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Archives for January 13, 2018

Master Gardener: Weather winter with library gardening classes


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As I write this, we are in a deep freeze. What saves me is planning for spring. It also helps that I am hearing about the arrival of slightly warmer weather.

I have worked out a shorter list of gardening classes at Wadsworth Library, 24 Center St., Geneseo. All classes are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

New Library Director Debby Emerson, encouraged me to include a Feb. 12 class on “Starting Plants from Seeds” to warm our hearts.

February is too early to start most annual flowers and vegetables, but it is the perfect time for making plans, ordering seeds from quality sources, exploring educational resources for your needs, and winter sowing perennials.

“Vegetable and Herb Gardening” will be our topic on April 9, which usually brings out a nice group.

Some vegetables, including peas and leafy greens, can be planted in April, while others need to wait until May. It does take time to plan and carry out your set-up, so this is the time to jump in.

In this presentation I have a separate section on growing herbs, for those who may want to just grow these edibles.

Growing herbs is much easier than vegetables: they just need a sunny spot, poor soil is fine, and many don’t need much water. Mint and basil do need regular water, so I find it easiest to grow them in pots.

I will present some alternatives for growing vegetables, including straw bales, pallets and containers. More intensive practices including square foot gardening provide home gardeners with more produce in a small plot, so this will also be covered.

I welcome questions at all presentations, but on May 14 I won’t be making a presentation, in order to just focus on your questions.

I will provide a handout on “Planting Basics” that we could use if needed to facilitate our discussion, but questions on all topics will be welcomed. Some questions may require me to do research, or may be better answered with a reading reference, which I will provide as follow-up.

I enjoy writing this column, and believe that communicating directly with community members through these presentations enables me to better understand people’s concerns.

Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County for more than 10 years. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks.

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Book features inspirational gardens of Sonoma County

From early 20th-century master Bernard Maybeck to modernist Thomas Church to Sea Ranch visionary Lawrence Halprin, the Northern California landscape has beckoned designers and gardeners for more than a century.

With its textured geography of rolling hills, tall peaks, sparkling bay and jagged coast, along with a climate hospitable to a huge palette of plants year round, the Bay Area is a dreamscape for a gardener.

Capitalizing on the region’s combination of near-ideal growing conditions and a forward-thinking aesthetic, garden writers Susan Lowry and Nancy Berner, along with Berkeley photographer Marion Brenner, have created a visual survey of some of the best gardens by the bay.

“Private Gardens of the Bay Area” (Monacelli Press) offers a look at 35 private gardens, representing all corners, from San Francisco to the East Bay, the peninsula to Wine Country.

The lavishly illustrated book profiles 15 gardens in Napa and Sonoma counties, including the Sebastopol garden of Elliott and Anna Brandwene, who bought a Japanese Ikebana inspired garden created by Jun and Noriko Hasegawa beginning in the 1980s, and Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger’s Melissa Garden designed by Kate Frey (Press Democrat columnist) as a haven for honey bees and other pollinators.

The book was released just as the October firestorms rampaged through Wine Country, scarring hillsides and laying waste to entire neighborhoods. Fortunately, all of the gardens in the book survived, with only one, in the Oakville area of Napa Valley, suffering minor damage.

The book offers a hopeful note for North Bay dwellers who have seen their beloved landscapes and views marred by scorched ridges, toasted trees and homesites reduced to ash.

“I am hoping that people who are rebuilding gardens will get some inspiration from the book,” said Brenner, who relates to the shock and pain left by wildfire.

She lives in Berkeley at the Oakland border. The Oakland Hills firestorm of 1991 licked at the edges of her own street. In the aftermath of that disaster, she began photographing gardens and the landscape. At the time, she specialized in architecture. Her eye was caught by the fleeting images of terrible beauty amid the ruins around her.

“They were like ancient wounds and kind of beautiful,” she said. “I photographed a lot of people’s little arrangements, like one in a window looking out at the bay.”

“It was just a whole series I did for myself,” she said, “because I needed to control my world somehow, within a frame, which is still what I do. For me, it was making order out of the chaos.”

Brenner’s work in the Oakland hills after the fire led to a new photographic path. She is now considered a leading landscape photographer. She has worked with well-known California designers such as Andrea Cochran and Ron Lutsko, and provided the art for books like “Outstanding American Gardens: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy” and the recent “The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden.”

What initially moved her after the Oakland fire, she explained, was the regrowth, the greenery, the grasses and the wildflowers that emerged.

That kind of regeneration is anticipated this spring in the fire-ravaged areas of Sonoma and Napa counties. At the same time, property owners throughout Wine Country who suffered some damage to their landscapes — in many places the fire was stopped within feet of people’s homes — will be replanting gardens. When planning site lines, they can’t help but take in the vistas, which in some cases will show the ravages of the firestorm.

Facts About Bald Eagles

1. Female bald eagles are bigger than the males, weighing up to 14 pounds and a wingspan of eight feet.

2. Bald eagles live 30 years or longer in the wild.

3. Bald eagles mate for life.

4. Bald eagles normally lay two to three eggs once a year, but only half survive their first year.

5. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits anyone from harming or disturbing them.

6. Their scientific name is Haliaeetus leucocephalus

7. From fewer than 30 nesting pairs in the mid-1960s in California, there are now nearly 400 known bald eagle breeding nests.

8. Why are they called ‘bald?’ The name comes from an old English word – piebald – which means white-headed.

9. Using thermal convection currents, bald eagles can climb up to 10,000 feet in the air, and they can soar on these currents for hours.

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Garden club selects landscape winner – Observer

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Tell Ms. Cheap your best ideas for repurposing an old entertainment center

One of the hardest things to get rid of these days is a big old entertainment center.

Nobody seems to want them, according to area consignment shops, estate sale organizers and thrift store operators, which all say they are hard to get rid of.

You remember these once-popular wall units: the massive wooden pieces of furniture that have doors on the front, behind which you could hide your TV and its various components, plus tapes and all of the other television paraphernalia of yesteryear.

The problem is that today’s modern TVs won’t fit in them, and the era of flat screens and neat and tidy wall mounting has seized the day. 

Even so, surely there must be a new use for these bulky wall hogs.

So I am having a little contest and challenging my creative and clever readers to come up with some re-purposing ideas.

How the contest works

I invite you to submit plans for a DIY repurposing of one of these old entertainment centers for another use.

Send plans, description of the new use, directions for the project, the estimated cost of the transformation, and if possible, pictures of the finished project.

I will choose three winners, who will each receive a four-pack of tickets to the Feb. 9-11 Nashville Home and Remodeling Expo. And at the show, I will award the grand prize — a $150 gift card to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore — to the person with the best idea. Winners will be notified by Feb. 5

Deadline for entry is Jan. 28. Email your plans and other information to or send to Ms. Cheap, 1100 Broadway, Nashville, 37203. 

For complete contest rules, see this story at

Click here for the official contest rules.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. And I will be showing off your ideas at the Nashville Home and Remodeling Show. 

Stay cheap! 

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282 or Follow her on Facebook at, and at, and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

Nashville Home and Remodeling Expo

The expo is Feb. 9-11 at the Music City Center. Tickets are $10 at the door, or $8 online. The show exhibitors include companies specializing in flooring, landscaping, counter tops, windows, glass, doors, bathrooms, tiny houses, mattresses and more.  Plus there will be workshops and seminars, including a Friday Feb. 9  talk from Ms. Cheap. More information:

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The Inn at Ole Miss Rolls Out ‘Green Carpet’ for Landscaping Camp May 25-27

With little likelihood of frost, Memorial Day weekend is known as the best time to plant annuals. To get a jumpstart in 2018, home gardeners and landscapers can learn firsthand from a line-up of professionals at the Landscaping Camp, scheduled for May 25-27 at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The event will be hosted by The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Foundation Retirement Attraction program.

“We’re excited to be featuring Jeff McManus, whose expertise in landscaping has gained the University of Mississippi accolades of being named the ‘Most Beautiful Campus’ by a number of national publications,” said Rosie Vassallo, Director of Retirement Attraction.

This national recognition for Ole Miss has not only recruited students, but retirees, too, and this camp will bring back alums as well as residents and visitors to learn some of McManus’ secrets.

“We’ll be rolling out the ‘green carpet,’ creating a sense of anticipation that will result from the seminars and visits to the magnificent landscaped homes. Campers will be enthused to return home and put their new ideas to work. They’ll be excited about taking their homes to a new level of beauty,” Vassallo said.

Cost of registration is $375 per person (does not include accommodations), and the deadline to sign-up is May 18. Campers can take advantage of the Early Bird Special, available for $300 per person now through March 2018 (price does not include hotel accommodations).

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Day One:
2 p.m.: Registration
3 p.m.: Walking tour of Ole Miss campus (wear comfortable shoes)
** No accommodations will be available for wheelchairs
6:30 p.m.: Dinner/Book Signing at The Inn at Ole Miss – Intro of Jeff McManus, keynote speaker, followed by book signing

Day Two:
9 a.m.-10:30 a.m.: “Cut Flower Gardening,” Donna Yowell, Executive Director, Mississippi Urban Forest Council
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: Tour of the Scruggs’ Home on Double Decker Bus
11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.: Tour of Oxford’s historic sites
12 noon–1:30 p.m.: Lunch at The Inn at Ole Miss, and “Container Gardening,” The Garden Mama, Nellie Neal, Radio Host
1:30-3 p.m. “Prune Like A Pro,” Jeff McManus

After 3 p.m., take time to enjoy Oxford’s fabulous shopping and dining destinations!

Day Three
9 a.m.-10:30 a.m.: “Explore the links between the Southern garden, Southern food, and the Southern larder,” Melissa Booth Hall, managing director of the Southern Foodways Alliance
10:30 a.m.-12 noon: Tour of Rowan Oak, Ed Croom, retired botanist, University of Mississippi, and author of “The Land of Rowan Oak: An Exploration of Faulkner’s Natural World” on the Double Decker Bus.

Participants can make reservations with The Inn at Ole Miss at a discounted rate by calling 888-486-7666. The deadline for the discounted rate is April 25.

Major sponsors for this year’s event include The City of Oxford, The University of Mississippi, MaxxSouth Broadband, Rebel Realty and Property Management LLC, The Inn at Ole Miss, Stages Mississippi Magazine and

Interested parties can learn more as well as register by going to or contact Rosie Vassallo by email at or by phone 662-234-4651.

Special to

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Home & Builder’s Show packed with ideas for remodelers, builders

This weekend’s Home Builders Show at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds’ Expo Center will feature animals from Wildlife Encounters at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, along with shows at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday. 

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Hay, no, it’s straw bale gardening

No doubt, Joel Karsten is onto something with straw bale gardening — you don’t get to be a home improvement celebrity with a dud idea.

So go to the Oklahoma City Home + Garden Show next weekend at State Fair Park: noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 20, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 21. For ticket information and other details, go to

Karsten will demonstrate and offer tips on the technique, which uses straw bales as planting medium and container, and natural compost.

Two things:

Listen closely when he talks about the difference between straw bales and hay bales. And then make sure you use straw bales, not hay bales.

In a nutshell, straw bales have dead straw, and hay bales have entire plants — wheat, rye, alfalfa, whatever — and seeds. And those seeds can come up wherever the bale returns to nature.

I learned this the hard way years ago, when a section of my garden turned into a hay meadow the season after I experimented with bale gardening, and unthinkingly used hay, not straw.

Also, listen closely when he talks about sources for straw bales, and the dangers of using straw from hay crops where certain herbicides were used.

Your garden could be dead before it gets started because of residual toxins.

Other feature attractions at the show:

Clint Harp, host of DIY Network’s show “Wood Work” and owner of Harp Design Co. Harp’s designs have been featured on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

Matt Fox, host of HGTV’s “Room by Room.” He will emcee the Lifestyle stage for the entire show, and demonstrate weekend projects using basic supplies from home improvement stores.

Rebuilding Together OKC. The Oklahoma City Home + Garden Show has partnered with the nonprofit to showcase its work in rebuilding homes and neighborhoods. The organization will offer workshops all weekend to show people how to install windows, fix toilets, repair drywall, use electric hand tools and more.

Landscapers Lane. Four landscapers will turn more than 2,200 square feet of Bennett Event Center into a lush oasis for strolling and resting.

Ultimate Backyard Oasis. Another 8,400 square feet of Bennett Event Center, turned over to landscaping and outdoor living.

DIY Container Gardens To Go. Tony’s Tree Plantation will have 1,400 square feet of trees, flowers and bushes, plus DIY arrangements for purchase in the Pavilion.

Make It Take It classes in the Centennial Building. Sign up at

Shelfie Challenge. “Try your hand at interior decorating. Start with an ordinary shelf and accessorize with items from At Home to turn the blank slate into a custom style. Post a picture of your design to social media, and the amateur decorator receiving the most likes for his or her space by the end of the show wins the shelf and all accessories used.”

Hero Day. Free admission Jan. 21 for active and retired military, firefighters and police officers.

Made in Oklahoma. Eight Oklahoma companies for home and garden products will be featured in the Bennett Event Center.

Foodieville Truck Rally. Jan. 21, a variety of tasty treats from local food trucks.

Wine Village. Bennett Event Center. Sample and learn about wineries and vineyards in the region.

You might also be interested in…

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‘It’s never been anything like this:’ Flooding covers nursery’s gardens and upends sidewalks

Onondaga, N.Y. — Jim Sollecito’s landscaping business and nursery has been in the same spot for 45 years. He’s never seen it flood like it did today.

The water rushed over his boots as he talked, like he was standing in a fishing stream. The lush gardens that are usually covered in snow this time of year instead looked like a water feature. Ornamental planters floated, lost islands.

“This is not good,” he said, surveying the water. By mid-morning, several paved paths had been heaved by the water. And plantings, including a rare variety of hostas, had washed away.

Sollecito said it would probably cost at least $10,000 to fix the damage he’d surveyed so far.

The water rushed out of a culverts and down Howlett Hill Road in the town of Onondaga. Sollecito said he’s had problems with flooding before and built a retaining wall in some areas to stop it. He’s also complained to the town. He thinks this instance was made worse by debris that hadn’t been cleaned from the culverts. He received a call early in the morning, from a neighbor in the development behind him, to tell him that his business was flooding.

Workers were chopping up ice to give the water more places to drain. So far, the basement was dry. But it was still early.

Next door to him, the Amodio family’s house sat like an island in a rising pond. Heather Amodio said when her husband left for work at 6:30 a.m., everything seemed fine. But she had to call him home an hour later because their yard and basement was filled with rushing water.

Their sump pump was running, but there was still a foot of water in their basement. Their garage was filling up and they were getting ready to hook up another sump pump in the basement.

Amodio said her husband’s family has owned the land for 75 years and this is the worst flooding they’ve seen.

Across the street and down the hill, parts of the Onondaga County Veterans Cemetery and Loomis Hill Cemetery were under water. Wreaths and Christmas decorations floated in more than a foot of water.

Amodio had taken the day off to clean the up the house and put away Christmas decorations, but those plans were scrapped. Her husband was in the basement, trying to push the water back. Amodio worried that they’d lose the furnace if the water rose much more.

Last time, there was 4 feet of water in the basement.

“All we can do is wait,” she said.

Marnie Eisenstadt writes about people, life and culture in Central New York. Have an idea or question? Contact her anytime: email | twitter | Facebook | 315-470-2246

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Conservationists take over James City marina garden

A few more butterflies may be flitting around James City County Marina this spring.

The county Economic Development Authority agreed Thursday to allow Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory to replant a neglected garden on property rented by Billsburg Brewery at the marina.

The lease between the authority and Billsburg, the tenant, allows the brewery to improve the property’s landscaping, according to county documents.

The garden could serve as a springboard into future efforts to beautify the marina area as the county seeks to develop it further.