Newtown Bee Spring Home & Garden 2023

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The Newtown Bee’s
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‘Enjoy The Birds’ All Year Long By Providing A Clean Bird Bath

Regardless of the season, birds — just like people — need water. Having a bird bath available and ensuring it stays clean is a simple, easy way for people to help our feathered friends.

Connecticut Audubon Society Director of Communications Tom Andersen shared that providing a bird bath is beneficial for birds as well as for people.

“Like all animals, birds need water, and they need it all year round — not just in warmer weather. Finding open sources of fresh water in winter is important,” he said. “They need it to drink and to clean themselves. They splash around in it to get their feathers properly oiled and groomed. Just like anyone else they need to have water pretty much every day.”

People also get the delightful sight of being able to watch the birds.

“Having a bird bath is an extra attraction. They gather there, they perch on the edge, they hop into the water, and if you situate it in the right spot, not too far from the house, you’ll get a great view of them,” Andersen said.

He suggests people place their bird baths in a location near trees or shrubs to give the birds a sense of protection.

“At times they will need to scatter from the bird bath if a predator comes by, like a hawk or crow … they need to feel safe and they will use those places as staging areas as they prepare to move over to the water. They will rest and wait in the shrubs,” Andersen said.

He recommends not placing a bird bath directly under a tree or shrub to help avoid leaves falling into the water.

At Connecticut Audubon Society’s Milford Point Coastal Center, the organization used these guidelines for their large water feature.

“It is like a small man-made pond with recirculating water. We physically planted native shrubs that birds like and that produce fruit during the fall and winter. We specifically planted those in a semicircle/arch around the back, so the birds have a place to gather before they get to

the water,” Andersen said.

He acknowledges that constructing a large water feature like that is not realistic for the average homeowner. In his experience any sort of bird bath, whether it be made of concrete or plastic, can attract birds.

“The birds don’t need much. Just a shallow bowl,” Andersen said.

A helpful element to add, though, is a heater to keep the water from freezing. During the winter, water in bird baths can turn to ice, leaving birds to have to look elsewhere for a water source.

Andersen uses a heater in the bird bath at his home, as well as a plug-in fountain for movement and sound.

For the latter, he said, “We don’t use it in the winter, but in the warmer weather, we use it. It does seem to work, and

more birds come to it.”

People can also consider placing rocks of various sizes into the bird bath to help prevent birds from accidental drowning.

Cleaning A Bird Bath

Andersen says an effective and safe way to clean a bird bath is to use a mixture of white vinegar and water.

“What we tell people is nine parts water to one part vinegar, so a weak solution of vinegar. Scrub it, rinse it, then put it back,” he explained.

Andersen advises that people not use synthetic soaps, because they can “interfere with the natural oils that coat birds’ feathers.”

As for the frequency of when it needs to be cleaned, he recommends washing it a couple times a week. It may need more

or less depending on where the bath is located and its usage.

“A bird bath is basically a puddle. Over time, lots of birds use it and poop in it, leaves drop into it, the wind blows and dust gets into it — it just becomes an unsanitary little puddle where bacteria can grow. The bacteria can affect the birds … if it looks gross to you, it is probably gross to a bird,” Andersen explained. He urges people to follow local and national advisories when they request bird baths be removed, which was the case a few years ago when a novel disease was rampantly killing songbirds. Removing a communal area, such as a bird bath, in those extreme scenarios is important to help stop the spread of pathogens.

Currently, there is no call to action to take down bird baths. There are plenty of birds in Newtown eagerly awaiting the much needed water source.

“Put them out there and enjoy the birds,” Andersen said. “It is really a great way to get a close look at the birds living in your yard.”

To learn more about how to help birds, visit Connecticut Audubon Society’s website

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at

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Connecticut Audubon Society’s Milford Point Coastal Center has a manmade water feature that has moving water even in the winter to attract birds. —photo courtesy Tom Andersen Two songbirds playfully soak their feathers in the water of a bird bath with a fountain. —Unsplash photo

Naturally Repel Japanese Beetles While Tending To Your Garden

While it is calming to stop and smell the roses, it is not always pleasant to do so with Japanese beetles munching on your beautifully flowering plants. These metallic green-and-brown colored beetles mean no harm to humans but can cause damage to roughly 300 plant species.

Some of their favorite delicacies are roses, fruit trees, beans, corn, tomatoes, and ornamental shrubs and plants, according to The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center classifies Japanese beetles (scientifically called Popillia japonica Newman) as a terrestrial invasive species. They believe the insect was introduced to the United States around 1911 from Japan.

The center describes the Japanese beetle’s impact as a “Destructive pest of turf, landscape plants, and crops; adults feed on the foliage and fruits of several hundred species of trees, shrubs, vines, and crops, while larvae feed on the roots of grasses and other plants.”

As adults, they chew out the tissue between the veins of a leaf and leave intricate designs – similar to doily patterns.

Protect Our Pollinators (POP) Treasurer Mary Wilson has found from her research from University of Minnesota Extension that “adult Japanese beetle damage usually affects only the appearance of plants.”

According to the university, “Healthy, mature trees and shrubs can tolerate a lot of feeding without significant, long-term injury; Young or unhealthy plants may be stunted, injured, or even killed from severe, persistent feeding; Healthy flowering plants such as roses can survive Japanese beetle feeding. But the blossoms are often ruined by the insects; Fruits, vegetables, and herbs can tolerate limited leaf feeding, but severe damage may affect plant growth and reduce yield.”

So, while a few Japanese beetles are a nuisance, they are not always detrimental to gardens.

Organic Methods

While some people opt to apply harmful chemicals to eliminate Japanese beetles, Wilson advocates for using natural alternatives.

“POP is very opposed to the use of neonicotinoids which are commonly spread on lawns to kill grubs

(whether needed or not),” she said.

In a document from Wilson titled Alternatives for Neonicotinoids for Grub Control, it stated, “Neonics are to be avoided not only for their effect on pollinators but also for their effect on beneficial insects, birds, mammals, and aquatic life if they enter a water course, which is quite likely due to their solubility … The use of pesticides frequently is counter-productive resulting in the loss of beneficial insects, chemical dependency, depletion of soil bacteria, risk to other species, and possible pollution of water resources.”

Wilson finds that the best way to deal with Japanese beetles is to reduce/eliminate them in the grub stage of their lifecycle. To do so, she recommends homeowners spread a product called grubGONE! in their garden.

Its companion beetleGONE! is also effective and available online as well as at garden stores.

“beetleGONE! is a product a homeowner can use if they have beetles currently on roses or their vegetables, because it is safe for humans. It has been certified organic for organic farmers,” Wilson said.

The products promote that they are not harmful to pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and lady bugs.

“Another way to prevent them is to have a lawn that is healthy and thick. Keep mowing your lawn at two inches or more and aerate it… what that does is shade out any place in the blades of grass, so you don’t get weeds or insects in there,” she said.

A temporary, but hands-on approach, that can also be done is picking the Japanese beetles off the plant and relocating them.

Wilson said, “Once they are on plants, removing them physically works as long as they are low enough to be reached. Also, a stream of water will send them flying off.”

Wilson says that while she does not have plantings in her home garden that attract many Japanese beetles, she has seen them in Newtown. She has spotted them enjoying the trees at Tammy’s Garden, located in the Newtown Municipal Center courtyard.

Since the Japanese beetles are posing no real harm to the trees at Tammy’s Garden, besides some holes in the leaves, they are leaving them to coexist peacefully with nature.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at

4 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - April 7, 2023
A Japanese beetle, identifiable from its metallic green head and copper-brown wing covers, eats holes into a leaf. —Pixabay photos
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Japanese beetles enjoy consuming a variety of plant species, including roses, as seen here with a beetle crawling on the petals of a pink Knock Out rose.

Bring Wildlife To Your Yard With Native Plants

While having birds and pollinators such as monarch butterflies in the yard is often viewed as desirable, many do not cultivate their yard space to help attract them.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, most plant-eating insects such as butterfly caterpillars can only eat native plants. Planting native plants rather than wide swaths of grass will help draw plant-eating insects, and there are hundreds of kinds, which will in turn draw birds and other wildlife that eat the insects.

Native plants are plants that were growing in the state before the arrival of European settlers. Many plants that grow ubiquitously here are not native, such as dandelions.

Many plants sold by nurseries are nonnative; some are even invasives. A yard filled with various native plants will provide the requirements that birds and butterflies need to survive.

William DeRosa of Wildflower Meadows Landscaping said that wildflower meadows with native plants is the “newest trend” and is “much more ecologically friendly” than other landscaping options in the past.

“Now gardens have more purpose, in designing landscapes that encourage local wildlife and pollinators,” said DeRosa. “Nurseries are really embracing native plants.”

DeRosa said that forests, wetlands, native plants and meadows are disappearing at an exponential rate. With increased land clearing for commercial use, and overly manicured and sterile landscapes at homes, humans are continually diminishing the natural resources that native plants, wildlife and pollinators demand to support ecological balance.

“We believe this can be counterbalanced with sensible landscape design and practices that create havens for nature in all of its forms,” said DeRosa.

“We all have an opportunity to change the way we look at our properties as just being functional and organized, where in fact [they] can be beneficial and beautiful. Everyone can make a difference, even with minor changes to their outdoor spaces.”

DEEP says that one of the biggest threats to local wildlife is “loss of habitat,” as “half of the lower 48 states has been converted to cities and suburbia.” This denies wildlife areas to find shelter, food to eat, water to drink, and enough space to find all that they need to survive and reproduce.

But, DEEP says, homeowners can help provide the necessary habitats right in their own yards.

DeRosa said that encouraging native plants was part of the “mission and focus” of his business.

With bees and birds “in trouble,” DeRosa said that homeowners can help “support the entire ecosystem” with plantings that will attract bugs, such as beetles and caterpillars, that will then be able to be eaten by birds. Additionally, native plantings draw pollinators such as honey bees and bumblebees.

“Plants are the starting point, and the building blocks are placed on top of that base,” said DeRosa. “But you need the right plants. Non-native plants only support some pollinators.”

DeRosa pointed to the declining monarch butterfly population, noting that they are specialized to live on milkweed.

“That’s why we need to get back to native plants,” said DeRosa. “They’re beautiful, anyone would fall in love with them.”

Additionally, native plants are more

deer resistant that non-native plantings, as they are adapted against deer, and natives are less susceptible to fungus and diseases.

People are becoming more “in touch with their yards” since the pandemic.

“There’s a lot more interest in going back to native plants,” said DeRosa. “I think a lot of people are becoming more attuned to this.”

According to the University of Connecticut Home and Garden Education Center, many meadow mixes contain mid-western and western native wildflowers as well as seeds from exotic wildflowers and vibrant annuals. Planting one of these mixes in New England will probably result in a colorful meadow the first year but most species will disappear the next season. Very few will self-sow.

Grasses are found in many meadow mixes and provide a golden touch of color in late fall. Recommended meadow grasses include big and little bluestem (Andropogon geradii, A. scoparius), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), lesser quaking grass (Briza minor), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heteropepis) and sheep fescue (Festuca ovina).

Vigorous grass species such as tall fescue (Festuca elatior), orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) and rye grass (Lolium erenne) should be avoided as they will outcompete flowering species. As a rule, grasses should compose no more than 10 to 15 percent of the mixture.

Some native plants recommended by UConn for pollinator meadows include Bee Balm, Bird’s Foot Violet, Black-Eyed Susan, Chicory, Common Milkweed, Compass Plant, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Evening Primrose, Goldenrod, Great Blue Lobelia, Joe-Pye Weed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Liatris, New England Asters, OxEye Daisy, Queen Anne’s Lace, Red Clover, and Yarrow Achillea.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at

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A view of the pollinator meadow on the Fairfield Hills campus. —Bee Photo, Taylor

‘The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Guide’ Provides Opportunities For Growth

Whether you’re interested in acquiring your first house plant, or you fashion yourself a green thumb gardening aficionado, The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2023 Garden Guide’s got you covered.

“I like to think of the Garden Guide as something that appeals to everybody,” said Tim Goodwin, associate editor of the Garden Guide, adding that gardening is something that can be picked up by anybody at any time and with any sort of space — large or small.

The latest Guide explores the rise of urban gardening, air-purifying houseplants, cocktail herbs, tech for growing a better garden, and more.

Gardening has long been an enjoyable way for people of all ages to dig their hands into the soil and get in touch with nature, but during the initial stay-at-home stretch caused by the coronavirus, this nature-based hobby for some took off like a plant with just the mix of right sun, rain, and soil.

“In the pandemic, there was research that showed there was a resurgence in not only house plants but gardening in general,” Goodwin said. “People got that bug of gardening and it hasn’t slowed down.”

Goodwin noted that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors and that having house plants helps connect people with nature. House plants offer the health benefit of taking in toxins and purifying the air, Goodwin said.

The Garden Guide includes information on exotic plants for those looking into adding a little natural pizazz to the home. There are tips in the Garden Guide that can help prospective house plant owners make decisions on what is best for their indoor growing conditions.

“You’ve got to make sure you have the right location because it’s not going to thrive unless you do,” Goodwin said.

According to the press release from editors of the Garden Guide: “The demand for houseplants shows no signs of slowing down. What began as a pandemic hobby for many has continued to grow in recent years. In addition to having a calming effect, indoor plants have many health benefits: People in homes or (home) offices filled with plants suffer fewer respiratory illnesses and headaches. The 2023 Garden Guide clears the air on the best air-purifying plants.”

Outdoor Options

When it comes to gardening outdoors, there are many options regardless of where you live and how much garden space is available.

First things first for outdoor plantings: The soil should be tested and properly treated for optimal results, Goodwin said. There are tips on what to do in the Garden Guide

According to Garden Guide editors, there is continued growth of urban gardens and in the press release, it is detailed that: “Urban gardening isn’t new, but it has taken on new life as more people call cities home. A 2023 Garden Guide special report looks at how cities hold the key to food production now and in the future, through everything from modest containers and repurposed rooftops to community-based solutions like Seattle’s P-Patch Program and Montreal’s innovative rooftop greenhouse project.”

Small-space gardeners in urban settings can reference the Garden Guide’s practical primer on choosing and planting “Pint-Size Produce.”

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Herbs are quick-growing, can thrive anywhere, and liven up the taste of anything, including cocktails, according to Garden Guide editors. Some herbs may also be grown for the purpose of creating hand-blended remedies.

Gardeners are increasingly replacing too-thirsty lawns with native plants, vegetable gardens, and pollinator meadows. Sustainability is meeting aesthetics in other ways, such as the return of ornamental grasses that add dimension while managing storm water and a movement to save plants that are in danger of extinction.

The Garden Guide provides a step-by-step guide to starting seeds indoors, which ensures better germination and growth, and a garden historian’s ponderings over growing wisdom from the past.

Cutting Gardens

Cutting gardens are becoming more popular as gardeners look for ways to enjoy the fruit of their labor both inside and outdoors, according to Garden Guide editors, who note that the publication offers recommendations on stunning classic flowers and tips on how to create flower arrangements that will rival those of a professional.

While gardening may be a nice escape from technology, tech is embraced. Apps, including The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner, are increasingly replacing paper-and-pen in garden planning, editors note. A developer behind the Garden Planner takes to pages of the Garden Guide to share the science behind one of the app’s most popular features — companion planting — and explains why this is so important for the health and longevity of any garden.

Companion plants help deter pests said Goodwin, adding: “In the end what it will do is increase your yield.”

Gardening is a nice activity for children, Goodwin said. “You’re giving these kids a pathway to a life-long activity they’re really going to enjoy,” he added.

The Garden Guide is published annually and available for $7.99 USD/CAD online and at local booksellers. A full list of retailers can be found at A digital version of the Guide, plus other resources, is available at

Readers can share the joy of gardening with The Old Farmer’s Almanac on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at

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Container Gardening A Portable And Affordable Approach To Plants

Container gardening is just what it sounds like: growing plants in containers, of all sizes.

Container gardening is also generally portable and affordable. The portability allows gardeners to move plants to locations where they will thrive, maximizing all available space. Weeding will be minimal, and harvesting is generally much easier.

One caveat to container gardening is the contained plants may need more attention than those growing in the ground. That maintenance can still go a long way toward healthy, productive plants, however.

Paul Split, one of this year’s guest lecturers during the 2023 CT Flower & Garden Show, offered “Organic Container Gardening” on February 23 and 24.

Split has been a nursery principal, a nationally recognized designer, a director of horticulture for two Live Nation locations, and writer and lecturer for 50 years. His presentation was filled with information, a little bit of humor, and enjoyed by those who attended.

“You can put anything into a container that your neighbor puts into the ground,” he said.

The containers will control spreading that often happens with some plants, Split added.

“The time is right for the planning, to make your selection and get your gardening ideas out there,” he told attendees during his Friday morning presentation at Connecticut Convention Center. “I’m here to give you some ideas and some information about containers.

“Containers are available in all different sizes and shapes. The industry is producing polypropylene, the old cement ones reinforced with concrete, and of course terra cotta and clay,” he said, holding up one of the latter.

“Clay pots originated in Connecticut, in the Connecticut River Valley in the 1920s,” he told the approximately 75 people in the room.

He prefers clay pots, he said, “because they breathe. You can also see what the moisture content is inside your container because it breathes.”

Plastic containers, he said, especially those inside homes, do not allow air movement within the walls of the pot.

Filling A Container

Split does not use potting soil. For one, he said, it’s heavy. Second, most are not clean.

“Whatever you start with, make sure it doesn’t have any additives,” he said. “You don’t need any water helper, you don’t need any fertilizer in there. You can make your own.”

Large containers do not need to be filled fully with soil. Most annuals in New England only need four to six inches of fill to be happy.

“If you only need a few inches for growth, why would you put in three feet of soil?” he said. That’s where putting something in the lower portion of pots, especially larger ones, is beneficial for the plants and their caregivers.

Split used to use rocks or shards of clay, he said.

“But that gets so heavy,” he said. “Just make sure you put something in that will prevent your mix from going through the space at the bottom of the pot.”

Packing peanuts are biodegradable, Split said.

“They’re impervious to water,” he added. “They don’t take up any water. They repel it, in fact.”

Pinecones, wood chips, leaves, and sticks can all be used but will break down over time. These are a sustainable choice for seasonal planters who repot regularly.

For soil Split suggests using an organic, soil-less mixture like his preferred filler — triple ground peat moss, often sold as Starter Mix — which will hold moisture in containers while taking up space.

To fill containers, Split goes with 80 percent peat moss and 20 percent Perlite, a well-draining soil made from

Paul Split holds a terra cotta pot, his container of choice for container gardening. Anything that can be planted in an outdoor in-ground garden can be planted in a container, he told those who attended his lectures during the 2023 CT Flower & Garden Show. —Bee Photos, Hicks

transformed volcanic glass. The naturally occurring mineral is the small white balls that look like — but is not — Styrofoam.

“The peat moss holds the moisture in your container, so it doesn’t all run out the bottom when you soak it, and the Perlite keeps water and air from escaping your container,” he explained. “So now you’ve got water, and air, and a nice way for the food to travel.”

Food & Water

“Remember to feed your plants,” Split said. “They won’t say a word. They’ll just die quietly.

“You have to eat, you have to feed your pets … you have to feed — or fertilize — your plants,” he said.

Put fertilizer in first, he said. Liquid works very well, he added, as do granular formulas.

Anything that was once living is considered an organic fertilizer, he said.

All-purpose fertilizers have nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, nutrients needed in larger amounts, as well as iron, manganese, and zinc.

To promote flower or fruit production, look for fertilizers with higher amounts of potassium and phosphorus vs nitrogen. Split likes a 0-1-1 fertilizer, he said. Kelp and dehydrated manure are both among his choices, he said.

After a container has been filled with its filler, put the fertilizer in before the plants.

“The action of planting it will mix everything up,” he said.

After the initial planting, fertilizer should be put

down first, then water.

Water plants regularly, but not too often. Most container plants prefer moist, not soggy, soil.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, while it may sound counterintuitive, “watering a plant with a small amount of water very frequently is worse than watering with a large amount infrequently.

“Frequent, shallow waterings encourage plants to develop weak, shallow roots, while infrequent, deep waterings encourage them to put down deeper, healthier roots. Most plants can tolerate — and actually benefit from — having a little break between deep waterings, so don’t be afraid to let the soil dry out a little bit between waterings,” The Almanac offered in a November 2022 online feature.

Split also covered watering within his lecture, saying in part that spraying over them “will only reach 18-20 percent of your plants.”

Watering a plant every time it droops, he said, will drown a plant.

“When you have a plastic container, and it’s in the house, and your plant is drooping, the first thing you do is water it,” he said. “When it’s still drooping the next day, what do you do? Give it a little more water.”

While a few in the room chuckled, some also nodding their heads, Split explained: “You’re actually drowning the plant. The water goes in and actually replaces the oxygen, and it suffocates.”

Split suggests using a timer, to alleviate the worry of missing the important offering to plants. He also likes drip irrigation, he said, which connects multiple pots to a garden hose or spigot. When that system is activated, all plants are watered simultaneously.

Gardeners also need to check the pH levels of their containers regularly, Split said.

“The items in your container need to be soluble for your plants,” he explained. “In order to do that, you have to make sure the pH is OK.”

Tomato plants like a more acidic soil than others, he said. Fruit generally likes a less acidic soil.

Most plants want to be in an area of 6.5-7.0, he said. “Earthworms and grubs are happy at 8,” he said. “When the pH is correct, the food for the plant will be available immediately.”

Tests can be done at home with litmus strips. Local garden extension centers are also helpful with testing, and offer solutions for soils that are too acidic, he said. At the end of each season, pots can be put away with their soil in them, he said.

“New fertilizer will be needed each season, but keeping that soil will save you a lot of money, especially if you have those big containers,” he said.

Mixing Plants, Multiple Plants

Containers can hold multiple plants, including mixed varieties.

“It’s my opinion,” Split said last month, holding up a medium-size clay pot, “that you can get as many plants in here that will fit.”

Vegetables can absolutely be grown in containers, he said. Zucchini, peas, squash and pumpkin are all very good for containers.

“When they star to tendril down, let it,” Split said of pumpkins. “Cut the tendrils after three or four flowers, which will focus the plant’s energy on the pumpkins.”

Plant peas in succession, he suggested.

“Do one area each week for four weeks, to spread out the harvests,” he explained.

Ditto with squash.

“Put mounds in the same place, but at different times, which will again spread blossoms through their plantings,” he said.

Want to grow herbs? Rosemary officinalis in the cen-

8 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - April 7, 2023
Succulents dominate the space within a hollowed-out rock in the booth of Snug Harbor Gardens at this year’s CT Flower & Garden Show. Designer Paul Split encourages the mixing of multiple plants in containers. Nearly any container is suitable for a container garden. Horticulture designer Paul Split says the secret to a large container is to fill at least half of it with packing peanuts, which are both biodegradable and very lightweight.

ter of a pot creates height. Surround that with thyme and/or basil and you’ll have a garden with variety within one container, he said.

“If they don’t fit, push them together,” Split said. “Make them fit. Make them go together. It’s not going to hurt those plants.”

Fertilize and water regularly during the 120-day outdoor growing season, he said, “and you will be successful because you are giving them everything they need to grow inside the container.”

Tomatoes work very well in containers, but make sure to begin with indeterminate plants, he cautioned.

“My neighbor filled his whole garden with tomatoes one year. He spent a fortune,” Split said. “He used the rototiller, brought the rocks up, and got the hose and his shovel and the wheelbarrow going.

“Then a woodchuck showed up, so he had to put a fence around it. He fertilized it, and now he’s not quitting because he put his mortgage into the thing and everybody’s watching him,” he joked.

The neighbor had also filled his garden with determinate plants, which require little to no staking, but are also done after one harvest.

“The middle of August, his garden was done,” Split said. “His entire investment was nil.”

Indeterminate tomatoes in a container — just like the same in the ground — will continue to bloom and fruit and bloom up until the frost, he said. Fill the spaces in containers, he reiterated, with as much as possible.

“Whatever you can fit in there is great,” he said.

Raised Gardens & Vertical Containers

Raised gardens are a form of container gardening, Split said.

The location of these gardens is just as important as the placement of small containers.

While gardens will still need to be placed where plants will receive at least four hours of sun, they can also be advantageously located.

“Put it over the swale in your backyard that you can’t do anything with,” he said, drawing a laugh before also suggesting an unused basketball court. “Again, roots are not going there. There will be no weeds during the first year, either.

On flat ground, Split prefers a simple construction using New England white pine laid on the ground.

Layer a container with flowers that will bloom at different times, suggested Paul Split. A layer of bulbs, such as Stargazer lily, can be covered with a layer of annuals. The bulbs will bloom first, then be cut back. With proper care, the annuals will continue flowering through the end of the season.

“Have four pieces cut, 8 by 8 inches, 8 feet long, which will be heavy enough to lay out without needing to fasten together,” he said. “This is a raised bed. It will contain at least eight inches of growing medium and can be placed almost anywhere the ground is level, without any preparation … meaning no digging.”

An 8- by 8-foot bed will require 1½ yards of material, he said.

Apartment buildings and other locations where horizontal space is a premium does not mean gardens can’t happen.

“Think of those things you see on TV, like a big bedsheet with holes in it,” he said. “It’s got holes in it, and you put the plants in a pouch.”

Any approach to gardening, Split said, should always be about enjoying the effort as well as the resulting plants.

“End of the day, this is a leisure activity after all,” Split encouraged his guests. “This is where you’re supposed to relax. Don’t make yourself too crazy.”

Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at

Home & Garden - 9 April 7, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
No space? No problem! Go vertical with container gardening. This setup for a hanging garden was offered by Mayan Dreams Imports at the 2023 CT Flower & Garden Show.
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Container gardens can be done collectively or as a singular focal point, as was the case for this element within the multiple award-winning display of Miskovsky & Haskell Landscaping at the CT Flower & Garden Show in February.

Lorraine B. Ballato promised her guests “Easy, Breezy Plants,” and in just under an hour that’s exactly what she delivered.

Ballato was one of the guest speakers at the 2023 CT Flower & Garden Show. The Brookfield resident and expert horticulturist and hydrangea expert breezed through 38 trees, annuals, vegetables, perennials and shrubs, all hardy to Connecticut’s growing region.

The selections, she promised, would offer home gardeners low to no maintenance and great performance.

“We want the plants to do what the growers and the breeders and the garden centers and all the advertisements tell us that they’re going to do,” she said.

All of her recommendations, she added, were Proven Winners, Pennsylvania Gold Medal, Green Ribbon Native Plants, and other award-winning selections. Many were also natives.

“Natives by their very nature do better,” she said.

Accompanied by images of every plant, Ballato began with four Proven Winner selections. Among those was Euphorbia Diamond Collection, which she called a “bulletproof” plant. An annual in the same family as poinsettia, Ballato said she has grown “every single one of them, in the ground, in the container, and you get this nice white baby’s breath kind of a plant without the demands of baby’s breath.”

It does well in sun and shade, “it’s not fussy about soil,” and deer do not like the plant because it releases a sap as soon as its stem is broken.

“They look really great, and there are three now in that collection,” she said.

A Pennsylvania Award Winner, Coralbells ‘Caramel’ (Heuchera) was among the plants found within the flower and garden show. Prides Corner Farms included Coralbells ‘Caramel’ as a display of shade plants at the base of a large tree.

“Don’t give it too much sun, because it won’t be happy,” she cautioned. “It’s going to do really, really well for you.”

Natives, she later noted when speaking about sweet aza-

‘Easy, Breezy Plants’ That Respond Well To Light Maintenance

lea (Rhododendron arborescens), “like a little bit of sun only. You can’t fry the natives.”

Sweet azalea, she said, “has a fabulous fragrance, and will grow about three to five feet.” Sweet azalea is a Green Ribbon Native Plants 2022 Awards winner.

Another native she discussed, this one the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year 2022 winner, was Little bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’ (Schizachryium scoparium).

“Look at those things, standing at attention,” Ballato said, sharing a photo of the colorful ornamental grass. Requiring full sun, the grass grows as tall as 36 inches, and will eventually need to be divided, she said.

The Garden Club of America Plant of the Year 2022 Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal winner was Woodland phlox ‘Blue Moon’ (Phlox divaricata). Another native, Ballato said this plant offers “lovely ground cover, better than creeping phlox, so dense weeds don’t come through.

“It really hugs the ground beautifully,” she added. Peppers are good deer repellent plants.

“Deer do not take to most peppers,” Ballato said.

Her program included Hot pepper ‘Buffy’ and Pepper ‘Dragonfly,’ both All-America Selections 2022 winners; and Pepper ‘Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry,’ a Green Thumb Award winner.

Ballato liked five different roses: Rose Pink Freedom (Rosa) and Pretty Polly Pink (Rosa), both American Garden Rose Selection (Northeast Region) 2022 Award winners; and Pink Freedom (Rosa), Rose The Champion (Rosa) and The Grand Champion (Rosa), each honored for American Rose Trials for Sustainability.

Her favorite among the aforementioned is Pretty Polly Pink, which she called “a rock star, a continual bloomer we’ll see more frequently in garden centers because they’re such winners.”

A close second was Rosa Pink Freedom, “which begins with a tea rose look and keeps winning awards.”

Now is a good time, she pointed out, to start working on roses for summer bloom.

One of the most resistant plants, rhododendrons, was also covered by Ballato, who said the ground cover “can be cut practically to the ground and they’re going to regenerate.”

The presentation closed with the America Hosta Growers Association 2022 winner, Hosta ‘Island Breeze.’

“This is a winner with a lot of winning characteristics including some interesting markings,” Ballato said. The plant’s strong leaf means it’s susceptible to slugs, unfortunately. ‘Island Breeze’ does very well in shade gardens, however, “and can do a lot with contrasting foliage,” she pointed out.

As she worked briskly through her presentation, Ballato presented photos of every plant on a large screen in the front of the full room. Many of the 60+ people in attendance took notes, and asked quick questions, gaining a few additional bits of information while not slowing the pace of the program.

In addition to plant-specific advice, she offered general garden thoughts.

“Make a plan,” she said. “Start small. Don’t try to do a whole garden in one season.”

Ballato also suggested going with the popular KonMari Method, which encourages people to keep things that speak to the heart.

“Is there a plant that’s too challenging? Doesn’t give you joy? Let it go,” she said. “Donate it. Garden clubs often love receiving plants for members or sales.”

Donating plants rather than simply discarding in a pile, she said, is a humane way to dispose of an unwanted plant. All gardening should be enjoyable, she said. Whether going with something easy breezy or challenging, Ballato said the bottom line is, “Enjoy your garden!”

Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at

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A Pennsylvania Award Winner, Coralbells ‘Caramel’ (Heuchera) was featured within the CT Flower & Garden Show display by Prides Corner Farms. Lorraine Ballato said the plant does “really, really well” in shade. —Bee Photo, Hicks Lorraine B. Ballato promised her guests “Easy, Breezy Plants,” and in just under an hour that’s exactly what she delivered during a well-attended lecture at the 2023 CT Flower & Garden Show. —Bee Photo, Hicks Diamond Snow from the Proven Winners Euphorbia Diamond Collection was one of the first flowers introduced by Lorraine Ballato in “Easy, Breezy Plants.” —photo courtesy Proven Winners

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Home & Garden - 11 April 7, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
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Sustainable Refurbishing— The Key To Saving Money (And The Planet) Relies On Retraining Our ‘Disposal-Prone’ Lifestyles

It can seem intimidating to assess spending habits about furniture with the environmental health of our community and planet in mind when investing in a small reusable water bottle seems like a comparatively simple switch. But consumer demand for home goods and furniture has generated a massive industry that leans heavily on the generation of harmful plastics and sourcing natural materials with devastating climatic effects.

While things have been changing in the past few years and as the industry takes baby-steps toward sustainability, navigating home furnishing and updates still requires mindfulness and intentional change.

Luckily, much of the theory behind sustainable furnishing comes from the basics — reduce, reuse, recycle. By implementing sustainability, your home or business can better reflect your personal style and be better for your wallet.


To Reuse

Updating furniture that simply isn’t functioning the way it used to is better for the environment, and comes at a much lower cost than buying new. It may be tempting to toss out old furniture with the malfunctioning door or drawer, but investing in a new knob, hinge, foot, or roller slide may be the key to keeping a great piece in your life.

When something becomes unusable, a habitual thought of “I have to replace this” can be retrained into “How can I improve this?”

Oftentimes, an item’s dysfunction is purely aesthetic. Most wood surfaces can stain or wear over time, and of course they can be sanded, refinished and painted, too. For newcomers to these projects, it is an option to talk to a professional, such as Elizabeth Reda, design and decor sales manager at Ring’s End with locations in Newtown and Norwalk.

Reda told Home & Garden the company advises customers how to refinish furniture among the many consultations they handle. This includes antique pieces and factors such as stain design and color, which owners may be hesitant to update or refresh.

“If it has good bones and is made well, it’s always worth it to recover something,” Reda said. “We make color recommendations for those old pieces. Then, they’re completely new pieces.”

You don’t necessarily have to paint the entire piece if you opt for that route. Painted segments on wooden furniture that reveal part of the wood is becoming a popular solution to update furniture. Plus, it makes the piece unique, and of course,

these reimaginings can also be reupdated at will of the owner or resold to a neighbor for a higher value.

Taking control of the furniture in your life can feel empowering, and allows a person to feel responsible for what they possess so items are less likely to be abandoned. There is education on websites such as YouTube and step-by-step written instruction online about how to repair and update furniture. If necessary for the project, tools can be rented and returned.

Some may be hesitant to update furniture with concerns about the integrity of the piece, stopping them from making necessary functional or aesthetic changes. By seeking advice from professionals, integrity can be maintained. Without action, a resented piece of furniture, as close as it is to the original, is closer to becoming landfill.

Purchase For Longevity

If you’re looking for a new piece of furniture you don’t already own, consider choosing quality furniture that will last for more than one season of your life. Become mindful of whether or not you may be buying something for the sake of a trend, lest it gets tiring and is suddenly in the running to be replaced (perhaps being tossed in the process).

When buying a new, mass-produced object for your home, consider its functionality, its unique appeal or style longevity, and avoid plastic items when possible, as they are harmful to the environment.

Thrift stores are full of furniture that could use an update of some kind, and run under thirty dollars for what could be hundreds when new. Turning to estate sales and tag sales listed in The Newtown Bee and Bee Extra as a chance to explore is also an excellent way to find yourself making sound and sustainable furnishing choices.

Other websites and social networks also provide good resources to find great deals.

Often there are sustainable versions of new home goods. Try adding the term “ecofriendly” to whatever it is you’re in the market for, because more and more products are being created with eco-friendly options — some you wouldn’t expect.

Looking locally is preferred, as the environmental toll for something to be transported as well as packaging used should be considered when trying to live more sustainably. While Ring’s End of Newtown carries primarily paints and stains, Reda said other locations source Dash & Albert rugs made out of recyclable plastic bottles.

To expand and individualize furnishings and accessories in your home, and to have more control of what your possessions are made of, you can design your own using tried and tested secondhand materials or by smartly sourcing raw ecofriendly materials.

Thrift stores often carry reams of unique fabrics, and some antique stores do as well. There is information online about how to thoroughly clean thrifted textiles.

If you’re looking for something bought new, Reda says Ring’s End locations carry a sustainable line of eco-friendly Greenhouse Fabrics. According to Reda, these can be purposed for “any sort of soft good” like curtains, pillows, bed skirts, and comforters.

Add Identity

Investing in something beautiful by a local artist, featuring a unique family heirloom, or framing a child’s art piece will add personalized depth to your home. This is contrary to the aesthetic effect of massproduced objects, which hold little meaning. These ready-made objects are designed with trends in mind — so they may be

more compulsively replaced — whereas sentimental objects are less likely to be (or never) readily replaced.

If lacking in heirlooms, unique objects to display can often be found at thrift stores. Many higher quality, vintage pieces can be foraged there for significantly less than comparable items at home furnishing stores, and are guaranteed to not be made with any new materials. Oftentimes, you can find a piece at a general thrift store that’s one of a kind.

Be careful that compulsive buying habits do not transpose to thrift store shopping trips. While purchasing secondhand has ethical upsides to buying new, bringing multiple objects into your home becomes your responsibility. Accumulating objects can garner anxiety when a less controlled environment is established, and objects will lessen the intentional element of applying personal style to a room when they cause added clutter.

Take Packaging Out

Minimizing packaging that you consume is not only handy and kind to the environment, it can also be beautiful. Refillable soap pumps can become an intentional design element in the home rather than overtly branded, disposable units. Buy liquid soap in bulk to minimize packaging consumed and help you save money in the long run.

Purchasing from local zero-waste grocery stores such as BD Provisions in Newtown further minimizes packaging from buying even a bulk case of soap, as customers can bring whatever container they’d like and have it filled to their specification.

“We offer the base container or they could bring in their own container and we can fill it with soap,” said John Boccuzzi Jr, co-owner of BD Provisions. Opting for glass storage and shopping at zero-waste grocery stores can streamline a pantry and make it aesthetically pleasing, allowing for design control over another area of the house.

Mason jars are having an aesthetic moment as interiors emulate a “Modern Farmhouse” rustic look. Those inspired are using the jars for creative candle light displays, drinking cups, artistic ventures, cooking, and of course, for what they have been traditionally used for — food storage.

This medium is in heavy use at BD Provisions. According to Boccuzzi, customers can submit them to be washed and exchanged for free to fill with products in the store that day.

“It’s not just about saving the planet, it’s about having a cleaner, minimalized look and feel of your home,” Boccuzzi said.

Customers at zero-bulk food stores also control how much food they purchase,

12 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - April 7, 2023
Ring’s End with stores in Newtown and Darien feature a line of Greenhouse Fabrics upholstery essentials. Engineered for durability and easy care, these performance fabrics have a natural-looking style and are eco-friendly. Purchasing from local zero-waste grocery stores such as BD Provisions in Newtown further minimizes packaging when buying even a bulk case of soap, as customers can bring whatever container they’d like and have it filled to their specification. —Bee Photo, Veillette

which could eliminate food waste and is friendlier to the wallet.

“The concept of being able to get as much or as little as you need is incredibly valuable,” Boccuzzi said.

BD Provisions also offers reusable dish towels, which serves to take one more item off of the kitchen counter and mass of storage.

“You’re not buying a case of paper towels at Costco; you’re buying five reusable towels that last six months to a year,” Boccuzzi said.

Sustainability Is About Community

Objects and furniture made with local materials support the planet because little fuel was expended to transport them to market. Additionally, supporting local artists creates a more sustainable economic environment.

Need a new set of glassware? Explore your style by researching a local glassblower. Instead of buying a new armchair, perhaps someone local can reupholster your existing piece, transforming it with the perfect (perhaps sustain-

able?) fabric you sourced.

Before throwing out less desired objects, consider asking friends whether or not they would enjoy them, or donating them. There is no guarantee that they wouldn’t still end up in a landfill, but taking one more interventional step is crucial to helping the planet.

Sometimes, donating furniture to a thrift store can be a hassle. With sites for local Buy Nothing groups, people can list their furniture or objects, disclosing any imperfections, and interested parties can pick them up right from a lister’s home or business.

This type of mutual aid allows sustainable furbishing to be accessible to others in your community, and allows you to save time.

Celebrating the change of seasons and holidays can be expressed in your home sustainably as well — and can add the necessary refresh in your home that buying new furniture might. For the sake of the planet, holiday decorations should not be compulsively bought new every year.

Celebrate the season with natural ele-

ments such as wreaths, wildflowers, gourds, fruit displays — all which naturally cycle, can be sourced locally (sometimes for free), and can be guiltlessly swapped out when it is time.

Mental Refurbishing

For some, dedicating a house to sustainability may seem easy. For most, making mostly sustainable choices when it comes to a home or business environment could be a lifestyle change.

Changing a mindset is rarely easy. Reusing is about making the cognitive choice, over and over again, to stick with an item you have. Opting to mindfully pause and survey a space to look for how to improve it outside of purchasing brand new or trendy goods takes practice.

Depending on income and household culture, every family has different bandwidth when it comes to integrating sustainability in their home environment. The most important element to implementing sustainable practices is becoming mindful of

where it is possible in your own life, and using that awareness to make deliberate decisions for the planet.

Part of intentional design in the home is to emulate that feeling of “hominess” and comfort, to ask yourself the question, “Do I enjoy being in this space? Does this space feel like mine?” Remembering that is paramount to achieving your design goals.

Feeling stuck about where to practice first? Reda (from Ring’s End) advises a fresh coat of paint to reframe it all.

“I always tell people, if you paint it, you’re getting a whole new canvas,” she said. “Your inspiration starts with paint.”

Ultimately, taking control of your home’s furnishing and decor outside of convenience comes with a great deal of empowerment. It can reveal to yourself and your guests your lasting personal style and aesthetic values, unable to be summarized by trends of the moment.

Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at

Home & Garden - 13 April 7, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
Updating furniture that simply isn’t functioning the way it used to is better for the environment, and comes at a much lower cost than buying new. — image Much of the theory behind sustainable furnishing comes from the basics — reduce, reuse, recycle. By implementing sustainability, such as reusing industrial waste from metal framing to drawer pulls, your home or business can better reflect your personal style and be better for your wallet.
— image

Four Tips For Integrating Nature Into Your Interior Design

(StatePoint) This spring home improvement season, get inspired by the outdoors with biophilic design.

“Biophilic design – the concept of integrating nature into interior design – is not only gorgeous, it fosters a healthy living environment, promotes happiness and comfort, and reduces stress,” says Jennifer Kline, multimedia graphic artist at ProVia. “There are many ways to reap these wellness benefits while adding vitality to your living spaces.”

To connect to the natural world within your home, consider these ideas:

Foster Tranquility — Taking a stroll through the forest can summon feelings of tranquility. Capture this inner peace at home from the moment you step inside with a fiberglass woodgrain entry door. Those from ProVia provide authentic-looking woodgrain textures, such as oak, cherry, mahogany, knotty alder and fir, and can accommodate various door glass enhancements.

Engineered for energy efficiency, they’re also a sustainable choice, helping you protect the natural world as you embrace its splendor. Other design choices, such as exposed rustic ceiling timbers, rich hardwood furniture, warm hardwood floors and vinyl woodgrain windows can help you carry the forest motif throughout the home, while imbuing interiors with richness and warmth.

Let Light in — “If you’re lacking natural light, it’s time to open those blinds and drapes and let the sunlight stream through your windows. It may also be time to consider a few enhancements that will help you enjoy more sunshine and observe your natural surroundings, even when you can’t be outdoors,” says Kline.

For kitchens and breakfast nooks, bathrooms and dens, consider vinyl garden windows, which invite more light into your space and include shelves ideal

for housing indoor plants, such as fragrant herbs. Their three-dimensional design helps give rooms an airy, spacious feel.

Family rooms and bedrooms are great locations for

vinyl picture windows, which let in large amounts of light while providing unobstructed views of outdoor scenery. Need inspiration? Visit ProVia’s Window Photo Gallery at

To brighten your foyer, add an entry door with glass. Energy efficient sliding glass patio doors also let in sunlight, and give you the option to invite fresh air into your home or enjoy the melodies of singing birds on nice days. Skylights can flood small or closed-off spaces such as walk-in closets or bathrooms with light and give you views of blue skies.

Let it Grow — To give your home a welcoming, fresh feel, add various houseplants and indulge in freshcut flowers. A windowsill with small plants of varying shades of green can add texture, while larger potted plants near doorways help guests feel welcome. Fill dark, underutilized spaces with taller plants and place bright, lightly-scented garden flowers in such spots as the kitchen island and coffee tables. Use earthen or wood-carved vases for additional warmth.

Create Drama — From the warm brown tones of a picturesque southwestern mesa to the cool, earthy feel of quarried rock, manufactured stone veneer adds rugged texture, intriguing patterns and shapes, and a variety of hues straight from Earth’s natural color palette.

Whether you’re creating a focal point in a bedroom with an accent wall, adding character to your kitchen with a stone veneer backsplash, surrounding a tub with stone veneer for a spa-like bathroom, or highlighting your fireplace, different stone profiles and grout colors can help you customize the look. Experiment with combinations using ProVia’s visualizer tool found at

“Incorporating biophilic elements into your interior design can transform your home into a warm respite from your busy life,” says Kline.

Spring Cleaning? Don’t Toss That 'Junk' - It May Be Valuable!

(StatePoint) It’s time to hit the garage, basement, attic and closets for that age-old task of spring cleaning! Before hauling unwanted possessions to the curb, you may be surprised to learn they might be valuable -- especially if you have sports cards and memorabilia gathering dust.

With prices of sports cards rising in recent years, take time to determine if yours are valuable and how to best sell them.

“Older sports cards and memorabilia aren’t just highly collectible; they can be worth lots of money. Recent sales of scarce vintage cards have topped anywhere from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands. And really rare cards can go higher,” says Al Crisafulli, Auction Director at Love of the Game Auctions, an internet sports auction house that helps families identify and sell valuable items.

Crisafulli has assisted people in selling such keepsakes as a grandparent’s autograph collection and an uncle’s childhood baseball cards, for tens of thousands of dollars. In one life-changing event, he helped a family determine that a baseball bat that spent decades protecting their home was used by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig -- and Love of the Game Auctions sold it for almost half a million dollars. Today, that bat could bring more than a million dollars.

The key is understanding what makes old sports collectibles valuable. To help, Crisafulli is sharing some tips: Older is Usually Pricier: Cards from the 1960s and earlier are collectible, and those from before the 1940s can be worth a lot of money, especially those depicting stars. Do you have cards of Hall of Famers, such as Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner or Ty Cobb? Even

non-stars from the early days of a sport can be worth big bucks, especially if the cards have no creases and retain sharp corners and original gloss.

If you have very old cards from the 1880s through the 1930s, look for tobacco, gum and candy brands, such as Old Judge, Piedmont, Sweet Caporal, Goudey or American Caramel.

If you want to sell sports items for the most money, consider a specialty auction, such as Love of the Game,

which has the expertise to properly research sports ephemera and maintains bidder lists of collectors specializing in sports. More information is available at

Postcards and Photographs: We all have keepsakes of vacation destinations, but most aren’t valuable. However, photographs and postcards depicting sports stars and ballparks can be significant. Look for early “real photo” postcards from the 1900s through the 1940s, which are photographs printed on postcard backs.

As with sports cards, star power matters, so preserve those Babe Ruths as opposed to images of your great grandma’s baby cousin once-removed. And when it comes to photos, look for old markings on the back, such as photographer, publication and date stamps.

Memorabilia: Set aside old advertising posters depicting sports stars and food, tobacco or sporting goods brands. Ads from magazines aren’t valuable, but those used as store displays and for other marketing purposes can be pricey. Tin signs from the 1960 and earlier can be highly prized, but reproductions aren’t.

Your family’s sporting goods, such as balls, gloves and bats, can be valuable. Pre-1950s uniforms and catcher’s masks, helmets and other equipment are highly collected, especially when endorsed by star players. Top condition brings the highest prices, but even used equipment can be valuable.

“The golden rule is the older the sports card or item, the more valuable it usually is. Pre-1975 pieces start to get interesting and are worth researching,” says Crisafulli. Don't just clean out your "junk" this spring, examine it closely to potentialy maximize its value.

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Parks & Rec Offering Two Gardening Workshops

Newtown Parks & Recreation is offering two upcoming classes for gardening enthusiasts age 18 and older. Each session costs $39, will be held at Newtown High School from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, and each will be taught by Newtown resident Nicole Christensen.

The first, “Houseplants 101” is planned for Monday, April 24. The description for this session reads: “Many gardeners have great green thumbs when it comes to outdoor plants, but then have a difficult time with indoor plants. Do you struggle with keeping your indoor plants healthy? Already a houseplant enthusiast?

“Expand your knowledge and knowhow. We will cover all sorts of houseplant situations and offer advice on how to maintain and overwinter indoor potted plants (and when and what to put outside in warmer weather). From common varieties of houseplants to orchids, African violets, and everything in between, we will tackle the different challenges of indoor gardening and

learn how to make your houseplants work for you!”

If registering for this session, identify it by Activity Code 317105 A.

The second workshop, “Backyard Bounty — A Guide To Vegetable Gardening,” is scheduled for Monday, May 8

The session is described as follows: “You don’t need to have a farm to keep a vegetable garden! In this class, we will go over what it takes to keep a great vegetable garden in our area.

"Learn what vegetables and herbs work best and where, when to plant and harvest throughout the entire season and what common pests and plant diseases can strike (and what to do when they do). From containers to raised beds, get ready for summer, and feed your family right from your own backyard.”

If registering for this session, identify it by activity code 317108 A.

To register or learn about other offerings, call 203-270-4373 or visit

You may find your trips to the grocery store bypass the produce aisle after taking a Newtown Parks & Rec workshop on vegetable gardening being offered in early May. Colored

16 - Home & Garden The Newtown Bee - April 7, 2023
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Celebrating Oak Trees

For a very long time, oaks have embodied strength and endurance in the northeastern deciduous forest. They were revered by members of the Cherokee Nation who called them “Standing People,” and today we echo this respectful tribute. Nothing beats the silhouette of a mature white oak tree (Quercus alba) with its massive trunk and spreading limbs filling up the sky across a far horizon.

It so happens Newtown is home to just such a tree, as shown in the accompanying photograph. Anyone walking the paved road below the Governor’s Horse Guard fields at Fairfield Hills is likely to have seen it growing on a grassy knoll.

That tree is probably older than the town’s original founding in 1705. The fact that it has escaped the fatal effects of disease, drought, windstorms, and lightning strikes is something of a miracle. Luckier still, it was not felled by a pioneer’s ax nor was it chopped down by a farmer to clear fields for growing corn or grazing cows.

Aside from beauty, any oak tree’s greatest attribute might be something we don’t easily see. This would be its critical role as a keystone species sustaining countless birds, mammals, and insects that depend upon it for food and shelter.

“Oaks have their own ecosystems within their canopies,” says Mark Kokinchak, teacher of insect identification and management at New York Botanical Garden.

Of the 435 oak species living today across five continents, 60 percent are native to North America. Of these, 90 species are found in New England. Beside white oaks, those common to Connecticut include red oaks, black oaks, pin oaks, bur oaks, scrub oaks, and chestnut oaks.

In autumn, oak trees produce acorns that are a critical food source for black bear, deer, turkey, raccoons, badgers,

bobcats, squirrels, and mice. Occasionally, during what is known as a “mast year,” an oak will put out a bumper crop covering the ground so thickly that anyone walking by risks rolling an ankle. Perhaps this is an evolutionary adaptation, a way for oaks to ensure that after the foragers have eaten their fill, enough acorns remain to perpetuate the species.

Oaks play host to hundreds of invertebrate species and thereby to the birds that feed upon them.

In fact, according to Doug Tallamy in his book Nature’s Best Hope , oaks support 557 species of caterpillars, the most of any tree. Such a banquet of caterpillars is welcomed by chickadee parents who must collect up to 9,000

caterpillars to feed a nest full of hungry young (Tallamy).

A whopping 96 percent of all birds will eat insects during various stages of their lives. A barn swallow catches up to 850 flying insects per day to sustain its brood.

Wasps may deposit eggs under the oak’s bark or inside developing acorns to generate the production of oak galls. Those eggs grow into larvae which then become dinner for birds that crack open the galls.

While caterpillars voraciously chew through the oak’s leafy canopy, migrating warblers are gorging on the caterpillars. They, in their turn, may fall prey to hawks and owls. And so it goes, up and down the food chain.

Birds are sustained during winter by seeds they find both in the wild and in backyard feeders. But a diet of seeds alone will not suffice when spring comes. Now, the birds need extra energy to defend territories, attract mates, build nests, lay eggs, and feed their young. They must eat protein in the form of grubs, worms, moths, beetles, slugs, snails, ants, flies, and caterpillars, and they’ll search high and low to find it.

Geological evidence shows that oaks as a species first originated 60 million years ago ( Scientific American , August 2020). This might explain how so many intricate and co-dependent relationships could have formed between oak trees and animals that over thousands of years shared an evolutionary history.

Considering the importance of oaks to a functioning ecosystem, we should save as many individual trees as possible. But the challenges are many. An oak that stands in the way of highway construction, housing developments, or utility lines is going to be cut down. When this happens, we must mitigate the losses. Replacing by replanting oak trees in more favorable locations would be the best option.

If it takes up to 20 years for an oak to produce its first crop of acorns, the best time to plant one was 20 years ago. The next best time would be right now and National Arbor Day, which falls this year on Friday, April 28, provides the perfect opportunity.

This feature was provided by Protect Our Pollinators, a Newtown-based nonprofit group that seeks to increase awareness of threatened pollinator species, encourage planting of native plants, encourage the elimination of harmful pesticides and provide safer alternatives. POP also publishes a monthly column, “My Backyard Habitat,” in The Newtown Bee . For more information, visit

Home & Garden - 17 April 7, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
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Anyone walking the paved road below the Governor’s Horse Guard fields at Fairfield Hills is likely to have seen this majestic oak growing on a grassy knoll. —Dottie Evans photo

(StatePoint) Attending a housewarming is a great way to celebrate a friend’s new home, but how do you find the perfect present to accompany the visit? These unique gift ideas are not only bound to make a statement, they’re incredibly useful to boot.

Fix-It Essentials: For practicality at its absolute best, pack up some must-haves for the house. Include a hammer, screwdrivers and some Original Duck Tape brand duct tape to help your friends get all those initial DIY projects handled –and cover bases for any future projects and everyday fixes that may pop up.

Plant Some Love: Flowers are always a great way to brighten a day, but why not offer something that can brighten a space for years to come and grow with the household? Bring over a gorgeous houseplant or orchid for a gift that lasts and makes your friends think of you every time they see it. Tie on a sweet note and a ribbon for a fun, personal touch.

Organization Must-Haves: Create a welcome home gift that will prove useful for years to come. Put together a basket that includes all those essentials we sometimes forget, like high-quality hangers,

drawer organizers, rubber bands and paper clips for paperwork. Include additional essentials, such as Duck Max Strength Nano-Grab Gel Tape for securing miscellaneous items, photos and temporary seasonal décor, along with EasyLiner Brand Shelf Liner with Clorox for upgraded home organization.

Stock the Bar: Wine is fine, but why not equip your friends with what they need to entertain in the future? Bring over a favorite spirit, mixer and cocktail recipe book to keep the party going. Round out this gift with a cute set of rocks glasses or drink shaker.

Take a Photo: In the age of digital photography, you can help make memories more permanent. Bring your newly relocated friends a large empty photo album and toss in a few disposable cameras or instant film camera to start capturing the fun right away. Kick off the entries by including a cute photo of yourself!

Gift giving at a housewarming doesn’t have to be stressful. By getting creative with a variety of useful items, you can help make a house a home while making a lasting impression on those you love.

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How To Be A Pet Parent On A Budget

(StatePoint) Whether you are a firsttime or veteran pet owner, being a pet parent can be expensive. From daily needs like food, treats and toys to medicines, the costs can add up.

To help stretch your budget, the experts at Dollar General are providing cost-friendly ways to provide for your pet:

Food to Fuel Your Furry Friend: Fueling your pet with nutritious food doesn’t have to break your budget. By stocking up on options available exclusively at select retailers, you can feed your furry family member affordably. For example, Nature’s Menu is available only at Dollar General and offers dog and cat food free from artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Their dry pet food products also include pre and probiotics to support healthy digestion, along with added vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients and a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

Hygiene How-To: Having a pup or feline companion comes with responsibility, especially when it pertains to their cleanliness and well-being. To

maintain a groomed pet, create a care tote that includes such hygiene essentials as a brush or flea comb, shampoo, nail clippers and puppy pads, which can be used as clean-up tool for both dogs and cats.

Also consider using a dual-action topical treatment to help prevent fleas and ticks. Be sure to see a trusted veterinarian for annual checkups and other needs.

Paw-some Accessories: All those accessories that enhance your pet’s days and nights don’t have to be costly. Consider new water and food bowls, a collar and a bed for a good night’s rest after playful days.

Next, make playtime a bit more fun with a few new toys from Dollar General’s private brand, Forever Pals, which include a variety toy pack for dogs and a feather wand for cats. With these accessories, your pet will be wagging their tail or purring with excitement all day long!

By shopping wisely for all your pet’s needs, you can provide them with quality products while stretching your budget in the process.

Home & Garden - 19 April 7, 2023 - The Newtown Bee
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New Tax Credits Increase Appeal Of Heat Pumps for Homeowners

(StatePoint) More and more people are turning to heat pumps to heat and cool their homes. It is estimated that 18 million American households already use them. With new energy incentives being offered, and more homeowners choosing greener technologies, that number is expected to rise dramatically.

What is a heat pump? Heat pumps are powered by electricity and transfer heat using refrigerant. Heat pump technology moves heat outside your home in warmer months and is able to pull heat into your home during cooler months. Here are three reasons to consider one for your home:

1. Sustainability. Heat pumps are electric and don’t burn fossil fuels like furnaces do, making them more environmentally friendly. In fact, heat pumps are becoming the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry go-to for reducing consumers’ carbon footprints.

2. Control. Newer two-stage and variable speed heat pumps offer high- and low-stage heating to warm your space when outdoor weather changes; they operate more efficiently for longer periods of time at lower speeds and use less energy. They provide more precise temperature controls and more consistent comfort. Both options contribute to managing humidity levels too.

3. Technology. Heat pumps today are more advanced than ever and handle both heating and cooling by redistributing air. Carrier’s Infinity 24 Heat Pump with Greenspeed Intelligence operates at temperatures down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit, making heat pumps an advanced solution for mild and colder climates. Does your region get colder than that? Heat pumps can be combined with a gas furnace for a dual fuel system that is energy efficient and cost effective. Looking ahead, heat pumps that work in cold-

er temperature are in development and will be available soon.

Get The Right Size

There are several factors that go into picking your ideal heat pump. The size of your home, climate, sun exposure, desired features and ductwork all play into the size of heat pump. An undersized unit will work overtime to hit target temperatures. A unit that is too large will achieve the desired temperature before its cycle is complete and waste energy. It is best to work with a professional dealer in choosing the heat pump that is best for your home.

Money-Saving Tips

Heat pumps, including installation, can range anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 or more. Thankfully, there are many cost-saving options for homeowners.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes federal tax credits that reward homeowners for purchasing certain highefficiency HVAC equipment, including many of Carrier’s line of heat pumps. Up to $8,000 in tax credits are available for allelectric heat pumps.

Lower energy consumption means energy bill savings, up to $500 on energy bills every year in some cases. Look for Energy Star certification and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings. The SEER rating is like your car’s mileage per gallon – the higher the number, the greater the potential for savings.

Many manufacturers and utility companies also offer rebates and low-rate financing. For example, Carrier’s heat pump rebate offerings are listed on their website. At the time of this publication, up to $1,300 in rebates are being offered for most units. Beyond the basics, today’s heat pumps offer new comfort-enhancing, energy-saving features that could help you reduce your heating costs.

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Connecticut’s Favorite Interior Design Style: Modern Farmhouse

In interior design, trends come and go, but some styles remain ever-popular. So which has Connecticut embraced most?

A recent study conducted by Encino real estate, which analyzed Google

Trends data with over 550 home decor search terms relating to 25 interior designs, revealed the most popular styles as Connecticut residents searched over 10,000 times per month for interior design styles.

The study revealed:

*Modern Farmhouse is the most popular style in Connecticut, with over 1,500 monthly searches

*Coastal and Mid-Century Modern are the second and third most popular in the Constitution State.

Google Trends data revealed this is a clear leader as the nation’s favorite, topping searches in 33 states. Its appeal is widespread, ranking in the top three for all but two states: Alaska and Wyoming.

The Modern Farmhouse style has been popularized across TV and magazines, from interior design to home renovation and DIY shows, showcasing its classic and contemporary styles. Modern Farmhouse incorporates traditional components such as wood, metal, and distressed surfaces, modernized through clean lines, neutral colors, and contemporary touches.

As the farmhouse style represents traditional American values, such as hard work, simplicity, and family, its widespread appeal has stuck and been

lifted into the now.

Connecticut’s second most popular interior style is coastal, receiving over 740 monthly searches.

Coastal design topped searches in four states: California, Delaware, Georgia, and South Carolina. Inspired by beach life, coastal design uses colors of the sea, sand, and sky and incorporates nautical themes, natural materials, and patterns. It is popular due to its relaxed and easygoing vibe.

Mid-Century Modern is Connecticut’s third favorite style and is searched statewide over 720 times per month.

Mid-Century Modern was popularized between the late forties and sixties and is still one of the most popular design styles, appearing in the top three for 25 states. It is characterized by clean lines, simplicity, geometric shapes, and modernist influences.

Real estate expert Tony Mariotti, commented on the findings:

“The data highlights the popularity of the nation’s favorite interior design styles and provides an insight into the types of home decor most loved in Connecticut. When looking at regional differences, the state’s history, geography, and climate still appear to be the main influences rather than seasonal trends. Regardless of the favored style, all were characterized in some way by natural features, whether color, material or pattern, a testament to how important our interiors are to remain connected to our surroundings.”

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Bethel, CT 06801

(in Bethel’s Clarke Business Park) (203) 790-5889

(Formerly Lewis Lawn

873 Wood Avenue Bridgeport, CT (203) 333-6572

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