Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Little Boy with the Balloons

We were at the front of the store the other day, working to get customers checked out. A woman was pushing one of our larger shopping carts with a little boy sitting with his big Spider Man balloon and another with the image of a smiley face. The boy wasn't as excited as many of the kids when they enter and exit the Christmas Shop. Most young children are staring at the lights, the revolving trees and reacting to the overload of color and decorations. This little boy just seemed content to be. For some reason, his face stayed in my mind.

So, it was pretty neat to hear Scott's story the next day at the managers' meeting. He initially talked about a customer that was crying about a broken branch of a tree. Nothing that Scott tried to do could make the customer happy. The entire interaction was frustrating! It was nice that minutes later, he engaged the mom of the little boy with the balloons pushing the big shopping cart. She seemed old enough to be the boy's grandmother; turned out she was his mom. The 5 year old had had a tough start to his young life, being abused by the people that were supposed to love and protect him. But, the woman said that she had just been able to adopt the child. The boy didn't talk yet; he was still getting used to all that was new in his life. While helping the two to their car, Mark, a coworker, lifted the little guy from the cart and was rewarded with a huge grin. Now everyone was smiling! As Scott told the story, I felt tears coming to my eyes. Love, family, friends; that's what's important. It was a good reminder to not sweat the small stuff and to be grateful for what is right in front of us.

I have no photos to share. The mother and child's image won't leave my mind, surely not as I go on celebrating my own family and friends this season. May you find peace and love this holiday season. I was lucky to get a glimpse just the other day.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Many posts on facebook and other social media sites have talked about gratitude. In keeping with the Thanksgiving season, here are some things that we appreciate about our workplace. Excuse me if it sounds like we have a bit of a bias towards our place.
Aerial view of our store in Cockeysville/Hunt Valley
Our Cockeysville location has been home for over 52 years. And what a great location it is! We've grown with the neighborhood to a fun-filled holiday destination and the place to procure gardening plants and supplies.

Valley View Farms 1st opened on Friday, April 13th, 1962

Our original owners, brothers Bill and Punkey Foard, were daily fixtures at the store. We are indebted to their vision of  a successful business. Today, Billy and son Andy keep that vision alive.

Billy and Andy Foard during our annual WBAL broadcast. 

We're lucky to have managers who have grown up with the business. Most started while still in high school and have been here for close to 40 years.

Our coworkers bring great attitudes and passion for the jobs they perform day-to-day. Our work- family keeps our jobs fun.
Here are a few of our co-workers

The Foard family once grew corn, tomatoes and other crops at their farm. Today, the farm has 12 greenhouses and a large mum field. We're grateful to be able to grow our spring flowers, vegetable plants, mums and poinsettias on the property. We are then able to ship plants to the store every day when needed.
Poinsettias ship from our own greenhouses

Our talented and creative team of designers and decorators display merchandise beautifully, giving our customers inspiration.and wonderful ideas.

Thanks to our suppliers, we are able to provide good quality merchandise during all seasons. In addition to our own grower, our region has true plant professionals that ship plants to our store weekly or more often if needed. Many have become good friends as well as business associates.
Hillcrest Nursery has grown our herbs and many other plants for many years

Our customers are the BEST in the world. We thank YOU most of all for your years of patronage.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why are Our Plants So Healthy?

John Miller has been our grower at our growing range in Hydes, Maryland since 1991.
Early spring 

 Each year, John orders plants and seeds to be started at our farm greenhouses, grows them on in one of 12 greenhouses (and one huge mum field), and sometimes even delivers the plants to the store. He has help from Vernon, Barb and several seasonal members of our team in Hydes.

John and his right-hand man,Vernon, grow poinsettias.

 I'm a tad biased, but it is my opinion that our vegetable plants, flowering hanging baskets, flowering annuals, pansies, mums and poinsettias are the healthiest, best-looking plants available to area gardeners. How does he do it?

John works seven days a week for a good portion of the calendar year. He is married to Tracy and has two beautiful girls, Madelyn and Meredith.
Miller family vacation 2014

 Both daughters have an incredible knowledge of plants. Guess where John went to college?
I'm betting his life keeps him pretty busy. So, what does he do to relax? He runs! Not a little bit, either. He is currently training to run in the Baltimore Marathon slated for Saturday, October 18. At a bit over 40 years old, he appears to be very healthy and happy. I guess that's part of the reason that the plants he grows thrive as well.
On the NCR Trail

John, all of us at Valley View Farms are pulling for you to have a great run on Saturday. We're proud of you and the plants that you provide to our garden center. I'll try not to call a plant order in until later Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Aloha From Scott and Amy's Garden

Many years ago, Dr. Scott Hubert stopped in Valley View Farms to ask us to order some pineapple plants. 
The pineapple in the lower corner is almost ripe!

After growing the plants on for a summer, Scott brought in a photo of his family celebrating the harvesting of the pineapple in a special ceremony. Little did I know how passionate  Scott and his wife Amy are about their garden. A few weeks ago I asked the Hubert's if I could use their garden as a setting for a segment John Collins and I do on WBAL TV every Sunday. Here is that episode of the  Sunday Gardener

The Hubert family enjoy their tropical vacations, so it isn't surprising that they wanted to bring back a bit of the islands with them.
An island resort garden? Nope; curbside at the Hubert's Baltimore County home

 Some folks might settle for a bottle of rum; not Scott. He saw beautiful palm trees in a nursery in Homestead, Florida and managed to have them shipped close to his home in Baltimore County. Scott added other tropical plants to his gardens until he achieved a feel for the islands
Beautiful date palms, sago palm, croton, and a pineapple surround a working volcanic waterfall.

Hibiscus, mandevilla, philodendron, pygmy date palms, Chinese fan palms, birds of paradise, bouganvillea and many tropical plants love our hot, humid summers. But that can be an issue in the winter time. The Hubert family can use help in the fall when its time to move all of the plants inside. There is an older greenhouse in the backyard that serves as a winter home for the hobby plants. Some of the trees have gotten tall enough that they actual have to be dug into the ground inside their winter home.
A sign posts actual mileage to the Hubert's favorite island destinations

Big trees mean big root systems

The garden is not without challenges. Larger palms have to be fastened down to avoid being blown over by the wind, or "borrowed" by curious passers by. A large steel cable makes sure that doesn't happen. And, guess what? Deer like a lot of tropicals mixed into their diet plan, so deer repellents may be applied during times when Scott is not on duty in the garden. 

Scott and Amy's zest for life and fascination with plants has connected them to so many people, including me, who find their passion for their gardens inspiring. Thank you for making our part of the world a more beautiful place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beautiful Gardens... Destination Pittsburgh

Thanks to Valley View Farms' owners Andy and Bill Foard, I was able to attend the national Garden Writers Association symposium, held this year in Pittsburgh. I have been in, out and around that city many times in my life, but this was my first chance to stay for 5 interesting, busy, fun-filled, days.
Rooftop garden at Phipps Conservatory Center of Sustainable Landscapes
 A typical day started with a breakfast meeting, followed by several information gathering seminars, lunch on a bus en route to beautiful gardens, an afternoon of touring and then dinner at a garden venue with 400 garden writers/bloggers, TV and radio garden show hosts, public garden administrators, book authors, photographers, and other garden communicators. The bus ride offered a chance to get to know writers from all over the US and Canada. This year, we were treated to tours of beautiful gardens in the Sewickley Valley, Phipps Conservatory, Schenely Garden Plaza, the East End and other areas in and around the Pittsburgh.
Here are some photos of some of the gardens. The plants, flowers, and venues were incredible. I fell in love with the Phipps Conservatory. The outdoor gardens were spectacular!
Perennial gardens outside the Conservatory

Great garden performers 

Two formal water gardens could be seen from inside; I had to check them out!

 The indoor conservatory was just plain fun, with trains, dinosaurs and displays of Chihuly glass in unexpected places.
Trains were featured in several of the indoor rooms

Chihuly glass


Annual and tropical plants with the choo-choo train

Interesting desert room reminded be of Baltimore's conservatory

The private gardens were over the top. Beautiful tree hedges, mulched "lawns", old garden gates and, again, dinosaurs provided whimsy and unexpected storytelling in many gardens. The hosts opened up their grounds to hundreds of us.
Texture and color; flowers are secondary

Too much sun? This garden seat offers comfortable shade.

Peek through the garden wall for a look at the pool

This extensive pruned tree hedge bordered the upper lawn beautifully

Layers of shrubs on an emerald lawn-Wow!

Ivy covered walls

Dinosaurs need strong legs to cover the many hills in and around Pittsburgh

All of our  garden hosts were super friendly and knowledgeable 

Footbridge across Fern Gully

Lions were a common sight at many of the entrances 

 One of the gentlemen even started up his 1957 tractor, connected it to a cart and picked up some of the more physically challenged of our group, so that they didn't have to make the long trek up his driveway.

Our host talks to plants-man LLoyd Traven about his garden

Bit out of my price range, but beautiful just the same

Even the parking area gets the garden treatment
The planning committee did an extraordinary job. The garden tours made me wonder about the hidden gardens in our own community here in Baltimore.

One day, I played hooky with 3 other garden writers- Susan Reimer, from our own Baltimore Sun, Ginny Smith, from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Susan Harris, a garden writer, blogger and green activist here in Maryland. We struck out on our own and found Randyland.

Randy Gilson  of Randyland

Quirky garden! That's an understatement!

Randy re-purposes junk and creates jaw-dropping gardens

Look up, down and all around; you don't want to miss anything

Buy lunch down the street and bring it back to enjoy in Randyland

This Pittsburgh neighborhood is forever changed

Container gardens bring flowers to the street front

 Susan Harris wrote about this unique garden in her blog, Garden Rant. Talk about passion! Randy's view of the world and the joy and enthusiasm he brings to it is extraordinary. The four of us wandered in amazement while listening to Randy talking about the "junk", (his term, not mine) and plants in his garden. He is a waiter in downtown Pittsburgh and used his tip money and donations to create a one-of-a-kind city-scape.  While we were there, people stopped to say hi and donate to Randy's mission. He has gardens all over the city, but this is the one he calls home. For more photos, google Randyland.

Thank you to all of the people connected with GWA. Pittsburgh has become a new place to travel to and spend time in after my attendance to the 2014 symposium.
Pittsburgh was a wonderful host town
 Next year, Baltimore plays host to another horticultural group, the Perennial Plant Association. What a great chance to show off our city and the gardens in our area. Grow, Baltimore!