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Archives for November 11, 2017

Succulents take center stage again in new edition of landscape book

  • A copper-colored fountain serves as a Bay Area garden's glistening focal point. Repeating its orange hue are the edges of Agave 'Blue Glow' and Sedum 'Pork and Beans.' In the background are Senecio vitalis and euphorbia shrubs.  Photo: Rebecca Sweet from Designing With Succulents / Timber Press Photo: Rebecca Sweet



A copper-colored fountain serves as a Bay Area garden’s glistening focal point. Repeating its orange hue are the edges of Agave ‘Blue Glow’ and Sedum ‘Pork and Beans.’ In the background are Senecio vitalis and euphorbia shrubs. Photo: Rebecca Sweet from “Designing With Succulents” / Timber Press


A copper-colored fountain serves as a Bay Area garden’s glistening focal point. Repeating its orange hue are the edges of Agave ‘Blue Glow’ and Sedum ‘Pork and Beans.’ In the background are Senecio vitalis and

… more

Book Review

New edition brings new ideas and designs to the landscape

Although some Bay Area gardeners loved cactus and other succulents, a decade ago it was rare to see a landscape that used these drought-tolerant plants extensively. More likely they’d be used as an accent or in a container or a small bed of specimen plants. Then two things happened. One is the prolonged drought, with water restrictions that sent many gardeners scrambling to plant a waterwise garden. The other is that Debra Lee Baldwin published the first edition of “Designing With Succulents.” That 2007 edition was a revelation that inspired many a designer.

Now there is a new edition that has been informed by the changes wrought, in part, by the first. “Designing With Succulents: Completely Revised Second Edition” (Timber Press, 2017) includes 100 new photos. Many of the new photos were taken in recently planted gardens that illustrate new design ideas and bold new themes. The text, which is 85 percent newly written, provides a clear and helpful guide to using succulents to create drought-tolerant, fire resistant and handsome landscapes.

More Gardening

In addition to design examples and tips, the book includes a chapter describing individual succulents from A to Z; a section on planting and care; and another on the top waterwise companion plants to grow with succulents in a garden. To help formulate a garden plan, there are lists of species by height or foliage color, and a list of succulents with dramatic blooms. I look forward to the drama of more inventive succulent gardens inspired by Baldwin’s new edition.

Read about gardens

The world’s gardens

at your fingertips

Whether you’re planning a trip abroad or you prefer to tour from your armchair, you can explore some of the world’s best gardens in articles by garden and travel writer Yvonne Horne, a.k.a. the Traveling Gardener, on her website, I particularly enjoyed reading about the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall, England. This entry includes photos of a wall of Victorian “bee boles” and the huge moss-covered statue of the sleeping “Mud Maid.” If you subscribe, you will receive an emailed garden travel article or two a month.

Pokeweed, a.k.a. Poke Sallet, is a poisonous weed. Photo: Kester Gilhome, SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

Garden tip

A huge and toxic weed

After my October column on weed management appeared, I received several emails on the subject. One reader reported a giant weed growing in the northwest corner of San Francisco. When I saw the photos, I could identify it as pokeweed, a plant not common in our area.

This weed, named Phytolacca americana, grows 4 to 10 feet tall. The plant has simple, oval pointed leaves, 5 to 10 inches long, on long stems. The white or greenish flowers bloom on spikes, known to botanists as racemes, which can be as long as 8 inches. The tightly clustered ripe berries are dark purple, their short stems bright pink. These berry spikes are the easiest part of the plant to recognize.

All parts of pokeweed are poisonous. The roots are the most toxic part, but even the berries and their seeds have poisoned babies and small children who found them tempting. In addition to direct poisoning, the toxins in pokeweed have been linked to mutations and birth defects.

Birds, including northern mockingbirds, mourning doves and cedar waxwings, enjoy the berries, are immune to the toxin, and spread the seed. Raccoons and opossums also seem to escape harm when they eat the berries, but many mammals would be poisoned.

If you are trying to get rid of pokeweed, the best method is to dig it out so the perennial tap roots can’t grow new shoots. Then clean up any berries you find on the ground. Watch for seedlings from seeds you missed, and pull them when they are still small. Wear gloves when handling this plant, as the toxins can be absorbed through skin.

Even though it is toxic, some people grow this plant as a garden perennial. The variety Silberstein has pale, cream-colored leaves with green spots; another, named Sunny Side Up, has yellow-green leaves.

Pokeweed is native to the eastern half of the country. People in Appalachia and the South traditionally eat the leaves of very young pokeweed plants, but only after taking precautions to remove the toxin. This is done by boiling the leaves, discarding the boiling water, and repeating this process two or three times. The resulting cooked green is known as “poke sallet.” (It’s important to know that the word “sallet” is from the Middle English word meaning cooked greens, not salad, since the raw greens would be toxic.)

Pam Peirce is the author of “Golden Gate Gardening.” Visit her website, Email:

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Dutch design lab blends naturalistic and futuristic – Winston

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McIntire Botanical Garden Board Issues Request for Proposals for Garden’s Design

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OT lot plans on hold – Galesburg Register

About this story: On Jan. 23, 2006, the O.T. Johnson and Gross Galesburg buildings burned down in a fire, the cause of which was never determined. Since then, many community members have wondered what the lot could be used for. This story takes a look at what the property’s owner, the city of Galesburg, has proposed to do with the property and whether the city’s ideas have gained traction among local developers.

GALESBURG — Eleven years after the Gross Galesburg and O.T. Johnson buildings burned down, the lot where the latter building stood has not yet been developed for another use, and that situation doesn’t look to change any time soon. 

In 2011, the city compiled and approved a list of suggested redevelopment criteria for potential developers for the lot, providing a guideline as to what the city would like to see in the space. While potential developers do not need to follow the criteria exactly, the city created the guidelines to ensure future development would be compatible with the existing buildings and aesthetics of the downtown area, according to the guidelines. 

Some of the criteria included that a building must be constructed on the south portion of the site; the building must be at least two stories high, with no false facade on the second story; a pedestrian walkway must be installed  to provide access from Main Street to the north side of the building; and the building’s south wall should include architectural features such as brick walls, display windows on the first floor and tall windows on the upper floors. 

Despite the city’s preparation, no developer has shown interest in the site beyond the exploration stage. Galesburg Mayor John Pritchard personally believed the option to use the site for a business would make the most sense rather than using it as green space or an outdoor venue.

He noted that the site offers limited parking, which would not befit an outdoor venue’s operation. As for green space, the design for the National Railroad Hall of Fame’s Engines of Freedom Center will include half a square block of green space near the Amtrak depot to serve that purpose, Pritchard said. 

“I’m sure if today someone showed up and said, ‘I want to build a two-story building and I want to have apartments on the second floor and a business on the first floor,’ I think the city would be very interested in seeing that happen,” Pritchard said. 

City administration has considered alternate options for the site while waiting for a business to come along, however. Earlier this year, the administration considered putting out some picnic tables, landscaping and other low-cost amenities at the site that would improve the area’s aesthetics and would be easy to remove if a more permanent development proposal came to the site. 

City Manager Todd Thompson said that idea was never made into a formal plan, but it still could be an option to pursue for some time in 2018. 

“It’s been discussed over the past year or so to make the site more visibly appealing and useful,” Thompson said.

Yet the city is waiting for the Parks and Recreation Master Plan to be completed before pursuing any type of project for the lot. There is also not a capital project included in the 2018 capital budget for the site. 

“The focus in 2018 will be on the development of the Park Plaza site, with a project estimated to cost $1.425 million,” Thompson said. 

Tony Oligney-Estill, director of parks and recreation for the city, was not yet certain of how the O.T. Johnson site would impact the parks and recreation master plan. 

“The preliminary feedback we have heard about the parks and recreation plan talks about residents wanting some green space downtown,” Oligney-Estill said. 

The city does not have an established price for the O.T. Johnson lot at this time, Thompson said.


Rebecca Susmarski: (309) 343-7181, ext. 261;; @RSusmarski

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Idaho Climate Summit: Solutions to safeguard our economy

Nearly two-thirds of Idahoans understand that the state’s climate is changing — yet only one-third of them are talking about it. That’s according to a 2016 Yale University public opinion poll, and reveals a gap between knowledge and action.

We are witnessing more intense wildfires, hurricanes, drought and floods in line with what climate science predicts. Our businesses and communities will increasingly face extreme weather and greater resource constraints and costs. To succeed and thrive, we need to encourage dialogue, devise solutions and share learnings.

On Nov. 16-17, business and civic leaders around the state will convene the Idaho Climate Summit to explore how we can collectively address the impacts of a changing climate and safeguard Idaho’s economy. Businesses, organizations, schools and individuals are welcome to participate, either online or in person at sites around the state.

HP is one of several companies and organizations supporting the summit. We see the need for climate action not only as our responsibility, but vital to our long-term success. Our customers and investors also expect this of us. We work to make our company more efficient, resilient and competitive by innovating and improving how we work and what we deliver. For instance, the HP print cartridges you use today are made using a recycled plastic sourced from plastic water bottles, apparel hangers and HP cartridges returned through our Planet Partners program. In over 3 billion cartridges to date, this closed loop plastic uses half the amount of fossil fuel and has a 33 percent smaller carbon footprint than new plastic.

We apply the same reinvention mind set to our own operations as well. Driving by the Boise HP campus on Chinden Avenue, you may notice a change in the landscape — literally. Working with local and national groups, we are replacing non-indigenous grass on our campus with native grasses that require less maintenance and attract local pollinators. The campus now saves 82,900 cubic meters of water annually (enough to fill 33 Olympic-sized swimming pools), and has reduced emissions by 90 percent and landscaping costs by nearly 50 percent. That’s a smart solution for an increasingly water-stressed region. The project was just awarded a SITES Gold certification for designing, developing and maintaining sustainable landscapes. It’s the first certification of its kind for the state of Idaho and the first corporate campus in the world certified using the SITES v2 rating system.

As the Idaho Climate Summit will show, many Idaho companies are devising their own solutions to similar effect. Ideas and innovation are emerging from the private, public and non-profit sectors across the state to help meet the needs and interests of all — from farms to forests, from recreation to manufacturing, and from wildlife to human health.

The summit this offers both a focal point and a starting point for the conversation, cooperation and creativity we need to champion Idaho’s economy into the future. We can address the challenge before us if we engage on the issue and act together.

David Eichberg is global initiatives lead for sustainability and social innovation at HP Inc. in Boise.

More details

Get info about the summit at Boise State University at .

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3 Ways to Grow a Secret Survival Garden in Plain Sight

Carson City, NV – November 11, 2017 – Survival gardening is considered one of the most crucial survival skills for preppers to learn. Individuals who know how to grow food will have an easier time providing food for their families during and after a tough survival situation. Homegrown foods are also healthier and more nutritious, so prepper families can meet their nutritional needs. Such are the advantages of survival gardening that a great number of preppers are now growing their own survival gardens at home.

But while survival gardening presents several benefits, there is one problem that needs to be addressed: how to keep intruders away from the garden. After a massive disaster or survival scenario, there will certainly be mobs of hungry people desperately scavenging for food. They will take whatever they can find, leaving preppers at a real disadvantage.

“It’s unfair to preppers who carefully kept a survival seed bank and grew food for their long-term survival, but this kind of situation is unavoidable. Even if you guard your garden 24/7, people will still find ways to take your food. For us, the best solution is to hide your survival garden in plain sight,” advised a representative from Home and Garden America, a Nevada-based company.

It might seem impossible, but a secret survival garden can actually work. By following some practical techniques, a prepper can successfully plant fruits, vegetables and herbs without attracting attention from trespassers. Home and Garden America revealed 3 ways to effectively camouflage a survival garden:

Plant Food in Several Locations

A good practice is to plant crops in different locations, ideally at home and at a bug out shelter. Having several survival gardens helps protect a prepper’s food supply so if the first location is ever compromised, there’s still a backup source to count on.

Disguise Edible Food Through Landscaping

Edible plants can also be hidden by using landscaping to one’s advantage. The trick is to grow plants that aren’t easily recognizable and then planting them around the main house and bug out location. Some examples are chicory, prickly pear, sorrel, sweet potatoes and wild leeks which all have edible parts that aren’t familiar to the untrained eye. Plant them alongside bushes, and intruders will most likely ignore them.

Grow a Secret Food Forest

A secret food forest is designed to be one with the surrounding environment. In this technique, low-maintenance companion plants are chosen to create a three-dimensional habitat. Trees, herbs, vines, shrubs and other edibles are grown together—giving the illusion of a random jungle when in fact, all the plants are completely edible. The result is a natural-looking ecosystem that regularly produces food but disguises them from sly pillagers at the same time. A food forest requires less work and maintenance, making it suitable for survival preppers.

With these 3 camouflage techniques, prepper families can protect their survival gardens from pesky freeloaders. For more survival gardening tips, readers can visit the Home and Garden America website.

About Home and Garden America

Home and Garden America is the gardening division of the Charles C Harmon Co LLC. The small family-owned business offers a survival seed bank that’s highly recommended by master survivalists and avid gardeners.

Media Contact
Company Name: Home and Garden America
Contact Person: Chuck Harmon
Phone: 888-582-6650
City: Carson City
State: Nevada
Country: United States

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Our readers speak: The most unloved buildings in Buffalo

A while back, we published our own list of the most unloved buildings in Buffalo. We included structures that appeared dated, that looked out of place or that only a mother could love.

As we learned from the reader response to the original list, people have strong opinions about Buffalo’s architecture and you thought there were a lot of buildings that deserved some un-love.

So we decided to produce another list, but this time we collected nominations through The News’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

As with the original list, prominent, publicly accessible buildings in downtown Buffalo and structures built in the 1960s and ’70s dominate.

1. Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Central Library

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo. (News file photo)

Opened: 1964

Architects: J.W. Kideney Associates, Paul Hyde Horbach and Elon B. Clark

It’s doubly troubling when an unloved building took the place of one of Buffalo’s grand old buildings, as was the case here.

The Central Library replaced the Buffalo Public Library, a Romanesque castle that opened in 1887. That building’s roof leaked, it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but it had its charms, reports Western New York Heritage magazine. And when crews were tearing it down, members of the public begged the contractor to preserve its gargoyles, according to Chuck LaChiusa’s Buffalo Architecture and History site (a fruitful source for this gallery). The demolition company did not, citing the extra cost.

A Buffalo Evening News editorial from October 1964 praises the new Central Library as an example of civic progress and an instrument of public service.

But in many eyes the library’s modernist aesthetic hasn’t held up well over the years. Even Mary Jean Jakubowski, the library system’s director, agrees.

“It was the style of the day,” she said.

The building was constructed with high-quality materials, including white Vermont marble and sleek dark granite on the façade, and it was designed in a way to allow for efficient management of its extensive collection of materials.

The building itself is massive, stretching two full blocks and containing 59 miles of shelving. The 400,000-square-foot library has one million volumes in storage alone.

“I do know a lot of thought was given to this,” Jakubowski said.

The library has invested in gardens and landscaping on its Washington Street side to brighten the appearance of the building from that vantage point. That can only go so far, however.

“I’m a firm believer it’s not what a building looks like on the outside, it’s what happens on the inside,” Jakubowski said.

2. The Buffalo News

The Buffalo News, One News Plaza (Washington and Scott streets), Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Opened: 1971

Architect: Edward Durrell Stone

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the building I was sitting in as I wrote this sentence. Many, many, many (did I write many?) of you nominated the Buffalo News building for this list. People just aren’t fans of this modernist style, even if the architect was the renowned Stone. An article from August 1969 unveiling the design for the building highlighted its terraced, penthouse-style top floor that, like the first floor, would be recessed; its spacious lobby to welcome visitors; a skylight opening into a fourth-floor garden; and an overall style concept of horizontal lines and a feeling of openness. Also unusual in a building of its size: a deliberate lack of interior columns, designed to create a wide-open newsroom.

“By its grace of line and simple beauty of style, it should greatly enhance the appearance of this section of the city, and we look forward with confidence to the area’s continued modernization, beautification and revitalization,” said Kate Butler, then the News president.

Not everyone is impressed. One reader wrote, “Is it really wise for The Buffalo News to shame city architecture? Your building looks like a shoebox chia pet.”

Stephen Fitzmaurice, a Hunt Commercial agent who has listed space within The News building, disagrees. He said companies have appreciated the open interior spaces. “It’s very user-friendly on the inside of the building,” Fitzmaurice said.

3. Edward A. Rath County Office Building

The Edward A. Rath County Office Building, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Opened: 1969

Architect: Backus, Crane Love with Milstein, Wittek Davis

The seat of Erie County government doesn’t get a lot of love compared to its neighbor across Franklin Street, the Romanesque 1870s Old County Hall.

The newer, 16-floor skyscraper built of structural steel, concrete and glass in the International style is functional more than impressive.

But County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said the Rath Building serves its purpose, helping people who have suffered a loss or who are in need, and he said its critics are too focused on its exterior.

Old County Hall “is a beautiful building, I’m not going to deny that,” Poloncarz said. But it’s not fair to compare them, he said, because the requirements of government changed dramatically during the century that passed between both buildings’ construction.

The Rath Building gets a bum rap, Poloncarz said, because with its curtain wall façade it is similar in appearance to the much-revered One MT Plaza.

He also praised how well-constructed the 50-year-old building was, but he is resigned to some critics’ low opinions of it.

“I don’t take it personally; I didn’t design it,” Poloncarz said.

And, he said, county government isn’t moving anytime soon.

If Poloncarz went to the Legislature to seek funding for a new, architecturally significant building, he said, “I’d be tarred and feathered for wasting tax dollars.”

4. SUNY Buffalo State

SUNY Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo. (News file photo)

Architect: Numerous

Buffalo State has some attractive buildings on its campus. They weren’t the reason the college is on this list.

The oldest of the 50 or so buildings on the campus are viewed the most favorably. They are the five buildings in the quadrangle closest to Elmwood, highlighted by grand old Rockwell Hall. Built in the Georgian style, they opened with the campus in 1931 when it was still the Buffalo Normal School.

The worst of the lot are the second batch of L-shaped buildings, constructed between 1949 and 1961, which serve as dormitories and office buildings. They are Bishop, Neumann, Perry and Cassety halls, and Steven Shaffer concedes they are mundane, boxy and utilitarian, built at a time of rapid expansion.

“I would agree they’re not the most attractive,” said Shaffer, the school’s manager of design and construction.

But Shaffer defends the Brutalist design that marks the four buildings at the center of campus: Bulger Communications Center, Butler Library, Campbell Student Union and Cleveland Hall. They are known for their exteriors of rough clinker brick.

“Actually, there’s a renewed interest in that form of architecture,” Shaffer said.

The college has recently constructed, or renovated, a number of buildings, with more underway.

One, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, was on the original unloved list and has both fans and critics. “I’d rather have it that way than have a building that nobody cares about,” Shaffer said.

5. Adam’s Mark Hotel

The Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church St., Buffalo. (John Hickey/News file photo)

Opened: 1980

Architect: Clement Chen Associates

A California-based team designed and developed the hotel in the late 1970s. It opened as the Buffalo Hilton Hotel in 1980, the centerpiece of a waterfront redevelopment project with $4 million in federal subsidies offsetting its $20 million price tag. The nine-story hotel has 484 guest rooms and 72,000 square feet of meeting space, including what used to be a tennis club. It has 500 parking spaces, a pool, health club and a lobby bar and restaurant. The main entrance leads out to a fountain, which the hotel and other structures wrap around.

The people who nominated the Adam’s Mark didn’t explain why, except one reader called it “embarrassing.”

The main part of the complex is a long, narrow concrete slab, lined with windows. It is a battleship that appears to slowly sail across the Buffalo waterfront.

“It’s similar to the (One Seneca) Tower, in that it was very purpose-built,” Fitzmaurice said.

The hotel has changed hands several times over the years, most recently in mid-August, when Canadian developer Harry Stinson signed a contract to buy the property.

He plans to make significant upgrades while rebranding it as the Buffalo Grand Hotel, including subtle alterations to the exterior, said Fitzmaurice, who is working with Stinson.

6. Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metropolitan Transportation Center

The Metropolitan Transportation Center, 181 Ellicott St., Buffalo. (John Hickey/News file photo)

Opened: 1977

Architect: The Cannon Partnership

The NFTA’s headquarters and bus terminal building is a Brutalist structure whose shortcomings are highlighted by its proximity to two of downtown Buffalo’s most architecturally revered buildings: the Erie Community College City Campus and the Ellicott Square Building.

Sadly, the NFTA and its predecessor agencies previously were housed in the historic Niagara Frontier Transit Buildings, also known as the East Side Railway Co. Horse and Car Barn, from the late 1800s through 1977. The Italianate buildings were later torn down.

Today the NFTA has to make do with its oddly shaped building constructed of light-brown limestone panels fastened to a concrete and steel structure.

Half the complex is long and flat and covers most of a city block. The other half, where administrative employees have their offices, rises from the low-slung portion and features the same limestone along with a glass cube of windows.

“Our building may be considered unloved on the outside, but on the inside there is a great deal of warmth and beauty, mostly from our hardworking and talented employees,” said Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA executive director. “We have recently made some interior improvements so those who are critical of the exterior may want to stop inside, so they aren’t judging a book by its cover.”

7. Delaware Tower Condominiums

Delaware Tower Condominiums, 1088 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Opened: 1963

Architect: Michael J. DeAngelis Architects Engineers

Buffalo is filled with structures of various shades of brown, tan, white, red and gray.

There aren’t very many blue buildings here, but two of them happen to sit on opposite sides of Delaware Avenue just south of Gates Circle.

The Delaware, at 1217 Delaware on the east side of the street, and the Delaware Tower Condominiums, at 1088 Delaware on the west side, inspired nominations from people who didn’t know their names but simply referred to “that tall blue apartment building on Delaware.”

They look like giant Tiffany blue boxes with windows and balconies, minus the bows.

“I’m pretty sure there was a mix-up at the post office,” one reader observed, “and we were mailed plans that were supposed to go to Miami Beach.”

Joseph Urbanczyk, the building manager at Fairwood Management’s 1088 Delaware, defended the tower’s aesthetics.

“I think it makes a statement,” he said.

The building, which has 17 residential stories, had 156 units originally but 142 today. Residents on the top floor can see Niagara Falls. The exterior façade is ceramic structural glazed brick in “soft sea foam turquoise,” according to a marketing brochure Urbanczyk shared with The News.

“Elegance radiates from Delaware Towers, even at first glance,” the booklet notes.

The building also is known for the sweeping canopy that covers the front entrance. He concedes the building looks more suited for South Florida, and he knows neighbors picketed when it opened in the early 1960s. But he said units change hands quickly.

“I think it sells itself,” Urbanczyk said.

8. One Seneca Tower

One Seneca Tower rises over the downtown skyline, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

1 Seneca St., Buffalo

Opened: 1972

Architect: Skidmore Owings Merrill

Marine Midland Bank and its chairman, Seymour H. Knox Jr., retained SOM in the late 1960s to design a new headquarters building for the bank in downtown Buffalo.

“They wanted a substantial building that would employ a lot of people,” said Fitzmaurice, who worked in the tower for 16 years and served as chief operating officer of its property management company.

The bank got that, and then some. The buff-colored, 38-story tower, built from steel and pre-cast concrete, is the tallest, privately owned building in upstate New York.

Form follows function in the structure, Fitzmaurice said, with the support columns, elevators and stairs all in the building’s core, or exterior, allowing for an open floor plan and expansive windows with unobstructed views for its workers.

“I think it’s a great building that works very well,” he said.

Or as one wag put it: “The best view of Buffalo is from an upper floor of the tower, because it’s the only one that doesn’t have the tower in it.”

The modernist building was constructed at the height of urban renewal, and it towers over the rest of the Buffalo skyline.

“Like a chunky kid who threatens to sit down hard on the seesaw and pop the lighter kids into the air, the structure projects a sense of intimidation,” Richard Huntington, The News’ former art critic, wrote in 1988. “By straddling Main Street, this bully of a building stops the visual movement of the city toward the lake. It blots out the view and abruptly terminates all sightlines down Main Street.”

Marine Midland Center became HSBC Center became One Seneca Tower as the bank’s employees moved out.

Now almost entirely empty, the tower awaits its next act.

Washington, D.C., developer Douglas Jemal, who bought the building one year ago, plans to spend at least $200 million converting it to apartments, retail and office over the next several years, starting with the four-story outbuildings and with new construction in the plaza.

9. The Summit

The Summit, 6929 Williams Road, Wheatfield. (News file photo)

Opened: 1972

Architect: Unknown

Known as the Summit Park Mall when it opened, the shopping center in its heyday boasted dozens of local and national retailers, a two-screen movie theater and the Aladdin’s Castle arcade.

The mall’s fate was sealed by the opening of the Walden Galleria and Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. It’s been largely vacant since 2009. Today, only a Bon-Ton and Sears remain open.

It’s bulky, boxy, made of brick, stone and concrete, with few windows to let in light.

“It’s very typical of the malls of its day,” Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “The aesthetics were on the inside.”

Even there, he’s being generous, because the inside seemed to be a vast expanse of inoffensive white: white ceiling panels, walls and floor tiles.

And where other malls have spruced themselves up in recent years, The Summit remains frozen in the 1990s.

“There’s a lot of people who think the best thing that could happen to it is a good wind storm,” Cliffe quipped.

Real estate developer Zoran Cocov, of Brampton, Ont., acquired the mall and 570 surrounding acres in 2014. He has an ambitious, multimillion-dollar plan to revive the mall by constructing sports facilities and a brewery there.

“It needs work, for sure,” Cliffe said.

10. Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse

Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse, 2 Niagara Square, Buffalo. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Opened: 2011

Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox

The $142 million price tag for Buffalo’s new federal courthouse wasn’t the only thing that raised eyebrows when the building opened six years ago.

The design stirred mixed reactions. A News reporter who polled members of the public in late 2011 found a range of responses to the 10-story, elliptical shaped building of glass and pre-cast concrete panels.

“When you drive up Delaware Avenue and see that building, all lit up, with City Hall behind it, it looks absolutely beautiful,” said Suzanne D’Angelo, a Buffalo hairstylist. “But I have a customer who says it looks like a giant tube of lipstick.”

Local architects and artists interviewed about the design, however, generally gave it favorable reviews.

The courthouse architect, William Pederson, said he didn’t want to create an intimidating building, even taking into account the security requirements that followed the 9/11 and Oklahoma City terror attacks.

The use of glass was meant to create a sense of transparency and openness, and the beige color complements the sandstone in nearby City Hall.

“It’s a complete waste of money,” Vince Capparra, a parking ramp worker from Derby, told The News in 2011. “But it looks OK.”

Not surprisingly, Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny and District Judge Richard J. Arcara, who were intimately involved in the courthouse’s design, defend its appearance.

“We expected naysayers, and that is perfectly OK. Not everyone appreciates modern architecture. And that is OK, too,” Skretny said in a statement. “The design was intended to bridge Buffalo’s rich architectural history with a measured vision for the future. The number of awards the courthouse has received gives testament to its success in achieving that stated purpose.”

11. Lockport Municipal Building

Lockport Municipal Building, 1 Locks Plaza. (John Hickey/News file photo)

Construction began: 1972

Architect: Sargent, Webster, Crenshaw and Folley

There are two city halls in Lockport. One is a stately stone building, Old City Hall, that is now home to a winery and – soon – a burger bar.

“People still go in there and say, ‘I need to pay a ticket,’ ” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said.

The other structure, the Lockport Municipal Building, is a rather grim, gray monolith whose 1970s, urban renewal parentage is unmistakable.

That, unfortunately, is where the City of Lockport conducts its business today.

“I would call this building, maybe, utilitarian,” McCaffrey said. “It’s functional. It makes sense. Is it beautiful? Well, I guess beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, right? We work with what we’re handed.”

Lockport’s municipal building was built on the banks of the Erie Canal. Unfortunately, crews had to tear down other, historic buildings to make way for the new seat of government.

McCaffrey struggled to find a kind word to say about her building. She compared it to some of the other structures on the list.

“Well, they all have something in common? They’re just a big concrete wall, with no character,” she said.

But Rolando Moreno, the city’s chief engineer, rose to the building’s defense.

The gray, monochrome color of the imitation limestone used to construct the building masks some of the detail the architect included in the exterior design, Moreno said.

But Moreno said he is a fan of the generally clean appearance of the building, with its simple lines.

“It’s not that bad,” he said.

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More rooftop gardens, urban farms planned, Environment News …

There could be more urban farms, rooftop gardens and solar panels sprouting up across Singapore, as city planners redouble efforts to make the city more green.

There are some 100ha of high-rise greenery – which refers to plants covering building exteriors – islandwide. This is equivalent to more than 100 football fields.

The target is to double this by 2030, set as part of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint two years ago.

To get there, developers will be given more options to replace greenery lost at a site during the development process, announced the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

Now, they can do so only through landscaping options within the building or by creating sky terraces and gardens on rooftops. Going forward, new features such as urban farms and communal gardens on rooftops will contribute towards the landscape replacement requirements.

Said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee: “Such features have been gaining popularity in our urban landscape as many Singaporeans have a keen interest in farming and gardening.”

Speaking at the opening ceremony of GreenUrbanScape Asia, a three-day conference on landscape and design, he said the Government had set the 200ha target to make the urban landscape more attractive and support richer urban biodiversity. He added that “an appreciation and love for greenery is now core to Singapore’s national identity”.

The enhancements aim to encourage landscaping on walls and roofs that not only beautifies buildings, but also provides visual relief to passers-by and cools the ambient temperature, said a URA statement.

The changes come under the Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) programme, which was launched in 2009 to incentivise developers and building owners to integrate greenery.

Yesterday, Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, cited a joint study by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the National University of Singapore, to illustrate how high-rise greenery has a part to play in housing wildlife.

The study looked at biodiversity in roof gardens here from May 2014 to December 2015, and recorded some 53 bird species and 57 butterfly species in over 30 study sites.

“This joint study suggests that with careful design planning, urban roof gardens can play host to a diverse range of wildlife, and help complement the equally important work of natural habitat conservation and enhancement,” Mr Lee said.

According to the study, which is the first of its kind in Asia, roof gardens that attract the most wildlife are located below 50m in a building; have a larger planted area of more than 1,100 sq m; and have flower-and fruit-bearing plants .

“The study provided very strong evidence to give confidence to designers… to make more responsible, more informed (decisions on) roof gardens,” said Mr Poh Choon Hock, a researcher at NParks’ Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology.

As greener methods of using rooftop areas will require developers to relocate mechanical and electrical equipment, URA will sweeten the move by granting gross floor area exemptions for the space where the relocated equipment is placed in. These exemptions could represent significant cost savings for developers and building owners.

To standardise the assessment of these green plans for buildings, URA will also roll out a new Green Plot Ratio (GPR) framework as a requirement for developers, where denser greenery is required of buildings that see more intense use.

GPR, which will consider vertical greenery coverage, is an improvement over the current standard which takes only horizontal planted areas into consideration.

Today, there are 550 developments in the Lush scheme. Two out of three new residential developments so far have applied for at least one Lush incentive, while over half of new malls, offices and hotels have done the same, said URA.

The enhancements will encourage more developers to get on board, said GuocoLand Singapore group managing director Cheng Hsing Yao, 46. “I just hope we can strike a balance between the visual and the usability aspects of our greenery.”

• Additional reporting by Raffaella Nathan Charles

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This week’s gardening tips: start preparing tropical plants to winter indoors

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Mulching time: How to protect bulbs, shrubs before winter arrives

Still time to save tropical ‘summer blooming bulbs’

Cold enough for you, Bunky? Well your footsies may be freezing, but your cold-hardy trees, shrubs and perennials are just fine — unless they’re tropicals. And if they are, there’s still time to save them.

As soon as the soil and your fingers thaw, dig up the roots and rhizomes of “summer-blooming bulbs” like canna lilies and dahlias and store them indoors over the winter. (I use quotes here because none of these underground parts are actually bulbs, but that’s the common name for this class of plants.)

If you don’t want the bother of digging and storing but still want to try and induce their survival, there is a non-guaranteed but often successful lazy way:

Leave any frost-blackened above-ground plant parts in place and mulch around those blasted tops with several inches of shredded leaves, pine straw, pine fines, compost — or if you must, wood mulch. (As long as it isn’t dyed some awful color to disguise the fact that it’s chipped-up insecticide-soaked pallets and construction trash.)

Winter mulching do’s and don’ts

Now that we’ve had a hard freeze (and to semi-quote the late Robin Williams, “that freeze was harder than Chinese algebra”), it’s time to review the rules of winter mulching.

First, mulch cannot keep plants warm. A 2-inch layer of shredded leaves, pine straw, pine fines, compost or, if you must, non-dyed wood mulch, simply keeps the soil temp constant, preventing the freezing and thawing cycles that can heave things like spring bulbs and newly planted trees and shrubs out of the ground.

Established plants need no mulch, but if you feel you must mulch, don’t let the material be deeper than 2 inches and don’t allow any mulch to ever touch the trunk of a tree or the stems of a shrub. Proper mulch should start a few inches away from the plant and extend outward as far as the farthest branch.

And yes, this means that you should rake any “volcanoes” away now or pay the consequences later. And that’s the truth.

I fought Bermuda; and Bermuda won

Dennis in Vienna writes: “Is there any sure way to kill the Bermuda grass that has taken over 70 percent of my tall fescue lawn?”

Let’s begin by ranking the contenders here.

Bermuda is a warm-season grass that becomes an increasingly wiser choice as we move south — into areas with the hotter summers that stress cool-season grasses like fescue.

Turf-type, tall fescue is one of the absolute best choices for a cool-season lawn in regions where most of summer isn’t scorching. It grows more slowly than bluegrass, needs less food and water and doesn’t invade surrounding areas the way bluegrass does.

And there’s the rub. Because fescues don’t spread, they need to be over-seeded every few years or aggressive grasses — like Bermuda — will naturally move into any bare spots. If Dennis’ fescue wasn’t replenished at least every few years, invasion by other grasses was to be expected.

Overfeeding does not favor fescue

Dennis in Vienna says that Bermuda grass has taken over his previously tall, fescue lawn, which led me to ask cultural questions about cutting and feeding.

He responds: “I cut the lawn and keep it at 3 for 4 inches.” OK — that’s perfect, as a shorter cut would make the fescue fail and Bermuda thrive.

Ah, but Dennis continues: “I use a service that applies six feedings a year.” Ding, ding, ding — that’s four feedings too many.

Cool-season grasses like fescue benefit from a light feeding in the spring and a bigger one in late summer/early fall. Feeding a cool season grass in the summer burns it up while encouraging warm-season grasses like Bermuda to take over.

Can Bermuda be beaten and fescue facilitated?

Dennis in Vienna hired a service that fed his tall fescue lawn a potentially-criminal six times a year. (Yes, criminal: That has to be overfeeding as per the recently enacted lawn care laws in both Virginia and Maryland. [And I think it’s a felony in Tacoma Park]). The result: Bermuda grass has taken over 70 percent of the lawn, and Dennis wants to know how to kill it.

Before we rush to execution, let’s review.

Bermuda is a spreading grass that loves summer heat. It will take over the remaining 30 percent next season, giving you a one-grass lawn. Problem solved.

If fescue it must be, the best bet would be to have the Bermuda turf professionally removed with a sod cutter next August, have a big load of compost delivered, sow a fresh run of fescue and be prepared to spread the exact same seed fresh in any bare spots every fall.

And drop down to a maximum feeding schedule of twice a year or the new fescue will also fail.

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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