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Archives for July 16, 2017

Mid-winter gardening tips

Sabrina Hahn list off three of the top jobs to do in the garden this week.

1. Start pruning roses in frost-free areas.

2. Spray all garden beds and plants with a seaweed solution to help improve their vitality over winter.

3. Take out the oldest stems of the May bush (spirea) at the base so that it retains its lovely weeping appearance.

Tip of the week

To prevent rabbits eating newly planted trees on properties, place three tires around the tree.

Do you have a gardening question for Sabrina?

Write to Habitat Ask Sabrina, GPO Box N1025, Perth WA 6843, or email

Please include your full name and suburb.

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Garden Tips: Creatures I do not want in my house — earwigs – Tri

While I can tolerate spiders inside my house, other crawly creatures are not welcome — and I am willing to bet that you are not cordial to them either.

This past week I have found several earwigs inside my house. I detest these fast-moving repulsive little beasts.

The European earwig is a non-native insect that is believed to have arrived in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the country in the early 1900s and is now found throughout the country. Interestingly, there are 21 other species of earwigs found in the U.S., 10 of which are native here. However, it is the European earwig that is most commonly encountered in local gardens and occasionally indoors.

European earwigs are a dark reddish-brown color and about half an inch long when mature, but the younger nymphs are smaller and lighter brown in color. Their most distinguishing features are their elongated flattened body and the nasty looking pincers or forceps at the end of the male’s abdomen.

As nocturnal insects, earwigs forage for food at night. During the day they hide in confined dark spaces, such as under flower pots or garden debris, inside rolled leaves or flower buds, and beneath mulches.

Earwigs are scavengers that feed primarily on dead insects and rotting organic matter, but they also nibble away on the soft tissues of some plants. They have been known to chow down on flower petals, lettuce and young tender plant leaves. They leave behind irregular holes and ragged edges. European earwigs also create holes or shallow pits on the surface of the fruit of some crops, such as strawberries, raspberries, peaches and apricots.

Despite the possible damage they do to plants, many entomologists avow that earwigs are beneficial insects. This is because earwigs are omnivores and also feed on aphids, insect eggs, maggots and plant mites. Most years, earwigs are not a serious problem and cause only minimal damage to plants. However, some years their populations explode and they become pests.

When you find an earwig or two indoors during the summer, their presence is usually incidental. Earwigs prefer cool, moist conditions and sometimes migrate indoors when summer weather turns hot and dry. In search of moisture, they are most often found in bathrooms, basements and under damp clothing. When an occasional earwig is encountered indoors, it should simply be squashed or vacuumed up.

If you experience an overwhelming earwig invasion, experts recommend eliminating habitat around the home that may be favoring their presence. This includes pulling organic mulch three feet away from the home’s foundation, cleaning plant debris out of gutters and foundation wells, trimming back plants touching and shading exterior walls, and removing any wood piles situated close to the home. Block possible entry sites into the house using caulking, weather stripping and screening.

If numerous earwigs are present indoors over a prolonged period of time, it is important to look for and correct any possible moisture situations in crawl spaces and around plumbing.

In the garden, earwig damage is usually minimal, but large populations may warrant control measures. To learn more about using non-chemical traps to control earwigs, go to Organic and inorganic insect baits also are available to home gardeners for control of earwigs in food gardens. These are applied to the soil at the base of plants according to label directions. Always read and follow the label directions.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Tips for taking better photos of your garden and wildlife | Lifestyles …

So the garden you planted or enjoy each day is flowering. Birds and animals are busy in your yard or neighborhood. And you’d love to capture all this natural beauty in photos.

It’s so easy these days to pull out a phone and take pictures of anything anytime, but a little time and thought can produce better garden and wildlife photos.

“There’s a big difference between that for-the-record shot that preserves a memory and getting a really nice image,” says Brenda Tharp, author of the new book “Expressive Nature Photography.”

Pause before pressing the shutter, she says, and consider: Is the light right? Can you give your photo a unique point of view by shooting from different angles and levels, moving to the side, crouching or standing on something?

Try to identify what it is about the subject matter that “stopped you in your tracks,” she says. “It’s really about narrowing down your purpose in making that picture.”

Some tips from Tharp and other nature photographers

The rule of thirds

Resist the temptation to center the subject, suggests Rob Simpson, an instructor in nature photography at Lord Fairfax College in Middletown, Va. Think of your photo as a tic-tac-toe board, and place the subject in one of the off-center thirds of the space. “It’s going to make the photo more pleasing to the eye,” he said. “It gives it balance.”

Texture is terrific

One of the most exciting things about photographing flowers and leaves is capturing something that passers-by won’t see — their textures up-close, says Patty Hankins, a floral photographer in Bethesda, Md., who sells her work and offers photography tips at A camera’s “macro” setting lets you take an extreme close-up and keep it in focus. “It shows you all these incredible things that people who aren’t stopping to look won’t see,” she says. “It’s about filling the frame with small details.”

Staying still

When using the macro setting, keep the camera as still as possible, Hankins says. “If you’re taking a picture of the Grand Canyon and your hand shakes a little, people aren’t likely to notice,” she said. “But if you’re taking a photo of the center of a sunflower, they’re much more likely to see it.” A tripod can help. Look for one that is lightweight and can get low to ground, she says. If you don’t own a tripod, find somewhere solid to place the camera or set it on a bean bag or bag of rice on the ground, and use the timer to take the photo.

Practice perimeter patrol

Before you shoot, scan the edges of your picture for buildings, outdoor furniture or other things that could distract from your subject.

Light matters

Often, outdoor photos come out better on cloudy days or when the sun is not directly overhead, Simpson says. The soft light that comes through on an overcast day will not cast harsh shadows, and may result in a more even exposure and better details. For landscape photos, however, sunlight can add drama. Consider shooting in the warm light found in early morning or late afternoon when the angle of the sun is low.

Think 3-D

Having items in a picture’s foreground and background helps put the viewer in the photo and creates a sense of depth, Tharp says. When taking a photo of a meadow or landscape, include objects closer to the camera as well. Another way to create dimension is to angle the camera downward a bit, emphasizing the foreground and creating that near-far relationship.

Animal action

The best animal photos reveal the subject’s behavior or personality, Tharp says. Take time to observe the animals and wait for the best shot. But be ready to capture the action when it happens. Simpson recommends a fast shutter speed to avoid missing the shot.

Shutter selections and apertures

Becoming a better photographer will mean understanding shutter speeds and apertures, Tharp said. The right shutter speed can mean the difference between freezing the motion of a moving animal or ending up with a blur. When photographing something in motion — an animal, bird or waterfall — give precedence to shutter speed over aperture, which is the amount of light being allowed into the lens. If controlling the sharpness of the background is the goal, prioritize aperture, because it defines the depth of what will be in focus, she said.

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Gardening Tips: July 15, 2017

Earl May Yard and Garden Expert Mark Thoms says Central Iowa is getting hit hard by Japanese Beetles this month. He has some tips on how to get rid of them. Rabbits continue to be a problem in people’s yards, so he shares some helpful ways to keep them away.

Submit your yard and garden questions by clicking here. We will answer them on a future Saturday.

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Ideas from the Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk

Last weekend I had only limited time to visit gardens during the Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk. Still, the experience in just three gardens reminded me of the value of the whole regional phenomena. (Western New York offers five weeks of walks, tours and Open Gardens that comprise about 1,000 private gardens that you can visit.)

No matter where you go, gardens will surprise you, stimulate ideas, and may even change your mood and outlook for an entire day, week, or longer – as the following did for me.

Bright colors and hospitality

Some gardens just say “Come in, sit down, have a beverage, and stay awhile!” That is the Washut and Kelkenberg garden in Hamburg, one of my perennial favorites.

The café-like setting, with great cushioned seats and multiple umbrella tables, is visually exciting and just feels like a happy place. Gardener Kathy Kelkenberg told me the original idea was to buy one picnic table with umbrella, but somehow one became three, and now? “When we put the umbrellas down, the party is over – it looks like nothing,” she said.

Good reminder to us all: Provide seating and tables – generously – so that people will want to stay.

While first impressions in this garden are of brightness, color and furnishings, it’s also a study in garden design and use of space. For instance, how would you use the space in a village corner lot, to allow for some privacy?

The banana plant in the Washut/Kelkenberg garden. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The gardeners created a west-facing perennial border (great for pollinators as well as passers-by) that faces the sidewalk and is backed by shrubs that close off the yard.

Inside, garden paths effectively create outdoor rooms and lead guests to specific planting beds and artifacts. A pondless waterfall, surrounded by proportionate shrubs and flowers, divides the café area from other sections and provides a calming effect.

One visitor wrote in the Guest Book: “This is a good place to meditate – with my eyes wide open!” I agree. Beyond design, the garden also shows off special plants. Bright planters overflow with grasses and tropicals, looking effortless, but with more analysis you can identify a lot of fine gardening and experience underlying this appealing garden.

I really did not want to leave this space, but I took with me the determination to brighten up my seating areas and to keep my eyes open for more dramatic containers. And I must sit still more often and just look.

(Note: See more photos of the Washut and Kelkenberg garden in Hamburg – as well as gardens in Lockport and Lackawanna – in this Sunday’s Home Style section.)

Make an original statement

I asked Marg Rust, who coordinates Buzz Around Hamburg, what garden I should show on TV this season – maybe a newer one that I hadn’t shown or written about?

“The Povinelli garden,” she said. “It’s, well, less about plants and more about really amazing hardscape and design creations. They’re so original.”

She was surely right … cobblestones salvaged from a factory floor on Ohio Street, slate from old Hamburg Village sidewalks, a potting table made from original posts that were part of a porch built in 1882 (dated and signed by the craftsman), a collection of cobalt-blue glass panes that stand behind yellow daylilies – salvaged from St. Brigid’s Church, built in 1859 and burned in 1968.

Another treasure – that most people would have left to deteriorate – is a Goshen Glide Settee that Tom Povinelli’s parents bought in 1940. It spent decades “moldering in a barn” before he restored it.

Treasures came from many places to create this most original garden. Janet and Tom Povinelli trucked in a 2-ton boulder from Gernatt Asphalt Products that they informed is a “Leaverite.” They said that with a wink. Then I learned: People who move boulders like to say, “Leave ‘er right there.”

The original Povinelli approach didn’t end with hardscape items. They transformed a hilly mount of grass into the most unexpected, dramatic, Japanese-inspired raked-stone garden. This flat, quiet space is surrounded by a round berm, with woolly thyme covering the inner wall. You must see it next summer, or if you’re lucky, make friends sooner with these cool, creative people.

My thought leaving this garden: Sometimes artistry – being “original” – is a matter of keeping one’s eyes open and having the imagination to see an object that others don’t, and knowing that it’s worth keeping, restoring or repurposing. The Povinellis certainly have the eyes for it.

Dave and Barb Whittemore’s garden in Hamburg was also featured in The Buffalo News in 2015. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

Intense, passionate collectors

The Whittemore garden is an Open Garden and a tour bus destination this season, and I’ll take people to it whenever I can. Words, and even pictures, don’t capture the intensity of these artistically arranged and densely packed collections of hostas (more than 350) and dwarf conifers and perennials, complemented by moving train sets no less.

Barb Whittemore told me this happens often: A woman carrying a garden tour map starts down the ramp into the back garden, and will gasp and turn around, saying “Oh, I’ll be right back!” Return she does, leading her husband, who’d chosen to stay in the car after seeing enough gardens that day. This one is also for him.

In fact I can’t imagine who would not be impressed by so many plants, so beautifully tended, in a small yard, with the additional achievement of making several railroads operational. The Whittemores are diligent, passionate, accomplished, and eager to share.

When you see gardens on tour, remember how much these people are giving of their time and effort, and the risks they are taking, exposing their taste and choices.
It’s such a gift.

The fourth garden

After touring that day I returned home with the intention of doing some computer work and starting some laundry. My garden called me instead. There they were: the fluffy, pink Filipendulas and the hedge of Sorbaria blooming, the bright daisies surrounding a yellow rose, and so many daylilies just opening – one more delightful than the next.

I was so happy I’d dragged out the blue birdbath and blue bottles for the bottle tree, and I’d made the little fountain work. It’s not a showplace garden like those amazing ones, but it’s my favorite of all. And that may be the important thing: Garden for the joy of it, whether guests are coming or not.

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.


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Down to Earth: Creating An Artistic Hydrangea Garden

The layers of a landscaped hydrangea garden include trees for a visual ceiling and much-needed shade, along with herbaceous plants such as day lilies. Shown is the North American Hydrangea Test Garden at Heritage.

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The garden tours are here

July is always a fun month where the garden begins to fill with constant color as this is the time when all the annuals begin their consistent blooming until the autumn frosts arrive. Often it is hot, but that is the kind of weather I thrive in, so I absorb as much of it as I can as I know it will be short lived. July is also the month for the garden tours, both locally and regionally. This is everyone’s chance to get a glimpse into some backyards to witness some very creative design work.

I personally love to go on garden tours as I find them to be a great resource for new ideas, a chance to see new and different design elements and get to talk to other gardeners along the way. When we stay in our own yards day in and day out, our outlook on things becomes a bit tunneled. By going out and seeing what other people do opens the door of creativity once again to allow you to explore new and unique things.

There are always many things to see on these tours; not only can you take a friend and enjoy them with a nice visit along the way, but you can throw all sorts of thoughts around.

The main thing you will see is an abundance of plants. That is always a thrill as oftentimes there will be some plants that many people have never seen before and find exotic or interesting. Some might be non-hardy tropical where others might be a new hardy perennial for our area that isn’t common yet. Annuals are always a thrill as they produce that intense and abundant color for the rest of the season. There can be some very unique specimens in this genre also. It is on one of these garden tours that I had discovered the annual penstemon called red phoenix and have had it in my garden every year since.

Not only are there great perennials and annuals on the tour, but also many interesting trees and shrubs. Sometimes they are the common species, but many times there is one in the bunch that really stands out and takes notice. It is for these specific reasons that I enjoy the tours so much!

Many gardens have unique statuary and garden art. Some are whimsical, some are quaint or funny, and others command attention. Some gardens will have birding elements such as baths, feeders and houses of numerous types, and others will have various types of water features. All of these accent pieces can really add a sense of calm to the garden space for a little evening relaxation.

Patios and decks often accompany these gardens too. Some are simple and others are very elaborate that may include extraordinary outdoor kitchen spaces. Some will have pergolas and others will have tables and large umbrellas with comfortable sitting spaces. Many of them may give you great ideas for your own space when that next project demands a little creativity.

This year there will be four gardens on the tour. Each of these four gardens will be very different from the other, allowing you a large array of things to think about. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 the day of the tour, which will be available at any of the homes you get to first. Advanced tickets can be obtained via the AAUW bookstore, the Arts Center, Country Gardens Floral, Lloyds Motors, the Garden Gate and Don’s House of Flowers. Proceeds from the tour go to support the AAUW Endowment Fund at the University of Jamestown. The foundation provides grants and funding for projects that promote equality for girls and women.

The tour sites this year will be Kimm Avans, 418 4th Ave. SE; Frank and Stephanie Jensen, 1605 3rd Ave. NE; Alan and Mary Sargent, 3161 Highway 281 N; and yes, I will be on the tour again this year at 1601 7th Ave. SE. It will be a great day for a tour, and I would love to see you all there supporting this wonderful cause while touring the beautiful gardens for a pleasant evening out. Don’t forget to take many pictures and bring a notebook to write down the ideas you find most interesting. I hope to see you all there!

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Garden tours, kitchen remodeling and more

Arty gardens

Take a self-guided stroll through lush southwest Minneapolis landscapes at the Tangletown Gardens Art Garden Tour, while helping to fund public art and garden projects in the Twin Cities. The tour is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 22; pick up maps at Tangletown Gardens, 5353 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. The event closes with an evening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at the garden center, with music, dancing and refreshments from Wise Acre Eatery. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 tour day. Go to

Pollinator garden tour

Interested in gardening to benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators? Learn more at a free garden tour sponsored by the Andover Pollinator Awareness Project. Five gardens will be open for self-guided tours, including a shade garden, acreage with fruit trees, a garden with bug management by chickens, prairie landscaping with native plants, and a low-maintenance pond buffer with wildflowers and prairie grasses.

Hosts, including Master Gardeners, will be on hand at each home to answer questions. The tour is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 22. A tour map is available at or in person at Andover City Hall, 1685 Crosstown Blvd., during business hours Monday through Friday.

Kitchen remodel class

Learn about pollinators on free garden tour in Andover.

Skyrocket: A catchy trumpet – Casper Star

Whenever Christine Peterson posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

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PCMG offer advice for sustainable, healthy plants and gardens

As temperatures continue to climb, the Parker County Master Gardeners Association (PCMG) offered their advice for keeping sustainable, healthy gardens and plants throughout the season and year-round.

The “Sustainable Sites Initiative,” developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, provides core principles and guidelines for sustainable gardening, PCMG member and past president Jerry Parr said.

“Their proposal is aimed at changing the way we design and maintain our landscapes,” Parr said. “[Their program] has has the goal of creating beautiful landscapes while reducing the use of water and other resources. The Sustainable Sites Initiative attacks the problem with a variety of methods. 

“It has at its core the following principles: Treat water as a resource, value your soil, conserve material resources, foster environmental stewardship, and preserve plant materials. When these methods are applied in the home landscape it produces viable results.” 

To conserve water while keeping a healthy, visually-pleasing lawn, Parr recommended reducing “the most water hungry plant in the landscape, turfgrass.”

“Begin replacing areas of your lawn with drought-tolerant plants or hardscapes such as paths, decks and patios. Use mulch to help conserve water,” he said. “Then, install drip irrigation in these new landscape beds. Consider installing a rainwater harvesting system to catch the rain that falls on your roof, and redirect it to a ‘rain garden’ that will put the water to use and keep it on your property.” 

Good soil is essential to any garden, and care should be taken to preserve it, Parr said.

“It takes 1,000 years to create one inch of topsoil, and one day for a bulldozer to remove it,” he said. “Compacted soil caused by heavy equipment can lead to many problems that affect plant growth and lead to water run-off on your property. If you have good soil, keep it by maintaining it from year to year. 

“If, like many of us, you have clay soil, amend it by adding compost along with a commercial product called expanded shale. If your soil is sandy, amend it with compost. Make every effort to take care of your soil, and it will reward you by retaining and redirecting water to your thirsty plants.”

Composting yard waste like grass cuttings, tree trimmings and leaves helps add nutrients to the soil.

“Compost leaves and other plant materials so you can reuse them in your landscape,” he said. “Compost is a critical piece in the puzzle of our Parker County soil.”

Testing soil to determine what kind of fertilizer is needed and how much to use can improve water quality for the entire community.

“A study of our water quality reveals that we use way more fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides than we need,” he said. “This not only contributes to water pollution from runoff, it also hits the pocketbook every time you purchase a new bag or bottle. Do yourself a favor and have a soil test. Then you will know exactly what kind of fertilizer you need and how much to apply. 

“When you purchase fertilizer, go for the extended release. It will stay in your soil and benefit your plants for months. When you have a choice, choose native or adaptive plants. These plants have adapted to survive in Texas without the help of fertilizer. Use the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) philosophy for managing insects, plant diseases, and weeds. This philosophy has the application of a chemical control as the last resort.”

When choosing plants for a yard or garden, try to choose native and adaptive plants, as they require less maintenance.

“If you are clearing your property for a garden or landscaping, carefully evaluate the native plant life,” Parr said. “You may be surprised at the beauty and diversity of the trees, shrubs, and flowers already growing once the clutter is cleaned up. When adding or replacing plants in your landscape choose native or adaptive plants over the more exotic varieties. 

“It will help reduce the need for irrigation, fertilization, and pesticides. Imagine the satisfaction of looking forward to summer with confidence that your landscape will not only survive, but thrive.” 

For more gardening resources – including checklists for the rest of July and August – email, call 817-598-6168 or visit

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