Hydrangeas: Distinctly Southern

July 31, 2010

Photo by Mandy Fails of Atmore for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Nothing defines a southern landscape more than hydrangeas.

theresafriday.jpgThese beautiful, large flowering shrubs fill gardens with their green, leafy foliage and incredible blooms during the warm months.

In order to ensure consistent and reliable blooms, these shrubs must be cared for correctly. In addition to proper site location, fertilizer and moisture conditions, hydrangeas may require pruning. Proper pruning includes correct timing.

Hydrangea aficionados are constantly debating pruning techniques. There are many different types of hydrangeas and pruning differs according to the type. It is a big genus of plants and so it’s important to know what type of hydrangeas you may have and on what type of wood they bloom on.

Blooms on old wood, prune after flowering

The bigleaf hydrangeas, known scientifically as Hydrangea macrophylla, are what most people think of when you mention hydrangeas. Most gardeners will know these as mopheads (also called hortensias) and lacecaps. Many of these blooms will be blue or pink although other colors now are available.

Many large colonies of bigleaf hydrangeas have existed around old homes for decades, surviving and blooming in spite of neglect.  This tells us that it is not necessary to prune bigleaf hydrangeas.

However, if you want to keep these shrubs within a defined boundary, control their height or rejuvenate old shrubs, it will be necessary to prune them.

Bigleaf hydrangeas can be reduced in size immediately after flowering.  A general rule of thumb is that you may remove up to a third of the shrub’s height.  Be sure to complete your pruning before August.  This is critical because next year flower blooms start to form in August.  Pruning after August will remove next year’s blooms.

There now is a small group of bigleaf hydrangeas that are everblooming or remontant.  Endless Summer® is one well-known brand.  According to the developers of these reblooming hydrangeas, remove spent flowers to encourage rebloom.  They are quite forgiving and will not suffer if left unpruned or pruned at the wrong time because these cultivars bloom on both old and new growth.

Our native oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a large, deciduous shrub that can grow up to six feet tall.  It has deeply lobed, oak-like leaves which turn bronze in the fall.   This plant does not usually need pruning. If reshaping or size-reduction is necessary, prune after blooms begin to fade.

Article Continues Below Photo

Lacecap hydrangea Photo credit: Theresa Friday

Blooms on new wood, prune in early spring

Smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens) is the other U.S. native. The most common cultivar, ‘Annabelle’, produces rounded inflorescences that may reach up to a foot in diameter.

The panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata) is more of an upright type.  It is typically a 10 to 15-foot large shrub or low-branched tree.

Panicle and smooth hydrangeas flower on current year’s growth and can be pruned anytime from late summer until early spring. If pruning these two species in the spring, try to prune before leaves appear.

Winter pruning

Established bigleaf, panicle, oakleaf and smooth hydrangea plants can often benefit from rejuvenation pruning. Remove about one-third of the oldest stems each year.  The result is a fuller, healthier plant. This type of pruning is easiest to do in winter, since the absence of leaves makes it easier to see and reach inside plants.

Hydrangeas offer a wide variety of plants which can make the timing of pruning difficult to remember.  Just keep in mind, if in doubt, either don’t prune at all or prune after flowering.

Theresa Friday is the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.

Viewpoint: Look Deeper Than One Well, Oil On Surface

July 31, 2010

Our dependency on oil is not a new topic of discussion, in fact that past 8 President’s, both Republican and Democrat, have addressed the need for America to rid herself of our addiction to this dirty fossil fuel. Perhaps, in light of recent events (the deadliest coal mining accident and the largest environmental catastrophe our country has seen, just to name two) this topic has once again been brought to the forefront of America’s mind. Unfortunately, however, we seem to be focused on a particular well and how much oil we can see on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. I propose we look bigger.

The fact is we cannot stop using fossil fuels today, even if we truly wanted to; our entire economy is based on these 19th century fuels. But what if rather than fighting progress tooth and nail we used our reserves of fossil fuels to move our country into the 21st century? What if, rather than giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the Petro Chemical companies we instead support research and development of innovative, clean renewable technology?

The argument that fossil fuels are cheap is no longer valid. Just ask the millions of residents along the Gulf Coast, the folks in Kingston Tennessee where 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash washed into the community and filled miles of riverbeds, all the families along Kalamazoo River who had to evacuate after a leak which spilled anywhere from 800000 gallons to 1 million gallons of oil, or even worse the families of those lost in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the West Virginia Coal mine. Then, add to that the health care costs incurred by families throughout the US from dirty air and polluted waterways and only then do you have the true cost of fossil fuels. For too long we have allowed the fossil fuel industries to export their cost to our communities indirectly and threaten rate hikes should any move be made to clean up their act. I would rather pay up front for clean energy than pay over and over and over again in the form of health care costs and ecological and economic disasters and so would everyone I speak to about this.

I recently went to Washington DC with RePower America as part of a group of nearly 300 citizens from 19 states. We went to meet with several Senators and Representatives about the need to move our country beyond its deadly addiction to fossil fuels. The group was one of the most diverse of any I have worked with: small and corporate business owners; realtors; manufacturers; local government officials; conservationists; veterans; school teachers and more coming together to fight for a common cause.

Clean, renewable energy, energy independence, jobs and lives are something we all value. Forward thinking legislation can spark job creation like nothing else in history. When anyone asks me about the jobs which will be lost if we revamp our energy portfolio, I respond with the question: “what about all the jobs which are not being created because a lack of investment in energy options beyond fossil fuels”.

Ask any economist and they will tell you diversification is the key to good investment. Sadly, we have put all our eggs into one basket America and it is a dirty fossil fuel basket. We are backing ourselves into a corner and it is not pretty. Investment dollars flow to the safest harbors, period. Right now they are flowing toward existing markets, toward dirty fossil fuels. If Congress were to pass legislation which supports clean renewable energy, any economist will tell you investment dollars will follow, period.

We are losing manufacturing jobs right and left due to the economic downturn. Those jobs could be captured by the renewable energy sector, if only that industry were given the opportunity, or at the very least a level playing field in the energy sector.

Look, I am not writing this saying we need to stop using fossil fuels, that is obviously impractical. But we have to open our eyes to the true cost of our dependence on these 19th century fuels and technologies. The most compelling argument I have heard came from all the Iraq war veterans who were part of our DC delegation and it had nothing to do with the ecological or even the economic damage done by our addiction to fossil fuels. First they mentioned the nearly 1 billion dollars a day which we send to OPEC countries to supply our much needed oil and gas. Then they said something I will never forget. By putting this much money into their economies, we are literally funding both sides of the wars we are fighting. We can do better than that America.

It is time to stop supporting the richest and most polluting companies on the globe. It is time to support American ingenuity and clean renewable energy. It is time to support the creation of millions of jobs in a sector which those who are currently being supported are laughing on the way to their banks outside of our borders. It is time to quit sending our troops to countries which hate us in the name of “cheap” yet very expensive energy. It is time to wake up and move on America.

Governor Requested To Appoint Special Prosecutor In Campaign Sign Case

July 30, 2010

State Attorney Bill Eddins is requesting that Gov. Charlie Crist appoint a special prosecutor from Panama City to investigate an alleged campaign sign theft case.

Once approved by the governor, the State Attorney’s Office  in Panama City will decide if any charges will be filed in connection with an incident last week where Florida House District 1 candidate Greg Brown was videotaped removing campaign signs belonging to his opponent, Doug Broxson.

Eddins requested that the investigation be transferred away from his office due to a potential conflict of interest. Eddins said in his letter to Crist that a longtime employee in his office is a close family relative to Broxson, and Eddins’ stepson has been employed by Brown’s father for a number of year. [Click here to read Eddins' letter to Crist.]

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office is expected to complete their investigation into the incident as early as today and present their findings to the State Attorney’s Office.

Using a night-vision camera, Broxson’s campaign videotaped Brown and his wife Jennifer removing campaign signs belonging to Doug Broxson. Brown has not denied that he and his wife removed Broxson’s signs, but he calls the entire situation a “masterminded set up”.

The video has sound, with Brown and his wife caught speaking. The volume of the conversation is very low; however, text superimposed on the video suggest what is being said.

“Is that good?” the video alleges that Jennifer Brown said after removing signs.

“Wait…your fingerprints are still on the ones laying down,” the video claims Brown responded.

Brown said he had permission from the property owner to remove the signs, but Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser records appear to show the signs were nearly 200 feet from private property. Brown said he “was totally under the impression” that the signs removed from the intersection were on private property.

Brown and Broxson are two of the four Republican candidates seeking the District 1 House seat.  Ricky Perritt and Ferd Salomon are also seeking the post. Florida House District 1 includes the northern two-thirds of Escambia County, most of Santa Rosa County and a portion of Okaloosa County. The seat is being vacated by Greg Evers who is running for Florida Senate District 2.

Perritt was arrested on felony drug charges, including trafficking, Monday night. Perritt said he is still a viable candidate in the race.

Heat Advisory: Near 100 Today, Saturday

July 30, 2010

There is a heat advisory in effect for Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Highs will climb to about 100 each day for the next week.  Coupled with the humidity, we will have dangerous heat indexes near 110 through the next week. Overnights will remain humid with lows in the mid to upper 70’s, providing little relief.

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Friday…Mostly sunny. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs around 100. Northwest winds around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation 20 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 109.
  • Friday Night…Partly cloudy in the evening becoming mostly cloudy. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 70s. West winds around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation 20 percent.
  • Saturday…Mostly sunny. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms through the day. Highs around 100. Northwest winds around 5 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 20 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 110.
  • Saturday Night…Mostly cloudy in the evening then clearing. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 70s. South winds 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation 20 percent.
  • Sunday…Partly sunny. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 90s. Chance of precipitation 40 percent. Heat index readings 106 to 111.
  • Sunday Night…Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 70s.
  • Monday…Partly sunny. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. Chance of precipitation 40 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 109.
  • Monday Night…Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 70s.
  • Tuesday…Mostly sunny. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 90s. Chance of precipitation 40 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 110.
  • Tuesday Night…Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 70s.
  • Wednesday…Mostly sunny. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 90s. Chance of precipitation 40 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 109.
  • Wednesday Night…Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 70s.
  • Thursday…Mostly sunny. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. Chance of precipitation 30 percent. Heat index readings 105 to 109.

IRS: Dozens Of Area Groups Could Lose Nonprofit Status (With List)

July 30, 2010

Dozens of prominent North Escambia area groups are in danger of losing their nonprofit status from the IRS for failing to file the proper paperwork for three consecutive years.

Groups like the chambers of commerce in Century and Jay; the fire departments in McDavid, Cantonment and Nokomis; community centers in Century, Byrneville, Davisville; and many more social, civic and charitable organizations are on a list released by the Internal Revenue Service.

Across the country, about 325,000 groups have failed to comply with IRS requirements, risking their nonprofit classification. The IRS said the organizations can keep their non-profit status by filing the proper paperwork by October 15.

“Our message is simple: If you don’t have your filings up to date, now is the time to take action and get back in compliance,” Doug Shuman, IRS commissioner said in a released statement. “We’re taking these steps today to go the extra mile and help small tax-exempt groups.”

The following North Escambia area groups were on the list released by the IRS:

Byrneville Community Center Inc
Carver Community Center Association Inc
Century Area Chamber Of Commerce
Century Community Development Partnership Inc
Davisville Heritage And Historical Preservation Association Inc
Free & Accepted Masons Of Florida
International Association Of Lions Clubs

McDavid Volunteer Fire Department Incorporated

Friends Of The Northwest Branch Library Inc

Walnut Hill
McKinnonville Hunting Club Inc
North Escambia Sportsman

American Federation Of State County & Municipal Employees
Camden Academy Alumni Association Inc
Cantonment Baseball Club
Cantonment Volunteer Fire Department Incorporated
Coalition Of Professional Employees Incorporated
Diamond Aces Inc
French International Mission Inc
Global Vision Ministries Inc
Pensacola Press Club Inc
PTA Florida Congress
Quintette Community Park Inc
SWM Community Development Inc

Atmore Council Of Fine Arts
Atmore Drug Abuse Community Education Foundation
Atmore Rotary Clubs Academic All Star Program
Community Hunting Club
D C Restoration Inc
E&B Youth And Outreach Center Inc
Escambia Allied Community Health Service Inc
Free & Accepted Masons Prince Hall Gr Mst Conf Americaeureka Ldg 953
Free & Accepted Masons Prince Hall Grand Masters Conf Of America
Free & Accepted Masons Prince Hall Grand Masters Conf Of America
Growing Tots Inc
Leadership Atmore
New Beginning Outreach Programs
Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department Inc
Order Of The Eastern Star
Rotary International
Servants Of The Father Ministries
Sullivan Cemetery
The Junior Service League Of Atmore

International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers
Flomaton Volunteer Fire & Rescue Inc
Travelers Rest Cemetery Association
Turtle Point Foundation

Jay Area Chamber Of Commerce Inc
Jay Historical Society
Jay Volunteer Fire Department Inc
Milton Baseball
Moore Creek Hunting Club Inc
North Santa Rosa-Escambia Development Council Inc
Panhandle Outlaws
Santa Rosa Pest Management Association Inc

For more information, see the IRS website.

Deadline To Qualify For Century Council Is Noon Today

July 30, 2010

Noon today is the  deadline for candidates to qualify for three seats on the Century Town Council.

Council seats three, four and five are on the ballot in Century this year — the positions are currently held by  Hawkins, Gary Riley and Sharon Scott. Scott has announced that she is not seeking re-election.

Hawkins has qualified to run as an incumbent, and Annie Savage has prefiled for Scott’s seat. As of the close of business Thursday, no other candidates had thrown their hat into the political ring.

The qualifying fee for a Century Town Council seat is $48 — that’s $33 for one percent of the salary and a $15 qualifying fee.  There is no petition qualification method for Century offices that would allow a candidate to qualify with voter signatures.

NorthEscambia.com will publish a final, complete Century candidate list once it is available.

The primary election for Century’s council is scheduled for October 5. The charter states that the primary election should be 30 days prior to the November election, but that date falls on Sunday, October 10. As a result, the date was  moved to October 5. Per Florida statute, registration books will close on September 7 because September 6th is Labor Day.

The general election/runoff is scheduled for November 9, the second Tuesday in November. Registration books will close on October 11.

There will be one change for candidates this year for Century’s council. The Council has approved an ordinance that will require candidates to file their campaign finance disclosure statements electronically on the Internet as is done in other races in the county — as opposed to filling out a paper form.

School Board Adopts Tentative Budget, Tax Rate

July 30, 2010

The Escambia County School Board adopted a tentative budget and set a property tax rate at a Thursday night meeting.

The board gave preliminary approval to an almost $613 million budget for 2010-2011 and a 7.86 mill property tax rate — $786 per $100,000 of taxable property value. The millage rate is unchanged the current year.

Due to declining property values, many Escambia residents will see a property tax decrease with the unchanged millage rate.

A second public hearing on the budget and millage rate will be held September 13 at 5:30 p.m. with both set for approval at the board meeting to follow.

Escambia Ala. Hires New Assistant Principals, Retired Northview Coach

July 30, 2010

Assistant principals were hired and a former Northview teacher and coach was hired to replace a new assistant principal during a special meeting Thursday afternoon of the Escambia County (Ala.) Board of Education.

Sarah Watkins was hired as a new assistant principal at Escambia County High School. The former teacher joins new ECHS Principal Zickeyous Byrd, the former principal at Escambia County Middle School.

Jason Petro was named the new assistant principal at Escambia County Middle School.

Lorenzo Jones (pictured) was hired as a history teacher at Escambia County Middle School to replace Forrest Dale Jones, who moved into an assistant principal position at Escambia County High School. Jones retired following the last school year from Northview High School where he taught history and served as a football and basketball coach.

Suspected Murderer Jailed

July 30, 2010

A suspect in Escambia County’s 13th murder of the year is behind bars.

Jermain Cook, 24, is facing murder and grand theft charges in connection with the early Sunday morning murder at the Mayfair Motel on Mobile Highway.  The victim has been identified by Escambia County Sheriff’s Department investigators as 44-year old Son Tu.

“Tu was found unresponsive in one of the motel rooms with obvious trauma,” according Melissa Aiken Rawson, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. Further details about Tu’s death have not been released.

Cook is currently in the Santa Rosa County Jail on unrelated traffic offenses. He will face extradition back to Escambia County.

Back To School Savings: Sales Tax Holidays In Alabama And Florida

July 30, 2010

Both Alabama and Florida have upcoming school sales tax holidays with back to school tax savings on school supplies and clothing.

Alabama — August 6-8

salestaxholiday.jpgAlabama’s sales tax holiday will be August 6-8. However, Escambia County, Atmore and Brewton will not be participating. In Atmore and Brewton, shoppers will save the state’s four percent tax, but still pay the county and city tax rate. Flomaton will participate, with back to school purchases in Flomaton exempt from the state and city tax, but not the one percent county tax.

For complete details on exempt items in Alabama,click here (pdf).

Florida — August 13-15

In Florida, the school sales tax holiday will be  the following weekend, August 13-15. It will be the first school sales tax holiday in the Sunshine State since 2007.

In general, Florida’s sales tax holiday will apply to “the sale of books, clothing, wallets, or bags, including handbags, backpacks, fanny packs, and diaper bags, but excluding briefcases, suitcases, and other garment bags, having a sales price of $50 or less, or on sales of certain school supplies having a sales price of $10 or less for the period beginning 12:01 a.m., August 13, 2010, and ending at midnight, August 15, 2010,” according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

For complete details on exempt items in Florida, click here (pdf).

Florida defines books as “a set of printed sheets bound together and published in a volume.” Newspapers, magazines, other periodicals and audio books are not books and will be taxable during the holiday.

salestaxholiday.jpgClothing is defined as any article of wearing apparel, including all footwear (except skis, swim fins, roller blades and skates) intended to be worn on or about the body. Clothing does not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs or sporting equipment.

School supplies include pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook filler paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue, paste, rulers, computer disks, protractors, compasses and calculators.

The state also has a rule about where purchases can be made or, more importantly, where they can’t be made.

For example, eligible items are not exempt from sales tax if purchased at a theme park or entertainment complex. So, a T-shirt with a cartoon character on the front purchased at Disney World would be taxable, although a similar T-shirt purchased at a department store would be exempt.

Eligible items also lose their tax-exempt status if purchased at a public lodging establishment, aka a hotel, motel, resort, beach cottage, or airport.

« Previous PageNext Page »