January 2011 Issue 12
HAPPY NEW YEAR
This month of beginnings and endings is named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and endings, gates and doorways. One face faces forward into the future, one back into the past. Wouldn't that be handy for parallel-parking your chariot?
DOWN ON THE FARMS
Winter has settled in for a long visit like a surly relative you wish would leave soon, i.e., yesterday. First snowfall: Charming, nostalgic. Second snow: pretty as a postcard, invigorating. The third... the fourth... enough, already! Cold is getting old. Uncle Frosty, aren't you homesick for the Arctic Circle? We won't be hurt if you cut your stay short. Really, it's fine. Here's your suitcase.
On a more cheerful note, our greenhouses are wrapped in black, somber as a funeral. But this is no mourning cloak: It's bug screening, and it's worth celebrating. Customers in states with pesky insect quarantine regulations can soon receive our Pennsylvania-grown liners, too, just like the rest of North America. So forget the funereal image: Think fishnet stockings, sexy enough for Hollywood. California, here we come!
Pictured above right: Hibiscus moscheutos Luna Series Pink Swirl under fallen snow.
Space: The vinyl frontier. A new half-acre of growing space is nearing completion at our farm in Milton, where the bulk of our warm-season grass production takes place and where we also cook up our Astilbe and Hosta (see What's Hot at right). The new greenhouses will make for more efficient production of all the above, with special emphasis on Pennisetum 'Rubrum' and its kin, the Celebration Series: 'Fireworks', 'Skyrocket' and next year's intro, 'Cherry Sparkler'. With any luck, the added capacity will help us cook up enough to assuage your as-yet-insatiable hunger for these wildly popular varieties.
Our Floridians want the world to know PA doesn't hold the patent on winter. It gets cold in the Panhandle, too. Snow? No. But it's surprising how often FL's temps are within a few degrees of PA's, and on rare occasions a tad lower. There IS a God!
Capricorn: You were born under the sign of the goat, but this is no time to get capricious. Cop a cuppa cappuccino, kick back, kibitz, contemplate. What comes across as copacetic could be completely cockamamie.
Aquarius: Caution is for Capricorns. Drive fast. Take chances. You can't sell it if you don't plant it.
HOSTA: A Funky History
Years ago a neighbor cheerfully announced, "My funky is doing really well this year! See?" She pointed to a row of Hosta, which were indeed growing nicely.
I hadn't known until then that Hosta was once called Funkia. It's a well-traveled plant, native to China and Korea, bred for decoration and dinner in Japan, where leaves and shoots are served up as Urui. Fortunately, the sushi chefs didn't get them all. Enough survived for German physician/plantsman Phillip Franz von Siebold (hence Hosta sieboldii) to introduce them to Europe in the mid-1800s.
Soon thereafter the genus reached America, where it and another Asian import, Hemerocallis, take turns outselling all other perennials. It's a food crop here, too, if you're a deer. Where we see decorative borders, Bambi sees salad bars.
Recently, sales have been stymied by the infamous Hosta X virus. That's why we do ours from tissue culture on raised benches, so they're clean, safe and legal wherever you are.
THE ECG ROAD SHOW
Everyone I queried at the recent Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore agreed: Great show, good vibes. There's still some caution; reps say they're working hard for every order. But the mood was much more upbeat than 2010, with few traces of the angst of 2009. We gave out lots of catalogs, booked some business, heard glowing reviews of our quality and service, and made contact with promising potential accounts. What more can you ask from standing in one spot for three days?
Next up: Gulf States Hort Expo (GSHE) in Mobile, AL, January 20-21. Come see us at Booth #628, y'all. Too far south? Swing by Booth #3033 at New England Grows in Bah'stn, February 2-3-4. The weathah is a wicked pissah, but the chowdah is fine.
As I type, the snow has ceased in PA, leaving a fresh, blinding 6" atop the last storm's dregs. Uncle Frosty canNOT take a hint. Looks like we're stuck with the old geezer til March... as usual. Time to stop dreaming of spring and put the tire chains on the chariot.
What's Hot: Some of our hottest perennials love to play it cool. Got some space sitting idle, eating heat to protect the plumbing? A poinsettia house, perhaps? These could be happy there, slowly filling your pots. Come spring they're a done deal, money in the bank.
If you're wary of diseased field-dug bare roots, or nematode-riddled, mis-labeled imports, try our meaty 36s. We grow them in Florida on raised benches, above the fray, so they can ship to Western states, too. 12 varieties now!
Pictured: Astilbe chinensis 'Vision in Pink'
'Happy Returns', 'Pardon Me' and the original superstar daylily, 'Stella d'Oro', best-selling compact varieties of this top-selling genus, are all ready to roll. Hemerocallis translates to "beauty for a day," because that's how long the species' flowers last, which explains the common name.
Over a dozen varieties available now, awaiting your bidding. They're all from TC for clean healthy starts. Like our Hemerocallis, they're bench-grown and legal everywhere. For more Hosta lore, see below.
It's a groundcover! It's a flowering perennial! It's both, and a beloved harbinger of spring, to boot. Choose from nine flavors of the original crossover artist.
Pictured: Phlox subulata 'Ronsdorfer Schone'
Festuca 'Elijah Blue'
Elijah's as blue as blue can be, glaucous and raucous, prophet of profits. Your nice cool greenhouse is right up his alley; he'll happily bulk up in your gallons for spring sales.
Pictured: PA grower, Andy Babikow with Festuca 'Elijah Blue' liners
We're amply, if temporarily, endowed with a bounty of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola', one of just two grasses to be named Perennial Plant of the Year. Japanese forest grass is a truly striking plant. Unlike most grasses, it's happiest (and prettiest) in filtered light. So don't stick it in full sun with Miscanthus, pair it with natural partners like Hosta. Over 400 trays of our stocky 50 cells await your planting pleasure, but don't let that number lull you into procrastination. This is a high-demand, sure-to-sell item. Get it booked!
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'