Come hell or high water, some of which we have already had, I was determined to get this blog post out. I have been trying for at least three months to get this completed but to no avail. It has been excessively busy with our landscape jobs, garden center, farm, employees, kids and family.
Skip Laurel with burnt foliage.
From the winter that would not end, to the spring of insanity, where I am so busy I cannot catch my breath. Albeit good insanity, as moneymaking insanity is always better than the alternative, but with this kind business it is always feast or famine.
We just survived that little thing around here known as Derby. Since only Louisvillian’s can turn a two-minute event into a month long party, of course many of our clients have to have their gardens and landscapes be just perfect for this time of year. Now we are into the normal spring rush. It is so crazy and intense that I often forget why I do this line of work.
I was at a new client’s home the other day, a friend from Rotary, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Man, you have a great job; you must love what you do. You get to go to people’s houses, be outside, not cooped up in an office and see all kinds of great things.” I had that brief moment as often before, that I had to remind myself, “You know what, he is right and this is awesome.” However, I am just like anyone else and who is caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget what I am doing.
Spring has been spectacular as usual and we are fast approaching summer. However, it still seems that it is not business as usual. Plants are off schedule and blooming at strange times. Some are dead or some are tricking everyone into thinking they are dead, as they have taken longer than Rip Van Winkle to come out of their slumber.
For months now, I have had clients asking me about various plants and whether they were indeed dead. Most have assumed they are dead, as they just look horrible. All of the broadleaf evergreens took a hit. Plants like Southern Magnolia, Cherry Laurels (Skip and Otto Luyken), Holly, Boxwood, Nandina and many others. Other plants that are supposed to marginal here were not hit at all like one of my Osmanthus that looks amazingly well.
Scratching the bark of a Foster Holly.
I have been seeing some amazing things happen with plants coming back. I have been periodically checking on a planting of laurels that we installed last fall. A few months ago, I thought for sure they were all dead, but now all have flushed out and are looking great. Trust me, there are many that didn’t make it, but I am surprised by how many did survive. All we have to do is show them a little patience.
Keep in mind things like Crape Myrtle, Vitex, Nandina, etc. always take a long time to flush out their spring growth. We get asked about these plants every spring. The best way to check to see if a plant is still alive is to scratch the bark lightly with your fingernail or a knife and see if there is green underneath. If there is green, the plant is still alive. This doesn’t guarantee that the plant will flush out new growth, but there is a better chance than not. I have seen “green” plants stall out and just not have the energy or resources to push spring growth. Another possibility too, particularly with deciduous species that were knocked to the ground with total dieback, is new growth coming up from the roots. So again, be patient.
New growth on Skip Laurel
The amazing thing in all of this is to bear witness to the tenacity of life. This winter did claim some victims, but there are way more survivors than casualties. Plants are just like people; whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. They just need a little time to gather themselves and pull out of the winter funk; Lord knows I have. Finally, plants like people will often surprise you in amazing ways, if you just give them a little patience. Happy Spring Everyone!
I just remembered that I some times take for granted that people know what to do with their landscape plants when they get damaged or weighed down by snow or ice. The answer is absolutely nothing. Yes, that is right, nothing. Well at least not until it warms up and they thaw out. This is a hard thing for us to do because when we see one of our cherished trees or shrubs bent over, branches weighed down with ice, it is natural to want to relieve the plant of this problem. Counterintuitive as it may be, that is often the worst thing you can do. While the branches are covered with ice or snow, they are very brittle and damage easily. The most obvious damage is complete breakage but there is also damage that can occur on the cellular level. It is better to let nature run its course, letting all branches and limbs thaw out completely. After the thaw, the branches will usually spring back into place; this process may take awhile but it occurs most of the time.
River Birch ice damage in front of garden center
If complete breakage has occurred, you will still first want to let the plant thaw out completely, then come back and make a clean-cut. It is almost guaranteed that the break will not be clean and will be a splintered break. The tree will have a difficult time healing and the wound can open it to other pest or disease problems later on. Use a sharp hand saw or chain saw, make a clean cut back to the next branch junction and branch collar. The branch collar is the raised part at the base of a branch where it connects to the trunk of the tree or a branch. You do not want to cut past this, but just in front of it. In other words, don’t leave big stubs by just cutting the branch in the middle or not far enough back. The tree cannot heal properly from this kind of pruning.
It is interesting to see the difference in how various plants react to these kinds of winter weather events. Obviously the trees and shrubs from more hardier clients have adapted to this kind of event and they don’t exhibit as much if any breakage as some of the plants from less harsh winter areas.
“Winter’s Coming” For those of you who may watch or have heard of the HBO series based on the book Game of Thrones, this is the motto of the House Stark. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Stark Family are the lords of the North, Winterfell, and strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
A deeper, metaphorical sense can be found in the motto. According to the author George R.R. Martin, it more generally expresses the sentiment that there are always dark periods in each of our lives, and even if things are good now (“summer”), we must always be ready for a dark period when events turn against us (“winter”). In this sense “winter” parallels Richard of the House of York’s opening line in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the Winter of our Discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York…”
In this sense it is loosely matched by the Latin phrase “memento mori” (“remember you have to die”), which was whispered into the ear of victorious Roman generals during their parade of triumph, to remind them that all earthly success if fleeting. (parts of these paragraphs came from the website Wikia.com)
I started reading the book series a couple of years before the TV series came out and I immediately connected with the Stark Family and their view on life. Having a garden center, landscape and now farm business, which is not just a business but way of life, we know better than anyone what this means. I worry about winter coming all year and this year was no different. In fact, I kept saying that I had a feeling this winter was going to be a bad one. I was unfortunately right, and little did I know how bad.
I’m not one to normally do selfies but I had to laugh at the ice in my beard, a la Ned Stark
As a child, I used to love winter and the beauty, adventure and fun it can possess. The child in me still feels that way; however, the adult in me worries ad nauseam about all of the things that can go wrong. We Louisvillians have been spoiled for years with mild winters, but this winter is different, this is hardcore and playing for keeps. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime.
Usually, we have a snow or ice event and it is gone the next day, or even that afternoon. We have had Polar Vortex #1 roll through here, then Polar Vortex #2 and now this. We close the retail garden center in the fall and our landscape jobs are the only source of income and cash flow that we have all winter long. First trick is to sell the jobs, second is to execute them. We are used to having to work around the winter, but this is just something different. This week alone we had snow on Monday, temperatures have kept it from melting, then snow, rain, sleet and ice on top of it. With forecasted continuing below freezing temps, there is no way we are going to be able to work this week at all. (Yes, this is a year that we should be doing snow removal as we don’t, but that is a discussion for another time)
Since we have started this whole homesteading farm and petting zoo thing, many of our friends, say to us with a little envy “we could never do what you guys do.” “We really admire what you do and it’s wonderful that you do it, however, we could never do it.” We always say, “Of course you could do it, it is just a matter of doing it.” We would have never thought that we were the ones who would do this if you asked us 5 years ago. But this is the winter where I say to many of our friends, “you know what, you might be right, you might not be able to do this.” I say that because this is the winter where I wonder if I can continue to do this!
It was bad enough to have winter affect our landscape business but now we take on this farm venture which adds even more winter stress. We must be masochists or something! And now, as if to add insult to injury, we get ice and lots of damage to our trees on the property, just relentless!
I am not writing this to complain, as I would not trade it. I write it more to reflect how interesting and different your outlook is on life when you are so connected to the natural world. We as humans have done a very good job of shielding ourselves from the problems of winter and adverse weather. Of course, our family has these modern conveniences as well, but for us the weather is everything. It literally dictates how the whole day is going to be dealt with and things change on the fly because of the weather all of the time. Just as it has been for millennia for farmers and people who work the land.
There is a sense of accomplishment every morning and afternoon, when I have completed the chores of feeding and watering, that I have done something real and honest. A sense that I am part of God’s creation and fully involved in the process, instead of just going through the motions, allowing technology to rule everything.
I can also guarantee you that there will be a sense of accomplishment, when this Spring I am reflecting back on the how we survived the worst winter we have ever experienced and are better and stronger because of it. After all, Spring is Coming!!!
Stop by today and pick up some fresh veggies grown on site by Boone Gardiner. We have a nice selection of veggies, harvested when you want them. Just come out and if you see something you like, we cut and harvest it right there for you. Right now we have Kale, Mustard Greens, Leaf Lettuce, Radishes, Cauliflower available for dinner tonight. Don’t forget our farm fresh eggs from our happy hens and our local honey.
Cabbage and Kale
We should have posted this last week, but we have been a little busy around here at Boone Gardiner, with Pigs, Parties, Plants and more!!! Last Tuesday the garden center reopened (from by appointment hours) to normal retail hours of Tuesday thru Saturday 10:00 am-6:00 pm. We are excited to be officially reopen after 2 years of By-Appointment only hours. Our awesome Herbaceous High Priestess Shelley Palmer is back at Boone Gardiner, many of you will remember Shelley from our days at the old location in Eastwood. We have lots of beautiful plants to check out including our own grown in house selection of perennials. Acorn Lane Farm and Petting Zoo is officially opened for daily visits, parties, tours, etc. We have Alpacas, Chickens, Goats, Guineas, Bee Hives, Peacock, Pigs, Horse, Donkeys, Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs, Rabbits, Sheep and more! We have two baby goats and Gracie our potbelly Pig just gave birth to 4 adorable baby piglets the other day. You will want to come out soon and see these little guys. As always our landscape division is staying extremely busy design and installing beautiful projects all over town. We are here to help you with any of your landscaping needs. We hosted an Oldham County Chamber of Commerce After Hours Event here last week and had a children’s Pre-K Graduation party at Acorn Lane Farm. Dates for parties and school groups for this summer are filling up fast, call now if you are interested. Stay tuned because we will be having (maybe bringing back a few old favorites) fun events, launching a new website shortly and more. Stay tuned!
We got in some new baby chicks in at Acorn Lane Farm this week. Our friend Ellen in Versailles wanted to get some more chickens for her property so we split a shipment of chicks with her, well we got 18, and she got 10. If you have never experienced how they ship chicks, it is quite an amazing thing. They ship day old chicks from the hatchery via US mail in a small box, as in 12” x14” and 28 baby chicks fit in there comfortably! Ellen was getting them up to size and had a great setup in her house. She took a guest bathroom and put the baby chicks in a walk-in glass shower, with the heat lamps and everything. They have grown quickly and Ellen was ready to get them out of the house, because as Hope and I can tell you, they create quite a mess. With our current resident 24 hens and 2 roosters, we raised them in a homemade brooder box in our basement of our old house. The funny thing was our old house was in a subdivision and if the Homeowners Association knew about the chickens, I am sure that they would have freaked out!
So Ellen called us and brought our new little guys down the same day. We have a new area for them to roam in but it is a little cold right now for these girls and guys to be out and about. So we have an adorable little wood coop that we set up a heat lamp in and they are staying nice and warm.
Baby chicks checkign out their new home