Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just Imagine!

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. KCB can also be found at

For all the things I do not possess there is one thing I truly do not lack, an imagination. I cannot remember a time when I did not create a world inside my head. Oh what a world that was! Whom am I kidding? Still is. Most perhaps would not reveal information such as this to a best friend yet here I am putting it out on the World Wide Web via

I can thank my father for this ‘gift’. The nightly ritual of reading me fairy tales was never boring as twists, turns and endings changed with the flip of his imagination. His other talent, sketching, I do not share. Each pencil stroke displayed minute details of the subject leaving nothing to the imagination. Schooners and Sailing vessels were his favorite. He never sailed, another commonality. Blessedly, I still have time and the desire.

While the ability to draw would surely benefit my chosen profession, my imagination is put to play nearly every day, in season or not. I look at a parcel of land and suddenly it is brought to life in my mind. If it is a blank slate, the possibilities are endless. Overgrown or neglected, the original vision is revealed. In need of change, I can do that. All without lifting a finger.

Sad to say, lately there is something that has stunted my imagination in as much as I am limited based on points. I am talking about a certain game that can be found on Facebook. It has to do with farming, planting and harvesting crops; accumulating animals and reaping rewards as the result of ‘selling milk and eggs’. My problem with this game is that I am more involved in the landscaping aspect. The fruits, vegetables and other farm basics are just a means to my end. With each sale I purchase water features, benches in which to relax and shade trees with colorful foliage. Regrettably I have not been able to accumulate enough points to purchase the Finishing Touches I most covet, such as arches, gates, hedges, lamp posts, or birdbaths. Heck, I don’t even have a house, never mind the luxurious manors of some of my ‘neighbors’. A Facebook friend did ask me to become a ‘neighbor’ in game more to my liking, a world existing of colorful gardens and romantic settings. I declined. I will channel my imaginative juices elsewhere. Where it should be, real gardening.

I am asking all my readers to play along. No, I will not ask you to ‘friend’ me or be my ‘neighbor’. Yes, I know it’s nearly February. It is the perfect time to use our imagination. Another yes, you do have one. Every gardener does. There is not a seed sowed or a shrub planted that does not bring forth the hoped for results. Even the taste of the ripened tomato is imagined in June. Why wait till then to exercise this gift?
Imagine changing, enhancing or simply adding to your current landscape. Why not convert some lawn to a new flower bed? How about an interesting cluster of shrubs boasting of fragrant and colorful blooms? Include a kidney shaped berm as a display for plants known for their foliage; a tapestry of color, form and texture? Isn’t this fun?

Turn off the television, forget the laundry, let the broken cabinet hinge wait. Overlook other domestic chores, for a while, at least. Bet you can imagine how blissful this would be! Close out of chat rooms, however, do not logoff your computer; it is an invaluable resource to spur your imagination beginning with this very site. Join me in a cup of tea, or if you prefer, a glass of wine. Let the imagination flow.

I begin with the endless supply of seed and nursery catalogs that made their first debut days after Christmas. Joined by gardening magazines they inhabit a corner of my office and await their mission. I am armed with scissors, double sided tape, glue sticks and my various journals. YOU DO KEEP A GARDEN JOURNAL, DON’T YOU? If not search nooks and crannies, desk or junk drawers for manila folders, composition books or blank paper. No time like the present to begin.

As I look through the various catalogs I cut out pictures that attract me. I make sure to include the supplied description of the chosen plant, shrub or tree. Note of caution, the majority of catalogs include reliable information regarding growth habits, zones and other vital statistics. Others only include the physical description. Aggressive growth can translate to ‘invasive’. This is where the internet, books and other reference sources are priceless. As much knowledge as we may accumulate I personally confirm stats on new or unfamiliar ornamentals. Heck, I even find myself verifying things I think or should know.

The aforementioned publications celebrate in announcing new varieties and species. I make a special note in my journal of the most desirous. I imagine where they can be used; there is almost always a space. I also keep a wish list of plants that I will purchase or special order from my local nursery. I am a firm believer in buying local.

When tired or not in the mood for research I simply arrange the pictures on blank sheets of paper or 8 ½ x 11 poster board. I mix and match color combinations, foliage textures, height and shapes. Various bloom times should be considered when arranging. For those truly creative, use an actual picture of your current landscape as background, an exercise that reminds me of Colorforms™, a childhood game. Let your fingers do the placing while you create a one dimensional Lilliputian version of your landscape. Include decorative elements, water features, even structures. Oh and don’t forget the plants. We all can dream and as a local television add proclaims, ‘just imagine’.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
January 28, 2010

Winter a perfect time to picture your garden’s future

Hello again!

Robb Rosser at writes a neat piece about garden planning and how now is a great time for year long contemplation.

Here it is:

"There are several times each year when a gardener needs to envision the garden in a completely different season. In autumn, we imagine the arrival of spring bulbs and plant them in the garden according to that vision. In spring, we speculate on summer flowers. Winter is a good time to imagine what your garden will look like in other seasons and also a full year from now. It’s best to keep track of these ideas with a plan.

Begin by drawing a simple outline of your entire garden or of individual areas in your garden. Make your drawing as accurate as possible, but simple enough that you will follow through with the project. Before you start filling in the outline with plants or hardscaping ideas, make a few copies. This way you won’t have to redraw the entire plan every time you add or remove garden elements or if you just want to fiddle around with an idea that comes up while it’s fresh in your mind.

Pull these plans out of storage every once in a while to review your garden in different seasons. Make a note of voids in winter and color clashes in spring and summer. Use your planning pages to add notes throughout the year unless you keep a separate garden journal. I like to use plant catalogs to help me list the plants that would transition well from one season to the next. Choose a combination of plants with colors that will blend even as they change with the seasons.

When we start gardening, we plan and plant for tomorrow or at most, the near future. That’s why so many beginning gardens are filled with spring flowers only. Exuberance is an appropriate approach for beginning any project. Over time, we may mellow out in pace with our maturing gardens. Whatever stage you’re in, it’s the desire to take your ideas one step further that characterizes the whole-hearted gardener. "

We can help you often with garden planning. Check out our series of classes at

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 28, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Classy Setup!

Hello again!

On Saturday January 16 we kicked off our January February 2010 series of gardening classes with an overflowing Growing Healthy Houseplants at Skillin's Cumberland, Brunswick and Falmouth.

Pictured below are Melissa and Mary from Skillin's Falmouth. Mary may be small in height but she has the biggest heart of anyone I know! Melissa taught the Falmouth class and "wowed" everyone with her teaching ability.

These pictures are from Skillin's Falmouth and Maria and others deserve special mention for the awesome setup job. We do not have Brunswick and Cumberland pictures but rest assured much hard work was put into those classes as well.

We work hard to bring you an entertaining and educational show for each class!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter Begonias for the Windowsill

(image borrowed from
Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website ( to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

"Winter begonias are varieties with fancy leaves and some small flowers. The leaves are breathtaking to look at because the markings and colors on the leaves are marvelous. If you pick off the flowers, the leaves will get bigger and more colorful.

Most begonias are grown as houseplants; they come from tropical regions of the country. There are numerous new varieties that are grown for outdoor use, but they can grow indoors for a short time. Knowing this, you must keep these plants warm indoors, or grow them outside during the summer. Indoors during the winter, the begonia will thrive if you use grow lights on it, but they are not necessary. These fancy-leaf begonias love high humidity so place them on plastic saucers filled with small stones. Fill the tray every morning--the water will evaporate during the day, helping the plant grow better. I have found that misting of the foliage will cause spotting of the foliage and may cause powdery mildew; this detracts from their looks. If you use a humidifier in the house keep them close by.

Water plants as needed. Keep moist from May to September and on the dry side during the winter. Fertilize begonias year round with a fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food. The stems are fleshy, so be sure to use a well drained potting soil. (Like Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine Organics!) Heavy soils will rot the stems. Select a location in your home that has no drafts from windows or doors. Temperature-wise, begonias need to be 65 degrees plus all year long. When the plant is exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees it will be chilled and the leaves will begin to fall from the plant.

Begonias do not like to be moved often around your house. Find a spot for them, then leave them alone and let them stay put. Begonias do not need to be repotted often. They grow better in smaller pots, so be sure the pot they are in is filled with roots like a spider web before you move them. When repotting, use a man-made soil or a lightweight artificial soil. When you over-pot in large pots, the plants can suffer from overwatering and root rot more easily. Never push down hard on the newly potted soil or you will squeeze the air out of it. Think soft and fluffy when repotting and the plant will thrive.

Begonias need moderate light during the summer, so place them in a east or west window. During the winter, a south-facing window is best--or place them under grow lights. Fertilizer is necessary during the growing season May to September. The plant should usually be fertilized every 2 weeks, except during the winter fertilize only once a month. Use a balanced fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food. If yellow spots develop on the leaves remove them and clean the plant. Do not crowd begonias by putting other plants around them; give them room to grow and space around them for better air circulation.

The best varieties for the winter are the 'Iron Cross' or 'Rex' begonias. Leaf color ranges from numerous shades of green to silver, pink, red and gold. The leaves can be smooth, ruffled, spotted, and almost puckered. Some of the varieties look like stained glass windows. The flowers are small and several on hanging stems, pink in color--but the foliage is why you grow the plant. With a little care, plants should last several years in your home. Moving them outside for the summer and back indoors in the fall is not good for them as they have a problem adjusting to the growing conditions."

We have some beautiful rex begonias here at Skillin's right now so come and take a look!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

On a Winter's Night

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. KCB can also be found at

I love flannel lined jeans. I love winter on ‘the hill’. I love life as it is right now.
Ok, ‘love’ may be a strong word when it comes to jeans, but living in Maine and not wanting to hibernate for the next 3 months I declare that anything flannel lined must be a wardrobe mainstay. Loving my neighbor, ‘the hill’, in the dead of winter may be a stretch as well. Let’s just say I love it on the tail of a major snow storm. As far as my 3rd declaration of love, this needs no explanation.

The snow fall was persistent and deposited its bounty in slow steady, healthy doses. From my window I looked out upon the cold ocean bay. White caps dancing on the water mirrored the drifts on the street below.

It was a Monday Holiday, one of those observed by the Government, Federal, State and Local. Banks also do their part in closing every conceivable day they can. As a former banker I admit that once upon a time they closed far more. Most of the day I cocooned, snuggled in sweats. The cars left in the driveway revealed other tenants within my building were staying put as well.

Admittedly I am not a skier. Nor do I strap on snow boards or shoes. What I am is a walker for all seasons. With a sense of adventure I did venture out once but somehow my excursion didn’t feel right. I would seek another time to explore.

Fast forward to darkness! Everyone is where he or she should be, most at home. No cars roamed the streets. A parking ban keeps people close to home. Those w/driveways want to be secure before the city plows create a boundary between road and drive. Others, like myself, who share a driveway, want to make sure they get a coveted space. Then there is the designated parking area down by the small East End Beach. The queue forms at dusk with hopefuls clambering for the available spots.

All is quiet. So still, I even think in a whisper. In the distance the whir of a snow blower interrupts the nothingness. The stately homes along the promenade are all plowed, blown and sanded. The side streets have yet to be scraped by a city truck. Some inhabitants with their shovels and sweat must clear their way if they have a need to escape.

The sky is carbon gray, yet holds a glow. The grassy hill of the Promenade is a blanket of snow, untouched except one pathway carved by those forced to park below. The infinite sheet of silver white beckons for something. For me. For Snow Angels. In the middle of the vastness I fall backwards. I am cushioned by the comforter of snow. I feel as if I could sleep here. My heart is about to burst. Why can’t I always feel this good? I am at my best when my lungs inflate with the freshness only found in the out-of-doors.

In my horizontal position I move my legs and arms up and down, back and forth. I smile as I envision the creation of my childhood antics. Carefully I move a few spaces without a trace of step, a rare occasion of grace and agility. This time I am fall face first. My cheeks burn with the cold and I am warmed.

The next angel has me on my back again. After the flaying of my arms and legs I lay still. I remember a happier time when a 4-legged companion would sully my angels with his paw prints. My face would be wet with doggy kisses and I would laugh so hard salty tears would burn my cheeks. No perfect Snow Angel would exist while my beloved Golden Retriever was around. I miss him.

I did get another dog, but she just couldn’t take the city lifestyle. When the time is right another canine companion will be at my side. All things in time at least that is what I hear, what I believe.

Time to return home. My flannel jeans have kept me warm. My memories make me whole. As far as loving life? Why not? It is all we have. Embrace it any way you can.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
January 21, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Save Money Improving Your Garden With Organic Methods

Hello again,

I came across this article earlier today. The article discusses practical organic gardening that we should all pursue. The author of the article is Jeannine L. Davidoff and this piece can be found at Jeannine is based at

Here it is:

A successful organic gardener knows how to combine strategies that produce both ornamental plants and healthy food. They observe and emulate nature seeking to increase soil fertility, make planting decisions based on the opportunities offered by the site and the needs of the plants without spending a fortune in fertilizers or tools. Organic gardeners see their gardens as a small part of whole and understand that their practices have an impact that extends beyond their yards.

1-Enrich Your Soil

A plant's health starts with the soil so getting your it right is the first step for avoiding potential problems both in the short and the long-term.

Soil is composed of several shapes and sizes of mineral particles, which create it texture. Even though you can't do much to change your soil's texture, you can you can change the other soil components: water, organic matter, and soil organisms, air. Organic matter, when decomposing into humus, increases soil's ability to drain efficiently, feeding the beneficial soil organisms and adds important plant nutrients by holding moisture. It´s also possible to increase the amount of organic matter in your soil by adding compost that you can make by yourself or buy in a local nursery.

You can also improve the ratio of water and air in your soil, by avoiding excessive tilling. That is achieved adding organic matter and compacting the soil as little as possible.

2-Choose Healthy and Disease-Resistant Plants

Plants won't get sick if they have some degree of immunity or least tolerance of the nastiest diseases. The best Plant breeders work very hard to develop varieties of your favorite, vegetables, fruits and landscape plants that have the ability to fight off those terrible diseases. I personally recommend reading plant tags and catalog descriptions to find resistant plants whenever possible which has proven to be time after time, the wisest choice for the health and economy of your garden healthy plants.

If you have any doubts about a plant's health, specially a new one, don´t take unnecessary risks and quarantine it in a separate area before adding it to your landscape or garden.

3-Put Plants in the Right Place

While thriving plants fight off diseases and insects, struggling plants attract them. If you want them to thrive, give your plants the sun, moisture and soil conditions they need to stay healthy and alive. Study the native plants that naturally grow in your region or in one with a similar climate. That should provide useful information about which plants you should focus and which ones should be replaced. If you already have an established garden, replace the troublesome with ones that show a positive response to their enviroment.

4-Use Organic, Slow-Release Fertilizers

Many synthetic fertilizers contain highly soluble nutrients that force plants to grow very quickly. Although for many people this may seem like a good thing, it's not; it´s been proven time after time that succulent growth is particularly appealing to insect and disease pests. Also you should remember that any fertilizer that isn't absorbed immediately by plants may pollute waterways. Instead, most organic fertilizers offer a slow-release kind of action. This happens because nutrients are released slowly through the action of microorganisms. Hence, plants receive a steady and slow diet of nutrients minimizing the risk of runoff.

5-Promote Diversity

Natural plant populations scatter many species over a large area. Reducing their vulnerability to insects and pests. Reproduce the same concepts in your garden, mixing crops within a row thus avoiding large patches of the same variety. Instead of planting a long hedge of a dozen or more specimens of the same species of evergreens, for example,
consider designing a mixed border that includes a variety of shrub and perhaps some flowering and fruiting small trees.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 18, 2010

Container Gardening--some Basics

Hello again,

I found this following article at It is a good quick read about what to think about before you undertake container gardening. This is a fast growing way to grow and display some of your favorite flowering plants in a more controlled and even vertical environment. Many people are now growing vegetables in containers. Later this Spring we are planning a class or two on container gardening.

Here is the article:

"Container gardening allows you to change your color schemes as the different plants finish blooming. It does not matter whether you want to harmonize or contrast your colors; just make sure you have a variety of plant heights. Also consider the shape of the leaves. The taller plants work well in the background while lower-growing varieties work towards the front of the pots. It is also wise to choose long blooming plants for less maintenance.

You may also find it fun to try out unusual containers. Maybe you have some old bowls lying around or you want to try building something out of old lumber. If you are purchasing new containers, choose the ones that do not absorb your water. Terracotta pots look wonderful but they rob your plants the moisture they need by absorbing it into the container walls.

If you purchase the cheaper plastic pots, you can paint the outside with water-based paints in order to create a better looking effect. Don't forget to buy matching saucers to catch the drips. This will save cement floors getting stained or wood floors from rotting.

Another important factor to successful container gardening is the potting soil. You will want to use a potting soil that has moisture saving granules mixed into the soil. The granules will soak up the water as it is applied and then release it slowly over the day to keep the plants healthy.

To keep your plants looking spectacular you will want to make sure the containers placed in sunny locations get water every morning and each evening.

You will also want to determine ahead of time where you will be placing the containers as some plants need sunlight and some need shade. Try to stay away from plants that have larger root systems as those types should be grown directly into flower beds.

With some creative thought and determination, you will soon have a blooming container garden that will be the envy of friends and strangers alike. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Boston Ivy

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website ( to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:

"Boston ivy is the ivy of the "Ivy League." The many buildings at universities and colleges that are turned to soft green buildings with foliage growing on them are covered with Boston ivy. Boston ivy will grow on any surface without training and is hardy all over the Northeast states. Next time you go to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play baseball, look at the walls on the outside of the park--they have Boston ivy growing on them. This wonderful fast-growing vine will do wonderfully to hide a wooden stockade fence or an old stonewall. Boston ivy will quickly fill in a chain link fence to give you privacy from the neighbors during the summer when you are in the yard.

The foliage is light green during the spring, dark green during the summer and scarlet red during the fall. During the winter, the leaves fall from the plant and you can enjoy the interesting pattern the vine makes while growing on the building. The foliage keeps the building cool during the summer, as the foliage absorbs the sunshine and heat. During the winter the foliage is gone during the cold days and the heat from the sun is absorbed into the building, warming it and saving energy. The plant grows close to the structure with the short stems of leaves sticking out. The leaves are tree-pointed, looking like a small maple leaf four to eight inches wide. English Ivy does flower, although the flowers are hard to find on the plant, as they are green. The flower produces a small cluster of blue black-fruit that is seldom noticed, until the foliage falls from the plant in the fall of the year. Once berries are visible, the birds will quickly eat them before winter arrives.

The fall red color is best if the plant grows in full sun. In heavy shade, it will change to yellow. Unlike most vines that you may grow, the Boston ivy will adhere to any surface with suction cup-like devices resembling discs. The tendrils do not cling to the surface; they stick and are thus much stronger and more secure.

When planting to cover a south facing wall or structure in an area where your soils tend to dry out during the summer heat, plant it on the east or west side of the structure and train it to grow on that surface. Using this method, you will have less of a problem with the roots drying up during drought periods. Always plant in large holes filled with a lot of organic matter such as compost and peat moss. Fertilize spring and fall with an organic slow-release fertilizer for the first few years. Keep well-watered the first year that you plant, so the roots can get established faster.

Once the plant is established, do not be scared to prune it, as it will grow several feet each year. If it's growing on a building it will cover the windows if not pruned back. Small birds will make nests on mature stems and on a nice day in the spring you will be able to watch the new birds grow up and sing for you.

Plants are available at your local nursery in the spring in one or two gallon pots. Plant them three to six feet apart to cover the structure and in just 2 to 3 years, the structure will be covered with beautiful foliage. The Boston ivy will grow easily 15 to 25 feet high.

The only bug that may be a problem is the Japanese beetle and even it is nothing to worry about. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Growing Herbs at Your Kitchen Window!

(the above image was forwarded by the Paul Parent Garden Club)

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website ( to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:

Growing herbs can be as simple as planting a few seeds in a pot of soil, right now! All you need is a sunny or brightly lit window to grow the secret ingredients for the winter salad or special pasta sauce.

Herbs love the sunlight and the warmer the sun is, the better they love it. Just think of the fragrance of a new pot of basil, chives or parsley will give your kitchen window. Crush the leaves with your fingers, roll the foliage in the palm of your hand and place it into a fresh bowl of salad greens. Your family will ask you what you did differently to the salad--and believe me it's not the taste of the tomatoes during the winter! Herbs are easy to grow and will do better if you don't put a lot of time with them. Water, fertilize and pick often to encourage new growth. After all, the new growth has more fragrance and taste than older growth.

Your local garden center has now received its new seeds for the spring. So get out of the house, brave the cold and select some herb seeds to grow in your kitchen. All you need are 4 inch plastic pots, fresh potting soil and a little love. Most herbs will germinate in 7 to 14 days if kept warm after planting. I start mine on top of the refrigerator because of the heat on top and because there are no cold drafts up there to cool the soil. Once they germinate, move them to the windowsill. If your windowsill is warm, you can start them right there! I also cover the pots with Press and Seal plastic until they germinate, as this keeps the moisture and humidity in the soil. Jiffy products also makes a small windowsill greenhouse, which is a solid container to hold the soil and a clear dome to hold the moisture in. Just transplant to pots when large enough or start seeds in a Jiffy 7 pellets for easy transplanting to pots.

Growing herbs from seed will change your outlook and your relationship with the plants. The flavor you grew did not come from a bottle; it came from your enjoyment of inviting mother nature into your home this winter to grow the plants. So get out the bottle of seasoning you use most and read what it contains for herbs--then grow your own ingredients. Just use a few seeds now and save the rest for the garden in the spring. The spring seedlings can be started later on during the winter. Those seedlings can be transplanted later right into the ground during May. The seeds you plant now are for use now.

If your time is short and you want instant results, we at Skillin's have some beautiful fresh herbs already growing for only $3.99 for a 4" pot! All you have to remember is to water as needed and feed every 2 weeks and pick often--but take time to smell the foliage. Bon App├ętit!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 16, 2010

P.S. Just noticed this article by Sudhir Nalik extolling the many virtues of basil--one of THE most popular plants we sell here at Skillin's:

Basil is also known as "Sacred Tulsi" or "Holy Basil". It is cultivated and known for around 5000 years. The tropical regions of Asia, Iran and India were the producers and consumers of basil for a long time till it became a popular herb thanks to the extremely beneficial properties of basil. While there are more than 60 varieties of basil and most of them are adaptable to organic cultivation, you can consider "Genovese" and "Italian large leaf basil" varieties relatively easy for growing. You can also choose to grow "Thai Basil" which has a mild anise flavor and is sweeter compared to the Italian variety. Purple variety of basil known as "Purple Ruffles" is also considered one of the best.

Health Benefits of Basil

Basil herb benefits body by increasing its resistance and developing strong immunity system. While many of the benefits have immediate effect and are evident clearly, some of the benefits show in long run when the body's natural process of healing and health improves gradually. This becomes obvious after taking a regular intake of Basil or "Holy Basil extract" for weeks altogether. You may feel more energized and relaxed after consuming a cup of basil tea or basil juice. Modern scientific research confirms that basil reduces stress, enhances stamina, lowers cholesterol, relieves inflammation, eliminates toxins, prevents gastric ulcer, lowers fever, improves digestion and provides a rich supply of antioxidants and other nutrients. It has traditionally been used by folks in Ayurvedic remedies and medicine in countries around the world. It is also finding wide usage in homeopathy and pharmaceuticals.

Properties and Composition of Basil Herb

The unique composition of "Basil" is highly complex with its different beneficial compounds known as phyto-chemicals, essential oils (containing linalol, estragol, eugenol, citral and citronellal monoterpenes), tannins, flavonoids, rosmarinic, caffeic and chlorogenic acids.

Antioxidant - The anti-oxidative effect is mainly due to the phenolic acids, flavonoids and anthocyanins present in basil. Due to this property, it is effective in reducing blood glucose levels.

Adaptogen - The adaptogenic property of basil helps the body to adapt efficiently to stress and tension. Adaptogens present in basil reduce the intensity and negative, harmful effect of the stress caused by the hectic life schedule, mental tension, emotional outbreaks, poor lifestyle habits, infection and pollution.

Antiviral - Studies have shown that crude aqueous and ethanol extracts of basil that contain ursolic acid exhibit strong antiviral behaviors against viruses

Culinary Uses of Basil Herb

Basil herb is commonly used fresh in cooking recipes. The aroma of the fresh leaves is simply outstanding in salads, tuna, stews and potatoes. It is advisable to add it when the dish is almost done to retain the flavor and aroma of fresh basil that does wonders to the recipe. Beware of excessive cooking, as it destroys the flavor and the essential nutrients. Fresh herb can be refrigerated in plastic bag or dried for future consumption. Basil is a popular and main ingredient of "Pesto" an Italian sauce along with olive oil and pine nuts.

Growing Basil Indoors

How to grow basil? Basil herbs are tender annuals in cold climate like US and Canada but are perennial in the warm, temperate and tropical regions of Asia. They can be easily grown indoors in containers or outdoors from seeds and cuttings. Growing basil indoors is simple by maintaining the soil temperature at around 70 degree Fahrenheit. Basil should be pruned when it has grown into 3 to 5 set of leaves to expedite propagation and branching.

Start an Herb Garden with Multipurpose and Healing Basil Herb

Basil is an important ingredient in potpourri and also used for scented beads. You must enjoy the delicious "Basil Herbal Tea" in the early mornings or dreary tired evenings to relish the rejuvenating experience and the fragrance that lingers for a long time. If you haven't, I would suggest you to try the aromatic "Basil Green Tea", especially with the fresh basil leaves from your herb garden. You will definitely feel the difference when compared it from the one that was obtained from the grocery stores. Drying Basil leaves and preserving it can serve you throughout the year.

Sudhir Naik co-wrote the above article with Shraddha N. and has been caring for herbs for over 20 years. He is a contributing writer to site - providing information and tips on herb garden. Basil's extracts are used in Ayurvedic remedies for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, skin disorder and malaria. Traditionally, Holy Basil or Sacred Tulsi is taken in many forms - as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaves or mixed with ghee. Use the fresh aromatic Basil herb in your own home herb garden, for healthy living, nature cure and rapid healing of common ailments. Sign up for a Evergreen Herb Garden Mini-Course and procure your own copy of "Secrets Of Evergreen Herb gardening" to start growing Basil indoors in your herb garden. Increase immunity and develop resistance to common allergies and live a healthy life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gardening Under Lights

Hello again,

I picked up this article from one of the gardening sources we follow at Twitter. This is just a good straight ahead write up of how to garden under lights--very topical for this time of year.

The entire article can be found at

Here it is!:

The effect of daylight hours on blooming plants has long been recognized by scientists who have done research on plant growth habits. It's known that some plants are triggered to bloom by short days (chrysanthemums, for example); others including most all of the garden annuals, by longer days. A third group, and most house plants are in this one, seem to be unaffected by day length. But it is a well-known fact that all plants need a period of darkness in each 24-hour period. For this reason, it is important to establish a regular schedule for turning the lights on and off in your garden under lights.

To help you do this accurately, an automatic timer, which you can set to turn lights on and off at the times you choose, is an item that is well worth the money. Most flowering plants need about 16 hours of artificial light, while foliage plants do well on 10 or 12 hours. If you grow a mixture of plants, set the timer for the number of hours needed by the flowering varieties, since a few extra hours will do no harm to the foliage plants.

Other Plant Needs
In addition to light and darkness, plants need more humidity than is available in an average home in winter months. For sizable light gardens, it is worthwhile to install a small fan to keep the air circulating (though not blowing directly onto plants) and one of the cool vapor-type humidifiers, which are capable of putting out from 2 to 10 gallons of water in a 24-hour period.

For small light gardens, humidity can be increased by lining waterproof plant trays with pebbles, sand, vermiculite, or peat moss and by keeping the material moist. Care must be taken that pots don't stand in water. Excess water will cause root rot for some varieties. Heavy plastic hung over sides of shelves, ends open for circulation, is also effective in raising humidity, but is not attractive if your light garden is located in the lived-in areas of your home.

Still another way to increase humidity is by frequent misting, using water of room temperature. Handy syringe bottles for this purpose are on the market at low cost. Avoid misting after noon, for plants shouldn't have wet foliage when lights go off.

When feeding plants-under-lights, you can use the same liquid fertilizer that you use for other house plants, diluted in the same proportion and applied at intervals suggested by the manufacturer. Or, since watering is less frequent due to higher humidity, you may wish to do as some experts recommend: feed plants at about one-fourth strength whenever you water them.

If your garden-under-light is an architectural or decorative feature, you can, by choosing foliage plants that tolerate low light, make use of ceiling-level lighting. You can choose from circle-line tubes, panel lighting, and fluorescent as well as incandescent lights mounted in fixtures that are designed to cast light onto plants without producing unpleasant glare in a room.

Excessive heat builds up if large numbers of incandescent bulbs are grouped together in a small area. Through an electrical supply company, you can order 130-volt bulbs, which will be somewhat cooler.

Although very few plants 'thrive' under conditions of low artificial light, there are a number of plants that remain attractive for long periods of time. You will do well to make use of the following lists for help in selecting these as well as plants that will flourish under normal light-garden wattage.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 15, 2010

The Ginkgo Tree

(The above image forwarded by the Paul Parent Garden Club)

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website ( to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:

"This spring, when you are considering planting something new in your yard, and are considering a tree, look into the Ginkgo biloba. The ginkgo has existed on this planet for over 150 million years. The leaf of the ginkgo tree has been found in diggings where dinosaur's remains have been found. The leaf has a very unusual shape, and once seen is not easily forgotten. The ginkgo leaf is in the shape of a fan, 2 to 3 inches long and wide. During the spring to fall seasons, the leaves are bright green in color but when the cold temperatures of fall arrive, they quickly change to bright yellow. When all leaves are a bright yellow color, they will drop to the ground in just a day or two. You will never forget the sight of the leafless tree with a ring of bright yellow leaves around it.

Ginkgo trees are easy to grow and will survive from Maine to Florida, and west to California. They will not tolerate wet soils at all. They grow well as street trees, trees for a park or on your front lawn. They love the sunshine and, when young, tend to grow open and unruly. As the tree ages, it will fill in all the holes and become very dense. The ginkgo has an upright growing habit to a height of 75 feet tall and 50 feet wide. When you purchase this tree make sure it is a male tree! Unlike most trees, that have male and female flowers on the same tree, this tree comes in different sexes. The female tree produces fruit that when ripe will have a very rancid smell. The fruit is edible but you do not want the mess. Your local nursery usually carries the male plant but ask for the male plant to be safe. The male tree has flowers that look like catkin and the female has two ovule-shaped petals on a long stem. The fruit looks like a small plum. Insect and disease problems are minimal. Care for this tree as you would any other tree on your property.

The fruit is eaten in Asia and the seeds are used to treat cancer and promote digestion problems. Oriental medicine uses the leaves to help sluggish circulation and improve memory and concentration. Work on the ginkgo tree for migraines and Alzheimer's is also being done.

This is not a fast growing tree and is some time called the "Grandfather-Grandchild Tree," as it takes up to 3 generations to mature to 75 feet. You grow this tree for its unusual foliage and fall color, as well as its history. The ginkgo was once thought to be extinct, but was found in Eastern China. Seeds were sent to all parts of the Orient by explorers. In the 1700 Century, seeds from the ginkgo were sent from Japan to Europe, were they were grown and treasured for their beauty. Japan has many tree estimated to be over 1000 years old and many were planted near temples, as they were thought to be sacred.

In 1945, the city of Hiroshima in Japan was bombed with the atomic bomb. Every living thing around the epicenter of the blast was destroyed. The exception was 4 remarkable ginkgo trees that survived, and in the following spring flowered, their remaining branches becoming filled with leaves. All 4 trees are still thriving today. Ever since then, the Japanese people regard the ginkgo as the "bearer of hope". When visiting Japan, look for the trees. Plaques on them bear prayers for world peace."

At Skillin's we do not stock high quantities of this tree. Demand is not high because it is quite slow growing as this article indicates. But we do love the many attributes of this tree and we think it is a great choice for many situations in your yard. If you would like to talk about ordering the tree give Tim a call at Skillin's at 781-3860 or 1-800-244-3860.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 15, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cyclamen Care

Hello again,

The following is an excerpt from an excellent post about cyclamen care. Cyclamen is an incredibly popular plant that has been home grown in Falmouth Maine for decades by us at Skillin's. They make great plants. The link for the entire article is and the link includes a flicker video production!

Here is the excerpt:

"Giving and receiving flowering plants at the holidays is a time-honored tradition, but one that’s fraught with anxiety. Unlike a box of chocolates or a pair of gloves, a living plant requires care to keep it healthy. Holiday houseplants, such as cyclamen, are particularly worrisome for most folks because their flowering cycle and general care are unfamiliar, even to seasoned gardeners.

Florist’s cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) start showing up in grocery stores and garden centers between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Flowers with swept-back petals resemble shooting stars and their heart-shaped leaves are embroidered with intricate, silvery patterns. In the right conditions, the plants will bloom continuously for a couple of months.

Like many other plants in their native eastern Mediterranean climate, cyclamen naturally bloom in the fall, winter, and spring when the weather turns cool and damp. During the hot, dry summers, cyclamen become dormant; their foliage yellows and dies back and plants show no signs of growth. They store energy for the next flowering season in their round tubers.

The key to keeping cyclamen happy and healthy is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. They thrive in cool temperatures that drop as low as 40 degrees F. at night and rise into the 60s during the day. Place them close to a bright south-, east-, or west-facing window for maximum sunlight.

Cyclamen are a bit fussy about watering. It’s best to let the soil get somewhat dry between waterings, but not to the point of wilting. When the pot feels light or the soil feels dry just below the surface, water it thoroughly and let it drain. Pour out any water left in the saucer so that the soil doesn’t stay soggy. Fertilize with regular houseplant fertilizer for flowering plants. (One note: I like to recommend not watering the cyclamen in the very middle of the plant--that can contribute to crown rot. I recommend watering a cyclamen in the sink and to water around the exterior of the top of the root system).

To keep plants blooming, remove flowers as they finish by cutting the stems near the base of the plant. Sometimes the petals will fall off and leave a round seed capsule that resembles a flower bud. Remove these, too. True cyclamen flower buds are long and pointed. Also remove yellow and withered leaves.

In the spring, let the soil dry out and keep the pot in a cool dry place for the summer. The plants will look dead, but as long as the tubers remain hard and plump, they are only resting. Begin watering in the early fall and put it back into a cool, bright window for another season of bloom."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 13, 2010

Not too Early to Think about Healthy Tomatoes and Potatoes!

Hello again,

The folks at the UMass Cooperative Extension have prepared an excellent guide to the tomato and potato blight that so hampered many of our tomato and potato efforts in 2009.

Here is a great link that is full of information but is also a relatively easy read:

Let us know if you have any questions! We will have CLEAN tomato plants and potato tubers for you this Spring!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 13, 2010

Green Fields of Clover

Hello again,

Kind friend Dale Lincoln returns with a neat tale of looking ahead--ever looking ahead--with a nod back to former days!

"Many Senior Citizens remember the words and tune to the famous World War II song:

By: Dale C. Lincoln

The morning January 10, 2010 I was in my heated home in Zephyrhills, Florida—wearing winter pajamas and a hooded sweat shirt. Cold weather for Florida had been around for more than a week. The previous day, on a trip to Walmart, snow flakes were in the air.

At 7:30 am the Temperature outside our single wide mobile unit was 27 Degrees F.

If I had a guitar and could sing: ---These are the words I would sing to Elsie, She is dressed in her “inside the house” winter attire,---and eating breakfast. It might make her happy to think of a warm August Day in Maine.

To the tune of : The White Cliffs Of Dover

There'll be robins over
the green fields of clover
Next August just you wait and see.

There'll be robins over
the green fields of clover,
Next August Just you wait and see.

The black flies will be gone,---
blueberries will ripen again,
and we'll walk to the beach---
behind our home again.

There'll be robins over
the green fields of clover
Next August just you wait and see.

There'll be robins over
the green fields of clover
Next August just you wait and see."

Dale Lincoln of Perry ME
from ZephyrHills FL
January 10, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's In a Name?

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. KCB can also be found at

Not since the dawn of the new millennium has there been so much controversy about a new year. When the year 2000 was approaching corporate America spent millions of dollars on the possible effect of ‘Y2K’. Additionally there was the discussion which year began the new millennium; 2000 or 2001.

With this year many pose the question ‘Is it Twenty-ten or Two Thousand Ten?’

I first heard this discussed on a news talk show the first day of our New Year. I found it hard to believe that a complete segment of the show was dedicated to this query inclusive of the standard man on the street questioning. The results were split with many commenting that they actually didn’t give it much thought.

As gardeners we come across many names; botanical/Latin or scientific and common. Personally I switch between the botanical and common. Common names often vary from region, country to country.

Allow me to sigh while I promise myself to learn the proper botanical name or more correctly how to pronounce. This is my biggest obstacle. The need to speak in ‘botanical’ was most evident when I recently had a couple from the England attend a few of my gardening classes. Ornamental plants are rarely referred by their common names in the United Kingdom other than the most common, such as rose. When I used the common name and their eyes met mine with a questioning plea, I had to delve into my brain and attempt to pronounce the botanical correctly.

In an effort not to bore you or me I will share the over view of what’s in a plant’s name. Simply, botanical names of plants are recognized worldwide as established by a group of very smart and passionate people who established the "International Code of Botanical Nomenclature”. Believe me when I say I will most likely never utter the name of this group. Until today I didn’t know the definition of nomenclature. For those like me, sorry, but you will need to look it up yourself.

In plant speak often the genus name is commonly used such as ‘Delphinium VS ‘Larkspur’. When was the last time you heard ‘False Spirea’ in referring to Astilbe? Sedum often trumps stonecrop. More often, the common name is spoken, Foxglove’ VS Digitalis, Coral Bells in place of Heuchera

The family name is the first part of the botanical name. More commonly for discussion, the Genus receives first billing.

Genus: Plants of the same genus will possess some certain characteristics. The name may be taken from mythology, literature, a person, place or something a plant resembles.

Species: May refer to the place where the plant is native, first discovered or the plant’s appearance (shape of leaf, original foliage or bloom color) or the name of the person credited with its discovery.

Variety: The variety will follow species. Varieties are naturally occurring or mutations creating a change in the plants appearance, most often the flower color; alba (white), purpurea (purple), rubra (red).

Add Cultivar to the mix and things become a little more detailed. Cultivars occur naturally but can only be replicated by propagation and human intervention.

Lastly, who among us can neglect the term hybrid? These are the human created varieties produced by cross pollination. Naming the hybrid is usually the honor of the creator proceeded with an ‘x’.

Let’s pull this together with one of my favorite plants, the Coneflower, most notably the ‘Purple Coneflower’: Family: Asteraceae; Genus: Echinacea; Species: purpurea. This hardy perennial owes its name to the Greek term for hedgehog,"echinos". Who doesn’t just love touching the ‘cone’ at maturity? I can envision a small brown hedgehog curled in a little ball. I digress; purpurea (purple) represents the native blossom color. Today, with all the new varieties, the coneflower is anything but purple. “Magnus

So, what will you call this year and the remaining years of the 21st century? I’m going with twenty-ten. Did you ever recall saying ‘One thousand nine hundred ninety –nine’ when referring to the final year in the last millennium? I thought as much.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Skillin's Classes and Events January February 2010!

Hello again,

And Happy New Year! Here is a list of Skillin's Classes and Events for January February 2010!

Brunswick 442-8111 Cumberland 829-5619 Falmouth 781-3860
1-800-339-8111 1-800-348-8498 1-800-244-3860

Our FREE classes will be held Saturdays at all three locations (unless otherwise stated) at 10 AM. Space is limited so reserve today for the classes of your choice! Just give us a call at any of the above numbers or drop us a note at Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class.



16th -Growing Healthy Houseplants– (10 AM)

Time to learn how to make your houseplants green and clean! We kick off another exciting series of classes by talking indoor gardening. Houseplants bring cleaner healthier air to the home and office, indoor dish gardens can be fun—even without loads of sun! We will show some of the tricks of the trade and maybe a few family secrets! Come one, come all! We’ll help you Plant for the Planet by giving all class goers a free 4” potted plant of your choice. Free

23rd –Fresh Flower Arranging! (10 AM & 2 PM)

We’ve got the flowers, have you got the time? Create your own colorful fresh floral masterpiece to brighten your home. This limited space class is our most popular Skillin’s class. It is no wonder; we are consistently voted as Maine’s Favorite Florist. $15.00 fee

30th -Orchids and Their Care (10 AM)
Special guest instruction from the Maine Orchid Society! Orchids are one of the most rewarding houseplants you could ever have. Let us show you how to easily care for them in your home. Wrap your favorite orchids snugly and bring them to the class for some potting and care advice! This is a great class and one that we REALLY hope you can make! Free


1-Spring Bonds Go On Sale!

2010 is the 20th year of selling our pre-season SPRING BONDS. When you purchase a $50 bond you pay only $37.50!!! This 25% off coupon can be used anytime after April 1 for almost all regularly priced items. Supplies are limited so buy your SPRING BONDS before they run out! Purchase your bonds at any Skillin’s location OR!

6th-Landscape Design Principles (10 AM Falmouth, 2 PM Brunswick)
Join Chad (5th generation) Skillin as he discusses landscape design principles. Chad is Skillin’s Landscape Designer and has great experience with landscaping and practical landscape designs. Let Chad educate you on some good solid landscape design practices as well as giving you some informal help with your yard design. This is also a great opportunity to schedule time with Chad to visit your yard and create an effective plan for your yard. Free

14th-Valentine’s Day at Skillin’s! We are Maine’s Favorite Florist. For generations we have carried the message of love to so many. Make the call—we will deliver. Or come in and see us—we will give you the “can’t miss” message to take home!

20th -Windowsill Gardening (10 AM) (and 2 PM in Falmouth, 10 AM is sold out in Falmouth!)
The sun is getting warmer and the days longer. We have the containers and the color. Let us show you how easy it is to bring it all to your home or apartment! We will also show you how to grow some great herbs to spice up your life! Free

27th—The Edible Landscape (10 AM Falmouth & Cumberland, 2 PM Brunswick, )
A good landscape makes perfect sense—and what is more sensible and useful than an edible landscape! Let us show you how to grow berries that are blue and red, cherries that are sweet and apples and pears that can’t be beat! Bring a bib; you will be drooling over the possibilities! Free
27th—The Garden Journal (9 AM Cumberland, Noon Falmouth, 3 PM Brunswick)

Gardening seasons are behind us and more lie just ahead. Learn some neat ways to record what we have done and what we have dreamed; Let’s plan on what we will do and on what we want to see! Join celebrity writer and gardener KCB of Skillin’s Garden Log fame and let’s learn together about how to be impulsively organized. It’s time! Free

Special Four Part Hands on Design Class
February 9, 16, 23, March 2 5:00PM
February 11, 18, 25, March 4 10:00 AM
March 9, 16, 23,30 5:00PM

What a great chance to get a jump start on plotting how to landscape your home the right way! Class fee is $40 to cover materials—you will have a great landscape plan at the finish; this is a class that you will learn from; fun will be had but homework will be required! You will be drawing your own landscape design plan!


Mike Skillin