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Archives for August 31, 2017

Gardening with Allen: Add some color for fall, winter pots

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at

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Here are 3 places to visit for ideas about your fall plantings

September and October are our busiest planting months. Start making your wish lists now and begin the fall planting season by first visiting local demonstrations gardens including the Fresno County Master Gardeners Garden of the Sun in southeast Fresno and the Clovis Botanical Garden.

Both beautiful gardens are at their best in fall and they showcase plants that are suitable for our planting zones including many heat- and drought-tolerant varieties, shade plants, ground covers and lawn grasses such as UC verde buffalo grass. Plants are labeled with varietal names and docents are usually available to answer questions.

Make a visit a little later in October to the Shinzen Friendship Garden (a gem of a garden that is not well-enough known) in Woodward Park to see fall leaf color on the many mature cultivars of Japanese maples.


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No yard? no problem! apartment garden tips and tricks for city living

Limited outdoor space? No place for those potted beauties? Space should not preclude anyone from experimenting with the stress-reducing pleasures of gardening.

From flowering plants to bonsai, from fruits and veggies to shrubs, an apartment garden can be intimate, manageable and absolutely beautiful. With some balcony gardening tips and tricks, you can transform your empty balcony into a stunning garden you will love.

If you are a beginner in this, follow these apartment gardening tips to get started:

Grow plants as per your weather zone

In order to ensure that plants in your garden grow effortlessly, it is important to buy plants that are suited to your particular weather zone. Visit your local plant shop for that because he most probably will have only those plants that will survive in your weather conditions.

In addition to weather of your surroundings, it is also important to consider the weather of your balcony.

Is it shady or receives ample of sunlight? Which floor is your apartment located at? These factors will help you zero down the specific types of plants that will flourish in your apartment garden.

Opt for mixed species of plants

In case you don’t know, there are two kinds of plants; one that survives throughout the year and the ones that survive a season or two.

It is a good idea to have a balanced mix of both annual and perennial plants. That way you can have some greenery throughout the year while you can play with different species in remaining areas.

Containers – drainage is important

Appearance, material and drainage are the three most important factors to consider while choosing containers for your apartment garden. Select containers that look beautiful and also matches with the rest of the fittings and furniture of your balcony.

When it comes to drainage, pots made of porous material are considered a better bet than plastic containers that hold all the water inside the containers.

In case you want to buy plastic pots, make sure they have drainage holes in place to help excess water escape from the soil. Don’t forget to put sauces under drainage holes to prevent water from flowing onto your patio.

Soil based on plant type

Decide on the plant you will be growing and buy potting soil that is suited for the plant.

Usually, an all-purpose soil with some manure is good for most plants. However, some speciality plants may need a different mix.

When buying a plant, talk to the seller if it needs any special kind of soil or any other speciality treatment.

Utilising space

Varying the placement of pots and containers will provide you with more space in the limited gardening area you have.

Using a stand with shelves at multiple heights will not only give you more space to put plants but will also add multiple layers on the garden giving it an enriched look and feel.

Pots hanging from rails and cascading hanging plants from the ceiling will make your balcony garden look lively and fuller.

Automatic watering system

If you are someone who travels frequently, you will have to arrange for someone who can take care of the apartment garden and water the plants in your absence.

If you have a friendly neighbour, you might consider taking help from him/her.

In the absence of any external help, you might consider setting up an automatic watering mechanism for your apartment garden. Also, in this case, you should choose plants that need minimal or no care to grow and flourish.

Your own vegetable garden

It is possible to grow a mini vegetable garden on your balcony. It might not be big enough to meet all your vegetarian needs, but you can still have your organic and fresh herbs and harvest.

Green leafy vegetables are easy to grow and grow really fast. Few edibles like tomatoes, mint, peppers, chillies, parsley and eggplants grow well in an apartment garden.

Add some sand, stones, and affordable accessories, and your apartment garden will look chic and green no matter how small your balcony is.


This article is contributed by RoofandFloor, part of KSL Digital Ventures Pvt. Ltd., from The Hindu Group

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Princes William and Harry pay tribute to Princess Diana on eve of 20th anniversary of her death






20 years ago the world tragically lost one of the most iconic women of our time. Princess Diana. And today her sons, prince Harry and Prince William are praying tribute to their mother. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more.

LONDON — There’s nothing more English than a beautiful garden, and no one more English than Princess Diana, so that’s where Princes William and Harry chose to pay tribute to their mother on Wednesday, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of her death.

Clutching umbrellas, the princes and Duchess Kate of Cambridge, William’s wife, visited the Sunken Garden in the grounds of Kensington Palace — their current central London residence and Diana’s former home.

The engagement was to be the young royals’ sole public appearance before the anniversary, aimed at highlighting their mother’s life and her charitable legacy. They are expected to spend the actual day of the anniversary in private. 

More: Remembering Princess Diana

It was also the first engagement of the new era in Will and Kate’s life, as full-time working royals. They have spent the last two years living mostly at their country retreat in Norfolk near to where Will had a part-time job as a helicopter pilot for an air ambulance service.

Now they’re going to be based mostly at their sprawling apartment at the palace. Their son, Prince George, 4, is to start at his new school on Sept. 7 across the Thames in Battersea.

Unlike the years when Will and Harry were boys arriving for their first day of school with Diana, watched by a mob of media, Will and Kate are seeking a more low-key arrival to be covered only by a small pool of photographers, according to a palace statement.






A look at what has happened to the rest of the major figures present on that day and in Diana’s life at the time of her death.

This year, the palace Sunken Garden has been transformed into a White Garden, dedicated to the late princess and planted with some of her favorite flowers, including white tulips, daffodils and scented hyacinths. 

The princes and Duchess Kate learned about the garden’s design and planning from the head gardener, Sean Harkin, and met Graham Dillamore, a palace gardener who knew Diana from her frequent visits there.

After strolling the garden, the young royals met with some of the representatives of the main charities Diana supported in her final years, including hospitals, the National Aids Trust, the English National Ballet and Centrepoint, the homelessness charity.

Kensington Palace said in a statement the meeting was a chance to talk about Diana’s significant achievements and the legacy of her charity work which continues to resonate.

Why my South Philly urban garden made me want to get up in the morning

I spend a lot (read: probably too much) of time at home.

As a freelance writer, most of my days used to begin with a casual wake-up initiated by my internal alarm clock and a sluggish relocation from my bed to the kitchen table. Sometimes I feared I might need to have the “I know it looks like I haven’t moved from this spot since you left, but I promised I have” talk with my roommates.

Basically, I can be a sad excuse for an “adult” who thrives most when there’s tangible proof that I have completed a task.

What I needed was something to foster and take care of, something that would inspire me to log off of Twitter for a millisecond, something that would make my surroundings more stimulating, but something that was not as high maintenance as an animal or a small human because, please, I’m not there yet.

What I needed was a garden.

I had been told an assortment of plants would make me feel better. Which is true: there are studies to back this up. Research has shown that not only do public urban green spaces provide ecological benefits, but access to nature in cities has resulted in less stress, improved mental health and “self-reported perception of health.” If your neighborhood has more vegetation, studies have shown, your perceived levels of anxiety, depression and stress are less severe. Results of a study published in 2011, showed that from 1999 to 2008 7.8 million square feet of vacant lots were greened in Philadelphia and that residents who lived around those newly cultivated areas reported they got more exercise and stressed less. Gun assaults and vandalism were down in those sections, too.

But living in South Philadelphia, the most vegetation I experience regularly is the occasional weed poking through the cracks in the pavement. Sure, the concrete cell that is my backyard is low maintenance and has a certain ambiance when it’s illuminated in the evening by string lights. But there is nothing green about it. So I started doing some research on how to turn this space into something uplifting and sustainable. I knew I wanted to grow produce, but didn’t really care for florals.

Having an idea or a vision helps, according to Chris Carrington, owner and urban garden designer at Philly-based City Garden Guru. To ensure her clients get the most out of her plans, she’ll first give them a lot of options via photo and slideshow presentations to determine what sort of vegetation she’ll work with. Then, based on the space — which may or may not contain grass, concrete, or exist on a rooftop or in a sunroom — she will create a design utilizing containers, pallets, pots, raised beds, and more. (If you do plan on planting in your yard, be sure to test your soil for lead.)

“What’s particularly rewarding about doing this,” Carrington, a longtime gardener herself said, “is it can change [a person’s] day-to-day life when they have the space to engage in it actively.”



When my kale isn’t covered in flies, my little garden is paradise. With the help of my mother, whose thumbs are far greener than my own, I was able to fashion an old wooden pallet into a plot of land by enclosing the back and loading it up with soil. I planted green beans, kale, strawberries, broccoli, cilantro, basil, lettuce, and spinach — and saved a pot for a tomato plant.

Mornings no longer feel like a sleepy voyage to the coffee percolator — I have things to keep alive, after all. The modest corner of my yard devoted to not-totally-thriving-but-not-dead-yet plants offered a sense of accomplishment every time I walk back inside with a handful of greens.

In cities, where there aren’t a lot of space or resources available to make gardening a reality, it’s particularly important to highlight the benefits of hanging out near green stuff. Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation urban agriculture program, Farm Philly, creates and maintains community gardens on park land and holds a youth junior farmers program that shows kids ages two to 12 the benefits of growing their own food. Carrington participates in programs like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest, where local growers yield organic produce for food cupboards, soup kitchens and for people in high-need neighborhoods. She also works in community gardens.

“What I see in the community gardens are these kids that wouldn’t eat vegetables love them because they’re growing them,” Carrington said “They’re watching them grow, it’s like their little children.”

I never considered that veggies would be good for you even before you eat them prior to my own horticultural venture. I’m no expert, but I’ll be planting again next year. My mental state depends on it.

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Garden book review: ‘Glorious Shade: Dazzling Plants, Design Ideas, and Proven Techniques’

Sally and George Peterson are DIY gardeners who have transformed a rough hillside with a lake view into a tree-laden landscape with organic vegetables and herbs growing in raised planter beds and a greenhouse.

On their Ashland property, 225 trees, mostly native and drought tolerant, provide shade, fall color and berries for birds. They have also planted 200 shrubs and 3,000 bulbs, and installed a filter system to catch rainwater.

We gave Sally Peterson a stack of garden-related books and asked her if the information would help other DIYers in the Pacific Northwest. Here is one of her reviews:


“Glorious Shade: Dazzling Plants, Design Ideas, and Proven Techniques for Your Shady Garden” by Jenny Rose Carey ($24.95, Timber Press): When I first “read” Carey’s 324-page book, I actually didn’t read it at all. I flipped through the pages, totally mesmerized by the gorgeous photographs on every page.

Then, I settled in and discovered that Carey’s blend of art and science is throughout her guide. “Glorious Shade” begins with a discussion about observation and its importance in understanding “shifting patterns” of shade. It continues with definitions of the many types of shade and how it changes over the seasons.

I had no idea how many different shade situations there are and how truly unique the plants are in each environment. Carey discusses each season and the effect it has on plants. She lists specific tasks that a shade gardener attends to during each season.

The “Down and Dirty” chapter focuses on soil, with an emphasis on pH levels. It lists plants that thrive at the various ranges of the pH scale. Roots, and their critical functions, are discussed in detail. Designing, preparing, placing, planting and maintaining shade areas are thoroughly covered in a wonderfully approachable style.

Once the groundwork — literally and figuratively — has been set, Carey provides a very complete list of trees, shrubs, ferns and perennials that are excellent choices for shade gardens.

The detailed list outlines the specific requirements for each plant that will help it to thrive; the type of shade, the pH level of the soil and the amount of moisture are specified. Photographs and size of plant specifications help the shade gardener to be certain of his or her choice of plant for each garden area.

“Glorious Shade” is a truly inspiring resource for all gardeners. I now have a much better understanding of why my shade areas are struggling and hopeful ideas for making them truly pop with color and life.

— Sally Peterson

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Consultants show Lynchburg residents possible concepts for downtown master plan update

Hill Studio landscape architect Greg Webster shows designs for downtown Lynchburg on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, at the Craddock Terry Hotel in Lynchburg, Va. 

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Get home design and renovation ideas at expo

MAKE sure to visit Rex Home Improvement Renovation Expo at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur from Aug 31 to Sept 3.

Visitors can get ideas and handy tips from design, building and renovation experts at the exhibition.

More than 50 industry designers and 600 kitchen and wardrobe companies will be taking part.

There will also be purchaser rewards and bonuses, direct-from-factory savings and customised designs.

The fair occupies halls 1, 2, 3 and the atrium of the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre.

From design and decoration to renovation, landscaping and furnishing, there will be attractive deals and savings under one roof.

Among the latest trends and products that will be exhibited are kitchen cabinets, swimming pools, bath, sanitary ware, kitchenware, bedding, wardrobe, fittings, doors, windows, gates, furniture, home furnishing, decorative items as well as garden and landscaping ideas.

There will also be smart home, lights, switches, security systems, home appliances, wall and floor finishing, water heater, filtration system as well as interior design services.

Triple bonus rewards will be given to all purchasers.

Purchases above RM1,000 in a single or combined receipt (for credit card purchases only) will be entitled to a free gift.

Buyers will get two chances to win prizes with the purchase of items above RM100.

Customers with purchases above RM1,000 will also be eligible to take part in a lucky draw with prizes comprising a 6D/4N Beijing China Ground Tour, LED TV and branded household products, among others.

The exhibition is open from 11am to 9pm. Admission is free.

For details, visit

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7 Great End-of-Summer Home Improvement Upgrades to Do Now

Home improvement ideas abound during summer, but now that our warmest season is soon coming to a close, you might be thinking, “OMG, have I done anything around the house at all?” 

We get it—and the good news is, it’s not too late. Summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22, and the weather is still decent, which means there’s still time to squeeze in a few more weekend projects. To help narrow down your options, here’s a list of prime home improvements to try before summer’s end. In fact, this is the perfect time for many of these projects, since you can score deals on materials as home improvement stores try to clear out their summer inventory. In other words, slacking off was the smart thing to do. Backslap!

1. Plant a vegetable garden

Spring and summer aren’t the only times to plant produce. Fall is also a great time to start a vegetable garden, but since the weather has cooled, you’ll want to focus on autumn crops—think carrots, cabbage, beets, and kale. If you want to go all out, you can can even learn how to build your own greenhouse to exercise your green thumb year-round.

2. Upgrade your patio furnishings

As fall approaches and the warm weather recedes, many retailers slash prices on patio furniture to free up floor space for indoor furniture. That makes September a great month for scoring deals on all-weather chairs, wrought-iron dining tables, umbrellas, and other outdoor furniture. Lawn mowers also have deep discounts in September, according to Consumer Reports. Look to Target and Sears for discounts of up to 40% off, says

3. Spruce up your landscaping

To keep your yard looking pristine going into fall, it’s time to touch up your landscaping, says Bruce Irving, a renovation consultant and real estate agent in Cambridge, MA. You can meet with a landscape architect for a consultation to piece together ideas (most charge $75 to $150 for a one-hour consultation). On a shoestring budget? There is a cheaper option: Many local garden centers provide landscaping consultations for free or for a small additional cost if you buy plants from them. Also, a number of cities offer free mulch to residents, says Sarah Hutchinson at, so check to see if there’s a program available in your area.

Sprucing up your yard is particularly important if you’re planning to sell your home soon, since good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a home, according to landscape economist John Harris.

4. Install an outdoor shower

Before the warm temperatures dip too much, another timely outdoor project is to build an outdoor shower. When designing yours, think about size (what best fits the space?), plumbing (do you need to install a water line?), and materials.

“High-quality wood products such as ipe and cumaru are known for their stability and are prized for outdoor construction,” says John Leggett, CEO and founder of On Point Custom Homes of Houston. Don’t forget to leave extra space where towels and clothes can hang without getting wet.

5. Renovate your deck

Depending on where you live, you can continue using your deck for outdoor entertaining during the fall and winter months—if you keep it in good condition.

“Wood decks need yearly maintenance,” Bill Leys, founder of So, give your deck’s structure a close inspection. Specifically, look for signs of rot or cracks in the decking boards. If you spot issues, consult an expert by ordering a professional deck inspection, which costs on average from $25 to $199, according to Angie’s List.

6. Replace your old grill

Still using that rickety outdoor grill you purchased ages ago? It’s time to upgrade to a new one. As barbecue season comes to a close, you can nab great deals on grills and grilling supplies. To decide what grill is right for you (e.g., gas versus charcoal), check out our handy grill buying guide. If you’re looking to splurge, take a look at what high-end grill models are on the market.

7. Install a swimming pool

You heard us right! As counterintuitive as it seems, installing a swimming pool in late summer is ideal, for a variety of reasons. One, business for pool builders has slowed by now, which means they’ll be eager to cut you a deal that could save you anywhere from 10% to 12% of the price of your pool, or $2,000 to $3,000. Plus, soil tends to be drier in late summer and fall, and dry dirt makes for easier digging. And besides, you probably aren’t using your yard as much anyway! So why not take this opportunity to set yourself up for a great summer next year?

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Garden book review: How to help monarch butterflies

Sally and George Peterson are DIY gardeners who have transformed a rough hillside with a lake view into a tree-laden landscape with organic vegetables and herbs growing in raised planter beds and a greenhouse.

On their Ashland property, 225 trees, mostly native and drought tolerant, provide shade, fall color and berries for birds. They have also planted 200 shrubs and 3,000 bulbs, and installed a filter system to catch rainwater.

We gave Sally Peterson a stack of garden-related books and asked her if the information would help other DIYers in the Pacific Northwest. Here is one of her reviews:


“The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly” by Kylee Baumle ($18.95, St. Lynn’s Press): This is a book of concern, a book of hope, a book packed with incredible information. Baumle’s prose is passionate and a helpful guide to protecting one of the premier pollinators on our earth.

She notes that monarchs once numbered in the billions, but their population has decreased 90 percent in the last two decades. The challenges facing monarchs include climate change, the  desire for pristine landscaping and the use of pesticides.

To counteract the potential feeling of hopelessness and despair, Baumle provides us with very specific actions we can do to help support and reestablish this beautiful species. Suggestions include creating pollinator-friendly gardens, planting more milkweed, educating our children (who are particularly receptive), and replenishing tree growth in the overwintering area in Mexico, a huge project that has already begun.

There is an entire section that provides clearly written plans for specific projects for our homes, gardens and classrooms.

The 160-page book by the monarch expert and nature blogger begins with detailed information about monarch butterflies. Baumle clearly describes how to positively identify monarchs and to distinguish them from imposters. The life cycle is clearly outlined. There is an amazing section just on migration.

Throughout the guide, there are fascinating facts and “Did You Know” sections. On almost every page, there are gorgeous and extremely crisp photos that enhance the written content.

— Sally Peterson

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