Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Great Green News!

Skillin's is excited to be partnering with Ecosource Home and Garden( an exciting company that is focused on sustainable and renewable green goods for the home and garden. And you know what? That is our goal as well and we feel our customers like you share the same goal. So, we have a match.

Please come and check out the exciting Enviro collection of bamboo pots by Ecosource. Bright colors, great sizes and shapes! And you would not believe how affordable the Enviro pots are--many great sizes for under $10.

The Enviro pots are made from bamboo--a renewable plant by product. The pots will last for 2 to 3 years at which point they are totally "compostable". Your typical plastic pot manufactured with petroleum products will languish in the earth for about 400 years long after they crack and fade in your home and garden.

Check out and the Enviro pot collection and come see for yourself at Skillin's how products like this help us all Plant for the Planet!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Two Thanksgiving Days


To begin my Thanksgiving Day stories I must mention that at home, in school, and
several other places, the nicest thing I learned in my lifetime, was that God loves me. I wish that everyone on Earth knew that God loves them.

The year was 1947. Some people in Maine remember it as the year Maine burned. Forest fires raged throughout the State during the month of October. I was ten years old, my brother, David, was sixteen and my sister, Ruth, was eight years old. Our parents were about age 45. Dad had been too young to serve in World War I and too old to be drafted in World War II. Both of them were still trying to recover from the storms of life. Probably the greatest one was the hardships of the Great Depression that had enveloped them with their son David in the early 1930’s at Philadelphia, PA. They returned to the area where they had grown up and started living at my Grandparents store. Until she died in1973 my mother never fully recovered from that setback. She did not love living with her in-laws. In 1938, after a family feud, my parents moved from the store and rented a large house about one mile (West) down the road. In September, 1941 they bought a very small place a half-mile East of the store. After moving from the store, my mother and her in-laws had very few if any direct communications.

Our home was a very small building, near a swamp, but less than fifty feet from U.S. Highway #1 in Perry, Maine. In 1943, due to the war, My Grandparents Model A Ford, that my Dad often borrowed, stopped being available. For the next five years my
Mother stayed very near the house or in the house. Her long distance adventures were walking to the blueberry ground in September and picking blueberries after the fields had been harvested.

Our home had few luxuries. The nearest telephone was a half- mile away at my grand-parent’s store. Water was carried in a buckets from a well located about one hundred feet from Route One, on the other side of the road. Inside the house were two kerosene lamps, a cook stove; kitchen table-- plus two heaped-up storage tables, five small chairs, a desk made from two orange crates and a wide board; and a rocking chair by the stove. There was a large galvanized tub for baths, and a wash board that teamed up with the same tub for scrubbing clothes. Two pieces of 4’ X 8’ wallboard were stacked on their side and separated the kitchen from the bed room that contained our parents bed, and three beds for the kids. My spot was a large crib in the corner that I was rapidly outgrowing.. On the back side of the house was a wood shed that was nearly as large as the house. Attached to the back of the shed was the aromatic outhouse.

To me the little house was home. I was protected from the outside world, found lots of love there, and my heart has never really left that place.

In August 1947 the well went dry. Water was carried in gallon size, heavy glass, vinegar bottles from a spring a half mile from home. ( Light plastic Jugs were unavailable.) In early October billows of black smoke rolled on the horizon toward the South and West. At school my schoolmates noticed that the smog from the fires caused the sun to look like the moon. Grey cinders fell upon us as we played in the school yard. It was frightening time for many Maine residents.

Large amounts of rain arrived near the first of November and the forest fires went out. For my family, life seemed to return to the way it had been at that house for the past six years.

For me to compare two Thanksgiving Days that happened ten years apart it is also important to mention that neither of our parents were high school graduates. In 1947 my brother, an honor student in the Senior Class at Eastport, Maine realized in those days there was nothing like Financial Aid, that is well known today, for him to attend college---but David had dreams.

At that time I had no special occasion clothes. My everyday clothes went to school with me, then returning home, after putting on boots if necessary, they went with me to the swamp, trails, and woodlots, behind my home. The greatest distance I had traveled in my lifetime happened on a day when I was so young I couldn’t remember it. A 80-mile round trip was made to visit relatives in St. George, New Brunswick, Canada. A classic story from my mother resulted from that trip: Her sister, My Aunt Gertie, (Gertrude Spinney Hicks) made the trip with us. I had a prolonged crying spell that frustrated everyone in the automobile. Aunt Gertie made a statement using a word that was very common in the Spinney lingo: “There is nothing wrong with the little bastard. He’s just ugly!”

November 1947 found me in grade 6. I wasn’t good at catching a baseball even if I had a baseball glove, I couldn’t hit a ball if I had a bat, but I knew I loved the game. I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle but desperately wanted one. In geography class at school I heard about interesting places so far away that I would never get there. Someday my Dad would take me hunting. I had dreams.

Less than 20 years earlier, before she married, my mother was the live in maid for a rich family in Concord, Massachusetts. She had worked with luxuries like modern electric appliances, central heating, running water, a flush and bathtub, and an ice box. She cooked banquets for the members of the Country Club that often visited the home. Each day of her life she wanted the best for her kids, wishing they would be smarter and better mannered than the rich people’s kids in the city. She had dreams.

My father was employed as the shipping room foreman at a Sardine Factory at Eastport. The work was seasonal. During the winter months he tried to keep the family going by cutting pulp wood in four foot lengths using a buck saw and axe, then stacking it. His jobs had not been to his liking since becoming unemployed from The National Biscuit Company in Philadelphia in the early 1930’s. He loved to go hunting,---and he had dreams.
Many things that were unimaginable to my family that Thanksgiving Day morning in 1947 would start happening in the near future, but God knew, and led us along.

Mom and Dad were up early on Thanksgiving Day morning and were surprised to find that a light snow had fallen during the night. My earliest memories from around age three were being out of bed and eating rolled oats, Ralston, Cream of Wheat, or corn meal mush, with mom and Dad before Dad went to work. It is no surprise that I ate breakfast with them before daylight that morning. Soon after that Roland Ward, a neighbor, arrived at our home with his car. Dad and Roland went off deer hunting to their favorite spot about fifteen miles away.

Mother started cooking the holiday meal. She prepared two large chickens, made dressing and stuffed them. The menu would also include: potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, rutabaga turnips, canned peas, Apple pie, and squash pie.
My sister and I have never forgotten the lime jell-o. We watched our mother mix it up and poured it in the most fancy crystal bowls we had ever seen, then paced it to cool on a shelf in the woodshed. She said they were as fancy as the desserts she made when she was living and working with the Foote’s in Concord, MA.

The chickens cooking in the oven gave our home a wonderful aroma. My sister and I played in the yard that day and made several trips in and out of the house.

Dinner was ready by 11:30. There was no way to dress up for this special meal. We all just washed our hands in the little basin and sat down at our places at the table. We missed Dad being there and hoped he would come home with a deer. There was an abundance of food. After dinner Ruth and I continued playing. Our brother David left home for our Grandparents store where he had a daily job of helping them with the chores. I started counting the hours and minutes until Dad would return home. We were used to him returning from hunting within a half hour after sunset.

In late November darkness comes early in the most eastern part of Maine. The kerosene lamps were burning brightly when Mom, Ruth and I had supper. Of course we had leftovers and there was plenty left for Daddy. Mom said he was traveling quite a ways but he would be home soon.

After supper I sat by the window and watched lights of the autos on the highway traveling from West to East. They all passed our home. The evening was very cold with a moon in the sky that was close to being full.

By 8 o’clock I was worried and crying. “Something awful must have happened to Dad!” I went to bed and continued crying and praying that Dad would come home. There have been few times in my lifetime when I have been more upset than I was that evening.

For his usual non-school day routine, David listened to the world news on the radio at our Grandparents store, then started walking home. He arrived home about 9:30 pm and gave the news that Dad had called the store. Dad had shot a deer deep in the woods and it would take him and Roland a long time to drag it to the highway.

It was after 11:30 pm when Dad and Roland returned home with a deer tied to the fender of the automobile. The bright moon was shining as the deer was moved from the automobile and hung in the woodshed. Deer steak and deer meat stew would soon be on the menu. I loved it.

Mom warmed up Dad’s Thanksgiving Day dinner. I sat next to Dad at the table, had a lunch with him and listened to his exciting hunting adventure. Then went to bed and thanked God that Daddy was home.



At Christmas that same year, The management at the factory where my father worked (The Riviera Packing Co., Eastport, Maine) realized they had a very successful year and gave all of the employees a bonus. Because of that, a luxury, in the form of a battery powered radio, arrived at our home. World news and music entered our home. Mom loved it.

After the new year my Dad’s mother and step father invited our family to live with them , keep the store going, and take care of them until the “end of their road of life”. My parents agreed , the property ownership was transferred to them, and my family moved to “The Store” in April 1948. My mother told me a few years later that she really didn’t want to move but thought it would be good for us kids. (“Thank you Mom. You were right!” Elsie and I now live at that place April through October and our grand-daughter Alyssa has celebrated four birthdays there.)

Before summer arrived in 1948 I used my life’s savings and bought a new bicycle. Through the years it was shared with my brother, sister, and several kids in the neighborhood. I also owned a baseball bat, ball, glove and found neighbor kids that liked to play baseball. That fall my Dad took me hunting for the first time. We went hunting together many times after that.

Of great importance was that during the summer of 1948 a Professor, (Kimbal Flaccus) from a college in Pennsylvania was camping on the seashore a short distance from the store. As a customer in the store he became friends with my family. My brother expressed to him his dream of going to college and not having any funds. Mr. Flaccus explained to him the correct procedure for applying to the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.
My brother followed his instructions, and became a first alternate candidate from his Maine District for the class that would enter the Naval Academy in 1949. The main candidate met all of the qualifications. Although a bit disappointed for not being accepted, my brother’s efforts enabled him to discover the Maine Maritime Academy at Castine, Maine. The school was tuition free. He applied and became a member of the entering class in August 1950. He was successful there and graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy, with a Merchant Marine Engineer’s license plus an Officer’s commission in the United States Naval Reserve in 1953.

The College did not remain tuition free. My brother, with a good job on the merchant ships helped finance my way to attend the Maine Maritime Academy and graduate from that school in 1957.----Then, with both of her brothers with good jobs, and encouraging her, the family was confident that enough funds could be procured for Ruth to attend College. She Graduated from Washington State Teachers College, Machias, Maine (Now The University of Maine at Machias) in 1962. Brother David had dreams when we all lived in that little house..


Ten years later on Thanksgiving Day 1957 found me as a College graduate on active duty with he U.S. Navy. I was the Engineering Officer aboard The USS Illusive; MSO 448. By that time I had played baseball in several Maine cities and several cities in the Caribbean. My senior year I was co-captain of the college baseball team. I also had traveled. For three winters my training ship had taken me around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. I had crossed the United States by train, and sailed across the Pacific Ocean. My ship was at the Pier in Yokosuka, Japan. We were docked behind the aircraft carrier USS Bonne Homme Richard. I was the ship’s duty officer. By 11:30 am that day I was starving but dinner would not be served until 2:00pm and there was bad news. There would be no evening meal!

Two o’clock arrived. The three other officers and I changed from our work uniforms to our dress blue uniforms for the holiday meal. It was after 2:00pm when the Captain, dressed in his work clothes, entered the wardroom. He saw our appearance, said: “I’m embarrassed,” then headed for his cabin to change to his dress blue uniform. I knew I was going to starve to death for sure!

The Officer’s Messman, a young Sailor from the Philippine Islands
brought our meals from the ship’s galley. We found them delicious. I knew I wanted to ask for seconds but in our wardroom I never knew anyone to ask for seconds on any meal. Officers were charged for all of their meals.
Needless to say, nearly eight hours later while making an inspection of the ship before going to bed I thought I was going to starve to death. It was my first Thanksgiving Day away from home. (We were on Far East Time.) I knew that half a world away people in Maine would soon be enjoying their Thanksgiving Day feast. Also Deer hunting season would be ending soon and sometimes during the Month of November Dad would think of me and be waiting for the day we could once again go hunting together. He would have to wait three years for that to happen. In bed I thanked The Lord for many things. It was unforgettable day.

Through the years I have remembered other Thanksgiving days that are filled with special memories. On Thanksgiving Day 1957 and every Thanksgiving Day since 1947
I remembered to thank God for all of his love and care. Six decades have passed but somehow the clock seems to always turn back to that hour near midnight on Thanksgiving Day 1947. I’m sitting beside my Dad at the table in the little house. nibbling on a chicken bone, as Dad ate his warmed up Thanksgiving Day dinner. He told about shooting the deer in the wilderness and the hard time he had getting it back to the highway. I knew I was the happiest kid on Earth. Daddy was safely home, our family was together, and at that time and on every day of my life I have known that God loves me.

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Zephyrhills, Florida
November 14, 2007

Windowsill Gardening

In my previous post "Garden Thoughts and Garden Talks" gardening celebrity P. Allen Smith shared some ideas about protecting evergreens. Well, the irrespresible Mr. Smith is back a fantastic gardening idea for the upcoming winter season: Windowsill Gardening!

Because lettuce and other salad greens germinate so quickly, it’s easy to grow a salad garden inside on a sunny windowsill. What I like to do is grow a mix of “baby greens,” which means I harvest the leaves before the plant matures. I mix these baby greens in with store bought lettuce for a flavorful salad or snip off a few leaves to top off sandwiches.

Good Choices for Baby Greens: Lettuce, arugula, basil, spinach, chard, red mustard
Good Choices for Micro Greens: Radish, broccoli, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, sunflowers.

To learn more about these seed varieties visit We feature Botanical Interest seeds right here at Skillin's.

Micro greens are another way to enjoy fresh lettuce during the winter months. Micro greens are harvested when they have about 4 leaves. They may be small, but they are very flavorful.

Growing baby salad greens and micro greens couldn’t be easier. Simply sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover them with a dusting of soil and keep the seeds moist by lightly misting them with water daily. Keep the pots in a warm location until they begin to sprout and then move them to a sunny window. If the plants look spindly or anemic, they need more light. The baby salad greens may require as much as 12 hours of light for healthy growth. A grow light is an easy remedy for this problem. Hang the lights about 6 to 12 inches above the plants.

Micro greens are ready to harvest in about 14 days. Clip the seedlings off close to the soil. Baby salad greens will be ready in about 3 to 4 weeks. Trim them off at the base, starting with the outside leaves first.

Product Guide:Jiffy Windowsill GreenhouseIndividual peat pots and a clear, plastic lid make starting seeds a snap. It’s a great system for growing baby and micro greens.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Garden Thoughts and Garden Talks

Hello again,

We at Skillin's sure hope you have had a Happy Thanksgiving!

This post contains a few gardening tidbits that have built up over the last few days.

Garden Thoughts

One of my cherished Thanksgiving traditions is to spend a few quiet hours in the yard prior to the big meal. I am not much of a Thanksgiving cook; we usually visit others for Thanksgiving so we get to bring a few goodies as our part.

Since I don't have a big meal to worry about and since I am always behind in my gardening; Thanksgiving morning in my yard is one of my most cherished times of the year. This year worked out great. I was able to trim back quite a few perennials and clean out a couple of perennial beds. The clean out involved raking out wet soggy leaves and then pulling some weeds (easy to pull right now) from the late summer. This left some nice clean beds and I was able to cover the beds with some nice natural Pro Gro by North Country Organics. The Pro Gro will settle into the existing soil and bring always appreciated organic matter and nutrients to the soil. My plants will really benefit next year!

There is still some time for you busy gardeners to do the same thing in your perennial beds if you have not been able to yet.

We are going to be running into some cold nights and when that ground is good and crunchy from a few cold days and nights, then it will be the perfect time to get some mulch over and around your perennials, roses and other tender plants. The object is to keep the ground cold and frozen so the root systems of these plants do not get heaved around by Mr. Winter's roller coaster temperatures. Compost, bark mulch, straw, pine needles and fir boughs are all materials that make good mulches!

Gardening celebrity P. Allen Smith reminds us that we live in a cold climate that is sure to get bitter winter storms, don't wait until one is predicted to protect your evergreens. Take the time to complete this task now. Your trees may need to be shielded from more than just wind and snow: Use burlap to cover evergreens located near a road that will get salt sprayed. Burlap is a time tested material that is very insulative of evergreens that are exposed to high winds and/or road salt.

We at Skillin's recommend using Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies to protect from wind damage. Burlap can be used for the broad leafed evergreens as well as the evergreens with narrow needles like junipers.

I have been filling my bird bath every day now to keep the water fresh for our feathered friends. Remember that winter is a time when available water is very valuable to the birds; so much water gets frozen that birds can get thirsty. I keep an available fresh supply for them and I have noticed some good traffic at the bird bath. I keep the water from freezing by maintaining a bird bath deicer in the bird bath. Bird bath deicers are available right here at Skillin's and they work very well. Merely plug them into an electric source and drop the coil portion into your bird bath water. Because they only operate to keep the water temperature above freezing, they do not use much electricity at all.

Looking for a wonderful gift idea OR an excellent bird feeder to add to your collection? We highly recommend either the Squirrel Buster Classic feeder or Squirrel Buster Plus feeder that we sell here at Skillin's. Check out for some great pictures and descriptions of the product. We sell the Classic feeder for $39.99 and the Plus feeder for $79.99 and either is a great deal. I have used the Classic feeder for almost two years in my yard; the birds love it and the squirrels can NOT get into it. Dozens of happy customers agree with me about both feeders; they are top notch and simply the best feeders we have seen in years. The Classic feeder will not attract cardinals but the Squirrel Buster Plus will. I need to add a Plus to my collection at home--Christmas is coming; maybe if I am good will receive one!

Tom Atwell of the Maine Sunday Telegram recently wrote in his gardening blog called The Constant Gardener that he advocated raking the lawn with a 24" rake instead of a 30" rake. I kind of scoffed at that as I have always wielded the bigger 30" variety thinking I could cover more ground with that. But during a recent early morning raking as the sun rose before it was time to go to work, I grabbed an old 24" bamboo rake and I will say the samaller rake provided a more deft and probably a more efficient experience. I was much better able to move in between shrubs and also dropped less leafs back to the ground as I emptied my rake into the waiting leaf bags. Thanks Tom for the recommendation; I think I will keep using the 24" variety. Bigger is not always better!

Garden Talks

Now onto some recent email gardening questions. Feel free to email us your gardening questions at We love to answer your questions and we may well post them in the Gardening Log for fellow gardeners to see! We always keep your name confidential so ask away!

Question: Does allowing my rosemary to flower, alter the taste at all. It looks so pretty flowering on my kitchen counter. I've always heard not to let chives flower if you plan to use them in dishes but don't know if the same hold true for other herbs,

Answer: I have inquired of a few folks and done some checking around and I cannot find any thought anywhere that allowing rosemary to flower will alter the taste.

I think this is probably so because rosemary is usually used in a dried form anyway so it would be a little older than a chive plant which might be more mature and therefore “tougher” as a plant that gets to a flowering stage.

Question: This past spring, I purchased 2 Oak Hill Reblooming Hydrangea plants from Skillins.
Could you please give me some advice on how to care for the plants over the winter months?
Should I fertilize at this time? Prune? How should I protect them over the winter months?

Answer: Once the ground freezes up I would mulch around the base of your hydrangeas to keep the ground frozen and prevent the heaving that may occur to your still young hydrangea plants.

I would clean any dead leaves from around the base of the plant (not only hydrangea leaves but oak and maple leaves) and I would trim back any growth that is dead or dying. Once the ground is nice and clean I would sprinkle some natural fertilizer like Holly Tone around the base of the plant if you have not done so in the last few months. The active ingredients from the Holly Tone will not be used by the plant now that it is dormant BUT the Holly Tone will be nice and available in early Spring when your plants will need a boost!

Water your plants well if you have not done so lately, they can use the moisture before the ground freezes.

Mark Your Calendar

Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).

Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!

Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Log; email us any comments @ or feel free to join in on the garden conversation by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post,

Mike Skillin

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wilt Pruf Alert!

Hello again!

Today and tomorrow represent great opportunities to get that Wilt Pruf onto your broad leafed evergreens. Temps will be in the high 40's to 50 degrees and the long range forecast is not for warm temperatures over the next 10 days or so!

We do recommend Wilt Pruf as a spray for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons and azaleas to help prevent leaf wilting and curling in the winter and early Spring. Wilt Pruf is an all natural product that is perfectly safe to use. Wilt Pruf is best applied in November on a nice warm day. Wilt Pruf essentially clogs the open pores of a plant’s leaves and this reduces transpiration or moisture loss through the plant’s leaves. This coating also helps protect the cells of the leaf against burning wind (much like lip balm protects us).
Let us know if you have any questions!
Mike Skillin

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Skillin's Christmas Tree Story

Think Green! Help Us to Plant for the Planet!

If you are thinking about a fresh Balsam Fir Christmas Tree, roping and wreaths Skillin’s Greenhouses in Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth has the aesthetic Maine Holiday tradition for you. Our Skillin’s and Maine grown Christmas Greens will make your decorating even more merry because they are more than decorations. Our Holiday Greens help sustain Maine agriculture, a tradition here at Skillin’s since 1885.

Buying local grown products also help in reducing the use of fuel. Because these products are grown closer to you they have less distance to travel to get to you. Supporting locally grown products reduces our carbon footprint, creates local agricultural jobs, sustains local farms; so with your support you are helping to preserve open space and wildlife habitats. Maine grown products are also “fresher” and will create lasting family memories with your children.

Before setting your Christmas Tree up always make a fresh 1” or more cut on the butt end of the tree. This will enable your tree to pick up water from the tree stand during its stay indoors. Always routinely check your tree at least once a day and in warm homes more often is recommended. Add water as needed and never allow your tree to dry out. Once a tree dries out it may not be able to pick up water again without another fresh cut. Keep your tree away from any heat source and never forget the cookies for Santa.

Remember to recycle your trees after the Holidays because they have stored valuable nutrients in their foliage and wood. You can always bring your tree back to us at Skillin’s or call us to arrange for a pickup and we will recycle the tree for you at our Mt. View Tree Farm so your tree will help to create the life of a new tree!

For more information on the proper care of a Fresh Skillin’s Christmas Tree please pick up a tree care sheet here at Skillin’s.


Terry Skillin

Amending that Clay!

Gardening friend Nancy checks in with her experiences on amending heavy clay soils:

"I wanted to pass my tip along for clay soil. I made a raspberry bed and one end turned out to be just clay. I added few inches of peat moss, lots of chopped leaves, and several inches of old horse manure (endless supply of that!). After hand flipping it over several times, voila, good looking soil. This is the time of year to find leaves. They are a wonderful soil amendment."

I agree with Nancy that chopped leaves make a wonderful organic soil amendment.

If you don't have an endless supply of horse manure feel free to use any aged manure you can get your hands on or any good quality compost--we sell some great composts right here at Skillin's that would easily fit the bill.

Now Nancy, I bet you didn't know that raspberries are about my favorite fruit (along with blueberries), so next year if you would like to drop a sample of your raspberries by I would be glad to evaluate your raspberry production!

Thanks Nancy for your contribution. We love recommendations from gardeners. Feel free to reply to us by clicking on "comments" just below or by sending us a note at!

Mike Skillin

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts

Hello again,

Welcome to another posting of Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts at the Skillin's Garden Log.

Garden Talks

Let's dive right in with some great questions this past week from some of our gardening friends like you. Email us your gardening questions at!

Question: I have several plantings of Purple Dome Asters. Almost before they bloom, the lower leaves turn brown and become unsightly. Do bunches of these flowers have a tendency to get moldy because they are too close? The flowers are not bothered by the ugly stems, just me. Should I thin each bunch down to one or two stems? I tried thinning them this spring, but maybe I didn't divide away enough material. What should I do either now or next year?

Answer: I checked with Jeff Skillin to verify the answer to this and he indicated that the Purple Dome Aster has a high tendency for the lower leaves to turn brown.
If the plants do have some space in between for light and air circulation you will see less browning and consequently less molding but you will probably at least still see some browning.
I would wait until early next Spring to space your plants.

Question: Can you tell me if Hydrangeas should be cut back in the fall and mulched after adding the Holly Tone? What about the butterfly bush? We have four and one of the four did not do well at all this year. I have the Holly Tone which we bought at Skillins and I think we were told to put that on in November. Am I remembering that right?

Should all perennials be cut back? And as a general rule of thumb, do you recommend pulling all annuals up? I've had snapdragons come back when I didn't pull them up but I don't think any of the others have come back except the darling little pansies, which I now consider a perennial.

Answer: A light pruning on the hydrangea and butterfly bush is fine at this time, but I usually wait until spring to do any heavy cutting on those plants.
Usually by mid May it is clear where the new growth is and I prune out dead wood to that point. You are right about the HollyTone, so go ahead and give the plants a light feeding.

It is usually a good idea to clean up the majority of dead perennial foliage in the fall, as it helps to keep the garden free from diseases. The exceptions that I follow are: when the foliage or dried flower heads might offer some winter interest when covered with frost, ice or snow, and when the dead foliage might provide some extra winter protection for marginally hardy perennials.

I usually pull up annuals to make room for spring bulbs, but sometimes leave the pansies and snapdragons.

If you need a few bulbs to add a dash of spring color, we still have a nice selection!

(Above answer courtesy of Tim Bate of Skillin's Falmouth)

Question: I was just wondering if I can trim some bushes around the house. Lilacs, holly and some others?

Answer: This is a fine time to trim holly, but if you trim lilacs too much at this time, you risk cutting away next years flower buds. A rule of thumb that generally works for most shrubs is:

If it flowers before the 4th of July, prune it immediately after flowering
If it flowers after the 4th of July, prune in spring or fall.

(This answer too, courtesy of Tim Bate of Skillin's Falmouth!)

Question: Is mulch just laid on the ground around the plants or over the entire garden where my new plants are.

Answer: When mulching for winter cover, the "mulch" should be placed over the area where the stem meets the roots and then the mulch should be matted about 6 to 12" around the stem of the plant to about a 4" thickness. Generally speaking, this isdone in late November or so when that ground gets good and crunchy. The aim is to keep the ground frozen and to keep the ground from freezing and thawing. I would concentrate on mulching your specific plants rather than the garden as a whole.

Garden Thoughts

I checked in with good gardening friend Barbara Gardener and she is waging a fierce battle with some hard clay in her yard and garden. Hard clay is a tough foe for any gardener--it seems as if the inpenetrable clay that gets so wet in the Spring and so darned armor like in the summer and fall just keeps pushing its way to the top of the soil level.

Peat moss and sand are two old recommended soil amendments to battle against clay but I tend to favor better organic matter like a good rich compost to encourage a better natural fight by microorganisms. Aeration is key and we sell a product here called Soil Perfecter by the Espoma Company ( that consists of kiln dried minerals. These hardened minerals stay in the clay and form air pockets that let the oxygen in--again good for the microorganisms and bad for the clay.

It is a battle but I am going to sell Barbara Gardener a bag of that Soil Perfecter and she will defeat that clay. Clay is tough but I would never bet against Barbara Gardener!

We have had some very rainy weather lately. Now that we have some dry weather back, do not forget to check those bird feeders and clean out any wet seed. Wind driven rain can really dampen that seed and our feathered friends usually do not like wet bird seed.

Our good birding friend Liz Cardinale also would like to give us birding fans another reminder: the cold temperatures of winter often make it difficult for birds to find fresh water. We sell bird bath deicers here at Skillin’s that can easily keep that valuable water available for the birds! Just place the deicer into your bird bath and plug it in! We also sell heated birdbaths that will keep that water available for the birds. When sitting water starts to freeze it makes it really tough for our feathered friends to get the water they need. So don't forget them this winter!

Now is the time to wrap your young trees near their base to protect them for the winter from sun scald. Terry Skillin also recommends placing some rat bait in a coffee can and leaving that near the base of young trees. Mice love to burrow under snow cover and use young trees as their food source.
We do recommend Wilt Pruf as a spray for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons and azaleas to help prevent leaf wilting and curling in the winter and early Spring. Wilt Pruf is an all natural product that is perfectly safe to use. Wilt Pruf is best applied in November on a nice warm day. Wilt Pruf essentially clogs the open pores of a plant’s leaves and this reduces transpiration or moisture loss through the plant’s leaves. This coating also helps protect the cells of the leaf against burning wind (much like lip balm protects us). If we get a particularly warm day or two in late February or early March it may be smart to reapply Wilt Pruf then. It also often helps to wrap your tender plants such as hollies, roses as well as evergreens in high wind locations. We do sell burlap for this purpose.
The folks at People, Places and Plants magazine (produced right here in Maine) check in this issue with some great gardening tips that deserve special mention. Their web site can be found at
Begin cooling bulbs for forcing indoor flowering. Start paper white narcissus for holiday blooming.” Check out the Skillin's Garden Log entry for October 31 for some great tips on forcing bulbs. Paper white narcissus and their less fragrant cousins Soleil D’Or (all yellow) and Chinese Sacred Lilies (mix of white and yellow) do not need to be cooled for indoor forcing. Literally just place them in water and watch them grow!
Mulch perennials with straw. Avoid leaves as mulch; they mat down when wet and cut off oxygen to plants. Mulch after the ground begins to freeze.” Mulching after the ground BEGINS to freeze is very important. Every season is different for the timing of the ground freezing but keep a careful eye and let us know if you have any questions!
Mark Your Calendar
Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).
Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!
Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Blog; email us any comments @ or feel free to join in on the garden conversation by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post,
Mike Skillin