March 2015 Issue #63  Absolutely Außergewöhnlich - by John Friel 
pictured aboveHelleborus Winter Magic™ 'Candy Love'


Some places, everyone in this business would do well to see. Public gardens, arboreta, conservatories, great garden centers - those go without saying. And a backstage tour of a customer's or competitor's operation is always informative.
Here's a less-intuitive venue: If life takes you to New England, visit Harvard Museum of Natural History and drool over the glass flowers. From 1887 to 1936, over 4,000 replicas of plants and plant parts were commissioned as teaching tools, giving botany classes anatomically-correct specimens anytime. They're so real, it's almost creepy.







While we shiver in PA, Florida basks in what they call "winter." They don't know Jack Frost. As I type, our Floridians are bracing for a cold snap (here, it would pass for a heat wave) that may send Panhandle temps plummeting into the 30s. We're assembling a relief package of mittens, blankies and cocoa. Contributions accepted. Be brave, Florida! This too shall pass! 

But seriously, folks: Inside our nifty new greenhouses, ECG South is making your spring and summer from scratch, dividing, dibbling, sowing, grooming and fattening the liners that will soon fill your pots. Warm weather's coming. Annie Dillard wrote, "Spring is seeping north, toward me and away from me, at sixteen miles a day." Be ready!

Phlox 'Candy Stripe'
Phlox s. 'Candy Stripe'


Yeah, I know. PA gets as much sympathy in MA as FL gets here: After the New England Grows show, I fled Boston's 4' of snow just ahead of another 3'. But wintah is a wicked pissah heah, too. February lows hovered just above or below zero. My woodstove has developed an insatiable appetite for my hoarded cords: I've stuffed several whole trees' worth into its maw by now, and I swear I heard it belch.

Ironically, snow & ice delayed more shipments to southern states than to, say, NY, MA, CT, etc., where it's mostly been business as usual. Our apologies if your orders were affected, but hey: better late than dead. They WILL catch up.


CFO Al Mueller and I flew to Germany (boy, were our arms erschöpft!) for the world's largest hort trade show, IPM Essen. It's a mind-blower, and not just by its size, which is riesig, but the quality! You had to hunt, through all 12 exhibit halls, to find a wilted leaf or a spotted petal. We scouted out potential new plants, hobnobbed with breeders and brokers, scoped out new packaging and marketing trends, and - like the other 56,500 attendees -- tried to see it all. With over 1,600 exhibitors from 49 countries covering 26 acres of floor space, that's nigh impossible. Was fur ein ort!

Offsite, we sampled the local provender, strolled among ancient homes and inns, visited two independent garden centers, and gaped at the magnificent Cologne (Köln) Cathedral, 600 years in the making. The total experience was absolutely außergewöhnlich, and that's a word we don't use lightly around here.


Match the German words to their English doppelgangers to win a prize so flott, we can't even say what it is yet. Answers & winners next issue. And for cryin' out loud, don't use Google Translate*. You're on the honor system here. Don't disappoint us.

1. Erschöpft 
2. Riesig
3. Was fur ein ort!
4. Außergewöhnlich
5. Flott
6. Aufschlussreich
7. Das ist gut, ja?
8. Taschentuch
A. Handkerchief
B. That's good, yes?
C. Instructive, revealing
D. Nifty
E. Exceptional
F. What a place!
G. Vast
H. Exhausted

*Who am I kidding? WE used Google Translate!





■ IPM = Internationale Pflanzenmesse, i.e., International Trade Fair for Plants.

■ IPM Essen is bigger than Cultivate, MANTS and FarWest combined. Ehrfurcht gebietend!

■ Germans love sparkling water, a.k.a. Wasser mit Kohlensäure - literally, water with carbonic acid or water with gas. Yum! Das ist gut, ja?





Cymbopogon citratus

Lemon grass is a staple of Thai cooking and Thai restaurant names: A quick net search netted dozens of eponymous eateries from Alaska to Florida. It's also a perfect fit for today's gardeners as they discover the joy of growing for the table.


Cymbopogon citratus


We serve it up in trays of 38, but it'll soon find a higher purpose as it segues from liner to pot to garden to bowl. Here's a serving suggestion:




Pisces: It was foolish to boast that you get the lion's share (20 days) of the month: Leo overheard, and he's jealous. If you don't wish to become sushi, lie low among the Carex elata 'Aurea' (Bowles' golden sedge), which luckily grows nicely in, not just near, water.
Aries: The last 11 days of March (named for Mars, fellow god of war) are yours. Use them to gently remove the mulch from your garlic, unless March is going out like a Leo.
Carex elata 'Aurea'
Carex elata 'Aurea'





Some like it c-c-c-cold!
We're freezing our giblets off here in the Northeast, but Old Man Winter's reign of terror will soon wane. We thumb our collective red runny nose at him via a bunch of hot plants with cold names. Which eight are NOT named for white flowers.

Leucanthemum 'Snowcap' and 'Snow Lady'

Helleborus Winter Magic™ 'Candy Love'
Helleborus Winter Magic™ 'Candy Love'
Hosta  'First Frost'
Hosta 'First Frost'
Carex 'Ice Ballet'
Carex 'Ice Ballet'


Back to the glass flowers: From grasses to daisies, Allium to Zygocactus, father & son glass artists Leopold and Gustav Barschka of Dresden, Germany crafted replicas that could fool a pollinator. It's an astonishing, aufschlussreich body of work.

Don't take my word for it. Look here.

Better yet, go see them in person. Try not to drool on the display cases, they're touchy about that. Use your taschentuch.

John Friel






John Friel  

Marketing Manager 

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