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Archives for April 22, 2017

Virtual technology can make landscaping easier

Just as virtual technology has become a common tool for anyone planning to repaint or redecorate a home, a growing array of apps can make landscaping easier, too.

But know when to use them, and when it would be easier to pull out an old-fashioned pencil and a sheet of graph paper – or seek a professional.

“We’ve seen an increase in virtual interior design services within the last two years, so it’s only natural that this functionality would make its way to the exterior of the home as well,” said Stephanie Sisco, Real Simple magazine’s home editor.

A few of the more popular DIY gardening apps include Garden Designer, Design your New Surroundings, Garden Plan Pro and Perennial Match.

“We’ve seen several hundred thousand downloads,” says Patrick Pozzuto, founder of the iScape app aimed at both professional and home landscapers. Based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Pozzuto worked as a contractor before launching his app.

“Arranging plants using a touch screen is way easier than using your lower back to do it,” he says.

“But while the pros have been using apps for a long time now, home gardeners encounter some hiccups sometimes,” he admits. “They don’t necessarily know what plant goes with what, and what areas it’ll grow in. And some people don’t have an artistic mind, and get into trouble.”

Dave Whitinger, executive director of the National Gardening Association, based in Jacksonville, Texas, warns that while some tech-savvy gardeners quickly get the hang of landscaping apps, the learning curve is steep, and they may be impractical for most home gardeners. The association, founded in 1971, helps put out the “Gardening for Dummies” book series and hosts the website

“The reality is that while the virtual tools are great for a minority of gardeners, many more people find them far too confusing, and they get really frustrated,” he says.

Many home gardeners, he says, would be better off using a pencil and graph paper, with each square representing 6 inches, or whatever scale is appropriate for the particular garden.

Yet even for amateurs, he notes, the information on some online sites can mean the difference between failure and success with gardening and landscaping projects., for example, features a database for the entire country, searchable by zip code, to tell home gardeners what the frost dates are for their area, when to plant which vegetables and flowers, and what kinds of plants will encourage, say, certain varieties of butterflies or bees.

“Knowledge like that is crucial to whether a person’s gardening project succeeds,” he says. “Lettuce and spinach and tomatoes all have different dates when they should be planted for best results, and planting dates vary depending on where you live. Just because you see the plants for sale in the nursery doesn’t mean it’s the right time to plant.”

And even if you haven’t figured out all the features of the gardening apps, they can be a good way to show professional landscapers what you have in mind, Pozzuto says,

Richard Heller of Greener By Design, a firm in the New York area that uses 3-D software to help with both landscape design and communication with clients, says the software makes a huge difference.

“Three-D software is still not very common, and it gives us an amazing competitive edge. It allows people to see what’s not planted, so they start expanding on projects they have in mind,” he says.

“The software is accessible to anyone, but there’s a steep learning curve involved. And you need a high-end gaming computer to use it.”

Heller says home gardeners might want to check his company’s website which, for a small fee, allows you to create a landscaping “design book.” It’s a good starting point, but most home gardeners would still want to work with a professional who knows plants well, he says.

And there’s always graph paper and a pencil if the learning curve proves too steep.

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Jazz Age design shown in textiles, furniture and more

This undated photo provided by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, shows an Installation view of “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.” (Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum via AP)

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Perfect Maine Garden: The English Country Garden Meets Japanese Landscape Design

Sunday, May 28, 2017 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: Blue Hill Public Library, 5 Parker Point Rd, Blue Hill, Maine

For more information: 207-374-5515;

Brooklin landscape Designer, Julie Wang, will do a presentation at the Blue Hill Public Library on Monday May 8th at 7:00 PM, about creating the perfect Maine garden by combining elements of English country gardens and Japanese landscape design.

An adjunct professor of writing at New York University, Julie Wang founded and ran her own public relations agency, Wang Associates Health Communications, in New York for 20 years. Subsequently, she designed gardens on the Blue Hill Peninsula in Maine, where she also ran a garden store and tea garden, Blue Poppy Garden. Wang currently divides her time between coastal Maine and Benin, West Africa.

This program is free, and open to everyone. For more information call the library at 374-5515.

This post was contributed by a community member. Submit your news →

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Green Thumb Award nominations sought

Mother Nature can’t take all the credit for Edwardsville’s spring beauty.

Garden enthusiasts, plant lovers and landscapers have a hand in it, too.

For the 18th consecutive year, the Edwardsville Beautification and Tree Commission will honor those who add to the city’s beauty with the Green Thumb Awards.

The EBTC will be accepting nominations for the awards from May 1 through June 6.

Each year, between 12 and 14 Green Thumb Award winners are chosen.

They compete in four categories: residential, civic, neighborhood and business/commercial.

Winners receive yard signs designating the Green Thumb Awards.

Nomination forms are available at the Edwardsville Library, City Clerk’s office, Public Works office and online at the city’s website,, where there is a button on the left side titled “2017 Green Thumb Awards.”

EBTC member Benna Denue said the Green Thumb Award program has been well received since its inception.

“We get a fair number of nominations.  They sometimes differ, depending on gardens and the weather,” she said. “It’s been a successful community-building project and a lot of fun.”

Once all the nominations have been submitted, the commission will review them and visit each location.

“Several of us commissioners go around and look at nominations and we go from there,” Denue said. “There is a process we go through. We visit after we look at all our nominations and make a decision.”

Zyann Kinney is the head of the Green Thumb Award Committee.

Wilma Jene Bond is a member and her husband, Jack Butler, serves as photographer for the program.

With the four different categories offered, thinking beyond the common flower display is important.

“Gardening takes on so many more dimensions than we think of with typical gardening,” Denue said.

Imagination is a key, too, as area residents often come up with award-worthy landscaping ideas and then dig in.

“(They take) pride in doing it themselves. They might need help from a contractor,” Denue said.  “When all is said and done, it’s that homeowner’s garden.”

Green Thumb Award winners are typically announced in early June.

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Middle school’s garden plans shows PTO effectiveness

Ashland Middle School’s Parent Teacher Organization hopes its planned outdoor garden  not only adds beauty to the campus but offers a pollination garden, monarch butterfly weigh station and outdoor classroom. The area will also include 12 benches made from recycled plastic.

PTO president Rhonda Wilson said she hopes the project, which will cost $15,000, will be completed by the next school year. Cost will be covered, in part, as part of school maintenance. The PTO will raise money for plants, concrete and trees, she said.

Wilson said the new addition will allow students to hone their science, technology, engineering and math skills as they learn about the different plants and ecosystems surrounding them.

Wilson said helping with the project also will teach students responsibility and community pride.

To provide the benches, it is up to the students to collect 4,800 pounds of plastic, which will ultimately save funds.

“The benches would’ve run about $7,000 to $8,000. If the kids come up with enough plastic for this project, it will take 12 benches down to $130 a bench,” she said.

Student Technology Leadership Program coordinator John Leistner and STLP students will be in charge of the recycling portion of the plan, including a competition among students to see who can collect the most plastic. The community also can contribute recyclables by dropping them off at the school.

According to Wilson, this is the first year AMS had a “fully functioning PTO,” stating the group’s goal is to improve the school to better students’ education.

Wilson explained the garden will be self-containing and will always have some type of plant in season for the students to study. She said she has been applying for grants to help cover costs and the school has already received some from Wild for Pollinators to purchase seeds. Kim Jenkins of Sweetbay Landscaping also created the school’s landscaping plans for free.

The PTO is taking contributions, in which donators providing more than $50 will have their names on a plaque placed outside the school. Donations can be made to the project’s GoFundMe page at, mailed to 2800 Kansas St. Ashland, KY 41101 or by taking them to the school’s front office.

School gardens that become outdoor classrooms are not a new idea. Other area schools have had them with varying degrees of success.

The revival of the PTO at the middle school is great news. In most elementary schools, the PTOs or PTAs do much to enhance their schools, including raising money for special projects, assisting teachers and hosting festivals and other special events. Most elementary school teachers say the active involvement of their students’ parents enhances their education.

Unfortunately, once students reach middle school, parent involvement in the school tends to decline dramatically. This is partly because students from different elementary schools are merged into one school and transforming from a parent-teacher organization serving students who have always attended the same school to those from different schools is not easy.

We commend the leaders of the new PTO at Ashland Middle School for their efforts. Creating a garden that is a learning experience shows the value of such groups. We hope the garden plants the seeds that will grow into more parent involvement at the school.

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Turning the Page on Native Plants | Down and Dirty | The North …

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about native plants, here are reviews of seven of my favorite books on the subject (all available in the Humboldt County Library).

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (2009): If you only read one of the books in this column, choose this one by Douglas Tallamy. Unlike the others, this one doesn’t focus on descriptions of native plants, though it does contain some information about them. But it presents a powerful case for why using native plants is not just a nice idea but crucially important for the survival of wildlife. It explains how native plants and the insects that co-evolved with them are essential to birdlife in particular. This book opened my eyes to the urgency of this issue, and I highly recommend it to all gardeners and bird lovers.

California Native Plants for the Garden (2005): For brief overviews on the history of native plants in California horticulture, descriptions of native plant communities and a discussion of landscape design considerations, pick up this book by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. There is a good chapter on soil preparation, sourcing plants and seeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning and pest management. The bulk of the book is devoted to profiles of more than 500 native plants with a description of each plant, its habitat and range, light/soil/water requirements and related species.

California is a large state with an extremely wide range of habitats. Not every plant included would thrive in our area, but the majority would. Also included are extensive lists of plants for 30 specific situations, such as allergenic plants, plants with aromatic foliage, fast/slow-growing plants, poisonous plants and plants with ornamental fruits. The 450 color photographs include plant close-ups and many enticing pictures of landscaping with natives.

Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes (2008): A comprehensive reference to 530 native plant species that occur in the Pacific Northwest written by Kathleen Robson, Alice Richter and Marianne Filbert. As with the book above, not all the plants described are native to our area, but the majority are. A detailed description of each plant is provided, along with useful information on cultivation, propagation, native habitat and range and related species. It also includes lists of recommended plants for specific situations such as drought-tolerance, shade, wildflower meadows, erosion control, and attracting birds and butterflies. Illustrated with 600 color photos and numerous botanical drawings.

California Native Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide (2012): This book by Helen Popper provides detailed information on planting, propagating, dividing and maintaining plants on a month-by-month basis. For instance, April tasks are listed as: plant and sow; mulch; prune, just a little; take cuttings; manage weeds and celebrate Earth Day. One of the best sources I’ve encountered for pointing out the importance of maintenance for native plants and explaining how and when to do it. The final chapter discusses using natives in garden styles ranging from formal to cottage to Japanese to a children’s garden. There are beautiful color photographs and vivid descriptions of native plants in bloom every month.

Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden (2014): This book by Eileen Stark presents a strong case for using native plants to support birds, bees, butterflies and other insects. It covers design considerations, site preparation and plant propagation. The heart of the book is a portfolio of 100 garden-worthy Pacific Northwest native plants — most of which grow locally — divided into plants for full sun, partial sun, and shade. Excellent color photographs and useful information on the growth habit and cultivation needs of each plant. I especially appreciate the notes on the wildlife value of each native. For instance, for vine maple the author comments: “Flowers attract bees and other insects. Host plant for western tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak butterfly larvae. Seeds are eaten by many birds, including grosbeaks, finches, and woodpeckers, as well as mammals such as chipmunks.”

Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens (2007): This book is divided into 12 chapters, each focusing on a group of plants that occur together in the wild. Authors Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook provide examples of landscape designs for each plant community, including plant lists, descriptions and practical advice on maintenance. It’s an inspiring book with good photographs of both gardens and individual plants. As an added bonus, it includes information on where you can see each plant community in the wild.

Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A guide for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest (2003): Though the book by April Pettinger and Brenda Costanzo defines its range as extending from southeastern Alaska to Eugene, Oregon, it is very much applicable to our region. It starts with a discussion of recent trends in naturalistic landscaping and offers sample site plans to show how native plants can be incorporated in landscapes. The authors discuss pros and cons of lawn as well as turf grass alternatives. They offer advice on gardening for wildlife, how to establish and maintain a meadow and how to use natives in a variety of settings, providing a list of plants for each setting. Roughly one-third of the book is devoted to descriptions of various native plant communities — shoreline, forest, wetland, grassland and mountain.

These books contain lists of native plant nurseries and other native plant resources. Another good source of information is, the website for the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society. This website has an expanded list of books on native plant gardening as well as recommended garden-worthy local natives.

Heads Up: Be sure to mark your calendar for the annual Wildflower Show and Native Plant Sale, May 5-7, at the Jefferson Community Center in Eureka. The website above has more information.

Donna Wildearth is the owner of Garden Visions Landscape Design in Eureka. Visit her website at

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Good to Grow: Seeing landscape as a work of art – Charleston Gazette

I’m originally from Colorado, but I’ve lived in West Virginia for most of my adult life and love it. You all weren’t kidding when you called it wild and wonderful. I’ve found no shortage of unique events or fun celebrations to occupy my time.

I attended one such event a few months ago with my fiance: the West Virginia Nursery Landscape Association’s Winter Symposium. I’d never been before and didn’t know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was educational, fun and the food was delicious.

The association holds this symposium in Charleston every year in January for its members and any other garden enthusiasts. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a seasoned landscaper, I highly recommend checking it out next year.

My favorite speaker was Allan Summers, a talented landscape architect with the Wilmington, Delaware, firm Robinson, Anderson and Summers.

He discussed garden and landscape design in terms of composition and drawing from the land for inspiration. What resonated most was his comparison of garden design to art. Most would agree garden design is art, but I was new to the idea.

Summers began by discussing the poetry of place, how a garden in Pennsylvania should absolutely look and feel different from a garden in, say, Ireland. Those places have their own history, their own climate, their own rhythm.

I loved this idea, and as he flicked through pictures of landscapes he’d designed while discussing his inspiration, I had a thought. I began inspecting and comparing his work to notable paintings I’d learned about in college.

Drawing from my studies in art and composition, I found striking similarities between an artist’s approach to painting and a designer’s approach to landscaping.

Summers, like many talented designers, whether consciously or unconsciously, follows a set of compositional design rules that closely mirror that of compositional rules in painting.

Some rules in play include those of proportion, color theory and texture. The parallels really start to pile up when you consider composition as a whole.

An artist’s job is to give the eye direction. He or she must tell the eye where to start in a painting, and then guide it through every facet before offering an exit, ultimately giving the viewer a sense of completion.

Every rule can be broken, so you will find artists who intentionally ignore this one to evoke specific emotions. However, on the whole, most notable works adhere to this wisdom.

I never imagined this rule would be used in gardens, but it is. Even if it isn’t done consciously, designers must give you a destination, a focal point. Gardens are meant to draw you in, make you feel something and then eventually let you go.

I found another similarity in Summers’ use of foreground and framing. Of course every garden has tall plants in back and short plants in front, but that barely scratches the surface of what a good designer can accomplish with this concept.

I’ve walked into gardens feeling uninspired and even bored, only to find myself pleasantly surprised on a closer look. Gardens are layered, complex, living things. They unravel and lay themselves bare as you venture into them.

No garden deserves a cursory viewing, just as no painting should be taken in with a single glance. These works need to be absorbed, unwrapped, even.

For every artist, there is an artistic style. This gives life to art, which is why five people can paint the same bowl of fruit and come away with five distinct paintings.

We see this in landscaping, as well. Some designers use broad, colorful strokes, while others dot their canvasses delicately, demanding you appreciate the subtleties.

With thoughts like these, I don’t believe I can ever again see a garden as just a garden. Evaluating landscapes with the same eye for detail and intent that I bring to art museums has opened a whole new layer of understanding. There is so much to appreciate, even about the smallest or simplest gardens.

Blevins is a writer, artist and plant enthusiast living in Charleston. She has recently joined the talented team at Flowerscape as a design assistant.

Blevins can be contacted at

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14 tips for sustainable gardening

With the climate crisis looming, the good news is there are simple steps you can take in your own backyard and garden that can reduce carbon emissions, and even capture carbon, while also nourishing your soil, conserving water, and fostering a healthy eco-system that attracts and protects all kinds of native species. As Wendell Berry wrote, “to cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”

  1. Jody Donaldson of La Vida Buena Nursery in Sebastopol says, “The number one thing people can do for their gardens is add two inches of organic compost to their beds every year. This acts as an amendment and mulch at the same time, feeding the plants, conserving water, and preserving the soil’s nutrients. This also helps pull carbon out of the air and gets it back into the soil. “
  2. Andrea David-Cetina of Sonoma’s Quarter Acre Farm suggested, “Plant vegetables together that have similar irrigation needs, and mulch your garden to conserve water and reduce weeds. For mulch you can use straw, wood chips, or dried leaves. To reduce water evaporation only water in the early morning or late evening. And don’t use herbicides or pesticides.”
  3. Replace pesticides and herbicides with safe, non-toxic alternatives, such as neem, safer soap, organic sluggo, and white vinegar.
  4. Choose native, drought tolerant plants. This is as effective for water conservation as creating an arid, dry landscape of gravel, and protects the topsoil. Plant native flowers and herbs, and bee-friendly plants.
  5. Mulch your garden to conserve water and reduce weeds—you can do this inexpensively with straw or dried leaves from your trees.
  6. Ditch the gas-powered lawn equipment, which the Air Resources Board reports will be responsible for more carbon emissions than cars by 2020. Replace with rakes, brooms, and hand tools, and battery-powered equipment when needed.
  7. Plant seeds from sources you can trust to be free of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used in large-scale commercial nurseries but are toxic to bees.
  8. Rachel Kohn Obut, manager of Flatbed Farm in Glen Ellen, suggests sheet mulching as a great way to convert a lawn to a productive garden. Cover your water-thirsty grass with a layer of cardboard, a layer of compost, and a layer of mulch. Plant low-water flowering native perennials (such as ceanothus, manzanita, or redbud) or flowering perennials from Mediterranean climates (such as lavender and salvias). Or plant food-producing plants.
  9. Growing your own food, while requiring medium watering – preferably with an irrigation drip irrigation system — has many health benefits, and avoids the carbon footprint of buying produce shipped from far away.
  10. Even a small yard can accommodate a compost bin, and there are countless ways to create one, easily found online. Balance wet and dry ingredients, and turn it regularly.
  11. Beware of shredding your leaves for mulch as many moths and butterflies build cocoons under leaves. Consider simply raking leaves gently under your trees and bushes to decompose, nourishing the plants, while harboring beneficial insects, moths, and bees as well as native lizards and frogs.
  12. Bare soil releases carbon into the atmosphere – use a cover crop in winter such as peas, beans, and other legumes, which can then be tilled into the soil in spring to supply its nitrogen needs, reducing or eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers.
  13. Plant trees, which sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide for long periods of time, and cool nearby buildings in summer.
  14. If you have a lawn, choose native grasses, which usually require less water, and set your mower blade to three inches or higher to encourage deeper, less thirsty roots. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to increase carbon storage. Mulching mowers are ideal for this as they create fine clippings.

Photo: A home compost pile is easy to maintain, and a great way to recycle fruit and vegetable scraps – but don’t include citrus peel or onions.

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This week’s gardening tips: plant warm-season grasses and remove faded, dead flowers

This week’s gardening tips: It’s important to pull up cool-season annual weeds, such as henbit, bedstraw and chickweed. These weeds are setting thousands of seeds now that will plague you next winter if not removed now.

Continue to deadhead or remove faded, dead flowers from cool-season bedding plants, such as foxglove, columbine, snapdragon and dianthus. Not only does this practice keep the plants looking neat, it also tends to promote extended flowering.

Plant summer-blooming bulbs, such as crocosmia, gingers, lilies, canna, pineapple lily (Eucomis), elephant ears, crinum, agapanthus and others.

This is the prime planting season for warm-season grasses, such as St. Augustine, centipede, Bermuda and zoysia. With the exception of common Bermuda, solid sodding is the preferred method of establishing a lawn. Although more expensive and labor intensive at the beginning, solid sodding more than makes up for it in advantages.

Tomatoes are staked to keep the plants from sprawling on the ground where the fruit would be more likely to rot. Wait for the first cluster of flowers to appear, and place the stake on the opposite side of the plant’s stem. All of the flower clusters will grow from the same side of the stem, and this will keep developing fruit from getting caught between the stake and the stem.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

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Timely gardening tips for spring

Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2017 12:15 am

Timely gardening tips for spring

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media

As the snow fades away and the landscape begins to turn green, we are suddenly overwhelmed at all the gardening chores that need to be accomplished.

It seems like we go from winter to summer without enough time to enjoy the spring each year — at least, it has seemed that way the past five years or so.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017 12:15 am.

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