Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Monge Lilac

Sheliah of Skillin's checks in:

"Christmas is over so it's time to start thinking about spring! Nothing says spring like Lilacs! If you want a beautiful dark purple lilac in your garden I would recommend Monge. I got this beautiful variety at Skillin's a few years ago. It has grown fast and has been problem free. The secret to beautiful lilacs is full sun, a little lime, and a bag of manure every year."
I agree Sheliah. I will say that I sprayed my lilacs monthly this year with Messenger and was very pleased at the LACK of powdery mildew in what was a very wet and humid year. That being said full sun and a yearly liming is a must. I like the manure idea; I end up using Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica because of the organic matter in the fertilizers (but manure gets you there as well!)
Thanks Sheliah for the great thoughts and terrific Lilac photo!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008


Hello again!

Before we get onto our subject today--flowering indoor azaleas--let me mention a couple of items.

First, I would like to wish you a sincere Happy Holidays message--we hope your Christmas time was restful and well spent with family and friends. Now onto the New Year!

While we are journeying toward 2009, let me say that I just put a healthy dose of water into my Christmas tree stand earlier today. Watering your tree daily is critical to your Christmas tree looking great (and also staying fresh and fire resistant into the New Year.)

We have many items on sale at Skillin's over the holidays. All Christmas items are 50% off (we still have some awesome ornaments!). Bird feeders, food and supplies are 25% off for the time being. Tools including newly arriving snow shovels are 25% off. Webkinz are 25% for the time being. We grew the best poinsettias and azaleas this year and what is left is 50% off. These plants make awesome house plants for the winter.

The florist azalea is one of my very favorite house plants. The flowers are gorgeous almost all winter long and then the plant rewards as a great house plant for the remainder of the year until the plant is ready to flower again.

Many years ago Jim Crockett the founder of Crocketts Indoor Garden wrote about the allure and care of the florist azalea:

"If I had to write a one-sentence summary of azalea care, it would be this: keep them cool, keep them moist, and keep them after they flower. An English gardening magazine once published a photograph of a 150 year old azalea that had been growing in the same pot, regularly fed and trimmed, of course, for 50 years. In Japan, where most evergreen azaleas are native, gardeners regard an azalea of that age as a mere stripling!

The kinds of so-called florist azaleas grown as houseplants are flowering shrubs with small evergreen leaves; their flowers, single or double, are usually white or a shade of pink or red. Yellow and orange azaleas are for the most part deciduous and are generally grown in outdoor gardens. Normally florist azaleas bloom in the spring but plant specialists by altering temperatures are able to bring them into flower at any time of the year. Because of the great demand for flowering plants during the fall, winter, and early spring, the bulk of azaleas are brought into bloom and sold in flower shops between November and May. Given the right care through their rest period, they then resume their normal spring-blossoming schedule. It's the after-blooming care that I like to emphasize because it's entirely possible for the home gardener to keep azaleas growing for many years with an ever-increasing abundance of flowers.

Most people buy azaleas as bud-and-bloom-laden plants just as they are about to flower. While they are in bloom, and in their vegetative period as well, they need a cool, brightly lit spot; an east-facing window with night temperatures about 50 degrees is ideal. The cooler they can be kept the healthier they will be and the longer the flowers will last. (If they are kept in too warm a spot, their growth becomes etoliated, meaning that the leaves are widely spaced along slender stems.) It is vital that the planting medium be kept constantly moist all year.

The critical time in an azalea's life is after the flowers fade. Too many gardeners seem to think that the plants are worthless at this point, and put them out with the Thursday trash. But as I've said, if they're properly attended they'll last for years and even improve with age. The first step in after-flowering care is housekeeping. I go over an entire plant and snip off the dead blossoms and the seed pods. Then I trim back any branches that stray beyond the plant's natural shape, making my cuts down inside the foliage so the cuts do not show. Then I repot the plant into a 1-inch larger pot...(we recommend Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend potting soil for a top quality all natural and affordable potting medium). (We also recommend breaking up some all natural Plant Nutrition Tablets by Organica--also sold right here at Skillin's--for a good long-term fertilizer for your azalea).

Once an azalea's flowers fade, the plant begins a handsome new stage of vegetative growth, and it's then that the foliage takes its turn at showing off. Unlike many flowering plants, the azalea is a beautiful flowering plant during the months when its not in flower.) When this new growth reaches maturity, but before it gets hard and woody, new plants can easily be started from 2 to 3 inch cuttings taken from the tips of the stems.

When summer approaches (can't wait for that!) and the danger of frost is past, I move my azaleas, pots and all, outside to a shady spot....I always try to keep them near a water source to reduce the effort involved in keeping the constantly moist during the blistering days of summer. In the fall when a frost threatens I bring them in and set them in a cool bright windowsill. They're at their best when the nights are in the 40 to 55 degree range and the days no warmer than 68....

Invasions of spider mites are sometimes a problem. The answer to this is good hygiene. Whether the plants are indoors or out, they should be washed weekly, aiming a good strong spray all around the foliage, especially on the undersides of the leaves....

Finally, it's normal for all plants to drop their old leaves, but when they drop the new ones, too, it means trouble. Usually the problem is too little moisture, but too little light will have the same effect. Keep the soil beneath the plants moist at all times, and if this doesn't seem to help, move them to a brighter spot."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 30, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Unexpected Gifts by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

While I write about many aspects of my life there is much I do not reveal. I do not have a family. I joke that I am an orphan. My parents were older than what was normal for at the time I came into this world. I had sisters that were more like aunts than sibs. It is said; only the good die young as all my cousins proved to be. I remain.

Earlier this year I wrote of the relinquishing of my dog. For 10 months Kayla, a rescued senior Golden Retriever began her life south of the Mason-Dixon Line. For 10 months she held my soul and very being hostage

She had won my heart before I even met her for the first time that unseasonable hot September morning. Kayla may have looked like a Golden Retriever yet possessed the aloofness not usually associated with her breed. I loved her and worked with her as much as I could.

Early on in our relationship I introduced her to the tennis ball only to find her totally disinterested, another less than ‘golden’ norm. Nevertheless the hard rubbery balls that are manufactured and marketed locally were soon a staple. Kayla accepting me was another matter. I found myself performing actions such as ‘holding’ doggy treats in my teeth to get her to look at me and hand feeding her from her dinner bowl to gain her trust. The animal behaviorist was #2 on my speed dial and my right hand thumb found its way to that key without even a glance. Animal lovers are crazy. Not unlike gardeners who too take their passion to extremes.

This writing is not about loss or sadness but of finding family in unexpected places, unforeseen gifts.

Christmas is the season of gifting. Many of us have had moments, perhaps months and years of monetary mayhem. Some are experiencing this dilemma for the first time.
At a very early age I learned that the appreciative look on the recipients face could be the greatest gift of all. It continues to be the thought behind the thing.

Last Christmas I received one of the most cherished gifts of all.

Christmas Day 2007 was a day made for memories. Sky of crystal blue, a fresh blanket of snow not yet tarnished by the pollution that is life covered the earth. The sun was gold and the temperatures a balmy high 30’s. A perfect day for a walk.

Winslow Park Camp Ground in So. Freeport was the destination of dog and girl. Our outing included the game of fetch with her latest neon pink ball. Her catch was right on and the game of returning the ball became part of our routine.

Wide open spaces and potential interaction with other humans and dogs would allow to test some of our most painstaking tasks. Kayla heeding to voice commands while off the leash would be a priority. At one point she decided to take her ball and go her separate way. Calling her did no good and the look on her face dared me to take one step for surely she would run in the other direction.

I recalled the words of the animal behaviorist to ignore Kayla when she misbehaved. Not to reward with attention but to simply leave her alone. Walking away I struggled to face forward. I made my way to a picnic table and decided to sit atop to take in the bay that surrounded the park. My radar was turned up a few notches in order to stay connected with my naughty Golden and it took all my strength not to turn in her direction.

The air was crisp enough to cause the nostrils to stick together. Other outdoor types snow- shoed, or frolicked, many with dogs of their own. As the sun slipped in the west it's rays bounced off the crusting snow and the land appeared to be glittered in silver.

In haling deeply, the sound of my own breath was suddenly interrupted. ‘Crunch, crunch, crunch’ came from behind. I focused on the ripples on the bay and the darkening sky while my heart hoped. Out of the corner of my eye I detected the russet coat of a Golden. Soon two paws touched upon the very bench seat that held my feet. Soon these same paws struggled to pull her weight to the top of the table on which I sat. The ball was held firmly in her mouth as she struggled to join me on my wooden stage. With one final effort she soon was at my side. More gently than even I would have imagined, she placed the ball in my lap followed by her head. If you have ever read love in a dog’s eyes you know the look that met my own. Tears welled then trickled down my cheeks. Were her puppy dog browns filling as well? A bond was made.

Earlier this fall, I was admiring an item I spotted at a local gift shop. A dear woman who herself, could be called a gift, was also in attendance. I showed off this most unusual treasure and jokingly said ‘this so wants to go home with me’. Taking it from my hand she made her way to the check-out. Feeling uncomfortable with this gesture of generosity I protested. This is something she wanted to do. The offer itself was gift enough; nevertheless, the item now is comfortable in its, and my, new home.

At this time, I am not able to reciprocate in kind; I just want her to know how special her gift of object and her support are cherished.

Recently I received a phone call from the loving daughter of a potential client. The caller revealed that mother has always been an avid gardener yet due to health issues can no longer give it her all. Daughter wanted to give the gift of gardening services. She gently added that more than likely her mother will be at my side, not for lack of trust but for love and interest. After we spoke, I felt that I could very well be the one who would receive a gift from the very person I am being hired to help.

The best gardeners learn from the best (and worst) of what the world has to offer. There is nothing like being open the wisdom and workings of those who were before. The gift of one’s life experiences. Don’t ever hesitate to share.

Thank you all for the gift of your reading………………..

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Gentle Storm

Kind friend Dale Lincoln of Perry Maine checks in from Zephyrhills FL with his thoughts for all of us in Maine who have just "weathered the storm".

Dale writes:

"Hi Mike and All:

Hope the ice storm was easy on you all. Son Dale in Saco said he was without electric power for about 15 hours.

Attached is one of my writings after Maine's giant Ice storm in 1998.

Wishing you all the best"

Now....The Gentle Storm by Dale Lincoln

The wind didn't blow hard, and the rain didn't pour.
The snow didn't pile above the top of the kitchen door
There wasn't any resemblance to a tornado or hurricane,
It was just a little winter storm for the entire State of Maine.

On that cloudy January day, that some folks would call nice,
A gentle rain from heaven started turning into ice.
It stuck upon utility poles, and all of the forest trees,
Maine became a giant popsicle, in a mold about to freeze!

The electric wires gained excessive weight, which wasn't any joke.
The heavy tree tops bent toward ground, then many of them broke.
They fell upon the roadways, and on wires for power and light,
Nearly a million anxious people were in the dark that night.

High pressure pushed the storm away, and slowly moved it to sea.
With blue skies and a sun so bright, “Maine sparkled,” all would agree,
But beneath the beauty and glitter, people tried to find a way,
To keep their home and family safe, and warm from day to day.

Many people helped their neighbors, as dedicated light crews did their job.
There were many acts of kindness that “would make the old heart throb.”
People from away called home, and heard words ”We're doing fine,”
“And we are listening to the Voice Of Maine, FM 103.9.”

“Our wood stove is a heatin', there's swamp water for the flush”
“Many people around the State are doing worse than us.”
“We may not get the lights back on for two or three days or more,”
“But there are families at the shelter that are sleeping on the floor.”

“We have lots of candles and we cook meals, on that old propane grill,”
“Sure we're inconvenienced, but we're not feeling ill.”
“We thank The Lord for his love and care, and know He's in control,”
“We'll probably get some lights again, when the linemen “fix the pole.”
“We all can feel strong and mighty when things are going right,”
“But God is Master over all, through each day and each night.”
“Hereafter when things seem good, and High Tech is in the norm,”
“Remember God almost shut down Maine, with just one gentle storm.!” .

Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
In Zephyrhills FL
December 18, 2008

Skillin's Christmas Trees are Great!

This is a nice testimonial about Skillin's Christmas trees and also the customer describes the PERFECT way to care for a Skillin's Christmas tree.

"Merry Christmas to you and a very Happy New Year. Thank you for all the e-mails with gardening hints, etc. Also I want to mention that I am getting so many compliments on my Christmas tree I bought about the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Of course, I get compliments every year. A friend said it was a perfect tree. It is drinking lots of water which I am always pleased to see. My son-in-law cut about an inch off the bottom just before I put it up. I did have it in water right after I brought it home."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Berries, Boughs and Blessings… KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Blessed are those who feel blessed. I have to pinch myself at times to see if I am truly awake. I do not want this writing to be one of those dreaded letters we receive from long lost friends and/or relatives that are mass mailed this time of year yet I do have some celebrating to do.

I have returned for a second season to the ‘Christmas Room’ of one of the areas favorite nurseries. How lucky am I to work among the scents of Balsam, pine and the sparkle of glitter tipped cones coupled with red berries?

I never tire of walking into this fragrant infused room. It is a busy place that conjures images of Santa’s Workshop complete with ‘Papa Elf’. From boughs and bows beauty is born. Among the more seasoned workers I relate more with Hermey, the reluctant dentist of ‘Rudolph’ fame.

The members of The Christmas Room have the responsibility to create magic by artistically arranging branches of balsam, wisps of white pine with punches of Winterberry. Accents of gold-tipped cedar, and juniper berries often are peppered throughout the wreaths and other arrangements. I must admit the scent of the juniper is less than desirable, nevertheless the statement made by the blue/gray berries tucked among the greens is worth the gin tinged fragrance. Miniature sprigs of rosehips create their own proclamation, as the burgundy is a perfect complimentary color to the greenery. Beware of their beauty, however, as the thorny stems tend to bite. Swags, roping and window boxes are created along side wreaths of varying sizes and materials.

For many, the season for decking the halls is a year long vocation. Christmas tree growers prune, and cultivate growth to produce perfect specimens. Tree farmers harvest to make room for more trees. There are some who prefer the more natural look of a ‘wild tree’ and find beauty among the bareness between the limbs. Less can be more to some.

Such is the case in my life.

I recently moved to a much smaller apartment. After 16 years on Munjoy Hill I have said good-bye to a neighborhood I love and know so well. 11 of my ‘hill’ years my view was that of Back Cove and Portland Skyline. Sunsets in the silhouette of Mount Washington differed each day. 5 years ago I gave up the house for an apartment that offered a spectacular view of Casco Bay. The place was large with a heating bill to match. After much soul searching I sold furniture and other ‘stuff’ that had had surrounded me for years to make a clean start. To flourish we often have to begin anew.

My new place is a cozy attic abode. The water view has been replaced by treetops. Finally a tree house all my own. A smaller Christmas tree will have I, adorned only with lights of clear, white and gold. I will accent this tree with the gold of cedar tips, tassels of white pine and perhaps tuck a cone or two among the branches.

Beauty is in the being. This season is truly a blessed thing.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 16, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Memory: "I Looked Suspicious!"

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with yet another fun story that also makes us reflect...

It was Christmas Eve in Perry, Maine. Bea Blackwood, an elderly lady who lived alone on a country road in the next town ( Pembroke, Maine) was at my home for the turkey dinner. Bea was a lifetime friend and like a grandmother to our children. After my mother passed away she was my Dad’s companion until he died.

We usually had the Christmas turkey dinner on Christmas Day but that was one year we decided to have it on Christmas Eve. Bea ate a big supper. (Her favorite part of the turkey was the part that would go over the fence last.) A few minutes after supper, she became tired and went to sleep in our bedroom. Elsie and I were always busy on Christmas Eve. About 11:00 pm all of our kids went to bed.

Near midnight Bea woke up and had coffee. It was approaching 1:00 am when I started to take her home.

Soon after leaving my home I heard her say:
“Oh, the Key!” “I’m locked out, but you can get in through the kitchen window!”

When we arrived at her home Bea stayed in the warm automobile. I went to the back of her home, and lifted the window. When one of my legs was in the kitchen sink and my rear end was passing through the window, this thought went through my mind:

“If the Cops showed up right now, they wouldn’t believe my story!”

A few moments later I climbed out of the sink, shut the kitchen window, turned a light on, and opened the front door. After escorting Bea from the car to her kitchen, I wished her a Merry Christmas, then started home. A feeling of happiness and peace on earth was with me and I knew a wonderful Christmas memory had been created.

Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
In Zephyrhills FL
December 11, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Decorating for the Holidays—Beyond Balsam

The following article appears in the latest Coastal Journal edition of December 4, 2008 ( Kim Wilson of the Coastal Journal attended a recent Deck Your Halls class at our Skillin's Brunswick store. As you can see, the class was very ably hosted by Casey Cyr and Sarah Waite of Skillin's Brunswick. Thanks to both of them for doing a great job!

Our classes are held many Saturdays of the year at Skillin's and like this class most are free. If you would like to sign up for class notices and other good Skillin's info just sign up for our email list at!

Here is the article:

A drive through most any midcoast town at Christmastime will reveal the familiar, cherished sights of the season: candles in the windows, garlands and wreaths of fresh greenery festooning doors and windows and Christmas trees twinkling from within. But in addition to our time-honored holiday decorating traditions, there’s always room for new and fresh ideas.A recent holiday decorating workshop at Skillins Greenhouse had the participants “thinking outside the box.” The two young women who ran the workshop, Casey Cyr and Sarah Waite, had many creative and novel ideas.
The staff of Skillins had decorated a number of “theme” Christmas trees throughout the store, including a rustic “lodge” tree, a garden-themed tree decorated with faux flowers and watering cans and an all-white tree, which the workshop attendees all agreed would be perfect for a Christmas wedding.
Casey and Sarah emphasized having fun and using everyday items when decorating a Christmas tree, whether you choose to stick with a theme or not. Some of the out-of-the-ordinary ornaments on the Skillins trees included a tiny pair of child’s Crocs, glittery musical notes, lanterns and a birdcage. Large or oddly shaped items that are not strictly Christmas tree ornaments can be attached with floral wire.
They also suggested using unusual things for garlands, such as faux leaves and flowers, bows and wire-edged ribbon, which can be easily shaped to encircle your tree. Several unique tree skirt alternatives were on display. The lodge tree was surrounded by rustic-looking twine; the garden tree had a “skirt” made of branches of artificial ferns and the white tree was enclosed by what appeared to be miniature gingerbread house trim. Casey and Sarah encouraged participants to look around their homes for unique and offbeat decorations.
Outdoor decorations can be created from everyday objects as well. Swags, garlands and wreaths can decorate fences and railings, trellises, bicycles, wheelbarrows, boats or sleds. Twinkle lights bring the same objects to life after dark. LED bulbs are increasingly popular; they use ten times less energy than traditional incandescent mini lights. Although more expensive, they last approximately 50,000 hours.
Grapevine globes, available in craft stores, can be strung with lights and hung from trees and shrubs to create brilliant “floating” orbs. Berries, greenery and pinecones look festive filling a garden urn or adorning a wicker chair or a bench on a porch or walkway.And as for those candles in the windows, it doesn’t get any easier than the battery operated type that come with built-on sensors to turn them on at dusk and off at dawn, without you doing a thing. Timers will do the same for your outdoor lights.
For a party or special occasion, an easy and elegant way to line your walkway or decorate your front steps is to make luminaries. Any small bags can be used. Standard brown lunch bags work perfectly and are available in other colors at party supply stores. Fill the bottom of the bag with several inches of sand or plain kitty litter, then secure a votive candle in the sand. Once lit, the candles will burn for several hours, emitting a warm, lantern-like glow. As with all lit candles, precautions must be taken around children.
Indoors, there are many ways to welcome the season other than the Christmas tree. This is the time to put away your year-round decorations to eliminate clutter and make room for holiday decorations. Fresh garlands are festive draped over the top of a cabinet or armoire and small sprigs of holly or mistletoe can be tucked behind a mirror or picture frame. Cranberries, pinecones, fresh lemons or nuts look beautiful heaped in a glass bowl or basket. An assortment of different-sized pillar candles arranged on a mirror doubles the glow. Ornaments that have lost their tops or hangers can be arranged in an antique bowl.
Preplanted amaryllis bulbs put on a spectacular show around Christmastime. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are simple to force into bloom. Simply place them in a shallow container filled with decorative stones or gravel, maintain the water level at the bottom of the bulbs, and wait approximately 3 weeks for a fragrant display. One note about holiday plants and berries: some are poisonous if ingested by pets, so check first with your veterinarian.
These are just a few ideas for festive holiday decorations. As Casey and Sarah emphasized at the workshop, the best decorations are those that you come up with yourself, filling the holidays with your own personal touch.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lullaby and Goodnight by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. Now on with the show...

During this Holly Jolly time of the year, my musical thoughts are usually those of ‘Let it snow, let it snow…’, ‘Oh, Holy Night’, or ‘Santa Clause is Coming to town’, with the heavy emphasis on ‘he knows if you’ve been bad or good…’ as it always makes me a little more than nervous that I’m being more naughty than nice.

Today a different tune emitted from my lips. ‘Lullaby and Goodnight, go to sleep now little hydrangea, rose, peony’ or whatever it was that I was seeing for the last time this season. It is hard to believe that just a few short weeks before Christmas I am still putting gardens to bed.

Today, having used the last of my supply of Espoma’s Plant Tone and Coast of Maine’s Penobscot Blend I had to replenish my supply at a small garden center close to my client. The clerk was surprised to see me and more astounded that I was still working ‘out of doors’. Never to be at a loss of words and gardening talk I enlightened her that Thanksgiving is now my benchmark for the end of season’s chores whereas a few years ago ‘Halloween’ marked the end.

My explanation included that it is best that the plants, trees and shrubs be dormant before the final feeding of the season. Frozen earth or snow fall does not keep me away, what does is bitter cold weather. The line between too warm for the ornamentals and way too cold (for me) is one of the thinnest lines that exist in my world. However, I digress.

My soliloquy continued with plaudits of feeding of roses (Rose Tone is excellent yet I use Plant Tone coupled with Penobscot Blend as the mulch to protect the roots). Furthermore, how could any late season feeding be complete without including Holly Tone as the nectar for Hydrangea, evergreens or other acid-loving plants and shrubs?

Overhearing our conversation, a customer thanked me as she purchased her own bag of Plantone. She than asked about bulbs as she had not yet put all hers in for fear of all the chipmunks and squirrels that were scurrying her property. As long as the ground is not frozen and a hole appropriate for the size and depth of the bulb can be dug than go for it, she was told. Bulb Tone was added to her order (another KCB fave from Espoma). Being a humble person I was hesitant to share one of my most beneficial of bulb planting tips. Nevertheless, this is the Season of Goodwill towards man I felt it prudent to offer my golf tee suggestion to mark the spot where the bulbs are planted. Simply push a golf tee next to the area where the bulb was planted once the hole has been covered. This will eliminate erroneously unearthing the bulbs next year.

Guilt washed over me as she murmured that her husband had more than enough tees and wouldn’t be needing any until they left for ‘the Carolina’s’ after the New Year. Her demeanor indicated that I made a new friend this day. With a lilt in her step she exited the store and called over her shoulder ‘I can’t wait to tell my husband we still have time to take care of the garden.’

The ‘we’ in her statement coupled with the use of her husband’s golf tees, I was left with the slight suspicion I perhaps had less of a fan in her husband. I am somewhat thankful I will not be returning to this certain town until next spring. By that time this couple would have enjoyed their time in ‘the Carolina’s’, have returned to the blooms that only spring bulbs can offer. In addition, their waiting garden beds will require less work than if they had neglected the fall clean-up that is so vital to our Spring.

Therefore, if your own gardens and landscape have not received all that they should to prepare them for that long-winter’s nap, it is not too late. What better way to detour from the stress of holiday chores and shopping then spending time in your garden? Don’t be surprised if as you say good-night to your plants for the last time in 2008 you find yourself humming that childhood lullaby………..and be like me and when the word ‘baby’ comes to play the song becomes a medley and morphs to ‘Baby, it’s cold outside…………’

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 6, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Special Poinsettia Coupon!!

Print this Coupon to receive the following discounts on each Skillin's Grown Poinsettias!

$1.00 OFF for 1 Poinsettia

Buy a 2nd poinsettia, take $2.00 more off for a total of $3.00 in SAVINGS for 2 poinsettias!
Buy a 3rd poinsettia, take $3.00 more off for a total of $6.00 in SAVINGS for all 3!
Buy a 4th poinsettia, take $4.00 more off for a total of $10.00 in SAVINGS for all 4!
Buy a 5th, take $5.00 more off, buy a 6th take $6.00 more off, and so on!

This coupon is in addition to our quantity breaks already in place of buy 3 poinsettias, take 10% off or buy 5 poinsettias take 20% off! Also, you may use your No Questions Asked Seed Money coupons that over a thousand Skillin's customers have earned to date!

Our Skillin's Grown Poinsettias are a Maine product grown by fellow Maine people right here at Skillin's Greenhouses! Also, we are donating a portion of each poinsettia, Christmas tree and wreath sale to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. So help support your fellow Mainers and come by some Skillin's Grown Poinsettias. They make awesome decorations and even better gifts!

Some restrictions may apply. Coupon good only for poinsettias starting at $6.49 price point and above.

Skillin's Clerks: Use *P to redeem coupon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gulf Stream

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with yet another wonderful story that also makes us think...

A cold wind from the North pushed the warm moist air we enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day out to sea. The next morning I was cold. Grandson Alex, age five, heard me say “winter is coming.” as he skated on top of the puddles as we did our walk/run near Foreside Estates. A few hours later many parents and grandparents easily relate to my condition of feeling low as the children and grand children waved good by and started their return trip to their homes. People develop their own method of overcoming loneliness. Sometimes remembering when we survived worse situations can give us confidence we’ll survive the present emotions tugging on our heart. Yesterday I escaped from those doldrums by remembering the instant when I first met that wonderful “river” in the Atlantic Ocean. That day I was young, lonesome, and feeling very ill.
Conditions started going down hill the day my ship sailed from Maine Maritime Academy at Castine, Maine. While putting a lot of muscle in turning the crank, during a lifeboat drill off Rockland in a January snowstorm, my hands became cold and very painful. (Effects of Reynaud’s Disease.) By the time my hands warmed, the ship was sailing through heavy seas. A chill went up my spine, I burped; and, after several sessions of hanging my head over the ship’s railing, my shipmates noticed I was green with seasickness! I thought I was dying as I stood my first watches and performed work details aboard a ship at sea. I was unable to eat for two days as our ship headed for the Caribbean. Fresh air was the main reason I was on the main deck. It was after pumping my stomach as low as I could go when I saw the giant wave break above me. Instead of thoughts of being washed overboard I feared the wave would freeze me to death. A few seconds later I was drenched but life seemed better. The 70 degree sea water of the Gulf Stream gave me a warm feeling. Since that moment I’ve learned to love and respect the old Gulf Stream. On my first voyage, in the Gulf Stream I first noticed the schools of dolphins that effortlessly escorted our ship. The ocean changed color. Flying fish emerged from the waves and skimmed over the ocean for several yards. Their wings sparkled in the sunlight. A few years later, as engineer on coastal oil tankers, it was important to know the sea temperature. While near the Gulf Stream it often changed more than 25 degrees in one hour and affected the operation of the steam engines.
The Gulf Stream has its origin in the ocean south of Florida. It has a speed between 2.5 and 5 knots, flows northward along the Eastern Coast of the United States, crosses over the North Atlantic and flows into the Norwegian Sea. Because of its currents, early explorers with their sailing vessels could not take a direct route on their return trip to Europe. Hurricanes heading for the East Coast often increase a notch on the scale as they cross the Gulf Stream. Also, like conditions in Maine when the air temperature is about thirty degrees lower than the sea temperature, there is sea smoke. In earlier days sea smoke helped the sea captains become lost in the fog. Although many mariners found that the Gulf Stream gave them problems, for me it has created great memories. To avoid the northerly current, ships sailing south off the coast of Florida stay within two miles of Miami Beach. Heading north, ships take advantage of the current and stay a few extra miles off shore. In elementary school, when learning that the Earth is round, I remember an example: When approaching land people will first see the top of a mountain on the horizon. While heading north on the oil tankers it was fun to see just the tops of the tall hotels sticking out of the ocean.” Back in 1961,trying to avoid the Gulf Stream was the reason my ship, S.S.GULFOIL, was less than two miles from the sunbathers on Miami Beach when the steering engine stopped. I was the duty engineer when a crew member accidentally bumped a switch and shut the motor off. The problem was solved quickly but it received the attention of the Mate of the watch. At lunch he told me that our oil tanker turned 90 degrees and headed directly for the beach!

Returning to our hike in the cool morning air, when Alex was king of the hill on a Zamboni ice pile, then ran up and jumped from each rock outside the Falmouth Ice Arena, I realized that cold weather wasn’t causing all of my discomforts. Like the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, I needed to find the fountain of youth, and take a dip in it. Ponce de Leon didn’t find the fountain of youth but he is credited for being the first European to notice the Gulf Stream. He had crossed that “river in the ocean” before arriving at the place known today as St Augustine, Florida, on April 2, 1513. (Only thirteen days before he had to file his income tax.)

Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
In Zephyrhills FL
December 1, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello again,

We are just sending out a quick note this week to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. We here at Skillin’s truly hope you have a happy and restful day on Thursday.

Take a brief moment to say thanks for all the blessings we do have—even in these tough economic times.

Skillin’s will not be open on Thursday but we will indeed be back in full force on Friday at 8 AM and will of course be open all weekend. We will have lots of great Skillin’s smiles and plants, flowers and smiles, smiles and gifts for you to take a look at this season—all priced at very reasonable prices for very awesome and thoughtful gifts.

There are sales galore out there in the retail world and we have many great items on sale as well. So come in and check out our bright warm stores, grab some coffee and a cookie or two and don’t forget to ask about our No Questions Asked Skillin’s coupons that you can earn.

But before all that, have a great day on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for being a friend to us at Skillin’s.

For the Skillin’s Family and Staff,

Mike Skillin

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Beautiful Forest

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with yet another wonderful story that also makes us think...

Several years before my Dad took me trout fishing or deer hunting he took me to the woodlots. The forest was beautiful and I loved being there with him. His wood cutting tools were: A buck saw with a wooden frame; a double-bitted axe, and a 4-foot measuring stick. Each day his goal was to cut one cord of pulpwood for which he would receive $3.00. A fringe benefit allowed him to own one-half of the wood from the hardwood trees plus the tops and large branches of the softwood trees. That kept the wood stove heating at home.
When we arrived at the woodlot Dad would find his tools under a brush pile and go to work. Before cutting down each tree he would tell me where to stand and mention that a person needed to be very careful while working in the woods ---especially when felling a tree. “Strange things can happen when a tree is going down!”
After each tree was in a horizontal position, the limbs were removed with the axe. Then Dad would use the stick, measure four feet, and saw four-foot logs from the tree. (The measuring stick was also a “pry bar” that was used under a log to keep the log from binding his saw.) The firewood and pulpwood were stacked in separate piles. The woodpiles were arranged and a tote road was started to make it easy for a team of horses with a sled to travel near each woodpile.
The man-handling operations that occurred between the tree stump and the paper mill began very soon after the tree was cut into four-foot lengths: (1) Each stick was limbed and tossed near the woodpile. (2) The stick was picked up and put on the woodpile. (3) When the ground was frozen and the horses arrived, each stick was picked up and placed on the sled. (4) The horses moved the wood near a highway. Each stick was lifted from the sled and placed in a neat pile that sometimes became very large by the end of the winter. (5) At a future date the wood was neatly stacked on a truck. (6) The truck transported the wood to a siding at the railroad station where each stick was neatly piled on a railroad car and delivered to the paper mill. (7) I did not become familiar with the old wood handling operations at the paper mill but many people still remember and can add the remaining steps.
My first jobs in the forest products industry were placing small sticks of wood on the woodpiles, and placing brush in neat brush piles. My Dad was involved in a small “clear cutting operation.” He didn’t make much money but his woodpiles were neat, the very small trees survived, and the natural carpet of the forest floor was not damaged. In January, February and March, there was a special treat. If there was lots of snow on the ground the brush piles were torched. About two years later, in the summertime, Dad took me back to these woodlots. The woodpiles were gone. Jack firs and small hardwood trees were full of life, and we found an unlimited supply of wild raspberries. A few years later Dad took me deer hunting and we returned to these same “choppings.” The hiking on the tote road was soft and easy. The aroma of that healthy forest is unforgettable. Wildlife loved the place. Deer signs were everywhere. The forest was beautiful.
As a teenager I helped my Dad cut wood. I became skilled with using the double-bitted axe, bucksaw, and measuring stick. Removing the limbs from a tree that was in the horizontal position was my specialty. It was something like hitting a baseball. “The axe was my bat and the large limbs of the trees were baseballs. Removing the limb with one whack was a home run. Two whacks was a triple, Etc. Some large spruce limbs would strike me out!” When playing baseball a few years later I recognized the rewards of the arm strength and coordination that was gained from that training.
Family and other friends were generous upon my graduation from high school. In exchange for my photo and an invitation to the commencement exercises they gave me MONEY. The Graduation Ball was the last school activity for members of the Senior Class. Prior to attending my Graduation Ball I purchased a double-bitted axe and a metal –framed saw at the Perry Farmer’s Union Store. When the Graduation Ball ended at midnight I was healthy, alcohol (and drug) free, and alone. (At age17 that isn’t a bad way to end high school and start the rest of your life.) I drove my parents 38 Chrysler to my home, placed my graduation suit neatly on a hanger, and went to bed. Less than five hours later my new axe and saw were with me and I was cutting wood in a beautiful forest in Perry, Maine.
Since my first trips to the woodlots in the 1940’s many changes have occurred in the forest. A few years ago WLBZ Channel 2 of Bangor presented a documentary about the forest fires of 1947. I remember standing on a hill near my home and watching the billowing smoke on the southwest horizon at sunset. It was frightening to know that the fires were getting closer to eastern Washington County. A forest fire raged between Machias and Jonesboro. Until about twenty years ago dead trees from that fire could be seen from the main highway. It must be mentioned that the fire burned the forest but it did not kill the seeds. They were protected in the forest floor. When the rains finally arrived in October they became moist. An abundance of sunshine would also reach them. Little seedlings pushed the ashes aside as they started growing toward the sky. It is remarkable that about thirty years later, after the serious “Spruce Budworm epidemic,” of the 1970’s, one of the most healthy and beautiful forests in Washington County was between Machias and Jonesboro, Maine.
People that have spent time in a beautiful forest may encounter disappointments. Changes have occurred in the woods operations during the past sixty years. My first disappointment arrived in the 1950’s. The trees were cut on each side of my favorite trout stream. The evergreen brush was not removed from the brook. The brook became overheated in summer, trout became scarce, and the brook often dried up.
Modern wood harvesting operations usually make a mess of the forest. The mechanical wood harvesters and skidders do not have any respect for the forest floor. Every place that I visit after mechanical wood harvesting operations have taken place the area is a disaster area. More than two decades later it is not a happy place for man or beast. I join with those people who call it “shameful!” (NOTE: A visit to the Pottle Tree Farm in Perry, Maine (Year 1998) allowed me to find a bright spot in the dark clouds. In 1974 Jim and Sandra Pottle received Maine’s Outstanding Tree Farm Award. In 1997 Jim and Sandra Pottle were named Outstanding Forest Stewards. (Note: James Pottle passed away a few years ago but people are still welcome to visit Pottle's Tree Farm in Perry, Maine.

My skills with using an axe and buck saw slowly diminished. In the 1970's I purchased a chain saw. The last time I cut down a large tree was Monday morning, May 20, 2002. I was trying to beautify the forest near my home. The top of the poplar tree was dead but when the tree hit the horizontal position the butt of the tree came alive! It jumped! It kicked! It knocked me to the ground! About a week later I was still lame, and sore, but alive enough to remember my Dad saying; ”You have to be very careful when you are working in the woods!”
People should be very careful while working in the woods. (And everywhere.) Being careful may help us to live another day; have time to smell the roses, visit a beautiful forest, and thank God for it all.

Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
In Zephyrhills FL
November 26, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Skillin's Makes Decorative Holiday "Kissing Balls"

Hello again!

Looking for some COOL Christmas decorating. You definitely want to consider our custom made Holliday "Kissing Balls" done right at Skillin's Greenhouses! The picture above shows Karen at Skillin's Falmouth showing off one of her best jobs yet. Karen is giving all of us the "peace" sign of approval.

This picture above shows one of our very favorite people, the Cool Plant Lady, showing off 2 of Skillin's Holiday Kissing Balls in front of one of her clients. The Kissing Balls make for a great holiday look.

Let us know if we can help you out with some Holiday Kissing Balls @1-800-244-3860 or drop us a line at If you would like the very Cool Plant Lady to decorate your home or business for the holidays just let us know and we will get her in touch with you!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
Brunswick, Cumberland, Falmouth Maine
November 23, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where Have all the Herring Gone?

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with a story that will make you think...

A few weeks ago did you learn from the news that lobster fishermen were having a difficult time procuring herring to bait their traps? After hearing that news some people may ask: “Where have all the herring gone?”

More than four hundred years ago (1604) when Samuel D. Champlain explored the area known today as the Coast of Maine ( and started a settlement on an island in the St. Croix River near Calais, Maine) he made mention of the abundance of fish in the area. It is very likely that herring were some of the fish that he noticed. Three hundred years later, my Dad, in his youth, lived in a house very close to Cobscook Bay at Perry, Maine. He often told about the roaring sounds, during summer nights, as millions of herring churned the water in the bay near his home. It isn’t unusual that from the early 1900’s until after the 1950’s, there were many sardine factories and other herring processing plants along the coast of Maine. Today, due to the scarcity of herring, very few sardine factories are in operation.

During the summer of 1952 I learned one of the answers to the question: Where have all the herring gone? At age fifteen, I had the exciting and profitable job of digging clams four hours each day. The row boat I used with the job took me to many parts of Cobscook Bay. I made friends with the fishermen and traded clams for fresh, unsalted herring and mackerel. That job of digging clams allowed time each day to have fun. There were days when I would eat breakfast with my Dad (about 6am) before he went to his job as foreman at a sardine factory at Eastport, Maine. That same day he would return home after 9 pm and find me listening to the Red Sox on the radio. Many days after clamming I went trout fishing, practiced playing baseball, and went swimming in the Pennamaquan River. My wages from clamming for four hours were often more than my Dad's wages for working twelve hours at the factory.
Fish were plentiful around the waters off Eastport. Maine. Along with herring and mackerel there were haddock, cod, halibut, flounder, and pollock. Upon hearing that large pollock were being caught from the fish factory piers at Eastport was the reason why Norman, Nelson, and I finished clamming one day, then went fishing off the pier at the Riviera Packing Company in Eastport. My heavily weighted hand line, baited with a herring, was tossed into the ocean. Within a few moments my hands were sore from pulling the fishing line, but I landed a pollock that weighed more than 20 pounds. For the next few days instead of having fried clams, fried herring, or mackerel for supper, my mother prepared and served pollock. (Must mention that large fresh herring fried in a skillet is still one of my favorite foods—but large, fresh, unsalted, herring are hard to find today.)
It was a few days after that successful fishing adventure when my friends and I returned to the pier at the Riviera Factory. We did not catch any fish at that place but we heard that large pollock were being caught from the wharf, about a mile away, at the fertilizer plant near Deep Cove. We didn’t catch any fish at that location but I haven’t forgotten what I saw near the fertilizer plant: Several large pollock, caught a few hours earlier, were being wasted in the sunshine. Near-by were several, ten-foot high, pyramids of very small herring. (The herring were less than three inches long.) Within a few hours they would be ground into meal and become fertilizer. Herring were plentiful!
A very important life-cycle was eliminated during those times of plenty. Today we know that the question: How many seeds are in the apple? is not as important as: How many apples are in the seed? There are no descendants from the millions of “brit” herring that went to the fertilizer plant or were wasted in the process of trying to put them in sardine cans. Some people have forgotten or have never learned that millions of very small herring went directly to the fertilizer plants each year along the coast of Maine. Those fish never had a chance to reproduce. It isn't hard to imagine that a link in the ocean's food chain was severely weakened.

I can remember my mother reciting this poem to me several times:
(Author unknown)

I shall not throw upon the floor the crust I cannot eat,
For many a hungry little ones would think it quite a treat.
Willful waste makes willful want and I may live to say.
“O how I wish I had that crust that once I threw away.”

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, MaineI
In Zephyrhills, Florida
Nov 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Kind friend Dale C. Lincoln has returned to the Skillin's Garden Log with a very excellent and suitable post for Veteran's Day. Our salute goes out to all the veterans who have given so much to ensure our freedom!

On April 6, 1917 the USA entered World War I by declaring war on Germany. “The war to end all wars” had been raging in Europe since 1914. The words written by George M. Cohen: “We’re going over, --and we won’t be back, ‘til it’s over,--over there,” were in his famous song: OVER THERE. Mr. Cohen was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor (in 1941) for inspiring the people of the USA with his patriotic songs.

Very soon after the USA entered World War I, young men volunteered or were drafted into military service. Many women also served their country during that war. Can you remember anyone singing: She’s The Rose of No Man’s Land, and “ Long-Long Trail?” Those songs, along with; It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, K-K-K- Katy, and Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning; were the songs I learned in the 1940’s. My parents were always singing the songs that were popular more than twenty years earlier when they were teenagers. A very meaningful song to them was: Keep the Home Fires Burning. They were at the age when their brothers, uncles, and friends, went to war. The music by Ivor Novello and words by Lena Ford became very sentimental to the families of soldiers serving their country in Europe. The “war to end all wars” fell short of its goal. Because many people in America have recently sent family members off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are keeping the home fires burning; many words to that old song are especially meaningful to them. (Note: In my travels I am surprised that many people my age are nor familiar with this song. My mother sang it to me almost every day.)


They were summoned from the hillside
They were called in from the glen
And their country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardships
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

Many people that went “Over There” stayed over there. Others returned wounded, ill, and with a lifetime of bad memories. Today there are numerous ways of learning about the events that happened in or near the trenches in Europe during World War I. The rest of this article will mention events that happened over here that were incidental to “The Great War”.
On a visit to Santa Ana, California, in the late 1950’s I learned why there were small statues of an old man with long hair and a beard in all of the gift stores: Soon after the USA entered World War I, a young man in Santa Ana told his dad that he was joining the Army. His dad did not want his son to volunteer to go to war but the young man enlisted. He left home with the words: “ Everything will be o-k Dad. It won’t be long before you’ll see me walking down the road, and I’ll be home again.” A few days after the war ended the young man’s Dad started standing at the end of his driveway watching for his son to return. Days, weeks, months, and years passed. Each morning the man arrived at his spot and spent the day watching and waiting. He became a landmark in that city. Soon after the man passed away the city placed a life-size statue in the spot where the Old Man stood for so many years waiting for his son to return from World War I.

While growing up in Perry most of the men in town over age 50 had called the trenches in France; “home,” during World War I. One of these men was Mr. Emery Foss. His wife was a good Christian mother and his children, my friends, added singing, music, and enthusiasm at school and in the neighborhood. Mr. Foss never seemed happy. He yelled at his horse, talked to his kids in a loud gruff voice, and often had severe coughing spells. Before my teenage years I often made fun of him and called him “Old Man Foss!” While we were playing baseball one day, his son, Merton Foss, told me the following story: “Daddy was gassed with chlorine in World War I. He was a teamster and was trained to put the gas mask on his mule before putting on his own mask! That happened more than thirty years ago and his coughing spells are getting worse!” Since that day I have continued to gain respect for veterans.
Halifax Nova Scotia was a very busy seaport during World War I. That is why the French Ship, MOUNT BLANK loaded with ammunition, and the Norwegian cargo ship, IMO, were maneuvering in the harbor on the morning of December 6, 1917. The two ships collided, resulting in the world’s largest explosion until the first atomic bomb was tested in 1945. The city of Halifax was destroyed and before the day ended a blizzard hit the area. (An interesting book: Shattered City, by Janet F. Kitz, (1989) contains details along with several pictures and first person accounts of that disaster.

As Elsie and I were attending a ceremony as our daughter was graduating from the University Of Maine School of Nursing, (at Orono, Maine 1993) a World War I story caused the audience to react with sadness and silence. One of the graduating nurses responded to “The Challenge Speech To The Nurses,” by one of the Professors. In her speech the young lady included a personal memory with the words: “You cannot easily forget being in a hospital room at two o’clock in the morning when the elderly lady in bed knows she is dying, and is happy about it -- because she believes that she will soon be with her husband who died in France in 1917.”
That lady kept the home fires burning for more than 76 years. Today there are people in many families that are keeping the home fires burning. May God bless them, the Troops, and the USA.

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
InZephyrhills, Florida
Nov 11, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

A little while longer………….. PULLLEASE??

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are proud to tell you that KCB was recently honored as the 2008 Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. Now on with the show...

Remember when you whined this phrase to your parents as they called ‘time for bed’?

Those with children or even grand children may find it more familiar still. Then, perhaps not, with some of the conveniences that are in the children’s bedrooms of today being sent to bed may be a welcomed treat.

Still we have all heard the pleading of someone not wanting to leave a place or a task that was deemed fun. One more swing, one more bike ride, story. We’ve all heard or asked the question. As did one of my gardens this week.

As I approached the property, I was in awe at the sight of the rich indigo supertunias along with Johnny Jump-ups and the marled blue and white pansies that seemed to dance around a small bed at around the base of the lamppost. Once in the driveway the trio of containers at the front doorway was overflowing with varying hues and shades of purple to lavender whether it be from the Royal Velvet supertunias, the Osteospermum, trailing superbells punctuated with flowering kale. The melding of summer and fall annuals were doing nicely. Not at all bad for the week before Halloween.

The hypnotic spice of sweet alyssum carried me to Zanzibar while the white blossoms powered my nose as I stooped to clean fallen leaves from the still thriving annual bed. The puffs of white were the perfect foil for the magenta tinged purple heads of ornamental cabbage. Rusty shards of oak leaves could not hinder the pugnacious efforts of the blooms.

The beds at the rear of the house were once a sweeping array of the client’s favorite palette where not a yellow, orange, or red bloom does dwell. Indigo, burgundy, purple, and pink with pockets of white are all but gone. In their wake, the once vibrant have morphed to muted mauves, smoky plums and gray greens. Joe Pye towers with a now silvery glow in the fading sun. A rogue bloom emerges from the clumps that remained from the Shasta Daisies cut back two weeks ago. A self-sowed Cosmos emerged like the Phoenix from the stalks I pulled from the ground earlier this month. Roses continue to bloom from buds to numerous to count. Endless Summer Hydrangeas have matured to regal blooms that appear tea stained from time. Foliage is mottled maroon. The hues are gentler, softer offering the perfect back drop for the vibrant deep pink of Summerwine Yarrow that refuses to go by the way the season that bares it’s name.

The air chills while the sight of such perseverance warms my soul. Time is not on my side as I have many gardens to send to bed for their long winter’s nap. Some are ready having given their all for man and nature. Not this one. This one is surely pleading …
A little while longer………….. PULLLEASE??

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Garden Talks October 26

Hello again,

I spent some time neatening the yard yesterday and I have a few Garden Talks to say.

I dumped all my beloved vegetable and flower containers yesterday (well all but the Swiss Chard) as the frosts of this past week finally did a number on them. I had a great year with my containers again.

To review, I would definitely recommend Bar Harbor Blend Potting Soil by Coast of Maine as THE soil of choice for containers. It is locally produced and we need to use all the local products we can but good news--it is not expensive AND it is the BEST quality potting soil I have ever used. I highly recommend it. Also I highly recommend aggressively using the Fish and Seaweed fertilizer when you water the containers early on in the season. This gets your plants off to a fast start NATURALLY and strengthens the roots for a good flowering or vegetable season. This is still Maine and still a short season so I don't think you can fertilize your containers too much as long as you do it naturally. Finally, I deposit at least two Plant Tablets by Organica into each container every two months. Once I stop using the Fish and Seawood food (after the first month) the broken down Plant Tablets are giving the roots of the plant all kinds of food and good natural bacteria.

I grew some very nice vegetables this season in my containers. Full sun is needed and I was able to place some on the top of my paved driveway so my fall plantings still stayed warm for awhile. I would make sure your fall containers (use peas, even beans, carrots really try anything) should be planted by seed by the first week of August. The air gets pretty cold in Spetember even when the containers are on the warm pavement.

I still have some very nice Red Sails lettuce and broccoli that I planted (as seedlings, not seeds) on a warm Labor Day afternoon. These plants face southeast and it got pretty warm the first few days so they "flagged" from the heat the first few days but as I said the plants are gorgeous now and I still think I will get some broccoli. Red Sails is a leaf lettuce and I have been cutting that for weeks now. Make a note in your Journal--I highly recommend Red Sails lettuce early this coming year (think April) and also late (think September).

I mowed my lawn short and ground a few leaves (great organic matter for your lawn) in the process. I kept my lawn long this year because I wanted the longer blades of grass to help "shade out" prospective weeds. I think that approach worked well and I will do that again next year. Yesterday I knocked my lawn mower down a notch closer to the ground so I got a shorter cut. I will do this again in another week or ten days to keep the lawn more closely cropped as we draw closer to winter (better air circulation in colder and wetter weather is a good thing) and also to grind a few more leaves into the ground. I used to think that grinding leaves in the lawn was not a good thing; that those leaves would contribute to thatch (thick layerings of built up material that would keep air and water from the ground). But this was before I started to use natural fertilizers on the lawn several years ago. Now all the natural ingredients in natural fertlilizers help break down organic matter like the ground up leaves to improve the cell structure and microbial matter in the soil. Better soil, deeper roots and a naturally greener and stronger lawn.

Want a great plant that yields nutrituous fruit and gives great colored foliage in the fall? Blueberries! The foliage in my blueberries is gorgeous right now. Beautiful! Blueberries are my favorite fruit and I really appreciate the orangy red foliage right now!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
October 26, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Hello again,

Barbara Gardener checks in with the following note:

"I've never seen a begonia with leaves like these. Probably very common. I'm sure you have since I bought 6 at Skillins. The others all had the dark green that I am used to.

I'm starting to fill this shady area in with ground cover. Ajuga and the mysterious blue."
Barbara, great to hear from you. These appear to be Proven Winner Nonstop Begonias that are just bright and gorgeous. We feature several colors with this type of leaf pattern in the Spring.
I have used similar plants with almost the same leaf BUT with a deep maroon color for a shade container the last couple of years. Really nice!
Begonias are a solid choice for shady spots or partial shade spots. An old time plant that just does a great job. Watch the ajuga and the mysterious blue (Barbara did we decide those were forget me nots? I forgot!) for invasiveness but maybe that is okay with you in that spot.
Mike Skillin

Good News About Good Shepherd!

Hello again,

Great news!

This past Saturday October 18, Skillin's Greenhouses and our loyal customers raised a total of $1043.56 for the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Check out to get an idea of all the great organizations that the Good Shepherd Food Bank provides food for. There is plenty to worry about these days. But for many people around us decent food is not an option as folks scramble for clothes and fuel.

Let’s help the Good Shepherd Food Bank keep over 600 Maine food banks supplied—do you realize that just a $25 contribution feeds a family of 3 for two weeks? What a truly efficient way to help a family save more for fuel and clothes by helping the Good Shepherd Food Bank provide food! OR that because all the great relationships in the food distribution industry that Good Shepherd has cultivated that a $1.00 donation means $12.50 in real food to the hungry in Maine!

So thank you Skillin's Staff and Customers for helping to bring over $13,000 in real food to fellow Mainers in need. That is just awesome!

There is more that we can all do. It is our intent this Christmas Holiday season to donate a generous portion of each retail sale of Skillin's Christmas trees, wreaths, roping and poinsettias to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. This should mean even more in donations to an incredible cause for so many fellow Mainers.


Mike Skillin

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ode To Alliums!

Good friend Kathleen Carr Bailey of Finishing Touches is quoted extensively in this very recent article in the Maine Sunday Telegram about alliums and how to plant them for great spring color!

Alliums are a very reliable and relatively inexpensive spring flowering bulb and can be purchased right here at Skillin's!

When most gardeners think of fall-planted bulbs, they picture the early bloomers such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses.

But alliums, or ornamental onions, can be planted now until the end of October, and provide blooms in late spring or summer.

"Alliums are just a little surprise – or sometimes a big surprise – in the garden," said Kathleen Carr Bailey of Portland, who runs a gardening company called Finishing Touches and recently taught a class in planting bulbs at Skillins Greenhouse in Falmouth.

Alliums are onions. The ornamental varieties have a more pronounced blossom than the chives, garlic or garden onions – all alliums, by the way – that you grow for food, but they all are related.
The ornamental types would be edible, but they are not grown for their taste and would be a lot costlier than the typical garden onions.

Carr Bailey likes to mix alliums with other plants in the garden, having the blossoms peek up over perennials like shasta daisies and baptisia.

"It is just great when you see these little purple lollipops hovering on top of those plants, in groups of three or five," she said.

Using companion plantings has the advantage of hiding the allium foliage, which can sometimes start to turn brown even before the blossom emerges, Carr Bailey said.

Alliums have a lot of variety to them – in size, shape of blossom and color.

The standard allium is a purple ball on top of a stalk, and the purple can range from lilac to a deep, dark purple. But the blossoms can be white, pink, red and yellow as well.

Some alliums can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall with globes that are 14 inches in diameter, while other low growers have bulbs that are less than an inch in diameter.

This summer, Nancy planted allium schubertii right by our back door. This plant was about 18 inches tall, and had an airy blossom with long tendrils that looked a bit like a communications satellite with antennae going out in every direction.

Carr Bailey especially likes the large alliums, which she says can look like a low palm tree in the garden and make a strong statement.

With the smaller alliums, Carr Bailey likes to run a lot of them along walkways and along the edge of a garden border. She says the small ones can spread over a large area if left unchecked, so you want to keep an eye on them.

Alliums should be planted in sunny locations in rich, well-drained soil. As a general rule, you plant alliums three times as deep as the bulb is wide.

Many bulb packages will say how far apart to plant the bulbs, but Carr Bailey likes to plant them more closely. She says it doesn't seem to affect their growth, and she likes the effect of having a mass of blossoms together.

Being onions, alliums do emit a strong onion odor. That means deer and rodents will not eat them, and the odor will help keep deer away, Carr Bailey believes.

Because the alliums bloom so much later than the other bulbs, you can plant them in the same areas and have a succession of plantings over the course of the summer.

The alliums also make good cut flowers, looking great in a vase with other seasonal blossoms.

This article was written by Tom Atwell of the Blethen Maine Newspapers and appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram on October 12, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mark Your Calendar for October and November!

Following is a listing of our classes and events for October and November 2008 here at Skillin’s!

Our FREE classes will be held Saturdays at 9 AM and 1 PM (unless otherwise stated).

Call Brunswick 442-8111 (1-800-339-8111), Cumberland 829-5619 (1-800-348-8498), or Falmouth 781-3860 (1-800-244-3860) to register. You may also register by emailing us at, just specify the date, time, and location! These classes can sell out fast so sign up today!


18th Skillin’s Kids and Family Day (9 AM & 1 PM)

Join us for great kids activities like pumpkin carving and kid gardening activities. We will help the kids while you shop as 10% of all proceeds from Oct 18 will be given to the Good Shepherd Food Bank-No one should go hungry in Maine. Check out to get an idea of all the great organizations that the Good Shepherd Food Bank provides food for. Pumpkins, bulbs, candles, houseplants and more are all here at Skillin’s!

There is plenty to worry about these days. But for many people around us decent food is not an option as folks scramble for clothes and fuel. Let’s help the Good Shepherd Food Bank keep over 600 Maine food banks supplied—do you realize that just a $25 contribution feeds a family of 3 for two weeks? What a truly efficient way to help a family save more for fuel and clothes by helping the Good Shepherd Food Bank provide food?

25th Beds to Rest (9 AM & 1 PM)

Getting a good winters rest makes the Spring look brighter. Let us share with you how to get your perennials, roses and shrubs tucked away for winter.


1st Holiday Fun (9 AM & 1 PM)

It is never too early to start. Learn how to make your own gorgeous holiday wreath. There is a $15 fee for this class! You get to bring home the beautiful wreath you make!

8th Holiday Arrangements (9 AM & 1 PM)

Get hands on experience. We will show you how to make boxwood trees for the holidays! There is a $20.00 fee for this class. Special encore class at Falmouth on November 10 @ 5 PM.

15th and 16th Skillin’s Annual Christmas Open House

Demonstrations, great ideas, refreshments, door prizes and loads and loads of great holiday merchandise and more! Good deals abound so come check us out! More details soon about this event!

22nd Deck Your Halls (9 AM & 1 PM)

If trimming your tree, decorating your fireplace mantle or hall have you scratching your head, let the experts at Skillin’s show you the tricks of the trade, Plus don’t know how to make a bow, we will devote time to show you how.

Four Part Landscape Design Series (Falmouth Oct 28, Nov 5, 12, 19 10 AM) (Brunswick Oct 29, Nov 6, 13, 20 9 AM)

What a great chance to get a jump start on plotting how to landscape your home the right way! This class always sells out quickly in the winter so we are bringing you some new dates to choose from. Class fee is $40—you will have a great landscape plan at the finish!

If your group of 10 people or more would like to book any of our classes for a time and day that best suits you please call for scheduling and reservations.

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!! Every Friday!

We hope to see you soon right here at Skillin’s!

Mike Skillin

Garden Talks October 13

We love your Gardening Questions at the Garden Log! If you have any gardening questions, just email us at and we will respond!

Another question about wintering roses, this time from customer RS:

"I want to know how to best protect some rose bushes I purchased this spring from you. I planted them at the end of my deck, so they are a bit exposed to wind and other elements. One is a climber and the others are bushes. Should I wrap them in burlap or something to protect them for the winter ? I have had lots of roses when I lived in NJ but these are first I have planted here in Maine and I want to make sure I treat them right !"

Our answer:

"Roses in Maine should be well protected in the winter time. The best protection you can give is a good heavy mulching or covering of the base of your rose bushes. I would do this in late November when the ground has started to freeze up. The key is to bury the base or grafted area of your rose bush in at least 3 or 4 inches of top soil or compost. Then I finish off the cover with some cut fir boughs or straw to keep the cover in place.

It makes sense to try and wrap at least the bottom couple of feet of your climber in burlap. This will reduce the amount of stem that is killed off by the winter. So you may want to prune down to that point and wrap the rest of your climber. Do this pruning or wrapping in late November or even December so as not to spur any new growth from your plant.

The non climbers really do not have to be pruned until late winter or early Spring when you do your uncovering. It is crucial in late March or early April to sweep away all the cover around the base of your roses and prune out any growth that is dead or dying.

It has been dry the last couple of weeks. I would recommend giving your roses regular waterings a couple of times per week from now until the ground freezes.

If you have time we will for sure be covering winter rose bush care in our Beds to Rest class on Saturday the 25th of October at either 9 AM or 1 PM at any Skillin’s location. Let us know if you would like us to sign you up—the time and the location is all we need! The class is free of charge but full of great gardening advice!"

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bird Seed Prices Going Down!

Hello again,

It is time for some good news! And here it is!

Much of our Lyric Bird Food Prices are coming down in one of our most daring moves yet. For over the past years, bird food prices have spiked upward and upward because sunflower has become a prime ingredient in zero trans fat diets in place of corn,etc. , etc,. etc. blah blah blah blah blah.

At Skillin's we have decided enough is enough!

We have picked our most popular foods and brought the prices down:

Lyric Chickadee 4 lb reg $8.99 NOW $5.99 SAVE $3.00 per bag

Lyric Supremem Mix 4.5 lb reg $8.99 NOW $5.99 SAVE $3.00 per bag

Lyric Delite 5 lb reg $12.99 NOW $9.99 SAVE $3.00 per bag

Lyric Nyjer 3 lb reg $7.99 NOW $4.99 SAVE $3.00 per bag

Lyric Sunflower Kernels 5 lb reg $12.99 NOW $9.99 SAVE $3.00 per bag

All these foods contain top quality sunflower and sunflower is the most important food you can use to attract the widest variety of birds to your feeder. Don't be fooled by the big store bird mixes; they contain very little sunflower--this makes them a waste of your money and a waste of the bird's time. Off they will go to another yard!

Take advantage of these great savings while supplies last.

We will be bringing more savings your way and we will be telling you about them at Skillin's Garden Log; so check out Skillin's Garden Log often at!!!!


Mike Skillin

Garden Talks October 10

We love your Gardening Questions at the Garden Log! If you have any gardening questions, just email us at and we will respond!

Customer AR has the following question about wintering over her rose bushes:

"A couple of years ago we purchased a climbing yellow rose from you folks when they were on sale in the fall. We wondered how it would do over the first winter and I am happy to say that it did just fine. We hilled up about six inches or so with loam after the ground froze. Did not cut it back last year since it had just started to grow. Now, it is almost up to the second story window and we don't know what to do this winter. Should we prune it way back or what would you recommend? Hope that we can keep it over well for another winter. I think it liked our winter last year with all of the snow for mulch."

Our answer: Your winterization should go much the same. Hilling up that six inches of material after the ground froze is just the trick!

Most pruning should be done in late winter or early Spring when you go to clear the cover that you hilled up. You may need to do much of that pruning late this year just before you hill up the material if you need clearance for that cover. Otherwise iIf you can get the covering of material on top of the base of the rose without much pruning then wait on the pruning until late winter or early Spring. In all cases any growth pruned should be growth that is dead or dying. It is fine and even preferable to prune any dead or dying growth at any time.

And yes the more snow we get in the early part of the winter the better for our roses!

Customer ND has a question about overwintering different shrubs and perennials:

"I have planted bee balm, lavendar, butterfly bushes, forsythias, a small lilac tree, and some small schrubs. Also a red twig dogwood tree. What do I have to do to these small plants before winter.
I am so glad that you are available to answer our questions. I am a newcomer to gardening."

Our answer: "The most important thing you can do for these plants is to water them well once or twice a week between now and when the ground freezes up. The plants will use this moisture that builds in the soil to get off to a better start this coming year. Also, combine those helpful waterings with a nice feeding with a quality organic fertilizer like Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

The bee balm, lavender, and butterfly bushes should all have a good quantity (several inches at least) of mulch or cover around the base of each plant once the ground freezes. The purpose is to keep the ground frozen and the roots in place. The bee balm is not a woody plant so that could get back back to a few inches and then completely covered.

I would not prune any of the other plants this year unless there is some dead or dying growth that needs to get cut away."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dappled Willows--a Great Idea!

Hello again,

Rose of Raymond checks in:

"Hello Mike, When you need some quality material for the Garden Log I thought you could write a little about these fabulous Dappled Willows. They love those problem wet areas and will live in shade or full sun. The fun thing about them is that the foliage turns pink in the spring and they appear to be blooming pink flowers. They are the first shrubs to get their leaves in the spring and the last shrubs to lose them in the fall. When they do lose their leaves they have beautiful red stems like the red twig dogwoods that seem to glow in the snow. They are the fastest growing shrubs I have ever planted. They are beautiful as a hedge or beautiful standing alone. I think this is just a great idea for customers planning for next spring. Mike, I saw your bank commercial - very cool - who is that guy playing you?"

This great advice from Rose. Our seasons vary so much here in Maine and I really believe that the best plant material for our yards should vary right along with the seasons! The dappled willow is a classic example (and I can assure you Rose is a classic as well!) of variation through the season. From pink in the Spring through lush green in the summer to the beautiful red stems in winter, this plant is just awesome!

The commercial Rose is writing about is a new series of commercials being shown by our good friends at Norway Savings Bank. Several Maine businesses including Skillin's are featured and yes I am the Skillin's guy this time around. Talk about taking chances!

Rose, thanks very much! Any friend of ours who has some plants recommendations and plant pictures they would like to send please send them to us at and we would be glad to post them at the Skillin's Garden Log!

Special Thanks to Rose of Raymond,

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
Ocotber 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Garden Thoughts October 6

Fall to an avid gardener with grass and dirt stained knees and dirty hands can be difficult to adjust to. However, fall is a great time of year to actually improve your garden. One of the first steps you should take is to apply lime to your lawn and gardens. Generally at the end of the growing season the production effort leaves a garden with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0, so we advise adding lime at a rate of about 5 pound per 100 square feet to eventually raise the pH to about 6.5 to 7.0. This higher pH level will allow your plants to receive a wider range of nutrients. Generally, we should only lime our areas one time per year. Also your garden may well not need lime every year. If you have limed for 2 to 3 consecutive years pick up a simple pH tester at Skillin's. Check out that pH. If your soil registers at about 6.5 to 7.0, do not apply lime that year.

The lime I recommend is Mira Cal by Jonathan Green—it is a calcium based lime that is better than most limes for at least two reasons: 1) Calcium is an excellent organic additive to your soil. It benefits your plants tremendously by helping to “keep free” the flow of beneficial nutrients to your plants roots. 2) Magnesium based lime can actually aid weeds as magnesium adds a natural soil compactor. Many of the plants we prefer don’t like growing in compact soils but unfavorable weeds like plantain, dandelions, crabgrass and ajuga don’t mind compact soils a bit!

It is vital to thoroughly CLEAN your yard of dead and dying plant material in the fall. Growth that “has passed on” serves as a great home for insects and disease spores. However, just don't admire those newly cleaned wide open spaces in your garden. Get to work! Fall is a great time for soil preparation! Get some Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma worked into the soil. As I often write, these fertilizers are the best and most long-term way to bring needed nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to your soil.

Then lay some compost as a top dressing in those open spaces and around your plants. If you have no compost, my favorite bagged compost for this job is Fundy Mix by Coast of Maine. (Check this link for Skillin’s own Crystal Rose Kovalick tell about her experience with Coast of Maine Fundy Blend:

Fundy Blend is an excellent product to lay around plant material as great organic matter.

For VERY wide open spaces that is a future home to more plants, actually work some of your own compost material OR Composted Manure by Jolly Gardener or Quoddy Blend by Coast of Maine into the soil. We also sell some terrific compost blends in bulk that we can load into a truck or trailer for you.

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

"Plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, crocuses and daffodils. Bulbs planted anytime in October, or early November in southern parts of the state, should produce bright blooms next spring. Try some crocuses next to a south-facing foundation for late winter blossoms in March. " Just another reminder that now is a super time to purchase and plant Spring bulbs--one of the first steps to Spring gardening! And Skillin's has the best selection and quality of bulbs anywhere!

"Cut back perennials and compost the foliage. Rake all leaves from the lawn and compost those as well. Leaves left on the lawn through the winter are the leading cause of winter kill." It is vital to thoroughly CLEAN your yard in the fall. Material lying on the ground in and around the garden will become great hiding places and incubators for next year's insects and diseases. Fallen leaves and branches should be picked up and composted.

"Planting of deciduous trees and shrubs should be at its peak. Evergreens are best planted a month earlier." We have some great fall prices on our nursery trees and shrubs and perennials. So much of our plant material has arrived in just the last few weeks—we are not offering old stuff from the Spring.

"Store your harvest properly. Potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage and celery should be kept in a humid atmosphere at about 35-40 degrees. Squash and pumpkins should be stored in a dry area at 40-60 degrees. Onions and dry beans should be kept at 33 degrees in a dry area." Good storage habits make great tasting natural food. If your garden harvest is depleted many communities still are having active Farmer's Markets; check with your local town hall for info about your town!

The lettuce and broccoli I planted in the ground on Labor Day is just gorgeous right now. I just cut a bunch of lettuce and made a nice fresh salad out of it—yummy! I have some beautiful Swiss Chard growing right now in a container and I think I am going to plant a late fall crop of Swiss Chard and possibly broccoli and lettuce in a container. Got an Earth Box that you used this summer for summer vegetables? Put the Earth Box to work and plant some cold tolerant vegetable seeds in it like the plants I just mentioned (lettuce, broccoli, and also spinach and swiss chard and carrots among others!)

"Your Christmas cactus should rest in a cool, dim room with little water. Bring it back out Nov. 15 for holiday bloom." We will have some young Christmas cactus available in November; these plants can grow to be quite old! (Just like Terry Skillin).

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
October 6, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Limelight Hydrangea

Hello again,

Rose of Raymond checks in with a gorgeous picture of her lovely limelight hydrangea. Here is what she says!:

This is my Limelight Hydrangea and it's my new favorite! (Rose has some gorgeous gardens so for this to be her favorite is impressive indeed!)

I have six or seven varieties of hydrangea and I think this one out shines them all. It blooms a greenish color for a very long time and then turns a lovely shade of pink.

I can't believe the size of the flowers! It's October and my Pee Gee has turned brown but my limelight is still beautiful.... Tim (our nursery manager) went a little crazy buying them this year so maybe this will help sell some! Just kidding, don't mention I said that to Tim! (Everyone) should buy one of these they really are impressive!

Thank you Rose of Raymond!

We have limelight hydrangeas in easy to handle 5 gallon pots right now! They normally sell for $59 but right now they are on sale for $41--that's a big savings!


Mike Skillin