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Archives for October 13, 2017

Style: Inspiration from an interior design legend

It takes a lot to pry me away from Nell Hill’s during our busy season. Day off? No way. Starting in August, the team and I go, go, go, helping customers get ready for the holiday season.

But then this happened: a deliciously beautiful invitation to attend a luncheon benefiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, with one of my all-time favorite interior designers as the keynote speaker.

I couldn’t RSVP quickly enough with my enthusiastic YES.

If you aren’t familiar with Bunny Williams’ name, chances are you are with her work. Her designs have been featured in all the top decorating magazines, from Architectural Digest to House Beautiful to Elle Decor and Veranda.

She’s the author of numerous books on home and garden design, the newest of which is “A House by the Sea,” featuring her stunning home in Punta Canta, Dominican Republic.

Williams was warm and gracious, funny and down to earth as she told us about her childhood, serving as her mother’s sidekick as they decorated their family’s home in Charlottesville, Va. After studying design in Boston, she landed a job with celebrated New York interior design firm Parish-Hadley.

She opened her own design firm, and today also has a line of signature products.

I’m so glad I played hooky from work, because I left the luncheon sky high, filled with ideas and inspiration I can’t wait to incorporate into my own home, and those of the friends and customers I get to work with to create interior spaces they love.

Here are a few of my favorite pearls of wisdom from Williams about decorating your home:

Design your home to fit your lifestyle. As you create your interior spaces, ask yourself, “How do I really live in my home?” Make sure all your design decisions support your day-to-day lifestyle. For example, if you have a formal living room that you never go into, turn it into a space you will use, like a den or a library or an office.

Follow your heart, not trends. Decorate with what you love, and don’t worry so much about what is in and out of style at the moment. Williams said she likes to decorate with chintz, and when someone asked her, “Isn’t chintz out of style?” she replied: Only if you don’t like it. If you like it, it’s in style.

Classic style should not be predictable. I loved this point, as my own traditional approach to decorating has evolved over the years. For Williams, classic style is a mix of traditional and modern elements. Her body of work includes sleek modern spaces and traditional ones, and often she blends the two. The key, she said, is to mix beautiful things together in interesting ways.

Make your home inviting to guests. Williams said she and her husband had entertaining in mind when they designed their beach home, and now it is always filled with visitors. To make people feel at home, she pays attention to little details, like always having a self-serve bar when she entertains, so guests can feel comfortable helping themselves.

Celebrate dishes in your decor. You all know I’m a dishaholic. So I could instantly relate to Williams’s passion for dishes. She says she likes to have a different place setting for each of the three meals she serves at her coastal home. She mixes dish patterns, but keeps the color scheme the same, such as layering only blue and white dishes together on the table.

Restore and reuse when you can. A lifelong lover of antiques, Williams likes to use imperfect pieces in her designs because they have a history and add to the room’s character. When she can, she prefers to modify an older piece for modern life, instead of buying something new, like making an old plantation canopy bed larger to fit our modern, bigger mattresses.

Shopping is education. To find the right pieces for your home, you need to spend some time educating yourself by shopping, in person, not just over the internet. For example, if you’re looking for a sofa, you have to sit in several before you find the perfect one. Shopping online seems like it’s easier and more convenient, but you can’t replace the experience of working with a good salesperson who knows her product, and seeing the items for yourself.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

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The whimsical world of garden follies

Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.

English country estates are often associated with intricate networks of rooms and strict social hierarchies. But just outside the country house is an entirely different world—the garden, a freer, more whimsical space where the rules are relaxed.

“The garden is a place of diversion and distraction,” says Michael Lewis, professor of art history at Williams College. “While the house itself is organized, ordered culture, outside one encounters rain and heat and wind—capriciousness! The walk through the garden is different every time.”

One means of diversion was through the construction of garden follies, little structures that punctuate the landscape. Wildly popular in 18th-century garden design, they serve no purpose aside from delighting the eye and sparking conversation.

While garden pavilions gained popularity through the 18th century, they took inspiration from centuries-old landscape architecture: “The source of all of our modern garden is rooted in the Italian Renaissance,” explains Lewis. “From the beginning, that garden was a fanciful place, with fountains and grottos and eccentric grotesque carvings and sculptures.”

The Great Pagoda through the trees at Kew Gardens.
Ben Perry/Getty Images

In the 18th century, as the British Empire reached the height of its imperialist expansion and its trade economy boomed, England saw an influx of wealth. As a result, the architecture being constructed in England reflected the country’s new fascination with the building styles traders encountered on their routes.

Books of drawings and prints helped popularize varying architectural styles. In 1721, the Austrian architect Johann Fischer von Erlach published the first survey of architecture, called A Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture.

“This is the first book that showed examples of Chinese pagodas and Moorish architecture,” adds Lewis, who also notes that the 18th century saw the architectural duo James Stuart and Nicolas Revett publish surveys of classical buildings—like The Antiquities of Athens.

As a result, garden follies took a variety of styles. It was most fashionable to construct a chinoiserie folly, which appropriated Chinese architecture.

“People didn’t have the same idea of stylistic integrity,” explains Lewis. “This is ‘associationism’, the idea that each style carries certain psychological associations. The more of an exaggeration of the style you make, the more it’s going to work. It can’t be subtle.”

The Chinese House at Stowe.
Courtesy of National Trust / Perry Lithgow Partnership

The designs weren’t wholly accurate, but they also weren’t meant to be. Lewis explains that many of the designs were based off of prints, not building manuals. The images didn’t specify materials type or constructed technique.

The oldest surviving chinoiserie folly in the UK can be found in the gardens at Stowe House. Called the “Chinese House,” it was completed in 1738 by William Kent. While today it rests on the ground, it was originally hoisted up on stilts, set in the center of a lake.

“Its original use was a little place where you could take tea,” says Rebecca Ellison, conservator at the National Trust. “The idea was that the ladies and gentlemen of the house could ride out on a boat, stop at the house for a cup of tea and then sail back.”

The Chinese House didn’t stay at Stowe long. Ellison explains that about thirteen years later, the Chinese House was sold to Wotton House, where it remained until 1957. The house was then acquired by Harristown House in Ireland, before being acquired by the National Trust in 1992, when it was finally returned to its home of Stowe, 254 years after it was originally built.

The little house, made of painted pine panels on an oak frame, features painted scenes by Francesco Sleter, who did many wall paintings in grand English houses at the time. The scenes depict such things like the Chinese House itself, set in its original landscape in the middle of a pond.

The Chinese House been undergoing restoration work with the support of the Royal Oak Foundation, an American organization that is a partner of the National Trust. The Chinese House was the focus of the foundation’s second annual “Follies” gala, which funds the conservation of garden pavilions in the United Kingdom.

“The house is an incredibly delicate structure, and holds such an important place as the oldest surviving chinoiserie garden structure in the U.K.,” says interior designer Caleb Anderson, who co-chaired the Follies fundraiser. “We were so excited to help support it.”

Chinoiserie follies may have reached their height—both literally and figuratively—at Kew Gardens, where William Chambers designed a 10-story-tall pagoda in 1762.

A view from the Great Pagoda at Kew.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

“The Great Pagoda is only one of a number of follies on the Kew—there are also classically inspired follies and there was once a mosque, too,” explains David Holroyd, director of estates at Kew Gardens, which surround the royal Kew Palace.

“The royal family used to promenade around the garden from folly to folly, a means of almost moving around the world, showing off to their royal relatives. This was the time of the expansion of the British empire, mind you.”

The Great Pagoda—which offers commanding views of London and as far as Windsor Castle—is currently undergoing its own restoration. The restoration is returning the folly to its original color scheme. It was erroneously painted red in the Victorian era, but now it is being restored to its original green-and-white palette. Ornamental carved dragons are also being added back to the tiered roofs.

Jackdaws Castle with Highclere Castle in the background.
Courtesy of Highclere Castle.

At Highclere Castle—perhaps most famous as the setting for the TV show Downton Abbey—the follies are exclusively inspired by antiquity.

“There was a beautiful formal garden here from 1721 to 1761—and that’s when the owner of Highclere at the time, Robert Herbert, built 12 follies,” explains Lady Carnarvon, author of At Home at Highclere: Entertaining at the Real Downton Abbey. “The 18th-century gardens had various allées and avenues. The 12 follies were related to the 12 numbers on a clock, based around a central folly.”

Lady Carnarvon explained that allées would lead from the central folly to other follies around the grounds, like Heaven’s Gate, Jackdaws Castle, and an Etruscan temple.

The Etruscan temple doubles as an amphitheater of sorts, where little plays could be enacted—a nod to the theatrical quality of garden follies.

Over the years, six of the follies have been lost and one was changed. “When Charles Barry was building the castle you see today, he altered the Temple of Diana, which Robert Herbert had built when Highclere was a smaller red-brick home,” explains Lady Carnarvon. “The temple wasn’t big enough to hold its place in the new landscape, so Barry enlarged it.”

Meanwhile, at the Stourhead estate, the Greco-Roman temples were cleverly designed and placed to relate to not only each other—but also the garden at large.

“The Temple of Apollo stands on a hill above the gardens as one of the most powerful follies,” explains Alan Power, head gardener at Stourhead. “Being god of the sun, Apollo is the most powerful thing to keep the garden alive.”

The temple of Apollo at Stourhead.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

He explains that the Temple of Apollo, which was based on a drawing of the ruins of Baalbeck by scholar Robert Wood, has a view across a lake to another folly: the Temple of Flora. “Between the two follies, you have flora and fauna, which keeps the garden alive. Framed between those two temples is the Pantheon in the distance—the temple of the gods,” says Power.

But in keeping with the spirit of follies, there is no direct path at Stourhead from structure to structure, a clever device used to excite wonder—a characteristic most central to garden follies.

“You have to walk with curiosity and have faith in where you’re going,” Power says. “The garden reveals itself to you through various unfolding views—suddenly you have stumbled across a temple! Just one of the many destinations in the garden. It’s fantastic.”

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Landscape inspirations make a grand entrance – The San Diego Union

Fall is in the air. Frost isn’t quite on the pumpkin yet — after all, this is San Diego — but for gardeners, a new season allows us to start again. A new crop of veggies, pansies instead of impatiens, and maybe some tweaking of the garden design.

Before you rush out to change your bedding plants and overhaul your patio pots, take a little time to reconsider a change in your garden’s design.

Let’s assume you have already taken the initial steps to tweak your landscape. You have a list of all its pros and cons, recognize your home’s architectural style and know what changes you would like to make in the garden. More importantly, you now understand your garden’s demands as well. In fact, over the summer, you changed your irrigation system, worked with your neighbor to prune the overgrown hedge and planted milkweed that brought the monarchs back into your yard.

Now you would like to do a bit more tweaking. Hopefully, it’s nothing expensive and not something that will take months to complete. Perhaps you have been eyeing your front entry and realize that it could be improved. It is dark and cramped. And the only people who use it are dropping cartons by the door.

City of Sterling eyes purchase of Brad Rhea marble sculpture

The city of Sterling will likely be adding a new jewel to its shining collection of public art.

At Tuesday’s Sterling City Council meeting, Kim Sellers of the Citizens Advisory Board brought two funding requests to the council. The CAB makes recommendations on funding beautification projects using the city’s hotel tax.

The first project was a minor measure to cover some of the repairs to the digital billboard at the Tourist Information Center, at the request of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. The billboard was installed in 2010 and had a five-year warranty; now the sign has a number of burned-out spots. The request was for up to $1,750 to replace the components; the Logan County Lodging Tax Board has also been asked to chip in on the repairs.

Sellers noted that this fix is intended to be temporary, as the sign is out of warranty and will continue to have issues. The Chamber’s plan is to replace the sign within the next couple of years, but, Sellers said, “We can’t let it look like that for a year or two.”

City Manager Don Saling noted that there have been concerns raised about the visibility of the sign, and some discussion about re-evaluating a former plan for a large welcome sign on the corner of Highway 6 and County Road 370, in front of what is now the Holiday Inn Express.

Saling said he thinks that the cost of the repairs is worth the investment to keep the sign functioning until it can be replaced.

The second project Sellers brought to the council is one she said she is very excited about: the acquisition of an 11-foot marble sculpture by local sculptor Brad Rhea.

“Exordium” is located in Rhea’s studio in Merino, but Sellers said she would like to see it displayed in Sterling. She said Rhea is one of the area’s best-known artists — he created the Living Tree sculptures in Sterling parks, many of which were later cast in bronze while the wood pieces were relocated indoors.

Sellers said the CAB members feel the marble sculpture will help put Sterling on the map. “We truly believe this will bring people into town,” she said.

Mayor Dan Torres agreed. “It’s an awesome sculpture,” he said. “It would really enhance Sterling.”

The cost for the piece is $250,000, which would be paid at $50,00 a year for five years. She compared the cost of the commissioned bronze sculpture from Front and Main Streets at $140,000, noting the difference in material and size as well as Rhea’s notoriety as an artist.

Sellers presented the council with a rough sketch of some ideas for landscaping that could be put in around the sculpture. The sketch was based on placing the sculpture in the parking lot at Christ United Methodist Church, but she noted that a site has not been selected yet for the piece. Part of the design calls for some kind of protective structure over the sculpture, but Sellers said they plan to have the sculpture accessible so that the public can get an up-close look at the details and even touch the marble.

Saling, who called the sculpture “fascinating,” said that he’d like to see the final plans for the S-curve connecting Highway 6 and Highway 14 before the city determines a site for the piece. He noted that they will want to ensure there is parking available for those who want to stop and view the sculpture.

The council asked what kind of maintenance would be necessary to protect the piece. Rhea, who attended the meeting, said that he was not sure what would be required, but he expected that having some kind of roof over the piece would help shelter it from the elements. Sellers and Rhea agreed to research the costs for maintenance on an outdoor marble sculpture and present it at the next council meeting.

The council agreed to consider a resolution for the purchase of the piece using lodging tax dollars, once an agreement is drafted. “It should pay for itself,” council member Dave Appelhans said, referring to the sculpture drawing visitors to the community.


Sara Waite: 970-526-9310,

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‘Wide variety’ of ideas grow from Hannibal entrepreneurial program – Herald

HANNIBAL, Mo. — A new group of inspiring entrepreneurs met for the first time Wednesday at Hannibal-LaGrange University to find out what it will take to move their startup ideas from the planning stage to implementation.

About eight high school-age students have signed up for the second year of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national program in which students brainstorm business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch ideas to investors for startup funds and then launch their companies or social movements. At the end of the 23-week program, graduates will receive a business license to continue managing their businesses.

When Hannibal launched the program last year, it was the first time Young Entrepreneurs Academy had been organized in Missouri.

“We are very excited for this second year. We’re building off last year’s successful program, and we’re already seeing a wide variety of business ideas with this new group of students,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director McKenzie Disselhorst said. “We had and continue to have great support from the business community here in Hannibal, and hopefully this year more people outside of the business community will become engaged in the program, too.”

Students in the 2017-18 program range from eighth-graders to high school seniors.

“My friend was involved in YEA last year, and I heard so many good things about it,” senior Katie Tracy said. “I was interested in learning more, so I joined this year. I recently started a blog, and I hope to learn more about running a business that involves writing.”

Sophomore Garrett Ruby also knew in advance he wanted to join this year.

“My dad is a business owner, so he is kind of my inspiration to wanting to do this program and start my own business,” Ruby explained. “I found out about it last year, and I made sure to get on top of applying this time. I’ve always enjoyed working outside, and I’m thinking about starting a landscaping business.”

A third student, junior Dakota McCloud, wants to start a business that centers around suicide prevention.

Disselhorst said, “All of these students are coming in so passionate about what they want to do, and we’re excited to see them grow throughout the program.

Five students completed the Young Entrepreneurs Academy last year, and most of those are still running or building their businesses today.

“One of our students who focused her business around quality food products raised by FFA youth has really exceeded her expectations, I think,” Disselhorst said. “She’s making several food deliveries each week. And another student is cold-calling manufacturing companies to see if they will manufacture her foot orthotic. These are impressive accomplishments by our area youth.”

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy will run through April. Anyone interested in joining the program may call 573-221-1101 or visit

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Pioneer Landscape Centers continues large-scale transformation …

Colorado Springs, Oct. 12, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — After almost 50 years in business, Pioneer Landscape Centers (formerly Pioneer Sand) has launched a major expansion and is remaking its stores into luxury Landscape Centers with a new focus on DIY landscapers and enthusiasts.

Pioneer Landscape Centers’ new homeowner-centric retail concept will be unveiled at 10 locations by the end of the year, including this weekend (October 14-15) at the Northpark location in west Colorado Springs. The grand re-opening of the Northpark store includes a weekend of customer specials, exciting new product offerings and fun activities for all ages.  

“Colorado Springs will always be special to us, because this is the city where our company got its start 50 years ago,” said CEO Sagi Cohen. “Under our unique new Pioneer Landscape Centers approach, do-it-yourselfers and professionals will find inspirational ideas, direct-to-customer savings and the best product selection in the industry.”  

The Northpark Pioneer Landscape Centers store is part of the company’s remarkable legacy and we are proud of all it represents. The location is among the first of Pioneer’s 30 retail outlets in Colorado and Arizona to undergo a transformation that highlights outdoor-living products and landscaping materials while improving the shopping experience for homeowners and speeding the buying process for contractors.

“We will continue to be the first choice for contractors, but we are expanding our focus, offering products and services with the homeowner in mind. We want them to feel comfortable coming in on a weekend with their family, to find inspiration, and to have the time and help to discover exactly what they want,” Cohen added. “This new store concept is dedicated to outdoor living, which includes everything homeowners will need to turn their yard into an outdoor space that can become an extension of their home.”

Founded in Colorado Springs in 1968, Pioneer has grown into one of the largest retail landscape suppliers in the country. Cohen is leading the company’s expansion into the growing outdoor-living market to capitalize on homeowner interest in remaking outdoor spaces and intends to take the Pioneer Landscape Centers brand into new markets as well. 

Visitors to the grand re-opening of the Northpark store (5000 Northpark Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918) can enter to win a $150 VISA® Rewards Card and other great prizes, and enjoy special discounts of 15% off on all purchases, excluding Manager’s Specials, all weekend (visitors to other Pioneer Centers can receive discounts of up to 10% off all purchases, excluding Manager’s Specials, on Oct. 14 and 15).

On Saturday, visitors are invited to grill out with Pioneer and chill with Y96.9 — Colorado’s Hit Country. The entire family will enjoy face-painting, crafts, and other fun-filled activities from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturday and Sunday.  

Product highlights at the 7-acre Northpark Pioneer Landscape Centers location include: decorative rocks, outdoor décor such as fountains, ceramic pots, and fire pits, outdoor lighting, patio and wall systems, natural stones, garden bed materials and edging, and artificial turf. Customers will also discover a nearly 6,000-square foot outdoor Pioneer Marketplace and Inspiration Center featuring displays and samples of the most popular landscaping materials and outdoor-living products, and discounts of up to 50% in the Manager’s Special section. New electric carts allows Pioneer experts to offer their expertise and answer questions while touring homeowners through the distribution center.

Homeowners will also find professional staff whose focus on superior customer service means they are willing to do anything from helping with project ideas to loading customers’ vehicles.  

Changes at the Northpark Pioneer Landscape Centers location aren’t just for homeowners. A new contractors “Fast Lane” will cut the time to order, pay for, and load materials down from about 25 minutes to 10 minutes or less.  

“Contractors know what they want and need to get in and out and get back to work,” Cohen said. “The ‘Fast Lane’ allows contractors to get what they need in a hurry while homeowners can explore as long as they need to and not feel rushed.”  

As the owner and operator of 30 retail outlets, two production facilities, 23 quarries, and a fleet of nearly 200 trucks, Pioneer eliminates the middle man and provides unmatched choices.  

“Restaurants would call what we do ‘Farm to Table,’ and homeowners who visit us are going to discover what the professionals already know: This approach allows us to carry the largest product assortment in the industry —  we like to say more than 3000 products compared to the 50 or so found in DIY or big box store – and pass the savings on to our customers,” Cohen said. “Landscape supplies and accessories is what we do for a living — and we can do it better than anyone else.”  

Established in Colorado Springs in 1968, Pioneer has become the leading fully integrated manufacturer and distributor of landscape, hardscape, and outdoor living products in the United States. With 30 retail locations across Arizona and Colorado, 23 quarries, and two production plants, no other landscape materials company is better suited to crafting outdoor lifestyles for everyone — from homeowners to contractors.  

Every Pioneer location is tailored such that any person can come away with great ideas to help them imagine and create a personal outdoor paradise of their own. All locations carry nearly 3,000 landscape product materials with an extraordinary variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Top-quality products assist contractors and homeowners tackle any size project.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

Curtis Hubbard
Pioneer Landscape Center

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Georgian gardens were a union of the useful and beautiful

International Edition

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Incorporating Mediterranean style into your customer’s garden

meditterranean inspired gardenMediterranean gardens have begun to grow in popularity, but some customers may still be confused as to what does and doesn’t go in one.

Some of your customers may have the idea that Mediterranean gardens are fairly unexciting with not a lot of options for lush, vibrant colors, but this could not be farther from the truth.

Take a look at a few ideas that can help you create the Mediterranean-style garden your clients crave and help take your customer’s yard from drab to fab.

Plants and topiaries

When choosing plants to go in a Mediterranean-style garden, it’s important to keep succulents and drought-tolerant plants in mind. For a few suggestions on drought-tolerant plants, click here.

Along with drought-tolerant plants and succulents, talk to your customers about adding in lemon or orange trees to really bring in the Mediterranean vibe. If your customer does desire to have these trees present, they will need to be planted in pots and sheltered over the winter unless your client already resides in a Mediterranean climate.

Topiaries and hedges are also great features in a garden, as they add to the architectural framework. One of the most popular trees for Mediterranean-style gardens is the Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). These trees are versatile and evergreen, and they can provide an attractive green backdrop year round.

Containers, pots and raised beds

Along with plants and topiaries around the landscape comes the option of adding in containers, pots and raised beds.

Terra cotta pots and jars are some of the most popular pieces of garden décor in the Mediterranean style, and they can be used as focal points or simply for container gardening.

These containers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but it’s important to choose containers with wide bases to ensure they are not toppled by the wind. Containers made of clay are also a preferred choice, as they will remain cool by evaporation whereas plastic containers will absorb the sun’s heat.

Keep these plants watered regularly, and consider adding in a glazed saucer beneath the containers to hold onto more of the water.

Raised beds are not only eye-catching, they are also excellent for creating well-drained sites. They can also help break up the monotony, and they can be formal or informal depending on what style your customers want.

Shaded seating areas

When creating a Mediterranean-style garden, it’s only natural that people will want to sit out in it and enjoy it. With this in mind, it would be an excellent idea to add in seating areas.

These will provide areas that let your customers relax and take in the atmosphere of the garden, but it’s equally as important to incorporate some shade into the seating areas.

Pergolas are not only functional for providing shade but they are also very popular Mediterranean-style structures. When adorned with attractive, sweet smelling climbing plants, pergolas can also be an impressive landscape feature.

For tips on different ways to use climbing plants in a landscape, click here.

For a few ideas on what plants to use in a pergola, click here.

Gravel floors and water fixtures

Nothing says Mediterranean garden like the familiar crunch of gravel underfoot. Since Mediterranean climates typically suffer from lack of water, lawns have either been reduced considerably or completely eliminated and replaced with gravel.

Gravel helps reduce water usage considerably, and it is also low maintenance and makes an attractive, long-lasting mulch.

While the water may not be used on the grass as much in this style garden, it can be used in attractive water features like fountains and ornamental ponds.

Having water fixtures interspersed can help reduce the temperature of the air around the garden, and the water’s gleam can also add dimension to the surroundings.

Water fixtures are also great for attracting birds, bees and butterflies to the garden.

Pebbles, cobbles and Mediterranean tiles

Along with gravel, a few other popular Mediterranean-style floor patterns are the use of pebbles, cobbles and Mediterranean tiles.

These can be woven into intricate designs, which is a tried and true Mediterranean technique. The possibilities are endless when it comes to designs, and your customers can get involved with this process by researching their favorite styles to incorporate.

Tiles can be used in walkways, entryways or interwoven into steps, or they can be used to decorate walls in the garden. Wherever these tiles find themselves, the bright, lively colors are sure to make a statement.

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Extension service offers tips for adding fruit and vegetables to your garden

Floridians take pride in their yards and gardens, and with little effort can make them not only beautiful, but edible too, says Florida Friendly Landscaping guru Julie Schelb.

Schelb is a specialist and program coordinator with the Polk County UF/IFAS extension service who recently offered tips and encouragement to a group of about 20 residents interested in adding fruit and vegetables to their home gardens and ornamental landscapes.

Central Florida’s climate and soil conditions make incorporating edibles into landscapes was easy and fits in with today’s trends. “There are plenty of native and non-native vegetables that can not only make your yard pretty, but add diversity to your table,” she said.

“All you have to do is make sure you put the right plant in the right place and you are bound to be successful.  Many, if not most, vegetables are attractive and blend easily into an ornamental garden.

“You have to keep in mind your existing hardscape when you are incorporating edibles—some plants are great for pathway edges, others are great in containers and others need containment — like mint. If you aren’t careful, mint will take over your yard,” she said.

Schelb suggested adding herbs like rosemary, mint, oregano, basil as well as lusher and heartier veggies like ruffled cabbages, kale and Swiss chard to gardens along with shrubs like pomegranate and blueberries, and trees like bananas, peaches and palms. “Not only will they enhance the look of your garden space and provide plenty of variety to your yard, they will add lots of healthy goodies to your dinner.”

The hour-long program was give and take with gardeners and landscapers like Steve and Laura Larsen of Haines City, Mike Britt of Winter Haven and Richard Palazzo of Davenport sharing their successes and failures in their own endeavors.

The Larsens asked Schelb about being successful with hydroponic gardening. Schelb has seen some gardens that incorporated plastic kiddie pools as containers to float plants in Styrofoam containers as basic hydroponic systems.

Whether growing vegetables or fruits, gardeners should be mindful of each plant’s water needs, hence the “right plant, right place” focus. “You need to make sure you put the plants that need the same amount of water with your existing plants,” she said.

Most vegetable and fruit plants flourish with micro-watering systems rather than sprinklers. “The drip or micro systems seem to help most edible plants because it keeps the water on the root system and not on the leaves,” she explained. “It also is easier to control the amount of water the plants receive.”

Schelb said gardeners should also keep in mind that many edibles bring other benefits. Many are magnets to garden insects that help keep pest populations in balance.

“There are some insects that are drawn to edibles that help control the mosquito population and others that morph from caterpillars into butterflies. It’s OK to share with them — they will only eat about 20 percent of the leaves on your veggie plants.”

“That was important to know,” said Winter Haven teacher Rebekah Pratt, “and just the sort of information I came to get.” Pratt also said she was particularly interested in learning what herbs and veggies could flourish in containers. “I live in an apartment but have a nice balcony that I could grow lots of things in pots.”

Schelb didn’t disappoint, explaining that virtually any herbs or vegetables can grow in containers, but may require more attention than those soil-planted. “You’ll have to be more mindful of watering,” she said.

Palazzo, already a master gardener certified in Osceola County, said he drove  from Davenport for Schelb’s class “to keep up with trends and learn anything new that I can.”

During the presentation, Schelb offered a list of plants that do well in Polk County that included beautyberry, Chickasaw plums, fennel, rosemary, onions, chard, lemon grass, grapes, passion fruit and guava. “There are many more,” she said, “and they are easy to find on our website.” The website is

Julie Schelb also can be reached at 863-519-1068 or by email at

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Master Gardeners plant sale happening Saturday

SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WWSB) – Sarasota County Master Gardeners will hold their 12th Annual Plant Sale on Saturday, October 14th, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota.

Visitors can choose from among hundreds of plant varieties at the sale. Master Gardeners, who receive extensive University of Florida-designed training on plant issues, will be on hand to provide help with plant selection and offer gardening tips.

“This is like a ‘one-stop shop,'” said Kevin O’Horan, communications coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County. “You can find some great and unique plants here, make sure they’re the right plants for your landscape, and get advice on keeping all your plants healthy and thriving.”

The annual event draws area residents and business owners looking for plants that will beautify their landscapes, but also provides the opportunity to teach landscaping approaches that can benefit the state’s ecosystems, provide haven for vital pollinators, protect water resources, and more.

Admission is free, with plant purchases available by cash or check. Proceeds from sales will benefit the Sarasota County Master Gardeners’ chapter of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks.

The Florida Master Gardener program is led by the University of Florida and operated through county-level UF/IFAS Extension offices. In Sarasota County, the program supports demonstration landscapes and educational outreach projects, and operates the popular Plant Clinic help desks.

View a full list of plants slated for sale:

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