Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas and Giving to the Baltimore Community

You never know who will stop in
This time of year, those of us who are lucky to have family, homes, food and clothing often look to ways we can help those in need. Especially poignant this year are images from around the world where children's most basic needs and freedoms are in limbo. We want to help the world, but also see the need present in our own communities every day.

Holidays and Family
In Baltimore, we are lucky to have many worthwhile charities that help and support children.  At Valley View Farms, are pleased to be associated with the WBAL Radio Kids Campaign' throughout the year, especially at Christmas. WBAL Radio has been broadcasting from Valley View Farms on the days leading up to Christmas for over 20 years. Companies and individuals have donated millions of dollars over that time. The personnel at the radio station distributes the monies directly to people who serve the children in our area. Click here to visit the WBAL Radio Kids Campaign website to see who has benefited from the generous donations. Its nice to know that WBAL uses 100% of the monies for distribution to those children in need. Postage, administrative costs and fundraising are all absorbed by the station.
On December 23 and 24 this year, WBAL Radio will be broadcasting live from Valley View Farms beginning at 5 am.

Keith, Mary Beth and Bryan
Bryan Nehman, Mary Beth Marsden, Brent Hardesty, Keith Mills, and others will be here to share stories, music and fun with everyone who stops in or listens to the show. Local choirs spread goodwill through song,
surprise guests are sure to stop in and the all important donations just keep coming. Classrooms of children who save coins for others, large groups and families come together and local companies give  much back to their communities on these days.
The stories are real, heartwarming and inspirational. We encourage everyone to be a part of this special event. We are reminded of all the good people in Baltimore and surrounding communities.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gardening Trends for 2016

So what are the gardening trends for 2016? The Garden Media Group, whose members I have had the pleasure of meeting through the Garden Writers Association, has spotted several trends. We've seen some of them in our customers' gardens and heard from garden clubs about a few of these trends.

Rewilding--Getting out to see nature, or visiting a national park, gives us a sense of the big outdoors and is  easy and fun. Sometimes, we view gardening as work. Maybe by rewilding we can blur the lines to cultivate our gardens and enjoy nature at the same time.

Our love of nature includes the 'big outdoors' and our own yards

Syncing nature and technology--I'm guilty, as are my gardening friends on facebook and Instagram, of sharing my experiences with plants and nature via my phone and tablet. A couple of guys from Chicago have taken things a step further through a new mobile app called GrowIt! With the app, users can snap a photo of their plant and ask questions or just share it with fellow plant geeks.

Welltality--We know gardening is healthy, and growing our own food has encouraged us to try new things on our plates. Learning about the benefits of plants everyday in our lives is a consistent source of inspiration for gardening.

Billy grows many vegetables for his family and to share with others

Makers--Pinterest, the Paint Nite phenomenon and other creative outlets, have us shifting from the DIY of doing to making. Creativity knows no bounds.

Miniature gardens allow creativity on a small scale

 Layered landscapes---Our yards can be beautiful and functional to the bigger world. Planting way- stations for butterflies, gardens attractive to pollinators and a space for wildlife, teaches us to share our yard and embrace biodiversity.
Gardens between lawns and paths are wonderful for pollinators

Backyard boldness--A bit of our personalities can't help but find its way into our gardens. Use sculptures, works of art and other projects outside. Take a look at Longwood Gardens Nightscape for bold, cool, beautiful lighting that will take the family outdoors to enjoy the garden at night.
A dinosaur in the garden surprises and delights us

Dogscaping--Pets are an integral part of our lives, and their health is every bit as important as our own. The outdoors is theirs too; keep it a safe and fun place. 
Pets love the outdoors too! Right, Bart?

Tucker agrees!
Conservation meets innovation--New tools and techniques allow us to garden in new ways while conserving our natural resources.
What are some of the trends you see? Please share them with us.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Plant of the Week: 'Gowdy', The Munchkin Spruce

Are you looking for a specimen evergreen, which is not too big for a small garden or small enough to keep in a container outdoors? A Munchkin spruce may be just what you are looking for.
We love the purple cones on 'Gowdy'
For a limited time, Valley View is offering 'Gowdy' a tiny (by spruce standards) spruce. Picea orientalis (for those with a botanist's outlook) or Oriental Spruce has short, deep green, blunt tipped needles, graceful, drooping branchlets, and an irregular pyramidal shape. It is native to the Caucasus and Asia Minor and hardy to zone 4. The variety 'Gowdy' is more columnar and very slow growing, attaining a height of 8-10 ft with about half the width at maturity. And if its diminutive size and pliable, soft deep green needles isn't enough, when mature it develops purple cones! How nice is that?
Because of its slow growth, 'Gowdy' would be an excellent choice as a container plant and its cuteness factor enhanced during the Christmas holidays if it were decorated with outdoor lights and baubles. It would also make a delightful specimen evergreen in a townhouse garden where space is limited. While 'Gowdy' prefers full sun, in the Baltimore area's summers, a slightly shaded place during the hottest part of summer days would be best. If using it as a container plant, provide it with a well-draining, rich potting medium, and although it has some drought tolerance, be sure it has consistent moisture during its first few years.
Stop by soon to see 'Gowdy', Valley View's Munchkin spruce.

This week's blog guest blogger is Teresa Schiano, one of our nursery experts.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Big Earl--- 2015's Big Pumpkin

Now that's a big pumpkin!
Believe it or not, we might take for granted that some of the largest pumpkins ever grown have graced center stage here at Valley View Farms. Take this year's gargantuan orange orb; it's 1543 pound mass isn't the largest we've ever had.
Big Earl, front and center
 It is probably the best looking, brightest orange big pumpkin we have had in years. It's when we see the looks of wonder and awe on peoples faces that we remember just what it took to grow, harvest, ship and display Big Earl. The fact that four other large pumpkins look diminished in size (two weighing in at over a half ton) next to Big Earl is fascinating.

The questions we get are fun:

How many years did it take to grow a pumpkin of these huge proportions? One season. Most were probably started indoors in late spring then moved outside as the danger of frost subsided. Big Earl grew fast once the plant rooted well in the garden. When a Baltimore Sunpaper's reporter  asked how fast, the pumpkin grower said 900 pounds in just the month of August.

Where do the giant pumpkins come from? Groups gather around the country to celebrate all things pumpkin. Weigh-offs are held in several regions of the United States and the world. Valley View Farms past-president and founder Bill Foard is able to purchase the pumpkins directly from the growers. He has told me that I'm only allowed to say "up the river" when asked where the pumpkins were grown. But, Google can probably pinpoint where the biggest are harvested.
Yes, Billy knows how to grow pumpkins and other vegetables

How many seeds are in a big pumpkin? Sorry, I can't divulge that answer, even if I knew. We have a contest going on where people have to guess how many seeds the big pumpkin does have.
Tom Tasslemyer gets help from his family

On Halloween Day, we will cut the pumpkin open. Chief WBAL Meteorologist Tom Tasselmyer will count each individual seed. The winner of the contest gets a $300.00 gift card.
The demolition crew is in charge of opening up the big pumpkin

What happens to the pumpkins after Halloween? We cut up all the remaining pumpkins and dispose of "the bodies". Seeds are extracted, dried on window screens, and sent back to the grower so that he or she may have a better chance of growing large pumpkins again next year.
Pumpkin guts!
Has Valley View Farms ever had the largest pumpkin in the world? Yes, back in 1989, we had the world record holder. Though the pumpkin was unnamed, it was grown by Mr. Gordon Thompson. We heard that news of the pumpkin, then a mere 755 pounds, was broadcast worldwide.

Fall is the perfect time to celebrate our garden's harvest. And what harvest is more awe-inspiring than a behemoth pumpkin. Come on out and take a look at Big Earl. Bring the kids and the camera. There's lots to see.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Plant of the Week: Allium

Allium Drumsticks
An article appeared on facebook from the National Garden Bureau today; it was all about alliums. These ornamental onions are a fantastic addition to any garden, especially a perennial border. They can be planted over the next couple of months and will bloom in late spring here in Maryland. Alliums have an amazing appearance.
Allium Summer Drummer
 I always thought that the large ones looked like some sort of alien craft as they dominated the back border of a perennial bed at over 4 feet tall. Others resemble fireworks, balloons, lollipops and bubbles.
Allium Fireworks Mixture
 Kids are drawn to the globe shapes as are gardeners looking for something a little different.
Allium Gladiator
Alliums are deer and rabbit resistant, a very valuable feature in suburban gardens. The ornamental onions are interesting additions to floral bouquets and arrangements. And, there are so many really cool varieties from which to choose.
Allium Red Mohican
 The photos included in this blog have been provided by The Netherland Bulb Company. The packaging that our spring flowering bulbs arrive in are chock full of information about height, depth of planting, deer resistance, time of flowering  and all sorts of other information. If that isn't enough, the website Dig. Drop. Done. has even more information about bulbs of all kinds.

Allium Sensation
Our gardening fun hasn't finished yet. Planting bulbs is an easy, happy, and hopeful task that gives us a wonderful gift come spring. Enjoy your fall, and some late-season planting.
And, a personal thanks to Diane Blazek with NGB, for sharing information about alliums through her own blog. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scotty's Fall Perennial To-Do List

Robert Scott spoke to our seminar attendees the other day about perennials and tasks that should be performed this time of year. Scotty has worked for over 20 years buying, selling and providing information about plants that come back every year. Here are his notes from Saturday's presentation.

Fall is a great time to plant perennials. The cool air temperatures and warm soil temperatures allow roots to expand even as the plants' foliage and flowers slow down.

Dead Heading (insert Jerry Garcia reference here) is important to keep flowers blooming into fall. Removing spent blossoms encourages additional late blooms on the following perennials:
Many daisy-shaped flowers benefit from deadheading
Plant these perennials for fall color.
In Full Sun
Tall Sedums
Chrysnathemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy)
Heliopsis (false sunflower)
Rudbeckia fulgida
Ornamental grasses--Many colors and sizes look their best this time of year

Solidago (Goldenrod) and ornamental grasses provide color and interest well into fall
In Part Shade
Geranium Rozanne
Japanese Anemones
Chelone (turtlehead)
Begonia grandis
Tricyrtis (toad lily)

Planting tips
Use Espoma Bio-tone to establish plants faster
Use Leafgro compost to mix into soil (3 parts soil to 1 part Leafgro)
Dig holes 2-3 times as wide as root ball but only as deep as the rootball is tall

Care following a heavy frost or freeze
Scotty's Hamlet voice "To cut back or not cut back, that is the question"
Herbaceous perennials will likely die-back on their own, Try to leave 4-6" of the main foliage stem visible (Coreopsis, Astilbe, most Ferns etc.)
Tickseed Coreopsis will die back on their own. Deadhead them often for extended bloom time
Woody perennials may be deadheaded or leave the seed heads for winter food for finches and other birds. Cut-back in spring after new foliage disappears. (Perovskia, Lavender, Eupatorium, Caryopteris, Veronica etc.)
Eupatorium or Joe Pye Weed provides late summer and fall color. Butterflies love them. 
Leave these perennials intact for winter interest including seed heads.
Taller Sedums
Ornamental grasses
Perennial seedheads provide winter interest and food for the birds
Winter mulching
After a heavy frost, as soil temperatures cool, apply 1-2 inches of shredded hardwood mulch or compost around the perennials. Avoid putting too much over the base/crown of each plant; use barely enough to cover the ground. Mulch provides several benefits. It insulates the soil providing protection to the plants from freezing. Mulch also keeps soil temperatures more uniform, preventing plant heaving from occurring during extreme changing in soil temperatures. Mulch will also maintain some soil moisture.

Diseased leaves
As gardeners trim back foliage, be aware of any diseases that may be present. Discard leaves that may harbor fungi like powdery mildew, botrytis, or other leaf diseases often present on plants like Phlox, Monarda or Peonies. Dispose of all infected leaves; do not add them to the compost pile.
Pat cuts back perennials in our butterfly garden

Thanks again to Scotty for sharing this information. Please feel free to contact him on the phone at 410-527-0700.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I get it. Mums are ordinary. Everybody has them.
But, the reality is that they do their job, and do it very well. Mums bring color to our fall porches and gardens. They have hundreds of buds when we first see them in early fall, which translates to hundreds of flowers over a 6-8 week period.
And the hues and shades are extraordinary.
Suzanne, Dotty and Katie water mums most days. The plants' prolific root systems and robust foliage and blooms make frequent watering necessary to keep the plants nice. Once they are transplanted in the ground, mums may require less water, but keep an eye on them on bright, warm sunny autumn days.
Here are a few tips to be successful with mums
  1. Choose mums when they are heavily budded and cracking color. Expect 6-8 weeks of bloom, though that will depend on the weather
  2. Water mums daily if left in pots and containers
  3. Once buds have started to open, mums will continue to color-up in sun or shade. If the plan is to compost them at season's end, sun or shade is fine. If planted in the ground with the expectation of returning next year, plant in full sun 
  4. Double flowering mums will "age" better than their single-petaled counterparts. The flowers will fade but remain attractive well into the fall season
  5. Ideally, choose up to 3 colors to display together. Almost any combination is pleasing to the eye
  6. Darker colors fade to light as the season progresses. Burgundy, red, and purple are all very popular
  7. Purple is especially popular in the Baltimore area since mums and Raven's football share the season
    Work up a fall combination of flowers to celebrate our teams. Red and yellow for the Redskins, and yellow with whatever for the Steelers
  8. Buy the bigger plant. Once the buds have started to open, the plant will not grow much more this season 
  9. Use mums to decorate for your own fall festivities. Mix them up with pumpkins, squash oddities, corn fodder and other fun fall d├ęcor
  10. Wait to cut mums back until spring if you are over-wintering them. Then, remember to cut them back to about 6 inches on St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day and the Fourth of July. They will be compact nd full of buds come next fall
  11. Purchase mums from local growers. Ours are grown on our own farm in Hydes, MD
Mums are by no means the only thing to plant in the cooler months of autumn. Pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, scores of perennials, and trees and shrubs all benefit from being planted now as the air temperatures cool off while the soil remains warm.
The colors of fall are beautiful. Enjoy the season.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Headed to College? Don't Forget to Take a Houseplant

Include a nice green houseplant on move-in day for your college student. Houseplants have a calming effect on people, while at the same time removing toxins from the air and providing fresh oxygen. Students' stress levels are lessened and a houseplant is a great conversation starter.
My nephew Matt loves plants and kept bonsai in his dorm. 
 Matt Florian with sisters Vicky and Katie with their Bonsai trees

Most students do better with plants that will survive with lower maintenance requirements than a bonsai tree. After all, we don't want to add stress into our favorite students' lives.
Here are our greenhouse staff's recommendations for low-care plants that will survive when schedules get a bit hectic.
  1.  Snake Plant, Sansevieria, is drought tolerant and requires little light. My own Snake Plant did fine this last spring even though it was only watered once during the garden center's busy time. A friend who visited me during that time had never seen one in wilt before, The Snake Plants attractive gold-rimmed, green spear-shaped leaves came back beautifully.  
  2.  Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum, also does well in low light, but may need to be watered more often.It can wilt down easily; but the good news is that it bounces right back after watering. The dark leaves and petite white flowers make the Peace Lily a very popular houseplant.
  3. Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea loves bright light. The Ponytail Palm needs to be watered sparingly. The large footed palm is very unique in its growing habit.
  4. African Mask Plant, Alocasia has very distinctive leaves. Alocasia works well in moderate light with little care.
  5. Pothos, Epipremnum, also called Devil's Ivy, is ideal for a bookshelf or a hanging basket. Provide moderate light and don't be afraid to cut the long trailers back whenever they need it.

  6. Bromeliads keep their color for months at a time. Many varieties of these plants are available in this family.
  7. Aloe vera is a medicinal plant as well as an ornamental one. Keep this near the hotplate. The gel in aloe is great to use on burns, including sunburn. 
  8. Neanthe Bella Palm, Chamaedorea elegans gets high marks as a plant for clean air, according to Dr. B C Wolverton, who studied many houseplants while doing research for NASA. It is easy to grow, though it would benefit from a more humid environment than most of the other plants profiled here.
Houseplants are amazing. For more information on their how plants purify the air in homes, offices and dorms, read How to Grow Fresh Air, a book given to me years ago by my friend and coworker Pat. It is written by Dr. B C Wolverton and is loaded with easy to digest information on the toxins that 50 common houseplants remove from our indoor environments.
Breathe easy. Add a houseplant to your own office too for stress relief.