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Archives for July 18, 2017

Master gardening: Deadheading for bonus blooms






A small space doesn’t mean you don’t have options when it comes to gardening. With these tips, all you’ll need is your green thumb! Keleigh Nealon (@keleighnealon) has the story!

Summer may be half over but our flowering annuals and perennials still have a big show to put on.

Deadheading, or removing spent blooms as they fade, is an essential summer chore if you want to keep your garden looking its best. It helps extend the blooming season and directs a plant’s energy into flowers and foliage rather than seed.

MORE: An ideal time for pruning trees

MORE: Blooming isn’t over just yet

A plant’s goal in life is to reproduce itself, and making seeds takes a lot of energy. Simply put, if you remove the faded or dead flowers before they go to seed, new ones are encouraged to grow. By midseason, many of your plants become overgrown, gangly and just plain messy looking. A good cleanup, beginning with a good deadheading, will bring new life to your garden.

Flowering annuals such as zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and petunias respond by pumping out fresh blooms from spring through autumn. The same is true for the flowering period of certain perennial plants like foxglove, columbine, and lavender. Some other perennials that benefit from deadheading are Shasta daisy, bee balm, speedwell, yarrow and coneflower. Not all perennials will continue to bloom after deadheading, but many look better as a result. The single-flowering day lily is just one example.

MORE: Maintaining a mindful lawn

MORE: Butterfly weed is a ‘must-have’

Before you grab your pruners, make sure you know the correct way to deadhead the spent flowers. Proper deadheading removes the entire flower head. Choosing the exact point to make a deadheading cut can seem confusing, since perennials have different flower forms. Because deadheading, like other types of pruning, is species specific, it can be difficult to group plants into categories. For most plants, however, all you need to remember is to prune spent flowers and stems back to a point where there’s a new lateral flower or bud. If no new flower is apparent, prune the stem back to a lateral leaf. If you only snip off the petals but leave the immature seed pod behind, your flowers won’t re-bloom. Just be careful not to remove any flowering side shoots.

Plants that produce tall flowering spikes are some of the most confusing to deadhead. Flowering begins at the bottom of a spike and continues upward over time, leaving a long, mostly bare stem with a few blooms at it’s top. Hollyhock and larkspur are two plants that produce flowering spikes. In order to deadhead their blooms and similar plants’ flowers, pinch off the lower blooms with your thumb and forefinger as they fade, and prune an entire stem to its base when it is about 70 percent bare.

Some plants such as ornamental grasses, astible, clematis, coneflower, liatris, and sedum produce colorful hips, berries or seeds that attract birds. Some just have interesting dried flower heads that will add to your winter garden. You may not want to deadhead these plants, so you can wait until early spring to trim back if you prefer.

MORE: Master gardening: Here are local resources

MORE: Bonding with bonsai

Many gardeners find deadheading enjoyable and relaxing. If you don’t fall into this camp, the best way to keep from feeling overwhelmed is to visit your garden daily and do a little at a time. It also gives you a chance to spot any warning signs of disease on your plants. The waves of blooms in your garden can be extended by weeks or even months.

Rita Potter is a York County Master Gardener. Penn State Master Gardeners are volunteers for Penn State Cooperative Extension. For more information, contact the Master Gardener office at 717-840-7408 or

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No two garden the same at Edelweiss walk – Petoskey News

GAYLORD —Nearly 140 people turned out to enjoy the 2017 Edelweiss Garden Walk last week during Alpenfest. The walk featured local artists, most associated with the Gaylord Area Council for the Arts, working in each garden.

“Despite the unsettled weather, our gardens were radiant,” said Sue Hegarty, co-chair of the event. We think visitors were very pleased with our selection of gardens this year. Each garden was beautiful and colorful but each also had its own unique style. Whether the robust, educational yet playful personality of the native Michigan plants of the Otsego County Demonstration Gardens; the expansive, diverse and magnificently contoured design of the Lappan gardens; the serene, contemplative and restorative aura of Sojourn Lakeside Resort; the flowing and graceful softness of the Flint gardens; or the intimate, creative and personal feel that beckoned visitors to linger in the Noe gardens – no two gardens were the same.”

“Gardening is personal and we all seek to create the peaceful atmosphere a garden offers – large or small, brightly colored plants or subtle shade plants – each is guaranteed to be different. We are very grateful to our garden owners, local artists, volunteers and visitors for participating. They were all simply awesome,” Hegarty concluded.

The Edelweiss Garden Club hosts the annual walk each year during Alpenfest. All proceeds of the walk are used to beautify the community by providing plants and supplies which are used by volunteers at several area gardens, including the Otsego County Courthouse, McCoy Road/Old 27 intersection, Energy Outlet Park at the Otsego County Sportsplex and local rest areas. For more information, see or email

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Seattle kids to discover environmental decision-making, one garden at a time

For Megan Bang, an associate professor at the University of Washington, school gardens are an academic passion, a way to create hands-on science experiences for students, improve their mental health and get them outdoors more often.

For 15 years, she’s worked to make gardens a center of learning and a way to teach responsible environmental decision-making. With the help of a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), she’s now working with Seattle Public Schools and the nonprofit Tilth Alliance to build learning gardens at three schools, as well as creating a new model for an ecosystems curriculum and providing training for teachers.

“We teach kids to understand plant cells and the plant life cycles,” said Bang. “But do we teach them in a way that shows that plant’s relationship to the soil, or to the bugs?”

Many of Seattle’s public schools already have gardens, but most are funded by PTAs, and not all are used as part of classroom lessons, said MaryMargaret Welch, science program manager at Seattle Public Schools.

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation.

· Find out more about Education Lab  

The new, NSF-funded project, which has a four-year timeline, will focus on kindergarten through third-grade classrooms at Viewlands, Leschi and Maple elementary schools. The schools were chosen because they have significant percentages of low-income students.

In Bang’s view, school gardens can encourage students to think critically about issues like water consumption, biodiversity and energy usage — based on observations they’ve made in the field, like real scientists. For example, students at the three schools may be given the opportunity to design their own gardens based on factors like weather patterns and soil-plant interactions.

“Monitoring real-world resources is complicated, and they’re not easily observable because they’re interconnected. Part of what I’m after is having a citizenry that’s capable of engaging in those real 21st-century problems, ” said Bang.

Parents and teachers will help design the garden curriculum at each of the three schools.

Combining forces with the larger community is what the grant team hopes will give the project some continuity and buy-in, as well as cultural relevance.

“Garden education is kind of associated with white, middle-class folks. But there are types of gardens that aren’t based in Western European traditions,” said Sharon Siehl, the Youth Education director for Tilth Alliance, the Seattle-based organic urban gardening nonprofit that’s helping with the project.

As she’s done in past projects, Bang said she plans on incorporating cultural context into the garden lessons, such as helping students understand methods of cultivation among indigenous populations.

The new project is one of many recent efforts to help Seattle schools adapt to a new set of national science standards, which call for teaching science in a way that fosters student interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

When the four years are up, the team hopes they’ll have enough research to make a case for expanding the model to all Seattle schools.

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New Design For Friends Of Liliuokalani Gardens

Nelson Makua and Na Makua Designs created a centennial design for Lili`uokalani Gardens that brings the Queen to the gardens named for her.

“For quite a while time, some of us have visualized what it might have been like for the Queen to visit the gardens in Hilo, a place she visited often through 1913,” said garden enthusiast K.T. Cannon-Eger. “We know she considered having a home built for her in Hilo and corresponded with John T. Baker about those plans. Illness prevented her travel to Hilo after 1913. Although she knew the garden acreage was set aside in early 1917, her death on November 11, 1917, precluded her ever seeing the gardens completed.”

“The board of directors of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens is thrilled with Nelson Makua’s design which shortly will appear on tee shirts and tote bags among other centennial celebration uses.”

Makua has been an artist and designer on the Big Island for more than 40 years. Born and raised in Kailua, Oahu, he and his ‘ohana moved to the Big Island in 1975, where they reside in Puna, the original home of the Makua ‘ohana.

“My ancestors were part of the migration from Tahiti to Hawaii who settled in Kalapana in the district of Puna,” Makua said. “Living here gave me the opportunity to connect with ‘ohana, it was like coming home.”

He is best known for his design work, with clients in Hawai‘i, the mainland and Japan. He is a two time Na Hoku Hanohano award winner for graphic design and is the only artist to have created six years of Merrie Monarch Festival posters with his limited edition “Pele” series.

Makua’s first 2003 poster has now become a collectors’ item. His 2008 Merrie Monarch poster received the prestigious Pele Award for best illustration by the Hawaii Advertising Federation.

Last year, Nelson was honored as a MAMo Awardee for 2016 in recognition for his artistic contribution as a Native Hawaiian artist.

In 1999 Nelson and his son Kainoa, created a line of casual Hawaiian wear under the brand of Nä Mäkua. “Na Makua gives us a visual voice to express our views and feelings as native Hawaiians, creating images that speak out to other Hawaiians and honor our rich heritage.” They retail their apparel and art on their website

As well as being an artist and designer, Nelson has been the director of the annual Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair for the Merrie Monarch Festival for the past 14 years. He is also the director of the Moku O Keawe Marketplace at the Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival and along with his son Kainoa, they produce their annual Na Mäkua Invitational Christmas Gift fair in Hilo.

Though Nelson was classically trained in drawing, painting and photography, he has been a digital artist for more than 20 years. “The digital age has opened up a whole new world of creating for the artist, with countless possibilities. Guided by my kupuna before me, I consider myself a Hawaiian living in my own time, creating images that reflect my time and place.”

To find out more about the garden centennial or to purchase fund raising tee shirts or tote bags, please go to the Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens page on Facebook or contact Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens at P.O. Box 5147, Hilo HI 96749.

Banyan Gallery near the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is one retail outlet for people who live in the Hilo area.

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9 ideas to make your own debt-free summer fun – WBRC FOX6 News

By Andrew Housser

When summer heats up, spending doesn’t have to. Avoid piling up new bills and debt this summer with these nine suggestions for frugal fun.

Pack a picnic. July is National Picnic Month. Look for free local events where you can take your picnic lunch or dinner. Enjoy an outdoor concert in a city park, head to a local lake to watch paddleboarders, or take a hike. Wherever you go, you can make memories and save money at the same time.

Plan meals ahead of time. Planning can help you eat simple, fresh and nutritious meals during the summer – and prevent you from grabbing pizza or burgers too often. Avoid bursting your budget with restaurant dining by planning meals a week at a time. Post menus on a kitchen bulletin board to remind everyone of the plan. Take into account travel, kids’ summer camps and hungry snackers. When in the car, take snacks or sandwiches to avoid being caught off guard.

Take a road trip. Seek out free fun – from a parade or concert to a dog show or rodeo – in a nearby community. On a longer trip, consider camping, which costs less than $40 a night at most campgrounds. If you do not own camping gear, look into renting. You also can borrow from friends or family, or via a sharing app such as Fluid.

Borrow tools instead of buying. Borrowing is not limited to camping gear. Think twice before buying a tool you need for a summer home-improvement or landscaping project. Instead, ask neighbors or relatives if they what you need. Maybe you can trade your skills or labor – from weeding to pet sitting – to cover the value of the trade. If borrowing doesn’t work, consider renting the tool from a local home-improvement store.

Bring back childhood’s simple pleasures. You know how much fun kids have riding bikes with friends, making popsicles or hanging out at the pool. Think of some of your favorite childhood pastimes – whether playing strategy games, having a water fight with the hose, or hitting the library for a new book – and try them out again with your children, a group of friends or family.

Save on air conditioning. Some utility companies offer a discount on electric bills if you allow them to turn down your air conditioning during peak times. If you live in a climate that cools down at night, consider installing an attic fan to bring in that cooler night air. Then close things up in the morning. Planting shade trees will eventually keep your home cooler, too.

Switch off your gas mower. If you are in the market for a new lawn mower, put down the gas can. Could a push (or reel) mower work for you? These machines are inexpensive, have zero fuel cost and provide some exercise, too. If you need more power, rechargeable electric mowers minimize refueling expenses.

Organize a yard sale. ’Tis the season to clean out closets, garages and spare rooms. Turn the things you do not need into cash. Choose a date, list the sale online and get ready to sell. Consider organizing a block sale with neighbors to draw in more customers. Use the money you make to pay off debt or add to your emergency fund.

Measure DIY costs versus paying a pro. If you have any spare time, try doing some home-improvement and maintenance projects yourself. For instance, painting one room might cost about $100 for paint and all the supplies you need. Paying a professional to paint it for you could cost $500 or more. Roll up your sleeves and you may be surprised at how much you can save.

Make the most of the summer season by leaving your wallet at home while you enjoy carefree (and cost-free) good times.

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.

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The Daily Rundown, Monday, July 17





CLOSE Snapple Bowl will be held July 20 at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
Greg Tufaro | Wochit

The Vinny’s to perform July 19

The Union County Summer Arts Festival Concert Series continues at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside on Wednesday evening, July 19 featuring The Vinny’s, who will perform classic rock from artists such as David Bowie, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and many more. The 7:30 p.m. show is free, and visitors are urged to pack a picnic basket, bring lawn chairs or blankets. Refreshments and snacks will also be available from Café Gallo and the Good Humor Man. Visit

READ: 188 free summer concerts around Central Jersey

Woodbridge man charged in two robberies

As a result of an investigation by the Woodbridge Police Detective Bureau, Adam Morssy, 21, of the Avenel section of Woodbridge, was arrested July 11 and charged with two counts of robbery, one count of burglary, one count of theft and one count of criminal mischief  in connection with reported armed robberies with a handgun on June 1 at the Fuel One gas station, Route 1, Avenel section, and on June 15 at the Gas Star gas station, Lake Avenue, Colonia section, as well as a reported burglary and theft at an office in the Hans Investment LLC on Middlesex Avenue in the Iselin section, police said. Morssy was transported to the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick awaiting a bail hearing. The handgun has not been recovered, police said.   

READ: The July 16 Daily Rundown

Book on South Plainfield coming soon

“South Plainfield in the 20th Century” is coming soon from Arcadia Publishing. Written by the president of South Plainfield Historical Society, Dorothy Miele, and Monmouth University professor, Richard Veit, the book focuses on the history of South Plainfield from when it was founded by the Lenape to its current place in modern times. Visit

Whitehouse School earns ENERGY STAR certification

Readington Township Public School District announced Whitehouse School in the Whitehouse Station section of the township, has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR certification for superior energy performance. ENERGY STAR certified buildings and plants are verified to perform in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide, based on weather-normalized source energy use that takes into account occupancy, hours of operation, and other key metrics For more information about ENERGY STAR for Buildings and Plants, visit

EARTH Center Open House offers fun for whole family

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County will host its Garden Field Day/Open House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 22 at the EARTH Center, located in Davidson’s Mill Pond Park at 42 Riva Ave. in South Brunswick. The rain date will be July 23. The day will be filled with activities for the whole family, including garden tours, presentations and showcases on gardening and landscaping, plus live music. Throughout the event, the Agriculture Office and the Rutgers Master Gardeners will offer advice on horticulture and environmental stewardship while guiding visitors through various teaching gardens and learning projects. Examples of their work include the Children’s Garden with Green Roof playhouse, an enormous vegetable display garden, a new Native Plant Garden and the popular Butterfly House. Lectures will be offered on topics such as Container Gardening and The Dandelion– Weed or Herb.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. kids age 14 and under can participate in the Master Gardener Scavenger Hunt, a hunt for medallions in the gardens throughout the park. There will also be a geo-caching demonstration, free giveaway paint a pot activity and a maze for the kids. Gardeners are encouraged to bring a sample of their biggest or most outstanding homegrown produce to enter in the “Greatest of the Garden” contest. Categories include but are not limited to Biggest tomato, Biggest cucumber, Biggest watermelon, Longest gourd and for all vegetables, the Best Likeness to a Celebrity or Historical Figure. Attendees are asked to bring a donation of a non-perishable food item to help restock the shelves of MCFOODS, the County’s food bank. Call 732-398-5268 or e-mail For information on the office visit and search “extension.”

Raritan Township Police Blotter

On June 24, police charged John M. Osborne, 23, of Raritan Township with driving under the influence of alcohol, careless driving, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident following a single vehicle accident on Voorhees Corner Road. Police initially made contact with Osborne after stopping to check on an apparent disabled vehicle on the side of the road. The vehicle was towed and Osborne was released to a family member, police said. On June 27, Yonel Jean, 58, of Brooklyn, was charged with speeding and receiving stolen property following a motor vehicle stop on Route 202. During the stop, police learned that the license plate on the vehicle Jean was driving had been entered as stolen by the Duval County Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville, Florida, police said. The vehicle was towed, police said. On July 2, Brian L. Dileo, 33, and Michael A. Dileo, 24, both of Waterbury, Connecticut were charged each with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana following a motor vehicle stop on Route 202/31. Brian Dileo was initially stopped for having several lights out on his vehicle and also charged with maintenance of lamps and possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle. On July 4, Jamie F. Spratford, 23, of Philadelphia, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to use headlights when required, possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in a motor vehicle and reckless driving following a motor vehicle stop on Old York Road. On July 10, Cesar J. Lora and Luis Castellano-Guzman, both 21, of Paterson, were each charged with receiving stolen property, obstructing the administration of law and resisting arrest following a motor vehicle stop on Route 31. Police initially stopped a U-Haul box truck, which was traveling south on Rt.31, after seeing the rear rolling door completely open and items falling out of the cargo area. Once stopped, the driver and passenger exited the box truck and ran from the area, police said. Police then learned that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Paterson. With the assistance of the New Jersey State Police Aviation Bureau, the Readington Township Police Department K-9 Unit and the Flemington Borough Police Department, both men were found after an extensive search and taken into custody. Lora also was charged with loading as to spill and unlicensed driver. Both were turned over to the Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office to be sent to the Somerset County Jail. On July 11, Shannon N. Carney, 21 of Port Murray, was charged with theft from BJ’s Wholesale Club on Route 31. Police were initially called to the store by store managers for a report of theft by an employee. The managers said that an employee, Carney, had been taking money from cash drawers during a one month period from June into July. The total amount of cash taken was in excess of $500 but less than $75,000, police said. On July 11, Kyle A. Rogers, 31, of Raritan Township was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance (heroin) and tampering with physical evidence. Police were called to a residence on Stagecoach Court for a reported heroin overdose. Police were directed to the victim, an unresponsive male, by the reporting party. Cpl. Christopher Vallat administered Narcan to the victim, which revived him. The victim was taken to Hunterdon Medical Center by the Flemington-Raritan First Aid and Rescue Squad for treatment. Rogers was also present at the residence but was not the reporting party. On July 12, police were called to the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant on Reading Road for a vehicle that had crashed into the building. Investigation on scene revealed that a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette had driven over the curb, onto the sidewalk and then struck the exterior wall and front windows of the restaurant. The vehicle continued into the restaurant striking tables and chairs and then the main service counter before coming to rest, police said. The driver of the Corvette, Jeffrey W. Bosco, 39, of Bridgewater, was found to be unconscious after apparently suffering from a medical emergency. Members of the Flemington-Raritan First Aid and Rescue Squad and the Raritan Township Fire Company extricated Bosco from the vehicle. He received treatment on scene for a medical emergency and was transported to Hunterdon Medical Center. A customer in the restaurant, Marianna F. Vastino, 35, of Raritan Township, was struck by glass, debris, tables and the vehicle and was knocked to the ground. Vastino also was taken to Hunterdon Medical Center for treatment of multiple lacerations to her feet, lower, legs, hand and head. The Great Wall Restaurant suffered significant damage and is currently unable to be open for business, police said.

Long Hill Police Blotter

During the week of June 30 to July 6, police and firefighters responded to three fire related emergency calls and police and first aid squad responded to 10 medical calls. On June 30, police investigated a motor vehicle accident on Valley Road in Stirling. A vehicle driven by Erika Weltman, 84, of Warren, struck another vehicle driven by Louis Marrero, 60, of Basking Ridge, and then struck a parked vehicle. No injuries were reported. Weltman was charged with careless driving. On June 30, police investigated a theft from a residence in Meyersville as the victim discovered a personal check missing from their residence which was cashed in excess of $200. Police are continuing their investigation. On July 1, police investigated a motor vehicle accident on Valley Road in Millington. A vehicle driven by Matthew Hennicke, 40, of Bedminster was stopped in traffic on Valley road waiting to turn. A vehicle driven by Steven Liesch, 59, of Millington was stopped in traffic behind Hennicke. A vehicle driven by Scott Bartsch, 38, of New Providence struck Liesch from behind and caused Liesch to strike the vehicle being driven by Hennicke, police said. No injuries were reported. Bartsch was charged with careless driving. On July 3, police investigated a report of identity theft from a resident of Gillette as the victim’s information was used to open fraudulent store credit accounts. Police are continuing their investigation. On July 4, police investigated a hit and run motor vehicle accident in the Walgreens parking lot in Stirling. A red pickup truck was backing from a parking spot and struck a parked vehicle, police said. Police are continuing their investigation.

DiMaio’s genocide awareness resolution signed

A joint resolution (SJR50/AJR69) sponsored by Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Dist. 23) designating April as Genocide Awareness Month was recently signed by Gov. Christie. Other states that have enacted similar legislation include Minnesota, California, Texas, and New Hampshire. Visit

Somerset County 4-H Fair begins Aug. 9

This year’s Somerset County 4-H Fair, which will be conducted at North Branch Park in Bridgewater on Aug. 9, 10 and 11 will attract more than 60,000 visitors from throughout Central Jersey. In addition to free family fun, this annual event also provides commercial vendors 36 hours of great marketing exposure and the opportunity to discuss their products and services with potential clients. Spaces are still available. Space rental options include open space, for bringing in a trailer or setting up a display, free standing tents of various sizes to display products or information and inside space in one of two large display tents. If interested, call the 4-H Office at 908-526-6644 or view the Commercial Vendor Packet online, visit

Somerset Valley Players to present ‘Wagon Wheels West’ 

Somerset Valley Players will present “Wagon Wheels West” from July 21 to through Aug. 6. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 general admission; $13 seniors/students. Call 908-369-7469; to buy tickets, visit Somerset Valley Players is at 689 Amwell Road/Route 514, Hillsborough.

Seafood Festival on July 22

The Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit Annual “All You Can Eat” Seafood Festival will be presented at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 22, in the picnic grove at Clinton Elks, 211 Sidney Road, Pittstown. Tickets are $45 prepaid; $55 at the door. Ages 12 to 17 are $20 and children younger than 12 are admitted free. Email:; call 908-995-2022, visit Visit

Visions and Pathways honors community leaders 

Visions and Pathways (, a nonprofit agency in Bridgewater that helps youth throughout New Jersey, recently hosted its 3rd Annual Spark! Gala: A Hopeful Future for Youth” at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park. The event raised more than $58,000 to support the agency’s programs. The evening included a cocktail hour, silent auction, dinner and an awards ceremony. Visit and

Middlesex Police Blotter

On June 21, Kayshawn D. Wilson, 20, Austin P. Brodnax, 18, and a 17-year-old man, all of Middlesex, were charged in connection to the June 16 burglary of Middlesex High School, 300 John F. Kennedy Drive, and the theft of two cash boxes and a safe from the school. Wilson was charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime and criminal Mischief. Brodnax was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime. The juvenile was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary. Through investigation it was determined that the three targeted the safe and the cash boxes because they were thought to contain the proceeds from a school fundraising event to help local families struggling with costs related to pediatric illnesses. Unbeknownst to the trio, the funds had already been deposited in the bank, police said. School Resource Officer Thomas Falk, Officer Bryan Rodrigues, Detective Dan McCue and Detective Sean Flanagan investigated. On June 24, Suzette H. Castillo, 41, of North Plainfield was charged with driving while intoxicated following a motor vehicle stop on Bound Brook Road at Marlborough Avenue. On June 27, a resident of the 200 block of Hazelwood Avenue reported the theft of his 2016 Buick Enclave. The vehicle was parked and unattended in the driveway of his residence at the time of the theft. Investigation revealed that the vehicle’s doors were left unlocked and the ignition key was left inside the vehicle, police said. On June 30, a resident of the 800 block of Voorhees reported the theft of a bicycle, valued at $79, from the driveway of her residence. On July 1, Nelson C. Salguero-Palacios, 28, of Plainfield was charged with driving while intoxicated following a motor vehicle stop on Bound Brook Road at John F. Kennedy Drive, police said.

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Estate Gardens – Cost No Object

In last week’s column I wrote about my short career as an estate gardener at Jasna Polana, the 200-acre Johnson estate near Princeton, New Jersey. I worked there less than a year, but I had experiences I will remember for a lifetime.

Jasna Polana was modeled after a traditional European estate; some called it “the American Versailles” after the world-renowned French palace. Construction went on for years. The landscaping alone cost over three million dollars, and included 200-year-old shrubs and trees transplanted from several southern plantations acquired just for the old plants.

In one area, old Magnolia trees were planted to shade a stately stone walkway. The trees did poorly, suffering from poor drainage. To save them, a construction team removed the newly-installed paving stones from around the trees, dug deep trenches to install drain tiles and gravel, and put the garden back together at tremendous cost. Construction equipment blocked off this area for weeks.

A neighbor (heiress to the Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical fortune) complained of being able to see the new mansion from her window. Johnson was sympathetic, so in response a wooded hillside was created using mature trees, some fifty feet tall, to create an instant screen. A giant spruce was trucked in on a flatbed tractor-trailer, a tree so heavy that a special construction crane had to be brought in to lift it into place.

Voila! Instant woods! Glass-walled greenhouses on the estate produced orchids and other houseplants, which were then air-shipped to wherever the Johnsons were staying. The greenhouses provided culinary herbs, long-stemmed roses and other cut flowers, and a rotation of foliage plants from delicate ferns to huge banana trees for decorating the big house. They also grew vegetable seedlings for the estate’s three-acre organic vegetable garden.

There was a sheep farm on the estate, since the Johnson’s were fond of sheep (and no doubt for the tax benefit of having the estate assessed as a working farm). The gardening staff was frequently called into action to round up the 100 or so sheep, and to clean soiled bedding out of the sheep barn. It was my first experience with sheep. They were greasy and smelly, and could knock you over in their frenzy if you weren’t careful.

The formal gardens where I worked were adjacent to a downstairs “game room” the size of a high-school gym, with a dozen glass double doors opening onto a bentgrass bocce ball court. The ball court was as smooth and flat as a putting green, but larger than a baseball diamond, surrounded by terraced perennial gardens.

Also on the ground floor was a special climate-controlled room filled with sliding racks, a “filing system” for storing the many original paintings in the big house. The Johnson’s lived and entertained there only one or two months each year, and the paintings were taken down and safely tucked away unless they were “in town”.

The centerpiece of the main house was an indoor salt-water swimming pool in the classic Greek style, under a glass dome. Legend had it that the pool deck was originally paved with Vermont bluestone, cut and fitted so precisely that a dollar bill couldn’t slide into the seams between the individual stones.

The story goes that Mrs. Johnson disliked the bluestone paving once it was finished, and insisted on having it removed and replaced with marble paving instead. All this opulence made a strong impression on me, having been raised in rural Deptford Township New Jersey under very modest circumstances.

Estate homes like Jasna Polana are rarely built today, and most homes of this scale eventually become public attractions like Longwood Gardens, Winterthur Museum and the Biltmore Estate. After Mr. Johnson’s death, Jasna Polana was sold to PGA Tour Inc. and converted for use as a Tournament Players Club world-class golf course. A Google image search will reward you with hundreds of photos, mostly of the golf course and special events there. It’s worth a look.

Steve Boehme

Contributing columnist

Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in outdoor living spaces. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.

Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in outdoor living spaces. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.

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Tips for taking better photos of your garden and wildlife

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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