Weekly Blog entries
by Tom Dayton
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"Going Green" Blogs
February 9, 2018
Last Saturday’s seminar on soils was well attended as the
“mysteries” of soil were explored in order to turn those that consider
themselves as having a “black thumb” to a gardener with a green one and
making a good gardener even better. Even though only about two percent of
the population of the Unites States are farmers all of us are indirectly
tied to the land and thus productive soil as all of us do eat. No doubt the
Ohio Farm bureau’s motto of “Could You Live without Farmers” does ring true
whether a farmer here in the states or in a foreign destination far away
that grows fresh produce for winter consumption.
Tomorrow’s program with Emily Mueller will reinforce our
understanding of our relationship with insects that cross pollinate flowers
and unknowingly expand the food supply with fruits, vegetables and berries.
More specifically, the life of the non-native honey bee will be discussed
including its pollinating activities, social bonds and its recent troubles
concerning its pressures to its well being including destructive mites,
pesticides and viruses that threaten to undo this indispensable insect.
At the nursery, we no longer employ neonicotinoides for insect control in
the greenhouse or grounds except in the case of whitefly control on
poinsettias as this class of chemicals has, with mounting evidence, been
partly responsible for the decline of the honeybee.
All seminars are $8.00 for members of our garden club and begin every
Saturday morning at
11 a.m. and finish at
1 p.m. Hope to see you there.
February 2, 2018
With the coldest month of the year past, the question now is will
Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow which is supposed to signal 6 more weeks of
winter although no one has ever explained the fact that whether or not Phil
sees his shadow, six weeks of winter or more is yet to come.
Tomorrow is the first of our Winter Seminar
series of educational garden topics with the first on the subject of soil.
While soil is a complex system of minerals, organic matter and microbes, it
still is not understood by the general public. This seminar will address
the chemical, microbial and structural properties of soil and what in effect
are desirable soil traits for most plants. Frequently, newly planted lawns,
landscapes, flower and vegetable gardens suffer from lack of soil
preparation. Proper preparation of soil before is analogous to an adequate
foundation for a house or even a skyscraper. Plants that thrive are less at
risk for insect infestation and diseases thus making the case for a proper
soil environment. The nursery will be open from
11 a.m. until
1 p.m. for this seminar and all subsequent
A sunny day last Sunday resulted in the production of 10 kilowatts of power
per hour from the new installation of solar panels at the Owl Barn. The
panels’ maximum production of at least twice this KW will begin in
mid-spring through September when days are longer and the sun is intense.
This greater summer production is right on time to generate power needed for
air conditioners, compressor motors from coolers, from the waterfall flowing
down hill from the Owl Barn and normal operation of lights and computers.
Another indication of the more intense sun than that of December also came
about last Sunday as the automatic greenhouse vents opened in mid day even
though the temperature outside was not quite 50º F.
Spring is not far away.
January 26, 2018
After finishing up all plant orders for spring of 2018, now is the
time that we’re working on 2019 items. Previews of new plants for 2019
appeared at the nursery trade show in Columbus two weeks ago and included
numerous introductions by Walters Gardens of Zeeland, Michigan. Then there
are the never ending new introductions by Chris Hansen also of Zeeland,
Michigan. The Hotcake series of Ice plants are definitely an improvement
over more familiar varieties as they are more compact and ever so much more
all summer blooming machines.
A new magnolia is one called Libby that is a southern magnolia
(grandiflora) and winter hardy to climatic zone #5. Another beauty is a
sweet bay magnolia that is compact and upright which would make it more
“agreeable” to plant around the foundation of a house. Another flowering
tree of interest that will be available for this spring is the Pink Cascade
Weeping Cherry. This flowering cherry is different from previous ones
available in that it has a more defined habit of the well-known
Snowfountains Cherry which definitely will subdue the height of this new
The very fragrant apricot colored rose called ‘At Last’ will be
new this spring and with great winter hardiness as it is on its own roots.
The spring of 2019 is not the limit of our future view but even beyond as we
strive to see what is in the pipe line of new and existing varieties of
plants. No doubt the new “stuff” sparks the interest of gardeners as the
same old “stuff” doesn’t fly all the time.
January 19, 2018
With the break in the weather of temperatures above freezing and no
rain I was able to respray the rhododendron, azalea garden with a product
called Deer Stopper that is effective in repelling browsing deer for about 6
weeks. To spray the foliage of the plants required 7.5 gallons of the
solution unlike 2½ gallons when the garden was first planted eleven years
ago. Now, some of the plants have grown so large they are eight feet
tall and are forming a solid mass even though the planting space was 6 to 8
feet on center at first!
Flower cuttings have continued to arrive this week as the transplanting
never seems to end in the greenhouse with the previous batch of the now
The slightly longer days are more evident as the depth of winter grips
northeast Ohio and soon will be followed by warming days beginning in the
middle of February. Above freezing temperatures will allow those in the
orchard business to start pruning their trees to form the framework for the
production of fruit. Winter does have its benefits in that the ceasing of
the growing operations of harvesting, spraying and marketing have stopped
except for the shipping of apples in coolers ready to be shipped.
In just about 30 days, another safety seminar will ensue to be followed by
the required training having to do with the company’s Drug Free Workplace
and Safety Program. Through the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation this
program is designed to keep the workplace free of illegal drugs through a
system of random and pre-employment drug tests which reinforces the vision
of any employer to create a safe as possible work environment for all
employees. Even the plant business is about a lot more than growing plants.
January 12, 2018
The extreme warm up after sub zero temperatures has allowed us to
ventilate the plant storage huts, do spot watering and apply another round
of fungicide. Ventilation during periods of a thaw is key to keeping the
deadly gray mold called Boytrytis from rotting the plant’s live tissue in
the storage huts.
Work is proceeding well in the greenhouse as far as planting is concerned
and another sticking of imported flower cuttings and another round of
geranium cuttings. By
February 1st, we must open another bay of the greenhouse as
the first bay will be nearly full to capacity with no where to go.
Another project for winter is to test the capacity of the water well on the
property to explore the possibility of a variable speed pump. This pump
would deliver more water from the well at peak times when two or more
persons are hand watering in the greenhouse. The capacity of the well that
was drilled originally is approximately 25 gallons per minute although the
current pump allows less than 10 gallons per minute through the system. If
the water is found available to pump up to 25 gallons per minute for about 1
hour through the system, the problems of low pressure and volume during
periods of heavy demand would be solved.
The arduous work of finding high resolution photos for our new online
catalogue has begun. In addition to finding the photos is attaining a
written permission to reprint the photos to avoid fees from the owner for
unauthorized use. No less than 200 new photos are needed to complete the
catalogue along with our already extensive library of thousands. January is
passing by quickly.
January 5, 2018
chores at the nursery have stopped as the bitter cold continues.
greenhouse is now requiring lots of attention as the first application of
nematodes for fungus gnat and thrip insects was applied last week.
While thrips can
get out of control and destroy flowers and weaken plants later in spring,
fungus gnats are more than a nuisance as their larvae can damage plant roots
as they feed on the tender root tips.
microscopic nematodes enter the thrip and fungus gnat larvae to inject them
with their own fungus which propagates itself inside the bad bugs and kills
these beneficial critters are applied either through an electric sprayer or
fertilizer injector so that the worms can go to work in the soil or foliage
of the plants.
rooted cuttings of various types of flowers is now the norm so space can be
cleared for the thousands more arriving next week and the week after.
A second cutting
of geraniums will be taken to plant a second crop of hanging baskets and six
inch pots for sale beginning in early May.
In addition to
next week’s cuttings, three more batches of cuttings from the stock
geraniums will be taken beginning the week of March 10th so that
they are directly stuck into smaller 6 pack units to again be sold in May.
Once the weather
breaks a little, there are still outside projects going on including the
re-spraying of the rhododendron-azalea garden with deer repellent. The
garden was sprayed just before Thanksgiving with another spray due as we
have seen tracks of hungry deer in the snow to reveal the deer checking out
their next snack.
If only the
temperature would rise above freezing for just a few hours!
Notice the photo
of the young azaleas covered with lime as the acidic peat moss must be
sweetened to bring the pH up to a respectable 4 to 4.5 so that the plants
grow well until transplanting from the 4” pots to a 1 ½ gallon nursery
The lime also
supplies much needed calcium and magnesium in addition to the pH adjustment.
With so much
work to do at least there are not weeds to pull!
December 29, 2017
Today is the last day of business for the nursery as now we will
close down until
March 1st except for opening on Saturdays
for our Winter Seminar series of educational garden topics. While repairs,
maintenance and clean up is the norm in winter, the greenhouse production
will remain a flurry of activity. Transplanting of several thousand rooted
cuttings will begin in early January and continue right up into mid-April
with the transfer of various kinds of flowers to 4½ inch pots.
Then there is construction of new display unit and the proposed steps
leading down the hill on the north side of the Owl Barn to make Wolf Creek
Gardens more accessible to the nursery visitors. The seldom seen garden is
a riot of color beginning in late April with the blanket of azure blue and
hot pink blossoms of creeping phlox, the May flowering of massive
rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel and dogwoods and the continuing
bloom of the late blooming rhododendron and the summer flowering of the
lower hydrangea, perennial garden in summer.
Ongoing improvements to the nursery’s massive and complicated irrigation
system are still on the go to prevent failures of the self-washing filter,
pump intake and electric starter that all failed this past spring causing
some disruption in the customer service area and production as we struggled
to repair the system to protect the product from damage or even death from a
lack of water.
Just recently we have placed new orders for product from Chris Hansen of
Zeeland, Michigan and a beautiful eclectic line of new lupines bred in the
United Kingdom that will further expand our new line of perennial offerings
for this coming spring.
With so much to do, there is no time for a long winter vacation in a warmer
climate as winter passes quickly anyway.
Happy New Year!
December 22, 2017
Even though the dark days of winter have arrived, the good news is
that the days will now progressively get longer culminating in the summer
June 21st. The short duration of light
during the day coupled with low temperatures serves well to keep plants on
the outdoors “asleep.” In fact, periodic December or January thaws will
thankfully not break the dormancy of plants in winter as what is called the
chill period will not have been achieved. For example, spring flowering
bulbs must be planted in fall so that they may grow roots and receive a
12-14 week chill period of ground temperatures of 40º F or below. Without
this period of cold, the bulbs will not break dormancy as they “know” that
winter is not over. The change in chemistry in a plant’s system to allow it
to grow in spring is governed by the chill period duration and the day
As Christmas nears so does the end of the work for the season of selling cut
trees, greens, poinsettias and grave decorations! How strange that a
product such as a cut Christmas tree has no value after
December 24th! Cut trees almost sold too
well causing the nursery to sell out early so that the order for next year
will be larger from the farm in southern Ohio. While our order will be
“carefully” increased, the market in cut trees can fluctuate wildly from
year to year. Our order will be placed now for next year to ensure the
supply for the next season as there truly is somewhat of a tight supply.
While Christmas is the celebration of the birth if Jesus as predicted and
then realized as the account written about in the Bible, chances are Jesus
was in fact not born on the
25th of December as more likely the date has
more to do with the winter solstice and pagan rituals. Nevertheless, the
season is all about the miracle of the birth and the short 3 year ministry
of Jesus preaching faith, hope, charity and love so that the exact date of
his birth in essence does not really matter.
Merry Christmas everyone!
December 15, 2017
This year has been a surprise at the nursery as cut trees have seen a
bump in sales as evidenced by the few trees left in the sales yard. Even
with the so-called “shortage” reported in the news, trees are still around
at garden centers and cut-your-own operations.
Although artificial trees
have the advantage of convenience and ease of decorating, it seems for many
folks that a real tree is still the only way to go.
The argument for the artificial line of trees is that growing a tree just
for the Christmas season only to be thrown away is a waste. However, while
the above facts are true, the tree to be cut would not have been planted at
all and during its long growth period of 7 years or more, the tree provided
erosion control, shelter for birds and other animals and produced oxygen
that we all need.
Poinsettia sales have been brisk as well as the crop this year has been the
best ever with huge large flower bracts, dark green leaves and the common
size of a 6” pot having at least 5 to 9 large blooms.
At the end of the day on December 29th the nursery will close until the
beginning of March and will begin a period of winter seminars, repairs,
building projects and endless greenhouse chores.
Long office hours too await to place the books in order to complete 2017
taxes, plus budgeting for the upcoming season, reviewing incoming purchase
orders for plants and the construction of the new 2018 online color catalog
plus additional updates to the newly re-designed website.
Without winter, I wonder how all of the above would ever get done.
December 8, 2017
As the days seem to grow shorter and darker in early December, the
three banks of installation of solar panels still produce electricity
although not enough to offset the nursery usage. The most recent
installation is that on the market-office complex which will be live before
year’s end. In winter, the complex uses very few kilowatt hours and in late
spring and summer usage is much higher due to the operation of coolers and
air conditioning. Fortunately, during the long days and intense sun of
summer, the panels will be at their peak production which will offset the
power used from the grid and thus resulting in no utility bill once the
credits of the panels solar productions have been applied.
Cuttings of various annual flowers that were shipped in late November are
starting to root nicely along with varieties of geraniums from which we have
taken cuttings that will be ready to transplant into various size pots.
Some of the most popular varieties have been what is called interspecific
geraniums known as the Calliope brand. New colors with a somewhat more
compact growth habit will be available this spring especially in hanging
baskets. The heat of summer, partial shade or full sun does not seem to
daunt these blooming “machines.”
Cut tree sales have been brisk so that unfortunately the selection is not
broad and wide although the Fraser Fir remaining are shapely, fresh and
beautiful. At least twice each week more branches for grave decorations
must be cut as orders come in from the local area as well as out of state.
past week I have finally placed some of my own decorations on former family
members including ones that died long ago. My Uncle George who is also now
deceased asked me if I would decorate the graves of Susan R. and George L.
Dayton that are just outside Burton, Ohio in Slitor Cemetery. George L, my
great grandfather had passed in 1919 and his wife Susan in 1892. In
accordance to my Uncle’s wishes I still decorate these graves today.
Two years ago the cemetery maintenance crew piled wood chips at least 1
foot or more around at least 3 ancient maple trees. Fortunately, with a call
to the cemetery sexton Martha Eaves, I was able to persuade her to have the
maintenance crew to reduce the mulch to a healthier 2-3" depth.
In a small town in west Michigan, I had noticed ornamental pears dying and
with a little digging the top of the root balls were more than 1 foot below
the surface. When I had mentioned to a local merchant the depth of the
trees he gruffly complained that the town had assessed the merchants for the
trees. When I told him the deep planting was the cause of death, his only
reply then was that the trees were the town’s trees. Strange reply as he
had partly paid for the trees and the shoddy workmanship in planting them.
December 1, 2017
With the nice weather of last week and this past week, chores around
the nursery have been easy to accomplish. The plantings have still been
going on in the botanical garden while about 3000 cuttings from Mexico and
Guatemala have been stuck into their rooting plugs containing peat moss and
some fine aggregate that will enhance root growth once it begins.
Branches have been easy to retrieve for the grave blanket business except
for the prolific vines of poison ivy growing up the trunks of the pines.
The cut Fraser Fir are quite fresh and sales have been somewhat brisk as
many customers have tagged trees for later pick up or delivery. According to
various news sources, trees will be in short supply this Christmas season as
many growers that could not sell enough trees in the 2008 recession cut back
their plantings which would have been ready to harvest today after 9 years
The Schmidt Nursery company in Oregon that is a large supplier of various
bareroot trees had purchased 860 acres near Salem, Oregon but had abandoned
their tree planting plans because of the recession. Unfortunately for trees,
production cannot be ramped up quickly to meet demand as years are needed to
grow them to a saleable size.
Willoway Nursery in Avon, Ohio was selling a large 2" caliper tree in a huge
45 gallon container for $45 just to get rid of them. After a cost
calculation, the company determined at that price for the tree, that they
were actually losing money. Hundreds of these trees and elsewhere were
piled up and burned as there was no market for them.
Poinsettia flower brackets have finally stopped expanding as the center
flower comes into bloom. On some varieties, these flower brackets are the
largest we have ever seen.
The overwintering huts were in need of water this past week making it
necessary to reinsert the intake on the small water pump in order to be sure
the stock is well saturated before an extreme cold blast that might damage
the plants’ root system as the result of low soil moisture.
As the season progresses there is still much work to begin but winter is
definitely somewhat of a respite compared to the growing season. Early
February is the start of our winter seminars that serve to educate gardeners
and help to pass those seemingly slow winter days.
November 24, 2017
The year went by so fast as we get ready to enter the cold and dark
of December. The first week of December seems quite dark as the sun does
set earlier than during the winter solstice about
3 weeks later.
Many deliveries of grave decorations have been already accomplished for
those wanting the decorations placed before Thanksgiving. Flower bulb
plantings are finally done and over 100 mouse traps have been set to control
the pesky mice in the overwintering houses that would gnaw on the roots and
bark of the stock.
The rain last Saturday of at least 2 inches filled up the irrigation pond
and most likely caught up the rainfall needed because of the prolonged late
summer and fall droughts.
The cut trees from southern Ohio are ready to go and many beautiful porch
pots have been constructed for the Christmas season. These pots are light
enough for almost anyone to carry and will stay fresh and green throughout
the Christmas and New Year’s season.
Cuttings of rhododendrons have been stuck and will be rooted by January and
ready for transplanting in the greenhouse.
Deer repellent has been sprayed on the foliage of the rhododendron to keep
hungry deer from browsing on the plants as the deer population has
noticeably increased over the past 2 years. It will be applied again in
late December and early February during a period of winter thaws so that the
product will dry on the plant foliage. Another “must” will be the foliage
application of the emerging tulips in spring when the leaves grow two inches
above the ground.
In Puritan, Massachusetts, it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas that fit
with the Puritan mindset of austerity and control by the elders of the
church. Too bad the Puritans did not follow their beliefs of charity and
forgiveness when they dealt harshly with the native people to clear the land
for English settlement. I guess they forgot about the part of “love thy
neighbor as thyself.”
Time is running out for garden chores as winter approaches. Now is the time
to get going if outside chores remain.
November 17, 2017
As the holiday season fast approaches, the closing up for winter on
the tree and shrub side is nearly done as the last of the stock has been put
away and the overwintering houses have received their batten strips which
are strong plastic lengths of poly ethylene tubing that help to secure the
white poly film on the houses in case of a sudden severe wind as was the
case last April and especially on January 30th of 2008 as 65 mile per hour
winds tore through the nursery with limited damage resulting from this 3
Poinsettias have to be moved quickly during a short window of near 50º F as
they traversed the back growing greenhouse to the greenhouse attached to the
store. Then the construction of grave decorations with customizing them to
fill the various orders according to customer wishes as to the color of
ribbon and other decorations is progressing nicely.
On the grounds, work is still being accomplished on the spring flower
bulb project as 6,000 tulips have been finished along with some
additions to the Wolf Creek botanical garden.
If that weren’t enough, cut Fraser Fir from southern Ohio arrive early
next week to be sorted, unbaled and then priced for sale right after
Thanksgiving. These Ohio-grown trees while more expensive than Fraser
Fir from North Carolina are ever so much more fresher as the small
family farm cuts them later as they are not under the burden of getting
out several thousand trees with limited labor.
This weekend porch pots full of conifer branches and pine cones will be
under construction as the rush continues toward the holiday season. This
Thanksgiving is always a good time to follow grandma’s advice which is to
“count your blessings” not only on Thanksgiving but everyday.
November 10, 2017
While the last of the leaves are almost off the trees, flowering
pears, dawn redwoods and bald cypress are stubborn about giving up their
foliage. The burnt orange of the Dawn Redwood and Bald Cypress have a
beautiful amber hue about them when the sun illuminates the tree.
Flowering pears in addition to having brittle, easily broken branches are
even more susceptible to severe damage from an early snow caught by the
still hanging leaves.
Grave blanket construction continues along with preparation of preparing for
next spring with on going repairs, clean up, trimming and so on. After
covering of the overwintering houses, spring bulb planting will go on into
full swing with the planting of at least 6 thousand tulip and
1000 narcissus. The tulips are divided into two groups for an extended
bloom time. The Darwin hybrids normally bloom about
April 20th through at least
May 1st while the late blooming type called Single Late will
come into its own about
May 1st through Mother’s Day. The result is weeks of
spectacular bloom in which annual flowers from the greenhouse will take the
place of these May bloomers around Memorial Day and after.
Another project going on is the installation of steps down the steep slope
to the Wolf Creek Botanical Garden. For older and even younger customers,
the slope from the Owl Barn to the garden has been difficult to navigate and
the result has been a limited number of visitors to the lower garden and
rhododendron-azalea garden in the shade of trees on the eastern portion of
Then with fall comes time to take rhododendron cuttings and sow azalea seed
from the native azalea known as Rhododendron calendulaceum. This deciduous
azalea is native to the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to northern
Georgia. When the pioneers moving westward through the Cumberland Gap when
the azalea were in bloom in spring, the brilliant hues of orange, yellow,
melon with some orange-red shades lit up the mountains as if they were on
fire. Already some of these young azaleas are growing at the nursery to be
available for sales in the spring of 2019. Another exciting development is
obtaining cuttings from Rhododendron ‘Summer Glow’ with the help of Dr.
Steve Krebs from the Holden Arboretum. These cuttings will be sent to a
nursery south of Portland, Oregon to be rooted this fall and then produced
by tissue culture in a lab that can increase the number of plants quickly.
This true pink June blooming variety has almost disappeared from the nursery
trade but soon will be available if all goes as planned. Holden Arboretum
has a fantastic collection of Rhododendron especially with the gift of the
famous rhododendron hybridizer David Leach, who upon his death in 1998
bequeathed his land and entire collection in Madison, Ohio to the arboretum.
Things are changing fast at the nursery as we strive to keep things fresh
and interesting every year. Happy Fall.
November 3, 2017
With the now removed annual flowers from the landscape beds, the next
binge at the nursery is weed control. Glypsophate (Roundup) is employed to
kill weeds that will overwinter and then bolt upward with the warmer days
and longer days of spring. Two troublesome weeds are the sow thistle and
the ever present garlic mustard. Sow thistle is easy to pull but is so much
more prolific than Canada thistle. Everywhere in the fine gravel beds used
to heal-in balled and burlapped stock, this weed will take hold and thrive.
Garlic mustard is prevalent at the property perimeters and if not killed now
will again bolt in spring to bloom with it’s cream-colored yellow seed pots
that seem to spread everywhere. For any home owner, killing a variety of
perennial weeds now will save precious time in spring when the planting
season is upon us.
Hairy bittercress, henbit, dandelion and chickweed are
other “weeds” which can be eliminated in fall to prevent seeds from forming
in mid-spring only to continue again.
This past week wind and rain has prevented the covering of our overwintering
houses so that a dry, still day is needed to apply the white plastic “skin”
of these houses used for winter storage of trees and shrubs.
Then there is the collection of pine branches from Galehouse Tree farms in
Doylestown to be used for grave decorations so that pre-Thanksgiving orders
are ready. Sometimes fall seems nearly as busy as spring except for the
absence of the numerous customers and the only reason that the nursery
exists in the first place.
October 28, 2017
It finally happened; that is a killing frost with sustained
temperatures of 32ºF or below. Three earlier frosts were not enough to
knock out the annual flowers around the nursery although last Saturday we
removed and dumped about forty huge pots of tropical plants and annuals.
Some of the customers
on Saturday were surprised we would not save
those plants; however, our only heated spaces in winter are for production
areas which could be infected with insects carried inside along with the
To prepare for the freeze
on Thursday morning we had to cover the
house with the evergreen azaleas as the temperature was too low to protect
the yet tender flower buds from freezing. Under an intense regiment of
fertilizer and irrigation to promote growth, there is a delay in flower buds
hardening-off in order to withstand a timely freeze. In the protection of
the covered overwintering structure, the plants are not allowed to freeze
November 10th at which time the
hardening-off process is complete.
One of the new grasses from the Proven Winners people is the Little Bluestem
grass called Blue Paradise. The color is a steel blue in summer with strong
stems that grow to about 2½ feet high . Now, the cooler days of fall has
touched the grass with a hint of burgundy. What a sight to behold!
The sales yard now looks desolate as the nursery stock is nearly all put
away in the winter storage huts although the stock is still available for
sales. After all the nursery stock is put away and the sales yard cleaned
up, the next chore is to begin working on grave blankets by collecting pine
branches first and Colorado spruce branches about
two weeks later as the spruce has a tendency
to shed needles if the weather should turn warm and sunny. Collecting the
branches reminds me of cutting Christmas trees with a hand saw then dragging
them out to along the roadway where they could be baled for transport on our
truck from near Indiana, Pennsylvania to Ohio. Most of the young men that
would go on this Christmas tree harvest would not return for a second round
as the work was long and arduous.
As the irrigating of plants draws to a close around Thanksgiving, major
repairs to our pump station will be underway to improve the pump intake area
to avoid the pick up of sediment from the irrigation pond that might
overload the self-washing filter. Then from next week through Thanksgiving
will be the planting of approximately 6,000-7,000 tulip bulbs to fire waves
of color into the nursery landscape from late April through mid-May. What a
job it is for just for some more spring ambiance. Only winter and frozen
soil ceases most of the outside work.
October 20, 2017
After a cold, frosty night last Monday morning, the days became sunny
and much warmer like a typical October day. Predictable is the fact that
fall colors are not intense as usual because of the abnormally dry weather.
Sugar maples in the surrounding woods at the nursery have shed many of their
leaves before turning the flaming orange, red and yellow hues as usual.
Poinsettias in the rear greenhouses are still growing so much so that this
year’s crop will be larger than normal. Color in the bracts is just now
starting and will finish up by Thanksgiving. Many plants “appreciate” what
is known as bottom heat in order to keep their root systems warm which in
turn results in better top growth.
A flush of the boiler piping system with a solution of citric acid has
removed the build-up of deposits of lime and scale in the small diameter
heating tubes on which the plants sit. These alkaline water deposits had
build up so much that the boiler would frequently shut down because of the
constriction of the water flow. The smooth operation of the boiler is
imperative especially when unrooted cuttings arrive from Guatemala as the
temperature of the rooting media must be kept about 72º F for proper root
Last week too was the break down of our recycle water pump as the pump
impeller had worn out and other issues of problems were apparent where the
15 HP motor is connected to the Myers centrifugal pump. Fortunately, an
identical pump and motor still in the shipping box was right on the shelf to
“plug in”. The main irrigation pump with a 25 HP motor and a pumping
capacity of almost 700 gallons a minute is also just sitting on the shelf in
case of a breakdown.
Gone are the old days when we obtained a new pump in less than a week as we
experienced up to a 3 week delay in 2012 which caused major problems. The
pumps just sitting idle are merely an insurance policy in case of a
Next week we will be taking the majority of the shrubs and some trees to the
winter storage houses although they will be available through November.
October 13, 2017
Fall is not only for planting, but signals the important task of taking a
soil test for the lawn and garden. Soil in Northeast Ohio tends to favor an
acidic range due to the proximity of the Appalachian foot hills. For most
plants, a PH range of neutral (7) to slightly acidic frees up the essential
elements required for good plant growth. Conversely, an acidic pH (4.5–6.0)
is ideal for the ericaceous group such as Rhododendron, Azaleas,
Blueberries, and Mountain Laurel as necessary iron becomes more available
with the lower pH.
The pH measurement is nothing but the measure of the concentration of
hydrogen ions in the soil. The ideal pH for lawns and a vegetable garden is
6.5 to 6.8 and is not static as the soil’s acidity or alkalinity can change
overtime. Additions of lime will correct acidity problems but can only be
applied accurately by means of university soil test. This accurate test not
only will give a measure of the PH, but also an indication of the soil’s
buffer capacity or resistance to change.
Soils that are high in organic matter tend to be of good tilth which is
favorable for plant root growth and beneficial microorganisms and also tend
to result in a high buffer capacity.
Soils of the same pH then may require a substantial difference of the amount
of lime applied due to the variant buffer capacity of each of the different
soils testing at an identical pH.
Another measure of a standard university soil test is the measurement of the
amount of phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K2O)
in the soil and with recommendations of how to correct any deficiencies.
CEC, or, the cat ion exchange capacity, is another element of a standard
test and indicates the soil’s electrical charge which is its ability to hold
nutrients such as nitrogen which can readily leach out of a soil low in
organic matter and thus a low CEC reading.
Farmers will normally apply lime on their fields in the fall after crop
harvests and when the ground is relatively dry to avoid soil compaction. A
typical farm application was practiced by Walter Seiberling of Norton as
every other year in fall he would apply up to three tons of lime per acre
depending on the results of the soil test.
Fall is perfect for lime application as winter snow and rain help to leach
topical applications of lime into the soil and complete the slow chemical
change of neutralizing excess hydrogen ions.
To take a soil test, take a least 10 different samples from a lawn about 3”
deep and mix the samples in a clean bucket to get an average reading. For a
garden the same applies as above only that the samples should be 6” deep.
Then, pack the soil sample (about ½ cup) in the kit bag, fill out the form
and then mail it to the university.
For lawns, pelletized lime in bags is best to apply with a spreader. For
gardens, pulverized lime is ideal as it is longer lasting. Although, it is
more difficult to spread by hand. University soil test kits are available in
most garden centers such as Dayton’s. Our test kits come from Penn State for
a cost of $14.99. Soil maintenance as far as PH is concerned is inexpensive
and the results, as far as improved plant growth, can be profound.
October 6, 2017
With a decent frost last Sunday morning, the northern and western
slope of the store roof was white until almost
9 a.m. Fortunately, the irrigation clock begins the watering
4 a.m. and protected the evergreen azaleas
from a hard frost as the flower inside the buds can be killed by early
frost. Years ago a frost in late September on the azaleas killed the buds
on the top of the plant as I noticed the center of the bud brown inside
instead of the usual bright green. When I telephoned my friend and mentor,
Mr. John Ravenstein, head propagator for Losely Nursery about my discovery,
he related to me that he always thought that the buds on evergreen azalea
could be killed by an early fall frost but that nobody would believe him.
Stock in the back growing houses is being reweeded, trimmed and inventoried
as it is lined up close together because the time has come to get these
houses ready for winter that are nothing more than a quonset style type
steel frame on which white plastic will be stretched.
The mum season is winding down as we are selling through the later blooming
varieties although we have none of the latest blooming Stavinsky mums that
bloom near the end of October and into November. Since weather can be a
problem that late in the season, we decided not to risk being able to sell
these mums bred to bloom closer to All Saints Day on
Repair still continues on the overwintering structures while plants are
being shuffled around inside the structures. The great challenge is to
separate all the saleable inventory from the not yet saleable inventory
which is quite an endeavor. The goal is for an accurate inventory that is
listed on line.
Fall as is spring means mega amounts of work although the spring madness is
September 29, 2017
The Mum Fest as always was a big hit in Barberton even with the
twist of hot summer-like temperatures into the 90ºF range. The heat
combined with the extreme dryness has taken its toll on the yards and
gardens alike. Unfortunately, September is the best lawn renovation time
but without rain and cooler temperatures, germination of grass seed will be
delayed as well any recovery of a lawn that has been thatched.
It is imperative that newly planted trees, shrubs and other flowers be hand
watered to get root growth commenced into the surrounding soil. Until that
root growth into the surrounding soil is accomplished there is a danger of
the plant being damaged or even dying due to the inability of the newly
planted plant being able to utilize water from even the moist surrounding
soil surrounding it. Even well established shrubs are suffering in the
landscape as leaves fall early because of the water stress. Evergreens are
another matter as they will not show water stress until it is too late.
Well established arborvitae are not immune from death from drought as was
evident by the dry period starting in the mid-summer of 2010 and that
continued well into fall. Fortunately at the nursery, the irrigation system
is operating flawlessly as it goes through various watering cycles beginning
at 4 a.m.
in the morning and finishing up at
With the huge self washing automatic filter, clogged sprinklers are not an
issue now and nor is disease from the recycled water because of a chlorine
The Cider Fest in Norton has begun and the joke going around Norton is that
now it will rain as it has done so during many of the Cider Fest
celebrations through the years. Sorry folks, if that’s what it takes to get
it to rain, I’m all for it.
September 22, 2017
With the autumnal equinox, the fall season officially begins
although no one would notice because of the summer like temperatures of this
past week. Leaf color is beginning to appear and it remains to be seen
whether or not it will be as intense as usual due to the mini-drought of at
least the past 6 weeks.
Chrysanthemums are now “showing off their skills”
in a blaze of color so typical of the fall season and the blaze is as
intense at the mum gardens in Barberton as the last minute preparations are
made for the festival beginning at
tomorrow and ending on late
Sunday afternoon. This 26th year of the Mum Festival has seen
the growth of not only the mums but the growth of visitors from all over the
state and even out of state as everyone enjoys the events centered around
Lake Anna and the mum garden. This year the mum gardens have been renamed
the Bill Aulenbach Centennial Gardens in reference to Barberton’s founding
in 1891 and the first mum fest. Bill Aulenbach of the Yoder Brothers
Company (now Aris) has been an advisor as far as the selection and the
growing of the mums since the first planting of the garden in 1991. After
about 60 years of dedicated service to the company, Bill is still behind the
scenes planning and selecting the mums so that the display will remain new
and fresh every year with the prime time of bloom coinciding with the
festival near the end of September.
At the nursery too is mum time although the ever hardy Igloo mums created
by the Aris company are nearly sold out. Fall “things” such as corn stalks,
pumpkins and straw bales are the norm too along with the nursery stock with
many selected items half off.
The evergreen azaleas have just finished rooting and will be transplanted
in a couple of weeks along with geranium “plugs” as they are called, so that
these stock geraniums will grow and develop so that we may harvest cuttings
just before Christmas to root them for pots and hanging baskets for sales in
the month of May.
Starting in about a month there will be the packing away of stock in the
overwintering houses that will be covered in early to mid-November with
white plastic film that will reflect most of the sun’s rays in order to keep
the houses cool in winter so that the plants will remain dormant until
Tune into our radio show
this Saturday to get the scoop on the Mum Fest as I will
conduct interviews with the Mayor of Barberton, members of the Mum Fest
Board and of course Bill Aulenbach. Congratulations to Bill on the renaming
of the gardens. It is an honor he well deserves.
September 15, 2017
Surprisingly, chrysanthemum bloom time seems to be right on schedule
although previously it appeared bloom time would be advanced by 10 days to
two weeks. As always, the Dendranthemums have been a big hit because of
their sheer beauty and extreme winter hardinesss. These mums are a product
of the Aris Corporation (formerly Yoder Brothers) in Barberton, Ohio and
have the trade name Igloo mums. Barberton used to be known as the 3 M city
for mums, matches and mines. Well the O.C. Barber Diamond Match factory is
gone, the limestone mine is now defunct, but the mums are still here and
will be celebrated on
Saturday, September 23rd and Sunday, September 24th
in Barberton at the Mum Fest.
Gorgeous, freshly dug Baby Blue Spruce have arrived this week and are nearly
perfect in shape and the alluring blue color of the needles. These beautiful
conifers are not grafted but rather are a seed selection from Canada that
was developed over many years.
Tomorrow though is the nursery’s annual Fall Fest that is for children and
adults alike. Click on our website for the list of endless activities that
will keep a family easily occupied all day.
Listen to our radio program on 1590 WAKR starting at
the 23rd as I interview the Mayor of Barberton and the other
movers and shakers that make the Mum Fest possible and be sure to check out
our fantastic mum display at the nursery.
September 8, 2017
In recent years no-tilling has become a blessing for farmers because
of its benefits such as less soil erosion, less labor and fuel resulting
from no plowing and the fact that soybeans and corn have been genetically
engineered to resist applications of glypsophate (Roundup) used for weed
The less costly and environmentally friendly benefits of no-till
methods of farming have recently come under threat with the rise of several
glypsophate-resistant weeds with the first resistance discovered in Delaware
in 2000. Now according to a New York Times article from 2010, there are at
least 10 glypsophate-resistant weeds in 22 states affecting millions of
acres that may dampen farming enthusiasm for crops genetically engineered to
survive over-the-top sprays of the chemical.
Read entire blog...
September 1, 2017
Today is the beginning of our yearly Fall Clearance sale for
Garden Club Members only. For early risers, the nursery opened at
7:30 this morning and will remain open for our usual weekly
close time of
Tomorrow, the nursery is open until
6 p.m. Early-to-visit Garden Club Members will be treated to a
variety of choice stock that they will be able to purchase at 50% off the
regular price. Only that stock which is in our sales area will be 50% off
so that inventory numbers on the internet listing will not match up
necessarily as to what is available at the 50% off price. These “extra”
inventory numbers all in the rear growing area are available but not at the
50% off cost. Remember also that the 50% off items cannot be placed on
account but must be paid when the items are taken or picked up later
within 30 days.
September 1st is also the 302nd anniversary of the death of
the Sun King Louis XIV of France in 1715. Louis had a profound influence on
gardening with the planting and construction of his lavish gardens at
Versailles in which he used 60% of the entire country’s revenue each year
for 40 years to accomplish his vision. Louis as an absolute Monarch was
quite demanding as he wanted vegetables earlier and later than the norm for
his dining pleasure so that his gardeners came up with the Marais system of
gardening which is still used in one fashion or another by home owners
today. An excellent book describing the system is one written by the
Poisson husband and wife team that gives the Marais system an American twist
in their book American Intensive Gardening. Too bad Louis didn’t confine
his interests to running France well and gardening as his rule resulted in
four ruinous wars that nearly bankrupted the country along with his lavish
spending on Versailles.
Remember the Fall Festival is coming up with a whole slew of events for the
September 16th. We’ll see you there!
While temperatures have cooled significantly, no rain has fallen in the area
for at least a month as lawns and gardens are starting to show their
thirst. At the nursery, the recycled rain water that is stored is running
low so that water from Van Hyning Run of less desirable quality has to be
let in to the irrigation pond to supplement the nursery’s water needs. The
flowers in the pots and beds along the entrance drive continue to grow and
bloom prolifically as they are pumped with fertilizer each time they are
Hungry aphids in the thousands destroyed some of the flowers in the
landscape before their time last year but this year our diligence has paid
off as they have appeared again only to be hit by successive insect sprays
to keep them in check.
Some large pots of Chrysanthemums will arrive today with the full display of
sizes and colors to finally be realized this
coming Wednesday. Because of some abnormally early blooming,
some of the smaller pots of chrysanthemums have been under-sized so that we
prefer to wait for the next flush of blooming plants that are of a more
saleable size. Surprisingly though, the normally earlier blooming Igloo
mums are later this year in flowering which makes no sense especially with
the cool nights of the past couple weeks. Every year is different so that
it is almost impossible to predict when a variety of mums will bloom when it
is supposed to bloom.
Next Friday will be the start of our annual 50% off sale of
selected trees, shrubs and perennials of which I think our garden club
members will find delightful as many items on sale will have a selection
that is both broad and deep. Remember that Dayton Dollars expire on
August 31st one day before the sale so that these “dollars”
are just like cash when used for plants, fertilizer and so on except they
are not valid on produce in the Owl Barn Market.
Remember too to open your e-mail about the sale for Garden Club members
September 1st for some other coupons as well
as we will not be notifying our members by “snail mail” because of the
astronomical cost of postage and printing.
Very important too is the notice on our sales lists that the quantity
reported on our electronic inventory does not necessarily match the numbers
available on sale as some of these plants are new stock in the rear growing
areas and while they can be purchased, back stock is of the full retail
The nursery will be open Labor Day from
p.m. and afterwards the sale will be open to non-garden club
members. It is only fair that Garden Club Members get the first choice of
stock. Hope to see you at the “Big” sale.
August 18, 2017
As August rolls on, the nursery chores as always never stop.
Weed pulling, potting and replacing of more overwintering structures goes on
as well as getting ready for the Christmas season with bow making for the
grave blanket business and porch pots! The cut trees from our southern Ohio
grower have been ordered since last January so that they will arrive on time
right at Thanksgiving for the Christmas season!
When the nursery had a plantation of trees to cut in Pennsylvania years ago,
every Thanksgiving would be spent cutting, dragging and then baling the cut
trees to be loaded onto a flat bed truck to be hauled to Ohio.
Now with a new inventory just being taken, stock is infinitely more
accurately represented on our online inventory list. With more stock
becoming ready in the rear growing areas, the inventory will expand and in
addition we will receive a semi truck load of freshly dug stock at the end
of this month. In September when the weather cools, gorgeous 6 foot baby
Baby Blue Spruce will arrive that are already tagged in the field. With the
azure-blue color and branches to the ground, these trees are a sight to
behold and eerily uniform in shape and size as they are from a seed
selection that originated in Canada over many years.
Don’t forget to use up all the Dayton dollars through
August 31st as after this date the value
will be zero. There’s plenty of selection now to be had!
August 11, 2017
Last Friday in the late morning, the nursery received just over
one-half inch of rain that gave some relief from the dry weather. Some of
the nursery stock such as the tree hydrangeas must be watered by hand every
few days as the dense canopy of foliage prevents adequate watering of the
root system by the overhead irrigation system. Other stock such as the
recently potted perennials must be watered only every 3-4 days as too wet an
environment will cause roots to rot and especially so since we added the
product haydite to our mix to hold more moisture while giving aeration to
the roots as the plants utilize the water contained within the expanded
It’s just about time for Chrysanthemums as there seems to be no heat delay
in the flowering as it was in the hot summer of 2016. In fact, during a
conversation with Bill Aulenbach who is a member of the Mum Fest committee
in Barberton, Bill related that some varieties of Chrysanthemums may not
“make size” as the flower buds are forming earlier than normal due to the
cool weather. Flower buds retard growth so that even in a greenhouse full
of flowering annuals in February and March the growth regulator called
Florel is sprayed on many plants in order to abort flowering so that the
plants are able to “make size” for later flowering in the month of May. The
Igloo mums, which are really a Dendranthemum, are another matter in that
they normally bloom earlier.
These exceedingly winter hardy plants are durable because of this fool proof
hardiness and their sheer beauty. Igloo mums offered at the Mum Fest in
Barberton are frequently on the “down side” of bloom as the festival is
always the last weekend of September. Whatever the weather, the mum display
around Lake Anna is enjoyed by all even though every year is a challenge to
achieve a perfect display. As Bill has stated he can see all the
imperfections of the display; however, to the general public made up of the
tens of thousands of people who come to the Fest, the mum display is always
Que sera sera or C’est la vie!
Now that the dog days of summer have arrived, the typical dryness
of August appears. Some of the heavy rain for many areas earlier in the
month of July seemed to miss this area when a one to two inch rainfall would
have been helpful.
With the somewhat warm temperatures (although cooler than last year) the
“bugs” are on the march and customers have come in with problems in the
landscape concerning azalea lacebug, bagworms, rust disease on serviceberry
and bacterial blight on lilacs. The bagworm and azalea lacebug treatments
though are easy with 2 sprays of a product containing the active ingredient
acephate with one trade name being Bonide Systemic Insect Spray. Each of
the 2 sprays are applied at a one week interval and will at least
temporarily stop the damage. While the bagworm is difficult to kill in the
late stage, the pesticide will stop them from feeding so that to finish them
off, an application of BT or Bacillus thuringiensis in early May will spell
doom for any new hatchlings. BT, also known as thuricide is a naturally
occurring bacteria that is deadly to the Lepidoptera family and works great
for cabbage worms, leaf eating caterpillars and Gypsy moth larva when a
strain called Kurstaki is employed. As far as azalea lacebug, the two
acephate containing sprays will kill the adult and nymph stages and the
second generation as it hatches from the unaffected eggs.
This Monday will be “exciting” as we will do a physical count
to correct our online inventory so that we might more accurately know what
is available. With at least 5 persons starting at
7 a.m., the physical count in the sales area should be
9 a.m. and then entered into the computer by
the end of the day.
Truth be told, I would rather pull weeds all day!
July 28, 2017
The weather has been pleasant with lower humidity and
temperatures making it easier to perform chores in the nursery like weeding.
How many times a “weeding emergency” has occurred but only to be ”orrected”
in hot, humid 90º F weather. Years ago in early July of 1980 as we
constructed a new quonset type greenhouse for raising azaleas, temperatures
rose to about 100º F as we worked in the hot sun and even burn up a small
drill as it became too hot! Fast forward now to today, three over-wintering
structures erected in 1994 must be replaced because of corrosion which has
progressed enough to be in danger of collapse during heavy winds or snow
Customers have been using their Dayton Dollars before they expire at the end
of August and for the most part have been finding adequate inventory
especially as more and more stock becomes available from the rear growing
areas. Curious rabbits have been chewing some grasses that were recently
potted in the movable roof structure so that now all perimeter walls and
doors must be closed to prevent the grasses from becoming a “rabbit salad.”
About 1200 creeping phlox “plugs” are to arrive
in two weeks to be planted and they too are attractive to
rabbits and must be corralled to prevent them from disappearing!
This week though is “sticking cuttings week” of evergreen azaleas and
various shrubs in order to take advantage of the summer heat to aid in their
forming roots by September. So much to do, so little time!
July 21, 2017
Last Saturday, the Blueberry Fest seemed quite the hit as
evidenced by the full parking lot that remained full for hours as well as
finding parking spots for the additional 25-30 vehicles that could not fit
into the already full lined spots. Now the question is how to properly
manage the fall festival that is set for the third weekend in September!
The hot, humid weather of July has returned although rainfall has been
adequate unlike the dryness of last year. The potting of plants goes on
beginning with the receipt of clematis varieties that will be available next
spring. For some reason, the Queen of Vines sold better than ever this year
probably having to do with the popularity of vertical gardening and the fact
that clematis are available in a multitude of colors with an ever expanding
pallet of new varieties from various breeders.
Next week, local sweet corn from the Seiberling Farms will flood the Owl
Barn with the first sugar enhanced, synergistic variety called “Espresso”
comes into ripeness. With refrigeration, these new varieties that are much
different from those of yesteryear will remain sweet in the refrigerator for
at least 3 days according to Chuck Seiberling although Chuck has stated that
some of the customers had told him that they have held the sweet corn for a
week after picking!
The nursery has been seasonally slow in these dog days of summer although
folks in our garden club have enjoyed spending their Dayton Dollars coupons
which spend like cash except on produce items.
At the Columbus trade show called Cultivate, many vendors showed off their
new exciting wares for the spring 2018 season and beyond. The problem is
that some of the older varieties must be eliminated to make room for the new
but as always the question is which ones!
July 15, 2017
jackpot this week with the receipt of at least one inch of rain after
previous heavy rains continued to go north and south of the nursery making
it 16 days since the last “good rain”. Chuck at Seiberling Farms was a
little anxious as the 60 acres of sweet corn were becoming thirsty so that
the aluminum irrigation pipe filled with water from the always running
Hudson Run would have to be put in place and then moved from field to field
as it was last year in the hot and drought--filled summer of 2016.
Tomorrow is our 7th annual Blueberry Fest that is a treat for little
kids and “big kids” alike with activities for small children including
crafts, a bouncy house, petting zoo and so much more. For the “big
kids”, hayrides, lots of blueberries with foods comprised of a blueberry
component and a polka band from Cleveland are just some of the events.
Admission and parking are free as well as all the events and to top
things off, the weatherman is promising 80º f, sun and lower humidity
making it perfect weather for mid-July! See below for details...
The long and sunny days of July get the solar panels at the nursery
cranking their excess power to the grid. Most likely by 2020, no net
power will be used from the grid creating an even “greener” environment
at the nursery.
July 7, 2017
This past week the heavy rains have been about one mile north and
one mile south of the nursery with about no rain at the nursery! The nursery
stock has been growing nicely as well as the weeds which makes for constant
weed control in the outside sales yard as it is good fodder for weeds
because of the everyday irrigation.
Constant repotting is the norm as some shrubs are “shifted up” which means
they are transferred to a large pot to grow larger. Mostly all trees that
were potted in late March and early April are now available and will be sold
this summer, fall and next spring. Trimming is another matter. Most
varieties of the newly potted hydrangeas have already been trimmed twice and
will need at least 2 more trimmings.
Then there is always a “project”. Three overwintering structures
constructed in 1994 must be razed and new ones constructed because of
corrosion making the houses weak and in danger of collapsing under the
weight of heavy snow.
With next week’s Blueberry Fest there’s even more work to do! Who said
summer is slow compared to spring!
June 23, 2017
Sadly in the afternoon on Sunday, June 18th, our nursery cat L.B.
died after having a seizure and then lying down with heavy labored
breathing. The past year he had trouble from an animal bite from which he
recovered but then in March slowed down from eating which caused him to lose
weight and become lethargic. A visit to the vet last week revealed he had
bad teeth and an overactive thyroid which caused weight loss. After a shot
of antibiotics and a topical treatment for the over active thyroid, L.B.
seemed to eat more and maybe was on his way to better health. This spring,
some customer’s were concerned that he was being starved or mistreated
because of his appearance. One suggestion was offered that he should be
euthanized. I was offended by that comment as L.B. sill came out to eat
something and would purr when I picked him up and stroked and petted him as
he looked excitedly out the window. L.B. came to the nursery by accident in
December of 1997 and decided to adopt us as his family. After almost 20
years, he survived the busy road, prowling coyotes, other wild animals,
fertilizer and insecticide bags that he used as a bed sometimes and a wolf
that a customer brought into the store. He could not survive his old worn
out body of almost 20 years. I buried him on a well-drained site on a hill
in the shade garden where sometimes he would roam. This gentle, loving cat
will be missed for years by all at the nursery.
June 16, 2017
As the summer solstice approaches with the long days of summer ,
growth of the vegetable garden and the weeds is prolific. Besides hoeing
and pulling weeds, newspaper used as a mulch as well as corn gluten will
inhibit the weed growth that will easily take over a garden quickly.
In Avon, Ohio the large wholesale nursery called ‘Willoway Nurseries’
uses rice hulls as a mulch on top of their container-grown plants which does
an excellent job of inhibiting weeds. A few years ago, Willoway had
significant problems with production as many plants were stunted and yellow
from a chemical herbicide toxicity which effected their switch to the
non-chemical rice hulls.
At the nursery here, coco weed discs are employed that eliminate the use of
chemicals for weed control. These discs fit right into our program of
sustainable, environmentally friendly growing practices and prevents a
buildup of herbicide residue in our recycled irrigation water.
Soon it will be time to pot the small azaleas into 1½ gallon pots for next
spring’s sales and future larger plants. These plants too would be treated
with coco discs preventing any toxicity from herbicide use that sometimes
Hopefully the ideal wish of one inch of rain per week will occur over the
summer instead of the hot, dry summer of last year. How sad it will be for
some of the television weather folks if needed rain fails on a weekend to
spoil someone’s barbecue! They will have to learn to live with the
June 9, 2017
The heat of summer has finally arrived even though according to
the calendar it is late spring until the summer solstice. What good fortune
in that the irrigation pond is brimming with rain water of such good quality
that the plants will definitely show it. For the hot days, potting up new
arrivals of perennial plants and shrubs in the afternoon is a welcome chore
as it keeps us largely out of the hot sun.
Long overdue maintenance has been in full swing this past week including but
not limited to pulling weeds, spraying weeds, mowing, trimming and cutting
back shrubs and trees in the landscape. Persistent rain and wind has
delayed this overdue chore so that it now is only being performed.
The greenhouse flower house really have run low now although many flowers
are used to brighten up the landscape for the summer. Many trees and shrubs
will be shifted to larger containers while new product constantly becomes
available beginning in late June. One such plant is the creeping phlox which
has been sold out since late last May. Another group of purple and pink
will be available about
July 1st as we actually rooted the plants
from cuttings in mid-March. The large pots of flowers along the driveway
are growing profusely with the warm weather and the warmer nights which
definitely will aid in the growth of heat loving vegetables.
Timely to-dos are:
1. Apply bicarb to ornamental and vegetable plants prone to powdery
2. Apply a product now containing acephate to azaleas to kill lacebug
which are very active and will require a follow up spray in about 10
days. A trade name of the product is called Bonide Systemic Insect Spray
that can be applied with a hand sprayer or hose-end sprayer.
June 2, 2017
With June already here the rain department is still producing an excess of
water. Reports have been coming into the nursery of garden seeds failing to
sprout and garden plants somewhat at a standstill. While temperatures have
warmed to a more normal range, soils are devoid of much needed oxygen that
roots must employ for respiration and growth.
Root diseases such a Phytophthora and Pythium just love to grow and infest
plant roots as the saturated soil provides a pathway for infection of the
stressed plant roots and a favorable environment as well.
Flowers too have suffered with the wet weather as growth is slow due to cool
nights and constant rain. Constant rain will leach nutrients out of the soil
for flower and vegetable plants so that additional fertilizer will be needed
for pots or plants in the ground to supplement the leached away fertilizer.
Better weather is sure to come. Let’s hope the rain subsides but does not
shut off completely!
May 26, 2017
Contrary to last year, there is certainly no shortage of rain this spring.
Many customers coming into the nursery have been more aware of wet areas in
the yard and are wanting ideas for plantings which might include the
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus), Calycanthus (Carolina Allspice), Winterberry
(Ilex verticilata), Variegated Dogwood (Cornus elegantisima or stolonifera),
Variegated Willow (Salix integra ‘Nashiki’) or even elderberries (Sambucus
canadensis). For trees in wet areas River Birch (Betula nigra), Silver
Maple (Acer saccharum) or Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) would work well.
Finally, many of the roses are coming into bud and bloom which will create a
spectacular show especially for the final week of May! Tea roses and
floribundas must be sprayed weekly with a fungicide such as Bi-Carb to keep
mildew and black spot at bay as soon after inoculation by these fungus
organisms, the leaves will yellow and drop off which then will slow down
growth and the resulting bloom.
With Memorial Day approaching, many folks will decorate the graves of loved
ones in cemeteries as a sign of respect and memory of those who have passed
before us. The traditional Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and
designated to be
May 30th by the federal government to
consolidate the date into one celebration after the multiple celebrations on
different dates throughout the various regions of the country. With so many
war dead from most families resulting from the Civil War it was only natural
that families would want to decorate the graves of those lost.
At the nursery, plantings of flowers will not go on until after the holiday
weekend due to the busy time. The greenhouse is at its peak with masses of
color everywhere. The mixed confetti hanging baskets that were a little
small are now particularly beautiful as at least 25 different combinations
are available. Confetti is a trademark name of the Dummen Orange Company
that produces the “plugs” for the combination.
A little more sun and warmth now would be good for the garden but now we’ll
have to wait and see. Que sera sera.
May 19, 2017
With the onset of warm days and more importantly warm nights, the
planting of vegetable and flowers seems to be in full swing. Even tropical
plants that like plenty of sun and hot days will be planted outdoors in the
ground and in pots for outdoors. This weekend will finish up the late
blooming lilac call Miss Kim while just the beginning is near for the
Mountain Laurels that will “repair” the loss bloom from the lilacs and the
already out-of-bloom evergreen azaleas.
In the perennial department, scads of late spring perennials are ready to
bloom as well as hundreds of the Tiny lilies bred in Holland. The bulbs
were planted three to a pot in late February and early March and now are
coming into a May bloom although the true bloom time would be mid-June to
The growing houses in the rear of the property are finally clearing out as
more and more of the product becomes ready to sell. As always, the Calliope
geranium hanging baskets have been a big hit as they do well in part shade
or full sun. The breeding of the plants is called interspecific since they
are a cross between the vining geranium and what is known as the zonal
Wolf Creek Garden to the north is a riot of bloom with rhododendrons in
varieties such as ‘Boule de Neige’, ‘Boursault’, English Roseum’, Yaku
‘Prince’, ‘catawbiense Alba’, ‘Scintillation’, ‘Nova Zembla’ and then some.
Next will come the bloom of the Maximum types along with delicate blossoms
of Mountain laurel and Kousa Dogwoods.
It would be nice to get some weeding done but for now, it will have to wait.
May 12, 2017
After the cold rain last Saturday and then the very cool, sunny,
on Sunday followed by two freezes at the
nursery, the question really is “what’s next?” As always, weather patterns
vary widely from year to year mainly due to the winds of the jet stream.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of water here in Ohio and record snows
and rains in California have ended the drought and alleviated the pressure
from wild fires that have ravaged that state and the entire western part of
In the greenhouse, the beneficial nematodes have kept the mostly destructive
thrip insect in check while cutting down on spraying chemicals for insect
control by almost one half. It is difficult to manage insect control with
all beneficial insects as many do not eat pollen from flowers to survive and
then are left with nothing to eat.
Unfortunately, wind and rain have made weed control in Wolf Creek garden
lack luster to say the least as the few sunny, less windy days customer
service must take priority over weed control.
Things are looking up though as the forecast for next week appears to be for
more “normal” weather for the latter half of May whatever “normal” is.
In a way it is strange that there is only one day to honor mothers as
everyone knows that a mother is actually a keystone in a family raising
children, preparing family meals, shopping, cleaning, tending the garden,
canning and freezing food...as the saying goes, “ a mother’s work is never
done.” It reminds me of my own mother and her mother which did so much and
basically how much mothers are under appreciated.
Happy Mother’s Day.
May 5, 2017
As the rains continue, so must the work at the nursery continue
so that when the sun does decide to shine, everything will be ready for the
normally busy May season. Surprisingly, despite with weather, sales have
been brisk especially with the opening of the annual flower house.
It is difficult though for folks to plant the garden even with the cool
weather vegetables because of the somewhat saturated ground. One of the
worst concerns of a gardener is to walk around the garden when the soil is
quite wet because of the resulting compaction. I do remember speaking to a
customer in 2011 when the spring rain never seemed to stop and even
continued well into June. She had been born and raised in the UK and
related to me that the 2011 spring was like English weather. When I
asked her what the English do in the garden when the spring rains seem to go
on and she replied “you just put on your “Wellies” and go out into the
garden. She of course was referring to the high Wellington boots that offer
maximum protection from the wet and muddy soil.
With still a chance of frost in the air for May, it is still too early to
plant heat-loving vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers as well as
impatiens and wave petunias. However, many annuals can survive a light
frost like other petunias, ageratum and a few others.
“Hope springs eternal” as written by the poet Alexander Pope and so is the
hope for at least some sun this spring.
April 29, 2017
This weekend is the opening of the main greenhouse of flower and
vegetable plants, tropicals and herbs. To me, it is still too early to
plant and if any of the customers do ask all salespersons as instructed the
answer that “yes” it is too early to plant except for ‘cold weather’
plants like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, pansy and violas. The extra
burden on us is the daily required high maintenance of the greenhouse
consisting of watering, spacing, cleaning and of course serving customers.
In addition to this work above, more plants have arrived from Michigan to be
potted in which some of these shrubs will be available late this summer. If
that weren’t enough, the perennial house still needs “filled to the gills”
and maintained. Then there is weed control in the plants and the ever
present garlic mustard weed starting to bloom along the nursery that must be
destroyed before this invasive weed spreads everywhere!
The azaleas are blooming about 10 days earlier than usual with colors galore
in the nursery and flowers blooming everywhere on the grounds.
In the Wolf Creek Garden, weeds are finally getting under control and color
from Eastern Redbuds and the spill of pink and blue colors down the 18 foot
vertical wall on the north side of the Owl barn light up the grounds. In
the garden, the azaleas are just at a hint of color except for the full
bloom of Rhododendron ‘Aglo’ and the old-fashioned and rare Azalea Ethylwyn
which is an old Gable hybrid.
Spring is wonderful time at the nursery although sometime’s it’s too much
April 21, 2017
The second half of April at the nursery is an even faster ramp up
of activities as the perennial house and annual flower houses must be
readied for opening at the end of the month. Then too is the receipt of
tropical plants from Florida that require almost everyday watering plus the
at least 2 initial successive treatments to eliminate or at least check the
“Florida bugs” so that they are not present on the plants when they are
purchased and to eliminate the possibility that they will contaminate the
flowers and vegetable plants grown in the greenhouses over the winter.
For other business, the receipt and then potting of thousands of small
shrubs from Michigan must be accomplished so that stock will be available
later in the summer and next year. Some of the small shrubs will be
continually repotted into bigger containers in order to achieve larger
finished sizes which might extend over a 3 year period!
Growth of plants in the annual flower house is amazing as the warm, much
longer sunny days of the winter. Some shipments of small flower “plugs”
(as they are called) were delayed by the grower from which we purchase many
of the patented flowers so that it looked as though the pots and hanging
baskets would be delayed which now is not the case with the favorable
weather. Fortunately rain has been adequate as the outside stock has to be
irrigated almost everyday with water that is both recycled and the result of
rainfall runoff from the nursery property.
The thousands of tulips for May bloom may come early as a late April bloom
due to the warm push of weather this spring. While not quite the Keukenhof
Gardens in Holland, they still make quite a show as these bloomers “show off
April 14, 2017
How strange an April with about 3-4 inches of snow last Friday
and a low of 26º F at the nursery and the very next day it’s sunny and warm!
Many shipments of stock are arriving from Lake County growers as well as
being moved out of the overwintering huts. Unfortunately, many customers
have been asking for items not out of storage yet which can make things
difficult as much of the stock is tightly jammed in the huts making it
difficult to access one or two items. Then there is the preparation of
Easter flowers this week in addition to the receipt of nursery stock! To
make matters more exciting, the irrigation system needed some major
emergency repairs in order to water the overwintering huts and sales yard as
some plants were very “thirsty.”
The new digital catalog seems to be of interest with gardeners as over a
four-day period there have been 6,000 views. Another positive note is that
the new plant kiosk call the Perfect Plant seems to be working faster as it
has been hard wired to the “system” instead of depending upon the wifi.
As anyone can see, spring preparation in a nursery is a lot of work! As my
friend and mentor Mr. John Ravenstein who was the head propagator for Losely
nursery had said long ago: “I had four daughters and if I had had a son I
would never tell him to go into the nursery business.” When I ask Mr.
Ravenstein why not, he stated, “this business is too much work!”
April 7, 2017
Next week starts the beginning of filling up the sales yard at
the nursery as shrubs will be pulled from the over-wintering structures and
truck loads of stock will be received from nurseries in Lake County.
This past week though has seen the repotting of about 1500 small azaleas and
yes even more perennials and blueberries. Mountain Laurels are next to be
potted and must be placed in a special site so that they are not irrigated
with the other plants as they must be kept drier by receiving only one-half
After the seemingly never ending set up of the sales yard comes the
shipments of many varieties of shrubs from Michigan nurseries that will be
potted for later summer, fall and spring sales. Many of these shrubs are of
the proven Winner brand that require the white Proven Winner pot. These pots
are such that the nursery grower will only ship enough pots for the
particular plants ordered. In this way, it would be difficult to propagate
new plants from the ones received from the nursery and thus the patent on
these plants is better protected form illegal propagation. In fact, when
ordering the patented Proven Winner shrubs or flowers, the nursery grower
makes it quite clear up front that the order confirms that the customer
(Dayton’s) agrees to place the plants in the PW pots and will not illegally
propagate the plants!
The hyacinths and narcissus at the nursery are in bloom to be followed in a
few weeks by the thousands of tulips planted last fall. It’s too bad for the
deer though as their tulip salad was sprayed by another application of deer
repellent last week!
March 31, 2017
tomorrow, things have readily geared up in the temperature
department as well as the work amount and work speed at the nursery.
Massive amounts of bare-root trees and shrubs have arrived that must be
handled quickly as the bare roots are subject to drying out that will cause
death to the plants. After preparation of trimming, tagging and root
pruning, the stock must be potted in our mix consisting of pine bark that is
mixed with sphagnum peat and certain fertilizers.
They are then ready for sale around
July 4th, or, sometimes, not until next spring.
As the above process of potting goes on, stock out of the over-wintering
huts must be pulled out and more truck loads of purchased stock still are
On the greenhouse front, flowers still need trimmed, planted, moved and
spaced as these flowers are ready for the greenhouse opening about
May 1st. The cold weather of the previous week has slowed
down the flowering and growth of plants on the outside although now much of
the required degree days, as it is called, has been achieved already causing
the environment to “wake up”. The advent of the spring awakening was
celebrated long ago on
April 1st by that date being chosen as the first of the new
year. With an act of Parliament in the year 1759,
January 1st was declared the beginning of the new year.
With the above change, does that mean the father of our country, George
Washington was born not on February 22, 1732 but February 22, 1733? Or why
would his birth date in the family bible be given as February 5, 1732? Who
Spring is here.
March 24, 2017
Now that the Vernal equinox is past, the spring season has begun
with daylight hours now longer than the nights. Soon it will be time to
stop lighting tuberous begonias and dahlias in the greenhouse as the longer
daylight hours will ensure that the plants will make growth for flowering
instead of the energy going to tuber formation during shorter days.
Truckloads of stock have arrived all this past week as we scurry to set up
the sales yard. Much of the stock though has not been placed on the on-line
inventory in order to discourage sales (ironically) as during the unloading
process, loaders and wagons are going full tilt which can make for a
dangerous situation for anyone in the area.
The previous week of bitter cold placed some chores on hold so that the
hurried pace of the early spring is even more accelerated.
Most of the new perennial flower stock has been potted as late last week
thousands of plants arrived all at once causing the potting assembly to ramp
up into high gear. Relatively cool temperatures so far are keeping a lid on
a quick spring flush especially after such an abnormally warm February.
Soon the new on-line catalog will be posted with all the beautiful photos of
the stock just in time for spring sales. To say the least, it’s been a very
busy winter getting ready for spring.
March 17, 2017
Winter’s last gasp (hopefully) is
done at least concerning minimum low temperatures in the teens. Snow is
another matter as Lake Erie is unfrozen and strong winds from the north
could bring additional snow to southern Summit County and areas even farther
south through April. As far as the plant business, snow is not a bad thing
with great insulating power during cold and especially clear nights. Still
the “show must go on” as delaying work in the greenhouse is not possible as
stock keeps arriving for transplanting and our rooted cuttings will not fare
well in their small cells if not transplanted soon enough. Fortunately, all
roses were potted just before the onset of the cold so that now they are
safely tucked in a covered house with a small heater that keeps the
temperature from falling no lower than 28ºF. The cool period during rooting
is necessary in order to retard growth of the plants in order that the roots
can grow and expand to fill the pot and support the top growth later.
Once fully rooted in the pot and a moderate amount of short growth in early
May and once they have gone through a process called hardening-off in which
the roses will be ventilated continuously in order to get them used to wind
and cool if not cold temperatures at night and conversely bright sunshine of
the day, they are ready for sale.
Removal of the vinyl tree guards on trees over-wintered outside has been
delayed at least a week due to the abnormally low temperatures. Young trees
used to the guards that are put on in December to protect the bark from
hungry rabbits could suddenly experience a bark split if low
temperatures in the teens or lower combined with an early rising sun which
results in a temperature difference between the sunny side and the early
morning shaded side.
One aspect of this past cold week is that
for sure the quick rush of spring due to the weird warm weather in February
and early March, will definitely be slowed.
As the sun returns to the north to rise earlier and set later, the newly
installed solar panels are entering their high production period of April
through September in which they will send more power to the grid than is
used in the greenhouse operations at least for the one meter. It’s good to
know that for every one of these solar kilowatts produced means coal that is
not mined and burned for the production of electricity.
With St. Patrick’s Day here, today is the
day to plant peas. What “they” don’t tell you is how do you plant peas if
the ground is frozen! LOL!
March 10, 2017
Amazingly, spring flowering bulbs are emerging everywhere as abnormally warm
temperatures continue to push the spring season. Surprisingly, the severe
freezes of last Friday and Saturday did not seem to bother the flowers as
even the narcissus showing flower buds don’t seem to be affected. Tulips
though have been ‘tested’ by deer in some areas last week even when
they had emerged from the ground no more than 2 inches! The next day, all
the thousands of tulips were sprayed including those along
Cleveland-Massillon Road as the deer herds this year seem quite
Thousands of perennial
flowers have been arriving from Minnesota and Holland, Michigan to be potted
up into gallon pots or larger for later sales in spring. Unfortunately, the
plants must be handled quickly as diseases can damage and even kill the
tightly packed plants in the warmer weather. Plants in what are called plugs
and bareroot ones are potted in an assembly line fashion where 3 potters
place trays of the then potted plants on a roller conveyor where they can be
tagged and fertilized to then be placed in what is called a minimum heat
greenhouse in which the plants will grow to a saleable size.
Already the warm weather has caused a speed
up of bringing tightly packed azaleas out of winter storage to the movable
roof greenhouse called a Cravo greenhouse which is the name of the
manufacturer from Canada. The spacing of the plants with the greater light
and air movement has prevented fungus problems that would eat away at the
plants very quickly. Soon will be the unloading of truckloads of nursery
stock and removing thousands of plants from winter storage.
March as well as April is quite strenuous at
the nursery as the days seem to pass quickly with all the multiple chores in
progress all at once.
Que sera sera.
March 3, 2017
With February now past with its record high temperatures, March is
traditionally the month that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
Strangely though, February mostly went out like a lamb with temperatures and
sun feeling like spring when it even isn’t spring! Sadly, many spring
flowering bulbs have awakened early along with the swelling of the buds of
some trees and shrubs as they have been “fooled” that it’s time to awaken.
At the nursery, deer have nibbled at some
emerging tulips already when usually the plants are sprayed with a deer
repellent called Deer Stopper in late March. The Valley Forge American Elm
next to the Owl Barn is already getting ready to bloom which soon after will
be followed by the dropping of the protective bud scales and then the
emergence of leaves.
Inside the well-ventilated winter storage
huts, Hydrangea Endless Summer, Bloomstruck and other large-leaved types are
opening with leaves even though temperatures in the huts drop to the outside
air temperatures at night which has been in the 30's. Interesting too is
that bright sunshine has caused such high generation of electricity in the
newly installed solar panels that about 16 kilowatts per hour are being
produced by noon which is more than that in use so that electricity is being
sent back to the grid.
The March extended forecast while a bit warm
is not as warm as the recent February warmth and will tend to check the
advance of the degree days that plants receive to break into full growth and
This Saturday will be our seminar on
Hemerocallis genus (Daylilies) as much intensive breeding is bringing on
numerous, unusual and beautiful varieties. Our speaker, Rae Dickens is from
the Western Reserve Daylily Society and will expand on the creation of these
new types as well as showing off the latest cultivars. Last year when
Rae Dickens came to the “What’s new” seminar for 2016, she related to me
that what we were showing in daylilies was “old news” so that I asked her to
speak this year.
The nursery is open but the plant selection is quite limited as nothing will
be put on display until early April as there is always the danger of a very
severe cold weather blast such as on April 8th of 2008 when temperatures
dropped to 19ºF overnight accompanied by 35 mile per hour winds after
a warm March pushed everything ahead. To say the least, this spring season
is going to be very interesting.
February 24, 2017
The weather has been to say the
least, enjoyable although it’s not typical for the end of February. Last
week, the bud scales on the lilacs in the storage huts are already falling
off which is definitely a sign of the plants wanting to push out
growth. All the storage huts for a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials
are well ventilated including the provision of roll up sides to keep the
houses even cooler with the warm weather. Unfortunately, growth will “push”
to early anyway that is for sure to cause problems later on when a
sure-to-come hard freeze will occur later on. Even outside, daffodils are
popping up everywhere soon to be followed by trees and shrubs starting to
“wake up” as their cold requirements have been achieved for the
breaking of dormancy. The warm weather too is a wake up call to perennial
weeds such as henbit and the troublesome hairy buttercress as it grows
quickly and then blooms with its tiny white flowers that will soon fade to
be followed by countless seeds to pop up again everywhere!
New growth on planted Montauk Daisies
and daffodils popping up everywhere!
At the nursery, planting of annual flowers is
proceeding at a feverish pace with now the arrival of perennial flowers from
Michigan that must be handled quickly as they will not keep well in their
small cells if not transplanted soon to larger pots. In addition, bare-root
roses have arrived from California and they too will not keep long in their
shipping boxes as they will be subject to destructive mold should they
remain only a few days sealed up.
Perennial plugs are arriving daily and
need to be potted up quickly by a whole planting crew.
Now the clematis vines potted last summer
are showing a little growth which means they must be quickly pulled from
winter storage, trimmed, fertilized, spaced and weeded before they become
tangled in a mass of early growth of the twining vines.
It’s only the beginning of the wild side of
spring. In June, we’ll reflect on spring and think how did it pass so fast!
February 17, 2017
While the weather department still behaves like a roller coaster, the
extended periods of warmth are mimicking last year’s relatively warm winter.
With some exposed vegetation from the lighter than normal snowfall, deer
browsing at the nursery is less than it had been in the two recent previous
cold winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. In Wolf Creek Botanical Garden, the
deer repellent called Deer Stopper was applied to many of the shrubs
susceptible to deer such as the evergreen azaleas and rhododendron about
Thanksgiving. During a thaw in late January, the repellent was applied again
as the deer had found their favorite azalea called ‘Herbert’ which
ironically is a dark double purple that is quite winter hardy and easy to
grow except in the case of deer. It seems the animals prefer the
flower buds of this variety even though Herbert is surrounded by Azalea
Boudoir, Stewartstonian, Cascade and Elsie Lee which are deer damage free!
Who would have thought that deer would be picky about what variety of plant
suits their taste within a species!
Part of next week is filled with safety seminars, a Drug Free Workplace
seminar and one on the new expansive regulations rolled out by E.P.A. on
January 2, 2017, which is aimed at protecting workers and applicators from
exposure to pesticides that are sprayed in greenhouses and on the
grounds. This update of the WPS 1992 Standards although somewhat cumbersome,
is designed to protect workers and prevent pesticide poisonings in the work
Tomorrow I will be giving a seminar entitled
“Lovely Lilacs” that will not only give the “dos and don’ts” when planting
and caring for this genus and reviewing the various hybrid groups and
varieties within those groups. Recently, Father Fiala near Medina, Ohio was
known for his breeding and selection of many varieties. Sadly after
the priest’s death, the property was sold and divided up into housing lots
due to the zoning violations having to do with all the traffic resulting
from all the activities having to do with his lilac display.
As always, join us for this informative
seminar beginning at 11 a.m. this Saturday. See you at the seminar.
February 10, 2017
As February rolls along, work in the greenhouse intensifies as rooted
cuttings now must be transplanted into pots and hanging baskets while more
unrooted cuttings are to arrive from Costa Rica and Guatemala. Strict
sanitation controls are in place at the foreign greenhouses where
the stock plants for the plant cuttings grow.
In 2013, a virus called tobacco mosaic virus
or TMV was found in our greenhouse on petunias grown from cuttings in
Central America resulting in their disposal after the plants were potted and
growing nicely. The Dummen company sent out a warning that some of their
stock that they had shipped tested positive for the virus that is
evident by a slight streaking or mottling of the normally evenly dark green
leaves. The virus is spread by handling the cuttings while sticking them
into the rooting cells and then by trimming the plants. TMV will cause
a collapse of the plants when the weather begins to warm up in spring. This
collapse during warm weather is similar to a once common malady that
geraniums are prone to call Xanthomonas. This geranium killer is actually a
bacteria that is spread by water. Some plants, such as vining geraniums show
little or no signs of the disease and yet can be a carrier that results in
the infection of the zonal (regular) geranium. Today with virus testing and
better sanitation methods, disease like Xanthomonas and TMV are relatively
In the greenhouse too continues the
application of the microscopic worms called nematodes. These small creatures
move in water so that the foliage of the plants must be kept wet for no less
than 2 hours so they are able to hunt down and kill the destructive thrip
insect. Surprisingly, there are no restrictions by EPA as far as entry into
the greenhouse once the nematodes are applied as they already exist in
nature and are completely harmless to humans. Soon the hanging baskets just
recently planted will need to be hung up so that two small packets of
predatory mites will have to be attached to the plant’s foliage. These
packets called mini-sachets contain two mite species called Amblyseius
californicus and Amblyseius curcurbitae. The californicus mite seeks out the
nasty European two spotted spider mite while curcurbitae prefers the lousy
thrip insect. Everyday several of the mites walk out of a hole in the sachet
for a total of 6 weeks that will protect the plant from destructive
greenhouse pests without chemicals! With the help of a technician form the
Biobest Company that produces and supplies these critters to the greenhouse
and food crop industry, the complicated process of using “good” bugs to
“fight” bad bugs should be well under way this spring.
With more and more greenhouse growers and
possibly farms using beneficial predators will pesticides largely be a thing
of the past? I hope so.
February 3, 2017
With the passage of the coldest month of the winter and even the fact that
Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, this winter season will be short.
Right? I am wondering if anyone really believes if the famous groundhog
doesn’t see his shadow that the winter will be shorter than usual.
For gardeners, farmers, nurserymen and those
in the orchard business, the return of more normally cold weather is a
blessing. One type of weather not needed though is like that of February
2015 that was relentlessly cold. In fact, that February was reported by the
National Weather Service to be the coldest February as far as average
temperatures have been recorded by Cleveland since 1875!
By the middle of this month, the days grow
gradually warmer and the average temperatures in Ohio for January have been
on the warm and wet side for the most part. The folks in the Portland,
Oregon area have received several inches of snow and somewhat colder
temperatures than normal. For the most part, Portland is known for its
mild winter due to the Pacific climate which is very similar to the effect
the Gulf Stream has on northern Europe. Once in a great while though, a cold
front will appear out of nowhere dropping temperatures into the single
digits. I remember talking to an old lady when I visited Vancouver, Canada
and related to her of how beautiful the weather in summer is in Vancouver
and that the winters are so mild. She replied that while my
observations are true the depressing fact is that the skies are mostly gray
all winter and accompanied by a cold, almost never ending drizzle. In fact,
when Lewis and Clark spent their first winter along the Oregon coast they
had written in their diary about the never ending winter rain and how
some men in their party were quite depressed.
The first in our series of winter seminars
is tomorrow with Judy Semroc from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History on
the subject of damselflies and dragonflies. As usual, all seminars begin at
11 a.m. and finish up at 1 p.m. Hope to see you in the Owl Barn.
January 27, 2017
The unusually warm, wet weather while not
enough to bring trees and shrubs to life because of their cold requirements,
it has caused a small push to the thousands of daffodils and narcissus
planted around the nursery as well as some hosta in Wolf Creek Gardens to
In the winter storage huts, while plants are
still dormant because of the cool and sometime cold nights plus short days
and low light levels, root systems in the containers are growing! In the
2006- 007 winter, temperatures were eerily warm until January 27, 2007 when
40 mph winds swept in with a cold front and dropped temperatures to -4º F.
Early the next spring, much damage to the plants occurred in storage by
evidence of the root system. The once tender growing roots in many cases
were killed by the sudden shock of extreme cold. That year was like deja vu
when in 1992 temperatures were abnormally warm in February only to drop
suddenly March 1st for several days again causing plant damage on the
outside. While widely fluctuating temperatures in winter are a nightmare for
the orchardists, gardeners, farmers and nurserymen, there is nothing that
can be done about it.
On another note of interest, the folks at
Wolf Creek Winery about 1 mile north of the nursery have spotted a pair of
Bald Eagles hanging out along the shore of the Barberton Reservoir. How
strange to have such birds of prey as the eagle around when not too many
years ago it was pushed to the brink of extinction by the ravage of the
pesticide DDT and relentless hunting! With the passing of the Endangered
Species Act by Congress in 1973 which protected the birds as well as other
endangered species, the eagle began to recover very slowly. Then too,
Congress outlawed the use of DDT that same year resulting in more chicks
hatching from the formerly too fragile eggs of the birds. Hopefully the
eagles will thrive and multiply around the reservoir but as their numbers
grow, anyone with chickens will soon get wise as to what the birds do
best - eat.
January 20, 2017
Winter is a busy time in a greenhouse
It may not look like much is going on from
the outside, but winter is a very busy time of the year in a greenhouse
nursery operation. With the cold, short and bleak days of January and
February, the behind-the-scenes activity of a greenhouse nursery
operation is anything but slow. In the greenhouse, the rooting of thousands
of flower cuttings begins in December and lasts throughout the winter and
early spring months. The rooted cuttings which are referred to as “plugs”
must be hand transplanted to larger pots and hanging baskets for product to
be available during the peak selling season in the month of May. Even in the
depth of winter, disease and insect pressure on the greenhouse crops must be
controlled with a variety of insecticides and fungicides. A warm, humid
greenhouse is not only an ideal environment for plants but for harmful
insects and diseases, as well. Therefore, disease and insect control
products must be applied weekly with a fogger or hydraulic sprayer and in
some cases results in a considerable expenditure of time.
In the huts covered with a white
polyethylene film, shrubs and herbaceous perennials stored over winter must
have ventilation when temperatures exceed 28º F in order to prevent disease
called Botrytis, which will grow on dead and live plant tissue causing major
plant damage. Conversely, the huts must be closed when temperatures are
expected to fall below 28º F. This open-close scenario sometimes is repeated
every day depending on weather conditions. Vigilance is necessary to prevent
rodent damage from mice, in particular, that just love tender plant roots
and the live bark on a wide array of shrubs and herbaceous perennial
flowers. Mouse traps with sunflower seeds must be reset with new bait weekly
as the old sunflower seed bait becomes moldy as a result of the more humid
conditions in the storage huts. On the outside, at least weekly inspections
are required to assess any attack on the stock from browsing deer or gnawing
rodents such as rabbits. Maintenance to equipment including but not limited
to tractors, loaders, RTV’s and trucks needs to be performed along with any
needed repairs during the winter months. It goes without saying, working
equipment for the busy spring months is crucial as there is no time to
perform repairs or maintenance on the equipment.
In summary, winter in a greenhouse nursery
operation is a busy time except that sales in most of the smaller operations
are at a slow pace, or non-existent all together resulting in little or no
January 13, 2017
Even though January is that long,
seemingly non-ending winter month at the nursery, the somewhat slower time
allows for a “look-back” of what went wrong and definitely needs
improvement. As in any operation, the goal of perfection is for sure
elusive; however, the strive is for excellence and continuing improvement
which are never ending. One major “push” to improve the greenhouse operation
using almost all bio controls has been underway now for a couple of weeks.
Hours of study, meeting with greenhouse operators and speaking to various
vendors about using bio controls such as nematodes, beneficial fungus and
beneficial predatory insects and mites is needed to get the program underway
by February 1st. The goal is to control insect and disease on the stock
better without using harmful chemicals which are not good for the person
applying the products or the customers from the residue left on the plants.
Even though we eliminated the controversial neonicotinoid class of
insecticides three years ago, this step was only one in a longer process
that will be complete by the spring of 2018.
January has allowed time to reflect on what the
customers want and not just what we think they want when they come into the
nursery. With a number of surveys returned in December, the news was not all
compliments. Many areas that need improvement in the area of customer
service were identified with suggestions from customers on improving the
operations. A prioritized list is now being developed so that many excellent
suggestions from the survey can be put into effect as quickly as possible.
The “regular chores” at the nursery still continue with tax reports and
budgeting, ordering and product review, a Drug Free Workplace required
meeting, greenhouse production and equipment maintenance without any money
In summary, the “respite” of January is a
time of reflection and a time to get things moving to improve the nursery
and garden center operation for everyone working here and for all those we
work for - the customers!
January 6, 2017
Even with nothing growing outside and the nursery closed except
for seminars, that begin February 4th, the work at the nursery
never ends! Much of the work at hand concerns getting ready for the spring
and sometimes 3 years ahead or more.
Purchase orders are generated, plant and hard good
orders are being tweaked, descriptions of new plants are written, and new
signs are designed and printed.
Then the greenhouse propagation and transplanting is a
little behind with thousands of more flower cuttings coming next week to be
rooted for transplanting later.
Maintenance is an ongoing job but takes on a more
important role in winter as equipment greasing, oil changes, filter changes,
and any repairs are performed before the busy spring season.
Hiring of full and part time employees will be the mode
in late January and February which then leads into employee training, safety
seminars, a drug free workplace seminar, and pesticide safety seminars.
Ongoing too is the development of an information Kiosk for customer use and
the design of a new color digital catalogue!
I think sometimes there is almost as much to do in the
winter as in spring!