Friday, December 17, 2010

Valley View Farm's Grown Poinsettias

We have had an extraordinary crop of poinsettias this year.

Our growers, John and Vernon, have out done themselves this year growing a beautiful crop of of plants in the Foard family farm greenhouses in Hydes, MD.  One hundred red poinsettias are heading out this morning to an area elementary school. (Thanks for the order.)

Jan, Suzanne, Cindi and Nancy have displayed them and other holiday favorites like orchids,cyclamen and amaryllis in our greenhouse here in Cockeysville/Hunt Valley. Did I mention that they make wonderful hostess gifts as you head to parties this season?

 Thanks to all of you who count on Valley View Farms for your holiday plants. We can't wait to show you all of our new plants for Spring 2011.
Have a wonderful holiday and Merry Christmas from all of us!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Traditions

 The lighted sign went up the other day. For forty-eight years Valley View Farms has been a part of the Cockeysville landscape. The Christmas Shop has been a huge part of Baltimore's holiday celebration for decades.
 Traditions have become part of that landscape too. Greeting shoppers at the entrance is a pleasure as guest after guest recounts stories of how their parents brought them here as children and they are now bringing their kids (and sometimes grand kids) here to pick out a special ornament. Babies gaze at the lights in the ceiling and toddlers just stare in absolute wonderment. Older children look for an ornament that symbolizes their interests; they may choose a ballerina, fireman, or an ornament of Santa himself.
Three generations in the Christmas Shop

He wants crabs for Christmas

In an otherwise frenzied holiday season, we feel a sense of pride knowing that we have played a role in Christmas traditions.
This weekend will bring families out to choose the perfect tree, or maybe to get strands of lights for the house.
Netting the family tree for the ride home

Poinsettias will be sleeved in paper to protect them from the cold. Live garlands will be cut to specific lengths to drape over doorways and banisters. Christmas carols play over the loud speaker and people will find themselves singing along. Kids will be bundled up as they arrive and re-bundled as they go outside. Ornaments will be personalized for Grandma, Uncle Ed and the family pet.
Carey W. adds the personal touch
Everyone will stop and take a look at the village display. Couples will argue about whether or not it's time to get an artificial tree. At five, someone will go around and turn on the colorful outdoor light display.
Sometimes we take working here for granted. But, when you see the look of astonishment in someone's eyes here for the first time, the magic of Christmas returns.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fresh Holiday Greens

Years ago I would go to my father-in-law’s house to harvest greens for my holiday decorating. He had a beautiful assortment of needled and broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs from which I could cut and gather greens. Now in my third home, I’ve finally planted some of these wonderful trees and shrubs that don’t seem to mind a light pruning in early December. Added to that, some are cone-bearing, a huge bonus for Christmas decorating. Here are some of the greens in my backyard.

Junipers have a nice blue color with extra interest in the blue berries.

Cryptomeria japonicas are beautiful evergreens with soft, short needles. They are dark green and grow to about seventy feet in a pyramidal shape.

Cedars provide a wonderful fragrance and nice color to arrangements outdoors in containers or indoors in vases and boughs.

Hollies are wonderful additions to holiday decorating. The evergreen hollies are generally dark green with red berries. Winterberry holly is a deciduous variety, dropping all of its leaves in the fall leaving bright red clusters of berries perfect to use as an accent.

Spruces are nice to use in wreaths. Their branches are stiff and the needles short; needle retention is poorer than in pines and firs. They are great to use outside and will retain needles longer if sprayed with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf.
Mountain laurel is used extensively in the south. Use it indoors and out to complement needled evergreen branches.

Other evergreens are great too, and, eventually I may plant white pine, Southern magnolias and boxwood in the yard to use for decorating. In the meantime, Valley View Farms has all sorts of these and other greens available from Thanksgiving week until Christmas.

Here are a few tips to keep greens fresher longer.
  • Use clean, sharp pruning and lopping shears to cut the greens.
  • Put cut greens into a bucket of fresh water until ready to use. Crush the ends of the branches to allow for better water take-up.
  • Consider spraying with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf to keep greens from drying out.
  • Keep greens out of direct sunlight and away from heaters and candles.
  • Replace greens if they dry out too much. They may rehydrate with an overnight soaking in water. 
Enjoy the colors and fragrances of the holiday season. And, make notes now to plant some of these remarkable trees and shrubs come spring.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Squirrel Busters and Other Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders

    So, how about you? Have you gotten tired of squirrels getting into the bird food? Admit it; they are fun to watch, but the birds don't necessarily want to share. Click on the video I found on YouTube above to see one way to keep the squirrels from getting the food. It is very entertaining.
    There are all sorts of ways to thwart the squirrels. Our Wild Bird House, located over in the water garden area is an important stop to make to view all of the products to feed birds and discourage the non-feathery critters.
    Squirrel baffels can be installed above and below bird feeder on poles to keep squirrels away from the feeding stations.

    Spring loaded feeders that are set so that the feeder is open to smaller birds, but not the heavier squirrels and crows are available in several styles.

    Several others keep the squirrels away with a combination of heavy metal mesh and the gravity spring-loaded stopper. Still one other feeder, the Mandarin, has a long roof line that keeps squirrels from reaching down to the platform feeding station. Who knew there were so many ways to keep squirrels out of the bird feeders?

    John and Carrie, the Sunday Gardeners on WBAL TV 11, will be talking about squirrel proof feeders on their segment airing at 9:15 am on Sunday, November 21.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Get Your Best Guess In the Book by Noon on November 6th

    Matt, Andy and Tim have cut the pumpkin open
    Tom Tasselmyer is a good sport. Every year on the first Saturday in November, Andy, Alan, Matt, and Tim cut open the BIG pumpkin (this year's weighs in at 1540 pounds and is named Rolling Thunder) as Tom rolls up his sleeves in anticipation. Tom then starts to scoop out pumpkin guts and separates the seeds from the rest of the pumpkin mush.
    The Tasselmyer Family 2006

    I should mention that Tom's wife Laurie and their sons Matthew, Andrew, Michael, and Stephen have each assisted several times from year to year. The Tasselmyers count out the seeds fifty at a time and place them in clear cups.
    Gloves are optional

    Cups contain 50 seeds each

    As the crowd watches, cups are lined up on two tables. You can see everybody second-guessing their entries in the pumpkin book. You see, since Rolling Thunder's arrival on October 6th, people have been writing their best guesses as to how many seeds are in the monstrous pumpkin in a book. Thousands of names fill many pages. The winner will receive a $300 Valley View Farms gift card. Second place wins a $200 card and third a $100 card.
    Here are a few of the entered guesses

    Donna will be searching the book for the winner
    So, how many seeds will be in this year's pumpkin? Unfortunately, we won't know until Tom's job is through. Stay tuned.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Haunted House and Halloween Fun

    The haunted house is free to those that dare to enter

    I, for one, am scared! I go through the Valley View Farms haunted house to see what the people in our Halloween shop have put together, knowing exactly where the entrance and exit is before stepping inside. On weekends, watching kids get up the nerve to enter would provide an interesting case study for psychologists. Brave moms and dads offer to go with them. It is the moms' screams that can be heard through the greenhouse as they get about half way through the various 'rooms'.

    It was really dark in here...until the camera flash went off
    The younger children that aren't up to the haunted house weave themselves through a kid-friendly straw maze instead.

    Parents watch kids meander through the maze

    Going through the tunnel at the beginning of the maze
    Family photo ops abound; many stand with the large 1540 pound pumpkin, others put their faces through the halloween board.

    Aren't they cute?
    And, many head back to the Halloween Shop to get their faces painted. Everyone seems to have fun. 

    Sara does face painting; all donations go to The WBAL Radio Kids Campaign

    Happy 'Owloween' .

    The Great Horned Owl at Valley View
    Kathy Woods joined us on a spectacular autumn day with an owl from her Phoenix Wildlife Center.
    The Great Horned Owl was a hit with many of the people, especially the kids, who had stopped by to pick out pumpkins.
    Kathy Woods with The Great Horned Owl

    Kathy was joined by intern Melissa and Melissa's friend Brian. The three of them engaged the children and adults on various owl topics including what owls ate, (mice, skunks and other small mammals), how large a wingspan owls have (really large), and all sorts of other owl tidbits.
    To keep up with all the happenings at Phoenix Wildlife Center, join them on facebook or check out their website for some fabulous photos of the animals at the center. Phoenix Wildlife Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and return to the wild of native wildlife. Kathy and her group are also dedicated to the education of the public on wildlife issues. Thanks again to Kathy for making the day a special learning experience for so many animal lovers at Valley View Farms.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    That's a Lot of Pies!

    Pumpkin characters created by Carey Wilkerson
    Every year, Vally View Farm's owners Billy and Andy Foard and Matt Stromberger  travel "up the river" in search of The Great Pumpkin. Back in 1989, Gordon Thompson had grown the largest pumpkin ever; it weighed in at seven hundred and fifty-five pounds and was featured on our stage in Cockeysville, MD garnering worldwide attention. Fast forward to Wednesday, October 6 when one of the largest pumpkins ever grown will be unveiled at Valley View Farms at 10:00 am.

    You've got to see it to believe it!

    We've sent out the press releases to our areas news organizations, so you're sure to see it on TV and hear about it on the radio, but nothing compares to meeting this Mammoth up close and personal. This gargantuan pumpkin has been named Rolling Thunder. Bring the kids and the camera, see other really, really big pumpkins and join in on the fun. We have a straw maze for young children and a scary haunted house for older kids and brave adults. And, we're celebrating fall with mums, pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and all sorts of other fall decorations.
    By the way, this year's behemoth weighs 1540 pounds!

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

    The stink bug has been the subject of hundreds of phone calls for our staff members for the last several weeks. This accidental arrival to our country a little more than a decade ago has mushroomed in population and, while once just a nuisance pest, has become a significant problem in our agricultural communities. Peach and apple orchards are seeing severe losses.
    One ugly, bad-smelling bug
    We are getting most of our calls from homeowners dealing with infestations in their homes and swarms around their doors and windows. Stink bugs are not harmful to humans. They do not reproduce inside or cause structural damage. They do emit an unpleasant odor when they are squashed or sucked into a vacuum cleaner.

    Before bugs make it inside the house, identify small openings around doors, windows, siding, chimneys and other suspected ports of entry. Use a silicone caulk as necessary. Also check for holes in screening and repair or replace them as needed.

    There are a couple of insecticides that are labeled for use against stink bugs. We do not recommend the use of the insecticides inside the home. Sprays can be applied along the foundation, and around cracks and crevices outside the house. Please take precautions and read the pesticide label very thoroughly before using.

    Bonide's Household Insect Control

     We continue to seek advice from our suppliers and from the EPA to recommend the safest products available.

    For information from University of Maryland Extension, click here.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Thousands of Mums

    Jumbo mums grown by Valley View Farms

    Mums will be arriving daily from now until late October to help us celebrate fall. And celebrate we do. John, Vernon, Stacey and Barb planted about fifteen thousand mums at the Foard family farm in Hydes, Maryland back in late May. Over fifty varieties of mums will be shipped to Valley View Farms as they begin to bloom. There is bound to be a color for every gardener to enjoy.

    Over 50 varieties!

      Mums combine beautifully with many fall favorites. Ornamental grasses, heucheras, sedums and many other perennials grow well with mums in pots and in the garden border. Pansies are another fall fave that overwinter, returning in spring with large,colorful blooms.

    Pansies are winter hardy

     Choosing a mum is easy. I like them when the buds are just beginning to open. During the cooler days of autumn, mums can continue to bloom for about eight weeks. In pots, check them for water regularly. A small dose of plant food is good at the time of planting, and then again in early spring as they begin to re-emerge from the ground. Mums should be cut back in March, May and July to keep them compact and beautiful year to year. To help remember when to cut mums back, think of St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day and the Fourth of July. 

    Plant mums when buds are just starting to pop
     Mums, pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale in addition to perennials and tree and shrubs are a great way to extend and enhance color in the fall garden.
    Enjoy fall. Check our website for a list of events, gardening seminars and a look what's happening at Valley View Farms this fall.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Cole Crops


    Cole crop is a term used by gardeners when we are talking about plants in the cabbage family. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collards are all spring cole crops that can be planted again in summer for fall harvest. Other crops that can be planted now include root crops, usually grown from seed, like radishes, beets and turnips. And, as cooler weather approaches, consider another crop of lettuce. Most of the leaf lettuce varieties and the smaller head lettuces have plenty of time to mature; in fact, the leaf lettuces can be cut and used three times before the end of the fall growing season.
    Lettuces and cole crops in raised bed

    To grow cool season crops, plant transplants in an area receiving at least six hours of sun for best results. Broccoli and cabbage need about eighteen inches to two feet between plants. Use a starter solution like Espoma's Bio-tone  to get them off and growing. Most cole crops are known as heavy feeders, meaning that they use a good amount of fertilizer to keep them healthy and growing. Our garden shop offers many organic choices for plant foods, including those from Espoma, Dr. Earth and Bradfield Organics.
    Cabbage family plants are sometimes targeted by imported cabbage worms or loopers. Spray with a natural product like Bonide's Thuricide to keep them from harming leaves as the plant is growing.
     For more about planting vegetable crops, stop in and ask for our free Vegetable Planting Guide. It contains great tips that can be used in spring or fall. And keep that vegetable garden producing well into fall by adding cole crops now.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Sneak Preview: Heucheras

    One of the many upsides of establishing great relationships with growers is that we often get the first look at new plants. Andy Shelley, our perennial manager, visits our growers weekly to buy the best and, when practical, the newest perennials available. (For a funny photo of Andy, visit the Valley View Farms website.)  New introductions are placed in our sales area as they arrive giving our patrons equal opportunity to try some really cool varieties. Our perennial staff, including Marian, Pat, Jan, Peggy, Jay, Max and Margie, go gaga over the new plants as they arrive every week.

    Jan, Pat, Andy and Jay show off some of the heucheras available at Valley View Farms.

    Heucheras are one group of plants that keep improving. The foliage colors are fantastic and the new plants' names are fun. Names like Midnight Bayou, Solar Power, Electric Lime and Autumn Leaves describe the heucheras beautifully. Take a look at this cool collage for an idea of the leaf colors available.

    Photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nursery

    Dan Heims, the owner of Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, has been breeding perennials for years. He has over fifty varieties of heucheras listed in the nursery's catalog. Terra Nova supplies growers with starter plants; the grower then finishes the plant providing a healthy specimen ready to thrive in our perennial gardens.
    Heuchera, also known as coral bells, is a very versatile plant, growing well in sun and part shade. Our staff and customers love that heuchera is at home in a garden bed or in a container. We also enjoy using them in combination with summer and fall annuals and perennials like mums and ornamental grasses.
    If you're in the neighborhood, stop in and take a look at the many heucheras on our benches. Better yet, walk around the plant area and see which plants combine well with the stunning foliage. There are sure to be a few container gardens to inspire you. In the meantime, take a look at these container gardens from Terra Nova.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Green Roof Plants

    Are you ready for a green roof? There doesn't seem to be a better way to start a "green living" lifestyle.
    Recently, we got a chance to visit Kruger-Maddux greenhouses in southeastern Indiana. Rob Maddux was growing sedums to be installed at an area elementary school.
    Green roof plants in the foreground of Kruger-Maddux Greenhouses

    We've seen green roofs in many areas of Maryland too, including the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson, MD. Knowing that we should probably plant up some green roofs ourselves, we started on a much smaller scale. Our first project, pictured below, is a luxury birdhouse, featuring it's own version of a green roof.

    Green Roof Birdhouse

    The project came together easily. We started with a cedar birdhouse. Valley View Farms owner and resident builder Andy Foard added some shallow sides to the existing roof. Some roof flashing or thick plastic can be added as a cover over the roof to keep water from the top. Soil was added; we used a special mixture that we also use for bonsai. And, last but not least, we planted shallow rooted plants that should thrive. We used ajuga, artemesia, and some sedums. The sedums are especially good as they are succulent, needing little water, and have a fantastic range of colors and textures from which to choose.  The birdhouse is adorable. Next up? Maybe a doghouse or a garden shed.

    Recently Planted Garden Shed Roof in Landisville, PA
     Watch us plant the birdhouse on The Sunday Gardener, airing Sunday, August 1st on WBAL TV 11 during the 9:00 am news segment.