a closer look

Friday, May 23, 1997

the wonder of it all is that so many different plants did survive such a mild Winter as we've had in USDA Zone 6b.

Invisible Damage.
In my travels to landscape meetings and to various job sites, I see many plants looking off-color, weak, stressed-out and so many more just teetering on the edge of death. Both young and old. Without the benefit of a long, cold freeze, snow cover and adequate moisture, many won't survive the Spring. Usually, by this time in May, a plant has decided whether it will live or die. Our continued and unexpected cold has prolonged that precarious process. Many plants by simple virtue of the cold weather will cling to life longer than usual and then check out. The real damage is internal and invisible until the decline begins: the natural immume system is attacked, weakened and whacked. Then the entire plant goes into stress related shock and readies itself for death by propagating itself. Seed or suckers (heirs) appear after intense flowering, and the decline is usually rapid once it starts.

To remedy this unavoidable ugliness, I have one full crew solely assigned to replacement of customer's plant material beginning next week, after I'm sure there's no life left in the warranteed plants. If a plant is just very late in pushing-out leaves, it's a shame to yank it out of the ground and install a new one in its place prematurely. They'll spend days travelling the job sites removing dead material and replacing affected plants with fresh, live ones.

Past Winters have been cold and long, and that's as it should be. The Blizzard of '96 was better overall for plants than this past Winter. People have a hard time believing that: prolonged, freezing cold is essential for all hardy plants.

The replacement ratio for my Landscape Services Division has been extremely low for the past seven years. This year, it looks like we'll replace more plant material than we have in all the previous years combined due to the unusually mild Winter. The seven year itch? Who knows? With the prevailing jet stream pattern swinging so far north, a drought is imminent. We're already 9"+ low on rain this Spring, when the awakening plants need it most. Many more plants will continue to die as the Summer progresses. Plants are waking up and calling for moisture to unfurl their blossoms and leaves: none is forthcoming, so many do not survive, or if they do, they are severely stunted. Others are experiencing overly long bloom periods, such as dogwoods (Cornus florida and kousa) and redbuds (Cercis canadensis). Shrubs and perennials are affected the same way. Well, everything in the plant kingdom is affected. This looks like a repeat of The Drought of '90-91: grim times ahead, indeed.

Landscaping.
Despite the anomalies of weather, life must go on. And go on it does: we're already 25% ahead of all previous years designing and installing landscape-grade plant material throughout southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The number of people who've found and visited this Website is astounding. At this point in time, the site has over 47,000 virtual visitors, since January 1996.

More people than ever before have found us through our unusual ads, customer referrals and the internet than I'd ever expected. It's mind-boggling how business has increased year over year. I'm more pleased than surprised at the response to our reputation for quality and increasing demand for our work.

I still have a pile of requests for landscape estimates on my desk that I haven't gotten to yet. I'm trying to schedule appointments as fast as they come in, but it's a losing effort so far: I'm several weeks behind now. People are getting antsy about getting their work done; so much so, that I've started referring them to quality tree service companies, professional lawn care companies and other landscaping services that are not aligned with us, just so they do get their work finished by Summer. We can't handle all the requests for business.

There have been several offers for me buy out other companies to bolster my business: tree and lawn services want to join us. But that's not our niche. I think they would like me to invest capital (read cash) into their operation to expand and become a much larger, all-around organization. That's just not in my business plan for the foreseeable future. Scaling a business up quickly to that level is fraught with problems and inherent dangers for a vertical specialist like me. I'll pass on it in that form.

Big Stuff.
After returning from Blue Sterling Nursery (wholesale only, sorry), the last two tractor trailers from our vendors arrived with HUGE TREES, which I'd almost forgotten about. We still had over 100 other large ones to heel-in, so the new arrivals joined the queue. We keep them watered daily so sitting above ground is no real problem yet. When the weather really turns hot, it will be; but I'm expecting to have everything in ground by then.

So many loads of fresh nursery stock and perennials have arrived that it all becomes a blur. I have to consult the ledgers or computer to remember much of it's source. The very rare and unusual are easy to remember; the more common don't register anymore.

The specimen material that I pulled from inventory will soon grace the south and west Display Gardens for all to marvel at when they visit. I enjoy showing and telling about the attributes of each plant. Education is, after all else, part of the mission here.

Great Dinner.
The Glen Rock Mill Inn, 717.235.5918 is one of many historic places in York County, Pa. Converted from an old grist mill around the turn of the century, it now houses one of the best restaurants and watering holes (read great drinks and fine wines) in central Pennsylvania. I had dinner and drinks there Sunday evening with my friend, Janice. I needed an evening out and away from the business, and I had a very pleasant surprise: the ambience of The Inn is excellent. Their outdoor landscaping leaves something to be desired, though.

The Inn has changed hands several times since 1990, when I first opened my business; the quality of operation and food varied for many years. It seems to have stabilized now, to great. I highly recommend it and I'll be going back frequently now. The food is excellent, the service is superb. The wine list could use some input from me, a certified oenophile (wine enthusiast) and collector.

Virtual Garden Reviews This Site.
In fact, they've reviewed it twice and had some very nice things to say each time. We were also awarded the prestigious, Pick Of The Crop Award for Excellence. Thanks for the honor, VG.

The Virtual Garden helps gardeners make some sense out of the internet's vastness by organizing the resources that gardeners need. Simple and beautiful in its concept. I visit several times each week to see what's new. It changes weekly and points me in the right direction without wasting lots of valuable time.

Our Awards Page runneth over...

The Flip Side.
I thought Bob Dole was just being a nice guy by lending Newt Gingrich $300,000 for his fine for lying to Congress. I'd like to think so. I always believed that Dole was nothing, if not honest. But after some additional reading, it looks like there may indeed be a sinister motive to the whole thing. Apparently, the left wing nut liberal Mother Jones Magazine does too.

Clinton's Debt Woes.
It seems that the Clintons, actually both Slick Willie and Hillarious are deeply in debt. Why? They've had to retain several law firms to protect and represent them during the Whitewater and other criminal investigations. They owe millions.

Pure and simple: they're both scumbag criminals and deserve to be jailed. If they hadn't committed so many past crimes, they wouldn't be in so much debt to so many lowlife attorneys.

Once again, the liberal criminals at The White House are failing to live up to the law: now they're refusing to provide documents to Senate Committees. Duh. Did anyone really think that the degenerate Clinton scumbags would play by the rules? Not hardly.

The liberal Clinton criminals are so ineffective at delivering on their rhetoric that even once liberal bastions are exposing and bashing the moron Clinton.

And according to a network news organization (and you know they don't lie... much), Hillarious is indictable for her slimy crimes. I'll be sure to send the nasty-tempered, lying bitch an e-postcard on her very special holiday: Halloween.

The Wall Begins To Crumble.
The US Justice Department finally issued indictments against some of the thousands of (Democratic National Committee's) DNCs 76 General Election Campaign contributor-fundraisers. Although it amounted to a cop-out plea bargain that let minor criminals off who might have testified about the John Huang scum's blatantly illegal techniques, it was a small start. Probably a Janet Reno stunt.

And the trail of hush money payments to convicted criminal Webster Hubbell is also being discovered. It will indeed be an interesting Summer as these revelations unfold and the slimy trails that Clinton left see daylight.

Chocolate.
And now for something completely different: everything about the yummy, sweet stuff is right here. Life is good.