Coastal Current  

January 2012   Issue #25


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The inaugural month is named for Janus, the Roman god of entrances and exits whose two faces could peer into the future and the past. The dawn of 2012 finds us looking back to late 2011. Two notable departures made somber news for the perennial and grass industry in general, and the Babikow family in particular.



Steve BabikowSteven William Babikow, co-owner of Babikow Greenhouses, Baltimore, died December 28, felled by lung cancer. Steve was a partner in the business with his father Donald, brother Tim and uncle Paul W. Babikow.


Only 39, Steve had spent over 20 years learning every phase of the company, eventually taking control of shipping and delivery operations. Even as his responsibilities increased, he loved making deliveries and visiting customers. He was an avid hunter, fisherman and motorcyclist, and a dedicated volunteer firefighter.


Steve and Tim's generation of Babikows is the fifth to bring their talents and hard work to bear in the same location on Babikow Road. The family and the family business have sustained one another there since Russian émigré William E. Babikow broke ground for his produce farm shortly after the Civil War.


Even in this family-dominated industry, one seldom encounters that degree of continuity. It says a great deal about the aforementioned talent and hard work, and about adaptability. A company born in post-bellum America that's still thriving in the internet age obviously possesses an ability to embrace change, beginning with William E.'s transition from edibles to ornamentals in 1875.


His descendants have steered the enterprise through many more changes over 136 years. There was a time when "state of the art" meant horsepower in the literal sense; when garden plants were grown in clay pots filled with sterilized field soil and carried in wooden trays. From food farming to cut flowers, from field rows to cold frames to greenhouses, through the massive changes that continue to roil the 21st century, Babikow's presence is one of few constants in the MidAtlantic green industry.


William E. Babikow & Sons led directly to the creation of Babikow Greenhouses, Green Leaf Enterprises, and Emerald Coast Growers. Indirectly, several other east coast nurseries can trace their roots back to that long-gone produce patch. In 2008, the Perennial Plant Association recognized Babikow Greenhouses with its Grower of the Year award. Major crops include perennials, grasses, ferns, annuals and fall pansies for landscapers and independent garden centers.


The thoughts and prayers of the Babikows in Florida and Pennsylvania are very much with those in Maryland, the family's American homestead. Steve will be greatly and lovingly missed by family, friends and co-workers. May he rest in peace. May Babikow Greenhouses, and this industry, never rest, never stop adapting and evolving to serve the need for beauty and grace in our homes and landscapes.  


Babikow Greenhouses 
Will (Steve's great-grandfather), Harry, Oliver, and Wes Babikow.   
Babikow Greenhouses second generation growers.



Visionary landscape designer Wolfgang Oehme died December 15 at the age of 81. If you deal in grasses and/or perennials, a moment of silence is in order. Wolfgang's garden creations, private and public, were instrumental in popularizing your - and our -- products.


Ironically, this German immigrant defined the 'new American garden.' Emerald Coast Growers owner Paul D. Babikow said, "His designs changed the way we think about how plants fit into our surroundings. Without pioneers like Oehme, I doubt we would have settled into a niche in ornamental grasses."


Wolfgang lives on in his indelible impact on our landscapes -- and our catalogs. When he grabbed your list at a trade show, you were in for a grinning, merciless, red-pen assault on suspect nomenclature. R.I.P.


Wolfgang Oehme

 Wolfgang Oehme walking among Ornamental Grasses 




Our Floridians say they've got "a real winter." Hatches are battened and high-efficiency heaters cranking to stave off nippy nights and wicked winds. Reality check: Pensacola's lows are higher than Pennsylvania's highs. (Note from FL: That's why we moved!) We're filling our Panhandle greenhouses with the liners you'll need surprisingly soon, and our warehouse with the boxes that'll bring them to your benches. The solstice is behind us. Spring is coming. Brace yourself!



Congratulations & best wishes to assistant grower Derek Firestone on his recent nuptials. Life here at our smaller location is a perpetual juggling act, keeping product consolidated in appropriately cool or warm houses and making room for new seedlings, cuttings and divisions. 2011 was a historic wet year here. Every drop since mid-September set a new record. If it were all snow, we'd be tunneling in and out.



For the MANTS show in Baltimore (January 11-13), decorators will roll out 3 miles of carpet. No wonder your legs get tired! Take a lap by booth #919 and say Hello to our northern Salvia Evolution contingent.


WHAT'S HOT: Salvia Evolution®

Salvia farinacea Evolution® (purple) and Evolution® White garnered top honors from FleuroSelect and All-America Selections as superior seed-propagated plants for garden or container. Tender but tough, they're hardy in Zones 8-10. Elsewhere, they make wonderful annuals. Either way, you get colorful, carefree, 18" upright flower spikes spring to frost. Make Salvia Evolution® your sage selection. Available now in 72s.


TRAY BON! A Grassroots Revue

Calamagrostis xacutiflora 'Karl Foerster', erstwhile Perennial Plant of the Year, loves the spotlight. This versatile performer shines as a soloist, or massed in the chorus in gardens large and small. But Karl's just one star in the reed grass ensemble.


'Overdam' and 'Avalanche' are stand-up forms with creamy stripes. 'Eldorado' dazzles with bold gold bands. Completing the cast is C. arundinacea var. brachtytricha, a tall trouper with pink flower spikes and a swan song of yellow fall foliage. All are ready for their closeups. Our booking agents await your casting call.


Calamagrostis Karl Foerster
Former Perennial Plant of the Year Winner, Calamagrostis xacutiflora 'Karl Foerster'    




Unscrambled, the following phrases form the Latin genus names of grasses or perennials found in our 2011-2012 catalog. Hint: All answers are one word. E.g., "Hasn't music" = Miscanthus.



Magical roasts

Cat fuse

Taco raider

Humane gerbil

Irate Huns



Hot gassy pie

Emu grain

Chill a meal

Wolfgang Oehme and the New American GardenDear Buick

Land to copy


Can you solve all 10? Send your answers to by January 31 for a chance to win a copy of Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden. Bonus challenge: Double your odds! Use any 6 phrases in a sentence, and puzzle editrix Anna Graham will enter your name twice.



Well, yes and no. Let's resolve to forget the forgettable, remember the memorable, bid fond farewell to the fallen, and focus our best energies on those who sustain us as we journey on under Janus's forward-facing gaze.


To our faithful friends, cherished colleagues and dear readers, a hearty wassail to a happy, peaceful & prosperous New Year.


John Friel 


John Friel  

Marketing Manager  

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