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Archives for August 19, 2017

Gardening tips to get the most out of your vegetable patch – Irish News

HOPEFULLY, you’ll now be reaping the rewards of your efforts with rich harvests from your vegetable patch. But there are ways to help the harvest along and promote better cropping as you go.

1. Tomatoes

You should be picking tomatoes now, but many may still not be ripe. The secret is optimum sunshine, so remove the yellowing lower leaves up to the first truss. When these have ripened, take off the next set of leaves. If the leaves are really dense, you can thin them a little to help air circulation and light. Cut off the growing tip of the plant, if you haven’t already done so, which will then transfer the remaining energy to the fruits to reach full size. If you still have green tomatoes left when the weather cools off, harvest them and put them in a brown paper bag with a banana and they should ripen more quickly. Alternatively, you can make green tomato chutney.

2. Peppers

If the fruits are big, but still not ripe, they will need some support. Feed them regularly with a tomato fertiliser and pick peppers when they are ripe but the skin is still smooth. If some have wrinkled skins, you may be better adding them to cooked dishes as they won’t taste good raw.

3. Courgettes

Don’t let your courgettes grow too large or they’ll become watery, tasteless marrows; check them at least twice a week, picking them when they reach around 15cm. For best results, feed plants with a dilute tomato feed once a week and harvest them regularly throughout the month to encourage further cropping. Most types will continue to produce fruits until the first frosts. If you want to extend the season, cover the plants at night with garden fleece. If you’re going on holiday, remove flowers and fruits before you go, which will mean more should have appeared by the time you come back.

4. Runner beans

Like sweetpeas, beans benefit from regular harvesting, which will promote further crops. Throughout summer, you should be picking them every other day, if you can, before they grow tough and stringy. The best time to pick them is when the bean snaps cleanly without any string, when it’s around 17-18cm long. Pick off every bean to prolong cropping into late summer and if you’re lucky, you should be picking them until October.

5. Lettuce

You can make a final sowing in August for an autumn crop, sowing a loose-leaved type and harvesting the leaves as required. Oriental leaves such as pak choi, mizuna and komatsuna are best sown from mid-summer onwards as earlier crops tend to produce flowers rather than leaves. To get the best flavour, harvest lettuces in the early morning when the leaves are at their freshest. To store, dampen under the tap and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge to keep them moist.

Article source:

How can I avoid crop failures in my vegetable garden? – ALAN TITCHMARSH explains


ALL sorts of little accidents occur in the garden, especially in the summer when the pressure is off and you’re relaxing or pottering outside in the sunshine.

You know what it’s like, you spot a job that needs doing and don’t stop to think before getting on with it.

Bending over to nip off an errant shoot could result in you poking yourself in the eye with the tip of a cane you didn’t see. It’s easily done.

Wearing sunglasses when doing odd jobs helps but it’s better to put protective cane toppers over the tips of canes so you can’t hurt yourself.

Another common incident is when people snag themselves on rose thorns when deadheading without wearing gardening gloves. It pays to keep your tetanus shots up to date – some GPs insist on it when they know that you are a gardener. It’s much the same when you pull out some weeds by hand instead of fetching a hand fork. Your fingers could quite easily find broken glass.

I wouldn’t for a moment suggest you stop giving in to spontaneous gardening urges when you are off-duty but be prepared. Keep basic kit by the back door, perhaps a garden apron or trug loaded with trowel, snips and gloves, so you can collect it when the urge is upon you.

If you think you have to rummage around in the shed for half an hour collecting vital kit you won’t bother. And have sticking plasters and antiseptic ready to deal with little accidents so they don’t turn into more serious problems.

At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, the moral of the story is: gear up before gardening.

For more information on gardening and other subjects go to Alan Titchmarsh’s website:

Article source:

Three dirt-cheap tips to save money in the garden | The Compleat Home Gardener

See Marianne Binetti Live: Marianne Binetti will speak at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 20. Her free seminar is “Dirt Cheap Tips and Gardening Shortcuts” at the Auburn Transfer Station. For details, visit www.

The last half of August is a good time to prune back raspberries that are done producing fruit, harvest herbs and early vegetables and continue to deadhead or remove the faded flowers from annuals and perennials to keep them in a blooming mood.

The dog days of summer are when gardeners are looking to sniff out some money-saving bargains and cut back on maintenance.

If you can’t attend the free garden seminar at the Auburn Farmers Market on “Dirt Cheap Gardening,” here are a few of the favorite penny-pinching tips that I’ll be sharing:

Don’t buy more potting soil – reuse this year’s soil next spring

Just be sure you aerate and add some nutrients in the form or compost or fertilizer to old potting soil before you recycle it back into your containers.

One practical approach is to empty all your pots into a wheelbarrow or on top of a tarp in the spring.

Turn the old potting soil to help aerate the mix as winter rains can compact potting soils. Remove any large roots and dead plants.

Next, add compost to the old potting soil and mix well. The amount of compost to add depends on if you are growing thirsty plants like fuchsias and begonias (add 25 percent compost) or plants like geraniums that prefer a quick draining soil. (Use just 10 percent compost for plants that hate dampness.)

Once the potting soil looks fluffy, dark and aerated again it is ready to place back into your containers.

Turn grass clippings and fallen leaves into a free weed-blocking, water-saving mulch

Creating a nourishing, weed-blocking mulch does not have to be complicated. In the fall, rake brown leaves and stuff them into a large, plastic garbage bag.

When the bag is half full of brown leaves, add one shovel of soil and two shovels of green grass clippings.

Then fill the top half of the plastic bag with more fallen leaves.

Close the bag.

Grab a screw driver or pair of scissors and madly stab the plastic bag all over to make air holes.

Store the bagged leaves out of site until spring.

In a few months you’ll have a weed blocking bag of leaf mold to layer under shrubs and on top of weeds.

Leaf mold as a mulch on top of plants not only cuts back on your water bill but is a free and natural fertilizer.

Free shrubs: August is the month to make new plants from your favorite shrubs

This month you can take tip cuttings of camellias, daphne, hydrangeas, magnolias, nandinas, viburnums and rhododendrons. You can make a cutting and root just about any shrub this month but those listed above are the easiest for beginning propagators.

Here’s how:

• Strip leaves from the lower half of a branch tip cutting that is about as long as a pencil;

• Dip the cut end of the shrub into a rooting hormone powder before you poke it into a pot of soil. (Here’s a money-saving bonus option to make your own rooting solution from willow water.

Remove the leaves from the willow branch tips, remove the leaves and put one-inch segments in a jar.

Once the jar is half full of cut willow tips add tap water to fill the jar.

Leave willow tips in water for three nights.

The salicylic acid from the willow will leach into the water and this is the magic ingredient that encourages new cuttings to take root.)

• Let the shrub cutting sit in the willow water for three nights;

• Poke the cuttings into a soil mix that is half potting soil and half sand.

Four cuttings into each one-gallon container is about right.

One out of the four should take root.

Cover the top of the pot with a plastic bag or mist daily to keep the air humid.

Place the pot in a bright spot out of direct sun.

In the winter move the pots to a protected area so they don’t freeze.

In May, your shrub cuttings will have roots and you can transplant them into their own containers, move them into your garden — or start a nursery.

Article source:

Garden tips for the harvest season – By Tom Seymour – Belfast …

The time is here to harvest a number of garden crops. First, let’s look at garlic.

Pull garlic when three-quarters of the stems have become dry and yellow. It won’t hurt to pull earlier, though, and given the current spate of dry conditions, I pulled my garlic when only the top few inches of stem and leaves had turned yellow. This was because garlic need lots of water, and I preferred to pull the garlic early rather than continue watering.

Now here’s a real helpful tip. Many people try to remove clinging dirt and debris from garlic bulbs by tapping on a hard object. I have done this myself, but last year had to pay the price. My usual practice was to hold the garlic by the stem and with some degree of force, tap the bulb on the wooden frame of a raised bed.

But that’s a risky practice and every so often, garlic so handled will not last through the winter. Indeed, my garlic last season became soft and the bulbs broke apart on their own, no help from me. Also, the individual cloves became mildewed, rendering them unfit for use.

So handle your garlic cloves gently. Remove clinging dirt by rubbing lightly with your fingers. After that, spread your garlic out on a table or something similar and leave in the sun for one or two days. Then bring in and place in a shaded, dry place for the final cure. After the remnant of stem has thoroughly dried, place the bulbs in an onion bag and store in a cool, dry area.

Summer squash

Pick zucchini and yellow summer squash when the fruits are about 6 inches long. Do your best not to allow any individual squashes to grow much larger. And keep ‘em coming. That is, pick as frequently as needed. This will assure continued production right up to frost time.

So what do we do with all those summer squash? Well, I just learned from a friend that the yellow variety (and probably zucchini as well) make excellent pickles. Use a bread-and-butter pickle recipe and substitute summer squash for cucumbers.

I used to slice summer squash into rounds and then sauté them for a minute or so. After that, the squash would be placed on a baking sheet so that none were touching. The sheet, with its complement of squash, then went in the freezer. When fully frozen, the squash slices are easily removed from the baking sheet and placed in a plastic freezer bag for winter storage.

To use, just partially thaw and then sauté as per fresh squash.

Summer squash is tasty when sliced and briefly boiled. One gardener likes to mix cut-up onions with squash slices. It’s easy, then, to parboil summer squash, drain and place in freezer bags for storage in the freezer. To use, just get a slight amount of water boiling in a saucepan and drop in the frozen slices.

And then we have friends, neighbors and food pantries. Where there’s a will there’s a way, so keep picking and enjoying those little squash. And remember, in winter any summer squash we find in the produce aisles will probably be soft and half-gone by. I’d rather have my own frozen product than a wizened squash from the store.

Bush beans

This year I tried a new, for me, bush bean called “Strike.” I give these top rating because they have a fine, delicate taste and remain straight and tender even as they get larger. But it’s best not to let them get too large. Better to pick all beans of a harvestable size than to leave medium-size ones on the vines to become too large.

I like to buy bush beans that continue producing over a long time. The best way to encourage long-term production is to keep the beans picked. Does this sound familiar? It should, because that’s the same way we need to treat our summer squash.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I plan on planting Strike bush beans next year, too. They are delicious and worthy of our attention.

Sometimes despite our efforts to keep beans picked, some of them manage to grow to an exceptional size. That’s when I break out my cast-iron bean slicing (Frenching) device. Even the toughest old bean tastes fine and becomes tender after going through a bean-Frenching device.


What goes for summer squash and bush beans also holds true for cucumbers. Try your best to keep eating-size cucumbers picked and the plants will reward you with increased production.

As mentioned in a past column, I grow my cukes on a trellis. This keeps the fruits clean, off the ground and easy to find. My two cucumber types for this season were Summer Dance and Delikatesse. Summer Dance are long and thin, making them great for slicing. Delikatesse is a rather short, thick cucumber that serves equally well for fresh eating (even when rather large) and pickling.

But cucumbers are prone to a debilitating plant disease called bacterial wilt. This occurs when bacteria enter the plant stem through insect-caused wounds. Those yellow-and-black striped cucumber beetles are prime culprits and can transfer bacterial wilt by feeding on the plants. Rotenone works to solve this problem.

But controlling insects represents just part of the cure. The bacteria can linger in the soil, so if your plants become infected, pull them and burn them. Then next year, plant in a different location.

I grow my cucumbers in an EarthBox and have always done well until last year one of my plants developed bacterial wilt. Thinking that I had somehow damaged the plant, I didn’t take remedial measures. But now with the disease confirmed (stems dry and leaves wilt), I must empty the potting soil in my EarthBox and sterilize the inside of the water receptacle. The old soil will be disposed of far from my garden, and before planting next year, I will add new, clean soil. The soil in this EarthBox has served me for more than 10 years, so it’s past time for a change.


Did you plant your Swiss chard so thick that now it only produces lots of little leaves? Well, don’t despair, since chard responds well to thinning. It’s not too late to begin thinning and I suggest leaving at least one foot between plants in a row. So thin now, water, and in only a few days your chard will begin to take on new life. Before too long you will only need one or two leaves for a meal.

Tom’s tips

Do you like how things went with your garden this year? Or does it seem apparent that some things ought to change, perhaps certain plants need to grow in a new location to avoid depleting soil. The best way to remember all of this is to write it down. I like to make line drawings depicting what grew where. This comes in quite handy for future reference.

In addition to taking notes, it helps to take photographs of your garden from different angles. That way, it’s easy to see at a glance just how the garden was set up. Next winter, when snow flies and temperatures plummet, those garden photos will help to relieve winter blues. It works for me, and I’m sure it will do the same for you.

Article source:

In Garden Grove, ‘Henry IV’ lands striking blow for the Bard’s skills

Shakespeare’s historical plays are among the most intricate literary accounts of Anglo-Saxon’s royal houses, and when done well, can be tremendously thrilling and satisfying – especially the tetralogy known as “the Henriad”: “Richard II,” “Henry IV” (both parts) and “Henry V.”

“Done well” is, of course, the operative phrase, and after seeing Shakespeare Orange County’s “Henry IV, Part 1” (in a brief run that closes Aug. 26), you’d be hard-pressed to name a better local stage production of this drama going back as far as you like.

Director Gavin Cameron-Webb has executed the two elements most crucial to bringing “Henry” to full and glorious life: The key roles are ideally cast, with fine performances filling in around them; and the most prolix scenes have been tightened and condensed.

Shakespeare’s account of the internecine warfare riddling the reign of Henry Bolingbroke, King Henry IV, teems with the various factions and individuals either aligning or opposing the king.

From the raft of characters, four outsize, larger-than-life portraits emerge: the king, played by John Shouse; Henry’s son Henry, Prince of Wales, known as “Prince Hal” (Robert Tendy); Harry Percy (Michael Chenefelt), bent on defeating the king and known as “Hotspur” for his quick temper; and Hal’s drinking buddy, the rascally Sir John Falstaff (Bodie Newcomb).

Former allies of King Henry, the Percy family now amass against him, fueled by support, and armies, from Scottish rebel leader the Earl of Douglas (Brock Milhorn) and Welsh rebellion leader Owen Glendower (John Breen).


A key scene, and a turning point in the exciting story, caps the first act, as the King finds son Hal at his favorite tavern, asleep and hungover from a night of revelry with Falstaff. Shouse’s Henry delivers a sharp, withering rebuke of his eldest son – and to his surprise, Hal stands up to him and fervently vows to redeem himself.

Tendy brings so much conviction to this focal scene that Shouse’s King Henry is forced to reevaluate Hal, placing stock in his son’s oath. And true to his word, Hal confronts Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Their thrilling swordplay is among the most memorable images, Hotspur’s punching and biting revealing his penchant for hitting below the belt.

Tall and slim, with a shock of white hair, care and age lining his weathered face, Shouse is a potent King Henry, his severe mien and noble look and bearing bringing to mind the great Paul Scofield.

Tendy’s Prince Hal grows in stature before our very eyes. At first happy-go-lucky, he shows no hint of Hal’s potential valor or valiance. By Act 2, he’s well-groomed and in formal attire, complete with sword. True, he’s still glib – but now infused with a deadly earnest.

With a fiery shine in his eyes and florid, lily-gilding diction, Newcomb provides a showy turn as the roguish Falstaff, an outrageous rascal utterly likable, even lovable, for his honesty about his peccadilloes.

Hal and Falstaff’s pranks and role-playing, Falstaff’s boasts and Hal’s debunking of them, and the duo’s warm physical embraces, all accurately connote their mutual admiration.

The charismatic Chenefelt fully delivers the rash Hotspur’s hotheaded temperament and choleric nature. Paul Burt is a dynamic, smooth Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, Hotspur’s cool-headed uncle. In her few brief scenes, Alexandra Wright’s Lady Percy forges a convincing emotional connection with husband Hotspur.

Milhorn and Breen deliver Douglas and Glendower’s colorful look and style as well as the physical and civil threat both men pose to the crown, with Milhorn’s Douglas notably rageful, and Colin Martin is solid and forthright as Henry loyalist Sir Walter Blount.

Breen and Milhorn’s heavy brogues add spice to their roles, though why they’d lean toward Scottish is a puzzler, given that Welsh is more Germanic than Gaelic. Also for better or worse, Falstaff and his gang of rogues and thieves come off like the Droogs in “A Clockwork Orange,” roaming the British countryside in search of victims to attack and rob.

Adding realism, Cameron-Webb includes a brief conversation in Welsh between Lord Mortimer (Nate Ruleaux) and his wife (Anisha Jagganathan), concluded when Lady Mortimer sings a Welsh song. On the lighter side, laughs greet Bardolph’s (Genevieve Flati) uses an “Avenue Q”-like hand puppet to ridicule Falstaff, including the meta-theatrical moment where she rewords lines from “Romeo and Juliet.”

Sean McMullen’s costume design fixes the era in the 1920s and early ’30s, ranging from the muted tones of the royals to the more Elizabethan-style attire of the tavern dwellers; the battle scenes are marked by the bright reds and blues of the opposing sides.

Dominating Dipak Gupta’s scenic design is an all-purpose flat depicting the play’s universe: the island of what is now the United Kingdom amid a sea of blue, a crown floating above it and, to the sides, the Scottish lion, the Welsh dragon and the heraldic shields of the principal characters.

The look of the climactic battle scenes is impressive, boosted by Cameron-Webb’s inventive sound design, Gupta’s lighting, McMullen’s costumes, David Scaglione’s props, and the cast’s superb swordplay.

On the downside, various characters’ 21st-century handshakes and fist bumps are a terrible idea, gross anachronisms that have no place in such a magnificent setting. Ditto the contemporary music used during scene changes.


As much of an anomaly is the sight of early 20th-century men wielding swords instead of firearms.

Otherwise, SOC’s “Henry IV, Part 1” is good enough to rival the outstanding 2012 PBS film “The Hollow Crown,” which elongates the play to the length of a series. Take a visit to Garden Grove and enjoy the chance to see a slice of British history for yourself.

‘Henry IV, Part 1’

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 26

Where: Garden Grove Amphitheater, 12762 Main St., Garden Grove

Tickets: $25

Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Suitability: All ages

Information.: 714-590-1575,

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One-stop shop for home, garden celebrates anniversary

The Chase Ace Gift Emporium stocks soaps, letterpress cards and children’s toys. (Courtesy of Chase Ace Hardware)

It’s wonderful to see new life breathed into locations of closed businesses.

That’s just what Chase Ace Hardware, Garden Center and Gift Emporium did when it opened on the former site of the popular Yardbirds Nursery.

It celebrates its first anniversary this summer with a “Dog Days of Summer” event from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 23.

Marin Humane pet ambassadors will make an afternoon appearance and customers who visit the store and donate $5 to the Marin Humane Society will receive 10 percent off their purchases while all proceeds from selected pet products will go to the MH. Family dogs that visit will get a special treat, too.

Last summer, business partners Damon Phan, David Harrison, owners of hardware stores in Pacifica and Santa Rosa, and brothers Steve and Nick Chase chose the location for their newest store because it was ideal for their vision of a one-stop shop.

“It would be a place that you can check everything off your shopping list except a carton of milk,” says spokesperson, Avi O’Shaughnessy. “We wanted it to be the go-to local neighborhood hardware store that the whole family can enjoy.”

The 12,000 square foot store is equally divided among hardware, nursery and gift departments.

“We really pride ourselves on going above and beyond to assist our customers,” O’Shaughnessy says. “If we don’t carry a product someone asks for, we’ll do our best to find it for them.”

Shelves are stocked with DeWalt, Craftsman and Stanley power tools, G.E. light bulbs, Valspar paint, Minwax stains, and other standard hardware items, including a large section of fasteners that include single nuts and bolts.

Customers can find lawn and garden products, barbecue and housewares items in the Gift Emporium along with more than 400 varieties of air plants, houseplants that vary in size from mini-terrariums to 12-gallon varieties, as well as stationery, journals and curated home décor items.

“We tend to find the unusual and whimsical and usually bring in found objects, like Turkish dough bowls and old wooden wheels,” she says.

Popular gift items include all natural and subtly scented soaps and lotions; soy and hand-poured candles; handcrafted jewelry with semi-precious stones or crystals; and artisan made letterpress cards.

A Kid’s Corner is packed with dolls, board games, vintage toys, books and best-selling soft, stuffed animals.

The Garden Center carries unusual varieties and a range of succulents, bedding plants, grasses, vines, shrubs, pollinator plants and, according to O’Shaughnessy, the largest selection of organic vegetable starts in the area. The focus is on strong healthy plants.

“And we offer potting services for people who want to refresh their favorite container with the option of selecting new plants themselves or letting us help them.”

Chase Ace Hardware Store, Garden Center and Gift Emporium is at 1826 Fourth St. in San Rafael. The store is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Call 415-261-9200 or go to

Goodbye, Armstrong

Fans of the Armstrong Garden Centers store in San Anselmo are left without a town nursery after the company suddenly closed the location within the past few weeks.

The store, which opened in April 2015, took over the space from the longtime Sunnyside Nursery.

The Armstrong Garden Center in Novato is now its only store in Marin.

Don’t-miss events

• Kids can decorate their own pencil case for free with fun materials from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Orchard Supply Hardware at 1151 Andersen Drive in San Rafael. Call 415-453-7288 or go to

• Pick out your favorite artworks by Marin and Bay Area artists, vacations, tours, dinners, surfboard and other high-end items when the Bolinas Museum’s 25th anniversary auction preview with a courtyard concert takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Bolinas Museum at 48 Wharf Road in Bolinas. Then buy your discounted early bird tickets for the auction Sept. 9. Tickets cost $125 through Aug. 25, $150 after. Call 415-868-0330 or go to

• Learn which sun and shade plants will attract “hummers” to your garden at a “Hummingbird Gardening” seminar at Sloat Garden Center at 10 a.m. Sunday at 401 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley (415-388-0365) or at 1 p.m. Sunday at 700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Kentfield (415-454-0262). Free for reward members or $10. Go to

• Get ready! Autumn planting season is around the corner and Armstrong Garden Center pros want to inspire you with “Garden Basics” information on mulching, planting, watering and more at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 at 1430 South Novato Blvd. in Novato. Call 415-878-0493 or go to

• San Francisco Botanical Garden’s monthly sale California natives and succulents are available at San Francisco Botanical Garden’s monthly sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 9. The sale takes place at Ninth Ave. and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Admission is free. Questions? Call 415-661-1316 or go to

PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield 94914, or at

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Gardenwise: Horror in the Garden

Houttuynia: The Godzilla of the Garden

By Susan Tito

Susan Tito

When I was a child, one of my greatest pleasures was watching horror movies with my father. The films we fancied were not the gory fare that’s so prevalent today but campy motion pictures featuring plodding creatures and razor-thin story lines. Our favorite beast was Godzilla, the King of the Monsters.

In the horror genre, Godzilla, who has been trampling downtown Tokyo for decades, is an unstoppable force of nature. But this “king” has nothing on another fiend, a real-life one from the plant world — Houttuynia cordata, ‘Chameleon,’ commonly known as the chameleon plant.

Never heard of Houttuynia (pronounced hoot-tie-knee-a)? Before I studied horticulture, I didn’t either. By the time you get to the end of this column, you’ll wish you had amnesia.

But first some words of wisdom from the 1986 remake of “The Fly”:“ Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

You’ve been warned.The chameleon is the most invasive plant I’ve encountered and among the most beautiful, which makes it insidious. It’s an Asian import that’s about 15 inches tall with heart-shaped variegated leaves in vivid red, green, pink and yellow; bright red stems; and snowy-white bracts. If you see one, you’ll be mesmerized.

An acquaintance had chameleon plant growing in her Port Jefferson garden.

“I must have some!” I exclaimed, taking leave of my senses like Norman Bates from “Psycho”: “We all go a little mad sometimes…”

I planted them in the front of my property and they spread slowly at first, transforming into a lush, colorful groundcover. My acquaintance moved to Florida, never to be heard from again, unaware of the hell that she had unleashed on my property.

All was well for three years but then something happened in year four — something unspeakably evil.

It’s as if the plant consulted with the Invisible Man in the 1933 film of the same name: “We’ll begin with a reign of terror…”

Because that’s exactly what happened. My lovely plants revealed their true nature: They lost their striking variegation and good manners. They reverted to all green, doubled in height and overtook everything in their path. They plowed through clumps of lily of the valley — which has its own reputation for being a thug in the garden – and “devoured” daylillies and astilbe.

Houttuynia reveals its true colors

I tried to dig them out but to no avail: The plants spread by underground runners. If I left even the tiniest root fragment, they reanimated. I did some research and learned that chameleon plant earned a spot on the Global Invasive Species Database and was banned from New Zealand. I went on online garden forums and voraciously read about other people’s experiences and learned just how awful this plant is. For example, did you know that the pungent scent from the chameleon plant’s roots — which smells like citrusy petroleum —could trigger migraines in sensitive individuals? Another nightmarish surprise: The plant is nearly impervious to herbicide. Those who thought they eliminated it saw it return years later like zombies from “Night of the Living Dead”: “They won’t stay dead.”

The best chance I have for eradication is to excavate several feet down and remove all soil and plant material then spot treat any that regenerates. Will I succeed? Stay tuned.

The good folks at the Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI) feel my pain and have gently reminded me how important it is to choose native plants over exotic imports. With natives, you know what to expect.But there are other benefits as well.

“Being locally adapted to the environment means less time watering and fertilizing, which gives you more time to enjoy the scenery while protecting our critical water resources and providing habitat to our native fauna,” said Polly Weigand, executive director of the Riverhead-based LINPI and interim coordinator of the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area (LIISMA).

To be clear, there are some native plants that are vigorous spreaders, such as Asclepias tuberosa — milkweed —which I detailed in the May 1 issue of this publication. It all comes down to positives outweighing negatives.

“We are not going to complain about the wealth of habitat and enjoyment milkweed brings or the need to occasionally hand-pull some overabundant stems,” said Brian Smith, an LINPI board member who focuses on education and outreach.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am educating others about the dangers of non-native plant species while concentrating efforts on defeating my chameleon plant monster.

Because as the tagline in “Jaws: The Revenge” states: “This time it’s personal.”

Susan Tito is a freelance writer and proprietor of Summerland Garden Design Consulting. She earned a certificate in ornamental garden design from the New York Botanical Garden and is a member of the American Horticultural Society and Garden Writers Association. She can be reached at

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Walnut Creek loans Moraga a parks and recreation director

MORAGA — Through an innovative partnership with Walnut Creek, Moraga has an experienced manager on board temporarily to guide its Parks and Recreation Department through the installation of an all-abilities playground.

Mike Vickers, a public works manager in Walnut Creek, will work 20 hours per week in Moraga as the interim parks and recreation director at least through November. Vickers replaces Jay Ingram, who left Moraga in July for Pleasanton.

Moraga is reimbursing Walnut Creek $103 per hour for Vickers’ time. However, he will continue receiving his regular salary and benefits from Walnut Creek.

The hourly rate for consultants topped $125 per hour, said said Amy Cunningham, Moraga administrative services director. Since town leaders declared a fiscal emergency in June, it is important to be frugal, she said.

The town’s $8.5 million fiscal year 2017 budget includes a $46,217 surplus. Town leaders cut about $83,000 by reducing maintenance, travel and janitorial and contract services, among other expenses. Moraga has about $1.6 million in general fund reserves.

“A professional development opportunity for him gives us the help we need at a price we can afford,” Cunningham said.

Moraga will begin recruiting a permanent parks and recreation director in the next few weeks, she said.

The agreement with Walnut Creek is modeled on staff exchange programs in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, Cunningham said. With only 36 full-time employees, Moraga does not have a worker to send to Walnut Creek in return, but Vickers said he was eager to accept the offer.

“My long-term plan is to become a director at some point,” said Vickers, who supervises a staff of 40 and is responsible for maintaining Walnut Creek’s parks, open space and downtown landscaping.

Vickers will oversee the installation of the all-abilities playground at Moraga Commons Park. The Rotary Club of Moraga raised $260,000 for the project, which includes a 5,000-square-foot play area with 24 pieces of specialized equipment and a wheelchair-accessible sandbox. The play structure is designed for children ages 2-12.

In 2014, Walnut Creek opened an all-abilities playground at Heather Farm Park, a project Vickers said he led through the approval process.

Although Moraga has a small Parks and Recreation Department, Vickers looks forward to working with the Town Council and interacting with a new set of civic leaders. The temporary post also gives him the opportunity to provide input on the department’s goals and direction, he added.

“One of the primary roles for me to go over to Moraga is really to assess and evaluate the Parks and Recreation Department,” Vickers said. “Look at it from a new, fresh set of eyes, with new ideas and be able to report back with some ideas and feedback on the future of the department.”

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Yardsmart: Top issues of unorthodox patios





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Third Cannon Beach pot store seeks approval

Brenna Visser/The Daily Astorian

A third marijuana retailer — at 3115 S. Hemlock St. — has applied to operate in Cannon Beach.

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CANNON BEACH — Progress will be stalled for a marijuana retailer looking to set up shop in Tolovana.

On Thursday night, the city’s Design Review Board decided to issue a continuance to allow the applicant, Daryl Bell, more time to elaborate on and amend major exterior design modifications at 3115 S. Hemlock St.

If approved, this would be the third retail marijuana shop to come to Cannon Beach.

Nancy Benson, the project manager from Grace Design and Landscaping LLC, represented Bell at the meeting and described their goal for the business as “high end.”

Bell, who has spent the last couple of years building out dispensaries for clients, is expanding his career in cannabis on the coast to places like Rockaway Beach, Pacific City and, hopefully, Cannon Beach, Benson said. Bell’s pitch for a marijuana shop at a condominium complex near Pier 39 in Astoria was rejected by the Astoria City Council last year.

“This is going to be a very nice place. Our goal as a company is to make it look nice,” Benson said of the Cannon Beach store.

But before moving forward, Bell and his team must address parking issues identified by the city. As plans stands now, parking spaces are drawn onto the city’s right of way, City Planner Mark Barnes said.

“The problem here is these are private spaces half in the public sphere,” Barnes said. Bell will have to work with public works to find different solutions before the next Design Review Board meeting Sept. 21 in order to secure approval.

More abstractly, board members took issue with the lack of detail in the application. Bell provided plans to paint the building and modify windows, along with general landscaping ideas, but the board wasn’t satisfied without seeing a full mock up. Barnes also noted the lack of discussion concerning meeting ventilation and signage requirements in the proposal.

“We look at actual samples of paints and facade,” board member Sandi Lundy said. “It’s just a matter of us being able to physically see the changes you are suggesting.”

Some neighbors took issue with the vague nature of the design plans, including Steve Crane, the property adviser of Lodges at Cannon Beach next door. In written testimony sent to the city, he thought more needed to be done to help rehabilitate a structure that has been sitting vacant for years.

Just repainting the building, Crane wrote, “is like putting lipstick on a pig.”.

Escape Lodgings President Patrick Nofield leases space from a modular unit connected to the property, and asked board members to wait on approval before issues like adequate parking and more thorough designs were presented.

One of his concerns was making sure this property was “architecturally compatible” with the rest of Tolovana.

“I’ve leased space for 10 years, and I know that building needs help,” Nofield said. “It needs more work than what this plan is showing.”

Kiki Meletis is a co-trustee of Demetrios Meletis Living Trust, which owns the property, and said having the new business move in was a great way to “revitalize the property in a timely way.”

Benson said she and Bell are happy to work with the city to make sure the business fits with the community.

“This is a community thing, so I want community input,” Benson said.


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