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The Mountain Gardener: Living fences make good neighbors
by Jan Nelson
Aug 21, 2014 | 39 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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To quote Robert Frost from his 1914 poem “Mending Walls”: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

When I visited Eastern Poland a couple of years ago, each house and garden was enclosed with a fence or some sort. Some fences were wood, some stone, some ornamental iron, and some were plant hedges that divided properties.

I thought the living hedges were the most beautiful and neighborly. Whether you need to screen a water tank or noisy road or the neighbor’s second story window there are lots of choices.

Plan now to be ready for fall planting season.

There are many kinds of plants that make good living fences. Recently, I designed a screen for a narrow yard along a busy street.

We didn’t want to enclose the area with dense plants that would take up too much space and not allow her to enjoy a view of the beautiful neighborhood, but still she didn’t want every person walking their dog to look into her kitchen window.

Some of the plants we chose will display a graceful, weeping habit. Others are wispy and columnar. Still others are compact.

Many people only think of plants that remain evergreen when they need screening. However, if you use one-third deciduous plants to two-thirds broadleaf evergreens, they will weave together and you won't be able to tell where one leaves off and another begins.

This makes mature hedges secure borders, especially if you throw a few barberries or other prickly plant into the mix. You'll also get seasonal interest with fall color and berries for wildlife.

Pittosporum Silver Sheen, westringia “Wynabbie Gem,” leptospermum, nandina, Lily of the Valley shrub and English laurel also make great screens and hedges.

What other plants can you use that would be beautiful, productive and practical in all seasons?

Many times, a screen may start in the sun but end up in mostly shade. For your sunnier spots, why not mix in a few dwarf fruit trees for you to enjoy, ceanothus and Pacific wax myrtle for the birds, barberry for beautiful foliage and fall color, spirea, rockrose, escallonia and quince for their bright flowers and fragrant lilacs for cutting in the spring?

The shadier side can include Oregon grape for fragrant, yellow winter flowers, snowberry for those striking white berries in the fall, oak-leaf hydrangea, viburnum and native mock orange for blossoms in the spring.

Loropetalum chinense — or Fringe Flower — is a handsome evergreen shrub that comes in two versions: green foliage with white flowers or burgundy foliage with raspberry flower clusters. Flowering is heaviest in the spring but some bloom is likely throughout the year. They thrive in sun with occasional water or part shade.

The burgundy form would add color to a woodland garden and they even do well in a container on the patio. You can prune it to any size but please don't turn it into a tight ball and ruin its shape. Another plus is that it is not attractive to deer.

Variegated Mint Bush is another shrub to consider for a living hedge. Creating pleasing plant combinations is a big part of gardening and this one would look great alongside a Fringe Flower of either color.

Allow each plant to interweave and grow together. The Mint Bush will grow 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet high. The foliage smells very strongly like mint so deer avoid this shrub, too.


To keep down maintenance, mulch around your plants and install drip irrigation. There won't be any pruning to do if you choose plants that grow to the height you want. Mixed hedges appeal to bees, butterflies and songbirds while also providing flowers, berries and color throughout the year for you to enjoy.

How close should you plant a mixed hedge? Depending on the mature size of the plant, spacing could be from 3 to 5 feet apart if you want a quick, thick screen.

This gives them room to breathe and develop their own shapes. Fast-growing plants can be spaced 5 to 6 feet apart or more and will usually fill in within 5 years.

Provide the best growing environment for the fastest results.

By this I mean amending the soil at planting time if your soil is not very fertile. Cover the soil with mulch and fertilize with compost or organic fertilizer.

Water deeply when needed, especially during the first three years after planting when young plants put on a lot of growth.

Formal hedges are fine for some gardens but think of all the added benefits you'll get planting a mixed hedge.

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Your Health: Causes, symptoms and care for peripheral neuropathy
by Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.
Aug 21, 2014 | 34 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As part of my cancer treatment journey, I have developed a pretty severe case of peripheral neuropathy of my feet. I was warned that the chemotherapy could cause neuropathy, but I didn't know it would be quite this uncomfortable.

Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to certain nerves — mostly the sensory nerves — which deal with touch, pain, and heat. Most of the time, the problem starts in the fingers and toes and can worsen to include the feet, legs, and hands.

Causes of peripheral neuropathy include:

- Diabetes (the most common cause).

- Chemotherapy.

- Alcoholism.

- Vitamin deficiencies.

The most common symptoms are:

- Pain, burning or tingling of fingers, toes, hands and feet.

- Muscle weakness and balance problems.

- Loss of sensation to touch.

- Difficulty using fingers for tasks such as buttoning one's clothing.

Measures that may help relieve the symptoms of neuropathy:

- Acupuncture, massage, physical therapy and reflexology.

- Relaxation therapy.

- Prescribed medications such as pain medicine, lidocaine patches, capsaicin cream, and anti-depressant and anti-seizure medications.

- Vitamins and supplements such as vitamins B1, B6, B12 and alpha lipoic acid. Check with your doctor for proper doses and any other treatment options.

How to take care of yourself:

- Because neuropathy can cause poor balance, remove throw rugs and clear up any clutter.

- Put grab bars near shower, bathtub or toilet.

- Protect your hands and feet where sensation is decreased and be aware of very hot or cold temperatures.

- Don't drink alcohol.

- Check hands and feet for cuts, scrapes, burns or any other signs of injury.

If you think you are having any of the symptoms of neuropathy see your doctor for evaluation and suggested treatment.

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It’s Your Money: Interest rates can’t match inflation
by Mark Rosenberg
Aug 21, 2014 | 29 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There’s a joke about the milk bottle game at Coney Island: A terrible storm swept through and flattened the entire amusement park; nothing was left standing — except those milk bottles.

It’s not really that hard to knock over the milk bottles. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has the same game, and I threw many a ball at those bottles as a kid, winning Mexican jumping beans, Chinese finger traps and other useful prizes.

On a recent night, I was at the Boardwalk and noticed the milk bottle game is still there. You get three throws for $2. When I was a kid, three throws cost 10 cents.

That’s a 1,900 percent price increase in 45 years. Assuming semiannual compounding, that works out to 6.76 percent inflation per year.

Apparently, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen doesn’t play the milk bottle game. In an effort to justify the Fed’s easy-money stimulus policies, Yellen says inflation is running below the Fed’s target rate of 2 percent per year.

Apparently she doesn’t go to the grocery store, either. Last week, I was at a local supermarket and stopped to chat with an employee. I asked if he thinks the cost of food is rising by less than 2 percent per year.

“No way,” he said. “Bananas were 3 pounds for 99 cents 10 years ago. Now they’re 67 cents a pound. Apples were 99 cents a pound a few years ago. Now they’re $2.49. Lettuce, onions, they’re all going up by much more than 2 percent a year.”

Nearly everywhere I look, I see inflation: at the gas pump, insurance costs, airline tickets, college tuition, government services, and on and on.

Inflation is caused by too much money being spent on too few goods. The Fed’s easy-money policies — intended to boost the economy and create jobs — are stoking inflation.

Why would the government understate inflation? To save money. Cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and federal pensions are linked to inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  

In 1996, the U.S. changed the way it calculates the CPI. It added “hedonic adjustments” that work like this: Last year’s model of a computer cost $500. This year’s model also costs $500 but has added features (which most of us won’t use). Under the hedonic adjustment formula, the price of that computer dropped, and that supposedly lowers our cost of living.

Another change was “substitution,” which says that if the price of oranges goes up, but the price of grapefruit does not, then I can buy grapefruit instead of oranges — therefore my cost of living didn’t rise.

I don’t know how much the cost of living is going up, but I believe it’s substantially more than the official rate of 2 percent. Some experts say it’s going up by more than 5 percent a year.

That means if all of your savings is in bank accounts paying you 1 percent interest, you are losing buying power. If the price of oranges goes up by 5 percent a year, and your savings grow only 1 percent a year, then you can buy fewer oranges every year.

This leads to another effect of artificially low interest rates: They force investors to move money out of low-yield bank accounts and into stocks and real estate, which aren’t guaranteed like a bank account, but give investors a chance to stay ahead of inflation.

Does this mean you should run out and put all of your money into the stock market or real estate? No. But it does mean that when devising a financial plan, remember that the cost of living is going up by much more than what the government would have you believe. 

- Mark Rosenberg is a financial adviser with Financial West Group in Scotts Valley, a member of FINRA and SIPC. He can be reached at 831-439-9910 or

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