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Yes, You Can and Should Garden: Part I

This is the introduction to a multi-part series on how to garden.

I have recently decided to start a garden design business. Academia, after all, don’t pay like it used to. So in addition to my own gardens, I’m now working on several other people’s gardens. I’m an absolute obsessive about gardening. I routinely spend 8 hours a day in the garden (if my children are willing to stay outside that long). One of the things I am most obsessive about, however, is that people don’t have to be obsessive to have a great garden. Most of my friends would love to have a great garden. They just do not have a lot of money or time to devote to creating it. They feel overwhelmed at the task and think it is too much work. I’ve heard, “I always kill plants,” or “I have a brown thumb,” or “I don’t have the energy.” My neighbor once asked me over to give her advice about where to plant a tree. I suggested some spaces and turned to leave. She clutched my arm as I started to leave. She told me she had no idea how to plant a tree and wanted me to walk her through it step by step. I think there are a lot of people like this. Much of the advice on the internet for any given gardening task (starting seeds, digging a bed, designing aesthetically attractive gardens or containers) I’ve read is often, I think, unnecessarily complicated. It involves either too much work or too much expense.

There are many, many reasons to have a garden. Growing your own food is cheaper, 6_2013_Broccolimore fun, usually tastier, and is as low as you can get on the food miles. Grass lawns consume enormous amounts of fresh water. Water run-off from lawns is both wasteful and harmful to marine life. Planting trees strategically can lower your energy bills (without even getting into green roofs or living walls). For a relatively low outlay, it can increase your home’s value by up to 12.7%. Most important (to me), however, is the psychological and health benefits a garden brings. A good garden should make you want to be outside. It should make your lawn (if you have one) something you actually use. Being outside, or seeing beautiful plants on your stoop when you come home from a hard day, or on the windowsill while you’re working, boosts mood, concentration, and energy. An outdoor space devoted to a seating or eating area just invites leisure. Many years before I became a crazed gardener, I was a surly teenager with pink hair. My parents hire a landscape designer to do their gardens. One garden, in particular, was just so beautiful. Back then, I couldn’t identify a single plant besides impatiens. Didn’t matter. I never got tired of looking at it, it never failed to cheer me up.

Of course, you should hire me and I’ll design you a great garden! However, in the assumption that you’re not in the DC area looking for a professional designer, here’s my plan: I want to create a from-soup-to-nuts gardening guide (and hone my own gardening philosophy in the process) for people who want to start gardening but lack money, time, and energy. My focus will be on being as simple and low-maintenance as possible, and as frugal as possible. Sometimes, the frugal option is not a low-maintenance option or vice-versa. When that is the case I will describe both options and indicate which is which.

So you know where I stand, here are the basic tenets of my gardening philosophy:

1) Pretty much anyone can have a garden of some kind. You have a yard that is a bare patch of weeds that is 4 feet by 3 feet? You can cram some serious beauty into that tiny space. You live in an urban apartment? You can have windowboxes filled with herbs or flowers. If your apartment has a roof or patio or balcony, you can have a lovely container container gardengarden with ornamentals, edibles, or both (or, my favorite, edibles that are ornamental). A few containers of simple plants on your front steps can cheer you as you enter your home, especially if they are wafting a lovely smell.

2) Many people who want to start a garden, especially if they are ecologically-minded, focus solely on growing edibles. That is fine! That’s great! I think everyone should have the garden she wants to have, full stop! I will, however, be focusing a good amount of attention on ornamentals as well as edibles. Here’s why: first, they look better, of course! Ornamentals can give you that feeling of outdoor joy. Second, there are many benefits to interplanting edibles and ornamentals. It looks better, it cuts down on pests or diseases jumping from plant to plant, it attracts pollinators which increases your food yield. Ornamentals can also provide environmental benefits that edibles alone cannot: they can be the mainstays of rain gardens or drought-tolerant gardens. They also provide a bigger boost to home values.

3) Many people are into planting only U.S. native plants. (That is, of course, if they live in the U.S. It would be a bit odd to live in Spain and insist on a garden of U.S. natives unless you maintain a botanical garden or are a seriously homesick ex-pat.) There are good reasons for that: native plants are unlikely to be invasive, they are likely to thrive in our climate, they will attract pollinators. Many, probably most, of my go-to plants are natives or hybrids of natives. However, there are some U.S. natives that have some problems thriving (my bee balm and phlox get powdery mildew every summer without fail). And there are some non-U.S. natives that have a long history that establishes they are not invasive, thrive here, and attract pollinators. Some examples of plants that meet all these criteria in my own gardens (which of course does not guarantee they will thrive in yours – more on that later): Caradonna salvia, limelight four o’clock*, Russian sage, certain sedums, kniphofia, delosperma, alcea rugosa, centranthus ruber, and begonia boliviensis. Some may disagree with me on this, of course, so I will try to remember to note which plants I discuss are natives in case a reader wants to use solely native plants.

4) Many people are also into avoiding hybrids and focusing on heirlooms or species plants. This is also something I’m not particularly religious about. Some heirlooms are great. Hybrid marigolds and impatiens are ugly and dull, but some of the heirloom/species ones are awesome. I grew heirloom tomatoes last year, which were not only amazingly delicious, but thoughtfully scattered their seeds for me so I have twice as many plants this year, for free. (Hybrids are usually either sterile or the seeds produce a plant significantly different from the mother plant. If you’ve ever been unsuccessful in growing seeds from fruit you got in the supermarket, it is likely because many of the fruits you buy are hybrids.) Heirlooms often have a beautiful look or scent that was weeded out when hybridizers were striving for some other characteristics. It should be noted that hybridization should not conjure up an Island-of-Dr.-Moreau-like vision of freakish mutations that were never meant to be. Hybrids are not necessarily the brainchild of an evil Monsanto-like corporation bent on world domination. Many hybrids occur naturally via cross-pollination by bees or butterflies. Others are the result of home gardeners having a little fun and experimenting. Some hybrids also really do have more desirable characteristics than the species, and I use them when that is the case.

5) I don’t use any chemicals and almost no fertilizers (with two exceptions). First of all, it’s better for the environment. Second, I don’t want to deal with that kind of maintenance. I can live with a few insect-eaten holes, as long as a plant isn’t decimated. If a plant needs constant tending with chemicals (I’m looking at you, hybrid tea roses), then it’s a plant I don’t need. I might give a spray or two with neem oil, but that’s it. The right plant in the right place in the right soil doesn’t need fertilizer or chemicals. Extremely reluctantly, I made a new exception this year. We got our yard treated with pesticides for ticks and mosquitoes. Doing so probably kills pollinators – most worrisomely, honeybees. Last year, I tried every natural method (getting rid of standing water, planting tons of mosquito-repelling plants, etc). If it worked at all, it didn’t work well enough. None of my family wanted to go outside because they were bitten alive by mosquitos, and one of my sons contracted Lyme disease. The other exception I’ll get to in a later post. Happily, I’ve noticed plenty of pollinators, and no mosquitoes or ticks.

6) Getting rid of lawn is generally good. However, unless you will really never use it, keep some grass around. Grass is simply the single best plant for standing up to foot traffic. If you have kids or dogs especially, they’ll spend more time outside if there’s some lawn.

Here are the topics I thought I’d cover. Please let me know in the comments if there are any others you’d like me to take on.

1) How to select sites and prepare beds and containers.

2) Knowing plants: what are annuals, biannuals, perennials, sub-shrubs, shrubs, and trees? Which plants would suit your garden?

3) Sustainable practices: selecting drought-tolerant plants, rain garden plants, using rain barrels, etc. How to avoid using chemicals and fertilizers, and still stop critters from eating your plants. Best practices for grass lawns.

4) Design principles: how to make landscaping look good.

5) Seeds, bulbs, and propagation 101.

6) How to put plants in the ground and make sure they stay alive with as little maintenance as possible.

7) How to put plants in containers and make sure they stay alive with as little maintenance as possible.

8) Design for special populations: gardens that especially suit children or people with disabilities.

Any other questions? Let me know in the comments what you want to know!

*Four o’clocks can attract Japanese beetles (although that didn’t happen in my garden). Many gardeners therefore use them as bait amongst edibles. The Japanese beetles go for the four o’clocks, and leave the cukes alone.

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Westlake celebrates summer with art, blooms and grads: Westlake’s Good News …

Katherine Boyd, The Good News Gossip 

WESTLAKE, Ohio—Summer officially begins Saturday, June 21, at 6:51 a.m.

That’s when the sun reaches its farthest point north of the Earth’s equator. It’s known as the summer solstice.

The summer solstice is also the day with the most sunlight all year. So make sure you get out and enjoy it!

One great way to enjoy the day is to head to Crocker Park. You can start your morning with a stroll through the North Union Farmers Market.

Artist Shaun Kinley standing in front of one of his Cleveland paintings currently on display at The Eric Mull Gallery in Crocker Park,  

Then, if you’re a true lover of Cleveland, I suggest you stop by the Eric Mull Gallery to see the latest exhibit by local artist Shaun Kinley.

Kinley paints with acrylics. He’s most known for his bright colors and impressionistic images of athletes and sports.

But this exhibit, titled “Cleveland Alive”, captures the city of Cleveland.

Paintings on display feature the West Side Market, Tremont, University Circle and Playhouse Square.

“I’m from Cleveland, so this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” explained Kinley.

“Because the subject matter is important to me, it was almost a little daunting at first, because I wanted it to turn out as great as I imagined it, and I believe I achieved my goal.”

The Eric Mull Gallery is right next to Hyde Park Grill on Main Street in Crocker Park.

For more information visit the Eric Mull Gallery website.

9th annual Crocker Park Fine Art Fair

Art fairs in Cleveland are nothing new. But what makes the Crocker Park Fine Art Fair different is the focus is on fine art.

This isn’t a “crafty” art fair. Rather, its participants are truly gifted artists.

More than 100 locally and nationally known artists will be selling art, jewelry, photography and more.

It’s one of my favorite places to find jewelry that is exceptional and unique.

The Crocker Park Fine Art Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, and 11 a.m. to 6p.m. on Sunday June 15. 

The deadline to enter the annual Westlake in Bloom competition is June 27. All Hilliard Blvd. flower boxes like this one will be automatically be entered in the contest. 

Westlake in Bloom deadline nears

Join in celebrating the beautiful gardens of Westlake by entering the city’s 11th annual “Westlake in Bloom” competition.

All Westlake residents, organizations and businesses are invited to compete in categories ranging from window boxes, to gardens to landscaping.

Deadline to enter is June 27.

Entries will be judged July 7-9.

First, second, third and honorable mention awards will be given.

All who enter receive an invitation to the 2013 Westlake in Bloom Appreciation Reception and Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, August 13, at LaCentre Conference and Banquet Facility.

To learn more visit the city website. 

Bassett Elementary 3rd grader Evan Jennings earned a perfect score in the recent WordMasters Challenge™. 

Bassett 3rd grader earns highest honors

Bassett Elementary 3rd grader Evan Jennings earned a perfect score in the recent WordMasters Challenge™—a national vocabulary competition.

Almost 150,000 students nationwide take part in the challenge each year.

Only 164 3rd graders earned a perfect score.

The students were coached by Rebecca Kowalski, gifted instructor at Bassett and Holly Lane elementary schools.

Westlake resident Claire Martin won the Sister Bernadette Vetter Award at Magnificat High School.  

Magnificat senior wins award

Westlake resident Claire Martin won the Sister Bernadette Vetter Award at Magnificat High School. It’s the highest award given to a graduating senior.

The award recognizes outstanding contribution to the Magnificat community, enthusiastic service to others, and a love of learning.  

Claire was senior class vice president, co-captain of the varsity basketball team, president of the baking club and involved in Campus Ministry.  

Last summer, she also went on a volunteer trip to Immokolee, Florida, to work with children and help build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

Martin will be attending Xavier University in the fall.

Relay For Life of Westshore raises $36,000

Hundreds of walkers, volunteers and family members turned out for the Relay for Life of Westshore on May 31.

More than 200 teams from Westlake, Bay Village, Avon and Avon Lake walked the Westlake High School track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The goal was $29,000 and walkers surpassed that by more than $7000.

It’s not too late to make a donation. You can do so on the Relay for Life of Westshore website until August 31.

The Rusty Barrel restaurant and bar on Center Ridge Road in Westlake is celebrating the World Cup Soccer championship this month. 

Rusty Barrel celebrates the Soccer World Cup

For five years in a row, The Rusty Barrel has been voted “Best Wings” in Westlake by participants in the Relay for Life.

And in my book, The Rusty Barrel has to be the winner for “Best Decorations” for the 2014 World Cup in soccer.

The world’s biggest sporting event kicked-off June 12 in Brazil, and The Rusty Barrel is celebrating by flying the flags from participating countries.

You’re invited to stop by the Westlake landmark to watch the games while enjoying its award winning wings. And they encourage you to wear your favorite team’s gear.

More than 100 people attended the annual Casino Night at the Gardens at Westlake on June 4.  

Casino Night at the Gardens at Westlake

More than 100 people attended the annual Casino Night at the Gardens at Westlake on June 4.

The main floor was set up like a casino with blackjack, roulette and craps tables. Another big attraction was the slot machines.

Party-goers were treated to hors d’oeuvres, drinks and desserts.

The next community event at the Gardens will be a non-traditional Health Fair on September 10.

Gardens at Westlake is located at 27569 Detroit Road in Westlake. 

For information call 440-892-9777.

Stuff the Bus at Porter Public Library

Westlake Porter Public Library is taking part in the United Way’s annual “Stuff the Bus with Books” program.

The library is collecting new and gently used children’s and young adult books.

Drop off your books through June 19 at the library in the marked box.

Books will be given to kids in need in communities across Cuyahoga County.  

Summer fun starts at Westlake Porter Public Library

Time to sign-up the kids for the Summer Reading Program. This year’s theme is “Fizz! Boom! Read!”

The goal of the program is to encourage kids to fall in love with reading.

The more you read, the more chances you have to win prizes.

 Kids can stop by the library to register.

There’s also a summer reading program for adults. This year’s theme is “Literary Elements.”

Adults can stop by the library to register, or go online.

Clague Playhouse presents Medium Susan

Join a live demonstration of Mediumship and participate in a gallery style message event at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 22.

In a group setting, many spirits are able to “get through.”

Your guide, Susan Averre, is a psychic medium and hosts a radio show called “The Medium at Large.” .

Reserved seats at $20, or you can pay $25 at the door.

Call the Clague Playhouse at 440-331-0403 for tickets or more information.

Now it’s your turn!

Now that school is out for the summer I’ll be scrambling to fill my column with tasty good news gossip tidbits. So, I need your help now more than ever! Is someone in your family celebrating a big milestone? Did you win the pie baking contest at church? Or is your volunteer group holding a fundraiser? Please let me know and I may share it right here in The Good News Gossip.

Email me at

Great gossiping with you Westlake!

Trowel & Glove: Marin garden calendar for June 14, 2014

Click photo to enlarge


Succulent talk: Jessica Wasserman of Marin Master Gardeners speaks about “Succulents in Containers: Chillers, Spillers and Thrillers” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 14 at the Falkirk Cultural Center at 1408 Mission Ave. in San Rafael. $5. Call 473-4204 or go to

Garden exchange: The Marin Open Garden Project encourages residents to bring their excess backyard-grown fruit and vegetables to the following locations for a free exchange with other gardeners on Saturdays: San Anselmo from 9 to 10 a.m. on the San Anselmo Town Hall lawn; San Rafael from 9 to 10 a.m. at Pueblo Park at Hacienda Way in Santa Venetia; Mill Valley from 10 to 11 a.m. on the Greenwood School front porch at 17 Buena Vista Ave.; Tamalpais Valley at 427 Marin Ave. from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and Novato at the corner of Ferris Drive and Nova Lane from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Go to or email

Harvest exchange: West Marin Commons offers a weekly harvest exchange at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Livery Stable gardens on the commons in Point Reyes Station. Go to

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at Muir Woods or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays or 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 561-3077 or go to

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions.

Ranch tour: Marin Organic offers a tour of Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 21. Free. Go to for reservations and directions.

Conservation talk: Tony Mekisich of Marin Master Gardeners speaks about “Conserving Water in the Garden” at 1 p.m. June 21 at the Marin City Library at 164 Donahue St. Free. Call 473-4204 or go to

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Harvesting volunteers: The Marin Organic Glean Team seeks volunteers to harvest extras from the fields at various farms for the organic school lunch and gleaning program. Call 663-9667 or go to

San Francisco

Botanical garden: The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, at Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, offers several ongoing events. $7; free to San Francisco residents, members and school groups. Call 661-1316 or go to Free docent tours leave from the Strybing Bookstore near the main gate at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekends; and from the north entrance at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can call ahead for special-focus tours.

Floral palace: The Conservatory of Flowers, at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, displays permanent galleries of tropical plant species as well as changing special exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $2 to $7. Call 831-2090 or go to Volunteers are sought to serve as Jungle Guides and docents. Call 637-4326 or email

Around the bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Rose ranch: Garden Valley Ranch rose garden at 498 Pepper Road in Petaluma is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Self-guided and group tours are available. $2 to $10. Call 707-795-0919 or go to

Burbank’s home: The Luther Burbank Home at Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues in Santa Rosa has docent-led tours of the greenhouse and a portion of the gardens every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $7. Call 707-524-5445.

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tips on planting olive trees and has olive trees for sale by appointment. An orchard walk and mill tour are offered from 10 a.m. to noon June 14. $30. Reservations required. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Garden volunteers: Wednesdays are volunteer days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center at 15290 Coleman Valley Road in Occidental. The garden’s organic nursery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through June 29. Call 707-874-1557, ext. 201, or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen offers third Saturday docent-led tours at 10 a.m. through October. The garden covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

Annual garden tour set for June 21

The Monfort Heights/White Oak Community Association presents five local gardens in its 16th annual Summer Garden Tour.

The tour will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 21. This year’s tour is sponsored by Jeff Webeler and the White Oak Garden Center. Tickets are $10 per person in advance at the garden center and, the Monfort Heights branch of Cheviot Savings Bank office, 5550 Cheviot Road.

Your ticket will entitle you to visit all the gardens and receive bottled water, refreshments, and a price-off coupon at the White Oak Garden Center. When you present your pre-sale ticket at any of the gardens, you will receive a pass and a map to all the gardens. Tickets are $13 per person on the day of the tour and are available at every stop on the tour.

Garden tour chairwoman Jackie Golay put her home on the tour. The garden is at 5417 Brigade Drive, which is in LaSalle Place, off Sprucewood Drive, off North Bend Road. Her garden features many annual and perennial plants surrounding the house. Large stone steps usher you through a meandering path, terraced raised beds and beautiful pots, while benches beckon you to sit and enjoy the shade provided by mature trees overlooking a creek bed graced with shade loving plants.

She says this year was an easy year to line up gardens, and it required very little arm twisting to get a varied lineup of gardents to tour.

Nan and Mark Plunkett, both master gardeners, are getting their White Oak garden ready for the tour. The garden at their home at 6009 Eastridge Lane, which is off Clearidge, off Jessup, off Cheviot Road, starts in the front and spreads to the back yard fence.

The front yard is scattered with flower beds of perennials and annuals. You can stroll along the stone paths and mature trees in the backyard garden and find more specimen plants. The Plunketts stress natural species in their garden, and have a Monarch Waystation and a bee hive tucked away in one corner, a haven for pollinators. Mark says gardens are connected with the environment, and what you do with your half-acre can impact the larger world.

“Gardens aren’t just plants. They are part of the food chain, they are habitats, and they impact more than just your backyard,” he said. “That drew me in.”

Nan says she is the daughter of a gardener, and while she found gardening “boring” in her youth, her garden gene kicked in once she had a house of her own. Gardens reflect their individual gardeners. Mark and Nan say their garden is not formal or manicured, but they are well pleased with the fruit of their labors, and they are looking forward to sharing their work with others who enjoy gardening.

The garden at 5215 Oak Hill Drive which is off Boomer Road, off North Bend Road, features a village of gnomes and fairies in miniature homes. The garden features a waterfall rippling down a terraced hillside, and a stone walkway lines with with perennials and surrounded by a variety of tasteful yard art and troughs. The stamped concrete patio hosts large potted plants.

The fourth garden on the tour is at 4696 Farview Lane which is off Farlook, off Jessup, off Cheviot Road. This garden features elegant landscaping, and a wisteria-draped trellis leading to a terrace with groupings of potted plants and a small secret shaded outdoor seating. Metal art works are sprinkled throughout the garden.

The garden at 5797 Farhaven Lane off Farview, off Farlook, off Jessup, off Cheviot Road also features a secret garden. A huge trellis leads to a private paverlock patio with potted plants. Graceful trees adorn a hillside and the back yard is home to a vegetable garden.

Garden tourists can start their tour at any garden. Proceeds from the tour benefit the community association, making it possible to continue the care and upkeep at the interchanges at Interstate 74 and North Bend Road.

June garden tips: Pruning restores damaged plants

By Maryanne Sparks
Fauquier County Master Gardener

Area residents are realizing the effects of the harsh winter on the plants in their landscapes.

Freeze damage shows up as “tip die-back,” dead branches or mortality of the plant. By now, plants should have shown some sign of new growth, and you should have some idea if your plant survived the winter.

That is unless you have already removed the plant from your landscape.

Now is the time to do some corrective pruning.

If a plant is dead at the tips, it may be a condition referred to as “tip die-back.” The plant may be pruned to remove the unsightliness the plant. Look for a pair of healthy leaves that have leafed-out and cut just above them. Discard the dead plant material.

If a plant died to the ground as a result of the prolonged freeze and is showing new growth at the crown, as in the picture above, cut the dead branches as close to the crown as is possible. This will make way for new growth. Don’t be afraid to selectively remove a few stems of the new growth if your plant seems to be overcrowded, if you want to encourage a single stem or if you damage any new growth when removing the old. All will be OK.

If some limbs died to the ground but others did not, start removing dead limbs at the crown. Step back and look at the shape of your plant. Now go in and remove dead tips back to a pair of healthy leaves or new limbs. You can be selective as to how far toward the crown you want to prune. You will be controlling the shape of future growth. Just one note of caution: Frequently step away from you plant and look at the plant from all angles! You cannot reattach a limb once it has been cut.

Pruning as described above at this time of year and for this year’s weather conditions will encourage the plant to put out new growth. Pruning should happen when your plants tell you. Remember that plants were a little slow getting started this year. Wait until plants show much more significant new growth and you will have missed the opportunity for pruning this year.

Other garden activities to be pursued this June include continuing garden cleanup, weeding, cultivating, planting and mulching. Install supports now for top-heavy plants and vegetables. And remember that June is the beginning of turf disease time, with dollar spot, brown patch, and red thread leading the list for this month.

If you have any questions, just “ask a Master Gardener!”

Master Gardeners are available at the Warrenton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 7:30 to noon to answer your garden and pest questions. Samples and/or pictures will help us to better answer your horticulture related questions.

Master Gardeners also staff The Horticulture Help Desk from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office at 24 Pelham Street, Warrenton, VA 20186, by telephone at 540-341-7950 ext. 1, or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

America’s Immigration Problems Won’t Solve Themselves

Some have argued that the recent primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) means House Republicans should not take up any immigration reform legislation. The problem with that argument is the nation’s immigration problems aren’t going to disappear. In fact, continued inaction will make matters worse.

First, America still does not possess a means for individuals to fill lower-skilled jobs with legal visas in year-round industries like construction, landscaping, hotels and restaurants. As a result, illegal immigration has continued, albeit at lower levels due to the post-2007 economic slowdown, and appears to be increasing.

The influx of child migrants at the border is one manifestation of the lack of economic-based visas. Parents who first came to the country to work have found that increased border security means once making it to the United States it is not advisable to travel back and forth, as people did many years ago. Having established economic footholds superior to those in their home countries many have sent for their children to join them, with gang violence an additional push factor driving young people from Central America.

Second, America’s policies on hiring skilled foreign nationals remain problematic. Despite its imperfections, H-1B temporary visas are generally the only practical way to hire a skilled foreign national to work long-term in the United States, yet the annual quota on those visas has been exhausted before the end of the fiscal year for the past 12 years. This has often caused employers to either lose skilled individuals to foreign-based competitors or to hire the individuals themselves outside the country. Either way it means more investment and innovation takes place outside the United States.

A third problem is the low annual quota on employment-based green cards (for permanent residence) and the per country limits within those quotas. That has meant immigrants from India and China in particular can wait 10 years or potentially much longer for a green card. That leaves many highly skilled individuals wondering whether America is the best place to fulfill their career ambitions.

A fourth problem is the lack of an entrepreneur visa to allow individuals with good ideas and the ability to attract capital to gain a temporary visa or permanent residence after creating jobs in America.

The above list of problems in our immigration system is not all inclusive. Would the House and Senate bills currently pending solve all these problems? Surprisingly, they would solve a number of the problems and make a start on others, according to a new analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy.

S. 744, the Senate immigration bill, contains a new year-round visa for low-skilled work and with a set of rules that appear usable, if not ideal, for both employers and employees. While apparent AFL-CIO insistence kept the first year’s supply of new visas at only 20,000, maintaining a similar structure but with a much higher number could make a significant dent in illegal immigration.

On high skill immigration, the best approach for growth, innovation and the U.S. economy would combine the best features of the House and Senate bills. That would mean 1) selecting the less-restrictive House approach to H-1B visas, after changing the requirement that foreign nationals should, in effect, be paid more than their U.S. counterparts; 2) adopting the Senate approach to employment-based green cards, since that provides more green cards and will eliminate the current backlog; and 3) taking the best elements of the House and Senate measures on immigrant entrepreneur visas, particularly the provision in S. 744 to permit a renewable temporary status for a foreign-born entrepreneur.

S. 744 passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013, at nearly the same time the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 2131, the SKILLS Visa Act. Neither S. 744, H.R. 2131, nor any House immigration bill has moved to the House floor. Eric Cantor’s primary election loss has some calling for an end to immigration reform legislation for the foreseeable future. That would be a mistake. The nation’s immigration problems are unlikely to solve themselves.

Make a grand entrance: simple ideas to refresh your entryway

(BPT) – Most people enter their home through the garage or backdoor, forgetting how the front entrance looks to neighbors and guests. Your front door is often the first thing others notice about your home. That’s why it’s key to make a positive first impression.

How to create an inviting entrance

Transform your home’s curb appeal with a new front door. With so many new entry door systems to choose from, ranging from single doors, to double-door options, to those accented with decorative glass, or transoms and sidelights, it’s easy to find one that fits your budget and your style. Pella offers stylish wood, fiberglass or steel options. Choose from ENERGY STAR-qualified design options to create a distinctive look, whether you’re building a new home, remodeling, or simply replacing an old door.

Pick a standout color for your front door

Sticking with your door? A fresh coat of paint will do wonders. Try a bold color to brighten a neutral color scheme. Pick a color that coordinates with your home’s exterior, but dare to be bold with color contrast to add eye appeal.

Update your hardware

Why stop with a fresh coat of paint? Refresh old doors with new hardware. Choose handles and door knockers that complement your home’s exterior design. Pella offers hardware in a variety of finishes, to instantly upgrade exterior doors.

Replace broken or damaged items

Replace broken light fixtures, burned out bulbs and worn out weather-stripping on exterior doors. Pitch that faded wreath, worn out mat, and dead plants, and instead, add a bright new welcome mat and eye-catching seasonal decorations.

Clean up, accent with contrast

Use a little elbow grease and ammonia-free, vinegar-based glass cleaner to wash the windows. Wipe down window and door frames and sweep sills with a dry paint brush or vacuum to remove dirt. See for tips on cleaning windows and doors.

Fill flower boxes or containers with boldly-colored plants to accent your front door. If you’ve painted your door red, plant red and white or red and purple flowers to create a designer look. Or if you’re keen on green doors, try purple or orange flowers for contrast.

Illuminate your walkway

Make it easy for others to see the way to your front door at night. Transform and illuminate walkways with easy-to-install solar lights. Stake them in the ground positioned so solar cells get enough southern exposure for sunlight to recharge nightlights during the day.

Trim bushes, create great container gardens

Landscaping should accent your home, not dominate it. Keep bushes below the bottom sill of your windows to improve your view. Trim or replace overgrown shrubs and trees. Keep plant material trimmed several feet away from your home to minimize damage from wind or insects, and help eliminate a place for prowlers to lurk. Keep your porch and steps clear of clutter and create container gardens to accent your entry. Fill decorative containers with plants that accent your home’s color scheme, front door and landscape design.

Visit Pella Windows and Doors on Pinterest and Houzz for more design inspiration and to connect with your local Pella representative for ideas on how to transform the look and comfort of your home inside and out.

Masterfully Planned: Whether starting small or dreaming big, a master plan is … – Press-Register

Photos by Jean Allsopp

David N. Brush compares planning an outdoor space to dining out. You can jump right in with the main course, or you can start small with an appetizer and gradually make your way to dessert.

“Either way, over time, it all ties together,” says Brush, owner of David N. Brush Landscaping Architecture. “One of the best things you can do is develop a master plan and dream big. I think of it like the menu of a restaurant that shows all the courses. You can do just an appetizer, or you can have all seven courses.”
He says a master plan should be one of the first steps in creating an outdoor space. Then it can be implemented all at once or over time, as budget allows.

While the plants play a large role in the design, it’s not the only thing to consider, he adds. Brush collaborates with clients to see just how they will use the space. Then he looks at the architecture of the home and neighborhood to pull in plants and materials to create a space that is a natural extension of the home.

“It doesn’t feel like an add-on,” says Cherie Stine, who sought Brush’s expertise when redoing her tiny Mt Laurel backyard. “It’s almost like creating another room to your house to relax, to entertain, to sort of be part of the house.”

The following homeowners all had different goals when it came to their outdoor spaces. By working with the families, their landscapers and contractors, Brush was able to incorporate their ideas and create spaces that fit the owners’ vision as well as their environment.

Going with the Flow
Rachel and Tyler Stone wanted an outdoor space that family and friends would want to spend time in, especially as their children got older.

When they moved in, the yard had a pool and a trampoline but not much else. The historic Hollywood home had a large backyard, though, with lots of possibilities.

“What they had was a liner pool that was really in disrepair,” Brush says. “They had an awesome yard, though. It was just disconnected.”

The yard could be divided into two distinct areas: the upper level off the back porch of the main house and the pool below. Brush broke down the space even further, creating outdoor areas for the family to enjoy with the pool and spa as the main attraction.

It was resurfaced with Gunite, which is a mixture of cement and sand, and a plaster finish, giving the water a natural look instead of the chlorine blue the liner created. They added a chill pad, or a shallow shelf in the pool for lounging, which could double as a baby pool, Brush says.

The cement deck surrounding the pool was replaced with natural stone from Crab Orchard, Tenn. “Each one is like a piece of art,” Brush says of the pavers. “We’re seeing this used more and more.”

The pool deck was extended allowing for lounge chairs on one side and a dining area on the other.
Natural stone steps lead up to the other section of this backyard. Located off the back porch of the house and in front of the separate guest house, Brush says it now serves as an adult gathering space with a sitting area and fire pit. The space overlooks the pool, giving parents an unobstructed view below.

The plants are mainly evergreens. Potted flowers add pops of color throughout the different spaces.

While the Stones’ have accomplished much of their goals for their outdoor living area, Brush says future plans include an outdoor kitchen by the pool, as well as a game area near the guest house.

Making the Connection
While the Stones wanted a yard centered around water, Lori and Mike Ermert wanted theirs to be focused on fire.

The avid Alabama fans wanted a space where they could watch football games outdoors while staying warm in the cooler months, so Brush helped them bring the indoors outside with a pavilion and outdoor fireplace. As with all projects, he says it was important that the Ermerts’ outdoor space be an extension of their Vestavia Hills house and its architecture.

“It was important that this tie back to the house,” he says. “We wanted matching material. Inside they have stone, so we took that material and mimicked it on the entertainment center and chimney.”

The brick surrounding the fire place and the retaining wall are covered in the same veneer as the house, so even though the space is detached from the house it still flows from the indoors out.

Custom-made cabinets were inset above the fireplace to house the flat-screen TV. Lori selected the clay chimney pot that tops the chimney.

Brush says when he started the project, many of the trees and shrubs were pushed up against the house. He relocated some and added color with trees such as Japanese maples, loropetalums and forest pansy redbuds.
“I like to pick shrubs that bloom different times of the year,” he says. “You can find red- or purple-leafed trees to bring in contrast.”

As with many of Brush’s projects, the family built in room for future growth. Stone pavers are positioned in the grass to lead to a future project, and the area behind the pavilion is sodded for future use.

Maximizing the Space
At about 1,200 square feet, Cherie Stine was certain she couldn’t have what she really wanted in her Mt Laurel backyard: a swimming pool and spa.

 “It’s really small, like a postage stamp, really,” she says of the backyard. “I’m still amazed with what he did with such a small space.”

Brush designed a space that Stine says she never could have imagined.

She wanted her back yard to have an Alys Beach, Mediterranean feel, yet also fit in with the craftsman style of Mt Laurel. Since Brush is also a resident of Mt Laurel, Stine says she was confident he would make her vision work.

Instead of a full-sized pool, Brush designed a small dipping pool and hot tub. He brought in stone that matched the house and feel of the neighborhood for the retaining wall surrounding the dipping pool.
Stine says even though it was a small space, it was rather high maintenance before the makeover. Brush replaced the grass with pebbles and stone pavers. Indigenous plants behind the retaining wall bring in some greenery.

“Even with the pebbles and the stonework, there is still a lot of green,” Stine says. “It’s a lot lower maintenance, too.”

Her backyard is now complete with chaise lounges that Brush says really topped off the look and feel of the space. The Restoration Hardware chairs are made with reclaimed wood and are topped with neutral-colored cushions.

“Furniture can really give so much personality,” Brush says. “These are rustic. They’re really perfect for the space.”


• Cluster potted flowers on a patio or deck as a budget-friendly way to add a pop of color.
• Pick trees and shrubs that bloom and change color different times of the year for an ever-changing palette.
• Let the house breathe. Often plants are shoved up against the house, Brush says. Allow room for the plant to grow, he advises.
• Seek a professional’s help in developing a master plan that can be implemented all at once or over time.
• If budget allows, opt for larger, fuller trees to give the space a more polished, natural look immediately.
• Use natural materials. “If you want it to look and feel like stone, get stone,” Brush says.

Landscaping Architect: David N. Brush Landscape Architecture |

Stone Residence
Pool and hardscape: Hollywood Pools |

Ermert Residence
Construction: Blackjack Horticulture |

Stine Residence
Dipping pool and spa: Hollywood Pools
Concrete weir and bracket: Fusoform |
Landscape contractor: Blackjack Horticulture
Masonry: Alcahtara Stone | 205-396-9765
Millwork: Southern Botanical |

South Windsor tour showcases variety of garden ‘personalities’

Counting visitors and selling raffle tickets at the 2014 garden tour hosted by t

In early June, at least in this part of New England, most gardens are full of new plantings and just-emerging perennials. It will take a few more weeks for beds to fill in and create the lush landscape envisioned by their creators.

Still, the 2014 tour hosted by the Down to Earth Garden Club of South Windsor gave visitors a taste of things to come, and offered a chance to talk with other gardeners about unusual plants and creative uses of the natural landscape.

Among the seven homes featured on the tour, which was a fundraiser benefiting the garden club and Wood Memorial Library, one of the favorites was that of Bob and Shirley Smith on Clark Street.

“It’s like a paradise,” said visitor Mary Knell.

“It’s a great place to have a wedding,” added her husband, Gary.

Visitors entering the property were first greeted with the aroma of cedar trees.

And then, from the distance came the deep-throated croaking of bullfrogs who have made their home in the marshy spots on the outskirts of a man-made pond.

The pond reflects the images of plants and trees on its circumference, as well as a gazebo and the arch of a footbridge leading to a grove of black walnut trees, where the undergrowth has been cleared to allow a carpet of soft grass to cover the area.

The abundance of trees on these 10-plus acres creates a cool sanctuary.

Next to the house is a pool with a glassed-in bathhouse that, according to Bob Smith, is heated in the winter so that it can be used for relaxing year-round.

Both sides of the fence that rings the pool area are landscaped with a variety of flowers and shrubs.

“This is just lovely,” said Nancy Watt, who walked in the walnut grove with her husband, Jim.

“We go on this tour every time it’s held, even in the rain. We get lots of ideas for our own gardens,” she said.

Smith, who owns the Dur-A-Flex company, gave credit to his personal gardener, Kathy Niver of Hebron, and landscaper Jeff Hutton of Earthworks, based in Tolland, for pulling together the different elements of the property to create relaxing vistas, quiet walking areas and cozy entertainment spaces.

Another tour favorite was the Timber Trail property owned by Bert Kissling and “Jo” Johari Abdullah. One of the eye-catching features of their multiple gardens was a small waterfall next to the deck and below a bay window that feeds a fish pond inhabited by Koi fish (Japanese carp), the largest of which is about 15 years old, Abdullah said.

Gina Lyons, whose Tallwood Drive gardens also were featured on the tour, talked with Abdullah about how the fish pond was created and was pleased when he offered to visit her property to help her plan her own.

Lyons also praised the overall design of the gardens, which included tall stands of bamboo shading seating areas and pathways. “These gardens are just beautiful. I would sit here all day,” she said.

Lyon said she enjoys working side-by-side with her husband, Tim, on their landscaping projects, which mainly border a white fence surrounding their property.

In addition to ornamental grasses, shrubs and annuals, the Lyons have added potted plants and hangers to their comfortable deck and around the property, including a sherbet pink/orange begonia beside a “golden” bleeding heart.

A red hibiscus with twining stalks added a pop of color next to a mound of chartreuse ground cover and other plantings beside their garden shed.

To learn more about the Down to Earth Garden Club, visit the website

Selby Gardens beautifies the Suncoast

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby

Marie Selby

Marie Selby

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:58 pm

Selby Gardens beautifies the Suncoast


NOTE: This is the first installment of what promises to be a long and successful partnership between ABC 7 and Selby Gardens. Our combined goal is to benefit the community by providing useful information about our surrounding environment here on the Suncoast. Without further ado, get to know Marie Selby Botanical Gardens …

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a series of smaller gardens within one big one located on the shores of Sarasota Bay. What makes Selby unique is that it is one of the only botanical gardens in the world specializing in epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that grow on something — trees, rocks, branches, surfaces, etc — but don’t take any nourishment from their host. They are marvelously adaptive plants that are resourceful enough to climb up into the tree canopies seeking light. They also capture and store rainwater, and are innovative in finding sources of food.

Sarasota’s climate makes it a suitable venue for hosting an epiphyte showcase like Marie Selby Botanical Gardens because many epiphytes live in tropical habitats. Orchids, ferns, bromeliads and gesneriads make up the plants found among the world’s epiphytes. As rainforests around the globe are in decline, our scientists are in a race against time to visit these “wildest places on earth” to study surviving plants and assess the effects of human behavior on the plants and animals living in these forests.

Selby Gardens’ botanists identify, collect and maintain inventories of living and preserved plant specimens to share with international research students and professionals. The horticulture team cultivates and maintains the rare, tropical plants contained in Selby Gardens’ living collection and displays them for visitors to enjoy and experience. The educators on staff at the Gardens are responsible for developing programs that help guests interpret and further appreciate their surroundings.


  • Marie and William Selby moved to Sarasota from Marietta, Ohio, in the 1920s.
  • The Selbys loved being outdoors and appreciated the natural environment. Marie planned the Selby property’s landscaping, creating a large rose garden. Today, the banyan grove she planted in front of her home and the bamboo she planted to block her view of development across the bay still remain.
  • Before Marie died in 1971, 15 years after her husband, she bequeathed her property to establish a botanical garden “for enjoyment by the general public.” On July 7, 1975, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens officially opened its doors to the public.
  • In November 2013, an all-new interactive feature opened– the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden. Designed as a place for children and families to explore and develop a life-long appreciation for rainforest plants and habitats, it also features interactive stations and ongoing educational programming throughout the year.

Selby Gardens is ever-changing and ever-growing, and we look forward to sharing our love of the plants and the natural world each week.

More about Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

  • ARTICLE: Sarasota Magazine celebrates “Best of Sarasota 2014”

More about Environment

  • ARTICLE: Black bear spotted in central Fla. neighborhood
  • ARTICLE: Chinese group launches app to shame polluters
  • ARTICLE: Endangered butterflies to be released in park
  • ARTICLE: Seas rise, Fla. GOP leaders balk at climate change


Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:58 pm.

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