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Archives for December 12, 2017

Garden offers respite for patients, family

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The formulas and patterns behind floral design


Plant Nite participants gather at Southwest Florida bars and breweries to decorate their take-home plants. Register for an event in Naples, Fort Myers or Cape Coral at

There’s a science behind the elegantly arranged bouquet of hydrangeas, or the bushel of roses with a trail of ivy a bride grasps as she walks down the aisle.

Like many beautiful things, it takes work.

About 150 gardening enthusiasts learned from one of the experts this week in an event hosted by the Naples Garden Club at Naples Botanical Garden. Michael Gaffney, director of the American School for Floral Design and world renowned floral designer, lead a workshop Monday on the patterns and formulas of floral design.

“It’s a science more than anything,” he said.

More: Husband and wife floral design team brings fresh, creative style to Naples

More: Garden education: Students learn sustainable gardening methods

More: Southwest Florida gardeners start slow recovery after Hurricane Irma

About 30 years ago Gaffney was working on Wall Street in New York City. While on vacation, he returned home to Milwaukee and found himself driving the truck for a local florist. He fell in love with the business, and made a major career change.

“I started seeing the patterns and formulas of all great design,” he said. “And it’s very simple once you understand.”

He spent six years learning the craft, and now Gaffney directs 14 floral design schools across the country. He’s published two books, “Design Star” and “Flower Power,” and has appeared on QVC, the Hallmark Channel and NBC’s “TODAY” show.

On Monday, Gaffney demonstrated how to build 10 different floral arrangements influenced by traditional design and today’s current trends. Using elements of math, science and architecture, Gaffney said anyone can do what he does for a living.

He started his talk on the subject of flower longevity. It’s a common misconception, he said, that flowers last three to five days in a vase. But using his five-step process, Gaffney says they can last up to one month:

  1. Buy good flowers
  2. Submerge the flower underwater for 30 to 45 minutes to hydrate the petals
  3. Add a couple drops of bleach to the water to stop the growth of bacteria
  4. Spray flower with wax sealant for lasting freshness; Gaffney uses Crowning Glory, which is available on 
  5. Cut a couple inches off the stem every two to three days

Floral design is a science, Gaffney said, because the most appealing floral designs follow the laws of nature. For example, a large flower in the middle serves as a focal point in most arrangements, just as new growth surrounds old growth in nature.

Gaffney also applies basic math with ratios of flowers. His first arrangement was a heap of brilliant white hydrangeas, which he dusts with alum powder (found in the baking aisle at the grocery store) to help encourage water uptake and keep the flower from wilting. He built a bottom layer of seven flowers, then added four in a middle layer and one on the top to complete the ensemble.

Floral design also incorporates architecture, Gaffney said. He arranges in a pentagon shape, with a lower deck, middle deck and a “penthouse.”

There are also more haphazard and unplanned arrangements — the wild and weedy “Napa Valley hot mess,” as Gaffney called it, which is trending right now. Another was a European-style design, one that you might find in a Dutch painting. For those arrangements, he used crotons with splashes of red and deep orange, kale, dusty miller and even branches from a lime tree, fruit and all.

But even in the most wild arrangements, Gaffney applies his techniques of using leading lines to create movement.

“I follow patterns and rules,” he said to the audience. “I’m a craftsman, that’s what I do.”

Other tips and tricks from Michael Gaffney:

  • Buy a rose that’s already open.
  • If you remove thorns on a rose, it creates air holes and it will wilt faster.
  • When adding a flower to a bundle, use a close, wrap and twist movement. Point the stem like a sword into a magician’s box, Gaffney said, and then twist it into formation.
  • Use the “zone and cluster” technique to achieve the wild and weedy look.
  • All things in nature have filler, he said. Add leafy greenery to plug holes between blooms in an arrangement.

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Competition Winning Scheme Weaves Kindergarten and Nature Together

Competition Winning Scheme Weaves Kindergarten and Nature Together, Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Winning the Italian Ministry of Education’s design competition: Scuole Innovative, AS.IN.O is a proposal for a kindergarten and botanical gardens inspired by local materiality and historic context. The team from aut- -aut in Italy, comprised of Gabriele Capobianco, Edoardo Capuzzo Dolcetta, Jonathan Lazar and Damiano Ranaldi, based the layout of the scheme on the typical double courtyard house typology of the Campidano Meridionale area.

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT

+ 14

The competition called for a design for one of 51 sites for innovative and sustainable schools dotted around the country. The entries would be judged on their architectural quality; environmental and sustainability considerations; practicality in regards to material selection and programmatic function, handling of teaching needs and the accessibility, usability, and safety of the structure and all its environments. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The Municipality of Selargius requested the design of a nursery school and botanic garden. aut- -aut noted a decline of the urban form in the latest expansions of Selargius and wanted to ensure the project reflect a practice of studying the vernacular and the traditional local typologies of the area.

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The form of the project is generated by a folding, weaving perimeter wall that demarcates the various program, articulating the interior spaces of the school, an agora, and the entry foyer. The kindergarten, acting as the house in the double courtyard typology, splits the plot in half, allocating the larger portion to the garden and the smaller to indoor and outdoor space for the children. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The use of rammed earth for this wall would ground the project in its local context, connecting the building to its place as well as utilizing the low-cost of construction and the thermal and environmental performance of the material. The supporting structures made of timber and glass would rest lightly in comparison, drawing the gardens in.

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The botanical garden is inspired by medieval hortus conclusus – where gardens are connected to a cloister or monastery by a high continuous wall. The wrapping of the perimeter wall generates continuous and connected spaces and evokes the mystery of these medieval gardens from the exterior. 

Courtesy of AUT
Courtesy of AUT

The kindergarten and garden scheme plays with contrasts, the heaviness of the rammed earth against the lightness of the garden and agora, the prospect and refuge of the spaces generated by the winding perimeter wall, and the use of traditional forms and materials for contemporary formal conditions and architectural solutions to teaching practices. The project clearly answers the innovative brief, and would no doubt be an asset to the local and wider community of Selargius.

News via: aut- -aut.

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Pickleball takes over PAC, shows no signs of slowing down

When Pensacola Athletic Center owner Mark Downey took over the exercise business in January, he envisioned making some updates. That included adding some flair and new flavor to the popular west-side facility known mostly for its tennis, swimming and inside gym.

Replacing entrance signs, redoing landscaping and upgrading gym equipment was just the starting point at the new PAC.

He wanted to bring in more clientele, and to do so, he teamed with general manager Max Gutierrez, tennis director Will Morris and others to develop new exercise-friendly ideas.

That’s when the suggestion of the popular game pickleball was introduced.

The PAC team found several members interested in trying the world’s fastest growing sports. After consulting with other pickleball groups in the area, they built two lighted pickleball courts on the grounds, with hopes it would take off.

“We rolled out pickleball toward the end of June … I had reached out to Mildred Hudson who handles the pickleball league over in Gulf Breeze and we wanted to figure out how we could bring pickleball over to the west side of Pensacola,” said Gutierrez, who is more on the business end of PAC than the instructional side, but still gets a kick out of playing. “We also had a gentleman who’s building 56 pickleball courts in Foley, Alabama. He came out and met up with Mark and I, and we just wanted to bring pickelball into an area where it’s not very popular.”

Just as they hoped, both members and non-members were eager to try something new, and took to the courts swinging.

“It was pretty neat,” Gutierrez said. “What we did was find a core group of just four or five members that wanted to help us grow it, and they helped us quite a bit. They invited a lot of their friends, and we’ve really been growing.”

For those unfamiliar with the popular cardio-friendly sport for all ages, it’s similar to tennis, but instead of strung racquets, players use paddles. There is a net, but the courts are much smaller.

“It’s basically tennis, blended with ping-pong with volleyball rules,” Gutierrez said. “Like in volleyball, they play with side-out rules — you’ve got to say who’s serving. It’s pretty tricky, but I think having to say the score repeatedly, that just keeps you more engaged throughout the game.”

 On a weekly basis, PAC has between 20 and 30 people pick up a pickleball game — on a really good day, you may find 30 trying the sport, many for the first time. Surprisingly, they’re not all tennis players.

“They’re a few that are completely the most nonathletic people you’ll ever come across, but hey, they’ve picked up on it pretty quick,” Gutierrez said. “It took them a couple of different times to come on out, but they’ve picked up on the hand-eye coordination thing pretty quick. I think it’s a really easy game to pick up, if you have zero sports experience. It’s a lot of fun, and we just try to keep it entertaining.”

Susan Arner is one member who has embraced pickleball at PAC. She and her husband Don are now both avid players, and they’ve been able to help recruit new ones as well.

“I had been wanting to play for a long time, but there were no courts or groups playing anywhere on the west side,” said Arner, who also plays ladies league tennis. “When PAC put in two courts, I got my husband, and two friends, Benny Taylor and Nancy Lopez, to come learn, and we’ve been playing twice a week ever since and getting more people to come out. Ours is a fun, social group that gets together on Monday and Thursday afternoons for a couple of hours.”

Josh Starbuck also sees pickleball as a fun, physical hobby. He picked up the game for the first time when PAC brought it on board.

“For me, it’s a blast,” said Starbuck, who also plays tennis on Mondays and Wednesdays. “We get together on Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, depending on who is available, and we’ll just go out there and play. With pickleball, I don’t feel that it’s as cardio-intensive as tennis, but the pace is a little bit faster. It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination, and is a pretty fun sport.”

Gutierrez believes the excitement pickleball has brought can only help the sport’s growth in the area.

“I’m very impressed with the growth of pickleball — I didn’t think it was going to grow as quick,” Gutierrez said. “Obviously, we want to get to 200-300 people. I think it’s just going to keep growing, once people find out more and more about it.”

Pickleball courts are available for play during daily staffed hours of 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“Mondays and Thursdays are almost like a designated time to where several groups meet up and just all play with each other,” said Gutierrez, who added most pickleball players aren’t PAC members. “But throughout the week, we still have it open to those who just want to go out and play for fun. The nice part about it is that it’s both men and women, so it’s not just a bunch of guys out there.”

Mac Knefely is a freelance writer for the News Journal.

Want to play?

Group pickleball games at the Pensacola Athletic Center are usually on Mondays and Thursdays. Those 40 and older play at 4 p.m., and those younger than 40 begin at 6 p.m.

The cost for non-members to play is $3.









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Holiday heroics foil reindeer raid – Courier

Ahhh, Christmas. It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.

As soon as the carols start to play, visions of stealing start to dance in a few heads. A Black Friday shopper recently said her purse was stolen while she waited to do her Christmas shopping in Thomaston. And other local residents are reporting holiday packages that were delivered to their front porches had gone missing by the time they went to retrieve them.

The Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees in Waterville was hit by a thief who stole donations including $1,000 in lottery tickets, a kayak, chainsaw, DVD player and more. The festival benefits hospice, needy children and Meals on Wheels. Seriously, how low can people go?

It always leaves me scratching my head. What kind of person has the impulse to take rather than give during this season?

These incidents reminded me of a holiday burglary my dad interrupted years ago. He’s 88 now, but I’d guess he was a spry 73 at the time. He lives in Providence, R.I., and is retired from the Providence Police Department.

So one night he was sitting in his “easy chair,” as he calls it, watching the evening news when he heard a car pull up outside his house. He peered out the window, as he often does, to get what he calls “the scoop.” Both he and my stepmother act as the unofficial Neighborhood Watch on their quiet street. They report on the comings and goings of their neighbors, which usually amounts to who went out to dinner and who had company. But this night, things were different. Real crime was happening, and thank goodness Officer Ferrazza (Ret.) was still on the beat.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, my father heard the car and went onto high alert. He observed what appeared to be three youths in a black vehicle. It stopped in front of his neighbor’s house and the driver killed the headlights. Dad’s police instincts kicked in immediately. He knew they were up to no good.

Sure enough, two shadowy figures got out of the car, and the sedan quietly left the block. My father watched as the daring duo darted across his neighbor’s lawn and snatched two tiny reindeer and a miniature sleigh from the yard right across the street. They reached the sidewalk with their lifted loot just as the getaway car returned with its headlights still off.

Cursing under his breath, my father sprang into action. But instead of throwing up the sash like in “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” he ran straight to his front door and yanked it open.

“Stop right there and drop those deer, you punks!” he boomed into the darkness. “I’ve got your license plate number. Get out of here … now!”

The two thieves froze, then dropped the decorations and jumped into the car, which squealed its tires and sped away.

Despite his heart condition and emphysema, my father bolted down the flagstone walkway in his PJs and slippers, and crossed the street. He retrieved Dasher, Dancer and the sleigh, and carried them to his neighbor’s front door then rang the bell.

“You should have seen me,” Dad said. “I was all out of breath like I just ran a telethon.”

Visions of the Jerry Lewis telethon, a holiday tradition, flashed in my head with my cranky father hosting instead of Jerry. I started to giggle.

“I think you mean a marathon,” I corrected. My dad has a habit of doing this. It’s one of his charms.

He ignored me and continued with his story, reporting the neighbors were “ecstatic” about his late-night reindeer rescue. So appreciative, in fact, that they arrived on his doorstep the next day with a homemade cake to thank him for his bravery.

Sadly, my father is not one for getting too friendly with the neighbors. In fact, he doesn’t even know them, despite the fact they all have lived on that street for decades. He sometimes grouses that these unknown people steal his landscaping ideas and imitate his holiday decorations. The funny thing is, every house on the street looks almost exactly the same, and all of the lawns are the size of a postage stamp.

My stepmother was livid once she heard what he had done. She said his little “stunt” could have ended with his having a heart attack on the front lawn, or everybody’s getting shot. In the future, she said, he should forget the heroics and mind his own business.

He disagreed and told her so.

“The day you bow down to these [expletive deleted], you might as well go back to the old country and live in the hills,” he told her, referring to Italy. “You’ve got to stand up for your rights.”

Feeling proud, I told him the world needed more people like him. But I also warned that next time he might want to think before he sprang into action like one of the Avengers. You never know what people might do these days, I reminded, and he does live in a city.

“OK, honey,” he said, suddenly sounding sad, then signed off. “I’ll let you go now.”

Uh-oh, now I’d done it. Not sure why he was so quiet, I asked what was wrong.

“Oh, nothing,” he said. “I’m just sitting here in my easy chair by the window … waiting to get shot.”

That’s when I realized he truly was afraid.

My poor father. This was no way to live, especially at his age and certainly not at Christmastime. What kind of society did we live in?

“Oh, Dad, I’m sorry. Are you really afraid now?” I said.

He laughed a big, hearty laugh and I knew I’d been had. So during the holidays, enjoy the beauty of the season, but don’t get so caught up in the wonder of it all that you forget to keep one eye out for con men. Trust me, they’re out there, and they may be closer than you think.

And the beat goes on.

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City digs deeper into crime prevention tools

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Nursery, Landscape Industry Prepare for ‘Spring Training’

LEXINGTON, Ky., (Dec. 8, 2017) — The green industry will gather in Louisville Jan. 24-25 for the Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Association’s annual Spring Training Conference. The University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture will co-sponsor the event, and many of the sessions are taught by UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment experts.

“KNLA is thrilled to partner with UK Horticulture for the 2018 Spring Training,” said Kim Fritz, KNLA president. “Not only does UK provide outstanding education and research, UK professors serve on our board of directors.”

The 2018 conference will be held at the Ramada Plaza Louisville Hotel and Conference Center, located at 9700 Bluegrass Parkway in Jeffersontown.

“We are pleased to participate in this year’s Spring Training,” said Dewayne Ingram, UK horticulture professor. “The green industry has vital economic impact in the state and individual communities. These educational sessions have been designed to help position the individual businesses to take advantage of the current economic climate and environmentally conscious consumer.”

Keynote speakers will open each day’s sessions at 8 a.m. Steve Foltz, from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, will speak on Jan. 24, and Irvin Etienne, from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, will speak on Jan. 25.

On Jan. 24, classes in the crew academy track will include Pruning; CMV Safety in a World of Landscaping; Plants Under Stress, a Predisposition to Plant Disease; and Implementing and Evaluating Monarch Conservation Practices in the Urban Landscape. The production track classes will include Increasing Production Efficiency and Marketing Ecosystem Services; Water Use and Conservation in Nursery and Greenhouse Production; The Science of Tree Risk Assessment; and Blue Hydrangea Flowers and More Consistent Release of Nutrients by New Controlled Release Technology.

On Jan. 25, the pest management track will include Fungicides 101, Rain-fastness and Efficacy; What’s Bugging You? A Closer Look at Nursery Inspections and Invasive Pests; and What Will Be Bugging You in 2018. The plants and design track will include Selecting Plants for Specific Sites; Blocking the View or Successful Screen Planting; Notable Plants that Brighten Winter’s Gloom; and Nativars — Strangers in a Strange Land.

Kentucky Nursery and Landscaping Association will hold its annual meeting and reception from 4 to 5 p.m., Jan. 24. The second day of the conference will conclude with a keynote speech by Paul E. Cappiello, of the Yew Dell Botanical Gardens.

A full vendor showroom will be open both days.

For more information about the 2018 KNLA Spring Training or to register, visit

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Extend yourself in 2018

Registration is now open for the 2018 Master Gardener course offered by Tillamook’s Oregon State University Extension Service.

Starting on January 11, Oregon State University faculty and local experts will offer weekly sessions on all aspects of gardening on the Oregon Coast.

The 12-week course will cover soils, propagation, pruning, landscape and garden planning and design, suitable plants for coastal gardening and landscaping, pest and disease control, weed management, orchards, raised beds and other topics of interest to local gardeners.

Students will experience a variety of hands-on and interactive training, including greenhouse techniques.

The program also requires 60 hours of community service work in the first year of training, including advising the public during Master Gardener office hours.

“By taking the Master Gardener classes, and in helping others, our Master Gardener apprentices develop their own expertise and abilities to better serve the community,” said OSU Extension Agent Joy Jones. “This is a great way to help yourself and others enjoy their gardens using current scientific knowledge.”

Tuition is $120 and includes the comprehensive “Sustainable Gardening” book, as well as access to a wide range of printed and online resources, and experienced professional instructors. People who do not have the time or desire to volunteer can take the training for a fee of $240 and receive a certificate of horticulture.

For more information or to enroll, call the Extension Service office at 503-842-3433 or drop by the office at 4506 Third Street.

Registration information can also be found at

Spring into action

The Master Gardener Program is also on offer in Newport through the OSU Lincoln County Extension.

Running from January through March, the program allows participants to study with like-minded folks who have a desire to learn and are passionate about gardening.

Classes are held from 9 am to 4 pm on Tuesdays beginning January 9 at the Newport campus of Oregon Coast Community College, 400 SE College Way.

Registration deadline is Monday, Dec. 18.

To register, call 541-574-6534 or go to

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