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Dayton "Dirt"
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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 seminars.

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 50 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 variety.

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 2 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 rooted cuttings.

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
Outside chores at the nursery have stopped as the bitter cold continues.

The production 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.

These almost 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 them.

Once weekly, 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.

Transplanting of 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 gallon nursery container.

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 4 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 solstice on 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 40 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 length.

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. 

This 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.  Go figure!


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 of growth.

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 hour gust.

Poinsettias have to be moved quickly during a short window of near 50 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 the garden.

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 32F 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 plants.

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 until 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 2 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 72 F for proper root formation.

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 breakdown.

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.  Happy planting!


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 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 cycle at 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 November 2nd.

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 unsurpassable.


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 90F 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 7 a.m.  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 injection system.

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 10 a.m. 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 spring.

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 8 a.m. on Saturday 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
No-till Farming
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 control.

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 7 p.m. 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 family on September 16th.  We’ll see you there!


August 25, 2017
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 irrigated..

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 beginning 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 price only!

The nursery will be open Labor Day from 8:30-5 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 shale.

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 spectacular!

Que sera sera or C’est la vie!


August 4, 2017
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 finished by 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 90 F weather.  Years ago in early July of 1980 as we constructed a new quonset type greenhouse for raising azaleas, temperatures rose to about 100 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 loads.

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
What a 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 80 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 1 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 would occur.

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 consequences.


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.

Happy gardening!


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 early July.

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 geranium.

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, windy day 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 the country.

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 work!


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 their skills.”


April 14, 2017
How strange an April with about 3-4 inches of snow last Friday and a low of 26 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 the irrigation.

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
With April 1st 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 arriving.

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 knows!

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 28F. 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  aggressive.

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 bloom.

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 19F 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 place.

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 rare.

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 the north.

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 -4 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 nursery operation!

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 28 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 28 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 income!


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 coming in!

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!


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