Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mum's the Word and are On Sale

Hello again,

Just letting you know that our Fall Mums are ON SALE!

First off, our Fall Mums are gorgeous and we have many varieties JUST coming into flower with weeks and weeks of blossoming still ahead of them.

Our individual mums are selling for just $6.99 and as I just wrote we have many standout colors available for you. We have dropped the quantity price to buy 3 for JUST $15 and then even better buy 6 for JUST $24!

Our small pots of mums are perfect for window boxes and containers and like their big brothers I just wrote about these smaller 4" potted mums will just keep churning out the color still for weeks and weeks! These pots sell for $3.99 and we have put them on sale for Buy 1, Get 1 Free!

Do you already own some mums? No problem, with these prices you need to buy some more! Also, if you bought Skillin grown mums then you would have bought a special variety of mum that just keeps sending out the blossoms especially if you can pinch off the some of the old flowers from time to time!

So, come see us and save!

We also have bright and colorful pumpkins, gourds and fall squashes that are just great to decorate your home.


Mike Skillin

Friday, September 26, 2008

Garden Talks September 26

Hello again,

It is time to catch up on some customer emails and comments:

First, KCB (check this Garden Log often for her awesome articles) checks in with an added comment regarding a question and answer with customer LJT regarding staking or fencing tall perennials to keep them from toppling. Frankly her answer is much better than mine as you would expect from the 2008 Master Gardener of the Year (congrats to KCB!)

At our Garden Happenings! Week of September 8 post customer LJT asked about how to tall perennials under control. KCB adds: "Mike, great suggestions for LJT and her less than sturdy perennials. I have found that peony rings place around some of the more floppy perennials and shrubs work well. The trick is to place them early as the foliage is emerging. Once in full foliage the rings do not show. Works great for anything from Stoke Aster, Endless Summer Peony, Larkspur even Dahlias.

Hopes this helps!

Frankly the peony ring idea is a much better one!

Good gardening friend JP has the following question about roses:

"Earlier this year I planted 2 knock-out roses. They have blossomed in fact there are a few flowers there now. But, something is eating the leaves. I’d like to have them be in good condition to endure the winter. I don’t think I should be feeding them now. Should I use Messenger?"

Our answer: I don’t think Messenger would do the trick here. I highly recommend Messenger as a monthly spray to protect against disease. I spray monthly starting in April and go right through September. My roses have had almost no black spot or mildew all year and have grown well in a year that is one of the toughest I have ever seen for roses.

If you have not fed your roses for awhile now would be a good time to put a natural fertilizer like Rose Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica around the base of the plant. Although we are heading into the last part of the season now would be a great time to help the soil around your rose with one of these fine products. These products both do that without injecting a burst of nutrients into the roots only like some popular chemical fertilizers out there (Miracle Gro is an example of that type of food).

Remember to mulch well around your roses in late November once the ground starts to freeze up. The object is to keep the ground cold and your roses dormant over the winter. Also between now and then make sure your roses get some quality waterings each week.

As far as the holes in the leaves go I would certainly recommend sprinkling some Garden Dust by Bonide on the roses if the problem seems to be severe. If the overall condition of the roses is good in terms of color and new growth is still coming out you could probably bypass the dusting this late in the season. But if it is severe eating the garden dust would probably make the eating less severe.

If the eating is happening from the top of the stem down, it COULD be deer but that is probably not likely right now. They would not like the Garden Dust very much.

Customer CM checks in with a very nice note I would like to share:

"One of your employees called yesterday or the day before with an answer to my question, but I appreciate the additional information.

Mike, your store is run very well and I like to give it my repeat business.

As a small business owner myself (and even if I weren't), I realize the effort and dedication you put into everything. Certainly, you personally expend many hours toward the effort.

Thank you for all you do! "

Thank you CM and thanks to all of our customers!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


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 you must know that KCB was recently honored as the 2008 Master Gardener of the Year. We are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

It happens this time every year. Wine; white or red? Do I pull out the fleece and put away the flimsy? Flannel or cotton? Shorts? Capris? Long pants? While these are not earth shattering quandaries, each day is begun with this group of questions. Coupled with the fact that my right-hand man, Ryan, will be leaving me to pursue another career, I feel so lost I become stuck. In not making a decision, nothing is accomplished. Even before I learned that I only had Ryan for another week, I faced each day in puzzlement. It is as if I asked the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz for directions and he points both ways.

What has me at such crossroads? The weather. In checking my records of the past 2 years, mid-October seemed to have been the best window for perennial division. Years before it was mid to late September. The record high for September 25th was set in 1891 @ 89 º, the low of 29 º in 1963, with the average temperature of 66 º it should be the perfect time. The weather is comfortable, relatively few pesky insects and the need for daily watering moderately minimal. What am I waiting for?

Other than Hosta, daylilies, Shasta and Iris, I wait to divide most of my other perennials until all fear of potential new growth has subsided. I want to be assured that all the plant’s energies are given to the roots. I no longer prune or dead-head my roses, I allow the Stokes Aster and Dianthus to put forth their final sporadic pops of blooms without fear I will behead their fruits.

Perhaps I will feel better when the average temperature is 64 º?! What if I wait too long? My tools are ready, newly sharpened, and eager to feel their shiny improved selves against the stems of the fading flora.

The gardens I tend to will soon be pockets of space and stubs. Some old stand-by plants will remain upright for as long as they can hold their heads up high. Joe Pye Weed, Echinacea, Ornamental Grasses, and even Astilbe keep their vertical presence for that ever-important wildlife and winter interest.

Each chomp and split of clumps of roots is a rite of passage. I envision sighs as I separate and divide as if the plant knows that they will face the new spring in less crowded conditions. Or perhaps it is the contentment that they realize they can continue their work below the ground. They have given all they have for this season by offering beauty and fragrance while contributing food for bugs and birds. Oh, how could we forget the deer and ground hog? However, I feel this less thrills my plants as for the pain it causes me.

Am I selfish in my wanting the best for my plants? Or is it all about my need to prolong the season? But wait, does the gardening season ever end? There is so much more to do. Division is just one aspect of our duties, there are bulbs to plant, mums are at their fiery peak, pumpkins, gourds, and other seasonal decorative elements to add. Where do I begin? Oh, I am so confused………..

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bulb class

Hello again,

2008 Master Gardener of the Year KCB taught a terrific bulb class yesterday (Saturday the 20th) and we have a great handout that KCB put together if you would like it for your reference library.

Just email us at info@skillins.com and put Bulb Handout Request in the subject line and I will email you the Bulb Handout (done in Microsoft Word).


Mike Skillin

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Frost Alert!

We have some awesome weather forecasting friends at Skillin’s and they are telling us that conditions could be favorable for a Friday morning frost especially away from the coast and to the north of the Portland area. In most cases, it is still too early to have planted many plants that can be harmed by frost but nevertheless you should be aware that early Friday morning could bring some hurtful frost particles to some of your plants.

If temperatures drop much lower than 40 degrees and we have clear overnight skies with little wind, then frost is very likely to occur. Keep an eye on those night time temperatures!

Tender material planted in the ground (such as annual plantings and most vegetable plants) is really the plant material that is at risk.

If you suspect frost damage is likely to occur on a particular night, try to cover the “at risk” material with a bed sheet. If you have no bed sheets to spare, then we carry some awesome thin but protective frost cover blankets here for you. Or give this material a shower of water at dusk and then if frost has occurred give the material another shower to melt off the burning frost just before sunrise occurs. The early morning sun will touch those frost particles and cause the particles to in essence “burn” the plant material.

Mark Your Calendar! Classes, Classes; Classes!

Hello again,

Here are some great events courtesy of Skillin's:

September 20—Cumberland Farmer’s Market, Greely High School, Cumberland 8:30-12 NoonBarbara Holt of Skillin’s Cumberland will be speaking about dividing, relocating and transplanting plants (8:30), beneficial pruning (9:20), putting your beds to rest (10:00) and composting (10:50). Q & A to follow each session.

September 20th and 21st: The 2008 Common Ground Country Fair in Unity Maine! Skillin’s has advance tickets on sale! Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for mature gardeners ages 65 and over, kids 12 and under get in free.

Hey advance notice! No one but you knows about this but we have just put the finishing touches on our October-November Classes and Events. Here they are:

Our free classes will be held Saturdays at 9 AM & 1 PM (unless otherwise stated). Space is limited and these classes are popular so reserve soon for the classes of your choice. Call Brunswick 442-8111 or 1-800-339-8111, Falmouth 781-3860 or 1-800-244-3860, Cumberland 829-5619 or 1-800-348-8498 to register. You may also drop us a note at info@skillins.com; just specify the store, date and time and we will sign you up!

Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class.


4th Floral Arranging (9 AM & 1 PM)

Come see why fresh floral arranging is our most popular class. Skillin’s is consistently chosen as Maine’s Favorite Florist—let us show you why. You get to take home what you make! There is a $15 fee to cover materials—and that is a bargain!

11th Birds in the Back Yard (9 AM Falmouth and Brunswick; 1 PM Cumberland)

Gardening is great! And birding is awesome—they really go hand in hand; 2 outdoor activities that attract people of the same feather. Ha Ha Ha! Let us show you how to attract and keep the finest of our feathered friends.

11th The Journal (Cumberland 9 AM, Falmouth 12 NOON, Brunswick 3 PM)

Can we talk about notations? Can we look back so we can look forward? How about photos so we can see and maybe even see differently next time? Let’s record what we have done and plan on what we will do. Join KCB of Skillin’s Garden Log fame and let’s learn together about how to be impulsively organized. It’s time.

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

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

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

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


1st Holiday Fun (9 AM & 1 PM)

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

8th Holiday Arrangements (9 AM & 1 PM)

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

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

Demonstrations, great ideas, refreshments, door prizes and loads and loads of great holiday stuff and more! Good deals and fun abound so come check us out!

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

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

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

Four Part Landscape Design Series (Falmouth Oct 21, 28, Nov 5, 12 10 AM) (Brunswick Oct 22, 29, Nov 6, 13 9 AM)

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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Inspiration 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.

Reflections. 9/11/01, never forget. I won’t. I lost a cousin, my childhood friend, on that day. Still, I was lucky; I had another cousin who decided to work from home that morning, and his brother who, as a captain in the FDNY stationed close to The World Trade Center, was not on duty. Through the rubble, I did not loose sight of the reward.

Yesterday I had a special project. A new client had asked that I replace a shrub at her mother’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery. Evergreen Cemetery is a beautiful peaceful park. With its many Sugar Maples, European beech and Oak it is a walking leaf-peeper’s destination.

Two Dwarf Alberta Spruces stood as sentries on each side of the family memorial. This meant I had to find a twin. I began a search not unlike my annual Christmas Tree hunt. My associate good-naturedly pulled the less than huggable evergreens one by one so that I may eye them from all directions. Having made my choice, we ventured to the cemetery.

The September 11th of yesterday was just as beautiful a late summer day as the infamous one of 7 years ago. Appreciative of the day and site yet still mindful of the historic date, imagine my surprise to discover a grave of a 9/11/01 victim. Located just a few steps away from ‘our’ site I could not help but be drawn to the stone of the man who left the world way before his time. 7 victims had Maine, 3 or perhaps 4 from places further north, yet in one turn of my head the September 11, 2001 date illuminated. Was he on a plane? In the Towers? The Pentagon? A frantic ‘Google’ search, when I arrived home, gave me the answer. After just 7 weeks after moving to New York City embarking on a new career, he left this world. High Hopes, Lost Dreams.

I called my client after we were finished planting the shrub and left a message that the task was complete. Later that evening she returned my call to say she had driven by her mother’s grave. ‘Perfect’ she exclaimed. I apologized for the slight difference in height and width and explained how we spoke to the spruces and asked that the older and slightly bigger brother take care of his new partner. My client went on to tell the story how her mother loved Christmas and would search for the perfect tree. I laughed in understanding.

Next time you get the urge to stroll in a park, visit a cemetery. Portland’s are filled with history, not only of this city but this country. Cemeteries were the first public parks, beautiful green spaces to walk and reflect. Around each corner a story.

I do not lose sight that life is a gift. A gardener knows the seasons of life perhaps more than most. I will visit Evergreen Cemetery again. I seek inspiration from all facets of life even from those places originally meant for those whose life had ended long before.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of September 8

September 11

We love email questions from our customers! Customer LJT has the following question:

"After the residuals from the hurricanes produced a stretch of wind and rain, we found that our dahlias, hardy hibiscus (both at least six feet high) and taller perennials looked ragged and scraggly. Many of the plants had bent over and some of the stocks even broke under the weight of the flowers. While this has occurred in the past, it has never been to this extent (frequency). Could we have pruned these plants earlier (in the spring) to make them smaller and more compact without affecting the flowers? If so, when is this this best done?"

Our answer: "Generally speaking the best time to prune is right after a plant flowers but these plants make that generalization a little trickier.
The answer might not be pruning but staking.
The hibiscus is a late "comer" and pruning during the season would only further delay the flowers or if you pruned in the middle of the summer that would probably mean NO FLOWERS. I guess you could have pruned it sometime in early June for more branching...I have the rose hibiscus too that also fell over in the wind and the rain and I am going to stake it next year; staking is probably a better solution for the hibiscus and the dahlias.
For your other perennials, in most cases you can do a small pruning after they flower OR completely prune out dead and dying growth. I am not sure what the perennial varieties are that you cite but certainly if they "are going by" for the season they can be pruned!"

September 10

Rose of Raymond checks in with some great picture of some roses (obtained right here at Skillin's) that she grew this year in the wilds of Raymond ME. Have you heard the saying? "If Rose can grow roses in Raymond then you can grow them anywhere!". Well, its' true. Rose loves roses and she says they grow best for her when planted in plenty of organic matter. Rose is a big compost fan--the more organic matter your roses are growing in the deeper the roots and the more likely the roses will survive our harsh winters!

September 9

Barbara Gardener kicks off this post with a lovely picture of a window box planting still going strong--some very "showy" impatiens combined with the durable but always striking bacopa. I think of bacopa as something like the Katherine Hepburn of flowering plants--tough as nails and always darned good looking. That's my take on bacopa!
I believe that Barbara is a faithful user of osmocote--a very effective time released fertilzer that is very effective for container plantings. But I will have to confirm that with her!

By this point most window boxes and other container plantings are just chock full of roots. This many roots will dry out any soil very quickly so try and check your containers on a daily basis. If they are dry give them a thorough and slow watering until that water is just gushing out of the drainage holes.

To perform this well, containers need much fertilizer through the growing season. I recommend the all natural Plant Tabs from Organica (these tablets have given my containers great results this year!).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Skillin's Barbara Holt On the Road Near You!

Hello again,

We are pleased to announce that Skillin’s Cumberland Barbara Holt is hitting the road in the month of September to a location near you!

Barbara has been on the Skillin’s staff for four years and specializes in trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Barbara is a certified Master Gardener and loves to practice organic gardening. She also raises sheep, chickens and goats at home. Be sure to stop by and see her at one or all of these events.

September 7—Maine Wildlife Park in Gray 11:00-2:00

Barbara will be speaking about native habitats and the benefit of planting native plants in the landscape for shade, food and nesting for wildlife. Barbara will also have plant material on hand to display and for sale!

September 11-Yarmouth Farmer’s Market, Sacred Heart Church, Yarmouth 2:30-5:30 PM

Barbara will be speaking about dividing, relocating and transplanting plants (2:30), beneficial pruning (3:10), putting your beds to rest (3:50) and composting (4:30). Q & A to follow each session.

September 20—Cumberland Farmer’s Market, Greely High School, Cumberland 8:30-12 Noon

Barbara will be speaking about dividing, relocating and transplanting plants (8:30), beneficial pruning (9:20), putting your beds to rest (10:00) and composting (10:50). Q & A to follow each session.

Garden Happenings! Week of September 2

Hello again,

Well we have turned the corner around Labor Day and we are now streaming toward a wonderful fall!

September 4:

Gardening Guru Rose of Raymond checks in with this great photo and encouraging news about Fall Mums.
Rose writes: "Here are my beautiful mums that I planted at this time last year. Just thought that you might want to mention that planting your mums early can make for beautiful plants next year!"
Rose is one of the most enthusiastic gardeners I know!
Our beautiful Skillin grown (right here in Maine) mums are simply gorgeous! There is no question about that. And technically our mums are perennials but they seem to be pretty tender for this area so that is why we cannot honestly (and we are honest!) guarantee their survival for the next year.
BUT, there is a definite school of thought among wise gardeners--and Gardening Guru Rose is among the wisest-- that mums planted early in the season (August and the first week or 10 days of September) have a great chance at success. Rose believes in early plantings and she lives in weather crazed Raymond ME where it can be tropical one moment and then downright Everest like the next moment. So if Rose can grow mums in her far flung area of the world then manyof us closer to the coast ought to be able to make a crack at it.
Paul Parent of gardening radio fame (check out his web site at www.paulparent.com) steadfastly maintains that if you "score" the roots of your mum plants EARLY in the season before you plant them then the roots will explode in more root growth and thus be well anchored in the soil and will much better survive and thrive for the following years. Paul tells his listeners to pick out a budded Mum at a quality garden center (think Skillin's--Paul loves Skillin's!). Then Paul tells his listeners to "score" or cut two sides of the Mum root ball and then slice an X in the bottom of the root ball. Maek sure you slice those roots and then plant the Mum into some good organic matter (I would recommend some nice compost and then a handful of Plant Booster Plus by Organica). Give your newly sliced and planted Mum at least 2 quality waterings per week until the ground freezes. When that ground gets crunchy, MULCH well around the base of the plant to help keep that root ball cold and in place for the winter.
Will this work? Well, we cannot guarantee it--but Rose of Raymond and Paul Parent tell you that you can get some great mums for next year. And you can see that Rose has the pictures to prove it!
It is getting dry out there. If you have not watered your planted containers or hanging plants yet, get out there and do it! With all this dry windy and rather hot weather (but oh this weather is finally nice!) your plant containers and any 2008 planted trees, shrubs and perennials will need some very good soakings.
It has been a week since I last mowed my lawn and even though I am keeping it high this year I don't think I will mow it until after we get some rain--I will just keep it long and not stress it at this point.

September 3:

Here are a couple of questions and answers from some fellow Skillin's customers that I thought were quite timely.

Customer TW has this question: "I plan to swing into the nursery this week but thought I’d check. When and what should I be putting on my lawn at this time of year? I want to use all organic material."

Our answer: "I would recommend one of two options.

Organica has a great all natural Four Step Lawn Program that I have followed this year. The first part of this month is a super time to apply Step 4 of their program, the Lawn Booster Plus that contains corn gluten. It is a great fertilizer and the corn gluten component will help suppress weed seeds from crabgrass and other weeds that cast their weed seeds into the soil for fall germination.

If you are not really concerned with weeds in your lawn then I would recommend either Turf Tone by Espoma OR Nature’s Turf by North Country Organics—both are terrific organic solutions!"

Customer JC has this question: "I have gotten some beautiful roses this sumer but ran into a few concerns.

Some of the rose buds developed a droop and I had to destroy those and on the Pope Paul roses some of the roses developed a brown edge on the blossom which took away the beauty of the roses. The Pope Paul roses are second year and the Crimson are 1st.

I read your article on pruning and I am planning to prune in late October. Should I stop fertilizing, or do I have another month for blossoms. Also am I clear that if I need to prune in the Spring I should wait till the plan leafs out?"

Our answer: The cause of the rose bud wilt is quite possibly disease related.

It is important to keep the ground area around your rose bushes clean of any dead leaves that may drop around the base of your plant and also to prune any dead or dying growth in season. Such weakened or dead growth can easily harbor any one of various diseases that roses are susceptible to.

I strongly recommend spraying your roses once monthly (April, May, June, July, August and September) with Messenger, an all natural product. Messenger which we have written about before—you can “google” our past comments about Messenger at the Skillin’s Garden Log—contains harpin proteins that once sprayed on a plant “tells” the plant to produce even more harpin proteins and it is harpin proteins that naturally fight off disease. I have sprayed Messenger consistently on many of my plants including my roses and I am very pleased with the results. My roses are SPOTLESS this year and this year has been so wet my roses would normally be really suffering!

You are doing the right thing by cutting off the wilted portions and destroying them.

In terms of pruning the rose, except for pruning dead and dying growth and flower stems that have gone by I do most of my rose pruning in the late winter or early Spring just after I have uncovered my roses. I do very little pruning in the fall. But my Spring pruning happens BEFORE the plant leafs out because that is the best time to shape your rose bush for the upcoming year. In terms of the flower stems that have gone by, I will prune not only the dead flower but the stem that supports that dead flower gets pruned right back to the main plant. Again, this pruning should happen right after the flower goes by.

Fertilizer: I recommend twice yearly granular applications of a good natural fertilizer like Rose Tone by Espoma OR Plant Booster Plus by Organica (my personal favorite). If you have fed just once with a granular application you do have time to do it again. With roses as with annuals I also recommend frequent liquid feedings with a good natural liquid fertilizer like Fish and Seaweed food by Neptune’s Harvest (another personal favorite) or a foliar spray of Flower Booster (liquid kelp) by Organica. Hey how season is short! We need to do what we can to maximize those flowers! These liquid foods are much more effective than Miracle Gro.

Yes folks Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country, so check the Skillin's Garden Log often for frequent gardening observations and writings. We will post queries, coupons, and all the gardening news we feel is fit to print!

If you have a gardening question, ask us at info@skillins.com or leave us a comment at the end of this post. We will respond!

Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Log,

Mike Skillin