December 2015 Issue #72

Another year shot, and I wasn't finished with it. As usual. As 2015 dwindles down to a precious last few days, there are ample and valid reasons to wish for just a little more of it, and just as many reasons to wish it would take early retirement. As usual.

Once again, our intrepid production crews are performing our favorite oxymoronic mathematical magic: Multiplying by dividing. As I type, the ornamental grasses you'll grow next year are being split up and transplanted at our grass farm in Milton FL, where the latest block of new greenhouse space was almost ready for plants when I visited in October. The shiny new facility looks so good, Atlas Greenhouses is using it in their advertising. They called in a drone strike, the good kind, to photograph it. 

Pennsylvania We're not McDonald's
Our Northern location is a small but important complement to our much larger Southern digs, with strategic product differences. In PA, we grow plants that perform better with less heat, e.g. cool season grasses like Festuca, Hakonechloa and Carex, and perennials like Aquilegia. But even McDonald's has regional strategies: Y'all can't git grits at the golden arches in PA, but cross the Mason-Dixon line and there they are.

Enjoy your halcyon days! That's December 15- 29, a week on each side of the solstice, the shortest days of the year. In Greek legend, that's when the halcyon, a magical kingfisher, builds a floating nest on the ocean to hatch its young. This marvelous bird has the power to calm wind and sea; ergo, "halcyon days" are times of tranquility and rest. In horticulture, it's the calm before the storm we call spring.
There's nothing tranquil about Megaceryle alcyon, the pugnacious kingfisher I know from paddling eastern streams. Chattering a machine-gun staccato, he buzzes me like a tiny fighter jet if my kayak comes too near his nest, built not on water but in a hole in the riverbank. He may not be magical or mythical, but he's thoroughly marvelous.

Speaking of myths, 'tis the season for the dreaded...

True or False: Your live holiday decorations are lethal! Keep them far from children and pets! Be afraid, be very afraid! T___  F___

Did you choose True? That's mostly false. If False, that's mostly true. For the straight poop, here's a treatise on eight popular Xmas plants from old friend and foodie Dr. Leonard Perry at UVT:
The good doctor knows where to eat in New England, and what not to eat at home.


Part 1: Latest varieties of Echinacea and Heuchera
The hottest, coolest examples of these two staple genera come from tissue culture. As with Hakonechloa and Brunnera (see Tray Bon! below), we don't produce enormous batches and the availability windows can be tight. They're coming onto Availability starting later this month and continuing on into early 2016 in a wide range of varieties, but they will sell out. What's it mean to you? Don't miss out! Call your broker or our customer service department ASAP to claim your share of these limited-quantity, in-demand crops. We hate it when we have to say, Sorry, No. We're much happier when we can say, You Bet!

Echinacea Butterflies_ Cleopatra
Echinacea Butterflies™ 'Cleopatra'

Heuchera Forever Purple
Heuchera 'Forever Purple'
Part 2:Unnatural Acts
The popularity of succulents has taken a sinister turn: Painting. Edge-y florists and retailers, borrowing a page from the poinsettia book, have taken to adorning innocent succulents, hardy and tender, with shades not found in nature.

We first saw dyed and painted cacti and other succulents at the IPM Essen show in Germany last winter, tarted up in smurf blue, bubblegum pink and fluorescent green. The practice has crossed the ocean and infected designers here in the States.
Personally, we think chlorophyll looks just fine, thanks, but then we take our coffee black, too. Maybe you're that person ahead of us in line at Starbucks, ordering a vente four-pump-caramel-drizzled-half-caf-nonfat-frappuccino-soy-milk-hazelnut-mocha-latte-with-a-twist. Maybe you think Mother Nature needs a color draping intervention. If that's your métier, we've got your canvas.

Dyed cactus

Sedum: Large-leaf varieties are the logical candidates. Have at it. But if you like 'em au naturel, the Touchdown series from Terra Nova and the SunSparkler series from Chris Hansen offer delightful hues all by themselves, no pigment enhancement required.

Sedum Sunsparkler_ xSedoro _Blue Elf_
Sedum Sunsparkler® xSedoro 'Blue Elf'

Sedum Touchdown Flame
Sedum 'Touchdown Flame'

Sempervivum: Mother hen couldn't spread her wings fast enough to shield her chicks from the mad artist's airbrush. If you need a more varied look for your succulent selection, put the spray can down and try our Chicks Mix.

Sempervivum Chicks Mix
Sempervivum Chicks Mix

Sempervivum Black
Sempervivum 'Black'
Delosperma: We can't imagine those tiny juicy leaves with a coat of Rustoleum, but maybe you can... or maybe you don't have to. Send us pictures, please? 

Delosperma floribundum Starburst_
  Delosperma floribundum Starburst

Sagittarius: December is cuddling time, if you know a cooperative co-cuddler. A cuddle a day keeps the oil truck at bay -- at home, not at the greenhouse. Flowers demand BTUs, not body heat, so please, please, don't spoon the daisies.

Here's where we'll be in the near future.
MANTS (Baltimore, MD) Jan. 6-7-8 ECG booth #1905-1907

P.L.A.N.T. (Columbus, OH) Jan. 10: JF presents "Grasses in the 21st Century: Back To The Roots."

GSHE Gulf State Hort Expo, Mobile, AL Jan. 20-21-22 ECG booth #628-630

Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention, Feb. 3, Hershey, PA: JF presents "Succulents: All the Juicy Details."

New batches of Brunnera 'Sea Heart' and 'Silver Heart' are coming on strong for availability in mid-January. We don't do these in massive quantities and they tend to sell out rapidly, so don't dawdle. Crunch your numbers and give us a call.

Brunnera Garden Candy_ Sea Heart
Brunnera Garden Candy 'Sea Heart'

Brunnera Garden Candy_ Silver Heart
Brunnera Garden Candy™ 'Silver Heart'

Also in the works: Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola', one of just three grasses named Perennial Plant of the Year. Another shade-lover, it can be slow to establish in pot or garden. But that uniquely lovely cascading habit is well worth the wait.

Hakonechloa macra Aureola
  Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

And so we prepare to bid adieu to 2015 which, as years go, was both better and worse than others: part comedy, part tragedy; part thrill ride, part horror show. Thanks for spending it with us. We couldn't do what we do without you.

Here's to friends and loved ones, lost and found. Here's to harmony, health and halcyon days. Here's to a better 2016. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. 

John Friel  
Marketing Manager    
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