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Partnership’s plant sale funds fight for Eastern hemlock

The beckoning Laurel Highlands will host thousands of visitors over the Memorial Day weekend. They’ll drive into the cooling heights for all kinds of reasons, most of which, in one way or another, will connect them with nature and the outdoors. Those who venture to Ohiopyle on Saturday, May 27 can take a bit of the highlands home with them, and help the native landscape they came to enjoy.

The Southern Laurel Highlands Plant Pest Management Partnership will hold its annual Native Plant Sale that day (May 27) from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Falls/Visitor Center area in Ohiopyle. Nearly four dozen different species of flowering plants native to western Pennsylvania will be available for sale and replanting in home gardens. But this year’s sale has a different and important objective. The Plant Pest Management Partnership will use sale proceeds in its battle to save the Eastern hemlock tree from hemlock woolly adelgid, a devastating invasive insect pest accidentally imported from Asia. Woolly adelgid has spread from the Carolinas and Virginia northward into Pennsylvania, killing millions of beautiful and ecologically vital hemlocks throughout that region. Hemlocks within Ohiopyle State Park and the Laurel Highlands face immediate threat and some have already died.

Hemlock woolly adelgid is a tiny aphid-like insect that probes into hemlock needles and sucks out the fluid. Heavily infested trees lose their green luster and show a sickly, gray color. Trees can die within two to five years after infestation. The insect is named for the “woolly” masses it deposits on the undersides of hemlock needles in which it spends parts of its life cycle protected from winter cold and summer heat. Extremely cold temperatures are known to exact heavy mortality on adelgid populations.

The Southern Laurel Highlands Plant Pest Management Partnership is a collaboration of several public agencies and private conservation organizations with significant wild land holdings in the Laurel Highlands. The partnership came together to battle invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, emerald ash borer, and hemlock woolly adelgid, all of which threaten the Laurel Highlands ecosystem. Partners include the DCNR Bureau of State Parks, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Fayette County Conservation District, National Park Service, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Brandywine Conservancy. Brandywine Conservancy is a recent partner headquartered in eastern Pennsylvania but owns several hundred acres of woodland near Ligonier. Most of the plants available for sale are grown on that property.

“In the past, our native plant sale has had an educational thrust,” said Barb Wallace, environmental education specialist at Ohiopyle State Park. “Our intent then was simply to encourage people to use native plants in their gardens and landscaping, because native vegetation is meant to grow here, and it will grow well with no ecological drawbacks.

“But this year, after such a mild winter, hemlock woolly adelgid is back with a vengeance and we’re seeing it in new parts of the park for the first time. It’s a very serious and far-reaching natural resource problem. We encourage folks to visit our sale and take home some native plants in support of the hemlock, our official state tree.”

Treatment of hemlock trees against woolly adelgid with pesticides is expensive and labor-intensive. The pesticide cannot be sprayed over large areas. It must be injected into the soil among the individual tree’s roots, for uptake throughout the tree. Wallace said proceeds from the plant sale will be used to buy the “tablets” that staff and volunteers will inject at the base of trees in identified regions of the park this fall.

“We have 300 acres of hemlock in our 20,000-acre park,” Wallace noted. “But it’s all vitally important in one way or another. Nearly all our hemlock grows along high-quality mountain streams, where it shades the water and maintains the cool temperatures native brook trout need to survive.”

Wallace pointed out another huge liability posed by woolly adelgid.

“Our biggest, old-growth hemlock is along the Youghiogheny River where thousands of visitors come every year to raft and kayak,” she explained. “When a big dead hemlock falls into a rapid, it’s a safety hazard to boaters and it will require highly skilled and very dangerous work to remove it, not to mention the expense.”

Wallace said that Partnership staff and volunteers have already treated all the hemlock on Ferncliff Peninsula, a focal point for Ohiopyle visitors but much remains to be done.

“We have assessed and identified all our hemlock stands in the park,” Wallace said. “Our highest priorities are those along our trout streams and the Yough. Unless we get more funding somehow, we’ll have to be resigned to let some of our hemlock stands die out.”

Wallace recognized the efforts of volunteer Chevron employees who have helped treat hemlock against woolly adelgid, pulled out invasive garlic mustard, eradicated Japanese knotweed and other important tasks that benefit Laurel Highlands environment.

“Chevron sent us a group of volunteers who logged over 2,000 hours of volunteer work last year,” Wallace said. “Last year Chevron even paid for all the hemlock treatment tablets. We greatly appreciate their help with an issue where the public doesn’t always recognize the vital ecological importance.”

Besides cooling mountain streams for trout, hemlock stands also provide essential nesting habitat for about a dozen species of migratory songbirds that return to the Laurel Highlands from Central and South America every spring to breed. Without hemlocks, these birds cannot nest.

“The partnership we’ve formed with the other agencies and organizations, with the help of our volunteers, is the only way we can possibly approach this problem across so large a region,” Wallace continued. “We all help one another battle invasive pests on all the public and conservation lands that thousands of residents and visitors alike enjoy.”

Ben Moyer is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Association of America

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22nd annual garden tour highlights local gardens

The University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County on Sunday will host the 22nd annual garden tour.

This year’s theme, “Over the Garden Gate,” offers glimpses into four gardens on the self-guided tour from, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For the very first time, the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden will feature a plant sale. Plants available for purchase have all been locally grown and are suitable for planting in the foothills area.

Today, let’s take a peek into each of the gardens on the tour, whetting your appetite for the full tour on Sunday. The four gardens on the tour range from higher elevation Ridgewood to lower elevation Sonora. The gardens vary from that at a bed and breakfast, to one that incorporates native oaks, to ones that have adapted earlier landscapes to become more water-conserving.

Barretta Gardens Inn

Barretta Gardens Inn is a Sonora bed and breakfast. The current owner bought the property in 2005 and, together with a former partner, designed and planted the gardens. With the assistance of a helper, the garden is owner-maintained. Irrigation is provided primarily by drip systems. For beautiful photos of the current landscaping, go online to the Barretta Gardens Inn website at .

The mature gardens and grounds are “themed,” each area arranged as a room with its own focal point. The owner maintains an inconspicuous compost area to utilize green manure from the garden and chicken manure from the hen house.

Swanson garden

The Swanson garden is located on the west side of Sonora and incorporates mature oak trees into its landscaping. It also boasts elderberry plants, from which the owner makes syrup. This one-acre property was designed and planted by the owner. She and her son maintain it as a lovely example of year-round variety in plant color and texture. The owner has removed some sun-loving plants in favor of plants better adapted to shade and continues to make improvements in water conservation.

The garden is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. A Certified Wildlife Habitat is a site that is gardened sustainably by eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, conserving water and soil, and eliminating exotic species. The site provides the four elements needed by wildlife — food, water, cover and places to raise young.

Clark garden

Sally and Doug Clark describe their garden as “always changing and evolving over the last 18 years.” They have performed all planning, installation, change and removal, and maintenance activities. Originally landscaped with lawn, they have now removed all lawns and replanted front, back and side areas with drought-tolerant species. They have added permeable hardscape in the form of gravel paths, rock borders, stepping stones, flagstone, and mulch. The decision to remove the lawn was based on several factors. Water conservation was a high priority. So was integrated pest management; gophers and moles made the decision to eliminate the lawn even easier.

The Clark garden, including the fruit trees, hosts a variety of wildlife. The home owners note that their landscape attracts “lots of birds,” and one time they even observed a bear on their property.

Demonstration garden

The Master Gardener demonstration garden at 251 S. Barretta St. in Sonora is a good place to start the tour. It will offer garden tour tickets for purchase on Sunday, and is also the site for will-call tickets ordered by phone. The garden offers welcome shade, refreshments and public restroom facilities. And, don’t forget to check out those locally-grown plants to help your yard become its best.

Tickets for the tour are available in the Columbia area at Columbia Nursery on Parrotts Ferry Road and the Farmory near Columbia Airport. In Sonora, tickets can be purchased at Sonora Lumber on South Washington Street, Antiques Etc., on North Washington Street, and from the UCCE Office, 52 N. Washington St. Farther up Highway 108, tickets can be found at Mountain Book Shop in The Junction shopping center, Whole Foods Depot on Standard Road, and The Nest in Twain Harte. Tickets are also available from your favorite Master Gardener.

Come out and join us for an enjoyable day spent touring gardens in the Mother Lode.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.

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Los Alamos Nature Center Cuts Ribbon On New Exhibit ‘Landscaping For Our Climate’

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Garden authors talk eco-friendly gardening at library – Courier

Rockland — Horticulturists Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto will present an illustrated talk on their book, “The Life in Your Garden,” Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockland Public Library, 80 Union St. Books will be available for purchase and signing after their talk.

“The Life in Your Garden” represents a major rethinking of North American yards and gardens and is a call to action for gardeners concerned about Earth’s biodiversity crisis. Manley and Peronto describe how to create gardens that will help stem the tide of species extinctions among insects, birds, amphibians, and other endangered creatures.

The authors recommend ecologically functional plants — native trees and shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals — that will nurture a wide variety of garden wildlife. And they present numerous examples of insect-garden interactions to demonstrate that a garden can and should be a stable, self-regulated ecosystem in which insect herbivores are held in check by their predators. “The Life in Your Garden” shows why converting lawn to garden increases Earth’s biodiversity; keeping insect herbivores under control is not primarily the gardener’s job; it is the work of the predators (primarily other insects and birds) that an ecologically functional garden supports; every garden should include an insectary of plantings that nurture pollinators and other insects; locally native understory trees and shrubs form the bones of a garden that nourishes wildlife; if you want butterflies in your garden, provide host plants for caterpillars, as there is no such thing as an “adults only” butterfly garden; and much more.

Manley has gardened in South Carolina, Washington state (while earning a Ph.D. in horticultural science), Massachusetts, and, for the last 15 years, in Maine. From 2007 through 2015, he wrote about the garden in a weekly column for the Bangor Daily News. He taught courses in horticulture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Maine, Orono. In 2013 he retired from teaching chemistry and physics at a small high school on the coast of Maine to devote his time to gardening and garden writing.

Peronto, a professor for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has been teaching courses in fruit and vegetable gardening, ecological landscaping, and pruning for 26 years. She is a resource among her colleagues on native and invasive plants of the Northeast. Peronto oversees Downeast Maine’s Master Gardener Volunteers Program, training individuals to conduct community outreach projects that promote sustainable gardening and food security. She has developed nationally recognized school gardening courses for teachers.

Manley and Peronto’s previous book is: “The New England Gardener’s Year: A Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Upstate New York.”

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Spring planting: From super dry to super wet

In 2016, gardeners and landscapers saw firsthand the effects of the drought as crops and flowers couldn’t bloom. So far in 2017, there are no regions in New York with drought conditions. In fact, New York has received so much rain this season that the ground is almost too wet.

Last spring and summer brought a drought across the country, causing New York to experience its most severe dry spell since the U.S. Drought Monitor began collecting data in 2000.

What a difference a year makes.

In 2016, gardeners and landscapers saw firsthand the effects of the drought as crops and flowers couldn’t bloom — companies and businesses stopped carrying certain plants because they couldn’t withstand the climate. Now, as this gardening and landscaping season arrives, we will see more potential and progress with planting, but not as much as one might think.

At this time last year, approximately 33 percent of the state experienced abnormally dry drought conditions. Between early July and the end of the year, drought conditions fluctuated, putting 85 percent to 98 percent of the state in a drought.

So far in 2017, there are no regions in New York with drought conditions. In fact, New York has received so much rain this season that the ground is almost too wet.

Landscaper Jim Rose, of James Rose Outdoor Services in Canandaigua, has seen a dramatic difference between the way people planted last year and how they’re planting this year. When planting last season, Rose had to educate everyone on exactly how much water each plant needed, something he hadn’t normally done before. This season, because the ground has flooded, Rose has houses that have to put off planting for a few months, until the ground dries out.

“Now it’s difficult to plant because every time the ground dries out and it’s sufficient to plant, we get rain the next day,” Rose said. “The plants will survive well when you plant them, but it’s having the ground conditions that are right for planting that’s the issue now.”

Rose, along with Russell Welser from Cornell University Cooperative Extension, said these dramatic changes will continue to happen each year — and they blamed climate change.

“Climate change is the aberrant movement of water,” Rose said. “Water isn’t following any reliable pattern we’ve ever seen before.”

What the weather will be like the rest of this season is anyone’s guess, Welser said. One thing he does know is that New Yorkers will continue to experience weather extremes like last year’s drought and this year’s wind and snowstorms. The normal weather patterns and fluctuating temperatures we’re used to are long gone, he said.

For this reason, professional gardeners and landscapers agree that one of the most important things people should know when planting anything is that they need to be ready to adapt to the ever-changing climate. This means being ready to plant earlier or later than residents may have initially expected, putting more effort into watering plants when needed and more.

Other negatives, aside from abnormal weather patterns, are invasive insects and plant disease. With warmer winters, there are more insects that used to die in the winter but are now able to survive. There are also insects that lived farther south but have moved up here. With more extreme weather, both in temperature and condition, the chance and ability of more diseases and the spread of diseases increases.

Like any change, there are going to be positives and negatives. One of the largest benefits is that the growing and maintenance season has increased. As the winters seem less harsh each year, with warm temperatures continuing into November and December, homeowners have more time to grow in their fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as more time for landscaping and hardscaping jobs. Rose said in the winter, his company typically prunes trees and plows snow, but this winter, he was able to work through the whole season. He usually lays off his employees in the winter and rehires them in the spring, but he was able to keep his employees planting until the first week of January and doing hardscaping jobs throughout the whole season.

As the climate continues to change, gardeners and landscapers need to be prepared to change with it. Rose recommends that people do adequate research about what they want to plant so they know when and where they should do so.

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Gardening program at prison medical facility offers renewal, hope

STOCKTON — Edward Sturdivant stood over the bleak patch of dirt, surveying the area for the perfect spot.

He finally crouched down and dug his left hand into the dirt and used his right hand to delicately place the palm-sized plant into the ground. Sturdivant is familiar with gardening — he and his late grandmother had enjoyed doing it together — and it offers him a sense of peace, especially in his current environment.

The 27-year-old San Diego native is serving time at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton.

“It makes me feel like I’m bringing something to life,” Sturdivant said Thursday.

About 20 inmates at the California Health Care Facility are participating in the Insight Garden Program, which is focused on gardening and landscaping training to reconnect offenders to “self, community and the natural world.”

IGP was started by Beth Waitkus at San Quentin State Prison in 2002. Now, the program is at various institutions across the state and at two prisons in Indiana.

“This is the culminating moment of a lot of hard work,” Waitkus said as inmates planted an assortment of drought-tolerant plants in a courtyard. Inmates must attend classes in preparation for planting day.

Waitkus, who founded IGP because she wanted to find faith in humanity following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the program’s goal is to send inmates out into the community who will turn into community and environmental leaders and not return to prison. They learn skills they can take with them and find jobs in landscaping or agriculture, she added.

In the Bay Area, IGP has partnered with landscaping companies and the nonprofit Planting Justice, which builds edible permaculture gardens for people, to connect formerly incarcerated people with employers.

“Re-entry starts on the inside with programs like ours,” Waitkus said. “We want to see it as a bridge to re-entry where we help support their pathway out.”

The sun-drenched lot outside the prison chapel was in the beginning stages of its transformation on Thursday. The end result is expected to be a garden with walking paths and a meditation area; a contrast to the barren concrete buildings and chain-link fences that make up the rest of the facility’s landscape.

Growing up in the woods of Humboldt County instilled an appreciation of nature into 43-year-old Jack Barnes. The Garberville native said he has been gardening all his life.

“It’s very therapeutic,” he said. “It’s something that really gets into your inner soul. When you’re out here in soil and working, it brings out a little bit of my own roots to Mother Earth and feeling of peace and bringing something good into the world again.

“This brings a little bit of that into a world of chaos,” he said, taking a quick break from digging holes.

Barnes said every time the group meets they start with meditation, which also helps people gain an insight into themselves.

IGP, which is a recipient of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Innovative Programming grant, offers a “holistic” curriculum that covers environmental awareness and permaculture, which is the development of an ecosystem that’s meant to be self-sufficient. And while inmates work on the garden, they are also tending to themselves through emotional process work, according to IGP.

“I feel very blessed that I can do this, especially being in an institution,” said 58-year-old Ram Gonzales of Ventura. “Without this program, we have nothing.”

Gonzales is serving a life sentence for a 2001 second-degree murder conviction, a fact that he acknowledges and takes full responsibility for. But he said he’s also trying to do his best to atone and be a better person.

“I want to change Mother Earth here and also change myself.”

— Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.

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Marina Garden Tour highlights sustainable gardens that take advantage of Marina’s foggy environment

Joey Silva's backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court and an in-ground trampoline. (Contributed)

Joey Silva’s backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court and an in-ground trampoline. (Contributed)

If You Go

What: 2017 Marina Garden Tour

When: Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Various sites in Marina; tickets and exhibits at Las Arboles Middle School, 294 Hillcrest Ave.

Admission: $15 general, $10 Marina Tree and Garden Club members

Details: Advance tickets by calling 682-8016; see for information

Going native is the best strategy for gardens in Marina, Stephen Wasson has found. He’ll be showing off his hard work during the Marina Garden Tour this Sunday, along with four other homeowners, a school and a newly established garden next to Marina City Council chambers.

“I love to put things in the ground and watch them grow,” said Wasson, an engineer, who spent his childhood living close to his grandmothers, where he learned the pleasures of tending gardens.

His front yard is a riot of color in the spring, with low-maintenance native wildflowers putting on a show that lasts through the end of May. The front porch is an homage to his grandmothers and to other close family and friends, with 40-year-old Christmas cactus, old-fashioned geraniums, ferns and other long-lived foliage plants on view.

Originally a thicket of juniper and rosemary, the front yard — planted more than three years ago — also includes the work of Simone Lajeunese of Succulent Gardens, who used succulents and cacti to create an attractive low-water landscape.

Like all the gardens featured in Sunday’s self-guided tour, Wasson’s yard is a mix of sustainable plantings suited to Marina’s foggy, windy environment, and personal accents like none other. In Wasson’s yard, those are the home-crafted bent rebar arches and vine-climbing structures that he fabricated after receiving welding instruction from a friend.

The Marina Garden Tour, held every other year, is a chance for Marina Tree and Garden Club members to display the results of battling the challenging climate and sandy soil of the area, and to show others how they can do it, too. In addition, money raised from the tour is used for tree planting and beautification projects in the city.

The gathering point for the tour is Los Arboles Middle School, where tickets will be sold the day of the tour, and attendees will be able to see exhibits by Marina Coast Water District and Save the Whales, and a drawing for a Knox garden box will be held.

It’s also a chance to see how the school garden has flourished in the past two years since it debuted in the biannual garden tour in 2015.

The passion project of science teacher Anna Munoz, the school garden’s outdoor classroom helps students learn both earth science principles and real-life lessons. The 3 R’s — Reduce, Reuse, Reycle — are on view here, as well as an aquaponics demonstration tank donated by Both Co.

Also on the tour:

• A new garden honoring the late Ken Gray, planted next to Marina City Council chambers, designed by Marina Tree and Garden Club members Grace Silva-Santella and Juli Hofmann and funded by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District’s Open Space and Coastal Preservation Grant Program.

Local stonemasons assembled a rock wall and stone walkway in one day, and club volunteers sheet mulched, planted, and assembled the drip irrigation system. A memorial bench was installed in April to remember the contributions of Gray, a naturalist with California State Parks and former city council member.

• A windswept corner lot where nothing grew has been transformed into an attractive space in five short years by Billy Perry, a CSU-Monterey Bay environmental design graduate and employee of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Perry first built an attractive redwood fence with custom gates, providing a buffer zone from ocean breezes. He created dirt hillocks for planting trees, shrubs, succulents and other plants; most are transplants, clones, seedlings, or donations.

• Nancy and Dan Amadeo’s front yard shows what can be done when a lawn is removed and drought-tolerant plants take their place.

Because of the complexities of dealing with their small, sloping, irregularly shaped lot, afflicted with poor drainage, depleted soil, and full shade in the backyard, the Amadeos pulled in Marina landscaping professionals to help.

Now, a welcoming path to the front door skirts the garage. Drought-tolerant plants adapted to the coastal environment live between the curb and the house in eye-catching shades of purple, orange, red and pink. In the backyard, the cool, refreshing ambiance of a fern grotto beckons.

• Joey Silva is a middle-school math, science and former high school shop teacher. In his landscape, Joey practices what he teaches with artistic precision and ingenuity.

Together, he and wife Danielle intentionally planned to incorporate as many sustainable living practices as possible into their landscape design.

Their tidy front yard contains raised garden beds built of recycled 6×6 lumber and whimsical focal points like concrete ball cast-offs from a class project and daggers from a dismantled catamaran, painted red to match the front door.

The backyard includes a food garden with fruit trees, raised vegetable beds edged with recycled Trex decking, a living wall of succulents, bocce ball court, and an in-ground trampoline.

• What are new homeowners to do with a yard full of sand and seashells for soil? Karin and Scott Stratton chose as their inspiration the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sandy Shore and Aviary exhibit, where ocean tides meet the sand.

The Strattons did much of the work themselves and will display the evolution of their three-years-plus landscape captured in pictures along the way. In addition, they will share success stories about their spinning composter and worm ranch and about where they sourced their native plants, boulders, and wood chips.

• Reusing and repurposing can be found in abundance in the garden of Paula Fisler, intensively planted with flowers, edibles and succulents using organic gardening techniques. Fruit trees benefit from a gutter water catchment system and southeast exposure as they mature to production age.

Fisler keeps worms and composters in the backyard, along with a poultry yard and a new greenhouse, continually replacing nutrients in the soil with richness from scraps. Raised beds at comfort height provide seating in the backyard and avoid competition with the roots of the towering cypress. The patio and tiki bar can accommodate a large guest list when friends and family gather for homemade beer brewed by her husband Mark.

If You Go

What: 2017 Marina Garden Tour

When: Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Various sites in Marina; tickets and exhibits at Las Arboles Middle School, 294 Hillcrest Ave.

Admission: $15 general, $10 Marina Tree and Garden Club members

Details: Advance tickets by calling 682-8016; see for information

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Tour of Gardens showcases native flora

You won’t see a traditional lush green lawn when you arrive at Mark and Linda Powell’s SouthWood home – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

They have combined their passion for ecology and native landscaping to create a peaceful oasis without leaving a large carbon footprint and are sharing their accomplishment during Saturday’s Friends of Maclay Gardens 23rd Annual Tour of Gardens.

“We’re thrilled to have them on the tour this year,” said Gary Griffin, Friends of Maclay Gardens president. “They have done so much with native landscaping and are so willing to share their knowledge and experience with others.”

The Powell’s 2/3-acre corner lot is fronted by the Central Park and Lakes conservation area and graced with four majestic live oaks. Instead of a lawn, pine-straw laden beds provide a background for a variety of native plants, including black-eyed Susan, American beautyberry, purple coneflowers, saw palmetto, oak leaf hydrangea and coral honeysuckle.

“I’ve always liked slow-growing native plants, no matter where we’ve lived. To me what was here to begin with is what should be here now,” Mark said. “Native plants can thrive in the conditions you have. You don’t need to add fertilizers that end up contaminating the water system.”

A low area became a rain garden, containing bluestem palmetto, saw palmetto, fakahatchee grass, Piedmont azalea, sand cord grass, blue-eyed grass, muhly grass, and golden ragwort, mulched with pine straw.  The rain garden turns into a pond after a heavy rain, but the sandy soil allows the water to percolate toward the Floridan Aquifer after just a few hours.

“When we were planning to build in SouthWood, they showed us a pattern book that had recommended styles for homes, including Craftsman designs, like our house,” Mark said. “But in the back of the book, there were landscaping suggestions including using native plants and recreating meadows.”

But for those who think a natural yard will look plain or boring, think again. The Powells worked with landscape designer David Copps to create a diverse and beautiful plan.

“He (David) made sure something would be blooming in every season,” Linda said. “We have a lot of pine straw, and I find I appreciate color. I’m drawn to the butterfly gardens. The wonderful pops of color make me feel really happy.”

The natural beauty has drawn others in, including one happy couple who used their front yard as an impromptu backdrop for their wedding photos.

“Since ours is the first home you see driving in on the south side of the lake, we wanted to add an inviting focal point for the community,” Mark said.

The Powells share the home with their 16-year-old son, Riley, two cats and a dog. The family moved to Tallahassee from Miami in 2008 and moved to SouthWood in 2010. Mark grew to love Tallahassee while he attended Florida State University for both his undergraduate and PhD degrees. Thanks to the computer age, they had the luxury of continuing their Miami jobs while living in the city of canopy roads.

It’s no surprise their home is engineered to mitigate harm to the environment.

Mark attributes his passion for ecology to his lifelong love of sailing and career in science. He worked for NOAA in Miami at the Hurricane Research Division for 36 years and now leads the RMS (Risk Management Solutions) office in Tallahassee. RMS is the global leader in natural catastrophe risk modeling for the insurance industry and his office focuses on analysis and forecasting of hurricanes. Linda recently retired from Florida International University where she was a data scientist working with the Everglades restoration program.

“To keep down noise and eliminate fossil-fueled lawn maintenance pollution, we use electric yard tools to mow and edge the lawn and swale areas and sweep the walks,” Mark said.  “In addition to powering most of the home’s electrical needs, an 11 kW solar PV system helps charge batteries for a lawn mower, weed whacker and leaf blower.”

They also have a rainwater harvesting system that collects runoff from over half the roof area and funnels it into an 1,100-gallon cistern.  The cistern overflow is directed to the rain garden.  They use a seven-zone micro-irrigation system that is also fed by the cistern, with city water as a backup for the really dry times.

The Powells commitment to the environment doesn’t stop with the landscaping.  Their home received LEED Platinum certification in 2011.

“We wanted to do all we could to lessen our carbon footprint,” Mark said. “We have a solar hot water heater and do all we can to conserve energy.”

In the backyard, they do have a small area of centipede sod — just enough for a game of catch or Frisbee.

The backdrop to the lawn is a sunny “sand hill circle,” dedicated to the long leaf pines and wiregrass that were once plentiful in the area. Yaupon hollies, magnolias, Southern red cedar, Chickasaw plum, high bush blueberries, sweet viburnum and oak leaf hydrangea provide a hedgerow for privacy screening and food for wildlife. Butterfly gardens and potted orchids provide bursts of color.

Bluestem palmettos, ferns, and a bed of native wildflowers help define the outdoor entertainment area which includes a pavilion, pergola, waterfall wall, fire pit, and an Endless pool with an expansive cumaru deck.

The Powells are very hands on when it comes to the garden. They have some seasonal help from Native Nurseries, but take care of the week-in and week-out tasks themselves. There’s biweekly weeding of nut sedge grass, and thorny blackberry and smilax vines, selective dead-heading of old flower and ironweed stems and annual clipping of the native muhly, sandcord and purpletop grasses.

After the years and months spent establishing and maintaining their landscape, Linda is ready to start reaping the rewards:

“I’m looking for a nice hammock for the deck, and I’m going to get down to enjoying my retirement now.”


What: Friends of Maclay Gardens 23rd annual Tour of Gardens

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday

How:  The day starts at 9 a.m. with a continental breakfast and silent auction at Maclay Gardens. Participants will then get maps and directions for a self-paced and self-driven tour of eight area gardens where docents from the Leon County Master Gardener program will be on hand to answer questions.

Where: Starts at Maclay Gardens, 3540 Thomasville Road.

Cost: Advance tickets, $30; day of event, $35; $5.00 discount for AAA members and Friends of Maclay Garden. Tickets can be purchased online at or at Esposito’s Garden Center, Native Nurseries, Tallahassee Nurseries, Wild Birds Unlimited, and the Ranger station located at the entrance of the State Park – cash or check only at these Locations.

For more information: 850-487-4556;


From colorful brochures to directional signs on the Lake Overstreet Trails, nonprofit Friends of Maclay Gardens provides year-round financial and volunteer assistance to the state park.

This year FOMC is making significant contributions to an extensive redesign of the park’s irrigation system so it will function more efficiently. The group also has funded comprehensive wayfinding signs on the Lake Overstreet Trails and provides amenities and equipment for the park on an ongoing basis when the park budget falls short.

“That’s our mission,” FOMG President Gary Griffin said. “We’re here because we love this unique park and all it has to offer to our community. We want to see it flourish and thrive for generations to come.”

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Design tips: Create striking garden designs from a bird’s-eye view

By Lauren Dunec Hoang, Houzz contributor

Gardens are often enjoyed twofold: both in looking out on the garden from the home and by being in the garden itself. Designing gardens specifically to be viewed from above is a concept that originates in Elizabethan times. Think of formal French parterre gardens or classic English knot gardens, both popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. With clipped boxwood hedges, herbs and flowers laid out in designs as intricate as Oriental rugs, these classic gardens were designed to be looked down upon from their owners’ castles and manors.

These days — with much smaller yards and less time to devote to maintaining labor-intensive parterres — there’s still something to be said for considering how a garden looks from above. By balancing shapes, patterns and textures from a bird’s-eye view, you can design a garden that’s not only a pleasure to be in, but also to look down on. Whether your client has a sunken courtyard, a lower-level urban garden or would simply like to look down on an interesting backyard from upstairs windows, here are eight ideas for creating an eye-catching garden when viewed from above.

industrial landscape from above

Photo: Thuilot Associates

1. Go for bold geometric forms.When laying out pathways, patios and planting beds, you can create an effective bird’s-eye view with large-scale geometric shapes. Exaggerated forms, such as this dramatic zigzag of a path leading to a fire pit, may be less noticeable while in the garden but puts emphasis on the geometry from above.

succulents in a row

Photo: Studio H Landscape Architecture

2. Use repetition. Repeating forms of plants or pavers can be visually pleasing from above, offering a feeling of balance and calm. Rows of succulents placed equidistant makes a satisfying repetitive pattern along this walkway.

floating plants in small pond

Photo: Mosaic Gardens

3. Add a water element. Water activates a garden, bringing wildlife, providing sound or, in ponds, reflecting the changing sky patterns. Looking down on water in the garden, much as one would look down on a natural stream in the woods, can be particularly peaceful.

In this terraced garden in Eugene, Oregon, a recycled stock tank brimming with water lilies becomes a bright, reflective focal point of the garden viewed from the deck.

contemporary patio from above

Photo: Growsgreen Landscape Design

4. Carve out shapes with hardscaping. Look for opportunities to use hardscape materials in patios, decking and in built-in benches that create unexpected geometrical shapes. When viewed from above, this asymmetrical concrete patio made up of different-size concrete pavers is much more visually engaging than a standard rectangular patio. Using two stains for the concrete further emphasizes the shapes in the patio.

beautiful shrub architecture

Photo: Zeterre Landscape Architecture

5. Get formal. Adopt the classic style for gardens to be viewed from above by planting a proper boxwood parterre. Choose the shapes you would like for the design using graceful spirals or a series of straight-lined, overlapping forms. Fill the spaces between with gravel or leave room for planting herbs and flowers in interior beds.

stunning eclectic and small patio

Photo: New Eco Landscapes

6. Choose materials with eye-catching patterns. Look for materials that have natural variation in pattern, such as cut stone pavers, or create geometric patterns in how the material is set.

In this backyard in Brooklyn Heights, New York, a brick patio laid out in concentric circles creates an interesting, unexpected pattern to look down on from the house.

flowering tree

Photo: The Plant Place Nursery

7. Select plants to look down on. When choosing plants for gardens designed to be viewed from above, pay particular attention to their form and habit. Evergreens clipped into topiary work well for adding shapes and geometry. Rosette-forming succulents and agaves are visually interesting from above.

For flowering perennials, shrubs and trees, consider those that hold their blossoms upright and above foliage for the best view when looking down. Dogwoods (Cornus spp.), for example, keep their flowers upturned along the tops of branches, giving a fabulous show viewed from above.

landscape with life size zen garden

Photo: Whipple Russell Architects

8. Consider areas that would otherwise be wasted. Look for places in the landscape that could become gardens designed to be viewed from above, such as the space beneath a floating deck or the lower level of a terrace.

In this Los Angeles garden, a Japanese-inspired composition transforms a sunken space under the stairs. Rock gardens, complete with gravel raked into intricate spirals, work particularly well in areas with little foot traffic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is from Houzz. Hoang is a landscape designer and was previously a garden editor for Sunset Magazine and in-house designer for Sunset’s Editorial Test Garden.

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Jerome home tour shows off the old and the new


Every year for over half a century, the historic mining town of Jerome opens its doors for a home and building tour.

This weekend, about 1,500 people are expected head to the tiny mile-high town in the Verde Valley for the 52nd annual Jerome Historic Home and Building Tour.

Donna Chesler, vice president of the Jerome Chamber of Commerce and publicist for the event, said the tour appeals to people for a variety of reasons.

“People are fascinated with life in a town of 440 people, including the challenges of not having many of the services most people come to expect, like a grocery store, bank, gas station, doctor and drugstore, and the lifestyle of being in a town that attracts one million visitors a year,” Chesler said.

“Then there are the folks who love a great renovation. The tour will take people to homes that not only have unique settings perched on a hillside but have interesting interiors, to say the least. Some are simple, some are elaborate in detail and some are works in progress.”

The tour will feature seven stops, starting with the Clubhouse, which was a hospital before it became a meeting place for residents of Jerome and nearby Clarkdale during the mining days. Now, it’s being refurbished as condominium housing, Chesler said.

The tour will also include stops at the Pontious House, with tin ceiling and rough-hewn woodwork; the David Soul House, which Chesler said is home to a wood sculptor and innkeeper; and the Gamble/Burris Cottage, with lovely gardens and landscaping and huge views.

People should wear comfortable shoes and expect to do plenty of walking and stair climbing, Chesler said. Vans will take people to some of the stops.

The event organizers do not repeat a home on the tour for at least five years, which Chesler said is pretty impressive considering there are not that many houses in a town of 400 people.

“It is a challenge to find great properties with amazing owners who will open the doors to 1,500 people for two days,” she said.

Jerome Historic Home and Building Tour

When: Tickets on sale 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21.

Where: Tour starts with ticket purchase at Spook Hall on Hull Avenue, Jerome.

Admission: $20, $10 for kids, free for age 3 and younger.

Details: 928-634-2900,

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