Friday, December 6, 2013

Host a Wreath Making Party

Photo by Brian Krista
Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Home and Living magazine
Pat Sherman started it. She ordered some soft touch wreath forms that turned out to be very easy to use. She showed some folks at Cylburn Arboretum how to make a wreath and then agreed to do the same thing here on December 7 at 3:00. Chesapeake Home and Living magazine also did an article and video featuring Pat's work.
Pat Sherman, Greens Designer

So, it was only natural that my sisters, a couple of good friends and I make wreaths. We got the forms from Valley View Farms. I picked up some winter berry and Fraser fir at the store as well. Then I went to my yard for cypress, cedar, cryptomeria, weeping Norway spruce and hemlock. Jan brought junipers with beautiful blue berries and Mary asked her neighbor if she could prune some holly from a tree. We were set.
Here are the fun photos we took afterwards. We had a blast.
Come on in on Saturday; then host your own wreath making party.

Back row-Mary, Carrie, Janet
Front row-Susie and Jan

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Plants

Thanksgiving decorations usually count on mums and pumpkins to be the center of attention. Gourds, Indian corn, and corn fodder make their way into the celebration , but here are some other plants that are seasonally available in November.

Thanksgiving cactus, aka known as Christmas cactus, usually bloom by mid-November, These plants are truly easy to care for as they thrive on benign neglect, often lasting for decades in the home.

Cyclamen bloom in non-traditional colors for Thanksgiving, but are terrific for adding color, especially in a cool, bright, window. With the first day of Chanukah falling on Thanksgiving this year, a white cyclamen may be the perfect gift for the holiday host.

White hydrangeas are another nontraditional choice, offering a neutral color that will transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas according to the pot in which it is displayed.

Brace yourselves! Poinsettias for Thanksgiving? They really do come in an awesome orange color. This one has been 'dressed up' for the occasion with bits of glitter.

And, Ravens fans have not been forgotten. These painted purple poinsettias may be the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving and cheer for the home team as they face off against the Steelers on Thursday night.

Jerusalem cherries have been a hit with our greenhouse staff this year. The small, pepper-like fruits start out green then turn to yellow/orange.

Gift baskets are always fun to make up with a collection of foliage and flowering plants. Add a gourd here and there for a table centerpiece. And, as Christmas approaches, Fall color can be replaced with bright Christmas hues.

Enjoy Thanksgiving with your families. We will be closed so that we may celebrate with ours. And, know that we are thankful for your continued support of our garden center. Thank you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Putting the Garden to Bed

We've had a few frosts; winter is definitely on its way.  The weather forecasters seem to all be predicting a tough winter. My coleus is dead and the begonias are hanging on by a thread. Leaves are turning fast, then falling from the trees.

Leaves are falling, but the last show before winter is beautiful!

Yes, Old Man Winter is knocking at the door.
Some of my favorite garden tasks are included in the list of things to do to put the garden to bed. Cutting back the dead leaves of perennials, pulling the last cold hardy weeds out of the garden and stirring up the compost pile to pull out beautiful compost to top my vegetable planting beds is somehow therapeutic. As plants are cut back, I inevitably find a few plants, usually perennials, that had yet to get planted. They'll get into the ground just in the nick of time to send out roots over the winter.
Here are some of the things on my to-do list for my next day off at home.

  1. Cut back dead foliage on perennials. Leave ornamental grasses, black-eyed Susans and daisy seed heads available for winter birds.
    Pat Sherman cuts back some milkweed that has turned brown
  2. Remove spent annuals, tropical and vegetable plants.
  3.  Pull compost out of the pile and add to top-dress annual and vegetable garden beds.
  4. Take a soil sample into the garden shop at Valley View Farms for a free pH test. Add lime if the pH is on the acidic side.
    John checks soil pH for our customers
  5. Pull winter hardy weeds now before they take hold over winter into spring.
  6. Root prune any shrubs that are to be transplanted in spring.
  7. Mulch any recently planted trees, shrubs and perennials with shredded leaves, straw or compost. Two inches of mulch should suffice. Use evergreen bows to keep leaves in place.
  8. Use vinyl deer guard or fencing around young trees to avoid damage by deer.
    Deer Stopper Ribbon will keep deer out
  9. Use brown paper tree wrap on young trees to deter sunscald.
  10. Spray recently transplanted evergreens with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf to avoid water loss in the leaves of these plants. I spray my rhododendron that tends to get wind-whipped in the winter to keep the leaves from getting all shriveled.
    Wilt Pruf diminishes water loss in cut trees and greens too!
  11. Make sure all the bulbs have been planted. One year they didn't get in the ground until January 5th. (They bloomed beautifully.)
    Plant bulbs before the soil freezes
  12. Take note of plants that have overgrown their area. I will usually wait until early spring to divide many of them as my gardening friends are more likely to add them to their gardens then.
  13. Empty all of the containers of soil. Clean pots with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.  I'll usually stagger-stack my planters in or behind my garden shed. Smaller containers will be stored indoors.
  14. Neaten things up but not too much. Keep plants and foliage to provide cover, water and some food, like berries, available for wildlife.
  15. Most important--- thank my neighbor Chuck who mows my fence line all summer to keep the multiflora roses and other vines from taking over.
It's amazing how fast these chores are completed as one task just rolls over to the other. In the meantime, I'll get to enjoy the cool temperatures, the beautiful fall colors and a day outside with my canine companion working in the yard I so enjoy.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall is for...

Well, it is not quite time to put the garden to bed, so here is a to-do list for the lawn and garden this fall.
  1.  Plant mums. In containers, mums should be considered temporary plants, but, planted in the ground, they will come back year after year. Once they've finished blooming, let them be. Cut mums back on or near St. Patrick's Day, Mothers Day and the 4th of July to assure nice, dense plants that will bloom in fall. 
    Our farm grows over 40 varieties of mums
  2.  Plant pansies for color this fall into next spring. Pansies are biennials that love the cool weather. They will peter out in early summer as the heat arrives.
    Pansies planted in the fall will overwinter
  3. Feed the lawn.  Use Jonathan Green's Winterizer Lawn Fertilizer for great results. There are many organic choices for feeding as well.
  4. Plant spring flowering bulbs. Generally, daffodils can be planted now; tulips should be planted once the ground cools a bit in November. Many bulbs are deer resistant. Add a tablespoon and a half of Bulbtone to the bottom of each planting hole for optimum results next spring.
    Hundreds of varieties of tulips, daffodils, crocus and more are available for fall planting
  5. Take advantage of warm soils and transplant trees, shrubs and perennials now. They will root out giving them a head start in the spring.
    Japanese Red Maples

  6. Cut back perennials that are brown and have gone dormant. Leave daisy-type flowers with seed heads for the birds. Do not cut back grasses, butterfly bushes or gray foliage plants until March next year.
  7. Use the lawn mower to mulch leaves in place to add nutrients to the lawn. It there are too many, collect the leaves and add them to the compost pile.
    Photo courtesy of Bayer Advanced

  8. Take notes and photos of successes and challenges from this year. Keep a journal that can be referenced in years to come.
  9. Houseplant should be indoors by now. Use insecticidal soap and/or horticultural oil if insects appear. Keep plants in saucers with moist pebbles to keep the humidity up. Be careful not to leave standing water in pots or saucers to avoid root rot.
    Houseplants filter indoor air
    Pet and child safe insecticides
  10. Get outside and enjoy this weather. Carry your trusty pruners to cut back any errant branches. Bring in some hydrangeas for vases inside.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


It happens every year. Andy and Matt make their annual trek "up the river" to find the Great Pumpkin. Andy's dad, Billy, heads out a week or two later also in search of the Great Pumpkin. All of the super-huge pumpkins will be put on display here at Valley View Farms on Wednesday, October 9th at 10:00 am.

Brian and son Matthew watch as "the Moose" is unloaded

It's not easy to get these behemoths onto our stage at our store. A forklift, one or two pumpkin slings and several strong men move the large orange and sometimes gray orbs into position. For the next several weeks, the huge pumpkins will remain on display for all to see, touch and imagine growing in their own gardens.
Three giant pumpkins on last year's stage

Matthew is impressed with 'The Moose"
Families love to use the pumpkins as their background for photos

We've had a contest for years where folks can guess how many seeds are in the largest of the pumpkins.  Tom Tasselmeyer, of WBAL weather fame, has graciously counted the seeds, with some help from his family, for years. He'll be here on November 2 at 1 o'clock to do the honors once again. First correct (or closest) guess wins a $300.00 gift card to Valley View Farms. Second and third place win $200.00 and $100.00 gift cards.

Tom Tasselmeyer and his family have counted the seeds for us year after year
 It's Donna's job to go through the books to find the winners.
Though not with Price Waterhouse, Donna sorts through the book to find the winners
Last entries before the pumpkin is opened up
Our gigantic pumpkins have been record-breakers at times, sometimes even being the largest the world has seen. Can you imagine pumpkins heavier than 1500 pounds? You don't have to. Come on out, bring you camera and enjoy the uniqueness of the these incredible pumpkins. They will be on display beginning October 9th at 10 am.
Guess this whale-of a pumpkin's weight!

Scott helps to harvest the seed to send back to the grower to grow next year's giant pumpkin

The demolition team of Matt, Andy and Tim use power tools to cut open the BIG pumpkins

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Top Ten Plant Introductions Over the Years

A recent trade publication, Today's Garden Center magazine, named the top 10 most influential plant varieties.  Having been in this business for more years than I care to admit, it did get me thinking. What plants have I seen at the garden center that have made a big impact on how we grow and sell plants? Following is my own list.

  1. New Guinea Impatiens first entered my radar in the seventies. Here was an impatiens-like plant that handled a bit more sun. The variegated leaves meant that the plant had interest even when it was not blooming. They have been much improved over the years and have even replaced 'regular' impatiens in many gardens this year.
    New Guinea impatiens do well in sun or shade
  2. Knock-Out roses have taken over most of the rose market in recent years for good reason; they are relatively low-maintenance plants with a great blooming capacity. I think we may be overusing them and bypassing some of the many roses that offer remarkable fragrance, bigger, better flowers and a never ending color palette.
    Knock-Out roses displayed within our nursery area
  3. Million Bells calibrachoa was a much needed plant as the container gardening craze took over a few years back. Though a little tricky for growers at first, gardeners had great success with this plant with mini petunia-like flowers. Within a few years, hundreds of varieties of calibrachoas were introduced by plant breeders and they remain some of our customers' favorite plants. 
    Calibrachoas shown in plant trials in southern Pennsylvania
  4. Dragon Wing begonias have become another of our favorite plants. Beginning gardeners love them because they're about fool-proof, giving novices much needed confidence as they get to know plants. Dragon Wings will take full sun, almost full shade and anything in between. The Dragon Wing begonia is often recommended by our staff when gardeners aren't sure of their garden's location in sun or shade.
     Dragon Wing begonias are always a winner
  5. Wave Petunias, beginning with Purple Wave, raised the bar for what landscapers could deliver in commercial properties by offering an annual that could be planted relatively far apart to fill in quickly offering tons of color all summer. New introductions have kept the Wave brand fresh. Landscapers did become over dependent on them for a time and have begun to rotate other annuals in to their gardens to keep beds healthy from year to year. Home gardeners love to use Wave petunias in containers as well as in the ground.  Other varieties of petunias have filled in with bold, bright colors as well. 
     Raspberry Blast has proven to be a popular petunia variety
  6. Sunlover coleus give gardens color, height and reliability. Every year our greenhouse staff discusses (argues) over which varieties we should carry as there are so many cool colors available. I wish we had a bigger greenhouse to carry all of our favorites.
    Molten Lava was an early favorite in the sun-loving coleus wars
  7. Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny), isn't a new plant but it has been re-purposed to be a wonderful 'spiller' for container gardens. It, along with Marguerite sweet potato vine, has become a remarkable seller for our gardeners looking for form and function. The chartreuse color is a winner too!

    Chartreuse varieties of sweet potato vine are the most popular
  8. I'm going to cheat here a bit to suggest two perennials for shade that have been bred to be stars in the border garden. Heucheras and hellebores now have phenomenal varieties for gardeners. In late winter, we have bench after bench of the hellebores; by mid-summer and fall, heucheras fill the tables. Hellebores are deer-resistant too, which is great for our region.
    Benches of colorful heuchera
  9. Homestead purple verbena has been around for some time. It's only been the last two decades that we have started to see other verbenas that were much improved in color and flowering.  We have carried Aztec verbenas for years, in shades of purple, red, pink, white, coral, peach and many other colors. 
    We judge the best verbena series for our garden center
  10. Echinaceas (coneflowers) are another perennial that has been bred in many terrific colors and flower forms. New varieties are often sturdier, more compact, with blooms lasting much longer than earlier varieties. 
    Echinacea 'Secret Romance'
What are some of your favorite "new" plants in your garden? Please feel free to comment and/or leave photos of your top picks.