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Archives for December 24, 2017

Mayor-elect Daines plans to reinstate Neighborhood Councils, revitalize downtown





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Discussion of Belle Isle garden project follows film about master …

The Garden Club of Michigan and the Detroit Institute of Arts auxiliary Friends of Detroit Film Theatre will co-host a program at 7 p.m. Jan. 4, which includes the documentary “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf” and a conversation with Oudolf and filmmaker Thomas Piper.

Oudolf was born in 1944 in Haarlem, Netherlands, and since 1982 has lived and worked in Hummelo, a tiny village in the east Netherlands, where he started a nursery with his wife, Anja, to grow perennials.

His garden has since become renowned for its radical approach and ideas about planting design.

Piper’s “Five Seasons” immerses viewers in Oudolf’s work and takes them inside his creative process, from his beautifully abstract sketches to his theories on beauty and the ecological implications of his gardens.

Intimate discussions with the artist were filmed through all fours seasons, in Oudolf’s gardens at Hummelo and on visits to his signature public works in New York, Chicago and the Netherlands. It also follows Oudolf as he designs and installs a major new garden at Hauser Wirth Somerset, a gallery and arts center in Southwest England that he considers his most important work to date.

In his 35-year career, Oudolf has achieved international acclaim and was given the Netherlands’ Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation Award in 2013.

Oudolf co-founded Future Plants, a company specializing in selecting, growing, breeding and protecting plants for landscaping and public areas. Among the many books he has co-written are “Planting: A New Perspective” (2013); “Landscapes in Landscapes” (2011); and “Planting the Natural Garden” (2003).

His projects include No. 5 Culture Chanel in Paris, the High Line in New York City, Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Serpentine Gallery in London, England, and Italy’s Venice Biennale.

At the invitation of the Garden Club of Michigan, Oudolf committed to designing a garden in Detroit and proposed a site on Belle Isle. Oudolf and Piper discuss the Belle Isle proposal with audience members.

Tickets to the film and talk are $10 and $8 for seniors and FDFT members at

Image: Piet Oudolf in one of his gardens.

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Guest Commentary: ‘The Mailman’ of North End marking 100th Christmas – Champaign/Urbana News

Centenarian Smith3.jpg


“I’m still here.”

That’s the response you get from Earl Smith if you ask how he’s doing on any given day. However, Christmas Day 2017 will be special for many reasons — one of which will be Smith’s 100th birthday.

Last weekend, Smith was feted at a centennial celebration at the Homewood Suites. About 60 guests came out to party in his honor, enjoying a delectable appetizer buffet, open wine and beer bar, and the smooth jazz sounds of The Nate Banks Quartet. It was more of a “to do” than Smith initially desired, but when it was over, he declared, “That was really nice!”

Born in Gibson City, Smith is the oldest of four siblings. His parents, W. Yancy and Tishan, came to Illinois from Wesson, Miss., as two of the more than 6 million African-Americans who moved north as part of The Great Migration. Yancy’s older brother, Otha, relocated to the area first after obtaining work with the Illinois Central Railroad. Once Yancy heard about the opportunities in Illinois, he quickly came north with his young bride.Smith began his education in a one-room Gibson City school. He graduated from Champaign High School in 1935 and served in the U.S. Army. While most got to “see the world” while enlisted, Smith had the (mis)fortune of being stationed at Chanute Air Field in nearby Rantoul. He began college at the University of Illinois but dropped out after a year when he saw that “colored college graduates ended up working at the same jobs as those without degrees.”

It was a decision he later regretted but never dwelled on.

Throughout his life, Smith held a variety of jobs but is legendarily known as “The Mailman” to thousands of people who lived in Champaign’s North End in the 1950s and ’60s. He was the letter carrier for the neighborhood in which he lived all of his adult life. Later, he became the first black supervisor at the Champaign post office. He retired in the early 1980s.

Socially, he held membership at various times with several organizations, such as the Elks IBPOEW, Ambassador’s Club, Thursday Night Supper Club and Douglass Senior Citizens. He married the late Margaret Hite in 1952 and parented her son, Bobby Pearson. Post-retirement, the couple traveled domestically until Margaret became ill in the early 2000s.

Though he has slowed down a bit, North End residents are used to seeing Smith hike daily down from his home in the Attucks Place subdivision to his sisters’ place a little over a half-mile away. Though they are all nonagenarians, Smith still “looks after” his “little sisters,” Imogene Smith Wood and Thelma Smith Pealer. (Their fourth sibling, Margaret Smith Minor, passed away in 2006.)

Smith does his own shopping, cooking and cleaning. (Well, the cleaning isn’t all that great). Until only a few years ago, he took no daily medications.

He has survived prostate cancer, cataract surgeries and two TIAs. He only recently began using a cane. He is a voracious reader and news junkie. And back in the day, you would see him working on his house and in the yard — constructing a home addition, renovating rooms, planting vegetable gardens and landscaping the grounds. The Smiths was often the place for social gatherings — including annual birthday-Christmas open houses and summertime backyard parties.

Smith has one daughter, Susan Smith Ross; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews whom he has “fathered” over the years; as well as dozens of other kin and friends — many who were present at the 100th birthday party. Smith’s wife died in 2005 and his son in 2014.

Retired Champaign schools teacher Minnie Pearson is president of the NAACP of Champaign County.

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Plant some popcorn and grow your own snack food – Tribune

Updated 8 hours ago

If you have a vegetable garden, or even a large container, you may want to consider growing a fun crop that probably isn’t even on your gardening radar: popcorn. Yep, that’s right, popcorn!

Backyard gardeners may not realize that popcorn is quite easy to grow, if you follow just a few guidelines.

Popcorn is not the same as sweet corn or field corn. Instead, it’s a special type of corn that was selected by Native Americans for its hard exterior and starchy center. When heated to about 400 degrees F, steam builds up inside the kernel and causes it to explode, expanding the starchy center into the white puff we know as popcorn.

Like other types of corn, popcorn is wind pollinated, so in order for the kernels to fully form, you need to have plenty of plants. Otherwise, there won’t be enough pollen in the air to fully pollinate each ear.

There are many different varieties of popcorn, each of which has its own unique flavor. “Strawberry” forms plump, squat ears of dark red kernels. The plants are just 4 feet tall, so this variety is great for home gardens. Other short-statured popcorn varieties perfect for home gardens include “Tom Thumb,” “Mini Blue” and “Dakota Black.”

Seeds should be sown directly into the ground in late May, after the danger of frost has passed. Be sure to keep your popcorn patch weed-free and well-watered throughout the growing season. Fertilize the soil prior to planting with a balanced, organic granular fertilizer.

To ensure good pollination, plant seeds 3 inches apart in blocks of at least 20 to 30 seeds. The more plants you can grow the better, as pollination rates improve when there is more pollen in the air. Each plant will produce between two and four ears, depending on the variety.

The trick to growing popcorn really comes at harvest time. The kernels must be picked when their moisture level is just right. Allow the cobs to dry on the plants for as long as possible. Picking too early means there will be too much moisture in the kernels and they won’t pop. Picking too late means the kernels could not have enough water in them, again causing them to not pop. At harvest time the kernels should be very hard and the husks should be brown and fully dry.

Once picked, remove the husk from the cobs and place the cobs in an onion bag. Hang the bag in a warm, dry area for about two weeks. Pop a few kernels in some hot oil. If they puff up nicely, the corn is dried. If their texture is tough, or they don’t pop correctly, they need to dry a bit longer. Test them again in another week.

When your popcorn kernels pop nicely, store the whole cobs in a sealed plastic or glass container, away from sunlight and temperature extremes.

To pop homegrown popcorn, put a whole cob in a large paper bag and roll the top closed loosely. Microwave for one to two minutes, or until a second or two passes between pops. Alternatively, you can scrape the kernels off the cobs and pop the kernels in a pan with a tablespoon of hot vegetable oil.

Add butter and salt, if you’d like, and enjoy your homegrown popcorn.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to

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Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar Available for 2018

Home gardeners and growers across the state should enjoy a new resource in 2018 available free from University of Tennessee Extension. The Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar has been developed by the UT Extension Fruit and Vegetable Workgroup to help users create a comprehensive plan for home vegetable gardens.Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar offers monthly tips, management templates and more from UT Extension experts.Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar offers monthly tips, management templates and more from UT Extension experts.

Natalie Bumgarner, UT Extension plant sciences expert, says, “We are excited about this new calendar because it can support both new and experienced gardeners with schedules, tips and information on vegetable varieties for the garden.”

The calendar includes tips for scheduling planting, harvest and general management. It is formatted like a regular calendar, and you can print and display in a convenient area or use on your computer throughout the year. Also included in the calendar are monthly tasks for growers and an area for taking notes about that month’s weather and crop observations. The calendar is area-specific as well, with suggestions for East, Middle and West Tennessee.

The Tennessee Home Garden Vegetable Calendar is available for download from the UT Extension website, and the final pages of the file include management templates for crops, climate, pests and diseases. The file also includes fillable boxes that enable it to be used as an electronic record keeping system for gardeners who do not wish to print the file.

To download your copy of the Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden 2018 Calendar, or visit and type “2018 calendar” into the search bar. Dr. Bumgarner also points out the PDF contains links to connect readers to other UT Extension gardening resources, denoted by green text throughout the calendar.

For more information about gardening, contact your local county Extension office.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.


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This week’s gardening tips: harvest broccoli, cut back ornamental grasses

Cut back ornamental grasses: Most ornamental grasses, other than pampas grass, go dormant for the winter and turn brown. Feel free to cut them back hard when the foliage is brown and no longer attractive. On the other hand, with their flower plumes and graceful foliage, many gardeners like the way ornamental grasses look when dormant; so leave them if you like. Make sure to cut them back by early March at the latest, however, to make way for new growth.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to or add them to the comment section below. Follow his stories at, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.

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Garden Tips: Rubbersidewalks are just the tip of the recycled iceberg – Tri

Over 10 years ago I wrote a column about Rubbersidewalks, a new product made from recycled rubber tires. They are an interlocking sidewalk paving system designed to save trees by helping ameliorate the problems that arise when roots of street trees heave and crack sidewalks. Too often city trees are removed because of the hazards their roots cause for pedestrians and wheeled traffic.

Rubbersidewalks were literally dreamed up by Richard Valeriano, who as a public works director in Santa Monica, Calif., often had to deal with root-and-sidewalk conflicts. After dreaming one night about flexible sidewalks made of rubber and later seeing the interlocking rubber flooring at a health club, he came up with the idea of rubber sidewalks. He had some fabricated and installed them at test sites in his city. About that same time, Lindsay Smith, a film producer, learned that some large old trees in her Gardena, Calif., neighborhood were being cut down because they had buckled nearby sidewalks.

Smith learned about Valeriano’s rubber sidewalk experiment and shared the idea with other cities. The positive feedback she received led her to form a company and begin the manufacturing and marketing of Rubbersidewalks. Since then, many more cities across the country have been giving them a try. The benefits of these rubber sidewalks includes less weight that concrete, ease of installation, reduced maintenance costs, durability, and the ability to be lifted and replaced when needed.

The sidewalks are made of 100 percent recycled waste-tire crumb, with about five old tires going into each 5-foot square paver. The crumb rubber is mixed with a urethane resin binder and colorant to provide a paver that resembles concrete. Because of the urethane binder, the pavers do not leach harmful chemicals, give off volatile organic compounds, or produce rubber dust particles. As an added benefit they reduce the sound of pedestrian and wheeled traffic, and absorb shock better, reducing injuries from falls.

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The Terrecon Company that Smith founded is also making Terrewalks, a minimal-impact paving that provides another alternative to concrete sidewalks and pathways. Instead of rubber, Terrewalks is made from 100 percent plastic waste. Terrecon says “they are the sidewalks of the future,” citing their cost, recycled content, allowance for storm water drainage and help reducing the heat island effect in cities. Terrewalks are modular interlocking paving tiles that “resemble granite, marble, and stone” and are “a beautiful and stylish pavement.”

Terrecon is not yet offering any products for home landscape use, but there are some home garden pavers made from recycled materials. Recycled Rubber Flagstone Stepping Stones are available from Gardener’s Supply Company ( They have an irregular shape made to resemble real flagstone pavers. While they may look like flagstone, they are lighter and easy to install. However, they are a bit pricey, costing almost $15 per “stone.”

Gardener’s Supply “Stomp Stones” are 12- by 12-inch pavers made from up to 98 percent recycled tires and plastic. These one-inch thick pavers have a sharp, beveled edge on their underside that “cuts into grass, gravel, sand or soil” for securing in place. They cost about $30 for four pavers.

A quick look online reveals that there are also a number of different types of rubber patio tiles and pavers available, as well as rubber indoor flooring. However, before buying any rubber paving, flooring or mulch, check the specifications to ensure that they safe for you, your family and the environment. Make sure they do not leach, give off volatile organic compounds or produce rubber dust particles.

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

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5 garden tips for this week, Dec. 23-29

1. Clean before the rains

Because of the recent winds, many of us will need to clean out our rain gutters again before the rains start — perhaps not this very weekend, but pretty soon. Otherwise the leaves and debris in them can plug the gutters and drains, causing leaks in the roof and damaging interior walls. You’ll need a ladder to get up and check all the gutters. Also run water through the downspouts with a hose to make sure they are not plugged up.

2. Ease up on the water

Most of us can turn off automatic sprinklers for fruit trees, roses and landscape beds now — until spring. Most plants need very little extra water in winter. But we will still need to irrigate occasionally if weather remains dry, or if we hit an unseasonable warm spell or get Santa Ana winds. Make a note on your calendar to turn the automatic sprinklers back on about March.

3. Orange season

Home-grown Washington navel oranges are good enough now to use as gifts — as well as enjoy yourself. When harvesting oranges, be sure to cut the stem off flat, leaving the green starburst that attaches it to the fruit. This helps oranges to last longer after picking, without shriveling. Use the smallest oranges for juice.

4. Fruits of your labor

Within the next week you can start your own peaches, plums, nectarines and other deciduous fruit trees from 24-inch cuttings. Use stems that formed this year, and cut the bottoms on a long angle to expose as much cambium as possible then coat the cut ends with Rootone. Use a water hose or piece of pipe to jet holes in the ground 18 inches deep; place cuttings in the holes; sift fine soil around them. Keep the cuttings moist; and they will gradually develop into full-size fruit trees.

5. Crape myrtle

If you want more crape myrtle plants, they are easy to propagate in late December and early January, using dormant shoots from the base of desirable plants, or other strong shoots, about the size and thickness of a new lead pencil. Apply Rootone lightly at the base of each cutting and plant in a sunny location about 6 inches deep in sandy soil, kept moist but not soggy. Some of them will root, sprouting new leaves by May and sporting their first flowers next summer. Feed them lightly after they start growing vigorously.

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