Monday, March 31, 2008


Kind friend Dale Lincoln checks in with "The Face of a Happy Man".

The USS ILLUSIVE was scheduled to sail from Sasebo, Japan, at 10:30 am. About 8:00 am Chief Hinckle, the senior Electrician’s Mate, requested my permission to make a quick trip to the Navy Exchange. He assured me that he would return before the ship sailed.
Chief Hinckle was a Navy man that handled his duties very professionally. The smile on his face, along with his words of wit and stories, made him popular with his shipmates. About an hour after giving him permission to leave the ship I witnessed him on the ship’s fantail telling another story. Chief Hinckle was smiling but several sailors around him appeared “excited” as they expressed their opinions:
“I never would have done that!”
“That’s stupid! Nobody would have ever known!”

Chief Hinckle kept smiling and said:
“I never even thought of keeping it for myself!”
A few hours later Chief Hinckle told me his story:
“After leaving the Navy Exchange he started walking to the bus stop. Along the way he found a ladies wallet on the ground. It contained more than $2000.00. He immediately put it in the bag he was carrying; sat down on a bench; and tried to think of the quickest way to make sure the wallet and all of the money returned to its owner.
Very soon a Japanese lady, pushing a baby carriage, came out of the Navy Exchange. She was crying and appeared to be looking for something. When he asked if he could help her, she made it known that she put her wallet under the blanket in the carriage,---but it wasn’t there any more!
Chief Hinckle returned the wallet. The Japanese lady cried with joy and hugged him! Her husband, a U. S. Navy man, had recently received a bonus for signing up for six additional years in the U.S. Navy. Their baby had tossed the wallet out of the carriage!

When the six-month deployment to the Far East area was completed, the USS ILLUSIVE returned to the USA. A few months later I said good-bye to my shipmates and went to new duties. About forty years later, January 1997, a Brinks Truck carrying more than three million dollars, overturned in a poor neighborhood in Florida. For several days following that accident the radio talk shows, and popular TV programs, found people debating the moral issue of whether or not the people that collected the “easy money” should return it to BRINKS. While many people were expressing their opinions I remembered
“Chief” Hinckle, EMC, USN, aboard the USS ILLUSIVE one morning in Sasebo, Japan. He had the face of a happy man and is remembered as one of my shipmates that earned a lot of respect.

More than fifty years later (2008) it still brings me happiness to tell a story of a person that made a good decision.

Dale Lincoln
Zephyrhills FL
& Perry Maine
for Skillin's Greenhouses
Marchg 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"New to Skillin's", Perennial Varieties, "M through P"

Hello again,

Here are a few exciting “new to Skillin’s” perennial varieties we will be introducing in 2008.I will list a few new varieties this week and follow up with more introductions in the next few days!

I have highlighted aspects of some varieties thatI feel are some very attractive attributes to some of the plants. In other words, this one really catches my eye for this reason....!

If you would like the entire list emailed to you, just let me know at and I will send you a “Word” attachment:

‘Stainless Steel’ . 36”-42” tall. Flowers are a ‘metallic blue with light blue throats. Foliage is silvery green. Nice cut flower. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun to part shade.

MONTBRETIA – Crocosmia

‘Emberglow’ 38” tall. Burnt orange to red flowers. Good cut flower. Zones 5-8. Blooms in summer. Sun

‘Emily McKenzie’ 18” tall. Short variety of Crocosmia. Light orange flowers with deep red markings. Great for containers. Good cut flower. Zones 5-8. Blooms in summer. Sun.


24”—30” tall. Daisy like flowers in shade of pink, rose and red. Attracts butterflies. Zones 5-9. Blooms early to mid summer. Sun to part shade.

PEONY - Paeonia
Good cut flowers. Zones 3-8. Full sun. Flowering time is May-June.

‘Avalanche’ --36” tall. Double. Light blush and cream flowers. Very fragrant. Flowers mid-season.

‘Bowl of Beauty’ – 24”-36” Semi-double. Pink outer petals and inner petals are frilly and creamy colored. Very fragrant. tall. Blooms early summer.

‘Duchesse de Nemours’ –34” tall. Double white. Fragrant. Blooms late spring.

‘Dancing Butterflies’ -- 32” tall. Fuchsia colored single flowers with large yellow stamens. High bud count.
Great cut flower. Zones 3-8. Blooms Late spring. Sun.

‘Felix Crousse’ – 36” tall. Double ruby-red flowers. Slightly fragrant. Blooms late spring to early summer.

‘Festiva Maxima’ – 34” tall. Double white blooms with red sprinkled through the middle. Fragrant.
Blooms late spring.

‘Kansas’ – 32” tall. Fuchsia semi-double flowers. Blooms late spring to early summer.

‘Karl Rosenfield’ – 34” tall. Double fuchsia-red blooms. Mildly Fragrant. Blooms early to mid-summer.

‘Krinkled White’ – 35” tall. Single white flowers with center of prominent gold stamens. Blooms early summer.

‘Nippon Beauty’ – 30”-40” tall. Single deep red flowers with yellow stamens. Blooms mid-summer.

‘Primavere’ – 28” tall. Ball of white and yellow petals surrounded by a collar of single white petals. Strong erect stems. Blooms mid to late spring.

‘Red Magic’ – 30” tall. Double. Pure red flowers. Bloom time mid-season.

‘Sarah Bernhardt’ – 34” tall. Double light pink flowers. Blooms early to mid-summer.

‘Sorbet’ – 26”-30” tall. Double light pink outer and inner petals with creamy petals in between. Blooms late spring.


Phlox divaricata ‘Plum Perfect’ 12” tall. Flowers are a light plum purple with a dark purple eye. Vigorous. Disease resistant. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-9. Blooms summer. Sun to part shade.


‘Blue Boy’ 36” tall. Light purple-blue flowers with small white eyes. Very fragrant. Long bloom time.
Great cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun.

‘David’ 40” tall. Pure white flowers. Very fragrant. Mildew resistant. Good cut flower. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.

‘Eva Cullum’ 28”-34” tall. Clear pink flowers with a dark pink eye. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun.

‘Flame Purple’ 12”-18” tall. Purple flowers with small white eyes. Shorter variety.
Compact habit. Mildew resistant. Sweet scent. Good cut flower.
Excellent for pots and containers. Zones 4-8.
Blooms summer to fall. Sun.

‘Junior Dance’ 18”tall. Flowers are a ‘hot, coral pink’. Short, compact plants. Flowers are produced on lateral branches. Mildew resistant. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid-summer to early fall. Sun.

‘Junior Dream’ 18”-22” tall. Short, compact plant. Flowers are continuously produced on lateral branches resulting in a very long bloom time. Flowers are bright purple and fragrant. Mildew resistant. Good container plant. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid-summer to early fall. Sun.

‘Laura’ 24-30” tall. Fuchsia purple flowers with white centers. Fragrant. Mildew resistant. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun.

‘Miss Candy’ 48” tall. Deep pink flowers. Fragrant. Mildew resistant. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.

‘Miss Elie’ 36”-48” tall. Pink flowers with dark pink eyes. Mildew resistant. Very fragrant.
Great cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-8. Bloom mid to late summer. Sun.

‘Nicky’ 30”-36” tall. Dark magenta flowers Fragrant. Mildew resistant. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun.

‘Orange Perfection’ 36” tall. Flowers are a bright salmon-orange. Sweet scent. Nice cut flower.
Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun.

‘Pixie Miracle Grace’ 15”-20” tall. Lavender purple flowers with a star-shaped white eye. Short, compact habit with good mildew resistance. Fragrant. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-8. Bloom mid to early fall. Sun.

‘Red Starfire’ 30”-36” tall. Bright red flowers. Excellent cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.

4”-6” tall. Zones 3-8. Bloom time early to mid-spring. Sun to part-shade.

‘Amazing Grace’ White flowers with tiny red centers.

‘Candy Stripes’ Flowers are white and pink striped.

‘Calvides White’ – Pure white flowers.

‘Emerald Cushion Blue’ – Very light lilac-blue flowers.

‘McDaniels Cushion’ – Deep pink flowers.

‘Ronsdorfer Beauty’ – Deep rose with darker centers.
PINKS - Dianthus

‘Diadem’ (Sweet William) 20”-30” tall. Blood red flowers with white centers. Nice cut flower. Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 4-9. Bloom in summer. Sun.

‘Fire Star’ 7” tall. Red blooms with deep crimson eyes. Evergreen, gray-green foliage. Zones 5-9. Blooms in summer. Sun.

‘Pinocchio’ (Sweet William) 15” tall. Dwarf. Clusters of double flowers in shades of white, pink and red. Zones 3-8. Blooms in summer. Sun.

‘Rainbow Lovliness’ 12”-15” tall, Feathery, lacy flowers in shades of white, pink, rose and lilac. Very fragrant. Zones 3-9. Blooms in summer. Sun.

PLUMBAGO - Ceratostigma plumbaginoides - Annual in our area.
6”-8” tall. This is should be considered an annual in our area though it may over winter in protected areas. It’s a beautiful plant for containers. Flowers are an intense blue and the foliage turns a deep red to mahogany color in fall. Zones 5(6) – 9. Sun to part shade.

POPPY - Papaver

‘Eye Catcher’ 22” tall. Double orange-red flowers. Short variety.
Zones 3-7. Blooms Late spring. Sun.

‘Watermelon’ 27” tall. Flowers are a watermelon pink. Zones 3-7. Blooms late spring. Sun.

PRIMROSE - Primula

‘Noverna Deep Blue’ 12”-16” tall. Dark blue flower heads. Stems and leaves have a powdery white cast. Zones 3-5. Bloom summer to fall. Sun to part shade.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Garden Talks March 27, 2008

The weather is warming up slowly and surely, the snow and even the snow banks are coming down in size. Before I come to work tomorrow I am actually going to do a little lawn raking. I have some high spots that have dried out enough and like you all I have much sand and salt near my road that needs to come off. Much of my lawn is still snow covered but the grass that is emerging from the ice pack is covered with healthy portions of snow mold. Snow mold is mold that sits on top of your lawn because the lawn has been suffocated by snow and ice for a long winter. Folks we all have it or will have it. Left untended the snow mold can lead to lawn and grass problems. Want to try some organic gardening? Get out there and rake the mold and dead grass off. Organic gardening is properly all the rage but much of organic gardening borrows old techniques like “old fashioned raking!”

I just spoke to a customer who just picked up some potting soil and some containers and some vegetable seeds. She is going to start some peas this weekend in a container and keep them on the sunny south side of her house. What a great idea! I have a similar sunny and well protected outdoor area that faces south. I think I am going to pick up some Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend soil and some pea seeds and get a container garden started in the next couple of days. If any of you have a container vegetable garden strategy for this time of year please share it at! I would love to post some good ideas at the Skillin’s Garden Log found at ACTUALLY anyone doing ANY SORT of outdoor gardening either TODAY or this WEEKEND or over the next few days, tell us briefly what you are doing and how you are doing it.. This would be raking, pruning, planting, pleading and any sort of garden plodding. I will post your tales at the Skillin’s Garden Log (found at for all to see and share! (All names will be kept confidential). Maine Gardeners are among the best in the world because if you can garden here, you can garden just about anywhere!

Also I have noticed that the many feet of snow that I have piled over my rose bushes (southeast exposure) has melted away. I don’t prune my roses heavily in the fall. NOW is the time to get after those dead and dying branches. Prune your hybrid tea roses heavily back to live growth. You know you have seen live growth when the inside of the bark is green. Last fall I piled compost around the graft of the rose so that the graft is buried by several inches. Then I put some balsam fir boughs on top of the compost. In the next couple of days, I am going to pull off the balsam fir boughs. In about another week, I will pull away all that compost so the graft can get sun and air. So prune those roses now and then pull away any top mulch. In about a week or so, dig out that graft!

Keep an eye on your fruit trees and the ground around them. When the snow has melted on the ground around each tree and before the tree's buds swell and turn plump, clean old leaves and debris from around the tree. Then, spray the trees with a product like Bonide Fruit Tree Spray or Oil Lime and Sulfur Spray (a more natural approach). These products will coat the plant and smother any insects and insect eggs and also will help to prevent diseases. Completely spray the branches as well as the entire area around the tree trunk for best control. Speaking of fruit trees, we just got in some awesome fruit trees that can be planted NOW. Let us show you what we have. They are gorgeous.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 27, 2008

No 5K for Me! 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.

It’s here! Can’t you feel it? Smell it? Certainly you can begin to see it! It’s Spring!

New green growth is pushing up through the still frozen earth. The bulbs, quietly dormant under the record snow cover of this winter, seek the warmth of the sun. I’m always surprised at the rate of survival from year to year. Each day a new little nub of green I spot. No doubt I will squeal with delight at the sign of my first crocus!

Soon the squealing will be replaced with the groans and moans of a dormant body beginning the chores of spring. Each year I vow I will not put myself through the agony that is bestowed upon an out of shape me. I will prepare as an athlete prepares. Surely each Red Sox player has a regimen they follow before they step on to the baseball field for the first time. A marathon runner doesn’t go from a couch potato to 5K run. Why should an activity as physical as gardening be any different? This year I declare to get my self in shape first. Don’t worry, you will not see me jogging around ‘the boulevard’ or practicing thrusts, though perhaps I should. No, just simple stretches for me. Anything is better than my usual 0 to 120 mph as many gardeners do.

Even weekend gardeners need to prepare for the coming season. The repetitive movements such a weeding, raking, digging and pruning put stress on hand and wrist. We also must be mindful of our knees, back and shoulders. Something as simple as a daily walk will begin to get the body prepared.

The following warm-ups were given to me by Andi, a Physical Therapists at the call center where I work. She knows my season is coming up and wants to make sure I’m in shape for all my jobs.

The American Society of Hand Therapists ASHT® has this to say about preparing for the gardening season; “Warming up before gardening is just as important as warming up before a vigorous workout. After warming up, stretching exercises for the major muscle groups that will be involved in performing the task can reduce the risk of injury.”

ASHT® recommends following warm-up exercises:
(Note: These exercises should never be painful. You should only feel a gentle stretch. Should you experience pain, please consult your primary care provider.)

œ Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward. You should feel a stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.
œ Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms overhead. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.
œ This is a stretch for the upper back and shoulder. Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times for each arm.
œ This stretch benefits the triceps. Raise one arm overhead. Bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on the bent elbow and gently push the elbow back and forth for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times for each arm.
œ To stretch forearm and wrist muscles. Extend an arm in front of you; making sure the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend the wrist downward, hold for 10 seconds. Then turn the palm up and stretch the wrist backwards, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times for each arm.

Another suggestion offered by the ASHT® surprised me; ‘work with well sharpened tools as well as tools designed for the task’. It does make sense. Too dull a tool, say a pruner, may not only damage the plant you are pruning but will result in too tight a grip to achieve the desired result. Another big ‘no’, is trying to prune a 4 inch limb with pruners more suitable for a 2 inch branch. Been there, done that. If it is taking you 2 hands to do the job meant for one, it is time to switch tools.

Other stretches offered by ‘my trainer’ I find very relaxing. At first I could not see how balancing on an oversized beach ball would help but I was assured it would. The balls circumference is approximately 3 ft and I take turns balancing on my stomach and back. The key is not to put pressure on feet or hands. This will prepare for the stretching we do especially when weeding and planting.

Since gardening has become such a passion for so many, those in climates such as Maine’s may suffer the most from repetitive motion injuries. Reason being, we lead such sedentary lives in the winter then jump right in. While caught up in our gardening frenzy we tend to contort and stretch our bodies in ways we would never dream of during the ‘off season’. If you don’t believe me think of how many times you would stretch to get one last weed, or dead head one more, than another spent bloom instead of getting up and moving slightly closer to your subject. You are nodding ‘yes’ aren’t you?

As the season progresses there will be other tips. If you have any of your own, please share. Personally I need all the ‘getting in shape’ help I can get. I vow this year not to spend the month of May applying Ben Gay and wishing to sleep in my truck just to avoid having to walk into my house.

Attention Skillin’s staff, this may not mean I will not need ‘help loading’ in the beginning, but be prepared if I answer with a resounding ‘no thank you’ before July!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Join Dave Skillin at the Skillin's Brunswick Open House!

Hey everybody! Dave Skillin here and you have just caught me and my old Chevy on the way to the Skillin's Brunswick Open House!

Years ago, like back in 1969, when my brother John and I were running things at Skillin's, we bought a small house and garden center in Brunswick in the New Meadows area (close to West Bath). Now the Post Office calls it 422 Bath Road and that area sure is bustling now. We are just beyond Midcoast Hospital about two miles or a little more beyond Cook's Corner.

This weekend we are having our 39th Annual Spring Open House and we sure have made some changes to the store over the years. We've made a lot of friends in the Bath/Brunswick/Topsham area and I can't wait to see a lot of them this weekend at the Open House. Plus, the area has grown so much so I hope to make many more friends this weekend!

We have more new products than I have ever seen and they will all be on display this weekend. We have a great nursery display and also we have just got in some fresh new nursery stock and perennials for you to see!

We have more door prizes than ever before (including a drawing for a $500 gift certificate and two $250 gift certificates!). We will have tons of refreshments as well so you won't be going hungry or thirsty at Skillin's!

Just about the whole store is on sale PLUS you can print off the coupon in the post below and save $5.00 on any merchandise you purchase.

Finally, we are getting down to the last few days to purchase Spring Bonds--my nephew Terry's idea where you pay us $37.50 and we give you a $50 bond that you can use on trees, shrubs, plants, tools, fertilizer, gifts, flowers (the whole shebang practically) right here at Skillin's.

So, don't forget to buy a Spring Bond although the really smart shopper will buy a lot more than one! $37.50 for a $50 bond--that is a 25% savings and you can't make that kind of money anywhere today!

Well, my car and I will be in Brunswick this weekend so come see us. And see that snow in the background? It won't be in Brunswick! It is Spring at Skillin's!

Skillin's Brunswick Open House Coupon!

Please print this coupon for some savings this weekend at our Skillin's Brunswick Open House. This coupon is a reward for you being a reader of the Skillin's Garden Log found at!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

See the Circus Another Day by Dale Lincoln

Kind friend Dale Lincoln checks in a story that again makes us think about life and how we should enjoy the people and times who are dear to us:

In the early part of the 20th century the arrival of a circus in a city or town was a big
event. It was especially exciting to children. They watched the circus parade, saw the
bright lights and heard the music, but many children never saw the show under The Big
Top. My mother often told stories about the circus arriving by train in Eastport, Maine.
She lived near the railroad station and the circus grounds, but she never had enough
money to see the show. One evening in her youth she walked to the circus grounds and met up with Elizabeth Greenlaw. Both of them were in the same financial status and were unable to see the show, but lack of money doesn’t always prevent kids from having fun. I can imagine that the young ladies stepped lively with the music and enjoyed the happy crowd. They could dream of seeing the main event another year.

Before continuing the rest of that story, some personal memories and changes with
the circus must be mentioned.. The last circus to visit Eastport, Maine arrived in trucks.
The music, bright lights, large animals, clowns, and acrobats, witnessed at my first circus
were very exciting. At age 8, the little circus at Eastport seemed greater than the circus I
attended with my family at Boston Garden twenty-five years later. When a person is
overwhelmed with happiness as a child, it is not unusual for them to help their children
experience the same thrills. For that reason adults make arrangements each year for
many Maine children in Grade 5 to attend the circus. My children have good memories of
that special day in May when they went to Bangor with their classmates and attended the
Shriners Circus.

In 1970 I was living in South Portland with my wife and growing family. One
afternoon in April my wife stayed home with our infant twins while my assignment was
to take our daughter Carol, and her friend Winnie to the circus in Portland. The early spring day was cloudy, windy, and cold. The previous day I ran the Boston Marathon in a drenching rainstorm. My body was sore and I thought I was freezing to death as we waited in the long line outside the Expo. When the people directly ahead of me reached the ticket booth the Fire Marshall closed the gate. We had to go home! Conditions were better for Winnie and Carol than they were for my mother and Elizabeth. They only waited one day before they enjoyed the circus.

Martha Spinney and Elizabeth Greenlaw returned to their homes after visiting the
circus grounds. Years passed. Both of them would leave Eastport to live in larger cities. They met the man of their life, married, became good parents, and made efforts for their children to attend the circus. To my knowledge my mother never had a ticket for the main event.
Three years after they married my parents felt the bite of The Great Depression when they were living in Philadelphia. In my mother’s words: “We lost everything, ended up on a park bench, then returned to Maine!”

That is why my family was living in Perry, Maine on July 6, 1944. It was my Dad’s birthday. My mother made a cake and we had a party in our little home near the swamp. On that same day, Elizabeth Greenlaw Roberts, her husband, and children, went to the circus. During the afternoon performance the Big Top of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus went up in flames. Elizabeth Greenlaw Roberts died in the worst fire in circus history.

On July 6, 2008, sixty eight years after that disaster, many people will be shedding tears as they remember that bad day in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dale C. Lincoln
for Skillin's Greenhouses
Zephyrhills FL
Perry ME
March 20, 2008
The first day of Spring

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lions, and Lambs and Slugs? Oh, My! 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

They say ‘If March Comes in like a Lion it will go out like a Lamb’. Unfortunately I did not record the exact temperature or weather of March 1st in my journal. Yet it must have been pleasant as it was the day I first saw Mr. Mockingbird! So, lamb it was. Lamb beginnings means I must prepare for a Lion’s end. Or perhaps not!

As I write, it is Sunday afternoon and you would think the Lamb was being shorn by the size of the snow flakes floating past my window. White fluffy fleecy clumps taking their sweet time before touching ground. Most seem to just hover as if they really had no destination. I’m enjoying the nonchalance of it all. Hypnotizing actually.

Allow me to regress to another day, another window, another view, and a completely different sensation. This past Friday marked the return of the Bohemian or is it Cedar Waxwing? The exact arrival of these feathered nomads is unpredictable. Through the mists of mystery they descend.

I watched transfixed as they feasted on the bountiful berries of the Hawthorn outside my window. They flitted and flew between gluttonous gorging that could only be compared to Renaissance Revelry. It is rumored that these masked migratory birds will often become intoxicated on fermented fruit. I had hoped to witness a telltale topsy turvy turn of flight. Do they zig zag? Stagger? Do they wrap wing around feathered back of a companion and chirp ‘I love you man….?’

No “Frat Party” goings on were witnessed other than the mess left in the waxwings wake. They strip branches of berry and fruit before making their way to the next feeding ground. Plops of berry red, stems, feathers and other evidence peppered the ground below. Walking the sidewalks of the eastern most part of Munjoy Hill, the evidence was every where. The naked Hawthorns will not remain so for long. The red tinged Hawthorn blossoms will soon take hold then full foliage will offer shade and shelter for birds that decide to summer ‘on the hill’.

Gardening and wildlife truly do go hand in hand. Yet, I can not claim a Lion or a Lamb has ever found its way to one of my gardens. Live or otherwise.

Unfortunately not all wildlife is beneficial. (imagine at this moment threatening music playing slowly and hauntingly in the background)

Sooner than we can sometimes imagine one of the most dreaded, slimiest and all around despicable pests will emerge….

The SLUG. Is it a coincidence that ‘Slug’ rhymes with ‘ugh’? I think not. . No one, but no one can detest these gross gastropods more than yours truly. Even before my gardening days I would cringe at the thought of this beast. Any creature that slivers through their own slime can not be good

Now that I know of the damage these demons of dampness do inflict, I loathe them all the more. Slugs can be the most destructive and hardest garden intruder to control. Even the eggs, as they travel through the soil are harmful, especially to tender germinating seedlings. Yuck, I can not believe I used ‘tender’ and ‘slug’ in the same paragraph! (Imagine the music at a loud crescendo right about now!)

It is time we take up arms against the slug! Yes, now! Get the buggers before they get you and your Hostas, Lupines, and whatever delicacy they devour.

There are many excellent slug/snail baits and deterrents on the market today, many of which are carried by Skillin’s. As in any pesticide organic or otherwise read the manufacturers directions as printed on the label BEFORE you purchase and again each time before use. One of my favorites is diatomaceous earth. Just don’t ask me to spell it or say it more than once.

Many gardeners swear by more homegrown methods such as beer/yeast traps, copper sheeting or wire, eggshells, coffee grounds. I’ve tried almost all. I’m not a big proponent of traps that bait. I do not want to attract and once done, I do not want to deal with the remains.

Pine needles are also known to be a less than favorite ground cover for slugs. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own, ask a neighbor. You may to do your own raking but it will be worth it.

Before you sprinkle, pour or hand pick take the time to do the prep work. Eliminate before you add.

Slugs lurk under dead leaves, remnants of spent perennials and winter die back. It could be weeks before you see your first slug yet they are there. Act before you are forced to react! The solution is simple. Keep your beds clean.

As the ground thaws and air warms start your regimen:

Tools needed: Mud Gloves, hand rake, pruners, grass clippers, knee pads (or Leg gear that is also waterproof/resistance highly recommended. The ground may seem dry but after kneeling on it for a while you’d be surprised how much moisture is present), a bucket or wheel barrow to collect debris. Save bucket for future use.

Plan: Remove any debris from your garden. This includes any dead plant material not cut back at the end of the season, fallen leaves, twigs even paper or other materials that made their way into your garden. Rake, remove and discard existing bark mulch.

Slugs hate sun. Deciduous trees and shrubs are still sans leaves so what better punishment then to expose the creature to the sun. Turn over any rocks, bricks, or other decorative elements that have over wintered in your garden. Keep a bucket of sudsy salted water close at hand. The perfect receptacle for the slugs that cross your path.

Spring clean your garden as if your mother was coming to visit! It may not pass the white glove test, but if you practice these preventative measures there will be less slugs to test your patience.

If all of this seems like work to you, there are other solutions. Many Ducks and some smaller breeds of hens find slugs a delicacy…..

Lamb or Lion, does it really matter? All I know is that March is a marvelous month, in spite of the ‘Ides’ that we were to beware of.

The flower show has passed, the boat show is history, St. Patrick’s Day is coming and going. This March finds Easter arriving much too early for most. For many, all these dates come and go. Nevertheless there is one day in March that has masses participating in a count down only to rival the number of days to Christmas. On March 20, 2008 at precisely 1:48 AM EDT the sun will cross directly over the Earth’s Equator giving us the Vernal Equinox better known as THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING. A day to celebrate be you a lion or a lamb!

for Skillin's Greenhouses
written 3/16/2008
posted 3/19/2008

"New to Skillin's", Perennial Varieties, "H through L"

Hello again,

Here are a few exciting “new to Skillin’s” perennial varieties we will be introducing in 2008.

I will list a few new varieties this week and follow up with more introductions in the next few days!
I have highlighted aspects of some varieties thatI feel are some very attractive attributes to some of the plants. In other words, this one really catches my eye for this reason....!

If you would like the entire list emailed to you, just let me know at and I will send you a “Word” attachment:

HARDY GARDEN MUM - Dendranthema

‘Harmony’ 20”-24” tall. Daisy-like flowers with yellow centers, 2.5” wide. Flowers start yellow and turn lighter as they mature. Prolific bloomer. Mounding habit. Nice cut flower, attracts butterflies. Zones 5-9. Blooms late summer to late fall. Sun.

‘Chaters Violet’ 4’-6’ tall. Double purple flowers. Attracts butterflies. Zones 3-9. Blooms summer. Sun.

‘Crème de Cassis’ 6’ tall. 3”-4” wide white flowers with a raspberry colored centers and yellow throats. Single and semi-double blooms. Biennial. 4’-Zones 2-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.

5’-6’ tall. Large, single flowers that are a soft yellow color. Foliage is deeply lobed and has a strong resistance to hollyhock rust. Zones 2-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.

Sidalcea ‘Party Girl’ 36” tall. Small, pink saucer shaped flowers. Zones 5-8. Blooms mid summer. Full Sun.


‘August Emperor’ 32” tall. Light purple flowers with yellow highlights edged in blue.
Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun to part-shade.

‘Azuma Kagami’ 24” tall. Large bluish white flowers with lilac veins and purple stamens. Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun to part-shade.

‘Center of Interest’ 24” tall. Large blue flowers with white centers and white stamens edged in blue.
Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun to part-shade.

‘Eden’s Paintbrush’ 34” tall. White flowers with narrow purple stripes. Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun to part-shade.


‘Breakers’ 36” tall. Dark blue flowers. Each stem produces 8-10 flowers. Drought resistant. Possible rebloomer. Zones 3-9. Blooms early spring may rebloom in early fall. Sun to part shade.

‘Clarence’ 35” tall. Flower are light blue fading to white towards the center with white beards. Possible rebloomer. Zones 3-9. Blooms early spring may rebloom in early fall. Sun to part shade.

‘Firebreather’ 37” tall. Bright orange self with tangerine beard. Fragrant. Blooms late.
Zones 3-9. Blooms late summer. Sun to part-shade.

‘Harvest of Memories’ 38” tall. Bright yellow self with yellow beard. Slight fragrance. Rebloomer.
Zones 3-9. Blooms mid-spring. Sun to part-shade.

‘Magical Encounter’ 35” tall. Flowers are vivid pink with ‘shrimp’ pink tones and salmon pink beards. Heavy bloomer.
Zones 3-9. Blooms early to late spring. Sun to part-shade.

‘Marksman’ 13” tall. Dwarf variety. Hot orange self with darker orange beard. Petals are slightly ruffled and have a spicy fragrance. Zones 3-9. Blooms late spring. Sun to part-shade.

‘Spartan’ 35” tall. Wine-red flowers with yellow beard. Zones 3-9. Blooms early summer. Sun to part shade.

‘So Fine’ 35” tall. Inner petals are lavender, outer petals are dark purple edged in pink. Zones 3-10. Blooms early to mid summer. Sun to part shade.


‘Ruffled Velvet’ 24”-30” tall Deep red-purple flowers with slightly ruffled edges.. Zones 3-9. Blooms early summer. Sun to part shade.


‘Mouse Plant’ 4”-6” tall. A small unique variety of Jack-in-the-Pulpit with purple and white flowers on a 2” stem that resembles a ‘tail’. Slow spreading. Zones 5-9. Blooms spring. Shade.

JOE PYE WEED - Eupatorium

‘Little Joe’ 3’-4’ tall. Short variety of Joe Pye Weed. Stems are purple-red with large panicles of mauve-purple flowers. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer to early fall. Sun to part shade.

Dwarf Lady’s Mantle. 6” tall. Zones 3-7. Late spring to early summer. Sun to part shade.

LARKSPUR - Delphinium

‘Magic Fountain Series’
Shorter stockier than Pacific Giant varieties. 30”-36” tall. Zones 3-7. Blooms in summer. Sun. 3 types available.
Dark blue with white bee.
Lavender with white bee
Sky blue with white bee

‘Summer Morning’ 12”-16” tall. Dwarf delphinium forms a compact mound. Foliage if finely cut and produces an abundance of light pink flowers. Nice cut flower. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Zones 3-7. Blooms early summer to late summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Summer Nights’ 10”-12” tall. Dwarf delphinium. Midnight blue flowers on compact mounds. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Zones 3-7. Blooms early to late summer. Sun to part shade.

LILY - Lilium


‘Blackbird’ 14”-16” tall. Dark red flowers. Plum colored blooms. Dwarf variety.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.

‘Cancun’ 36”-48” tall. Deep yellow flowers with orange-red tips.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.

‘Cannes’ 26” tall. Soft peach\pink flowers.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.

‘Lollypop’ 26” tall. White flowers with purple-pink tip.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid summer. Sun.

‘Petite Brigitte’ 16” tall. Yellow flowers. Dwarf variety
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.


‘Conca D’or’ 48:-60” tall. Lemon yellow flowers with pale yellow tips.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-late summer. Sun.

Tiger lily

Yellow and Orange varieties.
48” tall. Flowers have broad, curved petals with black spots.
Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun.

LUNGWORT – Pulmonaria

‘Samaourai’ 12” tall. Silvery long, narrow leaves with blue flowers.
Zones 3-9. Blooms in late spring. Part-shade to shade.

We'll be back next week with more exciting varieties!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 19, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Houseplants: Prevent the Bad & Encourage the Good!

Hello again,

My good friend Mary Mixer of Finding Mary fame came up to me the other day with one of the sharpest and most direct articles I have ever seen about how Houseplants in our home and workplace can contribute to our wellness and positive feelings.

This very helpful article that Mary showed me is found in the April 2008 of Prevention Magazine and I am reprinting most of it here:

Houseplants can reduce stress, zap environmental toxins, and even help you think more clearly
By Marissa Conrad

Interior decorators know that a potted plant can add life to a room, but these leafy greens are more than just pretty accent pieces – they can even make you healthier. We dug through decades of research to find the feel-good effects of mixing a few houseplants into your home décor, from boosting your creativity to beating the sniffles. Experts say you should amass as much green as possible. (Your body will thank you and so will your wallet – have you ever compared the cost of a fern with the price of a Picasso?)

To De-stress

Put a dragon tree in the room with the smallest windows
A little green can instantly chill you out, finds a recent survey from Sweden. City dwellers who frequently visited areas with grass and trees reported fewer feelings of burnout and panic than those who rarely saw greenery. It’s not entirely clear why, but many studies have found something similar, says Virginia I. Lohr, PhD, a professor at Washington State University who has been studying the subject for more than 30 years. It is suggested that humans are wired to know that plants are essential to survival, so seeing one makes us calm and settled. In one of Lohr’s studies, people who worked in a windowless computer lab that had common houseplants such as bamboo, palm, Chinese evergreen, snake plant, or arrowhead vine (all can grow well in low-light settings) had a 4-point drop in their systolic blood pressure after taking a stressful computer-based test, compared to only a 2-point drop in a group that had no exposure to plants. That extra 2 points is equivalent to taking about a half a blood-pressure pill, and “every point count,” says Douglas Reifler, MD, a professor of general internal medicine at Northwestern University.

To Spark Creativity

Decorate your office with small but colorful African violets
In a study from Texas A&M University, women who worked for an hour in a room decorated with two potted plants and a bouquet of flowers generated more ideas than women in a room with abstract sculptures. Studies show that plants are a mood booster, and good moods are associated with higher levels of dopamine, the hormone that controls the flow of information throughout the brain. Your next bright idea: Head to a nursery or garden store and pick up a few houseplants of your own.

To Fight Colds

Place an ultraleafy plant, such as a philodendron, in your bedroom
Dry air can lead to a parched nose and throat – and raise the risk of infection or run-of-the-mill sinusitis, says Michael Janson, MD, author of User’s Guide to Heart-Healthy Supplement. But houseplants can inject moisture back into the air and boost humidity by up to 5%, finds research from Bavarian State Institute of Viticulture and Horticulture in Germany. A humidifier would do more, but a natural boost from plants is enough to help alleviate symptoms. According to a study from Agricultural University of Norway, people with table and floor-standing plants in their offices reported 37% less coughing and 25% less hoarseness after 3 months than when they left their offices plant fee.

The researchers used heart-leaf philodendron among other plants, but you can choose the greens that are most appealing to you. Just pick a plant that has a lot of leaves, because these types release the most moisture, says Sandra Krishnan, director of horticulture at the Denver Botanical Gardens. To fight dry air while you sleep, try any indoor ivy variety, such as English ivy or peace lilies and African violets. The more plants you have the greater the benefit. Grab a few large pots and plant several smaller varieties into each.

To cut harmful exposure to harmful chemicals
All plants filter toxins from the air – so pick your favorite and put it next to your printer
If you use a lot of cleaning supplies or if you have a printer or newly painted walls or varnished furniture, you have VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – toxins that can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, kidney or liver damage, and even cancer. A recent study from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia looked at the ability of two widely available houseplants – the Janet Craig, a standing plant, and the Sweet Chico, a smaller table plant – to strip VOCs from the air. Researchers found that five Sweet Chicos and one Janet Craig may reduce VOCs in a 130-square-foot room (such as a guest bedroom) by up to 70%.

When plants take in oxygen and carbon dioxide, they also pull in any toxins floating around in the air, says Kyle Wallick, a botanist at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. The toxins travel through the plant, ending up near the roots. There, bacteria in the soil break down the chemicals into nontoxic compounds that the plant uses for food.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 17, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tid Bits 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!

Who isn’t among us who aren’t inspired by the displays and the vendor offerings of The Portland Flower Show? Look for my piece on ‘award shows’ for the next posting but first I want to comment on some recent Garden Log submissions of Barbara Gardener and Mike Skillin.

The realization that soon we can purchase and install annuals/perennials or as I think of it ‘The Call of the Planted and Potted’ is approaching.

The upcoming Skillin’s class of Gardening 101 (April 5th 9 & 1) is not just for beginning gardeners but for garden beginnings. The beginning of the garden season!

What better way to begin then the ground up. I am a firm believer in soil testing!

This year’s hand-outs for Gardening 101 will also include some warm-up exercises for ourselves. How often do we begin the Season with sore muscles, feet and hands that feel that they have been rubbed with sandpaper? A friend who is an occupational/physical therapist supplied me with some great hints. I guess she was tired of hearing me complain each April and swear next year I will ‘get in shape first’. I started my stretching routine this very morning.

As an alumnus of Skillin’s classes, I still look forward to attending classes as many as I can. This could mean in front of the class or as a less than passive participant in the audience. I’ve learned so much from Sheliah, Sally, Crystal, Chad, and all the other facilitators. Moreover, not surprisingly, I learn from the audience.

So, if you never have check out one of the classes offered by Skillin’s! (Listing at The classes are not only about gardening; they are a social experience. I guess that would make them a “gardening social!”

On April 26 (9 AM & 1 PM) Skillin’s will offer a class about Container Gardening. Containers are not just for annuals any more………I look at Container Gardening as the opportunity to create my own environment complete with Microclimate. Visualize a woodland garden in miniature or a saucer full of succulents. How about a Lilliputian citrus grove? Japanese Zen perhaps? Or maybe, just maybe a secret garden of moss that any fairy, gnome and/or troll could call home? Container Gardening comes to mind as the way a landscape can be created, including the dirt by lifting nothing heavier than a 5 pound bag of potting soil/planting mix, a trowel, and a watering can.

Ok, it is true the container itself may be heavy. With so many containers to choose from at Skillin’s the “pot options” can be overwhelming. A container can be anything that will support the roots, offer drainage and withstand the elements. That old soup tureen that would take more than a dozen cans of Campbell Soup to fill may just be the perfect place for a cascade of terracotta million bells.

What I most wanted to comment on was the timing for planting of tender annuals. May often brings warmth of sun and soul. May beguiles and we believe that all threat of frost has vanished. Mother Nature can be cunning and often takes pleasure in her proverbial last laugh. Memorial Day is a good measure when it is celebrated on the 30th or 31st. As Barbara Gardener said, we begin Getting impatient for impatiens! In the meantime, pacify with pansies………….

for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 12, 2008

Annuals Can Be Quite the Event!

Hello again,

We also get many questions about the best times to start seeds for annual plants. Again, with our short season it is advantageous to start your summer flowering annuals early indoors to maximize flowering time!

A true annual is a plant that completes its entire life cycle in one season. Typically it grows from a seed in Spring, quickly becoming a mature plant and then quickly producing a great abundance of flowers.

Why grow annuals in the first place? Barbara Damrosch in her fine book, “The Garden Primer” states the case for annuals very well: “…annuals give such spectacular results with such little labor. Nothing else blooms with such profusion and for such a long stretch of time, so if you want a riot of color, annuals are your answer. Not only do they bloom abundantly, they do it quickly. Gratification is, if not instant, then certainly not long delayed; you can have mature plantings in a matter of weeks. Nor will your senses ever become jaded with annuals; you can plant a totally different color scheme or totally different plants each season. And best of all, annuals are just about the easiest plants to grow.”

Also from “The Garden Primer”: “(Annual) plants are usually started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost, then set out into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. They are slow to get started and are therefore most effective planted closely—about 8 inches apart. They prefer full sun but do fairly well in light shade, especially in hot climates. Pinching them back once will make the plants more bushy….”

In southern Maine, I consider June 1 to be a date that is usually safe from frost. Anytime before June 1 can sometimes be risky--but every year is different. Please consult us at Skillin’s with any questions about frost dates. However, June 1 is often a smart date to use because even if we get no frost in late May, the weather at that time (especially the nights) can often be cold and your tender annuals and vegetables will not grow anyway. Moreover, the cold weather can weaken the plants and leave them more vulnerable to disease.

In terms of specific start times for annuals, please consult the detail on the seed packets. The packets will state the time needed for a plant to reach mature size. Use June 1 for your “set out” date and work backward for seed starting time. In most cases, the best time to start annuals indoors is April 1 to April 15 or so.

What is your favorite annual or annuals to plant? Let us know at! Better yet like Barbara Gardener in Getting impatient for impatiens! feel free to send us a picture or two or three of some of your favorite annual plantings that you may have saved in your camera or on your computer. We would love to share your fine work and gardening comments right here at the Skillin's Garden Log!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 6, 2008 (reprinted March 9, 2009)

Monday, March 10, 2008

"New to Skillin's", Perennial Varieties, "D through G"

Hello again,

Here are a few exciting “new to Skillin’s” perennial varieties we will be introducing in 2008.

I will list a few new varieties this week and follow up with more introductions in the next few days!

I have highlighted aspects of some varieties thatI feel are some very attractive attributes to some of the plants. In other words, this one really catches my eye for this reason....!

If you would like the entire list emailed to you, just let me know at and I will send you a “Word” attachment:

EDELWEISS – Leontopodium
8”-12” tall. Silvery foliage with small star-shaped flowers. Zone 4. Bloom sping. Sun.


‘Pomponette’ . 6” tall. Mix of red, rose and white flowers. BiennialZone 4-10. Blooms late spring. Sun to part shade.


‘Siskiyou Pink’ 10” tall. Pink flowers that are slightly pink. Glossy, dark green foliage. Flowers open in the evening.
Zones 3-7. Blooms in spring. Sun.



‘Red Cascade’ 6” tall. Dark purple flowers. Gray-green foliage forms a mat. Zones 4-8. Blooms in spring. Sun to part shade.
‘Bressingham Beauty’ 36” tall. Salmon-rose flowers on arching plumes. Zones 4-9. Blooms early to mid-summer. Sun to part shade. Full sun if given enough moisture.

‘Glow’ 30” tall. Very dark red buds. Red flowers with rose highlights. Leave start out bronze-red and turn green in summer. Zones 4-9. Blooms mid-summer. Shade to part shade. Full sun if given enough moisture.

‘Sister Theresa’ 24” tall. Large salmon-pink plumes. Foliage, finely cut, medium to dark green.
Early to mid-summer bloomer. Zones 4-9. Good cut flower. Shade to part shade. Full sun if given enough moisture.

‘Summer Nights’ 3’-4’ tall. Gold-yellow, daisy-like flowers with a dark orange-brown eye. Stems are a purple red color and leaves are dark green tinged with purple. Attracts butterflies. Good cut flower. Zones 3-9. Blooms mid-summer to late summer. Sun to part shade.

FOAM FLOWER - Tiarella

‘Crow Feather’ 8”-12” tall. Deeply lobed leaves are bright green, with dark purple centers. Leaves have a great late fall\winter color of red, purple, pink and black. Slight fragrant, pink flowers in spring.
Zones 4-9. Blooms early spring to early summer. Part shade to shade.

FOXGLOVE – Digitalis

‘Candy Mountain’ 3’-4’ tall. Rose-pink flowers with speckled throats that face upward.
Strong stems. Attracts hummingbirds. Good cut flower.
Zones 4-9. Early summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Spice Island’ 4’ tall. Peachy yellow flowers. Evergreen foliage. Will re-bloom all summer spent blooms are cut back. Several spikes per plant. Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 4-9. Bloom early summer to early fall. Sun to part shade.

GOLDENROD – Solidago
‘Little Lemon’ 8”- 10” tall. Short, compact goldenrod. Flowers panicles are lemon yellow.
Nice cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 5-8. Blooms late summer to early fall. Sun.

For an extensive variety of grasses please check our Nursery.

Chasmanthium Latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)
2’-3’ tall. Clump forming. Foliage is bamboo like. Drooping flowers with very attractive seed heads. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer to mid fall. Sun to part shade.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
1’-2’ tall. Golden Variegated Hakone Grass – Yellow leaves with narrow green margins that turn a reddish-pink in the fall. This grass has a beautiful cascading habit. Spreads slowly and is not invasive.

Lagurus ovatus (Bunny Tails) Annual in our area.
8”-12” tall. This is an annual grass in our area but it is adorable at the front of the border and it is a great grass for containers. Small clumps of fine foliage with furry little flower heads. Zone 9. Bloom in summer. Sun.

Miscanthus purpurascens
4’-6’ tall. Upright clump. Foliage starts green and turns reddish in later summer.
Fans are magenta colored and turn into silky white flowers.
Zones 4-9. Sun.

Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ (Red Switch Grass)
4’-5’ tall. Foliage starts blue-green but begins to turn wine-red in early summer.
Flower panicles are a rosy color and appear ‘just above the foliage’.
Zones 4-9. Sun.

Pennisetum rubrum (Purple fountain grass) Annual in our area.
36”-48” tall. This grass is an annual in are area but is absolutely beautiful in containers or in the garden. Glossy purple foliage with red-purple flowers. Zones 9-10. Blooms mid summer to early fall.

We'll be back next week with more exciting varieties!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 11, 2008

Garden Talks March 10, 2008

Hello again,

I have a short week at home this week as I am headed out on business for a couple of days at the end of this week and into the weekend. Before I leave, I want to get to you a few gardening tips which are appropriate for this time of year.

I actually stopped at a few web sites and saw some good information that I will pass onto you.

My first stop was at the P. Allen Smith website. P. Allen of course is a national gardening celebrity. Much of his advice does not pertain to us northeast gardeners but I do check him regularly to get a few sound points.

P. Allen just released a very good and very quick and easy to follow video on dormant oil spraying. Now is a great time to apply natural dormant oil spray to woody plant material (especially fruit and flowering trees) to help control overwintering insects and diseases that inhibit fruit and flowering production in the summer. We sell some very effective natural dormant oil sprays by the Bonide Company and would love to recommend the best product for you. The video can be found at and as I said is quick and easy to understand. You should be able to cut and paste the address I just noted above right into your web browser.

Recently, we have spent some time in the Garden Log talking about seed starting (The ABC’s of Seed Starting ) and I also recently sent out an email to folks on our email list detailing some common seed starting times.

P. Allen makes some excellent points about some problems that can be encountered in seed starting and even better comes us with some great solutions:

Even under the best circumstances, you might run into a few problems. Here's a list of a common symptoms and the corrective measures you can take to solve them.

Symptom: Spindly or Leggy GrowthCauses: Low light, too much water, excessively warm temperatures, over fertilization, crowded plants.

Corrective Measures: Some seeds will germinate without much light, but seedlings need bright light. Use grow lights if a sunny window is not available. Position the lights 4 inches above the seed tray and leave the lights on for 16 hours a day. Don’t forget to raise the lights as the seedlings grow taller.

Provide an air temperature of 70 to 75 degrees during the day and night temperature of at least 60 to 65 degrees.

Soil should be kept consistently moist, but not soggy. Mist with a spray bottle or water from the bottom up by placing the containers in a pan filled with 1 inch of warm water. Once the soil is moist, remove the seed pots from the pan.

Wait until seedlings have produced their first set of true leaves to fertilize. This is actually the second set of leaves that emerge. Use a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. Feed once a week.

Sow seeds and thin seedlings according to the packet instructions to prevent overcrowding.

Symptom: Dwarf Plants

Causes: Low fertility.

Corrective Measures: Because there is so little soil, nutrient levels are hard to maintain. As mentioned above, feed with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength after the first set of true leaves emerge. Feed once a week.

Some seed starting soil mixtures contain nutrients such as Mycorrhizae, a naturally occurring fungus that promotes strong root development.

Symptom: Decay or rotting of the stems of young plants near the soil surface.

Causes: Damping-off. Disease organisms attack germinating seeds and young plants, especially during prolonged cloudy weather.

Corrective Measures: Use a sterile soil-mix designed for seed starting.Mound the soil in the container so that it is flush with the edge of the pot. This will allow air flow across the surface of the soil.

Symptom: Wilting followed by death of the seedling. Tiny insects hovering around soil.

Causes: Fungus gnat larvae will feed on the roots of the seedlings. Adult fungus gnats are those pesky, small flying insects that hover around potting soil. They are attracted to moist potting soils that have a high organic content.

Corrective Measures: Use a well draining potting soil.If you see the adult gnats, cut back on water to make the soil less attractive to the adult female gnat. You don't need to stop watering completely, just allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Placing a moist slice of potato on top of the soil will attract the larvae. Throw out the potato slice to get rid of the larvae .

Next I stopped by the website for Plants Unlimited owned and operated by Hammond Buck near the Camden Rockport area. The folks at Plants Unlimited reminded me of several good gardening "ought to do's" for this time of year that I will pass onto you:

"If you are tired of the 'same old' annuals that you've been planting year after year, why not plan a 'new look' in your garden. Now is a good time to sketch out your annual beds and decide what plants you'll need to enliven the color and perhaps even be less care. Be careful of the spacing of plants that you choose in your plan. Know the mature size of each variety because, in our experience, many people actually buy more plants than needed! A great annual gardening resource? Proven Winners!" We sell Proven Winners and they not only have great plants, their web site is a terrific resource.

"If you have overwintered tropical plants like bougainvillea, hibiscus or mandevilla or annuals like geraniums in your basement, take a peek at them today. Check the plants for any signs of green buds and the soil for moisture. If the soil is dry, water them lightly. Then start to bring these plants into a warmer and sunnier location. It's time to get them sprouting for spring! If you don't have enough sunny windows, use fluorescent grow lights." Great advice for right now! Spring is coming folks. We sell easy to use grow lights if you do need more light. I also would recommend applying a feeding of all natural and tremendously beneficial Plant Booster Plus by Organica to the soil of each plant. Future waterings will bring some very beneficial nutrients and microbes to your soil. Plant Booster Plus is going to be the natural fertilizer choice of many of us at Skillin's this Spring! Check out for more details about this awesome product sold right here at Skillin's!

"If you grow grapes, it's time to aggressively attack your vines with loppers and pruners while the vines are still dormant. You do this to keep the vines healthier, bear the best tasting fruit and keep the grape harvest within reach. Cut off at least three-quarters of last seasons growth, pruning all the way back to a handful of buds per cane. It's harsh pruning but it bears results in the fall!" Perfect grape advice. Remember with pruning, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind! (Kind of like raising kids!)

As always, let us know if you have any garden questions or comments by commenting below OR by dropping us a note at!


Mike Skillin

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More Gardens from Barbara Gardener!

"Mostly annuals where perennials have gone by." This pints out how annuals and perennials can be mixed well together. This is taken most likely from early or mid fall when many perennials have "petered out". But Barbara Gardener has deftly planted some mums and asters in the left of the picture which contrast wonderfully with the blazing yellow and orange gazania (a tremendous annual for sunny gardens). There are other annuals in this garden as well and their showy colors work so well with the textures of the perennial plants that still have healthy foliage.
Great job Barbara Gardener!

"I really liked these colors. I had never seen that shade of yarrow. The mini hollyhock and the yarrow bloomed all summer:" That yarrow color is superb and contrasts well with the daylilly.
Yarrow is a long blooming perennial and if kept pruned of any wild growth can really add some great color and texture to a garden. And I love that color daylily!

Thanks Barbara Gardener!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 9, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Keep the Home Fires Burning by Dale Lincoln

Hello everyone,

On our first winter in Florida, two years ago, Elsie and I started a writing group. This year nine people have been attending our Weekly, Friday morning meeting. A few weeks ago we decided to put the group's best writing together and make a booklet-- just for the writing group members. The attached article is one of my favorite articles even though it wasn't written for one of the Writings Groups weekly stories. It was written earlier than that. The article was at my fingertips yesterday. Although many things are more modern today, the sentiments of the soldierr, their family, and loved ones are very much the same today.

I've heard through the grapevine that The Maine winter is still with you.

Hang in there.


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, 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.

Dale Lincoln
for Skillin's Greenhouses
Zephyrhills FL
March 7, 2008

Going Loopy wth Lupine!

Barbara Gardener is sure growing some fine looking lupine on that estate of hers! These pictures really jazz me up! How can you not think of summer after looking at these pictures!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"New to Skillin's", Perennial Varieties, "A through C"

Hello again,

Here are a few exciting “new to Skillin’s” perennial varieties we will be introducing in 2008. I will list a few new varieties this week and follow up with more introductions in the next few days! I have highlighted on some varieties what I feel are some very attractive attributes to some of the plants.

If you would like the entire list emailed to you, just let me know at and I will send you a “Word” attachment:

12”-24” tall. Flowers are small, button-like and silvery over silvery foliage. Zones 3-9. Blooms early summer. Sun.


Amsonia tabernaemontana 30”-36” tall. Flowers are pale blue and star-shaped. Foliage is narrow-leaved and turns a beautiful golden color in fall. Forms a ‘dense, billowy’ mass. Zones 3-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun to part shade.

ALKANET – Brunnera
‘Looking Glass’ 12”-15” tall. Leaves are heart-shaped, silver with prominent green veins when young turning almost completely silver as they mature. Small, blue flowers resemble for-get-me-nots. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-spring to late spring. Part shade to shade.

ASTER - Aster
‘Alma Potschke’ 36” tall. Taller aster with hot pink flowers. Attracts butterflies. Excellent cut flower. zones 3-8. Blooms late summer mid fall. Sun.-

‘Red Alert’ 12”-15” tall. Deep red, daisy-like flowers on short, bushy plants.
Zones 4-8. Blooms late summer to fall. Sun.

‘October Skies’ 18”-24” tall. Daisy-like sky blue flowers with yellow centers. Busy habit. Drought tolerant. Attracts butterflies. Good cut flower. Zones 5-8. Blooms late summer to mid fall. Sun.

BACHELOR’S BUTTON - Centaurea montana

‘Amethyst in Snow’ 12’24” tall. Flowers consist of white ‘trumpets’ and purple centers.
Silver green foliage. Attracts butterflies. Zones 3-9. Early summer bloomer. Full sun.


‘Sentimental Blue’ 6”-8” tall. Purple flowers. Prolific bloomer. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer. Sun to part shade.

BARRENWORT - Epimedium

‘Lilafee’ 8” tall. Clump forming. Flowers are lilac-pink. Zones 4-8. Blooms in spring. Part shade to shade.

‘Mystica’ 30” tall. Foliage is burgundy red in spring turning more green in summer and then deep red in fall. Flowers are white with a tinge of lilac. Good cut flower. Zones 3-8. Blooms early to mid summer. Sun.

‘Prairie Dusk’ 24”-30” tall. Flowers rose-purple color. Trumpet shaped. Best planted in groups.
Drought tolerant. Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 3-8. Bloom early summer. Sun.

‘Rubycunda’ 20” tall. Large tubular red flowers with white throats.
Zones 2-8. Blooms mid-late summer. Sun.

BEE BALM - Monarda

‘Marshall’s Delight’ 2’-3’ tall. Pink flowers. Strong resistance to mildew. Zones 4-9. Blooms mid-summer to late summer.


‘Chettle Charm’ 18”-36” tall. A peach leaved bellflower with white flowers edged in light violet.
Cutting back spent flowers will promote re-bloom. Excellent cut flower.
Zones 4-8. Blooms summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Pearl White’ 6”-10” tall. Mounded foliage covered in white cup shaped flowers. Blooms 1-2 weeks earlier than White Clips. Zones 3-8. Blooms early summer to fall. Sun to part shade.

‘Herbstonne’ 6’-7’ tall. Yellow daisy-like flowers with bright green cones.
Long flowering. Finely cut foliage. Native to the US. Nice cut flower. Zones 3-10. Blooms mid-summer to early fall.

‘Hirta Maya’ 24”-36” tall. Large double yellow flowers 4”-5”. Excellent cut flower.
Zones 4-9. Blooms mid-summer to early fall. Sun.

‘King of Hearts’ 8”-10” tall. A fern-leaved bleeding heart with bright rose, heart-shaped flowers and finely cut blue-green foliage. Prolific bloomer. Will not go dormant if given enough moisture.
Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 5-9. Blooms late spring through early fall. Sun, part shade, shade.

‘Snowdrift’ 12”-15” tall. A fringed bleeding heart with pure white, heart-shaped flowers. Foliage is gray-green and finely cut. Will bloom late spring until early fall. Will not go dormant if given enough moisture. Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 3-9. Blooms late spring to early fall. Part-shade to shade.

Bugloss – Anchusa
‘Blue Anglel’ 12”-24” tall. Small blue flowers resemble For-get-me-nots. Lance shaped leaves. Zones 3-8. Blooms in early summer. Sun to part shade.


‘Gay Butterflies’ 24” tall Flowers are various shades of orange and long-lasting. Performs best if left undivided. Attracts butterflies.. Zones 4-9. Blooms mid-late summer.


CLEMATIS – Clematis
Zones 4-8. Sun to part shade.
Grow in sun to part shade making sure roots are shaded to keep them cool.

Early bloomers – Bloom on previous seasons growth. Do not generally need to be pruned.
However, prune back within a month after blooming if you feel they need to be kept in check..
Old plants can be pruned back to 1-2 feet but it may take them a couple of years for them to re-bloom.

Early to mid-season bloomers and re-bloomers – The first blooms appear on previous years growth. Later blooms are on current years growth and may be smaller in size. These types should be pruned in late winter or early summer. Prune out dead shoots and ‘the remaining shoots cut back to 6-9” above a couple of well-developed buds.’

Late flowering – These type bloom on new growth in mid-summer and in early fall. The second bloom may be smaller than the first. Prune back in late winter or early spring. Prune back to previous years wood or prune a 1/3 of the stems back 6-9” above ‘well developed buds’ over the course of 3 years.

‘Belle of Woking’- Double rosette shaped flowers, light blue in color and 4”-6” wide.
Blooms May, June and September.

‘Comtesse De Bouchard’ - . 6’-10’ tall. Single light rose-pink flowers. Prolific bloomerFlowers 4”-6” wide. Blooms June-Oct.

‘Duchess of Edinburgh’ - 8’-12’ tall. Double rosette shaped white flowers 4”-6” wide. Blooms May-June and August-Sept.

‘Ernest Markham’ . 8’-16’ tall. Single magenta-red flowers. Heaviest bloom in late summer and fallFlowers 4”-6” wide. Blooms June-July and August- Oct.

‘General Sikorsky’ – 8’-10’ tall Single dark lavender flowers.. Flowers 6”-8” wide. Blooms May-June and Sept.

‘Hagley Hybrid’ – 6’-8’ tall. ingle, shell pink flowers. Prominent purple anthers. Flowers 5”-6” wide. Blooms June-Sept.

‘Henryi’ – 8’-10’ tall. Single pure white flowers with purple-violet anthers. Flowers 6”-8” wide.
Blooms May-June and July-Sept.

‘Jackmanni Superba’ – 8’-12’ tall. Deep purple flowers with creamy-yellow stamens. Vigorous grower. Flowers 5”-6” wide. Blooms June-Oct.

‘Montana Rubens’
Single pink, 4-petaled flowers, 2”-4” wide.

‘Multi-Blue’ – . 5’-10’ tall. Deep purple-blue flowers with silver mid-ribs. Flowers start out single ‘then develop multiple rows of petals as the ageFlowers 4”-5” wide. Blooms May-June and August-Oct.

‘Nelly Moser’ – . 6’-10’ tall. Single pale pink flowers with a dark pink middle. Flowers 7”-9” wide. Blooms May- June and Sept.

‘Niobe’ – 6’-8’ tall Single deep red flowers. One of the best reds.. Flowers 5”-7” wide. Blooms May-Sept.

‘The President’ – 8’-12’ tall. Single violet-blue flowers with dark red-purple anthers. Flowers 6”-8” wide. Bloom May-June and Sept- Oct.

‘Will Goodwin’ – 8’-12’ tall. Single lavender-blue flowers with creamy yellow stamens. Flowers 6”-8” wide. Blooms May-June and July-Sept.

Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis) – Small singe white flowers.Blooms heavily in fall, almost completely covering the foliage. Fragrant. 10’-30’ tall. Flowers ½ - 1inch wide. Blooms Sept-Oct.

‘Songbird Bunting’ 24” tall. Sky blue outer petals with white center petals. Zones 3-8. Blooms late spring. Sun to part shade.

‘Spring Magic Rose and Ivory’ 14” tall. Shorter variety long spurred, pink outer petals with creamy inner petals. Attracts hummingbirds. Zones 2-9. Blooms early summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Swan Violet and White’ 24” tall. Long spurred purple-blue outer petals with white center petals. Blooms late spring. Sun to part shade.

CONEFLOWER - Echinacea

‘After Midnight’ 12” tall. Dwarf variety with slightly fragrant dark magenta-purple flowers with a black red cone on black stems. Compact habit and nicely branched. Nice cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-8. Blooms mid-summer to late summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Pink Double Delight’ 18”-24” tall. Shorter variety with a well-branched, compact habit. Flowers are pink with pompon like centers. Nice cut flower. Attracts butterflies. Zones 3-8. Blooms mid-summer to late summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Sunrise’ 30”-36” tall. Light yellow, daisy-like flowers. Cone starts green and turns gold. Good branching. Attracts butterflies. Nice cut flower.Zones 4-8. Blooms mid to late summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Harvest Burgundy’ 12”-18” tall. Silvery purple foliage with purplish undersides and prominent green veins.
Pink buds, light pink to white flowers. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-9. Blooms early summer. Sun, part-shade. Shade.

‘Harvest Silver’ 12”-18” tall. Silvery-green foliage with prominent green veins. Attracts butterflies.
Pink buds, pink flowers. Zones 4-9. Blooms early summer. Sun, part-shade. Shade.

‘Marmalade’ 10”-16” tall. Shiny, peach and honey colored leaves with bright purple undersides.
Red buds, white flowers. Attracts butterflies.
Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun, part-shade to shade.

‘Melting Fire’ 10”-16” tall. Curled leaves bright red when young, turning a purple-red when mature.
Flowers stems are red. Buds pink. Flowers white. Attracts butterflies.
Zones 4-9. Blooms late spring to early summer. Sun, part-shade to shade.

‘Obsidian’ 10”-24” tall. Deep purple-black leaves with shiny deep purples undersides. Compact growth habit.Smoky purple buds, white flowers. Attracts butterflies. Zones 4-9. Blooms
late spring to mid-summer. Sun, part-shade, shade.

‘Ruby Bells’ 12”-18” tall. Dark green foliage with bright red flowers. Attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Zones 3-8. Blooms late spring to mid summer. Part shade to shade.

‘Sweet Heidi’ 12” tall. Very long flowering. Flowers are purple-blue with a white eye surround by a pink ring. Sprawling habit which makes it useful as a groundcover. Zones 5-8. Blooms late spring to early fall. Sun to part shade.

‘White Ness’ 12” tall. Pure white flowers. Light green foliage. Flowers are very aromatic. Good cover in shaded areas. Zones 4-8. Blooms early summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Splish-Splash’ 24”-26” tall. White flowers with irregular purple markings. Dark green leaves on low-growing mounds. May re-bloom if cut back. Zones 4-9. Blooms summer. Sun to part shade.

‘Chameleon’ 18” tall. Bronze-purple leaves with bright yellow flower\bracts in spring. Zones 4-8. Blooms early spring. Sun.

‘Donkeytail Spurge’ 6” tall. Leaves grow in a spiral along stems. Gray-green foliage. Yellow flowers in spring. Zones 4-9. Blooms early spring. Sun.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where was I……….? 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!

Where was I……….?

I hope everyone had a great Leap Day. Being Irish I have the whole year to enjoy it…once every 4 years it is permissible for an Irish woman to ask a man for his hand in marriage. This should be an interesting year……..

Can you believe it is March? Yes, March. It seemed like only yesterday I was at the Skillin’s Open House in Falmouth! This year’s event was the best ever! Sally and crew could use a standing ovation! The place was alive. Tim over saw a magical landscape where once there was only concrete. I did all I could not to bury my face in the fresh mulch. That scent is so hypnotic! Another one to look forward to in Brunswick. (on March 29 and 30!)

This week’s magic will surely center around The Portland Flower Show. I am so excited that I’m already looking for a place to park. When you attend the Portland Flower Show bring along your camera and journals. What, you have not begun your Garden Journals? Oh, dear…. I have already entered the date I witnessed the Robin migration and the return of the Mockingbird.

So where was I?

How I came to be a gardener.

Fast forward to 1993 or was it ’94? Can you believe I can not recall the year we moved into our house on Munjoy Hill? It almost never happened except for a phone call that was answered by my husband. A friend of mine was getting married and his fiancé’ was selling her house. For what seemed like months my friend mentioned the house. He thought it would be perfect for my (former) husband and I. I never gave it much thought Ok, I did, ‘The Hill’ and the fact we weren’t financially ready did factor into it. Needless to say I never mentioned the house to my husband. One day as I walked into our kitchen, my husband was on the phone and gestured to me as he mouthed ‘What is this about a house? ‘A’ (friend) wants us to see it today before they sign with a realtor’.

I was caught. ‘A’ was speaking to my husband as if husband should know all about the house. I felt like I had my hand in a cookie jar. No worse, that I had come in past curfew with Cold Duck on my breath (not the fowl but the sickly sweet bubbly drink of my college days).

I had a lot of explaining to do on our way to see this house. Of course we couldn’t buy it. Nor did we expect to want to. ‘A’ was waiting for us, More explaining on my part. Just one look, was all it took. It was early May so all I really remember about the garden was that it was small and took up the whole front of the house. There were 3 ‘flowering bushes’ which I later learned were 2 small leafed Rhododendrons and one Azalea. The back of the house was some kind of tiered garden that could only be accessed through the basement. A pear tree poked above and could be seen from the front of the house. A garden? Perennials? Okay. I guess that is nice. It wasn’t the gardens that sold either of us. For husband it was the built-in bookshelves/entertainment unit. For me, the view. What better for a city girl then to have an unobstructed view of the city, Slightly to the left of the cityscape was Back Cove. ‘A’ mentioned on a clear day you could see Mt. Washington which we later learned to be the truth. Ah, but the best was yet to come. After our tour it was nearing 7 pm. The sun was preparing to set. The gentle melding of day to dusk called to me. Each and every sunset thereafter a symphony. I will miss that house forever.

When we moved in at the end of June everything was overgrown. The pretty bushes flowered no more; the tree in the front of our house was in bloom (a magnificent dogwood). Later this tree would litter our front walk with red prickly fruit that squished when stepped upon. I recently discovered that these fruits are sweet and may be used in a jam.

I was overwhelmed. I knew nothing. Friends were envious of the gardens and helped me sort through the weeds. Ok, they did the sorting while I sipped wine, the men drank beer and boasted about who could make the best burger. Food and plants would be their reward.

I couldn’t tell a weed from a peony except that the big plants in full bloom were called peonies. Imagine my surprise when these extra large shrub like plants (the peonies) once cut back would completely disappear over the winter. The next spring I was devastated that they didn’t return, until it was pointed out that the red little sprouts were my Peonies.

The next spring my husband and I attempted to weed. Still it was just too much. I wanted to sit on my deck, read, watch sunsets and, yes drink wine. Then something happened. Not sure why, what or how, but I started to notice. I noticed other peoples gardens, gardening magazines, my garden. I used my not weeding as an excuse to ‘see what happens’. With each new sprout, flecks of color and change in form, I was almost hooked. There still was this thing with dirt, crawly things and ruining a perfectly good manicure. Not to mention sweating and spending hours on my knees.

While walking around our neighborhood I couldn’t help but notice how people in these urban settings transformed minute plots of earth to lush slices of color. Little did I know, I was about to fall in love…with Cosmos? One gentleman had a 4’ X 2 foot plot full of them. Soon they were everywhere. We’d go for drives just too see gardens and within these gardens the elegant Cosmos. I loved the daintiness, how the blooms seemed to hover as if stem less. The way they moved with the slightest breeze. As I child I always asked for a corsage of ‘painted daisies’ for my piano recitals. The hot pink blooms reminded me of the flowers I so adored as a kid. Ironically, I hated the piano and suffered from extreme stage fright. I would persevere just to don a bracelet of pink.

Again, I am out of time. I also have a beautiful yet impatient dog that wants to show me her ball. A sure sign she must be taken out.

See you at the Portland Flower Show……

for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Getting impatient for impatiens!

Barbara Gardener is back:

Make sure you have plenty of impatiens for me to buy! I have a lot of garden space that only gets a few hours of sun. I also have good luck with begonias and primrose. Good border plants.
Barbara Gardener
for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 4, 2008