Friday, July 31, 2009

White in Night Satin 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.

After 6 weeks of being back on my beloved ‘hill’ I can count on one hand plus or minus a finger how many times I have witnessed the rippling silver/blue that is Casco Bay.

Granted, I am not around much during ‘the day’ but with the sun setting sometime around the 8 o’clock hour I still have plenty of daylight in which to witness this view.

So what gives?

‘Tis the fog that interferes'. Not of mind but of weather. Still, I longingly gaze out my open window offering sonnets to the view that alludes me. From these same windows and closer at hand I am offered other views, one being my very own and much neglected garden.

Thru fog and mist and darkness of night a glow catches my eye. Dozens of disks of white have congregated in at least 3 separate clusters. The assemblage hovers mere feet above the earth. From my vantage point stems and foliage of these Shasta Daisies do not exist. I imagine they are from another planet looking for a place to land.

A neighbor’s yard offers another group of characters. Contingents of goose necked encroachers form waves along the border. The tight gently curved spikes that are the flowers of Loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides, are all pointing in the direction that is my garden. Are they looking to invade or become the foot soldiers to my flying formation of Shastas.

Being on the 3rd floor with an unobstructed view offers many advantages. In the far corner of another property, I am now hypnotized by ghostly feathers of white. Deutschland Astilbe, a double-duty perennial boasting attractive foliage by day, glowing white plumes on disappearing stems by night. A white rose blossom appears on the scene. While all the other plantings of the various beds appear to sleep, the blooms of white ignite at night.

White may not be worn by every bride. Nurses and doctors have scrubbed their institutional white for scrubs of color in pales or bright. Nevertheless, it is in my humble opinion that every garden should wear white. Add fragrant bloomers to this mix and you have created a sanctuary. The very essence of a moon garden is tranquil.

Relax and renew in your own yard. After working all day, taking care of family, home and garden allow your hectic pace to wind down. What better time to enjoy your garden, but in the evening?

A view that shimmers and shines will enhance those after dark dips in the pool, hot tub soothing soaks or just the sitting and sipping a selected beverage. En masse plantings or punctuated punches of white flowers, silver foliage, and leaves variegated with white or cream, reflect any available light.

Site is important. Full sun by day often captures the light of the moon. Viewed from a distance white bursts forth.

Think different bloom times, white hyacinth, bleeding heart, peony, the list is nearly endless. Any white blooming plants will do yet a more interesting illusion is offered by blossoms or plumes atop long thin stems. Most perennials offer cultivars with ‘alba’ blooms.

Add annuals.Nighttime “musts” include two well worth their yearly installation. First, the Moonflower Vine, Calonyction aculeatum, closely resembles a morning glory with the ivory white flowers opening as dark descends. I have yet to focus on the fascinating event that is the opening of the moonflower bloom. The slow dance takes aproximately 20 minutes.

Another special annual is Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana alba. The nicotiana flower withholds its fragrance until nighttime and then releases it’s heady scent.

Impatiens, an annual that is a perennial favorite of shaded gardens, should also be considered for nighttime interest. Compacted clusters tucked under trees or shrubs punctuate the darkness. Drama in an early summer pairing would be to plant the impatiens under the canopy of a Kousa or Pagoda Dogwood. Another layer of white would incorporate the white bleeding heart in this same setting.

Follow the folliage. Artemesia, Snow-in-Summer, Sea Holly, even Lamb’s Ear and Rose Campion delight.

Grab grasses. When flowering, the spikelets, plumes or wheat sheaths often start as buff or white before maturing to their late fall display. The slightest whisper of wind will render a tender sway. More pronounced movement will resonate a soothing rustling sound. One of my favorites is the shimmering silver. Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'. Others of note Variegated Japanese Silver Grass and Blue Oat Grass.

The sense of sound is often over looked in the garden. If grasses aren’t your thing add a water feature. A small fountain or water fall need not be permanent. Many are small enough to perch on a table or ledge. As long as you can hear it, you can enjoy it

Don’t shrug off shrubs. White blossoms, variegated foliage, white or silver bark adds their own sparkle. Do not overlook trees with the same attributes.

No moonlight, add your own be they candles, solar lights or the fairy twinkling of tiny white lights.

White cools and calms. Exit the day in the glow of nature.

Now if only the rain would stop....

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
KCB can also be found at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Garden Talks July 30--Hot Weather; Long Windowboxes; Feed Annuals Early and Often; Summersweet

Hello again,

(Clethra Sixteen Candles--see writeup below!)
Whew it is hot! And I am not complaining. Since this week was the first time we have hit 80 degrees all summer long in Skillin's Country the warm weather feels good. One thing I have noticed is that a few of my annuals and perennials with new growth are flagging in the heat. Flagging? Yes, that means they are wilting when the hot sun gets upon them or the temperatures are peaking. Be careful not to overwater these plants. In fact all my flagging plants are plenty wet (both containers and in the ground). They do not need water. Heck, we got quite a bit of rain last night. What these flagging plants need is a few more days like this to adjust and they will be fine.

Bigger and more is often better when it comes to flower boxes. One of the blogs I follow frequently has a great article called Go Long! where the writer talks about planting plants in extra long window boxes. I like the article; it talks about some neat plants and color themes and planting techniques. It also reminds us to feed our annuals frequently. (Back to that in a moment). But extra long window boxes are truly hard to find but don't despair. You can always pair up 2 "regular sized" window boxes to get the same effect. Regular sized boxes are easy to find at Skillin's along with great flowering plants. Window box season has a few months left. If you want to create some nice color; come see us!

Annual flowers should be fed frequently. When you plant, it is great to mix a quality natural food like Plant Booster Plus by Organica into your soil. This food will be good support for your plants all season long. But we live in Maine and our plants need that "extra boost" that weekly or every other weekly liquid feeding with a good natural food like Fish and Seaweed Blend by Neptune's Harvest or Bio Matrix by Organica will help your flowers greatly!

I noticed the other day that we have some neat little shrubs in stock: The Clethra Ruby Spice and the Clethra Sixteen Candles. "Summersweet" is the common name for these shrubs and that is because when flowering they emit a nice fragrant "spicy" fragrance for you and your garden. (I can hear the Old Spice theme in the background). I highly recommend planting one of these guys in a spot where you can be close to enjoy the fragrance.

The Sixteen Candles is a compact little plant that gets covered with flowers and stays within about 3 feet by 3 feet. The fragrance is awesome in mid to late summer and the plant has nice yellow foliage in the fall. The summer flowers are like creamy white candles and deer do not seem drawn to this plant.

The Ruby Spice prefers part shade and grows a little taller. Its flower spikes are pink and the plant will flower in the shade making it a good woodland choice although it will also do fine in a partial sun setting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden Talks July 28--Lawn Weeds, Bed preparation; Tomato issues

I am a natural gardener as much as possible as I and so many of us here at Skillin's are very committed to Planting for the Planet. I will confess that 3 summers ago I surveyed my lawn in mid summer and was aghast at how the weeds were overtaking my lawn. An immaculate lawn is not something I desire but I feel like my lawn should be mostly healthy grass.

So I will admit that in 2006 I applied Bayer Advance All in One Weed Killer twice to my weeds and then twice again the follwing year. These weeds were intense and numerous varieties were my foe.

In both of those years I have consistently applied natural and organic lawn fertilizers to my lawn as well as Miracal by Jonathan Green to keep the natural products going into the soil and to preserve that good biology. For the fertilizers I consistently employ all natural Four Step Lawn Program by Organica ( and sold right here at Skillin's!) and I am impressed by the Organica Four Step program.

Right now is a GREAT time to apply Step 3 of the Organica Four Step program--their Microbial Soil Conditioner.

Got lawn weeds bad? Consider the Bayer Advanced All in One Weed Killer (and use according to directions) and then follow up with Organica's Microbial Soil Conditioner. Any biological interruption that the Bayer Advanced product may bring can be pretty quickly reversed by sticking close to the Organica Four Step program and right now is the perfect time for Step 3!

Got lawn weeds medium bad? This is where I found myself last year after the sprayings of 2006 and 2007. Get a dandelion fork or a thin trowel and dig those guys up. If you just have spotty weeds an hour or two of simple digging can eradicate many of those bad weeds. Follow up with some spot grass seeding using the Black Beauty grass seed by Jonathan Green and Grass Seed Accelerator along with committing to the Organica Four Step Lawn Program and you have a much better lawn situation IN A HURRY!

At some point you should do a pH test on your lawn. The results will probably show that the pH of your soil is acidic. To bring the pH more neutral (soil with a more neutral pH better allows the soil nutrients to be used by your grass) we recommend Miracal by Jonathan Green. This product is calcium based (calcium is often quite needed by our soils). More conventional lime products contain more magnesium and magnesium compacts the soil. Grass does not like compact soil BUT lawn weeds are fine with compact soil.

Finally, move the height of your lawn mower UP. Now is not the time to cut those grass blades short. A higher lawn keeps grass roots cooler in warm weather and the lawn canopy can shade out sun loving weeds!


We don’t advocate overdosing on ibuprofen (although I might have taken one or two during the course of a strenuous day!) But the following link found initially through following "BloominKrazy"at gives some good techniques for some vegetable bed preparation.
Here is the link: and the name of the article is No-Till Gardening and Ibuprofen…it is never too early to think about preparing beds for later this year OR next!


Customer MG checked in with a question about her tomato plants:

Question:" I was wondering if you could help me out. The lower leaves on my tomato plants are getting brown spots and then turning yellow and falling off. I can't figure out if it is a bacteria or a mildew and what I can do to stop it. Any suggestions?"

Answer: What you are telling me is not worrying me too much. Lower leaves on tomato plants yellow frequently even in the best of years and this year has been very wet and cold so I would be surprised if the plants did not have yellow.

I recommend a couple of actions. 1) I would clip off the yellow and brown foliage. It is not needed and is only going to be responsible for more spreading of disease. This pruning will also help essential light and air circulation get to your plants 2) I would pick up some all natural Seranade Garden Fungicide (sold right here at Skillin’s). Seranade is totally organic and is handy to use against some of the various ailments that tomatoes can pick up. Tomato plants are like sickly children—they will catch whatever is in the area so Seranade will help protect them. 3) I know I wrote “ a couple” but also I would fortify your plants with a good natural fertilizer strong in calcium. Spotted tomato fruit is a common problem and these spots (like Blossom End Rot) come not from climate problems as much as calcium deficiencies in our soil. Most soil tests we see show that our garden soils are almost always deficient of calcium. To help correct this I recommend spreading a good all natural garden food like Garden Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. Or a liquid (faster) feeding of all natural Fish and Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune’s Harvest may be an even better idea. (Each of these products is available right here at Skillin’s).

Folks we love gardening questions! Drop us a line at and we will get you an answer!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Garden Talks July 27--Daylilies, Christmas Fern, Climbing Hydrangea

Hello again,
Good gardening friend Barbara Gardener checks in with "First bloom. One of my favorites and nothing is eating it. How great is that!"
That is just a beauty Miss Barbara!
Colleague David K of A Garden in Maine fame also features a great picture of some daylilies in his Portland garden. David's blog is one that you should check out as often as you can!
Back to daylilies: They are profusely in flower in so many places right now so take time to stop and look at the daylilies! The daylilies are a Must Have because 1)they are gorgeous in late July 2) they are extremely reliable and hardy 3)they are close to pest free (Barbara is probably referring to snails as her and many other plants are under constant snail and slug attack) 4)their large canopy does an awesome job at crowding out weeds.
Skillin's Plug: we have an incredible array of daylilies right now so as I just wrote take time to stop and look at our daylilies!
One of the sites we follow at is "BloominKrazy". The folks at BloominKrazy recently posted a "tweet" that pointed to the virtues of the Christmas Fern"... as the most indestructible fern in the world....Known in botanical circles as polystichum acrostichoides, here is an evergreen native fern that can take almost anything you can throw at it. It is found growing naturally in every state east of the Rockies and will remain green all winter. It prefers open woods, shady areas and grows 2 to 3 feet tall. However, the evergreen fronds are not immortal. As new fronds begin to uncurl, old ones wither away. It is a tough plant, a virtual bundle of perseverance, and looks wonderful. " We have a good selection of Christmas fern right here at Skillin's!
Customer TW asked "I bought a climbing hydrangea from you folks about 3 or 4 years ago. Every year it gets very lush but I've never had blossoms. I feed it; add new soil to my gardens every spring and mulch as well. It's location is in the sun - not full sun all day but it gets at least 4 or 5 hours of sun a day. Do you think I'm doing something wrong?"
Answer: If the hydrangea is near your lawn or is being fed with a high nitrogen fertilizer (beware of Miracle Gro here) then there may be too much push for green. Now would be a good time to add a Blossom Plus liquid feeding or perhaps even better a feeding of granular Super or Triple Phosphate by Espoma. These fertilizers help shrubs to blossom.

Do not prune your hydrangea; this will help it get a little more mature as well. Your light exposure seems fine!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You Can Go Home 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.

I’m not sure who said it, why it was said, or if it ever was said, but somewhere in the archives within my mind the saying “You can’t go home again” reverberates. I recently proved this adage literally wrong for the third time in my ever lengthening life.

The ‘home’ of which I refer is not the town I was born in or the house in which I spent my formative years. No high school or reunion of similar sorts did I attend.

A house does not make a home. Home is a place of comfort, built of dreams, connected with memories, sealed with the sense of belonging. Haven’t you ever visited a place that once you stepped upon the ground, entered the room, or captured the view, you felt ‘home’?

Smells can also bring you home, figuratively, of course. Nevertheless, close your eyes and the spirits of your past is brought to life by a fragrance.

In June 2008 Master Gardeners throughout Falmouth presented ‘The Welcome Summer Garden Tour’. For the occasion I had the great time of serving as the on bus guide for members of local assisted living community. June blooming perennials abound with Peony serving as the queen of the garden. The perfume emitting from an heirloom variety sent one of our group ‘home’. She was close to tears as the floodgates opened spilling forth the memory of her grandfather’s garden. She spoke of rows and rows of pink fist size blooms ranging from bold magenta to a delicate pale that glowed white from a distance. Single Blossoms held high by proud dark green foliage. One memory was a conduit for another. A single whiff had brought her to a home that lay dormant for years.

Once upon a time, I experienced a homecoming of a similar nature. Early in my marriage my former husband and I delivered the Sunday Paper. Now this is an experience I could write about… Anyway, each Sunday I was the one to always deliver to a certain West End building. The first time I stepped into the vestibule, I was transported to another time, another place. It smelled just like my grandmother’s Brooklyn Apartment, the one my grandparents lived in when I was a child. The Thanksgiving and Christmas gathering place for a plethora of cousins, Aunts and Uncles. Since the Irish, especially my family, are not exactly known for their culinary accomplishments, it was not the aroma of baked delicacies or seasoned comfort foods that wafted the halls. It was the smell of an old building. Not mildew, but oiled wood, the muskiness of a life, a slight mustiness of an old book. Difficult to describe, familiar to detect. With each subsequent visit I once again was envious of my cousin Janine’s curls, the regrets and later joy at sitting at the kids table, the tapping of soles from patent leather shoes as we ran along the what seemed like mile-long hallways.

Fast forward to now. I have come home again.

It is not only the building of my once-again home, that holds my heart, embraces my return. It is the neighborhood.

Those of you who read my ramblings from time to time may remember I moved from Munjoy Hill last December. Recently I wrote of the good fortune at the opportunity to return the end of June. I’m all moved, not truly settled in fact but spirit. Strange thing is that not once as I pass by the door that I had entered and exited for nearly 5 years have I instinctively tried to open it. At least, not yet.

I wish I could say the same about the garden. It took no time for me to get my hands on it. Luckily the other tenants really hadn’t any interest. When the movers pulled up to my new/old place they found me franticly yanking grasses, weeds, and deadheading. As a professional gardener I never had much time to create the garden I wanted for my home that was someone else’s house. I was given a second chance. I hope not to blow it.

By the way, I took a break for a quick Google™ search and discovered "You Can’t go Home Again" is the title of a book authored by Thomas Wolfe. Now I feel better. Just wish he was around so I could tell him he was wrong.

In completion, I prided myself on not once complaining about the rain of this summer, that is, until now.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Garden Talks July 25--Crowded perennials; Great Grass Seed!; Feed Your Lawn?

Hello again,

I haven't made it to the keyboard for quite a few days after returning from secret assignment. Quite a bit of catch up awaited me at Skillin's but I have emerged!

What to do when a favored perennial has crept too far and is now crowding out another favored perennial? In this case a 10 year old oenethora (evening primrose) has sharply encroached upon my 15 year old rose pink perennial geranium (cranesbill). What to do? Well, I caught the encroachment a few weeks back BUT the evening primrose was just about to break out into it's annual blaze of yellow. The crowded out cranesbill won't be as profuse as usual but a few weeks of time would elapse before most of it's flowers would appear.

SO, I let the evening primrose shine in its 2 week blaze of glory and thoroughly enjoyed its bright yellow show of late June to mid July. THEN, once the flowers faded I have pulled several feet of that evening primrose out of the ground as I would a weed. After about 10 days the cranesbill has perked up and I think will still give a pretty good show. Hopefully it will even do some spreading to take up some of the newly cleared space especially after I gave it an extra feeding of Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

So this timing worked out well. Also almost no weeds had survived with all this crowding; so bonus there! And these are two perennials I highly recommend: the Oenethora Evening Primrose for the showstopping yellow in early summer AND the always dependable and truly long flowering perennial geranium (cranesbill, several colors available at Skillin's)

Last year I did a lot of seeding of bare and thin patches of my lawn with Black Beauty Grass Seed by Jonathan Green. Wow I am impressed with how those bare patches look so good this year. I have some tough to seed areas by the side of the road and some other areas as well. Black Beauty is a tall fescue seed that darkens well, sends deep roots that help sustain the grass over a variety of conditions and has insect and disease resistance. All the rain we received has helped my second year grass look good for sure but back in a fairly dry May I was pretty impressed with how the Black Beauty turf looked. Today I have done some more seeding in just a few areas but my effort will be less this year than last. I recommend a combination of the Black Beauty Grass seed combined with Grass Seed Acclerator (compressed paper pellets that expand when wet) to cover and protect the seed. Both products are sold right here at Skillin's.

Speaking of turf, now that we are heading into mid summer grass growth is slowing down and your lawn does NOT need conventional fertilizer right now. What your lawn does need is Step 3 of the All Natural Organica Four Step Lawn Program--the Microbial Soil Conditioner. This is a great way AND a great time to reinforce the soil of your lawn with natural microbes that will improve the beneficial bacteria in your soil. End result: even deeper roots for your lawn. Deeper roots means a better looking lawn--naturally!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Talks July 16--Moonbeam Coreopsis, Stokes Aster, Autumn Joy Stonecrop, Butterfly Bush, Annuals!

Hello again,

It has been a few days so I thought I would check in. Thanks to my son now being retired from his baseball career at age 19 I have a little more gardening time on my hands and have been revisiting and rehabbing a couple of my old perennial gardens.

First there was much weeding done (see Garden Talks June 22--Weeds! (and rain) ). Then after applying some corn gluten to keep some of those pesky weeds from returning I had open spaces to plant (see Garden Talks June 29--Messenger, Weed Pulling, Corn Gluten and My Perennial Hibuscus and Garden Talks July 9--Hydrangea blue, Clematis Paniculata, Rudbeckia Prairie Sun)

After all this I see some more open spaces so let me list out a few more favorites of mine that I have introduced to my yard. These are all tried and true (MUST HAVE PLANTS) plants that I really like

Coreopsis Threadleaf Moonbeam

One of my absolute favorites. Low lying and creeping; not a big spreader but a good grower in my garden. Creamy yellow flowers that with some cutting back of older flowers in late August will bring new growth and more new flowers out of August and into early September. Although they flower at the same time I do like to "pair up" this plant with the Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea) that grows upright. At full bloom both of these flowers have an "electric" character about them (aka "a glow") that still makes my head turn after all these years. Kind of nice, don't you think?

Stokesia (Stokes Aster)

This is a new addition to my garden but I like the low growing habit and the dark purple on the tag looks spectacular. I will not yet add it to the Mike Must Have List (coming soon to the Skillin's Garden Log) but the plant has promise. It is due to flower in the next few weeks, I will let you know what I think but any tips to this plant would be appreciated.

Speaking of dark purple did I tell you I planted my first Buddleia Dark Knight (Butterfly Bush) last week. This is planted in a southeast facing bed with my rose bushes and perennial hibuscus. All of these characters are only somewhat hardy and will get decent doses of Messenger soon to naturally toughen them up. The flowers on the Black Knight are spectacular and with plenty of encouragement I look forward to a great performance by him.

I have augmented these plants with one of my all time favorites, the annual Yellow Marigold (Yellow Boy and Little Hero). Hey! I love marigolds. Yes, many fellow gardeners look down on them. Why I say? All they do is perform all season long and look cute, cute, cute. The only problem I have had with my marigolds are the slugs and snails who love to devour marigolds (and many other plants) but healthy doses twice weekly of all natural Slug Magic by Bonide keeps the slimy enemy away and marigold flowers on the way.

Got weeds? Plant Daylillies (hemerocallis) in your garden. Their awesome canopy style growth shades out many weeds from growing. Plus daylillies are very hardy.Also daylilies have a long flowering season--most are just kicking in now. I just planted a fun variety called Candy Cane--I crowded it next to a Daylilly Rosy Return; we will see how they get along. We have an awesome selection of daylillies here at Skillin's and the prices are great--come and see!

My peonies are going by and I am already trimming growth to make sunlight and air for some annual cleome that is starting to flower. I planted some Sonata Mix cosmos in between the cleome (also mixed colors) as that end of my bed needs to be in color after peonies and astilbe go by. Folks annuals are a perfect way to add colors to areas of perennial gardens that have gone by or are "about to flower". I love annuals for this purpose.

Lastly I also threw in a Sedum Autumn Joy Stonecrop this morning. Brilliant red color in the fall. Definitely a member of Mike's Must Have in the garden. If you don't have it, you need it.

Total cost of all these plants at Skillin's that I have mentioned in this post? Under $30. Come on! For full season color, how can you go wrong?

Of course, all my fresh plantings received a fresh dose of Plant Booster Plus by Organica (sold right here at Skillin's) in the planting hole and then around the plants. We love Plant Tone by Espoma as an all natural long lasting quality plant food as well.

I will be away from the keyboard for a few days as I am about to go on special assignment BUT I look forward to touching base with you next week. Please feel free to leave any comments for us or your gardening friends here or drop any questions or comments to

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 16, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reigning in the Rain 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.

My webbed hands and feet are morphing back to normal. I no longer have to suppress quacks when I first enter the out -of -doors each day and I believe the feathers are slowly turning back to strands of hair. All in all, I consider myself lucky. Before I was a gardener the joke for extensive rain would include the phrasing ‘weather great for a duck’. Now I know there are truly dreaded creatures that have adored the weeks of wet. I can not find myself even thinking their names for fear that next time a duck I will not be……..

Just to be sure my fowl transition is able to complete its process I did seek a prediction for the coming week’s weather. The forecasted atmospheric conditions will alternate between ‘partly cloudy’ or ‘mostly sunny’ until Thursday when T Storms are forewarned. With my calculations I should be back to normal by Thursday, free of feathers and all. I briefly fantasized about basking in the ‘partly’ or ‘mostly’ sunshine. Alas, it would not be possible since my gardens are in need of me. As your garden needs you.

Blooms will abound as our plants soak in the warming rays. We, too, will have our time in the sun. With a few steps our gardens will go forth a much happier and healthier lot. Once we are no longer sinking up to our ankles in the soil within and around your beds I recommend the following.

· Remove any mummified or rotten buds
§ Too much rain/no sun often nips the flowers ‘in the bud’.
§ Some perennials will re-bloom, those that won’t the removal will allow for the energy to be absorbed by the roots.
· Gently rake away any fallen leaves and other debris that lay in layers around and under plants, especially woody or heavy foliaged plants. I do this by hand or with a hand held spring rake.
§ As our beds become full we often think that what we can’t see can’t hurt us (weeds are less noticeable). Nevertheless, spent fallen blooms and/or leaves will stay wet longer than the soil, especially if not exposed to the sun. This is a perfect environment for those slimy pests, slugs and snails (there, I said it).
§ Many shrubs and plants, Roses, Rhododendron, anemone ‘windflower’, do not like ‘wet feet’. There wasn’t much we could do about the rain. Removing fallen leaves will help keep it dryer.
· Check for powdery mildew. Phlox, Lilac, some yarrow, Peony and crabapples to name a few are more prone to pm.
§ Powdery Mildew is not fatal, just unattractive. Isn’t being attractive is what it is all about?
· Remove and destroy all infected plant parts
· Improve air circulation by thinning and pruning
· Apply Fungicide. I use Serenade Garden products.
o I also use Messenger® through out the growing season for those plants that are prone to disease.
· Don’t fertilize until the problem is corrected. Powdery mildew favors young, succulent growth
· Don’t water plants from above

Other timely tips:
· Cut back spent spikes of heuchera. This often will encourage another bloom and/or create a bushier growth of foliage.
· I have stop pinching back mums, asters and some of my sedum varieties. Pinching back after July 4th may hinder blooms.
· Shearing some perennials will offer another flush of flowers
o Nepeta, Moonglow coreopsis, ‘Fire Witch’ Dianthus are just a few.
· Think white! There is still time to plant. Last night as I looked to the gardens below, all I could see were the Shasta Daisies. The white discs appeared to hover in mid air. Astilbes such as Deutschland, Bridal Veil or the playful ‘Sprite’ are the most charming white plants to view from afar. I can not wait until I add some to my new/old garden.
· Containers are still a way to add punches of color!

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Garden Talks July 10--Cucumber Beetles, Japanese Beetles anyone?, gaga over Gazania

Hello again,

I just spoke to a customer who reported seeing cucumber beetles (spotted) in his garden.

Cucumber beetles will appear in gardens once the weather warms. Adults don't die but overwinter so as soon as it starts to warm, they come out and can be seen. Adult cucumber beetles will need to feed so anything growing will be fed upon immediately. If you plan on starting a vegetable garden, it's a good idea to treat early cucumber beetle activity which in turn will minimize or even eliminate those that might forage on your crops later in the year.

Though cucumber beetles prefer vine plants like cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, they'll eat what they can find early in the growing season. Feeding adults will chew holes through the leaves of new plant growth and they don't discriminate. Active adults will feed on most any garden variety plant they find and their damage can become substantial. More importantly, they are largely responsible for the spread of bacterial wilt. This fungus can be devastating to any garden so don't let cucumber beetle populations have free roam of your plants. (thanks to the folks @ -yes an actual website- for the above description)

At Skillin's we recommend spraying the beetles and the plants and soil you see them on with Spinosad, an all natural but very effective product. We feature Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew. Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew contains Spinosad (spin-OH-sid), a naturally occuring soil dwelling bacterium that was collected on a Caribbean island from an abandoned rum distillery in 1982. Deadbug Brew kills bagworms, borers, beetles, caterpillars, codling moth, gypsy moth, loopers, leaf miners, spider mites, tent caterpillars, thrips and more! It is easily sprayed on plants and soil and should be very effective vs. cucumber beetles.

We spotted our first Japanese Beetles today at Skillin's. It seems all the wet weather may be delaying their arrival. More on Japanese Beetle controls soon but we are all set to help you with many solutions if you see them.

Finally, if you are still looking to fill sunny spaces in your garden OR have a sunny spot where you need to put some awesome looking plants I HIGHLY recommend planting the Gazania. I plopped a picture of a gazania at the top of this post. I have some planted in a container that gets all day sun and I just love all the colors the "Gazoo Mix" brings. We have plenty of fresh gazania here at Skillin's and our Gazania qualifies for our "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" annual box sale!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 10, 2009

Hot!!! Summer Specials

Hello again,

Tim our Nursery Manager just bought in some gorgeous shrubs from a terrific grower in Pennsylvania. These plants are fresh, fantastic, functional, fun and will grow great in your yard:

Mops Goldthread Falsecypress Only $25 reg. $44

Euonymus Emerald Gaiety Only $25 reg. $54

Dappled Willow Only $25 reg $49 (click for a great past discussion about Dappled Willow at the Skillin's Garden Log!)

Mayflower Viburnum Only $35 reg. $59

Come check out these deals plus we still have fresh grown hanging plants, annual flats and seed geraniums on sale at Skillin's.

We look great and we are looking forward to you and us Having the Best July Ever!

Mike Skillin
Skillins Greenhouses
July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden Talks July 9--Hydrangea blue, Clematis Paniculata, Rudbeckia Prairie Sun

(This picture is NOT a Blue Hydrangea, it is a Clematis Paniculata by White Flower Farms, I write about it further down this post!)
Hello again,

A common question here at Skillin's (I fielded two such questions myself just in the last few hours) is how to make sure blue hydrangeas stay blue. Blue hydrangeas like the Nikko Blue and Endless Summer will flower blue when their soil has an acid pH. Many times our soil is an acid pH but occasionally not and then the flower is a faint blue at best. I have an Endless Summer and to keep it blue and the foliage a nice rich green I feed it twice yearly with Holly Tone by Espoma (sold right here at Skillin's). Holly Tone is an all natural fertilizer that is fortified to help garden soils stay acid for pH purposes. We recommend Holly Tone for evergreens too (twice yearly) to keep their color a nice rich green.

If a soil test reveals the soil around the hydrangea is actually alkaline we do sell Soil Acidifier (natural sulfur granules) to spread on the soil to change the pH more quickly.

My son has graduated from high school (last year) and now his 12 year baseball career is over. Working here a great deal plus watching baseball games all over southern and central Maine can really take away from tending to the perennial and vegetable gardens, etc. Anyway enough about me!

What this means is I am "into" PLANTING perennials again!

So, what have I been planting?

One recommendation I have is the Clematis Paniculata (aka the Sweet Autumn Clematis). The flowers can be stunning and very fragrant and I have wanted to try one for a very long time. Here is what our friends at White Flower Farm say about the Clematis Paniculata:

"A gorgeous sight when covered in pure white, lightly fragrant flowers in late summer, Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. paniculata, also known as C. terniflora), becomes a silvery mass of fluffy seed heads in the fall. We're particularly fond of the plant that grows on an old stone wellhead at the nursery, but this prolific, small-flowered species will look equally impressive covering an upscale arbor or embellishing a utilitarian fence or garden shed. This hardy climber is a rampant grower that can reach to 30ft, but can easily be kept in check by cutting stems back to 12in in spring. It blooms on the current year's growth, and unlike many Clematis, it will thrive and bloom well in partial shade." Between this description and the picture above; what more can I say? And we have plenty of Clematis Paniculata for sale right here at Skillin's!
My next recommendation is the Rudbeckia Prairie Dawn. She is a sun loving beauty who probably isn't as profuse as the Must Have Rudbeckia Goldstrum BUT her enormous golden yellow blooms are just striking! I hear she is tender though and might not survive the winter so I am going to have to mulch this plant well once winter arrives. Here is a link to White Flower Farm and you can see for yourself how gorgeous this plant is:
Another must have is the Heliopsis or False Sunflower. I planted this plant back in 1994 or 1995 (before the baseball career) and this plant truly flowers from about now (think July4) to the first week of September (Labor Day). This is a true all season perennial and is very, very hardy (again I have kept it for about 15 years--this is rare!). We have some beauties right now and I highly recommend this sunloving tall yellow flowering plant! This plant grows about four feet tall and is covered with yellow flowers.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Garden Talks July 8--Good Weeding Tips

Hello again,

The folks at Horticulture Magazine ( recently published a no nonsense list of tips about "Best Ways to Weed". Weeds are going crazy but with all this moisture they are coming out of the ground quite easily. I know, I know none of us have time to weed. BUT, take a little time and weed in small bunches. Look back constantly at how good the weeded area looks and you will be motivated to do just a little bit more. Here are the suggestions from

weed on a regular basis
remove the entire weed, including all roots
weed when the soil is dry. It is easier to lift the roots.
weed while the weeds are young
do not disturb the soil because that brings weed seeds to the surface. Adopt a “no-till” system: only dig where you will plant something; otherwise do not move the soil.
hand weeding is most effective because it causes least disturbance to other plants and you can be sure to get the whole plant
lay mulch to suppress weed growth. remove weeds first or else they too get the other benefits of mulch: regular soil temperature and less water loss from soil
grow a thick groundcover that will suppress weeds
choose plants with spreading foliage that will cast shade over the surrounding soil, discouraging weeds
Plants that suppress weeds? Any plant that "canopies" make great weed suppressors. Think daylilies, perennial geraniums and hosta for shady spots. There are plenty of others too, stop by and see us for suggestions!
Questions? Drop us a question at the comment section OR!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 9, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Garden Talks--Second plantings peas; hungry plants; good summer perennials

Hello again,

Now is a great time to plant some pea seeds if you have any open space. The plants will shoot up out of the ground and you should have tasty peas to eat by sometime in late August if not before. I don't know where I am going to plant BUT I am going to try and plant a bush variety of edible pods called Cascadia.

I am being repetitive I know BUT plants in general--both in the ground and especially containers are very hungry. All the rain we received in the past month has leached or depleted the soil of whatever you have supplied. I highly recommend Plant Booster Plus by Organica or any of the Espoma series--Garden Tone for vegetables and Flower Tone or Plant Tone for flowering plants. Evergreens could use a good dose of Holly Tone by Espoma. We have it all here and can recommend a good fertilizer for what you need. Plants ARE hungry!!!!

Need some good perennials that will give you lots of color over the summer. I highly recommend Rudbeckia Goldstrum (or any of the Rudbeckias), Coreopsis Moonbeam or any of the Monarda Bee Balms (I love the red colors!). Come see our great selection!

Skillin's Sales Plug: I love the perennials I just listed and I will jot some more down for you to peruse over the next few days. That being said we also have some beautiful big annuals planted in 6" pots from Proven Winner that are just gorgeous. Much color for you and your garden!

Happy 30th Birthday Chad Skillin--don't the years fly by!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Garden Talks July 5--Prune and Pick; Fertilize Hungry Plants

Hello again,

We sure hope you had a Happy Fourth of July. What a day today is for weather--and we need it! Probably the most important thing you could do today is get out there and prune and pick any yellow or spotted leaves you have on your annuals, perennials and even shrubs. Such leaves make a perfect harboror home for mildews, leaf spots, blights and other assorted diseases that can weaken your plants over the long term. Also getting this growth off your plants allows for more light and better air circulation which is so vital for healthy plant growth.

Also with so much rain most of any fertilizer you have put down could well be leached out or washed away from the soil--especially if you have been relying on liquid fertilizers. Devote some time to putting down some all natural granular fertilizers like Plant Booster Plus by Organica (sold right here at Skillin's) for your flowers, vegetables, etc. (Espoma also makes Plant Tone, Flower Tone or Garden Tone which are all outstanding for flowers, vegetables and deciduous trees and shrubs. For evergreens we recommend Holly Tone by Espoma. With all this rain and dubious light our plants are starving for nutrients. We applaud the adding of compost to the soil--a well composted soil is essential-but this is Maine gardening we are talking about and we ask a great deal of our plants in a short amount of time. These natural fertilizers will build on a good compost base and add great nutrients to your soil.

If you fertilized with the natural granular fertilizers back in April then that is great! But twice yearly feedings are best so take the time over this month to go back over the feeding again!

Let us know if you have any pruning, fertilizing or gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 5, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garden Talks July 3--Time to Plant Peas, Lettuces, Cole Crops; Prune Roses

Hello again,

Just a quick note to remind you if you have some garden space it is time to plant the 2nd crop of peas, lettuces and cole crops.

Here at Skillin's we have a fresh and new supply of several types of lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, bok choi...yum yum!

I have a second planting of green leaf lettuce already started in some containers. I had to pick some slugs off of them this AM but hopefully a sprinkling of Slug Magic around the pots will attract the slugs to the Slug Magic and away from my lettuce. (It should; Slug Magic works great!)

I want to plant a third planting of lettuce seedlings. This I will do tomorrow AM. With (hopefully) hot summer sun coming over the next few weeks I am going to try the lettuce (in this case Red Sails leaf lettuce sold right here at Skillin's!) in a partial sun spot. I think the location will work but I will let you know!

Not that you ask BUT I am a leaf lettuce fan as opposed to growing the head lettuce. I am not that good a farmer to grow a good head lettuce and I appreciate the fact that the leaf lettuce can be cut and used often and as such seems to have less desire to bolt. My favorite leaf lettuce is Red Sails. It looks good in the garden and tastes great!

I just planted a second crop of broccoli--again in containers (I don't have much space and I want to try the container route). After I have pulled my first crop of broccoli (they are still producing but are on the wane) I will then put a third planting in that spot. Each time I plant a new crop of vegetables I put a healthy dose of Plant Booster Plus by Organica (Garden Tone by Espoma is also a great choice) into the hole just before I plant. These fertilizers are all natural and contain loads of healthy microbes and good dosages of calcium. Calcium is essential for good fruit and vegetable development.

We have brand new crops of lettuces and cole crops such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, etc. with more on the way all through the summer!

With my lack of space I need to find a good spot to plant some peas BUT I WILL!

Yesterday's torrential rains "beat the stuffing" out of many flowers--especially rose bushes. As soon as you can get out there with your pruners and snip those rose flowers off that are beaten up. Prune a good couple of inches back from the flower bud. This pruning will encourage more new growth on your rose and the sooner you get new growth, the sooner you will get flowers! For more detail about good pruning techniques for roses and other flowering plants click Garden Talks Week of March 30 for some nice illustrations!

Skillin's is open all day today until 6 PM (7 PM at the Falmouth greenhouse); we are all closed on Saturday to observe Independence Day and then we are all open on Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Down East Doormats

Hello again,

With all this rain that we have/are receiving will/has mud season making a roaring return? Could be!

Well if it does we have a great new addition to our Skillin's products: Down East Doormats! An environmentally helpful Maine product made of recycled materials.

Check out for more details!

In the meantime here is a quick history of their effort:

A History of Helping

The Maine Float-Rope Co. is promoting a history of helping. We help save whales and other marine life, provide financial assistance to Maine lobstermen, and protect the environment.

Three Difficult Problems — Float-rope is used by lobstermen to tether multiple traps together on the ocean floor. The problem with float-rope is that it can entangle whales, which sometimes leads to their injury or death. Now, Maine lobstermen are required to replace float-rope with sink-rope. Finally, without an appropriate recycling outlet, hundreds of thousands of pounds of this turned-in float-rope could end up in Maine landfills.

One Bright Idea — With government funds, the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation purchases turned-in float-rope from Maine lobstermen. Then our company collects and recycles the rope and turns it into terrific, colorful and virtually indestructible doormats. It’s a win-win – a safer habitat for whales, some financial relief for the lobstermen, and a cleaner environment.

Garden Talks July 2--Pinching mums, Montauk Daisies

Hello again,

Customer KC checked in with a question that addresses a topic I want to cover in the Garden Log:

Question: "Hi, need to know the right time to pinch back fall flowering mums. I must have done it at the wrong time last year, as I had very few blossoms in the fall, if I had any. It’s a large plant and with all this rain, it is now huge and taking over where it shouldn’t. Thanks for the help."

Answer: "I just consulted with Jeff Skillin about your question and he feels you can still pinch but it should be done “Now” as he put it. He never recommends pinching mums back after July 4 and we are about upon that.

He also recommends pinching about an inch or two off the tips of your plants but no more than that at this point.

The optimal time for pinching mums is about June 15 (I will have to remember to broadcast that out next year for people) according to Jeff and at that point in time you can be a little more extensive in your pinching.

I had the same experience with my Montauk Daisy last year. I pinched somewhat aggressively about July 10 or so last year and that was much too late. The other day I did an extremely “soft” or just a bud pinch on my Montauks and I feel like I will get more flowers this year."

One other note that I did not address with customer KC: Now is a great time to get some natural fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma (both sold right here at Skillin's) around your perennials that have yet to bloom. These natural foods will break down right into all the moist soil around each of your plants and this will result in better, deeper roots this year and for years to come. Not to repeat myself BUT I always recommend twice yearly feedings with such natural fertilizers.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 2, 2009