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Home and Garden

  • Royal empress tree at center of controversy

    While driving through a Chester County neighborhood recently I was surprised to see a tall tree, perhaps 30 feet high, covered in lavender bell-shaped blossoms.

    I stopped, backed up and sat for several minutes gazing at the unusual sight.

    The person with me offered to ask the property owner, his neighbor, what kind of tree it was.

  • Take a walk back in time

    Walking through the gardens of Terry and Genie Graham is like a stroll back in time. Their home and property located at 8603 Van Wyck Road date back to over 135 years ago.

    Though it has experienced changes over the decades, the yard is still filled with many of the original plants.  By blending  a little of yesterday and today, they have created a beautiful homeplace filled with blooms throughout the year.

    This year they also added a huge bulb garden filled with thousands of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths as well as their first crop of strawberries.

  • Firespotting equipment has evolved over the years

    One of my favorite childhood memories is of hiking a mountain trail in southwest Virginia with my father.

    We were walking along admiring the flowering Mountain Laurel when suddenly we were in a clearing staring up at a very tall fire lookout tower.

    I was fascinated by the idea of someone living so high above the trees scanning the horizon for puffs of smoke.

    For years afterward I secretly dreamed of being that person, the sentinel standing watch over the forest.

  • Plant saucer magnolias facing north

    For the third year in a row the saucer magnolia in our backyard lost hundreds of ready-to-open blooms to sudden below-freezing night temperatures.

    According to Steve Bender writing in “Southern Living,” this is a situation that regularly occurs about two springs in three. Still, it is very disheartening to see the lovely waxy buds that are pinkish-purple outside and white inside turn an unlovely brown. The poor tree will keep trying to replace the frozen blooms for months.

  • Spending time in nature boosts brain health

    Quantifiable data shows that reducing stress and brain fatigue is as simple as taking a walk in the park.

    According to a study by researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh, people who live near trees and parks have lower levels of stress hormones and improved concentration. The study appeared this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

    But how good is South Carolina for your mental health?

  • Military News

    Coleman finishes basic training

  • From thorns to flowers: March Yard of the Month

    Back in April 2007 when Mike and Mashalle Bailesfirst purchased their home at 930 Sherwood Circle, they realized the house and yard needed a little attention. With the windows of the house almost covered in overgrown hollies, English ivy and the thorny spikes of ileagnes throughout the yard, the Bailes had to make a few choices.

    Many of the shrubs were removed and replaced with slower growing lower maintenance varieties such as nandina.

  • Girls on a mission

    GREAT FALLS – They want to go to a One Direction concert.

    The girls are in awe of the English-Irish boy band based in London.

    Instead of asking their parents for money for the concert tickets, the girls put their heads together to find ways to raise their own money.

    Haley Albert, 12, Isabella Davis, 12, Lydia Mills, 13, and Breanna Burchett, 13, have solicited help from their mothers in their fundraising efforts.

  • Holding on to Hope: Apparent HIV cure encouraging for highly infected South Carolina

    News of a Mississippi newborn supposedly cured of an HIV infection has HIV advocates and researchers in South Carolina hopeful as well as skeptical.

    The potential for the cure to change the standard of care for those infected would be especially welcome here in the South, where the highest death rate due to HIV occurs.

  • Chocoholic? Just thank a cacao tree

    Following Valentine’s Day and the shelves piled high with those heart-shaped boxes of candy, I have been thinking about the pleasure cacao trees have given the world.

    The fruit of the cacao tree are large football-shaped pods, each containing up to100 seeds. Cacao seeds are the basis of all chocolate. The seeds, or beans, are very bitter, but the pulp that surrounds them is sweet and when it is allowed to ferment, the bitterness of the beans is reduced and they develop a heady chocolaty aroma.