Spring Cleaning

Friday, February 28, 1997

i’m not a creature of habit anymore, as most of us are wont to be. I prefer to do things to my own tune, in my own step. It's nice to get back to where I used to be, before the 17 years I spent in an advertising and marketing career in midtown Manhattan. That was my way in the 60s and early 70s. Some things in life can be accommodated in that fashion; many others have to follow other schedules not of their own making. I feel lucky that I have the choice.

The advent of Spring drives everything on this earth. Nothing is immune or able to resist the call. The urge to merge becomes paramount and overriding. It's exciting to go with such an enormous chi (energy flow). Everything rushes toward a common, preordained destination: renewal and new life. Next to the first time you fell in love or seeing your first child born if you're tuned into your inner energy and on center it's the greatest thrill you'll have in life.

York Flower Show
The 5th Annual York Flower & Garden Show was held this week: Thursday, Feb 27th through Sunday, March 2nd, at the historic York Fairgrounds. I had my entire landscape crew in this week to help move the multiple exhibits from here to the exhibition hall and set it all up.

Next week's Journal will have some observations and comments live from the Show. I took lots of pictures for inclusion in a later entry, and will retrofit some in here, so check back from time to time for some eye-popping shots as soon as I get them scanned in.

New Plants
Each Spring in late February, we are still potting up tiny plantlets from either seed or tissue cuttings (no, it doesn't hurt) that are ready to be finished and go to market, in someone's garden. Hundreds of thousands are ready continuously from September through May in our Propagation Greenhouse-1 (pictured below), so it's an ongoing process almost all year long. We sell all we can produce. Most critical is sowing the seed or making cuttings at the correct time and having the growing season following right behind. That's an easy formula with a few minor variations that we follow, as do most propagators.

For instance, the cuttings from the conifers that I did last Fall are ready to come out of the coldframe now. With the increasing daylight hours and warmth, roots will rapidly grow and sustain the plantlets. Seedlings are ready to be planted in separate 4.5" or quart pots for growing on to finish, and then to market. And any bought-in plugs can easily be grown on until our last frost date of April 17 here in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b. By now, all seedlings have been transplanted to individual pots and are being fertilized for Spring growth.

Many people still take the chance of installing tender plants annuals and other bedding material, herbs and non-hardened perennials before that date and of getting them nailed (read whacked) by a late frost. The annuals, tender herbs and bedding plants would be lost; the hardened-off, hardy perennials are no problem. Plants can be protected from an overnight frost, but customers will lose everything if the cold hangs on for a couple of days. Then I have to sell them the stuff twice. Strange as it sounds, I don't like doing that: I'd rather they buy just once and have a good experience. I sell everything out that I have anyway, so buying stuff twice to sell it twice would be a major problem for me. I make sure everyone who comes into my place knows about last frost date, and knows what to do to protect the special plants in their charge. Many other substandard places urge people to plant early, knowing full well the inherent dangers of a late frost. This blatantly-dishonest way of doing business impacts the entire industry.

There are also thousands of container shrubs and trees that will need to be stepped-up into larger containers in early Spring; they've outgrown their containers and need to be repotted into a larger size pot, fertilized and grown on toward maturity. The large B&B (balled & burlapped) trees which were heeled-in last Fall are fine for installation without any modifications. We root-pruned them over the Winter, when we moved them during the major Nursery reorganization.

Incessant Calls
I don't keep a scorecard, but then again it doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate the increasingly heavy number of calls that come in on a daily basis for landscaping estimates and related work. Walk-in visitors are noticeably increasing too. The upcoming Flower & Garden Show will net dozens of new jobs and contacts for us.

The first three or four years that we were open saw most of the pre-season activity starting at the end of February; for the past three years that activity has now begun in January, with hundreds of people calling to get on our Spring schedule. As our reputation has spread throughout the region, so has the call for our quality of work. I meet with 3-5 people daily to evaluate their landscape needs; on the weekends, it's 5-6 people each Saturday and Sunday requiring on-site visits by me.

There are basically three groups of situations out there: homes that were initially landscaped by the builder or his landscaper and are a real mess; homes landscaped by the owners and are a mess; homes with no landscaping. I prefer the latter category. The first two are the worst: builders, their so-called landscapers and homeowners always make a mess of what they touch. And we have to fix it. Yikes. Often, we can use some of what they've bought usually at a shithole mass merchandiser like K-Mart or Wal-Mart and work it into our design and installation. Sometimes, the material is so substandard we have to remove and dispose of it completely. A pity to waste all that money in the first place.

We now do work for five quality York County builders who've realized that and have asked us to get involved in the beginning so a total makeover won't have to be done when a family buys and moves in; they can just add to the existing plant material and supplement its beauty and ambience.

This is one of the most terrible things people can do to their own property: allow some part-time buffoons with two shovels and a broom who call themselves landscapers as a summer job to ruin their home's value by screwing-up the landscaping. Read this ad about some landscaping do's and don'ts.

If you'd like some good, solid, unabashedly truthful information about plants, landscaping, water gardens and dozens of other topics, spend some time with our series of ads that shook the region with their forthright advice and honesty. Take what the other places say and multiply by zero for their truth-in-advertising level.

Also, if you or anyone you know buys plants from roadside stand vendors, read this ad for the truth about their scummy, sleazy operations. These are not deals. Only people addicted to deals would ever buy 10 shrubs for $3. Sadly, people do it all the time and think they're getting a bargain. All they're getting is screwed six ways to Sunday. Doesn't that old addage, "if it looks too good to be true, it usually is" still mean anything?

As in all obviously-dubious cases, let the buyer beware! caveat emptor!

Housecleaning Time
I have spent the past several weeks transferring all computer-generated landscape estimates over to my trusty Zip Disk; there are now well over 300 MS-Excel files taking up 12+megs of space. The old, shitpy 1.44meg diskettes continually crashed, due to corrupted FAT (File Allocation Tables) and bad Boot Sectors. I lost dozens of files on those diskettes. I hate floppy drives; they're shit. Useless junk once you've experienced the joy of Zip. After the transfer, I burned the diskettes and sacrified a small, furry animal to the IOmega gods. (Just kidding...)

My secretary has been dropping by to reorganize my office and help me get ready for the coming paperwork onslaught. There are always days of solid meetings and appointments, dozens of estimates to do on a daily basis; all of which grow the business. It's a little daunting at first, after a few month's rest, but I rapidly get used to it and thrive on the jazz. In fact, after it's over in December, I go through estimate withdrawl and wish someone, anyone would come through the doors with something that requires an estimate. Heh, heh, heh...

The landscape estimate and invoicing templates that I built in MS-Works v2.0 years ago were converted and updated two weeks ago when we installed Office97 in all the Pentium units, and in my home unit. The new software is wonderfully powerful; I appeciate what Microsoft has done with their Office97 Suite. It's a huge set of programs, but everything is so integrated and seamless that it's breathtaking. Thanks to gigabytes of hard drive space, there's no problem in allowing these giant bloatware programs to run.

I've used Microsoft since 1982, with occasional forays into WordPerfect, Lotus and others, but MS outclasses them all. I rail at some of their tactics, but the company and management is powerful and rock-solid. When I started this Garden Center & Nursery seven years ago, there wasn't any landscape-specific software available; I had to build templates according to my own needs on top of exsiting MS-Works v1.0 spreadsheets. Now they're converted to Works v3.0 and are much more powerful.

Memory Lapse
Each year at this time, I feel a definite loss of brain cells from inactivity. I haven't discussed nursery stock, perennials, landscaping or anything related to the business with anyone for months. All the botannical names are shelved away and need to be dusted-off and revived. The old saying, "use it or lose it" applies.

After pouring over Spring orders and making final changes, I feel the need to know about the industry again. I spend countless hours with trade and consumer magazines, making up for lost time. It's almost like cramming for an exam again. I haven't done that since my college days at Drake University in the 60s.

The information and knowledge come back quickly every time, no problem so far. I guess when it doesn't, I'll get worried. When I get top that point in life, I just hope Pickles will still want to hunt asserflies in the fields with me and my squirtgun. Here kitty, kitty...

Willie Beer, Anyone?
Well, it had to happen sooner or later as a result of Slick Willie selling seats at his White House coffee klatsches: the Chinese are using his and Hillarious' group picture to sell Chinese (what else?) beer. I did try some Chinese beer once, and it's some of the worst-tasting piss-water in the world, even worse than Budweiser, America's worst excuse for bottled, pastuerized urine.

The New York Times carried the picture on Saturday morning. I saw it at 5am, when I got up and fed the cats. Simply an amazing shot. Do you see The Slickster and his co-president in the picture to the right? I'll bet Annheiser-Busch is pissed off that they didn't think of and use it first. It might help them to recover all the market share lost to quality domestic and international beers. No, I won't be buying any beer because the Clintons are endorsing a Chinese brand. And no, I don't drink beer at all; just aged, fine California wines.

Obviously, what this shows is the Clinton's outright disregard for ethics and morals in the liberal democrat's fund raising during the 1996 general election. They made themselves available to anyone for the right fee. With over 900 people in three years having slept in The Lincoln Bedroom and breakfasted with the Clintons at a price, there's something grossly wrong there. The White House is now called Motel 1600. A pretty sad commentary all the way around. This Washington Post editorial pretty well sums up the get all the bucks you can at any cost attitude that the Clinton criminal scum assumed during the '96 election campaign. Pitiful. And Slick Willie just continues to lie and lie and lie...

A few days ago, ABCs Nightline did a wonderful job of setting many issues straight. The caught in some major lies. Read the interview and decide for yourself. The normally liberal Nightline staff did an excellent job in exposing Clinton's crimes and coverup. And Ted Koppel was brilliant and incisive, as always. Carefully read the portion of the interview with Lanny Davis, Clinton's lying bullshit scum lawyer. It's an eye-opener. It reminds me of Nixon's attorneys denying story after story in the face of overwhelming evidence. The president didn't have the backbone or guts to tell the truth; he sent minions of servants to do his battle, after he'd been caught red-handed.

Finally, the dam has burst and it's coming out in torrents. But the best is yet to come. Stories abound daily of new revelations of influence selling, both in domestic and international policy. I hope the Senate Committee really hangs their sorry asss out to dry on this one. The Washington Post did a recent four part expose on the scope and nature of campiagn funding abuses. Read it for some eye-opening stories about those liberal scum's criminal activities.

Can campaign finance reform be accomplished in our lifetime? They'll make some token effort at it, but it's not in either party's best interest to do so completely. So don't expect it anytime soon.

And it looks like Kenneth Starr will be staying on as special prosecutor in stead of going to Malibu U, as previously announced. If he can recover any of his lost credibility, maybe he'll finally get the Clintonian liberal scum, as he was charged to do.

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