Columbian Newspaper

Gardening with Allen: Meadowscaping worth a try
Author: The Columbian

I was intrigued by the article on meadowscaping in The Columbian on Jan. 11. What is your reaction to this idea? Do you have any suggestions for doing it?

When I was still active in the landscape business I did two projects similar to what was described in the article.

In one case we removed wild blackberries from a large sloping area, which was viewed from a back deck. We sowed a mix of wildflower seeds. Germination was limited because of irregular rainfall. Then the blackberries grew back with a vengeance. The second time we sprayed the blackberries to kill the roots. Then we planted some perennial flower plants in areas where rainwater collected temporarily. After a year, these plants developed into a colorful display. The rest of the area grew up with wild grasses with an occasional wildflower here and there.

The second project was in a smaller portion of a large backyard landscape with a lawn. We sowed a wildflower mix in an area with a sprinkler system. Seed germination was quite good. We had to hand pull a lot of annual weeds that came up along with the flowers. By the second year the flowers were established and grew thick enough that there were a lot fewer weeds.

To get a colorful display like those pictured in the article, you would need to transplant multiple varieties of perennial flowers in groupings. More mature gallon-size plants would fill the area more quickly and reduce weed growth. If you mulched this area every spring with 1 to 2 inches of bark dust you would have very little weed growth.

If I were going to do this project for myself I would start by incorporating at least 3 inches of bark dust or compost into the soil with a large rototiller. Then I would plant clusters of three to seven 4-inch to gallon-size plants selected from the following improved selections of native wildflowers.

For early spring bloom I would plant three low-growing ground covers, Alyssum Basket of Gold, Aubrieta Purple Rock Cress and Lamium Pink Pewter. Lamium continues to bloom through the entire summer.

For early summer to mid-summer bloom I would plant varieties that grow 12 to 30 inches tall: Geranium Rozanne, Coreopsis Moonbeam, Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) Goldsturm, Lavender Hidcote, Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) and Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria). Rozanne has sky blue flowers, Moonbeam has lemon yellow flowers, Goldsturm has deep yellow flowers and Hidcote has deep lavender blue flowers, Peuvian Lily comes in a wide range of colors. Rozanne, Moonbeam and Peruvian Lily will continue blooming into late summer to early fall.

Then I would plant China Aster for fall bloom. I would place plants a little less than their full diameter apart so they will grow together leaving no space for weeds.

Another approach would be to plant a seed mixture of grass and wildflowers. Pro Time Lawn Seed Company in Portland ( has an excellent mixture which they call Fleur de Lawn. This mix contains the proper selection of grass seed varieties and low-growing flowers to achieve good results with low maintenance. It even contains a dwarf clover so no fertilizer is required. An occasional, well-timed mowing at 3-inch height is all the maintenance needed.

Sowing Seeds: Resolve to have a greener and more generous gardening year
Author: JEFF LOWENFELS, Associated Press

Something miraculous happens to gardeners at this time of year. I don’t know what triggers it. Perhaps it was the sight of Christmas trees and lights, or the presence of all those poinsettias. Whatever the cause, by January, gardeners have let go of last year’s gardens and start to dream about this year’s effort.

Just a short while ago, we were doing all manner of fall gardening and yard care. At the end of the season, gardening can seem more like a chore than an enjoyable hobby. We harvest vegetables, fret about mowing the lawn, deal with leaves, clean perennial beds and have to plant garlic before the frost.

Now, however, the memory slate has been cleaned. Somehow we’ve forgotten all the hard work last year’s gardens entailed. Refreshed, we find ourselves spending an afternoon browsing the internet looking for this year’s seeds or thumbing through an actual, hard-copy, seed catalog planning this year’s gardens.

Last year’s blisters, failures and misfortunes have been replaced by enthusiasm, and an optimism we may have lost as last year’s efforts dragged on.

So, here at another beginning, why not set a high bar for yourself as you start gardening again?

Here are a handful of 2022 resolutions that acknowledge some new approaches to our hobby:

For one thing, this is the year for gardeners to fully recognize our role in dealing with global warming. Those two-cycle, gasoline engines used in our yards, for example, are no longer environmentally acceptable and need to be phased out of home gardening. This season, accelerate replacement of your old mowers, blowers and weed eaters with manual, battery or corded versions. Even just skipping a session, mowing just once a month, will make a huge difference.

Next, gardeners are well known for sharing. Make some of your plantings for the greater good. For example, we gardeners have the ability to help increase pollinator, butterfly and bird populations, which have been in serious decline. All it takes is planting a few things that support them. There are enough of us that, combined, such efforts will make a huge difference.

And with over 85 million of us gardening, planting a row of food to donate to the hungry will have an impact on millions of people without food security. There is always a food bank, place of worship or neighbor that needs food and will appreciate fresh produce offered by gardeners. Plant a row for the hungry.

Also, the savvy gardener can use some trending plants to meet worthy goals. The “less lawn” movement, for example, in which gardeners’ try to reduce the size of their lawns, has struggled because wildflowers and meadow mixes sometimes don’t work well. To the rescue come all those tall, clumping grasses that are trendy because professional landscapers are using them around parking lots and new buildings. They are easy to maintain, and breeders have improved the selection for homeowners. Use these tall grasses to reduce the size of your lawn.

Finally, as a result of the pandemic, gardeners everywhere are learning the benefits of turning part of their yards into better social gathering areas. Last year, this trend was referred to as extending the front porch into the front yard. This year, go farther.

What about installing an awning or more permanent cover to shield you from rain? Spiff up the area around the fire pit and barbecue so you can use them in the winter, too. There are now waterproof TV screens (if you must). And make sure your internet connection outdoors is good enough so you can listen to your favorite gardening podcast.

You can forget about last year’s gardens. You should be refreshed and ready to go. This year’s gardening season has begun.

Harrop: Australia won’t miss you, Novak
Author: Froma Harrop

It was with dry eyes that Australians waved goodbye to Novak Djokovic, the tennis superstar their country sent packing because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Their laws require that foreigners entering the country be vaccinated. The Serbian, there to defend his Australian Open title, apparently assumed he’d fly past the rules governing mere mortals.

Djokovic has endorsement deals worth an estimated $30 million a year. His arrogant refusal to follow the public health mandates imposed on ordinary Australians may cut into his commercial worth, as it should.

One sponsor, the French clothing brand Lacoste, has already said it would review the controversy. In not a good sign for Djokovic, it also thanked the Open’s organizers “for all their efforts to ensure that the tournament is held in good conditions for players, staff and spectators.”

As a very casual consumer of professional sports, it is has long mystified me how doing masterful things with a ball justifies dumpsters of gold in compensation.

As a taxpayer, I resent being asked to subsidize professional sports arenas. As a subscriber to cable TV, I resent the “sports fee” tacked onto my bill.

This source of enrichment for professional teams and their players — sneakily made to look like a tax — is especially aggravating to we who don’t care who is playing, where they are playing or what they are playing.

This much-shared irritation with entitled sports celebrities precedes the row over COVID-19 vaccinations.

But when you add other bad behaviors to contempt for public health measures, you wonder how long before a hole is blown in their inflated value.

Another prominent example is Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets’ guard.

New York City mandates that professional athletes be vaccinated if they want to play at home.

Irving was to be paid more than $35 million this season but is not on the court for home games because he refuses to get his shots.

Irving says he doesn’t object to the vaccine. He just doesn’t want to be told to get it — this in a city where delivery guys can’t enter a diner without proof of vaccination.

In November, Mayor-elect Eric Adams said that New York would not make an exemption for Irving. And although the Nets could let Irving play Brooklyn home games if they pay a (paltry) fine of $5,000 per violation, the NBA refused to give a green light.

The NBA holds that teams must follow local laws, probably for the sport’s own good.

The assumption that sports heroes are unconditionally venerated reached a ridiculous height when Djokovic’s lawyers argued that by cancelling his visa, Australia could be stoking hostility toward vaccinations.

Really, if his refusal to get his shots influences low-information fans, all the more reason to send him packing.

Look. I’ve seen the emotional powers of sports heroes. My home used to be a house of worship for Tom Brady. Those days are gone.

ESPN writer Howard Bryant worries what this outlandish sense of entitlement will ultimately do to professional sports. Djokovic “has cemented his membership within the pandemic’s most infamous group — the anti-vax multimillionaire athlete who behaves as if his fame, wealth and enormous platform to disseminate misinformation place him above the rest of us.”

Bryant noted that the usually admirable Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has posted memes likening COVID-19 to the flu. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lied about being vaccinated and then trolled his critics with the claim that he was some sort of Ayn Rand superman.

Some insist that the Australian government was making an example of Djokovic. Actually, the government was simply not making an exception for him.

The pedestal on which sport celebrities stand is getting a lot lower.

Letter: Be socially responsible vs. COVID
Author: Ron Sturgeon, Vancouver

Our COVID-19 war deepens as casualties add up, with over 850,000 dead and hundreds of thousands varyingly disabled long-haulers.

When WWI and later WWII threatened America, ordinary Americans overwhelmingly sacrificed and rallied to defend our nation, but against COVID-19 a substantial number refuse to protect our country by girding their bodies with vaccinations.

The unvaccinated are the virulent incubators of COVID-19 as they have far higher levels and shed far more of the virus than the relatively mild breakthrough cases. Being unvaccinated puts everyone and our nation at greater risk as we need a vaccination rate over 90 percent to gain substantial herd immunity.

The unvaccinated are facilitating the spread of COVID-19 and the development of variants like delta and omicron. The next variant could be more contagious, deadly and resistant to existing antibodies. In conventional warfare, refusing prudent safeguards and knowingly allowing the enemy to use one’s body for assaults on our nation would be seen as aiding and abetting, treasonous acts.

People of most faiths are called to be socially responsible. Socially responsible people who love our wonderful, but imperfect, nation will, when possible, get vaccinated and protect us all.


Letter: New license is burdensome
Author: Mary Sobolewski, Camas

I have been married and driving in Washington under my married name for 52 years. For 52 years the routine has been the same, and the renewal process simple. When I applied for my enhanced license I had to submit an original certified birth certificate from the state of my birth, and a certified copy of my marriage license from the state of Washington. This on top of my current license, Social Security, and water bill.

Now ask yourself what’s behind this legal process, when illegal immigrants cross our borders with none of these documents. It feels like reverse discrimination.


Mars gives M&M’s a makeover to promote inclusivity

Candy maker Mars is giving a makeover to its six M&M’s characters as a way to promote inclusivity.

The company said that it will provide a modern take on the appearances of the characters — which Mars calls “lentils” — and give them more nuanced personalities. The lentils, which are featured in red, green, orange, yellow, brown and blue, will also come in different shapes and sizes.

Some of the changes to the M&M characters include having the green M&M switch its footwear from high-heeled boots to sneakers. The brown candy is wearing lower heels.

“Our ambition is to upend the expected, break through barriers, and discover the little joys shared in everyday life. Imagine a world with less judgment & more connection & consistent laughter,” the company said on its website.

Mars, whose brands also include Twix and Snickers, said that it will also put added emphasis on the ampersand in the M&M’s logo to demonstrate how the brand aims to bring people together.

The move toward inclusivity and embracing individual differences comes at a time when consumers are growing increasingly aware of how products are marketed to them. Mars is aware of this, having had to change the name of its Uncle Ben’s rice brand in 2020 due to criticism. Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima brand pancake mix and syrup — part of PepsiCo —rebranded last year because it said that “Aunt Jemina” was based on a “racial stereotype.”

But some marketers believe that Mars may be overthinking the marketing of its M&Ms.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says the move to overhaul the character of the M&Ms is a “good idea” but it’s just an example of how worried marketers are to offend consumers. And he believes this step is on the “verge of potential overthink.”

Marketing consultant Laura Ries agrees, though she praises Mars’ emphasis of the ampersand as a symbol of unity.

“They’re looking for some attention and trying to jump on the bandwagon of trying to be more inclusive,” Ries said. “I don’t think there was an overall outcry of the overall sexualization of the M&M. It’s just an M&M.”

Letter: Support Ridgefield bond
Author: Megan Dudley, Ridgefield

A “yes” vote for the Ridgefield school bond is an investment in our community’s future.

Strong school districts increase home values. No overcrowding decreases the risk of communicable diseases. The longer we kick the can down the road, the more expensive building schools becomes. We have exhausted all other avenues; the bond is the only way forward.


Letter: Library card is a godsend
Author: Calvin Stroop, Vancouver

I love, love, love FVRLibraries. I can order books online from all the libraries in the FVRLibraries system and they will email me when they get in. All I have to do is walk in to the reserved book shelf and self-checkout the books I have requested. They never charge a late fee and will automatically renew my books unless they have been requested by others.

If they don’t have a book I want they will usually buy it and give me first chance to check it out. They have audiobooks that can be downloaded without leaving your home. They even will mail books to people who have mobility issues. There are also a lot of other services they provide.

There is an InterLibrary Loan internet accessible database) for books out of print. It is an intercollegiate library. I have gotten books from Oregon, Montana and Rhode Island. The books are delivered to my library and they email me when they come in. I’m not sure of their late-fee policy. They ask what you are willing to pay for borrowing their books. I simply say zero, and it arrives usually after a longer wait, but I still get to read it.

Do you have a library card? Mine has been a godsend.






Take the headache out of a home renovation project
Author: Cathy Hobbs, Tribune News Service

It’s that time of the year when many homeowners are considering renovating. While sprucing up your home can be exciting, here are some suggestions for prudent ways to approach a renovation, regardless of size.


1. Do obtain multiple bids. Regardless of whether it’s love at first sight, having multiple bids may help provide peace of mind, knowing that you didn’t overpay for your renovation.

2. Do ask for previous samples of work or references. This will help ensure that your hired professional has executed similar renovation projects.

3. Do have inspiration images and overall design direction. There is nothing worse than flying blind on a renovation project.


1. Don’t purchase your materials once your project has commenced. Instead try to have fixtures, appliances, etc., preordered to avoid delays in your project, which will likely increase cost.

2. Don’t submit change orders, or try to submit as few as possible. Many contractors charge fees relating to changing work orders.

3. Don’t micromanage. While it is prudent to be on top of your project, it may be counterproductive to be overly involved.

Letter: Council chair shows bias
Author: Valerie Alexander, La Center

I’ve always been perplexed as to why we have elected officials with their built-in bias, as our Board of Health. A prime example of the folly of this situation is the Clark County Council chair arguing with Dr. Alan Melnick, a highly trained specialist in public health, displaying her ignorance of medical issues. (“Clark County Council wrestles with COVID, new maps,” The Columbian, Jan. 12).

As a retired nurse with experience in public health, both here and abroad, I am astounded that someone, whose duties as a board member include protecting the public from communicable diseases as specified at, has the gall to question Dr. Melnick and suggest that our hospitals are not doing their job right. She should resign.