Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Benefits of a web site – not to mention a blog!

Many growers, plant nursery owners and landscape professionals either do not have a web site at all or have one that is poorly put together and basically just “sits there”, without bringing any benefits to the site’s owner.

Lately, I have begun asking nursery owners about their web sites and what they’re getting out of them. This came to me from Patricia Dunleavy of Pinebush Nursery in Ila, Georgia:

“Our web site is geared towards educating the visitor, both about what our nursery has to offer and about landscape plants in general. Customer comments indicate that its nature and its general “feel” encourage them to come to our nursery to shop.”

That’s a tangible benefit!

Others, though, have told me they have no plans for having a web site, they are not “tech savvy”, they have a site but don’t have time to keep it updated, or they can’t afford a web site. Too bad, especially perhaps in the nursery business, where selling seasons are short, where “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so very true, and for which it should be a no-brainer that in an era of high gas prices customers check out web sites before they hop in their vehicles to go and buy an addition to their landscape.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


As a member of the Garden Writers Association, I am constantly receiving product samples or press releases about new products, and I encounter new – and not necessarily better – products at garden shows.

Two that came to my attention recently are a synthetic pine straw and a pine straw imitation, made of wood. Why in the world, especially with today’s emphasis on all things “green”, anyone would want to put plastic “pine straw” in their garden is a mystery to me. The other product, chopped ribbons of wood that have been colored and made to look like pine straw, does not appeal to me much either. What positive contribution does all this “processing” make to our environment that natural pine straw, abundantly available, does not make? Rather the opposite, it would seem to me.

Now let me tell you about two products I do like! A year ago, one of my children gave me a beautiful planter, with a center Cordyline, several geraniums and some other plants in it, two of which have weathered the Winter very nicely. The container had a coconut liner from AquaSav and I can tell you that it worked. The planter needed substantially less water than my clay pots, and somewhat less than my plastic pots. The other “product” I like is actually a collection of art – shirts, cushions, totes, aprons and other items from Joseph’s Colours. Not only are these gorgeous items, it also impressed me that their prices are not any higher than the ubiquitous mass-produced clothing and decorative pieces one encounters in many tourist gift shops.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

The first time I visited the Mayan ruins of Copán, in Western Honduras, I was told that it had been a prosperous settlement for 400 years and then, suddenly, almost overnight, the civilization collapsed and the site was abandoned. “And”, the guide said, “nobody knows why.”

Well, I know! And it does not take a degree in sociology or anthropology. They fouled their nest! As the population grew and resources were depleted, and the heaps of garbage piled up, Copán became uninhabitable.

The United States, at the beginning of the 21st century, comprises about 5% of the world population, it uses 25% of the world’s resources and it contributes 32% of the world’s waste. No, our civilization is not about to collapse and certainly our families will still live here for hundreds of years. Thousands? Less certain. And our planet? The picture is not pretty. No wonder NASA and other government and private institutions talk about colonizing the moon and Mars . . . !

So, today is Earth Day 2008. What are you doing today to preserve Earth and life on it? I’ve just come inside from planting a beautiful Juniper I received yesterday, adding to the mini forest I have been creating in my garden for the past four years.

You can plant a tree or shrub today also, or, if you don’t have time, send a dollar to The Nature Conservancy, for its “Plant a Billion Trees” project:

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Looking for Joe Pye

The book that made me a gardener (see “profile”, on the right), contained a number of “must-have” plants that I pursued with a passion when I got ready to establish my current garden, nearly four years ago. Almost none appealed to me more than Joe Pye Weed, a plant I had until then never even heard of, but it still took me more than two years of visiting local nurseries to find one (at Land Arts, Monroe, Georgia). I almost did not buy it. It was too tall, scraggly and ugly, with the leaves on its bottom two feet of stem brown and shriveled up. Despite its appearance, I did buy it and while it didn’t do much to enhance my garden that first year (2006), it came back nicely last year – big, bushy and attracting lots of butterflies. No wonder I eagerly anticipated its appearance this year. Three weeks ago I was at Land Arts again, so see if they had a supply of Joe Pyes again (not yet!) and to ask if it was unusual that I had not seen a trace of my plant yet (no – too early, too cold). Sure enough, I began detecting tiny reddish pimples coming out of the ground shortly thereafter and today they and others have grown, turned green and are hopefully lifting themselves up towards the sun. My 2006 Joe Pye Weed is sending up more than 3 dozen shoots this year, in a 15-inch circle, and I can’t wait for it to grow and attract butterflies again this summer. At a plant clinic a colleague and I conducted a few weeks ago, I mentioned Joe Pye Weed to everyone who asked about butterfly gardens. No one had heard of it, but I hope at least some have gone looking for it and are now adding it to their landscapes. It’s not particularly drought-friendly (in fact, it needs lots of water), but once you’ve got one in your garden, it’s hard to imagine ever doing without it again.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Useful Service

Acquaintances who moved to the Atlanta area from "up north" a few years ago bought a stately old house, with a large garden. It was March and green things started to emerge from the soil all around the house, and they had no idea what they were dealing with. "This looks like an Aster, or maybe it's a Daylily - who knows?"

Master Gardeners typically do know. But not many of them travel all around the area to look at little green things popping up in gardens and telling the homeowners what they've got and how to take care of it. Recently, I found someone who does! Shannon Pable in Buford has a landscape design business and plant IDing is one of the services she provides her clients. Check out her web site and get in touch with her, if you need help.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I've got my Poppies!

Both yesterday and this morning, I visited the Hall County (Georgia) Garden Expo - wonderful event! - and was reminded of a valuable lesson all gardeners are aware of: if you see what you want for your garden, better buy it then and there, because if you wait, it could well be too late!

What I saw yesterday, at the Between Nursery booth, were some gorgeous Poppy plants. I decided to walk around for a bit, interview a vendor or two for my gardening column for the Georgia Asian Times, come back, buy a few and go home. Well, by the time I returned, they were all gone! But . . . . ., assuming the nursery would have a fresh supply today, I went back early this morning and, sure enough, they were just being readied for off-loading from the truck. As I was carrying the flat from the truck to the booth, other gardeners came and admired the plants also. Well, I got the three I wanted, but less than five minutes later, there was only one remaining in the display! Such popularity!

If you're in the market to add to your landscape, here is my list of the expo's most beautiful plants: Blue Spruce, Montgomery, dwarf (Bannister Creek Nursery, Duluth, Georgia), Rhododendron canescens, Varnadoe's Pink (McMahan's Nursery, Clermont, Georgia) and Heuchera, Amethyst Mist (Greenspot Nursery, Gillsville, Georgia).

North Georgia readers who missed this expo only have to wait a few months for the next one; it will be held on September 13 and the details will no doubt soon show up on the organizers' web site.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Thriving after the drought of 2007

Now that April is approaching its mid point and the danger of a late frost is almost certainly gone, it’s been interesting to take stock of my garden and see what has not only survived last year’s drought, but is actually thriving.

The Daylilies and Bearded Irises have never looked better. The first two blooms in the latter group are about to burst open. Also doing well are my Gaura, Foxglove and an assortment of Daisies. The Yarrow is greening up nicely and there are Lupines popping up all over the place. All three varieties of Mint are providing beautiful green colors to my landscape and the Monarda is making itself known all over the place. My Phlox (Robert Poore, the best I’ve ever grown) looks strong and the Russian Sage and blue Salvia are coming along nicely. The Scabiosa has already sent up half a dozen buds, the Gaillardia is emerging from its winter sleep and the Lithodora has been in bloom since late February (a huge plant now, but only one survivor of the three originally installed in 2006). Still elusive this early in the season are my Joe Pye Weed, the purple and yellow Lantana, a Pineapple Sage that was gorgeous last October, and the Mexican Petunias. Patience, right?