Friday, February 29, 2008

In the Beginning! 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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family!

Once upon a time…………..? Long ago in a land far, far away………………..? It was a dark and stormy night………..?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…….?

Novels, movies, tales of fact, stories of fiction all have a definitive beginning. We do as well at the moment of our birth. A pivotal starting point for sure, yet not the one that tends to come to mind when we reflect on how we came to be where we are. So much happens along the way. So many beginnings that often they go unnoticed until faced with the questions ‘When?’ ‘How?’ Or Why?’

I am often asked ‘What brought you to Maine?’ ‘Did you grow up on ‘the Hill’?’ ‘Aren’t you that famous actress…………?’ I admit, the last was pure fantasy on my part.

One answer to the question I so often am asked surprises the inquiring minds. This is even so when I encounter someone from my ‘corporate days’. They ask the question not with just one question mark, but many punctuated with exclamation points. “How did you get interested in Landscaping/Gardening/Playing in the dirt?”

What was YOUR beginning?

Many gardeners grew up with someone who loved the earth, whether it be a parent, aunt, grandmother/father, beloved neighbor. I am of city stock with none of the above remotely interested anything to do with a garden.

I have roots in Brooklyn with a mother who thought dirt in any form was nothing a lady should sink her hands into. To be less than spotless would reflect poorly on her mothering. A tree may grow in Brooklyn but nary a Geranium donned the stoop of our apartment building. We didn’t need any; the Brooklyn Botanical Garden was steps out the front door.

The place my father worked was moving to New England. ‘The Country’, my mother would wail. With 2 children in tow, they moved. In case you are wondering, I was not one of the 2.

As they became acclimated to life in New Hampshire, my father took reluctant pride in finally owning a lawnmower. A task he saw to only after acquiring his first driver’s license. I guess he needed a way to get the mower home. To hear the stories my father purchased his first car before he could even drive it.

The house where I lived the first 20 plus years of my life did come complete with roses. Maintenance was to cover with powder as a way to kill what we called ‘Rose Bugs’. Memorial Day would find us venturing to the only nursery within miles. Marigolds were purchased by the bushel. Later plants such as ‘pinks’ and ‘phlox’ were added.

As a child I never once attempted to assist with any planting. My father did it all, not as a labor of love for the earth, as a labor of love for my mom as it added curb appeal, a term we use to call ‘looking nice to the neighbors’. The front of our house donned the foundation plantings of the 60s—junipers and yews trimmed to a uniform triangle, wider at the top than at the base. We now know that this is so not the way to trim our shrubbery.

My childhood was backwards. While most city children were packed off to summer camps, I was transported via Trailways to the City. My grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn, ‘Islands’ Staten or Long to play with cousins took up my summer months. Spending the hot days on the Staten Island Ferry, more comfortably seasonal days in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (BBG), and rainy days in the Brooklyn Museum next to the Gardens were just a part of life. Ah……….those were less fearful times when children could wander the streets seeking out fun. Or am I confused with Oliver Twist?

So, how did I become interested in gardening? Let me rephrase that. How did gardening, creating tranquil and inviting landscapes become a passion? When did I stop flaunting perfectly French manicured nails and begin apologizing for a trace of dirt left behind? Did I hold a dream from hanging out at the BBG? No.

I was married at the ripe old age of 26 when I first learned that potatoes grew on a vine. I knew they were pulled from the dirt however I always envisioned them one potato at a time. My mother-in-law looked at my husband with such wondering eyes as he laughed when I spurted “So that is how potatoes are grown!”

Is that what started it all? My husband? Mother-in-law? No.

So what then? I’m afraid I have run out of space for this posting. While you wait to learn more, take some time to remember your beginnings. Share if you wish. We all have stories. I’d love to hear yours………….

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Upside Down Tomato Planters

Hello again,

This exchange between myself and a Skillin's customer:


I am writing to ask whether or not Skillins has tested the upside tomato plant containers? I want to make better use of vertical space as well as free up some garden space.

And my answer:

Several of us have talked about the upside tomato plant containers but we have not tried it. Several of our customers have tried the upside down tomatos and swear by them so we want to try them. I would recommend the small to medium sized tomatoes like the cherry types and the Sweet 100 and maybe some medium sized like Roma but not any real big ones.

If anyone has had any practical experience with these upsdie hangers can you share them with us at or by leaving a comment at the end of this post?


Mike Skillin

"Old Folks" History by Dale Lincoln

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with thefollowing writing which was first written for people attending the Ice Cream Social at Shady Oaks Park honoring people over 90 years of age, and people married 60 years or more, in February 2007. Additions and alterations were made for a similar presentation in February 2008.

John Williams, a resident of Shady Oaks Park, played his harmonica and led the singing as people sang some old, familiar tunes.

These lines were written for people:
when they were honored with an ice cream social
at Shady Oaks Park, Zephyrhills, Florida,
in February 2008. The oldest resident in the Park
is almost 99 years old. She attended the social.
Each day many residents of Shady Oaks Park
stop their walk, or stop riding their 3-wheeler,
and talk to Mildred as she tends the flower gardens,
plants, and trees, around her home.
All people in attendance had printed words to the songs.

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine


If you are ninety or older we welcome you,
If married sixty or more years, it’s for you folks too.
All people in these groups, still alive and kickin’
Know that we don’t call you a “spring chicken.”

You have known times of sorrow, and times of fun,
As Earth made 80 or more trips, around the sun.
Haley’s Comet has appeared twice for you to see, (1910 and 1985)
You started with forty six States in the land of the free. (1912)

At their homes, Mildred and Mabel, played around the floor,
When the Titanic sailed,---Then was no more! (1912)
Ships sailed through The Canal ‘stead of round “The Horn” (1914)
Only a few years after this new song “was born.”


A new nickel appeared, and an Income Tax, (1913-1914)
Your parents noticed those changes and facts.
Tightly gripping their nickels as times were slow,
They made the “Indian ride the buffalo!”

Now if you are only ninety or just a few years more,
You were born during the First World War.
Your Dad may not have been home every night,
Did he go to war in “The Over There Fight?”

Did you sing this song with your parents and friends


Doing your duties during hard times for our nation,
You became forerunners of “The Greatest Generation.”
As kids, new songs you heard each day.
Did songs help you do things in your special way?

Your parents rejoiced on Armistice Day, (November 11, 1918)
And you survived the Flu of ’18, that came your way.
During the years when you would crawl and toddle,
The Country voted to take- everyone off the bottle! (1919)

Those were big years for the gangsters with gun,
‘Til Prohibition ended in ’31.
The Victrola’s played; movies started to talk,
You learned of war heroes like Sargent York.

Before my History notes make you tired and wearie,
Sing along with John on this song DEARIE.


Hobo’s rode the rails and camped near the station,
The Roaring Twenties, then Depression, gripped our Nation
Slow times, with bread lines, were upon the scene,
But people each day had time to dream.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

In your twenties, and in your own special way,
You remember what you were doing on Pearl Harbor Day. (Dec. 7, 1941)
Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree
While giving the best to our nation, you did survive,
And rejoiced at War’s end in ’45.
God Bless America
Now being married more than sixty is a special feat,
You remember things that still make the old heart beat.
You had joy, You had Fun, You had Seasons In The Sun.
After duties for World War II were done.
Many children were born with in our nation,
Starting the Baby Boomer Generation.

Beer Barrel Polka (Harmonica.)

Five years of peace ended very soon,
In 1950, came news, that Sunday morning in June.
People in the city, and working on the farm,
Would be sent to the land of The Morning Calm.

Three years later that war came to a stall,
Many sons, daughters, friends, had given their all.
Many Veterans that said, “I’ll do the best I can,
Lived to see “their kids” sent to Vietnam.

Great sorrow overwhelmed us, in the land of the free.
You remember that day in ‘63,
Riding with Kennedy a man from Texas would say,
“We can’t say the crowd isn’t friendly today!”

During the Sixty’s you saw America change,
Young men and women “started acting strange.”
Homeland fires burned, some cities glowed many nights,
People protested the war,--fought for civil rights.

The way our country was going made you feel sad,
But you remembered earlier days, when times were bad,
You prayed that The Lord would guide us through,
Like you did during the war, when this song was new.


Color TV arrived, Man walked on the moon,
New drugs would reach people very soon,
Some ladies near your age, heard their kids say “Ma,
I love rock music, and pizza, TV, and your car!

People did things in their own unique ways,
Not ever imagined in “Those Good Old Days.”
The world was in the midst of the Computer Age?
When this milleniem started a brand new page.

September 11, 2001,
We watched the Towers fall, one by one.
That was not caused by computer error,
Our Country Started fighting a War on Terror.

It seems the big events I’ve taken time to mention,
Memories of bad times, received lots of attention.
However, as we journeyed along our separate ways,
The Lord also gave us those happy days.

Many Shady Oaks people, hearing this little rhyme,
Have been living at least two thirds of your time,
Right now we all join together and say,
“May God Bless you, Have a happy day.”

May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You

Monday, February 18, 2008

Follow Your Dream by Dale Lincoln

High School Seniors and some folks age 67 or 68 , while trying to stay warm during a very cold winter, may be dreaming of exciting events for them in the near future. For students like your grand children or great grand children, in Grade 12; it’s Graduation; For 1958 High School Grads it’s attending your 50th. Reunions from high school. Regardless of our age differences between us and those kids, there are times when all the young and the old have going for us are our dreams.

January 1954 in Maine was cold, and windy. My high school days would be ending in a few months and I knew that my classmates would be collecting all of the academic and athletic awards. However, preparing for Graduation was fun and it gave me that big feeling. One blustery Saturday I wore a white shirt, necktie, and sport coat for the first time. My parents let me use the family car; a 1938 Chrysler with “suicide” doors,---You may remember them, ( the rear doors, when opened, pointed toward the front of the car.) and drive ten miles from Perry to Eastport. The appointment with the photographer went well. On the return trip, about five miles from our homes, three children from my neighborhood were looking very cold as they hiked along the highway. I stopped the car. They climbed in the back seat, slammed the door, and I started up the hill. At that moment the young lady nearest the door noticed that the door wasn’t tight and decided to try closing it again. When she loosened the “suicide door” a gust of wind slammed it against the rear fender. I stopped the car and still find myself today thanking the Lord that all of the young passengers remained in the car. My picture in the 1954 Shead Memorial High School Yearbook continues to remind me of that incident.

February weather was worse. My high school basketball team was eliminated before reaching the tournament in Bangor. After attending that game the flu bug made a visit, put me in bed for a week, and left me with a painful ear infection. For two weeks I worried that loss of hearing would prevent me from passing the physical examination for entrance to the Maine Maritime Academy, scheduled for March 2, in Boston.

At 11:30pm on the last day of February 1954 the temperature was below zero. I was half deaf and shivering, while sitting on a Greyhound Bus in Calais, Maine. A half hour earlier I learned that leaving home and saying good-bye to my family for the first time wasn’t easy to do. This was accompanied with great fear of being alone and lost in Boston. Have you ever felt like a 0 (Zero) with it’s rim knocked off?

Twelve hours later good things began to happen. As planned, two cousins met me at the bus station in Boston. They took me to their home in Cambridge and their parents treated me like a VIP. The next morning, and for the next three days, cousin Dave was my big city guide. The subway ride to the Navy Building was fun, then I discovered that a first time military physical examination is a memorable event. Many jokes heard about them in high school are true!

Near the end of the day the doctor gave me unexpected news:
“Your ear will be better in a couple of weeks but all of the fillings in your teeth must be replaced soon. Your dentist used (mercury) when he filled them!”
Having my teeth repaired kept me in Boston for three days. It was after an appointment with a dentist that my cousin said; “We’re walking from Boston to home in Cambridge this afternoon.”

As we walked the sidewalks along the Charles River a person more than a half mile away came running toward us. At a closer distance I noticed he wore a gray sweat suit, his steps were smooth and light. After he passed our spot my cousin said, “He runs every day. He’s training for the Boston Marathon.” As we continued walking to Cambridge I kept looking back at him. He was the first person I had seen that was training for a race.

I returned to my home in Perry with a dream of being a long distance runner but things happen slowly in Down East Maine. I tried distance running for conditioning to play a better game of baseball. My parents encouraged me to run after dark so the neighbors wouldn’t see me. Even though Roger Bannister broke the Four Minute Mile that same year, the words: ”People that run long distances are crazy” reached the ears of many people! That stigma kept many people from running before America went running in the 1970’s.

On July 4, 1956, while attending Maine Maritime Academy, I entered my first road race. My dream of being a good runner was shattered. Harold Hatch of Castine, Maine finished the 5K race about a half mile ahead of me. It wouldn’t have been so discouraging if I had known that three months later Harold Hatch would be the High School Cross Country Champion of New England.
(Note: Harold Hatch and I have both been inducted into The Maine Running Hall Of Fame.) Twelve years later, my love for running increased upon starting a new career. Being away from oil tankers allowed for time to compete in road races and run thousands of training miles. Dreams continued to happen. Being the front runner in the Boston Marathon ended upon waking up in bed with a “Charlie horse!”

In reality, Leg cramps were very real. they shattered my dream of running a marathon under three hours as I fell to the ground at the top of Heartbreak Hill on Patriots Day 1971.

My career as a school teacher allowed for an opportunity to promote Long distance running and coach Cross Country Teams in Eastern Washington County. I ran all practice runs with my teams, plus accompanied many runners for their individual training. I organized weekly races and all participants went home with a ribbon containing the name of the race and their finish line position. It was one of the first races in Maine that welcomed female runners. Many successful runners from that area ran their first training miles beside me. Several of them, including my children, were younger than ten years old. Their enthusiasm and success in races created dreams of coaching a State Cross Country Championship Team. Year 1986 was the year for that to happen but it didn’t! The Shead High School team of Eastport fell four points short to a very strong team from Yarmouth High School.---But even the Patriots have things like that happen at a season’s end!

To your grand children and great grand children that may be High School Seniors this year, (Class of 2008), may I say to them, “Hang in there when you’re feeling low. Find something you love to do and give it your best for the next fifty years.” If any people here are High School Graduates of year 1958, (Like my wife, Elsie;),---“have fun at your 50th reunion and keep away from that rowdy crowd! May God bless you all.

Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine

More Falmouth Open House Photos!

Hello again,

Margie is back with some great photos from our Skillin's Falmouth Open House from Sunday, February 17. Our Open House continues for ONE MORE DAY--Monday February 18. Come see us--between the Spring smells and sights, the special sales and landscape displays and doorprize opportunities this is well worth you visit!

A new friend with a pretty rose plant:

Two special friends who found some needed happiness here:

Two happy couples!:

Growing plants makes for a healthy and productive project for kids!

More kids happy about gardening!

Two kids and their special mom checking out our newly completed water feature in our Mill House greenhouse:

Come see us soon! Last day of the Open House on Monday Feb 18 but we look like Spring everyday here at Skillin's where we are Planting for the Planet!
Mike Skillin

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Falmouth Open House Pictures 2/16/2008

Hello again!

What a day we had on Saturday at our Skillin's Falmouth Open House. The store looks gorgeous and is full of Spring flowers and colors. We are here on Sunday from 9 to 5 and Monday from 8 to 7!

We thank our many friends who we saw on Saturday and we cannot wait to see more friends over the next few days. Here is a sampling of our newly renovated Mill House greenhouses--beautiful and bright! Also, we have some pictures of our Kids Gardening Class we had going yesterday and some other great photos of the day (many thanks to Margie of Skillin's Falmouth!)

Thanks to all of our customers and our great staff who have helped to make our store look the best EVER! Come see us!

Friday, February 15, 2008

As the Landscape Forms! (Part 3)

Hello again,

Margie has checked in with two photos of Skillin's Falmouth from yesterday February 14

Two young Valentine's shoppers were at Skillin's looking for something neat for Dad!

The landscape design is close to complete! Come and see the gorgeous finished product this weekend at our Skillin's Falmouth Open House!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

As the Landscape Forms! (Part 2)

A completed John Skillin Garden by Sally Bolstridge:

In a previous post As the Landscape Forms! (Part 1) , we showed you the first steps in preparation for our large landscape display for our Falmouth Open House which of course is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday Feb 16, 17, and 18 at Skillin's Falmouth. The next few frames shows this exciting project as we have brought in the plants and now Tim Bate our Nursery Manager gets to place the plants. It is pretty neat to see the landscape come together.

Come see the finished product this weekend. What a taste of Spring!

Also, special thanks to the crew of Skillin's Brunswick for "forcing" the shrubs and trees into bud and bloom. And of course special thanks to Margie of Skillin's Falmouth for her awesome photo work!

In the following frame, the plants have arrived and Tim is pondering the many possibilities!

Tim is a man of thought--and action as he gets to work putting mulch over this flowering crab.

Oh boy! Inspection time for Tim as Terry Skillin has arrived on the scene. Please examine the photo carefully as you can see that every inspector needs a cup of coffee!

You can already see this landscape will have much variety and texture!

Spring Bonds! Pay $37.50 for a $50 Spring Bond; a savings of 25% toward any tree or shrub that we sell--and more! For a $500 landscape our Spring Bonds can save you $125!

A great job not done yet but it is really taking shape!

Come see the finished product this weekend! Feb 16, 17 & 18!

Mike Skillin

Skillin's Greenhouses

February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lists! 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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family!

My fingers are flying so fast I barely touch the keys. My heart is filled with the excitement of a school girl with a crush! The announcer on the radio is grandstanding yet another winter storm. I can not be bothered with the threat of a parking ban; I am much too light hearted. I did something today I rarely do. I made a list.

We all have been subject to lists; top 10 lists, grocery list, to do lists for our selves, chores lists for our children. Sometimes we’ve said or been told, ‘you’re on my list’ (good or bad--chances are you’ve been on a list ). Personally I keep countless lists in my head. It is the only way I know I won’t lose them because anytime I put a list to paper, it disappears in the abyss of the black hole of my desk. Today I chose to do something different; I entered the list in my very own 2008 Garden Journal. Perhaps you should too.

Why a list? Because it is time to go shopping. Skillin’s Falmouth Open House is this weekend. I look forward to this event the same way some of my friends embrace the shopping craze on the day after Thanksgiving. That may be the start of the Christmas Season; this may very well be the start of the Gardening Season.

Recently I compared gardening to sports. Various sports have a definitive start to their season, gardening doesn’t. Well, not really. Can you remember the Monday after the ‘Patriots Day Storm’? It was 85 degrees, the day my season started and it didn’t end until mid-November. I wasn’t quite ready. This year I vow to be.

My first step through the Skillin’s door shouts of spring, plants, gardens, color and warmth. It definitely can put you on Gardening overload so it is best to be prepared.

Like any good shopping spree make note of what you would like to or must purchase, i.e. the list. First, did you do your homework from last week? Such as check your tools?

Even if you haven’t had a moment to find a place to sharpen your tools look at them, perhaps they are beyond repair. It is best to list those tools you would like to replace. Alternatively, maybe there is something you have always wanted yet the only time it comes to mind is when you actually need it. There are so many great time and body saving instruments. Ergonomics has become a trend with many manufacturers.

Along the lines of tools, consider knee pads, gardening gloves, tote bags, and ‘holsters’ (as I call them) for your hand pruners. Gloves are such an important accessory that is best to have more than one pair. In fact you may want different pairs depending on chore. I have Rose Gloves, mud gloves, thin yet sturdy flexible gloves which I use for weeding and creating container gardens.

After you have checked your tools, check your ‘supplements’. Hollytone is certainly on my list. A perfect combination for all acid loving plants, azaleas, Rhododendrons, dogwood, laurels. Early to Mid-spring is a great time for feeding. For those who desire blue blooms on their hydrangeas, this product is also for you. A spring feeding helps get this perennial favorite a good beginning. Espoma makes a variety of excellent plant foods, so you may find yourself taking home more than one food.

Roses also get my attention early in the season. There are several products that I rely on. One of my favorites comes from a company primarily known for their Aspirin. Their ‘All-in-one Rose & Flower Care’ does it all. I prefer utilizing systemic granules versus sprays.

Another product I now keep on hand, Messenger, a fairly new product, is a harpin protein designed to suppress diseases and promote better blooms. It is not a fertilizer, more like a tonic. I have used it on Peony and Roses with favorable results. Incredible, really.

It doesn’t hurt to have at the ready, a bag or 2 of soil amendments. I always have a bag of Coast of Maine Penobscot Blend or Jolly Gardener’s Tree & Shrub mix in my truck. I do not plant/transplant anything without integrating some of these wonderful mixes in with my soil. Each manufacturer offers a variety of soil amendments. From time to time I have used at least one of the other products depending on the need of the garden. Throughout the gardening season no doubt you will find me dropping a name or two.

With all the choices for foods, fertilizers, and pest controls; organic and not so organic it is always best to read the label before purchasing and always before application. When in doubt or in need of further information, the Skillin’s staff are always willing to help.

What’s left to purchase? Remember the journal? So many pretty ones are just waiting, look for a cover of soft pastel roses or bold energizing stripes.

A Skillin’s Open House without a plethora of seeds including all the assorted accoutrements would not be well, a Skillin’s Spring Open House. Now or at least very soon is the time to start your seeds. This not being one of my strong points I will leave the particulars for those in the know. Nevertheless, do not be surprised if you find me reading a seed envelope or two. So much valuable information on such a small envelope, it does make for light reading. Besides, I find the pictures miniature works of art.

Before I leave you, there is one more item of note I would like to mention. Spring Bonds. When I first became a gardener I received a gift of one as a late Valentine’s gift. The giver remembered how many things I wanted after my visit to Skillin’s, He went back and purchased just one. It was enough. The next year we made it our purpose to purchase as many as our limited budget would allow. The cost savings was ‘money in the bank’ for new homeowners with a fledgling garden. When it was time to purchase our plants, our Spring Bonds were at the ready.

So, if you do not find all the items you want during the open house, purchase bonds for when the items are available or use them to purchase your annuals, perennials and other ornamentals. In addition, they make excellent gifts. Mother’s, Father’s Day anyone!

Well, I must go shovel out my truck. See you this weekend at the Skillin’s Falmouth Open House!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As the Landscape Forms! (Part 1)

Well folks we have begun work on our legendary Landscape Display for our 2008 Skillin’s Falmouth Open House. Every year the display gets better and better! Since this is our 44th Annual Open House it is hard to believe that this year’s display will top last year’s display. Let’s watch our nursery staff put the display together!

Scott and our John Deere tractor is bringing the aged dark mulch into the landscape display via the back garage door

Scott has “turned the corner” and is about to put the mulch in place

Down goes the mulch!

Scott and the tractor have set the mulch down; now Tim gets to spread it!

Stay tuned for our next post of As the Landscape Forms as we set the plants into place!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Open House History!

Since 1964 Skillin’s has hosted our very special Spring Open Houses. John and Dave Skillin developed this tradition after several visits to the then Boston Flower Show. Our first experience with the Boston Flower Show was in 1930 when Pa Skillin and his daughter Florence entered a display with a miniature model greenhouse and Pa’s famous Skillin’s raised Calla lilies. We still proudly display a picture of Florence with that miniature greenhouse and that very same model greenhouse at our store today .

There had been other driving factors for the creation of our own Skillin’s flower show. Up until about this time Porteous (for those of you that might remember Porteous and its famous downtown department store) had each year done a flower show in their store that was the highlight of year. Magnificent floral displays filled their entire store front windows and as I remember it also filled their store. I wonder if anyone besides me remembers the Porteous carved wooden bear chair?

Also as they say the winter months were getting pretty long in the tooth and John and Dave needed to find a way to help sell the flowers left over after several snowed out Valentine’s Day. They say necessity is the mother of invention--well long cold winters were the invention of our first Spring Open House.

Presidents weekend or George Washington’s Birthday was picked for our first two-day weekend event. It was after Valentines so if we needed we to had that one last chance to sell beautiful fresh cut flowers left over. It also gave the Skillin’s people time to force into bloom great lilacs, rhododendrons, tulip and jonquils and all the plants that we dream about for Spring. However a funny thing happened with this two-day event safety valv-- it snowed. It snowed like it was the last snow to ever fall, not just one year but several in a row. It snowed and snowed and snowed. These storms of epic proportions have made for years of conversations and laughter with many of our closest gardening friends who braved the elements to see this wonderful Flower Show.

1964 was also the year that we redeveloped the greenhouse that we now call the Mill House from a production style green house into a tropical houseplant display and sales greenhouse. Of course the Mill House featured a country style millhouse with a working water wheel and pond that for years through the 1970’s was part of our company’s logo.

Now in 2008 after all these years this greenhouse is just now getting a much needed facelift that we hope will be completed by this year’s 44th annual Skillin’s Spring Open House here in Falmouth. Over these last 44 years of our Open Houses we have seen plenty of spectacular events with guest speakers, discussed new innovative ideas for gardening and met lots of new and first time gardeners.

One of my favorite memories will always be during any one of our Open House events when just when the crowds peaked and we were all elbow to elbow in excitement; amid the hum of several hundred gardening conversations my father John Skillin would say “ Boy, I think this would be a good place to start a garden center”. Then he would laugh and disappear into the happy crowd.

This event has been a long tradition for Skillin’s and over these last 44 years of Open Houses this event has brought thousands of visitors in to dare and dream about Spring. Sometimes I wonder how we all made it through winter for 79 years before our first Open House. Skillin’s has been in business for 123 years and in one way or another celebrating Spring has always been our goal.

Terry Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Open House Happenings!

Hello again,

February 16, 17 and 18 are the dates for our Annual Spring Open House at Skillin’s Falmouth! Make sure you do not miss Maine’s Original Flower Show!

What a classic old fashioned winter we are having! It seems like our Open House is coming along for us gardeners and lovers of flowers at the best possible time.

(the above picture shows Sally Bolstridge hard at work on the John Skillin Garden she does every year for our Open House. John was all about leadership and example and this garden at the front of our store will lead you in for more and more great Spring inspiration!)

Here are some Exciting Details about our upcoming Open House at Falmouth:

This Maine tradition started in 1964 when John and Dave Skillin decided that folks in Maine deserved a Flower Show similar in concept to the Boston Flower Show; this legacy and tradition is still strong!

The gardening world is going Green and we can help you garden Green by showing you how to Plant for the Planet!

We have some great special programs—hear Bob Bittenbender of Maine Audubon speak at 11 AM and 2 PM on Saturday the 16th.

We have a special gardening program for the kids from 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturday the 16th.
Dave Charpentier of the Organica Company ( will be here to talk about their smart and safe gardening products on Monday the 18th.

Our old friends from the Maine Orchid Society will be with us on Saturday and Sunday. They bring a wonderful collection of orchids for you to see and shop from and will give you kind and knowledgeable advice about this wonderful series of plants.

Let us show you the latest in naturally biodegradable pots and saucers all weekend! Just another way we can help you Plant for the Planet.

Very special Door Prizes:
A $500 Landscape Package—and more!
Win a Floral Design Party for 10—and more!
Special Occasion Floral Displays
On the Spot Free Landscape Consulting
with Chad Skillin—great for you!

As always we will have a wonderful landscape display,
tasty refreshments, many more door prizes, warm cozy greenhouses, and
We will have awesome
guests from the Maine Audubon Society, Jolly Gardener, and the renowned White Flower Farms, also guests from organic gardening leader Coast of Maine products. And more!

Finally meet Dave Skillin on our garden center floor and he can pass on wise garden advice gained from his 50 years in the industry!

One of our oldest attractions at our Skillin’s Falmouth is the “Mill House”; our oldest greenhouse; it is a throwback to older days really. Well, in these days of high energy prices and concern about consumption of fossil fuels we have decided it is time to renovate the old greenhouse.

So, here are some pictures of the early stages of renovation; we hope to have a good part of the renovations done for our Open House:

(above right is where the old water wheel was—the pond had sprung a leak over the past Spring and we needed to completely fix the area so as not to waste incredible amounts of water!)

(for a neater look we will be going with a brick floor in place of gravel we constantly had to sweep and even replace!)

(above is where the pond was—we will be replacing the pond with some waterfall features!)

So please come visit us at our Falmouth Open House on Feb 16, 17 and 18! You will see much more than we what we have pictured--come to our Spring Oasis in the middle of a Maine winter!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 10, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Welcome to February: Winter Is Passing 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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family!

I embrace February! Ever since I can remember, February signified the end of winter. Not according to Mother Nature, the Calendar: Julian, Gregorian, Pagan or otherwise, but to me, at least internally.

February is the shortest month, you see; a month with just 28 days (well sometimes all of 29!). February flies by, ending more quickly than any other month. Meaning? Before we know it, March is here. What happens in March? Spring begins, which only could mean, winter ends in February. A logic I still carry with me. We are at winter’s end. Yes it snowed recently. As snow often does, it has already melted. It will snow soon again; it will melt soon again!

February is blessed with so many great features. Spring Bonds at Skillin’s. Migrating Cedar Waxwings invading the Hawthorne in front of my house. A month in which we celebrate love or the chance of being touched by cupid’s arrow. A month where we commemorate two of this country’s greatest presidents. Not to mention The Daytona 500 and so much more!

After moving to Maine, I discovered another rite of spring; the offering of Spring Bonds at Skillin’s and the celebration that is their Open House in Falmouth. No shameless plug intended, just facts As the date of the Open House approaches I will share more on why this has become such an event for me.

Oh did I mention, Spring Training ? Never mind, that was my last post?

There is so much to say about February I feel I may run out of month before I run out of ideas and memories.

This February offers us more than the February last, and that of the February to follow.

It gives us that once in every 4-years extra day. Bet some of you didn’t know it was a leap year!

A lot of traditions are centered around a leap year. To write about one of my favorites would surely reveal too much. Yet I am compelled to share. I always thought it odd that in was only during a leap year when it was permissible for a woman to ask a man to marry her. Leave it to an Irish woman, St. Brigit, to suggest this very concept.

Now on to February and your garden.

By now the Seed Catalogs are spilling over, you’ve marked the days on your calendar for the Skillin’s Open House. What else can you do? Lots!

The ever increasing day light and warmer weather offer more opportunity to walk around your property or neighborhood. As you do so, adopt the ‘garden trance’: the hypnotic state of staring at your landscape or garden bed.

On the first warm and fairly dry day walk around your property. Take note of any fallen or broken limbs. Start picking up any debris, limbs or the assorted unidentified objects that may have found their way on to your landscape. This will allow a jump start in preparation for those ever powerful March winds.

Continue to inspect your property. How do your flowering shrubs look? Any winter die back? Look closely at the inner branches now because when trees and shrubs are in full foliage many of the dead inner workings go unnoticed. Early spring is the time I prune and feed many of my shrubs. Not just yet, however. As time approaches I will share more.

Since you most likely will be pruning sooner than you expected, it is ever so important that your tools are sharp and ready. If you haven’t seen to this task before the tools were retired for their long winter’s nap, dig them out now. There is nothing so maddening as heading out with your pruners and discovering that they only serve to bend or squeeze the branch. As much as this frustrates you, just think of the damage dull tools can inflict on your shrub or plant! Most people who sharpen tools are less busy this time of year and welcome your business. When other gardeners are waiting for the return of their tools, your tools will have already begun their spring training.

Include hand saws and long handled loppers with the tools to be sharpened. By removing any limps or branches that are at risk now, you just may avoid more damage after a storm. Who can forget the devastation left by the Patriot’s Day Storm of last April?

Are your current tools in need of permanent retirement? Now is the perfect time to purchase new tools. Inventories are ready or an item can be ordered to beat the onset of the season. There are some things I never scrimp on, gardening tools and high -thread count bed sheets. Go figure?!

I can not caution enough, however. Do not attempt any pruning near power lines. When it comes to the limbs of trees, a Licensed Arborist is key,

Still too cold to spend a good deal of time outside? Review your early spring notes from last years Garden Journal? What, you do not keep a journal? Then start one—today.

You need not write long narratives, just jot down the date and a few words. Some things to consider, mark the day migrating birds stop by and the shrub, tree or food that attracted them. Record the second you notice the first Hyacinth or crocus sprout. Keep track of the amount of snow during the next couple of months; as plants wake and emerge, water is critical in the movement of nutrients through the plant. Still at a loss for words? Invest in a digital camera or purchase a disposable one. Remember, one picture says a thousand words. Simply paste a picture of the first sprout or bird with the date. I’m smiling because I know from experience you will be making notes, adding ideas and whatever may come to mind.

I know many people who would shun the idea of keeping a journal for moments in their personal lives, yet find their garden journal much more than just about gardening. For special treatment do purchase one that looks and feels good. Flowers on the cover not really optional. For the men—I know one or two who keep their ‘little black book’ not far from their hand pruners. Some entries that have been shared with me include dimensions for future fences, new beds or the distance between the 2 trees to see if the hammock will fit. One client even gave me the item # of a hammock they wanted from a certain Maine Catalog company. See how convenient a journal can be.

Homework: Sharpen tools, purchase journal and/or notebook. Inspect Landscape. Take time to dream. We have a lot of work to get started on!

See you next time.

Mature Gardening--good tips for ALL of us!

While this article was written primarily with "Mature Gardeners" in mind--these are all good and smart gardening tips for gardeners of any age or ability. We can help you here at Skillin's with any of these gardening tips!

In a recent article from the Associated Press, author Dean Fosdick offered some tips on how aging gardeners can reduce the stresses gardening can put on their bodies. How do we define mature gardeners here at Skillin's; well, a mature gardener is someone only a little older than Terry Skillin. Here are some of the tips that Dean offered:

• Start by knowing your limitations. Rest frequently and pace yourself while occupied with extensive and repetitive garden chores. Gardening is all about puttering. Take your time and enjoy it.

Keep gardens or flowerbeds small or sized in scale with your capabilities. Don’t overdo or become overwhelmed by a too-optimistic workload.

Plant gardens near a water source or lay out a system of hoses conveniently near the work sites. Store tools in a nearby shed, cabinet or perhaps a large mailbox. Build trails wide enough for wheelchairs, wagons and walkers to pass. Add handrails for balance and place benches at various points for rest and reflection.

• Wrap tool handles or stuff gloves with foam padding to make grasping more comfortable. Adding a cord to the grips makes them easier to retrieve if dropped and conveniently at hand when looped around your wrist or neck.

• Choose low-maintenance plants that don’t need much in the way of deadheading, watering, spraying or pruning. Vegetables trained to climb a trellis will eliminate the need for bending when harvesting. Lighten the spring planting routine by selecting perennials, which will bring many happy and unassisted returns.

Use equipment that makes everyday gardening chores easier on traumatized soft tissues and joints. That includes kneeling stools, long-handled “reacher-grabbers,” kneepads, potting benches, seed dispensers and wagons. Wear a smock or tie on a carpenter’s apron. Both are equipped with numerous pockets for seed packets, notepads and tools. Carry a magnifying glass with you to help read the fine print on planting stakes and seed labels.

• Confine your gardening to raised beds or containers, which will minimize stooping. Make the beds small enough so plants in the middle can be reached without an awkward stretch. Place large containers on wheels so they can be shifted to wherever they're the most convenient.

Weed and cultivate after a rain when the soil is easier to work.

Use large sprinklers that cover wide areas and require less moving around. Drip irrigation or drizzler hoses are easy-care water systems for thirsty plants.

Carry a cell phone or whistle while working alone in distant corners of the yard. Don't hesitate to use them if you run into any kind of trouble. Better yet, garden with a buddy. You can share some ideas and keep one another company.

Minimize risk. If a certain job places you in an uncomfortable position, like reaching, then figure out another approach or find a tool designed to serve.

Super-size your tool collection. If you know you'll need two hands to make a cut with a pruner, then upgrade and reach for a lopper instead. That still may require using both hands, but the squeezing effort will be minimal.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 7, 2008

How Can I Get My Amaryllis to Rebloom?

This question posed by Customer Jan is among the most asked this time of year here at Skillin's:

"I have three Amaryllis flowering at the moment, and know there is a method to hold them over from year to year and get them to re-bloom. Can you share how that is done?"

Here is my answer:

This is a response to the same question posed to Christian Curless writing for People, Places and Plants magazine ( and I thought his answer was superb.

“After the flowers fade on each stalk, cut off the stalk two inches above the top of the bulb. Do NOT cut the leaves. Continue to water the bulb as needed, occasionally adding water soluble fertilizer—organic (like Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed sold right here at Skillin’s) is great—and wait until all risk of frost has passed. Then move the bulb outdoors, initially into a shady spot. Over the course of a week, gradually increase the bulb’s exposure to sunlight until it ends up in a location where it will receive full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day). If the potting mix dries out quickly, move the bulb into a large pot. You can also plant the bulb in the ground. For a potted bulb, add fertilizer every couple of weeks or so.

Toward the end of summer, push the soil away from the bulb to check its size. If it has grown to the size of a grapefruit, it’s time to bring it indoors (many people just the leave the bulb outdoors until after the first frost). Lift the bulb and knock off the soil from the roots, then put it in a cool, dark, dry place. Give the bulb a two month rest; mark your calendar so you don’t forget. Then cut the foliage down to the neck, trim the roots so they’ll fit into a pot—don’t remove them entirely—and plant the bulb again in a pot of suitable size. If the bulb has stored up enough energy during the summer, it will bloom again in about two months.”

Send us any gardening questions you may have to and we will help you out!

Mike Skillin

Skillin's Greenhouses

February 7, 2008

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stealing a Peek into Spring with Terry Skillin

The long-awaited Terry Skillin checks in with a walk through our production greenhouses. As Terry so aptly describes below our greenhouses are chock full and getting fuller with all kinds of plants that we are growing for your Spring planting. This is a fast read; so hang on! Well, the read is fast but Terry is getting up there in age so I can assure you his walk was not so fast!

Ooops, if I keep talking we are going to fall behind Terry as he has started his walk! Let's go!

"This time of year with January behind us, and the days getting longer a walk through our production greenhouses is like looking through a crystal ball look into Spring. It’s not just all the sights that floods your optical senses as you walk in, but the smell of plants growing, the humidity and the warming sun through the greenhouse. Once I settle down from this awesome blast of Spring I settle down and start to focus on all the hopeful plants already growing.

Cineraria are the first I see and this is a great indoor late winter plant. It grows about 6 to 8” high and about 10” wide and produces many daisy-like flowers about the size of a quarter or a little larger. The color choices are many: from bright to pastel. Keep this plant cool: average temperature 58 to 65 degrees is best and give it plenty of light. This plant is an annual and inexpensive so trying to keep it alive after blooms have faded is not really practical, not one to save for Spring planting. . Once I did actually save a Cineraria and I did plant it out in the shade in late May. It did bloom again but not as spectacular and I blame the whole experience on my deep frugal Maine heritage. I had better things to do!

Easter Lilies have been part of the scene in our production greenhouses for about 3 months starting back in November. I can tell that this year’s crop will be one of the best. The whole crop is at an even 8-10” tall now, with great rich green stems and foliage. The stems are stocky from top to bottom with great consistent leaf count. I am going into my 33rd Spring here at Skillin’s and I am starting to notice a thing or two! Easter Lilies like plenty of sun however too much sun will cause their flowers to mature much faster. Keep them evenly moist and if there is a decorative foil on the container or on a container that holds water make sure that any excess water is dumped out right after watering. Easter Lilies sturdy white roots can rot easily if kept too wet. During their stay indoors there will be no need to fertilize. Room temperatures are ideal at the low to mid 60’s. If you have room in your garden it might be worth your while to plant your Easter Lilly outdoors in late May. Cut the stem back to about 4” and plant the bulb about 12” deep. During the coming seasons you should see flowers in mid summer.

Primrose--what a great tough little perennial! During mid and late winter this little tough guy does great indoors with cool room temperatures and plenty of sun. Kept moist but be careful not to over water. They produce a great array of bright to pastel colors. They are most spectacular when placed together in one container mixing several colors creating a miniature garden. Keep this one growing all winter and plant them out during late May with a westerly exposure and they will create a great little mass planting our use as a border plant.

We also have a great crop of early geraniums in bloom just perfect for those sunny windows indoors while they wait for the late May early June planting outdoors. While I am on the subject of geraniums we also have a great crop of Regal Geranium (a.k.a. Martha Washington) growing that will be ready in a couple of weeks. This plant is great to mix with ferns, orchids and other foliage pants to help chase away winter.

We have started our Fuchsia hanging baskets. They are still pretty small but if these little fuschias aren’t proclaiming joyfully that Spring is on the way then I don’t know what to tell you. In that same sprit we have transplanted our Dracaena Spikes and even before those are ready we will have an early crop of Osteosperumum probably ready in two or three weeks.

Osteospermum is a daisy like flower about 11/2” across that have been hybridized to produce some pretty great colors. Once outdoors this plant can take it a little dry but would do best if kept moist. Full sun to partial shade and will grow to about 8 to 10” tall. This plant really lends itself as a bedding plant, hanging basket or is great used with others mixed in patio containers and window boxes. As most plants in containers fertilize about every two weeks from early June until frost.

As I was leaving the greenhouse a big tractor-trailer was just leaving and left behind on the loading dock were crates and crates of dormant perennial roots. Can you believe it? Here we are again right back into the thick of making Spring happen again. It is my 34th Spring but the coming Spring is always my favorite!

You know I think this is going to be a great year to just stay home and work in the yard--and I can't wait!"

Terry Skillin
Skillin’s Greenhouses
February 5, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Spring Training

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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family!

Eighteen in the win column and one in the loss are not bad statistics, that is unless the one is the most critical game of the year.

Not since the 6th game of the 1986 World Series have I felt this way. I remember crying uncontrollably when that ball rolled right thru Bill Buckner’s leg. This was pretty surprising as I was not a sports fan.

This past Sunday night I so wanted to sob that way again, but I couldn’t. I was not on a comfortable couch at home surrounded by loved ones. I was at work in the lunch room surrounded by nodding acquaintances from the call center I call ‘my winter life’.

Mutterings such as ‘it was all for nothing’, ‘it all came down to this game’,’ If only’, ‘what went wrong?’ echoed. Six months worth of games gone in 35 seconds. As my co-workers filed out of the somber room to return to work stations, or as in my case, home, hearts were heavy. Desperate whispers of ‘there is always next year’ passed between a few. For others the countdown to spring training cast new hope, the start of NASCAR offered light to others.

What does any of this have to do with gardening? To me, everything has to do with gardening. Some of you may be nodding in agreement. Gardeners do not measure their efforts in innings, quarters or halfs, yet we await our seasons with the same gusto as any sports fanatic.

We have our ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘if onlys' and ‘next years’. We’ve suffered our loosing seasons when winter’s fury could render a generation of roses or rhododendrons useless. I still mourn my small field of lavender that was lost to a frigid winter 5 years ago. Not quite the 1986 World Series, yet not far from the 42nd Superbowl.

There have been rainouts and droughts that hinder our season. While we shake our heads we shake our selves off and start all over again. Waiting until next year is just too long.

The difference between the most formidable athlete or fan and a gardener is that we do not lose faith over one shrub that strikes out or a perennial border that doesn’t reach its goal. We prune, transplant and even replace several times during a season. We dream of next year but never loose sight of the season at hand. There are times we’ve had to punt or simply aim for another goal to make everything work.

Within our gardens we need not focus on one game. We have the power to stage events any place we see fit. It need not be all or nothing. A garden that flourishes is full of second strings. If a specimen planting doesn’t make the cut, we need not bench the whole bed. As coach we do not fire ourselves.

Still reeling with the ‘maybe next year hangover’ from the Patriot’s loss, I took solace the only way I could, a walk. Much to my 4 legged companion’s chagrin, the walk was cut short due to an outbreak of ‘Garden Trance’. Yes, the malady that affects so many. Staring endlessly at a once and future garden. Recently buried by snow, these patches of dormancy unfold. We can not pass by without stopping to search for any signs of new life. Seconds drift to minutes and moments pass as we stare. Is that green? Are those pink buds? Let the games begin……….

for Skillin's Greenhouses
February 4, 2008