Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Monge Lilac

Sheliah of Skillin's checks in:

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

Monday, December 29, 2008


Hello again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 30, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Unexpected Gifts by KCB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Gentle Storm

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

Dale writes:

"Hi Mike and All:

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

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

Wishing you all the best"

Now....The Gentle Storm by Dale Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skillin's Christmas Trees are Great!

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Berries, Boughs and Blessings… KCB

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is the case in my life.

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

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

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

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 16, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Memory: "I Looked Suspicious!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Decorating for the Holidays—Beyond Balsam

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

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

Here is the article:

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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lullaby and Goodnight by KCB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
December 6, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Special Poinsettia Coupon!!

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

$1.00 OFF for 1 Poinsettia

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gulf Stream

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

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

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

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