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Landscape architect Carolyn Summers has been designing outdoor spaces locally with native plants for years, including her own gorgeous garden in Hastings-on-Hudson. She is an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College and the author of Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East. Her book is a complete guide to the use of eastern native plants in the garden and how to design landscapes with native trees, shrubs and ground covers.

Ms. Summers will give a free talk at the Scarsdale Library on the evening of June 9th when she will present present a slide show on indigenous plants as an integral part of a healthy landscape. She will offer a selection of striking design alternatives using native plants in place of more commonly used exotics in a variety of traditional styles. Her book, Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East will be available for purchase.

Free Admission
Wednesday June 9
7:30 p.m.
Scarsdale Public Library Scott Room

How “green” is your life? Scarsdale held its second Sustainability Day on Saturday, May 15 and now you can discover steps to reduce your footprint and become a better steward of the earth. Here are some suggestions from those in the know on how you can save money, go green, and add value to your home by making it more energy efficient.




In the home:

  • Use programmable thermostats
  • Get a professional to perform a blower door test to determine where there are air leakages in your home. Many times trying to caulk and seal windows and doors without professional consultation may not be effective.
  • Seal duct work with mastic
  • Replace old appliances with energy star approved appliances
  • Get seasonal HVAC maintenance
  • Maintain refrigerator coils
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or, better yet, new LED light bulbs (LEDs are more expensive, but they last for 20 years and emit more pleasant light than CFLs.  Furthermore, LEDs do not contain harmful lead, which CFLs do contain.)
  • Consider installing solar panels or a geothermal energy system to provide your house and the grid with sustainable energy. Currently, eight homes in Scarsdale have solar panels, in which panels of photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electrical energy.  (Solar panel approval by the Board of Architectural Review has been difficult in Scarsdale, but is improving.)  Ten Scarsdale homes have geothermal energy systems, in which the constant temperature of the deep ground is harnessed to heat or cool a building, depending on the season.
  • Do you clean your home with toxic chemical cleaners? Alternatives that do not have harsh fumes and chemicals can keep your home just as clean, or cleaner, than can dangerous, toxic cleaning products. Shaklee Get Clean products use safe, biodegradable cleaning agents that are safe for the earth and your family. Moreover, Shaklee cleaning products are green because they are more concentrated, so less packaging is used and less product is needed.

In the yard:

  • Do you have native plants in your yard? Growing plants that are naturally found in Westchester County is good for local wildlife and the environment, and the plants may be easily maintained without the use of harmful fertilizers.
  • Are pesticides used on your lawn? Pesticides have dangerous chemicals that pose risks to human health, especially in children, and have grave environmental impacts including the death of wildlife and the contamination of the local water supply. Pesticides only kill 97% of targeted pests, so the resistant strains may proliferate and create a population that will only by effected by even stronger – and more dangerous – chemical pesticides.
  • Corn gluten is a sustainable, effective alternative to fertilizer.
  • Do you have a rain garden? Rain gardens are beneficial because they decrease the amount of surface runoff during periods of heavy rain. They contain the water on your property instead of letting it run into the village storm water system.

At Scarsdale High School, community adults, sustainability experts, and students joined for a convention on sustainability and green living. The Scarsdale Board of Education and the Scarsdale Village Trustees presented the Scarsdale Sustainability Day, which featured exhibitors and workshops led by students and village business and representatives. Dr. Frantz, one of the chief organizers of the event, was pleased with the “wonderful atmosphere that focused on the importance of going green.”

Visitors learned from student exhibitors representing all seven Scarsdale Public Schools. Students presented exhibits to inform one another and guests of various green initiatives. Exhibits from the Middle School and Edgewood featured green no-waste lunch boxes, containing reusable water bottles, food containers, and silverware. A group from the High School’s Make it Green club informed guests that they are currently hosting a Nike “Reuse a Shoe” drive in which old, used sneakers are ground up into component materials, recycled, and used to construct new playing fields, courts, and running tracks (the Make it Green club is collecting used sneakers in a box inside the High School’s post road entrance until May 28 and encourages donations!).

“We like kids K-12 working with vendors and village organizations, sharing the sustainability initiatives we’re involved in and sharing ideas,” said Frantz. The students took an active role in the event, both as leaders and as participants.

Other exhibits included a Girl Scout presentation of native plants and a display of rocks from the Weinberg Nature Center, which is opening a new geology exhibit on Sunday, May 23 during its 2010 Spring into the Green EcoFest.  There was also a promotion for the Scarsdale Farmer's Market

There were two workshops featured at the event: one focused on energy conservation in the home, particularly through the implementation of geothermal heating and cooling and solar energy. It was led by a panel of expert consultants, architects, and residents with experience using these energy-saving systems. Judy Martin, the founder and principal of Green Home Consulting, LLC discussed the importance of weatherization for the energy efficiency of a home. She recommended a few vital steps for “greening” a house through weatherization and other means to save energy. After all, she joked, “the cheapest energy is energy you never use.”  Anthony Conklin of Mercury Solar Systems discussed the logistics and financial benefits of installing solar panels on a home, and Scarsdale real estate agent Lynne Clark expounded the advantages of an energy efficient home in today’s housing market.

The second workshop discussed environmentally sound water management practices for suburban homeowners. Earl Goven, a landscape architect, emphasized the dangers of fertilizers and described alternatives that are healthier for residents and for the planet. The benefits of rain gardens were also extolled in this session.

After the workshops, Russell Greenleaf took kids, adults, community members, and school board leaders to see the Scarsdale High School garden, which he and Larry Hershman championed.

To conclude the day, Dr. Frantz led a tree dedication as part of the ongoing celebration of the Scarsdale School District’s 225th anniversary. Students from all five elementary schools participated in a ribbon cutting of a freshly planted tree in the courtyard of Scarsdale High School near the district offices.  The same kind of tree will be planted at each of the Scarsdale Public Schools. At the tree dedication, district superintendent Dr. Michael McGill remarked that, analogous to the students of the Scarsdale School District who are taught to “succeed, lead, and contribute,” the trees will grow and flourish well into the century.

Additional Links to Keep You Green:
Westchester's Curbside Recycling Guide

A local garden blogger has offered to share excerpts from her site with readers of Here is the most current entry on what’s in bloom, from her blog called, Observations on a Half Acre Plot in Westchester…Notes from an Edgemont Garden.
What's In Bloom
Creeping Phlox, Grape Hyacinths, Vinca and some tulips are blooming in the front yard. The tulip selection is pathetic and I won't attempt to plant them again until I've gotten over the frustrations of the last couple of seasons. I spent plenty of money and hours planting rivers of tulips in the front beds only to have them devoured by the otherwise adorable chipmunks. I thought I was clever the following year and ordered en masse from an inexpensive catalog and planted again, this time with a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper from my pantry. Success?

The tulips were not eaten; nor were they as advertised. They emerged pale and puny and not even the colors I ordered. A couple of these little insults are up now.

Dogwood, Redbud, several azalea varieties, Virginia Bluebells, Bleeding Hearts and Trout Lilies are in full bloom out back. Lily-of-the-Valley and 'false' Lily-of-the Valley, and the bugleweed are emerging.

If you have photos of what’s blooming in your garden, please email them to to share. Or, if you have questions about your garden, post them below, and we’ll see if we can get you the answers.

Read more at:

They are the most overlooked and underutilized areas in most suburban landscapes. But, with a bit of imagination and planning, the shady pockets and corners most homeowners ignore-- under trees, in side yards and in the shadow of rooflines and structures -- offer an abundance of design opportunities and fertile ground for winning plant combinations.

Is there a spot in your garden that is tucked away behind a tree or behind a row of shrubs? Imagine it transformed from bare ground to a secret garden filled with shade-loving plants. Add a bench or a small table and chair, and you’ve created a destination for reading or sipping a cup of coffee. Introduce a focal point -- a piece of sculpture or an urn amidst a cluster of ferns and perennials -- and your shade garden becomes a quiet, contemplative place to relax and unwind. Consider a gravel path or stepping stones set in grass or mulch. A path will “tell” your visitors which way to go; it will also beckon them beyond the path and introduce an element of surprise to the landscape.

There are plenty of broadleaf evergreens and foliage plants that will thrive and provide year-round form and structure in a shade garden, from boxwood, to hollies, yew, cherry laurels (upright and shrub form), Acuba, Sweetbox, drooping Leucothoe and flowering rhododendruns and andromeda. Some of the most beautiful flowering shrubs, including numerous types of viburnum and oakleaf hydrangea (which also boasts spectacular fall foliage) also thrive in shade, as do Itea and Fothergilla.

Several beautiful trees do well in the shade. Japanese maples add an elegant, sculptural presence to any shady landscape as well as beautiful foliage and color. One of the best four-season, shade-tolerant, multi-stemmed small trees for the landscape is serviceberry or Amelanchier. This edge-of-woods tree offers dainty white flowers in the spring, fabulous fall foliage, bird-attracting berries in the late fall and beautiful branching structure in the winter. Dogwoods and, redbud trees also do well in dappled shade.

If hosta and fern are the only perennial plants that come to mind when you think of a shade garden, think again! From groundcovers such as sweet woodruff, liriope, Solomon’s seal, lily-of-the-valley and ajuga, to colorful perennials like purple-leafed Heuchera, white or pink bleeding heart, Astilbe, Lady’s Mantle and purple-flowering geraniums, there are numerous shade perennials to choose from. Planted in drifts in the shade of a stand of trees, they make a showy statement. Ferns and hosta, which grow in the deepest shade, offer a striking variety of foliage color and form, from petite, ruffled mounds of variegated leaves to shrub-sized plants with giant foliage. Heuchera ‘Purple Palace,’ Japanese Painted Fern and Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ or ‘Sieboldiana’ offer a winning combination in shades of gray and purple, while the variegated yellow-green Hosta ‘Frances William’ shines alongside Japanese forest grass (Hakenochloa Macra ‘Aurea’).

With many of these shade-tolerant plants and shrubs just beginning to arrive at local nurseries, now is the perfect time to take stock and re-imagine your landscape. The possibilities are endless!

Andrea Kaplan, a New York Botanical Gardens-trained and certified landscape designer and the creative vision behind Hedgerow Landscape Design, has been designing residential landscapes in lower Westchester since 2006. Learn more at: or call her at 914-723-5177

Photo: Hedgerow Landscape Design transformed this forlorn side yard (where an oversized swing set once reigned) into a destination and stop-and-linger transition from front to backyard.

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