Friday, June 27, 1997

i have a feeling that my prediction for a cool and dry Summer is way off the mark; it's already shaping up to be very hot and dry.

Sultry Weather.
Saturday was the first day of Summer, but the heat and humidity arrived a few days early. It was 110F and enough humidity to put fires out. This is late July, early August weather. The Dog Days are here already. With a Heat Index of 125F, huge quantities of water must be consumed; dehydration and shock are very real companions. The Summers are always very hot and muggy in Pennsylvania; the Winters usually brutally cold and snowy. No wonder Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain usually accompany this kind of weather; afternoon heat building up and causing passing storms that dump tremendous volumes of water, occasionally laced with hail and damaging winds. We've seen none of this so far. It's been to the north and south of us, but nothing here. We're about 10" low for the year already. No major soaking rain for weeks.
The local farms are hurting. Corn and bean crops are standing still, with negligible growth right now. Without water, nothing grows. Many plants have gone dormant in the heat, without moisture. shit, last year, we had more rain than than Brazil's damned rain forest; this year, we can't get a drop. A good rain will make the plants explode with growth. Rule of thumb: corn should be knee-high by July 4th. Reality: not gonna make it this year unless we get some serious rain. The midwest is getting plenty. Hey, can we borrow a cup of moisture?

Special Plant Places.
I was on a hosta hunt in Maryland today with two Garden Center customers and cacti-succulents specialists, Al and Bernie. We stopped at a small mom-and-pop nursery about 30 miles south that specialized in shade garden plants. Sue's a shrewd plants-person, collector type; Tim's an artist, first and plants-person, last. Huge, rambling shade gardens featuring 275 distinctly different varieties of hosta in their natural dense shade settings. Seeing plants in-ground at maturity and in pots are two very, very different experiences. The best of both worlds is what they have there.
During conversations, I found that several of our geographic competitors in locale rather than quality shop there too. The owner dropped names of the major ones. She was stunned that I'd actually showed up, instead of sending someone else. She was quite familiar with our unique marketing strategies. They loved the ads. I got the Royal Treatment from them both; a full tour of all the special places in the center that very, very few ever see. I mentioned that I'd be back with a truck instead of my '94 Jeep Grand Cherokee LTD V8; it'll carry a whole lot more.
Last Summer, I remarked about the state of the horticulture industry and said that it was still in the 18th century, for many reasons. This little place I visited today is a prime example: they keep all receipts and cash in a large tin box on the dining room table: months of cash, checks and receipts. If the place ever burned down, they'd be in deep trouble. Most small to medium garden centers and nurserys are not computerized at all; many still operate their cash from a cigar ot tackle box, very few even have electronic registers. It's a shame that the industry is so backward.
I'm just developing my shade now for the gardens: I've installed several 5-6" caliper, 25-30ft Shademaster Honeylocust (Gledista inermis Triacanthos) trees to begin shading the Western Display Gardens. By next year, they'll be ready for planting with hundreds of our shade perennials and selected nursery stock.
Next week, I'll drive the 15ft box truck down to the hosta heaven and fill it up so we'll have plenty for the rest of the year and for next Spring. That's one less item to order for next year: everything will already be in place in Greenhouse 2, one of the 30ft x 100ft shade houses.

It seems that I've scheduled most of the landscape crew off on vacation for the next three weeks, so projects will have to be altered to fit the remaining crew's abilities.
Without the foreman, less complicated jobs will be moved into upcoming time slots, and the more detailed jobs requiring expert swhacks and supervision postponed until we're at full strength again. The crew chief who just got married two weeks ago is taking a belated honeymoon at the Virginia shore with his new Mrs, so he should be worn out when he returns. Ah, young love.
I've even been thinking about a short 3-day respite myself after everyone else is finished. Naaaah. Too much to do around here. Maybe over the Winter...

Spring Cleaning.
Okay, okay, okay I admit it: I'm a freak for cool app(lication)s that just seem to take up space on the machines. Other browsers like Mosaic v3.0 and Opera v2.0 are fascinating to me. It's so nice (and scary) to look at my site's pages through other eyes. Also, I like utility apps and collect those things by the dozens. Usually, I store them on one of my Zip disks for occasional use, but I have too many of them installed on both the office and home Pentiums as it is.
I started cleaning the home Pentium 586/150-64 off and found another100mb of space on the HD. After a Norton Utilities v2.0 speedisk, defrag and good burp, it runs much smoother without all that extra baggage. I also collect graphic apps for use when doing web pages, and except for PhotoShop v3.0 and Illustrator v6.0, the rest became history as well.
What's good for the goose should be good for the gander: I cleaned off the office Pentium 586/200-96 as well. I easily recovered 200mg+ of wasted space. Did the Norton Utilities v2.0 speedisk, defrag number and presto: it also burped. Much smoother running and cleaner structure, since all those little apps are now gone.
Although hundreds of apps and utilities are safely stored on my Zip disks, I shall miss them as daily acquaintances upon start-up.

Junk Landscaping.
One of my appointments early in the week was with a couple in a nearby town, who called because they were very unhappy with their home's appearance. A neighbor friend had recommended a so-called pick-up truck landscaper from Baltimore several years ago, and this couple had spent $15,000+ for him and a crew of morons to come all that way and screw up their home with shitty-looking plants and the evil plastic sheeting in all the garden beds.
Black Plastic sheeting was used everywhere; plants were dying from the lack of moisture, soil was rotting and decaying from the lack of oxygen. In short: a horrific mess that will now cost many thousands to rectify. They'll be spending more than twice what they should have, just to get what they should have had in the first place. Why didn't these people listen to my ads' advice and call us the first time around? After seeing what these dirtbags (so-called landscapers from Baltimore) did by putting all the wrong plants in all the wrong places, it occured to me that they couldn't even find their own asss with both hands.
No problem. We'll fix the mess and make it look spectacular, as it should have looked, had we done it in the beginning.

My Condo Gardens.
Building a 20-acre garden center and nursery in 1990 caused me to decide against also building my ultra-contemporary home, and having extensive gardens there. I had my hands full with building the nursery complex. I knew it would take as my business plan called for a minimum of five years before the business would show a profit. I did it in four.
I still live in a beautiful condominium in North York, PA, with small gardens that I originally built and planted. I've been there over 7 years now. Yet someone else takes care of the gardens on a regular basis; I don't have the time. The condo association has a maintenance contract with a local company to do the work for all units. Since I leave for work when it's dark, and get home when it's dark even in the Summer I'd have to wear a miner's helmet w/ electric light to work at night. That would disturb the neighbors. so I don't bother with it. Besides, I'm too tired.
Once a year toward Fall, I still have one of my crews dig the large perennials and ornamental grasses, divide and replant small sections, and bring the rest back to my garden center for further division, re-potting and sale. I had some unusual items in the condo gardens and liked to share them with other collectors. I always bill myself for the work too.
Many people want to see my personal gardens; they seem to think that it's chocked full of rare, unusual and hard-to-find specimens. Ha. There's an old euphemism that goes, ...the Ferrari or Rolls-Royce mechanic drives a '53 Chevy, because he's always working on someone else's car, he never has time for a nice one himself. How true.

Just several days before the 50th Anniversary of the Roswell Incident in which a flying saucer and aliens were captured after crashing, the US Government has declared Case Closed. They say it was crash dummies and years of events tied together in peoples' minds. Huh?
I've never seen a UFO; I wish I had, because I do believe they're out there somewhere and have been here at some point in time, maybe all along. Who really knows? I've seen some weird lights in the sky over the Garden Center as I've left at 11pm or midnight, years ago, but no physical objects in the sky. If we're the most intelligent beings in the known universe, the entire universe is in deep shit, because as a species, we're bordering on cretins. Almost totally clueless. God save the empire.

Nice Shipment.
Right now, it's tough finding good-sized, quality perennials in 2 or 3gal pots; we have lots in 5 and 7gal containers for my landscape crews' use, but below that, it's mostly 1gals.
Consumers who want instant color immediately gravitate toward large display items, so I ordered in some very nice 2gal pots of Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia Goldstrum), Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea Purpurea) and Whirling asserflies (Gaura) from a nursery in North Carloina. We've done business with them for years and they always deliver top quality plant material.
It was over 103F when the truck pulled into the Garden Center complex; he'd gotten lost after leaving I-83 and crossing into Pennsylvania. The slackers at PennDot (Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation) were I use the term loosely here working on a main road from I-83 to the Nursery, and had some unintelligible detours set up.
Several of my crew who'd just returned from a long, hot day on the job assisted me in unloading hundreds of pots and getting them into Greenhouses 2-3-4 right away, and getting some cool water into the pots. Although the truck was enclosed and air conditioned for the ride up, plants wilt quickly when they hit 100F+ heat. We had to irrigate them quickly. They're safe and happy now in their new temporary home.

USA Today Article.
As of this writing, it's still up and running on USA Today's website. No pics are online, but it's a fairly accurate piece on me and my operation here, minus hundreds of important details. Save the .50 newsstand price and read it when you can.

Display Gardens
Now is the time, despite the oppressive heat, to dig and divide several hundred of the 1,300 assorted perennials that I've planted in my Display Gardens over the years: before they flower and go to seed.
With very little moisture in the ground, many aren't even making buds right now; many have aborted the ones they were trying to set and feed. So it's safe to dig, divide, cut them back and grow on in a shaded Greenhouse until they can regenerate their root system.
So many people admire the rare, unusual and hard-to-find plant material we have in the various Display Gardens that I like to share it when the time's appropriate. Certain plants can be easily dug and divided at certain times and offered for sale to collectors. I enjoy that immensely. Besides, the gardens do need cleaning and rejuvenation every couple of years.

Hosta Hunt.
I returned to that little hole-in-the-wall nursery in Maryland, bought 6 each of 30 varieties and some other minor treasures, and began propagation imiediately upon my return.
It'll take until next Spring for several of the Hosta varieties to size up enough to divide and make enough copies to share with other collectors. Most of them immediately went into Greenhouse 2 for sale; several trays of 2qts have to be stepped up into larger pots and grown on a bit.

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