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Archives for October 14, 2017

Garden calendar for the week of Oct. 22-29

Wednesday, Oct. 25

Fall Floral Workshop: Join Floral designer, Alison Whiteman, as she guides students on how to create their very own  arrangement. Workshop price includes vessel, seasonal fresh cut stems and step-by-step instructions. For an additional fee, supplementary supplies or plant materials are available. $125. 6-7 p.m. Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar. 949-640-5800 or

Friday, Oct. 28

CA Native Garden: Join expert horticulturist, James Maxwell, as he explains the aspects of planting and caring for a California garden. Learn about different native species, plant pairings for design possibilities, and how to care for them in your outdoor space. Also, discover how to incorporate native plants in your existing garden to reduce watering needs and improve wildlife habitat. Free. 9-10 a.m. Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar. 949-640-5800 or

Sunday, Oct. 22

Chrysanthemum Show: Hundreds of Chrysanthemums will be on display including single stem mums, container grown mums, baskets of mums, mums grown in a bonsai style, cascades and trees. The flowers will be adjudicated by certified national judges. Both single stem and container grown mums will be on sale. $5. 10:30 am-4 p.m. Sherman Library Gardens, 2647 Pacific Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. 949-673-2261 or

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Shop and help at annual Sudha Sale

Two handmade Italian 1970s-era ceramic lamps pay homage to the flower power theme of this year’s San Francisco Fall Art  Antiques Show. (Courtesy of epoca)

Two handmade Italian 1970s-era ceramic lamps pay homage to the flower power theme of this year’s San Francisco Fall Art Antiques Show. (Courtesy of epoca)

If you believe it’s better to give than to receive, you can feel twice as good by shopping the 14th annual Sudha Sale at the Town Center in Corte Madera.

Pick up early holiday or special occasion gifts, jewelry, silk scarves, ornaments and decorative items at dramatically reduced prices and designer Sudha Pennathur will give 100 percent of the proceeds to three nonprofit groups — Whistlestop, North Bay Children’s Center and Equal Rights Advocates.

“My designs flow from everything that made me the woman I am, an Indian woman, my father’s daughter and a cosmopolitan citizen of the world,” says the Tiburon designer and former head of women’s wear merchandising for Levi Strauss in a press release.

Her East-West, artisan-crafted designs, sold in shops such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Gump’s; the Sundance catalog and museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian, will be on sale at wholesale prices in a pop-up shop next to Crate Barrel from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 28. To view Pennathur’s collections, go to

Prices start at $1 for ornaments and children’s bug boxes and go up to $15,000 for fine diamond and gold jewelry.

Art and antiques

For more fun with shopping, mark your calendars for one of autumn’s most stylish events, the 36th annual San Francisco Fall Art Antiques Show.

It comes to Fort Mason Center for Arts Culture’s Festival Pavilion from Oct. 26 to 29 with a subtle nod to the City’s 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Flower Power: Floral Imagery in Art, Antiques Design will showcase decorative art for sale from 50 dealers from around the world. The works represent all styles and periods in textiles, furniture, paintings, prints, photographs, books, jewelry, rugs and ceramics.

There are also four vignettes in the Grand Entry Hall featuring selected items from dealers’ collections.

Look for six fascinating talks as well, including “The Serial Entertainer” by designer Steven Stolman, who will share his experiences as an accomplished host and accidental party planner in places such as Newport, Palm Beach and the Hamptons, and “Haute Bohemians: At Home With Important Interior Design Trendsetters” by Miguel Flores-Vianna, who will discuss his journey across four continents to visit writers, editors, designers, artists and others at their unique homes.

There are a number of book signings and guests are invited to attend any of the daily complimentary “cocktail hours,” which include a floral demonstration by Judy Bloom of Filoli and Laurel Anne Winzler of Laurel Designs on Oct. 26; a concert performance of Lautrec et La Belle Nuit by two singers from the San Francisco Opera on Oct. 27; and a talk about California art, wine and culture on Oct. 28.

Those who buy tickets to the Preview Gala, featuring live dance music, champagne, cocktails, caviar, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and dessert, are encouraged to wear floral cocktail attire.

All net proceeds will benefit Enterprise for Youth, a nonprofit organization that assists Bay Area youth get and keep their first jobs.

For tickets and information, call 415-989-9019 or go to

Don’t-miss events

• Suzanne Bontempo will teach you how to avoid toxins in a talk, “How to Choose Healthy Landscape Alternatives,” at 10 a.m. Oct. 21 at Sloat Garden Centers at 2000 Novato Blvd. in Novato (415-897-2169) or 2 p.m. Saturday at 700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Kentfield (415-454-0262) or 10 a.m. Oct. 22 at 401 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley (415-388-0102). Free for members or $10. Go to

• Pick a pumpkin and plant it with succulents in a fun make-and-take class from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 21 at Armstrong Garden Centers at 1430 S. Novato Blvd. in Novato. The $49 class fee includes all materials. Preregistration is required. Call 415-878-0493 or go to

• Collect, grow and identify mushrooms with tips offered by Theresa Halula in a weekly mushroom cultivation class through the College of Marin Community Education Program at the Indian Valley Campus. Classes are from 1:10 to 3 p.m. from Oct. 23. to Dec. 4. The class fee is $98, materials fee is $31. Register at 415-485-9305 or go to

• Discover how to put the worm power to use in composting kitchen scraps when Lori Caldwell demonstrates how to set up a worm bin and how to harvest the worm castings for use as garden fertilizer before sending you home with your own countertop kitchen scrap bin. The free class is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Mill Valley Public Library at 375 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley. To register, call 415-489-4292 or go to

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

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Gardeners scare up Halloween-themed flower show

Winners created some attractive floral displays that are wicked good fun.

Flowers are usually thought of as being sweet and pretty, but Gospel Hill Garden Club used them in scary, creepy floral designs at its recent flower show. The club had a Halloween-themed small standard flower show called “Happy Halloween” on Oct. 3 at its monthly meeting place at Wesleyville Borough Hall, 3421 Buffalo Road. The floral design division was aptly named “Something Wicked Comes This Way.”

Mary Hetrick won first place in class 36: “Creepy Cobwebs.” She used purple ornamental peppers, fake cobwebs and curly willow branches that she painted orange in her small design. She also won the Designer’s Choice Award ribbon.

Marijean Roussel-Dupree won first place in class 37: “Black Bats, Cats or Spiders Oh My!” For her hanging design, she arranged staghorn sumac into a hanging ball, with plastic spiders running here and there.

Debbie Bertges won first place in class 39: “It’s the Great Pumpkin.” Using a Galeux D’Eysines pumpkin as her container, she arranged goldenrod, hydrangea, sedum, white aster, strawflower, yarrow, vinca, mums, cornflower, drumstick flower and roses.

Mary Hetrick won first place in class 38: “Trick or Treat.” She used Harry Lauder Walking Stick, lilies and hosta. She also won the Designer’s Choice Award and Award of Design Excellence ribbons.

Craig Kern won first place for his educational exhibit called “Mushrooms and Fungi.”

Linda Rothstein won the marigold competition. Last June, Dennis James from DJ’s Greenhouse, gave a shade garden program to the members. He brought “Janie Deep Orange” marigolds for each club member to take home and grow all summer for the garden club challenge. At the flower show, 10 of the 24 members brought their marigolds back to be judged, with Rothstein’s being the winner.

Congratulations to the winners at the flower show and to all who entered designs and horticulture. Use the flowers that are still looking perky in your yard this late in the season to make your own Halloween arrangement.


Open garden day and tree walk at Blossom McBrier’s Brier Hill Garden Parke

Blossom McBrier is opening her extensive gardens for an informal walk among the trees on Oct. 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. She has a list of her trees — more than 100 varieties — and visitors can try to identify them in an informal scavenger hunt. Tree experts will be on hand to answer questions. McBrier will hand out conservation materials on saving trees. Brier Hill Garden Parke is located at 6721 Brier Hill Road, Fairview. 


Jamestown Garden Club benefit luncheon

Jamestown Garden Club is sponsoring a luncheon with a floral presentation by Erie florist Tim Rettger on Nov. 2 at Jamestown Community College Carnahan Center, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown, N.Y. There is also an auction and raffle. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the noon luncheon. Cost for the lunch is $15. For reservations call Ethel Enserro, 716-485-6227 or email: Jamestown Garden Club maintains the Roger Tory Peterson Butterfly Garden in Jamestown, New York.


Garden club meetings

Albion Garden and Civic Club, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Stonehouse at Albion Boro Park. Members will tour Wooden Nickel Buffalo farm. Call Sue Mihalak, 756-4404.
Westminster Garden Club, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, 3302 W. 26th St. Master gardener Janet Krack will give a program called “Thistles of Scotland.” Call Barb Eberlein, 864-6489.
Erie County Council of Garden Clubs, Wednesday, 10 a.m., Nick’s Place, 12246 Route 99, Edinboro. Civic beautification winners will be announced. Gary Foster of Foster’s rose of Sharon Shop will present his design program: “What’s New for Christmas.” Each club should bring at least four items for the auction. Cost: $20 for lunch. Call Lynn Jackson, 431-4470.
Cambridge Garden Club, Thursday, 7 p.m., Cambridge Springs Public Library, 158 McClellan St., Cambridge Springs. Master gardener Ellen DiPlacido will talk about companion planting. Call Sandy Moraski, 528-7748.
Elk Valley Garden Club, Friday, 8:45 a.m., Wells Park, 34 Main St., Girard and Lake City Borough Building, 2350 Main St., Lake City. Members will get the parks ready for winter. Call Janet Nelson, 833-6123.
Pioneer Church Garden Club, Oct. 26, 11:30 a.m., Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, 3302 W. 26th St. A speaker will talk about the snowy owl. Call Helen Singer, 838-8741.

Sue Scholz is a member of the Presque Isle Garden Club. Send garden news to

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6 easy no-carve pumpkin decorating ideas


October 9, 2017

9:34 AM

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Personal retreat

Highlights: About 4,225 sq. ft., 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths, built 1979, major renovations, tri-level, reconfigured kitchen, finished walkout lower level, porch, patio, deck, gazebo with hot tub, 12 acres, in-ground pool, stocked pond, shuffleboard court, Cleary barn with 2 offices, greenhouse, detached 2-car garage

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Yellowstone acquires Heads Up Landscaping

CLEVELAND – Project EverGreen received a $100,000 contribution from Magna International to support its efforts to renovate a park in Detroit. Pingree Park, an 18-acre park in Detroit, will receive an extensive facelift, courtesy of Magna International’s contribution and Project EverGreen.

“An important part of the Magna culture is to give back and support the communities where we live and work,” said Jim Tobin, Magna’s CFO. “We also support the development of healthy habits like exercise and outside play for children of all ages, and it’s a great fit for us to get involved with Project EverGreen’s mission to create healthy parks for kids.”

Park renovations will include enhanced soccer and baseball fields, new walking paths, improved grass and pruning old trees. The renovation, scheduled for Nov. 3-4 with a second phase scheduled sometime in 2018. Improvements to Pingree Park will include the following:

• Improving the natural grass surface through grading, aeration, overseeding and nutrients

• Tree canopy pruning to enhance the health of the trees and to create a safer, more inviting park

• New tree installation

• Developing a neighborhood gathering spot for picnics, movies and music

• Expansion of the park’s pathways

“With Magna’s generous support, this park will get a much-needed facelift,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “The improved park space will result in a greener, healthier, cooler park.”

Project EverGreen has completed renovation projects covering millions of square feet of urban green spaces in locations including East Harlem, New York; Chicago; Cleveland; Greensboro, North Carolina; Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas.

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Flocking to natives: Inaugural South Carolina Native Plants Week seeks to encourage more ecological landscaping

Using plants that are native to South Carolina in the landscapes of homes, schools and businesses will get a boost this week.

With an official declaration of “South Carolina Native Plant Week” by the General Assembly in May, Audubon South Carolina has joined the S.C. Native Plant Society in organizing lectures, hikes, seed collection trips and plant swaps and sales across the state in an effort to educate people and promote more ecologicallysensitive horticulture.

The week kicked off Saturday with a workshop and garden installation at The Bend in North Charleston, a native plant and seed swap at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Columbia, native plant sales in Greenville and the Spring Island Trust’s native plant nursery near Bluffton.

It continues Sunday with native plant displays at The Museum of York County in Rock Hill and the Lancaster-based Katawba Valley Land Trust’s 25th anniversary at The Ivy Place.

Events will take place Monday through Saturday in an array of towns, including Spartanburg, Clemson, Landrum and Moncks Corner.

One highlight in Charleston will include a lecture, “Rediscovering the Lowcountry Landscape in the Footsteps of Our Forebearers,” by famed local botanist Dr. Richard Porcher and artist and author Celie Dailey at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Founder’s Hall at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

The week concludes locally with the Lowcountry Native Plant Sale at Charles Towne Landing on Saturday.

Flora fauna

Matt Johnson, director of bird conservation and engagement for Audubon South Carolina, says the effort in South Carolina follows those of the National Audubon Society’s Plants for Birds program, which underscores the importance that native plants have for migratory and resident birds.

“These plants have occurred here for thousands of years and our insects, birds and other wildlife as well, have adapted to feeding on and living with those species,” says Johnson, noting the variety of flowers, fruits, seeds, nuts and host insects they provide for wildlife.

Johnson says native trees can provide hundreds of types of food, while some non-native trees can provide as little as a half dozen.

“We’re trying to encourage people to think of their yard as an ecosystem. As our area gets more and more developed, our backyards will be playing an increasingly important role (in providing food and habitat). I don’t think people sometimes realize that. But if you pay attention, you’ll see it.”

Johnson says having the General Assembly declare a week for native plants was both a way to help legislators understand the importance and “to build a platform for talking about how native plants are beneficial to wildlife and humans.”

Two decades and counting

Since 1996, the all-volunteer S.C. Native Plant Society has been promoting species that have long grown in the Palmetto State and Southeast region. Five society chapters have varying levels of participation and programming, but most offer meetings, hikes and public plant sales.

Lowcountry chapter President Kim Counts Morganello says she thinks the organization is making a difference, noting that consistent programming has spread the word on numerous levels. She says knowledge has spread from teachers to students and to local and even Big Box nurseries.

Morganello says the state Audubon efforts with the society will provide synergy to help the “built environment be more compatible with local ecology.” And while most of the focus of native plants recently has been on pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, the connection with birds is critical.

“Research has shown that the more native plants that are present, the more birds and other forms of life are also present. Plants are the base of the food chain and support biodiversity,” says Counts.

Good for business

Recent efforts to provide plants for pollinators has helped David Manger’s native plant business, Root Shoots, in Charleston.

“The best advocates for native plant gardens are butterflies, bees and birds,” says Manger, who bought the small nursery business a year ago.

Manger applauds efforts by the Native Plant Society and Audubon to advocate for the plants because it works, as evidenced not only in his business but in offerings of larger, locally owned nurseries such as Hyams Garden Center.

Manger says he hopes to triple the size of his business, which is currently 2,000 plants with about 200 varieties, in the next year.

The suburban yard

Anyone who passes by Colette DeGarady’s yard in the Mount Pleasant subdivision, Wando Lakes, may not think it’s different than most.

The front is predominantly lawn, but the beds — including a rain garden to capture and absorb water flowing off the house — are filled with dozens of species of native and edible plants that upon closer look were covered with bees and butterflies last week.

“We won ‘Yard of the Month’ once, but I think we’re still a little wild for most people,” says DeGarady, who is an ecologist and a longtime Native Plant Society member. “You can make natives aesthetically beautiful.”

Her backyard provides separate outdoor spaces for her children to play, for two small flocks of chickens, for her dog Bogie, and a South American yellow-footed tortoise that someone gave her when she worked at a pet store in 1991, as well as native plants.

“It’s multifunction ecologically, too,” says DeGarady.

Restoring a native forest 

One of the co-founders of the Society’s Lowcountry chapter, John Brubaker, started his native plant efforts by creating a “very intense wildflower garden” on a 30-foot by 70-foot space in downtown Charleston.

Brubaker’s passion for native plants specifically began after he looked into the pesticides that he wanted to use to kill nematodes in his lawn in the mid-1970s.

“It just clicked,” Brubaker says of his wake-up call. “I was wanting to make my living space toxic. I thought, ‘What am I doing?'”

Passions for science and nature dovetailed and stirred more study and hands-on experimenting.

The retired cardiovascular researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina took his passion to the country 19 years ago when he moved to Awendaw.

He began restoring his 26-acre property to a longleaf pine ecosystem, which once covered an estimated 90 million acres of the Southern coastal plain.

Brubaker, who is 75, jokes that he’s only begun the 200-year project.

He started by harvesting loblolly pines (favored by the timber industry for growing fast), sweetgum, red maple and water oak, replanted with longleaf pine and doing prescribed burns.

Along with opening up space and sunlight for “remnant ground species” to return, he often “rescued” other natives from properties under development or restored species to the area, such as grasses like little bluestem and Carolina dropseed.

He hopes people will embrace planting natives, stressing that he thinks it actually will impact something few think about: the health of the soil.

“Our (current) landscaping is build around what is simple and showy,” says Brubaker, noting that most people are programmed what to think is beautiful. “Our landscape needs to be built around what is healthy.”

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Review: ASO hits stride with Gandolfi’s “Gardens Feed Also the Soul,” Lazić’s concerto

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of music that included a world premiere by Gandolfi, Lazić and Rachmaninoff, led by music director Robert Spano, with pianist/composer Dejan Lazić as guest soloist. The program will be repeated on Saturday evening at Symphony Hall.

Boston-based composer Michael Gandolfi has been a core member of the “Atlanta School of Composers” — that handful of composers championed by Robert Spano in repeated commissions and performances over the years. Among them is what might easily be called Gandolfi’s magnum opus: “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation,” which Spano and the ASO performed in 2007 and subsequently recorded and released on the Telarc label, in what was at the time the work’s complete form.

Gandolfi had always intended it to be a continuously evolving work, with the intent of adding something new every few years, but it took an unexpected nine years before he was able to return to it, composing “The Cosmic Garden in Bloom” for last year’s Grant Park festival in Chicago, and again this year for the world premiere of the work, which opened Thursday’s concert, “Gardens Feed Also the Soul.”

Like the other parts of Gandolfi’s “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation,” this two-part installment was inspired by the eponymous sculpture garden created by landscape architect Charles Jencks at his home near Dumfries in Scotland, a magnificent conflation of theoretical physics, architecture and landscaping into a fascinating artistic whole.

“Gardens Feed Also the Soul” opened with “The Bone Garden (…of death and rebirth…).” It begins with the quietly ominous sound of a wind machine and bamboo wind chimes, evoking a graveyard atmosphere to reveal a kind of “cosmic mystery” chord that appears elsewhere in the 2007 “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation.” It sets the stage for a kind of overt percussive bone-rattling over a rhythmically pulsing theme, a chaconne that grows from almost a whisper to a forceful climax — much in the manner of Maurcie Ravel’s “Bolero” — but rising in pitch with each iteration until it has eventually become transposed by an octave at its emotional height.

The chaconne‘s harmonic progression itself feels somewhat “downward” in its movement (symbolic of “death”) while actually moving upward in tonality (symbolic of “life”). After reaching its climax, the piece winds back down, ending softly with the sounds of wind, bones and Gandolfi’s “cosmic mystery” chord, but heard at a half step higher than at the beginning — which one might suggest is a statement favoring a quiet triumph of life over death in the cosmos.

The second part, entitled “The Scottish Worthies: Part 1,” is a gallery of brief portraits. It is intended to capture the spirit of a portion of Jencks’ garden that is devoted to honoring great figures of the Scottish Enlightenment: Francis Hutcheson, Robert Adam, James Hutton, Thomas Telford, James Watt and Joanna Baillie. It opens with a pastorale that is evocative of the Scottish countryside in its unabashed melodic forthrightness. While Gandolfi had originally planned to incorporate all of the historical figures so honored in this one essay, he decided it would have made the single movement far too long, so his plan is now to compose two more in order to eventually represent them all.

Composer Michael Gandolfi acknowledges the orchestra after the world premiere of “Gardens Feed Also the Soul.”

What is most striking about “Gardens Feed Also the Soul” in comparison to “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” as recorded by the ASO is perhaps a matter of Gandolfi’s personal and compositional evolution in the decade between. These new movements seem less concerned with the subjects of quantum physics and mathematics per se but feel more human and humanist in their meta-musical scope and musical realizations — totally attractive extensions to Gandolfi’s continued musical exploration of Jencks’ fascinating garden.

Pianist Dejan Lazić has developed a good working relationship with Spano over the last seven years. He first performed with Spano and the ASO in the summer of 2010, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) at the Verizon Amphitheatre, then returned in 2012 to play it again with Spano and the orchestra at a subscription concert at Symphony Hall. At the time of the Verizon concert, Lazić introduced Spano to a project he’d been working on, a transcription of Brahms’ Violin Concerto, which Spano liked enough that Lazić would return to perform and record it with Spano and the ASO as a kind of “Piano Concerto No. 3” — a live recording released as a hybrid SACD by Sony Music Canada, paired with four of Brahms’ solo piano works.

For Thursday’s concert, Lazić brought to the table one of his original compositions: Concerto in Istrian Style, for Piano and Orchestra, a work he premiered at the 2014 Aspen Music Festival, with Spano conducting the Aspen Festival Orchestra. There is a long, grand tradition of composers writing concertos for themselves as soloist — from Mozart to Rachmaninoff in the realm of piano concerti alone. But it’s a practice that seemed to fall by the wayside, almost disappearing from major concert stages in the latter part of the 20th century as composers became more “specialized,” shrinking from view to solitude — with a few exceptions, of course. So it is refreshing to hear, in the present day, a large work with orchestra that serves as a medium for a composer’s prodigious abilities as a pianist.

Like Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, Lazić’s piano concerto is not a work that relegates the orchestra to a background role. That is so much the case that the piano part, for large portions of the work, is fully integrated into the overall texture of the orchestra. On the one hand, that can obscure the sheer virtuosity that’s going on in the solo part, which is observably considerable when one has a clear view of the keyboard and pianist’s hands, as I did on this occasion. But at the same time, the integration was much more musically interesting than merely accompanied pyrotechnics. Yet the work does afford sufficient opportunity for moments when the piano is front and center without the full weight of the orchestra behind it — most notably the solo cadenza, which serves as the third movement, in which both temporal flexibility and emotional range abound.

Lazić’s concerto has five movements in all, when it feels like it would be satisfactorily over and done at the end of the fourth movement. The brief finale that is the fifth movement feels like an addendum of sorts — a kind of grand, full-bodied encore, fine in its own right, but unnecessary for a sense of completeness.

For all that, it is an effective and personal vehicle for Lazić’s pianistic abilities, complemented by what seems to be Spano’s enthusiastic engagement with the work. What remains to be seen is the litmus test of the work’s fate: how many other pianists take up the work besides Lazić himself. That will have to be left for future history to decide. For now, we have the enjoyment of hearing creator as recreator, and that’s a good thing in itself.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3, which made up the second half of the program, received a full-bodied rendering by Spano and the ASO that was emotionally moving and satisfying, a well-played complement to the concert’s first half.

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Sky high veggies? Urban farming grows in unexpected places

Fresh vegetables and herbs, harvested steps away from the kitchen; that’s a chef’s dream.

In the Farm-to-Fork Capital, it’s also a sign that a business has thoroughly bought into an ethos of sustainability. Grow tomatoes at your doorstep – or on your roof – and patrons know those veggies are as local as they can get. So do employees who like to know their food source is just outside their windows.

Popping up throughout California are statement-making gardens full of food. That includes the landscaping at the front entrance of West Sacramento’s CalSTRS building, home to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

“Most people grow landscaping as an afterthought,” said Lara Hermanson, the gardener/farmer behind Farmscape, which created the CalSTRS “Waterfront Gardens.” “They put in some shrubs and lawn, then forget about it. Food is much more interesting.”

Farmscape, the largest urban farming company on the West Coast, has created more than 700 edible gardens in unexpected places.

“We do anything from a couple of raised beds to giant rooftop projects,” said Hermanson, who started growing food as landscaping for wealthy families in Malibu who wanted “kitchen gardens” without the gardening part.

As part of its contracts, Farmscape provides regular maintenance as well as original plans and setup. Packages start at $79 a week for 125 square feet; consultations start at $90 an hour. That’s expensive for a residential vegetable garden, but more reasonable for business or public projects – especially for such high-profile landscaping such as at the entrance of a major building.

Businesses may want to grow edible landscaping, but have no clue how to do it, Hermanson noted. Farmscape takes care of everything from planning to planting to harvest. Adding color and beauty, seasonal flowers, herbs and ornamental plants are mixed in with the vegetables, so the beds appear manicured and attractive year round.

Besides looking good, these gardens have an immediate dividend: Fresh organic food.

“That’s what people love,” Hermanson said.

Farmscape’s most famous “farms” are on top of Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara home to the 49ers, and under the scoreboard at the Giants’ ATT Park in San Francisco.

Featuring espaliered fruit trees as well as annual vegetables, the Giants’ garden had a better summer than the team.

“Produce from that garden is used in three little cafes (at the ballpark) that feature wood-fired pizza including gluten-free options,” Hermanson said. “They also offer vegan options for folks who don’t do baseball food.”

A short throw from the bullpen, hydroponic towers sprout berries and greens used in ballpark smoothies and salads.

“It’s kind of an idea garden,” Hermanson said. “During games, 40,000 people can see how good it looks and think about growing food, too.”

Dubbed “Faithful Farm,” the rooftop garden at Levi’s Stadium supplies fresh produce to the venue’s food service. It looks like a typical vegetable garden – except the soil is only 6 to 9 inches deep and it sits nine stories above the ground.

“We had a crazy good summer at Levi’s,” Hermanson said. “We harvested 5,000 pounds of food from a 6,000-square-foot space. We had a thousand pounds of just melons! We grew so many peppers, we harvested 100 pounds a week.”

Among the challenges of farming on the roof: It gets really windy (but so does ATT Park) and it’s less protected from rain and sun.

“Everything is more intense on the roof,” Hermanson said. “We had trouble with all that rain (last winter). The little lettuce just rot; it wouldn’t grow. On Christmas Eve, we had another huge storm. And the wind!

“(In summer and early fall), it gets so hot up there, everything just gets cooked,” she added. “But we’re getting to know what works up there.”

On the banks of the Sacramento River, the CalSTRS garden is much more hospitable. Originally planted two years ago, it has 10 raised beds plus more than a dozen fruit trees. It’s also been prolific; this summer, it produced 2-1/2 pounds of food per square inch.

Executive chef Conrad Caguimbal, who oversees CalSTRS’s busy cafe, enjoys growing vegetables and herbs for cafe meals. Open to the public, the cafe serves about 700 meals a day.

“I love the fact I can actually harvest my own produce, take it to the cafe and create something delicious,” Caguimbal said, “and I never get my hands dirty.”

Each week day, he creates an “Earth Bowl,” featuring fresh selections from the garden that sits just outside the cafe’s patio. Using veggies picked that morning, a recent bowl mixed together kale, zucchini and caramelized carrots with barley for a vegan entree.

“A lot of people get excited when we harvest,” he said. “They’ve been watching those tomatoes and squash grow, too.”

CalSTRS chose edible landscaping because it fits with its overall sustainability initiative, explained Madeline O’Connell, the facility’s environmental sustainability specialist. For example, the LEED-certified building recycles 40 tons of organic waste per month to make energy. (That includes waste from the garden.)

“We also use the garden for educational events,” O’Connell said. “After all, we serve teachers.”

Hermanson loves the CalSTRS garden, in part because of its location. It welcomes the building’s 1,100 workers as well as visitors and passersby.

“It’s really fun,” Hermanson said. “It’s right on the river walk. People take lunchtime rambles and stop by the garden. When we’re out there, we get a lot of questions. Is this real? Where does the produce go? (Visitors) interact – and that’s exactly the idea.”

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Get kids gardening early at home, at school

Gardens are a great educational tool at home and school. The tactile and experiential learning experience children get from a garden wonderfully complements the classroom. The opportunity to get dirty, smell fresh herbs and compost, and taste new flavors teaches students to be active and inquisitive participants of the world in which they live.

At schools and teaching centers, blending garden-based lessons with classroom-based ones can make for a meaningful and lasting educational experience for students. Sustainable Food Center hosts hundreds of children a year through school field trips, summer camps and volunteer workdays. One of our favorite garden activities is to find, collect and sort plant parts, then discuss the role of each part. It’s a simple, active and tactile activity that lends itself well to further exploration in the classroom. The SFC Grow Local School Garden Activity Guide has many more ideas for easy, educational activities that can be done at home or school and can be purchased at

In addition to arts and sciences, research has shown that children who participate in growing their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat these healthy foods. In the garden, kids have the opportunity to be involved in every part of the plant life cycle, from seed to plate. If you’d like to initiate curiosity in your child about new fruits and vegetables through gardening, here are some tips:

Involve your child in planning the garden. From designing to planting, build the garden with your child. They’ll build a sense of ownership and accomplishment that will grow with the seeds that were planted.

Give your child responsibility. Children who actively engage in the garden will get more out of the experience. Simple tasks such as weeding or watering are wonderful ways that children can stay involved with the garden as plants are growing.

Create a recipe using garden produce. Planning a recipe using produce from the garden can be a great lesson in creativity, flavor and nutrition. Guide them in the recipe-making process and give them safe tasks when cooking.

Gardens can help students bridge the gap between growing fresh fruits and vegetables and enjoying them as part of a healthy diet. Austin Independent School District with support from SFC promotes garden and farm-fresh eating through a variety of approaches. The district has approximately 70 school-run gardens and six Garden to Café programs, where produce from the school garden is used in school meals during lunch. These Garden to Café programs are an excellent example of how school gardens can be utilized in many different ways. Additionally, the Austin school district recently promoted National School Lunch Week with farm-fresh produce through their districtwide veggie samplings. Chef Louis Ortiz, executive chef for Austin Independent School District, created the baba ganoush recipe featured below to introduce students to local produce and global flavors. Across the district, all eggplants for this recipe will be sourced from local farms. Try making it at home with your child to experiment with new garden-fresh veggies.

Baba Ganoush

1 eggplant, about 1 pound

7 oz. roasted red pepper, drained

3 cloves roasted garlic, approximately 1½ teaspoon

1 tablespoon and ½ teaspoon parsley

1½ tablespoon lime juice

½ tsp salt, plus sprinkle

Sprinkle of pepper

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse eggplant under cool water and remove the stem. Cut the eggplant into quarters and drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until eggplant is golden-brown.

While eggplant is roasting, place the roasted red peppers into a blender.

Add roasted garlic to the blender. Pulse the blender in short bursts so the peppers and garlic are chopped but not liquefied.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, remove skins.

Place roasted and peeled eggplant quarters into a large mixing bowl and add the red pepper and garlic mixture.

Add the chopped parsley, fresh lime juice, and salt. Mash mixture by hand with a potato masher until well-mixed.


Ten Thousand Villages hosts fair trade fundraiser

Ten Thousand Villages, which stocks goods made by artisans from around the world, is hosting a fair trade fundraiser to support its endeavors. The fundraiser will feature food, Cuban salsa music, live and silent auctions with trips to meet the artisans, and goods for sale as well as swag bags. “This fundraiser is our most critical event to keep Austin’s only 100% fair trade store open and to continue to empower artisans around the world,” said the store’s new executive manager, Whitney Coyle, in a press release.

Tickets are $50 in advance ( and $60 at the door. 7-10 p.m. Oct. 20. 4803 Burnet Road.


Cariloha store opens at the Domain Northside

Cariloha brings sustainable goods made from bamboo such as sheets and towels to Austin with its new store at the Domain Northside. The store also features mattresses, pillows, shirts, socks, undergarments and fitness wear.

Austin store owners Charles and Rebecca Burke first discovered Cariloha in Cozumel on vacation. “Bamboo regenerates naturally and is one of the most eco-friendly resources on the planet,” said Rebecca Burke in a press release. “It keeps our soil stronger, our air cleaner and our environment healthier. Not only is it 3 degrees cooler than cotton, it’s twice as soft and naturally repels odor and allergens.”

The store is located at 3211 Palm Way.


Austin woman develops seat belt for your purse

Kristine Palmer solved a problem. You’re in rush-hour traffic. You hit your brakes, and your purse, which was sitting on the seat beside you, goes flying through the air, spilling its content all over your car.

She developed MyBagBelt, which buckles your purse into the seat. You also can use it to secure laptops, groceries, diaper bags, anything that you don’t want moving around the car. When not in use, the belt can slide down to the crease of the seat and not be in the way of a person who might sit there.

The belts are $17.99 for the original one and $19.99 for a belt in different colors or patterns. Find them at


Hiatus Spa +Retreat donates to cancer treatment

Hiatus Spa + Retreat is offering a 20 percent discount to clients booking an essential service as a Spa for a Cause service. Then 20 percent of the purchase price of that Spa for a Cause service will go to the Peabody Fund: Cancer Vaccine Project. The Peabody fund is for Hiatus founder Kristin Peabody. She and nine other cancer patients are participating in a trial for a cancer vaccine at the University of California San Diego. The participants need to raise $1.1 million by Nov. 31 for the trial to take place.

You can book a Spa for a Cause service at Hiatus Spa + Retreat is at 1611 W. Fifth St., Suite 155.

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