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Archives for May 15, 2017

Welcome to my garden at the lake – The Lima News

It seems right that every home with wonderful interior spaces should be surrounded by equally stunning gardens, doesn’t it? At my lake cottage, I’ve been hard at work on the inside stuff. But, unfortunately, I am an abject failure when it comes to gardening. Once, I made a feeble attempt to bring the courtyard at my Atchison, Kan., home to life, only to be told by dear friends that the plants I’d been cultivating were poison ivy. Oops!

Apparently once you have picked the right shrubs, perennials and annuals for your garden, then put them in the spots that are not too sunny or too shady for them, you have to also water them regularly. Who knew? Needless to say, my plant kill rate was embarrassingly high until my friends Gloria and Lynda nudged me aside and made my courtyard a paradise.

So when it came time to put in the garden at our lake cottage, I didn’t even pretend to know what I was doing. It was time to bring in the pros. I knew what I wanted: A garden that was lush and mature, full of the romantic, old fashioned flowers I loved in my dad’s garden as a kid.

While we didn’t raze the existing house, we did do extensive renovations, keeping only a few choice features, like the stone fireplaces in the living room and study. Even though everything else in the home was new, I wanted it to all look old, full of charm, like it had been a family cottage that had been passed down one generation to the next. That went for the garden too.

I learned the hard way that to get more mature trees, shrubs and perennials, you have to open your wallet. That hurt. A lot. But I considered it a wise investment in my home’s exterior design. As the trucks pulled up and the landscape started filling in, I was dazzled.

most of the houses on our street, our home sits down below the street level, with a backwards sloping lot that leads down to the lake. We decided to turn the small front yard into a patio, covering it in flag stones that have an aged patina and edging the space with raised gardens filled with flowers.

Our quiet neighborhood doesn’t see a lot of car traffic, but in the evenings, the lane is crowded with people out walking their dogs or strolling. Dan and I will sit out front on lovely evenings and catch up with our neighbors.

I could not tell you the names of almost any of the plants in my garden. Honestly. I found a garden design team I trusted, told them my vision, then got out of their way. But I know tulips! We planted tulips all around the house, in big showy masses. They are one of the most audaciously happy flowers I’ve ever seen, and I can’t get enough of them.

By Mary Carol Garrity

Tribune News Service


This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

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True to your roots: Kentucky native returns for EKU’s Carloftis Garden dedication

Rain makes gardens grow, and despite driving Eastern Kentucky University’s Carloftis Garden dedication indoors, the deluge from above was likely good for the leafy green residents of the university’s newest addition.

The former site of Martin Hall’s tennis courts recently received a facelift in the form of a garden designed by internationally renowned landscape designer and Rockcastle County native Jon Carloftis.

The master gardener and designer said the space includes many native plants, such as fringe trees, sweetbay magnolias, swamp oak, bald cypress and mountain mint.

The garden also features two large fountains on either side of a tree, which stands in the center as its heart.

Carloftis said he could have created a more natural appearing space, but when he talked to univerisity President Michael Benson and university officials, he could tell they were seeking a “wow factor.”

Carloftis said his design matched with many of EKU’s new buildings and remodels, which have been given a classical feel.

“We wanted the garden to (be) very classic, old world and established looking,” he explained.

Both Carloftis and Benson noted the garden is grand. As it grows, they said, it will be used for high school and college pictures, proposals and special moments worthy of both social media and household walls.

“It’s going to be a place people can use,” Carloftis said.

Benson noted his pleasure at the newest phase in “campus beautiful.”

“Not only is the garden on campus, but it is a gift to the community,” he said, noting the available green space that can be utilized and appreciated by not only students but many Richmond residents and visitors.

Benson said, in the future, he would like to see a walking path extend from the historic mansion Elmwood, across the pedway, through Turner Gate and into the Carloftis Garden.

While Carloftis’ work can be found across the country, this marks the largest full-scale design he has ever completed for a university. Prior to this work, Carloftis restored a waterfall on the University of the Cumberland’s campus.

Carloftis commended Benson and the EKU board for their conscious effort to make the campus beautiful. He noted the difference it makes to parents considering sending their children to school, whether the grounds are in disrepair or beaming with beauty.

Originally from Rockcastle, Carloftis found success when he first moved to New York in 1988 to start a rooftop garden business.

After several years and becoming a design phenomenon, even earning the name “gardener to the stars,” the Kentucky boy came back home two years ago, this time to Lexington where he shares a home with partner Dale Fisher.

“I thank God every day I don’t have to fight (city) traffic,” Carloftis said laughing.

Despite his travels and accolades, Carloftis says there’s no place like home, where his roots run deep. Carloftis’ mother’s family can be traced back 230 years in Clay County, his father’s, 210 years in Pineville.

Carloftis said being back in Kentucky is heaven. He’s even able to take his dogs with him nearly everyday to work.

Through his influence, Carloftis tries to bring the world to Kentucky. The publication One Kings Lane recently did a story on Carloftis and Fisher’s elaborate Derby Day party, while Garden Gun has featured him multiple times.

When living in New York, Carloftis said he took Kentucky with him; even bringing tobacco sticks with him and growing tomatoes on them.

And while Carloftis, Fisher and several others gathered for the indoor garden party, Friday also marked graduation day for more than 3,000 Eastern students. To them, the renowned Kentuckian said, “Always stay true to who you are.”

“If you try to be someone else, it’s going to be the most uncomfortable moment of your life and it’s never going to work,” Carloftis said. “Be happy and proud of where you’re from.”

Reach Critley King at 624-6623; follow her on Twitter @critleyking.

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Charlotte Harris, the exciting garden design talent bound for 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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Developer shares plan for townhouses on site of Park Ridge landscaping business

Representatives of a development team interested in acquiring the land of a decades-old landscaping business in Park Ridge recently sought guidance from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on their tentative plans to build 34 townhouses there.

Attorney Paul Kolpak, representing the would-be developer Piotr Filipek and 1440 Higgins LLC, and Guido Neri of Neri Architects, laid out a vision for the 2.19-acre site of Mr. K Garden and Material Center during a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 9.

The concept plan, as presented to the commission, called for 34, three-story townhouses on the property at 1440 Higgins Road, which is east of Dee Road and on the north side of Park Ridge’s border with Chicago. The developer has also discussed the possibility of widening Peterson Avenue to the north of the property and adding a parkway and public sidewalks, Neri said.

Currently, Peterson is a narrow, one-way street behind the garden center, with a parkway and sidewalks only on the north side of the road, where single-family homes are located.

Long, wet winter took toll on greenery

A little tender loving care is in order for your yard and garden after a tough winter.

COURTESY PHOTOS - Nicole Forbes teaches classes at Dennis 7 Dees in Washington County. She says this winter had an unusually big impact on plants and trees like the one at left.

COURTESY PHOTOS - Nicole Forbes teaches classes at Dennis 7 Dees in Washington County. She says this winter had an unusually big impact on plants and trees like the one at left.After one of the longest, wettest and coldest winters this region has seen in decades, home greenery likely is feeling a little bruised and battle-weary. Nicole Forbes teaches classes at Dennis’ 7 Dees, the chain of garden and landscaping centers, and she said the time has come to start offering a little tender loving care for the flora in your life.

“I’ve been in Oregon about 25 years, and this was one of the hardest winters I remember,” she said. “It definitely had an impact.”

Starting with the ubiquitous greenery, lawns, Forbes said the winter saw lots and lots of extra water in the form of heavy rains and a surprising series of snow storms. That’s bad for grass but good for moss, which competes with grass. That much water also tends to make soil more acidic, because rains leach alkaline. Forbes recommends starting with a Ph test of your soil. If it’s too alkaline, you probably need to add some lime.

“We tend to have alkaline soil in the Northwest in any case. But with this winter, that’ll be exacerbated,” she said.

If you’re needing new soil in your yard, May is the time to get that going.

As for shrubs and trees, Forbes said the tough winter likely leached nutrients they need as well. “Plants are waking up extra hungry,” she said.

A slow-release fertilizer with a side of compost likely is the dish they crave.

But for trees and shrubs, a harsh winter — not to mention the fierce wind storm that lashed the region on April 7 — also means physical damage .

“We see a lot of arborvitae hedges that took a beating in the snow,” Forbes said. For them, you probably want to use string and stakes, and to tie them back into an assemblage of their original shape. If you lost branches on trees, give them a clean cut beneath the breakage point. And if trees got uprooted — as happened in the April windstorm — it’s important to get them replanted within three days.

Want to know if a tree or hedge is healthy? Use your thumb nail or a small knife to dig a little into the bark. If the material beneath it is green or light tan, your plant is alive and viable. If the material is dark brown or gray, you’ve probably got a dead plant.

This winter also took its toll on perennials. Popular items like New Zealand flax likely survived the light winters of 2014 and 2015, but might have given up the ghost after this last winter. The same for some “late sleepers” like hearty fuchsias and hibiscus, she said.

However, don’t be fooled by visible damage above the ground. Your fuchsia may be hiding its healthy self underground. Be patient and watch for some new growth, Forbes advises.

In fact, “patience” is Forbes’ motto for many things, especially this spring, in which Mother Nature’s clock is running a little slow.

“I’m a soil nerd — which is a few steps worse than a plant nerd,” Forbes joked. She owns a soil thermometer. She also keeps a log of soil temperature, year-over-year. Because of that, she said our gardens and lawns are running about two weeks late this year, compared to most Northwest springs.

“My soil is right at 52 degrees,” Forbes said. If you can’t wait to get your tomatoes, cucumbers and squash into the ground … well, wait anyway. “When it hits 60 degrees, you’re good to go.”

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SUSTAINABILITY COLUMN: Bemidji is ‘Home Sweet Home’ for the birds

Bird City Minnesota recognizes and celebrates communities with a long-term commitment to creating bird habitat, reducing threats to birds, and engaging citizens in birding, bird conservation and outdoor recreation.

To qualify as a Bird City, a community needs to complete seven of 18 specific Bird City criteria. These criteria include taking actions to create and protect habitat; promote use of native plant species; create and protect nesting opportunities; practice conservation planning, reduce collisions with windows; increase awareness of birds in the community; educate and engage youth audiences; and promote citizen science monitoring and research. Over the past few months the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society led the city of Bemidji and local organizations to identify activities they each have completed. They found that Bemidji Bird City Partners are already engaged in 15 of the criteria!

Among the activities included in Bemidji’s Bird City application were native plant gardens and landscaping projects being carried out by the Bemidji Monarch Committee, MHAS Bemidji ABC (Audubon Bird Collaborative) project, BSU and at South Shore and North Country City Parks.  

“Bemidji is a great place for birds, and people” said Jaime Thibodeaux, chair of MHAS. “So many local organizations, agencies, and residents are involved in conservation and stewardship projects that benefit birds and other wild creatures.

“Just to give you a few examples; the Bogs and Logs Master Naturalist group has put up a bluebird house trail at North Country Park; Headwaters Science Center has a great “Raptors Rule” display and program with live hawks and owls; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources DNR is trying out innovative window films and decals at their regional office to reduce bird strikes (the largest human-caused factor in bird mortality); and Dr. Brian Hiller, associate professor at BSU, and his students are banding purple martins and doing important research right here in town!”

A local campaign titled: “Birds, Bees and Butterflies – Bemidji” will be starting this spring to promote planting native wild flowers, shrubs and trees. Signs downtown, on the BSU campus and around the city will highlight planters and gardens featuring bird and pollinator-friendly plants. Local garden centers will also display these signs to help customers find native plants they have available.

Native plants are the plant species found naturally in our area. They evolved with the local soils, rainfall levels, weather and climate conditions over the course of thousands of years. Every region has different native plant communities and groups of insects, birds, and other wildlife that depend on them. Plants introduced from other regions of the country or other parts of the world are called exotics. When it comes to attracting beautiful butterflies and birds to your yard or community, the best thing you can do is use native plants.

The public is invited to join in a celebration of Bemidji’s Bird City designation on June 10-11. Saturday, June 10:

  • Bird Hike – Lake Bemidji State Park, 7:15 to 8:30 a.m.
  • Minnesota Raptors at Lake Bemidji State Park, 1 to 2 p.m.

(Entry to LBSP is free on Saturday, June 10)

Sunday, June 11:

  • Bird and native plant restorations walk, BSU campus. Meet at the southwest corner of the Bangsberg Fine Arts Parking lot – near the Lakeshore Trail, 10:00 a.m. to noon.
  • Bird City designation event, Cameron City Park, 1 to 2 p.m.

For more information on Bemidji’s Bird City activities, visit

Peter Buesseler and Diana Kuklinski are members of the city of Bemidji’s Sustainability Committee.

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