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Backyard Bar Shed Ideas That Let You Celebrate Summer Right

Who wouldn’t want a backyard bar shed? Seriously, folks, outdoor living rooms and fire pits are fantastic, all the more so with a strategically timed whiskey smash, glass of pinot, or a cold IPA.

“Bar sheds are simply cool,” says Brian Rhoden of Daniel’s Lawn Care. “They really elevate a backyard to your neighborhood’s new favorite Friday night hot spot.”

So instead of schlepping inside for a drink, consider installing this latest must-have backyard amenity. We break down how you can turn an existing or new shed into a watering hole, and the necessities that come with slinging booze.

A surfboard bar adds a beach vibe to this bar shed.
A surfboard bar adds a beach vibe to this bar shed.


Claim an outbuilding

The first thing you need is a shed. Maybe you have one in the backyard already which you can purge of rakes and hedge clippers. Just make sure you have enough alternative storage space.

“If you don’t have anywhere else to store landscaping equipment, it could be wise to consider adding a new shed,” says Jay Labelle, owner of the Cover Guy, an online retail outlet for hot tub covers and supplies. That might entail building a new shed.

Rhoden notes that you can buy a decent, prefab wooden one for $1,000 to $3,000.

Plan for elbow room

Factor in size, because a really small shed probably won’t be ideal for a bar. Think about how many people you plan to host on a regular basis, as well as your ideal seating (stools take up less room than a booth). Keep in mind that your local building department might have a size restriction on backyard sheds built without a permit. Around 120 square feet is usually a safe bet.

Consider the bar shed’s location

How will your bar shed fit into the backyard design? If you already have the shed, you might want to relocate it away from a child’s bedroom (or a cranky neighbor with a decibel meter). And if you want to drink alfresco, leave enough room to set up a seating area near the shed.

A Tiki bar shed out back
A Tiki bar shed out back

Courtesy Instructables

Your options: Tiki, pub, lounge, dive, beach, or sports bar

Start by considering the basics when designing the interior of your bar shed, says Rhoden. This means the flooring, wall paneling, and paint. Then decide on the vibe you’re going for. Do you want to show off the license plates you never turned in to the DMV (dive bar) or your collection of Polynesian drinkware (Tiki bar)?

The shelves for wine and liquor, as well as the bar itself, can be purchased or made. You might want to design the bar around a small fridge or cooler tucked under the serving side of your bar to avoid taking up additional square footage in the shed, says Deemer Cass of Landscaping Garden Design.

“And don’t forget to mount a bottle opener on the wall.”

Get wired

If the bar of your dreams contains a miniature fridge, ice maker, and blender for frozen margaritas, you’re going to need power.

“Before you get started, consult an electrician on the resources available in your backyard,” says Nate Burlando, owner and president of Distinct HVAC. Depending on the type of exterior power outlets you already have, you might need to trench in extra power.

Or is a rustic bar with a cooler, bag of ice, and cocktail shaker more your style? That makes things easier, but keep in mind that your bar is going to need some light if your drinking goes late into the night. If you decide to go electricity-free, battery-powered strands of fairy lights should be enough to illuminate your pale ale.

“They also give your backyard a nightly enchantment for your get-together,” says Rhoden.

Even a simple, rustic bar shed will be a major draw.
Even a simple, rustic bar shed will be a major draw.

Add alcohol…

“The booze just might be the most expensive part of your backyard bar shed,” says Rhoden. Once word gets out about your gin martini, you might be tempted to open for business. But it’s definitely illegal to sell alcohol in your backyard, so stick to sharing your drinks with friends, for free.

… and a little music

Bars are not libraries. They are meant for conversation, laughter, and the occasional singalong.

“Just bear in mind you have neighbors, and loud music in the late evening is sometimes frowned upon,” says Cass.

The boring stuff

Check with your homeowners insurance agent to see if you need to insure your backyard bar shed for liability. (You’ll be glad you did.)

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Coronado Couple Win “WaterSmart Landscape Contest”

The “WaterSmart Landscape” of Priscilla Jones and Jeffery Rudd’s front yard (Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

California American Water logo

In March of 2017, California American Water announced its new Sustainable Landscapes Program in which it encouraged customers of California American Water who are residents of the San Diego region to “take a watershed approach to landscaping their yards.” Partnering with the San Diego County Water Authority, the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Surfrider Foundation, and the Association of Compost Producers, the mission of the new program set out to be “the go-to resource to assist San Diego County residents in adopting sustainable landscaping best practices through education and training, technical assistance, landscaping materials and financial incentives.”


One such incentive included the WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Priscilla Jones, who was raised in Coronado and graduated from Coronado High School, and her husband Jeffery Rudd, were thrilled when it was announced that their home, located at 729 A Avenue, was selected as the winner of their water district. Ten water districts were part of the contest, with just one winner for each district. The award ceremony took place on Sunday, May 21, 2017 in El Cajon, and besides earning bragging rights, an award sign for their front yard, and a certificate, Priscilla and Jeff were presented with a $250 gift card to Home Depot.

The award is proudly on display in the couple’s front yard.

Jeff learned of the contest after opening his California American Water bill one month, and said to Priscilla, “Why don’t we apply?” The couple, who had gone through the process of redesigning their landscape back in 2015, had already taken the steps to install sustainable landscaping at their home. To enter the contest, Priscilla and Jeff had to fill out an application, which included submitting up to twenty photographs of their yard. (The photographs they submitted are included in this article.) They were required to submit at least one before photo of their yard prior to the installation of the WaterSmart landscape as well as include after photos, showing the yard from various angles and up close shots of their plants and landscape features.

A photo of the couple’s Coronado home before WaterSmart Landscape was installed (Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

LED lighting enhances the yard’s landscaping at night. ((Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Additionally, to apply for the contest, the couple was required to write a short essay in which they had to explain why they elected to install a WaterSmart landscape, how they went about the design and installation process, and list any unexpected benefits of their WaterSmart landscape. In another component of the application process, Priscilla and Jeff had to list all the water-wise plants they used in their landscape, including grasses, sedum, jade trees, bougainvillea, an olive tree, hibiscus, plumeria, and lavender, and then they had to list the other elements of their landscaping, such as river rock in the dry river bed, mulched beds, a new parkway which included decomposed granite instead of grass, flagstone pathways, artificial turf, and the installation of LED lighting to bring another perspective to their landscaping at night.

Jeffery Rudd and Priscilla Jones, winners of California American Water’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

The homeowners didn’t set out to win any awards when they decided to redesign their landscape in September of 2015. Their home, which originally belonged to Priscilla’s late parents, Warren and Dorothy Jones, has benefited from “going green” for decades now, and when Priscilla and Jeff made the decision to redesign the front yard, they did so in a manner that was consistent with the spirit her parents embodied. Priscilla shares, “My parents were avid gardeners, and they were recycling water to use in the garden many years ago, long before mandatory water use restrictions were put into place and long before drought tolerant landscape became a part of San Diego County landscaping design. They were very interested in trying to conserve water, and it all goes back to them. That’s why, in large part, we wanted to redesign the front landscape.”

LED lighting was part of the landscape redesign. (Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Priscilla’s parents moved to Coronado in 1957, and purchased their home at 729 A Avenue in 1967. When the home was entrusted to Priscilla after her parents passed away, she and Jeff set out to complete the landscaping vision her parents had in mind. She says, “They had wanted to replace the lawn in the front, and put in more water conscious landscaping. Unfortunately they did not live to see the new landscaping.” Priscilla takes great joy in a cactus planted by her father, who passed away in 2001. The cactus continues to bloom with beautiful yellow flowers, reminding her of father’s dedication to his beloved yard. Of his father-in-law, Jeff remarks, “He had a very green thumb.”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

While winning any award is always significant, this WaterSmart Landscape award is even more meaningful to Priscilla and Jeff because their hard work was done as a way to honor Priscilla’s parents, and a wonderful friend of theirs helped bring their vision to reality. “One of the great things about this project was that it was undertaken with our longtime friend, Bob Koch. He really came up with some great design ideas,” Priscilla shares. “He and David Reicks had installed drought tolerant landscape at their home in San Diego, and we had seen what they had done with their yard.” As Bob helped Priscilla and Jeff redesign their yard, they kept some of her parents’ landscaping legacy in tact as they thoughtfully incorporated new elements while at the same time replacing other elements such as the grass.

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Even the grass in the driveway was removed and replaced with decomposed granite and rocks. (Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Priscilla reflects on the significance of the WaterSmart Landscape award by saying, “We were surprised and thrilled that we won. The award was wonderful in the sense that we felt we were contributing and helping the state with its terrible drought issues.” Jeff adds, “It looks great, it saves money, and, most importantly, it saves water.” Besides the award, another bonus of the redesign, according to Priscilla, is that it accentuates the architecture of the home, which was built in 1910.

Jeff explains that redesigning their front yard wasn’t as simple as having someone come up with a new design. “We worked with the city for the permitting,” Jeff explains, giving kudos to Dave Johnson (Encroachment Permits) and Sam Katzenstein (Assistant Engineer Right-of-Way Permits) of the Coronado Public Services and Engineering Department for reviewing their plans and working with them to ensure everything was up to Coronado’s municipal codes, especially the addition of artificial grass. Jeff compliments Johnson and Katzenstein by saying, “They were incredibly helpful from start to finish.” Working with the city, the couple made sure that the parkway (the area between the sidewalk and the street) was landscaped in accordance to the City of Coronado’s Tree Master Plan.

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Once the design was completed and approved by the City of Coronado, the real work began. At Bob Koch’s suggestion, Jeff and Priscilla hired the landscaping company Grass Doctor to do the removal and installation. Besides removing the grass, a bulldozer was brought in to remove the sprinkler system, which was no small task. Of the owner of Grass Doctor, Randy Rivers, Jeff sings his praises, saying Randy and his team made the transformation of their front yard “such a smooth process.” After listening to Jeff and Priscilla’s ideas about the dry river bed, Randy drew some designs, which, according to Jeff, “turned our general ideas into a well-designed reality.”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

For those people who have considered altering their own landscape to make it more sustainable, Priscilla offers, “It’s a chance to really feel like you’re contributing to our community and state. This is the climate we live in, and using native plants, you create an infinite variety of wonderful and creative designs that will thrive here. Everyone’s projects can be different and beautiful in their own way.”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Jeff encourages people to embrace the natural beauty of this region. He says, “Sustainable landscaping looks good here because this is Southern California, it’s not England, where you can have lots of grass and English gardens because there’s a lot of rain.” While Jeff certainly appreciates the landscaping features found in other areas, he understands that not all landscaping designs “fit here” because this area doesn’t get nearly the same amount of rain as places where gardeners don’t have to worry about droughts. “It’s getting back to basics, and appreciating the indigenous plants and flowers that grow here,” he says.

Priscilla is quick to point out, “We’re not crusaders by any means. It was something that suited our home. Everyone needs to make their own decisions about what they feel works best and looks best in their yards. All gardens are beautiful. This is just an alternative, and if people are thinking about doing something along these lines, this is just another in the whole spectrum of things.” Jeff adds, “This was the perfect decision for us, and everything just seemed to come together. There were so many reasons to do it, and there really weren’t any reasons not to do it. The state encourages this with rebates so what’s not to like? ”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

For people interested in the installation of drip-irrigation and sustainable landscaping, Priscilla suggests going to their water district’s website first, where there’s a wealth of information, and Jeff advocates, “Speak with the engineering department with the city about permits and approvals. They have more experience with this, and can help people get started.” Jeff also offers, “Talk to your neighbors. There are a lot of people in the community with great ideas. You don’t have to do this alone. Trust me, we didn’t know what we were doing at the beginning, and we were grateful for all the guidance and advice that people like Bob Koch, Dave Johnson, Sam Katzenstein, and Randy Rivers gave us.”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

The WaterSmart Landscape contest was not the only award Priscilla and Jeff received this year as they were also awarded a blue ribbon for the Home Front Judging portion of the annual Coronado Flower Show. “It was such an honor. Coronado has so many master gardeners here, and the yards here are so beautiful. I just wish my parents were here to enjoy it,” Priscilla reflected.

Jeff and Priscilla say that if they are allowed to apply again for next year’s WaterSmart Landscaping Contest, that they will gladly do so. Priscilla concludes, “I think what California American Water has done to encourage homeowners to think about their gardening and their water use is wonderful.”

(Courtesy of Priscilla Jones)

Additional Information:  Entry form for the 2017 WaterSmart Landscape Contest



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A GROWING CONCERN: Public gardens a great way to seed ideas …

SURE, THE VERY same weekend I travel to see my elder son graduate from the Air Force’s basic military training, you folks here on the Peninsula get utterly fantastic, warm, even hot sunny weather for the first time this year.

But before I go on and get envious, let me remind everyone that with that hot, sunny weather, make sure you water very well all your newly planted botanical wonders.

As they begin to grow and “root in” to the surrounding area, it is vital that the soil stay moist around their yet-to-have-adhered root balls. Otherwise, they will go into a stressed condition.

Always do a deep watering on days of 80 degrees or more, regardless of whether the soil is moist.

But now, back to my envy, which is certainly alleviated by the fact that I took the opportunity to visit the very impressive San Antonio (Texas) Botanical Garden, all 31 acres of a horticultural dream.

As I do with any public garden anywhere I travel, I always remember: “Plagiarism is the world’s second-oldest profession.”

With that said, I am always on the hunt for new ideas, plants, designs, materials and inspiration.

Botanical gardens and public gardens are great places for any gardener seeking out careful thought, design and plant selection. Please choose to spend your leisure hours exploring these works of art.

Gardens are not only works of art but expressions of one’s inner desires. This of course includes your own yard.

As a gardener, you should always be on the lookout for public gardens or garden tours and walks, precisely for the inspiration and creativity they can impart.

Botanical gardens especially are ideal because they are divided into numerous themes, such as native plants, formal gardens, rose gardens, conservatories, water gardens, English and cottage gardens, along with vegetables, sculptures or, in San Antonio’s case, a cacti garden.

And your home is a mini-botanical garden was well, even if you do not realize it.

You have a shade (area) garden, a sunny garden, spots for entertainment, containers and a green mall, too (i.e., the lawn). You have trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, perennials, edibles and vines, along with bulbs, ground cover and pathways.

The trick always is to blend these vastly different components, conditions and elements into one cohesive landscape.

This is why I invite you (plead and beg you) to always seek out public gardens as places of inspiration and venues for ideas.

Each and every garden is as different as you and I as individuals, only landscaping is expressed with plant materials, hardscapes (backaches), form and textures.

This difference makes for a wonderful array of styles, colors, designs and forms.

As summer draws ever so near (June 20 at 9:24 p.m. Pacific time), now is the perfect time to be thinking about your yard and its function.

Do you need more entertainment areas in the form of a gazebo, pizza oven, patio or deck?

Should there be more — or less — grass?

What about shade trees, vines, an orchard or even art?

This time of year and for the next several months, gardens are at their prime, so it is a primary function for all of you horticulturalists to get “out and about.”

Exude an effort to travel, visiting botanical gardens, arboretums, conservatories or at the very least the various Master Gardeners’ garden tours this summer (more details on these to follow in the weeks to come).

I, as a professional garden designer, always seek out public gardens for the ideas and inspiration someone else has worked so hard to create.

It helps me not to have reinvented the (garden) wheel.

This force within you should be the same reason you seek out the beauty in the landscape where we live.

P.S. It’s always wonderful to return safely home to the Evergreen State and our own huge botanical garden: the beautiful Olympic Peninsula.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsula
(subject line: Andrew May).

Article source:

Garden Variety: Garden Tour offers landscaping ideas /

Visiting established gardens offers the opportunity to see firsthand what plants grow well in the Lawrence area, which plants make the best combinations, what landscape plants really look like at maturity (instead of the cute little baby plants at the garden center), and how to deal with certain yard and garden challenges. The Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners are offering that opportunity through their biennial Garden Tour to be held June 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The 2017 Garden Tour features seven private gardens, and a plant sale at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper Street, Lawrence. Tour-goers visiting the plant sale may also want to allow time to visit the Demonstration Gardens at the Fairgrounds, although they are open to the public and free to visit any time. Tickets to visit the private gardens on the tour are $10 per person. Plant sale hours are 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 3 only.

Location of the private gardens on the tour and complete descriptions of the gardens are listed in the tour ticket.

Private gardens on the tour feature a wide variety of plants suitable for the Lawrence area; landscape ponds, water bubblers, and other water features; creative solutions to slopes and drainage issues; different types of patios, walls, and paths; and unique garden art.

One garden features a dry creek bed, bridge, and arbor among meandering paths, fairy houses, and birdhouses. The gardener-owner is a self-described plant collector.

Another property features a multi-level backyard with flowering plants, vegetables, herbs, and a rain garden. The gardener-owner uses rocks to accent, naturalize, and provide erosion control in the garden.

One garden on the tour is in the country and features the most expansive collection of plants. Tour-goers interested in plant selection and ideas for plant combinations may wish to plan for extra time at this garden.

Tickets may be purchased at local garden centers, at the plant sale at the Fairgrounds on June 3, at private gardens during the tour, and online at Signs will be in place to help guide tour-goers to the gardens over the weekend. Please respect tour hours.

Tour organizers also ask that tour-goers leave strollers at home. Carried infants may attend free of charge.

More information is available at and

— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. She is the host of “The Garden Show.”

Copyright 2017 The

Lawrence Journal-World.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
We strive to uphold our values for every story published.

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Preliminary ideas pitched for Wooster Green, logo selected – Sentinel

wooster greem

wooster greem

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2017 9:28 am

Preliminary ideas pitched for Wooster Green, logo selected

By PETER KUEBECK, Sentinel-Tribune City Editor


Members of the Wooster Green Steering Committee reviewed three preliminary designs for the development of the green space at the former junior high property on Thursday, and settled on a logo for the project.

The meeting was held at the Wood County District Public Library.

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Friday, May 26, 2017 9:28 am.

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Achieve the Landscaping Dream Without the Maintenance Nightmare

Homeowner’s may dream of lush landscapes filled with a plethora of gorgeous flowers, trees, and bushes but they may not always have the time or means to maintain them. Thankfully, there are ways to have beautiful landscaping that’s both pleasing to look at and low maintenance. Whether you want color, style, or anything in between, you can have it all without the added work of keeping up with mulch or plants. Here are just a few ideas to consider when putting together your easy-to-care-for lawn:


One of the easiest (and the cheapest) ways to cover a lot of yard space is to lay down stonework. This can be done in the form of stone pathways, patios, or a walled off rock garden. Laying a border on either side of a natural path and filling it with gravel is also a simple way to create definition and clean lines. When using gravels or other porous and penetrable groundcovers, try using a line of mesh underneath to help keep weeds and plants out of pathways and patios. A professional landscaper can design the layout for you and lay down the groundwork or you can make this a personal ‘DIY’ project for the family.


While flowers and seasonal buses may need soil and constant trimming or pruning, shrubs planted amongst rock bedding are virtually maintenance-free aside from the occasional shaping. Pine bushes, especially, require little to no upkeep and will even remain green all year round. The key to keeping your yard low maintenance is to include plant life that won’t overgrow or need a lot of attention. Messy, unkempt gardens can make a lawn look unattractive and professionally designed landscaping with too much to take care of can be wasted potential. If you don’t want your garden to grow unchecked, start by removing the plants that cause problems and replace them with ones that you have the time to manage.


Making use of existing structures and landscape styles on your property and modifying them to be simpler and easier to care for will save you a lot of time and money. For example, an acre of lawn could be redesigned include a lawn; a large bed filled with shrubs and a natural low-maintenance groundcover such as stones or gravel. If you want to use more space, consider putting outdoor entertainment furniture set on a concrete patio. If foliage and plant life has completely taken over your existing hardscape structures such as mailboxes, arbors or pergolas, remove it immediately. These types of things can quickly become eyesores if not well cared for, but they can be great landscaping centerpieces if they’re given a new coat of paint or a modern update.

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Warrensburgh Green Thumb Perennial Swap set for weekend


May 25, 2017

8:00 AM

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Landscaping.Center Now Provides Modern Landscape Design and …

Albuquerque, NM — (SBWIRE) — 05/23/2017 — There are millions of people across the globe, who keep looking for contemporary landscape design ideas to decorate their lawns and give them attractive and attention-grabbing look. Landscape design, however, is a challenging task and it’s not easy to master this „science” right from the start. This is where online resources like Landscaping.Center may be of great help.

Landscaping.Center is a web-based platform that contains dozens of interesting and valuable articles about landscape design and proper lawn maintenance rules. This is the number one destination for all those homeowners, who wish to give their lawns attractive and appealing look. The website belongs to Kimberly Warner, who is an expert in landscape design. She is also the editor in chief and the author of articles the blog contains. This is what Kimberly tells about the website: „Landscape design is a very popular topic, many of my acquaintances, friends, and also random people ask my advice in this or that aspect of the topic. That’s why this site was created – to help people find articles on certain issues in the field of landscape design and lawn care.”

The website is regularly updated with lots of interesting articles that provide useful information on how to design and take care of the lawns surrounding a house. To simplify the search of users and provide them with information relevant to their inquiries, the author of the blog has subdivided it into several sections, which include design ideas and DIY guides on gardening, landscaping, garden pathway or patio design etc. Readers can also browse through other categories that concern additional topics, such as lawn care and garden building. The most popular and widely visited website categories include Fences, Gardening, Landscaping, Lawn Care, Outbuildings, Paths, Patios, Pergolas etc. There is also the search filter option that makes it possible for users to find information they are interested in within the shortest time possible.

For more information, please, feel free to visit

About Landscaping.Center
Landscaping.Center is a website that focuses on landscape design and lawn maintenance issues. The resource was launched by Kimberly Warner with the only idea in mind – to help users find interesting articles on landscape design and maintenance. The website is subdivided into several sections depending upon the topics they cover. The information is updated on a regular basis. It is available 24/7.

Contact Info:
Address: 3315 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, 87110 New Mexico, USA
Tel.: 505-888-1707

Article source:

Des Moines power brokers want to build massive greenhouses downtown





A massive indoor rainforest, an agriculture world trade center, and parks atop the skywalk are among the most audacious ideas downtown has ever seen.

New York architect Mario Gandelsonas helped reshape Des Moines when he laid out his vision for the city nearly 30 years ago. That vision ultimately led to the development of the Western Gateway, construction of the Principal Riverwalk and resurrection of the East Village.

Now, Gandelsonas is back in town promoting his latest idea, one he says is equally ambitious.  

A group led by Gandelsonas and local venture capitalist Jim Cownie wants to build a string of massive greenhouses and vertical farms along the railroad tracks on the south side of downtown. They’re calling it the Des Moines Agricultural Corridor. If fully realized, the project would span the length of downtown.

“The dream is all the way from Meredith Corp. to the state Capitol,” Cownie said.

Cownie hopes to get buy-in from local players like Hy-Vee, DuPont Pioneer, MidAmerican Energy and Iowa State University. The urban farms could feed the desire for locally grown food, provide produce for area farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants, and offer research space for Iowa State students and agriculture companies, he said.

Gandelsonas sees the project as a cultural symbol. It would provide the urban core with a link to the state’s farming roots and showcase Des Moines as a hub for innovative agriculture, he said.

“The idea is not just to build a greenhouse,” he said. “The idea goes deeper than that. It relates to identity, to health, to education. So it is really a grand idea.”

Far-fetched? Maybe. 

At this point, the Des Moines Agricultural Corridor is little more than an idea. No land has been acquired. No money has been raised. And it’s unclear who would own and operate the indoor farms.

Cownie thinks it could take 20 years and tens of millions of dollars to complete.

But after working behind the scenes for a few years, Cownie and Gandelsonas are beginning their campaign to drum up support.

They’ve pitched it to local companies. Officials from MidAmerican and Hy-Vee told The Register they’re listening but they’ve made no commitments. 

Cownie and Gandelsonas held meetings Wednesday and Thursday with City Council members and other power brokers.

In Cownie’s penthouse office overlooking the East Village on Wednesday, Gandelsonas explained to Councilwoman Christine Hensley how the greenhouses, lit with bright colors, would create a “river of light” visible to people flying into the city.

Hensley, Des Moines’ longest serving city council member, whose ward includes downtown, said she would be apt to support the project if the greenhouses operated as a for-profit entity that pays property taxes.

“The city has demonstrated that if we get the right people behind projects such as this, there is no question we will get it done,” she said.

The goal is to start with one half-acre greenhouse. Those involved said they don’t know the exact cost. Ballpark: $5 million.  

Cownie thinks the best location is a piece of city-owned land near 12th and Mulberry streets, on the southwest side of downtown.

The first step, Cownie said, would be to come to an understanding with city leaders. He wants the city to challenge him to raise the money for the first greenhouse, and if he does the city, in return, would offer the land for free.

“We need to demonstrate to the city that it would be good public policy to make available the site to start this process,” he said.

If the first greenhouse is a successful model, it could be replicated down the railroad corridor on undeveloped sites.

Cownie heisted to put a timeframe on the project — he’s been burned by such promises in the past — but others involved in the proposal said they want to harvest crops within five years.

More: 13 of downtown Des Moines’ craziest ideas – good and bad

The project will depend on acquiring land. Most of the property along the rail line is privately owned.

That includes land where Cownie has a stake. He recently partnered with the city to offer five square blocks on the east bank of the Des Moines River as a site for a new federal courthouse. It is one of four proposed courthouse locations and includes several blocks for private development.

Gandelsonas said the greenhouses would make nearby properties more valuable by providing a buffer between the rail line. His plan also calls for a pedestrian corridor along the greenhouses with a recreational trail and landscaping.

The idea is not entirely new. Gandelsonas pitched a farming corridor nearly 10 years ago during a city planning process. The original idea was an avenue of outdoor crops stretching across downtown to showcase Iowa agriculture.

Among movers and shakers in Des Moines, Gandelsonas has a fervent  following. The Argentina-born, Paris-educated architect came to city in the late 1980s and helped craft the Des Moines Vision Plan, a blueprint for revitalizing the city.

Over the years, he has proposed some of the city’s most audacious projects.

One idea called for massive apartment complexes built in the shape of letters on the north side of downtown. He also dreamed of carving back the Des Moines River banks so City Hall and the World Food Prize would stick out on peninsulas.

But Gandelsonas is also credited with some of the city’s biggest successes. He had the vision to demolish roughly 10 blocks of aging buildings and car dealerships on the west side of downtown to make room for a park. The project drew scoffs from skeptics and backlash from preservation advocates, but the development of the Western Gateway ultimately led to the construction of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and hundreds of millions of dollars of office development from Nationwide, Wellmark and Kum Go.

Asked if the Des Moines Agricultural Corridor is even more ambitious, Gandelsonas said: “It feels as impossible as the idea for Gateway Park… It is quite an undertaking, but I view it as important to accomplish this.”

Why now?

Cownie, 72, and Gandelsonas, 78, say they’re getting older so it’s now or never.

And downtown has the momentum to support it, Gandelsonas said.

It also helps that a compatible idea is gaining steam. Iowa State officials and local business leaders are working on a proposal to create a year-round, indoor market inside Kaleidoscope at the Hub, an aging downtown shopping center.

Iowa State’s Courtney Long, who is overseeing the idea, said the greenhouses could provide produce for the indoor market and collaborate in other ways. Long has been meeting with the greenhouse backers for about a year to discuss the project.

“I think it’s interesting and unique,” she said. “There is nothing like it.”

To lead the greenhouse effort, Cownie is considering Bill Menner, a consultant who recently served as a state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Menner said there could be USDA grants or government loans available for the Des Moines Agricultural Corridor.

And there are good models to learn from, he said. A group in Cleveland recently opened a 3.25-acre urban greenhouse, though it sits in a more industrial area, not in the heart of downtown.

Menner sees the greenhouse development as a way to bridge the urban-rural divide that has grown amid water lawsuits, bitter politics and rural population loss.

“By placing urban agriculture in the center of a metropolitan area, you’re actually building a bridge to the producers and the folks who make a living (in agriculture) while at the same time creating access to locally grown foods,” he said.

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Wasco Nursery offers tips for colorful landscaping from Spring through Fall

With careful planning, you can have beautiful, colorful landscaping from early spring until the middle of fall. By choosing trees, bushes, and flowers that have a variety of blooming periods, you can give your home terrific curb appeal and a delightful backyard to enjoy.

The growing season for northeastern Illinois is generally March through November for trees, April through October for perennials, and May through September for annuals. “Early bloomers that do well here include Magnolia, Redbud, and Ornamental Pear trees,” said Cheryl Monzingo, Marketing Manager for Wasco Nursery. “Dogwood, Smoke Tree, and Lilac trees bloom in mid-summer, and there are many trees that offer outstanding fall foliage.”

Other popular early bloomers include Forsythia and Rhododendron shrubs; Lenten Rose, Bleeding Heart, and Bluebell perennials; daffodil, tulip and crocus bulbs; and annual pansies and violas. For mid-summer blooming options, consider Rose, Hydrangea, and Rose-of-Sharon bushes, and Coneflower, Daylily, and Black-eyed Susan perennials. For fall, plant Asters, Chelone, Grasses, Sedum, and Mums. Evergreens, like Boxwood and Yews, provide greenery all year long, and provide a nice backdrop for flowers.

For color ideas, Monzingo recommends visiting Wasco Nursery’s garden center regularly, and exploring your own neighborhood and town, to see what’s in bloom at various times. “At Wasco Nursery, we offer Creative Landscape Design options to fit the scope of any project,” said Monzingo. “Our knowledgeable staff can offer recommendations, and we present seminars throughout the year. We also offer online assistance through the Plant Finder section of our website.”

Common mistakes include planting only spring bloomers without room to add additional plants that bloom later, incorporating too many plants with similar foliage, and planting only one of many varieties of plants. “It’s best to plant larger groups of one type of plant for maximum impact,” said Monzingo. “We can help our customers create a lovely, colorful landscape that lasts for months!” For more information, please contact:

Wasco Nursery Garden Center

41W781 Route 64

St. Charles IL 60175

Ph: (630) 584-4424

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