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Archives for December 21, 2017

Southern Pines Designer Creates Garden for Stock Car Royalty

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British aristocrat and landscape designer on why he finds it refreshing to work in Hong Kong

Your father was interior designer John Siddeley. What drew you to working with gardens? “As a kid I spent a great deal of my holiday working in the gardens in our home in Suffolk. I never thought it would be my career, having studied architecture and design with the plan of going into my father’s business. After college, when I was 20, I started working with my father. He had a client who wanted a garden designed and he gave the job to me … At the age of 21 I started my own business part time and then went full time when I realised I was getting a lot of work.”

How has garden landscaping changed in the four decades you’ve been in the business? “It’s been pretty dramatic. When I first started, if I said to a client, ‘I want an irrigation system in the garden,’ he’d say, ‘What are you talking about – it rains enough here.’ Now almost every project has an irrigation system. Technology has helped the industry considerably.”

“Marks Spencer was one of the first to get people thinking about house plants. Before that you might find a few house plants in a garden centre, but suddenly people had more interest. Backyards were no longer dumping grounds; they were respected places where people would have their barbecues.”

What are the latest trends in garden design? “People are going for more ornamental grasses, much more natural planting. Herbaceous borders are no longer popular because they are such a huge amount of work to look after. I always say no single property is the same as the last ­– each garden has its own ingredients that go into the melting point.”

Garden smart; a glimpse at the work landscape architect of Randle Siddeley

Tell us about your project for Swire, to landscape its new commercial development in Kowloon Bay. “The brief was to create an open space where people coming out of the office building could relax. We’ve got lawns where, hopefully, they will be allowed to sit and relax. We have planted 89 [mixed, indigenous] trees – not all are standing after the [last] typhoon. I made it clear we wanted to source plants two years in advance so they came in as mature as possible. As the trees grow they will create more shade. The seating we’ve created is black granite and it’s predominant around the whole site. It creates the architectural line of the design.”

What are the main differences between working in Britain and in Hong Kong? “In the UK there are often more controls on what I can and can’t do, whereas in Hong Kong I’m left to my own devices. Once everyone has agreed on the way forward then it happens and I find that refreshing. I suspect people sometimes don’t think it’s refreshing to be working with me because I’m such a perfectionist. This recent visit I rolled up my sleeves and joined in the planting and I think some people thought I was mad, but you’ve got to leap to the front. I like to be immersed, getting my hands dirty and working with the team and showing them skills they might not otherwise know.”

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Y Pant School wins RHS Garden Design competition

Thursday, 21 December 2017

By Contributed Item
in Education

A team of six pupils from Y Pant School in Talbot Green has created the winning garden design in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) ‘Green Plan It Challenge’ for Wales and the south-west of England.

The 10-week challenge involved over 100 12–14 year-olds developing a design for a new school or community garden, working alongside professional garden designers and landscape architects.

The group of students presented their imaginative 3D design for a new conservation garden at Bristol Botanic Garden on December 7, competing against seven other schools.

The team’s design is for a meadow garden to help conserve the population of threatened Marsh Fritillary butterflies. It includes the plant Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) which is an essential food source for the butterflies.

The pupils have been raising funds to develop a space next to the school into the habitat.

An RHS?spokesperson said:?“The challenge encouraged pupils to consider the benefits of communal green spaces and explore environmental issues while developing leadership, teamwork and creative skills.

“The team said that winning the challenge was a ‘brilliant end to a great project and a great reward for the hard work.’”

Four other schools walked away with prizes. Downend School in Bristol scooped the most innovative design award for a garden with a bicycle-driven irrigation system, while students voted Westbourne School in Penarth and Bristol’s Fairfield High School’s designs as their favourites.

This is the second year that the RHS has run the Green Plan It Challenge with nearly 1,000 young people taking part across eight UK-wide hubs, from Edinburgh to Bristol.

Speaking about the project, RHS head of community outreach, Andrea Van-Sittart said: “The Green Plan It Challenge is designed to support young people to develop a host of new skills including teamwork, creativity and problem-solving, and, we hope to inspire some future Alan Titchmarshs and Monty Dons.

“All of the entries reveal an understanding of the important role that gardens can play both in terms of providing space to work and reflect and as a home for wildlife and the plants they rely on. We’d love to see some of these gardens come to fruition as we set about greening our grey Britain.”

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Get Dirty and garden at home

“I’m not sure if the ‘green thumb’ is a genetic trait, but gardening has always been something I loved,” Makenna Curtis began.
Curtis was born and raised in the Pensacola area where she grew up helping her dad in his lawn care business. Curtis has always been fond of working in the yard, or as she remembers, “digging holes to China.”
“Luckily for me, both my parents are nature lovers. My brother and I got to experience the outdoors in more ways than one, from camping to spending time in the woods. We loved to follow my grandfather around in the yard learning the secret ways of his tomato garden,” Curtis said.
Curtis continues her love of gardening today. To her, getting your hands dirty can be a great way to start your own hobby, cut down on your produce bill and relax with the stress relieving benefits of being around your own home-grown plants.
Curtis’ advice as you to start your own garden this 2018 is to do lots of research, have patience and have even MORE patience.
 “Take a little time to figure out what kind of caretaker you are. That makes a big impact on how successful your garden is going to be,” Curtis said.
Garden Space
Gardening is different for everyone and each environment so it takes time getting to know the space you plan on cultivating your plants.
You may choose indoor plants that take little to no maintenance, which are also good for replenishing fresh air inside, or a fruitful, producing garden. Curtis says to keep it simple and practice with a couple of plants and seeds at a time. 
“Go where the passion grows,” Curtis said. 
She recommends buying plants from local farmers markets or garden shops. She has learned the most about gardening, and gained secret tips, through those who spend each and every day growing these plants to make a living. 

“Be patient with yourself, know your environment and don’t be afraid 
to get your hands dirty.” — Makenna Curtis

“As far as Pensacola goes, it really depends on the weather that day. Which reminds me, did I say patience was key?” Curtis joked.
Curtis’ recommended plants and vegetables for our climate are:
• Tomatoes
• Peppers
• Cucumbers
• Watermelons
• Herbs
• Squash
• Succlents
• Trobical schrubbery 
“It circles back to nurturing and considering each plant based off of its particular needs. I think everyone learns ‘the hard way,’ taking time to get where you want to be. But nowadays I spend time in the garden each day. It definitely is not for everyone, but it is a great time to spend in solitude or as I often do with the company of my 2-year-old daughter. She loves bugs, picking flowers, watering and nurturing our babies. It really is such a nice way to bond with her and nature — my two favorite things,” Curtis said with a smile.
Though Curtis has had her experience of success and failures with the crops she outlined for us above, gardening means a lot to her and her daughter. Being able to pick fresh produce out of their garden together and incorporate it into their healthy meals at dinnertime is something Curtis feels proud to pass along to her daughter, like her parents did with her.
Curtis leaves us with her lasting wisdom for beginning your own gardening ventures this new year:
“Be patient with yourself, know your environment and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.”

Tim’s Tips: Check out these last-minute gift ideas for gardeners …

About this time every year, we have people who come into the garden center looking for inspiration. They usually have someone on their gift list that happens to be a gardener. We can usually make a few suggestions to them about things that a gardener may need.

This week’s column will be about gift inspiration. If you are the gardener, you may wish to cut the column out of the paper and circle a few things.

Gardeners use a lot of different types of tools. One of the things that we will do at the garden center is sharpen gardening tools. People will bring in hand pruners to be sharpened. In some cases, the pruners are beyond repair. My suggestion at that point is to tell people to buy a new pair of pruners.

Truth be told, gardeners tend to lose pruners in the yard. My guess is that the pruners wind up in the compost pile, or they may wind up being covered with mulch in the garden beds. There are many styles of hand pruners, and some of them are specialized in how they are used. If you buy a pair of anvil pruners and a pair of bypass pruners, you will have given the gardener on your list all that he or she needs.

A kneeling pad can be a wonderful thing if you have to spend a lot of time kneeling in the garden. This is particularly true if you are kneeling on stone-covered walkways. The pads come in a couple of sizes and thickness, but all will keep the rocks at bay and will help keep the knees dry when working in the garden.

Gardening gloves are a great thing for keeping your hands dry when you are gardening. Luckily, the days of cheap cotton, one-size-fits-all gardening gloves have all but disappeared. Many glove companies now make gloves in sizes from extra-small to extra-large.

A line that we carry is called Mud Gloves. The gloves are coated with a plastic coating on the fingers and palm of the gloves. Some styles are coated on the top, too. This helps keep your hands dry, and it also keeps the dirt at bay.

There are summer-weight gloves to help keep your hands cool in the warm weather, and there are styles that have a heavy coating for the spring cleanup of soaking-wet leaves. Do your gardener a favor, and replace those old, worn-out gloves with one or more new pairs of gloves.

Many gardeners like to start seeds indoors during the winter months. People will start vegetable plants from seed, or they may start flower plants from seed.

The problem that many people have is that there isn’t a sunny-enough window to allow the plants to grow properly. There are grow light systems that come in 2-foot and 4-foot lengths. The grow light is on a stand, and the light itself is adjustable to allow it to be the required several inches above the plants. By keeping the light close to the seedlings, the plants grow thick stalks.

If you add a heating mat to keep the seedlings warm, your gardener will have beautiful plants that are ready to plant in the spring.

If your gardener has houseplants, the winter months are a good time to repot the houseplants into bigger pots. You may not know what size new pot that the plant needs, but if you have access to the plants, all you need to do is to measure across the top of the pot and add 1 to 2 inches to that size to get the correct new size pot for repotting the plant.

You also want to remember to buy some potting soil that would be suitable for indoor plants. You would be surprised at how many people tend to forget to buy potting soil when they are repotting houseplants.

Most garden centers sell gift cards. If you have a gardener on your gift list, they probably buy plants, fertilizer, potting soil and mulch in the spring. If you buy them a gift card, they can put that money toward buying the materials that they will need in the spring.

Well, that’s all for this week. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the Christmas season and a joyous holiday to all who celebrate the other holidays that occur at this time of the year.

I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.

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Pike Nurseries offers last-minute holiday shopping tips for home & garden

Let the countdown to Christmas begin. To help holiday shoppers find something for everyone who made the nice list this year, Pike Nurseries — which has several locations in Cobb — offers a curated selection of gifts at a variety of price points.

From birdhouses to holiday decor to gift cards, all of the local garden center’s specialty items are stocked with holiday cheer.

♦ For the green thumb: Beautiful blooms

Guests can choose from a variety of robust, colorful plants, including poinsettias, hydrangeas, orchids and more, for the gardener of all skill-sets. Pro tip: these also double as great host and hostess gifts, sure to make a lasting impression at all holiday gatherings.

♦ For the host and hostess: WoodWick candles

Perfect for parties, house guests or Christmas morning, WoodWick candles give off enchanting aromas that will delight family and guests. Available in holiday scents such as Fraser Fir, cinnamon and more holiday classics, these candles are the perfect addition to any room and are easy to wrap and give. As an added bonus, the wooden wicks in each candle create the sound of crackling wood as it burns for a truly authentic feel.

♦ For the trendsetter: Terrarium kit

Ideal for any space, this DIY terrarium comes with a beautiful glass container, decorative stones, moss and soil — just add plants.

♦ For the nature fanatic: Bird feeders

Nature lovers can attract a variety of wildlife to the garden with a bird feeder. Available in several styles, including antique-style hummingbird and durable squirrel-proof feeders, these are the quintessential gift for wildlife enthusiasts looking to enjoy nature’s winged wonders from outside their window.

♦ For everyone: Pike Nurseries gift card

Give the gift of unlimited choice with a Pike Nurseries gift card, available in any amount, in stores or online. The gift card never expires and conveniently comes with a greeting card to allow for a personal touch.

For the full Christmas Gift Guide and other Christmas tips offered at Pike Nurseries, visit Pike Nurseries online at or connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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Networx: Hosting tips for holiday entertaining

Its snowing! The first real snowfall of the season started this morning where I live setting the spirit to discuss holiday entertaining. Funny, Google “holiday entertaining” and you’ll find a cornucopia of recipes for green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and fancy cookies of every description. Feeding guests is a worthy tradition but if youre looking for other ways to help folks feel at home in your home, suggestions are few and far between. These 15 hosting tips for holiday entertaining fill the gap.


Clear your driveway of snow. Even if you are snuggled into your house like the proverbial bug in a rug, your visitors need driveway access. Simple solution: Hire a contractor for regular snow removal or have him install a driveway tent, which will eliminate the need for shoveling.

Slip-proof the steps to your home. Install a non-skid stair runner made of coir (natural coconut fiber) or recycled tires. Either one is a lot more eco-friendly than most ice melt products.

Make sure that your doorbell is functional. If its not currently working, troubleshoot and repair the problem before friends and family show up at your door.

Provide an entryway spot to sit and take off winter footwear. And have a waterproof space ready near a heat source, if possible to dry and warm your company’s boots and coats for the frosty trek home.


Prep your powder room. That doesn’t just mean, “Put out your best scented soaps and fresh linens.” Go the extra mile; stock up on a good plunger, toilet brush, plenty of TP, and non-toxic room deodorizer. Make sure your bathroom vent fan is clean and in working order. Holiday meals can be rough on the ol digestive system.

Invest in a heated rack for hand towels. This is a modest luxury, but one that tells winter company, “We care about your comfort.”

Liven up your guest bathroom with a quick coat of paint. Why not experiment with the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 dramatic Ultraviolet?


Set up a coffee station. Make sure it’s safely out of kids’ reach and away from hot and heavy cooking action. As well as your coffeemaker, supply an urn of hot water and a selection of teas, herbal concoctions, and hot chocolate mix, so everyone can make their own warming beverage of choice.

Clean your oven before a big festive dinner. Wait, what? Heres why: A freshly scoured oven wont smell of last weeks pizza when youre trying to roast todays turkey. Its also much less likely to set off your smoke detector.

Around the House

Program your thermostat. If you are anticipating a large lively crowd, youll want the house comfortably warm when guests first arrive, then cooler as the party itself heats up. A programmable thermostat makes that easy.

Keep friends and family safe from slips. Anchor your area rugs with double-sided carpet tape to hold them in place and prevent falls.

Get some good scents going. Fresh flowers make your house smell good, but so do fresh cut evergreen branches or a cinnamon- and clove-spiked punch simmering in a slow cooker.

Organize Grand Central (charging) Station. Designate an end table or console for use as a multi-device charging station. Its a practical and thoughtful gesture.

Be a gracious give-ee. While it may be better to give than to receive, many of your guests will not show up emptyhanded. Accept host/ess gifts graciously with a dedicated space to set down bottles of wine, flower arrangements, and other offerings.

Enjoy your party. Most important of all hosting tips:Dont worry if your home isnt perfect. Set a lighthearted, joyful mood and everyone will have the best time.

Laura Firszt writes for

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GARDEN WORKS: Making the best of a thaw + great tips for the die-hard greenthumb in winter

Frozen soil is no fun to work, but if there’s just a thin layer of frost, it can be done without unceremoniously slamming the soil with a pick ax.


by Emily Cates

Freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. Such is the character of the ground this time of year. While the thought of gardening is iffy at best (without season extenders, that is), a determined gardener can still work in the dirt if the opportunity presents itself between freezes. Outrageous? Perhaps, though there are times when it is necessary to work up until the very last moment. Let’s explore the possibilities so we can make the best of these moments.

In this article, we’ll look at hand tilling, mulching, and a few potential candidates for planting. Frozen soil is no fun to work, but if there’s just a thin layer of frost, it can be done without unceremoniously slamming the soil with a pick ax. Afternoon is the best time to attempt. Forget using a rototiller though – it’s not good for the soil structure when the ground is in such a condition. By digging small beds or plots by hand with a digging fork, the possibility of last-minute plantings may be achieved. (And, wait! Don’t overlook the stragglers patiently waiting for your attention. Think dandelion coffee, mallow tea, sweet carrots, and more!) Your back and shoulders will resent this, but your garlic will appreciate it.

While the soil is in an exposed state, let’s plant and/or mulch it right away. Mulching frozen soil will hold in the cold, so we’ll try to do this at the warmest point possible in the afternoon. The cast of characters available for mulching can include straw, shredded aged leaves, pine needles, old sawdust, plain newsprint, untreated cardboard, old rugs, or blankets… you get the drift.

What in the world would anyone in their right mind be planting at such a time of year? Well, it’s a great time for working with dormant trees, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and perennials. These can be dug up, divided, potted up, moved, and/or planted. (Case in point: A friend was disappointed that she did not get a chance to plant her garlic on time, but when there was a December thaw, she seized the moment. Come harvest time the next summer, she dug up some beautiful garlic!) A huge advantage of late fall planting of trees and shrubs is that you only have to keep the soil around them moist up until the ground freezes, and then that’s it! So, water generously at planting time, and that might be all that is needed if the ground freezes soon afterward.

Speaking of planting, think about houseplants for a moment. Do they need fresh soil and bigger pots? Well, go ahead, then, and have at it. Happy, healthy houseplants = happy, healthy homeowner.

If these ideas don’t scratch that itch on your green thumbs, I don’t know what will! Ah, now, on to the seed catalogs that just arrived….

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