Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Poinsettias; are They Poisonous?

Dear WBAL TV Noon News Viewers,

I got in a lot of trouble and some unwanted attention today when I said on WBAL TV, our local NBC affiliate, that poinsettias are not poisonous. I have gathered research from both Ohio State and Cornell Universities citing poinsettias' non-toxicity, but I may not have said forcefully enough that pets should be kept away from all houseplants as we often don't know how they have been treated. The link presented here was published just yesterday by a scientist from Cornell University. 6 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season does mention holiday plants that may be harmful, including mistletoe and holly.  As I mentioned in passing during the segment, I personally got sap from a Euphorbia (a poinsettia relative) and suffered for some time with an irritated eye.

I apologize to everyone who found my response to the question to be lighter than it should have been. I have had dogs and cats and am very careful to keep them away from plants that I bring into my home. The Ohio State University also cited research providing answers as to whether poinsettias are poisonous. Some sites that I have since checked do say that poinsettias have a low toxicity, including the ASPCA website on toxic plants.

I'm hoping Dr. Kim Hammond addresses the question during his pet segment on WBAL. To any of you who have additional questions or concerns on what I presented during the noon show today, feel free to email me at carrie@valleyviewfarms.com, or call the store at 410-527-0700. I am generally in from 7-3 except on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I will respond to any emails in the next few days as soon as possible.

Again, I apologize for any concern my comments have caused. I am a pet and plant enthusiast and would never place my animal's or anyone else's purposely in harm's way. We had agreed as a company at one point to not discuss plant toxicity as each situation is different, and some pets may have allergies that we are unaware of. I answered this question, often asked during my work as a garden center employee, thousands of times. Please feel free to send me any information from reputable sources that I may learn more.


Carrie Engel

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Benefits of Trees

Trees add instant value to the home, save energy with shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter, provide food and shelter for wildlife and so much more. Recently, while researching some material for a talk to The Kent Island Garden Club, I was able to spend some time looking into all that trees provide.

"The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day." USDA

"A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000." Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

"The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the groundwater supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams." USDA Forest Service

As important, how do trees make us feel? A summer's day on a tire swing beneath the shade evokes days gone by. Just relaxing in the woods has now been identified as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Leave devices behind, wander into the trees, and hours later, breathing, seeing and feeling becomes easier.

A Chinese proverb states "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Franklin D Roosevelt cautioned us years ago when he said "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."

"Trees exhale for us that we may inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish", said Munia Khan.

This fall, as we enjoy the annual autumn showing of colorful leaves and the changing tree landscape, let us appreciate trees more, and maybe even add a few to keep our land and ourselves healthy.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Why We Love Fall, or, 10 Reasons to Visit Valley View Farms in October

Fall is a beautiful season. We get it! The weather, the trees, the time off between vacation and Christmas, the festivals and so much more add up to a good time. We're busy setting up the Christmas Shop, helping gardeners get their plants and lawns rebooted, and enjoying autumn. Here are our own Top Ten Reasons to come see us this month, not in any kind of order.

  1.  Ravens football! We love our team and have plenty of spirit. Honestly, we love the Monday, Thursday and late Sunday games best because they give us a chance to enjoy the daytime outside here at the garden center.
    Ravens gear for the home, the dog or you
  2. Mums and pansies are cool weather performers in the garden and oh, so colorful too. We grow them at our farm in Hydes, MD, and can have them delivered every day.
    4 sizes available 
  3. Trees, shrubs and perennial get the benefit of fall planting because the ground is still warm, even as the air temperatures cool down. Plants planted now will root in, providing a healthy, drought-tolerant plant come spring and summer. 
  4. Bulbs are some of the easiest things to grow, especially daffodils. Deer and smaller varmints don't like them, and who can resist their sunny, yellow blooms heralding spring. 
    Daffodils, tulips, crocus and more!
  5. Lawns may be hurting from too much rain this summer, so seeding now is a great way to have a beautiful grassy space come late fall and spring. 
    Grass seed for most situations
  6. Pumpkins! As one of our founders, Billy, used to say, "Pumpkins are like puppies; everybody loves them." And our BIG pumpkin will go on display Wednesday, October 3 at 10. You've got to see this thing up close and personal. 
    Our own pumpkin people!
  7. The Straw Maze is a fun place to watch the little kids test themselves. They may get a bit rambunctious at times; all the more fun. 
    We all need a hand sometimes
  8. The Haunted House in the back of our greenhouse is dark, scary and fun. We love to watch kids (and adults) work up the nerve to walk through the darkened tunnel. See the display of Halloween houses and accessories too!
    Are you afraid of clowns?
  9. The Christmas Shop is getting set-up. It's fun to watch the transformation and to spot all the new items. But, if it's too early for you, avoid the main building and stay with all that is fall outside and in the greenhouse. 
  10. PEOPLE! If you are a people watcher, love seeing children and families having fun, and are looking for remarkable photo ops, this is THE go-to place for fall. And we'll have face painting available on weekends from 10-6.
    This family arrives for their annual photo shoot
We could go on and on. Phoenix Wildlife Center celebrates Owl-o-ween
Wait until you see his head turn almost all the way around
with us on October 20, Paul DeRemigis will be here working on beautiful, original art all about Maryland, and we even have a guess-how-many-seeds-are-in-the-pumpkin contest. We will be open every day from 7 am-9 pm through fall. There's something for everyone in the family; we welcome your leashed pets too.
We love our pups!
See you soon! In the meantime, enjoy all of your other fall activities.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fall Gardening Classes

What comes to mind when you think of fall? For many, its trees changing colors, mums, pumpkins, and, back to school. We take learning seriously at Valley View Farms, starting up our gardening classes once again in September. Here is a list of upcoming seminars:

On September 1 at 9 am, we will kick off our fall gardening series with Show and Tell Bonsai. Bonsai enthusiasts are welcome to share their projects and plants with others during the get-together, identifying the successes, challenges and techniques used in creating bonsai.

The September 8 class at 9 am will showcase Fall Gardens and Container Designs. Eric R will share design ideas and demonstrate how to combine plants in gardens and containers for autumn decorating.

On September 15 at 9 am, our own Nathan S will host a Fall Lawn Clinic. This is a great opportunity to get some answers about seeding and feeding the lawn. Nathan will also identify weeds and pests that may have found their way into fall lawns.
Fall is a great time to renovate the lawn

Also on September 15 at 11 am, we are excited to present Susie Creamer, the Director of Urban Education at the Patterson Park Audubon Center. Susie will teach us how to create a Bird-Friendly Garden. 

Spring Flowering Bulbs are the topic of September 22nd's talk at 9 am. Specifically, Carrie will be exploring the world of minor bulbs, the unique plants that can be tucked into the landscape with the more popular tulips and daffodils.
Learn more about minor bulbs like Camassia

The Unusual Styles and Techniques of the Bonsai world are featured at the October 6 class at 9 am. Literati, and using Jin and Shari are among the topics of today's discussion featuring Martha Meehan.

Water gardening enthusiasts will appreciate the class on Winterizing the Water Garden, hosted by manager Tim M. on October 13 at 9 am.
Tim will 

One of our favorite events of the year is Owl-o-ween, happening here on October 21 at 1 pm. Kathy Woods, from Phoenix Wildlife Center, will be here with some volunteers to teach us about owls, hawks and other birds of prey. PWC rescues and rehabilitates birds and other animals that may have been inadvertently harmed, often by humans. Kathy may have an owl or two with her for us to meet and learn more about.
One of the volunteers from Phoenix Wildlife Center

Our Create a Topiary Workshop on October 27 at 9 am will enable us to create a living sculpture with plants in time for the upcoming holidays. Please check our website or facebook page for more information closet to the date.

Lastly, what would fall be without the GREAT PUMPKIN SEED CONTEST? The seed count happens at noon on October 27, with WBAL's Tom Tasselmyer and Laurie Tasselmyer who have been our guest counters for many years.
Laurie and Tom Tasselmyer

Stay tuned for more seminars and events as we get closer to the holidays. In the meantime, enjoy the remnants of summer and the upcoming fall season. .

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.