Street Talk

By staff October 1, 2008

Art Buzz

You can take it with you…

“Egyptomania” comes to the RinglingMuseum on Oct. 18, with the exhibition To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum. Here you can discover the elaborate methods the Egyptians employed to ensure that their afterlife was rich and full.  Portraits and jewelry of the rich, mummies of dogs, canopic jars that held major body organs and coffins of the famous are among the more than 100 objects revealing the civilization’s obsession with death. Rich and poor alike believed they could take it with them in the afterlife. Connections among religious, social and economic issues in Egypt between 3600 B.C. and 400 A.D. are explored in this fascinating exhibition. For more information, visit - Mark Ormond

Street Smarts

Essential intelligence about creating a livable tropical landscape.

Ben Appel began Appel Horticultural Services in 2000, using the botanical expertise he honed while working for Tropi-Flora and MarieSelbyBotanical Gardens. His own garden, on Main Street near downtown Sarasota, is a striking testament to his passion for orchids and other exotic species—and for creating inviting outdoor retreats.

I start every project by meeting with the client to find out their specific needs, maintenance, aesthetic values. Then I try to put my spin on it—they usually give me the leeway. It comes out more art than landscaping.

I spend two to four hours a day in my own garden—half working and half relaxing. I’m visualizing new designs, and I do drawings. It helps spur on the creativity. The whole basis of my own garden is experimentation—when I get an idea, I try it out there first. Then I can bring a client here to showcase that uniqueness.

The key to a garden is having all the essential elements. You need hardscape—boulders, field stones, gravel, shell. And you need areas that you can utilize for outdoor living—fire pits, tiki bars. You get the most impact having a water feature. It invites a lot of creatures, and it also has aesthetic and auditory values. The plants thrive in it. It provides evaporation to the surrounding areas.

For water conservation, use plant pockets with berm barriers to isolate watering. Berms create sort of a moat system that helps retain water around the barrier. Overlapping foliage can shade plants. Arborescent aloes, royal palms or other trees provide shade so plants don’t get burned by the sun. If you’re going to have an irrigation system, use micro-misters or other items out now that control water flow.

You need an open area so it’s useable. For my garden, I imported a tiki bar from Thailand through Décor Direct. We have a Christmas party there—this will be our eighth year. There’s live music, and a lot of my clients come.

Insects—they’re everywhere. The key is not to spray, or to spray only if there’s an isolated case of over-colonization. There are a lot of beneficial insects, farming aphids like ladybugs. You can spray problem insects with water—just the physical pressure can get rid of them. Of course, any gardener knows you’re going to have trial by error; the key is persistence.

Usually, I will take into consideration the height of the house more than the look. High houses require taller plants, bigger berms. I want to settle the house within the property, so it looks like the house—and the garden—were always there.

One of my recent projects was a restaurant, Lonjevity. It used to be a Mel’s Diner. It was run down, over-weeded, in a high-traffic area [on U.S. 41] and really dry. We removed the lawn, bermed up an area parallel to the building and 41 and created a backbone of Alexander king palms. We created a water feature in the central foyer and used sand that’s usually used under brick pavers, but it gives a really clean, Zen-like appearance. Plus, it’s easy to maintain, which was really important.

Fertilization studies show the damaging runoff from too many golf courses. Keeping lawns green means overfeeding. It gets out of hand when you add everyone into the picture. I like less grass—little pockets.

I use taller trees to create backbones—the basis of the garden. The second level of the garden could have pygmy date palms, foliage, trees, then shrubs and plants, creating all different layers, similar to a rainforest. Then you’ve got orchids and epiphytes in general in the canopies, giving the garden a three-dimensional aspect. You look up into the canopy and see large, bright maroon bromeliads.

I encourage people to use unique plants, exotics. A lot of people think exotics are invasives. Some are—those ones are listed on the invasive species list. But exotics are things that come from Australia, Asia, South America—they’re not invasive if there’s no overpopulation of “volunteers” or seedlings, no root systems that are invasive. Migration is what’s supposed to happen, it’s a good thing. - Hannah Wallace


Civic Discourse


Campaigns are full of talking. But what if we started listening?


It’s appropriate to launch this column as an extraordinary election year nears the home stretch. Election campaigns are the ultimate example of civic discourse—the all-out exercise of the American system of talking things out. Reduced to its simplest terms, it’s “elect me, don’t elect him/her, and here’s why,” endlessly debated for six months (two years for the presidential race).


That’s a good thing. Without civic discourse, we would have a dictatorship. Or, more likely, anarchy.


But looming large in this election year is whether civic discourse is necessarily civil discourse. Certainly, we’ve seen plenty of examples in the last few months when it has not been very civil. The Internet smears of Barack Obama as a Muslim, a nonpatriot who disrespects the Pledge of Allegiance, whose middle name is—gasp!—Hussein. The marginalizing of John McCain’s POW experience. Locally, the back-and-forth between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan over old tax problems—problems that each asserts were mere clerical errors quickly resolved once brought to their attention.

And it wasn’t just on the campaign trail that the temperature of discourse at times exceeded that of the ambient air during muggy July and August. At the Sarasota City Commission, debate of a parking ordinance in GillespiePark turned contentious more than once, with one irked commissioner twice walking out. And this spring discussion of the fate of the PaulRudolph-designedRiverviewHigh School got rowdy at times.

That doesn’t mean every debate must meet the Miss Manners test. In the Civility in Democracy series we’ve presented this election year in partnership with Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota Magazine and WUSF, the lead-off speaker, former Sen. Bob Graham, asserted, “Politics ain’t bean bag,” likening a political campaign to a football game involving his beloved Gators. In other words, fight hard to win—within the rules.

Yale Prof. Stephen L. Carter, who literally wrote the book on civility (Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, Harper Perennial, 1998), points out that “Civility does not require consensus on everything. Civility and disagreement can both thrive at the same time.” In other words, disagree agreeably. One of his fundamental rules: “Civility assumes that we will disagree; it requires us not to mask our differences but to resolve them respectfully.”

Respectful disagreement, I suggest, does not include walking out of the room. Nor does it include shouting down an opponent, an experience I suffered through during a chamber committee meeting this spring. Either approach shuts down discourse. And it is belittling to be so disrespected —the rap term “dissed” now has personal meaning.

Carter refers to such behavior as “confrontational listening,” which he describes as “listening with our mouths rather than our ears—that is, listen[ing] only for the flaws, awaiting our chance to refute.”

Instead, he suggests “civil listening”—that is, “listening to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong.”

What a concept: Actually listening to what another person has to say and weighing the validity of their views against our own! Now that would be civil civic discourse.

-David Klement is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Leadership at USF Sarasota-Manatee. The final event in the Civility in Democracy series will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at the local campus with Yale Prof. Stephen L. Carter as keynote speaker.

Hot Seat

Editor Tom Tyron opens up about how the Herald-Tribune makes those political endorsements.

Local political candidates know a Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board endorsement carries weight—and in the lesser-known races can determine an election. The Herald-Tribune interviews every candidate on the ballot from Manatee to NorthPort, and its endorsements reach a daily readership of up to 269,000. We asked Tom Tryon, who’s directed the Herald-Tribune’s endorsements since 1990, about the process.

Explain the interview process. Every candidate gets half an hour. They have a couple of minutes to tell us what they think is most important, and then we ask questions.

Do you think you really get a sense of them? You get fooled, but yes, you usually have a pretty good idea of who’s prepared and who’s not. That to me is the big thing. Can you bring something to the table? Have you done some homework?

What do you say when they leave the room? We try to be courteous. There’s been some eye rolling.

Which candidates make the board roll their eyes? The unprepared ones. You ask them a question about what they would cut from the budget and they say, “I’ve never looked at the budget.” Dude, get a copy of the budget. 

You’re accused of being a liberal-leaning, one-party board. I would like to think that we are proudly and vociferously in the political center. We’ve endorsed Republicans and Democrats alike.

Have you had big disagreements about who to endorse? Oh, yeah. Seventy-five percent just arrive by near-instant consensus. Then there are those where the group is clearly torn. We don’t have a litmus test, no point system. If you’re not dogmatic, it’s harder.

How do you resolve disputes? Candidates give us references, so we call them. We call around to our sources and to other people who might know them. We’ll talk in person, or I’ll send an e-mail with everybody’s thoughts or my recommendation for breaking the deadlock. All of them go to [publisher] Diane McFarlin for final check-off.

Does she have veto power? She does, but I don’t think she’s ever overridden the staff.

How do you bring up damning information that opposing candidates send you? We bring up things that are public knowledge, on the public record and have been reported on.  One of the last things I want to have happen is for a candidate to leave this building and think that we were out to get them from the beginning.

Do you hear from them after the endorsements come out? A couple, every time. You’re probably going to see the person you didn’t recommend in a public setting within a month or two, and you’ll have to look them in the eyes. It keeps you humble. 

What should candidates not say? “I’m doing this to give back to the community.” “I haven’t read the budget.” Or they want to cut back on government waste and inefficiency without having a single example. They’re well-meaning people, but a lot of them are in over their heads. It [public office] really is labor-intensive.- Kim Cartlidge


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