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Archives for May 13, 2017

Bedtime stories

Is your bedroom helping you sleep better? As sleep becomes a much talked about wellness concept, bedrooms are turning into sleep sanctuaries. Sleep entrepreneurs and designers are getting innovative. From swinging beds to weight blankets – new furniture forms are being invented. For a good night’s sleep, it’s essential that your bedroom has little furniture and is clutter-free.

Interior designer Kunal Mehta says, “Bedroom is the most luxurious and personal space in any home. Beautify your room with posh cushions and rugs. They’ll help muffle noise, in addition to looking warm and cosy.” His idea: Use colours like blues, greens and greys to create a cool oasis, as these colours have a calming effect and give a positive energy to the room. An important element for a good sleep is lights. Add table or floor lamps in your bedroom to free yourself from stress and worries.

Create your personal sleep sanctuary

1. Get a good mattress

A good mattress is an investment in health. If your mattress is too hard or soft or lumpy, it will keep you up all night. Most people wake up with neck and muscle pain because of a bad mattress. It’s a good idea to try out your mattress before paying the whole amount.

2. Make your room dark

We need a dark, calm environment to sleep better. Most modern devices like digital clocks, televisions, phones, light up your bedroom and interrupt sleep. Remove them from your bedroom or put them away in a drawer.

3. Cut off the noise

Is your fan and AC noisy? Is your room too hot or cold? Install a good thermostat to control the air temperature in your room.

4. Healing sounds

Play soft music – like soft wind chimes, birds chirping or even the sound of falling water in your bedroom. You could keep a small fountain near your bedside.

5. Get greens indoors

Keep a small plant on your dressing table or bedside to purify the air. This also increases humidity and helps you breathe better.

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Nurturing Mother Nature before Mother’s Day – Columbia-Greene …

Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2017 12:15 am

Nurturing Mother Nature before Mother’s Day

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media

By Bob Beyfuss

For Columbia-Greene Media

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This week’s gardening tips: apply fertilizer, add bird-netting to veggie gardens


This week’s gardening tips: During dry weather don’t forget to occasionally water your compost pile. Dry organic matter will not break down. It’s helpful to shove the hose into the compost pile to make sure water reaches the inner parts.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer to your container plants outside to keep them healthy through the growing season. One application will feed for many months, saving you time and effort.

Caterpillars will feed on the foliage and flowers of ornamentals and the foliage and fruit of vegetables. The tomato fruit worm eats holes in tomatoes. Spinosad, BT (both organic insecticides), carbaryl or permethrin regularly applied will keep them in check.

Birds will peck holes in tomatoes just before you decide they are ripe enough to harvest. If birds are a problem, cover your plants with bird netting or harvest the fruit in the pink stage and ripen them inside. Bird netting also works well to protect fruit crops, such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and figs, and is available from local nurseries or feed stores.

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Mixing flowers and vegetables in your garden can be tricky, but here …

By Barbara Damrosch, Special to The Washington Post

As gardeners, we cast our plants in different roles. “Because you’re so beautiful,” we tell a rosebush, “I’m going to give you the best-dug bed I can, with loose, fertile soil.” We offer a tomato plant the same cushy setting, “because you’re going to taste so good.”

Roses and tomatoes bear fruits that are rich in vitamin C. But should they be bedfellows? No.

It’s tempting to add fast-maturing edible plants to existing ornamental beds, but unless you choose the companions carefully, the results can be disappointing all around.

The rosebush won’t share its space well with the tomato plant, but you might underplant roses with forget-me-nots, sweet alyssum or some other shallow-rooted flower — maybe even a quick edible crop such as arugula. But nothing big and hungry.

Perennial fruit such as blueberries or a perennial vegetable such as asparagus needs its own space.

A mighty vegetable such as the stately, spiky artichoke might hold its own, but would the elegant, blue-green Tuscan kale? Maybe not. A frilly lettuce border would work if you aim to let it bolt, because the flower clusters it sends up are pretty in their own right. But the theft of heads for salad would leave empty spots. Maybe you could replace those with new lettuce plants, as do the dedicated gardeners that tend the legendary vegetable plots at the Chateau de Villandry in France. You, that is — not busy, overcommitted me.

Years ago my husband and I set about to plant a garden that would visually combine edibles and flowers. We put it in the middle of the lawn, between the food garden and the area where we grew most of our flowers — a bridge, so to speak.

One trick we used was to plant in parallel beds, each of which had either flowers or vegetables, but not a mix. There were two plots like that, with a grass path between them. Each plot had a peach tree at the far end, framing a wooden bench.

Our other trick in that little garden was to plant edible crops that would be in the ground all season and not harvested until fall. No need for replacements. They included storage carrots, celery root, beets, leeks, parsnips and red cabbage. There was a bed of strawberries, too, and although the fruits were picked when ripe, the foliage remained. We nicknamed our new effort Villandry.

I can think of other ways to introduce a flowery effect into your edible garden without compromising good growth. A fence or trellis around it could be festooned with vines such as morning glories, clematis and, yes, climbing roses. Edible scarlet runner beans, beloved by hummingbirds, are a great choice, with their brilliant red-orange blossoms. Sunflowers are fun along the edges, too, though it’s best to stick to the north side to avoid shading crops — unless there are greens that need afternoon shade in hot weather.

Even if you are trying to get as much food as you can out of a small kitchen garden, it’s tempting to tuck in a few blooms at the end of a row, especially if their petals are edible. Marigolds are a favorite. Their ability to repel pests may be overstated, but they can sure brighten up a salad.

Here’s a radical idea: Allow some of your vegetables to bloom. Instead of yanking out the bolting broccoli, collards or dill, let them open their flowers to grateful bees, butterflies and other pollinators, for the good of the whole garden as well as your eyes.

Here’s another oddball trick, one I’m trying out now. In the past, there have been a number of flowering annuals and biennials I’ve scattered around my herb garden, where they blend in wonderfully, and manage to coexist with well-established clumps of perennial herbs. Some become yearly volunteers, such as Shirley poppies and wallflowers. Portulaca works too. So this spring I gathered a bunch of old seed packets, choosing flowers that have performed well in that role, and flung them across the area. If any of them come up, they are all welcome.

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MASTER GARDENERS: Save time and money with these tips

Permian Basin Master Gardeners logo

Permian Basin Master Gardeners logo

We are an educational service organization of volunteers trained by Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service. Visit

Plants in tires

Plants in tires

Re-purposed containers (old tires that were painted) are used for growing plants.

Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2017 6:30 am

MASTER GARDENERS: Save time and money with these tips

By Carol Siddall
Master Gardener

Odessa American

Every gardener likes to save money and time. I thought as the gardening season gets rolling, you might appreciate some tips in these areas.

Making a new garden? Start with a plan. Remember, a smaller scaled garden translates into less work and money. Container gardens are fun and easy, and they’re a necessity for small yards, but they do require more water and fertilizer.

Cut back on your workload by converting some of your lawn to ground covers. They are a good fix for problem spots also. Just check first if they are invasive.

One item that will ease your workload is to put down a 4-inch layer of mulch. This will reduce the soil’s need for water and helps keep weeds under control. Pine needles make a great mulch. I use all my needles for mulch, and I have very few weeds.

Keeping your yard tools in good condition makes your maintenance tasks easier.

When buying perennials, look for large specimens that can be divided. They may cost more initially, but by splitting them, you get more plants.

Scour garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores for a good and unusual container for a planter. They are fun for repurposing.

Save your seeds at the end of the season; it’s cheaper than buying more. Empty prescription bottles are great for storing seeds.

Slow release fertilizers require fewer applications than fast release ones. Don’t forget to use compost for overall soil enhancement.

Try using a kid’s pool for a holding spot for potted plants while on vacation or during a drought. The pool collects excess water and makes water available to your plants while you are away. If you watch at the end of season, you can pick one up cheap.

If you prune your trees when they are young, it will save you time and possible cost. A hand pruner now beats a chain saw years later.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017 6:30 am.

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Tips for photographing your flower garden

Though the weather has been less then ideal the past week, many readers are probably putting in hard work taking care of their flower gardens this time of year. As you make your rounds tending to your plants, don’t forget to snap a few images of all your hard work. Here are a few tips to improve your photos.

Take advantage of this specific time of year.

One of my favorite things about living in this part of the country is experiencing all four seasons. With that said, look for sights that only occur this time of the year. Depending on what you grow around your home or what area gardens you visit, you may remember some things are unique to this time of year, such as early-blooming flowers or budding leaves. Use your knowledge to your advantage. Green is everywhere now that it is early summer and can be taken advantage of for photos. Colorful flowers pop even more when you frame your image so the colorful subject is surrounded by a background of green.

 Depth of field is another important tool for photographing plants.

Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a photo that appear sharp. Setting your camera’s aperture at f/2.8 or f/4 will give you a shallower depth of field then if you had it set to f/8 or f/10. A shallower depth of field means anything in front of or behind your focused on subject will be blurry. The lower the aperture number (f/2.8 for example) the blurrier the background. Try using this when photographing a plant or garden area that doesn’t have a particularly attractive background. You can also use depth of field to bring all the attention to a certain area of your subject. Just remember the closer you get to your subject the more you will be able to showcase the depth of field. Don’t have a digital camera, but still want to enjoy the benefits of depth of field in your photos? Many phones now include a portrait mode in the camera function that mimics the effects. Try it out on your flowers instead of your selfies.

 Lighting will always be an important tool for anything you photograph.

Just like when photographing people, take advantage of the “golden hour” for your plant photos. This time happens during early morning and late afternoon when the sun is either rising or setting. The light and resulting shadows are often times most interesting during that time of the day, resulting in more interesting imagery. Play around with the sun both behind your subject and in front of it. Pay attentions to the shadows cast and use them to strengthen your photos.

Just because you’re photographing plants or full gardens doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate other subjects. Use wildlife or even other people as secondary subjects in your image. Hands plucking petals from a beautiful flower or even a bee buzzing around a flower adds movement and life to your images, making them more visually interesting.

When snapping photos of your own flowers or even those in a neighborhood public space try to include what makes that particular scene unique. Is there an unusual sculpture in the garden, or maybe a unique shape or feature? If so, compose your image around it, using it to set your image apart.

Remembering a few of these tips and combing them will have you on your way to snapping beautiful imagery right in your back yard.

Send us your garden photos

From pretty posies to ravishing roses, a peck of perennials or a volume of vegetables, however your garden

grows, we’d love to share the bounty – so to speak – with our readers.

Send your garden photos to with the subject line “Garden Photos.” High-quality .jpg files work best.

Be sure to tell us a little about yourself, including your name and location, and give us a little information about your photo and your garden in general if you like. You can even include your secret to horticultural success.

Then look for your photos in our print editions and in our online photo galleries at

So pack your camera along with your potting soil and we’ll see you in the paper.

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Spring garden show plants seeds of design inspiration


Whether you love traditional design, vintage, modern Moroccan or California coastal, there’s a backyard garden for you.

And nowhere was that more evident than at the recent 28th annual Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Ten garden vignettes showcased what can be done with new products, professional techniques and, maybe most important, new inspiration.

Some of the plaza’s home stores collaborated with landscape designers and home/garden experts. Each was given a space of about 12 by 20 feet as a working canvas. The results were delightful.

Making your backyard ready for entertaining doesn’t require a lot of magic. Just a little thought and work. Take stock of what you have, adopt a style that makes you feel comfortable and set a budget to match. Plunge in yourself or get professional help with the project.

“If you’re going to spruce up a garden, give your existing plants a chance,” said Nick Vega of Vega Landscape in Westminster. “Trim, clean the area and give it all a little tender loving care. Allow the plants to show their character before taking the ax to them. Incorporate additional plants and enjoy watching the garden mature and your old plants thrive.”

If you’re attempting a complete makeover, Vega suggests hiring a professional landscape designer.

Vega let his imagination run wild in creating a space for the show, displaying “timeless modern” sensibility by incorporating classic midcentury architecture, a living plant wall and other low-water-use plants. He did that alongside sleek furnishings from Z Gallerie.

Z Gallerie featured its three new outdoor collections — Cartas (made of resin, it mimics wicker and is a blend of traditional and modern), Metro (steel and faux wood built with durability in mind) and Terza (traditional).

The collections offer chaise lounges, dining and living sets, outdoor rugs, umbrellas and lots more to make summer and beyond comfortable. The recent collaboration centered on the ever-popular ocean theme, with pops of sapphire blue.

“Our idea was to offer glamour, relaxation and a modern vibe,” said Gordon Andahl, Z Gallerie spokesman.

But what if the ocean isn’t what you’re looking for in a design theme? Sometimes the hardest part is to get started. Other show designers created delightful mini-backyard escapes, offering ideas to fit a range of tastes and lifestyles.

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Meet the garden designer who took up her hobby to overcome grief and now is off to Chelsea

Charlotte Harris recovered from mourning by turning to garden design. Now she’s about to unveil her Chelsea Flower Show debut. By Rob Hastings, with pictures by Micha Theiner

It’s the cascade of white flowers that first catches my eye. Draping down the walls of a mini courtyard at the back of a Notting Hill townhouse, the clematis is out in full bloom. But for the garden’s designer, Charlotte Harris, it’s the tree ferns – and their unfurling, tentacle-like fronds – that are the prize exhibit.

“Aren’t these great?” says Charlotte, who can’t resist taking photos of the Dicksonia antarctica ferns on her phone. It was last October, at the end of an unusually long 18-month design and construction project in west London, that she and her team planted the flowers, ferns and lush foliage here.

Now this small but most perfectly formed of city gardens is about to enjoy its first summer, showing off everything that Charlotte desires in an outdoor space.

“I really love making gardens that have strong textures,” she says. “The foliage is as important as the flowers, particularly when you look at smaller gardens.”

Designing to a brief

The brief from the clients who hired Charlotte to transform the courtyard here was to create a “cool, subdued, calm” area, and that’s something the designer could probably benefit from herself right now. The day after we meet, she will embark on putting together her debut show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Designing for high-end clients with equally high standards has its own pressures, but preparing for Chelsea “has been quite a terrifying experience”, she admits with a smile. After all, it is “the greatest flower show on earth”.

“Chelsea is about trying things you can’t necessarily try in other people’s gardens,” she says. “It’s about taking a creative risk and stretching yourself.”

An initial drawing of Charlotte’s design for Chelsea (Image: Sarah Jane Moon)

However, it sounds as if Charlotte’s research for her project should pay off. Sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, her garden will be a celebration of the firm’s North American homeland, marking the 150th anniversary of the country’s confederation. It will be based on the landscape of ­Canada’s boreal forest in Ontario, where Charlotte travelled for some “spectacular and magical” inspiration.

“I got dropped into the wilderness by a three-seater floatplane, which was really cool,” she says. “I spent two weeks there. Flying quite low, you see streams and rivulets of water, forests of green and blue below you. It’s incredibly beautiful. I stayed in a log cabin and had a guide from the local indigenous community who took us around on a boat, a canoe and on foot.”

A computerised 3D image of Charlotte's design for her Chelsea garden
A computerised 3D image of Charlotte’s design for her Chelsea garden (Image: Charlotte Harris)

The resulting work will be a beautiful mixture of woodland and water. The three structural elements are three jack pines, Pinus banksiana, “which I don’t think have been to Chelsea before. “They are absolutely archetypical of that boreal landscape. I love them – they’re gnarled and imperfect and so characterful.”

It will also feature glacial granite boulders, sourced in Wales, as well as a terrace made from sliced rock, and a pavilion with a charred larch frame and a copper interior. “I wanted a sense of wildness alongside slightly more formality,” she explains.

The therapeutic effect of gardening

Charlotte’s Chelsea show garden will be the highlight of a career that was borne out of tragedy. The history graduate originally worked for an advertising agency after leaving university, but in her mid-20s her life changed forever. “Within a nine-month period, my father committed suicide, my very beloved grandmother died and my mum also died,” she tells i.

“For five years I worked incredibly hard, and partied very hard, and did all those things you do to try to do to run away from it. Then I got to a moment where I thought: I can’t do this any more.”

When the grief caught up with her, Charlotte’s reaction was to begin clearing the unattractive paved garden of the east London house she had recently bought. “I spent a summer sledgehammering it and breaking it up, and it was very cathartic,” she says. “I found the experience really therapeutic, both in the physicality of it but also how the garden teaches us a lot about patience and having to relinquish control. I had spent a lot of my childhood in the garden with my mother and it was something that I wanted to explore more.”

Charlotte left the advertising world behind and went on to study at the respected Merrist Wood College in Surrey, training to become a professional garden designer in their “400-acre outdoor classroom”. She then worked for Tom Stuart-Smith’s practice before launching her own business by opening her design studio.

Charlotte’s top tips for garden design:

“Keep it simple, particularly with city gardens. We think about putting one or two of everything in there, but actually keeping it very simple gives it a ­calmness and rhythm. Try restraining yourself to eight or 10 things. Simplicity is also best for materials.

“Think about your garden as an opportunity and take time to understand it. Don’t feel you have to rush in and finish it in the first month. Learn how it changes across the seasons and how you’re going to use it.

“If you’re in a city, try to do things that encourage wildlife, because the environmental side is really important. Start a compost pile, don’t cut everything down, encourage birds.

“If you’re redeveloping your whole garden, ideally plant the garden between November and March, and then work on any construction when the weather is warmer so you’re not going to damage the soil by tracking over it with men and machines. The structure of the soil is really important for the health of any plant, and by compacting it you’re taking the air out of it, and killing all the positive stuff that’s happening down there. It’s usually the most important thing for getting it right in the garden.”

Understanding what a client wants

After meeting the clients to get a good sense of what they wanted, Charlotte submitted some technical and 3D sketches along with photos showing examples of plants and other design elements.

“It’s a residence they wanted to feel incredibly calm, with a subdued palette,” she explains. “The front garden is quite shady and cool, so I’ve made a woodland garden. The client loves white, so all the planting is white flowering, and then there’s a very rich textual foliage base as well.”

Charlotte explains her plant choices in the courtyard:

The courtyard is also very peaceful but with “a very different feel, quite simple with a palette of just eight or nine different plants”. Along with the ferns there are other evergreens including Euphorbia pasteurii, Sarcococca confusa – with fragrant, winter-flowering white flowers – and Melica grass.

The gardens she designed here in this upmarket Notting Hill townhouse – transforming not just the rear courtyard but also the beds either side of the three grand tiers of steps up to the front entrance – illustrate beautifully Charlotte’s own work but also more generally how a designer can create a singular vision that most amateurs would struggle to develop.

What price a place to chill out?

The redevelopment of a large public or commercial space can involve a construction budget that totals hundreds of thousands of pounds. Though smaller gardens need not cost a fortune, designed for budgets that ensure “the balance between maximising their garden’s potential and meeting the brief,” many variants affect the total price: scope, scale, ­materials, immediate impact requirements, plant maturity and access to the site.

The front garden here required many mature plants to look fully developed straight away. Charlotte also ensured they would fit well with extensive changes being made to the house at the same time, which naturally slowed the process down; while it might take only six months from first meeting for some projects to be completed, here it took 18 months.

How to choose and work with a garden designer

“A good garden designer will help you focus on what you want the garden for – that is the crucial thing,” says Charlotte. “Who is going to be using it? Is it a garden for entertaining; a garden for children; do you want to grow vegetables? They’ll also help you frame your ideas around your likes and your dislikes.

“When you’re selecting garden designers, make sure you see portfolios of their work and photographs to make sure that their style is in keeping with what you’re hoping for.

“Finally, ask for references or recommendations from previous clients or architects that they’ve worked with.”

Chelsea, of course, requires gardens to look their best immediately and construction involves a quick turnaround. However, Charlotte has been planning for months, using the Hampshire nursery Hortus Loci to get the plants ready, and testing components such as the terrace and the boulders in advance.

And no matter whether it’s at Chelsea, in a client’s garden or in her own backyard, Charlotte ­enjoys getting her green fingers dirty. “I like setting out my plants myself rather than just issuing a planting plan and asking people to get on with it,” she says. “I like selecting my plants, I like selecting my trees. I’m pretty hands on and that’s important to me.”

RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from Tuesday 23 May to Saturday 27 May

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Re-designing urban food gardens to deliver maximum benefit

Re-designing urban food gardens to deliver maximum benefit
Credit: University of South Australia

Ever wondered why growing food at home never seems to save you any money?

Two researchers, Dr James Ward (University of South Australia) and Dr John Symons (Victoria University) think they may have the answer, and it lies in mathematics.

Their work, published in the free open access journal Horticulturae, uses a mathematical optimisation technique called ‘linear programming’ to design urban gardens that deliver the maximum cost-saving to households.

“Growing food at home used to be something people did to be thrifty,” says Dr Ward, lead researcher on the project, “but these days it’s become more of a trendy thing that’s only done by people who have enough disposable income.”

One of the biggest recent changes to garden affordability is the rising price of .

And anyone who has tried to grow any reasonable amount of food at home knows that fruit and vegetables are thirsty.

“In Hobart, you can still get water for around a dollar per kilolitre,” Dr Symons says.

“That’s enough to irrigate, maybe two square metres of productive veggies for a whole year.

“But in a water-scarce city like Melbourne or Adelaide you’re paying more than three times that amount.

“If you’re not careful you could easily spend more on the water than the value of the food you grow.”

And it’s not just the cost of water that changes.

“In dry cities you’ve got a double-whammy – the dry climate means plants need more water, and that water costs an arm and a leg,” Dr Ward says.

Their approach uses a model previously developed by Ward, called LUDO – Land Use Dietary Optimisation – that first simulates the food products needed to deliver a balanced diet for minimum cost and then selects which foods could be strategically grown at home to further reduce the food bill.

“The results are really interesting. It all comes down to your garden size,” Dr Symons says.

“With a small garden the model lets you be really selective, choosing just high-value niche crops like strawberries, basil, tomatoes.”

Interestingly the model also includes free-range chicken eggs, which the researchers claim can deliver high-value food while requiring almost no water.

“The bigger your garden, the more you’ll have to fill it up with lower-value crops because, let’s face it, you can only eat so much basil and strawberries,” Dr Ward says.

“So naturally, profitability per square metre goes down as garden size goes up.

“But still, we see up to about 40 square metres per person, even in a dry city like Adelaide, with the right crops you should be able to return a profit – that’s after the cost of irrigation and fertiliser, chook feed – of around $30 per square metre.”

In other words, a medium-sized, well-designed garden could potentially deliver annual food savings of over $1,000 per person.

Now that’s food for thought.

Asked what will happen with the work from here, Ward and Symons say that the software lends itself to a design app. Any enthusiastic app developers are encouraged to contact them.

Explore further:
Madison Square Garden hit by data breach

More information:
James Ward et al. Optimising Crop Selection for Small Urban Food Gardens in Dry Climates, Horticulturae (2017). DOI: 10.3390/horticulturae3020033

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Public invited to May 20 Plant Promotion fundraiser





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