 64-ounce growlers, 32-ounce howlers (or half growlers) and 16-once beer steins. Ceramicist and sculptor Shay Church, who co-owns the business with his wife, Maura, said there are so many amazing craft breweries in Michigan. “We want to provide customers with thoughtful vessels to put their favorite beer or coffee in,” he says. The couple started selling their growlers at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market “and noticed right away that people responded to having handmade steins, cups and growlers on their shelves. I think everyone is sick of being overloaded with plastic disposable junk.” To learn more about Grayling Ceramics, go to

Pure Detroit

introduces a plate

after its own heart

If you’ve never thought of Detroit’s streets as picturesque, think again. Pure Detroit this week introduced City Plate Detroit, a fun, colorful plate that features a map of the city. Made by Not Neutral, the $50 porcelain plate is one of a series of city plates. Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Portland, Oregon, also are featured. This plate isn’t just cool. It also makes a statement about one of Detroit’s big problems: abandoned or vacant lots. A second green color highlights the remarkable number of abandoned, fallow lots throughout the city. “While raising awareness of its high vacancy past, this plate looks to illustrate the potential of Detroit’s transformed landscape,” says Not Neutral on its website. To order a Detroit plate from Pure Detroit, go to and search “Detroit Plate.”

Learn more about propagating dahlias

Dahlias, with their beautiful spiky flowers, can bring delight to any garden. To learn more about growing your own dahlias, the Southeastern Michigan Dahlia Society will host “Growing Dahlias from Seeds” from 3-5 p.m Saturday at the Bloomfield Township Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills. Seeds also will be distributed. The dahlia society meets monthly to discuss various topics related to dahlias. The next meeting is on March 18. To learn more about the society, go

Local historical society hosts appraisal day

Attention, Oakland County area antique lovers. The Rochester-Avon Historical Society will host its 24th annual Antique Appraisal Day from noon to 4 p.m. March 5 at the Rochester Community House, 816 Ludlow. Twelve appraisers will be there to evaluate antique art, toys, pottery, coins, music instruments and more. Attendees are asked to bring their items, or photos of larger items. Admission is free but appraisals are $5 per item. There is a limit of five items per person and payments are cash only. Proceeds from the appraisal event benefit the Rochester-Avon Historical Society. For more information, visit or call (248) 375-0084.

Cottage and Lakefront Living Show begins Thursday

Who doesn’t love playing in the sand, especially in late February? A huge sandbox, dubbed “The Beach,” will be part of next week’s 10th annual Cottage Lakefront Living Show at the Suburban Collection Showplace, which runs through Feb. 26. Aside from a massive sandbox, where kids and adults can build sandcastles, there will be more than 175 exhibitors dedicated to nearly every aspect of lakefront living, from landscaping ideas to patios, decks and wood cabins. As part of the show, the Cottage Fine Art Show will present Michigan artists selling photography, metal art, furniture, jewelry, pottery, cottage decor and paintings for sale. Pictured is a table repainted by Beautifunktional of Northville, which will be selling a line of chalk paints. Admission to the Cottage Lakefront Living Show is $10; $4 for children 6-14 and children 5 get in free. For information, go to or call (800) 328-6550.

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Start a landscaping project: the step-by-step process for success

Now, before the torrid heat of summer arrives, is a great time to do some landscaping. But where do you start? When it comes to designing your yard, it can be hard to know what you want. And despite spending a substantial amount of money on plants and landscaping features, results can be disappointing if you don’t start with a process.

Early on you need to pick the style of your garden. Look at other gardens and determine what you like and the amount of work you’re willing to commit. Gardening books, magazines, Pinterest, and other websites can inspire you. The style you choose is generally a matter of taste, but it should strongly be influenced by the architecture of your house. The chosen style will guide the more aesthetic aspects of the landscape design.

Think about yourself and your family, and then decide what your landscape needs to include. Do you need a children’s play area, privacy, shade, flowerbeds, vegetable garden, swimming pool, etc.? Then, study your property and become familiar with the grounds. Notice light conditions and drainage that will influence plant selection. Note existing features, such as trees, buildings, beds, fences, walks and the like.

Next, decide how much space is needed for various activities. Finally, design the specific shapes and sizes of activity areas and beds, and select the building materials and plants you will use in the design. This is the creative stage. It will be guided by the previous steps as well as the style you have decided for the garden.

I’ve often compared landscape design to interior design. The artistic elements of design, such as space, line, shape and color, are the same whether you’re working indoors or out. If you’re able to select furniture, upholstery fabric, carpet and curtains, coordinate the colors, arrange the furniture and choose accessories for a room, then you should be able to select plants that have the characteristics you desire and will thrive in the growing conditions where they will be planted, coordinate the colors of flowers and foliage and arrange them in a functional, visually pleasing way. When you look at it that way, landscape design becomes less intimidating.

Admittedly, there are numerous differences between interior and exterior design. One of the most striking differences can be summed up in the phrase, “There, that’s just the way I want it.” Indoors, you can decorate a room, and it’s finished. Gardens, of course, are different. From the moment a tree, bed or landscape is planted, it begins to change. Newly planted plants are young and have a lot of growing to do. That’s why we must always space plants properly to allow for the expected mature size.

Honestly, can you imagine this situation indoors? Wouldn’t it be bizarre to purchase a couch that is only 4 feet long expecting that in just a few months (or years) it would grow to be a full 8 feet? Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the couch growing into an end table and pushing it over as time goes by. Or the end table growing so tall you can’t reach the top when you are sitting on the couch. But that is precisely what you have to deal with when working with plants.

One of the most important lessons a gardener must learn is to understand how much their plants will change over time. When it comes to gardening, you can never say, “There, that’s just the way I want it.” What we usually end up saying is, “There, I hope that turns out to be just the way I want it.” Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Knowledgeable gardeners are, of course, better at this than folks just starting out. As a novice, I remember being as surprised as I was delighted when a planting turned out the way I’d hoped. Come to think of it, that feeling never really goes away no matter how long you’ve been gardening.

People often say a garden is never finished, and there is a lot of truth in that statement. But it would be more accurate to say that work on a garden is never finished. The landscape transforms as it grows.

Never forget to anticipate that growth and plan for it. Otherwise we’ll end up saying, “Oh no, that’s not at all what I wanted.”

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

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Building a midcentury sci-fi garden

“There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are now controlling the transmission…. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the deepest inner mind to the outer limits.”

Even though this famous opening to the premier of Outer Limits in 1963 was in black and white, it really scared us kids. We were deluged daily by TV shows inspired by the Bomb and space program. Star Trek, Lost in Space, Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond were standard fare next to Outer Limits, together defining visually what the real space age originally looked like.

Today we’re rediscovering those shows, laughing at our naiveté and relishing decor that brings back these days of the Apollo program and John Glenn like nothing else. Attracted to the unique aesthetic and adding to elements of urban salvage and modern technology, a lot of the old Space Age design is also returning to gardens.

If Spock had a garden, how would it look? If Dr. Smith quit screwing everything up, what kind of plants would inhabit the Robinson family’s interplanetary garden? The answers would be key to landscapes designed with space age modern schemes touched by whimsy. Since we can’t transport to Vulcan for a look, we can single out some plants that would be right at home in another galaxy.

Unless you’ve seen a big Beaucarnea, you wouldn’t believe it. This succulent tree from Mexico looks more like an alien itself. The thick fleshy base known as a caudex explains the translation of its genus to “beautiful flesh”. Pachypodium is another tall beauty that epitomizes the slender big eyed human-formed beings of a dozen SIFI movies.

Every once in a while a normal succulent goes nuts and grows a freaky crest. The cylindrical form will widen into a fan shape with the most incredible lines and edges. Crested cacti would be most at home in the mists of Venus, and the larger specimens can be a centerpiece of a garden.

Other sorts of cacti and succulents also produce similar monstrose forms which are often grafted to yield bizarre shapes. Some are even called “brain cactus” due to this monstrose appearance. Collect them for accents throughout the garden or use in pots on a simple concrete slab.

“The Trouble With Tribbles” is the most famous of all Star Trek episodes where rapidly multiplying puff-ball extra-terrestrials take over the Enterprise. The tribbles of our gardens are round barrel cactus, preferably those with white fuzzy spines. Spot them out on a field of colored gravel for a cutting edge modern herd.

The key to getting that sci-fi look is to choose plants with geometric forms. Take particular care where you place your plants. If you want them to suggest alien populations, plant them in pairs or groups. Arrange sizes so that they appear to be in the configuration of moving organisms rather than static plants. Perhaps a group might follow a leader in packs or sinuous single file.

Taller sci-fi plants for desert gardens are so architectural they deserve to be single specimens to really feel their presence. Light them to further the mystery which leads to a feel of awe after dark. Unusually large plants can be grouped into a forest of other-worldly trees, then incorporate mondo-tribbles or other small cacti beneath them. Beware of filling out too much of that ground plane to maintain a readable spare TV sci-fi look.

For more plants that can really make this garden the marvel that it should be, explore all the cacti and succulents available for landscaping here in the desert. All share that coveted geometry that really defines the space age style and its suggestive alien connections. But most of all, take risks and have fun with your midCentury modern home.

Return that child like sense of wonder. Remember that blue TV screen light, late at night when they took control of your screen. If there was one thing we learned from all those early sci-fi shows it’s that living in outer space is no different from that here on earth. Only the aesthetic changes.

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Bright colors and bold rocks on trend for 2017 gardens

With our wet weather and fluctuating temperatures, it’s hard to get into the mood for gardening, but here are some hot trends to consider for you garden from Monrovia Nursery.

  • Small sized luxury: If you’re working with a small space in your garden, add scaled-down versions of iconic plants such as hydrangeas, roses, berries, conifers and clematis to the garden.
  • Floratourism: More travelers these days are spending their vacation hours at national parks, botanical gardens and arboretums, then using them for inspiration in their own gardens.

  • No waste movement: Gardeners and gardens are being influenced by the “no waste” food movement. A third of households are now growing food. If you a more tradition flower and shrub garden, ease into the movement by growing perennial herbs or add some vegetable in among your established landscaping.
  • Color chameleons: Gardeners are gaga over color-changing plants that provide consistent year-round beauty. A good choice is fuss-free conifers look beautiful in all seasons, but add some surprising color in the winter.
  • Extreme naturalism: Don’t be afraid to add natural elements in your garden. Rocks, boulders and untouched hedges can add an integrated sense of structure to your garden, and is a growing trend for 2017.
  • Climate adaptation: We’ve been focused on saving water in our gardens and landscape for several years, and we should continue to focus on California natives and drought-tolerant plants.
  • Bright, bold colors: Don’t shy away from brilliant oranges, feverish reds, neon yellows, vivid purples, deep, dark reds and black-purples in your garden this year.
  • One-pot wonders: Containers filled with different sorts of plants has been replaced by a trend of using one type of plant per pot, such as a compact hydrangea and new varieties of pomegranates, lavenders, succulents and berries.


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Panhandle gardening tips for February

If you are “chomping at the bit” to get started gardening this year, but not sure what you can do at this point? Well, good news, there’s plenty of things that can be done whether landscaping or vegetable gardening is your passion.

Temperatures can drop significantly in the Panhandle this month, and with short notice. If you want to enhance your flower beds, be sure to use annual bedding plants that can withstand the chill. Dianthus, pansy, viola and dusty miller are some good suggestions to plant. It’s a good time to plant bulbs too. Dahlias, crinum and agapanthus are good choices this time of year. Be sure to provide adequate mulch and water during this cold weather month. There are plenty trees and shrubs that are beginning to bloom this time of year also. If you’re like me, your allergies will tell you this too. Red maple and star magnolia, just to name a couple, will soon be in bloom.

As for vegetable gardening, the potato is a good choice for Florida gardens. As Americans, we consume approximately 125 pounds per person a year. Potato farming is done commercially in Florida, but mostly with “new” potatoes. These are the small, rounded immature potatoes that have a thin skin and are perfect for low country boils.

It’s February, so it’s Irish potato planting season. The planting season for this cultivar for the Panhandle is from Feb. 1 to mid-March. Sweet potatoes can be planted beginning in late March through June. A hundred pounds of seed potatoes should yield approximately ten bushels. Buy healthy certified seed potatoes from a garden center. Avoid using table stock potatoes. Often, table stock will not sprout successfully. Store bought potatoes are often treated with sprout inhibitors too. This treatment can cause development issues if used as seed potatoes.

Raised beds, at least 6-inches, are the best way to grow potatoes. Be sure to fertilize the bed soil mixture and fertilize again down furrows when planting. Irish potatoes require copious amounts of fertilizer. For fertilizer, use a general, complete formulation like 10-10-10. Before planting, be sure to dust the seed potatoes with a fungicide to reduce the chance of decay. Plant seed potatoes 3-inch in depth, at 12-inch apart and allow for 36-inch row spacing.

Please take these gardening tips into consideration this month. Spring is just around the corner, happy gardening! For more information please contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publications, “ Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J. M. Stephens, and Susan Webb : “Growing Potatoes in the Florida Home Garden”, by Christian T. Christensen, Joel Reyes-Cabrera, Libby R. Rens, Jeffrey E. Pack, Lincoln Zotarelli,

Chad Hutchinson, Wendy J. Dahl, Doug Gergela, and James M. White:


Supporting information can also be found on the UF/IFAS website under “Florida Gardening Calendar” by Sydney Park Brown:


UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.





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