I've always followed my own drummer

Friday, August 22, 1997

not much time goes by without someone calling me a radical, a nonconformist, unconventional, a loose cannon, a rebel or the like. (Sure sure, I get called other names too, but those are irrelevant here.) Because I do advocate different methods of horticulture and challenge the accepted norm, aka status quo, I'm branded by many in the so-called horticultural establishment as someone who takes a very unconventional Path. Cool and many thanks for the compliment.

Radical Relatives.
I come from a rather short line of radicals Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley being the first two ancestors that passed some of those chromosomes down this way. There were most certainly others, but no one remembers them; just me for now.
I like breaking the mould of tradition; forging ahead with new ideas and theories. I paved the way for my cousins and friends to do what they wanted to do years ago: I was the first in our family (all relatives, both sides) in the mid 60s to grow sideburns. First with a moustache (still have it). First to listen to rock 'n roll. The first to grow my hair longer than the norm. The first to wear bell bottoms and tie dyed t-shirts. First to inhale. First and only to Woodstock in 69. First to drive a 69 VW Bug. Oooooooooo. Radical stuff back then; pretty tame by comparison now. In fact, downright soporific.

A Different Path.
A valid measure of what someone advocates, based upon their beliefs, is what someone actually does or says.
Through my company's advertising, I tell a very different story than the norm established by the industry. Instead of being price oriented as 99% of all garden center and nurserys are I've chosen the road of advocacy; educating the public on issues that affect them on a daily basis. It's not always popular with other companies, but it's a big hit with Gardening Enthusiasts worldwide. And after all, they're the ones who really count.
My speech on How To Position A Garden Center In A Local Market to the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nurserymen and Allied Trades Conference in February outlined my marketing philosophy pretty well. Some who were present at the speech are even trying it with measurable success so far. Nothing good happens quickly or overnight; it takes time, but at least they're trying. It will pay dividends.

Hardy Alpine Perennials.
After receiving almost 1,000 hardy plants from the west coast, and replanting 10 Alpine Trough gardens with the new selections, I put up an Alpine Perennials Page to list some of the varieties we now have available. More are on the way for Spring. We now have 200+ varieties from several sources; by Spring of 98, we'll have over 500 varieties (types) of Hardy Alpine Perennials available for sale.
We're now a member of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) and will soon share some very nice photos of their member's personal rock and scree gardens. I've seen some that are awesome; mine at the Garden Center & Nursery is just coming into its own now, and will soon start to shine. I'll put up some pictures, after it's matured a little.
No other garden center or nursery in the East is doing on the scale what we're doing with Troughs, Alpine Trough Gardens, Miniature and Dwarf Conifers, Dwarf Deciduous Trees and Miniature Alpine Perennials. Niche Marketing wins every time.

Natural Elements.
Not only has there been a major drought in progress for the past 23 weeks, there's a major heatwave visiting every week for a few days, too. Temperatures vary from the 70Fs after cool fronts move through, to 100F+ in a few days. That 30F degree spread wreaks havoc with plants and people.
Last Saturday, I had four landscape meetings scheduled in York County; three in the morning and one in mid-afternoon, plus some walk-ins that visited to review their sketches after I'd sent computer-generated estimates. The morning meetings went fine; the afternoon meeting was at the day's heat zenith: 112F and very high humidity. It actually became difficult to breathe in the heat for all of us at the meeting.
My 94 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a built-in digital temperature along with a dozen other functions monitoring panel: it read 133F in the sun. Way too hot for me. I'll have to have the Jeep dealer's service dept check that sensor. It was difficult to breathe, so we moved the meeting inside into the AC where everyone could be more comfortable. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday. Everyone was clearly stressed by the oppressive heat.
Sunday evening there were some horrific thunderstorms and lightening; torrential downpours at my condo about 14 miles north of the Garden Center and Nursery, but very little at the Nursery, where we really needed it most. The mulch in the Display Gardens looked great from the light rains, but the plant material heeled into the fields the 4 acres of large trees and shrubs were basically unaffected by the mild moisture. Their crops are worthless this year. Every little bit of moisture is appreciated, though, by the surrounding farmers. We should have had 30" of rain by now; we've had about 6" so far. It's been a strange year; I think it'll get worse.

Unnatural Elements.
Walk-in retail traffic, usually slow during this August period, is almost nonexistent due to the heat and drought. There were, however, several couples from Maryland and Virginia who'd found our website on the Net and decided to visit, braving the heat and drought. They got the royal tour, since they had the place almost to themselves.
Our Nursery-wide 25% Off Sale starts September 1st, and this is what several thousand people eagerly wait for every year. They can get ultra high quality, rare, unusual and hard-to-find nursery stock and perennials for a great price. Business picks up 200% during this once-a-year event, unlike many garden centers, nurserys and mass merchandisers who have so-called sales all year long on their substandard merchandise. We take a very different Route: the high road.
Not only is the heat physically taxing on both people and plants, it is mentally stressful. Anticipation of rain and cooler temps is a daily event. So many other areas have received abundant rains, and we haven't, that the weather monitoring programs I use in my Office Pentium 586/200-96 are now grinding to a halt. They're going to be removed and zipped up for storage on a Zip disk. Since cutting my work schedule back to 12hrs per day, I feel somewhat more rested, but having to fill-in for others who can't work in this heat occasionally over-taxes my (formerly unlimited) reservoir of strength. Getting older sets its own limitations.

Unpleasant Duty.
I dislike firing or furloughing people, for any reason. But with the weather being in such an uncooperative mode this year, activity has slowed considerably. There was very little choice left after the weekend.
I've had to lay off 4 of the 7 landscape crew; hopefully in one to two weeks, things will pick up again and I can bring them back full time. The really large jobs are on hold for now. Normally, we'd be booked up for the rest of September and through October. But there's way too many empty spaces on the computer schedule to carry that much personnel overhead without a sound reason. Most of the projects around here have been completed by now.
I discussed the situation with my Foreman and asked him to explain it to the crews yesterday after lunch, effective immediately. All were caught off guard and by surprise, but cooperated like troopers and will file for temporary unemployment benefits until the weather relents and provides the cooler temps and moisture that we drastically need to continue this weather-driven business. Not a good start to the week.

Microsoft v Netscape Browsers.
Despite what everyone says about Microsoft, they are way ahead of Netscape in the so-called Browser Wars of 95-98. MS will win the war; Netscape will cave and sell out to MS.
Dire, uninformed predictions? Nope; just a dose of reality. I ran into it when I tired of reading browser comparisons, and started doing browser comparisons. What a shocker.
I've always used Microsoft's software. It's been the most integrated and easiest to figure out. Now it's the most powerful: their spreadsheets, word processing etc leaves all the competition in the dust. Just read the reviews or, better yet, use them and compare. I have.
A year ago, I swore I'd never touch MS's browser; I liked Netscape's too much, and still do. But it's time to get the feel of both. With Netscape down to 70% or less of the browser market, and MSIE gaining everyday, it won't be long until as many or more people will be using MSIE and sites will have to be designed for it as well, and not just Netscape.
I've used other browsers to view my website Opera v2.1, Mosaic v3.0, AOL, HotDog's Rover offline unit but until now, have never seen what the site looks like to other visitors using MSIE. Jeeeez, what a shock. Everything's not where it's supposed to be. I was shocked and rocked at the difference. Another user of Netscape's Communicator v4.0 told me that he was viewing my site in that unit the same way MSIE sees it. Maybe the previous versions of Netscape are just... odd? I'm using v3.03 and have used their browser since the very beginning. It would now seem that Communicator is setting the standard right along with MSIE, and may soon be surpassed.

Thank You.
It's a rainy and cool Wednesday here at the Garden Center for the first time since early April; everything is basking in the sustained drizzle and lowered temps that accompany the storm front. Me included: I stood on the front steps and got soaked; the rain on my face felt good. I had a spare change of clothes in the office, so sitting in a puddle for the rest of the day wasn't an issue.
On the way in to work at 6am, I remembered that I'd forgotten to check the local weather forecasts, which are usually wrong anyway. I had checked several sources last night and they differed in their prognostication for the balance of the week. No matter; rain is rain, even drizzle. We'll take what we can get at this point. No argument from the plants either, considering how they've suffered since April.
The slow, steady rain days are perfect: all the water gets into the ground where it will do some good. Very little runoff occurs. The streams, ponds and rivers are down several feet of water level. Today's rain should add back to the water tables.

Politics As Unusual.
A truce has been declared in DC among all politician-criminals: August Vacation. I don't think those lowlifes do enough work to warrant a 4 week vacation. These so-called legislators are such immature children that they can't get done what needs to be done. DC is empty for now; no one misses the clowns, except the newspapers. There's not much else to read about without all the politicians and hearings gone. I, for one, appreciate the silence.
Slick Willie's having a great 3 weeks, ostensibly recuperating from criminal activities. This is all we're going to hear about for a seemingly interminable period.
The Republicans and some Democrats really did it: lowered the welfare rolls by millions. The Conservative's Plan actually worked and the liberal Democrats just followed everyone right through the revolving door.. I'm amazed and impressed. Mostly, it's just rhetoric and hot air; this time, it worked. Well, there's one in a row for the good guys.

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