This time of year brings to mind the Aesop's Fable about the ant and the grasshopper. It nags at me as I stand by my woodbin, strapping a boat onto the pickup: Shouldn't I be loading firewood instead? Wise Pennsylvania ants wield chainsaws in fall, not paddles. Ah, but the river sighs seductively: Plenty of time for that, grasshopper. Come dance with me while you can. And usually, predictably, the river wins.
DOWN ON THE FARMS
Florida 1: Remember the Alamo, Redux
Last month we eulogized a little ol' greenhouse whose time had come. It's gone, replaced by better growing space where we'll audition new varieties and produce Pamela's tres chic mixed containers for our trade show booths.
Florida 2: Dishing the Dirt
More construction: Our new centralized media-handling facility replaces three redundant flat/pot-filling lines at satellite growing sites. Objectives: increased efficiency, more control over soil blends, better bulk material handling and, last and foremost, another way to keep costs down and quality up in the products you receive.
We're in beta test mode with a new way to get our liners into your hands: The one-way pallet/rack. This no-deposit, no-return wooden "cage" expands our shipping range for medium-size and larger orders. Liners arrive in better shape thanks to reduced handling and better air circulation, with landed price equal or lower. And no cardboard to deal with! Trials are underway in both
PA and FL. Stay tuned as we sweat the details.
Random Useless Facts Department
The saxophone, not the guitar, was the first music-making device to be called an "axe." The term spread to other instruments, all useless for harvesting firewood but perfect for generating heat on the dance floor to warm us in winter. And then there are the bagpipes, which burn beautifully.
Random Annoying Facts Department
Axes to Grind: Say it with flowers!
The Floral Marketing Research Fund says eight of ten adults surveyed don't intend to buy flowers in the next year. Judy Laushman of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers blurts, "Inconceivable! Who are these eight adults, and where do they live?" I'm with Judy. We sell plants whole, but those who amputate their parts to sell piecemeal are also our ilk and kin. Let's find those eight, and set them straight.
Kickin™ Asters & Changing Names
No perennial shines more brightly in fall than the aster. Yes, the nomenclature's dated: "New world" asters were renamed years ago. But frankly, we get no kick outta "Kickin' Symphyotrichum." That tongue-twisting taxonomy remains an orphan.
By any name, the bushy, long-flowering Kickin™ series deserves a look. Shrubby, mounded plants are blanketed in blooms right now. A sturdy, symmetrical 18-24" tall, Kickin™ Asters make a big color statement in container or border.
We've got six of 'em, ready to go, with more coming in January. Choose from 'Carmine Red', 'Lavender', 'Lilac Blue', 'Pink Chiffon', 'Sapphire', and 'Silver Pink'. Better yet, try 'em all! Don't dawdle: These pollinator-friendly varieties have generated lots of buzz. Get off on the right foot now, or you'll be kickin' yourself later.
Libra: Weighing your options, you find this is no time to scale back. Balance the books and save for a snowy day in case plans don't pan out.
Scorpio: Save, shmave. Call in well and revel in autumn's glory. That spreadsheet will still be there tomorrow. Today, escape the cell and fill in a different field.
Lipo: Had a bad month? Boo-hoo you. You're living off the fat of the land. Suck it up!
Thomas Jefferson said, "The greatest service that can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture."
Lucille Ball said, "Every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead."
Tom and Lucy make an odd couple, but Brent Horvath at Intrinsic Perennial Farm wisely heeded their counsel. He gave us
Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head'.
The smoky purple/red flower plumes are long and thick -- up to 10" x 3". Flowers appear early and often, from mid-summer into fall, over gracefully arched green foliage that turns bright straw/gold as the weather cools.
So much for beautiful. You want practical, too? OK. Deer don't eat it. At 4 - 5' tall, it's a great low hedge. The plumes make fine cut flowers. And it's hardy in Zones 5 - 9.
Fall in love. Introduce your customers to gorgeous Pennisetum 'Red Head'.
In every season, a river always sounds and smells better than a smoky two-stroke. But when icy winds blow, you can't send plastic kayaks up the chimney. And Pennsylvania ants don't have the option of paddling in Florida every October. Better sharpen the saw, hie me to the woodlot and cut up a winter's worth of BTUs... tomorrow.