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Archives for May 19, 2017

Cornwall Library’s Books & Blooms benefit features author Ellen Ecker Ogden

Cornwall Cornwall Library presents Books Blooms 2017: The Art of the Kitchen Garden, to benefit the library’s programs.

The weekend begins on Friday, June 9, 6 p.m. with “Kitchen Garden Design: the Art of Growing Food” a talk and book signing by Ellen Ecker Ogden, acclaimed garden designer and author. A cocktail reception with selections from Ogden’s cookbooks and a silent auction are capped with one hour of garden design consultation by Ogden

On Saturday, June 10, from 10 am to 4 pm you may tour unique kitchen, farm and flower gardens throughout the day. Book sale of new and out-of-print gardening books will also be available at the Cornwall Library.

Ellen Ecker Ogden is a food and garden writer who co-founded “The Cook’s Garden” seed catalog in 1984. This introduced home gardens to European and American heirloom lettuces and salad greens. She has written five books and teaches and lectures on farm-to-table cooking and kitchen garden design.

Her newest book, “The Complete Kitchen Garden,”, features her own designs to inspire gardeners to create works of art. Based on the seasonal cycles of the garden, each chapter provides a new way to look at planting stages with themes and designs. Ellen contributes to numerous national magazines, and has been a guest on PBS and HGTV.

For more information, call 860-672-6874, or visit or email

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Treasure Valley gardening events include plants that attract butterflies

Wednesday, May 17

Succulent Wreath: 6 p.m. at FarWest Garden Center, 5728 W. State St., Boise. Choose from a wide variety of succulent cuttings to create this living piece of art that is perfect to display outside on a fence or your front door. $40. RSVP to 853-4000.

Thursday, May 18

Four-Season Beauty: 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise. Terry Sims, The Garden Artist LLC, will walk you through the design process and plant selections to achieving four-season interest in your garden. Handouts will be provided. $17 general, $12 IBG members. Register: 343-8649.

Saturday, May 20

Smart Pots or Bring Your Own Container: 10 a.m. at FarWest Garden Center, 5728 W. State St., Boise. Container Garden Party — materials available for purchase and you can plant during the class with your friends. There will be a demo by Tina Canham of Smart Pots, a reusable fabric aeration container that allows you to grow more plants in less space. Free. RSVP to 853-4000.

Design with Idaho in Mind: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn about the best native, waterwise and regionally adaptable plants for the urban environment. Free. RSVP to 995-2815 or email

Organic Gardening Workshop: 1 to 3 p.m. at Nampa Public Library, 215 12th Ave. S. Interactive workshop will provide you with techniques and strategies on how to grow food in a chemical-free environment. Adult gardeners are invited to attend this class with master gardener Sarah Fulkes, as she demonstrates the benefits of organic gardening. Free. Contact Sherrie at; 468-4474.

Wednesday, May 24

Butterflies and Pollinators: 6 p.m. at FarWest Garden Center, 5728 W. State St., Boise. Learn which plants are the most attractive to migrating and native butterflies. Free. RSVP to 853-4000.

Saturday, May 27

Garden Editing: 11 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Learn the tips and techniques for editing your garden. Free. RSVP to 995-2815 or email

Sunday, June 11

Private Gardens Tour: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Boise Bench area. Fundraiser for the Idaho Botanical Garden, its plants and programs, and the Lunaria Grant. $25 general, $20 IBG members in advance; $35 and $30 day of event. 343-8649.

Tuesday, June 13

A Passion for Penstemons: 6:30 p.m. at the Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise. Spend a little time indoors to be introduced to this group of plants before going outside to see them in spectacular bloom. $20 general, $15 IBG members. Register: 343-8649.

Wednesday, June 14

Home Composting 101: 6:30 p.m. at the Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise. Sierra Laverty, IBG gardener and educator, will teach you how to create a hot three-bin system, manage a cold and slow compost pile, how to use a compost tumbler, and many other methods. $20 general, $15 IBG members. Register: 343-8649.

Saturday, June 17

Idaho Rose Show: Noon to 5 p.m. in the Aspen Room, The Riverside Hotel, 2900 Chinden Blvd., Boise. Presented by Idaho Rose Society. Free. 440-7826.

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Westfield Girl Scouts earn award for garden design and planting


Girl Scout Cadettes from Holy Trinity School’s Troop #40302, Margot Motyczka, Isabela Allen and Martha Byrne, have earned their Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award a Cadette can earn.  Their project, Planting the Seeds of History, was to research, design, and plant a Perennial Victorian Garden on the grounds of the Westfield Historical Society’s Reeve History and Cultural Center.  Each girl devoted over 50 hours of service to the enhancement of this community treasure.  They will receive their awards at the town-wide ceremony later in May.

This item was submitted by Gretchen Byrne.

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Officials flesh out ideas for Mentor retail development at Route 2, 615 – News

This rendering shows the layout of a proposed retail redevelopment project southwest of routes 2 and 615 in Mentor. However, elements may change following feedback from the Planning Commission at a May 17 work session.

This rendering shows the layout of a proposed retail redevelopment project southwest of routes 2 and 615 in Mentor. However, elements may change following feedback from the Planning Commission at a May 17 work session.

Mentor Planning Commission held a rare work session this week to address aspects of a major retail redevelopment project.

The first phase of the proposal from Pepper Pike-based Visconsi Companies, Ltd.,will transform about 20 acres southwest of routes 2 and 615.

“This is a project of significant size, scope and complexity, coupled with the fact that the preliminary plan was met with many questions,” said Ronald M. Traub, Mentor’s Economic and Community Development director, noting that the Newell Creek development required multiple work sessions.

Comments at the May 17 meeting mainly centered on how to make the multipronged plan cohesive.

Commission Chairman William Snow reiterated the desire for a “campus-type feel” so that “when this all gets developed, it looks like an integrated project (with) integrated architecture, integrated landscaping.”

He mentioned the development off of Interstate 271 in Macedonia as an example.

The preliminary site plan shows a 55,000-square-foot grocery store with a drive-thru pharmacy at the north end of the development and a large parking lot just south of it, with six outlots and an area designated as Phase II. Other proposed uses include a 16-pump gas station/convenience store, 48,000 square feet of retail space, a 7,000-square-foot auto parts store, a 3,000-square-foot fast food restaurant with drive-thru, another 6,000 square feet of retail space and — eventually — a 35,000-square-foot fitness center.

Some members suggested orienting the buildings so they face each other and adding a walking path connecting the buildings.

“I can’t see myself walking through the parking lot,” Commission member Katherine Cimperman said. “I don’t see this as being walkable.”

She also asked project representatives to consider adding a central feature such as a fountain and a public area — potentially for events — amid the parking lot.

Visconsi Vice President of Development Bradley Goldberg said the first priority is getting the anchor tenant through the Planning Commission review process. He noted that the project has changed to reflect changes in the retail industry since the conceptual design was approved — along with a rezoning — by voters in 2015.

“(Retailers are) a little spooked in regard to things that are happening with retail sales,” Goldberg said. “They’re reducing the size of their stores, growing at a slower rate … being more methodical … It’s a lot harder to get deals done. That’s what it really comes down to.”

The original concept plan for the development had included an 87,000-square-foot grocery store, a 45,000-square-foot fitness club and an 8,400-square-foot multitenant retail center.

The surge in online retail transactions has contributed to a number of national chains filing for bankruptcy and closing buildings.

“There have been more closures so far this year than there had been in all of 2016, so I think the traditional retail environment has been shaken to its roots,” Traub said.

“I think, in the foreseeable future, we will continue to shop for groceries in the traditional manner.”

A Giant Eagle Market District is said to be interested in the Visconsi development. This has yet to be confirmed by the developer.

Four existing businesses will remain on Route 615: El Rodeo Mexican restaurant, which will lose 50 parking spaces; Mentor Family Restaurant; Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Jim’s Discount Car Truck.

Goldberg has said he hopes to begin construction this summer.

The overall development will require a road vacation of Kelly Drive right-of-way to be reviewed and approved by both the Planning Commission and City Council. The road vacation will need to be recorded prior to any subdivision plat.

In addition, the drive-thru window will require a conditional-use permit as part of final site plan approval.

Don’t Miss

Part of retail project at Mentor interchange ready to roll

Mentor gives early OK to redevelopment project

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What you should consider before hiring an architect – Fairbanks Daily News

FAIRBANKS — The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: I’m building a house. Do I need an architect? 

A: So you’re planning to build a house. Congratulations! There are so many decisions to make from the time you find land and the day you finally move in to your new home. One is whether to hire an architect.

Whether or not you need an architect depends on your vision for the house, your builder and your personal experience with design and construction.

Architect provide overall vision and building plans for a unique home project. They have the education and training to help maximize your budget and ease the design and construction process. They understand all aspects of building as well as the local zoning laws and building codes. They can draw from a variety of building techniques and styles to create a house that suits your needs (many general contractors and custom homebuilders also have plan sets you can choose from or modify). 

Some architects have a particular niche, such as energy efficiency, landscaping or historic preservation. Hiring an architect when building a home gives you access to these skills and experience.

Here are a few questions to consider that may help you decide.

• What do you need from the architect? Keep in mind you sometimes can hire an architect (or a design firm) to participate at different levels of your building project — everything including producing a schematic design, drawing construction documents and selecting contractors to doing construction administration for the entire building process. 

If you’re considering an architectural firm, ask about its practices — will you always work with the same team or will different people contribute to the project?

• How certain are your plans and ideas? If you know what you want, and know your plans can be built to local code, you may only need a draftsperson to put together construction documents. 

However, if you’re looking for some direction with your design or need help with local building codes, then consider hiring an architect. Your architect will work with you to adapt your ideas into a few possible design options and then finalize plans for you.

 In any case, be sure to discuss the level of independence the architect will have ahead of time, what type of communication and input you will have and how often you will meet.

• What is your budget? It’s good to establish your budget for the project at the beginning. An architect doesn’t necessarily have to be an extra expense — while you pay a fee for their services, they sometimes can pay for themselves by proposing ways to reduce costs, such as developing creative design solutions, streamlining your building process, creating a timeline for design and construction that fits Alaska’s short building season and designing a home that meets both your current and future needs. Also, sharing your budget with an architect allows them to use their knowledge of the local building community and cost environment to design a home that fits your budget.

• Can you see photos of their work or call references? While some architects are famous for a particular type of design, the majority of architects are skilled at taking a client’s vision and turning it into reality. 

Were past clients happy with how the architect interpreted their ideas? Do the designs fit into the local landscape? Are the buildings different or do they all look similar; if they look similar, is it a look you want for your home?

Lastly, look at homes that were built with, and without, an architect to see what fits you best.

Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, contact us at or 457-3454.

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50 Small Business Ideas for Rural America

50 Small Business Ideas for Rural Areas

50 Small Business Ideas for Rural Areas

If you think you need to live in a big city to start a successful business, you’re mistaken. There are actually some business opportunities that are better suited for rural communities. So if you’re looking to start a rural business, take a look at the list of ideas below.

Small Business Ideas for Rural Areas


Of course, living in a rural area opens up the possibility of you making a living by farming plants or animals. There are plenty of different agriculture business ideas out there for you to consider.

Antique Seller

Rural areas often have unique history and the antiques to go with it. So you could make a business scouring your local area for unique finds and then selling those goods online or at events.

Antique Mall Owner

Or you could even open up your own antique mall to give other people in your area a venue to sell their goods.


Living in a rural area means you’re likely to have access to enough space to set up a woodshed or workspace where you can create your own unique products by carving wood or using similar methods.

Furniture Upcycler

You could even specialize just in working with old furniture pieces and giving them some new life with a few quick changes.

Nature-Inspired Crafter

If you have enough natural items like flowers, leaves and sticks to work with, you could make wreaths and similar products to sell.

Farm Equipment Maintenance Provider

You could also start a business that mainly provides maintenance services to farmers and people with farm equipment in your area.

Roadside Produce Stand Owner

If you have enough space to grow your own produce at home, you could potentially start a roadside produce stand to sell your items to passers-by.

Online Seed Seller

You could even sell seeds and seedlings to help others start their own gardens. This is something you could even do online.

Plant Nursery Owner

Or you could open up a full greenhouse or nursery that customers can visit to purchase a variety of different plant products.

Rural WiFi Cafe Owner

Since wifi is sometimes hard to come by in rural areas, you could start a cafe that offers free wifi to customers to set your business apart.

Rural Coworking Space Operator

You could even start a coworking space aimed at freelancers and professionals who need a place to work but don’t want to set up shop in big cities.

Alternative Energy Installer

Since some rural residents prefer to stay “off the grid,” you could provide alternative energy installation services to help them make their homes or businesses self-sufficient and sustainable.

Landscape Photographer

Rural areas often provide beautiful backdrops that look great in photos. You can start your own photography business by taking photos of those landscape scenes and then selling them as prints.

Photo Products Seller

Or you could even turn those photos into other products like t-shirts, mugs and postcards. Then you can sell them online or in local souvenir shops.

Stock Videographer

Likewise, you could shoot video of the landscape around your area and then offer it for use in people’s online videos.

YouTube Channel Creator

You could also start your own YouTube channel where you can share a bit about rural life.

Rural Blogger

Or you could start a blog where you write about your area and life in a rural community.


You could also focus on writing longer works like books or ebooks by setting up a writing space.

Drone Operator

Rural areas also potentially offer enough space for you to use drones for photography or videography, allowing you to get some impressive landscape shots.

Drone Instructor

You could even use your drone operating skills to teach others how to use drones.

Rural Resort Operator

If you have enough space at your home or on your property, you could potentially set up a hotel or bed and breakfast where you can welcome visitors to book overnight stays.

Barn Renter

For those who have large barn spaces, you could even rent out your barn for weddings and other events.

Camping Site Operator

Or you could set up a campsite with enough space and offer outdoor areas for rent.

RV Park Operator

Similarly, you could offer outdoor space to customers who have campers or recreational vehicles they need to park during off times.

Hauling Business Owner

For those with a CDL, you could provide hauling and transportation services for people who need critical goods shipped or delivered in rural areas.

Landscape Maintenance Service Provider

People who live in rural areas may sometimes require specialized landscaping services beyond simple lawn mowing and gardening. So you can provide specialty services for those outdoor spaces.

Animal Trainer

If you’re skilled with animals, you could provide training services for pet owners or farmers with other types of animals.

Pet Boarder

You could also provide pet boarding services on your property or even provide pet care services at clients’ homes.

Cleaning Company Owner

Big name cleaning companies don’t always reach rural customers. So you could provide a much needed service by offering regular home or office cleaning services.

Grocery Delivery Service Owner

You could also provide a service for those who don’t want to drive to the grocery store regularly or don’t have the ability to carry their own items.

Restaurant Delivery Service Owner

Similarly, you could provide a delivery service from local restaurants for those customers who don’t want to travel to pick up their own food.

Microbrewery Owner

If you’re interested in brewing your own beer, you could start your own microbrewery where you invite customers or just supply beer to local restaurants.

Winery Owner

Likewise, you could make your own wine and sell it on-site or to restaurants or stores.

Local Gift Shop Owner

If your area has enough visitors to support it, you could open up a gift shop where you sell various goods that are handcrafted or unique to your area.

Tour Guide

You could also provide tour guide or informational services to visitors.

Laundry Service Provider

For those who want to provide essential services to local residents who don’t have access to some of the same amenities that are available in big cities, you could open up a laundromat or start a pick-up laundry service.

Gym Owner

If you have the space, you could also open up a gym or personal training studio on your property.

Firewood Delivery Service Owner

For those who have access to a large supply of firewood, you could sell it to local customers and even provide delivery services.


Rural homeowners might not always have access to as many home service professionals either. So you could become a professional handyman or provide more specialized services to homeowners in your area.

Restoration Business Owner

If your area has unique old buildings or artifacts, you could specialize in providing restoration services to renew those homes or items to their former glory.

Junkyard Operator

You could also collect scrap metal and other junk as part of a rural junkyard business.

Appraisal Service Operator

If you have the right expertise, you could even offer appraisal services to people with old or unique items.

Daycare Owner

People in rural communities are just as likely as others to need child care services from time to time. So you could provide in-home or onsite care to fill that need.

Elderly Care Provider

You could also provide in-home elderly care to those who want to remain in their own homes but just need help with some daily tasks.

Transportation Service Provider

Since rural areas aren’t usually full of taxis or public transit, you could fill a need by providing transportation to people in rural communities, especially for things like non-emergency medical appointments where patients are unable to drive.

Auto Repair Garage Owner

If you’re skilled with automotive repairs, you could start your own rural auto repair garage.

Rural Tech Expert

Rural communities often present some unique challenges when it comes to technology. So you could provide specialized tech support, including internet setup, smartphone repair and fixing connectivity issues.

Home Security Service Provider

You could also provide home security services that are specific to people in rural communities.

Rural Museum Owner

If your area has a unique history or any interesting attributes that people might be interested in learning about, you could open up a museum that’s specific to the rural community.

Route 66 Photo via Shutterstock

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Marina Garden Tour highlights sustainable gardens that take advantage of Marina’s foggy environment

Joey Silva's backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court and an in-ground trampoline. (Contributed)

Joey Silva’s backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court and an in-ground trampoline. (Contributed)

If You Go

What: 2017 Marina Garden Tour

When: Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Various sites in Marina; tickets and exhibits at Las Arboles Middle School, 294 Hillcrest Ave.

Admission: $15 general, $10 Marina Tree and Garden Club members

Details: Advance tickets by calling 682-8016; see for information

Going native is the best strategy for gardens in Marina, Stephen Wasson has found. He’ll be showing off his hard work during the Marina Garden Tour this Sunday, along with four other homeowners, a school and a newly established garden next to Marina City Council chambers.

“I love to put things in the ground and watch them grow,” said Wasson, an engineer, who spent his childhood living close to his grandmothers, where he learned the pleasures of tending gardens.

His front yard is a riot of color in the spring, with low-maintenance native wildflowers putting on a show that lasts through the end of May. The front porch is an homage to his grandmothers and to other close family and friends, with 40-year-old Christmas cactus, old-fashioned geraniums, ferns and other long-lived foliage plants on view.

Originally a thicket of juniper and rosemary, the front yard — planted more than three years ago — also includes the work of Simone Lajeunese of Succulent Gardens, who used succulents and cacti to create an attractive low-water landscape.

Like all the gardens featured in Sunday’s self-guided tour, Wasson’s yard is a mix of sustainable plantings suited to Marina’s foggy, windy environment, and personal accents like none other. In Wasson’s yard, those are the home-crafted bent rebar arches and vine-climbing structures that he fabricated after receiving welding instruction from a friend.

The Marina Garden Tour, held every other year, is a chance for Marina Tree and Garden Club members to display the results of battling the challenging climate and sandy soil of the area, and to show others how they can do it, too. In addition, money raised from the tour is used for tree planting and beautification projects in the city.

The gathering point for the tour is Los Arboles Middle School, where tickets will be sold the day of the tour, and attendees will be able to see exhibits by Marina Coast Water District and Save the Whales, and a drawing for a Knox garden box will be held.

It’s also a chance to see how the school garden has flourished in the past two years since it debuted in the biannual garden tour in 2015.

The passion project of science teacher Anna Munoz, the school garden’s outdoor classroom helps students learn both earth science principles and real-life lessons. The 3 R’s — Reduce, Reuse, Reycle — are on view here, as well as an aquaponics demonstration tank donated by Both Co.

Also on the tour:

• A new garden honoring the late Ken Gray, planted next to Marina City Council chambers, designed by Marina Tree and Garden Club members Grace Silva-Santella and Juli Hofmann and funded by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District’s Open Space and Coastal Preservation Grant Program.

Local stonemasons assembled a rock wall and stone walkway in one day, and club volunteers sheet mulched, planted, and assembled the drip irrigation system. A memorial bench was installed in April to remember the contributions of Gray, a naturalist with California State Parks and former city council member.

• A windswept corner lot where nothing grew has been transformed into an attractive space in five short years by Billy Perry, a CSU-Monterey Bay environmental design graduate and employee of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Perry first built an attractive redwood fence with custom gates, providing a buffer zone from ocean breezes. He created dirt hillocks for planting trees, shrubs, succulents and other plants; most are transplants, clones, seedlings, or donations.

• Nancy and Dan Amadeo’s front yard shows what can be done when a lawn is removed and drought-tolerant plants take their place.

Because of the complexities of dealing with their small, sloping, irregularly shaped lot, afflicted with poor drainage, depleted soil, and full shade in the backyard, the Amadeos pulled in Marina landscaping professionals to help.

Now, a welcoming path to the front door skirts the garage. Drought-tolerant plants adapted to the coastal environment live between the curb and the house in eye-catching shades of purple, orange, red and pink. In the backyard, the cool, refreshing ambiance of a fern grotto beckons.

• Joey Silva is a middle-school math, science and former high school shop teacher. In his landscape, Joey practices what he teaches with artistic precision and ingenuity.

Together, he and wife Danielle intentionally planned to incorporate as many sustainable living practices as possible into their landscape design.

Their tidy front yard contains raised garden beds built of recycled 6×6 lumber and whimsical focal points like concrete ball cast-offs from a class project and daggers from a dismantled catamaran, painted red to match the front door.

The backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court, and an in-ground trampoline.

• What are new homeowners to do with a yard full of sand and seashells for soil? Karin and Scott Stratton chose as their inspiration the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sandy Shore and Aviary exhibit, where ocean tides meet the sand.

The Strattons did much of the work themselves and will display the evolution of their three-years-plus landscape captured in pictures along the way. In addition, they will share success stories about their spinning composter and worm ranch and about where they sourced their native plants, boulders, and wood chips.

• Reusing and repurposing can be found in abundance in the garden of Paula Fisler, intensively planted with flowers, edibles and succulents using organic gardening techniques. Fruit trees benefit from a gutter water catchment system and southeast exposure as they mature to production age.

Fisler keeps worms and composters in the backyard, along with a poultry yard and a new greenhouse, continually replacing nutrients in the soil with richness from scraps. Raised beds at comfort height provide seating in the backyard and avoid competition with the roots of the towering cypress. The patio and tiki bar can accommodate a large guest list when friends and family gather for homemade beer brewed by her husband Mark.

If You Go

What: 2017 Marina Garden Tour

When: Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Various sites in Marina; tickets and exhibits at Las Arboles Middle School, 294 Hillcrest Ave.

Admission: $15 general, $10 Marina Tree and Garden Club members

Details: Advance tickets by calling 682-8016; see for information

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Tour of Gardens showcases native flora

You won’t see a traditional lush green lawn when you arrive at Mark and Linda Powell’s SouthWood home – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

They have combined their passion for ecology and native landscaping to create a peaceful oasis without leaving a large carbon footprint and are sharing their accomplishment during Saturday’s Friends of Maclay Gardens 23rd Annual Tour of Gardens.

“We’re thrilled to have them on the tour this year,” said Gary Griffin, Friends of Maclay Gardens president. “They have done so much with native landscaping and are so willing to share their knowledge and experience with others.”

The Powell’s 2/3-acre corner lot is fronted by the Central Park and Lakes conservation area and graced with four majestic live oaks. Instead of a lawn, pine-straw laden beds provide a background for a variety of native plants, including black-eyed Susan, American beautyberry, purple coneflowers, saw palmetto, oak leaf hydrangea and coral honeysuckle.

“I’ve always liked slow-growing native plants, no matter where we’ve lived. To me what was here to begin with is what should be here now,” Mark said. “Native plants can thrive in the conditions you have. You don’t need to add fertilizers that end up contaminating the water system.”

A low area became a rain garden, containing bluestem palmetto, saw palmetto, fakahatchee grass, Piedmont azalea, sand cord grass, blue-eyed grass, muhly grass, and golden ragwort, mulched with pine straw.  The rain garden turns into a pond after a heavy rain, but the sandy soil allows the water to percolate toward the Floridan Aquifer after just a few hours.

“When we were planning to build in SouthWood, they showed us a pattern book that had recommended styles for homes, including Craftsman designs, like our house,” Mark said. “But in the back of the book, there were landscaping suggestions including using native plants and recreating meadows.”

But for those who think a natural yard will look plain or boring, think again. The Powells worked with landscape designer David Copps to create a diverse and beautiful plan.

“He (David) made sure something would be blooming in every season,” Linda said. “We have a lot of pine straw, and I find I appreciate color. I’m drawn to the butterfly gardens. The wonderful pops of color make me feel really happy.”

The natural beauty has drawn others in, including one happy couple who used their front yard as an impromptu backdrop for their wedding photos.

“Since ours is the first home you see driving in on the south side of the lake, we wanted to add an inviting focal point for the community,” Mark said.

The Powells share the home with their 16-year-old son, Riley, two cats and a dog. The family moved to Tallahassee from Miami in 2008 and moved to SouthWood in 2010. Mark grew to love Tallahassee while he attended Florida State University for both his undergraduate and PhD degrees. Thanks to the computer age, they had the luxury of continuing their Miami jobs while living in the city of canopy roads.

It’s no surprise their home is engineered to mitigate harm to the environment.

Mark attributes his passion for ecology to his lifelong love of sailing and career in science. He worked for NOAA in Miami at the Hurricane Research Division for 36 years and now leads the RMS (Risk Management Solutions) office in Tallahassee. RMS is the global leader in natural catastrophe risk modeling for the insurance industry and his office focuses on analysis and forecasting of hurricanes. Linda recently retired from Florida International University where she was a data scientist working with the Everglades restoration program.

“To keep down noise and eliminate fossil-fueled lawn maintenance pollution, we use electric yard tools to mow and edge the lawn and swale areas and sweep the walks,” Mark said.  “In addition to powering most of the home’s electrical needs, an 11 kW solar PV system helps charge batteries for a lawn mower, weed whacker and leaf blower.”

They also have a rainwater harvesting system that collects runoff from over half the roof area and funnels it into an 1,100-gallon cistern.  The cistern overflow is directed to the rain garden.  They use a seven-zone micro-irrigation system that is also fed by the cistern, with city water as a backup for the really dry times.

The Powells commitment to the environment doesn’t stop with the landscaping.  Their home received LEED Platinum certification in 2011.

“We wanted to do all we could to lessen our carbon footprint,” Mark said. “We have a solar hot water heater and do all we can to conserve energy.”

In the backyard, they do have a small area of centipede sod — just enough for a game of catch or Frisbee.

The backdrop to the lawn is a sunny “sand hill circle,” dedicated to the long leaf pines and wiregrass that were once plentiful in the area. Yaupon hollies, magnolias, Southern red cedar, Chickasaw plum, high bush blueberries, sweet viburnum and oak leaf hydrangea provide a hedgerow for privacy screening and food for wildlife. Butterfly gardens and potted orchids provide bursts of color.

Bluestem palmettos, ferns, and a bed of native wildflowers help define the outdoor entertainment area which includes a pavilion, pergola, waterfall wall, fire pit, and an Endless pool with an expansive cumaru deck.

The Powells are very hands on when it comes to the garden. They have some seasonal help from Native Nurseries, but take care of the week-in and week-out tasks themselves. There’s biweekly weeding of nut sedge grass, and thorny blackberry and smilax vines, selective dead-heading of old flower and ironweed stems and annual clipping of the native muhly, sandcord and purpletop grasses.

After the years and months spent establishing and maintaining their landscape, Linda is ready to start reaping the rewards:

“I’m looking for a nice hammock for the deck, and I’m going to get down to enjoying my retirement now.”


What: Friends of Maclay Gardens 23rd annual Tour of Gardens

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday

How:  The day starts at 9 a.m. with a continental breakfast and silent auction at Maclay Gardens. Participants will then get maps and directions for a self-paced and self-driven tour of eight area gardens where docents from the Leon County Master Gardener program will be on hand to answer questions.

Where: Starts at Maclay Gardens, 3540 Thomasville Road.

Cost: Advance tickets, $30; day of event, $35; $5.00 discount for AAA members and Friends of Maclay Garden. Tickets can be purchased online at or at Esposito’s Garden Center, Native Nurseries, Tallahassee Nurseries, Wild Birds Unlimited, and the Ranger station located at the entrance of the State Park – cash or check only at these Locations.

For more information: 850-487-4556;


From colorful brochures to directional signs on the Lake Overstreet Trails, nonprofit Friends of Maclay Gardens provides year-round financial and volunteer assistance to the state park.

This year FOMC is making significant contributions to an extensive redesign of the park’s irrigation system so it will function more efficiently. The group also has funded comprehensive wayfinding signs on the Lake Overstreet Trails and provides amenities and equipment for the park on an ongoing basis when the park budget falls short.

“That’s our mission,” FOMG President Gary Griffin said. “We’re here because we love this unique park and all it has to offer to our community. We want to see it flourish and thrive for generations to come.”

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Design tips: Create striking garden designs from a bird’s-eye view

By Lauren Dunec Hoang, Houzz contributor

Gardens are often enjoyed twofold: both in looking out on the garden from the home and by being in the garden itself. Designing gardens specifically to be viewed from above is a concept that originates in Elizabethan times. Think of formal French parterre gardens or classic English knot gardens, both popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. With clipped boxwood hedges, herbs and flowers laid out in designs as intricate as Oriental rugs, these classic gardens were designed to be looked down upon from their owners’ castles and manors.

These days — with much smaller yards and less time to devote to maintaining labor-intensive parterres — there’s still something to be said for considering how a garden looks from above. By balancing shapes, patterns and textures from a bird’s-eye view, you can design a garden that’s not only a pleasure to be in, but also to look down on. Whether your client has a sunken courtyard, a lower-level urban garden or would simply like to look down on an interesting backyard from upstairs windows, here are eight ideas for creating an eye-catching garden when viewed from above.

industrial landscape from above

Photo: Thuilot Associates

1. Go for bold geometric forms.When laying out pathways, patios and planting beds, you can create an effective bird’s-eye view with large-scale geometric shapes. Exaggerated forms, such as this dramatic zigzag of a path leading to a fire pit, may be less noticeable while in the garden but puts emphasis on the geometry from above.

succulents in a row

Photo: Studio H Landscape Architecture

2. Use repetition. Repeating forms of plants or pavers can be visually pleasing from above, offering a feeling of balance and calm. Rows of succulents placed equidistant makes a satisfying repetitive pattern along this walkway.

floating plants in small pond

Photo: Mosaic Gardens

3. Add a water element. Water activates a garden, bringing wildlife, providing sound or, in ponds, reflecting the changing sky patterns. Looking down on water in the garden, much as one would look down on a natural stream in the woods, can be particularly peaceful.

In this terraced garden in Eugene, Oregon, a recycled stock tank brimming with water lilies becomes a bright, reflective focal point of the garden viewed from the deck.

contemporary patio from above

Photo: Growsgreen Landscape Design

4. Carve out shapes with hardscaping. Look for opportunities to use hardscape materials in patios, decking and in built-in benches that create unexpected geometrical shapes. When viewed from above, this asymmetrical concrete patio made up of different-size concrete pavers is much more visually engaging than a standard rectangular patio. Using two stains for the concrete further emphasizes the shapes in the patio.

beautiful shrub architecture

Photo: Zeterre Landscape Architecture

5. Get formal. Adopt the classic style for gardens to be viewed from above by planting a proper boxwood parterre. Choose the shapes you would like for the design using graceful spirals or a series of straight-lined, overlapping forms. Fill the spaces between with gravel or leave room for planting herbs and flowers in interior beds.

stunning eclectic and small patio

Photo: New Eco Landscapes

6. Choose materials with eye-catching patterns. Look for materials that have natural variation in pattern, such as cut stone pavers, or create geometric patterns in how the material is set.

In this backyard in Brooklyn Heights, New York, a brick patio laid out in concentric circles creates an interesting, unexpected pattern to look down on from the house.

flowering tree

Photo: The Plant Place Nursery

7. Select plants to look down on. When choosing plants for gardens designed to be viewed from above, pay particular attention to their form and habit. Evergreens clipped into topiary work well for adding shapes and geometry. Rosette-forming succulents and agaves are visually interesting from above.

For flowering perennials, shrubs and trees, consider those that hold their blossoms upright and above foliage for the best view when looking down. Dogwoods (Cornus spp.), for example, keep their flowers upturned along the tops of branches, giving a fabulous show viewed from above.

landscape with life size zen garden

Photo: Whipple Russell Architects

8. Consider areas that would otherwise be wasted. Look for places in the landscape that could become gardens designed to be viewed from above, such as the space beneath a floating deck or the lower level of a terrace.

In this Los Angeles garden, a Japanese-inspired composition transforms a sunken space under the stairs. Rock gardens, complete with gravel raked into intricate spirals, work particularly well in areas with little foot traffic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is from Houzz. Hoang is a landscape designer and was previously a garden editor for Sunset Magazine and in-house designer for Sunset’s Editorial Test Garden.

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