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Archives for October 29, 2017

New garden to grow knowledge at Children’s Museum

The all-season garden is designed to encourage kids to learn about sustainable ecosystems.

The all-season garden is designed to encourage kids to learn about sustainable ecosystems.
Photo provided

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. Volunteers recently built a kid-friendly outdoor garden at The Children’s Museum at Saratoga.

The all-season design provides the museum with a dedicated space that’s designed to encourage kids to learn about sustainable ecosystems, combined with developmental learning concepts.

The project was funded in part by The Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust and other friends of the museum, a news release said.

Sue Ann DuBois of Garden Goddess Sense and Sustainability and Sarah Smith Syden of the museum, led the initiative recognizing the importance in engaging children in outdoors, hands-on activities. Chips Landscaping secured and delivered all project materials, and offered up their equipment and garden tools for the day.

Chris Berninger, manager at Hewitt’s Garden Center in Wilton, donated 46 pollinator-friendly perennials. Board members and friends of the Children’s Museum installed the new plants.

The new garden design offers a space for kids to plant their own vegetables and herbs, to harvest throughout the year. This creates an opportunity for children to learn the value of growing their own food. Companion plantings will encourage natural alternatives to traditional means of controlling unwanted garden insects while attracting pollinators.

A “dig in the dirt”/interactive area will encourage kids to “get their hands dirty” finding earth worms and other underground garden creatures, the release said. A growing plant-based area is planned to enclose the interactive area as a garden house. Every detail of the new design from the soil to the bulb and plant selection is meant to provide natural structural barriers/supports, seasonal engagement, sensory-based experiences and fun, coupled with literature and learning, the release said.

The recent volunteer build began the museum’s new garden adventure for children, with plans of more plants and learning elements starting in spring.

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Japanese gardens: the enigmatic art of raked gravel and rocks does not give up its secrets lightly

I understand Walker’s intrigue: I’ve been to Japan three times in the past three years, finding myself drawn deeper into the country’s landscape and away from civilisation with each return visit. But while I’ve always sought out and admired the gardens on my travels, I’ve often been left cold. They are undeniably beautiful and pacifying, but somehow untouchable.  A hunt for a hidden gem of a garden – often just a few metres square, and unfettered by crowds of tourists – may bring you to one laid out in front of a bamboo viewing platform, such as that created by the poet Ishikawa Jozan in the temple of Shisen-do in Kyoto, or a space filled only by raked gravel. These are gardens to be looked at from a distance, not held or inhaled as you wander through foliage.

The Japanese Garden offers an explanation of the semantic foundations of Japanese garden design through essays – from, among others, the influential architect Tadao Ando, Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng, author of Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, and artist Lee Ufan. It also includes a comprehensive collection of photographs. Tourist favourite Fushimi Inari Taisha, known for its thousands of orange torii gates, is in there, but so is the Teshima Yokoo House, located on one of cluster of tiny fishing islands that have, in recent decades, become home to modern art. 

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Foster + Partners’ First Public Garden Design to Feature in Norton …

Foster + Partners First Public Garden Design to Feature in Norton Museum Expansion,  Foster + Partners
© Foster + Partners

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida has announced plans for the first-ever public garden designed by Foster + Partners as part of their $100 million expansion project. To feature a variety of native sub-tropical plantings and gathering spaces, the garden is envisioned as “a new social space for the community.”

“From the beginning, we have conceived of the Norton expansion as an opportunity to create a New Norton—one that embraces its original design, while also creating a more welcoming and inviting campus,” said Lord Norman Foster.

“In our masterplan, it was important for us to define the Norton’s sense of place—in this case Florida’s lush subtropics. To do so, we conceptualized a museum within a garden. We are creating verdant spaces for art and programming that extends the museum beyond its walls.”

 Foster + Partners

 Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners First Public Garden Design to Feature in Norton Museum Expansion

 Foster + Partners

+ 5

Fitting into the 6.3-acre campus masterplan, the new landscape will feature a series of Art Deco-inspired pavilion circling a central courtyard to create shaded corridors linking “garden rooms” along the southern axis of the Museum. Lush plantings will frame individual spaces within the Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden, which will house 11 notable art works gifted by the the couple to the museum including contemporary pieces by Keith Haring, George Rickey, and Mark di Suervo.

At the center of the plan, the “great lawn” will serve as an open-air venue for the Museum’s “Art After Dark” program and other events, performances and screenings. Inspired by a historic banyan tree planted on the museum’s opening in 1941 (which will anchor the new museum entrance to the west), Foster + Partners have also included a “mature garden” featuring eighty-two mature trees whose canopy will immediately interact with the expansion’s curving roof structure.

 Foster + Partners
© Foster + Partners

Other planned elements including a new entry forecourt featuring a reflecting pool and a monumental, 43-foot-tall, semi-reflective metal canopy cantilever 45 feet out from the building facade. An opening in the canopy will gesture toward the 85-foot-tall banyan tree.

New interior spaces that will interact with the garden include the 210-seat Stiller Family Foundation Auditorium; the Jane and Leonard Korman Room; and the Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Restaurant, with outdoor dining space located on the John and Marjorie McGraw Terrace. The 3,600-square-foot, 43-foot-tall Ruth and Carl Shapiro Great Hall will connect all these spaces, offering gathering and relaxation spaces with lounge seating, a coffee bar, piano and book carts.

 Foster + Partners
© Foster + Partners

The expansion will also include 12,000 square feet of new gallery space for seasonal exhibitions and the Museum collection and the William Randolph Hearst Education Center, which will more than double the current amount of educational facilities. Other projects related to the masterplan include the restoration of six 1920s-era houses located south of the garden to serve as studios for artists-in-residence and the new Director’s Residence.

Construction on the project is already well underway, having topped out in June of this year. The project is slated to open to the public in February 2019.

Learn more about the expansion project in our previous post, here.

News via Norton Museum of Art, Foster + Partners.

Foster to Break Ground on Norton Museum Expansion in Florida

UPDATE: Foster + Partners Norton Museum of Art expansion will official break ground tomorrow, February 6, following the Norton’s annual Gala celebrating its 75th anniversary. The project, which will transform the museum’s West Wing, increase gallery space by 35 percent and add a new auditorium, great hall and education space to the building, is expected to complete in 2018.

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Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively review – green fingers, silver trowels

When a really good book comes along, one of the things it does is to draw attention to the absence of such a book on your shelves before it arrived. I hadn’t really thought much about the state of the once venerable art of garden writing until I read Life in the Garden. It brought home to me how few recent gardening books come anywhere close to its style, intelligence and depth. I enjoyed Dan Pearson’s A Year in the Garden; Alys Fowler is always worth reading; I couldn’t care less about Monty Don’s gormless retrievers, but he does write stylish if faintly patrician prose when describing Longmeadow. Other than these worthy exceptions, garden books have become, as Penelope Lively herself points out, nothing more than “vehicles for lavish photography”.

Lively, now in her 80s, is the only author to have won both the Booker, for Moon Tiger in 1987, and the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe in 1973. She has continued to write since her string of hits in the 1980s; 2009’s Family Album was a memorably sharp novel of middle-class manners and last year’s collection of short stories, The Purple Swamp Hen, garnered excellent reviews. In Life in the Garden, she has given us something quite new; rich and unusual, this is a book to treasure, as beautiful on the inside as its gorgeous cover and endpapers (all by the celebrated illustrator Katie Scott).

“The two central activities in my life – alongside writing – have been reading and gardening,” Lively says, and Life in the Garden laces elegantly between the two. Whatever you’re interested in tends to catch your eye when you’re reading, but there’s a special relationship between writers and their gardens. “I always pay attention when a writer conjures up a garden,” Lively writes, “… it is nearly always deliberate, a garden contrived to serve a narrative purpose, to create atmosphere, to furnish a character.” Life in the Garden moves between Lively’s own horticultural life and a broad history of gardening, with regular and illuminating examples from a host of our best garden writers in nonfiction, poetry and novels.

Lively’s work is full of memorable gardens, from the Egyptian oases of Moon Tiger (which drew on her childhood in Egypt) to the nursery at Dean Close in According to Mark. Lively doesn’t quote herself, which is rather a shame, but chooses to call on others instead, from Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West to her friends Elizabeth Jane Howard and Carol Shields (and it strikes me now what a debt Shields’s best novel, The Stone Diaries, owes to Moon Tiger). She is gently dismissive of those writers who give you a garden, but don’t know enough about it to name names, to distil the abstract general beauty of the place into the specificity of verbena and lily and coreopsis. Proust comes in for particular criticism here.

This is a book that gives words to something that those of us who garden know by instinct – how being in the garden raises the spirits, modulates the seasons. Lively writes of “that enriching lifting out of the restrictions of now, and today” that comes with the planning and retrospection of a garden. Gardening also allows us to “escape winter by swinging forward into spring, summer”. Lively is such a consistently genial presence in the book, her references friendly reminders of writers one loves (she sent me straight back to Anna Pavord and Jenny Uglow), of new names such as Eleanor Perenyi, and of authors one knows but not as garden writers – James Fenton’s gardening columns are a newfound joy.

A particularly zippy and entertaining chapter tells the history of landscape gardening. It slips with typical seamlessness between fact and fiction, summoning Capability Brown and Jane Austen, Humphrey Repton and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. This is intelligently wedded to a different kind of landscaping – the imposition of order on the wilds of the American prairie as evinced in the work of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder. “The garden reorders time,” Lively writes, “and to garden is to impose order … It is the conquest of nature, the harnessing of nature to a purpose, initially practical and later aesthetic.”

Throughout the book we are drip-fed scenes from Lively’s life, so it becomes like an autobiography smuggled into a garden book. Now, at 84, time and space have conspired to circumscribe her gardening existence. She’s beset by problems with her back: “I can’t bend at all now, so my gardening of the London garden has to be restricted to watering, dead-heading, and such operations as I can manage from a folding seat.” Since the death of her husband, the academic Jack Lively, she has given up their home in the Oxfordshire countryside and tends “a few square yards” of urban north London. She writes frankly of the fact that the Hydrangea paniculata Limelight she’s planting will probably outlive her, although “I am requiring it to perform while I can still enjoy it”. Lively has made her negotiations with ageing and recognises the small and tentative gestures at immortality that come with gardening – her observation on the way plants pass down through generations prompted thoughts of the humble Alchemilla mollis that lines my patio, a gift from my mother-in-law’s garden that was given to her by her own mother. I’m sure the Alchemilla, which has seeded itself everywhere, will still be going strong when I’m long gone.

This isn’t quite a perfect book. Lively has a tic of too-regular authorial interjections to remind the reader of what’s to come. “I’m getting ahead of myself,” she says, or “more on that later,” or “as we shall see”. It’s part of the charm of the book, this enthusiasm, but the outbursts come too often and begin to clunk. In her diaries, Virginia Woolf describes coming in from the garden with Leonard and finding the “chocolate earth in our nails”. It’s a phrase Lively obviously admired – she uses it twice in three pages and three times in the first chapter.

There’s a common theme that links many of the authors Lively mentions – they’re infuriatingly privileged. You could hardly help writing well about gardens if you grew up at Knowle, or lived at Sissinghurst, or Monk’s House. Lively herself is from blue-blooded stock – her grandmother’s place in Somerset had a sunken rose garden, a ha-ha, a splendid-sounding yew-lined water feature. Few of my author friends have been lucky enough to inherit castles with 750 acres of grounds to be tended, as Perenyi did, or pick up a Prussian aristo with a sprawling estate, like Elizabeth von Arnim.

And yet, for all the scarcity of really good contemporary garden writers, there are still many who, like Woolf or Elizabeth Bowen, use gardens to powerful effect in their novels. I’m thinking of Amanda Craig in The Lie of the Land, Alan Hollinghurst in The Stranger’s Child, Melissa Harrison in At Hawthorn Time, Lucy Hughes-Hallett in Peculiar Ground. They recognise the truth that shines brightly from Life in the Garden – that our gardens assert a powerful hold on our collective imaginations; they are reflections of our secret selves, places of memory and nostalgia in which we perform complex rituals of hope and stewardship. Our long history of gardening deserves a book as beautiful as Life in the Garden.

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively is published by Fig Tree (£14.99). To order a copy for £12.74 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK pp over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min pp of £1.99

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Leaving leaves may encourage spring gardens, wildlife

You went to get the fall leaves picked up and placed at the curb, but leaving some may actually help your landscaping.

Every fall people rake up the leaves, bag them and leave them on the curbs of Erie County. Consider leaving the leaves in the yard to benefit your garden soil and some wildlife too. There are several ways to utilize the leaves.

Leaves are natural, organic fertilizer. A really easy way to use leaves is to run them over with the lawn mower. The mower cuts them into tiny pieces so they decompose right on the lawn.

If you have a lot of leaves, after running them over with the mower, you can save some to use in your compost bin. They also will make great mulch for next year. You can bag them to save or fashion a snow fence or other fencing into a cylinder for storing the leaves.

If you have garden beds and larger wild sections of your yard, you can rake the leaves there. Leaves provide homes to a variety of living things.

Some caterpillars, like the wooly bear caterpillar, overwinter in leaves and under the bark of trees. This easily recognized fuzzy black and rust colored caterpillar is often seen crossing roads in the fall looking for winter lodging. Invite them to overwinter in your yard, under your leaves. Wooly bear caterpillars turn into the Isabella tiger moth. The moth is yellow-orange, with black spots on its body and wings. The wooly bear caterpillars actually freeze solid but don’t die because of a natural antifreeze found in their bodies. In the spring they spin cocoons and then the tiger moth emerges.

Some butterflies will lay their eggs in leaf litter, using it as a nursery. The mourning cloak butterfly and the luna moth caterpillar also overwinter in fall leaves. Raking up these leaves and bagging them may kill next year’s garden butterflies and moths.

Leaf litter is an important place for birds such as wood thrushes, brown thrashers, northern flickers and Eastern towhees to find food. Fireflies also spend winter in leaves. Every spring I see thrashers and towhees looking for insects under the leaves in my suburban backyard. The wood thrush’s numbers are declining because of smaller amounts of insects found under the leaves in forests.

Leaves are good for the soil in your lawn and your garden and are beneficial for wildlife. Leave the leaves — don’t throw them away.


Presque Isle garden of the month

Presque Isle Garden Club’s October residential garden of the month winner is Eri Siagian, of the 2700 block of Birch Run Drive, Millcreek Township. Among her shrubs are various annuals and perennials such as zinnias, dusty miller, New Guinea impatiens, sage, Montauk daisies and mums.

Siagian shared some garden tips. She starts a lot of her flowers from seeds saved from the previous year. She shops for local plants and buys them on sale. It’s very important to spend money and time on your soil. If the soil is good the plants will thrive. She puts compost and potting soil in each planting hole.


Jamestown Garden Club benefit luncheon

Jamestown Garden Club is sponsoring a luncheon with a floral presentation by Erie florist Tim Rettger on Thursday at Jamestown Community College’s 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 e-mail Jamestown Garden Club maintains the Roger Tory Peterson Butterfly Garden.


Tom Ridge Center class

Neighborly Natural Landscaping: How Reduced Mowing Helps Increase Habitat for Pollinators and Birds, will be held on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. Join Ed Perry, outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s clean energy and climate change campaign for a program focusing on ways to improve habitat in our yards for birds and pollinators. Topics to be discussed include what, where and when to plant; plant sources, and where to purchase plants and meadow gardening. Free. Call Jen Salem, 835-3056 or e-mail


Garden club meetings

Glenwood Association Gardeners Club, Monday, 6:30 p.m., 4425 Upland Drive. Maxine Gold will talk about the trees of Glenwood and Pennsylvania. Call Maxine Gold, 866-5630.
McKean Area Garden Club, Wednesday, 11 a.m. Hoss’s Restaurant, 3302 W. 26th St. Sandee Caccavo and Rochelle Krowinski will instruct members on the quilting technique of the blanket stitch to complete flower squares for the garden club’s first quilt. The quilt will be raffled off at McKean Day 2018 with proceeds benefiting the club’s General McLane Scholarship Fund. Call Mary Villa, 460-8269.
Fair View Garden Club, Friday, 11 a.m., 4601 Avonia Road, Fairview. Bring gently used accessories, jewelry and books to sell to aid the food bank. Annual reading of committee reports. Call Kathy Hayes, 836-8846.
Gospel Hill Garden Club, Nov. 7, 6 p.m., Wesleyville Baptist Church, 3509 Buffalo Road. Linda Kroto, from Gerlach’s Garden and Floral Center, will give ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas flower arranging. There will also be items to purchase. New members and guests are always welcome. Call Jane Hume, 899-5982.
Waterford Garden Club, Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Asbury United Methodist Church, 23 W. Second St., Waterford. Member Dorthy Yard will present a make and take demonstration on moss balls. She is a master consultant in landscape design, gardening studies and environmental studies and is a master flower show judge. Call Betty Wist, 397-8369.
Heather Club of Edinboro, Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Edinboro United Methodist Church, 113 High St., Edinboro. Susie Schultz will talk about wicked plants. Call Carol Klonicki, 397-8477.
Presque Isle Garden Club, Nov. 8, 10:30 a.m., Asbury United Methodist Church, 4703 W. Ridge Road. Members will make wreaths to feed wild birds. Bring supplies for making the wreath and bird food items. Call Jan McLaughlin, 476-7259.

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

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UGA’s ‘secret garden’ chooses 2017 Classic City Award winning flowers

As University of Georgia students are grabbing more layers in the morning and as campus becomes littered with autumn leaves, a colorful haven behind Snelling Dining Commons will be cleared away in anticipation of the winter.

This space, filled with hundreds of different plants, is the Trial Gardens at UGA, a part of the Horticulture Department in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, which tests different seeds and plugs from plant breeders around the world to see if they will do well in Georgia and southeastern conditions.

The trial gardens, which started in 1982, is primarily used for “research, teaching and new crop introduction” and introduces “new crops for the greenhouse and landscape industries,” according to its website.

This late in the year, the gardens are winding down and the evaluation period for the trial plants is over, with director John Ruter and manager Brandon Coker picking 11 Classic City Award Winners which grew the best overall in the gardens.

Coker said he evaluates the plants based on overall plant health, quality of bloom, overall uniqueness and what’s more appealing in general.

The gardens also host industry and public open houses in which participants flag their five favorite plants, which Coker takes into consideration when picking the award-winning plants.

The Classic City Award Winners list can be found on the garden’s Facebook page and the runner-up Best of the Best list has yet to be posted. Breeders and homeowners can look at these lists when deciding which plants to produce or buy.

Coker and Ruter evaluate the plants on a scale from 1-5, which more specifically shows how these plants do in heat and humidity as well as against specific Georgia disease and insect pressure. Coker said plants tested this year will probably be introduced into the 2018 or 2019 market.

The plants are mostly ornamental, specifically targeted for homeowners and businesses.

“Drive up and down Milledge and all the sorority and fraternity houses have landscaping, and the plants come from places like this where we trial them to see if plants do well,” Coker said.

Coker works pretty much daily in the gardens and evaluated the plants every other week, which is different from the one end-of-season report most of the other trial gardens around the nation do.

“Typically, other trialing grounds are just a field with rows or pots, so it doesn’t look like a garden,” Coker said. “Another really unique thing about this place is that it’s actually a garden — it looks like a garden, planted like a garden and treated like a garden. That helps homeowners get a better idea of how these plants do realistically.”

The Trial Gardens at UGA, in addition to the more than 330 trial plants, include graduate student and other community plant projects.

Coker said he is in the gardens pretty much daily, maintaining the area with students and volunteers.

Coker makes sure to keep the trial plants specifically in “optimal conditions.”

“We maintain the plants — we deadhead them, we trim them, we kind of talk to them everyday and we essentially make them thrive,” Coker said.

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This week’s gardening tips: how to control caterpillars, scale, whitefly

Perennials that are dormant over the winter, such as daylilies, ajuga, daisy, rudbeckia, coreopsis, yarrow and others, can be divided and transplanted now through February. Keep plants well-watered and mulched.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to or add them to the comment section below.

Follow his stories at Facebook and @nolahomegarden on Instagram.

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Olive Garden: Tips for saving money

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It’s no secret that going out to eat can be expensive. And actually, there’s evidence that dining out is pricier than ever before. Still, who wants to give up going to restaurants?

Besides chowing on tasty food, going out to eat is a go-to way for many people to socialize, and doubles as an easy way to get out of cooking and doing the dishes.

If you’re looking for ways to dine out without breaking the bank, we have you covered, at least when it comes to one popular restaurant chain. Check out this list of 10 clever tips that can save you some serious cash at Olive Garden.

Whatever you do, please remember to tip your server. These people work hard for a living and just because you’re getting a discount or a freebie doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a full-price tip.

1. Get a free appetizer or dessert.

A common savings strategy when going out is to skip extras like appetizers and desserts. But let’s be real—that kind of takes the fun out of it.

To have your cake and eat it too at Olive Garden, all you need to do is sign up for the Olive Garden eClub. You will receive a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert (up to a $10 value) with the purchase of two adult entrees. Yum!

2. Dine during an off time.

Of course, it’s tempting to go during the lunch rush or around a traditional dinnertime, but if you can work your schedule to dine between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, you can take advantage of Dinner Duos.

This promotion gets you a select entree, along with unlimited soup or salad, plus all the breadsticks you can handle, for just $8.99.

3. Pay $1 for your kids to eat there.

Olive Garden has been known to run some seriously great promotions for kids, including offering $1 kids’ entrees with the purchase of an adult meal.

This promotion comes and goes, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for the next time Olive Garden runs this deal (or something similar).

Also, you should know that Olive Garden often has great buy one, get one free deals on entrees. Though this specific deal is expired, it could come back around!

4. Taste wine for free.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Olive Garden actually has a pretty legit wine list. As a bonus, the restaurant allows customers to sample their wines at no charge. These samples are about 1-ounce pour, so you won’t get an entire glass. But hey, it’s something right?

And, according to The Krazy Coupon Lady, some Olive Garden locations actually let you bring your own wine. This definitely doesn’t apply to all locations, however, so you’ll want to call ahead first and find out if this applies to your local Olive Garden.

Server: Here's your Moscato Flight! I'd highly suggest pairing with th– Us:

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5. Get a free dipping sauce.

Olive Garden Rewards is the restaurant’s loyalty program. A part of the program, you accumulate points each time you dine. Eventually you can cash in those points for free items or gift cards. Upon signing up, you’ll automatically get 100 points, which scores you a free dipping sauce, such as marinara or alfredo.

📱: new Angry Alfredo sauce, who dis?

A post shared by Olive Garden (@olivegarden) on

6. Go on your birthday.

If you choose to celebrate your birthday at Olive Garden, you can count on a free dessert. Sign up for the eClub to get in on this annual perk.

Good weather and 🍓 cheesecake. All you could possibly need.

A post shared by Olive Garden (@olivegarden) on

7. Cut your meal in half before you get it.

Everyone knows restaurant portions give you way more food than you need. If you ask your server to box up half of your meal before it’s served to you, you’re less likely to go overboard. This way, you’ll get two meals for the price of one. Besides, who needs a full meal with all those breadsticks and salad?

Comment "I love breadsticks" if you love breadsticks.

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8. Stock up on gift cards for the holidays.

Throughout the month of December, and again in mid-April, the restaurant offers a free $10 gift card when you purchase a $50 gift card. Consider your holiday shopping done!

olive garden gift card photo

9. Get the never-ending pasta bowl.

OK, so I know I just suggested saving money and calories by cutting your meal in half, but on the other hand, if you’re carb-loading for a race (or are just super-hungry—no judgment!) the never-ending pasta bowl is a pretty great deal. Starting at just $9.99, you can fill up on unlimited servings of over 100 combinations of pastas, sauces and toppings.

10. Make copycat recipes at home.

OK, so this one feels like cheating, but it’s totally Olive-Garden-approved! Have some fun in the kitchen and save dough at the same time by whipping up some of your favorite menu items with exact recipes provided by the restaurant.

This story originally appeared on Don’t Waste Your Money. Checkout Don’t Waste Your Money for other great tips and ideas to make the most out of life.

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Spring bulbs and pruning: More garden care tips for colder days

WASHINGTON — WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath answers your questions about planting spring bulbs and when (and what) to prune during the cold season.

Winter pruning rules: Don’t cut the crape!

A crape myrtle plant frames the U.S. Capitol Building Monday, Sept. 8,1997, in Washington. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette)

Clemencia in Potomac writes: “Could you clarify why your recommendation to prune in the dead of winter doesn’t apply to crape myrtle and butterfly bush? Will pruning when these plants are dormant hurt them? Or discourage flowering the following spring?”

Yes to both questions, Clemencia. Pruning before new growth begins to emerge in the spring removes biomass from the top of the plant that would otherwise provide the insulation necessary to protect the crown and root system from the worst of winter weather.

My recommendation — and that of all established experts — to “prune in the winter” only applies to removing dead or diseased limbs from large trees. The correct time to cut back summer bloomers, such as butterfly bush and crape myrtle, is after new growth appears in the spring.

Cut crape myrtle back by a few feet; ideally, just as much as the plant grew last season. Butterfly bush can get a buzz-cut; just leave the bottom 6 inches or so standing.

What about the vines of wine? And berries blue?

Clemencia in Potomac has two more pruning questions. She writes: “What about grape vines? And blueberry bushes?”

Again, the most important thing is to not prune anything now, while the plants are trying to go dormant. Pruning at this time of year is propelled 100 percent by boredom; watch the World Series instead!

Now, grape vines should be pruned in very late winter or early spring, depending on the trellising system you have chosen and the aggressiveness of the vines. Contact your local extension office and follow their recommendations for your specific varieties. And be sure to thin out lots of the grape leaves and remove some of the clusters during the growing season to prevent disease.

Blueberries require no pruning other than to remove dead or diseased branches in the spring and to keep the plants to a manageable size. Just be aware that more pruning equals fewer berries and to never remove more than one-third of the plant.

Douse berry-eating birds

Jo-Anne in Silver Spring writes: “Would a motion-activated sprinkler be an effective way to discourage birds from attacking my blueberries? I’m tired of getting tangled up every time I have to place the net over the frame.”

Birds are the bane of blueberry growers; they will fight you for every tasty little fruit. And the traditional defense is to erect a cage-like framework and then drape bird netting over the frame.

But netting is far from a perfect deterrent. Birds often walk in under it, and birds and butterflies often get tangled up in the netting (as do people).

So, yes, placing a motion-activated sprinkler in front of the bushes at harvest time should work well to keep birds at bay — as well as other berry thieves such as Evil Squirrels and nighttime raccoon raiders.

No trick: It’s (finally) spring bulb time!

It is now safe to plant new spring bulbs in the ground without risk of them sprouting prematurely.

If you are tormented by Dastardly Deer and Sinister Squirrels, stick with bulbs that are either bad-tasting or downright toxic, such as daffodils, hyacinth, fritillaria and ornamental alliums.

Daffodils especially look good when crowded into tight but massive plantings. A cluster of a hundred daffodil bulbs planted a tight 2-inches apart is a better cure for the month of March than Prozac!

Tulips and crocus are equally enjoyable, but they are also eminently edible. Mulch their beds with dog hair to deter Evil Squirrels and voracious voles from digging them up and devouring them.

Spring bulb planting 101

Anytime between now and Thanksgiving is ideal for getting new spring bulbs in the ground.

  • Pick an area that drains well. Ideally, make it a spot where you won’t need to plant annual flowers over top later in the season.
  • For the best effect, plant large numbers of the same bulb in tight clusters; just a couple of inches between each bulb.
  • Plant bulbs pointy end up, flat end down. If they don’t have a pointy end, plant them sideways.
  • Plant all bulbs — and any last runs of garlic cloves — twice as deep as the bulb is high. (In other words, you should be able to put another bulb on top of it; but don’t do that.)
  • Don’t feed bulbs now; they’re dormant and can’t utilize food. The time to feed bulbs is after they bloom in the spring.
  • Disguise the scent of tasty bulbs such as tulips and crocus with a spray of deer repellent or a mulch of brushed dog hair over top of the bed.
A girl riding a bike is framed by daffodils in bloom as she peddles along the Mount Vernon Trail through Lady Bird Johnson Park, across from the Washington Monument in Washington, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Mike McGrath was Editor-in-Chief of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine from 1990 through 1997. He has been the host of the nationally syndicated Public Radio show “You Bet Your Garden” since 1998 and Garden Editor for WTOP since 1999. Send him your garden or pest control questions at

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Garden Tips: Potting soil can be a fire hazard – Tri

Every year firefighters warn us about the dangers of space heaters, string lighting, fire pits and burning candles. These are serious hazards, but the fire experts are now adding potting mixes to this list.

Potting mixes are increasingly the root cause of house fires. Most of these fires are not the result of spontaneous combustion; they are usually started by individuals extinguishing their cigarettes in a pot filled with potting mix.

Because potting mixes often are referred to as potting soil, many smokers do not give a second thought to using a container garden or indoor potted plant for an ashtray. They do not think of dry potting mixes as being flammable. If they are not dedicated gardeners, they probably do not realize that “potting soils” are actually mixes of numerous flammable materials, such as peat moss, wood fiber, coconut fiber, chopped bark or compost. The potting mixes of today generally contain very little sand or real soil, but many do contain fertilizer. Some fertilizers are oxidizers that can lead to faster-burning fires.

Fire departments across the U.S. are starting to warn the public about the fire danger of potting mixes. Joe Terppening, Deputy Fire Marshall for the Kennewick Fire Department, indicates that in the past three years, at least 20 percent of local house fires were the result of cigarettes being extinguished in pots filled with potting mix.

So what can we do to minimize the hazard? Here are some tips from several different fire departments:

▪ While you and other members of your family may not be smokers, you may have guests who smoke. Provide an ashtray by each of your outside doors for a convenient and safe way for extinguishing cigarettes. An alternative to this would be placing a metal container (such as a metal coffee can) filled with sand by the doors and marked for this purpose.

▪ Many gardeners have container gardens close to their outside doors. During the growing season, fire is less likely when the potting mix is kept moist and the plants are well maintained. When a plants dies and dries up, it should be removed. During the winter when the pots are not being watered, it is advisable to remove the dead plants and store the containers away from the house.

▪ If you keep a bag of potting mix stowed close to the house so it will be handy, periodically add moisture to the bag to keep the mix from drying out. This also will make it easier to rewet when using it for planting. Also, keep bags of potting mix away from other combustible materials and fire sources, like barbecue grills and fire pits.

▪ Plastic pots melt and burn. When possible, use clay or ceramic pots for your planters.

▪ Live indoor plants are becoming popular again. Plant owners should keep the potting mix of most houseplants slightly moist in case someone decides to use a plant pot for an ashtray.

Soil-free potting mixes have been around for over 40 years, but I suspect this uptick in fires being caused by them is the result of more and more smokers being asked to smoke outside the house. This is better for the health of nonsmokers, but it has created a serious fire hazard.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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