Sunday, July 22, 2018

NEW Plant Introductions for 2019

New plants are coming from plant breeders fast and furiously. New calibrachoas, coleus,verbenas, lantanas and other annual favorites are hitting the market and are ready to be introduced to gardeners by our growers at Valley View Farms.
Calibrachoas continue to be popular
New coleus for color in sun and/or shade
   Our grower, store manager and greenhouse manager (that's me) drove 450 miles to Columbus, Ohio for our nation's largest plant trade show, or as they called it, a Solutions Marketplace, to see what's new. In addition, our grower John and I traveled to Lancaster County to see how many of the plants did in real conditions in a  yearly field trial that allows us to see the plants in action. Here are some of our favorites so far. We still have some evaluating to do, and will post those results later this year.

Providing food and habitat for pollinators is at the forefront of many gardeners minds. These plants are terrific to attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects to our gardens.
We love this new, supersized gomphrena. Look for it in large pots next summer

New salvias are always a hit...with gardeners and pollinators

Our long summer days can wreak havoc on our plants. During our five day trip, I really got a chance to see what would hold up in the garden and, even in pottery containers, with no watering. Dragon Wing begonias and lantanas did great. Here's a sample of newer varieties of each for considering in next year's garden.
Made for the shade; the chartreuse foliage will lighten up the shade garden 

Combination of several lantana varieties create this beautiful planter

Speaking of summer, what would the season be like without tomatoes and basil? This new basil, Amazel Basil from Proven Winners, offers resistance to downey mildew, a problem we've seen over the last few years, and a slow-to-flower plant that provides a longer harvest time of the very aromatic and flavorful leaves.

My personal favorite of all of the 800 new plants introduced at the trade show, was the Vinca. Vinca Soiree's adorable little blooms will handle the heat without a need to water frquently. The Vinca Tattoo series offers some new colors to our gardeners' favorite mid-summer plant.

Tattoo vinca has some HOT colors

We love the new Soiree colors

Best of all, the trip allowed us to catch up with good friends and business associates. Maybe we will relax later in the garden and partake in a lovely cocktail or two made with ingredients from one of our herb gardens.  

Mason, Lisa and Mark Hecklinger with our grower, John Miller and GM Tim McQuaid

Nice addition to lemonade, ice tea or your favorite beverage

Sunday, June 3, 2018

April and May Showers Bring Summer Flowers ...and Vegetables too!

It's been a rough spring for those of us working in garden centers this spring. April saw rain most of the month, while May at least allowed us to glimpse the sun now and again. So, if you're like me, some of your gardening has been put on hold until now.
Lettuce and a single tomato plant made it into my garden as of today. This week, with the combination of some time off and good weather, I'm looking forward to planting more.
Our Orange Explosion Trinidad Pepper loves the heat and promises to return the favor at harvest time. 
Eggplant varieties offer fruits large and small 
Tomato, eggplant and pepper transplants take from 60-80 days on average from planting to harvest. Garden centers, like Valley View Farms, still have a nice assortment of varieties for gardening procrastinators. The soil has warmed, so plants will be off to a good start in no time. Planting in containers, like Earthboxes, can be done anytime.
I love Earthboxes because I can control the watering. There is a 2 gallon reservoir to provide water during most of the year, and the soil is under a black plastic top, keeping the plants from getting over-watered during times like we've experienced lately, where the rain keeps falling. Planting directly in the garden comes with just one warning; be careful not to work the soil too much when it is wet. That includes compacting the soil by walking on it or attempting to till it.
Cucumbers and squash can still be planted too. Use seed or transplants. Other cucurbits, like pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupes can still be planted as well. If you find that transplants are not available, there is still time for seed.
Beans in a traditional row garden
Beans, radishes and other quick crops are also good to plant now, and maybe a couple of more times at 2 week intervals to provide fresh vegetables all summer long.
And, finally, do some prep work now for a late summer and fall garden.
Broccoli, anyone?
Most cole crops, like broccoli, cabbage, lettuces, collards, spinach and kale do well planted later in the summer. Adding organic matter like compost, getting the soil tested to see if there is a need for lime, and getting the area clear of weeds and old plants are all good projects to get started on today.
If only I had this much room for sunflowers. 
Finally, get some flowers out around the garden for pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.
Herbs can be helpful in attracting pollinators as well.
There is still time! Let's get our gardens growing!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Gardening Classes at Valley View Farms-Update

Happy Spring! This winter seems to be hanging on for far too long! But, the weather changes fast, and getting ready for spring is on all of our minds. Why not take some time on Saturday mornings before getting out in the yard to learn more about some aspect of gardening? Here is an updated list to consider for the rest of  March and April.

Spring Pond Opening, March 31 at 9 am is for our water garden enthusiasts who know that it's about time to get things up and running again. Aquatic gardens manager Tim McQuaid will go over the what, whens and how-to's of getting filters, pumps, plants and fish off to a good start.

Spring Lawn Clinic at 11 is for all of our lawn lovers who are looking to green up and grow a weed free lawn. Nathan Salupo and John James will go over proper timing and techniques to get growing! Bring in a soil sample for a free soil test to be completed by our staff during the seminar.

Create your own Bonsai, April 7 at 9 am, with the help of our visiting Bonsai grower, Martha Meehan. The $35.00 cost of this class provides everything needed to create the project, including the help of local Bonsai enthusiasts.

Native Plantings are for the Birds, at 11 am, by speaker Susan Creamer, Director of Urban Education and Conservation with the Patterson Park Chapter of the Audubon Society. Learn how native plantings create a necessary environment for birds and other wildlife in the garden. Susie will provide inspiration and knowledge to help us conserve and create habitat.

New Annuals, Perennials, and Tropicals is being held on Monday, April 9 at 7 pm. Our staff, including Robert Scott, Carrie Engel and Eric Rutledge, will show our attendees some of the new plants we're excited about having this year.

Maintaining a Beautiful Perennial Garden, April 14 at 9 am, is the perfect workshop to attend to learn what, when and how to schedule tasks to keep the perennial border thriving and colorful. Robert Scott will provide tips and techniques for our gardeners.

An Introduction to Water Gardening, April 21, 9 am, is a basic course for those ready to dive into this fascinating hobby that brings sound, motion, and tranquility into the garden. Tim McQuaid, our Water Gardening manager, will show everyone how.

Landscape Design Basics, April 21 at 11am, will be taught by Melanie Hotham, a Masters candidate studying at Morgan University. Melanie juggles her schooling with a job here at Valley View Farms and another at Cylburn Arboretum.

Growing a Variety of Summer Vegetables, April 28, 9 am, takes place on the same day as Tomato Tornado IV. Our greenhouse will have almost 80 varieties of tomatoes, 40 peppers, and a huge selection of squash, eggplant, cucumbers, and other vegetable plants. We will talk about when and where to grow them in gardens and containers and answer questions about which varieties may be best for various conditions. After an initial get together to go over all of our handouts, we will proceed to the greenhouse where our coworkers are ready to help with plant  selection and questions.

How to Select and Care for Roses, April 28 at 11 am, is a timely workshop as most of our roses have recently arrived from our area growers. Learn how to choose roses for fragrance, easy-care, containers and climbing. Cindy Mann will be our host telling us all about our national flower.

Stay tuned for more classes after our May rush. If you would like us to host a group here at Valley View Farms for a class of garden enthusiasts, please contact Carrie Engel.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Tillandsia is a fascinating genus of bromeliads that have become popular due to their ease of growth, unique plant form and the crafting possibilities they encourage. These airplants are epiphytic in nature, meaning that, like many orchids and some ferns, they are able to take in moisture and nutrients from surrounding air and humidity directly onto their leaves. They may be found growing on another plant, like a tree, but are not parasitic in nature.

Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usenoides, is one variety that many of us may be aware of as we have seen them in the humid south growing on live oaks and other trees.

Tillandsia can grow without soil, so are ideal for creating wall art, growing on rock and wood  or displaying in all sorts of fun vessels, including seashells.

Provide bright light and sufficient water to be rewarded by a durable plant with unforgettable shapes, colors and blooms. Plants grow from an offset at the base of the "mother" plant. Pups will reach maturity relatively fast. Once they bloom, expect another offset. Tillandsia can grow in clumps or be divided into individual specimens.
Ionantha Ball

Under watering tillandsia is the most common problem for the plant. Be sure to water them about once a week. They will survive longer, but the leaves will dry out and begin to curl. I may soak mine in water if it has been mounted on a frame, a shell or piece of driftwood. A larger plat could also be misted, but would need almost daily misting to keep the tillandsia healthy.

Here are varieties of tillandsia to consider for growing indoors





Capitata Maroon Hybrid

Bulbosa Hybrid

Brachycaulos Abdita

Ionatha Fuego

 These and many more varieties, large and small, are now available in our greenhouse. We will be hosting a seminar on how to grow tillandsia and will offer a frame project to interested attendees on Saturday, February 17 at 9:00 am. Visit our website for information on this and other upcoming classes.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Gardening Classes Saturday Mornings at Valley View Farms

Happy New Year! Maybe gardening is on your list of things to improve on in 2018. One of my resolutions for this year is to work on training my big, beautiful Alaskan Malamute in agility and weight pulling. While I have an idea what to do, working with a certified trainer and being with like-minded people will increase my chance for success.
Yes, I did sneak a picture of Jefferson into the blog!
The same can be said for working with plants; it is fun to work in a group and to accomplish a project and/or learn more about a segment of gardening.
In that spirit, we offer seminars and workshops most of the year, but especially now in winter and later in early spring. Seminars are free of charge; workshops have a fee to cover the cost of materials to create here at the store.

Listed are the dates and titles of our upcoming classes in January and February. Classes are scheduled on Saturday morning at 9 or 11 o'clock. Updates appear on our website. There is no need to pre-register; we will also be mentioning these events on our facebook page as a reminder the week of the class.
  • January 7: Bonsai Basics led by bonsai business owner Martha Meehan. Martha has worked with us since 1985, providing primarily tropical bonsai starters and finished trees.
  • January 13: Today's  workshop will teach each participant how to put together a Houseplants Container Garden. Textures, colors and plant characteristics will play a part in our choices for potted plants. Basics of potting media, choosing containers, fertilizing, watering and other subjects will be part of the conversation.  
    Crotons and Aglaonemas...are they compatible in a container?
  • January 27: Growing African Violets and other Gesneriads. Eric R knows plants and is enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge about Chiritas, Epicias, African Violets, Streptocarpus and other plants that will grow in a home environment. 
  • February 3: Join us for our second monthly Bonsai meeting to discuss a hodgepodge of winter subjects relating to propagation and pruning. Martha Meehan returns to host the class.
  • February 10, 9 am: Create a Valentine's Day Planter to give to a loved one. Planters will feature red or pink plants, some with heart-shaped leaves or flowers. Cost of materials will average about $27.00. Children are welcome. 
    Anthuriums have heart-shaped leaves and flowers
  • February 10, 11 am: Our Fairy Garden Workshop will help children and adults combine the best design techniques with plants suitable for miniature gardens. Cindi Fielder will be our instructor. Cost of materials vary widely according to props used in the gardens. 
    Fairy houses are one of many accessories to add to a garden
  • February 17, 9 am: Work with Tillandsias. These airplants are featured on Pintrest, Etsy and other sites with fun projects. Today, instructors Jen Kostick and Katie Newman will show participants how to create a framed tillandsia garden suitable for wall-hanging. Cost of materials including frame and plants is $26.00. 
    We'll have plenty of tillandsias to work with
  • February 17, 11 am: The  Staghorn Fern Workshop will provide instruction for mounting a staghorn fern to a plaque for wall hanging. Jen and Katie team up once again to assist with this fun project. Cost of materials including board, moss and plants is $25.00.
    Staghorn Fern

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ornament of the Week----Bethlehem-Israel

Olive trees have symbolized peace since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In Jerusalem today, trees aged almost 900 years stand. Earthwood ornaments are made from the pruned wood of the trees.
The  olive trees are pruned every two years to promote fruiting. Once pruned, the wood is dried for at least one year after which amazing artists are able to carve and polish the designs for these one of a kind ornaments from Bethlehem
Our International Christmas Shops has a beautiful selection of ornaments, figures and nativities crafted from olive wood from the Holy Land.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ornament of the Week...Russia

Matroyshkas, or nesting dolls, first appeared in Russia in 1890. Often referred to as babushka dolls, they have come to symbolize family. Matroyshkas are figures of decreasing sizes nested one inside of the other. Traditionally, the baby is the first piece created in a new set, carved from a single piece of birch wood. The figures are painted in folk garb. The largest doll in the set often holds a basket, birds, or flowers.
Our International Christmas Shop features an astounding selection of both traditional folk art and holiday matroyshkas.

This year, we also have a selection of delightful small ornaments painted in folk art fashion, ready to hang from the Christmas tree.