Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick List of Spring Garden Project Update

Last Week Completed
Lawn Projects:
Rolled Lawn to smooth out the bumps.
Aerated Lawn to allow the roots room to grow.
Applied Jonathon Green Step One for lawns because ‘Frances loves a lush lawn…and don’t I know it!’

Garden Projects:
Raked out all left over leaves from the gardens.
Lightly pruned some shrubs.
Cut back ornamental grasses.
Sprayed all weeds with an herbicide using a two gallon pump sprayer.
Applied Corn Gluten to control new weed seedlings.

This Week To Be Done:
Garden Projects:
Take out the Hemlock the rabbit ate.
Plant ‘PJM’ Rhododendron as replacements.
Get a larger ‘Havahart’ trap for the rabbit to live in.
Plant Cotoneaster to frame the Serviceberry feature tree.
Mulch new gardens.
Fertilize the large evergreen trees in the back yard.
Broadcast organic fertilizer though out the remaining gardens to gently feed.

Remember to always look back and admire what you accomplished. Remember the reason why there is always something to do in the garden: to help you escape from your day to day routine.

See you in the nursery. Bring your list…

Monday, April 21, 2008

'Bark' the garden

Sometimes we learn the hard way. After years of business, I am still going to school. I call it ‘The School of Hard Knocks’. I’m sure you can relate. We all have our stories; mine is about bark mulch.

Last year my staff mulched a new garden we just planted. It looked great, no buried plants, uniform coverage…good job guys. So as the garden came to life this spring, I started to see chunks of wood in the garden from 1-3” in size laying on the surface. I realized my guys used the economy mulch, not the Premium Bark Mulch we use on all projects.

So here I am 6:30 Sunday morning in the garden leaning up against a leaf rake scratching my head asking the same question many of you call about: ‘Is all Mulch the same?’ The answer is no. ‘Bark’ Mulch is just that, the stuff off the outside of the tree, bark. When ground up uniformly it biodegrades and eventually becomes soil. For those of you that have poor soil, decomposed bark is the best soil amendment. So when planting, mix it into the ground. Your plants will love it.

Generally, Mulch can be ground up wood including the bark on the outside, pulp wood on the inside and every twig and limb in between. The problem is the inside pulp wood does not biodegrade as fast as the bark. So as the bark biodegrades it sifts to the bottom leaving all the pulp wood on the surface. Next thing you know you have all this debris in your garden. You should be able to shred bark between your fingers. Pulp wood feels like a hard piece of wood you could burn in your fireplace. It cost more to skin the bark off a tree and separate it from the pulp wood. That’s why there is a cost difference in materials.

So I raked up the pulp wood debris into piles. Off it will go to be sent back to the woods behind the nursery. Next Sunday morning, I will be having a re-mulching party. If you want to see the difference for your self, you are cordially invited to join me.

Location: My gardens.
Time: Sunday 6:30 am.
Serving: Coffee and the good stuff, ‘Bark’ Mulch.
Please RSVP with desired wake up call preference.
See you…in the garden.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Picture or the the garden

Have you ever seen a landscaped home and asked your self questions such as ‘What were they thinking? What was the concept? What was the theme? What were they trying to accomplish? Why did they plant that tree here? Why that grouping of trees is over there? Why did they alternate plants? Or just say to your self ‘Boy that looks busy or those plants don’t seem to go with the home’. So many questions….

I have been asked many times, ‘How do I come to create the designs I do?’ My answer is always the same; I ask a lot of questions. My favorite question to ask any client is ‘What do you see?’ And when they say ‘I don’t know’ I tell them the story about the plant and the frame.

When Frances, Josh and I go down to visit my family on Long Island, we always make a trip into the city. And with the great food (Katz’s, Ray’s), favorite shops (Chinatown), there is always a museum to take in. So off we go looking at art. My favorite art are paintings by Monet. I love scenes of gardens. What do I see? I see a beautiful painting with a frame around it. So when I design, I think of the artist. My pallets of paint are my plants. I use plants to do one of two things. They are either pictures or frames. So for example, the large twenty four year old maroon leaf Copper Beech in my front yard is a picture to behold. The green Lady’s Mantle planted as a ground cover underneath the tree is the frame that shows off the picture. On a larger scale, the picture in every front yard is the home. The frame is the plants that show off the picture of the home. I use the analogy a picture on the wall of your house or at a museum to help one understand my train of thought. So imagine a picture frame having four legs; top, bottom, right and left. What would happen if each one of those legs of the frame were different? What would you see; the picture or the frame? You would probably say I’m confused. The four frame legs are too busy and distracts from the picture. This is what happens to too many landscapes in front of too many homes. The gardens which should be the frame distract from the architectural details of the home. I like to think in today’s world the phrase ‘More is Less’ applies to most of us and the hectic lives we live. This also applies to many gardens. Too much stuff, too busy, too many things going on makes our lives less fulfilled and our gardens too overwhelming.

So when I design, I think the opposite; ‘Less is more’. I choose fewer varieties of plants and more quantity of fewer varieties. I frame the sides of the home with trees to create the left and right side of a picture frame that separates your home from the others in the subdivision. I frame the windows and make sure I use the same plant so they show off the type of window architecture you picked out and not distract from it. I frame the entrance so when your friends and family turn off the street and drive up the driveway they know where to go; to the front door. And lastly I create just the right number of pictures with in the garden and frame them simply with one type of plant to make the stroll up to the front door interesting, comfortable and not overwhelming. And who picks out the art? You do. This becomes your signature, your style, your personal touch.

Without you realizing it, you picked out the original picture and that is the home you live in. I ask what colors you like and what plants appeal to you just by sight. You pick out colors, textures and variations of plants that are pleasing to your eye. And what do I do? I paint with them to show off the architecture. Some I use other I decide not too all to be certain to make sure the plants complement each other and the home. And without you knowing it, I am the steward of the plants. I make sure they can grow well where ever I plant them. And oh by the way they are aesthetically pleasing because you helped pick them out along with being complementing the architecture.

So in the end the best designs make me say, ‘Wow, what a beautiful home. Look how the plants complement and show off the architecture’. Calming, pleasing, easy to look at. Success in the design means success in the garden. So, ‘What do you see in your garden, pictures or frames?’

I invite you to come see mine…

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Feed Me!" says the Garden...

What seems so simple and sensible a garden task to do can be the hardest to get accomplished. Why is that? Why do we find the number one recommended garden solution, like feeding your plants, is not thought about as often as it should be? Perhaps the answers will never come to us if we talk about plants.

So let’s talk about people as if they were plants. And in this way perhaps you can think to change the word ‘people’ for ‘plants’ as this blog reads on. We all understand people need to eat when they wake in the morning, right? After all Frances could easily say “You are such a bear in the morning,” sometimes… Or perhaps you just thought about bears coming out of hibernation. We would then say “Oh yea I get it, they have not eaten all winter, no wonder they are hungry.” No wonder I act like a bear in the morning. I am sure some of you act like one too. I’m hungry; we’re all hungry! Certainly a good breakfast has been known to go a long way. And after a long days work, dinner would be a welcomed sight too. So everyday we feed ourselves. No big deal, right? We just do it as if it is second nature. Bears forage for food after a long winters sleep; second nature once again. So when it comes down to it why do people eat? They eat to stay healthy, fight off disease, feel good, the list is endless. Basically people eat to stay alive.

I know you get it now. But please indulge a moment more to wrap this up. The lawn will not green up without being fed food in the spring. So apply a good organic fertilizer now before it starts to wake up. The flowers you plant in spring will not grow as well as you would like without being fed through out the spring, summer and fall. So when you plant them, make sure to amend the soil by adding fertilizer. The trees and shrubs will not grow old gracefully without food too. So before they break bud, make sure there is something for them to wake up to and eat. And as if you need an example here is what an evergreen would tell you if it could talk. “So you expect me to grow old with lush full branches from the top to bottom? And with what should I dine on if you do not feed me twice a year?” So now as you drive by many a home to and from work looking at every evergreen tree in sight, notice the young thin yellowing ones or the old tall ones that look like they are loosing their bottom or inside branches. What you see are starving trees. They are dying from the bottom up and from the inside out.

I could only hope to drive down the road someday and hear someone yell out the window to some poor soul raking his lawn “Hey Mack, looks like your trees are hungry and it looks like you never missed a meal in your life! Could you do your trees a favor and feed them too? I can’t take it anymore!”

Now you know what goes through my gardening mind everyday. So enjoy your dinner and don’t forget to feed your plants the dessert...Get it?

See you in the nursery...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What do I do the garden?

I have been told I have a lot to say. Certainly if you listen to our radio show on Saturdays you would concur with Frances and say he may have too much to say. As if the radio was not enough, today marks the beginning of what will be many postings. The question what do I do first has me perplexed when I think about this blog. So I will just start and see where this takes me. The obvious I know: the subjects are endless when it comes to gardening. We all know there is so much out there on the web to read about. So why read this?

Here is my answer. This blog will allow me to respectfully tell you, show you, teach you, and coach you about the good, bad and ugly gardens, garden techniques, garden design, garden installation, pruning and general maintenance I have seen over the past 24 years when I first established Grossman's Country Nursery in 1984. I will share with you our gardens and the gardens of others. I will not identify you, but beware I may take a before and after photo only for you to say "Hey, that's my place!"
So sit back, relax and enjoy...and don't forget to tell me what you think.