December 26, 2014

For sure most of us would have liked a white Christmas but even so, December has been an easy weather month compared to last year.


Except for the evergreen of conifers and some shrubs, the natural world seems dead but as we all know, all is but asleep only to come alive again in 3 short months from now.


As the day length grows longer slowly, so will the interest in the garden as it will soon be time to sow some seeds and take stock of last year’s failures and successes in order to figure out what changes can be made in order to get things back on track.


Our winter seminars will begin in February this year with our annual what’s new program fittingly presented on the first day of spring! Even now new native and non-native items are being added to our list of new offerings this year that will gradually metamorphosize northeast Ohio gardens into ones of greater beauty.


With the severe weather holding off outside improvements on the nursery grounds still continue until cold weather returns that will force the inside improvements along.


The nursery will close at 3:00 pm on New Year’s Eve for winter but will, as always, be open for our Saturday seminar series. We’re always here to answer your questions Monday through Friday so please give us a call or drop us an e-mail.


As I look across the bleak landscape of the nursery hope does spring eternal as spring is not that far away.




December 19, 2014

Even with the return of colder weather, December has been relatively mild and at the nursery relatively easy on the greenhouse heating requirements. While the cut Christmas trees are few, the Fraser firs left are just beautiful with the most beautiful in the 8 foot range. As of today, all remaining trees are discounted greatly so that they are able to find a home before Christmas day. Any trees that remain after Christmas will become wood chips for the garden so that they will not be wasted.


Years ago we used to burn the left over trees by piling them up as high as possible with as many as 40-50 at a time before lighting the fire. The fire would start out slowly followed by a little later with a flash over that would send flames into the air as high as 30-40 feet! In the season of 1973 there were about 200 to be burned out of a little more than 1,000 trees but the very next year 3 trees were left on December 18th as we could not cut and haul them fast enough from Pennsylvania.


Next week the greenhouse will be cleaned out of poinsettias which will be a relief since the plants with their broad flower bracts occupy more room than they “deserve”.


The planning and planting for next spring is accelerating with the final reviews of the perennial orders completed in order to see what’s new that has been missed and what “dogs” of perennials have not been omitted from the growing pallet of perennials.


Coming up in January, a yearly greenhouse conference at OARDC will be held on plant nutrition, water quality and insect control which will enlighten all on the latest from research based science coming out of Ohio’s own Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.


This past week also concluded the long tenure of Ken Cochran as curator of the Secrest Arboretum with his retirement party of December 17th. His vision and drive has transformed the once sleepy arboretum to a more relevant “user-friendly” operation that began before the devastating tornado of 2010. He will be greatly missed and what comes to my mind is how he could ever be repaid for the benefits he has bestowed on the arboretum that has become a treasure for not only those that have helped Ken but also a treasure for the general public. God willing, may good health and happiness follow him all the remainder of his years.




December 12, 2014

With only 10 days left of autumn, there is still plenty to do in the garden such as last minute fall cleanup of leaves, installation of tree guards to protect the bark from hungry rabbits, deer repellent on susceptible trees and shrubs and yes more destruction of aggravating weeds such as Canada thistle and hairy bittercress.


With the warm weather this weekend, another fungicide spraying will be in order for the nursery stock in cold storage so that the spray might dry before the next cold wave. Another timely chore will be the liming of the evergreen azaleas and rhododendron that were transplanted into 4″ deep pots of Canadian sphagnum peat. Frequently the ph of this peat is below 4.0 and an application of dolomitic lime will bring a ph of 3.6 or so to about 4.1 which is enough to keep the plants healthy while they grow slowly all winter and develop proportionally massive root systems. In addition in the greenhouse, the poinsettias are selling well in the market which will open up more room for more cuttings to root in the prepared Fertiss flats.


After some aggravating trials causing the new boiler to shut down, a few minor adjustments has now made it “purr” so that the cuttings have their required rooting temperatures of 72º F which is essential for rooting success. About 18,000 unrooted cuttings will arrive the week of January 10th in addition to the 3,000 geranium cuttings that will be cut from the stock plants.


The cut tree sales have gone well with only some cadillac Fraser Fir left especially in the 8-9 ft size along with a few scotch pine. The grave decorations have been restocked for the weekend and still orders are welcomed for pick up or delivery right up until Christmas Eve.


There’s never a shortage of things to do here on Cleveland-Massillon Road.




December 5, 2014

This first week of December while yet officially autumn, is certainly winter-like with the short, usually cloudy days and the fact that the sun sets earlier than it does during the winter solstice that is only about 2 weeks away. Even now, the poinsettia flower bracts are still expanding and becoming even so much larger and brighter especially on a brilliant red variety called Viking.


The annual flower and some perennial cuttings have been stuck in cells filled with a porous growing medium made locally in Kent, Ohio called Fertiss. These cuttings will be rooted in about 2 weeks and remain in the small cells of about a 35 mm diameter until they are transplanted in January with some not until early March which would pertain to regal geraniums that must be satisfied with no less of 40 days of a cold temperature of about 32-40º F in order to develop and bloom in spring after being transplanted into 6″ pots in which they will be sold.


Grave blankets are still demanding a lot of time as more branches must be cut and put together for orders that sometimes continue right up until Christmas Eve. Christmas tree sales seem to be going along smoothly as most of the big Fraser Firs have been sold with many of them to be delivered and set up in homes. Due to the great weight of a 10 ft. plus fir, not any stand will do as even some brands while labeled as suitable for large trees of 10-12 ft. are more or less garbage because of cheap materials and poor construction. The Cinco brand tree stand is not of the “cheap” class as it is strong, sturdy and made here in the states.


With Thanksgiving past us, it’s a pleasure to reflect on the bounty of the vegetable garden that some of us planted last summer as stores of potatoes, yet in-ground carrots, kale and all the frozen and canned goods that contributed to the Thanksgiving feast and will continue to provide nutrition throughout the winter. Soon, if not even now, it will be time to plan next years garden bounty as spring is only a little more than 3 months away.




November 29, 2014

At the nursery things are ready for the Christmas season with wreaths, roping, grave blankets, poinsettias and of course Christmas trees. Some of the poinsettias “acted” somewhat strange this year as they were a little late with the full extent of their color with some even now not quite ready to “pop out of the oven”. Growing plants for sale is much the like preparing a delicious meal from the addition of ingredients in the correct amounts, precise timing in the oven or on the stove, stirring, mixing . . .


In the plant world, fertilizing on time, trimming, keeping insects and disease at bay, soil supplements, watering, the withholding of water (sometimes) and so on to have to go together to make a quality saleable plant and the actions taken must be timely as in cooking in which one missed essential step could ruin things.


After a flurry of activity of customers ordering their grave blankets and other cemetery decorations in order to have them in place by Thanksgiving, construction is still going on of the blankets and pillows as the later placement orders come in along with keeping the ready to go stock area full for those that want to pick up and place their own decorations.


Other coming-up chores will be the shipment of a few thousand un-rooted cuttings that will have to be prepared for sticking in specially made rooting sells that we set on the heating tubes from the hot water boiler. With the soil temperatures kept at 72º – 73º the cuttings will begin to root in 1 week and will be lifted from this bottom heat in 3 weeks to prepare for geranium cuttings from our stock plants purchased last October. Even in winter the greenhouse needs attention. Plants in cold storage need attention and then there’s always something that needs fixed or painted or cleaned.


A major remodeling of the main store building seems to be going along smoothly although the building will not open until spring so that the Owl Barn market is open through the Christmas season and for the winter seminars coming up.


Time to go while the weather holds from winter’s icy grip. Instead of Black Friday, remember our many blessings that continue year round after Thanksgiving and of which we are in the habit of taking for granted.




November 21, 2014

This past week’s early cold snap while aggravating is nothing compared to this week’s New York snow avalanche from the Lake Erie snow machine. As I have written before, snow is an excellent insulator for plants, winter wheat and a much needed supplier for the ground water but not 6 feet or more as in New York! At least in the mountains, I think the people of California would love to have New York snow as it would be melting during the spring and summer to replenish streams that have dried up as California goes into its third year of severe drought.


At the nursery, additional insulating covers had to be placed over perennial plants and the small azaleas that will be sold next spring. The insulating cover called microfoam (a Dupont Company trade name) keeps the azaleas relatively warm since it is 1/4″ thick which seals in ground heat. This early in the season the plants are still hardening off since they have been grown all summer under high fertility and the “softness” of these beautiful plants is why we don’t sell them in fall.


As it warms up, tree guards must be applied to the trees that remain in the sales area to protect against rabbits and liquid fence will be applied to the rhododendron-azalea garden as the deer, by evidence of their hoof prints in the snow have been gathering around the plants to check them out for a later meal.


Grave blankets, wreaths and roping are all available later today with grave blanket deliveries starting on Monday. Branch collection has been a little more difficult this year but I think that it will be more in the future due to lack of supply of “branch trees”.


The Owl Barn is the only building open this Christmas season while the main store of the garden center is undergoing major renovations of lighting, flooring and painting. With Thanksgiving so late this year, the Christmas season will seem to run shorter of days up until Christmas Day.


While our cut trees will be available for viewing on Tuesday, November 26th after some are selected for customers that want a tree as soon as they come in. For us it’s back to work.


Happy Thanksgiving!




November 14, 2014

The cold snap this week is a reminder of what’s yet to come and has placed a damper on the yard work before winter truly sets in. Leaf removal off lawns must be accomplished or the results in spring with a deep leaf cover over grass is not pretty.


The relatively rare Magnolia tripetala is a tree with such huge broad leaves that even in late October the grass beneath it will suffer unless the leaves are raked off quickly. City dwellers must deal with leaves later into the season because of street lights delaying leaf drop as the trees are “fooled” by the extended day length. A good example is the damage of the trees in mid-November of 1996 when a heavy, wet snow fell on the Cleveland suburbs weighing down and snapping branches because of snow piling up on the leaf laden trees.


At the nursery, branch cutting for grave blankets has been accelerating as well as the construction of the blankets so that November 20th many will be ready for viewing, pick up or delivery. Spruce, scotch pine and white pine are among those that we currently use except that in the future white pine may have to supplement the ever growing scarcity of scotch pine. Christmas trees will not arrive from southern Ohio until just before Thanksgiving although wreaths, roping and boughs will be ready earlier . Sandwiched in between the grave blanket business, general outside cleanup and still some late flower bulb planting is the on going construction of the inside of the new greenhouse addition and if enough is not enough the original store erected in 1990 is now torn apart for the replacement of old energy inefficient light fixtures with ones that are brighter and consume 30% less electricity. The old tile floor is going to be replaced by a concrete textured floor with softer earth tones.


The last major renovation of the store building was 20 years ago so that come spring, the interior of the building will have a whole new look with the new lighting, floor and warm colors on the walls instead of the sterile white color.


On November 10th, twelve turkeys paraded out of the neighbors woods into the blueberry patch in the nursery’s back field. What a sight to behold especially with Thanksgiving on the way.




November 7, 2014

While the weather has been beautiful earlier this week more outside work has been accomplished that would normally have been performed in late winter or spring.


The flower bulb planting is finally done with the addition of a new variety of the genus called Allium that is the genus of the onion family. Allium Globemaster is the bulb and quite the price tag to go along with it. Only a total of 18 of the alliums were added to the spring display as the bulbs wholesale cost was a whopping $4.00 each before shipping. Globemaster Allium sports a round onion-like flower on top of a tall flower stalk in late May or early June with the globe-like lavender flower the size of a cantalope or even a soccer ball. It’s a long seven month wait but hopefully the fantastic display will help mitigate the pain of the price tag.


The branch cutting for grave blankets is going a little slower than desirable because of the quality of branches of scotch pine seems to be declining as fewer and fewer scotch pine have been grown for Christmas trees beginning 15 years ago and more. While scotch pine has good needle retention once cut, the favorites are the firs and most notably the fraser fir with its classic “christmas tree” shape and soft dark green needles. Unfortunately, fraser firs are more fussy about the soil and other factors of the site that might affect their growth as compared to Scotch pine.


White pine too has fallen out of fashion in that the long needled trees have quite the limber branches when trimmed heavily for sale as a cut tree. The extra long needles of the five needled pine and the limber branches can make decorating the tree difficult especially if the ornaments are heavy.


Next week starts the cutting of spruce branches for the larger grave blankets as the spruce needles tend to shed more quickly than pine especially if they are cut too early.


The last mowing of the lawn is here which also goes for the last fertilizing of the lawn and trees and shrubs. November is actually a busy gardening month with “putting everything to bed” for winter but also planning for the rebirth of a really not too distant spring.




October 31, 2014

The gorgeous weather of this past week has enabled us to accomplish much needed maintenance of the grounds, irrigation, painting and a general cleanup. Now with a freeze coming up, the irrigation system must be shut down including the pulling up of the heavy intake pipes. The entire three plus miles of pipe can be drained by gravity by the opening of several valves which will release water into the irrigation pond from which it came.


Large balled and burlapped trees have arrived and will remain in the fine gravel beds all winter if not sold this fall. Unfortunately, sales in the fall are much slower than in spring although fall is a great time to plant most trees and shrubs. Last winter’s severity has caused extra caution and hesitation in fall planting although the “new and revised” forecast is for a more “normal” winter.


Flower bulb planting for a spring show can go on through mid-February as long as a shovel or bulb planter is able to get through crust of frozen ground. War on the invasive non-native garlic mustard will continue into next spring and also on the Roundup resistant weed called mare’s tail that fortunately is easy to pull by hand.


Although most trees and shrubs in containers have been put away into winter storage huts, they still are available that they may be retrieved for customers to view and/or purchase.


The last day of October is a reminder that colder and wetter weather is coming soon but looking back some years, temperatures dropped quickly to 12º F in early November of 1991 after a long hot, dry summer. No doubt, this year and next will be no exception to wild swings in weather although a nice blanket of snow all winter would be a blessing for farmers and gardeners.


Some of the fall color that remains at the nursery is of Oxydendron arboretum (shown below, left) with its bright red oval leaves with some of the white spent flowers called racemes still hanging on the tree. Another fall beauty is the Weston’s Lollipop azalea (shown below, right) with flaming red foliage which has so far remained on the plants for 3 weeks! This deciduous azalea has extremely fragrant pink flowers in early summer plus the spectacular fall color show! Who needs burning bush?




October 24, 2014

With the hard frost of last week, tree digging will begin next week on our array of shade trees that will be “planted” into the nursery holding beds in which small gravel will secure the trees for not only winter, but during the spring selling season as well. The gravel is especially effective for balled and burlapped rhododendron in that the quick drainage allows no free standing water around the root balls of the plants except during heavy rains. If water does stand too long around the root balls of most trees and shrubs, necessary oxygen is cut off from the root system and in the case of some plants such as rhododendron, an organism sometimes present in the soil called Phytophthora that enables it to swim in free water toward the root system in order to infect its host plant and eventually cause the death of the plant.


Enough progress has been made in placing the nursery stock in storage huts so that next week the trees and shrubs that are in pots above ground will be shoved close together in a cold frame that will be covered with a 3 ml thick white polythene plastic film that will reflect the sun in the day and yet create a warm environment during cold nights as the sealed structure keeps out cold winds and is warmed only by ground heat. Conversely, the structures need ventilated by opening the entrance doors when temperatures are above 28º F or even lower temperatures when the sun is shining. The ventilation also lowers humidity levels which help to check diseases such as a gray mold called botrytis.


Poinsettias in the greenhouse are beginning to color and the transplanted cuttings of geraniums and evergreen azaleas are ‘comfortable’ in the greenhouse as well. The geraniums will be ready for the first batch of cuttings to be stripped from these stock plants just before Christmas with subsequent cutting taking going on in early February and mid to late March.


Timely “to-dos” in your own yard include soil testing in your lawn and garden, applying lime (if needed) to the lawn at the last mowing, planting of spring flowering bulbs and finally the fall planting of trees and shrubs.


Remember not to apply tree guards and deer repellent too early. Usually late November and early December is a good time to accomplish the above. Enjoy the good weather while it lasts!




October 17, 2014

Much progress has been made this past week on the large new addition to the annual production greenhouse that will greatly expand the product line of the retail greenhouse during the frenzied May selling season. The hanging basket drip lines are going up now to be followed by other waterlines for hand watering and then with the final step of the self-watering benches that will definitely take a long time to construct as they must be level, fitted with water and drain lines and finally the gluing together of numerous ribbed fiberglass panels on which the plants sit in order to be watered.


Last Saturday, the killing frost finished off the flowers along the road and the big annual pots along the driveway but not the petunias in the gutters of the Owl market or Calliope geranium hanging baskets. The flowers will survive until temperatures drop below 28º F although the short days and cool nights have slowed their flowering and growth. The unofficial temperature at the nursery was 30º F so that the evergreen azaleas had to be covered to preserve the flower buds on the top portion of the plants. There too were a few perennial plants covered as they were not potted until late August and early September and are in need yet of the foliage to feed the root system before winter arrives. One of the Heucheras not covered, as it is well established, is the new Proven Winners variety called Cinnamon Curls. The wavy, cinnamon colored foliage is thick and vibrant even after the freeze. This variety should be a major hit with gardeners next spring.


Hopefully the leaves will color up with last week’s frost but there is not much time left in the leaf- viewing season. Just as road trips to view the spectacular leaf colors are popular here, in Japan during the eighteenth century, special parties were hosted to view different varieties of Japanese maples. Unfortunately, many of the old cultivars have been lost as they were cut down and burned for firewood as the Japanese people tried to keep warm during the dark days of World War II.


Adequate rainfall is still elusive in that the rear irrigation pond at the nursery is at least 1 foot low which translates into at least 2 inches of rainfall that is collected over about 20 acres of land including the runoff from the buildings and parking lot. The somewhat dry weather though has not stopped the spectacular red and yellow fall color of the Virginia creeper vines on the trees in the woods and also that notorious vine known as poison ivy that must be “enjoyed” at a distance.




October 10, 2014

The cloudy and windy nights have kept the frost away so far but the usual first frost for northern Ohio is October 10th. While the trees are beginning to color, more vibrant colors will be on display with a hard frost to signal the various pigments in the leaves to get going.


With the long range forecast not looking “too bad”, lawn repairs can still go on except where major renovation of tall fescue lawn grasses are concerned as tender emerging seedlings of tall fescue can be killed by a severe cold snap such as was the case about 10 years ago on a young lawn in Wadsworth that was planted in early October. Temperatures plunged to 14º F with significant wind and no snow cover on Thanksgiving Day. The entire lawn was killed and had to be resown in the spring! So too it goes with winter wheat that must have some snow cover to survive. The winter here of 2010-2011 was not exceptionally cold but quite snowy in February and March. While many folks here complained about the snow, China had very little snow and lost 60% of the winter wheat crops!


In the Akron Beacon journal this past week, the Great Lakes Commission has called for a 40% reduction of phosphorus to the Great lakes especially shallow Lake Erie. With new calls to correct the algae blooms in the lake caused by the Toledo water shut-off, farmers especially in the Maumee River Valley will be “taking the heat” because most of the problem is occurring because of runoff from farms. With Lake Erie as an important water source for millions of people and its reputation as a paradise for fish and other aquatic life, the call for clean up has been greatly accelerated so that hopefully in 10 years or less, toxic algae blooms are a thing of the past.


Lawn fertilizers and failing septic tanks are to blame as well and probably will fall under the scope for clean up once the process for clean water gets under way. According to Dave Shetler of Ohio State Extension, a small job that would help fertilizer runoff from lawns would be to sweep off fertilizer granules from the sidewalk and driveway after an application in order to prevent it from washing into the storm sewers or into the street!


Preparation goes on for winter although reports of a severe winter as last year somehow now are greatly exaggerated in that a new radio report last Wednesday has suggested that some “experts” are predicting a warm winter. In my opinion, several below zero days aren’t bad as long as there is a cover of 6 inches of snow or more. A good idea though is just to prepare for the worst. Do prepare for spring by planting flower bulbs from Holland now and next month in order to come alive in the spring.


As a reminder, remember to spray Liquid Fence on deer susceptible shrubs around Thanksgiving and again during a late December or January thaw. For emerging tulips in spring, a spray of the product over the leaves when they are about 3″ high will stop munching deer right in their tracks.


Get planning, planting and going!




October 3, 2014

The Mum Fest in Barberton was a huge success especially with the warm sunny weekend. Previously cool weather though did play a factor in the earlier bloom of the mums so that the gardens were a little past prime. In all I don’t think that many fest goers noticed.


With mum season winding down, tree and shrub planting can go on in order to establish the plant’s root system before next summer. So far, enough rainfall has been lacking for the past few weeks which increases the vigilance necessary for watering newly planted stock. A late “bloom” of powdery mildew has shown up on a few shrubs and even Japanese Maples which will not damage them permanently but does render them less desirable. A few weeks ago, even homeowners had been coming with cases of mildew and apple scab on trees and shrubs and a question of treatment. The correct treatment is to do nothing as the previously wet humid spring and summer created the conditions for all kinds of foliar plant diseases so that trying to eradicate and or mitigate them now is a waste of time and money. A foliar disease has caused an early defoliation of the wild black cherry trees in the woods surrounding the nursery so that in late August the trees resembled their normal state of early October.


A final weeding (is it ever final?) before winter of the nursery stock has been completed on the plants that will be “put to bed” starting about 3 weeks in order that the over-wintering huts can be covered in early November. This year there is even more work as the larger greenhouses used to grow and display annuals and perennials have not had a change of polyethylene plastic for five years! The poly is actually a 4 year type that finally weakens due to its breakdown from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. With new construction getting ready for winter and the other “normal” chores, October is a very busy month at the garden center.




September 26, 2014

The fall festival last Saturday definitely was a big hit as all the different centers of activity were busy all day long. Especially entertaining was the Outback Ray Show with all his animals and his own antics keeping the crowd mesmerized during each showing.


The weatherman’s “promise” of good weather on Saturday came true but the prediction of rain and thunderstorms did not unless one-tenth of an inch of rain counts. A good rainfall of one to two inches is sorely needed but the forecast through the weekend is sunny and dry. At least the sunny forecast is a good thing for the Mum Fest coming up this weekend. The festival will be packed with out-of-town visitors from other states along with the locals.


At the nursery, we’re just about out of the mum business for this year as for some reason the flower has been in high demand. It’s getting close to finish up renovating the lawn as September draws to a close with its almost perfect weather of doing lawn and garden chores.


Without a hard frost, balled and burlapped trees will be delayed in digging as the lack of a such frost results in the trees remaining in the growing mode and transpiring water through the leaves.


The water loss through the leaves is not a problem as long as the roots are not disturbed such as is the case when being balled and burlapped.


The last of the perennials for next spring will be potted next week with the arrival of peonies of the 3 to 5 eye size that do best when fall transplanted so that they are able to root in the pot during the remainder of the fall and early spring. The creeping phlox is doing very well with a new hybrid of a low growing habit and even blooming heavy with lavender-pink flowers displayed on a background of dark green oval shaped leaves. Soon a hard frost will send all the summer potted perennials into their dormant sleep for winter and will start the process called vernalization that many perennials require in order to grow and develop robustly in the spring.


Work is still continuing on the new greenhouse addition and will continue well into winter as it must be finished by the last week of February.


Happy Fall!




September 19, 2014

Tomorrow is the Fall Festival at the nursery which is centered on the Owl Barn with music, food, hayrides, pumpkin painting, mums, Outback Ray’s animal shows and much more.


The festival is from 10am to 4pm and is open to everyone although there will be more activities for children than adults.


Hopefully the weather is cooperative but if not, the show must go on!


The mums are quite the show but are beginning to dwindle in supply as the last batch will be in flower right about the week of September 26th to coincide with the Barberton Mum Fest.


We’re beginning to get ready for winter by moving plants into the over-wintering quarters such as perennials and grasses that were potted up this summer.


Then too are the 1000 plus Clematis that are growing and even blooming but cannot be sold until going through their first winter slumber that will then result in an explosion of growth in April.


The small Azalea are just gorgeous and budded for a mass of blooms next spring but alas cannot be sold until they are “hardened off” with a winter behind them.


Plenty of evergreens are available in the Green Giant Western Red Cedars, Hemlock and Spruce along with a variety of other trees and shrubs.


See you at the festival!




September 12, 2014

The unusually cool temperatures have ushered in hints of the fall season somewhat early although plenty of good weather lies ahead for whatever activity comes to mind; that is, canoeing, hiking, bird watching, and of course planting.


At the nursery, the last planting of the season of trees, shrubs and perennials will go on until September’s end finishing up with peonies of the garden variety and the new Itoh types. Fall planting is ideal for a variety of plants as temperature conditions are ideal for root growth. The third wave of chrysanthemums are coming into bloom although some will not be in peak bloom until the first week of October. In its breeding program, the Aris company, formerly Yoder Brothers, bred mums that they termed “season extenders” that would give a splash of color in early November to coincide with All Saints Day. While these “season extenders” come into bloom to provide splashes of color after the leaf drop of fall, they are not popular in the northern part of the country although they are more accepted in the southern states with the warmer fall temperatures.


Also with the cooler temperatures, tree digging will begin in order to have trees for sale for the remainder of the fall season and for next spring. The trees are “healed in” or planted in a fine gravel that retains moisture and yet drains well while other trees grown in containers remain outdoors all winter in a socket that consists of a pot dug into the ground in which the potted tree is set. The socket system known in the nursery trade as a pot in pot system creates a secure environment for the tree roots in which ground heat is enough to prevent the tree’s root system from winter cold and winter winds that would kill the root system if the trees were to remain above ground all winter.


Wednesday’s rain replenished part of the nursery water supply after heavy watering last week to keep up with the hot sunny weather’s drying of stock. The warm weather of the past few weeks did serve to finish up our cuttings of various shrubs so that now the propagation department is finished until it begins again right after Thanksgiving with cuttings of various annuals arriving from Central America.


There’s never a shortage of things to do!




September 5, 2014

Our 50% off sale was a success in that many overstocked items were cleared out but as always more stock is still available and the sale since last Tuesday has been open to everyone and not just garden club members. Even though some of the “shelves” look bare, new shipments have arrived and stock is still flowing out of the rear growing areas. A good selection of western red cedar in the Green Giant variety, weeping Alaskan cedars, pyramidal boxwoods and more has arrived this past week for fall planting.


With cooler days and generally the availability of more moisture, plant roots respond to this weather with accelerated growth that will establish them before winter sets in. As mentioned in previous blogs, September is lawn renovation month due to almost perfect conditions related to cooler weather and moisture just as is the case with trees, shrubs and perennial planting in the fall.


Transplanting of shrubs is still going on too in fact at the nursery as again roots grow like crazy in September. While top growth of the transplanted stock will be minimal the well established plants will explode in top growth beginning next spring so that they will be available by early June and sometimes in mid-May.


Construction of the new greenhouse of the frame itself is almost complete but still will include wiring , plumbing and self watering benches to be completed over a much longer period that will last into January as the final assembly has to be sandwiched between other essential chores that must be completed!


Mark your calendar for the Fall Festival coming up Saturday, September 20!




August 29, 2014

Today is the start of the “Big Sale” when many items are 50% off the regular price. Not everything is on sale but only but only the plants marked with clear signage with the 50% off. There is quite a desirable selection of half-off items in the first few days of the sale until the inventory begins to dwindle down.


While mums and asters are not included in the sale, the plants are reasonably priced and of excellent quality. The Igloo mums have caused quite a stir since many of the regular mums were wiped out last winter. The regular mums, Chrysanthemum morifolium do have their place as they


are perfect for decorating the porch, patio or even planted in the yard and the fact that they are available in so many more colors than the Igloo type. Fall blooming asters are worthwhile too with their blue, lavender and pink blossoms and are a favorite of honeybees not yellow jackets.


Honeybees have been under heavy pressures from a variety of sources including pesticides, mites, viruses and who knows what else. Planting for pollinators such as honeybees, mason bees, butterflies, and bumblebees is environmentally sound and benefits us as well that these critters can better survive to pollinate some of our own favorite food crops.


Next week is the arrival of another crop of western red cedars, arborvitae, pyramidal boxwood and other shrubs for fall planting. No doubt the summer rains have kept ground moisture high which should make fall planting a breeze. For sure lawns might need some help such as fertilizing, thatching and over-seeding and now is the time to start.


Hopefully you’ll find what your looking for on sale but do get here at the early as soon as you can as we sell out quickly of some choice items.




August 22, 2014

Last week I had an eye-opening experience in Zeeland, Michigan which is a beautiful small city just east of Holland. Zeeland is the home of Walters Gardens which is about a one thousand acre perennial nursery which is on the cutting edge of innovation. Walter’s not only has field production of various plants such as daylilies, hostas, lavender and so on but also has greenhouses full of small pots of perennials in trays of 20, 30 and 72 plants ready for shipment now or next spring to growers like us that we’ll transplant to larger size pots in order to grow larger for next spring and summer sales. On a tour of the nursery, I especially noticed the cleanliness of the fields, greenhouses and packing and shipping houses. Then too were the beautiful display gardens of older and the newly released plants showing off in full glory in the bloom of a summer perennial garden. Nearby the gardens were test plots of yet to be released new plants with only the genus name and a number identifying them until they are tested and evaluated before being named and released.


A full time breeder and accompanying assistants continually churn out new and improved varieties in the Walter’s line of offerings. I have been planting product from Walters Gardens since 1978 and have had tours as recently as 2001 but I must admit that I was amazed by the expansion that had occurred since that time. Dennis Walters, the founder of the company still lives on the property but is quite up in years. Walters employees are “encouraged” not to give sales presentation or work on Sunday’s which stems from the area’s founding by religious Dutch settlers in 1846. In fact, I remember speaking with a local resident in 1982 in which it was “not cool” to mow the lawn on Sunday in Zeeland! While Holland, Michigan is known for Tulip Time there is so much more to do.


Downtown Holland is very clean and inviting which I think anyone would expect with its Dutch roots. Walters Gardens goes along with the Dutch theme in that they are not satisfied with a particular variety of perennial but always have to tweak it and improve it.


At home at the nursery, construction is well under way of the new greenhouse. Transplanting of perennials and shrubs still occupies the equipment barn space and new ideas are taking shape to roll them out for spring.




August 15, 2014

The cooler weather while keeping the tomato ripening at bay has been right up the alley for garden mums. In past years searing heat in late summer has caused a delay in bloom by as much as 10 days, however; with the cooler nights of this summer bud iniation and some color in the early flowering varieties is now occurring. For years the garden mums have been returning to grow and bloom again in yards except for this year because of the severe winter with insufficient snow cover.


Frequently we are asked if the garden mums are hardy! Hardy is a relative term and in this case refers to winter hardiness. The “true” answer is that the Chrysanthemum morifolium is a tender perennial that will return after winter if certain conditions are met such as a mild winter the temperatures above 0ºF or even much colder if snow cover of several inches or more is present, the plant is well established before winter, soil drainage (even in winter) is excellent and the old dead crown in late fall is not cut back until early spring.


The Aris company (formerly Yoder Bros.) of Barberton, Ohio has bred the mums for enjoyment for splashes of fall color in yards and in pots on the deck, patios and porches. For durability and almost fool proof winter hardiness, the Aris company has refined breeding of a genus called Dendranthema which is very similar in appearance to Chrysanthemum morifolium but without the fuss. Brand new colors have broadened the Dendranthemums appeal in the last few years although they lack the wide variety of chrysanthemum.


Here at the nursery, we test at least 3 new varieties every year in which several criteria have to be met before the plants will be released for the market. The reliably winter hardy Aris Dendranthemums are known as Igloo mums and will be available sometime next week.


More rain this past week has replenished our water supply of rain water for the nursery stock and perennials and has made it necessary to spray a growth regulator on the young azaleas in order to harden them off for winter. The plants are normally hardened off by withholding irrigation

and actually allowing the plants to wilt quite severely to slow growth. With the continuing rains in the normally dry August growth still “wants” to push on the plants.


Again as a reminder, remember to keep an eye on the lawn destroying grubs by taking note of patches of discoloration in the turf and /or checking for patches that will come up with hand pulling due to grubs feeding on the plant’s roots. Also as a reminder, Dayton Dollars are good for about another 2 weeks so don’t forget to use them before they expire.




August 8, 2014

The site of the new greenhouse is finally finished as significant elevation and drainage had to be accomplished before construction can begin next week. The structure is an addition to an already existing greenhouse and will be used for annual flowers and vegetable plants for spring sales. The addition of a new powerful and efficient boiler will enable the heating of the various plants root zones which will result in faster growth and the keeping of the heat where the plants are sitting instead of heating so much of the air and thus leaking more heat through the roof.


As with our other greenhouse, the self-watering benches for the plants known as ebb and flow will be employed. These benches are quite expensive but in the long run will cut down on disease problems caused by overhead watering, reduce labor costs because of hand watering and save water and fertilizer as the water used up is that which only is transpired by the plants with the excess draining to the storage tank for later use.


Last weekend’s rain was welcome although it was not quite enough. Although about a week ago Copley Circle and farther north enjoyed a down pour that lasted at least a half hour! I’m sure the residents in Bath Township were a little worried after the devastating flood of May 12th when the Yellow Creek overflowed causing massive damage in a once in a 500 or 1000 year flood depending upon which “expert” one might believe. In July of 2003, a flood resulted in major damage along the waterway with the Barberton-Norton area getting blasted on July 19, 2011 and even worse on July 10, 2013 when 3 inches of rain fell in just an hour with a storm starting about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.


Finally, the skies opened up this past Tuesday with at least 1 inch of rain over the nursery which greatly supplemented the irrigation water in the pond.


The hydrangeas along the road at the nursery while opening almost pure white have now faded to the white with a pink blush which is indicative of Vanilla Strawberry, an introduction a few years ago from Bailey Nursery in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since 2003, new hydrangea introductions have become common place probably due to an article in Martha Stewart’s popular magazine some years ago.


Many other plant species both native and non-native seem neglected even though they have many desirable qualities in the landscape. (Martha where are you?) No doubt savvy marketing helps promote plants usage in landscapes but one would like to think that any products success in the marketplace would be due to its attributes of beauty and improving human life.


While there is plenty of summer to go, the long days are beginning to wane before the signal of another fall. Enjoy the summer bounty while it lasts.




August 1, 2014

With the first of August, the bounty of the vegetable garden is beginning to flow although a little slower than usual due to the cool days and even cooler nights. Sweet corn at the Seiberling Farms was delayed about a week because of late planting due to prolonged wet weather in spring and now with the cool weather, a few more days of delay were added so that the Owl Barn was not able to offer Seiberling sweet corn until late last week.


The nursery stock seems to enjoy the cool weather as it is making growth almost as much as weeds – but not really! Just a few more cuttings of shrubs have to be stuck and then it’s done for the year although the new greenhouse facility under construction now will make the sticking of various herbaceous perennials possible that will be transplanted next spring.


The Thailand Giant elephant ears that are planted in pots along the driveway and in front of the owl barn are causing quite a stir. Some leaves are approaching five feet in length and 30 inches across and it seems some will grow larger than that! The plants were shipped from Zeeland, Michigan in small 3 inch pots at the end of March and then transplanted into a 1 gallon nursery pots. In mid-May, Thailand Giant was transferred to a 10 inch pot when in early June it was clear some drastic measure was needed to allow the plants to grow so that the plants were planted to a 15 gallon pot!


The begonias along the road and entrance driveway have also grown “abnormally” well in that their genetics “program” the plants for gigantic growth. They are known as Begonia ‘Surefire’.


The cool summer is heaven for various conifers as they suffer from too much heat as was the case in 2012 when many even died. With high temperatures consistently above 85º F in the summer of 2012, conifers closed their stomata (breathing pores) so that no exchange of gases could take place for the process of photosynthesis to occur. The cool weather too has caused harmful spider mite species to languish as they just love the heat and dryness in order to colonize various plants exponentially! The European two-spotted spider mite is one of the worst as it just loves to suck plant juices from its host plant which include a myriad of annual flowers, house plants, shrubs and even trees.


It won’t be long that the first tomatoes will be ripening in quantity at produce farms and backyard gardens then the question will be as to what to do with all of them.




July 25, 2014

The rain has stopped for a “normally” drier July and maybe August so that we are using more water than ever for irrigation. With the rain water stored in the irrigation pond getting low some water may have to be used as a supplement from Van Hyning Run that flows behind the nursery. The water in this ever-flowing creek is of a less than desirable quality because of the pollution sources upstream but the effects on the nursery stock from this water is minimal as it is mixed with the stored rain water.


The hydrangeas just continue to bloom and bloom as summer rolls along. The varieties of Vanilla Strawberry, Limelight and Pink Diamond are blooming their heads off in a tree form which make for quite a display near a patio or in the landscape bed with other shrubs or perennials.


Despite rainy weather, the Blueberry Fest was well attended as Cleveland-Massillon Road was not closed as last year because of the bridge construction over Van Hyning Run.


In the market, the sweet corn supply will soon change to that of Seiberling sweet corn and sell at the same price of $4.75 per dozen just like that on the farm. The earlier Marietta sweet corn has been delicious but sweet corn is all about local. How much better is Ohio sweet corn than that from Florida!


Sticking of cuttings is continuing at a feverish pace so that we can continue the potting of clematis and other perennials that will be next spring’s stock. Orders for next spring’s perennials for potting are nearly complete with nursery stock soon to follow. I’m especially excited about some of the offerings from the Chicagoland Grows group for new perennials.


Well do I remember the cold February of 1979 when my boredom turned into a intensive study session of no less than 110 common perennials as far as scientific names, bloom times, growth habits, uses, etc. Since then varieties of perennials to learn about has expanded exponentially. How things have changed!




July 18, 2014

Tomorrow is the Blueberry Fest with music, hayrides and other activities to celebrate the summer season with its bountiful harvest. Getting ready is quite the chore as the grounds are groomed, weeds pulled, flowers planted, tables set up and so on. Then, more balled and burlapped stock has been received, bare root plants have to be quickly potted, more nursery stock has to be brought out. . . . . all amongst the potting, getting ready for the fest and regular chores is getting the site ready for the new greenhouse construction that somehow has to be “sandwiched” in all the other activities.


Monday in Columbus was the trade show for new perennials, annuals, equipment, pots, planting mixes and so on. New dahlias caught my eye that were bred with strong stems that don’t allow the plants to fall over. So strong were the stems that the plants almost approached a plastic-like structure. Six colors will be available next year but will not include a bright pink, yellow, orange or red but instead only a white and shades of purple and lavender. Another item of interest was a square 10″ pot with a snap-on tower that would be perfect to grow dinner-plate dahlias that are of the weaker stem type but are available in a rainbow of colors. New perennials, roses and annuals were everywhere so that the question is what to eliminate from the new list as it is impossible to grow everything!


Beginning next week it will be propagation time with cuttings of all kinds of shrubs that will be available for sale in two to four years depending on the type of plant and the size for market. Then, clematis plants arrive afterwards that will then be ready for sale next April and again with some new varieties. Right now is the Blueberry Fest prep time so that we’ll see you on Saturday!




July 11, 2014

Even now so soon after the summer solstice, the days are getting noticeably shorter although the day length is more than sufficiently long through at least August to push growth on in the garden and landscape. The new Proven Winner shrubs that we potted in April have now become available. One of the most interesting is the Cephalanthus ‘Sugar Shack’ which is a named variety of the Buttonbush. Buttonbush is native to northeast Ohio and can be seen blooming along the banks of the Cuyahoga River and other streams in June with its white blossoms. Standing water does not bother this wetland plant and neither does ordinary well drained soil.


The “word” at the nursery is still “hydrangea” with the paniculata type such as Limelight and Little Lime coming into bloom along with the blues and mauves of the Endless Summer.


With the now more drier weather of July, the botanical garden section full of rhododendrons, mountain laurels and azaleas will need irrigation next week as the plants are situated on a sandy gravely soil which they love except when it begins to get on the dry side. Especially doing well is a Wolf Eyes Dogwood planted in 2012 with its spectacular variegated leaves in full display. The fall color is even better when the white and green parti-colored leaves are tinged with a cool pink of the fall.


Next week is the arrival of thousands of daylilies, grasses with shade and other sun perennials from our supplier in Zeeland, Michigan. Many of the plants are new with some that will be available late this summer but most next spring. While the daylilies and most hosta arrive bare root, the grasses and other perennial plants come in small trays of 36 to 72 plants that will be potted into a trade gallon or two gallon pot. Everyone at the nursery will have to be on board to process the thousands of plants as they cannot “sit” too long without being potted. Then there is the preparation for the Blueberry Festival next week on Saturday, July 19th!


After the spring rush I guess summer is the time to get ready for fall and next spring! So little time, so much to do!




July 4, 2014

Another July 4th has come again only to remind us of the day our democracy was born in 1776 as the split from our Mother country was manifest in the Declaration of Independence. July 4th has meaning in the gardening world as to about the last day that heat loving vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers and sweet corn can be planted and then later harvested successfully. July 4th is also a good time to feed the lawn with a slow release granular fertilizer to keep it green and vibrant in summer as long is there is water to go along with it in the form of irrigation or rainfall.


The summer blooming perennial flower gardens are in full glory about July 4th with even more to come later. Shasta, daylilies, coneflowers, coreopsis, delphiniums, along with many others are in bloom to create a riot of color.


The holiday picnic might includes some squash, carrots, lettuce, and maybe some radishes and cucumbers for a healthy salad but still tomato season is still a way off for most of us.


Our blueberries are beginning to turn color with the birds at bay with the grape smelling bird repellent that was not successful last year because of the continuous rain that began June 8th. It is hard to believe that this June is the second rainiest only to the June of 1924.


Enjoy the holiday, the picnics and the fireworks and take comfort in the fact that so many bright minds came together in Philadelphia in the former colony of Pennsylvania.




June 27, 2014

While the annual flower greenhouse winds down, the perennial tree and shrub department just keeps going. Multiple varieties of trees, hydrangeas and various other shrubs were out on display last Monday from our growing areas. Some stock though will take a bit longer to develop as it must have multiple sheerings to develop a well shaped plant. New perennial plugs (young plants) are arriving in order to restock the perennial house in September and even next spring. Hibiscus, Veronica, Heucheras, Dicentra and so on are all included along with up to 18 other genera.


Constant vigilance is necessary to keep the pesky weeds in check as with the warm humid weather, they do “grow like weeds!” Today is the opening of the Owl barn Market with the first fresh-picked sweet corn from Marietta, Ohio with tomatoes soon to follow. The sweet corn is grown in the flood plain of the Muskingham River with the rich alluvial soil nourishing the nutrient-hungry corn plants. For freshness, the corn is picked at night and then is shipped to northern distributors by noon so that the sweet corn that we offer may in fact be less than 24 hours old.


Soon Seiberling’s sweet corn will be available with bicolor (the favorite) followed by yellow and a little later the tender white corn. No doubt, Ohio produce will taste better than California or Florida produce but alas, fresh Ohio produce is not available year round.


The blueberry patch is very close to begin ripening and most of the shrubs are loaded! Just last Saturday I spied a hen turkey and eight very small young running after their mother into the neighboring woods. Unfortunately, turkeys love blueberries too!




June 20, 2014

Today is the last day of spring with the onset of summer with the Summer solstice tomorrow.


Last Wednesday brought relief from the drier weather with at least 2 inches of rain at the nursery!Although we do have drip irrigation on our blueberry patch, the rain is even better as it will make the berries fat and juicy! In South Haven, Michigan, Mike DeGranchamp related to me that his blueberries receive at least 1 inch of water per week through irrigation. How amazing to see 80 year old Jersey blueberries so big and beautiful still producing massive quantities of blueberries.


I “think” we’re now playing catch up at the nursery as our young azaleas, rhododendron and other young plants are all planted and trimmed. Now comes the flower planting on the grounds and trying to decide what to plant as our flowers in the greenhouse are not that numerous. Weed control has been a top priority too due to the weed from hell – garlic mustard! Every chance is taken to stamp out this invasive weed with the Glyphosate always ready.


Next week, planting of perennials for fall and next spring will be taking place with the soon-to-follow clematis that will then be sold beginning in April of 2015.


Seems always so much to do!




June 13, 2014

The warmer nights and not so cool days have the vegetable gardens accelerating in growth. Some fungus problems are occurring but seems to be limited as of yet. Fungus problems on Maple trees are occurring with the incident of diseases such as tar spot and anthracnose which is causing leaf drop although in general it is not detrimental to the trees health in the long term.


Again for the umpteenth time, gardeners must be proactive in order to control fungal diseases on susceptible roses and vegetable plants that are prone to the white powdery mildew. Bi-carb is organic and very effective, especially against mildew.


It was such a pleasure on Monday evening that I was able to speak to a young couple from Wadsworth that was really into vegetable gardening. They were attempting to produce a varied and bountiful harvest on a limited amount of land and then I related to them to read the book American Intensive Gardening by the Poissons in New Hampshire about creating a most productive garden of a continual harvest throughout the year. The authors’ system is the adaptation of the Marais system developed because of the demands of the Sun King, Louis the XIV. Another aspect of successful gardening that I relayed to the Wadsworth couple was the importance of a soil test in order to perform at least a bi-annual check on the chemical aspect of the soil. In all, I think I talked too much and might have confused them with too much information but it was difficult to contain my excitement when I realized finally that all persons under 40 are not only interested in mobile phones, Facebook and other daily pursuits besides gardening.


The focus is, now on the greenhouse pest to control is spider mites. Even though I have not seen any by scouting, I know they are there. The European two-spotted spider mite female is able to lay viable eggs without the “service” of a male so that when the eggs hatch all of the young are males and mate with their mother to produce mites of both sexes! The mite system of reproduction makes it all that much more difficult to control them.


In the perennial house, the dinner plate Hibiscus were cut back half way so that better branching will occur but to inexperienced gardeners, the plants appear as “damaged” goods. The knockout roses in the 3 gallon size are just about ready to explode in bloom that will create a sea of red and pink mimicking the tulip fields of Holland in early May.


At the end of June, the Owl barn will open with fresh produce from Marietta, Ohio to be followed by local produce from the Seiberling Farm. Chuck Seiberling and Norma Nice(Chuck’s cousin) will be joining me on the radio program this Saturday on Ready-Set-Grow on 1590 WAKR A.M. The focus will be on what’s going on “down on the farm.” The good word for today is that as an author once wrote: “The human race survives because of 6″ of topsoil and the fact that it rains once in awhile.”




June 6, 2014

Today, June 6th is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that was the beginning of the end of World War II. During these war years, Victory Gardens as they were called sprung up all over the country in order to supplement farm production that was necessary to supply the allies in order to defeat the axis power and to later on to help feed the millions in Europe and Japan after the war. In a way the United States is a strange country in that ounce our enemies are defeated they are then fed and helped to rebuild after the conflict has ended.


The point of the matter is that the “food machine” here is dependent on clean water, goods oil and keeping insects and disease in check. As most of you know, honeybees so necessary to the food chain are in decline from a variety of cause. Invasive species seem to propagate themselves in the country by emerging out of pallets brought in from foreign shores. Without careful oversight by the general public and the Government, that food machine so vital for us at home and those abroad could be disrupted.


On a lighter note, the rain on Wednesday night was just in time to water thirsty gardens and


the temperatures while cool are not to adverse for heat-loving vegetables and flowers. The


nursery’s new production is now coming on line with a wide array of trees and shrubs as well as perennials. The annual flowers in the south greenhouse are winding down but I must admit that I am not too sorry as having that many flowers to care for is such a lot of work!


The new crop of Knockout roses is just dynamite with the 3 gallon size just loaded with flower buds ready to burst open! Perennials are still going and coming into bloom as their nature dictates. The wide array of creeping sedum is quite interesting as I can imagine them on a bank or rock wall in a kaleidoscope of foliage colors and different colored blooms.


Our email “freebies” and deals to our garden club members seems to have been well received with more to come. In a little over a month the blueberry festival will be here and I’m just hoping between the robins, turkeys and geese there are some berries left for our market!




May 30, 2014

Wow! The official last frost free day for northern Ohio!


While northern Ohio shivers sometimes in May, the Ohio city named for the French Queen Marie Antoinette, Marietta is like a different world as the spring weather is 2 or even 3 weeks ahead of our northern climate only about 150 miles to the north.


The rhododendrons in the botanical garden to the north fared well even after the nasty winter as they are coming into their peek bloom with shades of purple, red, white and pink. Especially impressive is a small rhododendron I planted last fall called Pohola’s Daughter that was bred in Finland that did have some foliage burn but now is coming out with strong growth!


The nursery for the past week to 10 days has been a bit messy with scattered plants and even weeds as it has been quite difficult to keep up with the sudden rush of the late spring and still accomplish all the other chores such as potting plants, trimming, etc. This week though has seen a big push to bring out many plants now ready for sale along with roundup to kill the weeds in the gravel beds and a general clean up.


This summer will bring some major construction for a new greenhouse in order to produce more flowers and a whole slew of vegetable plants for next spring. The idea is to produce 4″ potted vegetable plants for sale with a drop in price and to offer more varieties that our suppliers will not grow. The new greenhouse of course will be fitted with the self watering tables and a boiler system for heating in order to keep the plant’s roots warm which they seem to love. The above greenhouse systems go along with our view of saving water and energy in the “Waste not, Want not” mode.


Remember too that when you buy our flowers and vegetable plants that we stopped using the neonicotinoid insecticide for insect control as there is some evidence these insecticides contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder of honey bees so necessary for pollinating many of our favorite fruits, vegetables and flowers. Protecting bees, water, air, soil and in general the land sometimes takes a back seat to other concerns of our day.


It reminds me of what Wangari Maathai used to tell the border guards when she was the Environmental minister of Kenya as she said to them that when they are guarding the border, they should have a gun in one hand and a tree in the other. If the land literally washes away beneath your feet, what are you protecting?


Food for thought!




May 23, 2014

Now are we ever in the sunshine! A once-a-week rain of about one inch would be nice too but that remains to be seen. The greenhouse is now at it’s peek with veggies and flowers as many of our production houses in back are emptying out. No doubt everyone has “the itch” to plant but I must be cautious that frost is still possible.


Already Memorial Day this Monday makes the season seem short but the traditional Decoration Day is May 30th. With all the recent rain, it’s a reminder that severe flooding in our area while damaging and costly, it is no where as costly as the Johnstown flood of May 30, 1889 when 2,200 people lost their lives.


Garden club members should watch their e-mails and Facebook for freebies and coupons that are only valid for a short time.


Our Azalea stock is just about gone but more are “in the oven” for availability in August along with more Mountain Laurel and various other shrubs.


Although spring was late this year, the warming ground temperatures will make for phenomenal growth in the garden.


Perennials are coming into their own with late spring bloomers replacing the spent blooms of early spring.


Enjoy your long weekend.




May 16, 2014

The severe storm last Monday resulted in the closing of the various greenhouses and storage huts which is not a good idea given that humidity levels rise and will aggravate fungal diseases on plants. Although high winds were predicted, only heavy rain ensued.


Countless insects and disease organisms could destroy product in a few days because of the necessary closed-in environment. At the nursery, constant vigilance concerning scouting for problems prevents potential disaster.


More tropical plants have arrived with the addition of Hibiscus and Mandevilla vines. Our second and even third batch of geraniums and hanging baskets has been pushed along with the warm temperatures so that there is plenty of selection. There too is yet another planting of grafted tomatoes and even peppers!


The creeping phlox along the north side of the rock wall near the Owl Barn is stunning this year even though the plants burned severely during the winter from hell. Phlox subulata, as it is known, must be a tough plant.


The botanical garden is nicely coming into bloom with more rhododendron although sadly only bloom appears around the bottom of the plants that were blasted continually with sub zero temperatures and relentless winds.


The crops of Japanese Maples we’ve been working on for 3 years is finally ready that includes upright and laceleaf forms that are simply gorgeous. All the beauty and production of products results in work beginning at 6 am every day and continuing until 9 pm in the evening. In a way, the darkness is a welcomed respite.


In general, this spring is similar to 1973 when rain occurred on 23 days out of 31 in the month of May with sunshine in-between. Don’t despair with too much rain as it was only 2 years ago that the heavens seemed closed and the soil parched and dry. In other words… “count your blessings.


~ Tom


May 9, 2014

What a change in the weather to spring-like temperatures! The early tulips on the north side of the parking area are still in bloom with color showing on the later bloomers that will overlap and will create such a spectacle that you’ll think you’ve just stepped into Holland.  The phlox below the Owl Barn rock wall is just now putting on their coat of many colors with blues, pinks and magentas with a scattering of pure white adding to the riot of color. If that weren’t enough, the hanging baskets in the greenhouse have literally exploded with growth and bloom just this past week.


The perennials on display and in back stock are just about at the right stage at which they look their best for sales. It’s quite a job to keep things orderly and clean and of course it never ends. Even now, our last load of balled and burlapped stock just came in along with a gorgeous load of plants from Canada which includes beautiful weeping pea trees.


If you’re coming to the nursery this weekend, it will be easy to find as 3,000 red tulips called Hollandia should be just coming into bloom along Cleveland-Massillon Rd. I remember planting the bulbs in the wet and cold November and so now it’s time for the reward. Later in spring, Hydrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ supplemented with annual flowers will bloom along the road.


Do remember Mother’s Day this Sunday. Even if your not going to give Mom a “living gift” of a plant, just bring her down to the nursery to walk and enjoy the beauty of the grounds but do prepare to walk as the color is everywhere!




May 2, 2014

The tulips that we planted last November are finally coming into their prime time but the group along the road and entrance to the nursery which always bloom around Mother’s Day may not make it this year until after this important date because of the cold winter delaying the emergence of the bulbs and the cool spring weather.


The flowers in the greenhouse are “fluffing out” quite nicely after their trim in mid-April. Some of the growth regulators used to hold the flowers in check to prevent them from overgrowing sometimes result in poor results for customers so that we prefer an old-fashioned trim to chemicals to control growth.


Another improvement scheduled is the construction of an addition to our flower production house so that we will have more room to produce vegetable plants in a wide array of varieties and sizes with better prices as well.


Mother’s Day is always a big day at the nursery with the nursery having the peak inventory of product from trees and shrubs, flowers and perennials. Always since 1973 have the azaleas been in prime bloom at the nursery, however, this year may not be so as the plants had a slow start after being frozen solid in the storage houses even into the first part of April. Even now, gardeners must be wary of another cold wave that might come when planting vegetable plants and flowers. Let’s hope that no or just a few light frosts is all to be forced in the month of May.




April 25, 2014

It’s been a rush at the nursery to get ready for the opening of the perennial house and annual flower greenhouse. As always I have reservations about opening the flower and veggie house so early; however, many customers have small greenhouses to get an early start on spring.


Tea roses and more hydrangeas are coming along nicely although they are a little behind schedule with the cooler temps. This year perennial hibiscus will not be available until the end of May as the bareroot plants could not be dug out of the field in Holland, Michigan because of snow and frost in the field until early April. Normally we plant the hibiscus in late March to be ready by mid-May.


With both the perennial and flower house open on Saturday, April 26th there will be plenty to look at although not everything will be ready and again it is because of the previous cold dark weather. Three times this week we have covered shrubs with new growth so as to prevent the growth from frost burn which would decrease the saleability of the plants.


Even now, plantings of new product are still being processed for which the product will be available in July and August. I think garden club members will find our selection of specials to their liking and it seems we are well stocked this year instead of last year when we had some last minute “hiccups” because of the non performance of one of our vendors.


May Day is more in sight and we can only hope some consistently warmer weather will come with it. Daytime temperatures of 60-70º F and nighttime temperatures of no lower than 45º F in early May would be nice. Wishful thinking maybe as we’re not living in Camelot.




April 19, 2014

This weather is getting old! Highs in the 70’s and 80’s last weekend and then a low of 20ºat the nursery on Wednesday morning! The stock we had brought out early in the week went to our movable roof greenhouse in order to protect the new growth from freezing. More stock arrives today that includes some beautiful gigantic Canadian Hemlock and gorgeous boxwood from the field.


The annual house, while not fully open until May 1st is brimming with color in an open section. It looks as though the perennial house will open April 25th or 26th as soon as we


can load it up and “harden off” the plants for your garden.


No doubt everyone is itching to get into the yard and garden but believe me the weatherhas delayed things and probably will do it again this month and even into May. Even last year that was more on the “normal’ side, the last severe frost occurred on Decoration Day, May 30th which afterwards is usually frost free in northern Ohio.


The newsletter for garden club members comes out in about 10 days and we hope you’ll


find some good buys to your liking. Yesterday and today we’re finishing setting up the sales yard that we had filled earlier in the week. Formerly the weather prediction for low temperatures went as low as 28º F which is no problem for plants out of winter storage. As this past week went along, the maximum low temperature got lower and lower until it became 18º F!


A student that worked at the nursery a few years ago predicted that in 20 years or less that thousands of variables would be loaded into a super computer that would predict weather much more accurately than today when dealing with a long range forcast of 7-10 days. As far as I am concerned the weather predictions revision cannot come soon enough and I don’t think it’s the Russians playing with the weather patterns, but who really knows?


Happy Easter everyone!




April 11, 2014

The warm up this week is pushing flower bulbs out of the ground with crocus starting to bloom their heads off and daffodils budding up for just maybe a peak of “yellow sunshine” this weekend. Even so, many plants are still behind their “normal” schedule to pop. An old photograph that I took with a Kodak instamatic 104 camera from April 14th of 1972 shows a whole host of blooming daffodils almost at peak bloom.


Our nursery stock is coming out of our winter storage huts for two reasons: 1. We want to start selling them. 2. The extra heat in the huts because of limited ventilation will force the plants into growth early which is not desirable because of future frost damage to new growth. The planting of the greenhouse product is almost done with tropical plants arriving this past week. Now comes the one week delay of being able to sell the tropicals because of the two insecticide sprays that we like to apply before selling them. Although no “bugs” are visible, the plants after all are from Florida where “bugs” seem to be the state motto instead sunshine state.


The greenhouse will open at the very end of April with a limited number of perennials available now along with pansies and violas. So much to do with so little time!




April 4, 2014

The spring warm up has finally begun in earnest although I’m sure there will be some backtracking of the weather in the temperature and/or snow department. Even now it is a rush to get everything done since many of the scheduled projects could not go on because of the continued cold. Normally we pick up our bare-root trees and shrubs to be potted the last week of March. However, calls from the various growers to delay pickups resulted because of frozen soil last week. The warmer temperatures and rains have finally broken the deep frost so that we were able to pick up plants just yesterday so that they may be prepared and then potted this weekend.


The annual greenhouse attached to the store has now opened for the growing of hanging baskets and other plants that must be spaced for growing on. Even with the much warmer temperatures, the plants in the greenhouse must grow with temperatures about 65º F or they will not develop in time when the greenhouse must be open for sales in early May. Fortunately, almost all the older greenhouse heaters of only 67% efficiency have been converted to those of 80% and even 93% efficiency with those that are the first stage to heat the greenhouse.


A time lapse film would be interesting of the growth of plants in the greenhouse as the cold, cloudy and short days of winter seem to hold the plants in limbo with longer days and more sun start a sudden acceleration. No doubt, spring will not be as glorious as it normally would be with severe winter damage on various trees and shrubs but as we all know, it’s happened before.




March 28, 2014

After the cold blast earlier this week things in the temperature department look to be on the upswing so that it’s a wild ride the next several days to set things up for sales as much of the stock is now just shoved in our movable roof structure in order to keep the extreme cold from damaging the plants root systems as they are above ground.


Our perennials are mostly planted and seem to be growing well; however, the annual flowers are a little behind because of the delays from vendors of young plants and the winter being so dark before. Surprisingly, the flower bulbs planted last fall are starting to just pop through the ground and normally many would be in bloom by Easter on April 20th. Unless there is a consistent “extreme” warm up (hopefully not) it looks as though the blooming cycle of spring bulbs will be delayed at least one week.


Pansies, Violas and Primrose are all available now and just love cool weather but of course not extreme cold such as the super cold nights we’ve encountered this past week. The new Proven Winner hydrangeas we have forced into bloom are growing nicely and should be ready for Easter to be enjoyed indoors and then planted outside when the danger of frost is done.


Today it’s nice and a little rain I think would be in order. Hopefully the warmer temps will now give all of us some relief from the high natural gas heating bills and the dry air in our heated homes.




March 21, 2014

The first day of spring has welcomed us with some colder and snowy weather with next week not looking like spring weather either. The question now is will March “go out like a lamb”?


After a period of shut down production of cuttings from the Dummen Company of petunias because of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus TMV, production is flowing from shipments from Israel. The new crazytunias that were one of the series of virus infected petunias will now be available in our greenhouse although a little later in May. The funky variegated blooms should be a big hit with everyone.


The nursery has been wild this past week with the receipt of several shipments, potting perennials, potting annual flowers, transferring our stock geraniums to bigger pots, trimming and cleaning up thousands of perennials from winter storage. Surprisingly, the plants fared well with a double cover of overwintering fabric in the covered polyhouses except there were some minor losses from mice chewing their way through the bottom of pots to get at roots and the tender crown of the plants. While most of the mice fell victim to our traps, there are some that just seem to escape.


After a good trimming and cleaning away of the dead foliage from last year the plants are sprayed with a fungicide to kill a fungus called Botrytis that will rot them if left unchecked. This fungus grows well in humid environments with no air circulation which is just the case in the winter storage huts.


At the nursery as well as everywhere, spring is almost sure to be about 10 days to 2 weeks off in the temperature department because of the prolonged cold weather. Chores in the landscape yard and garden most likely must be delayed from the “normal” schedule although much trimming may have to be delayed as winter damage just showing up now will not all be evident until even mid-may. We can only hope the insect and mite population did not fare well either.




March 14, 2014

While winter weather is no stranger to March and even into April, the long duration of bitter cold has made this week’s past cold snap more aggravating. With the warm up earlier in the week, some watering of the perennials in cold storage revealed only minimal damage and of course some death on the plants near the outer edge of the plastic house. It seems the ground froze hard outside the storage huts and then move laterally to the inside even though the plants were covered with a double layer of overwintering blankets.


Another surprise was mouse damage underneath the sealed blankets has been minimal which is probably due to our catching at least 50 mice in mouse traps set in the house’s since covering them in early November with white plastic.


The transplanting of rooted cuttings has begun with greenhouse product for transplanting continually coming in. Some shipments have been late, some frozen, some in very good shape.


The new self-watering benches that “move” in the greenhouse have increased our planting space by at least 20% that enables us to try out a few new items but as all greenhouse growers know, a greenhouse has to be filled with saleable product in order to be profitable because of high heating costs and other expenses.


The insect growth regulator I now favor with the trade name called Enstar seems to be doing a great job of killing the young insects call nymphs while other products mixed in the same spray tank kill the adults. The products used in this combination play havoc with the critters that would run rampant in the perfect environmental conditions of the greenhouse.


Spring is only a week away if only it will “act” like spring.




March 7, 2014

Are we truly free of the single digit weather? Production is now 1 week behind at the nursery because of delays in the potting of roses and perennials which will spill over into other scheduled procedures.


Around the Akron area, I’ve noticed the severe burn on some of the broadleaved evergreens becoming more pronounced. Again, it’s a function of super cold weather, sun, (-12º F), strong relentless winds and no insulating blanket of snow. Damage not showing up as yet may be dead or dying bark on trees and shrubs, dead or damaged Zone 6 and even Zone 5 herbaceous perennials and flower buds frozen on various species of plants such as Forsythia and evergreen azaleas. The warm up is also on its way but it has been painfully slow. An unusually fast warm up as in 2012 would be even worse!


Our store officially opened on March 5th, five days after the planned opening again due to inclement weather of predicted heavy snow that was not nearly as prolific as originally forecast.


Tomorrow’s seminar is our last of the winter seminar series pertaining to that question on everyone’s mind: “What’s New?”. There is so much new that we’ll only be presenting the highlights as we must keep the seminar to the end time of 1 pm. Last week’s seminar was quite a surprise with over 60 participants showing up on a subject I know little about. Jill Manda of Manda’s Plant Farm was entertaining as well as informative. We’re already planning next years seminars so that if you have any ideas, contact us at




February 28, 2014

Now it’s official, the last day of February is bitter cold just like most of January and February. The bitter cold has spiked the demand of natural gas for heating the greenhouses especially because at least 80% of the heat is used at night. Some years ago an experiment performed by Dr. Ted Short at the OARDC in Wooster, Ohio was that of a double layer of poly with styrofoam pellets pumped in between layers of plastic at nightfall and then removed and stored in a silo in the day in order to allow light for the plants. Although, I don’t know the final results of the experiment, I don’t know of any such greenhouse structure in the north employing the pellet technology. High capital costs may have made the “pellet greenhouse” economically unfeasible.


Wednesday, March 5th marks the first day of the opening of the nursery after being closed for the two winter months except in the case of seminars. Saturday’s seminar has to do with the miniature world of fairy gardening of which I know little about so that it will be a learning experience for me as well! The last seminar is on Saturday March 8th and entails what’s new for 2014. So well I remember March 8, 2008 when at least 2 feet of snow fell overnight making it miserable and quite the work load plowing and shoveling out. That day also caused trouble for the winter storage houses in that the snow had to be shoveled away from the sides to allow heavy wet snow to slide from the roofs of the structures before the weight collapsed them. Dick Goddard, the famous Cleveland meteorologist proclaimed that so much snow fell on northern Ohio, Lake Erie and southern Canada that the snow melt would result in an additional 6-12 inches of water in Lake Erie.


No doubt spring may be late in the temperature department and it is causing delays in our production schedule that is beginning to ramp up. I know that many of us find snow a nuisance but I must admit I don’t mind the snow as much as the biter cold without a snowy blanket as we had sometimes this winter.


See you at the seminar.




February 21, 2014

Carol Zeh, retired school teacher, volunteer at the Metro Parks, history buff, avid bird watcher . . . will give tomorrow’s seminar on “Birds, Bees and Everything in Between” which will provide a connection of birds and various pollinators in our landscape and the wider natural world. Carol’s expertise is the result as her love of all aspects of the natural world and her serious study thereof after she retired from teaching.


No doubt the birds have had a rough time finding adequate food this winter so that Carol’s insight into proper bird feeding and other recommendations for our feathered friends will be invaluable. I find it interesting that the Audubon Society turned the killing of birds for sport into the counting of birds around the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. So ironic is that while the Audubon Society is known for its work in the protection of bird species that James Audubon actually killed numerous birds in order to study them and paint them.


Tomorrow also is the birthday of the father of our country George Washington. While George is well-known as the first President of the United States and General of the Continental Army that defeated the British Crown, less is known about his farm, Mt. Vernon and his activities to insure its success. In various writings it’s clear that he yearned for the country gentleman life at Mt. Vernon but his love of country and sense of duty kept him away from Mt. Vernon until his retirement from the presidency in which he died only a few years afterward. It would have been interesting to see what developments would have resulted from some of his farming experiments but fortunately for us, he was too busy helping his country instead of pursuing his own personal interests.




February 14, 2014

Last week’s seminar on Tropical Plants was quite interesting in that it included various methods to use tropicals in large combination pots including other tropicals, annuals and even perennials. The perennials that work excellent in a combo pot with or without tropical’s are Sempervivum (hens & chicks), Corydalis ‘Canary Feathers’ and Geranium ‘Rozanne’. While flowers of Sempervivums are not particularly attractive, the multi-colored foliage is beautiful when several different varieties are mixed in the same pot. The Corydalis and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ are familiar to most gardeners because of their long blooming time and lower maintenance requirements such as constant deadheading. Cynthia Drukenbrod of the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (last week’s speaker) reinforced the theme of combination pots as one of a “Thriller (anchor plant) filler and spiller”.


Tomorrow’s theme is that of a sensory garden in order to invoke all the senses. Homeowners and gardeners most concentrate on the visual aspect of the outdoor “living room” and tend to neglect the other senses of sound, touch and taste. Taste is an interesting aspect as a number of edibles are quite capable of carrying their own weight to add overall aesthetics to the garden. Ornamental swiss chard, blueberry shrubs, asparagus and even rhubarb are significantly ornamental when planned in the landscape.


Other goings-on at the nursery include the receipt of yet more cuttings of annual flowers from Central America, more transplanting of existing recently rooted cuttings and stocking the store with hard goods for a hopeful March 1st opening date. After the zero temperatures earlier in the week maybe that is the end of the zero or sub-zero temps. We can only hope!




February 7, 2014

The short reprieve from the cold last weekend gives way to cold – again! At the nursery new varieties of hydrangea are arriving from Michigan in order to be “forced” in the greenhouse for Mother’s Day. Forcing refers to forcing-into-bloom by the addition of heat. All but one of the plants bloom on old and new wood similar to Endless Summer but with unusual color patterns that I think will be a hit with anyone looking for a special gift for mom that will last for years to come.


Another early potting is that of Calla lily bulbs that should be ready to bloom beginning the first week of May. Callas just love bottom heat from the heated rubber tubing in the greenhouse as the temperature of the root zone needs to be at least 68º – 70º F. This tropical bulb will multiply year after year as long as it is dug up and stored similar to a Canna or Dahlia.


Another greenhouse chore consists of taking cuttings for rooting from various plants that are not patented for some of the 4″ potted plants this spring. The patented plant varieties are just as easy to propagate but unfortunately the propagation of such plants is illegal and enforced by a visit from a company representative that checks for any “cheating”.


This Saturday will mark our second seminar dealing with the vast array of tropical plants now used by just about all gardeners. Cynthia Drukenbrod from the Cleveland Botanical Garden will present the program on what is available and how to grow these flowering and not blooming-foliage rich tropicals. As always the seminars begin at 11 am on each Saturday morning with a two hour duration.


Hope to see you there!




January 31, 2014

Another week of cold, windy weather has gone away with the delightful realization that with the first of February tomorrow, spring is only 7 weeks away. While California suffers from drought from little rain and snow in the mountains, normally rainy Oregon is dry with above normal temperatures. Alaska too is experiencing a mild winter maybe as the result of the polar air mass visiting the eastern half of North America.


At the nursery work has all but stopped in the unheated greenhouses because of the bitter cold. Of course the structures could be heated to allow the work to continue but the natural gas meters are working overtime on the normally heated structures. The insulation of the six inches or more of snow was a very welcome relief although it may have come a little late to prevent damage to some plants what were almost wholly uncovered last week with temperatures dipping to near zero with that all but relentless wind.


A hunter at the nursery reported that he had seen eight deer huddled together under the neighbor’s grove of white pine. When searching for scarce food, the deer have been traversing the rhododendron garden by evidence of their hoof prints but again have been repelled by the scent of the liquid fence product on the plants.


While spring seems only like a dream, soon this winter will be in the rear view mirror with the warm weather ahead. Jim Chatfield of the Ohio State Extension wrote in the Akron Beacon Journal last Saturday that as soon as the temperatures warm up just a little in February, the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) will be blooming. How strange that such a flower would be able to withstand cold freezing nights as compared to the azalea blossom that will shrivel at just the hint of frost!


Tomorrow is our first in a series of 6 seminars lasting into early March. This Friday we’re diligently clearing the remaining snow from the parking lot and remaining walk ways to the Owl Barn to make the trek safe. This surely will be a true test of the small boiler with the heating pipes in the floor of the seminar room to keep the room comfortably warm after the long prolonged cold snap.


See you at the seminar.




January 24, 2014

According to a recent radio report on WKSU, new regulations from the state and federal government are coming regulating the runoff water from farms and greenhouses that tend to be high in fertilizer nutrients and herbicides. The state will have its rules set to be released in March.


The increase of algae blooms in lakes and streams is becoming more prevalent especially with problems showing up in Lake Erie. This “non-point” source of pollution is coming from a whole range of sources including farms, greenhouses and yes, home lawns. The end goal is that with the reduction of runoff water laden with nutrients such as forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, the algae blooms will be greatly reduced.


A few years ago the Canadian Province of Quebec banned the use of lawn fertilizer for use in cosmetic purposes hoping to reduce fertilizer runoff from home lawns. The question is will the regulation proposed by the state include not only fertilizer application certification by farmers, will it also include audits of the farmers and greenhouse operators operations.


At Dayton’s we should be out ahead of such regulations as the beginning of runoff water capture and the recycling of that water started in 1999. Through systems of vegetative channels, rain water capture, irrigation water being recycled and the self-watering greenhouse benches, little or no water now leaves the property. In addition, more self-watering benches are being installed this winter in the rear production greenhouse to recycle even more water. If there is an audit by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture or EPA, I think they will be pleased at what they will find at the nursery,




January 17, 2014

While the severe cold no doubt has caused plant damage on many ornamental plants, harmful insects most likely have suffered a set back as well. One such insect that may have suffered a set back is the non-native Emerald Ash borer that has been killing native ash trees around the state. According to a recent radio report, the ash borer larvae within the ash trees have suffered a kill-off as much as one third of the established population. While such a set back for the insect will not end its reign, it will at least slow it down.


A native insect that has been moving northward due to mild winters is the bag worm that attacks and kills a variety of tree and shrubs. After peeling open and examining some of the “bags” on a Bald Cypress tree at the nursery, I can almost conclude that the contents of the bag are not viable as they seemed dried and powdery. Late April and May will be a test of my hypothesis of the cold weather killing these nasty insects is correct or not. Natural cycles tend to check the population of many harmful native insects.


The Rocky Mountain’s pines have been dying for years because of a borer that eats the phloem layer of the trees. Scientists believe the recent warm winter weakened trees from prolonged drought and the lack of natural fire cycles due to human fire suppression has caused the insects to multiply uncontrolled. On a bus tour on the Highway to the Sun in Glacier National Park, I noticed an insect attacking spruce trees along the roadway . After questioning the native American tour guide I found out that this insect was killing trees all around the park. When I asked the guide as to what the answer to control this insect was, he answered with one word: “Fire!”


In less then 2 weeks is our first seminar at the nursery about common mistakes gardeners make. The final seminar in March is the “What’s New” subject in which there are no less then 91 new plant items for 2014. With so many new items, the question is how to present the seminar without making it a 3-4 hour affair!


See you soon!




January 10, 2014

What a blast of cold weather this past week! While we’re officially in climatic Zone 6 which indicates a maximum low temperature of 0ºF to -10ºF, temperatures, some areas dropped even more. At the nursery, the reading was at -12ºF just after midnight on January 7th. With the gusting winds and low temperatures it remains to be seen what damage or death of some ornamental plants may have occurred in early spring.


Some more snow cover as was originally forecast would have helped greatly to seal off some of the cold and dry winds accompanied by this polar vortex. Our “official” climatic Zone 6 was determined by the Government to be that average of 30 years of weather data; however, occasionally temperatures can still drop us into climatic Zone 5.


The 30 year average moving us up to Zone 6 is amazing because of the cold snaps of the late 1970’s, 1983, 1985 and the grand finale when the temperature dropped to a record -26ºF in 1994 to become the coldest temperature in Akron, Ohio since records were kept beginning in 1886.


Before the “big freeze” I had been very busy at the nursery watering somewhat dry nursery storage huts as the root system on the plants would have been killed. Mr. John Ravenstein had told me about this phenomenon years ago when he worked at Klyn Nursery in Mentor, Ohio. In the 1960’s, Mr. Klyn was watering plants on the dry side in a winter storage hut and ran out of hose length so that he did not finish the job. In spring, Mr. Ravenstein observed that all the plants that were watered were fine in spring but those that Mr. Klyn left unwatered had all died after a severe cold snap.


Other of my jobs around the nursery included the placement of an additional overwintering fabric on herbaceous perennials to protect the roots above ground in the storage huts as well as the placement of a product called microfoam over thousands of azaleas in storage. Azaleas have a tender root system that would be killed during a cold snap like this past week. The microfoam is a spongy polymer of a thickness of only ¼ inch. The insulating properties of this microfoam is amazing in that even after sustained cold weather in the single digits or lower only the top half of a plant root system ball will freeze as the ground heat is contained below the plants. I use the word ‘microfoam” to describe this overwintering blanket as the Dupont company used this trade name to differentiate it from other similar products.


Although the much warmer weather is a great relief, too warm of sustained temperatures would not be a “good” thing either. A slow gradual warm up after mid-February would be ideal for farmers and gardeners. One wild ride of polar weather this winter is more than enough!




January 3, 2014

The new year of 2014 begins fresh with many having thoughts of improving health and fitness starting this New Year. In 2009, I remember reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about a number of men and women thrown out of work by the crash of 2008 beginning an earnest fitness program. A combination of a workout at the gym and later on gardening and yard work does take the boredom out of a regular repetitive work out.


Another health issue to do with the vegetable garden is its bounty of fresh produce during the growing season to be followed by a freezer full of frozen beans, peas, corn, peppers and blueberries supplemented by canned produce such as pickles, mustard peppers, jams, jellies and beets. A root cellar comes in handy with a cache of potatoes setting along side tubers of dahlias, rhizomes of cannas and the corms of gladiolas just waiting for the time to irradiate those long summer days with dazzling displays of color. The beauty of the produce of one’s own garden is that the gardener is under control in his or her use (or lack thereof) of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides during the growing season.


Many organic or nearly organic compounds are available today to control or eradicate a host of pests and diseases so that there is no residue of harmful chemicals. The health benefits of an abundance of fruits and vegetables and sparse servings of meat and poultry are now well known. Regular exercise and gardening is a good way to extend the quality of a long life.


Plan to garden for health and for pleasure amongst other New Year resolutions.