Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Ornamental grasses easy to grow
Bring containers inside for fall colour
By Gerald Filipski
Edmonton Journal May 21, 2013  

I have been getting a few requests to repeat a column that ran a few years ago on grasses. It seems more and more gardeners are discovering the joys of maintenance-free gardening that grasses can offer.

Grasses are efficient, versatile and beautiful and can be used in many applications.


The right container can make or break a grass. If your grass is gold edged in green, a high gloss, black container will look great. If the grass is a rusty brown, a bright yellow container will do the trick. Choose from today’s wonderful variety of containers to best complement and contrast the grass. If you are going to bring the grasses indoors in the fall, choose a container that is light enough to transport. Many of the cast-resin types look like much heavier ceramic or terra cotta, but weigh a fraction of the real thing.

Decisions, decisions

Ornamental grasses come in a wide range of heights and colours that include shades of green, gold, brown, red, purple and white. They easily hold their own when it comes to landscape design; you won’t need to add anything else to achieve an appealing and very interesting container garden. A single tall grass in the background, with two or three medium-height grasses and three to five short varieties in front can turn a dull corner of a deck or balcony into a thing of beauty.

Care and feeding

These undemanding plants prefer a well-drained, good-quality potting soil, with no need to fertilize during the first year of growth. After the first year you can add some slow-release fertilizer pellets made for containers. This way, each time you water the plant gets fertilized. The pellets can last for up to three monthst. Grasses like to be watered on a regular basis, but many are drought tolerant and can go for longer without water— sometimes a couple of days, or longer if they are not in direct sun — than most annuals.

In the fall, it’s easy to bring your grass arrangement inside and enjoy it right through the winter.

Try some of these newer varieties of grass in your containers:

Golden Japanese forest grass (hakonechloa macra Aureola): Leaves bright yellow with narrow green stripes. Full sun to part shade. This spectacular plant has a habit of cascading over the sides of a container. 35 cm tall, 41 cm wide.

Carex Prairie Fire: Partial to full shade. Leaves green/bronze that erupt into a gorgeous red colour. Upright growth and an excellent container plant. 30 — 46 cm high and wide.

Carex Bronco: Leaves medium-brown/bronze. Habit is a cascading one. Full sun. 25 cm tall, 35 cm wide.

Festuca glauca Boulder Blue (Boulder Blue fescue): Spiky, clump-forming habit. One of the bluest grasses on the market. Striking in a dark black pot. 15 — 30 cm high and wide.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster (Karl Foerster Reed Grass): My favourite background grass; leaves are green, often turning tan in fall. Plumes of rose-coloured flowers rise above foliage in midsummer, carrying tan seed heads from late summer through late winter. You can leave the seed heads on when bringing indoors, or cut them off. Grows to 1.5 m tall and 76 cm in width, but it won’t get that large in a container.


Calgary condo sales in May see upward trend
May 28, 2013

As the month of May nears its end, Calgary’s resale condo market has seen a healthy upward movement in sales and prices.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, month-to-date until May 27, there have been 346 MLS sales in the condo apartment category, up 5.17 per cent from the same period last year.

The median price has risen by 4.56 per cent to $261,500 while the average sale price is up by 12.39 per cent to $310,871.

In the condo townhouse category, sales of 311 are 25.91 per cent higher than a year ago; the median price has increased by 7.63 per cent to $317,500; and the average sale price is up 3.54 per cent to $342,638.

Source: Calgary Herald Blog


Calgary homes selling quicker
May 27, 2013

It’s interesting to see how the age-old dynamic of supply and demand is playing itself out in today’s Calgary real estate market.

When supply is down and demand is up, that’s going to impact prices and it’s also going to impact the length of time it takes to sell a property.

Well, supply is down these days in Calgary’s housing market while sales continue to grow. That’s pushing prices upwards – near record levels. And homes are selling quicker.

Here’s the numbers.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, month-to-date until May 26, there have been 2,049 MLS sales in the city, up 2.71 per cent from the same period last year.

Days on the market to sell a property have dropped from 39 last year to currently 31, which is a drop of 20.51 per cent.

New listings of 3,091 so far this month are down 4.83 per cent from last year and active listings are off 18.16 per cent to 4,821.

All those numbers are sure to impact prices.

So far this month the median price is up 3.87 per cent from last year to $405,000 and the average price has risen by 3.26 per cent to $459,951 for all MLS property sales in the city.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Garden living in Taipei
Thursday 07 Mar 2013

Vincent Callebaut Architectures shares exclusive identity of 100m-high Agora Garden residential tower now under construction

Agora Garden, an inhabited and cultivated vertical garden in the Xinyin District of Taipei, is currently under construction. A competition for the project was won by Vincent Callebaut Architectures in 2010 with a design inspired by two encircling hands clasped together and the helical structure of DNA. Once completed the 42,335 sq m luxury residential building will incorporate nanotechnologies and vertical gardening into the residents’ everyday life to make this one of the most eco-friendly structures in the city.

One of the more visually arresting aspects of this ambitious project is the 90 degree twist of the tower, the sinuosity of which, the practice explains, ‘corresponds to the universal musical symbol of harmonic revealing the notion of ultimate balance praised by the project’. The result is such that the shape of the structure morphs depending on where the onlooker is standing, for example its east/west elevations draw a rhomboidal pyramid whereas the north/south elevation is a reverse pyramid.

Vincent Callebaut Architectures says of the design: “Neither single tower, nor twin towers, the project arises towards the sky with two helicoidal towers gathering themselves around a central core. This architectural party offers a hyper-compacted core and a maximal flexibility of the housing storeys (with the possibility to unify two apartment units in one without any footbridge). It brings a multiplication of view angles towards the urban landscape and a hyper-abundance of suspended gardens.”

These suspended gardens not only bring an aesthetic appeal to the Agora Garden project but will provide the building’s residents with orchards, organic vegetable gardens, aromatic gardens and medicinal plants. The vertically-wide planted balconies will be accessible for all residents and will also include rain water tanks for the irrigation of the suspended gardens, nests for birdlife, composting facilities for converting waste into fertilizer and garden furniture for their own enjoyment. The planting beds are to be covered by a layer of white natural stone to protect the foliage from excess heat.

To enter the Agora Garden property, users will pass through a cluster of mature trees and cross a mineral moat which will be installed to enhance the privacy of residents. In the Conceptual Design Proposal, the architects explain: “In the heart of the vegetable lung, the pedestrian square opens itself on a mineral and aquatic glade.” Plants that cascade into the lower basements are provided with sunlight which penetrates through a circular light well that also illuminates the car parks, swimming pool and fitness centre.

The location of these luxury 'sky houses' means that residents will have exquisite views of the C. Y. Lee & Partners and Thornton Tomasetti-designed 101 Taipei tower and the city’s Central Business District. Once the project is completed in 2016, the residential units on offer will give much flexibility to potential inhabitants. The fixed central core separates the vertical circulations with the towers rotated storey by storey at 4.5 degrees. Each 540 sq m apartment is entirely free of columns as the levels are connected at both ends by two spiralling mega-columns coated in green walls, ensuring optimum living conditions for residents.

Source: worldarchitecturenews.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Parisian flat containing €2.1 million painting lay untouched for 70 years
By: Henry Samuel
The Telegraph, October 2010

For 70 years the Parisian apartment had been left uninhabited, under lock and key, the rent faithfully paid but no hint of what was inside.

Behind the door, under a thick layer of dusk lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.

The woman who owned the flat had left for the south of France before the Second World War and never returned.

But when she died recently aged 91, experts were tasked with drawing up an inventory of her possessions and homed in on the flat near the Trinité church in Paris between the Pigalle red light district and Opera.

Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris' 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.

"There was a smell of old dust," said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table.

But he said his heart missed a beat when he caught sight of a stunning tableau of a woman in a pink muslin evening dress.

The painting was by Boldini and the subject a beautiful Frenchwoman who turned out to be the artist's former muse and whose granddaughter it was who had left the flat uninhabited for more than half a century.

The muse was Marthe de Florian, an actress with a long list of ardent admirers, whose fervent love letters she kept wrapped neatly in ribbon and were still on the premises. Among the admirers was the 72nd prime minister of France, George Clemenceau, but also Boldini.

The expert had a hunch the painting was by Boldini, but could find no record of the painting. "No reference book dedicated to Boldini mentioned the tableau, which was never exhibited," said Marc Ottavi, the art specialist he consulted about the work.

When Mr Choppin-Janvry found a visiting card with a scribbled love note from Boldini, he knew he had struck gold. "We had the link and I was sure at that moment that it was indeed a very fine Boldini".

He finally found a reference to the work in a book by the artist's widow, which said it was painted in 1898 when Miss de Florian was 24.

The starting price for the painting was €300,000 but it rocketed as ten bidders vyed for the historic work. Finally it went under the hammer for €2.1 million, a world record for the artist.

"It was a magic moment. One could see that the buyer loved the painting; he paid the price of passion," said Mr Ottavi.


Calgary prices for repeat home sales on the rise
Nationally annual hike is smallest since November 2009
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald May 14, 2013

CALGARY — Prices for repeat home sales in Calgary were up 5.5 per cent in April compared with a year ago, according to the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index.

The index, released Tuesday, also said prices in the city increased by 1.2 per cent from the previous month.

The index is estimated by tracking ob­served or registered home prices over time using data collected from public land registries. All dwellings that have been sold at least twice are considered in the calculation of the index.

Nationally, in 11 markets surveyed, prices were up 2.0 per cent on an annual basis and by 0.2 per cent month-over-month.

The year-over-year hike in Canada was the smallest 12-month rise since November 2009.

“By way of comparison, the Case-Shiller home price index of 20 U.S. metropolitan markets was up 9.3 per cent from a year earlier in February (the latest available reading),” said the Teranet-National Bank report.

In Canada, the rise over the 12 months ending in April exceeded the cross-country average in seven of the 11 markets surveyed for the national composite index: Quebec City (6.1 per cent), Calgary (5.5 per cent), Hamilton (5.4 per cent), Winnipeg (4.4 per cent), Toronto (4.3 per cent), Edmonton (3.6 per cent) and Halifax (2.8 per cent).

The report said price increases lagged the average in Ottawa-Gatineau (1.5 per cent) and Montreal (1.3 per cent). Prices were down from a year earlier in Victoria (3.3 per cent) and Vancouver (1.5 per cent). For Vancouver it was the ninth month of 12-month deflation.

Amna Asaf, economist with Capital Economics, said house price growth in Calgary and Edmonton have continued to accelerate, following from their housing downturn of two years ago.

“Although house prices rose in most of the cities, we suspect that as home sales drop, the former will eventually respond,” said Asaf. “Based on the figures already reported by the regional real estate boards, both Toronto and Vancouver posted fewer existing home sales in April compared to a year ago, although the pace of decline has eased. We suspect that national existing home sales . . . may have dropped at a more modest pace of around two per cent year-on-year.

“If we are correct about declining home sales this year, the month’s supply of inventory is likely to rise much further. Accordingly, we suspect that house prices will eventually begin to decline outright.”

On Tuesday, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he has no plans to intervene in Canada’s housing market, which he says is unfolding in a healthy way.

While some observers are expressing fears the bubble is about to burst, Flaherty said the market is responding the way he envisioned when he tightened lending rules last year.

The Teranet-National Bank index said the national monthly change was the weakest in the 15 years since the inception of the index with the exception of April 2009 when the country was in recession.

“In three markets considered lively, the monthly gain exceeded one per cent: Winnipeg (1.3 per cent), Edmonton (1.3. per cent), Calgary (1.2 per cent). Excluding these three regions, the Composite index would have been flat in April. Lesser monthly increases were recorded in Hamilton (0.6 per cent), Montreal (0.5 per cent) and Toronto (0.4 per cent). Prices were down from the month before in five markets: Vancouver (0.8 per cent), Quebec City (0.5 per cent), Ottawa-Gatineau (0.2 per cent) and Victoria and Halifax (0.1 per cent).”

Photo By: Poshmoggy

Friday, May 10, 2013


The Bow draws attention to a city’s evolution
By Valerie Fortney
Calgary Herald May 10, 2013

Whenever he needs a dose of inspiration, Michael Brown needs only to glimpse outside his office window.

“I can see the top part of it,” he says of the 58-storey downtown skyscraper known as The Bow. “It’s a reminder for Calgarians to think big — we can do some very creative things in this city.”

For Brown, the presence of the towering structure a few blocks west provides a daily affirmation of his own endeavours of the past two years.

As president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, it’s his job to oversee the transformation of the East Village from a former derelict area to a vibrant inner-city community.

While the East Village development promises to emerge as a diverse and dense neighbourhood offering everything from a national music centre and hotel to residential living and urban parks, it doesn’t boast a single skyscraper.

Still, Brown sees his project and that of the newly-opened Bow as being inextricably connected — and not because prior to joining the team at CMLC, he was employed by Matthews Southwest, the developer responsible for The Bow’s construction.

“The two projects have changed the way we see the east side of our downtown,” says the native Calgarian, whose grandfather, Fred Brown, was an East Village street cop back in the late 1940s. “They have helped to alter perceptions of our entire city.”

While Brown’s comments might sound hyperbolic to the casual listener, his views regarding the $1.4-billion building, Canada’s first trussed-tube skyscraper and the tallest structure west of Toronto, are gathering an increasing number of converts both here and internationally.

In 2011, the building designed by renowned U.K. firm Foster + Partners won an Alberta Steel Design Award of Excellence, given out by the Canadian Institute of Steel Constructors, which noted that its innovative external structure system helped to make it the country’s second-largest building in floor space.

In January, Azure Magazine — one of North America’s top architectural publications — counted The Bow, along with Calgary’s Peace Bridge, among its Top 10 Projects of 2012.

The two local structures were the only Canadian inclusions on a list that included the London Olympic Park and the iconic CCTV Tower in Beijing. Azure’s judging panel cited The Bow as an important symbol for an “oil-rich city that’s just beginning to pay attention to the look of its downtown core and the quality of its buildings.”

In April, The Bow added the biggest feather in its cap when it joined the likes of Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers and New York City’s Hearst Tower by being named one of the world’s 16 most impressive corporate buildings.

According to a jury of experts gathered by Emporis, a German-based, global provider of building data, the crescent-shaped building located at Centre Street and Sixth Avenue S.E. meets all the criteria for inclusion on this prestigious list: design, visual impact and functionality of “significant corporate architecture.”

Earlier this week, I was taken on a tour by Encana’s MaryAnn Blackman to see if the interior of the gleaming, architectural wonder lived up to its outside billing. As any of the lucky 4,000 or so Calgarians owning a security pass for entry — most of them employees of energy companies Cenovus and Encana — will attest, it succeeds from the get-go.

The steel exoskeleton design allows for a city-within-a-city feel of spaciousness; the glass-filled, south-facing atriums on three higher floors create nothing less than spectacular meeting places; as well, panoramic city and mountain views are available from close to 80 per cent of the building’s offices.

It is, says Jeremy Sturgess, an iconic building that Calgary deserves at this moment in its relatively young life as an urban centre.

“The building of The Bow has helped in the recognition of Calgary as an international city,” says the prominent local architect, hired by Fosters and Matthews Southwest as The Bow’s urban design master planner. “It is one step in a process of steps for Calgary.”

Sturgess feels that having such an internationally recognized skyscraper in the heart of the city’s downtown east core will have lasting impacts in a wide variety of areas.

“I think it raises the bar for the City of Calgary and it sets a new tone for what is expected of developers,” he says, adding it will also inspire both established architects and graduates of design. “The Bow and the Peace Bridge are examples of Calgarians wanting to do something remarkable for Calgary.”

For Bruce Graham, The Bow’s rise on the Calgary skyline, a process 10 years in the making, mirrors that of the city’s ascent on the world scene over that same period.

Back in 2003, says Graham, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, Calgary was positioning itself as a centre for Western Canada, “an affordable, low-cost place to do business.”

What a difference a decade makes. Recent accolades, such as the city being named 17th overall on Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centre Index, show how those regional aspirations have evolved into global ones.

The bold statement that The Bow makes to our landscape and our skyline, says Graham, is “a reflection that our city makes to our country and the global marketplace.”

In time, The Bow’s impressive stature will be narrowly eclipsed by a new building at the site of the old Calgary Herald building on Sixth Avenue and First Street S.W. Upon completion within the next five or so years, Brookfield Properties’ 56-storey, 247-metre tower will become the tallest building in Western Canada.

For Calgarians like Michael Brown, though, it won’t replace The Bow as the symbol of what’s possible for the city of his birth.

“This building marks a realization that we don’t have limitations on what’s possible anymore,” he says.

“Twenty years from now, we’ll look back and say that the opening of The Bow was the moment when Calgary changed.”

Monday, May 6, 2013


Sunday May 26th, 2013 marks the 24th Annual 4th Street Lilac Festival. This free one day event is the start up to Calgary's vibrant festival season, and encourages citizens to shake off their winter blues and reintroduce themselves to the thriving creative community in our city.

Each spring, thousands of attendees come out to enjoy the unique and pedestrian friendly 4th Street venue, offering an array of musical talent, artisan vendors, quality entertainment and some perfect people watching.

At the Lilac Festival, there is an activity made for all ages. This could mean a jump in the bouncer for the kids, discovering a great new band, choosing a perfect summer patio or searching for a trendy fashion; there is no shortage of things happening.

The 4th Street Festival Society works diligently to provide an ideal environment for new and emerging local musicians to showcase their talents. There are six stages hosting over 30 performances throughout the day, offering artists exposure to an often brand new audience. A recent new addition to the event programming includes the "Underage Stage", which promotes Alberta's youth in support of their bright future in music.

4th Street is host to over 500 vendors that vary from artisan crafts, to imported wares, to community organizations. 2013 is an exciting year for vendors as well. "Food Truck Lane" will provide a new dimension to the festival and give festivalgoers a chance to check what the entire buzz is about.

The 4th Street Lilac Festival looks forward to another great year, hosting the best and brightest in Calgary's cultural community!

Sources: http://www.4streetcalgary.com/Lilac-Festival