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Archives for September 17, 2017

Successfully transition houseplants indoors for winter – Walla Walla Union

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Her website,, offers gardening videos and tips.

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PROPERTY: Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

DEVELOPER Barratt Homes is encouraging householders to make their gardens a haven for wildlife.

The builder is working with groups such as the RSPB to help encourage wildlife in urban and rural areas, and it has these tips to share:

– Planting herbs like lavender, marjoram and thyme will help attract butterflies and bees to your garden.

– A small pond or water feature can be key to encouraging pollinators like birds and dragonflies, plus small creatures such as frogs. A birdbath is another, easier option; a broad and shallow one is best.

– Collect cuttings and seeds from willing friends and family and also from plants that have already flowered in your garden. Plant up in beds, in pots and up walls and water every day.

– Deadheading will promote the growth of new shoots and buds. Some summer shrubs, including varieties of rose, may bloom a second time, providing more pollen for wildlife. At the end of the season, leave the seed heads standing – they will look great through winter and will offer seeds just when birds need them.

– Delay hedge cutting until September to ensure any nesting birds have flown. Consider planting hardy evergreens such as conifers, as a haven for birds such as blackbirds, robins and greenfinches.

For more about Barratt Homes’ developments at Quernmore Park, Lancaster, and Riverside View, Lancaster, visit

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Houston garden centers pull together

Since late August, citizens of Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area have been attempting to recover from the fallout of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane that struck Texas’ Gulf Coast on August 26.

Harvey was the first Category 4 storm to strike the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004, with the last Category 4 storm to strike Texas being Hurricane Carla in 1961, according to ABC News. The storm has caused more than 80 confirmed deaths and up to $108 billion in damages, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though a grim picture has been painted of the affected areas, and many people remain displaced by persistent flooding, several garden center businesses in the Houston area were spared and are relatively intact, but there were many close calls.

Taking stock

Sherri Harrah of the family-owned Plants for All Seasons says the flooding in her area stopped just shy of her business.

“[The flooding] was about a fourth of a mile south of us on the same road. It just stopped,” Harrah says.

Buchanan’s Native Plants also experienced little in the way of wind, rain or flood damage, says general manager Kevin Barry. Unfortunately, several of the company’s employees and customers weren’t quite as lucky.

“The company itself, we did well. We had about a half a million [dollars] in inventory sitting on the lot and lost about $3,000, so it was nothing for us,” Barry says. “Our employees, on the other hand, had a much worse problem. We had two that lost their houses – completely gone. We had one that lost her car, we had one who was renting; he lost everything he had in the rental property. So, we had a lot of employees who were affected, as well as some of our customers.”

Barry added that although sales at Buchanan’s were impacted after the storm, he expects activity to recover as the clean-up in Houston continues.

“As far as sales go, we took a hit when it came to that, of course,” he says. “We probably lost $100,000 in retail sales, but with the way we’re based in Houston, [we’re in] what I like to the ‘Money Belt.’ We’ve already seen our sales surge again. Within the last week, we’ve already picked up $30,000 back. I don’t expect us to take a huge hit in revenue for it.”

Major flooding mostly bypassed Nelson Water Gardens, but severely impacted the surrounding neighborhoods, says President Rolf Nelson.

“[There was] minor damage that was more from a bit of wind and rain that got through a portion of the roof,” Nelson says. “It really could have happened in a thunderstorm. We didn’t get the tremendous winds, just never-ending rain. Now, we couldn’t get to our business for a number of days because all the roads were flooded where I live. We were shut down for a week, basically.”

Also read: A tour of 5 independent garden centers: Highlights from The Fall Event’s bus tour of five Houston-area plant retailers.

Reaching out

Although these garden retailers had enough on their plate while recovering from Harvey’s impact, each took it upon themselves to lend a hand to their markets in their own ways.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Plants for All Seasons has been offering soil and mold remediation classes and demonstrations, in an effort to equip Houston citizens with the knowledge to help their lawns and gardens recover from the flood.

“We just did a Facebook Live video on soil remediation after the flood,” Harrah says. “I did one on mold remediation. So, it kind of opened the door to other ways to help … and get our name out there too. Houston is huge, and [customers] might google something about mold remediation or what to do with your landscape after floods and they’re going to be directed to us, so it was kind of a way to open peoples’ eyes to us, too.”

The leadership at Buchanan’s took it upon themselves to help remedy the disruption and chaos inflicted on the garden center’s customers and neighbors through fundraising for home repairs.

“What we did, when we opened [Sept. 2], we threw together a fundraising event and we donated 100 percent of the proceeds to charity and we were able to give about $10,000 in cash to a local charity,” Barry says. “In addition to that, we took each of one of our employees’ needs one by one, turned around and went out to Home Depot and spent three or four grand out there. We kept that confidential with each one of those employees, but we’ve given out about $20,000 so far, and we’re still giving.”

Nelson took a hands-on approach, taking family and employees out into flooded neighborhoods in small, personal watercraft to help stranded people.

“We checked on the [store Aug. 30], but then we went out and had some folks we were able to get out of their neighborhoods,” Nelson says. “We have canoes and jon boats, and we spent our time doing that for a couple of days. My son and I, on that Tuesday, went in to help get an elderly couple and their neighbors out of their neighborhood with our canoe. The next day, two more guys who work with us [brought their] jon boats and joined us. We did a four-man crew going in with two crafts. People need the help, we have guys who are used to hard labor, so we’re keeping that group of people busy and doing some good at the same time.”

Also read: ‘Proud to partner’ – After a devastating flood in Baton Rouge, LA., destroyed the 63-year-old Naylor’s Hardware Garden Center in August, the owner and longtime staff were facing an uncertain future. That’s when Clegg’s Nursery stepped in.

Being ready

There’s only so much that can be done in face of a major hurricane, but experts and survivors alike agree that preparation is key to improving a home or business’ chances of weathering the storm. At Buchanan’s, plans were put into place as soon as possible to batten down the hatches.

“We started four days before [Hurricane Harvey hit], prepping everything. Basically, we carted everything we could and put it into the greenhouses,” Barry says. “What really amazes me when I see stories [about businesses getting hit by severe weather], I always think to myself, ‘Wait a minute. You had a week. Why would you not prepare?’ When they tell you a hurricane’s coming, it’s better safe than sorry – you need to prep. Even if it costs you more and nothing comes in, that’s okay. At least you’re not going to lose a bunch of stuff. If we hadn’t done anything, we probably would’ve ended up losing half of our stock.”

One key to reducing the damage from Harvey was making sure all staff at Buchanan’s were aware of the emergency procedures ahead of time, Barry says.

“The other thing is to make sure your employees have their strategy beforehand, as far as communication, who’s doing what, how are we doing this,” he says. “We had all those systems in place – the only thing we didn’t account for was cell phones going down, which happened.”

As they look ahead to getting their businesses back into working order, Houston retailers expressed their gratitude for solidarity shown by the community in the face of crisis.

“The amount of community outpouring and people helping has been amazing,” Harrah says. ” [It’s] unbelievable. Houston is [one of] the largest cities in the U.S., and you would never know. It feels like a small town.”

“The coming together of a massive number of people to just take care of each other was phenomenal. [People] just stepped in,” Nelson adds. “It was critical that we had all the first responders and the National Guard and everything here, because there were some areas that were just too dangerous to handle any other way. The volunteerism has been phenomenal down here, and hopefully we keep that spirit going forward as we move a little bit further away from the adrenaline and everything happening so quick and we continue to help each other.”

Photo courtesy of Rolf Nelson. Pictured from left to right: Roland Bodden, Peter Nelson and Eddie Albertson, members of Nelson Water Gardens’ design/build team.

Keep an eye out for Garden Center magazine’s October issue for more coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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Dutch engineer aims high with latest green roof design

AMSTERDAM — Standing between raised beds of plants on top of a former naval hospital, Joris Voeten can look across to the garden, cafe and terrace that decorate the sloping roof of Amsterdam’s NEMO science museum.

Such productivity is part of the urban engineer’s vision for cities worldwide, places where he sees the largely neglected flat tops of buildings doing more than keeping out weather and housing satellite dishes.

Voeten, of Dutch company Urban Roofscapes, says a rooftop garden system he unveiled recently on the former hospital roof stores more rainwater than existing green roofs and requires less power by relying on a capillary irrigation system that uses insulation material instead of pumps to water plants.

Roofs that are adapted so plants can grow on them produce a cooling effect on buildings and the air immediately above them in two ways. The plants reflect heat instead of absorbing it the way traditional roofing sheets do. They also reduce heat by evaporating water.

Voeten said readings taken on a very hot day showed a temperature difference of up to 72 degrees between his hospital garden compared with a roof covered in black bitumen.

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Waves of grain: Author says wheat, rice, oats and other grains are ideal for the neighborhood landscape

Americans love their lawns, but a North Carolina-based author wants homeowners and professional landscapers to consider other members of the grass family.

Brie Gluvna Arthur, the self-described “Crazy Grain Lady,” wants people to recognize the beauty, heritage and practicality of growing rice, wheat, oats and other members of the “poaceae” group.

“I feel like grains could potentially have a lot of landscape appeal,” say Arthur, who wrote “The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden,” published in March by St. Lynn’s Press.

“They (grains) look like ornamental grasses that have become very common in our landscape, but one of their advantages is that they have very deep root systems that can aid with excessive water and stormwater cleaning. By contrast, ornamental grasses tend to have shallow root systems.”

Arthur has demonstrated the use of grains by planting grains, particularly rice in the warm season and wheat in the cool season, in an 850-square-foot bed along the foundation of her house in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina.

“The reason I got into growing them is that I had never seen it done before,” says Arthur, adding that it’s also an inexpensive way to fill a bed. About $3 worth of seed can cover 150 square feet.

Coming to Charleston

This year, Arthur has been on a busy national and international tour promoting “Foodscape Revolution” and will bring her presentation, which will focus on grains, to the Lowcountry when she speaks to the Charleston Horticultural Society on Oct. 9.

Society Executive Director Kyle Barnette says society board members saw Arthur’s presentation last fall at Middleton Place and asked for an encore this year.

“It (planting grains) isn’t the first thing you think about when it comes to the beautification of a garden. That’s one of the reasons why you want someone like Brie to talk about it because she has a great way of telling you how to incorporate edibles into the ornamental landscape,” Barnette says.

He adds that while planting grains in a garden is not a new idea, Arthur is “bringing a new flavor to it.”

“It’s not that people don’t know about it. They may just need the inspiration.”

The new sweetgrass?

Thirty years ago, sweetgrass basketmakers sounded the alarm that the native grass that is part of a Gullah craft tradition was getting harder to find in the Lowcountry.

Horticultural and landscaping enthusiasts were among those who responded, embracing sweetgrass, which features tufts of enduring pink blossoms in the late fall, for its ornamental, native beauty.

Arthur and others see Carolina gold rice, which was largely responsible for building the wealth of Colonial South Carolina, in the same way. It’s a legacy plant with roots tied to African slaves that nearly disappeared despite being beautiful.

Dovetailing efforts

Arthur’s more recent work takes a parallel path with the decade-plus efforts of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, a group of researchers and advocates that has been working to save, restore and protect the heirloom grain varieties that were precious to the Southeast and the nation.

The foundation’s efforts focus on grains that were developed over time for flavor. In the late 1800s, the food industry started moving toward creating grains that were more durable in production, shipment and storage, not flavor.

Foundation Chairman David Shields, a Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, says that what Arthur is advocating is “an interesting idea.”

“I just don’t know whether the average human being now is patient enough to do that without training. You’ll always have devotees who will do that,” says Shields, adding that her approach to focus on landscapers may be the better audience.

“Grains aren’t the easiest thing to grow, but they do have enormous resonance and do have flavor,” says Shields. “However, we’ve always believed in the potential. The actual applications that people put the things to once they become available will be interesting.”

Fellow foundation board member and Columbia-based Anson Mills owner Glen Roberts applauds Arthur’s efforts and passion, but also questions whether the mainstream will embrace heirloom grains in the home landscape.

Roberts says the foundation is working on other “vectors” for bringing back heirloom grains: school and urban gardens.

“I get calls from teachers every day about getting seed and advice,” says Roberts, noting that the calls come from across the country.

Prior to and during World War II, Roberts says home gardens often featured grains as among the edible plants, so it isn’t without precedent.

Grains belong

Arthur says the local food movement has made great strides to bring locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables back to communities, but for the most part have left out grains, which are more sustaining carbohydrate sources.

“When you go to a bakery and ask where your flour came from, generally they don’t know. Usually in the Southeast, it does not come from a regionalized resource. There is no reason for that. We have the ability to grow local carbohydrates on smaller plots that can be managed organically.”

Arthur also theorized that bringing heirloom varieties back to local markets may help with a growing intolerance to gluten, which she thinks came from the industrialization of grain agriculture.

She says the local food movement is opening other opportunities to bring grains back and points to the rise of distilleries and breweries, and even home brewers.

“Barley (which is used for beer) is the absolutely most beautiful grain you’ll ever see. For people who brew their own beer, being able to grow your own barley is a really easy part of localizing that resource. It involves basically no inputs. You don’t need to fertilize it or spray it with pesticides. It grows in clumps and en masse.”

Arthur says harvesting grains requires letting plants dry in the landscape. Then they are cut, threshed and winnowed to harvest the seeds.

Arthur says she sees growing grains as being sensible and that it makes more sense than ornamental grass plants that are non-native and invasive, such as pampas.

“Grains are an annual that have been been grown thousands of years and won’t be invasive,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense that we’re growing ornamental grasses when we could be getting the same design aesthetic and getting nutrition from it.”

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