Monday, February 23, 2015

Perennials, Perennials, Perennials

February is the busiest time of year for me. I start planting our spring crops during the whole month of February while fighting availabilities, cold weather and even the occasional plants showing up two weeks early. But, even though this entire month I feel like I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off, it is completely worth it. Because I get to do the best part of my job every day. I get to walk through all of my houses and check on my baby perennials. I look for everything from cold damage to fungus spores forming on the new leaves. Sometimes I even sing to them in French. The plants might not want to me do that but they don't really have a choice. Below are some pictures of some perennials that were potted last week.    

sunsparkler sedum  

This first picture is of Sedum Sunsparkler Dazzleberry. It will turn into a deep purple when it gets warmer outside. It is a great plant to have as a statement piece in a garden because the interesting foliage color and the breathtaking color of its blooms.

 may night salvia

 Then I have a tried and true favorite for our customers. This is Salvia May Night that is blooming right now. I really enjoy watching this plant growing because it starts so small and then turns into this little monster that completely fills its pot and has 3-5 blooms on each plant in a matter of weeks. It is like seeing a kindergartener turn into a high schooler in a few weeks.

Last but not least, I have our Lavandula Munstead. Lavandula is always something that I enjoy growing because the foliage smells lovely and the flowers give a wonderful calming feeling during the growing season. Whenever I go to check on this little guy, it reminds me of the natural remedies that the flowers and scent from this plant have to offer.  

By Jessi Faircloth, Assistant Grower, Loma Vista Nursery

Paint the Garden Marsala Red in 2015

image courtesy of Pantone
Are you keeping up with the color trends and making plans to use them in your displays?  Marsala, Pantone's color of the year, is the color of red wine.  Here's a few recommended plants for a marsala-color display of flowers and foliage:

Crimson Sunset Maple

Bloodgood and Crimson Queen Japanese Maples

Summer Chocolate Mimosa

  Spilled Wine Weigela

Miss Molly Buddleia

Rose Glow Barberry

Summer Wine Ninebark

Quick Fire Hydrangea

Shenandoah Switch Grass

Song Siren Laura Achillea

Pardon Me Daylily

Carnival Series Plum Crazy Heuchera

Husker Red Penstemon

Sunsparkler Cherry Tart Sedum


 Spilled Wine Weigela  

  Get marsala infused fall foliage with Oakleaf Hydrangea, Lynwood Gold Forsythia and
Winterthur Viburnum.
 Marsala pairs well with many colors including blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Also, try teal, turquoise, amber, and golden yellows. 

  color of the year pairs well with berries
By Susan Mertz, Director of Marketing, Loma Vista Nursery

Friday, February 13, 2015

Forecasts and Best Guesses

forecasts and best guesses

I know we're not done with winter, as I write this there is snow in the forecast (24 hrs later- hardly got any). And, looking ahead, more is suggested into the middle of March. But, spring is on its way.

It seems this winter has flown by. Here at the nursery, we are getting underway with spring projects. Even though the houses and other overwintering structures are still covered, the spring perennial crop will begin to be planted in the next few days. It's also time to wake up roses.

Now, if I only knew what the weather was going to do. Not to state the obvious, but we live and die by the forecast. Not only for the well being of the plants, the staff and facilities have to be considered as well.

Weather Map

I have a pretty high degree of confidence in the short term (2 or 3 days) forecast. At the nursery we generally use the National Weather Service. Their forecast vacillates during the day which makes for a tough call sometimes e.g. Will we need to close the doors tonight or can we save the labor cost. Do we need to have a late start with wind chills in the negative. Are the winds going to be so strong to warrant extra straps to hold the poly.

What about next week, the week after, next month? Whose best guesstimate do you use when planning 3 or 4 weeks out? This is when you have to be something of a gambler. I'm going with February being a little warmer than average, and March being a little cooler than average. And what does that tell me? Not a lot, other than with the exception of a few days here and there I won't be wearing those shorts any time soon. Stay warm.

By Jonathan McCombie, Grower, Loma Vista Nursery

Friday, February 6, 2015

Surviving the Roller Coaster

roller coaster

We are all too familiar with it. You step outside in a T-shirt to nice 60 degree day around noon, only to leave at 5:00 PM wearing a parka to keep the -10 wind out of your neck.

This roller coaster of weather also makes the protection of plants in our container farm a rather dynamic process. In order to keep our plants from either experiencing too much cold or warmth, we must alter the environment they are in. We employ five different methods of overwintering, each one has their specific process for handling the fluctuations in temperatures. Below is a list of each and how we address them throughout the winter:

1. Lay over and hay: This method is utilized for specific deciduous plants that do not have much of an issue with leaf retention or hairy stems. We allow them to go completely dormant, knock off any remaining leaves, lay them over, cover them with plastic, and lastly with an 8" -12" layer of hay. These plants will remain under the above material until about mid-March, when the very cold days of winter are typically over. Because of the level of insulation, there is minimal temperature fluctuations making the threat of them prematurely breaking dormancy fairly unlikely.

2. Minihut: These are small houses constructed out of bent ¾" PVC, covered with a layer of white plastic and held down with sand filled tubes. This method is used for 1 gallon containers. With these, we typically will completely uncover them when the temperatures are going to be above freezing for a solid week. This allows them to air out some and we typically irrigate them at this point to flush out any salts and ensure they are well hydrated for the next round of cold.


3. MiniHouse: We erect these 6' metal structures each year over deciduous material that typically has a leaf retention problem (Itea) or fuzzy stems (Perovskia), but can also tolerate more rapid changes in temperatures due to it being a smaller structure (unlike Buddleia which would have significant winter loss in a minihouse). Once up, these are covered with a white plastic film and secured to the ground using a system of 2x4 boards and rebar. A week of above freezing temperatures warrant tying open each end of the structure. For longer periods of warm weather, we will completely uncover the structure and irrigate where necessary.

   hoop house

4. Hoop Houses: This is the signature of the nursery as people pass by on I-35. Being large, permanent structures, they really jump out. Covered in a white plastic film and secured with lath and staples, these structures house our broadleaf evergreens and more "finicky" plants that don't like large, frequent swings in temperature. Because they are so much larger inside, the temperature change is much slower than minihouses and is more easily regulated by opening the doors on the end when the daytime temperatures are above 30 or it is sunny.

junipers in the winter

5. Open Air Overwintering: For almost all of our needled evergreens, we overwinter them in jammed beds lined with containers filled with potting media. The containers around the edge are strictly for insulation and will have the material in them reused. We really don't respond to temperature swings with these plants aside from irrigating them the soil is thawed.

The weather forecasts are very important to us throughout the winter. By staying on top of temperature changes and responding to them appropriately, we allow our plants to stay healthy and ready to leap into action once the warmth of spring arrives.
Ben Cecil, Operations Manager, Loma Vista Nursery