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.