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The Designer’s Sidewalk Garden
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My routine jog winds along a predictable path through the neighborhood. Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed witnessing the transformation of Anne’s front yard into an integrated garden of coordinated planting zones extending from the street curb all the way up to the house. Anne is a graphic designer and artist, and it shows in her plant selection, use of color, and overall vision.

It started at the base of the rockery along the sidewalk.

A few years ago Anne replaced the grass there with beautiful and drought-tolerant lavenders and sedges. She then tackled the front yard that slopes down from the house to the rockery. Out came junipers, a eucalyptus tree, and other plants that didn’t belong. And in their place a Japanese maple, heavenly bamboos, sages, hebes, Japanese spiraeas, euphorbias, sun roses, sedums, azaleas, and ornamental grasses including golden Japanese forest grass.

The final phase concerned the parking strip of lawn, which Anne dug up, turned over, and smothered with a mound of compost in preparation for planting. Next came the plants – all divisions or volunteer seedlings from friends’ gardens or her own. She placed newspaper or cardboard along with more dirt and...

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Native That Announces Spring – and Lights Up the Forest Floor
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I love this time of year. The slow shift to spring brings botanical wonders that can be slowly savored – the native Indian plum, early-blooming ornamental cherries, true-blue Hepaticas, and fleetingly beautiful ephemerals, to name a few.

And then there’s the robust, upright, yellow skunk cabbage – a fine foil to such delicate emblems of early spring.

Around this time of the season, you can see our native Lysichiton americanum (the proper name for skunk cabbage) poking up along streams, in wet woods and meadows, and in bogs. Its flower – a bright yellow spathe cloaking a stalk of tiny white blossoms – inspired another name for the plant: swamp lantern. Indeed it lights up the wet forest floor. But it is its musky odor that prompted the more common nickname. The skunky stink, triggered when the leaves are crushed, attracts carrion-loving pollinators like flies and beetles, who are out and about before the bees and butterflies have awakened.

After the flowers appear, enormous...

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Modernizing a Seward Park Mid-Century Classic
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Submitted by Zachary Semke

Mid-century modern homes comprise a vital piece of Seward Park’s architectural character. Known for their clean lines, open living spaces, and strong connections between interior spaces and the outdoors, these homes have rightly enjoyed a resurgence in popularity recently.

But in 2014, mid-century modern homes are now of a certain age, easily 60 years old or older. Kitchen and bathroom finishes have aged. Cramped bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen/dining spaces no longer serve modern needs. Nonexistent insulation and single-paned windows don’t provide the efficiency or comfort many expect.

While there’s a lot to love about mid-century modern homes, there’s also a lot to update in order to fit the needs of a 2014 family. But how do we rejuvenate our mid-century homes in a way that respects architectural tradition?

A recent remodel of Jane and Bill’s 1952 home in Seward Park grappled with this question, providing a case study for how client, architect and builder can collaborate to renovate for today while preserving mid-century modern architectural heritage.

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Rain Gardens in South Park Help Save the Duwamish
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By Cari Simson

Residents of the South Park neighborhood are fighting pollution in a surprisingly beautiful way—with their gardens. Using RainWise rebates, homeowners from diverse backgrounds and varying levels of “green thumb” are installing beautiful, hard-working rain gardens.

Rain gardens are low-maintenance, native plant landscape features designed to naturally filter rainwater. Rain gardens in South Park help keep pollution out of the Duwamish, protecting the river we love—and homeowners get heavily-discounted professional landscaping in the process.

On September 21st, Stewardship Partners, the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle, King County Master Gardeners, and Urban Systems Design hosted a walking tour of rain gardens recently built in the South Park neighborhood, which included both Spanish and English-speaking homeowners.

Homeowners raved about the multiple benefits of rain gardens, including added home value (curb appeal!), a yard that...

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Sidewalk Gardens Revisited: Stewart’s Fragrant Annual Garden
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When it comes to gardening, my neighbor Stewart doesn’t rest on his laurels. A few years ago, this is what his sidewalk garden – one of the “originals” in the neighborhood — looked like:

read more…

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Solar Power Opportunities Stream into the Southend
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By Bruce Reed

Solar energy is currently powering hundreds of Seattle homes, and residents of Southend Seattle neighborhoods are about to get a special opportunity to add their rooftops to our city’s growing solar array. Through a nonprofit-led program called Solarize Seattle, homes and small businesses can qualify for special pricing and take advantage of many incentives that make solar installations more affordable than ever.

Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Developmentt (Northwest SEED) and Seattle City Light are working with several community groups to launch Solarize Seattle: Central/Southeast, a solar energy education and installation program that starts today and runs through October. The program will be co-led by a community coalition of local volunteers, which will spearhead neighborhood outreach. Supporting organizations include Sustainable Seattle, Sustainable Capitol Hill, and Sustainable Central District.

The campaign features a group-buy program that provides a streamlined process for residents and small businesses to purchase solar systems for a discounted price. Participants learn...

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Jewel of Auburn: Soos Creek Botanical Garden
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Looking for gardening inspiration? A botanical sanctuary perfect for strolling? All for free? Head south on SR 167, pick your way over to the Kent-Kangley Road in Auburn, and soon you’ve arrived at this place. Soos Creek Botanical Garden is the brainchild, labor of love, and home of Maurice Skagen, a retired Tacoma Community College librarian whose Norwegian ancestors settled on the Soos Creek Plateau in 1890.

For nearly 50 years, Skagen and his partner, Jim Daly, have gardened on 22 acres of former farm and dairy land originally owned by Skagen’s ancestors. They have transformed their property into eleven themed gardens connected by meandering paths that fork to a tributary of Soos Creek. Now the garden is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 3 PM, in spring, summer, and fall.

My favorite area of the garden is the Carlmas Long Borders, inspired by several garden tours in Britain and by the writing and work of British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Skagen’s “opposing borders” run 500 feet long and are separated by a grassy expanse. The palette of plants he’s chosen effortlessly blend color, shape, and texture. His color...

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Field Trip with Mom to the Shadow of Mount Rainier: Chase Garden
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Mount Rainier. Tapestries of ground covers and flowers that evoke a mountain meadow. An inspiring backstory. Chase Garden in Orting near Graham has it all.

This is where Ione and Emmott Chase built their modest Japanese-inspired home in the late 1950s and gardened on four-and-a-half acres for over 40 years. Together they created such a unique and iconic Pacific Northwest oasis that it is now a project of the Garden Conservancy. Chase Garden is a sweet excursion from our end of town out Highway 167. And the month of May is peak season for viewing it.

In 1943 the Chases, high school sweethearts who met in the logging community of Kapowsin, Pierce County, and were married for 74 years, bought 12 acres of land on a bluff with distant views of Mount Rainier. They paid $425 for it. After building their one-story house in 1959 — doing much...

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Fleeting Spring Beauties
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Early April last year, I gave my friend Bryan a tour of my Southend garden, just starting to burgeon with spring growth. He was a good sport and followed me dutifully around the beds. In the shade bed, I got especially excited about the fawn lilies just beginning to nod their delicate white and pink blooms. I bent down and pointed them out to Bryan, “Look! Aren’t these spring ephemerals sweet?” He glanced at the flowers, looked back at me, and, raising an eyebrow, said, “Aren’t all plants ephemeral?”

He had a point there.

But what I was talking about is a group of woodland flowering plants loosely categorized as “spring ephemerals.” As their name suggests, they don’t grace us for long with their lovely leaves and blossoms. They complete their whole life cycle in a span of six to eight weeks – an adaptation to light and water deprivation once the tree canopy above them fills in. In early spring, they leaf out and flower; they pollinate; they set seed; and then with a tiny yawn, they go to sleep for the rest of the growing season. And wake up again the following spring.

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Reading the Garden
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This time of year when it can be tough to muster enough body heat to venture outside to the garden, I often retreat to my little library of garden books. Over the years I’ve accumulated a variety, some that I dip into again and again whether for their practical knowledge, pearls of wisdom, or ability to introduce me to yet another must-have plant. Here are a few favorites:

Right Plant, Right Place by Nicola Ferguson
Looking for plants to spiff up that dry shady area in your garden? Or plants that will thrive in heavy clay soils? Or plants to tuck between paving crevices? Or plants with fragrant flowers? Right Plant, Right Place features lists of plants suited for these particular purposes and lots more. The succinct descriptions and color photographs make it easy to find the perfect specimen for that conundrum of a garden situation.

The Explorer’s Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials
The Explorer’s Garden: Shrubs and Vines from the Four Corners of the World, by Dan Hinkley
Two other books I love for ideas on plant selection are Dan Hinkley’s volumes on perennials, shrubs, and vines. This plantsman-extraordinaire has traveled the world collecting seeds and visiting...

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Become a Master Urban Naturalist in Seward Park!
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By Allison McCarthy, Program Coordinator/Teacher Naturalist

Are you a Seward Park enthusiast with an interest in Pacific Northwest ecology? Do you like to share what you know with others? Are you over 18 years old?

If you answered “YES!” to all of these questions, Seward Park Audubon’s Master Urban Naturalist (MUN) program is your match! The MUN program provides free beginner level naturalist training classes and certification in exchange for 20 hours of donated service over the course of one year.

Since 2009, Seward Park Audubon has hosted the MUN program as a way to connect Seattle residents to the natural world that exists along our city’s streets, in our backyards, and throughout the 277 acre old growth forest of Seward Park. Through MUN we:

1) Provide South Seattle & surrounding community with free classes on a variety of naturalist topics, from Birding to Nocturnal Creatures 101, in the hopes that each participant will gain a deeper connection to the natural world & share their experience with others

2) Increase Seward Park Audubon’s volunteer base & community presence

While Seward Park represents one of the last...

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Nature’s Christmas Ornaments
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I don’t have the gene for holiday decorating. Sure, back in the day we bought $5 Charlie Brown Christmas trees from Chubby and Tubby. And we’ve occasionally picked out a noble fir from Lowe’s and Mclendon’s. I don’t feel compelled, however, to have a tree in our house every Christmas. This year, along with the decorating efforts of talented friends, I’ve decided to enjoy nature’s adornments of the solstice season.

A tree that I notice in the late spring when in white-clustered bloom and now in these dwindling days of fall is the Lavellle Hawthorn (Crataegus x lavellei). Several have been planted as street trees along Seward Park Avenue around Rainier Beach High School and a block north and south. The Lavelle Hawthorn holds onto its leaves longer than most deciduous trees. Once the foliage sees the winter writing on the wall, it colors up to a bronze-yellow, which contrasts nicely with the orange-red pomes that appear in the summer. Soon enough all that remains are these cheery little orbs that resemble tiny Christmas ornaments and make winter a bit more tolerable.

Snowberry, or Symporicarpos alba, is a native shrub with blue-green leaves it wears from spring through fall. When the leaves drop,...

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Starting Over
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I love my Hydrangea aspera Villosa Group. It’s got narrow leaves of green velvet and lacecaps of lilac-blue and mauve that intoxicate bees. When I bought it years ago at Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, it was a mere leafless twig sticking up out of a one-gallon pot. A friend assured me that this ugly duckling had swan potential.

And indeed it did: 7-foot x 7-foot-plus potential!

It is now a glorious behemoth that dwarfs our little brick house. What to do? I don’t think it’s a very good candidate for a radical renovation, that is, chopping it down to the ground and waiting for it to return in a more manageable form. And pruning out some of the older canes in late winter might tame it for a year or two. But it’s always going to want to grow back to its natural size. I should probably think of some other plant for that spot but I’m partial to this hydrangea. So I’ve decided to start over with a cutting of the original.

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Summer at Kubota
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The month of August is upon us, and summer is in full swing. We are very busy! Much time is spent mowing, weeding, and hedge trimming. Watering is an ongoing task, pulling hoses and sleds for the lawns and planting beds; trees and shrubs that have been transplanted are monitored and watered regularly. With the lack of rain and temperatures pushing into the 80’s and 90’s, one can detect some plants shedding a few leaves to preserve their moisture reserves; something I think of as the first signs of autumn reaching deep into our glorious summer, a harbinger of what is to come.

The Terrace

For much of the garden, color takes a siesta during the heat of summer. The abundance of spring flowers, fresh from mild temperatures and frequent showers, gives way to a more subdued palette. The rhododendrons and azaleas look drab without their blooms; the Blue Atlas Cedar, Golden Yew, and Purple Beech take on a dusty hue.

And then, there is the Terrace. Tucked away at the south end of the Garden, a curving path leads to a broad lawn surrounded by shrub borders and large trees. There are perennials, such as phlox, asters, and bee balm, but hydrangeas make up the bulk of the show, including...

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Gardening and outdoor entertaining time is here
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Weeks ago we held our second Upper Rainier Beach plant swap. This is an opportunity for neighbors to share their surplus plants, instead of composting them. It is wonderful opportunity to share and these past two years the plant selection has been great! Both years I ventured into the garden center following our event. Last year a neighbor had enough rhubarb plants to share with all who wanted some. I went to the nursery and saw potted rhubarb selling for $12.99. This year I divided my Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchoke) and brought tubers to share. These are not always available in our local nurseries, but this year I did see some. They were selling for $8.98 a pot. Rhubarb and Sunchoke are easy to grow perennial vegetables, meaning once planted they will continue to come back each year. I always encourage folks to take food plants. You cannot go wrong planting vegetables and with neighbors sharing their extras, you are ensured that they are likely hardy (easy to grow).

This year, I brought home pumpkin, onion, lettuce and tomato starters, plus kale seeds from the plant swap. There were also strawberry, squash and raspberries, and a variety of flowers,...

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Revolution in Rainier Beach!
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It’s not political or social. Its not economic. It’s botanical in nature. I’m talking Sidewalk Garden Revolution!

A couple years ago I wrote a post about converting my weedy parking strip into a sidewalk garden. On our street Don and Alan lit the fuse. Their lush, tasteful sidewalk plantings are beautiful to look at year-round. I was inspired.

After some delay, I finally got around to planting mine with an array of bomb-proof volunteers, divisions, and plants from friends. It’s much more fun to care for than that ugly crab grass and those pesky dandelions. Though I have to say the effect of the ornamental grasses overtaking my new garden is reminiscent of the parking strip on Renton Avenue South where folks leave their cars and catch the light rail at Henderson!

In the meantime, sidewalk gardens have sprung up all over the neighborhood. There’s one with raised beds now burgeoning with a ripe garlic crop, another that is a xeriscape of euphorbias, grasses, and sedums, and others that remind me of mini cottage gardens.

Once lawn is uprooted, there’s no going back! Just think of it: No more doggie land mines.

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Fannie Mae Distressed Borrower Outreach
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You may have heard that home values are up in some areas but their are still millions of homeowners who are still underwater, according to a new Zillow report, collectively owe $1.2 trillion more than their homes are worth.

I am sure you or someone you know might be in the same boat. According to the Zillow Negative Equity Report, which was released May 24th, about one in three homeowners with a mortgage were underwater on their mortgage in the first quarter of this year. So, what can you do if you are behind on your mortgage? 

Are You or Anyone You Know In The Following Situations?
• Behind on your mortgage and can’t seem to get caught up due to the high interest rates?
• Wish you could Refinance, But don’t know how?  
• Want to know what a Loan Modification is and wonder If you can qualify for one?
• Saying to yourself what are all my options if I’m in these situation?

We would like to HELP you and your friends Find PEACE of MIND! 

If you or a friend need some guidance on how to communicate with your lender we are hosting a special event in partnership with the Asian Real Estate Association of America on Saturday June...

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Bittersweet Hepatica
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A few years ago, an old friend from college decided to uproot from the Pacific Northwest and settle in South Carolina. She was leaving behind sad friends, a little cottage, and a beautiful garden in Seattle. It was autumn and her house was in escrow. In a few days she would load up the last of her possessions into the Jeep Wagoneer, hit the road, and head to the Southeast. She and I strolled her garden for the last time, pausing to comment on favorite plants. I took a few cuttings.

When we came upon a mounded ground cover with three-lobed, glossy green leaves, she stopped and said to me, “That is a really cool plant.” Hepatica nobilis, or liverleaf, wasn’t a plant I was familiar with, but I trust her absolutely when it comes to matters of botanical taste. She handed me a shovel and encouraged me to dig it up and take it home. I’ve since read that Hepaticas don’t transplant easily, but this one is thriving in the shade of the magnolia tree in my Rainier Beach garden.

The name Hepatica comes from the Greek word “hepar,” or liver. In medieval times, the evergreen leaves of this woodland herb were thought to resemble the shape of the human liver and believed effective in curing diseases and disorders...

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Mother’s Day
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People often ask when is the best time to visit Kubota Garden. For different people, there are different answers, but if you are someone who loves flowers and bold colors, the time to visit is in May around Mother’s Day.

If you visit the Garden this weekend, you will find that most of the azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom. In the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, large swaths of ajuga and forget-me-nots brighten the edges of the lawns and pathways. A few late flowering magnolias are at their peak. There are specimen Japanese maples grown specifically for their bright spring foliage. Even the deciduous trees and conifers vie for your attention with the bright green color of their new shoots. And with the clear skies and bright sunshine, the color could be… well, you should stop by and judge for yourself

Rest assured that the Garden will be busy this weekend. Park on Renton Avenue South if the parking lot is full.If you are looking for solitude, come early, as in before 9am! Otherwise, prepare to meet your fellow Seattleites, and enjoy. If you can’t make it this weekend, the color will last for another week or so, and then it will begin to wane.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the fine...

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Come to Kubota!
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Hello! My name is Giles, and I am a Seattle Parks employee who works as a gardener at Kubota Garden in Rainier Beach. My coworker and fellow gardener is Marcia, and our supervisor is Don, who has been the Senior Gardener at Kubota Garden since 1987. We love this garden very much and enjoy interacting with visitors to foster their appreciation of this garden and all the work the Kubota family did to make this place special. Stopping to chat with visitors now and then is great, but we’ve always been looking for a venue where we could reach more people with information about the garden. Luckily for us, we’ve gotten to know Maia (a frequent garden visitor!) of, and she suggested we write a column for her website. This opportunity seemed just right, and we jumped at the chance.

What can you expect to see in this column? Initially, a weekly bulletin that will let you know what is happening right now – plant profiles with pictures featuring flowers or fall color to help lure you to visit, information about events such as plant sales (this Saturday May 5th 9am-1pm!) or tours that you might want to attend, and dates for the next volunteer opportunity when you’re ready to dig in!

In time,...

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Snowdrops in Winter
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It can be a fun challenge to compose a garden that delights and surprises all year round, even in the dead of winter. Perennial gardens are grand from spring through summer but what about after all the flowers have faded away and the stalks have collapsed into a pile of mucky mess? A few plants carefully selected for “winter interest” can transform a seasonally lopsided garden into a garden for all seasons.

In other posts I’ve described some plants that excel in this season of limited light and steady rain — sweet box, or Sarcococca confusa, an evergreen shrub with fragrant winter blossoms, and conifers, all kinds of mostly evergreen cone-bearing trees, shrubs, and ground covers. In fact our mild climate here in the maritime Northwest supports a lot of plants that show off during the winter season, whether for their textured bark, colorful stems, berries, unusual foliage, architectural structure, or miraculous flowers. Throughout my gardening life in Rainier Beach, I’ve discovered some favorites; some I’ve planted, others remain on the wish list.

Blossoms in the winter are something...

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Pacific Northwest Winter Green
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In late November 1999 I left western Montana, then a drab landscape of bare trees, brown hills, and gray skies. Those dreary colors matched my mood as I drove west on I-90 up and over three passes into Seattle. Montana had been my home for many years, and I was sad to leave.

On the other side of the Cascades and into the Emerald City, my eyes revealed a simple truth: I wasn’t in Montana anymore. The gray skies had followed me, but in late November, so much green – camellias, rhododendrons, viburnums, ferns, vibrant lawns. And trees with persistent leaves, needles, and scaly foliage. Accustomed to brown and intermittent white for months on end, all that conspicuous green served as consolation for loss of home.

And indeed so did the gardening opportunities. For in the Pacific Northwest just about anything grows, I learned soon enough. But it took me some time to circle back in on what is probably self-evident to most folks here – the understated stalwarts of the Pacific Northwest landscape are the evergreen conifers. In the spring, summer, and fall they stoically serve as context for our plantings and as deep background in our forests. In the winter they graciously shift to center stage, whether towering...

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Passionate About…Succulents
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Some folks just aren’t into plants. I get that. My husband has contributed a lot to our garden – mixing up batch after batch of magical compost, hoisting back-breaking boulders, digging out shrubs gone wild, schelpping yards of mulch from Carpinito Brothers in the old Ford F150. For him, plants take a backseat to soil and hardscaping. He’s been happy to let me figure out what to plant and where.

That is, until he started noticing succulents.

Over time I’ve tucked these low-growing and drought-tolerant gems into the nooks and crannies of the rockery around our house. So when my husband decided to carve out a space in the rock wall along the driveway for the yard waste and recycling bins, he had an idea. With all this available vertical space, why not a succulent wall? And so it began. He is now a passionate planter of succulents.

Succulents include...

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Leaf Peeping in the Southend
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I have mixed feelings about autumn. The shift in weather – especially when summer is so fleeting – makes me cranky. Yet, the colors of this season always have a way of coaxing me out of a fowl mood.

I love the scarlet of maples, the clear yellow of the tulip tree, the orange-ocher of the ornamental cherries. Leaf peeping in the Southend can be pretty satisfying.

This season I took my camera with me during travels to my regular stomping grounds, and this is what I found:

My favorite neighborhood garden for fall color.

My Street

Kubota Garden has a fantastic collection of Japanese maples that pop against a backdrop of evergreen conifers. Other showy specimens with autumn interest include poplar and ginkgo trees and burning bush.

Distressed Property Primer – A reference guide and a few conclusions
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Seems timely to have an article about distressed properties in October, the month of all things scary. Don’t be afraid to get involved in a purchase of a distressed property. Buying a distressed property can result in the acquisition of a rock-bottom-priced bargain combined with a mortgage loan at ridiculously low interest rates-a very smart idea by any standards. If you get prepared in terms of how the process works for the different types of distressed property offerings and engage the assistance of an agent skilled and experienced in navigating the maze, you’ll be in an excellent position to take advantage of the silver lining of this historically turbulent real estate market.

In previous articles, I discussed the various types of distressed properties that have a predominant presence in our current real estate market place. I will attempt to put a bow on the package, to be unwrapped, altered, and re-gifted from time to time as the market place inevitably adjusts to accommodate the changes that will most certainly occur with this specific property-type.


Distressed Property – a property that is likely to become or is currently in the process of...

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