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Archives for October 7, 2017

Authentic gardens require long-term devotion


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Many fine gardens are candidates for visiting and enjoying, but only one garden matters, and that’s your own.

Yours may amount to a narrow urban yard or just a few containers on a patio. It’s not the space you have, it’s how you shape it to love it that counts.

To me there isn’t much difference between an empty yard, where the owner grudgingly mows a weedy lawn, and a six-figure landscaped lot featuring acres of modular pavers, water features and supersize trees and shrubs in irrigated and manicured beds. Both require minimal contact with the owner and pretty much lack the soul of a real garden.

If you want a garden rather than a yard, you have to invest yourself in it. It’s fine (and usually necessary) to enlist the help of pros, but it’s your long-term cultivation of plants and the knowledge that grows with them that are the hallmarks of an authentic place.

One of the best examples of this I know is the Annapolis, Md., home of Nancy and Pierre Moitrier.

Their ranch house sits on a flat, one-third-acre lot bounded on two sides by neighborhood roads. The property is lifted out of any ordinariness by the development of an encircling series of garden rooms, shaped, variously, by trees and shrubs, fences, the house itself and modest stone walls. These spaces vary in size and character while creating part of a cohesive whole.

The Moitriers are landscape professionals, designing, installing and maintaining gardens. (Their firm is called Designs for Greener Gardens.) Clearly, the development of their garden, since 2002, is shaped by their skills and experience, but you don’t have to be a pro to embrace their underlying idea that a garden evolves from its site; it’s not imposed upon it.

I was last at the Moitriers’ in 2009 when I was focused on two features driven by Pierre’s sense of garden artistry (being French helps with the aestheticism). The first is a meticulously crafted treehouse, high in a sweet gum tree in the rear of the lot. With its wooden siding and cedar shake dormer roof, the folly in the sky has a fairy-tale quality about it. It is so handsomely detailed inside that once you are in it, you might forget you’re sharing the space with a tree but for the presence of its old boughs.

The other great element is a decorative vegetable garden, 25 feet square and framed in a high fence fashioned from harvested trunks and branches of Eastern red cedar. None of it is milled to have edges, and Pierre put it together as a puzzle, a tracery of poles of sculptural and rustic enchantment. Deceptively, the garden fence consumed about 100 trees. (Cedars grow like weeds in woodlands, ditches and meadows, and he usually harvests them in advance of their planned destruction.)

Anyway, these two delights stood in the way of my soaking up the whole garden, a situation corrected with a recent return visit.

We sat on a patio positioned in a shady and secluded spot at the rear of the house. It’s a great place to gather and chat but, from a design point, emblematic of how gardens are assembled as a collection of subdivided spaces with their own character.

Pierre uses a lot of large landscape stones but in a way that feels organic and natural. That same unintrusiveness applies to the cedar woodwork as well. These “hard” elements work with the maturing trees and shrubs to frame spaces, and the plantings are rich in their layering and planting density, but not fussy with flowers. If you are like me, you want this serenity in the garden — there’s enough excitement in the rest of the world.

Much of the planning of the garden has been in taming the stormwater that afflicts the site, achieved by developing and planting drainage swales, the berms that channel them and rain gardens that collect and hold precipitation.

One side of the house is given to an intimate outdoor room where a low stone wall invites sitting and repose. Two upright stones sit at one end of the space, soon to receive a low gate that will reinforce the sense of compartmentalization. This tweaking is essential to the evolution of the garden.

Recently, they moved a path that had been in a swale to the berm beside it. “The view of the garden from above the swale is far more appealing,” Nancy said.

Nancy wrote to me later sharing some thoughts on gardenmaking. Like any successful design, most of the effort is not apparent. It requires “consistency of care,” she said, and a sense of anticipation that comes with experience. “The cultivation of a garden is not about tending to what has happened, but it is about having the ability to tend to what will happen or may happen.” She added, “Procrastinators do not make good gardeners.”

When I asked for her sources of inspiration, she mentioned the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “He talked about how you would go from room to room almost like a tunnel, squeeze and release. When you design a garden you’re thinking the same way,” she said.

Pierre said he is inspired more by places than individual designers, and he is struck by a garden in central France that is now at a destination restaurant but originally at a 12th-century priory. Named Prieure Notre Dame d’Orsan, the property and its gardens have that matchless French quality of pairing formality with utility, as seen in a vineyard, orchard and kitchen garden. I wish he hadn’t told me about this place, because now I have to go.

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Down To Earth: Fall Is For Spring

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VIDEO: How UK Helped Jon Carloftis Design Dream Career

Video produced by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To view captions for this video, push play and click on the CC icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. If using a mobile device, click on the “thought bubble” in the same area.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 6, 2017) — A University of Kentucky alumnus says he owes his successful garden design career to his college degree and a single business card.

Those were the only resources University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information alumnus Jon Carloftis had at his disposal when he left his Kentucky home for New York City in the late 1980s.

“I had the chance to move to New York for the summer,” said the Rockcastle County native. “I made cards up that said ‘Jon Carloftis Rooftop Garden Designer.’ I’d never been on a rooftop in my life!”

Nobody seemed to notice. The nationally known garden designer’s ingenuity, coupled with the business communication classes he’d taken, drove his entrepreneurial spirit.

“I gave them around the Upper East Side, to doormen and elevator men,” Carloftis said. “I said ‘give it to the person on top.’ One person called me up and she gave me my chance.”

Through word of mouth, his career soared throughout New York City. He designed gardens for celebrities like Julianne Moore, Edward Norton and Mike Myers, as well as countless rooftops across the area.

“I learned all the things from my professors at UK,” Carloftis said. “I also learned (from) growing up in Kentucky about nature, beauty and the natural beauty, rather than the fake. My work was very popular in New York because that’s what they wanted. They wanted the real deal.”

Carloftis credits more than just the communication degree for his success. After his four years on campus, he decided to take an entire year to complete courses in horticulture where he learned about trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials at the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Today, after a successful 27 years in New York City, he’s back in Lexington, living in Botherum, a historic home he helped renovate with gardens he designed.

But that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down. Watch the video above to see what local landscapes he’s currently designing. You’ll also hear how much the University of Kentucky means to him. 

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Downtown renovations continue





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Bjorkman’s Ace can help with fall landscape projects

You can save a lot of time and effort next spring if you do some yard and landscape work now to protect the investment in your property.

This effort goes beyond just raking and bagging leaves, although stocking up on yard bags is a good idea before the “fall rush.”

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Here are more fall landscaping tips.

Take care of your lawn by spreading a winterizing blend of fertilizer. Some home stores, like Ace Hardware, offer a variety of single- and four-step fertilizing programs. This affords a slow release of nutrients into the soil to insure your lawn gets a healthy start come spring.

Perennial flowerbeds could also use a dose of fertilizer. Ask what would be best for the types of plants you have, and for fertilizing instructions.

Also, consider another round of spot spraying weeds. Like your lawn grass, these will come back in spring.

Check your outside faucets. If there is a leak, the time to fix it is now before a freeze causes cracks. Damage is harder to repair in winter. Drain your hoses; a sudden frost or freeze could cause damage.

Cut away dead branches on trees and bushes. These will promote better growth in spring. Be careful not to prune good growth until after the plant goes dormant for winter.

Mulch should be spread around trees, bushes and perennial plants. This will protect the plants’ root systems over winter. Ask your Ace Hardware sales associate what kind of much is best, and for spreading tips.

And when the leaves do fall, consider using your lawnmower’s mulching capability to grind them up and leave them on the lawn. Dead leaves are loaded with nutrients.

For advice on these and other fall landscaping projects and ideas, and help selecting products, talk with an Ace sales associate.

Bjorkman’s Ace Hardware

4520 W. Crystal Lake Rd., McHenry, Il., 60050
Call (815) 385-3660

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Things to do this weekend: chili festival, cultural programs, crafts fairs and more – Omaha World





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Los Poblanos sports a new look

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Los Poblanos Historic Inn Organic Farm has a new look.

The 125-acre complex off of Rio Grande recently finished a roughly $10 million renovation, with two new buildings that add 28 guest rooms to the existing 22.

The project also includes a renovated bar and restaurant with a state-of-the-art kitchen, a refurbished retail shop and a new reception area in an old dairy barn. New gardens and landscaping were also part of the upgrade.


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The restaurant building expands the existing structure from 8,000 square feet to roughly 10,000 square feet.

About 30 new employees will be hired, adding to the current staff of 143, said Matthew Rembe, owner and executive director of Los Poblanos.

Construction began 18 months ago, and the Los Poblanos Inn received its certificate of occupancy two weeks ago.

The changes were designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, Rembe said.

“The farms really dictated the placement of the buildings,” he said. “The most environmental green thing you can do is to renovate an existing building, and so that is what we did, wherever we could.”

The new guest rooms were built to catch a cross breeze, reducing the need for air conditioning. Food for the restaurant is either grown on site or by surrounding farms. The plants in the new landscaping are low-water plants, some of which produce food for the kitchen. Meat is from animals butchered on site.

Los Poblanos does not use chemicals in its farm or guest rooms.

Rembe said sustainability and reducing the farm’s environmental footprint has always been a goal of Los Poblanos. “We did a lot of thinking about the green aspect of it,” he said.

Los Poblanos has a long history, and the buildings were built with different styles in mind.

“We mixed traditional New Mexican things with this traditional farm style,” Rembe said.

Half of the farm buildings were constructed in the adobe style of well-known architect John Gaw Meem, and the new rooms and surrounding buildings keep that tradition, Rembe said.

Los Poblanos went through great pains to make sure every detail matched the style of the farm. Many of the light fixtures and furniture are refurbished from old farms and hotels around the state. Wherever possible, Rembe kept the original flooring and walls.

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Get butterfly food at UC Davis Arboretum

Ellen Zagory found a surefire way to bring more butterflies into her Davis garden. She grows what they like to eat.

“It’s like a butterfly buffet,” she said. “It’s so much fun to watch.”

Zagory observes butterflies in more than her backyard. As horticulture director of the UC Davis Arboretum, she has a whole campus to see how good bugs (and birds) react to the arboretum’s gardens and campus landscaping.

Pollinators help determine the drought-tolerant plants offered by the arboretum at its popular sales. Their favorites become arboretum favorites, too.

Saturday, Oct. 7, the arboretum’s Teaching Nursery hosts its first sale of the season. This sale features more than 23,000 plants in 600-plus varieties. From 9 to 11 a.m., members of Friends of the Arboretum get first dibs, but patrons can join at the gate (and get a discount and $10 credit, too). The public sale is open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We have more plants than ever before,” Zagory said. “The nursery is completely packed. Our theme this year is pollinator gardening – butterflies, hummingbirds and native bees.”

Additional sales will be held Oct. 21 and Nov. 4. Featured this fall are “Garden Gems,” the same pollinator-friendly plants featured weekly in this section.

Some plants seem to be butterfly magnets, she noted.

Butterflies prefer flowers loaded with nectar that’s easy to get, Zagory explained. No trumpets or two-lipped blooms (leave those to the hummingbirds and bees), but something relatively flat. That gives butterflies a landing platform, so they can sit while they eat.

Among their favorites: Asters, lantana, lavender, goldenrod, sedum and anything in the mint family.

When planting a butterfly garden, pick a wide variety of flowering plants so something is always blooming.

“You’re setting that buffet,” Zagory said. “You want to give them something they’ll like.”

Butterflies can be finicky, too. For example, California pipevine swallowtails must have (you guessed it) California pipevines. A range of different flowers and host plants (for caterpillars) broadens the butterfly perspective, too.

“About 20 varieties of butterflies come to Sacramento gardens,” Zagory said. “They’re divided into two groups – those moving through and those sticking around.”

Migrating monarchs are Sacramento’s best-known visiting butterflies. Year-round, mournful dusky-wings are common; their caterpillars eat oak leaves.

Of course, butterflies can’t resist butterfly bush. The arboretum offers at least six varieties.

“They’re mostly seedless, which is great; buddleia can be invasive,” Zagory said. “And if they’re not setting seed, they just stay flowering. Butterflies just love them. I counted five different kinds on one shrub. That’s exciting!”

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