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Flowers, fashion and furnishings: Exploring the passions of Empress Josephine 

Josephine de Beauharnais by Keizerin der Fransen (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)The fine taste of Joséphine de Beauharnais informed 18th and 19th century style, from couture fashion to interior design, all based on her Caribbean heritage, her narrow escape from the guillotine, and her legendary love for flowers.


On Saturday, Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., garden historian Lesley Parness will present “Josephine – The Empress Gardened,” a lecture about the French empress, made possible by Somerset County Park Commission. Admission is free, but pre-registration required by Feb. 9 for the lecture at the commission's North Branch Park headquarters, 355 Milltown Road, Bridgewater.

When divorced from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the powerful style-maker and lifelong fashionista known as Empress Josephine focused her energies on her estate, Château de Malmaison. There, her passion for plants grew and bloomed, stopping a war, costing a fortune, setting explorers to sail and starting a floral industry that endures today.


Parness, a retired superintendent of horticultural education at New Jersey's Morris County Park Commission, has five decades of travel, academic studies and work to provide a rewarding context for her own love of plants.  She now offers illustrated lectures and hands-on workshops on topics that connect “people and plants with science and story.”


For more information and to register for the lecture, call (908) 722-1200, ext. 5721 or visit





Dinner and games to raise funds for Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary

Rotary plans Casino Night fundraiser for Feb. 10


The Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary Club will host a Casino Night Fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Nazareth Center gymnasium at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 1571 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains.


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Plants for shade: Learn more at Hosta Society meeting Saturday  

The host 'Buckshaw Blue' (Courtesy iVerde)Tri-State Hosta Society meeting

Join the Tri-State Hosta Society as it begins 2018 with a Lunch 'n' Learn meeting at noon on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown.

The "learn" part of the program will have hosta society members sharing their knowledge on hosta growing.

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Forcing amaryllis bulbs in water for repeat bloom: A Leafy update 

My 'Double King' amaryllis bulb in a Nov. 2017 photo and a Nov. 2016 photo (right). The shorter 2017 leaves, I believe, resulted from days outside.

I have been growing the same 'Double King' amaryllis bulb in plain water since December 2014. It has become a pet houseplant, named Leafy, and it has flowered each spring (three seasons) since then with diligent weekly water changes.

This winter, I didn't have time to experiment with forcing hyacinths in water or forcing tulips in water, so I'm really counting on Leafy to bloom again this year.  

As promised in a post months ago, I called up Hans Langeveld from Longfield Gardens in Lakewood for tips on improving Leafy's health, as the lone survivor of three amaryllis bulbs I got from his nursery in 2014.

The conversation took place way back in June, and I took notes on this expert grower's advice. 

But I didn't do most of what he advised for various reasons. 'Splash' and 'Magnum' gone, but not forgotten.


For one thing, he suggested that in the fall I chop off the very leaves that give the bulb its name to put Leafy into dormancy. (Pipe up shock-horror music recalling how I previously killed the other two amaryllis bulbs trying to do just that.)


But the first thing he wanted me to do was to plant Leafy outside.


“You don't want to go back to soil?” he asked almost incredulously with his gentle lingering accent.

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Ask Dr. Barb: Talking to kids about sex

Dr. Barbara RosenbergDear Dr. Barb:

 I am concerned about how easy it is for children to access sexually explicit material online and that it will lead to irresponsible actions kids aren’t mature enough to handle. A friend recently caught her 12-year-old daughter viewing sexually explicit material on a mobile phone. What would you suggest for a parent dealing with the many sexual cues to which children are exposed?

Dear Reader:

In many communities, it is commonplace for pre-teens or “tweens” to have mobile phones. And as they are spending more and more time connecting with each other online, parents may be unsure where to draw the line between safe technology use and healthy social connection. Kids feel pressure to not be left out, and parents really do not want this to happen to their kids either.

However, among such challenges, the internet has made pornography more accessible and prevalent than any time in history. In her 2016 book, “Girls and Sex,” journalist Peggy Orenstein writes that 40 percent of all kids between 10 and 17 have been exposed to online pornography, many times accidentally.

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