Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Flower Shop

The Flower Shop

The flower shop at Countryside is a pretty dynamic place, just oozing with creativity and bustling with activity. After a busy Christmas season, there is a bit of down time before gearing up for Valentine’s Day. One event that keeps them busy until then is the annual "Kathy and Judy Convention." Kathy and Judy host a talk show on WGN. Countryside advertises on their show and they enlist our help in decorating for their annual convention. This year’s theme is "Las Vegas." Our designers have spent the past several weeks developing and creating center pieces using Las Vegas buildings and attractions.

I can’t believe how much snow we’ve gotten in the past few weeks, or how cold it has been. I don’t know about you but spring can’t get here fast enough for me. One thing I like to do at this time of year is bring a little color into my house with fresh cut flowers. Because I am such a Scrooge with the thermostat the flowers last longer and it is just nice to come home to fresh vased flowers on the table.

As a country, Americans spend less per capita on cut flowers than do Europeans. One reason for this is the perception that cut flowers do not have a long shelf life. A few simple steps will help the flowers last longer. First, buy your flowers from a reputable florist. Most florists offer mixed bouquets that can be brought home and vased fairly inexpensively. Second, when you get them home give the stems a fresh cut under water. This helps open up the vascular system of the flower so that it can continue to bring up water. Make sure that you remove any leaves that will be in contact with the water in the vase. Any leaves in the water will lead to bacteria growth that will shorten the life of the flowers. Use the flower preservative that came with your flowers and change the water everyday. You may need to re-cut the stems at some point as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Off-Season at C'Side

One might assume that this is a slow time of year at the garden center, and it is true that we do see fewer customers this time of year and if you have stopped by recently you may have been surprised at how empty the store seems. We are busy, though, getting ready for spring.

The greenhouse staff has been busy cleaning and staining our display tables and attending informative seminars to better serve you when the snow clears and days warm up. Last week we were in Wisconsin for Garden Center Symposium. The Symposium is an association of garden centers in Northern Illinois and Wisconsin and they have been meeting for over 40 years. The primary purpose of the symposium is to raise money for scholarships. They do this by putting on an educational seminar and trade show. They get a lot of support from the vendors that supply our industry. The seminar speakers are top-notch. This year we heard Allan Armitage, professor of horticulture from University of Georgia, speak about annuals and perennials.

The other big project we are working on this winter is new signage that will take advantage of the new color laser printer we got last year. Our perennial and nursery signs will have color pictures of the plants in bloom so you can see what the flower will look like when the plant is mature. The signs also will use more symbols regarding plant habit and requirements so that we can get more information on the signs. We hope these changes will allow you to make better informed choices when selecting plant material.

The garden center staff is processing new product that seems to arrive daily. Greenhouse 4 is full of pallets and boxes waiting to be priced and displayed. We do have seeds in and seed starting supplies ready for all of you who like to start your own vegetable and flower seeds.

Don’t Forget the Birds!

It is mighty tempting to just curl up on the couch, in front of the fire with a good book, but don’t forget our feathered friends. Many birds, including the gold finches, do not migrate south for the winter, and some that do, don’t actually go too far. We have lots of bird seed and wildlife feed available. One thing that is in short supply is peanuts. Due to the drought in the southeast, the peanut harvest is down, and what is available is going to processors for peanut butter.

Tropical Plant Sale

Our 40% off tropical plant sale is still going on. Greenhouses 2 and 3 are full of tropical plants, including pothos, philodendron, bromeliad, schefflera, boston ferns, and various ivys. I am writing this on Sunday the 27th and it is sunny out. It will be a great day to come in and browse. It is amazing what a few minutes in a sunny green house will do for your psyche!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

House Plants

Well, I hope you all survived the holidays. I had a great time with my girls who were home from college for a few weeks. The oldest one just headed back last Saturday so now the house is rather quiet. She is off on a great adventure, doing her semester abroad in Denmark. We are trying to arrange a visit for sometime in March but in a warm, sunny location, say Portugal, since I think we will both be looking forward to sunny skies.

As you know it has been very dreary around here. Sunday when I was working in the greenhouses at Countryside though, the sun was finally out and we even had a few intrepid customers brave the freezing outside temperatures to enjoy the sun in the warm greenhouse. Greenhouses 1,2 and 3 are stocked to the gills with tropical plants in preparation for Tuesday’s 40% off green plant sale.

Green plants do add so much to our interior environments. They really do improve the air in our houses, removing toxins and adding oxygen. Just as there are plants for every outside garden, there are plants for every house as well. Even if you think you can’t grow plants inside, there are plants that will take lots of abuse and that will even thrive with a modicum of care.

Plants that will survive even the most adverse home conditions include: Algaonema (Chinese Evergreen), Anthurium aemulum (Climbing Anthurium), Crassula arborescens (Jade Plant), and Philodendron, to name a few.

There are many green (and variegated) plants that can take medium to low light and you don’t have to be a slave to the watering can, since most plants slow down in their growth habit in the winter and generally need less water and fertilizer. One note of caution, however, is that the inside air can be very dry during the winter as forced air furnaces tend to dry the air as they heat our homes. Most tropical plants prefer a more humid environment. This can be accomplished by setting your plants in saucers filled with pebbles and water. Just make sure the container is sitting above the level of the water (hence the use of pebbles or small rocks) so that the soil is not saturated with water and can still drain. As the water in the saucer evaporates it will create a “humidity dome” around the plant. This is even better than misting the plants.

And house plants aren’t just green, either. The anthurium plant has a red, white or pink flower (actually a modified leaf), bromeliads flower in several colors and we have a philodendron that has orange shaded leaves that are quite stunning. The spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), that is often used in betta bowls, has a white “flower.” Algaonema can be variegated or a golden color.

Ann Larson, who manages our interior plant department, is a veritable fountain of knowledge about house plants and can answer any question you might have about house plant selection and care. And now is a great time to stop in and take advantage of this great sale not too mention soak up some rays on a cold day.